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´╗┐Title: Mauprat
Author: Sand, George, 1804-1876
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.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "Mauprat" ***

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by George Sand

Translated by Stanley Young


George Sand Pearl Mary-Teresa Craigie (John Oliver Hobbes)

Life of George Sand Edmund Gosse

The Author's Preface



Napoleon in exile declared that were he again on the throne he should
make a point of spending two hours a day in conversation with women,
from whom there was much to be learnt. He had, no doubt, several types
of women in mind, but it is more than probable that the banishment of
Madame de Stael rose before him as one of the mistakes in his career. It
was not that he showed lack of judgment merely by the persecution of a
rare talent, but by failing to see that the rare talent was pointing out
truths very valuable to his own safety. This is what happened in France
when George Sand--the greatest woman writer the world has known, or is
ever likely to know--was attacked by the orthodox critics of her time.
They feared her warnings; they detested her sincerity--a sincerity
displayed as much in her life as in her works (the hypocrite's Paradise
was precisely her idea of Hell); they resented bitterly an independence
of spirit which in a man would have been in the highest degree
distinguished, which remained, under every test, untamable. With a kind
of _bonhomie_ which one can only compare with Fielding's, with a passion
as great as Montaigne's for acknowledging the truths of experience,
with an absence of self-consciousness truly amazing in the artistic
temperament of either sex, she wrote exactly as she thought, saw and
felt. Humour was not her strong point. She had an exultant joy in
living, but laughter, whether genial or sardonic, is not in her work.
Irony she seldom, if ever, employed; satire she never attempted. It was
on the maternal, the sympathetic side that her femininity, and therefore
her creative genius, was most strongly developed. She was masculine only
in the deliberate libertinism of certain episodes in her own life. This
was a characteristic--one on no account to be overlooked or denied or
disguised, but it was not her character. The character was womanly,
tender, exquisitely patient and good-natured. She would take cross
humanity in her arms, and carry it out into the sunshine of the fields;
she would show it flowers and birds, sing songs to it, tell it stories,
recall its original beauty. Even in her moods of depression and revolt,
one recognises the fatigue of the strong. It is never for a moment the
lassitude of the feeble, the weary spite of a sick and ill-used soul. As
she was free from personal vanity, she was also free from hysteria. On
marriage--the one subject which drove her to a certain though always
disciplined violence--she clearly felt more for others than they
felt for themselves; and in observing certain households and life
partnerships, she may have been afflicted with a dismay which the
unreflecting sufferers did not share. No writer who was carried away
by egoistic anger or disappointment could have told these stories of
unhappiness, infidelity, and luckless love with such dispassionate

With the artist's dislike of all that is positive and arbitrary, she
was, nevertheless, subject rather to her intellect than her emotions.
An insult to her intelligence was the one thing she found it hard
to pardon, and she allowed no external interference to disturb her
relations with her own reasoning faculty. She followed caprices, no
doubt, but she was never under any apprehension with regard to their
true nature, displaying in this respect a detachment which is usually
considered exclusively virile. _Elle et Lui_, which, perhaps because
it is short and associated with actual facts, is the most frequently
discussed in general conversation on her work, remains probably the
sanest account of a sentimental experiment which was ever written. How
far it may have seemed accurate to De Musset is not to the point.
Her version of her grievance is at least convincing. Without fear and
without hope, she makes her statement, and it stands, therefore, unique
of its kind among indictments. It has been said that her fault was an
excess of emotionalism; that is to say, she attached too much importance
to mere feeling and described it, in French of marvellous ease and
beauty, with a good deal of something else which one can almost condemn
as the high-flown. Not that the high-flown is of necessity unnatural,
but it is misleading; it places the passing mood, the lyrical note,
dependent on so many accidents, above the essential temperament and the
dominant chord which depend on life only. Where she falls short of the
very greatest masters is in this all but deliberate confusion of things
which must change or can be changed with things which are unchangeable,
incurable, and permanent. Shakespeare, it is true, makes all his
villains talk poetry, but it is the poetry which a villain, were he a
poet, would inevitably write. George Sand glorifies every mind with her
own peculiar fire and tears. The fire is, fortunately, so much stronger
than the tears that her passion never degenerates into the maudlin. All
the same, she makes too universal a use of her own strongest gifts,
and this is why she cannot be said to excel as a portrait painter. One
merit, however, is certain: if her earliest writings were dangerous,
it was because of her wonderful power of idealization, not because she
filled her pages with the revolting and epicene sensuality of the new
Italian, French, and English schools. Intellectual viciousness was
not her failing, and she never made the modern mistake of confusing
indecency with vigour. She loved nature, air, and light too well and
too truly to go very far wrong in her imaginations. It may indeed be
impossible for many of us to accept all her social and political views;
they have no bearing, fortunately, on the quality of her literary art;
they have to be considered under a different aspect. In politics, her
judgment, as displayed in the letters to Mazzini, was profound. Her
correspondence with Flaubert shows us a capacity for stanch, unblemished
friendship unequalled, probably, in the biographies, whether published
or unpublished, of the remarkable.

With regard to her impiety--for such it should be called--it did not
arise from arrogance, nor was it based in any way upon the higher
learning of her period. Simply she did not possess the religious
instinct. She understood it sympathetically--in _Spiridion_, for
instance, she describes an ascetic nature as it has never been done in
any other work of fiction. Newman himself has not written passages of
deeper or purer mysticism, of more sincere spirituality. Balzac, in
_Seraphita_, attempted something of the kind, but the result was never
more than a _tour de force_. He could invent, he could describe, but
George Sand felt; and as she felt, she composed, living with and
loving with an understanding love all her creations. But it has to be
remembered always that she repudiated all religious restraint, that she
believed in the human heart, that she acknowledged no higher law than
its own impulses, that she saw love where others see only a cruel
struggle for existence, that she found beauty where ordinary visions can
detect little besides a selfishness worse than brutal and a squalor more
pitiful than death. Everywhere she insists upon the purifying influence
of affection, no matter how degraded in its circumstances or how illegal
in its manifestation. No writer--not excepting the Brontes--has shown
a deeper sympathy with uncommon temperaments, misunderstood aims,
consciences with flickering lights, the discontented, the abnormal, or
the unhappy. The great modern specialist for nervous diseases has not
improved on her analysis of the neuropathic and hysterical. There is
scarcely a novel of hers in which some character does not appear who
is, in the usual phrase, out of the common run. Yet, with this perfect
understanding of the exceptional case, she never permits any science of
cause and effect to obscure the rules and principles which in the main
control life for the majority. It was, no doubt, this balance which made
her a popular writer, even while she never ceased to keep in touch with
the most acute minds of France.

She possessed, in addition to creative genius of an order especially
individual and charming, a capacity for the invention of ideas. There
are in many of her chapters more ideas, more suggestions than one
would find in a whole volume of Flaubert. It is not possible that these
surprising, admirable, and usually sound thoughts were the result of
long hours of reflection. They belonged to her nature and a quality of
judgment which, even in her most extravagant romances, is never for a
moment swayed from that sane impartiality described by the unobservant
as common sense.

Her fairness to women was not the least astounding of her gifts. She is
kind to the beautiful, the yielding, above all to the very young, and in
none of her stories has she introduced any violently disagreeable female
characters. Her villains are mostly men, and even these she invests
with a picturesque fatality which drives them to errors, crimes,
and scoundrelism with a certain plaintive, if relentless, grace. The
inconstant lover is invariably pursued by the furies of remorse; the
brutal has always some mitigating influence in his career; the libertine
retains through many vicissitudes a seraphic love for some faithful

Humanity meant far more to her than art: she began her literary career
by describing facts as she knew them: critics drove her to examine their
causes, and so she gradually changed from the chronicler with strong
sympathies to the interpreter with a reasoned philosophy. She discovered
that a great deal of the suffering in this world is due not so much to
original sin, but to a kind of original stupidity, an unimaginative,
stubborn stupidity. People were dishonest because they believed,
wrongly, that dishonesty was somehow successful. They were cruel because
they supposed that repulsive exhibitions of power inspired a prolonged
fear. They were treacherous because they had never been taught the
greater strength of candour. George Sand tried to point out the
advantage of plain dealing, and the natural goodness of mankind
when uncorrupted by a false education. She loved the wayward and
the desolate: pretentiousness in any disguise was the one thing she
suspected and could not tolerate. It may be questioned whether she ever
deceived herself; but it must be said, that on the whole she flattered
weakness--and excused, by enchanting eloquence, much which cannot always
be justified merely on the ground that it is explicable. But to explain
was something--all but everything at the time of her appearance in
literature. Every novel she wrote made for charity--for a better
acquaintance with our neighbour's woes and our own egoism. Such an
attitude of mind is only possible to an absolutely frank, even Arcadian,
nature. She did what she wished to do: she said what she had to say, not
because she wanted to provoke excitement or astonish the multitude, but
because she had succeeded eminently in leading her own life according to
her own lights. The terror of appearing inconsistent excited her scorn.
Appearances never troubled that unashamed soul. This is the magic, the
peculiar fascination of her books. We find ourselves in the presence
of a freshness, a primeval vigour which produces actually the effect of
seeing new scenes, of facing a fresh climate. Her love of the soil,
of flowers, and the sky, for whatever was young and unspoilt, seems
to animate every page--even in her passages of rhetorical sentiment we
never suspect the burning pastille, the gauze tea-gown, or the depressed
pink light. Rhetoric it may be, but it is the rhetoric of the sea and
the wheat field. It can be spoken in the open air and read by the light
of day.

George Sand never confined herself to any especial manner in her
literary work. Her spontaneity of feeling and the actual fecundity, as
it were, of her imaginative gift, could not be restrained, concentrated,
and formally arranged as it was in the case of the two first masters of
modern French novel-writing. Her work in this respect may be compared to
a gold mine, while theirs is rather the goldsmith's craft. It must not
be supposed, however, that she was a writer without very strong views
with regard to the construction of a plot and the development of
character. Her literary essays and reviews show a knowledge of technique
which could be accepted at any time as a text-book for the critics and
the criticised. She knew exactly how artistic effects were obtained, how
and why certain things were done, why realism, so-called, could never be
anything but caricature, and why over-elaboration of small matters can
never be otherwise than disproportionate. Nothing could be more just
than her saying about Balzac that he was such a logician that he
invented things more truthful than the truth itself. No one knew better
than she that the truth, as it is commonly understood, does not exist;
that it cannot be logical because of its mystery; and that it is
the knowledge of its contradictions which shows the real expert in

Three of her stories--_La Petite Fadette_, _La Mare au Diable_, and
_Les Maitres Mosaistes_--are as neat in their workmanship as a Dutch
painting. Her brilliant powers of analysis, the intellectual atmosphere
with which she surrounds the more complex characters in her longer
romances, are entirely put aside, and we are given instead a series
of pictures and dialogues in what has been called the purely objective
style; so pure in its objectivity and detachment that it would be hard
for any one to decide from internal evidence that they were in reality
her own composition.

To those who seek for proportion and form there is, without doubt, much
that is unsymmetrical in her designs. Interesting she always is, but to
the trained eye scenes of minor importance are, strictly speaking, too
long: descriptions in musical language sometimes distract the reader
from the progress of the story. But this arose from her own joy in
writing: much as she valued proportion, she liked expressing her mind
better, not out of conceit or self-importance, but as the birds, whom
she loved so well, sing.

Good nature is what we need above all in reading George Sand. It is
there--infectious enough in her own pages, and with it the courage which
can come only from a heart at peace with itself. This is why neither
fashion nor new nor old criticism can affect the title of George Sand
among the greatest influences of the last century and the present one.
Much that she has said still seems untried and unexpected. Writers so
opposite as Ibsen and Anatole France have expanded her themes. She is
quoted unconsciously to-day by hundreds who are ignorant of their real
source of inspiration. No woman ever wrote with such force before, and
no woman since has even approached her supreme accomplishments.



George Sand, in whose life nothing was commonplace, was born in Paris,
"in the midst of roses, to the sound of music," at a dance which her
mother had somewhat rashly attended, on the 5th of July, 1804. Her
maiden name was Armentine Lucile Aurore Dupin, and her ancestry was of
a romantic character. She was, in fact, of royal blood, being the
great-grand-daughter of the Marshal Maurice du Saxe and a Mlle.
Verriere; her grandfather was M. Dupin de Francueil, the charming friend
of Rousseau and Mme. d'Epinay; her father, Maurice Dupin, was a gay and
brilliant soldier, who married the pretty daughter of a bird-fancier,
and died early. She was a child of the people on her mother's side, an
aristocrat on her father's. In 1807 she was taken by her father, who was
on Murat's staff, into Spain, from which she returned to the house of
her grandmother, at Nohant in Berry. This old lady adopted Aurore at the
death of her father, in 1808. Of her childhood George Sand has given a
most picturesque account in her "Histoire de ma Vie." In 1817 the girl
was sent to the Convent of the English Augustinians in Paris, where she
passed through a state of religious mysticism. She returned to Nohant
in 1820, and soon threw off her pietism in the outdoor exercises of a
wholesome country life. Within a few months, Mme. Dupin de Francueil
died at a great age, and Aurore was tempted to return to Paris. Her
relatives, however, were anxious that she should not do this, and
they introduced to her the natural son of a retired colonel, the Baron
Dudevant, whom, in September, 1822, she married. She brought him to live
with her at Nohant, and she bore him two sons, Maurice and Solange,
and a daughter. She quickly perceived, as her own intellectual nature
developed, that her boorish husband was unsuited to her, but their early
years of married life were not absolutely intolerable. In 1831, however,
she could endure him no longer, and an amicable separation was agreed
upon. She left M. Dudevant at Nohant, resigning her fortune, and
proceeded to Paris, where she was hard pressed to find a living. She
endeavoured, without success, to paint the lids of cigar-boxes, and in
final desperation, under the influence of Jules Sandeau--who became her
lover, and who invented the pseudonym of George Sand for her--she turned
her attention to literature. Her earliest work was to help Sandeau in
the composition of his novel, "Rose et Blanche" Her first independent
novel, "Indiana," appeared at the close of 1831, and her second,
"Valentine," two months later. These books produced a great and
immediate sensation, and she felt that she had found her vocation.
In 1833 she produced "Lebia"; in 1834 the "Lettres d'un Voyageur" and
"Jacques"; in 1835 "Andre" and "Leone Leoni." After this her works
become too numerous and were produced with too monotonous a regularity
to be chronicled here. But it should be said that "Mauprat" was written
in 1836 at Nohant, while she was pleading for a legal separation from
her husband, which was given her by the tribunal of Bourges, with full
authority over the education of her children. These early novels all
reflect in measure the personal sorrows of the author, although
George Sand never ceased to protest against too strict a biographical
interpretation of their incidents. "Spiridion" (1839), composed under
the influence of Lamennais, deals with questions of free thought in
religion. But the novels of the first period of her literary activity,
which came to a close in 1840, are mainly occupied with a lyrical
individualism, and are inspired by the wrongs and disillusions of the
author's personal adventures.

The years 1833 and 1834 were marked by her too-celebrated relations with
Alfred de Musset, with whom she lived in Paris and at Venice, and with
whom she quarrelled at last in circumstances deplorably infelicitous.
Neither of these great creatures had the reticence to exclude the world
from a narrative of their misfortunes and adventures; of the two it was
fairly certainly the woman who came the less injured out of the furnace.
In "Elle et Lui" (1859) she gave long afterward her version of the
unhappy and undignified story. Her stay in Venice appears to have
impressed her genius more deeply than any other section of her numerous
foreign sojournings.

The writings of George Sand's second period, which extended from 1840
to 1848, are of a more general character, and are tinged with a generous
but not very enlightened ardour for social emancipation. Of these
novels, the earliest is "Le Compagnon du Tour de France" (1840), which
is scarcely a masterpiece. In the pursuit of foreign modes of thought,
and impelled by experiences of travel, George Sand rose to far greater
heights in "Jeanne" (1842), in "Consuelo" (1842-'43), and in "La
Comtesse de Rudolstade" (1844). All these books were composed in her
retirement at Nohant, where she definitely settled in 1839, after
having travelled for several months in Switzerland with Liszt and Mme.
d'Agoult, and having lived in the island of Majorca for some time
with the dying Chopin, an episode which is enshrined in her "Lucrezia
Floriani" (1847).

The Revolution of 1848 appeared to George Sand a realization of her
Utopian dreams, and plunged her thoughts into a painful disorder. She
soon, however, became dissatisfied with the result of her republican
theories, and she turned to two new sources of success, the country
story and the stage. Her delicious romance of "Francois le Champi"
(1850) attracted a new and enthusiastic audience to her, and her entire
emancipation from "problems" was marked in the pages of "La Petite
Fadette" and of "La Mare au Diable." To the same period belong "Les
Visions de la Nuit des les Campagnes," "Les Maitres Sonneurs," and
"Cosina." From 1850 to 1864 she gave a great deal of attention to
the theatre, and of her numerous pieces several enjoyed a wide and
considerable success, although it cannot be said that any of her plays
have possessed the vitality of her best novels. The most solid of the
former was her dramatization of her story, "Le Marquis de Villemer"
(1864), which was one of the latest, and next to it "Le Mariage de
Victorine" (1851), which was one of the earliest. Her successes on the
stage, such as they are, appear mainly due to collaboration with others.

In her latest period, from 1860 to 1876, George Sand returned to
her first lyrical manner, although with more reticence and a wider
experience of life. Of the very abundant fruitage of these last years,
not many rank with the masterpieces of her earlier periods, although
such novels as "Tamaris" (1862), "La Confession d'une Jeune Fille"
(1865), and "Cadio," seemed to her admirers to show no decline of force
or fire. Still finer, perhaps, were "Le Marquis de Villemer" (1861) and
"Jean de la Roche" (1860). Her latest production, which appeared after
her death, was the "Contes d'une Grand'mere," a collection full of
humanity and beauty. George Sand died at Nohant on the 8th of June,
1876. She had great qualities of soul, and in spite of the naive
irregularities of her conduct in early middle life, she cannot
be regarded otherwise than as an excellent woman. She was brave,
courageous, heroically industrious, a loyal friend, a tender and wise
mother. Her principle fault has been wittily defined by Mr. Henry James,
who has remarked that in affairs of the heart George Sand never "behaved
like a gentleman."

E. G.


When I wrote my novel _Mauprat_ at Nohant--in 1846, if I remember
rightly--I had just been suing for a separation. Hitherto I had written
much against the abuses of marriage, and perhaps, though insufficiently
explaining my views, had induced a belief that I failed to appreciate
its essence; but it was at this time that marriage itself stood before
me in all the moral beauty of its principle.

Misfortune is not without its uses to the thoughtful mind. The more
clearly I had realized the pain and pity of having to break a sacred
bond, the more profoundly I felt that where marriage is wanting, is
in certain elements of happiness and justice of too lofty a nature to
appeal to our actual society. Nay, more; society strives to take from
the sanctity of the institution by treating it as a contract of material
interests, attacking it on all sides at once, by the spirit of its
manners, by its prejudices, by its hypocritical incredulity.

While writing a novel as an occupation and distraction for my mind, I
conceived the idea of portraying an exclusive and undying love, before,
during, and after marriage. Thus I drew the hero of my book proclaiming,
at the age of eighty, his fidelity to the one woman he had ever loved.

The ideal of love is assuredly eternal fidelity. Moral and religious
laws have aimed at consecrating this ideal. Material facts obscure it.
Civil laws are so framed as to make it impossible or illusory. Here,
however, is not the place to prove this. Nor has _Mauprat_ been burdened
with a proof of the theory; only, the sentiment by which I was specially
penetrated at the time of writing it is embodied in the words of
_Mauprat_ towards the end of the book: "She was the only woman I loved
in all my life; none other ever won a glance from me, or knew the
pressure of my hand."


June 5, 1857.



Though fashion may proscribe the patriarchal fashion of dedications, I
would ask you, brother and friend, to accept this of a tale which is not
new to you. I have drawn my materials in part from the cottages of our
Noire valley. May we live and die there, repeating every evening our
beloved invocation:




On the borders of La Marche and Berry, in the district known as
Varenne, which is naught but a vast moor studded with forests of oak
and chestnut, and in the most thickly wooded and wildest part of the
country, may be found, crouching within a ravine, a little ruined
chateau. The dilapidated turrets would not catch your eye until you were
about a hundred yards from the principal portcullis. The venerable trees
around and the scattered rocks above, bury it in everlasting obscurity;
and you would experience the greatest difficulty, even in broad
daylight, in crossing the deserted path leading to it, without stumbling
against the gnarled trunks and rubbish that bar every step. The name
given to this dark ravine and gloomy castle is Roche-Mauprat.

It was not so long ago that the last of the Mauprats, the heir to this
property, had the roofing taken away and all the woodwork sold. Then,
as if to give a kick to the memory of his ancestors, he ordered the
entrance gate to be thrown down, the north tower to be gutted, and a
breach to be made in the surrounding wall. This done, he departed with
his workmen, shaking the dust from off his feet, and abandoning his
domain to foxes, and cormorants, and vipers. Since then, whenever the
wood-cutters and charcoal-burners from the huts in the neighbourhood
pass along the top of the Roche-Mauprat ravine, if it is in daytime they
whistle with a defiant air or hurl a hearty curse at the ruins; but
when day falls and the goat-sucker begins to screech from the top of
the loopholes, wood-cutter and charcoal-burner pass by silently, with
quickened step, and cross themselves from time to time to ward off the
evil spirits that hold sway among the ruins.

For myself, I own that I have never skirted the ravine at night without
feeling a certain uneasiness; and I would not like to swear that on some
stormy nights I have not given my horse a touch of the spur, in order
to escape the more quickly from the disagreeable impression this
neighbourhood made on me.

The reason is that in childhood I classed the name of Mauprat with those
of Cartouche and Bluebeard; and in the course of horrible dreams I often
used to mix up the ancient legends of the Ogre and the Bogey with the
quite recent events which in our province had given such a sinister
lustre to this Mauprat family.

Frequently, out shooting, when my companions and I have left our posts
to go and warm ourselves at the charcoal fires which the workmen keep
up all night, I have heard this name dying away on their lips at our
approach. But when they had recognised us and thoroughly satisfied
themselves that the ghosts of none of these robbers were hiding in our
midst, they would tell us in a whisper such stories as might make one's
hair stand on end, stories which I shall take good care not to pass on
to you, grieved as I am that they should ever have darkened and pained
my own memory.

Not that the story I am about to tell is altogether pleasant and
cheerful. On the contrary, I must ask your pardon for unfolding so
sombre a tale. Yet, in the impression which it has made on myself there
is something so consoling and, if I may venture the phrase, so healthful
to the soul, that you will excuse me, I hope, for the sake of the
result. Besides this is a story which has just been told to me. And now
you ask me for one. The opportunity is too good to be missed for one of
my laziness or lack of invention.

It was only last week that I met Bernard Mauprat, the last of the
line, the man who, having long before severed himself from his infamous
connections, determined to demolish his manor as a sign of the horror
aroused in him by the recollections of childhood. This Bernard is one of
the most respected men in the province. He lives in a pretty house near
Chateauroux, in a flat country. Finding myself in the neighbourhood,
with a friend of mine who knows him, I expressed a wish to be
introduced; and my friend, promising me a hearty welcome, took me to his
house then and there.

I already knew in outline the remarkable history of this old man; but I
had always felt a keen desire to fill in the details, and above all to
receive them from himself. For me, the strange destiny of the man was
a philosophical problem to be solved. I therefore noticed his features,
his manners, and his home with peculiar interest.

Bernard Mauprat must be fully eighty-four, though his robust health, his
upright figure, his firm step, and the absence of any infirmity might
indicate some fifteen or twenty years less. His face would have appeared
to me extremely handsome, had not a certain harshness of expression
brought before my eyes, in spite of myself, the shades of his fathers.
I very much fear that, externally at all events, he must resemble them.
This he alone could have told us; for neither my friend nor myself had
known any other Mauprat. Naturally, however, we were very careful not to

It struck us that his servants waited on him with a promptitude and
punctuality quite marvellous in Berrichon domestics. Nevertheless, at
the least semblance of delay he raised his voice, knitted his eyebrows
(which still showed very black under his white hair), and muttered a few
expressions of impatience which lent wings even to the slowest. At first
I was somewhat shocked at this habit; it appeared to savour rather too
strongly of the Mauprats. But the kindly and almost paternal manner in
which he spoke to them a moment later, and their zeal, which seemed so
distinct from fear, soon reconciled me to him. Towards us, moreover, he
showed an exquisite politeness, and expressed himself in the choicest
terms. Unfortunately, at the end of dinner, a door which had been left
open and through which a cold air found its way to his venerable skull,
drew from him such a frightful oath that my friend and I exchanged a
look of surprise. He noticed it.

"I beg your pardon, gentlemen," he said. "I am afraid you find me an odd
mixture. Ah, you see but a short distance. I am an old branch, happily
torn from a vile trunk and transplanted into good soil, but still
knotted and rough like the wild holly of the original stock. I have,
believe me, had no little trouble in reaching the state of comparative
gentleness and calm in which you behold me. Alas! if I dared, I should
reproach Providence with a great injustice--that of having allotted me
a life as short as other men's. When one has to struggle for forty or
fifty years to transform one's self from a wolf into a man, one ought to
live a hundred years longer to enjoy one's victory. Yet what good
would that do me?" he added in a tone of sadness. "The kind fairy who
transformed me is here no more to take pleasure in her work. Bah! it is
quite time to have done with it all."

Then he turned towards me, and, looking at me with big dark eyes, still
strangely animated, said:

"Come, my dear young man; I know what brings you to see me; you are
curious to hear my history. Draw nearer the fire, then. Mauprat though
I am, I will not make you do duty for a log. In listening you are giving
me the greatest pleasure you could give. Your friend will tell you,
however, that I do not willingly talk of myself. I am generally afraid
of having to deal with blockheads, but you I have already heard of;
I know your character and your profession; you are an observer and
narrator--in other words, pardon me, inquisitive and a chatterbox."

He began to laugh, and I made an effort to laugh too, though with
a rising suspicion that he was making game of us. Nor could I help
thinking of the nasty tricks that his grandfather took a delight in
playing on the imprudent busybodies who called upon him. But he put his
arm through mine in a friendly way, and making me sit down in front of a
good fire, near a table covered with cups--

"Don't be annoyed," he said. "At my age I cannot get rid of hereditary
sarcasm; but there is nothing spiteful in mine. To speak seriously, I am
delighted to see you and to confide in you the story of my life. A man
as unfortunate as I have been deserves to find a faithful biographer to
clear his memory from all stain. Listen, then, and take some coffee."

I offered him a cup in silence. He refused it with a wave of the arm
and a smile which seemed to say, "That is rather for your effeminate

Then he began his narrative in these words:


You live not very far from Roche-Mauprat, and must have often passed by
the ruins. Thus there is no need for me to describe them. All I can tell
you is that the place has never been so attractive as it is now. On the
day that I had the roof taken off, the sun for the first time brightened
the damp walls within which my childhood was passed; and the lizards
to which I have left them are much better housed there than I once was.
They can at least behold the light of day and warm their cold limbs in
the rays of the sun at noon.

There used to be an elder and a younger branch of the Mauprats. I belong
to the elder. My grandfather was that old Tristan de Mauprat who ran
through his fortune, dishonoured his name, and was such a blackguard
that his memory is already surrounded by a halo of the marvelous. The
peasants still believe that his ghost appears, either in the body of a
wizard who shows malefactors the way to the dwellings of Varenne, or in
that of an old white hare which reveals itself to people meditating
some evil deed. When I came into the world the only living member of the
younger branch was Monsieur Hubert de Mauprat, known as the chevalier,
because he belonged to the Order of the Knights of Malta; a man just as
good as his cousin was bad. Being the youngest son of his family, he had
taken the vow of celibacy; but, when he found himself the sole survivor
of several brothers and sisters, he obtained release from his vow, and
took a wife the year before I was born. Rumour says that before changing
his existence in this way he made strenuous efforts to find some
descendant of the elder branch worthy to restore the tarnished family
name, and preserve the fortune which had accumulated in the hands of the
younger branch. He had endeavoured to put his cousin Tristan's affairs
in order, and had frequently paid off the latter's creditors. Seeing,
however, that the only effect of his kindness was to encourage the vices
of the family, and that, instead of respect and gratitude, he received
nothing but secret hatred and churlish jealousy, he abandoned all
attempts at friendship, broke with his cousins, and in spite of his
advanced age (he was over sixty), took a wife in order to have heirs of
his own. He had one daughter, and there his hopes of posterity ended;
for soon afterward his wife died of a violent illness which the doctors
called iliac passion. He then left that part of the country and returned
but rarely to his estates. These were situated about six leagues from
Roche-Mauprat, on the borders of the Varenne du Fromental. He was a
prudent man and a just, because he was cultured, because his father had
moved with the spirit of his century, and had had him educated. None the
less he had preserved a firm character and an enterprising mind, and,
like his ancestors, he was proud of hearing as a sort of surname the
knightly title of Headbreaker, hereditary in the original Mauprat stock.
As for the elder branch, it had turned out so badly, or rather had
preserved from the old feudal days such terrible habits of brigandage,
that it had won for itself the distinctive title of Hamstringer. [I
hazard "Headbreaker" and "Hamstringer" as poor equivalents for the
"Casse-Tete" and "Coupe-Jarret" of the French.--TR.] Of the sons of
Tristan, my father, the eldest, was the only one who married. I was his
only child. Here it is necessary to mention a fact of which I was long
ignorant. Hubert de Mauprat, on hearing of my birth, begged me of my
parents, undertaking to make me his heir if he were allowed absolute
control over my education. At a shooting-party about this time my
father was killed by an accidental shot, and my grandfather refused the
chevalier's offer, declaring that his children were the sole legitimate
heirs of the younger branch, and that consequently he would resist with
all his might any substitution in my favour. It was then that Hubert's
daughter was born. But when, seven years later, his wife died leaving
him this one child, the desire, so strong in the nobles of that time, to
perpetuate their name, urged him to renew his request to my mother. What
her answer was I do not know; she fell ill and died. The country doctors
again brought in a verdict of iliac passion. My grandfather had spent
the last two days she passed in this world with her.

Pour me out a glass of Spanish wine; for I feel a cold shiver running
through my body. It is nothing serious--merely the effect that these
early recollections have on me when I begin to narrate them. It will
soon pass off.

He swallowed a large glass of wine, and we did the same; for a sensation
of cold came upon us too as we gazed at his stern face and listened to
his brief, abrupt sentences. He continued:

Thus at the age of seven I found myself an orphan. My grandfather
searched my mother's house and seized all the money and valuables he
could carry away. Then, leaving the rest, and declaring he would have
nothing to do with lawyers, he did not even wait for the funeral, but
took me by the collar and flung me on to the crupper of his horse,
saying: "Now, my young ward, come home with me; and try to stop that
crying soon, for I haven't much patience with brats." In fact, after
a few seconds he gave me such hard cuts with his whip that I stopped
crying, and, withdrawing myself like a tortoise into my shell, completed
the journey without daring to breathe.

He was a tall old man, bony and cross-eyed. I fancy I see him now as he
was then. The impression that evening made on me can never be effaced.
It was a sudden realization of all the horrors which my mother had
foreshadowed when speaking of her execrable father-in-law and his
brigands of sons. The moon, I remember, was shining here and there
through the dense foliage of the forest. My grandfather's horse was
lean, hardy, and bad-tempered like himself. It kicked at every cut of
the whip, and its master gave it plenty. Swift as an arrow it jumped the
ravines and little torrents which everywhere intersect Varenne in all
directions. At each jump I lost my balance, and clung in terror to the
saddle or my grandfather's coat. As for him, he was so little concerned
about me that, had I fallen, I doubt whether he would have taken the
trouble to pick me up. Sometimes, noticing my terror, he would jeer at
me, and, to make me still more afraid, set his horse plunging again.
Twenty times, in a frenzy of despair, I was on the point of throwing
myself off; but the instinctive love of life prevented me from giving
way to the impulse. At last, about midnight, we suddenly stopped before
a small pointed gate, and the drawbridge was soon lifted behind us. My
grandfather took me, bathed in a cold sweat as I was, and threw me
over to a great fellow, lame and horribly ugly, who carried me into the
house. This was my Uncle John, and I was at Roche-Mauprat.

At that time my grandfather, along with his eight sons, formed the last
relic in our province of that race of petty feudal tyrants by
which France had been overrun and harassed for so many centuries.
Civilization, already advancing rapidly towards the great convulsion of
the Revolution, was gradually stamping out the systematic extortions
of these robbers. The light of education, a species of good taste
reflected, however dimly, from a polished court, and perhaps a
presentiment of the impending terrible awakening of the people, were
spreading through the castles and even through the half-rustic manors
of the lordlings. Ever in our midland provinces, the most backward by
reason of their situation, the sentiment of social equality was
already driving out the customs of a barbarous age. More than one vile
scapegrace had been forced to reform, in spite of his privileges; and
in certain places where the peasants, driven to desperation, had rid
themselves of their overlord, the law had not dreamt of interfering, nor
had the relatives dared to demand redress.

In spite of the prevailing tone of mind, my grandfather had long
maintained his position in the country without experiencing any
opposition. But, having had a large family, endowed like himself with a
goodly number of vices, he finally found himself pestered and besieged
by creditors who, instead of being frightened by his threats, as of old,
were themselves threatening to make him suffer. He was obliged to devise
some means of avoiding the bailiffs on the one hand, and, on the other,
the fights which were continually taking place. In these fights the
Mauprats no longer shone, despite their numbers, their complete union,
and their herculean strength; since the whole population of the district
sided with their opponents and took upon itself the duty of stoning
them. So, rallying his progeny around him, as the wild boar gathers
together its young after a hunt, Tristan withdrew into his castle and
ordered the drawbridge to be raised. Shut up with him were ten or twelve
peasants, his servants, all of them poachers or refugees, who like
himself had some interest in "retiring from the world" (his own
expression), and in finding a place of safety behind good stout walls.
An enormous pile of hunting weapons, duck-guns, carbines, blunderbusses,
spears, and cutlasses, were raised on the platform, and the porter
received orders never to let more than two persons at a time approach
within range of his gun.

From that day Mauprat and his sons broke with all civil laws as they had
already broken with all moral laws. They formed themselves into a band
of adventurers. While their well-beloved and trusty poachers supplied
the house with game, they levied illegal taxes on the small farms in the
neighbourhood. Now, without being cowards (and they are far from that),
the peasants of our province, as you know, are meek and timid, partly
from listlessness, partly from distrust of the law, which they have
never understood, and of which even to this day they have but a scanty
knowledge. No province of France has preserved more old traditions or
longer endured the abuses of feudalism. Nowhere else, perhaps, has the
title of the lord of the manor been handed down, as hitherto with us, to
the owners of certain estates; and nowhere is it so easy to frighten the
people with reports of some absurd and impossible political event. At
the time of which I speak the Mauprats, being the only powerful family
in a district remote from towns and cut off from communication with the
outside world, had little difficulty in persuading their vassals that
serfdom was about to be re-established, and that it would go hard with
all who resisted. The peasants hesitated, listened timorously to the few
among themselves who preached independence, then thought the matter over
and decided to submit. The Mauprats were clever enough not to demand
money of them, for money is what the peasant in such a district
obtains with the greatest difficulty, and parts from with the greatest
reluctance. "Money is dear," is one of his proverbs, because in his
eyes money stands for something different from manual labour. It means
traffic with men and things outside his world, an effort of foresight or
circumspection, a bargain, a sort of intellectual struggle, which lifts
him out of his ordinary heedless habits; it means, in a word, mental
labour, and this for him is the most painful and the most wearing.

The Mauprats, knowing how the ground lay, and having no particular need
of money any longer, since they had repudiated their debts, demanded
payments in kind only. They ruled that one man should contribute capons,
another calves, a third corn, a fourth fodder, and so on. They were
careful, too, to tax judiciously, to demand from each the commodity
he could provide with least inconvenience to himself. In return they
promised help and protection to all; and up to a certain point they kept
their word. They cleared the land of wolves and foxes, gave a welcome
and a hiding-place to all deserters, and helped to defraud the state by
intimidating the excise officers and tax-collectors.

They took advantage of their power to give the poor man a false notion
of his real interests, and to corrupt the simple folk by undermining all
sense of their dignity and natural liberty. They made the whole district
combine in a sort of secession from the law, and they so frightened
the functionaries appointed to enforce respect for it, that after a few
years it fell into a veritable desuetude. Thus it happened that, while
France at a short distance from this region was advancing with rapid
strides towards the enfranchisement of the poorer classes, Varenne was
executing a retrograde march and returning at full speed to the ancient
tyranny of the country squires. It was easy enough for the Mauprats to
pervert these poor folk; they feigned a friendly interest in them
to mark their difference from the other nobles in the province whose
manners still retained some of the haughtiness of their ancient power.
Above all, my grandfather lost no opportunity of making the peasants
share his own hatred of his own cousin, Hubert de Mauprat. The latter,
whenever he interviewed his vassals, would remain seated in his
arm-chair, while they stood before him bareheaded; whereas Tristan de
Mauprat would make them sit down at his table, and drink some of the
wine they had brought him as a sign of voluntary homage. He would then
have them led home by his men in the middle of the night, all dead
drunk, torches in hand, and making the forest resound with ribald songs.
Libertinism completed the demoralization of the peasantry. In every
family the Mauprats soon had their mistresses. This was tolerated,
partly because it was profitable, and partly (alas! that it should
have to be said) because it gratified vanity. The very isolation of the
houses was favourable to the evil. No scandal, no denunciation were
to be feared. The tiniest village would have been sufficient for the
creation and maintenance of a public opinion. There, however, there
were only scattered cottages and isolated farms; wastes and woods so
separated the families from one another that the exercise of any mutual
control was impossible. Shame is stronger than conscience. I need not
tell you of all the bonds of infamy that united masters and slaves.
Debauchery, extortion, and fraud were both precept and example for my
youth, and life went on merrily. All notions of justice were scoffed at;
creditors were defrauded of both interest and capital; any law officer
who ventured to serve a summons received a sound thrashing, and the
mounted police were fired on if they approached too near the turrets. A
plague on parliament; starvation to all imbued with the new philosophy;
and death to the younger branch of the Mauprats--such were the
watchwords of these men who, to crown all, gave themselves the airs of
knights-errant of the twelfth century. My grandfather talked of nothing
but his pedigree and the prowess of his ancestors. He regretted the good
old days when every lordling had instruments of torture in his manor,
and dungeons, and, best, of all cannon. In ours we only had pitchforks
and sticks, and a second-rate culverin which my Uncle John used to
point--and point very well, in fact--and which was sufficient to keep at
a respectful distance the military force of the district.


Old Mauprat was a treacherous animal of the carnivorous order, a
cross between a lynx and a fox. Along with a copious and easy flow of
language, he had a veneer of education which helped his cunning. He made
a point of excessive politeness, and had great powers of persuasion,
even with the objects of his vengeance. He knew how to entice them to
his castle, where he would make them undergo frightful ill-treatment,
for which, however, having no witnesses, they were unable to obtain
redress by law. All his villainies bore the stamp of such consummate
skill that the country came to view them with a sort of awe akin to
respect. No one could ever catch him out of his den, though he issued
forth often enough, and apparently without taking many precautions. In
truth, he was a man with a genius for evil; and his sons, bound to him
by no ties of affection, of which, indeed, they were incapable, yet
acknowledged the sway of this superior evil genius, and gave him
a uniform and ready obedience, in which there was something almost
fanatic. He was their deliverer in all desperate cases; and when the
weariness of confinement under our chilly vaults began to fill them with
_ennui_, his mind, brutal even in jest, would cure them by arranging
for their pleasure shows worthy of a den of thieves. Sometimes poor
mendicant monks collecting alms would be terrified or tortured for their
benefit; their beards would be burned off, or they would be lowered into
a well and kept hanging between life and death until they had sung some
foul song or uttered some blasphemy. Everybody knows the story of the
notary who was allowed to enter in company with his four clerks, and
whom they received with all the assiduity of pompous hospitality. My
grandfather pretended to agree with a good grace to the execution of
their warrant, and politely helped them to make an inventory of his
furniture, of which the sale had been decreed. After this, when dinner
was served and the king's men had taken their places at table, he said
to the notary:

"Ah, mon Dieu! I was forgetting a poor hack of mine in the stable. It's
a small matter. Still, you might be reprimanded for omitting it; and
as I see that you are a worthy fellow I should be sorry to mislead you.
Come with me and see it; it won't take us a moment."

The notary followed Mauprat unsuspectingly. Just as they were about to
enter the stable together, Mauprat, who was leading the way, told him to
put in his head only. The notary, anxious to show great consideration in
the performance of his duties, and not to pry into things too closely,
did as he was told. Then Mauprat suddenly pushed the door to and
squeezed his neck so violently between it and the wall that the wretched
man could not breathe. Deeming him sufficiently punished, Tristan opened
the door again, and, asking pardon for his carelessness, with great
civility offered the man his arm to take him back to dinner. This the
notary did not consider it wise to refuse; but as soon as he re-entered
the room where his colleagues were, he threw himself into a chair, and
pointing to his livid face and mangled neck, demanded justice for the
trap into which he had just been led. It was then that my grandfather,
revelling in his rascally wit, went through a comedy scene of sublime
audacity. He gravely reproached the notary with accusing him unjustly,
and always addressing him kindly and with studied politeness, called the
others to bear witness to his conduct, begging them to make allowances
if his precarious position had forced him to give them such a poor
reception, all the while doing the honours of the table in splendid
style. The poor notary did not dare to press the matter and was
compelled to dine, although half dead. His companions were so completely
duped by Mauprat's assurance that they ate and drank merrily, treating
the notary as a lunatic and a boor. They left Roche-Mauprat all drunk,
singing the praises of their host, and laughing at the notary, who fell
down dead upon the threshold of his house on dismounting from his horse.

The eight sons, the pride and strength of old Mauprat, all resembled
him in physical vigour, brutality of manners, and, to some extent, in
craftiness and jesting ill-nature. The truth is they were veritable
brutes, capable of any evil, and completely dead to any noble thought
or generous sentiment. Nevertheless, they were endowed with a sort of
reckless, dashing courage which now and then seemed to have in it an
element of grandeur. But it is time that I told you about myself, and
gave you some idea of the development of my character in the thick of
this filthy mire into which it had pleased God to plunge me, on leaving
my cradle.

I should be wrong if, in order to gain your sympathy in these early
years of my life, I asserted that I was born with a noble nature, a pure
and incorruptible soul. As to this, I know nothing. Maybe there are no
incorruptible souls. Maybe there are. That is what neither you nor any
one will ever know. The great questions awaiting an answer are these:
"Are our innate tendencies invincible? If not, can they be modified
merely or wholly destroyed by education?" For myself, I would not dare
to affirm. I am neither a metaphysician, nor a psychologist, nor a
philosopher; but I have had a terrible life, gentlemen, and if I were a
legislator, I would order that man to have his tongue torn out, or
his head cut off, who dared to preach or write that the nature of
individuals is unchangeable, and that it is no more possible to reform
the character of a man than the appetite of a tiger. God has preserved
me from believing this.

All I can tell you is that my mother instilled into me good principles,
though, perhaps, I was not endowed by nature with her good qualities.
Even with her I was of a violent disposition, but my violence was
sullen and suppressed. I was blind and brutal in anger, nervous even to
cowardice at the approach of danger, daring almost to foolhardiness when
hand to hand with it--that is to say, at once timid and brave from my
love of life. My obstinacy was revolting; yet my mother alone could
conquer me; and without attempting to reason, for my mind developed very
slowly, I used to obey her as if by a sort of magnetic necessity. This
one guiding hand which I remember, and another woman's which I felt
later, were and have been sufficient to lead me towards good. But I lost
my mother before she had been able to teach me anything seriously; and
when I was transplanted to Roche-Mauprat, my feeling for the evil done
there was merely an instinctive aversion, feeble enough, perhaps, if
fear had not been mingled with it.

But I thank Heaven from the bottom of my heart for the cruelties
heaped upon me there, and above all for the hatred which my Uncle John
conceived for me. My ill-fortune preserved me from indifference in
the presence of evil, and my sufferings helped me to detest those who
wrought it.

This John was certainly the most detestable of his race. Ever since a
fall from his horse had maimed him, his evil temper had developed
in proportion to his inability to do as much harm as his companions.
Compelled to remain at home when the others set out on their
expeditions, for he could not bestride a horse, he found his only chance
of pleasure in those fruitless little attacks which the mounted police
sometimes made on the castle, as if to ease their conscience. Then,
intrenched behind a rampart of freestone which he had had built to
suit himself, John, calmly seated near his culverin, would pick off
a gentleman from time to time, and at once regain, as he said, his
sleeping and eating power, which want of exercise had taken from him.
And he would even climb up to his beloved platform without waiting for
the excuse of an attack, and there, crouching down like a cat ready to
spring, as soon as he saw any one appear in the distance without giving
the signal, he would try his skill upon the target, and make the man
retrace his steps. This he called sweeping the path clean.

As I was too young to accompany my uncles on their hunting and
plundering expeditions, John naturally became my guardian and
tutor--that is to say, my jailor and tormentor. I will not give you all
the details of that infernal existence. For nearly ten years I endured
cold, hunger, insults, the dungeon, and blows, according to the more or
less savage caprices of this monster. His fierce hatred of me arose
from the fact that he could not succeed in depraving me; my rugged,
headstrong, and unsociable nature preserved me from his vile seductions.
It is possible that I had not any strong tendencies to virtue; to hatred
I luckily had. Rather than do the bidding of my tyrant I would have
suffered a thousand deaths. And so I grew up without conceiving any
affection for vice. However, my notions about society were so strange
that my uncles' mode of life did not in itself cause me any repugnance.
Seeing that I was brought up behind the walls of Roche-Mauprat, and that
I lived in a state of perpetual siege, you will understand that I had
precisely such ideas as any armed retainer in the barbarous ages of
feudalism might have had. What, outside our den, was termed by other men
assassinating, plundering, and torturing, I was taught to call fighting,
conquering, and subduing. My sole knowledge of history consisted of
an acquaintance with certain legends and ballads of chivalry which my
grandfather used to repeat to me of an evening, when he had time to
think of what he was pleased to call my education. Whenever I asked him
any question about the present time, he used to answer that times had
sadly changed, that all Frenchmen had become traitors and felons, that
they had frightened their kings, and that these, like cravens, had
deserted the nobles, who in their turn had been cowardly enough to
renounce their privileges and let laws be made for them by clodhoppers.
I listened with surprise, almost with indignation, to this account of
the age in which I lived, for me an age of shadows and mysteries. My
grandfather had but vague ideas of chronology; not a book of any kind
was to be found at Roche-Mauprat, except, I should say, the History of
the Sons of Aymon, and a few chronicles of the same class brought by our
servants from country fairs. Three names, and only three, stood clear in
the chaos of my ignorance--Charlemagne, Louis XI, and Louis XIV; because
my grandfather would frequently introduce these into dissertations on
the unrecognised rights of the nobles. In truth, I was so ignorant that
I scarcely knew the difference between a reign and a race; and I was by
no means sure that my grandfather had not seen Charlemagne, for he spoke
of him more frequently and more gladly than of any other man.

But, while my native energy led me to admire the exploits of my uncles,
and filled me with a longing to share in them, the cold-blooded cruelty
they perpetrated on returning from their expeditions, and the perfidious
artifices by which they lured their dupes to the castle, in order
to torture them to extort ransom, roused in me strange and painful
emotions, which, now that I am speaking in all sincerity, it would be
difficult for me to account for exactly. In the absence of all ordinary
moral principles it might have been natural for me to accept the theory
which I daily saw carried into practice, that makes it right; but the
humiliation and suffering which my Uncle John inflicted on me in virtue
of this theory, taught me to be dissatisfied with it. I could appreciate
the right of the bravest, and I genuinely despised those who, with death
in their power, yet chose life at the price of such ignominy as they
had to bear at Roche-Mauprat. But I could only explain these insults and
horrors heaped on prisoners, some of them women and mere children,
as manifestations of bloodthirsty appetites. I do not know if I was
sufficiently susceptible of a noble sentiment to be inspired with pity
for the victim; but certain it is that I experienced that feeling
of selfish commiseration which is common to all natures, and which,
purified and ennobled, has become charity among civilized peoples. Under
my coarse exterior my heart no doubt merely felt passing shocks of fear
and disgust at the sight of punishments which I myself might have to
endure any day at the caprice of my oppressors; especially as John,
when he saw me turn pale at these frightful spectacles, had a habit of
saying, in a mocking tone:

"That's what I'll do to you when you are disobedient."

All I know is that in presence of such iniquitous acts I experienced a
horrible uneasiness; my blood curdled in my veins, my throat began
to close, and I had to rush away, so as not to repeat the cries which
pierced my ears. In time, however, I became somewhat hardened to these
terrible impressions. The fibres of feeling grew tougher, and habit gave
me power to hide what they termed my cowardice. I even felt ashamed of
the signs of weakness I showed, and forced my face into the hyena
smile which I saw on the faces of my kinsmen. But I could never prevent
convulsive shudders from running through my limbs, and the coldness as
of death from falling on my heart, at the recollection of these scenes
of agony. The women, dragged half-willingly, half by force, under the
roof of Roche-Mauprat, caused me inconceivable agitation. I began to
feel the fires of youth kindling within me, and even to look with envy
on this part of my uncles' spoil; but with these new-born desires were
mingled inexpressible pangs. To all around me women were merely objects
of contempt, and vainly did I try to separate this idea from that of the
pleasure which was luring me. My mind was bewildered, and my irritated
nerves imparted a violent and sickly strain to all my temptations. In
other matters, I had as vile a disposition as my companions; if my heart
was better than theirs, my manners were no less arrogant, and my jokes
in no better taste. And here it may be well to give you an illustration
of my youthful malice, especially as the results of these events have
had an influence on the rest of my life.


Some three leagues from Roche-Mauprat, on your way to Fromental, you
must have noticed an old tower standing by itself in the middle of the
woods. It is famous for the tragic death of a prisoner about a century
ago. The executioner, on his rounds, thought good to hang him without
any further formality, merely to gratify an old Mauprat, his overlord.

At the time of which I am speaking Gazeau Tower was already deserted
and falling into ruins. It was state property, and, more from negligence
than kindness, the authorities had allowed a poor old fellow to take
up his abode there. He was quite a character, used to live completely
alone, and was known in the district as Gaffer Patience.

"Yes," I interrupted; "I have heard my nurse's grandmother speak of him;
she believed he was a sorcerer."

Exactly so; and while we are at this point let me tell you what sort of
a man this Patience really was, for I shall have to speak of him more
than once in the course of my story. I had opportunities of studying him

Patience, then, was a rustic philosopher. Heaven had endowed him with
a keen intellect, but he had had little education. By a sort of strange
fatality, his brain had doggedly resisted the little instruction he
might have received. For instance, he had been to the Carmelite's school
at ----, and instead of showing any aptitude for work, he had played
truant with a keener delight than any of his school-fellows. His was
an eminently contemplative nature, kindly and indolent, but proud and
almost savage in its love of independence; religious, yet opposed to
all authority; somewhat captious, very suspicious, and inexorable with
hypocrites. The observances of the cloister inspired him with but little
awe; and as a result of once or twice speaking his mind too freely to
the monks he was expelled from the school. From that time forth he was
the sworn foe of what he called monkism, and declared openly for the
cure of the Briantes, who was accused of being a Jansenist. In the
instruction of Patience, however, the cure succeeded no better than the
monks. The young peasant, endowed though he was with herculean strength
and a great desire for knowledge, displayed an unconquerable aversion
for every kind of work, whether physical or mental. He professed a sort
of artless philosophy which the cure found it very difficult to argue
against. There was, he said, no need for a man to work as long as he did
not want money; and he was in no need of money as long as his wants were
moderate. Patience practised what he preached: during the years when
passions are so powerful he lived a life of austerity, drank nothing
but water, never entered a tavern, and never joined in a dance. He was
always very awkward and shy with women, who, it must be owned, found
little to please in his eccentric character, stern face, and somewhat
sarcastic wit. As if to avenge himself for this by showing his contempt,
or to console himself by displaying his wisdom, he took a pleasure, like
Diogenes of old, in decrying the vain pleasures of others; and if at
times he was to be seen passing under the branches in the middle of the
fetes, it was merely to throw out some shaft of scorn, a flash from his
inexorable good sense. Sometimes, too, his uncompromising morality found
expression in biting words, which left clouds of sadness or fear hanging
over agitated consciences. This naturally gained him violent enemies;
and the efforts of impotent hatred, helped by the feeling of awe which
his eccentric behaviour produced, fastened upon him the reputation of a

When I said that Patience was lacking in education, I expressed myself
badly. Longing for a knowledge of the sublime mysteries of Nature,
his mind wished to soar to heaven on its first flight. From the very
beginning, the Jansenist vicar was so perplexed and startled by
the audacity of his pupil, he had to say so much to calm him into
submission, he was obliged to sustain such assaults of bold questions
and proud objections, that he had no leisure to teach him the alphabet;
and at the end of ten years of studies, broken off and taken up at the
bidding of a whim or on compulsion, Patience could not even read. It was
only with great difficulty, after poring over a book for some two hours,
that he deciphered a single page, and even then he did not grasp the
meaning of most of the words expressing abstract ideas. Yet these
abstract ideas were undoubtedly in him; you felt their presence while
watching and listening to him; and the way in which he managed to embody
them in homely phrase enlivened with a rude poetry was so marvellous,
that one scarcely knew whether to feel astounded or amused.

Always serious, always positive himself, he scorned dalliance with
any dialectic. A Stoic by nature and on principle, enthusiastic in the
propagation of his doctrine of severance from false ideas, but resolute
in the practice of resignation, he made many a breach in the poor cure's
defences; and it was in these discussions, as he often told me in his
last years, that he acquired his knowledge of philosophy. In order to
make a stand against the battering-ram of natural logic, the worthy
Jansenist was obliged to invoke the testimony of all the Fathers of the
Church, and to oppose these, often even to corroborate them, with the
teaching of all the sages and scholars of antiquity. Then Patience, his
round eyes starting from his head (this was his own expression), lapsed
into silence, and, delighted to learn without having the bother of
studying, would ask for long explanations of the doctrines of these
men, and for an account of their lives. Noticing this attention and
this silence, his adversary would exult; but just as he thought he had
convinced this rebellious soul, Patience, hearing the village clock
strike midnight, would rise, take an affectionate leave of his host, and
on the very threshold of the vicarage, would dismay the good man with
some laconic and cutting comment that confounded Saint Jerome and Plato
alike, Eusebius equally with Seneca, Tertullian no less than Aristotle.

The cure was not too ready to acknowledge the superiority of this
untutored intellect. Still, he was quite astonished at passing so many
winter evenings by his fireside with this peasant without feeling
either bored or tired; and he would wonder how it was that the village
schoolmaster, and even the prior of the convent, in spite of their Greek
and Latin, appeared to him, the one a bore, the other a sophist, in all
their discussions. Knowing the perfect purity of the peasant's life,
he attributed the ascendency of his mind to the power of virtue and the
charm it spreads over all things. Then, each evening, he would humbly
accuse himself before God of not having disputed with his pupil from a
sufficiently Christian point of view; he would confess to his guardian
angel that pride in his own learning and joy at being listened to
so devoutly had carried him somewhat beyond the bounds of religious
instruction; that he had quoted profane writers too complacently;
that he had even experienced a dangerous pleasure in roaming with
his disciple through the fields of the past, plucking pagan flowers
unsprinkled by the waters of baptism, flowers in whose fragrance a
priest should not have found such delight.

On his side, Patience loved the cure dearly. He was his only friend,
his only bond of union with society, his only bond of union, through
the light of knowledge, with God. The peasant largely over-estimated his
pastor's learning. He did not know that even the most enlightened men
often draw wrong conclusions, or no conclusions at all, from the course
of progress. Patience would have been spared great distress of mind if
he could have seen for certain that his master was frequently mistaken
and that it was the man, not the truth, that was at fault. Not knowing
this, and finding the experience of the ages at variance with his innate
sense of justice, he was continually a prey to agonizing reveries; and,
living by himself, and wandering through the country at all hours of the
day and night, wrapped in thoughts undreamed of by his fellows, he gave
more and more credit to the tales of sorcery reported against him.

The convent did not like the pastor. A few monks whom Patience had
unmasked hated Patience. Hence, both pastor and pupil were persecuted.
The ignorant monks did not scruple to accuse the cure to his bishop of
devoting himself to the occult sciences in concert with the magician
Patience. A sort of religious war broke out in the village and
neighbourhood. All who were not for the convent were for the cure,
and _vice versa_. Patience scorned to take part in this struggle. One
morning he went to see his friend, with tears in his eyes, and said to

"You are the one man in all the world that I love, and I will not have
you persecuted on my account. Since, after you, I neither know nor
care for a soul, I am going off to live in the woods, like the men
of primitive times. I have inherited a field which brings me in fifty
francs a year. It is the only land I have ever stirred with these hands,
and half its wretched rent has gone to pay the tithe of labour I owe the
seignior. I trust to die without ever doing duty as a beast of burden
for others. And yet, should they remove you from your office, or rob you
of your income, if you have a field that needs ploughing, only send me
word, and you will see that these arms have not grown altogether stiff
in their idleness."

It was in vain that the pastor opposed this resolve. Patience departed,
carrying with him as his only belonging the coat he had on his back,
and an abridgment of the teachings of Epictetus. For this book he had a
great affection, and, thanks to much study of it, could read as many
as three of its pages a day without unduly tiring himself. The rustic
anchorite went into the desert to live. At first he built himself a hut
of branches in a wood. Then, as wolves attacked him, he took refuge in
one of the lower halls of Gazeau Tower, which he furnished luxuriously
with a bed of moss, and some stumps of trees; wild roots, wild fruit,
and goat's milk constituted a daily fare very little inferior to what
he had had in the village. This is no exaggeration. You have to see the
peasants in certain parts of Varenne to form an idea of the frugal diet
on which a man can live and keep in good health. In the midst of these
men of stoical habits all round him, Patience was still exceptional.
Never had wine reddened his lips, and bread had seemed to him a
superfluity. Besides, the doctrine of Pythagoras was not wholly
displeasing to him; and in the rare interviews which he henceforth had
with his friend he would declare that, without exactly believing in
metempsychosis, and without making it a rule to eat vegetables only, he
felt a secret joy at being able to live thus, and at having no further
occasion to see death dealt out every day to innocent animals.

Patience had formed this curious resolution at the age of forty. He was
sixty when I saw him for the first time, and he was then possessed of
extraordinary physical vigour. In truth, he was in the habit of roaming
about the country every year. However, in proportion as I tell you about
my own life, I shall give you details of the hermit life of Patience.

At the time of which I am about to speak, the forest rangers, more
from fear of his casting a spell over them than out of compassion, had
finally ceased their persecutions, and given him full permission to
live in Gazeau Tower, not, however, without warning him that it would
probably fall about his head during the first gale of wind. To this
Patience had replied philosophically that if he was destined to be
crushed to death, the first tree in the forest would do the work quite
as well as the walls of Gazeau Tower.

Before putting my actor Patience on the stage, and with many apologies
for inflicting on you such a long preliminary biography, I have still to
mention that during the twenty years of which I have spoken the cure's
mind had bowed to a new power. He loved philosophy, and in spite of
himself, dear man, could not prevent this love from embracing the
philosophers too, even the least orthodox. The works of Jean Jacques
Rousseau carried him away into new regions, in spite of all his efforts
at resistance; and when one morning, when returning from a visit to some
sick folk, he came across Patience gathering his dinner of herbs from
the rocks of Crevant, he sat down near him on one of the druidical
stones and made, without knowing it, the profession of faith of the
Savoyard vicar. Patience drank more willingly of this poetic religion
than of the ancient orthodoxy. The pleasure with which he listened to
a summary of the new doctrines led the cure to arrange secret meetings
with him in isolated parts of Varenne, where they agreed to come
upon each other as if by chance. At these mysterious interviews the
imagination of Patience, fresh and ardent from long solitude, was fired
with all the magic of the thoughts and hopes which were then fermenting
in France, from the court of Versailles to the most uninhabitable heath.
He became enamoured of Jean Jacques, and made the cure read as much of
him as he possibly could without neglecting his duties. Then he begged a
copy of the _Contrat Social_, and hastened to Gazeau Tower to spell his
way through it feverishly. At first the cure had given him of this manna
only with a sparing hand, and while making him admire the lofty thoughts
and noble sentiments of the philosopher, had thought to put him on his
guard against the poison of anarchy. But all the old learning, all the
happy texts of bygone days--in a word, all the theology of the worthy
priest--was swept away like a fragile bridge by the torrent of wild
eloquence and ungovernable enthusiasm which Patience had accumulated
in his desert. The vicar had to give way and fall back terrified upon
himself. There he discovered that the shrine of his own science was
everywhere cracking and crumbling to ruin. The new sun which was rising
on the political horizon and making havoc in so many minds, melted his
own like a light snow under the first breath of spring. The sublime
enthusiasm of Patience; the strange poetic life of the man which seemed
to reveal him as one inspired; the romantic turn which their mysterious
relations were taking (the ignoble persecutions of the convent making it
noble to revolt)--all this so worked upon the priest that by 1770 he had
already travelled far from Jansenism, and was vainly searching all the
religious heresies for some spot on which he might rest before falling
into the abyss of philosophy so often opened at his feet by Patience, so
often hidden in vain by the exorcisms of Roman theology.


After this account of the philosophical life of Patience, set forth
by me now in manhood (continued Bernard, after a pause), it is not
altogether easy to return to the very different impressions I received
in boyhood on meeting the wizard of Gazeau Tower. I will make an effort,
however, to reproduce my recollections faithfully.

It was one summer evening, as I was returning from bird-snaring with
several peasant-boys, that I passed Gazeau Tower for the first time.
My age was about thirteen, and I was bigger and stronger than any of my
comrades; besides, I exercised over them, sternly enough, the authority
I drew from my noble birth. In fact, the mixture of familiarity and
etiquette in our intercourse was rather fantastic. Sometimes, when the
excitement of sport or the fatigue of the day had greater powers over
them than I, they used to have their own way; and I already knew how
to yield at the right moment, as tyrants do, so as always to avoid the
appearance of being compelled. However, I generally found a chance for
revenge, and soon saw them trembling before the hated name of my family.

Well, night was coming on, and we were walking along gaily, whistling,
knocking down crab-apples with stones, imitating the notes of birds,
when the boy who was ahead suddenly stopped, and, coming back to us,
declared that he was not going by the Gazeau Tower path, but would
rather cut across the wood. This idea was favoured by two others. A
third objected that we ran the risk of losing ourselves if we left the
path, that night was near, and that there were plenty of wolves about.

"Come on, you funks!" I cried in a princely tone, pushing forward the
guide; "follow the path, and have done with this nonsense."

"Not me," said the youngster. "I've just seen the sorcerer at his door
saying magic words, and I don't want to have a fever all the year."

"Bah!" said another; "he doesn't do harm to everybody. He never hurts
children; and, besides, we have only to pass by very quietly without
saying anything to him. What do you suppose he'll do to us?"

"Oh, it would be all right if we were alone," answered the first; "but
M. Bernard is here; we're sure to have a spell cast on us."

"What do you say, you fool?" I cried, doubling my fist.

"It's not my fault, my lord," replied the boy. "That old wretch doesn't
like the gentry, and he has said he would be glad to see M. Tristan and
all his sons hanging from the same bough."

"He said that, did he? Good!" I answered. "Come on, and you shall see.
All who are my friends will follow; any one that leaves me is a coward."

Two of my companions, out of vanity, let themselves be drawn on. The
others pretended to imitate them; but, after a few steps, they had all
taken flight and disappeared into the copse. However, I went on proudly,
escorted by my two acolytes. Little Sylvain, who was in front, took off
his hat as soon as he saw Patience in the distance; and when we arrived
opposite him, though the man was looking on the ground without appearing
to notice us, he was seized with terror, and said, in a trembling voice:

"Good evening, Master Patience; a good night's rest to you."

The sorcerer, roused out of his reverie, started like a man waked from
sleep; and I saw, not without a certain emotion, his weather-beaten face
half covered with a thick gray beard. His big head was quite bald, and
the bareness of his forehead only served to make his bushy eyebrows
more prominent. Behind these his round deepset eyes seemed to flash
like lightning at the end of summer behind the fading foliage. He was
of small stature, but very broad-shouldered; in fact, built like a
gladiator. The rags in which he was clad were defiantly filthy. His face
was short and of a vulgar type, like that of Socrates; and if the fire
of genius glowed in his strongly marked features, I certainly could not
perceive it. He appeared to me a wild beast, an unclean animal. Filled
with a sense of loathing, and determined to avenge the insult he had
offered to my name, I put a stone in my sling, and without further ado
hurled it at him with all my might.

At the moment the stone flew out, Patience was in the act of replying to
the boy's greeting.

"Good evening, lads; God be with you!" he was saying when the stone
whistled past his ear and struck a tame owl of which Patience had made a
pet, and which at the approach of night was beginning to rouse itself in
the ivy above the door.

The owl gave a piercing cry and fell bleeding at the feet of its
master, who answered it with a roar of anger. For a few seconds he stood
motionless with surprise and fury. Then suddenly, taking the palpitating
victim by the feet, he lifted it up, and, coming towards us, cried in a
voice of thunder:

"Which of you wretches threw that stone?"

The boy who had been walking behind, flew with the swiftness of the
wind; but Sylvain, seized by the great hand of the sorcerer, fell
upon his knees, swearing by the Holy Virgin and by Saint Solange, the
patroness of Berry, that he was innocent of the death of the bird. I
felt, I confess, a strong inclination to let him get out of the scrape
as best he could, and make my escape into the thicket. I had expected
to see a decrepit old juggler, not to fall into the hands of a robust
enemy; but pride held me back.

"If you did this," said Patience to my trembling comrade, "I pity you;
for you are a wicked child, and you will grow into a dishonest man. You
have done a bad deed; you have made it your pleasure to cause pain to
an old man who never did you any harm; and you have done this
treacherously, like a coward, while feigning politeness and bidding him
good-evening. You are a liar, a miscreant; you have robbed me of my only
society, my only riches; you have taken delight in evil. God preserve
you from living if you are going on in this way."

"Oh, Monsieur Patience!" cried the boy, clasping his hands; "do not
curse me; do not bewitch me; do not give me any illness; it wasn't I!
May God strike me dead if it was!"

"If it wasn't you, it was this one, then!" said Patience, seizing me by
the coat-collar and shaking me like a young tree to be uprooted.

"Yes, I did it," I replied, haughtily; "and if you wish to know my name,
learn that I am called Bernard Mauprat, and that a peasant who lays a
hand on a nobleman deserves death."

"Death! You! You would put me to death, Mauprat!" cried the old man,
petrified with surprise and indignation. "And what would God be, then,
if a brat like you had a right to threaten a man of my age? Death! Ah,
you are a genuine Mauprat, and you bite like your breed, cursed whelp!
Such things as they talk of putting to death the very moment they are
born! Death, my wolf-cub! Do you know it is yourself who deserves death,
not for what you have just done, but for being the son of your father,
and the nephew of your uncles? Ah! I am glad to hold a Mauprat in the
hollow of my hand, and see whether a cur of a nobleman weighs as much as
a Christian."

As he spoke he lifted me from the ground as he would have lifted a hare.

"Little one," he said to my comrade, "you can run home; you needn't
be afraid. Patience rarely gets angry with his equals; and he always
pardons his brothers, because his brothers are ignorant like himself,
and know not what they do; but a Mauprat, look you, is a thing that
knows how to read and write, and is only the viler for it all. Run
away, then. But no; stay; I should like you once in your life to see
a nobleman receive a thrashing from the hand of a peasant. And that is
what you are going to see; and I ask you not to forget it, little one,
and to tell your parents about it."

Livid, and gnashing my teeth with rage, I made desperate efforts to
resist. Patience, with hideous calmness, bound me to a tree with an
osier shoot. At the touch of his great horny hand I bent like a reed;
and yet I was remarkably strong for my age. He fixed the owl to a branch
above my head, and the bird's blood, as it fell on me drop by drop,
caused me unspeakable horror; for though this was only the correction
we administer to sporting dogs that worry game, my brain, bewildered by
rage, despair, and my comrades' cries, began to imagine some
frightful witchcraft. However, I really think I would rather have
been metamorphosed into an owl at once than undergo the punishment he
inflicted on me. In vain did I fling threats at him; in vain did I take
terrible vows of vengeance; in vain did the peasant child throw himself
on his knees again and supplicate:

"Monsieur Patience, for God's sake, for your own sake, don't harm him;
the Mauprats will kill you."

He laughed, and shrugged his shoulders. Then, taking a handful of holly
twigs, he flogged me in a manner, I must own, more humiliating than
cruel; for no sooner did he see a few drops of my blood appear, than he
stopped and threw down the rod. I even noticed a sudden softening of his
features and voice, as if he were sorry for his severity.

"Mauprat," he said, crossing his arms on his breast and looking at me
fixedly, "you have now been punished; you have now been insulted,
my fine gentleman; that is enough for me. As you see, I might easily
prevent you from ever harming me by stopping your breath with a touch of
my finger, and burying you under the stone at my door. Who would think
of coming to Gaffer Patience to look for this fine child of noble blood?
But, as you may also see, I am not fond of vengeance; at the first
cry of pain that escaped you, I stopped. No; I don't like to cause
suffering; I'm not a Mauprat. Still, it was well for you to learn by
experience what is to be a victim. May this disgust you of the hangman's
trade, which had been handed down from father to son in your family.
Good-evening! You can go now; I no longer bear you malice; the justice
of God is satisfied. You can tell your uncles to put me on their
gridiron; they will have a tough morsel to eat; and they will swallow
flesh that will come to life again in their gullets and choke them."

Then he picked up the dead owl, and looking at it sadly:

"A peasant's child would not have done this," he said. "This is sport
for gentle blood."

As he retired to his door he gave utterance to an exclamation which
escaped him only on solemn occasions, and from which he derived his
curious surname:

"Patience, patience!" he cried.

This, according to the gossips, was a cabalistic formula of his; and
whenever he had been heard to pronounce it, some misfortune had happened
to the individual who had offended him. Sylvain crossed himself to ward
off the evil spirit. The terrible words resounded through the tower into
which Patience had just withdrawn, then the door closed behind him with
a bang.

My comrade was so eager to be off that he was within an ace of leaving
me there bound to the tree. As soon as he had released me, he exclaimed:

"A sign of the cross! For God's sake, a sign of the cross! If you don't
cross yourself you are bewitched; we shall be devoured by wolves as we
go, or else we shall meet the great monster."

"Idiot!" I said; "I have something else to think about. Listen; if you
are ever unlucky enough to tell a single soul of what has happened, I
will strangle you."

"Alas! sir, what am I to do?" he replied with a mixture of innocence and
malice. "The sorcerer said I was to tell my parents."

I raised my fist to strike him, but my strength failed. Choking with
rage at the treatment I had just undergone, I fell down almost in a
faint, and Sylvain seized the opportunity for flight.

When I came to I found myself alone. I did not know this part of
Varenne; I had never been here before, and it was horribly wild. All
through the day I had seen tracks of wolves and wild boars in the sand.
And now night had come and I was still two leagues from Roche-Mauprat.
The gate would be shut, the drawbridge up; and I should get a bullet
through me if I tried to enter after nine o'clock. As I did not know
the way, it was a hundred to one against my doing the two leagues in an
hour. However, I would have preferred to die a thousand deaths rather
than ask shelter of the man in Gazeau Tower, even had he granted it
gracefully. My pride was bleeding more than my flesh.

I started off at a run, heedless of all risks. The path made a thousand
turns; a thousand other paths kept crossing it. When I reached the plain
I found myself in a pasture surrounded by hedges. There every trace of
the path disappeared. I jumped the hedge at a venture, and fell into a
field. The night was pitch-dark; even had it been day it would have been
impossible to ascertain my way in the midst of little properties buried
between high banks bristling with thorns. Finally I reached a heath,
then some woods; and my fears, which had been somewhat subdued, now grew
intense. Yes, I own I was a prey to mortal terrors. Trained to bravery,
as a dog is to sport, I bore myself well enough before others. Spurred
by vanity, indeed, I was foolishly bold when I had spectators; but left
to myself, in the middle of the night, exhausted by toil and hunger,
though with no longing for food, unhinged by the emotions I had just
experienced, certain that my uncles would beat me when I returned, yet
as anxious to return as if I were going to find paradise on earth at
Roche-Mauprat, I wandered about until daybreak, suffering indescribable
agonies. The howls of wolves, happily far off, more than once reached
my ears and froze the blood in my veins; and, as if my position had not
been perilous enough in reality, my overwrought imagination must needs
add to it a thousand extravagant fantasies. Patience had the reputation
of being a wolf-rearer. This, as you know, is a cabalistic speciality
accredited in all countries. I kept on fancying, therefore, that I saw
this devilish little gray-beard, escorted by his ravening pack, and
himself in the form of a demi-wolf, pursing me through the woods.
Several times when rabbits got up at my feet I almost fell backwards
from the shock. And now, as I was certain that nobody could see, I made
many a sign of the cross; for, while affecting incredulity, I was, of
course, at heart filled with all the superstitions born of fear.

At last, at daybreak, I reached Roche-Mauprat. I waited in a moat until
the gates were opened, and then slipped up to my room without being
seen by anybody. As it was not altogether an unfailing tenderness that
watched over me at Roche-Mauprat, my absence had not been noticed during
the night. Meeting my Uncle John on the stairs, I led him to believe
that I had just got up; and, as the artifice proved successful, I went
off to the hayloft and slept for the rest of the day.


As I had nothing further to fear for myself, it would have been easy to
take vengeance on my enemy. Everything was favourable. The words he had
uttered against my family would have been sufficient without any mention
of the outrage done to my own person, which, in truth, I hardly cared to
make known. I had only to say a word, and in a quarter of an hour seven
Mauprats would have been in the saddle, delighted at the opportunity of
making an example of a man who paid them no dues. Such a man would have
seemed to them good for nothing but hanging as a warning to others.

But even if things had not been likely to reach this pitch, I somehow
felt an unconquerable aversion to asking eight men to avenge me on a
single one. Just as I was about to ask them (for, in my anger, I had
firmly resolved to do so), I was held back by some instinct for fair
dealing to which I had hitherto been a stranger, and whose presence in
myself I could hardly explain. Perhaps, too, the words of Patience had,
unknown to myself, aroused in me a healthy sense of shame. Perhaps his
righteous maledictions on the nobles had given me glimpses of the idea
of justice. Perhaps, in short, what I had hitherto despised in myself
as impulses of weakness and compassion, henceforth began dimly to take a
more solemn and less contemptible shape.

Be that as it may, I kept silent. I contented myself with thrashing
Sylvain as a punishment for having deserted me, and to impress upon him
that he was not to breathe a word about my unfortunate adventure. The
bitterness of the recollection was intensified by an incident which
happened toward the end of autumn when I was out with him beating the
woods for game. The poor boy was genuinely attached to me; for, my
brutality notwithstanding, he always used to be at my heels the instant
I was outside the castle. When any of his companions spoke ill of me, he
would take up my cause, and declare that I was merely somewhat hasty
and not really bad at heart. Ah, it is the gentle, resigned souls of the
humble that keep up the pride and roughness of the great. Well, we were
trying to trap larks when my sabot-shot page, who always hunted about
ahead of me, came back, saying in his rude dialect:

"I can see the wolf-driver with the mole-catcher."

This announcement sent a shudder through all my limbs. However, the
longing for revenge produced a reaction, and I marched straight on
to meet the sorcerer. Perhaps, too, I felt somewhat reassured by the
presence of his companion, who was a frequenter of Roche-Mauprat, and
would be likely to show me respect and afford me assistance.

Marcasse, the mole-catcher, as he was called, professed to rid the
dwellings and fields of the district of polecats, weasels, rats and
other vermin. Nor did he confine his good offices to Berry; every year
he went the round of La Marche, Nivernais, Limousin, and Saintonge,
visiting, alone and on foot, all the places that had the good sense to
appreciate his talents. He was well received everywhere, in the castle
no less than in the cottage; for his was a trade that had been carried
on successfully and honestly in his family for generations (indeed, his
descendants still carry it on). Thus he had work and a home awaiting him
for every day in the year. As regular in his round as the earth in her
rotation, he would reappear on a given day at the very place where he
had appeared the year before, and always with the same dog and with the
same long sword.

This personage was as curious as the sorcerer Patience; perhaps more
comic in his way than the sorcerer. He was a bilious, melancholy man,
tall, lean, angular, full of languor, dignity, and deliberation in
speech and action. So little did he like talking that he answered all
questions in monosyllables; and yet he never failed to obey the laws of
the most scrupulous politeness, and rarely said a word without raising
his hand to the corner of his hat as a sign of respect and civility.
Was he thus by nature, or, in his itinerant trade, had this wise
reserve arisen from a fear of alienating some of his numerous clients
by incautious chatter? No one knew. In all houses he was allowed a free
hand; during the day he had the key of every granary; in the evening,
a place at the fireside of every kitchen. He knew everything that
happened; for his dreamy, absorbed air led people to talk freely in his
presence; yet he had never been known to inform any household of the
doings of another.

If you wish to know how I had become struck by this strange character,
I may tell you that I had been a witness of my uncle's and grandfather's
efforts to make him talk. They hoped to draw from him some information
about the chateau of Saint-Severe, the home of a man they hated and
envied, M. Hubert de Mauprat. Although Don Marcasse (they called him Don
because he seemed to have the bearing and pride of a ruined hidalgo),
although Don Marcasse, I say, had shown himself as incompressible here
as elsewhere, the Coupe-Jarret Mauprats never failed to squeeze him a
little more in the hope of extracting some details about the Casse-Tete

Nobody, then, could discover Marcasse's opinions about anything; it
would have been simplest to suppose that he did not take the trouble
to have any. Yet the attraction which Patience seemed to feel towards
him--so great that he would accompany him on his travels for several
weeks altogether--led one to believe that there was some witchery in the
man's mysterious air, and that it was not solely the length of his sword
and the skill of his dog which played such wonderful havoc with the
moles and weasels. There were whispered rumours of the enchanted herbs
that he employed to lure these suspicious animals from their holes into
his nets. However, as people found themselves better off for his magic,
no one dreamt of denouncing it as criminal.

I do not know if you have ever seen one of the rat-hunts. It is a
curious sight, especially in a fodder-loft. The man and dog climbing up
ladders and running along beams with marvellous assurance and agility,
the dog sniffing every hole in the wall, playing the cat, crouching down
and lying in wait until the game comes out for his master's rapier;
the man thrusting through bundles of straw and putting the enemy to the
sword--all this, when arranged and carried out with gravity and dignity
by Don Marcasse, was, I assure you, a most singular and interesting

When I saw this trusty fellow I felt equal to braving the sorcerer, and
advanced boldly. Sylvain stared at me in admiration, and I noticed that
Patience himself was not prepared for such audacity. I pretended to go
up to Marcasse and speak to him, as though quite unconcerned about
the presence of my enemy. Seeing this he gently thrust aside the
mole-catcher, and, laying his heavy hand on my head, said very quietly:

"You have grown of late, my fine gentleman!"

The blood rushed to my face, and, drawing back scornfully, I answered:

"Take care what you are doing, clodhopper; you should remember that if
you still have your two ears, it is to my kindness that you owe them."

"My two ears!" said Patience, with a bitter laugh.

Then making an allusion to the nickname of my family, he added:

"Perhaps you mean my two hamstrings? Patience, patience! The time,
maybe, is not far distant when clodhoppers will rid the nobles of
neither ears nor hamstrings, but of their heads and their purses."

"Silence, Master Patience!" said the mole-catcher solemnly; "these are
not the words of a philosopher."

"You are quite right, quite right," replied the sorcerer; "and in truth,
I don't know why I allow myself to argue with this lad. He might have
had me made into pap by his uncles. I whipped him in the summer for
playing me a stupid trick; and I don't know what happened to the family,
but the Mauprats lost a fine chance of injuring a neighbour."

"Learn, peasant," I said, "that a nobleman always takes vengeance nobly.
I did not want my wrongs avenged by people more powerful than yourself;
but wait a couple of years; I promise I will hang you with my own hand
on a certain tree that I shall easily recognise, not very far from the
door of Gazeau Tower. If I don't I will renounce my birthright; if I
spare you I will take the title of wolf-driver."

Patience smiled; then, suddenly becoming serious, he fixed on me that
searching look which rendered his physiognomy so striking. Then turning
to the weasel-hunter:

"It is strange," he said; "there must be something in blood. Take the
vilest noble, and you will find that in certain things he has more
spirit than the bravest of us. Ah! it is simple enough," he added,
speaking to himself; "they are brought up like that, whilst we--we, they
tell us, are born to obey. Patience!"

He was silent for an instant; then, rousing himself from his reverie, he
said to me in a kindly though somewhat mocking tone:

"And so you want to hang me, Monseigneur Straw-Stalk? You will have to
eat a lot of beef, then, for you are not yet tall enough to reach the
branch which is to bear me; and before then . . . perhaps many things
will happen that are not dreamt of in your little philosophy."

"Nonsense! Why talk nonsense?" said the mole-catcher, with a serious
air; "come, make peace. Monseigneur Bernard, I ask pardon for Patience;
he is an old man, a fool."

"No, no," said Patience; "I want him to hang me; he is right; this is
merely my due; and, in fact, it may come more quickly than all the rest.
You must not make too much haste to grow, monsieur; for I--well, I am
making more haste to grow old than I would wish; and you who are so
brave, you would not attack a man no longer able to defend himself."

"You didn't hesitate to use your strength against me!" I cried.
"Confess, now; didn't you treat me brutally? Wasn't it a coward's work,

"Oh, children, children!" he said. "See how the thing reasons! Out of
the mouths of children cometh truth."

And he moved away dreamily, and muttering to himself as was his wont.
Marcasse took off his hat to me and said in an impassive tone:

"He is wrong . . . live at peace . . . pardon . . . peace . . .

They disappeared; and there ended my relations with Patience. I did not
come in contact with him again until long afterward.


I was fifteen when my grandfather died. At Roche-Mauprat his death
caused no sorrow, but infinite consternation. He was the soul of every
vice that reigned therein, and it is certain that he was more cruel,
though less vile, than his sons. On his death the sort of glory which
his audacity had won for us grew dim. His sons, hitherto held under firm
control, became more and more drunken and debauched. Moreover, each day
added some new peril to their expeditions.

Except for the few trusty vassals whom we treated well, and who were all
devoted to us, we were becoming more and more isolated and resourceless.
People had left the neighbouring country in consequence of our violent
depredations. The terror that we inspired pushed back daily the bounds
of the desert around us. In making our ventures we had to go farther
afield, even to the borders of the plain. There we had not the upper
hand; and my Uncle Laurence, the boldest of us all, was dangerously
wounded in a skirmish. Other schemes had to be devised. John suggested
them. One was that we should slip into the fairs under various
disguises, and exercise our skill in thieving. From brigands we became
pick-pockets, and our detested name sank lower and lower in infamy.
We formed a fellowship with the most noisome characters our province
concealed, and, by an exchange of rascally services, once again managed
to avoid destitution.

I say we, for I was beginning to take a place in this band of cutthroats
when my grandfather died. He had yielded to my entreaties and allowed
me to join in some of the last expeditions he attempted. I shall make
no apologies; but here, gentlemen, you behold a man who has followed the
profession of a bandit. I feel no remorse at the recollection, no more
than a soldier would feel at having served a campaign under orders from
his general. I thought that I was still living in the middle ages. The
laws of the land, with all their strength and wisdom, were to me words
devoid of meaning. I felt brave and full of vigour; fighting was a joy.
Truly, the results of our victories often made me blush; but, as they in
no way profited myself, I washed my hands of them. Nay, I remember with
pleasure that I helped more than one victim who had been knocked down to
get up and escape.

This existence, with its movement, its dangers, and its fatigues, had a
numbing effect on me. It took me away from any painful reflections which
might have arisen in my mind. Besides, it freed me from the immediate
tyranny of John. However, after the death of my grandfather, when our
band degraded itself to exploits of a different nature, I fell back
under his odious sway. I was by no means fitted for lying and fraud. I
displayed not only aversion but also incapacity for this new industry.
Consequently my uncle looked upon me as useless, and began to maltreat
me again. They would have driven me away had they not been afraid that
I might make my peace with society, and become a dangerous enemy to
themselves. While they were in doubt as to whether it was wiser to
feed me or to live in fear of me, they often thought (as I have since
learned) of picking a quarrel with me, and forcing a fight in which I
might be got rid of. This was John's suggestion. Antony, however, who
retained more of Tristan's energy and love of fair play at home than any
of his brothers, proved clearly that I did more good than harm. I was,
he declared, a brave fighter, and there was no knowing when they might
need an extra hand. I might also be shaped into a swindler. I was very
young and very ignorant; but John, perhaps, would endeavour to win me
over by kindness, and make my lot less wretched. Above all, he might
enlighten me as to my true position, by explaining that I was an
outcast from society, and could not return to it without being hanged
immediately. Then, perhaps, my obstinacy and pride would give way, out
of regard to my own well-being on the one hand, and from necessity on
the other. At all events, they should try this before getting rid of me.

"For," said Antony to round off his homily, "we were ten Mauprats last
year; our father is dead, and, if we kill Bernard, we shall only be

This argument gained the day. They brought me forth from the species of
dungeon in which I had languished for several months; they gave me new
clothes; they exchanged my old gun for a beautiful carbine that I had
always coveted; they explained to me my position in the world; they
honoured me with the best wine at meals. I promised to reflect, and
meanwhile, became rather more brutalized by inaction and drunkenness
than I had been by brigandage.

However, my captivity had made such a terrible impression on me that
I took a secret oath to dare any dangers that might assail me on the
territories of the King of France, rather than endure a repetition of
that hideous experience. Nothing but a miserable point of honour now
kept me at Roche-Mauprat. It was evident that a storm was gathering over
our heads. The peasants were discontented, in spite of all our
efforts to attach them to us; doctrines of independence were secretly
insinuating themselves into their midst; our most faithful retainers
were growing tired of merely having their fill of bread and meat; they
were demanding money, and we had none. We had received more than one
serious summons to pay our fiscal dues to the state, and as our private
creditors had joined hands with the crown officers and the recalcitrant
peasants, everything was threatening us with a catastrophe like that
which had just overtaken the Seigneur de Pleumartin in our province.(*)

     (*) The reputation which the Seigneur de Pleumartin has left
     behind him in the province will preserve the story of
     Mauprat from the reproach of exaggeration. Pen would refuse
     to trace the savage obscenities and refinements of cruelty
     which marked the life of this madman, and which perpetuated
     the traditions of feudal brigandage in Berry down to the
     last days of the ancient monarchy. His chateau was besieged,
     and after a stubborn resistance he was taken and hanged.
     There are many people still living, nor yet very advanced in
     years, who knew the man.

My uncles had long thought of making common cause with this country
squire in his marauding expeditions and his resistance to authority.
However, just as Pleumartin, about to fall into the hands of his
enemies, had given his word of honour that he would welcome us as
friends and allies if we went to his assistance, we had heard of his
defeat and tragic end. Thus we ourselves were now on our guard night
and day. It was a question of either fleeing the country or bracing
ourselves for a decisive struggle. Some counselled the former
alternative; the others declared their resolve to follow the advice of
their dying father and to find a grave under the ruins of the keep.
Any suggestion of flight or compromise they denounced as contemptible
cowardice. The fear, then, of incurring such a reproach, and perhaps in
some measure an instinctive love of danger, still kept me back. However,
my aversion to this odious existence was only lying dormant, ready to
break out violently at any moment.

One evening, after a heavy supper, we remained at table, drinking
and conversing--God knows in what words and on what subject! It was
frightful weather. The rain, driven through the broken windows, was
running in streams across the stone floor of the hall; and the old walls
were trembling in the storm. The night wind was whistling through chinks
in the roof and making the flames of our resin torches flicker weirdly.
During the meal my uncles had rallied me very much on what they called
my virtue; they had treated my shyness in the presence of women as a
sign of continence; and it was especially in this matter that they urged
me to evil by ridiculing my modesty. While parrying these coarse gibes
and making thrusts in the same strain, I had been drinking enormously.
Consequently, my wild imagination had become inflamed, and I boasted
that I would be bolder and more successful with the first woman brought
to Roche-Mauprat than any of my uncles. The challenge was accepted amid
roars of laughter. Peals of thunder sent back an answer to the infernal

All at once the horn was heard at the portcullis. Everybody stopped
talking. The blast just blown was the signal used by the Mauprats to
summon each other or make themselves known. It was my Uncle Laurence,
who had been absent all day and who was now asking to be let in. We had
so little confidence in others that we acted as our own turnkeys in the
fortress. John rose and took down the keys, but he stopped immediately
on hearing a second blast of the horn. This meant that Laurence was
bringing in a prize, and that we were to go and meet him. In the
twinkling of an eye all the Mauprats were at the portcullis, torch in
hand--except myself, whose indifference at this moment was profound, and
whose legs were seriously conscious of wine.

"If it is a woman," cried Antony as he went out, "I swear by the soul of
my father that she shall be handed over to you, my valiant young man,
and we'll see if your courage comes up to your conceit."

I remained with my elbows on the table, sunk in an uncomfortable stupor.

When the door opened again I saw a woman in a strange costume entering
with a confident step. It required an effort to keep my mind from
wandering, and to grasp what one of the Mauprats came and whispered to
me. In the middle of a wolf-hunt, at which several of the nobles in the
neighbourhood had been present with their wives, this young lady's horse
had taken fright and bolted away from the rest of the field. When it had
pulled up after a gallop of about a league, she had tried to find her
way back; but, not knowing the Varenne district, where all the landmarks
are so much alike, she had gone farther and farther astray. The
storm and the advent of night had completed her perplexity. Laurence,
happening to meet her, had offered to escort her to the chateau of
Rochemaure, which, as a fact, was more than six leagues distant; but
he had declared that it was quite near, and had pretended to be the
gamekeeper there. She did not actually know the lady of Rochemaure, but
being a distant connection of hers, she counted upon a welcome. Never
having seen the face of a single Mauprat, and little dreaming that she
was so near their haunt, she had followed her guide confidingly; and as
she had never in her life caught a glimpse of Roche-Mauprat, whether in
the distance or close at hand, she was led upon the scene of our orgies
without having the least suspicion of the trap into which she had

When I rubbed my heavy eyes and beheld this woman, so young and so
beautiful, with her expression of calm sincerity and of goodness, the
like of which I had never seen on the brow of any other (for all
those who had passed the portcullis of our abode were either insolent
prostitutes or stupid victims), I could not but think I was dreaming.

Remembering how prominently fairies figured in my legends of chivalry,
I almost fancied that Morgana or Urganda had come among us to administer
justice; and, for the moment, I felt an inclination to throw myself on
my knees and protest against any judgment which should confound me
with my uncles. Antony, to whom Laurence had quickly given the cue,
approached her with as much politeness as he had in his composition, and
begged her to excuse his hunting costume, likewise that of his friends.
They were all nephews or cousins of the lady of Rochemaure, whom they
were now awaiting before sitting down to table. Being very religious,
she was at present in the chapel, in pious conference with the chaplain.
The air of simple confidence with which the stranger listened to these
absurd lies went to my heart, but I had not a very clear idea of what I

"Please," she said to my Uncle John, who was dancing attendance on her
with the leer of a satyr, "please do not let me disturb this lady. I am
so troubled about the anxiety I must be causing my father and my friends
at the present moment, that I could not really stop here. All I ask is
that she will be kind enough to lend me a fresh horse and a guide, so
that I may return to the place where I presume my people may have gone
to wait for me."

"Madame," replied John, with assurance, "it is impossible for you to
start again in such weather as this; besides, if you did, that would
only serve to delay the hour of rejoining those who are looking for you.
Ten of our men, well mounted and provided with torches, shall set out
this very moment in ten different directions and scour every corner of
Varenne. Thus, in two hours at the most, your relatives will be certain
to have news of you, and you will soon see them arriving here, where we
will entertain them as best we can. Please, then, set your mind at rest,
and take some cordial to restore you; for you must be wet through and
quite exhausted."

"Were it not for the anxiety I feel," she answered with a smile,
"I should be famished. I will try to eat something; but do not put
yourselves to any inconvenience on my account. You have been far too
good already."

Approaching the table, where I was still resting on my elbows, she took
some fruit that was by my side without noticing me. I turned and stared
at her insolently with a besotted expression. She returned my gaze
haughtily--at least, so it appeared to me then. I have since learned
that she did not even see me; for, while making a great effort to
appear calm and to reply with an air of confidence to the offers of
hospitality, she was at heart very much disturbed by the unexpected
presence of so many strange men with their forbidding mien and rough
garb. However, she did not suspect anything. I overheard one of the
Mauprats near me saying to John:

"Good! It's all right; she is falling into the trap. Let us make her
drink; then she will begin to talk."

"One moment," replied John; "watch her carefully; this is a serious
matter; there is something better to be had out of this than a little
passing pleasure. I am going to talk it over with the others; you will
be sent for to give your opinion. Meanwhile keep an eye on Bernard."

"What is the matter?" I said abruptly, as I faced him. "Does not
this girl belong to me? Did not Antony swear it by the soul of my

"Yes, confound it, that's true," said Antony, approaching our group,
whilst the other Mauprats surrounded the lady. "Listen, Bernard; I will
keep my word on one condition."

"What is that?"

"It is quite simple: that you won't within the next ten minutes tell
this wench that she is not at old Rochemaure's."

"What do you take me for?" I answered, pulling my hat over my eyes. "Do
you think that I am an idiot? Wait a minute; would you like me to go
and get my grandmother's dress which is upstairs and pass myself off for
this same lady of Rochemaure?"

"A splendid idea!" replied Laurence.

"But before anything is done," said John, "I want to speak to you all."

And making signs to the others, he drew them out of the hall. Just as
they were going out I thought I noticed that John was trying to persuade
Antony to keep watch over me. But Antony, with a firmness which I could
not understand, insisted on following the rest. I was left alone with
the stranger.

For a moment I remained bewildered, almost stupefied, and more
embarrassed than pleased at the _tete-a-tete_. Then I endeavoured to
think of some explanation of these mysterious things that were happening
around me, and succeeded, as far as the fumes of the wine would allow
me, in imagining something fairly probable, though, indeed, remote
enough from the actual truth.

I thought I could account for everything I had just seen and heard by
supposing, first, that the lady, quiet and richly dressed though she
was, was one of those daughters of Bohemia that I had sometimes seen
at fairs; secondly, that Laurence, having met her in the country, had
brought her here to amuse the company; and, thirdly, that they had told
her of my condition of swaggering drunkenness, and had prevailed on her
to put my gallantry to the proof, whilst they were to watch me through
the keyhole. My first movement, as soon as these ideas had taken
possession of me, was to rise and go straight to the door. This I locked
with a double turn and then bolted. When I had done this I returned to
the lady, determined that I would not, at all events, give her cause to
laugh at my bashfulness.

She was sitting close to the fire, and as she was occupied in drying
her wet garments, leaning forward over the hearth, she had not taken
any notice of what I was doing; but when I approached her the strange
expression on my face caused her to start. I had made up my mind to kiss
her, as a beginning; but, I know not by what miracle, as soon as she
raised her eyes to mine, this familiarity became impossible. I only had
sufficient courage to say:

"Upon my word, mademoiselle, you are a charming creature, and I love
you--as true as my name is Bernard Mauprat."

"Bernard Mauprat!" she cried, springing up; "you are Bernard Mauprat,
you? In that case, change your manner and learn to whom you are talking.
Have they not told you?"

"No one has told me, but I can guess," I replied with a grin, while
trying hard to trample down the feeling of respect with which her sudden
pallor and imperious attitude inspired me.

"If you can guess," she said, "how is it possible that you allow
yourself to speak to me in this way? But they were right when they said
you were ill-mannered; and yet I always had a wish to meet you."

"Really!" I said, with the same hideous grin. "You! A princess of the
king's highway, who have known so many men in your life? But let my
lips meet your own, my sweet, and you shall see if I am not as nicely
mannered as those uncles of mine whom you were listening to so willingly
just now."

"Your uncles!" she cried, suddenly seizing her chair and placing it
between us as if from some instinct of self-defence. "Oh, mon Dieu! mon
Dieu! Then I am not at Madame de Rochemaure's?"

"Our name certainly begins in the same way, and we come of as good a
rock as anybody."

"Roche-Mauprat!" she muttered, trembling from head to foot, like a hind
when it hears the howl of wolves.

And her lips grew quite white. Her agony was manifest in every gesture.
From an involuntary feeling of sympathy I shuddered myself, and I was on
the point of changing my manner and language forthwith.

"What can there be in this to astound her so?" I asked myself. "Is she
not merely acting a part? And even if the Mauprats are not hidden behind
some wainscot listening to us, is she not sure to give them an account
of everything that takes place? And yet she is trembling like an aspen
leaf. But what if she is acting? I once saw an actress play Genevieve de
Brabant, and she wept so that one might have been deceived."

I was in a state of great perplexity, and I cast harassed glances now at
her, now at the doors, which I fancied every moment would be thrown wide
open amid roars of laughter from my uncles.

This woman was beautiful as the day. I do not believe there has ever
lived a woman as lovely as she. It is not I alone who say so; she has
left a reputation for beauty which has not yet died out in her province.
She was rather tall, slender, and remarkable for the easy grace of her
movements. Her complexion was very fair, while her eyes were dark and
her hair like ebony. Her glance and her smile showed a union of goodness
and acuteness which it was almost impossible to conceive; it was as
if Heaven had given her two souls, one wholly of intellect, the other
wholly of feeling. She was naturally cheerful and brave--an angel,
indeed, whom the sorrows of humanity had not yet dared to touch. She
knew not what it was to suffer; she knew not what it was to distrust
and dread. This, indeed, was the first trial of her life, and it was I,
brute that I was, who made her undergo it. I took her for a gipsy, and
she was an angel of purity.

She was my young cousin (or aunt, after the Breton fashion), Edmee de
Mauprat, the daughter of M. Hubert, my great-uncle (again in the Breton
fashion), known as the Chevalier--he who had sought release from the
Order of Malta that he might marry, though already somewhat advanced
in years. My cousin was the same age as myself; at least, there was
a difference of only a few months between us. Both of us were now
seventeen, and this was our first interview. She whom I ought to have
protected at the peril of my life against the world was now standing
before me trembling and terror-stricken, like a victim before the

She made a great effort, and approaching me as I walked about the hall
deep in thought, she explained who she was, adding:

"It is impossible that you can be an infamous creature like all these
brigands whom I have just seen, and of whose hideous life I have often
heard. You are young; your mother was good and wise. My father wanted to
adopt you and bring you up as his son. Even to-day he is still full of
grief at not being able to draw you out of the abyss in which you lie.
Have you not often received messages from him? Bernard, you and I are of
the same family; think of the ties of blood; why would you insult me? Do
they intend to assassinate me here or torture me? Why did they deceive
me by saying that I was at Rochemaure? Why did they withdraw in this
mysterious way? What are they preparing? What is going to happen?"

Her words were cut short by the report of a gun outside. A shot from the
culverin replied to it, and the alarm trumpet shook the gloomy walls of
the keep with its dismal note. Mademoiselle de Mauprat fell back into
her chair. I remained where I was, wondering whether this was some
new scene in the comedy they were enjoying at my expense. However,
I resolved not to let the alarm cause me any uneasiness until I had
certain proof that it was not a trick.

"Come, now," I said, going up to her again, "own that all this is a
joke. You are not Mademoiselle de Mauprat at all; and you merely want to
discover if I am an apprentice capable of making love."

"I swear by Christ," she answered, taking my hands in her own, which
were cold as death, "that I am Edmee, your cousin, your prisoner--yes,
and your friend; for I have always felt an interest in you; I have
always implored my father not to cease his efforts for you. But listen,
Bernard; they are fighting, and fighting with guns! It must be my father
who has come to look for me, and they are going to kill him. Ah!" she
cried, falling on her knees before me, "go and prevent that, Bernard!
Tell your uncles to respect my father, the best of men, if you but knew!
Tell them that, if they hate our family, if they must have blood, they
may kill me! Let them tear my heart out; but let them respect my father
. . ."

Some one outside called me in a violent voice.

"Where is the coward? Where is that wretched boy?" shouted my Uncle

Then he shook the door; but I had fastened it so securely that it
resisted all his furious blows.

"That miserable cur is amusing himself by making love while our throats
are being cut! Bernard, the mounted police are attacking us! Your Uncle
Louis had just been killed! Come and help us! For God's sake, come,

"May the devil take the lot of you," I cried, "and may you be killed
yourself, if I believe a single word of all this. I am not such a fool
as you imagine; the only cowards here are those who lie. Didn't I swear
that the woman should be mine? I'm not going to give her up until I

"To hell with you!" replied Laurence; "you are pretending . . ."

The shots rang out faster. Frightful cries were heard. Laurence left the
door and ran in the direction of the noise. His eagerness proved him
so much in earnest that I could no longer refuse to believe him. The
thought that they would accuse me of cowardice overcame me. I advanced
towards the door.

"O Bernard! O Monsieur de Mauprat!" cried Edmee, staggering after me;
"let me go with you. I will throw myself at your uncles' feet; I will
make them stop the fight; I will give them all I possess, my life, if
they wish . . . if only they will spare my father."

"Wait a moment," I said, turning towards her; "I am by no means certain
that this is not a joke at my expense. I have a suspicion that my uncles
are there, behind that door, and that, while our whippers-in are firing
off guns in the courtyard, they are waiting with a blanket to toss me.
Now, either you are my cousin, or you are a . . . You must make me a
solemn promise, and I will make you one in return. If you are one of
these wandering charmers and I quit this room the dupe of your pretty
acting, you must swear to be my mistress, and to allow none other near
you until I have had my rights; otherwise, for my part, I swear that
you shall be chastised, even as my spotted dog Flora was chastised this
morning. If, on the other hand, you are Edmee, and I swear to intervene
between your father and those who would kill him, what promise will you
make me, what will you swear?"

"If you save my father," she cried, "I swear to you that I will marry
you, I swear it."

"Ho! ho! indeed!" I said, emboldened by her enthusiasm, the sublimity of
which I did not understand. "Give me a pledge, then, so that in any case
I do not go out from here like a fool."

I took her in my arms and kissed her. She did not attempt to resist. Her
cheeks were like ice. Mechanically she began to follow me as I moved to
the door. I was obliged to push her back. I did so without roughness;
but she fell as one in a faint. I began to grasp the gravity of my
position; for there was nobody in the corridor and the tumult outside
was becoming more and more alarming. I was about to run and get my
weapons, when a last feeling of distrust, or it may have been another
sentiment, prompted me to go back and double-lock the door of the hall
where I was leaving Edmee. I put the key into my belt and hastened to
the ramparts, armed with a gun, which I loaded as I ran.

It was simply an attack made by the mounted police, and had nothing
whatever to do with Mademoiselle de Mauprat. A little while before our
creditors had obtained a writ of arrest against us. The law officers,
beaten and otherwise severely handled, had demanded of the King's
advocate at the provincial court of Bourges another warrant of arrest.
This the armed police were now doing their best to execute. They had
hoped to effect an easy capture by means of a night surprise. But we
were in a better state of defence than they had anticipated. Our men
were brave and well armed; and then we were fighting for our very
existence; we had the courage of despair, and this was an immense
advantage. Our band amounted to twenty-four all told; theirs to more
than fifty soldiers, in addition to a score or more of peasants, who
were slinging stones from the flanks. These, however, did more harm to
their allies than they did to us.

For half an hour the fighting was most desperate. At the end of this
time the enemy had become so dismayed by our resistance that they fell
back, and hostilities were suspended. However, they soon returned to the
attack, and again were repulsed with loss. Hostilities were once more
suspended. They then, for the third time, called upon us to surrender,
promising that our lives should be spared. Antony Mauprat replied with
an obscene jest. They remained undecided, but did not withdraw.

I had fought bravely; I had done what I called my duty. There was a long
lull. It was impossible to judge the distance of the enemy, and we
dared not fire at random into the darkness, for our ammunition was too
precious. All my uncles remained riveted on the ramparts, in case of
fresh attack. My Uncle Louis was dangerously wounded. Thoughts of my
prisoner returned to my mind. At the beginning of the fight I had heard
John Mauprat saying, that if our defeat seemed imminent, we must offer
to hand her over to the enemy, on condition that they should raise the
seige; that if they refused, we must hang her before their eyes. I
had no longer any doubts about the truth of what she had told me.
When victory appeared to declare for us they forgot the captive. But I
noticed the crafty John quitting the culverin which he so loved to
fire, and creeping away like a cat into the darkness. A feeling of
ungovernable jealousy seized me. I threw down my gun and dashed after
him, knife in hand, resolved, I believe, to stab him if he attempted to
touch what I considered my booty. I saw him approach the door, try to
open it, peer attentively through the keyhole, to assure himself that
his prey had not escaped him. Suddenly shots were heard again. He sprang
to his maimed feet with that marvellous agility of his, and limped off
to the ramparts. For myself, hidden as I was by the darkness, I let him
pass and did not follow. A passion other than the love of slaughter had
just taken possession of me. A flash of jealousy had fired my senses.
The smell of powder, the sight of blood, the noise, the danger, and the
many bumpers of brandy we had passed round to keep up our strength had
strangely heated my brain. I took the key from my belt and opened the
door noisily. And now, as I stood before my captive again, I was no
longer the suspicious and clumsy novice she had so easily moved to pity:
I was the wild outlaw of Roche-Mauprat, a hundred times more dangerous
than at first. She rushed towards me eagerly. I opened my arms to
catch her; instead of being frightened she threw herself into them,

"Well! and my father?"

"Your father," I said, kissing her, "is not there. At the present moment
there is no question either of him or of you. We have brought down a
dozen gendarmes, that is all. Victory, as usual, is declaring for us.
So, don't trouble yourself any more about your father; and I, I won't
trouble myself further about the King's men. Let us live in peace and
rejoice in love."

With these words I raised to my lips a goblet of wine which had been
left on the table. But she took it out of my hands with an air of
authority that made me all the bolder.

"Don't drink any more," she said; "think seriously of what you are
saying. Is what you tell me true? Will you answer for it on your honour,
on the soul of your mother?"

"Every word is true; I swear it by your pretty rosy lips," I replied,
trying to kiss her again.

But she drew back in terror.

"Oh, mon Dieu!" she exclaimed, "he is drunk! Bernard! Bernard! remember
what you promised; do not break your word. You have not forgotten, have
you, that I am your kinswoman, your sister?"

"You are my mistress or my wife," I answered, still pursuing her.

"You are a contemptible creature!" she rejoined, repulsing me with her
riding whip. "What have you done that I should be aught to you? Have you
helped my father?"

"I swore to help him; and I would have helped him if he had been there;
it is just the same, therefore, as if I really had. But, had he been
there, and had I tried to save him and failed, do you know that for
this treachery Roche-Mauprat could not have provided any instrument of
torture cruel enough and slow enough to drag the life out of me inch by
inch? For all I know, they may actually have heard my vow; I proclaimed
it loudly enough. But what do I care? I set little store by a couple of
days more or less of life. But I do set some store by your favour, my
beauty. I don't want to be the languishing knight that every one laughs
at. Come, now, love me at once; or, my word, I will return to the fight,
and if I am killed, so much the worse for you. You will no longer have
a knight to help you, and you will still have seven Mauprats to keep at
bay. I'm afraid you are not strong enough for that rough work, my pretty
little love-bird."

These words, which I threw out at random, merely to distract her
attention so that I might seize her hands or her waist, made a deep
impression on her. She fled to the other end of the hall, and tried
to force open the window; but her little hands could not even move the
heavy leaden sash in the rusty ironwork. Her efforts made me laugh. She
clasped her hands in terror, and remained motionless. Then all at once
the expression of her face changed. She seemed to have resolved how to
act, and came toward me smiling and with outstretched hand. So beautiful
was she thus that a mist came over my eyes and for a moment I saw her

Ah, gentlemen, forgive my childishness. I must tell you how she was
dressed. After that weird night she never wore that costume again, and
yet I can remember it so exactly. It is a long, long time ago. But were
I to live as long as I have already lived again, I should not forget
a single detail, so much was I struck by it amid the tumult that
was raging within me and without; amid the din of shots striking
the ramparts, the lightning flashes ripping the sky, and the violent
palpitations which sent my blood surging from my heart to my brain, and
from my head to my breast.

Oh, how lovely she was! It seems as if her shade were even now
passing before my eyes. Yes; I fancy I see her in the same dress, the
riding-habit which used to be worn in those days. The skirt of it was of
cloth and very full; round the waist was a red sash, while a waistcoat
of pearl-gray satin, fastened with buttons, fitted closely to the
figure; over this was a hunting-jacket, trimmed with lace, short and
open in front; the hat, of gray felt, with a broad brim turned up in
front, was crowned with half a dozen red feathers. The hair, which was
not powdered, was drawn back from the face and fell down in two long
plaits, like those of the Bernese women. Edmee's were so long that they
almost reached the ground.

Her garb, to me so strangely fascinating, her youth and beauty, and the
favour with which she now seemed to regard my pretensions, combined to
make me mad with love and joy. I could imagine nothing more beautiful
than a lovely woman yielding without coarse words, and without tears of
shame. My first impulse was to take her in my arms; but, as if overcome
by that irresistible longing to worship which characterizes a first
love, even with the grossest of beings, I fell down before her and
pressed her knees to my breast; and yet, on my own supposition, it was
to a shameless wanton that this homage was paid. I was none the less
nigh to swooning from bliss.

She took my head between her two beautiful hands, and exclaimed:

"Ah, I was right! I knew quite well that you were not one of those
reprobates. You are going to save me, aren't you? Thank God! How I
thank you, O God! Must we jump from the window? Oh, I am not afraid;

I seemed as if awakened from a dream, and, I confess, the awakening was
not a little painful.

"What does this mean?" I asked, as I rose to my feet. "Are you still
jesting with me? Do you not know where you are? Do you think that I am a

"I know that I am at Roche-Mauprat," she replied, turning pale again,
"and that I shall be outraged and assassinated in a couple of hours, if
meanwhile I do not succeed in inspiring you with some pity. But I shall
succeed," she cried, falling at my feet in her turn; "you are not one of
those men. You are too young to be a monster like them. I could see from
your eyes that you pitied me. You will help me to escape, won't you,
won't you, my dear heart?"

She took my hands and kissed them frenziedly, in the hope of moving me.
I listened and looked at her with a sullen stupidity scarcely calculated
to reassure her. My heart was naturally but little accessible to
feelings of generosity and compassion, and at this moment a passion
stronger than all the rest was keeping down the impulse she had striven
to arouse. I devoured her with my eyes, and made no effort to understand
her words. I only wished to discover whether I was pleasing to her, or
whether she was trying to make use of me to effect her escape.

"I see that you are afraid," I said. "You are wrong to be afraid of
me. I shall certainly not do you any harm. You are too pretty for me to
think of anything but of caressing you."

"Yes; but your uncles will kill me," she cried; "you know they will.
Surely you would not have me killed? Since you love me, save me; I will
love you afterwards."

"Oh, yes; afterwards, afterwards," I answered, laughing with a silly,
unbelieving air; "after you have had me hanged by those gendarmes to
whom I have just given such a drubbing. Come, now; prove that you
love me at once; I will save you afterwards. You see, I can talk about
'afterwards' too."

I pursued her round the room. Though she fled from me, she gave no signs
of anger, and still appealed to me with soft words. In me the poor girl
was husbanding her one hope, and was fearful of losing it. Ah, if I had
only been able to realize what such a woman as she was, and what my own
position meant! But I was unable then. I had but one fixed idea--the
idea which a wolf may have on a like occasion.

At last, as my only answer to all her entreaties was, "Do you love me,
or are you fooling me?" she saw what a brute she had to deal with, and,
making up her mind accordingly, she came towards me, threw her arms
round my neck, hid her face in my bosom, and let me kiss her hair. Then
she put me gently from her, saying:

"Ah, mon Dieu! don't you see how I love you--how I could not help loving
you from the very first moment I saw you? But don't you understand that
I hate your uncles, and that I would be yours alone?"

"Yes," I replied, obstinately, "because you say to yourself: 'This is a
booby whom I shall persuade to do anything I wish, by telling him that
I love him; he will believe it, and I will take him away to be hanged.'
Come; there is only one word which will serve if you love me."

She looked at me with an agonized air. I sought to press my lips to hers
whenever her head was not turned away. I held her hands in mine. She was
powerless now to do more than delay the hour of her defeat. Suddenly
the colour rushed back to the pale face; she began to smile; and with an
expression of angelic coquetry, she asked:

"And you--do you love me?"

From this moment the victory was hers. I no longer had power to will
what I wished. The lynx in me was subdued; the man rose in its place;
and I believe that my voice had a human ring, as I cried for the first
time in my life:

"Yes, I love you! Yes, I love you!"

"Well, then," she said, distractedly, and in a caressing tone, "let us
love each other and escape together."

"Yes, let us escape," I answered. "I loathe this house, and I loathe my
uncles. I have long wanted to escape. And yet I shall only be hanged,
you know."

"They won't hang you," she rejoined with a laugh; "my betrothed is a

"Your betrothed!" I cried, in a fresh fit of jealousy more violent than
the first. "You are going to be married?"

"And why not?" she replied, watching me attentively.

I turned pale and clinched my teeth.

"In that case, . . ." I said, trying to carry her off in my arms.

"In that case," she answered, giving me a little tap on the cheek, "I
see that you are jealous; but his must be a particular jealousy who at
ten o'clock yearns for his mistress, only to hand her over at midnight
to eight drunken men who will return her to him on the morrow as foul as
the mud on the roads."

"Ah, you are right!" I exclaimed. "Go, then; go. I would defend you to
the last drop of my blood; but I should be vanquished by numbers, and I
should die with the knowledge that you were left to them. How horrible!
I shudder to think of it. Come--you must go."

"Yes! yes, my angel!" she cried, kissing me passionately on the cheek.

These caresses, the first a woman had given me since my childhood,
recalled, I know not how or why, my mother's last kiss, and, instead of
pleasure, caused me profound sadness. I felt my eyes filling with tears.
Noticing this, she kissed my tears, repeating the while:

"Save me! Save me!"

"And your marriage?" I asked. "Oh! listen. Swear that you will not marry
before I die. You will not have to wait long; for my uncles administer
sound justice and swift, as they say."

"You are not going to follow me, then?" she asked.

"Follow you? No; it is as well to be hanged here for helping you to
escape as to be hanged yonder for being a bandit. Here, at least, I
avoid a twofold shame: I shall not be accounted an informer, and shall
not be hanged in a public place."

"I will not leave you here," she cried, "though I die myself. Fly with
me. You run no risk, believe me. Before God, I declare you are safe.
Kill me, if I lie. But let us start--quickly. O God! I hear them
singing. They are coming this way. Ah, if you will not defend me, kill
me at once!"

She threw herself into my arms. Love and jealousy were gradually
overpowering me. Indeed, I even thought seriously of killing her; and I
kept my hand on my hunting-knife as long as I heard any noise or voices
near the hall. They were exulting in their victory. I cursed Heaven for
not giving it to our foes. I clasped Edmee to my breast, and we remained
motionless in each other's arms, until a fresh report announced that the
fight was beginning again. Then I pressed her passionately to my heart.

"You remind me," I said, "of a poor little dove which one day flew into
my jacket to escape from a kite, and tried to hide itself in my bosom."

"And you did not give it up to the kite, did you?" asked Edmee.

"No, by all the devils! not any more than I shall give you up, you, the
prettiest of all the birds in the woods, to these vile night-birds that
are threatening you."

"But how shall we escape?" she cried, terror-stricken by the volleys
they were firing.

"Easily," I said. "Follow me."

I seized a torch, and lifting a trap-door, I made her descend with me to
the cellar. Thence we passed into a subterranean passage hollowed out
of the rock. This, in bygone days had enabled the garrison, then more
numerous, to venture upon an important move in case of an attack; some
of the besieged would emerge into the open country on the side opposite
the portcullis and fall on the rear of the besiegers, who were thus
caught between two fires. But many years had passed since the garrison
of Roche-Mauprat was large enough to be divided into two bodies; and
besides, during the night it would have been folly to venture beyond the
walls. We arrived, therefore, at the exit of the passage without meeting
with any obstacle. But at the last moment I was seized with a fit of
madness. I threw down my torch, and leaned against the door.

"You shall not go out from here," I said to the trembling Edmee,
"without promising to be mine."

We were in darkness; the noise of the fight no longer reached us. Before
any one could surprise us here we had ample time to escape. Everything
was in my favour. Edmee was now at the mercy of my caprice. When she saw
that the seductions of her beauty could no longer rouse me to ecstasy,
she ceased to implore, and drew backward a few steps.

"Open the door," she said, "and go out first, or I will kill myself.
See, I have your hunting-knife. You left it by the side of the
trap-door. To return to your uncles you will have to walk through my

Her resolute manner frightened me.

"Give me that knife," I said, "or, be the consequences what they may, I
will take it from you by force."

"Do you think I am afraid to die?" she said calmly. "If this knife had
only been in my hand yonder in the chateau, I should not have humbled
myself before you."

"Confound it!" I cried, "you have deceived me. Your love is a sham.
Begone! I despise you. I will not follow such as you."

At the same time I opened the door.

"I would not go without you," she cried; "and you--you would not have me
go without dishonour. Which of us is the more generous?"

"You are mad," I said. "You have lied to me; and you do not know what to
do to make a fool of me. However, you shall not go out from here without
swearing that your marriage with the lieutenant-general or any other man
shall not take place before you have been my mistress."

"Your mistress!" she said. "Are you dreaming? Could you not at least
soften the insult by saying your wife?"

"That is what any one of my uncles would say in my place; because they
would care only about your dowry. But I--I yearn for nothing but your
beauty. Swear, then, that you will be mine first; afterwards you shall
be free, on my honour. And if my jealousy prove so fierce that it may
not be borne, well, since a man may not go from his word, I will blow my
brains out."

"I swear," said Edmee, "to be no man's before being yours."

"That is not it. Swear to be mine before being any other's."

"It is the same thing," she answered. "Yes; I swear it."

"On the gospel? On the name of Christ? By the salvation of your soul? By
the memory of your mother?"

"On the gospel; in the name of Christ; by the salvation of my soul; by
the memory of my mother."


"One moment," she rejoined; "I want you to swear that my promise and its
fulfilment shall remain a secret; that my father shall never know it, or
any person who might tell him."

"No one in the world shall hear it from me. Why should I want others to
know, provided only that you keep your word?"

She made me repeat the formula of an oath. Then we hurried forth into
the open, holding each other's hands as a sign of mutual trust.

But now our flight became dangerous. Edmee feared the besiegers almost
as much as the besieged. We were fortunate enough not to meet any.
Still, it was by no means easy to move quickly. The night was so dark
that we were continually running against trees, and the ground was so
slippery that we were unable to avoid falls. A sudden noise made
us start; but, from the rattle of the chain fixed on its foot,
I immediately recognised my grandfather's horse, an animal of an
extraordinary age, but still strong and spirited. It was the very horse
that had brought me to Roche-Mauprat ten years before. At present the
only thing that would serve as a bridle was the rope round its neck. I
passed this through its mouth, and I threw my jacket over the crupper
and helped my companion to mount; I undid the chain, sprang on the
animal's back, and urging it on desperately, made it set off at a
gallop, happen what might. Luckily for us, it knew the paths better
than I, and, as if by instinct, followed their windings without knocking
against any trees. However, it frequently slipped, and in recovering
itself, gave us such jolts that we should have lost our seats a thousand
times (equipped as we were) had we not been hanging between life and
death. In such a strait desperate ventures are best, and God protects
those whom man pursues. We were congratulating ourselves on being out of
danger, when all at once the horse struck against a stump, and catching
his hoof in a root on the ground, fell down. Before we were up he had
made off into the darkness, and I could hear him galloping farther and
farther away. As we fell I had caught Edmee in my arms. She was unhurt.
My own ankle, however, was sprained so severely that it was impossible
for me to move a step. Edmee thought that my leg had been broken. I was
inclined to think so myself, so great was the pain; but soon I thought
no further either of my agony or my anxiety. Edmee's tender solicitude
made me forget everything. It was in vain that I urged her to continue
her flight without me. I pointed out that she could now escape alone;
that we were some distance from the chateau; that day would soon
be breaking; that she would be certain to find some house, and that
everywhere the people would protect her against the Mauprats.

"I will not leave you," she persisted in answering. "You have devoted
yourself to me; I will show the same devotion to you. We will both
escape, or we will die together."

"I am not mistaken," I cried; "it is a light that I see between the
branches. Edmee, there is a house yonder; go and knock at the door. You
need not feel anxious about leaving me here; and you will find a guide
to take you home."

"Whatever happens," she said, "I will not leave you; but I will try to
find some one to help you."

"Yet, no," I said, "I will not let you knock at that door alone. That
light, in the middle of the night, in a house situated in the heart of
the woods, may be a lure."

I dragged myself as far as the door. It felt cold, as if of metal. The
walls were covered with ivy.

"Who is there?" cried some one within, before we had knocked.

"We are saved!" cried Edmee; "it is Patience's voice."

"We are lost!" I said; "he and I are mortal enemies.

"Fear nothing," she said; "follow me. It was God that led us here."

"Yes, it was God that led you here, daughter of Heaven, morning star!"
said Patience, opening the door; "and whoever is with you is welcome too
at Gazeau Tower."

We entered under a surbased vault, in the middle of which hung an iron
lamp. By the light of this dismal luminary and of a handful of brushwood
which was blazing on the hearth we saw, not without surprise, that
Gazeau Tower was exceptionally honoured with visitors. On one side the
light fell upon the pale and serious face of a man in clerical garb. On
the other, a broad-brimmed hat overshadowed a sort of olive-green cone
terminating in a scanty beard; and on the wall could be seen the shadow
of a nose so distinctly tapered that nothing in the world might compare
with it except, perhaps, a long rapier lying across the knees of the
personage in question, and a little dog's face which, from its pointed
shape, might have been mistaken for that of a gigantic rat. In fact, it
seemed as if a mysterious harmony reigned between these three salient
points--the nose of Don Marcasse, his dog's snout, and the blade of his
sword. He got up slowly and raised his hand to his hat. The Jansenist
cure did the same. The dog thrust its head forward between its master's
legs, and, silent like him, showed its teeth and put back its ears
without barking.

"Quiet, Blaireau!" said Marcasse to it.


No sooner had the cure recognised Edmee than he started back with an
exclamation of surprise. But this was nothing to the stupefaction of
Patience when he had examined my features by the light of the burning
brand that served him as torch.

"The lamb in the company of the wolf!" he cried. "What has happened,

"My friend," replied Edmee, putting, to my infinite astonishment, her
little white hand into the sorcerer's big rough palm, "welcome him as
you welcome me. I was a prisoner at Roche-Mauprat, and it was he who
rescued me."

"May the sins of his fathers be forgiven him for this act!" said the

Patience took me by the arm, without saying anything, and led me nearer
the fire. They seated me on the only chair in the house, and the cure
took upon himself the task of attending to my leg, while Edmee gave an
account, up to a certain point, of our adventure. Then she asked for
information about the hunt and about her father. Patience, however,
could give her no news. He had heard the horn in the woods, and the
firing at the wolves had disturbed his tranquility several times during
the day. But since the storm broke over them the noise of the wind had
drowned all other sounds, and he knew nothing of what was taking place
in Varenne. Marcasse, meanwhile, had very nimbly climbed a ladder which
served as an approach to the upper stories of the house, now that the
staircase was broken. His dog followed him with marvellous skill.
Soon they came down again, and we learned that a red light could be
distinguished on the horizon in the direction of Roche-Mauprat. In spite
of the loathing I had for this place and its owners, I could not repress
a feeling very much like consternation on hearing that the hereditary
manor which bore my own name had apparently been taken and set on fire.
It meant disgrace, defeat; and this fire was as a seal of vassalage
affixed to my arms by those I called clodhoppers and serfs. I sprang up
from my chair, and had I not been held back by the violent pain in my
foot, I believe I should have rushed out.

"What is the matter?" said Edmee, who was by my side at the time.

"The matter is," I answered abruptly, "that I must return yonder; for
it is my duty to get killed rather than let my uncles parley with the

"The rabble!" cried Patience, addressing me for the first time since I
arrived. "Who dares to talk of rabble here? I myself am of the rabble.
It is my title, and I shall know how to make it respected."

"By Jove! Not by me," I said, pushing away the cure, who had made me sit
down again.

"And yet it would not be for the first time," replied Patience, with a
contemptuous smile.

"You remind me," I answered, "that we two have some old accounts to

And heedless of the frightful agony caused by my sprain, I rose again,
and with a backhander I sent Don Marcasse, who was endeavouring the play
the cure's part of peacemaker, head over heels into the middle of the
ashes. I did not mean him any harm, but my movements were somewhat
rough, and the poor man was so frail that to my hand he was but as a
weasel would have been to his own. Patience was standing before me with
his arms crossed, in the attitude of a stoic philosopher, but the fire
was flashing in his eyes. Conscious of his position as my host, he was
evidently waiting until I struck the first blow before attempting
to crush me. I should not have kept him waiting long, had not Edmee,
scorning the danger of interfering with a madman, seized my arm and
said, in an authoritative tone:

"Sit down again, and be quiet; I command you."

So much boldness and confidence surprised and pleased me at the same
time. The rights which she arrogated to herself over me were, in some
measure, a sanction of those I claimed to have over her.

"You are right," I answered, sitting down.

And I added, with a glance at Patience:

"Some other time."

"Amen," he answered, shrugging his shoulders.

Marcasse had picked himself up with much composure, and shaking off the
ashes with which he was covered, instead of finding fault with me, he
tried, after his fashion to lecture Patience. This was in reality by no
means easy to do; yet nothing could have been less irritating than that
monosyllabic censure throwing out its little note in the thick of a
quarrel like an echo in a storm.

"At your age," he said to his host; "not patient at all. Wholly to

"How naughty you are!" Edmee said to me, putting her hand on my
shoulder; "do not begin again, or I shall go away and leave you."

I willingly let myself be scolded by her; nor did I realize that during
the last minutes we had exchanged parts. The moment we crossed the
threshold of Gazeau Tower she had given evidence of that superiority
over me which was really hers. This wild place, too, these strange
witnesses, this fierce host, had already furnished a taste of the
society into which I had entered, and whose fetters I was soon to feel.

"Come," she said, turning to Patience, "we do not understand each other
here; and, for my part, I am devoured by anxiety about my poor father,
who is no doubt searching for me, and wringing his hands at this very
moment. My good Patience, do find me some means of rejoining him with
this unfortunate boy, whom I dare not leave to your care, since you have
not sufficient love for me to be patient and compassionate with him."

"What do you say?" said Patience, putting his hand to his brow as if
waking from a dream. "Yes, you are right; I am an old brute, an old
fool. Daughter of God, tell this boy, this nobleman, that I ask his
pardon for the past, and that, for the present, my poor cell is at his
disposal. Is that well said?"

"Yes, Patience," answered the cure. "Besides, everything may be managed.
My horse is quiet and steady, and Mademoiselle de Mauprat can ride it,
while you and Marcasse lead it by the bridle. For myself, I will remain
here with our invalid. I promise to take good care of him and not to
annoy him in any way. That will do, won't it, Monsieur Bernard? You
don't bear me any ill-will, and you may be very sure that I am not your

"I know nothing about it," I answered; "it is as you please. Look after
my cousin; take her home safely. For my own part, I need nothing and
care for no one. A bundle of straw and a glass of wine, that is all I
should like, if it were possible to have them."

"You shall have both," said Marcasse, handing me his flask, "but first
of all here is something to cheer you up. I am going to the stable to
get the horse ready."

"No, I will go myself," said Patience; "you see to the wants of this
young man."

And he passed into another lower hall, which served as a stable for
the cure's horse during the visits which the good priest paid him. They
brought the animal through the room where we were; and Patience, after
arranging the cure's cloak on the saddle, with fatherly care helped
Edmee to mount.

"One moment," she said, before letting them lead her out. "Monsieur le
Cure, will you promise me on the salvation of your soul not to leave my
cousin before I return with my father to fetch him?"

"I promise solemnly," replied the cure.

"And you, Bernard," said Edmee, "will you give me your word of honour to
wait for me here?"

"I can't say," I answered; "that will depend on the length of your
absence and on my patience; but you know quite well, cousin, that we
shall meet again, even if it be in hell; and for my part, the sooner the

By the light of the brand which Patience was holding to examine the
horse's harness, I saw her beautiful face flush and then turn pale. Then
she raised her eyes which had been lowered in sorrow, and looked at me
fixedly with a strange expression.

"Are we ready to start?" said Marcasse, opening the door.

"Yes, forward," said Patience, taking the bridle. "Edmee, my child, take
care to bend down while passing under the door."

"What is the matter, Blaireau?" said Marcasse, stopping on the threshold
and thrusting out the point of his sword, gloriously rusted by the blood
of the rodent tribe.

Blaireau did not stir, and if he had not been born dumb, as his master
said, he would have barked. But he gave warning as usual by a sort of
dry cough. This was his most emphatic sign of anger and uneasiness.

"There must be something down there," said Marcasse; and he boldly
advanced into the darkness, after making a sign to the rider not to
follow. The report of firearms made us all start. Edmee jumped down
lightly from her horse, and I did not fail to notice that some impulse
at once prompted her to come and stand behind my chair. Patience rushed
out of the tower. The cure ran to the frightened horse, which was
rearing and backing toward us. Blaireau managed to bark. I forgot my
sprain, and in a single bound I was outside.

A man covered with wounds, and with the blood streaming from him, was
lying across the doorway. It was my Uncle Laurence. He had been mortally
wounded at the siege of Roche-Mauprat, and had come to die under our
eyes. With him was his brother Leonard, who had just fired his last
pistol shot at random, luckily without hitting any one. Patience's
first impulse was to prepare to defend himself. On recognising Marcasse,
however, the fugitives, far from showing themselves hostile, asked for
shelter and help. As their situation was so desperate no one thought
that assistance should be refused. The police were pursuing them.
Roche-Mauprat was in flames; Louis and Peter had died fighting; Antony,
John, and Walter had fled in another direction, and, perhaps, were
already prisoners. No words would paint the horror of Laurence's last
moments. His agony was brief but terrible. His blasphemy made the cure
turn pale. Scarce had the door been shut and the dying man laid on the
floor than the horrible death-rattle was heard. Leonard, who knew of no
remedy but brandy, snatched Marcasse's flask out of my hand (not without
swearing and scornfully reproaching me for my flight), forced open his
brother's clinched teeth with the blade of his hunting-knife, and,
in spite of our warning, poured half the flask down his throat. The
wretched man bounded into the air, brandished his arms in desperate
convulsions, drew himself up to his full height, and fell back stone
dead upon the blood-stained floor. There was no time to offer up a
prayer over the body, for the door resounded under the furious blows of
our assailants.

"Open in the King's name!" cried several voices; "open to the police!"

"Help! help!" cried Leonard, seizing his knife and rushing towards the
door. "Peasants, prove yourselves nobles! And you, Bernard, atone for
your fault; wash out your shame; do not let a Mauprat fall into the
hands of the gendarmes alive!"

Urged on by native courage and by pride, I was about to follow his
example, when Patience rushed at him, and exerting his herculean
strength, threw him to the ground. Putting one knee on his chest, he
called to Marcasse to open the door. This was done before I could take
my uncle's part against his terrible assailant. Six gendarmes at once
rushed into the tower and, with their guns pointed, bade us move at our

"Stay, gentlemen," said Patience, "don't harm any one. This is your
prisoner. Had I been alone with him, I should either have defended him
or helped him to escape; but there are honest people here who ought not
to suffer for a knave; and I did not wish to expose them to a fight.
Here is the Mauprat. Your duty, as you know, is to deliver him safe and
sound into the hands of justice. This other is dead."

"Monsieur, surrender!" said the sergeant of the gendarmes, laying his
hand on Leonard.

"Never shall a Mauprat drag his name into the dock of a police court,"
replied Leonard, with a sullen expression. "I surrender, but you will
get nothing but my skin."

And he allowed himself to be placed in a chair without making any

But while they were preparing to bind him he said to the cure:

"Do me one last kindness, Father. Give me what is left in the flask; I
am dying of thirst and exhaustion."

The good cure handed him the flask, which he emptied at a draught. His
distorted face took on an expression of awful calm. He seemed absorbed,
stunned, incapable of resistance. But as soon as they were engaged
in binding his feet, he snatched a pistol from the belt of one of the
gendarmes and blew his brains out.

This frightful spectacle completely unnerved me. Sunk in a dull stupor,
no longer conscious of what was happening around me, I stood there as if
turned to stone, and it was only after some minutes that I realized
that I was the subject of a serious discussion between the police and
my hosts. One of the gendarmes declared that he recognised me as a
Hamstringer Mauprat. Patience declared that I was nothing but M. Hubert
de Mauprat's gamekeeper, in charge of his daughter. Annoyed at the
discussion, I was about to make myself known when I saw a ghost rise
by my side. It was Edmee. She had taken refuge between the wall and the
cure's poor frightened horse, which, with outstretched legs and eyes
of fire, made her a sort of rampart with its body. She was as pale as
death, and her lips were so compressed with horror that at first, in
spite of desperate efforts to speak, she was unable to express herself
otherwise than by signs. The sergeant, moved by her youth and her
painful situation, waited with deference until she could manage to make
herself understood. At last she persuaded them not to treat me as a
prisoner, but to take me with her to her father's chateau, where she
gave her word of honour that satisfactory explanations and guarantees
would be furnished on my account. The cure and the other witnesses,
having pledged their words to this, we set out all together, Edmee
on the sergeant's horse, he on an animal belonging to one of his men,
myself on the cure's, Patience and the cure afoot between us, the police
on either side, and Marcasse in front, still impassive amid the general
terror and consternation. Two of the gendarmes remained behind to guard
the bodies and prepare a report.


We had travelled about a league through the woods. Wherever other paths
had crossed our own, we had stopped to call aloud; for Edmee, convinced
that her father would not return home without finding her, had implored
her companions to help her to rejoin him. To this shouting the gendarmes
had been very averse, as they were afraid of being discovered and
attacked by bodies of the fugitives from Roche-Mauprat. On our way they
informed us that this den had been captured at the third assault. Until
then the assailants had husbanded their forces. The officer in command
of the gendarmes was anxious to get possession of the keep without
destroying it; and, above all, to take the defenders alive. This,
however, was impossible on account of the desperate resistance they
made. The besiegers suffered so severely in their second attempt that
they found themselves compelled to adopt extreme measures or to retreat.
They therefore set the outer buildings on fire, and in the ensuing
assault put forth all their strength. Two Mauprats were killed while
fighting on the ruins of their bastion; the other five disappeared. Six
men were dispatched in pursuit of them in one direction, six in another.
Traces of the fugitives had been discovered immediately, and the men who
gave us these details had followed Laurence and Leonard so closely that
several of their shots had hit the former only a short distance from
Gazeau Tower. They had heard him cry that he was done for; and, as far
as they could see, Leonard had carried him to the sorcerer's door. This
Leonard was the only one of my uncles who deserved any pity, for he was
the only one who might, perhaps, have been encouraged to a better kind
of life. At times there was a touch of chivalry in his brigandage,
and his savage heart was capable of affection. I was deeply moved,
therefore, by his tragic death, and let myself be carried along
mechanically, plunged in gloomy thoughts, and determined to end my days
in the same manner should I ever be condemned to the disgrace he had
scorned to endure.

All at once the sound of horns and the baying of hounds announced the
approach of a party of huntsmen. While we, on our side, were answering
with shouts, Patience ran to meet them. Edmee, longing to see her father
again, and forgetting all the horrors of this bloody night, whipped
up her horse and reached the hunters first. As soon as we came up with
them, I saw Edmee in the arms of a tall man with a venerable face. He
was richly dressed; his hunting-coat, with gold lace over all the seams,
and the magnificent Norman horse, which a groom was holding behind him,
so struck me that I thought I was in the presence of a prince. The signs
of love which he was showing his daughter were so new to me that I was
inclined to deem them exaggerated and unworthy of the dignity of a man.
At the same time they filled me with a sort of brute jealousy; for it
did not occur to my mind that a man so splendidly dressed could be
my uncle. Edmee was speaking to him in a low voice, but with great
animation. Their conversation lasted a few moments. At the end of it the
old man came and embraced me cordially. Everything about these manners
seemed so new to me, that I responded neither by word nor gesture to the
protestations and caresses of which I was the object. A tall young man,
with a handsome face, as elegantly dressed as M. Hubert, also came and
shook my hand and proffered thanks; why, I could not understand. He next
entered into a discussion with the gendarmes, and I gathered that he was
the lieutenant-general of the province, and that he was ordering them
to set me at liberty for the present, that I might accompany my uncle to
his chateau, where he undertook to be responsible for me. The gendarmes
then left us, for the chevalier and the lieutenant-general were
sufficiently well escorted by their own men not to fear attack from
any one. A fresh cause of astonishment for me was to see the chevalier
bestowing marks of warm friendship on Patience and Marcasse. As for the
cure, he was upon a footing of equality with these seigneurs. For some
months he had been chaplain at the chateau of Saint-Severe, having
previously been compelled to give up his living by the persecutions of
the diocesan clergy.

All this tenderness of which Edmee was the object, this family affection
so completely new to me, the genuinely cordial relations existing
between respectful plebeians and kindly patricians--everything that I
now saw and heard seemed like a dream. I looked on with a sensation that
it was all unintelligible to me. However, soon after our caravan started
my brain began to work; for I then saw the lieutenant-general (M. de
la Marche) thrust his horse between Edmee's and my own, as if he had a
right to be next to her. I remembered her telling me at Roche-Mauprat
that he was her betrothed. Hatred and anger at once surged up within me,
and I know not what absurdity I should have committed, had not Edmee,
apparently divining the workings of my unruly soul, told him that she
wanted to speak to me, and thus restored me to my place by her side.

"What have you to say to me?" I asked with more eagerness than

"Nothing," she answered in an undertone. "I shall have much to say
later. Until then will you do everything I ask of you?"

"And why the devil should I do everything you ask of me, cousin?"

For a moment she hesitated to reply; then, making an effort, she said:

"Because it is thus that a man proves to a woman that he loves her."

"Do you believe that I don't love you?" I replied abruptly.

"How should I know?" she said.

This doubt astonished me very much, and I tried to combat it after my

"Are you not beautiful?" I said; "and am not I a young man? Perhaps you
think I am too much of a boy to notice a woman's beauty; but now that my
head is calm, and I am sad and quite serious, I can assure you that I am
even more deeply in love with you than I thought. The more I look at you
the more beautiful you seem. I did not think that a woman could be so
lovely. I tell you I shall not sleep till . . ."

"Hold your tongue," she said sharply.

"Oh, I suppose you are afraid that man will hear me," I answered,
pointing to M. de la Marche. "Have no fear; I know how to keep my word;
and, as you are the daughter of a noble house, I hope you know how to
keep yours."

She did not reply. We had reached a part of the road where it was
only possible for two to walk abreast. The darkness was profound, and
although the chevalier and the lieutenant-general were at our heels, I
was going to make bold to put my arm round her waist, when she said to
me, in a sad and weary voice:

"Cousin, forgive me for not talking to you. I'm afraid I did not quite
understand what you said. I am so exhausted that I feel as if I were
going to die. Luckily, we have reached home now. Promise me that you
will love my father, that you will yield to all his wishes, that you
will decide nothing without consulting me. Promise me this if you would
have me believe in your friendship."

"Oh, my friendship? you are welcome not to believe in that," I answered;
"but you must believe in my love. I promise everything you wish. And
you, will you not promise me anything? Do, now, with a good grace."

"What can I promise that is not yours?" she said in a serious tone. "You
saved my honour; my life belongs to you."

The first glimmerings of dawn were now beginning to light the horizon.
We had reached the village of Saint-Severe, and soon afterward we
entered the courtyard of the chateau. On dismounting from her horse
Edmee fell into her father's arms; she was as pale as death. M. de la
Marche uttered a cry, and helped to carry her away. She had fainted.
The cure took charge of me. I was very uneasy about my fate. The natural
distrust of the brigand sprang up again as soon as I ceased to be under
the spell of her who had managed to lure me from my den. I was like a
wounded wolf; I cast sullen glances about me, ready to rush at the first
being who should stir my suspicions by a doubtful word or deed. I was
taken into a splendid room, and a meal, prepared with a luxury far
beyond anything I could have conceived, was immediately served. The
cure displayed the kindest interest in me; and, having succeeded in
reassuring me a little, he went to attend to his friend Patience. The
disturbed state of my mind and my remnant of uneasiness were not
proof against the generous appetite of youth. Had it not been for the
respectful assiduity of a valet much better dressed than myself, who
stood behind my chair, and whose politeness I could not help returning
whenever he hastened to anticipate my wants, I should have made
a terrific breakfast; as it was, the green coat and silk breeches
embarrassed me considerably. It was much worse when, going down on his
knees, he set about taking off my boots preparatory to putting me to
bed. For the moment I thought he was playing a trick upon me, and came
very near giving him a good blow on the head; but his manner was so
serious as he went through this task that I sat and stared at him in

At first, at finding myself in bed without arms, and with people
entering and leaving my room always on tip-toe, I again began to feel
suspicious. I took advantage of a moment when I was alone to get out of
bed and take from the table, which was only half cleared, the longest
knife I could find. Feeling easier in my mind, I returned to bed and
fell into a sound sleep, with the knife firmly clasped in my hand.

When I awoke again the rays of the setting sun, softened by my red
damask curtains, were falling on my beautifully fine sheets and lighting
up the golden pomegranates that adorned the corners of the bed. This bed
was so handsome and soft that I felt inclined to make it my apologies
for having slept in it. As I was about to get up I saw a kindly,
venerable face looking through the half-drawn curtains and smiling. It
was the Chevalier Hubert de Mauprat. He inquired anxiously about
the state of my health. I endeavoured to be polite and to express my
gratitude; but the language I used seemed so different from his that
I was disconcerted and pained at my awkwardness without being able to
realize why. To crown my misery, a movement that I made caused the
knife which I had taken as bedfellow to fall at M. de Mauprat's feet. He
picked it up, looked at it, and then at myself with extreme surprise. I
turned as red as fire and stammered out I know not what. I expected he
would reprove me for this insult to his hospitality. However, he was too
polite to insist upon a more complete explanation. He quietly placed the
knife on the mantel-piece and, returning to me, spoke as follows:

"Bernard, I now know that I owe to you the life that I hold dearest in
the world. All my own life shall be devoted to giving you proofs of my
gratitude and esteem. My daughter also is sacredly indebted to you. You
need, then, have no anxiety about your future. I know what persecution
and vengeance you exposed yourself to in coming to us; but I know, too,
from what a frightful existence my friendship and devotion will be able
to deliver you. You are an orphan, and I have no son. Will you have me
for your father?"

I stared at the chevalier with wild eyes. I could not believe my ears.
All feeling within me seemed paralyzed by astonishment and timidity. I
was unable to answer a word. The chevalier himself evidently felt
some astonishment; he had not expected to find a nature so brutishly

"Come," he said; "I hope that you will grow accustomed to us. At all
events, shake hands, to show that you trust me. I will send up your
servant; give him your orders; he is at your disposal. I have only one
promise to exact from you, and that is that you will not go beyond the
walls of the park until I have taken steps to make you safe from the
pursuit of justice. At present it is possible that the charges which
have been hanging over your uncles' heads might be made to fall on your

"My uncles!" I exclaimed, putting my hand to my brow. "Is this all a
hideous dream? Where are they? What has become of Roche-Mauprat?"

"Roche-Mauprat," he answered, "has been saved from the flames. Only
a few of the outer buildings have been destroyed; but I undertake to
repair the house and to redeem your fief from the creditors who claim
it. As to your uncles . . . you are probably the sole heir of a name
that it behoves you to rehabilitate."

"The sole heir?" I cried. "Four Mauprats fell last night; but the other
three . . ."

"The fifth, Walter, perished in his attempt to escape. His body was
discovered this morning in the pond of Les Froids. Neither John nor
Antony has been caught, but the horse belonging to one and a cloak of
the other's, found near the spot where Walter's body was lying, seem to
hint darkly that their fate was as his. Even if one of them manages to
escape, he will never dare make himself known again, for there would
be no hope for him. And since they have drawn down upon their heads
the inevitable storm, it is best, both for themselves and for us, who
unfortunately bear the same name, that they should have come to this
tragic end--better to have fallen weapon in hand, than to have suffered
an infamous death upon the gallows. Let us bow to what God has ordained
for them. It is a stern judgment; seven men in the pride of youth and
strength summoned in a single night to their terrible reckoning! . . .
We must pray for them, Bernard, and by dint of good works try to make
good the evil they have done, and remove the stains they have left on
our escutcheon."

These concluding words summed up the chevalier's whole character. He was
pious, just, and full of charity; but, with him, as with most nobles,
the precepts of Christian humility were wont to fall before the pride
of rank. He would gladly have had a poor man at his table, and on Good
Friday, indeed, he used to wash the feet of twelve beggars; but he was
none the less attached to all the prejudices of our caste. In trampling
under foot the dignity of man, my cousins, he considered, had,
as noblemen, been much more culpable than they would have been as
plebeians. On the latter hypothesis, according to him, their crimes
would not have been half so grave. For a long time I shared the
conviction myself; it was in my blood, if I may use the expression. I
lost it only in the stern lessons of my destiny.

He then confirmed what his daughter had told me. From my birth he had
earnestly desired to undertake my education. But his brother Tristan
had always stubbornly opposed this desire. There the chevalier's brow

"You do not know," he said, "how baneful have been the consequences of
that simple wish of mine--baneful for me, and for you too. But that must
remain wrapped in mystery--a hideous mystery, the blood of the
Atridae. . . ."

He took my hand, and added, in a broken voice:

"Bernard, we are both of us victims of a vicious family. This is not
the moment to pile up charges against those who in this very hour are
standing before the terrible tribunal of God; but they have done me an
irreparable wrong--they have broken my heart. The wrong they have done
you shall be repaired--I swear it by the memory of your mother. They
have deprived you of education; they have made you a partner in their
brigandage; yet your soul has remained great and pure as was the soul of
the angel who gave you birth. You will correct the mistakes which others
made in your childhood; you will receive an education suitable to your
rank. And then, Bernard, you will restore the honour of your family. You
will, won't you? Promise me this, Bernard. It is the one thing I long
for. I will throw myself at your knees if so I may win your confidence;
and I shall win it, for Providence has destined you to be my son. Ah,
once it was my dream that you should be more completely mine. If, when
I made my second petition, they had granted you to my loving care, you
would have been brought up with my daughter and you would certainly have
become her husband. But God would not have it so. You have now to begin
your education, whereas hers is almost finished. She is of an age to
marry; and, besides, her choice is already made. She loves M. de la
Marche; in fact, their marriage is soon to take place. Probably she had
told you."

I stammered out a few confused words. The affection and generous ideas
of this noble man had moved me profoundly, and I was conscious of a new
nature, as it were, awakening within me. But when he pronounced the name
of his future son-in-law, all my savage instincts rose up again, and I
felt that no principle of social loyalty would make me renounce my claim
to her whom I regarded as my fairly won prize. I grew pale; I grew red;
I gasped for breath. Luckily, we were interrupted by the Abbe Aubert
(the Jansenist cure), who came to inquire how I was after my fall. Then
for the first time the chevalier heard of my accident; an incident that
had escaped him amid the press of so many more serious matters. He sent
for his doctor at once, and I was overwhelmed with kind attentions,
which seemed to me rather childish, but to which I submitted from a
sense of gratitude.

I had not dared to ask the chevalier for any news of his daughter. With
the abbe, however, I was bolder. He informed me that the length and
uneasiness of her sleep were causing some anxiety; and the doctor, when
he returned in the evening to dress my ankle, told me that she was very
feverish, and that he was afraid she was going to have some serious

For a few days, indeed, she was ill enough to cause anxiety. In the
terrible experience she had gone through she had displayed great energy;
but the reaction was correspondingly violent. For myself, I was also
kept to my bed. I could not take a step without feeling considerable
pain, and the doctor threatened that I should be laid up for several
months if I did not submit to inaction for a few days. As I was
otherwise in vigorous health, and had never been ill in my life, the
change from any active habits to this sluggish captivity caused me
indescribable _ennui_. Only those who have lived in the depths of woods,
and experienced all the hardships of a rough life, can understand the
kind of horror and despair I felt on finding myself shut up for more
than a week between four silk curtains. The luxuriousness of my room,
the gilding of my bed, the minute attentions of the lackeys, everything,
even to the excellence of the food--trifles which I had somewhat
appreciated the first day--became odious to me at the end of twenty-four
hours. The chevalier paid me affectionate but short visits; for he
was absorbed by the illness of his darling daughter. The abbe was all
kindness. To neither did I dare confess how wretched I felt; but when I
was alone I felt inclined to roar like a caged lion; and at night I had
dreams in which the moss in the woods, the curtain of forest trees, and
even the gloomy battlements of Roche-Mauprat, appeared to me like an
earthly paradise. At other times, the tragic scenes that had accompanied
and followed my escape were reproduced so vividly by my memory that,
even when awake, I was a prey to a sort of delirium.

A visit from M. de la Marche stirred my ideas to still wilder disorder.
He displayed the deepest interest in me, shook me by the hand again and
again, and implored my friendship, vowed a dozen times that he would lay
down his life for me, and made I don't know how many other protestations
which I scarcely heard, for his voice was like a raging torrent in my
ears, and if I had had my hunting-knife I believe I should have thrown
myself upon him. My rough manners and sullen looks astonished him very
much; but, the abbe having explained that my mind was disturbed by
the terrible events which had happened in my family, he renewed his
protestations, and took leave of me in the most affectionate and
courteous manner.

This politeness which I found common to everybody, from the master
of the house to the meanest of his servants, though it struck me with
admiration, yet made me feel strangely ill at ease; for, even if it had
not been inspired by good-will towards me, I could never have brought
myself to understand that it might be something very different from real
goodness. It bore so little resemblance to the facetious braggadocio of
the Mauprats, that it seemed to me like an entirely new language, which
I understood but could not speak.

However, I recovered the power of speech when the abbe announced that
he was to have charge of my education, and began questioning me about
my attainments. My ignorance was so far beyond anything he could have
imagined that I was getting ashamed to lay it all bare; and, my savage
pride getting the upper hand, I declared that I was a gentleman, and had
no desire to become a clerk. His only answer was a burst of laughter,
which offended me greatly. He tapped me quickly on the shoulder, with
a good-natured smile, saying that I should change my mind in time, but
that I was certainly a funny fellow. I was purple with rage when the
chevalier entered. The abbe told him of our conversation and of my
little speech. M. Hubert suppressed a smile.

"My boy," he said, in a kind tone, "I trust I may never do anything to
annoy you, even from affection. Let us talk no more about work to-day.
Before conceiving a taste for it you must first realize its necessity.
Since you have a noble heart you can not but have a sound mind; the
desire for knowledge will come to you of itself. And now to supper. I
expect you are hungry. Do you like wine?"

"Much better than Latin," I replied.

"Come, abbe," he continued laughingly, "as a punishment for having
played the pedant you must drink with us. Edmee is now quite out of
danger. The doctor has said that Bernard can get up and walk a few
steps. We will have supper served in this room."

The supper and wine were so good, indeed, that I was not long in getting
tipsy, according to the Roche-Mauprat custom. I even saw they aided and
abetted, in order to make me talk, and show at once what species of boor
they had to deal with. My lack of education surpassed anything they had
anticipated; but I suppose they augured well from my native powers; for,
instead of giving me up, they laboured at the rough block with a zeal
which showed at least that they were not without hope. As soon as I was
able to leave my room I lost the feeling of _ennui_. The abbe was my
inseparable companion through the whole first day. The length of the
second was diminished by the hope they gave me of seeing Edmee on the
morrow, and by the kindness I experienced from every one. I began to
feel the charm of these gentle manners in proportion as I ceased to be
astonished at them. The never-failing goodness of the chevalier could
not but overcome my boorishness; nay, more, it rapidly won my heart.
This was the first affection of my life. It took up its abode in me side
by side with a violent love for his daughter, nor did I even dream of
pitting one of these feelings against the other. I was all yearning,
all instinct, all desire. I had the passions of a man in the soul of a


At last, one morning after breakfast, Mr. Hubert took me to see his
daughter. When the door of her room was opened I felt almost suffocated
by the warm-scented air which met me. The room itself was charming
in its simplicity; the curtains and coverings of chintz, with a white
ground. Large china vases filled with flowers exhaled a delicate
perfume. African birds were sporting in a gilded cage, and singing their
sweet little love songs. The carpet was softer to the feet than is
the moss of the woods in the month of March. I was in such a state of
agitation that my eyes grew more and more dim every moment. My feet
caught in one another most awkwardly, and I kept stumbling against the
furniture without being able to advance. Edmee was lying on a long white
chair, carelessly fingering a mother-of-pearl fan. She seemed to me
even more beautiful than before, yet so changed that a feeling of
apprehension chilled me in the middle of my ecstasy. She held out her
hand to me; I did not like to kiss it in the presence of her father. I
could not hear what she was saying to me--I believe her words were full
of affection. Then, as if overcome with fatigue, she let her head fall
back on the pillow and closed her eyes.

"I have some work to do," said the chevalier to me. "Stay here with her;
but do not make her talk too much, for she is still very weak."

This recommendation really seemed a sarcasm. Edmee was pretending to be
sleepy, perhaps to conceal some of the embarrassment that weighed on her
heart; and, as for myself, I felt so incapable of overcoming her reserve
that it was in reality a kindness to counsel silence.

The chevalier opened a door at one end of the room and closed it after
him; but, as I could hear him cough from time to time, I gathered
that his study was separated from his daughter's room only by a wooden
partition. Still, it was bliss to be alone with her for a few moments,
as long as she appeared to be asleep. She did not see me, and I could
gaze on her at will. So pale was she that she seemed as white as her
muslin dressing-gown, or as her satin slippers with their trimming of
swan's down. Her delicate, transparent hand was to my eyes like some
unknown jewel. Never before had I realized what a woman was; beauty for
me had hitherto meant youth and health, together with a sort of manly
hardihood. Edmee, in her riding-habit, as I first beheld her, had in
a measure displayed such beauty, and I had understood her better then.
Now, as I studied her afresh, my very ideas, which were beginning to
get a little light from without, all helped to make this second
_tete-a-tete_ very different from the first.

But the strange, uneasy pleasure I experienced in gazing on her was
disturbed by the arrival of a duenna, a certain Mademoiselle Leblanc,
who performed the duties of lady's maid in Edmee's private apartments,
and filled the post of companion in the drawing-room. Perhaps she had
received orders from her mistress not to leave us. Certain it is that
she took her place by the side of the invalid's chair in such a way as
to present to my disappointed gaze her own long, meagre back, instead of
Edmee's beautiful face. Then she took some work out of her pocket, and
quietly began to knit. Meanwhile the birds continued to warble, the
chevalier to cough, Edmee to sleep or to pretend to sleep, while I
remained at the other end of the room with my head bent over the prints
in a book that I was holding upside down.

After some time I became aware that Edmee was not asleep, and that she
was talking to her attendant in a low voice. I fancied I noticed the
latter glancing at me from time to time out of the corner of her eye in
a somewhat stealthy manner. To escape the ordeal of such an examination,
and also from an impulse of cunning, which was by no means foreign to my
nature, I let my head fall on the book, and the book on the pier-table,
and in this posture I remained as if buried in sleep or thought. Then,
little by little, their voices grew louder, until I could hear what they
were saying about me.

"It's all the same; you have certainly have chosen a funny sort of page,

"A page, Leblanc! Why do you talk such nonsense? As if one had pages
nowadays! You are always imagining we are still in my grandmother's
time. I tell you he is my father's adopted son."

"M. le Chevalier is undoubtedly quite right to adopt a son; but where on
earth did he fish up such a creature as that?"

I gave a side glance at them and saw that Edmee was laughing behind her
fan. She was enjoying the chatter of this old maid, who was supposed to
be a wag and allowed perfect freedom of speech. I was very much hurt to
see my cousin was making fun of me.

"He looks like a bear, a badger, a wolf, a kite, anything rather than
a man," continued Leblanc. "What hands! what legs! And now he has been
cleaned up a little, he is nothing to what he was! You ought to have
seen him the day he arrived with his smock and his leather gaiters; it
was enough to take away one's breath."

"Do you think so?" answered Edmee. "For my part, I preferred him in his
poacher's garb. It suited his face and figure better."

"He looked like a bandit. You could not have looked at him properly,

"Oh! yes, I did."

The tone in which she pronounced these words, "Yes, I did," made me
shudder; and somehow I again felt upon my lips the impress of the kiss
she had given me at Roche-Mauprat.

"It would not be so bad if his hair were dressed properly," continued
the duenna; "but, so far, no one had been able to persuade him to have
it powdered. Saint-Jean told me that just as he was about to put the
powder puff to his head he got up in a rage and said, 'Anything you like
except that confounded flour. I want to be able to move my head about
without coughing and sneezing.' Heavens, what a savage!"

"Yet, in reality, he is quite right. If fashion did not sanction
the absurdity, everybody would perceive that it is both ugly and
inconvenient. Look and see if it is not more becoming to have long black
hair like his?"

"Long hair like that? What a mane. It is enough to frighten one."

"Besides, boys do not have their hair powdered, and he is still a boy."

"A boy? My stars! what a brat Boys? Why he would eat them for his
breakfast; he's a regular ogre. But where does the hulking dog spring
from? I suppose M. le Chevalier brought him here from behind some
plough. What is his name again? . . . You did tell me his name, didn't

"Yes, inquisitive; I told you he is called Bernard."

"Bernard! And nothing else?"

"Nothing, for the present. What are you looking at?"

"He is sleeping like a dormouse. Look at the booby. I was wondering
whether he resembled M. le Chevalier. Perhaps it was a momentary
error--a fit of forgetfulness with some milk-maid."

"Come, come, Leblanc; you are going too far . . ."

"Goodness gracious, mademoiselle, has not M. le Chevalier been young
like any other man? And that does not prevent virtue coming on with
years, does it?"

"Doubtless your own experience has shown you that this is possible. But
listen: don't take upon yourself to make fun of this young man. It is
possible that you have guessed right; but my father requires him to be
treated as one of the family."

"Well, well; that must be pleasant for you, mademoiselle. As for myself,
what does it matter to me? I have nothing to do with the gentleman."

"Ah, if you were thirty years younger."

"But did your father consult you, mademoiselle, before planting yon
great brigand in your room?"

"Why ask such a question? Is there anywhere in the world a better father
than mine?"

"But you are very good also. . . . There are many young ladies who would
have been by no means pleased."

"And why, I should like to know? There is nothing disagreeable about the
fellow. When he has been polished a little . . ."

"He will always be perfectly ugly."

"My dear Leblanc, he is far from ugly. You are too old; you are no
longer a judge of young men."

Their conversation was interrupted by the chevalier, who came in to look
for a book.

"Mademoiselle Leblanc is here, is she?" he said in a very quiet tone.
"I thought you were alone with my son. Well, Edmee, have you had a talk
with him? Did you tell him that you would be his sister? Are you pleased
with her, Bernard?"

Such answers as I gave could compromise no one. As a rule, they
consisted of four or five incoherent words crippled by shame. M. de
Mauprat returned to his study, and I had sat down again, hoping that
my cousin was going to send away her duenna and talk to me. But they
exchanged a few words in a whisper; the duenna remained, and two mortal
hours passed without my daring to stir from my chair. I believe Edmee
really was asleep this time. When the bell rang for dinner her father
came in again to fetch me, and before leaving her room he said to her

"Well, have you had a chat?"

"Yes, father, dear," she replied, with an assurance that astounded me.

My cousin's behaviour seemed to me to prove beyond doubt that she
had merely been trifling with me, and that she was not afraid of my
reproaches. And yet hope sprang up again when I remembered the strain in
which she had spoken of me to Mademoiselle Leblanc. I even succeeded in
persuading myself that she feared arousing her father's suspicions, and
that she was now feigning complete indifference only to draw me the more
surely to her arms as soon as the favourable moment had arrived. As it
was impossible to ascertain the truth, I resigned myself to waiting. But
days and nights passed without any explanation being sent, or any secret
message bidding me be patient. She used to come down to the drawing-room
for an hour in the morning; in the evening she was present at dinner,
and then would play piquet or chess with her father. During all this
time she was so well watched that I could not exchange a glance with
her. For the rest of the day she remained in her own room--inaccessible.
Noticing that I was chafing at the species of captivity in which I was
compelled to live, the chevalier frequently said to me:

"Go and have a chat with Edmee. You can go to her room and tell her that
I sent you."

But it was in vain that I knocked. No doubt they had heard me coming and
had recognised me by my heavy shuffling step. The door was never opened
to me. I grew desperate, furious.

Here I must interrupt the account of my personal impressions to tell you
what was happening at this time in the luckless Mauprat family. John and
Antony had really managed to escape, and though a very close search
had been made for them, they had not as yet been captured. All their
property was seized, and an order issued by the courts for the sale of
the Roche-Mauprat fief. As it proved, however, a sale was unnecessary.
M. Hubert de Mauprat put an end to the proceedings by coming forward
as purchaser. The creditors were paid off, and the title-deeds of
Roche-Mauprat passed into his hands.

The little garrison kept by the Mauprats, made up of adventurers of the
lowest type, had met the same fate as their masters. As I have already
said, the garrison had long been reduced to a few individuals. Two
or three of these were killed, others took to flight; one only was
captured. This man was tried and made to suffer for all. A serious
question arose as to whether judgment should not also be given against
John and Antony de Mauprat by default. There was apparently no doubt
that they had fled; the pond in which Walter's body was found floating
had been drained, yet no traces of the bodies had been discovered. The
chevalier, however, for the sake of the name he bore, strove to prevent
the disgrace of an ignominious sentence; as if such a sentence could
have added aught to the horror of the name of Mauprat. He brought to
bear all M. de la Marche's influence and his own (which was very real
in the province, especially on account of his high moral character),
to hush up the affair, and he succeeded. As for myself, though I had
certainly had a hand in more than one of my uncles' robberies, there was
no thought of discussing me even at the bar of public opinion. In
the storm of anger that my uncles had aroused people were pleased to
consider me simply as a young captive, a victim of their cruelty, and
thoroughly well disposed towards everybody. Certainly, in his generous
good nature and desire to rehabilitate the family, the chevalier greatly
exaggerated my merits, and spread a report everywhere that I was an
angel of sweetness and intelligence.

On the day that M. Hubert became purchaser of the estate he entered
my room early in the morning accompanied by his daughter and the
abbe. Showing me the documents which bore witness to his sacrifice
(Roche-Mauprat was valued at about two hundred thousand francs), he
declared that I was forthwith going to be put in possession not only
of my share in the inheritance, which was by no means considerable, but
also of half the revenue of the property. At the same time, he said, the
whole estate, lands and produce, should be secured to me by his will
on one condition, namely, that I would consent to receive an education
suitable to my position.

The chevalier had made all these arrangements in the kindness of his
heart and without ostentation, partly out of gratitude for the service
he knew I had rendered Edmee, and partly from family pride; but he
had not expected that I should prove so stubborn on the question
of education. I cannot tell you the irritation I felt at this word
"condition"; especially as I thought I detected in it signs of some plan
that Edmee had formed to free herself from her promise to me.

"Uncle," I answered, after listening to all his magnificent offers in
absolute silence, "I thank you for all you wish to do for me; but it is
not right that I should avail myself of your kindness. I have no need of
a fortune. A man like myself wants nothing but a little bread, a gun, a
hound, and the first inn he comes to on the edge of the wood. Since you
are good enough to act as my guardian pay me the income on my eighth of
the fief and do not ask me to learn that Latin bosh. A man of birth is
sufficiently well educated when he knows how to bring down a snipe and
sign his name. I have no desire to be seigneur of Roche-Mauprat; it is
enough to have been a slave there. You are most kind, and on my honour I
love you; but I have very little love for conditions. I have never done
anything from interested motives. I would rather remain an ignoramus
than develop a pretty wit for another's dole. Moreover, I could never
consent to make such a hole in my cousin's fortune; though I know
perfectly well that she would willingly sacrifice a part of her dowry to
obtain release from . . ."

Edmee, who until now had remained very pale and apparently heedless of
my words, all at once cast a lightning glance at me and said with an air
of unconcern:

"To obtain a release from what, may I ask, Bernard?"

I saw that, in spite of this show of courage, she was very much
perturbed; for she broke her fan while shutting it. I answered her
with a look in which the artless malice of the rustic must have been

"To obtain release, cousin, from a certain promise you made me at

She grew paler than ever, and on her face I could see an expression of
terror, but ill-disguised by a smile of contempt.

"What was the promise you made him, Edmee?" asked the chevalier, turning
towards her ingenuously.

At the same time the abbe pressed my arm furtively, and I understood
that my cousin's confessor was in possession of the secret.

I shrugged my shoulders; their fears did me an injustice, though they
roused my pity.

"She promised me," I replied, with a smile, "that she would always look
upon me as a brother and a friend. Were not those your words, Edmee, and
do you think it is possible to make them good by mere money?"

She rose as if filled with new life, and, holding out her hand to me,
said in a voice full of emotion:

"You are right, Bernard; yours is a noble heart, and I should never
forgive myself if I doubted it for a moment."

I caught sight of a tear on the edge of her eye-lid, and I pressed her
hand somewhat too roughly, no doubt, for she could not restrain a little
cry, followed, however, by a charming smile. The chevalier clasped me
to his breast, and the abbe rocked about in his chair and exclaimed

"How beautiful! How noble! How very beautiful! Ah," he added, "that is
something that cannot be learnt from books," turning to the chevalier.
"God writes his words and breathes forth his spirit upon the hearts of
the young."

"You will see," said the chevalier, deeply moved, "that this Mauprat
will yet build up the honour of the family again. And now, my dear
Bernard, I will say no more about business. I know how I ought to act,
and you cannot prevent me from taking such steps as I shall think fit
to insure the rehabilitation of my name by yourself. The only true
rehabilitation is guaranteed by your noble sentiments; but there is
still another which I know you will not refuse to attempt--the way
to this lies through your talents and intelligence. You will make the
effort out of love for us, I hope. However, we need not talk of this
at present. I respect your proud spirit, and I gladly renew my offers
without conditions. And now, abbe, I shall be glad if you will accompany
me to the town to see my lawyer. The carriage is waiting. As for you,
children, you can have lunch together. Come, Bernard, offer your arm to
your cousin, or rather, to your sister. You must acquire some courtesy
of manner, since in her case it will be but the expression of your

"That is true, uncle," I answered, taking hold of Edmee's arm somewhat
roughly to lead her downstairs.

I could feel her trembling; but the pink had returned to her cheeks, and
a smile of affection was playing about her lips.

As soon as we were seated opposite each other at table our happy harmony
was chilled in a very few moments. We both returned to our former
state of embarrassment. Had we been alone I should have got out of the
difficulty by one of those abrupt sallies which I knew how to force from
myself when I grew too much ashamed of my bashfulness; but the presence
of Saint-Jean, who was waiting upon us, condemned me to silence on the
subject next to my heart. I decided, therefore, to talk about Patience.
I asked her how it came to pass that she was on such good terms with
him, and in what light I ought to look upon the pretended sorcerer. She
gave me the main points in the history of the rustic philosopher, and
explained that it was the Abbe Aubert who had taken her to Gazeau Tower.
She had been much struck by the intelligence and wisdom of the stoic
hermit, and used to derive great pleasure from conversation with him. On
his side, Patience had conceived such a friendship for her that for some
time he had relaxed his strict habits, and would frequently pay her a
visit when he came to see the abbe.

As you may imagine, she had no little difficulty in making these
explanations intelligible to me. I was very much surprised at the
praise she bestowed on Patience, and at the sympathy she showed for
his revolutionary ideas. This was the first time I had heard a peasant
spoken of as a man. Besides, I had hitherto looked upon the sorcerer of
Gazeau Tower as very much below the ordinary peasant, and here was Edmee
praising him above most of the men she knew, and even siding with him
against the nobles. From this I drew the comfortable conclusion that
education was not so essential as the chevalier and the abbe would have
me believe.

"I can scarcely read any better than Patience," I added, "and I only
wish you found as much pleasure in my society as in his; but it hardly
appears so, cousin, for since I came here . . ."

We were then leaving the table, and I was rejoicing at the prospect of
being alone with her at last, so that I might talk more freely, when on
going into the drawing-room we found M. de la Marche there. He had just
arrived, and was in the act of entering by the opposite door. In my
heart I wished him at the devil.

M. de la March was one of the fashionable young nobles of the day.
Smitten with the new philosophy, devoted to Voltaire, a great admirer of
Franklin, more well-meaning than intelligent, understanding the oracles
less than he desired or pretended to understand them; a pretty poor
logician, since he found his ideas much less excellent and his political
hopes much less sweet on the day that the French nation took it into its
head to realize them; for the rest, full of fine sentiments, believing
himself much more sanguine and romantic than he was in reality; rather
more faithful to the prejudices of caste and considerably more sensitive
to the opinion of the world than he flattered and prided himself on
being--such was the man. His face was certainly handsome, but I found it
excessively dull; for I had conceived the most ridiculous animosity for
him. His polished manners seemed to me abjectly servile with Edmee. I
should have blushed to imitate them, and yet my sole aim was to surpass
him in the little services he rendered her. We went out into the park.
This was very large, and through it ran the Indre, here merely a pretty
stream. During our walk he made himself agreeable in a thousand ways;
not a violet did he see but he must pluck it to offer to my cousin.
But, when we arrived at the banks of the stream, we found that the plank
which usually enabled one to cross at this particular spot had been
broken and washed away by the storms of a few days before. Without
asking permission, I immediately took Edmee in my arms, and quietly
walked through the stream. The water came up to my waist, but I carried
my cousin at arm's length so securely and skilfully that she did not wet
a single ribbon. M. de la Marche, unwilling to appear more delicate than
myself, did not hesitate to wet his fine clothes and follow me, though
with some rather poor efforts the while to force a laugh. However,
though he had not any burden to carry, he several times stumbled over
the stones which covered the bed of the river, and rejoined us only with
great difficulty. Edmee was far from laughing. I believe that this proof
of my strength and daring, forced on her in spite of herself, terrified
her as an evidence of the love she had stirred in me. She even appeared
to be annoyed; and, as I set her down gently on the bank, said:

"Bernard, I must request you never to play such a prank again."

"That is all very well," I said; "you would not be angry if it were the
other fellow."

"He would not think of doing such a thing," she replied.

"I quite believe it," I answered; "he would take very good care of that.
Just look at the chap. . . . And I--I did not ruffle a hair of your
head. He is very good at picking violets; but, take my word for it, in a
case of danger, don't make him your first choice."

M. de la Marche paid me great compliments on this exploit. I had hoped
that he would be jealous; he did not even appear to dream of it, but
rather made merry over the pitiable state of his toilet. The day was
excessively hot, and we were quite dry before the end of the walk.
Edmee, however, remained sad and pensive. It seemed to me that she was
making an effort to show me as much friendship as at luncheon. This
affected me considerably; for I was not only enamoured of her--I loved
her. I could not make the distinction then, but both feelings were in
me--passion and tenderness.

The chevalier and the abbe returned in time for dinner. They conversed
in a low voice with M. de la Marche about the settlement of my affairs,
and, from the few words which I could not help overhearing, I gathered
that they had just secured my future on the bright lines they had laid
before me in the morning. I was too shy and proud to express my simple
thanks. This generosity perplexed me; I could not understand it, and I
almost suspected that it was a trap they were preparing to separate me
from my cousin. I did not realize the advantage of a fortune. Mine were
not the wants of a civilized being; and the prejudices of rank were with
me a point of honour, and by no means a social vanity. Seeing that they
did not speak to me openly, I played the somewhat ungracious part of
feigning complete ignorance.

Edmee grew more and more melancholy. I noticed that her eyes rested now
on M. de la Marche, now on her father, with a vague uneasiness. Whenever
I spoke to her, or even raised my voice in addressing others, she would
start and then knit her brows slightly, as if my voice had caused her
physical pain. She retired immediately after dinner. Her father followed
her with evident anxiety.

"Have you not noticed," said the abbe, turning to M. de la Marche, as
soon as they had left the room, "that Mademoiselle de Mauprat has very
much changed of late?"

"She has grown thinner," answered the lieutenant-general; "but in my
opinion she is only the more beautiful for that."

"Yes; but I fear she may be more seriously ill than she owns," replied
the abbe. "Her temperament seems no less changed than her face; she has
grown quite sad."

"Sad? Why, I don't think I ever saw her so gay as she was this morning;
don't you agree with me, Monsieur Bernard? It was only after our walk
that she complained of a slight headache."

"I assure you that she is really sad," rejoined the abbe. "Nowadays,
when she is gay, her gaiety is excessive; at such a time there seems to
be something strange and forced about her which is quite foreign to
her usual manner. Then the next minute she relapses into a state of
melancholy, which I never noticed before the famous night in the forest.
You may be certain that night was a terrible experience."

"True, she was obliged to witness a frightful scene at Gazeau Tower,"
said M. de la Marche; "and then she must have been very much exhausted
and frightened when her horse bolted from the field and galloped right
through the forest. Yet her pluck is so remarkable that . . . What do
you think, my dear Monsieur Bernard? When you met her in the forest, did
she seem very frightened?"

"In the forest?" I said. "I did not meet her in the forest at all."

"No; it was in Varenne that you met her, wasn't it?"

The abbe hastened to intervene. . . . "By-the-bye, Monsieur Bernard, can
you spare me a minute to talk over a little matter connected with your
property at . . ."

Hereupon he drew me out of the drawing-room, and said in a low voice:

"There is no question of business; I only want to beg of you not to let
a single soul, not even M. de la Marche, suspect that Mademoiselle de
Mauprat was at Roche-Mauprat for the fraction of a second."

"And why?" I asked. "Was she not under my protection there? Did she
not leave it pure, thanks to me? Must it not be well known to the
neighbourhood that she passed two hours there?"

"At present no one knows," he answered. "At the very moment she left it,
Roche-Mauprat fell before the attack of the police, and not one of its
inmates will return from the grave or from exile to proclaim the fact.
When you know the world better, you will understand how important it
is for the reputation of a young lady that none should have reason
to suppose that even a shadow of danger has fallen upon her honour.
Meanwhile, I implore you, in the name of her father, in the name of
the affection for her which you expressed this morning in so noble and
touching a manner . . ."

"You are very clever, Monsieur l'Abbe," I said, interrupting him. "All
your words have a hidden meaning which I can grasp perfectly well,
clown as I am. Tell my cousin that she may set her mind at ease. I have
nothing to say against her virtue, that is very certain; and I trust
I am not capable of spoiling the marriage she desires. Tell her that I
claim but one thing of her, the fulfilment of that promise of friendship
which she made me at Roche-Mauprat."

"In your eyes, then, that promise has a peculiar solemnity?" said the
abbe. "If so, what grounds for distrusting it have you?"

I looked at him fixedly, and as he appeared very much agitated, I took
a pleasure in keeping him on the rack, hoping that he would repeat my
words to Edmee.

"None," I answered. "Only I observe that you are afraid that M. de
la Marche may break off the marriage, if he happens to hear of the
adventure at Roche-Mauprat. If the gentleman is capable of suspecting
Edmee, and of grossly insulting her on the eve of his wedding, it seems
to me that there is one very simple means of mending matters."

"What would you suggest?"

"Why, to challenge him and kill him."

"I trust you will do all you can to spare the venerable M. Hubert the
necessity of facing such a hideous danger."

"I will spare him this and many others by taking upon myself to avenge
my cousin. In truth, this is my right, Monsieur l'Abbe. I know the
duties of a gentleman quite as well as if I had learnt Latin. You may
tell her this from me. Let her sleep in peace. I will keep silence, and
if that is useless I will fight."

"But, Bernard," replied the abbe in a gentle, insinuating tone, "have
you thought of your cousin's affection for M. de la Marche?"

"All the more reason that I should fight him," I cried, in a fit of

And I turned my back on him abruptly.

The abbe retailed the whole of our conversation to the penitent. The
part that the worthy priest had to play was very embarrassing. Under the
seal of confession he had been intrusted with a secret to which in his
conversations with me he could make only indirect allusions, to bring
me to understand that my pertinacity was a crime, and that the only
honourable course was to yield. He hoped too much of me. Virtue such as
this was beyond my power, and equally beyond my understanding.


A few days passed in apparent calm. Edmee said she was unwell, and
rarely quitted her room. M. de la Marche called nearly every day,
his chateau being only a short distance off. My dislike for him grew
stronger and stronger in spite of all the politeness he showed me.
I understood nothing whatever of his dabblings in philosophy, and I
opposed all his opinions with the grossest prejudices and expressions at
my command. What consoled me in a measure for my secret sufferings was
to see that he was no more admitted than myself to Edmee's rooms.

For a week the sole event of note was that Patience took up his abode
in a hut near the chateau. Ever since the Abbe Aubert had found a refuge
from ecclesiastical persecution under the chevalier's roof, he had no
longer been obliged to arrange secret meetings with the hermit. He had,
therefore, strongly urged him to give up his dwelling in the forest
and to come nearer to himself. Patience had needed a great deal of
persuasion. Long years of solitude had so attached him to his Gazeau
Tower that he hesitated to desert it for the society of his friend.
Besides, he declared that the abbe would assuredly be corrupted with
commerce with the great; that soon, unknown to himself, he would come
under the influence of the old ideas, and that his zeal for the sacred
cause would grow cold. It is true that Edmee had won Patience's heart,
and that, in offering him a little cottage belonging to her father
situated in a picturesque ravine near the park gate, she had gone to
work with such grace and delicacy that not even his techy pride could
feel wounded. In fact, it was to conclude these important negotiations
that the abbe had betaken himself to Gazeau Tower with Marcasse on that
very evening when Edmee and myself sought shelter there. The terrible
scene which followed our arrival put an end to any irresolution still
left in Patience. Inclined to the Pythagorean doctrines, he had a horror
of all bloodshed. The death of a deer drew tears from him, as from
Shakespeare's Jacques; still less could he bear to contemplate the
murder of a human being, and the instant that Gazeau Tower had served
as the scene of two tragic deaths, it stood defiled in his eyes, and
nothing could have induced him to pass another night there. He followed
us to Sainte-Severe, and soon allowed his philosophical scruples to be
overcome by Edmee's persuasive powers. The little cottage which he was
prevailed on to accept was humble enough not to make him blush with
shame at a too palpable compromise with civilization; and, though the
solitude he found there was less perfect than at Gazeau Tower, the
frequent visits of the abbe and of Edmee could hardly have given him a
right to complain.

Here the narrator interrupted his story again to expatiate on the
development of Mademoiselle de Mauprat's character.

Edmee, hidden away in her modest obscurity, was--and, believe me, I
do not speak from bias--one of the most perfect women to be found in
France. Had she desired or been compelled to make herself known to the
world, she would assuredly have been famous and extolled beyond all her
sex. But she found her happiness in her own family, and the sweetest
simplicity crowned her mental powers and lofty virtues. She was ignorant
of her worth, as I myself was at that time, when, brutelike, I saw only
with the eyes of the body, and believed I loved her only because she was
beautiful. It should be said, too, that her _fiance_, M. de la Marche,
understood her but little better. He had developed the weakly mind with
which he was endowed in the frigid school of Voltaire and Helvetius.
Edmee had fired her vast intellect with the burning declamations of Jean
Jacques. A day came when I could understand her--the day when M. de la
Marche could have understood her would never have come.

Edmee, deprived of her mother from the very cradle, and left to her
young devices by a father full of confidence and careless good nature,
had shaped her character almost alone. The Abbe Aubert, who had
confirmed her, had by no means forbidden her to read the philosophers by
whom he himself had been lured from the paths of orthodoxy. Finding no
one to oppose her ideas or even to discuss them--for her father, who
idolized her, allowed himself to be led wherever she wished--Edmee
had drawn support from two sources apparently very antagonistic:
the philosophy which was preparing the downfall of Christianity, and
Christianity which was proscribing the spirit of inquiry. To account
for this contradiction, you must recall what I told you about the
effect produced on the Abbe Aubert by the _Profession de Foi du Vicaire
Savoyard_. Moreover, you must be aware that, in poetic souls, mysticism
and doubt often reign side by side. Jean Jacques himself furnishes a
striking example of this, and you know what sympathies he stirred among
priests and nobles, even when he was chastising them so unmercifully.
What miracles may not conviction work when helped by sublime eloquence!
Edmee had drunk of this living fount with all the eagerness of an ardent
soul. In her rare visits to Paris she had sought for spirits in sympathy
with her own. There, however, she had found so many shades of opinion,
so little harmony, and--despite the prevailing fashion--so many
ineradicable prejudices, that she had returned with a yet deeper love to
her solitude and her poetic reveries under the old oaks in the park. She
would even then speak of her illusions, and--with a good sense beyond
her years, perhaps, too, beyond her sex--she refused all opportunities
of direct intercourse with the philosophers whose writings made up her
intellectual life.

"I am somewhat of a Sybarite," she would say with a smile. "I would
rather have a bouquet of roses arranged for me in a vase in the early
morning, than go and gather them myself from out their thorns in the
heat of the sun."

As a fact, this remark about her sybaritism was only a jest. Brought up
in the country, she was strong, active, brave, and full of life. To
all her charms of delicate beauty she united the energy of physical and
moral health. She was the proud-spirited and fearless girl, no less than
the sweet and affable mistress of the house. I often found her haughty
and disdainful. Patience and the poor of the district never found her
anything but modest and good-natured.

Edmee loved the poets almost as much as the transcendental philosophers.
In her walks she always carried a book in her hand. One day when she had
taken Tasso with her she met Patience, who, as was his wont, inquired
minutely into both author and subject. Edmee thereupon had to give him
an account of the Crusades. This was not the most difficult part of her
task. Thanks to the stores of information derived from the abbe and to
his prodigious memory for facts, Patience had a passable knowledge of
the outlines of universal history. But what he had great trouble in
grasping was the connection and difference between epic poetry and
history. At first he was indignant at the inventions of the poets, and
declared that such impostures ought never to have been allowed. Then,
when he had realized that epic poetry, far from leading generations
into error, only raised heroic deeds to vaster proportions and a more
enduring glory, he asked how it was that all important events had not
been sung by the bards, and why the history of man had not been embodied
in a popular form capable of impressing itself on every mind without
the help of letters. He begged Edmee to explain to him a stanza of
_Jerusalem Delivered_. As he took a fancy to it, she read him a canto
in French. A few days later she read him another, and soon Patience knew
the whole poem. He rejoiced to hear that the heroic tale was popular in
Italy; and, bringing together his recollections of it, endeavoured
to give them an abridged form in rude prose, but he had no memory for
words. Roused by his vivid impressions, he would call up a thousand
mighty images before his eyes. He would give utterance to them in
improvisations wherein his genius triumphed over the uncouthness of his
language, but he could never repeat what he had once said. One would
have had to take it down from his dictation, and even that would have
been of no use to him; for, supposing he had managed to read it, his
memory, accustomed to occupy itself solely with thoughts, had never been
able to retain any fragment whatever in its precise words. And yet he
was fond of quoting, and at times his language was almost biblical.
Beyond, however, certain expressions that he loved, and a number of
short sentences that he found means to make his own, he remembered
nothing of the pages which had been read to him so often, and he always
listened to them again with the same emotion as at first. It was a
veritable pleasure to watch the effect of beautiful poetry on this
powerful intellect. Little by little the abbe, Edmee, and subsequently
I myself, managed to familiarize him with Homer and Dante. He was so
struck by the various incidents in the _Divine Comedy_ that he could
give an analysis of the poem from beginning to end, without forgetting
or misplacing the slightest detail in the journey, the encounters, and
the emotions of the poet. There, however, his power ended. If he essayed
to repeat some of the phrases which had so charmed him when they were
read, he flung forth a mass of metaphors and images which savoured of
delirium. This initiation into the wonders of poetry marked an epoch
in the life of Patience. In the realm of fancy it supplied the action
wanting to his real life. In his magic mirror he beheld gigantic combats
between heroes ten cubits high; he understood love, which he himself had
never known; he fought, he loved, he conquered; he enlightened nations,
gave peace to the world, redressed the wrongs of mankind, and raised
up temples to the mighty spirit of the universe. He saw in the starry
firmament all the gods of Olympus, the fathers of primitive humanity. In
the constellations he read the story of the golden age, and of the ages
of brass; in the winter wind he heard the songs of Morven, and in the
storm-clouds he bowed to the ghosts of Fingal and Comala.

"Before I knew the poets," he said towards the end of his life, "I was
a man lacking in one of the senses. I could see plainly that this
sense was necessary, since there were so many things calling for its
operation. In my solitary walks at night I used to feel a strange
uneasiness; I used to wonder why I could not sleep; why I should find
such pleasure in gazing upon the stars that I could not tear myself from
their presence; why my heart should suddenly beat with joy on seeing
certain colours, or grow sad even to tears on hearing certain sounds.
At times I was so alarmed on comparing my continual agitation with the
indifference of other men of my class that I even began to imagine that
I was mad. But I soon consoled myself with the reflection that such
madness was sweet, and I would rather have ceased to exist than be cured
of it. Now that I know these things have been thought beautiful in all
times and by all intelligent beings, I understand what they are, and how
they are useful to man. I find joy in the thought that there is not a
flower, not a colour, not a breath of air, which has not absorbed the
minds and stirred the hearts of other men till it has received a name
sacred among all peoples. Since I have learnt that it is allowed to man,
without degrading his reason, to people the universe and interpret it by
his dreams, I live wholly in the contemplation of the universe; and
when the sight of the misery and crime in the world bruises my heart
and shakes my reason, I fall back upon my dreams. I say to myself that,
since all men are united in their love of the works of God, some day
they will also be united in their love of one another. I imagine that
education grows more and more perfect from father to son. It may be that
I am the first untutored man who has divined truths of which no glimpse
was given him from without. It may be, too, that many others before
myself have been perplexed by the workings of their hearts and brains
and have died without ever finding an answer to the riddle." "Ah, we poor
folk," added Patience, "we are never forbidden excess in labour, or in
wine, or in any of the debauches which may destroy our minds. There are
some people who pay dearly for the work of our arms, so that the poor,
in their eagerness to satisfy the wants of their families, may work
beyond their strength. There are taverns and other places more dangerous
still, from which, so it is said, the government draws a good profit;
and there are priests, too, who get up in their pulpits to tell us what
we owe to the lord of our village, but never what the lord owes to us.
Nowhere is there a school where they teach us our real rights; where
they show us how to distinguish our true and decent wants from the
shameful and fatal ones; where, in short, they tell us what we can and
ought to think about when we have borne the burden and heat of the day
for the profit of others, and are sitting in the evening at the door of
our huts, gazing on the red stars as they come out on the horizon."

Thus would Patience reason; and, believe me, in translating his words
into our conventional language, I am robbing them of all their grace,
all their fire, and all their vigour. But who could repeat the exact
words of Patience? His was a language used by none but himself; it was a
mixture of the limited, though forcible, vocabulary of the peasants and
of the boldest metaphors of the poets, whose poetic turns he would often
make bolder still. To this mixed idiom his sympathetic mind gave order
and logic. An incredible wealth of thought made up for the brevity of
the phrases that clothed it. You should have seen how desperately his
will and convictions strove to overcome the impotence of his language;
any other than he would have failed to come out of the struggle with
honour. And I assure you that any one capable of something more serious
than laughing at his solecisms and audacities of phrase, would have
found in this man material for the most important studies on the
development of the human mind, and an incentive to the most tender
admiration for primitive moral beauty.

When, subsequently, I came to understand Patience thoroughly, I found a
bond of sympathy with him in my own exceptional destiny. Like him, I
had been without education; like him, I had sought outside myself for
an explanation of my being--just as one seeks the answer to a riddle.
Thanks to the accidents of my birth and fortune, I had arrived at
complete development, while Patience, to the hour of his death, remained
groping in the darkness of an ignorance from which he neither would nor
could emerge. To me, however, this was only an additional reason for
recognising the superiority of that powerful nature which held its
course more boldly by the feeble light of instinct, than I myself by all
the brilliant lights of knowledge; and which, moreover, had not had a
single evil inclination to subdue, while I had had all that a man may

At the time, however, at which I must take up my story, Patience was
still, in my eyes, merely a grotesque character, an object of amusement
for Edmee, and of kindly compassion for the Abbe Aubert. When they spoke
to me about him in a serious tone, I no longer understood them, and I
imagined they took this subject as a sort of text whereon to build a
parable proving to me the advantages of education, the necessity of
devoting myself to study early in life, and the futility of regrets in
after years.

Yet this did not prevent me from prowling about the copses about his new
abode, for I had seen Edmee crossing the park in that direction, and I
hoped that if I took her by surprise as she was returning, I should get
a conversation with her. But she was always accompanied by the abbe,
and sometimes even by her father, and if she remained alone with the
old peasant, he would escort her to the chateau afterwards. Frequently
I have concealed myself in the foliage of a giant yew-tree, which spread
out its monstrous shoots and drooping branches to within a few yards of
the cottage, and have seen Edmee sitting at the door with a book in her
hand while Patience was listening with his arms folded and his head sunk
on his breast, as though he were overwhelmed by the effort of attention.
At that time I imagined that Edmee was trying to teach him to read, and
thought her mad to persist in attempting an impossible education. But
how beautiful she seemed in the light of the setting sun, beneath the
yellowing vine leaves that overhung the cottage door! I used to gaze on
her and tell myself that she belonged to me, and vow never to yield to
any force or persuasion which should endeavour to make me renounce my

For some days my agony of mind had been intense. My only method of
escaping from it had been to drink heavily at supper, so that I might be
almost stupefied at the hour, for me so painful and so galling, when she
would leave the drawing-room after kissing her father, giving her
hand to M. de la Marche, and saying as she passed by me, "Good-night,
Bernard," in a tone which seemed to say, "To-day has ended like
yesterday, and to-morrow will end like to-day."

In vain would I go and sit in the arm-chair nearest her door, so that
she could not pass without at least her dress brushing against me; this
was all I ever got from her. I would not put out my hand to beg her
own, for she might have given it with an air of unconcern, and I verily
believe I should have crushed it in my anger.

Thanks to my large libations at supper, I generally succeeded in
besotting myself, silently and sadly. I then used to sink into my
favourite arm-chair and remain there, sullen and drowsy, until the fumes
of the wine had passed away, and I could go and air my wild dreams and
sinister plans in the park.

None seemed to notice this gross habit of mine. They showed me such
kindness and indulgence in the family that they seemed afraid to express
disapproval, however much I deserved it. Nevertheless, they were well
aware of my shameful passion for wine, and the abbe informed Edmee of
it. One evening at supper she looked at me fixedly several times and
with a strange expression. I stared at her in return, hoping that
she would say something to provoke me, but we got no further than an
exchange of malevolent glances. On leaving the table she whispered to me
very quickly, and in an imperious tone:

"Break yourself of this drinking, and pay attention to what the abbe has
to say to you."

This order and tone of authority, so far from filling me with hope,
seemed to me so revolting that all my timidity vanished in a moment. I
waited for the hour when she usually went up to her room and, going out
a little before her, took up my position on the stairs.

"Do you think," I said to her when she appeared, "that I am the dupe of
your lies, and that I have not seen perfectly, during the month I have
been here, without your speaking a word to me, that you are merely
fooling me, as if I were a booby? You lied to me and now you despise me
because I was honest enough to believe your word."

"Bernard," she said, in a cold tone, "this is neither the time nor the
place for an explanation."

"Oh, I know well enough," I replied, "that, according to you, it will
never be the time or the place. But I shall manage to find both, do not
fear. You said that you loved me. You threw your arms about my neck
and said, as you kissed me--yes, here, I can still feel your lips on my
cheeks: 'Save me, and I swear on the gospel, on my honour, by the memory
of my mother and your own, that I will be yours.' I can see through it;
you said that because you were afraid that I should use my strength, and
now you avoid me because you are afraid I shall claim my right. But
you will gain nothing by it. I swear that you shall not trifle with me

"I will never be yours," she replied, with a coldness which was becoming
more and more icy, "if you do not make some change in your language,
and manners, and feelings. In your present state I certainly do not fear
you. When you appeared to me good and generous, I might have yielded to
you, half from fear and half from affection. But from the moment I cease
to care for you, I also cease to be afraid of you. Improve your manners,
improve your mind, and we will see."

"Very good," I said, "that is a promise I can understand. I will act on
it, and if I cannot be happy, I will have my revenge."

"Take your revenge as much as you please," she said. "That will only
make me despise you."

So saying, she drew from her bosom a piece of paper, and burnt it in the
flame of her candle.

"What are you doing?" I exclaimed.

"I am burning a letter I had written to you," she answered. "I wanted
to make you listen to reason, but it is quite useless; one cannot reason
with brutes."

"Give me that letter at once," I cried, rushing at her to seize the
burning paper.

But she withdrew it quickly and, fearlessly extinguishing it in her
hand, threw the candle at my feet and fled in the darkness. I ran after
her, but in vain. She was in her room before I could get there, and
had slammed the door and drawn the bolts. I could hear the voice of
Mademoiselle Leblanc asking her young mistress the cause of her fright.

"It is nothing," replied Edmee's trembling voice, "nothing but a joke."

I went into the garden, and strode up and down the walks at a furious
rate. My anger gave place to the most profound melancholy. Edmee, proud
and daring, seemed to me more desirable than ever. It is the nature of
all desire to be excited and nourished by opposition. I felt that I had
offended her, and that she did not love me, that perhaps she would never
love me; and, without abandoning my criminal resolution to make her mine
by force, I gave way to grief at the thought of her hatred of me. I
went and leaned upon a gloomy old wall which happened to be near, and,
burying my face in my hands, I broke into heart-rending sobs. My sturdy
breast heaved convulsively, but tears would not bring the relief I
longed for. I could have roared in my anguish, and I had to bite my
handkerchief to prevent myself from yielding to the temptation. The
weird noise of my stifled sobs attracted the attention of some one who
was praying in the little chapel on the other side of the wall which I
had chanced to lean against. A Gothic window, with its stone mullions
surmounted by a trefoil, was exactly on a level with my head.

"Who is there?" asked some one, and I could distinguish a pale face in
the slanting rays of the moon which was just rising.

It was Edmee. On recognising her I was about to move away, but she
passed her beautiful arm between the mullions, and held me back by the
collar of my jacket, saying:

"Why are you crying, Bernard?"

I yielded to her gentle violence, half ashamed at having betrayed my
weakness, and half enchanted at finding that Edmee was not unmoved by

"What are you grieved at?" she continued. "What can draw such bitter
tears from you?"

"You despise me; you hate me; and you ask why I am in pain, why I am

"It is anger, then, that makes you weep?" she said, drawing back her

"Yes; anger or something else," I replied.

"But what else?" she asked.

"I can't say; probably grief, as you suggest. The truth is my life here
is unbearable; my heart is breaking. I must leave you, Edmee, and go and
live in the middle of the woods. I cannot stay here any longer."

"Why is life unbearable? Explain yourself, Bernard. Now is our
opportunity for an explanation."

"Yes, with a wall between us. I can understand that you are not afraid
of me now."

"And yet it seems to me that I am only showing an interest in you; and
was I not as affectionate an hour ago when there was no wall between

"I begin to see why you are fearless, Edmee; you always find some means
of avoiding people, or of winning them over with pretty words. Ah, they
were right when they told me that all women are false, and that I must
love none of them."

"And who told you that? Your Uncle John, I suppose, or your Uncle
Walter; or was it your grandfather, Tristan?"

"You can jeer--jeer at me as much as you like. It is not my fault that
I was brought up by them. There were times, however, when they spoke the

"Bernard, would you like me to tell you why they thought women false?"

"Yes, tell me."

"Because they were brutes and tyrants to creatures weaker than
themselves. Whenever one makes one's self feared one runs the risk of
being deceived. In your childhood, when John used to beat you, did you
never try to escape his brutal punishment by disguising your little

"I did; that was my only resource."

"You can understand, then, that deception is, if not the right, at least
the resource of the oppressed."

"I understand that I love you, and in that at any rate there can be no
excuse for your deceiving me."

"And who says that I have deceived you?"

"But you have; you said you loved me; you did not love me."

"I loved you, because at a time when you were wavering between
detestable principles and the impulses of a generous heart I saw that
you were inclining towards justice and honesty. And I love you now,
because I see that you are triumphing over these vile principles, and
that your evil inspirations are followed by tears of honest regret. This
I say before God, with my hand on my heart, at a time when I can see
your real self. There are other times when you appear to me so below
yourself that I no longer recognise you and I think I no longer love
you. It rests with you, Bernard, to free me from all doubts, either
about you or myself."

"And what must I do?"

"You must amend your bad habits, open your ears to good counsel and
your heart to the precepts of morality. You are a savage, Bernard; and,
believe me, it is neither your awkwardness in making a bow, nor your
inability to turn a compliment that shocks me. On the contrary, this
roughness of manner would be a very great charm in my eyes, if only
there were some great ideas and noble feelings beneath it. But your
ideas and your feelings are like your manners, that is what I cannot
endure. I know it is not your fault, and if I only saw you resolute
to improve I should love you as much for your defects as for your
qualities. Compassion brings affection in its train. But I do not love
evil, I never loved it; and, if you cultivate it in yourself instead of
uprooting it, I can never love you. Do you understand me?"


"What, no!"

"No, I say. I am not aware that there is any evil in me. If you are not
displeased at the lack of grace in my legs, or the lack of whiteness in
my hands, or the lack of elegance in my words, I fail to see what you
find to hate in me. From my childhood I have had to listen to evil
precepts, but I have not accepted them. I have never considered it
permissible to do a bad deed; or, at least, I have never found it
pleasurable. If I have done wrong, it is because I have been forced to
do it. I have always detested my uncles and their ways. I do not like to
see others suffer; I do not rob a fellow-creature; I despise money, of
which they made a god at Roche-Mauprat; I know how to keep sober, and,
though I am fond of wine, I would drink water all my life if, like my
uncles, I had to shed blood to get a good supper. Yet I fought for them;
yet I drank with them. How could I do otherwise? But now, when I am my
own master, what harm am I doing? Does your abbe, who is always prating
of virtue, take me for a murderer or a thief? Come, Edmee, confess now;
you know well enough that I am an honest man; you do not really think
me wicked; but I am displeasing to you because I am not clever, and you
like M. de la Marche because he has a knack of making unmeaning speeches
which I should blush to utter."

"And if, to be pleasing to me," she said with a smile, after listening
most attentively, and without withdrawing her hand which I had taken
through the bars, "if, in order to be preferred to M. de la Marche, it
were necessary to acquire more wit, as you say, would you not try?"

"I don't know," I replied, after hesitating a moment; "perhaps I should
be fool enough; for the power you have over me is more than I can
understand; but it would be a sorry piece of cowardice and a great

"Why, Bernard?"

"Because a woman who could love a man, not for his honest heart, but for
his pretty wit, would be hardly worth the pains I should have to take;
at least so it seems to me."

She remained silent in her turn, and then said to me as she pressed my

"You have much more sense and wit than one might think. And since you
force me to be quite frank with you, I will own that, as you now are and
even should you never change, I have an esteem and an affection for
you which will last as long as my life. Rest assured of that, Bernard,
whatever I may say in a moment of anger. You know I have a quick
temper--that runs in the family. The blood of the Mauprats will never
flow as smoothly as other people's. Have a care for my pride, then, you
know so well what pride is, and do not ever presume upon rights you
have acquired. Affection cannot be commanded; it must be implored or
inspired. Act so that I may always love you; never tell me that I am
forced to love you."

"That is reasonable enough," I answered; "but why do you sometimes speak
to me as if I were forced to obey you? Why, for instance, this evening
did you _forbid_ me to drink and _order_ me to study?"

"Because if one cannot command affection which does not exist, one can
at least command affection which does exist; and it is because I am sure
yours exists that I commanded it."

"Good!" I cried, in a transport of joy; "I have a right then to order
yours also, since you have told me that it certainly exists. . . .
Edmee, I order you to kiss me."

"Let go, Bernard!" she cried; "you are breaking my arm. Look, you have
scraped it against the bars."

"Why have you intrenched yourself against me?" I said, putting my lips
to the little scratch I had made on her arm. "Ah, woe is me! Confound
the bars! Edmee, if you would only bend your head down I should be able
to kiss you . . . kiss you as my sister. Edmee, what are you afraid of?"

"My good Bernard," she replied, "in the world in which I live one does
not kiss even a sister, and nowhere does one kiss in secret. I will kiss
you every day before my father, if you like; but never here."

"You will never kiss me!" I cried, relapsing into my usual passion.
"What of your promise? What of my rights?"

"If we marry," she said, in an embarrassed tone, "when you have received
the education I implore you to receive, . . ."

"Death of my life! Is this a jest? Is there any question of marriage
between us? None at all. I don't want your fortune, as I have told you."

"My fortune and yours are one," she replied. "Bernard, between near
relations as we are, mine and thine are words without meaning. I should
never suspect you of being mercenary. I know that you love me, that you
will work to give me proof of this, and that a day will come when your
love will no longer make me fear, because I shall be able to accept it
in the face of heaven and earth."

"If that is your idea," I replied, completely drawn away from my wild
passion by the new turn she was giving to my thoughts, "my position is
very different; but, to tell you the truth, I must reflect on this; I
had not realized that this was your meaning."

"And how should I have meant otherwise?" she answered. "Is not a woman
dishonoured by giving herself to a man who is not her husband? I do not
wish to dishonour myself; and, since you love me, you would not wish
it either. You would not do me an irreparable wrong. If such were your
intention you would be my deadliest enemy."

"Stay, Edmee, stay!" I answered. "I can tell you nothing about my
intentions in regard to you, for I have never had any very definite.
I have felt nothing but wild desires, nor have I ever thought of you
without going mad. You wish me to marry you? But why--why?"

"Because a girl who respects herself cannot be any man's except with the
thought, with the intention, with the certainty of being his forever. Do
you not know that?"

"There are so many things I do not know or have never thought of."

"Education will teach you, Bernard, what you ought to think about the
things which must concern you--about your position, your duties, your
feelings. At present you see but dimly into your heart and conscience.
And I, who am accustomed to question myself on all subjects and to
discipline my life, how can I take for master a man governed by instinct
and guided by chance?"

"For master! For husband! Yes, I understand that you cannot surrender
your whole life to an animal such as myself . . . but that is what I
have never asked of you. No, I tremble to think of it."

"And yet, Bernard, you must think of it. Think of it frequently, and
when you have done so you will realize the necessity of following my
advice, and of bringing your mind into harmony with the new life upon
which you have entered since quitting Roche-Mauprat. When you have
perceived this necessity you must tell me, and then we will make several
necessary resolutions."

She withdrew her hand from mine quickly, and I fancy she bade me
good-night; but this I did not hear. I stood buried in my thoughts, and
when I raised my head to speak to her she was no longer there. I went
into the chapel, but she had returned to her room by an upper gallery
which communicated with her apartments.

I went back into the garden, walked far into the park, and remained
there all night. This conversation with Edmee had opened a new world
to me. Hitherto I had not ceased to be the Roche-Mauprat man, nor had I
ever contemplated that it was possible or desirable to cease to be so.
Except for some habits which had changed with circumstances, I had never
moved out of the narrow circle of my old thoughts. I felt annoyed that
these new surroundings of mine should have any real power over me, and
I secretly braced my will so that I should not be humbled. Such was my
perseverance and strength of character that I believed nothing would
ever have driven me from my intrenchment of obstinacy, had not Edmee's
influence been brought to bear upon me. The vulgar comforts of life, the
satisfactions of luxury, had no attraction for me beyond their novelty.
Bodily repose was a burden to me, and the calm that reigned in this
house, so full of order and silence, would have been unbearable, had
not Edmee's presence and the tumult of my own desires communicated to it
some of my disorder, and peopled it with some of my visions. Never for
a single moment had I desired to become the head of this house, the
possessor of this property; and it was with genuine pleasure that I
had just heard Edmee do justice to my disinterestedness. The thought of
coupling two ends so entirely distinct as my passion and my interests
was still more repugnant to me. I roamed about the park a prey to a
thousand doubts, and then wandered into the open country unconsciously.
It was a glorious night. The full moon was pouring down floods of soft
light upon the ploughed lands, all parched by the heat of the sun.
Thirsty plants were straightening their bowed stems--each leaf seemed
to be drinking in through all its pores all the dewy freshness of the
night. I, too, began to feel a soothing influence at work. My heart was
still beating violently, but regularly. I was filled with a vague hope;
the image of Edmee floated before me on the paths through the meadows,
and no longer stirred the wild agonies and frenzied desires which had
been devouring me since the night I first beheld her.

I was crossing a spot where the green stretches of pasture were here and
there broken by clumps of young trees. Huge oxen with almost white skins
were lying in the short grass, motionless, as if plunged in peaceful
thought. Hills sloped gently up to the horizon, and their velvety
contours seemed to ripple in the bright rays of the moon. For the first
time in my life I realized something of the voluptuous beauty and divine
effluence of the night. I felt the magic touch of some unknown bliss.
It seemed that for the first time in my life I was looking on moon and
meadows and hills. I remembered hearing Edmee say that nothing our eyes
can behold is more lovely than Nature; and I was astonished that I had
never felt this before. Now and them I was on the point of throwing
myself on my knees and praying to God: but I feared that I should not
know how to speak to Him, and that I might offend Him by praying badly.
Shall I confess to you a singular fancy that came upon me, a childish
revelation, as it were, of poetic love from out of the chaos of my
ignorance? The moon was lighting up everything so plainly that I could
distinguish the tiniest flowers in the grass. A little meadow daisy
seemed to me so beautiful with its golden calyx full of diamonds of
dew and its white collaret fringed with purple, that I plucked it, and
covered it with kisses, and cried in a sort of delirious intoxication:

"It is you, Edmee! Yes, it is you! Ah, you no longer shun me!"

But what was my confusion when, on rising, I found there had been a
witness of my folly. Patience was standing before me.

I was so angry at having been surprised in such a fit of extravagance
that, from a remnant of the Hamstringer instinct, I immediately felt
for a knife in my belt; but neither belt nor knife was there. My silk
waistcoat with its pocket reminded me that I was doomed to cut no more
throats. Patience smiled.

"Well, well! What is the matter?" said the anchorite, in a calm and
kindly tone. "Do you imagine that I don't know perfectly well how things
stand? I am not so simple but that I can reason; I am not so old but
that I can see. Who is it that makes the branches of my yew shake
whenever the holy maiden is sitting at my door? Who is it that follows
us like a young wolf with measured steps through the copse when I take
the lovely child to her father? And what harm is there in it? You are
both young; you are both handsome; you are of the same family; and, if
you chose, you might become a noble and honest man as she is a noble and
honest girl."

All my wrath had vanished as I listened to Patience speaking of Edmee.
I had such a vast longing to talk about her that I would even have
been willing to have heard evil spoken of her, for the sole pleasure
of hearing her name pronounced. I continued my walk by the side of
Patience. The old man was tramping through the dew with bare feet. It
should be mentioned, however, that his feet had long been unacquainted
with any covering and had attained a degree of callosity that rendered
them proof against anything. His only garments were a pair of blue
canvas breeches which, in the absence of braces, hung loosely from his
hips, and a coarse shirt. He could not endure any constraint in his
clothes; and his skin, hardened by exposure, was sensitive to neither
heat nor cold. Even when over eighty he was accustomed to go bareheaded
in the broiling sun and with half-open shirt in the winter blasts.
Since Edmee had seen to his wants he had attained a certain cleanliness.
Nevertheless, in the disorder of his toilet and his hatred of everything
that passed the bounds of the strictest necessity (though he could not
have been charged with immodesty, which had always been odious to him),
the cynic of the old days was still apparent. His beard was shining like
silver. His bald skull was so polished that the moon was reflected in
it as in water. He walked slowly, with his hands behind his back and his
head raised, like a man who is surveying his empire. But most frequently
his glances were thrown skywards, and he interrupted his conversation to
point to the starry vault and exclaim:

"Look at that; look how beautiful it is!"

He is the only peasant I have ever known to admire the sky; or, at
least, he is the only one I have ever seen who was conscious of his

"Why, Master Patience," I said to him, "do you think I might be an
honest man if I chose? Do you think that I am not one already?"

"Oh, do not be angry," he answered. "Patience is privileged to say
anything. Is he not the fool of the chateau?"

"On the contrary, Edmee maintains that you are its sage."

"Does the holy child of God say that? Well, if she believes so, I will
try to act as a wise man, and give you some good advice, Master Bernard
Mauprat. Will you accept it?"

"It seems to me that in this place every one takes upon himself to give
advice. Never mind, I am listening."

"You are in love with your cousin, are you not?"

"You are very bold to ask such a question."

"It is not a question, it is a fact. Well, my advice is this: make your
cousin love you, and become her husband."

"And why do you take this interest in me, Master Patience?"

"Because I know you deserve it."

"Who told you so? The abbe?"



"Partly. And yet she is certainly not very much in love with you. But it
is your own fault."

"How so, Patience?"

"Because she wants you to become clever; and you--you would rather not.
Oh, if I were only your age; yes, I, poor Patience; and if I were able,
without feeling stifled, to shut myself up in a room for only two hours
a day; and if all those I met were anxious to teach me; if they said to
me, 'Patience, this is what was done yesterday; Patience, this is what
will be done to-morrow.' But, enough! I have to find out everything
myself, and there is so much that I shall die of old age before finding
out a tenth part of what I should like to know. But, listen: I have yet
another reason for wishing you to marry Edmee."

"What is that, good Monsieur Patience?"

"This La Marche is not the right man for her. I have told her so--yes,
I have; and himself too, and the abbe, and everybody. He is not a man,
that thing. He smells as sweet as a whole flower-garden; but I prefer
the tiniest sprig of wild thyme."

"Faith! I have but little love for him myself. But if my cousin likes
him, what then, Patience?"

"Your cousin does not like him. She thinks he is a good man; she thinks
him genuine. She is mistaken; he deceives her, as he deceives everybody.
Yes, I know: he is a man who has not any of this (and Patience put his
hand to his heart). He is a man who is always proclaiming: 'In me behold
the champion of virtue, the champion of the unfortunate, the champion
of all the wise men and friends of the human race, etc., etc.' While
I--Patience--I know that he lets poor folk die of hunger at the gates
of his chateau. I know that if any one said to him, 'Give up your castle
and eat black bread, give up your lands and become a soldier, and then
there will be no more misery in the world, the human race--as you call
it--will be saved,' his real self would answer, 'Thanks, I am lord of
my lands, and I am not yet tired of my castle.' Oh! I know them so well,
these sham paragons. How different with Edmee! You do not know that. You
love her because she is as beautiful as the daisy in the meadows, while
I--I love her because she is good as the moon that sheds light on all.
She is a girl who gives away everything that she has; who would not wear
a jewel, because with the gold in a ring a man could be kept alive for a
year. And if she finds a foot-sore child by the road-side, she takes off
her shoes and gives them to him, and goes on her way bare-footed. Then,
look you, hers is a heart that never swerves. If to-morrow the village
of Saint-Severe were to go to her in a body and say: 'Young lady, you
have lived long enough in the lap of wealth, give us what you have, and
take your turn at work'--'That is but fair, my good friends,' she would
reply, and with a glad heart she would go and tend the flocks in the
fields. Her mother was the same. I knew her mother when she was quite
young, young as yourself; and I knew yours too. Oh, yes. She was a lady
with a noble mind, charitable and just to all. And you take after her,
they say."

"Alas, no," I answered, deeply touched by these words of Patience. "I
know neither charity nor justice."

"You have not been able to practise them yet, but they are written in
your heart. I can read them there. People call me a sorcerer, and so I
am in a measure. I know a man directly I see him. Do you remember what
you said to me one day on the heath at Valide? You were with Sylvain
and I with Marcasse. You told me that an honest man avenges his wrongs
himself. And, by-the-bye, Monsieur Mauprat, if you are not satisfied
with the apologies I made you at Gazeau Tower, you may say so. See,
there is no one near; and, old as I am, I have still a fist as good as
yours. We can exchange a few healthy blows--that is Nature's way. And,
though I do not approve of it, I never refuse satisfaction to any
one who demands it. There are some men, I know, who would die of
mortification if they did not have their revenge: and it has taken
me--yes, the man you see before you--more than fifty years to forget an
insult I once received . . . and even now, whenever I think of it, my
hatred of the nobles springs up again, and I hold it as a crime to have
let my heart forgive some of them."

"I am fully satisfied, Master Patience; and in truth I now feel nothing
but affection for you."

"Ah, that comes of my scratching your back. Youth is ever generous.
Come, Mauprat, take courage. Follow the abbe's advice; he is a good
man. Try to please your cousin; she is a star in the firmament. Find out
truth; love the people; hate those who hate them; be ready to sacrifice
yourself for them. . . . Yes, one word more--listen. I know what I am
saying--become the people's friend."

"Is the people, then, better than the nobility, Patience? Come now,
honestly, since you are a wise man, tell me the truth."

"Ay, we are worth more than the nobles, because they trample us under
foot, and we let them. But we shall not always bear this, perhaps. No;
you will have to know it sooner or later, and I may as well tell you
now. You see yonder stars? They will never change. Ten thousand years
hence they will be in the same place and be giving forth as much light
as to-day; but within the next hundred years, maybe within less, there
will be many a change on this earth. Take the word of a man who has an
eye for the truth of things, and does not let himself be led astray by
the fine airs of the great. The poor have suffered enough; they will
turn upon the rich, and their castles will fail and their lands be
carved up. I shall not see it; but you will. There will be ten cottages
in the place of this park, and ten families will live on its revenue.
There will no longer be servants or masters, or villein or lord. Some
nobles will cry aloud and yield only to force, as your uncles would do
if they were alive, and as M. de la Marche will do in spite of all his
fine talk. Others will sacrifice themselves generously, like Edmee, and
like yourself, if you listen to wisdom. And in that hour it will be well
for Edmee that her husband is a man and not a mere fop. It will be well
for Bernard Mauprat that he knows how to drive a plough or kill the game
which the good God has sent to feed his family; for old Patience will
then be lying under the grass in the churchyard, unable to return the
services which Edmee has done him. Do not laugh at what I say, young
man; it is the voice of God that is speaking. Look at the heavens. The
stars live in peace, and nothing disturbs their eternal order. The
great do not devour the small, and none fling themselves upon their
neighbours. Now, a day will come when the same order will reign among
men. The wicked will be swept away by the breath of the Lord. Strengthen
your legs, Seigneur Mauprat, that you may stand firm to support Edmee.
It is Patience that warns you; Patience who wishes you naught but good.
But there will come others who wish you ill, and the good must make
themselves strong."

We had reached Patience's cottage. He had stopped at the gate of his
little inclosure, resting one hand on the cross-bar and waving the other
as he spoke. His voice was full of passion, his eyes flashed fire, and
his brow was bathed in sweat. There seemed to be some weird power in
his words as in those of the prophets of old. The more than plebeian
simplicity of his dress still further increased the pride of his
gestures and the impressiveness of his voice. The French Revolution
has shown since that in the ranks of the people there was no lack of
eloquence or of pitiless logic; but what I saw at that moment was so
novel, and made such an impression on me, that my unruly and unbridled
imagination was carried away by the superstitious terrors of childhood.
He held out his hand, and I responded with more of terror than
affection. The sorcerer of Gazeau Tower hanging the bleeding owl above
my head had just risen before my eyes again.


When I awoke on the morrow in a state of exhaustion, all the incidents
of the previous night appeared to me as a dream. I began to think that
Edmee's suggestion of becoming my wife had been a perfidious trick to
put off my hopes indefinitely; and, as to the sorcerer's words, I could
not recall them without a feeling of profound humiliation. Still, they
had produced their effect. My emotions had left traces which could never
be effaced. I was no longer the man of the day before, and never again
was I to be quite the man of Roche-Mauprat.

It was late, for not until morning had I attempted to make good my
sleepless night. I was still in bed when I heard the hoofs of M. de la
Marche's horse on the stones of the courtyard. Every day he used to come
at this hour; every day he used to see Edmee at the same time as myself;
and now, on this very day, this day when she had tried to persuade me to
reckon on her hand, he was going to see her before me, and to give his
soulless kiss to this hand that had been promised to myself. The
thought of it stirred up all my doubts again. How could Edmee endure his
attentions if she really meant to marry another man? Perhaps she dared
not send him away; perhaps it was my duty to do so. I was ignorant of
the ways of the world into which I was entering. Instinct counselled me
to yield to my hasty impulses; and instinct spoke loudly.

I hastily dressed myself. I entered the drawing-room pale and agitated.
Edmee was pale too. It was a cold, rainy morning. A fire was burning in
the great fire-place. Lying back in an easy chair, she was warming
her little feet and dozing. It was the same listless, almost lifeless,
attitude of the days of her illness. M. de la Marche was reading the
paper at the other end of the room. On seeing that Edmee was more
affected than myself by the emotions of the previous night, I felt my
anger cool, and, approaching her noiselessly, I sat down and gazed on
her tenderly.

"Is that you, Bernard?" she asked without moving a limb, and with eyes
still closed.

Her elbows were resting on the arms of her chair and her hands were
gracefully crossed under her chin. At that period it was the fashion
for women to have their arms half bare at all times. On one of Edmee's I
noticed a little strip of court-plaster that made my heart beat. It was
the slight scratch I had caused against the bars of the chapel window. I
gently lifted the lace which fell over her elbow, and, emboldened by her
drowsiness, pressed my lips to the darling wound. M. de la Marche could
see me, and, in fact, did see me, as I intended he should. I was
burning to have a quarrel with him. Edmee started and turned red; but
immediately assuming an air of indolent playfulness, she said:

"Really, Bernard, you are as gallant this morning as a court abbe. Do
you happen to have been composing a madrigal last night?"

I was peculiarly mortified at this jesting. However, paying her back in
her own coin, I answered:

"Yes; I composed one yesterday evening at the chapel window; and if it
is a poor thing, cousin, it is your fault."

"Say, rather, that it is the fault of your education," she replied,

And she was never more beautiful than when her natural pride and spirit
were roused.

"My own opinion is that I am being very much over-educated," I answered;
"and that if I gave more heed to my natural good sense you would not
jeer at me so much."

"Really, it seems to me that you are indulging in a veritable war of
wits with Bernard," said M. de la Marche, folding his paper carelessly
and approaching us.

"I cry quits with her," I answered, annoyed at this impertinence. "Let
her keep her wit for such as you."

I had risen to insult him, but he did not seem to notice it; and
standing with his back to the fire he bent down towards Edmee and said,
in a gentle and almost affectionate voice:

"What is the matter with him?" as if he were inquiring after the health
of her little dog.

"How should I know?" she replied, in the same tone.

Then she rose and added:

"My head aches too much to remain here. Give me your arm and take me up
to my room."

She went out, leaning upon his arm. I was left there stupefied.

I remained in the drawing-room, resolved to insult him as soon as he
should return. But the abbe now entered, and soon afterward my Uncle
Hubert. They began to talk on subjects which were quite strange to me
(the subjects of their conversation were nearly always so). I did not
know what to do to obtain revenge. I dared not betray myself in my
uncle's presence. I was sensible to the respect I owed to him and to his
hospitality. Never had I done such violence to myself at Roche-Mauprat.
Yet, in spite of all efforts, my anger showed itself. I almost died at
being obliged to wait for revenge. Several times the chevalier noticed
the change in my features and asked in a kind tone if I were ill. M.
de la Marche seemed neither to observe nor to guess anything. The abbe
alone examined me attentively. More than once I caught his blue eyes
anxiously fixed on me, those eyes in which natural penetration was
always veiled by habitual shyness. The abbe did not like me. I could
easily see that his kindly, cheerful manners grew cold in spite of
himself as soon as he spoke to me; and I noticed, too, that his face
would invariably assume a sad expression at my approach.

The constraint that I was enduring was so alien to my habits and so
beyond my strength that I came nigh to fainting. To obtain relief I went
and threw myself on the grass in the park. This was a refuge to me in
all my troubles. These mighty oaks, this moss which had clung to their
branches through the centuries, these pale, sweet-scented wild flowers,
emblems of secret sorrow, these were the friends of my childhood, and
these alone I had found the same in social as in savage life. I buried
my face in my hands; and I never remember having suffered more in any of
the calamities of my life, though some that I had to bear afterward
were very real. On the whole I ought to have accounted myself lucky, on
giving up the rough and perilous trade of a cut-throat, to find so many
unexpected blessings--affection, devotion, riches, liberty, education,
good precepts and good examples. But it is certain that, in order to
pass from a given state to its opposite, though it be from evil to
good, from grief to joy, from fatigue to repose, the soul of a man must
suffer; in this hour of birth of a new destiny all the springs of his
being are strained almost to breaking--even as at the approach of summer
the sky is covered with dark clouds, and the earth, all a-tremble, seems
about to be annihilated by the tempest.

At this moment my only thought was to devise some means of appeasing my
hatred of M. de la Marche without betraying and without even arousing
a suspicion of the mysterious bond which held Edmee in my power. Though
nothing was less respected at Roche-Mauprat than the sanctity of an
oath, yet the little reading I had had there--those ballads of chivalry
of which I have already spoken--had filled me with an almost romantic
love of good faith; and this was about the only virtue I had acquired
there. My promise of secrecy to Edmee was therefore inviolable in my

"However," I said to myself, "I dare say I shall find some plausible
pretext for throwing myself upon my enemy and strangling him."

To confess the truth, this was far from easy with a man who seemed bent
on being all politeness and kindness.

Distracted by these thoughts, I forgot the dinner hour; and when I saw
the sun sinking behind the turrets of the castle I realized too late
that my absence must have been noticed, and that I could not appear
without submitting to Edmee's searching questions, and to the abbe's
cold, piercing gaze, which, though it always seemed to avoid mine, I
would suddenly surprise in the act of sounding the very depths of my

I resolved not to return to the house till nightfall, and I threw myself
upon the grass and tried to find rest for my aching head in sleep. I did
fall asleep in fact. When I awoke the moon was rising in the heavens,
which were still red with the glow of sunset. The noise which had
aroused me was very slight; but there are some sounds which strike the
heart before reaching the ear; and the subtlest emanations of love will
at times pierce through the coarsest organization. Edmee's voice had
just pronounced my name a short distance away, behind some foliage. At
first I thought I had been dreaming; I remained where I was, held my
breath and listened. It was she, on her way to the hermit's, in company
with the abbe. They had stopped in a covered walk five or six yards from
me, and they were talking in low voices, but in those clear tones which,
in an exchange of confidence, compels attention with peculiar solemnity.

"I fear," Edmee was saying, "that there will be trouble between him and
M. de la Marche; perhaps something very serious--who knows? You do not
understand Bernard."

"He must be got away from here, at all costs," answered the abbe. "You
cannot live in this way, continually exposed to the brutality of a

"It cannot be called living. Since he set foot in the house I have not
had a moment's peace of mind. Imprisoned in my room, or forced to seek
the protection of my friends, I am almost afraid to move. It is as much
as I dare to do to creep downstairs, and I never cross the corridor
without sending Leblanc ahead as a scout. The poor woman, who has always
found me so brave, now thinks I am mad. The suspense is horrible. I
cannot sleep unless I first bolt the door. And look, abbe, I never walk
about without a dagger, like the heroine of a Spanish ballad, neither
more nor less."

"And if this wretch meets you and frightens you, you will plunge it
into your bosom? Oh! that must not be. Edmee, we must find some means
of changing a position which is no longer tenable. I take it that you do
not wish to deprive him of your father's friendship by confessing to the
latter the monstrous bargain you were forced to make with this bandit at
Roche-Mauprat. But whatever may happen--ah! my poor little Edmee, I am
not a bloodthirsty man, but twenty times a day I find myself deploring
that my character of priest prevents me from challenging this creature,
and ridding you of him forever."

This charitable regret, expressed so artlessly in my very ear, made me
itch to reveal myself to them at once, were it only to put the abbe's
warlike humour to the proof; but I was restrained by the hope that I
should at last discover Edmee's real feelings and real intentions in
regard to myself.

"Have no fear," she said, in a careless tone. "If he tries my patience
too much, I shall not have the slightest hesitation in planting this
blade in his cheek. I am quite sure that a little blood-letting will
cool his ardour."

Then they drew a few steps nearer.

"Listen to me, Edmee," said the abbe, stopping again. "We cannot discuss
this matter with Patience. Let us come to some decision before we put it
aside. Your relations with Bernard are now drawing to a crisis. It seems
to me, my child, that you are not doing all you ought to ward off the
evils that may strike us; for everything that is painful to you will be
painful to all of us, and will touch us to the bottom of our hearts."

"I am all attention, excellent friend," answered Edmee; "scold me,
advise me, as you will."

So saying she leant back against the tree at the foot of which I was
lying among the brushwood and long grass. I fancy she might have seen
me, for I could see her distinctly. However, she little thought that I
was gazing on her divine face, over which the night breeze was throwing,
now the shadows of the rustling leaves, and now the pale diamonds that
the moon showers down through the trees of the forest.

"My opinion, Edmee," answered the abbe, crossing his arms on his breast
and striking his brow at intervals, "is that you do not take the right
view of your situation. At times it distresses you to such an extent
that you lose all hope and long to die--yes, my dear child, to such
an extent that your health plainly suffers. At other times, and I must
speak candidly at the risk of offending you a little, you view your
perils with a levity and cheerfulness that astound me."

"That last reproach is delicately put, dear friend," she replied; "but
allow me to justify myself. Your astonishment arises from the fact that
you do not know the Mauprat race. It is a tameless, incorrigible race,
from which naught but Headbreakers and Hamstringers may issue. Even
in those who have been most polished by education there remains many a
stubborn knot--a sovereign pride, a will of iron, a profound contempt
for life. Look at my father. In spite of his adorable goodness, you see
that he is sometimes so quick-tempered that he will smash his snuff-box
on the table, when you get the better of him in some political argument,
or when you win a game of chess. For myself, I am conscious that my
veins are as full-blooded as if I had been born in the noble ranks of
the people; and I do not believe that any Mauprat has ever shone at
court for the charm of his manners. Since I was born brave, how would
you have me set much store by life? And yet there are weak moments in
which I get discouraged more than enough, and bemoan my fate like the
true woman that I am. But, let some one offend me, or threaten me, and
the blood of the strong surges through me again; and then, as I cannot
crush my enemy, I fold my arms and smile with compassion at the idea
that he should ever have hoped to frighten me. And do not look upon this
as mere bombast, abbe. To-morrow, this evening perhaps, my words may
turn to deeds. This little pearl-handled knife does not look like deeds
of blood; still, it will be able to do its work, and ever since Don
Marcasse (who knows what he is about) sharpened it, I have had it by me
night and day, and my mind is made up. I have not a very strong fist,
but it will no doubt manage to give myself a good stab with this knife,
even as it manages to give my horse a cut with the whip. Well, that
being so, my honour is safe; it is only my life, which hangs by a
thread, which is at the mercy of a glass of wine, more or less, that
M. Bernard may happen to drink one of these evenings; of some change
meeting, or some exchange of looks between De la Marche and myself that
he may fancy he has detected; a breath of air perhaps! What is to be
done? Were I to grieve, would my tears wash away the past? We cannot
tear out a single page of our lives; but we can throw the book into
the fire. Though I should weep from night till morn, would that prevent
Destiny from having, in a fit of ill-humour, taken me out hunting, sent
me astray in the woods, and made me stumble across a Mauprat, who led me
to his den, where I escaped dishonour and perhaps death only by binding
my life forever to that of a savage who had none of my principles, and
who probably (and who undoubtedly, I should say) never will have them?
All this is a misfortune. I was in the full sunlight of a happy destiny;
I was the pride and joy of my old father; I was about to marry a man
I esteem and like; no sorrows, no fears had come near my path; I knew
neither days fraught with danger nor nights bereft of sleep. Well, God
did not wish such a beautiful life to continue; His will be done. There
are days when the ruin of all my hopes seems to me so inevitable that
I look upon myself as dead and my _fiance_ as a widower. If it were not
for my poor father, I should really laugh at it all; for I am so ill
built for vexation and fears that during the short time I have known
them they have already tired me of life."

"This courage is heroic, but it is also terrible," cried the abbe, in a
broken voice. "It is almost a resolve to commit suicide, Edmee."

"Oh, I shall fight for my life," she answered, with warmth; "but I shall
not stand haggling with it a moment if my honour does not come forth
safe and sound from all these risks. No; I am not pious enough ever to
accept a soiled life by way of penance for sins of which I never had a
thought. If God deals so harshly with me that I have to choose between
shame and death . . ."

"There can never be any shame for you, Edmee; a soul so chaste, so pure
in intention . . ."

"Oh, don't talk of that, dear abbe! Perhaps I am not as good as you
think; I am not very orthodox in religion--nor are you, abbe! I give
little heed to the world; I have no love for it. I neither fear nor
despise public opinion; it will never enter into my life. I am not very
sure what principle of virtue would be strong enough to prevent me from
falling, if the spirit of evil took me in hand. I have read _La Nouvelle
Heloise_, and I shed many tears over it. But, because I am a Mauprat and
have an unbending pride, I will never endure the tyranny of any man--the
violence of a lover no more than a husband's blow; only a servile soul
and a craven character may yield to force that which it refuses to
entreaty. Sainte Solange, the beautiful shepherdess, let her head be cut
off rather than submit to the seigneur's rights. And you know that from
mother to daughter the Mauprats have been consecrated in baptism to the
protection of the patron saint of Berry."

"Yes; I know that you are proud and resolute," said the abbe, "and
because I respect you more than any woman in the world I want you to
live, and be free, and make a marriage worthy of you, so that in the
human family you may fill the part which beautiful souls still know how
to make noble. Besides, you are necessary to your father; your death
would hurry him to his grave, hearty and robust as the Mauprat still is.
Put away these gloomy thoughts, then, and these violent resolutions. It
is impossible. This adventure of Roche-Mauprat must be looked upon only
as an evil dream. We both had a nightmare in those hours of horror; but
it is time for us to awake; we cannot remain paralyzed with fear like
children. You have only one course open to you, and that I have already
pointed out."

"But, abbe, it is the one which I hold the most impossible of all. I
have sworn by everything that is most sacred in the universe and the
human heart."

"An oath extorted by threats and violence is binding on none; even human
laws decree this. Divine laws, especially in a case of this nature,
absolve the human conscience beyond a doubt. If you were orthodox, I
would go to Rome--yes, I would go on foot--to get you absolved from so
rash a vow; but you are not a submissive child of the Pope, Edmee--nor
am I."

"You wish me, then, to perjure myself?"

"Your soul would not be perjured."

"My soul would! I took an oath with a full knowledge of what I was doing
and at a time when I might have killed myself on the spot; for in my
hand I had a knife three times as large as this. But I wanted to live;
above all, I wanted to see my father again and kiss him. To put an end
to the agony which my disappearance must have caused him, I would have
bartered more than my life, I would have bartered my immortal soul.
Since then, too, as I told you last night, I have renewed my vow, and
of my own free-will, moreover; for there was a wall between my amiable
_fiance_ and myself."

"How could you have been so imprudent, Edmee? Here again I fail to
understand you."

"That I can quite believe, for I do not understand myself," said Edmee,
with a peculiar expression.

"My dear child, you must open your hear to me freely. I am the only
person here who can advise you, since I am the only one to whom you can
tell everything under the seal of a friendship as sacred as the secrecy
of Catholic confession can be. Answer me, then. You do not really look
upon a marriage between yourself and Bernard Mauprat as possible?"

"How should that which is inevitable be impossible?" said Edmee. "There
is nothing more possible than throwing one's self into the river;
nothing more possible than surrendering one's self to misery and
despair; nothing more possible, consequently, than marrying Bernard

"In any case I will not be the one to celebrate such an absurd and
deplorable union," cried the abbe. "You, the wife and the slave of this
Hamstringer! Edmee, you said just now that you would no more endure the
violence of a lover than a husband's blow."

"You think the he would beat me?"

"If he did not kill you."

"Oh, no," she replied, in a resolute tone, with a wave of the knife, "I
would kill him first. When Mauprat meets Mauprat . . .!"

"You can laugh, Edmee? O my God! you can laugh at the thought of such
a match! But, even if this man had some affection and esteem for you,
think how impossible it would be for you to have anything in common;
think of the coarseness of his ideas, the vulgarity of his speech. The
heart rises in disgust at the idea of such a union. Good God! In what
language would you speak to him?"

Once more I was on the point of rising and falling on my panegyrist; but
I overcame my rage. Edmee began to speak, and I was all ears again.

"I know very well that at the end of three or four days I should have
nothing better to do than cut my own throat; but since sooner or later
it must come to that, why should I not go forward to the inevitable
hour? I confess that I shall be sorry to leave life. Not all those
who have been to Roche-Mauprat have returned. I went there not to meet
death, but to betroth myself to it. Well, then, I will go on to my
wedding-day, and if Bernard is too odious, I will kill myself after the

"Edmee, your head seems full of romantic notions at present," said the
abbe, losing patience. "Thank God, your father will never consent to
the marriage. He has given his word to M. de la March, and you too have
given yours. This is the only promise that is valid."

"My father would consent--yes, with joy--to an arrangement which
perpetuated his name and line directly. As to M. de la March, he will
release me from any promise without my taking the trouble to ask him; as
soon as he hears that I passed two hours at Roche-Mauprat there will be
no need of any other explanation."

"He would be very unworthy of the esteem I feel for him, if he
considered your good name tarnished by an unfortunate adventure from
which you came out pure."

"Thanks to Bernard," said Edmee; "for after all I ought to be grateful
to him; in spite of his reservations and conditions, he performed a
great and inconceivable action, for a Hamstringer."

"God forbid that I should deny the good qualities which education may
have developed in this young man; and it may still be possible, by
approaching him on this better side of his, to make him listen to

"And make him consent to be taught? Never. Even if he should show
himself willing, he would no more be able than Patience. When the body
is made for an animal life, the spirit can no longer submit to the laws
of the intellect."

"I think so too; but that is not the point. I suggest that you should
have an explanation with him, and make him understand that he is bound
in honour to release you from your promise and resign himself to your
marriage with M. de la Marche. Either he is a brute unworthy of the
slightest esteem and consideration, or he will realize his crime and
folly and yield honestly and with a good grace. Free me from the vow of
secrecy to which I am bound; authorize me to deal plainly with him and I
will guarantee success."

"And I--I will guarantee the contrary," said Edmee. "Besides, I could
not consent to this. Whatever Bernard may be, I am anxious to come out
of our duel with honour; and if I acted as you suggest, he would have
cause to believe that up to the present I have been unworthily trifling
with him."

"Well, there is only one means left, and that is to trust to the honour
and discretion of M. de la Marche. Set before him the details of your
position, and then let him give the verdict. You have a perfect right to
intrust him with your secret, and you are quite sure of his honour. If
he is coward enough to desert you in such a position, your remaining
resource is to take shelter from Bernard's violence behind the iron bars
of a convent. You can remain there a few years; you can make a show of
taking the veil. The young man will forget you, and they will set you
free again."

"Indeed, that is the only reasonable course to take, and I had already
thought of it; but it is not yet time to make the move."

"Very true; you must first see the result of your confession to M. de la
Marche. If, as I make no doubt, he is a man of mettle, he will take
you under his protection, and then procure the removal of this Bernard,
whether by persuasion or authority."

"What authority, abbe, if you please?"

"The authority which our customs allow one gentleman to exercise over
his equal--honour and the sword."

"Oh, abbe! You too, then are a man with a thirst for blood. Well, that
is precisely what I have hitherto tried to avoid, and what I will avoid,
though it cost me my life and honour. I do not wish that there should be
any fight between these two men."

"I understand: one of the two is very rightly dear to you. But evidently
in this duel it is not M. de la Marche who would be in danger."

"Then it would be Bernard," cried Edmee. "Well, I should hate M. de la
Marche, if he insisted on a duel with this poor boy, who only knows how
to handle a stick or a sling. How can such ideas occur to you, abbe?
You must really loathe this unfortunate Bernard. And fancy me getting
my husband to cut his throat as a return for having saved my life at the
risk of his own. No, no; I will not suffer any one either to challenge
him, or humiliate him, or persecute him. He is my cousin; he is a
Mauprat; he is almost a brother. I will not let him be driven out of
this home. Rather I will go myself."

"These are very generous sentiments, Edmee," answered the abbe. "But
with what warmth you express them! I stand confounded; and, if I were
not afraid of offending you, I should confess that this solicitude for
young Mauprat suggests to me a strange thought."

"Well, what is it, then?" said Edmee, with a certain brusqueness.

"If you insist, of course I will tell you: you seem to take a deeper
interest in this young man than in M. de la Marche, and I could have
wished to think otherwise."

"Which has the greater need of this interest, you bad Christian?" said
Edmee with a smile. "Is it not the hardened sinner whose eyes have never
looked upon the light?"

"But, come, Edmee! You love M. de la Marche, do you not? For Heaven's
sake do not jest."

"If by love," she replied in a serious tone, "you mean a feeling of
trust and friendship, I love M. de la Marche; but if you mean a feeling
of compassion and solicitude, I love Bernard. It remains to be seen
which of these two affections is the deeper. That is your concern, abbe.
For my part, it troubles me but little; for I feel that there is only
one being whom I love with passion, and that is my father; and only one
thing that I love with enthusiasm, and that is my duty. Probably I shall
regret the attentions and devotion of the lieutenant-general, and I
shall share in the grief that I must soon cause him when I announce that
I can never be his wife. This necessity, however, will by no means drive
me to desperation, because I know that M. de la Marche will quickly
recover. . . . I am not joking, abbe; M. de la Marche is a man of no
depth, and somewhat cold."

"If your love for him is no greater than this, so much the better. It
makes one trial less among your many trials. Still, this indifference
robs me of my last hope of seeing you rescued from Bernard Mauprat."

"Do not let this grieve you. Either Bernard will yield to friendship and
loyalty and improve, or I shall escape him."

"But how?"

"By the gate of the convent--or of the graveyard."

As she uttered these words in a calm tone, Edmee shook back her long
black hair, which had fallen over her shoulders and partly over her pale

"Come," she said, "God will help us. It is folly and impiety to doubt
him in the hour of danger. Are we atheists, that we let ourselves be
discouraged in this way? Let us go and see Patience. . . . He will bring
forth some wise saw to ease our minds; he is the old oracle who solves
all problems without understanding any."

They moved away, while I remained in a state of consternation.

Oh, how different was this night from the last! How vast a step I had
just taken in life, no longer on the path of flowers but on the arid
rocks! Now I understood all the odious reality of the part I had been
playing. In the bottom of Edmee's heart I had just read the fear and
disgust I inspired in her. Nothing could assuage my grief; for nothing
now could arouse my anger. She had no affection for M. de la Marche;
she was trifling neither with him nor with me; she had no affection for
either of us. How could I have believed that her generous sympathy for
me and her sublime devotion to her word were signs of love? How, in the
hours when this presumptuous fancy left me, could I have believed that
in order to resist my passion she must needs feel love for another? It
had come to pass, then, that I had no longer any object on which to vent
my rage; now it could result only in Edmee's flight or death? Her death!
At the mere thought of it the blood ran cold in my veins, a weight fell
on my heart, and I felt all the stings of remorse piercing it. This
night of agony was for me the clearest call of Providence. At last I
understood those laws of modesty and sacred liberty which my ignorance
had hitherto outraged and blasphemed. They astonished me more than ever;
but I could see them; their sanction was their own existence. Edmee's
strong, sincere soul appeared before me like the stone of Sinai on which
the finger of God has traced the immutable truth. Her virtue was not
feigned; her knife was sharpened, ready to cut out the stain of my love.
I was so terrified at having been in danger of seeing her die in my
arms; I was so horrified at the gross insult I had offered her while
seeking to overcome her resistance, that I began to devise all manner of
impossible plans for righting the wrongs I had done, and restoring her
peace of mind.

The only one which seemed beyond my powers was to tear myself away from
her; for while these feelings of esteem and respect were springing up in
me, my love was changing its nature, so to speak, and growing vaster and
taking possession of all my being. Edmee appeared to me in a new light.
She was no longer the lovely girl whose presence stirred a tumult in my
senses; she was a young man of my own age, beautiful as a seraph, proud,
courageous, inflexible in honour, generous, capable of that sublime
friendship which once bound together brothers in arms, but with no
passionate love except for Deity, like the paladins of old, who, braving
a thousand dangers, marched to the Holy Land under their golden armour.

From this hour I felt my love descending from the wild storms of the
brain into the healthy regions of the heart. Devotion seemed no longer
an enigma to me. I resolved that on the very next morning I would give
proof of my submission and affection. It was quite late when I returned
to the chateau, tired out, dying of hunger, and exhausted by the
emotions I had experienced. I entered the pantry, found a piece of
bread, and began eating it, all moist with my tears. I was leaning
against the stove in the dime light of a lamp that was almost out, when
I suddenly saw Edmee enter. She took a few cherries from a chest and
slowly approached the stove, pale and deep in thought. On seeing me she
uttered a cry and let the cherries fall.

"Edmee," I said, "I implore you never to be afraid of me again. That is
all I can say now; for I do not know how to explain myself; and yet I
had resolved to say many things."

"You must tell me them some other time, cousin," she answered, trying to

But she was unable to disguise the fear she felt at finding herself
alone with me.

I did not try to detain her. I felt deeply pained and humiliated at her
distrust of me, and I knew I had no right to complain. Yet never had any
man stood in greater need of a word of encouragement.

Just as she was going out of the room I broke down altogether, and burst
into tears, as on the previous night at the chapel window. Edmee stopped
on the threshold and hesitated a moment. Then, yielding to the kindly
impulses of her heart, she overcame her fears and returned towards me.
Pausing a few yards from my chair, she said:

"Bernard, you are unhappy. Tell me; is it my fault?"

I was unable to reply; I was ashamed of my tears, but the more I tried
to restrain them the more my breast heaved with sobs. With men as
physically strong as I was, tears are generally convulsions; mine were
like the pangs of death.

"Come now! Just tell me what is wrong," cried Edmee, with some of the
bluntness of sisterly affection.

And she ventured to put her hand on my shoulder. She was looking at me
with an expression of wistfulness, and a big tear was trickling down her
cheek. I threw myself on my knees and tried to speak, but that was still
impossible. I could do no more than mutter the word _to-morrow_ several

"'To-morrow?' What of tomorrow?" said Edmee. "Do you not like being
here? Do you want to go away?"

"I will go, if it will please you," I replied. "Tell me; do you wish
never to see me again?"

"I do not wish that at all," she rejoined. "You will stop here, won't

"It is for you to decide," I answered.

She looked at me in astonishment. I was still on my knees. She leant
over the back of my chair.

"Yes; I am quite sure that you are good at heart," she said, as if
she were answering some inner objection. "A Mauprat can be nothing by
halves; and as soon as you have once known a good quarter of an hour, it
is certain you ought to have a noble life before you."

"I will make it so," I answered.

"You mean it?" she said with unaffected joy.

"On my honour, Edmee, and on yours. Dare you give me your hand?"

"Certainly," she said.

She held out her hand to me; but she was still trembling.

"You have been forming good resolutions, then?" she said.

"I have been forming such resolutions," I replied, "that you will never
have to reproach me again. And now, Edmee, when you return to your room,
please do not bolt your door any more. You need no longer be afraid of
me. Henceforth I shall only wish what you wish."

She again fixed on me a look of amazement. Then, after pressing my hand,
she moved away, but turned round several times to look at me again, as
if unable to believe in such a sudden conversion. At last, stopping in
the doorway, she said to me in an affectionate tone:

"You, too, must go and get some rest. You look tired; and for the last
two days you have seemed sad and very much altered. If you do not wish
to make me anxious, you will take care of yourself, Bernard."

She gave me a sweet little nod. In her big eyes, already hollowed by
suffering, there was an indefinable expression, in which distrust and
hope, affection and wonder, were depicted alternately or at times all

"I will take care of myself; I will get some sleep; and I will not be
sad any longer," I answered.

"And you will work?"

"And I will work--but, you, Edmee, will you forgive me for all the pain
I have caused you? and will you try to like me a little?"

"I shall like you very much," she replied, "if you are always as you are
this evening."

On the morrow, at daybreak, I went to the abbe's room. He was already up
and reading.

"Monsieur Aubert," I said to him, "you have several times offered
to give me lessons. I now come to request you to carry out your kind

I had spent part of the night in preparing this opening speech and in
deciding how I had best comport myself in the abbe's presence. Without
really hating him, for I could quite see that he meant well and that he
bore me ill-will only because of my faults, I felt very bitter towards
him. Inwardly I recognised that I deserved all the bad things he had
said about me to Edmee; but it seemed to me that he might have insisted
somewhat more on the good side of mine to which he had given a merely
passing word, and which could not have escaped the notice of a man so
observant as himself. I had determined, therefore, to be very cold
and very proud in my bearing towards him. To this end I judged with a
certain show of logic, that I ought to display great docility as long as
the lesson lasted, and that immediately afterwards I ought to leave him
with a very curt expression of thanks. In a word, I wished to humiliate
him in his post of tutor; for I was not unaware that he depended for his
livelihood on my uncle, and that, unless he renounced this livelihood
or showed himself ungrateful, he could not well refuse to undertake
my education. My reasoning here was very good; but the spirit which
prompted it was very bad; and subsequently I felt so much regret for my
behaviour that I made him a sort of friendly confession with a request
for absolution.

However, not to anticipate events, I will simply say that the first
few days after my conversation afforded me an ample revenge for the
prejudices, too well founded in many respects, which this man had
against me. He would have deserved the title of "the just," assigned
him by Patience, had not a habit of distrust interfered with his first
impulses. The persecutions of which he had so long been the object had
developed in him this instinctive feeling of fear, which remained with
him all his life, and made trust in others always very difficult to him,
though all the more flattering and touching perhaps when he accorded it.
Since then I have observed this characteristic in many worthy priests.
They generally have the spirit of charity, but not the feeling of

I wished to make him suffer, and I succeeded. Spite inspired me. I
behaved as a nobleman might to an inferior. I preserved an excellent
bearing, displayed great attention, much politeness, and an icy
stiffness. I determined to give him no chance to make me blush at
my ignorance, and, to this end, I acted so as to anticipate all his
observations by accusing myself at once of knowing nothing, and by
requesting him to teach me the very rudiments of things. When I had
finished my first lesson I saw in his penetrating eyes, into which I had
managed to penetrate myself, a desire to pass from this coldness to
some sort of intimacy; but I carefully avoided making any response. He
thought to disarm me by praising my attention and intelligence.

"You are troubling yourself unnecessarily, monsieur," I replied. "I
stand in no need of encouragement. I have not the least faith in my
intelligence, but of my attention I certainly am very sure; but since
it is solely for my own good that I am doing my best to apply myself to
this work, there is no reason why you should compliment me on it."

With these words I bowed to him and withdrew to my room, where I
immediately did the French exercise that he had set me.

When I went down to luncheon, I saw that Edmee was already aware of the
execution of the promise I had made the previous evening. She at once
greeted me with outstretched hand, and frequently during luncheon called
me her "dear cousin," till at last M. de la Marche's face, which was
usually expressionless, expressed surprise or something very near it. I
was hoping that he would take the opportunity to demand an explanation
of my insulting words of the previous day; and although I had resolved
to discuss the matter in a spirit of great moderation, I felt very much
hurt at the care which he took to avoid it. This indifference to an
insult that I had offered implied a sort of contempt, which annoyed
me very much; but the fear of displeasing Edmee gave me strength to
restrain myself.

Incredible as it may seem, my resolve to supplant him was not for one
moment shaken by this humiliating apprenticeship which I had now to
serve before I could manage to obtain the most elementary notions of
things in general. Any other than I, filled like myself with remorse
for wrongs committed, would have found no surer method of repairing them
than by going away, and restoring to Edmee her perfect independence and
absolute peace of mind. This was the only method which did not occur
to me; or if it did, it was rejected with scorn, as a sign of apostasy.
Stubbornness, allied to temerity, ran through my veins with the blood
of the Mauprats. No sooner had I imagined a means of winning her whom
I loved than I embraced it with audacity; and I think it would not have
been otherwise even had her confidences to the abbe in the park shown
me that her love was given to my rival. Such assurance on the part of a
young man who, at the age of seventeen, was taking his first lesson in
French grammar, and who, moreover, had a very exaggerated notion of the
length and difficulty of the studies necessary to put him on a level
with M. de la March, showed, you must allow, a certain moral force.

I do not know if I was happily endowed in the matter of intelligence.
The abbe assured me that I was; but, for my own part, I think that my
rapid progress was due to nothing but my courage. This was such as to
make me presume too much on my physical powers. The abbe had told me
that, with a strong will, any one of my age could master all the rules
of the language within a month. At the end of the month I expressed
myself with facility and wrote correctly. Edmee had a sort of occult
influence over my studies; at her wish I was not taught Latin; for she
declared that I was too old to devote several years to a fancy branch
of learning, and that the essential thing was to shape my heart and
understanding with ideas, rather than to adorn my mind with words.

Of an evening, under pretext of wishing to read some favourite book
again, she read aloud, alternately with the abbe, passages from
Condillac, Fenelon, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, Jean Jacques, and even
from Montaigne and Montesquieu. These passages, it is true, were chosen
beforehand and adapted to my powers. I understood them fairly well, and
I secretly wondered at this; for if during the day I opened these same
books at random, I found myself brought to a standstill at every line.
With the superstition natural to young lovers, I willingly imagined that
in passing through Edmee's mouth the authors acquired a magic clearness,
and that by some miracle my mind expanded at the sound of her voice.
However, Edmee was careful to disguise the interest she took in teaching
me herself. There is no doubt that she was mistaken in thinking that
she ought not to betray her solicitude: it would only have roused me to
still greater efforts in my work. But in this, imbued as she was with
the teachings of _Emile_, she was merely putting into practice the
theories of her favourite philosopher.

As it was, I spared myself but little; for my courage would not admit of
any forethought. Consequently I was soon obliged to stop. The change
of air, of diet, and of habits, my lucubrations, the want of vigorous
exercise, my intense application, in a word, the terrible revolution
which my nature had to stir up against itself in order to pass from the
state of a man of the woods to that of an intelligent being, brought on
a kind of brain fever which made me almost mad for some weeks, then an
idiot for some days, and finally disappeared, leaving me a mere wreck
physically, with a mind completely severed from the past, but sternly
braced to meet the future.

One night, when I was at the most critical stage of my illness, during a
lucid interval, I caught sight of Edmee in my room. At first I thought
I was dreaming. The night-light was casting an unsteady glimmer over the
room. Near me was a pale form lying motionless on an easy chair. I could
distinguish some long black tresses falling loosely over a white dress.
I sat up, weak though I was and scarcely able to move, and tried to
get out of bed. Patience, however, suddenly appeared by the bedside and
gently stopped me. Saint-Jean was sleeping in another arm-chair. Every
night there used to be two men watching me thus, ready to hold me down
by force whenever I became violent during my delirium. Frequently the
abbe was one; sometimes the worthy Marcasse, who, before leaving
Berry to go on his annual round through the neighbouring province, had
returned to have a farewell hunt in the outhouses of the chateau, and
who kindly offered to relieve the servants in their painful task of
keeping watch over me.

As I was wholly unconscious of my illness, it was but natural that
the unexpected presence of the hermit in my room should cause me
considerable astonishment, and throw me into a state of great agitation.
My attacks had been so violent that evening that I had no strength left.
I abandoned myself, therefore, to my melancholy ravings, and, taking the
good man's hand, I asked him if it was really Edmee's corpse that he had
placed in the arm-chair by my bedside.

"It is Edmee's living self," he answered, in a low voice; "but she is
still asleep, my dear monsieur, and we must not wake her. If there is
anything you would like, I am here to attend to you, and right gladly I
do it."

"My good Patience, you are deceiving me," I said; "she is dead, and
so am I, and you have come to bury us. But you must put us in the same
coffin, do you hear? for we are betrothed. Where is her ring? Take it
off and put it on my finger; our wedding-night has come."

He tried in vain to dispel this hallucination. I held to my belief that
Edmee was dead, and declared that I should never be quiet in my shroud
until I had been given my wife's ring. Edmee, who had sat up with me
for several nights, was so exhausted that our voices did not awaken
her. Besides, I was speaking in a whisper, like Patience, with that
instinctive tendency to imitate which is met with only in children or
idiots. I persisted in my fancy, and Patience, who was afraid that it
might turn into madness, went and very carefully removed a cornelian
ring from one of Edmee's fingers and put it on mine. As soon as I felt
it there, I carried it to my lips; and then with my arms crossed on my
breast, in the manner of a corpse in a coffin, I fell into a deep sleep.

On the morrow when they tried to take the ring from me I resisted
violently, and they abandoned the attempt. I fell asleep again and the
abbe removed it during my sleep. But when I opened my eyes I noticed the
theft, and once more began to rave. Edmee, who was in the room, ran
to me at once and pressed the ring over my finger, at the same time
rebuking the abbe. I immediately grew calm, and gazing, on her with
lack-lustre eyes, said:

"Is it not true that you are my wife in death as in life?"

"Certainly," she replied. "Set your mind at rest."

"Eternity is long," I said, "and I should like to spend it in recalling
your caresses. But I send my thoughts back in vain; they bring me no
remembrance of your love."

She leant over and gave me a kiss.

"Edmee, that is very wrong," said the abbe; "such remedies turn to

"Let me do as I like, abbe," she replied, with evident impatience,
sitting down near my bed; "I must ask you to let me do as I please."

I fell asleep with one of my hands in hers, repeating at intervals:

"How sweet it is in the grave! Are we not fortunate to be dead?"

During my convalescence Edmee was much more reserved, but no less
attentive. I told her my dreams and learnt from her how far my
recollections were of real events. Without her testimony I should always
have believed that I had dreamt everything. I implored her to let me
keep the ring, and she consented. I ought to have added, to show my
gratitude for all her goodness, that I should keep it as a pledge of
friendship, and not as a sign of our engagement; but such a renunciation
was beyond me.

One day I asked for news of M. de la Marche. It was only to Patience
that I dared to put this question.

"Gone," he answered.

"What! Gone?" I replied. "For long?"

"Forever, please God! I don't know anything about it, for I ask no
questions; but I happened to be in the garden when he took leave of her,
and it was all as cold as a December night. Still, _au revoir_ was
said on both sides, but though Edmee's manner was kind and honest as
it always is, the other had the face of a farmer when he sees frosts
in April. Mauprat, Mauprat, they tell me that you have become a great
student and a genuine good fellow. Remember what I told you; when you
are old there will probably no longer be any titles or estate. Perhaps
you will be called 'Father' Mauprat, as I am called 'Father' Patience,
though I have never been either a priest or a father of a family."

"Well, what are you driving at?"

"Remember what I once told you," he repeated. "There are many ways of
being a sorcerer, and one may read the future without being a servant
of the devil. For my part, I give my consent to your marriage with your
cousin. Continue to behave decently. You are a wise man now, and can
read fluently from any book set before you. What more do you want? There
are so many books here that the sweat runs from my brow at the very
sight of them; it seems as if I were again starting the old torment of
not being able to learn to read. But you have soon cured yourself. If M.
Hubert were willing to take my advice, he would fix the wedding for the
next Martinmas."

"That is enough, Patience!" I said. "This is a painful subject with me;
my cousin does not love me."

"I tell you she does. You lie in your throat, as the nobles say. I know
well enough how she nursed you; and Marcasse from the housetop happened
to look through her window and saw her on her knees in the middle of the
room at five o'clock in the morning the day that you were so ill."

These imprudent assertions of Patience, Edmee's tender cares, the
departure of M. de la Marche, and, more than anything else, the weakness
of my brain, enabled me to believe what I wished; but in proportion as
I regained my strength Edmee withdrew further and further within the
bounds of calm and discreet friendship. Never did man recover his
health with less pleasure than I mine; for each day made Edmee's visits
shorter; and when I was able to leave my room I had merely a few hours a
day near her, as before my illness. With marvellous skill she had given
me proof of the tenderest affection without ever allowing herself to be
drawn into a fresh explanation concerning our mysterious betrothal. If I
had not yet sufficient greatness of soul to renounce my rights, I had at
least developed enough honour not to refer to them; and I found myself
on exactly the same terms with her as at the time when I had fallen ill.
M. de la Marche was in Paris; but according to her he had been summoned
thither by his military duties and ought to return at the end of the
winter on which we were entering. Nothing that the chevalier or the abbe
said tended to show that there had been a quarrel between Edmee and him.
They rarely spoke of the lieutenant-general, but when they had to speak
of him they did so naturally and without any signs of repugnance. I
was again filled with my old doubts, and could find no remedy for them
except in the kingdom of my own will. "I will force her to prefer me," I
would say to myself as I raised my eyes from my book and watched Edmee's
great, inscrutable eyes calmly fixed on the letters which her father
occasionally received from M. de la Marche, and which he would hand to
her as soon as he had read them. I buried myself in my work again. For
a long time I suffered from frightful pains in the head, but I overcame
them stoically. Edmee again began the course of studies which she had
indirectly laid down for my winter evenings. Once more I astonished the
abbe by my aptitude and the rapidity of my conquests. The kindness he
had shown me during my illness had disarmed me; and although I was still
unable to feel any genuine affection for him, knowing well that he was
of little service to me with my cousin, I gave him proof of much more
confidence and respect than in the past. His talks were as useful to me
as my reading. I was allowed to accompany him in his walks in the park
and in his philosophical visits to Patience's snow-covered hut. This
gave me an opportunity of seeing Edmee more frequently and for longer
periods. My behaviour was such that all her mistrust vanished, and she
no longer feared to be alone with me. On such occasions, however, I
had but little scope for displaying my heroism; for the abbe, whose
vigilance nothing could lull to sleep, was always at our heels. This
supervision no longer annoyed me; on the contrary, I was pleased at it;
for, in spite of all my resolutions, the storms of passion would still
sweep my senses into a mysterious disorder; and once or twice when I
found myself alone with Edmee I left her abruptly and went away, so that
she might not perceive my agitation.

Our life, then, was apparently calm and peaceful, and for some time
it was so in reality; but soon I disturbed it more than ever by a vice
which education developed in me, and which had hitherto been hidden
under coarser but less fatal vices. This vice, the bane of my new period
of life, was vanity.

In spite of their theories, the abbe and my cousin made the mistake
of showing too much pleasure at my rapid progress. They had so little
expected perseverance from me that they gave all the credit to my
exceptional abilities. Perhaps, too, in the marked success of the
philosophical ideas they had applied to my education they saw something
of a triumph for themselves. Certain it is, I was not loath to let
myself be persuaded that I had great intellectual powers, and that I
was a man very much above the average. My dear instructors were soon to
gather the sad fruit of their imprudence, and it was already too late to
check the flight of my immoderate conceit.

Perhaps, too, this abominable trait in my character, kept under by the
bad treatment I had endured in childhood, was now merely revealing its
existence. There is reason to believe that we carry within us from our
earliest years the seeds of those virtues and vices which are in time
made to bear fruit by the action of our environment. As for myself, I
had not yet found anything whereon my vanity could feed; for on what
could I have prided myself at the beginning of my acquaintance with
Edmee? But no sooner was food forthcoming than suffering vanity rose up
in triumph, and filled me with as much presumption as previously it had
inspired me with bashfulness and boorish reserve. I was, moreover, as
delighted at being able at last to express my thoughts with ease as a
young falcon fresh from the nest trying its wings for the first time.
Consequently, I became as talkative as I had been silent. The others
were too indulgent to my prattle. I had not sense enough to see that
they were merely listening to me as they would to a spoilt child.
I thought myself a man, and what is more, a remarkable man. I grew
arrogant and superlatively ridiculous.

My uncle, the chevalier, who had not taken any part in my education, and
who only smiled with fatherly good-nature at the first steps I took in
my new career, was the first to notice the false direction in which I
was advancing. He found it unbecoming that I should raise my voice
as loudly as his own, and mentioned the matter to Edmee. With great
sweetness she warned me of this, and, lest I should feel annoyed at her
speaking of it, told me that I was quite right in my argument, but that
her father was now too old to be converted to new ideas, and that I
ought to sacrifice my enthusiastic affirmations to his patriarchal
dignity. I promised not to repeat the offence; and I did not keep my

The fact is, the chevalier was imbued with many prejudices. Considering
the days in which he lived, he had received a very good education for a
country nobleman; but the century had moved more rapidly than he. Edmee,
ardent and romantic; the abbe, full of sentiment and systems, had moved
even more rapidly than the century; and if the vast gulf which lay
between them and the patriarch was scarcely perceptible, this was owing
to the respect which they rightly felt for him, and to the love he had
for his daughter. I rushed forward at full speed, as you may imagine,
into Edmee's ideas, but I had not, like herself, sufficient delicacy of
feeling to maintain a becoming reticence. The violence of my character
found an outlet in politics and philosophy, and I tasted unspeakable
pleasure in those heated disputes which at that time in France, not
only at all public meetings but also in the bosoms of families, were
preluding the tempests of the Revolution. I doubt if there was a single
house, from palace to hovel, which had not its orator--rugged, fiery,
absolute, and ready to descend into the parliamentary arena. I was the
orator of the chateau of Sainte-Severe, and my worthy uncle, accustomed
to a resemblance of authority over those about him, which prevented him
from seeing the real revolt of their minds, could ill endure such candid
opposition as mine. He was proud and hot-tempered, and, moreover, had a
difficulty in expressing himself which increased his natural impatience,
and made him feel annoyed with himself. He would give a furious kick to
the burning logs on the hearth; he would smash his eye-glasses into a
thousand pieces; scatter clouds of snuff about the floor, and shout so
violently as to make the lofty ceilings of his mansion ring with his
resonant voice. All this, I regret to say, amused me immensely; and with
some sentence but newly spelt out from my books I loved to destroy the
frail scaffolding of ideas which had served him all his life. This was
great folly and very foolish pride on my part; but my love of opposition
and my desire to display intellectually the energy which was wanting in
my physical life were continually carrying me away. In vain would Edmee
cough, as a hint that I should say no more, and make an effort to save
her father's _amour propre_ by bringing forward some argument in his
favour, though against her own judgement; the lukewarmness of her help,
and my apparent submission to her only irritated my adversary more and

"Let him have his say," he would cry; "Edmee, you must not interfere; I
want to beat him on all points. If you continually interrupt us, I shall
never be able to make him see his absurdity."

And then the squall would blow stronger from both sides, until at last
the chevalier, seriously offended, would walk out of the room, and go
and vent his ill-humour on his huntsman or his hounds.

What most contributed to the recurrence of these unseemly wrangles and
to the growth of my ridiculous obstinacy was my uncle's extreme goodness
and the rapidity of his recovery. At the end of an hour he had entirely
forgotten my rudeness and his own irritation. He would speak to me as
usual and inquire into all my wishes and all my wants with that fatherly
solicitude which always kept him in a benevolent mood. This incomparable
man could never had slept had he not, before going to bed, embraced all
his family, and atoned, either by a word or a kindly glance, for any
ebullitions of temper which the meanest of his servants might have had
to bear during the day. Such goodness ought to have disarmed me and
closed my mouth forever. Each evening I vowed that it should; but each
morning I returned, as the Scriptures say, to my vomit again.

Edmee suffered more and more every day from this development of my
character. She cast about for means to cure it. If there was never
_fiancee_ stronger-minded and more reserved than she, never was there
mother more tender. After many discussions with the abbe she resolved to
persuade her father to change the routine of our life somewhat, and to
remove our establishment to Paris for the last weeks of the carnival.
Our long stay in the country; the isolation which the position of
Sainte-Severe and the bad state of the roads had left us since the
beginning of winter; the monotony of our daily life--all tended to
foster our wearisome quibbling. My character was being more and more
spoilt by it; and though it afforded my uncle even greater pleasure than
myself, his health suffered as a result, and the childish passions daily
aroused were no doubt hastening his decay. The abbe was suffering from
_ennui_; Edmee was depressed. Whether in consequence of our mode of life
or owing to causes unknown to the rest, it was her wish to go, and we
went; for her father was uneasy about her melancholy, and sought only to
do as she desired. I jumped for joy at the thought of seeing Paris; and
while Edmee was flattering herself that intercourse with the world
would refine the grossness of my pedantry, I was dreaming of a triumphal
progress through the world which had been held up to such scorn by our
philosophers. We started on our journey one fine morning in March; the
chevalier with his daughter and Mademoiselle Leblanc in one post-chaise;
myself in another with the abbe, who could ill conceal his delight at
the thought of seeing the capital for the first time in him life; and my
valet Saint-Jean, who, lest he should forget his customary politeness,
made profound bows to every individual we passed.


Old Bernard, tired from talking so long, had promised to resume his
story on the morrow. At the appointed hour we called upon him to keep
his word; and he continued thus:

This visit marked a new phase in my life. At Sainte-Severe I had been
absorbed in my love and my work. I had concentrated all my energies upon
these two points. No sooner had I arrived at Paris than a thick curtain
seemed to fall before my eyes, and, for several days, as I could not
understand anything, I felt astonished at nothing. I formed a very
exaggerated estimate of the passing actors who appeared upon the scene;
but I formed no less exaggerated an estimate of the ease with which
I should soon rival these imaginary powers. My enterprising and
presumptuous nature saw challenges everywhere and obstacles nowhere.

Though I was in the same house as my uncle and cousin, my room was on a
separate floor, and henceforth I spent the greater part of my time with
the abbe. I was far from being dazed by the material advantages of my
position; but in proportion as I realized how precarious or painful were
the positions of many others, the more conscious I became of the comfort
of my own. I appreciated the excellent character of my tutor, and the
respect my lackey showed me no longer seemed objectionable. With the
freedom that I enjoyed, and the unlimited money at my command, and the
restless energy of youth, it is astonishing that I did not fall into
some excess, were it only gambling, which might well have appealed to
my combative instincts. It was my own ignorance of everything that
prevented this; it made me extremely suspicious, and the abbe, who was
very observant, and held himself responsible for my actions, managed
most cleverly to work upon my haughty reserve. He increased it in regard
to such things as might have done me harm, and dispelled it in contrary
cases. Moreover, he was careful to provide me with sufficient reasonable
distractions, which while they could not take the place of the joys
of love, served at least to lessen the smart of its wounds. As to
temptations to debauchery, I felt none. I had too much pride to yearn
for any woman in which I had not seen, as in Edmee, the first of her

We used all to meet at dinner, and as a rule we paid visits in the
evening. By observing the world from a corner of a drawing-room, I
learnt more of it in a few days than I should have done in a whole
year from guesses and inquiries. I doubt whether I should ever have
understood society, if I had always been obliged to view it from a
certain distance. My brain refused to form a clear image of the ideas
which occupied the brains of others. But as soon as I found myself in
the midst of this chaos, the confused mass was compelled to fall into
some sort of order and reveal a large part of its elements. This path
which led me into life was not without charms for me, I remember, at its
beginning. Amid all the conflicting interests of the surrounding world I
had nothing to ask for, aim at, or argue about. Fortune had taken me by
the hand. One fine morning she had lifted me out of an abyss and put me
down on a bed of roses and made me a young gentleman. The eagerness of
others was for me but an amusing spectacle. My heart was interested
in the future only on one mysterious point, the love which I felt for

My illness, far from robbing me of my physical vigour, had but increased
it. I was no longer the heavy, sleepy animal, fatigued by digestion and
stupefied by weariness. I felt the vibrations of all my fibres filling
my soul with unknown harmonies; and I was astonished to discover within
myself faculties of which I had never suspected the use. My good kinfolk
were delighted at this, though apparently not surprised. They had
allowed themselves to augur so well of me from the beginning that it
seemed as if they had been accustomed all their lives to the trade of
civilizing barbarians.

The nervous system which had just been developed in me, and which made
me pay for the pleasures and advantages it brought by keen and constant
sufferings during the rest of my life, had rendered me specially
sensitive to impressions from without; and this quickness to feel the
effect of external things was helped by an organic vigour such as is
only found among animals or savages. I was astounded at the decay of
the faculties in other people. These men in spectacles, these women with
their sense of smell deadened by snuff, these premature graybeards,
deaf and gouty before their time, were painful to behold. To me society
seemed like a vast hospital; and when with my robust constitution I
found myself in the midst of these weaklings, it seemed to me that with
a puff of my breath I could have blown them into the air as if they had
been so much thistle-down.

This unfortunately led me into the error of yielding to that rather
stupid kind of pride which makes a man presume upon his natural gifts.
For a long time it induced me to neglect their real improvement, as if
this were a work of supererogation. The idea that gradually grew up in
me of the worthlessness of my fellows prevented me from rising above
those whom I henceforth looked upon as my inferiors. I did not
realize that society is made up of so many elements of little value in
themselves, but so skilfully and solidly put together that before adding
the least extraneous particle a man must be a qualified artificer. I did
not know that in this society there is no resting-place between the role
of the great artist and that of the good workman. Now, I was neither one
nor the other, and, if the truth must be told, all my ideas have never
succeeded in lifting me out of the ordinary ruck; all my strength has
only enabled me with much difficulty to do as others do.

In a few weeks, then, I passed from an excess of admiration to an excess
of contempt for society. As soon as I understood the workings of its
springs they seemed to me so miserably regulated by a feeble generation
that the hopes of my mentors, unknown to themselves, were doomed to
disappointment. Instead of realizing my own inferiority and endeavouring
to efface myself in the crowd, I imagined that I could give proof of
my superiority whenever I wished; and I fed on fancies which I blush to
recall. If I did not show myself egregiously ridiculous, it was thanks
to the very excess of this vanity which feared to stultify itself before

At that time Paris presented a spectacle which I shall not attempt to
set before you, because no doubt you have often eagerly studied it in
the excellent pictures which have been painted by eye-witnesses in the
form of general history or private memoirs. Besides, such a picture
would exceed the limits of my story, for I promised to tell you only the
cardinal events in my moral and philosophical development. In order to
give you some idea of the workings of my mind at this period it will
suffice to mention that the War of Independence was breaking out in
America; that Voltaire was receiving his apotheosis in Paris; that
Franklin, the prophet of a new political religion, was sowing the seed
of liberty in the very heart of the Court of France; while Lafayette
was secretly preparing his romantic expedition. The majority of young
patricians were being carried away either by fashion, or the love
of change, or the pleasure inherent in all opposition which is not

Opposition took a graver form and called for more serious work in the
case of the old nobles, and among the members of the parliaments. The
spirit of the League was alive again in the ranks of these ancient
patricians and these haughty magistrates, who for form's sake were still
supporting the tottering monarchy with one arm, while with the other
they gave considerable help to the invasions of philosophy. The
privileged classes of society were zealously lending a hand to the
imminent destruction of their privileges by complaining that these had
been curtailed by the kings. They were bringing up their children in
constitutional principles, because they imagined they were going to
found a new monarchy in which the people would help them to regain
their old position above the throne; and it is for this reason that the
greatest admiration for Voltaire and the most ardent sympathies with
Franklin were openly expressed in the most famous salons in Paris.

So unusual and, if it must be said, so unnatural a movement of the human
mind had infused fresh life into the vestiges of the Court of Louis
XIV, and replaced the customary coldness and stiffness by a sort of
quarrelsome vivacity. It had also introduced certain serious forms into
the frivolous manners of the regency, and lent them an appearance of
depth. The pure but colourless life of Louis XVI counted for nothing,
and influenced nobody. Never had there been such serious chatter, so
many flimsy maxims, such an affectation of wisdom, so much inconsistency
between words and deeds as might have been found at this period among
the so-called enlightened classes.

It was necessary to remind you of this in order that you might
understand the admiration which I had at first for a world apparently
so disinterested, so courageous, so eager in the pursuit of truth, and
likewise the disgust which I was soon to feel for so much affectation
and levity, for such an abuse of the most hallowed words and the most
sacred convictions. For my own part, I was perfectly sincere; and I
founded my philosophic fervour (that recently discovered sentiment of
liberty which was then called the cult of reason) on the broad base of
an inflexible logic. I was young and of a good constitution, the first
condition perhaps of a healthy mind; my reading, though not extensive,
was solid, for I had been fed on food easy of digestion. The little I
knew served to show me, therefore, that others either knew nothing at
all, or were giving themselves the lie.

At the commencement of our stay in Paris the chevalier had but few
visitors. The friend and contemporary of Turgot and several other
distinguished men, he had not mixed with the gilded youth of his day,
but had lived soberly in the country after loyally serving in the wars.
His circle of friends, therefore, was composed of a few grave gentlemen
of the long robe, several old soldiers, and a few nobles from his own
province, both old and young, who, thanks to a respectable fortune,
were able, like himself, to come and spend the winter in Paris. He had,
moreover, kept up a slight intercourse with a more brilliant set, among
whom Edmee's beauty and refined manners were noticed as soon as she
appeared. Being an only daughter, and passably rich, she was sought
after by various important matrons, those procuresses of quality who
have always a few young proteges whom they wish to clear from debt at
the expense of some family in the provinces. And then, when it became
known that she was engaged to M. de la Marche, the almost ruined scion
of a very illustrious family, she was still more kindly received, until
by degrees the little salon which she had chosen for her father's old
friends became too small for the wits by quality and profession, and
the grand ladies with a turn for philosophy who wished to know the young
Quakeress, the Rose of Berry (such were the names given her by a certain
fashionable woman).

This rapid success in a world in which she had hitherto been unknown by
no mean dazzled Edmee; and the control which she possessed over herself
was so great that, in spite of all the anxiety with which I watched
her slightest movement, I could never discover if she felt flattered at
causing such a stir. But what I could perceive was the admirable good
sense manifested in everything she did and everything she said. Her
manner, at once ingenuous and reserved, and a certain blending of
unconstraint with modest pride, made her shine even among the women who
were the most admired and the most skilled in attracting attention. And
this is the place to mention that at first I was extremely shocked at
the tone and bearing of these women, whom everybody extolled; to me
they seemed ridiculous in their studied posings, and their grand society
manners looked very much like insufferable effrontery. Yes, I, so
intrepid at heart, and but lately so coarse in my manners, felt ill at
ease and abashed in their presence; and it needed all Edmee's reproaches
and remonstrances to prevent me from displaying a profound contempt for
this meretriciousness of glances, of toilets, and allurements which
was known in society as allowable coquetry, as the charming desire to
please, as amiability, and as grace. The abbe was of my opinion. When
the guests had gone we members of the family used to gather round the
fireside for a short while before separating. It is at such a time that
one feels an impulse to bring together one's scattered impressions and
communicate them to some sympathetic being. The abbe, then, would break
the same lances as myself with my uncle and cousin. The chevalier, who
was an ardent admirer of the fair sex, of which he had had but little
experience, used to take upon himself, like a true French knight, to
defend all the beauties that we were attacking so unmercifully. He would
laughingly accuse the abbe of arguing about women as the fox in the
fable argued about the grapes. For myself, I used to improve under the
abbe's criticisms; this was an emphatic way of letting Edmee know how
much I preferred her to all others. She, however, appeared to be more
scandalized than flattered, and seriously reproved me for the tendency
to malevolence which had its origin, she said, in my inordinate pride.

It is true that after generously undertaking the defence of the persons
in question, she would come over to our opinion as soon as, Rousseau in
hand, we told her that the women in Paris society had cavalier manners
and a way of looking a man in the face which must needs be intolerable
in the eyes of a sage. When once Rousseau had delivered judgment,
Edmee would object no further; she was ready to admit with him that the
greatest charm of a woman is the intelligent and modest attention she
gives to serious discussions, and I always used to remind her of the
comparison of a superior woman to a beautiful child with its great eyes
full of feeling and sweetness and delicacy, with its shy questionings
and its objections full of sense. I hoped that she would recognise
herself in this portrait upon the text, and, enlarging the portrait:

"A really superior woman," I said, looking at her earnestly, "is one
who knows enough to prevent her from asking a ridiculous or unseasonable
question, or from ever measuring swords with men of merit. Such a woman
knows when to be silent, especially with the fools whom she could laugh
at, or the ignorant whom she could humiliate. She is indulgent towards
absurdities because she does not yearn to display her knowledge, and
she is observant of whatsoever is good, because she desires to improve
herself. Her great object is to understand, not to instruct. The great
art (since it is recognised that art is required even in the commerce of
words) is not to pit against one another two arrogant opponents,
eager to parade their learning and to amuse the company by discussing
questions the solution of which no one troubles about, but to illumine
every unprofitable disputation by bringing in the help of all who can
throw a little light on the points at issue. This is a talent of which
I can see no signs among the hostesses who are so cried up. In their
houses I always find two fashionable barristers, and a thunderstruck
audience, in which no one dares to be judge. The only art these ladies
have is to make the man of genius ridiculous, and the ordinary man dumb
and inert. One comes away from such houses saying, 'Those were fine
speeches,' and nothing more."

I really think that I was in the right here; but I cannot forget that my
chief cause of anger against these women arose from the fact that they
paid no attention to people, however able they might think themselves,
unless they happened to be famous--the _people_ being myself, as you may
easily imagine. On the other hand, now that I look back on those days
without prejudice and without any sense of wounded vanity, I am certain
that these women had a way of fawning on public favourites which was
much more like childish conceit than sincere admiration or candid
sympathy. They became editors, as it were, of the conversation,
listening with all their might and making peremptory signals to the
audience to listen to every triviality issuing from an illustrious
mouth; while they would suppress a yawn and drum with their fans at
all remarks, however excellent, as soon as they were unsigned by a
fashionable name. I am ignorant of the airs of the intellectual women
of the nineteenth century; nay, I do not know if the race still exists.
Thirty years have passed since I mixed in society; but, as to the past,
you may believe what I tell you. There were five or six of these
women who were absolutely odious to me. One of them had some wit, and
scattered her epigrams right and left. These were at once hawked about
in all drawing-rooms, and I had to listen to them twenty times in a
single day. Another had read Montesquieu, and gave lessons in law to the
oldest magistrates. A third used to play the harp execrably, but it was
agreed that her arms were the most beautiful in France, and we had to
endure the harsh scraping of her nails over the strings so that she
might have an opportunity of removing her gloves like a coy little girl.
What can I say of the others, except that they vied with one another in
all those affectations and fatuous insincerities, by which all the men
childishly allowed themselves to be duped. One alone was really pretty,
said nothing, and gave pleasure by her very lack of artificiality. To
her I might have been favourably inclined because of her ignorance, had
she not gloried in this, and tried to emphasize her difference from the
others by a piquant ingenuousness. One day I discovered that she had
plenty of wit, and straightway I abhorred her.

Edmee alone preserved all the freshness of sincerity and all the
distinction of natural grace. Sitting on a sofa by the side of M. de
Malesherbes, she was for me the same being that I had gazed on so many
times in the light of the setting sun, as she sat on the stone seat at
the door of Patience's cottage.


You will readily believe that all the homage paid to my cousin fanned
into fresh flames the jealousy which had been smouldering in my breast.
Since the day when, in obedience to her command, I began to devote
myself to work, I could hardly say whether I had dared to count on
her promise that she would become my wife as soon as I was able to
understand her ideas and feelings. To me, indeed, it seemed that the
time for this had already arrived; for it is certain that I understood
Edmee, better perhaps than any of the men who were paying their
addresses to her in prose and verse. I had firmly resolved not to
presume upon the oath extorted from her at Roche-Mauprat; yet, when I
remembered her last promise, freely given at the chapel window, and the
inferences which I could have drawn from her conversation with the abbe
which I had overheard in the parlour at Sainte-Severe; when I remembered
her earnestness in preventing me from going away and in directing my
education; the motherly attentions she had lavished on me during my
illness--did not all these things give me, if not some right, at least
some reason to hope? It is true that her friendship would become icy as
soon as my passion betrayed itself in words or looks; it is true that
since the first day I saw her I had not advanced a single step towards
close affection; it is also true that M. de la Marche frequently came to
the house, and that she always showed him as much friendship as myself,
though with less familiarity and more respect in it, a distinction which
was naturally due to the difference in our characters and our ages, and
did not indicate any preference for one or the other. It was possible,
therefore, to attribute her promise to the prompting of her conscience;
the interest which she took in my studies to her worship of human
dignity as it stood rehabilitated by philosophy; her quiet and continued
affection for M. de la March to a profound regret, kept in subjection
by the strength and wisdom of her mind. These perplexities I felt very
acutely. The hope of compelling her love by submission and devotion had
sustained me; but this hope was beginning to grow weak; for though, as
all allowed, I had made prodigious efforts and extraordinary progress,
Edmee's regard for me had been very far from increasing in the same
proportion. She had not shown any astonishment at what she called my
lofty intellect; she had always believed in it; she had praised it
unreasonably. But she was not blind to the faults in my character,
to the vices of my soul. She had reproached me with these with an
inexorable sweetness, with a patience calculated to drive me to despair;
for she seemed to have made up her mind that, whatever the future might
bring, she would never love me more and never less.

Meanwhile all were paying court to her and none were accepted. It had,
indeed, been given out that she was engaged to M. de la Marche, but no
one understood any better than myself the indefinite postponement of the
marriage. People came to the conclusion that she was seeking a pretext
to get rid of him, and they could find no ground for her repugnance
except by supposing that she had conceived a great passion for myself.
My strange history had caused some stir; the women examined me with
curiosity; the men seemed interested in me and showed me a sort of
respect which I affected to despise, but to which, however, I was far
from insensible. And, since nothing finds credence in the world until it
is embellished with some fiction, people strangely exaggerated my wit,
my capabilities and my learning; but, as soon as they had seen M. de
la Marche and myself in Edmee's company, all their inferences were
annihilated by the composure and ease of our manners. To both of us
Edmee was the same in public as in private; M. de la Marche, a soulless
puppet, was perfectly drilled in conventional manners; and myself, a
prey to divers passions, but inscrutable by reason of my pride and also,
I must confess, of my pretensions to the sublimity of the _American
manner_. I should tell you that I had been fortunate enough to be
introduced to Franklin as a sincere devotee of liberty. Sir Arthur
Lee had honoured me with a certain kindness and some excellent advice;
consequently my head was somewhat turned, even as the heads of those
whom I railed at so bitterly were turned, and to such an extent that
this little vainglory brought sorely needed relief to my agonies of
mind. Perhaps you will shrug your shoulders when I own that I took the
greatest pleasure in the world in leaving my hair unpowdered, in
wearing big shoes, and appearing everywhere in a dark-coloured coat, of
aggressively simple cut and stiffly neat--in a word, in aping, as far as
was then permissible without being mistaken for a regular plebeian, the
dress and ways of the Bonhomme Richard! I was nineteen, and I was living
in an age when every one affected a part--that is my only excuse.

I might plead also that my too indulgent and too simple tutor openly
approved of my conduct; that my Uncle Hubert, though he occasionally
laughed at me, let me do as I wished, and that Edmee said absolutely
nothing about this ridiculous affectation, and appeared never to notice

Meanwhile spring had returned; we were going back to the country; the
salons were being gradually deserted. For myself, I was still in the
same state of uncertainty. I noticed one day that M. de la Marche seemed
anxious to find an opportunity of speaking to Edmee in private. At first
I found pleasure in making him suffer, and did not stir from my chair.
However, I thought I detected on Edmee's brow that slight frown which I
knew so well, and after a silent dialogue with myself I went out of the
room, resolving to observe the results of this _tete-a-tete_, and to
learn my fate, whatever it might be.

At the end of an hour I returned to the drawing-room. My uncle was
there; M. de la Marche was staying to dinner; Edmee seemed meditative
but not melancholy; the abbe's eyes were putting questions to her which
she did not understand, or did not wish to understand.

M. de la Marche accompanied my uncle to the Comedie Francaise. Edmee
said that she had some letters to write and requested permission to
remain at home. I followed the count and the chevalier, but after the
first act I made my escape and returned to the house. Edmee had given
orders that she was not to be disturbed; but I did not consider that
this applied to myself; the servants thought it quite natural that
I should behave as the son of the house. I entered the drawing-room,
fearful lest Edmee should have retired to her bed-room; for there I
could not have followed her. She was sitting near the fire and amusing
herself by pulling out the petals of the blue and white asters which I
had gathered during a walk to the tomb of Jean Jacques Rousseau.
These flowers brought back to me a night of ecstasy, under the clear
moonlight, the only hours of happiness, perhaps, that I could mention in
all my life.

"Back already?" she said, without any change of attitude.

"Already is an unkind word," I replied. "Would you like me to retire to
my room, Edmee?"

"By no means; you are not disturbing me at all; but you would have
derived more profit from seeing _Merope_ than from listening to my
conversation this evening; for I warn you that I feel a complete idiot."

"So much the better, cousin; I shall not feel humiliated this evening,
since for the first time we shall be upon a footing of equality. But,
might I ask you why you so despise my asters? I thought that you would
probably keep them as a souvenir."

"Of Rousseau?" she asked with a malicious little smile, and without
raising her eyes to mine.

"Naturally that was my meaning," I answered.

"I am playing a most interesting game," she said; "do not interrupt me."

"I know it," I said. "All the children in Varenne play it, and there is
not a lass but believes in the decree of fate that it revels. Would
you like me to read your thoughts as you pull out these petals four by

"Come, then, O mighty magician!"

"A little, that is how some one loves you; much, that is how you love
him; passionately, that is how another loves you; not at all, thus do
you love this other."

"And might I inquire, Sir Oracle," replied Edmee, whose face became more
serious, "who some one and another may be? I suspect that you are like
the Pythonesses of old; you do not know the meaning of your auguries

"Could you not guess mine, Edmee?"

"I will try to interpret the riddle, if you will promise that afterward
you will do what the Sphinx did when vanquished by OEdipus."

"Oh, Edmee," I cried; "think how long I have been running my head
against walls on account of you and your interpretations. And yet you
have not guessed right a single time."

"Oh, good heavens! I have," she said, throwing the bouquet on to the
mantel-piece. "You shall see. I love M. de la Marche a little, and I
love you much. He loves me passionately, and you love me not at all.
That is the truth."

"I forgive you this malicious interpretation with all my heart for the
sake of the word 'much,'" I replied.

I tried to take her hands. She drew them away quickly, though, in fact,
she had no need to fear; for had she given me them, I merely intended to
press them in brotherly fashion; but this appearance of distrust aroused
memories which were dangerous for me. I fancy she showed a great deal of
coquetry that evening in her expression and manners; and, until then,
I had never seen the least inclination toward it. I felt my courage
rising, though I could not explain why; and I ventured on some pointed
remarks about her interview with M. de la Marche. She made no effort
to deny my interpretations, and began to laugh when I told her that she
ought to thank me for my exquisite politeness in retiring as soon as I
saw her knit her brow.

Her supercilious levity was beginning to irritate me a little, when
a servant entered and handed her a letter, saying that some one was
waiting for an answer.

"Go to my writing-table and cut a pen for me, please," she said to me.

With an air of unconcern she broke the seal and ran through the letter,
while I, quite ignorant of the contents, began preparing her writing

For some time the crow-quill had been cut ready for use; for some time
the paper with its coloured vignette had been waiting by the side of
the amber writing-case; yet Edmee paid no attention to them and made no
attempt to use them. The letter lay open in her lap; her feet were
on the fire-dogs, her elbows on the arm of her chair in her favourite
attitude of meditation. She was completely absorbed. I spoke to her
softly; she did not hear me. I thought that she had forgotten the letter
and had fallen asleep. After a quarter of an hour the servant came back
and said that the messenger wished to know if there was any answer.

"Certainly," she replied; "ask him to wait."

She read the letter again with the closest attention, and began to
write slowly; then she threw her reply into the fire, pushed away the
arm-chair with her foot, walked round the room a few times, and suddenly
stopped in front of me and looked at me in a cold, hard manner.

"Edmee," I cried, springing to me feet, "what is the matter, and how
does that letter which is worrying you so much concern myself?"

"What is that to you?" she replied.

"What is that to me?" I cried. "And what is the air I breathe to me? and
what is the blood that flows in my veins? Ask me that, if you like, but
do not ask how one of your words or one of your glances can concern me;
for you know very well that my life depends on them."

"Do not talk nonsense now, Bernard," she answered, returning to her
arm-chair in a distracted manner. "There is a time for everything."

"Edmee, Edmee! do not play with the sleeping lion, do not stir up the
fire which is smouldering in the ashes."

She shrugged her shoulders, and began to write with great rapidity. Her
face was flushed, and from time to time she passed her fingers through
the long hair which fell in ringlets over her shoulders. She was
dangerously beautiful in her agitation; she looked as if in love--but
with whom? Doubtless with him to whom she was writing. I began to feel
the fires of jealousy. I walked out of the room abruptly and crossed the
hall. I looked at the man who had brought the letter; he was in M. de la
Marche's livery. I had no further doubts; this, however, only increased
my rage. I returned to the drawing-room and threw open the door
violently. Edmee did not even turn her head; she continued writing. I
sat down opposite her, and stared at her with flashing eyes. She did
not deign to raise her own to mine. I even fancied that I noticed on
her ruby lips the dawn of a smile which seemed an insult to my agony.
At last she finished her letter and sealed it. I rose and walked towards
her, feeling strongly tempted to snatch it from her hands. I had learnt
to control myself somewhat better than of old; but I realized how, with
passionate souls, a single instant may destroy the labours of many days.

"Edmee," I said to her, in a bitter tone, and with a frightful grimace
that was intended to be a sarcastic smile, "would you like me to hand
this letter to M. de la Marche's lackey, and at the same time tell him
in a whisper at what time his master may come to the tryst?"

"It seems to me," she replied, with a calmness that exasperated me,
"that it was possible to mention the time in my letter, and that there
is no need to inform a servant of it."

"Edmee, you ought to be a little more considerate of me," I cried.

"That doesn't trouble me the least in the world," she replied.

And throwing me the letter she had received across the table she went
out to give the answer to the messenger herself. I do not know whether
she had told me to read this letter; but I do know that the impulse
which urged me to do so was irresistible. It ran somewhat as follows:

"Edmee, I have at last discovered the fatal secret which, according to
you, sets an impassable barrier in the way of our union. Bernard loves
you; his agitation this morning betrayed him. But you do not love him, I
am sure . . . that would be impossible! You would have told me frankly.
The obstacle, then, must be elsewhere. Forgive me! It has come to my
knowledge that you spent two hours in the brigand's den. Unhappy girl!
your misfortune, your prudence, your sublime delicacy make you still
nobler in my eyes. And why did you not confide to me at once the
misfortune of which you were a victim? I could have eased your sorrow
and my own by a word. I could have helped you to hide your secret. I
could have wept with you; or, rather, I could have wiped out the odious
recollection by displaying an attachment proof against anything. But
there is no need to despair; there is still time to say this word, and
I do so now: Edmee, I love you more than ever; more than ever I am
resolved to offer you my name; will you deign to accept it?"

This note was signed Adhemar de la Marche.

I had scarcely finished reading it when Edmee returned, and came towards
the fire-place with an anxious look, as if she had forgotten some
precious object. I handed her the letter that I had just read; but she
took it absently, and, stooping over the hearth with an air of relief,
eagerly seized a crumpled piece of paper which the flames had merely
scorched. This was the first answer she had written to M. de la Marche's
note, the one she had not judged fit to send.

"Edmee," I said, throwing myself on my knees, "let me see that letter.
Whatever if may be, I will submit to the decree dictated by your first

"You really would?" she asked, with an indefinable expression.
"Supposing I loved M. de la Marche, and that I was making a great
sacrifice for your sake in refusing him, would you be generous enough to
release me from my word?"

I hesitated for a moment. A cold sweat broke out all over me. I looked
her full in the face; but her eyes were inscrutable and betrayed no hint
of her thoughts. If I had fancied that she really loved me and that
she was putting my virtue to the test, I should perhaps have played the
hero; but I was afraid of some trap. My passion overmastered me. I felt
that I had not the strength to renounce my claim with a good grace; and
hypocrisy was repugnant to me. I rose to my feet, trembling with rage.

"You love him!" I cried. "Confess that you love him!"

"And if I did," she answered, putting the letter in her pocket, "where
would be the crime?"

"The crime would be that hitherto you have lied in telling me that you
did not love him."

"Hitherto is saying a good deal," she rejoined, looking at me fixedly;
"we have not discussed the matter since last year. At that time it was
possible that I did not love Adhemar very much, and at present it might
be possible that I loved him more than you. If I compare the conduct of
both to-day I see on the one hand a man without proper pride and without
delicacy, presuming upon a promise which my heart perhaps has never
ratified; on the other I see an admirable friend whose sublime devotion
is ready to brave all prejudices; who--believing that I bear the smirch
of an indelible shame--is none the less prepared to cover the blot with
his protection."

"What! this wretch believes that I have done violence to you, and yet
does not challenge me to a duel?"

"That is not what he believes, Bernard. He knows that you rescued me
from Roche-Mauprat; but he thinks that you helped me too late, and that
I was the victim of the other brigands."

"And he wants to marry you, Edmee? Either the man's devotion is sublime,
as you say, or he is deeper in debt than you think."

"How dare you say that?" said Edmee angrily. "Such an odious explanation
of generous conduct can proceed only from an unfeeling soul or a
perverse mind. Be silent, unless you wish me to hate you."

"Say that you hate me, Edmee; say so without fear; I know it."

"Without fear! You should know likewise that I have not yet done you the
honour to fear you. However, tell me this: without inquiring into what
I intend to do, can you understand that you ought to give me my liberty,
and abandon your barbarous rights?"

"I understand nothing except that I love you madly, and that these nails
of mine shall tear out the heart of any man who tries to win you from
me. I know that I shall force you to love me, and that, if I do not
succeed, I will at any rate not let you belong to another while I am
alive. The man will have to walk over my body riddled with wounds
and bleeding from every pore, ere he can put the wedding-ring on your
finger; with my last breath, too, I will dishonour you by proclaiming
that you are my mistress, and thus cloud the joy of any man who may
triumph over me; and if I can stab you as I die, I will, so that in the
tomb, at least, you may be my wife. That is what I purpose doing, Edmee.
And now, practise all your arts on me; lead me on from trap to trap;
rule me with your admirable diplomacy. I may be duped a hundred times
because of my ignorance, but have I not sworn by the name of Mauprat?"

"Mauprat the Hamstringer!" she added with freezing irony.

And she turned to go out.

I was about to seize her arm when the bell rang; it was the abbe who had
returned. As soon as he appeared Edmee shook hands with him, and retired
to her room without saying a single word to me.

The good abbe, noticing my agitation, questioned me with that assurance
which his claims on my affections were henceforth to give him. The
present matter, however, was the only one on which we had never had an
explanation. In vain had he sought to introduce it. He had not given
me a single lesson in history without leading up to some famous love
affairs and drawing from them an example or a precept of moderation or
generosity; but he had not succeeded in making me breathe a word on this
subject. I could not bring myself to forgive him altogether for having
done me an ill turn with Edmee. I even had a suspicion that he was still
injuring my cause; and I therefore put myself on guard against all the
arguments of his philosophy and all the seductions of his friendship. On
this special evening I was more unassailable than ever. I left him ill
at ease and depressed, and went and threw myself on my bed, where I
buried my head in the clothes so as to stifle the customary sobs, those
pitiless conquerors of my pride and my rage.


The next day I was in a state of gloomy despair; Edmee was icily cold;
M. de la Marche did not come. I fancied I had seen the abbe going
to call on him, and subsequently telling Edmee the result of their
interview. However, they betrayed no signs of agitation, and I had
to endure my suspense in silence. I could not get a minute with Edmee
alone. In the morning I went on foot to M. de la Marche's house. What I
intended saying to him I do not know; my state of exasperation was such
that it drove me to act without either object or plan. Having learnt
that he had left Paris, I returned. I found my uncle very depressed.
On seeing me he frowned, and, after forcing himself to exchange a few
meaningless words with me, left me to the abbe, who tried to draw me
on to speak, but succeeded no better than the night before. For several
days I sought an opportunity of speaking with Edmee, but she always
managed to avoid it. Preparations were being made for the return to
Sainte-Severe; she seemed neither sorry nor pleased at the prospect.
I determined to slip a note between the page of her book asking for an
interview. Within five minutes I received the following reply:

"An interview would lead to nothing. You are persisting in your boorish
behaviour; I shall persevere in what I believe to be the path of
integrity. An upright conscience cannot go from its word. I had sworn
never to be any man's but yours. I shall not marry, for I did not swear
that I would be yours whatever might happen. If you continue to be
unworthy of my esteem I shall take steps to remain free. My poor father
is sinking into the grave; a convent shall be my refuge when the only
tie which binds me to the world is broken."

I had fulfilled all the conditions imposed by Edmee, and now, it seemed,
her only return was an order that I should break them. I thus found
myself in the same position as on the day of her conversation with the

I passed the remainder of the day shut up in my room. All through the
night I walked up and down in violent agitation. I made no effort to
sleep. I will not tell you the thoughts that passed through my
mind; they were not unworthy of an honest man. At daybreak I was at
Lafayette's house. He procured me the necessary papers for leaving
France. He told me to go and await him in Spain, whence he was going to
sail for the United States. I returned to our house to get the clothes
and money indispensable to the humblest of travellers. I left a note
for my uncle, so that he might not feel uneasy at my absence; this I
promised to explain very soon in a long letter. I begged him to refrain
from passing sentence on me until it arrived, and assured him that I
should never forget all his goodness.

I left before any one in the house was up; for I was afraid that my
resolution might be shaken at the least sign of friendship, and I felt
that I could no longer impose upon a too generous affection. I could
not, however, pass Edmee's door without pressing my lips to the lock.
Then, hiding my head in my hands, I rushed away like a madman, and
scarcely stopped until I had reached the other side of the Pyrenees.
There I took a short rest, and wrote to Edmee that, as far as concerned
myself, she was free; that I would not thwart a single wish of hers; but
that it was impossible for me to be a witness of my rival's triumph. I
felt firmly convinced that she loved him; and I resolved to crush out
my own love. I was promising more than I could perform; but these first
manifestations of wounded pride gave me confidence in myself. I also
wrote to my uncle to tell him I should not hold myself worthy of the
boundless affection he had bestowed on me until I had won my spurs as a
knight. I confided to him my hopes of a soldier's fame and fortune with
all the candour of conceit; and since I felt sure that Edmee would
read this letter I feigned unclouded delight and an ardour that knew no
regrets; I did not know whether my uncle was aware of the real cause of
my departure; but my pride could not bring itself to confess. It was the
same with the abbe, to whom I likewise wrote a letter full of gratitude
and affection. I ended by begging my uncle to put himself to no expense
on my account over the gloomy keep at Roche-Mauprat, assuring him that I
could never bring myself to live there. I urged him to consider the fief
as his daughter's property, and only asked that he would be good enough
to advance me my share of the income for two or three years, so that I
might pay the expenses of my own outfit, and thus prevent my devotion to
the American cause from being a burden to the noble Lafayette.

My conduct and my letters apparently gave satisfaction. Soon after I
reached the coast of Spain I received from my uncle a letter full of
kindly exhortations, and of mild censure for my abrupt departure. He
gave me a father's blessing, and declared on his honour that the fief
of Roche-Mauprat would never be accepted by Edmee, and sent me a
considerable sum of money exclusive of the income due me in the future.
The abbe expressed the same mild censure, together with still warmer
exhortations. It was easy to see that he preferred Edmee's tranquility
to my happiness, and that he was full of genuine joy at my departure.
Nevertheless he had a liking for me, and his friendship showed itself
touchingly through the cruel satisfaction that was mingled with it. He
expressed envy of my lot; proclaimed his enthusiasm for the cause of
independence; and declared that he himself had more than once felt
tempted to throw off the cassock and take up the musket. All this,
however, was mere boyish affectation; his timid, gentle nature always
kept him the priest under the mask of the philosopher.

Between these two letters I found a little note without any address,
which seemed as if it had been slipped in as an after-thought. I was not
slow to see that it was from the one person in the world who was of real
interest to me. Yet I had not the courage to open it. I walked up and
down the sandy beach, turning over this little piece of paper in my
hands, fearful that by reading it I might destroy the kind of desperate
calm my resolution had given me. Above all, I dreaded lest it might
contain expressions of thanks and enthusiastic joy, behind which I
should have divined the rapture of contented love for another.

"What can she be writing to me about?" I said to myself. "Why does she
write at all? I do not want her pity, still less her gratitude."

I felt tempted to throw this fateful little note into the sea. Once,
indeed I held it out over the waves, but I immediately pressed it to
my bosom, and kept it hidden there a few moments as if I had been a
believer in that second sight preached by the advocates of magnetism,
who assert that they can read with the organs of feeling and thought as
well as with their eyes.

At last I resolved to break the seal. The words I read were these:

"You have done well, Bernard; but I give you no thanks, as your absence
will cause me more suffering than I can tell. Still, go wherever honour
and love of truth call you; you will always be followed by my good
wishes and prayers. Return when your mission is accomplished; you will
find me neither married nor in a convent."

In this note she had inclosed the cornelian ring she had given me during
my illness and which I had returned on leaving Paris. I had a little
gold box made to hold this ring and note, and I wore it near my heart as
a talisman. Lafayette, who had been arrested in France by order of the
Government, which was opposed to his expedition, soon came and joined us
after escaping from prison. I had had time to make my preparations, and
I sailed full of melancholy, ambition, and hope.

You will not expect me to give an account of the American war. Once
again I will separate my existence from the events of history as I
relate my own adventures. Here, however, I shall suppress even my
personal adventures; in my memory these form a special chapter in which
Edmee plays the part of a Madonna, constantly invoked but invisible. I
cannot think that you would be the least interested in listening to a
portion of my narrative from which this angelic figure, the only one
worthy of your attention, firstly by reason of her own worth, and then
from her influence on myself, was entirely absent. I will only state
that from the humble position which I gladly accepted in the beginning
in Washington's army, I rose regularly but rapidly to the rank of
officer. My military education did not take long. Into this, as into
everything that I have undertaken during my life, I put my whole soul,
and through the pertinacity of my will I overcame all obstacles.

I won the confidence of my illustrious chiefs. My excellent constitution
fitted me well for the hardships of war; my old brigand habits too were
of immense service to me; I endured reverses with a calmness beyond the
reach of most of the young Frenchmen who had embarked with me, however
brilliant their courage might otherwise have been. My own was cool
and tenacious, to the great surprise of our allies, who more than once
doubted my origin, on seeing how quickly I made myself at home in the
forests, and how often my cunning and suspiciousness made me a match for
the savages who sometimes harassed our manoeuvres.

In the midst of my labours and frequent changes of place I was fortunate
enough to be able to cultivate my mind through my intimacy with a young
man of merit whom Providence sent me as a companion and friend. Love
of the natural sciences had decided him to join our expedition, and he
never failed to show himself a good soldier; but it was easy to see that
political sympathy had played only a secondary part in his decision.
He had no desire for promotion, no aptitude for strategic studies. His
herbarium and his zoological occupations engaged his thoughts much more
than the successes of the war and the triumph of liberty. He fought too
well, when occasion arose, to ever deserve the reproach of lukewarmness;
but up to the eve of a fight and from the morrow he seemed to have
forgotten that he was engaged in anything beyond a scientific expedition
into the wilds of the New World. His trunk was always full, not of money
and valuables, but of natural history specimens; and while we were lying
on the grass on the alert for the least noise which might reveal the
approach of the enemy, he would be absorbed in the analysis of some
plant or insect. He was an admirable young man, as pure as an angel, as
unselfish as a stoic, as patient as a savant, and withal cheerful and
affectionate. When we were in danger of being surprised, he could think
and talk of nothing but the precious pebbles and the invaluable bits
of grass that he had collected and classified; and yet were one of us
wounded, he would nurse him with a kindness and zeal that none could

One day he noticed my gold box as I was putting it in my bosom, and he
immediately begged me to let him have it, to keep a few flies' legs and
grasshoppers' wings which he would have defended with the last drop of
his blood. It needed all the reverence I had for the relics of my love
to resist the demands of friendship. All he could obtain from me was
permission to hide away a very pretty little plant in my precious box.
This plant, which he declared he was the first to discover, was allowed
a home by the side of my _fiancee's_ ring and note only on condition
that it should be called Edmunda sylvestris; to this he consented. He
had given the name of Samuel Adams to a beautiful wild apple-tree;
he had christened some industrious bee or other Franklin; and nothing
pleased him more than to associate some honoured name with his ingenious

The attachment I felt for him was all the more genuine from its being my
first friendship with a man of my own age. The pleasure which I derived
from this intimacy gave me a new insight into life, and revealed
capacities and needs of the soul of which I had hitherto been ignorant.
As I could never wholly break away from that love of chivalry which had
been implanted in me in early childhood, it pleased me to look upon him
as my "brother in arms," and I expressed a wish that he would give me
this special title too, to the exclusion of every other intimate friend.
He caught at the idea with a gladness of heart that showed me how lively
was the sympathy between us. He declared that I was a born naturalist,
because I was so fitted for a roving life and rough expeditions.
Sometimes he would reproach me with absent-mindedness, and scold me
seriously for carelessly stepping upon interesting plants, but he would
assert that I was endowed with a sense of method, and that some day
I might invent, not a theory of nature, but an excellent system of
classification. His prophecy was never fulfilled, but his encouragement
aroused a taste for study in me, and prevented my mind from being wholly
paralyzed by camp life. To me he was as a messenger from heaven;
without him I should perhaps have become, if not the Hamstringer of
Roche-Mauprat, at all events the savage of Varenne again. His teachings
revived in me the consciousness of intellectual life. He enlarged
my ideas and also ennobled my instincts; for, though his marvellous
integrity and his modest disposition prevented him from throwing himself
into philosophical discussions, he had an innate love of justice, and he
judged all questions of sentiment and morality with unerring wisdom.
He acquired an ascendency over me which the abbe had never been able to
acquire, owing to the attitude of mutual distrust in which we had been
placed from the beginning. He revealed to me the wonders of a large part
of the physical world, but what he taught me of chiefest value was to
learn to know myself, and to ponder over my own impressions. I succeeded
in controlling my impulses up to a certain point. I could never subdue
my pride and violent temper. A man cannot change the essence of his
nature, but he can guide his divers faculties towards a right path; he
can almost succeed in turning his faults to account--and this, indeed,
is the great secret and the great problem of education.

The conversations with my friend Arthur led me into such a train of
thought that from my recollections of Edmee's conduct I came to deduce
logically the motives which must have inspired it. I found her noble
and generous, especially in those matters which, owing to my distorted
vision and false judgment, had caused me most pain. I did not love her
the more for this--that would have been impossible--but I succeeded in
understanding why I loved her with an unconquerable love in spite of
all she had made me suffer. This sacred fire burned in my soul
without growing dim for one instant during the whole six years of our
separation. In spite of the rich vitality which pulsed through my veins;
in spite of the promptings of an external nature full of voluptuousness;
in spite of the bad examples and numerous opportunities which tempted
mortal weakness in the freedom of a roving, military life, I call God
to witness that I preserved my robe of innocence undefiled, and that I
never felt the kiss of a woman. Arthur, whose calmer organization was
less susceptible to temptation, and who, moreover, was almost entirely
engrossed in intellectual labour, did not always practise the same
austerity; nay, he frequently advised me not to run the risk of an
exceptional life, contrary to the demands of Nature. When I confided to
him that a master-passion removed all weaknesses from my path and made
a fall impossible, he ceased to reason against what he called
my fanaticism (this was a word very much in vogue and applied
indiscriminately to almost everything). I observed, indeed, that he had
a more profound esteem for me, I may even say a sort of respect which
did not express itself in words, but which was revealed by a thousand
little signs of compliance and deference.

One day, when he was speaking of the great power exercised by gentleness
of manners in alliance with a resolute will, citing both good and bad
examples from the history of men, especially the gentleness of the
apostles and the hypocrisy of the priests of all religions, it came into
my mind to ask him if, with my headstrong nature and hasty temper, I
should ever be able to exercise any influence on my fellows. When I used
this last word I was, of course, thinking only of Edmee. Arthur replied
that the influence which I exercised would be other than that of studied

"Your influence," he said, "will be due to your natural goodness of
heart. Warmth of soul, ardour and perseverance in affection, these are
what are needed in family life, and these qualities make our defects
loved even by those who have to suffer from them most. We should
endeavour, therefore, to master ourselves out of love for those who
love us; but to propose to one's self a system of moderation in the
most intimate concerns of love and friendship would, in my opinion, be
a childish task, a work of egotism which would kill all affection, in
ourselves first, and soon afterwards in the others. I was speaking of
studied moderation only in the exercise of authority over the masses.
Now, should your ambition ever . . ."

"You believe, then," I said, without listening to the last part of his
speech, "that, such as I am, I might make a woman happy and force her to
love me, in spite of all my faults and the harm they cause?"

"O lovelorn brain!" he exclaimed. "How difficult it is to distract your
thoughts! . . . Well, if you wish to know, Bernard, I will tell you what
I think of your love-affair. The person you love so ardently loves you,
unless she is incapable of love or quite bereft of judgment."

I assured him that she was as much above all other women as the lion
is above the squirrel, the cedar above the hyssop, and with the help of
metaphors I succeeded in convincing him. Then he persuaded me to tell
him a few details, in order, as he said, that he might judge of my
position with regard to Edmee. I opened my heart without reserve, and
told him my history from beginning to end. At this time we were on the
outskirts of a beautiful forest in the last rays of the setting sun. The
park at Sainte-Severe, with its fine lordly oaks which had never known
the insult of an axe, came into my thoughts as I gazed on these trees of
the wilds, exempt from all human care, towering out above our heads in
their might and primitive grace. The glowing horizon reminded me of the
evening visits to Patience's hut, and Edmee sitting under the golden
vine-leaves, and the notes of the merry parrots brought back to me the
warbling of the beautiful exotic birds she used to keep in her room.
I wept as I thought of the land of my birth so far away, of the broad
ocean between us which had swallowed so many pilgrims in the hour of
their return to their native shores. I also thought of the prospects of
fortune, of the dangers of war, and for the first time I felt the fear
of death; for Arthur, pressing my hand in his, assured me that I was
loved, and that in each act of harshness or distrust he found but a new
proof of affection.

"My boy," he said, "cannot you see that if she did not want to marry
you, she would have found a hundred ways of ridding herself of your
pretensions forever? And if she had not felt an inexhaustible affection
for you, would she have taken so much trouble, and imposed so many
sacrifices upon herself to raise you from the abject condition in which
she found you, and make you worthy of her? Well, you are always dreaming
of the mighty deeds of the knight-errants of old: cannot you see that
you are a noble knight condemned by your lady to rude trials for having
failed in the laws of gallantry, for having demanded in an imperious
tone the love which ought to be sued for on bended knee?"

He then entered into a detailed examination of my misdeeds, and found
that the chastisement was severe but just. Afterwards he discussed the
probabilities of the future, and very sensibly advised me to submit
until she thought right to pardon me.

"But," I said, "is there no shame in a man ripened, as I am now, by
reflection, and roughly tried by war, submitting like a child to the
caprices of a woman?"

"No," replied Arthur, "there is no shame in that; and the conduct of
this woman is not dictated by caprice. One can win nothing but honour in
repairing any evil one has done; and how few men are capable of it!
It is only just that offended modesty should claim its rights and its
natural independence. You have behaved like Albion; do not be astonished
that Edmee behaves like Philadelphia. She will not yield, except on
condition of a glorious peace, and she is right."

He wished to know how she had treated me during the two years we had
been in America. I showed him the few short letters I had received from
her. He was struck by the good sense and perfect integrity which seemed
manifested in their lofty tone and manly precision. In them Edmee had
made me no promise, nor had she even encouraged me by holding out any
direct hopes; but she had displayed a lively desire for my return, and
had spoken of the happiness we should all enjoy when, as we sat around
the fire, I should while away the evenings at the chateau with accounts
of my wonderful adventures; and she had not hesitated to tell me that,
together with her father, I was the one object of her solicitude
in life. Yet, in spite of this never-failing tenderness, a terrible
suspicion harassed me. In these short letters from my cousin, as in
those from her father and in the long, florid and affectionate epistles
from the Abbe Aubert, they never gave me any news of the events which
might be, and ought to be, taking place in the family. Each spoke of
his or her own self and never mentioned the others; or at most they
only spoke of the chevalier's attacks of the gout. It was as though an
agreement had been made between the three that none should talk about
the occupations and state of mind of the other two.

"Shed light and ease my mind on this matter if you can," I said to
Arthur. "There are moments when I fancy that Edmee must be married, and
that they have agreed not to inform me until I return, and what is to
prevent this, in fact? Is it probable that she likes me enough to live
a life of solitude out of love for me, when this very love, in obedience
to the dictation of a cold reason and an austere conscience, can resign
itself to seeing my absence indefinitely prolonged with the war? I have
duties to perform here, no doubt; honour demands that I should defend my
flag until the day of the triumph or the irreparable defeat of the cause
I serve; but I feel that Edmee is dearer to me than these empty honours,
and that to see her but one hour sooner I would leave my name to the
ridicule or the curses of the world."

"This last thought," replied Arthur, with a smile, "is suggested to you
by the violence of your passion; but you would not act as you say, even
if the opportunity occurred. When we are grappling with a single one of
our faculties we fancy the others annihilated; but let some extraneous
shock arouse them, and we realize that our soul draws its life from
several sources at the same time. You are not insensible to fame,
Bernard; and if Edmee invited you to abandon it you would perceive
that it was dearer to you than you thought. You have ardent republican
convictions, and Edmee herself was the first to inspire you with them.
What, then, would you think of her, and, indeed, what sort of woman
would she be, if she said to you to-day, 'There is something more
important than the religion I preached to you and the gods I revealed;
something more august and more sacred, and that is my own good
pleasure'? Bernard, your love is full of contradictory desires.
Inconsistency, moreover, is the mark of all human loves. Men imagine
that a woman can have no separate existence of her own, and that she
must always be wrapped up in them; and yet the only woman they love
deeply is she whose character seems to raise her above the weakness
and indolence of her sex. You see how all the settlers in this country
dispose of the beauty of their slaves, but they have no love for them,
however beautiful they may be; and if by chance they become genuinely
attached to one of them, their first care is to set her free. Until then
they do not think that they are dealing with a human being. A spirit
of independence, the conception of virtue, a love of duty, all these
privileges of lofty souls are essential, therefore, in the woman who
is to be one's companion through life; and the more your mistress gives
proof of strength and patience, the more you cherish her, in spite of
what you may have to suffer. You must learn, then, to distinguish love
from desire; desire wishes to break through the very impediments by
which it is attracted, and it dies amid the ruins of the virtue it has
vanquished; love wishes to live, and in order to do that, it would fain
see the object of its worship long defended by that wall of adamant
whose strength and splendour mean true worth and true beauty."

In this way would Arthur explain to me the mysterious springs of my
passion, and throw the light of his wisdom upon the stormy abyss of my
soul. Sometimes he used to add:

"If Heaven had granted me the woman I have now and then dreamed of, I
think I should have succeeded in making a noble and generous passion of
my love; but science has asked for too much of my time. I have not had
leisure to look for my ideal; and if perchance it has crossed my path,
I have not been able either to study it or recognise it. You have been
fortunate, Bernard, but then, you do not sound the deeps of natural
history; one man cannot have everything."

As to my suspicions about Edmee's marriage, he rejected them with
contempt as morbid fancies. To him, indeed, Edmee's silence showed an
admirable delicacy of feeling and conduct.

"A vain person," he said, "would take care to let you know all the
sacrifices she had made on your account, and would enumerate the titles
and qualities of the suitors she had refused. Edmee, however, has too
noble a soul, too serious a mind, to enter into these futile details.
She looks upon your covenant as inviolable, and does not imitate those
weak consciences which are always talking of their victories, and making
a merit of doing that in which true strength finds no difficulty. She is
so faithful by nature that she never imagines that any one can suspect
her of being otherwise."

These talks poured healing balm on my wounds. When at last France openly
declared herself an ally of America, I received a piece of news from the
abbe that entirely set my mind at ease on one point. He wrote to me that
I should probably meet an old friend again in the New World; the Count
de la Marche had been given command of a regiment, and was setting out
for the United States.

"And between ourselves," added the abbe, "it is quite time that he made
a position for himself. This young man, though modest and steady, has
always been weak enough to yield to the prejudices of noble birth. He
has been ashamed of his poverty, and has tried to hide it as one hides
a leprosy. The result is that his efforts to prevent others from seeing
the progress of his ruin, have now ruined him completely. Society
attributes the rupture between Edmee and him to these reverses of
fortune; and people even go so far as to say that he was but little
in love with her person, and very much with her dowry. I cannot bring
myself to credit him with contemptible views; and I can only think that
he is suffering those mortifications which arise from a false estimate
of the value of the good things of this world. If you happen to meet
him, Edmee wishes you to show him some friendship, and to let him
know how great an interest she has always taken in him. Your excellent
cousin's conduct in this matter, as in all others, has been full of
kindness and dignity."


One the eve of M. de la Marche's departure, and after the abbe's letter
had been sent, a little incident had happened in Varenne which, when I
heard of it in America, caused me considerable surprise and pleasure.
Moreover, it is linked in a remarkable manner with the most important
events of my life, as you will see later.

Although rather seriously wounded in the unfortunate affair of Savannah,
I was actively engaged in Virginia, under General Greene, in collecting
the remains of the army commanded by Gates, whom I considered a much
greater hero than his more fortunate rival, Washington. We had just
learnt of the landing of M. de Ternay's squadron, and the depression
which had fallen on us at this period of reverses and distress was
beginning to vanish before the prospect of re-enforcements. These, as
a fact, were less considerable than we had expected. I was strolling
through the woods with Arthur, a short distance from the camp, and we
were taking advantage of this short respite to have a talk about other
matters than Cornwallis and the infamous Arnold. Long saddened by
the sight of the woes of the American nation, by the fear of seeing
injustice and cupidity triumphing over the cause of the people, we were
seeking relief in a measure of gaiety. When I had an hour's leisure I
used to escape from my stern toils to the oasis of my own thoughts in
the family at Sainte-Severe. At such a time I was wont to tell my kind
friend Arthur some of the comic incidents of my entry into life after
leaving Roche-Mauprat. At one time I would give him a description of
the costume in which I first appeared; at another I would describe
Mademoiselle Leblanc's contempt and loathing for my person, and her
recommendation to her friend Saint-Jean never to approach within arms'
length of me. As I thought of these amusing individuals, the face of
the solemn hidalgo, Marcasse, somehow arose in my memory, and I began
to give a faithful and detailed picture of the dress, and bearing, and
conversation of this enigmatic personage. Not that Marcasse was actually
as comic as he appeared to be in my imagination; but at twenty a man is
only a boy, especially when he is a soldier and has just escaped great
dangers, and so is filled with careless pride at the conquest of his own
life. Arthur would laugh right heartily as he listened to me, declaring
that he would give his whole collection of specimens for such a curious
animal as I had just described. The pleasure he derived from my childish
chatter increased my vivacity, and I do not know whether I should
have been able to resist the temptation to exaggerate my uncle's
peculiarities, when suddenly at a turn in our path we found ourselves
in the presence of a tall man, poorly dressed, and terribly haggard, who
was walking towards us with a serious pensive expression, and carrying
in his hand a long naked sword, the point of which was peacefully
lowered to the ground. This individual bore such a strong resemblance
to the one I had just described to Arthur, struck by the parallel,
burst into uncontrollable laughter, and moving aside to make way for
Marcasse's double, threw himself upon the grass in a convulsive fit of

For myself, I was far from laughing; for nothing that has a supernatural
air about it fails to produce a vivid impression even on the man most
accustomed to dangers. With staring eyes and outstretched arms we drew
near to each other, myself and he, not the shade of Marcasse, but
the venerable person himself, in flesh and blood, of the hidalgo

Petrified with astonishment when I saw what I had taken for his ghost
slowly carry his hand to the corner of his hat and raise it without
bending the fraction of an inch, I started back a yard or two; and this
movement, which Arthur thought was a joke on my part, only increased his
merriment. The weasel-hunter was by no means disconcerted; perhaps in
his judicial gravity he was thinking that this was the usual way to
greet people on the other side of the ocean.

But Arthur's laughter almost proved infectious when Marcasse said to me
with incomparable gravity:

"Monsieur Bernard, I have had the honour of searching for you for a long

"For a long time, in truth, my good Marcasse," I replied, as I shook my
old friend's hand with delight. "But, tell me by what strange power I
have been lucky enough to draw you hither. In the old days you passed
for a sorcerer; is it possible that I have become one too without
knowing it?"

"I will explain all that, my dear general," answered Marcasse, who was
apparently dazzled by my captain's uniform. "If you will allow me to
accompany you I will tell you many things--many things!"

On hearing Marcasse repeat his words in a low voice, as if furnishing an
echo for himself, a habit which only a minute before I was in the act of
imitating, Arthur burst out laughing again. Marcasse turned toward
him and after surveying him intently bowed with imperturbable gravity.
Arthur, suddenly recovering his serious mood, rose and, with comic
dignity, bowed in return almost to the ground.

We returned to the camp together. On the way Marcasse told me his story
in that brief style of his, which, as it forced his hearer to ask a
thousand wearisome questions, far from simplifying his narrative, made
it extraordinarily complicated. It afforded Arthur great amusement; but
as you would not derive the same pleasure from listening to an exact
reproduction of this interminable dialogue, I will limit myself to
telling you how Marcasse had come to leave his country and his friends,
in order to give the American cause the help of his sword.

M. de la Marche happened to be setting out for America at the very time
when Marcasse came to his castle in Berry for a week, to make his
annual round among the beams and joists in the barns. The inmates of
the chateau, in their excitement at the count's departure, indulged
in wonderful commentaries on that far country, so full of dangers and
marvels, from which, according to the village wiseacres, no man ever
returned without a vast fortune, and so many gold and silver ingots that
he needed ten ships to carry them all. Now, under his icy exterior,
Don Marcasse, like some hyperborean volcano, concealed a glowing
imagination, a passionate love of the marvellous. Accustomed to live in
a state of equilibrium on narrow beams in evidently loftier regions than
other men, and not insensible to the glory of astounding the bystanders
every day by the calm daring of his acrobatic movements, he let himself
be fired by these pictures of Eldorado; and his dreams were the more
extravagant because, as usual, he unbosomed himself to no one. M. de
la Marche, therefore, was very much surprised when, on the eve of his
departure, Marcasse presented himself, and proposed to accompany him to
America as his valet. In vain did M. de la Marche remind him that he was
very old to abandon his calling and run the risks of a new kind of life.
Marcasse displayed so much firmness that in the end he gained his point.
Various reasons led M. de la Marche to consent to the strange request.
He had resolved to take with him a servant older still than the
weasel-hunter, a man who was accompanying him only with great
reluctance. But this man enjoyed his entire confidence, a favour which
M. de la Marche was very slow to grant, since he was only able to
keep up the outward show of a man of quality, and wished to be served
faithfully, and with economy and prudence. He knew, however, that
Marcasse was scrupulously honest, and even singularly unselfish; for
there was something of Don Quixote in the man's soul as well as in his
appearance. He had found in some ruins a sort of treasure-trove, that is
to say, an earthenware jar containing a sum of about ten thousand francs
in old gold and silver coins; and not only had he handed it over to the
owner of the ruins, whom he might easily have deceived, but further
he had refused to accept any reward, declaring emphatically in his
abbreviated jargon, "honesty would die selling itself."

Marcasse's economy, his discretion, his punctuality, seemed likely to
make him a valuable man, if he could be trained to put these qualities
at the service of others. The one thing to be feared was that he might
not be able to accustom himself to his loss of independence. However,
M. de la Marche thought that, before M. de Ternay's squadron sailed, he
would have time to test his new squire sufficiently.

On his side, Marcasse felt many regrets at taking leave of his friends
and home; for if he had "friends everywhere and everywhere a native
place," as he said, in allusion to his wandering life, he still had a
very marked preference for Varenne; and of all his castles (for he was
accustomed to call every place he stopped at "his"), the chateau of
Sainte-Severe was the only one which he arrived at with pleasure and
left with regret. One day, when he had missed his footing on the roof
and had rather a serious fall, Edmee, then still a child, had won his
heart by the tears she had shed over this accident, and the artless
attentions she had shown him. And ever since Patience had come to dwell
on the edge of the park, Marcasse had felt still more attracted toward
Sainte-Severe; for in Patience Marcasse had found his Orestes. Marcasse
did not always understand Patience; but Patience was the only man who
thoroughly understood Marcasse, and who knew how much chivalrous honesty
and noble courage lay hidden beneath that odd exterior. Humbly bowing
to the hermit's intellectual superiority, the weasel-hunter would stop
respectfully whenever the poetic frenzy took possession of Patience and
made his words unintelligible. At such a time Marcasse would refrain
from questions and ill-timed remarks with touching gentleness; would
lower his eyes, and nodding his head from time to time as if he
understood and approved, would, at least, afford his friend the innocent
pleasure of being listened to without contradiction.

Marcasse, however, had understood enough to make him embrace republican
ideas and share in those romantic hopes of universal levelling and a
return to the golden age, which had been so ardently fostered by old
Patience. Having frequently heard his friend say that these doctrines
were to be cultivated with prudence (a precept, however, to which
Patience gave but little heed himself), the hidalgo, inclined to
reticence both by habit and inclination, never spoke of his philosophy;
but he proved himself a more efficacious propagandist by carrying about
from castle to cottage, and from house to farm, those little cheap
editions of _La Science du Bonhomme Richard_, and other small treatises
on popular patriotism, which, according to the Jesuits, a secret society
of Voltairian philosophers, devoted to the diabolical practice of
freemasonry, circulated gratis among the lower classes.

Thus in Marcasse's sudden resolution there was as much revolutionary
enthusiasm as love of adventure. For a long time the dormouse and
polecat had seemed to him overfeeble enemies for his restless valour,
even as the granary floor seemed to afford too narrow a field. Every
day he read the papers of the previous day in the servants' hall of
the houses he visited; and it appeared to him that this war in America,
which was hailed as the awakening of the spirit of justice and liberty
in the New World, ought to produce a revolution in France. It is true
he had a very literal notion of the way in which ideas were to cross the
seas and take possession of the minds of our continent. In his dreams he
used to see an army of victorious Americans disembarking from numberless
ships, and bringing the olive branch of peace and the horn of plenty to
the French nation. In these same dreams he beheld himself at the head
of a legion of heroes returning to Varenne as a warrior, a legislator, a
rival of Washington, suppressing abuses, cutting down enormous fortunes,
assigning to each proletarian a suitable share, and, in the midst of his
far-reaching and vigorous measures, protecting the good and fair-dealing
nobles, and assuring an honourable existence to them. Needless to say,
the distress inseparable from all great political crises never entered
into Marcasse's mind, and not a single drop of blood sullied the
romantic picture which Patience had unrolled before his eyes.

From these sublime hopes to the role of valet to M. de la Marche was a
far cry; but Marcasse could reach his goal by no other way. The ranks
of the army corps destined for America had long been filled, and it was
only in the character of a passenger attached to the expedition that
he could take his place on one of the merchant ships that followed the
expedition. He had questioned the abbe on these points without revealing
his plans. His departure quite staggered all the inhabitants of Varenne.

No sooner had he set foot on the shores of the States than he felt an
irresistible inclination to take his big hat and his big sword and go
off all alone through the woods, as he had been accustomed to do in his
own country. His conscience, however, prevented him from quitting his
master after having pledged himself to serve him. He had calculated that
fortune would help him, and fortune did. The war proved much more bloody
and vigorous than had been expected, and M. de la Marche feared, though
wrongly, that he might be impeded by the poor health of his gaunt
squire. Having a suspicion, too, of the man's desire for liberty, he
offered him a sum of money and some letters of recommendation, to enable
him to join the American troops as a volunteer. Marcasse, knowing the
state of his master's fortune, refused the money, and only accepted the
letters; and then set off with as light a step as the nimblest weasels
that he had ever killed.

His intention was to make for Philadelphia; but, through a chance
occurrence which I need not relate, he learnt that I was in the South,
and, rightly calculating that he would obtain both advice and help from
me, he had set out to find me, alone, on foot, through unknown countries
almost uninhabited and often full of danger of all kinds. His clothes
alone had suffered; his yellow face had not changed its tint, and he was
no more surprised at his latest exploit than if he had merely covered
the distance from Sainte-Severe to Gazeau Tower.

The only fresh habit that I noticed in him, was that he would turn round
from time to time, and look behind him, as if he had felt inclined to
call some one; then immediately after he would smile and sigh almost at
the same instant. I could not resist a desire to ask him the cause of
his uneasiness.

"Alas!" he replied, "habit can't get rid of; a poor dog! good dog!
Always saying, 'Here Blaireau! Blaireau, here!'"

"I understand," I said, "Blaireau is dead, and you cannot accustom
yourself to the idea that you will never see him at your heels again."

"Dead!" he exclaimed, with an expression of horror. "No, thank God!
Friend Patience, great friend! Blaireau quite well off, but sad like his
master; his master alone!"

"If Blaireau is with Patience," said Arthur, "he is well off, as you
say; for Patience wants nothing. Patience will love him because he loves
his master, and you are certain to see your good friend and faithful dog

Marcasse turned his eyes upon the individual who seemed to be so well
acquainted with his life; but, feeling sure that he had never seen him
before, he acted as he was wont to do when he did not understand; he
raised his hat and bowed respectfully.

On my immediate recommendation Marcasse was enrolled in my company
and, a little while afterward, was made a sergeant. The worthy man went
through the whole campaign with me, and went through it bravely; and in
1782, when I rejoined Rochambeau's army to fight under the French flag,
he followed me, as he was anxious to share my lot until the end. In the
early days I looked upon him rather as an amusement than a companion;
but his excellent conduct and calm fearlessness soon won for him the
esteem of all, and I had reason to be proud of my _protege_. Arthur also
conceived a great friendship for him; and, when off duty, he accompanied
us in all our walks, carrying the naturalist's box and running the
snakes through with his sword.

But when I tried to make him speak of my cousin, he by no means
satisfied me. Whether he did not understand how eager I felt to learn
all the details of the life she was leading far away from me, or
whether in this matter he was obeying one of those inviolable laws
which governed his conscience, I could never obtain from him any clear
solution of the doubts which harassed me. Quite early he told me that
there was no question of her marriage with any one; but, accustomed
though I was to his vague manner of expressing himself, I imagined he
seemed embarrassed in making this assertion and had the air of a man
who had sworn to keep a secret. Honour forbade me to insist to such an
extent as to let him see my hopes, and so there always remained between
us a painful point which I tried to avoid touching upon, but to which,
in spite of myself, I was continually returning. As long as Arthur was
near me, I retained my reason, and interpreted Edmee's letters in the
most loyal way; but when I was unfortunate enough to be separated from
him, my sufferings revived, and my stay in America became more irksome
to me every day.

Our separation took place when I left the American army to fight
under the command of the French general. Arthur was an American; and,
moreover, he was only waiting for the end of the war to retire from the
service, and settle in Boston with Dr. Cooper, who loved him as his son,
and who had undertaken to get him appointed principal librarian to the
library of the Philadelphia Society. This was all the reward Arthur
desired for his labours.

The events which filled my last years in America belong to history.
It was with a truly personal delight that I hailed the peace which
proclaimed the United States a free nation. I had begun to chafe at my
long absence from France; my passion had been growing ever greater, and
left no room for the intoxication of military glory. Before my departure
I went to take leave of Arthur. Then I sailed with the worthy Marcasse,
divided between sorrow at parting from my only friend, and joy at the
prospect of once more seeing my only love. The squadron to which my ship
belonged experienced many vicissitudes during the passage, and several
times I gave up all hope of ever kneeling before Edmee under the great
oaks of Sainte-Severe. At last, after a final storm off the coast of
France, I set foot on the shores of Brittany, and fell into the arms
of my poor sergeant, who had borne our common misfortunes, if not with
greater physical courage, at least with a calmer spirit, and we mingled
our tears.


We set out from Brest without sending any letter to announce our coming.

When we arrived near Varenne we alighted from the post-chaise and,
ordering the driver to proceed by the longest road to Saint-Severe, took
a short cut through the woods. As soon as I saw the trees in the park
raising their venerable heads above the copses like a solemn phalanx of
druids in the middle of a prostrate multitude, my heart began to beat so
violently that I was forced to stop.

"Well," said Marcasse, turning round with an almost stern expression, as
if he would have reproached me for my weakness.

But a moment later I saw that his own face, too, was betraying
unexpected emotion. A plaintive whining and a bushy tail brushing
against his legs had made him start. He uttered a loud cry on seeing
Blaireau. The poor animal had scented his master from afar, and had
rushed forward with all the speed of his first youth to roll at his
feet. For a moment we thought he was going to die there, for he remained
motionless and convulsed, as it were, under Marcasse's caressing hand;
then suddenly he sprang up, as if struck with an idea worthy of a man,
and set off with the speed of lightning in the direction of Patience's

"Yes, go and tell my friend, good dog!" exclaimed Marcasse; "a better
friend than you would be more than man."

He turned towards me, and I saw two big tears trickling down the cheeks
of the impassive hidalgo.

We hastened our steps till we reached the hut. It had undergone striking
improvements; a pretty rustic garden, inclosed by a quickset hedge with
a bank of stones behind, extended round the little house. The approach
to this was no longer a rough little path, but a handsome walk, on
either side of which splendid vegetables stretched out in regular rows,
like an army in marching order. The van was composed of a battalion of
cabbages; carrots and lettuces formed the main body; and along the hedge
some modest sorrel brought up the rear. Beautiful apple-trees, already
well grown, spread their verdant shade above these plants; while
pear-trees, alternately standards and espaliers, with borders of thyme
and sage kissing the feet of sunflowers and gilliflowers, convicted
Patience of a strange return to ideas of social order, and even to a
taste for luxuries.

The change was so remarkable that I thought I should no longer find
Patience in the cottage. A strange feeling of uneasiness began to come
over me; my fear almost turned into certainty when I saw two young men
from the village occupied in trimming the espaliers. Our passage had
lasted more than four months, and it must have been quite six months
since we had had any news of the hermit. Marcasse, however, seemed to
feel no fear; Blaireau had told him plainly that Patience was alive,
and the footmarks of the little dog, freshly printed in the sand of the
walk, showed the direction in which he had gone. Notwithstanding, I was
so afraid of seeing a cloud come over the joy of this day, that I did
not dare to question the gardeners about Patience. Silently I followed
the hidalgo, whose eyes grew full of tears as they gazed upon this
new Eden, and whose prudent mouth let no sound escape save the word
"change," which he repeated several times.

At last I grew impatient; the walk seemed interminable, though very
short in reality, and I began to run, my heart beating wildly.

"Perhaps Edmee," I said to myself, "is here!"

However, she was not there, and I could only hear the voice of the
hermit saying:

"Now, then! What is the matter? Has the poor dog gone mad? Down,
Blaireau! You would never have worried your master in this way. This is
what comes of being too kind!"

"Blaireau is not mad!" I exclaimed, as I entered. "Have you grown deaf
to the approach of a friend, Master Patience?"

Patience, who was in the act of counting a pile of money, let it fall
on the table and came towards me with the old cordiality. I embraced him
heartily; he was surprised and touched at my joy. Then he examined
me from head to foot, and seemed to be wondering at the change in my
appearance, when Marcasse arrived at the door.

Then a sublime expression came over Patience's face, and lifting his
strong arms to heaven, he exclaimed:

"The words of the canticle! Now let me depart in peace; for mine eyes
have seen him I yearned for."

The hidalgo said nothing; he raised his hat as usual; then sitting down
he turned pale and shut his eyes. His dog jumped up on his knees and
displayed his affection by attempts at little cries which changed into
a series of sneezes (you remember that he was born dumb). Trembling with
old age and delight, he stretched out his pointed nose towards the long
nose of his master; but his master did not respond with the customary
"Down, Blaireau!"

Marcasse had fainted.

This loving soul, no more able than Blaireau to express itself in words,
had sunk beneath the weight of his own happiness. Patience ran
and fetched him a large mug of wine of the district, in its second
year--that is to say, the oldest and best possible. He made him swallow
a few drops; its strength revived him. The hidalgo excused his weakness
on the score of fatigue and the heat. He would not or could not assign
it to its real sense. There are souls who die out, after burning with
unsurpassable moral beauty and grandeur, without ever having found a
way, and even without ever having felt the need, of revealing themselves
to others.

When Patience, who was as demonstrative as his friend was the contrary,
had recovered from his first transports, he turned to me and said:

"Now, my young officer, I see that you have no wish to remain here long.
Let us make haste, then, to the place you are burning to reach. There is
some one who will be much surprised and much delighted, you may take my

We entered the park, and while crossing it, Patience explained the
change which had come over his habitation and his life.

"For myself," he said to me, "you see that I have not changed. The same
appearance, the same ways; and if I offered you some wine just now, that
does not prevent me from drinking water myself. But I have money, and
land, and workmen--yes, I have. Well, all this is in spite of myself,
as you will see. Some three years ago Mademoiselle Edmee spoke of the
difficulty she had in bestowing alms so as to do real good. The abbe was
as unskilful as herself. People would impose on them every day and use
their money for bad ends; whereas proud and hard-working day-labourers
might be in a state of real distress without any one being able to
discover the fact. She was afraid that if she inquired into their wants
they might take it as an insult; and when worthless fellows appealed to
her she preferred being their dupe to erring against charity. In this
manner she used to give away a great deal of money and do very little
good. I then made her understand how money was the thing that was the
least necessary to the necessitous. I explained that men were really
unfortunate, not when they were unable to dress better than their
fellows, or go to the tavern on Sundays, or display at high-mass a
spotlessly white stocking with a red garter above the knee, or talk
about 'My mare, my cow, my vine, my barn, etc.,' but rather when they
were afflicted with poor health and a bad season, when they could not
protect themselves against the cold, and heat and sickness, against
the pangs of hunger and thirst. I told her, then, not to judge of the
strength and health of peasants by myself, but to go in person and
inquire into their illnesses and their wants.

"These folk are not philosophers," I said; "they have their little
vanities, they are fond of finery, spend the little they earn on cutting
a figure, and have not foresight enough to deprive themselves of a
passing pleasure in order to lay by something against a day of real
need. In short, they do not know how to use their money; they tell you
they are in debt, and, though that may be true, it is not true that
they will use the money you give them to pay what they owe. They take no
thought of the morrow; they will agree to as high a rate of interest as
may be asked, and with your money they will buy a hemp-field or a set
of furniture so as to astonish their neighbours and make them jealous.
Meanwhile their debts go on increasing year by year, and in the end they
have to sell their hemp-field and their furniture, because the creditor,
who is always one of themselves, calls for repayment or for more
interest than they can furnish. Everything goes; the principal takes all
their capital, just as the interest has taken all their income. Then you
grow old and can work no longer; your children abandon you, because you
have brought them up badly, and because they have the same passions and
the same vanities as yourself. All you can do is to take a wallet and go
from door to door to beg your bread, because you are used to bread and
would die if you had to live on roots like the sorcerer Patience, that
outcast of Nature, whom everybody hates and despises because he has not
become a beggar.

"The beggar, moreover, is hardly worse off than the day-labourer;
probably he is better off. He is no longer troubled with pride, whether
estimable or foolish; he has no longer to suffer. The folks in his part
of the country are good to him; there is not a beggar that wants for a
bed or supper as he goes his round. The peasants load him with bits of
bread, to such an extent that he has enough to feed both poultry and
pigs in the little hovel where he has left a child and an old mother to
look after his animals. Every week he returns there and spends two or
three days, doing nothing except counting the pennies that have been
given him. These poor coins often serve to satisfy the superfluous wants
which idleness breeds. A peasant rarely takes snuff; many beggars cannot
do without it; they ask for it more eagerly than for bread. So the
beggar is no more to be pitied than the labourer; but he is corrupt and
debauched, when he is not a scoundrel and a brute, which, in truth, is
seldom enough.

"'This, then, is what ought to be done,' I said to Edmee; 'and the abbe
tells me that this is also the idea of your philosophers. You who are
always ready to help the unfortunate, should give without consulting
the special fancies of the man who asks, but only after ascertaining his
real wants.'

"Edmee objected that it would be impossible for her to obtain the
necessary information; that she would have to give her whole time to
it, and neglect the chevalier, who is growing old and can no longer read
anything without his daughter's eyes and head. The abbe was too fond
of improving his mind from the writings of the wise to have time for
anything else.

"'That is what comes of all this study of virtue!' I said to her; 'it
makes a man forget to be virtuous.'

"'You are quite right,' answered Edmee; 'but what is to be done?'

"I promised to think it over; and this is how I went to work. Instead of
taking my walks as usual in the direction of the woods, I paid a visit
every day to the small holdings. It cost me a great effort; I like to be
alone; and everywhere I had shunned my fellow-men for so many years that
I had lost touch with them. However, this was a duty and I did it. I
went to various houses, and by way of conversation, first of all over
hedges, and then inside the houses themselves, I made inquiries as to
those points which I wanted to learn. At first they gave me a welcome
such as they would give to a lost dog in time of drought; and with a
vexation I could scarce conceal I noticed the hatred and distrust on all
their faces. Though I had not cared to live among other men, I still
had an affection for them; I knew that they were unfortunate rather than
vicious; I had spent all my time in lamenting their woes and railing
against those that caused them; and when for the first time I saw a
possibility of doing something for some of them, these very men shut
their doors the very moment they caught sight of me in the distance, and
their children (those pretty children that I love so much!) would hide
themselves in ditches so as to escape the fever which, it was said, I
could give with a glance. However, as Edmee's friendship for me was
well known, they did not dare to repulse me openly, and I succeeded in
getting the information we wanted. Whenever I told her of any distress
she at once supplied a remedy. One house was full of cracks; and while
the daughter was wearing an apron of cotton-cloth at four francs an ell,
the rain was falling on the grandmother's bed and the little children's
cradles. The roof and walls were repaired; we supplied the materials and
paid the workmen; but no more money for gaudy aprons. In another case,
an old woman had been reduced to beggary because she had listened too
well to her heart, and given all she had to her children, who had turned
her out of doors, or made her life so unbearable that she preferred to
be a tramp. We took up the old woman's cause, and threatened that we
would bring the matter before the courts at our own expense. Thus
we obtained for her a pension, to which we added when it was not
sufficient. We induced several old persons who were in a similar
position to combine and live together under the same roof. We chose one
as head, and gave him a little capital, and as he was an industrious and
methodical man, he turned it to such profit that his children came
and made their peace with him, and asked to be allowed to help in his

"We did many other things besides; I need not give you details, as you
will see them yourself. I say 'we,' because, though I did not wish to
be concerned in anything beyond what I had already done, I was gradually
drawn on and obliged to do more and more, to concern myself with many
things, and finally with everything. In short, it is I who make the
investigations, superintend the works, and conduct all negotiations.
Mademoiselle Edmee wished me to keep a sum of money by me, so that I
might dispose of it without consulting her first. This I have never
allowed myself to do; and, moreover, she has never once opposed any of
my ideas. But all this, you know, has meant much work and many worries.
Ever since the people realized that I was a little Turgot they have
grovelled before me, and that has pained me not a little. And so I have
various friends that I don't care for, and various enemies that I could
well do without. The sham poor owe me a grudge because I do not let
myself be duped by them; and there are perverse and worthless people
who think one is always doing too much for others, and never enough for
them. With all this bustle and all these bickerings, I can no longer
take my walk during the night, and my sleep during the day. I am now
Monsieur Patience, and no longer the sorcerer of Gazeau Tower; but alas!
I am a hermit no more; and, believe me, I would wish with all my heart
that I could have been born selfish, so that I might throw off my
harness, and return to my savage life and my liberty."

When Patience had given us this account of his work we complimented
him on it; but we ventured to express a doubt about his pretended
self-sacrifice; this magnificent garden seemed to indicate a compromise
with "those superfluous necessities," the use of which by others he had
always deplored.

"That?" he said, waving his arm in the direction of his inclosure. "That
does not concern me; they made it against my wishes; but, as they were
worthy folk and my refusal would have grieved them, I was obliged to
allow it. You must know that, if I have stirred ingratitude in many
hearts, I have also made a few happy ones grateful. So, two or three
families to whom I had done some service, tried all possible means to
give me pleasure in return; and, as I refused everything, they thought
they would give me a surprise. Once I had to pay a visit to Berthenoux
for several days, on some confidential business which had been entrusted
to me; for people have come to imagine me a very clever man, so easy
is it to pass from one extreme to another. On my return I found this
garden, marked out, planted and inclosed as you see it. In vain did I
get angry, and explain that I did not want to work, that I was too old,
and that the pleasure of eating a little more fruit was not worth the
trouble that this garden was going to cost me; they finished it without
heeding what I said, and declared that I need not trouble in the least,
because they would undertake to cultivate it for me. And, indeed, for
the last two years the good folk have not failed to come, now one and
now another, and give such time in each season as was necessary to keep
it in perfect order. Besides, though I have altered nothing in my own
ways of living, the produce of this garden has been very useful; during
the winter I was able to feed several poor people with my vegetables;
while my fruit has served to win the affection of the little children,
who no longer cry out 'wolf' when they see me, but have grown bold
enough to come and kiss the sorcerer. Other people have forced me to
accept presents of wine, and now and then of white bread, and cheeses
of cow's milk. All these things, however, only enable me to be polite to
the village elders when they come and report the deserving cases of the
place, so that I may make them known at the castle. These honours have
not turned my head, as you see; nay, more, I may say that when I have
done about all that I have to do, I shall leave the cares of greatness
behind me, and return to my philosopher's life, perhaps to Gazeau
Tower--who knows?"

We were now at the end of our walk. As I set foot on the steps of the
chateau, I was suddenly filled with a feeling of devoutness; I
clasped my hands and called upon Heaven in a sort of terror. A vague,
indefinable fear arose in me; I imagined all manner of things that might
hinder my happiness. I hesitated to cross the threshold of the house;
then I rushed forward. A mist came over my eyes, a buzzing filled my
ears. I met Saint-Jean, who, not recognising me, gave a loud cry and
threw himself in my path to prevent me from entering without being
announced. I pushed him aside, and he sank down astounded on one of the
hall chairs while I hastened to the door of the drawing-room. But,
just as I was about to throw it open, I was seized with a new fear and
checked myself; then I opened it so timidly that Edmee, who was occupied
at some embroidery on a frame, did not raise her eyes, thinking that
in this slight noise she recognised the respectful Saint-Jean. The
chevalier was asleep and did not wake. This old man, tall and thin like
all the Mauprats, was sitting with his head sunk on his breast; and his
pale, wrinkled face, which seemed already wrapped in the torpor of the
grave, resembled one of those angular heads in carved oak which adorned
the back of his big arm-chair. His feet were stretched out in front of a
fire of dried vine-branches, although the sun was warm and a bright ray
was falling on his white head and making it shine like silver. And how
could I describe to you my feelings on beholding Edmee? She was bending
over her tapestry and glancing from time to time at her father to notice
his slightest movements. But what patience and resignation were revealed
in her whole attitude! Edmee was not fond of needlework; her mind was
too vigorous to attach much importance to the effect of one shade by the
side of another shade, and to the regularity of one stitch laid against
another stitch. Besides, the blood flowed swiftly in her veins, and when
her mind was not absorbed in intellectual work she needed exercise in
the open air. But ever since her father, a prey to the infirmities of
old age, had been almost unable to leave his arm-chair, she had refused
to leave him for a single moment; and, since she could not always be
reading and working her mind, she had felt the necessity of taking
up some of those feminine occupations which, as she said, "are the
amusements of captivity." She had conquered her nature then in truly
heroic fashion. In one of those secret struggles which often take place
under our eyes without our suspecting the issue involved, she had done
more than subdue her nature, she had even changed the circulation of
her blood. I found her thinner; and her complexion had lost that first
freshness of youth which, like the bloom that the breath of morning
spreads over fruit, disappears at the slightest shock from without,
although it may have been respected by the heat of the sun. Yet in this
premature paleness and in this somewhat unhealthy thinness there seemed
to be an indefinable charm; her eyes, more sunken, but inscrutable as
ever, showed less pride and more melancholy than of old; her mouth
had become more mobile, and her smile was more delicate and less
contemptuous. When she spoke to me, I seemed to behold two persons in
her, the old and the new; and I found that, so far from having lost her
beauty, she had attained ideal perfection. Still, I remember several
persons at that time used to declare that she had "changed very much,"
which with them meant that she had greatly deteriorated. Beauty,
however, is like a temple in which the profane see naught but the
external magnificence. The divine mystery of the artist's thought
reveals itself only to profound sympathy, and the inspiration in each
detail of the sublime work remains unseen by the eyes of the vulgar. One
of your modern authors, I fancy, has said this in other words and much
better. As for myself, at no moment in her life did I find Edmee less
beautiful than at any other. Even in the hours of suffering, when beauty
in its material sense seems obliterated, hers but assumed a divine
form in my eyes, and in her face I beheld the splendour of a new moral
beauty. However, I am but indifferently endowed with artistic feeling,
and had I been a painter, I could not have created more than a single
type, that which filled my whole soul; for in the course of my long life
only one woman has seemed to me really beautiful; and that woman was

For a few seconds I stood looking at her, so touchingly pale, sad yet
calm, a living image of filial piety, of power in thrall to affection.
Then I rushed forward and fell at her feet without being able to say a
word. She uttered no cry, no exclamation of surprise, but took my head
in her two arms and held it for some time pressed to her bosom. In this
strong pressure, in this silent joy I recognised the blood of my race,
I felt the touch of a sister. The good chevalier, who had waked with a
start, stared at us in astonishment, his body bent forward and his elbow
resting on his knee; then he said:

"Well, well! What is the meaning of this?"

He could not see my face, hidden as it was in Edmee's breast. She pushed
me towards him; and the old man clasped me in his feeble arms with a
burst of generous affection that gave him back for a moment the vigour
of youth.

I leave you to imagine the questions with which I was overwhelmed, and
the attentions that were lavished on me. Edmee was a veritable mother
to me. Her unaffected kindness and confidence savoured so much of heaven
that throughout the day I could not think of her otherwise than if I had
really been her son.

I was very much touched at the pleasure they took in preparing a big
surprise for the abbe; I saw in this a sure proof of the delight he
would feel at my return. They made me hide under Edmee's frame, and
covered me with the large green cloth that was generally thrown over her
work. The abbe sat down quite close to me, and I gave a shout and seized
him by the legs. This was a little practical joke that I used to play
on him in the old days. When, throwing aside the frame, and sending the
balls of wool rolling over the floor, I came out from my hiding-place,
the expression of terror and delight on his face was most quaint.

But I will spare you all these family scenes to which my memory goes
back too readily.


An immense change had taken place in me during the course of six years.
I had become a man very much like other men; my instincts had managed to
bring themselves into harmony with my affections, my intuitions with my
reason. This social education had been carried on quite naturally; all
I had to do was to accept the lessons of experience and the counsels of
friendship. I was far from being a learned man; but I had developed a
power of acquiring solid learning very rapidly. My notions of things in
general were as clear as could be obtained at that time. Since then I
know that real progress has been made in human knowledge; I have watched
it from afar and have never thought of denying it. And as I notice that
not all men of my age show themselves as reasonable, it pleases me to
think that I was put on a fairly right road early in life, since I have
never stopped in the blind alley of errors and prejudices.

The progress I had made intellectually seemed to satisfy Edmee.

"I am not astonished at it," she said. "I could see it in your letters;
but I rejoice at it with a mother's pride."

My good uncle was no longer strong enough to engage in the old stormy
discussions; and I really think that if he had retained his strength
he would have been somewhat grieved to find that I was no longer the
indefatigable opponent who had formerly irritated him so persistently.
He even made a few attempts at contradiction to test me; but at this
time I should have considered it a crime to have gratified him. He
showed a little temper at this, and seemed to think that I treated him
too much as an old man. To console him I turned the conversation to the
history of the past, to the years through which he himself had lived,
and questioned him on many points wherein his experience served him
better than my knowledge. In this way I obtained many healthy notions
for the guidance of my own conduct, and at the same time I fully
satisfied his legitimate _amour propre_. He now conceived a friendship
for me from genuine sympathy, just as formerly he had adopted me from
natural generosity and family pride. He did not disguise from me that
his great desire, before falling into the sleep that knows no waking,
was to see me married to Edmee; and when I told him that this was the
one thought of my life, the one wish of my soul, he said:

"I know, I know. Everything depends on her, and I think she can no
longer have any reasons for hesitation. . . . At all events," he added,
after a moment's silence and with a touch of peevishness, "I cannot see
any that she could allege at present."

From these words, the first he had ever uttered on the subject which
most interested me, I concluded that he himself had long been favourable
to my suit, and that the obstacle, if one still existed, lay with Edmee.
My uncle's last remark implied a doubt which I dared not try to clear
up, and which caused me great uneasiness. Edmee's sensitive pride
inspired me with such awe, her unspeakable goodness filled me with such
respect that I dared not ask her point-blank to decide my fate. I made
up my mind to act as if I entertained no other hope than that she would
always let me be her brother and friend.

An event which long remained inexplicable afforded some distraction
to my thoughts for a few days. At first I had refused to go and take
possession of Roche-Mauprat.

"You really must," my uncle had said, "go and see the improvements I
have made in your property, the lands which have been brought under
cultivation, the cattle that I have put on each of your metayer-farms.
Now is the time for you to see how your affairs stand, and show your
tenants that you take an interest in their work. Otherwise, on my death,
everything will go from bad to worse and you will be obliged to let it,
which may bring you in a larger income, perhaps, but will diminish the
value of the property. I am too old now to go and manage your estate.
For the last two years I have been unable to leave off this miserable
dressing-gown; the abbe does not understand anything about it; Edmee has
an excellent head; but she cannot bring herself to go to that place; she
says she would be too much afraid, which is mere childishness."

"I know that I ought to display more courage," I replied; "and yet,
uncle, what you are asking me to do is for me the most difficult thing
in the world. I have not set foot on that accursed soil since the day
I left it, bearing Edmee away from her captors. It is as if you were
driving me out of heaven to send me on a visit to hell."

The chevalier shrugged his shoulders; the abbe implored me to bring
myself to do as he wished, as the reluctance I showed was a veritable
disappointment to my uncle. I consented, and with a determination to
conquer myself, I took leave of Edmee for two days. The abbe wanted to
accompany me, to drive away the gloomy thoughts which would no doubt
besiege me; but I had scruples about taking him from Edmee even for this
short time; I knew how necessary he was to her. Tied as she was to the
chevalier's arm-chair, her life was so serious, so retired, that the
least change was acutely felt. Each year had increased her isolation,
and it had become almost complete since the chevalier's failing health
had driven from his table those happy children of wine, songs, and
witticisms. He had been a great sportsman; and Saint Hubert's Day,
which fell on his birthday, had formerly brought all the nobility of the
province to his house. Year after year the courtyards had resounded with
the howls of the pack; year after year the stables had held their two
long rows of spirited horses in their glistening stalls; year after year
the sound of the horn had echoed through the great woods around, or sent
out its blast under the windows of the big hall at each toast of the
brilliant company. But those glorious days had long disappeared; the
chevalier had given up hunting; and the hope of obtaining his daughter's
hand no longer brought round his arm-chair young men, who were bored by
his old age, his attacks of gout, and the stories which he would repeat
in the evening without remembering that he had already told them in the
morning. Edmee's obstinate refusals and the dismissal of M. de la Marche
had caused great astonishment, and given rise to many conjectures
among the curious. One young man who was in love with her, and had been
rejected like the rest, was impelled by a stupid and cowardly conceit to
avenge himself on the only woman of his own class who, according to him,
had dared to repulse him. Having discovered that Edmee had been carried
off by the Hamstringers, he spread a report that she had spent a night
of wild debauch at Roche-Mauprat. At best, he only deigned to concede
that she had yielded only to violence. Edmee commanded too much respect
and esteem to be accused of having shown complaisance to the brigands;
but she soon passed for having been a victim of their brutality. Marked
with an indelible stain, she was no longer sought in marriage by any
one. My absence only served to confirm this opinion. I had saved her
from death, it was said, but not from shame, and it was impossible for
me to make her my wife; I was in love with her, and had fled lest I
should yield to the temptation to marry her. All this seemed so probable
that it would have been difficult to make the public accept the true
version. They were the less ready to accept it from the fact that Edmee
had been unwilling to put an end to the evil reports by giving her
hand to a man she could not love. Such, then, were the causes of her
isolation; it was not until later that I fully understood them. But I
could see the austerity of the chevalier's home and Edmee's melancholy
calm, and I was afraid to drop even a dry leaf in the sleeping waters.
Thus I begged the abbe to remain with them until my return. I took no
one with me except my faithful sergeant Marcasse. Edmee had declared
that he must not leave me, and had arranged that henceforth he was to
share Patience's elegant hut and administrative life.

I arrived at Roche-Mauprat one foggy evening in the early days of
autumn; the sun was hidden, and all Nature was wrapped in silence and
mist. The plains were deserted; the air alone seemed alive with the
noise of great flocks of birds of passage; cranes were drawing their
gigantic triangles across the sky, and storks at an immeasurable
height were filling the clouds with mournful cries, which fell upon the
saddened country like the dirge of parting summer. For the first time in
the year I felt a chilliness in the air. I think that all men are filled
with an involuntary sadness at the approach of the inclement season.
In the first hoar-frosts there is something which bids man remember the
approaching dissolution of his own being.

My companion and I had traversed woods and heaths without saying a
single word; we had made a long _detour_ to avoid Gazeau Tower, which I
felt I could not bear to look upon again. The sun was sinking in shrouds
of gray when we passed the portcullis at Roche-Mauprat. This portcullis
was broken; the drawbridge was never raised, and the only things that
crossed it now were peaceful flocks and their careless shepherds. The
fosses were half-filled, and the bluish osiers were already spreading
out their flexible branches over the shallow waters; nettles were
growing at the foot of the crumbling towers, and the traces of the
fire seemed still fresh upon the walls. The farm buildings had all been
repaired; and the court, full of cattle and poultry and sheep-dogs and
agricultural implements, contrasted strangely with the gloomy inclosure
in which I still seemed to see the red flames of the besiegers shooting
up, and the black blood of the Mauprats flowing.

I was received with the quiet and somewhat chilly hospitality of the
peasants of Berry. They did not lay themselves out to please me, but
they let me want for nothing. Quarters were found for me in the only
one of the old wings which had not been damaged in the siege, or
subsequently abandoned to the ravages of time. The massive architecture
of the body of the building dated from the tenth century; the door was
smaller than the windows, and the windows themselves gave so little
light that we had to take candles to find our way, although the sun had
hardly set. The building had been restored provisionally to serve as an
occasional lodging for the new seigneur or his stewards. My Uncle Hubert
had often been there to see to my interests so long as his strength had
allowed him; and they showed me to the room which he had reserved for
himself, and which had therefore been known as the master's room. The
best things that had been saved from the old furniture had been placed
there; and, as it was cold and damp, in spite of all the trouble they
had taken to make it habitable, the tenant's servant preceded me with a
firebrand in one hand and a fagot in the other.

Blinded by the smoke which she scattered round me in clouds, and
deceived by the new entrance which they had made in another part of the
courtyard, and by certain corridors which they had walled up to save the
trouble of looking after them, I reached the room without recognising
anything; indeed, I could not have said in what part of the old
buildings I was, to such an extent had the new appearance of the
courtyard upset my recollections, and so little had my mind in its gloom
and agitation been impressed by surrounding objects.

While the servant was lighting the fire, I threw myself into a chair,
and, burying my head in my hands, fell into a melancholy train of
thought. My position, however, was not without a certain charm; for the
past naturally appears in an embellished or softened form to the minds
of young men, those presumptuous masters of the future. When, by dint of
blowing the brand, the servant had filled the room with dense smoke, she
went off to fetch some embers and left me alone. Marcasse had remained
in the stable to attend to our horses. Blaireau had followed me;
lying down by the hearth, he glanced at me from time to time with a
dissatisfied air, as if to ask me the reason of such wretched lodging
and such a poor fire.

Suddenly, as I cast my eyes round the room, old memories seemed to
awaken in me. The fire, after making the green wood hiss, sent a flame
up the chimney, and the whole room was illumined with a bright
though unsteady light, which gave all the objects a weird, ambiguous
appearance. Blaireau rose, turned his back to the fire and sat down
between my legs, as if he thought that something strange and unexpected
was going to happen.

I then realized that this place was none other than my grandfather
Tristan's bed-room, afterward occupied for several years by his eldest
son, the detestable John, my cruelest oppressor, the most crafty and
cowardly of the Hamstringers. I was filled with a sense of terror and
disgust on recognising the furniture, even the very bed with twisted
posts on which my grandfather had given up his blackened soul to God,
amid all the torments of a lingering death agony. The arm-chair which I
was sitting in was the one in which John the Crooked (as he was pleased
to call himself in his facetious days) used to sit and think out his
villainies or issue his odious orders. At this moment I thought I saw
the ghosts of all the Mauprats passing before me, with their bloody
hands and their eyes dulled with wine. I got up and was about to yield
to the horror I felt by taking to flight, when suddenly I saw a figure
rise up in front of me, so distinct, so recognisable, so different in
its vivid reality from the chimeras that had just besieged me, that I
fell back in my chair, all bathed in a cold sweat. Standing by the
bed was John Mauprat. He had just got out, for he was holding the
half-opened curtain in his hand. He seemed to me the same as formerly,
only he was still thinner, and paler and more hideous. His head was
shaved, and his body wrapped in a dark winding-sheet. He gave me a
hellish glance; a smile full of hate and contempt played on his thin,
shrivelled lips. He stood motionless with his gleaming eyes fixed on me,
and seemed as if about to speak. In that instant I was convinced that
what I was looking on was a living being, a man of flesh and blood; it
seems incredible, therefore, that I should have felt paralyzed by such
childish fear. But it would be idle for me to deny it, nor have I ever
yet been able to find an explanation; I was riveted to the ground with
fear. The man's glance petrified me; I could not utter a sound. Blaireau
rushed at him; then he waved the folds of his funeral garment, like a
shroud all foul with the dampness of the tomb, and I fainted.

When I recovered consciousness Marcasse was by my side, anxiously
endeavouring to lift me. I was lying on the ground rigid as a corpse. It
was with a great difficulty that I collected my thoughts; but, as soon
as I could stand upright, I seized Marcasse and hurriedly dragged him
out of the accursed room. I had several narrow escapes of falling as
I hastened down the winding stairs, and it was only on breathing the
evening air in the courtyard, and smelling the healthy odour of the
stables, that I recovered the use of my reason.

I did not hesitate to look upon what had just happened as an
hallucination. I had given proof of my courage in war in the presence of
my worthy sergeant; I did not blush, therefore, to confess the truth
to him. I answered his questions frankly, and I described my horrible
vision with such minute details that he, too, was impressed with the
reality of it, and, as he walked about with me in the courtyard, kept
repeating with a thoughtful air:

"Singular, singular! Astonishing!"

"No, it is not astonishing," I said, when I felt that I had quite
recovered. "I experienced a most painful sensation on my way here;
for several days I had struggled to overcome my aversion to seeing
Roche-Mauprat again. Last night I had a nightmare, and I felt so
exhausted and depressed this morning that, if I had not been afraid of
offending my uncle, I should have postponed this disagreeable visit. As
we entered the place, I felt a chill come over me; there seemed to be a
weight on my chest, and I could not breathe. Probably, too, the pungent
smoke that filled the room disturbed my brain. Again, after all the
hardships and dangers of our terrible voyage, from which we have hardly
recovered, either of us, is it astonishing that my nerves gave way at
the first painful emotion?"

"Tell me," replied Marcasse, who was still pondering the matter, "did
you notice Blaireau at the moment? What did Blaireau do?"

"I thought I saw Blaireau rush at the phantom at the moment when it
disappeared; but I suppose I dreamt that like the rest."

"Hum!" said the sergeant. "When I entered, Blaireau was wildly excited.
He kept coming to you, sniffing, whining in his way, running to the
bed, scratching the wall, coming to me, running to you. Strange, that!
Astonishing, captain, astonishing, that!"

After a silence of a few moments:

"Devil don't return!" he exclaimed, shaking his head. "Dead never
return; besides, why dead, John? Not dead! Still two Mauprats! Who
knows? Where the devil? Dead don't return; and my master--mad? Never.
Ill? No."

After this colloquy the sergeant went and fetched a light, drew his
faithful sword from the scabbard, whistled Blaireau, and bravely seized
the rope which served as a balustrade for the staircase, requesting me
to remain below. Great as was my repugnance to entering the room again,
I did not hesitate to follow Marcasse, in spite of his recommendation.
Our first care was to examine the bed; but while we had been talking in
the courtyard the servant had brought clean sheets, had made the bed,
and was now smoothing the blankets.

"Who has been sleeping there?" asked Marcasse, with his usual caution.

"Nobody," she replied, "except M. le Chevalier or M. l'Abbe Aubert, in
the days when they used to come."

"But yesterday, or to-day, I mean?" said Marcasse.

"Oh! yesterday and to-day, nobody, sir; for it is quite two years since
M. le Chevalier came here; and as for M. l'Abbe, he never sleeps here,
now that he comes alone. He arrives in the morning, has lunch with us,
and goes back in the evening."

"But the bed was disarranged," said Marcasse, looking at her

"Oh, well! that may be, sir," she replied. "I do not know how they left
it the last time some one slept here; I did not pay any attention to
that as I put on the sheets; all I know is that M. Bernard's cloak was
lying on the top."

"My cloak?" I exclaimed. "It was left in the stable."

"And mine, too," said Marcasse. "I have just folded both together and
put them on the corn-bin."

"You must have had two, then," replied the servant; "for I am sure I
took one off the bed. It was a black cloak, not new."

Mine, as a fact, was lined with red and trimmed with gold lace.
Marcasse's was light gray. It could not, therefore, have been one of
our cloaks brought up for a moment by the man and then taken back to the

"But, what did you do with it?" said the sergeant.

"My word, sir," replied the fat girl, "I put it there, over the
arm-chair. You must have taken it while I went to get a candle. I can't
see it now."

We searched the room thoroughly; the cloak was not to be found. We
pretended that we needed it, not denying that it was ours. The servant
unmade the bed in our presence, and then went and asked the man what
he had done with it. Nothing could be found either in the bed or in the
room; the man had not been upstairs. All the farm-folk were in a state
of excitement, fearing that some one might be accused of theft. We
inquired if a stranger had not come to Roche-Mauprat, and if he was
not still there. When we ascertained that these good people had neither
housed or seen any one, we reassured them about the lost cloak by saying
that Marcasse had accidentally folded it with the two others. Then we
shut ourselves in the room, in order to explore it at our ease; for it
was now almost evident that what I had seen was by no means a ghost, but
John Mauprat himself, or a man very like him, whom I had mistaken for

Marcasse having aroused Blaireau by voice and gesture, watched all his

"Set your mind at rest," he said with pride; "the old dog has not
forgotten his old trade. If there is a hole, a hole as big as your hand,
have no fear. Now, old dog! Have no fear."

Blaireau, indeed, after sniffing everywhere, persisted in scratching the
wall where I had seen the apparition; he would start back every time his
pointed nose came to a certain spot in the wainscotting; then, wagging
his bushy tail with a satisfied air, he would return to his master as if
to tell him to concentrate his attention on this spot. The sergeant then
began to examine the wall and the woodwork; he tried to insinuate his
sword into some crack; there was no sign of an opening. Still, a door
might have been there, for the flowers carved on the woodwork would hide
a skilfully constructed sliding panel. The essential thing was to find
the spring that made this panel work; but that was impossible in spite
of all the efforts we made for two long hours. In vain did we try to
shake the panel; it gave forth the same sound as the others. They were
all sonorous, showing that the wainscot was not in immediate contact
with the masonry. Still, there might be a gap of only a few inches
between them. At last Marcasse, perspiring profusely, stopped, and said
to me:

"This is very stupid; if we searched all night we should not find a
spring if there is none; and however hard we hammered, we could not
break in the door if there happened to be big iron bars behind it, as I
have sometimes seen in other old country-houses."

"The axe might help us to find a passage," I said, "if there is one; but
why, simply because your dog scratches the wall, persist in believing
that John Mauprat, or the man who resembles him, could not have come in
and gone out by the door?"

"Come in, if you like," replied Marcasse, "but gone out--no, on my
honour! For, as the servant came down I was on the staircase brushing my
boots. As soon as I heard something fall here, I rushed up quickly three
stairs at a time, and found that it was you--like a corpse, stretched
out on the floor, very ill; no one inside nor outside, on my honour!

"In that case, then, I must have dreamt of my fiend of an uncle, and the
servant must have dreamt of the black cloak; for it is pretty certain
that there is no secret door here; and even if there were one, and all
the Mauprats, living and dead, knew the secret of it, what were that to
us? Do we belong to the police that we should hunt out these wretched
creatures? And if by chance we found them hidden somewhere, should we
not help them to escape, rather than hand them over to justice? We are
armed; we need not be afraid that they will assassinate us to-night; and
if they amuse themselves by frightening us, my word, woe betide them!
I have no eye for either relatives or friends when I am startled in my
sleep. So come, let us attack the omelette that these good people my
tenants are preparing for us; for if we continue knocking and scratching
the walls they will think we are mad."

Marcasse yielded from a sense of duty rather than from conviction. He
seemed to attach great importance to the discovery of this mystery, and
to be far from easy in his mind. He was unwilling to let me remain alone
in the haunted room, and pretended that I might fall ill again and have
a fit.

"Oh, this time," I said, "I shall not play the coward. The cloak has
cured me of my fear of ghosts; and I should not advise any one to meddle
with me."

The hildago was obliged to leave me alone. I loaded my pistols and put
them on the table within reach of my hand; but these precautions were a
pure waste of time; nothing disturbed the silence of the room, and
the heavy red silk curtains, with their coat of arms at the corners in
tarnished silver, were not stirred by the slightest breath. Marcasse
returned and, delighted at finding me as cheerful as he had left me,
began preparing our supper with as much care as if we had come to
Roche-Mauprat for the sole purpose of making a good meal. He made jokes
about the capon which was still singing on the spit, and about the wine
which was so like a brush in the throat. His good humour increased when
the tenant appeared, bringing a few bottles of excellent Madeira, which
had been left with him by the chevalier, who liked to drink a glass or
two before setting foot in the stirrup. In return we invited the worthy
man to sup with us, as the least tedious way of discussing business

"Good," he said; "it will be like old times when the peasants used to
eat at the table of the seigneurs of Roche-Mauprat. You are doing the
same, Monsieur Bernard, you are quite right."

"Yes, sir," I replied very coldly; "only I behave thus with those who
owe me money, not those to whom I owe it."

This reply, and the word "sir," frightened him so much that he was at
great pains to excuse himself from sitting down to table. However, I
insisted, as I wished to give him the measure of my character at once. I
treated him as a man I was raising to my own level, not as one to whom I
wished to descend. I forced him to be cleanly in his jokes, but allowed
him to be free and facetious within the limits of decent mirth. He was
a frank, jovial man. I questioned him minutely to discover if he was
not in league with the phantom who was in the habit of leaving his cloak
upon the bed. This, however, seemed far from probable; the man evidently
had such an aversion for the Hamstringers, that, had not a regard for
my relationship held him back, he would have been only too glad to have
given them such a dressing in my presence as they deserved. But I could
not allow him any license on this point; so I requested him to give me
an account of my property, which he did with intelligence, accuracy, and

As he withdrew I noticed that the Madeira had had considerable effect on
him; he seemed to have no control over his legs, which kept catching
in the furniture; and yet he had been in sufficient possession of his
faculties to reason correctly. I have always observed that wine acts
much more powerfully on the muscles of peasants than on their nerves;
that they rarely lose their heads, and that, on the contrary, stimulants
produce in them a bliss unknown to us; the pleasure they derive from
drunkenness is quite different from ours and very superior to our
febrile exaltation.

When Marcasse and I found ourselves alone, though we were not drunk, we
realized that the wine had filled us with gaiety and light-heartedness
which we should not have felt at Roche-Mauprat, even without the
adventure of the ghost. Accustomed as we were to speak our thoughts
freely, we confessed mutually, and agreed that we were much better
prepared than before supper to receive all the bogies of Varenne.

This word "bogey" reminded me of the adventure which had brought me into
far from friendly contact with Patience at the age of thirteen. Marcasse
knew about it already, but he knew very little of my character at that
time, and I amused myself by telling him of my wild rush across the
fields after being thrashed by the sorcerer.

"This makes me think," I concluded by saying, "that I have an
imagination which easily gets overexcited, and that I am not above fear
of the supernatural. Thus the apparition just now . . ."

"No matter, no matter," said Marcasse, looking at the priming of my
pistols, and putting them on the table by my bed. "Do not forget that
all the Hamstringers are not dead; that, if John is in this world, he
will do harm until he is under the ground, and trebly locked in hell."

The wine was loosening the hidalgo's tongue; on those rare occasions
when he allowed himself to depart from his usual sobriety, he was not
wanting in wit. He was unwilling to leave me, and made a bed for himself
by the side of mine. My nerves were excited by the incidents of the day,
and I allowed myself, therefore, to speak of Edmee, not in such a way as
to deserve the shadow of a reproach from her if she had heard my words,
but more freely than I might have spoken with a man who was as yet my
inferior and not my friend, as he became later. I could not say exactly
how much I confessed to him of my sorrows and hopes and anxieties; but
those confidences had a disastrous effect, as you will soon see.

We fell asleep while we were talking, with Blaireau at his master's
feet, the hidalgo's sword across his knees near the dog, the light
between us, my pistols ready to hand, my hunting-knife under my pillow,
and the bolts shot. Nothing disturbed our repose. When the sun awakened
us the cocks were crowing merrily in the courtyard, and the labourers
were cracking their rustic jokes as they yoked the oxen under our

"All the same there is something at the bottom of it."

Such was Marcasse's first remark as he opened his eyes, and took up the
conversation where he had dropped it the night before.

"Did you see or hear anything during the night?" I asked.

"Nothing at all," he replied. "All the same, Blaireau has been disturbed
in his sleep; for my sword has fallen down; and then, we found no
explanation of what happened here."

"Let who will explain it," I answered. "I shall certainly not trouble

"Wrong, wrong; you are wrong!"

"That may be, my good sergeant; but I do not like this room at all, and
it seems to me so ugly by daylight, that I feel that I must get far away
from it, and breathe some pure air."

"Well, I will go with you; but I shall return. I do not want to leave
this to chance. I know what John Mauprat is capable of; you don't."

"I do not wish to know; and if there is any danger here for myself or my
friends, I do not wish you to return."

Marcasse shook his head and said nothing. We went round the farm once
more before departing. Marcasse was very much struck with a certain
incident to which I should have paid but little attention. The farmer
wished to introduce me to his wife, but she could not be persuaded to
see me, and went and hid herself in the hemp-field. I attributed this to
the shyness of youth.

"Fine youth, my word!" said Marcasse; "youth like mine fifty years old
and more! There is something beneath it, something beneath, I tell you."

"What the devil can there be?"

"Hum! She was very friendly with John Mauprat in her day. She found
his crooked legs to her liking. I know about it; yes, I know many other
things, too; many things--you may take my word!"

"You shall tell me them the next time we come; and that will not be so
soon; for my affairs are going on much better than if I interfered with
them; and I should not like to get into the habit of drinking Madeira
to prevent myself from being frightened at my own shadow. And now,
Marcasse, I must ask you as a favour not to tell any one what has
happened. Everybody has not your respect for your captain."

"The man who does not respect my captain is an idiot," answered the
hidalgo, in a tone of authority; "but, if you order me, I will say

He kept his word. I would not on any account have had Edmee's mind
disturbed by this stupid tale. However, I could not prevent Marcasse
from carrying out his design; early the following morning he
disappeared, and I learnt from Patience that he had returned to
Roche-Mauprat under the pretence of having forgotten something.


While Marcasse was devoting himself to serious investigations, I was
spending days of delight and agony in Edmee's presence. Her behaviour,
so constant and devoted, and yet in many respects so reserved, threw me
into continual alternations of joy and grief. One day while I was taking
a walk the chevalier had a long conversation with her. I happened to
return when their discussion had reached its most animated stage. As
soon as I appeared, my uncle said to me:

"Here, Bernard; come and tell Edmee that you love her; that you will
make her happy; that you have got rid of your old faults. Do something
to get yourself accepted; for things cannot go on as they are. Our
position with our neighbours is unbearable; and before I go down to the
grave I should like to see my daughter's honour cleared from stain, and
to feel sure that some stupid caprice of hers will not cast her into a
convent, when she ought to be filling that position in society to which
she is entitled, and which I have worked all my life to win for her.
Come, Bernard, at her feet, lad! Have the wit to say something that will
persuade her! Otherwise I shall think--God forgive me!--that it is you
that do not love her and do not honestly wish to marry her."

"I! Great heavens!" I exclaimed. "Not wish to marry her--when for seven
years I have had no other thought; when that is the one wish of my
heart, and the only happiness my mind can conceive!"

Then I poured forth all the thoughts that the sincerest passion could
suggest. She listened to me in silence, and without withdrawing her
hands, which I covered with kisses. But there was a serious expression
in her eyes, and the tone of her voice made me tremble when, after
reflecting a few moments, she said:

"Father, you should not doubt my word; I have promised to marry Bernard;
I promised him, and I promised you; it is certain, therefore, that I
shall marry him."

Then she added, after a fresh pause, and in a still severe tone:

"But if, father, you believe that you are on the brink of the grave,
what sort of heart do you suppose I can have, that you bid me think only
of myself, and put on my wedding-dress in the hour of mourning for you?
If, on the contrary, you are, as I believe, still full of vigour, in
spite of your sufferings, and destined to enjoy the love of your family
for many a long year yet, why do you urge me so imperiously to cut
short the time I have requested? Is not the question important enough
to demand my most serious reflection? A contract which is to bind me for
the rest of my life, and on which depends, I do not say my happiness,
for that I would gladly sacrifice to your least wish, but the peace
of my conscience and the dignity of my conduct (since no woman can
be sufficiently sure of herself to answer for a future which has been
fettered against her will), does not such a contract bid me weigh all
its risks and all its advantages for several years at least?"

"Good God!" said the chevalier. "Have you not been weighing all this for
the last seven years? You ought to have arrived at some conclusion about
your cousin by now. If you are willing to marry him, marry him; but if
not, for God's sake say so, and let another man come forward."

"Father," replied Edmee, somewhat coldly, "I shall marry none but him."

"'None but him' is all very well," said the chevalier, tapping the logs
with the tongs; "but that does not necessarily mean that you will marry

"Yes, I will marry him, father," answered Edmee. "I could have wished
to be free a few months more; but since you are displeased at all these
delays, I am ready to obey your orders, as you know."

"Parbleu! that is a pretty way of consenting," exclaimed my uncle, "and
no doubt most gratifying to your cousin! By Jove! Bernard, I have lived
many years in this world, but I must own that I can't understand these
women yet, and it is very probable that I shall die without ever having
understood them."

"Uncle," I said, "I can quite understand my cousin's aversion for me; it
is only what I deserve. I have done all I could to atone for my errors.
But, is it altogether in her power to forget a past which has doubtless
caused her too much pain? However, if she does not forgive me, I will
imitate her severity: I will not forgive myself. Abandoning all hope in
this world, I will tear myself away from her and you, and chasten myself
with a punishment worse than death."

"That's it! Go on! There's an end of everything!" said the chevalier,
throwing the tongs into the fire. "That is just what you have been
aiming at, I suppose, Edmee?"

I had moved a few steps towards the door; I was suffering intensely.
Edmee ran after me, took me by the arm, and brought me back towards her

"It is cruel and most ungrateful of you to say that," she said. "Does
it show a modest spirit and generous heart, to forget a friendship, a
devotion, I may even venture to say, a fidelity of seven years, because
I ask to prove you for a few months more? And even if my affection for
you should never be as deep as yours for me, is what I have hitherto
shown you of so little account that you despise it and reject it,
because you are vexed at not inspiring me with precisely as much as you
think you are entitled to? You know at this rate a woman would have no
right to feel affection. However, tell me, is it your wish to punish
me for having been a mother to you by leaving me altogether, or to make
some return only on condition that I become your slave?"

"No, Edmee, no," I replied, with my heart breaking and my eyes full of
tears, as I raised her hand to my lips; "I feel that you have done far
more for me than I deserved; I feel that it would be idle to think of
tearing myself from your presence; but can you account it a crime in me
to suffer by your side? In any case it is so involuntary, so inevitable
a crime, that it must needs escape all your reproaches and all my own
remorse. But let us talk of this no more. It is all I can do. Grant me
your friendship still; I shall hope to show myself always worthy of you
in the future."

"Come, kiss each other," said the chevalier, much affected, "and never
separate. Bernard, however capricious Edmee may seem, never abandon
her, if you would deserve the blessing of your foster-father. Though you
should never be her husband, always be a brother to her. Remember, my
lad, that she will soon be alone in the world, and that I shall die
in sorrow if I do not carry with me to the grave a conviction that a
support and a defender still remains to her. Remember, too, that it is
on your account, on account of a vow, which her inclination, perhaps,
would reject, but which her conscience respects, that she is thus
forsaken and slandered . . ."

The chevalier burst into tears, and in a moment all the sorrows of the
unfortunate family were revealed to me.

"Enough, enough!" I cried, falling at their feet. "All this is too
cruel. I should be the meanest wretch on earth if I had need to be
reminded of my misdeeds and my duties. Let me weep at your knees; let
me atone for the wrong I have done you by eternal grief, by eternal
renunciation. Why not have driven me away when I did the wrong? Why not,
uncle, have blown out my brains with your pistol, as if I had been a
wild beast? What have I done to be spared, I who repaid your kindness
with the ruin of your honour? No, no; I can see that Edmee ought not to
marry me; that would be accepting the shame of the insult I have drawn
upon her. All I ask is to be allowed to remain here; I will never see
her face, if she makes this a condition; but I will lie at her door like
a faithful dog and tear to pieces the first man who dares to present
himself otherwise than on his knees; and if some day an honest man,
more fortunate than myself, shows himself worthy of her love, far
from opposing him, I will intrust to him the dear and sacred task of
protecting and vindicating her. I will be but a friend, a brother to
her, and when I see that they are happy together, I will go far away
from them and die in peace."

My sobs choked me; the chevalier pressed his daughter and myself to his
heart, and we mingled our tears, swearing to him that we would never
leave each other, either during his life or after his death.

"Still, do not give up all hope of marrying her," whispered the
chevalier to me a few moments later, when we were somewhat calmer. "She
has strange whims; but nothing will persuade me to believe that she does
not love you. She does not want to explain matters yet. Woman's will is
God's will."

"And Edmee's will is my will," I replied.

A few days after this scene, which brought the calmness of death into
my soul in place of the tumult of life, I was strolling in the park with
the abbe.

"I must tell you," he said, "of an adventure which befell me yesterday.
There is a touch of romance in it. I had been for a walk in the woods of
Briantes, and had made my way down to the spring of Fougeres. It was
as warm, you remember, as in the middle of summer; and our beautiful
plants, in their autumn red, seemed more beautiful than ever as they
stretched their delicate tracery over the stream. The trees have very
little foliage left; but the carpet of dried leaves one walks upon gives
forth a sound which to me is full of charm. The satiny trunks of the
birches and young oaks are covered with moss and creepers of all shades
of brown, and tender green, and red and fawn, which spread out into
delicate stars and rosettes, and maps of all countries, wherein the
imagination can behold new worlds in miniature. I kept gazing lovingly
on these marvels of grace and delicacy, these arabesques in which
infinite variety is combined with unfailing regularity, and as I
remembered with pleasure that you are not, like the vulgar, blind to
these adorable coquetries of nature, I gathered a few with the greatest
care, even bringing away the bark of the tree on which they had taken
root, in order not to destroy the perfection of their designs. I made
a little collection, which I left at Patience's as I passed; we will
go and see them, if you like. But, on our way, I must tell you what
happened to me as I approached the spring. I was walking upon the wet
stones with my head down, guided by the slight noise of the clear little
jet of water which bursts from the heart of the mossy rock. I was about
to sit down on the stone which forms a natural seat at the side of it,
when I saw that the place was already occupied by a good friar whose
pale, haggard face was half-hidden by his cowl of coarse cloth. He
seemed much frightened at my arrival; I did my best to reassure him by
declaring that my intention was not to disturb him, but merely to put my
lips to the little bark channel which the woodcutters have fixed to the
rock to enable one to drink more easily.

"'Oh, holy priest,' he said to me in the humblest tone, 'why are you
not the prophet whose rod could smite the founts of grace? and why
cannot my soul, like this rock, give forth a stream of tears?'

"Struck by the manner in which this monk expressed himself, by his sad
air, by his thoughtful attitude in this poetic spot, which has often
made me dream of the meeting of the Saviour and the woman of Samaria, I
allowed myself to be drawn into a more intimate conversation. I
learnt from the monk that he was a Trappist, and that he was making a
penitential tour.

"'Ask neither my name nor whence I come,' he said. 'I belong to an
illustrious family who would blush to know that I am still alive.
Besides, on entering the Trappist order, we abjure all pride in the
past; we make ourselves like new-born children; we become dead to the
world that we may live again in Jesus Christ. But of this be sure: you
behold in me one of the most striking examples of the miraculous power
of grace; and if I could make known to you the tale of my religious
life, of my terrors, my remorse, and my expiations, you would certainly
be touched by it. But of what avail the indulgence and compassion of
man, if the pity of God will not deign to absolve me?'

"You know," continued the abbe, "that I do not like monks, that I
distrust their humility and abhor their lives of inaction. But this man
spoke in so sad and kindly a manner; he was so filled with a sense
of his duty; he seemed so ill, so emaciated by asceticism, so truly
penitent, that he won my heart. In his looks and in his talk were bright
flashes which betrayed a powerful intellect, indefatigable energy, and
indomitable perseverance. We spent two whole hours together, and I was
so moved by what he said that on leaving him I expressed a wish to see
him again before he left this neighbourhood. He had found a lodging for
the night at the Goulets farm, and I tried in vain to persuade him to
accompany me to the chateau. He told me that he had a companion he could
not leave.

"'But, since you are so sympathetic,' he said, 'I shall esteem it a
pleasure to meet you here to-morrow towards sunset; perhaps I may
even venture to ask a favour of you; you can be of service to me in an
important matter which I have to arrange in this neighbourhood; more
than this I cannot tell you at the present moment.'

"I assured him that he could reckon on me, and that I should only be too
happy to oblige a man such as himself."

"And the result is, I suppose, that you are waiting impatiently for the
hour of your appointment?" I said to the abbe.

"I am," he replied; "and my new acquaintance has so many attractions for
me that, if I were not afraid of abusing the confidence he has placed in
me, I should take Edmee to the spring of Fougeres."

"I fancy," I replied, "that Edmee has something better to do than to
listen to the declamations of your monk, who perhaps, after all, is only
a knave, like so many others to whom you have given money blindly. You
will forgive me, I know, abbe; but you are not a good physiognomist, and
you are rather apt to form a good or bad opinion of people for no reason
except that your own romantic nature happens to feel kindly or timidly
disposed towards them."

The abbe smiled and pretended that I said this because I bore him a
grudge; he again asserted his belief in the Trappist's piety, and then
went back to botany. We passed some time at Patience's, examining the
collection of plants; and as my one desire was to escape from my own
thoughts, I left the hut with the abbe and accompanied him as far as the
wood where he was to meet the monk. In proportion as we drew near to
the place the abbe seemed to lose more and more of his eagerness of the
previous evening, and even expressed a fear that he had gone too
far. This hesitation, following so quickly upon enthusiasm, was very
characteristic of the abbe's mobile, loving, timid nature, with its
strange union of the most contrary impulses, and I again began to rally
him with all the freedom of friendship.

"Come, then," he said, "I should like to be satisfied about this; you
must see him. You can study his face for a few minutes, and then leave
us together, since I have promised to listen to his secrets."

As I had nothing better to do I followed the abbe; but as soon as we
reached a spot overlooking the shady rocks whence the water issues,
I stopped and examined the monk through the branches of a clump of
ash-trees. Seated immediately beneath us by the side of the spring, he
had his eyes turned inquiringly on the angle of the path by which he
expected the abbe to arrive; but he did not think of looking at the
place where we were, and we could examine him at our ease without being
seen by him.

No sooner had I caught sight of him than, with a bitter laugh, I took
the abbe by the arm, drew him back a short distance, and, not without
considerable agitation, said to him:

"My dear abbe, in bygone years did you never catch sight of the face of
my uncle, John de Mauprat?"

"Never, as far as I know," replied the abbe, quite amazed. "But what are
you driving at?"

"Only this, my friend; you have made a pretty find here; this good
and venerable Trappist, in whom you see so much grace and candour, and
contrition, and intelligence, is none other than John de Mauprat, the

"You must be mad!" cried the abbe, starting back. "John de Mauprat died
a long time ago."

"John Mauprat is not dead, nor perhaps Antony Mauprat either; and my
surprise is less than yours only because I have already met one of these
two ghosts. That he has become a monk, and is repenting for his sins,
is very possible; but alas! it is by no means impossible that he has
disguised himself in order to carry out some evil design, and I advise
you to be on your guard."

The abbe was so frightened that he no longer wanted to keep his
appointment. I suggested that it would be well to learn what the old
sinner was aiming at. But, as I knew the abbe's weak character, and
feared that my Uncle John would manage to win his heart by his lying
confessions and wheedle him into some false step, I made up my mind to
hide in a thicket whence I could see and hear everything.

But things did not happen as I had expected. The Trappist, instead of
playing the politician, immediately made known his real name to the
abbe. He declared that he was full of contrition, and that, as his
conscience would not allow him to make the monk's habit a refuge from
punishment (he had really been a Trappist for several years), he was
about to put himself into the hands of justice, that he might atone in
a striking way for the crimes with which he was polluted. This man,
endowed as he was with conspicuous abilities, had acquired a
mystic eloquence in the cloister. He spoke with so much grace and
persuasiveness that I was fascinated no less than the abbe. It was in
vain that the latter attempted to combat a resolution which appeared
to him insane; John Mauprat showed the most unflinching devotion to his
religious ideas. He declared that, having committed the crimes of the
old barbarous paganism, he could not ransom his soul save by a public
expiation worthy of the early Christians.

"It is possible," he said, "to be a coward with God as well as with man,
and in the silence of my vigils I hear a terrible voice answering to my
tears: 'Miserable craven, it is the fear of man that has thrown you upon
the bosom of God, and if you had not feared temporal death, you would
never have thought of life eternal!'

"Then I realize that what I most dread is not God's wrath, but the rope
and the hangman that await me among my fellows. Well, it is time to end
this sense of secret shame; not until the day when men crush me beneath
their abuse and punishment shall I fell absolved and restored in the
sight of Heaven; then only shall I account myself worthy to say to Jesus
my Saviour: 'Give ear to me, innocent victim, Thou who heardest the
penitent thief; give ear to a sullied but contrite victim, who has
shared in the glory of Thy martyrdom and been ransomed by Thy blood!'"

"If you persist in your enthusiastic design," said the abbe, after
unsuccessfully bringing forward all possible objections, "you must at
least let me know in what way you thought I could be of service to you."

"I cannot act in this matter," replied the Trappist, "without the
consent of a young man who will soon be the last of the Mauprats; for
the chevalier has not many days to wait before he will receive the
heavenly reward due to his virtues; and as for myself, I cannot avoid
the punishment I am about to seek, except by falling back into the
endless night of the cloister. I speak of Bernard Mauprat; I will not
call him my nephew, for if he heard me he would blush to think that he
bore this shameful title. I heard of his return from America, and this
news decided me to undertake the journey at the painful end of which you
now behold me."

It seemed to me that while he was saying this he kept casting
side-glances towards the clump of trees where I was, as if he had
guessed my presence there. Perhaps the movement of some branches had
betrayed me.

"May I ask," said the abbe, "what you now have in common with this young
man? Are you not afraid that, embittered by the harsh treatment formerly
lavished on him at Roche-Mauprat, he may refuse to see you?"

"I am certain that he will refuse; for I know the hatred that he still
has for me," said the Trappist, once more looking towards the spot where
I was. "But I hope that you will persuade him to grant me an interview;
for you are a good and generous man, Monsieur l'Abbe. You promised to
oblige me; and, besides, you are young Mauprat's friend, and you will
be able to make him understand that his interests are at stake and the
honour of his name."

"How so?" answered the abbe. "No doubt he will be far from pleased to
see you appear before the courts to answer for crimes which have since
been effaced in the gloom of the cloister. He will certainly wish you to
forego this public expiation. How can you hope that he will consent?"

"I have hope, because God is good and great; because His grace is
mighty; because it will touch the heart of him who shall deign to hear
the prayer of a soul which is truly penitent and deeply convinced;
because my eternal salvation is in the hands of this young man, and he
cannot wish to avenge himself on me beyond the grave. Moreover, I must
die at peace with those I have injured; I must fall at the feet of
Bernard Mauprat and obtain his forgiveness of my sins. My tears will
move him, or, if his unrelenting soul despises them, I shall at least
have fulfilled an imperious duty."

Seeing that he was speaking with a firm conviction that he was being
heard by me, I was filled with disgust; I thought I could detect the
deceit and cowardice that lay beneath this vile hypocrisy. I moved away
and waited for the abbe some distance off. He soon rejoined me; the
interview had ended by a mutual promise to meet again soon. The abbe had
undertaken to convey the Trappist's words to me, while the latter had
threatened in the most honeyed tone in the world to come and see me if I
refused his request. The abbe and I agreed to consult together, without
informing the chevalier or Edmee, that we might not disquiet them
unnecessarily. The Trappist had gone to stay at La Chatre, at the
Carmelite convent; this had thoroughly aroused the abbe's suspicions,
in spite of his first enthusiasm at the penitence of the sinner. The
Carmelites had persecuted him in his youth, and in the end the prior
had driven him to secularize himself. The prior was still alive, old
but implacable; infirm, and withdrawn from the world, but strong in his
hatred, and his passion for intrigue. The abbe could not hear his name
without shuddering, and he begged me to act prudently in this affair.

"Although John Mauprat," he said, "is under the bane of the law, and you
are at the summit of honour and prosperity, do not despise the weakness
of your enemy. Who knows what cunning and hatred may do? They can usurp
the place of the just and cast him out on the dung-heap; they can
fasten their crimes on others and sully the robe of innocence with their
vileness. Maybe you have not yet finished with the Mauprats."

The poor abbe did not know that there was so much truth in his words.


After thoroughly reflecting on the Trappist's probable intentions, I
decided that I ought to grant him the interview he had requested. In any
case, John Mauprat could not hope to impose upon me, and I wished to do
all in my power to prevent him from pestering my great-uncle's last days
with his intrigues. Accordingly, the very next day I betook myself
to the town, where I arrived towards the end of Vespers. I rang, not
without emotion, at the door of the Carmelites.

The retreat chosen by the Trappist was of those innumerable mendicant
societies which France supported at that time. Though its rules
were ostensibly most austere, this monastery was rich and devoted to
pleasure. In that age of scepticism the small number of the monks was
entirely out of proportion to the wealth of the establishment which
had been founded for them; and the friars who roamed about the vast
monasteries in the most remote parts of the provinces led the easiest
and idlest lives they had ever known, in the lap of luxury, and entirely
freed from the control of opinion, which always loses its power when man
isolates himself. But this isolation, the mother of the "amiable vices,"
as they used to phrase it, was dear only to the more ignorant. The
leaders were a prey to the painful dreams of an ambition which had been
nurtured in obscurity and embittered by inaction. To do something, even
in the most limited sphere and with the help of the feeblest machinery;
to do something at all costs--such was the one fixed idea of the priors
and abbes.

The prior of the Carmelites whom I was about to see was the
personification of this restless impotence. Bound to his great arm-chair
by the gout, he offered a strange contrast to the venerable chevalier,
pale and unable to move like himself, but noble and patriarchal in his
affliction. The prior was short, stout, and very petulant. The upper
part of his body was all activity; he would turn his head rapidly from
side to side; he would brandish his arms while giving orders. He was
sparing of words, and his muffled voice seemed to lend a mysterious
meaning to the most trivial things. In short, one-half of his person
seemed to be incessantly striving to drag along the other, like the
bewitched man in the Arabian Nights, whose robe hid a body that was
marble up to the waist.

He received me with exaggerated attention, got angry because they did
not bring me a chair quickly enough, stretched out his fat, flabby hand
to draw this chair quite close to his own, and made a sign to a tall,
bearded satyr, whom he called the Brother Treasurer, to go out; then,
after overwhelming me with questions about my journey, and my return,
and my health, and my family, while his keen restless little eyes
were darting glances at me from under eyelids swollen and heavy from
intemperance, he came to the point.

"I know, my dear child," he said, "what brings you here; you wish to
pay your respects to your holy relative, to the Trappist, that model of
faith and holiness whom God has sent to us to serve as an example to the
world, and reveal to all the miraculous power of grace."

"Prior," I answered, "I am not a good enough Christian to judge of the
miracle you mention. Let devout souls give thanks to Heaven for it. For
myself, I have come here because M. Jean de Mauprat desires to inform
me, as he has said, of plans which concern myself, and to which I am
ready to listen. If you will allow me to go and see him----"

"I did not want him to see you before myself, young man," exclaimed the
prior, with an affectation of frankness, at the same time seizing my
hands in his, at the touch of which I could not repress a feeling of
disgust. "I have a favour to ask of you in the name of charity, in the
name of the blood which flows in your veins . . ."

I withdrew one of my hands, and the prior, noticing my expression of
displeasure, immediately changed his tone with admirable skill.

"You are a man of the world, I know. You have a grudge against him who
once was Jean de Mauprat, and who to-day is the humble Brother Jean
Nepomucene. But if the precepts of our divine Master, Jesus Christ,
cannot persuade you to pity, there are considerations of public
propriety and of family pride which must make you share my fears and
assist my efforts. You know the pious but rash resolution which Brother
John has formed; you ought to assist me in dissuading him from it, and
you will do so, I make no doubt."

"Possibly, sir," I replied very coldly; "but might I ask to what my
family is indebted for the interest you are good enough to take in its

"To that spirit of charity which animates all the followers of Christ,"
answered the monk, with very well assumed dignity.

Fortified with this pretext, on the strength of which the clergy have
always taken upon themselves to meddle in all family secrets, it was not
difficult for him to put an end to my questions; and, though he could
not destroy the suspicions which I felt at heart, he succeeded in
proving to my ears that I ought to be grateful to him for the care which
he had taken of the honour of my name. I wanted to find out what he was
driving at; it was as I had foreseen. My Uncle John claimed from me his
share in the fief of Roche-Mauprat; and the prior was deputed to make
me understand that I had to choose between paying a considerable sum of
money (for he spoke of the interest accruing through the seven years of
possession, besides a seventh part of the whole estate) and the insane
step he intended taking, the scandal of which could not fail to
hasten the chevalier's death and cause me, perhaps, "strange personal
embarrassments." All this was hinted with consummate skill under the
cover of the most Christian solicitude for my own welfare, the most
fervent admiration for the Trappist's zeal, and the most sincere anxiety
about the results of this "firm resolve." Finally, it was made evident
that John Mauprat was not coming to ask me for the means of existence,
but that I should have to humbly beseech him to accept the half of
my possessions, if I wished to prevent him from dragging my name and
probably my person to the felon's dock.

I tried a final objection.

"If," I said, "this resolve of Brother Nepomucene, as you call him, is
as fixed as you say; if the only one care he has in the world is for his
own salvation, will you explain to me how the attractions of temporal
wealth can possibly turn him from it? There seems to be a contradiction
in this which I fail to understand."

The prior was somewhat embarrassed by the piercing glance I turned
on him, but he immediately started on one of those exhibitions of
simplicity which are the supreme resource of rogues:

"Mon Dieu! my dear son," he exclaimed, "you do not know, then, the
immense consolation a pious soul can derive from the possession of
worldly wealth? Just as perishable riches must be despised when they
represent vain pleasures, even so must they be resolutely defended by
the upright man when they afford him the means of doing good. I will
not hide from you that if I were the holy Trappist I would not yield my
rights to any one; I would found a religious society for the propagation
of the faith and the distribution of alms with the wealth which, in the
hands of a brilliant young nobleman like yourself, is only squandered on
horses and dogs. The Church teaches us that by great sacrifices and
rich offerings we may cleanse our souls of the blackest sins. Brother
Nepomucene, a prey to holy fear, believes that a public expiation is
necessary for his salvation. Like a devout martyr, he wishes to satisfy
the implacable justice of men with blood. But how much sweeter for you
(and safer, at the same time) to see him raise some holy altar to the
glory of God, and hide in the blessed peace of the cloister the baleful
lustre of the name he has already abjured! He is so much swayed by the
spirit of his order, he has conceived such a love for self-denial, for
humility and poverty, that it will need all my efforts and much help
from on high to make him agree to this change of expiations."

"It is you, then, prior, who from sheer goodness of heart are
undertaking to alter this fatal resolution? I admire your zeal, and I
thank you for it; but I do not think there will be any need of all these
negotiations. M. Jean de Mauprat claims his share of the inheritance;
nothing can be more just. Even should the law refuse all civil rights
to a man who owed his safety only to flight (a point which I will pass
over), my relative may rest assured that there would never be the least
dispute between us on this ground, if I were the absolute possessor
of any fortune whatever. But you are doubtless aware that I owe the
enjoyment of this fortune only to the kindness of my great-uncle, the
Chevalier Hubert de Mauprat; that he had enough to do to pay the debts
of the family, which amounted to more than the total value of the
estate; that I can alienate nothing without his permission, and that,
in reality, I am merely the depositary of a fortune which I have not yet

The prior stared at me in astonishment, as if dazed by an unexpected
blow. Then he smiled with a crafty expression, and said:

"Very good! It appears that I have been mistaken, and that I must apply
to M. Hubert de Mauprat. I will do so; for I make no doubt that he will
be very grateful to me for saving his family from a scandal which may
have very good results for one of his relatives in the next world, but
which, for a certainty, will have very bad ones for another relation in
the present world."

"I understand, sir," I replied. "This is a threat. I will answer in the
same strain: If M. Jean de Mauprat ventures to importune my uncle and
cousin, it is with me that he will have to deal; and it will not be
before the courts that I shall summon him to answer for certain outrages
which I have by no means forgotten. Tell him that I shall grant no
pardon to the Trappist penitent unless he remains faithful to the role
he has adopted. If M. Jean de Mauprat is without resources, and he asks
my help, I may, out of the income I receive, furnish him with the means
of living humbly and decently, according to the spirit of the vows he
has taken; but if ecclesiastical ambition has taken possession of his
mind, and he thinks, by stupid, childish threats, to intimidate my
uncle to such an extent that he will be able to extort from him the
wherewithal to satisfy his new tastes, let him undeceive himself--tell
him so from me. The old man's peace of mind and his daughter's future
have only myself as guardian, and I shall manage to guard them, though
it be at the risk of my life and my honour."

"And yet honour and life are of some importance at your age," replied
the abbe, visibly irritated, but feigning a suaver manner than ever.
"Who knows into what folly religious fervour may lead the Trappist?
For, between ourselves be it said, my child--you see, I am a man of
moderation--I knew the world in my youth, and I do not approve of these
violent resolves, which are more often dictated by pride than piety.
For instance, I have consented to temper the austerity of our rules; my
friars look well-fed, and they wear shirts. Rest assured, my good sir, I
am far from approving of your uncle's design, and I shall do all that
is possible to hinder it. Yet, if he still persists, how will my efforts
profit you? He has obtained his superior's permission, and may, after
all, yield to his fatal inspiration. You may be seriously compromised by
an affair of this kind; for, although reports say that you are a worthy
young gentleman, though you have abjured the errors of the past, and
though, perhaps, your soul has always hated iniquity, you have certainly
been involved in many misdeeds which human laws condemn and punish. Who
can tell into what involuntary revelations Brother Nepomucene may
find himself drawn if he sets in motion the machinery of criminal
proceedings? Can he set it in motion against himself without at the same
time setting it in motion against you? Believe me, I wish for peace--I
am a kindly man."

"Yes, a very kindly man, father," I answered, in a tone of irony. "I see
that perfectly. But do not let this matter cause you needless anxiety;
for there is one very clear argument which must reassure both of us. If
a veritable religious impulse urges Brother John the Trappist to make a
public reparation, it will be easy to make him understand that he ought
to hesitate before he drags another than himself into the abyss; the
spirit of Christ forbids him to do this. But, if the truth is, as I
presume, that M. Jean de Mauprat has not the least wish to hand himself
over to justice, his threats are but little calculated to terrify me,
and I shall take steps to prevent them from making more stir than is

"So that is the only answer I am to give him?" asked the prior, darting
a vindictive glance at me.

"Yes, sir," I replied; "unless he would prefer to come here and receive
the answer from my own mouth. I came with a determination to conquer
the disgust which his presence arouses in me; and I am astonished that,
after expressing so much eagerness to see me, he should remain in the
background when I arrive."

"Sir," answered the prior, with ridiculous majesty, "my duty is to see
that the peace of our Lord reigns in this holy place. I must,
therefore, set myself against any interview which might lead to violent
explanations . . ."

"You are much too easily frightened, sir," I replied. "There is nothing
to arouse passion in this matter. However, as it was not I who called
for these explanations, and as I came here out of pure compliance, I
most willingly refrain from pushing them further, and I thank you for
having been good enough to act as intermediary."

With that, I made a profound bow and retired.


I gave an account of this interview to the abbe, who was waiting for
me at Patience's. He was entirely of my own opinion; he thought, like
myself, that the prior, so far from endeavouring to turn the Trappist
from his pretended designs, was trying with all his power to frighten
me, in the hope that I should be brought to make considerable sacrifices
of money. In his eyes it was clear that this old man, faithful to the
monkish spirit, wished to put into the hands of a clerical Mauprat the
fruit of the labours and thrift of a lay Mauprat.

"That is the indelible mark of the Catholic clergy," he said. "They
cannot live without waging war on the families around them, and being
ever on the watch for opportunities to spoil them. They look upon this
wealth as their property, and upon all ways of recovering it as lawful.
It is not as easy as you think to protect one's self against this
smooth-faced brigandage. Monks have stubborn appetites and ingenious
minds. Act with caution and be prepared for anything. You can never
induce a Trappist to show fight. Under the shelter of his hood, with
head bowed and hands crossed, he will accept the cruelest outrages; and,
knowing quite well that you will not assassinate him, he will hardly
fear you. Again, you do not know what justice can become in man's
hands, and how a criminal trial is conducted and decided when one of
the parties will not stick at any kind of bribery and intimidation.
The Church is powerful, the law grandiloquent. The words 'honesty' and
'integrity' have for centuries been ringing against the hardened walls
of courts of justice; but that has not prevented judges from being
false or verdicts from being iniquitous. Have a care; have a care! The
Trappist may start the cowled pack on his own track and throw them off
by disappearing at the right point and leading them on yours. Remember
that you have wounded many an _amour propre_ by disappointing the
pretensions of the dowry-hunters. One of the most incensed of them,
and at the same time one of the most malicious, is a near relative of a
magistrate who is all-powerful in the province. De la Marche has given
up the gown for the sword; but among his old colleagues he may have left
some one who would like to do you an ill-turn. I am sorry you were not
able to join him in America, and get on good terms with him. Do not
shrug your shoulders; you may kill a dozen of them, and things will
go from bad to worse. They will avenge themselves; not on your life,
perhaps, for they know that you hold that cheap, but on your honour; and
your great-uncle will die of grief. In short--"

"My dear abbe," I said, interrupting him, "you have a habit of seeing
everything black at the first glance, when you do not happen to see the
sun in the middle of the night. Now let me tell you some things which
ought to drive out these gloomy presentiments. I know John Mauprat of
old; he is a signal impostor, and, moreover, the rankest of cowards. He
will sink into the earth at the sight of me, and as soon as I speak I
will make him confess that he is neither Trappist, nor monk, nor saint.
All this is a mere sharper's trick. In the old days I have heard him
making plans which prevent me from being astonished at his impudence
now; so I have but little fear of him."

"There you are wrong," replied the abbe. "You should always fear a
coward, because he strikes from behind while you are expecting him in
front. If John Mauprat were not a Trappist, if the papers he showed me
were lies, the prior of the Carmelites is too shrewd and cautious to
have let himself be deceived. Never would he have espoused the cause of
a layman, and never would he mistake a layman for one of his own cloth.
However, we must make inquiries; I will write to the superior of the
Trappist monastery at once, but I am certain he will confirm what I know
already. It is even possible that John Mauprat is a genuine devotee.
Nothing becomes such a character better than certain shades of the
Catholic spirit. The inquisition is the soul of the Church, and the
inquisition should smile on John Mauprat. I firmly believe that he
would give himself up to the sword of justice solely for the pleasure
of compassing your ruin with his own, and that the desire to found a
monastery with your money is a sudden inspiration, the honour of which
belongs entirely to the prior of the Carmelites . . ."

"That is hardly probable, my dear abbe," I said. "Besides, where can
these discussions lead us? Let us act. Let us keep the chevalier in
sight, so that the unclean beast may not come and poison the calm of his
last days. Write to the Trappist superior; I will offer the creature
a pension, and when he comes, let us carefully watch his slightest
movements. My sergeant, Marcasse, is an admirable bloodhound. Let us put
him on the track, and if he can manage to tell us in vulgar speech what
he has seen and heard, we shall soon know everything that is happening
in the province."

Chatting thus, we arrived at the chateau towards the close of day. As
I entered the silent building, I was seized with a fond, childish
uneasiness, such as may come upon a mother when she leaves her babe a
moment. The eternal security which nothing had ever disturbed within the
bounds of the old sacred walls, the decrepitude of the servants, the way
in which the doors always stood open, so that beggars would sometimes
enter the drawing-room without meeting any one and without giving
umbrage--the whole atmosphere of peace and trust and isolation--formed
a strange contrast to the thoughts of strife, and the cares with which
John's return and the prior's threats had filled my mind for some
hours. I quickened my pace, and, seized with an involuntary trembling, I
crossed the billiard-room. At that moment I thought I saw a dark shadow
pass under the windows of the ground floor, glide through the jasmines,
and disappear in the twilight. I threw open the door of the drawing-room
and stood still. There was not a sound, not a movement. I was going
to look for Edmee in her father's room, when I thought I saw something
white moving near the chimney-corner where the chevalier always sat.

"Edmee! Is that you?" I exclaimed.

No one answered. My brow was covered with a cold sweat and my knees
were trembling. Ashamed of this strange weakness, I rushed towards the
hearth, repeating Edmee's name in agonized tones.

"Have you come at last, Bernard?" she replied, in a trembling voice.

I seized her in my arms. She was kneeling beside her father's arm-chair
and pressing to her lips the old man's icy hands.

"Great God!" I cried, when by the dim light in the room I could
distinguish the chevalier's livid face. "Is our father dead?"

"Perhaps," she said, in a stifled voice; "perhaps he has only fainted,
please God! But, a light, for Heaven's sake! Ring the bell! He has only
been in this state for a moment."

I rang in all haste. The abbe now came in, and fortunately we succeeded
in bringing my uncle back to life.

But when he opened his eyes, his mind seemed to be struggling against
the impressions of a fearful dream.

"Has he gone? Has the vile phantom gone?" he repeated several times.
"Ho, there, Saint-Jean! My pistols! Now, my men! Throw the fellow out of
the window!"

I began to suspect the truth.

"What has happened?" I said the Edmee, in a low tone. "Who has been here
in my absence?"

"If I told you," answered Edmee, "you would hardly believe it. You
would think my father and I were mad. But I will tell you everything
presently; let us attend to him."

With her soft words and loving attentions she succeeded in calming the
old man. We carried him to his room, and he fell into a quiet sleep.
When Edmee had gently withdrawn her hand from his and lowered the wadded
curtain over his head, she joined the abbe and myself, and told us that
a quarter of an hour before we returned a mendicant friar had entered
the drawing-room, where, as usual, she was embroidering near her
father, who had fallen asleep. Feeling no surprise at an incident
which frequently happened, she had risen to get her purse from the
mantel-piece, at the same time addressing a few words to the monk. But
just as she was turning round to offer him an alms the chevalier had
awakened with a start, and eyeing the monk from head to foot, had cried
in a tone half of anger and half of fear:

"What the devil are you doing here in that garb?"

Thereupon Edmee had looked at the monk's face and had recognised . . .

"A man you would never dream of," she said; "the frightful John Mauprat.
I had only seen him a single hour in my life, but that repulsive face
has never left my memory, and I have never had the slightest attack of
fever without seeing it again. I could not repress a cry.

"'Do not be afraid,' he said, with a hideous smile. 'I come here not as
an enemy, but as a supplicant.'

"And he went down on his knees so near my father, that, not knowing
what he might do, I rushed between them, and hastily pushed back the
arm-chair to the wall. Then the monk, speaking in a mournful tone, which
was rendered still more terrifying by the approach of night, began to
pour out some lamentable rigmarole of a confession, and ended by asking
pardon for his crimes, and declaring that he was already covered by the
black veil which parricides wear when they go to the scaffold.

"'This wretched creature has gone mad,' said my father, pulling the

"But Saint-Jean is deaf, and he did not come. So we had to sit in
unspeakable agony and listen to the strange talk of the man who calls
himself a Trappist and declares that he had come to give himself up to
justice in expiation of his transgressions. Before doing so, he wished
to implore my father's forgiveness and his last blessing. While saying
this he was moving forward on his knees, and speaking with an intense
passion. In the sound of this voice, uttering words of extravagant
humility, there seemed to be insult and a menace. As he continued moving
nearer to my father, and as the idea of the foul caresses which he
apparently wished to lavish on him filled me with disgust, I ordered
him in a somewhat imperious tone to rise and speak becomingly. My father
angrily ordered him to say no more and depart; and as at this moment
he cried, 'No, you must let me clasp your knees!' I pushed him back to
prevent him from touching my father. I shudder to think that my glove
has touched that unclean gown. He turned towards me, and, though he
still feigned penitence and humility, I could see rage gleaming in his
eyes. My father made a violent effort to get up, and in fact he got up,
as if by a miracle; but the next instant he fell back fainting in his
chair. Then steps were heard in the billiard-room, and the monk rushed
out by the glass door with the speed of lightning. It was then that you
found me half-dead and frozen with terror at the feet of my prostate

"The abominable coward has lost no time, you see, abbe," I cried. "His
aim was to frighten the chevalier and Edmee, and he has succeeded; but
he reckoned without me, and I swear that--though he should have to be
treated in the Roche-Mauprat fashion--if he ever dares to come here

"That is enough, Bernard," said Edmee. "You make me shudder. Speak
seriously, and tell me what all this means."

When I had informed her of what had happened to the abbe and myself, she
blamed us for not warning her.

"Had I known," she said, "what to expect I should not have been
frightened, and I could have taken care never to be left alone in the
house with my father, and Saint-Jean, who is hardly more active. Now,
however, I am no longer afraid; I shall be on my guard. But the best
thing, Bernard dear, is to avoid all contact with this loathsome man,
and to make him as liberal an allowance as possible to get rid of him.
The abbe is right; he may prove formidable. He knows that our kinship
with him must always prevent us from summoning the law to protect us
against his persecutions; and though he cannot injure us as seriously
as he flatters himself, he can at least cause us a thousand annoyances,
which I am reluctant to face. Throw him gold and let him take himself
off. But do not leave me again, Bernard; you see you have become
absolutely necessary to me; brood no more over the wrong you pretend to
have done me."

I pressed her hand in mine, and vowed never to leave her, though she
herself should order me, until this Trappist had freed the country from
his presence.

The abbe undertook the negotiations with the monastery. He went into
the town the following day, carrying from me a special message to the
Trappist that I would throw him out of the window if he ever took it
into his head to appear at Sainte-Severe again. At the same time I
proposed to supply him with money, even liberally, on condition that
he would immediately withdraw to his convent or to any other secular
or religious retreat he might choose, and that he would never again set
foot in Berry.

The prior received the abbe with all the signs of profound contempt and
holy aversion for his state of heresy. Far from attempting to wheedle
him like myself, he told him that he wished to have nothing to do with
this business, that he washed his hands of it, and that he would confine
himself to conveying the decisions on both sides, and affording a refuge
to Brother Nepomucene, partly out of Christian charity, and partly to
edify his monks by the example of a truly devout man. According to him,
Brother Nepomucene would be the second of that name placed in the front
rank of the heavenly host by virtue of the canons of the Church.

The next day the abbe was summoned to the convent by a special
messenger, and had an interview with the Trappist. To his great
surprise, he found that the enemy had changed his tactics. He
indignantly refused help of any sort, declaring that his vow of poverty
and humility would not allow it; and he strongly blamed his dear host,
the prior, for daring to suggest, without his consent, an exchange
of things eternal for things temporal. On other matters he refused to
explain his views, and took refuge in ambiguous and bombastic replies.
God would inspire him, he said, and at the approaching festival of the
Virgin, at the august and sublime hour of holy communion, he expected to
hear the voice of Jesus speaking to his heart and announcing the line of
conduct he ought to follow. The abbe was afraid of betraying uneasiness,
if he insisted on probing this "Christian mystery," so he returned with
this answer, which was least of all calculated to reassure me. He did
not appear again either at the castle or in the neighbourhood, and kept
himself so closely shut up in the convent that few people ever saw his
face. However, it soon became known, and the prior was most active in
spreading the news, that John Mauprat had been converted to the most
zealous and exemplary piety, and was now staying at the Carmelite
convent for a term, as a penitent from La Trappe. Every day they
reported some fresh virtuous trait, some new act of austerity of this
holy personage. Devotees, with a thirst for the marvellous, came to see
him, and brought him a thousand little presents, which he obstinately
refused. At times he would hide so well that people said he had returned
to his monastery; but just as we were congratulating ourselves on
getting rid of him, we would hear that he had recently inflicted some
terrible mortifications on himself in sackcloth and ashes; or else that
he had gone barefooted on a pilgrimage into some of the wildest and most
desolate parts of Varenne. People went so far as to say that he could
work miracles. If the prior had not been cured of his gout, that was
because, in a spirit of true penitence, he did not wish to be cured.

This state of uncertainty lasted almost two months.


These days, passed in Edmee's presence, were for me days of delight, yet
of suffering. To see her at all hours, without fear of being indiscreet,
since she herself would summon me to her side, to read to her, talk with
her on all subjects, share the loving attentions she bestowed on her
father, enter into half her life exactly as if we had been brother
and sister--this was great happiness, no doubt, but it was a dangerous
happiness, and again the volcano kindled in my breast. A few confused
words, a few troubled glances betrayed me. Edmee was by no means blind,
but she was impenetrable; her dark and searching eyes, fixed on me as
on her father, with the solicitude of an absorbing affection, would at
times suddenly grow cold, just as the violence of my passion was ready
to break out. Her countenance would then express nothing but patient
curiosity and an unswerving resolve to read to the bottom of my soul
without letting me see even the surface of her own.

My sufferings, though acute, were dear to me at first; it pleased me to
think that I was secretly offering them to Edmee as an expiation of my
past faults. I hoped that she would perceive this and be satisfied with
me. She saw it, and said nothing. My agony grew more intense; but still
some days passed before I lost all power to hide it. I say days, because
whoever has loved a woman, and has been much alone with her, yet always
kept in check by her severity, must have found days like centuries. How
full life seemed and yet how consuming! What languor and unrest! What
tenderness and rage! It was as though the hours were years; and at this
very day, if I did not bring in dates to rectify the error of my memory,
I could easily persuade myself that these two months filled half my

Perhaps, too, I should like to persuade myself of this, in order to find
some excuse for the foolish and culpable conduct into which I fell in
spite of all the good resolutions which I had but lately formed. The
relapse was so sudden and complete that I should still blush at the
thought, if I had not cruelly atoned for it, as you will soon see.

After a night of agony, I wrote her an insane letter which came nigh to
producing terrible consequences for me; it was somewhat as follows:

"You do not love me, Edmee; you will never love me. I know this; I
ask for nothing, I hope for nothing. I would only remain near you and
consecrate my life to your service and defence. To be useful to you
I will do all that my strength will allow; but I shall suffer, and,
however I try to hide it, you will see it; and perhaps you will
attribute to wrong causes the sadness I may not be able to suppress with
uniform heroism. You pained me deeply yesterday, when you advised me to
go out a little 'to distract my thoughts.' To distract my thoughts from
you, Edmee! What bitter mockery! Do not be cruel, sister; for then you
become my haughty betrothed of evil days again . . . and, in spite of
myself, I again become the brigand whom you used to hate. . . . Ah, if
you knew how unhappy I am! In me there are two men who are incessantly
waging a war to the death. It is to be hoped that the brigand will fall;
but he defends himself step by step, and he cries aloud because he feels
himself covered with wounds and mortally stricken. If you knew, Edmee,
if you only knew what struggles, what conflicts, rend my bosom; what
tears of blood my heart distils; and what passions often rage in that
part of my nature which the rebel angels rule! There are nights when I
suffer so much that in the delirium of my dreams I seem to be plunging
a dagger into your heart, and thus, by some sombre magic, to be forcing
you to love me as I love you. When I awake, in a cold sweat, bewildered,
beside myself, I feel tempted to go and kill you, so as to destroy the
cause of my anguish. If I refrain from this, it is because I fear that
I should love you dead with as much passion and tenacity as if you were
alive. I am afraid of being restrained, governed, swayed by your image
as I am by your person. Then, again, a man cannot destroy the being he
loves and fears; for when she has ceased to exist on earth she still
exists in himself. It is the lover's soul which serves as a coffin for
his mistress and which forever preserves her burning remains, that it
may feed on them without ever consuming them. But, great Heaven! what is
this tumult in my thoughts? You see, Edmee, to what an extent my mind is
sick; take pity on me, then. Bear with me, let me be sad, never doubt my
devotion. I am often mad, but I worship you always. A word, a look from
you, will always recall me to a sense of duty, and this duty will be
sweet when you deign to remind me of it. As I write to you, Edmee, the
sky is full of clouds that are darker and heavier than lead; the thunder
is rumbling, and doleful ghosts of purgatory seem to be floating in
the glare of the lightning. The weight of the storm lies on my soul; my
bewildered mind quivers like the flashes which leap from the firmament.
It seems as if my whole being were about to burst like the tempest. Ah,
could I but lift up to you a voice like unto its voice! Had I the power
to lay bare the agonies and passions which rend me within! Often, when a
storm has been sweeping over the great oaks above, you have told me
that you enjoy gazing upon the fury of the one and the resistance of the
other. This, you say, is a battle of mighty forces; and in the din in
the air you fancy you can detect the curses of the north wind and the
mournful cries of the venerable branches. Which suffers the more, Edmee,
the tree which resists, or the wind which exhausts itself in the attack?
Is it not always the wind that yields and falls? And then the sky,
grieved at the defeat of her noble son, sheds a flood of tears upon
the earth. You love these wild images, Edmee; and whenever you behold
strength vanquished by resistance you smile cruelly, and there is a look
in your inscrutable eyes that seems to insult my misery. Well, you have
cast me to the ground, and, though shattered, I still suffer; yes,
learn this, since you wish to know it, since you are merciless enough
to question me and to feign compassion. I suffer, and I no longer try
to remove the foot which the proud conqueror has placed on my broken

The rest of this letter, which was very long, very rambling and absurd
from beginning to end, was in the same strain. It was not the first time
that I had written to Edmee, though I lived under the same roof, and
never left her except during the hours of rest. My passion possessed me
to such a degree that I was irresistibly drawn to encroach upon my sleep
in order to write to her, I could never feel that I had talked enough
about her, that I had sufficiently renewed my promises of submission--a
submission in which I was constantly failing. The present letter,
however, was more daring and more passionate than any of the others.
Perhaps, in some mysterious way, it was written under the influence of
the storm which was rending the heavens while I, bent over my table,
with moist brow and dry, burning hand, drew this frenzied picture of my
sufferings. A great calm, akin to despair, seemed to come over me as
I threw myself upon my bed after going down to the drawing-room and
slipping my letter into Edmee's work-basket. Day was breaking, and the
horizon showed heavy with the dark wings of the storm, which was flying
to other regions. The trees, laden with rain, were tossing under the
breeze, which was still blowing freshly. Profoundly sad, but blindly
resigned to my suffering, I fell asleep with a sense of relief, as if I
had made a sacrifice of my life and hopes. Apparently Edmee did not find
my letter, for she gave me no answer. She generally replied verbally,
and these letters of mine were a means of drawing from her those
professions of sisterly friendship with which I had perforce to be
satisfied, and which, at least, poured soothing balm into my wound.
I ought to have known that this time my letter must either lead to a
decisive explanation, or be passed over in silence. I suspected the abbe
of having taken it and thrown it into the fire; I accused Edmee of scorn
and cruelty; nevertheless, I held my tongue.

The next day the weather was quite settled again. My uncle went for a
drive, and during the course of it told us that he should not like to
die without having had one last great fox-hunt. He was passionately
devoted to this sport, and his health had so far improved that he again
began to show a slight inclination for pleasure and exercise. Seated in
a very light, narrow _berline_, drawn by strong mules, so that he might
move rapidly over the sandy paths in our woods, he had already followed
one or two little hunts which we had arranged for his amusement. Since
the Trappist's visit, the chevalier had entered, as it were, upon a
fresh term of life. Endowed with strength and pertinacity, like all his
race, it seemed as if he had been decaying for want of excitement, for
the slightest demand on his energy immediately set his stagnant blood
in motion. As he was very much pleased with this idea of a hunt, Edmee
undertook to organize, with my help, a general battue and to join in the
sport herself. One of the greatest delights of the good old man was
to see her on horseback, as she boldly pranced around his carriage and
offered him all the flowering sprigs which she plucked from the bushes
she passed. It was arranged that I should ride with her, and that
the abbe should accompany the chevalier in the carriage. All the
gamekeepers, foresters, huntsmen, and even poachers of Varenne were
invited to this family function. A splendid meal was prepared with many
goose-pies and much local wine. Marcasse, whom I had made my manager
at Roche-Mauprat, and who had a considerable knowledge of the art of
fox-hunting, spent two whole days in stopping up the earths. A few young
farmers in the neighbourhood, interested in the battue and able to give
useful advice, graciously offered to join the party; and, last of all,
Patience, in spite of his aversion for the destruction of innocent
animals, consented to follow the hunt as a spectator. On the appointed
day, which opened warm and cloudless on our happy plans and my own
implacable destiny, some fifty individuals met with horns, horses, and
hounds. At the end we were to play havoc with the rabbits, of which
there were too many on the estate. It would be easy to destroy them
wholesale by falling back upon that part of the forest which had not
been beaten during the hunt. Each man therefore armed himself with a
carbine, and my uncle also took one, to shoot from his carriage, which
he could still do with much skill.

Edmee was mounted on a very spirited Limousin mare, which she amused
herself by exciting and quieting with a touching coquetry to please her
old father. For the first two hours she hardly left the carriage at all,
and the chevalier, now full of new life, gazed on her with smiles and
tears of love. Just as in the daily rotation of our globe, ere passing
into night, we take leave of the radiant orb which is going to reign
over another hemisphere, even so did the old man find some consolation
for his death in the thought that the youth and vigour and beauty of his
daughter were surviving him for another generation.

When the hunt was in full swing, Edmee, who certainly inherited some of
the martial spirit of the family, and the calmness of whose soul
could not always restrain the impetuosity of her blood, yielded to
her father's repeated signs--for his great desire now was to see her
gallop--and went after the field, which was already a little distance

"Follow her! follow her!" cried the chevalier, who had no sooner seen
her galloping off than his fond paternal vanity had given place to

I did not need to be told twice; and digging my spurs into my horse's
flanks, I rejoined Edmee in a cross-path which she had taken to come up
with the hunt. I shuddered as I saw her bending like a reed under the
branches, while her horse, which she was still urging on, carried her
between the trees with the rapidity of lightning.

"For God's sake, Edmee," I cried, "do not ride so fast! You will be

"Let me have a gallop," she said gaily. "My father has allowed me. You
must not interfere; I shall rap you on the knuckles if you try to stop
my horse."

"At least let me follow you, then," I said, keeping close to her.
"Your father wished it; and I shall at least be there to kill myself if
anything happens to you."

Why I was filled with these gloomy forebodings I do not know, for I had
often seen Edmee galloping through the woods. I was in a peculiar
state; the heat of noon seemed mounting to my brain, and my nerves were
strangely excited. I had eaten no breakfast, as I had felt somewhat out
of sorts in the morning, and, to sustain myself, had swallowed several
cups of coffee mixed with rum. At first I experienced a horrible
sense of fear; then, after a few minutes, the fear gave way to an
inexpressible feeling of love and delight. The excitement of the gallop
became so intense that I imagined my only object was to pursue Edmee.
To see her flying before me, as light as her own black mare, whose feet
were speeding noiselessly over the moss, one might have taken her for a
fairy who had suddenly appeared in this lonely spot to disturb the mind
of man and lure him away to her treacherous haunts. I forgot the hunt
and everything else. I saw nothing but Edmee; then a mist fell upon
my eyes, and I could see her no more. Still, I galloped on; I was in a
state of silent frenzy, when she suddenly stopped.

"What are we doing?" she said. "I cannot hear the hunt any longer, and
here is the river in front. We have come too far to the left."

"No, no, Edmee," I answered, without knowing in the least what I was
saying. "Another gallop and we shall be there."

"How red you are!" she said. "But how shall we cross the river?"

"Since there is a road, there must be a ford," I replied. "Come on! come

I was filled with an insane desire to go on galloping, I believe my idea
was to plunge deeper and deeper into the forest with her; but this idea
was wrapped in a haze, and when I tried to pierce it, I was conscious of
nothing but a wild throbbing of my breast and temples.

Edmee made a gesture of impatience.

"These woods are accursed!" she said. "I am always losing my way in

No doubt she was thinking of the fatal day when she had been carried far
from another hunt and brought to Roche-Mauprat. I thought of it too,
and the ideas that came into my mind produced a sort of dizziness. I
followed her mechanically towards the river. Suddenly I realized that
she was on the other bank. I was filled with rage on seeing that her
horse was cleverer and braver than my own. Before I could get the animal
to take the ford, which was rather a nasty one, Edmee was a long way
ahead of me again. I dug my spurs into its sides till the blood streamed
from them. At last, after being nearly thrown several times, I reached
the other bank, and, blind with rage, started in pursuit of Edmee. I
overtook her, and seizing the mare's bridle, I exclaimed:

"Stop, Edmee, I say! You shall not go any farther."

At the same time I shook the reins so violently that her horse reared.
She lost her balance, and, to avoid falling, jumped lightly to the
ground between our two animals, at the risk of being hurt. I was on
the ground almost as soon as herself. I at once pushed the horses away.
Edmee's, which was very quiet, stopped and began to browse. Mine bolted
out of sight. All this was the affair of an instant.

I had caught Edmee in my arms; she freed herself and said, in a sharp

"You are very brutal, Bernard; and I hate these ways of yours. What is
the matter with you?"

Perplexed and confused, I told her that I thought her mare was bolting,
and that I was afraid some accident might happen to her if she allowed
herself to be carried away by the excitement of the ride.

"And to save me," she replied, "you make me fall, at the risk of killing
me! Really, that was most considerate of you."

"Let me help you to mount again," I said.

And without waiting for her permission, I took her in my arms and lifted
her off the ground.

"You know very well that I do not mount in this way!" she exclaimed, now
quite irritated. "Leave me alone; I don't want your help."

But I was no longer in a state to obey her. I was losing my head;
my arms were tightening around her waist, and it was in vain that I
endeavoured to take them away. My lips touched her bosom in spite of
myself. She grew pale with anger.

"Oh, how unfortunate I am!" I said, with my eyes full of tears; "how
unfortunate I am to be always offending you, and to be hated more and
more in proportion as my love for you grows greater!"

Edmee was of an imperious and violent nature. Her character, hardened by
trials, had every year developed greater strength. She was no longer the
trembling girl making a parade of courage, but in reality more ingenuous
than bold, whom I had clasped in my arms at Roche-Mauprat. She was now a
proud, fearless woman, who would have let herself be killed rather than
give the slightest countenance to an audacious hope. Besides, she was
now the woman who knows that she is passionately loved and is conscious
of her power. She repulsed me, therefore, with scorn; and as I followed
her distractedly, she raised her whip and threatened to leave a mark of
ignominy on my face if I dared to touch even her stirrup.

I fell on my knees and begged her not to leave me thus without forgiving
me. She was already in her saddle, and, as she looked round for the way
back, she exclaimed:

"That was the one thing wanting--to behold this hateful spot again! Do
you see where we are?"

I looked in my turn, and saw that we were on the edge of the forest,
quite close to the shady little pond at Gazeau. A few yards from
us, through the trees which had grown denser since Patience left, I
perceived the door of the tower, opening like a big black mouth behind
the green foliage.

I was seized with a fresh dizziness. A terrible struggle was taking
place between two instincts. Who shall explain the mysterious workings
of man's brain when his soul is grappling with the senses, and one part
of his being is striving to strangle the other? In an organization like
mine, such a conflict, believe me, was bound to be terrible; and do not
imagine that the will makes but a feeble resistance in natures carried
away by passion; it is idiotic to say to a man who lies spent with such
struggles, "You ought to have conquered yourself."


How shall I describe to you what I felt at the unexpected sight of
Gazeau Tower? I had seen it but twice in my life; each time I had taken
part in a painfully stirring scene there. Yet these scenes were as
naught beside the one awaiting me on this third encounter; there must be
a curse on certain places.

I fancied I could still see the blood of the two Mauprats sprinkled on
the shattered door. Their life of crime and their tragic end made me
shudder at the violent instincts which I felt in myself. I was filled
with a horror of my own feelings, and I understood why Edmee did not
love me. But, as if yonder deplorable blood had power to stir a
fatal sympathy, I felt the wild strength of my passion increasing in
proportion as my will made greater efforts to subdue it. I had trampled
down all other passions; scarcely a trace of them remained in me. I was
sober; if not gentle and patient, I was at least capable of affection
and sympathy; I had a profound sense of the laws of honour, and the
highest respect for the dignity of others. Love, however, was still the
most formidable of my enemies; for it was inseparably connected with all
that I had acquired of morality and delicacy; it was the tie that
bound the old man to the new, an indissoluble tie, which made it almost
impossible for me to find the golden mean between reason and passion.

Standing before Edmee, who was about to leave me behind and on foot;
furious at seeing her escape me for the last time (since after the
insult I had just offered her she would doubtless never run the risk of
being alone with me again), I gazed on her with a terrible expression.
I was livid; my fists were clinched. I had but to resolve, and the
slightest exertion of my strength would have snatched her from her
horse, thrown her to the ground and left her at the mercy of my desires.
I had but to let my old savage instincts reign for a second and I could
have slaked, extinguished the fires which had been consuming me for
seven years. Never did Edmee know the danger her honour ran in that
minute of agony, and never have I ceased to feel remorse for it; but
God alone shall be my Judge, for I triumphed, and this was the last
evil thought of my life. In this thought, moreover, lay the whole of my
crime; the rest was the work of fate.

Filled with fear, I suddenly turned my back on her and, wringing
my hands in despair, hastened away by the path which had brought me
thither. I cared little where I went; I only knew that I had to tear
myself away from perilous temptations. It was a broiling day; the odour
of the woods seemed intoxicating; the mere sight of them was stirring
up the instincts of my old savage life; I had to flee or fall. With an
imperious gesture, Edmee ordered me to depart from her presence. The
idea that any danger could possibly threaten her except from myself
naturally did not come into my head or her own. I plunged into the
forest. I had not gone more than thirty paces when I heard the report
of a gun from the spot where I had left Edmee. I stopped, petrified with
horror; why, I know not; for in the middle of a battue the report of a
gun was by no means extraordinary; but my soul was so sorrowful that it
seemed ready to find fresh woe in everything. I was about to retrace my
steps and rejoin Edmee at the risk of offending her still more when I
thought I heard the moaning of a human being in the direction of Gazeau
Tower. I rushed forward, and then fell upon my knees, as if stunned by
emotion. It took me some minutes to recover; my brain seemed full
of doleful sights and sounds; I could no longer distinguish between
illusion and reality; though the sun was shining brightly I began to
grope my way among the trees. All of a sudden I found myself face to
face with the abbe; he was anxiously looking for Edmee. The chevalier
had driven to a certain spot to watch the field pass, and not seeing his
daughter, had been filled with apprehension. The abbe had plunged into
the forest at once, and, soon finding the tracks of our horses, had come
to see what had happened to us. He had heard the gun, but had thought
nothing of it. Seeing me pale and apparently dazed, with my hair
disarranged, and without either horse or gun (I had let mine fall on the
spot where I had half fainted, and had not thought of picking it up),
he was as terrified as myself; nor did he know any more than I for what

"Edmee!" he said to me, "where is Edmee?"

I made a rambling reply. He was so alarmed at seeing me in such a
state that he felt secretly convinced I had committed some crime, as he
subsequently confessed to me.

"Wretched boy!" he said, shaking me vigorously by the arm to bring me to
my senses. "Be calm; collect your thoughts, I implore you! . . ."

I did not understand a word, but I led him towards the fatal spot; and
there--a sight never to be forgotten--Edmee was lying on the ground
rigid and bathed in blood. Her mare was quietly grazing a few yards
away. Patience was standing by her side with his arms crossed on his
breast, his face livid, and his heart so full that he was unable to
answer a word to the abbe's cries and sobs. For myself, I could not
understand what was taking place. I fancy that my brain, already
bewildered by my previous emotions, must have been completely paralyzed.
I sat down on the ground by Edmee's side. She had been shot in the
breast in two places. I gazed on her lifeless eyes in a state of
absolute stupor.

"Take away that creature," said Patience to the abbe, casting a look of
contempt on me. "His perverse nature is what it always was."

"Edmee, Edmee!" cried the abbe, throwing himself upon the grass and
endeavouring to stanch the blood with his handkerchief.

"Dead, dead!" said Patience. "And there is the murderer! She said so as
she gave up her pure soul to God; and Patience will avenge her! It is
very hard; but it must be so! It is God's will, since I alone was here
to learn the truth."

"Horrible, horrible!" exclaimed the abbe.

I heard the sound of this last word, and with a smile I repeated it like
an echo.

Some huntsmen now appeared. Edmee was carried away. I believe that I
caught sight of her father walking without help. However, I should not
dare to affirm that this was not a mere extravagant vision (for I had no
definite consciousness of anything, and these awful moments have left
in my mind nothing but vague memories, as of a dream), had I not been
assured that the chevalier got out of the carriage without any help,
walked about, and acted with as much presence of mind as a young man.
On the following day he fell into a state of absolute dotage and
insensibility, and never rose from his arm-chair again.

But what happened to myself? I do not know. When I recovered my
reason, I found that I was in another part of the forest near a little
waterfall, to the murmur of which I was listening mechanically with a
sort of vague delight. Blaireau was asleep at my feet, while his master,
leaning against a tree, was watching me attentively. The setting sun
was sending shafts of ruddy gold between the slender stems of the young
ash-trees; the wild flowers seemed to be smiling at me; and birds were
warbling sweet melodies. It was one of the most beautiful days of the

"What a gorgeous evening!" I said to Marcasse. "This spot is as
beautiful as an American forest. Well, old friend, what are you doing
there? You ought to have awakened me sooner. I have had such hideous

Marcasse came and knelt down beside me; two streams of tears were
running down his withered, sallow cheeks. On his face, usually so
impassive, there was an ineffable expression of pity and sorrow and

"Poor master!" he said, "delirium, head bad, that's all. Great
misfortune! But fidelity not changed. Always with you; if need be, ready
to die with you."

His tears and words filled me with sadness; but this was owing to an
instinctive sympathy enhanced by the weak state of my nerves, for I
did not remember a thing. I threw myself into his arms and wept like
himself; he pressed me to his bosom, as a father might his son. I was
fully conscious that some frightful misfortune had overtaken me, but
I was afraid to learn what it was, and nothing in the world would have
induced me to ask him.

He took me by the arm and led me through the forest. I let myself be
taken like a child. Then a fresh sense of weariness came over me, and he
was obliged to let me sit down again for half an hour. At last he lifted
me up and succeeded in leading me to Roche-Mauprat, where we arrived
very late. I do not know what happened to me during the night. Marcasse
told me subsequently that I had been very delirious. He took upon
himself to send to the nearest village for a barber, who bled me early
in the morning, and a few minutes later I recovered my reason.

But what a frightful service they seemed to have done me. Dead! Dead!
Dead! This was the only word I could utter. I did nothing but groan and
toss about on my bed. I wanted to get up and run to Sainte-Severe. My
poor sergeant would throw himself at my feet, or plant himself in front
of the door to prevent me. To keep me back, he would tell me various
things which I did not in the least understand. However, his manifest
solicitude for me and my own feeling of exhaustion made me yield, though
I could not explain his conduct. In one of these struggles my vein
opened again, and I returned to bed before Marcasse noticed it.
Gradually I sank into a deep swoon, and I was almost dead when, seeing
my blue lips and purple cheeks, he took it into his head to lift up the
bed-clothes, and found me lying in a pool of blood.

However, this was the most fortunate thing that could have happened to
me. For several days I remained in a state of prostration in which there
was but little difference between my waking and sleeping hours. Thanks
to this, I understood nothing, and therefore did not suffer.

One morning, having managed to make me take a little nourishment, and
noticing that with my strength my melancholy and anxiety were returning,
Marcasse announced, with a simple, genuine delight, that Edmee was not
dead, and that they did not despair of saving her. These words fell upon
me like a thunderbolt; for I was still under the impression that this
frightful adventure was a delusion of my delirium. I began to shout and
to brandish my arms in a terrible manner. Marcasse fell on his knees by
my bed and implored me to be calm, and a score of times he repeated the
following words, which to me were like the meaningless words one hears
in dreams:

"You did not do it on purpose; I know well enough. No, you did not do it
on purpose. It was an accident; a gun going off in your hand by chance."

"Come, now, what do you mean?" I exclaimed impatiently. "What gun? What
accident? What have I to do with it?"

"Don't you know, then, sir, how she was hit?"

I passed my hands over my brow as if to bring back to my mind the energy
of life, and as I had no clear recollection of the mysterious event
which had unhinged it, I thought that I was mad, and remained silent and
dismayed, fearful lest any word should escape to betray the loss of my

At last, little by little, I collected my thoughts. I asked for some
wine, as I felt weak; and no sooner had I drunk a few drops than all the
scenes of the fatal day unrolled themselves before me as if by magic.
I even remembered the words that I had heard Patience utter immediately
after the event. It was as if they had been graven in that part of the
memory which preserves the sound of words, even when the other part
which treasures up their sense is asleep. For one more moment I was
uncertain; I wondered if my gun could have gone off in my hands just
as I was leaving Edmee. I distinctly remembered firing it at a pewit
an hour before, for Edmee had wanted to examine the bird's plumage.
Further, when I heard the shot which had hit her, my gun was in my
hands, and I had not thrown it down until a few seconds later, so it
could not have been this weapon which had gone off on falling. Besides,
even granting a fatality which was incredible, I was much too far from
Edmee at that moment to have shot her. Finally, I had not a single
bullet on me throughout the day; and it was impossible for my gun to
have been loaded, unknown to myself, since I had not unslung it after
killing the pewit.

Quite convinced, therefore, that I was not the cause of the hideous
accident, it remained to me to find an explanation of this crushing
catastrophe. To me it was perfectly simple; some booby with a gun, I
thought, must have caught sight of Edmee's horse through the branches
and mistaken it for a wild beast; and I did not dream of accusing any
one of a deliberate attempt at murder. I discovered, however, that I was
accused myself. I drew the truth from Marcasse. He informed me that the
chevalier and all the people who took part in the hunt had attributed
the misfortune to a pure accident, their opinion being that, to my great
sorrow, my gun had gone off when my horse threw me, for it was believed
that I had been thrown. This was practically the view they all took. In
the few words that Edmee had been able to utter she seemed to confirm
the supposition. Only one person accused me, and that was Patience; but
he had accused me before none but his two friends, Marcasse and the Abbe
Aubert, and then only after pledging them to secrecy.

"There is no need," added Marcasse, "for me to tell you that the abbe
maintains an absolute silence, and refuses to believe that you are
guilty. As for myself, I swear to you that I shall never--"

"Stop! stop!" I said. "Do not tell me even that; it would imply
that some one in the world might actually believe it. But Edmee said
something extraordinary to Patience just as she was dying; for she is
dead; it is useless for you to try to deceive me. She is dead, and I
shall never see her again."

"She is not dead!" cried Marcasse.

And his solemn oaths convinced me, for I knew that he would have tried
in vain to lie; his simple soul would have risen in revolt against
his charitable intentions. As for Edmee's words, he frankly refused
to repeat them; from which I gathered that their testimony seemed
overwhelming. Thereupon I dragged myself out of bed, and stubbornly
resisted all Marcasse's efforts to keep me back; I had the farmer's
horse saddled and started off at a gallop. I staggered into the
drawing-room without meeting any one except Saint-Jean, who uttered
a cry of terror on seeing me, and rushed off without answering my

The drawing-room was empty. Edmee's embroidery frame, buried under the
green cloth, which her hand, perchance, would never lift again, seemed
to me like a bier under its pall. My uncle's big arm-chair was no
longer in the chimney-corner. My portrait, which I had had painted in
Philadelphia and had sent over during the American war, had been taken
down from the wall. These were signs of death and malediction.

I left this room with all haste and went upstairs with the courage of
innocence, but with despair in my soul. I waled straight to Edmee's
room, knocked, and entered at once. Mademoiselle Leblanc was coming
towards the door; she gave a loud scream and ran away, hiding her face
in her hands as if she had seen a wild beast. Who, then, could have been
spreading hideous reports about me? Had the abbe been disloyal enough
to do so? I learnt later that Edmee, though generous and unshaken in her
lucid moments, had openly accused me in her delirium.

I approached her bed and, half delirious myself, forgetting that my
sudden appearance might be a deathblow to her, I pulled the curtains
aside with an eager hand and gazed on her. Never have I seen more
marvellous beauty. Her big dark eyes had grown half as large again;
they were shining with an extraordinary brilliancy, though without any
expression, like diamonds. Her drawn, colourless cheeks, and her lips,
as white as her cheeks, gave her the appearance of a beautiful marble
head. She looked at me fixedly, with as little emotion as if she had
been looking at a picture or a piece of furniture; then, turning her
face slightly towards the wall, she said, with a mysterious smile:

"This is the flower they call _Edmea sylvestris_."

I fell upon my knees; I took her hand; I covered it with kisses; I
broke into sobs. But she gave no heed; her hand remained in mine icy and
still, like a piece of alabaster.


The abbe came in and greeted me in a cold and sombre manner. Then he
made a sign to me, and drawing me away from the bed, said:

"You must be mad! Return at once; and if you are wise, you will remain
away. It is the only thing left for you to do."

"And since when," I cried, flying into a passion, "have you had the
right to drive me out of the bosom of my family?"

"Alas! you have no longer a family," he answered, with an accent of
sorrow that somewhat disarmed me. "What were once father and daughter
are now naught but two phantoms, whose souls are already dead and whose
bodies soon will be. Show some respect for the last days of those who
loved you."

"And how can I show my respect and grief by quitting them?" I replied,
quite crushed.

"On this point," said the abbe, "I neither wish nor ought to say
anything; for you know that your presence here is an act of rashness and
a profanation. Go away. When they are no more (and the day cannot be far
distant), if you have any claims to this house, you may return, and
you will certainly not find me here to contest them or affirm them.
Meanwhile, as I have no knowledge of these claims, I believe I may take
upon myself to see that some respect is paid to the last hours of these
two holy people."

"Wretched man!" I said, "I do not know what prevents me from tearing you
to pieces! What abominable impulse urges you to be everlastingly turning
the dagger in my breast? Are you afraid that I may survive this blow?
Cannot you see that three coffins will be taken out together from this
house? do you imagine that I have come here for aught but a farewell
look and a farewell blessing?"

"You might say a farewell pardon," replied the abbe, in a bitter tone,
and with a gesture of merciless condemnation.

"What I say is that you are mad!" I cried, "and that if you were not a
priest, this hand of mine should crush the life out of you for daring to
speak to me in this way."

"I have but little fear of you, sir," he rejoined. "To take my life
would be doing me a great service; but I am sorry that your threats and
anger should lend weight to the charges under which you lie. If I
saw that you were moved to penitence, I would weep with you; but your
assurance fills me with loathing. Hitherto, I had seen in you nothing
worse than a raging lunatic; to-day I seem to see a scoundrel. Begone,

I fell into an arm-chair, choking with rage and anguish. For a moment I
hoped that I was about to die. Edmee was dying by my side, and before me
was a judge so firmly convinced of my guilt that his usual gentle, timid
nature had become harsh and pitiless. The imminent loss of her I loved
was hurrying me into a longing for death. Yet the horrible charge
hanging over me began to rouse my energies. I did not believe that such
an accusation could stand for a single instant against the voice of
truth. I imagined that one word from me, one look, would be sufficient
to make it fall to the ground; but I felt so dazed, so deeply wounded,
that this means of defence was denied me. The more grievously the
disgrace of such a suspicion weighed upon my mind, the more clearly
I realized that it is almost impossible for a man to defend himself
successfully when his only weapon is the pride of slandered innocence.

I sat there overwhelmed, unable to utter a word. It seemed as if a
dome of lead were weighing on my skull. Suddenly the door opened and
Mademoiselle Leblanc approached me stiffly; in a tone full of hatred
she informed me that some one outside wished to speak to me. I went out
mechanically, and found Patience waiting with his arms folded, in his
most dignified attitude, and with an expression on his face which would
have compelled both respect and fear if I had been guilty.

"Monsieur de Mauprat," he said, "I must request you to grant me a
private interview. Will you kindly follow me to my cottage?"

"Yes, I will," I replied. "I am ready to endure any humiliation, if only
I can learn what is wanted of me and why you are all pleased to insult
the most unfortunate of men. Lead the way, Patience, and go quickly; I
am eager to return here."

Patience walked in front of me with an impassive air. When we arrived
at his little dwelling, we found my poor sergeant, who had just arrived
likewise. Not finding any horse on which he could follow me, and not
wishing to quit me, he had come on foot, and so quickly that he was
bathed in perspiration. Nevertheless, the moment he saw us he sprang
up full of life from the bench on which he had thrown himself under the
bower of vine-branches, and came to meet us.

"Patience!" he cried, in a dramatic style which would have made me smile
had it been possible for me to display a glimmer of mirth at such a
moment. "Old fool! . . . Slanderer at your age? . . . Fie, sir! . . .
Ruined by good fortune . . . you are . . . yes."

Patience, impassive as ever, shrugged his shoulders and said to his

"Marcasse, you do not know what you are saying. Go and rest awhile at
the bottom of the orchard. This matter does not concern you. I want to
speak to your master alone. I wish you to go," he added, taking him by
the arm; and there was a touch of authority in his manner to which the
sergeant, in spite of his ticklish prided, yielded from instinct and

As soon as we were alone Patience proceeded to the point; he began by a
series of questions to which I resolved to submit, so that I might the
more quickly obtain some light on the state of affairs around me.

"Will you kindly inform me, monsieur," he said, "what you purpose doing

"I purpose remaining with my family," I answered, "as long as I have
a family; and when this family is no more, what I shall do concerns no

"But, sir," replied Patience, "if you were told that you could not
remain under the same roof with them without causing the death of one or
the other, would you persist in staying?"

"If I were convinced that this was so," I rejoined, "I would not appear
in their presence. I would remain at their door and await the last
day of their life, or the first day of their renewed health, and again
implore a love I have not yet ceased to deserve."

"Ah, we have come to this!" said Patience, with a smile of contempt. "I
should not have believed it. However, I am very glad; it makes matters

"What do you mean?" I cried. "Speak, you wretch! Explain yourself!"

"You are the only wretch here," he answered coldly, at the same time
sitting down on the one stool in the cottage, while I remained standing
before him.

I wanted to draw an explanation from him, at all costs. I restrained my
feelings; I even humbled myself so far as to say that I should be ready
to accept advice, if he would consent to tell me the words that Edmee
had uttered immediately after the event, and those which she had
repeated in her hours of delirium.

"That I will not," replied Patience sternly; "you are not worthy to hear
any words from that mouth, and I shall certainly never repeat them to
you. Why do you want to know them? Do you hope to hide anything from men
hereafter? God saw you; for Him there are no secrets. Leave this place;
stay at Roche-Mauprat; keep quiet there; and when your uncle is dead and
your affairs are settled, leave this part of the country. If you take my
advice, you will leave it this very day. I do not want to put the law on
your track, unless your actions force me. But others besides myself,
if they are not certain of the truth, have at least a suspicion of
it. Before two days have passed a chance word said in public, the
indiscretion of some servant, may awaken the attention of justice, and
from that point to the scaffold, when a man is guilty, is but a single
step. I used not to hate you; I even had a liking for you; take this
advice, then, which you say you are ready to follow. Go away at once, or
remain in hiding and ready for flight. I do not desire your ruin; Edmee
would not desire it either--so--do you understand?"

"You must be insane to think that I could listen to such advice. I, hide
myself! or flee like a murderer! You can't dream of that! Come on!
come on! I defy the whole of you! I know not what fury and hatred are
fretting you and uniting you all against me; I know not why you want to
keep me from seeing my uncle and cousin; but I despise your follies.
My place is here; I shall not quit it except by order of my cousin or
uncle; and this order, too, I must take from their own lips; I cannot
allow sentence to be brought me by any outsider. So, thanks for your
wisdom, Monsieur Patience; in this case my own will suffice. I am your
humble servant, sir."

I was preparing to leave the cottage when he rushed in front of me, and
for a moment I saw that he was ready to use force to detain me. In spite
of his advanced age, in spite of my height and strength, he might still
have been a match, perhaps more than a match, for me in a struggle of
this kind. Short, bent, broad-shouldered, he was a Hercules.

He stopped, however, just as he was about to lay hands on me, and,
seized with one of those fits of deep tenderness to which he was subject
in his moments of greatest passion, he gazed at me with eyes of pity,
and said, in a gentle tone:

"My poor boy! you whom I loved as a son (for I looked upon you as
Edmee's brother), do not hasten to your ruin. I beseech you in the
name of her whom you have murdered, and whom you still love--I can see
it--but whom you may never behold again. Believe me, but yesterday your
family was a proud vessel, whose helm was in your hands; to-day it is
a drifting wreck, without either sail or pilot--left to be handled
by cabinboys, as friend Marcasse says. Well, my poor mariner, do not
persist in drowning yourself; I am throwing you a rope; take it--a day
more, and it may be too late. Remember that if the law gets hold of you,
the man who is trying to save you to-day, to-morrow will be obliged to
appear against you and condemn you. Do not compel me to do a thing the
very thought of which brings tears to my eyes. Bernard, you have been
loved, my lad; even to-day you may live on the past."

I burst into tears, and the sergeant, who returned at this moment, began
to weep also; he implored me to go back to Roche-Mauprat; but I soon
recovered and, thrusting them both away, said:

"I know that both of you are excellent men, and both most generous; you
must have some love for me too, since, though you believe me blackened
with a hideous crime, you can still think of saving my life. But have no
fears on my account, good friends; I am innocent of this crime, and my
one wish is that the matter may be fully investigated, so that I may be
acquitted--yes, this is inevitable, I owe it to my family to live until
my honour has been freed from stain. Then, if I am condemned to see my
cousin die, as I have no one in the world to love but her, I will blow
my brains out. Why, then, should I be downcast? I set little store by
my life. May God make the last hours of her whom I shall certainly not
survive painless and peaceful--that is all I ask of Him."

Patience shook his head with a gloomy, dissatisfied expression. He was
so convinced of my crime that all my denials only served to alienate his
pity. Marcasse still loved me, though he thought I was guilty. I had no
one in the world to answer for my innocence, except myself.

"If you persist on returning to the chateau," exclaimed Patience, "you
must swear before you leave that you will not enter your cousin's room,
or your uncle's, without the abbe's permission."

"What I swear is that I am innocent," I replied, "and that I will
allow no man to saddle me with a crime. Back, both of you! Let me pass!
Patience, if you consider it your duty to denounce me, go and do so. All
that I ask is that I may not be condemned without a hearing; I prefer
the bar of justice to that of mere opinion."

I rushed out of the cottage and returned to the chateau. However, not
wishing to make a scandal before the servants, and knowing quite well
that they could not hide Edmee's real condition from me, I went and shut
myself up in the room I usually occupied.

But in the evening, just as I was leaving it to get news of the two
patients, Mademoiselle Leblanc again told me that some one wished to
speak with me outside. I noticed that her face betrayed a sense of joy
as well as fear. I concluded that they had come to arrest me, and I
suspected (rightly, as it transpired) that Mademoiselle Leblanc had
denounced me. I went to the window, and saw some of the mounted police
in the courtyard.

"Good," I said; "let my destiny take its course."

But, before quitting, perhaps forever, this house in which I was
leaving my soul, I wished to see Edmee again for the last time. I walked
straight to her room. Mademoiselle Leblanc tried to throw herself in
front of the door; I pushed her aside so roughly that she fell, and, I
believe, hurt herself slightly. She immediately filled the house with
her cries; and later, in the trial, made a great pother about what she
was pleased to call an attempt to murder her. I at once entered Edmee's
room; there I found the abbe and the doctor. I listened in silence to
what the latter was saying. I learnt that the wounds in themselves were
not mortal, that they would not even be very serious, had not a violent
disturbance in the brain complicated the evil and made him fear tetanus.
This frightful word fell upon me like a death sentence. In America I had
seen many men die of this terrible malady, the result of wounds received
in the war. I approached the bed. The abbe was so alarmed that he did
not think of preventing me. I took Edmee's hand, cold and lifeless, as
ever. I kissed it a last time, and, without saying a single word to the
others, went and gave myself up to the police.


I was immediately thrown into prison at La Chatre. The public prosecutor
for the district of Issoudun took in hand this case of the attempted
murder of Mademoiselle de Mauprat, and obtained permission to have
a monitory published on the morrow. He went to the village of
Sainte-Severe, and then to the farms in the neighbourhood of the Curat
woods, where the event had happened, and took the depositions of more
than thirty witnesses. Then, eight days after I had been arrested, the
writ of arrest was issued. If my mind had been less distracted, or if
some one had interested himself in me, this breach of the law and
many others that occurred during the trial might have been adduced as
powerful arguments in my favour. They would at least have shown that the
proceedings were inspired by some secret hatred. In the whole course of
the affair an invisible hand directed everything with pitiless haste and

The first examination had produced but a single indictment against me;
this came from Mademoiselle Leblanc. The men who had taken part in the
hunt declared that they knew nothing, and had no reason to regard the
occurrence as a deliberate attempt at murder. Mademoiselle Leblanc,
however, who had an old grudge against me for certain jokes I had
ventured to make at her expense, and who, moreover, had been suborned,
as I learned afterward, declared that Edmee, on recovering from her
first swoon, at a time when she was quite calm and in full possession of
her reason, had confided to her, under a pledge of secrecy, that she had
been insulted, threatened, dragged from her horse, and finally shot by
me. This wicked old maid, putting together the various revelations
that Edmee had made in her delirium, had, cleverly enough, composed a
connected narrative, and added to it all the embellishments that hatred
could suggest. Distorting the incoherent words and vague impressions of
her mistress, she declared upon oath that Edmee had seen me point the
barrel of my carbine at her, with the words, "As I swore, you shall die
by my hand."

Saint-Jean, who was examined the same day, declared that he knew nothing
beyond what Mademoiselle Leblanc had told him that evening, and his
deposition was very similar to hers. He was honest enough, but dull and
narrow-minded. From love of exactness, he omitted no trifling detail
which might be interpreted against me. He asserted that I had always
been subject to pains in the head, during which I lost my senses; that
several times previously, when my nerves were disordered, I had spoken
of blood and murder to some individual whom I always fancied I could
see; and, finally, that my temper was so violent that I was "capable of
throwing the first thing that came to hand at any one's head, though
as a fact I had never, to his knowledge, committed any excess of this
kind." Such are the depositions that frequently decide life and death in
criminal cases.

Patience could not be found on the day of this inquiry. The abbe
declared that his ideas on the occurrence were so vague that he would
undergo all the penalties inflicted on recalcitrant witnesses rather
than express his opinion before fuller investigations had been made.
He requested the public prosecutor to give him time, promising on his
honour that he would not resist the demands of justice, and representing
that at the end of a few days, by inquiring into certain things, he
would probably arrive at a conviction of some sort; in this event he
undertook to speak plainly, either for or against me. This delay was

Marcasse simply said that if I had inflicted the wounds on Mademoiselle
de Mauprat, about which he was beginning to feel very doubtful, I had at
least inflicted them unintentionally; on this he was prepared to stake
his honour and his life.

Such was the result of the first inquiry. It was resumed at various
times during the following days, and several false witnesses swore
that they had seen me shoot Mademoiselle de Mauprat, after vainly
endeavouring to make her yield to my wishes.

One of the most baneful instruments of ancient criminal procedure was
what was known as the monitory; this was a notice from the pulpit, given
out by the bishop and repeated by all vicars to their parishioners,
ordering them to make inquiries about the crime in question, and to
reveal all the facts which might come to their knowledge. This was
merely a modified form of the inquisitorial principle which reigned more
openly in other countries. In the majority of cases, the monitory, which
had, as a fact, been instituted in order to encourage informers in the
name of religion, was a marvel of ridiculous atrocity; it frequently set
forth the crime and all the imaginary circumstances the plaintiffs were
eager to prove; it was, in short, the publication of a ready-made case,
which gave the first knave that came a chance of earning some money
by making a lying deposition in favour of the highest bidder. The
inevitable effect of the monitory, when it was drawn up with a bias,
was to arouse public hatred against the accused. The devout especially,
receiving their opinions ready-made from the clergy, pursued the victim
without mercy. This is what happened in my own case; but here the clergy
of the province were playing a further secret part which almost decided
my fate.

The case was taken to the assizes at the court of Bourges, and
proceedings began in a very few days.

You can imagine the gloomy despair with which I was filled. Edmee's
condition was growing more and more serious; her mind was completely
unhinged. I felt no anxiety as to the result of the trial; I never
imagined it was possible to convict me of a crime I had not committed;
but what were honour and life to me, if Edmee were never to regain the
power of recognising my innocence? I looked upon her as already dead,
and as having cursed me dying! So I was inflexibly resolved to kill
myself immediately after receiving my sentence, whatever it might be.
Until then I felt that it was my duty to live, and to do what might be
necessary for the triumph of truth; but I was plunged in such a state
of stupor that I did not even think of ascertaining what was to be
done. Had it not been for the cleverness and zeal of my counsel, and the
sublime devotion of Marcasse, my listlessness would have left me to the
most terrible fate.

Marcasse spent all his time in expeditions on my behalf. In the evening
he would come and throw himself on a bundle of straw at the foot of my
trunkle bed, and, after giving me news of Edmee and the chevalier,
whom he went to see every day, he would tell me the results of his
proceedings. I used to grasp his hand affectionately; but I was
generally so absorbed by the news he had just given me of Edmee, that I
never heard anything further.

This prison of La Chatre had formerly been the stronghold of the
Elevains of Lombaud, the seigneurs of the province. Nothing was left of
it but a formidable square tower at the top of a ravine where the Indre
forms a narrow, winding valley, rich with the most beautiful vegetation.
The weather was magnificent. My room, situated at the top of the tower,
received the rays of the rising sun, which cast the long, thin shadows
of a triple row of poplars as far as the eye could see. Never did
landscape more smiling, fresh, and pastoral offer itself to the eyes
of a prisoner. But how could I find pleasure in it? Words of death and
contumely came to me in every breeze that blew through the wall-flowers
growing in the crannies. Every rustic sound, every tune on the pipe that
rose to my room, seemed to contain an insult or to proclaim profound
contempt for my sorrow. There was nothing, even to the bleating of
the flocks, which did not appear to me an expression of neglect or

For some time Marcasse had had one fixed idea, namely, that Edmee had
been shot by John Mauprat. It was possible; but as there was no evidence
to support the conjecture, I at once ordered him not to make known his
suspicions. It was not for me to clear myself at the expense of others.
Although John Mauprat was capable of anything, it was possible that he
had never thought of committing this crime; and as I had not heard him
spoken of for more than six weeks, it seemed to me that it would have
been cowardly to accuse him. I clung to the belief that one of the men
in the battue had fired at Edmee by mistake, and that a feeling of fear
and shame prevented him from confessing his misadventure. Marcasse had
the courage to go and see all those who had taken part in the hunt, and,
with such eloquence as Heaven had granted him, implored them not to fear
the penalty for unintentional murder, and not to allow an innocent man
to be accused in their stead. All these efforts were fruitless; from
none of the huntsmen did my poor friend obtain a reply which left him
any nearer a solution of the mystery that surrounded us.

On being transferred to Bourges, I was thrown into the castle which had
belonged to the old dukes of Berry; this was henceforth to be my prison.
It was a great grief to me to be separated from my faithful sergeant. He
would have been allowed to follow me, but he had a presentiment that he
would soon be arrested at the suggestion of my enemies (for he persisted
in believing that I was the victim of a plot), and thus be unable
to serve me any more. He wished, therefore, to lose no time, and to
continue his investigations as long as they "should not have seized his

Two days after my removal to Bourges, Marcasse produced a document
which had been drawn up at his instance by two notaries of La Chatre. It
contained the depositions of ten witnesses to the effect that for some
days before the attempted assassination, a mendicant friar had been
prowling about Varenne; that he had appeared in different places very
close together; and, notably, that he had slept at Notre-Dame de Poligny
the night before the event. Marcasse maintained that this monk was John
Mauprat. Two women declared that they had thought they recognised him
either as John or Walter Mauprat, who closely resembled him. But Walter
had been found drowned the day after the capture of the keep; and the
whole town of La Chatre, on the day when Edmee was shot, had seen the
Trappist engaged with the Carmelite prior from morning till night in
conducting the procession and services for the pilgrimage of Vaudevant.
These depositions, therefore, so far from being favourable to me,
produced a very bad effect, and threw odium on my defence. The Trappist
conclusively proved his alibi, and the prior of the Carmelites helped
him to spread a report that I was a worthless villain. This was a time
of triumph for John Mauprat; he proclaimed aloud that he had come to
deliver himself up to his natural judges to suffer punishment for his
crimes in the past; but no one could think of prosecuting such a holy
man. The fanaticism that he inspired in our eminently devout province
was such that no magistrate would have dared to brave public opinion by
proceeding against him. In his own depositions, Marcasse gave an
account of the mysterious and inexplicable appearance of the Trappist
at Roche-Mauprat, the steps he had taken to obtain an interview with M.
Hubert and his daughter, his insolence in entering and terrifying them
in their drawing-room, and the efforts the Carmelite prior had made to
obtain considerable sums of money from me on behalf of this individual.
All these depositions were treated as fairy tales, for Marcasse admitted
that he had not seen the Trappist in any of the places mentioned, and
neither the chevalier nor his daughter was able to give evidence. It
is true that my answers to the various questions put to me confirmed
Marcasse's statements; but as I declared in all sincerity that for
some two months the Trappist had given me no cause for uneasiness or
displeasure, and as I refused to attribute the murder to him, it seemed
for some days as if he would be forever reinstated in public opinion. My
lack of animosity against him did not, however, diminish that which my
judges showed against me. They made use of the arbitrary powers which
magistrates had in bygone days, especially in remote parts of the
provinces, and they paralyzed all my lawyer's efforts by a fierce haste.
Several legal personages, whose names I will not menton, indulged,
even publicly, in a strain of invective against me which ought to have
excluded them from any court dealing with questions of human dignity and
morality. They intrigued to induce me to confess, and almost went so far
as to promise me a favourable verdict if I at least acknowledged that I
had wounded Mademoiselle de Mauprat accidently. The scorn with which
I met these overtures alienated them altogether. A stranger to all
intrigue, at a time when justice and truth could not triumph except by
intrigue, I was a victim of two redoubtable enemies, the Church and the
Law; the former I had offended in the person of the Carmelite prior; and
the latter hated me because, of the suitors whom Edmee had repulsed, the
most spiteful was a man closely related to the chief magistrate.

Nevertheless, a few honest men to whom I was almost unknown, took an
interest in my case on account of the efforts of others to make my name
odious. One of them, a Monsieur E----, who was not without influence,
for he was the brother of the sheriff of the province and acquainted
with all the deputies, rendered me a service by the excellent
suggestions he made for throwing light on this complicated affair.

Patience, convinced as he was of my guilt, might have served my enemies
without wishing to do so; but he would not. He had resumed his roaming
life in the woods, and, though he did not hide, could never be found.
Marcasse was very uneasy about his intentions and could not understand
his conduct at all. The police were furious to find that an old man was
making a fool of them, and that without going beyond a radius of a few
leagues. I fancy that the old fellow, with his habits and constitution,
could have lived for years in Varenne without falling into their hands,
and, moreover, without feeling that longing to surrender which a sense
of _ennui_ and the horror of solitude so frequently arouse, even in
great criminals.


The day of the public trial came. I went to face it quite calmly; but
the sight of the crowd filled me with a profound melancholy. No support,
no sympathy for me there! It seemed to me that on such an occasion
I might at least have looked for that show of respect to which the
unfortunate and friendless are entitled. Yet, on all the faces around
I saw nothing but a brutal and insolent curiosity. Girls of the lower
classes talked loudly of my looks and my youth. A large number of women
belonging to the nobility or moneyed classes displayed their brilliant
dresses in the galleries, as if they had come to some _fete_. A great
many monks showed their shaven crowns in the middle of the populace,
which they were inciting against me; from their crowded ranks I could
frequently catch the words "brigand," "ungodly," and "wild beast." The
men of fashion in the district were lolling on the seats of honour, and
discussing my passion in the language of the gutter. I saw and heard
everything with that tranquility which springs from a profound disgust
of life; even as a traveller who has come to the end of his journey, may
look with indifference and weariness on the eager bustle of those who
are setting off for a more distant goal.

The trial began with that emphatic solemnity which at all times has
been associated with the exercise of judicial power. My examination was
short, in spite of the innumerable questions that were asked me about
my whole life. My answers singularly disappointed the expectations
of public curiosity, and shortened the trial considerably. I confined
myself to three principal replies, the substance of which I never
changed. Firstly, to all questions concerning my childhood and
education, I replied that I had not come into the defendant's dock to
accuse others. Secondly, to those bearing on Edmee, the nature of my
feeling for her, and my relations with her, I replied that Mademoiselle
de Mauprat's worth and reputation could not permit even the simplest
question as to the nature of her relations with any man whatever; and
that, as to my feelings for her, I was accountable for them to no one.
Thirdly, to those which were designed to make me confess my pretended
crime, I replied that I was not even the unwilling author of the
accident. In brief answers I gave some details of the events immediately
preceding it; but, feeling that I owed it to Edmee as much as to myself
to be silent about the tumultuous impulses that had stirred me, I
explained the scene which had resulted in my quitting her, as being due
to a fall from my horse; and that I had been found some distance from
her body was, I said, because I had deemed it advisable to run after my
horse, so that I might again escort her. Unfortunately all this was not
very clear, and, naturally, could not be. My horse had gone off in the
direction opposite to that which I said; and the bewildered state
in which I had been found before I knew of the accident, was not
sufficiently explained by a fall from my horse. They questioned me
especially about the gallop I had had with my cousin through the wood,
instead of following the hunt as we had intended; they would not believe
that we had gone astray, guided altogether by chance. It was impossible,
they said, to look upon chance as a reasonable being, armed with a gun,
waiting for Edmee at Gazeau Tower at an appointed time, in order to
shoot her the moment I turned my back for five minutes. They pretended
that I must have taken her to this out-of-the-way spot either by craft
or force to outrage her; and that I had tried to kill her either from
rage at not succeeding, or from fear of being discovered and punished
for my crime.

Then all the witnesses for and against me were heard. It is true
that among the former Marcasse was the only one who could really be
considered as a witness for the defence. The rest merely affirmed that
a "monk bearing a resemblance to the Mauprats" had been roaming about
Varenne at the period in question, and that he had even appeared to hide
himself on the evening of the event. Since then he had not been seen.
These depositions, which I had not solicited, and which I declared had
not been taken at my request, caused me considerable astonishment; for
among the witnesses who made them I saw some of the most honest folk in
the country. However, they had no weight except in the eyes of Monsieur
E----, the magistrate, who was really interested in discovering the
truth. He interposed, and asked me how it was that M. Jean de Mauprat
had not been summoned to confront these witnesses, seeing that he
had taken the trouble to put in his affidavit to prove an alibi. This
objection was received with a murmur of indignation. There were not
a few people, however, who by no means looked upon John Mauprat as a
saint; but they took no interest in myself, and had merely come to the
trial as to a play.

The enthusiasm of the bigots reached a climax when the Trappist suddenly
stood up in the crowd. Throwing back his cowl in a theatrical manner,
he boldly approached the bar, declaring that he was a miserable sinner
worthy of all scorn, but on this occasion, when it was the duty of every
one to strive for truth, he considered it incumbent on him to set
an example of simple candour by voluntarily offering himself for any
examination which might shed light on the judges' minds. These
words were greeted with applause. The Trappist was admitted to the
witness-box, and confronted with the witnesses, who all declared,
without any hesitation, that the monk they had seen wore the same habit
as this man, and that there was a family likeness, a sort of distant
resemblance between the two; but that it was not the same person--on
this point they had not the least doubt.

The result of this incident was a fresh triumph for the Trappist. No one
seemed to notice that, as the witnesses had displayed so much candour,
it was difficult to believe that they had not really seen another
Trappist. At this moment I remembered that, at the time of the abbe's
first interview with John Mauprat at the spring at Fougeres, the
latter had let fall a few words about a friar of the same order who was
travelling with him, and had passed the night at the Goulets farm. I
thought it advisable to mention this fact to my counsel. He discussed it
in a low voice with the abbe, who was sitting among the witnesses. The
latter remembered the circumstance quite clearly, but was unable to add
any further details.

When it came to the abbe's turn to give evidence he looked at me with
an expression of agony; his eyes filled with tears, and he answered the
formal questions with difficulty, and in an almost inaudible voice. He
made a great effort to master himself, and finally he gave his evidence
in these words:

"I was driving in the woods when M. le Chevalier Hubert de Mauprat
requested me to alight, and see what had become of his daughter, Edmee,
who had been missing from the field long enough to cause him uneasiness.
I ran for some distance, and when I was about thirty yards from Gazeau
Tower I found M. Bernard de Mauprat in a state of great agitation. I
had just heard a gun fired. I noticed that he was no longer carrying his
carbine; he had thrown it down (discharged, as has been proved), a few
yards away. We both hastened to Mademoiselle de Mauprat, whom we found
lying on the ground with two bullets in her. Another man had reached her
before us and was standing near her at this moment. He alone can make
known the words he heard from her lips. She was unconscious when I saw

"But you heard the exact words from this individual," said the
president; "for rumour has it that there is a close friendship between
yourself and the learned peasant known as Patience."

The abbe hesitated, and asked if the laws of conscience were not in
this case at variance with the laws of the land; and if the judges had
a right to ask a man to reveal a secret intrusted to his honour, and to
make him break his word.

"You have taken an oath here in the name of Christ to tell the truth,
the whole truth," was the reply. "It is for you to judge whether this
oath is not more solemn than any you may have made previously."

"But, if I had received this secret under the seal of the confessional,"
said the abbe, "you certainly would not urge me to reveal it."

"I believe, Monsieur l'Abbe," said the president, "that it is some time
since you confessed any one."

At this unbecoming remark I noticed an expression of mirth on John
Mauprat's face--a fiendish mirth, which brought back to me the man as I
knew him of old, convulsed with laughter at the sight of suffering and

The annoyance which the abbe felt at this personal attack gave him the
courage which might otherwise have been wanting. He remained for a few
moments with downcast eyes. They thought that he was humiliated; but,
as soon as he raised his head, they saw his eyes flashing with the
malicious obstinacy of the priest.

"All things considered," he said, in the most gentle tone, "I think that
my conscience bids me keep this secret; I shall keep it."

"Aubert," said the King's advocate, angrily, "you are apparently unaware
of the penalties which the law inflicts on witnesses who behave as you
are doing."

"I am aware of them," replied the abbe, in a still milder tone.

"Doubtless, then, you do not intend to defy them?"

"I will undergo them if necessary," rejoined the abbe, with an
imperceptible smile of pride, and such a dignified bearing that all the
women were touched.

Women are excellent judges of things that are delicately beautiful.

"Very good," replied the public prosecutor. "Do you intend to persist in
this course of silence?"

"Perhaps," replied the abbe.

"Will you tell us whether, during the days that followed this attempt to
murder Mademoiselle de Mauprat, you were in a position to hear the words
she uttered, either during her delirium or during her lucid intervals?"

"I can give you no information on that point," answered the abbe. "It
would be against my inclinations, and, moreover, in my eyes, an outrage
on propriety, to repeat words which, in the case of delirium, could
prove absolutely nothing, and, if uttered in a lucid moment, could only
have been the outpouring of a genuinely filial affection."

"Very good," said the King's advocate, rising. "We shall call upon the
Court to deliberate on your refusal of evidence, taking this incident in
connection with the main question."

"And I," said the president, "in virtue of my discretionary power, do
order that Aubert be meanwhile arrested and taken to prison."

The abbe allowed himself to be led away with unaffected calmness. The
spectators were filled with respect, and a profound silence reigned
in court, in spite of the bitter efforts of the monks and cures, who
continued to revile the heretic in an undertone.

When the various witnesses had been heard (and I must say that those
who had been suborned played their part very feebly in public), to crown
all, Mademoiselle Leblanc appeared. I was surprised to find the old maid
so bitter against me and able to turn her hatred to such account. In
truth, the weapons she could bring against me were only too powerful.
In virtue of the right which domestics claim to listen at doors and
overhear family secrets, this skilled misinterpreter and prolific liar
had learnt and shaped to her own purposes most of the facts in my
life which could be utilized for my ruin. She related how, seven years
before, I had arrived at the chateau of Sainte-Severe with Mademoiselle
de Mauprat, whom I had rescued from the roughness and wickedness of my

"And let that be said," she added, turning toward John Mauprat with a
polite bow, "without any reference to the holy man in this court, who
was once a great sinner, and is now a great saint. But at what a price,"
she continued, facing the judges again, "had this miserable bandit saved
my dear mistress! He had dishonoured her, gentlemen; and, throughout the
days that followed, the poor young lady had abandoned herself to grief
and shame on account of the violence which had been done her, for which
nothing could bring consolation. Too proud to breath her misfortune to
a single soul, and too honest to deceive any man, she broke off her
engagement with M. de la Marche, whom she loved passionately, and who
returned her passion. She refused every offer of marriage that was
made her, and all from a sense of honour, for in reality she hated M.
Bernard. At first she wanted to kill herself; indeed, she had one of her
father's little hunting-knives sharpened and (M. Marcasse can tell you
the same, if he chooses to remember) she would certainly have killed
herself, if I had not thrown this knife into the well belonging to the
house. She had to think, too, of defending herself against the night
attacks of her persecutor; and, as long as she had this knife, she
always used to put it under her pillow; every night she would bolt the
door of her room; and frequently I have seen her rush back, pale and
ready to faint, quite out of breath, like a person who has just been
pursued and had a great fright. When this gentleman began to receive
some education, and learn good manners, mademoiselle, seeing that she
could never have any other husband, since he was always talking of
killing any man who dared to present himself, hoped he would get rid of
his fierceness, and was most kind and good to him. She even nursed him
during his illness; not that she liked and esteemed him as much as M.
Marcasse was pleased to say in his version; but she was always afraid
that in his delirium he might reveal, either to the servants or her
father, the secret of the injury he had done her. This her modesty and
pride made her most anxious to conceal, as all the ladies present will
readily understand. When the family went to Paris for the winter of '77,
M. Bernard became jealous and tyrannical and threatened so frequently
to kill M. de la Marche that mademoiselle was obliged to send the latter
away. After that she had some violent scenes with Bernard, and declared
that she did not and never would love him. In his rage and grief--for
it cannot be denied that he was enamoured of her in his tigerish
fashion--he went off to America, and during the six years he spent there
his letters seemed to show that he had much improved. By the time he
returned, mademoiselle had made up her mind to be an old maid, and had
become quite calm again. And M. Bernard, too, seemed to have grown into
a fairly good young gentleman. However, through seeing her every day
and everlastingly leaning over the back of her arm-chair, or winding
her skeins of wool and whispering to her while her father was asleep, he
fell so deeply in love again that he lost his head. I do not wish to be
too hard on him, poor creature! and I fancy his right place is in the
asylum rather than on the scaffold. He used to shout and groan all night
long; and the letters he wrote her were so stupid that she used to smile
as she read them and then put them in her pocket without answering them.
Here is one of these letters that I found upon her when I undressed her
after the horrible deed; a bullet has gone through it, and it is
stained with blood, but enough may still be read to show that monsieur
frequently intended to kill mademoiselle."

So saying, she put down on the table a sheet of paper half burnt
and half covered with blood, which sent a shudder through the
spectators--genuine with some of them, mere affectation with many

Before this letter was read, she finished her deposition, and ended it
with some assertions which perplexed me considerably; for I could no
longer distinguish the boundary between truth and perfidy.

"Ever since her accident," she said, "mademoiselle has been hovering
between life and death. She will certainly never recover, whatever the
doctors may declare. I venture to say that these gentlemen, who only see
the patient at certain hours, do not understand her illness as well as
I, who have never left her for a single night. They pretend that her
wounds are going on well and that her head is deranged; whereas I say
that her wounds are going on badly, and that her head is better than
they say. Mademoiselle very rarely talks irrationally, and if by chance
she does, it is in the presence of these gentlemen, who confuse and
frighten her. She then makes such efforts not to appear mad that she
actually becomes so; but as soon as they leave her alone with me or
Saint-Jean or Monsieur l'Abbe, who could quite well have told you how
things are, if he had wished, she becomes calm again, and sweet and
sensible as usual. She says that she could almost die of pain, although
to the doctors she pretends that she is scarcely suffering at all.
And then she speaks of her murderer with the generosity that becomes a
Christian; a hundred times a day she will say:

"'May God pardon him in the next life as I pardon him in this! After
all, a man must be very fond of a woman to kill her! I was wrong not to
marry him; perhaps he would have made me happy. I drove him to despair
and he has avenged himself on me. Dear Leblanc, take care never to
betray the secret I have told you. A single indiscreet word might send
him to the scaffold, and that would be the death of my father.'

"The poor young lady is far from imagining that things have come to this
pass; that I have been summoned by the law and my religion to make known
what I would rather conceal; and that, instead of going out to get an
apparatus for her shower-baths, I have come here to confess the truth.
The only thing that consoles me is that it will be easy to hide all this
from M. le Chevalier, who has no more sense now than a babe just born.
For myself, I have done my duty; may God be my judge!"

After speaking thus with perfect self-possession and great volubility,
Mademoiselle Leblanc sat down again amid a murmur of approbation, and
they proceeded to read the letter which had been found on Edmee.

It was, indeed, the one I had written to her only a few days before the
fatal day. They handed it to me; I could not help pressing my lips to
the stains of Edmee's blood. Then, after glancing at the writing, I
returned the letter, and declared quite calmly that it was written by

The reading of this letter was my _coup de grace_. Fate, who seems
ingenious in injuring her victims, had obtained (and perhaps some famous
hand had contributed to the mutilation) that the passages expressing my
obedience and respect should be destroyed. Certain poetic touches which
might have furnished an explanation of, and an excuse for, my wild
ramblings, were illegible. What showed plain to every eye, and carried
conviction to every mind, were the lines that remained intact, the lines
that bore witness to the violence of my passion and the vehemence of my
frenzy. They were such phrases as these: "Sometimes I feel inclined to
rise in the middle of the night and go and kill you! I should have done
this a hundred times, if I had been sure that I should love you no
more after your death. Be considerate; for there are two men in me, and
sometimes the brigand of old lords it over the new man, etc." A smile of
triumph played about my enemies' mouths. My supporters were demoralized,
and even my poor sergeant looked at me in despair. The public had
already condemned me.

This incident afforded the King's advocate a fine chance of thundering
forth a pompous address, in which he described me as an incurable
blackguard, as an accursed branch of an accursed stock, as an example of
the fatality of evil instincts. Then, after exerting himself to hold
me up as an object of horror and fear, he endeavoured, in order to give
himself an air of impartiality and generosity, to arouse the compassion
of the judges in my favour; he proceeded to show that I was not
responsible for my actions; that my mind had been perverted in early
childhood by foul sights and vile principles, and was not sound, nor
ever could have been, whatever the origin and growth of my passions. At
last, after going through a course of philosophy and rhetoric, to the
great delight of the audience, he demanded that I should be condemned to
privation of civil rights and imprisonment for life.

Though my counsel was a man of spirit and intelligence, the letter
had so taken him by surprise, the people in court were so unfavourably
disposed towards me, and the judges, as they listened to him, so
frequently showed signs of incredulity and impatience (an unseemly habit
which appears to be the heritage of the magisterial benches of this
country), that his defence was tame. All that he seemed justified in
demanding with any vigour was a further inquiry. He complained that all
the formalities had not been fulfilled; that sufficient light had not
been thrown on certain points in the case; that it would be showing
too much haste to give a verdict when several circumstances were still
wrapped in mystery. He demanded that the doctors should be called to
express an opinion as to the possibility of taking Mademoiselle de
Mauprat's evidence. He pointed out that the most important, in fact the
only important, testimony was that of Patience, and that Patience might
appear any day and prove me innocent. Finally, he demanded that
they should order a search to be made for the mendicant friar whose
resemblance to the Mauprats had not yet been explained, and had been
sworn to by trustworthy witnesses. In his opinion it was essential
to discover what had become of Antony Mauprat, and to call upon the
Trappist for information on this point. He complained bitterly that they
had deprived him of all means of defence by refusing any delay; and he
had the courage to assert that some evil passions must be responsible
for such blind haste as had marked the conduct of this trial. On this
the president called him to order. Then the King's advocate replied
triumphantly that all formalities had been fulfilled; that the court was
sufficiently enlightened; that a search for the mendicant friar would
be a piece of folly and in bad taste, since John Mauprat had proved his
last brother's death, which had taken place several years before. The
court retired to deliberate; at the end of half an hour they came back
with a verdict condemning me to death.


Although the haste with which the trial had been conducted and the
severity of the sentence were iniquitous, and filled those who were
most bitter against me with amazement, I received the blow with supreme
indifference; I no longer felt an interest in anything on earth. I
commended my soul and the vindication of my memory to God. I said to
myself that if Edmee died I should find her again in a better world;
that if she survived me and recovered her reason, she would one day
succeed in discovering the truth, and that then I should live in
her heart as a dear and tender memory. Irritable as I am, and always
inclined to violence in the case of anything that is an obstacle or an
offence to me, I am astonished at the philosophical resignation and the
proud calm I have shown on the momentous occasions of life, and above
all on this one.

It was two o'clock in the morning. The case had lasted for fourteen
hours. A silence as of death reigned over the court, which was as full
and as attentive as at the beginning, so fond are mortals of anything in
the nature of a show. That offered by the criminal court at this moment
was somewhat dismal. Those men in red robes, as pale and stern and
implacable as the Council of Ten at Venice; those ghosts of women decked
with flowers, who, by the dim light of the tapers, looked like mere
reflections of life hovering in the galleries above the priests of
death; the muskets of the guard glittering in the gloom in the back of
the court; the heart-broken attitude of my poor sergeant, who had fallen
at my feet; the silent but vast delight of the Trappist, still standing
unwearied near the bar; the mournful note of some convent bell in the
neighbourhood beginning to ring for matins amid the silence of the
assembly--was not all this enough to touch the nerves of the wives of
the farmers-general and to send a thrill through the brawny breasts of
the tanners in the body of the court?

Suddenly, just as the court was about to disperse, a figure like that of
the traditional peasant of the Danube--squat, rugged, barefooted, with
a long beard, dishevelled hair, a broad, grave brow, and a stern,
commanding glance--rose in the midst of the flickering reflections by
which the hall was half lighted, and standing erect before the bar, said
in a deep, striking voice:

"I, Jean le Houx, known as Patience, oppose this judgment as iniquitous
in substance and illegal in form. I demand that it be revised, so that
I may give my evidence, which is necessary, may be of sovereign
importance, and should have been waited for."

"If you had anything to say," cried the King's advocate, in a passion,
"why did you not present yourself when you were summoned. You are
imposing on the court by pretending that you have important evidence to

"And you," answered Patience, more slowly and in an even deeper tone
than before, "you are imposing on the public by pretending that I have
not. You know well enough that I must have."

"Remember where you are, witness, and to whom you are speaking."

"I know too well, and I shall not say too much. I hereby declare that I
have some important things to say, and that I should have said them at
the right time, if you had not done violence to the time. I wish to say
them, and I shall; and, believe me, it is better that I should make them
known while it is still possible to revise these proceedings. It is even
better for the judges than the prisoner; for the one comes to life again
in honour, as soon as the others die in infamy."

"Witness," said the irritated magistrate, "the virulence and
impertinence of your language will be prejudicial rather than
advantageous to the prisoner."

"And who says that I am favourable to the prisoner?" said Patience in a
voice of thunder. "What do you know about me? What if it pleases me
to change an illegal and worthless verdict into one which is legal and

"But how can you reconcile this desire to see the laws respected," said
the magistrate, genuinely moved by Patience's powerful personality,
"with your own breach of them in not appearing when summoned by the
public prosecutor?"

"I did not wish to appear."

"Severe penalties may be inflicted on those whose wishes are not in
harmony with the laws of the land."


"Have you come here to-day with the intention of submitting to them?"

"I have come to see that you respect them."

"I warn you that, if you do not change your tone, I shall have you taken
off to prison."

"And I warn you that, if you love justice and serve God, you will listen
to me and suspend the execution of this sentence. It is not for him who
brings truth to humble himself before those who should be seeking it.
But you who are listening to me now, you men of the people, whom I will
not accuse the great of wishing to dupe, you whose voice is called 'the
voice of God,' side with me; embrace the cause of truth, that truth
which is in danger of being stifled under false outward shows, or else
is about to triumph by unfair means. Go down on your knees, you men
of the people, my brothers, my children; pray, implore, require that
justice be done and anger repressed. It is your duty, it is your right,
and to your own interest; for it is you who are insulted and threatened
when laws are violated."

Patience spoke with so much warmth, and his sincerity was so strikingly
manifest, that a thrill of sympathy ran through the whole audience. At
that time, philosophy was too fashionable with the young men of quality
for these not to be among the first to respond to an appeal, though
addressed to others than themselves. They rose with chivalrous
enthusiasm and turned round to the people, who, carried away by their
noble example, rose likewise. There was a wild uproar, and one and all,
conscious of their dignity and power, cast away personal prejudices in
order to combine for their common rights. Thus, a noble impetuosity and
a true word are sometimes sufficient to bring back the masses who have
long been led astray by sophism.

A respite was granted, and I was led back to my prison amid the applause
of the people. Marcasse followed me. Patience disappeared without giving
me a chance to thank him.

The revision of the sentence could not be made without an order from the
high court. For my own part, before the verdict was given I had resolved
to make no appeal to this court of cassation of the old jurisprudence.
But Patience's bearing and words had had as much effect on my mind as on
the minds of the spectators. The spirit of resistance and the sense
of human dignity, dulled in me and paralyzed, as it were, by grief,
suddenly awoke again, and in this hour I realized that man is not made
for that selfish concentration of despair which is known as resignation
or stoicism. No man can cease to have a regard for his own honour
without at the same time ceasing to feel the respect due to the
principle of honour. If it is grand to sacrifice personal glory and life
to the mysterious decrees of conscience, it is cowardly to abandon both
to the fury of an unjust persecution. I felt that I had risen in my own
estimation, and I passed the rest of this momentous night in devising
means of vindicating myself, with as much persistence as I had
previously displayed in abandoning myself to fate. With this feeling of
energy I could feel hope springing up anew. Edmee, perhaps, was neither
mad nor mortally wounded. She might acquit me; she might recover.

"Who knows?" I said to myself. "Perhaps she has already done me justice.
Perhaps it was she who sent Patience to my rescue. Undoubtedly I shall
best please her by taking courage again, and not letting myself be
crushed by a set of knaves."

But how was I to obtain this order from the high court? It needed a
special mandate from the King; who would procure this? Who would cut
short those odious delays which the law can introduce at will into the
very cases that it has previously hurried on with blind precipitation?
Who would prevent my enemies from injuring me and paralyzing all my
efforts? In a word, who would fight for me? The abbe alone could have
taken up my cause; but he was already in prison on my account. His
generous behaviour in the trial had proved that he was still my friend,
but his zeal was now fettered. And what could Marcasse do, hampered
by his humble birth and enigmatical language? Evening came, and I fell
asleep in the hope that help would be sent from on high; for I had
prayed to God with my whole soul. A few hours of sleep refreshed me; I
was aroused by the noise of bolts being drawn at the other side of
my door. O God of goodness! what was my delight on seeing Arthur, my
brother in arms, my other self, the man from whom I had had no secret
for six long years! I wept like a child on receiving this mark of love
from Providence. Arthur did not believe me guilty! Scientific matters
connected with the library at Philadelphia had taken him to Paris, where
he had heard of this sad affair in which I was implicated. He had broken
a lance with all who attacked me, and had not lost a moment in coming to
offer help or consolation.

In a transport of joy I poured out my soul to him, and then explained
how he could assist me. He wanted to take the coach for Paris that very
evening; but I implored him to go to Sainte-Severe first of all to get
news of Edmee. Four mortal days had passed since I had received any;
and, moreover, Marcasse had never given me such exact details as I could
have wished.

"Ease your mind," said Arthur. "I will undertake to bring you the truth.
I am a pretty good surgeon; and I have a practised eye. I shall be
able to give you some idea of what you have to hope or fear. From
Sainte-Severe I shall go straight to Paris."

Two days later I received a long letter from him giving full details
about Edmee.

Her condition was extraordinary. She did not speak, nor did she appear
to be in pain as long as nothing happened to excite her nerves; but on
the first word which stirred up recollections of her troubles she would
be seized with convulsions. Her moral isolation formed the greatest
obstacle to recovery. Physically she wanted for nothing; she had two
good doctors and a most devoted nurse. Mademoiselle Leblanc likewise was
very zealous in her attentions, though this dangerous woman often gave
her pain by untimely remarks and indiscreet questions. Furthermore,
Arthur assured me that, if ever Edmee had thought me guilty and had
expressed an opinion on this point, it must have been in some previous
phase of her illness; for, during the last fortnight at least, she
had been in a state of complete torpor. She would frequently doze, but
without quite falling asleep; she could take liquid food and jellies,
nor did she ever complain. When her doctors questioned her about her
sufferings she answered by careless signs and always negatively; and she
would never give any indication that she remembered the affections which
had filled her life. Her love for her father, however, that feeling
which had always been so deep and powerful in her, was not extinct; she
would often shed copious tears; but at such a time she seemed to be deaf
to all sounds; in vain would they try to make her understand that her
father was not dead, as she appeared to believe. With a gesture of
entreaty she would beg them to stop, not the noise (for that did not
seem to strike her ear), but the bustle that was going on around her;
then, hiding her face in her hands, lying back in her arm-chair and
bringing her knees up almost to her breast, she would apparently give
way to inconsolable despair. This silent grief, which could no longer
control itself and no longer wished to be controlled; this powerful
will, which had once been able to quell the most violent storms, and now
going adrift on a dead sea and in an unruffled calm--this, said Arthur,
was the most painful spectacle he had ever beheld. Edmee seemed to wish
to have done with life. Mademoiselle Leblanc, in order to test her and
arouse her, had brutally taken upon herself to announce that her father
was dead; she had replied by a sign that she knew. A few hours later
the doctors had tried to make her understand that he was alive; she had
replied by another sign that she did not believe them. They had wheeled
the chevalier's arm-chair into her room; they had brought father and
daughter face to face and the two had not recognised each other. Only,
after a few moments, Edmee, taking her father for a ghost, had uttered
piercing cries, and had been seized with convulsions that had opened one
of her wounds again, and made the doctors tremble for her life. Since
then, they had taken care to keep the two apart, and never to breathe a
word about the chevalier in Edmee's presence. She had taken Arthur for
one of the doctors of the district and had received him with the same
sweetness and the same indifference as the others. He had not dared
to speak to her about me; but he extorted me not to despair. There was
nothing in Edmee's condition that time and rest could not triumph over;
there was but little fever left; none of her vital organs were really
affected; her wounds were almost healed; and it did not seem as if her
brain were in such an excited condition that it would be permanently
deranged. The weak state of her mind, and the prostration of all the
other organs could not, according to Arthur, long withstand the vitality
of youth and the recuperative power of an admirable constitution.
Finally, he advised me to think of myself; I might help towards her
recovery, and I might again find happiness in her affection and esteem.

In a fortnight Arthur returned from Paris with an order from the King
for the revision of my sentence. Fresh witnesses were heard. Patience
did not appear; but I received a note from him containing these words
in a shapeless hand, "You are not guilty, so don't despair." The doctors
declared that Mademoiselle de Mauprat might be examined without danger,
but that her answers would have no meaning. She was now in better
health. She had recognised her father, and at present would never leave
him; but she could understand nothing that was not connected with him.
She seemed to derive great pleasure from tending him like a child, and,
on his side, the chevalier would now and then recognise his beloved
daughter; but his vital powers were visibly decaying. They questioned
him in one of his lucid moments. He replied that his daughter had,
indeed, fallen from her horse while hunting, and that she had torn her
breast on the stump of a tree, but that not a soul had fired at her,
even by mistake, and that only a madman could possibly believe her
cousin capable of such a crime. This was all the information they could
draw from him. When they asked him what he thought of his nephew's
absence, he answered that his nephew was still in the house, and that
he saw him every day. Was it that, in his devotion to the good name of
a family--alas! so compromised--he thought to defeat the aims of justice
by childish lies? This is a point I was never able to ascertain. As for
Edmee, it was impossible to examine her. At the first question that was
asked her, she shrugged her shoulders and made a sign that she did not
wish to be bothered. As the public prosecutor insisted and became
more explicit, she stared at him and seemed to be making an effort to
understand. He pronounced my name, she gave a loud cry and fainted. He
had to abandon all thoughts of taking her evidence. However, Arthur did
not despair. On the contrary, the account of this scene made him think
that Edmee's mental faculties might be about to take a favourable turn.
He immediately returned to Sainte-Severe, where he remained several days
without writing to me, which caused me great anxiety.

When the abbe was questioned again, he persisted in his calm, laconic
refusal to give evidence.

My judges, seeing that the information promised by Patience was not
forthcoming, hurried on the revision of the trial, and, by another
exhibition of haste, gave another proof of their animosity. The
appointed day arrived. I was devoured by anxiety. Arthur had written me
to keep up my courage, in as laconic a style as Patience. My counsel
had been unable to obtain any fresh evidence in my favour. I could see
clearly that he was beginning to believe me guilty. All he hoped for was
to obtain a further delay.


There were even more people present than at the first trial. The guard
were forced back to the doors of the court, and the crowd occupied every
available space, even to the windows of the mansion of Jacques Coeur,
the town-hall of the present day. I was much agitated this time,
though I had strength and pride enough not to let it be seen. I was now
interested in the success of my case, and, as it seemed as if my hopes
were not to be realized, I experienced an indescribable feeling of
uneasiness, a sort of suppressed rage, a bitter hatred of these men who
would not open their eyes to my innocence, and even of God who seemed to
have deserted me.

In this state of agitation I had to make such violent efforts to appear
calm that I scarcely noticed what was happening around me. I recovered
sufficient presence of mind when my fresh examination took place to
answer in the same terms as at the first trial. Then a black veil seemed
to fall over my head, an iron ring gripped my brow; the sockets of my
eyes went icily cold; I could see nothing but myself, hear nothing but
vague, unintelligible sounds. I do not know what actually took place; I
do not know if any one announced the apparition which suddenly appeared
before me. I only remember that a door opened behind the judges, and
that Arthur came forward leading a veiled woman, that he took off her
veil after making her sit down in a big arm-chair which the ushers
eagerly wheeled toward her, and that a cry of admiration rang through
the hall when Edmee's pale, sublime beauty was revealed.

At this moment I forgot the crowd, and the judges, and my cause, and the
whole universe. I believe that no human power could have withstood my
wild rush. I dashed like a thunderbolt into the middle of the inclosure
and, falling at Edmee's feet, I showered kisses on her knees. I have
been told that this act won over the public, and that nearly all the
ladies burst into tears. The young dandies did not venture to laugh; the
judges were affected; and for a moment truth was completely triumphant.

Edmee looked at me for some time. Her face was as expressionless as the
face of death. It did not seem as if she could ever recognise me. The
spectators were waiting in profound silence for her to show some sign of
hatred or affection for me. All at once she burst into tears, threw her
arms around my neck, and then lost consciousness. Arthur had her carried
out immediately; he had some trouble in making me return to my place. I
could not remember where I was or the issues that were at stake; I clung
to Edmee's dress, and only wanted to follow her. Arthur addressed the
court and requested that the doctors who had examined Edmee in the
morning might again pronounce upon the state of her health. He likewise
demanded that she should be recalled to give evidence, and to be
confronted with me as soon as she recovered from the attack.

"This attack is not serious," he said. "Mademoiselle de Mauprat has had
several of the same kind during the last few days and on her way here.
After each her mental faculties have taken a more and more favourable

"Go and attend to the invalid," said the president. "She shall be
recalled in two hours, if you think she will have recovered from her
swoon by then. Meanwhile the court will hear the witness on whose demand
the first sentence was not carried out."

Arthur withdrew and Patience was introduced. He was dressed quite
neatly; but, after saying a few words, he declared that it would be
impossible to continue unless they allowed him to take off his coat.
This borrowed finery so embarrassed him and seemed so heavy that he
was perspiring profusely. No sooner did the president make a sign of
consent, accompanied by a smile of scorn, than he threw to the ground
this badge of civilization. Then, after carefully pulling down his
shirt-sleeves over his sinewy arms, he spoke almost as follows:

"I will speak the truth, the whole truth. I take the oath for the second
time; for I have to speak of things that seem contradictory, things that
I cannot explain to myself. I swear before God and man that I will say
what I know, and as I know it, without being influenced for or against
any one."

He lifted his big hand and turned round towards the people with a simple
confidence, as if to say, "You can all see that I am taking an oath,
and you know that I am to be trusted." This confidence of his was not
ill-founded. Since the incident in the first trial the public mind had
been much occupied about this extraordinary man, who had spoken before
the court with so much daring, and harangued the people in presence
of the judges. His conduct had filled all the democrats and
_Philadelphians_ with great curiosity and sympathy. The works of
Beaumarchais were very fashionable among the upper classes, and this
will explain how it was that Patience, though opposed to all the
authorities in the province, yet found himself supported and applauded
by every man who prided himself on his intelligence. They all thought
they saw in him Figaro under a new form. The fame of his private virtues
had spread; for you remember that during my stay in America, Patience
had made himself known among the people of Varenne and had exchanged his
sorcerer's reputation for that of a public benefactor. They had given
him the title of the _great judge_, because he was always ready to
intervene in disputes, and would always settle to the satisfaction of
both sides with admirable good-nature and tact.

This time he spoke in a high, penetrating voice. It was a rich voice
of wide compass. His gestures were quiet or animated, according to the
circumstances, but always dignified and impressive; the expression on
his short, Socratic face was never anything but fine. He had all the
qualities of an orator; but there was no vanity in his display of them.
He spoke in the plain, concise style that he had been obliged to acquire
in his recent intercourse with men, in discussions about their practical

"When Mademoiselle de Mauprat was shot," he said, "I was not more than a
dozen paces from her; but the brushwood at that spot is so thick that I
could not see more than two paces in front of me. They had persuaded me
to take part in the hunt; but it gave me but little pleasure. Finding
myself near Gazeau Tower, where I lived for some twenty years, I felt an
inclination to see my old cell again, and I was bearing down upon it at
a great pace when I heard a shot. That did not frighten me in the least;
it seemed but natural that there should be some gun fired during a
battue. But when I got through the thicket, that is to day, some two
minutes later, I found Edmee--excuse me, I generally call her by this
name; I am, so to speak, a sort of foster-father to her--I found Edmee
on her knees upon the ground, wounded as you have been told, and still
holding the bridle of her horse, which was rearing. She did not know
whether she was seriously or slightly wounded, but she had her other
hand on her breast, and she was saying:

"'Bernard, this is hideous! I should never have thought that you would
kill me. Bernard, where are you? Come and see me die. This will kill

"As she said this she let go the horse's bridle and fell to the ground.
I rushed towards her.

"'Ah, you saw it, Patience?' she said. 'Do not speak about it; do not
tell my father . . .'

"She threw out her arms, and her body became rigid. I thought that she
was dead. She spoke no more until night, after they had extracted the
bullets from her breast."

"Did you then see Bernard de Mauprat?"

"I saw him on the spot where the deed was done, just as Edmee lost
consciousness and seemed to be giving up her soul; he seemed to be out
of his mind. I thought that he was overwhelmed with remorse. I spoke to
him sternly, and treated him as a murderer. He made no reply, but sat
down on the ground by his cousin's side. He remained there in a dazed
condition, even a long time after they had taken her away. No one
thought of accusing him. The people thought that he had had a fall,
because they saw his horse trotting by the side of the pond; they
believed that his carbine had gone off as he fell. The Abbe Aubert
was the only one who heard me accuse M. Bernard of having murdered his
cousin. During the days that followed, Edmee spoke occasionally, but
it was not always in my presence; besides, at this time she was nearly
always delirious. I maintain that she told nobody (and least of all
Mademoiselle Leblanc) what had passed between herself and M. de Mauprat
before the gun was fired. Nor did she confide this to me any more than
others. On the rare occasions when she was in possession of her senses
she would say in answer to our questions, that Bernard had certainly not
done it on purpose, and several times during the first three days
she even asked to see him. However, when she was delirious she would
sometimes cry, 'Bernard! Bernard! You have committed a great crime. You
have killed my father!'

"That was her idea; she used really to think that her father was dead;
and she thought so for a long time. Very little, therefore, of what she
said is to be taken seriously. The words that Mademoiselle Leblanc
has put into her mouth are false. After three days she ceased to talk
intelligibly, and at the end of a week she ceased to speak altogether.
When she recovered her reason, about a week ago, she sent away
Mademoiselle Leblanc, which would clearly show that she had some
ground for disliking her maid. That is what I have to say against M. de
Mauprat. It rested entirely with myself to keep silent; but having other
things to say yet, I wished to make known the whole truth."

Patience paused awhile; the public and the judges themselves, who were
beginning to take an interest in me and lose the bitterness of their
prejudices, were apparently thunderstruck at hearing evidence so
different from what they expected.

Patience continued as follows:

"For several weeks I remained convinced of Bernard's guilt. But I was
pondering over the matter the while; I frequently said to myself that
a man as good and clever as Bernard, a man for whom Edmee felt so much
esteem, and whom M. le Chevalier loved like a son, a man, in short, so
deeply imbued with the spirit of justice and truth, could not between
one day and the next turn into a scoundrel. Then the idea came into my
head that, after all, it might have been some other Mauprat who fired
the shot. I do not speak of the one who has become a Trappist," he
added, looking among the audience for Jean de Mauprat, who, however
was not there; "I speak of the man whose death has never been proved,
although the court thought fit to overlook this, and to accept M. Jean
de Mauprat's word."

"Witness," said the president, "I must remind you that you are not here
to serve as counsel for the prisoner, or to criticise the decisions of
this court. You must confine yourself to a statement of facts, and not
express your opinion on the question at issue."

"Very well," replied Patience. "I must, however, explain why I did not
wish to appear at the first trial, seeing that the only evidence I
had was against M. Bernard, and that I could not trust that evidence

"You are not asked to explain this at present. Please keep to your

"One moment. I have my honour to defend; I have to explain my own
conduct, if you please."

"You are not the prisoner; you are not here to plead your own cause. If
the court thinks right to prosecute you for contempt you can see to your
own defence; but there is no question of that now."

"I beg your pardon. The question is for me to let the court see whether
I am an honest man or a false witness. It would seem that this has
something to do with the case; the prisoner's life depends on it; the
court cannot consider that a matter of indifference."

"Proceed," said the King's advocate, "and try to remember the respect
you owe to the court."

"I have no wish to offend the court," replied Patience. "I would merely
observe that a man may refuse to submit to the orders of the court from
conscientious motives which the court can legally condemn, but which
each judge, personally, can understand and excuse. I say, then, that I
could not persuade myself of Bernard de Mauprat's guilt; my ears alone
knew of it; this was not enough for me. Pardon me, gentlemen, I, too, am
a judge. Make inquiries about me; in my village they call me 'the great
judge.' When my fellow-villagers ask me to decide some tavern dispute or
the boundary of some field, I do not so much listen to their opinions
as my own. In judging a man one must take account of more than a single
little act. Many previous ones will help to show the truth or falsity
of the last that is imputed to him. Thus, being unable to believe that
Bernard was a murderer, and having heard more than a dozen people, whom
I consider incapable of giving false evidence, testify to the fact that
a monk 'bearing a resemblance to the Mauprats' had been prowling about
the country, and having myself seen this monk's back and habit as he
was passing through Pouligny on the morning of the event, I wished to
discover if he was in Varenne; and I learnt that he was still there;
that is to say, after leaving it, he had returned about the time of the
trial last month. And, what is more, I learnt that he was acquainted
with John Mauprat. Who can this monk be? I asked myself; why does the
very sight of him frighten all the people in the country? What is he
doing in Varenne? If he belongs to the Carmelite convent, why does he
not wear their habit? If he is of the same order as John, why is he
not staying with him at the Carmelites? If he is collecting money, why,
after making a collection in one place, does he not move on to another,
instead of returning and bothering people who have given him money only
the day before? If he is a Trappist and does not want to stay with the
Carmelites like the other, why does he not go back to his own convent?
What is this wandering monk? And how does John Mauprat, who has told
several people that he does not know him, know him so well that they
lunch together from time to time in a tavern at Crevant? I made up my
mind, then, to give evidence, though it might, in a measure, do harm
to M. Bernard, so as to be able to say what I am now saying, even if it
should be of no use. But as you never allow witnesses sufficient time
to try to verify what they have reason to believe, I started off
immediately for my woods, where I live like the foxes, with a
determination not to quit them until I had discovered what this monk was
doing in the country. So I put myself on his track and I have discovered
who he is; he is the murderer of Edmee de Mauprat; his name is Antony

This revelation caused a great stir on the bench and among the public.
Every one looked around for John Mauprat, whose face was nowhere to be

"What proof have you of this?" said the president.

"I am about to tell you," replied Patience. "Having learnt from
the landlady at Crevant, to whom I have occasionally been of some
assistance, that the two Trappists used to lunch at her tavern from time
to time, as I have said, I went and took up my abode about half a league
from here, in a hermitage known as Le Trou aux Fades, situated in the
middle of the woods and open to the first comer, furniture and all. It
is a cave in the rock, containing a seat in the shape of a big stone and
nothing else. I lived there for a couple of days on roots and bits of
bread that they occasionally brought me from the tavern. It is against
my principles to live in a tavern. On the third day the landlady's
little boy came and informed me that the two monks were about to sit
down to a meal. I hastened back, and hid myself in a cellar which
opens into the garden. The door of this cellar is quite close to the
apple-tree under which these gentlemen were taking luncheon in the open
air. John was sober; the other was eating like a Carmelite and drinking
like a Franciscan. I could hear and see everything at my ease.

"'There must be an end of this,' Antony was saying--I easily recognised
the man when I saw him drink and heard him swear--'I am tired of playing
this game for you. Hide me away with the Carmelites or I shall make a

"'And what row can you make that will not bring you to the gallows, you
clumsy fool!' answered John. 'It is very certain that you will not set
foot inside the monastery. I don't want to find myself mixed up in a
criminal trial; for they would discover what you are in an hour or two.'

"'And why, I should like to know? You make them all believe that you
are a saint!'

"'Because I know how to behave like a saint; whereas you--you behave
like a fool. Why, you can't stop swearing for an hour, and you would be
breaking all the mugs after dinner!'

"'I say, Nepomucene,' rejoined the other, 'do you fancy that you would
get off scot-free if I were caught and tried?'

"'Why not?' answered the Trappist. 'I had no hand in your folly, nor
did I advise anything of this kind.'

"'Ha! ha! my fine apostle!' cried Antony, throwing himself back in his
chair in a fit of laughter. 'You are glad enough about it, now that it
is done. You were always a coward; and had it not been for me you would
never have thought of anything better than getting yourself made a
Trappist, to ape devotion and afterward get absolution for the past,
so as to have a right to draw a little money from the "Headbreakers"
of Sainte-Severe. By Jove! a mighty fine ambition, to give up the ghost
under a monk's cowl after leading a pretty poor life and only tasting
half its sweets, let alone hiding like a mole! Come, now; when they have
hung my pretty Bernard, and the lovely Edmonde is dead, and when the
old neck-breaker has given back his big bones to the earth; when we have
inherited all that pretty fortune yonder; you will own that we have done
a capital stroke of business--three at a blow! It would cost me rather
too much to play the saint, seeing that convent ways are not quite my
ways, and that I don't know how to wear the habit; so I shall throw
the cowl to the winds, and content myself with building a chapel at
Roche-Mauprat and taking the sacrament four times a year.'

"'Everything you have done in this matter is stupid and infamous.'

"'Bless my soul! Don't talk of infamy, my sweet brother, or I shall
make you swallow this bottle whole.'

"'I say that it is a piece of folly, and if it succeeds you ought to
burn a fine candle to the Virgin. If it does not succeed, I wash my
hands of the whole business, do you hear? After I had been in hiding in
the secret passage in the keep, and had heard Bernard telling his
valet after supper that he was going out of his mind on account of the
beautiful Edmee, I happened to throw out a suggestion that there might
be a chance here of doing a good stroke of business; and like a fool you
took the matter seriously, and, without consulting me or waiting for a
favourable moment, you went and did a deed that should have been thought
over and properly planned.'

"'A favourable moment, chicken-heart that you are! How the deuce was
I to get one? "Opportunity makes the thief." I find myself surprised
by the hunt in the middle of the forest; I go and hide in that cursed
Gazeau Tower; I see my turtle-doves coming; I overhear a conversation
that might make one die of laughing, and see Bernard blubbering and the
girl playing the haughty beauty; Bernard goes off like an idiot without
showing himself a man; I find on me--God knows how--a rascally pistol
already loaded. Bang! . . .'

"'Hold your tongue, you wild brute!' said the other, quite frightened.
'Do you think a tavern is the proper place to talk of these things?
Keep that tongue quiet, you wretched creature, or I will never see you

"'And yet you will have to see me, sweet brother mine, when I go and
ring the bell at the gate of the Carmelite monastery.'

"'If you come I will denounce you.'

"'You will not denounce me, for I know too much about you.'

"'I am not afraid. I have given proofs of my repentance; I have
expiated my sins.'


"'Come, now, hold your tongue, you madman!' said the other. 'I must
leave you. There is some money.'

"'That all?'

"'What do you expect from a monk? Do you imagine that I am rich?'

"'Your Carmelites are; and you can do what you like with them.'

"'I might give you more, but I would rather not. As soon as you got a
couple of louis you would be off for a debauch, and make enough row to
betray yourself.'

"'And if you want me to quit this part of the country for some time,
what do you suppose I am to travel with?'

"'Three times already I have given you enough to take you away, haven't
I? And each time you have come back, after drinking it all in the
first place of ill-fame on the frontier of the province! Your impudence
sickens me, after the evidence given against you, when the police are
on the watch, when Bernard is appealing for a fresh trial. You may be
caught at any moment!'

"'That is for you to see to, brother. You can lead the Carmelites by
the nose; and the Carmelites can lead the bishop, through some little
peccadillo, I suppose, done together on the quiet in the convent after
supper . . .'"

Here the president interrupted Patience.

"Witness," he said, "I call you to order. You are outraging a prelate's
virtue by daring to retail such a conversation."

"By no means," replied Patience. "I am merely reporting a drunkard's and
a murderer's invectives against the prelate. They do not concern me in
the least; and every one here knows what value to put upon them; but,
if you wish, I will say no more on this point. The discussion lasted
for some time longer. The real Trappist wanted to make the sham Trappist
leave the country, and the latter persisted in remaining, declaring
that, if he were not on the spot, his brother would have him arrested
immediately after Bernard's head had been cut off, so that he might have
the whole inheritance to himself. John, driven to extremities, seriously
threatened to denounce him and hand him over to justice.

"'Enough!' replied Antony. 'You will take good care not to do that, I
know; for, if Bernard is acquitted, good-bye to the inheritance!'

"Then they separated. The real Trappist went away looking very
anxious; the other fell asleep, with his elbows on the table. I left
my hiding-place to take steps for his arrest. It was just then that the
police, who had been on my track for some time to force me to come and
give evidence, collared me. In vain did I point to the monk as Edmee's
murderer; they would not believe me, and said they had no warrant
against him. I wanted to arouse the village, but they prevented me from
speaking. They brought me here, from station to station, as if I had
been a deserter, and for the last week I have been in the cells and no
one has deigned to heed my protests. They would not even let me see M.
Bernard's lawyer, or inform him that I was in prison; it was only just
now that the jailer came, and told me that I must put on my coat and
appear in court. I do not know whether all this is according to the
law; but one thing is certain, namely, that the murderer might have been
arrested and has not been; nor will he be, unless you secure the
person of John Mauprat to prevent him from warning, I do not say his
accomplice, but his _protege_. I state on oath that, from all I have
heard, John Mauprat is above any suspicion of complicity. As to the act
of allowing an innocent man to be handed over to the rigour of the law,
and of endeavouring to save a guilty man by going so far as to give
false evidence, and produce false documents to prove his death . . ."

Patience, noticing that the president was again about to interrupt him,
hastened to end his testimony by saying:

"As to that, gentlemen, it is for you, not for me, to judge him."


After this important evidence the trial was suspended for a few minutes.
When the judges returned Edmee was brought back into the court. Pale and
weak, scarcely able to drag herself to the arm-chair which was reserved
for her, she nevertheless displayed considerable mental vigour and
presence of mind.

"Do you think you can answer the questions which will be put to you
without unduly exciting yourself?" asked the president.

"I hope so, sir," she replied. "It is true that I have recently been
seriously ill, and that it is only within the last few days that I have
recovered my memory; but I believe I have completely recovered it, and
my mind feels quite clear."

"Your name?"

"Solange-Edmonde de Mauprat; _Edmea sylvestris_," she added in an

I shuddered. As she said these unseasonable words her eyes had assumed
a strange expression. I feared that her mind was going to wander still
further. My counsel was also alarmed and looked at me inquiringly. No
one but myself had understood these two words which Edmee had been in
the habit of frequently repeating during the first and last days of
her illness. Happily this was the last sign of any disturbance in
her faculties. She shook her beautiful head, as if to drive out
any troublesome ideas; and, the president having asked her for an
explanation of these unintelligible words, she replied with sweetness
and dignity:

"It is nothing, sir. Please continue my examination."

"Your age, mademoiselle?"


"Are you related to the prisoner?"

"He is my second cousin, and my father's grand-nephew."

"Do you swear to speak the truth, the whole truth?"

"Yes, sir."

"Raise your hand."

Edmee turned towards Arthur with a sad smile. He took off her glove, and
helped to raise her arm, which hung nerveless and powerless by her side.
I felt big tears rolling down my cheeks.

With delicacy and simplicity Edmee related how she and I had lost our
way in the woods; how I, under the impression that her horse had bolted,
had unseated her in my eager anxiety to stop the animal; how a slight
altercation had ensued, after which, with a little feminine temper,
foolish enough, she had wished to mount her mare again without help; how
she had even spoken unkindly to me, not meaning a word of what she said,
for she loved me like a brother; how, deeply hurt by her harshness, I
had moved away a few yards to obey her; and how, just as she was about
to follow me, grieved herself at our childish quarrel, she had felt a
violent shock in her breast, and had fallen almost without hearing any
report. It was impossible for her to say in which direction she was
looking, or from which side the shot had come.

"That is all that happened," she added. "Of all people I am least
able to explain this occurrence. In my soul and conscience I can only
attribute it to the carelessness of one of the hunting party, who is
afraid to confess. Laws are so severe. And it is so difficult to prove
the truth."

"So, mademoiselle, you do not think that your cousin was the author of
this attempt?"

"No, sir, certainly not! I am no longer delirious, and I should not have
let myself be brought before you if I had felt that my mind was at all

"Apparently, then, you consider that a state of mental aberration was
responsible for the revelations you made to Patience, to Mademoiselle
Leblanc, your companion, and also, perhaps, to Abbe Aubert."

"I made no revelations," she replied emphatically, "either to the worthy
Patience, the venerable abbe, or my servant Leblanc. If the meaningless
words we utter in a state of delirium are to be called 'revelations,'
all the people who frighten us in our dreams would have to be condemned
to death. How could I have revealed facts of which I never had any

"But at the time you received the wound, and fell from your horse, you
said: 'Bernard, Bernard! I should never have thought that you would kill

"I do not remember having said so; and, even if I did, I cannot conceive
that any one would attach much importance to the impressions of a
person who had suddenly been struck to the ground, and whose mind was
annihilated, as it were. All that I know is that Bernard de Mauprat
would lay down his life for my father or myself; which does not make it
very probable that he wanted to murder me. Great God! what would be his

In order to embarrass Edmee, the president now utilized all the
arguments which could be drawn from Mademoiselle Leblanc's evidence. As
a fact, they were calculated to cause her not a little confusion.
Edmee, who was at first somewhat astonished to find that the law was in
possession of so many details which she believed were unknown to others,
regained her courage and pride, however, when they suggested, in those
brutally chaste terms which are used by the law in such a case, that she
had been a victim of my violence at Roche-Mauprat. Her spirit thoroughly
roused, she proceeded to defend my character and her own honour, and
declared that, considering how I had been brought up, I had behaved
much more honourably than might have been expected. But she still had
to explain all her life from this point onward, the breaking off of her
engagement with M. de la Marche, her frequent quarrels with myself, my
sudden departure for America, her refusal of all offers of marriage.

"All these questions are abominable," she said, rising suddenly, her
physical strength having returned with the exercise of her mental
powers. "You ask me to give an account of my inmost feelings; you would
sound the mysteries of my soul; you put my modesty on the rack; you
would take to yourself rights that belong only to God. I declare to you
that, if my own life were now at stake and not another's, you should not
extract a word more from me. However, to save the life of the meanest of
men I would overcome my repugnance; much more, therefore, will I do for
him who is now at the bar. Know then--since you force me to a confession
which is painful to the pride and reserve of my sex--that everything
which to you seems inexplicable in my conduct, everything which you
attribute to Bernard's persecutions and my own resentment, to his
threats and my terror, finds its justification in one word: I love him!"

On uttering this word, the red blood in her cheeks, and in the ringing
tone of the proudest and most passionate soul that ever existed, Edmee
sat down again and buried her face in her hands. At this moment I was so
transported that I could not help crying out:

"Let them take me to the scaffold now; I am king of all the earth!"

"To the scaffold! You!" said Edmee, rising again. "Let them rather take
me. Is it your fault, poor boy, if for seven years I have hidden from
you the secret of my affections; if I did not wish you to know it until
you were the first of men in wisdom and intelligence as you are already
the first in greatness of heart? You are paying dearly for my ambition,
since it has been interpreted as scorn and hatred. You have good reason
to hate me, since my pride has brought you to the felon's dock. But I
will wash away your shame by a signal reparation; though they send you
to the scaffold, you shall go there with the title of my husband."

"Your generosity is carrying you too far, Edmee de Mauprat," said the
president. "It would seem that, in order to save your relative, you are
accusing yourself of coquetry and unkindness; for, how otherwise do
you explain the fact that you exasperated this young man's passion by
refusing him for seven years?"

"Perhaps, sir," replied Edmee archly, "the court is not competent to
judge this matter. Many women think it no great crime to show a little
coquetry with the man they love. Perhaps we have a right to this when
we have sacrificed all other men to him. After all, it is a very natural
and very innocent ambition to make the man of one's choice feel that
one is a soul of some price, that one is worth wooing, and worth a long
effort. True, if this coquetry resulted in the condemnation of one's
lover to death, one would speedily correct one's self of it. But,
naturally, gentlemen, you would not think of atoning for my cruelty by
offering the poor young man such a consolation as this."

After saying these words in an animated, ironical tone, Edmee burst
into tears. This nervous sensibility which brought to the front all the
qualities of her soul and mind, tenderness, courage, delicacy, pride,
modesty, gave her face at the same time an expression so varied, so
winning in all its moods, that the grave, sombre assembly of judges let
fall the brazen cuirass of impassive integrity and the leaden cope of
hypocritical virtue. If Edmee had not triumphantly defended me by her
confession, she had at least roused the greatest interest in my favour.
A man who is loved by a beautiful woman carries with him a talisman that
makes him invulnerable; all feel that his life is of greater value than
other lives.

Edmee still had to submit to many questions; she set in their proper
light the facts which had been misrepresented by Mademoiselle Leblanc.
True, she spared me considerably; but with admirable skill she managed
to elude certain questions, and so escaped the necessity of either lying
or condemning me. She generously took upon herself the blame for all
my offences, and pretended that, if we had had various quarrels, it
was because she herself took a secret pleasure in them; because they
revealed the depth of my love; that she had let me go to America to put
my virtue to the proof, thinking that the campaign would not last more
than a year, as was then supposed; that afterwards she had considered me
in honour bound to submit to the indefinite prolongation, but that
she had suffered more than myself from my absence; finally, she quite
remembered the letter which had been found upon her, and, taking it up,
she gave the mutilated passages with astonishing accuracy, and at the
same time called the clerk to follow as she deciphered the words which
were half obliterated.

"This letter was so far from being a threatening letter," she said, "and
the impression it left on me was so far from filling me with fear or
aversion, that it was found on my heart, where I had been carrying it
for a week, though I had not even let Bernard know that I had received

"But you have not yet explained," said the president, "how it was that
seven years ago, when your cousin first came to live in your house,
you armed yourself with a knife which you used to put under your pillow
every night, after having it sharpened as if to defend yourself in case
of need."

"In my family," she answered with a blush, "we have a somewhat romantic
temperament and a very proud spirit. It is true that I frequently
thought of killing myself, because I felt an unconquerable affection
for my cousin springing up in me. Believing myself bound by indissoluble
ties to M. de la Marche. I would have died rather than break my word, or
marry any other than Bernard. Subsequently M. de la Marche freed me from
my promise with much delicacy and loyalty, and I no longer thought of

Edmee now withdrew, followed by all eyes and by a murmur of approbation.
No sooner had she passed out of the hall than she fainted again; but
this attack was without any grave consequences, and left no traces after
a few days.

I was so bewildered, so intoxicated by what she had just said, that
henceforth I could scarcely see what was taking place around me. Wholly
wrapped up in thoughts of my love, I nevertheless could not cast aside
all doubts; for, if Edmee had been silent about some of my actions, it
was also possible that she had exaggerated her affection for me in the
hope of extenuating my faults. I could not bring myself to think that
she had loved me before my departure for America, and, above all, from
the very beginning of my stay at Sainte-Severe. This was the one thought
that filled my mind; I did not even remember anything further about the
case or the object of my trial. It seemed to me that the sole question
at issue in this chill Areopagus was this: Is he loved, or is he not?
For me, victory or defeat, life or death, hung on that, and that alone.

I was roused from these reveries by the voice of Abbe Aubert. He was
thin and wasted, but seemed perfectly calm; he had been kept in solitary
confinement and had suffered all the hardships of prison life with the
resignation of a martyr. In spite, however, of all precautions, the
clever Marcasse, who could work his way anywhere like a ferret, had
managed to convey to him a letter from Arthur, to which Edmee had added
a few words. Authorized by this letter to say everything, he made a
statement similar to that made by Patience, and owned that Edmee's first
words after the occurrence had made him believe me guilty; but that
subsequently, seeing the patient's mental condition, and remembering my
irreproachable behaviour for more than six years, and obtaining a little
new light from the preceding trial and the public rumours about the
possible existence of Antony Mauprat, he had felt too convinced of my
innocence to be willing to give evidence which might injure me. If
he gave his evidence now, it was because he thought that further
investigations might have enlightened the court, and that his words
would not have the serious consequences they might have had a month

Questioned as to Edmee's feelings for me, he completely destroyed all
Mademoiselle Leblanc's inventions, and declared that not only did Edmee
love me ardently, but that she had felt an affection for me from the
very first day we met. This he affirmed on oath, though emphasizing my
past misdeeds somewhat more than Edmee had done. He owned that at first
he had frequently feared that my cousin would be foolish enough to marry
me, but that he had never had any fear for her life, since he had always
seen her reduce me to submission by a single word or a mere look, even
in my most boorish days.

The continuation of the trial was postponed to await the results of the
warrants issued for the arrest of the assassin. People compared my trial
to that of Calas, and the comparison had no sooner become a general
topic of conversation than my judges, finding themselves exposed to a
thousand shafts, realized very vividly that hatred and prejudice are bad
counsellors and dangerous guides. The sheriff of the province declared
himself the champion of my cause and Edmee's knight, and he himself
escorted her back to her father. He set all the police agog. They acted
with vigour and arrested John Mauprat. When he found himself a prisoner
and threatened, he betrayed his brother, and declared that they might
find him any night at Roche-Mauprat, hiding in a secret chamber which
the tenant's wife helped him to reach, without her husband's knowledge.

They took the Trappist to Roche-Mauprat under a good escort, so that he
might show them this secret chamber, which, in spite of his genius
for exploring walls and timber-work, the old pole-cat hunter and
mole-catcher Marcasse had never managed to reach. They took me there,
likewise, so that I might help to find this room or passage leading
to it, in case the Trappist should repent of his present sincere
intentions. Once again, then, I revisited this abhorred manor with the
ancient chief of the brigands transformed into a Trappist. He showed
himself so humble and cringing in my presence, he made so light of his
brother's life, and expressed such abject submission that I was filled
with disgust, and after a few moments begged him not to speak to me any
more. Keeping in touch with the mounted police outside, we began our
search for the secret chamber. At first John had pretended that he
knew of its existence, without knowing its exact location now that
three-quarters of the keep had been destroyed. When he saw me, however,
he remembered that I had surprised him in my room, and that he had
disappeared through the wall. He resigned himself, therefore, to taking
us to it, and showing us the secret; this was very curious; but I will
not amuse myself by giving you an account of it. The secret chamber was
opened; no one was there. Yet the expedition had been made with despatch
and secrecy. It did not appear probable that John had had time to warn
his brother. The keep was surrounded by the police and all the doors
were well guarded. The night was dark, and our invasion had filled all
the inmates of the farm with terror. The tenant had no idea what we were
looking for, but his wife's agitation and anxiety seemed a sure sign
that Antony was still in the keep. She had not sufficient presence of
mind to assume a reassured air after we had explored the first room, and
that made Marcasse think that there must be a second. Did the Trappist
know of this, and was he pretending ignorance? He played his part so
well that we were all deceived. We set to work to explore all the nooks
and corners of the ruins again. There was one large tower standing apart
from the other buildings; it did not seem as if this could offer any
one a refuge. The staircase had completely fallen in at the time of the
fire, and there could not be found a ladder long enough to reach the
top story; even the farmer's ladders tied together with ropes were too
short. This top story seemed to be in a state of good preservation and
to contain a room lighted by two loopholes. Marcasse, after examining
the thickness of the wall, affirmed that there might be a staircase
inside, such as might be found in many an old tower. But where was the
exit? Perhaps it was connected with some subterranean passage. Would the
assassin dare to issue from his retreat as long as we were there? If, in
spite of the darkness of the night and the silence of our proceedings,
he had got wind of our presence, would he venture into the open as long
as we continued on the watch at all points?

"That is not probable," said Marcasse. "We must devise some speedy means
of getting up there; and I see one."

He pointed to a beam at a frightful height, all blackened by the fire,
and running from the tower over a space of some twenty feet to the
garrets of the nearest building. At the end of this beam there was
a large gap in the wall of the tower caused by the falling-in of the
adjoining parts. In his explorations, indeed, Marcasse had fancied that
he could see the steps of a narrow staircase through this gap. The wall,
moreover, was quite thick enough to contain one. The mole-catcher had
never cared to risk his life on this beam; not that he was afraid of
its narrowness or its height; he was accustomed to these perilous
"crossings," as he called them; but the beam had been partly consumed
by the fire and was so thin in the middle that it was impossible to say
whether it would bear the weight of a man, even were he as slender
and diaphanous as the worthy sergeant. Up to the present nothing had
happened here of sufficient importance for him to risk his life in
the experiment. Now, however, the case was different. Marcasse did not
hesitate. I was not near him when he formed his plan; I should have
dissuaded him from it at all costs. I was not aware of it until he had
already reached the middle of the beam, the spot where the burnt wood
was perhaps nothing more than charcoal. How shall I describe to you
what I felt when I beheld my faithful friend in mid-air, gravely walking
toward his goal? Blaireau was trotting in front of him as calmly as in
the old days when it was a question of hunting through bundles of hay in
search of stoats and dormice. Day was breaking, and the hildalgo's slim
outline and his modest yet stately bearing could be clearly seen against
the gray sky. I put my hands to my face; I seemed to hear the fatal beam
cracking; I stifled a cry of terror lest I should unnerve him at this
solemn and critical moment. But I could not suppress this cry, or help
raising my head when I heard two shots fired from the tower. Marcasse's
hat fell at the first shot; the second grazed his shoulder. He stopped a

"Not touched!" he shouted at us.

And making a rush he was quickly across the aerial bridge. He got into
the tower through the gap and darted up the stairs, crying:

"Follow me, my lads! The beam will bear."

Immediately five other bold and active men who had accompanied him got
astride upon the beam, and with the help of their hands reached the
other end one by one. When the first of them arrived in the garret
whither Antony Mauprat had fled, he found him grappling with Marcasse,
who, quite carried away by his triumph and forgetting that it was not a
question of killing an enemy but of capturing him, set about lunging
at him with his long rapier as if he had been a weasel. But the sham
Trappist was a formidable enemy. He had snatched the sword from the
sergeant's hands, hurled him to the ground, and would have strangled
him had not a gendarme thrown himself on him from behind. With his
prodigious strength he held his own against the first three assailants;
but, with the help of the other two, they succeeded in overcoming him.
When he saw that he was caught he made no further resistance and let his
hands be bound together. They brought him down the stairs, which were
found to lead to the bottom of a dry well in the middle of the tower.
Antony was in the habit of leaving and entering by means of a ladder
which the farmer's wife held for him and immediately afterwards
withdrew. In a transport of delight I threw myself into my sergeant's

"A mere trifle," he said; "enjoyed it. I found that my foot was still
sure and my head cool. Ha! ha! old sergeant," he added, looking at his
leg, "old hidalgo, old mole-catcher, after this they won't make so many
jokes about your calves!"


If Anthony Mauprat had been a man of mettle he might have done me a
bad turn by declaring that he had been a witness of my attempt to
assassinate Edmee. As he had reasons for hiding himself before this last
crime, he could have explained why he had kept out of sight, and why he
had been silent about the occurrences at Gazeau Tower. I had nothing in
my favour except Patience's evidence. Would this have been sufficient
to procure my acquittal? The evidence of so many others was against
me, even that given by my friends, and by Edmee, who could not deny my
violent temper and the possibility of such a crime.

But Antony, in words the most insolent of all the "Hamstringers," was
the most cowardly in deeds. He no sooner found himself in the hands
of justice than he confessed everything, even before knowing that his
brother had thrown him over.

At his trial there were some scandalous scenes, in which the two
brothers accused each other in a loathsome way. The Trappist, whose rage
was kept in check by his hypocrisy, coldly abandoned the ruffian to his
fate, and denied that he had ever advised him to commit the crime. The
other, driven to desperation, accused him of the most horrible deeds,
including the poisoning of my mother, and Edmee's mother, who had both
died of violent inflammation of the intestines within a short time of
each other. John Mauprat, he declared, used to be very skilful in the
art of preparing poisons and would introduce himself into houses under
various disguises to mix them with the food. He affirmed that, on
the day that Edmee had been brought to Roche-Mauprat, John had called
together all his brothers to discuss plans for making away with this
heiress to a considerable fortune, a fortune which he had striven
to obtain by crime, since he had tried to destroy the effects of the
Chevalier Hubert's marriage. My mother's life, too, had been the
price paid for the latter's wish to adopt his brother's child. All
the Mauprats had been in favour of making away with Edmee and myself
simultaneously, and John was actually preparing the poison when the
police happened to turn aside their hideous designs by attacking the
castle. John denied the charges with pretended horror, saying humbly
that he had committed quite enough mortal sins of debauchery and
irreligion without having these added to his list. As it was difficult
to take Antony's word for them without further investigation; as this
investigation was almost impossible, and as the clergy were too powerful
and too much interested in preventing a scandal to allow it, John
Mauprat was acquitted on the charge of complicity and merely sent back
to the Trappist monastery; the archbishop forbade him ever to set foot
in the diocese again, and, moreover, sent a request to his superiors
that they would never allow him to leave the convent. He died there a
few years later in all the terrors of a fanatic penitence very much akin
to insanity.

It is probable that, as a result of feigning remorse in order to find
favour among his fellows, he had at last, after the failure of his
plans, and under the terrible asceticism of his order, actually
experienced the horrors and agonies of a bad conscience and tardy
repentance. The fear of hell is the only creed of vile souls.

No sooner was I acquitted and set at liberty, with my character
completely cleared, than I hastened to Edmee. I arrived in time to
witness my great-uncle's last moments. Towards the end, though his mind
remained a blank as to past events, the memory of his heart returned. He
recognised me, clasped me to his breast, blessed me at the same time as
Edmee, and put my hand into his daughter's. After we had paid the last
tribute of affection to our excellent and noble kinsman, whom we were as
grieved to lose as if we had not long foreseen and expected his death,
we left the province for some time, so as not to witness the execution
of Antony, who was condemned to be broken on the wheel. The two false
witnesses who had accused me were flogged, branded, and expelled from
the jurisdiction of the court. Mademoiselle Leblanc, who could not
exactly be accused of giving false evidence, since hers had consisted of
mere inferences from facts, avoided the public displeasure by going to
another province. Here she lived in sufficient luxury to make us suspect
that she had been paid considerable sums to bring about my ruin.

Edmee and I would not consent to be separated, even temporarily, from
our good friends, my sole defenders, Marcasse, Patience, Arthur, and the
Abbe Aubert. We all travelled in the same carriage; the first two, being
accustomed to the open air, were only too glad to sit outside; but we
treated them on a footing of perfect equality. From that day forth they
never sat at any table but our own. Some persons had the bad taste to
express astonishment at this; we let them talk. There are circumstances
that obliterate all distinctions, real or imaginary, of rank and

We paid a visit to Switzerland. Arthur considered this was essential
to the complete restoration of Edmee's health. The delicate, thoughtful
attentions of this devoted friend, and the loving efforts we made to
minister to her happiness, combined into the beautiful spectacle of the
mountains to drive away her melancholy and efface the recollection of
the troublous times through which we had just passed. On Patience's
poetic nature Switzerland had quite a magic effect. He would frequently
fall into such a state of ecstasy that we were entranced and terrified
at the same time. He felt strongly tempted to build himself a chalet
in the heart of some valley and spend the rest of his life there in
contemplation of Nature; but his affection for us made him abandon this
project. As for Marcasse, he declared subsequently that, despite all the
pleasure he had derived from our society, he looked upon this visit
as the most unlucky event of his life. At the inn at Martigny, on our
return journey, Blaireau, whose digestion had been impaired by age,
fell a victim to the excess of hospitality shown him in the kitchen. The
sergeant said not a word, but gazed on him awhile with heavy eye, and
then went and buried him under the most beautiful rose-tree in the
garden; nor did he speak of his loss until more than a year later.

During our journey Edmee was for me a veritable angel of kindness and
tender thought; abandoning herself henceforth to all the inspirations of
her heart, and no longer feeling any distrust of me, or perhaps thinking
that I deserved some compensation for all my sufferings, she repeatedly
confirmed the celestial assurances of love which she had given in
public, when she lifted up her voice to proclaim my innocence. A few
reservations that had struck me in her evidence, and a recollection of
the damning words that had fallen from her lips when Patience found her
shot, continued, I must confess, to cause me pain for some time longer.
I thought, rightly perhaps, that Edmee had made a great effort to
believe in my innocence before Patience had given his evidence. But on
this point she always spoke most unwillingly and with a certain amount
of reserve. However, one day she quite healed my wound by saying with
her charming abruptness:

"And if I loved you enough to absolve you in my own heart, and defend
you in public at the cost of a lie, what would you say to that?"

A point on which I felt no less concern was to know how far I might
believe in the love which she declared she had had for me from the very
beginning of our acquaintance. Here she betrayed a little confusion, as
if, in her invincible pride, she regretted having revealed a secret she
had so jealously guarded. It was the abbe who undertook to confess for
her. He assured me that at that time he had frequently scolded Edmee for
her affection for "the young savage." As an objection to this, I told
him of the conversation between Edmee and himself which I had overheard
one evening in the park. This I repeated with that great accuracy of
memory I possess. However, he replied:

"That very evening, if you had followed us a little further under the
trees, you might have overheard a dispute that would have completely
reassured you, and have explained how, from being repugnant (I may
almost say odious) to me, as you then were, you became at first
endurable, and gradually very dear."

"You must tell me," I exclaimed, "who worked the miracle."

"One word will explain it," he answered; "Edmee loved you. When she had
confessed this to me, she covered her face with her hands and remained
for a moment as if overwhelmed with shame and vexation; then suddenly
she raised her head and exclaimed:

"'Well, since you wish to know the absolute truth, I love him! Yes,
I love him! I am smitten with him, as you say. It is not my fault; why
should I blush at it? I cannot help it; it is the work of fate. I have
never loved M. de la Marche; I merely feel a friendship for him. For
Bernard I have a very different feeling--a feeling so strong, so varied,
so full of unrest, of hatred, of fear, of pity, of anger, of tenderness,
that I understand nothing about it, and no longer try to understand

"'Oh, woman, woman!' I exclaimed, clasping my hands in bewilderment,
'thou art a mystery, an abyss, and he who thinks to know thee is totally

"'As many times as you like, abbe,' she answered, with a firmness in
which there were signs of annoyance and confusion, 'it is all the same
to me. On this point I have lectured myself more than you have lectured
all your flocks in your whole life. I know that Bernard is a bear,
a badger, as Mademoiselle Leblanc calls him, a savage, a boor, and
anything else you like. There is nothing more shaggy, more prickly, more
cunning, more malicious than Bernard. He is an animal who scarcely knows
how to sign his name; he is a coarse brute who thinks he can break me in
like one of the jades of Varenne. But he makes a great mistake; I will
die rather than ever be his, unless he becomes civilized enough to
marry me. But one might as well expect a miracle. I try to improve him,
without daring to hope. However, whether he forces me to kill myself or
to turn nun, whether he remains as he is or becomes worse, it will be
none the less true that I love him. My dear abbe, you know that it must
be costing me something to make this confession; and, when my affection
for you brings me as a penitent to your feet and to your bosom, you
should not humiliate me by your expressions of surprise and your
exorcisms! Consider the matter now; examine, discuss, decide! Consider
the matter now; examine, discuss, decide! The evil is--I love him. The
symptoms are--I think of none but him, I see none but him; and I could
eat no dinner this evening because he had not come back. I find him
handsomer than any man in the world. When he says that he loves me, I
can see, I can feel that it is true; I feel displeased, and at the same
time delighted. M. de la Marche seems insipid and prim since I have
known Bernard. Bernard alone seems as proud, as passionate, as bold as
myself--and as weak as myself; for he cries like a child when I vex him,
and here I am crying, too, as I think of him.'"

"Dear abbe," I said, throwing myself on his neck, "let me embrace you
till I have crushed your life out for remembering all this."

"The abbe is drawing the long bow," said Edmee archly.

"What!" I exclaimed, pressing her hands as if I would break them. "You
have made me suffer for seven years, and now you repent a few words that
console me . . ."

"In any case do not regret the past," she said. "Ah, with you such as
you were in those days, we should have been ruined if I had not been
able to think and decide for both of us. Good God! what would have
become of us by now? You would have had far more to suffer from my
sternness and pride; for you would have offended me from the very first
day of our union, and I should have had to punish you by running away
or killing myself, or killing you--for we are given to killing in our
family; it is a natural habit. One thing is certain, and that is that
you would have been a detestable husband; you would have made me blush
for your ignorance; you would have wanted to rule me, and we should have
fallen foul of each other; that would have driven my father to despair,
and, as you know, my father had to be considered before everything. I
might, perhaps, have risked my own fate lightly enough, if I had been
alone in the world, for I have a strain of rashness in my nature; but
it was essential that my father should remain happy, and tranquil, and
respected. He had brought me up in happiness and independence, and I
should never have forgiven myself if I had deprived his old age of the
blessings he had lavished on my whole life. Do not think that I am full
of virtues and noble qualities, as the abbe pretends; I love, that is
all; but I love strongly, exclusively, steadfastly. I sacrificed you to
my father, my poor Bernard; and Heaven, who would have cursed us if I
had sacrificed my father, rewards us to-day by giving us to each other,
tried and not found wanting. As you grew greater in my eyes I felt
that I could wait, because I knew I had to love you long, and I was not
afraid of seeing my passion vanish before it was satisfied, as do the
passions of feeble souls. We were two exceptional characters; our loves
had to be heroic; the beaten track would have led both of us to ruin."


We returned to Sainte-Severe at the expiration of Edmee's period of
mourning. This was the time that had been fixed for our marriage. When
we had quitted the province where we had both experienced so many bitter
mortifications and such grievous trials, we had imagined that we
should never feel any inclination to return. Yet, so powerful are the
recollections of childhood and the ties of family life that, even in the
heart of an enchanted land which could not arouse painful memories, we
had quickly begun to regret our gloomy, wild Varenne, and sighed for the
old oaks in the park. We returned, then, with a sense of profound yet
solemn joy. Edmee's first care was to gather the beautiful flowers in
the garden and to kneel by her father's grave and arrange them on it. We
kissed the hallowed ground, and there made a vow to strive unceasingly
to leave a name as worthy of respect and veneration as his. He had
frequently carried this ambition to the verge of weakness, but it was a
noble weakness, a sacred vanity.

Our marriage was celebrated in the village chapel, and the festivities
were confined to the family; none but Arthur, the abbe, Marcasse, and
Patience sat down to our modest banquet. What need had we of the outside
world to behold our happiness? They might have believed, perhaps, that
they were doing us an honour by covering the blots on our escutcheon
with their august presence. We were enough to be happy and merry among
ourselves. Our hearts were filled with as much affection as they could
hold. We were too proud to ask more from any one, too pleased with one
another to yearn for greater pleasure. Patience returned to his sober,
retired life, resumed the duties of "great judge" and "treasurer" on
certain days of the week. Marcasse remained with me until his death,
which happened towards the end of the French Revolution. I trust I
did my best to repay his fidelity by an unreserved friendship and an
intimacy that nothing could disturb.

Arthur, who had sacrificed a year of his life to us, could not bring
himself to abjure the love of his country, and his desire to contribute
to its progress by offering it the fruits of his learning and the
results of his investigations; he returned to Philadelphia, where I paid
him a visit after I was left a widower.

I will not describe my years of happiness with my noble wife; such years
beggar description. One could not resign one's self to living after
losing them, if one did not make strenuous efforts to avoid recalling
them too often. She gave me six children; four of these are still alive,
and all honourably settled in life. I have lived for them, in obedience
to Edmee's dying command. You must forgive me for not speaking further
of this loss, which I suffered only ten years ago. I feel it now as
keenly as on the first day, and I do not seek to find consolation for
it, but to make myself worthy of rejoining the holy comrade of my life
in a better world after I have completed my period of probation in this.
She was the only woman I ever loved; never did any other win a glance
from me or know the pressure of my hand. Such is my nature; what I love
I love eternally, in the past, in the present, in the future.

The storms of the Revolution did not destroy our existence, nor did the
passions it aroused disturb the harmony of our private life. We gladly
gave up a large part of our property to the Republic, looking upon
it, indeed, as a just sacrifice. The abbe, terrified by the bloodshed,
occasionally abjured this political faith, when the necessities of the
hour were too much for the strength of his soul. He was the Girondin of
the family.

With no less sensibility, Edmee had greater courage; a woman and
compassionate, she sympathized profoundly with the sufferings of all
classes. She bewailed the misfortune of her age; but she never failed to
appreciate the greatness of its holy fanaticism. She remained faithful
to her ideas of absolute equality. At a time when the acts of the
Mountain were irritating the abbe, and driving him to despair, she
generously sacrificed her own patriotic enthusiasm; and her delicacy
would never let her mention in his presence certain names that made
him shudder, names for which she herself had a sort of passionate
veneration, the like of which I have never seen in any woman.

As for myself, I can truthfully say that it was she who educated me;
during the whole course of my life I had the profoundest respect for
her judgment and rectitude. When, in my enthusiasm, I was filled with
a longing to play a part as a leader of the people, she held me back by
showing how my name would destroy any influence I might have; since they
would distrust me, and imagine my aim was to use them as an instrument
for recovering my rank. When the enemy was at the gates of France, she
sent me to serve as a volunteer; when the Republic was overthrown, and
a military career came to be merely a means of gratifying ambition, she
recalled me, and said:

"You must never leave me again."

Patience played a great part in the Revolution. He was unanimously
chosen as judge of his district. His integrity, his impartiality between
castle and cottage, his firmness and wisdom will never be forgotten in

During the war I was instrumental in saving M. de la Marche's life, and
helping him to escape to a foreign country.

Such, I believe, said old Mauprat, are all the events of my life in
which Edmee played a part. The rest of it is not worth the telling.
If there is anything helpful in my story, try to profit by it, young
fellows. Hope to be blessed with a frank counsellor, a severe friend;
and love not the man who flatters, but the man who reproves. Do not
believe too much in phrenology; for I have the murderer's bump largely
developed, and, as Edmee used to say with grim humour, "killing comes
natural" to our family. Do not believe in fate, or, at least, never
advise any one to tamely submit to it. Such is the moral of my story.

After this old Bernard gave us a good supper, and continued conversing
with us for the rest of the evening without showing any signs of
discomposure or fatigue. As we begged him to develop what he called
the moral of his story a little further, he proceeded to a few general
considerations which impressed me with their soundness and good sense.

I spoke of phrenology, he said, not with the object of criticising a
system which has its good side, in so far as it tends to complete
the series of physiological observations that aim at increasing our
knowledge of man; I used the word phrenology because the only fatality
that we believe in nowadays is that created by our own instincts. I do
not believe that phrenology is more fatalistic than any other system of
this kind; and Lavater, who was also accused of fatalism in his time,
was the most Christian man the Gospel has ever formed.

Do not believe in any absolute and inevitable fate; and yet acknowledge,
in a measure, that we are moulded by instincts, our faculties,
the impressions of our infancy, the surroundings of our earliest
childhood--in short, by all that outside world which has presided over
the development of our soul. Admit that we are not always absolutely
free to choose between good and evil, if you would be indulgent towards
the guilty--that is to say, just even as Heaven is just; for there
is infinite mercy in God's judgments; otherwise His justice would be

What I am saying now is not very orthodox, but, take my word for it, it
is Christian, because it is true. Man is not born wicked; neither is he
born good, as is maintained by Jean Jacques Rousseau, my beloved Edmee's
old master. Man is born with more or less of passions, with more or less
power to satisfy them, with more or less capacity for turning them to a
good or bad account in society. But education can and must find a remedy
for everything; that is the great problem to be solved, to discover the
education best suited to each individual. If it seems necessary that
education should be general and in common, does it follow that it ought
to be the same for all? I quite believe that if I had been sent to
school when I was ten, I should have become a civilized being earlier;
but would any one have thought of correcting my violent passions, and
of teaching me how to conquer them as Edmee did? I doubt it. Every
man needs to be loved before he can be worth anything; but each in
a different way; one with never-failing indulgence, another with
unflinching severity. Meanwhile, until some one solves the problem of
making education common to all, and yet appropriate to each, try to
improve one another.

Do you ask me how? My answer will be brief: by loving one another truly.
It is in this way--for the manners of a people mould their laws--that
you will succeed in suppressing the most odious and impious of all laws,
the _lex talionis_, capital punishment, which is nothing else than the
consecration of the principle of fatality, seeing that it supposes the
culprit incorrigible and Heaven implacable.

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