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´╗┐Title: The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard
Author: France, Anatole, 1844-1924
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 "The Crime of Sylvestre Bonnard" ***

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THE CRIME OF SYLVESTRE BONNARD

By Anatole France



PART I--THE LOG



December 24, 1849.


I had put on my slippers and my dressing-gown. I wiped away a tear with
which the north wind blowing over the quay had obscured my vision. A
bright fire was leaping in the chimney of my study. Ice-crystals, shaped
like fern-leaves, were sprouting over the windowpanes and concealed from
me the Seine with its bridges and the Louvre of the Valois.

I drew up my easy-chair to the hearth, and my table-volante, and took
up so much of my place by the fire as Hamilcar deigned to allow me.
Hamilcar was lying in front of the andirons, curled up on a cushion,
with his nose between his paws. His think find fur rose and fell with
his regular breathing. At my coming, he slowly slipped a glance of his
agate eyes at me from between his half-opened lids, which he closed
again almost at once, thinking to himself, "It is nothing; it is only my
friend."

"Hamilcar," I said to him, as I stretched my legs--"Hamilcar, somnolent
Prince of the City of Books--thou guardian nocturnal! Like that Divine
Cat who combated the impious in Heliopolis--in the night of the great
combat--thou dost defend from vile nibblers those books which the old
savant acquired at the cost of his slender savings and indefatigable
zeal. Sleep, Hamilcar, softly as a sultana, in this library, that
shelters thy military virtues; for verily in thy person are united the
formidable aspect of a Tatar warrior and the slumbrous grace of a
woman of the Orient. Sleep, thou heroic and voluptuous Hamilcar, while
awaiting the moonlight hour in which the mice will come forth to dance
before the Acta Sanctorum of the learned Bolandists!"

The beginning of this discourse pleased Hamilcar, who accompanied it
with a throat-sound like the song of a kettle on the fire. But as my
voice waxed louder, Hamilcar notified me by lowering his ears and by
wrinkling the striped skin of his brow that it was bad taste on my part
so to declaim.

"This old-book man," evidently thought Hamilcar, "talks to no purpose at
all while our housekeeper never utters a word which is not full of good
sense, full of significance--containing either the announcement of a
meal or the promise of a whipping. One knows what she says. But this old
man puts together a lot of sounds signifying nothing."

So thought Hamilcar to himself. Leaving him to his reflections, I opened
a book, which I began to read with interest; for it was a catalogue of
manuscripts. I do not know any reading more easy, more fascinating, more
delightful than that of a catalogue. The one which I was reading--edited
in 1824 by Mr. Thompson, librarian to Sir Thomas Raleigh--sins, it
is true, by excess of brevity, and does not offer that character of
exactitude which the archivists of my own generation were the first to
introduce into works upon diplomatics and paleography. It leaves a good
deal to be desired and to be divined. This is perhaps why I find
myself aware, while reading it, of a state of mind which in nature more
imaginative than mine might be called reverie. I had allowed myself
to drift away this gently upon the current of my thoughts, when my
housekeeper announced, in a tone of ill-humor, that Monsieur Coccoz
desired to speak with me.

In fact, some one had slipped into the library after her. He was a
little man--a poor little man of puny appearance, wearing a thin jacket.
He approached me with a number of little bows and smiles. But he was
very pale, and, although still young and alert, he looked ill. I thought
as I looked at him, of a wounded squirrel. He carried under his arm a
green toilette, which he put upon a chair; then unfastening the four
corners of the toilette, he uncovered a heap of little yellow books.

"Monsieur," he then said to me, "I have not the honour to be known to
you. I am a book-agent, Monsieur. I represent the leading houses of
the capital, and in the hope that you will kindly honour me with your
confidence, I take the liberty to offer you a few novelties."

Kind gods! just gods! such novelties as the homunculus Coccoz showed me!
The first volume that he put in my hand was "L'Histoire de la Tour
de Nesle," with the amours of Marguerite de Bourgogne and the Captain
Buridan.

"It is a historical book," he said to me, with a smile--"a book of real
history."

"In that case," I replied, "it must be very tiresome; for all the
historical books which contain no lies are extremely tedious. I write
some authentic ones myself; and if you were unlucky enough to carry a
copy of any of them from door to door you would run the risk of keeping
it all your life in that green baize of yours, without ever finding even
a cook foolish enough to buy it from you."

"Certainly Monsieur," the little man answered, out of pure good-nature.

And, all smiling again, he offered me the "Amours d'Heloise et
d'Abeilard"; but I made him understand that, at my age, I had no use for
love-stories.

Still smiling, he proposed me the "Regle des Jeux de la
Societe"--piquet, bezique, ecarte, whist, dice, draughts, and chess.

"Alas!" I said to him, "if you want to make me remember the rules of
bezique, give me back my old friend Bignan, with whom I used to play
cards every evening before the Five Academies solemnly escorted him
to the cemetery; or else bring down to the frivolous level of human
amusements the grave intelligence of Hamilcar, whom you see on that
cushion, for he is the sole companion of my evenings."

The little man's smile became vague and uneasy.

"Here," he said, "is a new collection of society amusements--jokes and
puns--with a receipt for changing a red rose to a white rose."

I told him that I had fallen out with the roses for a long time, and
that, as to jokes, I was satisfied with those which I unconsciously
permitted myself to make in the course of my scientific labours.

The homunculus offered me his last book, with his last smile. He said to
me:

"Here is the Clef des Songes--the 'Key of Dreams'--with the explanation
of any dreams that anybody can have; dreams of gold, dreams of robbers,
dreams of death, dreams of falling from the top of a tower.... It is
exhaustive."

I had taken hold of the tongs, and, brandishing them energetically, I
replied to my commercial visitor:

"Yes, my friend; but those dreams and a thousand others, joyous or
tragic, are all summed up in one--the Dream of Life; is your little
yellow book able to give me the key to that?"

"Yes, Monsieur," answered the homunculus; "the book is complete, and it
is not dear--one franc twenty-five centimes, Monsieur."

I called my housekeeper--for there is no bell in my room--and said to
her:

"Therese, Monsieur Coccoz--whom I am going to ask you to show out--has a
book here which might interest you: the 'Key of Dreams.' I shall be very
glad to buy it for you."

My housekeeper responded:

"Monsieur, when one has not even time to dream awake, one has still less
time to dream asleep. Thank God, my days are just enough for my work and
my work for my days, and I am able to say every night, 'Lord, bless Thou
the rest which I am going to take.' I never dream, either on my feet or
in bed; and I never mistake my eider-down coverlet for a devil, as my
cousin did; and, if you will allow me to give my opinion about it,
I think you have books enough here now. Monsieur has thousands and
thousands of books, which simply turn his head; and as for me, I have
just tow, which are quite enough for all my wants and purposes--my
Catholic prayer-book and my Cuisiniere Bourgeoise."

And with those words my housekeeper helped the little man to fasten up
his stock again within the green toilette.

The homunculus Coccoz had ceased to smile. His relaxed features took
such an expression of suffering that I felt sorry to have made fun of
so unhappy a man. I called him back, and told him that I had caught a
glimpse of a copy of the "Histoire d'Estelle et de Nemorin," which
he had among his books; that I was very fond of shepherds and
shepherdesses, and that I would be quite willing to purchase, at a
reasonable price, the story of these two perfect lovers.

"I will sell you that book for one franc twenty-five centimes,
Monsieur," replied Coccoz, whose face at once beamed with joy. "It is
historical; and you will be pleased with it. I know now just what suits
you. I see that you are a connoisseur. To-morrow I will bring you
the Crimes des Papes. It is a good book. I will bring you the edition
d'amateur, with coloured plates."

I begged him not to do anything of the sort, and sent him away happy.
When the green toilette and the agent had disappeared in the shadow of
the corridor I asked my housekeeper whence this little man had dropped
upon us.

"Dropped is the word," she answered; "he dropped on us from the roof,
Monsieur, where he lives with his wife."

"You say he has a wife, Therese? That is marvelous! Women are very
strange creatures! This one must be a very unfortunate little woman."

"I don't really know what she is," answered Therese; "but every morning
I see her trailing a silk dress covered with grease-spots over the
stairs. She makes soft eyes at people. And, in the name of common sense!
does it become a woman that has been received here out of charity to
make eyes and to wear dresses like that? For they allowed the couple
to occupy the attic during the time the roof was being repaired, in
consideration of the fact that the husband is sick and the wife in an
interesting condition. The concierge even says that the pain came on
her this morning, and that she is now confined. They must have been very
badly off for a child!"

"Therese," I replied, "they had no need of a child, doubtless. But
Nature had decided that they should bring one into the world; Nature
made them fall into her snare. One must have exceptional prudence to
defeat Nature's schemes. Let us be sorry for them and not blame them!
As for silk dresses, there is no young woman who does not like them.
The daughters of Eve adore adornment. You yourself, Therese--who are so
serious and sensible--what a fuss you make when you have no white apron
to wait at table in! But, tell me, have they got everything necessary in
their attic?"

"How could they have it, Monsieur?" my housekeeper made answer. "The
husband, whom you have just seen, used to be a jewellery-peddler--at
least, so the concierge tells me--and nobody knows why he stopped
selling watches, you have just seen that his is now selling almanacs.
That is no way to make an honest living, and I never will believe that
God's blessing can come to an almanac-peddler. Between ourselves,
the wife looks to me for all the world like a good-for-nothing--a
Marie-couche toi-la. I think she would be just as capable of bringing up
a child as I should be of playing the guitar. Nobody seems to know where
they came from; but I am sure they must have come by Misery's coach from
the country of Sans-souci."

"Wherever they have come from, Therese, they are unfortunate; and their
attic is cold."

"Pardi!--the roof is broken in several places and the rain comes through
in streams. They have neither furniture nor clothing. I don't think
cabinet-makers and weavers work much for Christians of that sect!"

"That is very sad, Therese; a Christian woman much less well provided
for than this pagan, Hamilcar here!--what does she have to say?"

"Monsieur, I never speak to those people; I don't know what she says or
what she sings. But she sings all day long; I hear her from the stairway
whenever I am going out or coming in."

"Well! the heir of the Coccoz family will be able to say, like the Egg
in the village riddle: Ma mere me fit en chantant. ["My mother sang when
she brought me into the world."] The like happened in the case of Henry
IV. When Jeanne d'Albret felt herself about to be confined she began to
sing an old Bearnaise canticle:

    "Notre-Dame du bout du pont,
     Venez a mon aide en cette heure!
     Priez le Dieu du ciel
     Qu'il me delivre vite,
     Qu'il me donne un garcon!

"It is certainly unreasonable to bring little unfortunates into the
world. But the thing is done every day, my dear Therese and all the
philosophers on earth will never be able to reform the silly custom.
Madame Coccoz has followed it, and she sings. This is creditable at
all events! But, tell me, Therese, have you not put the soup to boil
to-day?"

"Yes, Monsieur; and it is time for me to go and skim it."

"Good! but don't forget, Therese, to take a good bowl of soup out of the
pot and carry it to Madame Coccoz, our attic neighbor."

My housekeeper was on the point of leaving the room when I added, just
in time:

"Therese, before you do anything else, please call your friend the
porter, and tell him to take a good bundle of wood out of our stock and
carry it up to the attic of those Coccoz folks. See, above all, that
he puts a first-class log in the lot--a real Christmas log. As for the
homunculus, if he comes back again, do not allow either himself or any
of his yellow books to come in here."

Having taken all these little precautions with the refined egotism of an
old bachelor, I returned to my catalogue again.

With what surprise, with what emotion, with what anxiety did I therein
discover the following mention, which I cannot even now copy without
feeling my hand tremble:

"LA LEGENDE DOREE DE JACQUES DE GENES (Jacques de Voragine);--traduction
francaise, petit in-4.

"This MS. of the fourteenth century contains, besides the tolerably
complete translation of the celebrated work of Jacques de Voragine,
1. The Legends of Saints Ferreol, Ferrution, Germain, Vincent,
and Droctoveus; 2. A poem 'On the Miraculous Burial of Monsieur
Saint-Germain of Auxerre.' This translation, as well as the legends and
the poem, are due to the Clerk Alexander.

"This MS. is written upon vellum. It contains a great number of
illuminated letters, and two finely executed miniatures, in a rather
imperfect state of preservation:--one represents the Purification of the
Virgin, and the other the Coronation of Proserpine."

What a discovery! Perspiration moistened my forehead, and a veil seemed
to come before my eyes. I trembled; I flushed; and, without being able
to speak, I felt a sudden impulse to cry out at the top of my voice.

What a treasure! For more than forty years I had been making a special
study of the history of Christian Gaul, and particularly of that
glorious Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, whence issued forth those
King-Monks who founded our national dynasty. Now, despite the culpable
insufficiency of the description given, it was evident to me that
the MS. of the Clerk Alexander must have come from the great Abbey.
Everything proved this fact. All the legends added by the translator
related to the pious foundation of the Abbey by King Childebert. Then
the legend of Saint-Droctoveus was particularly significant; being the
legend of the first abbot of my dear Abbey. The poem in French verse
on the burial of Saint-Germain led me actually into the nave of that
venerable basilica which was the umbilicus of Christian Gaul.

The "Golden Legend" is in itself a vast and gracious work. Jacques de
Voragine, Definitor of the Order of Saint-Dominic, and Archbishop
of Genoa, collected in the thirteenth century the various legends of
Catholic saints, and formed so rich a compilation that from all the
monasteries and castles of the time there arouse the cry: "This is the
'Golden Legend.'" The "Legende Doree" was especially opulent in Roman
hagiography. Edited by an Italian monk, it reveals its best merits in
the treatment of matters relating to the terrestrial domains of Saint
Peter. Voragine can only perceive the greater saints of the Occident
as through a cold mist. For this reason the Aquitanian and Saxon
translators of the good legend-writer were careful to add to his recital
the lives of their own national saints.

I have read and collated a great many manuscripts of the "Golden
Legend." I know all those described by my learned colleague, M. Paulin
Paris, in his handsome catalogue of the MSS. of the Biblotheque du Roi.
There were two among them which especially drew my attention. One is
of the fourteenth century and contains a translation by Jean Belet; the
other, younger by a century, presents the version of Jacques Vignay.
Both come from the Colbert collection, and were placed on the shelves of
that glorious Colbertine library by the Librarian Baluze--whose name I
can never pronounce without uncovering my head; for even in the century
of the giants of erudition, Baluze astounds by his greatness. I know
also a very curious codex in the Bigot collection; I know seventy-four
printed editions of the work, commencing with the venerable ancestor of
all--the Gothic of Strasburg, begun in 1471, and finished in 1475. But
no one of those MSS., no one of those editions, contains the legends
of Saints Ferreol, Ferrution, Germain, Vincent, and Droctoveus; no one
bears the name of the Clerk Alexander; no one, in find, came from the
Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres. Compared with the MS. described by Mr.
Thompson, they are only as straw to gold. I have seen with my eyes,
I have touched with my fingers, an incontrovertible testimony to the
existence of this document. But the document itself--what has become of
it? Sir Thomas Raleigh went to end his days by the shores of the Lake of
Como, whither he carried with him a part of his literary wealth. Where
did the books go after the death of that aristocratic collector? Where
could the manuscript of the Clerk Alexander have gone?

"And why," I asked myself, "why should I have learned that this precious
book exists, if I am never to possess it--never even to see it? I would
go to seek it in the burning heart of Africa, or in the icy regions of
the Pole if I knew it were there. But I do not know where it is. I do
not know if it be guarded in a triple-locked iron case by some jealous
biblomaniac. I do not know if it be growing mouldy in the attic of some
ignoramus. I shudder at the thought that perhaps its tore-out leaves may
have been used to cover the pickle-jars of some housekeeper."



August 30, 1850


The heavy heat compelled me to walk slowly. I kept close to the walls of
the north quays; and, in the lukewarm shade, the shops of the dealers
in old books, engravings, and antiquated furniture drew my eyes and
appealed to my fancy. Rummaging and idling among these, I hastily
enjoyed some verses spiritedly thrown off by a poet of the Pleiad. I
examined an elegant Masquerade by Watteau. I felt, with my eye, the
weight of a two-handed sword, a steel gorgerin, a morion. What a thick
helmet! What a ponderous breastplate--Seigneur! A giant's garb? No--the
carapace of an insect. The men of those days were cuirassed like
beetles; their weakness was within them. To-day, on the contrary, our
strength is interior, and our armed souls dwell in feeble bodies.

...Here is a pastel-portrait of a lady of the old time--the face, vague
like a shadow, smiles; and a hand, gloved with an openwork mitten,
retains upon her satiny knees a lap-dog, with a ribbon about its neck.
That picture fills me with a sort of charming melancholy. Let those who
have no half-effaced pastels in their own hearts laugh at me! Like the
horse that scents the stable, I hasten my pace as I near my lodgings.
There it is--that great human hive, in which I have a cell, for the
purpose of therein distilling the somewhat acrid honey of erudition. I
climb the stairs with slow effort. Only a few steps more, and I shall be
at my own door. But I divine, rather than see, a robe descending with a
sound of rustling silk. I stop, and press myself against the balustrade
to make room. The lady who is coming down is bareheaded; she is young;
she sings; her eyes and teeth gleam in the shadow, for she laughs with
lips and eyes at the same time. She is certainly a neighbor, and a very
familiar one. She holds in her arms a pretty child, a little boy--quite
naked, like the son of a goddess; he has a medal hung round his neck
by a little silver chain. I see him sucking his thumb and looking at
me with those big eyes so newly opened on this old universe. The mother
simultaneously looks at me in a sly, mysterious way; she stops--I think
blushes a little--and holds out the little creature to me. The baby has
a pretty wrinkle between wrist and arm, a pretty wrinkle about his neck,
and all over him, from head to foot, the daintiest dimples laugh in his
rosy flesh.

The mamma shows him to me with pride.

"Monsieur," she says, "don't you think he is very pretty--my little
boy?"

She takes one tiny hand, lifts it to the child's own lips, and, drawing
out the darling pink fingers again towards me, says,

"Baby, throw the gentleman a kiss."

Then, folding the little being in her arms, she flees away with the
agility of a cat, and is lost to sight in a corridor which, judging by
the odour, must lead to some kitchen.

I enter my own quarters.

"Therese, who can that young mother be whom I saw bareheaded on the
stairs just now, with a pretty little boy?"

And Therese replies that it was Madame Coccoz.

I stare up at the ceiling, as if trying to obtain some further
illumination. Therese then recalls to me the little book-peddler who
tried to sell me almanacs last year, while his wife was lying in.

"And Coccoz himself?" I asked.

I was answered that I would never see him again. The poor little man had
been laid away underground, without my knowledge, and, indeed, with the
knowledge of very few people, on a short time after the happy delivery
of Madame Coccoz. I leaned that his wife had been able to console
herself: I did likewise.

"But, Therese," I asked, "has Madame Coccoz got everything she needs in
that attic of hers?"

"You would be a great dupe, Monsieur," replied my housekeeper, "if you
should bother yourself about that creature. They gave her notice to quit
the attic when the roof was repaired. But she stays there yet--in spite
of the proprietor, the agent, the concierge, and the bailiffs. I think
she has bewitched every one of them. She will leave the attic when she
pleases, Monsieur; but she is going to leave in her own carriage. Let me
tell you that!"

Therese reflected for a moment; and then uttered these words:

"A pretty face is a curse from Heaven."

"Then I ought to thank Heaven for having spared me that curse. But here!
put my hat and cane away. I am going to amuse myself with a few pages
of Moreri. If I can trust my old fox-nose, we are going to have a nicely
flavoured pullet for dinner. Look after that estimable fowl, my girl,
and spare your neighbors, so that you and your old master may be spared
by them in turn."

Having thus spoken, I proceeded to follow out the tufted ramifications
of a princely genealogy.



May 7, 1851


I have passed the winter according to the ideal of the sages, in angello
cum libello; and now the swallows of the Quai Malaquais find me on their
return about as when they left me. He who lives little, changes little;
and it is scarcely living at all to use up one's days over old texts.

Yet I feel myself to-day a little more deeply impregnated than ever
before with that vague melancholy which life distils. The economy of
my intelligence (I dare scarcely confess it to myself!) has remained
disturbed ever since that momentous hour in which the existence of the
manuscript of the Clerk Alexander was first revealed to me.

It is strange that I should have lost my rest simply on account of a few
old sheets of parchment; but it is unquestionably true. The poor man who
has no desires possesses the greatest of riches; he possesses himself.
The rich man who desires something is only a wretched slave. I am just
such a slave. The sweetest pleasures--those of converse with some one
of a delicate and well-balanced mind, or dining out with a friend--are
insufficient to enable me to forget the manuscript which I know that I
want, and have been wanting from the moment I knew of its existence. I
feel the want of it by day and by night: I feel the want of it in all my
joys and pains; I feel the want of it while at work or asleep.

I recall my desires as a child. How well I can now comprehend the
intense wishes of my early years!

I can see once more, with astonishing vividness, a certain doll which,
when I was eight years old, used to be displayed in the window of an
ugly little shop of the Rue de Seine. I cannot tell how it happened
that this doll attracted me. I was very proud of being a boy; I despised
little girls; and I longed impatiently for the day (which alas! has
come) when a strong beard should bristle on my chin. I played at being
a soldier; and, under the pretext of obtaining forage for my
rocking-horse, I used to make sad havoc among the plants my poor mother
delighted to keep on her window-sill. Manly amusements those, I
should say! And, nevertheless, I was consumed with longing for a doll.
Characters like Hercules have such weaknesses occasionally. Was the one
I had fallen in love with at all beautiful? No. I can see her now. She
had a splotch of vermilion on either cheek, short soft arms, horrible
wooden hands, and long sprawling legs. Her flowered petticoat was
fastened at the waist with two pins. Even now I cans see the black
heads of those two pins. It was a decidedly vulgar doll--smelt of the
faubourg. I remember perfectly well that, child as I was then, before
I had put on my first pair of trousers, I was quite conscious in my own
way that this doll lacked grace and style--that she was gross, that she
was course. But I loved her in spite of that; I loved her just for that;
I loved her only; I wanted her. My soldiers and my drums had become as
nothing in my eyes, I ceased to stick sprigs of heliotrope and veronica
into the mouth of my rocking-horse. That doll was all the world to me. I
invented ruses worthy of a savage to oblige Virginie, my nurse, to take
me by the little shop in the Rue de Seine. I would press my nose against
the window until my nurse had to take my arm and drag me away. "Monsieur
Sylvestre, it is late, and your mamma will scold you." Monsieur
Sylvestre in those days made very little of either scoldings or
whippings. But his nurse lifted him up like a feather, and Monsieur
Sylvestre yielded to force. In after-years, with age, he degenerated,
and sometimes yielded to fear. But at that time he used to fear nothing.

I was unhappy. An unreasoning but irresistible shame prevented me from
telling my mother about the object of my love. Thence all my sufferings.
For many days that doll, incessantly present in fancy, danced before
my eyes, stared at me fixedly, opened her arms to me, assuming in my
imagination a sort of life which made her appear at once mysterious and
weird, and thereby all the more charming and desirable.

Finally, one day--a day I shall never forget--my nurse took me to see my
uncle, Captain Victor, who had invited me to lunch. I admired my uncle
a great deal, as much because he had fired the last French cartridge
at Waterloo, as because he used to prepare with his own hands, at my
mother's table, certain chapons-a-l'ail [Crust on which garlic has been
rubbed], which he afterwards put in the chicory salad. I thought that
was very fine! My Uncle Victor also inspired me with much respect by
his frogged coat, and still more by his way of turning the whole house
upside down from the moment he came into it. Even now I cannot tell just
how he managed it, but I can affirm that whenever my Uncle Victor found
himself in any assembly of twenty persons, it was impossible to see or
to hear anybody but him. My excellent father, I have reason to believe,
never shared my admiration for Uncle Victor, who used to sicken him with
his pipe, give him great thumps in the back by way of friendliness,
and accuse him of lacking energy. My mother, though always showing a
sister's indulgence to the Captain, sometimes advised him to fold the
brandy-bottle a little less frequently. But I had no part either in
these repugnances or these reproaches, and Uncle Victor inspired me with
the purest enthusiasm. It was therefore with a feeling of pride that I
entered into the little lodging he occupied in the Rue Guenegaud. The
entire lunch, served on a small table close to the fireplace, consisted
of cold meats and confectionery.

The Captain stuffed me with cakes and undiluted wine. He told me of
numberless injustices to which he had been a victim. He complained
particularly of the Bourbons; and as he neglected to tell me who the
Bourbons were, I got the idea--I can't tell how--that the Bourbons
were horse-dealers established at Waterloo. The Captain, who never
interrupted his talk except for the purpose of pouring out wine,
furthermore made charges against a number of dirty scoundrels,
blackguards, and good-for-nothings whom I did not know anything about,
but whom I hated from the bottom of my heart. At dessert I thought I
heard the Captain say my father was a man who could be led anywhere by
the nose; but I am not quite sure that I understood him. I had a buzzing
in my ears; and it seemed to me that the table was dancing.

My uncle put on his frogged coat, took his bell shaped hat, and we
descended to the street, which seemed to me singularly changed. It
looked to me as if I had not been in it before for ever so long a time.
Nevertheless, when we came to the Rue de Seine, the idea of my doll
suddenly returned to my mind and excited me in an extraordinary way. My
head was on fire. I resolved upon a desperate expedient. We were passing
before the window. She was there, behind the glass--with her red checks,
and her flowered petticoat, and her long legs.

"Uncle," I said, with a great effort, "will you buy that doll for me?"

And I waited.

"Buy a doll for a boy--sacrebleu!" cried my uncle, in a voice of
thunder. "Do you wish to dishonour yourself? And it is that old Mag
there that you want! Well, I must compliment you, my young fellow! If
you grow up with such tastes as that, you will never have any pleasure
in life; and your comrades will call you a precious ninny. If you asked
me for a sword or a gun, my boy, I would buy them for you with the last
silver crown of my pension. But to buy a doll for you--by all that's
holy!--to disgrace you! Never in the world! Why, if I were ever to see
you playing with a puppet rigged out like that, Monsieur, my sister's
son, I would disown you for my nephew!"

On hearing these words, I felt my heart so wrung that nothing but
pride--a diabolical pride--kept me from crying.

My uncle, suddenly calming down, returned to his ideas about the
Bourbons; but I, still smarting under the weight of his indignation,
felt an unspeakable shame. My resolve was quickly made. I promised
myself never to disgrace myself--I firmly and for ever renounced that
red-cheeked doll.

I felt that day, for the first time, the austere sweetness of sacrifice.

Captain, though it be true that all your life you swore like a pagan,
smoked like a beadle, and drank like a bell-ringer, be your memory
nevertheless honoured--not merely because you were a brave soldier,
but also because you revealed to your little nephew in petticoats
the sentiment of heroism! Pride and laziness had made you almost
insupportable, Uncle Victor!--but a great heart used to beat under those
frogs upon your coat. You always used to wear, I now remember, a rose
in your button-hole. That rose which you offered so readily to the
shop-girls--that large, open-hearted flower, scattering its petals
to all the winds, was the symbol of your glorious youth. You despised
neither wine nor tobacco; but you despised life. Neither delicacy nor
common sense could have been learned from you, Captain; but you taught
me, even at an age when my nurse had to wipe my nose, a lesson of honour
and self-abrogation that I shall never forget.

You have now been sleeping for many years in the Cemetery of
Mont-Parnasse, under a plain slab bearing the epitaph:

                           CI-GIT
                   ARISTIDE VICTOR MALDENT,
                    Capitaine d'Infanterie,
               Chevalier de la Legion d'Honneur.

But such, Captain, was not the inscription devised by yourself to be
placed above those old bones of yours--knocked about so long on fields
of battle and in haunts of pleasure. Among your papers was found this
proud and bitter epitaph, which, despite your last will none could have
ventured to put upon your tomb:

                           CI-GIT
                    UN BRIGAND DE LA LOIRE

"Therese, we will get a wreath of immortelles to-morrow, and lay them on
the tomb of the Brigand of the Loire."...

But Therese is not here. And how, indeed, could she be near me,
seeing that I am at the rondpoint of the Champs-Elysees? There, at the
termination of the avenue, the Arc de Triomphe, which bears under its
vaults the names of Uncle Victor's companions-in-arms, opens its giant
gate against the sky. The trees of the avenue are unfolding to the sun
of spring their first leaves, still all pale and chilly. Beside me the
carriages keep rolling by to the Bois de Boulogne. Unconsciously I have
wandered into this fashionable avenue on my promenade, and halted, quite
stupidly, in front of a booth stocked with gingerbread and decanters of
liquorice-water, each topped by a lemon. A miserable little boy, covered
with rags, which expose his chapped skin, stares with widely opened
eyes at those sumptuous sweets which are not for such as he. With the
shamelessness of innocence he betrays his longing. His round, fixed eyes
contemplate a certain gingerbread man of lofty stature. It is a general,
and it looks a little like Uncle Victor. I take it, I pay for it,
and present it to the little pauper, who dares not extend his hand to
receive it--for, by reason of precocious experience, he cannot believe
in luck; he looks at me, in the same way that certain big dogs do, with
the air of one saying, "You are cruel to make fun of me like that!"

"Come, little stupid," I say to him, in that rough tone I am accustomed
to use, "take it--take it, and eat it; for you, happier than I was
at your age, you can satisfy your tastes without disgracing
yourself."...And you, Uncle Victor--you, whose manly figure has been
recalled to me by that gingerbread general, come, glorious Shadow, help
me to forget my new doll. We remain for ever children, and are always
running after new toys.



Same day.


In the oddest way that Coccoz family has become associated in my mind
with the Clerk Alexander.

"Therese," I said, as I threw myself into my easy-chair, "tell me if the
little Coccoz is well, and whether he has got his first teeth yet--and
bring me my slippers."

"He ought to have them by this time, Monsieur," replied Therese; "but I
never saw them. The very first fine day of spring the mother disappeared
with the child, leaving furniture and clothes and everything behind her.
They found thirty-eight empty pomade-pots in the attic. It passes all
belief! She had visitors latterly; and you may be quite sure she is not
now in a convent of nuns. The niece of the concierge says she saw her
driving about in a carriage on the boulevards. I always told you she
would end badly."

"Therese," I replied, "that young woman has not ended either badly or
well as yet. Wait until the term of her life is over before you judge
her. And be careful not to talk too much with that concierge. It seemed
to me--though I only saw her for a moment on the stairs--that Madame
Coccoz was very fond of her child. For that mother's love at least, she
deserves credit."

"As far as that goes, Monsieur, certainly the little one never wanted
for anything. In all the Quarter one could not have found a child better
kept, or better nourished, or more petted and coddled. Every day that
God makes she puts a clean bib on him, and sings to him to make him
laugh from morning till night."

"Therese, a poet has said, 'That child whose mother has never smiled
upon him is worthy neither of the table of the gods nor of the couch of
the goddesses.'"



July 8, 1852.


Having been informed that the Chapel of the Virgin at
Saint-Germain-des-Pres was being repaved, I entered the church with
the hope of discovering some old inscriptions, possibly exposed by the
labours of the workmen. I was not disappointed. The architect kindly
showed me a stone which he had just had raised up against the wall.
I knelt down to look at the inscription engraved upon that stone; and
then, half aloud, I read in the shadow of the old apsis these words,
which made my heart leap:

"Cy-gist Alexandre, moyne de ceste eglise, qui fist mettre en argent le
menton de Saint-Vincent et de Saint-Amant et le pie des Innocens; qui
toujours en son vivant fut preud'homme et vayllant. Priez pour l'ame de
lui."

I wiped gently away with my handkerchief the dust covering that
gravestone; I could have kissed it.

"It is he! it is Alexander!" I cried out; and from the height of the
vaults the name fell back upon me with a clang, as if broken.

The silent severity of the beadle, whom I saw advancing towards me,
made me ashamed of my enthusiasm; and I fled between the two holy water
sprinklers with which tow rival "rats d'eglise" seemed desirous of
barring my way.

At all events it was certainly my own Alexander! there could be no more
doubt possible; the translator of the "Golden Legend," the author of
the saints lives of Saints Germain, Vincent, Ferreol, Ferrution,
and Droctoveus was, just as I had supposed, a monk of
Saint-Germain-des-Pres. And what a monk, too--pious and generous! He
had a silver chin, a silver head, and a silver foot made, that certain
precious remains should be covered with an incorruptible envelope! But
shall I never be able to view his handiwork? or is this new discovery
only destined to increase my regrets?



August 20, 1859.


  "I, that please some, try all; both joy and terror
   Of good and bad; that make and unfold error--
   Now take upon me, in the name of Time
   To use my wings.  Impute it not a crime
   To me or my swift passage, that I slide
   O'er years."

   Who speaks thus? 'Tis an old man whom I know too well. It is Time.

Shakespeare, after having terminated the third act of the "Winter's
Tale," pauses in order to leave time for little Perdita to grow up in
wisdom and in beauty; and when he raises the curtain again he evokes the
ancient Scythe-bearer upon the stage to render account to the audience
of those many long days which have weighted down upon the head of the
jealous Leontes.

Like Shakespeare in his play, I have left in this diary of mine a long
interval to oblivion; and after the fashion of the poet, I make Time
himself intervene to explain the omission of ten whole years. Ten whole
years, indeed, have passed since I wrote one single line in this diary;
and now that I take up the pen again, I have not the pleasure, alas!
to describe a Perdita "now grown in grace." Youth and beauty are the
faithful companions of poets; but those charming phantoms scarcely visit
the rest of us, even for the space of a season. We do not know how to
retain them with us. If the fair shade of some Perdita should ever,
through some inconceivable whim, take a notion to traverse my brain, she
would hurt herself horribly against heaps of dog-eared parchments. Happy
the poets!--their white hairs never scare away the hovering shades of
Helens, Francescas, Juliets, Julias, and Dorotheas! But the nose alone
of Sylvestre Bonnard would put to flight the whole swarm of love's
heroines.

Yet I, like others, have felt beauty; I have known that mysterious charm
which Nature has lent to animate form; and the clay which lives has
given to me that shudder of delight which makes the lover and the poet.
But I have never known either how to love or how to sing. Now in my
memory--all encumbered as it is with the rubbish of old texts--I can
discern again, like a miniature forgotten in some attic, a certain
bright young face, with violet eyes.... Why, Bonnard, my friend, what
an old fool you are becoming! Read that catalogue which a Florentine
bookseller sent you this very morning. It is a catalogue of Manuscripts;
and he promises you a description of several famous ones, long preserved
by the collectors of Italy and Sicily. There is something better suited
to you, something more in keeping with your present appearance.

I read; I cry out! Hamilcar, who has assumed with the approach of age an
air of gravity that intimidates me, looks at me reproachfully, and seems
to ask me whether there is any rest in this world, since he cannot enjoy
it beside me, who am old also like himself.

In the sudden joy of my discovery, I need a confidant; and it is to the
sceptic Hamilcar that I address myself with all the effusion of a happy
man.

"No, Hamilcar! no," I said to him; "there is no rest in this world, and
the quietude which you long for is incompatible with the duties of
life. And you say that we are old, indeed! Listen to what I read in this
catalogue, and then tell me whether this is a time to be reposing:

"'LA LEGENDE DOREE DE JACQUES DE VORAGINE;--traduction francaise du
quatorzieme sicle, par le Clerc Alexandre.

"'Superb MS., ornamented with two miniatures, wonderfully executed, and
in a perfect state of preservation:--one representing the Purification
of the Virgin; the other the Coronation of Proserpine.

"'At the termination of the "Legende Doree" are the Legends of Saints
Ferreol, Ferrution, Germain, and Droctoveus (xxxviii pp.) and the
Miraculous Sepulture of Monsieur Saint-Germain d'Auxerre (xii pp.).

"'This rare manuscript, which formed part of the collection of Sir
Thomas Raleigh, is now in the private study of Signor Michel-Angelo
Polizzi, of Girgenti.'"

"You hear that, Hamilcar? The manuscript of the Clerk Alexander is in
Sicily, at the house of Michel-Angelo Polizzi. Heaven grant he may be a
friend of learned men! I am going to write him!"

Which I did forthwith. In my letter I requested Signor Polizzi to allow
me to examine the manuscript of Clerk Alexander, stating on what grounds
I ventured to consider myself worthy of so great a favour. I offered at
the same time to put at his disposal several unpublished texts in my
own possession, not devoid of interest. I begged him to favour me with
a prompt reply, and below my signature I wrote down all my honorary
titles.

"Monsieur! Monsieur! where are you running like that?" cried Therese,
quite alarmed, coming down the stairs in pursuit of me, four steps at a
time, with my hat in her hand.

"I am going to post a letter, Therese."

"Good God! is that a way to run out in the street, bareheaded, like a
crazy man?"

"I am crazy, I know, Therese. But who is not? Give me my hat, quick!"

"And your gloves, Monsieur! and your umbrella!"

I had reached the bottom of the stairs, but still heard her protesting
and lamenting.



October 10, 1859.


I awaited Signor Polizzi's reply with ill-contained impatience. I could
not even remain quiet; I would make sudden nervous gestures--open books
and violently close them again. One day I happened to upset a book
with my elbow--a volume of Moreri. Hamilcar, who was washing himself,
suddenly stopped, and looked angrily at me, with his paw over his ear.
Was this the tumultuous existence he must expect under my roof? Had
there not been a tacit understanding between us that we should live a
peaceful life? I had broken the covenant.

"My poor dear comrade," I made answer, "I am the victim of a violent
passion, which agitates and masters me. The passions are enemies of
peace and quiet, I acknowledge; but without them there would be no arts
or industries in the world. Everybody would sleep naked on a dung-heap;
and you would not be able, Hamilcar, to repose all day on a silken
cushion, in the City of Books."

I expatiated no further to Hamilcar on the theory of the passions,
however, because my housekeeper brought me a letter. It bore the
postmark of Naples and read as follows:

"Most Illustrious Sir,--I do indeed possess that incomparable manuscript
of the 'Golden Legend' which could not escape your keen observation.
All-important reasons, however, forbid me, imperiously, tyrannically, to
let the manuscript go out of my possession for a single day, for even a
single minute. It will be a joy and pride for me to have you examine it
in my humble home in Girgenti, which will be embellished and illuminated
by your presence. It is with the most anxious expectation of your visit
that I presume to sign myself, Seigneur Academician,

"Your humble and devoted servant

"Michel-Angelo Polizzi,

"Wine-merchant and Archaeologist at Girgenti, Sicily."


Well, then! I will go to Sicily:

"Extremum hunc, Arethusa, mihi concede laborem."



October 25, 1859.


My resolve had been taken and my preparations made; it only remained
for me to notify my housekeeper. I must acknowledge it was a long time
before I could make up my mind to tell her I was going away. I feared
her remonstrances, her railleries, her objurgations, her tears. "She is
a good, kind girl," I said to myself; "she is attacked to me; she will
want to prevent me from going; and the Lord knows that when she has her
mind set upon anything, gestures and cries cost her no effort. In this
instance she will be sure to call the concierge, the scrubber, the
mattress-maker, and the seven sons of the fruit-seller; they will all
kneel down in a circle around me; they will begin to cry, and then they
will look so ugly that I shall be obliged to yield, so as not to have
the pain of seeing them any more."

Such were the awful images, the sick dreams, which fear marshaled before
my imagination. Yes, fear--"fecund Fear," as the poet says--gave
birth to these monstrosities in my brain. For--I may as well make the
confession in these private pages--I am afraid of my housekeeper. I am
aware that she knows I am weak; and this fact alone is sufficient to
dispel all my courage in any contest with her. Contests are of frequent
occurrence; and I invariably succumb.

But for all that, I had to announce my departure to Therese. She came
into the library with an armful of wood to make a little fire--"une
flambe," she said. For the mornings are chilly. I watched her out of the
corner of my eye while she crouched down at the hearth, with her head in
the opening of the fireplace. I do not know how I then found the courage
to speak, but I did so without much hesitation. I got up, and, walking
up and down the room, observed in a careless tone, with that swaggering
manner characteristic of cowards,

"By the way, Therese, I am going to Sicily."

Having thus spoken, I awaited the consequence with great anxiety.
Therese did not reply. Her head and her vast cap remained buried in the
fireplace; and nothing in her person, which I closely watched, betrayed
the least emotion. She poked some paper under the wood, and blew up the
fire. That was all!

Finally I saw her face again;--it was calm--so calm that it made me
vexed. "Surely," I thought to myself, "this old maid has no heart. She
lets me go away without saying so much as AH! Can the absence of her old
master really affect her so little?"

"Well, then go, Monsieur," she answered at last, "only be back here by
six o'clock! There is a dish for dinner to-day which will not wait for
anybody."



Naples, November 10, 1859.


"Co tra calle vive, magna, e lave a faccia."

I understand, my friend--for three centimes I can eat, drink, and wash
my face, all by means of one of those slices of watermelon you display
there on a little table. But Occidental prejudices would prevent me from
enjoying that simple pleasure freely and frankly. And how could I suck
a watermelon? I have enough to do merely to keep on my feet in this
crowd. What a luminous, noisy night in the Strada di Porto! Mountains of
fruit tower up in the shops, illuminated by multicoloured lanterns. Upon
charcoal furnaces lighted in the open air water boils and steams, and
ragouts are singing in frying-pans. The smell of fried fish and hot
meats tickles my nose and makes me sneeze. At this moment I find that my
handkerchief has left the pocket of my frock-coat. I am pushed,
lifted up, and turned about in every direction by the gayest, the most
talkative, the most animated and the most adroit populace possible to
imagine; and suddenly a young woman of the people, while I am admiring
her magnificent hair, with a single shock of her powerful elastic
shoulder, pushes me staggering three paces back at least, without
injury, into the arms of a maccaroni-eater, who receives me with a
smile.

I am in Naples. How I ever managed to arrive here, with a few mutilated
and shapeless remains of baggage, I cannot tell, because I am no longer
myself. I have been travelling in a condition of perpetual fright; and I
think that I must have looked awhile ago in this bright city like an owl
bewildered by sunshine. To-night it is much worse! Wishing to obtain a
glimpse of popular manners, I went to the Strada di Porto, where I now
am. All about me animated throngs of people crowd and press before the
eating-places; and I float like a waif among these living surges, which,
even while they submerge you, still caress. For this Neopolitan people
has, in its very vivacity, something indescribably gentle and polite.
I am not roughly jostled, I am merely swayed about; and I think that
by dint of thus rocking me to and fro, these good folks want to lull
me asleep on my feet. I admire, as I tread the lava pavements of the
strada, those porters and fishermen who move by me chatting, singing,
smoking, gesticulating, quarrelling, and embracing each other the next
moment with astonishing versatility of mood. They live through all their
sense at the same time; and, being philosophers without knowing it, keep
the measure of their desires in accordance with the brevity of life. I
approach a much-patronised tavern, and see inscribed above the entrance
this quatrain in Neopolitan patois:


           "Amice, alliegre magnammo e bevimmo
            N fin che n'ce stace noglio a la lucerna:
            Chi sa s'a l'autro munno n'ce verdimmo?
            Chi sa s'a l'autro munno n'ce taverna?"
         ["Friends, let us merrily eat and drink
           as long as oil remains in the lamp:
           Who knows if we shall meet again in another world?
           Who knows if in the other world there will be a tavern?"]


Even such counsels was Horace wont to give to his friends. You received
them, Posthumus; you heard them also, Leuconoe, perverse beauty who
wished to know the secrets of the future. That future is now the past,
and we know it well. Of a truth you were foolish to worry yourselves
about so small a matter; and your friend showed his good sense when he
told you to take life wisely and to filter your Greek wines--"Sapias,
vina liques." Even thus the sight of a fair land under a spotless sky
urges to the pursuit of quiet pleasures, but there are souls for ever
harassed by some sublime discontent; those are the noblest. You were
of such, Leuconoe; and I, visiting for the first time, in my declining
years, that city where your beauty was famed of old, I salute with
deep respect your melancholy memory. Those souls of kin to your own
who appeared in the age of Christianity were souls of saints; and the
"Golden Legend" is full of the miracles they wrought. Your friend Horace
left a less noble posterity, and I see one of his descendants in the
person of that tavern poet, who at this moment is serving out wine in
cups under the epicurean motto of his sign.

And yet life decides in favour of friend Flaccus, and his philosophy
is the only one which adapts itself to the course of events. There is a
fellow leaning against that trellis-work covered with vine-leaves, and
eating an ice, while watching the stars. He would not stoop even to
pick up the old manuscript I am going to seek with so much trouble and
fatigue. And in truth man is made rather to eat ices than to pore over
old texts.

I continued to wander about among the drinkers and the singers. There
were lovers biting into beautiful fruit, each with an arm about the
other's waist. Man must be naturally bad; for all this strange joy only
evoked in me a feeling of uttermost despondency. That thronging populace
displayed such artless delight in the simple act of living, that all the
shynesses begotten by my old habits as an author awoke and intensified
into something like fright. Furthermore, I found myself much discouraged
by my inability to understand a word of all the storm of chatter about
me. It was a humiliating experience for a philologist. Thus I had begun
to feel quite sulky, when I was startled to hear someone behind me
observe:

"Dimitri, that old man is certainly a Frenchman. He looks so bewildered
that I really fell sorry for him. Shall I speak to him? ...He has such
a goo-natured look, with that round back of his--do you not think so,
Dimitri?"

It was said in French by a woman's voice. For the moment it was
disagreeable to hear myself spoken of as an old man. Is a man old at
sixty-two? Only the other day, on the Pont des Arts, my colleague Perrot
d'Avrignac complimented me on my youthful appearance; and I should think
him a better authority about one's age than that young chatterbox who
has taken it on herself to make remarks about my back. My back is round,
she says. Ah! ah! I had some suspicion myself to that effect, but I
am not going now to believe it at all, since it is the opinion of a
giddy-headed young woman. Certainly I will not turn my head round to see
who it was that spoke; but I am sure it was a pretty woman. Why? Because
she talks like a capricious person and like a spoiled child. Ugly women
may be naturally quite as capricious as pretty ones; but as they are
never petted and spoiled, and as no allowances are made for them, they
soon find themselves obliged either to suppress their whims or to hide
them. On the other hand, the pretty women can be just as fantastical as
they please. My neighbour is evidently one of the latter.... But, after
all, coming to think it over, she really did nothing worse than to
express, in her own way, a kindly thought about me, for which I ought to
feel grateful.

These reflections--include the last and decisive one--passed through my
mind in less than a second; and if I have taken a whole minute to tell
them, it is characteristic of most philologists. In less than a second,
therefore, after the voice had ceased, I did turn round, and saw a
pretty little woman--a sprightly brunette.

"Madame," I said, with a bow, "excuse my involuntary indiscretion. I
could not help overhearing what you have just said. You would like to
be of service to a poor old man. And the wish, Madame, has already been
fulfilled--the mere sound of a French voice has given me such pleasure
that I must thank you."

I bowed again, and turned to go away; but my foot slipped upon a
melon-rind, and I should certainly have embraced the Parthenopean soil
had not the young lady put out her hand and caught me.

There is a force in circumstances--even in the very smallest
circumstances--against which resistance is vain. I resigned myself to
remain the protege of the fair unknown.

"It is late," she said; "do you not wish to go back to your hotel, which
must be quite close to ours--unless it be the same one?"

"Madame," I replied, "I do not know what time it is, because somebody
has stolen my watch; but I think, as you say, that it must be time to
retire; and I shall be very glad to regain my hotel in the company of
such courteous compatriots."

So saying, I bowed once more to the young lady, and also saluted her
companion, a silent colossus with a gentle and melancholy face.

After having gone a little way with them, I learned, among other
matters, that my new acquaintances were the Prince and Princess Trepof,
and that they were making a trip round the world for the purpose of
finding match-boxes, of which they were making a collection.

We proceeded along a narrow, tortuous vicoletto, lighted only by
a single lamp burning in the niche of a Madonna. The purity and
transparency of the air gave a celestial softness and clearness to the
very darkness itself; and one could find one's way without difficulty
under such a limpid night. But in a little while we began to pass
through a "venella," or, in Neopolitan parlance, a sottoportico, which
led under so many archways and so many far-projecting balconies that no
gleam of light from the sky could reach us. My young guide had made us
take this route as a short cut, she assured us; but I think she did so
quite as much simply in order to show that she felt at home in Naples,
and knew the city thoroughly. Indeed, she needed to know it very
thoroughly to venture by night into that labyrinth of subterranean
alleys and flights of steps. If ever any many showed absolute docility
in allowing himself to be guided, that man was myself. Dante never
followed the steps of Beatrice with more confidence than I felt in
following those of Princess Trepof.

The lady appeared to find some pleasure in my conversation, for she
invited me to take a carriage-drive with her on the morrow to visit the
grotto of Posilippo and the tomb of Virgil. She declared she had seen me
somewhere before; but she could not remember if it had been a Stockholm
or at Canton. In the former event I was a very celebrated professor of
geology; in the latter, a provision-merchant whose courtesy and kindness
had been much appreciated. One thing certain was that she had seen my
back somewhere before.

"Excuse me," she added; "we are continually travelling, my husband and
I, to collect match-boxes and to change our ennui by changing country.
Perhaps it would be more reasonable to content ourselves with a single
variety of ennui. But we have made all our preparations and arrangements
for travelling: all our plans have been laid out in advance, and it
gives us no trouble, whereas it would be very troublesome for us to
stop anywhere in particular. I tell you all this so that you many not
be surprised if my recollections have become a little mixed up. But from
the moment I first saw you at a distance this evening, I felt--in fact
I knew--that I had seen you before. Now the question is, 'Where was
it that I saw you?' You are not then, either the geologist or the
provision-merchant?"

"No, Madame," I replied, "I am neither the one nor the other; and I am
sorry for it--since you have had reason to esteem them. There is really
nothing about me worthy of your interest. I have spent all my life
poring over books, and I have never traveled: you might have known that
from my bewilderment, which excited your compassion. I am a member of
the Institute."

"You are a member of the Institute! How nice! Will you not write
something for me in my album? Do you know Chinese? I would like so much
to have you write something in Chinese or Persian in my album. I will
introduce you to my friend, Miss Fergusson, who travels everywhere
to see all the famous people in the world. She will be delighted....
Dimitri, did you hear that?--this gentleman is a member of the
Institute, and he has passed all his life over books."

The prince nodded approval.

"Monsieur," I said, trying to engage him in our conversation, "it is
true that something can be learned from books; but a great deal more can
be learned by travelling, and I regret that I have not been able to
go round the world like you. I have lived in the same house for thirty
years and I scarcely every go out."

"Lived in the same house for thirty years!" cried Madame Trepof; "is it
possible?"

"Yes, Madame," I answered. "But you must know the house is situated on
the bank of the Seine, and in the very handsomest and most famous part
of the world. From my window I can see the Tuileries and the Louvre,
the Pont-Neuf, the towers of Notre-Dame, the turrets of the Palais de
Justice, and the spire of the Sainte-Chapelle. All those stones speak to
me; they tell me stories about the days of Saint-Louis, of the Valois,
of Henri IV., and of Louis XIV. I understand them, and I love them all.
It is only a very small corner of the world, but honestly, Madame, where
is there a more glorious spot?"

At this moment we found ourselves upon a public square--a largo steeped
in the soft glow of the night. Madame Trepof looked at me in an uneasy
manner; her lifted eyebrows almost touched the black curls about her
forehead.

"Where do you live then?" she demanded brusquely.

"On the Quai Malaquais, Madame, and my name is Bonnard. It is not a name
very widely known, but I am contented if my friends do not forget it."

This revelation, unimportant as it was, produced an extraordinary effect
upon Madame Trepof. She immediately turned her back upon me and caught
her husband's arm.

"Come, Dimitri!" she exclaimed, "do walk a little faster. I am horribly
tired, and you will not hurry yourself in the least. We shall never get
home.... As for you, monsieur, your way lies over there!"

She made a vague gesture in the direction of some dark vicolo, pushed
her husband the opposite way, and called to me, without even turning her
head.

"Adieu, Monsieur! We shall not go to Posilippo to-morrow, nor the
day after, either. I have a frightful headache!... Dimitri, you are
unendurable! will you not walk faster?"

I remained for the moment stupefied, vainly trying to think what I could
have done to offend Madame Trepof. I had also lost my way, and seemed
doomed to wander about all night. In order to ask my way, I would have
to see somebody; and it did not seem likely that I should find a single
human being who could understand me. In my despair I entered a street
at random--a street, or rather a horrible alley that had the look of a
murderous place. It proved so in fact, for I had not been two minutes in
it before I saw two men fighting with knives. They were attacking each
other more fiercely with their tongues than with their weapons; and I
concluded from the nature of the abuse they were showering upon each
other that it was a love affair. I prudently made my way into a side
alley while those two good fellows were still much too busy with their
own affairs to think about mine. I wandered hopelessly about for a
while, and at last sat down, completely discouraged, on a stone bench,
inwardly cursing the strange caprices of Madame Trepof.

"How are you, Signor? Are you back from San Carlo? Did you hear the diva
sing? It is only at Naples you can hear singing like hers."

I looked up, and recognised my host. I had seated myself with my back to
the facade of my hotel, under the window of my own room.



Monte-Allegro, November 30, 1859.


We were all resting--myself, my guides, and their mules--on a road
from Sciacca to Girgenti, at a tavern in the miserable village of
Monte-Allegro, whose inhabitants, consumed by the mal aria, continually
shiver in the sun. But nevertheless they are Greeks, and their gaiety
triumphs over all circumstances. A few gather about the tavern, full of
smiling curiosity. One good story would have sufficed, had I known how
to tell it to them, to make them forget all the woes of life. They had
all a look of intelligence! and their women, although tanned and faded,
wore their long black cloaks with much grace.

Before me I could see old ruins whitened by the sea-wind--ruins about
which no grass ever grows. The dismal melancholy of deserts prevails
over this arid land, whose cracked surface can barely nourish a few
shriveled mimosas, cacti, and dwarf palms. Twenty yards away, along the
course of a ravine, stones were gleaming whitely like a long line of
scattered bones. They told me that was the bed of a stream.

I had been fifteen days in Sicily. On coming into the Bay of
Palermo--which opens between the two mighty naked masses of the
Pelligrino and the Catalfano, and extends inward along the "Golden
Conch"--the view inspired me with such admiration that I resolved to
travel a little in this island, so ennobled by historic memories, and
rendered so beautiful by the outlines of its hills, which reveal the
principles of Greek art. Old pilgrim though I was, grown hoary in
the Gothic Occident--I dared to venture upon that classic soil; and,
securing a guide, I went from Palermo to Trapani, from Trapani to
Selinonte, from Selinonte to Sciacca--which I left this morning to go to
Girgenti, where I am to find the MS. of Clerk Alexander. The beautiful
things I have seen are still so vivid in my mind that I feel the task of
writing them would be a useless fatigue. Why spoil my pleasure-trip
by collecting notes? Lovers who love truly do not write down their
happiness.

Wholly absorbed by the melancholy of the present and the poetry of
the past, my thoughts people with beautiful shapes, and my eyes ever
gratified by the pure and harmonious lines of the landscape, I was
resting in the tavern at Monte-Allegro, sipping a glass of heavy, fiery
wine, when I saw two persons enter the waiting-room, whom, after a
moment's hesitation, I recognised as the Prince and Princess Trepof.

This time I saw the princess in the light--and what a light! He who has
known that of Sicily can better comprehend the words of Sophocles:
"Oh holy light!... Eye of the Golden Day!" Madame Trepof, dressed in a
brown-holland and wearing a broad-brimmed straw hat, appeared to me a
very pretty woman of about twenty-eight. Her eyes were luminous as a
child's; but her slightly plump chin indicated the age of plenitude.
She is, I must confess it, quite an attractive person. She is supple
and changeful; her mood is like water itself--and, thank Heaven! I am
no navigator. I thought I discerned in her manner a sort of ill-humour,
which I attributed presently, by reason of some observations she uttered
at random, to the fact that she had met no brigands upon her route.

"Such things only happen to us!" she exclaimed, with a gesture of
discouragement.

She called for a glass of iced water, which the landlord presented to
her with a gesture that recalled to me those scenes of funeral offerings
painted upon Greek vases.

I was in no hurry to introduce myself to a lady who had so abruptly
dropped my acquaintance in the public square at Naples; but she
perceived me in my corner, and her frown notified me very plainly that
our accidental meeting was disagreeable to her.

After she had sipper her ice-water for a few moments--whether because
her whim had suddenly changed, or because my loneliness aroused her
pity, I did not know--she walked directly to me.

"Good-day, Monsieur Bonnard," she said. "How do you do? What strange
chance enables us to meet again in this frightful country?"

"This country is not frightful, Madame," I replied. "Beauty is so great
and so august a quality that centuries of barbarism cannot efface it
so completely that adorable vestiges of it will not always remain. The
majesty of the antique Ceres still overshadows these arid valleys; and
that Greek Muse who made Arethusa and Maenalus ring with her divine
accents, still sings for my ears upon the barren mountain and in the
place of the dried-up spring. Yes, Madame, when our globe, no longer
inhabited, shall, like the moon, roll a wan corpse through space, the
soil which bears the ruins of Selinonte will still keep the seal of
beauty in the midst of universal death; and then, then, at least
there will be no frivolous mouth to blaspheme the grandeur of these
solitudes."

I knew well enough that my words were beyond the comprehension of the
pretty little empty-head which heard them. But an old fellow like myself
who has worn out his life over books does not know how to adapt his tone
to circumstances. Besides I wished to give Madame Trepof a lesson in
politeness. She received it with so much submission, and with such
an air of comprehension, that I hastened to add, as good-naturedly as
possible,

"As to whether the chance which has enabled me to meet you again be
lucky or unlucky, I cannot decide the question until I am sure that my
presence be not disagreeable to you. You appeared to become weary of my
company very suddenly at Naples the other day. I can only attribute that
misfortune to my naturally unpleasant manner--since, on that occasion, I
had had the honour of meeting you for the first time in my life."

These words seem to cause her inexplicable joy. She smiled upon me in
the most gracious, mischievous way, and said very earnestly, holding out
her hand, which I touched with my lips,

"Monsieur Bonnard, do not refuse to accept a seat in my carriage. You
can chat with me on the way about antiquity, and that will amuse me ever
so much."

"My dear," exclaimed the prince, "you can do just as you please; but
you ought to remember that one is horribly cramped in that carriage of
yours; and I fear that you are only offering Monsieur Bonnard the chance
of getting a frightful attack of lumbago."

Madame Trepof simply shook her head by way of explaining that such
considerations had no weight with her whatever; then she untied her hat.
The darkness of her black curls descended over her eyes, and bathed them
in velvety shadow. She remained a little while quite motionless, and her
face assumed a surprising expression of reverie. But all of a sudden she
darted at some oranges which the tavern-keeper had brought in a basket,
and began to throw them, one by one, into a fold of her dress.

"These will be nice on the road," she said. "We are going just where you
are going--to Girgenti. I must tell you all about it; you know that
my husband is making a collection of match-boxes. We bought thirteen
hundred match-boxes at Marseilles. But we heard there was a factory of
them at Girgenti. According to what we were told, it is a very small
factory, and its products--which are very ugly--never go outside
the city and its suburbs. So we are going to Girgenti just to buy
match-boxes. Dimitri has been a collector of all sorts of things; but
the only kind of collection which can now interest him is a collection
of match-boxes. He has already got five thousand two hundred and
fourteen different kinds. Some of them gave us frightful trouble to
find. For instance, we knew that at Naples boxes were once made with
the portraits of Mazzini and Garibaldi on them; and that the police had
seized the plates from which the portraits were printed, and put the
manufacturer in gaol. Well, by dint of searching and inquiring for ever
so long a while, we found one of those boxes at last for sale at one
hundred francs, instead of two sous. It was not really too dear at
that price; but we were denounced for buying it. We were taken for
conspirators. All our baggage was searched; they could not find the box,
because I had hidden it so well; but they found my jewels, and carried
them off. They have them still. The incident made quite a sensation, and
we were going to get arrested. But the king was displeased about it, and
he ordered them to leave us alone. Up to that time, I used to think it
was very stupid to collect match-boxes; but when I found that there were
risks of losing liberty, and perhaps even life, by doing it, I began to
feel a taste for it. Now I am an absolute fanatic on the subject. We
are going to Sweden next summer to complete our series.... Are we not,
Dimitri?"

I felt--must I confess it?--a thorough sympathy with these intrepid
collectors. No doubt I would rather have found Monsieur and Madame
Trepof engaged in collecting antique marbles or painted vases in
Sicily. I should have like to have found them interested in the ruins
of Syracuse, or the poetical traditions of the Eryx. But at all events,
they were making some sort of a collection--they belonged to the great
confraternity--and I could not possibly make fun of them without making
fun of myself. Besides, Madame Trepof had spoken of her collection
with such an odd mingling of irony and enthusiasm that I could not help
finding the idea a very good one.

We were getting ready to leave the tavern, when we noticed some people
coming downstairs from the upper room, carrying carbines under their
dark cloaks, to me they had the look of thorough bandits; and after they
were gone I told Monsieur Trepof my opinion of them. He answered me,
very quietly, that he also thought they were regular bandits; and the
guides begged us to apply for an escort of gendarmes, but Madame Trepof
besought us not to do anything of the kind. She declared that we must
not "spoil her journey."

Then, turning her persuasive eyes upon me, she asked,

"Do you not believe, Monsieur Bonnard, that there is nothing in life
worth having except sensations?"

"Why, certainly, Madame," I answered; "but then we must take into
consideration the nature of the sensations themselves. Those which a
noble memory or a grand spectacle creates within us certainly represent
what is best in human life; but those merely resulting from the menace
of danger seem to me sensations which one should be very careful to
avoid as much as possible. For example, would you think it a very
pleasant thing, Madame, while travelling over the mountains at midnight,
to find the muzzle of a carbine suddenly pressed against your forehead?"

"Oh, no!" she replied; "the comic-operas have made carbines absolutely
ridiculous, and it would be a great misfortune to any young woman to
find herself in danger from an absurd weapon. But it would be quite
different with a knife--a very cold and very bright knife blade, which
makes a cold shudder go right through one's heart."

She shuddered even as she spoke; closed her eyes, and threw her head
back. Then she resumed:

"People like you are so happy! You can interest yourselves in all sorts
of things!"

She gave a sidelong look at her husband, who was talking with the
innkeeper. Then she leaned towards me, and murmured very low:

"You see, Dimitri and I, we are both suffering from ennui! We have
still the match-boxes. But at last one gets tired even of match-boxes.
Besides, our collection will soon be complete. And then what are we
going to do?"

"Oh, Madame!" I exclaimed, touched by the moral unhappiness of this
pretty person, "if you only had a son, then you would know what to do.
You would then learn the purpose of your life, and your thoughts would
become at once more serious and yet more cheerful."

"But I have a son," she replied. "He is a big boy; he is eleven years
old, and he suffers from ennui like the rest of us. Yes, my George has
ennui, too; he is tired of everything. It is very wretched."

She glanced again towards her husband, who was superintending the
harnessing of the mules on the road outside--testing the condition of
girths and straps. Then she asked me whether there had been many changes
on the Quai Malaquais during the past ten years. She declared she never
visited that neighbourhood because it was too far way.

"Too far from Monte Allegro?" I queried.

"Why, no!" she replied. "Too far from the Avenue des Champs Elysees,
where we live."

And she murmured over again, as if talking to herself, "Too far!--too
far!" in a tone of reverie which I could not possibly account for. All
at once she smiled again, and said to me,

"I like you, Monsieur Bonnard!--I like you very, very much!"

The mules had been harnessed. The young woman hastily picked up a few
oranges which had rolled off her lap; rose up; looked at me, and burst
out laughing.

"Oh!" she exclaimed, "how I should like to see you grappling with the
brigands! You would say such extraordinary things to them!... Please
take my hat, and hold my umbrella for me, Monsieur Bonnard."

"What a strange little mind!" I thought to myself, as I followed her.
"It could only have been in a moment of inexcusable thoughtlessness that
Nature gave a child to such a giddy little woman!"



Girgenti. Same day.


Her manners had shocked me. I left her to arrange herself in her
lettica, and I made myself as comfortable as I could in my own. These
vehicles, which have no wheels, are carried by two mules--one before and
one behind. This kind of litter, or chaise, is of ancient origin. I had
often seen representations of similar ones in the French MSS. of the
fourteenth century. I had no idea then that one of those vehicles would
be at a future day placed at my own disposal. We must never be too sure
of anything.

For three hours the mules sounded their little bells, and thumped the
calcined ground with their hoofs. On either hand there slowly defiled by
us the barren monstrous shapes of a nature totally African.

Half-way we made a halt to allow our animals to recover breath.

Madame Trepof came to me on the road, took my arm, and drew me a little
away from the party. Then, very suddenly, she said to me in a tone of
voice I had never heard before:

"Do not think that I am a wicked woman. My George knows that I am a good
mother."

We walked side by side for a moment in silence. She looked up, and I saw
that she was crying.

"Madame," I said to her, "look at this soil which has been burned and
cracked by five long months of fiery heat. A little white lily has
sprung up from it."

And I pointed with my cane to the frail stalk, tipped by a double
blossom.

"Your heart," I said, "however arid it be, bears also its white lily;
and that is reason enough why I do not believe that you are what you
say--a wicked woman."

"Yes, yes, yes!" she cried, with the obstinacy of a child--"I am a
wicked woman. But I am ashamed to appear so before you who are so
good--so very, very good."

"You do not know anything at all about it," I said to her.

"I know it! I know all about you, Monsieur Bonnard!" she declared, with
a smile.

And she jumped back into her lettica.



Girgenti, November 30, 1859.


I awoke the following morning in the House of Gellias. Gellias was a
rich citizen of ancient Agrigentum. He was equally celebrated for his
generosity and for his wealth; and he endowed his native city with a
great number of free inns. Gellias has been dead for thirteen hundred
years; and nowadays there is no gratuitous hospitality among civilised
peoples. But the name of Gellias has become that of a hotel in which, by
reason of fatigue, I was able to obtain one good night's sleep.

The modern Girgenti lifts its high, narrow, solid streets, dominated
by a sombre Spanish cathedral, upon the side of the acropolis of the
antique Agrigentum. I can see from my windows, half-way on the hillside
towards the sea, the white range of temples partially destroyed. The
ruins alone have some aspect of coolness. All the rest is arid. Water
and life have forsaken Agrigentine. Water--the divine Nestis of the
Agrigentine Empedocles--is so necessary to animated beings that nothing
can live far from the rivers and the springs. But the port of Girgenti,
situated at a distance of three kilometres from the city, has a great
commerce. "And it is in this dismal city," I said to myself, "upon
this precipitous rock, that the manuscript of Clerk Alexander is to be
found!" I asked my way to the house of Signor Michel-Angelo Polizzi, and
proceeded thither.

I found Signor Polizzi, dressed all in white from head to feet, busy
cooking sausages in a frying-pan. At the sight of me, he let go the
frying-pan, threw up his arms in the air, and uttered shrieks of
enthusiasm. He was a little man whose pimply features, aquiline nose,
round eyes, and projecting chin formed a very expressive physiognomy.

He called me "Excellence," said he was going to mark the day with a
white stone, and made me sit down. The hall in which we were represented
the union of the kitchen, reception-room, bedchamber, studio, and
wine-cellar. There were charcoal furnaces visible, a bed, paintings, an
easel, bottles, strings of onions, and a magnificent lustre of coloured
glass pendants. I glanced at the paintings on the wall.

"The arts! the arts!" cried Signor Polizzi, throwing up his arms again
to heaven--"the arts! What dignity! what consolation! Excellence, I am a
painter!"

And he showed me an unfinished Saint-Francis, which indeed could very
well remain unfinished for ever without any loss to religion or to art.
Next he showed me some old paintings of a better style, but apparently
restored after a decidedly reckless manner.

"I repair," he said--"I repair old paintings. Oh, the Old Masters! What
genius, what soul!"

"Why, then," I said to him, "you must be a painter, an archaeologist,
and a wine-merchant all in one?"

"At your service, Excellence," he answered. "I have a zucco here at this
very moment--a zucco of which every single drop is a pearl of fire. I
want your Lordship to taste of it."

"I esteem the wines of Sicily," I responded, "but it was not for the
sake of your flagons that I came to see you, Signor Polizzi."

He: "Then you have come to see me about paintings. You are an amateur.
It is an immense delight for me to receive amateurs. I am going to show
you the chef-d'oeuvre of Monrealese; yes, Excellence, his chef-d'oeuvre!
An Adoration of Shepherds! It is the pearl of the whole Sicilian
school!"

I: "Later on I will be glad to see the chef-d'oeuvre; but let us first
talk about the business which brings me here."

His little quick bright eyes watched my face curiously; and I perceived,
with anguish, that he had not the least suspicion of the purpose of my
visit.

A cold sweat broke out over my forehead; and in the bewilderment of my
anxiety I stammered out something to this effect:

"I have come from Paris expressly to look at a manuscript of the Legende
Doree, which you informed me was in your possession."

At these words he threw up his arms, opened his mouth and eyes to the
widest possible extent, and betrayed every sign of extreme nervousness.

"Oh! the manuscript of the 'Golden Legend!' A pearl, Excellence! a ruby,
a diamond! Two miniatures so perfect that they give one the feeling
of glimpses of Paradise! What suavity! Those colours ravished from the
corollas of flowers make a honey for the eyes! Even a Sicilian could
have done no better!"

"Let me see it, then," I asked; unable to conceal either my anxiety or
my hope.

"Let you see it!" cried Polizzi. "But how can I, Excellence? I have not
got it any longer! I have not got it!"

And he seemed determined to tear out his hair. He might indeed have
pulled every hair in his head out of his hide before I should have tried
to prevent him. But he stopped of his own accord, before he had done
himself any grievous harm.

"What!" I cried out in anger--"what! you make me come all the way from
Paris to Girgenti, by promising to show me a manuscript, and now, when I
come, you tell me you have not got it! It is simply infamous, Monsieur!
I shall leave your conduct to be judged by all honest men!"

Anybody who could have seen me at that moment would have been able to
form a good idea of the aspect of a furious sheep.

"It is infamous! it is infamous!" I repeated, waving my arms, which
trembled from anger.

Then Michel-Angelo Polizzi let himself fall into a chair in the attitude
of a dying hero. I saw his eyes fill with tears, and his hair--until
then flamboyant and erect upon his head--fall down in limp disorder over
his brow.

"I am a father, Excellence! I am a father!" he groaned, wringing his
hands.

He continued, sobbing:

"My son Rafael--the son of my poor wife, for whose death I have been
mourning fifteen years--Rafael, Excellence, wanted to settle at Paris;
he hired a shop in the Rue Lafitte for the sale of curiosities. I gave
him everything precious which I had--I gave him my finest majolicas;
my most beautiful Urbino ware; my masterpieces of art; what paintings,
Signor! Even now they dazzle me with I see them only in imagination! And
all of them signed! Finally, I gave him the manuscript of the 'Golden
Legend'! I would have given him my flesh and my blood! An only son,
Signor! the son of my poor saintly wife!"

"So," I said, "while I--relying on your written word, Monsieur--was
travelling to the very heart of Sicily to find the manuscript of the
Clerk Alexander, the same manuscript was actually exposed for sale in a
window in the Rue Lafitte, only fifteen hundred yards from my house?"

"Yes, it was there! that is positively true!" exclaimed Signor Polizzi,
suddenly growing calm again; "and it is there still--at least I hope it
is, Excellence."

He took a card from a shelf as he spoke, and offered it to me, saying,

"Here is the address of my son. Make it known to your friends, and you
will oblige me. Faience and enameled wares; hangings; pictures. He has
a complete stock of objects of art--all at the fairest possible
prices--and everything authentic, I can vouch for it, upon my honour! Go
and see him. He will show you the manuscript of the 'Golden Legend.' Two
miniatures miraculously fresh in colour!"

I was feeble enough to take the card he held out to me.

The fellow was taking further advantage of my weakness to make me
circulate the name of Rafael Polizzi among the Societies of the learned!

My hand was already on the door-knob, when the Sicilian caught me by the
arm; he had a look as of sudden inspiration.

"Ah! Excellence!" he cried, "what a city is this city of ours! It gave
birth to Empedocles! Empedocles! What a great man what a great citizen!
What audacity of thought! what virtue! what soul! At the port over there
is a statue of Empedocles, before which I bare my head each time that I
pass by! When Rafael, my son, was going away to found an establishment
of antiquities in the Rue Lafitte, at Paris, I took him to the port, and
there, at the foot of that statue of Empedocles, I bestowed upon him my
paternal benediction! 'Always remember Empedocles!' I said to him. Ah!
Signor, what our unhappy country needs to-day is a new Empedocles! Would
you not like me to show you the way to his statue, Excellence? I will
be your guide among the ruins here. I will show you the temple of
Castor and Pollux, the temple of the Olympian Jupiter, the temple of
the Lucinian Juno, the antique well, the tomb of Theron, and the Gate
of Gold! All the professional guides are asses; but we--we shall make
excavations, if you are willing--and we shall discover treasures! I know
the science of discovering hidden treasures--the secret art of finding
their whereabouts--a gift from Heaven!"

I succeeded in tearing myself away from his grasp. But he ran after me
again, stopped me at the foot of the stairs, and said in my ear,

"Listen, Excellence. I will conduct you about the city; I will introduce
you to some Girgentines! What a race! what types! what forms! Sicilian
girls, Signor!--the antique beauty itself!"

"Go to the devil!" I cried at last, in anger, and rushed into the
street, leaving him still writhing in the loftiness of his enthusiasm.

When I had got out of his sight, I sank down upon a stone, and began to
think, with my face in my hands.

"And it was for this," I said to myself--"it was to hear such
propositions as this that I came to Sicily! That Polizzi is simply a
scoundrel, and his son another; and they made a plan together to ruin
me." But what was their scheme? I could not unravel it. Meanwhile, it
may be imagined how discouraged and humiliated I felt.

A merry burst of laughter caused me to turn my head, and I saw Madame
Trepof running in advance of her husband, and holding up something which
I could not distinguish clearly.

She sat down beside me, and showed me--laughing more merrily all the
while--an abominable little paste-board box, on which was printed a
red and blue face, which the inscription declared to be the face of
Empedocles.

"Yes, Madame," I said, "but that abominable Polizzi, to whom I advise
you not to send Monsieur Trepof, has made me fall out for ever with
Empedocles; and this portrait is not at all of a nature to make me feel
more kindly to the ancient philosopher."

"Oh!" declared Madame Trepof, "it is ugly, but it is rare! These boxes
are not exported at all; you can buy them only where they are made.
Dimitri has six others just like this in his pocket. We got them so as
to exchange with other collectors. You understand? At none o'clock this
morning we were at the factory. You see we did not waste our time."

"So I certainly perceive, Madame," I replied, bitterly; "but I have lost
mine."

I then saw that she was a naturally good-hearted woman. All her
merriment vanished.

"Poor Monsieur Bonnard! poor Monsieur Bonnard!" she murmured.

And, taking my hand in hers, she added:

"Tell me about your troubles."

I told her about them. My story was long; but she was evidently touched
by it, for she asked me quite a number of circumstantial questions,
which I took for proof of her friendly interest. She wanted to know the
exact title of the manuscript, its shape, its appearance, and its age;
she asked me for the address of Signor Rafael Polizzi.

And I gave it to her; thus doing (O destiny!) precisely what the
abominable Polizzi had told me to do.

It is sometimes difficult to check oneself. I recommenced my plaints and
my imprecations. But this time Madame Trepof only burst out laughing.

"Why do you laugh?" I asked her.

"Because I am a wicked woman," she answered.

And she fled away, leaving me all disheartened on my stone.



Paris, December 8, 1859.


My unpacked trunks still encumbered the hall. I was seated at a tabled
covered with all those good things which the land of France produces for
the delectation of gourmets. I was eating a pate le Chartres, which
is alone sufficient to make one love one's country. Therese, standing
before me with her hands joined over her white apron, was looking at
me with benignity, with anxiety, and with pity. Hamilcar was rubbing
himself against my legs, wild with delight.

These words of an old poet came back to my memory:

"Happy is he who, like Ulysses, hath made a goodly journey."

..."Well," I thought to myself, "I travelled to no purpose; I have come
back with empty hands; but, like Ulysses, I made a goodly journey."

And having taken my last sip of coffee, I asked Therese for my hat and
cane, which she gave me not without dire suspicions; she feared I might
be going upon another journey. But I reassured her by telling her to
have dinner ready at six o'clock.

It had always been a keen pleasure for me to breathe the air in
those Parisian streets whose every paving-slab and every stone I love
devotedly. But I had an end in view, and I took my way straight to the
Rue Lafitte. I was not long in find the establishment of Signor Rafael
Polizzi. It was distinguishable by a great display of old paintings
which, although all bearing the signature of some illustrious artist,
had a certain family air of resemblance that might have suggested some
touching idea about the fraternity of genius, had it not still more
forcibly suggested the professional tricks of Polizzi senior. Enriched
by these doubtful works of art, the shop was further rendered attractive
by various petty curiosities: poniards, drinking-vessels, goblets,
figulines, brass guadrons, and Hispano-Arabian wares of metallic lustre.

Upon a Portuguese arm-chair, decorated with an escutcheon, lay a copy of
the "Heures" of Simon Vostre, open at the page which has an astrological
figure on it; and an old Vitruvius, placed upon a quaint chest,
displayed its masterly engravings of caryatides and telamones. This
apparent disorder which only masked cunning arrangement, this factitious
hazard which had placed the best objects in the most favourable light,
would have increased my distrust of the place, but that the distrust
which the mere name of Polizzi had already inspired could not have been
increased by any circumstances--being already infinite.

Signor Rafael, who sat there as the presiding genius of all these vague
and incongruous shapes, impressed me as a phlegmatic young man, with
a sort of English character, he betrayed no sign whatever of those
transcendent faculties displayed by his father in the arts of mimicry and
declamation.

I told him what I had come for; he opened a cabinet and drew from it
a manuscript, which he placed on a table that I might examine it at my
leisure.

Never in my life did I experience such an emotion--except, indeed,
during some few brief months of my youth, months whose memories, though
I should live a hundred years, would remain as fresh at my last hour as
in the first day they came to me.

It was, indeed, the very manuscript described by the librarian of Sir
Thomas Raleigh; it was, indeed, the manuscript of the Clerk Alexander
which I saw, which I touched! The work of Voragine himself had been
perceptibly abridged; but that made little difference to me. All the
inestimable additions of the monk of Saint-Germain-des-Pres were there.
That was the main point! I tried to read the Legend of Saint Droctoveus;
but I could not--all the lines of the page quivered before my eyes, and
there was a sound in my ears like the noise of a windmill in the country
at night. Nevertheless, I was able to see that the manuscript offered
every evidence of indubitable authenticity. The two drawings of the
Purification of the Virgin and the Coronation of Proserpine were meagre
in design and vulgar in violence of colouring. Considerably damaged
in 1824, as attested by the catalogue of Sir Thomas, they had obtained
during the interval a new aspect of freshness. But this miracle did
not surprise me at all. And, besides, what did I care about the two
miniatures? The legends and the poem of Alexander--those alone formed
the treasure I desired. My eyes devoured as much of it as they had the
power to absorb.

I affected indifference while asking Signor Polizzi the price of the
manuscript; and, while awaiting his reply, I offered up a secret
prayer that the price might not exceed the amount of ready money at my
disposal--already much diminished by the cost of my expensive voyage.
Signor Polizzi, however, informed me that he was not at liberty to
dispose of the article, inasmuch as it did not belong to him, and was
to be sold at auction shortly, at the Hotel des Ventes, with a number of
other MSS. and several incunabula.

This was a severe blow to me. It tried to preserve my calmness,
notwithstanding, and replied somewhat to this effect:

"You surprise me, Monsieur! Your father, whom I talked with recently at
Girgenti, told me positively that the manuscript was yours. You cannot
now attempt to make me discredit your father's word."

"I DID own the manuscript, indeed," answered Signor Rafael with absolute
frankness; "but I do not own it any longer. I sold that manuscript--the
remarkable interest of which you have not failed to perceive--to an
amateur whom I am forbidden to name, and who, for reasons which I am not
at liberty to mention, finds himself obliged to sell his collection. I
am honoured with the confidence of my customer, and was commissioned by
him to draw up the catalogue and manage the sale, which takes place
the 24th of December. Now, if you will be kind enough to give me your
address, I shall have the pleasure of sending you the catalogue, which
is already in the press; you fill find the 'Legende Doree' described in
it as 'No. 42.'"

I gave my address, and left the shop.

The polite gravity of the son impressed me quite as disagreeably as the
impudent buffoonery of the father. I hated, from the bottom of my heart,
the tricks of the vile hagglers! It was perfectly evident that the
two rascals had a secret understanding, and had only devised this
auction-sale, with the aid of a professional appraiser, to force the
bidding on the manuscript I wanted so much up to an outrageous figure.
I was completely at their mercy. There is one evil in all passionate
desires, even the noblest--namely, that they leave us subject to the
will of others, and in so far dependent. This reflection made me suffer
cruelly; but it did not conquer my longing to won the work of Clerk
Alexander. While I was thus meditating, I heard a coachman swear. And I
discovered it was I whom he was swearing at only when I felt the pole of
a carriage poke me in the ribs. I started aside, barely in time to save
myself from being run over; and whom did I perceive through the windows
of the coupe? Madame Trepof, being taken by two beautiful horses, and
a coachman all wrapped up in furs like a Russian Boyard, into the very
street I had just left. She did not notice me; she was laughing to
herself with that artless grace of expression which still preserved for
her, at thirty years, all the charm of her early youth.

"Well, well!" I said to myself, "she is laughing! I suppose she must
have just found another match-box."

And I made my way back to the Ponts, feeling very miserable.

Nature, eternally indifferent, neither hastened nor hurried the
twenty-fourth day of December. I went to the Hotel Bullion, and took
my place in Salle No. 4, immediately below the high desk at which the
auctioneer Boulouze and the expert Polizzi were to sit. I saw the hall
gradually fill with familiar faces. I shook hands with several old
booksellers of the quays; but that prudence which any large interest
inspires in even the most self-assured caused me to keep silence in
regard to the reason of my unaccustomed presence in the halls of the
Hotel Bullion. On the other hand, I questioned those gentlemen at the
auction sale; and I had the satisfaction of finding them all interested
about matters in no wise related to my affair.

Little by little the hall became thronged with interested or merely
curious spectators; and, after half an hour's delay, the auctioneer with
his ivory hammer, the clerk with his bundle of memorandum-papers, and
the crier, carrying his collection-box fixed to the end of a pole, all
took their places on the platform in the most solemn business manner.
The attendants ranged themselves at the foot of the desk. The presiding
officer having declared the sale open, a partial hush followed.

A commonplace series of Preces dia, with miniatures, were first sold off
at mediocre prices. Needless to say, the illuminations of these books
were in perfect condition!

The lowness of the bids gave courage to the gathering of second-hand
booksellers present, who began to mingle with us, and become more
familiar. The dealers in old brass and bric-a-brac pressed forward in
their tun, waiting for the doors of an adjoining room to be opened; and
the voice of the auctioneer was drowned by the jests of the Auvergnats.

A magnificent codex of the "Guerre des Juifs" revived attention. It was
long disputed for. "Five thousand francs! five thousand!" called the
crier, while the bric-a-brac dealers remained silent with admiration.
Then seven or eight antiphonaries brought us back again to low prices.
A fat old woman, in a loose gown, bareheaded--a dealer in second-hand
goods--encouraged by the size of the books and the low prices bidden,
had one of the antiphonaries knocked down to her for thirty francs.

At last the expert Polizzi announced No. 42: "The 'Golden Legend';
French MS.; unpublished; two superb miniatures, with a starting bid of
three thousand francs."

"Three thousand! three thousand bid!" yelled the crier.

"Three thousand!" dryly repeated the auctioneer.

There was a buzzing in my head, and, as through a cloud, I saw a host
of curious faces all turning towards the manuscript, which a boy was
carrying open through the audience.

"Three thousand and fifty!" I said.

I was frightened by the sound of my own voice, and further confused by
seeing, or thinking that I saw, all eyes turned on me.

"Three thousand and fifty on the right!" called the crier, taking up my
bid.

"Three thousand one hundred!" responded Signor Polizzi.

Then began a heroic duel between the expert and myself.

"Three thousand five hundred!"

"Six hundred!"

"Seven hundred!"

"Four thousand!"

"Four thousand five hundred."

Then by a sudden bold stroke, Signor Polizzi raised the bid at once to
six thousand.

Six thousand francs was all the money I could dispose of. It represented
the possible. I risked the impossible.

"Six thousand one hundred!"

Alas! even the impossible did not suffice.

"Six thousand five hundred!" replied Signor Polizzi, with calm.

I bowed my head and sat there stupefied, unable to answer either yes or
no to the crier, who called to me:

"Six thousand five hundred, by me--not by you on the right there!--it is
my bid--no mistake! Six thousand five hundred!"

"Perfectly understood!" declared the auctioneer. "Six thousand five
hundred. Perfectly clear; perfectly plain.... Any more bids? The last
bid is six thousand five hundred francs."

A solemn silence prevailed. Suddenly I felt as if my head had burst
open. It was the hammer of the officiant, who, with a loud blow on the
platform, adjudged No. 42 irrevocably to Signor Polizzi. Forthwith the
pen of the clerk, coursing over the papier-timbre, registered that great
fact in a single line.

I was absolutely prostrated, and I felt the utmost need of rest and
quiet. Nevertheless, I did not leave my seat. My powers of reflection
slowly returned. Hope is tenacious. I had one more hope. It occurred to
me that the new owner of the "Legende Doree" might be some intelligent
and liberal bibliophile who would allow me to examine the MS., and
perhaps even to publish the more important parts. And, with this idea,
as soon as the sale was over I approached the expert as he was leaving
the platform.

"Monsieur," I asked him, "did you buy in No. 42 on your own account, or
on commission?"

"On commission. I was instructed not to let it go at any price."

"Can you tell me the name of the purchaser?"

"Monsieur, I regret that I cannot serve you in that respect. I have been
strictly forbidden to mention the name."

I went home in despair.



December 30, 1859.


"Therese! don't you hear the bell? Somebody has been ringing at the door
for the last quarter of an hour?"

Therese does not answer. She is chattering downstairs with the
concierge, for sure. So that is the way you observe your old master's
birthday? You desert me even on the eve of Saint-Sylvestre! Alas! if I
am to hear any kind wishes to-day, they must come up from the ground;
for all who love me have long been buried. I really don't know what I
am still living for. There is the bell again!... I get up slowly from
my seat at the fire, with my shoulders still bent from stooping over it,
and go to the door myself. Whom do I see at the threshold? It is not
a dripping love, and I am not an old Anacreon; but it is a very pretty
little boy of about ten years old. He is alone; he raises his face to
look at me. His cheeks are blushing; but his little pert nose gives one
an idea of mischievous pleasantry. He has feathers in his cap, and a
great lace-ruff on his jacket. The pretty little fellow! He holds in
both arms a bundle as big as himself, and asks me if I am Monsieur
Sylvestre Bonnard. I tell him yes; he gives me the bundle, tells me his
mamma sent it to me, and then he runs downstairs.

I go down a few steps; I lean over the balustrade, and see the little
cap whirling down the spiral of the stairway like a feather in the wind.
"Good-bye, my little boy!" I should have liked so much to question him.
But what, after all, could I have asked? It is not polite to question
children. Besides, the package itself will probably give me more
information than the messenger could.

It is a very big bundle, but not very heavy. I take it into my library,
and there untie the ribbons and unfasten the paper wrappings; and I
see--what? a log! a first-class log! a real Christmas log, but so light
that I know it must be hollow. Then I find that it is indeed composed of
two separate pieces, opening on hinges, and fastened with hooks. I slip
the hooks back, and find myself inundated with violets! Violets! they
pour over my table, over my knees, over the carpet. They tumble into my
vest, into my sleeves. I am all perfumed with them.

"Therese! Therese! fill me some vases with water, and bring them here,
quick! Here are violets sent to us I know not from what country nor
by what hand; but it must be from a perfumed country, and by a very
gracious hand.... Do you hear me, old crow?"

I have put all the violets on my table--now completely covered by
the odorous mass. But there is still something in the log...a book--a
manuscript. It is...I cannot believe it, and yet I cannot doubt it....
It is the "Legende Doree"!--It is the manuscript of the Clerk Alexander!
Here is the "Purification of the Virgin" and the "Coronation of
Proserpine";--here is the legend of Saint Droctoveus. I contemplate this
violet-perfumed relic. I turn the leaves of it--between which the dark
rich blossoms have slipped in here and there; and, right opposite the
legend of Saint-Cecilia, I find a card bearing this name:

"Princess Trepof."

Princess Trepof!--you who laughed and wept by turns so sweetly under the
fair sky of Agrigentum!--you, whom a cross old man believed to be only a
foolish little woman!--to-day I am convinced of your rare and beautiful
folly; and the old fellow whom you now overwhelm with happiness will
go to kiss your hand, and give you back, in another form, this precious
manuscript, of which both he and science owe you an exact and sumptuous
publication!

Therese entered my study just at that moment; she seemed to be very much
excited.

"Monsieur!" she cried, "guess whom I saw just now in a carriage, with a
coat-of-arms painted on it, that was stopping before the door?"

"Parbleu!--Madame Trepof," I exclaimed.

"I don't know anything about any Madame Trepof," answered my
housekeeper. "The woman I saw just now was dressed like a duchess, and
had a little boy with her, with lace-frills all along the seams of his
clothes. And it was that same little Madame Coccoz you once sent a log
to, when she was lying-in here about eleven years ago. I recognized her
at once."

"What!" I exclaimed, "you mean to say it was Madame Coccoz, the widow of
the almanac-peddler?"

"Herself, Monsieur! The carriage-door was open for a minute to let
her little boy, who had just come from I don't know where, get in.
She hasn't changed scarcely at all. Well, why should those women
change?--they never worry themselves about anything. Only the Coccoz
woman looks a little fatter than she used to be. And the idea of a
woman that was taken in here out of pure charity coming to show off her
velvets and diamonds in a carriage with a crest painted on it! Isn't it
shameful!"

"Therese!" I cried, in a terrible voice, "if you ever speak to me again
about that lady except in terms of the deepest respect, you and I will
fall out!...Bring me the Sevres vases to put those violets in, which now
give the City of Books a charm it never had before."

While Therese went off with a sigh to get the Sevres vases, I continued
to contemplate those beautiful scattered violets, whose odour spread all
about me like the perfume of some sweet presence, some charming soul;
and I asked myself how it had been possible for me never to recognise
Madame Coccoz in the person of the Princess Trepof. But that vision of
the young widow, showing me her little child on the stairs, had been
a very rapid one. I had much more reason to reproach myself for having
passed by a gracious and lovely soul without knowing it.

"Bonnard," I said to myself, "thou knowest how to decipher old texts;
but thou dost not know how to read in the Book of Life. That giddy
little Madame Trepof, whom thou once believed to possess no more soul
than a bird, has expended, in pure gratitude, more zeal and finer tact
than thou didst ever show for anybody's sake. Right royally hath she
repaid thee for the log-fire of her churching-day!

"Therese! Awhile ago you were a magpie; now you are becoming a tortoise!
Come and give some water to these Parmese violets."



PART II--THE DAUGHTER OF CLEMENTINE



Chapter I--The Fairy


When I left the train at the Melun station, night had already spread its
peace over the silent country. The soil, heated through all the long
day by a strong sun--by a "gros soleil," as the harvesters of the Val de
Vire say--still exhaled a warm heavy smell. Lush dense odours of grass
passed over the level of the fields. I brushed away the dust of
the railway carriage, and joyfully inhaled the pure air. My
travelling-bag--filled by my housekeeper wit linen and various small
toilet articles, munditiis, seemed so light in my hand that I swung it
about just as a schoolboy swings his strapped package of rudimentary
books when the class is let out.

Would to Heaven that I were again a little urchin at school! But it is
fully fifty years since my good dead mother made me some tartines of
bread and preserves, and placed them in a basket of which she slipped
the handle over my arm, and then led me, thus prepared, to the school
kept by Monsieur Douloir, at a corner of the Passage du Commerce well
known to the sparrows, between a court and a garden. The enormous
Monsieur Douloir smiled upon us genially, and patted my cheek to show,
no doubt, the affectionate interest which my first appearance had
inspired. But when my mother had passed out of the court, startling the
sparrows as she went, Monsieur Douloir ceased to smile--he showed no
more affectionate interest; he appeared, on the contrary, to consider
me as a very troublesome little fellow. I discovered, later on, that
he entertained the same feelings towards all his pupils. He distributed
whacks of his ferule with an agility no one could have expected on the
part of so corpulent a person. But his first aspect of tender interest
invariably reappeared when he spoke to any of our mothers in our
presence; and always at such times, while warmly praising our remarkable
aptitudes, he would cast down upon us a look of intense affection.
Still, those were happy days which I passed on the benches of the
Monsieur Couloir with my little playfellows, who, like myself, cried and
laughed by turns with all their might, from morning till evening.

After a whole half-century these souvenirs float up again, fresh and
bright as ever, to the surface of memory, under this starry sky, whose
face has in no wise changed since then, and whose serene and immutable
lights will doubtless see many other schoolboys such as I was slowly
turn into grey-headed servants, afflicted with catarrh.

Stars, who have shown down upon each wise or foolish head among all my
forgotten ancestors, it is under your soft light that I now feel stir
within me a certain poignant regret! I would that I could have a son who
might be able to see you when I shall see you no more. How I should love
him! Ah! such a son would--what am I saying?--why, he would be no just
twenty years old if you had only been willing, Clementine--you whose
cheeks used to look so ruddy under your pink hood! But you are married
to that young bank clerk, Noel Alexandre, who made so many millions
afterwards! I never met you again after your marriage, Clementine, but I
can see you now, with your bright curls and your pink hood.

A looking-glass! a looking-glass! a looking-glass! Really, it would
be curious to see what I look like now, with my white hair, sighing
Clementine's name to the stars! Still, it is not right to end with
sterile irony the thought begun in the spirit of faith and love. No,
Clementine, if your name came to my lips by chance this beautiful night,
be it for ever blessed, your dear name! and may you ever, as a happy
mother, a happy grandmother, enjoy to the very end of life with your
rich husband the utmost degree of that happiness which you had the right
to believe you could not win with the poor young scholar who loved you!
If--though I cannot even now imagine it--if your beautiful hair has
become white, Clementine, bear worthily the bundle of keys confided to
you by Noel Alexandre, and impart to your grandchildren the knowledge of
all domestic virtues!

Ah! beautiful Night! She rules, with such noble repose, over men and
animals alike, kindly loosed by her from the yoke of daily toil; and
even I feel her beneficent influence, although my habits of sixty years
have so changed me that I can feel most things only through the signs
which represent them. My world is wholly formed of words--so much of a
philologist I have become! Each one dreams the dream of life in his own
way. I have dreamed it in my library; and when the hour shall come in
which I must leave this world, may it please God to take me from my
ladder--from before my shelves of books!...

"Well, well! it is really himself, pardieu! How are you, Monsieur
Sylvestre Bonnard? And where have you been travelling to all this time,
over the country, while I was waiting for you at the station with my
cabriolet? You missed me when the train came in, and I was driving back,
quite disappointed, to Lusance. Give me your valise, and get up here
beside me in the carriage. Why, do you know it is fully seven kilometres
from here to the chateau?"

Who addresses me thus, at the very top of his voice from the height
of his cabriolet? Monsieur Paul de Gabry, nephew and heir of Monsieur
Honore de Gabry, peer of France in 1842, who recently died at Monaco.
And it was precisely to Monsieur Paul de Gabry's house that I was going
with that valise of mine, so carefully strapped by my housekeeper.
This excellent young man has just inherited, conjointly with his two
brothers-in-law, the property of his uncle, who, belonging to a very
ancient family of distinguished lawyers, had accumulated in his chateau
at Lusance a library rich in MSS., some dating back to the fourteenth
century. It was for the purpose of making an inventory and catalogue of
these MSS. that I had come to Lusance at the urgent request of Monsieur
Paul de Gabry, whose father, a perfect gentleman and distinguished
bibliophile, had maintained the most pleasant relations with me during
his lifetime. To tell the truth, Monsieur Paul has not inherited the
fine tastes of his father. Monsieur Paul likes sporting; he is a great
authority on horses and dogs; and I much fear that of all the sciences
capable of satisfying or of duping the inexhaustible curiosity of
mankind, those of the stable and the dog-kennel are the only ones
thoroughly mastered by him.

I cannot say I was surprised to meet him, since we had made a
rendezvous; but I acknowledge that I had become so preoccupied with my
own thoughts that I had forgotten all about the Chateau de Lusance and
its inhabitants, and that the voice of the gentleman calling out to me
as I started to follow the country road winding away before me--"un bon
ruban de queue," as they say--had given me quite a start.

I fear my face must have betrayed my incongruous distraction by a
certain stupid expression which it is apt to assume in most of my social
transactions. My valise was pulled up into the carriage, and I followed
my valise. My host pleased me by his straightforward simplicity.

"I don't know anything myself about your old parchments," he said; "but
I think you will find some folks to talk to at the house. Besides the
cure, who writes books himself, and the doctor, who is a very good
fellow--although a radical--you will meet somebody able to keep your
company. I mean my wife. She is not a very learned woman, but there are
few things which she can't divine pretty well. Then I count upon
being able to keep you with us long enough to make you acquainted with
Mademoiselle Jeanne, who has the fingers of a magician and the soul of
an angel."

"And is this delightfully gifted young lady one of your family?" I
asked.

"Not at all," replied Monsieur Paul.

"Then she is just a friend of yours?" I persisted, rather stupidly.

"She has lost both her father and mother," answered Monsieur de Gabry,
keeping his eyes fixed upon the ears of his horse, whose hoofs rang
loudly over the road blue-tinted by the moonshine. "Her father managed
to get us into some very serious trouble; and we did not get off with a
fright either!"

Then he shook his head, and changed the subject. He gave me due warning
of the ruinous condition in which I should find the chateau and the
park; they had been absolutely deserted for thirty-two years.

I learned from him that Monsieur Honore de Gabry, his uncle, had been
on very bad terms with some poachers, whom he used to shoot at like
rabbits. One of them, a vindictive peasant, who had received a whole
charge of shot in his face, lay in wait for the Seigneur one evening
behind the trees of the mall, and very nearly succeeded in killing him,
for the ball took off the tip of his ear.

"My uncle," Monsieur Paul continued, "tried to discover who had fired
the shot; but he could not see any one, and he walked back slowly to the
house. The day after he called his steward and ordered him to close up
the manor and the park, and allow no living soul to enter. He expressly
forbade that anything should be touched, or looked after, or any repairs
made on the estate during his absence. He added, between his teeth, that
he would return at Easter, or Trinity Sunday, as they say in the song;
and, just as the song has it, Trinity Sunday passed without a sign of
him. He died last year at Monaco; my brother-in-law and myself were the
first to enter the chateau after it had been abandoned for thirty-two
years. We found a chestnut-tree growing in the middle of the parlour. As
for the park, it was useless trying to visit it, because there were no
longer any paths or alleys."

My companion ceased to speak; and only the regular hoof-beat of the
trotting horse, and the chirping of insects in the grass, broke the
silence. On either hand, the sheaves standing in the fields took, in the
vague moonlight, the appearance of tall white women kneeling down; and
I abandoned myself awhile to those wonderful childish fancies which the
charm of night always suggests. After driving under the heavy shadows
of the mall, we turned to the right and rolled up a lordly avenue at
the end of which the chateau suddenly rose into view--a black mass, with
turrets en poivriere. We followed a sort of causeway, which gave access
to the court-of-honor, and which, passing over a moat full of running
water, doubtless replaced a long-vanished drawbridge. The loss of that
draw-bridge must have been, I think, the first of various humiliations
to which the warlike manor had been subjected ere being reduced to that
pacific aspect with which it received me. The stars reflected themselves
with marvelous clearness in the dark water. Monsieur Paul, like a
courteous host, escorted me to my chamber at the very top of the
building, at the end of a long corridor; and then, excusing himself for
not presenting me at once to his wife by reason of the lateness of the
hour, bade me good-night.

My apartment, painted in white and hung with chintz, seemed to keep some
traces of the elegant gallantry of the eighteenth century. A heap
of still-glowing ashes--which testified to the pains taken to dispel
humidity--filled the fireplace, whose marble mantlepiece supported
a bust of Marie Antoinette in bisuit. Attached to the frame of the
tarnished and discoloured mirror, two brass hooks, that had once
doubtless served the ladies of old-fashioned days to hang their
chatelaines on, seemed to offer a very opportune means of suspending
my watch, which I took care to wind up beforehand; for, contrary to the
opinion of the Thelemites, I hold that man is only master of time,
which is Life itself, when he has divided it into hours, minutes and
seconds--that is to say, into parts proportioned to the brevity of human
existence.

And I thought to myself that life really seems short to us only because
we measure it irrationally by our own mad hopes. We have all of us, like
the old man in the fable, a new wing to add to our building. I want,
for example, before I die, to finish my "History of the Abbots of
Saint-Germain-de-Pres." The time God allots to each one of us is like a
precious tissue which we embroider as we best know how. I had begun my
woof with all sorts of philological illustrations.... So my thoughts
wandered on; and at last, as I bound my foulard about my head, the
notion of Time led me back to the past; and for the second time within
the same round of the dial I thought of you, Clementine--to bless you
again in your prosperity, if you have any, before blowing out my candle
and falling asleep amid the chanting of the frogs.



Chapter II


During breakfast I had many opportunities to appreciate the good taste,
tact, and intelligence of Madame de Gabry, who told me that the
chateau had its ghosts, and was especially haunted by the
"Lady-with-three-wrinkles-in-her-back," a prisoner during her lifetime,
and thereafter a Soul-in-pain. I could never describe how much wit and
animation she gave to this old nurse's tale. We took out, coffee on
the terrace, whose balusters, clasped and forcibly torn away from their
stone coping by a vigorous growth of ivy, remained suspended in the
grasp of the amorous plant like bewildered Athenian women in the arms of
ravishing Centaurs.

The chateau, shaped something like a four-wheeled wagon, with a turret
at each of the four angles, had lost all original character by reason of
repeated remodellings. It was merely a fine spacious building, nothing
more. It did not appear to me to have suffered much damage during its
abandonment of thirty-two years. But when Madame de Gabry conducted me
into the great salon of the ground-floor, I saw that the planking was
bulged in and out, the plinths rotten, the wainscotings split apart, the
paintings of the piers turned black and hanging more than half out of
their settings. A chestnut-tree, after forcing up the planks of the
floor, had grown tall under the ceiling, and was reaching out its
large-leaved branches towards the glassless windows.

This spectacle was not devoid of charm; but I could not look at it
without anxiety as I remembered that the rich library of Monsieur Honore
de Gabry, in an adjoining apartment, must have been exposed for the
same length of time to the same forces of decay. Yet, as I looked at the
young chestnut-tree in the salon, I could not but admire the magnificent
vigour of Nature, and that resistless power which forces every germ
to develop into life. On the other hand I felt saddened to think that,
whatever effort we scholars may make to preserve dead things from
passing away, we are labouring painfully in vain. Whatever has lived
becomes the necessary food of new existences. And the Arab who builds
himself a hut out of the marble fragments of a Palmyra temple is really
more of a philosopher than all the guardians of museums at London,
Munich, or Paris.



August 11.


All day long I have been classifying MSS.... The sun came in through
the loft uncurtained windows; and, during my reading, often very
interesting, I could hear the languid bumblebees bump heavily against
the windows, and the flies intoxicated with light and heat, making their
wings hum in circles around my head. So loud became their humming
about three o'clock that I looked up from the document I was reading--a
document containing very precious materials for the history of Melun in
the thirteenth century--to watch the concentric movements of those tiny
creatures. "Bestions," Lafontaine calls them: he found this form of
the word in the old popular speech, whence also the term,
tapisserie-a-bestions, applied to figured tapestry. I was compelled
to confess that the effect of heat upon the wings of a fly is totally
different from that it exerts upon the brain of a paleographical
archivist; for I found it very difficult to think, and a rather pleasant
languor weighing upon me, from which I could rouse myself only by a very
determined effort. The dinner-bell then startled me in the midst of my
labours; and I had barely time to put on my new dress-coat, so as to
make a respectable appearance before Madame de Gabry.

The repast, generously served, seemed to prolong itself for my benefit.
I am more than a fair judge of wine; and my hostess, who discovered my
knowledge in this regard, was friendly enough to open a certain bottle
of Chateau-Margaux in my honour. With deep respect I drank of this
famous and knightly old wine, which comes from the slopes of Bordeaux,
and of which the flavour and exhilarating power are beyond praise.
The ardour of it spread gently through my veins, and filled me with an
almost juvenile animation. Seated beside Madame de Gabry on the terrace,
in the gloaming which gave a charming melancholy to the park, and lent
to every object an air of mystery, I took pleasure in communicating
my impression of the scene to my hostess. I discoursed with a vivacity
quite remarkable on the part of a man so devoid of imagination as I am.
I described to her spontaneously, without quoting from an old texts, the
caressing melancholy of the evening, and the beauty of that natal earth
which feeds us, not only with bread and wine, but also with ideas,
sentiments, and beliefs, and which will at last take us all back to her
maternal breast again, like so many tired little children at the close
of a long day.

"Monsieur," said the kind lady, "you see these old towers, those trees,
that sky; is it not quite natural that the personage of the popular
tales and folk-songs should have been evoked by such scenes? Why, over
there is the very path which Little Red Riding-hood followed when she
went to the woods to pick nuts. Across this changeful and always vapoury
sky the fairy chariots used to roll; and the north tower might have
sheltered under its pointed roof that same old spinning woman whose
distaff picked the Sleeping Beauty in the Wood."

I continued to muse upon her pretty fancies, while Monsieur Paul related
to me, as he puffed a very strong cigar, the history of some suit he
had brought against the commune about a water-right. Madame de Gabry,
feeling the chill night air, began to shiver under the shawl her husband
had wrapped about her, and left us to go to her room. I then decided,
instead of going to my own, to return to the library and continue my
examination of the manuscripts. In spite of the protests of Monsieur
Paul, I entered what I may call, in old-fashioned phrase, "the
book-room," and started to work by the light of a lamp.

After having read fifteen pages, evidently written by some ignorant and
careless scribe, for I could scarcely discern their meaning, I plunged
my hand into the pocket of my coat to get my snuff-box; but this
movement, usually so natural and almost instinctive, this time cost me
some effort and even fatigue. Nevertheless, I got out the silver box,
and took from it a pinch of the odorous powder, which, somehow or other,
I managed to spill all over my shirt-bosom under my baffled nose. I am
sure my nose must have expressed its disappointment, for it is a very
expressive nose. More than once it has betrayed my secret thoughts, and
especially upon a certain occasion at the public library of Coutances,
where I discovered, right in front of my colleague Brioux, the
"Cartulary of Notre-Dame-des-Anges."

What a delight! My little eyes remained as dull and expressionless as
ever behind my spectacles. But at the mere sight of my thick pug-nose,
which quivered with joy and pride, Brioux knew that I had found
something. He noted the volume I was looking at, observed the place
where I put it back, pounced upon it as soon as I turned my heel, copied
it secretly, and published in haste, for the sake of playing me a
trick. But his edition swarms with errors, and I had the satisfaction of
afterwards criticising some of the gross blunders he made.

But to come back to the point at which I left off: I began to suspect
that I was getting very sleepy indeed. I was looking at a chart of which
the interest may be divined from the fact that it contained mention of
a hutch sold to Jehan d'Estonville, priest, in 1312. But although, even
then, I could recognise the importance of the document, I did not give
it that attention it so strongly invited. My eyes would keep turning,
against my will, towards a certain corner of the table where there was
nothing whatever interesting to a learned mind. There was only a big
German book there, bound in pigskin, with brass studs on the sides, and
very thick cording upon the back. It was a find copy of a compilation
which has little to recommend it except the wood engravings it contains,
and which is known as the "Cosmography of Munster." This volume, with
its covers slightly open, was placed upon edge with the back upwards.

I could not say for how long I had been staring causelessly at the
sixteenth-century folio, when my eyes were captivated by a sight so
extraordinary that even a person as devoid of imagination as I could not
but have been greatly astonished by it.

I perceived, all of a sudden, without having noticed her coming into the
room, a little creature seated on the back of the book, with one knee
bent and one leg hanging down--somewhat in the attitude of the amazons
of Hyde Park or the Bois de Boulogne on horseback. She was so small that
her swinging foot did not reach the table, over which the trail of her
dress extended in a serpentine line. But her face and figure were those
of an adult. The fulness of her corsage and the roundness of her waist
could leave no doubt of that, even for an old savant like myself. I will
venture to add that she was very handsome, with a proud mien; for my
iconographic studies have long accustomed me to recognise at once the
perfection of a type and the character of a physiognomy. The countenance
of this lady who had seated herself inopportunely on the back of
"Cosmography of Munster" expressed a mingling of haughtiness and
mischievousness. She had the air of a queen, but a capricious queen; and
I judged, from the mere expression of her eyes, that she was accustomed
to wield great authority somewhere, in a very whimsical manner. Her
mouth was imperious and mocking, and those blue eyes of hers seemed to
laugh in a disquieting way under her finely arched black eyebrows. I
have always heard that black eyebrows are very becoming to blondes; but
this lady was very blonde. On the whole, the impression she gave me was
one of greatness.

It may seem odd to say that a person who was no taller than a
wine-bottle, and who might have been hidden in my coat pocket--but
that it would have been very disrespectful to put her in it--gave me
precisely an idea of greatness. But in the fine proportions of the
lady seated upon the "Cosmography of Munster" there was such a proud
elegance, such a harmonious majesty, and she maintained an attitude at
once so easy and so noble, that she really seemed to me a very great
person. Although my ink-bottle, which she examined with an expression of
such mockery as appeared to indicate that she knew in advance every word
that would come out of it at the end of my pen, was for her a deep basin
in which she would have blackened her gold-clocked pink stockings up to
the garter, I can assure you that she was great, and imposing even in
her sprightliness.

Her costume, worthy of her face, was extremely magnificent; it consisted
of a robe of gold-and-silver brocade, and a mantle of nacarat velvet,
lined with vair. Her head-dress was a sort of hennin, with two high
points; and pearls of splendid lustre made it bright and luminous as
a crescent moon. Her little white hand held a wand. That wand drew my
attention very strongly, because my archaeological studies had taught me
to recognise with certainty every sign by which the notable personages
of legend and of history are distinguished. This knowledge came to my
aid during various very queer conjectures with which I was labouring.
I examined the wand, and saw that it appeared to have been cut from a
branch of hazel.

"Then its a fairy's wand," I said to myself; "consequently the lady who
carries it is a fairy."

Happy at thus discovering what sort of a person was before me, I tried
to collect my mind sufficiently to make her a graceful compliment. It
would have given me much satisfaction, I confess, if I could have talked
to her about the part taken by her people, not less in the life of the
Saxon and Germanic races, than in that of the Latin Occident. Such a
dissertation, it appeared to me, would have been an ingenious method of
thanking the lady for having thus appeared to an old scholar, contrary
to the invariable custom of her kindred, who never show themselves but
to innocent children or ignorant village-folk.

Because one happens to be a fairy, one is none the less a woman, I said
to myself; and since Madame Recamier, according to what I heard J. J.
Ampere say, used to blush with pleasure when the little chimney-sweeps
opened their eyes as wide as they could to look at her, surely the
supernatural lady seated upon the "Cosmography of Munster" might feel
flattered to hear an erudite man discourse learnedly about her, as about
a medal, a seal, a fibula, or a token. But such an undertaking, which
would have cost my timidity a great deal, became totally out of the
question when I observed the Lady of the Cosmography suddenly take from
an alms purse hanging at her girdle the very smallest of nuts I had ever
seen, crack the shells between her teeth, and throw them at my nose,
while she nibbled the kernels with the gravity of a sucking child.

At this conjuncture, I did what the dignity of science demanded of me--I
remained silent. But the nut-shells caused such a painful tickling that
I put up my hand to my nose, and found, to my great surprise, that my
spectacles were straddling the very end of it--so that I was actually
looking at the lady, not through my spectacles, but over them. This
was incomprehensible, because my eyes, worn out over old texts, cannot
ordinarily distinguish anything without glasses--could not tell a melon
from a decanter, though the two were placed close up to my nose.

That nose of mine, remarkable for its size, its shape, and its
coloration, legitimately attracted the attention of the fairy; for she
seized my goose-quill pen, which was sticking up from the ink-bottle
like a plume, and she began to pass the feather-end of that pen over
my nose. I had had more than once, in company, occasion to suffer
cheerfully from the innocent mischief of young ladies, who made me join
their games, and would offer me their cheeks to kiss through the back
of a chair, or invite me to blow out a candle which they would lift
suddenly above the range of my breath. But until that moment no person
of the fair sex had ever subjected me to such a whimsical piece of
familiarity as that of tickling my nose with my own feather pen. Happily
I remembered the maxim of my late grandfather, who was accustomed to say
that everything was permissible on the part of ladies, and that whatever
they do to us is to be regarded as a grace and a favour. Therefore, as a
grace and a favour I received the nutshells and the titillations with my
own pen, and I tried to smile. Much more!--I even found speech.

"Madame," I said, with dignified politeness, "you accord the honour of
a visit not to a silly child, not to a boor, but to a bibliophile who
is very happy to make your acquaintance, and who knows that long ago you
used to make elf-knots in the manes of mares at the crib, drink the milk
from the skimming-pails, slip graines-a-gratter down the backs of our
great-grandmothers, make the hearth sputter in the faces of the old
folks, and, in short, fill the house with disorder and gaiety. You
can also boast of giving the nicest frights in the world to lovers who
stayed out in the woods too late of evenings. But I thought you had
vanished out of existence at least three centuries ago. Can it really
be, Madame, that you are still to be seen in this age of railways and
telegraphs? My concierge, who used to be a nurse in her young days, does
not know your story; and my little boy-neighbour, whose nose is still
wiped for him by his bonne, declares that you do not exist."

"What do you yourself think about it?" she cried, in a silvery voice,
straightening up her royal little figure in a very haughty fashion, and
whipping the back of the "Cosmography of Munster" as though it were a
hippogriff.

"I don't really know," I answered rubbing my eyes.

This reply, indicating a deeply scientific scepticism, had the most
deplorable effect upon my questioner.

"Monsieur Sylvestre Bonnard," she said to me, "you are nothing but an
old pedant. I always suspected as much. The smallest little ragamuffin
who goes along the road with his shirt-tail sticking out through a hole
in his pantaloons knows more about me than all the old spectacled folks
in your Institutes and your Academies. To know is nothing at all; to
imagine is everything. Nothing exists except that which is imagined. I
am imaginary. That is what it is to exist, I should think! I am dreamed
of, and I appear. Everything is only dream; and as nobody ever dreams
about you, Sylvestre Bonnard, it is YOU who do not exist. I charm the
world; I am everywhere--on a moon-beam, in the trembling of a hidden
spring, in the moving of leaves that murmur, in the white vapours
that rise each morning from the hollow meadow, in the thickets of pink
brier--everywhere!... I am seen; I am loved. There are sighs uttered,
weird thrills of pleasure felt by those who follow the light print of
my feet, as I make the dead leaves whisper. I make the little children
smile; I give wit to the dullest-minded nurses. Leaning above the
cradles, I play, I comfort, I lull to sleep--and you doubt whether I
exist! Sylvestre Bonnard, your warm coat covers the hide of an ass!"

She ceased speaking; her delicate nostrils swelled with indignation; and
while I admired, despite my vexation, the heroic anger of this little
person, she pushed my pen about in the ink-bottle, backward and forward,
like an oar, and then suddenly threw it at my nose, point first.

I rubbed by face, and felt it all covered with ink. She had disappeared.
My lamp was extinguished. A ray of moonlight streamed down through a
window and descended upon the "Cosmography of Munster." A strong cool
wind, which had arisen very suddenly without my knowledge, was blowing
my papers, pens, and wafers about. My table was all stained with ink. I
had left my window open during the storm. What an imprudence!



Chapter III


I wrote to my housekeeper, as I promised, that I was safe and sound. But
I took good care not to tell her that I had caught a cold from going to
sleep in the library at night with the window open; for the good woman
would have been as unsparing in her remonstrances to me as parliaments
to kings. "At your age, Monsieur," she would have been sure to say, "one
ought to have more sense." She is simple enough to believe that sense
grows with age. I seem to her an exception to this rule.

Not having any similar motive for concealing my experiences from Madame
de Gabry, I told her all about my vision, which she seemed to enjoy very
much.

"Why, that was a charming dream of yours," she said; "and one must have
real genius to dream such a dream."

"Then I am a real genius when I am asleep," I responded.

"When you dream," she replied; "and you are always dreaming."

I know that Madame de Gabry, in making this remark, only wished to
please me; but that intention alone deserves my utmost gratitude; and it
is therefore in a spirit of thankfulness and kindliest remembrance that
I write down her words, which I will read over and over again until my
dying day, and which will never be read by any one save myself.

I passed the next few days in completing the inventory of the
manuscripts in the Lusance library. Certain confidential observations
dropped by Monsieur Paul de Gabry, however, caused me some painful
surprise, and made me decide to pursue the work after a different manner
from that in which I had begun it. From those few words I learned that
the fortune of Monsieur Honore de Gabry, which had been badly managed
for many years, and subsequently swept away to a large extent through
the failure of a banker whose name I do not know, had been transmitted
to the heirs of the old French nobleman only under the form of mortgaged
real estate and irrecoverable assets.

Monsieur Paul, by agreement with his joint heirs, had decided to sell
the library, and I was intrusted with the task of making arrangements to
have the sale effected upon advantageous terms. But totally ignorant as
I was of all the business methods and trade-customs, I thought it best
to get the advice of a publisher who was one of my private friends. I
wrote him at once to come and join me at Lusance; and while waiting
for his arrival I took my hat and cane and made visits to the different
churches of the diocese, in several of which I knew there were certain
mortuary inscriptions to be found which had never been correctly copied.

So I left my hosts and departed my pilgrimage. Exploring the churches
and the cemeteries every day, visiting the parish priests and the
village notaries, supping at the public inns with peddlers and
cattle-dealers, sleeping at night between sheets scented with lavender,
I passed one whole week in the quiet but profound enjoyment of observing
the living engaged in their various daily occupations even while I was
thinking of the dead. As for the purpose of my researches, I made only
a few mediocre discoveries, which caused me only a mediocre joy, and
one therefore salubrious and not at all fatiguing. I copied a few
interesting epitaphs; and I added to this little collection a few
recipes for cooking country dishes, which a certain good priest kindly
gave me.

With these riches, I returned to Lusance; and I crossed the
court-of-honour with such secret satisfaction as a bourgeois fells on
entering his own home. This was the effect of the kindness of my hosts;
and the impression I received on crossing their threshold proves, better
than any reasoning could do, the excellence of their hospitality.

I entered the great parlour without meeting anybody; and the young
chestnut-tree there spreading out its broad leaves seemed to me like an
old friend. But the next thing which I saw--on the pier-table--caused me
such a shock of surprise that I readjusted my glasses upon my nose with
both hands at once, and then felt myself over so as to get at least some
superficial proof of my own existence. In less than one second there
thronged from my mind twenty different conjectures--the most rational of
which was that I had suddenly become crazy. It seemed to me absolutely
impossible that what I was looking at could exist; yet it was equally
impossible for me not to see it as a thing actually existing. What
caused my surprise was resting on the pier-table, above which rose a
great dull speckled mirror.

I saw myself in that mirror; and I can say that I saw for once in my
life the perfect image of stupefaction. But I made proper allowance for
myself; I approved myself for being so stupefied by a really stupefying
thing.

The object I was thus examining with a degree of astonishment that all
my reasoning power failed to lessen, obtruded itself on my attention
though quite motionless. The persistence and fixity of the phenomenon
excluded any idea of hallucination. I am totally exempt from all nervous
disorders capable of influencing the sense of sight. The cause of such
visual disturbance is, I think, generally due to stomach trouble; and,
thank God! I have an excellent stomach. Moreover, visual illusions are
accompanied with special abnormal conditions which impress the victims
of hallucination themselves, and inspire them with a sort of terror.
Now, I felt nothing of this kind; the object which I saw, although
seemingly impossible in itself, appeared to me under all the natural
conditions of reality. I observed that it had three dimensions, and
colours, and that it cast a shadow. Ah! how I stared at it! The water
came into my eyes so that I had to wipe the glasses of my spectacles.

Finally I found myself obliged to yield to the evidence, and to affirm
that I had really before my eyes the Fairy, the very same Fairy I had
been dreaming of in the library a few evenings before. It was she, it
was her very self, I assure you! She had the same air of child-queen,
the same proud supple poise; she held the same hazel wand in her hand;
she still wore her double-peaked head-dress, and the train of her long
brocade robe undulated about her little feet. Same face, same figure. It
was she indeed; and to prevent any possible doubt of it, she was
seated on the back of a huge old-fashioned book strongly resembling the
"Cosmography of Munster." Her immobility but half reassured me; I was
really afraid that she was going to take some more nuts out of her
alms-purse and throw the shells at my face.

I was standing there, waving my hands and gaping, when the musical and
laughing voice of Madame de Gabry suddenly rang in my ears.

"So you are examining your fairy, Monsieur Bonnard!" said my hostess.
"Well, do you think the resemblance good?"

It was very quickly said; but even while hearing it I had time to
perceive that my fairy was a statuette in coloured wax, modeled with
much taste and spirit by some novice hand. But the phenomenon, even thus
reduced by a rational explanation, did not cease to excite my surprise.
How, and by whom, had the Lady of the Cosmography been enabled to assume
plastic existence? That was what remained for me to learn.

Turning towards Madame de Gabry, I perceived that she was not alone.
A young girl dressed in black was standing beside her. She had large
intelligent eyes, of a grey as sweet as that of the sky of the Isle of
France, and at once artless and characteristic in their expression.
At the extremities of her rather thin arms were fidgeting uneasily two
slender hands, supple but slightly red, as it becomes the hands of young
girls to be. Sheathed in her closely fitting merino robe, she had the
slim grace of a young tree; and her large mouth bespoke frankness. I
could not describe how much the child pleased me at first sight! She was
not beautiful; but the three dimples of her cheeks and chin seemed
to laugh, and her whole person, which revealed the awkwardness of
innocence, had something in it indescribably good and sincere.

My gaze alternated from the statuette to the young girl; and I saw her
blush--so frankly and fully!--the crimson passing over her face as by
waves.

"Well," said my hostess, who had become sufficiently accustomed to my
distracted moods to put the same question to me twice, "is that the very
same lady who came in to see you through the window that you left open?
She was very saucy, but then you were quite imprudent! Anyhow, do you
recognise her?"

"It is her very self," I replied; "I see her now on that pier-table
precisely as I saw her on the table in the library."

"Then, if that be so," replied Madame de Gabry, "you have to blame for
it, in the first place, yourself, as a man who, although devoid of all
imagination, to use your own words, knew how to depict your dream in
such vivid colours; in the second place, me, who was able to remember
and repeat faithfully all your dream; and lastly, Mademoiselle Jeanne,
whom I now introduce to you, for she herself modeled that wax figure
precisely according to my instructions."

Madame de Gabry had taken the young girl's hand as she spoke; but
the latter had suddenly broken away from her, and was already running
through the park with the speed of a bird.

"Little crazy creature!" Madame de Gabry cried after her. "How can one
be so shy? Come back here to be scolded and kissed!"

But it was all of no avail; the frightened child disappeared among the
shrubbery. Madame de Gabry seated herself in the only chair remaining in
the dilapidated parlour.

"I should be much surprised," she said, "If my husband had not already
spoken to you of Jeanne. She is a sweet child, and we both lover her
very much. Tell me the plain truth; what do you think of her statuette?"

I replied that the work was full of good taste and spirit, but that it
showed some want of study and practice on the author's part; otherwise I
had been extremely touched to think that those young fingers should have
thus embroidered an old man's rough sketch of fancy, and given form so
brilliantly to the dreams of a dotard like myself.

"The reason I ask your opinion," replied Madame de Gabry, seriously, "is
that Jeanne is a poor orphan. Do you think she could earn her living by
modelling statuettes like this one?"

"As for that, no!" I replied; "and I think there is no reason to regret
the fact. You say the girl is affectionate and sensitive; I can
well believe you; I could believe it from her face alone. There are
excitements in artist-life which impel generous hearts to act out of all
rule and measure. This young creature is made to love; keep her for the
domestic hearth. There only is real happiness."

"But she has no dowry!" replied Madame de Gabry.

Then, extending her hand to me, she continued:

"You are our friend; I can tell you everything. The father of this
child was a banker, and one of our friends. He went into a colossal
speculation, and it ruined him. He survived only a few months after
his failure, in which, as Paul must have told you, three-fourths of my
uncle's fortune were lost, and more than half of our own.

"We had made his acquaintance at Manaco, during the winter we passed
there at my uncle's house. He had an adventurous disposition, but such
an engaging manner! He deceived himself before ever he deceived others.
After all, it is in the ability to deceive oneself that the greatest
talent is shown, is it not? Well, we were captured--my husband, my
uncle, and I; and we risked much more than a reasonable amount in a very
hazardous undertaking. But, bah! as Paul says, since we have no children
we need not worry about it. Besides, we have the satisfaction of knowing
that the friend in whom we trusted was an honest man.... You must know
his name, it was so often in the papers an on public placards--Noel
Alexandre. His wife was a very sweet person. I knew her only when she
was already past her prime, with traces of having once been very
pretty, and a taste for fashionable style and display which seemed quite
becoming to her. She was naturally fond of social excitement; but
she showed a great deal of courage and dignity after the death of her
husband. She died a year after him, leaving Jeanne alone in the world."

"Clementine!" I cried out.

And on thus learning what I had never imagined--the mere idea of which
would have set all the forces of my soul in revolt--upon hearing that
Clementine was no longer in this world, something like a great silence
came upon me; and the feeling which flooded my whole being was not a
keen, strong pain, but a quiet and solemn sorrow. Yet I was conscious of
some incomprehensible sense of alleviation, and my thought rose suddenly
to heights before unknown.

"From wheresoever thou art at this moment, Clementine," I said to
myself, "look down upon this old heart now indeed cooled by age,
yet whose blood once boiled for thy sake, and say whether it is not
reanimated by the mere thought of being able to love all that remains
of thee on earth. Everything passes away since thou thyself hast passed
away; but Life is immortal; it is that Life we must love in its forms
eternally renewed. All the rest is child's play; and I myself, with
all my books, am only like a child playing with marbles. The purpose of
life--it is thou, Clementine, who has revealed it to me!"...

Madame de Gabry aroused me from my thoughts by murmuring,

"The child is poor."

"The daughter of Clementine is poor!" I exclaimed aloud; "how fortunate
that is so! I would not whish that any one by myself should proved for
her and dower her! No! the daughter of Clementine must not have her
dowry from any one but me."

And, approaching Madame de Gabry as she rose from her chair, I took her
right hand; I kissed that hand, and placed it on my arm, and said:

"You will conduct me to the grave of the widow of Noel Alexandre."

And I heard Madame de Gabry asking me:

"Why are you crying?"



Chapter IV--The Little Saint-George



April 16.


Saint Drocoveus and the early abbots of Saint-Germain-des-Pres have been
occupying me for the past forty years; but I do not know if I shall
be able to write their history before I go to join them. It is already
quite a long time since I became an old man. One day last year, on the
Pont des Arts, one of my fellow members at the Institute was lamenting
before me over the ennui of becoming old.

"Still," Saint-Beuve replied to him, "it is the only way that has yet
been found of living a long time."

I have tried this way, and I know just what it is worth. The trouble of
it is not that one lasts too long, but that one sees all about him pass
away--mother, wife, friends, children. Nature makes and unmakes all
these divine treasures with gloomy indifference, and at last we find
that we have not loved, we have only been embracing shadows. But how
sweet some shadows are! If ever creature glided like a shadow through
the life of a man, it was certainly that young girl whom I fell in love
with when--incredible though it now seems--I was myself a youth.

A Christian sarcophagus from the catacombs of Rome bears a formula of
imprecation, the whole terrible meaning of which I only learned with
time. It says: "Whatsoever impious man violates this sepulchre, may he
die the last of his own people!" In my capacity of archaeologist, I
have opened tombs and disturbed ashes in order to collect the shreds of
apparel, metal ornaments, or gems that were mingled with those ashes.
But I did it only through that scientific curiosity which does not
exclude feelings of reverence and of piety. May that malediction graven
by some one of the first followers of the apostles upon a martyr's tomb
never fall upon me! I ought not to fear to survive my own people so long
as there are men in the world; for there are always some whom one can
love.

But the power of love itself weakens and gradually becomes lost with
age, like all the other energies of man. Example proves it; and it
is this which terrifies me. Am I sure that I have not myself already
suffered this great loss? I should surely have felt it, but for the
happy meeting which has rejuvenated me. Poets speak of the Fountain of
Youth; it does exist; it gushes up from the earth at every step we take.
And one passes by without drinking of it!

The young girl I loved, married of her own choice to a rival, passed,
all grey-haired, into the eternal rest. I have found her daughter--so
that my life, which before seemed to me without utility, now once more
finds a purpose and a reason for being.

To-day I "take the sun," as they say in Provence; I take it on the
terrace of the Luxembourg, at the foot of the statue of Marguerite
de Navarre. It is a spring sun, intoxicating as young wine. I sit and
dream. My thoughts escape from my head like the foam from a bottle
of beer. They are light, and their fizzing amuses me. I dream; such
a pastime is certainly permissible to an old fellow who has published
thirty volumes of texts, and contributed to the 'Journal des Savants'
for twenty-six years. I have the satisfaction of feeling that I
performed my task as well as it was possible for me to do, and that I
utilised to their fullest extent those mediocre faculties with
which Nature endowed me. My efforts were not all in vain, and I have
contributed, in my own modest way, to that renaissance of historical
labours which will remain the honour of this restless century. I shall
certainly be counted among those ten or twelve who revealed to France
her own literary antiquities. My publication of the poetical works of
Gautier de Coincy inaugurated a judicious system and fixed a date. It
is in the austere calm of old age that I decree to myself this deserved
credit, and God, who sees my heart, knows whether pride or vanity have
aught to do with this self-award of justice.

But I am tired; my eyes are dim; my hand trembles, and I see an image of
myself in those old me of Homer, whose weakness excluded them from the
battle, and who, seated upon the ramparts, lifted up their voices like
crickets among the leaves.

So my thoughts were wandering when three young men seated themselves
near me. I do not know whether each one of them had come in three
boats, like the monkey of Lafontaine, but the three certainly displayed
themselves over the space of twelve chairs. I took pleasure in watching
them, not because they had anything very extraordinary about them, but
because I discerned in them that brave joyous manner which is natural to
youth. They were from the schools. I was less assured of it by the books
they were carrying than by the character of their physiognomy. For
all who busy themselves with the things of the mind can be at once
recognised by an indescribably something which is common to all of them.
I am very fond of young people; and these pleased me, in spite of a
certain provoking wild manner which recalled to me my own college days
with marvellous vividness. But they did not wear velvet doublets and
long hair, as we used to do; they did not walk about, as we used to do,
"Hell and malediction!" They were quite properly dressed, and neither
their costume nor their language had anything suggestive of the Middle
Ages. I must also add that they paid considerable attention to the women
passing on the terrace, and expressed their admiration of some of them
in very animated language. But their reflections, even on this subject,
were not of a character to oblige me to flee from my seat. Besides, so
long as youth is studious, I think it has a right to its gaieties.

One of them, having made some gallant pleasantry which I forget, the
smallest and darkest of the three exclaimed, with a slight Gascon
accent,

"What a thing to say! Only physiologists like us have any right to
occupy ourselves about living matter. As for you, Gelis, who only live
in the past--like all your fellow archivists and paleographers--you will
do better to confine yourself to those stone women over there, who are
your contemporaries."

And he pointed to the statues of the Ladies of Ancient France which
towered up, all white, in a half-circle under the trees of the terrace.
This joke, though in itself trifling, enabled me to know that the
young man called Gelis was a student at the Ecole des Chartes. From the
conversation which followed I was able to learn that his neighbor, blond
and wan almost to diaphaneity, taciturn and sarcastic was Boulmier, a
fellow student. Gelis and the future doctor (I hope he will become one
some day) discoursed together with much fantasy and spirit. In the midst
of the loftiest speculations they would play upon words, and make jokes
after the peculiar fashion of really witty persons--that is to say, in
a style of enormous absurdity. I need hardly say, I suppose, that they
only deigned to maintain the most monstrous kind of paradoxes. They
employed all their powers of imagination to make themselves as ludicrous
as possible, and all their powers of reasoning to assert the contrary of
common sense. All the better for them! I do not like to see young folks
too rational.

The student of medicine, after glancing at the title of the book that
Boulmier held in his hand, exclaimed,

"What!--you read Michelet--you?"

"Yes," replied Boulmier, very gravely. "I like novels."

Gelis, who dominated both by his fine stature, imperious gestures, and
ready wit, took the book, turned over a few pages rapidly, and said,

"Michelet always had a great propensity to emotional tenderness. He
wept sweet tears over Maillard, that nice little man introduced la
paperasserie into the September massacres. But as emotional tenderness
leads to fury, he becomes all at once furious against the victims. There
was no help for it. It is the sentimentality of the age. The assassin
is pitied, but the victim is considered quite unpardonable. In his later
manner Michelet is more Michelet than ever before. There is no common
sense in it; it is simply wonderful! Neither art nor science, neither
criticism nor narrative; only furies and fainting-spells and
epileptic fits over matters which he never deigns to explain. Childish
outcries--envies de femme grosse!--and a style, my friends!--not a
single finished phrase! It is astounding!"

And he handed the book back to his comrade. "This is amusing madness,"
I thought to myself, "and not quite so devoid of common sense as it
appears. This young man, though only playing has sharply touched the
defect in the cuirass."

But the Provencal student declared that history was a thoroughly
despicable exercise of rhetoric. According to him, the only true history
was the natural history of man. Michelet was in the right path when he
came in contact with the fistula of Louis XIV., but he fell back into
the old rut almost immediately afterwards.

After this judicious expression of opinion, the young physiologist
went to join a party of passing friends. The two archivists, less
well acquainted in the neighbourhood of a garden so far from the Rue
Paradis-au-Marais, remained together, and began to chat about their
studies. Gelis, who had completed his third class-year, was preparing a
thesis on the subject of which he expatiated with youthful enthusiasm.
Indeed, I thought the subject a very good one, particularly because I
had recently thought myself called upon to treat a notable part of it.
It was the Monasticon Gallicanum. The young erudite (I give him the name
as a presage) wanted to describe all the engravings made about 1690 for
the work which Dom Michel Germain would have had printed but for the one
irremediable hindrance which is rarely foreseen and never avoided.
Dom Michel Germain would have had printed but for the one irremediable
hindrance which is rarely foreseen and never avoided. Dom Michel Germain
left his manuscript complete, however, and in good order when he died.
Shall I be able to do as much with mine?--but that is not the present
question. So far as I am able to understand, Monsieur Gelis intends to
devote a brief archaeological notice to each of the abbeys pictured by
the humble engravers of Dom Michel Germain.

His friend asked him whether he was acquainted with all the manuscripts
and printed documents relating to the subject. It was then that I
pricked up my ears. They spoke at first of original sources; and I must
confess they did so in a satisfactory manner, despite their innumerable
and detestable puns. Then they began to speak about contemporary studies
on the subject.

"Have you read," asked Boulmier, "the notice of Courajod?"

"Good!" I thought to myself.

"Yes," replied Gelis; "it is accurate."

"Have you read," said Boulmier, "the article of Tamisey de Larroque in
the 'Revue des Questions Historiques'?"

"Good!" I thought to myself, for the second time.

"Yes," replied Gelis, "it is full of things."...

"Have you read," said Boulmier, "the 'Tableau des Abbayes Benedictines
en 1600,' by Sylvestre Bonnard?"

"Good!" I said to myself, for the third time.

"Mai foi! no!" replied Gelis. "Bonnard is an idiot!" Turning my head, I
perceived that the shadow had reached the place where I was sitting. It
was growing chilly, and I thought to myself what a fool I was to have
remained sitting there, at the risk of getting rheumatism, just to
listen to the impertinence of those two young fellows!

"Well! well!" I said to myself as I got up. "Let this prattling
fledgling write his thesis and sustain it! He will find my colleague,
Quicherat, or some other professor at the school, to show him what an
ignoramus he is. I consider him neither more nor less than a rascal;
and really, now that I come to think of it, what he said about Michelet
awhile ago was quite insufferable, outrageous! To talk in that way about
an old master replete with genius! It was simply abominable!"



April 17.


"Therese, give me my new hat, my best frock-coat, and my silver-headed
cane."

But Therese is deaf as a sack of charcoal and slow as Justice. Years
have made her so. The worst is that she thinks she can hear well and
move about well; and, proud of her sixty years of upright domesticity,
she serves her old master with the most vigilant despotism.

"What did I tell you?"...And now she will not give me my silver-headed
cane, for fear that I might lose it! It is true that I often forget
umbrellas and walking-sticks in the omnibuses and booksellers' shops.
But I have a special reason for wanting to take out with me to-day my
old cane with the engraved silver head representing Don Quixote charging
a windmill, lance in rest, while Sancho Panza, with uplifted arms,
vainly conjures him to a stop. That cane is all that came to me from the
heritage of my uncle, Captain Victor, who in his lifetime resembled Don
Quixote much more than Sancho Panza, and who loved blows quite as much
as most people fear them.

For thirty years I have been in the habit of carrying this cane upon all
memorable or solemn visits which I make; and those two figures of knight
and squire give me inspiration and counsel. I imagine I can hear them
speak. Don Quixote says,

"Think well about great things; and know that thought is the only
reality in this world. Lift up Nature to thine own stature; and let
the whole universe be for thee no more than the reflection of thine own
heroic soul. Combat for honour's sake: that alone is worthy of a man!
and if it should fall thee to receive wounds, shed thy blood as a
beneficent dew, and smile."

And Sancho Panza says to me in his turn,

"Remain just what heaven made thee, comrade! Prefer the bread-crust
which has become dry in thy wallet to all the partridges that roast in
the kitchen of lords. Obey thy master, whether he by a wise man or a
fool, and do not cumber thy brain with too many useless things. Fear
blows; 'tis verily tempting God to seek after danger!"

But if the incomparable knight and his matchless squire are imagined
only upon this cane of mine, they are realities to my inner conscience.
Within every one of us there lives both a Don Quixote and a Sancho Panza
to whom we hearken by turns; and though Sancho most persuades us, it is
Don Quixote that we find ourselves obliged to admire.... But a truce to
this dotage!--and let us go to see Madame de Gabry about some matters
more important than the everyday details of life....


Same day.


I found Madame de Gabry dressed in black, just buttoning her gloves.

"I am ready," she said.

Ready!--so I have always found her upon any occasion of doing a
kindness.

After some compliments about the good health of her husband, who was
taking a walk at the time, we descended the stairs and got into the
carriage.

I do not know what secret influence I feared to dissipate by breaking
silence, but we followed the great deserted drives without speaking,
looking at the crosses, the monumental columns, and the mortuary wreaths
awaiting sad purchasers.

The vehicle at last halted at the extreme verge of the land of the
living, before the gate upon which words of hope are graven.

"Follow me," said Madame de Gabry, whose tall stature I noticed then for
the first time. She first walked down an alley of cypresses, and then
took a very narrow path contrived between the tombs. Finally, halting
before a plain slab, she said to me,

"It is here."

And she knelt down. I could not help noticing the beautiful and easy
manner in which this Christian woman fell upon her knees, leaving the
folds of her robe to spread themselves at random about her. I had
never before seen any lady kneel down with such frankness and such
forgetfulness of self, except two fair Polish exiles, one evening long
ago, in a deserted church in Paris.

This image passed like a flash; and I saw only the sloping stone on
which was graven the name of Clementine. What I then felt was something
so deep and vague that only the sound of some rich music could convey
the idea of it. I seemed to hear instruments of celestial sweetness
make harmony in my old heart. With the solemn accords of a funeral chant
there seemed to mingle the subdued melody of a song of love; for my
soul blended into one feeling the grave sadness of the present with the
familiar graces of the past.

I cannot tell whether we had remained a long time at the tomb of
Clementine before Madame de Gabry arose. We passed through the cemetery
again without speaking to each other. Only when we found ourselves among
the living once more did I feel able to speak.

"While following you there," I said to Madame de Gabry, "I could not
help thinking of those angels with whom we are said to meet on the
mysterious confines of life and death. That tomb you led me to, of which
I knew nothing--as I know nothing, or scarcely anything, concerning
her whom it covers--brought back to me emotions which were unique in
my life, and which seem in the dullness of that life like some light
gleaming upon a dark road. The light recedes farther and farther away as
the journey lengthens; I have now almost reached the bottom of the last
slope; and, nevertheless, each time I turn to look back I see the glow
as bright as ever.

"You, Madame, who knew Clementine as a young wife and mother after her
hair had become grey, you cannot imagine her as I see her still; a young
fair girl, all pink and white. Since you have been so kind as to be my
guide, dear Madame, I ought to tell you what feelings were awakened in
me by the sight of that grave to which you led me. Memories throng back
upon me. I feel myself like some old gnarled and mossy oak which awakens
a nestling world of birds by shaking its branches. Unfortunately
the song my birds sing is old as the world, and can amuse no one but
myself."

"Tell me your souvenirs," said Madame de Gabry. "I cannot read your
books, because they are written only for scholars; but I like very much
to have you talk to me, because you know how to give interest to the
most ordinary things in life. And talk to me just as you would talk to
an old woman. This morning I found three grey threads in my hair."

"Let them come without regret, Madame," I replied. "Time deals gently
only with those who take it gently. And when in some years more you will
have a silvery fringe under your black fillet, you will be reclothed
with a new beauty, less vivid but more touching than the first; and you
will find your husband admiring your grey tresses as much as he did that
black curl which you gave him when about to be married, and which he
preserves in a locket as a thing sacred.... These boulevards are broad
and very quiet. We can talk at our ease as we walk along. I will tell
you, to begin with, how I first made the acquaintance of Clementine's
father. But you must not expect anything extraordinary, or anything even
remarkable; you would be greatly deceived.

"Monsieur de Lessay used to live in the second storey of an old house in
the Avenue de l'Observatoire, having a stuccoed front, ornamented with
antique busts, and a large unkept garden attached to it. That facade and
that garden were the first images my child-eyes perceived; and they will
be the last, no doubt, which I still see through my closed eyelids when
the Inevitable Day comes. For it was in that house that I was born; it
was in that garden I first learned, while playing, to feel and know some
particles of this old universe. Magical hours!--sacred hours!--when the
soul, all fresh from the making, first discoveries the world, which
for its sake seems to assume such caressing brightness, such mysterious
charm! And that, Madame, is indeed because the universe itself is only
the reflection of our soul.

"My mother was being very happily constituted. She rose with the sun,
like the birds; and she herself resembled the birds by her domestic
industry, by her maternal instinct, by her perpetual desire to sing, and
by a sort of brusque grace, which I could feel the of very well even
as a child. She was the soul of the house, which she filled with her
systematic and joyous activity. My father was just as slow as she was
brisk. I can recall very well that placid face of his, over which at
times an ironical smile used to flit. He was fatigued with active life;
and he loved his fatigue. Seated beside the fire in his big arm-chair,
he used to read from morning till night; and it is from him that I
inherit my love of books. I have in my library a Mably and a Raynal,
which he annotated with his own hand from beginning to end. But it
was utterly useless attempting to interest him in anything practical
whatever. When my mother would try, by all kinds of gracious little
ruses, to lure him out of his retirement, he would simply shake his head
with that inexorable gentleness which is the force of weak characters.
He used in this way greatly to worry the poor woman, who could not enter
at all into his own sphere of meditative wisdom, and could understand
nothing of life except its daily duties and the merry labour of each
hour. She thought him sick, and feared he was going to become still more
so. But his apathy had a different cause.

"My father, entering the Naval office under Monsieur Decres, in 1801,
gave early proof of high administrative talent. There was a great deal
of activity in the marine department in those times; and in 1805 my
father was appointed chief of the Second Administrative Division. That
same year, the Emperor, whose attention had been called to him by the
Minister, ordered him to make a report upon the organisation of the
English navy. This work, which reflected a profoundly liberal and
philosophic spirit, of which the editor himself was unconscious, was
only finished in 1807--about eighteen months after the defeat of Admiral
Villeneuve at Trafalgar. Napoleon, who, from that disastrous day, never
wanted to hear the word ship mentioned in his presence, angrily
glanced over a few pages of the memoir, and then threw it in the
fire, vociferating, 'Words!--words! I said once before that I hated
ideologists.' My father was told afterwards that the Emperor's anger was
so intense at the moment that he stamped the manuscript down into the
fire with his boot-heels. At all events, it was his habit, when very
much irritated, to poke down the fire with his boot-soles. My father
never fully recovered from this disgrace; and the fruitlessness of all
his efforts towards reform was certainly the cause of the apathy which
came upon him at a later day. Nevertheless, Napoleon, after his return
from Elba, sent for him, and ordered him to prepare some liberal and
patriotic bulletins and proclamations for the fleet. After Waterloo, my
father, whom the event had rather saddened than surprised, retired into
private life, and was not interfered with--except that it was generally
averred of him that he was a Jacobin, a buveur-de-sang--one of those
men with whom no one could afford to be on intimate terms. My mother's
eldest brother, Victor Maldent, and infantry captain--retired on
half-pay in 1814, and disbanded in 1815--aggravated by his bad attitude
the situation in which the fall of the Empire had placed my father.
Captain Victor used to shout in the cafes and the public balls that the
Bourbons had sold France to the Cossacks. He used to show everybody a
tricoloured cockade hidden in the lining of his hat; and carried with
much ostentation a walking-stick, the handle of which had been so carved
that the shadow thrown by it made the silhouette of the Emperor.

"Unless you have seen certain lithographs by Charlet, Madame, you could
form no idea of the physiognomy of my Uncle Victor, when he used to
stride about the garden of the Tuileries with a fiercely elegant manner
of his own--buttoned up in his frogged coat, with his cross-of-honour
upon his breast, and a bouquet of violets in his button-hole.

"Idleness and intemperance greatly intensified the vulgar recklessness
of his political passions. He used to insult people whom he happened to
see reading the 'Quotidienne,' or the 'Drapeau Blanc,' and compel them
to fight with him. In this way he had the pain and the shame of wounding
a boy of sixteen in a duel. In short, my Uncle Victor was the very
reverse of a well-behaved person; and as he came to lunch and dine
at our house every blessed day in the year, his bad reputation became
attached to our family. My poor father suffered cruelly from some of his
guest's pranks; but being very good-natured, he never made any remarks,
and continued to give the freedom of his house to the captain, who only
despised him for it.

"All this which I have told you, Madame, was explained to me afterwards.
But at the time in question, my uncle the captain filled me with the
very enthusiasm of admiration, and I promised myself to try to become
some day as like him as possible. So one fine morning, in order to
begin the likeness, I put my arms akimbo, and swore like a trooper. My
excellent mother at once gave me such a box on the ear that I remained
half stupefied for some little while before I could even burst out
crying. I can still see the old arm-chair, covered with yellow Utrecht
velvet, behind which I wept innumerable tears that day.

"I was a very little fellow then. One morning my father, lifting me
upon his knees, as he was in the habit of doing, smiled at me with that
slightly ironical smile which gave a certain piquancy to his perpetual
gentleness of manner. As I sat on his knee, playing with his long white
hair, he told me something which I did not understand very well,
but which interested me very much, for the simple reason that it was
mysterious to me. I think but am not quite sure, that he related to me
that morning the story of the little King of Yvetot, according to the
song. All of a sudden we heard a great report; and the windows rattled.
My father slipped me down gently on the floor at his feet; he threw up
his trembling arms, with a strange gesture; his face became all inert
and white, and his eyes seemed enormous. He tried to speak, but his
teeth were chattering. At last he murmured, 'They have shot him!' I did
not know what he meant, and felt only a vague terror. I knew afterwards,
however, that hew was speaking of Marshal Ney, who fell on the 7th of
December, 1815, under the wall enclosing some waste ground beside our
house.

"About that time I used often to meet on the stairway an old man (or,
perhaps, not exactly an old man) with little black eyes which flashed
with extraordinary vivacity, and an impassive, swarthy face. He did not
seem to me alive--or at least he did not seem to me alive in the same
way that other men are alive. I had once seen, at the residence of
Monsieur Denon, where my father had taken me with him on a visit, a
mummy brought from Egypt; and I believed in good faith that Monsieur
Denon's mummy used to get up when no one was looking, leave its gilded
case, put on a brown coat and powdered wig, and become transformed into
Monsieur de Lessay. And even to-day, dear Madame, while I reject that
opinion as being without foundation, I must confess that Monsieur de
Lessay bore a very strong resemblance to Monsieur Denon's mummy. The
fact is enough to explain why this person inspired me with fantastic
terror.

"In reality, Monsieur de Lessay was a small gentleman and a great
philosopher. As a disciple of Mably and Rousseau, he flattered himself
on being a man without any prejudices; and this pretension itself is a
very great prejudice.

"He professed to hate fanaticism, yet was himself a fanatic on the topic
of toleration. I am telling you, Madame, about a character belonging to
an age that is past. I fear I may not be able to make you understand,
and I am sure I shall not be able to interest you. It was so long ago!
But I will abridge as much as possible: besides, I did not promise
you anything interesting; and you could not have expected to hear of
remarkable adventures in the life of Sylvestre Bonnard."

Madame de Gabry encouraged me to proceed, and I resumed:

"Monsieur de Lessay was brusque with men and courteous to ladies. He
used to kiss the hand of my mother, whom the customs of the Republic and
the Empire had not habituated to such gallantry. In him, I touched the
age of Louis XVI. Monsieur de Lessay was a geographer; and nobody, I
believe, ever showed more pride then he in occupying himself with the
face of the earth. Under the Old Regime he had attempted philosophical
agriculture, and thus squandered his estates to the very last acre. When
he had ceased to own one square foot of ground, he took possession of
the whole globe, and prepared an extraordinary number of maps, based
upon the narratives of travellers. But as he had been mentally nourished
with the very marrow of the "Encyclopedie," he was not satisfied with
merely parking off human beings within so many degrees, minutes, and
seconds of latitude and longitude, he also occupied himself, alas! with
the question of their happiness. It is worthy of remark, Madame, that
those who have given themselves the most concern about the happiness of
peoples have made their neighbors very miserable. Monsieur de
Lessay, who was more of a geometrician than D'Alembert, and more of a
philosopher than Jean Jacques, was also more of a royalist than Louis
XVIII. But his love for the King was nothing to his hate for the
Emperor. He had joined the conspiracy of Georges against the First
Consul; but in the framing of the indictment he was not included among
the inculpated parties, having been either ignored or despised, and
this injury he never could forgive Bonaparte, whom he called the Ogre
of Corsica, and to whom he used to say he would never have confided even
the command of a regiment, so pitiful a soldier he judged him to be.

"In 1820, Monsieur de Lessay, who had then been a widower for many
years, married again, at the age of sixty, a very young woman, whom
he pitilessly kept at work preparing maps for him, and who gave him
a daughter some years after their marriage, and died in childbed. My
mother had nursed her during her brief illness, and had taken care of
the child. The name of that child was Clementine.

"It was from the time of that birth and that death that the relations
between our family and Monsieur de Lessay began. In the meanwhile I had
been growing dull as I began to leave my true childhood behind me. I
had lost the charming power of being able to see and feel; and things no
longer caused me those delicious surprises which form the enchantment
of the more tender age. For the same reason, perhaps, I have no distinct
remembrance of the period following the birth of Clementine; I only know
that a few months afterwards I had a misfortune, the mere thought of
which still wrings my heart. I lost my mother. A great silence, a great
coldness, and a great darkness seemed all at once to fill the house.

"I fell into a sort of torpor. My father sent me to the lycee, but I
could only arouse myself from my lethargy with the greatest of effort.

"Still, I was not altogether a dullard, and my professors were able to
teach me almost everything they wanted, namely, a little Greek and a
great deal of Latin. My acquaintances were confined to the ancients.
I learned to esteem Miltiades, and to admire Themistocles. I became
familiar with Quintus Fabius, as far, at least, as it was possible
to become familiar with so great a Consul. Proud of these lofty
acquaintances, I scarcely ever condescended to notice little Clementine
and her old father, who, in any event, went away to Normandy one fine
morning without my having deigned to give a moment's thought to their
possible return.

"They came back, however, Madame, they came back! Influences of Heaven,
forces of nature, all ye mysterious powers which vouchsafe to man the
ability to love, you know how I again beheld Clementine! They re-entered
our melancholy home. Monsieur de Lessay no longer wore a wig. Bald,
with a few grey locks about his ruddy temples, he had all the aspect of
robust old age. But that divine being whom I saw all resplendent, as
she leaned upon his arm--she whose presence illuminated the old faded
parlour--she was not an apparition! It was Clementine herself! I am
speaking the simple truth: her violet eyes seemed to me in that moment
supernatural, and even to-day I cannot imagine how those two living
jewels could have endured the fatigues of life, or become subjected to
the corruption of death.

"She betrayed a little shyness in greeting my father, whom she did
not remember. Her complexion was slightly pink, and her half-open lips
smiled with that smile which makes one think of the Infinite--perhaps
because it betrays no particular thought, and expresses only the joy
of living and the bliss of being beautiful. Under a pink hood her face
shone like a gem in an open casket; she wore a cashmere scarf over a
robe of white muslin plaited at the waist, from beneath which protruded
the tip of a little Morocco shoe.... Oh! you must not make fun of me,
dear Madame, that was the fashion of the time; and I do not know
whether our new fashions have nearly so much simplicity, brightness, and
decorous grace.

"Monsieur de Lessay informed us that, in consequence of having
undertaken the publication of a historical atlas, he had come back
to live in Paris, and that he would be pleased to occupy his former
apartment, if it was still vacant. My father asked Mademoiselle de
Lessay whether she was pleased to visit the capital. She appeared to
be, for her smile blossomed out in reply. She smiled at the windows that
looked out upon the green and luminous garden; she smiled at the bronze
Marius seated among the ruins of Carthage above the dial of the clock;
she smiled a the old yellow-velveted arm-chairs, and at the poor student
who was afraid to lift his eyes to look at her. From that day--how I
loved her!

"But here we are already a the Rue de Severs, and in a little while we
shall be in sight of your windows. I am a very bad story-teller; and if
I were--by some impossible chance--to take it into my head to compose
a novel, I know I should never succeed. I have been drawing out to
tiresome length a narrative which I must finish briefly; for there is
a certain delicacy, a certain grace of soul, which an old man could not
help offending by an complacent expatiation upon the sentiments of even
the purest love. Let us take a short turn on this boulevard, lined with
convents; and my recital will be easily finished within the distance
separating us from that little spire you see over there....

"Monsieur de Lessay, on finding that I had graduated at the Ecole des
Chartes, judged me worthy to assist him in preparing his historical
atlas. The plan was to illustrate, by a series of maps, what the old
philosopher termed the Vicissitudes of Empires from the time of Noah
down to that of Charlemagne. Monsieur de Lessay had stored up in his
head all the errors of the eighteenth century in regard to antiquity.
I belonged, so far as my historical studies were concerned, to the
new school; and I was just at that age when one does not know how to
dissemble. The manner in which the old man understood, or, rather,
misunderstood, the epoch of the Barbarians--his obstinate determination
to find in remote antiquity only ambitious princes, hypocritical and
avaricious prelates, virtuous citizens, poet-philosophers, and other
personages who never existed outside of the novels of Marmontel,--made
me dreadfully unhappy, and at first used to excite me into attempts
at argument,--rational enough, but perfectly useless and sometimes
dangerous, for Monsieur de Lessay was very irascible, and Clementine was
very beautiful. Between her and him I passed many hours of torment and
of delight. I was in love; I was a coward, and I granted to him all that
he demanded of me in regard to the political and historical aspect which
the Earth--that was at a later day to bear Clementine--presented in the
time of Abraham, of Menes, and of Deucalion.

"As fast as we drew our maps, Mademoiselle de Lessay tinted them in
water-colours. Bending over the table, she held the brush lightly
between two fingers; the shadow of her eyelashes descended upon her
cheeks, and bather her half-closed eyes in a delicious penumbra.
Sometimes she would lift her head, and I would see her lips pout. There
was so much expression in her beauty that she could not breathe without
seeming to sigh; and her most ordinary poses used to throw me into the
deepest ecstasies of admiration. Whenever I gazed at her I fully agreed
with Monsieur de Lessay that Jupiter had once reigned as a despot-king
over the mountainous regions of Thessaly, and that Orpheus had committed
the imprudence of leaving the teaching of philosophy to the clergy. I am
not now quite sure whether I was a coward or a hero when I accorded al
this to the obstinate old man.

"Mademoiselle de Lessay, I must acknowledge, paid very little attention
to me. But this indifference seemed to me so just and so natural that
I never even dreamed of thinking I had a right to complain about it; it
made me unhappy, but without my knowing that I was unhappy at the
time. I was hopeful;--we had then only got as far as the First Assyrian
Empire.

"Monsieur de Lessay came every evening to take coffee with my father.
I do not know how they became such friends; for it would have been
difficult to find two characters more oppositely constituted. My father
was a man who admired very few things, but was still capable of excusing
a great many. Still, as he grew older, he evinced more and more dislike
of everything in the shape of exaggeration. He clothed his ideas with a
thousand delicate shades of expression, and never pronounced an opinion
without all sorts of reservations. These conversational habits, natural
to a finely trained mind, used greatly to irritate the dry, terse old
aristocrat, who was never in the least disarmed by the moderation of an
adversary--quite the contrary! I always foresaw one danger. That
danger was Bonaparte. My father had not himself retained an particular
affection for his memory; but, having worked under his direction, he
did not like to hear him abused, especially in favour of the Bourbons,
against whom he had serious reason to feel resentment. Monsieur de
Lessay, more of a Voltairean and a Legitimist than ever, now traced back
to Bonaparte the origin of every social, political, and religious
evil. Such being the situation, the idea of Uncle Victor made me
feel particularly uneasy. This terrible uncle had become absolutely
unsufferable now that his sister was no longer there to calm him down.
The harp of David was broken, and Saul was wholly delivered over to the
spirit of madness. The fall of Charles X. had increased the audacity of
the old Napoleonic veteran, who uttered all imaginable bravadoes. He no
longer frequented our house, which had become too silent for him.
But sometimes, at the dinner-hour, we would see him suddenly make his
appearance, all covered with flowers, like a mausoleum. Ordinarily he
would sit down to table with an oath, growled out from the very bottom
of his chest, and brag, between every two mouthfuls, of his good fortune
with the ladies as a vieux brave. Then, when the dinner was over, he
would fold up his napkin in the shape of a bishop's mitre, gulp down
half a decanter of brandy, and rush away with the hurried air of a man
terrified at the mere idea of remaining for any length of time, without
drinking, in conversation with an old philosopher and a young scholar. I
felt perfectly sure that, if ever he and Monsieur de Lessay should come
together, all would be lost. But that day came, Madame!

"The captain was almost hidden by flowers that day, and seemed so much
like a monument commemorating the glories of the Empire that one would
have liked to pass a garland of immortelles over each of his arms. He
was in an extraordinarily good humour; and the first person to profit by
that good humour was our cook--for he put his arm around her waist while
she was placing the roast on the table.

"After dinner he pushed away the decanter presented to him, observing
that he was going to burn some brandy in his coffee later on. I asked
him tremblingly whether he would not prefer to have his coffee at once.
He was very suspicious, and not at all dull of comprehension--my Uncle
Victor. My precipitation seemed to him in very bad taste; for he looked
at me in a peculiar way, and said,

"'Patience! my nephew. It isn't the business of the baby of the regiment
to sound the retreat! Devil take it! You must be in a great hurry,
Master Pedant, to see if I've got spurs on my boots!'

"It was evident the captain had divined that I wanted him to go. And I
knew him well enough to be sure that he was going to stay. He stayed.
The least circumstances of that evening remain impressed on my memory.
My uncle was extremely jovial. The mere idea of being in somebody's way
was enough to keep him in good humour. He told us, in regular barrack
style, ma foi! a certain story about a monk, a trumpet, and five
bottles of Chambertin, which must have been much enjoyed in the garrison
society, but which I would not venture to repeat to you, Madame, even if
I could remember it. When we passed into the parlour, the captain called
attention to the bad condition of our andirons, and learnedly discoursed
on the merits of rotten-stone as a brass-polisher. Not a word on the
subject of politics. He was husbanding his forces. Eight o'clock sounded
from the ruins of Carthage on the mantlepiece. It was Monsieur de
Lessay's hour. A few moments later he entered the parlour with his
daughter. The ordinary evening chat began. Clementine sat down and began
to work on some embroidery beside the lamp, whose shade left her pretty
head in a soft shadow, and threw down upon her fingers a radiance that
made them seem almost self-luminous. Monsieur de Lessay spoke of a comet
announced by the astronomers, and developed some theories in relation
to the subject, which, however audacious, betrayed at least a certain
degree of intellectual culture. My father, who knew a good deal about
astronomy, advanced some sound ideas of his own, which he ended up with
his eternal, 'But what do we know about it, after all?' In my turn I
cited the opinion of our neighbour of the Observatory--the great Arago.
My Uncle Victor declared that comets had a peculiar influence on
the quality of wines, and related in support of this view a jolly
tavern-story. I was so delighted with the turn the conversation had
taken that I did all in my power to maintain it in the same groove, with
the help of my most recent studies, by a long exposition of the chemical
composition of those nebulous bodies which, although extending over a
length of billions of leagues, could be contained in a small bottle. My
father, a little surprised at my unusual eloquence, watched me with
his peculiar, placid, ironical smile. But one cannot always remain
in heaven. I spoke, as I looked at Clementine, of a certain comete of
diamonds, which I had been admiring in a jeweller's window the evening
before. It was a most unfortunate inspiration of mine.

"'Ah! my nephew,' cried Uncle Victor, that "comete" of yours was nothing
to the one which the Empress Josephine wore in her hair when she came to
Strasburg to distribute crosses to the army.'

"'That little Josephine was very fond of finery and display,' observed
Monsieur de Lessay, between two sips of coffee. 'I do not blame her for
it; she had good qualities, though rather frivolous in character. She
was a Tascher, and she conferred a great honour on Bonaparte by marrying
him. To say a Tascher does not, of course, mean a great deal; but to say
a Bonaparte simply means nothing at all.'

"'What do you mean by that, Monsieur the Marquis?' demanded Captain
Victor.

"'I am not a marquis,' dryly responded Monsieur de Lessay; 'and I mean
simply that Bonaparte would have been very well suited had he
married one of those cannibal women described by Captain Cook in his
voyages--naked, tattooed, with a ring in her nose--devouring with
delight putrefied human flesh.'

"I had foreseen it, and in my anguish (O pitiful human heart!) my first
idea was about the remarkable exactness of my anticipations. I must say
that the captain's reply belonged to the sublime order. He put his arms
akimbo, eyed Monsieur de Lessay contemptuously from head to food, and
said,

"'Napoleon, Monsieur the Vidame, had another spouse besides Josephine,
another spouse besides Marie-Louise, that companion you know nothing
of; but I have seen her, close to me. She wears a mantle of azure gemmed
with stars; she is crowned with laurels; the Cross-of-Honour flames upon
her breast. Her name is GLORY!'

"Monsieur de Lessay set his cup on the mantlepiece and quietly observed,

"'Your Bonaparte was a blackguard!'

"My father rose up calmly, extended his arm, and said very softly to
Monsieur de Lessay,

"Whatever the man was who died at St. Helena, I worked for ten years in
his government, and my brother-in-law was three times wounded under his
eagles. I beg of you, dear sir and friend, never to forget these facts
in future.'

"What the sublime and burlesque insolence of the captain could not do,
the courteous remonstrance of my father effected immediately, throwing
Monsieur de Lessay into a furious passion.

"'I did forget,' he exclaimed, between his set teeth, livid in his rage,
and fairly foaming at the mouth; 'the herring-cask always smells of
herring and when one has been in the service of rascals---'

"As he uttered the word, the Captain sprang at his throat; I am sure he
would have strangled him upon the spot but for his daughter and me.

"My father, a little paler than his wont, stood there with his arms
folded, and watched the scene with a look of inexpressible pity. What
followed was still more lamentable--but why dwell further upon the folly
of two old men. Finally I succeeded in separating them. Monsieur
de Lessay made a sign to his daughter and left the room. As she was
following him, I ran out into the stairway after her.

"'Mademoiselle,' I said to her, wildly, taking her hand as I spoke, 'I
love you! I love you!'

"For a moment she pressed my hand; her lips opened. What was it that
she was going to say to me? But suddenly, lifting her eyes towards
her father ascending the stairs, she drew her hand away, and made me a
gesture of farewell.

"I never saw her again. Her father went to live in the neighbourhood of
the Pantheon, in an apartment which he had rented for the sale of his
historical atlas. He died in a few months afterward of an apoplectic
stroke. His daughter, I was told, retired to Caen to live with some aged
relative. It was there that, later on, she married a bank-clerk, the
same Noel Alexandre who became so rich and died so poor.

"As for me, Madame, I have lived alone, at peace with myself; my
existence, equally exempt from great pains and great joys, has been
tolerably happy. But for many years I could never see an empty chair
beside my own of a winter's evening without feeling a sudden painful
sinking at my heart. Last year I learned from you, who had known her,
the story of her old age and death. I saw her daughter at your house. I
have seen her; but I cannot yet say like the aged mad of Scripture, 'And
now, O Lord, let thy servant depart in peace!' For if an old fellow like
me can be of any use to anybody, I would wish, with your help, to devote
my last energies and abilities to the care of this orphan."

I had uttered these last words in Madame de Gabry's own vestibule; and I
was about to take leave of my kind guide when she said to me,

"My dear Monsieur, I cannot help you in this matter as much as I would
like to do. Jeanne is an orphan and a minor. You cannot do anything for
her without the authorisation of her guardian."

"Ah!" I exclaimed, "I had not the least idea in the wold that Jeanne had
a guardian!"

Madame de Gabry looked at me with visible surprise. She had not expected
to find the old man quite so simple.

She resumed:

"The guardian of Jeanne Alexandre is Maitre Mouche, notary at
Levallois-Perret. I am afraid you will not be able to come to any
understanding with him; for he is a very serious person."

"Why! good God!" I cried, "with what kind of people can you expect me to
have any sort of understanding at my age, except serious persons."

She smiled with a sweet mischievousness--just as my father used to
smile--and answered:

"With those who are like you--the innocent folks who wear their hearts
on their sleeves. Monsieur Mouche is not exactly that kind. He is
cunning and light-fingered. But although I have very little liking
for him, we will go together and see him, if you wish, and ask his
permission to visit Jeanne, whom he has sent to a boarding-school at Les
Ternes, where she is very unhappy."

We agreed at once upon a day; I kissed Madame de Gabry's hands, and we
bade each other good-bye.



From May 2 to May 5.


I have seen him in his office, Maitre Mouche, the guardian of Jeanne.
Small, thin, and dry; his complexion looks as if it was made out of the
dust of his pigeon-holes. He is a spectacled animal; for to imagine him
without his spectacles would be impossible. I have heard him speak,
this Maitre Mouche; he has a voice like a tin rattle, and he uses choice
phrases; but I should have been better pleased if he had not chosen his
phrases so carefully. I have observed him, this Maitre Mouche; he is
very ceremonious, and watches his visitors slyly out of the corner of
his eye.

Maitre Mouche is quite pleased, he informs us; he is delighted to find
we have taken such an interest in his ward. But he does not think we are
placed in this world just to amuse ourselves. No: he does not believe
it; and I am free to acknowledge that anybody in his company is likely
to reach the same conclusion, so little is he capable of inspiring
joyfulness. He fears that it would be giving his dear ward a false and
pernicious idea of life to allow her too much enjoyment. It is for this
reason that he requests Madame de Gabry not to invite the young girl to
her house except at very long intervals.

We left the dusty notary and his dusty study with a permit in due form
(everything which issues from the office of Maitre Mouche is in due
form) to visit Mademoiselle Jeanne Alexandre on the first Thursday of
each month at Mademoiselle Prefere's private school, Rue Demours, Aux
Ternes.

The first Thursday in May I set out to pay a visit to Mademoiselle
Prefere, whose establishment I discerned from afar off by a big sign,
painted with blue letters. That blue tint was the first indication I
received of Mademoiselle Prefere's character, which I was able to see
more of later on. A scared-looking servant took my card, and abandoned
me without one word of hope at the door of a chilly parlour full of that
stale odour peculiar to the dining-rooms of educational establishments.
The floor of this parlour had been waxed with such pitiless energy,
that I remained for awhile in distress upon the threshold. But happily
observing that little strips of woollen carpet had been scattered over
the floor in front of each horse-hair chair, I succeeded, by cautiously
stepping from one carpet-island to another in reaching the angle of the
mantlepiece, where I sat down quite out of breath.

Over the mantelpiece, in a large gilded frame, was a written document,
entitled in flamboyant Gothic lettering, Tableau d'Honneur, with a long
array of names underneath, among which I did not have the pleasure of
finding that of Jeanne Alexandre. After having read over several times
the names of those girl-pupils who had thus made themselves honoured in
the eyes of Mademoiselle Prefere, I began to feel uneasy at not hearing
any one coming. Mademoiselle Prefere would certainly have succeeded in
establishing the absolute silence of interstellar spaces throughout her
pedagogical domains, had it not been that the sparrows had chosen her
yard to assemble in by legions, and chirp at the top of their voices.
It was a pleasure to hear them. But there was no way of seeing
them--through the ground-glass windows. I had to content myself with the
sights of the parlour, decorated from floor to ceiling, on all of its
four walls, with drawings executed by the pupils of the institution.
There were Vestals, flowers, thatched cottages, column-capitals, and
an enormous head of Tatius, King of the Sabines, bearing the signature
Estelle Mouton.

I had already passed some time in admiring the energy with which
Mademoiselle Mouton had delineated the bushy eyebrows and the fierce
gaze of the antique warrior, when a sound, faint like the rustling of
a dead leaf moved by the wind, caused me to turn my head. It was not a
dead leaf at all--it was Mademoiselle Prefere. With hands jointed before
her, she came gliding over the mirror-polish of that wonderful floor
as the Saints of the Golden Legend were wont to glide over the
crystal surface of the waters. But upon any other occasion, I am sure,
Mademoiselle Prefere would not have made me think in the least about
those virgins dear to mystical fancy. Her face rather gave me the
idea of a russet-apple preserved or a whole winter in an attic by
some economical housekeeper. Her shoulders were covered with a fringed
pelerine, which had nothing at all remarkable about it, but which she
wore as if it were a sacerdotal vestment, or the symbol of some high
civic function.

I explained to her the purpose of my visit, and gave her my letter of
introduction.

"Ah!--so you are Monsieur Mouche!" she exclaimed. "Is his health VERY
good? He is the most upright of men, the most---"

She did not finish the phrase, but raised her eyes to the ceiling. My
own followed the direction of their gaze, and observed a little spiral
of paper lace, suspended from the place of the chandelier, which was
apparently destined, so far as I could discover, to attract the flies
away from the gilded mirror-frames and the Tableau d'Honneur.

"I have met Mademoiselle Jeanne Alexandre," I observed, "at the
residence of Madame de Gabry and had reason to appreciate the excellent
character and quick intelligence of the young girl. As I used to know
her parents very well, the friendship which I felt for them naturally
inclines me to take an interest in her."

Mademoiselle Prefere, in lieu of making any reply, sighed profoundly,
pressed her mysterious pelerine to her heart, and again contemplated the
paper spiral.

At last she observed,

"Since you were once the friend of Monsieur and Madame Alexandre, I hope
and trust that, like Monsieur Mouche and myself, you deplore those
crazy speculations which led them to ruin, and reduced their daughter to
absolute poverty!"

I thought to myself, on hearing these words, how very wrong it is to
be unlucky, and how unpardonable such an error on the part of those
previously in a position worthy of envy. Their fall at once avenges and
flatters us; and we are wholly pitiless.

After having answered, very frankly, that I knew nothing whatever about
the history of the bank, I asked the schoolmistress if she was satisfied
with Mademoiselle Alexandre.

"That child is indomitable!" cried Mademoiselle Prefere.

And she assumed an attitude of lofty resignation, to symbolise the
difficult situation she was placed in by a pupil so hard to train. Then,
with more calmness of manner, she added:

"The young person is not unintelligent. But she cannot resign herself to
learn things by rule."

What a strange old maid was this Mademoiselle Prefere! She walked
without lifting her legs, and spoke without moving her lips! Without,
however, considering her peculiarities for more than a reasonable
instant, I replied that principles were, no doubt, very excellent
things, and that I could trust myself to her judgement in regard to
their value; but that, after all, when one had learned something, it
very little difference what method had been followed in the learning of
it.

Mademoiselle made a slow gesture of dissent. Then with a sigh, she
declared,

"Ah, Monsieur! those who do not understand educational methods are apt
to have very false ideas on these subjects. I am certain they express
their opinions with the best intentions in the world; but they would do
better, a great deal better, to leave all such questions to competent
people."

I did not attempt to argue further; and simply asked her whether I could
see Mademoiselle Alexandre at once.

She looked at her pelerine, as if trying to read in the entanglements
of its fringes, as in a conjuring book, what sort of answer she ought to
make; then said,

"Mademoiselle Alexandre has a penance to perform, and a class-lesson to
give; but I should be very sorry to let you put yourself to the trouble
of coming here all to no purpose. I am going to send for her. Only first
allow me, Monsieur--as is our custom--to put your name on the visitors'
register."

She sat down at the table, opened a large copybook, and, taking out
Maitre Mouche's letter again from under her pelerine, where she had
placed it, looked at it, and began to write.

"'Bonnard'--with a 'd,' is it not?" she asked. "Excuse me for being so
particular; but my opinion is that proper names have an orthography.
We have dictation-lessons in proper names, Monsieur, at this
school--historical proper names, of course!"

After I had written down my name in a running hand, she inquired whether
she should not put down after it my profession, title, quality--such
as "retired merchant," "employe," "independent gentleman," or something
else. There was a column in her register expressly for that purpose.

"My goodness, Madame!" I said, "if you must absolutely fill that column
of yours, put down 'Member of the Institute.'"

It was still Mademoiselle Prefere's pelerine I saw before me; but it was
not Mademoiselle Prefere who wore it; it was a totally different person,
obliging, gracious, caressing, radiant, happy. Her eyes, smiled; the
little wrinkles of her face (there were a vast number of them!) also
smiled; her mouth smiled likewise, but only on one side. I discovered
afterwards that was her best side. She spoke: her voice had also changed
with her manner; it was now sweet as honey.

"You said, Monsieur, that our dear Jeanne was very intelligent. I
discovered the same thing myself, and I am proud of being able to
agree with you. This young girl has really made me feel a great deal of
interest in her. She has what I call a happy disposition.... But excuse
me for thus drawing upon your valuable time."

She summoned the servant-girl, who looked much more hurried and scared
than before, and who vanished with the order to go and tell Mademoiselle
Alexandre that Monsieur Sylvestre Bonnard, Member of the Institute, was
waiting to see her in the parlour.

Mademoiselle Prefere had barely time to confide in me that she had the
most profound respect for all decisions of the Institute--whatever they
might be--when Jeanne appeared, out of breath, red as a poppy, with
her eyes very wide open, and her arms dangling helplessly at her
sides--charming in her artless awkwardness.

"What a state you are in, my dear child!" murmured Mademoiselle Prefere,
with maternal sweetness, as she arranged the girl's collar.

Jeanne certainly did present an odd aspect. Her hair combed back, and
imperfectly held by a net from which loose curls were escaping; her
slender arms, sheathed down to the elbows in lustring sleeves; her
hands, which she did not seem to know what to do with, all red with
chillblains; her dress, much too short, revealing that she had on
stockings much too large for her, and shoes worn down at the heel; and
a skipping-rope tied round her waist in lieu of a belt,--all combined to
lend Mademoiselle Jeanne an appearance the reverse of presentable.

"Oh, you crazy girl!" sighed Mademoiselle Prefere, who now seemed no
longer like a mother, but rather like an elder sister.

Then she suddenly left the room, gliding like a shadow over the polished
floor.

I said to Jeanne,

"Sit down, Jeanne, and talk to me as you would to a friend. Are you not
better satisfied here now than you were last year?"

She hesitated; then answered with a good-natured smile of resignation,

"Not much better."

I asked her to tell me about her school life. She began at once to
enumerate all her different studies--piano, style, chronology of the
Kings of France, sewing, drawing, catechism, deportment... I could never
remember them all! She still held in her hands, all unconsciously, the
two ends of her skipping-rope, and she raised and lowered them regularly
while making her enumeration. Then all at once she became conscious of
what she was doing, blushed, stammered, and became so confused that I
had to renounce my desire to know the full programme of study adopted in
the Prefere Institution.

After having questioned Jeanne on various matters, and obtained only the
vaguest of answers, I perceived that her young mind was totally absorbed
by the skipping-rope, and I entered bravely into that grave subject.

"So you have been skipping?" I said. "It is a very nice amusement, but
one that you must not exert yourself too much at; for any excessive
exercise of that kind might seriously injure your health, and I should
be very much grieved about it Jeanne--I should be very much grieved,
indeed!"

"You are very kind, Monsieur," the young girl said, "to have come to see
me and talk to me like this. I did not think about thanking you when
I came in, because I was too much surprised. Have you seen Madame de
Gabry? Please tell me something about her, Monsieur."

"Madame de Gabry," I answered, "is very well. I can only tell you about
her, Jeanne, what an old gardener once said of the lady of the castle,
his mistress, when somebody anxiously inquired about her: 'Madame is
in her road.' Yes, Madame de Gabry is in her own road; and you know,
Jeanne, what a good road it is, and how steadily she can walk upon it. I
went out with her the other day, very, very far away from the house;
and we talked about you. We talked about you, my child, at your mother's
grave."

"I am very glad," said Jeanne.

And then, all at once, she began to cry.

I felt too much reverence for those generous tears to attempt in any way
to check the emotion that had evoked them. But in a little while, as the
girl wiped her eyes, I asked her,

"Will you not tell me, Jeanne, why you were thinking so much about that
skipping-rope a little while ago?"

"Why, indeed I will, Monsieur. It was only because I had no right to
come into the parlour with a skipping-rope. You know, of course, that I
am past the age for playing at skipping. But when the servant said there
was an old gentleman... oh!... I mean... that a gentleman was waiting for
me in the parlour, I was making the little girls jump. Then I tied the
rope round my waist in a hurry, so that it might not get lost. It was
wrong. But I have not been in the habit of having many people come to
see me. And Mademoiselle Prefere never lets us off if we commit any
breach of deportment: so I know she is going to punish me, and I am very
sorry about it."...

"That is too bad, Jeanne!"

She became very grave, and said,

"Yes, Monsieur, it is too bad; because when I am punished myself, I have
no more authority over the little girls."

I did not at once fully understand the nature of this unpleasantness;
but Jeanne explained to me that, as she was charged by Mademoiselle
Prefere with the duties of taking care of the youngest class, of washing
and dressing the children, of teaching them how to behave, how to sew,
how to say the alphabet, of showing them how to play, and, finally, of
putting them to bed at the close of the day, she could not make herself
obeyed by those turbulent little folks on the days she was condemned
to wear a night-cap in the class-room, or to eat her meals standing up,
from a plate turned upside down.

Having secretly admired the punishments devised by the Lady of the
Enchanted Pelerine, I responded:

"Then, if I understand you rightly, Jeanne, you are at once a pupil here
and a mistress? It is a condition of existence very common in the world.
You are punished, and you punish?"

"Oh, Monsieur!" she exclaimed. "No! I never punish!"

"Then, I suspect," said I, "that your indulgence gets you many scoldings
from Mademoiselle Prefere?"

She smiled, and blinked.

Then I said to her that the troubles in which we often involve
ourselves, by trying to act according to our conscience and to do the
best we can, are never of the sort that totally dishearten and weary
us, but are, on the contrary, wholesome trials. This sort of philosophy
touched her very little. She even appeared totally unmoved by my moral
exhortations. But was not this quite natural on her part?--and ought I
not to have remembered that it is only those no longer innocent who can
find pleasure in the systems of moralists?... I had at least good sense
enough to cut short my sermonising.

"Jeanne," I said, "you were asking a moment ago about Madame de Gabry.
Let us talk about that Fairy of yours She was very prettily made. Do you
do any modelling in wax now?"

"I have not a bit of wax," she exclaimed, wringing her hands--"no wax at
all!"

"No wax!" I cried--"in a republic of busy bees?"

She laughed.

"And, then, you see, Monsieur, my FIGURINES, as you call them, are not
in Mademoiselle Prefere's programme. But I had begun to make a very
small Saint-George for Madame de Gabry--a tiny little Saint-George,
with a golden cuirass. Is not that right, Monsieur Bonnard--to give
Saint-George a gold cuirass?"

"Quite right, Jeanne; but what became of it?"

"I am going to tell you, I kept it in my pocket because I had no other
place to put it, and--and I sat down on it by mistake."

She drew out of her pocket a little wax figure, which had been squeezed
out of all resemblance to human form, and of which the dislocated limbs
were only attached to the body by their wire framework. At the sight of
her hero thus marred, she was seized at once with compassion and gaiety.
The latter feeling obtained the mastery, and she burst into a clear
laugh, which, however, stopped as suddenly as it had begun.

Mademoiselle Prefere stood at the parlour door, smiling.

"That dear child!" sighed the schoolmistress in her tenderest tone. "I
am afraid she will tire you. And, then, your time is so precious!"

I begged Mademoiselle Prefere to dismiss that illusion, and, rising to
take my leave, I took from my pocket some chocolate-cakes and sweets
which I had brought with me.

"That is so nice!" said Jeanne; "there will be enough to go round the
whole school."

The lady of the pelerine intervened.

"Mademoiselle Alexandre," she said, "thank Monsieur for his generosity."

Jeanne looked at her for an instant in a sullen way; then, turning to
me, said with remarkable firmness,

"Monsieur, I thank you for your kindness in coming to see me."

"Jeanne," I said, pressing both her hands, "remain always a good,
truthful, brave girl. Good-bye."

As she left the room with her packages of chocolate and confectionery,
she happened to strike the handles of her skipping-rope against the
back of a chair. Mademoiselle Prefere, full of indignation, pressed both
hands over her heart, under her pelerine; and I almost expected to see
her give up her scholastic ghost.

When we found ourselves alone, she recovered her composure; and I must
say, without considering myself thereby flattered, that she smiled upon
me with one whole side of her face.

"Mademoiselle," I said, taking advantage of her good humour, "I noticed
that Jeanne Alexandre looks a little pale. You know better than I how
much consideration and care a young girl requires at her age. It would
only be doing you an injustice by implication to recommend her still
more earnestly to your vigilance."

These words seemed to ravish her with delight. She lifted her eyes, as
in ecstasy, to the paper spirals of the ceiling, and, clasping her hands
exclaimed,

"How well these eminent men know the art of considering the most
trifling details!"

I called her attention to the fact that the health of a young girl was
not a trifling detail, and made my farewell bow. But she stopped me on
the threshold to say to me, very confidentially,

"You must excuse me, Monsieur. I am a woman, and I love glory. I cannot
conceal from you the fact that I feel myself greatly honoured by the
presence of a Member of the Institute in my humble institution."

I duly excused the weakness of Mademoiselle Prefere; and, thinking only
of Jeanne, with the blindness of egotism, kept asking myself all along
the road, "What are we going to do with this child?"



June 3.


I had escorted to the Cimetiere de Marnes that day a very aged colleague
of mine who, to use the words of Goethe, had consented to die. The great
Goethe, whose own vital force was something extraordinary, actually
believed that one never dies until one really wants to die--that is to
say, when all those energies which resist dissolution, and teh sum of
which make up life itself, have been totally destroyed. In other words,
he believed that people only die when it is no longer possible for them
to live. Good! it is merely a question of properly understanding one
another; and when fully comprehended, the magnificent idea of Goethe
only brings us quietly back to the song of La Palisse.

Well, my excellent colleague had consented to die--thanks to several
successive attacks of extremely persuasive apoplexy--the last of which
proved unanswerable. I had been very little acquainted with him during
his lifetime; but it seems that I became his friend the moment he was
dead, for our colleagues assured me in a most serious manner, with
deeply sympathetic countenances, that I should act as one of the
pall-bearers, and deliver an address over the tomb.

After having read very badly a short address I had written as well as I
could--which is not saying much for it--I started out for a walk in the
woods of Ville-d'Avray, and followed, without leaning too much on
the Captain's cane, a shaded path on which the sunlight fell, through
foliage, in little discs of gold. Never had the scent of grass and fresh
leaves,--never had the beauty of the sky over the trees, and the serene
might of noble tree contours, so deeply affected my senses and all my
being; and the pleasure I felt in that silence, broken only by faintest
tinkling sounds, was at once of the senses and of the soul.

I sat down in the shade of the roadside under a clump of young oaks. And
there I made a promise to myself not to die, or at least not to consent
to die, before I should be again able to sit down under and oak,
where--in the great peace of the open country--I could meditate on the
nature of the soul and the ultimate destiny of man. A bee, whose brown
breast-plate gleamed in the sun like armour of old gold, came to light
upon a mallow-flower close by me--darkly rich in colour, and fully
opened upon its tufted stalk. It was certainly not the first time I had
witnessed so common an incident; but it was the first time that I had
watched it with such comprehensive and friendly curiosity. I could
discern that there were all sorts of sympathies between the insect and
the flower--a thousand singular little relationships which I had never
before even suspected.

Satiated with nectar, the insect rose and buzzed away in a straight
line, while I lifted myself up as best I could, and readjusted myself
upon my legs.

"Adieu!" I said to the flower and to the bee. "Adieu! Heaven grant I
may live long enough to discover the secret of your harmonies. I am very
tired. But man is so made that he can only find relaxation from one kind
of labour by taking up another. The flowers and insects will give me
that relaxation, with God's will, after my long researches in philology
and diplomatics. How full of meaning is that old myth of Antaeus! I have
touched the Earth and I am a new man; and now at seventy years of age,
new feelings of curiosity take birth in my mind, even as young shoots
sometimes spring up from the hollow trunk of an aged oak!"



June 4.


I like to look out of my window at the Seine and its quays on those
soft grey mornings which give such an infinite tenderness of tint to
everything. I have seen that azure sky which flings so luminous a calm
over the Bay of Naples. But our Parisian sky is more animated, more
kindly, more spiritual. It smiles, threatens, caresses--takes an aspect
of melancholy or a look of merriment like a human gaze. At this moment
it is pouring down a very gentle light on the men and beasts of the city
as they accomplish their daily tasks. Over there, on the opposite bank,
the stevedores of the Port Saint-Nicholas are unloading a cargo of cow's
horns; while two men standing on a gangway are tossing sugar-loaves from
one to the other, and thence to somebody in the hold of a steamer. On
the north quay, the cab-horses, standing in a line under the shade of
the plane-trees each with its head in a nose-bag, are quietly munching
their oats, while the rubicund drivers are drinking at the counter of
the wine-seller opposite, but all the while keeping a sharp lookout for
early customers.

The dealers in second-hand books put their boxes on the parapet. These
good retailers of Mind, who are always in the open air, with blouses
loose to the breeze, have become so weatherbeaten by the wind, the
rain, the frost, the snow, the fog, and the great sun, that they end
by looking very much like the old statues of cathedrals. They are all
friends of mine, and I scarcely ever pass by their boxes without picking
out of one of them some old book which I had always been in need of up
to that very moment, without any suspicion of the fact on my part.

Then on my return home I have to endure the outcries of my housekeeper,
who accuses me of bursting all my pockets and filling the house with
waste paper to attract the rats. Therese is wise about that, and it
is because she is wise that I do not listen to her; for in spite of my
tranquil mien, I have always preferred the folly of the passions to the
wisdom of indifference. But just because my own passions are not of that
sort which burst out with violence to devastate and kill, the common
mind is not aware of their existence. Nevertheless, I am greatly moved
by them at times, and it has more than once been my fate to lose my
sleep for the sake of a few pages written by some forgotten monk or
printed by some humble apprentice of Peter Schaeffer. And if these
fierce enthusiasms are slowly being quenched in me, it is only because
I am being slowly quenched myself. Our passions are ourselves. My old
books are Me. I am just as old and thumb-worn as they are.

A light breeze sweeps away, along with the dust of the pavements, the
winged seeds of the plane trees, and the fragments of hay dropped from
the mouths of the horses. The dust is nothing remarkable in itself; but
as I watch it flying, I remember a moment in my childhood when I watched
just such a swirl of dust; and my old Parisian soul is much affected by
that sudden recollection. All that I see from my window--that horizon
which extends to the left as far as the hills of Chaillot, and enables
me to distinguish the Arc de Triomphe like a die of stone, the Seine,
river of glory, and its bridges, the ash-trees of the terrace of
the Tuileries, the Louvre of the Renaissance, cut and graven like
goldsmith-work; and on my right, towards the Pont-Neuf (pons Lutetiae
Novus dictus, as it is named on old engravings), all the old and
venerable part of Paris, with its towers and spires:--all that is my
life, it is myself; and I should be nothing but for all those things
which are thus reflected in me through my thousand varying shades of
thought, inspiring me and animating me. That is why I love Paris with an
immense love.

And nevertheless I am weary, and I know that there can be no rest for me
in the heart of this great city which thinks so much, which has taught
me to think, and which for ever urges me to think more. And how avoid
being exited among all these books which incessantly tempt my curiosity
without ever satisfying it? At one moment it is a date I have to look
for; at another it is the name of a place I have to make sure of,
or some quaint term of which it is important to determine the exact
meaning. Words?--why, yes! words. As a philologist, I am their
sovereign; they are my subjects, and, like a good king, I devote my
whole life to them. But shall I not be able to abdicate some day? I have
an idea that there is somewhere or other, quite far from here, a certain
little cottage where I could enjoy the quiet I so much need, while
awaiting that day in which a greater quiet--that which can be never
broken--shall come to wrap me all about. I dream of a bench before the
threshold, and of fields spreading away out of sight. But I must have a
fresh smiling young face beside me, to reflect and concentrate all that
freshness of nature. I could then imagine myself a grandfather, and all
the long void of my life would be filled....

I am not a violent man, and yet I become easily vexed, and all my works
have caused me quite as much pain as pleasure. And I do not know how
it is that I still keep thinking about that very conceited and very
inconsiderated impertinence which my young friend of the Luxembourg took
the liberty to utter about me some three months ago. I do not call him
"friend" in irony, for I love studious youth with all it temerities and
imaginative eccentricities. Still, my young friend certainly went beyond
all bounds. Master Ambroise Pare, who was the first to attempt the
ligature of arteries, and who, having commenced his profession at a time
when surgery was only performed by quack barbers, nevertheless succeeded
in lifting the science to the high place it now occupies, was assailed
in his old age by all the young sawbones' apprentices. Being grossly
abused during a discussion by some young addlehead who might have
been the best son in the world, but who certainly lacked all sense of
respect, the old master answered him in his treatise De la Mumie, de la
Licorne, des Venins et de la Peste. "I pray him," said the great man--"I
pray him, that if he desire to make any contradictions to my reply, he
abandon all animosities, and treat the good old man with gentleness."
This answer seems admirable from the pen of Ambroise Pare; but even had
it been written by a village bonesetter, grown grey in his calling, and
mocked by some young stripling, it would still be worthy of all praise.

It might perhaps seem that my memory of the incident had been kept alive
only by a base feeling of resentment. I thought so myself at first, and
reproached myself for thus dwelling on the saying of a boy who could
not yet know the meaning of his own words. But my reflections on this
subject subsequently took a better course: that is why I now note them
down in my diary. I remembered that one day when I was twenty years old
(that was more than half a century ago) I was walking about in that very
same garden of the Luxembourg with some comrades. We were talking about
our old professors; and one of us happened to name Monsieur Petit-Radel,
an estimable and learned man, who was the first to throw some light upon
the origins of early Etruscan civilisation, but who had been unfortunate
enough to prepare a chronological table of the lovers of Helen. We all
laughed a great deal about that chronological table; and I cried out,
"Petit-Radel is an ass, not in three letters, but in twelve whole
volumes!"

This foolish speech of my adolescence was uttered too lightly to be a
weight on my conscience as an old man. May God kindly prove to me some
day that I never used an less innocent shaft of speech in the battle of
life! But I now ask myself whether I really never wrote, at any time in
my life, something quite as unconsciously absurd as the chronological
table of the lovers of Helen. The progress of science renders useless
the very books which have been the greatest aids to that progress. As
those works are no longer useful, modern youth is naturally inclined to
believe they never had any value; it despises them, and ridicules them
if they happen to contain any superannuated opinion whatever. That is
why, in my twentieth year, I amused myself at the expense of Monsieur
Petit-Radel and his chronological table; and that was why, the other
day, at the Luxembourg, my young and irreverent friend...

"Rentre en toi-meme, Octave, et cesse de te plaindre. Quoi! tu veux
qu'on t'epargne et n'as rien epargne!" [ "Look into thyself, Octavius,
and cease complaining. What! thou wouldst be spared, and thou thyself
hast spared none!"]



June 6.


It was the first Thursday in June. I shut up my books and took my
leave of the holy abbot Droctoveus, who, being now in the enjoyment of
celestial bliss, cannot feel very impatient to behold his name and works
glorified on earth through the humble compilation being prepared by my
hands. Must I confess it? That mallow-plant I saw visited by a bee the
other day has been occupying my thoughts much more than all the ancient
abbots who ever bore croisers or wore mitres. There is in one of
Sprengel's books which I read in my youth, at that time when I used
to read in my youth, at that time when I used to read anything and
everything, some ideas about "the loves of flowers" which now return to
memory after having been forgotten for half a century, and which
to-day interest me so much that I regret not to have devoted the humble
capacities of my mind to the study of insects and of plants.

And only awhile ago my housekeeper surprised me at the kitchen window,
in the act of examining some wallflowers through a magnifying-glass....

It was while looking for my cravat that I made these reflections. But
after searching to no purpose in a great number of drawers, I found
myself obliged, after all, to have recourse to my housekeeper. Therese
came limping in.

"Monsieur," she said, "you ought to have told me you were going out, and
I would have given you your cravat!"

"But Therese," I replied, "would it not be a great deal better to put in
some place where I could find it without your help?"

Therese did not deign to answer me.

Therese no longer allows me to arrange anything. I cannot even have a
handkerchief without asking her for it; and as she is deaf, crippled,
and, what is worse, beginning to lose her memory, I languish in
perpetual destitution. But she exercises her domestic authority with
such quiet pride that I do not feel the courage to attempt a coup d'etat
against her government.

"My cravat! Therese!--do you hear?--my cravat! if you drive me wild like
this with your slow ways, it will not be a cravat I shall need, but a
rope to hang myself!"

"You must be in a very great hurry, Monsieur," replied Therese. "Your
cravat is not lost. Nothing is ever lost in this house, because I have
charge of everything. But please allow me the time at least to find it."

"Yet here," I thought to myself--"here is the result of half a century
of devotedness and self-sacrifice!... Ah! if by any happy chance this
inexorable Therese had once in her whole life, only once, failed in her
duty as a servant--if she had ever been at fault for one single instant,
she could never have assumed this inflexible authority over me, and I
should at least have the courage to resist her. But how can one resist
virtue? The people who have no weaknesses are terrible; there is no way
of taking advantage of them. Just look at Therese, for example; she
has not a single fault for which you can blame her! She has no doubt
of herself; nor of God, nor of the world. She is the valiant woman, the
wise virgin of Scripture; others may know nothing about her, but I
know her worth. In my fancy I always see her carrying a lamp, a humble
kitchen lamp, illuminating the beams of some rustic roof--a lamp which
will never go out while suspended from that meagre arm of hers, scraggy
and strong as a vine-branch.

"Therese, my cravat! Don't you know, wretched woman, that to-day is the
first Thursday in June, and that Mademoiselle Jeanne will be waiting for
me? The schoolmistress has certainly had the parlour floor vigorously
waxed: I am sure one can look at oneself in it now; and it will be quite
a consolation for me when I slip and break my old bones upon it--which
is sure to happen sooner or later--to see my rueful countenance
reflected in it as in a looking-glass. Then taking for my model that
amiable and admirable hero whose image is carved upon the handle of
Uncle Victor's walking-stick, I will control myself so as not to make
too ugly a grimace.... See what a splendid sun! The quays are all gilded
by it, and the Seine smiles in countless little flashing wrinkles. The
city is gold: a dust-haze, blonde and gold-toned as a woman's hair,
floats above its beautiful contours.... Therese, my cravat!... Ah! I
can now comprehend the wisdom of that old Chrysal who used to keep his
neckbands in a big Plutarch. Hereafter I shall follow his example by
laying all my neckties away between the leaves of the Acta Sanctorum."

Therese let me talk on, and keeps looking for the necktie in silence. I
hear a gentle ringing at our door-bell.

"Therese," I exclaim; "there is somebody ringing the bell! Give me my
cravat, and go to the door; or, rather, go to the door first, and then,
with the help of Heaven, you will give me my cravat. But please do
not stand there between the clothes-press and the door like an old
hack-horse between two saddles."

Therese marched to the door as if advancing upon the enemy. My excellent
housekeeper becomes more inhospitable the older she grows. Every
stranger is an object of suspicion to her. According to her own
assertion, this disposition is the result of a long experience with
human nature. I had not the time to consider whether the same experience
on the part of another experimenter would produce the same results.
Maitre Mouche was waiting to see me in the ante-room.

Maitre Mouche is still more yellow than I had believed him to be. He
wears blue glasses, and his eyes keep moving uneasily behind them, like
mice running about behind a screen.

Maitre Mouche excuses himself for having intruded upon me at a moment
when.... He does not characterise the moment; but I think he means to
say a moment in which I happen to be without my cravat. It is not my
fault, as you very well know. Maitre Mouche, who does not know, does not
appear to be at all shocked, however. He is only afraid that he might
have dropped in at the wrong moment. I succeeded in partially reassuring
him at once upon that point. He then tells me it is as guardian of
Mademoiselle Alexandre that he has come to talk with me. First of all,
he desires that I shall not hereafter pay any heed to those restrictions
he had at first deemed necessary to put upon the permit given to visit
Mademoiselle Jeanne at the boarding-school. Henceforth the establishment
of Mademoiselle Prefere will be open to me any day that I might choose
to call--between the hours of midday and four o'clock. Knowing the
interest I have taken in the young girl, he considers it his duty to
give me some information about the person to whom he has confided his
ward. Mademoiselle Prefere, whom he has known for many years, is in
possession of his utmost confidence. Mademoiselle Prefere is, in his
estimation, an enlightened person, of excellent morals, and capable of
giving excellent counsel.

"Mademoiselle Prefer," he said to me, "has principles; and principles
are rare these days, Monsieur. Everything has been totally changed; and
this epoch of ours cannot compare with the preceding ones."

"My stairway is a good example, Monsieur," I replied; "twenty-five years
ago it used to allow me to climb it without any trouble, and now it
takes my breath away, and wears my legs out before I have climbed half
a dozen steps. It has had its character spoiled. Then there are
those journals and books I used once to devour without difficulty
by moonlight: to-day, even in the brightest sunlight, they mock my
curiosity, and exhibit nothing but a blur of white and black when I have
not got my spectacles on. Then the gout has got into my limbs. That is
another malicious trick of the times!"

"Not only that, Monsieur," gravely replied Maitre Mouche, "but what is
really unfortunate in our epoch is that no one is satisfied with his
position. From the top of society to the bottom, in every class, there
prevails a discontent, a restlessness, a love of comfort...."

"Mon Dieu, Monsieur!" I exclaimed. "You think this love of comfort is a
sign of the times? Men have never had at any epoch a love of discomfort.
They have always tried to better their condition. This constant effort
produces constant changes, and the effort is always going on--that is
all there is about it!"

"Ah! Monsieur," replied Maitre Mouche, "it is easy to see that you live
in your books--out of the business world altogether. You do not see, as
I see them, the conflicts of interest, the struggle for money. It is
the same effervescence in all minds, great or small. The wildest
speculations are being everywhere indulged in. What I see around me
simply terrifies me!"

I wondered within myself whether Maitre Mouche had called upon me only
for the purpose of expressing his virtuous misanthropy; but all at once
I heard words of a more consoling character issue from his lips. Maitre
Mouche began to speak to me of Virginie Prefere as a person worthy of
respect, of esteem, and of sympathy,--highly honourable, capable of
great devotedness, cultivated, discreet,--able to read aloud remarkably
well, extremely modest, and skillful in the art of applying blisters.
Then I began to understand that he had only been painting that dismal
picture of universal corruption in order the better to bring out, by
contrast, the virtues of the schoolmistress. I was further informed that
the institution in the Rue Demours was well patronised, prosperous, and
enjoyed a high reputation with the public. Maitre Mouche lifted up his
hand--with a black woollen glove on it--as if making oath to the truth
of these statements. Then he added:

"I am enabled, by the very character of my profession, to know a great
deal about people. A notary is, to a certain extent, a father-confessor.

"I deemed it my duty, Monsieur, to give you this agreeable information
at the moment when a lucky chance enabled you to meet Mademoiselle
Prefere. There is only one thing more which I would like to say. This
lady--who is, of course, quite unaware of my action in the matter--spoke
to me of you the other day in terms of deepest sympathy. I could only
weaken their expression by repeating them to you; and furthermore,
I could not repeat them without betraying, to a certain extent, the
confidence of Mademoiselle Prefere."

"Do not betray it, Monsieur; do not betray it!" I responded. "To tell
you the truth, I had no idea that Mademoiselle Prefere knew anything
whatever about me. But since you have the influence of an old friend
with her, I will take advantage of your good will, Monsieur, to ask you
to exercise that influence in behalf of Mademoiselle Jeanne Alexandre.
The child--for she is still a child--is overloaded with work. She is at
once a pupil and a mistress--she is overtasked. Besides, she is punished
in petty disgusting ways; and hers is one of those generous natures
which will be forced into revolt by such continual humiliation."

"Alas!" replied Maitre Mouche, "she must be trained to take her part in
the struggle of life. One does not come into this world simply to amuse
oneself, and to do just what one pleases."

"One comes into this world," I responded, rather warmly, "to enjoy what
is beautiful and what is good, and to do as one pleases, when the things
one wants to do are noble, intelligent, and generous. An education which
does not cultivate the will, is an education that depraves the mind. It
is a teacher's duty to teach the pupil HOW to will."

I perceived that Maitre Mouche began to think me a rather silly man.
With a great deal of quiet self-assurance, he proceeded:

"You must remember, Monsieur, that the education of the poor has to be
conducted with a great deal of circumspection, and with a view to that
future state of dependence they must occupy in society. Perhaps you are
not aware that the late Noel Alexandre died a bankrupt, and that his
daughter is being educated almost by charity?"

"Oh! Monsieur!" I exclaimed, "do not say it! To say it is to pay oneself
back, and then the statement ceases to be true."

"The liabilities of the estate," continued the notary, "exceeded the
assets. But I was able to effect a settlement with the creditors in
favour of the minor."

He undertook to explain matters in detail. I declined to listen to
these explanations, being incapable of understanding business methods in
general, and those of Maitre Mouche in particular. The notary then took
it upon himself to justify Mademoiselle Prefere's educational system,
and observed by way of conclusion,

"It is not by amusing oneself that one can learn."

"It is only by amusing oneself that one can learn," I replied. "The
whole art of teaching is only the art of awakening the natural curiosity
of young minds for the purpose of satisfying it afterwards; and
curiosity itself can be vivid and wholesome only in proportion as the
mind is contented and happy. Those acquirements crammed by force into
the minds of children simply clog and stifle intelligence. In order that
knowledge be properly digested, it must have been swallowed with a good
appetite. I know Jeanne! If that child were intrusted to my care, I
should make of her--not a learned woman, for I would look to her future
happiness only--but a child full of bright intelligence and full of
life, in whom everything beautiful in art or nature would awaken some
gentle responsive thrill. I would teach her to live in sympathy with
all that is beautiful--comely landscapes, the ideal scenes of poetry and
history, the emotional charm of noble music. I would make lovable to her
everything I would wish her to love. Even her needlework I would
make pleasurable to her, by a proper choice of fabrics, the style of
embroideries, the designs of lace. I would give her a beautiful dog,
and a pony to teach her how to manage animals; I would give her birds to
take care of, so that she could learn the value of even a drop of water
and a crumb of bread. And in order that she should have a still higher
pleasure, I would train her to find delight in exercising charity.
And inasmuch as none of us may escape pain, I should teach her that
Christian wisdom which elevates us above all suffering, and gives a
beauty even to grief itself. That is my idea of the right way to educate
a young girl."

"I yield, Monsieur," replied Maitre Mouche, joining his black-gloved
hands together.

And he rose.

"Of course you understand," I remarked, as I went to the door with him,
"that I do not pretend for a moment to impose my educational system
upon Mademoiselle Prefere; it is necessarily a private one, and quite
incompatible with the organisation of even the best-managed boarding
schools. I only ask you to persuade her to give Jeanne less work and
more play, and not to punish her except in case of absolute necessity,
and to let her have as much freedom of mind and body as the regulations
of the institution permit."

It was with a pale and mysterious smile that Maitre Mouche informed me
that my observations would be taken in good part, and should receive all
possible consideration.

Therewith he made me a little bow, and took his departure, leaving me
with a peculiar feeling of discomfort and uneasiness. I have met a great
many strange characters in my time, but never any at all resembling
either this notary or this schoolmistress.



July 6.


Maitre Mouche has so much delayed me by his visit that I gave up going
to see Jeanne that day. Professional duties kept me very busy for the
rest of the week. Although at the age when most men retire altogether
from active life, I am still attached by a thousand ties to the society
in which I have lived. I have to reside at meetings of academies,
scientific congresses, assemblies of various learned bodies. I am
overburdened with honorary functions; I have seven of these in one
governmental department alone. The bureaux would be very glad to get rid
of them. But habit is stronger than both of us together, and I continue
to hobble up the stairs of various government buildings. Old clerks
point me out to each other as I go by like a ghost wandering through the
corridors. When one has become very old one finds it extremely difficult
to disappear. Nevertheless, it is time, as the old song says, "de
prendre ma retraite et de songer a faire un fin"--to retire on my
pension and prepare myself to die a good death.

An old marchioness, who used to be a friend of Hevetius in her youth,
and whom I once met at my father's house when a very old woman, was
visited during her last sickness by the priest of her parish, who wanted
to prepare her to die.

"Is that really necessary?" she asked. "I see everybody else manage it
perfectly well the first time."

My father went to see her very soon afterwards and found her extremely
ill.

"Good-evening, my friend!" she said, pressing his hand. "I am going to
see whether God improves upon acquaintance."

So were wont to die the belles amies of the philosophers. Such an end is
certainly not vulgar nor impertinent, and such levities are not of the
sort that emanate from dull minds. Nevertheless, they shock me. Neither
my fears nor my hopes could accommodate themselves to such a mode of
departure. I would like to make mine with a perfectly collected mind;
and that is why I must begin to think, in a year or two, about some
way of belonging to myself; otherwise, I should certainly risk.... But,
hush! let Him not hear His name and turn to look as He passes by! I can
still lift my fagot without His aid.

... I found Jeanne very happy indeed. She told me that, on the Thursday
previous, after the visit of her guardian, Mademoiselle Prefere had
set her free from the ordinary regulations and lightened her tasks
in several ways. Since that lucky Thursday she could walk in the
garden--which only lacked leaves and flowers--as much as she liked; and
she had been given facilities to work at her unfortunate little figure
of Saint-George.

She said to me, with a smile,

"I know very well that I owe all of this to you."

I tried to talk with her about other matters, but I remarked that she
could not attend to what I was saying, in spite of her effort to do so.

"I see you are thinking about something else," I said. "Well, tell me
what it is; for, if you do not, we shall not be able to talk to each
other at all, which would be very unworthy of both of us."

She answered,

"Oh! I was really listening to you, Monsieur; but it is true that I was
thinking about something else. You will excuse me, won't you? I could
not help thinking that Mademoiselle Prefere must like you very, very
much indeed, to have become so good to me all of a sudden."

Then she looked at me in an odd, smiling, frightened way, which made me
laugh.

"Does that surprise you?" I asked.

"Very much," she replied.

"Please tell me why?"

"Because I can see no reason, no reason at all... but there!... no reason
at all why you should please Mademoiselle Prefere so much."

"So, then, you think I am very displeasing, Jeanne?"

She bit her lips, as if to punish them for having made a mistake; and
then, in a coaxing way, looking at me with great soft eyes, gentle and
beautiful as a spaniel's, she said,

"I know I said a foolish think; but, still, I do not see any reason why
you should be so pleasing to Mademoiselle Prefere. And, nevertheless,
you seem to please her a great deal--a very great deal. She called me
one day, and asked me all sorts of questions about you."

"Really?"

"Yes; she wanted to find out all about your house. Just think! she even
asked me how old your servant was!"

And Jeanne burst out laughing.

"Well, what do you think about it?" I asked.

She remained a long while with her eyes fixed on the worn-out cloth of
her shoes, and seemed to be thinking very deeply. Finally, looking up
again, she answered,

"I am distrustful. Isn't it very natural to feel uneasy about what one
cannot understand; I know I am foolish; but you won't be offended with
me, will you?"

"Why, certainly not, Jeanne. I am not a bit offended with you."

I must acknowledge that I was beginning to share her surprise; and I
began to turn over in my old head the singular thought of this young
girl--"One is uneasy about what one cannot understand."

But, with a fresh burst of merriment, she cried out,

"She asked me...guess! I will give you a hundred guesses--a thousand
guesses. You give it up?... She asked me if you liked good eating."

"And how did you receive this shower of interrogations, Jeanne?"

"I replied, 'I don't know, Mademoiselle.' And Mademoiselle then said to
me, 'You are a little fool. The least details of the life of an eminent
man ought to be observed. Please to know, Mademoiselle, that Monsieur
Sylvestre Bonnard is one of the glories of France!'"

"Stuff!" I exclaimed. "And what did YOU think about it, Mademoiselle?"

"I thought that Mademoiselle Prefere was right. But I don't care at
all...(I know it is naughty what I am going to say)...I don't care a
bit, not a bit, whether Mademoiselle Prefere is or is not right about
anything."

"Well, then, content yourself, Jeanne, Mademoiselle Prefere was not
right."

"Yes, yes, she was quite right that time; but I wanted to love everybody
who loved you--everybody without exception--and I cannot do it, because
it would never be possible for me to love Mademoiselle Prefere."

"Listen, Jeanne," I answered, very seriously, "Mademoiselle Prefere has
become good to you; try now to be good to her."

She answered sharply,

"It is very easy for Mademoiselle Prefere to be good to me, and it would
be very difficult indeed for me to be good to her."

I then said, in a still more serious tone:

"My child, the authority of a teacher is sacred. You must consider your
schoolmistress as occupying the place to you of the mother whom you
lost."

I had scarcely uttered this solemn stupidity when I bitterly regretted
it. The child turned pale, and the tears sprang to her eyes.

"Oh, Monsieur!" she cried, "how could you say such a thing--YOU? You
never knew mamma!"

Ay, just Heaven! I did know her mamma. And how indeed could I have been
foolish enough to have said what I did?

She repeated, as if to herself:

"Mamma! my dear mamma! my poor mamma!"

A lucky chance prevented me from playing the fool any further. I do not
know how it happened at that moment I looked as if I was going to cry.
At my age one does not cry. It must have been a bad cough which brought
the tears into my eyes. But, anyhow, appearances were in my favour.
Jeanne was deceived by them. Oh! what a pure and radiant smile suddenly
shone out under her beautiful wet eyelashes--like sunshine among
branches after a summer shower! We took each other by the hand and sat
a long while without saying a word--absolutely happy. Those celestial
harmonies which I once thought I heard thrilling through my soul while I
knelt before that tomb to which a saintly woman had guided me, suddenly
awoke again in my heart, slow-swelling through the blissful moments with
infinite softness. Doubtless the child whose hand pressed my own also
heard them; and then, elevated by their enchantment above the material
world, the poor old man and the artless young girl both knew that a
tender ghostly Presence was making sweetness all about them.

"My child," I said at last, "I am very old, and many secrets of life,
which you will only learn little by little, have been revealed to me.
Believe me, the future is shaped out of the past. Whatever you can do
to live contentedly here, without impatience and without fretting, will
help you live some future day in peace and joy in your own home. Be
gentle, and learn how to suffer. When one suffers patiently one suffers
less. If you should be badly treated, Madame de Gabry and I would both
consider ourselves badly treated in your person."...

"Is your health very good indeed, dear Monsieur?"

It was Mademoiselle Prefere, approaching stealthily behind us, who had
asked the question with a peculiar smile. My first idea was to tell her
to go to the devil; my second, that her mouth was as little suited for
smiling as a frying-pan for musical purposes; my third was to answer her
politely and assure her that I hoped she was very well.

She sent the young girl out to take a walk in the garden; then, pressing
one hand upon her pelerine and extending the other towards the Tableau
d'Honneur, she showed me the name of Jeanne Alexandre written at the
head of the list in large text.

"I am very much pleased," I said to her, "to find that you are satisfied
with the behaviour of that child. Nothing could delight me more; and
I am inclined to attribute this happy result to your affectionate
vigilance. I have taken the liberty to send you a few books which I
think may serve both to instruct and to amuse young girls. You will
be able to judge by glancing over them whether they are adapted to the
perusal of Mademoiselle Alexandre and her companions."

The gratitude of the schoolmistress not only overflowed in words, but
seemed about to take the form of tearful sensibility. In order to change
the subject I observed,

"What a beautiful day this is!"

"Yes," she replied; "and if this weather continues, those dear children
will have a nice time for their enjoyment."

"I suppose you are referring to the holidays. But Mademoiselle
Alexandre, who has no relatives, cannot go away. What in the world is
she going to do all alone in this great big house?"

"Oh, we will do everything we can to amuse her.... I will take her to
the museums and---"

She hesitated, blushed, and continued,

"--and to your house, if you will permit me."

"Why of course!" I exclaimed. "That is a first-rate idea."

We separated very good friends with one another. I with her, because I
had been able to obtain what I desired; she with me, for no appreciable
motive--which fact, according to Plato, elevated her into the highest
rank of the Hierarchy of Souls.

... And nevertheless it is not without a presentiment of evil that I
find myself on the point of introducing this person into my house. And I
would be very glad indeed to see Jeanne in charge of anybody else rather
than of her. Maitre Mouche and Mademoiselle Prefere are characters whom
I cannot at all understand. I never can imagine why they say what they
do say, nor why they do what they do; they have a mysterious something
in common which makes me feel uneasy. As Jeanne said to me a little
while ago: "One is uneasy about what one cannot understand."

Alas! at my age one has learned only too well how little sincerity there
is in life; one has learned only too well how much one loses by living a
long time in this world; and one feels that one can no longer trust any
except the young.



August 12.


I waited for them. In fact, I waited for them very impatiently. I
exerted all my powers of insinuation and of coaxing to induce Therese to
receive them kindly; but my powers in this direction are very limited.
They came. Jeanne was neater and prettier than I had ever expected to
see her. She has not, it is true, anything approaching the charm of
her mother. But to-day, for the first time, I observed that she has a
pleasing face; and a pleasing face is of great advantage to a woman
in this world. I think that her hat was a little on one side; but she
smiled, and the City of Books was all illuminated by that smile.

I watched Therese to see whether the rigid manners of the old
housekeeper would soften a little at the sight of the young girl. I saw
her turning her lustreless eyes upon Jeanne; I saw her long wrinkled
face, her toothless mouth, and that pointed chin of hers--like the chin
of some puissant old fairy. And that was all I could see.

Mademoiselle Prefere made her appearance all in blue--advanced,
retreated, skipped, tripped, cried out, sighed, cast her eyes down,
rolled her eyes up, bewildered herself with excuses--said she dared
not, and nevertheless dared--said she would never dare again, and
nevertheless dared again--made courtesies innumerable--made, in short,
all the fuss she could.

"What a lot of books!" she screamed. "And have you really read them all,
Monsieur Bonnard?"

"Alas! I have," I replied, "and that is just the reason that I do not
know anything; for there is not a single one of those books which does
not contradict some other book; so that by the time one has read them
all one does not know what to think about anything. That is just my
condition, Madame."

Thereupon she called Jeanne for the purpose of communicating her
impressions. But Jeanne was looking out of the window.

"How beautiful it is!" she said to us. "How I love to see the river
flowing! It makes you think about all kinds of things."

Mademoiselle Prefere having removed her hat and exhibited a forehead
tricked out with blonde curls, my housekeeper sturdily snatched up the
hat at once, with the observation that she did not like to see people's
clothes scattered over the furniture. Then she approached Jeanne and
asked her for her "things," calling her "my little lady!" Where-upon
the little lady, giving up her cloak and hat, exposed to view a very
graceful neck and a lithe figure, whose outlines were beautifully
relieved against the great glow of the open window; and I could have
wished that some one else might have seen her at that moment--some one
very different from an aged housekeeper, a schoolmistress frizzled like
a sheep, and this old humbug of an archivist and paleographer.

"So you are looking at the Seine," I said to her. "See how it sparkles
in the sun!"

"Yes," she replied, leaning over the windowbar, "it looks like a flowing
of fire. But see how nice and cool it looks on the other side over
there under the shadow of the willows! That little spot there pleases me
better than all the rest."

"Good!" I answered. "I see that the river has a charm for you. How would
you like, with Mademoiselle Prefere's permission, to make a trip to
Saint-Cloud? We should certainly be in time to catch the steamboat just
below the Pont-Royal."

Jeanne was delighted with my suggestion, and Mademoiselle Prefere
willing to make any sacrifice. But my housekeeper was not at all willing
to let us go off so unconcernedly. She summoned me into the dining-room,
whither I followed her in fear and trembling.

"Monsieur," she said to me as soon as we found ourselves alone, "you
never think about anything, and it is always I who have to think about
everything. Luckily for you I have a good memory."

I did not think that it was a favourable moment for any attempt to
dispel this wild illusion. She continued:

"So you were going off without saying a word to me about what this
little lady likes to eat? At her age one does not know anything, one
does not care about anything in particular, one eats like a bird. You
yourself, Monsieur, are very difficult to please; but at least you know
what is good: it is very different with these young people--they do not
know anything about cooking. It is often the very best thing which
they think the worst, and what is bad seems to them good, because their
stomachs are not quite formed yet--so that one never knows just what to
do for them. Tell me if the little lady would like a pigeon cooked with
green peas, and whether she is fond of vanilla ice-cream."

"My good Therese," I answered, "just do whatever you think best, and
whatever that may be I am sure it will be very nice. Those ladies will
be quite contented with our humble ordinary fare."

Therese replied, very dryly,

"Monsieur, I am asking you about the little lady: she must not leave
this house without having enjoyed herself a little. As for that old
frizzle-headed thing, if she doesn't like my dinner she can suck her
thumbs. I don't care what she likes!"

My mind being thus set at rest, I returned to the City of Books, where
Mademoiselle Prefere was crocheting as calmly as if she were at home. I
almost felt inclined myself to think she was. She did not take up much
room, it is true, in the angle of the window. But she had chosen her
chair and her footstool so well that those articles of furniture seemed
to have been made expressly for her.

Jeanne, on the other hand, devoted her attention to the books and
pictures--gazing at them in a kindly, expressive, half-sad way, as if
she were bidding them an affectionate farewell.

"Here," I said to her, "amuse yourself with this book, which I am sure
you cannot help liking, because it is full of beautiful engravings." And
I threw open before her Vecellio's collection of costume-designs--not
the commonplace edition, by your leave, so meagrely reproduced by modern
artists, but in truth a magnificent and venerable copy of that editio
princeps which is noble as those noble dames who figure upon its
yellowed leaves, made beautiful by time.

While turning over the engravings with artless curiosity, Jeanne said
to me,

"We were talking about taking a walk; but this is a great journey you
are making me take. And I would like to travel very, very far away!"

"In that case, Mademoiselle," I said to her, "you must arrange yourself
as comfortably as possible for travelling. But you are now sitting on
one corner of your chair, so that the chair is standing upon only one
leg, and that Vecellio must tire your knees. Sit down comfortably; put
your chair on its four feet, and put your book on the table."

She obeyed me with a laugh.

I watched her. She cried out suddenly,

"Oh, come look at this beautiful costume!" (It was that of the wife of
a Doge of Venice.) "How noble it is! What magnificent ideas it gives one
of that life! Oh, I must tell you--I adore luxury!"

"You must not express such thoughts as those, Mademoiselle," said the
schoolmistress, lifting up her little shapeless nose from her work.

"Nevertheless, it was a very innocent utterance," I replied. "There
are splendid souls in whom the love of splendid things is natural and
inborn."

The little shapeless nose went down again.

"Mademoiselle Prefere likes luxury too," said Jeanne; "she cuts out
paper trimmings and shades for the lamps. It is economical luxury; but
it is luxury all the same."

Having returned to the subject of Venice, we were just about to make
the acquaintance of a certain patrician lady attired in an embroidered
dalmatic, when I heard the bell ring. I thought it was some peddler with
his basket; but the gate of the City of Books opened, and... Well, Master
Sylvestre Bonnard, you were wishing awhile ago that the grace of your
protegee might be observed by some other eyes than old withered ones
behind spectacles. Your wishes have been fulfilled in a most unexpected
manner, and a voice cries out to you as to the imprudent Theseus,

   "Craignez, Seigneur, craignez que le
    Ciel rigoureux Ne vous Haisse assez pour exaucer vos voeux!
    Souvent dans sa colere il recoit nos victimes,
    Ses presents sont souvent la peine de nos crimes."

   ["Beware my lord! Beware lest stern
     Heaven  hate you enough to hear your prayers!
     Often 'tis in wrath that Heaven receives our sacrifices:
     its gifts are often the punishment of our crimes."]

The gate of the City of Books had opened, and a handsome young man made
his appearance, ushered in by Therese. That good old soul only knows how
to open the door for people and to shut it behind them; she has no idea
whatever of the tact requisite for the waiting-room and for the parlour.
It is not in her nature either to make any announcements or to make
anybody wait. She either throws people out on the lobby, or simply
pitches them at your head.

And here is this handsome young man already inside; and I cannot really
take the girl at once and hide her like a secret treasure in the next
room. I wait for him to explain himself; he does it without the least
embarrassment; but it seems to me that he has already observed the
young girl who is still bending over the table looking at Vecellio. As
I observe the young man it occurs to me that I have seen him somewhere
before, or else I must be very much mistaken. His name is Gelis. That
is a name which I have heard somewhere,--I can't remember where. At all
events, Monsieur Gelis (since there is a Gelis) is a fine-looking young
fellow. He tells me that this is his third class-year at the Ecole des
Chartes, and that he has been working for the past fifteen or eighteen
months upon his graduation thesis, the subject of which is the Condition
of the Benedictine Abbeys in 1700. He has just read my works upon the
"Monasticon"; and he is convinced that he cannot terminate this thesis
successfully without my advice, to begin with, and in the second place
without a certain manuscript which I possess, and which is nothing less
than the "Register of the Accounts of the Abbey of Citeaux from 1683 to
1704."

Having thus explained himself, he hands me a letter of introduction
bearing the signature of one of the most illustrious of my colleagues.

Good! Now I know who he is! Monsieur Gelis is the very same young man
who last year under the chestnut-trees called me an idiot! And while
unfolding his letter of introduction I think to myself:

"Aha! my unlucky youth, you are very far from suspecting that I
overheard what you said, and that I know what you think of me--or, at
least, what you did think of me that day, for these young minds are so
fickle? I have got you now, my friend! You have fallen into the lion's
den, and so unexpectedly, in good sooth, that the astonished old lion
does not know what to do with his prey. But come now, old lion! do not
act like an idiot! Is it not possible that you were an idiot? If you
are not one now, you certainly were one! You were a fool to have been
listening to Monsieur Gelis at the foot of the statue of Marguerite de
Valois; you were doubly a fool to have heard what he said; and you were
trebly a fool not to have forgotten what it would have been much better
never to have heard."

Having thus scolded the old lion, I exhorted him to show clemency.
He did not appear to require much coaxing, and gradually became so
good-natured that he had some difficulty in restraining himself from
bursting out into joyous roarings. From the way in which I had read my
colleague's letter one might have supposed me a man who did not know his
alphabet. I took a long while to read it; and Monsieur Gelis might have
become very tired under different circumstances; but he was watching
Jeanne, and endured the trial with exemplary patience. Jeanne
occasionally turned her face in our direction. Well you could not expect
a person to remain perfectly motionless, could you? Mademoiselle Prefere
was arranging her curls, and her bosom occasionally swelled with little
sighs. It may be observed that I have myself often been honoured with
those little sighs.

"Monsieur," I said, as I folded up the letter, "I shall be very happy
to be of any service to you. You are occupied with researches in which I
myself have always felt a very lively interest. I have done all that lay
in my power. I know, as you do--and still better than you can know--how
much there remains to do. The manuscript you asked for is at your
disposal; you may take it home with you, but it is not a manuscript of
the smallest kind, and I am afraid---"

"Oh, Monsieur," said Gelis, "big books have never been able to make me
afraid of them."

I begged the young man to wait for me, and I went into the next room to
get the Register, which I could not find at first, and which I almost
despaired of finding, as I discerned, from certain familiar signs, that
Therese had been setting the room in order. But the Register was so big
and so heavy that, luckily for me, Therese had not been able to put it
in order as she had doubtless wished to do. I could scarcely lift it up
myself; and I had the pleasure of finding it quite as heavy as I could
have hoped.

"Wait, my boy," I said, with a smile which must have been very
sarcastic--"wait! I am going to give you something to do which will
break your arms first, and afterwards your head. That will be the first
vengeance of Sylvestre Bonnard. Later on we shall see what else there is
to be done."

When I returned to the City of Books I heard Monsieur Gelis and
Mademoiselle Jeanne chatting--chatting together, if you please! as if
they were the best friends in the world. Mademoiselle Prefere, being
full of decorum, did not say anything; but the other two were chatting
like birds. And what about? About the blond tint used by Venetian
painters! Yes, about the "Venetian blond." That little serpent of a
Gelis was telling Jeanne the secret of the dye with which, according to
the best authorities, the women of Titian and of Veronese tinted their
hair. And Mademoiselle Jeanne was expressing her opinion very prettily
about the honey tint and the golden tint. I understood that that scamp
of a Vecellio was responsible--that they had been bending over the book
together, and that they had been admiring either that Doge's wife we had
been looking at awhile before, or some other patrician woman of Venice.

Never mind! I appeared with my enormous old book, thinking that Gelis
was going to make a grimace. It was as much as one could have asked a
porter to carry, and my arms were stiff merely with lifting it. But the
young man caught it up like a feather, and slipped it under his arm
with a smile. Then he thanked me with that sort of brevity which I
like, reminded me that he had need of my advice, and, having made an
appointment to meet me another day, took his departure after bowing to
us with the most perfect self-possession conceivable.

"He seems quite a decent lad," I said.

Jeanne turned over a few more pages of Vecellio, and made no answer.

"Aha!" I thought to myself.... And then we went to Saint-Cloud.



September-December.


The regularity with which visit succeeded visit to the old man's house
thereafter made me feel very grateful to Mademoiselle Prefere, who
succeeded at last in winning her right to occupy a special corner in
the City of Books. She now says "MY chair," "MY footstool," "MY pigeon
hole." Her pigeon hole is really a small shelf properly belonging to the
poets of La Champagne, whom she expelled therefrom in order to obtain
a lodging for her work-bag. She is very amiable, and I must really be
a monster not to like her. I can only endure her--in the severest
signification of the word. But what would one not endure for Jeanne's
sake? Her presence lends to the City of Books a charm which seems to
hover about it even after she has gone. She is very ignorant; but she
is so finely gifted that whenever I show her anything beautiful I am
astounded to find that I had never really seen it before, and that it is
she who makes me see it. I have found it impossible so far to make her
follow some of my ideas, but I have often found pleasure in following
the whimsical and delicate course of her own.

A more practical man than I would attempt to teach her to make herself
useful; but is not the capacity of being amiable a useful think in life?
Without being pretty, she charms; and the power to charm is perhaps,
after all, worth quite as much as the ability to darn stockings.
Furthermore, I am not immortal; and I doubt whether she will have become
very old when my notary (who is not Maitre Mouche) shall read to her a
certain paper which I signed a little while ago.

I do not wish that any one except myself should provide for her, and
give her her dowry. I am not, however, very rich, and the paternal
inheritance did not gain bulk in my hands. One does not accumulate money
by poring over old texts. But my books--at the price which such noble
merchandise fetches to-day--are worth something. Why, on that shelf
there are some poets of the sixteenth century for which bankers would
bid against princes! And I think that those "Heures" of Simon Vostre
would not be readily overlooked at the Hotel Sylvestre any more than
would those Preces Piae compiled for the use of Queen Claude. I have
taken great pains to collect and to preserve all those rare and curious
editions which people the City of Books; and for a long time I used to
believe that they were as necessary to my life as air and light. I have
loved them well, and even now I cannot prevent myself from smiling at
them and caressing them. Those morocco bindings are so delightful to the
eye! These old vellums are so soft to the touch! There is not a single
one among those books which is not worthy, by reason of some special
merit, to command the respect of an honourable man. What other owner
would ever know how to dip into hem in the proper way? Can I be even
sure that another owner would not leave them to decay in neglect, or
mutilate them at the prompting of some ignorant whim? Into whose
hands will fall that incomparable copy of the "Histoire de l'Abbaye de
Saint-Germain-des-Pres," on the margins of which the author himself, in
the person of Jacques Bouillard, made such substantial notes in his
own handwriting?... Master Bonnard, you are an old fool! Your
housekeeper--poor soul!--is nailed down upon her bed with a merciless
attack of rheumatism. Jeanne is to come with her chaperon, and, instead
of thinking how you are going to receive them, you are thinking about
a thousand stupidities. Sylvestre Bonnard, you will never succeed at
anything in this world, and it is I myself who tell you so!

And at this very moment I catch sight of them from my window, as they
get out of the omnibus. Jeanne leaps down lie a kitten; but Mademoiselle
Prefere intrusts herself to the strong arm of the conductor, with the
shy grace of a Virginia recovering after the shipwreck, and this time
quite resigned to being saved. Jeanne looks up, sees me, laughs, and
Mademoiselle Prefere has to prevent her from waving her umbrella at me
as a friendly signal. There is a certain stage of civilisation to which
Mademoiselle Jeanne never can be brought. You can teach her all the arts
if you like (it is not exactly to Mademoiselle Prefere that I am now
speaking); but you will never be able to teach her perfect manners. As
a charming child she makes the mistake of being charming only in her own
way. Only an old fool like myself could forgive her pranks. As for young
fools--and there are several of them still to be found--I do not know
what they would think about it; and what they might think is none of my
business. Just look at her running along the pavement, wrapped in her
cloak, with her hat tilted back on her head, and her feather fluttering
in the wind, like a schooner in full rig! And really she has a grace
of poise and motion which suggests a fine sailing-vessel--so much
so, indeed, that she makes me remember seeing one day, when I was at
Havre.... But, Bonnard, my friend, how many times is it necessary to
tell you that your housekeeper is in bed, and that you must go and open
the door yourself?

Open, Old Man Winter! 'tis Spring who rings the bell.

It is Jeanne herself--Jeanne is all flushed like a rose. Mademoiselle
Prefere, indignant and out of breath, has still another whole flight to
climb before reaching our lobby.

I explained the condition of my housekeeper, and proposed that we should
dine at a restaurant. But Therese--all-powerful still, even upon her
sick-bed--decided that we should dine at home, whether we wanted to
or no. Respectable people, in her opinion, never dined at restaurants.
Moreover, she had made all necessary arrangements--the dinner had been
bought; the concierge would cook it.

The audacious Jeanne insisted upon going to see whether the old woman
wanted anything. As you might suppose, she was sent back to the parlour
with short shrift, but not so harshly as I had feared.

"If I want anybody to do anything for me, which, thank God, I do not,"
Therese had replied, "I would get somebody less delicate and dainty than
you are. What I want is rest. That is a merchandise which is not sold
at fairs under the sign of 'Motus with finger on lip.' Go and have your
fun, and don't stay here--for old age might be catching."

Jeanne, after telling us what she had said, added that she liked very
much to hear old Therese talk. Whereupon Mademoiselle Prefere reproached
her for expressing such unladylike tastes.

I tried to excuse her by citing the example of Moliere. Just at that
moment it came to pass that, while climbing the ladder to get a book,
she upset a whole shelf-row. There was a heavy crash; and Mademoiselle
Prefere, being, of course, a very delicate person, almost fainted.
Jeanne quickly followed the books to the foot of the ladder. She made
one think of a kitten suddenly transformed into a woman, catching mice
which had been transformed into old books. While picking them up, she
found one which happened to interest her, and she began to read it,
squatting down upon her heels. It was the "Prince Grenouille," she told
us. Mademoiselle Prefere took occasion to complain that Jeanne had so
little taste for poetry. It was impossible to get her to recite Casimir
Delavigne's poem on the death of Joan of Arc without mistakes. It
was the very most she could do to learn "Le Petit Savoyard." The
schoolmistress did not think that any one should read the "Prince
Grenouille" before learning by heart the stanzas to Duperrier; and,
carried away by her enthusiasm, she began to recite them in a voice
sweeter than the bleating of a sheep:

  "Ta douleur, Duperrier, sera donc eternelle,
     Et les tristes discours
   Que te met en l'esprit l'amitie paternelle
     L'augmenteront toujours;

 .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .   .

  "Je sais de quels appas son enfance etait pleine,
     Et n'ai pas entrepris,
   Injurieux ami, de consoler ta peine
     Avecque son mepris."

Then in ecstacy, she exclaimed,

"How beautiful that is! What harmony! How is it possible for any one
not to admire such exquisite, such touching verses! But why did Malherbe
call that poor Monsieur Duperrier his injurieux ami at a time when
he had been so severely tied by the death of his daughter? Injurieux
ami--you must acknowledge that the term is very harsh."

I explained to this poetical person that the phrase "Injurieux ami,"
which shocked her so much, was in apposition, etc. etc. What I said,
however, had so little effect towards clearing her head that she was
seized with a severe and prolonged fit of sneezing. Meanwhile it was
evident that the history of "Prince Grenouille" had proved extremely
funny; for it was all that Jeanne could do, as she crouched down
there on the carpet, to keep herself from bursting into a wild fit of
laughter. But when she had finished with the prince and princess of the
story, and the multitude of their children, she assumed a very suppliant
expression, and begged me as a great favour to allow her to put on a
white apron and go to the kitchen to help in getting the dinner ready.

"Jeanne," I replied, with the gravity of a master, "I think that if
it is a question of breaking plates, knocking off the edges of dishes,
denting all the pans, and smashing all the skimmers, the person whom
Therese has set to work in the kitchen already will be able to perform
her task without assistance; for it seems to me at this very moment I
can hear disastrous noises in that kitchen. But anyhow, Jeanne, I will
charge you with the duty of preparing the dessert. So go and get your
white apron; I will tie it on for you."

Accordingly, I solemnly knotted the linen apron about her waist; and she
rushed into the kitchen, where she proceeded at once--as we discovered
later on--to prepare various dishes unknown to Vatel, unknown even to
that great Careme who began his treatise upon pieces montees with these
words: "The Fine Arts are five in number: Painting, Music, Poetry,
Sculpture, and Architecture--whereof the principal branch is
Confectionery." But I had no reason to be pleased with this little
arrangement--for Mademoiselle Prefere, on finding herself alone with me,
began to act after a fashion which filled me with frightful anxiety. She
gazed upon me with eyes full of tears and flames, and uttered enormous
sighs.

"Oh, how I pity you!" she said. "A man like you--a man so superior
as you are--having to live alone with a coarse servant (for she is
certainly coarse, that is incontestable)! How cruel such a life must
be! You have need of repose--you have need of comfort, of care, of every
kind of attention; you might fall sick. And yet there is no woman
who would not deem it an honour to bear your name, and to share your
existence. No, there is none; my own heart tells me so."

And she squeezed both hands over that heart of hers--always so ready to
fly away.

I was driven almost to distraction. I tried to make Mademoiselle Prefere
comprehend that I had no intention whatever of changing my habits at so
advanced an age, and that I found just as much happiness in life as my
character and my circumstances rendered possible.

"No, you are not happy!" she cried. "You need to have always beside you
a mind capable of comprehending your own. Shake off your lethargy, and
cast your eyes about you. Your professional connections are of the most
extended character, and you must have charming acquaintances. One cannot
be a Member of the Institute without going into society. See, judge,
compare. No sensible woman would refuse you her hand. I am a woman,
Monsieur; my instinct never deceives me--there is something within me
which assures me that you would find happiness in marriage. Women are so
devoted, so loving (not all, of course, but some)! And, then, they are
so sensitive to glory. Remember that at your age one has need, like
Oedipus, of an Egeria! Your cook is no longer able--she is deaf, she
is infirm. If anything should happen to you at night! Oh! it makes me
shudder even to think of it!"

And she really shuddered--she closed her eyes, clenched her hands,
stamped on the floor. Great was my dismay. With awful intensity she
resumed,

"Your health--your dear health! The health of a Member of the Institute!
How joyfully I would shed the very last drop of my blood to preserve the
life of a scholar, of a litterateur, of a man of worth. And any woman
who would not do as much, I should despise her! Let me tell you,
Monsieur--I used to know the wife of a great mathematician, a man who
used to fill whole note-books with calculations--so many note-books that
they filled all the cupboards in the house. He had heart-disease, and
he was visibly pining away. And I saw that wife of his, sitting there
beside him, perfectly calm! I could not endure it. I said to her one
day, 'My dear, you have no heart! If I were in your place I should...I
should...I do not know what I should do!'"

She paused for want of breath. My situation was terrible. As for telling
Mademoiselle Prefere what I really thought about her advice--that was
something which I could not even dream of daring to do. For to fall out
with her was to lose the chance of seeing Jeanne. So I resolved to take
the matter quietly. In any case, she was in my house: that consideration
helped me to treat her with something of courtesy.

"I am very old, Mademoiselle," I answered her, "and I am very much
afraid that your advice comes to me rather late in life. Still, I will
think about it. In the meanwhile let me beg of you to be calm. I think a
glass of eau sucree would do you good!"

To my great surprise, these words calmed her at once; and I saw her
sit down very quietly in HER corner, close to HER pigeon-hole, upon HER
chair, with her feet upon HER footstool.

The dinner was a complete failure. Mademoiselle Prefere, who seemed lost
in a brown study, never noticed the fact. As a rule I am very sensitive
about such misfortunes; but this one caused Jeanne so much delight that
at last I could not help enjoying it myself. Even at my age I had not
been able to learn before that a chicken, raw on one side and burned on
the other, was a funny thing; but Jeanne's bursts of laughter taught me
that it was. That chicken caused us to say a thousand very witty
things, which I have forgotten; and I was enchanted that it had not been
properly cooked. Jeanne put it back to roast again; then she broiled it;
then she stewed it with butter. And every time it came back to the table
it was much less appetising and much more mirth-provoking than before.
When we did eat it, at last, it had become a thing for which there is no
name in any cuisine.

The almond cake was much more extraordinary. It was brought to the table
in the pan, because it never could have got out of it. I invited Jeanne
to help us all to a piece thinking that I was going to embarrass her;
but she broke the pan and gave each of us a fragment. To think that
anybody at my age could eat such things was an idea possible only to
the very artless mind. Mademoiselle Prefere, suddenly awakened from her
dream, indignantly pushed away the sugary splinter of earthenware,
and deemed it opportune to inform me that she herself was exceedingly
skilful in making confectionery.

"Ah!" exclaimed Jeanne, with an air of surprise not altogether without
malice. Then she wrapped all the fragments of the pan in a piece
of paper, for the purpose of giving them to her little
playmates--especially to the three little Mouton girls, who are
naturally inclined to gluttony.

Secretly, however, I was beginning to feel very uneasy. It did not
now seem in any way possible to keep much longer upon good terms with
Mademoiselle Prefere since her matrimonial fury had this burst forth.
And that lady affronted, good-bye to Jeanne! I took advantage of a
moment while the sweet soul was busy putting on her cloak, in order to
ask Jeanne to tell me exactly what her own age was. She was eighteen
years and one month old. I counted on my fingers, and found she would
not come of age for another two years and eleven months. And how should
we be able to manage during all that time?

At the door Mademoiselle Prefere squeezed my hand with so much meaning
that I fairly shook from head to foot.

"Good-bye," I said very gravely to the young girl. "But listen to me
a moment: your friend is very old, and might perhaps fail you when you
need him most. Promise me never to fail in your duty to yourself, and
then I shall have no fear. God keep you, my child!"

After closing the door behind them, I opened the window to get a last
look at her as she was going away. But the night was dark, and I could
see only two vague shadows flitting across the quay. I heard the vast
deep hom of the city rising up about me; and I suddenly felt a great
sinking at my heart.

Poor child!



December 15.


The King of Thule kept a goblet of gold which his dying mistress had
bequeathed him as a souvenir. When about to die himself, after having
drunk from it for the last time, he threw the goblet into the sea. And I
keep this diary of memories even as that old prince of the mist-haunted
seas kept his carven goblet; and even as he flung away at last his
love-pledge, so will I burn this book of souvenirs. Assuredly it is not
through any arrogant avarice nor through any egotistical pride, that I
shall destroy this record of a humble life--it is only because I fear
lest those things which are dear and sacred to me might appear
before others, because of my inartistic manner of expression, either
commonplace or absurd.

I do not say this in view of what is going to follow. Absurd I certainly
must have been when, having been invited to dinner by Mademoiselle
Prefere, I took my seat in a bergere (it was really a bergere) at the
right hand of that alarming person. The table had been set in a little
parlour; and I could observe from the poor way in which it was set out
that the schoolmistress was one of those ethereal souls who soar above
terrestrial things. Chipped plates, unmatched glasses, knives with loose
handles, forks with yellow prongs--there was absolutely nothing wanting
to spoil the appetite of an honest man.

I was assured that the dinner had been cooked for me--for me
alone--although Maitre Mouche had also been invited. Mademoiselle
Prefere must have imagined that I had Sarmatian tastes on the subject
of butter; for that which she offered me, served up in little thin pats,
was excessively rancid.

The roast very nearly poisoned me. But I had the pleasure of hearing
Maitre Mouche and Mademoiselle Prefere discourse upon virtue. I said the
pleasure--I ought to have said the shame; for the sentiments to which
they gave expression soared far beyond the range of my vulgar nature.

What they said proved to me as clear as day that devotedness was their
daily bread, and that self-sacrifice was not less necessary to
their existence than air and water. Observing that I was not eating,
Mademoiselle Prefere made a thousand efforts to overcome that which she
was good enough to term my "discretion." Jeanne was not of the party,
because, I was told, her presence at it would have been contrary to the
rules, and would have wounded the feelings of the other school-children,
among whom it was necessary to maintain a certain equality. I secretly
congratulated her upon having escaped from the Merovingian butter; from
the huge radishes, empty as funeral-urns; form the leathery roast, and
from various other curiosities of diet to which I had exposed myself for
the love of her.

The extremely disconsolate-looking servant served up some liquid to
which they gave the name of cream--I do not know why--and vanished away
like a ghost.

Then Mademoiselle Prefere related to Maitre Mouche, with extraordinary
transports of emotion, all that she had said to me in the City of Books,
during the time that my housekeeper was sick in bed. Her admiration for
a Member of the Institute, her terror lest I should be taken ill while
unattended, and the certainty she felt that any intelligent woman would
be proud and happy to share my existence--she concealed nothing, but,
on the contrary, added many fresh follies to the recital. Maitre Mouche
kept nodding his head in approval while cracking nuts. Then, after all
this verbiage, he demanded, with an agreeable smile, what my answer had
been.

Mademoiselle Prefere, pressing her hand upon her heart and extending the
other towards me, cried out,

"He is so affectionate, so superior, so good, and so great! He
answered... But I could never, because I am only a humble woman--I could
never repeat the words of a Member of the Institute. I can only utter
the substance of them. He answered, 'Yes, I understand you--yes.'"

And with these words she reached out and seized one of my hands. Then
Maitre Mouche, also overwhelmed with emotion, arose and seized my other
hand.

"Monsieur," he said, "permit me to offer my congratulations."

Several times in my life I have known fear; but never before had I
experienced any fright of so nauseating a character. A sickening terror
came upon me.

I disengaged by two hands, and, rising to my feet, so as to give all
possible seriousness to my words, I said,

"Madame, either I explained myself very badly when you were at my house,
or I have totally misunderstood you here in your own. In either case, a
positive declaration is absolutely necessary. Permit me, Madame, to
make it now, very plainly. No--I never did understand you; I am totally
ignorant of the nature of this marriage project that you have been
planning for me--if you really have been planning one. In any event, I
should not think of marrying. It would be unpardonable folly at my age,
and even now, at this moment, I cannot conceive how a sensible person
like you could ever have advised me to marry. Indeed, I am strongly
inclined to believe that I must have been mistaken, and that you never
said anything of the kind before. In the latter case, please excuse an
old man totally unfamiliar with the usages of society, unaccustomed to
the conversation of ladies, and very contrite for his mistake."

Maitre Mouche went back very softly to his place, where, not finding any
more nuts to crack, he began to whittle a cork.

Mademoiselle Prefere, after staring at me for a few moments with an
expression in her little round dry eyes which I had never seen there
before, suddenly resumed her customary sweetness and graciousness. Then
she cried out in honeyed tones,

"Oh! these learned men!--these studious men! They are like children.
Yes, Monsieur Bonnard, you are a real child!"

Then, turning to the notary, who still sat very quietly in his corner,
with his nose over his cork, she exclaimed, in beseeching tones,

"Oh, do not accuse him! Do not accuse him! Do not think any evil of him,
I beg of you! Do not think it at all! Must I ask you upon my knees?"

Maitre Mouche continued to examine all the various aspects and surfaces
of his cork without making any further manifestation.

I was very indignant; and I know that my cheeks must have been extremely
red, if I could judge by the flush of heat which I felt rise to my
face. This would enable me to explain the words I heard through all the
buzzing in my ears:

"I am frightened about him! our poor friend!... Monsieur Mouche, be kind
enough to open a window! It seems to me that a compress of arnica would
do him some good."

I rushed out into the street with an unspeakable feeling of shame.

"My poor Jeanne!"



December 20.


I passed eight days without hearing anything further in regard to the
Prefere establishment. Then, feeling myself unable to remain any longer
without some news of Clementine's daughter, and feeling furthermore that
I owed it as a duty to myself not to cease my visits with the school
without more serious cause, I took my way to Les Ternes.

The parlour seemed to me more cold, more damp, more inhospitable, and
more insidious than ever before; and the servant much more silent and
much more scared. I asked to see Mademoiselle Jeanne; but, after a very
considerable time, it was Mademoiselle Prefere who made her appearance
instead--severe and pale, with lips compressed and a hard look in her
eyes.

"Monsieur," she said, folding her arms over her pelerine, "I regret very
much that I cannot allow you to see Mademoiselle Alexandre to-day; but I
cannot possibly do it."

"Why not?" I asked in astonishment.

"Monsieur," she replied, "the reasons which compel me to request that
your visits shall be less frequent hereafter are of an excessively
delicate nature; and I must beg you to spare me the unpleasantness of
mentioning them."

"Madame," I replied, "I have been authorized by Jeanne's guardian to
see his ward every day. Will you please to inform me of your reasons for
opposing the will of Monsieur Mouche?"

"The guardian of Mademoiselle Alexandre," she replied (and she dwelt
upon that word "guardian" as upon a solid support), "desires, quite as
strongly as I myself do, that your assiduities may come to an end as
soon as possible."

"Then, if that be the case," I said, "be kind enough to let me know his
reasons and your own."

She looked up at the little spiral of paper on the ceiling, and then
replied, with stern composure,

"You insist upon it? Well, although such explanations are very painful
for a woman to make, I will yield to your exaction. This house, Monsieur
is an honourable house. I have my responsibility. I have to watch like
a mother over each one of my pupils. Your assiduities in regard to
Mademoiselle Alexandre could not possibly be continued without serious
injury to the young girl herself; and it is my duty to insist that they
shall cease."

"I do not really understand you," I replied--and I was telling the plain
truth. Then she deliberately resumed:

"Your assiduities in this house are being interpreted, by the most
respectable and the least suspicious persons, in such a manner that I
find myself obliged, both in the interest of my establishment and in the
interest of Mademoiselle Alexandre, to see that they end at once."

"Madame," I cried, "I have heard a great many silly things in my life,
but never anything so silly as what you have just said!"

She answered me quietly,

"Your words of abuse will not affect me in the slightest. When one has a
duty to accomplish, one is strong enough to endure all."

And she pressed her pelerine over her heart once more--not perhaps on
this occasion to restrain, but doubtless only to caress that generous
heart.

"Madame," I said, shaking my finger at her, "you have wantonly aroused
the indignation of an aged man. Be good enough to act in such a fashion
that the old man may be able at least to forget your existence, and do
not add fresh insults to those which I have already sustained from your
lips. I give you fair warning that I shall never cease to look after
Mademoiselle Alexandre; and that should you attempt to do her any harm,
in any manner whatsoever, you will have serious reason to regret it!"

The more I became excited, the more she became cool; and she answered in
a tone of superb indifference:

"Monsieur, I am much too well informed in regard to the nature of
the interest which you take in this young girl, not to withdraw her
immediately from that very surveillance with which you threaten me.
After observing the more than equivocal intimacy in which you are living
with your housekeeper, I ought to have taken measures at once to render
it impossible for you ever to come into contact with an innocent child.
In the future I shall certainly do it. If up to this time I have been
too trustful, it is for Mademoiselle Alexandre, and not for you, to
reproach me with it. But she is too artless and too pure--thanks to
me!--ever to have suspected the nature of that danger into which you
were trying to lead her. I scarcely suppose that you will place me under
the necessity of enlightening her upon the subject."

"Come, my poor old Bonnard," I said to myself, as I shrugged my
shoulders--"so you had to live as long as this in order to learn for the
first time exactly what a wicked woman is. And now your knowledge of the
subject is complete."

I went out without replying; and I had the pleasure of observing, from
the sudden flush which overspread the face of the schoolmistress, that
my silence had wounded her far more than my words.

As I passed through the court I looked about me in every direction for
Jeanne. She was watching for me, and she ran to me.

"If anybody touches one little hair of your head, Jeanne, write to me!
Good-bye!"

"No, not good-bye."

I replied,

"Well, no--not good-bye! Write to me!"


I went straight to Madame de Gabry's residence.

"Madame is at Rome with Monsieur. Did not Monsieur know it?"

"Why, yes," I replied. "Madame wrote to me."...

She had indeed written to me in regard to her leaving home; but my head
must have become very much confused, so that I had forgotten all about
it. The servant seemed to be of the same opinion, for he looked at me
in a way that seemed to signify, "Monsieur Bonnard is doting"--and he
leaned down over the balustrade of the stairway to see if I was not
going to do something extraordinary before I got to the bottom. But I
descended the stairs rationally enough; and then he drew back his head
in disappointment.

On returning home I was informed that Monsieur Gelis was waiting for
me in the parlour. (This young man has become a constant visitor. His
judgement is at fault at times; but his mind is not at all commonplace.)
On this occasion, however, his usually welcome visit only embarrassed
me. "Alas!" I thought to myself, "I shall be sure to say something
very stupid to my young friend to-day, and he also will think that my
facilities are becoming impaired. But still I cannot really explain to
him that I had first been demanded in wedlock, and subsequently traduced
as a man wholly devoid of morals--that even Therese had become an object
of suspicion--and that Jeanne remains in the power of the most rascally
woman on the face of the earth. I am certainly in an admirable state
of mind for conversing about Cistercian abbeys with a young and
mischievously minded man. Nevertheless, we shall see--we shall try."...

But Therese stopped me:

"How red you are, Monsieur!" she exclaimed, in a tone of reproach.

"It must be the spring," I answered.

She cried out,

"The spring!--in the month of December?"

That is a fact! this is December. Ah! what is the matter with my head?
what a fine help I am going to be to poor Jeanne!

"Therese, take my cane; and put it, if you possibly can, in some place
where I shall be able to find it again.

"Good-day, Monsieur Gelis. How are you?"


Undated.


Next morning the old boy wanted to get up; but the old boy could not
get up. A merciless invisible hand kept him down upon his bed. Finding
himself immovably riveted there, the old boy resigned himself to remain
motionless; but his thoughts kept running in all directions.

He must have had a very violent fever; for Mademoiselle Prefere, the
Abbots of Saint-Germain-des-Pres, and the servant of Madame de Gabry
appeared to him in divers fantastic shapes. The figure of the servant
in particular lengthened weirdly over his head, grimacing like some
gargoyle of a cathedral. Then it seemed to me that there were a great
many people, much too many people, in my bedroom.

This bedroom of mine is furnished after the antiquated fashion. The
portrait of my father in full uniform, and the portrait of my mother in
her cashmere dress, are suspended on the wall. The wall-paper is covered
with green foliage designs. I am aware of all this, and I am even
conscious that everything is faded, very much faded. But an old man's
room does not require to be pretty; it is enough that it should be
clean, and Therese sees to that. At all events my room is sufficiently
decorated to please a mind like mine, which has always remained somewhat
childish and dreamy. There are things hanging on the wall or scattered
over the tables and shelves which usually please my fancy and amuse me.
But to-day it would seem as if all those objects had suddenly conceived
some kind of ill-will against me. They have all become garish,
grimacing, menacing. That statuette, modelled after one of the
Theological Virtues of Notre-Dame de Brou, always so ingenuously
graceful in its natural condition, is now making contortions and putting
out its tongue at me. And that beautiful miniature--in which one of the
most skilful pupils of Jehan Fouquet depicted himself, girdled with the
cord-girdle of the Sons of St. Francis, offering his book, on bended
knee, to the good Duc d'Angouleme--who has taken it out of its frame
and put in its place a great ugly cat's head, which stares at me with
phosphorescent eyes. And the designs on the wall-paper have also turned
into heads--hideous green heads.... But no--I am sure that wall-paper
must have foliage-designs upon it at this moment just as it had twenty
years ago, and nothing else.... But no, again--I was right before--they
are heads, with eyes, noses, mouths--they are heads!... Ah! now I
understand! they are both heads and foliage-designs at the same time. I
wish I could not see them at all.

And there, on my right, the pretty miniature of the Franciscan has come
back again; but it seems to me as if I can only keep it in its frame by
a tremendous effort of will, and that the moment I get tired the ugly
cat-head will appear in its place. Certainly I am not delirious; I can
see Therese very plainly, standing at the foot of my bed; I can hear her
speaking to me perfectly well, and I should be able to answer her
quite satisfactorily if I were not kept so busy in trying to compel the
various objects about me to maintain their natural aspect.

Here is the doctor coming. I never sent for him, but it gives me
pleasure to see him. He is an old neighbor of mine; I have never been of
much service to him, but I like him very much. Even if I do not say much
to him, I have at least full possession of all my faculties, and I even
find myself extraordinarily crafty and observant to-day, for I note all
his gestures, his every look, the least wrinkling of his face. But the
doctor is very cunning, too, and I cannot really tell what he thinks
about me. The deep thought of Goethe suddenly comes to my mind and I
exclaim,

"Doctor, the old man has consented to allow himself to become sick; but
he does not intend, this time at least, to make any further concessions
to nature."

Neither the doctor nor Therese laughs at my little joke. I suppose they
cannot have understood it.

The doctor goes away; evening comes; and all sorts of strange shadows
begin to shape themselves about my bed-curtains, forming and dissolving
by turns. And other shadows--ghosts--throng by before me; and through
them I can see distinctively the impassive face of my faithful servant.
And suddenly a cry, a shrill cry, a great cry of distress, rends my
ears. Was it you who called me Jeanne?

The day is over; and the shadows take their places at my bedside to
remain with me all through the long night.

Then morning comes--I feel a peace, a vast peace, wrapping me all about.

Art Thou about to take me into Thy rest, my dear Lord God?



February 186-.


The doctor is quite jovial. It seems that I am doing him a great deal
of credit by being able to get out of bed. If I must believe him,
innumerable disorders must have pounced down upon my poor old body all
at the same time.

These disorders, which are the terror of ordinary mankind, have names
which are the terror of philologists. They are hybrid names, half Greek,
half Latin, with terminations in "itis," indicating the inflammatory
condition, and in "algia," indicating pain. The doctor gives me all
their names, together with a corresponding number of adjectives ending
in "ic," which serve to characterise their detestable qualities. In
short, they represent a good half of that most perfect copy of the
Dictionary of Medicine contained in the too-authentic box of Pandora.

"Doctor, what an excellent common-sense story the story of Pandora
is!--if I were a poet I would put it into French verse. Shake hands,
doctor! You have brought me back to life; I forgive you for it. You
have given me back to my friends; I thank you for it. You say I am quite
strong. That may be, that may be; but I have lasted a very long time.
I am a very old article of furniture; I might be very satisfactorily
compared to my father's arm-chair. It was an arm-chair which the good
man had inherited, and in which he used to lounge from morning until
evening. Twenty times a day, when I was quite a baby, I used to climb up
and seat myself on one of the arms of that old-fashioned chair. So long
as the chair remained intact, nobody paid any particular attention to
it. But it began to limp on one foot and then folks began to say that it
was a very good chair. Afterwards it became lame in three legs, squeaked
with the fourth leg, and lost nearly half of both arms. Then everybody
would exclaim, 'What a strong chair!' They wondered how it was that
after its arms had been worn off and all its legs knocked out of
perpendicular, it could yet preserve the recognisable shape of a chair,
remains nearly erect, and still be of some service. The horse-hair came
out of its body at last, and it gave up the ghost. And when Cyprien,
our servant, sawed up its mutilated members for fire-wood, everybody
redoubled their cries of admiration. Oh! what an excellent--what a
marvellous chair! It was the chair of Pierre Sylvestre Bonnard, the
cloth merchant--of Epimenide Bonnard, his son--of Jean-Baptiste Bonnard,
the Pyrrhonian philosopher and Chief of the Third Maritime Division.
Oh! what a robust and venerable chair!' In reality it was a dead chair.
Well, doctor, I am that chair. You think I am solid because I have been
able to resist an attack which would have killed many people, and which
only three-fourths killed me. Much obliged! I feel none the less that I
am something which has been irremediably damaged."

The doctor tries to prove to me, with the help of enormous Greek and
Latin words, that I am really in a very good condition. It would, of
course, be useless to attempt any demonstration of this kind in so lucid
a language as French. However, I allow him to persuade me at last; and I
see him to the door.

"Good! good!" exclaimed Therese; "that is the way to put the doctor out
of the house! Just do the same thing once or twice again, and he will
not come to see you any more--and so much the better?"

"Well, Therese, now that I have become such a hearty man again, do not
refuse to give me my letters. I am sure there must be quite a big bundle
of letters, and it would be very wicked to keep me any longer from
reading them."

Therese, after some little grumbling, gave me my letters. But what did
it matter?--I looked at all the envelopes, and saw that no one of them
had been addressed by the little hand which I so much wish I could see
here now, turning over the pages of the Vecellio. I pushed the whole
bundle of letters away: they had no more interest for me.



April-June


It was a hotly contested engagement.

"Wait, Monsieur, until I have put on my clean things," exclaimed
Therese, "and I will go out with you this time also; I will carry your
folding-stool as I have been doing these last few days, and we will go
and sit down somewhere in the sun."

Therese actually thinks me infirm. I have been sick, it is true, but
there is an end to all things! Madame Malady has taken her departure
quite awhile ago, and it is now more than three months since her pale
and gracious-visaged handmaid, Dame Convalescence, politely bade me
farewell. If I were to listen to my housekeeper, I should become a
veritable Monsieur Argant, and I should wear a nightcap with ribbons for
the rest of my life.... No more of this!--I propose to go out by myself!
Therese will not hear of it. She takes my folding-stool, and wants to
follow me.

"Therese, to-morrow, if you like, we will take our seats on the sunny
side of the wall of La Petite Provence and stay there just as long as
you please. But to-day I have some very important affairs to attend to."

"So much the better! But your affairs are not the only affairs in this
world."

I beg; I scold; I make my escape.

It is quite a pleasant day. With the aid of a cab and the help of
almighty God, I trust to be able to fulfil my purpose.

There is the wall on which is painted in great blue letters the words
"Pensionnat de Demoiselles tenu par Mademoiselle Virginie Prefere."
There is the iron gate which would give free entrance into the
court-yard if it were ever opened. But the lock is rusty, and sheets
of zinc put up behind the bars protect the indiscreet observation
those dear little souls to whom Mademoiselle Prefere doubtless teaches
modesty, sincerity, justice, and disinterestedness. There is a window,
with iron bars before it, and panes daubed over with white paint--the
window of the domestic offices, like a glazed eye--the only aperture
of the building opening upon the exterior world. As for the house-door,
through which I entered so often, but which is now closed against me for
ever, it is just as I saw it the last time, with its little iron-grated
wicket. The single stone step in front of it is deeply worn, and,
without having very good eyes behind my spectacles, I can see the little
white scratches on the stone which have been made by the nails in the
shoes of the girls going in and out. And why cannot I also go in? I
have a feeling that Jeanne must be suffering a great deal in this dismal
house, and that she calls my name in secret. I cannot go away from
the gate! A strange anxiety takes hold of me. I pull the bell. The
scared-looking servant comes to the door, even more scared-looking than
when I saw her the last time. Strict orders have been given; I am not to
be allowed to see Mademoiselle Jeanne. I beg the servant to be so kind
as to tell me how the child is. The servant, after looking to her right
and then to her left, tells me that Mademoiselle Jeanne is well, and
then shuts the door in my face. And I am all alone in the street again.

How many times since then have I wandered in the same way under that
wall, and passed before the little door,--full of shame and despair to
find myself even weaker than that poor child, who has no other help of
friend except myself in the world!

Finally I overcame my repugnance sufficiently to call upon Maitre
Mouche. The first thing I remarked was that his office is much more
dusty and much more mouldy this year that it was last year. The notary
made his appearance after a moment, with his familiar stiff gestures,
and his restless eyes quivering behind his eye-glasses. I made my
complaints to him. He answered me.... But why should I write down, even
in a notebook which I am going to burn, my recollections of a downright
scoundrel? He takes sides with Mademoiselle Prefere, whose intelligent
mind and irreproachable character he has long appreciated. He does
not feel himself in a position to decide the nature of the question at
issue; but he must assure me that appearances have been greatly against
me. That of course makes no difference to me. He adds--(and this does
make some sense to me)--that the small sum which had been placed in
his hands to defray the expenses of the education of his ward has been
expended, and that, in view of the circumstances, he cannot but gently
admire the disinterestedness of Mademoiselle Prefere in consenting to
allow Mademoiselle Jeanne to remain with her.

A magnificent light, the light of a perfect day, floods the sordid place
with its incorruptible torrent, and illuminates teh person of that man!

And outside it pours down its splendour upon all the wretchedness of a
populous quarter.

How sweet it is,--this light with which my eyes have so long been
filled, and which ere long I must for ever cease to enjoy! I wander out
with my hands behind me, dreaming as I go, following the line of the
fortifications; and I find myself after awhile, I know not how, in an
out-of-the-way suburb full of miserable little gardens. By the dusty
roadside I observe a plant whose flower, at once dark and splendid,
seems worthy of association with the noblest and purest mourning for the
dead. It is a columbine. Our fathers called it "Our Lady's Glove"--le
gant de Notre-Dame. Only such a "Notre-Dame" as might make herself very,
very small, for the sake of appearing to little children, could ever
slip her dainty fingers into the narrow capsue of that flower.

And there is a big bumble-bee who tries to force himself into the
flower, brutally; but his mouth cannot reach the nectar, and the poor
glutton strives and strives in vain. He has to give up the attempt, and
comes out of the flower all smeared over with pollen. He flies off in
his own heavy lumbering way; but there are not many flowers in this
portion of the suburbs, which has been defiled by the soot and smoke
of factories. So he comes back to the columbine again, and this time he
pierces the corolla and sucks the honey through the little hole which
he has made; I should never have thought that a bumble-bee had so much
sense! Why, that is admirable! The more I observe, them, the more do
insects and flowers fill me with astonishment. I am like that good
Rollin who went wild with delight over the flowers of his peach-trees. I
wish I could have a fine garden, and live at the verge of a wood.



August, September.


It occurred to me one Sunday morning to watch for the moment when
Mademoiselle Prefere's pupils were leaving the school in procession
to attend Mass at the parish church. I watched them passing two by
two,--the little ones first with very serious faces. There were three of
them all dressed exactly alike--dumpy, plump, important-looking little
creatures, whom I recognized at once as the Mouton girls. Their elder
sister is the artist who drew that terrible head of Tatius, King of
the Sabines. Beside the column, the assistant school-teacher, with her
prayer-book in her hand, was gesturing and frowning. Then came the next
oldest class, and finally the big girls, all whispering to each other,
as they went by. But I did not see Jeanne.

I went to police-headquarters and inquired whether they chanced to
have, filed away somewhere or other, any information regarding the
establishment in the Rue Demours. I succeeded in inducing them to send
some female inspectors there. These returned bringing with them the most
favourable reports about the establishment. In their opinion the Prefere
School was a model school. It is evident that if I were to force an
investigation, Mademoiselle Prefere would receive academic honours.



October 3.


This Thursday being a school-holiday I had teh chance of meeting the
three little Mouton girls in the vicinity of the Rue Demours. After
bowing to their mother, I asked the eldest who appears to be about ten
years old, how was her playmate, Mademoiselle Jeanne Alexandre.

The little Mouton girl answered me, all in a breath,

"Jeanne Alexandre is not my playmate. She is only kept in the school for
charity--so they make her sweep the class-rooms. It was Mademoiselle who
said so. And Jeanne Alexandre is a bad girl; so they lock her up in the
dark room--and it serves her right--and I am a good girl--and I am never
locked up in the dark room."

The three little girls resumed their walk, and Madame Mouton followed
close behind them, looking back over her broad shoulder at me, in a very
suspicious manner.

Alas! I find myself reduced to expedients of a questionable character.
Madame de Gabry will not come back to Paris for at least three months
more, at the very soonest. Without her, I have no tact, I have no common
sense--I am nothing but a cumbersome, clumsy, mischief-making machine.

Nevertheless, I cannot possibly permit them to make Jeanne a
boarding-school servant!



December 28.


The idea that Jeanne was obliged to sweep the rooms had become
absolutely unbearable.

The weather was dark and cold. Night had already begun. I rang the
school-door bell with the tranquillity of a resolute man. The moment
that the timid servant opened the door, I slipped a gold piece into her
hand, and promised her another if she would arrange matters so that I
could see Mademoiselle Alexandre. Her answer was,

"In one hour from now, at the grated window."

And she slammed the door in my face so rudely that she knocked my
hat into the gutter. I waited for one very long hour in a violent
snow-storm; then I approached the window. Nothing! The wind raged, and
the snow fell heavily. Workmen passing by with their implements on their
shoulders, and their heads bent down to keep the snow from coming in
their faces, rudely jostled me. Still nothing. I began to fear I had
been observed. I knew that I had done wrong in bribing a servant, but
I was not a bit sorry for it. Woe to the man who does not know how to
break through social regulations in case of necessity! Another quarter
of an hour passed. Nothing. At last the window was partly opened.

"Is that you, Monsieur Bonnard?"

"Is that you, Jeanne?--tell me at once what has become of you."

"I am well--very well."

"But what else!"

"They have put me in the kitchen, and I have to sweep the school-rooms."

"In the kitchen! Sweeping--you! Gracious goodness!"

"Yes, because my guardian does not pay for my schooling any longer."

"Gracious goodness! Your guardian seems to me to be a thorough
scoundrel."

"Then you know---"

"What?"

"Oh! don't ask me to tell you that!--but I would rather die than find
myself alone with him again."

"And why did you not write to me?"

"I was watched."

At this instant I formed a resolve which nothing in this world could
have induced me to change. I did, indeed, have some idea that I might
be acting contrary to law; but I did not give myself the least concern
about that idea. And, being firmly resolved, I was able to be prudent. I
acted with remarkable coolness.

"Jeanne," I asked, "tell me! does that room you are in open into the
court-yard?"

"Yes."

"Can you open the street-door from the inside yourself?"

"Yes,--if there is nobody in the porter's lodge."

"Go and see if there is any one there, and be careful that nobody
observes you."

Then I waited, keeping a watch on the door and window.

In six or seven seconds Jeanne reappeared behind the bars, and said,

"The servant is in the porter's lodge."

"Very well," I said, "have you a pen and ink?"

"No."

"A pencil?"

"Yes."

"Pass it out here."

I took an old newspaper out of my pocket, and--in a wind which blew
almost hard enough to put the street-lamps out, in a downpour of snow
which almost blinded me--I managed to wrap up and address that paper to
Mademoiselle Prefere.

While I was writing I asked Jeanne,

"When the postman passes he puts the papers and letters in the box,
doesn't he? He rings the bell and goes away? Then the servant opens the
letter-box and takes whatever she finds there to Mademoiselle Prefere
immediately; is not that about the way the thing is managed whenever
anything comes by post?"

Jeanne thought it was.

"Then we shall soon see. Jeanne, go and watch again; and, as soon as the
servant leaves the lodge, open the door and come out here to me."

Having said this, I put my newspaper in the box, gave the bell a
tremendous pull, and then hid myself in the embrasure of a neighbouring
door.

I might have been there several minutes, when the little door quivered,
then opened, and a young girl's head made its appearance through the
opening. I took hold of it; I pulled it towards me.

"Come, Jeanne! come!"

She stared at me uneasily. Certainly she must have been afraid that I
had gone mad; but, on the contrary, I was very rational indeed.

"Come, my child! come!"

"Where?"

"To Madame de Gabry's."

Then she took my arm. For some time we ran like a couple of thieves.
But running is an exercise ill-suited to one as corpulent as I am,
and, finding myself out of breath at last, I stopped and leaned upon
something which turned out to be the stove of a dealer in roasted
chestnuts, who was doing business at the corner of a wine-seller's shop,
where a number of cabmen were drinking. One of them asked us if we
did not want a cab. Most assuredly we wanted a cab! The driver, after
setting down his glass on the zinc counter, climbed upon his seat and
urged his horse forward. We were saved.

"Phew!" I panted, wiping my forehead. For, in spite of the cold, I was
perspiring profusely.

What seemed very odd was that Jeanne appeared to be much more conscious
than I was of the enormity which we had committed. She looked very
serious indeed, and was visibly uneasy.

"In the kitchen!" I cried out, with indignation.

She shook her head, as if to say, "Well, there or anywhere else, what
does it matter to me?" And by the light of the street-lamps, I observed
with pain that her face was very thin and her features all pinched. I
did not find in her any of that vivacity, any of those bright impulses,
any of that quickness of expression, which used to please me so much.
Her gaze had become timid, her gestures constrained, her whole attitude
melancholy. I took her hand--a little cold hand, which had become all
hardened and bruised. The poor child must have suffered very much. I
questioned her. She told me very quietly that Mademoiselle Prefere
had summoned her one day, and called her a little monster and a little
viper, for some reason which she had never been able to learn.

She had added, "You shall not see Monsieur Bonnard any more; for he
has been giving you bad advice, and he has conducted himself in a most
shameful manner towards me." "I then said to her, 'That, Mademoiselle,
you will never be able to make me believe.' Then Mademoiselle slapped my
face and sent me back to the school-room. The announcement that I should
never be allowed to see you again made me feel as if night had come down
upon me. Don't you know those evenings when one feels so sad to see
the darkness come?--well, just imagine such a moment stretched out into
weeks--into whole months! Don't you remember my little Saint-George? Up
to that time I had worked at it as well as I could--just simply to work
at it--just to amuse myself. But when I lost all hope of ever seeing you
again I took my little wax figure, and I began to work at it in quite
another way. I did not try to model it with wooden matches any more, as
I had been doing, but with hair pins. I even made use of epingles a la
neige. But perhaps you do not know what epingles a la neige are? Well,
I became more particular about than you can possibly imagine. I put a
dragon on Saint-George's helmet; and I passed hours and hours in making
a head and eyes and tail for the dragon. Oh the eyes! the eyes, above
all! I never stopped working at them till I got them so that they had
red pupils and white eye-lids and eye-brows and everything! I know I am
very silly; I had an idea that I was going to die as soon as my little
Saint-George would be finished. I worked at it during recreation-hours,
and Mademoiselle Prefere used to let me alone. One day I learned that
you were in the parlour with the schoolmistress; I watched for you; we
said 'Au revoir!' that day to each other. I was a little consoled by
seeing you. But, some time after that, my guardian came and wanted to
make me go to his house,--but please don't ask me why, Monsieur. He
answered me, quite gently, that I was a very whimsical little girl. And
then he left me alone. But the next day Mademoiselle Prefere came to me
with such a wicked look on her face that I was really afraid. She had
a letter in her hand. 'Mademoiselle,' she said to me, 'I am informed
by your guardian that he has spent all the money which belonged to
you. Don't be afraid! I do not intend to abandon you; but, you must
acknowledge yourself, it is only right that you should earn your own
livelihood.' Then she put me to work house-cleaning; and whenever I made
a mistake she would lock me up in the garet for days together. And that
is what has happened to me since I saw you last. Even if I had been able
to write to you I do not know whether I should have done it, because I
did not think you could possibly take me away from the school; and, as
Maitre Mouche did not come back to see me, there was no hurry. I thought
I could wait for awhile in the garret and the kitchen.

"Jeanne," I cried, "even if we should have to flee to Oceania, the
abominable Prefere shall never get hold of you again. I will take a
great oath on that! And why should we not go to Oceania? The climate
is very healthy; and I read in a newspaper the other day that they have
pianos there. But, in the meantime, let us go to the house of Madame de
Gabry, who returned to Paris, as luck would have it, some three or four
days ago; for you and I are two innocent fools, and we have great need
of some one to help us."

Even as I was speaking Jeanne's features suddenly became pale, and
seemed to shrink into lifelessness; her eyes became all dim; her lips,
half open, contracted with an expression of pain. Then her head sank
sideways on her shoulder;--she had fainted.

I lifter her in my arms, and carried her up Madame de Gabry's staircase
like a little baby asleep. But I was myself on the point of fainting
from emotional excitement and fatigue together, when she came to herself
again.

"Ah! it is you." she said: "so much the better!"

Such was our condition when we rang our friend's door-bell.


Same day.


It was eight o'clock. Madame de Gabry, as might be supposed, was very
much surprised by our unexpected appearance. But she welcomed the old
man and the child with that glad kindness which always expresses itself
in her beautiful gestures. It seems to me,--if I might use the language
of devotion so familiar to her,--it seems to me as though some heavenly
grace streams from her hands when ever she opens them; and even the
perfume which impregnates her robes seems to inspire the sweet calm zeal
of charity and good works. Surprised she certainly was; but she asked us
no question,--and that silence seemed to me admirable.

"Madame," I said to her, "we have both come to place ourselves under
your protection. And, first of all, we are going to ask you to give us
some super--or to give Jeanne some, at least; for a moment ago, in the
carriage, she fainted from weakness. As for myself, I could not eat a
bite at this late hour without passing a night of agony in consequence.
I hope that Monsieur de Gabry is well."

"Oh, he is here!" she said.

And she called him immediately.

"Come in here, Paul! Come and see Monsieur Bonnard and Mademoiselle
Alexandre."

He came. It was a pleasure for me to see his frank broad face, and to
press his strong square hand. Then we went, all four of us, into the
dining-room; and while some cold meat was being cut for Jeanne--which
she never touched notwithstanding--I related our adventure. Paul de
Gabry asked me permission to smoke his pipe, after which he listened to
me in silence. When I had finished my recital he scratched the short,
stiff beard upon his chin, and uttered a tremendous "Sacrebleu!" But,
seeing Jeanne stare at each of us in turn, with a frightened look in her
face, he added:

"We will talk about this matter to-morrow morning. Come into my study
for a moment; I have an old book to show you that I want you to tell me
something about."

I followed him into his study, where the steel of guns and hunting
knives, suspended against the dark hangings, glimmered in the
lamp-light. There, pulling me down beside him upon a leather-covered
sofa, he exclaimed,

"What have you done? Great God! Do you know what you have done?
Corruption of a minor, abduction, kidnapping! You have got yourself into
a nice mess! You have simply rendered yourself liable to a sentence of
imprisonment of not less than five nor more than ten years."

"Mercy on us!" I cried; "ten years imprisonment for having saved an
innocent child."

"That is the law!" answered Monsieur de Gabry. "You see, my dear
Monsieur Bonnard, I happen to know the Code pretty well--not because I
ever studied law as a profession, but because, as mayor of Lusance, I
was obliged to teach myself something about it in order to be able to
give information to my subordinates. Mouche is a rascal; that woman
Prefere is a vile hussy; and you are a...Well! I really cannot find a
word strong enough to signify what you are!"

After opening his bookcase, where dog-collars, riding-whips, stirrups,
spurs, cigar-boxes, and a few books of reference were indiscriminately
stowed away, he took out of it a copy of the Code, and began to turn
over the leaves.

"'CRIMES AND MISDEMEANOURS'...'SEQUESTRATION OF PERSONS'--that is
not your case.... 'ABDUCTION OF MINORS'--here we are....'ARTICLE
354':--'Whosever shall, either by fraud or violence, have abducted or
have caused to be abducted any minor or minors, or shall have enticed
them, or turned them away from, or forcibly removed them, or shall have
caused them to be enticed, or turned away from or forcibly removed from
the places in which they have been placed by those to whose authority or
direction they have been submitted or confided, shall be liable to the
penalty of imprisonment. See PENAL CODE, 21 and 28.' Here is 21:--'The
term of imprisonment shall not be less than five years.' 28. 'The
sentence of imprisonment shall be considered as involving a loss of
civil rights.' Now all that is very plain, is it not, Monsieur Bonnard?"

"Perfectly plain."

"Now let us go on: 'ARTICLE 356':--'In case the abductor be under the
age of 21 years at the time of the offense, he shall only be punished
with'...But we certainly cannot invoke this article in your favour.
'ARTICLE 357:':--'In case the abductor shall have married the girl
by him abducted, he can only be prosecuted at the insistence of such
persons as, according to the Civil Code, may have the right to demand
that the marriage shall be declared null; nor can he be condemned until
after the nullity of the marriage shall have been pronounced.' I do not
know whether it is a part of your plans to marry Mademoiselle Alexandre!
You can see that the code is good-natured about it; it leaves you one
door of escape. But no--I ought not to joke with you, because really you
have put yourself in a very unfortunate position! And how could a man
like you imagine that here in Paris, in the middle of the nineteenth
century, a young girl can be abducted with absolute impunity? We are not
living in the Middle Ages now; and such things are no longer permitted
by law."

"You need not imagine," I replied, "that abduction was lawful under the
ancient Code. You will find in Baluze a decree issued by King Cheldebert
at Cologne, either in 593 or 594, on the subject: moreover, everybody
knows that the famous 'Ordonance de Blois,' of May 1579, formally
enacted that any persons convicted of having suborned any son or
daughter under the age of twenty-five years, whether under promise of
marriage or otherwise, without the full knowledge, will, or consent of
the father, mother, and guardians, should be punished with death; and
the ordinance adds: 'Et pareillement seront punis extraordinairement
tous ceux qui auront participe audit rapt, et qui auront prete conseil,
confort, et aide en aucune maniere que ce soit.' (And in like manner
shall be extraordinarily punished all persons whomsoever, who shall have
participated in the said abduction, and who shall have given thereunto
counsel, succor, or aid in any manner whatsoever.) Those are the exact,
or very nearly the exact, terms of the ordinance. As for that article of
the Code-Napoleon which you have just told me of, and which excepts
from liability to prosecution the abductor who marries the young girl
abducted by him, it reminds me that according to the laws of Bretagne,
forcible abduction, followed by marriage, was not punished. But this
usage, which involved various abuses, was suppressed in 1720--at least I
give you the date within ten years. My memory is not very good now,
and the time is long passed when I could repeat by heart without even
stopping to take breath, fifteen hundred verses of Girart de Rousillon.

"As far as regards the Capitulary of Charlemagne, which fixes the
compensation for abduction, I have not mentioned it because I am sure
that you must remember it. So, my dear Monsieur de Gabry, you see
abduction was considered as decidedly a punishable offense under the
three dynasties of Old France. It is a very great mistake to suppose
that the Middle Ages represent a period of social chaos. You must
remember, on the contrary---"

Monsieur de Gabry here interrupted me:

"So," he exclaimed, "you know of the Ordonnacne de Blois, you know
Baluze, you know Childebert, you know the Capitularies--and you don't
know anything about the Code-Napoleon!"

I replied that, as a matter of fact, I never had read the Code; and he
looked very much surprised.

"And now do you understand," he asked, "the extreme gravity of the
action you have committed?"

I had not indeed been yet able to understand it fully. But little by
little, with the aid of Monsieur Paul's very sensible explanations, I
reached the conviction at last that I should not be judged in regard to
my motives, which were innocent, but only according to my action, which
was punishable. Thereupon I began to feel very despondent, and to utter
divers lamentations.

"What am I to do?" I cried out, "what am I to do? Am I then
irretrievably ruined?--and have I also ruined the poor child whom I
wanted to save?"

Monsieur de Gabry silently filled his pipe, and lighted it so slowly
that his kind broad face remained for at least three or four minutes
glowing red behind the light, like a blacksmith's in the gleam of his
forge-fire. Then he said,

"You want to know what to do? Why, don't do anything, my dear Monsieur
Bonnard! For God's sake, and for your own sake, don't do anything at
all! Your situation is bad enough as it is; don't try to meddle with it
now, unless you want to create new difficulties for yourself. But you
must promise me to sustain me in any action that I may take. I shall go
to see Monsieur Mouche the very first thing to-morrow morning; and if
he turns out to be what I think he is--that is to say, a consummate
rascal--I shall very soon find means of making him harmless, even if the
devil himself should take sides with him. For everything depends on him.
As it is too late this evening to take Mademoiselle Jeanne back to her
boarding-school, my wife will keep the young lady here to-night. This of
course plainly constitues the misdemeanour of complicity; but it saves
the girl from anything like an equivocal position. As for you, my dear
Monsieur, you just go back to the Quai Malaquais as quickly as you can;
and if they come to look for Jeanne there, it will be very easy for you
to prove she is not in your house."

While we were thus talking, Madame de Gabry was preparing to make her
young lodger comfortable for the night. When she bade me good-bye at the
door, she was carrying a pair of clean sheets, scented with lavender,
thrown over her arm.

"That," I said, "is a sweet honest smell."

"Well, of course," answered Madame de Gabry, "you must remember we are
peasants."

"Ah!" I answered her, "heaven grant that I also may be able one of these
days to become a peasant! Heaven grant that one of these days I may
be able, as you are at Lusance, to inhale the sweet fresh odour of the
country, and live in some little house all hidden among trees; and if
this wish of mine be too ambitious on the part of an old man whose life
is nearly closed, then I will only wish that my winding-sheet may be as
sweetly scented with lavender as that linen you have on your arm."

It was agreed that I should come to lunch the following morning. But
I was positively forbidden to show myself at the house before midday.
Jeanne, as she kissed me good-bye, begged me not to take her back to the
school any more. We felt much affected at parting, and very anxious.

I found Therese waiting for me on the landing, in such a condition of
worry about me that it had made her furious. She talked of nothing less
than keeping me under lock and key in the future.

What a night I passed! I never closed my eyes for one single instant.
From time to time I could not help laughing like a boy at the success of
my prank; and then again, an inexpressible feeling of horror would come
upon me at the thought of being dragged before some magistrate, and
having to take my place upon the prisoner's bench, to answer for the
crime which I had so naturally committed. I was very much afraid; and
nevertheless I felt no remorse or regret whatever. The sun, coming into
my room at last, merrily lighted upon the foot of my bed, and then I
made this prayer:

"My God, Thou who didst make the sky and the dew, as it is said in
'Tristan,' judge me in Thine equity, not indeed according unto my acts,
but according only to my motives, which Thou knowest have been upright
and pure; and I will say: Glory to Thee in heaven, and peace on earth to
men of good-will. I give into Thy hands the child I stole away. Do that
for her which I have not known how to do; guard for her from all her
enemies;--and blessed for ever be Thy name!"



December 29.


When I arrived at Madame de Gabry's, I found Jeanne completely
transfigured.

Had she also, like myself, at the very first light of dawn, called upon
Him who made the sky and the dew? She smiled with such a sweet calm
smile!

Madame de Gabry called her away to arrange her hair for the amiable lady
had insisted upon combing and plaiting, with her own hands, the hair of
the child confided to her care. As I had come a little before the
hour agreed upon, I had interrupted this charming toilet. By way of
punishment I was told to go and wait in the parlour all by myself.
Monsieur de Gabry joined me there in a little while. He had evidently
just come in, for I could see on his forehead the mark left my
the lining of his hat. His frank face wore an expression of joyful
excitement. I thought I had better not ask him any questions; and we all
went to lunch. When the servants had finished waiting at table, Monsieur
Paul, who had been keeping his good story for the dessert, said to us,

"Well! I went to Levallois."

"Did you see Maitre Mouche?" excitedly inquired Madame de Gabry.

"No," he replied, curiously watching the expression of disappointment
upon our faces.

After having amused himself with our anxiety for a reasonable time, the
good fellow added:

"Maitre Mouche is no longer at Levallois. Maitre Mouche has gone away
from France. The day after to-morrow will make just eight days since
he decamped, taking with him all the money of his clients--a tolerably
large sum. I found the office closed. A woman who lived close by told
me all about it with an abundance of curses and imprecations. The
notary did not take the 7:55 train all by himself; he took with him the
daughter of the hairdresser of Levallois, a young person quite famous in
that part of the country for her beauty and her accomplishments;--they
say she could shave better than her father. Well, anyhow Mouche has run
away with her; the Commissaire de Police confirmed the fact for me. Now,
really, could it have been possible for Maitre Mouche to have left the
country at a more opportune moment? If he had only deferred his escapade
one week longer, he would have been still the representative of society,
and would have had you dragged off to gaol, Monsieur Bonnard, like a
criminal. At present we have nothing whatever to fear from him. Here is
to the health of Maitre Mouche!" he cried, pouring out a glass of white
wine.

I would like to live a long time if it were only to remember that
delightful morning. We four were all assembled in the big white
dining-room around the waxed oak table. Monsieur Paul's mirth was'
of the hearty kind,--even perhaps a little riotous; and the good man
quaffed deeply. Madame de Gabry smiled at me, with a smile so sweet, so
perfect, and so noble, that I thought such a woman ought to keep smiles
like that simply as a reward for good actions, and thus make everybody
who knew her do all the good of which they were capable. Then, to reward
us for our pains, Jeanne, who had regained something of her former
vivacity, asked us in less than a quarter of an hour one dozen
questions, to answer which would have required an exhaustive exposition
on the nature of man, the nature of the universe, the science of physics
and of metaphysics, the Macrocosm and the Microcosm--not to speak of the
Ineffable and the Unknowable. Then she drew out of her pocket her little
Saint-George, who had suffered most cruelly during our flight. His legs
and arms were gone; but he still had his gold helmet with the green
dragon on it. Jeanne solemnly pledged herself to make a restoration of
him in honour of Madame de Gabry.

Delightful friends! I left them at last overwhelmed with fatigue and
joy.


On re-entering my lodgings I had to endure the very sharpest
remonstrances from Therese, who said she had given up trying to
understand my new way of living. In her opinion Monsieur had really lost
his mind.

"Yes, Therese, I am a mad old man and you are a mad old woman. That
is certain! May the good God bless us both, Therese, and give us new
strength; for we now have new duties to perform, but let me lie down
upon the sofa; for I really cannot keep myself on my feet any longer."



January 15, 186-.


"Good-morning, Monsieur," said Jeanne, letting herself in; while Therese
remained grumbling in the corridor because she had not been able to get
to the door in time.

"Mademoiselle, I beg you will be kind enough to address me very solemnly
by my title, and to say to me, 'Good-morning, my guardian.'"

"Then it has all been settled? Oh, how nice!" cried the child, clapping
her hands.

"It has all been arranged, Mademoiselle, in the Salle-commune and before
the Justice of the Peace; and from to-day you are under my authority....
What are you laughing about, my ward? I see it in your eyes. You have
some crazy idea in your head this very moment--some more nonsense, eh?"

"Oh, no! Monsieur.... I mean, my guardian. I was looking at your white
hair. It curls out from under the edge of your hat like honeysuckle on a
balcony. It is very handsome, and I like it very much!"

"Be good enough to sit down, my ward, and, if you can possibly help it,
stop saying ridiculous things, because I have some very serious things
to say to you. Listen. I suppose you are not going to insist upon being
sent back to the establishment of Mademoiselle Prefere?... No. Well,
then, what would you say if I should take you here to live with me,
and to finish your education, and keep you here until... what shall I
say?--for ever, as the song has it?"

"Oh, Monsieur!" she cried, flushing crimson with pleasure.

I continued,

"Behind there we have a nice little room, which my housekeeper has
cleaned up and furnished for you. You are going to take the place of the
books which used to be in it; you will succeed them as the day succeeds
night. Go with Therese and look at it, and see if you think you will be
able to live in it. Madame de Gabry and I have made up our minds that
you can sleep there to-night."

She had already started to run; I called her back for a moment.

"Jeanne, listen to me a moment longer! You have always until now made
yourself a favourite with my housekeeper, who, like all very old people,
is apt to be cross at times. Be gentle and forebearing. Make every
allowance for her. I have thought it my duty to make every allowance for
her myself, and to put up with all her fits of impatience. Now, let me
tell you, Jeanne:--Respect her! And when I say that, I do not forget
that she is my servant and yours; neither will she ever allow herself
to forget it for a moment. But what I want you to respect in her is her
great age and her great heart. She is a humble woman who has lived a
very, very long time in the habit of doing good; and she has become
hardened and stiffened in that habit. Bear patiently with the harsh ways
of that upright soul. If you know how to command, she will know how to
obey. Go now, my child; arrange your room in whatever way may seem to
you best suited for your studies and for your repose."

Having started Jeanne, with this viaticum, upon her domestic career, I
began to read a Review, which, although conducted by very young men,
is excellent. The tone of it is somewhat unpolished, but the spirit
is zealous. The article I read was certainly far superior, in point of
precision and positiveness, to anything of the sort ever written when I
was a young man. The author of the article, Monsieur Paul Meyer, points
out every error with a remarkably lucid power of incisive criticism.

We used not in my time to criticise with such strict justice. Our
indulgence was vast. It went even so far as to confuse the scholar and
the ignoramus in the same burst of praise. And nevertheless one must
learn how to find fault; and it is even an imperative duty to blame when
the blame is deserved.

I remember little Raymond (that was the name we gave him); he did not
know anything, and his mind was not a mind capable of absorbing any
solid learning; but he was very fond of his mother. We took very good
care never to utter a hint of the ignorance of so perfect a son; and,
thanks, to our forbearance, little Raymond made his way to the highest
positions. He had lost his mother then; but honours of all kinds were
showered upon him. He became omnipotent--to the grievous injury of
his colleagues and of science.... But here comes my young fiend of the
Luxembourg.

"Good-evening, Gelis. You look very happy to-day. What good fortune has
come to you, my dear lad?"

His good fortune is that he has been able to sustain his thesis very
credibly, and that he has taken high rank in his class. He tells me
this with the additional information that my own words, which were
incidentally referred to in the course of the examination, had been
spoken of by the college professors in terms of the most unqualified
praise.

"That is very nice," I replied; "and it makes me very happy, Gelis, to
find my old reputation thus associated with your own youthful honours.
I was very much interested, you know, in that thesis of yours;--but some
domestic arrangements have been keeping me so busy lately that I quite
forgot this was the day on which you were to sustain it."

Mademoiselle Jeanne made her appearance very opportunely, as if in order
to suggest to him something about the nature of those very domestic
arrangements. The giddy girl burst into the City of Books like a fresh
breeze, crying at the top of her voice that her room was a perfect
little wonder; then she became very red indeed on seeing Monsieur Gelis
there. But none of us can escape our destiny.

Monsieur Gelis asked her how she was with the tone of a young fellow who
resumes upon a previous acquaintance, and who proposes to put himself
forward as an old friend. Oh, never fear!--she had not forgotten him
at all; that was very evident from the fact that then and there, right
under my nose, they resumed their last year's conversation on the
subject of the "Venetian blond"! They continued the discussion after
quite an animated fashion. I began to ask myself what right I had to be
in the room at all. The only thing I could do in order to make myself
heard was to cough. As for getting in a word, they never even gave me a
chance. Gelis discoursed enthusiastically, not only about the Venetian
colourists, but also upon all other matters relating to nature or
to mankind. And Jeanne kept answering him, "Yes, Monsieur, you are
right.".... "That is just what I supposed, Monsieur.".... "Monsieur,
you express so beautifully just what I feel."... "I am going to think a
great deal about what you have just told me, Monsieur."

When I speak, Mademoiselle never answers me in that tone. It is
only with the very tip of her tongue that she will even taste any
intellectual food which I set before her. Usually she will not touch
it at all. But Monsieur Gelis seems to be in her opinion the supreme
authority upon all subjects. It was always, "Oh, yes!"--"Oh, of
course!"--to all his empty chatter. And, then, the eyes of Jeanne! I
had never seen them look so large before; I had never before observed in
them such fixity of expression; but her gaze otherwise remained what it
always is--artless, frank, and brave. Gelis evidently pleased her; she
like Gelis, and her eyes betrayed the fact. They would have published it
to the entire universe! All very fine, Master Bonnard!--you have been so
deeply interested in observing your ward, that you have been forgetting
you are her guardian! You began only this morning to exercise that
function; and you can already see that it involves some very delicate
and difficult duties. Bonnard, you must really try to devise some means
of keeping that young man away from her; you really ought.... Eh! how am
I to know what I am to do?...

I have picked up a book at random from the nearest shelf; I open it, and
I enter respectfully into the middle of a drama of Sophocles. The older
I grow, the more I learn to love the two civilisations of the antique
world; and now I always keep the poets of Italy and of Greece on a shelf
within easy reach of my arm in the City of Books.

Monsieur and Mademoiselle finally condescend to take some notice of me,
now that I seem too busy to take any notice of them. I really think that
Mademoiselle Jeanne has even asked me what I am reading. No, indeed, I
will not tell her what it is. What I am reading, between ourselves,
is the change of that smooth and luminous Chorus which rolls out its
magnificent tunefulness through a scene of passionate violence--the
Chorus of the Old Men of Thebes--'Erws avixate...' "Invincible Love,
O thou who descendest upon rich houses,--Thou who dost rest upon the
delicate cheek of the maiden,--Thou who dost traverse all seas,--surely
none among the Immortals can escape Thee, nor indeed any among men who
live but for a little space; and he who is possessed by Thee, there is a
madness upon him." And when I had re-read that delicious chant, the
face of Antigone appeared before me in all its passionless purity. What
images! Gods and goddesses who hover in the highest heights of Heaven!
The blind old man, the long-wandering beggar-king, led by Antigone, has
now been buried with holy rites; and his daughter, fair as the fairest
dream ever conceived by human soul, resists the will of the tyrant and
gives pious sepulture to her brother. She loves the son of the tyrant,
and that son loves her also. And as she goes on her way to execution,
the victim of her own sweet piety, the old men sing, "Invincible Love,
O Thou who dost descend upon rich houses,--Thou who dost rest upon the
delicate cheek of the maiden."...

"Mademoiselle Jeanne, are you really very anxious to know what I am
reading? I am reading, Mademoiselle--I am reading that Antigone, having
buried the blind old man, wove a fair tapestry embroidered with images
in the likeness of laughing faces."

"Ah!" said Gelis, as he burs out laughing "that is not in the text."

"It is a scholium," I said.

"Unpublished," he added, getting up.


I am not an egotist. But I am prudent. I have to bring up this child;
she is much too young to be married now. No! I am not an egotist, but
I must certainly keep her with me for a few years more--keep her alone
with me. She can surely wait until I am dead! Fear not, Antigone, old
Oedipus will find holy burial soon enough.

In the meanwhile, Antigone is helping our housekeeper to scrape the
carrots. She says she like to do it--that it is in her line, being
related to the art of sculpture.



May.


Who would recognise the City of Books now? There are flowers
everywhere--even upon all the articles of furniture. Jeanne was right:
those roses do look very nice in that blue china vase. She goes to
market every day with Therese, under the pretext of helping the old
servant to make her purchases, but she never brings anything back with
her except flowers. Flowers are really very charming creatures. And one
of these days, I must certainly carry out my plan, and devote myself to
the study of them, in their own natural domain, in the country--with all
the science and earnestness which I possess.

For what have I to do here? Why should I burn my eyes out over these old
parchments which cannot now tell me anything worth knowing? I used to
study them, these old texts, with the most ardent enjoyment. What was
it which I was then so anxious to find in them? The date of a pious
foundation--the name of some monkish imagier or copyist--the price of
a loaf, of an ox, or of a field--some judicial or administrative
enactment--all that, and yet something more, a Something vaguely
mysterious and sublime which excited my enthusiasm. But for sixty years
I have been searching in vain for that Something. Better men than I--the
masters, the truly great, the Fauriels, the Thierrys, who found so many
things--died at their task without having been able, any more than I
have been, to find that Something which, being incorporeal, has no name,
and without which, nevertheless, no great mental work would ever be
undertaken in this world. And now that I am only looking for what I
should certainly be able to find, I cannot find anything at all; and
it is probable that I shall never be able to finish the history of the
Abbots of Saint-Germain-des-Pres.

"Guardian, just guess what I have in my handkerchief."

"Judging from appearances, Jeanne, I should say flowers."

"Oh, no--not flowers. Look!"

I look, and I see a little grey head poking itself out of the
handkerchief. It is the head of a little grey cat. The handkerchief
opens; the animal leaps down upon the carpet, shakes itself, pricks up
first one ear and then the other, and begins to examine with due caution
the locality and the inhabitants thereof.

Therese, out of breath, with her basket on her arm, suddenly makes her
appearance in time to take an objective part in this examination, which
does not appear to result altogether in her favour; for the young cat
moves slowly away from her, without, however, venturing near my legs, or
approaching Jeanne, who displays extraordinary volubility in the use of
caressing appellations. Therese, whose chief fault is her inability
to hide her feelings, thereupon vehemently reproaches Mademoiselle for
bringing home a cat that she did not know anything about. Jeanne, in
order to justify herself, tells the whole story. While she was passing
with Therese before a chemist's shop, she saw the assistant kick a
little cat into the street. The cat, astonished and frightened, seemed
to be asking itself whether to remain in the street where it was being
terrified and knocked about by the people passing by, or whether to go
back into the chemist's even at the risk of being kicked out a second
time. Jeanne thought it was in a very critical position, and understood
its hesitation. It looked so stupid; and she knew it looked stupid only
because it could not decide what to do. So she took it up in her arms.
And as it had not been able to obtain any rest either indoors out
out-of-doors, it allowed her to hold it. Then she stroked and petted it
to keep it from being afraid, and boldly went to the chemist's assistant
and said,

"If you don't like that animal, you mustn't beat it; you must give it to
me."

"Take it," said the assistant.

... "Now there!" adds Jeanne, by way of conclusion; and then she changes
her voice again to a flute-tone in order to say all kinds of sweet
things to the cat.

"He is horribly thin," I observe, looking at the wretched
animal;--"moreover, he is horribly ugly." Jeanne thinks he is not ugly
at all, but she acknowledges that he looks even more stupid than he
looked at first: this time she thinks it not indecision, but surprise,
which gives that unfortunate aspect to his countenance. She asks us to
imagine ourselves in his place;--then we are obliged to acknowledge that
he cannot possibly understand what has happened to him. And then we all
burst out laughing in the face of the poor little beast, which maintains
the most comical look of gravity. Jeanne wants to take him up; but he
hides himself under the table, and cannot even be tempted to come out by
the lure of a saucer of milk.

We all turn our backs and promise not to look; when we inspect the
saucer again, we find it empty.

"Jeanne," I observe, "your protege has a decidedly tristful aspect of
countenance; he is of sly and suspicious disposition; I trust he is not
going to commit in the City of Books any such misdemeanours as might
render it necessary for us to send him back to his chemist's shop. In
the meantime we must give him a name. Suppose we call him 'Don Gris
de Gouttiere'; but perhaps that is too long. 'Pill,' 'Drug,' or
'Castor-oil' would be short enough, and would further serve to recall
his early condition in life. What do you think about it?

"'Pill' would not sound bad," answers Jeanne, "but it would be very
unkind to give him a name which would be always reminding him of the
misery from which we saved him. It would be making him pay too dearly
for our hospitality. Let us be more generous, and give him a pretty
name, in hopes that he is going to deserve it. See how he looks at us!
He knows that we are talking about him. And now that he is no longer
unhappy, he is beginning to look a great deal less stupid. I am not
joking! Unhappiness does make people look stupid,--I am perfectly sure
it does."

"Well, Jeanne, if you like, we will call your protege Hannibal. The
appropriateness of that name does not seem to strike you at once. But
the Angora cat who preceded him here as an intimate of the City of
Books, and to whom I was in the habit of telling all my secrets--for he
was a very wise and discreet person--used to be called Hamilcar. It is
natural that this name should beget the other, and that Hannibal should
succeed Hamilcar."

We all agreed upon this point.

"Hannibal!" cried Jeanne, "come here!"

Hannibal, greatly frightened by the strange sonority of his own name,
ran to hid himself under a bookcase in an orifice so small that a rat
could not have squeezed himself into it.

A nice way of doing credit to so great a name!


I was in a good humour for working that day, and I had just dipped the
nib of my pen into the ink-bottle when I heard some one ring. Should any
one ever read these pages written by an unimaginative old man, he
will be sure to laugh at the way that bell keeps ringing through my
narrative, without ever announcing the arrival of a new personage or
introducing any unexpected incident. On the stage things are managed
on the reverse principle. Monsieur Scribe never has the curtain raised
without good reason, and for the greater enjoyment of ladies and young
misses. That is art! I would rather hang myself than write a play,--not
that I despise life, but because I should never be able to invent
anything amusing. Invent! In order to do that one must have received
the gift of inspiration. It would be a very unfortunate thing for me
to possess such a gift. Suppose I were to invent some monkling in my
history of the Abbey of Saint-Germain-des-Pres! What would our young
erudites say? What a scandal for the School! As for the Institute, it
would say nothing and probably not even think about the matter either.
Even if my colleagues still write a little sometimes, they never read.
They are of the opinion of Parny, who said,

     "Une paisible indifference
      Est la plus sage des vertus."
     ["The most wise of the virtues is a calm indifference."]

To be the least wise in order to become the most wise--this is precisely
what those Buddhists are aiming at without knowing it. If there is any
wiser wisdom than that I will go to Rome to report upon it.... And all
this because Monsieur Gelis happened to ring the bell!

This young man has latterly changed his manner completely with Jeanne.
He is now quite as serious as he used to be frivolous, and quite as
silent as he used to be chatty. And Jeanne follows his example. We have
reached the phase of passionate love under constraint. For, old as I
am, I cannot be deceived about it: these two children are violently
and sincerely in love with each other. Jeanne now avoids him--she hides
herself in her room when he comes into the library--but how well she
knows how to reach him when she is alone! alone at her piano! Every
evening she talks to him through the music she plays with a rich thrill
of passional feeling which is the new utterance of her new soul.

Well, why should I not confess it? Why should I not avow my weakness?
Surely my egotism would not become any less blameworthy by keeping it
hidden from myself? So I will write it. Yes! I was hoping for something
else;--yes! I thought I was going to keep her all to myself, as my own
child, as my own daughter--not always, of course, not even perhaps for
very long, but just for a few short years more. I am so old! Could she
not wait? And, who knows? With the help of the gout, I would not have
imposed upon her patience too much. That was my wish; that was my hope.
I had made my plans--I had not reckoned upon the coming of this wild
young man. But the mistake is none the less cruel because my reckoning
happened to be wrong. And yet it seems to me that you are condemning
yourself very rashly, friend Sylvestre Bonnard: if you did want to keep
this young girl a few years longer, it was quite as much in her own
interest as in yours. She has a great deal to learn yet, and you are
not a master to be despised. When that miserable notary Mouche--who
subsequently committed his rascalities at so opportune a moment--paid
you the honour of a visit, you explained to him your ideas of education
with all the fervour of high enthusiasm. Then you attempted to put that
system of yours into practice;--Jeanne is certainly an ungrateful girl,
and Gelis a much too seductive young man!

But still,--unless I put him out of the house, which would be a
detestably ill-mannered and ill-natured thing to do,--I must continue to
receive him. He has been waiting ever so long in my little parlour, in
front of those Sevres vases with which King Louis Philippe so graciously
presented me. The Moissonneurs and the Pecheurs of Leopold Robert are
painted upon those porcelain vases, which Gelis nevertheless dares to
call frightfully ugly, with the warm approval of Jeanne, whom he has
absolutely bewitched.

"My dear lad, excuse me for having kept you waiting so long. I had a
little bit of work to finish."

I am telling the truth. Meditation is work, but of course Gelis does not
know what I mean; he thinks I am referring to something archaeological,
and, his question in regard to the health of Mademoiselle Jeanne having
been answered by a "Very well indeed," uttered in that extremely dry
tone which reveals my moral authority as guardian, we begin to
converse about historical subjects. We first enter upon generalities.
Generalities are sometimes extremely serviceable. I try to inculcate
into Monsieur Gelis some respect for that generation of historians to
which I belong. I say to him,

"History, which was formerly an art, and which afforded place for the
fullest exercise of the imagination, has in our time become a science,
the study of which demands absolute exactness of knowledge."

Gelis asks leave to differ from me on this subject. He tells me he does
not believe that history is a science, or that it could possibly ever
become a science.

"In the first place," he says to me, "what is history? The written
representation of past events. But what is an event? Is it merely
a commonplace fact? It is any fact? No! You say yourself it is a
noteworthy fact. Now, how is the historian to tell whether a fact is
noteworthy or not? He judges it arbitrarily, according to his tastes and
his caprices and his ideas--in short, as an artist? For facts cannot by
reason of their own intrinsic character be divided into historical facts
and non-historical facts. But any fact is something exceedingly complex.
Will the historian represent facts in all their complexity? No, that is
impossible. Then he will represent them stripped of the greater part
of the peculiarities which constituted them, and consequently
lopped, mutilated, different from what they really were. As for the
inter-relation of facts, needless to speak of it! If a so-called
historical fact be brought into notice--as is very possible--by one or
more facts which are not historical at all, and are for that very reason
unknown, how is the historian going to establish the relation of
these facts one to another? And in saying this, Monsieur Bonnard, I am
supposing that the historian has positive evidence before him, whereas
in reality he feels confidence only in such or such a witness for
sympathetic reasons. History is not a science; it is an art, and one
can succeed in that art only through the exercise of his faculty of
imagination."

Monsieur Gelis reminds me very much at this moment of a certain
young fool whom I heard talking wildly one day in the garden of the
Luxembourg, under the statue of Marguerite of Navarre. But at another
turn of the conversation we find ourselves face to face with Walter
Scott, whose work my disdainful young friend pleases to term "rococo,
troubadourish, and only fit to inspire somebody engaged in making
designs for cheap bronze clocks." Those are his very words!

"Why!" I exclaim, zealous to defend the magnificent creator of 'The
Bride of Lammermoor' and 'The Fair Maid of Perth,' "the whole past lives
in those admirable novels of his;--that is history, that is epic!"

"It is frippery," Gelis answers me.

And,--will you believe it?--this crazy boy actually tells me that no
matter how learned one may be, one cannot possibly know just how men
used to live five or ten centuries ago, because it is only with the very
greatest difficulty that one can picture them to oneself even as they
were only ten or fifteen years ago. In his opinion, the historical poem,
the historical novel, the historical painting, are all, according to
their kind, abominably false as branches of art.

"In all the arts," he adds, "the artist can only reflect his own
soul. His work, no matter how it may be dressed up, is of necessity
contemporary with himself, being the reflection of his own mind. What do
we admire in the 'Divine Comedy' unless it be the great soul of Dante?
And the marbles of Michael Angelo, what do they represent to us that
is at all extraordinary unless it be Michael Angelo himself? The artist
either communicates his own life to his creations, or else merely
whittles out puppets and dresses up dolls."

What a torrent of paradoxes and irreverences! But boldness in a young
man is not displeasing to me. Gelis gets up from his chair and sits
down again. I know perfectly well what is worrying him, and whom he is
waiting for. And now he begins to talk to me about his being able to
make fifteen hundred francs a year, to which he can add the revenue
he derives from a little property that he has inherited--two thousand
francs a year more. And I am not in the least deceived as to the purpose
of these confidences on his part. I know perfectly well that he is only
making his little financial statements in order to persuade me that
he is comfortably circumstanced, steady, fond of home, comparatively
independent--or, to put the matter in the fewest words possible, able to
marry. Quod erat demonstrandum,--as the geometricians say.

He has got up and sat down just twenty times. He now rises for the
twenty-first time; and, as he has not been able to see Jeanne, he goes
away feeling as unhappy as possible.

The moment he has gone, Jeanne comes into the City of Books, under the
pretext of looking for Hannibal. She is also quite unhappy; and her
voice becomes singularly plaintive as she calls her pet to give him some
milk. Look at that sad little face, Bonnard! Tyrant, gaze upon thy work!
Thou hast been able to keep them from seeing each other; but they have
now both of them the same expression of countenance, and thou mayest
discern from that similarity of expression that in spite of thee they
are united in thought. Cassandra, be happy! Bartholo, rejoice! This is
what it means to be a guardian! Just see her kneeling down there on the
carpet with Hannibal's head between her hands!

Yes, caress the stupid animal!--pity him!--moan over him!--we know very
well, you little rogue, the real cause of all these sighs and plaints!
Nevertheless, it makes a very pretty picture. I look at it for a long
time; then, throwing a glance around my library, I exclaim,

"Jeanne, I am tired of all those books; we must sell them."



September 20.


It is done!--they are betrothed. Gelis, who is an orphan, as Jeanne is,
did not make his proposal to me in person. He got one of his professors,
an old colleague of mine, highly esteemed for his learning and
character, to come to me on his behalf. But what a love messenger! Great
Heavens! A bear--neat a bear of the Pyrenees, but a literary bear, and
this latter variety of bear is much more ferocious than the former.

"Right or wrong (in my opinion wrong) Gelis says that he does not want
any dowry; he takes your ward with nothing but her chemise. Say yes,
and the thing is settled! Make haste about it! I want to show you two
or three very curious old tokens from Lorraine which I am sure you never
saw before."

That is literally what he said to me. I answered him that I would
consult Jeanne, and I found no small pleasure in telling him that my
ward had a dowry.

Her dowry--there it is in front of me! It is my library. Henri and
Jeanne have not even the faintest suspicion about it; and the fact is I
am commonly believed to be much richer than I am. I have the face of
an old miser. It is certainly a lying face; but its untruthfulness has
often won for me a great deal of consideration. There is nobody so much
respected in this world as a stingy rich man.

I have consulted Jeanne,--but what was the need of listening for her
answer? It is done! They are betrothed.

It would ill become my character as well as my face to watch these young
people any longer for the mere purpose of noting down their words and
gestures. Noli me tangere:--that is the maxim for all charming love
affairs. I know my duty. It is to respect all the little secrets of that
innocent soul intrusted to me. Let these children love each other
all they can! Never a word of their fervent outpouring of mutual
confidences, never a hint of their artless self-betrayals, will be set
down in this diary by the old guardian whose authority was so gentle and
so brief.

At all events, I am not going to remain with my arms folded; and if they
have their business to attend to, I have mine also. I am preparing a
catalogue of my books, with a view to having them all sold at auction.
It is a task which saddens and amuses me at the same time. I linger over
it, perhaps a good deal longer than I ought to do; turning the leaves
of all those works which have become so familiar to my thought, to my
touch, to my sight--even out of all necessity and reason. But it is
a farewell; and it has ever been in the nature of man to prolong a
farewell.

This ponderous volume here, which has served me so much for thirty long
years, how can I leave it without according it every kindness that
a faithful servant deserves? And this one again, which has so often
consoled me by its wholesome doctrines, must I not bow down before it
for the last time, as to a Master? But each time that I meet with a
volume which led me into error, which ever afflicted me with false
dates, omissions, lies, and other plagues of the archaeologist, I say to
it with bitter joy: "Go! imposter, traitor, false-witness! flee thou far
away from me for ever;--vade retro! all absurdly covered with gold
as thou art! and I pray it may befall thee--thanks to thy usurped
reputation and thy comely morocco attire--to take thy place in the
cabinet of some banker-bibliomaniac, whom thou wilt never be able to
seduce as thou has seduced me, because he will never read one single
line of thee."

I laid aside some books I must always keep--those books which were given
to me as souvenirs. As I placed among them the manuscript of the
"Golden Legend," I could not but kiss it in memory of Madame Trepof,
who remained grateful to me in spite of her high position and all her
wealth, and who became my benefactress merely to prove to me that she
felt I had once done her a kindness.... Thus I had made a reserve. It
was then that, for the first time, I felt myself inclined to commit
a deliberate crime. All through that night I was strongly tempted; by
morning the temptation had become irresistible. Everybody else in the
house was still asleep. I got out of bed and stole softly from my room.

Ye powers of darkness! ye phantoms of the night! if while lingering
within my home after the crowing of the cock, you saw me stealing about
on tiptoe in the City of Books, you certainly never cried out, as Madame
Trepof did at Naples, "That old man has a good-natured round back!" I
entered the library; Hannibal, with his tail perpendicularly erected,
came to rub himself against my legs and purr. I seized a volume from
its shelf, some venerable Gothic text or some noble poet of the
Renaissance--the jewel, the treasure which I had been dreaming about
all night, I seized it and slipped it away into the very bottom of the
closet which I had reserved for those books I intended to retain, and
which soon became full almost to bursting. It is horrible to relate:
I was stealing from the dowry of Jeanne! And when the crime had been
consummated I set myself again sturdily to the task of cataloguing,
until Jeanne came to consult me in regard to something about a dress or
a trousseau. I could not possibly understand just what she was
talking about, through my total ignorance of the current vocabulary of
dress-making and linen-drapery. Ah! if a bride of the fourteenth century
had come to talk to me about the apparel of her epoch, then, indeed, I
should have been able to understand her language! But Jeanne does not
belong to my time, and I have to send her to Madame de Gabry, who on
this important occasion will take the place of her mother.

... Night has come! Leaning from the window, we gaze at the vast sombre
stretch of the city below us, pierced with multitudinous points of
light. Jeanne presses her hand to her forehead as she leans upon the
window-bar, and seems a little sad. And I say to myself as I watch her:
All changes even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we
leave behind us is a part of ourselves: we must die to one life before
we can enter into another!

And as if answering my thought, the young girl murmurs to me,

"My guardian, I am so happy; and still I feel as if I wanted to cry!"



The Last Page



August 21, 1869.

Page eighty-seven.... Only twenty lines more and I shall have finished
my book about insects and flowers. Page eighty-seventh and last.... "As
we have already seen, the visits of insects are of the utmost importance
to plants; since their duty is to carry to the pistils the pollen of
the stamens. It seems also that the flower itself is arranged and made
attractive for the purpose of inviting this nuptial visit. I think I
have been able to show that the nectary of the plant distils a sugary
liquid which attracts the insects and obliges it to aid unconsciously
in the work of direct or cross fertilisation. The last method of
fertilisation is the more common. I have shown that flowers are coloured
and perfumed so as to attract insects, and interiorly so constructed as
to offer those visitors such a mode of access that they cannot penetrate
into the corolla without depositing upon the stigma the pollen with
which they have been covered. My most venerated master Sprengel
observes in regard to that fine down which lines the corolla of the
wood-geranium: 'The wise Author of Nature has never created a single
useless hair!' I say in my turn: If that Lily of the Valley whereof the
Gospel makes mention is more richly clad than King Solomon in all his
glory, its mantle of purple is a wedding-garment, and that rich apparel
is necessary to the perpetuation of the species."

"Brolles, August 21, 1869."

[Monsieur Sylvestre Bonnard was not aware that several very illustrious
naturalists were making researches at the same time as he in regard to
the relation between insects and plants. He was not acquainted with
the labours of Darwin, with those of Dr. Hermann Muller, nor with
the observations of Sir John Lubbock. It is worthy of note that the
conclusions of Monsieur Sylvestre Bonnard are very nearly similar to
those reached by the three scientists above mentioned. Less important,
but perhaps equally interesting, is the fact that Sir John Lubbock is,
like Monsieur Bonnard, an archaeologist who began to devote himself only
late in life to the natural sciences.--Note by the French Editor.]

Brolles! My house is the last one you pass in the single street of the
village, as you go to the woods. It is a gabled house with a slate roof,
which takes iridescent tints in the sun like a pigeon's breast. The
weather-vane above that roof has won more consideration for me among the
country people than all my works upon history and philology. There is
not a single child who does not know Monsieur Bonnard's weather-vane. It
is rusty, and squeaks very sharply in the wind. Sometimes it refuses
to do any work at all--just like Therese, who now allows herself to be
assisted by a young peasant girl--though she grumbles a good deal about
it. The house is not large, but I am very comfortable in it. My room
has two windows, and gets the sun in the morning. The children's room is
upstairs. Jeanne and Henri come twice a year to occupy it.

Little Sylvestre's cradle used to be in it. He was a very pretty child,
but very pale. When he used to play on the grass, his mother would watch
him very anxiously; and every little while she would stop her sewing in
order to take him upon her lap. The poor little fellow never wanted to
go to sleep. He used to say that when he was asleep he would go away,
very far away, to some place where it was all dark, and where he saw
things that made him afraid--things he never wanted to see again.

Then his mother would call me, and I would sit down beside his cradle.
He would take one of my fingers in his little dry warm hand, and say to
me,

"Godfather, you must tell me a story."

Then I would tell him all kinds of stories, which he would listen to
very seriously. They all interested him, but there was one especially
which filled his little soul with delight. It was "The Blue Bird."
Whenever I finished that, he would say to me, "Tell it again! tell it
again!" And I would tell it again until his little pale blue-veined head
sank back upon the pillow in slumber.

The doctor used to answer all our questions by saying,

"There is nothing extraordinary the matter with him!"

No! There was nothing extraordinary the matter with little Sylvestre.
One evening last year his father called me.

"Come," he said, "the little one is still worse."

I approached the cradle over which the mother hung motionless, as if
tied down above it by all the powers of her soul.

Little Sylvestre turned his eyes towards me; their pupils had already
rolled up beneath his eyelids, and could not descend again.

"Godfather," he said, "you are not to tell me any more stories."

No, I was not to tell him any more stories!

Poor Jeanne!--poor mother!

I am too old now to feel very deeply; but how strangely painful a
mystery is the death of a child!


To-day, the father and mother have come to pass six weeks under the old
man's roof. I see them now returning from the woods, walking arm-in-arm.
Jeanne is closely wrapped in her black shawl, and Henri wears a crape
band on his straw hat; but they are both of them radiant with youth,
and they smile very sweetly at each other. They smile at the earth which
sustains them; they smile at the air which bathes them; they smile at
the light which each one sees in the eyes of the other. From my window I
wave my handkerchief at them,--and they smile at my old age.

Jeanne comes running lightly up the stairs; she kisses me, and then
whispers in my ear something which I divine rather than hear. And I make
answer to her: "May God's blessing be with you, Jeanne, and with your
husband, and with your children, and with your children's children for
ever!"... Et nunc dimittis servum tuum, Domine!





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