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Title: Afloat - (Sur l'eau)
Author: Maupassant, Guy de
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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GUY DE MAUPASSANT

AFLOAT

(SUR L'EAU)

WITH ILLUSTRATIONS BY RIOU

_TRANSLATED BY LAURA ENSOR_

LONDON

GEORGE ROUTLEDGE AND SONS

BROADWAY, LUDGATE HILL

GLASGOW, MANCHESTER, AND NEW YORK

1889



_This Diary contains no story and no very
thrilling adventure. While cruising about on
the coasts of the Mediterranean last Spring,
I amused myself by writing down every day
what I saw and what I thought._

_I saw but the water, the sun, clouds and
rocks,--I can tell of nought else,--and my
thoughts were mere nothings, such as are suggested
by the rocking of the waves, lulling
and bearing one along._



AFLOAT



[Illustration]



_April 6th._


I was sound asleep when my skipper Bernard awoke me by throwing up sand
at my window. I opened it, and on my face, on my chest, in my very
soul, I felt the cold delicious breath of the night. The sky was a
clear blue gray, and alive with the quivering fire of the stars.

The sailor, standing at the foot of the wall, said:

"Fine weather, sir."

"What wind?"

"Off shore."

"Very well, I'm coming."

Half-an-hour later I was hurrying down to the shore. The horizon was
pale with the first rays of dawn, and I saw in the distance behind the
bay _des Anges_ the lights at Nice, and still further on the revolving
lighthouse at Villefranche.

In front of me Antibes was dimly visible through the lifting darkness,
with its two towers rising above the cone-shaped town, surrounded by
the old walls built by Vauban.

In the streets were a few dogs and a few men, workmen starting off to
their daily labour. In the port, nothing but the gentle swaying of the
boats at the side of the quay, and the soft plashing of the scarcely
moving water could be heard; or at times the sound of the straining of
a cable or of a boat grazing against the hull of a vessel. The boats,
the flagstones, the sea itself seemed asleep under the gold-spangled
firmament, and under the eye of a small lighthouse which, standing out
at the end of the jetty, kept watch over its little harbour.

Beyond, in front of Ardouin's building yard, I saw a glimmer, I felt a
stir, I heard voices. They were expecting me. The _Bel-Ami_ was ready
to start.

I went down into the cabin, lighted up by a couple of candles hanging
and balanced like compasses, at the foot of the sofas which at night
were used as beds, I donned the leathern sailor's jacket, put on a warm
cap, and returned on deck. Already the hawsers had been cast off, and
the two men hauling in the cable, had brought the anchor apeak. Then
they hoisted the big sail, which went up slowly to the monotonous
groan of blocks and rigging. It rose wide and wan in the darkness of
the night, quivering in the breath of the wind, hiding from us both sky
and stars.

The breeze was coming dry and cold from the invisible mountain that one
felt to be still laden with snow. It came very faint, as though hardly
awake, undecided and intermittent.

Then the men shipped the anchor, I seized the helm, and the boat, like
a big ghost, glided through the still waters. In order to get out of
the port, we had to tack between the sleeping tartans and schooners.
We went gently from one quay to another, dragging after us our little
round dingy, which followed us as a cygnet, just hatched from its
shell, follows the parent swan.

[Illustration]

As soon as we reached the channel between the jetty and the square fort
the yacht became livelier, quickened its pace, and seemed more alert,
as though a joyous feeling had taken possession of her. She danced
over the countless short waves,--moving furrows of a boundless plain.
Quitting the dead waters of the harbour, she now felt under her the
living sea.

There was no swell, and I directed our course between the walls of the
town and the buoy called _Cinq-cents francs_ (Twenty pounds sterling)
that marks the deeper channel; then, catching the breeze astern, I made
sail to double the headland.

The day was breaking, the stars were disappearing, for the last time
the Villefranche lighthouse closed its revolving eye, and I saw strange
roseate glimmers in the distant sky, above the still invisible Nice;
the heights of the Alpine glaciers lighted up by the early dawn. I gave
the helm over to Bernard, and watched the rising sun. The freshened
breeze sent us skimming over the quivering violet-tinted waters. A bell
clanged, throwing to the wind the three rapid strokes of the _Angelus._
How is it that the sound of bells seems livelier in the early dawn,
and heavier at nightfall? I like that chill and keen hour of morn,
when man still sleeps, and all Nature is awakening. The air is full of
mysterious thrills unknown to belated risers. I inhale, I drink it; I
see all life returning, the material life of the world; the life that
runs through all the planets, the secret of which is our eternal puzzle.

Raymond said:

"We shall soon have the wind from the east."

Bernard replied:

"More likely from the west."

[Illustration]

The skipper Bernard is lean and lithe, remarkably clean, careful and
prudent. Bearded up to his eyes, he has a frank look and a kindly
voice. He is devoted and trusty. But everything makes him anxious at
sea; a sudden swell that foretells a breeze out at sea, a long cloud
over the Esterel mountains announcing a _mistral_ to westward, even
a rising barometer, for that may indicate a squall from the east.
Moreover, a capital sailor, he exercises a constant supervision and
carries cleanliness to such an extent, as to rub up the brasses the
moment a drop of water has touched them.

[Illustration]

His brother-in-law, Raymond, is a strong fellow, swarthy and
moustached, indefatigable and bold, as loyal and devoted as the
other, but less variable and nervous, more calm, more resigned to the
surprises and treachery of the sea. Bernard, Raymond and the barometer
are sometimes in contradiction with each other, and perform an amusing
comedy with three personages, of which one, the best informed, is dumb.

"Dash it, sir, we're sailing well," said Bernard.

We had, it was true, passed through the gulf of La Salis, cleared La
Garoupe, and were approaching Cape Gros, a flat low rock stretching out
on a level with the water.

Now, the whole Alpine mountain range appeared, a monster wave
threatening the sea, a granite wave capped with snow, where each
pointed tip looks like a dash of spray motionless and frozen. And the
sun rises behind this ice, shedding over it the light of its molten
silver rays.

Then directly after, as we round the Antibes headland, we discover the
Lerins Isles, and further off behind them, the tortuous outline of the
Esterel. The Esterel is the stage scenery of Cannes, a lovely keepsake
kind of mountain of faintest blue, elegantly outlined in a coquettish
and yet artistic style, washed in water-colours on a theatrical sky by
a good-natured Creator for the express purpose of serving as model for
English lady landscape painters, and as a subject of admiration for
consumptive or idle royal highnesses.

[Illustration]

With each hour of the day, the Esterel changes its aspect, and charms
the gaze of the _upper ten._

[Illustration]

In the morning the chain of mountains, correctly and clearly cut out,
is sharply delineated on a blue sky; a tender and pure blue, the
ideal blue of a southern shore. But in the evening, the wooded sides
of the slopes darken and become a black patch on a fiery sky, on a
sky incredibly red and dramatic. Never have I seen elsewhere such
fairy-like sunsets, such conflagrations of the whole horizon, such an
effulgence of clouds, such a clever and superb arrangement, such a
daily renewal of extravagant and magnificent effects which call forth
admiration but would raise a smile were they painted by men.

The Lerins Isles, which to the east close the Gulf of Cannes and
separate it from the Gulf of Juan, look themselves like two operatic
islands placed there for the satisfaction and delight of the invalid
and winter sojourners.

Seen from the open sea, where we now are, they resemble two dark
green gardens growing in the water. Out at sea, at the extreme end
of Saint-Honorat stands a romantic ruin, its walls rising out of the
waves, quite one of Walter Scott's castles, ever beaten by the surf,
and in which, in former days, the monks defended themselves against the
Saracens; for Saint-Honorat always belonged to monks, except during the
Revolution. At that period the island was purchased by an actress of
the _Comédie-Française._

Stronghold, militant monks, now toned down into the fattest of
smilingly begging Trappists, pretty actress come thither no doubt
to conceal her love affairs in the dense thickets and pines of this
rock-belted islet; all, down to the very names; "Lerins, Saint-Honorat,
Sainte-Marguerite," fit for Florian's fables, all is pleasing,
coquettish, romantic, poetic and rather insipid on the delightful
shores of Cannes.

To correspond with the antique manor embattled, slender and erect,
which looks towards the open sea at the extremity of Saint-Honorat,
Sainte-Marguerite is terminated on the land side by the celebrated
fortress in which the Man in the Iron Mask and Bazaine were confined.
A channel about a mile long stretches out between the headland of the
Croizette and the fortress, which has the aspect of an old squat house,
devoid of anything imposing or majestic. It seems to crouch down dull
and sly, a real trap for prisoners.

I can now see the three gulfs. In front, beyond the islands, lies
that of Cannes; nearer, the Gulf Juan, and behind the bay des Anges,
overtopped by the Alps and the snowy heights. Further off, the coasts
can be seen far beyond the Italian frontier, and with my glasses I can
sight at the end of a promontory the white houses of Bordighera.

[Illustration]

And everywhere, all along the endless coast, the towns by the seashore,
the villages perched up on high on the mountain side, the innumerable
villas dotted about in the greenery, all look like white eggs laid on
the sands, laid on the rocks, laid amongst the pine forests by gigantic
birds that have come in the night from the snowlands far above.

Villas again on the Cape of Antibes, a long tongue of land, a wonderful
garden thrown out between the seas, blooming with the most lovely
flowers of Europe, and at the extreme point, Eileen Rock, a charming
and whimsical residence that attracts visitors from Cannes and Nice.

The breeze has dropped, the yacht hardly makes any progress. After the
current of land wind that lasts all night, we are waiting and hoping
for a whiff of sea air, which will be most welcome, wherever it may
blow from.

Bernard still believes in a west wind, Raymond in an east one, and the
barometer remains motionless at a little above 76.

The sun now radiant, overspreads the earth, making the walls of the
houses sparkle from afar like scattered snow, and sheds over the sea a
light varnish of luminous blue.

Little by little, taking advantage of the faintest breath, of those
caresses of the air which one can hardly feel on the skin, but to which
nevertheless lively and well-trimmed yachts glide through the still
waters, we sail beyond the last point of the headland, and the whole
gulf of Juan, with the squadron in the centre of it, lies before us.

From afar, the ironclads look like rocks, islets, and reefs covered
with dead trees. The smoke of a train runs along the shore between
Cannes and Juan-les-Pins, which will perhaps become later on the
prettiest place on the whole coast.

Three tartans with their lateen sails, one red and the other two white,
are detained in the channel between Sainte-Marguerite and the mainland.

[Illustration]

All is still, the soft and warm calm of a morning's springtide in the
south; and already it seems to me as if I had left weeks ago, months
ago, years ago, the talking, busy world; I feel arise within me the
intoxication of solitude, the sweet delights of a rest that nothing
will disturb, neither the white letter, nor the blue telegram, nor the
bell at my door, nor the bark of my dog. I cannot be sent for, invited,
carried off, overwhelmed by sweet smiles, or harassed by civilities. I
am alone, really alone, really free. The smoke of the train runs along
the seaside; while I float in a winged home that is rocked and cradled;
pretty as a bird, tiny as a nest, softer than a hammock, wandering over
the waters at the caprice of the wind, independent and free! To attend
to me and sail my boat, I have two sailors at my call, and books and
provisions for a fortnight.

A whole fortnight without speaking, what joy! Overcome by the heat of
the sun I closed my eyes, enjoying the deep repose of the sea, when
Bernard said in an undertone:

"The brig over there has a good breeze."

Over there it was true, far away in front of Agay, a brig was advancing
towards us; I could distinctly see with my glasses her rounded sails
puffed out by the wind.

"Pooh, it's the breeze from Agay," answered Raymond, "it is calm round
Cape Roux."

"Talk away, we shall have a west wind," replied Bernard.

I leant over to look at the barometer in the saloon. It had fallen
during the last half hour. I told Bernard, who smiled and whispered:

"It feels like a westerly wind, sir."

And now my curiosity awakens; the curiosity special to all those
who wander over the sea, which makes them see everything, notice
everything, and take an interest in the smallest detail. My glasses no
longer leave my eyes; I look at the colour of the water on the horizon.
It remains clear, varnished, unruffled. If there is a breeze, it is
still far off.

What a personage the wind is for the sailors! They speak of it as of
a man, an all-powerful sovereign, sometimes terrible and sometimes
kindly. It is the main topic of conversation all the day through, and
it is the subject of one's incessant thoughts throughout the days and
nights. You land folk, know it not! As for us, we know it better than
our father or our mother, the invisible, the terrible, the capricious,
the sly, the treacherous, the devouring tyrant. We love it and we dread
it; we know its maliciousness and its anger, which the warnings in the
heavens or in the depths, slowly teach us to anticipate. It forces
us to think of it at every minute, at every second, for the struggle
between it and us, is indeed ceaseless. All our being is on the alert
for the battle; our eye to detect undiscernible appearances; our skin
to feel its caress or its blow, our spirit to recognize its mood,
foresee its caprices, judge whether it is calm or wayward. No enemy,
no woman gives us so powerful a sensation of struggle, nor compels
us to so much foresight, for it is the master of the sea, it is that
thing which we may avoid, make use of, or fly from, but which we can
never subdue. And there reigns in the soul of a sailor as in that of a
believer, the idea of an irascible and formidable God, the mysterious,
religious, infinite fear of the wind, and respect for its power.

"Here it comes, sir," Bernard said to me.

Far away, very far away, at the end of the horizon, a blue-black line
lengthens out on the water. It is nothing, a shade, an imperceptible
shadow; it is the wind. Now we await it motionless, under the heat of
the sun.

I look at the time, eight o'clock, and I say:

"Bless me, it is early for the westerly wind."

"It will blow hard in the afternoon," replied Bernard.

I raised my eyes to the sail, hanging flat, loose and inert. Its great
triangle seemed to reach up to the sky, for we had hoisted on the
foremast the great fine-weather gaff topsail and its yard overtopped
the mast-head by quite two yards. All is motionless, we might be on
land. The barometer is still falling. However, the dark line perceived
afar, approaches. The metallic lustre of the waters is suddenly dimmed
and transformed into a slatey shade. The sky is pure and cloudless.

[Illustration]

Suddenly, around us the polished surface of the sea is rippled by
imperceptible shivers gliding rapidly over it, appearing but to be
effaced, as though it were riddled by a rain of thousands of little
pinches of sand.

[Illustration]

The sail quivers slightly, and presently the main boom slowly lurches
over to starboard. A light breath now caresses my face, and the shivers
on the water increase around us, as though the rain of sand had become
continuous. The cutter begins to move forward. She glides on upright,
and a slight plash makes itself heard along her sides. I feel the
tiller stiffen in my hand, that long brass crossbar which looks in the
sun like a fiery stem, and the breeze steadily increases. We shall
have to tack, but what matter; the boat sails close to the wind, and if
the breeze holds, we shall be able to beat up to Saint-Raphaël before
the sun goes down.

We now approach the squadron, whose six ironclads and two despatch
boats turn slowly at their anchors, with their bows to the west. Then
we tack towards the open sea to pass the Formigues rocks, which are
marked by a tower in the middle of the gulf. The breeze freshens more
and more with surprising rapidity, and the waves rise up short and
choppy. The yacht bends low under her full set of sails, and runs on,
followed by the dingy, which with stretched-out painter is hurried
through the foam, her nose in the air and stern in the water.

On nearing the island of Saint-Honorat we pass by a naked rock, red and
bristling like a porcupine, so rugged, so armed with teeth, points, and
claws as to be well-nigh impossible of access; and one must advance
with precaution, placing one's feet in the hollows between the tusks:
it is called Saint-Ferréol.

A little earth, come from no one knows where, has accumulated in the
holes and crevasses of the rock, and lilies grow in it, and beautiful
blue irises, from seeds which seem to have fallen from heaven.

It is on this strange reef, in the open sea, that for five years lay
buried and unknown the body of Paganini. The adventure is worthy
of this artist, whose queer character, at once genial and weird,
gave him the reputation of being possessed by the devil, and who,
with his odd appearance in body and face, his marvellous talent and
excessive emaciation, has become an almost legendary being, a sort of
Hoffmanesque phantasm.

As he was on his way home to Genoa, his native town, accompanied by his
son, who alone could hear him now, so weak had his voice become, he
died at Nice of cholera, on the 27th May, 1840.

The son at once took the body of his father on board a ship and set
sail for Italy. But the Genoese clergy refused to give burial to the
demoniac. The court of Rome was consulted, but dared not grant the
authorization. The body was, however, about to be disembarked, when the
municipality made opposition, under the pretext that the artist had
died of cholera. Genoa was at that time ravaged by an epidemic of this
disease, and it was argued that the presence of this new corpse might
possibly aggravate the evil.

Paganini's son then returned to Marseilles, where entrance to the port
was refused him for the same reasons. He then went on to Cannes, where
he could not penetrate either.

He therefore remained at sea, and the waves rocked the corpse of the
fantastic artist, everywhere repelled by men. He no longer knew what
to do, where to go, on which spot to lay the dead body so sacred to
him, when he espied the naked rock of Saint-Ferréol in the midst of
the billows. There at last he landed the coffin, and buried it in the
centre of the islet.

It was only in 1845 that he went back with two of his friends to take
up the remains of his father, and transfer them to Genoa to the Villa
Gajona.

Would one not have preferred that the extraordinary violinist should
have remained at rest upon the bristling reef, cradled by the song of
the waves as they break on the torn and craggy rock.

Further on, in the open sea, rises the castle of Saint-Honorat, which
we had already perceived as we rounded the Cape of Antibes, and further
on still, a line of reefs ended by a tower called "Les Moines."

They are now quite white with surf and echoing with the roar of the
breakers.

They form one of the most dangerous perils of the coast during the
night, for they are marked by no light, and they are the cause of
frequent wrecks.

A sudden gust heels us over, so that the water washes the deck, and I
give orders for the gaff topsail to be lowered, the cutter being no
longer able to carry it without endangering the safety of the mast.

The waves sink, swell, and whiten; the wind whistles, ill-tempered and
squally,--a threatening wind, which cries "Take care!"

"We shall have to go and sleep at Cannes," said Bernard.

And in fact, at the end of half an hour, we had to lower the standing
jib, and replace it by a smaller one, taking a reef in the sail
at the same time; then a quarter of an hour later we had to take
in a second reef. Thereupon I decided to make for the harbour at
Cannes, a dangerous harbour, without shelter; a roadstead open to
the south-westerly sea, where the ships are in constant danger. When
one thinks what a considerable amount of wealth would accrue to the
town, by the large number of foreign yachts that would flock there,
were they certain of finding a proper shelter, one understands how
inveterate must be the indolence of this southern population, who have
not yet been able to obtain from government such indispensable works.
At ten o'clock we dropped anchor opposite the steamboat _Le Cannois,_
and I landed, thoroughly disappointed at the interruption of my trip.
The whole roadstead was white with foam.



CANNES, _April 7th_, 9 P.M.


Princes, Princes, everywhere Princes. They who love Princes are indeed
happy.

No sooner had I set foot yesterday morning on the promenade of the
_Croisette_ than I met three, one behind the other. In our democratic
country, Cannes has become the city of titles.

If one could open minds in the same manner as one lifts the cover off
a saucepan, one would find figures in the brain of the mathematician;
outlines of actors gesticulating and declaiming in a theatrical
author's head; the form of a woman in that of a lover's; licentious
pictures in that of a rake; verses in the brain of a poet; and in the
cranium of the folk who come to Cannes there would be found coronets
of every description, floating about like vermicelli in soup.

Some men gather together in gambling houses because they are fond of
cards, others meet on race-courses because they are fond of horses.
People gather together at Cannes because they love Imperial and Royal
Highnesses.

There they are at home and, in default of the kingdoms of which they
have been dispossessed, reign peacefully in the salons of the faithful.

Great and small, poor and rich, sad and gay, all are to be found,
according to taste. In general they are modest, strive to please,
and show in their intercourse with humbler mortals, a delicacy and
affability that is hardly ever found in our own _députés,_ those
Princes of the ballot.

However, if the Princes, the poor wandering Princes without subjects or
civil list, who come to live in homely fashion in this town of flowers
and elegance, affect simplicity, and do not lay themselves open to
ridicule, even from those most disrespectfully inclined, such is not
the case with regard to the worshippers of Highnesses.

[Illustration 011]

These latter circle round their idols with an eagerness at once
religious and comical; and directly they are deprived of one, they fly
off in quest of another, as though their mouths could only open to say
"Monseigneur" or "Madame," and speak in the third person.

They cannot be with you five minutes without telling you what the
Princess replied, what the Grand Duke said; the promenade planned
with the one, the witty saying of the other. One feels, one sees,
one guesses that they frequent no other society but that of persons
of Royal blood, and if they deign to speak to you, it is in order to
inform you exactly of what takes place on these heights.

What relentless struggles, struggles in which every possible ruse
is employed in order to have at one's table, at least once during
the season, a Prince, a real Prince, one of those at a premium. What
respect one inspires when one has met a Grand Duke at lawn tennis, or
when one has merely been presented to Wales,--as the mashers say.

To write down one's name at the door of these "exiles," as Daudet calls
them, of these tumble-down Princes, as others would say, creates a
constant, delicate, absorbing and engrossing occupation. The visitor's
book lies open in the hall between a couple of lackeys, one of whom
proffers a pen. One inscribes one's name at the tag end of some two
thousand names of every sort and description, amongst which titles
swarm and the noble particle _de_ abounds! After which, one goes off
with the haughty air of a man just ennobled, as happy as one who
has accomplished a sacred duty, and one proudly says to the first
person met: "I have just written down my name at the Grand Duke of
Gerolstein's!" Then in the evening at dinner one says, in an important
tone: "I noticed just now, on the Grand Duke of Gerolstein's list, the
names of X..., Y..., and Z..." And everyone is interested and listens
as if the event were of the greatest importance.

[Illustration 012]

But why laugh and be astonished at the harmless and innocent mania of
the elegant admirers of Princes, when we meet in Paris fifty different
races of hero-worshippers who are in no wise less amusing.

[Illustration 013]

Whoever has a salon must needs have some celebrities to show there, and
a hunt is organised in order to secure them. There is hardly a woman
in society and of the best, who is not anxious to have her artist or
her artists; and she will give dinners for them in order that the whole
world may know that her's is a clever set.

Between affecting to possess the wit one has not, but which one summons
with a flourish of trumpets, or affecting Princely intimacies--where is
the difference?

Among the great men most sought after by women, old and young, are
most assuredly musicians. Some houses possess a complete collection
of them. Moreover, these artists possess the inestimable advantage
of being useful in the evening parties. However, people who desire a
superlative _rara avis,_ can hardly hope to bring two together in the
same room. We may add that there is not a meanness of which any woman,
a leader of society, is not capable, in order to embellish her salon
with a celebrated composer. The delicate attentions usually employed to
secure a painter or only a literary man, become quite inadequate when
the subject is a tradesman of sounds. For him allurements and praise
hitherto unknown are employed. His hands are kissed like those of a
King, he is worshipped as a God, when he has deigned to execute his
_Regina Coeli._ A hair of his beard is worn in a ring; a button fallen
from his breeches one evening in a violent movement of his arm, during
the execution of the grand finale of his _Doux Repos,_ becomes a medal,
a sacred medal worn in the bosom hanging from a golden chain.

Painters are of less value, although still rather sought after. They
are not so divine and more Bohemian. Their manners are less courteous
and above all not sufficiently sublime. They often replace inspiration
by broad jests and silly puns. They carry with them too much of the
perfume of the studio, and those who by dint of watchfulness have
managed to get rid of it, only exchange one odour for another, that of
affectation. And then they are a fickle, light, and bragging set. No
one is certain of keeping them long, whereas the musician builds his
nest in the family circle.

[Illustration 014]

Of late years, the literary man has been sought after. He presents many
great advantages: he talks, he talks lengthily, he talks a great deal,
his conversation suits every kind of public, and as his profession is
to be intelligent, he can be listened to and admired in all security.

[Illustration 015]

The woman who is possessed with the mania for having at her house a
literary man, just as one would have a parrot whose chatter should
attract all the neighbouring _concierges,_ has to take her choice
between poets and novelists. There is more of the ideal about the poet,
more spontaneity about the novelist. The poets are more sentimental,
the novelists more positive. It is a matter of taste and constitution.
The poet has more charm, the novelist has often more wit. But the
novelist presents dangers that are not met with in the poet: he pries,
pillages, and makes capital of all he sees. With him there is no
tranquillity, no certainty that he will not, some day, lay you bare in
the pages of a book. His eye is like a pump that sucks up everything,
like the hand of a thief that is always at work. Nothing escapes him;
he gathers and picks up ceaselessly; he notices the movements, the
gestures, the intentions, the slightest incidents and events; he picks
up the smallest words, the smallest actions, the smallest thing. He
makes stock from morning till night of these observations out of which
he will make a good telling story, a story that will make the round of
the world, which will be read, discussed, commented upon by thousands
and thousands of people. And the most terrible part of all is that the
wretch cannot help drawing striking portraits, in spite of himself,
unconsciously, because he sees things as they are, and he must relate
what he sees. Notwithstanding the cunning he uses in disguising his
personages, it will be said: "Did you recognize Mr. X... and Mrs. Y...
They are striking resemblances?"

It is assuredly as dangerous for people in good society to invite and
make much of novelists, as it would be for a miller to breed rats in
his mill.

And yet they are held in great favour.

When, therefore, a woman has fixed her choice on the writer she
intends to adopt, she lays siege to him by means of every variety of
compliments, attractions, and indulgence. Like water which, drop by
drop, slowly wears away the hardest rock, the fulsome praise falls at
each word on the impressionable heart of the literary man. Then, when
she sees that he is moved, touched, and won by the constant flattery;
she isolates him, severing, little by little, the ties he may have
elsewhere, and imperceptibly accustoms him to come to her house, make
himself happy, and there enshrine his thoughts. In order the more
thoroughly to acclimatise him in her house, she paves the way for his
success, brings him forward, sets him in relief, and displays for him,
before all the old _habitués_ of the household, marked consideration
and boundless admiration.

At last, realising that he is now an idol, he remains in the temple.
He finds, moreover, that the position affords him every advantage,
for all the other women lavish their most delicate favours upon him
to entice him away from his conqueror. If, however, he is clever, he
will not hearken to the entreaties and coquetries with which he is
overwhelmed. And the more faithful he appears, the more he will be
sought after, implored, and loved. Ah! let him beware of allowing
these drawing-room syrens to entice him away; he will immediately lose
two-thirds of his value, if he once becomes public property.

Soon he forms a literary circle, a church of which he is the deity, the
only deity, for true faiths never have more than one God. People will
flock to the house to see him, to hear him, to admire him, as one comes
from afar to visit certain shrines. He will be envied! She will be
envied! They will converse upon literature as priests talk of dogmas,
scientifically and solemnly; they will be listened to, both the one and
the other, and on leaving this literary salon, one will feel as though
one were quitting a cathedral.

Other men are also sought after, but in a lesser degree; for instance,
generals, who, neglected by society and not held in much greater
consideration than _députés,_ are yet in demand amongst the middle
classes. The _député_ is only in request at moments of crisis. He is
kept on hand, by a dinner now and then during a parliamentary lull.
The scholar has also his partisans--every variety of taste exists in
nature; and a clerk in office is himself highly esteemed, by folk who
live up six pairs of stairs. However, these sort of people do not come
to Cannes; there are only a few timid representatives to be seen of the
middle class.

It is only before twelve o'clock that the noble visitors are to be met
on the _Croisette._

The _Croisette_ is a long semi-circular promenade that follows the line
of the beach, from the headland in front of Sainte-Marguerite down to
the harbour overlooked by the old town.

[Illustration 016]

Young and slender women,--it is good style to be thin,--dressed in
the English fashion, walk along with rapid step, escorted by active
young men in lawn-tennis suits. But from time to time appears some
poor emaciated creature, dragging himself along with languid step, and
leaning on the arm of a mother, brother or sister. He coughs and gasps,
poor thing, wrapped up in shawls notwithstanding the heat, and watches
us, as we pass, with deep, despairing and envious glances.

He suffers and dies, for this charming and balmy country is the
hospital of society and the flowery cemetery of aristocratic Europe.

The terrible disease which never relents, and is now called
tuberculosis, the disease that gnaws, burns and destroys men by
thousands, seems to have chosen this coast on which to finish off its
victims.

How truly in every part of the world, this lovely and terrible spot
must be accursed, this ante-room of Death, perfumed and sweet, where so
many humble and royal families, burghers or princes, have left someone,
some child on whom they concentrated all their hopes, and lavished all
their love and tenderness.

I call to mind Mentone, the warmest and healthiest of these winter
residences. Even as in warlike cities, the fortresses can be seen
standing out on the surrounding heights, so in this region of
moribunds, the cemetery is visible on the summit of a hill.

What a spot it would be for the living, that garden where the dead lie
asleep! Roses, roses, everywhere roses. They are blood red or pale, or
white, or streaked with veins of scarlet. The tombs, the paths, the
places still unoccupied and which to-morrow will be filled, all are
covered with them. Their strong perfume brings giddiness, making both
head and legs falter.

And all those who lie there, were but sixteen, eighteen, or twenty
years of age.

One wanders on from tomb to tomb, reading the names of those youthful
victims, killed by the implacable disease. 'Tis a children's cemetery,
a cemetery similar to the young girls' balls, where no married couples
are admitted.

From the cemetery the view extends to the left in the direction of
Italy as far as the Bordighera headland, where the white houses stretch
out into the sea; and to the right as far as Cape Martin, which dips
its leafy coast in the water.

Nevertheless all around, all along these delightful shores, we are
in the home of Death. But it is discreet, veiled, full of tact and
bashfulness, well bred in fact. Never does one meet it face to face,
although at every moment it passes near.

It might even be thought that no one dies in this country, so thorough
is the complicity of deceit in which this sovereign revels. But how it
is felt, how it is detected; how often a glimpse is caught of its black
robes! Truly all the roses and the orange blossoms are requisite, to
prevent the breeze being laden with the dread smell which is exhaled
from the chamber of death.

Never is a coffin seen in the streets, never any funeral trappings,
never is a death-knell heard. Yesterday's emaciated pedestrian no
longer passes beneath your window, and that is all. If you are
astonished at no longer seeing him, and inquire after him, the landlord
and servants tell you with a smile, that he had got better and by
the doctor's advice had left for Italy. In each hotel Death has its
secret stairs, its confidants, and its accomplices. A philosopher of
olden times would have said many fine things upon the contrast of the
elegance and misery which here elbow one another.

It is twelve o'clock, the promenade is now deserted, and I return
on board the _Bel-Ami,_ where awaits me an unpretending breakfast
prepared by Raymond, whom I find dressed up in a white apron, frying
potatoes.

All the remainder of the day, I read.

The wind was still violently blowing, and the yacht danced between her
anchors, for we had been obliged to let go the starboard one also. The
motion ended by benumbing me, and I fell into a long doze. When Bernard
came into the cabin to light the candles it was seven o'clock, and as
the surf along the quay made landing difficult, I dined on my boat.

After dinner I went up and sat in the open air. Around me Cannes
stretched forth her many lights. Nothing can be prettier than a town
lighted up and seen from the sea. On the left, the old quarter with
its houses that seemed to climb one upon the other, mingled its lights
with that of the stars; on the right, the gas lamps of the _Croisette_
extended like an enormous serpent a mile and a half long.

And I reflected that in all the villas, in all the hotels, people were
gathered together this evening, as they were last night, as they will
be to-morrow, and that they are talking. Talking! about what? the
Princes! the weather! And then? ... the weather! ... the Princes! ...
and then ... about nothing!

Can anything be more dreary than _table d'hôte_ conversation? I have
lived in hotels, I have endured the emptiness of the human soul as
it is there laid bare. In truth, one must be hedged in by the most
determined indifference, not to weep with grief, disgust, and shame,
when one hears men talk. Man, the ordinary man, rich, known, esteemed,
respected, held in consideration, is satisfied with himself, and he
knows nothing, he understands nothing, yet he talks of intelligence as
though he knew all about it.

[Illustration 017]

How blinded and intoxicated we must be by our foolish pride, to fancy
ourselves anything more than animals slightly superior to other
animals. Listen to them, the fools, seated round the table! They are
talking! Talking with gentle confiding ingenuousness, and they imagine
that they are exchanging ideas! What ideas? They say where they have
been walking: "It was a very pretty walk, but rather cold coming home;"
"the cooking is not bad in the hotel, although hotel food is always
rather spicy." And they relate what they have done, what they like,
what they believe.

I fancy I behold the deformity of their souls as a monstrous foetus in
a jar of spirits of wine. I assist at the slow birth of the commonplace
sayings they constantly repeat; I watch the words as they drop from the
granary of stupidity into their imbecile mouths, and from their mouths
into the inert atmosphere which bears them to my ears.

But their ideas, their noblest, most solemn, most respected
ideas, are they not the unimpeachable proof of the omnipotence of
stupidity,--eternal, universal, indestructible stupidity?

       *       *       *       *       *

All their conceptions of God, an awkward deity, whose first creations
are such failures that he must needs recreate them, a deity who
listens to our secrets and notes them down, a God who, in turn,
policeman, Jesuit, lawyer, gardener, is conceived now in cuirass, now
in robes, now in wooden shoes; then the negations of God based upon
pure terrestrial logic, the arguments for and against, the history
of religious beliefs, of schisms, heresies, philosophies, the
affirmations as well as the doubts, the puerility of principles, the
ferocious and bloody violence of the originators of hypotheses, the
utter chaos of contestation, in short, every miserable effort of this
wretchedly impotent being man, impotent in conception, in imagination,
in knowledge, all prove that he was thrown upon this absurdly small
world for the sole purpose of eating, drinking, manufacturing children
and little songs, and killing his neighbour by way of pastime.

Happy are those whom life satisfies, who are amused and content.

There are some such who, easily pleased, are delighted with everything.
They love the sun and the rain, the snow and the fog; they love
festivities as well as the calm of their own homes; they love all they
see, all they do, all they say, all they hear.

They lead either an easy life, quiet and satisfied amid their
offspring, or an agitated existence full of pleasures and amusement.

In neither case are they dull.

Life, for them, is an amusing kind of play, in which they are
themselves actors; an excellent and varied show, which though offering
nothing unexpected, thoroughly delights them.

Other men, however, who run through at a glance the narrow circle of
human satisfactions, remain dismayed before the emptiness of happiness,
the monotony and poverty of earthly joys.

As soon as they have reached thirty years of age all is ended for them.
What have they to expect? Nothing now can interest them; they have made
the circuit of our meagre pleasures.

Happy are those who know not the loathsome weariness of the same
acts constantly repeated; happy are those who have the strength to
recommence each day the same task, with the same gestures, amid the
same furniture, in front of the same horizon, under the same sky, to
go out in the same streets, where they meet the same faces and the same
animals. Happy are those who do not perceive with unutterable disgust
that nothing changes, and that all is weariness.

We must indeed be a slow and narrow-minded race to be so easily pleased
and satisfied with what is. How is it that the worldly audience has
not yet called out, "Curtain," has not yet demanded the next act,
with other beings than mankind, other manners, other pleasures, other
plants, other planets, other inventions, other adventures?

Is it possible no one has yet felt a loathing for the sameness of
the human face, of the animals which by their unvarying instincts,
transmitted in their seed from the first to the last of their race,
seem to be but living machinery; a hatred of landscapes eternally the
same, and of pleasures never varied?

Console yourself, it is said, by the love of science and art.

But is it not evident that we are always shut up in ourselves, without
ever being able to quit ourselves, for ever condemned to drag the
chains of our wingless dream.

All the progress obtained by our cerebral effort, consists in the
ascertainment of material facts by means of instruments ridiculously
imperfect, which however make up in a certain degree for the
inefficiency of our organs. Every twenty years, some unhappy inquirer,
who generally dies in the attempt, discovers that the atmosphere
contains a gas hitherto unknown, that an imponderable, inexplicable,
unqualifiable force can be obtained by rubbing a piece of wax on cloth;
that amongst the innumerable unknown stars, there is one that has not
yet been noticed in the immediate vicinity of another, which had not
only been observed, but even designated by name for many years. What
matter?

Our diseases are due to microbes? Very well. But where do those
microbes come from? and the diseases of these invisible ones? And the
suns, whence do they come from?

We know nothing, we understand nothing, we can do nothing, we foresee
nothing, we imagine nothing, we are shut up, imprisoned in ourselves.
And there are people who marvel at the genius of humanity!

Art? Painting consists in reproducing with colouring matter monotonous
landscapes, which seldom resemble nature; in delineating men, and
striving without ever succeeding, to give the aspect of living beings.
Obstinately and uselessly one struggles to imitate what is; and the
result is a motionless and dumb copy of the actions of life, which is
barely comprehensible even to the educated eye that one has sought to
attract.

Wherefore such efforts? Wherefore such a vain imitation? Wherefore this
trivial reproduction of things in themselves so dull? How petty!

Poets do with words what painters try to do with colours. Again,
wherefore?

When one has read four of the most talented, of the most ingenious
authors, it is idle to open another. And nothing more can be learned.
They also, these men, can but imitate men. They exhaust themselves
in sterile labour. For mankind changing not, their useless art is
immutable. Ever since our poor minds have awakened man is the same; his
sentiments, his beliefs, his sensations are the same. He has neither
advanced nor retrograded; he has never moved. Of what use is it to me
to learn what I am, to read what I think, to see myself portrayed in
the trivial adventures of a novel?

Ah! if poets could vanquish space, explore the planets, discover other
worlds, other beings; vary unceasingly for my mind the nature and form
of things, convey me constantly through a changeful and surprising
Unknown, open for me mysterious gates in unexpected and marvellous
horizons, I would read them night and day. But they can, impotent as
they are, but change the place of a word, and show me my own image, as
the painters do. Of what use is all this?

For man's thought is motionless.

And the precise limits, so nigh, so insurmountable, once attained,
it turns like a horse in a circus, like a fly shut up in a bottle,
fluttering against the sides and uselessly dashing itself against them.

And yet, for want of any better occupation, thought is always a solace,
when one lives alone.

On this little boat, rocked by the sea, that a wave could fill and
upset, I know, I feel, how true it is that nothing we know exists,
for the earth which floats in empty space is even more isolated, more
lost than this skiff on the billows. Their importance is the same,
their destiny will be accomplished. And I rejoice at understanding
the nothingness of the belief and the vanity of the hopes which our
insect-like pride has begotten!

[Illustration 018]

I went to bed, cradled by the pitching of the boat, and slept with the
deep slumber that one sleeps at sea, till the moment when Bernard awoke
me to say:

"Bad weather, sir, we cannot sail this morning." The wind had fallen,
but the sea, very rough in the open, would not allow of our making sail
for Saint-Raphaël.

Another day that must be spent at Cannes!

At about twelve o'clock, a westerly wind again got up, less strong than
the day before, and I resolved to take advantage of it and visit the
squadron in gulf Juan.

In crossing the roads, the _Bel-Ami_ jumped about like a goat, and I
had to steer very carefully in order to avoid, with each wave which
took us broadsides, having a mass of water dashed in my face. Soon
however I was sheltered by the islands and entered the channel under
the fortress of Sainte-Marguerite.

Its straight wall stretches down to the rocks, washed by the waves, and
its summit hardly overtops the slightly elevated coast of the island.
It is somewhat like a head crammed down between two high shoulders.

The spot where Bazaine descended can be easily made out.

It was not necessary to be much of a gymnast to slide down those
accommodating rocks.

The escape was related to me with every detail, by a man who pretended
to be, and probably was, thoroughly well informed.

Bazaine was allowed a good deal of liberty, his wife and children being
permitted to come and see him every day. Madame Bazaine, who was an
energetic woman, declared to her husband that she would leave him for
ever, and carry off the children, if he would not make his escape, and
she explained her plan. He hesitated at first, on account of the danger
of the flight and the doubtfulness of success, but when he saw that his
wife was determined to carry out her plan, he consented.

Thereupon, every day some toys for the little ones were brought
into the fortress, amongst others an entire set of appliances for
drawing-room gymnastics. Out of these toys was made the knotted rope
that the Marshal was to make use of. It was very slowly made, in order
to give rise to no suspicion, and when finished it was hid away by a
friendly hand in a corner of the prison yard.

The date of the flight was then decided upon. They chose a Sunday, the
supervision appearing to be less rigorous on that day.

Madame Bazaine then absented herself for a few days.

The Marshal usually walked about in the yard till eight o'clock in the
evening, in company with the governor of the prison, a pleasant man
whose agreeable conversation was a resource to Bazaine. Then he would
go back to his rooms, which the chief jailor locked and bolted in the
presence of his superior officer.

On the evening of the escape, Bazaine pretended he was indisposed, and
expressed a wish to retire an hour earlier than usual. He returned
therefore to his apartment, but as soon as the governor had gone off to
call the jailor and tell him to lock up the captive, the Marshal came
out again quickly and hid himself in the yard.

The empty prison was locked up, and each man went home.

At about eleven o'clock Bazaine, armed with the ladder, left his hiding
place, fastened the ropes, and made his descent on to the rocks.

At dawn of day, an accomplice unfastened the ladder and threw it over
the walls.

Towards eight o'clock in the morning, the governor, surprised at not
seeing anything of his prisoner, who was wont to be an early riser,
sent to enquire about him. The Marshal's valet refused, however, to
disturb his master.

At length at nine o'clock, the governor forced open the door and found
the cage empty.

[Illustration 019]

On her side Madame Bazaine, in order to carry out her scheme, had
applied to a man who was indebted to her husband for a most important
service. She appealed to a grateful heart, and gained an ally both
energetic and devoted. Together they settled all the details; she then
went in an assumed name to Genoa, and under pretext of an excursion to
Naples hired for a thousand francs (forty pounds sterling) a day, a
little Italian steamer, stipulating that the trip should last at least
a week, and that it might be extended to another week on the same terms.

The vessel started, but no sooner were they at sea, than the traveller
appeared to change her mind, and asked the captain if he would object
to going as far as Cannes to fetch her sister-in-law. The sailor
willingly consented, and he dropped anchor on Sunday evening in the
gulf Juan.

Madame Bazaine was set on shore and ordered the boat to keep within
hail. Her devoted accomplice was awaiting her in another boat near
the promenade of the _Croisette_, and they crossed the channel which
separates the mainland from the little island of Sainte-Marguerite.
There her husband was waiting on the rocks, his clothes torn, face
bruised, and hands bleeding. The sea being rather rough, he was
obliged to wade through the water to reach the boat, which otherwise
would have been dashed to pieces against the coast.

When they returned to the mainland, they cast the boat adrift.

They rejoined the first boat, and then at last the vessel, which had
remained with steam up. Madame Bazaine informed the captain that her
sister-in-law was not well enough to join her, and pointing to the
Marshal, she added:

"Not having a servant, I have hired a valet. The fool has just tumbled
down on the rocks and got himself in the mess you see. Send him, if you
please, down to the sailors, and give him what is necessary to dress
his wounds and mend his clothes."

Bazaine went down and spent the night in the forecastle.

The next morning at break of day, they were out at sea; then Madame
Bazaine again changed her mind, and pleading indisposition, had
herself reconducted to Genoa.

However, the news of the escape had already spread, and the populace
hearing of it, a clamouring mob assembled under the hotel windows. The
uproar soon became so violent, that the terrified landlord insisted on
the travellers escaping by a private door.

I relate this story as it was told to me, but I guarantee nothing.

We drew near the squadron, the heavy ironclads standing out in single
file, like battle towers built in the sea. They were the _Colbert,_ the
_Dévastation,_ the _Amiral-Duperré,_ the _Courbet,_ the _Indomptable,_
and the _Richelieu;_ two despatch boats, the _Hirondelle_ and the
_Milan;_ and four torpedo boats going through evolutions in the gulf.

I wanted to visit the _Courbet,_ as it passes for the most perfect type
in the French navy.

[Illustration 020]

Nothing can give a better idea of human labour, of the intricate and
formidable labour done by the ingeniously clever hands of the puny
human animal, than the enormous iron citadels which float and sail
about bearing an army of soldiers, an arsenal of monstrous arms, the
enormous masses of which are made of tiny pieces fitted, soldered,
forged, bolted together, a toil of ants and giants, which shows at the
same time all the genius, all the weakness, and all the irretrievable
barbarousness of the race, so active and so feeble, directing all its
efforts towards creating instruments for its own self-destruction.

Those who in former days raised up cathedrals in stone, carved as
finely as any lacework, fairy-like palaces to shelter childish and
pious fancies, were they worth less than those who now-a-days launch
forth on the sea these iron houses, real temples of Death?

At the same moment that I leave the ship to get on board my
cockleshell, I hear the sound of firing on shore. It is the regiment
at Antibes practising rifle shooting on the sands and amongst the
pine-woods. The smoke rises in white flakes, like evaporating clouds
of cotton, and I can see the red trousers of the soldiers as they run
along the beach.

The naval officers suddenly become interested, point their glasses
landwards, and their hearts beat faster at this spectacle of mimic
warfare.

At the mere mention of the word war, I am seized with a sense of
bewilderment, as though I heard of witchcraft, of the inquisition, of
some far distant thing, ended long ago, abominable and monstrous,
against all natural law.

When we talk of cannibals, we proudly smile and proclaim our
superiority over these savages. Which are the savages, the true
savages? Those who fight to eat the vanquished, or those who fight to
kill, only to kill?

The gallant little soldiers running about over there, are as surely
doomed to death, as the flocks of sheep driven along the road by the
butcher. They will fall on some plain, with their heads split open by
sabre cuts, or their chests riddled by bullets, and yet they are young
men who might work, produce something, be useful. Their fathers are old
and poverty-stricken, their mothers, who during twenty years have loved
them, adored them as only mothers can adore, may perchance hear in six
months or a year, that the son, the child, the big fellow, reared with
so much care, at such an expense and with so much love, has been cast
in a hole like a dead dog, after having been ripped open by a bullet
and trampled, crushed, mangled by the rush of cavalry charges. Why have
they killed her boy, her beautiful boy, her sole hope, her pride, her
life? She cannot understand. Yes, indeed, why?

War! fighting! slaughtering! butchering men! And to think that now,
in our own century, with all our civilisation, with the expansion
of science and the height of philosophy to which the human race is
supposed to have attained, we should have schools, in which we teach
the art of killing, of killing from afar, to perfection, numbers
of people at the same time; poor devils, innocent men, fathers of
families, men of untarnished reputation. The most astounding thing
is that the people do not rise up against the governing power. What
difference is there then between monarchies and republics? And what is
more astounding still, why does society not rise up bodily in rebellion
at the word "war."

[Illustration 021]

Ah yes, we shall ever continue to live borne down by the old and odious
customs, the criminal prejudices, the ferocious ideas of our barbarous
forefathers, for we are but animals, and we shall remain animals led
only by instinct, that nothing will ever change.

Should we not have spurned any other than Victor Hugo, who should have
launched forth the grand cry of deliverance and truth?

"To-day, might is called violence, and is beginning to be condemned;
war is arraigned. Civilisation, at the demand of all humanity, directs
an inquiry and indicts the great criminal brief against conquerors
and generals. The nations are beginning to understand that the
aggrandizement of a crime can in no way lessen it; that if murder
is a crime, to murder a great many does not create any attenuating
circumstance; that if robbery is a disgrace, invasion cannot be a
glory.

"Ah! Let us proclaim the peremptory truth, let us dishonour war."

Idle anger, poetic indignation! War is more venerated than ever.

A clever artist in such matters, a slaughtering genius, M. de Moltke,
replied one day to some peace delegates, in the following extraordinary
words:

"War is holy and of divine institution; it is one of the sacred laws
of nature; it keeps alive in men all the great and noble sentiments,
honour, disinterestedness, virtue, courage, in one word it prevents
them from falling into the most hideous materialism."

Therefore to collect a herd of some four hundred thousand men, march
day and night without respite, to think of nothing, study nothing,
learn nothing, read nothing, be of no earthly use to any one, rot with
dirt, lie down in mire, live like brutes in a continual besotment,
pillage towns, burn villages, ruin nations; then meeting another
similar agglomeration of human flesh, rush upon it, shed lakes of
blood, cover plains with pounded flesh mingled with muddy and bloody
earth; pile up heaps of slain; have arms and legs blown off, brains
scattered without benefit to any one, and perish at the corner of
some field while your old parents, your wife and children are dying
of hunger; this is what is called, not falling into the most hideous
materialism!

Warriors are the scourges of the earth. We struggle against nature
and ignorance; against obstacles of all kinds, in order to lessen the
hardships of our miserable existence. Men, benefactors, scholars wear
out their lives toiling, seeking what may assist, what may help, what
may solace their brethren. Eager in their useful work, they pile up
discovery on discovery, enlarging the human mind, extending science,
adding something each day to the stock of human knowledge, to the
welfare, the comfort, the strength of their country.

War is declared. In six months the generals have destroyed the efforts
of twenty years' patience and genius. And this is what is called, not
falling into the most hideous materialism.

We have seen war. We have seen men maddened and gone back to their
brute estate, killing for mere pleasure, killing out of terror, out of
bravado, from sheer ostentation. Then when right no longer exists, when
law is dead, when all notion of justice has disappeared, we have seen
ruthlessly shot down, innocent beings who, picked up along the road,
had become objects of suspicion simply because they were afraid. We
have seen dogs as they lay chained up at their master's gate, killed in
order to try a new revolver; we have seen cows riddled with bullets as
they lay in the fields, without reason, only to fire off guns, just for
fun.

And this is what is called, not falling into the most hideous
materialism. To invade a country, to kill the man who defends his home
on the plea that he wears a smock and has no forage cap on his head,
to burn down the houses of the poor creatures who are without bread, to
break, to steal furniture, drink the wine found in the cellars, violate
the women found in the streets, consume thousands of francs' worth of
powder, and leave behind misery and cholera.

This is what is called, not falling into the most hideous materialism.

What have they ever done to show their intelligence, these valiant
warriors? Nothing. What have they invented? Guns and cannons. That is
all.

The inventor of the wheelbarrow, has he not done more for humanity by
the simple and practical idea of fitting a wheel between two poles,
than the inventor of modern fortifications?

What remains of Greece? Books and marbles. Is she great by what she
conquered, or by what she produced? Was it the invasion of the Persians
that prevented her from falling into the most hideous materialism? Was
it the invasion of the barbarians that saved Rome and regenerated her?

Did Napoleon the First continue the great intellectual movement begun
by the philosophers at the end of the last century?

Well, yes, since governments assume the right of death over the people,
there is nothing astonishing in the people sometimes assuming the right
of death over governments.

They defend themselves. They are right. No one has an absolute right
to govern others. It can only be done for the good of those who are
governed. Whosoever governs must consider it as much his duty to avoid
war, as it is that of the captain of a vessel to avoid shipwreck.

When a captain has lost his ship, he is judged and condemned if found
guilty of negligence or even of incapacity.

Why should not governments be judged after the declaration of every
war? If the people understood this, if they took the law into their
own hands against the murdering powers, if they refused to allow
themselves to be killed without a reason, if they used their weapons
against those who distributed them to slaughter with, that day war
would indeed be a dead letter. But that day will never dawn!



AGAY, _April 8th_.


"Fine weather, sir."

I get up and go on deck. It is three o'clock in the morning; the sea is
calm, the infinite heavens look like an immense shady vault sown with
grains of fire. A very light breeze comes from off the land.

The coffee is hot, we swallow it down, and, without losing a moment, in
order to take advantage of the favourable wind, we set sail.

Once more we glide over the waters towards the open sea. The coast
disappears, all around us looks black. It is indeed a sensation, an
enervating and delicious emotion to plunge onward into the empty night,
into the deep silence on the sea, far from everything. It seems as
though one was quitting the world, as though one would never reach any
land, as though there were no more shores and even no more days. At my
feet, a little lantern throws a light upon the compass, that guides me
on my way. We must run at least three miles in the open to round Cape
Roux and the Drammont in safety, whatever may be the wind when the sun
has risen. To avoid any accidents, I have had the side-lights lit, red
on the port and green on the starboard side. And I enjoy with rapture
this silent, uninterrupted, quiet flight.

Suddenly a cry is heard in front of us. I am startled, for the voice
is near; and I can perceive nothing, nothing but the obscure wall of
darkness into which I am plunging, and which closes again behind me.
Raymond who watches forward says to me: "'Tis a tartan going east, put
the helm up sir, we shall pass astern." And of a sudden, nigh at hand,
uprises a vague but startling phantom; the large drifting shadow of
a big sail, seen but for a few seconds and quickly vanishing. Nothing
is more strange, more fantastic, and more thrilling, than these rapid
apparitions at sea during the night. The fishing and sand boats carry
no lights, they are therefore only seen as they pass by, and they
impart a tightening of the heart strings, as of some supernatural
encounter.

[Illustration 022]

I hear in the distance the whistling of a bird. It approaches, passes
by, and goes off. Oh that I could wander like it!

At last dawn breaks, slowly, gently, without a cloud, and the day
begins, a real summer's day.

[Illustration 023]

Raymond asserts that we shall have an east wind, Bernard still believes
in a westerly one, and advises my changing our course, and sailing on
the starboard tack straight towards the Drammont, which stands out in
the distance. I am at once of his opinion, and under the gentle breath
of a dying breeze, we draw nearer to the Esterel. The long red shore
drops into the blue water, giving it a violet tinge. It is strange,
pretty, bristling with numberless points and gulfs, capricious and
coquettish rocks, the thousand whims of a much admired mountain. On
its slopes, the pine forests reach up to the granite summits, which
resemble castles, towns, and armies of stones running after each other.
And at its foot the sea is so clear, that the sandy shoals or the
weedy bottoms can be distinguished.

Ay, verily, I do feel on certain days such a horror of all that is,
that I long for death. The invariable monotony of landscapes, faces
and thoughts, become an intensely acute suffering. The meanness of the
universe astonishes and revolts me, the littleness of all things fills
me with disgust, and I am overwhelmed by the platitude of human beings.

At other times, on the contrary, I enjoy everything as an animal
does. If my spirit, restless, agitated, hypertrophied by work, bounds
onward to hopes that are not those of our race, and then after having
realised that all is vanity, falls back into a contempt for all that
is, my animal body at least, is enraptured with all the intoxication
of life. Like the birds, I love the sky, like the prowling wolf, the
forests; I delight in rocky heights, like a chamois; the thick grass,
I love to roll in and gallop over like a horse, and, like a fish, I
revel in the clear waters. I feel thrilling within me, the sensations
of all the different species of animals, of all their instincts, of
all the confused longings of inferior creatures. I love the earth as
they do, not as other men do; I love it without admiring it, without
poetry, without exultation; I love with a deep and animal attachment,
contemptible yet holy, all that lives, all that grows, all we see; for
all this, leaving my spirit calm, excites only my eyes and my heart:
the days, the nights, the rivers, the seas, the storms, the woods, the
hues of dawn, the glance of woman, her very touch.

The gentle ripple of water on the sandy shore, or on the rocky granite
affects and moves me, and the joy that fills me as I feel myself driven
forward by the wind, and carried along by the waves, proceeds from the
abandonment of myself, to the brutal and natural forces of creation,
from my return to a primitive state.

When the weather is beautiful as it is to-day, I feel in my veins the
blood of the lascivious and vagabond fauns of olden times. I am no
longer the brother of mankind, but the brother of all creatures and all
nature!

       *       *       *       *       *

The sun mounts above the horizon. The breeze dies away as it did the
day before yesterday; but the west wind foretold by Bernard, does not
rise any more than the easterly one, announced by Raymond.

Till ten o'clock, we float motionless like a wreck, then a little
breath from the open sea starts us on our road, falls, rises again,
seems to mock us, glancing across the sail, promising at each moment a
breeze that does not come. It is nothing, a mere whiff, a flutter of
a fan; nevertheless it is sufficient to prevent our being stationary.
The porpoises, those clowns of the sea, play about around us, dashing
out of the water with rapid bounds, as though they would take flight,
striking into the air like lightning, then plunging and rising again
further off.

[Illustration 024]

At about one o'clock, as we lay broadside on to Agay, the breeze
completely gave way, and I realized that I should sleep out at sea if I
did not man the boat to tow the yacht and take shelter in the bay.

I therefore made the two men get into the dingy, and when at a distance
of some thirty yards or so, they began to tug me along. A fierce sun
was glaring on the water, and its burning rays beat down upon the decks.

[Illustration 025]

The two sailors rowed in slow and regular fashion like worn-out cranks,
which, though working with difficulty, ceaselessly continue their
mechanical labour.

The bay of Agay forms a very pretty dock, well sheltered and closed on
one side by upright, red rocks, overlooked by the semaphore on the
summit of the mountain, and prolonged towards the open sea by the _Ile
d'Or,_ so called on account of its colour; while on the other side is
a line of sunken rocks, and a small headland level with the surface of
the water, bearing a lighthouse to mark the entry.

At the further end is an inn, ready for the entertainment of skippers
of vessels, that have taken refuge there from stress of weather, or
for fishermen during the summer; and a railway station where trains
only stop twice a day, and where no one ever gets out; and a pretty
river that winds away into the Esterel, as far as the valley named
Malin-fermet, which is as full of pink oleanders as any African ravine.

No road leads from the interior to the delicious bay. A pathway only,
takes you to Saint-Raphaël, passing through the porphyry quarries of
Drammont; but no vehicle could use it. We are therefore quite lost in
the mountain.

I resolved to wander about till nightfall, in the paths bordered by
cistus and lentisk. The scent of wild plants, strong and perfumed,
filled the air, mingling with the powerful resinous breath of the
forest, which seemed to pant in the heat.

After an hour's walk, I was deep among the pine trees, scattered
sparsely on a gentle declivity of the mountain. The purple
granite,--the bones of the earth,--seemed reddened by the sun, and
I wended my way slowly, happy as the lizards must be on burning hot
stones; when I perceived on the summit of the mountain, coming towards
me, without seeing me, two lovers lost in the depths of their love
dream.

[Illustration 026]

'Twas a charmingly pretty sight; on they came, with arms entwined,
moving with absent footsteps through the alternating sun and shade,
that flecked the sloping banks.

She appeared to me very graceful and very simple, with a grey
travelling dress and a bold coquettish felt hat. I hardly saw him, I
only noticed that he seemed well bred. I had seated myself behind the
trunk of a pine tree, to watch them pass by. They did not perceive
me, and continued their descent with interlocked arms, silently, and
without a word, so much did their love absorb them.

When I lost sight of them, I felt as though a sadness had fallen on my
heart. A felicity that I knew not, had passed near me, and I guessed
that it was the best of all. And I returned towards the bay of Agay,
too dejected now to continue my stroll.

Until the evening, I lay stretched out on the grass, by the side of the
river, and at about seven o'clock I went into the inn for dinner.

My men had warned the innkeeper, and he was expecting me. My table was
set in the white-washed room, by the side of another at which were
already settled my love-stricken couple, face to face, with eyes fondly
gazing upon each other.

I felt ashamed at disturbing them, as though I were committing a mean
and unbecoming action.

They stared at me for a few seconds, and then resumed their low-toned
conversation.

The innkeeper who had known me for a long time took a seat near mine.
He talked of wild boars, and rabbits, the fine weather, the _mistral,_
about an Italian captain who had slept at the inn a few nights before,
and then, to flatter my vanity, he praised my yacht, the black hull of
which I could see through the window, with its tall mast, and my red
and white pennant floating aloft.

My neighbours, who had eaten very rapidly, soon left. As for me, I
dawdled about looking at the slight crescent of the moon, shedding its
soft rays over the little roadstead. At last I saw my dingy nearing
the shore, scattering lines of silver as it advanced through the pale
motionless light that fell upon the water.

When I went down to my boat, I saw the lovers standing on the beach
gazing at the sea.

And as I went off to the quick sound of the oars, I still distinguished
their outlines on the shore, their shadows erect side by side. They
seemed to fill the bay, the night, the heavens, with a symbolic
grandeur, so penetrating was the atmosphere of love they diffused
around them, so widespread over the far horizon.

[Illustration 027]

And when I had reached my yacht, I remained seated a long while on
deck, overcome with sadness without knowing wherefore, filled with
regrets without knowing why, unwilling even to decide on going down to
my cabin, as though I would fain absorb a little more of the tenderness
they had diffused around them. Suddenly, one of the windows of the inn
was lit up, and I saw their profiles on the bright background. Then
my loneliness overpowered me, and in the balminess of the springlike
night, at the soft sound of the waves on the sand, under the delicate
crescent shedding its rays over the sea, I felt in my heart such an
intense desire of love, that I was near crying out in my envious
distress.

Then, all at once, I became ashamed of this weakness, and, unwilling to
admit to myself that I was a man like another, I accused the moonshine
of disturbing my reason.

I have moreover always believed, that the moon exercises a mysterious
influence on the human brain.

It fills poets with vagaries, rendering them delightful or ridiculous,
and produces on lovers' affections, the effect of Ruhmkorff's pile
on electric currents. The man who loves in a normal manner under the
sunlight, adores with frenzy under the moon.

A youthful and charming woman maintained to me one day, I forget on
what occasion, that moon strokes are infinitely more dangerous than sun
strokes. They are caught, she said, unawares, out walking perchance
on a beautiful night, and they are incurable; you remain mad; not
raving mad, not mad enough to be shut up, but mad of a special madness,
gentle, incurable; and you no longer think on any subject like other
men.

I have certainly been moon-struck to-night, for I feel strangely
unreasonable and light headed; and the little crescent in its downward
course towards the sea affects me, melts me to tears, and rends my
heart.

Wherein lies the power of seduction of this moon, aged dead planet
that it is, rambling through the heavens with its yellow face and
sad ghostly light, that it should thus agitate us, we whom even our
vagabond thoughts disturb?

Do we love it because it is dead? as the poet Haraucourt says:

    "Puis ce fut l'âge blond des tiédeurs et des vents.
    La lune se peupla de murmures vivants:
    Elle eut des mers sans fond et des fleuves sans nombre,
    Des troupeaux, des cités, des pleurs, des cris joyeux,
    Elle eut l'amour; elle eut ses arts, ses lois, ses dieux,
        Et lentement rentra dans l'ombre."[1]

Do we love it because the poets, to whom we owe the eternal illusion
that surrounds us in this world, have dimmed our sight by all the
images they have seen in its pallid rays, have taught our over-excited
sensibility to feel in a thousand different ways, the soft and
monotonous effects it sheds over the world?

When it rises behind the trees, when it pours forth its shimmering
light on the flowing river, when it descends through the boughs on to
the sand of the shaded alleys, when it mounts solitary in the black
and empty sky, when it dips towards the sea, stretching out on the
undulating surface of the waters a vast pathway of light, are we not
haunted by all the charming verses with which it has inspired great
dreamers?

If we wander forth by night in joyous spirits, and if we see its smooth
circle, round like a yellow eye watching us, perched just over a roof,
Musset's immortal ballad is recalled to our mind.

[Illustration 028]

And is it not he, the mocking poet, who immediately presents it to us
through his eyes?

    "C'était dans la nuit brune,
    Sur le clocher jauni La lune
    Comme un point sur un I.

    Lune, quel esprit sombre
    Promène an bout d'un fil,
      Dans l'ombre,
    Ta face ou ton profil?"[2]

[Illustration 029]

If we walk on some evening full of sadness, on the beach by the side of
the ocean illuminated by its rays, do we not, in spite of ourselves, at
once recite the two grand and melancholy lines:

    "Seule au-dessus des mers, la lune voyageant,
    Laisse dans les flots noirs tomber ses pleurs d'argent."[3]

[Illustration 030]

If we awake, to find our bed lighted up by a long beam coming in at the
window, do we not feel at once as though the white figure evoked by
Catulle Mendè's were descending upon us:

    "Elle venait, avec un lis dans chaque main,
    La pente d'un rayon lui servant de chemin."[4]

If, in some evening walk in the country, we suddenly hear the long
sinister howl of a farm dog, are we not forcibly struck by the
recollection of the admirable poem of Leconte de Lisle, _les Hurleurs?_

    "Seule, la lune pâle, en écartant la nue,
    Comme une morne lampe, oscillait tristement.
    Monde muet, marqué d'un signe de colère,
    Débris d'un globe mort au hasard dispersé,
    Elle laissait tomber de son orbe glacé
    Un reflet sépulcral sur l'océan polaire."[5]

At the evening trysting place, one saunters slowly through the leafy
path, with arm encircling the beloved one, pressing her hand, and
kissing her brow. She is perhaps a little tired, a little moved, and
walks with lagging step.

[Illustration 031]

A bench appears in sight, under the leaves bathed by the soft light, as
by a calm shower.

In our hearts and minds, like an exquisite love-song, the two charming
lines start up:

    "Et réveiller, pour s'asseoir à sa place
    Le clair de lune endormi sur le banc!"[6]

Can one see the lessening crescent, as on this evening, cast its fair
profile on the vast sky spangled with stars, without thinking of
the end of that masterpiece of Victor Hugo's, which is called "Boaz
Endormi:"

        "Et Ruth se demandait,
    Immobile, ouvrant l'oeil à demi sous ses voiles,
    Quel Dieu, quel moissonneur de l'éternel été
    Avait, en s'en allant, négligemment jeté
    Cette faucille d'or dans le champ des étoiles."[7]

And who has better described the moon, courteous and tender to all
lovers, than Hugo:

    "La nuit vint, tout se tut; les flambeaux s'éteignirent;
    Dans les bois assombris, les sources se plaignirent.
    Le rossignol, caché dans son nid ténébreux,
    Chanta comme un poète et comme un amoureux.
    Chacun se dispersa sous les profonds feuillages,
    Les folles, en riant, entraînèrent les sages;
    L'amante s'en alla dans l'ombre avec l'amant;
    Et troublés comme ou l'est en songe, vaguement,
    Ils sentaient par degrés se mêler à leur âme,
    A leurs discours secrets, à leur regards de flamme,
    A leurs coeurs, à leurs sens, à leur molle raison,
    Le clair de lune bleu qui baignait l'horizon."[8]

And I remember also the admirable prayer to the moon, which is the
opening scene, of the eleventh book of Apuleius' _Golden Ass._

Still all the songs of mankind are not enough to account for the
sentimental sadness with which this poor planet inspires us.

We pity the moon, in spite of ourselves, without knowing the reason,
and for this it is we love it.

Even the tender feeling we bestow on it is mingled with compassion;
we pity it like an old maid, for we vaguely feel, the poets
notwithstanding, that it is not a corpse but a cold virgin.

Planets, like woman, need a husband, and the poor moon, disdained by
the sun, is nothing more nor less than an old maid, as we mortals say.

And it is for this reason that, with its timid light, it fills us with
hopes that cannot be realized, and desires that cannot be fulfilled.

All that we vainly and dimly wait and hope for upon this earth,
works in our hearts like mysterious but powerless sap, beneath the
pale rays of the moon. When we raise our eyes to it, we quiver with
inexpressible tenderness and are thrilled by impossible dreams!

[Illustration 032]

The narrow crescent, a mere thread of gold, now dipped its keen
gleaming point in the water, and gradually plunged gently and slowly
till the other point, so delicate that I could not detect the moment of
its vanishing, had also disappeared.

Then, I raised my eyes towards the inn. The lighted window was closed.
A dull melancholy crushed my heart, and I went below.


[1]

    Then it was the fair age of balminess and breezes.
    The moon became peopled with living whispers;
    She had bottomless seas and numberless rivers,
    Flocks, cities, tears, and cries full of joy,
    She had love; she had her arts, her laws, her gods,
    Then slowly sank back into darkness.



[2]

    'Twas in the dusky night,
    Above the yellowed steeple,
      Stood the moon
    Like a dot on an I.

    By what sombre spirit
    Is thy face or profile,
    Swung as from a thread
    Through the shadows of the sky?



[3]

    Alone above the seas, the wandering moon
    Lets fall her silver tears in the black billows.



[4]

    "With a lily in each hand she came,
    The slanting beam her pathway.



[5]

    Alone the pale moon parting the clouds
    Like a gloomy lamp, sadly oscillates
    Dumb world, marked by a sign of anger,
    Fragment of a dead globe dispersed at haphazard,
    She let fall from her frozen orb
    A sepulchral reflection on a polar ocean.



[6]

    And, to take her place, one awakens
    A ray of moonlight asleep on the bench.



[7]

        And Ruth, motionless,
    Asked herself, as she opened her half-closed eye under her veil,
    What God, what reaper of the eternal summer,
    Had negligently thrown as he passed by
    This golden sickle in the starry field.



[8]

    Night fell, all was hushed; the torches died out
    Under the darkening woods, the springs lament.
    The nightingale, hidden in its shady nest,
    Sang like a poet and like a lover.
    In the depths of the dark foliage all dispersed,
    The madcaps laughing carried off the wise,
    The fair one disappeared in the gloom with her lover
    And with the vague trouble of some dream
    They felt by degrees intermingled with their souls,
    With their secret thoughts, with their glances of flame,
    With their hearts, their senses, with their yielding reason
    The blue moonlight that bathed the vast horizon.



[Illustration 033]

_April 10th._


No sooner had I lain down than I felt sleep was impossible, and I
remained lying on my back with my eyes closed, my thoughts on the
alert, and all my nerves quivering. Not a motion, not a sound, near
or far, nothing but the breathing of the two sailors through the thin
bulkhead, could be heard.

Suddenly, something grated. What was it? I know not. Some block in the
rigging, no doubt; but the tone--tender, plaintive, and mournful--of
the sound sent a thrill through me; then nothing more. An infinite
silence seemed to spread from the earth to the stars; nothing more--not
a breath, not a shiver on the water, not a vibration of the yacht,
nothing; and then again the slight and unrecognisable moan recommenced.
It seemed to me as I listened, as though a jagged blade were sawing at
my heart. Just as certain noises, certain notes, certain voices harrow
us, and in one second pour into our soul all it can contain of sorrow,
desperation, and anguish. I listened expectantly, and heard it again,
the identical sound which now seemed to emanate from my own self,--to
be wrung out of my nerves,--or rather, to resound in a secret, deep,
and desolate cry. Yes, it was a cruel though familiar voice, a voice
expected, and full of desperation. It passed over me with its weird
and feeble tones as an uncanny thing, sowing broadcast the appalling
terrors of delirium, for it had power to awake the horrible distress
which lies slumbering, in the inmost heart of every living man. What
was it? It was the voice ringing with reproaches which tortures our
soul, clamouring ceaselessly, obscure, painful, harassing; a voice,
unappeasable and mysterious, which will not be ignored; ferocious in
its reproaches for what we have done, as well as what we have left
undone; the voice of remorse and useless regrets for the days gone by,
and the women unloved; for the joys that were vain, and the hopes that
are dead; the voice of the past, of all that has disappointed us, has
fled and disappeared for ever, of what we have not, nor shall ever
attain; the small shrill voice which ever proclaims the failure of our
life, the uselessness of our efforts, the impotence of our minds, and
the weakness of our flesh.

It spoke to me in that short whisper, recommencing after each dismal
silence of the dark night, it spoke of all I would have loved, of all
that I had vaguely desired, expected, dreamt of; all that I would
have longed to see, to understand, to know, to taste, all that my
insatiable, poor, and weak spirit had touched upon with a useless hope,
all that, towards which it had been tempted to soar, without being able
to tear asunder, the chains of ignorance that held it.

Ah! I have coveted all, and delighted in nothing. I should have
required the vitality of a whole race, the varying intelligence, all
the faculties, all the powers scattered among all beings, and thousands
of existences in reserve; for I bear within myself every desire and
every curiosity, and I am compelled to see all, and grasp nothing.

From whence, therefore, arises this anguish at living, since to the
generality of men it only brings satisfaction? Wherefore this unknown
torture, which preys upon me? Why should I not know the reality of
pleasure, expectation, and possession?

It is because I carry within me that second sight, which is at the same
time the power and despair of writers. I write because I understand and
suffer from all that is, because I know it too well, and above all,
because without being able to enjoy it, I contemplate it inwardly in
the mirror of my thoughts.

Let no one envy, but rather pity us, for in the following manner does
the literary man, differ from his fellow-creatures.

For him no simple feeling any longer exists. All he sees, his joys,
his pleasures, his suffering, his despair, all instantaneously become
subjects of observation. In spite of all, in spite of himself, he
analyses everything, hearts, faces, gestures, intonations. As soon as
he has seen, whatever it may be, he must know the wherefore. He has
not a spark of enthusiasm, not a cry, not a kiss that is spontaneous,
not one instantaneous action done merely because it must be done,
unconsciously, without reflection, without understanding, without
noting it down afterwards.

If he suffers, he notes down his suffering, and classes it in his
memory; he says to himself as he leaves the cemetery, where he has left
the being he has loved most in the world: "It is curious what I felt;
it was like an intoxication of pain, etc...." And then he recalls all
the details, the attitude of those near him, the discordant gestures of
feigned grief, the insincere faces, and a thousand little insignificant
trifles noted by the artistic observation,--the sign of the cross made
by an old woman leading a child, a ray of light through a window, a dog
that crossed the funeral procession, the effect of the hearse under
the tall yew trees in the cemetery, the face of the undertaker and
its muscular contractions, the strain of the four men who lowered the
coffin into the grave, a thousand things in fact that a poor fellow
suffering with all his heart, soul and strength, would never have
noticed.

[Illustration 034]

He has seen all, noticed all, remembered all, in spite of himself,
because he is above all a literary man, and his intellect is
constructed in such a manner, that the reverberation in him is much
more vivid, more natural, so to speak, than the first shock, the echo
more sonorous, than the original sound.

He seems to have two souls, one that notes, explains, comments each
sensation of its neighbour, the natural soul common to all men, and
he lives condemned to be the mere reflection of himself or others;
condemned to look on, and see himself feel, act, love, think, suffer,
and never be free like the rest of mankind; simply, genially, frankly,
without analysing his own soul after every joy, and every agony.

If he converses, his words often wear the air of slander, and that only
because his thoughts are clear-sighted, and that he cannot refrain
from investigating the secret springs, which regulate the feelings and
actions of others.

If he writes, he cannot refrain from throwing into his books all
that he has seen, all he has gathered, all he knows; he makes no
exception in favour of friends or relations, but he pitilessly
lays bare the hearts of those he loves or has loved, with a
cruel impartiality,--exaggerating even to make the effect more
powerful,--wholly absorbed by his work, and in no wise by his
affections.

And if he loves, if he loves a woman, he will dissect her, as he
would a corpse in a hospital. All she says, all she does, is instantly
weighed in the delicate scales of observation, which he carries within
him, and is docketed according to its documentary importance. If in
an unpremeditated impulse she throws herself on his neck, he will
judge the action, considering its opportuneness, its correctness, its
dramatic power, and will tacitly condemn it, if he feels it artificial,
or badly done.

Actor and spectator of himself and of others, he is never solely an
actor, like the good folk who take life easily. Everything around him
becomes transparent, hearts, deeds, secret intentions; and he suffers
from a strange malady, a kind of duality of the mind, that makes of him
a terribly vibrating and complicated piece of machinery, fatiguing even
to himself.

Owing to his peculiarly morbid sensibility, he is no happier than one
flayed alive, to whom nearly every sensation becomes a torture.

I can remember dark days, in which my heart was so lacerated by things
I had only caught sight of for a second, that the memory of those
visions, has remained within me like grievous wounds.

One morning, in the Avenue de l'Opéra, in the midst of a stirring and
joyous crowd, intoxicated with the sunlight of the month of May, I
suddenly caught sight of a creature, for whom one could find no name,
an old woman bent double, dressed in tatters that had been garments,
with an old straw bonnet stripped of its former ornaments, the ribbons
and flowers having disappeared in times immemorial. And she went by,
dragging her feet along so painfully, that I felt in my heart, as much
as she did, more than she could, the aching pain of each of her steps.
Two sticks supported her. She passed along without seeing anyone,
indifferent to all--to the noise, the crowd, the carriages and the sun!
Where was she going? She carried something in a paper parcel hanging
by a string. What was it? Bread? Yes, without a doubt. Nobody, no
neighbour had been able or willing to do this errand for her, and she
had undertaken herself, the terrible journey from her garret to the
baker. At least two hours must she spend, going and coming. And what a
mournful struggle! Surely as fearful a road, as that of Christ on his
way to Calvary!

I raised my eyes towards the roofs of the tall houses. She was going up
there! When would she get there? How many panting pauses on the steps,
in the little stairway so black and winding?

Every one turned round to look at her! They murmured "Poor woman!"
and passed on. Her skirt, her rag of a skirt hardly holding to her
dilapidated body, draggled over the pavement. And there was a mind
there! A mind? No, but fearful, incessant, harassing suffering! Oh,
the misery of the aged without bread, the aged without hope, without
children, without money, with nothing before them but death; do we
ever think of it? Do we ever think of the aged famished creatures in
the garrets? Do we think of the tears shed by those dimmed eyes, once
bright, joyous, full of happy emotion.

[Illustration 035]

Another time, it was raining, I was alone, shooting in the plains of
Normandy, plodding through the deep-ploughed fields of greasy mud,
that melted and slipped under my feet. From time to time, a partridge
overtaken, hiding behind a clod of earth, flew off heavily through the
downpour. The report of my gun, smothered by the sheet of water that
fell from the skies, hardly sounded louder than the crack of a whip,
and the grey bird fell, its feathers bespattered with blood.

[Illustration 036]

I felt sad unto tears, tears as plentiful as the showers that were
weeping over the world, and over me; my heart was filled with sadness
and I was overcome with fatigue, so that I could hardly raise my feet,
heavily coated as they were with the clay soil. I was returning home
when I saw in the middle of the fields, the doctor's gig following a
cross-road.

The low black carriage was passing along, covered by its round hood and
drawn by a brown horse, like an omen of death wandering through the
country on this sinister day. Suddenly, it pulled up, the Doctor's head
made its appearance, and he called out:

"Here."

I went towards him, and he said:--

"Will you help me to nurse a case of diphtheria? I am all alone, and
I want someone to hold the woman, while I take out the false membrane
from her throat."

"I'll come with you," I replied, and I got into his carriage.

He told me the following story:--

Diphtheria, terrible diphtheria that suffocates unhappy creatures, had
made its appearance at poor Martinet's farm.

Both the father and son, had died at the beginning of the week. The
mother and daughter, were now in their turn dying.

A neighbour who attended to them, feeling suddenly unwell, had taken
flight the day before, leaving the door wide open, and abandoning
the two sick people on their straw pallets, alone, without anything
to drink, choking, suffocating, dying; alone, for the last twenty
four-hours!

The doctor had cleaned out the mother's throat and made her swallow;
but the child, maddened by pain and the anguish of suffocation, had
buried and hidden its head in the straw bedding, absolutely refusing to
allow itself to be touched.

The doctor accustomed to such scenes, repeated in a sad and resigned
voice:

"I cannot really spend all day with these patients. By Jove, these
do give one a heart ache. When you think that they have remained
twenty-four hours without drinking. The wind blew the rain in on to
their very beds. All the hens had taken shelter in the fire-place."

[Illustration 037]

We had reached the farm. The doctor fastened his horse, to the bough
of an apple-tree before the door, and we went in. A strong smell of
sickness and damp, of fever and mouldiness, of hospital and cellar
greeted our nostrils as we entered. In this grey and dismal house,
fireless and without sign of life, it was bitterly cold; the swampy
chill of a marsh. The clock had stopped; the rain fell down into the
great fire-place, where the hens had scattered the ashes, and we heard
in a dark corner the noise of a pair of bellows, husky and rapid. It
was the breathing of the child. The mother, stretched out in a kind of
large wooden box, the peasant's bed, and covered with old rags and old
clothes, seemed to rest quietly. She slightly turned her head towards
us.

The doctor inquired:

"Have you got a candle?"

She answered in a low depressed tone:

"In the cupboard."

He took the light, and led me to the further end of the room towards
the little girl's crib.

She lay panting, with emaciated cheeks, glistening eyes, and tangled
hair, a pitiable sight. At each breath, deep hollows could be seen in
her thin strained neck. Stretched out on her back, she convulsively
clutched with both hands the rags that covered her, and directly she
caught sight of us, she turned her face away, and hid herself in the
straw.

I took hold of her shoulders, and the doctor, forcing her to open her
mouth, pulled out of her throat a long white strip of skin, which
seemed to me as dry as a bit of leather.

Her breathing immediately became easier, and she drank a little. The
mother raising herself on her elbow watched us. She stammered out:

"Is it done?"

"Yes, it's done."

"Are we going to be left all alone?"

A terror, a terrible terror shook her voice, the terror of solitude, of
loneliness, of darkness, and of death that she felt so near to her.

I answered:

"No, my good woman, I will stay till the doctor sends you a nurse."

And turning towards the doctor, I added:

"Send old mother Mauduit; I will pay her."

"Very well, I'll send her at once."

He shook my hand, and went out; and I heard his gig drive off, over
the damp road.

I was left alone with the two dying creatures.

My dog Paf had lain down in front of the empty hearth, and this
reminded me that a little fire would be good for us all. I therefore
went out to seek for wood and straw, and soon a bright flame lit up the
whole room, and the bed of the sick child, who was again gasping for
breath.

I sat down, and stretched out my legs in front of the fire.

The rain was beating against the window panes, the wind rattled over
the roof. I heard the short, hard wheezing breath of the two women, and
the breathing of my dog who sighed with pleasure, curled up before the
bright fire-place.

Life! life! what is it? These two unhappy creatures, who had always
slept on straw, eaten black bread, suffered every kind of misery, were
about to die! What had they done? The father was dead, the son was
dead. The poor souls had always passed for honest folk, had been liked
and esteemed as simple and worthy fellows!

[Illustration 038]

I watched my steaming boots and my sleeping dog, and there arose within
me, a shameful and sensual pleasure, as I compared my lot with that of
these slaves.

The little girl seemed to choke, and suddenly the grating sound became
an intolerable suffering to me, lacerating me like a dagger, which at
each stroke penetrated my heart.

I went towards her:

"Will you drink?" I said.

She moved her head to say yes, and I poured a few drops of water down
her throat, but she could not swallow them.

The mother, who was quieter, had turned round to look at her child; and
all at once a feeling of dread took possession of me, a sinister dread
that passed over me, like the touch of some invisible monster. Where
was I? I no longer knew! Was I dreaming? What horrible nightmare was
this?

Is it true that such things happen? that one dies like this? And I
glanced into all the dark corners of the cottage, as though I expected
to see crouching in some obscure angle, a hideous, unmentionable,
terrifying thing, the thing which lies in wait for the lives of men,
and kills, devours, crushes, strangles them; the thing that delights in
red blood, eyes glistening with, fever, wrinkles and scars, white hair
and decay.

The fire was dying out. I threw some more wood on it, and warmed my
back, shuddering in every limb. At least, I hoped to die in a good
room, with doctors around my bed and medicines on the tables! And these
women had been all alone, for twenty-four hours in this wretched hovel,
without a fire, stretched on the straw with the death rattle in their
throats! At last I heard the trot of a horse and the sounds of wheels;
and the nurse came in coolly, pleased at finding some work to do, and
showing little surprise at the sight of such misery.

I left her some money and fled with my dog; I fled like a malefactor,
running away in the rain; with the rattle of those two throats still
ringing in my ears,--running towards my warm home where my servants
were awaiting me and preparing my good dinner.

But I shall never forget that scene, nor many other dreadful things,
that make me loathe this world.

What would I not give at times, to be allowed not to think, not to
feel, to live like a brute in a warm, clear atmosphere, in a country
mellow with golden light, devoid of the raw, crude tones of verdure,
a country of the East where I might sleep without weariness, and wake
without care, where restlessness is not anxiety, where love is free
from anguish, and existence is not a burden.

I should choose there a large square dwelling, like a huge box
sparkling in the sun.

From the terrace, I should look upon the sea and the white wing-like
pointed sails of the Greek and Turkish boats, as they flit to and fro.
The outer walls have hardly any apertures. A large garden with air
heavily laden under the overshadowing palm-trees, forms the centre of
this Oriental home. Sprays of clear water shoot up under the trees, and
fall back again with a slight splash, into a broad marble fountain
sanded with golden dust. Here I should bathe often, between two pipes,
two dreams, or two kisses.

[Illustration 039]

I should have slaves, black and handsome, draped in light airy
clothing, noiselessly running hither and thither over the heavy carpets.

My walls should be soft and rebounding, with the round contours of
a woman's bosom, and on the divans encircling each room, numberless
cushions of every shape, should permit of my reposing in every
conceivable attitude.

Then, when I should tire of my delicious repose, of my immobility,
of my eternal day-dream; satiated with the calm enjoyment of my own
well-being, then, I would order a horse to be brought to my door--a
horse black or white, as fleet as a gazelle.

And I would spring upon his hack, and in a furious gallop, quaff the
tingling intoxicating air.

And I would dart like an arrow, over the glowing country which fills
the eye with delight, and has all the bouquet of wine.

In the calm hour of eve, I would fly in a mad career, towards the vast
horizon dyed rose colour in the setting sun. Out there, all becomes
rose in the twilight: the sun-burnt mountains, the sand, the garments
of the Arabs, the dromedaries, the horses, the tents! The rose-coloured
flamingoes fly upwards from the marshes to the rose-coloured sky, and I
should scream with delight, plunged in the boundless infinite rosiness,
of all that surrounds me.

[Illustration 040]

I shall be released from the sight of the streets and the deafening
noise of cabs on the pavement, from the sight of black-coated men,
seated on uncomfortable chairs, as they sip their absinthe and talk
over business.

I should ignore the state of the money market, political events,
changes of ministry, all the useless frivolities on which we squander
our short and vapid existence. Why should I undergo these worries,
these sufferings, these struggles? I would rest sheltered from the wind
in my bright and sumptuous dwelling.

The winged dream was floating before my closed eyelids, and over my
mind as it sank to rest; when I heard my men awakening, lighting the
boat's lantern, and setting to work at some arduous and lengthy task.

I called out to them:

"What on earth are you doing?"

Raymond replied in a hesitating voice:

"We are getting some lines ready, sir; for we thought that you would
like to fish, if it was fine enough at sun-rise."

Agay is during the summer, the rendezvous of all the fishermen along
the coast. Whole families come there, sleeping at the inn or in the
boats, eating _bouillabaisse_ on the beach, under the shade of the pine
trees, the resinous bark of which crackles in the sun.

I inquired:

"What o'clock is it?"

"Three o'clock, sir."

Then, without rising, I stretched out my arm, and opened the door that
separated my room from the forecastle.

The two men were squatting in the low den, through which the mast
passes in fitting into the step; the den was full of such strange and
odd things, that one might take it for a haunt of thieves; in perfect
order along the partitions, instruments of all kinds were suspended:
saws, axes, marling spikes, pieces of rigging, and saucepans; on the
floor between the two berths, a pail, a stove, a barrel with its copper
circles, glistening under the immediate ray of light from the lantern
which hangs between the anchor bitts, by the side of the cable tiers;
and my men were busy, baiting the innumerable hooks hanging all along
the fishing lines.

"At what hour must I get up?" I asked.

"Why, now, sir, at once."

Half an hour after, we all three embarked on board the dingy, and left
the "_Bel-Ami_" to go and spread our net at the foot of the Drammont,
near the Ile d'Or.

Then when our line, some two or three hundred yards long, had sunk to
the bottom, we baited three little deep-sea lines, and having anchored
the boat by sinking a stone at the end of a rope, we began to fish.

It was already daylight, and I could distinctly see the coast of
Saint-Raphaël, near the mouth of the Argens, and the sombre mountains
of the Maures, themselves running out seawards till they came to an
end, far away in the open sea, beyond the gulf of Saint-Tropez.

Of all the southern coast, this is the spot I am fondest of. I love
it as though I had been born there, as though I had grown up in
it, because it is wild and glowing, and because the Parisian, the
Englishman, the American, the man of fashion, and the adventurer have
not yet poisoned it.

Suddenly the line I held in my hand quivered, I started, then felt
nothing, and again a slight shock tightened the line wound round my
finger, then another one more violent, shook my whole hand, and with
beating heart, I began to draw in the line, gently, eagerly, striving
to peer through the transparent blue water, and soon I perceived in the
shadow of the boat, a white flash describing rapid circles.

[Illustration 041]

The fish thus seen appeared to me enormous, and when on board it was no
bigger than a sardine.

Then I caught many others, blue, red, yellow, green, glittering,
silvery, striped, golden, speckled, spotted, those pretty rock fish of
the Mediterranean, so varied, so coloured, that seem painted to please
the eye; then sea-urchins covered with prickles, and those hideous
monsters of the sea, conger-eels.

Nothing can be more amusing than the uplifting of a sea fishing line.
What will come out of the sea? What surprise, what pleasure, or what
disappointment at each hook pulled out of the water! What a thrill runs
through one when from afar some large creature is perceived struggling,
as it rises slowly towards us!

At ten o'clock we had returned on board the yacht, and the two men
beaming with delight, informed me that our take weighed twenty-three
pounds.

I was, however, doomed to pay dearly for my sleepless night! A sick
headache, the dreadful pain that racks in a way no torture could equal,
shatters the head, drives one crazy, bewilders the ideas, and scatters
the memory like dust before the wind; a sick headache had laid hold of
me, and I was perforce obliged to lie down in my bunk with a bottle of
ether under my nostrils.

[Illustration 042]

After a few minutes, I fancied I heard a vague murmur which soon became
a kind of buzzing, and it seemed as if all the interior of my body
became light, as light as air, as though it were melting into vapour.

Then followed a numbness of spirit, a drowsy, comfortable state, in
spite of the persisting pain, which, however, ceased to be acute. It
was now a pain which one could consent to bear, and not any longer the
terrible tearing agony, against which the whole tortured body rises in
protest.

Soon the strange, and delightful sensation of vacuum I had in my chest,
extended, and reached my limbs, which in their turn became light, light
as though flesh and bone had melted away and skin only remained; just
enough skin to permit of my feeling the sweetness of life, and enjoy my
repose. Now I found that I no longer suffered. Pain had disappeared,
melted, vanished into air. And I heard voices, four voices, two
dialogues, without understanding the words. At times they were but
indistinct sounds, at other times a word or two reached me. But I soon
recognized that these were but the accentuated buzzing of my own ears.
I was not sleeping, I was awake, I understood, I felt, I reasoned with
a clearness, a penetration and power which were quite extraordinary;
and a joyousness of spirit, a strange intoxication, produced by the
tenfold increase of my mental faculties.

It was not a dream like that created by haschich, nor the sickly
visions produced by opium; it was a prodigious keenness of reasoning, a
new manner of seeing, of judging, of estimating things and life, with
the absolute consciousness, the certitude that this manner was the true
one.

And the old simile of the Scriptures, suddenly came back to my mind. It
seemed to me that I had tasted of the tree of life, that all mystery
was unveiled, so strongly did I feel the power of this new, strange,
and irrefutable logic. And numberless arguments, reasonings, proofs,
rose up in my mind, to be, however, immediately upset, by some proof,
some reasoning, some argument yet more powerful. My brain had become a
battle-field of ideas. I was a superior being, armed with an invincible
intelligence, and I enjoyed prodigious happiness in the sensation of
my power.

This state lasted a long, long time. I still inhaled the fumes of my
ether bottle. Suddenly, I perceived that it was empty. And I again
began to suffer.

For ten hours I endured this torture for which there is no remedy, then
I fell asleep, and the next day, brisk as after convalescence, having
written these few pages I left for Saint-Raphaël.



SAINT-RAPHAËL, _April 11th_.


On our way here the weather was delightful, and a light breeze carried
us over in six tacks. After rounding the Drammont, I caught sight of
the villas of Saint-Raphaël hidden amongst the pine-trees, among the
little slender pines beaten all the year round, by the everlasting
gusts of wind from Fréjus. Then I passed between the Lions, pretty red
rocks that seemed to guard the town, and I entered the port, which,
choked up with sand at the further end, obliges one to remain some
fifty yards off the quay. I then went on land.

A large crowd was gathered in front of the church. Some one was being
married. A priest was authorising in Latin with pontifical gravity, the
solemn and comical act which so disturbs mankind, bringing with it so
much mirth, suffering, and tears. According to custom, the families
had invited all their relatives and friends to the funereal service
of a young girl's innocence, to listen to the piously indecorous
ecclesiastical admonitions, preceding those of the mother, and to the
public benediction, bestowed on that which is otherwise so carefully
veiled.

And the whole country-side, full of broad jokes, moved by the greedy
and idle curiosity that draws the common herd to such a scene, had come
there to see how the bride and bridegroom would comport themselves. I
mingled with the crowd, and watched it.

Good heavens, how ugly men are! For at least the hundredth time, I
noticed, in the midst of this festive scene, that, of all races, the
human race is the most hideous. The whole air was pervaded by the odour
of the people, the nauseous, sickening odour of unclean bodies, greasy
hair and garlic, that odour of garlic, exhaled by the people of the
South, through nose, mouth, and skin, just like roses spread abroad
their perfume.

Certainly men are every day as ugly, and smell as obnoxious, but our
eyes accustomed to the sight of them, our nostrils used to their odour,
fail to distinguish their ugliness and their emanations, unless we have
been spared for some time the sight and stink of them.

Mankind is hideous! To obtain a gallery of grotesque figures, fit
to raise a laugh from the dead, it would be sufficient to take the
ten first-comers, set them in a line, and photograph them with their
irregular heights, their legs, either too long or too short, their
bodies too fat or too thin, their red or pale, bearded or smooth faces,
their smirking or solemn looks.

Formerly, in primeval days, the wild man, the strong naked man, was
certainly as handsome as the horse, the stag or the lion. The exercise
of his muscles, a life free from restraint, the constant use of his
vigour and his agility, kept up in him a grace of motion, which is the
first condition of beauty, and an elegance of form, which is produced
only by physical exercise. Later on, the artistic nations, enamoured of
form, knew how to preserve this grace and this elegance in intelligent
man, by the artificial means of gymnastics. The care bestowed on the
body, the trials of strength and suppleness, the use of ice-cold water
and vapour baths, made the Greeks true models of human beauty, and they
have left us their statues, to show us what were the bodies of these
great artists.

But now, O Apollo! look at the human race moving about in its festive
scenes. The children rickety from the cradle, deformed by premature
study, stupefied by the school life that wears out the body at
fifteen years of age, and cramps the mind before it is formed, reach
adolescence with limbs badly grown, badly jointed, in which all normal
proportions have completely disappeared.

[Illustration 043]

And let us contemplate the people in the street, trotting along in
their dirty clothing! As for the peasant! Good Heavens! Let us go and
watch the peasant in the fields, his gnarled knotted frame, lanky,
twisted, bent, more hideous than the barbarous types exhibited in a
museum of anthropology.

In comparison how splendid are those men of bronze, the negroes; in
shape, if not in face; how elegant, both in their movements and their
figure, the tall lithe Arabs. Moreover, I have yet another reason for
having a horror of crowds.

I cannot go into a theatre, nor be present at any public entertainment.
I at once experience a curious and unbearable feeling of discomfort, a
horrible unnerving sensation, as though I were struggling with all my
might, against a mysterious and irresistible influence. And in truth, I
struggle with the spirit of the mob, which strives to take possession
of me.

How often have I observed that the intelligence expands and grows
loftier, when we live alone, and that it becomes meaner and lower, when
we again mix among other men. The contact, the opinions floating in
the air, all that is said, all that one is compelled to listen to, to
hear, to answer, acts upon the mind. A flow and ebb of ideas goes from
head to head, from house to house, from street to street, from town to
town, from nation to nation, and a level is established, an average of
intellect is created, by all large agglomerations of individuals.

The inherent qualities of intellectual initiative, of free will, of
wise reflection and even of sagacity, belonging to any individual
being, generally disappear the moment that being is brought in contact
with a large number of other beings.

The following is a passage from a letter of Lord Chesterfield to his
son (1751) which sets forth with rare humility, the sudden elimination
of all active qualities of the mind, in every large body of people:

"Lord Macclesfield, who had the greatest share in forming the bill, and
who is one of the greatest mathematicians and astronomers in Europe,
spoke afterwards with infinite knowledge, and all the clearness that so
intricate a matter would admit of, but as his words, his periods, and
his utterance were not near so good as mine, the preference was most
unanimously, though most unjustly, given to me.

"This will ever be the case; every numerous assembly is _mob,_ let the
individuals who compose it be what they will. Mere reason and good
sense is never to be talked to a mob; their passions, their sentiments,
their senses and their seeming interests, are alone to be applied to.

"Understanding they have collectively none, &c...."

This deep observation of Lord Chesterfield's, a remark, however,
that has often been made, and noted with interest by philosophers of
the scientific school, constitutes one of the most serious arguments
against representative government.

The same phenomenon, a surprising one, is produced each time a large
number of men are gathered together. All these persons, side by side,
distinct from each other, of different minds, intelligences, passions,
education, beliefs, and prejudices, become suddenly, by the sole fact
of their being assembled together, a special being, endowed with a new
soul, a new manner of thinking in common, which is the unanalysable
resultant of the average of these individual opinions.

It is a crowd, and that crowd is a person, one vast collective
individual, as distinct from any other mob, as one man is distinct from
any other man.

A popular saying asserts that "the mob does not reason." Now why does
not the mob reason, since each particular individual in the crowd does
reason? Why should a crowd do spontaneously, what none of the units
of the crowd would have done? Why has a crowd irresistible impulses,
ferocious wills, stupid enthusiasms that nothing can arrest, and,
carried away by these thoughtless impulses, why does it commit acts,
that none of the individuals composing it would commit alone?

A stranger utters a cry, and behold! a sort of frenzy takes possession
of all, and all, with the same impulse, which no one tries to resist,
carried away by the same thought, which instantaneously becomes common
to all, notwithstanding different castes, opinions, beliefs, and
customs, will fall upon a man, murder him, drown him, without a motive,
almost without a pretext, whereas each one of them, had he been alone,
would have precipitated himself, at the risk of his life, to save the
man he is now killing.

And in the evening, each one on returning home, will ask himself what
passion or what madness had seized him, and thrown his nature and his
temperament out of its ordinary groove; how he could have given way to
this savage impulse?

The fact is, he had ceased to be a man, to become one of a crowd. His
personal will had become blended with the common will, as a drop of
water is blended with and lost in a river.

His personality had disappeared, had become an infinitesimal particle
of one vast and strange personality, that of the crowd. The panics
which take hold of an army, the storms of opinion which carry away an
entire nation, the frenzy of dervish dances, are striking examples of
this identical phenomenon.

In short, it is not more surprising to see an agglomeration of
individuals make one whole, than to see molecules, that are placed near
each other form one body.

To this mysterious attraction, must without doubt be attributed the
peculiar temperament of theatre audiences, and the strange difference
of judgment, that exists between the audience of general rehearsals,
and that of the audience of first representations, and again between
the audience of a first representation, and that of the succeeding
performances, and the change in the telling effects, from one evening
to another; and the errors of judgment condemning a play like _Carmen,_
which, later on, turns out an immense success.

What I say about crowds, must be applied to all society, and he who
would carefully preserve the absolute integrity of his thought, the
proud independence of his opinion, and look at life, humanity and the
universe as an impartial observer free from prejudice, preconceived
belief and fear, must absolutely live apart from all social relations;
for human stupidity is so contagious, that he will be unable to
frequent his fellow-creatures, even see them, or listen to them,
without being, in spite of himself, influenced on all sides by their
conversations, their ideas, their superstitions, their traditions,
their prejudices, which by their customs, laws and surprisingly
hypocritical and cowardly code of morality, will surely contaminate him.

Those who strive to resist these lowering and incessant influences,
struggle in vain amidst petty, irresistible, innumerable and almost
imperceptible fetters; and through sheer fatigue soon cease to fight.

But a backward movement took place in the crowd; the newly-married
couple were coming out. And immediately I followed the general example,
raised myself on tip-toe to see,--and longed to see,--with a stupid,
low, repugnant longing, the longing of the common herd. The curiosity
of my neighbours had intoxicated me; I was one of a crowd.

[Illustration 044]

To fill up the remainder of the day, I decided on taking a row in my
dingy up the Argens. This lovely and almost unknown river, separates
the plains of Fréjus from the wild mountain range of the Maures.

I took Raymond, who rowed me along the side of the low beach to the
mouth of the river, which we found impracticable and partly filled up
with sand. One channel only communicated with the sea; but so rapid,
so full of foam, of eddies and of whirlpools, that we were unable to
ascend it.

We were therefore obliged to drag the boat to land, and carry it over
the sandhills to a kind of beautiful lake, formed by the Argens at
this spot.

In the midst of a green and marshy country, of that rich green tint
given by trees growing out of water, the river sinks down between
two banks, so covered with verdure, and with such high impenetrable
foliage, that the neighbouring mountains are barely visible; it sinks
down, still winding, still looking like a peaceful lake, without
showing or betraying that it continues twisting its way through the
calm, lonesome and magnificent country.

As in the low Northern plains, where the springs ooze out under the
feet, running over and vivifying the earth like blood, the clear, cold
blood of the soil; so here, we find again the same strange sensation of
exuberant nature which floats over all damp countries.

Birds, with long legs dangling as they fly, spring up from amongst
the reeds, stretching their pointed beaks heavenwards; while others,
broad-winged and slow, pass from one bank to another with heavy
flight, and others, smaller and more rapid, skim along the surface
of the river, darting forward like rebounding pebbles. Innumerable
turtle-doves cooing on the heights, or wheeling about, fly from tree
to tree, and seem to exchange messages of love. One feels a sensation
that all around this deep water, throughout all this plain, up to the
foot of the mountains, there is yet more water; the deceitful water
of the marsh, sleeping yet living; broad clear sheets, in which the
skies are mirrored, over which the clouds flit by; in which, widely
scattered, all manner of strange rushes spring up; the fertile limpid
water, full of rotting life and deathly fermentation; water breeding
fever and miasma, at the same time food and poison, spreading itself
out in attractive loveliness, over the mysterious mass of putrefaction
beneath it. The atmosphere is delightful, relaxing and dangerous. Over
all the banks which separate the vast still pools, amid all the thick
grasses, swarms, crawls, jumps, and creeps a whole world of slimy,
repugnant, cold-blooded animals. I love those cold, subtle animals that
are generally avoided and dreaded; for me there is something sacred
about them.

[Illustration 045]

At the hour of sunset the marsh intoxicates and excites me. After
having been all day a silent pond lying hushed in the heat, it becomes
at the moment of twilight, a fairy-like and enchanted country. In
its calm and boundless depths the skies are mirrored: skies of gold,
skies of blood, skies of fire; they sink in it, bathe in it, float and
are drowned in it. They are there up above, in the immensity of the
firmament, and they are there below, beneath us, so near and yet so
completely beyond our touch, in that shallow pool, through which the
pointed grasses push their way like bristling hairs. All the colour
with which earth has been endowed, charming, varied, and enthralling,
appears to us deliciously painted, admirably resplendent, and
infinitely shaded around a single leaf of the water-lily. Every shade
of red, rose, yellow, blue, green, and violet are there, in a little
patch of water which shows us the heavens, and space, and dreamland,
and the flight of the birds as they skim across its face. And then
there is still something else,--I know not what,--in the marshes
beheld in the setting sun. I feel therein a confused revelation of
some unknown mystery, an original breath of primeval life, which is,
perhaps, nothing more than the bubble of gas rising from a swamp at the
fall of day.



[Illustration 046]

SAINT-TROPEZ, _April 12th_.


We left Saint-Raphaël at about eight o'clock this morning, with a
strong northwest breeze.

The sea in the gulf, though it had no waves, was white with foam, white
like a mass of soap-suds, for the wind, the terrible wind from Fréjus
which blows almost every morning, seemed to throw itself on the water,
as though it would tear it to pieces, raising a rolling mass of little
waves of froth, scattered one moment, reformed the next.

The people at the port having assured us that this squall would fall
towards eleven o'clock, we decided upon starting with three reefs in,
and the storm-jib. The dingy was placed on board at the foot of the
mast, and the _Bel-Ami_ seemed to fly directly it left the jetty.
Although it carried scarcely any sail, I had never felt it dash along
like this. One might have thought that it hardly touched the water, and
one would never have suspected that it carried at the bottom of its
large keel, two and a-half yards deep, a slab of lead weighing over
thirty cwt., besides thirty-eight cwt. of ballast in its hold, and all
we had on board in the shape of rigging, anchors, chains, cables and
furniture.

I had soon crossed the bay, at the further end of which the Argens
throws itself into the sea; and as soon as I was under shelter of
the coast the breeze completely fell. It is there that the splendid,
sombre, and wild region begins, which is still called the land of the
Moors. It is a long peninsula, composed of mountains; with a contour
of coasts over sixty miles long.

Saint-Tropez, situated at the entry of the lovely gulf, formerly called
Gulf of Grimaud, is the capital of the little Saracen kingdom, of which
nearly every village, built on the summit of a peak in order to secure
it from attack, is still full of Moorish houses with arcades, narrow
windows, and inner courtyards, wherein tall palm trees have grown up,
and are now higher than the roofs.

If one penetrates on foot into the unknown valleys of this strange
group of mountains, one discovers an incredible country, devoid of
roads, and lanes; without even footpaths, without hamlets, without
houses.

At intervals, after seven or eight hours' walking, appears a hovel,
often abandoned, or sometimes inhabited by a poverty-stricken family of
charcoal burners.

The Monts des Maures have, it appears, a system of geology peculiar to
themselves, a matchless flora said to be the most varied in Europe,
and immense forests of pines, chestnuts, and cork trees.

Some three years ago, I made an excursion into the very heart of
the country, to the ruins of the _Chartreuse de la Verne,_ and have
retained an ineffaceable recollection of it. If it is fine to-morrow I
shall return there.

A new road follows the sea, going from Saint-Raphaël to Saint-Tropez.
All along this magnificent avenue, opened up through the forest by the
side of a matchless beach, new winter resorts are being started. The
first one planned is called Saint Aigulf.

This bears a peculiar stamp. In the midst of a forest of fir trees
stretching down to the sea, wide roads are laid out in every direction.
There is not a house, nothing but the barely indicated plan of
the streets, running through the trees. Here are the squares, the
cross-roads and the boulevards. The names are even written up on metal
tablets: Boulevard Ruysdaël, Boulevard Rubens, Boulevard Van Dyck,
Boulevard Claude Lorrain. One wonders at all these painters' names. Why
indeed? Simply because the _Company_ has decided, like God before he
lit the sun: "This shall be an artists' resort!"

The _Company!_ No one knows in the rest of the world, all this word
contains of hopes, dangers, money gained, and money lost on the
Mediterranean shores! The _Company!_ fatal and mysterious word, deep
and deceitful!

[Illustration 047]

In this instance however the _Company_ seems to have realized its
expectations, for it has already found purchasers, and of the best,
amongst artists. At various places one reads: "Building lot bought by
M. Carolus Duran; another by M. Clairin, another by Mlle. Croizette,
etc." Nevertheless--Who can tell? The Mediterranean Companies are
not in luck just now. Nothing is more ludicrous than this fury of
speculation, which generally ends in terrible failures. Whosoever has
gained ten thousand francs (four hundred pounds) over his field, at
once buys ten millions (four hundred thousand pounds) worth of land at
twenty sous (ten pence) the metre, in order to sell it again at twenty
francs (sixteen shillings). Boulevards are traced, water is conveyed,
gasworks are prepared, and the purchaser is hopefully expected.

The purchaser does not make his appearance, but instead of him---ruin.

Far off in front of me I perceive the towers and the buoys, that mark
the breakers on both sides, at the opening of the gulf of Saint-Tropez.

The first tower is called "Tour des Sardinaux," and marks a regular
shoal of rocks, level with the top of the water, some of which just
show the tips of their brown heads; the second one has been christened
"Balise de la Sèche à l'huile."[1]

We now reach the entrance of the gulf, which extends back between two
ridges of mountains and forests as far as the village of Grimaud,
built at the very extremity, on a height. The ancient castle of
Grimaldi, a tall ruin that overlooks the village, appears in the
distant haze like the evocation of some fairy scene.

The wind has fallen. The gulf looks like an immense calm lake, into
which, taking advantage of the last puffs of the squall, we slowly make
our way.

To the right of the channel, Sainte-Maxime, a little white port, is
mirrored in the water which reflects the houses topsy-turvy, and
reproduces them as distinctly as on shore. Opposite, Saint-Tropez
appears, guarded by an old fort.

At seven o'clock _Bel-Ami_ anchored by the quay, at the side of the
little steamboat which carries on the service with Saint-Raphaël. The
only means of communication between this isolated little port, and the
rest of the world is by this _Lion de Mer,_ an old pleasure yacht,
which runs in connection with a venerable diligence, that carries
the letters, and travels at night by the one road which crosses the
mountains.

[Illustration 048]

This is one of those charming and simple daughters of the sea, one of
those nice modest little towns; which, fed upon fish and sea air, and
breeder of sailors, is as much a produce of the sea as any shell. On
the jetty, stands a bronze statue of the Bailli de Suffren.

[Illustration 049]

The pervading smell is one of fish and smoking tar, of brine and hulls.
The stones in the streets glitter like pearls, with the scales of the
sardines, and along the walls of the port, a population of lame and
paralysed old sailors bask in the sun, on the stone benches. From time
to time they talk of past voyages, and of those they have known in
bygone days, the grandfathers of the small boys running yonder. Their
hands and faces are wrinkled, tanned, browned, dried by the wind, by
fatigue, by the spray, by the heat of the tropics and by the icy cold
of Northern seas, for they have seen, in their roamings over the ocean,
the ins and outs of the world, every aspect of the earth and of all
latitudes. In front of them, propped upon a stick, passes and repasses
the old captain of the merchant service, who formerly commanded the
_Trois-Soeurs,_ or the _Deux-Amis,_ or the _Marie-Louise_ or the
_Jeune-Clémentine._

All salute him, like soldiers answering the roll-call, with a litany of
"Good day, captain," modulated in many tones.

This is a true land of the sea, a brave little town, briny and
courageous, which fought in days of yore against the Saracens, against
the Duc d'Anjou, against the wild corsairs, against the Connétable
de Bourbon, and Charles-Quint, and the Duc de Savoie, and the Duc
d'Epernon. In 1637, the inhabitants, fathers of these peaceful
citizens, without any assistance repelled the Spanish fleet, and
every year they renew with surprising realism, the representation of
the attack and their defence, filling the town with noisy bustle and
clamour, strangely recalling the great popular festivities of the
middle ages.

In 1813, the town likewise repulsed an English flotilla, that had been
sent against it.

Now it is a fishing town, and the produce of its fisheries supplies
the greater part of the coast with tunny, sardines, _loups,_
rock-lobsters, and all the pretty fish of this blue sea.

On setting foot on the quay after having dressed myself, I heard twelve
o'clock strike, and I perceived two old clerks, notary or lawyer's
clerks, going off to their midday meal, like two old beasts of burden,
unbridled for a few minutes while they eat their oats at the bottom of
a nosebag.

Oh, liberty! liberty! our sole happiness, sole hope, sole dream! Of
all the miserable creatures, of all classes of individuals, of all
orders of workers, of all the men who daily fight the hard battle of
life, these are the most to be pitied, on these does fortune bestow the
fewest of her favours.

No one believes this,--no one knows it. They are powerless to complain;
they cannot revolt; they remain gagged and bound in their misery, the
shamefaced misery of quill-drivers.

They have gone through a course of study, they understand law, they
have taken a degree, perhaps.

How dearly I like that dedication by Jules Vallès:

"To all those, who, nourished upon Greek and Latin, have died of
starvation."

And what do they earn, these starvelings? Eight to fifteen hundred
francs, (thirty-two to sixty pounds) a year!

Clerks in gloomy chambers, or clerks in office, you should read every
morning over the door of your fatal prison, Dante's famous phrase:

"Abandon hope, all ye who enter here!"

They are but twenty when they first enter, and will remain till sixty
or longer. During this long period not an event takes place! Their
whole life slips away in the dark little bureau, ever the same,
carpeted with green portfolios. They enter young, at the age of
vigorous hopes; they leave in old age, when death is at hand. All the
harvest of recollections that we make in a life-time, the unexpected
events, our loves,--gentle or tragic memories, our adventures, all the
chances of a free existence, are unknown to these convicts.

The days, the weeks, the months, the seasons, the years, all are like.
They begin the day's work at the same hour; at the same hour, they
breakfast; at the same hour, they leave; and this goes on for sixty
or seventy years. Four accidents only constitute landmarks in their
existence: marriage, the birth of the first-born, and the death of
father, or mother. Nothing else; stop though, yes, a rise in salary.
They know nothing of ordinary life, nothing of the world! Unknown
to them are the days of cheerful sunshine in the streets, and idle
wanderings through the fields, for they are never released before the
appointed hour. They become voluntary prisoners at eight o'clock in the
morning, and at six, the prison doors are opened for them, when night
is at hand. But, as a compensation, they have, for a whole fortnight in
the year, the right,--a right indeed much discussed, hardly bargained
for and grudgingly granted,--to remain shut up in their lodgings. For
where can they go without money?

The builder climbs skywards; the driver prowls about the streets; the
railway mechanic traverses woods, mountains, plains; moves incessantly
from the walls of the town, to the vast blue horizon of the sea. The
_employé_ never quits his bureau, his coffin, and in the same little
mirror, wherein he saw himself a young fellow with fair moustache the
day of his arrival, he contemplates himself bald, and white-bearded, on
the day of his dismissal. Then, all is finished, life is played out,
the future closed. How can he have reached this point? How can he have
grown old without any event having occurred, without having been shaken
by any of the surprises of existence? It is so nevertheless. He must
now make way for the young! for the young beginners!

Then the unfortunate mortal steals away, more wretched than before,
and dies, almost immediately from the sudden snapping of the long and
obstinate habit of his daily routine, the dreary routine of the same
movements, the same actions, the same tasks at the same hours.

As I went into the hotel for breakfast, an alarmingly big packet of
letters and papers was handed to me, and my heart sank as at the
prospect of some misfortune. I have a fear and a hatred of letters;
they are bonds. Those little squares of paper bearing my name, seem to
give out a noise of chains, as I tear them open,--of chains linking me
to living creatures, I have known or know.

Each one inquires, although written by different hands: "Where are you?
What are you doing? Why disappear in this way, without telling us where
you are going? With whom are you hiding?" Another adds: "How can you
expect people to care for you, if you run away in this fashion from
your friends? It is positively wounding to their feelings."

Well then, don't attach yourselves to me! Will no one endeavour to
understand affection, without joining thereto a notion of possession
and of despotism. It would seem as if social ties could not exist
without entailing obligations, susceptibilities, and a certain amount
of subserviency. From the moment one has smiled upon the attentions of
a stranger, this stranger has a hold upon you, is inquisitive about
your movements, and reproaches you with neglecting him. If we get as
far as friendship, then each one imagines himself to have certain
claims; intercourse becomes a duty, and the bonds which unite us seem
to end in slip-knots which draw tighter. This affectionate solicitude,
this suspicious jealousy, eager to control, and to cling, on the part
of beings who have met casually, and who fancy themselves linked
together because they have proved to be mutually agreeable, arises
solely from the harassing fear of solitude, which haunts mankind upon
this earth.

Each of us, feeling the void around him, the unfathomable depth in
which his heart beats, his thoughts struggle, wanders on like a madman
with open arms and eager lips, seeking some other being to embrace.
And embrace he does, to the right, to the left, at haphazard, without
knowing, without looking, without understanding, that he may not feel
alone. He seems to say, from the moment he has shaken hands: "Now, you
belong to me a little. You owe me some part of yourself, of your life,
of your thoughts, of your time." And that is why so many people believe
themselves to be friends, who know nothing whatever of each other, so
many start off hand in hand, heart to heart, without having really had
one good look at one another. They must care for some one, in order
not to be alone, their affections must be expended in friendship or
in love, but some vent, must be found for it incessantly. And they
talk of affection, swear it, become enthusiastic over it, pour their
whole heart into some unknown heart found only the evening before, all
their soul into some chance soul with a face that has pleased. And
from this haste to become united, arise all the surprises, mistakes,
misunderstandings and dramas of life.

Just as we remain lonely and alone, notwithstanding all our efforts, so
in like manner we remain free, notwithstanding all our ties.

No one, ever, belongs to another. Half unconsciously we lend ourselves
to the comedy,--coquettish or passionate, of possession, but no one
really gives himself--his ego--to another human being. Man, exasperated
by this imperious need to be the master of some one, instituted
tyranny, slavery and marriage. He can kill, torture, imprison, but the
human will inevitably escapes him, even when it has for a few moments
consented to submission.

Do mothers even possess their children? Does not the tiny being but
just entered into the world, set to work to cry for what he wants, to
announce his separate existence, and proclaim his independence?

Does a woman ever really belong to you? Do you know what she thinks,
whether even she really adores you? You kiss her sweet body (waste
your whole soul on her perfect lips): a word from your mouth or
from hers--one single word--is enough to put between you, a gulf of
implacable hatred!

All sentiments of affection lose their charm, when they become
authoritative. Because it gives me pleasure to see and talk with
some one, does it follow that I should be permitted to know what he
does, and what he likes? The bustle of towns, both great and small,
of all classes of society, the mischievous, envious, evil-speaking,
calumniating curiosity, the incessant watchfulness of the affections
and conduct of others, of their gossip and their scandals, are they not
all born of that pretension we have, to control the conduct of others,
as if we all belonged to each other in varying degrees? And we do in
fact imagine that we have some rights over them, and on their life, for
we would fain model it upon our own; on their thoughts, for we expect
them to be of the same style as our own; on their opinions, in which
we will not tolerate any difference from ours; on their reputation,
for we expect it to conform to our principles; on their habits, for we
swell with indignation, when they are not according to our notions of
morality.

I was breakfasting at the end of a long table, in the hotel Bailli de
Suffren, and still occupied with the perusal of my letters and papers,
when I was disturbed by the noisy conversation of some half-dozen men,
seated at the other end.

[Illustration 050]

They were commercial travellers. They talked on every subject
with assurance, with contempt, in an airy, chaffing authoritative
manner, and they gave me the clearest, the sharpest feeling of what
constitutes the true French spirit; that is to say, the average of the
intelligence, logic, sense and wit of France. One of them, a great
fellow with a shock of red hair wore the military medal, and also one
for saving life,--a fine fellow. Another, a fat little roundabout,
made puns without ceasing and laughed till his sides ached at his own
jokes, before he would leave time to the others to understand his fun.
Another man with close-cut hair, was re-organizing the army and the
administration of justice, reforming the laws and the constitution,
sketching out an ideal Republic to suit his own views, as a traveller
in the wine trade. Two others, side by side, were amusing each other
thoroughly with the narrative of their _bonnes fortunes;_ adventures in
back parlours of shops, and conquests of maids-of-all-work.

And in them I saw France personified, the witty, versatile, brave and
gallant France of tradition.

These men were types of the race, vulgar types, it is true, but which
have but to be poetized a little, to find in them the Frenchman, such
as history--that lying and imaginative old dame--shows him to us.

And it is really an amusing race, by reason of certain very special
qualities, which one finds absolutely nowhere else.

First and foremost it is their versatility, which so agreeably
diversifies both their customs, and their institutions. It is this,
which makes the history of their country resemble some surprising tale
of adventure in a _feuilleton,_ of which the pages "to be continued
in the next number," are full of the most unexpected events, tragic,
comic, terrible, grotesque. One may be angry or indignant over it,
according to one's way of thinking, but it is none the less certain
that no history in the world is more amusing, and more stirring than
theirs.

From the pure art point of view--and why should one not admit this
special, and disinterested point of view, in politics as well as in
literature?--it remains without a rival. What can be more curious, and
more surprising, than the events which have been accomplished in the
last century?

What will to-morrow bring forth? This expectation of the unforeseen is,
after all, very charming. Everything is possible in France, even the
most wildly improbable drolleries, and the most tragic adventures.

What could surprise them? When a country has produced a Joan of Arc,
and a Napoleon, it may well be considered miraculous ground.

And then the French love women: they love them well, with passion and
with airy grace, and with respect.

Their gallantry cannot be compared to anything in any other country.

He who has preserved in his heart, the flame of gallantry which burned
in the last centuries, surrounds women with a tenderness at once
profound, gentle, sensitive and vigilant. He loves everything that
belongs to them; everything that comes from them, everything that they
are; everything they do. He loves their toilette, their knick-knacks,
their adornments, their artifices, their _naïvetés,_ their little
perfidies, their lies and their dainty ways. He loves them all, rich as
well as poor, the young and even the old, the dark, the fair, the fat,
the thin. He feels himself at his ease with them, and amongst them.
There he could remain indefinitely, without fatigue, without _ennui,_
happy in the mere fact of being in their presence.

He knows how, from the very first word, by a look, by a smile, to
show them that he adores them, to arouse their attention, to sharpen
their wish to please, to display for his benefit all their powers of
seduction. Between them and him there is established at once, a quick
sympathy, a fellowship of instincts, almost a relationship through
similarity of character and nature.

Then begins between them and him a combat of coquetry, and gallantry;
a mysterious, and skirmishing sort of friendship is cemented, and an
obscure affinity of heart and mind is drawn closer.

He knows how to say what will please them, how to make them understand
what he thinks; how to make known, without ever shocking them, without
offending their delicate and watchful modesty, the admiration, discreet
yet ardent, always burning in his eyes, always trembling on his lips,
always alight in his veins. He is their friend and their slave, the
humble servitor of their caprices, and the admirer of their persons. He
is ever at their beck and call, ready to help them, to defend them, as
secret allies. He would love to devote himself to them, not only to
those he knows slightly, but to those he knows not at all, to those he
has never even seen.

He asks nothing of them but a little pretty affection, a little
confidence, or a little interest, a little graceful friendliness or
even, sly malice.

He loves, in the street the woman who passes by, and whose glance
falls upon him. He loves the young girl with hair streaming down her
shoulders, who, a blue bow on her head, a flower in her bosom, moves
with slow or hurried step, timid or bold eye, through the throng on the
pavements. He loves the unknown ones he elbows, the little shopwoman
who dreams on her doorstep, the fine lady who lazily reclines in her
open carriage.

From the moment he finds himself face to face with a woman, his heart
is stirred, and his best powers are awakened. He thinks of her, talks
for her, tries to please her, and to let her understand that she
pleases him. Tender expressions hover on his lips, caresses in his
glance; he is invaded by a longing to kiss her hand, to touch even the
stuff of her dress. For him, it is women who adorn the world, and make
life seductive.

He likes to sit at their feet, for the mere pleasure of being there; he
likes to meet their eye, merely to catch a glimpse of their veiled and
fleeting thoughts; he likes to listen to their voice, solely because it
is the voice of woman.

It is by them, and for them, that the Frenchman has learnt to talk, and
to display the ready wit which distinguishes him.

To talk! What is it? It is the art of never seeming wearisome; of
knowing how to invest every trifle with interest, to charm no matter
what be the subject, to fascinate with absolutely nothing.

How can one describe the airy butterfly touch upon things by supple
words, the running fire of wit, the dainty flitting of ideas, which
should all go to compose talk?

The Frenchman is the only being in the world who has this subtle spirit
of wit, and he alone thoroughly enjoys and comprehends it.

His wit is a mere flash and yet it dwells; now the current joke, now
the wit, which illumines the national literature.

That which is truly innate, is wit in the largest sense of the word,
that vast breath of irony or gaiety, which has animated the nation
from the moment it could think or speak: it is the pungent raciness
of Montaigne and Rabelais, the irony of Voltaire, of Beaumarchais, of
Saint-Simon, and the inextinguishable laughter of Molière.

The brilliant sally, the neat epigram, is the small-change of this
wit. And nevertheless, it is yet an aspect of it, a characteristic
peculiarity of the national intelligence. It is one of its keenest
charms. It is this that makes the sceptical gaiety of Paris life, the
careless cheerfulness of their manners and customs. It is part and
parcel of the social amenity.

Formerly, these pleasant jests were made in verse, now-a-days they
appear in prose. They are called, according to their date, epigrams,
_bons mots,_ traits, hits, _gauloiseries._ They fly through town and
drawing-room, they spring up everywhere, on the boulevard as well as
Montmartre. And those of Montmartre are often just as good as those of
the boulevard, they are printed in the papers; from one end of France
to the other, they excite laughter. For, at least, the French know how
to laugh.

Why should one good thing more than another, the unexpected, quaint,
juxtaposition of two terms, two ideas or even two sounds; a ridiculous
pun, some unexpected cock-and-bull story, open the floodgates of our
gaiety, causing explosions of mirth, fit to blow up all Paris and the
provinces like a mine?

Why do all the French laugh, while all the English and all the Germans
can understand nothing of the fun? Why? solely and wholly because they
are French, because they possess the intelligence which is peculiar to
the French, and because they possess the delightful, enviable gift of
laughter.

With them, moreover, a little mother-wit, enables any government to
hold its own.

Good spirits takes the place of genius, a neat saying consecrates a
man at once, and makes him great for all posterity. The rest matters
little. The nation loves those who amuse it, and forgives everything to
those who can make it laugh.

A glance thrown over the past history of France, will make us
understand that the fame of their great men, has only been made by
flashes of wit. The most detestable princes have become popular by
agreeable jests, repeated and remembered from century to century.

The throne of France, is maintained by the cap and bells of the jester.

Jests, jests, nothing but jests, ironic or heroic, polished or
coarse,--jests float for ever to the surface in their history, and make
it like nothing so much as a collection of puns and witticisms.

Clovis, the Christian king, cried on hearing the story of the Passion:

"Why was I not there with my Franks?" This prince, in order to reign
alone, massacred his allies and his relations, and committed every
crime imaginable. Nevertheless, he is looked upon as a pious and
civilizing monarch.

"Why was I not there with my Franks?"

We should know nothing of good King Dagobert, if the song had not
apprised us of a few particulars, no doubt erroneous, of his existence.

Pepin, wishing to remove the king Childeric from the throne, proposed
to Pope Zacharias the following insidious question:

"Which of the two is the most worthy to reign? He who worthily fulfils
all the kingly functions without the title, or he who bears the title
without knowing how to reign?"

What do we know of Louis VI.? Nothing. Pardon! In the battle of
Brenneville, when an Englishmen laid hands upon him, crying, "The king
is taken," this truly French monarch replied: "Do you know, knave, that
a king can never be taken, even at chess?"

Louis IX., saint though he was, has not left a single good saying to
remember him by. In consequence, his reign appears to the French a
wearisome episode, full of orisons and penances.

That noodle, Philip VI., beaten and wounded at the battle of Crécy,
cried as he knocked at the gates of the castle of Arbroie: "Open: here
are the fortunes of France!" They are still grateful to him for this
melodramatic speech. John II., made prisoner by the Prince of Wales,
remarks, with chivalrous good will, and the graceful gallantry of a
French troubadour, "I had counted upon entertaining you at supper
to-night; but fortune wills otherwise, and ordains that I should sup
with you."

It would be impossible to bear adversity more gracefully.

"It is not for the King of France to avenge the quarrels of the Duke of
Orleans," was the generous declaration of Louis XII. And it is, truly,
a kingly saying; one worthy of the remembrance of all princes.

That hare-brained fellow Francis I., more apt at the pursuit of the
fair sex, than at the conduct of a campaign, has saved his reputation,
and surrounded his name with an imperishable halo, by writing to his
mother those few superb words, after the defeat of Pavia: "All is lost,
Madame, save honour."

Does not that phrase remain to this day as good as a victory? Has it
not made this prince more illustrious, than the conquest of a kingdom?
We have forgotten the names of the greater number of the famous
battles, fought in these long bygone days; but shall we ever forget:
"All is lost, save honour?"

Henry IV.! Hats off, gentlemen! Here is the master! Sly, sceptical,
tricky, deceitful beyond belief, artful beyond compare; a drunkard,
debauchee, unbeliever, he managed by a few happy and pointed sayings,
to make for himself in history, an admirable reputation as a
chivalrous, generous king, a brave, loyal, and honest man.

Oh! the cheat! well did he know how to play upon human stupidity!

"Hang yourself, brave Crillou, we have gained the day without you."

After a speech like this, a general is always ready to be hanged, or
killed for his master's sake.

At the opening of the famous battle of Ivry: "Children, if the colours
fall, rally to my white plumes, you will find them always on the road
to honour and victory."

How could a man fail to be victorious, who knew how to speak thus to
his captains and his troops?

This sceptical monarch wishes for Paris; he longs for it, but he must
choose between his faith and the beautiful city: "Enough," he murmurs,
"after all Paris is well worth a mass!" And he changes his religion,
as he would have changed his coat. Is it not a fact, however, that the
witticism caused a ready acceptance of the deed? "Paris is well worth
a mass," raised a laugh among the choicer spirits, and there was no
violent indignation over the change.

Has he not become the patron of all fathers of families, by the
question put to the Spanish Ambassador, who found him playing at horses
with the Dauphin: "Are you a father, M. l'Ambassadeur?"

The Spaniard replied: "Yes, sir."

"In that case," said the King, "we will go on."

But he made a conquest for all eternity of the heart of France, of the
_bourgeoisie,_ and of the people, by the finest phrase that prince ever
pronounced,--a real inspiration of genius, full of depth, heartiness,
sharpness, and good sense.

"If God prolongs my life, I hope to see in my kingdom no peasant so
poor, that he cannot put a fowl in the pot for his Sunday's dinner."

It is with words such as these, that enthusiastic and foolish crowds
are flattered and governed. By a couple of clever sayings, Henry IV.
has drawn his own portrait for posterity. One cannot pronounce his
name, without at once having a vision of the white plumes, and of the
delicious flavour of a _poule-au-pot._

Louis XIII. made no happy hits. This dull King had a dull reign.

Louis XIV. created the formula of absolute personal power: "The State
is myself."

He gave the measure of royal pride in its fullest expansion: "I have
almost had to wait."

He set the example of sonorous political phrases, which make alliances
between two nations: "The Pyrenees exist no longer!"

All his reign is in these few phrases.

Louis XV., most corrupt of Kings, elegant and witty, has bequeathed to
posterity that delightful keynote of his supreme indifference: "After
me, the deluge."

If Louis XVI. had been inspired enough to perpetrate one witticism, he
might possibly have saved his kingdom. With one _bon mot,_ might he not
perhaps have escaped the guillotine?

Napoleon I. scattered around him by handfuls, the sayings that were
suited to the hearts of his soldiers.

Napoleon III. extinguished with one brief phrase, all the future
indignation of the French nation in that first promise: "The Empire is
peace." The Empire is peace! superb declaration, magnificent lie! After
having said that, he might declare war against the whole of Europe,
without having anything to fear from his people. He had found a simple,
neat, and striking formula, capable of appealing to all minds, and
against which facts would be no argument.

He made war against China, Mexico, Russia, Austria, against all the
world. What did it matter? There are people yet, who speak with sincere
conviction of the eighteen years of tranquillity he gave to France:
"The Empire is peace."

And it was also with his keen words of satire, phrases more mortal than
bullets, that M. Rochefort laid the Empire low, riddling it with the
arrows of his wit, cutting it to shreds and tatters.

The Maréchal MacMahon himself has left as a souvenir of his career to
power: "Here I am, here I remain!" And it was by a shaft from Gambetta
that he was, in his turn, knocked down: "Submission or dismissal."

With these two words, more powerful than a revolution, more formidable
than the barricades, more invincible than an army, more redoubtable
than all the votes, the tribune turned out the soldier, crushed his
glory, and destroyed his power and prestige.

As to those who govern France at this moment, they must fall, for they
are devoid of wit; they will fall, for in the day of danger, in the day
of disturbance, in the inevitable moment of see-saw, they will not be
capable of making France laugh, and of disarming her.

Of all these historical phrases, there are not ten really authentic.
But what does it matter, so long as they are believed to have been
uttered by those to whom they are attributed:

    "Dans le pays des bossus
       Il faut l'être
       Ou le paraître,"[2]

says the popular song.

Meanwhile the commercial travellers were talking of the emancipation of
women, of their rights, and of the new position in society they longed
for.

Some approved, others were annoyed; the little fat man jested without
ceasing, and ended the breakfast, as well as the discussion, by the
following entertaining anecdote:

"Lately," said he, "there was a great meeting in England, where this
question was discussed. One of the orators had been setting forth
numerous arguments in favour of the women's case, and wound up with
this observation:

"To conclude, gentlemen, I may observe that the difference between man
and woman is after all, very small."

A powerful voice, from an enthusiastic and thoroughly convinced
listener, arose from the audience, crying: "Hurrah for the small
difference!"


[1] Buoy of the oily scuttle-fish!

[2]
    In the country of hunchbacks
    One must be so,
    Or at least appear so.



SAINT-TROPEZ, _April 13th_.


As it was remarkably fine this morning, I started for the _Chartreuse
de la Verne._

Two recollections draw me towards this ruin: that of the sensation of
infinite solitude and the unforgettable melancholy of the deserted
cloister; and also that of an old peasant couple, to whose cottage I
had been taken the year before by a friend who was guiding me across
this country of the Moors.

[Illustration 051]

Seated in a country cart, for the road soon became impracticable for
a vehicle on springs, I followed the line of the bay to its deepest
point. I could see upon the opposite shore the pine woods where the
_Company_ is attempting to create another winter resort. The shore
indeed is exquisite, and the whole country magnificent. Then the
road plunges into the mountains, and soon passes through the town of
Cogolin. A little further on, I quitted it for a rough broken lane,
which was scarcely more than a long rut. A river, or rather a big
stream, runs by the side, and every hundred yards or so, cuts through
the ravine, floods it, wanders away a little, returns, loses itself
again, quits its bed and drowns the track, then falls into a ditch,
strays through a field of stones, appears suddenly to calm down
into wisdom, and for a while follows its due course; but seized all
at once by some wild fancy, it precipitates itself again into the
road, and changes it into a marsh, in which the horse sinks up to the
breast-plate, and the high vehicle up to the driving seat.

There are no more houses; only from time to time, a charcoal burner's
hut; the poorest live in absolute holes. Is it not almost incredible
that men should inhabit holes in the ground, where they live all the
year, cutting wood and burning it to extract the charcoal, eating bread
and onions, drinking water, and sleeping like rabbits in their burrows,
in narrow caverns hewn in the granite rocks. Lately, too, in the midst
of these unexplored valleys, a hermit has been discovered, a real
hermit, hidden there for these thirty years, unknown to anyone, even to
the forest rangers.

The existence of this wild man, revealed by I know not whom, was, no
doubt, mentioned to the driver of the diligence, who spoke of it
to the post-master, who talked of it to the telegraph clerk male or
female, who flew with the wonder to the editor of some little local
paper, who made out of it a sensational paragraph, copied into all the
country journals of Provence.

The police set to work, to hunt out the hermit, without apparently
causing him any alarm, whence we may conclude that he had kept all
needful papers by him. But a photographer, excited by the news, set
off in his turn, wandered three days and three nights amongst the
mountains, and ended by photographing some one, the real hermit some
say, an impostor, others will tell you.

Last year then, the friend who first revealed to me this strangely
quaint country, showed me two creatures infinitely more curious, than
the poor devil who had come to hide in these impenetrable woods, a
grief, a remorse, an incurable despair, or perhaps simply the mere
ennui of living.

This is how he first discovered them. Wandering on horseback among
these valleys, he suddenly came across a prosperous farm: vines,
fields, and a farmhouse, which looked comfortable though humble.

He entered. He was received by a woman, a peasant, about seventy years
old. The husband, seated under a tree, rose and came forward to bow.

"He is deaf," she said.

He was a fine old fellow of eighty, amazingly strong, upright, and
handsome. They had for servants, a labourer and a farm-girl. My friend,
a little surprised to meet these singular persons in the midst of a
desert, enquired about them. They had been there for a long time; they
were much respected, and passed for being comfortably off, that is, for
peasants.

He came back several times to visit them, and little by little became
the confidant of the wife. He brought her papers and books, being
surprised to find that she had some ideas, or rather remains of ideas,
which scarcely seemed those of her class. She was, however, neither
well read, intelligent nor witty, but there seemed to be, in the depths
of her memory, traces of forgotten thoughts, a slumbering recollection
of a bye-gone education. One day, she asked him his name:

"I am the Count de X...," he said. Moved by the obscure vanity which is
lodged deep in all souls, she replied:

"I too am noble."

Then she went on, speaking for certainly the first time in her life, of
this piece of ancient history, unknown to anyone.

"I am the daughter of a colonel. My husband was a non-commissioned
officer in my father's regiment. I fell in love with him, and we ran
away together.

"And you came here?"

"Yes, we hid ourselves."

"And you have never seen your family since?"

"Oh no! don't you see my husband was a deserter."

"You have never written to anyone?"

"Oh no!"

"And you have never heard anyone speak of your family, of your father,
or mother?"

"Oh no, mama was dead."

This woman had preserved a certain childishness, the simplicity of
those who throw themselves into love, as if over a precipice.

He asked again:

"You have never told this to anyone?"

She answered: "Oh no! I can say it now, because Maurice is deaf. As
long as, he could hear, I should not have dared to mention it. Besides,
I have never seen anyone but the peasants since I ran away."

"At least, then, you have been happy?"

"Oh yes; very happy. I have been very happy. I have never regretted
anything."

Well, I also had gone last year to visit this woman, this couple, as
one goes to gaze at some miraculous relic.

I had contemplated with surprise, sadness, and even a little disgust,
this woman who had followed this man, this rustic Adonis, attracted
by his hussar uniform, and who had continued to see him under his
peasant's rags, with the blue dolman slung over his back, sword at his
side, and the high boot with clanking spur.

She had, however, become a peasant herself. In the depths of this
wilderness, she had become perfectly accustomed to this life without
luxuries, without charm, or delicacy of any sort, she had adapted
herself to these simple manners. And she loved him still. She had
become a woman of the people, in cap and coarse petticoat. Seated on
a straw-bottomed chair at a wooden table, she eat a mess of cabbage,
potatoes and bacon from an earthenware plate. She slept on a straw
mattress beside him.

She had never thought of anything but him! She had regretted neither
ornaments, nor silks, nor elegance, nor soft chairs, nor the perfumed
warmth of well-curtained rooms, nor repose in a comfortable bed. She
had never needed anything but him! As long as he was there, she had
wanted nothing else!

She was quite young when she abandoned life, the world, and those who
had brought her up and loved her. Alone with him she had come to this
savage ravine. And he had been everything to her, everything that could
be longed for, dreamt of, expected, ceaselessly hoped for. He had
filled her life with happiness from one end to another. She could not
have been happier.

Now I was going for the second time to see her again, filled with the
surprise, and the vague contempt, with which she inspired me.

[Illustration 052]

She lived near the Hyères road, on the opposite slope of the mountain
on which stands the _Chartreuse de la Verne;_ and another carriage was
awaiting me on this road, for the deep track we had followed, had now
ceased and become a mere footpath, only accessible to pedestrians and
mules.

I started therefore alone, on foot, and with slow steps to climb the
mountains. I was in a delightful wood, a real Corsican thicket, a fairy
tale wood composed of flowering creepers, aromatic plants with powerful
scents, and huge magnificent trees.

[Illustration 053]

The granite fragments in the track sparkled as they rolled beneath my
steps, and in the openings between the branches, I saw sudden peeps
of wide gloomy valleys full of verdure, winding lengthily away to the
distance.

[Illustration 054]

I was warm, the quick blood flowed within my flesh, I felt it coursing
through my veins, burning, rapid, alert, rhythmical and alluring as a
song; the vast song brutish and gay, of life in movement under the
sun. I was happy, I was strong, I quickened my pace, climbed the rocks,
ran, jumped, and discovered every minute a larger view, a more gigantic
network of desert valleys, from whence not one single chimney sent up a
wreath of smoke.

Then I reached the top, dominated by other heights, and after making
some circuit, perceived on the slope of the mountain before me, a
bleak ruin, a heap of dark stones, and of ancient buildings supported
by lofty arcades. To reach it, it was necessary to go round a large
ravine, and to cross a chestnut grove. The trees, old as the abbey
itself, enormous, mutilated and dying, had survived the building. Some
have fallen, no longer able to sustain the weight of years; others,
beheaded, have now only a hollow trunk in which ten men could conceal
themselves. And they look like a formidable army of giants, who in
spite of age and thunderbolts are ready still to attempt the assault
of the skies. In this fantastic wood one feels the mouldy touch of
centuries, the old, old life of the rotting roots, amidst which, at the
feet of these colossal stumps, nothing can grow. For amongst the grey
trunks the ground is of hard stones and a blade of grass is rare.

Here are two fenced springs, or fountains, kept as drinking places for
the cows.

I approach the abbey, and find myself face to face with the old
buildings, the most ancient of which date back to the 12th century,
while the more recent are inhabited by a family of shepherds.

In the first court, one sees by the traces of animals, that a remnant
of life still haunts the spot; then after traversing crumbling and
tumbling halls, like those of all ruins, one reaches the cloister, a
long and low walk still under cover, surrounding a tangled square of
brambles and tall grasses. In no spot in the world, have I felt such
a weight of melancholy press upon my heart, as in this ancient and
sinister cloister, true pacing court of monks. Certainly, the form of
the arcades and the proportions of the place contribute to my emotion,
to my heartache, and sadden my soul by their action on my eyes, exactly
as the happy curve of some cheering bit of architecture would rejoice
them. The man who built this retreat must have been possessed with a
despairing heart, to have an inspiration so desolate and dreary. One
would fain weep and groan within these walls, one longs to suffer, to
reopen all the wounds of one's heart, to enlarge and make the very
utmost of all the sorrows compressed within it.

I climbed upon a breach in the wall to see the view outside, and I
understood my emotion. Nothing living around, nothing anywhere but
death. Behind the abbey, a mountain ascending up to the sky, around
the ruins the chestnut grove, in front a valley, and beyond that, more
valleys,--pines, pines, an ocean of pines, and on the far horizon,
pines still on the mountain tops.

And I left the place.

[Illustration 055]

I crossed next a wood of cork trees, where, a year ago, I had
experienced a shock of strong and moving surprise.

[Illustration 056]

It was on a grey day of October, at the time when they strip the bark
of these trees, to make corks of it. They strip them thus from the foot
to the first branches, and the denuded trunk becomes red, a blood red
as of a flayed limb. They have grotesque and twisted shapes; the look
of maimed creatures writhing in epileptic fits, and I suddenly fancied
myself transported into a forest of tormented beings, a bleeding and
Dantesque forest of hell, where men had roots, where bodies deformed by
torture, resembled trees, where life ebbed incessantly, in never-ending
torment by these bleeding wounds, which produced upon me the tension
of the nerves and faintness that sensitive people feel at the sudden
sight of blood, or the unexpected shock of a man crushed, or fallen
from a roof. And this emotion was so keen, this sensation so vivid,
that I imagined I heard distracting cries and plaints, distant and
innumerable; I touched one of these trees, to reassure my fainting
spirit, and I fancied, I beheld my hand, as I drew it back, covered
with blood.

To-day they are cured--till the next barking.

At length the road appears, passing near the farm which has sheltered
the long happiness of the non-commissioned officer of hussars, and the
Colonel's daughter.

From afar, I recognize the old man walking among the vines. So much the
better; the wife will be alone in the house.

The servant was washing in front of the door.

"Your mistress is here," I said.

[Illustration 057]

She replied, with a singular look, in the accent of the south:

"No, sir; since six months she is no more."

"She is dead?"

"Yes, sir."

"And of what?"

The woman hesitated, then muttered:

"She is dead--dead, I tell you."

"But of what?"

"Of a fall, then!"

"A fall! where from?"

"From the window."

I gave her a few pence.

"Tell me about it," I said.

No doubt she strongly wished to talk of it, no doubt, too, she had
often repeated this history for the last six months, for she retailed
it at great length, as a story well-known by heart and invariable in
its repetition.

Then I learnt that for thirty years, the old deaf man had had a
mistress in the neighbouring village, and that his wife having learnt
this by chance from a passing carter, who spoke of it without knowing
who she was, rushed panting and bewildered to the attic, and there
hurled herself from the window, not perhaps with deliberate purpose,
but impelled by the torture of the horrible agony caused by her
discovery, which goaded her forward in an irresistible gust of passion,
like a whip lashing and cutting. She had flown up the staircase, burst
open the door, and without knowing, without being able to stop her
headlong speed, had continued to run straight ahead and had leaped into
empty space.

_He_ had known nothing of it; he did not know even now; he would never
know, because he was deaf. His wife was dead, that was all. All the
world must die some time or other!

I could see him at a distance giving orders by signs to his labourers.

Then I caught sight of the carriage which was waiting for me in the
shade of a tree, and I returned to Saint-Tropez.



_April 14th_.


I was going to bed yesterday evening, although it was only nine
o'clock, when a telegram was handed to me. A friend, one of my dearest,
sent me this message: "I am at Monte-Carlo for four days, and have been
telegraphing to you at every port on the coast. Come to me at once."

And behold, the wish to see him, the longing to talk, to laugh, to
gossip about society, about things, about people; the longing to
slander, to criticize, to blame, to judge, to chatter, was alight
within me in a moment, like a conflagration. On that morning, even,
I should have been furious at this recall, yet in the evening I
was enchanted at it; I wished myself already there, with the great
dining-room of the restaurant full of people before my eyes, and in my
ears that murmur of voices in which the numbers of the roulette table
dominate all other phrases, like the _Dominus vobiscum_ of the church
services.

I called Bernard.

"We shall start at about four o'clock in the morning for Monaco," I
said to him.

He replied philosophically:

"If it is fine, sir."

"It _will_ be fine."

"The barometer is going down, though."

"Pooh! it will go up again."

The mariner smiled an incredulous smile.

I went to bed and to sleep.

It was I who woke the men. It was dark, and a few clouds hid the sky.
The barometer had gone down still more.

The two men shook their heads with a distrustful air.

I repeated:

"Pooh! it will be fine. Come, let us be off!"

[Illustration 58]

Bernard said:

"When I can see the open, I know what I am about; but here, in this
harbour, at the end of this gulf, one knows nothing, sir, one can see
nothing; there might be a fearful sea on, without our knowing anything
about it."

I replied:

"The barometer has gone down, therefore we shall not have an east wind.
Now, if we have a west wind, we can put into Agay, which is only six
or seven miles off." The men did not seem much reassured; however, they
got ready to start.

"Shall we take the dingy on deck," asked Bernard.

"No, you will see it will be quite fine. Let it tow astern as usual."

A quarter of an hour later, we had quitted the harbour, and were
running through the entrance of the gulf, to a light and intermittent
breeze.

I laughed.

"Well you see, the weather is good enough."

Soon, we had passed the black and white tower built upon the Rabiou
shoal, and although sheltered by Cape Camarat which runs far out into
the open sea, and of which the flashing light appeared from minute to
minute, the _Bel-Ami_ was already lifted forwards by long powerful
slow waves; those hills of water which move on, one behind the other,
without noise, without shock, without foam, menacing without fury,
alarming in their very tranquillity.

One saw nothing, one only felt the ascent and descent of the yacht over
the dark and silently moving waters.

Bernard said:

"There has been a gale out at sea to-night, sir; we shall be lucky if
we get in without accident."

The day broke brightly over the wild crowding waves, and we all three
looked anxiously seawards to see if the squall were returning.

All this time the boat was running a great pace before the wind and
with the tide. Already Agay appeared on our beam, and we held counsel
whether we should make for Cannes, to escape the rough weather, or for
Nice, running to seaward of the isles.

Bernard would have preferred Cannes: but as the breeze did not freshen,
I decided in favour of Nice.

For three hours all went well; though the poor little yacht rolled
like a cork in the awful swell.

No one who is unacquainted with the open sea, that sea of mountains,
moving with weighty and rapid strides, separated by valleys which
change place from second to second, filled up and formed again
incessantly, can guess, can imagine the mysterious, redoubtable,
terrifying and superb force of the waves.

Our little dingy followed far behind us, at the extremity of forty
yards of hawser, through this liquid and dancing chaos. We lost sight
of it every moment, then suddenly it would reappear perched on the
summit of a wave, floating along like a great white bird.

Here is Cannes in the depth of its bay, Saint-Honorat with its tower
standing up among the waves, and before us the Cape d'Antibes.

The breeze freshened little by little, and the crests of the waves
became flocks of sheep, those snowy sheep which move so fast, and of
which the countless troop careers along without dog or shepherd under
the endless sky.

Bernard said to me:

"It will be all we shall do to make Antibes."

And indeed seas began to break over us, with inexpressible and violent
noise. The sharp squalls shook us, throwing us into yawning gulfs,
whence as we emerged, we righted ourselves with terrible shocks.

The gaff was lowered, but at every oscillation of the yacht, the boom
touched the waves and seemed ready to tear away the mast, which if it
should fly away with the sail, would leave us to float alone and lost
upon the wild waves.

Bernard cried out:

"The dingy, sir."

I turned to look. A huge wave filled it, rolled it over, enveloped it
in foam as if it would devour it, and, breaking the hawser by which it
was made fast to us, took possession of it, half sinking, drowned; a
conquered prey which it will presently throw upon the rocks down there,
below the headland.

The minutes seem hours. Nothing can be done, we must go on, round
the point in front of us, and when we have done that, we shall be
sheltered, and in safety.

At last we reach it! The sea is now calm and smooth, protected as it is
by the long tongue of rocks and earth which forms the Cape of Antibes.

There is the harbour from which we started only a few days ago,
although it seems to me we have been voyaging for months, and we enter
just as noon is striking.

The men are radiant on finding themselves back again, though Bernard
repeats at every other moment:

"Ah, sir! our poor little boat; it went to my heart, to see it go down
like that!"

As for me, I took the four o'clock train, to go and dine with my friend
in the principality of Monaco.

I wish I had time to write at length about this surprising state;
smaller than many a village in France, but wherein one may find an
absolute sovereign, bishops, an army of Jesuits and _seminarists_
more numerous than that of the ruler; an artillery, the guns of which
are nearly all rifled, an etiquette more ceremonious than that of his
lamented Majesty Louis XIV., principles of authority more despotic than
those of William of Prussia, joined to a magnificent toleration for
the vices of humanity, on which indeed, live both sovereign, bishops,
Jesuits, _seminarists,_ ministers, army, magistrates, every one in
short.

Hail to this great pacific monarch, who without fear of invasion or
revolution, reigns peacefully over his happy little flock of subjects,
in the midst of court ceremonies which preserve intact the traditions
of the four reverences, the twenty-six handkissings, and all the forms
used once upon a time around Great Rulers.

This monarch, moreover, is neither sanguinary nor vindictive, and when
he banishes, for he does banish sometimes, the measure is put in force
with the utmost delicacy.

Is a proof needful?

An obstinate player, on a day of ill luck, insulted the sovereign. A
decree was issued for his expulsion.

During a whole month, he prowled around the forbidden Paradise,
fearing the sword blade of the archangel, in the guise of the sabre of
the policeman. One day, however, he hardened his heart, crossed the
frontier, reached the very centre of the kingdom in thirty seconds, and
penetrated into the precincts of the Casino. But suddenly an official
stopped him:

"Are you not banished, sir?"

"Yes, sir, but I leave by the next train."

"Oh! in that case it is all right. You can go in."

And every week he came back: and each time, the same functionary asked
him the same question, to which he invariably gave the same answer.

Could justice be more gentle?

Within the last few years, however, a very serious and novel case
occurred within the kingdom.

This was an assassination.

A man, a native of Monaco, not one of the wandering strangers of whom
one meets legions on these shores--a husband, in a moment of anger,
killed his wife; killed her without rhyme or reason, without any excuse
that could be accepted.

Indignation was unanimous throughout the principality.

The Supreme Court met to judge this exceptional case (a murder had
never taken place before), and the wretch was with one voice, condemned
to death.

The indignant sovereign ratified the sentence.

There only remained to execute the criminal. Then arose a difficulty.
The country possessed neither guillotine nor executioner.

What was to be done? By the advice of the minister of Foreign affairs,
the Prince opened negotiations with France to obtain the loan of a
headsman and his apparatus.

Long deliberations took place in the ministry at Paris. At last they
replied by sending an estimate of the cost of moving the woodwork and
the practitioner. The whole amounted to sixteen thousand francs (six
hundred and forty pounds).

The Monarch of Monaco reflected that the operation would cost him dear;
the assassin was certainly not worth that price. Sixteen thousand
francs for the head of a wretch like that! Never!

The same request was addressed to the Italian government. A King and a
brother would no doubt show himself less exacting than a Republic.

The Italian government sent in a bill which amounted to twelve
thousand francs, (four hundred and eighty pounds).

Twelve thousand francs! It would be necessary to impose a new tax, a
tax of two francs (twenty pence) a head! This would be enough to cause
serious, and hitherto unknown trouble in the State.

Then they bethought them of having the villain beheaded by a simple
soldier. But the general, on being consulted, replied hesitatingly,
that perhaps his men had scarcely sufficient practice to acquit
themselves satisfactorily of a task, which undoubtedly demanded great
experience in the handling of the sword.

Then the Prince again assembled the Supreme Court, and submitted to it
this embarrassing case.

They deliberated long, without finding any practical way out of the
difficulty. At last the first president proposed to commute the
sentence of death, to that of lifelong imprisonment, and the measure
was adopted.

But they did not possess a prison. It was necessary to fit one up, and
a gaoler was appointed who took charge of the prisoner.

For six months all went well. The captive slept all day on a straw
mattress in the nook arranged for him, and his guardian lazily reclined
upon a chair before the door, while he watched the passers-by.

The Prince, however, is economical--extravagance is not his greatest
fault--and he has accurate accounts laid before him of the smallest
expenses of his State (the list of them is not a long one). They handed
him, therefore, the bill of the expenses incurred in the creation
of this new function, the cost of the prison, the prisoner, and the
watchman. The salary of this last was a heavy burden on the budget of
the Sovereign.

At first he merely made a wry face over it; but when he reflected that
this might go on for ever (the prisoner was young), he requested his
Minister of Justice to take measures to suppress the expense.

The minister consulted the President of the Tribunal, and the two
agreed to suppress the expense of a gaoler. The prisoner, thus invited
to guard himself, could not fail to escape, which would solve the
question to the satisfaction of all parties.

The gaoler was therefore restored to his family, and it became the duty
of a scullion from the palace kitchen, to carry to the prisoner his
morning and evening meals. But the captive made no attempt to recover
his liberty.

Finally, one day, as they had neglected to furnish him with food, they
beheld him tranquilly appear at the palace to claim it; and from that
day forward, it became his habit to come at meal-times to the palace,
to eat with the servants, whose friend he became, and thus save the
cook the trouble of the walk to and fro.

After breakfast, he would take a turn as far as Monte Carlo. He
sometimes went into the Casino, to venture a five-franc piece on the
green cloth. When he had won, he gave himself a good dinner at one of
the most fashionable hotels; then he returned to his prison, carefully
locking his door on the inside.

He never slept away a single night.

The situation became a little puzzling, not for the convict, but for
the judges.

The court assembled afresh, and it was decided that they should invite
the criminal to leave the State of Monaco.

When this decision was announced to him, he simply replied:

"You are pleased to be facetious. Well! and what would become of me in
that case? I have no longer any means of subsistence. I have no longer
a family. What would you have me do? I was condemned to death. You
did not choose to execute me. I made no complaint. I was afterwards
condemned to imprisonment for life, and placed in the hands of a
gaoler. You took away my guardian. Again I made no complaint.

"Now, to-day, you want to turn me out of the country. Not if I know
it. I am a prisoner, your prisoner, judged and condemned by you. I am
faithfully fulfilling my sentence. I remain here."

The Supreme Court was floored. The Prince was in a terrible rage, and
ordered fresh measures to be taken.

Deliberations were resumed.

Then, at last, they decided to offer to the culprit a pension of six
hundred francs (twenty-four pounds), if he would leave the State and
live elsewhere.

He accepted.

He has rented a little plot five minutes' walk from the kingdom of his
former sovereign, and lives happily upon his property, cultivating a
few vegetables, and despising all potentates.

However, the Court of Monaco has profited, though a little late, by
this experience, and has made a treaty with the French Government, by
which they send their convicts over to France, who keeps them out of
sight, in consideration of a modest compensation.

In the judicial archives of the principality, one is shown the decree
which settles the pension, by which the rascal was induced to leave the
State of Monaco.

Opposite to the palace, rises the rival establishment, the Roulette.
There is, however, no hatred, no hostility between them; for the one
supports the other, which in return protects the first. Admirable
example! unique instance of two neighbouring and powerful families
living in peace in one tiny state: an example well calculated to efface
the remembrance of the Capulets and the Montagues. Here, the house of
the sovereign; there, the house of play; the old and the new society
fraternizing to the sound of gold.

The saloons of the Casino are as readily opened to strangers, as those
of the Prince are difficult of access.

I turn to the first.

A noise of money, continuous as that of the waves, a noise at once
deep, light and terrible, fills the ears from the moment one enters,
then fills the soul, stirs the heart, troubles the mind, and bewilders
thought. Everywhere this sound, this singing, crying, calling,
tempting, rending sound.

Around the tables, a motley crowd of players, the scum of every
continent and of every society; mixed with princes, or future kings,
women of fashion, _bourgeois,_ money lenders, disreputable women; a
mixture unique in the world, of men of all races, of all castes, of all
kinds, of every origin; a perfect museum of adventurers from Russia,
Brazil, Chili, Italy, Spain, Germany; of old women with reticules,
of disreputable young ones carrying little bags containing keys, a
handkerchief, and the three last five-franc pieces which are kept for
the green cloth, when the vein of luck shall chance to return.

I approached the first table, and saw ... a pale face, with lined
forehead, and hard-set lip; features convulsed, with an expression of
evil ... the young woman of Agay bay, the beautiful sweetheart of the
sunny wood, and the moonlit bay. He, too, is there, seated before her,
his hand resting on a few napoleons.

"Play on the first square," said she.

He inquired anxiously:

"All?"

"Yes, all."

He placed the coins in a little heap.

The croupier turned the wheel. The ball ran, danced, and stopped.

"Nothing further counts," jerks forth the voice, which resumes after a
moment:

"Twenty-eight."

The young woman started, and in a hard, sharp tone said:

"Come away."

He rose, and without looking at her, followed her; and one felt that
some dreadful thing had sprung up between them.

Some one remarked:

"Good-bye to love. They don't look as if they were of one mind to-day."

A hand taps me on the shoulder. I turn round. It is my friend.

       *       *       *       *       *

I have only now to ask pardon for having thus trespassed on my reader
by talking so much of myself. I had written this journal of day-dreams
entirely for myself, or rather, I had taken advantage of my floating
solitude, to capture the wandering ideas which are wont to traverse our
minds, like birds on the wing.

But I am asked to publish these few pages, which, unconnected,
deficient in composition and in art, follow one after the other without
a reason, and abruptly conclude without a motive; simply because a
squall of wind put an end to my voyage.

I have yielded to this request. Perhaps I am wrong.





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