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Title: The Girl with the Golden Eyes
Author: Balzac, Honoré 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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THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN EYES


By Honore De Balzac



Translated by Ellen Marriage



PREPARER’S NOTE: The Girl with the Golden Eyes is the third part of a
trilogy. Part one is entitled Ferragus and part two is The Duchesse de
Langeais. The three stories are frequently combined under the title The
Thirteen.



                             DEDICATION

                    To Eugene Delacroix, Painter.



THE GIRL WITH THE GOLDEN EYES


One of those sights in which most horror is to be encountered is,
surely, the general aspect of the Parisian populace--a people fearful
to behold, gaunt, yellow, tawny. Is not Paris a vast field in perpetual
turmoil from a storm of interests beneath which are whirled along a crop
of human beings, who are, more often than not, reaped by death, only to
be born again as pinched as ever, men whose twisted and contorted faces
give out at every pore the instinct, the desire, the poisons with
which their brains are pregnant; not faces so much as masks; masks of
weakness, masks of strength, masks of misery, masks of joy, masks of
hypocrisy; all alike worn and stamped with the indelible signs of
a panting cupidity? What is it they want? Gold or pleasure? A few
observations upon the soul of Paris may explain the causes of its
cadaverous physiognomy, which has but two ages--youth and decay: youth,
wan and colorless; decay, painted to seem young. In looking at
this excavated people, foreigners, who are not prone to reflection,
experience at first a movement of disgust towards the capital, that
vast workshop of delights, from which, in a short time, they cannot even
extricate themselves, and where they stay willingly to be corrupted. A
few words will suffice to justify physiologically the almost infernal
hue of Parisian faces, for it is not in mere sport that Paris has been
called a hell. Take the phrase for truth. There all is smoke and fire,
everything gleams, crackles, flames, evaporates, dies out, then lights
up again, with shooting sparks, and is consumed. In no other country has
life ever been more ardent or acute. The social nature, even in fusion,
seems to say after each completed work: “Pass on to another!” just as
Nature says herself. Like Nature herself, this social nature is busied
with insects and flowers of a day--ephemeral trifles; and so, too,
it throws up fire and flame from its eternal crater. Perhaps, before
analyzing the causes which lend a special physiognomy to each tribe of
this intelligent and mobile nation, the general cause should be pointed
out which bleaches and discolors, tints with blue or brown individuals
in more or less degree.

By dint of taking interest in everything, the Parisian ends by being
interested in nothing. No emotion dominating his face, which friction
has rubbed away, it turns gray like the faces of those houses upon which
all kinds of dust and smoke have blown. In effect, the Parisian, with
his indifference on the day for what the morrow will bring forth,
lives like a child, whatever may be his age. He grumbles at everything,
consoles himself for everything, jests at everything, forgets,
desires, and tastes everything, seizes all with passion, quits all with
indifference--his kings, his conquests, his glory, his idols of bronze
or glass--as he throws away his stockings, his hats, and his fortune. In
Paris no sentiment can withstand the drift of things, and their current
compels a struggle in which the passions are relaxed: there love is
a desire, and hatred a whim; there’s no true kinsman but the
thousand-franc note, no better friend than the pawnbroker. This
universal toleration bears its fruits, and in the salon, as in the
street, there is no one _de trop_, there is no one absolutely useful,
or absolutely harmful--knaves or fools, men of wit or integrity. There
everything is tolerated: the government and the guillotine, religion and
the cholera. You are always acceptable to this world, you will never
be missed by it. What, then, is the dominating impulse in this country
without morals, without faith, without any sentiment, wherein, however,
every sentiment, belief, and moral has its origin and end? It is gold
and pleasure. Take those two words for a lantern, and explore that great
stucco cage, that hive with its black gutters, and follow the windings
of that thought which agitates, sustains, and occupies it! Consider!
And, in the first place, examine the world which possesses nothing.

The artisan, the man of the proletariat, who uses his hands, his tongue,
his back, his right arm, his five fingers, to live--well, this very man,
who should be the first to economize his vital principle, outruns his
strength, yokes his wife to some machine, wears out his child, and ties
him to the wheel. The manufacturer--or I know not what secondary thread
which sets in motion all these folk who with their foul hands mould
and gild porcelain, sew coats and dresses, beat out iron, turn wood and
steel, weave hemp, festoon crystal, imitate flowers, work woolen things,
break in horses, dress harness, carve in copper, paint carriages, blow
glass, corrode the diamond, polish metals, turn marble into leaves,
labor on pebbles, deck out thought, tinge, bleach, or blacken
everything--well, this middleman has come to that world of sweat and
good-will, of study and patience, with promises of lavish wages, either
in the name of the town’s caprices or with the voice of the monster
dubbed speculation. Thus, these _quadrumanes_ set themselves to watch,
work, and suffer, to fast, sweat, and bestir them. Then, careless of the
future, greedy of pleasure, counting on their right arm as the painter
on his palette, lords for one day, they throw their money on Mondays
to the _cabarets_ which gird the town like a belt of mud, haunts of the
most shameless of the daughters of Venus, in which the periodical money
of this people, as ferocious in their pleasures as they are calm at
work, is squandered as it had been at play. For five days, then, there
is no repose for this laborious portion of Paris! It is given up to
actions which make it warped and rough, lean and pale, gush forth with a
thousand fits of creative energy. And then its pleasure, its repose,
are an exhausting debauch, swarthy and black with blows, white with
intoxication, or yellow with indigestion. It lasts but two days, but it
steals to-morrow’s bread, the week’s soup, the wife’s dress, the child’s
wretched rags. Men, born doubtless to be beautiful--for all creatures
have a relative beauty--are enrolled from their childhood beneath the
yoke of force, beneath the rule of the hammer, the chisel, the loom, and
have been promptly vulcanized. Is not Vulcan, with his hideousness and
his strength, the emblem of this strong and hideous nation--sublime
in its mechanical intelligence, patient in its season, and once in a
century terrible, inflammable as gunpowder, and ripe with brandy for
the madness of revolution, with wits enough, in fine, to take fire at
a captious word, which signifies to it always: Gold and Pleasure! If
we comprise in it all those who hold out their hands for an alms, for
lawful wages, or the five francs that are granted to every kind of
Parisian prostitution, in short, for all the money well or ill earned,
this people numbers three hundred thousand individuals. Were it not for
the _cabarets_, would not the Government be overturned every Tuesday?
Happily, by Tuesday, this people is glutted, sleeps off its pleasure, is
penniless, and returns to its labor, to dry bread, stimulated by a need
of material procreation, which has become a habit to it. None the
less, this people has its phenomenal virtues, its complete men, unknown
Napoleons, who are the type of its strength carried to its highest
expression, and sum up its social capacity in an existence wherein
thought and movement combine less to bring joy into it than to
neutralize the action of sorrow.

Chance has made an artisan economical, chance has favored him with
forethought, he has been able to look forward, has met with a wife and
found himself a father, and, after some years of hard privation, he
embarks in some little draper’s business, hires a shop. If neither
sickness nor vice blocks his way--if he has prospered--there is the
sketch of this normal life.

And, in the first place, hail to that king of Parisian activity, to whom
time and space give way. Yes, hail to that being, composed of saltpetre
and gas, who makes children for France during his laborious nights,
and in the day multiplies his personality for the service, glory,
and pleasure of his fellow-citizens. This man solves the problem
of sufficing at once to his amiable wife, to his hearth, to the
_Constitutionnel_, to his office, to the National Guard, to the opera,
and to God; but, only in order that the _Constitutionnel_, his office,
the National Guard, the opera, his wife, and God may be changed into
coin. In fine, hail to an irreproachable pluralist. Up every day at five
o’clock, he traverses like a bird the space which separates his dwelling
from the Rue Montmartre. Let it blow or thunder, rain or snow, he is at
the _Constitutionnel_, and waits there for the load of newspapers which
he has undertaken to distribute. He receives this political bread with
eagerness, takes it, bears it away. At nine o’clock he is in the bosom
of his family, flings a jest to his wife, snatches a loud kiss from her,
gulps down a cup of coffee, or scolds his children. At a quarter to ten
he puts in an appearance at the _Mairie_. There, stuck upon a stool,
like a parrot on its perch, warmed by Paris town, he registers until
four o’clock, with never a tear or a smile, the deaths and births of an
entire district. The sorrow, the happiness, of the parish flow beneath
his pen--as the essence of the _Constitutionnel_ traveled before upon
his shoulders. Nothing weighs upon him! He goes always straight before
him, takes his patriotism ready made from the newspaper, contradicts no
one, shouts or applauds with the world, and lives like a bird. Two yards
from his parish, in the event of an important ceremony, he can yield
his place to an assistant, and betake himself to chant a requiem from
a stall in the church of which on Sundays he is the fairest ornament,
where his is the most imposing voice, where he distorts his huge mouth
with energy to thunder out a joyous _Amen_. So is he chorister. At four
o’clock, freed from his official servitude, he reappears to shed joy and
gaiety upon the most famous shop in the city. Happy is his wife, he has
no time to be jealous: he is a man of action rather than of sentiment.
His mere arrival spurs the young ladies at the counter; their bright
eyes storm the customers; he expands in the midst of all the finery, the
lace and muslin kerchiefs, that their cunning hands have wrought. Or,
again, more often still, before his dinner he waits on a client, copies
the page of a newspaper, or carries to the doorkeeper some goods that
have been delayed. Every other day, at six, he is faithful to his
post. A permanent bass for the chorus, he betakes himself to the opera,
prepared to become a soldier or an arab, prisoner, savage, peasant,
spirit, camel’s leg or lion, a devil or a genie, a slave or a
eunuch, black or white; always ready to feign joy or sorrow, pity or
astonishment, to utter cries that never vary, to hold his tongue, to
hunt, or fight for Rome or Egypt, but always at heart--a huckster still.

At midnight he returns--a man, the good husband, the tender father;
he slips into the conjugal bed, his imagination still afire with the
illusive forms of the operatic nymphs, and so turns to the profit
of conjugal love the world’s depravities, the voluptuous curves of
Taglioni’s leg. And finally, if he sleeps, he sleeps apace, and hurries
through his slumber as he does his life.

This man sums up all things--history, literature, politics, government,
religion, military science. Is he not a living encyclopaedia, a
grotesque Atlas; ceaselessly in motion, like Paris itself, and knowing
not repose? He is all legs. No physiognomy could preserve its purity
amid such toils. Perhaps the artisan who dies at thirty, an old man, his
stomach tanned by repeated doses of brandy, will be held, according to
certain leisured philosophers, to be happier than the huckster is.
The one perishes in a breath, and the other by degrees. From his eight
industries, from the labor of his shoulders, his throat, his hands,
from his wife and his business, the one derives--as from so many
farms--children, some thousands of francs, and the most laborious
happiness that has ever diverted the heart of man. This fortune and
these children, or the children who sum up everything for him, become
the prey of the world above, to which he brings his ducats and his
daughter or his son, reared at college, who, with more education than
his father, raises higher his ambitious gaze. Often the son of a retail
tradesman would fain be something in the State.

Ambition of that sort carries on our thought to the second Parisian
sphere. Go up one story, then, and descend to the _entresol_: or climb
down from the attic and remain on the fourth floor; in fine, penetrate
into the world which has possessions: the same result! Wholesale
merchants, and their men--people with small banking accounts and much
integrity--rogues and catspaws, clerks old and young, sheriffs’ clerks,
barristers’ clerks, solicitors’ clerks; in fine, all the working,
thinking, and speculating members of that lower middle class which
honeycombs the interests of Paris and watches over its granary,
accumulates the coin, stores the products that the proletariat have
made, preserves the fruits of the South, the fishes, the wine from every
sun-favored hill; which stretches its hands over the Orient, and takes
from it the shawls that the Russ and the Turk despise; which harvests
even from the Indies; crouches down in expectation of a sale, greedy
of profit; which discounts bills, turns over and collects all kinds of
securities, holds all Paris in its hand, watches over the fantasies
of children, spies out the caprices and the vices of mature age,
sucks money out of disease. Even so, if they drink no brandy, like the
artisan, nor wallow in the mire of debauch, all equally abuse their
strength, immeasurably strain their bodies and their minds alike, are
burned away with desires, devastated with the swiftness of the pace. In
their case the physical distortion is accomplished beneath the whip of
interests, beneath the scourge of ambitions which torture the educated
portion of this monstrous city, just as in the case of the proletariat
it is brought about by the cruel see-saw of the material elaborations
perpetually required from the despotism of the aristocratic “_I will_.”
 Here, too, then, in order to obey that universal master, pleasure or
gold, they must devour time, hasten time, find more than four-and-twenty
hours in the day and night, waste themselves, slay themselves, and
purchase two years of unhealthy repose with thirty years of old age.
Only, the working-man dies in hospital when the last term of his stunted
growth expires; whereas the man of the middle class is set upon living,
and lives on, but in a state of idiocy. You will meet him, with his
worn, flat old face, with no light in his eyes, with no strength in his
limbs, dragging himself with a dazed air along the boulevard--the belt
of his Venus, of his beloved city. What was his want? The sabre of the
National Guard, a permanent stock-pot, a decent plot in Pere Lachaise,
and, for his old age, a little gold honestly earned. _HIS_ Monday is on
Sunday, his rest a drive in a hired carriage--a country excursion during
which his wife and children glut themselves merrily with dust or bask
in the sun; his dissipation is at the restaurateur’s, whose poisonous
dinner has won renown, or at some family ball, where he suffocates till
midnight. Some fools are surprised at the phantasmagoria of the monads
which they see with the aid of the microscope in a drop of water;
but what would Rabelais’ Gargantua,--that misunderstood figure of
an audacity so sublime,--what would that giant say, fallen from the
celestial spheres, if he amused himself by contemplating the motions of
this secondary life of Paris, of which here is one of the formulae? Have
you seen one of those little constructions--cold in summer, and with
no other warmth than a small stove in winter--placed beneath the vast
copper dome which crowns the Halle-auble? Madame is there by morning.
She is engaged at the markets, and makes by this occupation twelve
thousand francs a year, people say. Monsieur, when Madame is up, passes
into a gloomy office, where he lends money till the week-end to the
tradesmen of his district. By nine o’clock he is at the passport office,
of which he is one of the minor officials. By evening he is at the
box-office of the Theatre Italien, or of any other theatre you like. The
children are put out to nurse, and only return to be sent to college or
to boarding-school. Monsieur and Madame live on the third floor, have
but one cook, give dances in a salon twelve foot by eight, lit by
argand lamps; but they give a hundred and fifty thousand francs to their
daughter, and retire at the age of fifty, an age when they begin to show
themselves on the balcony of the opera, in a _fiacre_ at Longchamps; or,
on sunny days, in faded clothes on the boulevards--the fruit of all this
sowing. Respected by their neighbors, in good odor with the government,
connected with the upper middle classes, Monsieur obtains at sixty-five
the Cross of the Legion of Honor, and his daughter’s father-in-law, a
parochial mayor, invites him to his evenings. These life-long labors,
then, are for the good of the children, whom these lower middle classes
are inevitably driven to exalt. Thus each sphere directs all its efforts
towards the sphere above it. The son of the rich grocer becomes a
notary, the son of the timber merchant becomes a magistrate. No link
is wanting in the chain, and everything stimulates the upward march of
money.

Thus we are brought to the third circle of this hell, which, perhaps,
will some day find its Dante. In this third social circle, a sort of
Parisian belly, in which the interests of the town are digested, and
where they are condensed into the form known as _business_, there moves
and agitates, as by some acrid and bitter intestinal process, the crowd
of lawyers, doctors, notaries, councillors, business men, bankers, big
merchants, speculators, and magistrates. Here are to be found even
more causes of moral and physical destruction than elsewhere. These
people--almost all of them--live in unhealthy offices, in fetid
ante-chambers, in little barred dens, and spend their days bowed down
beneath the weight of affairs; they rise at dawn to be in time, not to
be left behind, to gain all or not to lose, to overreach a man or his
money, to open or wind up some business, to take advantage of some
fleeting opportunity, to get a man hanged or set him free. They infect
their horses, they overdrive and age and break them, like their own
legs, before their time. Time is their tyrant: it fails them, it escapes
them; they can neither expand it nor cut it short. What soul can remain
great, pure, moral, and generous, and, consequently, what face retain
its beauty in this depraving practice of a calling which compels one to
bear the weight of the public sorrows, to analyze them, to weigh them,
estimate them, and mark them out by rule? Where do these folk put aside
their hearts?... I do not know; but they leave them somewhere or other,
when they have any, before they descend each morning into the abyss of
the misery which puts families on the rack. For them there is no such
thing as mystery; they see the reverse side of society, whose confessors
they are, and despise it. Then, whatever they do, owing to their contact
with corruption, they either are horrified at it and grow gloomy, or
else, out of lassitude, or some secret compromise, espouse it. In fine,
they necessarily become callous to every sentiment, since man, his laws
and his institutions, make them steal, like jackals, from corpses that
are still warm. At all hours the financier is trampling on the living,
the attorney on the dead, the pleader on the conscience. Forced to be
speaking without a rest, they all substitute words for ideas, phrases
for feelings, and their soul becomes a larynx. Neither the great
merchant, nor the judge, nor the pleader preserves his sense of right;
they feel no more, they apply set rules that leave cases out of count.
Borne along by their headlong course, they are neither husbands nor
fathers nor lovers; they glide on sledges over the facts of life, and
live at all times at the high pressure conduced by business and the vast
city. When they return to their homes they are required to go to a ball,
to the opera, into society, where they can make clients, acquaintances,
protectors. They all eat to excess, play and keep vigil, and their faces
become bloated, flushed, and emaciated.

To this terrific expenditure of intellectual strength, to such multifold
moral contradictions, they oppose--not, indeed pleasure, it would be too
pale a contrast--but debauchery, a debauchery both secret and alarming,
for they have all means at their disposal, and fix the morality of
society. Their genuine stupidity lies hid beneath their specialism. They
know their business, but are ignorant of everything which is outside
it. So that to preserve their self-conceit they question everything, are
crudely and crookedly critical. They appear to be sceptics and are in
reality simpletons; they swamp their wits in interminable arguments.
Almost all conveniently adopt social, literary, or political prejudices,
to do away with the need of having opinions, just as they adapt their
conscience to the standard of the Code or the Tribunal of Commerce.
Having started early to become men of note, they turn into mediocrities,
and crawl over the high places of the world. So, too, their faces
present the harsh pallor, the deceitful coloring, those dull, tarnished
eyes, and garrulous, sensual mouths, in which the observer recognizes
the symptoms of the degeneracy of the thought and its rotation in the
circle of a special idea which destroys the creative faculties of the
brain and the gift of seeing in large, of generalizing and deducing. No
man who has allowed himself to be caught in the revolutions of the gear
of these huge machines can ever become great. If he is a doctor, either
he has practised little or he is an exception--a Bichat who dies young.
If a great merchant, something remains--he is almost Jacques Coeur. Did
Robespierre practise? Danton was an idler who waited. But who, moreover
has ever felt envious of the figures of Danton and Robespierre, however
lofty they were? These men of affairs, _par excellence_, attract money
to them, and hoard it in order to ally themselves with aristocratic
families. If the ambition of the working-man is that of the small
tradesman, here, too, are the same passions. The type of this class
might be either an ambitious bourgeois, who, after a life of privation
and continual scheming, passes into the Council of State as an ant
passes through a chink; or some newspaper editor, jaded with intrigue,
whom the king makes a peer of France--perhaps to revenge himself on the
nobility; or some notary become mayor of his parish: all people crushed
with business, who, if they attain their end, are literally _killed_ in
its attainment. In France the usage is to glorify wigs. Napoleon, Louis
XVI., the great rulers, alone have always wished for young men to fulfil
their projects.

Above this sphere the artist world exists. But here, too, the faces
stamped with the seal of originality are worn, nobly indeed, but worn,
fatigued, nervous. Harassed by a need of production, outrun by their
costly fantasies, worn out by devouring genius, hungry for pleasure, the
artists of Paris would all regain by excessive labor what they have lost
by idleness, and vainly seek to reconcile the world and glory, money
and art. To begin with, the artist is ceaselessly panting under his
creditors; his necessities beget his debts, and his debts require of
him his nights. After his labor, his pleasure. The comedian plays till
midnight, studies in the morning, rehearses at noon; the sculptor is
bent before his statue; the journalist is a marching thought, like the
soldier when at war; the painter who is the fashion is crushed with
work, the painter with no occupation, if he feels himself to be a man of
genius, gnaws his entrails. Competition, rivalry, calumny assail talent.
Some, in desperation, plunge into the abyss of vice, others die young
and unknown because they have discounted their future too soon. Few of
these figures, originally sublime, remain beautiful. On the other hand,
the flagrant beauty of their heads is not understood. An artist’s face
is always exorbitant, it is always above or below the conventional lines
of what fools call the _beau-ideal_. What power is it that destroys
them? Passion. Every passion in Paris resolves into two terms: gold and
pleasure. Now, do you not breathe again? Do you not feel air and space
purified? Here is neither labor nor suffering. The soaring arch of
gold has reached the summit. From the lowest gutters, where its
stream commences, from the little shops where it is stopped by puny
coffer-dams, from the heart of the counting-houses and great workshops,
where its volume is that of ingots--gold, in the shape of dowries and
inheritances, guided by the hands of young girls or the bony fingers of
age, courses towards the aristocracy, where it will become a blazing,
expansive stream. But, before leaving the four territories upon which
the utmost wealth of Paris is based, it is fitting, having cited the
moral causes, to deduce those which are physical, and to call attention
to a pestilence, latent, as it were, which incessantly acts upon the
faces of the porter, the artisan, the small shopkeeper; to point out
a deleterious influence the corruption of which equals that of the
Parisian administrators who allow it so complacently to exist!

If the air of the houses in which the greater proportion of the middle
classes live is noxious, if the atmosphere of the streets belches out
cruel miasmas into stuffy back-kitchens where there is little air,
realize that, apart from this pestilence, the forty thousand houses of
this great city have their foundations in filth, which the powers that
be have not yet seriously attempted to enclose with mortar walls solid
enough to prevent even the most fetid mud from filtering through the
soil, poisoning the wells, and maintaining subterraneously to Lutetia
the tradition of her celebrated name. Half of Paris sleeps amidst the
putrid exhalations of courts and streets and sewers. But let us turn
to the vast saloons, gilded and airy; the hotels in their gardens,
the rich, indolent, happy moneyed world. There the faces are lined and
scarred with vanity. There nothing is real. To seek for pleasure is it
not to find _ennui_? People in society have at an early age warped their
nature. Having no occupation other than to wallow in pleasure, they
have speedily misused their sense, as the artisan has misused brandy.
Pleasure is of the nature of certain medical substances: in order to
obtain constantly the same effects the doses must be doubled, and death
or degradation is contained in the last. All the lower classes are on
their knees before the wealthy, and watch their tastes in order to turn
them into vices and exploit them. Thus you see in these folk at an early
age tastes instead of passions, romantic fantasies and lukewarm loves.
There impotence reigns; there ideas have ceased--they have evaporated
together with energy amongst the affectations of the boudoir and the
cajolements of women. There are fledglings of forty, old doctors
of sixty years. The wealthy obtain in Paris ready-made wit and
science--formulated opinions which save them the need of having wit,
science, or opinion of their own. The irrationality of this world is
equaled by its weakness and its licentiousness. It is greedy of time
to the point of wasting it. Seek in it for affection as little as
for ideas. Its kisses conceal a profound indifference, its urbanity
a perpetual contempt. It has no other fashion of love. Flashes of wit
without profundity, a wealth of indiscretion, scandal, and above all,
commonplace. Such is the sum of its speech; but these happy fortunates
pretend that they do not meet to make and repeat maxims in the manner of
La Rochefoucauld as though there did not exist a mean, invented by the
eighteenth century, between a superfluity and absolute blank. If a few
men of character indulge in witticism, at once subtle and refined, they
are misunderstood; soon, tired of giving without receiving, they remain
at home, and leave fools to reign over their territory. This hollow
life, this perpetual expectation of a pleasure which never comes, this
permanent _ennui_ and emptiness of soul, heart, and mind, the lassitude
of the upper Parisian world, is reproduced on its features, and stamps
its parchment faces, its premature wrinkles, that physiognomy of the
wealthy upon which impotence has set its grimace, in which gold is
mirrored, and whence intelligence has fled.

Such a view of moral Paris proves that physical Paris could not be other
than it is. This coroneted town is like a queen, who, being always
with child, has desires of irresistible fury. Paris is the crown of the
world, a brain which perishes of genius and leads human civilization;
it is a great man, a perpetually creative artist, a politician with
second-sight who must of necessity have wrinkles on his forehead, the
vices of a great man, the fantasies of the artist, and the politician’s
disillusions. Its physiognomy suggests the evolution of good and evil,
battle and victory; the moral combat of ‘89, the clarion calls of which
still re-echo in every corner of the world; and also the downfall of
1814. Thus this city can no more be moral, or cordial, or clean, than
the engines which impel those proud leviathans which you admire
when they cleave the waves! Is not Paris a sublime vessel laden with
intelligence? Yes, her arms are one of those oracles which fatality
sometimes allows. The _City of Paris_ has her great mast, all of bronze,
carved with victories, and for watchman--Napoleon. The barque may roll
and pitch, but she cleaves the world, illuminates it through the hundred
mouths of her tribunes, ploughs the seas of science, rides with
full sail, cries from the height of her tops, with the voice of her
scientists and artists: “Onward, advance! Follow me!” She carries a
huge crew, which delights in adorning her with fresh streamers. Boys
and urchins laughing in the rigging; ballast of heavy _bourgeoisie_;
working-men and sailor-men touched with tar; in her cabins the lucky
passengers; elegant midshipmen smoke their cigars leaning over the
bulwarks; then, on the deck, her soldiers, innovators or ambitious,
would accost every fresh shore, and shooting out their bright lights
upon it, ask for glory which is pleasure, or for love which needs gold.

Thus the exorbitant movement of the proletariat, the corrupting
influence of the interests which consume the two middle classes, the
cruelties of the artist’s thought, and the excessive pleasure which is
sought for incessantly by the great, explain the normal ugliness of
the Parisian physiognomy. It is only in the Orient that the human race
presents a magnificent figure, but that is an effect of the constant
calm affected by those profound philosophers with their long pipes,
their short legs, their square contour, who despise and hold activity
in horror, whilst in Paris the little and the great and the mediocre run
and leap and drive, whipped on by an inexorable goddess, Necessity--the
necessity for money, glory, and amusement. Thus, any face which is fresh
and graceful and reposeful, any really young face, is in Paris the most
extraordinary of exceptions; it is met with rarely. Should you see one
there, be sure it belongs either to a young and ardent ecclesiastic or
to some good abbe of forty with three chins; to a young girl of pure
life such as is brought up in certain middle-class families; to a mother
of twenty, still full of illusions, as she suckles her first-born; to a
young man newly embarked from the provinces, and intrusted to the care
of some devout dowager who keeps him without a sou; or, perhaps, to some
shop assistant who goes to bed at midnight wearied out with folding
and unfolding calico, and rises at seven o’clock to arrange the window;
often again to some man of science or poetry, who lives monastically in
the embrace of a fine idea, who remains sober, patient, and chaste;
else to some self-contented fool, feeding himself on folly, reeking of
health, in a perpetual state of absorption with his own smile; or to the
soft and happy race of loungers, the only folk really happy in Paris,
which unfolds for them hour by hour its moving poetry.

Nevertheless, there is in Paris a proportion of privileged beings to
whom this excessive movement of industries, interests, affairs, arts,
and gold is profitable. These beings are women. Although they also have
a thousand secret causes which, here more than elsewhere, destroy their
physiognomy, there are to be found in the feminine world little happy
colonies, who live in Oriental fashion and can preserve their beauty;
but these women rarely show themselves on foot in the streets, they lie
hid like rare plants who only unfold their petals at certain hours, and
constitute veritable exotic exceptions. However, Paris is essentially
the country of contrasts. If true sentiments are rare there, there also
are to be found, as elsewhere, noble friendships and unlimited devotion.
On this battlefield of interests and passions, just as in the midst
of those marching societies where egoism triumphs, where every one
is obliged to defend himself, and which we call _armies_, it seems as
though sentiments liked to be complete when they showed themselves,
and are sublime by juxtaposition. So it is with faces. In Paris one
sometimes sees in the aristocracy, set like stars, the ravishing faces
of young people, the fruit of quite exceptional manners and education.
To the youthful beauty of the English stock they unite the firmness
of Southern traits. The fire of their eyes, a delicious bloom on their
lips, the lustrous black of their soft locks, a white complexion, a
distinguished caste of features, render them the flowers of the human
race, magnificent to behold against the mass of other faces, worn, old,
wrinkled, and grimacing. So women, too, admire such young people with
that eager pleasure which men take in watching a pretty girl, elegant,
gracious, and embellished with all the virginal charms with which our
imagination pleases to adorn the perfect woman. If this hurried glance
at the population of Paris has enabled us to conceive the rarity of a
Raphaelesque face, and the passionate admiration which such an one must
inspire at the first sight, the prime interest of our history will have
been justified. _Quod erat demonstrandum_--if one may be permitted to
apply scholastic formulae to the science of manners.

Upon one of those fine spring mornings, when the leaves, although
unfolded, are not yet green, when the sun begins to gild the roofs, and
the sky is blue, when the population of Paris issues from its cells to
swarm along the boulevards, glides like a serpent of a thousand coils
through the Rue de la Paix towards the Tuileries, saluting the hymeneal
magnificence which the country puts on; on one of these joyous days,
then, a young man as beautiful as the day itself, dressed with taste,
easy of manner--to let out the secret he was a love-child, the natural
son of Lord Dudley and the famous Marquise de Vordac--was walking in the
great avenue of the Tuileries. This Adonis, by name Henri de Marsay,
was born in France, when Lord Dudley had just married the young lady,
already Henri’s mother, to an old gentleman called M. de Marsay. This
faded and almost extinguished butterfly recognized the child as his own
in consideration of the life interest in a fund of a hundred thousand
francs definitively assigned to his putative son; a generosity which
did not cost Lord Dudley too dear. French funds were worth at that time
seventeen francs, fifty centimes. The old gentleman died without having
ever known his wife. Madame de Marsay subsequently married the Marquis
de Vordac, but before becoming a marquise she showed very little anxiety
as to her son and Lord Dudley. To begin with, the declaration of war
between France and England had separated the two lovers, and fidelity
at all costs was not, and never will be, the fashion of Paris. Then the
successes of the woman, elegant, pretty, universally adored, crushed in
the Parisienne the maternal sentiment. Lord Dudley was no more troubled
about his offspring than was the mother,--the speedy infidelity of a
young girl he had ardently loved gave him, perhaps, a sort of aversion
for all that issued from her. Moreover, fathers can, perhaps, only love
the children with whom they are fully acquainted, a social belief of the
utmost importance for the peace of families, which should be held by all
the celibate, proving as it does that paternity is a sentiment nourished
artificially by woman, custom, and the law.

Poor Henri de Marsay knew no other father than that one of the two who
was not compelled to be one. The paternity of M. de Marsay was naturally
most incomplete. In the natural order, it is but for a few fleeting
instants that children have a father, and M. de Marsay imitated nature.
The worthy man would not have sold his name had he been free from
vices. Thus he squandered without remorse in gambling hells, and drank
elsewhere, the few dividends which the National Treasury paid to
its bondholders. Then he handed over the child to an aged sister, a
Demoiselle de Marsay, who took much care of him, and provided him, out
of the meagre sum allowed by her brother, with a tutor, an abbe without
a farthing, who took the measure of the youth’s future, and determined
to pay himself out of the hundred thousand livres for the care given to
his pupil, for whom he conceived an affection. As chance had it, this
tutor was a true priest, one of those ecclesiastics cut out to become
cardinals in France, or Borgias beneath the tiara. He taught the child
in three years what he might have learned at college in ten. Then the
great man, by name the Abbe de Maronis, completed the education of
his pupil by making him study civilization under all its aspects: he
nourished him on his experience, led him little into churches, which
at that time were closed; introduced him sometimes behind the scenes of
theatres, more often into the houses of courtesans; he exhibited human
emotions to him one by one; taught him politics in the drawing-rooms,
where they simmered at the time, explained to him the machinery of
government, and endeavored out of attraction towards a fine nature,
deserted, yet rich in promise, virilely to replace a mother: is not the
Church the mother of orphans? The pupil was responsive to so much care.
The worthy priest died in 1812, a bishop, with the satisfaction of
having left in this world a child whose heart and mind were so well
moulded that he could outwit a man of forty. Who would have expected to
have found a heart of bronze, a brain of steel, beneath external traits
as seductive as ever the old painters, those naive artists, had given to
the serpent in the terrestrial paradise? Nor was that all. In addition,
the good-natured prelate had procured for the child of his choice
certain acquaintances in the best Parisian society, which might equal
in value, in the young man’s hand, another hundred thousand invested
livres. In fine, this priest, vicious but politic, sceptical yet
learned, treacherous yet amiable, weak in appearance yet as vigorous
physically as intellectually, was so genuinely useful to his pupil, so
complacent to his vices, so fine a calculator of all kinds of strength,
so profound when it was needful to make some human reckoning, so
youthful at table, at Frascati, at--I know not where, that the grateful
Henri de Marsay was hardly moved at aught in 1814, except when he looked
at the portrait of his beloved bishop, the only personal possession
which the prelate had been able to bequeath him (admirable type of
the men whose genius will preserve the Catholic, Apostolic, and Roman
Church, compromised for the moment by the feebleness of its recruits and
the decrepit age of its pontiffs; but if the church likes!).

The continental war prevented young De Marsay from knowing his real
father. It is doubtful whether he was aware of his name. A deserted
child, he was equally ignorant of Madame de Marsay. Naturally, he had
little regret for his putative father. As for Mademoiselle de Marsay,
his only mother, he built for her a handsome little monument in Pere
Lachaise when she died. Monseigneur de Maronis had guaranteed to this
old lady one of the best places in the skies, so that when he saw her
die happy, Henri gave her some egotistical tears; he began to weep on
his own account. Observing this grief, the abbe dried his pupil’s tears,
bidding him observe that the good woman took her snuff most offensively,
and was becoming so ugly and deaf and tedious that he ought to return
thanks for her death. The bishop had emancipated his pupil in 1811.
Then, when the mother of M. de Marsay remarried, the priest chose, in a
family council, one of those honest dullards, picked out by him through
the windows of his confessional, and charged him with the administration
of the fortune, the revenues of which he was willing to apply to the
needs of the community, but of which he wished to preserve the capital.

Towards the end of 1814, then, Henri de Marsay had no sentiment of
obligation in the world, and was as free as an unmated bird. Although he
had lived twenty-two years he appeared to be barely seventeen. As a rule
the most fastidious of his rivals considered him to be the prettiest
youth in Paris. From his father, Lord Dudley, he had derived a pair of
the most amorously deceiving blue eyes; from his mother the bushiest of
black hair, from both pure blood, the skin of a young girl, a gentle
and modest expression, a refined and aristocratic figure, and beautiful
hands. For a woman, to see him was to lose her head for him; do you
understand? to conceive one of those desires which eat the heart, which
are forgotten because of the impossibility of satisfying them, because
women in Paris are commonly without tenacity. Few of them say to
themselves, after the fashion of men, the “_Je Maintiendrai_,” of the
House of Orange.

Underneath this fresh young life, and in spite of the limpid springs in
his eyes, Henri had a lion’s courage, a monkey’s agility. He could cut a
ball in half at ten paces on the blade of a knife; he rode his horse
in a way that made you realize the fable of the Centaur; drove a
four-in-hand with grace; was as light as a cherub and quiet as a lamb,
but knew how to beat a townsman at the terrible game of _savate_ or
cudgels; moreover, he played the piano in a fashion which would have
enabled him to become an artist should he fall on calamity, and owned
a voice which would have been worth to Barbaja fifty thousand francs a
season. Alas, that all these fine qualities, these pretty faults, were
tarnished by one abominable vice: he believed neither in man nor woman,
God nor Devil. Capricious nature had commenced by endowing him, a priest
had completed the work.

To render this adventure comprehensible, it is necessary to add here
that Lord Dudley naturally found many women disposed to reproduce
samples of such a delicious pattern. His second masterpiece of this
kind was a young girl named Euphemie, born of a Spanish lady, reared in
Havana, and brought to Madrid with a young Creole woman of the Antilles,
and with all the ruinous tastes of the Colonies, but fortunately married
to an old and extremely rich Spanish noble, Don Hijos, Marquis de
San-Real, who, since the occupation of Spain by French troops, had taken
up his abode in Paris, and lived in the Rue St. Lazare. As much from
indifference as from any respect for the innocence of youth, Lord Dudley
was not in the habit of keeping his children informed of the relations
he created for them in all parts. That is a slightly inconvenient form
of civilization; it has so many advantages that we must overlook its
drawbacks in consideration of its benefits. Lord Dudley, to make no more
words of it, came to Paris in 1816 to take refuge from the pursuit of
English justice, which protects nothing Oriental except commerce. The
exiled lord, when he saw Henri, asked who that handsome young man might
be. Then, upon hearing the name, “Ah, it is my son.... What a pity!” he
said.

Such was the story of the young man who, about the middle of the month
of April, 1815, was walking indolently up the broad avenue of the
Tuileries, after the fashion of all those animals who, knowing their
strength, pass along in majesty and peace. Middle-class matrons turned
back naively to look at him again; other women, without turning round,
waited for him to pass again, and engraved him in their minds that they
might remember in due season that fragrant face, which would not have
disadorned the body of the fairest among themselves.

“What are you doing here on Sunday?” said the Marquis de Ronquerolles to
Henri, as he passed.

“There’s a fish in the net,” answered the young man.

This exchange of thoughts was accomplished by means of two significant
glances, without it appearing that either De Ronquerolles or De Marsay
had any knowledge of the other. The young man was taking note of the
passers-by with that promptitude of eye and ear which is peculiar to the
Parisian who seems, at first, to see and hear nothing, but who sees and
hears all.

At that moment a young man came up to him and took him familiarly by the
arm, saying to him: “How are you, my dear De Marsay?”

“Extremely well,” De Marsay answered, with that air of apparent
affection which amongst the young men of Paris proves nothing, either
for the present or the future.

In effect, the youth of Paris resemble the youth of no other town. They
may be divided into two classes: the young man who has something, and
the young man who has nothing; or the young man who thinks and he who
spends. But, be it well understood this applies only to those natives of
the soil who maintain in Paris the delicious course of the elegant life.
There exist, as well, plenty of other young men, but they are children
who are late in conceiving Parisian life, and who remain its dupes. They
do not speculate, they study; they _fag_, as the others say. Finally
there are to be found, besides, certain young people, rich or poor, who
embrace careers and follow them with a single heart; they are somewhat
like the Emile of Rousseau, of the flesh of citizens, and they never
appear in society. The diplomatic impolitely dub them fools. Be they
that or no, they augment the number of those mediocrities beneath the
yoke of which France is bowed down. They are always there, always ready
to bungle public or private concerns with the dull trowel of their
mediocrity, bragging of their impotence, which they count for
conduct and integrity. This sort of social _prizemen_ infests the
administration, the army, the magistracy, the chambers, the courts. They
diminish and level down the country and constitute, in some manner, in
the body politic, a lymph which infects it and renders it flabby. These
honest folk call men of talent immoral or rogues. If such rogues require
to be paid for their services, at least their services are there;
whereas the other sort do harm and are respected by the mob; but,
happily for France, elegant youth stigmatizes them ceaselessly under the
name of louts.

At the first glance, then, it is natural to consider as very distinct
the two sorts of young men who lead the life of elegance, the amiable
corporation to which Henri de Marsay belonged. But the observer, who
goes beyond the superficial aspect of things, is soon convinced that
the difference is purely moral, and that nothing is so deceptive as this
pretty outside. Nevertheless, all alike take precedence over everybody
else; speak rightly or wrongly of things, of men, literature, and the
fine arts; have ever in their mouth the Pitt and Coburg of each year;
interrupt a conversation with a pun, turn into ridicule science and the
_savant_; despise all things which they do not know or which they fear;
set themselves above all by constituting themselves the supreme
judges of all. They would all hoax their fathers, and be ready to shed
crocodile tears upon their mothers’ breasts; but generally they believe
in nothing, blaspheme women, or play at modesty, and in reality are led
by some old woman or an evil courtesan. They are all equally eaten
to the bone with calculation, with depravity, with a brutal lust to
succeed, and if you plumbed for their hearts you would find in all a
stone. In their normal state they have the prettiest exterior, stake
their friendship at every turn, are captivating alike. The same badinage
dominates their ever-changing jargon; they seek for oddity in their
toilette, glory in repeating the stupidities of such and such actor who
is in fashion, and commence operations, it matters not with whom, with
contempt and impertinence, in order to have, as it were, the first move
in the game; but, woe betide him who does not know how to take a blow
on one cheek for the sake of rendering two. They resemble, in fine, that
pretty white spray which crests the stormy waves. They dress and dance,
dine and take their pleasure, on the day of Waterloo, in the time of
cholera or revolution. Finally, their expenses are all the same, but
here the contrast comes in. Of this fluctuating fortune, so agreeably
flung away, some possess the capital for which the others wait; they
have the same tailors, but the bills of the latter are still to pay.
Next, if the first, like sieves, take in ideas of all kinds without
retaining any, the latter compare them and assimilate all the good.
If the first believe they know something, know nothing and understand
everything, lend all to those who need nothing and offer nothing to
those who are in need; the latter study secretly others’ thoughts and
place out their money, like their follies, at big interest. The one
class have no more faithful impressions, because their soul, like
a mirror, worn from use, no longer reflects any image; the others
economize their senses and life, even while they seem, like the first,
to be flinging them away broadcast. The first, on the faith of a hope,
devote themselves without conviction to a system which has wind and tide
against it, but they leap upon another political craft when the first
goes adrift; the second take the measure of the future, sound it, and
see in political fidelity what the English see in commercial integrity,
an element of success. Where the young man of possessions makes a pun or
an epigram upon the restoration of the throne, he who has nothing makes
a public calculation or a secret reservation, and obtains everything by
giving a handshake to his friends. The one deny every faculty to others,
look upon all their ideas as new, as though the world had been made
yesterday, they have unlimited confidence in themselves, and no crueler
enemy than those same selves. But the others are armed with an incessant
distrust of men, whom they estimate at their value, and are sufficiently
profound to have one thought beyond their friends, whom they exploit;
then of evenings, when they lay their heads on their pillows, they weigh
men as a miser weighs his gold pieces. The one are vexed at an aimless
impertinence, and allow themselves to be ridiculed by the diplomatic,
who make them dance for them by pulling what is the main string of these
puppets--their vanity. Thus, a day comes when those who had nothing have
something, and those who had something have nothing. The latter look
at their comrades who have achieved positions as cunning fellows; their
hearts may be bad, but their heads are strong. “He is very strong!” is
the supreme praise accorded to those who have attained _quibuscumque
viis_, political rank, a woman, or a fortune. Amongst them are to be
found certain young men who play this _role_ by commencing with having
debts. Naturally, these are more dangerous than those who play it
without a farthing.

The young man who called himself a friend of Henri de Marsay was a
rattle-head who had come from the provinces, and whom the young men then
in fashion were teaching the art of running through an inheritance;
but he had one last leg to stand on in his province, in the shape of a
secure establishment. He was simply an heir who had passed without any
transition from his pittance of a hundred francs a month to the entire
paternal fortune, and who, if he had not wit enough to perceive that he
was laughed at, was sufficiently cautious to stop short at two-thirds
of his capital. He had learned at Paris, for a consideration of some
thousands of francs, the exact value of harness, the art of not being
too respectful to his gloves, learned to make skilful meditations upon
the right wages to give people, and to seek out what bargain was the
best to close with them. He set store on his capacity to speak in good
terms of his horses, of his Pyrenean hound; to tell by her dress, her
walk, her shoes, to what class a woman belonged; to study _ecarte_,
remember a few fashionable catchwords, and win by his sojourn in
Parisian society the necessary authority to import later into his
province a taste for tea and silver of an English fashion, and to obtain
the right of despising everything around him for the rest of his days.

De Marsay had admitted him to his society in order to make use of him in
the world, just as a bold speculator employs a confidential clerk. The
friendship, real or feigned, of De Marsay was a social position for Paul
de Manerville, who, on his side, thought himself astute in exploiting,
after his fashion, his intimate friend. He lived in the reflecting
lustre of his friend, walked constantly under his umbrella, wore his
boots, gilded himself with his rays. When he posed in Henri’s company or
walked at his side, he had the air of saying: “Don’t insult us, we are
real dogs.” He often permitted himself to remark fatuously: “If I were
to ask Henri for such and such a thing, he is a good enough friend of
mine to do it.” But he was careful never to ask anything of him. He
feared him, and his fear, although imperceptible, reacted upon the
others, and was of use to De Marsay.

“De Marsay is a man of a thousand,” said Paul. “Ah, you will see, he
will be what he likes. I should not be surprised to find him one of
these days Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nothing can withstand him.”

He made of De Marsay what Corporal Trim made of his cap, a perpetual
instance.

“Ask De Marsay and you will see!”

Or again:

“The other day we were hunting, De Marsay and I, He would not believe
me, but I jumped a hedge without moving on my horse!”

Or again:

“We were with some women, De Marsay and I, and upon my word of honor, I
was----” etc.

Thus Paul de Manerville could not be classed amongst the great,
illustrious, and powerful family of fools who succeed. He would one day
be a deputy. For the time he was not even a young man. His friend, De
Marsay, defined him thus: “You ask me what is Paul? Paul? Why, Paul de
Manerville!”

“I am surprised, my dear fellow,” he said to De Marsay, “to see you here
on a Sunday.”

“I was going to ask you the same question.”

“Is it an intrigue?”

“An intrigue.”

“Bah!”

“I can mention it to you without compromising my passion. Besides,
a woman who comes to the Tuileries on Sundays is of no account,
aristocratically speaking.”

“Ah! ah!”

“Hold your tongue then, or I shall tell you nothing. Your laugh is too
loud, you will make people think that we have lunched too well. Last
Thursday, here on the Terrasse des Feuillants, I was walking along,
thinking of nothing at all, but when I got to the gate of the Rue de
Castiglione, by which I intended to leave, I came face to face with a
woman, or rather a young girl; who, if she did not throw herself at my
head, stopped short, less I think, from human respect, than from one of
those movements of profound surprise which affect the limbs, creep down
the length of the spine, and cease only in the sole of the feet, to nail
you to the ground. I have often produced effects of this nature, a sort
of animal magnetism which becomes enormously powerful when the
relations are reciprocally precise. But, my dear fellow, this was not
stupefaction, nor was she a common girl. Morally speaking, her face
seemed to say: ‘What, is it you, my ideal! The creation of my thoughts,
of my morning and evening dreams! What, are you there? Why this morning?
Why not yesterday? Take me, I am thine, _et cetera_!’ Good, I said to
myself, another one! Then I scrutinize her. Ah, my dear fellow, speaking
physically, my incognita is the most adorable feminine person whom I
ever met. She belongs to that feminine variety which the Romans call
_fulva, flava_--the woman of fire. And in chief, what struck me the
most, what I am still taken with, are her two yellow eyes, like a
tiger’s, a golden yellow that gleams, living gold, gold which thinks,
gold which loves, and is determined to take refuge in your pocket.”

“My dear fellow, we are full of her!” cried Paul. “She comes here
sometimes--_the girl with the golden eyes_! That is the name we have
given her. She is a young creature--not more than twenty-two, and I
have seen her here in the time of the Bourbons, but with a woman who was
worth a hundred thousand of her.”

“Silence, Paul! It is impossible for any woman to surpass this girl; she
is like the cat who rubs herself against your legs; a white girl with
ash-colored hair, delicate in appearance, but who must have downy
threads on the third phalanx of her fingers, and all along her cheeks
a white down whose line, luminous on fine days, begins at her ears and
loses itself on her neck.”

“Ah, the other, my dear De Marsay! She has black eyes which have never
wept, but which burn; black eyebrows which meet and give her an air of
hardness contradicted by the compact curve of her lips, on which the
kisses do not stay, lips burning and fresh; a Moorish color that warms a
man like the sun. But--upon my word of honor, she is like you!”

“You flatter her!”

“A firm figure, the tapering figure of a corvette built for speed, which
rushes down upon the merchant vessel with French impetuosity, which
grapples with her and sinks her at the same time.”

“After all, my dear fellow,” answered De Marsay, “what has that got
to do with me, since I have never seen her? Ever since I have studied
women, my incognita is the only one whose virginal bosom, whose
ardent and voluptuous forms, have realized for me the only woman of
my dreams--of my dreams! She is the original of that ravishing picture
called _La Femme Caressant sa Chimere_, the warmest, the most infernal
inspiration of the genius of antiquity; a holy poem prostituted by those
who have copied it for frescoes and mosiacs; for a heap of bourgeois
who see in this gem nothing more than a gew-gaw and hang it on their
watch-chains--whereas, it is the whole woman, an abyss of pleasure into
which one plunges and finds no end; whereas, it is the ideal woman, to
be seen sometimes in reality in Spain or Italy, almost never in France.
Well, I have again seen this girl of the gold eyes, this woman caressing
her chimera. I saw her on Friday. I had a presentiment that on the
following day she would be here at the same hour; I was not mistaken.
I have taken a pleasure in following her without being observed, in
studying her indolent walk, the walk of the woman without occupation,
but in the movements of which one devines all the pleasure that lies
asleep. Well, she turned back again, she saw me, once more she adored
me, once more trembled, shivered. It was then I noticed the genuine
Spanish duenna who looked after her, a hyena upon whom some jealous
man has put a dress, a she-devil well paid, no doubt, to guard this
delicious creature.... Ah, then the duenna made me deeper in love. I
grew curious. On Saturday, nobody. And here I am to-day waiting for
this girl whose chimera I am, asking nothing better than to pose as the
monster in the fresco.”

“There she is,” said Paul. “Every one is turning round to look at her.”

The unknown blushed, her eyes shone; she saw Henri, she shut them and
passed by.

“You say that she notices you?” cried Paul, facetiously.

The duenna looked fixedly and attentively at the two young men. When the
unknown and Henri passed each other again, the young girl touched him,
and with her hand pressed the hand of the young man. Then she turned her
head and smiled with passion, but the duenna led her away very quickly
to the gate of the Rue de Castiglione.

The two friends followed the young girl, admiring the magnificent grace
of the neck which met her head in a harmony of vigorous lines, and upon
which a few coils of hair were tightly wound. The girl with the golden
eyes had that well-knitted, arched, slender foot which presents so
many attractions to the dainty imagination. Moreover, she was shod with
elegance, and wore a short skirt. During her course she turned from
time to time to look at Henri, and appeared to follow the old woman
regretfully, seeming to be at once her mistress and her slave; she
could break her with blows, but could not dismiss her. All that was
perceptible. The two friends reached the gate. Two men in livery let
down the step of a tasteful _coupe_ emblazoned with armorial bearings.
The girl with the golden eyes was the first to enter it, took her seat
at the side where she could be best seen when the carriage turned,
put her hand on the door, and waved her handkerchief in the duennna’s
despite. In contempt of what might be said by the curious, her
handkerchief cried to Henri openly: “Follow me!”

“Have you ever seen a handkerchief better thrown?” said Henri to Paul de
Manerville.

Then, observing a fiacre on the point of departure, having just set down
a fare, he made a sign to the driver to wait.

“Follow that carriage, notice the house and the street where it
stops--you shall have ten francs.... Paul, adieu.”

The cab followed the _coupe_. The _coupe_ stopped in the Rue Saint
Lazare before one of the finest houses of the neighborhood.

De Marsay was not impulsive. Any other young man would have obeyed his
impulse to obtain at once some information about a girl who realized so
fully the most luminous ideas ever expressed upon women in the poetry
of the East; but, too experienced to compromise his good fortune, he had
told his coachman to continue along the Rue Saint Lazare and carry him
back to his house. The next day, his confidential valet, Laurent by
name, as cunning a fellow as the Frontin of the old comedy, waited in
the vicinity of the house inhabited by the unknown for the hour at which
letters were distributed. In order to be able to spy at his ease and
hang about the house, he had followed the example of those police
officers who seek a good disguise, and bought up cast-off clothes of
an Auvergnat, the appearance of whom he sought to imitate. When the
postman, who went the round of the Rue Saint Lazare that morning, passed
by, Laurent feigned to be a porter unable to remember the name of a
person to whom he had to deliver a parcel, and consulted the postman.
Deceived at first by appearances, this personage, so picturesque in the
midst of Parisian civilization, informed him that the house in which
the girl with the golden eyes dwelt belonged to Don Hijos, Marquis de
San-Real, grandee of Spain. Naturally, it was not with the Marquis that
the Auvergnat was concerned.

“My parcel,” he said, “is for the marquise.”

“She is away,” replied the postman. “Her letters are forwarded to
London.”

“Then the marquise is not a young girl who...?”

“Ah!” said the postman, interrupting the _valet de chambre_ and
observing him attentively, “you are as much a porter as I’m...”

Laurent chinked some pieces of gold before the functionary, who began to
smile.

“Come, here’s the name of your quarry,” he said, taking from his leather
wallet a letter bearing a London stamp, upon which the address, “To
Mademoiselle Paquita Valdes, Rue Saint Lazare, Hotel San-Real, Paris,”
 was written in long, fine characters, which spoke of a woman’s hand.

“Could you tap a bottle of Chablis, with a few dozen oysters, and a
_filet saute_ with mushrooms to follow it?” said Laurent, who wished to
win the postman’s valuable friendship.

“At half-past nine, when my round is finished---- Where?”

“At the corner of the Rue de la Chaussee-d’Antin and the Rue
Neuve-des-Mathurins, at the _Puits sans Vin_,” said Laurent.

“Hark ye, my friend,” said the postman, when he rejoined the valet an
hour after this encounter, “if your master is in love with the girl, he
is in for a famous task. I doubt you’ll not succeed in seeing her. In
the ten years that I’ve been postman in Paris, I have seen plenty of
different kinds of doors! But I can tell you, and no fear of being
called a liar by any of my comrades, there never was a door so
mysterious as M. de San-Real’s. No one can get into the house without
the Lord knows what counter-word; and, notice, it has been selected on
purpose between a courtyard and a garden to avoid any communication with
other houses. The porter is an old Spaniard, who never speaks a word
of French, but peers at people as Vidocq might, to see if they are not
thieves. If a lover, a thief, or you--I make no comparisons--could get
the better of this first wicket, well, in the first hall, which is shut
by a glazed door, you would run across a butler surrounded by lackeys,
an old joker more savage and surly even than the porter. If any one
gets past the porter’s lodge, my butler comes out, waits for you at the
entrance, and puts you through a cross-examination like a criminal. That
has happened to me, a mere postman. He took me for an eavesdropper in
disguise, he said, laughing at his nonsense. As for the servants, don’t
hope to get aught out of them; I think they are mutes, no one in the
neighborhood knows the color of their speech; I don’t know what wages
they can pay them to keep them from talk and drink; the fact is, they
are not to be got at, whether because they are afraid of being shot, or
that they have some enormous sum to lose in the case of an indiscretion.
If your master is fond enough of Mademoiselle Paquita Valdes to surmount
all these obstacles, he certainly won’t triumph over Dona Concha
Marialva, the duenna who accompanies her and would put her under her
petticoats sooner than leave her. The two women look as if they were
sewn to one another.”

“All that you say, worthy postman,” went on Laurent, after having drunk
off his wine, “confirms me in what I have learned before. Upon my word,
I thought they were making fun of me! The fruiterer opposite told me
that of nights they let loose dogs whose food is hung up on stakes just
out of their reach. These cursed animals think, therefore, that any one
likely to come in has designs on their victuals, and would tear one to
pieces. You will tell me one might throw them down pieces, but it seems
they have been trained to touch nothing except from the hand of the
porter.”

“The porter of the Baron de Nucingen, whose garden joins at the top that
of the Hotel San-Real, told me the same thing,” replied the postman.

“Good! my master knows him,” said Laurent, to himself. “Do you know,”
 he went on, leering at the postman, “I serve a master who is a rare
man, and if he took it into his head to kiss the sole of the foot of an
empress, she would have to give in to him. If he had need of you, which
is what I wish for you, for he is generous, could one count on you?”

“Lord, Monsieur Laurent, my name is Moinot. My name is written exactly
like _Moineau_, magpie: M-o-i-n-o-t, Moinot.”

“Exactly,” said Laurent.

“I live at No. 11, Rue des Trois Freres, on the fifth floor,” went on
Moinot; “I have a wife and four children. If what you want of me doesn’t
transgress the limits of my conscience and my official duties, you
understand! I am your man.”

“You are an honest fellow,” said Laurent, shaking his hand....

“Paquita Valdes is, no doubt, the mistress of the Marquis de San-Real,
the friend of King Ferdinand. Only an old Spanish mummy of eighty years
is capable of taking such precautions,” said Henri, when his _valet de
chambre_ had related the result of his researches.

“Monsieur,” said Laurent, “unless he takes a balloon no one can get into
that hotel.”

“You are a fool! Is it necessary to get into the hotel to have Paquita,
when Paquita can get out of it?”

“But, sir, the duenna?”

“We will shut her up for a day or two, your duenna.”

“So, we shall have Paquita!” said Laurent, rubbing his hands.

“Rascal!” answered Henri, “I shall condemn you to the Concha, if you
carry your impudence so far as to speak so of a woman before she has
become mine.... Turn your thoughts to dressing me, I am going out.”

Henri remained for a moment plunged in joyous reflections. Let us say it
to the praise of women, he obtained all those whom he deigned to desire.
And what could one think of a woman, having no lover, who should
have known how to resist a young man armed with beauty which is the
intelligence of the body, with intelligence which is a grace of the
soul, armed with moral force and fortune, which are the only two real
powers? Yet, in triumphing with such ease, De Marsay was bound to grow
weary of his triumphs; thus, for about two years he had grown very weary
indeed. And diving deep into the sea of pleasures he brought back more
grit than pearls. Thus had he come, like potentates, to implore of
Chance some obstacle to surmount, some enterprise which should ask the
employment of his dormant moral and physical strength. Although Paquita
Valdes presented him with a marvelous concentration of perfections which
he had only yet enjoyed in detail, the attraction of passion was almost
_nil_ with him. Constant satiety had weakened in his heart the sentiment
of love. Like old men and people disillusioned, he had no longer
anything but extravagant caprices, ruinous tastes, fantasies, which,
once satisfied, left no pleasant memory in his heart. Amongst young
people love is the finest of the emotions, it makes the life of the soul
blossom, it nourishes by its solar power the finest inspirations and
their great thoughts; the first fruits in all things have a delicious
savor. Amongst men love becomes a passion; strength leads to abuse.
Amongst old men it turns to vice; impotence tends to extremes. Henri was
at once an old man, a man, and a youth. To afford him the feelings of
a real love, he needed like Lovelace, a Clarissa Harlowe. Without
the magic lustre of that unattainable pearl he could only have either
passions rendered acute by some Parisian vanity, or set determinations
with himself to bring such and such a woman to such and such a point of
corruption, or else adventures which stimulated his curiosity.

The report of Laurent, his _valet de chambre_ had just given an enormous
value to the girl with the golden eyes. It was a question of doing
battle with some secret enemy who seemed as dangerous as he was cunning;
and to carry off the victory, all the forces which Henri could dispose
of would be useful. He was about to play in that eternal old comedy
which will be always fresh, and the characters in which are an old man,
a young girl, and a lover: Don Hijos, Paquita, De Marsay. If Laurent was
the equal of Figaro, the duenna seemed incorruptible. Thus, the living
play was supplied by Chance with a stronger plot than it had ever been
by dramatic author! But then is not Chance too, a man of genius?

“It must be a cautious game,” said Henri, to himself.

“Well,” said Paul de Manerville, as he entered the room. “How are we
getting on? I have come to breakfast with you.”

“So be it,” said Henri. “You won’t be shocked if I make my toilette
before you?”

“How absurd!”

“We take so many things from the English just now that we might well
become as great prudes and hypocrites as themselves,” said Henri.

Laurent had set before his master such a quantity of utensils, so many
different articles of such elegance, that Paul could not refrain from
saying:

“But you will take a couple of hours over that?”

“No!” said Henri, “two hours and a half.”

“Well, then, since we are by ourselves, and can say what we like,
explain to me why a man as superior as yourself--for you are
superior--should affect to exaggerate a foppery which cannot be
natural. Why spend two hours and a half in adorning yourself, when it is
sufficient to spend a quarter of an hour in your bath, to do your hair
in two minutes, and to dress! There, tell me your system.”

“I must be very fond of you, my good dunce, to confide such high
thoughts to you,” said the young man, who was at that moment having his
feet rubbed with a soft brush lathered with English soap.

“Have I not the most devoted attachment to you,” replied Paul de
Manerville, “and do I not like you because I know your superiority?...”

“You must have noticed, if you are in the least capable of observing any
moral fact, that women love fops,” went on De Marsay, without replying
in any way to Paul’s declaration except by a look. “Do you know why
women love fops? My friend, fops are the only men who take care of
themselves. Now, to take excessive care of oneself, does it not imply
that one takes care in oneself of what belongs to another? The man who
does not belong to himself is precisely the man on whom women are keen.
Love is essentially a thief. I say nothing about that excess of niceness
to which they are so devoted. Do you know of any woman who has had a
passion for a sloven, even if he were a remarkable man? If such a fact
has occurred, we must put it to the account of those morbid affections
of the breeding woman, mad fancies which float through the minds of
everybody. On the other hand, I have seen most remarkable people left in
the lurch because of their carelessness. A fop, who is concerned about
his person, is concerned with folly, with petty things. And what is a
woman? A petty thing, a bundle of follies. With two words said to the
winds, can you not make her busy for four hours? She is sure that the
fop will be occupied with her, seeing that he has no mind for great
things. She will never be neglected for glory, ambition, politics,
art--those prostitutes who for her are rivals. Then fops have the
courage to cover themselves with ridicule in order to please a woman,
and her heart is full of gratitude towards the man who is ridiculous for
love. In fine, a fop can be no fop unless he is right in being one. It
is women who bestow that rank. The fop is love’s colonel; he has his
victories, his regiment of women at his command. My dear fellow, in
Paris everything is known, and a man cannot be a fop there _gratis_.
You, who have only one woman, and who, perhaps, are right to have but
one, try to act the fop!... You will not even become ridiculous, you
will be dead. You will become a foregone conclusion, one of those men
condemned inevitably to do one and the same thing. You will come to
signify _folly_ as inseparably as M. de La Fayette signifies _America_;
M. de Talleyrand, _diplomacy_; Desaugiers, _song_; M. de Segur,
_romance_. If they once forsake their own line people no longer attach
any value to what they do. So, foppery, my friend Paul, is the sign of
an incontestable power over the female folk. A man who is loved by many
women passes for having superior qualities, and then, poor fellow, it
is a question who shall have him! But do you think it is nothing to have
the right of going into a drawing-room, of looking down at people from
over your cravat, or through your eye-glass, and of despising the most
superior of men should he wear an old-fashioned waistcoat?... Laurent,
you are hurting me! After breakfast, Paul, we will go to the Tuileries
and see the adorable girl with the golden eyes.”

When, after making an excellent meal, the two young men had traversed
the Terrasse de Feuillants and the broad walk of the Tuileries, they
nowhere discovered the sublime Paquita Valdes, on whose account some
fifty of the most elegant young men in Paris where to be seen, all
scented, with their high scarfs, spurred and booted, riding, walking,
talking, laughing, and damning themselves mightily.

“It’s a white Mass,” said Henri; “but I have the most excellent idea in
the world. This girl receives letters from London. The postman must be
bought or made drunk, a letter opened, read of course, and a love-letter
slipped in before it is sealed up again. The old tyrant, _crudel
tirano_, is certain to know the person who writes the letters from
London, and has ceased to be suspicious of them.”

The day after, De Marsay came again to walk on the Terrasse des
Feuillants, and saw Paquita Valdes; already passion had embellished her
for him. Seriously, he was wild for those eyes, whose rays seemed akin
to those which the sun emits, and whose ardor set the seal upon that
of her perfect body, in which all was delight. De Marsay was on fire to
brush the dress of this enchanting girl as they passed one another in
their walk; but his attempts were always vain. But at one moment, when
he had repassed Paquita and the duenna, in order to find himself on the
same side as the girl of the golden eyes, when he returned, Paquita,
no less impatient, came forward hurriedly, and De Marsay felt his
hand pressed by her in a fashion at once so swift and so passionately
significant that it was as though he had received the emotions surged up
in his heart. When the two lovers glanced at one another, Paquita seemed
ashamed, she dropped her eyes lest she should meet the eyes of Henri,
but her gaze sank lower to fasten on the feet and form of him whom
women, before the Revolution, called _their conqueror_.

“I am determined to make this girl my mistress,” said Henri to himself.

As he followed her along the terrace, in the direction of the Place
Louis XV., he caught sight of the aged Marquis de San-Real, who was
walking on the arm of his valet, stepping with all the precautions due
to gout and decrepitude. Dona Concha, who distrusted Henri, made Paquita
pass between herself and the old man.

“Oh, for you,” said De Marsay to himself, casting a glance of disdain
upon the duenna, “if one cannot make you capitulate, with a little opium
one can make you sleep. We know mythology and the fable of Argus.”

Before entering the carriage, the golden-eyed girl exchanged certain
glances with her lover, of which the meaning was unmistakable and which
enchanted Henri, but one of them was surprised by the duenna; she said
a few rapid words to Paquita, who threw herself into the _coupe_ with
an air of desperation. For some days Paquita did not appear in the
Tuileries. Laurent, who by his master’s orders was on watch by the
hotel, learned from the neighbors that neither the two women nor the
aged marquis had been abroad since the day upon which the duenna had
surprised a glance between the young girl in her charge and Henri. The
bond, so flimsy withal, which united the two lovers was already severed.

Some days later, none knew by what means, De Marsay had attained his
end; he had a seal and wax, exactly resembling the seal and wax affixed
to the letters sent to Mademoiselle Valdes from London; paper similar
to that which her correspondent used; moreover, all the implements and
stamps necessary to affix the French and English postmarks.

He wrote the following letter, to which he gave all the appearances of a
letter sent from London:--


  “MY DEAR PAQUITA,--I shall not try to paint to you in words the
  passion with which you have inspired me. If, to my happiness, you
  reciprocate it, understand that I have found a means of
  corresponding with you. My name is Adolphe de Gouges, and I live
  at No. 54 Rue de l’Universite. If you are too closely watched to
  be able to write to me, if you have neither pen nor paper, I shall
  understand it by your silence. If then, to-morrow, you have not,
  between eight o’clock in the morning and ten o’clock in the
  evening, thrown a letter over the wall of your garden into that of
  the Baron de Nucingen, where it will be waited for during the
  whole of the day, a man, who is entirely devoted to me, will let
  down two flasks by a string over your wall at ten o’clock the next
  morning. Be walking there at that hour. One of the two flasks will
  contain opium to send your Argus to sleep; it will be sufficient
  to employ six drops; the other will contain ink. The flask of ink
  is of cut glass; the other is plain. Both are of such a size as
  can easily be concealed within your bosom. All that I have already
  done, in order to be able to correspond with you, should tell you
  how greatly I love you. Should you have any doubt of it, I will
  confess to you, that to obtain an interview of one hour with you I
  would give my life.”


“At least they believe that, poor creatures!” said De Marsay; “but they
are right. What should we think of a woman who refused to be beguiled by
a love-letter accompanied by such convincing accessories?”

This letter was delivered by Master Moinot, postman, on the following
day, about eight o’clock in the morning, to the porter of the Hotel
San-Real.

In order to be nearer to the field of action, De Marsay went and
breakfasted with Paul, who lived in the Rue de la Pepiniere. At
two o’clock, just as the two friends were laughingly discussing the
discomfiture of a young man who had attempted to lead the life of
fashion without a settled income, and were devising an end for him,
Henri’s coachman came to seek his master at Paul’s house, and presented
to him a mysterious personage who insisted on speaking himself with his
master.

This individual was a mulatto, who would assuredly have given Talma a
model for the part of Othello, if he had come across him. Never did any
African face better express the grand vengefulness, the ready suspicion,
the promptitude in the execution of a thought, the strength of the Moor,
and his childish lack of reflection. His black eyes had the fixity of
the eyes of a bird of prey, and they were framed, like a vulture’s, by
a bluish membrane devoid of lashes. His forehead, low and narrow, had
something menacing. Evidently, this man was under the yoke of some
single and unique thought. His sinewy arm did not belong to him.

He was followed by a man whom the imaginations of all folk, from those
who shiver in Greenland to those who sweat in the tropics, would paint
in the single phrase: _He was an unfortunate man_. From this phrase,
everybody will conceive him according to the special ideas of each
country. But who can best imagine his face--white and wrinkled, red at
the extremities, and his long beard. Who will see his lean and yellow
scarf, his greasy shirt-collar, his battered hat, his green frock coat,
his deplorable trousers, his dilapidated waistcoat, his imitation gold
pin, and battered shoes, the strings of which were plastered in mud? Who
will see all that but the Parisian? The unfortunate man of Paris is the
unfortunate man _in toto_, for he has still enough mirth to know the
extent of his misfortune. The mulatto was like an executioner of Louis
XI. leading a man to the gallows.

“Who has hunted us out these two extraordinary creatures?” said Henri.

“Faith! there is one of them who makes me shudder,” replied Paul.

“Who are you--you fellow who look the most like a Christian of the two?”
 said Henri, looking at the unfortunate man.

The mulatto stood with his eyes fixed upon the two young men, like a man
who understood nothing, and who sought no less to divine something from
the gestures and movements of the lips.

“I am a public scribe and interpreter; I live at the Palais de Justice,
and am named Poincet.”

“Good!... and this one?” said Henri to Poincet, looking towards the
mulatto.

“I do not know; he only speaks a sort of Spanish _patois_, and he has
brought me here to make himself understood by you.”

The mulatto drew from his pocket the letter which Henri had written to
Paquita and handed it to him. Henri threw it in the fire.

“Ah--so--the game is beginning,” said Henri to himself. “Paul, leave us
alone for a moment.”

“I translated this letter for him,” went on the interpreter, when they
were alone. “When it was translated, he was in some place which I don’t
remember. Then he came back to look for me, and promised me two _louis_
to fetch him here.”

“What have you to say to me, nigger?” asked Henri.

“I did not translate _nigger_,” said the interpreter, waiting for the
mulatto’s reply....

“He said, sir,” went on the interpreter, after having listened to the
unknown, “that you must be at half-past ten to-morrow night on the
boulevard Montmartre, near the cafe. You will see a carriage there, in
which you must take your place, saying to the man, who will wait to
open the door for you, the word _cortejo_--a Spanish word, which means
_lover_,” added Poincet, casting a glance of congratulation upon Henri.

“Good.”

The mulatto was about to bestow the two _louis_, but De Marsay would not
permit it, and himself rewarded the interpreter. As he was paying him,
the mulatto began to speak.

“What is he saying?”

“He is warning me,” replied the unfortunate, “that if I commit a single
indiscretion he will strangle me. He speaks fair and he looks remarkably
as if he were capable of carrying out his threat.”

“I am sure of it,” answered Henri; “he would keep his word.”

“He says, as well,” replied the interpreter, “that the person from whom
he is sent implores you, for your sake and for hers, to act with the
greatest prudence, because the daggers which are raised above your
head would strike your heart before any human power could save you from
them.”

“He said that? So much the better, it will be more amusing. You can come
in now, Paul,” he cried to his friend.

The mulatto, who had not ceased to gaze at the lover of Paquita Valdes
with magnetic attention, went away, followed by the interpreter.

“Well, at last I have an adventure which is entirely romantic,” said
Henri, when Paul returned. “After having shared in a certain number I
have finished by finding in Paris an intrigue accompanied by serious
accidents, by grave perils. The deuce! what courage danger gives a
woman! To torment a woman, to try and contradict her--doesn’t it give
her the right and the courage to scale in one moment obstacles which it
would take her years to surmount of herself? Pretty creature, jump then!
To die? Poor child! Daggers? Oh, imagination of women! They cannot help
trying to find authority for their little jests. Besides, can one think
of it, Paquita? Can one think of it, my child? The devil take me, now
that I know this beautiful girl, this masterpiece of nature, is mine,
the adventure has lost its charm.”

For all his light words, the youth in Henri had reappeared. In order
to live until the morrow without too much pain, he had recourse to
exorbitant pleasure; he played, dined, supped with his friends; he drank
like a fish, ate like a German, and won ten or twelve thousand francs.
He left the Rocher de Cancale at two o’clock in the morning, slept like
a child, awoke the next morning fresh and rosy, and dressed to go to
the Tuileries, with the intention of taking a ride, after having seen
Paquita, in order to get himself an appetite and dine the better, and so
kill the time.

At the hour mentioned Henri was on the boulevard, saw the carriage,
and gave the counter-word to a man who looked to him like the mulatto.
Hearing the word, the man opened the door and quickly let down the step.
Henri was so rapidly carried through Paris, and his thoughts left him so
little capacity to pay attention to the streets through which he passed,
that he did not know where the carriage stopped. The mulatto let him
into a house, the staircase of which was quite close to the entrance.
This staircase was dark, as was also the landing upon which Henri
was obliged to wait while the mulatto was opening the door of a damp
apartment, fetid and unlit, the chambers of which, barely illuminated
by the candle which his guide found in the ante-chamber, seemed to him
empty and ill furnished, like those of a house the inhabitants of which
are away. He recognized the sensation which he had experienced from the
perusal of one of those romances of Anne Radcliffe, in which the hero
traverses the cold, sombre, and uninhabited saloons of some sad and
desert spot.

At last the mulatto opened the door of a _salon_. The condition of
the old furniture and the dilapidated curtains with which the room was
adorned gave it the air of the reception-room of a house of ill fame.
There was the same pretension to elegance, and the same collection of
things in bad taste, of dust and dirt. Upon a sofa covered with red
Utrecht velvet, by the side of a smoking hearth, the fire of which was
buried in ashes, sat an old, poorly dressed woman, her head capped by
one of those turbans which English women of a certain age have invented
and which would have a mighty success in China, where the artist’s ideal
is the monstrous.

The room, the old woman, the cold hearth, all would have chilled love to
death had not Paquita been there, upon an ottoman, in a loose voluptuous
wrapper, free to scatter her gaze of gold and flame, free to show her
arched foot, free of her luminous movements. This first interview
was what every _rendezvous_ must be between persons of passionate
disposition, who have stepped over a wide distance quickly, who desire
each other ardently, and who, nevertheless, do not know each other. It
is impossible that at first there should not occur certain discordant
notes in the situation, which is embarrassing until the moment when two
souls find themselves in unison.

If desire gives a man boldness and disposes him to lay restraint aside,
the mistress, under pain of ceasing to be woman, however great may be
her love, is afraid of arriving at the end so promptly, and face to face
with the necessity of giving herself, which to many women is equivalent
to a fall into an abyss, at the bottom of which they know not what they
shall find. The involuntary coldness of the woman contrasts with her
confessed passion, and necessarily reacts upon the most passionate
lover. Thus ideas, which often float around souls like vapors, determine
in them a sort of temporary malady. In the sweet journey which two
beings undertake through the fair domains of love, this moment is like
a waste land to be traversed, a land without a tree, alternatively damp
and warm, full of scorching sand, traversed by marshes, which leads to
smiling groves clad with roses, where Love and his retinue of pleasures
disport themselves on carpets of soft verdure. Often the witty man
finds himself afflicted with a foolish laugh which is his only answer to
everything; his wit is, as it were, suffocated beneath the icy pressure
of his desires. It would not be impossible for two beings of equal
beauty, intelligence, and passion to utter at first nothing but the
most silly commonplaces, until chance, a word, the tremor of a certain
glance, the communication of a spark, should have brought them to the
happy transition which leads to that flowery way in which one does not
walk, but where one sways and at the same time does not lapse.

Such a state of mind is always in proportion with the violence of the
feeling. Two creatures who love one another weakly feel nothing similar.
The effect of this crisis can even be compared with that which is
produced by the glow of a clear sky. Nature, at the first view, appears
to be covered with a gauze veil, the azure of the firmament seems black,
the intensity of light is like darkness. With Henri, as with the Spanish
girl, there was an equal intensity of feeling; and that law of statics,
in virtue of which two identical forces cancel each other, might have
been true also in the moral order. And the embarrassment of the moment
was singularly increased by the presence of the old hag. Love takes
pleasure or fright at all, all has meaning for it, everything is an omen
of happiness or sorrow for it.

This decrepit woman was there like a suggestion of catastrophe, and
represented the horrid fish’s tail with which the allegorical geniuses
of Greece have terminated their chimeras and sirens, whose figures, like
all passions, are so seductive, so deceptive.

Although Henri was not a free-thinker--the phrase is always a
mockery--but a man of extraordinary power, a man as great as a man can
be without faith, the conjunction struck him. Moreover, the strongest
men are naturally the most impressionable, and consequently the most
superstitious, if, indeed, one may call superstition the prejudice of
the first thoughts, which, without doubt, is the appreciation of the
result in causes hidden to other eyes but perceptible to their own.

The Spanish girl profited by this moment of stupefaction to let herself
fall into the ecstasy of that infinite adoration which seizes the heart
of a woman, when she truly loves and finds herself in the presence of
an idol for whom she has vainly longed. Her eyes were all joy, all
happiness, and sparks flew from them. She was under the charm, and
fearlessly intoxicated herself with a felicity of which she had dreamed
long. She seemed then so marvelously beautiful to Henri, that all this
phantasmagoria of rags and old age, of worn red drapery and of the green
mats in front of the armchairs, the ill-washed red tiles, all this sick
and dilapidated luxury, disappeared.

The room seemed lit up; and it was only through a cloud that one could
see the fearful harpy fixed and dumb on her red sofa, her yellow eyes
betraying the servile sentiments, inspired by misfortune, or caused by
some vice beneath whose servitude one has fallen as beneath a tyrant who
brutalizes one with the flagellations of his despotism. Her eyes had the
cold glitter of a caged tiger, knowing his impotence and being compelled
to swallow his rage of destruction.

“Who is that woman?” said Henri to Paquita.

But Paquita did not answer. She made a sign that she understood no
French, and asked Henri if he spoke English.

De Marsay repeated his question in English.

“She is the only woman in whom I can confide, although she has sold me
already,” said Paquita, tranquilly. “My dear Adolphe, she is my mother,
a slave bought in Georgia for her rare beauty, little enough of which
remains to-day. She only speaks her native tongue.”

The attitude of this woman and her eagerness to guess from the gestures
of her daughter and Henri what was passing between them, were suddenly
explained to the young man; and this explanation put him at his ease.

“Paquita,” he said, “are we never to be free then?”

“Never,” she said, with an air of sadness. “Even now we have but a few
days before us.”

She lowered her eyes, looked at and counted with her right hand on the
fingers of her left, revealing so the most beautiful hands which Henri
had ever seen.

“One, two, three----”

She counted up to twelve.

“Yes,” she said, “we have twelve days.”

“And after?”

“After,” she said, showing the absorption of a weak woman before the
executioner’s axe, and slain in advance, as it were, by a fear which
stripped her of that magnificent energy which Nature seemed to have
bestowed upon her only to aggrandize pleasure and convert the most
vulgar delights into endless poems. “After----” she repeated. Her eyes
took a fixed stare; she seemed to contemplate a threatening object far
away.

“I do not know,” she said.

“This girl is mad,” said Henri to himself, falling into strange
reflections.

Paquita appeared to him occupied by something which was not himself,
like a woman constrained equally by remorse and passion. Perhaps she had
in her heart another love which she alternately remembered and forgot.
In a moment Henri was assailed by a thousand contradictory thoughts.
This girl became a mystery for him; but as he contemplated her with the
scientific attention of the _blase_ man, famished for new pleasures,
like that Eastern king who asked that a pleasure should be created
for him,--a horrible thirst with which great souls are seized,--Henri
recognized in Paquita the richest organization that Nature had ever
deigned to compose for love. The presumptive play of this machinery,
setting aside the soul, would have frightened any other man than Henri;
but he was fascinated by that rich harvest of promised pleasures, by
that constant variety in happiness, the dream of every man, and the
desire of every loving woman too. He was infuriated by the infinite
rendered palpable, and transported into the most excessive raptures
of which the creature is capable. All that he saw in this girl more
distinctly than he had yet seen it, for she let herself be viewed
complacently, happy to be admired. The admiration of De Marsay became
a secret fury, and he unveiled her completely, throwing a glance at her
which the Spaniard understood as though she had been used to receive
such.

“If you are not to be mine, mine only, I will kill you!” he cried.

Hearing this speech, Paquita covered her face in her hands, and cried
naively:

“Holy Virgin! What have I brought upon myself?”

She rose, flung herself down upon the red sofa, and buried her head in
the rags which covered the bosom of her mother, and wept there. The
old woman received her daughter without issuing from her state of
immobility, or displaying any emotion. The mother possessed in the
highest degree that gravity of savage races, the impassiveness of a
statue upon which all remarks are lost. Did she or did she not love her
daughter? Beneath that mask every human emotion might brood--good and
evil; and from this creature all might be expected. Her gaze passed
slowly from her daughter’s beautiful hair, which covered her like a
mantle, to the face of Henri, which she considered with an indescribable
curiosity.

She seemed to ask by what fatality he was there, from what caprice
Nature had made so seductive a man.

“These women are making sport of me,” said Henri to himself.

At that moment Paquita raised her head, cast at him one of those looks
which reach the very soul and consume it. So beautiful seemed she that
he swore he would possess such a treasure of beauty.

“My Paquita! Be mine!”

“Wouldst thou kill me?” she said fearfully, palpitating and anxious, but
drawn towards him by an inexplicable force.

“Kill thee--I!” he said, smiling.

Paquita uttered a cry of alarm, said a word to the old woman, who
authoritatively seized Henri’s hand and that of her daughter. She gazed
at them for a long time, and then released them, wagging her head in a
fashion horribly significant.

“Be mine--this evening, this moment; follow me, do not leave me! It must
be, Paquita! Dost thou love me? Come!”

In a moment he had poured out a thousand foolish words to her, with the
rapidity of a torrent coursing between the rocks, and repeating the same
sound in a thousand different forms.

“It is the same voice!” said Paquita, in a melancholy voice, which
De Marsay could not overhear, “and the same ardor,” she added. “So be
it--yes,” she said, with an abandonment of passion which no words can
describe. “Yes; but not to-night. To-night Adolphe, I gave too little
opium to La Concha. She might wake up, and I should be lost. At this
moment the whole household believes me to be asleep in my room. In two
days be at the same spot, say the same word to the same man. That man is
my foster-father. Cristemio worships me, and would die in torments for
me before they could extract one word against me from him. Farewell,”
 she said seizing Henri by the waist and twining round him like a
serpent.

She pressed him on every side at once, lifted her head to his, and
offered him her lips, then snatched a kiss which filled them both with
such a dizziness that it seemed to Henri as though the earth opened; and
Paquita cried: “Enough, depart!” in a voice which told how little
she was mistress of herself. But she clung to him still, still crying
“Depart!” and brought him slowly to the staircase. There the mulatto,
whose white eyes lit up at the sight of Paquita, took the torch from the
hands of his idol, and conducted Henri to the street. He left the light
under the arch, opened the door, put Henri into the carriage, and set
him down on the Boulevard des Italiens with marvelous rapidity. It was
as though the horses had hell-fire in their veins.

The scene was like a dream to De Marsay, but one of those dreams
which, even when they fade away, leave a feeling of supernatural
voluptuousness, which a man runs after for the remainder of his life.
A single kiss had been enough. Never had _rendezvous_ been spent in a
manner more decorous or chaste, or, perhaps, more coldly, in a spot of
which the surroundings were more gruesome, in presence of a more hideous
divinity; for the mother had remained in Henri’s imagination like some
infernal, cowering thing, cadaverous, monstrous, savagely ferocious,
which the imagination of poets and painters had not yet conceived. In
effect, no _rendezvous_ had ever irritated his senses more, revealed
more audacious pleasures, or better aroused love from its centre to
shed itself round him like an atmosphere. There was something sombre,
mysterious, sweet, tender, constrained, and expansive, an intermingling
of the awful and the celestial, of paradise and hell, which made De
Marsay like a drunken man.

He was no longer himself, and he was, withal, great enough to be able to
resist the intoxication of pleasure.

In order to render his conduct intelligible in the catastrophe of this
story, it is needful to explain how his soul had broadened at an age
when young men generally belittle themselves in their relations with
women, or in too much occupation with them. Its growth was due to a
concurrence of secret circumstances, which invested him with a vast and
unsuspected power.

This young man held in his hand a sceptre more powerful than that of
modern kings, almost all of whom are curbed in their least wishes by the
laws. De Marsay exercised the autocratic power of an Oriental despot.
But this power, so stupidly put into execution in Asia by brutish men,
was increased tenfold by its conjunction with European intelligence,
with French wit--the most subtle, the keenest of all intellectual
instruments. Henri could do what he would in the interest of his
pleasures and vanities. This invisible action upon the social world
had invested him with a real, but secret, majesty, without emphasis and
deriving from himself. He had not the opinion which Louis XIV. could
have of himself, but that which the proudest of the Caliphs, the
Pharoahs, the Xerxes, who held themselves to be of divine origin, had
of themselves when they imitated God, and veiled themselves from their
subjects under the pretext that their looks dealt forth death. Thus,
without any remorse at being at once the judge and the accuser, De
Marsay coldly condemned to death the man or the woman who had seriously
offended him. Although often pronounced almost lightly, the verdict
was irrevocable. An error was a misfortune similar to that which a
thunderbolt causes when it falls upon a smiling Parisienne in some
hackney coach, instead of crushing the old coachman who is driving
her to a _rendezvous_. Thus the bitter and profound sarcasm which
distinguished the young man’s conversation usually tended to frighten
people; no one was anxious to put him out. Women are prodigiously fond
of those persons who call themselves pashas, and who are, as it were
accompanied by lions and executioners, and who walk in a panoply of
terror. The result, in the case of such men, is a security of action,
a certitude of power, a pride of gaze, a leonine consciousness, which
makes women realize the type of strength of which they all dream. Such
was De Marsay.

Happy, for the moment, with his future, he grew young and pliable, and
thought of nothing but love as he went to bed. He dreamed of the girl
with the golden eyes, as the young and passionate can dream. His dreams
were monstrous images, unattainable extravagances--full of light,
revealing invisible worlds, yet in a manner always incomplete, for an
intervening veil changes the conditions of vision.

For the next and succeeding day Henri disappeared and no one knew
what had become of him. His power only belonged to him under certain
conditions, and, happily for him, during those two days he was a private
soldier in the service of the demon to whom he owed his talismanic
existence. But at the appointed time, in the evening, he was
waiting--and he had not long to wait--for the carriage. The mulatto
approached Henri, in order to repeat to him in French a phrase which he
seemed to have learned by heart.

“If you wish to come, she told me, you must consent to have your eyes
bandaged.”

And Cristemio produced a white silk handkerchief.

“No!” said Henri, whose omnipotence revolted suddenly.

He tried to leap in. The mulatto made a sign, and the carriage drove
off.

“Yes!” cried De Marsay, furious at the thought of losing a piece of good
fortune which had been promised him.

He saw, moreover, the impossibility of making terms with a slave
whose obedience was as blind as the hangman’s. Nor was it this passive
instrument upon whom his anger could fall.

The mulatto whistled, the carriage returned. Henri got in hastily.
Already a few curious onlookers had assembled like sheep on the
boulevard. Henri was strong; he tried to play the mulatto. When the
carriage started at a gallop he seized his hands, in order to master
him, and retain, by subduing his attendant, the possession of his
faculties, so that he might know whither he was going. It was a vain
attempt. The eyes of the mulatto flashed from the darkness. The fellow
uttered a cry which his fury stifled in his throat, released himself,
threw back De Marsay with a hand like iron, and nailed him, so to
speak, to the bottom of the carriage; then with his free hand, he drew
a triangular dagger, and whistled. The coachman heard the whistle and
stopped. Henri was unarmed, he was forced to yield. He moved his head
towards the handkerchief. The gesture of submission calmed Cristemio,
and he bound his eyes with a respect and care which manifested a sort
of veneration for the person of the man whom his idol loved. But, before
taking this course, he had placed his dagger distrustfully in his side
pocket, and buttoned himself up to the chin.

“That nigger would have killed me!” said De Marsay to himself.

Once more the carriage moved on rapidly. There was one resource still
open to a young man who knew Paris as well as Henri. To know whither
he was going, he had but to collect himself and count, by the number of
gutters crossed, the streets leading from the boulevards by which the
carriage passed, so long as it continued straight along. He could thus
discover into which lateral street it would turn, either towards the
Seine or towards the heights of Montmartre, and guess the name or
position of the street in which his guide should bring him to a halt.
But the violent emotion which his struggle had caused him, the rage into
which his compromised dignity had thrown him, the ideas of vengeance
to which he abandoned himself, the suppositions suggested to him by the
circumstantial care which this girl had taken in order to bring him
to her, all hindered him from the attention, which the blind have,
necessary for the concentration of his intelligence and the perfect
lucidity of his recollection. The journey lasted half an hour. When the
carriage stopped, it was no longer on the street. The mulatto and the
coachman took Henri in their arms, lifted him out, and, putting him
into a sort of litter, conveyed him across a garden. He could smell its
flowers and the perfume peculiar to trees and grass.

The silence which reigned there was so profound that he could
distinguish the noise made by the drops of water falling from the moist
leaves. The two men took him to a staircase, set him on his feet, led
him by his hands through several apartments, and left him in a room
whose atmosphere was perfumed, and the thick carpet of which he could
feel beneath his feet.

A woman’s hand pushed him on to a divan, and untied the handkerchief for
him. Henri saw Paquita before him, but Paquita in all her womanly
and voluptuous glory. The section of the boudoir in which Henri found
himself described a circular line, softly gracious, which was faced
opposite by the other perfectly square half, in the midst of which a
chimney-piece shone of gold and white marble. He had entered by a door
on one side, hidden by a rich tapestried screen, opposite which was a
window. The semicircular portion was adorned with a real Turkish divan,
that is to say, a mattress thrown on the ground, but a mattress as broad
as a bed, a divan fifty feet in circumference, made of white cashmere,
relieved by bows of black and scarlet silk, arranged in panels. The top
of this huge bed was raised several inches by numerous cushions, which
further enriched it by their tasteful comfort. The boudoir was lined
with some red stuff, over which an Indian muslin was stretched, fluted
after the fashion of Corinthian columns, in plaits going in and out, and
bound at the top and bottom by bands of poppy-colored stuff, on which
were designs in black arabesque.

Below the muslin the poppy turned to rose, that amorous color, which
was matched by window-curtains, which were of Indian muslin lined with
rose-colored taffeta, and set off with a fringe of poppy-color and
black. Six silver-gilt arms, each supporting two candles, were attached
to the tapestry at an equal distance, to illuminate the divan. The
ceiling, from the middle of which a lustre of unpolished silver hung,
was of a brilliant whiteness, and the cornice was gilded. The carpet was
like an Oriental shawl; it had the designs and recalled the poetry of
Persia, where the hands of slaves had worked on it. The furniture
was covered in white cashmere, relieved by black and poppy-colored
ornaments. The clock, the candelabra, all were in white marble and gold.
The only table there had a cloth of cashmere. Elegant flower-pots held
roses of every kind, flowers white or red. In fine, the least detail
seemed to have been the object of loving thought. Never had richness
hidden itself more coquettishly to become elegance, to express grace,
to inspire pleasure. Everything there would have warmed the coldest
of beings. The caresses of the tapestry, of which the color changed
according to the direction of one’s gaze, becoming either all white
or all rose, harmonized with the effects of the light shed upon the
diaphanous tissues of the muslin, which produced an appearance of
mistiness. The soul has I know not what attraction towards white, love
delights in red, and the passions are flattered by gold, which has the
power of realizing their caprices. Thus all that man possesses within
him of vague and mysterious, all his inexplicable affinities, were
caressed in their involuntary sympathies. There was in this perfect
harmony a concert of color to which the soul responded with vague and
voluptuous and fluctuating ideas.

It was out of a misty atmosphere, laden with exquisite perfumes, that
Paquita, clad in a white wrapper, her feet bare, orange blossoms in her
black hair, appeared to Henri, knelt before him, adoring him as the god
of this temple, whither he had deigned to come. Although De Marsay
was accustomed to seeing the utmost efforts of Parisian luxury, he was
surprised at the aspect of this shell, like that from which Venus rose
out of the sea. Whether from an effect of contrast between the darkness
from which he issued and the light which bathed his soul, whether from
a comparison which he swiftly made between this scene and that of their
first interview, he experienced one of those delicate sensations which
true poetry gives. Perceiving in the midst of this retreat, which
had been opened to him as by a fairy’s magic wand, the masterpiece of
creation, this girl, whose warmly colored tints, whose soft skin--soft,
but slightly gilded by the shadows, by I know not what vaporous effusion
of love--gleamed as though it reflected the rays of color and light, his
anger, his desire for vengeance, his wounded vanity, all were lost.

Like an eagle darting on his prey, he took her utterly to him, set her
on his knees, and felt with an indescribable intoxication the voluptuous
pressure of this girl, whose richly developed beauties softly enveloped
him.

“Come to me, Paquita!” he said, in a low voice.

“Speak, speak without fear!” she said. “This retreat was built for
love. No sound can escape from it, so greatly was it desired to guard
avariciously the accents and music of the beloved voice. However loud
should be the cries, they would not be heard without these walls. A
person might be murdered, and his moans would be as vain as if he were
in the midst of the great desert.”

“Who has understood jealousy and its needs so well?”

“Never question me as to that,” she answered, untying with a gesture of
wonderful sweetness the young man’s scarf, doubtless in order the better
to behold his neck.

“Yes, there is the neck I love so well!” she said. “Wouldst thou please
me?”

This interrogation, rendered by the accent almost lascivious, drew
De Marsay from the reverie in which he had been plunged by Paquita’s
authoritative refusal to allow him any research as to the unknown being
who hovered like a shadow about them.

“And if I wished to know who reigns here?”

Paquita looked at him trembling.

“It is not I, then?” he said, rising and freeing himself from the girl,
whose head fell backwards. “Where I am, I would be alone.”

“Strike, strike!...” said the poor slave, a prey to terror.

“For what do you take me, then?... Will you answer?”

Paquita got up gently, her eyes full of tears, took a poniard from one
of the two ebony pieces of furniture, and presented it to Henri with a
gesture of submission which would have moved a tiger.

“Give me a feast such as men give when they love,” she said, “and whilst
I sleep, slay me, for I know not how to answer thee. Hearken! I am bound
like some poor beast to a stake; I am amazed that I have been able to
throw a bridge over the abyss which divides us. Intoxicate me, then kill
me! Ah, no, no!” she cried, joining her hands, “do not kill me! I love
life! Life is fair to me! If I am a slave, I am a queen too. I could
beguile you with words, tell you that I love you alone, prove it to you,
profit by my momentary empire to say to you: ‘Take me as one tastes the
perfume of a flower when one passes it in a king’s garden.’ Then, after
having used the cunning eloquence of woman and soared on the wings of
pleasure, after having quenched my thirst, I could have you cast into a
pit, where none could find you, which has been made to gratify vengeance
without having to fear that of the law, a pit full of lime which would
kindle and consume you, until no particle of you were left. You would
stay in my heart, mine forever.”

Henri looked at the girl without trembling, and this fearless gaze
filled her with joy.

“No, I shall not do it! You have fallen into no trap here, but upon the
heart of a woman who adores you, and it is I who will be cast into the
pit.”

“All this appears to me prodigiously strange,” said De Marsay,
considering her. “But you seem to me a good girl, a strange nature; you
are, upon my word of honor, a living riddle, the answer to which is very
difficult to find.”

Paquita understood nothing of what the young man said; she looked at
him gently, opening wide eyes which could never be stupid, so much was
pleasure written in them.

“Come, then, my love,” she said, returning to her first idea, “wouldst
thou please me?”

“I would do all that thou wouldst, and even that thou wouldst not,”
 answered De Marsay, with a laugh. He had recovered his foppish ease, as
he took the resolve to let himself go to the climax of his good fortune,
looking neither before nor after. Perhaps he counted, moreover, on his
power and his capacity of a man used to adventures, to dominate this
girl a few hours later and learn all her secrets.

“Well,” said she, “let me arrange you as I would like.”

Paquita went joyously and took from one of the two chests a robe of red
velvet, in which she dressed De Marsay, then adorned his head with a
woman’s bonnet and wrapped a shawl round him. Abandoning herself to
these follies with a child’s innocence, she laughed a convulsive laugh,
and resembled some bird flapping its wings; but he saw nothing beyond.

If it be impossible to paint the unheard-of delights which these two
creatures--made by heaven in a joyous moment--found, it is perhaps
necessary to translate metaphysically the extraordinary and almost
fantastic impressions of the young man. That which persons in the social
position of De Marsay, living as he lived, are best able to recognize is
a girl’s innocence. But, strange phenomenon! The girl of the golden eyes
might be virgin, but innocent she was certainly not. The fantastic
union of the mysterious and the real, of darkness and light, horror and
beauty, pleasure and danger, paradise and hell, which had already been
met with in this adventure, was resumed in the capricious and sublime
being with which De Marsay dallied. All the utmost science or the most
refined pleasure, all that Henri could know of that poetry of the senses
which is called love, was excelled by the treasures poured forth by this
girl, whose radiant eyes gave the lie to none of the promises which they
made.

She was an Oriental poem, in which shone the sun that Saadi, that Hafiz,
have set in their pulsing strophes. Only, neither the rhythm of Saadi,
nor that of Pindar, could have expressed the ecstasy--full of confusion
and stupefaction--which seized the delicious girl when the error in
which an iron hand had caused her to live was at an end.

“Dead!” she said, “I am dead, Adolphe! Take me away to the world’s
end, to an island where no one knows us. Let there be no traces of our
flight! We should be followed to the gates of hell. God! here is the
day! Escape! Shall I ever see you again? Yes, to-morrow I will see
you, if I have to deal death to all my warders to have that joy. Till
to-morrow.”

She pressed him in her arms with an embrace in which the terror of death
mingled. Then she touched a spring, which must have been in connection
with a bell, and implored De Marsay to permit his eyes to be bandaged.

“And if I would not--and if I wished to stay here?”

“You would be the death of me more speedily,” she said, “for now I know
I am certain to die on your account.”

Henri submitted. In the man who had just gorged himself with pleasure
there occurs a propensity to forgetfulness, I know not what ingratitude,
a desire for liberty, a whim to go elsewhere, a tinge of contempt and,
perhaps, of disgust for his idol; in fine, indescribable sentiments
which render him ignoble and ashamed. The certainty of this confused,
but real, feeling in souls who are not illuminated by that celestial
light, nor perfumed with that holy essence from which the performance
of sentiment springs, doubtless suggested to Rousseau the adventures of
Lord Edward, which conclude the letters of the _Nouvelle Heloise_. If
Rousseau is obviously inspired by the work of Richardson, he departs
from it in a thousand details, which leave his achievement magnificently
original; he has recommended it to posterity by great ideas which it is
difficult to liberate by analysis, when, in one’s youth, one reads this
work with the object of finding in it the lurid representation of the
most physical of our feelings, whereas serious and philosophical writers
never employ its images except as the consequence or the corollary of
a vast thought; and the adventures of Lord Edward are one of the most
Europeanly delicate ideas of the whole work.

Henri, therefore, found himself beneath the domination of that confused
sentiment which is unknown to true love. There was needful, in
some sort, the persuasive grip of comparisons, and the irresistible
attraction of memories to lead him back to a woman. True love rules
above all through recollection. A woman who is not engraven upon the
soul by excess of pleasure or by strength of emotion, how can she ever
be loved? In Henri’s case, Paquita had established herself by both of
these reasons. But at this moment, seized as he was by the satiety of
his happiness, that delicious melancholy of the body, he could hardly
analyze his heart, even by recalling to his lips the taste of the
liveliest gratifications that he had ever grasped.

He found himself on the Boulevard Montmartre at the break of day,
gazed stupidly at the retreating carriage, produced two cigars from his
pocket, lit one from the lantern of a good woman who sold brandy and
coffee to workmen and street arabs and chestnut venders--to all the
Parisian populace which begins its work before daybreak; then he went
off, smoking his cigar, and putting his hands in his trousers’ pockets
with a devil-may-care air which did him small honor.

“What a good thing a cigar is! That’s one thing a man will never tire
of,” he said to himself.

Of the girl with the golden eyes, over whom at that time all the elegant
youth of Paris was mad, he hardly thought. The idea of death, expressed
in the midst of their pleasure, and the fear of which had more than once
darkened the brow of that beautiful creature, who held to the houris of
Asia by her mother, to Europe by her education, to the tropics by her
birth, seemed to him merely one of those deceptions by which women seek
to make themselves interesting.

“She is from Havana--the most Spanish region to be found in the New
World. So she preferred to feign terror rather than cast in my teeth
indisposition or difficulty, coquetry or duty, like a Parisian woman. By
her golden eyes, how glad I shall be to sleep.”

He saw a hackney coach standing at the corner of Frascati’s waiting for
some gambler; he awoke the driver, was driven home, went to bed, and
slept the sleep of the dissipated, which for some queer reason--of which
no rhymer has yet taken advantage--is as profound as that of innocence.
Perhaps it is an instance of the proverbial axiom, _extremes meet_.

About noon De Marsay awoke and stretched himself; he felt the grip of
that sort of voracious hunger which old soldiers can remember having
experienced on the morrow of victory. He was delighted, therefore, to
see Paul de Manerville standing in front of him, for at such a time
nothing is more agreeable than to eat in company.

“Well,” his friend remarked, “we all imagined that you had been shut up
for the last ten days with the girl of the golden eyes.”

“The girl of the golden eyes! I have forgotten her. Faith! I have other
fish to fry!”

“Ah! you are playing at discretion.”

“Why not?” asked De Marsay, with a laugh. “My dear fellow, discretion
is the best form of calculation. Listen--however, no! I will not say
a word. You never teach me anything; I am not disposed to make you a
gratuitous present of the treasures of my policy. Life is a river which
is of use for the promotion of commerce. In the name of all that is most
sacred in life--of cigars! I am no professor of social economy for the
instruction of fools. Let us breakfast! It costs less to give you a
tunny omelette than to lavish the resources of my brain on you.”

“Do you bargain with your friends?”

“My dear fellow,” said Henri, who rarely denied himself a sarcasm,
“since all the same, you may some day need, like anybody else, to use
discretion, and since I have much love for you--yes, I like you! Upon my
word, if you only wanted a thousand-franc note to keep you from blowing
your brains out, you would find it here, for we haven’t yet done any
business of that sort, eh, Paul? If you had to fight to-morrow, I would
measure the ground and load the pistols, so that you might be killed
according to rule. In short, if anybody besides myself took it into his
head to say ill of you in your absence, he would have to deal with the
somewhat nasty gentleman who walks in my shoes--there’s what I call a
friendship beyond question. Well, my good fellow, if you should
ever have need of discretion, understand that there are two sorts of
discretion--the active and the negative. Negative discretion is that
of fools who make use of silence, negation, an air of refusal, the
discretion of locked doors--mere impotence! Active discretion proceeds
by affirmation. Suppose at the club this evening I were to say: ‘Upon my
word of honor the golden-eyed was not worth all she cost me!’ Everybody
would exclaim when I was gone: ‘Did you hear that fop De Marsay, who
tried to make us believe that he has already had the girl of the golden
eyes? It’s his way of trying to disembarrass himself of his rivals: he’s
no simpleton.’ But such a ruse is vulgar and dangerous. However gross a
folly one utters, there are always idiots to be found who will believe
it. The best form of discretion is that of women when they want to take
the change out of their husbands. It consists in compromising a woman
with whom we are not concerned, or whom we do not love, in order to save
the honor of the one whom we love well enough to respect. It is what is
called the _woman-screen_.... Ah! here is Laurent. What have you got for
us?”

“Some Ostend oysters, Monsieur le Comte.”

“You will know some day, Paul, how amusing it is to make a fool of the
world by depriving it of the secret of one’s affections. I derive an
immense pleasure in escaping from the stupid jurisdiction of the crowd,
which knows neither what it wants, nor what one wants of it, which takes
the means for the end, and by turns curses and adores, elevates and
destroys! What a delight to impose emotions on it and receive none from
it, to tame it, never to obey it. If one may ever be proud of anything,
is it not a self-acquired power, of which one is at once the cause and
effect, the principle and the result? Well, no man knows what I love,
nor what I wish. Perhaps what I have loved, or what I may have wished
will be known, as a drama which is accomplished is known; but to let
my game be seen--weakness, mistake! I know nothing more despicable than
strength outwitted by cunning. Can I initiate myself with a laugh into
the ambassador’s part, if indeed diplomacy is as difficult as life? I
doubt it. Have you any ambition? Would you like to become something?”

“But, Henri, you are laughing at me--as though I were not sufficiently
mediocre to arrive at anything.”

“Good Paul! If you go on laughing at yourself, you will soon be able to
laugh at everybody else.”

At breakfast, by the time he had started his cigars, De Marsay began to
see the events of the night in a singular light. Like many men of great
intelligence, his perspicuity was not spontaneous, as it did not at once
penetrate to the heart of things. As with all natures endowed with the
faculty of living greatly in the present, of extracting, so to speak,
the essence of it and assimilating it, his second-sight had need of a
sort of slumber before it could identify itself with causes. Cardinal
de Richelieu was so constituted, and it did not debar in him the gift of
foresight necessary to the conception of great designs.

De Marsay’s conditions were alike, but at first he only used his weapons
for the benefit of his pleasures, and only became one of the most
profound politicians of his day when he had saturated himself with
those pleasures to which a young man’s thoughts--when he has money and
power--are primarily directed. Man hardens himself thus: he uses woman
in order that she may not make use of him.

At this moment, then, De Marsay perceived that he had been fooled by
the girl of the golden eyes, seeing, as he did, in perspective, all that
night of which the delights had been poured upon him by degrees until
they had ended by flooding him in torrents. He could read, at last,
that page in effect so brilliant, divine its hidden meaning. The purely
physical innocence of Paquita, the bewilderment of her joy, certain
words, obscure at first, but now clear, which had escaped her in the
midst of that joy, all proved to him that he had posed for another
person. As no social corruption was unknown to him, as he professed a
complete indifference towards all perversities, and believed them to be
justified on the simple ground that they were capable of satisfaction,
he was not startled at vice, he knew it as one knows a friend, but he
was wounded at having served as sustenance for it. If his presumption
was right, he had been outraged in the most sensitive part of him. The
mere suspicion filled him with fury, he broke out with the roar of a
tiger who has been the sport of a deer, the cry of a tiger which united
a brute’s strength with the intelligence of the demon.

“I say, what is the matter with you?” asked Paul.

“Nothing!”

“I should be sorry, if you were to be asked whether you had anything
against me and were to reply with a _nothing_ like that! It would be a
sure case of fighting the next day.”

“I fight no more duels,” said De Marsay.

“That seems to me even more tragical. Do you assassinate, then?”

“You travesty words. I execute.”

“My dear friend,” said Paul, “your jokes are of a very sombre color this
morning.”

“What would you have? Pleasure ends in cruelty. Why? I don’t know, and
am not sufficiently curious to try and find out.... These cigars are
excellent. Give your friend some tea. Do you know, Paul, I live a
brute’s life? It should be time to choose oneself a destiny, to employ
one’s powers on something which makes life worth living. Life is a
singular comedy. I am frightened, I laugh at the inconsequence of our
social order. The Government cuts off the heads of poor devils who
may have killed a man and licenses creatures who despatch, medically
speaking, a dozen young folks in a season. Morality is powerless
against a dozen vices which destroy society and which nothing can
punish.--Another cup!--Upon my word of honor! man is a jester dancing
upon a precipice. They talk to us about the immorality of the _Liaisons
Dangereuses_, and any other book you like with a vulgar reputation; but
there exists a book, horrible, filthy, fearful, corrupting, which is
always open and will never be shut, the great book of the world; not to
mention another book, a thousand times more dangerous, which is composed
of all that men whisper into each other’s ears, or women murmur behind
their fans, of an evening in society.”

“Henri, there is certainly something extraordinary the matter with you;
that is obvious in spite of your active discretion.”

“Yes!... Come, I must kill the time until this evening. Let’s to the
tables.... Perhaps I shall have the good luck to lose.”

De Marsay rose, took a handful of banknotes and folded them into his
cigar-case, dressed himself, and took advantage of Paul’s carriage to
repair to the Salon des Etrangers, where until dinner he consumed the
time in those exciting alternations of loss and gain which are the last
resource of powerful organizations when they are compelled to exercise
themselves in the void. In the evening he repaired to the trysting-place
and submitted complacently to having his eyes bandaged. Then, with
that firm will which only really strong men have the faculty of
concentrating, he devoted his attention and applied his intelligence to
the task of divining through what streets the carriage passed. He had
a sort of certitude of being taken to the Rue Saint-Lazare, and
being brought to a halt at the little gate in the garden of the Hotel
San-Real. When he passed, as on the first occasion, through this gate,
and was put in a litter, carried, doubtless by the mulatto and the
coachman, he understood, as he heard the gravel grate beneath their
feet, why they took such minute precautions. He would have been able,
had he been free, or if he had walked, to pluck a twig of laurel,
to observe the nature of the soil which clung to his boots; whereas,
transported, so to speak, ethereally into an inaccessible mansion, his
good fortune must remain what it had been hitherto, a dream. But it is
man’s despair that all his work, whether for good or evil, is imperfect.
All his labors, physical or intellectual, are sealed with the mark
of destruction. There had been a gentle rain, the earth was moist. At
night-time certain vegetable perfumes are far stronger than during the
day; Henri could smell, therefore, the scent of the mignonette which
lined the avenue along which he was conveyed. This indication was enough
to light him in the researches which he promised himself to make in
order to recognize the hotel which contained Paquita’s boudoir. He
studied in the same way the turnings which his bearers took within the
house, and believed himself able to recall them.

As on the previous night, he found himself on the ottoman before
Paquita, who was undoing his bandage; but he saw her pale and altered.
She had wept. On her knees like an angel in prayer, but like an angel
profoundly sad and melancholy, the poor girl no longer resembled the
curious, impatient, and impetuous creature who had carried De Marsay
on her wings to transport him to the seventh heaven of love. There was
something so true in this despair veiled by pleasure, that the terrible
De Marsay felt within him an admiration for this new masterpiece
of nature, and forgot, for the moment, the chief interest of his
assignation.

“What is the matter with thee, my Paquita?”

“My friend,” she said, “carry me away this very night. Bear me to some
place where no one can answer: ‘There is a girl with a golden gaze here,
who has long hair.’ Yonder I will give thee as many pleasures as thou
wouldst have of me. Then when you love me no longer, you shall leave me,
I shall not complain, I shall say nothing; and your desertion need cause
you no remorse, for one day passed with you, only one day, in which I
have had you before my eyes, will be worth all my life to me. But if I
stay here, I am lost.”

“I cannot leave Paris, little one!” replied Henri. “I do not belong to
myself, I am bound by a vow to the fortune of several persons who stand
to me, as I do to them. But I can place you in a refuge in Paris, where
no human power can reach you.”

“No,” she said, “you forget the power of woman.”

Never did phrase uttered by human voice express terror more absolutely.

“What could reach you, then, if I put myself between you and the world?”

“Poison!” she said. “Dona Concha suspects you already... and,” she
resumed, letting the tears fall and glisten on her cheeks, “it is easy
enough to see I am no longer the same. Well, if you abandon me to the
fury of the monster who will destroy me, your holy will be done! But
come, let there be all the pleasures of life in our love. Besides, I
will implore, I will weep and cry out and defend myself; perhaps I shall
be saved.”

“Whom will your implore?” he asked.

“Silence!” said Paquita. “If I obtain mercy it will perhaps be on
account of my discretion.”

“Give me my robe,” said Henri, insidiously.

“No, no!” she answered quickly, “be what you are, one of those angels
whom I have been taught to hate, and in whom I only saw ogres, whilst
you are what is fairest under the skies,” she said, caressing Henri’s
hair. “You do not know how silly I am. I have learned nothing. Since I
was twelve years old I have been shut up without ever seeing any one. I
can neither read nor write, I can only speak English and Spanish.”

“How is it, then, that you receive letters from London?”

“My letters?... See, here they are!” she said, proceeding to take some
papers out of a tall Japanese vase.

She offered De Marsay some letters, in which the young man saw, with
surprise, strange figures, similar to those of a rebus, traced in blood,
and illustrating phrases full of passion.

“But,” he cried, marveling at these hieroglyphics created by the
alertness of jealousy, “you are in the power of an infernal genius?”

“Infernal,” she repeated.

“But how, then, were you able to get out?”

“Ah!” she said, “that was my ruin. I drove Dona Concha to choose between
the fear of immediate death and anger to be. I had the curiosity of
a demon, I wished to break the bronze circle which they had described
between creation and me, I wished to see what young people were like,
for I knew nothing of man except the Marquis and Cristemio. Our coachman
and the lackey who accompanies us are old men....”

“But you were not always thus shut up? Your health...?”

“Ah,” she answered, “we used to walk, but it was at night and in the
country, by the side of the Seine, away from people.”

“Are you not proud of being loved like that?”

“No,” she said, “no longer. However full it be, this hidden life is but
darkness in comparison with the light.”

“What do you call the light?”

“Thee, my lovely Adolphe! Thee, for whom I would give my life. All the
passionate things that have been told me, and that I have inspired, I
feel for thee! For a certain time I understood nothing of existence, but
now I know what love is, and hitherto I have been the loved one only;
for myself, I did not love. I would give up everything for you, take me
away. If you like, take me as a toy, but let me be near you until you
break me.”

“You will have no regrets?”

“Not one”! she said, letting him read her eyes, whose golden tint was
pure and clear.

“Am I the favored one?” said Henri to himself. If he suspected the
truth, he was ready at that time to pardon the offence in view of a love
so single minded. “I shall soon see,” he thought.

If Paquita owed him no account of the past, yet the least recollection
of it became in his eyes a crime. He had therefore the sombre strength
to withhold a portion of his thought, to study her, even while
abandoning himself to the most enticing pleasures that ever peri
descended from the skies had devised for her beloved.

Paquita seemed to have been created for love by a particular effort of
nature. In a night her feminine genius had made the most rapid progress.
Whatever might be the power of this young man, and his indifference in
the matter of pleasures, in spite of his satiety of the previous night,
he found in the girl with the golden eyes that seraglio which a loving
woman knows how to create and which a man never refuses. Paquita
responded to that passion which is felt by all really great men for the
infinite--that mysterious passion so dramatically expressed in Faust, so
poetically translated in Manfred, and which urged Don Juan to search
the heart of women, in his hope to find there that limitless thought in
pursuit of which so many hunters after spectres have started, which wise
men think to discover in science, and which mystics find in God alone.
The hope of possessing at last the ideal being with whom the struggle
could be constant and tireless ravished De Marsay, who, for the first
time for long, opened his heart. His nerves expanded, his coldness was
dissipated in the atmosphere of that ardent soul, his hard and fast
theories melted away, and happiness colored his existence to the tint of
the rose and white boudoir. Experiencing the sting of a higher pleasure,
he was carried beyond the limits within which he had hitherto confined
passion. He would not be surpassed by this girl, whom a somewhat
artificial love had formed all ready for the needs of his soul, and then
he found in that vanity which urges a man to be in all things a victor,
strength enough to tame the girl; but, at the same time, urged beyond
that line where the soul is mistress over herself, he lost himself
in these delicious limboes, which the vulgar call so foolishly “the
imaginary regions.” He was tender, kind, and confidential. He affected
Paquita almost to madness.

“Why should we not go to Sorrento, to Nice, to Chiavari, and pass all
our life so? Will you?” he asked of Paquita, in a penetrating voice.

“Was there need to say to me: ‘Will you’?” she cried. “Have I a will? I
am nothing apart from you, except in so far as I am a pleasure for you.
If you would choose a retreat worthy of us, Asia is the only country
where love can unfold his wings....”

“You are right,” answered Henri. “Let us go to the Indies, there where
spring is eternal, where the earth grows only flowers, where man can
display the magnificence of kings and none shall say him nay, as in the
foolish lands where they would realize the dull chimera of equality. Let
us go to the country where one lives in the midst of a nation of slaves,
where the sun shines ever on a palace which is always white, where the
air sheds perfumes, the birds sing of love and where, when one can love
no more, one dies....”

“And where one dies together!” said Paquita. “But do not let us start
to-morrow, let us start this moment... take Cristemio.”

“Faith! pleasure is the fairest climax of life. Let us go to Asia; but
to start, my child, one needs much gold, and to have gold one must set
one’s affairs in order.”

She understood no part of these ideas.

“Gold! There is a pile of it here--as high as that,” she said holding up
her hand.

“It is not mine.”

“What does that matter?” she went on; “if we have need of it let us take
it.”

“It does not belong to you.”

“Belong!” she repeated. “Have you not taken me? When we have taken it,
it will belong to us.”

He gave a laugh.

“Poor innocent! You know nothing of the world.”

“Nay, but this is what I know,” she cried, clasping Henri to her.

At the very moment when De Marsay was forgetting all, and conceiving the
desire to appropriate this creature forever, he received in the midst of
his joy a dagger-thrust, which Paquita, who had lifted him vigorously in
the air, as though to contemplate him, exclaimed: “Oh, Margarita!”

“Margarita!” cried the young man, with a roar; “now I know all that I
still tried to disbelieve.”

He leaped upon the cabinet in which the long poniard was kept. Happily
for Paquita and for himself, the cupboard was shut. His fury waxed at
this impediment, but he recovered his tranquillity, went and found his
cravat, and advanced towards her with an air of such ferocious meaning
that, without knowing of what crime she had been guilty, Paquita
understood, none the less, that her life was in question. With one bound
she rushed to the other end of the room to escape the fatal knot which
De Marsay tried to pass round her neck. There was a struggle. On either
side there was an equality of strength, agility, and suppleness. To end
the combat Paquita threw between the legs of her lover a cushion which
made him fall, and profited by the respite which this advantage gave
to her, to push the button of the spring which caused the bell to ring.
Promptly the mulatto arrived. In a second Cristemio leaped on De Marsay
and held him down with one foot on his chest, his heel turned towards
the throat. De Marsay realized that, if he struggled, at a single sign
from Paquita he would be instantly crushed.

“Why did you want to kill me, my beloved?” she said. De Marsay made no
reply.

“In what have I angered you?” she asked. “Speak, let us understand each
other.”

Henri maintained the phlegmatic attitude of a strong man who feels
himself vanquished; his countenance, cold, silent, entirely English,
revealed the consciousness of his dignity in a momentary resignation.
Moreover, he had already thought, in spite of the vehemence of his
anger, that it was scarcely prudent to compromise himself with the law
by killing this girl on the spur of the moment, before he had arranged
the murder in such a manner as should insure his impunity.

“My beloved,” went on Paquita, “speak to me; do not leave me without one
loving farewell! I would not keep in my heart the terror which you have
just inspired in it.... Will you speak?” she said, stamping her foot
with anger.

De Marsay, for all reply, gave her a glance, which signified so plainly,
“_You must die!_” that Paquita threw herself upon him.

“Ah, well, you want to kill me!... If my death can give you any
pleasure--kill me!”

She made a sign to Cristemio, who withdrew his foot from the body of the
young man, and retired without letting his face show that he had formed
any opinion, good or bad, with regard to Paquita.

“That is a man,” said De Marsay, pointing to the mulatto, with a
sombre gesture. “There is no devotion like the devotion which obeys in
friendship, and does not stop to weigh motives. In that man you possess
a true friend.”

“I will give him you, if you like,” she answered; “he will serve you
with the same devotion that he has for me, if I so instruct him.”

She waited for a word of recognition, and went on with an accent replete
with tenderness:

“Adolphe, give me then one kind word!... It is nearly day.”

Henri did not answer. The young man had one sorry quality, for one
considers as something great everything which resembles strength, and
often men invent extravagances. Henri knew not how to pardon. That
_returning upon itself_ which is one of the soul’s graces, was a
non-existent sense for him. The ferocity of the Northern man, with which
the English blood is deeply tainted, had been transmitted to him by his
father. He was inexorable both in his good and evil impulses. Paquita’s
exclamation had been all the more horrible to him, in that it had
dethroned him from the sweetest triumph which had ever flattered his
man’s vanity. Hope, love, and every emotion had been exalted with him,
all had lit up within his heart and his intelligence, then these torches
illuminating his life had been extinguished by a cold wind. Paquita, in
her stupefaction of grief, had only strength enough to give the signal
for departure.

“What is the use of that!” she said, throwing away the bandage. “If he
does not love me, if he hates me, it is all over.”

She waited for one look, did not obtain it, and fell, half dead. The
mulatto cast a glance at Henri, so horribly significant, that, for the
first time in his life, the young man, to whom no one denied the gift of
rare courage, trembled. “_If you do not love her well, if you give her
the least pain, I will kill you_.” such was the sense of that brief
gaze. De Marsay was escorted, with a care almost obsequious, along the
dimly lit corridor, at the end of which he issued by a secret door into
the garden of the Hotel San-Real. The mulatto made him walk cautiously
through an avenue of lime trees, which led to a little gate opening upon
a street which was at that hour deserted. De Marsay took a keen notice
of everything. The carriage awaited him. This time the mulatto did not
accompany him, and at the moment when Henri put his head out of the
window to look once more at the gardens of the hotel, he encountered the
white eyes of Cristemio, with whom he exchanged a glance. On either side
there was a provocation, a challenge, the declaration of a savage
war, of a duel in which ordinary laws were invalid, where treason and
treachery were admitted means. Cristemio knew that Henri had sworn
Paquita’s death. Henri knew that Cristemio would like to kill him before
he killed Paquita. Both understood each other to perfection.

“The adventure is growing complicated in a most interesting way,” said
Henri.

“Where is the gentleman going to?” asked the coachman.

De Marsay was driven to the house of Paul de Manerville. For more than a
week Henri was away from home, and no one could discover either what he
did during this period, nor where he stayed. This retreat saved him from
the fury of the mulatto and caused the ruin of the charming creature who
had placed all her hope in him whom she loved as never human heart had
loved on this earth before. On the last day of the week, about eleven
o’clock at night, Henri drove up in a carriage to the little gate in the
garden of the Hotel San-Real. Four men accompanied him. The driver was
evidently one of his friends, for he stood up on his box, like a man who
was to listen, an attentive sentinel, for the least sound. One of the
other three took his stand outside the gate in the street; the second
waited in the garden, leaning against the wall; the last, who carried in
his hand a bunch of keys, accompanied De Marsay.

“Henri,” said his companion to him, “we are betrayed.”

“By whom, my good Ferragus?”

“They are not all asleep,” replied the chief of the Devourers; “it is
absolutely certain that some one in the house has neither eaten nor
drunk.... Look! see that light!”

“We have a plan of the house; from where does it come?”

“I need no plan to know,” replied Ferragus; “it comes from the room of
the Marquise.”

“Ah,” cried De Marsay, “no doubt she arrived from London to-day. The
woman has robbed me even of my revenge! But if she has anticipated me,
my good Gratien, we will give her up to the law.”

“Listen, listen!... The thing is settled,” said Ferragus to Henri.

The two friends listened intently, and heard some feeble cries which
might have aroused pity in the breast of a tiger.

“Your marquise did not think the sound would escape by the chimney,”
 said the chief of the Devourers, with the laugh of a critic, enchanted
to detect a fault in a work of merit.

“We alone, we know how to provide for every contingency,” said Henri.
“Wait for me. I want to see what is going on upstairs--I want to know
how their domestic quarrels are managed. By God! I believe she is
roasting her at a slow fire.”

De Marsay lightly scaled the stairs, with which he was familiar, and
recognized the passage leading to the boudoir. When he opened the door
he experienced the involuntary shudder which the sight of bloodshed
gives to the most determined of men. The spectacle which was offered to
his view was, moreover, in more than one respect astonishing to him.
The Marquise was a woman; she had calculated her vengeance with that
perfection of perfidy which distinguishes the weaker animals. She had
dissimulated her anger in order to assure herself of the crime before
she punished it.

“Too late, my beloved!” said Paquita, in her death agony, casting her
pale eyes upon De Marsay.

The girl of the golden eyes expired in a bath of blood. The great
illumination of candles, a delicate perfume which was perceptible,
a certain disorder, in which the eye of a man accustomed to amorous
adventures could not but discern the madness which is common to all
the passions, revealed how cunningly the Marquise had interrogated the
guilty one. The white room, where the blood showed so well, betrayed a
long struggle. The prints of Paquita’s hands were on the cushions. Here
she had clung to her life, here she had defended herself, here she
had been struck. Long strips of the tapestry had been torn down by her
bleeding hands, which, without a doubt, had struggled long. Paquita must
have tried to reach the window; her bare feet had left their imprints
on the edge of the divan, along which she must have run. Her body,
mutilated by the dagger-thrusts of her executioner, told of the fury
with which she had disputed a life which Henri had made precious to her.
She lay stretched on the floor, and in her death-throes had bitten the
ankles of Madame de San-Real, who still held in her hand her dagger,
dripping blood. The hair of the Marquise had been torn out, she was
covered with bites, many of which were bleeding, and her torn dress
revealed her in a state of semi-nudity, with the scratches on her
breasts. She was sublime so. Her head, eager and maddened, exhaled the
odor of blood. Her panting mouth was open, and her nostrils were not
sufficient for her breath. There are certain animals who fall upon their
enemy in their rage, do it to death, and seem in the tranquillity of
victory to have forgotten it. There are others who prowl around their
victim, who guard it in fear lest it should be taken away from them, and
who, like the Achilles of Homer, drag their enemy by the feet nine times
round the walls of Troy. The Marquise was like that. She did not see
Henri. In the first place, she was too secure of her solitude to be
afraid of witnesses; and, secondly, she was too intoxicated with warm
blood, too excited with the fray, too exalted, to take notice of the
whole of Paris, if Paris had formed a circle round her. A thunderbolt
would not have disturbed her. She had not even heard Paquita’s last
sigh, and believed that the dead girl could still hear her.

“Die without confessing!” she said. “Go down to hell, monster of
ingratitude; belong to no one but the fiend. For the blood you gave him
you owe me all your own! Die, die, suffer a thousand deaths! I have
been too kind--I was only a moment killing you. I should have made you
experience all the tortures that you have bequeathed to me. I--I shall
live! I shall live in misery. I have no one left to love but God!”

She gazed at her.

“She is dead!” she said to herself, after a pause, in a violent
reaction. “Dead! Oh, I shall die of grief!”

The Marquise was throwing herself upon the divan, stricken with a
despair which deprived her of speech, when this movement brought her in
view of Henri de Marsay.

“Who are you?” she asked, rushing at him with her dagger raised.

Henri caught her arm, and thus they could contemplate each other face
to face. A horrible surprise froze the blood in their veins, and their
limbs quivered like those of frightened horses. In effect, the two
Menoechmi had not been more alike. With one accord they uttered the same
phrase:

“Lord Dudley must have been your father!”

The head of each was drooped in affirmation.

“She was true to the blood,” said Henri, pointing to Paquita.

“She was as little guilty as it is possible to be,” replied Margarita
Euphemia Porraberil, and she threw herself upon the body of Paquita,
giving vent to a cry of despair. “Poor child! Oh, if I could bring thee
to life again! I was wrong--forgive me, Paquita! Dead! and I live! I--I
am the most unhappy.”

At that moment the horrible face of the mother of Paquita appeared.

“You are come to tell me that you never sold her to me to kill,” cried
the Marquise. “I know why you have left your lair. I will pay you twice
over. Hold your peace.”

She took a bag of gold from the ebony cabinet, and threw it
contemptuously at the old woman’s feet. The chink of the gold was potent
enough to excite a smile on the Georgian’s impassive face.

“I come at the right moment for you, my sister,” said Henri. “The law
will ask of you----”

“Nothing,” replied the Marquise. “One person alone might ask for a
reckoning for the death of this girl. Cristemio is dead.”

“And the mother,” said Henri, pointing to the old woman. “Will you not
always be in her power?”

“She comes from a country where women are not beings, but
things--chattels, with which one does as one wills, which one buys,
sells, and slays; in short, which one uses for one’s caprices as you,
here, use a piece of furniture. Besides, she has one passion which
dominates all the others, and which would have stifled her maternal
love, even if she had loved her daughter, a passion----”

“What?” Henri asked quickly, interrupting his sister.

“Play! God keep you from it,” answered the Marquise.

“But whom have you,” said Henri, looking at the girl of the golden eyes,
“who will help you to remove the traces of this fantasy which the law
would not overlook?”

“I have her mother,” replied the Marquise, designating the Georgian, to
whom she made a sign to remain.

“We shall meet again,” said Henri, who was thinking anxiously of his
friends and felt that it was time to leave.

“No, brother,” she said, “we shall not meet again. I am going back to
Spain to enter the Convent of _los Dolores_.”

“You are too young yet, too lovely,” said Henri, taking her in his arms
and giving her a kiss.

“Good-bye,” she said; “there is no consolation when you have lost that
which has seemed to you the infinite.”

A week later Paul de Manerville met De Marsay in the Tuileries, on the
Terrasse de Feuillants.

“Well, what has become of our beautiful girl of the golden eyes, you
rascal?”

“She is dead.”

“What of?”

“Consumption.”



PARIS, March 1834-April 1835.



ADDENDUM

  Note: The Girl with the Golden Eyes is the third part of a trilogy.
  Part one is entitled Ferragus and part two is The Duchesse de
  Langeais. In other addendum references all three stories are usually
  combined under the title The Thirteen.

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

     Bourignard, Gratien-Henri-Victor-Jean-Joseph
       Ferragus

     Dudley, Lord
       The Lily of the Valley
       A Man of Business
       Another Study of Woman
       A Daughter of Eve

     Manerville, Paul Francois-Joseph, Comte de
       The Ball at Sceaux
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Marriage Settlement

     Marsay, Henri de
       Ferragus
       The Duchesse of Langeais
       The Unconscious Humorists
       Another Study of Woman
       The Lily of the Valley
       Father Goriot
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       Ursule Mirouet
       A Marriage Settlement
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Letters of Two Brides
       The Ball at Sceaux
       Modeste Mignon
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Gondreville Mystery
       A Daughter of Eve

     Ronquerolles, Marquis de
       The Imaginary Mistress
       The Peasantry
       Ursule Mirouet
       A Woman of Thirty
       Another Study of Woman
       Ferragus
       The Duchesse of Langeais
       The Member for Arcis





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