Part 1 out of 3
Produced by Dagny, and John Bickers
Honore de Balzac
Translated by Ellen Marriage
To Madame Emile Girardin
One of the few drawing-rooms where, under the Restoration, the
Archbishop of Besancon was sometimes to be seen, was that of the
Baronne de Watteville, to whom he was particularly attached on account
of her religious sentiments.
A word as to this lady, the most important lady of Besancon.
Monsieur de Watteville, a descendant of the famous Watteville, the
most successful and illustrious of murderers and renegades--his
extraordinary adventures are too much a part of history to be related
here--this nineteenth century Monsieur de Watteville was as gentle and
peaceable as his ancestor of the _Grand Siecle_ had been passionate
and turbulent. After living in the _Comte_ (La Franche Comte) like a
wood-louse in the crack of a wainscot, he had married the heiress of
the celebrated house of Rupt. Mademoiselle de Rupt brought twenty
thousand francs a year in the funds to add to the ten thousand francs
a year in real estate of the Baron de Watteville. The Swiss
gentleman's coat-of-arms (the Wattevilles are Swiss) was then borne as
an escutcheon of pretence on the old shield of the Rupts. The
marriage, arranged in 1802, was solemnized in 1815 after the second
Restoration. Within three years of the birth of a daughter all Madame
de Watteville's grandparents were dead, and their estates wound up.
Monsieur de Watteville's house was then sold, and they settled in the
Rue de la Prefecture in the fine old mansion of the Rupts, with an
immense garden stretching to the Rue du Perron. Madame de Watteville,
devout as a girl, became even more so after her marriage. She is one
of the queens of the saintly brotherhood which gives the upper circles
of Besancon a solemn air and prudish manners in harmony with the
character of the town.
Monsieur le Baron de Watteville, a dry, lean man devoid of
intelligence, looked worn out without any one knowing whereby, for he
enjoyed the profoundest ignorance; but as his wife was a red-haired
woman, and of a stern nature that became proverbial (we still say "as
sharp as Madame de Watteville"), some wits of the legal profession
declared that he had been worn against that rock--_Rupt_ is obviously
derived from _rupes_. Scientific students of social phenomena will not
fail to have observed that Rosalie was the only offspring of the union
between the Wattevilles and the Rupts.
Monsieur de Watteville spent his existence in a handsome workshop with
a lathe; he was a turner! As subsidiary to this pursuit, he took up a
fancy for making collections. Philosophical doctors, devoted to the
study of madness, regard this tendency towards collecting as a first
degree of mental aberration when it is set on small things. The Baron
de Watteville treasured shells and geological fragments of the
neighborhood of Besancon. Some contradictory folk, especially women,
would say of Monsieur de Watteville, "He has a noble soul! He
perceived from the first days of his married life that he would never
be his wife's master, so he threw himself into a mechanical occupation
and good living."
The house of the Rupts was not devoid of a certain magnificence worthy
of Louis XIV., and bore traces of the nobility of the two families who
had mingled in 1815. The chandeliers of glass cut in the shape of
leaves, the brocades, the damask, the carpets, the gilt furniture,
were all in harmony with the old liveries and the old servants. Though
served in blackened family plate, round a looking-glass tray furnished
with Dresden china, the food was exquisite. The wines selected by
Monsieur de Watteville, who, to occupy his time and vary his
employments, was his own butler, enjoyed a sort of fame throughout the
department. Madame de Watteville's fortune was a fine one; while her
husband's, which consisted only of the estate of Rouxey, worth about
ten thousand francs a year, was not increased by inheritance. It is
needless to add that in consequence of Madame de Watteville's close
intimacy with the Archbishop, the three or four clever or remarkable
Abbes of the diocese who were not averse to good feeding were very
much at home at her house.
At a ceremonial dinner given in honor of I know not whose wedding, at
the beginning of September 1834, when the women were standing in a
circle round the drawing-room fire, and the men in groups by the
windows, every one exclaimed with pleasure at the entrance of Monsieur
l'Abbe de Grancey, who was announced.
"Well, and the lawsuit?" they all cried.
"Won!" replied the Vicar-General. "The verdict of the Court, from
which we had no hope, you know why----"
This was an allusion to the members of the First Court of Appeal of
1830; the Legitimists had almost all withdrawn.
"The verdict is in our favor on every point, and reverses the decision
of the Lower Court."
"Everybody thought you were done for."
"And we should have been, but for me. I told our advocate to be off to
Paris, and at the crucial moment I was able to secure a new pleader,
to whom we owe our victory, a wonderful man--"
"At Besancon?" said Monsieur de Watteville, guilelessly.
"At Besancon," replied the Abbe de Grancey.
"Oh yes, Savaron," said a handsome young man sitting near the
Baroness, and named de Soulas.
"He spent five or six nights over it; he devoured documents and
briefs; he had seven or eight interviews of several hours with me,"
continued Monsieur de Grancey, who had just reappeared at the Hotel de
Rupt for the first time in three weeks. "In short, Monsieur Savaron
has just completely beaten the celebrated lawyer whom our adversaries
had sent for from Paris. This young man is wonderful, the bigwigs say.
Thus the chapter is twice victorious; it has triumphed in law and also
in politics, since it has vanquished Liberalism in the person of the
Counsel of our Municipality.--'Our adversaries,' so our advocate said,
'must not expect to find readiness on all sides to ruin the
Archbishoprics.'--The President was obliged to enforce silence. All
the townsfolk of Besancon applauded. Thus the possession of the
buildings of the old convent remains with the Chapter of the Cathedral
of Besancon. Monsieur Savaron, however, invited his Parisian opponent
to dine with him as they came out of court. He accepted, saying,
'Honor to every conqueror,' and complimented him on his success
"And where did you unearth this lawyer?" said Madame de Watteville. "I
never heard his name before."
"Why, you can see his windows from hence," replied the Vicar-General.
"Monsieur Savaron lives in the Rue du Perron; the garden of his house
joins on to yours."
"But he is not a native of the Comte," said Monsieur de Watteville.
"So little is he a native of any place, that no one knows where he
comes from," said Madame de Chavoncourt.
"But who is he?" asked Madame de Watteville, taking the Abbe's arm to
go into the dining-room. "If he is a stranger, by what chance has he
settled at Besancon? It is a strange fancy for a barrister."
"Very strange!" echoed Amedee de Soulas, whose biography is here
necessary to the understanding of this tale.
* * * * *
In all ages France and England have carried on an exchange of trifles,
which is all the more constant because it evades the tyranny of the
Custom-house. The fashion that is called English in Paris is called
French in London, and this is reciprocal. The hostility of the two
nations is suspended on two points--the uses of words and the fashions
of dress. _God Save the King_, the national air of England, is a tune
written by Lulli for the Chorus of Esther or of Athalie. Hoops,
introduced at Paris by an Englishwoman, were invented in London, it is
known why, by a Frenchwoman, the notorious Duchess of Portsmouth. They
were at first so jeered at that the first Englishwoman who appeared in
them at the Tuileries narrowly escaped being crushed by the crowd; but
they were adopted. This fashion tyrannized over the ladies of Europe
for half a century. At the peace of 1815, for a year, the long waists
of the English were a standing jest; all Paris went to see Pothier and
Brunet in _Les Anglaises pour rire_; but in 1816 and 1817 the belt of
the Frenchwoman, which in 1814 cut her across the bosom, gradually
descended till it reached the hips.
Within ten years England has made two little gifts to our language.
The _Incroyable_, the _Merveilleux_, the _Elegant_, the three
successes of the _petit-maitre_ of discreditable etymology, have made
way for the "dandy" and the "lion." The _lion_ is not the parent of
the _lionne_. The _lionne_ is due to the famous song by Alfred de
Avez vous vu dans Barcelone
. . . . . .
C'est ma maitresse et ma lionne.
There has been a fusion--or, if you prefer it, a confusion--of the two
words and the leading ideas. When an absurdity can amuse Paris, which
devours as many masterpieces as absurdities, the provinces can hardly
be deprived of them. So, as soon as the _lion_ paraded Paris with his
mane, his beard and moustaches, his waistcoats and his eyeglass,
maintained in its place, without the help of his hands, by the
contraction of his cheek, and eye-socket, the chief towns of some
departments had their sub-lions, who protested by the smartness of
their trouser-straps against the untidiness of their fellow-townsmen.
Thus, in 1834, Besancon could boast of a _lion_, in the person of
Monsieur Amedee-Sylvain de Soulas, spelt Souleyas at the time of the
Spanish occupation. Amedee de Soulas is perhaps the only man in
Besancon descended from a Spanish family. Spain sent men to manage her
business in the Comte, but very few Spaniards settled there. The
Soulas remained in consequence of their connection with Cardinal
Granvelle. Young Monsieur de Soulas was always talking of leaving
Besancon, a dull town, church-going, and not literary, a military
centre and garrison town, of which the manners and customs and
physiognomy are worth describing. This opinion allowed of his lodging,
like a man uncertain of the future, in three very scantily furnished
rooms at the end of the Rue Neuve, just where it opens into the Rue de
Young Monsieur de Soulas could not possibly live without a tiger. This
tiger was the son of one of his farmers, a small servant aged
fourteen, thick-set, and named Babylas. The lion dressed his tiger
very smartly--a short tunic-coat of iron-gray cloth, belted with
patent leather, bright blue plush breeches, a red waistcoat, polished
leather top-boots, a shiny hat with black lacing, and brass buttons
with the arms of Soulas. Amedee gave this boy white cotton gloves and
his washing, and thirty-six francs a month to keep himself--a sum that
seemed enormous to the grisettes of Besancon: four hundred and twenty
francs a year to a child of fifteen, without counting extras! The
extras consisted in the price for which he could sell his turned
clothes, a present when Soulas exchanged one of his horses, and the
perquisite of the manure. The two horses, treated with sordid economy,
cost, one with another, eight hundred francs a year. His bills for
articles received from Paris, such as perfumery, cravats, jewelry,
patent blacking, and clothes, ran to another twelve hundred francs.
Add to this the groom, or tiger, the horses, a very superior style of
dress, and six hundred francs a year for rent, and you will see a
grand total of three thousand francs.
Now, Monsieur de Soulas' father had left him only four thousand francs
a year, the income from some cottage farms which lent painful
uncertainty to the rents. The lion had hardly three francs a day left
for food, amusements, and gambling. He very often dined out, and
breakfasted with remarkable frugality. When he was positively obliged
to dine at his own cost, he sent his tiger to fetch a couple of dishes
from a cookshop, never spending more than twenty-five sous.
Young Monsieur de Soulas was supposed to be a spendthrift, recklessly
extravagant, whereas the poor man made the two ends meet in the year
with a keenness and skill which would have done honor to a thrifty
housewife. At Besancon in those days no one knew how great a tax on a
man's capital were six francs spent in polish to spread on his boots
or shoes, yellow gloves at fifty sous a pair, cleaned in the deepest
secrecy to make them three times renewed, cravats costing ten francs,
and lasting three months, four waistcoats at twenty-five francs, and
trousers fitting close to the boots. How could he do otherwise, since
we see women in Paris bestowing their special attention on simpletons
who visit them, and cut out the most remarkable men by means of these
frivolous advantages, which a man can buy for fifteen louis, and get
his hair curled and a fine linen shirt into the bargain?
If this unhappy youth should seem to you to have become a _lion_ on
very cheap terms, you must know that Amedee de Soulas had been three
times to Switzerland, by coach and in short stages, twice to Paris,
and once from Paris to England. He passed as a well-informed traveler,
and could say, "In England, where I went . . ." The dowagers of the
town would say to him, "You, who have been in England . . ." He had
been as far as Lombardy, and seen the shores of the Italian lakes. He
read new books. Finally, when he was cleaning his gloves, the tiger
Babylas replied to callers, "Monsieur is very busy." An attempt had
been made to withdraw Monsieur Amedee de Soulas from circulation by
pronouncing him "A man of advanced ideas." Amedee had the gift of
uttering with the gravity of a native the commonplaces that were in
fashion, which gave him the credit of being one of the most
enlightened of the nobility. His person was garnished with fashionable
trinkets, and his head furnished with ideas hall-marked by the press.
In 1834 Amedee was a young man of five-and-twenty, of medium height,
dark, with a very prominent thorax, well-made shoulders, rather plump
legs, feet already fat, white dimpled hands, a beard under his chin,
moustaches worthy of the garrison, a good-natured, fat, rubicund face,
a flat nose, and brown expressionless eyes; nothing Spanish about him.
He was progressing rapidly in the direction of obesity, which would be
fatal to his pretensions. His nails were well kept, his beard trimmed,
the smallest details of his dress attended to with English precision.
Hence Amedee de Soulas was looked upon as the finest man in Besancon.
A hairdresser who waited upon him at a fixed hour--another luxury,
costing sixty francs a year--held him up as the sovereign authority in
matters of fashion and elegance.
Amedee slept late, dressed and went out towards noon, to go to one of
his farms and practise pistol-shooting. He attached as much importance
to this exercise as Lord Byron did in his later days. Then, at three
o'clock he came home, admired on horseback by the grisettes and the
ladies who happened to be at their windows. After an affectation of
study or business, which seemed to engage him till four, he dressed to
dine out, spent the evening in the drawing-rooms of the aristocracy of
Besancon playing whist, and went home to bed at eleven. No life could
be more above board, more prudent, or more irreproachable, for he
punctually attended the services at church on Sundays and holy days.
To enable you to understand how exceptional is such a life, it is
necessary to devote a few words to an account of Besancon. No town
ever offered more deaf and dumb resistance to progress. At Besancon
the officials, the _employes_, the military, in short, every one engaged
in governing it, sent thither from Paris to fill a post of any kind,
are all spoken of by the expressive general name of _the Colony_. The
colony is neutral ground, the only ground where, as in church, the
upper rank and the townsfolk of the place can meet. Here, fired by a
word, a look, or gesture, are started those feuds between house and
house, between a woman of rank and a citizen's wife, which endure till
death, and widen the impassable gulf which parts the two classes of
society. With the exception of the Clermont-Mont-Saint-Jean, the
Beauffremont, the de Scey, and the Gramont families, with a few others
who come only to stay on their estates in the Comte, the aristocracy
of Besancon dates no further back than a couple of centuries, the time
of the conquest by Louis XIV. This little world is essentially of the
_parlement_, and arrogant, stiff, solemn, uncompromising, haughty
beyond all comparison, even with the Court of Vienna, for in this the
nobility of Besancon would put the Viennese drawing-rooms to shame. As
to Victor Hugo, Nodier, Fourier, the glories of the town, they are
never mentioned, no one thinks about them. The marriages in these
families are arranged in the cradle, so rigidly are the greatest
things settled as well as the smallest. No stranger, no intruder, ever
finds his way into one of these houses, and to obtain an introduction
for the colonels or officers of title belonging to the first families
in France when quartered there, requires efforts of diplomacy which
Prince Talleyrand would gladly have mastered to use at a congress.
In 1834 Amedee was the only man in Besancon who wore trouser-straps;
this will account for the young man's being regarded as a lion. And a
little anecdote will enable you to understand the city of Besancon.
Some time before the opening of this story, the need arose at the
prefecture for bringing an editor from Paris for the official
newspaper, to enable it to hold its own against the little _Gazette_,
dropped at Besancon by the great _Gazette_, and the _Patriot_, which
frisked in the hands of the Republicans. Paris sent them a young man,
knowing nothing about la Franche Comte, who began by writing them a
leading article of the school of the _Charivari_. The chief of the
moderate party, a member of the municipal council, sent for the
journalist and said to him, "You must understand, monsieur, that we
are serious, more than serious--tiresome; we resent being amused, and
are furious at having been made to laugh. Be as hard of digestion as
the toughest disquisitions in the Revue des Deux Mondes, and you will
hardly reach the level of Besancon."
The editor took the hint, and thenceforth spoke the most
incomprehensible philosophical lingo. His success was complete.
If young Monsieur de Soulas did not fall in the esteem of Besancon
society, it was out of pure vanity on its part; the aristocracy were
happy to affect a modern air, and to be able to show any Parisians of
rank who visited the Comte a young man who bore some likeness to them.
All this hidden labor, all this dust thrown in people's eyes, this
display of folly and latent prudence, had an object, or the _lion_ of
Besancon would have been no son of the soil. Amedee wanted to achieve
a good marriage by proving some day that his farms were not mortgaged,
and that he had some savings. He wanted to be the talk of the town, to
be the finest and best-dressed man there, in order to win first the
attention, and then the hand, of Mademoiselle Rosalie de Watteville.
In 1830, at the time when young Monsieur de Soulas was setting up in
business as a dandy, Rosalie was but fourteen. Hence, in 1834,
Mademoiselle de Watteville had reached the age when young persons are
easily struck by the peculiarities which attracted the attention of
the town to Amedee. There are so many _lions_ who become _lions_ out
of self-interest and speculation. The Wattevilles, who for twelve
years had been drawing an income of fifty thousand francs a year, did
not spend more than four-and-twenty thousand francs a year, while
receiving all the upper circle of Besancon every Monday and Friday. On
Monday they gave a dinner, on Friday an evening party. Thus, in twelve
years, what a sum must have accumulated from twenty-six thousand
francs a year, saved and invested with the judgment that distinguishes
those old families! It was very generally supposed that Madame de
Watteville, thinking she had land enough, had placed her savings in
the three per cents, in 1830. Rosalie's dowry would therefore, as the
best informed opined, amount to about twenty thousand francs a year.
So for the last five years Amedee had worked like a mole to get into
the highest favor of the severe Baroness, while laying himself out to
flatter Mademoiselle de Watteville's conceit.
Madame de Watteville was in the secret of the devices by which Amedee
succeeded in keeping up his rank in Besancon, and esteemed him highly
for it. Soulas had placed himself under her wing when she was thirty,
and at that time had dared to admire her and make her his idol; he had
got so far as to be allowed--he alone in the world--to pour out to her
all the unseemly gossip which almost all very precise women love to
hear, being authorized by their superior virtue to look into the gulf
without falling, and into the devil's snares without being caught. Do
you understand why the lion did not allow himself the very smallest
intrigue? He lived a public life, in the street so to speak, on
purpose to play the part of a lover sacrificed to duty by the
Baroness, and to feast her mind with the sins she had forbidden to her
senses. A man who is so privileged as to be allowed to pour light
stories into the ear of a bigot is in her eyes a charming man. If this
exemplary youth had better known the human heart, he might without
risk have allowed himself some flirtations among the grisettes of
Besancon who looked up to him as a king; his affairs might perhaps
have been all the more hopeful with the strict and prudish Baroness.
To Rosalie our Cato affected prodigality; he professed a life of
elegance, showing her in perspective the splendid part played by a
woman of fashion in Paris, whither he meant to go as Depute.
All these manoeuvres were crowned with complete success. In 1834 the
mothers of the forty noble families composing the high society of
Besancon quoted Monsieur Amedee de Soulas as the most charming young
man in the town; no one would have dared to dispute his place as cock
of the walk at the Hotel de Rupt, and all Besancon regarded him as
Rosalie de Watteville's future husband. There had even been some
exchange of ideas on the subject between the Baroness and Amedee, to
which the Baron's apparent nonentity gave some certainty.
Mademoiselle de Watteville, to whom her enormous prospective fortune
at that time lent considerable importance, had been brought up
exclusively within the precincts of the Hotel de Rupt--which her
mother rarely quitted, so devoted was she to her dear Archbishop--and
severely repressed by an exclusively religious education, and by her
mother's despotism, which held her rigidly to principles. Rosalie knew
absolutely nothing. Is it knowledge to have learned geography from
Guthrie, sacred history, ancient history, the history of France, and
the four rules all passed through the sieve of an old Jesuit? Dancing
and music were forbidden, as being more likely to corrupt life than to
grace it. The Baroness taught her daughter every conceivable stitch in
tapestry and women's work--plain sewing, embroidery, netting. At
seventeen Rosalie had never read anything but the _Lettres edifiantes_
and some works on heraldry. No newspaper had ever defiled her sight.
She attended mass at the Cathedral every morning, taken there by her
mother, came back to breakfast, did needlework after a little walk in
the garden, and received visitors, sitting with the baroness until
dinner-time. Then, after dinner, excepting on Mondays and Fridays, she
accompanied Madame de Watteville to other houses to spend the evening,
without being allowed to talk more than the maternal rule permitted.
At eighteen Mademoiselle de Watteville was a slight, thin girl with a
flat figure, fair, colorless, and insignificant to the last degree.
Her eyes, of a very light blue, borrowed beauty from their lashes,
which, when downcast, threw a shadow on her cheeks. A few freckles
marred the whiteness of her forehead, which was shapely enough. Her
face was exactly like those of Albert Durer's saints, or those of the
painters before Perugino; the same plump, though slender modeling, the
same delicacy saddened by ecstasy, the same severe guilelessness.
Everything about her, even to her attitude, was suggestive of those
virgins, whose beauty is only revealed in its mystical radiance to the
eyes of the studious connoisseur. She had fine hands though red, and a
pretty foot, the foot of an aristocrat.
She habitually wore simple checked cotton dresses; but on Sundays and
in the evening her mother allowed her silk. The cut of her frocks,
made at Besancon, almost made her ugly, while her mother tried to
borrow grace, beauty, and elegance from Paris fashions; for through
Monsieur de Soulas she procured the smallest trifles of her dress from
thence. Rosalie had never worn a pair of silk stockings or thin boots,
but always cotton stockings and leather shoes. On high days she was
dressed in a muslin frock, her hair plainly dressed, and had bronze
This education, and her own modest demeanor, hid in Rosalie a spirit
of iron. Physiologists and profound observers will tell you, perhaps
to your astonishment, that tempers, characteristics, wit, or genius
reappear in families at long intervals, precisely like what are known
as hereditary diseases. Thus talent, like the gout, sometimes skips
over two generations. We have an illustrious example of this
phenomenon in George Sand, in whom are resuscitated the force, the
power, and the imaginative faculty of the Marechal de Saxe, whose
natural granddaughter she is.
The decisive character and romantic daring of the famous Watteville
had reappeared in the soul of his grand-niece, reinforced by the
tenacity and pride of blood of the Rupts. But these qualities--or
faults, if you will have it so--were as deeply buried in this young
girlish soul, apparently so weak and yielding, as the seething lavas
within a hill before it becomes a volcano. Madame de Watteville alone,
perhaps, suspected this inheritance from two strains. She was so
severe to her Rosalie, that she replied one day to the Archbishop, who
blamed her for being too hard on the child, "Leave me to manage her,
monseigneur. I know her! She has more than one Beelzebub in her skin!"
The Baroness kept all the keener watch over her daughter, because she
considered her honor as a mother to be at stake. After all, she had
nothing else to do. Clotilde de Rupt, at this time five-and-thirty,
and as good as widowed, with a husband who turned egg-cups in every
variety of wood, who set his mind on making wheels with six spokes out
of iron-wood, and manufactured snuff-boxes for everyone of his
acquaintance, flirted in strict propriety with Amedee de Soulas. When
this young man was in the house, she alternately dismissed and
recalled her daughter, and tried to detect symptoms of jealousy in
that youthful soul, so as to have occasion to repress them. She
imitated the police in its dealings with the republicans; but she
labored in vain. Rosalie showed no symptoms of rebellion. Then the
arid bigot accused her daughter of perfect insensibility. Rosalie knew
her mother well enough to be sure that if she had thought young
Monsieur de Soulas _nice_, she would have drawn down on herself a
smart reproof. Thus, to all her mother's incitement she replied merely
by such phrases as are wrongly called Jesuitical--wrongly, because the
Jesuits were strong, and such reservations are the _chevaux de frise_
behind which weakness takes refuge. Then the mother regarded the girl
as a dissembler. If by mischance a spark of the true nature of the
Wattevilles and the Rupts blazed out, the mother armed herself with
the respect due from children to their parents to reduce Rosalie to
This covert battle was carried on in the most secret seclusion of
domestic life, with closed doors. The Vicar-General, the dear Abbe
Grancey, the friend of the late Archbishop, clever as he was in his
capacity of the chief Father Confessor of the diocese, could not
discover whether the struggle had stirred up some hatred between the
mother and daughter, whether the mother were jealous in anticipation,
or whether the court Amedee was paying to the girl through her mother
had not overstepped its due limits. Being a friend of the family,
neither mother nor daughter, confessed to him. Rosalie, a little too
much harried, morally, about young de Soulas, could not abide him, to
use a homely phrase, and when he spoke to her, trying to take her
heart by surprise, she received him but coldly. This aversion,
discerned only by her mother's eyes, was a constant subject of
"Rosalie, I cannot imagine why you affect such coldness towards
Amedee. Is it because he is a friend of the family, and because we
like him--your father and I?"
"Well, mamma," replied the poor child one day, "if I made him welcome,
should I not be still more in the wrong?"
"What do you mean by that?" cried Madame de Watteville. "What is the
meaning of such words? Your mother is unjust, no doubt, and according
to you, would be so in any case! Never let such an answer pass your
lips again to your mother--" and so forth.
This quarrel lasted three hours and three-quarters. Rosalie noted the
time. Her mother, pale with fury, sent her to her room, where Rosalie
pondered on the meaning of this scene without discovering it, so
guileless was she. Thus young Monsieur de Soulas, who was supposed by
every one to be very near the end he was aiming at, all neckcloths
set, and by dint of pots of patent blacking--an end which required so
much waxing of his moustaches, so many smart waistcoats, wore out so
many horseshoes and stays--for he wore a leather vest, the stays of
the _lion_--Amedee, I say, was further away than any chance comer,
although he had on his side the worthy and noble Abbe de Grancey.
* * * * *
"Madame," said Monsieur de Soulas, addressing the Baroness, while
waiting till his soup was cool enough to swallow, and affecting to
give a romantic turn to his narrative, "one fine morning the mail
coach dropped at the Hotel National a gentleman from Paris, who, after
seeking apartments, made up his mind in favor of the first floor in
Mademoiselle Galard's house, Rue du Perron. Then the stranger went
straight to the Mairie, and had himself registered as a resident with
all political qualifications. Finally, he had his name entered on the
list of the barristers to the Court, showing his title in due form,
and he left his card on all his new colleagues, the Ministerial
officials, the Councillors of the Court, and the members of the bench,
with the name, 'ALBERT SAVARON.'"
"The name of Savaron is famous," said Mademoiselle de Watteville, who
was strong in heraldic information. "The Savarons of Savarus are one
of the oldest, noblest, and richest families in Belgium."
"He is a Frenchman, and no man's son," replied Amedee de Soulas. "If
he wishes to bear the arms of the Savarons of Savarus, he must add a
bar-sinister. There is no one left of the Brabant family but a
Mademoiselle de Savarus, a rich heiress, and unmarried."
"The bar-sinister is, of course, the badge of a bastard; but the
bastard of a Comte de Savarus is noble," answered Rosalie.
"Enough, that will do, mademoiselle!" said the Baroness.
"You insisted on her learning heraldry," said Monsieur de Watteville,
"and she knows it very well."
"Go on, I beg, Monsieur de Soulas."
"You may suppose that in a town where everything is classified, known,
pigeon-holed, ticketed, and numbered, as in Besancon, Albert Savaron
was received without hesitation by the lawyers of the town. They were
satisfied to say, 'Here is a man who does not know his Besancon. Who
the devil can have sent him here? What can he hope to do? Sending his
card to the Judges instead of calling in person! What a blunder!' And
so, three days after, Savaron had ceased to exist. He took as his
servant old Monsieur Galard's man--Galard being dead--Jerome, who can
cook a little. Albert Savaron was all the more completely forgotten,
because no one had seen him or met him anywhere."
"Then, does he not go to mass?" asked Madame de Chavoncourt.
"He goes on Sundays to Saint-Pierre, but to the early service at eight
in the morning. He rises every night between one and two in the
morning, works till eight, has his breakfast, and then goes on
working. He walks in his garden, going round fifty, or perhaps sixty
times; then he goes in, dines, and goes to bed between six and seven."
"How did you learn all that?" Madame de Chavoncourt asked Monsieur de
"In the first place, madame, I live in the Rue Neuve, at the corner of
the Rue du Perron; I look out on the house where this mysterious
personage lodges; then, of course, there are communications between my
tiger and Jerome."
"And you gossip with Babylas?"
"What would you have me do out riding?"
"Well--and how was it that you engaged a stranger for your defence?"
asked the Baroness, thus placing the conversation in the hands of the
"The President of the Court played this pleader a trick by appointing
him to defend at the Assizes a half-witted peasant accused of forgery.
But Monsieur Savaron procured the poor man's acquittal by proving his
innocence and showing that he had been a tool in the hands of the real
culprits. Not only did his line of defence succeed, but it led to the
arrest of two of the witnesses, who were proved guilty and condemned.
His speech struck the Court and the jury. One of these, a merchant,
placed a difficult case next day in the hands of Monsieur Savaron, and
he won it. In the position in which we found ourselves, Monsieur
Berryer finding it impossible to come to Besancon, Monsieur de
Garcenault advised him to employ this Monsieur Albert Savaron,
foretelling our success. As soon as I saw him and heard him, I felt
faith in him, and I was not wrong."
"Is he then so extraordinary?" asked Madame de Chavoncourt.
"Certainly, madame," replied the Vicar-General.
"Well, tell us about it," said Madame de Watteville.
"The first time I saw him," said the Abbe de Grancey, "he received me
in his outer room next the ante-room--old Galard's drawing-room--which
he has had painted like old oak, and which I found entirely lined with
law-books, arranged on shelves also painted as old oak. The painting
and the books are the sole decoration of the room, for the furniture
consists of an old writing table of carved wood, six old armchairs
covered with tapestry, window curtains of gray stuff bordered with
green, and a green carpet over the floor. The ante-room stove heats
this library as well. As I waited there I did not picture my advocate
as a young man. But this singular setting is in perfect harmony with
his person; for Monsieur Savaron came out in a black merino
dressing-gown tied with a red cord, red slippers, a red flannel
waistcoat, and a red smoking-cap."
"The devil's colors!" exclaimed Madame de Watteville.
"Yes," said the Abbe; "but a magnificent head. Black hair already
streaked with a little gray, hair like that of Saint Peter and Saint
Paul in pictures, with thick shining curls, hair as stiff as
horse-hair; a round white throat like a woman's; a splendid forehead,
furrowed by the strong median line which great schemes, great
thoughts, deep meditations stamp on a great man's brow; an olive
complexion marbled with red, a square nose, eyes of flame, hollow
cheeks, with two long lines, betraying much suffering, a mouth with a
sardonic smile, and a small chin, narrow, and too short; crow's feet
on his temples; deep-set eyes, moving in their sockets like burning
balls; but, in spite of all these indications of a violently
passionate nature, his manner was calm, deeply resigned, and his voice
of penetrating sweetness, which surprised me in Court by its easy
flow; a true orator's voice, now clear and appealing, sometimes
insinuating, but a voice of thunder when needful, and lending itself
to sarcasm to become incisive.
"Monsieur Albert Savaron is of middle height, neither stout nor thin.
And his hands are those of a prelate.
"The second time I called on him he received me in his bed-room,
adjoining the library, and smiled at my astonishment when I saw there
a wretched chest of drawers, a shabby carpet, a camp-bed, and cotton
window-curtains. He came out of his private room, to which no one is
admitted, as Jerome informed me; the man did not go in, but merely
knocked at the door.
"The third time he was breakfasting in his library on the most frugal
fare; but on this occasion, as he had spent the night studying our
documents, as I had my attorney with me, and as that worthy Monsieur
Girardet is long-winded, I had leisure to study the stranger. He
certainly is no ordinary man. There is more than one secret behind
that face, at once so terrible and so gentle, patient and yet
impatient, broad and yet hollow. I saw, too, that he stooped a little,
like all men who have some heavy burden to bear."
"Why did so eloquent a man leave Paris? For what purpose did he come
to Besancon?" asked pretty Madame de Chavoncourt. "Could no one tell
him how little chance a stranger has of succeeding here? The good
folks of Besancon will make use of him, but they will not allow him to
make use of them. Why, having come, did he make so little effort that
it needed a freak of the President's to bring him forward?"
"After carefully studying that fine head," said the Abbe, looking
keenly at the lady who had interrupted him, in such a way as to
suggest that there was something he would not tell, "and especially
after hearing him this morning reply to one of the bigwigs of the
Paris Bar, I believe that this man, who may be five-and-thirty, will
by and by make a great sensation."
"Why should we discuss him? You have gained your action, and paid
him," said Madame de Watteville, watching her daughter, who, all the
time the Vicar-General had been speaking, seemed to hang on his lips.
The conversation changed, and no more was heard of Albert Savaron.
The portrait sketched by the cleverest of the Vicars-General of the
diocese had all the greater charm for Rosalie because there was a
romance behind it. For the first time in her life she had come across
the marvelous, the exceptional, which smiles on every youthful
imagination, and which curiosity, so eager at Rosalie's age, goes
forth to meet half-way. What an ideal being was this Albert--gloomy,
unhappy, eloquent, laborious, as compared by Mademoiselle de
Watteville to that chubby fat Count, bursting with health, paying
compliments, and talking of the fashions in the very face of the
splendor of the old counts of Rupt. Amedee had cost her many quarrels
and scoldings, and, indeed, she knew him only too well; while this
Albert Savaron offered many enigmas to be solved.
"Albert Savaron de Savarus," she repeated to herself.
Now, to see him, to catch sight of him! This was the desire of the
girl to whom desire was hitherto unknown. She pondered in her heart,
in her fancy, in her brain, the least phrases used by the Abbe de
Grancey, for all his words had told.
"A fine forehead!" said she to herself, looking at the head of every
man seated at the table; "I do not see one fine one.--Monsieur de
Soulas' is too prominent; Monsieur de Grancey's is fine, but he is
seventy, and has no hair, it is impossible to see where his forehead
"What is the matter, Rosalie; you are eating nothing?"
"I am not hungry, mamma," said she. "A prelate's hands----" she went
on to herself. "I cannot remember our handsome Archbishop's hands,
though he confirmed me."
Finally, in the midst of her coming and going in the labyrinth of her
meditations, she remembered a lighted window she had seen from her
bed, gleaming through the trees of the two adjoining gardens, when she
had happened to wake in the night. . . . "Then that was his light!"
thought she. "I might see him!--I will see him."
"Monsieur de Grancey, is the Chapter's lawsuit quite settled?" said
Rosalie point-blank to the Vicar-General, during a moment of silence.
Madame de Watteville exchanged rapid glances with the Vicar-General.
"What can that matter to you, my dear child?" she said to Rosalie,
with an affected sweetness which made her daughter cautious for the
rest of her days.
"It might be carried to the Court of Appeal, but our adversaries will
think twice about that," replied the Abbe.
"I never could have believed that Rosalie would think about a lawsuit
all through a dinner," remarked Madame de Watteville.
"Nor I either," said Rosalie, in a dreamy way that made every one
laugh. "But Monsieur de Grancey was so full of it, that I was
The company rose from table and returned to the drawing-room. All
through the evening Rosalie listened in case Albert Savaron should be
mentioned again; but beyond the congratulations offered by each
newcomer to the Abbe on having gained his suit, to which no one added
any praise of the advocate, no more was said about it. Mademoiselle de
Watteville impatiently looked forward to bedtime. She had promised
herself to wake at between two and three in the morning, and to look
at Albert's dressing-room windows. When the hour came, she felt almost
pleasure in gazing at the glimmer from the lawyer's candles that shone
through the trees, now almost bare of their leaves. By the help of the
strong sight of a young girl, which curiosity seems to make longer,
she saw Albert writing, and fancied she could distinguish the color of
the furniture, which she thought was red. From the chimney above the
roof rose a thick column of smoke.
"While all the world is sleeping, he is awake--like God!" thought she.
The education of girls brings with it such serious problems--for the
future of a nation is in the mother--that the University of France
long since set itself the task of having nothing to do with it. Here
is one of these problems: Ought girls to be informed on all points?
Ought their minds to be under restraint? It need not be said that the
religious system is one of restraint. If you enlighten them, you make
them demons before their time; if you keep them from thinking, you end
in the sudden explosion so well shown by Moliere in the character of
Agnes, and you leave this suppressed mind, so fresh and clear-seeing,
as swift and as logical as that of a savage, at the mercy of an
accident. This inevitable crisis was brought on in Mademoiselle de
Watteville by the portrait which one of the most prudent Abbes of the
Chapter of Besancon imprudently allowed himself to sketch at a dinner
Next morning, Mademoiselle de Watteville, while dressing, necessarily
looked out at Albert Savaron walking in the garden adjoining that of
the Hotel de Rupt.
"What would have become of me," thought she, "if he had lived anywhere
else? Here I can, at any rate, see him.--What is he thinking about?"
Having seen this extraordinary man, though at a distance, the only man
whose countenance stood forth in contrast with crowds of Besancon
faces she had hitherto met with, Rosalie at once jumped at the idea of
getting into his house, of ascertaining the reason of so much mystery,
of hearing that eloquent voice, of winning a glance from those fine
eyes. All this she set her heart on, but how could she achieve it?
All that day she drew her needle through her embroidery with the
obtuse concentration of a girl who, like Agnes, seems to be thinking
of nothing, but who is reflecting on things in general so deeply, that
her artifice is unfailing. As a result of this profound meditation,
Rosalie thought she would go to confession. Next morning, after Mass,
she had a brief interview with the Abbe Giroud at Saint-Pierre, and
managed so ingeniously that the hour of her confession was fixed for
Sunday morning at half-past seven, before the eight o'clock Mass. She
committed herself to a dozen fibs in order to find herself, just for
once, in the church at the hour when the lawyer came to Mass. Then she
was seized with an impulse of extreme affection for her father; she
went to see him in his workroom, and asked him for all sorts of
information on the art of turning, ending by advising him to turn
larger pieces, columns. After persuading her father to set to work on
some twisted pillars, one of the difficulties of the turner's art, she
suggested that he should make use of a large heap of stones that lay
in the middle of the garden to construct a sort of grotto on which he
might erect a little temple or Belvedere in which his twisted pillars
could be used and shown off to all the world.
At the climax of the pleasure the poor unoccupied man derived from
this scheme, Rosalie said, as she kissed him, "Above all, do not tell
mamma who gave you the notion; she would scold me."
"Do not be afraid!" replied Monsieur de Watteville, who groaned as
bitterly as his daughter under the tyranny of the terrible descendant
of the Rupts.
So Rosalie had a certain prospect of seeing ere long a charming
observatory built, whence her eye would command the lawyer's private
room. And there are men for whose sake young girls can carry out such
masterstrokes of diplomacy, while, for the most part, like Albert
Savaron, they know it not.
The Sunday so impatiently looked for arrived, and Rosalie dressed with
such carefulness as made Mariette, the ladies'-maid, smile.
"It is the first time I ever knew mademoiselle to be so fidgety," said
"It strikes me," said Rosalie, with a glance at Mariette, which
brought poppies to her cheeks, "that you too are more particular on
some days than on others."
As she went down the steps, across the courtyard, and through the
gates, Rosalie's heart beat, as everybody's does in anticipation of a
great event. Hitherto, she had never known what it was to walk in the
streets; for a moment she had felt as though her mother must read her
schemes on her brow, and forbid her going to confession, and she now
felt new blood in her feet, she lifted them as though she trod on
fire. She had, of course, arranged to be with her confessor at a
quarter-past eight, telling her mother eight, so as to have about a
quarter of an hour near Albert. She got to church before Mass, and
after a short prayer, went to see if the Abbe Giroud were in his
confessional, simply to pass the time; and she thus placed herself in
such a way as to see Albert as he came into church.
The man must have been atrociously ugly who did not seem handsome to
Mademoiselle de Watteville in the frame of mind produced by her
curiosity. And Albert Savaron, who was really very striking, made all
the more impression on Rosalie because his mien, his walk, his
carriage, everything down to his clothing, had the indescribable stamp
which can only be expressed by the word Mystery.
He came in. The church, till now gloomy, seemed to Rosalie to be
illuminated. The girl was fascinated by his slow and solemn demeanor,
as of a man who bears a world on his shoulders and whose deep gaze,
whose very gestures, combine to express a devastating or absorbing
thought. Rosalie now understood the Vicar-General's words in their
fullest extent. Yes, those eyes of tawny brown, shot with golden
lights, covered ardor which revealed itself in sudden flashes.
Rosalie, with a recklessness which Mariette noted, stood in the
lawyer's way, so as to exchange glances with him; and this glance
turned her blood, for it seethed and boiled as though its warmth were
As soon as Albert had taken a seat, Mademoiselle de Watteville quickly
found a place whence she could see him perfectly during all the time
the Abbe might leave her. When Mariette said, "Here is Monsieur
Giroud," it seemed to Rosalie that the interview had lasted no more
than a few minutes. By the time she came out from the confessional,
Mass was over. Albert had left the church.
"The Vicar-General was right," thought she. "_He_ is unhappy. Why
should this eagle--for he has the eyes of an eagle--swoop down on
Besancon? Oh, I must know everything! But how?"
Under the smart of this new desire Rosalie set the stitches of her
worsted-work with exquisite precision, and hid her meditations under a
little innocent air, which shammed simplicity to deceive Madame de
From that Sunday, when Mademoiselle de Watteville had met that look,
or, if you please, received this baptism of fire--a fine expression of
Napoleon's which may be well applied to love--she eagerly promoted the
plan for the Belvedere.
"Mamma," said she one day when two columns were turned, "my father has
taken a singular idea into his head; he is turning columns for a
Belvedere he intends to erect on the heap of stones in the middle of
the garden. Do you approve of it? It seems to me--"
"I approve of everything your father does," said Madame de Watteville
drily, "and it is a wife's duty to submit to her husband even if she
does not approve of his ideas. Why should I object to a thing which is
of no importance in itself, if only it amuses Monsieur de Watteville?"
"Well, because from thence we shall see into Monsieur de Soulas'
rooms, and Monsieur de Soulas will see us when we are there. Perhaps
remarks may be made--"
"Do you presume, Rosalie, to guide your parents, and think you know
more than they do of life and the proprieties?"
"I say no more, mamma. Besides, my father said that there would be a
room in the grotto, where it would be cool, and where we can take
"Your father has had an excellent idea," said Madame de Watteville,
who forthwith went to look at the columns.
She gave her entire approbation to the Baron de Watteville's design,
while choosing for the erection of this monument a spot at the bottom
of the garden, which could not be seen from Monsieur de Soulas'
windows, but whence they could perfectly see into Albert Savaron's
rooms. A builder was sent for, who undertook to construct a grotto, of
which the top should be reached by a path three feet wide through the
rock-work, where periwinkles would grow, iris, clematis, ivy,
honeysuckle, and Virginia creeper. The Baroness desired that the
inside should be lined with rustic wood-work, such as was then the
fashion for flower-stands, with a looking-glass against the wall, an
ottoman forming a box, and a table of inlaid bark. Monsieur de Soulas
proposed that the floor should be of asphalt. Rosalie suggested a
hanging chandelier of rustic wood.
"The Wattevilles are having something charming done in their garden,"
was rumored in Besancon.
"They are rich, and can afford a thousand crowns for a whim--"
"A thousand crowns!" exclaimed Madame de Chavoncourt.
"Yes, a thousand crowns," cried young Monsieur de Soulas. "A man has
been sent for from Paris to rusticate the interior but it will be very
pretty. Monsieur de Watteville himself is making the chandelier, and
has begun to carve the wood."
"Berquet is to make a cellar under it," said an Abbe.
"No," replied young Monsieur de Soulas, "he is raising the kiosk on a
concrete foundation, that it may not be damp."
"You know the very least things that are done in that house," said
Madame de Chavoncourt sourly, as she looked at one of her great girls
waiting to be married for a year past.
Mademoiselle de Watteville, with a little flush of pride in thinking
of the success of her Belvedere, discerned in herself a vast
superiority over every one about her. No one guessed that a little
girl, supposed to be a witless goose, had simply made up her mind to
get a closer view of the lawyer Savaron's private study.
Albert Savaron's brilliant defence of the Cathedral Chapter was all
the sooner forgotten because the envy of the other lawyers was
aroused. Also, Savaron, faithful to his seclusion, went nowhere.
Having no friends to cry him up, and seeing no one, he increased the
chances of being forgotten which are common to strangers in Besancon.
Nevertheless, he pleaded three times at the Commercial Tribunal in
three knotty cases which had to be carried to the superior Court. He
thus gained as clients four of the chief merchants of the place, who
discerned in him so much good sense and sound legal purview that they
placed their claims in his hands.
On the day when the Watteville family inaugurated the Belvedere,
Savaron also was founding a monument. Thanks to the connections he had
obscurely formed among the upper class of merchants in Besancon, he
was starting a fortnightly paper, called the _Eastern Review_, with
the help of forty shares of five hundred francs each, taken up by his
first ten clients, on whom he had impressed the necessity for
promoting the interests of Besancon, the town where the traffic should
meet between Mulhouse and Lyons, and the chief centre between Mulhouse
To compete with Strasbourg, was it not needful that Besancon should
become a focus of enlightenment as well as of trade? The leading
questions relating to the interests of Eastern France could only be
dealt with in a review. What a glorious task to rob Strasbourg and
Dijon of their literary importance, to bring light to the East of
France, and compete with the centralizing influence of Paris! These
reflections, put forward by Albert, were repeated by the ten
merchants, who believed them to be their own.
Monsieur Savaron did not commit the blunder of putting his name in
front; he left the finance of the concern to his chief client,
Monsieur Boucher, connected by marriage with one of the great
publishers of important ecclesiastical works; but he kept the
editorship, with a share of the profits as founder. The commercial
interest appealed to Dole, to Dijon, to Salins, to Neufchatel, to the
Jura, Bourg, Nantua, Lous-le-Saulnier. The concurrence was invited of
the learning and energy of every scientific student in the districts
of le Bugey, la Bresse, and Franche Comte. By the influence of
commercial interests and common feeling, five hundred subscribers were
booked in consideration of the low price; the _Review_ cost eight
francs a quarter.
To avoid hurting the conceit of the provincials by refusing their
articles, the lawyer hit on the good idea of suggesting a desire for
the literary management of this _Review_ to Monsieur Boucher's eldest
son, a young man of two-and-twenty, very eager for fame, to whom the
snares and woes of literary responsibilities were utterly unknown.
Albert quietly kept the upper hand and made Alfred Boucher his devoted
adherent. Alfred was the only man in Besancon with whom the king of
the bar was on familiar terms. Alfred came in the morning to discuss
the articles for the next number with Albert in the garden. It is
needless to say that the trial number contained a "Meditation" by
Alfred, which Savaron approved. In his conversations with Alfred,
Albert would let drop some great ideas, subjects for articles of which
Alfred availed himself. And thus the merchant's son fancied he was
making capital out of the great man. To Alfred, Albert was a man of
genius, of profound politics. The commercial world, enchanted at the
success of the _Review_, had to pay up only three-tenths of their
shares. Two hundred more subscribers, and the periodical would pay a
dividend to the share-holders of five per cent, the editor remaining
unpaid. This editing, indeed, was beyond price.
After the third number the _Review_ was recognized for exchange by all
the papers published in France, which Albert henceforth read at home.
This third number included a tale signed "A. S.," and attributed to
the famous lawyer. In spite of the small attention paid by the higher
circle of Besancon to the _Review_ which was accused of Liberal views,
this, the first novel produced in the county, came under discussion
that mid-winter at Madame de Chavoncourt's.
"Papa," said Rosalie, "a _Review_ is published in Besancon; you ought
to take it in; and keep it in your room, for mamma would not let me
read it, but you will lend it to me."
Monsieur de Watteville, eager to obey his dear Rosalie, who for the
last five months had given him so many proofs of filial affection,
--Monsieur de Watteville went in person to subscribe for a year to
the _Eastern Review_, and lent the four numbers already out to his
daughter. In the course of the night Rosalie devoured the tale--the
first she had ever read in her life--but she had only known life for
two months past. Hence the effect produced on her by this work must
not be judged by ordinary rules. Without prejudice of any kind as to
the greater or less merit of this composition from the pen of a
Parisian who had thus imported into the province the manner, the
brilliancy, if you will, of the new literary school, it could not fail
to be a masterpiece to a young girl abandoning all her intelligence
and her innocent heart to her first reading of this kind.
Also, from what she had heard said, Rosalie had by intuition conceived
a notion of it which strangely enhanced the interest of this novel.
She hoped to find in it the sentiments, and perhaps something of the
life of Albert. From the first pages this opinion took so strong a
hold on her, that after reading the fragment to the end she was
certain that it was no mistake. Here, then, is this confession, in
which, according to the critics of Madame de Chavoncourt's
drawing-room, Albert had imitated some modern writers who, for lack
of inventiveness, relate their private joys, their private griefs, or
the mysterious events of their own life.
* * * * *
AMBITION FOR LOVE'S SAKE
In 1823 two young men, having agreed as a plan for a holiday to make a
tour through Switzerland, set out from Lucerne one fine morning in the
month of July in a boat pulled by three oarsmen. They started for
Fluelen, intending to stop at every notable spot on the lake of the
Four Cantons. The views which shut in the waters on the way from
Lucerne to Fluelen offer every combination that the most exacting
fancy can demand of mountains and rivers, lakes and rocks, brooks and
pastures, trees and torrents. Here are austere solitudes and charming
headlands, smiling and trimly kept meadows, forests crowning
perpendicular granite cliffs, like plumes, deserted but verdant
reaches opening out, and valleys whose beauty seems the lovelier in
the dreamy distance.
As they passed the pretty hamlet of Gersau, one of the friends looked
for a long time at a wooden house which seemed to have been recently
built, enclosed by a paling, and standing on a promontory, almost
bathed by the waters. As the boat rowed past, a woman's head was
raised against the background of the room on the upper story of this
house, to admire the effect of the boat on the lake. One of the young
men met the glance thus indifferently given by the unknown fair.
"Let us stop here," said he to his friend. "We meant to make Lucerne
our headquarters for seeing Switzerland; you will not take it amiss,
Leopold, if I change my mind and stay here to take charge of our
possessions. Then you can go where you please; my journey is ended.
Pull to land, men, and put us out at this village; we will breakfast
here. I will go back to Lucerne to fetch all our luggage, and before
you leave you will know in which house I take a lodging, where you
will find me on your return."
"Here or at Lucerne," replied Leopold, "the difference is not so great
that I need hinder you from following your whim."
These two youths were friends in the truest sense of the word. They
were of the same age; they had learned at the same school; and after
studying the law, they were spending their holiday in the classical
tour in Switzerland. Leopold, by his father's determination, was
already pledged to a place in a notary's office in Paris. His spirit
of rectitude, his gentleness, and the coolness of his senses and his
brain, guaranteed him to be a docile pupil. Leopold could see himself
a notary in Paris; his life lay before him like one of the highroads
that cross the plains of France, and he looked along its whole length
with philosophical resignation.
The character of his companion, whom we will call Rodolphe, presented
a strong contrast with Leopold's, and their antagonism had no doubt
had the result of tightening the bond that united them. Rodolphe was
the natural son of a man of rank, who was carried off by a premature
death before he could make any arrangements for securing the means of
existence to a woman he fondly loved and to Rodolphe. Thus cheated by
a stroke of fate, Rodolphe's mother had recourse to a heroic measure.
She sold everything she owed to the munificence of her child's father
for a sum of more than a hundred thousand francs, bought with it a
life annuity for herself at a high rate, and thus acquired an income
of about fifteen thousand francs, resolving to devote the whole of it
to the education of her son, so as to give him all the personal
advantages that might help to make his fortune, while saving, by
strict economy, a small capital to be his when he came of age. It was
bold; it was counting on her own life; but without this boldness the
good mother would certainly have found it impossible to live and to
bring her child up suitably, and he was her only hope, her future, the
spring of all her joys.
Rodolphe, the son of a most charming Parisian woman, and a man of
mark, a nobleman of Brabant, was cursed with extreme sensitiveness.
From his infancy he had in everything shown a most ardent nature. In
him mere desire became a guiding force and the motive power of his
whole being, the stimulus to his imagination, the reason of his
actions. Notwithstanding the pains taken by a clever mother, who was
alarmed when she detected this predisposition, Rodolphe wished for
things as a poet imagines, as a mathematician calculates, as a painter
sketches, as a musician creates melodies. Tender-hearted, like his
mother, he dashed with inconceivable violence and impetus of thought
after the object of his desires; he annihilated time. While dreaming
of the fulfilment of his schemes, he always overlooked the means of
attainment. "When my son has children," said his other, "he will want
them born grown up."
This fine frenzy, carefully directed, enabled Rodolphe to achieve his
studies with brilliant results, and to become what the English call an
accomplished gentleman. His mother was then proud of him, though still
fearing a catastrophe if ever a passion should possess a heart at once
so tender and so susceptible, so vehement and so kind. Therefore, the
judicious mother had encouraged the friendship which bound Leopold to
Rodolphe and Rodolphe to Leopold, since she saw in the cold and
faithful young notary, a guardian, a comrade, who might to a certain
extent take her place if by some misfortune she should be lost to her
son. Rodolphe's mother, still handsome at three-and-forty, had
inspired Leopold with an ardent passion. This circumstance made the
two young men even more intimate.
So Leopold, knowing Rodolphe well, was not surprised to find him
stopping at a village and giving up the projected journey to
Saint-Gothard, on the strength of a single glance at the upper window
of a house. While breakfast was prepared for them at the Swan Inn, the
friends walked round the hamlet and came to the neighborhood of the
pretty new house; here, while gazing about him and talking to the
inhabitants, Rodolphe discovered the residence of some decent folk,
who were willing to take him as a boarder, a very frequent custom in
Switzerland. They offered him a bedroom looking over the lake and the
mountains, and from whence he had a view of one of those immense
sweeping reaches which, in this lake, are the admiration of every
traveler. This house was divided by a roadway and a little creek from
the new house, where Rodolphe had caught sight of the unknown fair
For a hundred francs a month Rodolphe was relieved of all thought for
the necessaries of life. But, in consideration of the outlay the
Stopfer couple expected to make, they bargained for three months'
residence and a month's payment in advance. Rub a Swiss ever so
little, and you find the usurer. After breakfast, Rodolphe at once
made himself at home by depositing in his room such property as he had
brought with him for the journey to the Saint-Gothard, and he watched
Leopold as he set out, moved by the spirit of routine, to carry out
the excursion for himself and his friend. When Rodolphe, sitting on a
fallen rock on the shore, could no longer see Leopold's boat, he
turned to examine the new house with stolen glances, hoping to see the
fair unknown. Alas! he went in without its having given a sign of
life. During dinner, in the company of Monsieur and Madame Stopfer,
retired coopers from Neufchatel, he questioned them as to the
neighborhood, and ended by learning all he wanted to know about the
lady, thanks to his hosts' loquacity; for they were ready to pour out
their budget of gossip without any pressing.
The fair stranger's name was Fanny Lovelace. This name (pronounced
_Loveless_) is that of an old English family, but Richardson has given
it to a creation whose fame eclipses all others! Miss Lovelace had
come to settle by the lake for her father's health, the physicians
having recommended him the air of Lucerne. These two English people
had arrived with no other servant than a little girl of fourteen, a
dumb child, much attached to Miss Fanny, on whom she waited very
intelligently, and had settled, two winters since, with monsieur and
Madame Bergmann, the retired head-gardeners of His Excellency Count
Borromeo of Isola Bella and Isola Madre in the Lago Maggiore. These
Swiss, who were possessed of an income of about a thousand crowns a
year, had let the top story of their house to the Lovelaces for three
years, at a rent of two hundred francs a year. Old Lovelace, a man of
ninety, and much broken, was too poor to allow himself any
gratifications, and very rarely went out; his daughter worked to
maintain him, translating English books, and writing some herself, it
was said. The Lovelaces could not afford to hire boats to row on the
lake, or horses and guides to explore the neighborhood.
Poverty demanding such privation as this excites all the greater
compassion among the Swiss, because it deprives them of a chance of
profit. The cook of the establishment fed the three English boarders
for a hundred francs a month inclusive. In Gersau it was generally
believed, however, that the gardener and his wife, in spite of their
pretensions, used the cook's name as a screen to net the little
profits of this bargain. The Bergmanns had made beautiful gardens
round their house, and had built a hothouse. The flowers, the fruit,
and the botanical rarities of this spot were what had induced the
young lady to settle on it as she passed through Gersau. Miss Fanny
was said to be nineteen years old; she was the old man's youngest
child, and the object of his adulation. About two months ago she had
hired a piano from Lucerne, for she seemed to be crazy about music.
"She loves flowers and music, and she is unmarried!" thought Rodolphe;
"what good luck!"
The next day Rodolphe went to ask leave to visit the hothouses and
gardens, which were beginning to be somewhat famous. The permission
was not immediately granted. The retired gardeners asked, strangely
enough, to see Rodolphe's passport; it was sent to them at once. The
paper was not returned to him till next morning, by the hands of the
cook, who expressed her master's pleasure in showing him their place.
Rodolphe went to the Bergmanns', not without a certain trepidation,
known only to persons of strong feelings, who go through as much
passion in a moment as some men experience in a whole lifetime.
After dressing himself carefully to gratify the old gardeners of the
Borromean Islands, whom he regarded as the warders of his treasure, he
went all over the grounds, looking at the house now and again, but
with much caution; the old couple treated him with evident distrust.
But his attention was soon attracted by the little English deaf-mute,
in whom his discernment, though young as yet, enabled him to recognize
a girl of African, or at least of Sicilian, origin. The child had the
golden-brown color of a Havana cigar, eyes of fire, Armenian eyelids
with lashes of very un-British length, hair blacker than black; and
under this almost olive skin, sinews of extraordinary strength and
feverish alertness. She looked at Rodolphe with amazing curiosity and
effrontery, watching his every movement.
"To whom does that little Moresco belong?" he asked worthy Madame
"To the English," Monsieur Bergmann replied.
"But she never was born in England!"
"They may have brought her from the Indies," said Madame Bergmann.
"I have been told that Miss Lovelace is fond of music. I should be
delighted if, during my residence by the lake to which I am condemned
by my doctor's orders, she would allow me to join her."
"They receive no one, and will not see anybody," said the old
Rodolphe bit his lips and went away, without having been invited into
the house, or taken into the part of the garden that lay between the
front of the house and the shore of the little promontory. On that
side the house had a balcony above the first floor, made of wood, and
covered by the roof, which projected deeply like the roof of a chalet
on all four sides of the building, in the Swiss fashion. Rodolphe had
loudly praised the elegance of this arrangement, and talked of the
view from that balcony, but all in vain. When he had taken leave of
the Bergmanns it struck him that he was a simpleton, like any man of
spirit and imagination disappointed of the results of a plan which he
had believed would succeed.
In the evening he, of course, went out in a boat on the lake, round
and about the spit of land, to Brunnen and to Schwytz, and came in at
nightfall. From afar he saw the window open and brightly lighted; he
heard the sound of a piano and the tones of an exquisite voice. He
made the boatman stop, and gave himself up to the pleasure of
listening to an Italian air delightfully sung. When the singing
ceased, Rodolphe landed and sent away the boat and rowers. At the cost
of wetting his feet, he went to sit down under the water-worn granite
shelf crowned by a thick hedge of thorny acacia, by the side of which
ran a long lime avenue in the Bergmanns' garden. By the end of an hour
he heard steps and voices just above him, but the words that reached
his ears were all Italian, and spoken by two women.
He took advantage of the moment when the two speakers were at one end
of the walk to slip noiselessly to the other. After half an hour of
struggling he got to the end of the avenue, and there took up a
position whence, without being seen or heard, he could watch the two
women without being observed by them as they came towards him. What
was Rodolphe's amazement on recognizing the deaf-mute as one of them;
she was talking to Miss Lovelace in Italian.
It was now eleven o'clock at night. The stillness was so perfect on
the lake and around the dwelling, that the two women must have thought
themselves safe; in all Gersau there could be no eyes open but theirs.
Rodolphe supposed that the girl's dumbness must be a necessary
deception. From the way in which they both spoke Italian, Rodolphe
suspected that it was the mother tongue of both girls, and concluded
that the name of English also hid some disguise.
"They are Italian refugees," said he to himself, "outlaws in fear of
the Austrian or Sardinian police. The young lady waits till it is dark
to walk and talk in security."
He lay down by the side of the hedge, and crawled like a snake to find
a way between two acacia shrubs. At the risk of leaving his coat
behind him, or tearing deep scratches in his back, he got through the
hedge when the so-called Miss Fanny and her pretended deaf-and-dumb
maid were at the other end of the path; then, when they had come
within twenty yards of him without seeing him, for he was in the
shadow of the hedge, and the moon was shining brightly, he suddenly
"Fear nothing," said he in French to the Italian girl, "I am not a
spy. You are refugees, I have guessed that. I am a Frenchman whom one
look from you has fixed at Gersau."
Rodolphe, startled by the acute pain caused by some steel instrument
piercing his side, fell like a log.
"_Nel lago con pietra_!" said the terrible dumb girl.
"Oh, Gina!" exclaimed the Italian.
"She has missed me," said Rodolphe, pulling from his wound a stiletto,
which had been turned by one of the false ribs. "But a little higher
up it would have been deep in my heart.--I was wrong, Francesca," he
went on, remembering the name he had heard little Gina repeat several
times; "I owe her no grudge, do not scold her. The happiness of
speaking to you is well worth the prick of a stiletto. Only show me
the way out; I must get back to the Stopfers' house. Be easy; I shall
Francesca, recovering from her astonishment, helped Rodolphe to rise,
and said a few words to Gina, whose eyes filled with tears. The two
girls made him sit down on a bench and take off his coat, his
waistcoat and cravat. Then Gina opened his shirt and sucked the wound
strongly. Francesca, who had left them, returned with a large piece of
sticking-plaster, which she applied to the wound.
"You can now walk as far as your house," she said.
Each took an arm, and Rodolphe was conducted to a side gate, of which
the key was in Francesca's apron pocket.
"Does Gina speak French?" said Rodolphe to Francesca.
"No. But do not excite yourself," replied Francesca with some
"Let me look at you," said Rodolphe pathetically, "for it may be long
before I am able to come again---"
He leaned against one of the gate-posts contemplating the beautiful
Italian, who allowed him to gaze at her for a moment under the
sweetest silence and the sweetest night which ever, perhaps, shone on
this lake, the king of Swiss lakes.
Francesca was quite of the Italian type, and such as imagination
supposes or pictures, or, if you will, dreams, that Italian women are.
What first struck Rodolphe was the grace and elegance of a figure
evidently powerful, though so slender as to appear fragile. An amber
paleness overspread her face, betraying sudden interest, but it did
not dim the voluptuous glance of her liquid eyes of velvety blackness.
A pair of hands as beautiful as ever a Greek sculptor added to the
polished arms of a statue grasped Rodolphe's arm, and their whiteness
gleamed against his black coat. The rash Frenchman could but just
discern the long, oval shape of her face, and a melancholy mouth
showing brilliant teeth between the parted lips, full, fresh, and
brightly red. The exquisite lines of this face guaranteed to Francesca
permanent beauty; but what most struck Rodolphe was the adorable
freedom, the Italian frankness of this woman, wholly absorbed as she
was in her pity for him.
Francesca said a word to Gina, who gave Rodolphe her arm as far as the
Stopfers' door, and fled like a swallow as soon as she had rung.
"These patriots do not play at killing!" said Rodolphe to himself as
he felt his sufferings when he found himself in his bed. "'_Nel
lago!'_ Gina would have pitched me into the lake with a stone tied to
Next day he sent to Lucerne for the best surgeon there, and when he
came, enjoined on him absolute secrecy, giving him to understand that
his honor depended on it.
Leopold returned from his excursion on the day when his friend first
got out of bed. Rodolphe made up a story, and begged him to go to
Lucerne to fetch their luggage and letters. Leopold brought back the
most fatal, the most dreadful news: Rodolphe's mother was dead. While
the two friends were on their way from Bale to Lucerne, the fatal
letter, written by Leopold's father, had reached Lucerne the day they
left for Fluelen.
In spite of Leopold's utmost precautions, Rodolphe fell ill of a
nervous fever. As soon as Leopold saw his friend out of danger, he set
out for France with a power of attorney, and Rodolphe could thus
remain at Gersau, the only place in the world where his grief could
grow calmer. The young Frenchman's position, his despair, the
circumstances which made such a loss worse for him than for any other
man, were known, and secured him the pity and interest of every one in
Gersau. Every morning the pretended dumb girl came to see him and
bring him news of her mistress.
As soon as Rodolphe could go out he went to the Bergmanns' house, to
thank Miss Fanny Lovelace and her father for the interest they had
taken in his sorrow and his illness. For the first time since he had
lodged with the Bergmanns the old Italian admitted a stranger to his
room, where Rodolphe was received with the cordiality due to his
misfortunes and to his being a Frenchman, which excluded all distrust
of him. Francesca looked so lovely by candle-light that first evening
that she shed a ray of brightness on his grieving heart. Her smiles
flung the roses of hope on his woe. She sang, not indeed gay songs,
but grave and solemn melodies suited to the state of Rodolphe's heart,
and he observed this touching care.
At about eight o'clock the old man left the young people without any
sign of uneasiness, and went to his room. When Francesca was tired of
singing, she led Rodolphe on to the balcony, whence they perceived the
sublime scenery of the lake, and signed to him to be seated by her on
a rustic wooden bench.
"Am I very indiscreet in asking how old you are, cara Francesca?" said
"Nineteen," said she, "well past."
"If anything in the world could soothe my sorrow," he went on, "it
would be the hope of winning you from your father, whatever your
fortune may be. So beautiful as you are, you seem to be richer than a
prince's daughter. And I tremble as I confess to you the feelings with
which you have inspired me; but they are deep--they are eternal."
"_Zitto_!" said Francesca, laying a finger of her right hand on her
lips. "Say no more; I am not free. I have been married these three
For a few minutes utter silence reigned. When the Italian girl,
alarmed at Rodolphe's stillness, went close to him, she found that he
"_Povero_!" she said to herself. "And I thought him cold."
She fetched him some salts, and revived Rodolphe by making him smell
"Married!" said Rodolphe, looking at Francesca. And then his tears
"Child!" said she. "But there is still hope. My husband is--"
"Eighty?" Rodolphe put in.
"No," said she with a smile, "but sixty-five. He has disguised himself
as much older to mislead the police."
"Dearest," said Rodolphe, "a few more shocks of this kind and I shall
die. Only when you have known me twenty years will you understand the
strength and power of my heart, and the nature of its aspirations for
happiness. This plant," he went on, pointing to the yellow jasmine
which covered the balustrade, "does not climb more eagerly to spread
itself in the sunbeams than I have clung to you for this month past. I
love you with unique passion. That love will be the secret fount of my
life--I may possibly die of it."
"Oh! Frenchman, Frenchman!" said she, emphasizing her exclamation with
a little incredulous grimace.
"Shall I not be forced to wait, to accept you at the hands of time?"
said he gravely. "But know this: if you are in earnest in what you
have allowed to escape you, I will wait for you faithfully, without
suffering any other attachment to grow up in my heart."
She looked at him doubtfully.
"None," said he, "not even a passing fancy. I have my fortune to make;
you must have a splendid one, nature created you a princess----"
At this word Francesca could not repress a faint smile, which gave her
face the most bewildering expression, something subtle, like what the
great Leonardo has so well depicted in the _Gioconda_. This smile made
Rodolphe pause. "Ah yes!" he went on, "you must suffer much from the
destitution to which exile has brought you. Oh, if you would make me
happy above all men, and consecrate my love, you would treat me as a
friend. Ought I not to be your friend?--My poor mother has left sixty
thousand francs of savings; take half."
Francesca looked steadily at him. This piercing gaze went to the
bottom of Rodolphe's soul.
"We want nothing; my work amply supplies our luxuries," she replied in
a grave voice.
"And can I endure that a Francesca should work?" cried he. "One day
you will return to your country and find all you left there." Again
the Italian girl looked at Rodolphe. "And you will then repay me what
you may have condescended to borrow," he added, with an expression
full of delicate feeling.
"Let us drop the subject," said she, with incomparable dignity of
gesture, expression, and attitude. "Make a splendid fortune, be one of
the remarkable men of your country; that is my desire. Fame is a
drawbridge which may serve to cross a deep gulf. Be ambitious if you
must. I believe you have great and powerful talents, but use them
rather for the happiness of mankind than to deserve me; you will be
all the greater in my eyes."
In the course of this conversation, which lasted two hours, Rodolphe
discovered that Francesca was an enthusiast for Liberal ideas, and for
that worship of liberty which had led to the three revolutions in
Naples, Piemont, and Spain. On leaving, he was shown to the door by
Gina, the so-called mute. At eleven o'clock no one was astir in the
village, there was no fear of listeners; Rodolphe took Gina into a
corner, and asked her in a low voice and bad Italian, "Who are your
master and mistress, child? Tell me, I will give you this fine new
"Monsieur," said the girl, taking the coin, "my master is the famous
bookseller Lamporani of Milan, one of the leaders of the revolution,
and the conspirator of all others whom Austria would most like to have
in the Spielberg."
"A bookseller's wife! Ah, so much the better," thought he; "we are on
an equal footing.--And what is her family?" he added, "for she looks
like a queen."
"All Italian women do," replied Gina proudly. "Her father's name is
Emboldened by Francesca's modest rank, Rodolphe had an awning fitted
to his boat and cushions in the stern. When this was done, the lover
came to propose to Francesca to come out on the lake. The Italian
accepted, no doubt to carry out her part of a young English Miss in
the eyes of the villagers, but she brought Gina with her. Francesca
Colonna's lightest actions betrayed a superior education and the
highest social rank. By the way in which she took her place at the end
of the boat Rodolphe felt himself in some sort cut off from her, and,
in the face of a look of pride worthy of an aristocrat, the
familiarity he had intended fell dead. By a glance Francesca made
herself a princess, with all the prerogatives she might have enjoyed
in the Middle Ages. She seemed to have read the thoughts of this
vassal who was so audacious as to constitute himself her protector.
Already, in the furniture of the room where Francesca had received
him, in her dress, and in the various trifles she made use of,
Rodolphe had detected indications of a superior character and a fine
fortune. All these observations now recurred to his mind; he became
thoughtful after having been trampled on, as it were, by Francesca's
dignity. Gina, her half-grown-up _confidante_, also seemed to have a
mocking expression as she gave a covert or a side glance at Rodolphe.
This obvious disagreement between the Italian lady's rank and her
manners was a fresh puzzle to Rodolphe, who suspected some further
trick like Gina's assumed dumbness.
"Where would you go, Signora Lamporani?" he asked.
"Towards Lucerne," replied Francesca in French.
"Good!" said Rodolphe to himself, "she is not startled by hearing me
speak her name; she had, no doubt, foreseen that I should ask Gina
--she is so cunning.--What is your quarrel with me?" he went on, going
at last to sit down by her side, and asking her by a gesture to give
him her hand, which she withdrew. "You are cold and ceremonious; what,
in colloquial language, we should call _short_."
"It is true," she replied with a smile. "I am wrong. It is not good
manners; it is vulgar. In French you would call it inartistic. It is
better to be frank than to harbor cold or hostile feelings towards a
friend, and you have already proved yourself my friend. Perhaps I have
gone too far with you. You must take me to be a very ordinary woman."
--Rodolphe made many signs of denial.--"Yes," said the bookseller's
wife, going on without noticing this pantomime, which, however, she
plainly saw. "I have detected that, and naturally I have reconsidered
my conduct. Well! I will put an end to everything by a few words of
deep truth. Understand this, Rodolphe: I feel in myself the strength
to stifle a feeling if it were not in harmony with my ideas or
anticipation of what true love is. I could love--as we can love in
Italy, but I know my duty. No intoxication can make me forget it.
Married without my consent to that poor old man, I might take
advantage of the liberty he so generously gives me; but three years of
married life imply acceptance of its laws. Hence the most vehement
passion would never make me utter, even involuntarily, a wish to find
"Emilio knows my character. He knows that without my heart, which is
my own, and which I might give away, I should never allow anyone to
take my hand. That is why I have just refused it to you. I desire to
be loved and waited for with fidelity, nobleness, ardor, while all I
can give is infinite tenderness of which the expression may not
overstep the boundary of the heart, the permitted neutral ground. All
this being thoroughly understood--Oh!" she went on with a girlish
gesture, "I will be as coquettish, as gay, as glad, as a child which
knows nothing of the dangers of familiarity."
This plain and frank declaration was made in a tone, an accent, and
supported by a look which gave it the deepest stamp of truth.
"A Princess Colonna could not have spoken better," said Rodolphe,
"Is that," she answered with some haughtiness, "a reflection on the
humbleness of my birth? Must your love flaunt a coat-of-arms? At Milan
the noblest names are written over shop-doors: Sforza, Canova,
Visconti, Trivulzio, Ursini; there are Archintos apothecaries; but,
believe me, though I keep a shop, I have the feelings of a duchess."
"A reflection? Nay, madame, I meant it for praise."
"By a comparison?" she said archly.
"Ah, once for all," said he, "not to torture me if my words should ill
express my feelings, understand that my love is perfect; it carries
with it absolute obedience and respect."
She bowed as a woman satisfied, and said, "Then monsieur accepts the
"Yes," said he. "I can understand that in a rich and powerful feminine
nature the faculty of loving ought not to be wasted, and that you, out
of delicacy, wished to restrain it. Ah! Francesca, at my age
tenderness requited, and by so sublime, so royally beautiful a
creature as you are--why, it is the fulfilment of all my wishes. To
love you as you desire to be loved--is not that enough to make a young
man guard himself against every evil folly? Is it not to concentrate
all his powers in a noble passion, of which in the future he may be
proud, and which can leave none but lovely memories? If you could but
know with what hues you have clothed the chain of Pilatus, the Rigi,
and this superb lake--"
"I want to know," said she, with the Italian artlessness which has
always a touch of artfulness.
"Well, this hour will shine on all my life like a diamond on a queen's
Francesca's only reply was to lay her hand on Rodolphe's.
"Oh dearest! for ever dearest!--Tell me, have you never loved?"
"And you allow me to love you nobly, looking to heaven for the utmost
fulfilment?" he asked.
She gently bent her head. Two large tears rolled down Rodolphe's
"Why! what is the matter?" she cried, abandoning her imperial manner.
"I have now no mother whom I can tell of my happiness; she left this
earth without seeing what would have mitigated her agony--"
"What?" said she.
"Her tenderness replaced by an equal tenderness----"
"_Povero mio_!" exclaimed the Italian, much touched. "Believe me," she
went on after a pause, "it is a very sweet thing, and to a woman, a
strong element of fidelity to know that she is all in all on earth to
the man she loves; to find him lonely, with no family, with nothing in
his heart but his love--in short, to have him wholly to herself."
When two lovers thus understand each other, the heart feels delicious
peace, supreme tranquillity. Certainty is the basis for which human
feelings crave, for it is never lacking to religious sentiment; man is
always certain of being fully repaid by God. Love never believes
itself secure but by this resemblance to divine love. And the raptures
of that moment must have been fully felt to be understood; it is
unique in life; it can never return no more, alas! than the emotions
of youth. To believe in a woman, to make her your human religion, the
fount of life, the secret luminary of all your least thoughts!--is not
this a second birth? And a young man mingles with this love a little
of the feeling he had for his mother.
Rodolphe and Francesca for some time remained in perfect silence,
answering each other by sympathetic glances full of thoughts. They
understood each other in the midst of one of the most beautiful scenes
of Nature, whose glories, interpreted by the glory in their hearts,
helped to stamp on their minds the most fugitive details of that
unique hour. There had not been the slightest shade of frivolity in
Francesca's conduct. It was noble, large, and without any second
thought. This magnanimity struck Rodolphe greatly, for in it he
recognized the difference between the Italian and the Frenchwoman. The
waters, the land, the sky, the woman, all were grandiose and suave,
even their love in the midst of this picture, so vast in its expanse,
so rich in detail, where the sternness of the snowy peaks and their
hard folds standing clearly out against the blue sky, reminded
Rodolphe of the circumstances which limited his happiness; a lovely
country shut in by snows.
This delightful intoxication of soul was destined to be disturbed. A
boat was approaching from Lucerne; Gina, who had been watching it
attentively, gave a joyful start, though faithful to her part as a
mute. The bark came nearer; when at length Francesca could distinguish
the faces on board, she exclaimed, "Tito!" as she perceived a young
man. She stood up, and remained standing at the risk of being drowned.
"Tito! Tito!" cried she, waving her handkerchief.
Tito desired the boatmen to slacken, and the two boats pulled side by
side. The Italian and Tito talked with such extreme rapidity, and in a
dialect unfamiliar to a man who hardly knew even the Italian of books,
that Rodolphe could neither hear nor guess the drift of this
conversation. But Tito's handsome face, Francesca's familiarity, and
Gina's expression of delight, all aggrieved him. And indeed no lover
can help being ill pleased at finding himself neglected for another,
whoever he may be. Tito tossed a little leather bag to Gina, full of
gold no doubt, and a packet of letters to Francesca, who began to read
them, with a farewell wave of the hand to Tito.
"Get quickly back to Gersau," she said to the boatmen, "I will not let
my poor Emilio pine ten minutes longer than he need."
"What has happened?" asked Rodolphe, as he saw Francesca finish
reading the last letter.
"_La liberta_!" she exclaimed, with an artist's enthusiasm.
"_E denaro_!" added Gina, like an echo, for she had found her tongue.
"Yes," said Francesca, "no more poverty! For more than eleven months
have I been working, and I was beginning to be tired of it. I am
certainly not a literary woman."
"Who is this Tito?" asked Rodolphe.
"The Secretary of State to the financial department of the humble shop
of the Colonnas, in other words, the son of our _ragionato_. Poor boy!
he could not come by the Saint-Gothard, nor by the Mont-Cenis, nor by
the Simplon; he came by sea, by Marseilles, and had to cross France.
Well, in three weeks we shall be at Geneva, and living at our ease.
Come, Rodolphe," she added, seeing sadness overspread the Parisian's
face, "is not the Lake of Geneva quite as good as the Lake of
"But allow me to bestow a regret on the Bergmanns' delightful house,"
said Rodolphe, pointing to the little promontory.
"Come and dine with us to add to your associations, _povero mio_,"
said she. "This is a great day; we are out of danger. My mother writes
that within a year there will be an amnesty. Oh! _la cara patria_!"
These three words made Gina weep. "Another winter here," said she,
"and I should have been dead!"
"Poor little Sicilian kid!" said Francesca, stroking Gina's head with
an expression and an affection which made Rodolphe long to be so
caressed, even if it were without love.
The boat grounded; Rodolphe sprang on to the sand, offered his hand to
the Italian lady, escorted her to the door of the Bergmanns' house,
and went to dress and return as soon as possible.
When he joined the librarian and his wife, who were sitting on the
balcony, Rodolphe could scarcely repress an exclamation of surprise at
seeing the prodigious change which the good news had produced in the
old man. He now saw a man of about sixty, extremely well preserved, a
lean Italian, as straight as an I, with hair still black, though thin
and showing a white skull, with bright eyes, a full set of white
teeth, a face like Caesar, and on his diplomatic lips a sardonic
smile, the almost false smile under which a man of good breeding hides
his real feelings.
"Here is my husband under his natural form," said Francesca gravely.
"He is quite a new acquaintance," replied Rodolphe, bewildered.
"Quite," said the librarian; "I have played many a part, and know well
how to make up. Ah! I played one in Paris under the Empire, with
Bourrienne, Madame Murat, Madame d'Abrantis _e tutte quanti_.
Everything we take the trouble to learn in our youth, even the most
futile, is of use. If my wife had not received a man's education--an
unheard-of thing in Italy--I should have been obliged to chop wood to
get my living here. _Povera_ Francesca! who would have told me that
she would some day maintain me!"
As he listened to this worthy bookseller, so easy, so affable, so
hale, Rodolphe scented some mystification, and preserved the watchful
silence of a man who has been duped.
"_Che avete, signor_?" Francesca asked with simplicity. "Does our
happiness sadden you?"
"Your husband is a young man," he whispered in her ear.
She broke into such a frank, infectious laugh that Rodolphe was still
"He is but sixty-five, at your service," said she; "but I can assure
you that even that is something--to be thankful for!"
"I do not like to hear you jest about an affection so sacred as this,
of which you yourself prescribed the conditions."
"_Zitto_!" said she, stamping her foot, and looking whether her
husband were listening. "Never disturb the peace of mind of that dear
man, as simple as a child, and with whom I can do what I please. He is
under my protection," she added. "If you could know with what
generosity he risked his life and fortune because I was a Liberal! for
he does not share my political opinions. Is not that love, Monsieur
Frenchman?--But they are like that in his family. Emilio's younger
brother was deserted for a handsome youth by the woman he loved. He
thrust his sword through his own heart ten minutes after he had said
to his servant, 'I could of course kill my rival, but that would
grieve the _Diva_ too deeply.'"
This mixture of dignity and banter, of haughtiness and playfulness,
made Francesca at this moment the most fascinating creature in the
world. The dinner and the evening were full of cheerfulness,
justified, indeed, by the relief of the two refugees, but depressing
"Can she be fickle?" he asked himself as he returned to the Stopfers'
house. "She sympathized in my sorrow, and I cannot take part in her
He blamed himself, justifying this girl-wife.
"She has no taint of hypocrisy, and is carried away by impulse,"
thought he, "and I want her to be like a Parisian woman."
* * * * *
Next day and the following days, in fact, for twenty days after,
Rodolphe spent all his time at the Bergmanns', watching Francesca
without having determined to watch her. In some souls admiration is
not independent of a certain penetration. The young Frenchman
discerned in Francesca the imprudence of girlhood, the true nature of
a woman as yet unbroken, sometimes struggling against her love, and at
other moments yielding and carried away by it. The old man certainly
behaved to her as a father to his daughter, and Francesca treated him
with a deeply felt gratitude which roused her instinctive nobleness.
The situation and the woman were to Rodolphe an impenetrable enigma,
of which the solution attracted him more and more.
These last days were full of secret joys, alternating with melancholy
moods, with tiffs and quarrels even more delightful than the hours
when Rodolphe and Francesca were of one mind. And he was more and more
fascinated by this tenderness apart from wit, always and in all things
the same, an affection that was jealous of mere nothings--already!
"You care very much for luxury?" said he one evening to Francesca, who
was expressing her wish to get away from Gersau, where she missed many
"I!" cried she. "I love luxury as I love the arts, as I love a picture
by Raphael, a fine horse, a beautiful day, or the Bay of Naples.
Emilio," she went on, "have I ever complained here during our days of
"You would not have been yourself if you had," replied the old man
"After all, is it not in the nature of plain folks to aspire to
grandeur?" she asked, with a mischievous glance at Rodolphe and at her
husband. "Were my feet made for fatigue?" she added, putting out two
pretty little feet. "My hands"--and she held one out to Rodolphe--
"were those hands made to work?--Leave us," she said to her husband;
"I want to speak to him."
The old man went into the drawing-room with sublime good faith; he was
sure of his wife.
"I will not have you come with us to Geneva," she said to Rodolphe.
"It is a gossiping town. Though I am far above the nonsense the world
talks, I do not choose to be calumniated, not for my own sake, but for
his. I make it my pride to be the glory of that old man, who is, after
all, my only protector. We are leaving; stay here a few days. When you
come on to Geneva, call first on my husband, and let him introduce you
to me. Let us hide our great and unchangeable affection from the eyes
of the world. I love you; you know it; but this is how I will prove it
to you--you shall never discern in my conduct anything whatever that
may arouse your jealousy."
She drew him into a corner of the balcony, kissed him on the forehead,
and fled, leaving him in amazement.
Next day Rodolphe heard that the lodgers at the Bergmanns' had left at
daybreak. It then seemed to him intolerable to remain at Gersau, and
he set out for Vevay by the longest route, starting sooner than was
necessary. Attracted to the waters of the lake where the beautiful
Italian awaited him, he reached Geneva by the end of October. To avoid
the discomforts of the town he took rooms in a house at Eaux-Vives,
outside the walls. As soon as he was settled, his first care was to
ask his landlord, a retired jeweler, whether some Italian refugees
from Milan had not lately come to reside at Geneva.
"Not so far as I know," replied the man. "Prince and Princess Colonna
of Rome have taken Monsieur Jeanrenaud's place for three years; it is
one of the finest on the lake. It is situated between the Villa
Diodati and that of Monsieur Lafin-de-Dieu, let to the Vicomtesse de
Beauseant. Prince Colonna has come to see his daughter and his
son-in-law Prince Gandolphini, a Neopolitan, or if you like, a Sicilian,
an old adherent of King Murat's, and a victim of the last revolution.
These are the last arrivals at Geneva, and they are not Milanese.
Serious steps had to be taken, and the Pope's interest in the Colonna
family was invoked, to obtain permission from the foreign powers and
the King of Naples for the Prince and Princess Gandolphini to live
here. Geneva is anxious to do nothing to displease the Holy Alliance
to which it owes its independence. _Our_ part is not to ruffle foreign
courts; there are many foreigners here, Russians and English."
"Even some Gevenese?"
"Yes, monsieur, our lake is so fine! Lord Byron lived here about seven
years at the Villa Diodati, which every one goes to see now, like
Coppet and Ferney."
"You cannot tell me whether within a week or so a bookseller from
Milan has come with his wife--named Lamporani, one of the leaders of
the last revolution?"
"I could easily find out by going to the Foreigners' Club," said the
Rodolphe's first walk was very naturally to the Villa Diodati, the
residence of Lord Byron, whose recent death added to its
attractiveness: for is not death the consecration of genius?
The road to Eaux-Vives follows the shore of the lake, and, like all
the roads in Switzerland, is very narrow; in some spots, in
consequence of the configuration of the hilly ground, there is
scarcely space for two carriages to pass each other.
At a few yards from the Jeanrenauds' house, which he was approaching
without knowing it, Rodolphe heard the sound of a carriage behind him,
and, finding himself in a sunk road, he climbed to the top of a rock
to leave the road free. Of course he looked at the approaching
carriage--an elegant English phaeton, with a splendid pair of English
horses. He felt quite dizzy as he beheld in this carriage Francesca,
beautifully dressed, by the side of an old lady as hard as a cameo. A
servant blazing with gold lace stood behind. Francesca recognized
Rodolphe, and smiled at seeing him like a statue on a pedestal. The
carriage, which the lover followed with his eyes as he climbed the
hill, turned in at the gate of a country house, towards which he ran.
"Who lives here?" he asked the gardener.
"Prince and Princess Colonna, and Prince and Princess Gandolphini."
"Have they not just driven in?"
In that instant a veil fell from Rodolphe's eyes; he saw clearly the
meaning of the past.
"If only this is her last piece of trickery!" thought the
thunder-struck lover to himself.
He trembled lest he should have been the plaything of a whim, for he
had heard what a _capriccio_ might mean in an Italian. But what a
crime had he committed in the eyes of a woman--in accepting a born
princess as a citizen's wife! in believing that a daughter of one of
the most illustrious houses of the Middle Ages was the wife of a
bookseller! The consciousness of his blunders increased Rodolphe's
desire to know whether he would be ignored and repelled. He asked for
Prince Gandolphini, sending in his card, and was immediately received
by the false Lamporani, who came forward to meet him, welcomed him
with the best possible grace, and took him to walk on a terrace whence
there was a view of Geneva, the Jura, the hills covered with villas,
and below them a wide expanse of the lake.
"My wife is faithful to the lakes, you see," he remarked, after
pointing out the details to his visitor. "We have a sort of concert
this evening," he added, as they returned to the splendid Villa
Jeanrenaud. "I hope you will do me and the Princess the pleasure of
seeing you. Two months of poverty endured in intimacy are equal to
years of friendship."
Though he was consumed by curiosity, Rodolphe dared not ask to see the
Princess; he slowly made his way back to Eaux-Vives, looking forward
to the evening. In a few hours his passion, great as it had already
been, was augmented by his anxiety and by suspense as to future
events. He now understood the necessity for making himself famous,
that he might some day find himself, socially speaking, on a level
with his idol. In his eyes Francesca was made really great by the
simplicity and ease of her conduct at Gersau. Princess Colonna's
haughtiness, so evidently natural to her, alarmed Rodolphe, who would
find enemies in Francesca's father and mother--at least so he might
expect; and the secrecy which Princess Gandolphini had so strictly
enjoined on him now struck him as a wonderful proof of affection. By
not choosing to compromise the future, had she not confessed that she