Part 3 out of 7
He did not go home till five in the afternoon. As he entered the hall
his mother gave him, with a rather sad smile, the following letter
from Mademoiselle des Touches:--
My dear Calyste,--The beautiful marquise has come; we count on you
to help us celebrate her arrival. Claude, always sarcastic,
declares that you will play Bice and that she will be Dante. It is
for our honor as Bretons, and yours as a du Guenic to welcome a
Casteran. Come soon.
Your friend, Camille Maupin.
Come as you are, without ceremony; otherwise you will put us to
Calyste gave the letter to his mother and departed.
"Who are the Casterans?" said Fanny to the baron.
"An old Norman family, allied to William the Conqueror," he replied.
"They bear on a shield tierce fessed azure, gules and sable, a horse
rearing argent, shod with gold. That beautiful creature for whom the
Gars was killed at Fougeres in 1800 was the daughter of a Casteran who
made herself a nun, and became an abbess after the Duc de Verneuil
"And the Rochefides?"
"I don't know that name. I should have to see the blazon," he replied.
The baroness was somewhat reassured on hearing that the Marquise de
Rochefide was born of a noble family, but she felt that her son was
now exposed to new seductions.
Calyste as he walked along felt all sorts of violent and yet soft
inward movements; his throat was tight, his heart swelled, his brain
was full, a fever possessed him. He tried to walk slowly, but some
superior power hurried him. This impetuosity of the several senses
excited by vague expectation is known to all young men. A subtle fire
flames within their breasts and darts outwardly about them, like the
rays of a nimbus around the heads of divine personages in works of
religious art; through it they see all Nature glorious, and woman
radiant. Are they not then like those haloed saints, full of faith,
hope, ardor, purity?
The young Breton found the company assembled in the little salon of
Camille's suite of rooms. It was then about six o'clock; the sun, in
setting, cast through the windows its ruddy light chequered by the
trees; the air was still; twilight, beloved of women, was spreading
through the room.
"Here comes the future deputy of Brittany," said Camille Maupin,
smiling, as Calyste raised the tapestry portiere,--"punctual as a
"You recognized his step just now," said Claude to Felicite in a low
Calyste bowed low to the marquise, who returned the salutation with an
inclination of her head; he did not look at her; but he took the hand
Claude Vignon held out to him and pressed it.
"This is the celebrated man of whom we have talked so much, Gennaro
Conti," said Camille, not replying to Claude Vignon's remark.
She presented to Calyste a man of medium height, thin and slender,
with chestnut hair, eyes that were almost red, and a white skin,
freckled here and there, whose head was so precisely the well-known
head of Lord Byron (though rather better carried on his shoulders)
that description is superfluous. Conti was rather proud of this
"I am fortunate," he said, "to meet Monsieur du Guenic during the one
day that I spend at Les Touches."
"It was for me to say that to you," replied Calyste, with a certain
"He is handsome as an angel," said the marquise in an under tone to
Standing between the sofa and the two ladies, Calyste heard the words
confusedly. He seated himself in an arm-chair and looked furtively
toward the marquise. In the soft half-light he saw, reclining on a
divan, as if a sculptor had placed it there, a white and serpentine
shape which thrilled him. Without being aware of it, Felicite had done
her friend a service; the marquise was much superior to the
unflattered portrait Camille had drawn of her the night before. Was it
to do honor to the guest that Beatrix had wound into her hair those
tufts of blue-bells that gave value to the pale tints of her creped
curls, so arranged as to fall around her face and play upon the
cheeks? The circle of her eyes, which showed fatigue, was of the
purest mother-of-pearl, her skin was as dazzling as the eyes, and
beneath its whiteness, delicate as the satiny lining of an egg, life
abounded in the beautiful blue veins. The delicacy of the features was
extreme; the forehead seemed diaphanous. The head, so sweet and
fragrant, admirably joined to a long neck of exquisite moulding, lent
itself to many and most diverse expressions. The waist, which could be
spanned by the hands, had a charming willowy ease; the bare shoulders
sparkled in the twilight like a white camellia. The throat, visible to
the eye though covered with a transparent fichu, allowed the graceful
outlines of the bosom to be seen with charming roguishness. A gown of
white muslin, strewn with blue flowers, made with very large sleeves,
a pointed body and no belt, shoes with strings crossed on the instep
over Scotch thread stockings, showed a charming knowledge of the art
of dress. Ear-rings of silver filagree, miracles of Genoese jewelry,
destined no doubt to become the fashion, were in perfect harmony with
the delightful flow of the soft curls starred with blue-bells.
Calyste's eager eye took in these beauties at a glance, and carved
them on his soul. The fair Beatrix and the dark Felicite might have
sat for those contrasting portraits in "keepsakes" which English
designers and engravers seek so persistently. Here were the force and
the feebleness of womanhood in full development, a perfect antithesis.
These two women could never be rivals; each had her own empire. Here
was the delicate campanula, or the lily, beside the scarlet poppy; a
turquoise near a ruby. In a moment, as it were,--at first sight, as
the saying is,--Calyste was seized with a love which crowned the
secret work of his hopes, his fears, his uncertainties. Mademoiselle
des Touches had awakened his nature; Beatrix inflamed both his heart
and thoughts. The young Breton suddenly felt within him a power to
conquer all things, and yield to nothing that stood in his way. He
looked at Conti with an envious, gloomy, savage rivalry he had never
felt for Claude Vignon. He employed all his strength to control
himself; but the inward tempest went down as soon as the eyes of
Beatrix turned to him, and her soft voice sounded in his ear. Dinner
"Calyste, give your arm to the marquise," said Mademoiselle des
Touches, taking Conti with her right hand, and Claude Vignon with her
left, and drawing back to let the marquise pass.
The descent of that ancient staircase was to Calyste like the moment
of going into battle for the first time. His heart failed him, he had
nothing to say; a slight sweat pearled upon his forehead and wet his
back; his arm trembled so much that as they reached the lowest step
the marquise said to him: "Is anything the matter?"
"Oh!" he replied, in a muffled tone, "I have never seen any woman so
beautiful as you, except my mother, and I am not master of my
"But you have Camille Maupin before your eyes."
"Ah! what a difference!" said Calyste, ingenuously.
"Calyste," whispered Felicite, who was just behind him, "did I not
tell you that you would forget me as if I had never existed? Sit
there," she said aloud, "beside the marquise, on her right, and you,
Claude, on her left. As for you, Gennaro, I retain you by me; we will
keep a mutual eye on their coquetries."
The peculiar accept which Camille gave to the last word struck Claude
Vignon's ear, and he cast that sly but half-abstracted look upon
Camille which always denoted in him the closest observation. He never
ceased to examine Mademoiselle des Touches throughout the dinner.
"Coquetries!" replied the marquis, taking off her gloves, and showing
her beautiful hands; "the opportunity is good, with a poet," and she
motioned to Claude, "on one side, and poesy the other."
At these words Conti turned and gave Calyste a look that was full of
By artificial light, Beatrix seemed more beautiful than before. The
white gleam of the candles laid a satiny lustre on her forehead,
lighted the spangles of her eyes, and ran through her swaying curls,
touching them here and there into gold. She threw back the thin gauze
scarf she was wearing and disclosed her neck. Calyste then saw its
beautiful nape, white as milk, and hollowed near the head, until its
lines were lost toward the shoulders with soft and flowing symmetry.
This neck, so dissimilar to that of Camille, was the sign of a totally
different character in Beatrix.
Calyste found much trouble in pretending to eat; nervous motions
within him deprived him of appetite. Like other young men, his nature
was in the throes and convulsions which precede love, and carve it
indelibly on the soul. At his age, the ardor of the heart, restrained
by moral ardor, leads to an inward conflict, which explains the long
and respectful hesitations, the tender debatings, the absence of all
calculation, characteristic of young men whose hearts and lives are
pure. Studying, though furtively, so as not to attract the notice of
Conti, the various details which made the marquise so purely
beautiful, Calyste became, before long, oppressed by a sense of her
majesty; he felt himself dwarfed by the hauteur of certain of her
glances, by the imposing expression of a face that was wholly
aristocratic, by a sort of pride which women know how to express in
slight motions, turns of the head, and slow gestures, effects less
plastic and less studied than we think. The false situation in which
Beatrix had placed herself compelled her to watch her own behavior,
and to keep herself imposing without being ridiculously so. Women of
the great world know how to succeed in this, which proves a fatal reef
to vulgar women.
The expression of Felicite's eyes made Beatrix aware of the inward
adoration she inspired in the youth beside her, and also that it would
be most unworthy on her part to encourage it. She therefore took
occasion now and then to give him a few repressive glances, which fell
upon his heart like an avalanche of snow. The unfortunate young fellow
turned on Felicite a look in which she could read the tears he was
suppressing by superhuman efforts. She asked him in a friendly tone
why he was eating nothing. The question piqued him, and he began to
force himself to eat and to take part in the conversation.
But whatever he did, Madame de Rochefide paid little attention to him.
Mademoiselle des Touches having started the topic of her journey to
Italy she related, very wittily, many of its incidents, which made
Claude Vignon, Conti, and Felicite laugh.
"Ah!" thought Calyste, "how far such a woman is from me! Will she ever
deign to notice me?"
Mademoiselle des Touches was struck with the expression she now saw on
Calyste's face, and tried to console him with a look of sympathy.
Claude Vignon intercepted that look. From that moment the great critic
expanded into gaiety that overflowed in sarcasm. He maintained to
Beatrix that love existed only by desire; that most women deceived
themselves in loving; that they loved for reasons unknown to men and
to themselves; that they wanted to deceive themselves, and that the
best among them were artful.
"Keep to books, and don't criticise our lives," said Camille, glancing
at him imperiously.
The dinner ceased to be gay. Claude Vignon's sarcasm had made the two
women pensive. Calyste was conscious of pain in the midst of the
happiness he found in looking at Beatrix. Conti looked into the eyes
of the marquise to guess her thoughts. When dinner was over
Mademoiselle des Touches took Calyste's arm, gave the other two men to
the marquise, and let them pass before her, that she might be alone
with the young Breton for a moment.
"My dear Calyste," she said, "you are acting in a manner that
embarrasses the marquise; she may be delighted with your admiration,
but she cannot accept it. Pray control yourself."
"She was hard to me, she will never care for me," said Calyste, "and
if she does not I shall die."
"Die! you! My dear Calyste, you are a child. Would you have died for
"You have made yourself my friend," he answered.
After the talk that follows coffee, Vignon asked Conti to sing
something. Mademoiselle des Touches sat down to the piano. Together
she and Gennaro sang the /Dunque il mio bene tu mia sarai/, the last
duet of Zingarelli's "Romeo e Giulietta," one of the most pathetic
pages of modern music. The passage /Di tanti palpiti/ expresses love
in all its grandeur. Calyste, sitting in the same arm-chair in which
Felicite had told him the history of the marquise, listened in rapt
devotion. Beatrix and Vignon were on either side of the piano. Conti's
sublime voice knew well how to blend with that of Felicite. Both had
often sung this piece; they knew its resources, and they put their
whole marvellous gift into bringing them out. The music was at this
moment what its creator intended, a poem of divine melancholy, the
farewell of two swans to life. When it was over, all present were
under the influence of feelings such as cannot express themselves by
"Ah! music is the first of arts!" exclaimed the marquise.
"Camille thinks youth and beauty the first of poesies," said Claude
Mademoiselle des Touches looked at Claude with vague uneasiness.
Beatrix, not seeing Calyste, turned her head as if to know what effect
the music had produced upon him, less by way of interest in him than
for the gratification of Conti; she saw a white face bathed in tears.
At the sight, and as if some sudden pain had seized her, she turned
back quickly and looked at Gennaro. Not only had Music arisen before
the eyes of Calyste, touching him with her divine wand until he stood
in presence of Creation from which she rent the veil, but he was
dumfounded by Conti's genius. In spite of what Camille had told him of
the musician's character, he now believed in the beauty of the soul,
in the heart that expressed such love. How could he, Calyste, rival
such as an artist? What woman could ever cease to adore such genius?
That voice entered the soul like another soul. The poor lad was
overwhelmed by poesy, and his own despair. He felt himself of no
account. This ingenuous admission of his nothingness could be read
upon his face mingled with his admiration. He did not observe the
gesture with which Beatrix, attracted to Calyste by the contagion of a
true feeling, called Felicite's attention to him.
"Oh! the adorable heart!" cried Camille. "Conti, you will never obtain
applause of one-half the value of that child's homage. Let us sing this
trio. Beatrix, my dear, come."
When the marquise, Camille, and Conti had arranged themselves at the
piano, Calyste rose softly, without attracting their attention, and
flung himself on one of the sofas in the bedroom, the door of which
stood open, where he sat with his head in his hands, plunged in
"What is it, my child?" said Claude Vignon, who had slipped silently
into the bedroom after Calyste, and now took him by the hand. "You
love; you think you are disdained; but it is not so. The field will be
free to you in a few days and you will reign--beloved by more than
"Loved!" cried Calyste, springing up, and beckoning Claude into the
library, "Who loves me here?"
"Camille," replied Claude.
"Camille loves me? And you!--what of you?"
"I?" answered Claude, "I--" He stopped; sat down on a sofa and rested
his head with weary sadness on a cushion. "I am tired of life, but I
have not the courage to quit it," he went on, after a short silence.
"I wish I were mistaken in what I have just told you; but for the last
few days more than one vivid light has come into my mind. I did not
wander about the marshes for my pleasure; no, upon my soul I did not!
The bitterness of my words when I returned and found you with Camille
were the result of wounded feeling. I intend to have an explanation
with her soon. Two minds as clear-sighted as hers and mine cannot
deceive each other. Between two such professional duellists the combat
cannot last long. Therefore I may as well tell you now that I shall
leave Les Touches; yes, to-morrow perhaps, with Conti. After we are
gone strange things will happen here. I shall regret not witnessing
conflicts of passion of a kind so rare in France, and so dramatic. You
are very young to enter such dangerous lists; you interest me; were it
not for the profound disgust I feel for women, I would stay and help
you play this game. It is difficult; you may lose it; you have to do
with two extraordinary women, and you feel too much for one to use the
other judiciously. Beatrix is dogged by nature; Camille has grandeur.
Probably you will be wrecked between those reefs, drawn upon them by
the waves of passion. Beware!"
Calyste's stupefaction on hearing these words enabled Claude to say
them without interruption and leave the young Breton, who remained
like a traveller among the Alps to whom a guide has shown the depth of
some abyss by flinging a stone into it. To hear from the lips of
Claude himself that Camille loved him, at the very moment when he felt
that he loved Beatrix for life, was a weight too heavy for his untried
soul to bear. Goaded by an immense regret which now filled all the
past, overwhelmed with a sight of his position between Beatrix whom he
loved and Camille whom he had ceased to love, the poor boy sat
despairing and undecided, lost in thought. He sought in vain for the
reasons which had made Felicite reject his love and bring Claude
Vignon from Paris to oppose it. Every now and then the voice of
Beatrix came fresh and pure to his ears from the little salon; a
savage desire to rush in and carry her off seized him at such moments.
What would become of him? What must he do? Could he come to Les
Touches? If Camille loved him how could he come there to adore
Beatrix? He saw no solution to these difficulties.
Insensibly to him silence now reigned in the house; he heard, but
without noticing, the opening and shutting of doors. Then suddenly
midnight sounded on the clock of the adjoining bedroom, and the voices
of Claude and Camille roused him fully from his torpid contemplation
of the future. Before he could rise and show himself, he heard the
following terrible words in the voice of Claude Vignon.
"You came to Paris last year desperately in love with Calyste," Claude
was saying to Felicite, "but you were horrified at the thought of the
consequences of such a passion at your age; it would lead you to a
gulf, to hell, to suicide perhaps. Love cannot exist unless it thinks
itself eternal, and you saw not far before you a horrible parting; old
age you knew would end the glorious poem soon. You thought of
'Adolphe,' that dreadful finale of the loves of Madame de Stael and
Benjamin Constant, who, however, were nearer of an age than you and
Calyste. Then you took me, as soldiers use fascines to build
entrenchments between the enemy and themselves. You brought me to Les
Touches to mask your real feelings and leave you safe to follow your
own secret adoration. The scheme was grand and ignoble both; but to
carry it out you should have chosen either a common man or one so
preoccupied by noble thoughts that you could easily deceive him. You
thought me simple and easy to mislead as a man of genius. I am not a
man of genius, I am a man of talent, and as such I have divined you.
When I made that eulogy yesterday on women of your age, explaining to
you why Calyste had loved you, do you suppose I took to myself your
ravished, fascinated, fazzling glance? Had I not read into your soul?
The eyes were turned on me, but the heart was throbbing for Calyste.
You have never been loved, my poor Maupin, and you never will be after
rejecting the beautiful fruit which chance has offered to you at the
portals of that hell of woman, the lock of which is the numeral 50!"
"Why has love fled me?" she said in a low voice. "Tell me, you who
"Because you are not lovable," he answered. "You do not bend to love;
love must bend to you. You may perhaps have yielded to some follies of
youth, but there was no youth in your heart; your mind has too much
depth; you have never been naive and artless, and you cannot begin to
be so now. Your charm comes from mystery; it is abstract, not active.
Your strength repulses men of strength who fear a struggle. Your power
may please young souls, like that of Calyste, which like to be
protected; though, even them it wearies in the long run. You are
grand, and you are sublime; bear with the consequence of those two
"What a sentence!" cried Camille. "Am I not a woman? Do you think me
"Possibly," said Claude.
"We will see!" said the woman, stung to the quick.
"Farewell, my dear Camille; I leave to-morrow. I am not angry with
you, my dear; I think you the greatest of women, but if I continued to
serve you as a screen, or a shield," said Claude, with two significant
inflections of his voice, "you would despise me. We can part now
without pain or remorse; we have neither happiness to regret nor hopes
betrayed. To you, as with some few but rare men of genius, love is not
what Nature made it,--an imperious need, to the satisfaction of which
she attaches great and passing joys, which die. You see love such as
Christianity has created it,--an ideal kingdom, full of noble
sentiments, of grand weaknesses, poesies, spiritual sensations,
devotions of moral fragrance, entrancing harmonies, placed high above
all vulgar coarseness, to which two creatures as one angel fly on the
wings of pleasure. This is what I hoped to share; I thought I held in
you a key to that door, closed to so many, by which we may advance
toward the infinite. You were there already. In this you have misled
me. I return to my misery,--to my vast prison of Paris. Such a
deception as this, had it come to me earlier in life, would have made
me flee from existence; to-day it puts into my soul a disenchantment
which will plunge me forever into an awful solitude. I am without the
faith which helped the Fathers to people theirs with sacred images. It
is to this, my dear Camille, to this that the superiority of our mind
has brought us; we may, both of us, sing that dreadful hymn which a
poet has put into the mouth of Moses speaking to the Almighty: 'Lord
God, Thou hast made me powerful and solitary.'"
At this moment Calyste appeared.
"I ought not to leave you ignorant that I am here," he said.
Mademoiselle des Touches showed the utmost fear; a sudden flush
colored her impassible face with tints of fire. During this strange
scene she was more beautiful than at any other moment of her life.
"We thought you gone, Calyste," said Claude. "But this involuntary
discretion on both sides will do no harm; perhaps, indeed, you may be
more at your ease at Les Touches by knowing Felicite as she is. Her
silence shows me I am not mistaken as to the part she meant me to
play. As I told you before, she loves you, but it is for yourself, not
for herself,--a sentiment that few women are able to conceive and
practise; few among them know the voluptuous pleasure of sufferings
born of longing,--that is one of the magnificent passions reserved for
man. But she is in some sense a man," he added, sardonically. "Your
love for Beatrix will make her suffer and make her happy too."
Tears were in the eyes of Mademoiselle des Touches, who was unable to
look either at the terrible Vignon or the ingenuous Calyste. She was
frightened at being understood; she had supposed to impossible for
a man, however keen his perception, to perceive a delicacy so
self-immolating, a heroism so lofty as her own. Her evident humiliation
at this unveiling of her grandeur made Calyste share the emotion of the
woman he had held so high, and now beheld so stricken down. He threw
himself, from an irresistible impulse, at her feet, and kissed her
hands, laying his face, covered with tears, upon them.
"Claude," she said, "do not abandon me, or what will become of me?"
"What have you to fear?" replied the critic. "Calyste has fallen in
love at first sight with the marquise; you cannot find a better
barrier between you than that. This passion of his is worth more to
you than I. Yesterday there might have been some danger for you and
for him; to-day you can take a maternal interest in him," he said,
with a mocking smile, "and be proud of his triumphs."
Mademoiselle des Touches looked at Calyste, who had raised his head
abruptly at these words. Claude Vignon enjoyed, for his sole
vengeance, the sight of their confusion.
"You yourself have driven him to Madame de Rochefide," continued
Claude, "and he is now under the spell. You have dug your own grave.
Had you confided in me, you would have escaped the sufferings that
"Sufferings!" cried Camille Maupin, taking Calyste's head in her
hands, and kissing his hair, on which her tears fell plentifully. "No,
Calyste; forget what you have heard; I count for nothing in all this."
She rose and stood erect before the two men, subduing both with the
lightning of her eyes, from which her soul shone out.
"While Claude was speaking," she said, "I conceived the beauty and the
grandeur of love without hope; it is the sentiment that brings us
nearest God. Do not love me, Calyste; but I will love you as no woman
It was the cry of a wounded eagle seeking its eyrie. Claude himself
knelt down, took Camille's hand, and kissed it.
"Leave us now, Calyste," she said, "it is late, and your mother will
Calyste returned to Guerande with lagging steps, turning again and
again, to see the light from the windows of the room in which was
Beatrix. He was surprised himself to find how little pity he felt for
Camille. But presently he felt once more the agitations of that scene,
the tears she had left upon his hair; he suffered with her suffering;
he fancied he heard the moans of that noble woman, so beloved, so
desired but a few short days before.
When he opened the door of his paternal home, where total silence
reigned, he saw his mother through the window, as she sat sewing by
the light of the curiously constructed lamp while she awaited him.
Tears moistened the lad's eyes as he looked at her.
"What has happened?" cried Fanny, seeing his emotion, which filled her
with horrible anxiety.
For all answer, Calyste took his mother in his arms, and kissed her on
her cheeks, her forehead and hair, with one of those passionate
effusions of feeling that comfort mothers, and fill them with the
subtle flames of the life they have given.
"It is you I love, you!" cried Calyste,--"you, who live for me; you,
whom I long to render happy!"
"But you are not yourself, my child," said the baroness, looking at
him attentively. "What has happened to you?"
"Camille loves me, but I love her no longer," he answered.
The next day, Calyste told Gasselin to watch the road to
Saint-Nazaire, and let him know if the carriage of Mademoiselle des
Touches passed over it. Gasselin brought word that the carriage had
"How many persons were in it?" asked Calyste.
"Four,--two ladies and two gentlemen."
"Then saddle my horse and my father's."
"My, nephew, what mischief is in you now?" said his Aunt Zephirine.
"Let the boy amuse himself, sister," cried the baron. "Yesterday he
was dull as an owl; to-day he is gay as a lark."
"Did you tell him that our dear Charlotte was to arrive to-day?" said
Zephirine, turning to her sister-in-law.
"No," replied the baroness.
"I thought perhaps he was going to meet her," said Mademoiselle du
"If Charlotte is to stay three months with her aunt, he will have
plenty of opportunities to see her," said his mother.
"Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel wants me to marry Charlotte, to save me from
perdition," said Calyste, laughing. "I was on the mall when she and
the Chevalier du Halga were talking about it. She can't see that it
would be greater perdition for me to marry at my age--"
"It is written above," said the old maid, interrupting Calyste, "that
I shall not die tranquil or happy. I wanted to see our family
continued, and some, at least, of the estates brought back; but it is
not to be. What can you, my fine nephew, put in the scale against such
duties? Is it that actress at Les Touches?"
"What?" said the baron; "how can Mademoiselle des Touches hinder
Calyste's marriage, when it becomes necessary for us to make it? I
shall go and see her."
"I assure you, father," said Calyste, "that Felicite will never be an
obstacle to my marriage."
Gasselin appeared with the horses.
"Where are you going, chevalier?" said his father.
"Ha, ha! and when is the marriage to be?" said the baron, believing
that Calyste was really in a hurry to see Charlotte de Kergarouet. "It
is high time I was a grandfather. Spare the horses," he continued, as
he went on the portico with Fanny to see Calyste mount; "remember that
they have more than thirty miles to go."
Calyste started with a tender farewell to his mother.
"Dear treasure!" she said, as she saw him lower his head to ride
through the gateway.
"God keep him!" replied the baron; "for we cannot replace him."
The words made the baroness shudder.
"My nephew does not love Charlotte enough to ride to Saint-Nazaire
after her," said the old blind woman to Mariotte, who was clearing the
"No; but a fine lady, a marquise, has come to Les Touches, and I'll
warrant he's after her; that's the way at his age," said Mariotte.
"They'll kill him," said Mademoiselle du Guenic.
"That won't kill him, mademoiselle; quite the contrary," replied
Mariotte, who seemed to be pleased with Calyste's behavior.
The young fellow started at a great pace, until Gasselin asked him if
he was trying to catch the boat, which, of course, was not at all his
desire. He had no wish to see either Conti or Claude again; but he did
expect to be invited to drive back with the ladies, leaving Gasselin
to lead his horse. He was gay as a bird, thinking to himself,--
"/She/ has just passed here; /her/ eyes saw those trees!--What a
lovely road!" he said to Gasselin.
"Ah! monsieur, Brittany is the most beautiful country in all the
world," replied the Breton. "Where could you find such flowers in the
hedges, and nice cool roads that wind about like these?"
"/Tiens/! here comes the coach from Nazaire," cried Gasselin
"Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel and her niece will be in it. Let us hide,"
"Hide! are you crazy, monsieur? Why, we are on the moor!"
The coach, which was coming up the sandy hill above Saint-Nazaire, was
full, and, much to the astonishment of Calyste, there were no signs of
"We had to leave Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel, her sister and niece; they
are dreadfully worried; but all my seats were engaged by the
custom-house," said the conductor to Gasselin.
"I am lost!" thought Calyste; "they will meet me down there."
When Calyste reached the little esplanade which surrounds the church
of Saint-Nazaire, and from which is seen Paimboeuf and the magnificent
Mouths of the Loire as they struggle with the sea, he found Camille
and the marquise waving their handkerchiefs as a last adieu to two
passengers on the deck of the departing steamer. Beatrix was charming
as she stood there, her features softened by the shadow of a
rice-straw hat, on which were tufts and knots of scarlet ribbon. She
wore a muslin gown with a pattern of flowers, and was leaning with one
well-gloved hand on a slender parasol. Nothing is finer to the eyes than
a woman poised on a rock like a statue on its pedestal. Conti could see
Calyste from the vessel as he approached Camille.
"I thought," said the young man, "that you would probably come back
"You have done right, Calyste," she replied, pressing his hand.
Beatrix turned round, saw her young lover, and gave him the most
imperious look in her repertory. A smile, which the marquise detected
on the eloquent lips of Mademoiselle des Touches, made her aware of
the vulgarity of such conduct, worthy only of a bourgeoise. She then
said to Calyste, smiling,--
"Are you not guilty of a slight impertinence in supposing that I
should bore Camille, if left alone with her?"
"My dear, one man to two widows is none too much," said Mademoiselle
des Touches, taking Calyste's arm, and leaving Beatrix to watch the
vessel till it disappeared.
At this moment Calyste heard the approaching voices of Mademoiselle de
Pen-Hoel, the Vicomtesse de Kergarouet, Charlotte, and Gasselin, who
were all talking at once, like so many magpies. The old maid was
questioning Gasselin as to what had brought him and his master to
Saint-Nazaire; the carriage of Mademoiselle des Touches had already
caught her eye. Before the young Breton could get out of sight,
Charlotte had seen him.
"Why, there's Calyste!" she exclaimed eagerly.
"Go and offer them seats in my carriage," said Camille to Calyste;
"the maid can sit with the coachman. I saw those ladies lose their
places in the mail-coach."
Calyste, who could not help himself, carried the message. As soon as
Madame de Kergarouet learned that the offer came from the celebrated
Camille Maupin, and that the Marquise de Rochefide was of the party,
she was much surprised at the objections raised by her elder sister,
who refused positively to profit by what she called the devil's
carryall. At Nantes, which boasted of more civilization than Guerande,
Camille was read and admired; she was thought to be the muse of
Brittany and an honor to the region. The absolution granted to her in
Paris by society, by fashion, was there justified by her great fortune
and her early successes in Nantes, which claimed the honor of having
been, if not her birthplace, at least her cradle. The viscountess,
therefore, eager to see her, dragged her old sister forward, paying no
attention to her jeremiads.
"Good-morning, Calyste," said Charlotte.
"Oh! good-morning, Charlotte," replied Calyste, not offering his arm.
Both were confused; she by his coldness, he by his cruelty, as they
walked up the sort of ravine, which is called in Saint-Nazaire a
street, following the two sisters in silence. In a moment the little
girl of sixteen saw her castle in Spain, built and furnished with
romantic hopes, a heap of ruins. She and Calyste had played together
so much in childhood, she was so bound up with him, as it were, that
she had quietly supposed her future unassailable; she arrived now,
swept along by thoughtless happiness, like a circling bird darting
down upon a wheat-field, and lo! she was stopped in her flight, unable
to imagine the obstacle.
"What is the matter, Calyste?" she said, taking his hand.
"Nothing," replied the young man, releasing himself with cruel haste
as he remembered the projects of his aunt and her friend.
Tears came into Charlotte's eyes. She looked at the handsome Calyste
without ill-humor; but a first spasm of jealousy seized her, and she
felt the dreadful madness of rivalry when she came in sight of the two
Parisian women, and suspected the cause of his coldness.
Charlotte de Kergarouet was a girl of ordinary height, and commonplace
coloring; she had a little round face, made lively by a pair of black
eyes which sparkled with cleverness, abundant brown hair, a round
waist, a flat back, thin arms, and the curt, decided manner of a
provincial girl, who did not want to be taken for a little goose. She
was the petted child of the family on account of the preference her
aunt showed for her. At this moment she was wrapped in a mantle of
Scotch merino in large plaids, lined with green silk, which she had
worn on the boat. Her travelling-dress, of some common stuff, chastely
made with a chemisette body and a pleated collar, was fated to appear,
even to her own eyes, horrible in comparison with the fresh toilets of
Beatrix and Camille. She was painfully aware of the stockings soiled
among the rocks as she had jumped from the boat, of shabby leather
shoes, chosen for the purpose of not spoiling better ones on the
journey,--a fixed principle in the manners and customs of provincials.
As for the Vicomtesse de Kergarouet, she might stand as the type of a
provincial woman. Tall, hard, withered, full of pretensions, which did
not show themselves until they were mortified, talking much, and
catching, by dint of talking (as one cannons at billiards), a few
ideas, which gave her the reputation of wit, endeavoring to humiliate
Parisians, whenever she met them, with an assumption of country wisdom
and patronage, humbling herself to be exalted and furious at being
left upon her knees; fishing, as the English say, for compliments,
which she never caught; dressed in clothes that were exaggerated in
style, and yet ill cared for; mistaking want of good manners for
dignity, and trying to embarrass others by paying no attention to
them; refusing what she desired in order to have it offered again, and
to seem to yield only to entreaty; concerned about matters that others
have done with, and surprised at not being in the fashion; and
finally, unable to get through an hour without reference to Nantes,
matters of social life in Nantes, complaints of Nantes, criticism of
Nantes, and taking as personalities the remarks she forced out of
absent-minded or wearied listeners.
Her manners, language, and ideas had, more or less, descended to her
four daughters. To know Camille Maupin and Madame de Rochefide would
be for her a future, and the topic of a hundred conversations.
Consequently, she advanced toward the church as if she meant to take
it by assault, waving her handkerchief, unfolded for the purpose of
displaying the heavy corners of domestic embroidery, and trimmed with
flimsy lace. Her gait was tolerably bold and cavalier, which, however,
was of no consequence in a woman forty-seven years of age.
"Monsieur le chevalier," she said to Camille and Beatrix, pointing to
Calyste, who was mournfully following with Charlotte, "has conveyed to
me your friendly proposal, but we fear--my sister, my daughter, and
myself--to inconvenience you."
"Sister, I shall not put these ladies to inconvenience," said
Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel, sharply; "I can very well find a horse in
Saint-Nazaire to take me home."
Camille and Beatrix exchanged an oblique glance, which Calyste
intercepted, and that glance sufficed to annihilate all the memories
of his childhood, all his beliefs in the Kergarouets and Pen-Hoels,
and to put an end forever to the projects of the three families.
"We can very well put five in the carriage," replied Mademoiselle des
Touches, on whom Jacqueline turned her back, "even if we were
inconvenienced, which cannot be the case, with your slender figures.
Besides, I should enjoy the pleasure of doing a little service to
Calyste's friends. Your maid, madame, will find a seat by the
coachman, and your luggage, if you have any, can go behind the
carriage; I have no footman with me."
The viscountess was overwhelming in thanks, and complained that her
sister Jacqueline had been in such a hurry to see her niece that she
would not give her time to come properly in her own carriage with
post-horses, though, to be sure, the post-road was not only longer,
but more expensive; she herself was obliged to return almost
immediately to Nantes, where she had left three other little kittens,
who were anxiously awaiting her. Here she put her arm round
Charlotte's neck. Charlotte, in reply, raised her eyes to her mother
with the air of a little victim, which gave an impression to onlookers
that the viscountess bored her four daughters prodigiously by dragging
them on the scene very much as Corporal Trim produces his cap in
"You are a fortunate mother and--" began Camille, stopping short as
she remembered that Beatrix must have parted from her son when she
left her husband's house.
"Oh, yes!" said the viscountess; "if I have the misfortune of spending
my life in the country, and, above all, at Nantes, I have at least the
consolation of being adored by my children. Have you children?" she
said to Camille.
"I am Mademoiselle des Touches," replied Camille. "Madame is the
Marquise de Rochefide."
"Then I must pity you for not knowing the greatest happiness that
there is for us poor, simple women--is not that so, madame?" said the
viscountess, turning to Beatrix. "But you, mademoiselle, have so many
The tears came into Madame de Rochefide's eyes, and she turned away
toward the parapet to hide them. Calyste followed her.
"Madame," said Camille, in a low voice to the viscountess, "are you
not aware that the marquise is separated from her husband? She has not
seen her son for two years, and does not know when she will see him."
"You don't say so!" said Madame de Kergarouet. "Poor lady! is she
"No, by mutual consent," replied Camille.
"Ah, well! I understand that," said the viscountess boldly.
Old Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel, furious at being thus dragged into the
enemy's camp, had retreated to a short distance with her dear
Charlotte. Calyste, after looking about him to make sure that no one
could see him, seized the hand of the marquise, kissed it, and left a
tear upon it. Beatrix turned round, her tears dried by anger; she was
about to utter some terrible word, but it died upon her lips as she
saw the grief on the angelic face of the youth, as deeply touched by
her present sorrow as she was herself.
"Good heavens, Calyste!" said Camille in his ear, as he returned with
Madame de Rochefide, "are you to have /that/ for a mother-in-law, and
the little one for a wife?"
"Because her aunt is rich," replied Calyste, sarcastically.
The whole party now moved toward the inn, and the viscountess felt
herself obliged to make Camille a speech on the savages of
"I love Brittany, madame," replied Camille, gravely. "I was born at
Calyste could not help admiring Mademoiselle des Touches, who, by the
tone of her voice, the tranquillity of her look, and her quiet manner,
put him at his ease, in spite of the terrible declarations of the
preceding night. She seemed, however, a little fatigued; her eyes were
enlarged by dark circles round them, showing that he had not slept;
but the brow dominated the inward storm with cold placidity.
"What queens!" he said to Charlotte, calling her attention to the
marquise and Camille as he gave the girl his arm, to Mademoiselle de
Pen-Hoel's great satisfaction.
"What an idea your mother has had," said the old maid, taking her
niece's other arm, "to put herself in the company of that reprobate
"Oh, aunt, a woman who is the glory of Brittany!"
"The shame, my dear. Mind that you don't fawn upon her in that way."
"Mademoiselle Charlotte is right," said Calyste; "you are not just."
"Oh, you!" replied Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel, "she has bewitched you."
"I regard her," said Calyste, "with the same friendship that I feel
"Since when have the du Guenics taken to telling lies?" asked the old
"Since the Pen-Hoels have grown deaf," replied Calyste.
"Are you not in love with her?" demanded the old maid.
"I have been, but I am so no longer," he said.
"Bad boy! then why have you given us such anxiety? I know very well
that love is only foolishness; there is nothing solid but marriage,"
she remarked, looking at Charlotte.
Charlotte, somewhat reassured, hoped to recover her advantages by
recalling the memories of childhood. She leaned affectionately on
Calyste's arm, who resolved in his own mind to have a clear
explanation with the little heiress.
"Ah! what fun we shall have at /mouche/, Calyste!" she said; "what
good laughs we used to have over it!"
The horses were now put in; Camille placed Madame de Kergarouet and
Charlotte on the back seat. Jacqueline having disappeared, she
herself, with the marquise, sat forward. Calyste was, of course,
obliged to relinquish the pleasure on which he had counted, of driving
back with Camille and Beatrix, but he rode beside the carriage all the
way; the horses, being tired with the journey, went slowly enough to
allow him to keep his eyes on Beatrix.
History must lose the curious conversations that went on between these
four persons whom accident had so strangely united in this carriage,
for it is impossible to report the hundred and more versions which
went the round of Nantes on the remarks, replies, and witticisms which
the viscountess heard from the lips of the celebrated Camille Maupin
/herself/. She was, however, very careful not to repeat, not even to
comprehend, the actual replies made by Mademoiselle des Touches to her
absurd questions about Camille's authorship,--a penance to which all
authors are subjected, and which often make them expiate the few and
rare pleasures that they win.
"How do you write your books?" she began.
"Much as you do your worsted-work or knitting," replied Camille.
"But where do you find those deep reflections, those seductive
"Where you find the witty things you say, madame; there is nothing so
easy as to write books, provided you will--"
"Ah! does it depend wholly on the will? I shouldn't have thought it.
Which of your compositions do you prefer?"
"I find it difficult to prefer any of my little kittens."
"I see you are /blasee/ on compliments; there is really nothing new
that one can say."
"I assure you, madame, that I am very sensible to the form which you
give to yours."
The viscountess, anxious not to seem to neglect the marquise,
remarked, looking at Beatrix with a meaning air,--
"I shall never forget this journey made between Wit and Beauty."
"You flatter me, madame," said the marquise, laughing. "I assure you
that my wit is but a small matter, not to be mentioned by the side of
genius; besides, I think I have not said much as yet."
Charlotte, who keenly felt her mother's absurdity, looked at her,
endeavoring to stop its course; but Madame de Kergarouet went bravely
on in her tilt with the satirical Parisians.
Calyste, who was trotting slowly beside the carriage, could only see
the faces of the two ladies on the front seat, and his eyes expressed,
from time to time, rather painful thoughts. Forced, by her position,
to let herself be looked at, Beatrix constantly avoided meeting the
young man's eyes, and practised a manoeuvre most exasperating to
lovers; she held her shawl crossed and her hands crossed over it,
apparently plunged in the deepest meditation.
At a part of the road which is shaded, dewy, and verdant as a forest
glade, where the wheels of the carriage scarcely sounded, and the
breeze brought down balsamic odors and waved the branches above their
heads, Camille called Madame de Rochefide's attention to the harmonies
of the place, and pressed her knee to make her look at Calyste.
"How well he rides!" she said.
"Oh! Calyste does everything well," said Charlotte.
"He rides like an Englishman," said the marquise, indifferently.
"His mother is Irish,--an O'Brien," continued Charlotte, who thought
herself insulted by such indifference.
Camille and the marquise drove through Guerande with the viscountess
and her daughter, to the great astonishment of the inhabitants of the
town. They left the mother and daughter at the end of the lane leading
to the Guenic mansion, where a crowd came near gathering, attracted by
so unusual a sight. Calyste had ridden on to announce the arrival of
the company to his mother and aunt, who expected them to dinner, that
meal having been postponed till four o'clock. Then he returned to the
gate to give his arm to the two ladies, and bid Camille and Beatrix
He kissed the hand of Felicite, hoping thereby to be able to do the
same to that of the marquise; but she still kept her arms crossed
resolutely, and he cast moist glances of entreaty at her uselessly.
"You little ninny!" whispered Camille, lightly touching his ear with a
kiss that was full of friendship.
"Quite true," thought Calyste to himself as the carriage drove away.
"I am forgetting her advice--but I shall always forget it, I'm
Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel (who had intrepidly returned to Guerande on
the back of a hired horse), the Vicomtesse de Kergarouet, and
Charlotte found dinner ready, and were treated with the utmost
cordiality, if luxury were lacking, by the du Guenics. Mademoiselle
Zephirine had ordered the best wine to be brought from the cellar, and
Mariotte had surpassed herself in her Breton dishes.
The viscountess, proud of her trip with the illustrious Camille
Maupin, endeavored to explain to the assembled company the present
condition of modern literature, and Camille's place in it. But the
literary topic met the fate of whist; neither the du Guenics, nor the
abbe, nor the Chevalier du Halga understood one word of it. The rector
and the chevalier had arrived in time for the liqueurs at dessert.
As soon as Mariotte, assisted by Gasselin and Madame de Kergarouet's
maid, had cleared the table, there was a general and enthusiastic cry
for /mouche/. Joy appeared to reign in the household. All supposed
Calyste to be free of his late entanglement, and almost as good as
married to the little Charlotte. The young man alone kept silence. For
the first time in his life he had instituted comparisons between his
life-long friends and the two elegant women, witty, accomplished, and
tasteful, who, at the present moment, must be laughing heartily at the
provincial mother and daughter, judging by the look he intercepted
He was seeking in vain for some excuse to leave his family on this
occasion, and go up as usual to Les Touches, when Madame de Kergarouet
mentioned that she regretted not having accepted Mademoiselle des
Touches' offer of her carriage for the return journey to
Saint-Nazaire, which for the sake of her three other "dear kittens,"
she felt compelled to make on the following day.
Fanny, who alone saw her son's uneasiness, and the little hold which
Charlotte's coquetries and her mother's attentions were gaining on
him, came to his aid.
"Madame," she said to the viscountess, "you will, I think, be very
uncomfortable in the carrier's vehicle, and especially at having to
start so early in the morning. You would certainly have done better to
take the offer made to you by Mademoiselle des Touches. But it is not
too late to do so now. Calyste, go up to Les Touches and arrange the
matter; but don't be long; return to us soon."
"It won't take me ten minutes," cried Calyste, kissing his mother
violently as she followed him to the door.
Calyste ran with the lightness of a young fawn to Les Touches and
reached the portico just as Camille and Beatrix were leaving the grand
salon after their dinner. He had the sense to offer his arm to
"So you have abandoned your viscountess and her daughter for us," she
said, pressing his arm; "we are able now to understand the full merit
of that sacrifice."
"Are these Kergarouets related to the Portendueres, and to old Admiral
de Kergarouet, whose widow married Charles de Vandenesse?" asked
Madame de Rochefide.
"The viscountess is the admiral's great-niece," replied Camille.
"Well, she's a charming girl," said Beatrix, placing herself
gracefully in a Gothic chair. "She will just do for you, Monsieur du
"The marriage will never take place," said Camille hastily.
Mortified by the cold, calm air with which the marquise seemed to
consider the Breton girl as the only creature fit to mate him, Calyste
remained speechless and even mindless.
"Why so, Camille?" asked Madame de Rochefide.
"Really, my dear," said Camille, seeing Calyste's despair, "you are
not generous; did I advise Conti to marry?"
Beatrix looked at her friend with a surprise that was mingled with
Calyste, unable to understand Camille's motive, but feeling that she
came to his assistance and seeing in her cheeks that faint spot of
color which he knew to mean the presence of some violent emotion, went
up to her rather awkwardly and took her hand. But she left him and
seated herself carelessly at the piano, like a woman so sure of her
friend and lover that she can afford to leave him with another woman.
She played variations, improvising them as she played, on certain
themes chosen, unconsciously to herself, by the impulse of her mind;
they were melancholy in the extreme.
Beatrix seemed to listen to the music, but she was really observing
Calyste, who, much too young and artless for the part which Camille
was intending him to play, remained in rapt adoration before his real
After about an hour, during which time Camille continued to play,
Beatrix rose and retired to her apartments. Camille at once took
Calyste into her chamber and closed the door, fearing to be overheard;
for women have an amazing instinct of distrust.
"My child," she said, "if you want to succeed with Beatrix, you must
seem to love me still, or you will fail. You are a child; you know
nothing of women; all you know is how to love. Now loving and making
one's self beloved are two very different things. If you go your own
way you will fall into horrible suffering, and I wish to see you
happy. If you rouse, not the pride, but the self-will, the obstinacy
which is a strong feature in her character, she is capable of going
off at any moment to Paris and rejoining Conti; and what will you do
"I shall love her."
"You won't see her again."
"Oh! yes, I shall," he said.
"I shall follow her."
"Why, you are as poor as Job, my dear boy."
"My father, Gasselin, and I lived for three months in Vendee on one
hundred and fifty francs, marching night and day."
"Calyste," said Mademoiselle des Touches, "now listen to me. I know
that you have too much candor to play a part, too much honesty to
deceive; and I don't want to corrupt such a nature as yours. Yet
deception is the only way by which you can win Beatrix; I take it
therefore upon myself. In a week from now she shall love you."
"Is it possible?" he said clasping his hands.
"Yes," replied Camille, "but it will be necessary to overcome certain
pledges which she has made to herself. I will do that for you. You
must not interfere in the rather arduous task I shall undertake. The
marquise has a true aristocratic delicacy of perception; she is keenly
distrustful; no hunter could meet with game more wary or more
difficult to capture. You are wholly unable to cope with her; will you
promise me a blind obedience?"
"What must I do?" replied the youth.
"Very little," said Camille. "Come here every day and devote yourself
to me. Come to my rooms; avoid Beatrix if you meet her. We will stay
together till four o'clock; you shall employ the time in study, and I
in smoking. It will be hard for you not to see her, but I will find
you a number of interesting books. You have read nothing as yet of
George Sand. I will send one of my people this very evening to Nantes
to buy her works and those of other authors whom you ought to know.
The evenings we will spend together, and I permit you to make love to
me if you can--it will be for the best."
"I know, Camille, that your affection for me is great and so rare that
it makes me wish I had never met Beatrix," he replied with simple good
faith; "but I don't see what you hope from all this."
"I hope to make her love you."
"Good heavens! it cannot be possible!" he cried, again clasping his
hands toward Camille, who was greatly moved on seeing the joy that she
gave him at her own expense.
"Now listen to me carefully," she said. "If you break the agreement
between us, if you have--not a long conversation--but a mere exchange
of words with the marquise in private, if you let her question you, if
you fail in the silent part I ask you to play, which is certainly not
a very difficult one, I do assure you," she said in a serious tone,
"you will lose her forever."
"I don't understand the meaning of what you are saying to me," cried
Calyste, looking at Camille with adorable naivete.
"If you did understand it, you wouldn't be the noble and beautiful
Calyste that you are," she replied, taking his hand and kissing it.
Calyste then did what he had never before done; he took Camille round
the waist and kissed her gently, not with love but with tenderness, as
he kissed his mother. Mademoiselle des Touches did not restrain her
"Go now," she said, "my child; and tell your viscountess that my
carriage is at her command."
Calyste wanted to stay longer, but he was forced to obey her imperious
and imperative gesture.
He went home gaily; he believed that in a week the beautiful Beatrix
would love him. The players at /mouche/ found him once more the
Calyste they had missed for the last two months. Charlotte attributed
this change to herself. Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel was charming to him.
The Abbe Grimont endeavored to make out what was passing in the
mother's mind. The Chevalier du Halga rubbed his hands. The two old
maids were as lively as lizards. The viscountess lost one hundred sous
by accumulated /mouches/, which so excited the cupidity of Zephirine
that she regretted not being able to see the cards, and even spoke
sharply to her sister-in-law, who acted as the proxy of her eyes.
The party lasted till eleven o'clock. There were two defections, the
baron and the chevalier, who went to sleep in their respective chairs.
Mariotte had made galettes of buckwheat, the baroness produced a
tea-caddy. The illustrious house of du Guenic served a little supper
before the departure of its guests, consisting of fresh butter,
fruits, and cream, in addition to Mariotte's cakes; for which festal
event issued from their wrappings a silver teapot and some beautiful
old English china sent to the baroness by her aunts. This appearance
of modern splendor in the ancient hall, together with the exquisite
grace of its mistress, brought up like a true Irish lady to make and
pour out tea (that mighty affair to Englishwomen), had something
charming about them. The most exquisite luxury could never have
attained to the simple, modest, noble effect produced by this
sentiment of joyful hospitality.
A few moments after Calyste's departure from Les Touches, Beatrix, who
had heard him go, returned to Camille, whom she found with humid eyes
lying back on her sofa.
"What is it, Felicite?" asked the marquise.
"I am forty years old, and I love him!" said Mademoiselle des Touches,
with dreadful tones of agony in her voice, her eyes becoming hard and
brilliant. "If you knew, Beatrix, the tears I have shed over the lost
years of my youth! To be loved out of pity! to know that one owes
one's happiness only to perpetual care, to the slyness of cats, to
traps laid for innocence and all the youthful virtues--oh, it is
infamous! If it were not that one finds absolution in the magnitude of
love, in the power of happiness, in the certainty of being forever
above all other women in his memory, the first to carve on that young
heart the ineffaceable happiness of an absolute devotion, I would
--yes, if he asked it,--I would fling myself into the sea. Sometimes I
find myself wishing that he would ask it; it would then be an
oblation, not a suicide. Ah, Beatrix, by coming here you have,
unconsciously, set me a hard task. I know it will be difficult to keep
him against you; but you love Conti, you are noble and generous, you
will not deceive me; on the contrary, you will help me to retain my
Calyste's love. I expected the impression you would make upon him, but
I have not committed the mistake of seeming jealous; that would only
have added fuel to the flame. On the contrary, before you came, I
described you in such glowing colors that you hardly realize the
portrait, although you are, it seems to me, more beautiful than ever."
This vehement elegy, in which truth was mingled with deception,
completely duped the marquise. Claude Vignon had told Conti the
reasons for his departure, and Beatrix was, of course, informed of
them. She determined therefore to behave with generosity and give the
cold shoulder to Calyste; but at the same instant there came into her
soul that quiver of joy which vibrates in the heart of every woman
when she finds herself beloved. The love a woman inspires in any man's
heart is flattery without hypocrisy, and it is impossible for some
women to forego it; but when that man belongs to a friend, his homage
gives more than pleasure,--it gives delight. Beatrix sat down beside
her friend and began to coax her prettily.
"You have not a white hair," she said; "you haven't even a wrinkle;
your temples are just as fresh as ever; whereas I know more than one
woman of thirty who is obliged to cover hers. Look, dear," she added,
lifting her curls, "see what that journey to Italy has cost me."
Her temples showed an almost imperceptible withering of the texture of
the delicate skin. She raised her sleeves and showed Camille the same
slight withering of the wrists, where the transparent tissue suffered
the blue network of swollen veins to be visible, and three deep lines
made a bracelet of wrinkles.
"There, my dear, are two spots which--as a certain writer ferreting
for the miseries of women, has said--never lie," she continued. "One
must needs have suffered to know the truth of his observation. Happily
for us, most men know nothing about it; they don't read us like that
"Your letter told me all," replied Camille; "happiness ignores
everything but itself. You boasted too much of yours to be really
happy. Truth is deaf, dumb, and blind where love really is.
Consequently, seeing very plainly that you have your reasons for
abandoning Conti, I have feared to have you here. My dear, Calyste is
an angel; he is as good as he is beautiful; his innocent heart will
not resist your eyes; already he admires you too much not to love you
at the first encouragement; your coldness can alone preserve him to
me. I confess to you, with the cowardice of true passion, that if he
were taken from me I should die. That dreadful book of Benjamin
Constant, 'Adolphe,' tells us only of Adolphe's sorrows; but what
about those of the woman, hey? The man did not observe them enough to
describe them; and what woman would have dared to reveal them? They
would dishonor her sex, humiliate its virtues, and pass into vice. Ah!
I measure the abyss before me by my fears, by these sufferings that
are those of hell. But, Beatrix, I will tell you this: in case I am
abandoned, my choice is made."
"What is it?" cried Beatrix, with an eagerness that made Camille
The two friends looked at each other with the keen attention of
Venetian inquisitors; their souls clashed in that rapid glance, and
struck fire like flints. The marquise lowered her eyes.
"After man, there is nought but God," said the celebrated woman. "God
is the Unknown. I shall fling myself into that as into some vast
abyss. Calyste has sworn to me that he admires you only as he would a
picture; but alas! you are but twenty-eight, in the full magnificence
of your beauty. The struggle thus begins between him and me by
falsehood. But I have one support; happily I know a means to keep him
true to me, and I shall triumph."
"That is my secret, dear. Let me have the benefits of my age. If
Claude Vignon, as Conti has doubtless told you, flings me back into
the gulf, I, who had climbed to a rock which I thought inaccessible,
--I will at least gather the pale and fragile, but delightful flowers
that grow in its depths."
Madame de Rochefide was moulded like wax in those able hands. Camille
felt an almost savage pleasure in thus entrapping her rival in her
toils. She sent her to bed that night piqued by curiosity, floating
between jealousy and generosity, but most assuredly with her mind full
of the beautiful Calyste.
"She will be enchanted to deceive me," thought Camille, as she kissed
Then, when she was alone, the author, the constructor of dramas, gave
place to the woman, and she burst into tears. Filling her hookah with
tobacco soaked in opium, she spent the greater part of the night in
smoking, dulling thus the sufferings of her soul, and seeing through
the clouds about her the beautiful young head of her late lover.
"What a glorious book to write, if I were only to express my pain!"
she said to herself. "But it is written already; Sappho lived before
me. And Sappho was young. A fine and touching heroine truly, a woman
of forty! Ah! my poor Camille, smoke your hookah; you haven't even the
resource of making a poem of your misery--that's the last drop of
anguish in your cup!"
The next morning Calyste came before mid-day and slipped upstairs, as
he was told, into Camille's own room, where he found the books.
Felicite sat before the window, smoking, contemplating in turn the
marshes, the sea, and Calyste, to whom she now and then said a few
words about Beatrix. At one time, seeing the marquise strolling about
the garden, she raised a curtain in a way to attract her attention,
and also to throw a band of light across Calyste's book.
"To-day, my child, I shall ask you to stay to dinner; but you must
refuse, with a glance at the marquise, which will show her how much
you regret not staying."
When the three actors met in the salon, and this comedy was played,
Calyste felt for a moment his equivocal position, and the glance that
he cast on Beatrix was far more expressive than Felicite expected.
Beatrix had dressed herself charmingly.
"What a bewitching toilet, my dearest!" said Camille, when Calyste had
These manoeuvres lasted six days, during which time many conversations,
into which Camille Maupin put all her ability, took place, unknown to
Calyste, between herself and the marquise. They were like the
preliminaries of a duel between two women,--a duel without truce, in
which the assault was made on both sides with snares, feints, false
generosities, deceitful confessions, crafty confidences, by which one
hid and the other bared her love; and in which the sharp steel of
Camille's treacherous words entered the heart of her friend, and left
its poison there. Beatrix at last took offence at what she thought
Camille's distrust; she considered it out of place between them. At
the same time she was enchanted to find the great writer a victim to
the pettiness of her sex, and she resolved to enjoy the pleasure of
showing her where her greatness ended, and how even she could be
"My dear, what is to be the excuse to-day for Monsieur du Guenic's not
dining with us?" she asked, looking maliciously at her friend. "Monday
you said we had engagements; Tuesday the dinner was poor; Wednesday
you were afraid his mother would be angry; Thursday you wanted to take
a walk with me; and yesterday you simply dismissed him without a
reason. To-day I shall have my way, and I mean that he shall stay."
"Already, my dear!" said Camille, with cutting irony. The marquise
blushed. "Stay, Monsieur du Guenic," said Camille, in the tone of a
Beatrix became cold and hard, contradictory in tone, epigrammatic, and
almost rude to Calyste, whom Felicite sent home to play /mouche/ with
Charlotte de Kergarouet.
"/She/ is not dangerous at any rate," said Beatrix, sarcastically.
Young lovers are like hungry men; kitchen odors will not appease their
hunger; they think too much of what is coming to care for the means
that bring it. As Calyste walked back to Guerande, his soul was full
of Beatrix; he paid no heed to the profound feminine cleverness which
Felicite was displaying on his behalf. During this week the marquise
had only written once to Conti, a symptom of indifference which had
not escaped the watchful eyes of Camille, who imparted it to Calyste.
All Calyste's life was concentrated in the short moment of the day
during which he was allowed to see the marquise. This drop of water,
far from allaying his thirst, only redoubled it. The magic promise,
"Beatrix shall love you," made by Camille, was the talisman with which
he strove to restrain the fiery ardor of his passion. But he knew not
how to consume the time; he could not sleep, and spent the hours of
the night in reading; every evening he brought back with him, as
Mariotte remarked, cartloads of books.
His aunt called down maledictions on the head of Mademoiselle des
Touches; but his mother, who had gone on several occasions to his room
on seeing his light burning far into the night, knew by this time the
secret of his conduct. Though for her love was a sealed book, and she
was even unaware of her own ignorance, Fanny rose through maternal
tenderness into certain ideas of it; but the depths of such sentiment
being dark and obscured by clouds to her mind, she was shocked at the
state in which she saw him; the solitary uncomprehended desire of his
soul, which was evidently consuming him, simply terrified her. Calyste
had but one thought; Beatrix was always before him. In the evenings,
while cards were being played, his abstraction resembled his father's
somnolence. Finding him so different from what he was when he loved
Camille, the baroness became aware, with a sort of horror, of the
symptoms of real love,--a species of possession which had seized upon
her son,--a love unknown within the walls of that old mansion.
Feverish irritability, a constant absorption in thought, made Calyste
almost doltish. Often he would sit for hours with his eyes fixed on
some figure in the tapestry. One morning his mother implored him to
give up Les Touches, and leave the two women forever.
"Not go to Les Touches!" he cried.
"Oh! yes, yes, go! do not look so, my darling!" she cried, kissing him
on the eyes that had flashed such flames.
Under these circumstances Calyste often came near losing the fruit of
Camille's plot through the Breton fury of his love, of which he was
ceasing to be the master. Finally, he swore to himself, in spite of
his promise to Felicite, to see Beatrix, and speak to her. He wanted
to read her eyes, to bathe in their light, to examine every detail of
her dress, breathe its perfume, listen to the music of her voice,
watch the graceful composition of her movements, embrace at a glance
the whole figure, and study her as a general studies the field where
he means to win a decisive battle. He willed as lovers will; he was
grasped by desires which closed his ears and darkened his intellect,
and threw him into an unnatural state in which he was conscious of
neither obstacles, nor distances, nor the existence even of his own
One morning he resolved to go to Les Touches at an earlier hour than
that agreed upon, and endeavor to meet Beatrix in the garden. He knew
she walked there daily before breakfast.
Mademoiselle des Touches and the marquise had gone, as it happened, to
see the marshes and the little bay with its margin of fine sand, where
the sea penetrates and lies like a lake in the midst of the dunes.
They had just returned, and were walking up a garden path beside the
lawn, conversing as they walked.
"If the scenery pleases you," said Camille, "we must take Calyste and
make a trip to Croisic. There are splendid rocks there, cascades of
granite, little bays with natural basins, charmingly unexpected and
capricious things, besides the sea itself, with its store of marble
fragments,--a world of amusement. Also you will see women making fuel
with cow-dung, which they nail against the walls of their houses to
dry in the sun, after which they pile it up as we do peat in Paris."
"What! will you really risk Calyste?" cried the marquise, laughing, in
a tone which proved that Camille's ruse had answered its purpose.
"Ah, my dear," she replied, "if you did but know the angelic soul of
that dear child, you would understand me. In him, mere beauty is
nothing; one must enter that pure heart, which is amazed at every step
it takes into the kingdom of love. What faith! what grace! what
innocence! The ancients were right enough in the worship they paid to
sacred beauty. Some traveller, I forget who, relates that when wild
horses lose their leader they choose the handsomest horse in the herd
for his successor. Beauty, my dear, is the genius of things; it is the
ensign which Nature hoists over her most precious creations; it is the
trust of symbols as it is the greatest of accidents. Did any one ever
suppose that angels could be deformed? are they not necessarily a
combination of grace and strength? What is it that makes us stand for
hours before some picture in Italy, where genius has striven through
years of toil to realize but one of those accidents of Nature? Come,
call up your sense of the truth of things and answer me; is it not the
Idea of Beauty which our souls associate with moral grandeur? Well,
Calyste is one of those dreams, those visions, realized. He has the
regal power of a lion, tranquilly unsuspicious of its royalty. When he
feels at his ease, he is witty; and I love his girlish timidity. My
soul rests in his heart away from all corruptions, all ideas of
knowledge, literature, the world, society, politics,--those useless
accessories under which we stifle happiness. I am what I have never
been,--a child! I am sure of him, but I like to play at jealousy; he
likes it too. Besides, that is part of my secret."
Beatrix walked on pensively, in silence. Camille endured unspeakable
martyrdom, and she cast a sidelong look at her companion which looked
"Ah, my dear; but /you/ are happy," said Beatrix presently, laying her
hand on Camille's arm like a woman wearied out with some inward
"Yes, happy indeed!" replied Felicite, with savage bitterness.
The two women dropped upon a bench from a sense of exhaustion. No
creature of her sex was ever played upon like an instrument with more
Machiavellian penetration than the marquise throughout this week.
"Yes, you are happy, but I!" she said,--"to know of Conti's
infidelities, and have to bear them!"
"Why not leave him?" said Camille, seeing the hour had come to strike
a decisive blow.
"Oh! poor boy!"
Both were gazing into a clump of trees with a stupefied air.
"I will go and hasten breakfast; my walk has given me an appetite,"
"Our conversation has taken away mine," remarked Beatrix.
The marquise in her morning dress was outlined in white against the
dark greens of the foliage. Calyste, who had slipped through the salon
into the garden, took a path, along which he sauntered as though he
were meeting her by accident. Beatrix could not restrain a quiver as
he approached her.
"Madame, in what way did I displease you yesterday?" he said, after
the first commonplace sentences had been exchanged.
"But you have neither pleased me nor displeased me," she said, in a
The tone, air, and manner in which the marquise said these words
"Am I so indifferent to you?" he said in a troubled voice, as the
tears came into his eyes.
"Ought we not to be indifferent to each other?" replied the marquise.
"Have we not, each of us, another, and a binding attachment?"
"Oh!" cried Calyste, "if you mean Camille, I did love her, but I love
her no longer."
"Then why are you shut up together every morning?" she said, with a
treacherous smile. "I don't suppose that Camille, in spite of her
passion for tobacco, prefers her cigar to you, or that you, in your
admiration for female authors, spend four hours a day in reading their
"So then you know--" began the guileless young Breton, his face
glowing with the happiness of being face to face with his idol.
"Calyste!" cried Camille, angrily, suddenly appearing and interrupting
him. She took his arm and drew him away to some distance. "Calyste, is
this what you promised me?"
Beatrix heard these words of reproach as Mademoiselle des Touches
disappeared toward the house, taking Calyste with her. She was
stupefied by the young man's assertion, and could not comprehend it;
she was not as strong as Claude Vignon. In truth, the part being
played by Camille Maupin, as shocking as it was grand, is one of those
wicked grandeurs which women only practise when driven to extremity.
By it their hearts are broken; in it the feelings of their sex are
lost to them; it begins an abnegation which ends by either plunging
them to hell, or lifting them to heaven.
During breakfast, which Calyste was invited to share, the marquise,
whose sentiments could be noble and generous, made a sudden return
upon herself, resolving to stifle the germs of love which were rising
in her heart. She was neither cold nor hard to Calyste, but gently
indifferent,--a course which tortured him. Felicite brought forward a
proposition that they should make, on the next day but one, an
excursion into the curious and interesting country lying between Les
Touches, Croisic, and the village of Batz. She begged Calyste to
employ himself on the morrow in hiring a boat and sailors to take them
across the little bay, undertaking herself to provide horses and
provisions, and all else that was necessary for a party of pleasure,
in which there was to be no fatigue. Beatrix stopped the matter short,
however, by saying that she did not wish to make excursions round the
country. Calyste's face, which had beamed with delight at the
prospect, was suddenly overclouded.
"What are you afraid of, my dear?" asked Camille.
"My position is so delicate I do not wish to compromise--I will not
say my reputation, but my happiness," she said, meaningly, with a
glance at the young Breton. "You know very well how suspicious Conti
can be; if he knew--"
"Who will tell him?"
"He is coming back here to fetch me," said Beatrix.
Calyste turned pale. In spite of all that Camille could urge, in spite
of Calyste's entreaties, Madame de Rochefide remained inflexible, and
showed what Camille had called her obstinacy. Calyste left Les Touches
the victim of one of those depressions of love which threaten, in
certain men, to turn into madness. He began to revolve in his mind
some decided means of coming to an explanation with Beatrix.
When Calyste reached home, he did not leave his room until dinner
time; and after dinner he went back to it. At ten o'clock his mother,
uneasy at his absence, went to look for him, and found him writing in
the midst of a pile of blotted and half-torn paper. He was writing to
Beatrix, for distrust of Camille had come into his mind. The air and
manner of the marquise during their brief interview in the garden had
singularly encouraged him.
No first love-letter ever was or ever will be, as may readily be
supposed, a brilliant effort of the mind. In all young men not tainted
by corruption such a letter is written with gushings from the heart,
too overflowing, too multifarious not to be the essence, the elixir of
many other letters begun, rejected, and rewritten.
Here is the one that Calyste finally composed and which he read aloud
to his poor, astonished mother. To her the old mansion seemed to have
taken fire; this love of her son flamed up in it like the glare of a
Calyste to Madame la Marquise de Rochefide.
Madame,--I loved you when you were to me but a dream; judge,
therefore, of the force my love acquired when I saw you. The dream
was far surpassed by the reality. It is my grief and my misfortune
to have nothing to say to you that you do not know already of your
beauty and your charms; and yet, perhaps, they have awakened in no
other heart so deep a sentiment as they have in me.
In so many ways you are beautiful; I have studied you so much
while thinking of you day and night that I have penetrated the
mysteries of your being, the secrets of your heart, and your
delicacy, so little appreciated. Have you ever been loved,
understood, adored as you deserve to be?
Let me tell you now that there is not a trait in your nature which
my heart does not interpret; your pride is understood by mine; the
grandeur of your glance, the grace of your bearing, the
distinction of your movements,--all things about your person are
in harmony with the thoughts, the hopes, the desires hidden in the
depths of your soul; it is because I have divined them all that I
think myself worthy of your notice. If I had not become, within
the last few days, another yourself, I could not speak to you of
myself; this letter, indeed, relates far more to you than it does
Beatrix, in order to write to you, I have silenced my youth, I
have laid aside myself, I have aged my thoughts,--or, rather, it
is you who have aged them, by this week of dreadful sufferings
caused, innocently indeed, by you.
Do not think me one of those common lovers at whom I have heard
you laugh so justly. What merit is there in loving a young and
beautiful and wise and noble woman. Alas! I have no merit! What
can I be to you? A child, attracted by effulgence of beauty and by
moral grandeur, as the insects are attracted to the light. You
cannot do otherwise than tread upon the flowers of my soul; they
are there at your feet, and all my happiness consists in your
stepping on them.
Absolute devotion, unbounded faith, love unquenchable,--all these
treasures of a true and tender heart are nothing, nothing! they
serve only to love with, they cannot win the love we crave.
Sometimes I do not understand why a worship so ardent does not
warm its idol; and when I meet your eye, so cold, so stern, I turn
to ice within me. Your disdain, /that/ is the acting force between
us, not my worship. Why? You cannot hate me as much as I love you;
why, then, does the weaker feeling rule the stronger? I loved
Felicite with all the powers of my heart; yet I forgot her in a
day, in a moment, when I saw you. She was my error; you are my
You have, unknowingly, destroyed my happiness, and yet you owe me
nothing in return. I loved Camille without hope, and I have no
hope from you; nothing is changed but my divinity. I was a pagan;
I am now a Christian, that is all--
Except this: you have taught me that to love is the greatest of
all joys; the joy of being loved comes later. According to
Camille, it is not loving to love for a short time only; the love
that does not grow from day to day, from hour to hour, is a mere
wretched passion. In order to grow, love must not see its end; and
she saw the end of ours, the setting of our sun of love. When I
beheld you, I understood her words, which, until then, I had
disputed with all my youth, with all the ardor of my desires, with
the despotic sternness of twenty years. That grand and noble
Camille mingled her tears with mine, and yet she firmly rejected
the love she saw must end. Therefore I am free to love you here on
earth and in the heaven above us, as we love God. If you loved me,
you would have no such arguments as Camille used to overthrow my
love. We are both young; we could fly on equal wing across our
sunny heaven, not fearing storms as that grand eagle feared them.
But ha! what am I saying? my thoughts have carried me beyond the
humility of my real hopes. Believe me, believe in the submission,
the patience, the mute adoration which I only ask you not to wound
uselessly. I know, Beatrix, that you cannot love me without the
loss of your self-esteem; therefore I ask for no return. Camille
once said there was some hidden fatality in names, /a propos/ of
hers. That fatality I felt for myself on the jetty of Guerande,
when I read on the shores of the ocean your name. Yes, you will
pass through my life as Beatrice passed through that of Dante. My
heart will be a pedestal for that white statue, cold, distant,
jealous, and oppressive.
It is forbidden to you to love me; I know that. You will suffer a
thousand deaths, you will be betrayed, humiliated, unhappy; but
you have in you a devil's pride, which binds you to that column
you have once embraced,--you are like Samson, you will perish by
holding to it. But this I have not divined; my love is too blind
for that; Camille has told it to me. It is not my mind that speaks
to you of this, it is hers. I have no mind with which to reason
when I think of you; blood gushes from my heart, and its hot wave
darkens my intellect, weakens my strength, paralyzes my tongue,
and bends my knees. I can only adore you, whatever you may do to
Camille calls your resolution obstinacy; I defend you, and I call
it virtue. You are only the more beautiful because of it. I know
my destiny, and the pride of a Breton can rise to the height of
the woman who makes her pride a virtue.
Therefore, dear Beatrix, be kind, be consoling to me. When victims
were selected, they crowned them with flowers; so do you to me;
you owe me the flowers of pity, the music of my sacrifice. Am I
not a proof of your grandeur? Will you not rise to the level of my
disdained love,--disdained in spite of its sincerity, in spite of
its immortal passion?
Ask Camille how I behaved to her after the day she told me, on her
return to Les Touches, that she loved Claude Vignon. I was mute; I
suffered in silence. Well, for you I will show even greater
strength,--I will bury my feelings in my heart, if you will not
drive me to despair, if you will only understand my heroism. A
single word of praise from you is enough to make me bear the pains
But if you persist in this cold silence, this deadly disdain, you
will make me think you fear me. Ah, Beatrix, be with me what you
are,--charming, witty, gay, and tender. Talk to me of Conti, as
Camille has talked to me of Claude. I have no other spirit in my
soul, no other genius but that of love; nothing is there that can
make you fear me; I will be in your presence as if I loved you
Can you reject so humble a prayer?--the prayer of a child who only
asks that his Light shall lighten him, that his Sun may warm him.
He whom you love can be with you at all times, but I, poor
Calyste! have so few days in which to see you; you will soon be
freed from me. Therefore I may return to Les Touches to-morrow,
may I not? You will not refuse my arm for that excursion? We shall
go together to Croisic and to Batz? If you do not go I shall take
it for an answer,--Calyste will understand it!
There were four more pages of the same sort in close, fine writing,
wherein Calyste explained the sort of threat conveyed in the last
words, and related his youth and life; but the tale was chiefly told
in exclamatory phrases, with many of those points and dashes of which
modern literature is so prodigal when it comes to crucial passages,
--as though they were planks offered to the reader's imagination, to
help him across crevasses. The rest of this artless letter was merely
repetition. But if it was not likely to touch Madame de Rochefide, and
would very slightly interest the admirers of strong emotions, it made
the mother weep, as she said to her son, in her tender voice,--
"My child, you are not happy."
This tumultuous poem of sentiments which had arisen like a storm in
Calyste's heart, terrified the baroness; for the first time in her
life she read a love-letter.
Calyste was standing in deep perplexity; how could he send that
letter? He followed his mother back into the salon with the letter in
his pocket and burning in his heart like fire. The Chevalier du Halga
was still there, and the last deal of a lively /mouche/ was going on.
Charlotte de Kergarouet, in despair at Calyste's indifference, was
paying attention to his father as a means of promoting her marriage.
Calyste wandered hither and thither like a butterfly which had flown
into the room by mistake. At last, when /mouche/ was over, he drew the
Chevalier du Halga into the great salon, from which he sent away
Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel's page and Mariotte.
"What does he want of the chevalier?" said old Zephirine, addressing
her friend Jacqueline.
"Calyste strikes me as half-crazy," replied Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel.
"He pays Charlotte no more attention than if she were a /paludiere/."
Remembering that the Chevalier du Halga had the reputation of having
navigated in his youth the waters of gallantry, it came into Calyste's
head to consult him.
"What is the best way to send a letter secretly to one's mistress," he
said to the old gentleman in a whisper.
"Well, you can slip it into the hand of her maid with a louis or two
underneath it; for sooner or later the maid will find out the secret,
and it is just as well to let her into it at once," replied the
chevalier, on whose face was the gleam of a smile. "But, on the whole,
it is best to give the letter yourself."
"A louis or two!" exclaimed Calyste.
He snatched up his hat and ran to Les Touches, where he appeared like
an apparition in the little salon, guided thither by the voices of
Camille and Beatrix. They were sitting on the sofa together,
apparently on the best of terms. Calyste, with the headlong impulse of
love, flung himself heedlessly on the sofa beside the marquise, took
her hand, and slipped the letter within it. He did this so rapidly
that Felicite, watchful as she was, did not perceive it. Calyste's
heart was tingling with an emotion half sweet, half painful, as he
felt the hand of Beatrix press his own, and saw her, without
interrupting her words, or seeming in the least disconcerted, slip the
letter into her glove.
"You fling yourself on a woman's dress without mercy," she said,
"Calyste is a boy who is wanting in common-sense," said Felicite, not
sparing him an open rebuke.
Calyste rose, took Camille's hand, and kissed it. Then he went to the
piano and ran his finger-nail over the notes, making them all sound at
once, like a rapid scale. This exuberance of joy surprised Camille,
and made her thoughtful; she signed to Calyste to come to her.
"What is the matter with you?" she whispered in his ear.
"Nothing," he replied.
"There is something between them," thought Mademoiselle des Touches.
The marquise was impenetrable. Camille tried to make Calyste talk,
hoping that his artless mind would betray itself; but the youth
excused himself on the ground that his mother expected him, and he
left Les Touches at eleven o'clock,--not, however, without having
faced the fire of a piercing glance from Camille, to whom that excuse
was made for the first time.
After the agitations of a wakeful night filled with visions of
Beatrix, and after going a score of times through the chief street of
Guerande for the purpose of meeting the answer to his letter, which
did not come, Calyste finally received the following reply, which the
marquise's waiting-woman, entering the hotel du Guenic, presented to
him. He carried it to the garden, and there, in the grotto, he read as
Madame de Rochefide to Calyste.
You are a noble child, but you are only a child. You are bound to
Camille, who adores you. You would not find in me either the
perfections that distinguish her or the happiness that she can
give you. Whatever you may think, she is young and I am old; her
heart is full of treasures, mine is empty; she has for you a
devotion you ill appreciate; she is unselfish; she lives only for
you and in you. I, on the other hand, am full of doubts; I should
drag you down to a wearisome life, without grandeur of any kind,
--a life ruined by my own conduct. Camille is free; she can go and
come as she will; I am a slave.
You forget that I love and am beloved. The situation in which I
have placed myself forbids my accepting homage. That a man should
love me, or say he loves me, is an insult. To turn to another
would be to place myself at the level of the lowest of my sex.
You, who are young and full of delicacy, how can you oblige me to
say these things, which rend my heart as they issue from it?
I preferred the scandal of an irreparable deed to the shame of
constant deception; my own loss of station to a loss of honesty.
In the eyes of many persons whose esteem I value, I am still
worthy; but if I permitted another man to love me, I should fall
indeed. The world is indulgent to those whose constancy covers, as
with a mantle, the irregularity of their happiness; but it is
pitiless to vice.
You see I feel neither disdain nor anger; I am answering your
letter frankly and with simplicity. You are young; you are
ignorant of the world; you are carried away by fancy; you are
incapable, like all whose lives are pure, of making the
reflections which evil suggests. But I will go still further.
Were I destined to be the most humiliated of women, were I forced
to hide fearful sorrows, were I betrayed, abandoned,--which, thank
God, is wholly impossible,--no one in this world would see me
more. Yes, I believe I should find courage to kill a man who,
seeing me in that situation, should talk to me of love.
You now know my mind to its depths. Perhaps I ought to thank you
for having written to me. After receiving your letter, and, above
all, after making you this reply, I could be at my ease with you
in Camille's house, I could act out my natural self, and be what
you ask of me; but I hardly need speak to you of the bitter
ridicule that would overwhelm me if my eyes or my manner ceased to
express the sentiments of which you complain. A second robbery
from Camille would be a proof of her want of power which no woman
could twice forgive. Even if I loved you, if I were blind to all
else, if I forgot all else, I should still see Camille! Her love
for you is a barrier too high to be o'erleaped by any power, even
by the wings of an angel; none but a devil would fail to recoil
before such treachery. In this, my dear Calyste, are many motives
which delicate and noble women keep to themselves, of which you
men know nothing; nor could you understand them, even though you
were all as like our sex as you yourself appear to be at this
My child, you have a mother who has shown you what you ought to be
in life. She is pure and spotless; she fulfils her destiny nobly;
what I have heard of her has filled my eyes with tears, and in the
depths of my heart I envy her. I, too, might have been what she
is! Calyste, that is the woman your wife should be, and such
should be her life. I will never send you back, in jest, as I have
done, to that little Charlotte, who would weary you to death; but
I do commend you to some divine young girl who is worthy of your
If I were yours, your life would be blighted. You would have given
me your whole existence, and I--you see, I am frank--I should have
taken it; I should have gone with you, Heaven knows where, far
from the world! But I should have made you most unhappy; for I am
jealous. I see lions lurking in the path, and monsters in drops of
water. I am made wretched by trifles that most women put up with;
inexorable thoughts--from my heart, not yours--would poison our
existence and destroy my life. If a man, after ten years'
happiness, were not as respectful and as delicate as he was to me
at first, I should resent the change; it would abase me in my own
eyes! Such a lover could not believe in the Amadis and the Cyrus
of my dreams. To-day true love is but a dream, not a reality. I
see in yours only the joy of a desire the end of which is, as yet,
unperceived by you.
For myself, I am not forty years old; I have not bent my pride
beneath the yoke of experience,--in short, I am a woman too young
to be anything but odious. I will not answer for my temper; my
grace and charm are all external. Perhaps I have not yet suffered
enough to have the indulgent manners and the absolute tenderness
which come to us from cruel disappointments. Happiness has its
insolence, and I, I fear, am insolent. Camille will be always your
devoted slave; I should be an unreasonable tyrant. Besides,
Camille was brought to you by your guardian angel, at the turning
point of your life, to show you the career you ought to follow,--a
career in which you cannot fail.
I know Felicite! her tenderness is inexhaustible; she may ignore
the graces of our sex, but she possesses that fruitful strength,
that genius for constancy, that noble intrepidity which makes us
willing to accept the rest. She will marry you to some young girl,
no matter what she suffers. She will find you a free Beatrix--if
it is a Beatrix indeed who answers to your desires in a wife, and
to your dreams; she will smooth all the difficulties in your way.
The sale of a single acre of her ground in Paris would free your
property in Brittany; she will make you her heir; are you not
already her son by adoption?
Alas! what could I do for your happiness? Nothing. Do not betray
that infinite love which contents itself with the duties of
motherhood. Ah! I think her very fortunate, my Camille! She can
well afford to forgive your feeling for poor Beatrix; women of her
age are indulgent to such fancies. When they are sure of being
loved, they will pardon a passing infidelity; in fact, it is often
one of their keenest pleasures to triumph over a younger rival.
Camille is above such women, and that remark does not refer to
her; but I make it to ease your mind.
I have studied Camille closely; she is, to my eyes, one of the
greatest women of our age. She has mind and she has goodness,--two
qualities almost irreconcilable in woman; she is generous and
simple,--two other grandeurs seldom found together in our sex. I
have seen in the depths of her soul such treasures that the
beautiful line of Dante on eternal happiness, which I heard her
interpreting to you the other day, "Senza brama sicura ricchezza,"
seems as if made for her. She has talked to me of her career; she
has related her life, showing me how love, that object of our
prayers, our dreams, has ever eluded her. I replied that she
seemed to me an instance of the difficulty, if not the
impossibility, of uniting in one person two great glories.
You, Calyste, are one of the angelic souls whose mate it seems
impossible to find; but Camille will obtain for you, even if she
dies in doing so, the hand of some young girl with whom you can
make a happy home.
For myself, I hold out to you a friendly hand, and I count, not on
your heart, but on your mind, to make you in future a brother to
me, as I shall be a sister to you; and I desire that this letter
may terminate a correspondence which, between Les Touches and
Guerande, is rather absurd.
Beatrix de Casteran.