Part 4 out of 7
The baroness, stirred to the depths of her soul by the strange
exhibitions and the rapid changes of her boy's emotions, could no
longer sit quietly at her work in the ancient hall. After looking at
Calyste from time to time, she finally rose and came to him in a
manner that was humble, and yet bold; she wanted him to grant a favor
which she felt she had a right to demand.
"Well," she said, trembling, and looking at the letter, but not
directly asking for it.
Calyste read it aloud to her. And these two noble souls, so simple, so
guileless, saw nothing in that wily and treacherous epistle of the
malice or the snares which the marquise had written into it.
"She is a noble woman, a grand woman!" said the baroness, with
moistened eyes. "I will pray to God for her. I did not know that a
woman could abandon her husband and child, and yet preserve a soul so
virtuous. She is indeed worthy of pardon."
"Have I not every reason to adore her?" cried Calyste.
"But where will this love lead you?" said the baroness. "Ah, my child,
how dangerous are women with noble sentiments! There is less to fear
in those who are bad! Marry Charlotte de Kergarouet and release
two-thirds of the estate. By selling a few farms, Mademoiselle de
Pen-Hoel can bestow that grand result upon you in the marriage contract,
and she will also help you, with her experience, to make the most of your
property. You will be able to leave your children a great name, and a
"Forget Beatrix!" said Calyste, in a muffled voice, with his eyes on
He left the baroness, and went up to his own room to write an answer
to the marquise.
Madame du Guenic, whose heart retained every word of Madame de
Rochefide's letter, felt the need of some help in comprehending it
more clearly, and also the grounds of Calyste's hope. At this hour the
Chevalier du Halga was always to be seen taking his dog for a walk on
the mall. The baroness, certain of finding him there, put on her
bonnet and shawl and went out.
The sight of the Baronne du Guenic walking in Guerande elsewhere than
to church, or on the two pretty roads selected as promenades on /fete/
days, accompanied by the baron and Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel, was an
event so remarkable that two hours later, throughout the whole town,
people accosted each other with the remark,--
"Madame du Guenic went out to-day; did you meet her?"
As soon as this amazing news reached the ears of Mademoiselle de
Pen-Hoel, she said to her niece,--
"Something very extraordinary is happening at the du Guenics."
"Calyste is madly in love with that beautiful Marquise de Rochefide,"
said Charlotte. "I ought to leave Guerande and return to Nantes."
The Chevalier du Halga, much surprised at being sought by the
baroness, released the chain of his little dog, aware that he could
not divide himself between the two interests.
"Chevalier," began the baroness, "you used to practise gallantry?"
Here the Chevalier du Halga straightened himself up with an air that
was not a little vain. Madame du Guenic, without naming her son or the
marquise, repeated, as nearly as possible, the love-letter, and asked
the chevalier to explain to her the meaning of such an answer. Du
Halga snuffed the air and stroked his chin; he listened attentively;
he made grimaces; and finally, he looked fixedly at the baroness with
a knowing air, as he said,--
"When thoroughbred horses want to leap a barrier, they go up to
reconnoitre it, and smell it over. Calyste is a lucky dog!"
"Oh, hush!" she cried.
"I'm mute. Ah! in the olden time I knew all about it," said the old
chevalier, striking an attitude. "The weather was fine, the breeze
nor'east. /Tudieu/! how the 'Belle-Poule' kept close to the wind that
day when--Oh!" he cried, interrupting himself, "we shall have a change
of weather; my ears are buzzing, and I feel the pain in my ribs! You
know, don't you, that the battle of the 'Belle-Poule' was so famous
that women wore head-dresses '/a la/ Belle-Poule.' Madame de
Kergarouet was the first to come to the opera in that head-dress, and
I said to her: 'Madame, you are dressed for conquest.' The speech was
repeated from box to box all through the house."
The baroness listened pleasantly to the old hero, who, faithful to the
laws of gallantry, escorted her to the alley of her house, neglecting
Thisbe. The secret of Thisbe's existence had once escaped him. Thisbe
was the granddaughter of a delightful Thisbe, the pet of Madame
l'Amirale de Kergarouet, first wife of the Comte de Kergarouet, the
chevalier's commanding officer. The present Thisbe was eighteen years
The baroness ran up to Calyste's room. He was absent; she saw a
letter, not sealed, but addressed to Madame de Rochefide, lying on the
table. An invincible curiosity compelled the anxious mother to read
it. This act of indiscretion was cruelly punished. The letter revealed
to her the depths of the gulf into which his passion was hurling
Calyste to Madame la Marquise de Rochefide.
What care I for the race of the du Guenics in these days, Beatrix?
what is their name to me? My name is Beatrix; the happiness of
Beatrix is my happiness; her life is my life, and all my fortune
is in her heart. Our estates have been mortgaged these two hundred
years, and so they may remain for two hundred more; our farmers
have charge of them; no one can take them from us. To see you, to
love you,--that is my property, my object, my religion!
You talk to me of marrying! the very thought convulses my heart.
Is there another Beatrix? I will marry no one but you; I will wait
for you twenty years, if need be. I am young, and you will be ever
beautiful. My mother is a saint. I do not blame her, but she has
never loved. I know now what she has lost, and what sacrifices she
has made. You have taught me, Beatrix, to love her better; she is
in my heart with you, and no other can ever be there; she is your
only rival,--is not this to say that you reign in that heart
supreme? Therefore your arguments have no force upon my mind.
As for Camille, you need only say the word, or give me a mere
sign, and I will ask her to tell you herself that I do not love
her. She is the mother of my intellect; nothing more, nothing
less. From the moment that I first saw you she became to me a
sister, a friend, a comrade, what you will of that kind; but we
have no rights other than those of friendship upon each other. I
took her for a woman until I saw you. You have proved to me that
Camille is a man; she swims, hunts, smokes, drinks, rides on
horseback, writes and analyzes hearts and books; she has no
weaknesses; she marches on in all her strength; her motions even
have no resemblance to your graceful movements, to your step, airy
as the flight of a bird. Neither has she your voice of love, your
tender eyes, your gracious manner; she is Camille Maupin; there is
nothing of the woman about her, whereas in you are all the things
of womanhood that I love. It has seemed to me, from the first
moment when I saw you, that you were mine.
You will laugh at that fancy, but it has grown and is growing. It
seems to me unnatural, anomalous that we should be apart. You are
my soul, my life; I cannot live where you are not!
Let me love you! Let us fly! let us go into some country where you
know no one, where only God and I can reach your heart! My mother,
who loves you, might some day follow us. Ireland is full of
castles; my mother's family will lend us one. Ah, Beatrix, let us
go! A boat, a few sailors, and we are there, before any one can
know we have fled this world you fear so much.
You have never been loved. I feel it as I re-read your letter, in
which I fancy I can see that if the reasons you bring forward did
not exist, you would let yourself be loved by me. Beatrix, a
sacred love wipes out the past. Yes, I love you so truly that I
could wish you doubly shamed if so my love might prove itself by
holding you a saint!
You call my love an insult. Oh, Beatrix, you do not think it so!
The love of noble youth--and you have called me that--would honor
a queen. Therefore, to-morrow let us walk as lovers, hand in hand,
among the rocks and beside the sea; your step upon the sands of my
old Brittany will bless them anew to me! Give me this day of
happiness; and that passing alms, unremembered, alas! by you, will
be eternal riches to your
The baroness let fall the letter, without reading all of it. She knelt
upon a chair, and made a mental prayer to God to save her Calyste's
reason, to put his madness, his error far away from him; to lead him
from the path in which she now beheld him.
"What are you doing, mother?" said Calyste, entering the room.
"I am praying to God for you," she answered, simply, turning her
tearful eyes upon him. "I have committed the sin of reading that
letter. My Calyste is mad!"
"A sweet madness!" said the young man, kissing her.
"I wish I could see that woman," she sighed.
"Mamma," said Calyste, "we shall take a boat to-morrow and cross to
Croisic. If you are on the jetty you can see her."
So saying, he sealed his letter and departed for Les Touches.
That which, above all, terrified the baroness was to see a sentiment
attaining, by the force of its own instinct, to the clear-sightedness
of practised experience. Calyste's letter to Beatrix was such as the
Chevalier du Halga, with his knowledge of the world, might have
DUEL BETWEEN WOMEN
Perhaps one of the greatest enjoyments that small minds or inferior
minds can obtain is that of deceiving a great soul, and laying snares
for it. Beatrix knew herself far beneath Camille Maupin. This
inferiority lay not only in the collection of mental and moral
qualities which we call /talent/, but in the things of the heart
At the moment when Calyste was hurrying to Les Touches with the
impetuosity of a first love borne on the wings of hope, the marquise
was feeling a keen delight in knowing herself the object of the first
love of so charming a young man. She did not go so far as to wish
herself a sharer in the sentiment, but she thought it heroism on her
part to repress the /capriccio/, as the Italians say. She thought she
was equalling Camille's devotion, and told herself, moreover, that she
was sacrificing herself to her friend. The vanities peculiar to
Frenchwomen, which constitute the celebrated coquetry of which she was
so signal an instance, were flattered and deeply satisfied by
Calyste's love. Assailed by such powerful seduction, she was resisting
it, and her virtues sang in her soul a concert of praise and
The two women were half-sitting, half lying, in apparent indolence on
the divan of the little salon, so filled with harmony and the
fragrance of flowers. The windows were open, for the north wind had
ceased to blow. A soothing southerly breeze was ruffling the surface
of the salt lake before them, and the sun was glittering on the sands
of the shore. Their souls were as deeply agitated as the nature before
them was tranquil, and the heat within was not less ardent.
Bruised by the working of the machinery which she herself had set in
motion, Camille was compelled to keep watch for her safety, fearing
the amazing cleverness of the friendly enemy, or, rather, the inimical
friend she had allowed within her borders. To guard her own secrets
and maintain herself aloof, she had taken of late to contemplations of
nature; she cheated the aching of her own heart by seeking a meaning
in the world around her, finding God in that desert of heaven and
earth. When an unbeliever once perceives the presence of God, he
flings himself unreservedly into Catholicism, which, viewed as a
system, is complete.
That morning Camille's brow had worn the halo of thoughts born of
these researches during a night-time of painful struggle. Calyste was
ever before her like a celestial image. The beautiful youth, to whom
she had secretly devoted herself, had become to her a guardian angel.
Was it not he who led her into those loftier regions, where suffering
ceased beneath the weight of incommensurable infinity? and now a
certain air of triumph about Beatrix disturbed her. No woman gains an
advantage over another without allowing it to be felt, however much
she may deny having taken it. Nothing was ever more strange in its
course than the dumb, moral struggle which was going on between these
two women, each hiding from the other a secret,--each believing
herself generous through hidden sacrifices.
Calyste arrived, holding the letter between his hand and his glove,
ready to slip it at some convenient moment into the hand of Beatrix.
Camille, whom the subtle change in the manner of her friend had not
escaped, seemed not to watch her, but did watch her in a mirror at the
moment when Calyste was just entering the room. That is always a
crucial moment for women. The cleverest as well as the silliest of
them, the frankest as the shrewdest, are seldom able to keep their
secret; it bursts from them, at any rate, to the eyes of another
woman. Too much reserve or too little; a free and luminous look; the
mysterious lowering of eyelids,--all betray, at that sudden moment,
the sentiment which is the most difficult of all to hide; for real
indifference has something so radically cold about it that it can
never be simulated. Women have a genius for shades,--shades of detail,
shades of character; they know them all. There are times when their
eyes take in a rival from head to foot; they can guess the slightest
movement of a foot beneath a gown, the almost imperceptible motion of
the waist; they know the significance of things which, to a man, seem
insignificant. Two women observing each other play one of the choicest
scenes of comedy that the world can show.
"Calyste has committed some folly," thought Camille, perceiving in
each of her guests an indefinable air of persons who have a mutual
There was no longer either stiffness or pretended indifference on the
part of Beatrix; she now regarded Calyste as her own property. Calyste
was even more transparent; he colored, as guilty people, or happy
people color. He announced that he had come to make arrangements for
the excursion on the following day.
"Then you really intend to go, my dear?" said Camille,
"Yes," said Beatrix.
"How did you know it, Calyste?" asked Mademoiselle des Touches.
"I came here to find out," replied Calyste, on a look flashed at him
by Madame de Rochefide, who did not wish Camille to gain the slightest
inkling of their correspondence.
"They have an agreement together," thought Camille, who caught the
look in the powerful sweep of her eye.
Under the pressure of that thought a horrible discomposure overspread
her face and frightened Beatrix.
"What is the matter, my dear?" she cried.
"Nothing. Well, then, Calyste, send my horses and yours across to
Croisic, so that we may drive home by way of Batz. We will breakfast
at Croisic, and get home in time for dinner. You must take charge of
the boat arrangements. Let us start by half-past eight. You will see
some fine sights, Beatrix, and one very strange one; you will see
Cambremer, a man who does penance on a rock for having wilfully killed
his son. Oh! you are in a primitive land, among a primitive race of
people, where men are moved by other sentiments than those of ordinary
mortals. Calyste shall tell you the tale; it is a drama of the
She went into her bedroom, for she was stifling. Calyste gave his
letter to Beatrix and followed Camille.
"Calyste, you are loved, I think; but you are hiding something from
me; you have done some foolish thing."
"Loved!" he exclaimed, dropping into a chair.
Camille looked into the next room; Beatrix had disappeared. The fact
was odd. Women do not usually leave a room which contains the man they
admire, unless they have either the certainty of seeing him again, or
something better still. Mademoiselle des Touches said to herself:--
"Can he have given her a letter?"
But she thought the innocent Breton incapable of such boldness.
"If you have disobeyed me, all will be lost, through your own fault,"
she said to him very gravely. "Go, now, and make your preparations for
She made a gesture which Calyste did not venture to resist.
As he walked toward Croisic, to engage the boatmen, fears came into
Calyste's mind. Camille's speech foreshadowed something fatal, and he
believed in the second sight of her maternal affection. When he
returned, four hours later, very tired, and expecting to dine at Les
Touches, he found Camille's maid keeping watch over the door, to tell
him that neither her mistress nor the marquise could receive him that
evening. Calyste, much surprised, wished to question her, but she bade
him hastily good-night and closed the door.
Six o'clock was striking on the steeple of Guerande as Calyste entered
his own house, where Mariotte gave him his belated dinner; after
which, he played /mouche/ in gloomy meditation. These alternations of
joy and gloom, happiness and unhappiness, the extinction of hopes
succeeding the apparent certainty of being loved, bruised and wounded
the young soul which had flown so high on outstretched wings that the
fall was dreadful.
"Does anything trouble you, my Calyste?" said his mother.
"Nothing," he replied, looking at her with eyes from which the light
of the soul and the fire of love were withdrawn.
It is not hope, but despair, which gives the measure of our ambitions.
The finest poems of hope are sung in secret, but grief appears without
"Calyste, you are not nice," said Charlotte, after vainly attempting
on him those little provincial witcheries which degenerate usually
"I am tired," he said, rising, and bidding the company good-night.
"Calyste is much changed," remarked Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel.
"We haven't beautiful dresses trimmed with lace; we don't shake our
sleeves like this, or twist our bodies like that; we don't know how to
give sidelong glances, and turn our eyes," said Charlotte, mimicking
the air, and attitude, and glances of the marquise. "/We/ haven't that
head voice, nor the interesting little cough, /heu! heu!/ which sounds
like the sigh of a spook; /we/ have the misfortune of being healthy
and robust, and of loving our friends without coquetry; and when we
look at them, we don't pretend to stick a dart into them, or to watch
them slyly; /we/ can't bend our heads like a weeping willow, just to
look the more interesting when we raise them--this way."
Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel could not help laughing at her niece's
gesture; but neither the chevalier nor the baron paid any heed to this
truly provincial satire against Paris.
"But the Marquise de Rochefide is a very handsome woman," said the old
"My dear," said the baroness to her husband, "I happen to know that
she is going over to Croisic to-morrow. Let us walk on the jetty; I
should like to see her."
While Calyste was racking his brains to imagine what could have closed
the doors of Les Touches to him, a scene was passing between Camille
and Beatrix which was to have its influence on the events of the
Calyste's last letter had stirred in Madame de Rochefide's heart
emotions hitherto unknown to it. Women are not often the subject of a
love so young, guileless, sincere, and unconditional as that of this
youth, this child. Beatrix had loved more than she had been loved.
After being all her life a slave, she suddenly felt an inexplicable
desire to be a tyrant. But, in the midst of her pleasure, as she read
and re-read the letter, she was pierced through and through with a
What were Calyste and Camille doing together ever since Claude
Vignon's departure? If, as Calyste said, he did not love Camille, and
if Camille knew it, how did they employ their mornings, and why were
they alone together? Memory suddenly flashed into her mind, in answer
to these questions, certain speeches of Camille; a grinning devil
seemed to show her, as in a magic mirror, the portrait of that heroic
woman, with certain gestures, certain aspects, which suddenly
enlightened her. What! instead of being her equal, was she crushed by
Felicite? instead of over-reaching her, was she being over-reached
herself? was she only a toy, a pleasure, which Camille was giving to
her child, whom she loved with an extraordinary passion that was free
from all vulgarity?
To a woman like Beatrix this thought came like a thunder-clap. She
went over in her mind minutely the history of the past week. In a
moment the part which Camille was playing, and her own, unrolled
themselves to their fullest extent before her eyes; she felt horribly
belittled. In her fury of jealous anger, she fancied she could see in
Camille's conduct an intention of vengeance against Conti. Was the
hidden wrath of the past two years really acting upon the present
Once on the path of these doubts and superstitions, Beatrix did not
pause. She walked up and down her room, driven to rapid motion by the
impetuous movements of her soul, sitting down now and then, and trying
to decide upon a course, but unable to do so. And thus she remained, a
prey to indecision until the dinner hour, when she rose hastily, and
went downstairs without dressing. No sooner did Camille see her, than
she felt that a crisis had come. Beatrix, in her morning gown, with a
chilling air and a taciturn manner, indicated to an observer as keen
as Maupin the coming hostilities of an embittered heart.
Camille instantly left the room and gave the order which so astonished
Calyste; she feared that he might arrive in the midst of the quarrel,
and she determined to be alone, without witnesses, in fighting this
duel of deception on both sides. Beatrix, without an auxiliary, would
infallibly succumb. Camille well knew the barrenness of that soul, the
pettiness of that pride, to which she had justly applied the epithet
The dinner was gloomy. Camille was gentle and kind; she felt herself
the superior being. Beatrix was hard and cutting; she felt she was
being managed like a child. During dinner the battle began with
glances, gestures, half-spoken sentences,--not enough to enlighten the
servants, but enough to prepare an observer for the coming storm. When
the time to go upstairs came, Camille offered her arm maliciously to
Beatrix, who pretended not to see it, and sprang up the stairway
alone. When coffee had been served Mademoiselle des Touches said to
the footman, "You may go,"--a brief sentence, which served as a signal
for the combat.
"The novels you make, my dear, are more dangerous than those you
write," said the marquise.
"They have one advantage, however," replied Camille, lighting a
"What is that?" asked Beatrix.
"They are unpublished, my angel."
"Is the one in which you are putting me to be turned into a book?"
"I've no fancy for the role of OEdipus; I know you have the wit and
beauty of a sphinx, but don't propound conundrums. Speak out, plainly,
my dear Beatrix."
"When, in order to make a man happy, amuse him, please him, and save
him from ennui, we allow the devil to help us--"
"That man would reproach us later for our efforts on his behalf, and
would think them prompted by the genius of depravity," said Camille,
taking the cigarette from her lips to interrupt her friend.
"He forgets the love which carried us away, and is our sole
justification--but that's the way of men, they are all unjust and
ungrateful," continued Beatrix. "Women among themselves know each
other; they know how proud and noble their own minds are, and, let us
frankly say so, how virtuous! But, Camille, I have just recognized the
truth of certain criticisms upon your nature, of which you have
sometimes complained. My dear, you have something of the man about
you; you behave like a man; nothing restrains you; if you haven't all
a man's advantages, you have a man's spirit in all your ways; and you
share his contempt for women. I have no reason, my dear, to be
satisfied with you, and I am too frank to hide my dissatisfaction. No
one has ever given or ever will give, perhaps, so cruel a wound to my
heart as that from which I am now suffering. If you are not a woman in
love, you are one in vengeance. It takes a /woman/ of genius to
discover the most sensitive spot of all in another woman's delicacy. I
am talking now of Calyste, and the trickery, my dear,--that is the
word,--/trickery/,--you have employed against me. To what depths have
you descended, Camille Maupin! and why?"
"More and more sphinx-like!" said Camille, smiling.
"You want me to fling myself at Calyste's head; but I am still too
young for that sort of thing. To me, love is sacred; love is love with
all its emotions, jealousies, and despotisms. I am not an author; it
is impossible for me to see ideas where the heart feels sentiments."
"You think yourself capable of loving foolishly!" said Camille. "Make
yourself easy on that score; you still have plenty of sense. My dear,
you calumniate yourself; I assure you that your nature is cold enough
to enable your head to judge of every action of your heart."
The marquise colored high; she darted a look of hatred, a venomous
look, at Camille, and found, without searching, the sharpest arrows in
her quiver. Camille smoked composedly as she listened to a furious
tirade, which rang with such cutting insults that we do not reproduce
it here. Beatrix, irritated by the calmness of her adversary,
condescended even to personalities on Camille's age.
"Is that all?" said Felicite, when Beatrix paused, letting a cloud of
smoke exhale from her lips. "Do you love Calyste?"
"No; of course not."
"So much the better," replied Camille. "I do love him--far too much
for my own peace of mind. He may, perhaps, have had a passing fancy
for you; for you are, you know, enchantingly fair, while I am as black
as a crow; you are slim and willowy, while I have a portly dignity; in
short, you are /young/!--that's the final word, and you have not
spared it to me. You have abused your advantages as a woman against
me. I have done my best to prevent what has now happened. However
little of a woman you may think me, I am woman enough, my dear, not to
allow a rival to triumph over me unless I choose to help her." (This
remark, made in apparently the most innocent manner, cut the marquise
to the heart). "You take me for a very silly person if you believe all
that Calyste tries to make you think of me. I am neither so great nor
so small; I am a woman, and very much of a woman. Come, put off your
grand airs, and give me your hand!" continued Camille, taking Madame
de Rochefide's hand. "You do not love Calyste, you say; that is true,
is it not? Don't be angry, therefore; be hard, and cold, and stern to
him to-morrow; he will end by submitting to his fate, especially after
certain little reproaches which I mean to make to him. Still, Calyste
is a Breton, and very persistent; if he should continue to pay court
to you, tell me frankly, and I will lend you my little country house
near Paris, where you will find all the comforts of life, and where
Conti can come out and see you. You said just now that Calyste
calumniated me. Good heavens! what of that? The purest love lies
twenty times a day; its deceptions only prove its strength."
Camille's face wore an air of such superb disdain that the marquise
grew fearful and anxious. She knew not how to answer. Camille dealt
her a last blow.
"I am more confiding and less bitter than you," she said. "I don't
suspect you of attempting to cover by a quarrel a secret injury, which
would compromise my very life. You know me; I shall never survive the
loss of Calyste, but I must lose him sooner or later. Still, Calyste
loves me now; of that I am sure."
"Here is what he answered to a letter of mine, urging him to be true
to you," said Beatrix, holding out Calyste's last letter.
Camille took it and read it; but as she read it, her eyes filled with
tears; and presently she wept as women weep in their bitterest
"My God!" she said, "how he loves her! I shall die without being
understood--or loved," she added.
She sat for a few moments with her head leaning against the shoulder
of her companion; her grief was genuine; she felt to the very core of
her being the same terrible blow which the Baronne du Guenic had
received in reading that letter.
"Do you love him?" she said, straightening herself up, and looking
fixedly at Beatrix. "Have you that infinite worship for him which
triumphs over all pains, survives contempt, betrayal, the certainty
that he will never love you? Do you love him for himself, and for the
very joy of loving him?"
"Dear friend," said the marquise, tenderly, "be happy, be at peace; I
will leave this place to-morrow."
"No, do not go; he loves you, I see that. Well, I love him so much
that I could not endure to see him wretched and unhappy. Still, I had
formed plans for him, projects; but if he loves you, all is over."
"And I love him, Camille," said the marquise, with a sort of
/naivete/, and coloring.
"You love him, and yet you cast him off!" cried Camille. "Ah! that is
not loving; you do not love him."
"I don't know what fresh virtue he has roused in me, but certainly he
has made me ashamed of my own self," said Beatrix. "I would I were
virtuous and free, that I might give him something better than the
dregs of a heart and the weight of my chains. I do not want a hampered
destiny either for him or for myself."
"Cold brain!" exclaimed Camille, with a sort of horror. "To love and
"Call it what you like," said Beatrix, "but I will not spoil his life,
or hang like a millstone round his neck, to become an eternal regret
to him. If I cannot be his wife, I shall not be his mistress. He has
--you will laugh at me? No? Well, then, he has purified me."
Camille cast on Beatrix the most sullen, savage look that female
jealousy ever cast upon a rival.
"On that ground, I believed I stood alone," she said. "Beatrix, those
words of yours must separate us forever; we are no longer friends.
Here begins a terrible conflict between us. I tell you now; you will
either succumb or fly."
So saying, Camille bounded into her room, after showing her face,
which was that of a maddened lioness, to the astonished Beatrix. Then
she raised the portiere and looked in again.
"Do you intend to go to Croisic to-morrow," she asked.
"Certainly," replied the marquise, proudly. "I shall not fly, and I
shall not succumb."
"I play above board," replied Camille; "I shall write to Conti."
Beatrix became as white as the gauze of her scarf.
"We are staking our lives on this game," she replied, not knowing what
to say or do.
The violent passions roused by this scene between the two women calmed
down during the night. Both argued with their own minds and returned
to those treacherously temporizing courses which are so attractive to
the majority of women,--an excellent system between men and women, but
fatally unsafe among women alone. In the midst of this tumult of their
souls Mademoiselle des Touches had listened to that great Voice whose
counsels subdue the strongest will; Beatrix heard only the promptings
of worldly wisdom; she feared the contempt of society.
Thus Felicite's last deception succeeded; Calyste's blunder was
repaired, but a fresh indiscretion might be fatal to him.
AN EXCURSION TO CROISIC
It was now the end of August, and the sky was magnificently clear.
Near the horizon the sea had taken, as it is wont to do in southern
climes, a tint of molten silver; on the shore it rippled in tiny
waves. A sort of glowing vapor, an effect of the rays of the sun
falling plumb upon the sands, produced an atmosphere like that of the
tropics. The salt shone up like bunches of white violets on the
surface of the marsh. The patient /paludiers/, dressed in white to
resist the action of the sun, had been from early morning at their
posts, armed with long rakes. Some were leaning on the low mud-walls
that divided the different holdings, whence they watched the process
of this natural chemistry, known to them from childhood. Others were
playing with their wives and children. Those green dragons, otherwise
called custom-house officers, were tranquilly smoking their pipes.
There was something foreign, perhaps oriental, about the scene; at any
rate a Parisian suddenly transported thither would never have supposed
himself in France. The baron and baroness, who had made a pretext of
coming to see how the salt harvest throve, were on the jetty, admiring
the silent landscape, where the sea alone sounded the moan of her
waves at regular intervals, where boats and vessels tracked a vast
expanse, and the girdle of green earth richly cultivated, produced an
effect that was all the more charming because so rare on the desolate
shores of ocean.
"Well, my friends, I wanted to see the marshes of Guerande once more
before I die," said the baron to the /paludiers/, who had gathered
about the entrance of the marshes to salute him.
"Can a Guenic die?" said one of them.
Just then the party from Les Touches arrived through the narrow
pathway. The marquise walked first alone; Calyste and Camille followed
arm-in-arm. Gasselin brought up the rear.
"There are my father and mother," said the young man to Camille.
The marquise stopped short. Madame du Guenic felt the most violent
repulsion at the appearance of Beatrix, although the latter was
dressed to much advantage. A Leghorn hat with wide brims and a wreath
of blue-bells, her crimped hair fluffy beneath it, a gown of some gray
woollen stuff, and a blue sash with floating ends gave her the air of
a princess disguised as a milkmaid.
"She has no heart," thought the baroness.
"Mademoiselle," said Calyste to Camille, "this is Madame du Guenic,
and this is my father." Then he said turning to the baron and
baroness, "Mademoiselle des Touches, and Madame la Marquise de
Rochefide, /nee/ de Casteran, father."
The baron bowed to Mademoiselle des Touches, who made a respectful
bow, full of gratitude, to the baroness.
"That one," thought Fanny, "really loves my boy; she seems to thank me
for bringing him into the world."
"I suppose you have come to see, as I have, whether the harvest is a
good one. But I believe you have better reasons for doing so than I,"
said the baron to Camille. "You have property here, I think,
"Mademoiselle is the largest of all the owners," said one of the
/paludiers/ who were grouped about them, "and may God preserve her to
us, for she's a /good/ lady."
The two parties bowed and separated.
"No one would suppose Mademoiselle des Touches to be more than
thirty," said the baron to his wife. "She is very handsome. And
Calyste prefers that haggard Parisian marquise to a sound Breton
"I fear he does," replied the baroness.
A boat was waiting at the steps of the jetty, where the party embarked
without a smile. The marquise was cold and dignified. Camille had
lectured Calyste on his disobedience, explaining to him clearly how
matters stood. Calyste, a prey to black despair, was casting glances
at Beatrix in which anger and love struggled for the mastery. Not a
word was said by any of them during the short passage from the jetty
of Guerande to the extreme end of the port of Croisic, the point where
the boats discharge the salt, which the peasant-women then bear away
on their heads in huge earthen jars after the fashion of caryatides.
These women go barefooted with very short petticoats. Many of them let
the kerchiefs which cover their bosoms fly carelessly open. Some wear
only shifts, and are the more dignified; for the less clothing a woman
wears, the more nobly modest is her bearing.
The little Danish vessel had just finished lading, therefore the
landing of the two handsome ladies excited much curiosity among the
female salt-carriers; and as much to avoid their remarks as to serve
Calyste, Camille sprang forward toward the rocks, leaving him to
follow with Beatrix, while Gasselin put a distance of some two hundred
steps between himself and his master.
The peninsula of Croisic is flanked on the sea side by granite rocks
the shapes of which are so strangely fantastic that they can only be
appreciated by travellers who are in a position to compare them with
other great spectacles of primeval Nature. Perhaps the rocks of
Croisic have the same advantage over sights of that kind as that
accorded to the road to the Grande Chartreuse over all other narrow
valleys. Neither the coasts of Croisic, where the granite bulwark is
split into strange reefs, nor those of Sardinia, where Nature is
dedicated to grandiose and terrible effects, nor even the basaltic
rocks of the northern seas can show a character so unique and so
complete. Fancy has here amused itself by composing interminable
arabesques where the most fantastic figures wind and twine. All forms
are here. The imagination is at last fatigued by this vast gallery of
abnormal shapes, where in stormy weather the sea makes rough assaults
which have ended in polishing all ruggedness.
You will find under a naturally vaulted roof, of a boldness imitated
from afar by Brunelleschi (for the greatest efforts of art are always
the timid copying of effects of nature), a rocky hollow polished like
a marble bath-tub and floored with fine white sand, in which is four
feet of tepid water where you can bathe without danger. You walk on,
admiring the cool little covers sheltered by great portals; roughly
carved, it is true, but majestic, like the Pitti palace, that other
imitation of the whims of Nature. Curious features are innumerable;
nothing is lacking that the wildest imagination could invent or
There even exists a thing so rare on the rocky shores of ocean that
this may be the solitary instance of it,--a large bush of box. This
bush, the greatest curiosity of Croisic, where trees have never grown,
is three miles distant from the harbor, on the point of rocks that
runs farthest into the sea. On this granite promontory, which rises to
a height that neither the waves nor the spray can touch, even in the
wildest weather, and faces southerly, diluvian caprice has constructed
a hollow basin, which projects about four feet. Into this basin, or
cleft, chance, possibly man, has conveyed enough vegetable earth for
the growth of a box-plant, compact, well-nourished, and sown, no
doubt, by birds. The shape of the roots would indicate to a botanist
an existence of at least three hundred years. Above it the rock has
been broken off abruptly. The natural convulsion which did this, the
traces of which are ineffaceably written here, must have carried away
the broken fragments of the granite I know not where.
The sea rushes in, meeting no reefs, to the foot of this cliff, which
rises to a height of some four or five hundred feet; at its base lie
several scattered rocks, just reaching the surface at high water, and
describing a semi-circle. It requires some nerve and resolution to
climb to the summit of this little Gibraltar, the shape of which is
nearly round, and from which a sudden gust of wind might precipitate
the rash gazer into the sea, or, still more to be feared, upon the
This gigantic sentinel resembles the look-out towers of old castles,
from which the inhabitants could look the country over and foresee
attacks. Thence we see the clock towers and the arid fields of
Croisic, with the sandy dunes, which injure cultivation, and stretch
as far as Batz. A few old men declare that in days long past a
fortress occupied the spot. The sardine-fishers have given the rock,
which can be seen far out at sea, a name; but it is useless to write
it here, its Breton consonants being as difficult to pronounce as to
Calyste led Beatrix to this point, whence the view is magnificent, and
where the natural sculpture of the granite is even more imposing to
the spectator than the mass of the huge breastwork when seen from the
sandy road which skirts the shore.
Is it necessary to explain why Camille had rushed away alone? Like
some wounded wild animal, she longed for solitude, and went on and on,
threading her way among the fissures and caves and little peaks of
nature's fortress. Not to be hampered in climbing by women's clothing,
she wore trousers with frilled edges, a short blouse, a peaked cap,
and, by way of staff, she carried a riding-whip, for Camille has
always had a certain vanity in her strength and her agility. Thus
arrayed, she looked far handsomer than Beatrix. She wore also a little
shawl of crimson China crape, crossed on her bosom and tied behind, as
they dress a child. For some time Beatrix and Calyste saw her flitting
before them over the peaks and chasms like a ghost or vision; she was
trying to still her inward sufferings by confronting some imaginary
She was the first to reach the rock in which the box-bush grew. There
she sat down in the shade of a granite projection, and was lost in
thought. What could a woman like herself do with old age, having
already drunk the cup of fame which all great talents, too eager to
sip slowly the stupid pleasures of vanity, quaff at a single draught?
She has since admitted that it was here--at this moment, and on this
spot--that one of those singular reflections suggested by a mere
nothing, by one of those chance accidents that seem nonsense to common
minds, but which, to noble souls, do sometimes open vast depths of
thought, decided her to take the extraordinary step by which she was
to part forever from social life.
She drew from her pocket a little box, in which she had put, in case
of thirst, some strawberry lozenges; she now ate several; and as she
did so, the thought crossed her mind that the strawberries, which
existed no longer, lived nevertheless in their qualities. Was it not
so with ourselves? The ocean before her was an image of the infinite.
No great spirit can face the infinite, admitting the immortality of
the soul, without the conviction of a future of holiness. The thought
filled her mind. How petty then seemed the part that she was playing!
there was no real greatness in giving Beatrix to Calyste! So thinking,
she felt the earthly woman die within her, and the true woman, the
noble and angelic being, veiled until now by flesh, arose in her
place. Her great mind, her knowledge, her attainments, her false loves
had brought her face to face with what? Ah! who would have thought it?
--with the bounteous mother, the comforter of troubled spirits, with
the Roman Church, ever kind to repentance, poetic to poets, childlike
with children, and yet so profound, so full of mystery to anxious,
restless minds that they can burrow there and satisfy all longings,
all questionings, all hopes. She cast her eyes, as it were, upon the
strangely devious way--like the tortuous rocky path before her--over
which her love for Calyste had led her. Ah! Calyste was indeed a
messenger from heaven, her divine conductor! She had stifled earthly
love, and a divine love had come from it.
After walking for some distance in silence, Calyste could not refrain,
on a remark of Beatrix about the grandeur of the ocean, so unlike the
smiling beauty of the Mediterranean, from comparing in depth, purity,
extent, unchanging and eternal duration, that ocean with his love.
"It is met by a rock!" said Beatrix, laughing.
"When you speak thus," he answered, with a sublime look, "I hear you,
I see you, and I can summon to my aid the patience of the angels; but
when I am alone, you would pity me if you could see me then. My mother
weeps for my suffering."
"Listen to me, Calyste; we must put an end to all this," said the
marquise, gazing down upon the sandy road. "Perhaps we have now
reached the only propitious place to say these things, for never in my
life did I see nature more in keeping with my thoughts. I have seen
Italy, where all things tell of love; I have seen Switzerland, where
all is cool and fresh, and tells of happiness,--the happiness of
labor; where the verdure, the tranquil waters, the smiling slopes, are
oppressed by the snow-topped Alps; but I have never seen anything that
so depicts the burning barrenness of my life as that little arid plain
down there, dried by the salt sea winds, corroded by the spray, where
a fruitless agriculture tries to struggle against the will of that
great ocean. There, Calyste, you have an image of this Beatrix. Don't
cling to it. I love you, but I will never be yours in any way
whatever, for I have the sense of my inward desolation. Ah! you do not
know how cruel I am to myself in speaking thus to you. No, you shall
never see your idol diminished; she shall never fall from the height
at which you have placed her. I now have a horror of any love which
disregards the world and religion. I shall remain in my present bonds;
I shall be that sandy plain we see before us, without fruit or flowers
"But if you are abandoned?" said Calyste.
"Then I should beg my pardon of the man I have offended. I will never
run the risk of taking a happiness I know would quickly end."
"End!" cried Calyste.
The marquise stopped the passionate speech into which her lover was
about to launch, by repeating the word "End!" in a tone that silenced
This opposition roused in the young man one of those mute inward
furies known only to those who love without hope. They walked on
several hundred steps in total silence, looking neither at the sea,
nor the rocks, nor the plain of Croisic.
"I would make you happy," said Calyste.
"All men begin by promising that," she answered, "and they end by
abandonment and disgust. I have no reproach to cast on him to whom I
shall be faithful. He made me no promises; I went to him; but my only
means of lessening my fault is to make it eternal."
"Say rather, madame, that you feel no love for me. I, who love you, I
know that love cannot argue; it is itself; it sees nothing else. There
is no sacrifice I will not make to you; command it, and I will do the
impossible. He who despised his mistress for flinging her glove among
the lions, and ordering him to bring it back to her, did not /love!/
He denied your right to test our hearts, and to yield yourselves only
to our utmost devotion. I will sacrifice to you my family, my name, my
"But what an insult in that word 'sacrifice'!" she said, in
reproachful tones, which made poor Calyste feel the folly of his
None but women who truly love, or inborn coquettes, know how to use a
word as a point from which to make a spring.
"You are right," said Calyste, letting fall a tear; "that word can
only be said of the cruel struggles which you ask of me."
"Hush!" said Beatrix, struck by an answer in which, for the first
time, Calyste had really made her feel his love. "I have done wrong
enough; tempt me no more."
At this moment they had reached the base of the rock on which grew the
plant of box. Calyste felt a thrill of delight as he helped the
marquise to climb the steep ascent to the summit, which she wished to
reach. To the poor lad it was a precious privilege to hold her up, to
make her lean upon him, to feel her tremble; she had need of him. This
unlooked-for pleasure turned his head; he saw nought else but Beatrix,
and he clasped her round the waist.
"What!" she said, with an imposing air.
"Will you never be mine?" he demanded, in a voice that was choked by
the tumult of his blood.
"Never, my friend," she replied. "I can only be to you a Beatrix,--a
dream. But is not that a sweet and tender thing? We shall have no
bitterness, no grief, no repentance."
"Will you return to Conti?"
"You shall never belong to any man!" cried Calyste, pushing her from
him with frenzied violence.
He listened for her fall, intending to spring after her, but he heard
only a muffled sound, the tearing of some stuff, and then the thud of
a body falling on the ground. Instead of being flung head foremost
down the precipice, Beatrix had only slipped some eight or ten feet
into the cavity where the box-bush grew; but she might from there have
rolled down into the sea if her gown had not caught upon a point of
rock, and by tearing slowly lowered the weight of her body upon the
Mademoiselle des Touches, who saw the scene, was unable in her horror
to cry out, but she signed to Gasselin to come. Calyste was leaning
forward with an expression of savage curiosity; he saw the position in
which Beatrix lay, and he shuddered. Her lips moved,--she seemed to be
praying; in fact, she thought she was about to die, for she felt the
bush beginning to give way. With the agility which danger gives to
youth, Calyste slid down to the ledge below the bush, where he was
able to grasp the marquise and hold her, although at the risk of their
both sliding down into the sea. As he held her, he saw that she had
fainted; but in that aerial spot he could fancy her all his, and his
first emotion was that of pleasure.
"Open your eyes," he said, "and forgive me; we will die together."
"Die?" she said, opening her eyes and unclosing her pallid lips.
Calyste welcomed that word with a kiss, and felt the marquise tremble
under it convulsively, with passionate joy. At that instant Gasselin's
hob-nailed shoes sounded on the rock above them. The old Breton was
followed by Camille, and together they sought for some means of saving
"There's but one way, mademoiselle," said Gasselin. "I must slide down
there, and they can climb on my shoulders, and you must pull them up."
"And you?" said Camille.
The man seemed surprised that he should be considered in presence of
the danger to his young master.
"You must go to Croisic and fetch a ladder," said Camille.
Beatrix asked in a feeble voice to be laid down, and Calyste placed
her on the narrow space between the bush and its background of rock.
"I saw you, Calyste," said Camille from above. "Whether Beatrix lives
or dies, remember that this must be an accident."
"She will hate me," he said, with moistened eyes.
"She will adore you," replied Camille. "But this puts an end to our
excursion. We must get her back to Les Touches. Had she been killed,
Calyste, what would have become of you?"
"I should have followed her."
"And your mother?" Then, after a pause, she added, feebly, "and me?"
Calyste was deadly pale; he stood with his back against the granite
motionless and silent. Gasselin soon returned from one of the little
farms scattered through the neighborhood, bearing a ladder which he
had borrowed. By this time Beatrix had recovered a little strength.
The ladder being placed, she was able, by the help of Gasselin, who
lowered Camille's red shawl till he could grasp it, to reach the round
top of the rock, where the Breton took her in his arms and carried her
to the shore as though she were an infant.
"I should not have said no to death--but suffering!" she murmured to
Felicite, in a feeble voice.
The weakness, in fact the complete prostration, of the marquise
obliged Camille to have her taken to the farmhouse from which the
ladder had been borrowed. Calyste, Gasselin, and Camille took off what
clothes they could spare and laid them on the ladder, making a sort of
litter on which they carried Beatrix. The farmers gave her a bed.
Gasselin then went to the place where the carriage was awaiting them,
and, taking one of the horses, rode to Croisic to obtain a doctor,
telling the boatman to row to the landing-place that was nearest to
Calyste, sitting on a stool, answered only by motions of the head, and
rare monosyllables when spoken to; Camille's uneasiness, roused for
Beatrix, was still further excited by Calyste's unnatural condition.
When the physician arrived, and Beatrix was bled, she felt better,
began to talk, and consented to embark; so that by five o'clock they
reached the jetty at Guerande, whence she was carried to Les Touches.
The news of the accident had already spread through that lonely and
almost uninhabited region with incredible rapidity.
Calyste passed the night at Les Touches, sitting at the foot of
Beatrix's bed, in company with Camille. The doctor from Guerande had
assured them that on the following day a little stiffness would be all
that remained of the accident. Across the despair of Calyste's heart
there came a gleam of joy. He was there, at her feet; he could watch
her sleeping or waking; he might study her pallid face and all its
expressions. Camille smiled bitterly as her keen mind recognized in
Calyste the symptoms of a passion such as man can feel but once,--a
passion which dyes his soul and his faculties by mingling with the
fountain of his life at a period when neither thoughts nor cares
distract or oppose the inward working of this emotion. She saw that
Calyste would never, could never see the real woman that was in
And with what guileless innocence the young Breton allowed his
thoughts to be read! When he saw the beautiful green eyes of the sick
woman turned to him, expressing a mixture of love, confusion, and even
mischief, he colored, and turned away his head.
"Did I not say truly, Calyste, that you men promised happiness, and
ended by flinging us down a precipice?"
When he heard this little jest, said in sweet, caressing tones which
betrayed a change of heart in Beatrix, Calyste knelt down, took her
moist hand which she yielded to him, and kissed it humbly.
"You have the right to reject my love forever," he said, "and I, I
have no right to say one word to you."
"Ah!" cried Camille, seeing the expression on Beatrix's face and
comparing it with that obtained by her diplomacy, "love has a
wit of its own, wiser than that of all the world! Take your
composing-draught, my dear friend, and go to sleep."
That night, spent by Calyste beside Mademoiselle des Touches, who read
a book of theological mysticism while Calyste read "Indiana,"--the
first work of Camille's celebrated rival, in which is the captivating
image of a young man loving with idolatry and devotion, with
mysterious tranquillity and for all his life, a woman placed in the
same false position as Beatrix (a book which had a fatal influence
upon him),--that night left ineffaceable marks upon the heart of the
poor young fellow, whom Felicite soothed with the assurance that
unless a woman were a monster she must be flattered in all her
vanities by being the object of such a crime.
"You would never have flung /me/ into the water," said Camille,
brushing away a tear.
Toward morning, Calyste, worn-out with emotion, fell asleep in his
arm-chair; and the marquise in her turn, watched his charming face,
paled by his feelings and his vigil of love. She heard him murmur her
name as he slept.
"He loves while sleeping," she said to Camille.
"We must send him home," said Felicite, waking him.
No one was anxious at the hotel du Guenic, for Mademoiselle des
Touches had written a line to the baroness telling her of the
Calyste returned to dinner at Les Touches and found Beatrix up and
dressed, but pale, feeble, and languid. No longer was there any
harshness in her words or any coldness in her looks. After this
evening, filled with music by Camille, who went to her piano to leave
Calyste free to take and press the hands of Beatrix (though both were
unable to speak), no storms occurred at Les Touches. Felicite
completely effaced herself.
Cold, fragile, thin, hard women like Madame de Rochefide, women whose
necks turn in a manner to give them a vague resemblance to the feline
race, have souls of the same pale tint as their light eyes, green or
gray; and to melt them, to fuse those blocks of stone it needs a
thunderbolt. To Beatrix, Calyste's fury of love and his mad action
came as the thunderbolt that nought resists, which changes all
natures, even the most stubborn. She felt herself inwardly humbled; a
true, pure love bathed her heart with its soft and limpid warmth. She
breathed a sweet and genial atmosphere of feelings hitherto unknown to
her, by which she felt herself magnified, elevated; in fact, she rose
into that heaven where Bretons throughout all time have placed the
Woman. She relished with delight the respectful adoration of the
youth, whose happiness cost her little, for a gesture, a look, a word
was enough to satisfy him. The value which Calyste's heart gave to
these trifles touched her exceedingly; to hold her gloved hand was
more to that young angel than the possession of her whole person to
the man who ought to have been faithful to her. What a contrast
Few women could resist such constant deification. Beatrix felt herself
sure of being obeyed and understood. She might have asked Calyste to
risk his life for the slightest of her caprices, and he would never
have reflected for a moment. This consciousness gave her a certain
noble and imposing air. She saw love on the side of its grandeur; and
her heart sought for some foothold on which she might remain forever
the loftiest of women in the eyes of her young lover, over whom she
now wished her power to be eternal.
Her coquetries became the more persistent because she felt within
herself a certain weakness. She played the invalid for a whole week
with charming hypocrisy. Again and again she walked about the velvet
turf which lay between the house and garden leaning on Calyste's arm
in languid dependence.
"Ah! my dear, you are taking him a long journey in a small space,"
said Mademoiselle des Touches one day.
Before the excursion to Croisic, the two women were discoursing one
evening about love, and laughing at the different ways that men
adopted to declare it; admitting to themselves that the cleverest men,
and naturally the least loving, did not like to wander in the
labyrinths of sentimentality and went straight to the point,--in which
perhaps they were right; for the result was that those who loved most
deeply and reservedly were, for a time at least, ill-treated.
"They go to work like La Fontaine, when he wanted to enter the
Academy," said Camille.
Madame de Rochefide had unbounded power to restrain Calyste within the
limits where she meant to keep him; it sufficed her to remind him by a
look or gesture of his horrible violence on the rocks. The eyes of her
poor victim would fill with tears, he was silent, swallowing down his
prayers, his arguments, his sufferings with a heroism that would
certainly have touched any other woman. She finally brought him by her
infernal coquetry to such a pass that he went one day to Camille
imploring her advice.
Beatrix, armed with Calyste's own letter, quoted the passage in which
he said that to love was the first happiness, that of being loved came
later; and she used that axiom to restrain his passion to the limits
of respectful idolatry, which pleased her well. She liked to feel her
soul caressed by those sweet hymns of praise and adoration which
nature suggests to youth; in them is so much artless art; such
innocent seduction is in their cries, their prayers, their
exclamations, their pledges of themselves in the promissory notes
which they offer on the future; to all of which Beatrix was very
careful to give no definite answer. Yes, she heard him; but she
doubted! Love was not yet the question; what he asked of her was
permission to love. In fact, that was all the poor lad really asked
for; his mind still clung to the strongest side of love, the spiritual
side. But the woman who is firmest in words is often the feeblest in
action. It is strange that Calyste, having seen the progress his suit
had made by pushing Beatrix into the sea, did not continue to urge it
violently. But love in young men is so ecstatic and religious that
their inmost desire is to win its fruition through moral conviction.
In that is the sublimity of their love.
Nevertheless the day came when the Breton, driven to desperation,
complained to Camille of Beatrix's conduct.
"I meant to cure you by making you quickly understand her," replied
Mademoiselle des Touches; "but you have spoiled all. Ten days ago you
were her master; to-day, my poor boy, you are her slave. You will
never have the strength now to do as I advise."
"What ought I to do?"
"Quarrel with her on the ground of her hardness. A woman is always
over-excited when she discusses; let her be angry and ill-treat you,
and then stay away; do not return to Les Touches till she herself
In all extreme illness there is a moment when the patient is willing
to accept the cruellest remedy and submits to the most horrible
operation. Calyste had reached that point. He listened to Camille's
advice and stayed at home two whole days; but on the third he was
scratching at Beatrix's door to let her know that he and Camille were
waiting breakfast for her.
"Another chance lost!" Camille said to him when she saw him re-appear
During his two days' absence, Beatrix had frequently looked through
the window which opens on the road to Guerande. When Camille found her
doing so, she talked of the effect produced by the gorse along the
roadway, the golden blooms of which were dazzling in the September
The marquise kept Camille and Calyste waiting long for breakfast; and
the delay would have been significant to any eyes but those of
Calyste, for when she did appear, her dress showed an evident
intention to fascinate him and prevent another absence. After
breakfast she went to walk with him in the garden and filled his
simple heart with joy by expressing a wish to go again to that rock
where she had so nearly perished.
"Will you go with me alone?" asked Calyste, in a troubled voice.
"If I refused to do so," she replied, "I should give you reason to
suppose I thought you dangerous. Alas! as I have told you again and
again I belong to another, and I must be his only; I chose him knowing
nothing of love. The fault was great, and bitter is my punishment."
When she talked thus, her eyes moist with the scanty tears shed by
that class of woman, Calyste was filled with a compassion that reduced
his fiery ardor; he adored her then as he did a Madonna. We have no
more right to require different characters to be alike in the
expression of feelings than we have to expect the same fruits from
different trees. Beatrix was at this moment undergoing an inward
struggle; she hesitated between herself and Calyste,--between the
world she still hoped to re-enter, and the young happiness offered to
her; between a second and an unpardonable love, and social
rehabilitation. She began, therefore, to listen, without even acted
displeasure, to the talk of the youth's blind passion; she allowed his
soft pity to soothe her. Several times she had been moved to tears as
she listened to Calyste's promises; and she suffered him to
commiserate her for being bound to an evil genius, a man as false as
Conti. More than once she related to him the misery and anguish she
had gone through in Italy, when she first became aware that she was
not alone in Conti's heart. On this subject Camille had fully informed
Calyste and given him several lectures on it, by which he profited.
"I," he said, "will love you only, you absolutely. I have no triumphs
of art, no applause of crowds stirred by my genius to offer you; my
only talent is to love you; my honor, my pride are in your
perfections. No other woman can have merit in my eyes; you have no
odious rivalry to fear. You are misconceived and wronged, but I know
you, and for every misconception, for every wrong, I will make you
feel my comprehension day by day."
She listened to such speeches with bowed head, allowing him to kiss
her hands, and admitting silently but gracefully that she was indeed
an angel misunderstood.
"I am too humiliated," she would say; "my past has robbed the future
of all security."
It was a glorious day for Calyste when, arriving at Les Touches at
seven in the morning, he saw from afar Beatrix at a window watching
for him, and wearing the same straw hat she had worn on the memorable
day of their first excursion. For a moment he was dazzled and giddy.
These little things of passion magnify the world itself. It may be
that only Frenchwomen possess the art of such scenic effects; they owe
it to the grace of their minds; they know how to put into sentiment as
much of the picturesque as the particular sentiment can bear without a
loss of vigor or of force.
Ah! how lightly she rested on Calyste's arm! Together they left Les
Touches by the garden-gate which opens on the dunes. Beatrix thought
the sands delightful; she spied the hardy little plants with
rose-colored flowers that grew there, and she gathered a quantity to
mix with the Chartreux pansies which also grow in that arid desert,
dividing them significantly with Calyste, to whom those flowers and
their foliage were to be henceforth an eternal and dreadful relic.
"We'll add a bit of box," she said smiling.
They sat some time together on the jetty, and Calyste, while waiting
for the boat to come over, told her of his juvenile act on the day of
"I knew of your little escapade," she said, "and it was the cause of
my sternness to you that first night."
During their walk Madame de Rochefide had the lightly jesting tone of
a woman who loves, together with a certain tenderness and abandonment
of manner. Calyste had reason to think himself beloved. But when,
wandering along the shore beneath the rocks, they came upon one of
those charming creeks where the waves deposit the most extraordinary
mosaic of brilliant pebbles, and they played there like children
gathering the prettiest, when Calyste at the summit of happiness asked
her plainly to fly with him to Ireland, she resumed her dignified and
distant air, asked for his arm, and continued their walk in silence to
what she called her Tarpeian rock.
"My friend," she said, mounting with slow steps the magnificent block
of granite of which she was making for herself a pedestal, "I have not
the courage to conceal what you are to me. For ten years I have had no
happiness comparable to that which we have just enjoyed together,
searching for shells among those rocks, exchanging pebbles of which I
shall make a necklace more precious far to me than if it were made of
the finest diamonds. I have been once more a little girl, a child,
such as I was at fourteen or sixteen--when I was worthy of you. The
love I have had the happiness to inspire in your heart has raised me
in my own eyes. Understand these words to their magical extent. You
have made me the proudest and happiest of my sex, and you will live
longer in my remembrance, perhaps, than I in yours."
At this moment they reached the summit of the rock, whence they saw
the vast ocean on one side and Brittany on the other, with its golden
isles, its feudal towers, and its gorse. Never did any woman stand on
a finer scene to make a great avowal.
"But," she continued, "I do not belong to myself; I am more bound by
my own will than I was by the law. You must be punished for my
misdeed, but be satisfied to know that we suffer together. Dante never
saw his Beatrice again; Petrarch never possessed his Laura. Such
disasters fall on none but noble souls. But, if I should be abandoned,
if I fall lower yet into shame and ignominy, if your Beatrix is
cruelly misjudged by the world she loathes, if indeed she is the
lowest of women,--then, my child, my adored child," she said, taking
his hand, "to you she will still be first of all; you will know that
she rises to heaven as she leans on you; but then, my friend," she
added, giving him an intoxicating look, "then if you wish to cast her
down do not fail of your blow; after your love, death!"
Calyste clasped her round the waist and pressed her to his heart. As
if to confirm her words Madame de Rochefide laid a tender, timid kiss
upon his brow. When they turned and walked slowly back; talking
together like those who have a perfect comprehension of each other,
--she, thinking she had gained a truce, he not doubting of his
happiness; and both deceived. Calyste, from what Camille had told him,
was confident that Conti would be enchanted to find an opportunity to
part from Beatrix; Beatrix, yielding herself up to the vagueness of
her position, looked to chance to arrange the future.
They reached Les Touches in the most delightful of all states of mind,
entering by the garden gate, the key of which Calyste had taken with
him. It was nearly six o'clock. The luscious odors, the warm
atmosphere, the burnished rays of the evening sun were all in harmony
with their feelings and their tender talk. Their steps were taken in
unison,--the gait of all lovers,--their movements told of the union of
their thoughts. The silence that reigned about Les Touches was so
profound that the noise which Calyste made in opening and shutting the
gate must have echoed through the garden. As the two had said all to
each other that could be said, and as their day's excursion, so filled
with emotion, had physically tired them, they walked slowly, saying
Suddenly, at the turn of a path, Beatrix was seized with a horrible
trembling, with that contagious horror which is caused by the sight of
a snake, and which Calyste felt before he saw the cause of it. On a
bench, beneath the branches of a weeping ash, sat Conti, talking with
The inward and convulsive trembling of the marquise was more apparent
than she wished it to be; a tragic drama developed at that moment in
the souls of all present.
"You did not expect me so soon, I fancy," said Conti, offering his arm
The marquise could not avoid dropping Calyste's arm and taking that of
Conti. This ignoble transit, imperiously demanded, so dishonoring to
the new love, overwhelmed Calyste who threw himself on the bench
beside Camille, after exchanging the coldest of salutations with his
rival. He was torn by conflicting emotions. Strong in the thought that
Beatrix loved him, he wanted at first to fling himself upon Conti and
tell him that Beatrix was his; but the violent trembling of the woman
betraying how she suffered--for she had really paid the penalty of her
faults in that one moment--affected him so deeply that he was dumb,
struck like her with a sense of some implacable necessity.
Madame de Rochefide and Conti passed in front of the seat where
Calyste had dropped beside Camille, and as she passed, the marquise
looked at Camille, giving her one of those terrible glances in which
women have the art of saying all things. She avoided the eyes of
Calyste and turned her attention to Conti, who appeared to be jesting
"What will they say to each other?" Calyste asked of Camille.
"Dear child, you don't know as yet the terrible rights which an
extinguished love still gives to a man over a woman. Beatrix could not
refuse to take his arm. He is, no doubt, joking her about her new
love; he must have guessed it from your attitudes and the manner in
which you approached us."
"Joking her!" cried the impetuous youth, starting up.
"Be calm," said Camille, "or you will lose the last chances that
remain to you. If he wounds her self-love, she will crush him like a
worm under her foot. But he is too astute for that; he will manage her
with greater cleverness. He will seem not even to suppose that the
proud Madame de Rochefide could betray him; /she/ could never be
guilty of such depravity as loving a man for the sake of his beauty.
He will represent you to her as a child ambitious to have a marquise
in love with him, and to make himself the arbiter of the fate of two
women. In short, he will fire a broadside of malicious insinuations.
Beatrix will then be forced to parry with false assertions and
denials, which he will simply make use of to become once more her
"Ah!" cried Calyste, "he does not love her. I would leave her free.
True love means a choice made anew at every moment, confirmed from day
to day. The morrow justifies the past, and swells the treasury of our
pleasures. Ah! why did he not stay away a little longer? A few days
more and he would not have found her. What brought him back?"
"The jest of a journalist," replied Camille. "His opera, on the
success of which he counted, has fallen flat. Some journalist,
probably Claude Vignon, remarked in the foyer: 'It is hard to lose
fame and mistress at the same moment,' and the speech cut him in all
his vanities. Love based on petty sentiments is always pitiless. I
have questioned him; but who can fathom a nature so false and
deceiving? He appeared to be weary of his troubles and his love,--in
short, disgusted with life. He regrets having allied himself so
publicly with the marquise, and made me, in speaking of his past
happiness, a melancholy poem, which was somewhat too clever to be
true. I think he hoped to worm out of me the secret of your love, in
the midst of the joy he expected his flatteries to cause me."
"What else?" said Calyste, watching Beatrix and Conti, who were now
coming towards them; but he listened no longer to Camille's words.
In talking with Conti, Camille had held herself prudently on the
defensive; she had betrayed neither Calyste's secret nor that of
Beatrix. The great artist was capable of treachery to every one, and
Mademoiselle des Touches warned Calyste to distrust him.
"My dear friend," she said, "this is by far the most critical moment
for you. You need caution and a sort of cleverness you do not possess;
I am afraid you will let yourself be tricked by the most wily man I
have ever known, and I can do nothing to help you."
The bell announced dinner. Conti offered his arm to Camille; Calyste
gave his to Beatrix. Camille drew back to let the marquise pass, but
the latter had found a moment in which to look at Calyste, and impress
upon him, by putting her finger on her lips, the absolute necessity of
Conti was extremely gay during the dinner; perhaps this was only one
way of probing Madame de Rochefide, who played her part extremely ill.
If her conduct had been mere coquetry, she might have deceived even
Conti; but her new love was real, and it betrayed her. The wily
musician, far from adding to her embarrassment, pretended not to have
perceived it. At dessert, he brought the conversation round to women,
and lauded the nobility of their sentiments. Many a woman, he said,
who might have been willing to abandon a man in prosperity, would
sacrifice all to him in misfortune. Women had the advantage over men
in constancy; nothing ever detached them from their first lover, to
whom they clung as a matter of honor, unless he wounded them; they
felt that a second love was unworthy of them, and so forth. His ethics
were of the highest order; shedding incense on the altar where he knew
that one heart at least, pierced by many a blow, was bleeding. Camille
and Beatrix alone understood the bitterness of the sarcasms shot forth
in the guise of eulogy. At times they both flushed scarlet, but they
were forced to control themselves. When dinner was over, they took
each other by the arm to return to Camille's salon, and, as if by
mutual consent, they turned aside into the great salon, where they
could be alone for an instant in the darkness.
"It is dreadful to let Conti ride over me roughshod; and yet I can't
defend myself," said Beatrix, in a low voice. "The galley-slave is
always a slave to his chain-companion. I am lost; I must needs return
to my galleys! And it is you, Camille, who have cast me there! Ah! you
brought him back a day too soon, or a day too late. I recognize your
infernal talent as author. Well, your revenge is complete, the finale
"I may have told you that I would write to Conti, but to do it was
another matter," cried Camille. "I am incapable of such baseness. But
you are unhappy, and I will forgive the suspicion."
"What will become of Calyste?" said the marquise, with naive
"Then Conti carries you off, does he?" asked Camille.
"Ah! you think you triumph!" cried Beatrix.
Anger distorted her handsome face as she said those bitter words to
Camille, who was trying to hide her satisfaction under a false
expression of sympathy. Unfortunately, the sparkle in her eyes belied
the sadness of her face, and Beatrix was learned in such deceptions.
When, a few moments later, the two women were seated under a strong
light on that divan where the first three weeks so many comedies had
been played, and where the secret tragedy of many thwarted passions
had begun, they examined each other for the last time, and felt they
were forever parted by an undying hatred.
"Calyste remains to you," said Beatrix, looking into Camille's eyes;
"but I am fixed in his heart, and no woman can ever drive me out of
Camille replied, with an inimitable tone of irony that struck the
marquise to the heart, in the famous words of Mazarin's niece to Louis
"You reign, you love, and you depart!"
Neither Camille nor Beatrix was conscious during this sharp and bitter
scene of the absence of Conti and Calyste. The composer had remained
at table with his rival, begging him to keep him company in finishing
a bottle of champagne.
"We have something to say to each other," added Conti, to prevent all
refusal on the part of Calyste.
Placed as they both were, it was impossible for the young Breton to
refuse this challenge.
"My dear friend," said the composer, in his most caressing voice, as
soon as the poor lad had drunk a couple of glasses of champagne, "we
are both good fellows, and we can speak to each other frankly. I have
not come here suspiciously. Beatrix loves me,"--this with a gesture of
the utmost self-conceit--"but the truth is, I have ceased to love her.
I am not here to carry her away with me, but to break off our
relations, and to leave her the honors of the rupture. You are young;
you don't yet know how useful it is to appear to be the victim when
you are really the executioner. Young men spit fire and flame; they
leave a woman with noise and fury; they often despise her, and they
make her hate them. But wise men do as I am doing; they get themselves
dismissed, assuming a mortified air, which leaves regret in the
woman's heart and also a sense of her superiority. You don't yet know,
luckily for you, how hampered men often are in their careers by the
rash promises which women are silly enough to accept when gallantry
obliges us to make nooses to catch our happiness. We swear eternal
faithfulness, and declare that we desire to pass our lives with them,
and seem to await a husband's death impatiently. Let him die, and
there are some provincial women obtuse or silly or malicious enough to
say: 'Here am I, free at last.' The spent ball suddenly comes to life
again, and falls plumb in the midst of our finest triumphs or our most
carefully planned happiness. I have seen that you love Beatrix. I
leave her therefore in a position where she loses nothing of her
precious majesty; she will certainly coquet with you, if only to tease
and annoy that angel of a Camille Maupin. Well, my dear fellow, take
her, love her, you'll do me a great service; I want her to turn
against me. I have been afraid of her pride and her virtue. Perhaps,
in spite of my approval of the matter, it may take some time to effect
this /chassez-croissez/. On such occasions the wisest plan is to take
no step at all. I did, just now, as we walked about the lawn, attempt
to let her see that I knew all, and was ready to congratulate her on
her new happiness. Well, she was furious! At this moment I am
desperately in love with the youngest and handsomest of our
prima-donnas, Mademoiselle Falcon of the Grand Opera. I think of
marrying her; yes, I have got as far as that. When you come to Paris
you will see that I have changed a marquise for a queen."
Calyste, whose candid face revealed his satisfaction, admitted his
love for Beatrix, which was all that Conti wanted to discover. There
is no man in the world, however /blase/ or depraved he may be, whose
love will not flame up again the moment he sees it threatened by a
rival. He may wish to leave a woman, but he will never willingly let
her leave him. When a pair of lovers get to this extremity, both the
man and the woman strive for priority of action, so deep is the wound
to their vanity. Questioned by the composer, Calyste related all that
had happened during the last three weeks at Les Touches, delighted to
find that Conti, who concealed his fury under an appearance of
charming good-humor, took it all in good part.
"Come, let us go upstairs," said the latter. "Women are so
distrustful; those two will wonder how we can sit here together
without tearing each other's hair out; they are even capable of coming
down to listen. I'll serve you faithfully, my dear boy. You'll see me
rough and jealous with the marquise; I shall seem to suspect her;
there's no better way to drive a woman to betray you. You will be
happy, and I shall be free. Seem to pity that angel for belonging to a
man without delicacy; show her a tear--for you can weep, you are still
young. I, alas! can weep no more; and that's a great advantage lost."
Calyste and Conti went up to Camille's salon. The composer, begged by
his young rival to sing, gave them that greatest of musical
masterpieces viewed as execution, the famous "/Pria che spunti
l'aurora/," which Rubini himself never attempted without trembling,
and which had often been Conti's triumph. Never was his singing more
extraordinary than on this occasion, when so many feelings were
contending in his breast. Calyste was in ecstasy. As Conti sang the
first words of the cavatina, he looked intently at the marquise,
giving to those words a cruel signification which was fully
understood. Camille, who accompanied him, guessed the order thus
conveyed, which bowed the head of the luckless Beatrix. She looked at
Calyste, and felt sure that the youth had fallen into some trap in
spite of her advice. This conviction became certainty when the
evidently happy Breton came up to bid Beatrix good-night, kissing her
hand, and pressing it with a little air of happy confidence.
By the time Calyste had reached Guerande, the servants were packing
Conti's travelling-carriage, and "by dawn," as the song had said, the
composer was carrying Beatrix away with Camille's horses to the first
relay. The morning twilight enabled Madame de Rochefide to see
Guerande, its towers, whitened by the dawn, shining out upon the still
dark sky. Melancholy thoughts possessed her; she was leaving there one
of the sweetest flowers of all her life,--a pure love, such as a young
girl dreams of; the only true love she had ever known or was ever to
conceive of. The woman of the world obeyed the laws of the world; she
sacrificed love to their demands just as many women sacrifice it to
religion or to duty. Sometimes mere pride can rise in acts as high as
virtue. Read thus, this history is that of many women.
The next morning Calyste went to Les Touches about mid-day. When he
reached the spot from which, the day before, he had seen Beatrix
watching for him at the window, he saw Camille, who instantly ran down
to him. She met him at the foot of the staircase and told the cruel
truth in one word,--
"Beatrix?" asked Calyste, thunderstruck.
"You have been duped by Conti; you told me nothing, and I could do
nothing for you."
She led the poor fellow to her little salon, where he flung himself on
the divan where he had so often seen the marquise, and burst into
tears. Felicite smoked her hookah and said nothing, knowing well that
no words or thoughts are capable of arresting the first anguish of
such pain, which is always deaf and dumb. Calyste, unable even to
think, much less to choose a course, sat there all day in a state of
complete torpidity. Just before dinner was served, Camille tried to
say a few words, after begging him, very earnestly, to listen to her.
"Friend," she said, "you caused me the bitterest suffering, and I had
not, like you, a beautiful young life before me in which to heal
myself. For me, life has no longer any spring, nor my soul a love. So,
to find consolation, I have had to look above. Here, in this room, the
day before Beatrix came here, I drew you her portrait; I did not do
her injustice, or you might have thought me jealous. I wanted you to
know her as she is, for that would have kept you safe. Listen now to
the full truth. Madame de Rochefide is wholly unworthy of you. The
scandal of her fall was not necessary; she did the thing deliberately
in order to play a part in the eyes of society. She is one of those
women who prefer the celebrity of a scandal to tranquil happiness;
they fly in the face of society to obtain the fatal alms of a rebuke;
they desire to be talked about at any cost. Beatrix was eaten up with
vanity. Her fortune and her wit had not given her the feminine royalty
that she craved; they had not enabled her to reign supreme over a
salon. She then bethought herself of seeking the celebrity of the
Duchesse de Langeais and the Vicomtesse de Beauseant. But the world,
after all, is just; it gives the homage of its interest to real
feelings only. Beatrix playing comedy was judged to be a second-rate
actress. There was no reason whatever for her flight; the sword of
Damocles was not suspended over her head; she is neither sincere, nor
loving, nor tender; if she were, would she have gone away with Conti
Camille talked long and eloquently; but this last effort to open
Calyste's eyes was useless, and she said no more when he expressed to
her by a gesture his absolute belief in Beatrix.
She forced him to come down into the dining-room and sit there while
she dined; though he himself was unable to swallow food. It is only
during extreme youth that these contractions of the bodily functions
occur. Later, the organs have acquired, as it were, fixed habits, and
are hardened. The reaction of the mental and moral system upon the
physical is not enough to produce a mortal illness unless the physical
system retains its primitive purity. A man resists the violent grief
that kills a youth, less by the greater weakness of his affection than
by the greater strength of his organs.
Therefore Mademoiselle des Touches was greatly alarmed by the calm,
resigned attitude which Calyste took after his burst of tears had
subsided. Before he left her, he asked permission to go into Beatrix's
bedroom, where he had seen her on the night of her illness, and there
he laid his head on the pillow where hers had lain.
"I am committing follies," he said, grasping Camille's hand, and
bidding her good-night in deep dejection.
He returned home, found the usual company at /mouche/, and passed the
remainder of the evening sitting beside his mother. The rector, the
Chevalier du Halga, and Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel all knew of Madame de
Rochefide's departure, and were rejoicing in it. Calyste would now
return to them; and all three watched him cautiously. No one in that
old manor-house was capable of imagining the result of a first love,
the love of youth in a heart so simple and so true as that of Calyste.
SICKNESS UNTO DEATH
For several days Calyste went regularly to Les Touches. He paced round
and round the lawn, where he had sometimes walked with Beatrix on his
arm. He often went to Croisic to stand upon that fateful rock, or lie
for hours in the bush of box; for, by studying the footholds on the
sides of the fissure, he had found a means of getting up and down.
These solitary trips, his silence, his gravity, made his mother very
anxious. After about two weeks, during which time this conduct, like
that of a caged animal, lasted, this poor lover, caged in his despair,
ceased to cross the bay; he had scarcely strength to drag himself
along the road from Guerande to the spot where he had seen Beatrix
watching from her window. The family, delighted at the departure of
"those Parisians," to use a term of the provinces, saw nothing fatal
or diseased about the lad. The two old maids and the rector, pursuing
their scheme, had kept Charlotte de Kergarouet, who nightly played off
her little coquetries on Calyste, obtaining in return nothing better
than advice in playing /mouche/. During these long evenings, Calyste
sat between his mother and the little Breton girl, observed by the
rector and Charlotte's aunt, who discussed his greater or less
depression as they walked home together. Their simple minds mistook
the lethargic indifference of the hapless youth for submission to
their plans. One evening when Calyste, wearied out, went off suddenly
to bed, the players dropped their cards upon the table and looked at
each other as the young man closed the door of his chamber. One and
all had listened to the sound of his receding steps with anxiety.
"Something is the matter with Calyste," said the baroness, wiping her
"Nothing is the matter," replied Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel; "but you
should marry him at once."
"Do you believe that marriage would divert his mind?" asked the
Charlotte looked reprovingly at Monsieur du Halga, whom she now began
to think ill-mannered, depraved, immoral, without religion, and very
ridiculous about his dog,--opinions which her aunt, defending the old
"I shall lecture Calyste to-morrow morning," said the baron, whom the
others had thought asleep. "I do not wish to go out of this world
without seeing my grandson, a little pink and white Guenic with a
Breton cap on his head."
"Calyste doesn't say a word," said old Zephirine, "and there's no
making out what's the matter with him. He doesn't eat; I don't see
what he lives on. If he gets his meals at Les Touches, the devil's
kitchen doesn't nourish him."
"He is in love," said the chevalier, risking that opinion very
"Come, come, old gray-beard, you've forgotten to put in your stake!"
cried Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel. "When you begin to think of your young
days you forget everything."
"Come to breakfast to-morrow," said old Zephirine to her friend
Jacqueline; "my brother will have had a talk with his son, and we can
settle the matter finally. One nail, you know, drives out another."
"Not among Bretons," said the chevalier.
The next day Calyste saw Charlotte, as she arrived dressed with
unusual care, just after the baron had given him, in the dining-room,
a discourse on matrimony, to which he could make no answer. He now
knew the ignorance of his father and mother and all their friends; he
had gathered the fruits of the tree of knowledge, and knew himself to
be as much isolated as if he did not speak the family language. He
merely requested his father to give him a few days' grace. The old
baron rubbed his hands with joy, and gave fresh life to the baroness
by whispering in her ear what he called the good news.
Breakfast was gay; Charlotte, to whom the baron had given a hint, was
sparkling. After the meal was over, Calyste went out upon the portico
leading to the garden, followed by Charlotte; he gave her his arm and
led her to the grotto. Their parents and friends were at the window,
looking at them with a species of tenderness. Presently Charlotte,
uneasy at her suitor's silence, looked back and saw them, which gave
her an opportunity of beginning the conversation by saying to
"They are watching us."
"They cannot hear us," he replied.
"True; but they see us."
"Let us sit down, Charlotte," replied Calyste, gently taking her hand.
"Is it true that your banner used formerly to float from that twisted
column?" asked Charlotte, with a sense that the house was already
hers; how comfortable she should be there! what a happy sort of life!
"You will make some changes inside the house, won't you, Calyste?" she
"I shall not have time, my dear Charlotte," said the young man, taking
her hands and kissing them. "I am going now to tell you my secret. I
love too well a person whom you have seen, and who loves me, to be
able to make the happiness of any other woman; though I know that from
our childhood you and I have been destined for each other by our
"But she is married, Calyste."
"I shall wait," replied the young man.
"And I, too," said Charlotte, her eyes filling with tears. "You cannot
long love a woman like that, who, they say, has gone off with a
"Marry, my dear Charlotte," said Calyste, interrupting her. "With the
fortune your aunt intends to give you, which is enormous for Brittany,
you can choose some better man than I. You could marry a titled man. I
have brought you here, not to tell you what you already knew, but to
entreat you, in the name of our childish friendship, to take this
rupture upon yourself, and say that you have rejected me. Say that you
do not wish to marry a man whose heart is not free; and thus I shall
be spared at least the sense that I have done you public wrong. You do
not know, Charlotte, how heavy a burden life now is to me. I cannot
bear the slightest struggle; I am weakened like a man whose vital
spark is gone, whose soul has left him. If it were not for the grief I
should cause my mother, I would have flung myself before now into the
sea; I have not returned to the rocks at Croisic since the day that
temptation became almost irresistible. Do not speak of this to any
one. Good-bye, Charlotte."
He took the young girl's head and kissed her hair; then he left the
garden by the postern-gate and fled to Les Touches, where he stayed
near Camille till past midnight. On returning home, at one in the
morning, he found his mother awaiting him with her worsted-work. He
entered softly, clasped her hand in his, and said,--
"Is Charlotte gone?"
"She goes to-morrow, with her aunt, in despair, both of them,"
answered the baroness. "Come to Ireland with me, my Calyste."
"Many a time I have thought of flying there--"
"Ah!" cried the baroness.
"With Beatrix," he added.
Some days after Charlotte's departure, Calyste joined the Chevalier du
Halga in his daily promenade on the mall with his little dog. They sat
down in the sunshine on a bench, where the young man's eyes could
wander from the vanes of Les Touches to the rocks of Croisic, against
which the waves were playing and dashing their white foam. Calyste was
thin and pale; his strength was diminishing, and he was conscious at
times of little shudders at regular intervals, denoting fever. His
eyes, surrounded by dark circles, had that singular brilliancy which a
fixed idea gives to the eyes of hermits and solitary souls, or the
ardor of contest to those of the strong fighters of our present
civilization. The chevalier was the only person with whom he could
exchange a few ideas. He had divined in that old man an apostle of his
own religion; he recognized in his soul the vestiges of an eternal
"Have you loved many women in your life?" he asked him on the second
occasion, when, as seamen say, they sailed in company along the mall.
"Only one," replied Du Halga.
"Was she free?"
"No," exclaimed the chevalier. "Ah! how I suffered! She was the wife
of my best friend, my protector, my chief--but we loved each other
"Did she love you?" said Calyste.
"Passionately," replied the chevalier, with a fervency not usual with
"You were happy?"
"Until her death; she died at the age of forty-nine, during the
emigration, at St. Petersburg, the climate of which killed her. She
must be very cold in her coffin. I have often thought of going there
to fetch her, and lay her in our dear Brittany, near to me! But she
lies in my heart."
The chevalier brushed away his tears. Calyste took his hand and
"I care for this little dog more than for life itself," said the old
man, pointing to Thisbe. "The little darling is precisely like the one
she held on her knees and stroked with her beautiful hands. I never
look at Thisbe but what I see the hands of Madame l'Amirale."
"Did you see Madame de Rochefide?" asked Calyste.
"No," replied the chevalier. "It is sixty-eight years since I have
looked at any woman with attention--except your mother, who has
something of Madame l'Amirale's complexion."
Three days later, the chevalier said to Calyste, on the mall,--
"My child, I have a hundred and forty /louis/ laid by. When you know
where Madame de Rochefide is, come and get them and follow her."
Calyste thanked the old man, whose existence he envied. But now, from
day to day, he grew morose; he seemed to love no one; all things hurt
him; he was gentle and kind to his mother only. The baroness watched
with ever increasing anxiety the progress of his madness; she alone
was able, by force of prayer and entreaty, to make him swallow food.
Toward the end of October the sick lad ceased to go even to the mall
in search of the chevalier, who now came vainly to the house to tempt
him out with the coaxing wisdom of an old man.
"We can talk of Madame de Rochefide," he would say. "I'll tell you my
"Your son is ill," he said privately to the baroness, on the day he
became convinced that all such efforts were useless.
Calyste replied to questions about his health that he was perfectly
well; but like all young victims of melancholy, he took pleasure in
the thought of death. He no longer left the house, but sat in the
garden on a bench, warming himself in the pale and tepid sunshine,
alone with his one thought, and avoiding all companionship.
Soon after the day when Calyste ceased to go even to Les Touches,
Felicite requested the rector of Guerande to come and see her. The
assiduity with which the Abbe Grimont called every morning at Les
Touches, and sometimes dined there, became the great topic of the
town; it was talked of all over the region, and even reached Nantes.
Nevertheless, the rector never missed a single evening at the hotel du
Guenic, where desolation reigned. Masters and servants were all
afflicted at Calyste's increasing weakness, though none of them
thought him in danger; how could it ever enter the minds of these good
people that youth might die of love? Even the chevalier had no example
of such a death among his memories of life and travel. They attributed
Calyste's thinness to want of food. His mother implored him to eat.
Calyste endeavored to conquer his repugnance in order to comfort her;
but nourishment taken against his will served only to increase the
slow fever which was now consuming the beautiful young life.
During the last days of October the cherished child of the house could
no longer mount the stairs to his chamber, and his bed was placed in
the lower hall, where he was surrounded at all hours by his family.
They sent at last for the Guerande physician, who broke the fever with
quinine and reduced it in a few days, ordering Calyste to take
exercise, and find something to amuse him. The baron, on this, came
out of his apathy and recovered a little of his old strength; he grew
younger as his son seemed to age. With Calyste, Gasselin, and his two
fine dogs, he started for the forest, and for some days all three
hunted. Calyste obeyed his father and went where he was told, from
forest to forest, visiting friends and acquaintances in the
neighboring chateaus. But the youth had no spirit or gaiety; nothing
brought a smile to his face; his livid and contracted features
betrayed an utterly passive being. The baron, worn out at last by
fatigue consequent on this spasm of exertion, was forced to return
home, bringing Calyste in a state of exhaustion almost equal to his
own. For several days after their return both father and son were so
dangerously ill that the family were forced to send, at the request of
the Guerande physician himself, for two of the best doctors in Nantes.
The baron had received a fatal shock on realizing the change now so
visible in Calyste. With that lucidity of mind which nature gives to
the dying, he trembled at the thought that his race was about to
perish. He said no word, but he clasped his hands and prayed to God as
he sat in his chair, from which his weakness now prevented him from
rising. The father's face was turned toward the bed where the son lay,
and he looked at him almost incessantly. At the least motion Calyste
made, a singular commotion stirred within him, as if the flame of his
own life were flickering. The baroness no longer left the room where
Zephirine sat knitting in the chimney-corner in horrible uneasiness.
Demands were made upon the old woman for wood, father and son both
suffering from the cold, and for supplies and provisions, so that,
finally, not being agile enough to supply these wants, she had given
her precious keys to Mariotte. But she insisted on knowing everything;
she questioned Mariotte and her sister-in-law incessantly, asking in a
low voice to be told, over and over again, the state of her brother
and nephew. One night, when father and son were dozing, Mademoiselle
de Pen-Hoel told her that she must resign herself to the death of her
brother, whose pallid face was now the color of wax. The old woman
dropped her knitting, fumbled in her pocket for a while, and at length
drew out an old chaplet of black wood, on which she began to pray with
a fervor which gave to her old and withered face a splendor so
vigorous that the other old woman imitated her friend, and then all
present, on a sign from the rector, joining in the spiritual uplifting
of Mademoiselle de Guenic.
"Alas! I prayed to God," said the baroness, remembering her prayer
after reading the fatal letter written by Calyste, "and he did not