Part 5 out of 7
"She!" cried old Zephirine, "the author of all our misery! she who has
turned him from his family, who has taken him from us, led him to read
impious books, taught him an heretical language! Let her be accursed,
and may God never pardon her! She has destroyed the du Guenics!"
"She may perhaps restore them," said the rector, in a gentle voice.
"Mademoiselle des Touches is a saintly woman; I am her surety for
that. She has none but good intentions to Calyste. May she only be
enabled to carry them out."
"Let me know the day when she sets foot in this house, that I may get
out of it," cried the old woman passionately. "She has killed both
father and son. Do you think I don't hear death in Calyste's voice? he
is so feeble now that he has barely strength to whisper."
It was at this moment that the three doctors arrived. They plied
Calyste with questions; but as for his father, the examination was
short; they were surprised that he still lived on. The Guerande doctor
calmly told the baroness that as to Calyste, it would probably be best
to take him to Paris and consult the most experienced physicians, for
it would cost over a hundred /louis/ to bring one down.
"People die of something, but not of love," said Mademoiselle de Pen-
"Alas! whatever be the cause, Calyste is dying," said the baroness. "I
see all the symptoms of consumption, that most horrible disease of my
country, about him."
"Calyste dying!" said the baron, opening his eyes, from which rolled
two large tears which slowly made their way, delayed by wrinkles,
along his cheeks,--the only tears he had probably ever shed in his
life. Suddenly he rose to his feet, walked the few steps to his son's
bedside, took his hand, and looked earnestly at him.
"What is it you want, father?" said Calyste.
"That you should live!" cried the baron.
"I cannot live without Beatrix," replied Calyste.
The old man dropped into a chair.
"Oh! where could we get a hundred /louis/ to bring doctors from Paris?
There is still time," cried the baroness.
"A hundred /louis!/" cried Zephirine; "will that save him?"
Without waiting for her sister-in-law's reply, the old maid ran her
hands through the placket-holes of her gown, unfastened the petticoat
beneath it, which gave forth a heavy sound as it dropped to the floor.
She knew so well the places where she had sewn in her /louis/ that she
now ripped them out with the rapidity of magic. The gold pieces rang
as they fell, one by one, into her lap. The old Pen-Hoel gazed at this
performance in stupefied amazement.
"But they'll see you!" she whispered in her friend's ear.
"Thirty-seven," answered Zephirine, continuing to count.
"Every one will know how much you have."
"Double /louis!/ all new! How did you get them, you who can't see
"I felt them. Here's one hundred and four /louis/," cried Zephirine.
"Is that enough?"
"What is all this?" asked the Chevalier du Halga, who now came in,
unable to understand the attitude of his old blind friend, holding out
her petticoat which was full of gold coins.
Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel explained.
"I knew it," said the chevalier, "and I have come to bring a hundred
and forty /louis/ which I have been holding at Calyste's disposition,
as he knows very well."
The chevalier drew the /rouleaux/ from his pocket and showed them.
Mariotte, seeing such wealth, sent Gasselin to lock the doors.
"Gold will not give him health," said the baroness, weeping.
"But it can take him to Paris, where he can find her. Come, Calyste."
"Yes," cried Calyste, springing up, "I will go."
"He will live," said the baron, in a shaking voice; "and I can die--
send for the rector!"
The words cast terror on all present. Calyste, seeing the mortal
paleness on his father's face, for the old man was exhausted by the
cruel emotions of the scene, came to his father's side. The rector,
after hearing the report of the doctors, had gone to Mademoiselle des
Touches, intending to bring her back with him to Calyste, for in
proportion as the worthy man had formerly detested her, he now admired
her, and protected her as a shepherd protects the most precious of his
When the news of the baron's approaching end became known in Guerande,
a crowd gathered in the street and lane; the peasants, the
/paludiers/, and the servants knelt in the court-yard while the rector
administered the last sacraments to the old Breton warrior. The whole
town was agitated by the news that the father was dying beside his
half-dying son. The probable extinction of this old Breton race was
felt to be a public calamity.
The solemn ceremony affected Calyste deeply. His filial sorrow
silenced for a moment the anguish of his love. During the last hour of
the glorious old defender of the monarchy, he knelt beside him,
watching the coming on of death. The old man died in his chair in
presence of the assembled family.
"I die faithful to God and his religion," he said. "My God! as the
reward of my efforts grant that Calyste may live!"
"I shall live, father; and I will obey you," said the young man.
"If you wish to make my death as happy as Fanny has made my life,
swear to me to marry."
"I promise it, father."
It was a touching sight to see Calyste, or rather his shadow, leaning
on the arm of the old Chevalier du Halga--a spectre leading a shade--
and following the baron's coffin as chief mourner. The church and the
little square were crowded with the country people coming in to the
funeral from a circuit of thirty miles.
But the baroness and Zephirine soon saw that, in spite of his
intention to obey his father's wishes, Calyste was falling back into a
condition of fatal stupor. On the day when the family put on their
mourning, the baroness took her son to a bench in the garden and
questioned him closely. Calyste answered gently and submissively, but
his answers only proved to her the despair of his soul.
"Mother," he said, "there is no life in me. What I eat does not feed
me; the air that enters my lungs does not refresh me; the sun feels
cold; it seems to you to light that front of the house, and show you
the old carvings bathed in its beams, but to me it is all a blur, a
mist. If Beatrix were here, it would be dazzling. There is but one
only thing left in this world that keeps its shape and color to my
eyes,--this flower, this foliage," he added, drawing from his breast
the withered bunch the marquise had given him at Croisic.
The baroness dared not say more. Her son's answer seemed to her more
indicative of madness than his silence of grief. She saw no hope, no
light in the darkness that surrounded them.
The baron's last hours and death had prevented the rector from
bringing Mademoiselle des Touches to Calyste, as he seemed bent on
doing, for reasons which he did not reveal. But on this day, while
mother and son still sat on the garden bench, Calyste quivered all
over on perceiving Felicite through the opposite windows of the court-
yard and garden. She reminded him of Beatrix, and his life revived. It
was therefore to Camille that the poor stricken mother owed the first
motion of joy that lightened her mourning.
"Well, Calyste," said Mademoiselle des Touches, when they met, "I want
you to go to Paris with me. We will find Beatrix," she added in a low
The pale, thin face of the youth flushed red, and a smile brightened
"Let us go," he said.
"We shall save him," said Mademoiselle des Touches to the mother, who
pressed her hands and wept for joy.
A week after the baron's funeral, Mademoiselle des Touches, the
Baronne du Guenic and Calyste started for Paris, leaving the household
in charge of old Zephirine.
A DEATH: A MARRIAGE
Felicite's tender love was preparing for Calyste a prosperous future.
Being allied to the family of Grandlieu, the ducal branch of which was
ending in five daughters for lack of a male heir, she had written to
the Duchesse de Grandlieu, describing Calyste and giving his history,
and also stating certain intentions of her own, which were as follows:
She had lately sold her house in the rue du Mont-Blanc, for which a
party of speculators had given her two millions five hundred thousand
francs. Her man of business had since purchased for her a charming new
house in the rue de Bourbon for seven hundred thousand francs; one
million she intended to devote to the recovery of the du Guenic
estates, and the rest of her fortune she desired to settle upon Sabine
de Grandlieu. Felicite had long known the plans of the duke and
duchess as to the settlement of their five daughters: the youngest was
to marry the Vicomte de Grandlieu, the heir to their ducal title;
Clotilde-Frederique, the second daughter, desired to remain unmarried,
in memory of a man she had deeply loved, Lucien de Rubempre, while, at
the same time, she did not wish to become a nun like her eldest
sister; two of the remaining sisters were already married, and the
youngest but one, the pretty Sabine, just twenty years old, was the
only disposable daughter left. It was Sabine on whom Felicite resolved
to lay the burden of curing Calyste's passion for Beatrix.
During the journey to Paris Mademoiselle des Touches revealed to the
baroness these arrangements. The new house in the rue de Bourbon was
being decorated, and she intended it for the home of Sabine and
Calyste if her plans succeeded.
The party had been invited to stay at the hotel de Grandlieu, where
the baroness was received with all the distinction due to her rank as
the wife of a du Guenic and the daughter of a British peer.
Mademoiselle des Touches urged Calyste to see Paris, while she herself
made the necessary inquiries about Beatrix (who had disappeared from
the world, and was travelling abroad), and she took care to throw him
into the midst of diversions and amusements of all kinds. The season
for balls and fetes was just beginning, and the duchess and her
daughters did the honors of Paris to the young Breton, who was
insensibly diverted from his own thoughts by the movement and life of
the great city. He found some resemblance of mind between Madame de
Rochefide and Sabine de Grandlieu, who was certainly one of the
handsomest and most charming girls in Parisian society, and this
fancied likeness made him give to her coquetries a willing attention
which no other woman could possibly have obtained from him. Sabine
herself was greatly pleased with Calyste, and matters went so well
that during the winter of 1837 the young Baron du Guenic, whose youth
and health had returned to him, listened without repugnance to his
mother when she reminded him of the promise made to his dying father
and proposed to him a marriage with Sabine de Grandlieu. Still, while
agreeing to fulfil his promise, he concealed within his soul an
indifference to all things, of which the baroness alone was aware, but
which she trusted would be conquered by the pleasures of a happy home.
On the day when the Grandlieu family and the baroness, accompanied by
her relations who came from England for this occasion, assembled in
the grand salon of the hotel de Grandlieu to sign the marriage
contract, and Leopold Hannequin, the family notary, explained the
preliminaries of that contract before reading it, Calyste, on whose
forehead every one present might have noticed clouds, suddenly and
curtly refused to accept the benefactions offered him by Mademoiselle
des Touches. Did he still count on Felicite's devotion to recover
Beatrix? In the midst of the embarrassment and stupefaction of the
assembled families, Sabine de Grandlieu entered the room and gave him
a letter, explaining that Mademoiselle des Touches had requested her
to give it to him on this occasion.
Calyste turned away from the company to the embrasure of a window and
read as follows:--
Camille Maupin to Calyste.
Calyste, before I enter my convent cell I am permitted to cast a
look upon the world I am now to leave for a life of prayer and
solitude. That look is to you, who have been the whole world to me
in these last months. My voice will reach you, if my calculations
do not miscarry, at the moment of a ceremony I am unable to take
On the day when you stand before the altar giving your hand and
name to a young and charming girl who can love you openly before
earth and heaven, I shall be before another altar in a convent at
Nantes betrothed forever to Him who will neither fail nor betray
me. But I do not write to sadden you,--only to entreat you not to
hinder by false delicacy the service I have wished to do you since
we first met. Do not contest my rights so dearly bought.
If love is suffering, ah! I have loved you indeed, my Calyste. But
feel no remorse; the only happiness I have known in life I owe to
you; the pangs were caused by my own self. Make me compensation,
then, for all those pangs, those sorrows, by causing me an
everlasting joy. Let the poor Camille, who /is/ no longer, still
be something in the material comfort you enjoy. Dear, let me be
like the fragrance of flowers in your life, mingling myself with
it unseen and not importunate.
To you, Calyste, I shall owe my eternal happiness; will you not
accept a few paltry and fleeting benefits from me? Surely you will
not be wanting in generosity? Do you not see in this the last
message of a renounced love? Calyste, the world without you had
nothing more for me; you made it the most awful of solitudes; and
you have thus brought Camille Maupin, the unbeliever, the writer
of books, which I am soon to repudiate solemnly--you have cast
her, daring and perverted, bound hand and foot, before God.
I am to-day what I might have been, what I was born to be,--
innocent, and a child. I have washed my robes in the tears of
repentance; I can come before the altar whither my guardian angel,
my beloved Calyste, has led me. With what tender comfort I give
you that name, which the step I now take sanctifies. I love you
without self-seeking, as a mother loves her son, as the Church
loves her children. I can pray for you and for yours without one
thought or wish except for your happiness. Ah! if you only knew
the sublime tranquillity in which I live, now that I have risen in
thought above all petty earthly interests, and how precious is the
thought of DOING (as your noble motto days) our duty, you would
enter your beautiful new life with unfaltering step and never a
glance behind you or about you. Above all, my earnest prayer to
you is that you be faithful to yourself and to those belonging to
you. Dear, society, in which you are to live, cannot exist without
the religion of duty, and you will terribly mistake it, as I
mistook it, if you allow yourself to yield to passion and to
fancy, as I did. Woman is the equal of man only in making her life
a continual offering, as that of man is a perpetual action; my
life has been, on the contrary, one long egotism. If may be that
God placed you, toward evening, by the door of my house, as a
messenger from Himself, bearing my punishment and my pardon.
Heed this confession of a woman to whom fame has been like a
pharos, warning her of the only true path. Be wise, be noble;
sacrifice your fancy to your duties, as head of your race, as
husband, as father. Raise the fallen standard of the old du
Guenics; show to this century of irreligion and want of principle
what a gentleman is in all his grandeur and his honor. Dear child
of my soul, let me play the part of a mother to you; your own
mother will not be jealous of this voice from a tomb, these hands
uplifted to heaven, imploring blessings on you. To-day, more than
ever, does rank and nobility need fortune. Calyste, accept a part
of mine, and make a worthy use of it. It is not a gift; it is a
trust I place in your hands. I have thought more of your children
and of your old Breton house than of you in offering you the
profits which time has brought to my property in Paris.
"Let us now sign the contract," said the young baron, returning to the
The Abbe Grimont, to whom the honor of the conversion of this
celebrated woman was attributed, became, soon after, vicar-general of
The following week, after the marriage ceremony, which, according to
the custom of many families of the faubourg Saint-Germain, was
celebrated at seven in the morning at the church of Saint Thomas
d'Aquin, Calyste and Sabine got into their pretty travelling-carriage,
amid the tears, embraces, and congratulations of a score of friends,
collected under the awning of the hotel de Grandlieu. The
congratulations came from the four witnesses, and the men present; the
tears were in the eyes of the Duchesse de Grandlieu and her daughter
Clotilde, who both trembled under the weight of the same thought,--
"She is launched upon the sea of life! Poor Sabine! at the mercy of a
man who does not marry entirely of his own free will."
Marriage is not wholly made up of pleasures,--as fugitive in that
relation as in all others; it involves compatibility of temper,
physical sympathies, harmonies of character, which make of that social
necessity an eternal problem. Marriageable daughters, as well as
mothers, know the terms as well as the dangers of this lottery; and
that is why women weep at a wedding while men smile; men believe that
they risk nothing, while women know, or very nearly know, what they
In another carriage, which preceded the married pair, was the Baronne
du Guenic, to whom the duchess had said at parting,--
"You are a mother, though you have only had one son; try to take my
place to my dear Sabine."
On the box of the bridal carriage sat a /chasseur/, who acted as
courier, and in the rumble were two waiting-maids. The four postilions
dressed in their finest uniforms, for each carriage was drawn by four
horses, appeared with bouquets on their breasts and ribbons on their
hats, which the Duc de Grandlieu had the utmost difficulty in making
them relinquish, even by bribing them with money. The French postilion
is eminently intelligent, but he likes his fun. These fellows took
their bribes and replaced their ribbons at the barrier.
"Well, good-bye, Sabine," said the duchess; "remember your promise;
write to me often. Calyste, I say nothing more to you, but you
Clotilde, leaning on the youngest sister Athenais, who was smiling to
the Vicomte de Grandlieu, cast a reflecting look through her tears at
the bride, and followed the carriage with her eyes as it disappeared
to the clacking of four whips, more noisy than the shots of a pistol
gallery. In a few minutes the gay convoy had reached the esplanade of
the Invalides, the barrier of Passy by the quay of the Pont d'Iena,
and were fairly on the high-road to Brittany.
Is it not a singular thing that the artisans of Switzerland and
Germany, and the great families of France and England should, one and
all, follow the custom of setting out on a journey after the marriage
ceremony? The great people shut themselves in a box which rolls along;
the little people gaily tramp the roads, sitting down in the woods,
banqueting at the inns, as long as their joy, or rather their money
lasts. A moralist is puzzled to decide on which side is the finer
sense of modesty,--that which hides from the public eye and
inaugurates the domestic hearth and bed in private, as to the worthy
burghers of all lands, or that which withdraws from the family and
exhibits itself publicly on the high-roads and in face of strangers.
One would think that delicate souls might desire solitude and seek to
escape both the world and their family. The love which begins a
marriage is a pearl, a diamond, a jewel cut by the choicest of arts, a
treasure to bury in the depths of the soul.
Who can relate a honeymoon, unless it be the bride? How many women
reading this history will admit to themselves that this period of
uncertain duration is the forecast of conjugal life? The first three
letters of Sabine to her mother will depict a situation not surprising
to some young brides and to many old women. All those who find
themselves the sick-nurses, so to speak, of a husband's heart, do not,
as Sabine did, discover this at once. But young girls of the faubourg
Saint-Germain, if intelligent, are women in mind. Before marriage,
they have received from their mothers and the world they live in the
baptism of good manners; though women of rank, anxious to hand down
their traditions, do not always see the bearing of their own lessons
when they say to their daughters: "That is a motion that must not be
made;" "Never laugh at such things;" "No lady ever flings herself on a
sofa; she sits down quietly;" "Pray give up such detestable ways;" "My
dear, that is a thing which is never done," etc.
Many bourgeois critics unjustly deny the innocence and virtue of young
girls who, like Sabine, are truly virgin at heart, improved by the
training of their minds, by the habit of noble bearing, by natural
good taste, while, from the age of sixteen, they have learned how to
use their opera-glasses. Sabine was a girl of this school, which was
also that of Mademoiselle de Chaulieu. This inborn sense of the
fitness of things, these gifts of race made Sabine de Grandlieu as
interesting a young woman as the heroine of the "Memoirs of two young
Married Women." Her letters to her mother during the honeymoon, of
which we here give three or four, will show the qualities of her mind
Guerande, April, 1838.
To Madame la Duchesse de Grandlieu:
Dear Mamma,--You will understand why I did not write to you during
the journey,--our wits are then like wheels. Here I am, for the
last two days, in the depths of Brittany, at the hotel du Guenic,
--a house as covered with carving as a sandal-wood box. In spite
of the affectionate devotion of Calyste's family, I feel a keen
desire to fly to you, to tell you many things which can only be
trusted to a mother.
Calyste married, dear mamma, with a great sorrow in his heart. We
all knew that, and you did not hide from me the difficulties of my
position; but alas! they are greater than you thought. Ah! my dear
mother, what experience we acquire in the short space of a few
days--I might even say a few hours! All your counsels have proved
fruitless; you will see why from one sentence: I love Calyste as
if he were not my husband,--that is to say, if I were married to
another, and were travelling with Calyste, I should love Calyste
and hate my husband.
Now think of a man beloved so completely, involuntarily,
absolutely, and all the other adverbs you may choose to employ,
and you will see that my servitude is established in spite of your
good advice. You told me to be grand, noble, dignified, and self-
respecting in order to obtain from Calyste the feelings that are
never subject to the chances and changes of life,--esteem, honor,
and the consideration which sanctifies a woman in the bosom of her
family. I remember how you blamed, I dare say justly, the young
women of the present day, who, under pretext of living happily
with their husbands, begin by compliance, flattery, familiarity,
an abandonment, you called it, a little too wanton (a word I did
not fully understand), all of which, if I must believe you, are
relays that lead rapidly to indifference and possibly to contempt.
"Remember that you are a Grandlieu!" yes, I remember that you told
me all that--
But oh! that advice, filled with the maternal eloquence of a
female Daedelus has had the fate of all things mythological. Dear,
beloved mother, could you ever have supposed it possible that I
should begin by the catastrophe which, according to you, ends the
honeymoon of the young women of the present day?
When Calyste and I were fairly alone in the travelling carriage,
we felt rather foolish in each other's company, understanding the
importance of the first word, the first look; and we both,
bewildered by the solemnity, looked out of our respective windows.
It became so ridiculous that when we reached the barrier monsieur
began, in a rather troubled tone of voice, a set discourse,
prepared, no doubt, like other improvisations, to which I listened
with a beating heart, and which I take the liberty of here
"My dear Sabine," he said, "I want you to be happy, and, above
all, do I wish you to be happy in your own way. Therefore, in the
situation in which we are, instead of deceiving ourselves mutually
about our characters and our feelings by noble compliances, let us
endeavor to be to each other at once what we should be years
hence. Think always that you have a friend and a brother in me, as
I shall feel I have a sister and a friend in you."
Though it was all said with the utmost delicacy, I found nothing
in this first conjugal love-speech which responded to the feelings
in my soul, and I remained pensive after replying that I was
animated by the same sentiments. After this declaration of our
rights to mutual coldness, we talked of weather, relays, and
scenery in the most charming manner,--I with rather a forced
little laugh, he absent-mindedly.
At last, as we were leaving Versailles, I turned to Calyste--whom
I called my dear Calyste, and he called me my dear Sabine--and
asked him plainly to tell me the events which had led him to the
point of death, and to which I was aware that I owed the happiness
of being his wife. He hesitated long. In fact, my request gave
rise to a little argument between us, which lasted through three
relays,--I endeavoring to maintain the part of an obstinate girl,
and trying to sulk; he debating within himself the question which
the newspapers used to put to Charles X.: "Must the king yield or
not?" At last, after passing Verneuil, and exchanging oaths enough
to satisfy three dynasties never to reproach him for his folly,
and never to treat him coldly, etc., etc., he related to me his
love for Madame de Rochefide.
"I do not wish," he said, in conclusion, "to have any secrets
Poor, dear Calyste, it seems, was ignorant that his friend,
Mademoiselle des Touches, and you had thought it right to tell me
the truth. Well, mother,--for I can tell all to a mother as tender
as you,--I was deeply hurt by perceiving that he had yielded less
to my request than to his own desire to talk of that strange
passion. Do you blame me, darling mother, for having wished to
reconnoitre the extent of the grief, the open wound of the heart
of which you warned me?
So, eight hours after receiving the rector's blessing at Saint-
Thomas d'Aquin, your Sabine was in the rather false position of a
young wife listening to a confidence, from the very lips of her
husband, of his misplaced love for an unworthy rival. Yes, there I
was, in the drama of a young woman learning, officially, as it
were, that she owed her marriage to the disdainful rejection of an
old and faded beauty!
Still, I gained what I sought. "What was that?" you will ask. Ah!
mother dear, I have seen too much of love going on around me not
to know how to put a little of it into practice. Well, Calyste
ended the poem of his miseries with the warmest protestations of
an absolute forgetting of what he called his madness. All kinds of
affirmations have to be signed, you know. The happy unhappy one
took my hand, carried it to his lips, and, after that, he kept it
for a long time clasped in his own. A declaration followed. /That
one/ seemed to me more conformable than the first to the demands
of our new condition, though our lips never said a word. Perhaps I
owed it to the vigorous indignation I felt and showed at the bad
taste of a woman foolish enough not to love my beautiful, my
They are calling me to play a game of cards, which I do not yet
understand. I will finish my letter to-morrow. To leave you at
this moment to make a fifth at /mouche/ (that is the name of the
game) can only be done in the depths of Brittany--Adieu.
Guerande, May, 1838.
I take up my Odyssey. On the third day your children no longer
used the ceremonious "you;" they thee'd and thou'd each other like
lovers. My mother-in-law, enchanted to see us so happy, is trying
to take your place to me, dear mother, and, as often happens when
people play a part to efface other memories, she has been so
charming that she is, /almost/, you to me.
I think she has guessed the heroism of my conduct, for at the
beginning of our journey she tried to hide her anxiety with such
care that it was visible from excessive precaution.
When I saw the towers of Guerande rising in the distance, I
whispered in the ear of your son-in-law, "Have you really
forgotten her?" My husband, now become /my angel/, can't know
anything, I think, about sincere and simple love, for the words
made him wild with happiness. Still, I think the desire to put
Madame de Rochefide forever out of his mind led me too far. But
how could I help it? I love, and I am half a Portuguese,--for I am
much more like you, mamma, than like my father.
Calyste accepts all from me as spoilt children accept things, they
think it their right; he is an only child, I remember that. But,
between ourselves, I will not give my daughter (if I have any
daughters) to an only son. I see a variety of tyrants in an only
son. So, mamma, we have rather inverted our parts, and I am the
devoted half of the pair. There are dangers, I know, in devotion,
though we profit by it; we lose our dignity, for one thing. I feel
bound to tell you of the wreck of that semi-virtue. Dignity, after
all, is only a screen set up before pride, behind which we rage as
we please; but how could I help it? you were not here, and I saw a
gulf opening before me. Had I remained upon my dignity, I should
have won only the cold joys (or pains) of a sort of brotherhood
which would soon have drifted into indifference. What sort of
future might that have led to? My devotion has, I know, made me
Calyste's slave; but shall I regret it? We shall see.
As for the present, I am delighted with it. I love Calyste; I love
him absolutely, with the folly of a mother, who thinks that all
her son may do is right, even if he tyrannizes a trifle over her.
Guerande, May 15th.
Up to the present moment, dear mamma, I find marriage a delightful
affair, I can spend all my tenderness on the noblest of men whom a
foolish woman disdained for a fiddler,--for that woman evidently
was a fool, and a cold fool, the worst kind! I, in my legitimate
love, am charitable; I am curing his wounds while I lay my heart
open to incurable ones. Yes, the more I love Calyste, the more I
feel that I should die of grief if our present happiness ever
I must tell you how the whole family and the circle which meets at
the hotel de Guenic adore me. They are all personages born under
tapestries of the highest warp; in fact, they seem to have stepped
from those old tapestries as if to prove that the impossible may
exist. Some day, when we are alone together, I will describe to
you my Aunt Zephirine, Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel, the Chevalier du
Halga, the Demoiselles de Kergarouet, and others. They all, even
to the two servants, Gasselin and Mariotte (whom I wish they would
let me take to Paris), regard me as an angel sent from heaven;
they tremble when I speak. Dear people! they ought to be preserved
My mother-in-law has solemnly installed us in the apartments
formerly occupied by herself and her late husband. The scene was
touching. She said to us,--
"I spent my whole married life, a happy woman, in these rooms; may
the omen be a happy one for you, my children."
She has taken Calyste's former room for hers. Saintly soul! she
seems intent on laying off her memories and all her conjugal
dignities to invest us with them. The province of Brittany, this
town, this family of ancient morals and ancient customs has, in
spite of certain absurdities which strike the eye of a frivolous
Parisian girl, something inexplicable, something grandiose even in
its trifles, which can only be defined by the word /sacred/.
All the tenants of the vast domains of the house of Guenic, bought
back, as you know, by Mademoiselle des Touches (whom we are going
to visit in her convent), have been in a body to pay their
respects to us. These worthy people, in their holiday costumes,
expressing their genuine joy in the fact that Calyste has now
become really and truly their master, made me understand Brittany,
the feudal system and /old/ France. The whole scene was a festival
I can't describe to you in writing, but I will tell you about it
when we meet. The terms of the leases have been proposed by the
/gars/ themselves. We shall sign them, after making a tour of
inspection round the estates, which have been mortgaged away from
us for one hundred and fifty years! Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel told
me that the /gars/ have reckoned up the revenues and estimated the
rentals with a veracity and justice Parisians would never believe.
We start in three days on horseback for this trip. I will write
you on my return, dear mother. I shall have nothing more to tell
you about myself, for my happiness is at its height--and how can
that be told? I shall write you only what you know already, and
that is, how I love you.
Nantes, June, 1838.
Having now played the role of a chatelaine, adored by her vassals
as if the revolutions of 1789 and 1830 had lowered no banners; and
after rides through forests, and halts at farmhouses, dinners on
oaken tables, covered with centenary linen, bending under Homeric
viands served on antediluvian dishes; after drinking the choicest
wines in goblets to volleys of musketry, accompanied by cries of
"Long live the Guenics!" till I was deafened; after balls, where
the only orchestra was a bagpipe, blown by a man for ten hours;
and after bouquets, and young brides who wanted us to bless them,
and downright weariness, which made me find in my bed a sleep I
never knew before, with delightful awakenings when love shone
radiant as the sun pouring in upon me, and scintillating with a
million of flies, all buzzing in the Breton dialect!--in short,
after a most grotesque residence in the Chateau du Guenic, where
the windows are gates and the cows grace peacefully on the grass
in the halls (which castle we have sworn to repair and to inhabit
for a while very year to the wild acclamations of the clan du
Guenic, a /gars/ of which bore high our banner)--ouf! I am at
But oh! what a day was that when we arrived at the old castle! The
rector came out, mother, with all his clergy, crowned with
flowers, to receive us and bless us, expressing such joy,--the
tears are in my eyes as I think of it. And my noble Calyste! who
played his part of seigneur like a personage in Walter Scott! My
lord received his tenants' homage as if he were back in the
thirteenth century. I heard the girls and the women saying to each
other, "Oh, what a beautiful seigneur we have!" for all the world
like an opera chorus. The old men talked of Calyste's resemblance
to the former Guenics whom they had known in their youth. Ah!
noble, sublime Brittany! land of belief and faith! But progress
has got its eye upon it; bridges are being built, roads made,
ideas are coming, and then farewell to the sublime! The peasants
will certainly not be as free and proud as I have now seen them,
when progress has proved to them that they are Calyste's equals--
if, indeed, they could ever be got to believe it.
After this poem of our pacific Restoration had been sung, and the
contracts and leases signed, we left that ravishing land, all
flowery, gay, solemn, lonely by turns, and came here to kneel with
our happiness at the feet of her who gave it to us.
Calyste and I both felt the need of thanking the sister of the
Visitation. In memory of her he has quartered his own arms with
those of Des Touches, which are: party couped, tranche and taille
or and sinople, on the latter two eagles argent. He means to take
one of the eagles argent for his own supporter and put this motto
in its beak: /Souviegne-vous/.
Yesterday we went to the convent of the ladies of the Visitation,
to which we were taken by the Abbe Grimont, a friend of the du
Guenic family, who told us that your dear Felicite, mamma, was
indeed a saint. She could not very well be anything else to him,
for her conversion, which was thought to be his doing, has led to
his appointment as vicar-general of the diocese. Mademoiselle des
Touches declined to receive Calyste, and would only see me. I
found her slightly changed, thinner and paler; but she seemed much
pleased at my visit.
"Tell Calyste," she said, in a low voice, "that it is a matter of
conscience with me not to see him, for I am permitted to do so. I
prefer not to buy that happiness by months of suffering. Ah, you
do not know what it costs me to reply to the question, 'Of what
are you thinking?' Certainly the mother of the novices has no
conception of the number and extent of the ideas which are rushing
through my mind when she asks that question. Sometimes I am seeing
Italy or Paris, with all its sights; always thinking, however, of
Calyste, who is"--she said this in that poetic way you know and
admire so much--"who is the sun of memory to me. I found," she
continued, "that I was too old to be received among the
Carmelites, and I have entered the order of Saint-Francois de
Sales solely because he said, 'I will bare your heads instead of
your feet,'--objecting, as he did, to austerities which mortified
the body only. It is, in truth, the head that sins. The saintly
bishop was right to make his rule austere toward the intellect,
and terrible against the will. That is what I sought; for my head
was the guilty part of me. It deceived me as to my heart until I
reached that fatal age of forty, when, for a few brief moments, we
are forty times happier than young women, and then, speedily,
fifty times more unhappy. But, my child, tell me," she asked,
ceasing with visible satisfaction to speak of herself, "are you
"You see me under all the enchantments of love and happiness," I
"Calyste is as good and simple as he is noble and beautiful," she
said, gravely. "I have made you my heiress in more things than
property; you now possess the double ideal of which I dreamed. I
rejoice in what I have done," she continued, after a pause. "But,
my child, make no mistake; do yourself no wrong. You have easily
won happiness; you have only to stretch out your hand to take it,
and it is yours; but be careful to preserve it. If you had come
here solely to carry away with you the counsels that my knowledge
of your husband alone can give you, the journey would be well
repaid. Calyste is moved at this moment by a communicated passion,
but you have not inspired it. To make your happiness lasting, try,
my dear child, to give him something of his former emotions. In
the interests of both of you, be capricious, be coquettish; to
tell you the truth, you /must/ be. I am not advising any odious
scheming, or petty tyranny; this that I tell you is the science of
a woman's life. Between usury and prodigality, my child, is
economy. Study, therefore, to acquire honorably a certain empire
over Calyste. These are the last words on earthly interests that I
shall ever utter, and I have kept them to say as we part; for
there are times when I tremble in my conscience lest to save
Calyste I may have sacrificed you. Bind him to you, firmly, give
him children, let him respect their mother in you--and," she
added, in a low and trembling voice, "manage, if you can, that he
shall never again see Beatrix."
That name plunged us both into a sort of stupor; we looked into
each other's eyes, exchanging a vague uneasiness.
"Do you return to Guerande?" she asked me.
"Yes," I said.
"Never go to Les Touches. I did wrong to give him that property."
"Why?" I asked.
"Child!" she answered, "Les Touches for you is Bluebeard's
chamber. There is nothing so dangerous as to wake a sleeping
I have given you, dear mamma, the substance, or at any rate, the
meaning of our conversation. If Mademoiselle des Touches made me
talk to her freely, she also gave me much to think of; and all the
more because, in the delight of this trip, and the charm of these
relations with my Calyste, I had well-nigh forgotten the serious
situation of which I spoke to you in my first letter, and about
which you warned me.
But oh! mother, it is impossible for me to follow these counsels.
I cannot put an appearance of opposition or caprice into my love;
it would falsify it. Calyste will do with me what he pleases.
According to your theory, the more I am a woman the more I make
myself his toy; for I am, and I know it, horribly weak in my
happiness; I cannot resist a single glance of my lord. But no! I
do not abandon myself to love; I only cling to it, as a mother
presses her infant to her breast, fearing some evil.
Note.--When "Beatrix" was first published, in 1839, the volume ended
with the following paragraph: "Calyste, rich and married to the
most beautiful woman in Paris, retains a sadness in his soul which
nothing dissipates,--not even the birth of a son at Guerande, in
1839, to the great joy of Zephirine du Guenic. Beatrix lives still
in the depths of his heart, and it is impossible to foresee what
disasters might result should he again meet with Madame de
Rochefide." In 1842 this concluding paragraph was suppressed and
the story continued as here follows.--TR.
THE END OF A HONEY-MOON
Guerande, July, 1838.
To Madame la Duchesse de Grandlieu:
Ah, my dear mamma! at the end of three months to know what it is
to be jealous! My heart completes its experience; I now feel the
deepest hatred and the deepest love! I am more than betrayed,--I
am not loved. How fortunate for me to have a mother, a heart on
which to cry out as I will!
It is enough to say to wives who are still half girls: "Here's a
key rusty with memories among those of your palace; go everywhere,
enjoy everything, but keep away from Les Touches!" to make us
eager to go there hot-foot, our eyes shining with the curiosity of
Eve. What a root of bitterness Mademoiselle des Touches planted in
my love! Why did she forbid me to go to Les Touches? What sort of
happiness is mine if it depends on an excursion, on a visit to a
paltry house in Brittany? Why should I fear? Is there anything to
fear? Add to this reasoning of Mrs. Blue-Beard the desire that
nips all women to know if their power is solid or precarious, and
you'll understand how it was that I said one day, with an
unconcerned little air:--
"What sort of place is Les Touches?"
"Les Touches belongs to you," said my divine, dear mother-in-law.
"If Calyste had never set foot in Les Touches!"--cried my aunt
Zephirine, shaking her head.
"He would not be my husband," I added.
"Then you know what happened there?" said my mother-in-law, slyly.
"It is a place of perdition!" exclaimed Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel.
"Mademoiselle des Touches committed many sins there, for which she
is now asking the pardon of God."
"But they saved the soul of that noble woman, and made the fortune
of a convent," cried the Chevalier du Halga. "The Abbe Grimont
told me she had given a hundred thousand francs to the nuns of the
"Should you like to go to Les Touches?" asked my mother-in-law.
"It is worth seeing."
"No, no!" I said hastily.
Doesn't this little scene read to you like a page out of some
It was repeated again and again under various pretexts. At last my
mother-in-law said to me: "I understand why you do not go to Les
Touches, and I think you are right."
Oh! you must admit, mamma, that an involuntary, unconscious stab
like that would have decided you to find out if your happiness
rested on such a frail foundation that it would perish at a mere
touch. To do Calyste justice, he never proposed to me to visit
that hermitage, now his property. But as soon as we love we are
creatures devoid of common-sense, and this silence, this reserve
piqued me; so I said to him one day: "What are you afraid of at
Les Touches, that you alone never speak of the place?"
"Let us go there," he replied.
So there I was /caught/,--like other women who want to be caught,
and who trust to chance to cut the Gordian knot of their
indecision. So to Les Touches we went.
It is enchanting, in a style profoundly artistic. I took delight
in that place of horror where Mademoiselle des Touches had so
earnestly forbidden me to go. Poisonous flowers are all charming;
Satan sowed them--for the devil has flowers as well as God; we
have only to look within our souls to see the two shared in the
making of us. What delicious acrity in a situation where I played,
not with fire, but--with ashes! I studied Calyste; the point was
to know if that passion was thoroughly extinct. I watched, as you
may well believe, every wind that blew; I kept an eye upon his
face as he went from room to room and from one piece of furniture
to another, exactly like a child who is looking for some hidden
thing. Calyste seemed thoughtful, but at first I thought that I
had vanquished the past. I felt strong enough to mention Madame de
Rochefide-whom in my heart I called la Rocheperfide. At last we
went to see the famous bush were Beatrix was caught when he flung
her into the sea that she might never belong to another man.
"She must be light indeed to have stayed there," I said laughing.
Calyste kept silence, so I added, "We'll respect the dead."
Still Calyste was silent.
"Have I displeased you?" I asked.
"No; but cease to galvanize that passion," he answered.
What a speech! Calyste, when he saw me all cast down by it,
redoubled his care and tenderness.
I was, alas! at the edge of a precipice, amusing myself, like the
innocent heroines of all melodramas, by gathering flowers.
Suddenly a horrible thought rode full tilt through my happiness,
like the horse in the German ballad. I thought I saw that
Calyste's love was increasing through his reminiscences; that he
was expending on /me/ the stormy emotions I revived by reminding
him of the coquetries of that hateful Beatrix,--just think of it!
that cold, unhealthy nature, so persistent yet so flabby,
something between a mollusk and a bit of coral, dares to call
itself Beatrix, /Beatrice!/
Already, dearest mother, I am forced to keep one eye open to
suspicion, when my heart is all Calyste's; and isn't it a great
catastrophe when the eye gets the better of the heart, and
suspicion at last finds itself justified? It came to pass in this
"This place is dear to me," I said to Calyste one morning,
"because I owe my happiness to it; and so I forgive you for taking
me sometimes for another woman."
The loyal Breton blushed, and I threw my arms around his neck. But
all the same I have left Les Touches, and never will I go back
The very strength of hatred which makes me long for Madame de
Rochefide's death--ah, heavens! a natural death, pleurisy, or some
accident--makes me also understand to its fullest extent the power
of my love for Calyste. That woman has appeared to me to trouble
my sleep,--I see her in a dream; shall I ever encounter her
bodily? Ah! the postulant of the Visitation was right,--Les
Touches is a fatal spot; Calyste has there recovered his past
emotions, and they are, I see it plainly, more powerful than the
joys of our love. Ascertain, my dear mamma, if Madame de Rochefide
is in Paris, for if she is, I shall stay in Brittany. Poor
Mademoiselle des Touches might well repent of her share in our
marriage if she knew to what extent I am taken for our odious
rival! But this is prostitution! I am not myself; I am ashamed of
it all. A frantic desire seizes me sometimes to fly from Guerande
and those sands of Croisic.
I am determined to go and live in the ruins of the old chateau.
Calyste, worried by my restlessness, agrees to take me. Either he
knows life so little that he guesses nothing, or he /does/ know
the cause of my flight, in which case he cannot love me. I tremble
so with fear lest I find the awful certainty I seek that, like a
child, I put my hands before my eyes not to hear the explosion--
Oh, mother! I am not loved with the love that I feel in my heart.
Calyste is charming to me, that's true! but what man, unless he
were a monster, would not be, as Calyste is, amiable and gracious
when receiving all the flowers of the soul of a young girl of
twenty, brought up by you, pure, loving, and beautiful, as many
women have said to you that I am.
Guenic, September 18.
Has he forgotten her? That's the solitary thought which echoes
through my soul like a remorse. Ah! dear mamma, have all women to
struggle against memories as I do? None but innocent young men
should be married to pure young girls. But that's a deceptive
Utopia; better have one's rival in the past than in the future.
Ah! mother, pity me, though at this moment I am happy as a woman
who fears to lose her happiness and so clings fast to it,--one way
of killing it, says that profoundly wise Clotilde.
I notice that for the last five months I think only of myself,
that is, of Calyste. Tell sister Clotilde that her melancholy bits
of wisdom often recur to me. She is happy in being faithful to the
dead; she fears no rival. A kiss to my dear Athenais, about whom I
see Juste is beside himself. From what you told me in your last
letter it is evident he fears you will not give her to him.
Cultivate that fear as a precious product. Athenais will be
sovereign lady; but I who fear lest I can never win Calyste back
from himself shall always be a servant.
A thousand tendernesses, dear mamma. Ah! if my terrors are not
delusions, Camille Maupin has sold me her fortune dearly. My
affectionate respects to papa.
These letters give a perfect explanation of the secret relation
between husband and wife. Sabine thought of a love marriage where
Calyste saw only a marriage of expediency. The joys of the honey-moon
had not altogether conformed to the legal requirements of the social
During the stay of the married pair in Brittany the work of restoring
and furnishing the hotel du Guenic had been carried on by the
celebrated architect Grindot, under the superintendence of Clotilde
and the Duc and Duchesse de Grandlieu, all arrangements having been
made for the return of the young household to Paris in December, 1838.
Sabine installed herself in the rue de Bourbon with pleasure,--less
for the satisfaction of playing mistress of a great household than for
that of knowing what her family would think of her marriage.
Calyste, with easy indifference, was quite willing to let his sister-
in-law Clotilde and his mother-in-law the duchess guide him in all
matters of social life, and they were both very grateful for his
obedience. He obtained the place in society which was due to his name,
his fortune, and his alliance. The success of his wife, who was
regarded as one of the most charming women in Paris, the diversions of
high society, the duties to be fulfilled, the winter amusements of the
great city, gave a certain fresh life to the happiness of the young
household by producing a series of excitements and interludes. Sabine,
considered happy by her mother and sister, who saw in Calyste's
coolness an effect of his English education, cast aside her gloomy
notions; she heard her lot so envied by many unhappily married women
that she drove her terrors from her into the region of chimeras, until
the time when her pregnancy gave additional guarantees to this neutral
sort of union, guarantees which are usually augured well of by
experienced women. In October, 1839, the young Baronne du Guenic had a
son, and committed the mistake of nursing it herself, on the theory of
most women in such cases. How is it possible, they think, not to be
wholly the mother of the child of an idolized husband?
Toward the end of the following summer, in August, 1840, Sabine had
nearly reached the period when the duty of nursing her first child
would come to an end. Calyste, during his two years' residence in
Paris, had completely thrown off that innocence of mind the charm of
which had so adorned his earliest appearance in the world of passion.
He was now the comrade of the young Duc Georges de Maufrigneuse,
lately married, like himself, to an heiress, Berthe de Cinq-Cygne; of
the Vicomte Savinien de Portenduere, the Duc and Duchesse de Rhetore,
the Duc and Duchesse de Lenoncourt-Chaulieu, and all the /habitues/ of
his mother-in-law's salon; and he fully understood by this time the
differences that separated Parisian life from the life of the
provinces. Wealth has fatal hours, hours of leisure and idleness,
which Paris knows better than all other capitals how to amuse, charm,
and divert. Contact with those young husbands who deserted the noblest
and sweetest of creatures for the delights of a cigar and whist, for
the glorious conversations of a club, or the excitements of "the
turf," undermined before long many of the domestic virtues of the
young Breton noble. The motherly solicitude of a wife who is anxious
not to weary her husband always comes to the support of the
dissipations of young men. A wife is proud to see her husband return
to her when she has allowed him full liberty of action.
One evening, on October of that year, to escape the crying of the
newly weaned child, Calyste, on whose forehead Sabine could not endure
to see a frown, went, urged by her, to the Varietes, where a new play
was to be given for the first time. The footman whose business it was
to engage a stall had taken it quite near to that part of the theatre
which is called the /avant-scene/. As Calyste looked about him during
the first interlude, he saw in one of the two proscenium boxes on his
side, and not ten steps from him, Madame de Rochefide. Beatrix in
Paris! Beatrix in public! The two thoughts flew through Calyste's
heart like arrows. To see her again after nearly three years! How
shall we depict the convulsion in the soul of this lover, who, far
from forgetting the past, had sometimes substituted Beatrix for his
wife so plainly that his wife had perceived it? Beatrix was light,
life, motion, and the Unknown. Sabine was duty, dulness, and the
expected. One became, in a moment, pleasure; the other, weariness. It
was the falling of a thunderbolt.
From a sense of loyalty, the first thought of Sabine's husband was to
leave the theatre. As he left the door of the orchestra stalls, he saw
the door of the proscenium box half-open, and his feet took him there
in spite of his will. The young Breton found Beatrix between two very
distinguished men, Canalis and Raoul Nathan, a statesman and a man of
letters. In the three years since Calyste had seen her, Madame de
Rochefide was amazingly changed; and yet, although the transformation
had seriously affected her as a woman, she was only the more poetic
and the more attractive to Calyste. Until the age of thirty the pretty
women of Paris ask nothing more of their toilet than clothing; but
after they pass through the fatal portal of the thirties, they look
for weapons, seductions, embellishments among their /chiffons;/ out of
these they compose charms, they find means, they take a style, they
seize youth, they study the slightest accessory,--in a word, they pass
from nature to art.
Madame de Rochefide had just come through the vicissitudes of a drama
which, in this history of the manners and morals of France in the
nineteenth century may be called that of the Deserted Woman. Deserted
by Conti, she became, naturally, a great artist in dress, in coquetry,
in artificial flowers of all kinds.
"Why is Conti not here?" inquired Calyste in a low voice of Canalis,
after going through the commonplace civilities with which even the
most solemn interviews begin when they take place publicly.
The former great poet of the faubourg Saint-Germain, twice a cabinet
minister, and now for the fourth time an orator in the Chamber, and
aspiring to another ministry, laid a warning finger significantly on
his lip. That gesture explained everything.
"I am happy to see you," said Beatrix, demurely. "I said to myself
when I recognized you just now, before you saw me, that /you/ at least
would not disown me. Ah! my Calyste," she added in a whisper, "why did
you marry?--and with such a little fool!"
As soon as a woman whispers in the ear of a new-comer and makes him
sit beside her, men of the world find an immediate excuse for leaving
the pair alone together.
"Come, Nathan," said Canalis, "Madame la marquise will, I am sure,
allow me to go and say a word to d'Arthez, whom I see over there with
the Princesse de Cadignan; it relates to some business in the Chamber
This well-bred departure gave Calyste time to recover from the shock
he had just received; but he nearly lost both his strength and his
senses once more, as he inhaled the perfume, to him entrancing though
venomous, of the poem composed by Beatrix. Madame de Rochefide, now
become bony and gaunt, her complexion faded and almost discolored, her
eyes hollow with deep circles, had that evening brightened those
premature ruins by the cleverest contrivances of the /article Paris/.
She had taken it into her head, like other deserted women, to assume a
virgin air, and recall by clouds of white material the maidens of
Ossian, so poetically painted by Girodet. Her fair hair draped her
elongated face with a mass of curls, among which rippled the rays of
the foot-lights attracted by the shining of a perfumed oil. Her white
brow sparkled. She had applied an imperceptible tinge of rouge to her
cheeks, upon the faded whiteness of a skin revived by bran and water.
A scarf so delicate in texture that it made one doubt if human fingers
could have fabricated such gossamer, was wound about her throat to
diminish its length, and partly conceal it; leaving imperfectly
visible the treasures of the bust which were cleverly enclosed in a
corset. Her figure was indeed a masterpiece of composition.
As for her pose, one word will suffice--it was worthy of the pains she
had taken to arrange it. Her arms, now thin and hard, were scarcely
visible within the puffings of her very large sleeves. She presented
that mixture of false glitter and brilliant fabrics, of silken gauze
and craped hair, of vivacity, calmness, and motion which goes by the
term of the /Je ne sais quoi/. Everybody knows in what that consists,
namely: great cleverness, some taste, and a certain composure of
manner. Beatrix might now be called a decorative scenic effect,
changed at will, and wonderfully manipulated. The presentation of this
fairy effect, to which is added clever dialogue, turns the heads of
men who are endowed by nature with frankness, until they become
possessed, through the law of contrasts, by a frantic desire to play
with artifice. It is false, though enticing; a pretence, but
agreeable; and certain men adore women who play at seduction as others
do at cards. And this is why: The desire of the man is a syllogism
which draws conclusions from this external science as to the secret
promises of pleasure. The inner consciousness says, without words: "A
woman who can, as it were, create herself beautiful must have many
other resources for love." And that is true. Deserted women are
usually those who merely love; those who retain love know the /art/ of
loving. Now, though her Italian lesson had very cruelly maltreated the
self-love and vanity of Madame de Rochefide, her nature was too
instinctively artificial not to profit by it.
"It is not a question of loving a man," she was saying a few moments
before Calyste had entered her box; "we must tease and harass him if
we want to keep him. That's the secret of all those women who seek to
retain you men. The dragons who guard treasures are always armed with
claws and wings."
"I shall make a sonnet on that thought," replied Canalis at the very
moment when Calyste entered the box.
With a single glance Beatrix divined the state of Calyste's heart; she
saw the marks of the collar she had put upon him at Les Touches, still
fresh and red. Calyste, however, wounded by the speech made to him
about his wife, hesitated between his dignity as a husband, Sabine's
defence, and a harsh word cast upon a heart which held such memories
for him, a heart which he believed to be bleeding. The marquise
observed his hesitation; she had made that speech expressly that she
might know how far her empire over Calyste still extended. Seeing his
weakness, she came at once to his succor to relieve his embarrassment.
"Well, dear friend, you find me alone," she said, as soon as the two
gentlemen had left the box,--"yes, alone in the world!"
"You forget me!" said Calyste.
"You!" she replied, "but you are married. That was one of my griefs,
among the many I have endured since I saw you last. Not only--I said
to myself--do I lose love, but I have lost a friendship which I
thought was Breton. Alas! we can make ourselves bear everything. Now I
suffer less, but I am broken, exhausted! This is the first outpouring
of my heart for a long, long time. Obliged to seem proud before
indifferent persons, and arrogant as if I had never fallen in presence
of those who pay court to me, and having lost my dear Felicite, there
was no ear into which I could cast the words, /I suffer!/ But to you I
can tell the anguish I endured on seeing you just now so near to me.
Yes," she said, replying to a gesture of Calyste's, "it is almost
fidelity. That is how it is with misery; a look, a visit, a mere
nothing is everything to us. Ah! you once loved me--you--as I deserved
to be loved by him who has taken pleasure in trampling under foot the
treasures I poured out upon him. And yet, to my sorrow, I cannot
forget; I love, and I desire to be faithful to a past that can never
Having uttered this tirade, improvised for the hundredth time, she
played the pupils of her eyes in a way to double the effect of her
words, which seemed to be dragged from the depths of her soul by the
violence of a torrent long restrained. Calyste, incapable of speech,
let fall the tears that gathered in his eyes. Beatrix caught his hand
and pressed it, making him turn pale.
"Thank you, Calyste, thank you, my poor child; that is how a true
friend responds to the grief of his friend. We understand each other.
No, don't add another word; leave me now; people are looking at us; it
might cause trouble to your wife if some one chanced to tell her that
we were seen together,--innocently enough, before a thousand people!
There, you see I am strong; adieu--"
She wiped her eyes, making what might be called, in woman's rhetoric,
an antithesis of action.
"Let me laugh the laugh of a lost soul with the careless creatures who
amuse me," she went on. "I live among artists, writers, in short the
world I knew in the salon of our poor Camille--who may indeed have
acted wisely. To enrich the man we love and then to disappear saying,
'I am too old for him!' that is ending like the martyrs,--and the best
end too, if one cannot die a virgin."
She began to laugh, as it to remove the melancholy impression she had
made upon her former adorer.
"But," said Calyste, "where can I go to see you?"
"I am hidden in the rue de Chartres opposite the Parc de Monceaux, in
a little house suitable to my means; and there I cram my head with
literature--but only for myself, to distract my thoughts; God keep me
from the mania of literary women! Now go, leave me; I must not allow
the world to talk of me; what will it not say on seeing us together!
Adieu--oh! Calyste, my friend, if you stay another minute I shall
burst into tears!"
Calyste withdrew, after holding out his hand to Beatrix and feeling
for the second time that strange and deep sensation of a double
pressure--full of seductive tingling.
"Sabine never knew how to stir my soul in that way," was the thought
that assailed him in the corridor.
During the rest of the evening the Marquise de Rochefide did not cast
three straight glances at Calyste, but there were many sidelong looks
which tore of the soul of the man now wholly thrown back into his
first, repulsed love.
When the baron du Guenic reached home the splendor of his apartments
made him think of the sort of mediocrity of which Beatrix had spoken,
and he hated his wealth because it could not belong to that fallen
angel. When he was told that Sabine had long been in bed he rejoiced
to find himself rich in the possession of a night in which to live
over his emotions. He cursed the power of divination which love had
bestowed upon Sabine. When by chance a man is adored by his wife, she
reads on his face as in a book; she learns every quiver of its
muscles, she knows whence comes its calmness, she asks herself the
reason of the slightest sadness, seeking to know if haply the cause is
in herself; she studies the eyes; for her the eyes are tinted with the
dominant thought,--they love or they do not love. Calyste knew himself
to be the object of so deep, so naive, so jealous a worship that he
doubted his power to compose a cautious face that should not betray
the change in his moral being.
"How shall I manage to-morrow morning?" he said to himself as he went
to sleep, dreading the sort of inspection to which Sabine would have
recourse. When they came together at night, and sometimes during the
day, Sabine would ask him, "Do you still love me?" or, "I don't weary
you, do I?" Charming interrogations, varied according to the nature or
the cleverness of women, which hide their anxieties either feigned or
To the surface of the noblest and purest hearts the mud and slime cast
up by hurricanes must come. So on that morrow morning, Calyste, who
certainly loved his child, quivered with joy on learning that Sabine
feared the croup, and was watching for the cause of slight
convulsions, not daring to leave her little boy. The baron made a
pretext of business and went out, thus avoiding the home breakfast. He
escaped as prisoners escape, happy in being afoot, and free to go by
the Pont Louis XVI. and the Champs Elysees to a cafe on the boulevard
where he had liked to breakfast when he was a bachelor.
What is there in love? Does Nature rebel against the social yoke? Does
she need that impulse of her given life to be spontaneous, free, the
dash of an impetuous torrent foaming against rocks of opposition and
of coquetry, rather than a tranquil stream flowing between the two
banks of the church and the legal ceremony? Has she her own designs as
she secretly prepares those volcanic eruptions to which, perhaps, we
owe great men?
It would be difficult to find a young man more sacredly brought up
than Calyste, of purer morals, less stained by irreligion; and yet he
bounded toward a woman unworthy of him, when a benign and radiant
chance had given him for his wife a young creature whose beauty was
truly aristocratic, whose mind was keen and delicate, a pious, loving
girl, attached singly to him, of angelic sweetness, and made more
tender still by love, a love that was passionate in spite of marriage,
like his for Beatrix. Perhaps the noblest men retain some clay in
their constitutions; the slough still pleases them. If this be so, the
least imperfect human being is the woman, in spite of her faults and
her want of reason. Madame de Rochefide, it must be said, amid the
circle of poetic pretensions which surrounded her, and in spite of her
fall, belonged to the highest nobility; she presented a nature more
ethereal than slimy, and hid the courtesan she was meant to be beneath
an aristocratic exterior. Therefore the above explanation does not
fully account for Calyste's strange passion.
Perhaps we ought to look for its cause in a vanity so deeply buried in
the soul that moralists have not yet uncovered that side of vice.
There are men, truly noble, like Calyste, handsome as Calyste, rich,
distinguished, and well-bred, who tire--without their knowledge,
possibly--of marriage with a nature like their own; beings whose own
nobleness is not surprised or moved by nobleness in others; whom
grandeur and delicacy consonant with their own does not affect; but
who seek from inferior or fallen natures the seal of their own
superiority--if indeed they do not openly beg for praise. Calyste
found nothing to protect in Sabine, she was irreproachable; the powers
thus stagnant in his heart were now to vibrate for Beatrix. If great
men have played before our eyes the Saviour's part toward the woman
taken in adultery, why should ordinary men be wiser in their
generation than they?
Calyste reached the hour of two o'clock living on one sentence only,
"I shall see her again!"--a poem which has often paid the costs of a
journey of two thousand miles. He now went with a light step to the
rue de Chartres, and recognized the house at once although he had
never before seen it. Once there, he stood--he, the son-in-law of the
Duc de Grandlieu, he, rich, noble as the Bourbons--at the foot of the
staircase, stopped short by the interrogation of the old footman:
"Monsieur's name?" Calyste felt that he ought to leave to Beatrix her
freedom of action in receiving or not receiving him; and he waited,
looking into the garden, with its walls furrowed by those black and
yellow lines produced by rain upon the stucco of Paris.
Madame de Rochefide, like nearly all great ladies who break their
chain, had left her fortune to her husband when she fled from him; she
could not beg from her tyrant. Conti and Mademoiselle des Touches had
spared Beatrix all the petty worries of material life, and her mother
had frequently send her considerable sums of money. Finding herself
now on her own resources, she was forced to an economy that was rather
severe for a woman accustomed to every luxury. She had therefore gone
to the summit of the hill on which lies the Parc de Monceaux, and
there she had taken refuge in a "little house" formerly belonging to a
great seigneur, standing on the street, but possessed of a charming
garden, the rent of which did not exceed eighteen hundred francs.
Still served by an old footman, a maid, and a cook from Alencon, who
were faithful to her throughout her vicissitudes, her penury, as she
thought it, would have been opulence to many an ambitious bourgeoise.
Calyste went up a staircase the steps of which were well pumiced and
the landings filled with flowering plants. On the first floor the old
servant opened, in order to admit the baron into the apartment, a
double door of red velvet with lozenges of red silk studded with gilt
nails. Silk and velvet furnished the rooms through which Calyste
passed. Carpets in grave colors, curtains crossing each other before
the windows, portieres, in short all things within contrasted with the
mean external appearance of the house, which was ill-kept by the
proprietor. Calyste awaited Beatrix in a salon of sober character,
where all the luxury was simple in style. This room, hung with garnet
velvet heightened here and there with dead-gold silken trimmings, the
floor covered with a dark red carpet, the windows resembling
conservatories, with abundant flowers in the jardinieres, was lighted
so faintly that Calyste could scarcely see on a mantel-shelf two cases
of old celadon, between which gleamed a silver cup attributed to
Benvenuto Cellini, and brought from Italy by Beatrix. The furniture of
gilded wood with velvet coverings, the magnificent consoles, on one of
which was a curious clock, the table with its Persian cloth, all bore
testimony to former opulence, the remains of which had been well
applied. On a little table Calyste saw jewelled knick-knacks, a book
in course of reading, in which glittered the handle of a dagger used
as a paper-cutter--symbol of criticism! Finally, on the walls, ten
water-colors richly framed, each representing one of the diverse
bedrooms in which Madame de Rochefide's wandering life had led her to
sojourn, gave the measure of what was surely superior impertinence.
The rustle of a silk dress announced the poor unfortunate, who
appeared in a studied toilet which would certainly have told a /roue/
that his coming was awaited. The gown, made like a wrapper to show the
line of a white bosom, was of pearl-gray moire with large open
sleeves, from which issued the arms covered with a second sleeve of
puffed tulle, divided by straps and trimmed with lace at the wrists.
The beautiful hair, which the comb held insecurely, escaped from a cap
of lace and flowers.
"Already!" she said, smiling. "A lover could not have shown more
eagerness. You must have secrets to tell me, have you not?"
And she posed herself gracefully on a sofa, inviting Calyste by a
gesture to sit beside her. By chance (a selected chance, possibly, for
women have two memories, that of angels and that of devils) Beatrix
was redolent of the perfume which she used at Les Touches during her
first acquaintance with Calyste. The inhaling of this scent, contact
with that dress, the glance of those eyes, which in the semi-darkness
gathered the light and returned it, turned Calyste's brain. The
luckless man was again impelled to that violence which had once before
almost cost Beatrix her life; but this time the marquise was on the
edge of a sofa, not on that of a rock; she rose to ring the bell,
laying a finger on his lips. Calyste, recalled to order, controlled
himself, all the more because he saw that Beatrix had no inimical
"Antoine, I am not at home--for every one," she said. "Put some wood
on the fire. You see, Calyste, that I treat you as a friend," she
continued with dignity, when the old man had left the room; "therefore
do not treat me as you would a mistress. I have two remarks to make to
you. In the first place, I should not deny myself foolishly to any man
I really loved; and secondly, I am determined to belong to no other
man on earth, for I believed, Calyste, that I was loved by a species
of Rizzio, whom no engagement trammelled, a man absolutely free, and
you see to what that fatal confidence has led me. As for you, you are
now under the yoke of the most sacred of duties; you have a young,
amiable, delightful wife; moreover, you are a father. I should be, as
you are, without excuse--we should be two fools--"
"My dear Beatrix, all these reasons vanish before a single word--I
have never loved but you on earth, and I was married against my will."
"Ah! a trick played upon us by Mademoiselle des Touches," she said,
Three hours passed, during which Madame de Rochefide held Calyste to
the consideration of conjugal faith, pointing out to him the horrible
alternative of an utter renunciation of Sabine. Nothing else could
reassure her, she said, in the dreadful situation to which Calyste's
love would reduce her. Then she affected to regard the sacrifice of
Sabine as a small matter, she knew her so well!
"My dear child," she said, "that's a woman who fulfils all the
promises of her girlhood. She is a Grandlieu, to be sure, but she's as
brown as her mother the Portuguese, not to say yellow, and as dry and
stiff as her father. To tell the truth, your wife will never go wrong;
she's a big boy who can take care of herself. Poor Calyste! is that
the sort of woman you needed? She has fine eyes, but such eyes are
very common in Italy and in Spain and Portugal. Can any woman be
tender with bones like hers. Eve was fair; brown women descend from
Adam, blondes come from the hand of God, which left upon Eve his last
thought after he had created her."
About six o'clock Calyste, driven to desperation, took his hat to
"Yes, go, my poor friend," she said; "don't give her the annoyance of
dining without you."
Calyste stayed. At his age it was so easy to snare him on his worst
"What! you dare to dine with me?" said Beatrix, playing a provocative
amazement. "My poor food does not alarm you? Have you enough
independence of soul to crown me with joy by this little proof of your
"Let me write a note to Sabine; otherwise she will wait dinner for me
till nine o'clock."
"Here," said Beatrix, "this is the table at which I write."
She lighted the candles herself, and took one to the table to look
over what he was writing.
"/My dear Sabine--/"
"'My dear'?--can you really say that your wife is still dear to you?"
she asked, looking at him with a cold eye that froze the very marrow
of his bones. "Go,--you had better go and dine with her."
"/I dine at a restaurant with some friends./"
"A lie. Oh, fy! you are not worthy to be loved either by her or by me.
Men are all cowards in their treatment of women. Go, monsieur, go and
dine with your dear Sabine."
Calyste flung himself back in his arm-chair and became as pale as
death. Bretons possess a courage of nature which makes them obstinate
under difficulties. Presently the young baron sat up, put his elbow on
the table, his chin in his hand, and looked at the implacable Beatrix
with a flashing eye. He was so superb that a Northern or a Southern
woman would have fallen at his feet saying, "Take me!" But Beatrix,
born on the borders of Normandy and Brittany, belonged to the race of
Casterans; desertion had developed in her the ferocity of the Frank,
the spitefulness of the Norman; she wanted some terrible notoriety as
a vengeance, and she yielded to no weakness.
"Dictate what I ought to write," said the luckless man. "But, in that
"Well, yes!" she said, "you shall love me then as you loved me at
Guerande. Write: /I dine out; do not expect me./"
"What next?" said Calyste, thinking something more would follow.
"Nothing; sign it. Good," she said, darting on the note with
restrained joy. "I will send it by a messenger."
"And now," cried Calyste, rising like a happy man.
"Ah! I have kept, I believe, my freedom of action," she said, turning
away from him and going to the fireplace, where she rang the bell.
"Here, Antoine," she said, when the old footman entered, "send this
note to its address. Monsieur dines here."
THE FIRST LIE OF A PIOUS DUCHESS
Calyste returned to his own house about two in the morning. After
waiting for him till half-past twelve, Sabine had gone to bed
overwhelmed with fatigue. She slept, although she was keenly
distressed by the laconic wording of her husband's note. Still, she
explained it. The true love of a woman invariably begins by explaining
all things to the advantage of the man beloved. Calyste was pressed
for time, she said.
The next morning the child was better; the mother's uneasiness
subsided, and Sabine came with a smiling face, and little Calyste on
her arm, to present him to his father before breakfast with the pretty
fooleries and senseless words which gay young mothers do and say. This
little scene gave Calyste the chance to maintain a countenance. He was
charming to his wife, thinking in his heart that he was a monster, and
he played like a child with Monsieur le chevalier; in fact he played
too well,--he overdid the part; but Sabine had not reached the stage
at which a woman recognizes so delicate a distinction.
At breakfast, however, she asked him suddenly:--
"What did you do yesterday?"
"Portenduere kept me to dinner," he replied, "and after that we went
to the club to play whist."
"That's a foolish life, my Calyste," said Sabine. "Young noblemen in
these days ought to busy themselves about recovering in the eyes of
the country the ground lost by their fathers. It isn't by smoking
cigars, playing whist, idling away their leisure, and saying insolent
things of parvenus who have driven them from their positions, not yet
by separating themselves from the masses whose soul and intellect and
providence they ought to be, that the nobility will exist. Instead of
being a party, you will soon be a mere opinion, as de Marsay said. Ah!
if you only knew how my ideas on this subject have enlarged since I
have nursed and cradled your child! I'd like to see that grand old
name of Guenic become once more historical!" Then suddenly plunging
her eyes into those of Calyste, who was listening to her with a
pensive air, she added: "Admit that the first note you ever wrote me
was rather stiff."
"I did not think of sending you word till I got to the club."
"But you wrote on a woman's note-paper; it had a perfume of feminine
"Those club directors are such dandies!"
The Vicomte de Portenduere and his wife, formerly Mademoiselle
Mirouet, had become of late very intimate with the du Guenics, so
intimate that they shared their box at the Opera by equal payments.
The two young women, Ursula and Sabine, had been won to this
friendship by the delightful interchange of counsels, cares, and
confidences apropos of their first infants.
While Calyste, a novice in falsehood, was saying to himself, "I must
warn Savinien," Sabine was thinking, "I am sure that paper bore a
coronet." This reflection passed through her mind like a flash, and
Sabine scolded herself for having made it. Nevertheless, she resolved
to find the paper, which in the midst of her terrors of the night
before she had flung into her letter-box.
After breakfast Calyste went out, saying to his wife that he should
soon return. Then he jumped into one of those little low carriages
with one horse which were just beginning to supersede the inconvenient
cabriolet of our ancestors. He drove in a few minutes to the vicomte's
house and begged him to do him the service, with rights of return, of
fibbing in case Sabine should question the vicomtesse. Thence Calyste,
urging his coachman to speed, rushed to the rue de Chartres in order
to know how Beatrix had passed the rest of the night. He found that
unfortunate just from her bath, fresh, embellished, and breakfasting
with a very good appetite. He admired the grace with which his angel
ate her boiled eggs, and he marvelled at the beauty of the gold
service, a present from a monomaniac lord, for whom Conti had composed
a few ballads on /ideas/ of the lord, who afterwards published them as
Calyste listened entranced to the witty speeches of his idol, whose
great object was to amuse him, until she grew angry and wept when he
rose to leave her. He thought he had been there only half an hour, but
it was past three before he reached home. His handsome English horse,
a present from the Vicomtesse de Grandlieu, was so bathed in sweat
that it looked as though it had been driven through the sea. By one of
those chances which all jealous women prepare for themselves, Sabine
was at a window which looked on the court-yard, impatient at Calyste's
non-return, uneasy without knowing why. The condition of the horse
with its foaming mouth surprised her.
"Where can he have come from?"
The question was whispered in her ear by that power which is not
exactly consciousness, nor devil, nor angel; which sees, forebodes,
shows us the unseen, and creates belief in mental beings, creatures
born of our brains, going and coming and living in the world invisible
"Where do you come from, dear angel?" Sabine said to Calyste, meeting
him on the first landing of the staircase. "Abd-el-Kader is nearly
foundered. You told me you would be gone but a moment, and I have been
waiting for you these three hours."
"Well, well," thought Calyste, who was making progress in
dissimulation, "I must get out of it by a present--Dear little
mother," he said aloud, taking her round the waist with more cajolery
than he would have used if he had not been conscious of guilt, "I see
that it is quite impossible to keep a secret, however innocent, from
the woman who loves us--"
"Well, don't tell secrets on the staircase," she said, laughing. "Come
In the middle of a salon which adjoined their bedroom, she caught
sight in a mirror of Calyste's face, on which, not aware that it could
be seen, he allowed his real feelings and his weariness to appear.
"Now for your secret?" she said, turning round.
"You have shown such heroism as a nurse," he said, "that the heir
presumptive of the Guenics is dearer to me than ever, and I wanted to
give you a surprise, precisely like any bourgeois of the rue Saint
Denis. They are finishing for you at this moment a dressing-table at
which true artists have worked, and my mother and aunt Zephirine have
Sabine clasped him in her arms, and held him tightly to her breast
with her head on his neck, faint with the weight of happiness, not for
the piece of furniture, but for the dispersion of her first dark
doubt. It was one of those magnificent transports which can be
counted, and which no love, however excessive, can prodigally spend,
or life would be too soon burned out. Then, indeed, men should fall at
the feet of women to adore them, for such moments are sublime, moments
when the forces of the heart and intellect gush forth like the waters
of sculptured nymphs from their inclining urns. Sabine burst into
Suddenly as if bitten by a viper, she left Calyste, threw herself on a
sofa and fainted away, for the reaction of a chill to her glowing
heart came near to killing her. As she held Calyste in her arms, her
nose at his cravat, abandoned to her joy, she smelt the perfume of
that letter paper! Another woman's head had lain there, whose hair and
face had left that adulterous odor! She had just kissed the spot where
the kisses of her rival were still warm.
"What is the matter?" asked Calyste, after he had brought Sabine back
to consciousness by passing a damp cloth over her face and making her
"Fetch the doctor and my nurse, both! Yes, my milk has turned, I feel
it. They won't come at once unless you fetch them yourself--go!"
Calyste, alarmed, rushed out. The moment Sabine heard the closing of
the porte-cochere she started up like a frightened doe, and walked
about the salon as if beside herself, crying out, "My God! my God! my
Those two words took the place of all ideas. The crisis she had seized
upon as a pretext in reality took place. The hairs of her head were
like so many red-hot needles heated in the fire of a nervous fever.
Her boiling blood seemed to her to mingle with her nerves and yet try
to issue from all her pores. She was blind for a few moments, and
cried aloud, "I am dying!"
At that terrible cry of the injured wife and mother her maid ran in.
After she was laid upon her bed and recovered both sight and mind, the
first act of her intelligence was to send the maid to her friend,
Madame de Portenduere. Sabine felt that her ideas were whirling in her
brain like straws at the will of a waterspout. "I saw," she said
later, "myriads all at once."
She rang for the footman and in the transport of her fever she found
strength to write the following letter, for she was mastered by one
mad desire--to have certainty:--
To Madame la Baronne du Guenic:
Dear Mamma,--When you come to Paris, as you allow us to hope you
will, I shall thank you in person for the beautiful present by
which you and my aunt Zephirine and Calyste wish to reward me for
doing my duty. I was already well repaid by my own happiness in
doing it. I can never express the pleasure you have given me in
that beautiful dressing-table, but when you are with me I shall
try to do so. Believe me, when I array myself before that
treasure, I shall think, like the Roman matron, that my noblest
jewel is our little angel, etc.
She directed the letter to Guerande and gave it to the footman to
When the Vicomtesse de Portenduere came, the shuddering chill of
reaction had succeeded in poor Sabine this first paroxysm of madness.
"Ursula, I think I am going to die," she said.
"What is the matter, dear?"
"Where did Savinien and Calyste go after they dined with you
"Dined with me?" said Ursula, to whom her husband had said nothing,
not expecting such immediate inquiry. "Savinien and I dined alone
together and went to the Opera without Calyste."
"Ursula, dearest, in the name of your love for Savinien, keep silence
about what you have just said to me and what I shall now tell you. You
alone shall know why I die--I am betrayed! at the end of three years,
at twenty-two years of age!"
Her teeth chattered, her eyes were dull and frozen, her face had taken
on the greenish tinge of an old Venetian mirror.
"You! so beautiful! For whom?"
"I don't know yet. But Calyste has told me two lies. Do not pity me,
do not seem incensed, pretend ignorance and perhaps you can find out
who /she/ is through Savinien. Oh! that letter of yesterday!"
Trembling, shaking, she sprang from her bed to a piece of furniture
from which she took the letter.
"See," she said, lying down again, "the coronet of a marquise! Find
out if Madame de Rochefide has returned to Paris. Am I to have a heart
in which to weep and moan? Oh, dearest!--to see one's beliefs, one's
poesy, idol, virtue, happiness, all, all in pieces, withered, lost! No
God in the sky! no love upon earth! no life in my heart! no anything!
I don't know if there's daylight; I doubt the sun. I've such anguish
in my soul I scarcely feel the horrible sufferings in my body.
Happily, the baby is weaned; my milk would have poisoned him."
At that idea the tears began to flow from Sabine's eyes which had
hitherto been dry.
Pretty Madame de Portenduere, holding in her hand the fatal letter,
the perfume of which Sabine again inhaled, was at first stupefied by
this true sorrow, shocked by this agony of love, without as yet
understanding it, in spite of Sabine's incoherent attempts to relate
the facts. Suddenly Ursula was illuminated by one of those ideas which
come to none but sincere friends.
"I must save her!" she thought to herself. "Trust me, Sabine," she
cried. "Wait for my return; I will find out the truth."
"Ah! in my grave I'll love you," exclaimed Sabine.
The viscountess went straight to the Duchesse de Grandlieu, pledged
her to secrecy, and then explained to her fully her daughter's
"Madame," she said as she ended, "do you not think with me, that in
order to avoid some fatal illness--perhaps, I don't know, even madness
--we had better confide the whole truth to the doctor, and invent some
tale to clear that hateful Calyste and make him seem for the time
"My dear child," said the duchess, who was chilled to the heart by
this confidence, "friendship has given you for the moment the
experience of a woman of my age. I know how Sabine loves her husband;
you are right, she might become insane."
"Or lose her beauty, which would be worse," said the viscountess.
"Let us go to her!" cried the duchess.
Fortunately they arrived a few moments before the famous /accoucheur/,
Dommanget, the only one of the two men of science whom Calyste had
been able to find.
"Ursula has told me everything," said the duchess to her daughter,
"and you are mistaken. In the first place, Madame de Rochefide is not
in Paris. As for what your husband did yesterday, my dear, I can tell
you that he lost a great deal of money at cards, so that he does not
even know how to pay for your dressing-table."
"But /that?/" said Sabine, holding out to her mother the fatal letter.
"That!" said the duchess, laughing; "why, that is written on the
Jockey Club paper; everybody writes nowadays on coroneted paper; even
our stewards will soon be titled."
The prudent mother threw the unlucky paper into the fire as she spoke.
When Calyste and Dommanget arrived, the duchess, who had given
instructions to the servants, was at once informed. She left Sabine to
the care of Madame de Portenduere and stopped the /accoucheur/ and
Calyste in the salon.
"Sabine's life is at stake, monsieur," she said to Calyste; "you have
betrayed her for Madame de Rochefide."
Calyste blushed, like a girl still respectable, detected in a fault.
"And," continued the duchess, "as you do not know how to deceive, you
have behaved in such a clumsy manner that Sabine has guessed the
truth. But I have for the present repaired your blunder. You do not
wish the death of my daughter, I am sure--All this, Monsieur
Dommanget, will put you on the track of her real illness and its
cause. As for you, Calyste, an old woman like me understands your
error, though she does not pardon it. Such pardons can only be brought
by a lifetime of after happiness. If you wish me to esteem you, you
must, in the first place, save my daughter; next, you must forget
Madame de Rochefide; she is only worth having once. Learn to lie; have
the courage of a criminal, and his impudence. I have just told a lie
myself, and I shall have to do hard penance for that mortal sin."
She then told the two men the lies she had invented. The clever
physician sitting at the bedside of his patient studied in her
symptoms the means of repairing the ill, while he ordered measures the
success of which depended on great rapidity of execution. Calyste
sitting at the foot of the bed strove to put into his glance an
expression of tenderness.
"So it was play which put those black circles round your eyes?" Sabine
said to him in a feeble voice.
The words made the doctor, the mother, and the viscountess tremble,
and they all three looked at one another covertly. Calyste turned as
red as a cherry.
"That's what comes of nursing a child," said Dommanget brutally, but
cleverly. "Husbands are lonely when separated from their wives, and
they go to the club and play. But you needn't worry over the thirty
thousand francs which Monsieur le baron lost last night--"
"Thirty thousand francs!" cried Ursula, in a silly tone.
"Yes, I know it," replied Dommanget. "They told me this morning at the
house of the young Duchesse Berthe de Maufrigneuse that it was
Monsieur de Trailles who won that money from you," he added, turning
to Calyste. "Why do you play with such men? Frankly, monsieur le
baron, I can well believe you are ashamed of it."
Seeing his mother-in-law, a pious duchess, the young viscountess, a
happy woman, and the old /accoucheur/, a confirmed egotist, all three
lying like a dealer in bric-a-brac, the kind and feeling Calyste
understood the greatness of the danger, and two heavy tears rolled
from his eyes and completely deceived Sabine.
"Monsieur," she said, sitting up in bed and looking angrily at
Dommanget, "Monsieur du Guenic can lose thirty, fifty, a hundred
thousand francs if it pleases him, without any one having a right to
think it wrong or read him a lesson. It is far better that Monsieur de
Trailles should win his money than that we should win Monsieur de
Calyste rose, took his wife round the neck, kissed her on both cheeks
"Sabine, you are an angel!"
Two days later the young wife was thought to be out of danger, and the
next day Calyste was at Madame de Rochefide's making a merit of his
"Beatrix," he said, "you owe me happiness. I have sacrificed my poor
little wife to you; she has discovered all. That fatal paper on which
you made me write, bore your name and your coronet, which I never
noticed--I saw but you! Fortunately the 'B' was by chance effaced. But
the perfume you left upon me and the lies in which I involved myself
like a fool have betrayed my happiness. Sabine nearly died of it; her
milk went to the head; erysipelas set in, and possibly she may bear
the marks for the rest of her days."
As Beatrix listened to this tirade her face was due North, icy enough
to freeze the Seine had she looked at it.
"So much the better," she said; "perhaps it will whiten her for you."
And Beatrix, now become as hard as her bones, sharp as her voice,
harsh as her complexion, continued a series of atrocious sarcasms in
the same tone. There is no greater blunder than for a man to talk of
his wife, if she is virtuous, to his mistress, unless it be to talk of
his mistress, if she is beautiful, to his wife. But Calyste had not
received that species of Parisian education which we must call the
politeness of the passions. He knew neither how to lie to his wife,
nor how to tell his mistress the truth,--two apprenticeships a man in
his position must make in order to manage women. He was therefore
compelled to employ all the power of passion to obtain from Beatrix a
pardon which she forced him to solicit for two hours; a pardon refused
by an injured angel who raised her eyes to the ceiling that she might
not see the guilty man, and who put forth reasons sacred to marquises
in a voice quivering with tears which were furtively wiped with the
lace of her handkerchief.
"To speak to me of your wife on the very day after my fall!" she
cried. "Why did you not tell me she is a pearl of virtue? I know she
thinks you handsome; pure depravity! I, I love your soul! for let me
tell you, my friend, you are ugly compared to many shepherds on the
Campagna of Rome," etc., etc.
Such speeches may surprise the reader, but they were part of a system
profoundly meditated by Beatrix in this her third incarnation,--for at
each passion a woman becomes another being and advances one step more
into profligacy, the only word which properly renders the effect of
the experience given by such adventures. Now, the Marquise de
Rochefide had sat in judgment on herself before the mirror. Clever
women are never deceived about themselves; they count their wrinkles,
they assist at the birth of their crow's-feet, they know themselves by
heart, and even own it by the greatness of their efforts at
preservation. Therefore to struggle successfully against a splendid
young woman, to carry away from her six triumphs a week, Beatrix had
recourse to the knowledge and the science of courtesans. Without
acknowledging to herself the baseness of this plan, led away to the
employment of such means by a Turkish passion for Calyste's beauty,
she had resolved to make him think himself unpleasant, ugly, ill-made,
and to behave as if she hated him. No system is more fruitful with men
of a conquering nature. To such natures the presence of repugnance to
be vanquished is the renewal of the triumph of the first day on all
succeeding days. And it is something even better. It is flattery in
the guise of dislike. A man then says to himself, "I am irresistible,"
or "My love is all-powerful because it conquers her repugnance." If
you deny this principle, divined by all coquettes and courtesans
throughout all social zones, you may as well reject all seekers after
knowledge, all delvers into secrets, repulsed through years in their
duel with hidden causes. Beatrix added to the use of contempt as a
moral piston, a constant comparison of her own poetic, comfortable
home with the hotel du Guenic. All deserted wives who abandon
themselves in despair, neglect also their surroundings, so discouraged
are they. On this, Madame de Rochefide counted, and presently began an
underhand attack on the luxury of the faubourg Saint-Germain, which
she characterized as stupid.
The scene of reconciliation, in which Beatrix made Calyste swear and
reswear hatred to the wife, who, she said, was playing comedy, took
place in a perfect bower where she played off her graces amid
ravishing flowers, and rare plants of the costliest luxury. The
science of nothings, the trifles of the day, she carried to excess.
Fallen into a mortifying position through Conti's desertion, Beatrix
was determined to have, at any rate, the fame which unprincipled
conduct gives. The misfortune of the poor young wife, a rich and
beautiful Grandlieu, should be her pedestal.
A SHORT TREATISE ON CERTAINTY: BUT NOT
FROM PASCAL'S POINT OF VIEW
When a woman returns to ordinary life after the nursing of her first
child she reappears in the world embellished and charming. This phase
of maternity, while it rejuvenates the women of a certain age, gives
to young women a splendor of freshness, a gay activity, a /brio/ of
mere existence,--if it is permissible to apply to the body a word
which Italy has discovered for the mind. In trying to return to the
charming habits of the honeymoon, Sabine discovered that her husband
was not the former Calyste. Again she observed him, unhappy girl,
instead of resting securely in her happiness. She sought for the fatal
perfume, and smelt it. This time she no longer confided in her friend,
nor in the mother who had so charitably deceived her. She wanted
certainty, and Certainty made no long tarrying. Certainty is never
wanting, it is like the sun; and presently shades are asked for to
keep it out. It is, in matters of the heart, a repetition of the fable
of the woodman calling upon Death,--we soon ask Certainty to leave us
One morning, about two weeks after the first crisis, Sabine received
this terrible letter:--
To Madame la Baronne du Guenic:
My dear Daughter,--Your aunt Zephirine and I are lost in
conjectures about the dressing-table of which you tell us in your
letter. I have written to Calyste about it, and I beg you to
excuse our ignorance. You can never doubt our hearts, I am sure.
We are piling up riches for you here. Thanks to the advice of
Mademoiselle de Pen-Hoel on the management of your property, you
will find yourself within a few years in possession of a
considerable capital without losing any of your income.
Your letter, dear child as dearly loved as if I had borne you in
my bosom and fed you with my milk, surprised me by its brevity,
and above all by your silence about my dearest little Calyste. You
told me nothing of the great Calyste either; but then, I know that
/he/ is happy," etc. etc.
Sabine wrote across this letter these words, "Noble Brittany does not
always lie." She then laid the paper on Calyste's desk.
Calyste found the letter and read it. Seeing Sabine's sentence and
recognizing her handwriting he flung the letter into the fire,
determined to pretend that he had never received it. Sabine spent a
whole week in an agony the secrets of which are known only to angelic
or solitary souls whom the wing of the bad angel has never
overshadowed. Calyste's silence terrified her.
"I, who ought to be all gentleness, all pleasure to him, I have
displeased him, wounded him! My virtue has made itself hateful. I have
no doubt humiliated my idol," she said to herself. These thoughts
plowed furrows in her heart. She wanted to ask pardon for her fault,
but Certainty let loose upon her other proofs. Grown bold and
insolent, Beatrix wrote to Calyste at his own home; Madame du Guenic
received the letter, and gave it to her husband without opening it,
but she said to him, in a changed voice and with death in her soul: