Part 1 out of 5
Etext prepared by Dagny, email@example.com
and John Bickers, firstname.lastname@example.org
Letters of Two Brides
by Honore de Balzac
Translated by R. S. Scott
To George Sand
Your name, dear George, while casting a reflected radiance on my
book, can gain no new glory from this page. And yet it is neither
self-interest nor diffidence which has led me to place it there,
but only the wish that it should bear witness to the solid
friendship between us, which has survived our wanderings and
separations, and triumphed over the busy malice of the world. This
feeling is hardly likely now to change. The goodly company of
friendly names, which will remain attached to my works, forms an
element of pleasure in the midst of the vexation caused by their
increasing number. Each fresh book, in fact, gives rise to fresh
annoyance, were it only in the reproaches aimed at my too prolific
pen, as though it could rival in fertility the world from which I
draw my models! Would it not be a fine thing, George, if the
future antiquarian of dead literatures were to find in this
company none but great names and generous hearts, friends bound by
pure and holy ties, the illustrious figures of the century? May I
not justly pride myself on this assured possession, rather than on
a popularity necessarily unstable? For him who knows you well, it
is happiness to be able to sign himself, as I do here,
PARIS, June 1840.
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES
LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO RENEE DE MAUCOMBE.
Sweetheart, I too am free! And I am the first too, unless you have
written to Blois, at our sweet tryst of letter-writing.
Raise those great black eyes of yours, fixed on my opening sentence,
and keep this excitement for the letter which shall tell you of my
first love. By the way, why always "first?" Is there, I wonder, a
Don't go running on like this, you will say, but tell me rather how
you made your escape from the convent where you were to take your
vows. Well, dear, I don't know about the Carmelites, but the miracle
of my own deliverance was, I can assure you, most humdrum. The cries
of an alarmed conscience triumphed over the dictates of a stern policy
--there's the whole mystery. The sombre melancholy which seized me
after you left hastened the happy climax, my aunt did not want to see
me die of a decline, and my mother, whose one unfailing cure for my
malady was a novitiate, gave way before her.
So I am in Paris, thanks to you, my love! Dear Renee, could you have
seen me the day I found myself parted from you, well might you have
gloried in the deep impression you had made on so youthful a bosom. We
had lived so constantly together, sharing our dreams and letting our
fancy roam together, that I verily believe our souls had become welded
together, like those two Hungarian girls, whose death we heard about
from M. Beauvisage--poor misnamed being! Never surely was man better
cut out by nature for the post of convent physician!
Tell me, did you not droop and sicken with your darling?
In my gloomy depression, I could do nothing but count over the ties
which bind us. But it seemed as though distance had loosened them; I
wearied of life, like a turtle-dove widowed of her mate. Death smiled
sweetly on me, and I was proceeding quietly to die. To be at Blois, at
the Carmelites, consumed by dread of having to take my vows there, a
Mlle. de la Valliere, but without her prelude, and without my Renee!
How could I not be sick--sick unto death?
How different it used to be! That monotonous existence, where every
hour brings its duty, its prayer, its task, with such desperate
regularity that you can tell what a Carmelite sister is doing in any
place, at any hour of the night or day; that deadly dull routine,
which crushes out all interest in one's surroundings, had become for
us two a world of life and movement. Imagination had thrown open her
fairy realms, and in these our spirits ranged at will, each in turn
serving as magic steed to the other, the more alert quickening the
drowsy; the world from which our bodies were shut out became the
playground of our fancy, which reveled there in frolicsome adventure.
The very /Lives of the Saints/ helped us to understand what was so
carefully left unsaid! But the day when I was reft of your sweet
company, I became a true Carmelite, such as they appeared to us, a
modern Danaid, who, instead of trying to fill a bottomless barrel,
draws every day, from Heaven knows what deep, an empty pitcher,
thinking to find it full.
My aunt knew nothing of this inner life. How could she, who has made a
paradise for herself within the two acres of her convent, understand
my revolt against life? A religious life, if embraced by girls of our
age, demands either an extreme simplicity of soul, such as we,
sweetheart, do not possess, or else an ardor for self-sacrifice like
that which makes my aunt so noble a character. But she sacrificed
herself for a brother to whom she was devoted; to do the same for an
unknown person or an idea is surely more than can be asked of mortals.
For the last fortnight I have been gulping down so many reckless
words, burying so many reflections in my bosom, and accumulating such
a store of things to tell, fit for your ear alone, that I should
certainly have been suffocated but for the resource of letter-writing
as a sorry substitute for our beloved talks. How hungry one's heart
gets! I am beginning my journal this morning, and I picture to myself
that yours is already started, and that, in a few days, I shall be at
home in your beautiful Gemenos valley, which I know only through your
descriptions, just as you will live that Paris life, revealed to you
hitherto only in our dreams.
Well, then, sweet child, know that on a certain morning--a red-letter
day in my life--there arrived from Paris a lady companion and
Philippe, the last remaining of my grandmother's valets, charged to
carry me off. When my aunt summoned me to her room and told me the
news, I could not speak for joy, and only gazed at her stupidly.
"My child," she said, in her guttural voice, "I can see that you leave
me without regret, but this farewell is not the last; we shall meet
again. God has placed on your forehead the sign of the elect. You have
the pride which leads to heaven or to hell, but your nature is too
noble to choose the downward path. I know you better than you know
yourself; with you, passion, I can see, will be very different from
what it is with most women."
She drew me gently to her and kissed my forehead. The kiss made my
flesh creep, for it burned with that consuming fire which eats away
her life, which has turned to black the azure of her eyes, and
softened the lines about them, has furrowed the warm ivory of her
temples, and cast a sallow tinge over the beautiful face.
Before replying, I kissed her hands.
"Dear aunt," I said, "I shall never forget your kindness; and if it
has not made your nunnery all that it ought to be for my health of
body and soul, you may be sure nothing short of a broken heart will
bring me back again--and that you would not wish for me. You will not
see me here again till my royal lover has deserted me, and I warn you
that if I catch him, death alone shall tear him from me. I fear no
She smiled and said:
"Go, madcap, and take your idle fancies with you. There is certainly
more of the bold Montespan in you than of the gentle la Valliere."
I threw my arms round her. The poor lady could not refrain from
escorting me to the carriage. There her tender gaze was divided
between me and the armorial bearings.
At Beaugency night overtook me, still sunk in a stupor of the mind
produced by these strange parting words. What can be awaiting me in
this world for which I have so hungered?
To begin with, I found no one to receive me; my heart had been
schooled in vain. My mother was at the Bois de Boulogne, my father at
the Council; my brother, the Duc de Rhetore, never comes in, I am
told, till it is time to dress for dinner. Miss Griffith (she is not
unlike a griffin) and Philippe took me to my rooms.
The suite is the one which belonged to my beloved grandmother, the
Princess de Vauremont, to whom I owe some sort of a fortune which no
one has ever told me about. As you read this, you will understand the
sadness which came over me as I entered a place sacred to so many
memories, and found the rooms just as she had left them! I was to
sleep in the bed where she died.
Sitting down on the edge of the sofa, I burst into tears, forgetting I
was not alone, and remembering only how often I had stood there by her
knees, the better to hear her words. There I had gazed upon her face,
buried in its brown laces, and worn as much by age as by the pangs of
approaching death. The room seemed to me still warm with the heat
which she kept up there. How comes it that Armande-Louise-Marie de
Chaulieu must be like some peasant girl, who sleeps in her mother's
bed the very morrow of her death? For to me it was as though the
Princess, who died in 1817, had passed away but yesterday.
I saw many things in the room which ought to have been removed. Their
presence showed the carelessness with which people, busy with the
affairs of state, may treat their own, and also the little thought
which had been given since her death to this grand old lady, who will
always remain one of the striking figures of the eighteenth century.
Philippe seemed to divine something of the cause of my tears. He told
me that the furniture of the Princess had been left to me in her will
and that my father had allowed all the larger suites to remain
dismantled, as the Revolution had left them. On hearing this I rose,
and Philippe opened the door of the small drawing-room which leads
into the reception-rooms.
In these I found all the well-remembered wreckage; the panels above
the doors, which had contained valuable pictures, bare of all but
empty frames; broken marbles, mirrors carried off. In old days I was
afraid to go up the state staircase and cross these vast, deserted
rooms; so I used to get to the Princess' rooms by a small staircase
which runs under the arch of the larger one and leads to the secret
door of her dressing-room.
My suite, consisting of a drawing-room, bedroom, and the pretty
morning-room in scarlet and gold, of which I have told you, lies in
the wing on the side of the Invalides. The house is only separated
from the boulevard by a wall, covered with creepers, and by a splendid
avenue of trees, which mingle their foliage with that of the young
elms on the sidewalk of the boulevard. But for the blue-and-gold dome
of the Invalides and its gray stone mass, you might be in a wood.
The style of decoration in these rooms, together with their situation,
indicates that they were the old show suite of the duchesses, while
the dukes must have had theirs in the wing opposite. The two suites
are decorously separated by the two main blocks, as well as by the
central one, which contained those vast, gloomy, resounding halls
shown me by Philippe, all despoiled of their splendor, as in the days
of my childhood.
Philippe grew quite confidential when he saw the surprise depicted on
my countenance. For you must know that in this home of diplomacy the
very servants have a reserved and mysterious air. He went on to tell
me that it was expected a law would soon be passed restoring to the
fugitives of the Revolution the value of their property, and that my
father is waiting to do up his house till this restitution is made,
the king's architect having estimated the damage at three hundred
This piece of news flung me back despairing on my drawing-room sofa.
Could it be that my father, instead of spending this money in
arranging a marriage for me, would have left me to die in the convent?
This was the first thought to greet me on the threshold of my home.
Ah! Renee, what would I have given then to rest my head upon your
shoulder, or to transport myself to the days when my grandmother made
the life of these rooms? You two in all the world have been alone in
loving me--you away at Maucombe, and she who survives only in my
heart, the dear old lady, whose still youthful eyes used to open from
sleep at my call. How well we understood each other!
These memories suddenly changed my mood. What at first had seemed
profanation, now breathed of holy association. It was sweet to inhale
the faint odor of the powder she loved still lingering in the room;
sweet to sleep beneath the shelter of those yellow damask curtains
with their white pattern, which must have retained something of the
spirit emanating from her eyes and breath. I told Philippe to rub up
the old furniture and make the rooms look as if they were lived in; I
explained to him myself how I wanted everything arranged, and where to
put each piece of furniture. In this way I entered into possession,
and showed how an air of youth might be given to the dear old things.
The bedroom is white in color, a little dulled with time, just as the
gilding of the fanciful arabesques shows here and there a patch of
red; but this effect harmonizes well with the faded colors of the
Savonnerie tapestry, which was presented to my grandmother by Louis
XV. along with his portrait. The timepiece was a gift from the
Marechal de Saxe, and the china ornaments on the mantelpiece came from
the Marechal de Richelieu. My grandmother's portrait, painted at the
age of twenty-five, hangs in an oval frame opposite that of the King.
The Prince, her husband, is conspicuous by his absence. I like this
frank negligence, untinged by hypocrisy--a characteristic touch which
sums up her charming personality. Once when my grandmother was
seriously ill, her confessor was urgent that the Prince, who was
waiting in the drawing-room, should be admitted.
"He can come in with the doctor and his drugs," was the reply.
The bed has a canopy and well-stuffed back, and the curtains are
looped up with fine wide bands. The furniture is of gilded wood,
upholstered in the same yellow damask with white flowers which drapes
the windows, and which is lined there with a white silk that looks as
though it were watered. The panels over the doors have been painted,
by what artist I can't say, but they represent one a sunrise, the
other a moonlight scene.
The fireplace is a very interesting feature in the room. It is easy to
see that life in the last century centered largely round the hearth,
where great events were enacted. The copper gilt grate is a marvel of
workmanship, and the mantelpiece is most delicately finished; the
fire-irons are beautifully chased; the bellows are a perfect gem. The
tapestry of the screen comes from the Gobelins and is exquisitely
mounted; charming fantastic figures run all over the frame, on the
feet, the supporting bar, and the wings; the whole thing is wrought
like a fan.
Dearly should I like to know who was the giver of this dainty work of
art, which was such a favorite with her. How often have I seen the old
lady, her feet upon the bar, reclining in the easy-chair, with her
dress half raised in front, toying with the snuff-box, which lay upon
the ledge between her box of pastilles and her silk mits. What a
coquette she was! to the day of her death she took as much pains with
her appearance as though the beautiful portrait had been painted only
yesterday, and she were waiting to receive the throng of exquisites
from the Court! How the armchair recalls to me the inimitable sweep of
her skirts as she sank back in it!
These women of a past generation have carried off with them secrets
which are very typical of their age. The Princess had a certain turn
of the head, a way of dropping her glance and her remarks, a choice of
words, which I look for in vain, even in my mother. There was subtlety
in it all, and there was good-nature; the points were made without any
affectation. Her talk was at once lengthy and concise; she told a good
story, and could put her meaning in three words. Above all, she was
extremely free-thinking, and this has undoubtedly had its effect on my
way of looking at things.
From seven years old till I was ten, I never left her side; it pleased
her to attract me as much as it pleased me to go. This preference was
the cause of more than one passage at arms between her and my mother,
and nothing intensifies feeling like the icy breath of persecution.
How charming was her greeting, "Here you are, little rogue!" when
curiosity had taught me how to glide with stealthy snake-like
movements to her room. She felt that I loved her, and this childish
affection was welcome as a ray of sunshine in the winter of her life.
I don't know what went on in her rooms at night, but she had many
visitors; and when I came on tiptoe in the morning to see if she were
awake, I would find the drawing-room furniture disarranged, the card-
tables set out, and patches of snuff scattered about.
This drawing-room is furnished in the same style as the bedroom. The
chairs and tables are oddly shaped, with claw feet and hollow
mouldings. Rich garlands of flowers, beautifully designed and carved,
wind over the mirrors and hang down in festoons. On the consoles are
fine china vases. The ground colors are scarlet and white. My
grandmother was a high-spirited, striking brunette, as might be
inferred from her choice of colors. I have found in the drawing-room a
writing-table I remember well; the figures on it used to fascinate me;
it is plaited in graven silver, and was a present from one of the
Genoese Lomellini. Each side of the table represents the occupations
of a different season; there are hundreds of figures in each picture,
and all in relief.
I remained alone for two hours, while old memories rose before me, one
after another, on this spot, hallowed by the death of a woman most
remarkable even among the witty and beautiful Court ladies of Louis
You know how abruptly I was parted from her, at a day's notice, in
"Go and bid good-bye to your grandmother," said my mother.
The Princess received me as usual, without any display of feeling, and
expressed no surprise at my departure.
"You are going to the convent, dear," she said, "and will see your
aunt there, who is an excellent woman. I shall take care, though, that
they don't make a victim of you; you shall be independent, and able to
marry whom you please."
Six months later she died. Her will had been given into the keeping of
the Prince de Talleyrand, the most devoted of all her old friends. He
contrived, while paying a visit to Mlle. de Chargeboeuf, to intimate
to me, through her, that my grandmother forbade me to take the vows. I
hope, sooner or later, to meet the Prince, and then I shall doubtless
learn more from him.
Thus, sweetheart, if I have found no one in flesh and blood to meet
me, I have comforted myself with the shade of the dear Princess, and
have prepared myself for carrying out one of our pledges, which was,
as you know, to keep each other informed of the smallest details in
our homes and occupations. It makes such a difference to know where
and how the life of one we love is passed. Send me a faithful picture
of the veriest trifles around you, omitting nothing, not even the
sunset lights among the tall trees.
It was three in the afternoon when I arrived. About half-past five,
Rose came and told me that my mother had returned, so I went
downstairs to pay my respects to her.
My mother lives in a suite on the ground floor, exactly corresponding
to mine, and in the same block. I am just over her head, and the same
secret staircase serves for both. My father's rooms are in the block
opposite, but are larger by the whole of the space occupied by the
grand staircase on our side of the building. These ancestral mansions
are so spacious, that my father and mother continue to occupy the
ground-floor rooms, in spite of the social duties which have once more
devolved on them with the return of the Bourbons, and are even able to
receive in them.
I found my mother, dressed for the evening, in her drawing-room, where
nothing is changed. I came slowly down the stairs, speculating with
every step how I should be met by this mother who had shown herself so
little of a mother to me, and from whom, during eight years, I had
heard nothing beyond the two letters of which you know. Judging it
unworthy to simulate an affection I could not possibly feel, I put on
the air of a pious imbecile, and entered the room with many inward
qualms, which however soon disappeared. My mother's tack was equal to
the occasion. She made no pretence of emotion; she neither held me at
arm's-length nor hugged me to her bosom like a beloved daughter, but
greeted me as though we had parted the evening before. Her manner was
that of the kindliest and most sincere friend, as she addressed me
like a grown person, first kissing me on the forehead.
"My dear little one," she said, "if you were to die at the convent, it
is much better to live with your family. You frustrate your father's
plans and mine; but the age of blind obedience to parents is past. M.
de Chaulieu's intention, and in this I am quite at one with him, is to
lose no opportunity of making your life pleasant and of letting you
see the world. At your age I should have thought as you do, therefore
I am not vexed with you; it is impossible you should understand what
we expected from you. You will not find any absurd severity in me; and
if you have ever thought me heartless, you will soon find out your
mistake. Still, though I wish you to feel perfectly free, I think
that, to begin with, you would do well to follow the counsels of a
mother, who wishes to be a sister to you."
I was quite charmed by the Duchess, who talked in a gentle voice,
straightening my convent tippet as she spoke. At the age of thirty-
eight she is still exquisitely beautiful. She has dark-blue eyes, with
silken lashes, a smooth forehead, and a complexion so pink and white
that you might think she paints. Her bust and shoulders are marvelous,
and her waist is as slender as yours. Her hand is milk-white and
extraordinarily beautiful; the nails catch the light in their perfect
polish, the thumb is like ivory, the little finger stands just a
little apart from the rest, and the foot matches the hand; it is the
Spanish foot of Mlle. de Vandenesse. If she is like this at forty, at
sixty she will still be a beautiful woman.
I replied, sweetheart, like a good little girl. I was as nice to her
as she to me, nay, nicer. Her beauty completely vanquished me; it
seemed only natural that such a woman should be absorbed in her regal
part. I told her this as simply as though I had been talking to you. I
daresay it was a surprise to her to hear words of affection from her
daughter's mouth, and the unfeigned homage of my admiration evidently
touched her deeply. Her manner changed and became even more engaging;
she dropped all formality as she said:
"I am much pleased with you, and I hope we shall remain good friends."
The words struck me as charmingly naive, but I did not let this
appear, for I saw at once that the prudent course was to allow her to
believe herself much deeper and cleverer than her daughter. So I only
stared vacantly and she was delighted. I kissed her hands repeatedly,
telling her how happy it made me to be so treated and to feel at my
ease with her. I even confided to her my previous tremors. She smiled,
put her arm round my neck, and drawing me towards her, kissed me on
the forehead most affectionately.
"Dear child," she said, "we have people coming to dinner to-day.
Perhaps you will agree with me that it is better for you not to make
your first appearance in society till you have been in the
dressmaker's hands; so, after you have seen your father and brother,
you can go upstairs again."
I assented most heartily. My mother's exquisite dress was the first
revelation to me of the world which our dreams had pictured; but I did
not feel the slightest desire to rival her.
My father now entered, and the Duchess presented me to him.
He became all at once most affectionate, and played the father's part
so well, that I could not but believe his heart to be in it. Taking my
two hands in his, and kissing them, with more of the lover than the
father in his manner, he said:
"So this is my rebel daughter!"
And he drew me towards him, with his arm passed tenderly round my
waist, while he kissed me on the cheeks and forehead.
"The pleasure with which we shall watch your success in society will
atone for the disappointment we felt at your change of vocation," he
said. Then, turning to my mother, "Do you know that she is going to
turn out very pretty, and you will be proud of her some day?--Here is
your brother, Rhetore.--Alphonse," he said to a fine young man who
came in, "here is your convent-bred sister, who threatens to send her
nun's frock to the deuce."
My brother came up in a leisurely way and took my hand, which he
"Come, come, you may kiss her," said my father.
And he kissed me on both cheeks.
"I am delighted to see you," he said, "and I take your side against my
I thanked him, but could not help thinking he might have come to Blois
when he was at Orleans visiting our Marquis brother in his quarters.
Fearing the arrival of strangers, I now withdrew. I tidied up my
rooms, and laid out on the scarlet velvet of my lovely table all the
materials necessary for writing to you, meditating all the while on my
This, my fair sweetheart, is a true and veracious account of the
return of a girl of eighteen, after an absence of nine years, to the
bosom of one of the noblest families in the kingdom. I was tired by
the journey as well as by all the emotions I had been through, so I
went to bed in convent fashion, at eight o'clock after supper. They
have preserved even a little Saxe service which the dear Princess used
when she had a fancy for taking her meals alone.
THE SAME TO THE SAME
Next day I found my rooms done out and dusted, and even flowers put in
the vases, by old Philippe. I began to feel at home. Only it didn't
occur to anybody that a Carmelite schoolgirl has an early appetite,
and Rose had no end of trouble in getting breakfast for me.
"Mlle. goes to bed at dinner-time," she said to me, "and gets up when
the Duke is just returning home."
I began to write. About one o'clock my father knocked at the door of
the small drawing-room and asked if he might come in. I opened the
door; he came in, and found me writing to you.
"My dear," he began, "you will have to get yourself clothes, and to
make these rooms comfortable. In this purse you will find twelve
thousand francs, which is the yearly income I purpose allowing you for
your expenses. You will make arrangements with your mother as to some
governess whom you may like, in case Miss Griffith doesn't please you,
for Mme. de Chaulieu will not have time to go out with you in the
mornings. A carriage and man-servant shall be at your disposal."
"Let me keep Philippe," I said.
"So be it," he replied. "But don't be uneasy; you have money enough of
your own to be no burden either to your mother or me."
"May I ask how much I have?"
"Certainly, my child," he said. "Your grandmother left you five
hundred thousand francs; this was the amount of her savings, for she
would not alienate a foot of land from the family. This sum has been
placed in Government stock, and, with the accumulated interest, now
brings in about forty thousand francs a year. With this I had purposed
making an independence for your second brother, and it is here that
you have upset my plans. Later, however, it is possible that you may
fall in with them. It shall rest with yourself, for I have confidence
in your good sense far more than I had expected.
"I do not need to tell you how a daughter of the Chaulieus ought to
behave. The pride so plainly written in your features is my best
guarantee. Safeguards, such as common folk surround their daughters
with, would be an insult in our family. A slander reflecting on your
name might cost the life of the man bold enough to utter it, or the
life of one of your brothers, if by chance the right should not
prevail. No more on this subject. Good-bye, little one."
He kissed me on the forehead and went out. I cannot understand the
relinquishment of this plan after nine years' persistence in it. My
father's frankness is what I like. There is no ambiguity about his
words. My money ought to belong to his Marquis son. Who, then, has had
bowels of mercy? My mother? My father? Or could it be my brother?
I remained sitting on my grandmother's sofa, staring at the purse
which my father had left on the mantelpiece, at once pleased and vexed
that I could not withdraw my mind from the money. It is true, further
speculation was useless. My doubts had been cleared up and there was
something fine in the way my pride was spared.
Philippe has spent the morning rushing about among the various shops
and workpeople who are to undertake the task of my metamorphosis. A
famous dressmaker, by name Victorine, has come, as well as a woman for
underclothing, and a shoemaker. I am as impatient as a child to know
what I shall be like when I emerge from the sack which constituted the
conventual uniform; but all these tradespeople take a long time; the
corset-maker requires a whole week if my figure is not to be spoilt.
You see, I have a figure, dear; this becomes serious. Janssen, the
Operatic shoemaker, solemnly assures me that I have my mother's foot.
The whole morning has gone in these weighty occupations. Even a
glovemaker has come to take the measure of my hand. The underclothing
woman has got my orders.
At the meal which I call dinner, and the others lunch, my mother told
me that we were going together to the milliner's to see some hats, so
that my taste should be formed, and I might be in a position to order
This burst of independence dazzles me. I am like a blind man who has
just recovered his sight. Now I begin to understand the vast interval
which separates a Carmelite sister from a girl in society. Of
ourselves we could never have conceived it.
During this lunch my father seemed absent-minded, and we left him to
his thoughts; he is deep in the King's confidence. I was entirely
forgotten; but, from what I have seen, I have no doubt he will
remember me when he has need of me. He is a very attractive man in
spite of his fifty years. His figure is youthful; he is well made,
fair, and extremely graceful in his movements. He has a diplomatic
face, at once dumb and expressive; his nose is long and slender, and
he has brown eyes.
What a handsome pair! Strange thoughts assail me as it becomes plain
to me that these two, so perfectly matched in birth, wealth, and
mental superiority, live entirely apart, and have nothing in common
but their name. The show of unity is only for the world.
The cream of the Court and diplomatic circles were here last night.
Very soon I am going to a ball given by the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse,
and I shall be presented to the society I am so eager to know. A
dancing-master is coming every morning to give me lessons, for I must
be able to dance in a month, or I can't go to the ball.
Before dinner, my mother came to talk about the governess with me. I
have decided to keep Miss Griffith, who was recommended by the English
ambassador. Miss Griffith is the daughter of a clergyman; her mother
was of good family, and she is perfectly well bred. She is thirty-six,
and will teach me English. The good soul is quite handsome enough to
have ambitions; she is Scotch--poor and proud--and will act as my
chaperon. She is to sleep in Rose's room. Rose will be under her
orders. I saw at a glance that my governess would be governed by me.
In the six days we have been together, she has made very sure that I
am the only person likely to take an interest in her; while, for my
part, I have ascertained that, for all her statuesque features, she
will prove accommodating. She seems to me a kindly soul, but cautious.
I have not been able to extract a word of what passed between her and
Another trifling piece of news! My father has this morning refused the
appointment as Minister of State which was offered him. This accounts
for his preoccupied manner last night. He says he would prefer an
embassy to the worries of public debate. Spain in especial attracts
This news was told me at lunch, the one moment of the day when my
father, mother, and brother see each other in an easy way. The
servants then only come when they are rung for. The rest of the day my
brother, as well as my father, spends out of the house. My mother has
her toilet to make; between two and four she is never visible; at four
o'clock she goes out for an hour's drive; when she is not dining out,
she receives from six to seven, and the evening is given to
entertainments of various kinds--theatres, balls, concerts, at homes.
In short, her life is so full, that I don't believe she ever has a
quarter of an hour to herself. She must spend a considerable time
dressing in the morning; for at lunch, which takes place between
eleven and twelve, she is exquisite. The meaning of the things that
are said about her is dawning on me. She begins the day with a bath
barely warmed, and a cup of cold coffee with cream; then she dresses.
She is never, except on some great emergency, called before nine
o'clock. In summer there are morning rides, and at two o'clock she
receives a young man whom I have never yet contrived to see.
Behold our family life! We meet at lunch and dinner, though often I am
alone with my mother at this latter meal, and I foresee that still
oftener I shall take it in my own rooms (following the example of my
grandmother) with only Miss Griffith for company, for my mother
frequently dines out. I have ceased to wonder at the indifference my
family have shown to me. In Paris, my dear, it is a miracle of virtue
to love the people who live with you, for you see little enough of
them; as for the absent--they do not exist!
Knowing as this may sound, I have not yet set foot in the streets, and
am deplorably ignorant. I must wait till I am less of the country
cousin and have brought my dress and deportment into keeping with the
society I am about to enter, the whirl of which amazes me even here,
where only distant murmurs reach my ear. So far I have not gone beyond
the garden; but the Italian opera opens in a few days, and my mother
has a box there. I am crazy with delight at the thought of hearing
Italian music and seeing French acting.
Already I begin to drop convent habits for those of society. I spend
the evening writing to you till the moment for going to bed arrives.
This has been postponed to ten o'clock, the hour at which my mother
goes out, if she is not at the theatre. There are twelve theatres in
I am grossly ignorant and I read a lot, but quite indiscriminately,
one book leading to another. I find the names of fresh books on the
cover of the one I am reading; but as I have no one to direct me, I
light on some which are fearfully dull. What modern literature I have
read all turns upon love, the subject which used to bulk so largely in
our thoughts, because it seemed that our fate was determined by man
and for man. But how inferior are these authors to two little girls,
known as Sweetheart and Darling--otherwise Renee and Louise. Ah! my
love, what wretched plots, what ridiculous situations, and what
poverty of sentiment! Two books, however, have given me wonderful
pleasure--/Corinne/ and /Adolphe/. Apropos of this, I asked my father
one day whether it would be possible for me to see Mme. de Stael. My
father, mother, and Alphonse all burst out laughing, and Alphonse
"Where in the world has she sprung from?"
To which my father replied:
"What fools we are! She springs from the Carmelites."
"My child, Mme. de Stael is dead," said my mother gently.
When I finished /Adolphe/, I asked Miss Griffith how a woman could be
"Why, of course, when she loves," was her reply.
Renee, tell me, do you think we could be betrayed by a man?
Miss Griffith has at last discerned that I am not an utter ignoramus,
that I have somewhere a hidden vein of knowledge, the knowledge we
learned from each other in our random arguments. She sees that it is
only superficial facts of which I am ignorant. The poor thing has
opened her heart to me. Her curt reply to my question, when I compare
it with all the sorrows I can imagine, makes me feel quite creepy.
Once more she urged me not to be dazzled by the glitter of society, to
be always on my guard, especially against what most attracted me. This
is the sum-total of her wisdom, and I can get nothing more out of her.
Her lectures, therefore, become a trifle monotonous, and she might be
compared in this respect to the bird which has only one cry.
THE SAME TO THE SAME
My Darling,--Here I am ready to make my bow to the world. By way of
preparation I have been trying to commit all the follies I could think
of before sobering down for my entry. This morning, I have seen
myself, after many rehearsals, well and duly equipped--stays, shoes,
curls, dress, ornaments,--all in order. Following the example of
duelists before a meeting, I tried my arms in the privacy of my
chamber. I wanted to see how I would look, and had no difficulty in
discovering a certain air of victory and triumph, bound to carry all
before it. I mustered all my forces, in accordance with that splendid
maxim of antiquity, "Know thyself!" and boundless was my delight in
thus making my own acquaintance. Griffith was the sole spectator of
this doll's play, in which I was at once doll and child. You think you
know me? You are hugely mistaken.
Here is a portrait, then, Renee, of your sister, formerly disguised as
a Carmelite, now brought to life again as a frivolous society girl.
She is one of the greatest beauties in France--Provence, of course,
excepted. I don't see that I can give a more accurate summary of this
True, I have my weak points; but were I a man, I should adore them.
They arise from what is most promising in me. When you have spent a
fortnight admiring the exquisite curves of your mother's arms, and
that mother the Duchesse de Chaulieu, it is impossible, my dear, not
to deplore your own angular elbows. Yet there is consolation in
observing the fineness of the wrist, and a certain grace of line in
those hollows, which will yet fill out and show plump, round, and well
modeled, under the satiny skin. The somewhat crude outline of the arms
is seen again in the shoulders. Strictly speaking, indeed, I have no
shoulders, but only two bony blades, standing out in harsh relief. My
figure also lacks pliancy; there is a stiffness about the side lines.
Poof! There's the worst out. But then the contours are bold and
delicate, the bright, pure flame of health bites into the vigorous
lines, a flood of life and of blue blood pulses under the transparent
skin, and the fairest daughter of Eve would seem a Negress beside me!
I have the foot of a gazelle! My joints are finely turned, my features
of a Greek correctness. It is true, madame, that the flesh tints do
not melt into each other; but, at least, they stand out clear and
bright. In short, I am a very pretty green fruit, with all the charm
of unripeness. I see a great likeness to the face in my aunt's old
missal, which rises out of a violet lily.
There is no silly weakness in the blue of my insolent eyes; the white
is pure mother-of-pearl, prettily marked with tiny veins, and the
thick, long lashes fall like a silken fringe. My forehead sparkles,
and the hair grows deliciously; it ripples into waves of pale gold,
growing browner towards the centre, whence escape little rebel locks,
which alone would tell that my fairness is not of the insipid and
hysterical type. I am a tropical blonde, with plenty of blood in my
veins, a blonde more apt to strike than to turn the cheek. What do you
think the hairdresser proposed? He wanted, if you please, to smooth my
hair into two bands, and place over my forehead a pearl, kept in place
by a gold chain! He said it would recall the Middle Ages.
I told him I was not aged enough to have reached the middle, or to
need an ornament to freshen me up!
The nose is slender, and the well-cut nostrils are separated by a
sweet little pink partition--an imperious, mocking nose, with a tip
too sensitive ever to grow fat or red. Sweetheart, if this won't find
a husband for a dowerless maiden, I'm a donkey. The ears are daintily
curled, a pearl hanging from either lobe would show yellow. The neck
is long, and has an undulating motion full of dignity. In the shade
the white ripens to a golden tinge. Perhaps the mouth is a little
large. But how expressive! what a color on the lips! how prettily the
Then, dear, there is a harmony running through all. What a gait! what
a voice! We have not forgotten how our grandmother's skirts fell into
place without a touch. In a word, I am lovely and charming. When the
mood comes, I can laugh one of our good old laughs, and no one will
think the less of me; the dimples, impressed by Comedy's light fingers
on my fair cheeks, will command respect. Or I can let my eyes fall and
my heart freeze under my snowy brows. I can pose as a Madonna with
melancholy, swan-like neck, and the painters' virgins will be nowhere;
my place in heaven would be far above them. A man would be forced to
chant when he spoke to me.
So, you see, my panoply is complete, and I can run the whole gamut of
coquetry from deepest bass to shrillest treble. It is a huge advantage
not to be all of one piece. Now, my mother is neither playful nor
virginal. Her only attitude is an imposing one; when she ceases to be
majestic, she is ferocious. It is difficult for her to heal the wounds
she makes, whereas I can wound and heal together. We are absolutely
unlike, and therefore there could not possibly be rivalry between us,
unless indeed we quarreled over the greater or less perfection of our
extremities, which are similar. I take after my father, who is shrewd
and subtle. I have the manner of my grandmother and her charming
voice, which becomes falsetto when forced, but is a sweet-toned chest
voice at the ordinary pitch of a quiet talk.
I feel as if I had left the convent to-day for the first time. For
society I do not yet exist; I am unknown to it. What a ravishing
moment! I still belong only to myself, like a flower just blown,
unseen yet of mortal eye.
In spite of this, my sweet, as I paced the drawing-room during my
self-inspection, and saw the poor cast-off school-clothes, a queer
feeling came over me. Regret for the past, anxiety about the future,
fear of society, a long farewell to the pale daisies which we used to
pick and strip of their petals in light-hearted innocence, there was
something of all that; but strange, fantastic visions also rose, which
I crushed back into the inner depths, whence they had sprung, and
whither I dared not follow them.
My Renee, I have a regular trousseau! It is all beautifully laid away
and perfumed in the cedar-wood drawers with lacquered front of my
charming dressing-table. There are ribbons, shoes, gloves, all in
lavish abundance. My father has kindly presented me with the pretty
gewgaws a girl loves--a dressing-case, toilet service, scent-box, fan,
sunshade, prayer-book, gold chain, cashmere shawl. He has also
promised to give me riding lessons. And I can dance! To-morrow, yes,
to-morrow evening, I come out!
My dress is white muslin, and on my head I wear a garland of white
roses in Greek style. I shall put on my Madonna face; I mean to play
the simpleton, and have all the women on my side. My mother is miles
away from any idea of what I write to you. She believes me quite
destitute of mind, and would be dumfounded if she read my letter. My
brother honors me with a profound contempt, and is uniformly and
He is a handsome young fellow, but melancholy, and given to moods. I
have divined his secret, though neither the Duke nor Duchess has an
inkling of it. In spite of his youth and his title, he is jealous of
his father. He has no position in the State, no post at Court, he
never has to say, "I am going to the Chamber." I alone in the house
have sixteen hours for meditation. My father is absorbed in public
business and his own amusements; my mother, too, is never at leisure;
no member of the household practises self-examination, they are
constantly in company, and have hardly time to live.
I should immensely like to know what is the potent charm wielded by
society to keep people prisoner from nine every evening till two or
three in the morning, and force them to be so lavish alike of strength
and money. When I longed for it, I had no idea of the separations it
brought about, or its overmastering spell. But, then, I forget, it is
Paris which does it all.
It is possible, it seems, for members of one family to live side by
side and know absolutely nothing of each other. A half-fledged nun
arrives, and in a couple of weeks has grasped domestic details, of
which the master diplomatist at the head of the house is quite
ignorant. Or perhaps he /does/ see, and shuts his eyes deliberately,
as part of the father's /role/. There is a mystery here which I must
THE SAME TO THE SAME
Yesterday, at two o'clock, I went to drive in the Champs-Elysees and
the Bois de Boulogne. It was one of those autumn days which we used to
find so beautiful on the banks of the Loire. So I have seen Paris at
last! The Place Louis XV. is certainly very fine, but the beauty is
that of man's handiwork.
I was dressed to perfection, pensive, with set face (though inwardly
much tempted to laugh), under a lovely hat, my arms crossed. Would you
believe it? Not a single smile was thrown at me, not one poor youth
was struck motionless as I passed, not a soul turned to look again;
and yet the carriage proceeded with a deliberation worthy of my pose.
No, I am wrong, there was one--a duke, and a charming man--who
suddenly reined in as we went by. The individual who thus saved
appearances for me was my father, and he proclaimed himself highly
gratified by what he saw. I met my mother also, who sent me a
butterfly kiss from the tips of her fingers. The worthy Griffith, who
fears no man, cast her glances hither and thither without
discrimination. In my judgment, a young woman should always know
exactly what her eye is resting on.
I was mad with rage. One man actually inspected my carriage without
noticing me. This flattering homage probably came from a carriage-
maker. I have been quite out in the reckoning of my forces. Plainly,
beauty, that rare gift which comes from heaven, is commoner in Paris
than I thought. I saw hats doffed with deference to simpering fools; a
purple face called forth murmurs of, "It is she!" My mother received
an immense amount of admiration. There is an answer to this problem,
and I mean to find it.
The men, my dear, seemed to me generally very ugly. The very few
exceptions are bad copies of us. Heaven knows what evil genius has
inspired their costume; it is amazingly inelegant compared with those
of former generations. It has no distinction, no beauty of color or
romance; it appeals neither to the senses, nor the mind, nor the eye,
and it must be very uncomfortable. It is meagre and stunted. The hat,
above all, struck me; it is a sort of truncated column, and does not
adapt itself in the least to the shape of the head; but I am told it
is easier to bring about a revolution than to invent a graceful hat.
Courage in Paris recoils before the thought of appearing in a round
felt; and for lack of one day's daring, men stick all their lives to
this ridiculous headpiece. And yet Frenchmen are said to be fickle!
The men are hideous anyway, whatever they put on their heads. I have
seen nothing but worn, hard faces, with no calm nor peace in the
expression; the harsh lines and furrows speak of foiled ambition and
smarting vanity. A fine forehead is rarely seen.
"And these are the product of Paris!" I said to Miss Griffith.
"Most cultivated and pleasant men," she replied.
I was silent. The heart of a spinster of thirty-six is a well of
In the evening I went to the ball, where I kept close to my mother's
side. She gave me her arm with a devotion which did not miss its
reward. All the honors were for her; I was made the pretext for
charming compliments. She was clever enough to find me fools for my
partners, who one and all expatiated on the heat and the beauty of the
ball, till you might suppose I was freezing and blind. Not one failed
to enlarge on the strange, unheard-of, extraordinary, odd, remarkable
fact--that he saw me for the first time.
My dress, which dazzled me as I paraded alone in my white-and-gold
drawing-room, was barely noticeable amidst the gorgeous finery of most
of the married women. Each had her band of faithful followers, and
they all watched each other askance. A few were radiant in triumphant
beauty, and amongst these was my mother. A girl at a ball is a mere
dancing-machine--a thing of no consequence whatever.
The men, with rare exceptions, did not impress me more favorably here
than at the Champs-Elysees. They have a used-up look; their features
are meaningless, or rather they have all the same meaning. The proud,
stalwart bearing which we find in the portraits of our ancestors--men
who joined moral to physical vigor--has disappeared. Yet in this
gathering there was one man of remarkable ability, who stood out from
the rest by the beauty of his face. But even he did not rouse in me
the feeling which I should have expected. I do not know his works, and
he is a man of no family. Whatever the genius and the merits of a
plebeian or a commoner, he could never stir my blood. Besides, this
man was obviously so much more taken up with himself than with anybody
else, that I could not but think these great brain-workers must look
on us as things rather than persons. When men of intellectual power
love, they ought to give up writing, otherwise their love is not the
real thing. The lady of their heart does not come first in all their
thoughts. I seemed to read all this in the bearing of the man I speak
of. I am told he is a professor, orator, and author, whose ambition
makes him the slave of every bigwig.
My mind was made up on the spot. It was unworthy of me, I determined,
to quarrel with society for not being impressed by my merits, and I
gave myself up to the simple pleasure of dancing, which I thoroughly
enjoyed. I heard a great deal of inept gossip about people of whom I
know nothing; but perhaps it is my ignorance on many subjects which
prevents me from appreciating it, as I saw that most men and women
took a lively pleasure in certain remarks, whether falling from their
own lips or those of others. Society bristles with enigmas which look
hard to solve. It is a perfect maze of intrigue. Yet I am fairly quick
of sight and hearing, and as to my wits, Mlle. de Maucombe does not
need to be told!
I returned home tired with a pleasant sort of tiredness, and in all
innocence began describing my sensations to my mother, who was with
me. She checked me with the warning that I must never say such things
to any one but her.
"My dear child," she added, "it needs as much tact to know when to be
silent as when to speak."
This advice brought home to me the nature of the sensations which
ought to be concealed from every one, not excepting perhaps even a
mother. At a glance I measured the vast field of feminine duplicity. I
can assure you, sweetheart, that we, in our unabashed simplicity,
would pass for two very wide-awake little scandal-mongers. What
lessons may be conveyed in a finger on the lips, in a word, a look!
All in a moment I was seized with excessive shyness. What! may I never
again speak of the natural pleasure I feel in the exercise of dancing?
"How then," I said to myself, "about the deeper feelings?"
I went to bed sorrowful, and I still suffer from the shock produced by
this first collision of my frank, joyous nature with the harsh laws of
society. Already the highway hedges are flecked with my white wool!
RENEE DE MAUCOMBE TO LOUISE DE CHAULIEU
How deeply your letter moved me; above all, when I compare our widely
different destinies! How brilliant is the world you are entering, how
peaceful the retreat where I shall end my modest career!
In the Castle of Maucombe, which is so well known to you by
description that I shall say no more of it, I found my room almost
exactly as I left it; only now I can enjoy the splendid view it gives
of the Gemenos valley, which my childish eyes used to see without
comprehending. A fortnight after my arrival, my father and mother took
me, along with my two brothers, to dine with one of our neighbors, M.
de l'Estorade, an old gentleman of good family, who has made himself
rich, after the provincial fashion, by scraping and paring.
M. de l'Estorade was unable to save his only son from the clutches of
Bonaparte; after successfully eluding the conscription, he was forced
to send him to the army in 1813, to join the Emperor's bodyguard.
After Leipsic no more was heard of him. M. de Montriveau, whom the
father interviewed in 1814, declared that he had seen him taken by the
Russians. Mme. de l'Estorade died of grief whilst a vain search was
being made in Russia. The Baron, a very pious old man, practised that
fine theological virtue which we used to cultivate at Blois--Hope!
Hope made him see his son in dreams. He hoarded his income for him,
and guarded carefully the portion of inheritance which fell to him
from the family of the late Mme. de l'Estorade, no one venturing to
ridicule the old man.
At last it dawned upon me that the unexpected return of this son was
the cause of my own. Who could have imagined, whilst fancy was leading
us a giddy dance, that my destined husband was slowly traveling on
foot through Russia, Poland, and Germany? His bad luck only forsook
him at Berlin, where the French Minister helped his return to his
native country. M. de l'Estorade, the father, who is a small landed
proprietor in Provence, with an income of about ten thousand livres,
has not sufficient European fame to interest the world in the
wandering Knight de l'Estorade, whose name smacks of his adventures.
The accumulated income of twelve thousand livres from the property of
Mme. de l'Estorade, with the addition of the father's savings,
provides the poor guard of honor with something like two hundred and
fifty thousand livres, not counting house and lands--quite a
considerable fortune in Provence. His worthy father had bought, on the
very eve of the Chevalier's return, a fine but badly-managed estate,
where he designs to plant ten thousand mulberry-trees, raised in his
nursery with a special view to this acquisition. The Baron, having
found his long-lost son, has now but one thought, to marry him, and
marry him to a girl of good family.
My father and mother entered into their neighbor's idea with an eye to
my interests so soon as they discovered that Renee de Maucombe would
be acceptable without a dowry, and that the money the said Renee ought
to inherit from her parents would be duly acknowledged as hers in the
contract. In a similar way, my younger brother, Jean de Maucombe, as
soon as he came of age, signed a document stating that he had received
from his parents an advance upon the estate equal in amount to one-
third of whole. This is the device by which the nobles of Provence
elude the infamous Civil Code of M. de Bonaparte, a code which will
drive as many girls of good family into convents as it will find
husbands for. The French nobility, from the little I have been able to
gather, seem to be divided on these matters.
The dinner, darling, was a first meeting between your sweetheart and
the exile. The Comte de Maucombe's servants donned their old laced
liveries and hats, the coachman his great top-boots; we sat five in
the antiquated carriage, and arrived in state about two o'clock--the
dinner was for three--at the grange, which is the dwelling of the
Baron de l'Estorade.
My father-in-law to be has, you see, no castle, only a simple country
house, standing beneath one of our hills, at the entrance of that
noble valley, the pride of which is undoubtedly the Castle of
Maucombe. The building is quite unpretentious: four pebble walls
covered with a yellowish wash, and roofed with hollow tiles of a good
red, constitute the grange. The rafters bend under the weight of this
brick-kiln. The windows, inserted casually, without any attempt at
symmetry, have enormous shutters, painted yellow. The garden in which
it stands is a Provencal garden, enclosed by low walls, built of big
round pebbles set in layers, alternately sloping or upright, according
to the artistic taste of the mason, which finds here its only outlet.
The mud in which they are set is falling away in places.
Thanks to an iron railing at the entrance facing the road, this simple
farm has a certain air of being a country-seat. The railing, long
sought with tears, is so emaciated that it recalled Sister Angelique
to me. A flight of stone steps leads to the door, which is protected
by a pent-house roof, such as no peasant on the Loire would tolerate
for his coquettish white stone house, with its blue roof, glittering
in the sun. The garden and surrounding walks are horribly dusty, and
the trees seem burnt up. It is easy to see that for years the Baron's
life has been a mere rising up and going to bed again, day after day,
without a thought beyond that of piling up coppers. He eats the same
food as his two servants, a Provencal lad and the old woman who used
to wait on his wife. The rooms are scantily furnished.
Nevertheless, the house of l'Estorade had done its best; the cupboards
had been ransacked, and its last man beaten up for the dinner, which
was served to us on old silver dishes, blackened and battered. The
exile, my darling pet, is like the railing, emaciated! He is pale and
silent, and bears traces of suffering. At thirty-seven he might be
fifty. The once beautiful ebon locks of youth are streaked with white
like a lark's wing. His fine blue eyes are cavernous; he is a little
deaf, which suggests the Knight of the Sorrowful Countenance.
Spite of all this, I have graciously consented to become Mme. de
l'Estorade and to receive a dowry of two hundred and fifty thousand
livres, but only on the express condition of being allowed to work my
will upon the grange and make a park there. I have demanded from my
father, in set terms, a grant of water, which can be brought thither
from Maucombe. In a month I shall be Mme. de l'Estorade; for, dear, I
have made a good impression. After the snows of Siberia a man is ready
enough to see merit in those black eyes, which according to you, used
to ripen fruit with a look. Louis de l'Estorade seems well content to
marry the /fair Renee de Maucombe/--such is your friend's splendid
Whilst you are preparing to reap the joys of that many-sided existence
which awaits a young lady of the Chaulieu family, and to queen it in
Paris, your poor little sweetheart, Renee, that child of the desert,
has fallen from the empyrean, whither together we had soared, into the
vulgar realities of a life as homely as a daisy's. I have vowed to
myself to comfort this young man, who has never known youth, but
passed straight from his mother's arms to the embrace of war, and from
the joys of his country home to the frosts and forced labor of
Humble country pleasures will enliven the monotony of my future. It
shall be my ambition to enlarge the oasis round my house, and to give
it the lordly shade of fine trees. My turf, though Provencal, shall be
always green. I shall carry my park up the hillside and plant on the
highest point some pretty kiosque, whence, perhaps, my eyes may catch
the shimmer of the Mediterranean. Orange and lemon trees, and all
choicest things that grow, shall embellish my retreat; and there will
I be a mother among my children. The poetry of Nature, which nothing
can destroy, shall hedge us round; and standing loyally at the post of
duty, we need fear no danger. My religious feelings are shared by my
father-in-law and by the Chevalier.
Ah! darling, my life unrolls itself before my eyes like one of the
great highways of France, level and easy, shaded with evergreen trees.
This century will not see another Bonaparte; and my children, if I
have any, will not be rent from me. They will be mine to train and
make men of--the joy of my life. If you also are true to your destiny,
you who ought to find your mate amongst the great ones of the earth,
the children of your Renee will not lack a zealous protectress.
Farewell, then, for me at least, to the romances and thrilling
adventures in which we used ourselves to play the part of heroine. The
whole story of my life lies before me now; its great crises will be
the teething and nutrition of the young Masters de l'Estorade, and the
mischief they do to my shrubs and me. To embroider their caps, to be
loved and admired by a sickly man at the mouth of the Gemenos valley--
there are my pleasures. Perhaps some day the country dame may go and
spend a winter in Marseilles; but danger does not haunt the purlieus
of a narrow provincial stage. There will be nothing to fear, not even
an admiration such as could only make a woman proud. We shall take a
great deal of interest in the silkworms for whose benefit our
mulberry-leaves will be sold! We shall know the strange vicissitudes
of life in Provence, and the storms that may attack even a peaceful
household. Quarrels will be impossible, for M. de l'Estorade has
formally announced that he will leave the reins in his wife's hands;
and as I shall do nothing to remind him of this wise resolve, it is
likely he may persevere in it.
You, my dear Louise, will supply the romance of my life. So you must
narrate to me in full all your adventures, describe your balls and
parties, tell me what you wear, what flowers crown your lovely golden
locks, and what are the words and manners of the men you meet. Your
other self will be always there--listening, dancing, feeling her
finger-tips pressed--with you. If only I could have some fun in Paris
now and then, while you played the house-mother at La Crampade! such
is the name of our grange. Poor M. de l'Estorade, who fancies he is
marrying one woman! Will he find out there are two?
I am writing nonsense now, and as henceforth I can only be foolish by
proxy, I had better stop. One kiss, then, on each cheek--my lips are
still virginal, he has only dared to take my hand. Oh! our deference
and propriety are quite disquieting, I assure you. There, I am off
again. . . . Good-bye, dear.
/P. S./--I have just opened your third letter. My dear, I have about
one thousand livres to dispose of; spend them for me on pretty things,
such as we can't find here, nor even at Marseilles. While speeding on
your own business, give a thought to the recluse of La Crampade.
Remember that on neither side have the heads of the family any people
of taste in Paris to make their purchases. I shall reply to your
DON FELIPE HENAREZ TO DON FERNAND
The address of this letter, my brother, will show you that the head of
your house is out of reach of danger. If the massacre of our ancestors
in the Court of Lions made Spaniards and Christians of us against our
will, it left us a legacy of Arab cunning; and it may be that I owe my
safety to the blood of the Abencerrages still flowing in my veins.
Fear made Ferdinand's acting so good, that Valdez actually believed in
his protestations. But for me the poor Admiral would have been done
for. Nothing, it seems, will teach the Liberals what a king is. This
particular Bourbon has been long known to me; and the more His Majesty
assured me of his protection, the stronger grew my suspicions. A true
Spaniard has no need to repeat a promise. A flow of words is a sure
sign of duplicity.
Valdez took ship on an English vessel. For myself, no sooner did I see
the cause of my beloved Spain wrecked in Andalusia, than I wrote to
the steward of my Sardinian estate to make arrangements for my escape.
Some hardy coral fishers were despatched to wait for me at a point on
the coast; and when Ferdinand urged the French to secure my person, I
was already in my barony of Macumer, amidst brigands who defy all law
and all avengers.
The last Hispano-Moorish family of Granada has found once more the
shelter of an African desert, and even a Saracen horse, in an estate
which comes to it from Saracens. How the eyes of these brigands--who
but yesterday had dreaded my authority--sparkled with savage joy and
pride when they found they were protecting against the King of Spain's
vendetta the Duc de Soria, their master and a Henarez--the first who
had come to visit them since the time when the island belonged to the
Moors. More than a score of rifles were ready to point at Ferdinand of
Bourbon, son of a race which was still unknown when the Abencerrages
arrived as conquerors on the banks of the Loire.
My idea had been to live on the income of these huge estates, which,
unfortunately, we have so greatly neglected; but my stay there
convinced me that this was impossible, and that Queverdo's reports
were only too correct. The poor man had twenty-two lives at my
disposal, and not a single /real/; prairies of twenty thousand acres,
and not a house; virgin forests, and not a stick of furniture! A
million piastres and a resident master for half a century would be
necessary to make these magnificent lands pay. I must see to this.
The conquered have time during their flight to ponder their own case
and that of their vanquished party. At the spectacle of my noble
country, a corpse for monks to prey on, my eyes filled with tears; I
read in it the presage of Spain's gloomy future.
At Marseilles I heard of Riego's end. Painfully did it come home to me
that my life also would henceforth be a martyrdom, but a martyrdom
protracted and unnoticed. Is existence worthy the name, when a man can
no longer die for his country or live for a woman? To love, to
conquer, this twofold form of the same thought, is the law graven on
our sabres, emblazoned on the vaulted roofs of our palaces,
ceaselessly whispered by the water, which rises and falls in our
marble fountains. But in vain does it nerve my heart; the sabre is
broken, the palace in ashes, the living spring sucked up by the barren
Here, then, is my last will and testament.
Don Fernand, you will understand now why I put a check upon your ardor
and ordered you to remain faithful to the /rey netto/. As your brother
and friend, I implore you to obey me; as your master, I command. You
will go to the King and will ask from him the grant of my dignities
and property, my office and titles. He will perhaps hesitate, and may
treat you to some regal scowls; but you must tell him that you are
loved by Marie Heredia, and that Marie can marry none but a Duc de
Soria. This will make the King radiant. It is the immense fortune of
the Heredia family which alone has stood between him and the
accomplishment of my ruin. Your proposal will seem to him, therefore,
to deprive me of a last resource, and he will gladly hand over to you
You will then marry Marie. The secret of the mutual love against which
you fought was no secret to me, and I have prepared the old Count to
see you take my place. Marie and I were merely doing what was expected
of us in our position and carrying out the wishes of our fathers;
everything else is in your favor. You are beautiful as a child of
love, and are possessed of Marie's heart. I am an ill-favored Spanish
grandee, for whom she feels an aversion to which she will not confess.
Some slight reluctance there may be on the part of the noble Spanish
girl on account of my misfortunes, but this you will soon overcome.
Duc de Soria, your predecessor would neither cost you a regret nor rob
you of a maravedi. My mother's diamonds, which will suffice to make me
independent, I will keep, because the gap caused by them in the family
estate can be filled by Marie's jewels. You can send them, therefore,
by my nurse, old Urraca, the only one of my servants whom I wish to
retain. No one can prepare my chocolate as she does.
During our brief revolution, my life of unremitting toil was reduced
to the barest necessaries, and these my salary was sufficient to
provide. You will therefore find the income of the last two years in
the hands of your steward. This sum is mine; but a Duc de Soria cannot
marry without a large expenditure of money, therefore we will divide
it. You will not refuse this wedding-present from your brigand
brother. Besides, I mean to have it so.
The barony of Macumer, not being Spanish territory, remains to me.
Thus I have still a country and a name, should I wish to take up a
position in the world again.
Thank Heaven, this finishes our business, and the house of Soria is
At the very moment when I drop into simple Baron de Macumer, the
French cannon announce the arrival of the Duc d'Angouleme. You will
understand why I break off. . . .
When I arrived here I had not ten doubloons in my pocket. He would
indeed be a poor sort of leader who, in the midst of calamities he has
not been able to avert, has found means to feather his own nest. For
the vanquished Moor there remains a horse and the desert; for the
Christian foiled of his hopes, the cloister and a few gold pieces.
But my present resignation is mere weariness. I am not yet so near the
monastery as to have abandoned all thoughts of life. Ozalga had given
me several letters of introduction to meet all emergencies, amongst
these one to a bookseller, who takes with our fellow-countrymen the
place which Galignani holds with the English in Paris. This man has
found eight pupils for me at three francs a lesson. I go to my pupils
every alternate day, so that I have four lessons a day and earn twelve
francs, which is more than I require. When Urraca comes I shall make
some Spanish exile happy by passing on to him my connection.
I lodge in the Rue Hillerin-Bertin with a poor widow, who takes
boarders. My room faces south and looks out on a little garden. It is
perfectly quiet; I have green trees to look upon, and spend the sum of
one piastre a day. I am amazed at the amount of calm, pure pleasure
which I enjoy in this life, after the fashion of Dionysius at Corinth.
From sunrise until ten o'clock I smoke and take my chocolate, sitting
at my window and contemplating two Spanish plants, a broom which rises
out of a clump of jessamine--gold on a white ground, colors which must
send a thrill through any scion of the Moors. At ten o'clock I start
for my lessons, which last till four, when I return for dinner.
Afterwards I read and smoke till I go to bed.
I can put up for a long time with a life like this, compounded of work
and meditation, of solitude and society. Be happy, therefore, Fernand;
my abdication has brought no afterthoughts; I have no regrets like
Charles V., no longing to try the game again like Napoleon. Five days
and nights have passed since I wrote my will; to my mind they might
have been five centuries. Honor, titles, wealth, are for me as though
they had never existed.
Now that the conventional barrier of respect which hedged me round has
fallen, I can open my heart to you, dear boy. Though cased in the
armor of gravity, this heart is full of tenderness and devotion, which
have found no object, and which no woman has divined, not even she
who, from her cradle, has been my destined bride. In this lies the
secret of my political enthusiasm. Spain has taken the place of a
mistress and received the homage of my heart. And now Spain, too, is
gone! Beggared of all, I can gaze upon the ruin of what once was me
and speculate over the mysteries of my being.
Why did life animate this carcass, and when will it depart? Why has
that race, pre-eminent in chivalry, breathed all its primitive virtues
--its tropical love, its fiery poetry--into this its last offshoot, if
the seed was never to burst its rugged shell, if no stem was to spring
forth, no radiant flower scatter aloft its Eastern perfumes? Of what
crime have I been guilty before my birth that I can inspire no love?
Did fate from my very infancy decree that I should be stranded, a
useless hulk, on some barren shore! I find in my soul the image of the
deserts where my fathers ranged, illumined by a scorching sun which
shrivels up all life. Proud remnant of a fallen race, vain force, love
run to waste, an old man in the prime of youth, here better than
elsewhere shall I await the last grace of death. Alas! under this
murky sky no spark will kindle these ashes again to flame. Thus my
last words may be those of Christ, /My God, Thou hast forsaken me!/
Cry of agony and terror, to the core of which no mortal has ventured
yet to penetrate!
You can realize now, Fernand, what a joy it is to me to live afresh in
you and Marie. I shall watch you henceforth with the pride of a
creator satisfied in his work. Love each other well and go on loving
if you would not give me pain; any discord between you would hurt me
more than it would yourselves.
Our mother had a presentiment that events would one day serve her
wishes. It may be that the longing of a mother constitutes a pact
between herself and God. Was she not, moreover, one of those
mysterious beings who can hold converse with Heaven and bring back
thence a vision of the future? How often have I not read in the lines
of her forehead that she was coveting for Fernand the honors and the
wealth of Felipe! When I said so to her, she would reply with tears,
laying bare the wounds of a heart, which of right was the undivided
property of both her sons, but which an irresistible passion gave to
Her spirit, therefore, will hover joyfully above your heads as you bow
them at the altar. My mother, have you not a caress for your Felipe
now that he has yielded to your favorite even the girl whom you
regretfully thrust into his arms? What I have done is pleasing to our
womankind, to the dead, and to the King; it is the will of God. Make
no difficulty then, Fernand; obey, and be silent.
/P. S./ Tell Urraca to be sure and call me nothing but M. Henarez.
Don't say a word about me to Marie. You must be the one living soul to
know the secrets of the last Christianized Moor, in whose veins runs
the blood of a great family, which took its rise in the desert and is
now about to die out in the person of a solitary exile.
LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO RENEE DE MAUCOMBE
WHAT! To be married so soon. But this is unheard of. At the end of a
month you become engaged to a man who is a stranger to you, and about
whom you know nothing. The man may be deaf--there are so many kinds of
deafness!--he may be sickly, tiresome, insufferable!
Don't you see, Renee, what they want with you? You are needful for
carrying on the glorious stock of the l'Estorades, that is all. You
will be buried in the provinces. Are these the promises we made each
other? Were I you, I would sooner set off to the Hyeres islands in a
caique, on the chance of being captured by an Algerian corsair and
sold to the Grand Turk. Then I should be a Sultana some day, and
wouldn't I make a stir in the harem while I was young--yes, and
You are leaving one convent to enter another. I know you; you are a
coward, and you will submit to the yoke of family life with a lamblike
docility. But I am here to direct you; you must come to Paris. There
we shall drive the men wild and hold a court like queens. Your
husband, sweetheart, in three years from now may become a member of
the Chamber. I know all about members now, and I will explain it to
you. You will work that machine very well; you can live in Paris, and
become there what my mother calls a woman of fashion. Oh! you needn't
suppose I will leave you in your grange!
For a whole fortnight now, my dear, I have been living the life of
society; one evening at the Italiens, another at the Grand Opera, and
always a ball afterwards. Ah! society is a witching world. The music
of the Opera enchants me; and whilst my soul is plunged in divine
pleasure, I am the centre of admiration and the focus of all the
opera-glasses. But a single glance will make the boldest youth drop
I have seen some charming young men there; all the same, I don't care
for any of them; not one has roused in me the emotion which I feel
when I listen to Garcia in his splendid duet with Pellegrini in
/Otello/. Heavens! how jealous Rossini must have been to express
jealousy so well! What a cry in "Il mio cor si divide!" I'm speaking
Greek to you, for you never heard Garcia, but then you know how
jealous I am!
What a wretched dramatist Shakespeare is! Othello is in love with
glory; he wins battles, he gives orders, he struts about and is all
over the place while Desdemona sits at home; and Desdemona, who sees
herself neglected for the silly fuss of public life, is quite meek all
the time. Such a sheep deserves to be slaughtered. Let the man whom I
deign to love beware how he thinks of anything but loving me!
For my part, I like those long trials of the old-fashioned chivalry.
That lout of a young lord, who took offence because his sovereign-lady
sent him down among the lions to fetch her glove, was, in my opinion,
very impertinent, and a fool too. Doubtless the lady had in reserve
for him some exquisite flower of love, which he lost, as he well
But here am I running on as though I had not a great piece of news to
tell you. My father is certainly going to represent our master the
King at Madrid. I say /our/ master, for I shall make part of the
embassy. My mother wishes to remain here, and my father will take me
so as to have some woman with him.
My dear, this seems to you, no doubt, very simple, but there are
horrors behind it, all the same: in a fortnight I have probed the
secrets of the house. My mother would accompany my father to Madrid if
he would take M. de Canalis as a secretary to the embassy. But the
King appoints the secretaries; the Duke dare neither annoy the King,
who hates to be opposed, nor vex my mother; and the wily diplomat
believes he has cut the knot by leaving the Duchess here. M. de
Canalis, who is the great poet of the day, is the young man who
cultivates my mother's society, and who no doubt studies diplomacy
with her from three o'clock to five. Diplomacy must be a fine subject,
for he is as regular as a gambler on the Stock Exchange.
The Duc de Rhetore, our elder brother, solemn, cold, and whimsical,
would be extinguished by his father at Madrid, therefore he remains in
Paris. Miss Griffith has found out also that Alphonse is in love with
a ballet-girl at the Opera. How is it possible to fall in love with
legs and pirouettes? We have noticed that my brother comes to the
theatre only when Tullia dances there; he applauds the steps of this
creature, and then goes out. Two ballet-girls in a family are, I
fancy, more destructive than the plague. My second brother is with his
regiment, and I have not yet seen him. Thus it comes about that I have
to act as the Antigone of His Majesty's ambassador. Perhaps I may get
married in Spain, and perhaps my father's idea is a marriage there
without dowry, after the pattern of yours with this broken-down guard
of honor. My father asked if I would go with him, and offered me the
use of his Spanish master.
"Spain, the country for castles in the air!" I cried. "Perhaps you
hope that it may mean marriages for me!"
For sole reply he honored me with a meaning look. For some days he has
amused himself with teasing me at lunch; he watches me, and I
dissemble. In this way I have played with him cruelly as father and
ambassador /in petto/. Hadn't he taken me for a fool? He asked me what
I thought of this and that young man, and of some girls whom I had met
in several houses. I replied with quite inane remarks on the color of
their hair, their faces, and the difference in their figures. My
father seemed disappointed at my crassness, and inwardly blamed
himself for having asked me.
"Still, father," I added, "don't suppose I am saying what I really
think: mother made me afraid the other day that I had spoken more
frankly than I ought of my impressions."
"With your family you can speak quite freely," my mother replied.
"Very well, then," I went on. "The young men I have met so far strike
me as too self-centered to excite interest in others; they are much
more taken up with themselves than with their company. They can't be
accused of lack of candor at any rate. They put on a certain
expression to talk to us, and drop it again in a moment, apparently
satisfied that we don't use our eyes. The man as he converses is the
lover; silent, he is the husband. The girls, again, are so artificial
that it is impossible to know what they really are, except from the
way they dance; their figures and movements alone are not a sham. But
what has alarmed me most in this fashionable society is its brutality.
The little incidents which take place when supper is announced give
one some idea--to compare small things with great--of what a popular
rising might be. Courtesy is only a thin veneer on the general
selfishness. I imagined society very different. Women count for little
in it; that may perhaps be a survival of Bonapartist ideas."
"Armande is coming on extraordinarily," said my mother.
"Mother, did you think I should never get beyond asking to see Mme. de
My father smiled, and rose from the table.
My dear, I have left one thing out. Here is the tidbit I have reserved
for you. The love which we pictured must be extremely well hidden; I
have seen not a trace of it. True, I have caught in drawing-rooms now
and again a quick exchange of glances, but how colorless it all is!
Love, as we imagined it, a world of wonders, of glorious dreams, of
charming realities, of sorrows that waken sympathy, and smiles that
make sunshine, does not exist. The bewitching words, the constant
interchange of happiness, the misery of absence, the flood of joy at
the presence of the beloved one--where are they? What soil produces
these radiant flowers of the soul? Which is wrong? We or the world?
I have already seen hundreds of men, young and middle-aged; not one
has stirred the least feeling in me. No proof of admiration and
devotion on their part, not even a sword drawn in my behalf, would
have moved me. Love, dear, is the product of such rare conditions that
it is quite possible to live a lifetime without coming across the
being on whom nature has bestowed the power of making one's happiness.
The thought is enough to make one shudder; for if this being is found
too late, what then?
For some days I have begun to tremble when I think of the destiny of
women, and to understand why so many wear a sad face beneath the flush
brought by the unnatural excitement of social dissipation. Marriage is
a mere matter of chance. Look at yours. A storm of wild thoughts has
passed over my mind. To be loved every day the same, yet with a
difference, to be loved as much after ten years of happiness as on the
first day!--such a love demands years. The lover must be allowed to
languish, curiosity must be piqued and satisfied, feeling roused and
Is there, then, a law for the inner fruits of the heart, as there is
for the visible fruits of nature? Can joy be made lasting? In what
proportion should love mingle tears with pleasures? The cold policy of
the funereal, monotonous, persistent routine of the convent seemed to
me at these moments the only real life; while the wealth, the
splendor, the tears, the delights, the triumph, the joy, the
satisfaction, of a love equal, shared, and sanctioned, appeared a mere
I see no room in this city for the gentle ways of love, for precious
walks in shady alleys, the full moon sparkling on the water, while the
suppliant pleads in vain. Rich, young, and beautiful, I have only to
love, and love would become my sole occupation, my life; yet in the
three months during which I have come and gone, eager and curious,
nothing has appealed to me in the bright, covetous, keen eyes around
me. No voice has thrilled me, no glance has made the world seem
Music alone has filled my soul, music alone has at all taken the place
of our friendship. Sometimes, at night, I will linger for an hour by
my window, gazing into the garden, summoning the future, with all it
brings, out of the mystery which shrouds it. There are days too when,
having started for a drive, I get out and walk in the Champs-Elysees,
and picture to myself that the man who is to waken my slumbering soul
is at hand, that he will follow and look at me. Then I meet only
mountebanks, vendors of gingerbread, jugglers, passers-by hurrying to
their business, or lovers who try to escape notice. These I am tempted
to stop, asking them, "You who are happy, tell me what is love."
But the impulse is repressed, and I return to my carriage, swearing to
die an old maid. Love is undoubtedly an incarnation, and how many
conditions are needful before it can take place! We are not certain of
never quarreling with ourselves, how much less so when there are two?
This is a problem which God alone can solve.
I begin to think that I shall return to the convent. If I remain in
society, I shall do things which will look like follies, for I cannot
possibly reconcile myself to what I see. I am perpetually wounded
either in my sense of delicacy, my inner principles, or my secret
Ah! my mother is the happiest of women, adored as she is by Canalis,
her great little man. My love, do you know I am seized sometimes with
a horrible craving to know what goes on between my mother and that
young man? Griffith tells me she has gone through all these moods; she
has longed to fly at women, whose happiness was written in their face;
she has blackened their character, torn them to pieces. According to
her, virtue consists in burying all these savage instincts in one's
innermost heart. But what then of the heart? It becomes the sink of
all that is worst in us.
It is very humiliating that no adorer has yet turned up for me. I am a
marriageable girl, but I have brothers, a family, relations, who are
sensitive on the point of honor. Ah! if that is what keeps men back,
they are poltroons.
The part of Chimene in the /Cid/ and that of the Cid delight me. What
a marvelous play! Well, good-bye.
THE SAME TO THE SAME
Our master is a poor refugee, forced to keep in hiding on account of
the part he played in the revolution which the Duc d'Angouleme has
just quelled--a triumph to which we owe some splendid fetes. Though a
Liberal, and doubtless a man of the people, he has awakened my
interest: I fancy that he must have been condemned to death. I make
him talk for the purpose of getting at his secret; but he is of a
truly Castilian taciturnity, proud as though he were Gonsalvo di
Cordova, and nevertheless angelic in his patience and gentleness. His
pride is not irritable like Miss Griffith's, it belongs to his inner
nature; he forces us to civility because his own manners are so
perfect, and holds us at a distance by the respect he shows us. My
father declares that there is a great deal of the nobleman in Senor
Henarez, whom, among ourselves, he calls in fun Don Henarez.
A few days ago I took the liberty of addressing him thus. He raised
his eyes, which are generally bent on the ground, and flashed a look
from them that quite abashed me; my dear, he certainly has the most
beautiful eyes imaginable. I asked him if I had offended him in any
way, and he said to me in his grand, rolling Spanish:
"I am here only to teach you Spanish."
I blushed and felt quite snubbed. I was on the point of making some
pert answer, when I remembered what our dear mother in God used to say
to us, and I replied instead:
"It would be a kindness to tell me if you have anything to complain
A tremor passed through him, the blood rose in his olive cheeks; he
replied in a voice of some emotion:
"Religion must have taught you, better than I can, to respect the
unhappy. Had I been a /don/ in Spain, and lost everything in the
triumph of Ferdinand VII., your witticism would be unkind; but if I am
only a poor teacher of languages, is it not a heartless satire?
Neither is worthy of a young lady of rank."
I took his hand, saying:
"In the name of religion also, I beg you to pardon me."
He bowed, opened my /Don Quixote/, and sat down.
This little incident disturbed me more than the harvest of
compliments, gazing and pretty speeches on my most successful evening.
During the lesson I watched him attentively, which I could do the more
safely, as he never looks at me.
As the result of my observations, I made out that the tutor, whom we
took to be forty, is a young man, some years under thirty. My
governess, to whom I had handed him over, remarked on the beauty of
his black hair and of his pearly teeth. As to his eyes, they are
velvet and fire; but he is plain and insignificant. Though the
Spaniards have been described as not a cleanly people, this man is
most carefully got up, and his hands are whiter than his face. He
stoops a little, and has an extremely large, oddly-shaped head. His
ugliness, which, however, has a dash of piquancy, is aggravated by
smallpox marks, which seam his face. His forehead is very prominent,
and the shaggy eyebrows meet, giving a repellent air of harshness.
There is a frowning, plaintive look on his face, reminding one of a
sickly child, which owes its life to superhuman care, as Sister Marthe
did. As my father observed, his features are a shrunken reproduction
of those of Cardinal Ximenes. The natural dignity of our tutor's
manners seems to disconcert the dear Duke, who doesn't like him, and
is never at ease with him; he can't bear to come in contact with
superiority of any kind.
As soon as my father knows enough Spanish, we start for Madrid. When
Henarez returned, two days after the reproof he had given me, I
remarked by way of showing my gratitude:
"I have no doubt that you left Spain in consequence of political
events. If my father is sent there, as seems to be expected, we shall
be in a position to help you, and might be able to obtain your pardon,
in case you are under sentence."
"It is impossible for any one to help me," he replied.
"But," I said, "is that because you refuse to accept any help, or
because the thing itself is impossible?"
"Both," he said, with a bow, and in a tone which forbade continuing
My father's blood chafed in my veins. I was offended by this haughty
demeanor, and promptly dropped Senor Henarez.
All the same, my dear, there is something fine in this rejection of
any aid. "He would not accept even our friendship," I reflected,
whilst conjugating a verb. Suddenly I stopped short and told him what
was in my mind, but in Spanish. Henarez replied very politely that
equality of sentiment was necessary between friends, which did not
exist in this case, and therefore it was useless to consider the
"Do you mean equality in the amount of feeling on either side, or
equality in rank?" I persisted, determined to shake him out of this
He raised once more those awe-inspiring eyes, and mine fell before
them. Dear, this man is a hopeless enigma. He seemed to ask whether my
words meant love; and the mixture of joy, pride, and agonized doubt in
his glance went to my heart. It was plain that advances, which would
be taken for what they were worth in France, might land me in
difficulties with a Spaniard, and I drew back into my shell, feeling
not a little foolish.
The lesson over, he bowed, and his eyes were eloquent of the humble
prayer: "Don't trifle with a poor wretch."
This sudden contrast to his usual grave and dignified manner made a
great impression on me. It seems horrible to think and to say, but I
can't help believing that there are treasures of affection in that
MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MLLE. DE CHAULIEU.
All is over, my dear child, and it is Mme. de l'Estorade who writes to
you. But between us there is no change; it is only a girl the less.
Don't be troubled; I did not give my consent recklessly or without
much thought. My life is henceforth mapped out for me, and the freedom
from all uncertainty as to the road for me to follow suits my mind and
disposition. A great moral power has stepped in, and once for all
swept what we call chance out of my life. We have the property to
develop, our home to beautify and adorn; for me there is also a
household to direct and sweeten and a husband to reconcile to life. In
all probability I shall have a family to look after, children to
What would you have? Everyday life cannot be cast in heroic mould. No
doubt there seems, at any rate at first sight, no room left in this
scheme of life for that longing after the infinite which expands the
mind and soul. But what is there to prevent me from launching on that
boundless sea our familiar craft? Nor must you suppose that the humble
duties to which I dedicate my life give no scope for passion. To
restore faith in happiness to an unfortunate, who has been the sport
of adverse circumstances, is a noble work, and one which alone may
suffice to relieve the monotony of my existence. I can see no opening
left for suffering, and I see a great deal of good to be done. I need
not hide from you that the love I have for Louis de l'Estorade is not
of the kind which makes the heart throb at the sound of a step, and
thrills us at the lightest tones of a voice, or the caress of a
burning glance; but, on the other hand, there is nothing in him which
What am I to do, you will ask, with that instinct for all which is
great and noble, with those mental energies, which have made the link
between us, and which we still possess? I admit that this thought has
troubled me. But are these faculties less ours because we keep them
concealed, using them only in secret for the welfare of the family, as
instruments to produce the happiness of those confided to our care, to
whom we are bound to give ourselves without reserve? The time during
which a woman can look for admiration is short, it will soon be past;
and if my life has not been a great one, it will at least have been
calm, tranquil, free from shocks.
Nature has favored our sex in giving us a choice between love and
motherhood. I have made mine. My children shall be my gods, and this
spot of earth my Eldorado.
I can say no more to-day. Thank you much for all the things you have
sent me. Give a glance at my needs on the enclosed list. I am
determined to live in an atmosphere of refinement and luxury, and to
take from provincial life only what makes its charm. In solitude a
woman can never be vulgarized--she remains herself. I count greatly on
your kindness for keeping me up to the fashion. My father-in-law is so
delighted that he can refuse me nothing, and turns his house upside
down. We are getting workpeople from Paris and renovating everything.
MLLE. DE CHAULIEU TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
Oh! Renee, you have made me miserable for days! So that bewitching
body, those beautiful proud features, that natural grace of manner,
that soul full of priceless gifts, those eyes, where the soul can
slake its thirst as at a fountain of love, that heart, with its
exquisite delicacy, that breadth of mind, those rare powers--fruit of
nature and of our interchange of thought--treasures whence should
issue a unique satisfaction for passion and desire, hours of poetry to
outweigh years, joys to make a man serve a lifetime for one gracious
gesture,--all this is to be buried in the tedium of a tame,
commonplace marriage, to vanish in the emptiness of an existence which
you will come to loath! I hate your children before they are born.
They will be monsters!
So you know all that lies before you; you have nothing left to hope,
or fear, or suffer? And supposing the glorious morning rises which
will bring you face to face with the man destined to rouse you from
the sleep into which you are plunging! . . . Ah! a cold shiver goes
through me at the thought!
Well, at least you have a friend. You, it is understood, are to be the
guardian angel of your valley. You will grow familiar with its
beauties, will live with it in all its aspects, till the grandeur of
nature, the slow growth of vegetation, compared with the lightning
rapidity of thought, become like a part of yourself; and as your eye
rests on the laughing flowers, you will question your own heart. When
you walk between your husband, silent and contented, in front, and
your children screaming and romping behind, I can tell you beforehand
what you will write to me. Your misty valley, your hills, bare or
clothed with magnificent trees, your meadow, the wonder of Provence,
with its fresh water dispersed in little runlets, the different
effects of the atmosphere, this whole world of infinity which laps you
round, and which God has made so various, will recall to you the
infinite sameness of your soul's life. But at least I shall be there,
my Renee, and in me you will find a heart which no social pettiness
shall ever corrupt, a heart all your own.
My dear, my Spaniard is quite adorably melancholy; there is something
calm, severe, manly, and mysterious about him which interests me
profoundly. His unvarying solemnity and the silence which envelops him
act like an irritant on the mind. His mute dignity is worthy of a
fallen king. Griffith and I spend our time over him as though he were
How odd it is! A language-master captures my fancy as no other man has
done. Yet by this time I have passed in review all the young men of
family, the attaches to embassies, and the ambassadors, generals, and
inferior officers, the peers of France, their sons and nephews, the
court, and the town.
The coldness of the man provokes me. The sandy waste which he tries to
place, and does place, between us is covered by his deeprooted pride;
he wraps himself in mystery. The hanging back is on his side, the
boldness on mine. This odd situation affords me the more amusement
because the whole thing is mere trifling. What is a man, a Spaniard,
and a teacher of languages to me? I make no account of any man
whatever, were he a king. We are worth far more, I am sure, than the
greatest of them. What a slave I would have made of Napoleon! If he
had loved me, shouldn't he have felt the whip!
Yesterday I aimed a shaft at M. Henarez which must have touched him to
the quick. He made no reply; the lesson was over, and he bowed with a
glance at me, in which I read that he would never return. This suits
me capitally; there would be something ominous in starting an
imitation /Nouvelle Heloise/. I have just been reading Rousseau's, and
it has left me with a strong distaste for love. Passion which can
argue and moralize seems to me detestable.
Clarissa also is much too pleased with herself and her long, little
letter; but Richardson's work is an admirable picture, my father tells
me, of English women. Rousseau's seems to me a sort of philosophical
sermon, cast in the form of letters.
Love, as I conceive it, is a purely subjective poem. In all that books
tell us about it, there is nothing which is not at once false and
true. And so, my pretty one, as you will henceforth be an authority
only on conjugal love, it seems to me my duty--in the interest, of
course, of our common life--to remain unmarried, and have a grand
passion, so that we may enlarge our experience.
Tell me every detail of what happens to you, especially in the first
few days, with that strange animal called a husband. I promise to do
the same for you if ever I am loved.
Farewell, poor martyred darling.
MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MLLE. DE CHAULIEU
Your Spaniard and you make me shudder, my darling. I write this line
to beg of you to dismiss him. All that you say of him corresponds with
the character of those dangerous adventurers who, having nothing to
lose, will take any risk. This man cannot be your husband, and must
not be your lover. I will write to you more fully about the inner
history of my married life when my heart is free from the anxiety your
last letter has roused in it.
MLLE. DE CHAULIEU TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
At nine o'clock this morning, sweetheart, my father was announced in
my rooms. I was up and dressed. I found him solemnly seated beside the
fire in the drawing-room, looking more thoughtful than usual. He
pointed to the armchair opposite to him. Divining his meaning, I sank
into it with a gravity, which so well aped his, that he could not
refrain from smiling, though the smile was dashed with melancholy.
"You are quite a match for your grandmother in quick-wittedness," he
"Come, father, don't play the courtier here," I replied; "you want
something from me."
He rose, visibly agitated, and talked to me for half an hour. This
conversation, dear, really ought to be preserved. As soon as he had
gone, I sat down to my table and tried to recall his words. This is
the first time that I have seen my father revealing his inner
He began by flattering me, and he did not do it badly. I was bound to
be grateful to him for having understood and appreciated me.
"Armande," he said, "I was quite mistaken in you, and you have
agreeably surprised me. When you arrived from the convent, I took you
for an average young girl, ignorant and not particularly intelligent,
easily to be bought off with gewgaws and ornaments, and with little
turn for reflection."
"You are complimentary to young girls, father."
"Oh! there is no such thing as youth nowadays," he said, with the air
of a diplomat. "Your mind is amazingly open. You take everything at
its proper worth; your clear-sightedness is extraordinary, there is no
hoodwinking you. You pass for being blind, and all the time you have
laid your hand on causes, while other people are still puzzling over
effects. In short, you are a minister in petticoats, the only person
here capable of understanding me. It follows, then, that if I have any
sacrifice to ask from you, it is only to yourself I can turn for help
in persuading you.
"I am therefore going to explain to you, quite frankly, my former
plans, to which I still adhere. In order to recommend them to you, I
must show that they are connected with feelings of a very high order,
and I shall thus be obliged to enter into political questions of the
greatest importance to the kingdom, which might be wearisome to any
one less intelligent than you are. When you have heard me, I hope you