Part 3 out of 5
When God beholds our faults, He sees also our repentance. Yes, my
beloved mistress, you are right. I felt that I had displeased you, but
knew not how. Now that you have explained the cause of your trouble, I
find in it fresh motive to adore you. Like the God of Israel, you are
a jealous deity, and I rejoice to see it. For what is holier and more
precious than jealousy? My fair guardian angel, jealousy is an ever-
wakeful sentinel; it is to love what pain is to the body, the faithful
herald of evil. Be jealous of your servant, Louise, I beg of you; the
harder you strike, the more contrite will he be and kiss the rod, in
all submission, which proves that he is not indifferent to you.
But, alas! dear, if the pains it cost me to vanquish my timidity and
master feelings you thought so feeble were invisible to you, will
Heaven, think you, reward them? I assure you, it needed no slight
effort to show myself to you as I was in the days before I loved. At
Madrid I was considered a good talker, and I wanted you to see for
yourself the few gifts I may possess. If this were vanity, it has been
Your last glance utterly unnerved me. Never had I so quailed, even
when the army of France was at the gates of Cadiz and I read peril for
my life in the dissembling words of my royal master. Vainly I tried to
discover the cause of your displeasure, and the lack of sympathy
between us which this fact disclosed was terrible to me. For in truth
I have no wish but to act by your will, think your thoughts, see with
your eyes, respond to your joy and suffering, as my body responds to
heat and cold. The crime and the anguish lay for me in the breach of
unison in that common life of feeling which you have made so fair.
"I have vexed her!" I exclaimed over and over again, like one
distraught. My noble, my beautiful Louise, if anything could increase
the fervor of my devotion or confirm my belief in your delicate moral
intuitions, it would be the new light which your words have thrown
upon my own feelings. Much in them, of which my mind was formerly but
dimly conscious, you have now made clear. If this be designed as
chastisement, what can be the sweetness of your rewards?
Louise, for me it was happiness enough to be accepted as your servant.
You have given me the life of which I despaired. No longer do I draw a
useless breath, I have something to spend myself for; my force has an
outlet, if only in suffering for you. Once more I say, as I have said
before, that you will never find me other than I was when first I
offered myself as your lowly bondman. Yes, were you dishonored and
lost, to use your own words, my heart would only cling the more
closely to you for your self-sought misery. It would be my care to
staunch your wounds, and my prayers should importune God with the
story of your innocence and your wrongs.
Did I not tell you that the feelings of my heart for you are not a
lover's only, that I will be to you father, mother, sister, brother--
ay, a whole family--anything or nothing, as you may decree? And is it
not your own wish which has confined within the compass of a lover's
feeling so many varying forms of devotion? Pardon me, then, if at
times the father and brother disappear behind the lover, since you
know they are none the less there, though screened from view. Would
that you could read the feelings of my heart when you appear before
me, radiant in your beauty, the centre of admiring eyes, reclining
calmly in your carriage in the Champs-Elysees, or seated in your box
at the Opera! Then would you know how absolutely free from selfish
taint is the pride with which I hear the praises of your loveliness
and grace, praises which warm my heart even to the strangers who utter
them! When by chance you have raised me to elysium by a friendly
greeting, my pride is mingled with humility, and I depart as though
God's blessing rested on me. Nor does the joy vanish without leaving a
long track of light behind. It breaks on me through the clouds of my
cigarette smoke. More than ever do I feel how every drop of this
surging blood throbs for you.
Can you be ignorant how you are loved? After seeing you, I return to
my study, and the glitter of its Saracenic ornaments sinks to nothing
before the brightness of your portrait, when I open the spring that
keeps it locked up from every eye and lose myself in endless musings
or link my happiness to verse. From the heights of heaven I look down
upon the course of a life such as my hopes dare to picture it! Have
you never, in the silence of the night, or through the roar of the
town, heard the whisper of a voice in your sweet, dainty ear? Does no
one of the thousand prayers that I speed to you reach home?
By dint of silent contemplation of your pictured face, I have
succeeded in deciphering the expression of every feature and tracing
its connection with some grace of the spirit, and then I pen a sonnet
to you in Spanish on the harmony of the twofold beauty in which nature
has clothed you. These sonnets you will never see, for my poetry is
too unworthy of its theme, I dare not send it to you. Not a moment
passes without thoughts of you, for my whole being is bound up in you,
and if you ceased to be its animating principle, every part would
Now, Louise, can you realize the torture to me of knowing that I had
displeased you, while entirely ignorant of the cause? The ideal double
life which seemed so fair was cut short. My heart turned to ice within
me as, hopeless of any other explanation, I concluded that you had
ceased to love me. With heavy heart, and yet not wholly without
comfort, I was falling back upon my old post as servant; then your
letter came and turned all to joy. Oh! might I but listen for ever to
Once a child, picking himself up from a tumble, turned to his mother
with the words "Forgive me." Hiding his own hurt, he sought pardon for
the pain he had caused her. Louise, I was that child, and such as I
was then, I am now. Here is the key to my character, which your slave
in all humility places in your hands.
But do not fear, there will be no more stumbling. Keep tight the chain
which binds me to you, so that a touch may communicate your lightest
wish to him who will ever remain your slave,
LOUISE DE CHAULIEU TO RENEE DE L'ESTORADE
My dear friend,--How is it possible that you, who brought yourself in
two months to marry a broken-down invalid in order to mother him,
should know anything of that terrible shifting drama, enacted in the
recesses of the heart, which we call love--a drama where death lies in
a glance or a light reply?
I had reserved for Felipe one last supreme test which was to be
decisive. I wanted to know whether his love was the love of a Royalist
for his King, who can do no wrong. Why should the loyalty of a
Catholic be less supreme?
He walked with me a whole night under the limes at the bottom of the
garden, and not a shadow of suspicion crossed his soul. Next day he
loved me better, but the feeling was as reverent, as humble, as
regretful as ever; he had not presumed an iota. Oh! he is a very
Spaniard, a very Abencerrage. He scaled my wall to come and kiss the
hand which in the darkness I reached down to him from my balcony. He
might have broken his neck; how many of our young men would do the
But all this is nothing; Christians suffer the horrible pangs of
martyrdom in the hope of heaven. The day before yesterday I took aside
the royal ambassador-to-be at the court of Spain, my much respected
father, and said to him with a smile:
"Sir, some of your friends will have it that you are marrying your
dear Armande to the nephew of an ambassador who has been very anxious
for this connection, and has long begged for it. Also, that the
marriage-contract arranges for his nephew to succeed on his death to
his enormous fortune and his title, and bestows on the young couple in
the meantime an income of a hundred thousand livres, on the bride a
dowry of eight hundred thousand francs. Your daughter weeps, but bows
to the unquestioned authority of her honored parent. Some people are
unkind enough to say that, behind her tears, she conceals a worldly
and ambitious soul.
"Now, we are going to the gentleman's box at the Opera to-night, and
M. le Baron de Macumer will visit us there."
"Macumer needs a touch of the spur then," said my father, smiling at
me, as though I were a female ambassador.
"You mistake Clarissa Harlowe for Figaro!" I cried, with a glance of
scorn and mockery. "When you see me with my right hand ungloved, you
will give the lie to this impertinent gossip, and will mark your
displeasure at it."
"I may make my mind easy about your future. You have no more got a
girl's headpiece than Jeanne d'Arc had a woman's heart. You will be
happy, you will love nobody, and will allow yourself to be loved."
This was too much. I burst into laughter.
"What is it, little flirt?" he said.
"I tremble for my country's interests . . ."
And seeing him look quite blank, I added:
"You have no idea how this little nun has learned, in a year's time,
to make fun of her father," he said to the Duchess.
"Armande makes light of everything," my mother replied, looking me in
"What do you mean?" I asked.
"Why, you are not even afraid of rheumatism on these damp nights," she
said, with another meaning glance at me.
"Oh!" I answered, "the mornings are so hot!"
The Duchess looked down.
"It's high time she were married," said my father, "and it had better
be before I go."
"If you wish it," I replied demurely.
Two hours later, my mother and I, the Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and
Mme. d'Espard, were all four blooming like roses in the front of the
box. I had seated myself sideways, giving only a shoulder to the
house, so that I could see everything, myself unseen, in that spacious
box which fills one of the two angles at the back of the hall, between
Macumer came, stood up, and put his opera-glasses before his eyes so
that he might be able to look at me comfortably.
In the first interval entered the young man whom I call "king of the
profligates." The Comte Henri de Marsay, who has great beauty of an
effeminate kind, entered the box with an epigram in his eyes, a smile
upon his lips, and an air of satisfaction over his whole countenance.
He first greeted my mother, Mme. d'Espard, and the Duchesse de
Maufrigneuse, the Comte d'Esgrignon, and M. de Canalis; then turning
to me, he said:
"I do not know whether I shall be the first to congratulate you on an
event which will make you the object of envy to many."
"Ah! a marriage!" I cried. "Is it left for me, a girl fresh from the
convent, to tell you that predicted marriages never come off."
M. de Marsay bent down, whispering to Macumer, and I was convinced,
from the movement of his lips, that what he said was this:
"Baron, you are perhaps in love with that little coquette, who has
used you for her own ends; but as the question is one not of love, but
of marriage, it is as well for you to know what is going on."
Macumer treated this officious scandal-monger to one of those glances
of his which seem to me so eloquent of noble scorn, and replied to the
effect that he was "not in love with any little coquette." His whole
bearing so delighted me, that directly I caught sight of my father,
the glove was off.
Felipe had not a shadow of fear or doubt. How well did he bear out my
expectations! His faith is only in me, society cannot hurt him with
its lies. Not a muscle of the Arab's face stirred, not a drop of the
blue blood flushed his olive cheek.
The two young counts went out, and I said, laughing, to Macumer:
"M. de Marsay has been treating you to an epigram on me."
"He did more," he replied. "It was an epithalamium."
"You speak Greek to me," I said, rewarding him with a smile and a
certain look which always embarrasses him.
My father meantime was talking to Mme. de Maufrigneuse.
"I should think so!" he exclaimed. "The gossip which gets about is
scandalous. No sooner has a girl come out than everyone is keen to
marry her, and the ridiculous stories that are invented! I shall never
force Armande to marry against her will. I am going to take a turn in
the promenade, otherwise people will be saying that I allowed the
rumor to spread in order to suggest the marriage to the ambassador;
and Caesar's daughter ought to be above suspicion, even more than his
wife--if that were possible."
The Duchesse de Maufrigneuse and Mme. d'Espard shot glances first at
my mother, then at the Baron, brimming over with sly intelligence and
repressed curiosity. With their serpent's cunning they had at last got
an inkling of something going on. Of all mysteries in life, love is
the least mysterious! It exhales from women, I believe, like a
perfume, and she who can conceal it is a very monster! Our eyes
prattle even more than our tongues.
Having enjoyed the delightful sensation of finding Felipe rise to the
occasion, as I had wished, it was only in nature I should hunger for
more. So I made the signal agreed on for telling him that he might
come to my window by the dangerous road you know of. A few hours later
I found him, upright as a statue, glued to the wall, his hand resting
on the balcony of my window, studying the reflections of the light in
"My dear Felipe," I said, "You have acquitted yourself well to-night;
you behaved exactly as I should have done had I been told that you
were on the point of marrying."
"I thought," he replied, "that you would hardly have told others
"And what right have you to this privilege?"
"The right of one who is your devoted slave."
"In very truth?"
"I am, and shall ever remain so."
"But suppose this marriage was inevitable; suppose that I had
agreed . . ."
Two flashing glances lit up the moonlight--one directed to me, the
other to the precipice which the wall made for us. He seemed to
calculate whether a fall together would mean death; but the thought
merely passed like lightning over his face and sparkled in his eyes. A
power, stronger than passion, checked the impulse.
"An Arab cannot take back his word," he said in a husky voice. "I am
your slave to do with as you will; my life is not mine to destroy."
The hand on the balcony seemed as though its hold were relaxing. I
placed mine on it as I said:
"Felipe, my beloved, from this moment I am your wife in thought and
will. Go in the morning to ask my father for my hand. He wishes to
retain my fortune; but if you promise to acknowledge receipt of it in
the contract, his consent will no doubt be given. I am no longer
Armande de Chaulieu. Leave me at once; no breath of scandal must touch
Louise de Macumer."
He listened with blanched face and trembling limbs, then, like a
flash, had cleared the ten feet to the ground in safety. It was a
moment of agony, but he waved his hand to me and disappeared.
"I am loved then," I said to myself, "as never woman was before." And
I fell asleep in the calm content of a child, my destiny for ever
About two o'clock next day my father summoned me to his private room,
where I found the Duchess and Macumer. There was an interchange of
civilities. I replied quite simply that if my father and M. Henarez
were of one mind, I had no reason to oppose their wishes. Thereupon my
mother invited the Baron to dinner; and after dinner, we all four went
for a drive in the Bois de Boulogne, where I had the pleasure of
smiling ironically to M. de Marsay as he passed on horseback and
caught sight of Macumer sitting opposite to us beside my father.
My bewitching Felipe has had his cards reprinted as follows:
(Baron de Macumer, formerly Duc de Soria.)
Every morning he brings me with his own hands a splendid bouquet,
hidden in which I never fail to find a letter, containing a Spanish
sonnet in my honor, which he has composed during the night.
Not to make this letter inordinately large, I send you as specimens
only the first and last of these sonnets, which I have translated for
your benefit, word for word, and line for line:--
Many a time I've stood, clad in thin silken vest,
Drawn sword in hand, with steady pulse,
Waiting the charge of a raging bull,
And the thrust of his horn, sharper-pointed than Phoebe's crescent.
I've scaled, on my lips the lilt of an Andalusian dance,
The steep redoubt under a rain of fire;
I've staked my life upon a hazard of the dice
Careless, as though it were a gold doubloon.
My hand would seek the ball out of the cannon's mouth,
But now meseems I grow more timid than a crouching hair,
Or a child spying some ghost in the curtain's folds.
For when your sweet eye rests on me,
Any icy sweat covers my brow, my knees give way,
I tremble, shrink, my courage gone.
Last night I fain would sleep to dream of thee,
But jealous sleep fled my eyelids,
I sought the balcony and looked towards heaven,
Always my glance flies upward when I think of thee.
Strange sight! whose meaning love alone can tell,
The sky had lost its sapphire hue,
The stars, dulled diamonds in their golden mount,
Twinkled no more nor shed their warmth.
The moon, washed of her silver radiance lily-white,
Hung mourning over the gloomy plain, for thou hast robbed
The heavens of all that made them bright.
The snowy sparkle of the moon is on thy lovely brow,
Heaven's azure centres in thine eyes,
Thy lashes fall like starry rays.
What more gracious way of saying to a young girl that she fills your
life? Tell me what you think of this love, which expends itself in
lavishing the treasures alike of the earth and of the soul. Only
within the last ten days have I grasped the meaning of that Spanish
gallantry, so famous in old days.
Ah me! dear, what is going on now at La Crampade? How often do I take
a stroll there, inspecting the growth of our crops! Have you no news
to give of our mulberry trees, our last winter's plantations? Does
everything prosper as you wish? And while the buds are opening on our
shrubs--I will not venture to speak of the bedding-out plants--have
they also blossomed in the bosom of the wife? Does Louis continue his
policy of madrigals? Do you enter into each other's thoughts? I wonder
whether your little runlet of wedding peace is better than the raging
torrent of my love! Has my sweet lady professor taken offence? I
cannot believe it; and if it were so, I should send Felipe off at
once, post-haste, to fling himself at her knees and bring back to me
my pardon or her head. Sweet love, my life here is a splendid success,
and I want to know how it fares with life in Provence. We have just
increased our family by the addition of a Spaniard with the complexion
of a Havana cigar, and your congratulations still tarry.
Seriously, my sweet Renee, I am anxious. I am afraid lest you should
be eating your heart out in silence, for fear of casting a gloom over
my sunshine. Write to me at once, naughty child! and tell me your life
in its every minutest detail; tell me whether you still hold back,
whether your "independence" still stands erect, or has fallen on its
knees, or is sitting down comfortably, which would indeed be serious.
Can you suppose that the incidents of your married life are without
interest for me? I muse at times over all that you have said to me.
Often when, at the Opera, I seem absorbed in watching the pirouetting
dancers, I am saying to myself, "It is half-past nine, perhaps she is
in bed. What is she about? Is she happy? Is she alone with her
independence? or has her independence gone the way of other dead and
A thousand loves.
RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE CHAULIEU
Saucy girl! Why should I write? What could I say? Whilst your life is
varied by social festivities, as well as by the anguish, the tempers,
and the flowers of love--all of which you describe so graphically,
that I might be watching some first-rate acting at the theatre--mine
is as monotonous and regular as though it were passed in a convent.
We always go to bed at nine and get up with daybreak. Our meals are
served with a maddening punctuality. Nothing ever happens. I have
accustomed myself without much difficulty to this mapping out of the
day, which perhaps is, after all, in the nature of things. Where would
the life of the universe be but for that subjection to fixed laws
which, according to the astronomers, so Louis tells me, rule the
spheres! It is not order of which we weary.
Then I have laid upon myself certain rules of dress, and these occupy
my time in the mornings. I hold it part of my duty as a wife to look
as charming as possible. I feel a certain satisfaction in it, and it
causes lively pleasure to the good old man and to Louis. After lunch,
we walk. When the newspapers arrive, I disappear to look after my
household affairs or to read--for I read a great deal--or to write to
you. I come back to the others an hour before dinner; and after dinner
we play cards, or receive visits, or pay them. Thus my days pass
between a contented old man, who has done with passions, and the man
who owes his happiness to me. Louis' happiness is so radiant that it
has at last warmed my heart.
For women, happiness no doubt cannot consist in the mere satisfaction
of desire. Sometimes, in the evening, when I am not required to take a
hand in the game, and can sink back in my armchair, imagination bears
me on its strong wings into the very heart of your life. Then, its
riches, its changeful tints, its surging passions become my own, and I
ask myself to what end such a stormy preface can lead. May I not
swallow up the book itself? For you, my darling, the illusions of love
are possible; for me, only the facts of homely life remain. Yes, your
love seems to me a dream!
Therefore I find it hard to understand why you are determined to throw
so much romance over it. Your ideal man must have more soul than fire,
more nobility and self-command than passion. You persist in trying to
clothe in living form the dream ideal of a girl on the threshold of
life; you demand sacrifices for the pleasure of rewarding them; you
submit your Felipe to tests in order to ascertain whether desire,
hope, and curiosity are enduring in their nature. But, child, behind
all your fantastic stage scenery rises the altar, where everlasting
bonds are forged. The very morrow of your marriage the graceful
structure raised by your subtle strategy may fall before that terrible
reality which makes of a girl a woman, of a gallant a husband.
Remember that there is not exemption for lovers. For them, as for
ordinary folk like Louis and me, there lurks beneath the wedding
rejoicings the great "Perhaps" of Rabelais.
I do not blame you, though, of course, it was rash, for talking with
Felipe in the garden, or for spending a night with him, you on your
balcony, he on his wall; but you make a plaything of life, and I am
afraid that life may some day turn the tables. I dare not give you the
counsel which my own experience would suggest; but let me repeat once
more from the seclusion of my valley that the viaticum of married life
lies in these words--resignation and self-sacrifice. For, spite of all
your tests, your coyness, and your vigilance, I can see that marriage
will mean to you what it has been to me. The greater the passion, the
steeper the precipice we have hewn for our fall--that is the only
Oh! what I would give to see the Baron de Macumer and talk with him
for an hour or two! Your happiness lies so near my heart.
LOUISE DE MACUMER TO RENEE DE L'ESTORADE
As Felipe has carried out, with a truly Saracenic generosity, the
wishes of my father and mother in acknowledging the fortune he has not
received from me, the Duchess has become even more friendly to me than
before. She calls me little sly-boots, little woman of the world, and
says I know how to use my tongue.
"But, dear mamma," I said to her the evening before the contract was
signed, "you attribute to cunning and smartness on my part what is
really the outcome of the truest, simplest, most unselfish, most
devoted love that ever was! I assure you that I am not at all the
'woman of the world' you do me the honor of believing me to be."
"Come, come, Armande," she said, putting her arm on my neck and
drawing me to her, in order to kiss my forehead, "you did not want to
go back to the convent, you did not want to die an old maid, and, like
a fine, noble-hearted Chaulieu, as you are, you recognized the
necessity of building up your father's family. (The Duke was
listening. If you knew, Renee, what flattery lies for him in these
words.) I have watched you during the whole winter, poking your little
nose into all that goes on, forming very sensible opinions about men
and the present state of society in France. And you have picked out
the one Spaniard capable of giving you the splendid position of a
woman who reigns supreme in her own house. My little girl, you treated
him exactly as Tullia treats your brother."
"What lessons they give in my sister's convent!" exclaimed my father.
A glance at my father cut him short at once; then, turning to the
Duchess, I said:
"Madame, I love my future husband, Felipe de Soria, with all the
strength of my soul. Although this love sprang up without my
knowledge, and though I fought it stoutly when it first made itself
felt, I swear to you that I never gave way to it till I had recognized
in the Baron de Macumer a character worthy of mine, a heart of which
the delicacy, the generosity, the devotion, and the temper are suited
to my own."
"But, my dear," she began, interrupting me, "he is as ugly as . . ."
"As anything you like," I retorted quickly, "but I love his ugliness."
"If you love him, Armande," said my father, "and have the strength to
master your love, you must not risk your happiness. Now, happiness in
marriage depends largely on the first days--"
"Days only?" interrupted my mother. Then, with a glance at my father,
she continued, "You had better leave us, my dear, to have our talk
"You are to be married, dear child," the Duchess then began in a low
voice, "in three days. It becomes my duty, therefore, without silly
whimpering, which would be unfitting our rank in life, to give you the
serious advice which every mother owes to her daughter. You are
marrying a man whom you love, and there is no reason why I should pity
you or myself. I have only known you for a year; and if this period
has been long enough for me to learn to love you, it is hardly
sufficient to justify floods of tears at the idea of losing you. Your
mental gifts are even more remarkable than those of your person; you
have gratified maternal pride, and have shown yourself a sweet and
loving daughter. I, in my turn, can promise you that you will always
find a staunch friend in your mother. You smile? Alas! it too often
happens that a mother who has lived on excellent terms with her
daughter, as long as the daughter is a mere girl, comes to cross
purposes with her when they are both women together.
"It is your happiness which I want, so listen to my words. The love
which you now feel is that of a young girl, and is natural to us all,
for it is woman's destiny to cling to a man. Unhappily, pretty one,
there is but one man in the world for a woman! And sometimes this man,
whom fate has marked out for us, is not the one whom we, mistaking a
passing fancy for love, choose as husband. Strange as what I say may
appear to you, it is worth noting. If we cannot love the man we have
chosen, the fault is not exclusively ours, it lies with both, or
sometimes with circumstances over which we have no control. Yet there
is no reason why the man chosen for us by our family, the man to whom
our fancy has gone out, should not be the man whom we can love. The
barriers which arise later between husband and wife are often due to
lack of perseverance on both sides. The task of transforming a husband
into a lover is not less delicate than that other task of making a
husband of the lover, in which you have just proved yourself
"I repeat it, your happiness is my object. Never allow yourself, then,
to forget that the first three months of your married life may work
your misery if you do not submit to the yoke with the same
forbearance, tenderness, and intelligence that you have shown during
the days of courtship. For, my little rogue, you know very well that
you have indulged in all the innocent pleasures of a clandestine love
affair. If the culmination of your love begins with disappointment,
dislike, nay, even with pain, well, come and tell me about it. Don't
hope for too much from marriage at first; it will perhaps give you
more discomfort than joy. The happiness of your life requires at least
as patient cherishing as the early shoots of love.
"To conclude, if by chance you should lose the lover, you will find in
his place the father of your children. In this, my dear child, lies
the whole secret of social life. Sacrifice everything to the man whose
name you bear, the man whose honor and reputation cannot suffer in the
least degree without involving you in frightful consequences. Such
sacrifice is thus not only an absolute duty for women of our rank, it
is also their wisest policy. This, indeed, is the distinctive mark of
great moral principles, that they hold good and are expedient from
whatever aspect they are viewed. But I need say no more to you on this
"I fancy you are of a jealous disposition, and, my dear, if you knew
how jealous I am! But you must not be stupid over it. To publish your
jealousy to the world is like playing at politics with your cards upon
the table, and those who let their own game be seen learn nothing of
their opponents'. Whatever happens, we must know how to suffer in
She added that she intended having some plain talk about me with
Macumer the evening before the wedding.
Raising my mother's beautiful arm, I kissed her hand and dropped on it
a tear, which the tone of real feeling in her voice had brought to my
eyes. In the advice she had given me, I read high principle worthy of
herself and of me, true wisdom, and a tenderness of heart unspoilt by
the narrow code of society. Above all, I saw that she understood my
character. These few simple words summed up the lessons which life and
experience had brought her, perhaps at a heavy price. She was moved,
and said, as she looked at me:
"Dear little girl, you've got a nasty crossing before you. And most
women, in their ignorance or their disenchantment, are as wise as the
Earl of Westmoreland!"
We both laughed; but I must explain the joke. The evening before, a
Russian princess had told us an anecdote of this gentleman. He had
suffered frightfully from sea-sickness in crossing the Channel, and
turned tail when he got near Italy, because he had heard some one
speak of "crossing" the Alps. "Thank you; I've had quite enough
crossings already," he said.
You will understand, Renee, that your gloomy philosophy and my
mother's lecture were calculated to revive the fears which used to
disturb us at Blois. The nearer marriage approached, the more did I
need to summon all my strength, my resolution, and my affection to
face this terrible passage from maidenhood to womanhood. All our
conversations came back to my mind, I re-read your letters and
discerned in them a vague undertone of sadness.
This anxiety had one advantage at least; it helped me to the
regulation expression for a bride as commonly depicted. The
consequence was that on the day of signing the contract everybody said
I looked charming and quite the right thing. This morning, at the
Mairie, it was an informal business, and only the witnesses were
I am writing this tail to my letter while they are putting out my
dress for dinner. We shall be married at midnight at the Church of
Sainte-Valere, after a very gay evening. I confess that my fears give
me a martyr-like and modest air to which I have no right, but which
will be admired--why, I cannot conceive. I am delighted to see that
poor Felipe is every whit as timorous as I am; society grates on him,
he is like a bat in a glass shop.
"Thank Heaven, the day won't last for ever!" he whispered to me in all
In his bashfulness and timidity he would have liked to have no one
The Sardinian ambassador, when he came to sign the contract, took me
aside in order to present me with a pearl necklace, linked together by
six splendid diamonds--a gift from my sister-in-law, the Duchess de
Soria. Along with the necklace was a sapphire bracelet, on the under
side of which were engraved the words, "/Though unknown, beloved/."
Two charming letters came with these presents, which, however, I could
not accept without consulting Felipe.
"For," I said, "I should not like to see you wearing ornaments that
came from any one but me."
He kissed my hand, quite moved, and replied:
"Wear them for the sake of the inscription, and also for the kind
feeling, which is sincere."
Here, then, my poor Renee, are the last words of your girl friend.
After the midnight Mass, we set off for an estate which Felipe, with
kind thought for me, has bought in Nivernais, on the way to Provence.
Already my name is Louise de Macumer, but I leave Paris in a few hours
as Louise de Chaulieu. However I am called, there will never be for
you but one Louise.
THE SAME TO THE SAME
I have not written to you, dear, since our marriage, nearly eight
months ago. And not a line from you! Madame, you are inexcusable.
To begin with, we set off in a post-chaise for the Castle of
Chantepleurs, the property which Macumer has bought in Nivernais. It
stands on the banks of the Loire, sixty leagues from Paris. Our
servants, with the exception of my maid, were there before us, and we
arrived, after a very rapid journey, the next evening. I slept all the
way from Paris to beyond Montargis. My lord and master put his arm
round me and pillowed my head on his shoulder, upon an arrangement of
handkerchiefs. This was the one liberty he took; and the almost
motherly tenderness which got the better of his drowsiness, touched me
strangely. I fell asleep then under the fire of his eyes, and awoke to
find them still blazing; the passionate gaze remained unchanged, but
what thoughts had come and gone meanwhile! Twice he had kissed me on
At Briare we had breakfast in the carriage. Then followed a talk like
our old talks at Blois, while the same Loire we used to admire called
forth our praises, and at half-past seven we entered the noble long
avenue of lime-trees, acacias, sycamores, and larches which leads to
Chantepleurs. At eight we dined; at ten we were in our bedroom, a
charming Gothic room, made comfortable with every modern luxury.
Felipe, who is thought so ugly, seemed to me quite beautiful in his
graceful kindness and the exquisite delicacy of his affection. Of
passion, not a trace. All through the journey he might have been an
old friend of fifteen years' standing. Later, he has described to me,
with all the vivid touches of his first letter, the furious storms
that raged within and were not allowed to ruffle the outer surface.
"So far, I have found nothing very terrible in marriage," I said, as I
walked to the window and looked out on the glorious moon which lit up
a charming park, breathing of heavy scents.
He drew near, put his arm again round me, and said:
"Why fear it? Have I ever yet proved false to my promise in gesture or
look? Why should I be false in the future?"
Yet never were words or glances more full of mastery; his voice
thrilled every fibre of my heart and roused a sleeping force; his eyes
were like the sun in power.
"Oh!" I exclaimed, "what a world of Moorish perfidy in this attitude
of perpetual prostration!"
He understood, my dear.
So, my fair sweetheart, if I have let months slip by without writing,
you can now divine the cause. I have to recall the girl's strange past
in order to explain the woman to myself. Renee, I understand you now.
Not to her dearest friend, not to her mother, not, perhaps, even to
herself, can a happy bride speak of her happiness. This memory ought
to remain absolutely her own, an added rapture--a thing beyond words,
too sacred for disclosure!
Is it possible that the name of duty has been given to the delicious
frenzy of the heart, to the overwhelming rush of passion? And for what
purpose? What malevolent power conceived the idea of crushing a
woman's sensitive delicacy and all the thousand wiles of her modesty
under the fetters of constraint? What sense of duty can force from her
these flowers of the heart, the roses of life, the passionate poetry
of her nature, apart from love? To claim feeling as a right! Why, it
blooms of itself under the sun of love, and shrivels to death under
the cold blast of distaste and aversion! Let love guard his own
Oh! my noble Renee! I understand you now. I bow to your greatness,
amazed at the depth and clearness of your insight. Yes, the woman who
has not used the marriage ceremony, as I have done, merely to legalize
and publish the secret election of her heart, has nothing left but to
fly to motherhood. When earth fails, the soul makes for heaven!
One hard truth emerges from all that you have said. Only men who are
really great know how to love, and now I understand the reason of
this. Man obeys two forces--one sensual, one spiritual. Weak or
inferior men mistake the first for the last, whilst great souls know
how to clothe the merely natural instinct in all the graces of the
spirit. The very strength of this spiritual passion imposes severe
self-restraint and inspires them with reverence for women. Clearly,
feeling is sensitive in proportion to the calibre of the mental powers
generally, and this is why the man of genius alone has something of a
woman's delicacy. He understands and divines woman, and the wings of
passion on which he raises her are restrained by the timidity of the
sensitive spirit. But when the mind, the heart, and the senses all
have their share in the rapture which transports us--ah! then there is
no falling to earth, rather it is to heaven we soar, alas! for only
too brief a visit.
Such, dear soul, is the philosophy of the first three months of my
married life. Felipe is angelic. Without figure of speech, he is
another self, and I can think aloud with him. His greatness of soul
passes my comprehension. Possession only attaches him more closely to
me, and he discovers in his happiness new motives for loving me. For
him, I am the nobler part of himself. I can foresee that years of
wedded life, far from impairing his affection, will only make it more
assured, develop fresh possibilities of enjoyment, and bind us in more
perfect sympathy. What a delirium of joy!
It is part of my nature that pleasure has an exhilarating effect on
me; it leaves sunshine behind, and becomes a part of my inner being.
The interval which parts one ecstasy from another is like the short
night which marks off our long summer days. The sun which flushed the
mountain tops with warmth in setting finds them hardly cold when it
rises. What happy chance has given me such a destiny? My mother had
roused a host of fears in me; her forecast, which, though free from
the alloy of vulgar pettiness, seemed to me redolent of jealousy, has
been falsified by the event. Your fears and hers, my own--all have
vanished in thin air!
We remained at Chantepleurs seven months and a half, for all the world
like a couple of runaway lovers fleeing the parental warmth, while the
roses of pleasure crowned our love and embellished our dual solitude.
One morning, when I was even happier than usual, I began to muse over
my lot, and suddenly Renee and her prosaic marriage flashed into my
mind. It seemed to me that now I could grasp the inner meaning in your
life. Oh! my sweet, why do we speak a different tongue? Your marriage
of convenience and my love match are two worlds, as widely separated
as the finite from infinity. You still walk the earth, whilst I range
the heavens! Your sphere is human, mine divine! Love crowned me queen,
you reign by reason and duty. So lofty are the regions where I soar,
that a fall would shiver me to atoms.
But no more of this. I shrink from painting to you the rainbow
brightness, the profusion, the exuberant joy of love's springtime, as
we know it.
For ten days we have been in Paris, staying in a charming house in the
Rue du Bac, prepared for us by the architect to whom Felipe intrusted
the decoration of Chantepleurs. I have been listening, in all the full
content of an assured and sanctioned love, to that divine music of
Rossini's, which used to soothe me when, as a restless girl, I
hungered vaguely after experience. They say I am more beautiful, and I
have a childish pleasure in hearing myself called "Madame."
Renee, my fair saint, the happiness of my own life pulls me for ever
back to you. I feel that I can be more to you than ever before, you
are so dear to me! I have studied your wedded life closely in the
light of my own opening chapters; and you seem to me to come out of
the scrutiny so great, so noble, so splendid in your goodness, that I
here declare myself your inferior and humble admirer, as well as your
friend. When I think what marriage has been to me, it seems to me that
I should have died, had it turned out otherwise. And you live! Tell me
what your heart feeds on! Never again shall I make fun of you.
Mockery, my sweet, is the child of ignorance; we jest at what we know
nothing of. "Recruits will laugh where the veteran soldier looks
grave," was a remark made to me by the Comte de Chaulieu, that poor
cavalry officer whose campaigning so far has consisted in marches from
Paris to Fontainebleau and back again.
I surmise, too, my dear love, that you have not told me all. There are
wounds which you have hidden. You suffer; I am convinced of it. In
trying to make out at this distance and from the scraps you tell me
the reasons of your conduct, I have weaved together all sorts of
romantic theories about you. "She has made a mere experiment in
marriage," I thought one evening, "and what is happiness for me had
proved only suffering to her. Her sacrifice is barren of reward, and
she would not make it greater than need be. The unctuous axioms of
social morality are only used to cloak her disappointment." Ah! Renee,
the best of happiness is that it needs no dogma and no fine words to
pave the way; it speaks for itself, while theory has been piled upon
theory to justify the system of women's vassalage and thralldom. If
self-denial be so noble, so sublime, what, pray, of my joy, sheltered
by the gold-and-white canopy of the church, and witnessed by the hand
and seal of the most sour-faced of mayors? Is it a thing out of
For the honor of the law, for her own sake, but most of all to make my
happiness complete, I long to see my Renee content. Oh! tell me that
you see a dawn of love for this Louis who adores you! Tell me that the
solemn, symbolic torch of Hymen has not alone served to lighten your
darkness, but that love, the glorious sun of our hearts, pours his
rays on you. I come back always, you see, to this midday blaze, which
will be my destruction, I fear.
Dear Renee, do you remember how, in your outbursts of girlish
devotion, you would say to me, as we sat under the vine-covered arbor
of the convent garden, "I love you so, Louise, that if God appeared to
me in a vision, I would pray Him that all the sorrows of life might be
mine, and all the joy yours. I burn to suffer for you"? Now, darling,
the day has come when I take up your prayer, imploring Heaven to grant
you a share in my happiness.
I must tell you my idea. I have a shrewd notion that you are hatching
ambitious plans under the name of Louis de l'Estorade. Very good; get
him elected deputy at the approaching election, for he will be very
nearly forty then; and as the Chamber does not meet till six months
later, he will have just attained the age necessary to qualify for a
seat. You will come to Paris--there, isn't that enough? My father, and
the friends I shall have made by that time, will learn to know and
admire you; and if your father-in-law will agree to found a family, we
will get the title of Comte for Louis. That is something at least! And
we shall be together.
RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE MACUMER
My thrice happy Louise, your letter made me dizzy. For a few moments I
held it in my listless hands, while a tear or two sparkled on it in
the setting sun. I was alone beneath the small barren rock where I
have had a seat placed; far off, like a lance of steel, the
Mediterranean shone. The seat is shaded by aromatic shrubs, and I have
had a very large jessamine, some honeysuckle, and Spanish brooms
transplanted there, so that some day the rock will be entirely covered
with climbing plants. The wild vine has already taken root there. But
winter draws near, and all this greenery is faded like a piece of old
tapestry. In this spot I am never molested; it is understood that here
I wish to be alone. It is named Louise's seat--a proof, is it not,
that even in solitude I am not alone here?
If I tell you all these details, to you so paltry, and try to describe
the vision of green with which my prophetic gaze clothes this bare
rock--on which top some freak of nature has set up a magnificent
parasol pine--it is because in all this I have found an emblem to
which I cling.
It was while your blessed lot was filling me with joy and--must I
confess it?--with bitter envy too, that I felt the first movement of
my child within, and this mystery of physical life reacted upon the
inner recesses of my soul. This indefinable sensation, which partakes
of the nature at once of a warning, a delight, a pain, a promise, and
a fulfilment; this joy, which is mine alone, unshared by mortal, this
wonder of wonders, has whispered to me that one day this rock shall be
a carpet of flowers, resounding to the merry laughter of children,
that I shall at last be blessed among women, and from me shall spring
forth fountains of life. Now I know what I have lived for! Thus the
first certainty of bearing within me another life brought healing to
my wounds. A joy that beggars description has crowned for me those
long days of sacrifice, in which Louis had already found his.
Sacrifice! I said to myself, how far does it excel passion! What
pleasure has roots so deep as one which is not personal but creative?
Is not the spirit of Sacrifice a power mightier than any of its
results? Is it not that mysterious, tireless divinity, who hides
beneath innumerable spheres in an unexplored centre, through which all
worlds in turn must pass? Sacrifice, solitary and secret, rich in
pleasures only tasted in silence, which none can guess at, and no
profane eye has ever seen; Sacrifice, jealous God and tyrant, God of
strength and victory, exhaustless spring which, partaking of the very
essence of all that exists, can by no expenditure be drained below its
own level;--Sacrifice, there is the keynote of my life.
For you, Louise, love is but the reflex of Felipe's passion; the life
which I shed upon my little ones will come back to me in ever-growing
fulness. The plenty of your golden harvest will pass; mine, though
late, will be but the more enduring, for each hour will see it
renewed. Love may be the fairest gem which Society has filched from
Nature; but what is motherhood save Nature in her most gladsome mood?
A smile has dried my tears. Love makes my Louis happy, but marriage
has made me a mother, and who shall say I am not happy also?
With slow steps, then, I returned to my white grange, with the green
shutters, to write you these thoughts.
So it is, darling, that the most marvelous, and yet the simplest,
process of nature has been going on in me for five months; and yet--in
your ear let me whisper it--so far it agitates neither my heart nor my
understanding. I see all around me happy; the grandfather-to-be has
become a child again, trespassing on the grandchild's place; the
father wears a grave and anxious look; they are all most attentive to
me, all talk of the joy of being a mother. Alas! I alone remain cold,
and I dare not tell you how dead I am to all emotion, though I affect
a little in order not to damp the general satisfaction. But with you I
may be frank; and I confess that, at my present stage, motherhood is a
mere affair of the imagination.
Louis was to the full as much surprised as I. Does not this show how
little, unless by his impatient wishes, the father counts for in this
matter? Chance, my dear, is the sovereign deity in child-bearing. My
doctor, while maintaining that this chance works in harmony with
nature, does not deny that children who are the fruit of passionate
love are bound to be richly endowed both physically and mentally, and
that often the happiness which shone like a radiant star over their
birth seems to watch over them through life. It may be then, Louise,
that motherhood reserves joys for you which I shall never know. It may
be that the feeling of a mother for the child of a man whom she
adores, as you adore Felipe, is different from that with which she
regards the offspring of reason, duty, and desperation!
Thoughts such as these, which I bury in my inmost heart, add to the
preoccupation only natural to a woman soon to be a mother. And yet, as
the family cannot exist without children, I long to speed the moment
from which the joys of family, where alone I am to find my life, shall
date their beginning. At present I live a life all expectation and
mystery, except for a sickening physical discomfort, which no doubt
serves to prepare a woman for suffering of a different kind. I watch
my symptoms; and in spite of the attentions and thoughtful care with
which Louis' anxiety surrounds me, I am conscious of a vague
uneasiness, mingled with the nausea, the distaste for food, and
abnormal longings common to my condition. If I am to speak candidly, I
must confess, at the risk of disgusting you with the whole business,
to an incomprehensible craving for rotten fruit. My husband goes to
Marseilles to fetch the finest oranges the world produces--from Malta,
Portugal, Corsica--and these I don't touch. Then I hurry there myself,
sometimes on foot, and in a little back street, running down to the
harbor, close to the Town Hall, I find wretched, half-putrid oranges,
two for a sou, which I devour eagerly. The bluish, greenish shades on
the mouldy parts sparkle like diamonds in my eyes, they are flowers to
me; I forget the putrid odor, and find them delicious, with a piquant
flavor, and stimulating as wine. My dear, they are the first love of
my life! Your passion for Felipe is nothing to this! Sometimes I can
slip out secretly and fly to Marseilles, full of passionate longings,
which grow more intense as I draw near the street. I tremble lest the
woman should be sold out of rotten oranges; I pounce on them and
devour them as I stand. It seems to me an ambrosial food, and yet I
have seen Louis turn aside, unable to bear the smell. Then came to my
mind the ghastly words of Obermann in his gloomy elegy, which I wish I
had never read, "Roots slake their thirst in foulest streams." Since I
took to this diet, the sickness has ceased, and I feel much stronger.
This depravity of taste must have a meaning, for it seems to be part
of a natural process and to be common to most women, sometimes going
to most extravagant lengths.
When my situation is more marked, I shall not go beyond the grounds,
for I should not like to be seen under these circumstances. I have the
greatest curiosity to know at what precise moment the sense of
motherhood begins. It cannot possibly be in the midst of frightful
suffering, the very thought of which makes me shudder.
Farewell, favorite of fortune! Farewell, my friend, in whom I live
again, and through whom I am able to picture to myself this brave
love, this jealousy all on fire at a look, these whisperings in the
ear, these joys which create for women, as it were, a new atmosphere,
a new daylight, fresh life! Ah! pet, I too understand love. Don't
weary of telling me everything. Keep faithful to our bond. I promise,
in my turn, to spare you nothing.
Nay--to conclude in all seriousness--I will not conceal from you that,
on reading your letter a second time, I was seized with a dread which
I could not shake off. This superb love seems like a challenge to
Providence. Will not the sovereign master of this earth, Calamity,
take umbrage if no place be left for him at your feast? What mighty
edifice of fortune has he not overthrown? Oh! Louise, forget not, in
all this happiness, your prayers to God. Do good, be kind and
merciful; let your moderation, if it may be, avert disaster. Religion
has meant much more to me since I left the convent and since my
marriage; but your Paris news contains no mention of it. In your
glorification of Felipe it seems to me you reverse the saying, and
invoke God less than His saint.
But, after all, this panic is only excess of affection. You go to
church together, I do not doubt, and do good in secret. The close of
this letter will seem to you very primitive, I expect, but think of
the too eager friendship which prompts these fears--a friendship of
the type of La Fontaine's, which takes alarms at dreams, at half-
formed, misty ideas. You deserve to be happy, since, through it all,
you still think of me, no less than I think of you, in my monotonous
life, which, though it lacks color, is yet not empty, and, if
uneventful, is not unfruitful. God bless you, then!
M. DE L'ESTORADE TO THE BARONNE DE MACUMER
Madame,--It is the desire of my wife that you should not learn first
from the formal announcement of an event which has filled us with joy.
Renee has just given birth to a fine boy, whose baptism we are
postponing till your return to Chantepleurs. Renee and I both
earnestly hope that you may then come as far as La Crampade, and will
consent to act as godmother to our firstborn. In this hope, I have had
him placed on the register under the name of Armand-Louis de
Our dear Renee suffered much, but bore it with angelic patience. You,
who know her, will easily understand that the assurance of bringing
happiness to us all supported her through this trying apprenticeship
Without indulging in the more or less ludicrous exaggerations to which
the novel sensation of being a father is apt to give rise, I may tell
you that little Armand is a beautiful infant, and you will have no
difficulty in believing it when I add that he has Renee's features and
eyes. So far, at least, this gives proof of intelligence.
The physician and accoucheur assure us that Renee is now quite out of
danger; and as she is proving an admirable nurse--Nature has endowed
her so generously!--my father and I are able to give free rein to our
joy. Madame, may I be allowed to express the hope that this joy, so
vivid and intense, which has brought fresh life into our house, and
has changed the face of existence for my dear wife, may ere long be
Renee has had a suite of rooms prepared, and I only wish I could make
them worthy of our guests. But the cordial friendliness of the
reception which awaits you may perhaps atone for any lack of splendor.
I have heard from Renee, madame, of your kind thought in regard to us,
and I take this opportunity of thanking you for it, the more gladly
because nothing could now be more appropriate. The birth of a grandson
has reconciled my father to sacrifices which bear hardly on an old
man. He has just bought two estates, and La Crampade is now a property
with an annual rental of thirty thousand francs. My father intends
asking the King's permission to form an entailed estate of it; and if
you are good enough to get for him the title of which you spoke in
your last letter, you will have already done much for your godson.
For my part, I shall carry out your suggestions solely with the object
of bringing you and Renee together during the sessions of the Chamber.
I am working hard with the view of becoming what is called a
specialist. But nothing could give me greater encouragement in my
labors than the thought that you will take an interest in my little
Armand. Come, then, we beg of you, and with your beauty and your
grace, your playful fancy and your noble soul, enact the part of good
fairy to my son and heir. You will thus, madame, add undying gratitude
to the respectful regard of
Your very humble, obedient servant,
LOUIS DE L'ESTORADE.
LOUISE DE MACUMER TO RENEE DE L'ESTORADE
Macumer has just wakened me, darling, with your husband's letter.
First and foremost--Yes. We shall be going to Chantepleurs about the
end of April. To me it will be a piling up of pleasure to travel, to
see you, and to be the godmother of your first child. I must, please,
have Macumer for godfather. To take part in a ceremony of the Church
with another as my partner would be hateful to me. Ah! if you could
see the look he gave me as I said this, you would know what store this
sweetest of lovers sets on his wife!
"I am the more bent on our visiting La Crampade together, Felipe," I
went on, "because I might have a child there. I too, you know, would
be a mother! . . . And yet, can you fancy me torn in two between you
and the infant? To begin with, if I saw any creature--were it even my
own son--taking my place in your heart, I couldn't answer for the
consequences. Medea may have been right after all. The Greeks had some
And he laughed.
So, my sweetheart, you have the fruit without the flowers; I the
flowers without the fruit. The contrast in our lives still holds good.
Between the two of us we have surely enough philosophy to find the
moral of it some day. Bah! only ten months married! Too soon, you will
admit, to give up hope.
We are leading a gay, yet far from empty life, as is the way with
happy people. The days are never long enough for us. Society, seeing
me in the trappings of a married woman, pronounces the Baronne de
Macumer much prettier than Louise de Chaulieu: a happy love is a most
becoming cosmetic. When Felipe and I drive along the Champs-Elysees in
the bright sunshine of a crisp January day, beneath the trees, frosted
with clusters of white stars, and face all Paris on the spot where
last year we met with a gulf between us, the contrast calls up a
thousand fancies. Suppose, after all, your last letter should be right
in its forecast, and we are too presumptuous!
If I am ignorant of a mother's joys, you shall tell me about them; I
will learn by sympathy. But my imagination can picture nothing to
equal the rapture of love. You will laugh at my extravagance; but, I
assure you, that a dozen times in as many months the longing has
seized me to die at thirty, while life was still untarnished, amidst
the roses of love, in the embrace of passion. To bid farewell to the
feast at its brightest, before disappointment has come, having lived
in this sunshine and celestial air, and well-nigh spent myself in
love, not a leaf dropped from my crown, not an illusion perished in my
heart, what a dream is there! Think what it would be to bear about a
young heart in an aged body, to see only cold, dumb faces around me,
where even strangers used to smile; to be a worthy matron! Can Hell
have a worse torture?
On this very subject, in fact, Felipe and I have had our first
quarrel. I contended that he ought to have sufficient moral strength
to kill me in my sleep when I have reached thirty, so that I might
pass from one dream to another. The wretch declined. I threatened to
leave him alone in the world, and, poor child, he turned white as a
sheet. My dear, this distinguished statesman is neither more nor less
than a baby. It is incredible what youth and simplicity he contrived
to hide away. Now that I allow myself to think aloud with him, as I do
with you, and have no secrets from him, we are always giving each
Dear Renee, Felipe and Louise, the pair of lovers, want to send a
present to the young mother. We would like to get something that would
give you pleasure, and we don't share the popular taste for surprises;
so tell me quite frankly, please, what you would like. It ought to be
something which would recall us to you in a pleasant way, something
which you will use every day, and which won't wear out with use. The
meal which with us is most cheerful and friendly is lunch, and
therefore the idea occurred to me of a special luncheon service,
ornamented with figures of babies. If you approve of this, let me know
at once; for it will have to be ordered immediately if we are to bring
it. Paris artists are gentlemen of far too much importance to be
hurried. This will be my offering to Lucina.
Farewell, dear nursing mother. May all a mother's delights be yours! I
await with impatience your first letter, which will tell me all about
it, I hope. Some of the details in your husband's letter went to my
heart. Poor Renee, a mother has a heavy price to pay. I will tell my
godson how dearly he must love you. No end of love, my sweet one.
RENEE DE L'ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE MACUMER
It is nearly five months now since baby was born, and not once, dear
heart, have I found a single moment for writing to you. When you are a
mother yourself, you will be more ready to excuse me, than you are
now; for you have punished me a little bit in making your own letters
so few and far between. Do write, my darling! Tell me of your
pleasures; lay on the blue as brightly as you please. It will not hurt
me, for I am happy now, happier than you can imagine.
I went in state to the parish church to hear the Mass for recovery
from childbirth, as is the custom in the old families of Provence. I
was supported on either side by the two grandfathers--Louis' father
and my own. Never had I knelt before God with such a flood of
gratitude in my heart. I have so much to tell you of, so many feelings
to describe, that I don't know where to begin; but from amidst these
confused memories, one rises distinctly, that of my prayer in the
When I found myself transformed into a joyful mother, on the very spot
where, as a girl, I had trembled for my future, it seemed to my fancy
that the Virgin on the altar bowed her head and pointed to the infant
Christ, who smiled at me! My heart full of pure and heavenly love, I
held out little Armand for the priest to bless and bathe, in
anticipation of the regular baptism to come later. But you will see us
together then, Armand and me.
My child--come see how readily the word comes, and indeed there is
none sweeter to a mother's heart and mind or on her lips--well, then,
dear child, during the last two months I used to drag myself wearily
and heavily about the gardens, not realizing yet how precious was the
burden, spite of all the discomforts it brought! I was haunted by
forebodings so gloomy and ghastly, that they got the better even of
curiosity; in vain did I picture the delights of motherhood. My heart
made no response even to the thought of the little one, who announced
himself by lively kicking. That is a sensation, dear, which may be
welcome when it is familiar; but as a novelty, it is more strange than
pleasing. I speak for myself at least; you know I would never affect
anything I did not really feel, and I look on my child as a gift
straight from Heaven. For one who saw in it rather the image of the
man she loved, it might be different.
But enough of such sad thoughts, gone, I trust, for ever.
When the crisis came, I summoned all my powers of resistance, and
braced myself so well for suffering, that I bore the horrible agony--
so they tell me--quite marvelously. For about an hour I sank into a
sort of stupor, of the nature of a dream. I seemed to myself then two
beings--an outer covering racked and tortured by red-hot pincers, and
a soul at peace. In this strange state the pain formed itself into a
sort of halo hovering over me. A gigantic rose seemed to spring out of
my head and grow ever larger and larger, till it enfolded me in its
blood-red petals. The same color dyed the air around, and everything I
saw was blood-red. At last the climax came, when soul and body seemed
no longer able to hold together; the spasms of pain gripped me like
death itself. I screamed aloud, and found fresh strength against this
fresh torture. Suddenly this concert of hideous cries was overborne by
a joyful sound--the shrill wail of the newborn infant. No words can
describe that moment. It was as though the universe took part in my
cries, when all at once the chorus of pain fell hushed before the
child's feeble note.
They laid me back again in the large bed, and it felt like paradise to
me, even in my extreme exhaustion. Three or four happy faces pointed
through tears to the child. My dear, I exclaimed in terror:
"It's just like a little monkey! Are you really and truly certain it
is a child?"
I fell back on my side, miserably disappointed at my first experience
of motherly feeling.
"Don't worry, dear," said my mother, who had installed herself as
nurse. "Why, you've got the finest baby in the world. You mustn't
excite yourself; but give your whole mind now to turning yourself as
much as possible into an animal, a milch cow, pasturing in the
I fell asleep then, fully resolved to let nature have her way.
Ah! my sweet, how heavenly it was to waken up from all the pain and
haziness of the first days, when everything was still dim,
uncomfortable, confused. A ray of light pierced the darkness; my heart
and soul, my inner self--a self I had never known before--rent the
envelope of gloomy suffering, as a flower bursts its sheath at the
first warm kiss of the sun, at the moment when the little wretch
fastened on my breast and sucked. Not even the sensation of the
child's first cry was so exquisite as this. This is the dawn of
motherhood, this is the /Fiat lux/!
Here is happiness, joy ineffable, though it comes not without pangs.
Oh! my sweet jealous soul, how you will relish a delight which exists
only for ourselves, the child, and God! For this tiny creature all
knowledge is summed up in its mother's breast. This is the one bright
spot in its world, towards which its puny strength goes forth. Its
thoughts cluster round this spring of life, which it leaves only to
sleep, and whither it returns on waking. Its lips have a sweetness
beyond words, and their pressure is at once a pain and a delight, a
delight which by every excess becomes pain, or a pain which culminates
in delight. The sensation which rises from it, and which penetrates to
the very core of my life, baffles all description. It seems a sort of
centre whence a myriad joy-bearing rays gladden the heart and soul. To
bear a child is nothing; to nourish it is birth renewed every hour.
Oh! Louise, there is no caress of lover with half the power of those
little pink hands, as they stray about, seeking whereby to lay hold on
life. And the infant glances, now turned upon the breast, now raised
to meet our own! What dreams come to us as we watch the clinging
nursling! All our powers, whether of mind or body, are at its service;
for it we breathe and think, in it our longings are more than
satisfied! The sweet sensation of warmth at the heart, which the sound
of his first cry brought to me--like the first ray of sunshine on the
earth--came again as I felt the milk flow into his mouth, again as his
eyes met mine, and at this moment I have felt it once more as his
first smile gave token of a mind working within--for he has laughed,
my dear! A laugh, a glance, a bite, a cry--four miracles of gladness
which go straight to the heart and strike chords that respond to no
other touch. A child is tied to our heart-strings, as the spheres are
linked to their creator; we cannot think of God except as a mother's
heart writ large.
It is only in the act of nursing that a woman realizes her motherhood
in visible and tangible fashion; it is a joy of every moment. The milk
becomes flesh before our eyes; it blossoms into the tips of those
delicate flower-like fingers; it expands in tender, transparent nails;
it spins the silky tresses; it kicks in the little feet. Oh! those
baby feet, how plainly they talk to us! In them the child finds its
Yes, Louise, nursing is a miracle of transformation going on before
one's bewildered eyes. Those cries, they go to your heart and not your
ears; those smiling eyes and lips, those plunging feet, they speak in
words which could not be plainer if God traced them before you in
letters of fire! What else is there in the world to care about? The
father? Why, you could kill him if he dreamed of waking the baby! Just
as the child is the world to us, so do we stand alone in the world for
the child. The sweet consciousness of a common life is ample
recompense for all the trouble and suffering--for suffering there is.
Heaven save you, Louise, from ever knowing the maddening agony of a
wound which gapes afresh with every pressure of rosy lips, and is so
hard to heal--the heaviest tax perhaps imposed on beauty. For know,
Louise, and beware! it visits only a fair and delicate skin.
My little ape has in five months developed into the prettiest darling
that ever mother bathed in tears of joy, washed, brushed, combed, and
made smart; for God knows what unwearied care we lavish upon those
tender blossoms! So my monkey has ceased to exist, and behold in his
stead a /baby/, as my English nurse says, a regular pink-and-white
baby. He cries very little too now, for he is conscious of the love
bestowed on him; indeed, I hardly ever leave him, and I strive to wrap
him round in the atmosphere of my love.
Dear, I have a feeling now for Louis which is not love, but which
ought to be the crown of a woman's love where it exists. Nay, I am not
sure whether this tender fondness, this unselfish gratitude, is not
superior to love. From all that you have told me of it, dear pet, I
gather that love has something terribly earthly about it, whilst a
strain of holy piety purifies the affection a happy mother feels for
the author of her far-reaching and enduring joys. A mother's happiness
is like a beacon, lighting up the future, but reflected also on the
past in the guise of fond memories.
The old l'Estorade and his son have moreover redoubled their devotion
to me; I am like a new person to them. Every time they see me and
speak to me, it is with a fresh holiday joy, which touches me deeply.
The grandfather has, I verily believe, turned child again; he looks at
me admiringly, and the first time I came down to lunch he was moved to
tears to see me eating and suckling the child. The moisture in these
dry old eyes, generally expressive only of avarice, was a wonderful
comfort to me. I felt that the good soul entered into my joy.
As for Louis, he would shout aloud to the trees and stones of the
highway that he has a son; and he spends whole hours watching your
sleeping godson. He does not know, he says, when he will grow used to
it. These extravagant expressions of delight show me how great must
have been their fears beforehand. Louis has confided in me that he had
believed himself condemned to be childless. Poor fellow! he has all at
once developed very much, and he works even harder than he did. The
father in him has quickened his ambition.
For myself, dear soul, I grow happier and happier every moment. Each
hour creates a fresh tie between the mother and her infant. The very
nature of my feelings proves to me that they are normal, permanent,
and indestructible; whereas I shrewdly suspect love, for instance, of
being intermittent. Certainly it is not the same at all moments, the
flowers which it weaves into the web of life are not all of equal
brightness; love, in short, can and must decline. But a mother's love
has no ebb-tide to fear; rather it grows with the growth of the
child's needs, and strengthens with its strength. Is it not at once a
passion, a natural craving, a feeling, a duty, a necessity, a joy?
Yes, darling, here is woman's true sphere. Here the passion for self-
sacrifice can expend itself, and no jealousy intrudes.
Here, too, is perhaps the single point on which society and nature are
at one. Society, in this matter, enforces the dictates of nature,
strengthening the maternal instinct by adding to it family spirit and
the desire of perpetuating a name, a race, an estate. How tenderly
must not a woman cherish the child who has been the first to open up
to her these joys, the first to call forth the energies of her nature
and to instruct her in the grand art of motherhood! The right of the
eldest, which in the earliest times formed a part of the natural order
and was lost in the origins of society, ought never, in my opinion, to
have been questioned. Ah! how much a mother learns from her child! The
constant protection of a helpless being forces us to so strict an
alliance with virtue, that a woman never shows to full advantage
except as a mother. Then alone can her character expand in the
fulfilment of all life's duties and the enjoyment of all its
pleasures. A woman who is not a mother is maimed and incomplete.
Hasten, then, my sweetest, to fulfil your mission. Your present
happiness will then be multiplied by the wealth of my delights.
I had to tear myself from you because your godson was crying. I can
hear his cry from the bottom of the garden. But I would not let this
go without a word of farewell. I have just been reading over what I
have said, and am horrified to see how vulgar are the feelings
expressed! What I feel, every mother, alas! since the beginning must
have felt, I suppose, in the same way, and put into the same words.
You will laugh at me, as we do at the naive father who dilates on the
beauty and cleverness of his (of course) quite exceptional offspring.
But the refrain of my letter, darling, is this, and I repeat it: I am
as happy now as I used to be miserable. This grange--and is it not
going to be an estate, a family property?--has become my land of
promise. The desert is past and over. A thousand loves, darling pet.
Write to me, for now I can read without a tear the tale of your happy
MME. DE MACUMER TO MME. DE L'ESTORADE
Do you know, dear, that it is more than three months since I have
written to you or heard from you? I am the more guilty of the two, for
I did not reply to your last, but you don't stand on punctilio surely?
Macumer and I have taken your silence for consent as regards the baby-
wreathed luncheon service, and the little cherubs are starting this
morning for Marseilles. It took six months to carry out the design.
And so when Felipe asked me to come and see the service before it was
packed, I suddenly waked up to the fact that we had not interchanged a
word since the letter of yours which gave me an insight into a
My sweet, it is this terrible Paris--there's my excuse. What, pray, is
yours? Oh! what a whirlpool is society! Didn't I tell you once that in
Paris one must be as the Parisians? Society there drives out all
sentiment; it lays en embargo on your time; and unless you are very
careful, soon eats away your heart altogether. What an amazing
masterpiece is the character of Celimene in Moliere's /Le
Misanthrope/! She is the society woman, not only of Louis XIV.'s time,
but of our own, and of all, time.
Where should I be but for my breastplate--the love I bear Felipe? This
very morning I told him, as the outcome of these reflections, that he
was my salvation. If my evenings are a continuous round of parties,
balls, concerts, and theatres, at night my heart expands again, and is
healed of the wounds received in the world by the delights of the
passionate love which await my return.
I dine at home only when we have friends, so-called, with us, and
spend the afternoon there only on my day, for I have a day now--
Wednesday--for receiving. I have entered the lists with Mmes. d'Espard
and de Maufrigneuse, and with the old Duchesse de Lenoncourt, and my
house has the reputation of being a very lively one. I allowed myself
to become the fashion, because I saw how much pleasure my success gave
Felipe. My mornings are his; from four in the afternoon till two in
the morning I belong to Paris. Macumer makes an admirable host, witty
and dignified, perfect in courtesy, and with an air of real
distinction. No woman could help loving such a husband even if she had
chosen him without consulting her heart.
My father and mother have left for Madrid. Louis XVIII. being out of
the way, the Duchess had no difficulty in obtaining from our good-
natured Charles X. the appointment of her fascinating poet; so he is
carried off in the capacity of attache.
My brother, the Duc de Rhetore, deigns to recognize me as a person of
mark. As for my younger brother, The Comte de Chaulieu, this buckram
warrior owes me everlasting gratitude. Before my father left, he spent
my fortune in acquiring for the Count an estate of forty thousand
francs a year, entailed on the title, and his marriage with Mlle. de
Mortsauf, an heiress from Touraine, is definitely arranged. The King,
in order to preserve the name and titles of the de Lenoncourt and de
Givry families from extinction, is to confer these, together with the
armorial bearings, by patent on my brother. Certainly it would never
have done to allow these two fine names and their splendid motto,
/Faciem semper monstramus/, to perish. Mlle. de Mortsauf, who is
granddaughter and sole heiress of the Duc de Lenoncourt-Givry, will,
it is said, inherit altogether more than one hundred thousand livres a
year. The only stipulation my father has made is that the de Chaulieu
arms should appear in the centre of the de Lenoncourt escutcheon. Thus
my brother will be Duc de Lenoncourt. The young de Mortsauf, to whom
everything would otherwise go, is in the last stage of consumption;
his death is looked for every day. The marriage will take place next
winter when the family are out of mourning. I am told that I shall
have a charming sister-in-law in Mlle. de Mortsauf.
So you see that my father's reasoning is justified. The outcome of it
all has won me many compliments, and my marriage is explained to
everybody's satisfaction. To complete our success, the Prince de
Talleyrand, out of affection for my grandmother, is showing himself a
warm friend to Macumer. Society, which began by criticising me, has
now passed to cordial admiration.
In short, I now reign a queen where, barely two years ago, I was an
insignificant item. Macumer finds himself the object of universal
envy, as the husband of "the most charming woman in Paris." At least a
score of women, as you know, are always in that proud position. Men
murmur sweet things in my ear, or content themselves with greedy
glances. This chorus of longing and admiration is so soothing to one's
vanity, that I confess I begin to understand the unconscionable price
women are ready to pay for such frail and precarious privileges. A
triumph of this kind is like strong wine to vanity, self-love, and all
the self-regarding feelings. To pose perpetually as a divinity is a
draught so potent in its intoxicating effects, that I am no longer
surprised to see women grow selfish, callous, and frivolous in the
heart of this adoration. The fumes of society mount to the head. You
lavish the wealth of your soul and spirit, the treasures of your time,
the noblest efforts of your will, upon a crowd of people who repay you
in smiles and jealousy. The false coin of their pretty speeches,
compliments, and flattery is the only return they give for the solid
gold of your courage and sacrifices, and all the thought that must go
to keep up without flagging the standard of beauty, dress, sparkling
talk, and general affability. You are perfectly aware how much it
costs, and that the whole thing is a fraud, but you cannot keep out of
Ah! my sweetheart, how one craves for a real friend! How precious to
me are the love and devotion of Felipe, and how my heart goes out to
you! Joyfully indeed are we preparing for our move to Chantepleurs,
where we can rest from the comedy of the Rue de Bac and of the Paris
drawing-rooms. Having just read your letter again, I feel that I
cannot better describe this demoniac paradise than by saying that no
woman of fashion in Paris can possibly be a good mother.
Good-bye, then, for a short time, dear one. We shall stay at
Chantepleurs only a week at most, and shall be with you about May
10th. So we are actually to meet again after more than two years! What
changes since then! Here we are, both matrons, both in our promised
land--I of love, you of motherhood.
If I have not written, my sweetest, it is not because I have forgotten
you. And what of the monkey godson? Is he still pretty and a credit to
me? He must be more than nine months' old now. I should dearly like to
be present when he makes his first steps upon this earth; but Macumer
tells me that even precocious infants hardly walk at ten months.
We shall have some good gossips there, and "cut pinafores," as the
Blois folk say. I shall see whether a child, as the saying goes,
spoils the pattern.
P. S.--If you deign to reply from your maternal heights, address to
Chantepleurs. I am just off.
MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MME. DE MACUMER
My child,--If ever you become a mother, you will find out that it is
impossible to write letters during the first two months of your
nursing. Mary, my English nurse, and I are both quite knocked up. It
is true I had not told you that I was determined to do everything
myself. Before the event I had with my own fingers sewn the baby
clothes and embroidered and edged with lace the little caps. I am a
slave, my pet, a slave day and night.
To begin with, Master Armand-Louis takes his meals when it pleases
him, and that is always; then he has often to be changed, washed, and
dressed. His mother is so fond of watching him sleep, of singing songs
to him, of walking him about in her arms on a fine day, that she has
little time left to attend to herself. In short, what society has been
to you, my child--our child--has been to me!
I cannot tell you how full and rich my life has become, and I long for
your coming that you may see for yourself. The only thing is, I am
afraid he will soon be teething, and that you will find a peevish,
crying baby. So far he has not cried much, for I am always at hand.
Babies only cry when their wants are not understood, and I am
constantly on the lookout for his. Oh! my sweet, my heart has opened
up so wide, while you allow yours to shrink and shrivel at the bidding
of society! I look for your coming with all a hermit's longing. I want
so much to know what you think of l'Estorade, just as you no doubt are
curious for my opinion of Macumer.
Write to me from your last resting-place. The gentlemen want to go and
meet our distinguished guests. Come, Queen of Paris, come to our
humble grange, where love at least will greet you!
MME. DE MACUMER TO THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
The name on this address will tell you, dear, that my petition has
been granted. Your father-in-law is now Comte de l'Estorade. I would
not leave Paris till I had obtained the gratification of your wishes,
and I am writing in the presence of the Keeper of the Seals, who has
come to tell me that the patent is signed.
Good-bye for a short time!
THE SAME TO THE SAME
I am ashamed to think how my sudden flight will have taken you by
surprise. But since I am above all honest, and since I love you not
one bit the less, I shall tell you the truth in four words: I am
Felipe's eyes were too often on you. You used to have little talks
together at the foot of your rock, which were a torture to me; and I
was fast becoming irritable and unlike myself. Your truly Spanish
beauty could not fail to recall to him his native land, and along with
it Marie Heredia, and I can be jealous of the past too. Your
magnificent black hair, your lovely dark eyes, your brow, where the
peaceful joy of motherhood stands out radiant against the shadows
which tell of past suffering, the freshness of your southern skin, far
fairer than that of a blonde like me, the splendid lines of your
figure, the breasts, on which my godson hangs, peeping through the
lace like some luscious fruit,--all this stabbed me in the eyes and in
the heart. In vain did I stick cornflowers in my curls, in vain set
off with cherry-colored ribbons the tameness of my pale locks,
everything looked washed out when Renee appeared--a Renee so unlike
the one I expected to find in your oasis.
Then Felipe made too much of the child, whom I found myself beginning
to hate. Yes, I confess it, that exuberance of life which fills your
house, making it gay with shouts and laughter--I wanted it for myself.
I read a regret in Macumer's eyes, and, unknown to him, I cried over
it two whole nights. I was miserable in your house. You are too
beautiful as a woman, too triumphant as a mother, for me to endure
Ah! you complained of your lot. Hypocrite! What would you have?
L'Estorade is most presentable; he talks well; he has fine eyes; and
his black hair, dashed with white, is very becoming; his southern
manners, too, have something attractive about them. As far as I can
make out, he will, sooner or later, be elected deputy for the Bouches-
du-Rhone; in the Chamber he is sure to come to the front, for you can
always count on me to promote your interests. The sufferings of his
exile have given him that calm and dignified air which goes half-way,
in my opinion, to make a politician. For the whole art of politics,
dear, seems to me to consist in looking serious. At this rate,
Macumer, as I told him, ought certainly to have a high position in the
And so, having completely satisfied myself of your happiness, I fly
off contented to my dear Chantepleurs, where Felipe must really
achieve his aspirations. I have made up my mind not to receive you
there without a fine baby at my breast to match yours.
Oh! I know very well I deserve all the epithets you can hurl at me. I
am a fool, a wretch, an idiot. Alas! that is just what jealousy means.
I am not vexed with you, but I was miserable, and you will forgive me
for escaping from my misery. Two days more, and I should have made an
exhibition of myself; yes, there would have been an outbreak of
But in spite of the rage gnawing at my heart, I am glad to have come,
glad to have seen you in the pride of your beautiful motherhood, my
friend still, as I remain yours in all the absorption of my love. Why,
even here at Marseilles, only a step from your door, I begin to feel
proud of you and of the splendid mother that you will make.
How well you judged your vocation! You seem to me born for the part of
mother rather than of lover, exactly as the reverse is true of me.
There are women capable of neither, hard-favored or silly women. A
good mother and a passionately loving wife have this in common, that
they both need intelligence and discretion ever at hand, and an
unfailing command of every womanly art and grace. Oh! I watched you
well; need I add, sly puss, that I admired you too! Your children will
be happy, but not spoilt, with your tenderness lapping them round and
the clear light of your reason playing softly on them.
Tell Louis the truth about my going away, but find some decent excuse
for your father-in-law, who seems to act as steward for the
establishment; and be careful to do the same for your family--a true
Provencal version of the Harlowe family. Felipe does not know why I
left, and he will never know. If he asks, I shall contrive to find
some colorable pretext, probably that you were jealous of me! Forgive
me this little conventional fib.
Good-bye. I write in haste, as I want you to get this at lunch-time;
and the postilion, who has undertaken to convey it to you, is here,
refreshing himself while he waits.
Many kisses to my dear little godson. Be sure you come to Chantepleurs
in October. I shall be alone there all the time that Macumer is away
in Sardinia, where he is designing great improvements in his estate.
At least that is his plan for the moment, and his pet vanity consists
in having a plan. Then he feels that he has a will of his own, and
this makes him very uneasy when he unfolds it to me. Good-bye!
THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO THE BARONNE DE MACUMER
Dear,--no words can express the astonishment of all our party when, at
luncheon, we were told that you had both gone, and, above all, when
the postilion who took you to Marseilles handed me your mad letter.
Why, naughty child, it was of your happiness, and nothing else, that
made the theme of those talks below the rock, on the "Louise" seat,
and you had not the faintest justification for objecting to them.
/Ingrata!/ My sentence on you is that you return here at my first
summons. In that horrid letter, scribbled on the inn paper, you did
not tell me what would be your next stopping place; so I must address
this to Chantepleurs.
Listen to me, dear sister of my heart. Know first, that my mind is set
on your happiness. Your husband, dear Louise, commands respect, not
only by his natural gravity and dignified expression, but also because
he somehow impresses one with the splendid power revealed in his
piquant plainness and in the fire of his velvet eyes; and you will
understand that it was some little time before I could meet him on
those easy terms which are almost necessary for intimate conversation.
Further, this man has been Prime Minister, and he idolizes you; whence
it follows that he must be a profound dissembler. To fish up secrets,
therefore, from the rocky caverns of this diplomatic soul is a work
demanding a skilful hand no less than a ready brain. Nevertheless, I
succeeded at last, without rousing my victim's suspicions, in
discovering many things of which you, my pet, have no conception.
You know that, between us two, my part is rather that of reason, yours
of imagination: I personify sober duty, you reckless love. It has
pleased fate to continue in our lives this contrast in character which
was imperceptible to all except ourselves. I am a simple country
vicountess, very ambitious, and making it her task to lead her family
on the road to prosperity. On the other hand, Macumer, late Duc de
Soria, has a name in the world, and you, a duchess by right, reign in
Paris, where reigning is no easy matter even for kings. You have a
considerable fortune, which will be doubled if Macumer carries out his
projects for developing his great estates in Sardinia, the resources
of which are matter of common talk at Marseilles. Deny, if you can,
that if either has the right to be jealous, it is not you. But, thank
God, we have both hearts generous enough to place our friendship
beyond reach of such vulgar pettiness.
I know you, dear; I know that, ere now, you are ashamed of having
fled. But don't suppose that your flight will save you from a single
word of discourse which I had prepared for your benefit to-day beneath
the rock. Read carefully then, I beg of you, what I say, for it
concerns you even more closely than Macumer, though he also enters
largely into my sermon.
Firstly, my dear, you do not love him. Before two years are over, you
will be sick of adoration. You will never look on Felipe as a husband;
to you he will always be the lover whom you can play with, for that is
how all women treat their lovers. You do not look up to him, or
reverence, or worship him as a woman should the god of her idolatry.
You see, I have made a study of love, my sweet, and more than once
have I taken soundings in the depth of my own heart. Now, as the
result of a careful diagnosis of your case, I can say with confidence,
this is not love.
Yes, dear Queen of Paris, you cannot escape the destiny of all queens.
The day will come when you long to be treated as a light-o'-love, to
be mastered and swept off your feet by a strong man, one who will not
prostrate himself in adoration before you, but will seize your arm
roughly in a fit of jealousy. Macumer loves you too fondly ever to be
able either to resist you or find fault with you. A single glance from
you, a single coaxing word, would melt his sternest resolution. Sooner
or later, you will learn to scorn this excessive devotion. He spoils
you, alas! just as I used to spoil you at the convent, for you are a
most bewitching woman, and there is no escaping your siren-like
Worse than all, you are candid, and it often happens that our
happiness depends on certain social hypocrisies to which you will
never stoop. For instance, society will not tolerate a frank display
of the wife's power over her husband. The convention is that a man
must no more show himself the lover of his wife, however passionately
he adores her, than a married woman may play the part of a mistress.
This rule you both disregard.
In the first place, my child, from what you have yourself told me, it
is clear that the one unpardonable sin in society is to be happy. If
happiness exists, no one must know of it. But this is a small point.
What seems to me important is that the perfect equality which reigns
between lovers ought never to appear in the case of husband and wife,
under pain of undermining the whole fabric of society and entailing
terrible disasters. If it is painful to see a man whom nature has made
a nonentity, how much worse is the spectacle of a man of parts brought
to that position? Before very long you will have reduced Macumer to
the mere shadow of a man. He will cease to have a will and character
of his own, and become mere clay in your hands. You will have so
completely moulded him to your likeness, that your household will
consist of only one person instead of two, and that one necessarily
imperfect. You will regret it bitterly; but when at last you deign to
open your eyes, the evil will be past cure. Do what we will, women do
not, and never will, possess the qualities which are characteristic of
men, and these qualities are absolutely indispensable to family life.
Already Macumer, blinded though he is, has a dim foreshadowing of this
future; he feels himself less a man through his love. His visit to
Sardinia is a proof to me that he hopes by this temporary separation
to succeed in recovering his old self.
You never scruple to use the power which his love has placed in your
hand. Your position of vantage may be read in a gesture, a look, a
tone. Oh! darling, how truly are you the mad wanton your mother called
you! You do not question, I fancy, that I am greatly Louis' superior.
Well, I would ask you, have you ever heard me contradict him? Am I not
always, in the presence of others, the wife who respects in him the
authority of the family? Hypocrisy! you will say. Well, listen to me.
It is true that if I want to give him any advice which I think may be
of use to him, I wait for the quiet and seclusion of our bedroom to
explain what I think and wish; but, I assure you, sweetheart, that
even there I never arrogate to myself the place of mentor. If I did
not remain in private the same submissive wife that I appear to
others, he would lose confidence in himself. Dear, the good we do to
others is spoilt unless we efface ourselves so completely that those
we help have no sense of inferiority. There is a wonderful sweetness
in these hidden sacrifices, and what a triumph for me in your
unsuspecting praises of Louis! There can be no doubt also that the
happiness, the comfort, the hope of the last two years have restored
what misfortune, hardship, solitude, and despondency has robbed him
This, then, is the sum-total of my observations. At the present moment
you love in Felipe, not your husband, but yourself. There is truth in
your father's words; concealed by the spring-flowers of your passion
lies all the great lady's selfishness. Ah! my child, how I must love
you to speak such bitter truths!
Let me tell you, if you will promise never to breathe a word of this
to the Baron, the end of our talk. We had been singing your praises in
every key, for he soon discovered that I loved you like a fondly-
cherished sister, and having insensibly brought him to a confidential
mood, I ventured to say:
"Louise has never yet had to struggle with life. She has been the
spoilt child of fortune, and she might yet have to pay for this were
you not there to act the part of father as well as lover."
"Ah! but is it possible? . . ." He broke off abruptly, like a man who
sees himself on the edge of a precipice. But the exclamation was
enough for me. No doubt, if you had stayed, he would have spoken more
My sweet, think of the day awaiting you when your husband's strength
will be exhausted, when pleasure will have turned to satiety, and he
sees himself, I will not say degraded, but shorn of his proper dignity
before you. The stings of conscience will then waken a sort of remorse
in him, all the more painful for you, because you will feel yourself
responsible, and you will end by despising the man whom you have not
accustomed yourself to respect. Remember, too, that scorn with a woman
is only the earliest phase of hatred. You are too noble and generous,
I know, ever to forget the sacrifices which Felipe has made for you;
but what further sacrifices will be left for him to make when he has,
so to speak, served up himself at the first banquet? Woe to the man,
as to the woman, who has left no desire unsatisfied! All is over then.
To our shame or our glory--the point is too nice for me to decide--it
is of love alone that women are insatiable.
Oh! Louise, change yet, while there is still time. If you would only
adopt the same course with Macumer that I have done with l'Estorade,
you might rouse the sleeping lion in your husband, who is made of the
stuff of heroes. One might almost say that you grudge him his
greatness. Would you feel no pride in using your power for other ends
than your own gratification, in awakening the genius of a gifted man,
as I in raising to a higher level one of merely common parts?
Had you remained with us, I should still have written this letter, for
in talking you might have cut me short or got the better of me with
your sharp tongue. But I know that you will read this thoughtfully and
weigh my warnings. Dear heart, you have everything in life to make you
happy, do not spoil your chances; return to Paris, I entreat you, as
soon as Macumer comes back. The engrossing claims of society, of which
I complained, are necessary for both of you; otherwise you would spend
your life in mutual self-absorption. A married woman ought not to be
too lavish of herself. The mother of a family, who never gives her
household an opportunity of missing her, runs the risk of palling on
them. If I have several children, as I trust for my own sake I may, I
assure you I shall make a point of reserving to myself certain hours
which shall be held sacred; even to one's children one's presence
should not be a matter of daily bread.
Farewell, my dear jealous soul! Do you know that many women would be
highly flattered at having roused this passing pang in you? Alas! I
can only mourn, for what is not mother in me is your dear friend. A
thousand loves. Make what excuse you will for leaving; if you are not
sure of Macumer, I am of Louis.
THE BARONNE DE MACUMER TO THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
My beloved beauty,--I was bitten with the fancy to see something of
Italy, and I am delighted at having carried off Macumer, whose plans
in regard to Sardinia are postponed.
This country is simple ravishing. The churches--above all, the chapels
--have a seductive, bewitching air, which must make every female
Protestant yearn after Catholicism. Macumer has been received with
acclamation, and they are all delighted to have made an Italian of so
distinguished a man. Felipe could have the Sardinian embassy at Paris
if I cared about it, for I am made much of at court.
If you write, address your letters to Florence. I have not time now to
go into any details, but I will tell you the story of our travels
whenever you come to Paris. We only remain here a week, and then go on
to Florence, taking Leghorn on the way. We shall stay a month in
Tuscany and a month at Naples, so as to reach Rome in November. Thence
we return home by Venice, where we shall spend the first fortnight of
December, and arrive in Paris, /via/ Milan and Turin, for January.
Our journey is a perfect honeymoon; the sight of new places gives
fresh life to our passion. Macumer did not know Italy at all, and we
have begun with that splendid Cornice road, which might be the work of
Good-bye, darling. Don't be angry if I don't write. It is impossible
to get a minute to oneself in traveling; my whole time is taken up
with seeing, admiring, and realizing my impressions. But not a word to
you of these till memory has given them their proper atmosphere.
THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE TO THE BARONNE DE MACUMER
My dear,--There is lying for you at Chantepleurs a full reply to the
letter you wrote me from Marseilles. This honeymoon journey, so far
from diminishing the fears I there expressed, makes me beg of you to
get my letter sent on from Nivernais.
The Government, it is said, are resolved on dissolution. This is
unlucky for the Crown, since the last session of this loyal Parliament
would have been devoted to the passing of laws, essential to the
consolidation of its power; and it is not less so for us, as Louis
will not be forty till the end of 1827. Fortunately, however, my
father has agreed to stand, and he will resign his seat when the right
Your godson has found out how to walk without his godmother's help. He
is altogether delicious, and begins to make the prettiest little signs
to me, which bring home to one that here is really a thinking being,
not a mere animal or sucking machine. His smiles are full of meaning.
I have been so successful in my profession of nurse that I shall wean
Armand in December. A year at the breast is quite enough; children who
are suckled longer are said to grow stupid, and I am all for popular
You must make a tremendous sensation in Italy, my fair one with the
golden locks. A thousand loves.
THE BARONNE DE MACUMER TO THE VICOMTESSE DE L'ESTORADE
Your atrocious letter has reached me here, the steward having
forwarded it by my orders. Oh! Renee . . . but I will spare you the
outburst of my wounded feelings, and simply tell you the effect your
We had just returned from a delightful reception given in our honor by
the ambassador, where I appeared in all my glory, and Macumer was
completely carried away in a frenzy of love which I could not
describe. Then I read him your horrible answer to my letter, and I
read it sobbing, at the risk of making a fright of myself. My dear
Arab fell at my feet, declaring that you raved. Then he carried me off
to the balcony of the palace where we are staying, from which we have
a view over part of the city; there he spoke to me words worthy of the
magnificent moonlight scene which lay stretched before us. We both
speak Italian now, and his love, told in that voluptuous tongue, so
admirably adapted to the expression of passion, sounded in my ears
like the most exquisite poetry. He swore that, even were you right in
your predictions, he would not exchange for a lifetime a single one of
our blessed nights or charming mornings. At this reckoning he has
already lived a thousand years. He is content to have me for his
mistress, and would claim no other title than that of lover. So proud
and pleased is he to see himself every day the chosen of my heart,
that were Heaven to offer him the alternative between living as you
would have us to for another thirty years with five children, and five
years spent amid the dear roses of our love, he would not hesitate. He