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Letters of Two Brides by Honore de Balzac

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darling, who made no response.

At last I told him that I would see him when my eyes were less red and
my voice was steady again.

My formal words drove him from the house. But by the time I had bathed
my eyes in iced water and cooled my face, I found him in our room, the
door into which was open, though I had heard no steps. He begged me to
tell him what was wrong.

"Nothing," I said; "I saw the mud of Paris on Fedelta's trembling
legs; it seemed strange that you should go there without telling me;
but, of course, you are free."

"I shall punish you for such wicked thoughts by not giving any
explanation till to-morrow," he replied.

"Look at me," I said.

My eyes met his; deep answered to deep. No, not a trace of the cloud
of disloyalty which, rising from the soul, must dim the clearness of
the eye. I feigned satisfaction, though really unconvinced. It is not
women only who can lie and dissemble!

The whole of the day we spent together. Ever and again, as I looked at
him, I realized how fast my heart-strings were bound to him. How I
trembled and fluttered within when, after a moment's absence, he
reappeared. I live in him, not in myself. My cruel sufferings gave the
lie to your unkind letter. Did I ever feel my life thus bound up in
the noble Spaniard, who adored me, as I adore this heartless boy? I
hate that mare! Fool that I was to keep horses! But the next thing
would have been to lame Gaston or imprison him in the cottage. Wild
thoughts like these filled my brain; you see how near I was to
madness! If love be not the cage, what power on earth can hold back
the man who wants to be free?

I asked him point-blank, "Do I bore you?"

"What needless torture you give yourself!" was his reply, while he
looked at me with tender, pitying eyes. "Never have I loved you so

"If that is true, my beloved, let me sell Fedelta," I answered.

"Sell her, by all means!"

The reply crushed me. Was it not a covert taunt at my wealth and his
own nothingness in the house? This may never have occurred to him, but
I thought it had, and once more I left him. It was night, and I would
go to bed.

Oh! Renee, to be alone with a harrowing thought drives one to thoughts
of death. These charming gardens, the starry night, the cool air,
laden with incense from our wealth of flowers, our valley, our hills--
all seemed to me gloomy, black, and desolate. It was as though I lay
at the foot of a precipice, surrounded by serpents and poisonous
plants, and saw no God in the sky. Such a night ages a woman.

Next morning I said:

"Take Fedelta and be off to Paris! Don't sell her; I love her. Does
she not carry you?"

But he was not deceived; my tone betrayed the storm of feeling which I
strove to conceal.

"Trust me!" he replied; and the gesture with which he held out his
hand, the glance of his eye, were so full of loyalty that I was

"What petty creatures women are!" I exclaimed.

"No, you love me, that is all," he said, pressing me to his heart.

"Go to Paris without me," I said, and this time I made him understand
that my suspicions were laid aside.

He went; I thought he would have stayed. I won't attempt to tell you
what I suffered. I found a second self within, quite strange to me. A
crisis like this has, for the woman who loves, a tragic solemnity that
baffles words; the whole of life rises before you then, and you search
in vain for any horizon to it; the veriest trifle is big with meaning,
a glance contains a volume, icicles drift on uttered words, and the
death sentence is read in a movement of the lips.

I thought he would have paid me back in kind; had I not been
magnanimous? I climbed to the top of the chalet, and my eyes followed
him on the road. Ah! my dear Renee, he vanished from my sight with an
appalling swiftness.

"How keen he is to go!" was the thought that sprang of itself.

Once more alone, I fell back into the hell of possibilities, the
maelstrom of mistrust. There were moments when I would have welcomed
any certainty, even the worst, as a relief from the torture of
suspense. Suspense is a duel carried on in the heart, and we give no
quarter to ourselves.

I paced up and down the walks. I returned to the house, only to tear
out again, like a mad woman. Gaston, who left at seven o'clock, did
not return till eleven. Now, as it only takes half an hour to reach
Paris through the park of St. Cloud and the Bois de Boulogne, it is
plain that he must have spent three hours in town. He came back
radiant, with a whip in his hand for me, an india-rubber whip with a
gold handle.

For a fortnight I had been without a whip, my old one being worn and

"Was it for this you tortured me?" I said, as I admired the
workmanship of this beautiful ornament, which contains a little scent-
box at one end.

Then it flashed on me that the present was a fresh artifice.
Nevertheless I threw myself at once on his neck, not without
reproaching him gently for having caused me so much pain for the sake
of a trifle. He was greatly pleased with his ingenuity; his eyes and
his whole bearing plainly showed the restrained triumph of the
successful plotter; for there is a radiance of the soul which is
reflected in every feature and turn of the body. While still examining
the beauties of this work of art, I asked him at a moment when we
happened to be looking each other in the face:

"Who is the artist?"

"A friend of mine."

"Ah! I see it has been mounted by Verdier," and I read the name of the
shop printed on the handle.

Gaston is nothing but a child yet. He blushed, and I made much of him
as a reward for the shame he felt in deceiving me. I pretended to
notice nothing, and he may well have thought the incident was over.

May 25th.

The next morning I was in my riding-habit by six o'clock, and by seven
landed at Verdier's, where several whips of the same pattern were
shown to me. One of the men serving recognized mine when I pointed it
out to him.

"We sold that yesterday to a young gentleman," he said. And from the
description I gave him of my traitor Gaston, not a doubt was left of
his identity. I will spare you the palpitations which rent my heart
during that journey to Paris and the little scene there, which marked
the turning-point of my life.

By half-seven I was home again, and Gaston found me, fresh and
blooming, in my morning dress, sauntering about with a make-believe
nonchalance. I felt confident that old Philippe, who had been taken
into my confidence, would not have betrayed my absence.

"Gaston," I said, as we walked by the side of the lake, "you cannot
blind me to the difference between a work of art inspired by
friendship and something which has been cast in a mould."

He turned white, and fixed his eyes on me rather than on the damaging
piece of evidence I thrust before them.

"My dear," I went on, "this is not a whip; it is a screen behind which
you are hiding something from me."

Thereupon I gave myself the gratification of watching his hopeless
entanglement in the coverts and labyrinths of deceit and the desperate
efforts he made to find some wall he might scale and thus escape. In
vain; he had perforce to remain upon the field, face to face with an
adversary, who at last laid down her arms in a feigned complacence.
But it was too late. The fatal mistake, against which my mother had
tried to warm me, was made. My jealousy, exposed in all its nakedness,
had led to war and all its stratagems between Gaston and myself.
Jealousy, dear, has neither sense nor decency.

I made up my mind now to suffer in silence, but to keep my eyes open,
until my doubts were resolved one way or another. Then I would either
break with Gaston or bow to my misfortune: no middle course is
possible for a woman who respects herself.

What can he be concealing? For a secret there is, and the secret has
to do with a woman. Is it some youthful escapade for which he still
blushes? But if so, what? The word /what/ is written in letters of
fire on all I see. I read it in the glassy water of my lake, in the
shrubbery, in the clouds, on the ceilings, at table, in the flowers of
the carpets. A voice cries to me /what?/ in my sleep. Dating from the
morning of my discovery, a cruel interest has sprung into our lives,
and I have become familiar with the bitterest thought that can corrode
the heart--the thought of treachery in him one loves. Oh! my dear,
there is heaven and hell together in such a life. Never had I felt
this scorching flame, I to whom love had appeared only in the form of
devoutest worship.

"So you wished to know the gloomy torture-chamber of pain!" I said to
myself. Good, the spirits of evil have heard your prayer; go on your
road, unhappy wretch!

May 30th.

Since that fatal day Gaston no longer works with the careless ease of
the wealthy artist, whose work is merely pastime; he sets himself
tasks like a professional writer. Four hours a day he devotes to
finishing his two plays.

"He wants money!"

A voice within whispered the thought. But why? He spends next to
nothing; we have absolutely no secrets from each other; there is not a
corner of his study which my eyes and my fingers may not explore. His
yearly expenditure does not amount to two thousand francs, and I know
that he has thirty thousand, I can hardly say laid by, but scattered
loose in a drawer. You can guess what is coming. At midnight, while he
was sleeping, I went to see if the money was still there. An icy
shiver ran through me. The drawer was empty.

That same week I discovered that he went to Sevres to fetch his
letters, and these letters he must tear up immediately; for though I
am a very Figaro in contrivances, I have never yet seen a trace of
one. Alas! my sweet, despite the fine promises and vows by which I
bound myself after the scene of the whip, an impulse, which I can only
call madness, drove me to follow him in one of his rapid rides to the
post-office. Gaston was appalled to be thus discovered on horseback,
paying the postage of a letter which he held in his hand. He looked
fixedly at me, and then put spurs to Fedelta. The pace was so hard
that I felt shaken to bits when I reached the lodge gate, though my
mental agony was such at the time that it might well have dulled all
consciousness of bodily pain. Arrived at the gate, Gaston said
nothing; he rang the bell and waited without a word. I was more dead
than alive. I might be mistaken or I might not, but in neither case
was it fitting for Armande-Louise-Marie de Chaulieu to play the spy. I
had sunk to the level of the gutter, by the side of courtesans, opera-
dancers, mere creatures of instinct; even the vulgar shop-girl or
humble seamstress might look down on me.

What a moment! At last the door opened; he handed his horse to the
groom, and I also dismounted, but into his arms, which were stretched
out to receive me. I threw my skirt over my left arm, gave him my
right, and we walked on--still in silence. The few steps we thus took
might be reckoned to me for a hundred years of purgatory. A swarm of
thoughts beset me as I walked, now seeming to take visible form in
tongues of fire before my eyes, now assailing my mind, each with its
own poisoned dart. When the groom and the horses were far away, I
stopped Gaston, and, looking him in the face, said, as I pointed, with
a gesture that you should have seen, to the fatal letter still in his
right hand:

"May I read it?"

He gave it to me. I opened it and found a letter from Nathan, the
dramatic author, informing Gaston that a play of his had been
accepted, learned, rehearsed, and would be produced the following
Saturday. He also enclosed a box ticket.

Though for me this was the opening of heaven's gates to the martyr,
yet the fiend would not leave me in peace, but kept crying, "Where are
the thirty thousand francs?" It was a question which self-respect,
dignity, all my old self in fact, prevented me from uttering. If my
thought became speech, I might as well throw myself into the lake at
once, and yet I could hardly keep the words down. Dear friend, was not
this a trial passing the strength of woman?

I returned the letter, saying:

"My poor Gaston, you are getting bored down here. Let us go back to
Paris, won't you?"

"To Paris?" he said. "But why? I only wanted to find out if I had any
gift, to taste the flowing bowl of success!"

Nothing would be easier than for me to ransack the drawer sometime
while he is working and pretend great surprise at finding the money
gone. But that would be going half-way to meet the answer, "Oh! my
friend So-and-So was hard up!" etc., which a man of Gaston's quick wit
would not have far to seek.

The moral, my dear, is that the brilliant success of this play, which
all Paris is crowding to see, is due to us, though the whole credit
goes to Nathan. I am represented by one of the two stars in the
legend: Et M * *. I saw the first night from the depths of one of the
stage boxes.

July 1st.

Gaston's work and his visits to Paris shall continue. He is preparing
new plays, partly because he wants a pretext for going to Paris,
partly in order to make money. Three plays have been accepted, and two
more are commissioned.

Oh! my dear, I am lost, all is darkness around me. I would set fire to
the house in a moment if that would bring light. What does it all
mean? Is he ashamed of taking money from me? He is too high-minded for
so trumpery a matter to weigh with him. Besides, scruples of the kind
could only be the outcome of some love affair. A man would take
anything from his wife, but from the woman he has ceased to care for,
or is thinking of deserting, it is different. If he needs such large
sums, it must be to spend them on a woman. For himself, why should he
hesitate to draw from my purse? Our savings amount to one hundred
thousand francs!

In short, my sweetheart, I have explored a whole continent of
possibilities, and after carefully weighing all the evidence, am
convinced I have a rival. I am deserted--for whom? At all costs I must
see the unknown.

July 10th.

Light has come, and it is all over with me. Yes, Renee, at the age of
thirty, in the perfection of my beauty, with all the resources of a
ready wit and the seductive charms of dress at my command, I am
betrayed--and for whom? A large-boned Englishwoman, with big feet and
thick waist--a regular British cow! There is no longer room for doubt.
I will tell you the history of the last few days.

Worn out with suspicions, which were fed by Gaston's guilty silence
(for, if he had helped a friend, why keep it a secret from me?), his
insatiable desire for money, and his frequent journeys to Paris;
jealous too of the work from which he seemed unable to tear himself, I
at last made up my mind to take certain steps, of such a degrading
nature that I cannot tell you about them. Suffice it to say that three
days ago I ascertained that Gaston, when in Paris, visits a house in
the Rue de la Ville l'Eveque, where he guards his mistress with
jealous mystery, unexampled in Paris. The porter was surly, and I
could get little out of him, but that little was enough to put an end
to any lingering hope, and with hope to life. On this point my mind
was resolved, and I only waited to learn the whole truth first.

With this object I went to Paris and took rooms in a house exactly
opposite the one which Gaston visits. Thence I saw him with my own
eyes enter the courtyard on horseback. Too soon a ghastly fact forced
itself on me. This Englishwoman, who seems to me about thirty-six, is
known as Mme. Gaston. This discovery was my deathblow.

I saw him next walking to the Tuileries with a couple of children. Oh!
my dear, two children, the living images of Gaston! The likeness is so
strong that it bears scandal on the face of it. And what pretty
children! in their handsome English costumes! She is the mother of his
children. Here is the key to the whole mystery.

The woman herself might be a Greek statue, stepped down from some
monument. Cold and white as marble, she moves sedately with a mother's
pride. She is undeniably beautiful but heavy as a man-of-war. There is
no breeding or distinction about her; nothing of the English lady.
Probably she is a farmer's daughter from some wretched and remote
country village, or, it may be, the eleventh child of some poor

I reached home, after a miserable journey, during which all sorts of
fiendish thoughts had me at their mercy, with hardly any life left in
me. Was she married? Did he know her before our marriage? Had she been
deserted by some rich man, whose mistress she was, and thus thrown
back upon Gaston's hands? Conjectures without end flitted through my
brain, as though conjecture were needed in the presence of the

The next day I returned to Paris, and by a free use of my purse
extracted from the porter the information that Mme. Gaston was legally

His reply to my question took the form, "Yes, /Miss/."

July 15th.

My dear, my love for Gaston is stronger than ever since that morning,
and he has every appearance of being still more deeply in love. He is
so young! A score of times it has been on my lips, when we rise in the
morning, to say, "Then you love me better than the lady of the Rue de
la Ville l'Eveque?" But I dare not explain to myself why the words are
checked on my tongue.

"Are you very fond of children?" I asked.

"Oh, yes!" was his reply; "but children will come!"

"What makes you think so?"

"I have consulted the best doctors, and they agree in advising me to
travel for a couple of months."

"Gaston," I said, "if love in absence had been possible for me, do you
suppose I should ever have left the convent?"

He laughed; but as for me, dear, the word "travel" pierced my heart.
Rather, far rather, would I leap from the top of the house than be
rolled down the staircase, step by step.--Farewell, my sweetheart. I
have arranged for my death to be easy and without horrors, but
certain. I made my will yesterday. You can come to me now, the
prohibition is removed. Come, then, and receive my last farewell. I
will not die by inches; my death, like my life, shall bear the impress
of dignity and grace.

Good-bye, dear sister soul, whose affection has never wavered nor
grown weary, but has been the constant tender moonlight of my soul. If
the intensity of passion has not been ours, at least we have been
spared its venomous bitterness. How rightly you have judged of life!


July 16th.

My dear Louise,--I send this letter by an express before hastening to
the chalet myself. Take courage. Your last letter seemed to me so
frantic, that I thought myself justified, under the circumstances, in
confiding all to Louis; it was a question of saving you from yourself.
If the means we have employed have been, like yours, repulsive, yet
the result is so satisfactory that I am certain you will approve. I
went so far as to set the police to work, but the whole thing remains
a secret between the prefect, ourselves and you.

In one word, Gaston is a jewel! But here are the facts. His brother,
Louis Gaston, died at Calcutta, while in the service of a mercantile
company, when he was on the very point of returning to France, a rich,
prosperous, married man, having received a very large fortune with his
wife, who was the widow of an English merchant. For ten years he had
worked hard that he might be able to send home enough to support his
brother, to whom he was devotedly attached, and from whom his letters
generously concealed all his trials and disappointments.

Then came the failure of the great Halmer house; the widow was ruined,
and the sudden shock affected Louis Gaston's brain. He had no mental
energy left to resist the disease which attacked him, and he died in
Bengal, whither he had gone to try and realize the remnants of his
wife's property. The dear, good fellow had deposited with a banker a
first sum of three hundred thousand francs, which was to go to his
brother, but the banker was involved in the Halmer crash, and thus
their last resource failed them.

Louis' widow, the handsome woman whom you took for your rival, arrived
in Paris with two children--your nephews--and an empty purse, her
mother's jewels having barely sufficed to pay for bringing them over.
The instructions which Louis Gaston had given the banker for sending
the money to his brother enabled the widow to find your husband's
former home. As Gaston had disappeared without leaving any address,
Mme. Louis Gaston was directed to d'Arthez, the only person who could
give any information about him.

D'Arthez was the more ready to relieve the young woman's pressing
needs, because Louis Gaston, at the time of his marriage four years
before, had written to make inquiries about his brother from the
famous author, whom he knew to be one of his friends. The Captain had
consulted d'Arthez as to the best means of getting the money safely
transferred to Marie, and d'Arthez had replied, telling him that
Gaston was now a rich man through his marriage with the Baronne de
Macumer. The personal beauty, which was the mother's rich heritage to
her sons, had saved them both--one in India, the other in Paris--from
destitution. A touching story, is it not?

D'Arthez naturally wrote, after a time, to tell your husband of the
condition of his sister-in-law and her children, informing him, at the
same time, of the generous intentions of the Indian Gaston towards his
Paris brother, which an unhappy chance had frustrated. Gaston, as you
may imagine, hurried off to Paris. Here is the first ride accounted
for. During the last five years he had saved fifty thousand francs out
of the income you forced him to accept, and this sum he invested in
the public funds under the names of his two nephews, securing them
each, in this way, an income of twelve hundred francs. Next he
furnished his sister-in-law's rooms, and promised her a quarterly
allowance of three thousand francs. Here you see the meaning of his
dramatic labors and the pleasure caused him by the success of his
first play.

Mme. Gaston, therefore, is no rival of yours, and has every right to
your name. A man of Gaston's sensitive delicacy was bound to keep the
affair secret from you, knowing as he did, your generous nature. Nor
does he look on what you give him as his own. D'Arthez read me the
letter he had from your husband, asking him to be one of the witnesses
at his marriage. Gaston in this declares that his happiness would have
been perfect but for the one drawback of his poverty and indebtedness
to you. A virgin soul is at the mercy of such scruples. Either they
make themselves felt or they do not; and when they do, it is easy to
imagine the conflict of feeling and embarrassment to which they give
rise. Nothing is more natural than Gaston's wish to provide in secret
a suitable maintenance for the woman who is his brother's widow, and
who had herself set aside one hundred thousand francs for him from her
own fortune. She is a handsome woman, warm-hearted, and extremely
well-bred, but not clever. She is a mother; and, you may be sure, I
lost my heart to her at first sight when I found her with one child in
her arms, and the other dressed like a little lord. The children
first! is written in every detail of her house.

Far from being angry, therefore, with your beloved husband, you should
find in all this fresh reason for loving him. I have met him, and
think him the most delightful young fellow in Paris. Yes! dear child,
when I saw him, I had no difficulty in understanding that a woman
might lose her head about him; his soul is mirrored in his
countenance. If I were you, I should settle the widow and her children
at the chalet, in a pretty little cottage which you could have built
for them, and adopt the boys!

Be at peace, then, dear soul, and plan this little surprise, in your
turn, for Gaston.



Ah! my dear friend, what can I say in answer except the cruel /"It is
too late"/ of that fool Lafayette to his royal master? Oh! my life, my
sweet life, what physician will give it back to me. My own hand has
dealt the deathblow. Alas! have I not been a mere will-o'-the-wisp,
whose twinkling spark was fated to perish before it reached a flame?
My eyes rain torrents of tears--and yet they must not fall when I am
with him. I fly to him, and he seeks me. My despair is all within.
This torture Dante forgot to place in his /Inferno./ Come to see me


THE CHALET, August 7th.

My love,--Take the children away to Provence without me; I remain with
Louise, who has only a few days yet to live. I cannot leave either her
or her husband, for whose reason I fear.

You know the scrap of letter which sent me flying to Ville d'Avray,
picking up the doctors on my way. Since then I have not left my
darling friend, and it has been impossible to write to you, for I have
sat up every night for a fortnight.

When I arrived, I found her with Gaston, in full dress, beautiful,
laughing, happy. It was a heroic falsehood! They were like two lovely
children together in their restored confidence. For a moment I was
deceived, like Gaston, by the effontery; but Louise pressed my hand,

"He must not know; I am dying."

An icy chill fell over me as I felt her burning hand and saw the red
spots on her cheeks. I congratulated myself on my prudence in leaving
the doctors in the wood till they should be sent for.

"Leave us for a little," she said to Gaston. "Two women who have not
met for five years have plenty of secrets to talk over, and Renee, I
have no doubt, has things to confide in me."

Directly we were alone, she flung herself into my arms, unable longer
to restrain her tears.

"Tell me about it," I said. "I have brought with me, in case of need,
the best surgeon and the best physician from the hospital, and
Bianchon as well; there are four altogether."

"Ah!" she cried, "have them in at once if they can save me, if there
is still time. The passion which hurried me to death now cries for

"But what have you done to yourself?"

"I have in a few days brought myself to the last stage of

"But how?"

"I got myself into a profuse perspiration in the night, and then ran
out and lay down by the side of the lake in the dew. Gaston thinks I
have a cold, and I am dying!"

"Send him to Paris; I will fetch the doctors myself," I said, as I
rushed out wildly to the spot where I had left them.

Alas! my love, after the consultation was over, not one of the doctors
gave me the least hope; they all believe that Louise will die with the
fall of the leaves. The dear child's constitution has wonderfully
helped the success of her plan. It seems she has a predisposition to
this complaint; and though, in the ordinary course, she might have
lived a long time, a few days' folly has made the case desperate.

I cannot tell you what I felt on hearing this sentence, based on such
clear explanations. You know that I have lived in Louise as much as in
my own life. I was simply crushed, and could not stir to escort to the
door these harbingers of evil. I don't know how long I remained lost
in bitter thoughts, the tears running down my cheeks, when I was
roused from my stupor by the words:

"So there is no hope for me!" in a clear, angelic voice.

It was Louise, with her hand on my shoulder. She made me get up, and
carried me off to her small drawing-room. With a beseeching glance,
she went on:

"Stay with me to the end; I won't have doleful faces round me. Above
all, I must keep the truth from /him/. I know that I have the strength
to do it. I am full of youth and spirit, and can die standing! For
myself, I have no regrets. I am dying as I wished to die, still young
and beautiful, in the perfection of my womanhood.

"As for him, I can see very well now that I should have made his life
miserable. Passion has me in its grips, like a struggling fawn,
impatient of the toils. My groundless jealousy has already wounded him
sorely. When the day came that my suspicions met only indifference--
which in the long run is the rightful meed of all jealousy--well, that
would have been my death. I have had my share of life. There are
people whose names on the muster-roll of the world show sixty years of
service, and yet in all that time they have not had two years of real
life, whilst my record of thirty is doubled by the intensity of my

"Thus for him, as well as for me, the close is a happy one. But
between us, dear Renee, it is different. You lose a loving sister, and
that is a loss which nothing can repair. You alone here have the right
to mourn my death."

After a long pause, during which I could only see her through a mist
of tears, she continued:

"The moral of my death is a cruel one. My dear doctor in petticoats
was right; marriage cannot rest upon passion as its foundation, nor
even upon love. How fine and noble is your life! keeping always to the
one safe road, you give your husband an ever-growing affection; while
the passionate eagerness with which I threw myself into wedded life
was bound in nature to diminish. Twice have I gone astray, and twice
has Death stretched forth his bony hand to strike my happiness. The
first time, he robbed me of the noblest and most devoted of men; now
it is my turn, the grinning monster tears me from the arms of my poet
husband, with all his beauty and his grace.

"Yet I would not complain. Have I not known in turn two men, each the
very pattern of nobility--one in mind, the other in outward form? In
Felipe, the soul dominated and transformed the body; in Gaston, one
could not say which was supreme--heart, mind, or grace of form. I die
adored--what more could I wish for? Time, perhaps, in which to draw
near the God of whom I may have too little thought. My spirit will
take its flight towards Him, full of love, and with the prayer that
some day, in the world above, He will unite me once more to the two
who made a heaven of my life below. Without them, paradise would be a
desert to me.

"To others, my example would be fatal, for mine was no common lot. To
meet a Felipe or a Gaston is more than mortals can expect, and
therefore the doctrine of society in regard to marriage accords with
the natural law. Woman is weak, and in marrying she ought to make an
entire sacrifice of her will to the man who, in return, should lay his
selfishness at her feet. The stir which women of late years have
created by their whining and insubordination is ridiculous, and only
shows how well we deserve the epithet of children, bestowed by
philosophers on our sex."

She continued talking thus in the gentle voice you know so well,
uttering the gravest truths in the prettiest manner, until Gaston
entered, bringing with him his sister-in-law, the two children, and
the English nurse, whom, at Louise's request, he had been to fetch
from Paris.

"Here are the pretty instruments of my torture," she said, as her
nephews approached. "Was not the mistake excusable? What a wonderful
likeness to their uncle!"

She was most friendly to Mme. Gaston the elder and begged that she
would look upon the chalet as her home; in short, she played the
hostess to her in her best de Chaulieu manner, in which no one can
rival her.

I wrote at once to the Duc and Duchesse de Chaulieu, the Duc de
Rhetore, and the Duc de Lenoncourt-Givry, as well as to Madeleine. It
was time. Next day, Louise, worn out with so much exertion, was unable
to go out; indeed, she only got up for dinner. In the course of the
evening, Madeleine de Lenoncourt, her two brothers, and her mother
arrived. The coolness which Louise's second marriage had caused
between herself and her family disappeared. Every day since that
evening, Louise's father and both her brothers have ridden over in the
morning, and the two duchesses spend all their evenings at the chalet.
Death unites as well as separates; it silences all paltry feeling.

Louise is perfection in her charm, her grace, her good sense, her wit,
and her tenderness. She has retained to the last that perfect tact for
which she has been so famous, and she lavishes on us the treasures of
her brilliant mind, which made her one of the queens of Paris.

"I should like to look well even in my coffin," she said with her
matchless smile, as she lay down on the bed where she was to linger
for a fortnight.

Her room has nothing of the sick-chamber in it; medicines, ointments,
the whole apparatus of nursing, is carefully concealed.

"Is not my deathbed pretty!" she said to the Sevres priest who came to
confess her.

We gloated over her like misers. All this anxiety, and the terrible
truths which dawned on him, have prepared Gaston for the worst. He is
full of courage, but the blow has gone home. It would not surprise me
to see him follow his wife in the natural course. Yesterday, as we
were walking round the lake, he said to me:

"I must be a father to those two children," and he pointed to his
sister-in-law, who was taking the boys for a walk. "But though I shall
do nothing to hasten my end, I want your promise that you will be a
second mother to them, and will persuade your husband to accept the
office of guardian, which I shall depute to him in conjunction with my

He said this quite simply, like a man who knows he is not long for
this world. He has smiles on his face to meet Louise's, and it is only
I whom he does not deceive. He is a mate for her in courage.

Louise has expressed a wish to see her godson, but I am not sorry he
should be in Provence; she might want to remember him generously, and
I should be in a great difficulty.

Good-bye, my love.

August 25th (her birthday).

Yesterday evening Louise was delirious for a short time; but her
delirium was the prettiest babbling, which shows that even the madness
of gifted people is not that of fools or nobodies. In a mere thread of
a voice she sang some Italian airs from /I Puritani, La Sonnambula,
Moise/, while we stood round the bed in silence. Not one of us, not
even the Duc de Rhetore, had dry eyes, so clear was it to us all that
her soul was in this fashion passing from us. She could no longer see
us! Yet she was there still in the charm of the faint melody, with its
sweetness not of this earth.

During the night the death agony began. It is now seven in the
morning, and I have just myself raised her from bed. Some flicker of
strength revived; she wished to sit by her window, and asked for
Gaston's hand. And then, my love, the sweetest spirit whom we shall
ever see on this earth departed, leaving us the empty shell.

The last sacrament had been administered the evening before, unknown
to Gaston, who was taking a snatch of sleep during this agonizing
ceremony; and after she was moved to the window, she asked me to read
her the /De Profundis/ in French, while she was thus face to face with
the lovely scene, which was her handiwork. She repeated the words
after me to herself, and pressed the hands of her husband, who knelt
on the other side of the chair.

August 26th.

My heart is broken. I have just seen her in her winding-sheet; her
face is quite pale now with purple shadows. Oh! I want my children! my
children! Bring me my children!



The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Arthez, Daniel d'
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Member for Arcis
The Secrets of a Princess

Beauseant, Marquise de
The Deserted Woman

Bianchon, Horace
Father Goriot
The Atheist's Mass
Cesar Birotteau
The Commission in Lunacy
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Government Clerks
A Study of Woman
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Seamy Side of History
The Magic Skin
A Second Home
A Prince of Bohemia
The Muse of the Department
The Imaginary Mistress
The Middle Classes
Cousin Betty
The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche

Bridau, Joseph
The Purse
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Start in Life
Modeste Mignon
Another Study of Woman
Pierre Grassou
Cousin Betty
The Member for Arcis

Bruel, Claudine Chaffaroux, Madame du
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Prince of Bohemia
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Middle Classes

Canalis, Constant-Cyr-Melchior, Baron de
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Modeste Mignon
The Magic Skin
Another Study of Woman
A Start in Life
The Unconscious Humorists
The Member for Arcis

Chaulieu, Henri, Duc de
Modeste Mignon
A Bachelor's Establishment
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Thirteen

Chaulieu, Eleonore, Duchesse de
Eugenie Grandet

Dudley, Lady Arabella
The Lily of the Valley
The Ball at Sceaux
The Magic Skin
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve

Esgrignon, Victurnien, Comte (then Marquis d')
Jealousies of a Country Town
A Man of Business
The Secrets of a Princess
Cousin Betty

Espard, Jeanne-Clementine-Athenais de Blamont-Chauvry, Marquise d'
The Commission in Lunacy
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Another Study of Woman
The Gondreville Mystery
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve

Estorade, Louis, Chevalier, then Vicomte and Comte de l'
The Member for Arcis

Estorade, Madame de l'
The Member for Arcis
Ursule Mirouet

Estorade, Armand de l'
The Member for Arcis

Gaston, Louis
La Grenadiere

Gaston, Marie
La Grenadiere
The Member for Arcis

The Lily of the Valley
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Lenoncourt-Givry, Duc de
Cousin Betty
The Member for Arcis

Lenoncourt-Givry, Duchesse de
The Lily of the Valley
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Marsay, Henri de
The Thirteen
The Unconscious Humorists
Another Study of Woman
The Lily of the Valley
Father Goriot
Jealousies of a Country Town
Ursule Mirouet
A Marriage Settlement
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
The Ball at Sceaux
Modeste Mignon
The Secrets of a Princess
The Gondreville Mystery
A Daughter of Eve

The Member for Arcis

Maucombe, Comte de
Lost Illusions

Maufrigneuse, Duchesse de
The Secrets of a Princess
Modeste Mignon
Jealousies of a Country Town
The Muse of the Department
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Another Study of Woman
The Gondreville Mystery
The Member for Arcis

Mirbel, Madame de
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Secrets of a Princess

Nathan, Raoul
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Secrets of a Princess
A Daughter of Eve
The Seamy Side of History
The Muse of the Department
A Prince of Bohemia
A Man of Business
The Unconscious Humorists

Rhetore, Duc Alphonse de
A Bachelor's Establishment
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
Albert Savarus
The Member for Arcis

Sallenauve, Comtesse de
The Member for Arcis

Stael-Holstein (Anne-Louise-Germaine Necker, Baronne de
The Chouans
Louis Lambert

Talleyrand-Perigord, Charles-Maurice de
The Chouans
The Gondreville Mystery
The Thirteen
Gaudissart II.

Vandenesse, Comte Felix de
The Lily of the Valley
Lost Illusions
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
Cesar Birotteau
A Start in Life
The Marriage Settlement
The Secrets of a Princess
Another Study of Woman
The Gondreville Mystery
A Daughter of Eve

Massimilla Doni
Lost Illusions
Gaudissart II

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