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Raphael by Alphonse de Lamartine

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Comedie d'Amour Series


It is all very well for Lamartine to explain, in his original prologue,
that the touching, fascinating and pathetic story of Raphael was the
experience of another man. It is well known that these feeling pages
are but transcripts of an episode of his own heart-history. That the
tale is one of almost feminine sentimentality is due, in some measure,
perhaps, to the fact that, during his earliest and most impressionable
years, Lamartine was educated by his mother and was greatly influenced
by her ardent and poetical character. Who shall say how much depends on
one's environment during these tender years of childhood, and how often
has it not been proved that "the child is father to the man?" The
marvel of it is that a man so exquisitely sensitive, of such
extraordinary delicacy of feeling, should have been able, in later
years, to stand the storm and stress of political life and the grave
responsibilities of statesmanship.

Although not written in metrical form, Raphael is really a poem--a
prose poem. Never upon canvas of painter were spread more delicate
tints, hues, colors, shadings, blendings and suggestions, than in these
pages. Not only do we find ourselves, in the descriptions of scenery,
near to Nature's heart, but, in the story itself, near to the heart of
man. Aix in Savoy was, in Lamartine's time, a fashionable resort for
valitudinarians and invalids. Among the patrons of the place was Madame
Charles, whose memory Lamartine has immortalized as "Julie" in Raphael
and as "Elvire" in the beautiful lines of the _Meditations_. In drawing
the character "Julie," idealism and sentimentalism have full play. The
whole story is romantic in the extreme. The influence of Byron is
clearly to be seen. The beautiful hills of Savoy, tinged with the
melancholy tints of autumn, were a fit setting for the meeting with the
fair invalid. Besides physical invalidism, the pair were soul-sick and
heart-sick. Such were their points of sympathy, an affinity was the
most natural thing in the world. "Ships that pass in the night" were
these two creatures, stranded by illness, "out of the world's way,
hidden apart." At the feast of pure, unselfish, romantic love that
followed, there was always a death's-head present, always the sinking
fear, always the mute resignation on one side or the other. Death and
love have been a combination that poets have used since the world
began. And so, as the early snow whitened the pines on the hilltops of
Savoy, this pathetic and ultra-sentimental love-affair between the
banished _Parisienne_ and the poet had its beginning. That it could
have but one ending the reader knows from the start. But with what
breathless interest do we follow this history of love! We seem to be
admitted to the confidences of beings of another sphere, to celestial
heights of affection. We hear the heart-beats and see the glances of
the languid, languorous eyes. The universe itself seems to stand still
for these two lovers. Their heads are among the stars, their hearts in
heaven. Their love is as pure as a sonnet of Keats, as ineffable as
shimmering starlight. Day by day we trace its current, we cannot say
growth because it sprang into life full-grown. Although Julie said that
"her life was not worth a tear," she caused torrents of tears to flow.
From the first, their love seemed centuries old, so entirely was it a
part of their being. Day after day their souls were revealed to each
other, their hearts became more united. Every pure chord of psychic
affection was struck, even almost to the distracting discord of suicide
together, that they might never part, and from which they were saved as
by a miracle. In such unsullied love, there is an element of worship.
It is the sublimation of passion, freed from sensuous dross, a
spiritual efflorescence, a white flame of the soul.

The parting of the lover, the pursuit, their meeting again in Julie's
home in Paris, the flickering candle of her waning life, burning down
to its socket, the touching interchange of letters, the gathering
shadows of the end, all these have stirred the hearts of entire
Christendom, appealing to all ages and conditions. Raphael is a lovers'
rosary.--C. C. STARKWEATHER.


Lamartine was born at Macon, October 21, 1790. His father was
imprisoned during the Terror, narrowly escaping the guillotine. Taught
at first by his mother, young Lamartine was sent to a boarding school
at Lyons, and later to the college of the Peres de la Foi at Belley.
Here he remained till 1809, and after studying at home for two years,
he traveled in Italy, taking notes and receiving impressions which were
to prove so valuable to him in his literary work. He saw service in the
Royal Body-Guard upon the restoration of the Bourbons. When Napoleon
came back from Elba, Lamartine went to Switzerland and then to Aix in
Savoy. At Aix he fell in love with Madame Charles, who died in 1817.
This love-episode, ending so pathetically, became the subject of much
of his verse, and forms the basis of the famous Raphael, a book of the
purest, most delicate and elevated sentiment. Resigning from the guard,
he enjoyed two more "wander-years," revisiting Switzerland, Savoy and

A collection of his poems, including the famous _Lac_, was published
under the title _Meditations Poetiques_ in 1820, and leaped into
immediate popularity both with the sternest critics and the public at
large. His literary success led to political preferment, and he entered
the diplomatic service as Secretary to the French Embassy at Naples in
1823. That same year he was married at Geneva to an English lady,
Marianne Birch. His second volume of poetry now appeared, the
_Nouvelles Meditations_. He was transferred to Florence in 1824. In
1825 he published his continuation of Byron, _Le Dernier Chant du
Pelerinage de Childe Harold_. A passage in this poem gave offense to an
Italian officer, Colonel Pepe, with whom Lamartine fought a duel. The
_Harmonies Politiques et Religieuses_ appeared in 1829. He became
active in politics, and was sent on a special mission to Prince Leopold
of Saxe-Coburg, afterward King of the Belgians. He was elected during
this year to the French Academy, at his second candidacy.

After the publication of his pamphlet _La Politique Rationelle_ he was
defeated in a contest for membership in the National Assembly. He
started, in 1832, upon a long journey in the East with his wife and
daughter, Julia. The latter died at Beyrout in 1833. A description of
his travels was the theme of his _Voyage en Orient_, appearing in 1835.
In his absence he had been elected from Bergues to the Assembly, in
which, on his return, he made his first speech early in 1834. As a
political orator his power was second to none.

His poems now became more philosophical. _Jocelyn_ was printed in 1836,
_La Chute d'Un Ange_ in 1838, and _Les Recueillements_ in 1839. A
political as well as a literary sensation was produced by his _Histoire
des Girondins_, 1847, which, in fact, was inspired by his newly
acquired belief in democracy. He became Minister of Foreign Affairs of
the Provisional Government in 1848, was elected to the new Assembly
from ten different departments, and became a member of the Executive
Committee, which made him one of the most conspicuous statesmen of
Europe. He was unsuited, however, for executive authority, and soon
disappeared from power, being supplanted in popular favor by Cavaignac.
His rise and fall in the field of statesmanship were equally sudden,
the same year including both.

Lamartine now began to pay off his debts by literary labor. _Les
Confidences_, containing _Graziella_ and the ever popular _Raphael_
came from the press in 1849, followed by the _Nouvelles Confidences_ in
1851. Among his other works are: _Genievre_, 1849; _Le Tailleur de
Pierres de Saint Point_, 1851; _Fior d'Aliza_, 1866; and the histories,
_Histoire de la Restauration_, 1851-1853; _Histoire de la Turquie_,
1854; _Histoire de la Russie_, 1855. His wife died in 1863. He had not
been able to save much money, and, in 1867, when he was an old man, the
Government of France came to his assistance with a pension of 25,000
francs. He died, March 1, 1869, having profoundly influenced the
literature of his time. His works have been translated into many
languages. A beautiful monument to his memory was erected by public
subscription near Macon, in 1874.








The real name of the friend who wrote these pages was not Raphael. We
often called him so in sport, because in his boyhood he much resembled
a youthful portrait of Raphael, which may be seen in the Barberini
gallery at Rome, at the Pitti palace in Florence, and at the Museum of
the Louvre. We had given him the name, too, because the distinctive
feature of this youth's character was his lively sense of the beautiful
in Nature and Art,--a sense so keen, that his mind was, so to speak,
merely the shadowing forth of the ideal or material beauty scattered
through-out the works of God and man. This feeling was the result of
his exquisite and almost morbid sensibility,--morbid, at least, until
time had somewhat blunted it. We would sometimes, in allusion to those
who, from their ardent longings to revisit their country, are called
home-sick, say that he was heaven-sick, and he would smile, and say
that we were right.

This love of the beautiful made him unhappy; in another situation it
might have rendered him illustrious. Had he held a pencil he would have
painted the Virgin of Foligno; as a sculptor, he would have chiselled
the Psyche of Canova; had he known the language in which sounds are
written, he would have noted the aerial lament of the sea breeze
sighing among the fibres of Italian pines, or the breathing of a
sleeping girl who dreams of one she will not name; had he been a poet,
he would have written the stanzas of Tasso's "Erminia," the moonlight
talk of Shakespeare's "Romeo and Juliet," or Byron's portrait of

He loved the good as well as the beautiful, but he loved not virtue for
its holiness, he loved it for its beauty. He would have been aspiring
in imagination, although he was not ambitious by character. Had he
lived in those ancient republics where men attained their full
development through liberty, as the free, unfettered body develops
itself in pure air and open sunshine, he would have aspired to every
summit like Caesar, he would have spoken as Demosthenes, and would have
died as Cato. But his inglorious and obscure destiny confined him,
against his will, in speculative inaction,--he had wings to spread, and
no surrounding air to bear them up. He died young, straining his gaze
into the future, and ardently surveying the space over which he was
never to travel.

Every one knows the youthful portrait of Raphael to which I have
alluded. It represents a youth of sixteen, whose face is somewhat paled
by the rays of a Roman sun, but on whose cheek still blooms the soft
down of childhood. A glancing ray of light seems to play on the velvet
of the cheek. He leans his elbow on a table; the arm is bent upwards to
support the head, which rests on the palm of the hand, and the
admirably modelled fingers are lightly imprinted on the cheek and chin;
the delicate mouth is thoughtful and melancholy; the nose is slender at
its rise, and slightly tinged with blue, as though the azure veins
shone through the fair transparency of the skin; the eyes are of that
dark heavenly hue which the Apennines wear at the approach of dawn, and
they gaze earnestly forward, but are slightly raised to heaven, as
though they ever looked higher than Nature,--a liquid lustre
illuminates their inmost depths, like rays dissolved in dew or tears.
On the scarcely arched brow, beneath the delicate skin, we trace the
muscles, those responsive chords of the instrument of thought; the
temples seem to throb with reflection; the ear appears to listen; the
dark hair, unskilfully cut by a sister or some young companion of the
studio, casts a shadow upon the hand and cheek; and a small cap of
black velvet, placed on the crown of the head, shades the brow. One
cannot pass before this portrait without musing sadly, one knows not
why. It represents the revery of youthful genius pausing on the
threshold of its destiny. What will be the fate of that soul standing
at the portal of life?

Now, in idea, add six years to the age of that dreaming boy; suppose
the features bolder, the complexion more bronzed; place a few furrows
on the brow, slightly dim the look, sadden the lips, give height to the
figure, and throw out the muscles in bolder relief; let the Italian
costume of the days of Leo X. be exchanged for the sombre and plain
uniform of a youth bred in the simplicity of rural life, who seeks no
elegance in dress,--and, if the pensive and languid attitude be
retained, you will have the striking likeness of our "Raphael" at the
age of twenty-two.

He was of a poor, though ancient family, from the mountainous province
of Forez, and his father, whose sole dignity was that of honor (worth
all others), had, like the nobles of Spain, exchanged the sword for the
plough. His mother, still young and handsome, seemed his sister, so
much did they resemble each other. She had been bred amid the luxurious
elegancies of a capital; and as the balmy essence of the rose perfumes
the crystal vase of the seraglio in which it has once been contained,
so she, too, had preserved that fragrant atmosphere of manners and
language which never evaporates entirely.

In her secluded mountains, with the loved husband of her choice, and
with her children, in whom she had complacently centred all the pride
of her maternal heart, she had regretted nothing. She closed the fair
book of youth at these three words,--"God, husband, children." Raphael
especially was her best beloved. She would have purchased for him a
kingly destiny, but, alas, she had only her heart with which to raise
him up, for their slender fortune, and their dreams of prosperity,
would ever and anon crumble to their very foundation beneath the hand
of fate.

Two holy men, driven by persecution to the mountains, had, soon after
the Reign of Terror, taken refuge in her house. They had been
persecuted as members of a mystical religious sect which dimly
predicted a renovation of the age. They loved Raphael, who was then a
mere child, and, obscurely prophesying his fate, pointed out his star
in the heavens, and told his mother to watch over that son with all her
heart. She reproached herself for being too credulous, for she was very
pious; but still she believed them. In such matters, a mother is so
easy of belief! Her credulity supported her under many trials, but
spurred her to efforts beyond her means to educate Raphael, and
ultimately deceived her.

I had known Raphael since he was twelve years old, and next to his
mother he loved me best on earth. We had met since the conclusion of
our studies, first in Paris, then at Rome, whither he had been taken by
one of his father's relatives, for the purpose of copying manuscripts
in the Vatican Library. There he had acquired the impassioned language
and the genius of Italy. He spoke Italian better than his mother
tongue. At evening he would sit beneath the pines of the Villa
Pamphili, and gazing on the setting sun and on the white fragments
scattered on the plain, like the bleached bones of departed Rome, would
pour forth extemporaneous stanzas that made us weep; but he never
wrote. "Raphael," would I sometimes say, "why do you not write?"

"Ah!" would he answer, "does the wind write what it sighs in this
harmonious canopy of leaves? Does the sea write the wail of its shores?
Nought that has been written is truly, really beautiful, and the heart
of man never discloses its best and most divine portion. It is
impossible! The instrument is of flesh, and the note is of fire!
Between what is felt and what is expressed," would he add, mournfully,
"there is the same distance as between the soul and the twenty-six
letters of an alphabet! Immensity of distance! Think you a flute of
reeds can give an idea of the harmony of the spheres?"

I left him to return to Paris. He was at that time striving, through
his mother's interest, to obtain some situation in which he might by
active employment remove from his soul its heavy weight, and lighten
the oppressive burden of his fate. Men of his own age sought him, and
women looked graciously on him as he passed them by. But he never went
into society, and of all women he loved his mother only.

We suddenly lost sight of him for three years; though we afterwards
learned that he had been seen in Switzerland, Germany, and Savoy; and
that in winter he passed many hours of his nights on a bridge, or on
one of the quays of Paris. He had all the appearance of extreme
destitution. It was only many years afterwards that we learned more. We
constantly thought of him, though absent, for he was one of those who
could defy the forgetfulness of friends.

Chance reunited us once more after an interval of twelve years. It so
happened that I had inherited a small estate in his province, and when
I went there to dispose of it, I inquired after Raphael. I was told
that he had lost father, mother, and wife in the space of a few years;
that after these pangs of the heart, he had had to bear the blows of
fortune, and that of all the domain of his fathers, nothing now
remained to him but the old dismantled tower on the edge of the ravine,
the garden, orchard, and meadow, with a few acres of unproductive land.
These he ploughed himself, with two miserable cows; and was only
distinguished from his peasant neighbors by the book which he carried
to the field, and which he would sometimes hold in one hand, while the
other directed the plough. For many weeks, however, he had not been
seen to leave his wretched abode. It was supposed that he had started
on one of those long journeys which with him lasted years. "It would be
a pity," it was said, "for every one in the neighborhood loves him;
though poor, he does as much good as any rich man. Many a warm piece of
cloth has been made from the wool of his sheep; at night he teaches the
little children of the surrounding hamlets how to read and write, or
draw. He warms them at his hearth, and shares his bread with them,
though God knows he has not much to spare when crops are short, as this

It was thus all spoke of Raphael. I wished to visit at least the abode
of my friend, and was directed to the foot of the hillock, on the
summit of which stood the blackened tower, with its surrounding sheds
and stables, amid a group of hazel-trees. A trunk of a tree, which had
been thrown across, enabled me to pass over the almost dried-up torrent
of the ravine, and I climbed the steep path, the loose stones giving
way under my feet. Two cows and three sheep were grazing on the barren
sides of the hillock, and were tended by an old half-blind servant, who
was telling his beads seated on an ancient escutcheon of stone, which
had fallen from the arch of the doorway.

He told me that Raphael was not gone, but had been ill for the last two
months; that it was plain he would never leave the tower but for the
churchyard; and the old man pointed with his meagre hand to the burying
ground on the opposite hill. I asked if I could see Raphael. "Oh, yes,"
said the old man; "go up the steps, and draw the string of the latch of
the great hall-door on the left. You will find him stretched on his
bed, as gentle as an angel, and," added he drawing the back of his hand
across his eyes, "as simple as a child!" I mounted the steep and
worn-out steps which wound round the outside of the tower, and ended at
a small platform covered by a tiled roof, the broken tiles of which
strewed the stone steps. I lifted the latch of the door on my left, and
entered. Never shall I forget the sight. The chamber was vast,
occupying all the space between the four walls of the tower; it was
lighted from two windows, with stone cross-bars, and the dusty and
broken lozenge-shaped panes of glass were set in lead. The huge beams
of the ceiling were blackened by smoke, the floor was paved with
bricks, and in a high chimney with roughly fluted wooden jambs, an iron
pot filled with potatoes was suspended over a fire, where a long branch
was burning, or rather smoking. The only articles of furniture were two
high-backed arm-chairs, covered with a plain-colored stuff, of which it
was impossible to guess the original color; a large table, half covered
with an unbleached linen table-cloth in which a loaf was wrapped, the
other half being strewed pell-mell with papers and books; and, lastly,
a rickety, worm-eaten four-post bedstead, with its blue serge curtains
looped back to admit the rays of the sun, and the air from the open

A man who was still young, but attenuated by consumption and want, was
seated on the edge of the bed, occupied in throwing crumbs to a whole
host of swallows which were wheeling their flight around him.

The birds flew away at the noise of my approach, and perched on the
cornice of the hall, or on the tester of the bed. I recognized Raphael,
pale and thin as he was. His countenance, though no longer youthful,
had not lost its peculiar character; but a change had come over its
loveliness, and its beauty was now of the grave. Rembrandt would have
wished for no better model for his "Christ in the Garden of Olives."
His dark hair clustered thickly on his shoulders, and was thrown back
in disorder, as by the weary hand of the laborer when the sweat and
toil of the day is over. The long untrimmed beard grew with a natural
symmetry that disclosed the graceful curve of the lip, and the contour
of the cheek; there was still the noble outline of the nose, the fair
and delicate complexion, the pensive and now sunken eye. His shirt,
thrown open on the chest, displayed his muscular though attenuated
frame, which might yet have appeared majestic, had his weakness allowed
him to sit erect.

He knew me at a glance, made one step forward with extended arms, and
fell back upon the bed. We first wept, and then talked together. He
related the past; how, when he had thought to cull the flowers or
fruits of life, his hopes had ever been marred by fortune or by
death,--the loss of his father, mother, wife, and child; his reverses
of fortune, and the compulsory sale of his ancestral domain; he told
how he retired to his ruined home, with no other companionship than
that of his mother's old herdsman, who served him without pay, for the
love he bore to his house; and lastly, spoke of the consuming languor
which would sweep him away with the autumnal leaves, and lay him in the
churchyard beside those he had loved so well. His intense imaginative
faculty might be seen strong even in death, and in idea he loved to
endow with a fanciful sympathy the turf and flowers which would blossom
on his grave.

"Do you know what grieves me most?" said he, pointing to the fringe of
little birds which were perched round the top of his bed. "It is to
think that next spring these poor little ones, my latest friends, will
seek for me in vain in the tower. They will no longer find the broken
pane through which to fly in; and on the floor, the little flocks of
wool from my mattress with which to build their nests. But the old
nurse, to whom I bequeath my little all, will take care of them as long
as she lives," he resumed, as if to comfort himself with the idea; "and
after her--Well! God will; for He feedeth the young ravens."

He seemed moved while speaking of these little creatures. It was easy
to see that he had long been weaned from the sympathy of men, and that
the whole tenderness of his soul, which had been repulsed by them, was
now transferred to dumb animals. "Will you spend any time among our
mountains?" he inquired. "Yes," I replied. "So much the better," he
added; "you will close my eyes, and take care that my grave is dug as
close as possible to those of my mother, wife, and child."

He then begged me to draw towards him a large chest of carved wood,
which was concealed beneath a bag of Indian corn at one end of the
room. I placed the chest upon the bed, and from it he drew a quantity
of papers which he tore silently to pieces for half an hour, and then
bid his old nurse sweep them into the fire. There were verses in many
languages, and innumerable pages of fragments, separated by dates, like
memoranda. "Why should you burn all these?" I timidly suggested; "has
not man a moral as well as a material inheritance to bequeath to those
who come after him? You are perhaps destroying thoughts and feelings
which might have quickened a soul."

"What matters it?" he said; "there are tears enough in this world, and
we need not deposit a few more in the heart of man. These," said he,
showing the verses, "are the cast-off, useless feathers of my soul; it
has moulted since then, and spread its bolder wings for eternity!" He
then continued to burn and destroy, while I looked out of the broken
window at the dreary landscape.

At length he called me once more to the bedside. "Here," said he--"save
this one little manuscript, which I have not courage to burn. When I am
gone, my poor nurse would make bags for her seeds with it, and I would
not that the name which fills its pages should be profaned. Take, and
keep it till you hear that I am no more. After my death you may burn
it, or preserve it till your old age, to think of me sometimes as you
glance over it."

I hid the roll of paper beneath my cloak, and took my leave, resolving
inwardly to return the next day to soothe the last moments of Raphael
by my care and friendly discourse. As I descended the steps, I saw
about twenty little children with their wooden shoes in their hands,
who had come to take the lessons which he gave them, even on his
death-bed. A little further on, I met the village priest, who had come
to spend the evening with him. I bowed respectfully, and as he noted my
swollen eyes, he returned my salute with an air of mournful sympathy.

The next day I returned to the tower. Raphael had died during the
night, and the village bell was already tolling for his burial. Women
and children were standing at their doors, looking mournfully in the
direction of the tower, and in the little green field adjoining the
church, two men, with spades and mattock, were digging a grave at the
foot of a cross.

I drew near to the door. A cloud of twittering swallows were fluttering
round the open windows, darting in and out, as though the spoiler had
robbed their nests.

Since then I have read these pages, and now know why he loved to be
surrounded by these birds, and what memories they waked in him, even to
his dying day.



There are places and climates, seasons and hours, with their outward
circumstance, so much in harmony with certain impressions of the heart,
that Nature and the soul of man appear to be parts of one vast whole;
and if we separate the stage from the drama, or the drama from the
stage, the whole scene fades, and the feeling vanishes. If we take from
Rene the cliffs of Brittany, or the wild savannahs from Atala, the
mists of Swabia from Werther, or the sunny waves and scorched-up hills
from Paul and Virginia, we can neither understand Chateaubriand,
Bernardin de St. Pierre, or Goethe. Places and events are closely
linked, for Nature is the same in the eye as in the heart of man. We
are earth's children, and life is the same in sap as in blood; all that
the earth, our mother, feels and expresses to the eye by her form and
aspect, in melancholy or in splendor, finds an echo within us. One
cannot thoroughly enter into certain feelings, save in the spot where
they first had birth.


At the entrance of Savoy, that natural labyrinth of deep valleys, which
descend like so many torrents from the Simplon, St. Bernard, and Mount
Cenis, and direct their course towards France and Switzerland, one
wider valley separates at Chambery from the Alpine chain, and, striking
off towards Geneva and Annecy, displays its verdant bed, intersected
with lakes and rivers, between the Mont du Chat and the almost mural
mountains of Beauges.

On the left, the Mont du Chat, like a gigantic rampart, runs in one
uninterrupted ridge for the space of two leagues, marking the horizon
with a dark and scarcely undulated line. A few jagged peaks of gray
rock at the eastern extremity alone break the almost geometrical
monotony of its appearance, and tell that it was the hand of God, and
not of man, that piled up these huge masses. Towards Chambery, the
mountain descends by gentle steps to the plain, and forms natural
terraces, clothed with walnut and chestnut trees, entwined with
clusters of the creeping vine. In the midst of this wild, luxuriant
vegetation, one sees here and there some country-house shining through
the trees, the tall spire of a humble village, or the old dark towers
and battlements of some castle of a bygone age. The plain was once a
vast lake, and has preserved the hollowed form, the indented shores,
and advanced promontories of its former aspect; but in lieu of the
spreading waters, there are the yellow waves of the bending corn, or
the undulating summit of the verdant poplars. Here and there, a piece
of rising ground, which was once an island, may be seen with its
clusters of thatched roofs, half hidden among the branches. Beyond this
dried-up basin, the Mont du Chat rises more abrupt and bold, its base
washed by the waters of a lake, as blue as the firmament above it. This
lake, which is not more than six leagues in length, varies in breadth
from one to three leagues, and is surrounded and hemmed in with bold,
steep rocks on the French side; on the Savoy side, on the contrary, it
winds unmolested into several creeks and small bays, bordered by
vine-covered hillocks and well-wooded slopes, and skirted by fig-trees
whose branches dip into its very waters. The lake then dwindles away
gradually to the foot of the rocks of Chatillon, which open to afford a
passage for the overflow of its waters into the Rhone. The burial-place
of the princes of the house of Savoy, the abbey of Haute-Combe, stands
on the northern side upon its foundation of granite, and projects the
vast shadow of its spacious cloisters on the waters of the lake.
Screened during the day from the rays of the sun by the high barrier of
the Mont du Chat, the edifice, from the obscurity which envelops it,
seems emblematical of the eternal night awaiting at its gates, the
princes who descend from a throne into its vaults. Towards evening,
however, a ray of the setting sun strikes and reverberates on its
walls, as a beacon to mark the haven of life at the close of day. A few
fishing boats, without sails, glide silently on the deep waters,
beneath the shade of the mountain, and from their dingy color can
scarcely be distinguished from its dark and rocky sides. Eagles, with
their dusky plumage, incessantly hover over the cliffs and boats, as if
to rob the nets of their prey, or make a sudden swoop at the birds
which follow in the wake of the boats.


At no great distance, the little town of Aix, in Savoy, steaming with
its hot springs, and redolent of sulphur, is seated on the slope of a
hill covered with vineyards, orchards, and meadows. A long avenue of
poplars, the growth of a century, connects the lake with the town, and
reminds one of those far-stretching rows of cypresses which lead to
Turkish cemeteries. The meadows and fields, on either side of this
road, are intersected by the rocky beds of the often dried-up mountain
torrents and shaded by giant walnut-trees, upon whose boughs vines as
sturdy as those of the woods of America hang their clustering branches.
Here and there, a distant vista of the lake shows its surface,
alternately sparkling or lead-colored, as the passing cloud or the hour
of the day may make it.

When I arrived at Aix, the crowd had already left it. The hotels and
public places, where strangers and idlers flock during the summer, were
then closed. All were gone, save a few infirm paupers, seated in the
sun, at the door of the lowest description of inns; and some invalids,
past all hope of recovery, who might be seen, during the hottest hours
of the day, dragging their feeble steps along, and treading the
withered leaves that had fallen from the poplars during the night.


The autumn was mild, but had set in early. The leaves which had been
blighted by the morning frost fell in roseate showers from the vines
and chestnut-trees. Until noon, the mist overspread the valley, like an
overflowing nocturnal inundation, covering all but the tops of the
highest poplars in the plain; the hillocks rose in view like islands,
and the peaks of mountains appeared as headlands in the midst of ocean;
but when the sun rose higher in the heavens, the mild southerly breeze
drove before it all these vapors of earth. The rushing of the
imprisoned winds in the gorges of the mountains, the murmur of the
waters, and the whispering trees, produced sounds melodious or
powerful, sonorous or melancholy, and seemed in a few minutes to run
through the whole range of earth's joys and sorrows its strength or its
melancholy. They stirred up one's very soul, then died away like the
voices of celestial spirits, that pass and disappear. Silence, such as
the ear has no preception of elsewhere, succeeded, and hushed all to
rest. The sky resumed its almost Italian serenity; the Alps stood out
once more against a cloudless sky; the drops from the dissolving mist
fell pattering on the dry leaves, or shone like brilliants on the
grass. These hours were quickly over; the pale blue shades of evening
glided swiftly on, veiling the horizon with their cold drapery as with
a shroud. It seemed the death of Nature, dying, as youth and beauty
die, with all its charms, and all its serenity.

Scenes such as these exhibiting Nature in its languid beauty were too
much in accordance with my feelings. While they gave an additional
charm to my own languor, they increased it, and I voluntarily plunged
into an abyss of melancholy. But it was a melancholy so replete with
thoughts, impressions, and elevating desires, with so soft a twilight
of the soul, that I had no wish to shake it off. It was a malady the
very consciousness of which was an allurement, rather than a pain, and
in which Death appeared but as a voluptuous vanishing into space. I had
given myself up to the charm, and had determined to keep aloof from
society, which might have dissipated it, and in the midst of the world
to wrap myself in silence, solitude, and reserve. I used my isolation
of mind as a shroud to shut out the sight of men, so as to contemplate
God and Nature only.

Passing by Chambery, I had seen my friend, Louis de ----; I had found
him in the same state of mind as myself, disgusted with the bitterness
of life, his genius, unappreciated, the body worn out by the mind, and
all his better feelings thrown back upon his heart.

Louis had mentioned to me a quiet and secluded house, in the higher
part of the town of Aix, where invalids were admitted to board. The
establishment was conducted by a worthy old doctor (who had retired
from the profession), and communicated with the town by a narrow
pathway, which lay between the streams that issue from the hot springs.
The back of the house looked on a garden surrounded by trellis and vine
arbors; and beyond that there were paths where goats only were to be
seen, which led to the mountain through sloping meadows, and through
woods of chestnut and walnut-trees. Louis had promised to join me at
Aix, as soon as he should have settled some business, consequent on the
death of his mother, which detained him at Chambery. I looked forward
with pleasure to his arrival, for we understood each other, and the
same feeling of disenchantment was common to us both. Grief knits two
hearts in closer bonds than happiness ever can; and common sufferings
are far stronger links than common joys. Louis was, at that particular
time, the only person whose society was not distasteful to me, and yet
I awaited his arrival without eagerness or impatience.


I was kindly and graciously received in the house of the old doctor,
and a room was allotted to me, which overlooked the garden and the
country beyond. Almost all the other rooms were untenanted, and the
long table d'hote was deserted. At meal times a few invalids from
Chambery and Turin, who had over-stayed the season, assembled with the
family. These boarders had arrived late, when most of the visitors of
the baths were already gone, in hopes of finding cheaper lodgings, and
a style of living in accordance with their poverty. There was no one
with whom I could converse or form a passing acquaintance. This the old
doctor and his wife soon saw, and threw the blame on the advanced
season, and on the bathers who had left too soon. They often spoke with
visible enthusiasm, and tender and compassionate respect, of a young
stranger, a lady, who had remained at the baths in a weak and languid
state of health, which it was feared would degenerate into slow
consumption. She had lived alone with her maid for the last three
months, in one of the most retired apartments of the house, taking her
meals in her own rooms; and was never seen except at her window that
looked towards the garden, or on the stairs when she returned from a
donkey ride in the mountains.

I felt compassion for this young creature, a stranger like myself in a
foreign land, who must be ill, since she had come in quest of health,
and was doubtless sad, since she avoided the bustle and even the sight
of company; but I felt no desire to see her spite of the admiration her
grace and beauty had excited on those around me. My worn-out heart was
wearied with wretched and short-lived attachments, of which I blushed
to preserve the memories; not one of which I could recur to with pious
regret, save that of poor Antonina. I was penitent and ashamed of my
past follies and disorders; disgusted and satiated of vulgar
allurements; and being naturally of a timid and reserved disposition,
without that self-confidence which prompts some men to court
adventures, or to seek the familiarity of chance acquaintances, I
neither wished to see nor to be seen. Still less did I dream of love.
On the contrary, I rejoiced, in my stern and mistaken pride, to think
that I had forever stifled that weakness in my heart, and that I was
alone to feel, or to suffer in this nether world. As to happiness, I no
longer believed in it.


I passed my days in my room with no other company than some books which
my friend had sent me from Chambery. In the afternoon, I used to ramble
alone amid the wild mountains which, on the Italian side, form the
boundary of the valley of Aix; and returning home in the evening,
harassed and fatigued, would sit down to supper, and then retire to my
room and spend whole hours seated at my window. I gazed at the blue
firmament above, which, like the abyss attracting him who leans over
it, ever attracts the thoughts of men as though it had secrets to
reveal. Sleep found me still wandering on a sea of thoughts, and
seeking no shore. When morning came, I was awaked by the rays of the
sun and by the murmur of the hot springs; and I would plunge into my
bath, and after breakfast recommence the same rambles and the same
melancholy musings as the day before. Sometimes in the evening, when I
looked out of my window into the garden, I saw another lighted window
not far from my own and the face of a female, who, with one hand
throwing back the long black tresses from her brow, gazed like myself
on the mountains, the sky, and moonlit garden. I could only distinguish
the pale, pure, and almost transparent profile and the long, dark waves
of the hair, which was smoothed down at the temples. I used to see this
face standing out on the brilliant background of the window, which was
lighted from a lamp in the bedroom. At times, too, I had heard a
woman's voice saying a few words or giving some orders in the
apartment. The slightly foreign, though pure accent, the vibrations of
that soft, languid, and yet marvellously sonorous voice, of which I
heard the harmony without understanding the words had interested me.
Long after my window was closed that voice remained in my ear like the
prolonged sound of an echo. I had never heard any like it, even in
Italy; it sounded through the half-closed teeth like those small
metallic lyres that the children of the Islands of the Archipelago use
when they play on the seashore. It was more like a ringing sound than
like a voice; I had noticed it, little dreaming that that voice would
ring loud and deep forever through my life. The next day I thought no
more of it.

One day, however, on returning home earlier, and entering by the little
garden-door near the arbor, I had a nearer view of the stranger, who
was seated on a bench under the southern wall, enjoying the warm rays
of the sun. She thought herself alone, for she had not heard the sound
of the door as I closed it behind me, and I could contemplate her
unobserved. We were within twenty paces of each other, and were only
separated by a vine, which was half-stripped of its leaves. The shade
of the vine-leaves and the rays of the sun played and chased each other
alternately over her face. She appeared larger than life, as she sat
like one of those marble statues enveloped in drapery, of which we
admire the beauty without distinguishing the form. The folds of her
dress were loose and flowing, and the drapery of a white shawl, folded
closely round her, showed only her slender and rather attenuated hands,
which were crossed on her lap. In one, she carelessly held one of those
red flowers which grow in the mountains beneath the snow, and are
called, I know not why, "poets' flowers." One end of her shawl was
thrown over her head like a hood, to protect her from the damp evening
air. She was bent languidly forward, her head inclined upon her left
shoulder; and the eyelids, with their long dark lashes, were closed
against the dazzling rays of the sun. Her complexion was pale, her
features motionless, and her countenance so expressive of profound and
silent meditation, that she resembled a statue of Death; but of that
Death which bears away the soul beyond the reach of human woes to the
regions of eternal light and love. The sound of my footsteps on the dry
leaves made her look up. Her large half-closed eyes were of that
peculiar tint resembling the color of lapis lazuli, streaked with
brown, and the drooping lid had that natural fringe of long dark
lashes, which Eastern women strive by art to imitate, in order to
impart a voluptuous wildness to their look and energy even to their
languor. The light of those eyes seemed to come from a distance which I
have never measured in any other mortal eye. It was as the rays of the
stars, which seem to seek us out, and to approach us as we gaze, and
yet have travelled millions of miles through the heavens. The high and
narrow forehead seemed as if compressed by intense thought, and joined
the nose by an almost straight and Grecian line. The lips were thin and
slightly depressed at the corners with an habitual expression of
sadness; the teeth of pearl, rather than of ivory, as is the case with
the daughters of the sea or islands. The face was oval, slightly
emaciated in the lower part and at the temples, and, on the whole she
seemed rather an embodying of thought than a human being. Besides this
general expression of revery there was a languid look of suffering and
passion, which made it impossible to gaze once on that face without
bearing its ineffaceable image stamped forever in the memory. In a
word, hers was a contagious sickness of the soul, veiled in a shape of
beauty the most majestic and attractive that the dreams of mortal man
ever embodied.

I passed rapidly before her, bowing respectfully, and my deferential
air and downcast eyes seemed to ask forgiveness for having disturbed
her. A slight blush tinged her pale cheeks at my approach. I returned
to my room trembling and wondering that the evening air should thus
have chilled me. A few minutes later I saw her re-enter the house, and
cast one indifferent look at my window. I saw her again on the
following days, at the same hour, both in the garden and in the court,
but never dared to think of accosting her. I even met her sometimes
near the chalets, with the little girls who drove her donkey or picked
strawberries for her, at other times, in her boat on the lake; but I
never showed any sign of recognition or interest, beyond a grave and
respectful bow; she would return it with an air of melancholy
abstraction, and we each went our separate ways, on the hills or on the


And yet when I had not met her in the course of the day, I felt sad and
disturbed; when evening came, I would go down to the garden, I knew not
why, and stay there, with my eyes riveted on her windows, spite of the
cold night air. I could not make up my mind to return to the house
until I had caught a glimpse of her shadow on the curtains, or heard a
note of her piano, or one of the strange tones of her voice.

The apartment she occupied was contiguous to my room, from which it was
separated by a strong oaken door with two bolts. I could hear
confusedly the sound of her footsteps, the rustling of her gown, or the
crumpling of the leaves of her book as she turned over the pages. I
sometimes fancied I heard her breathe. Instinctively I placed my
writing-table on which my lamp stood near the door, for I felt less
lonely when I heard these sounds of life around me. It seemed to me
that this unknown neighbor, who insensibly occupied all my time, shared
my life. In a word, before I had the slightest idea that I loved, I had
already all the thoughts, the fancies, and the refinements of passion.
Love did not consist for me in one particular symptom, look, or
confession, in any one external circumstance against which I could have
fortified myself. It was an invisible miasma diffused in the
surrounding atmosphere; it was in the air and light, in the expiring
season, in my lonely life, in the mysterious proximity of another
equally isolated existence; it was in the long excursions which took me
from her and made me feel the more forcibly the unconscious attraction
which recalled me; in her white dress, seen at a distance through the
mountain firs; in her dark hair loosened by the wind on the lake; in
the light at her window, in the slight creaking of the wooden floor
under her tread, in the rustling of her pen on the paper when she
wrote, in the very silence of those long autumnal evenings which she
spent in reading, writing, or in thought within a few paces of me; and
lastly, it was in the fascination of her fantastic beauty, too much
seen though scarcely beheld, and which, when I closed my eyes, I still
saw through the wall, as though it had been transparent.

With this feeling, however, there mingled no desire or eager curiosity,
on my part, to find out the secret reason of her solitude, or to break
down the fragile barrier of our almost voluntary separation. What to me
was this woman whom I had met by chance among the mountains of a
foreign land, ill in health and sick at heart though she might be? I
had shaken the dust from my feet, or at least I thought I had, and felt
no wish to hold to the world once more by any link of the mind, or of
the senses, still less by any weakness of the heart. I felt supreme
contempt for love, for under its name I had met only with affectation,
coquetry, fickleness, and levity; if I except the love of Antonina,
which had been but a childish ecstasy, a flower fallen from the stem
before its hour of perfume.


Again, who was this woman? Was she a being like myself, or one of those
visions which, like living meteors, shoot athwart the sky of our
imagination, dazzling the eye? Was she of my own country, or from some
distant land, from some island of the tropics, or the far East, whither
I could not follow her? After adoring her for a few days, might I not
have to mourn forever her absence? Was her heart free to respond to
mine? Was it likely that enthralling beauty such as hers should have
traversed the world and reached maturity without kindling love in some
of those upon whom the glance of her eye had fallen? Had she a father
or a mother, brothers or sisters? Was she not married? Was there not
one man in the world who, though separated from her by inexplicable
circumstances, lived for her only, as she lived for him?

All this I said to myself, to drive away this one besetting, hopeless
fancy. I scorned even to make inquiries. I was too much of a stoic to
strive to penetrate the unknown, and thought it more dignified, or
perhaps more pleasant, to go on dreaming in uncertainty.


The old doctor and his family had not the pride of heart that induced
me to respect her secret. At table our hosts, with the curiosity
natural to all those who live by strangers, would interpret every
circumstance, discuss every probability, and collect even the vaguest
notions concerning the stranger. I soon learned all that had transpired
respecting her, although I never interrogated and even studiously
avoided making her the subject of our discourse. In vain I sought to
turn the conversation into another channel; every day the same subject
recurred; men, women, children, bathers, and servants, the guides of
the mountains, and the boatmen on the lake, had all been equally struck
and charmed by her, although she spoke to no one. She was an object of
universal respect and admiration.

There are some beings who, by their dazzling radiance, draw all around
them into their sphere of attraction without desiring or even
perceiving it. It seems as though certain natures were like the suns of
some moral system, obliging the looks, thoughts, and hearts of their
satellites to gravitate around them. Their moral and physical beauty is
a spell, their fascination a chain, love is but their emanation. We
track their upward course from earth to heaven, and when they vanish in
their youth and beauty, all else seems dark to the eye that has been
blinded by their brilliancy. The vulgar, even, recognize these superior
beings by some mysterious sign. They admire without comprehending, as
the blind enjoy the sunshine, who have never seen the sun.


It was thus I learned that the young stranger lived in Paris. Her
husband was an old man, who had rendered his name illustrious, at the
close of the last century, by many discoveries which held a high place
in the history of science. He had been struck with the beauty and
talent of this young girl, and had adopted her in order to bequeath to
her his name and fortune. She loved him as a father, wrote to him every
day, and sent him a journal of her feelings and impressions. Two years
ago she had fallen into a declining state, which had alarmed him. She
had been recommended to remove southward and try change of air, and her
husband, being too infirm to accompany her, had confided her to the
care of some friends from Lausanne, with whom she had travelled all
over Italy and Switzerland. The change had not restored her to health,
and a Genevese doctor, fearing a disease of the heart, had recommended
the baths of Aix; he was to come to fetch her, and take her back to
Paris at the beginning of the winter.

This was all I learned of a life already so dear. Still I persisted in
fancying that all these details were indifferent to me. I felt a tender
pity for this enchanting and beautiful being, blighted in the flower of
youth by a disease which, while it consumes life, renders the
sensations more acute and stimulates the flame which it is destined to
extinguish. When I met the stranger on the staircase, I sought to
discover the trace of her sufferings in the scarcely perceptible lines
of pain round her somewhat pale lips, or in the dark circle which want
of sleep had left round her beautiful blue eyes. I was interested by
her beauty, but still more by the shadow of death by which she was
overcast, and which made her appear more as a phantom of the night than
as a reality. This was all. Our lives rolled on; we continued to live
in close proximity as far as distance was concerned, but morally, as
widely separated as ever.


I had given up my mountain excursions since the snow had fallen on the
highest peaks of Savoy, for the gentle warmth of the latter days of
October seemed to have taken refuge in the valley; and on the banks of
the lake the weather was still mild. The long avenue of poplars was my
delight, with its gleams of sunshine, waving tops, and murmuring
branches. I spent, also, a great part of my time on the water. The
boatmen all knew me, and I am told they still remember how we used to
sail into the wildest creeks and remotest bays of France and Savoy. The
young stranger, too, would sometimes embark in the middle of the day
for less distant expeditions. The boatmen, who were proud of her
confidence, always took care to give her notice of the least symptom of
wind or cold weather, thinking far more of her health and safety than
of their own gains. On one occasion, however, they were themselves
deceived. They had undertaken to row her safely over to Haute-Combe, on
the opposite shore of the lake, in order to visit the ruins of the
Abbey. They had scarcely got over two-thirds of the distance, when a
sudden gust of wind, rushing forth from the narrow gorges of the valley
of the Rhone, stirred up the waves of the lake, and produced one of
those short seas which so often prove fatal. The sail of the little
boat was soon gone, and it seemed like a nutshell dancing on the
still-increasing waves. It was impossible to think of returning, and
full half an hour of fatigue and danger must elapse before the boat
could be moored in safety under the hanging cliffs of Haute-Combe. Fate
willed that my wandering sail should be on the lake at the same hour. I
was in a larger boat, with four stout oarsmen, and was going to visit
M. de Chatillon, a relation of my Chambery friend. His chateau was
situated on the summit of a rock, in a small island at one end of the
lake. A few strokes of the oar would have brought us into the harbor of
Chatillon, but I, who had unconsciously been watching the other boat
and saw it struggling against the wind, perceived the danger in which
it was placed. We put about immediately, and with one heart affronted
the tempest and the dangers of the lake, to try and succor the little
craft, which every now and then disappeared, and was lost in a mist of
foam and spray. My anxiety was intense during the hour that was
required to cross the lake before we could join the little bark. When
we came up to it, the shore was close at hand, and one long wave lodged
it in safety before our eyes on the sand at the foot of the ruined

We shouted for joy, and rushed through the water to the boat, in order
to carry the invalid ashore. The poor boatman was making signs of
distress, and calling for help; he was pointing to the bottom of the
boat, at something we could not see. On reaching the spot where he
stood, we found that the stranger had fainted, and was lying at the
bottom of the boat. Her body and arms were completely immersed in
water, and her head rested like that of a corpse against the little
wooden chest at the stern, in which the boatmen put their tackle and
provisions. Her hair streamed in disorder about her neck and shoulders,
like the dark wings of a lifeless bird floating on the surface of the
waters. Her face, from which all color had not fled, was calm and
peaceful as in slumber and shone with that preternatural beauty death
leaves on the countenance of those who die young; like the last and
fairest ray of retiring life, lingering on the brow from which it is
about to depart, or the first beam of dawning immortality on the
features which are henceforward to be hallowed in the memory of those
who survive. I had never before, and have never since, seen her so
divinely transfigured. Was Death the most perfect form of her celestial
beauty, or did Providence intend this first and solemn impression, as a
foreshadowing of that unchangeable image of beauty, which I was
destined to entomb in my memory, and eternally evoke!

We jumped into the boat, to take up the apparently dying woman, and
carry her beyond the rocks. I placed my hand upon her heart, and
approached my ear to her lips, as I would to those of a sleeping
infant. The heart beat irregularly, but with strong pulsations; the
breath was warm, and I saw that she had only fainted from terror and
from cold. One of the boatmen took up her feet, I supported the
shoulders and the head, which rested on my breast. She gave no sign of
life while we carried her thus to a fisherman's house, below the rocks
of Haute-Combe, which serves as an inn for the boatmen, when they
conduct strangers to the ruins. This poor dwelling consisted merely in
one long, dark, smoky room, furnished with a table upon which were
wine, bread, and cheese. A wooden ladder led to an upper room, which
was lighted by a single round window without glass, looking towards the
lake. Almost the whole space of this room was occupied by three beds,
which could be closed up by wooden doors, like large presses. The whole
family slept there. We confided the stranger, who was still insensible,
to the care of the two girls of the house and their mother, and we
stood outside the door, while they extended a mattress near the
chimney, and having lighted a fire of furze, undressed her, dried her
clothes, chafed her limbs, and wrung her streaming hair; they then
carried her upstairs, and placed her in one of the beds, on which they
had spread clean sheets, which had been warmed with one of the heated
hearth-stones, according to the custom of the peasants of that country.
They tried in vain to make her swallow a few drops of wine and vinegar
to bring her to life; but finding all their efforts unavailing, gave
way to tears and lamentations, which soon recalled us into the house.
"The lady is dead! the lady is dead! We can only weep, and send for a
priest." The boatmen mingled their cries with those of the women, and
increased their confusion. I rushed up the ladder and entered the room.
The dim twilight still showed the bed over which I bent. I touched her
forehead; it was burning hot; I could distinguish the low and regular
breathing which made the coarse brown sheet alternately rise and fall
on the chest. I bid the women be quiet, and giving some money to one of
the boatmen, ordered him to fetch a doctor, who, I was told, lived two
leagues off, in a little village on the Mont du Chat. The boatman set
off at full speed; the others, comforted by the assurance that the lady
was not dead, sat down to eat. The women went and came from the parlor
to the cellar, and from the cellar to the poultry-yard, to make
preparations for supper. I remained seated on one of the bags of Indian
corn at the foot of the bed, my hands clasped on my knees, and my eyes
fixed on the inanimate face and closed eyelids of the sufferer. Night
had closed in. One of the young girls had fastened the shutter, and
suspended a small copper lamp against the wall; its rays fell on the
sheets and on the sleeping countenance like the light of holy tapers on
a death-bed. Since then, I have thus watched, alas, by other bedsides,
but the sleepers never woke!


Never perhaps was the heart of man absorbed for so many long hours in
one strange and overwhelming speculation. Suspended between death and
love, I was unable to divine, as I gazed on the angel form that lay
sleeping before me, whether this night in its mystery would bring-forth
endless anguish, or whether undying love would come in the morning,
with returning life and joy. In the convulsive movements of her
troubled sleep she had thrown the sheet off one of her shoulders upon
which fell the long luxuriant curls of her lustrous hair. The neck had
yielded to the weight of the head, which was thrown back on the pillow,
and slightly inclined towards the left shoulder; one of the arms was
disengaged from the cover-lid and was placed beneath the head, showing
the ivory whiteness of the elbow, which stood out on the coarse brown
linen in which the peasant women had dressed her. On one of the fingers
of the hand, which was half concealed in the masses of dark hair, there
was a small gold ring with a sparkling ruby, on which the rays of the
lamp flashed. The girls had lain down on the floor without undressing,
and their mother had fallen asleep with her hands folded on the back of
a wooden chair. As soon as the cock crowed in the yard, they got up,
and taking their wooden shoes in their hands, noiselessly descended the
ladder to go to work. I remained alone.

The first gleams of dawn came through the closed shutter in almost
imperceptible streaks of light. I opened the window in the hope that
the balmy morning air from the lake and mountains, which awakened all
Nature, would have the same effect on one whom I would willingly have
revived at the cost of my own life. The chill air rushed into the room,
and extinguished the expiring lamp. Nothing stirred on the bed. I heard
the poor women below joining in common prayer, before commencing their
day's labor. The thought of praying likewise entered my heart. I felt,
as all do who have exhausted the whole strength of their soul, the wish
to superadd the force of some mysterious and preterhuman power to the
impotent tension of ardent desires. I knelt on the floor, with my hands
clasped on the edge of the bed, and my eyes riveted on the face of the
sleeper. I wept, and prayed long and fervently; the tears chased each
other down my face and hid from my blinded eyes the features of the one
whose recovery I so ardently desired. My whole heart and soul were so
absorbed in one feeling and one sensation, that I might have remained
hours in the same attitude without being aware of the lapse of time, or
the pain of kneeling on the stone floor; when suddenly, while I was
unconsciously wiping away my tears, I felt a hand touch mine, part the
hair from my face, and gently rest upon my head, as if to bless me.

I looked up with a cry of delight; I saw her unclosed eyes, her smiling
lips, her hand extended towards mine, and heard these words: "O God! I
thank thee. I have now a brother!"


[Illustration: RAPHAEL'S DEVOTION.]

The cool morning air had awakened her, while I was praying by her
bedside, with my face buried in my hands. She had noted my ardent pity,
and my ardent prayer, and had recognized me by the clear light of
morning, which now streamed into the chamber. When she had fainted she
was lonely and indifferent, and had revived under the tender care, and
perhaps the love of a pitying stranger. She, who, in the neglected
flower of her days, had been deprived of all the kindred ties of the
heart, had unexpectedly found in me the care and pity, the tears and
prayers, of a youthful brother; and that tender name had escaped her
lips at the moment that returning life gave her the consciousness of so
great a joy.

"A brother! Ah, no, not a brother!" I exclaimed, reverently removing
her hand from my brow, as though I had not been worthy of her touch,
"not a brother, but a slave, a living shadow following on your steps,
who asks but one blessing of Heaven, and one felicity on earth--the
right of remembering this night; who only desires to preserve eternally
the image of the superhuman vision he would wish to follow unto death,
or for whom alone he could bear to live." As I faltered out these words
in a low voice, the rosy tints of life gradually reappeared on her
cheeks, a sad smile, implying an obstinate unbelief in happiness,
played round her mouth, and she raised her eyes to the ceiling, as
though they listened to words which responded not to the ear, but to
the thoughts. Never was the change from life to death, from a dream to
reality, so rapid; on her countenance, now blooming with youth and
refreshed by rest, surprise, languor, delight, repose, joy and
melancholy, timidity and grace were all painted in quick succession.
Her radiance seemed to illumine the dark recess more than the light of
morning. There existed more languor, more revealings, more sympathy in
her looks and silence, than in millions of words. The human face speaks
a language to the eye, and in youth the countenance is an instrument of
which one look of passion sweeps the keys. It transmits from soul to
soul mysteries of mute communion, which cannot be translated into
words. My countenance, too, must have revealed what I felt to those
eyes which were bent so earnestly upon me. My damp clothes, my long,
dishevelled hair, my eyes heavy with watching, my pale and anxious
looks, the pious enthusiasm with which I bent before the holiness of
suffering beauty, my emotion, joy, and surprise, the dimness of the
room in which I durst not take a step for fear of dispelling the
enchantment of so divine a dream, the first rays of sun, which showed
the tears still glistening in my eyes,--all conspired to lend to my
countenance a power of expression, and a look of tenderness, which it
will doubtless never wear again in the course of a long life.

Unable to bear any longer the reaction of these feelings, and the
internal vibration of such silence, I called up the women. On entering
the room, they broke out into repeated exclamations of surprise at the
sight of a resurrection which appeared to them a miracle. At the same
moment the doctor made his appearance. He prescribed repose and an
infusion of certain plants of the mountain which allay the irregular
movements of the heart. He reassured every one by telling us that the
lady's malady was one of youth, produced by excessive sensibility, and
which time would mitigate; that it was but a superabundance of life,
although it often wore the appearance of death, and was never fatal,
except when inward grief or some moral cause changed its character into
one of habitual melancholy, or an unconquerable distaste to life. While
some of the women went out into the fields, to gather the samples
ordered by the doctor, and others were ironing out her damp clothes in
the lower room, I left the house to wander alone among the ruins of the
old Abbey.


But my heart was too full of its own emotions to feel interested in the
anchorites of the Abbey. The enthusiasm and self-denial of the early
monasteries had subsided into a profession; and at a later period their
lives, unlinked with those of their fellow-beings, had fruitlessly
evaporated within these cloisters, and left no trace behind. I felt no
regret as I stood upon their tombs, but only wondered, as I noted how
speedily Nature seizes on the empty dwellings and deserted abodes of
man, and how superior is the living architecture of shrubs and briers,
waving ivy, wall-flowers and creeping plants, throwing their mantle on
the ruined walls, to the cold symmetry of stones, or the lifeless
ornaments of the chiselled monuments of men.

There was now more sunshine, music, and perfume, more holy psalmody of
the winds and waters, of birds, and sonorous echoes of the lakes and
forests, beneath the crumbling pillars, dismantled nave, and shattered
roof of the empty Abbey, than there had been holy tapers, fumes of
incense and monotonous chants in the ceremonies and processions that
filled it night and day. Nature is the high priest, the noblest
decorator, the holiest poet and most inspired musician of God. The
young swallows in their nests below the broken cornice, greeting their
mother with their cheerful chirping; the sighing of the breeze, which
seems to bear to the unpeopled cloisters the sound of flapping sails,
the lament of the waves, and the dying notes of the fisherman's song;
the balmy emanations which now and then are wafted through the nave;
the flowers which shed their leaves upon the tombs, the waving of the
green drapery which clothes the walls; the sonorous and reverberated
echoes of the stranger's steps upon the vaults where sleep the
dead,--are all as full of piety, holy thoughts, and unbounded
aspirations, as was the monastery in its days of sacred splendor. Man
is no longer there, with all his miserable passions contracted by the
narrow pale in which they were confined, but not extinguished; but God
is there, never so plainly seen as in the works of Nature,--God whose
unshadowed splendor seems to re-enter once more these intellectual
graves, whose vaulted roofs no longer intercept the glorious sunshine
and the light of heaven.


I was not at the time sufficiently composed to understand my own
feelings. I felt as one just relieved from a heavy burden, who breathes
freely, relaxes his contracted muscles, and walks to and fro in his
strength, as though he could devour space, and inhale all the air of
heaven. My own heart was the burden of which I had been relieved, and,
in giving it to another, I felt as if I had for the first time entered
into the fulness of life. Man is so truly born to love, that it is only
when he has the consciousness of loving fully and entirely that he
feels himself really a man. Until then he is disturbed and restless,
inconstant and wandering in his thoughts; but from thenceforward all
his waverings cease, he feels at rest, and sees his destiny before him.

I sat down upon the ivy-covered wall of a high dilapidated terrace
which overlooked the lake. My eyes wandered over the bright expanse of
water and the luminous immensity of the sky; they were so well blended
in the azure line of the horizon that it would have been impossible to
define where the sky commenced, and where the lake terminated. I seemed
to float in the pure ether, or to be merged in a universal ocean. But
the inward joy which inundated my soul was far more infinite, radiant,
and incommensurate, than the atmosphere with which I seemed to mingle.
I could not have defined my joy, or rather my inward serenity. It was
as some unfathomable secret revealed to me by feelings instead of
words,--as the sensation of the eye passing from darkness into light,
or as the rapture of some mystical soul, secure in the possession of
its God. It was dazzling light, intoxication without giddiness, repose
without heaviness, or immobility. I could have lived on thus during as
many thousand years as there were ripples on the lake, or sands upon
its shores, without perceiving that more seconds had elapsed than were
required for a single respiration. When the immortal dwellers in heaven
first lose the consciousness of the duration of time, they must feel
thus; it was an immutable thought, in the eternity of an instant.


These sensations were not precise, or definable. They were too complete
to be scanned; thought could not divide, nor reflection analyze them.
They did not take their rise in the loveliness of the superhuman
creature that I adored, for the shadow of death still lay between her
beauty and my eyes; or in the pride of being loved by her, for I knew
not if I was more in her sight than a dream of morning; or in the hope
of possessing her charms, for my respect was too far above such vile
gratifications of the senses even to stoop to them in thought; or in
the satisfaction of displaying my triumph, for selfish vanity held no
place in my heart, and I knew no one in that secluded spot before whom
I could profane my love by disclosing it; or in the hope of linking her
fate with mine, for I knew she was another's; or in the certainty of
seeing her, and the happiness of following her steps, for I was as
little free as she was, and in a few days fate was to divide us; nor,
lastly, in the certainty of being beloved, for I knew nothing of her
heart, except the one word and look of gratitude that she had addressed
to me.

Mine was another feeling; pure, calm, disinterested, and immaterial. It
was repose of the heart, after having met with the long sought-for, and
till then unfound, object of its restless adoration; the long-desired
idol of that vague, unquiet adoration of supreme beauty which agitates
the soul until the divinity has been discovered, and that our heart has
clung to as a straw to the magnet, or mingled with as sighs with the
surrounding air.

Strange to say, I felt no impatience to see her once more, to hear her
voice, to be near her, or to converse freely with one who had become
the sole object of my life and thoughts. I had seen her and she had
become part of myself. Henceforward nothing could rob my soul of its
possession; far or near, present or absent, I bore her with me; all
else was indifferent. Perfect love is patient, because it is absolute,
and knows itself to be eternal. No power could tear her from my heart.
I felt that henceforward her image was completely mine; it was to me
what light is to the eye that has once seen it, air to the lungs that
have once inhaled it, or thought to the mind in which it has once been
conceived. I defied Heaven itself to rob me of this divine embodying of
my desires. I had seen her, and that was enough. For the contemplative,
to see is to enjoy. It scarcely mattered to me whether she loved me, or
whether she passed me by without perceiving me. I had been touched by
her splendor, and was still enveloped in her rays; she could no more
withdraw them from me than the sun can take from the earth the beams
which he has shed upon it. I felt that darkness and night had fled
forever from my heart, and that she would evermore shine there, as she
then shone, though I lived for a thousand years.


This conviction gave to my love all the security of immutability, the
calm of certainty, the overflowing ecstasy of joy that would never be
impaired. I took no note of time, knowing that I had before me hours
without end, and that each in succession would give me back her inward
presence. I might be separated from her during a century without
reducing by one day the eternity of my love. I went and came; sat down
and got up again. I ran, then stopped and walked on without feeling the
ground beneath my feet, like those phantoms which glide upon earth,
upheld by their impalpable, ethereal nature. I extended my arms to
grasp the air, the light, the lake; I would have clasped all Nature in
one vast embrace in thankfulness that she had become incarnate, for me,
in a being that united all her charms and splendor, power, and
delights. I knelt on the stones and briers of the ruins without feeling
them and on the brink of precipices without perceiving them. I uttered
inarticulate words, which were lost in the sound of the noisy waters of
the lake; I strove to pierce the vaults of heaven, and to carry my song
of gratitude, and my ecstasy of joy, into the very presence of God. I
was no longer a man, I was a living hymn of praise, prayer, adoration,
worship of overflowing, speechless thankfulness. I felt an intoxication
of the heart, a madness of the soul; my body had lost the consciousness
of its materiality and I no longer believed in time, or space, or
death. The new life of love which had gushed forth in my heart gave me
the consciousness, the anticipated enjoyment, of the fulness of


I was made aware of the flight of time by seeing the meridian sun
striking on the summit of the Abbey walls. I came down the hill through
the woods bounding from rock to rock, and from tree to tree. My heart
beat as though it would burst. As I approached the little inn, I saw
the stranger in a sloping meadow behind the house. She was seated at
the foot of a sunny wall, against which the inhabitants of the place
had piled a few stones. Her white dress shone out on the verdant
meadow, and the shade of a haystack screened her face from the sun. She
was reading in a little book that lay open on her lap, and every now
and then interrupted her reading to play with the children from the
mountain, who came to offer her flowers, or chestnuts. On seeing me,
she attempted to rise as if to meet me half-way, and her gesture was
quite sufficient to encourage me to approach. She received me with a
blushing look and tremulous lip, which I perceived, and which increased
my own bashfulness. The strangeness of our situation was so
embarrassing, that we remained some time without finding a word to say
to each other. At last, with a timid and scarcely intelligible gesture,
she motioned to me to sit down on the hay, not far from her; it seemed
to me that she has expected me, and had kept a place for me. I sat down
respectfully at some distance. Our silence remained unbroken, and it
was evident that we were both ineffectually seeking to exchange some of
those commonplace phrases which may be called the base coin of
conversation, and serve to conceal thoughts instead of revealing them.
Fearing to say too much or too little, we gave no utterance to what was
in our hearts; we remained mute, and our silence increased our
embarrassment. At length, our downcast eyes were raised at the same
moment and met; I saw such depth of sensibility in hers, and she read
in mine so much suppressed rapture, truth, and deep feeling, that we
could no longer take them off each other's face, and tears rising to
our eyes, at the same instant, from both our hearts we each
instinctively put up our hands as if to veil our thoughts.

I know not how long we remained thus. At last, in a trembling voice,
and with a somewhat constrained and impatient tone, she said: "You have
wept over me; I have called you brother, you have adopted me for your
sister, and yet we dare not look at each other? A tear," she added, "a
disinterested tear from an unknown heart is more than my life is
worth,--more than it has ever yet called forth!" Then with a slightly
reproachful accent she said: "Am I then become once more a stranger to
you, since I no longer require your care? Oh, as to me," she proceeded
in a resolute tone of confidence, "I know nothing of you but your name
and countenance, but I know your heart! A century could not teach me

"For my part," said I, faltering, "I would wish to learn nothing of all
that makes you a being like unto ourselves, and bound by the same links
as us to this wretched world. I require but to know this,--that you
have traversed it, and that you have allowed me to contemplate you from
afar, and to remember you always."

"Oh, do not deceive yourself thus!" she replied; "do not see in me a
deified delusion of your own heart; I should have to suffer too much
when the chimera vanished. View me as I am; as a poor woman, who is
dying in despondency and solitude, and who will take with her from
earth no feeling more divine than that of pity. You will understand
this, when I tell you who I am," added she; "but first answer me on one
point, which has disquieted me since the day I first saw you in the
garden. Why, young and gentle as you seem to be, are you so lonely and
so sad? Why do you fly from the company and conversation of our host,
to wander alone on the lake, and in the most secluded parts of the
mountains, or to retire into your room? Your light burns far into the
night, I am told. Have you some secret in your heart that you confine
to solitude?" She waited my answer with visible anxiety, and kept her
eyes closed, as if to conceal the impression it might make upon her.
"My secret," said I, "is to have none; to feel the weight of a heart
that no enthusiasm upheld until this hour; of a heart which I have
endeavored to engage in unsatisfactory attachments, and which I have
ever been obliged to resume with such bitterness and loathing, as
forever to discourage me, young and feeling as I am, from loving." I
then told her, without concealment, as I would have spoken before
Heaven, of all that could interest her in my life. I related my birth,
my humble and poor condition; I spoke of my father, a soldier of former
days; my mother, a woman of exquisite sensibility, whose youth had been
passed in all the refinement and elegance of letters; my young sisters,
their pious and angelic simplicity; I mentioned my education among the
children of my native mountains; my ready enthusiasm for study; my
involuntary inaction; my travels; my first thrill of the heart beside
the youthful daughter of the Neapolitan fisherman; the unprofitable
acquaintances I formed in Paris,--the levity, misconduct, and
self-abasement which had been the result; my desire for a soldier's
life, which peace had counteracted at the very time I entered the army;
my leaving my regiment; my wanderings without an object; my hopeless
return to the paternal roof; my wasting melancholy; my wish to die; my
weariness of everything; and lastly, I spoke of my physical languor, A
proceeding from heaviness of the soul, and of that premature
decrepitude of the heart, and distaste of life, which was concealed
beneath the appearance and features of a man of four-and-twenty. I
dwelt with inward satisfaction on the disappointments, weariness, and
bitterness of my life, for I no longer felt them! A single look had
regenerated me. I spoke of myself as of one that was dead; a new man
was born within me. When I had ended, I raised my eyes to her, as
towards my judge. She was trembling and pale with emotion. "Heavens,"
she exclaimed, "how you alarmed me!" "And why?" said I. "Because," she
rejoined, "if you had not been unhappy and lonely here below, there
would have been one link the less between us. You would have felt no
desire to pity another; and I should have quitted life without having
seen a shadow of myself, save in the heartless mirror where my own cold
image is reflected."

"The history of your life," she continued, "is the history of mine,
with the change of a few particulars. Only yours commences, and mine--"
I would not let her conclude. "No, no!" said I hoarsely pressing my
lips to her feet, which I embraced convulsively as if to hold her down
to earth; "no, no! you will not, must not die; or, if you do, I feel
two lives will end at once!"

I was alarmed at my own gesture and at the exclamation which had
involuntarily escaped me; and I durst not raise my face off the ground,
from which she had withdrawn her feet. "Rise," she said, in a grave
voice, but without anger; "do not worship dust--dust as lowly as that
in which you are soiling your fine hair, and which will be scattered as
light and as impalpable by the first autumnal wind. Do not deceive
yourself as to the poor creature you see before you. I am but the
shadow of youth, of beauty, and of love,--of the love you will one day
feel and inspire, when this shadow shall long have passed away. Keep
your heart for those who are to live, and only give to the dying what
the dying ask, a gentle hand to support their last steps, and tears to
mourn their loss."

The grave and serious tone-with which she said these words struck to my
heart. Yet as I looked on her, and saw the glowing tints of the setting
sun illumining her face, which shone with hourly increasing youth and
serenity of expression, as though a new sun had risen in her heart, I
could not believe in death concealed under these glorious signs of
life. Besides, what cared I? If that heavenly vision was death, well,
it was death I loved. It might be that the vast and perfect love for
which I thirsted was only to be found in death. It might be that God
had only showed me its nearly extinguished light on earth, to urge me
to follow the trace of its ray into the grave, and from thence to

"Do not stay dreaming thus," she said, "but listen to me!" This was not
said with the accent of one who loves, and affects a sportive
seriousness, but with the tone of a still youthful mother, or an elder
sister counselling a brother or a son. "I do not wish you to attach
yourself to a false appearance, a delusion, a dream; I wish you to know
her to whom you so rashly pledge a heart which she could only retain by
deceiving you. Falsehood has always been so odious and so impossible to
me, that I could not desire the supreme felicity of heaven, if I must
enter heaven by deceit. Stolen happiness would not be happiness for me,
it would be remorse."

As she spoke, there was so much candor on her lips, so much sincerity
in her tone, and limpid purity in her eyes, that I fancied as I looked
at her that under her pure and lovely form I saw immortal Truth, in the
broad light of day, pouring her voice into the ear, her look into the
eye, and her soul into the heart. I stretched myself on the hay at her
feet and, with my elbow leaning on the ground, I rested my head upon my
hand; my eyes were riveted upon her lips, of which I strove not to lose
a single motion, a single modulation, or a single sigh.


"I was born," she said, "in the same land as Virginia (for the poet's
fancy has given a real birthplace to his dream), in an island of the
tropics. You may have guessed it from the color of my hair, and from my
complexion, which is paler than that of European women. You must have
perceived, too, the accent which still lingers on my lips. In truth, I
rather wish to preserve that accent as my only memento of my native
land; it recalls to my mind the plaintive and harmonious sounds of the
sea-breeze that are heard at noon beneath the lofty palms. You may also
have noticed that incorrigible indolence of walk and attitude, so
different from the vivacity of French women, which indicates in the
Creole a wild and natural frankness that knows not how to feign or to

"My family name is D----, and my own is Julie. My mother was lost in a
boat in attempting to leave our native island during an insurrection of
the blacks. I was washed ashore and saved by a black woman, who took
care of me for several years, and then delivered me over to my father.
He brought me to France when I was six years old, with an elder sister,
and a short time after he died in poverty and exile in the house of
some poor relations, who had hospitably received us in Brittany. The
second mother whom I had found in exile provided for my education until
her death, and, at twelve years old, I was adopted by the government as
being the daughter of a man who had done some service to his country.

"I was brought up in all the luxurious splendor, and amid the choice
friendships of those sumptuous houses, in which the State receives the
daughters of those who die for their country. I grew in years, in
talent, and also, it was said, in beauty. Mine was a grave and saddened
grace, like the flower of some tropical plant blooming awhile beneath a
foreign sky. But my useless beauty and my unavailing talents gladdened
no eye or heart beyond the narrow precincts in which I was confined. My
companions, with whom I had formed those close intimacies which make
the friends of childhood the kindred of the heart, had all left, one by
one, to join their mothers, or to follow their husbands. No mother took
me home; no relation came to visit me; no young man heard of me, or
sought me for his wife. I was saddened by these successive departures
of all my friends, and felt sorrowful to think I was forsaken by the
whole world, and doomed to an eternal bereavement of the heart without
ever having loved. I often wept in secret, and regretted that the poor
black woman had not allowed me to perish in the waves of my native
shore, more merciful to me than the ocean, of the world on which I was

"Now and then, an old man of great celebrity would come to visit, in
the name of the Emperor, the national house of education, and inquire
into the progress of the pupils in the arts and sciences, which were
taught by the first masters of the capital; I was always pointed out to
him as the brightest example of the education bestowed on the orphans.
He invariably treated me with peculiar predilection from my childhood.
'How I regret,' he would sometimes say, loud enough for me to hear,
'that I have no son!'

"One day I was called down to the parlor of the Superior. I found there
my illustrious and venerable friend, who seemed as discomposed as I was
myself. 'My child,' said he, at length, 'years roll on for every
one,--slowly for you, swiftly for me. You are now seventeen; in a few
months you will have attained the age at which you must leave this
house for the world; but there is no world to receive you. You have no
country, no home, no fortune, and no family in France; your unprotected
and dependent situation has made me feel anxious on your account for
many years. The life of a young girl who earns her livelihood by her
labor is full of snares and bitterness, and a home offered by friends
is both precarious and humiliating to the spirit. The extreme beauty
that Nature has bestowed upon you will, by its brightness, dispel the
obscurity of your fate and attract vice, as the brightness of gold
induces theft. Where do you mean to take shelter from the sorrows and
dangers of life?' 'I know not,' I answered; 'and I have thought
sometimes that death alone can save me from my fate!' 'Oh,' he replied,
with a sad and irresolute smile, 'I have thought of another mode of
escape, but I scarcely dare propose it.' 'Speak without fear, sir,' I
answered; 'you have during so many years spoken to me with the look and
accent of a father, that I shall fancy I am obeying mine, in obeying
you.' 'Ah, he would be happy indeed,' he replied, 'who had a daughter
such as you! Forgive me if I have sometimes indulged in such a dream!
Listen to me,' he added in a more tender and serious tone; 'and answer
me in thorough frankness and liberty of heart.

"'My life is drawing to a close; the grave will soon open to receive
me, and I have no relations to whom to bequeath my only wealth,--the
unaspiring celebrity of my name, and the humble fortune that I have
acquired by my labors. Hitherto I have lived alone, completely absorbed
by the studies that have consumed and dignified my life. I draw near to
the close of my existence, and I am painfully aware that I have not
commenced to live, since I have not thought of loving. It is too late
to retrace my steps, and follow the path of happiness instead of that
of glory, which I have unfortunately chosen; and yet I would not die
without leaving in some memory that prolongation of existence in the
existence of another, which is called affection,--the only immortality
in which I believe. I cannot hope for more than gratitude, and I feel
that it is from you that I should wish to obtain it. But,' added he,
more timidly, 'for that, you must consent to accept, in the eyes of the
world, and for the world only, the name, the hand, and the affection of
an old man who would he a father under the name of husband, and who, as
such, would merely seek the right of receiving you into his house, and
loving you as his child.'

"He stopped, and refused that day to hear the answer which was already
hovering on my lips. He was the only man among all the visitors of the
house who had evinced any feeling towards me, beyond that vulgar and
almost insolent admiration which shows itself in looks and
exclamations, and is as much an offence as an homage. I knew nothing of
love; I only felt an absence of all family ties which I thought the
tenderness of my adoptive father would replace. I was offered a safe
and honorable refuge against the dangers of the life in which I was to
enter in a few months; and a name which would be as a diadem to the
woman who bore it. His hair had grown white, it was true, but under the
touch of Fame, which bestows eternal youth upon its favorites; his
years would have numbered four times mine, but his regular and majestic
features inspired respect for time, and no disgust for old age, and his
countenance, where genius and goodness were combined, possessed that
beauty of declining age which attracts the eye and affection even of

* * * * *

"The very day I quitted forever the Orphan Establishment, I entered my
husband's house, not as his wife, but as his daughter. The world gave
him the name of husband, but he never suffered me to call him anything
but father, and he was such to me in care and tenderness. He made me
the adored and radiating centre of a select and distinguished circle,
composed for the greater part of those old men, eminent in letters,
politics, or philosophy, who had been the glory of the preceding
century and had escaped the fury of the Revolution, and the voluntary
servitude of the Empire. He selected for me friends and guides among
those women of the same period who were most remarkable for their
talents or virtues; he promoted and encouraged all those connections
most likely to interest my mind or heart, and to diversify the
monotonous life I led in an old man's house; and far from being severe
or jealous in respect of my acquaintances, he sought by the most
courteous attention to attract all those distinguished men whose
society might have charms for me. He would have liked whomever I had
chosen, and would have been pleased if I had shown preference to any
one among the crowd. I was the worshipped idol of the house, and the
general idolatry of which I was the object went far, perhaps, to guard
me against any individual predilection. I was too happy and too much
flattered to inquire into the state of my own heart, and besides, there
was so much paternal tenderness in my husband's manner towards me,
although he only showed his fondness by sometimes holding me to his
heart, and kissing my forehead, from which he gently parted my hair,
that I should have feared to disturb my happiness by seeking to render
it complete. He would sometimes, however, playfully rally me on my
indifference, and tell me that all that tended to add to my happiness
would increase his own.

"Once, and once only, I thought I loved and was beloved. A man whose
genius had rendered him illustrious, who was powerful from his high
favor with the Emperor, and who was doubly captivating by his renown
and appearance, although he had passed the meridian of life, sought me
with a signal devotion that deceived me. I was not elated with pride,
but rather with gratitude and surprise. I loved him for a time, or
rather I loved a self-created delusion under his name. I might have
yielded to the charm of such a feeling, had I not discovered that what
I supposed to be a passionate attachment of the heart was on his part
only an infatuation of the senses. When I perceived the real nature of
his love, it became odious to me, and I blushed to think how I had been
deceived; I took back my heart, and wrapped myself once more in the
cold monotony of my happiness.

"The morning was spent in deep and engaging studies with my husband,
whose willing disciple I was. During the day we took long and solitary
walks in the woods of St. Cloud or of Meudon; and in the evening a few
grave, and for the most part elderly, friends would meet and discourse
on various topics, with all the freedom of intimacy. These cold but
indulgent hearts inclined toward my youth, from that natural bias which
makes the love of the aged descend on the youthful, as the streams of
snow-covered summits flow downwards to the plain. But these hoary heads
seemed to shed their snows on me, and my youth pined and wasted away in
the ungenial atmosphere of age. There lay too great a space of years
between their hearts and mine! Oh, what would I not have given to have
had one friend of my own age, by the contact of whose warm heart I
might have dissolved the thoughts that froze within me, as the dew of
morning congeals upon the plants that grow too near these mountain

"My husband often looked sadly at me, and seemed alarmed at my pale
face and languid voice. He would have desired, at any cost, to give air
and motion to my heart. He continually tried to induce me to mingle in
diversions which might dispel my melancholy, and would use gentle force
to oblige me to appear at balls and theatres, in the hope that the
natural pride which my youth and beauty might have given me would have
made me share in the pleasure of those around me. The next morning, as
soon as I was awake, he would come into my room and make me relate the
impression I had produced, the admiration I had attracted, and even
speak of the hearts that I had seemed to touch. 'And you,' would he
say, in a tone of gentle interrogation, 'do you share none of these
feelings that you inspire? Is your young heart at twenty as old as
mine? Oh, that I could see you single out from among all these admirers
one superior being, who might one day, by his love, render your
happiness complete, and when I am gone, continue my affection for you
under a younger and more tender form!' 'Your affection suffices me,' I
would answer; 'I feel no pain; I desire nothing; I am happy!' 'Yes,' he
would rejoin, 'you are happy, but you are growing old at twenty! Oh,
remember that it is your task to close my eyes! Live and love! oh, do
but live, that I may not survive you!

"He called in one doctor after another; they wearied me with questions,
and all agreed in saying that I was threatened with spasm of the heart.
The fainting fits, incident to the disease, had begun to show
themselves. I required, it was said, to break through the usual routine
of my life, to relinquish for some time my sedentary habits, and seek a
complete change of air and scene, in order to give me that stimulus and
energy that my tropical nature required, and which it had lost in the
cold and misty atmosphere of Paris. My husband did not hesitate one
moment between the hope of prolonging my life and the happiness of
keeping me near him. As he could not, by reason of his age and
occupations, accompany me, he confided me to the care of friends who
were travelling in Switzerland and Italy, with two daughters of my own
age. I travelled with that family two years; I have seen mountains and
seas that reminded me of those of my native land; I have breathed the
balmy and stimulating air of the waves and glaciers; but nothing has
restored to me the youth that has withered in my heart, although it
sometimes appears to bloom on my face, so as to deceive even me. The
doctors of Geneva have sent me here, as the last resource of their art;
they have advised me to prolong my stay as long as one ray of sun
lingers in the autumnal sky; then I shall rejoin my husband. Alas, that
I could have shown him his daughter, once more young, and radiant with
health and hope! But I feel that I shall return only to sadden his
latter days, and perhaps to expire in his arms! Well," she rejoined in
a resigned and almost joyful tone, "I shall not now leave earth without
having seen my long-expected brother,--the brother of the soul, that
some secret instinct taught me to expect, and whose image, foreshadowed
in my fancy, had made me indifferent to all real beings. Yes," she
said, covering her eyes with her rosy taper fingers between which I saw
one or two tears trickle; "oh, yes, the dream of all my nights was
embodied in you this morning, when I awoke! ... Oh, if it were not too
late to live on, I would wish to live for centuries, to prolong the
consciousness of that look, which seemed to weep over me, of that heart
that pitied me, of that voice," she added, unveiling her eyes which
were raised to heaven,--"of that voice that called me sister! ... That
tender name will never more be taken from me," she added with a look
and tone of gentle interrogation, "during life, or after death?"


I sank at her feet overpowered with felicity, and pressed my lips to
them without saying a word. I heard the step of the boatmen, who came
to tell us that the lake was calm, and that there was but just
sufficient daylight left to cross over to the Savoy shore. We rose to
follow them, with unsteady steps, as if intoxicated with joy. Oh, who
can describe what I experienced, as I felt the weight of her pliant but
exhausted frame hanging delightfully on my arm, as though she wished to
feel, and make me feel, that I was henceforward her only support in
weakness, her only trust in sorrow, the only link by which she held to
earth! Methinks I hear even now, though fifteen years have passed since
that hour, the sound of the dry leaves as they rustled beneath our
tread; I see our two long shadows blended into one, which the sun cast
on the left side on the grass of the orchard, and which seemed, like a
living shroud tracking the steps of youth and love, to develop them
before their time. I feel the gentle warmth of her shoulder against my
heart, and the touch of one of the tresses of her hair, which the wind
of the lake waved against my face, and which my lips strove to retain
and to kiss. O Time, what eternities of joy thou buriest in one such
minute, or rather, how powerless art thou against memory; how impotent
to give forgetfulness!


The evening was as warm and peaceful as the preceding day had been cold
and stormy. The mountains were bathed in a soft purple light which made
them appear larger and more distant than usual, and they seemed like
huge floating shadows through whose transparency one could perceive the
warm sky of Italy which lay beyond. The sky was mottled with small
crimson clouds, like the ensanguined plumes which fall from the wing of
the wounded swan, struggling in the grasp of an eagle.

The wind had subsided as evening came on; the silvery rippling waves
threw a slight fringe of spray around the rocks, from which the
dripping branches of the fig-trees depended. The smoke from the
cottages, which lay scattered on the Mont du Chat, rose here and there,
and crept upward along the mountain sides, while the cascades fell into
the ravines below, like a smoke of waters. The waves of the lake were
so transparent, that as we leaned over the side of the boat, we could
see the reflection of the oars and of our own faces, and so warm, that
as we drew our fingers through them, we felt but a voluptuous caress of
the waters. We were separated from the boatmen by a small curtain, as
in the gondolas of Venice. She was lying on one of the benches of the
boat, as on a couch, with her elbow resting upon a cushion; she was
enveloped in shawls to protect her from the damp of evening, and my
cloak was placed in several folds upon her feet; her face, at times in
shade, was at others illumined by the last rosy tints of the sun, which
seemed suspended over the dark firs of the Grande Chartreuse. I was
lying on a heap of nets at the bottom of the boat; my heart was full,
my lips were mute, my eyes were fixed on hers. What need had we to
speak, when the sun, the hour, the mountains, the air and water, the
voluptuous balancing of the boat, the light ripple of the murmuring
waters as we divided them, our looks, our silence, and our hearts,
which beat in unison,--all spoke so eloquently for us? We rather seemed
to fear instinctively that the least sound of voice or words would jar
discordantly on such enchanting silence. We seemed to glide from the
azure of the lake to the azure of the horizon, without seeing the
shores we left, or the shores on which we were about to land.

I heard one longer and more deep-drawn sigh fall slowly from her lips,
as though her bosom, oppressed by some secret weight, had at one breath
exhaled the aspirations of a long life. I felt alarmed. "Are you in
pain?" I inquired, sadly. "No," she said; "it was not pain, it was
thought." "What were you thinking of so intensely?" I rejoined. "I was
thinking," she answered, "that if God were at this instant to strike
all nature with immobility; if the sun were to remain thus, its disk
half hidden behind those dark firs, which seem the fringed lashes of
the eye of heaven; if light and shade remained thus blended in the
atmosphere, this lake in its same transparency, this air as balmy,
these two shores forever at the same distance from this boat, the same
ray of ethereal light on your brow, the same look of pity reflected
from your eyes in mine, this same fulness of joy in my heart,--I should
comprehend what I have never comprehended since I first began to think,
or to dream." "What?" said I, anxiously. "Eternity in one instant, and
the Infinite in one sensation!" she exclaimed, half leaning over the
edge of the boat, as if to look at the water and to spare me the
embarrassment of an answer. I was awkward enough to reply by some
commonplace phrase of vulgar gallantry, which unfortunately rose to my
lips, instead of the chaste and ineffable adoration which inundated my
heart. It was something to the effect that such happiness would not
suffice me, if it were not the promise of another and a greater
felicity. She understood me but too well, and blushed, on my account
rather than her own. She turned to me with all the emotion of profaned
purity depicted on her face, and in accents as tender, but more solemn
and heartfelt than any that had yet fallen from her lips: "You have
given me pain," she said in a low voice; "come hither, nearer to me,
and listen; I know not if what I feel for you, and what you appear to
feel for me, be what is termed love, in the obscure and confused
language of this world in which the same words serve to express
feelings that bear no resemblance to each other, save in the sound they
yield upon the lips of man. I do not wish to know it; and you--oh, I
beseech you, never seek to know it! But this I know, that it is the
most supreme and entire happiness that the soul of one created being
can draw from the soul, the eyes, and the voice of another being like
to herself, of a being who till now was wanting to her happiness, and
of whom she completes the existence. Besides this boundless happiness,
this mutual response of thought to thought, of heart to heart, of soul
to soul, which blends them in one indivisible existence, and makes them
as inseparable as the ray of yonder setting sun, and the beam of yonder
rising moon, when they meet in this same sky, and ascend in mingled
light in the same ether--is there another joy, gross image of the one I
feel, as far removed from the eternal and immaterial union of our souls
as dust is from these stars, or a minute from eternity? I know not! and
I will not, cannot know!" she added in a tone of disdainful sadness.
"But," she resumed, with a confiding look and attitude, which seemed to
make her wholly mine, "what do words signify? I love you! All nature
would say it for me, if I did not; or rather, let me proclaim it first,
for both: We love each other!"

"Oh, say, say it once more, say it a thousand times," I exclaimed,
rising like a madman, and walking backwards and forwards in the boat,
which shook beneath my feet. "Let us say it together, say it to God and
man, say it to heaven and earth, say it to the mute, unheeding
elements! Say it eternally, and let all nature repeat it eternally with
us!" ... I fell on my knees before her, with my hands clasped, and my
disordered hair falling over my face. "Be calm," she said, placing her
fingers on my lips, "and let me speak without interruption to the end."
I sat down and remained silent.

"I have said," she resumed, "or rather I have not said, I have called
out to you from the depths of my soul, that I love you! I love with all
the accumulated power of the expectations, dreams, and impatient
longings of a sterile life of eight-and-twenty years, passed in
watching and not seeing, in seeking and not finding, what some
presentiment taught me to expect, and you have revealed to me. But,
alas, I have known and loved you too late, if you understand love as
most men do, and as you seemed to comprehend it, when you spoke just
now, those light and profane words. Listen to me once more," she added,
"and understand me; I am yours, wholly yours. I belong to you as I do
to myself, and I may say so without wronging the adoptive father, who
never considered me but as a daughter. I am wholly yours, and of myself
I only keep back what you wish me to retain. Do not be surprised at
this language, which is not that of the women of Europe; they love and
are beloved tamely, and would fear to weaken the sentiments they
inspire by avowing a secret that they wish to have wrested from them. I
differ from them by my country, by my feelings, and by my education. I
have lived with a philosopher in the society of free-thinkers,
unshackled by the belief and observances of the religion they have
undermined, and have none of the superstitions, weaknesses and scruples
which make ordinary women bow before another judge than their
conscience. The God of their childhood is not my God. I believe in the
God who has written his symbol in Nature, his law in our hearts, his
morality in our reason. Reason, feeling and conscience are the only
Revelation in which I believe. Neither of these oracles of my life
forbid me to be yours, and the impulse of my whole soul would cast me
into your arms, if you could only be happy at that price. But shall you
or I place our happiness in a fugitive delirium of the senses, which
cannot give half the enjoyment that its voluntary renunciation would
afford our hearts? Shall we not more fully believe in the immateriality
and eternity of our love, if it remains, like a pure thought, in those
regions which are inaccessible to change and death, than if it were
degraded and profaned by unworthy delights? If ever," she added, after
a short silence, and blushing deeply, "if ever, in a moment of frenzy
and incredulity, you exacted from me such a proof of abnegation, the
sacrifice would not only be one of dignity, but of existence; in
robbing my love of its innocency, you would rob me of life; when you
thought to embrace happiness, you would clasp only death in your arms;
I am but a shade, and in one sigh I may exhale my soul!..."

We remained silent for some time. At last, with a deep-drawn sigh, I
said, "I understand you, and in my heart I had sworn the eternal
innocency of my love, before you had done speaking, or required it of


My resigned tone seemed to delight her, and to redouble the confiding
charm of her manner. Night had spread over all, the stars glassed
themselves in the lake, and the silence of Nature lulled the earth to
rest. The winds, the trees and waves were hushed, to let us listen to
all the fugitive impressions of feeling and of thought that whisper in
the hearts of the happy. The boatmen sang snatches of their drawling
and monotonous chants, which seem like the noted modulations of the
waves on the shore. I was reminded of her voice, which seemed ever to
sound in my ear, and I exclaimed, "Oh, that you would mark this
enchanting night for me, by some sweet tones addressed to these winds
and waves, so that they may be forever full of you!" I made a sign to
the boatmen to be silent, and to stifle the sound of their oars, from
which the drops came trickling back into the lake like a musical
accompaniment of silvery notes. She sang a Scotch ballad, half naval
and half pastoral, in which a young girl, whose sailor lover has left
her to seek wealth beyond the seas, relates how her parents, wearied of
waiting his return, had induced her to marry an old man, with whom she
might have been happy, but for the remembrance of her early love. The
ballad begins thus:

"When the sheep are in the fauld and the ky at hame,
And a' the weary warld to rest are gane,
The waes of my heart fa' in showers frae my e'e,
While my gude-man lies sound by me."

After each verse there is a long revery, sung in vague notes, without
words, which lulls the heart with unspeakable melancholy, and brings
tears into the eyes and voice. Each succeeding verse takes up the story
in the dull and distant tone of memory, weeping, regretting, yet
resigned. If the Greek strophes of Sappho are the very fire of love,
these Scotch notes are the very life's blood and tears of a heart
stricken to death by Fate. I know not who wrote the music, but whoever
he may be, thanks be to him for having found in a few notes, and in the
mournful melody of a voice, the expression of infinite human sadness. I
have never since then heard the first measures of that air without
flying from it as one pursued by a spirit; and when I wish to soften my
heart by a tear, I sing within myself the plaintive burden of that
song, and feel ready to weep,--I, who never weep!


We reached the little mole that stretches out into the lake where the
boats are moored; it is the harbor of Aix, and is situated at about
half a league from the town. It was midnight, and there were no longer
any carriages or donkeys on the pier to convey strangers to the town.

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