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Raphael by Alphonse de Lamartine

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The distance was too great for a delicate suffering woman to walk, and
after knocking fruitlessly at the doors of one or two cottages in the
vicinity of the lake, the boatmen proposed carrying the lady to Aix.
They cheerfully slipped their oars from the rings which fastened them
to the boat, and tied them together with the ropes of their nets; then
they placed one of the cushions of the boat on these ropes, and thus
formed a soft and flexible kind of litter for the stranger. Four of
them then took up the oars, and each placing one end on his shoulder,
they set off with the palanquin, to which they imparted no other motion
than that of their steps. I would have wished to have my share in the
pleasure of bearing their precious burden, but was repulsed by them
with jealous eagerness. I walked beside the litter with my right hand
in hers, so that she might cling to me when the movement of her
conveyance was too rough. I thus prevented her slipping off the narrow
cushion on which she was stretched. We walked in this manner slowly and
silently in the moonlight down the long avenue of poplars. Oh, how
short that avenue seemed to me, and how I wished that it could have led
us on thus to the last step of both our lives! She did not speak, and I
said nothing, but I felt the whole weight of her body trustingly
suspended to my arm; I felt both her cold hands clasp mine, and from
time to time an involuntary pressure, or a warmer breath upon them,
made me feel that she had approached her lips to my hand to warm it.
Never was silence so eloquent in its mute revealings. We enjoyed the
happiness of a century in one hour. By the time we arrived at the old
doctor's house, and had deposited the invalid at her chamber door, the
whole world that lay between us had disappeared. My hand was wet with
her tears; I dried them with my lips, and threw myself without
undressing on my bed.


In vain I tossed and turned on my pillow; I could not sleep. The
thousand impressions of the preceding days were traced so vividly on my
mind that I could not believe they were past, and I seemed to hear and
see over again all I had seen or heard the previous day. The fever of
my soul had extended to my body. I rose and laid down again without
finding repose. At last I gave it up. I tried by bodily motion to calm
the agitation of my mind; I opened the window, turned over the leaves
of books which I did not understand as I read them, paced up and down,
and changed the position of my table and my chair a dozen times,
without finding a place where I could bear to spend the night. All this
noise was heard in the adjoining room; and my steps disturbed the poor
invalid, who, doubtless, was as wakeful as I was. I heard a light step
on the creaking floor approach the bolted oak door which separated her
sitting-room from my bedroom; I listened with my ear close to the door,
and heard a suppressed breathing, and the rustle of a silk gown against
the wall. The light of a lamp shone through the chinks of the door, and
streamed from beneath it on my floor. It was she! she was there
listening too, with her ear perhaps close to my brow; she might have
heard my heart beat. "Are you ill?" whispered a voice, which I should
have recognized by a single sigh. "No," I answered, "but I am too
happy! Excess of joy is as exciting as excess of anguish. The fever I
feel is one of life; I do not wish to dispel it, or to fly from it, but
I am sitting up to enjoy it." "Child that you are!" she said, "go and
sleep while I watch; it is now my turn to watch over you." "But you,"
whispered I, "why are you not sleeping?" "I never wish to sleep more,"
she replied; "I would not lose one minute of the consciousness of my
overwhelming bliss. I have but little time in which to enjoy my
happiness, and do not like to give any portion of it to forgetfulness
in sleep. I came to sit here in the hopes of hearing you, or at any
rate to feel nearer to you." "Oh, why still so far?" I murmured. "Why
so far? Why is this wall between us?" "Is there only this door between
us then," she said, "and not our will and our vow? There! if you are
only restrained by this material obstacle, it is removed!" and I heard
her withdraw the bolt on her side. "Yes," she continued, "if there be
not in you some feeling stronger than love itself to subdue and master
your passion, you can pass. Yes," she added with an accent at once more
solemn and more impassioned, "I will owe nothing but to yourself,--you
may pass; you will meet with love equal to your own, but such love
would be my death...."

I was overcome by the violence of my feelings, the impetuous impulse of
my heart that impelled me towards that voice, and the moral violence
that repulsed me; and I fell as one mortally wounded on the threshold
of that closed door. As to her, I heard her sit down on a cushion which
she had taken from a sofa, and thrown on the floor. During the greater
part of the night we continued to converse in a low tone, through the
intervals between the floor and the rough wood-work of the door. Who
can describe the outpourings of our hearts, the words unused in the
ordinary language of men that seemed to be wafted like night-dreams
between heaven and earth, and were interrupted by silence in which our
hearts and not our lips communed revealed their unutterable thoughts?
At length the intervals of silence became longer, the voices grew
faster and, overcome with fatigue, I fell asleep, with my hand clasped
on my knees, and my cheek leaning against the wall.


The sun was already high in the heavens when I woke, and my room was
flooded with light. The redbreasts were chirping and pecking at the
vines and currant bushes beneath my windows; all nature seemed to be
illumined and adorned and to have awakened before me, to usher in and
welcome this first day of my new life. All the sounds and noises in the
house seemed joyful as I was. I heard the light steps of the maid who
went and came in the passage to carry breakfast to her mistress, the
childish voices of the little girls of the mountains who brought
flowers from the edge of the glaciers, and the tinkling bells and
stamping hoofs of the mules which were waiting in the yard to carry her
to the lake or to the mountain. I changed my soiled and dusty clothes,
I bathed my red and swollen eyes, smoothed my disordered hair, put on
my leather gaiters, like a chamois hunter of the Alps, and taking my
gun in hand, I went down to join the old doctor and his family at the

At breakfast they talked of the storm on the lake, of the danger in
which the stranger had been, her fainting at Haute-Combe, her absence
during two days, and my good fortune in having met with her and brought
her home. I begged the doctor to request for me the favor of inquiring
in person after her health, and accompanying her in her excursions. He
came down again with her; she looked lovelier and more interesting than
ever, and happiness seemed to have given her fresh youth. She enchanted
every one, but she looked only at me. I alone understood her looks and
words with their double meaning. The guides lifted her joyfully on the
seat with the swinging foot-board, which serves as a saddle for the
women of Savoy; and I walked beside the mule with the tinkling bells
which was that day to carry her to the highest chalets of the mountain.

We passed the whole day there, but we scarcely spoke, so well did we
already understand each other without words. Sometimes we stood
contemplating the cheerful valley of Chambery which appeared to widen
as we mounted higher; or we loitered on the edge of cascades, whose
sun-tinted vapors enveloped us in watery rainbows that seemed to be the
mysterious halo of our love; or we would gather the latest flowers of
earth on the sloping meadows before the chalets, and exchange them
between us, as the letters of the fragrant alphabet of Nature,
intelligible to us alone; or we gathered chestnuts which we brought
home to roast at night by her fire; or we sat under shelter of the
highest chalets which were already abandoned by their owners, and
thought how happy two beings like ourselves might be, confined by fate
to one of these deserted huts, made from rough boards and trunks of
trees,--so near the stars, so near the murmuring winds, the snows and
glaciers, but divided from man by solitude, and sufficing to each other
during a life filled with one thought and but one feeling!


In the evening we came down slowly from the mountain with saddened
looks, as though we had been leaving our domains and happiness behind
us. She retired to her apartment, and I remained below to sup with our
host and his guests. After supper I knocked, as had been agreed upon,
at her door; she received me as she might a friend of childhood after a
long absence. Henceforward I spent all my days and all my evenings in
the same manner; I generally found her reclining on a sofa with a white
cover, which was placed in a corner between the fireplace and the
window; upon a small table on which stood a brass lamp there were some
books, the letters she had received or commenced during the day, a
little common tea-pot,--which she gave me when she went away, and which
has always stood upon my chimney since,--and two cups of blue and pink
china, in which we used to take tea at midnight. The old doctor would
sometimes go up with me, to chat with his fair patient; but after half
an hour's conversation, the good old man would find out that my
presence went further than his advice or his baths to re-establish the
health that was so precious to us all, and would leave us to our books
and conversation. At midnight, I kissed the hand she extended to me
across the table, and went to my own room; but I never retired to rest
until all was silent in hers.


We led this delightful, twofold life during six long or short weeks;
long, when I call to mind the numberless palpitations of joy in our
hearts, but short, when I remember the imperceptible rapidity of the
hours that filled them. By a miracle of Providence, which does not
occur once in ten years, the season seemed to connive at our happiness,
and to conspire with us to prolong it. The whole month of October, and
half of November, seemed like a new but leafless spring; the air was
still soft, the waters blue, the clouds were rosy, and the sun shone
brightly. The days were shorter, it is true, but the long evenings
spent beside her fire drew us closer together; they made us more
exclusively present to each other, and prevented our looks and hearts
from evaporating amid the splendor of external nature. We loved them
better than the long summer days. Our light was within us, and it shone
more brightly when we confined ourselves to the house during the long
darkness of November evenings, with the moaning of the autumnal winds
around us, and the first rattling of the sleet and hail against the
windows. The wintry rain seemed to throw us back upon ourselves, and to
cry aloud: Hasten to say all that is yet untold in your hearts, and all
that must be spoken before man and woman die, for I am the voice of the
evil days that are near at hand to part you!


We visited together, in succession, every creek and cove, or sandy
beach of the lake, every mountain pass or ridge; every grotto or remote
valley; every cascade hidden among the rocks of Savoy. We saw more
sublime or smiling landscapes, more mysterious solitudes, more
enchanted deserts, more cottages hanging on the mountain brow half-way
between the clouds and the abyss, more foaming waters in the sloping
meadows, more forests of dark pines disclosing their gloomy colonnades
and echoing our steps beneath their domes, than might have hidden a
whole world of lovers. To each of these we gave a sigh, a rapture, or a
blessing; we implored them to preserve the memory of the hours we had
passed together, of the thoughts they had inspired, the air they had
given us, the drop of water we had drunk in the hollow of our hands,
the leaf or flower we had gathered, the print of our footsteps on the
dewy grass, and to give them back to us one day with the particle of
existence that we had left there as we passed; so that nought might be
lost of the bliss that overflowed within us, and that we might receive
back each minute of ecstasy, or emanation of ourselves, in that
faithful treasure house of Eternity, where nothing is lost, not even
the breath we have just exhaled, or the minute we think we have lost.
Never, perhaps, since the creation of these lakes, these torrents, and
these rocks, did such tender and fervent hymns ascend from these
mountains to Heaven! There was in our souls life and love enough to
animate all nature, earth, air, and water, rocks and trees, cedar and
hyssop, and to make them give forth sighs, aspirations, voice, perfume,
and flame enough to fill the whole sanctuary of Nature, even if more
vast and mute than the desert in which we wandered. Had a globe been
created for ourselves alone, we alone would have sufficed to people and
to quicken it, to give it voice and language, praise and love for all
eternity! And who shall say that the human soul is not infinite? Who,
beside the woman he adores, before the face of Nature, and beneath the
eye of God, e'er felt the limits of existence, or of his power of life
and love? O Love! the base may fear thee, and the wicked proscribe
thee! Thou art the high priest of this world, the revealer of
Immortality, the fire of the altar; and without thy ray man would not
even dimly comprehend Eternity!


These six weeks were to me as a baptism of fire which transfigured my
soul, and cleansed it of all the impurities with which it had been
stained. Love was the torch which, while it fired my heart, enlightened
all nature, heaven, and earth, and showed me to myself. I understood
the nothingness of this world when I felt how it vanished before a
single spark of true life. I loathed myself as I looked back into the
past, and compared it with the purity and perfection of the one I
loved. I entered into the heaven of my soul, as my heart and eyes
fathomed the ocean of beauty, tenderness, and purity which expanded
hourly in the eyes, in the voice, and in the discourse, of the heavenly
creature who had manifested herself to me. How often did I kneel before
her, my head bowed to the earth in the attitude and with the feeling of
adoration! How often did I beseech her, as I would a being of another
order, to cleanse me in her tears, absorb me in her flame, or to inhale
me in her breath,--so that nothing of myself should be left in me, save
the purifying water with which she had cleansed me, the flame that had
consumed me, or the new breath that she had infused into my new being;
so that I might become her, or she might become me, and that God
himself in calling us to him should not distinguish or divide what the
miracle of love had transformed and mingled!... Oh, if you have a
brother or a son, who has never understood virtue, pray that he may
love as I did! As long as he loves thus, he will be capable of every
sacrifice or heroic devotion to equal the ideal of his love; and when
he no longer loves, he will still retain in his soul a remembrance of
celestial delights, which will make him turn with disgust from the
waters of vice, and his eye will be often secretly uplifted towards the
pure spring at which he once knelt to drink. I cannot tell the feeling
of salutary shame which oppressed me in the presence of the one I
loved; but her reproaches were so tender, her looks so gentle, though
penetrating, her pardon so divine, that in humbling myself before her I
did not feel myself abased, but rather raised and dignified. I almost
mistook for my own and inward light, what was only the reverberation in
me of her splendor and purity. Involuntarily I compared her to all the
other women I had approached, except Antonina, who appeared to me like
Julie in her artless infancy; and save my mother, whom she resembled in
her virtue and maturity, no woman in my eyes could bear the slightest
comparison. A single look of hers seemed to throw all my past life into
shade. Her discourse revealed to me depths of feelings and refinements
of passion, which transported me into unknown regions, where I seemed
to breathe for the first time the native air of my own thoughts. All
the levity, fickleness, and vanity, the aridity, irony, and bitterness,
of the evil days of my youth, disappeared, and I scarcely recognized
myself. When I left her presence I felt myself good, and thought myself
pure. Once more I felt enthusiasm, prayer, inward piety, and the warm
tears which flow not from the eyes, but well out like a secret spring
from beneath our apparent aridity, and cleanse the heart without
enervating it. I vowed never to descend from the celestial but by no
means giddy heights to which I had been raised by her tender
reproaches, her voice, her single presence. It was as a second
innocence of my soul, imparted by the rays of the eternal innocence of
her love.

I could not say whether there was most piety, or fascination in the
impression I received, so much did passion and adoration mingle in
equal portions, and in my thoughts change, a thousand times in one
minute, love into worship, or worship into love. Oh, is not that the
height, the very pinnacle of love,--enthusiasm in the possession of
perfect beauty, and rapture in supreme adoration?... All she had said
seemed to me eternal; all she had looked on appeared to me sacred. I
envied the earth on which she had trodden; the sunshine which had
enveloped her during our walks appeared to me happy to have touched
her. I would have wished to abstract and separate forever from the
liquid plains of air, the air that she had sanctified in breathing it;
I would have enclosed the empty place that she had just ceased to fill
in space, so that no inferior creature should occupy it, so long as the
world should last. In a word, I saw and felt, I worshipped God himself,
through the medium of my love. If life were to last in such a condition
of the soul, Nature would stand still, the blood would cease to
circulate, the heart forget to beat, or rather, there would be neither
motion, precipitation, nor lassitude, neither life, nor death, in our
senses; there would be only one endless and living absorption of our
being in another's, such as must be the state of the soul at once
annihilated and living in God.


Oh, joy! the vile desires of sensual passion were annulled (as she had
wished) in the full possession of each other's soul, and happiness, as
happiness ever does, made me feel better and more pious than I had ever
been. God and my love were so mingled in my heart, that my adoration of
her became a perpetual adoration of the Supreme Being who had created
her. During the day, when we loitered on the sloping hills or on the
borders of the lake, or sat on the root of some tree in a sunny lawn,
to rest, to gaze, and to admire, our conversation would often, from the
natural overflowing of two full hearts, tend towards that fathomless
abyss of all thought,--the Infinite! and towards Him who alone can fill
infinite space,--God! When I pronounced this last word, with the
heartfelt gratitude which reveals so much in one single accent, I was
surprised to see her averted looks, or remark on her brow and in the
corners of her mouth a trace of sad and painful incredulity, which
seemed to me in contradiction with our enthusiasm. One day, I asked
her, timidly, the reason. "It is that that word gives me pain," she
answered. "And how," said I, "how can the word that comprehends all
life, all love, and all goodness give pain to the most perfect of God's
creations?" "Alas!" she said with the tone of a despairing soul, "that
word represents the idea of a Being, whose existence I have
passionately desired might not be a dream; and yet that Being," she
added in a low and mournful tone, "in my eyes, and in those of the
sages whose lessons I have received, is but the most marvellous and
unreal delusion of our thoughts." "What!" said I, "your teachers do not
believe there is a God? But you, who love, how can you disbelieve? Does
not every throb of our hearts proclaim Him?" "Oh," she answered
hastily, "do not interpret as folly the wisdom of those men who have
uplifted for me the veils of philosophy, and have caused the broad day
of reason and of science to shine before my eyes, instead of the pale
and glimmering lamp with which Superstition lights the voluntary
darkness, that she wilfully casts around her childish divinity. It is
in the God of your mother and my nurse that I no longer believe, and
not the God of Nature and of Science. I believe in a Being who is the
Principle and Cause, spring and end of all other beings, or rather, who
is himself the eternity, form, and law of all those beings, visible or
invisible, intelligent or unintelligent, animate or inanimate, quick or
dead, of which is composed the only real name of this Being of beings,
the Infinite. But the idea of the incommensurable greatness, the
sovereign fatality, the inflexible and absolute necessity of all the
acts of this Being, whom you call God and we term Law, excludes from
our thoughts all precise intelligibility, exact denomination,
reasonable imagining, personal manifestation, revelation, or
incarnation, and the idea of any possible relation between that Being
and ourselves, even of homage and of prayer. Wherefore should the
Consequence pray to the Cause?

"It is a cruel thought," she added; "for how many blessings, prayers,
and tears I should have poured out at His feet since I have loved you!
But," she resumed, "I surprise and pain you; pray forgive me. Is not
truth the first of virtues, if virtue there be? On this single point we
cannot agree; let us never speak of it. You have been brought up by a
pious mother, in the midst of a Christian family, and have inhaled with
your first breath the holy credulity of your home. You have been led by
the hand into the temples; you have been shown images, mysteries, and
altars; you have been taught prayers and told, God is here, who listens
and will answer you; and you believed, for you were not of an age to
inquire. Since then, you have discarded these baubles of your
childhood, to conceive a less feminine and less puerile God, than this
God of the Christian tabernacles; but the first dazzling glare has not
departed from your eyes; the real light that you have thought to see
has been blended, unknown to yourself, with that false brightness which
fascinated you on your entrance into life; you have retained two
weaknesses of intelligence,--mystery and prayer. There is no mystery"
she said, in a more solemn tone; "there is only reason, which dispels
all mystery! It is man, crafty or credulous man, who invented
mystery,--God made reason! And prayer does not exist," she continued
mournfully, "for an inflexible law will not relent, and a necessary law
cannot be changed.

"The ancients, with that profound wisdom which was often hidden beneath
their popular ignorance, knew that full well," she added; "for they
prayed to all the gods of their invention, but they never implored the
supreme law,--Destiny."

She was silent. "It appears to me," I said after a long pause, "that
the teachers who have instilled their wisdom into you have too much
subordinated the feeling to the reasoning Being, in their theory of the
relation of God to man; in a word, they have overlooked the heart in
man,--the heart which is the organ of love, as intelligence is the
organ of thought. The imaginings of man in respect of God may be
puerile and mistaken, but his instincts, which are his unwritten law,
must be sometimes right; if not, Nature would have lied in creating
him. You do not think Nature a lie," I said smiling,--"you, who said
just now that truth was perhaps the only virtue? Now, whatever may have
been the intention of God in giving those two instincts, mystery and
prayer, whether he meant thereby to show that he was the
incomprehensible God, and that his name was Mystery; or that he desired
that all creatures should give him honor and praise, and that prayer
should be the universal incense of nature,--it is most certain that
man, when he thinks on God, feels within him two instincts, mystery and
adoration. Reason's province," I pursued, "is to enlighten and disperse
mystery, more and more every day, but never to dispel it entirely.
Prayer is the natural desire of the heart to pour forth unceasingly its
supplications, efficacious or not, heard or unheard, as a precious
perfume on the feet of God. What matters it if the perfume fall to the
ground, or whether it anoint the feet of God? It is always a tribute of
weakness, humility, and adoration.

"But who can say that it is ever lost?" I added in the tone of one
whose hopes triumph over his doubts; "who can say that prayer, the
mysterious communication with invisible Omnipotence, is not in reality
the greatest of all the natural or supernatural powers of man? Who can
say that the supreme and immortal Will has not ordained from all
eternity that prayer should be continually inspired and heard, and that
man should thus, by his invocations, participate in the ordering of his
own destiny? Who knows whether God, in his love, and perpetual blessing
on the beings which emanate from him, has not established this bond
with them, as the invisible chain which links the thoughts of all
worlds to his? Who knows but that, in his majestic solitude which he
peoples alone, he has willed that this living murmur, this continual
communing with nature, should ascend and descend continually in all
space from him to all the beings that he vivifies and loves, and from
those beings to him? At all events, prayer is the highest privilege of
man, since it allows him to speak to God. If God were deaf to our
prayers, we should still pray; for if in his majesty he would not hear
us, still prayer would dignify man."

I saw that my reasonings touched without convincing her, and that the
springs of her soul, which science had dried up, had not yet flowed
towards God. But love was to soften her religion as it had softened her
heart; the delights and anguish of passion were soon to bring forth
adoration and prayer, those two perfumes of the souls that burn and
languish. The one is full of rapture; the other full of tears,--both
are divine!


In the meantime her health improved daily. Happiness, solitude with a
beloved companion (that paradise of tender souls), and the daily
discovery on her part of some new mystery of thought in me which
corresponded to her own nature; the autumnal air in the mountains,
which, like stoves heated during summer, preserve the warmth of the sun
until the winter snows; our distant excursions to the chalets, or on
the waters; the motion of the boat, or the gentle pace of the mules;
the milk brought frothing from the pastures in the wooden cups the
shepherds carve; and above all, the gentle excitement, the peaceful
revery, the continual infatuation of a heart which first love upheld as
with wings and led on from thought to thought, from dream to dream,
through a new-found heaven,--all seemed to contribute visibly to her
recovery. Every day seemed to bring fresh youth; it was as a
convalescence of the soul which showed itself on the features. Her
face, which had been at first slightly marked round the eyes with those
dark and bluish tints which seem like the impress of the fingers of
Death, gradually recovered the roundness of the cheek, the mantling
blood, the soft down, and blooming complexion of a young girl who has
been on the mountains, and whose cheek has been visited by the first
cold bracing winds from the glaciers. Her lips had recovered their
fulness, her eyes their brightness; the lid no longer drooped, and the
eye itself seemed to swim in that continual and luminous mist which
rises like a vapor from the burning heart, and is condensed into tears
on the eye, whose fire absorbs these tears, that always rise, and never
flow. There was more strength in her attitudes, more pliancy in her
movements; her step was light and lively as a child's. Whenever we
entered the yard of the house on our return from our rambles, the old
doctor and his family would express their surprise at the prodigious
change that a day had wrought in her appearance, and wonder at the life
and light that she seemed to shed around her.

In truth, happiness seemed to encompass her with a radiant atmosphere,
in which she not only walked herself, but enveloped all those who
looked upon her. This radiance of beauty, this atmosphere of love, are
not, as many think, only the fancies of a poet; the poet merely sees
more distinctly what escapes the blind or indifferent eye of other men.
It has often been said of a lovely woman, that she illumines the
darkness of night; it might be said of Julie that she warmed the
surrounding air. I lived and moved, enveloped in this warm emanation of
her reviving beauty; others but felt it as they passed.


When I was obliged to leave her for a short time, and returned to my
room, I felt, even at mid-day, as if I had been immured in a dungeon
without air or light. The brightest sun afforded me no light, unless
its rays were reflected by her eyes. I admired her more, the more I saw
her; and could not believe she was a being of the same order as myself.
The divine nature of her love had become a part of the creed of my
imagination; and in spirit I was ever prostrate before the being who
appeared to me too tender to be a divinity--too divine to be a woman! I
sought a name for her, and found none. I called her Mystery, and under
that vague and indefinite title, offered her worship which partook of
earth by its tenderness, of a dream by its enthusiasm, of reality by
her presence, and of heaven by my adoration.

She had obliged me to confess that I had sometimes written verses, but
I had never shown her any. She did not much like that artificial and
set form of speech, which, when it does not idealize, generally impairs
the simplicity of feeling and expression. Her nature was too full of
impulse, too feeling, and too serious, to bend itself to all the
precision, form, and delay of written poetry. She was Poetry without a
lyre--true as the heart, simple as the untutored thought, dreamy as
night, brilliant as day, swift as lightning, boundless as space! No
rules of harmony could have bounded the infinite music of her mind; her
very voice was a perpetual melody, that no cadence of verse could have
equalled. Had I lived long with her, I should never have read or
written poetry. She was the living poem of Nature and of myself; my
thoughts were in her heart, my imagery in her eyes, and my harmony in
her voice.

She had in her room a few volumes of the principal poets of the end of
the eighteenth century, and of the Empire, such as Delille and
Fontanes; but their high-sounding and material poetry was not suited to
us. She had been lulled by the melodious murmur of the waves of the
tropic, and her soul contained treasures of love, imagination, and
melancholy, which all the voices of the air and waters could not have
expressed. She would sometimes attempt with me to read these books, on
the strength of their reputation, but would throw them down again
impatiently; they gave no sound beneath her touch, like those broken
chords which remain voiceless when we strike the keys. The music of her
heart was in mine, but I could never give it forth to the world; and
the verses she was one day to inspire were destined to sound only on
her grave. She never knew before she died whom she had loved. In her
eyes I was her brother, and it would have mattered little to her that I
had been a poet for the rest of the world. Her love saw nothing in me
but myself.

Only once I involuntarily betrayed before her the poor gift of poetry
that I possessed, and which she neither suspected nor desired in me. My
friend Louis--had come to stay a few days with us. The evening had been
spent till midnight in reading, in confidential talk, in musing, in
sadness, and in smiles. We wondered to see three young lives, which a
short time before were unknown to each other, now united and identified
beneath the same roof, at the same fireside, with the same murmur of
autumnal winds around, in a cottage of the mountains of Savoy; we
strove to foresee by what sport of Providence, or Chance, the stormy
winds of life might scatter or reunite us once more. These distant
vistas of the horizon of our future lives had saddened us, and we
remained silent round the little tea-table on which we were leaning. At
last Louis, who was a poet, felt a mournful inspiration rising in his
heart, and wished to write it down. She gave him paper and a pencil,
and he leaned on the marble chimney-piece and wrote a few stanzas,
plaintive and tearful as the funeral strophes of Gilbert. He resembled
Gilbert, and he might have written those lines of his, which will live
as long as the lamentations of Job, in the language of men:

Au banquet de la vie, infortune convive,
J'apparus un jour et je meurs;
Je meurs, et sur ma tombe, ou lentement j'arrive,
Nul ne viendra verser des pleurs!

Louis's verses had affected me; I took the pencil from him, and,
withdrawing for an instant to the end of the room, I wrote in my turn
the following verses, which will die with me unknown to all; they were
the first verses that sprung from my heart, and not from my
imagination. I read them out without daring to raise my eyes to her, to
whom they were addressed. They ran thus--

* * * * *

but, no! I efface them! My love was all my genius, and they have
departed together.

As I finished reading the verses, I saw on Julie's face, on which the
light of the lamp fell, such a tender expression of surprise and such
superhuman beauty, that I stood uncertain, as my verses had expressed
it, between the woman and the angel,--between love and adoration. This
latter feeling predominated at last in my heart, and in that of my
friend. We fell on our knees before the sofa, and kissed the end of the
black shawl which enveloped her feet. The verses seemed to her merely
an instantaneous and solitary expression of my feelings towards her;
she praised them, but never mentioned them again. She much preferred
our familiar discourse, or even our pensive silence in each other's
company, to these exercises of the mind which profane our feelings
rather than reveal them, Louis left us after a few days.


In consequence of these first verses of mine, which were but one feeble
strophe of the perpetual hymn of my heart, she requested me to write an
ode for her, which she would address as a tribute of admiration, and as
a specimen of my talents, to one of the men of her Paris acquaintance,
for whom she felt the greatest respect and attachment, M. de Bonald. I
knew nothing of him but his name, and the well-deserved renown that
attached to it as that of a Christian, a philosopher, and a legislator.
I fancied that I was to address a modern Moses, who derived from the
rays of another Mount Sinai the divine light which he shed upon human
laws. I wrote the ode in one night, and read it the next morning,
beneath a spreading chestnut-tree, to her who had inspired it. She made
me read it three times over, and in the evening she copied it with her
light and steady hand. Her writing flew upon the paper like the shadow
of the wings of thought, with the swiftness, elegance, and freedom of a
bird on the wing. The next day she sent it to Paris. M. de Bonald
replied by many obliging auguries respecting my talents. This was the
beginning of my acquaintance with that most excellent man, whose
character I have always admired and loved since, without sharing his
theocratical doctrines. My approval of his creed, of which I knew
nothing, was at that time a concession to my love; at a later period it
would have been an homage rendered to his virtues. M. de Bonald was,
like M. de Maistre, a prophet of the past, one of those men whose ideas
were of bygone days, and to whom we bow with veneration, as we see them
seated on the threshold of futurity; they will not pass onward, but
tarry to listen to the sublime lament of all that dies in the human


Autumn was already gone; but the sun shone out now and then between the
clouds and lighted and warmed the mild winter which had succeeded. We
tried to deceive ourselves, and to say that it was still autumn, so
much did we dread to recognize winter, that was to separate us. The
snow sometimes fell in the morning in light flakes on the roses and
everlastings in the garden, like the white down of the swans which we
often saw traversing the air. At noon the snow melted, and then there
were delightful hours on the lake. The last rays of the sun seemed to
be warmer when they played on the waters. The fig-trees which hung from
the rocks exposed to the south, in the sheltered coves, had kept their
wide-spreading leaves; and the reflection of the sun on the rocks
imparted to them the splendid coloring and the warmth of summer
evenings. But these hours glided as swiftly by as the stroke of the
oars which served to take us round the foam-covered rocks that form the
southern border of the lake. The glancing rays of the sun on the
fire-trees; the green moss; the winter birds, more fully feathered and
more familiar than those of summer; the mountain streams, whose white
and frothing waters dashed down the sides of the sloping meadows, and
meeting in some ravine fell with sonorous and splashing murmurs from
the black and shining rocks into the lake; the cadenced sound of the
oar, which seemed to accompany us with its mysterious and plaintive
regrets, like some friendly voice hidden beneath the waters; the
perfect repose we felt in this warm and luminous atmosphere, so near
each other, and separated from the world by an abyss of waters,--gave
us at times so great an enjoyment in the sense of existence, such
fulness of inward joy, such an overflowing of peace and love, that we
might have defied Heaven itself to add to our felicity. But with this
happiness was mixed the consciousness that it was soon to end; each
stroke of the oar resounded in our hearts as one step of the day that
brought us nearer to separation. Who knows whether these trembling
leaves may not to-morrow have fallen in the waters? If this moss on
which we still can sit may not to-morrow be covered with a thick mantle
of snow; if this blue sky, these illumined rocks and sparkling waves,
may not, during the mists of this next night, be enveloped and
confounded in one dim and wintry ocean?

A long sigh would escape our lips at thoughts like these; but we never
communicated them to each other, for fear of arousing misfortune by
naming it. Oh, who, in the course of his life, has not felt some joy
without security and without a morrow; when life seems concentrated in
one short hour which we would wish to make eternal, and which we feel
slipping away minute by minute, while we listen to the pendulum which
counts the seconds, or look at the hand that seems to gallop o'er the
dial, or watch a carriage-wheel, of which each turn abridges distance,
or hearken to the splashing of a prow that distances the waves, and
brings us nearer to the shore where we must descend from the heaven of
our dreams on the bleak and barren strand of harsh reality.


[Illustration: THE LOVERS' COMPACT.]

One sunny evening when our boat lay in a calm and sheltered creek,
formed by the Mont du Chat, and we were delightfully lulled by the
distant sound of a cascade which perpetually murmurs in the grottos
through which it filtrates before losing itself in the abyss of water,
our boatmen landed to draw some nets they had set the day before. We
remained alone in the boat which was moored to the branch of a fig-tree
by a slender rope; the motion of the boat caused the branch to bend and
break without our being aware of it, and we drifted out to the middle
of the bay, nearly three hundred yards from the perpendicular rocks
with which it is surrounded. The waters of the lake in this part were
of that bronzed color and had that molten appearance and look of heavy
immobility which the shade of overhanging cliffs always gives; and the
perpendicular rocks which surrounded it indicated the unfathomable
depth of its waters. I might have taken up the oars and returned to
shore, but we felt a thrill of pleasure at our loneliness and the
absence of any form of living nature. We would have wished to wander
thus on a boundless firmament, instead of on a sea with shores. We no
longer heard the voices of the boatmen who had gone along the Savoy
shore, and were now hidden from our view by some projecting rocks; we
only heard the distant trickling of the cascade, the harmonious sighs
of the pines when some playful breeze swept for an instant through the
still and heavy air, and the low ripple of the water against the sides
of the boat which gently undulated at our slightest movement.

Our boat lay half in shade and half in sunshine,--the head in sunshine,
and the stern in shade. I was sitting at Julie's feet in the bottom of
the boat, as on the first day when I brought her back from Haute-Combe.
We took delight in calling to remembrance every circumstance of that
first day, that mysterious era from which the world commenced for
us,--for that day was the date of our meeting and of our love! She was
half reclining with one arm hanging over the side of the boat, the
other leaned upon my shoulder, and her hand played with a lock of my
long hair; my head was thrown back, so that I could only see the
heavens above and her face, which stood out on the blue background of
the sky. She bent over me, as if to contemplate her sun on my brow, her
light in my eyes; an expression of deep, calm, and ineffable happiness
was diffused over her features, and gave to her beauty a radiance and
splendor which was in harmony with the surrounding glory of the sky.
Suddenly I saw her turn pale and withdraw her arms from the side of the
boat and from my shoulder; she started up as if awaked from sleep,
covered for one instant her face with her two hands, and remained in
deep and silent thought; then withdrawing her hands, which were wet
with tears, she said, in a tone of calm and serene determination, "Oh,
let us die! ..."

After these words she remained silent for an instant, then resumed:
"Yes, let us die, for earth has nothing more to give, and Heaven
nothing more to promise!" She gazed at the sky and mountain, the lake
and its translucid waves around us. "Seest thou," she said (it was the
first and the last time that she ever used that form of speech which is
tender or solemn, according as we address God or man),--"seest thou
that all is ready around us for the blessed close of our two lives?
Seest thou the sun of the brightest of our days which sets, not to rise
for us perhaps to-morrow? Seest thou the mountains glass themselves for
the last time in the lake? They stretch out their long shadows towards
us, as if to say, Wrap yourselves in this shroud which I extend towards
you! See! the deep and clear, the silent waves have prepared for us a
sandy couch from which no man shall wake us and tell us to be gone! No
human eye can see us. None will know from what mysterious cause the
empty bark has been washed ashore upon some rock. No ripple on these
waters will betray to the curious or the indifferent the spot where our
two bodies slid beneath the wave, in one embrace; where our two souls
rose mingled in the surrounding ether; no sound of earth will follow
us, but the slight ripple of the closing wave!... Oh, let us die in
this delight of soul, and feel of death only its entrancing joy. One
day we shall wish to die, and we shall die less happy. I am a few years
older than you, and this difference which is unfelt now will increase
with time. The little beauty which has attracted you will early fade,
and you will only recall with wonder the memory of your departed
enthusiasm. Besides, I am to you but as a spirit; ... you will seek
another happiness; ... I should die of jealousy if you found it with
another, ... and I should die of grief, if I saw you unhappy through
me!... Oh, let us die, let us die! Let us efface the dark or doubtful
future with one last sigh, which will only leave on our lips the
unallayed taste of complete felicity."

At the same moment my heart spoke to me as forcibly as she did, and
said what her voice said to my ear, what her looks said to my eyes,
what solemn, mute, funereal Nature in the splendor of her last hour,
said to all my senses. The two voices that I heard, the inward and the
outer voice, said the same words, as if one had been the echo or
translation of the other. I forgot the universe, and I answered, "Let
us die!"

* * * * *

I wound the fisherman's ropes which I found in the boat several times
round her body and mine, which were bound as in the same winding sheet.
I took her up in my arms, which I had left disengaged in order to
precipitate her with me into the lake.

At the very instant that I was taking the spring which would forever
have buried us in the waters, I saw her turn pale, her head drooped,
its lifeless weight sank upon my shoulder, and I felt her knees give
way beneath her body. Excessive emotion and the joy of dying together
had forestalled death. She had fainted in my arms. The idea of taking
advantage of her insensible state to hurry her, unknown to herself, and
perhaps against her will, into my grave, struck me with horror. I fell
back into the boat with my burden; I loosed the ropes that bound us,
and laid her on the seat; I dipped my hands into the lake and sprinkled
the cold drops of water on her lips and forehead. I know not how long
she remained thus without color, voice, or motion. When she first
opened her eyes and regained consciousness, night was coming on, and
the slow drift of the boat had carried us into the middle of the lake.

"God wills it not," I said. "We live; what we thought the privilege of
our love was a double crime. Is there no one to whom we belong on
earth? No one in heaven?" I added looking upwards reverentially, as
though I had seen in the firmament the sovereign Judge and Lord of our
destinies. "Speak no more of it," she said in a low and hurried tone;
"never speak of it again! You have chosen that I should live; I will
live; my crime was not in dying, but in taking you with me!" There was
something of bitterness and tender reproach in her tone and in her
look. "It may be," said I, replying to her thoughts,--"it may be that
heaven itself has no such hours as those we have just passed; but life
has,--that is enough to make me love it." She soon recovered her bloom
and her serenity. I seized the oars, and slowly rowed back to the
little sandy beach, where we heard the voices of the boatmen, who had
lighted a fire beneath a projecting rock. We recrossed the lake, and
returned home silently and thoughtfully.


In the evening, when I went into her room, I found her seated in tears
before her little table, where several open letters were lying
scattered among the tea things. "We had better have died at once, for
here is the lingering death of separation, which begins for me," she
said, pointing to some letters which bore the postmark of Paris and

Her husband wrote that he began to be very anxious at her long absence
at a season of the year when the weather might become inclement from
day to day; that he felt himself gradually declining and that he wished
to embrace and bless her before he died. His mournful entreaties were
intermingled with many expressions of paternal fondness, and some
sportive allusions to the fair young brother, who made her forget her
other friends. The other letter was from the Genevese doctor, who was
to have come to take her back to Paris. He wrote to say that he was
obliged unexpectedly to leave home to attend a German prince who
required his care, and that he sent in his stead a respectable,
trustworthy man, who would accompany her to Paris and act as her
courier on the road. This man had arrived, and her departure was fixed
for the day after the morrow.

Although this news had been long foreseen, it affected us as though it
had been quite unexpected. We passed a long evening and nearly half the
night in silence, leaning opposite to one another on the little table,
and neither daring to look at each other, or to speak, for fear of
bursting into tears. We strove to interrupt the speechless agony of our
hearts by a few unconnected words, but these were said in a deep and
hollow voice, which resounded in the room like tear-drops on a coffin.
I had instantly determined to go also.


The next day was the eve of our separation. The morning, as if to mock
us, rose more bright and warm than in the fairest days of October.

While the trunks were being packed, and the carriage got ready, we
started with the mules and guides. We visited both hill and valley, to
say farewell, and to make, as it were, a pilgrimage of love to all the
spots where we had first seen each other, then met and walked; where we
had sat, and talked, and loved, during the long and heavenly
intercourse between ourselves and lonely Nature. We began by the lovely
hill of Tresserves which rises like a verdant cliff between the valley
of Aix and the lake; its sides, that rise almost perpendicularly from
the water's edge, are covered with chestnut-trees, rivalling those of
Sicily, through their branches, which overhang the water, one sees
snatches of the blue lake or of the sky, according as one looks high or
low. It was on the velvet of the moss-covered roots of these noble
trees, which have seen successive generations of young men and women
pass like ants beneath their shade, that we in our contemplative hours
had dreamed our fairest dreams. From thence we descended by a steep
declivity to a small solitary chateau called Bon Port. This little
castle is so embosomed in the chestnut-trees of Tresserves on the land
side, and so well hidden on the water side in the deep windings of a
sheltered bay, that it is difficult to see it either from the mountain
or from the little sea of Bourget. A terrace with a few fig-trees
divides the chateau from the sandy beach, where the gentle waves
continually come rippling in, to lick the shore and murmuringly expire.
Oh, how we envied the fortunate possessors of this retreat unknown to
men, hidden in the trees and waters, and only visited by the birds of
the lake, the sunshine and the soft south wind. We blessed it a
thousand times in its repose, and prayed that it might shelter hearts
like ours.


From Bon Port we proceeded towards the high mountains which overlook
the valley between Chambery and Geneva, going round by the northern
side of the hill of Tresserves. We saw once more the meadows, the
pastures, the cottages hidden beneath the walnut-trees, and the grassy
slopes, where the young heifers play, their little bell tinkles
continually, to give notice of their wandering march through the grass
to the shepherd, who tends them at a distance. We ascended to the
highest chalets; the winter wind had already scorched the tips of the
grass. We remembered the delightful hours we had spent there, the words
we had spoken, the fond delusion we had entertained of an entire
separation from the world, the sighs we had confided to the mountain
winds and rays to waft them to heaven. We recalled all our hours of
peace and happiness so swiftly flown, all our words, dreams, gestures,
looks and wishes, as one strips a dwelling that one leaves of all that
is most precious. We mentally buried all these treasures of memory and
hope within the walls of these wooden chalets which would remain closed
until the spring, to find them entire on our return, if ever we


We came down by the wooded slopes to the foaming bed of a cascade.
There we saw a small funereal monument erected to the memory of a young
and lovely woman, Madame de Broc; she fell some years ago into this
whirl-pool, whose foaming waters gave up a long while after a part of
her white dress, and thus caused her body to be found in the deep
grotto in which it had been ingulfed. Lovers often come and visit this
watery tomb; their hearts feel heavy, and they draw closer to each
other as they think how their fragile felicity may be dashed to atoms
by one false step on the slippery rock.

From this cascade, which bears the name of Madame de Broc, we walked in
silence towards the Chateau de Saint Innocent, from whence one commands
an extensive view of the whole lake. We got down from our mules beneath
the shade of some lofty oaks, which were interspersed here and there
with a few patches of heath. It was a lonely place at that time, but
since then a rich planter, on his return to his native land, has built
himself a country house, and planted a garden in these, his paternal
acres. Our mules were turned loose, and left to graze in the wood under
the care of the children who acted as our guides. We walked on alone
from tree to tree, from one glade to another on the narrow neck of
land, until we reached the extreme point, where we saw the shining
lake, and heard its splashing waters. This wood of Saint Innocent is a
promontory that stretches out into the lake at the wildest and most
lonely part of its shores; it ends in some rocks of gray granite, which
are sometimes washed by the foam of the wind-tossed waves, but are dry
and shining when the waters subside into repose. We sat down on two
stones close to each other. Before us, the dark pile of the Abbey of
Haute-Combe rose on the opposite shore of the lake. Our eyes were fixed
on a little white speck that seemed to shine at the foot of the gloomy
terraces of the monastery. It was the fisherman's house, where we had
been thrown together by the waves, and united forever by that chance
meeting; it was the room where we had spent that heavenly and yet
funereal night which had decided the fate of both our lives. "It was
there!" she said, stretching out her arm, and pointing to the bright
speck, which was scarcely visible in the distance and darkness of the
opposite shore. "Will there come a day and a place," she added
mournfully, "in which the memory of all we felt there during those
deathless hours will appear to you, in the remoteness of the past, but
as that little speck on the dark background of yonder shore?"

I could not reply to these words; her tone, her doubts, the prospect of
death, inconstancy, and frailty, and the possibility of forgetfulness,
had struck me to the heart, and filled me with sad forebodings. I burst
into tears. I hid my face in my hands, and turned towards the evening
breeze, that it might dry my tears in my eyes; but she had seen them.

"Raphael," she resumed with greater tenderness, "no, you will never
forget me. I know it, I feel it; but love is short, and life is slow.
You will live many years beyond me. You will drain all that is sweet,
or powerful, or bitter in the cup that Nature offers to the lips of
man. You will be a man! I know it by your sensibility, which is at once
manly and feminine. You will be a man to the full extent of all the
wretchedness and dignity of that name by which God has called one of
his strangest creatures! In one of your aspirations there is breath for
a thousand lives! You will live with all the energy and in the full
meaning of the word--life! I ..." she stopped for an instant, and
raised her eyes and arms to Heaven as if in thank fulness: "I--I have
lived!--I have lived enough," she resumed in a contented tone, "since I
have inhaled, to bear it forever within me, the spirit of the soul that
I waited for on earth, and which would vivify me even in death, from
whence you once recalled me.... I shall die young, and without regret
now, for I have drained at a single draught the life that you will not
exhaust before your dark hair has become as white as the spray that
dashes over your feet.

"This sky, this lake, these shores, these mountains, have been the
scene of my only real life here below. Swear to me to blend so
completely in your remembrance this sky, this lake, these shores, these
mountains, with my memory, that their image and mine may henceforward
be inseparable for you; that this landscape in your eyes, and I in your
heart, may make but one ... so that," she added, "when you return after
long days, to see once more this lonely spot, to wander beneath these
trees, on the margin of these waves, to listen to the breeze and
murmuring winds, you may see me once more, as living, as present, and
as loving as I am here!..."

She could say no more and burst into tears. Oh, how we wept! how long
we wept! The sound of our stifled sobs mingled with the sobbing of the
water on the sand. Our tears fell trickling in the water at our feet.
After a lapse of fifteen years, I cannot write it without tears, even

O man! fear not for thy affections, and feel no dread lest time should
efface them. There is neither to-day nor yesterday in the powerful
echoes of memory; there is only always. He who no longer feels has
never felt. There are two memories,--the memory of the senses, which
wears out with the senses, and in which perishable things decay; and
the memory of the soul, for which time does not exist, and which lives
over at the same instant every moment of its past and present
existence; it is a faculty of the soul, which, like the soul, enjoys
ubiquity, universality, and immortality of spirit. Fear not, ye who
love! Time has power over hours, none over the soul.


I strove to speak, but could not. My sobs spoke, and my tears promised.
We got up to join the muleteers, and returned at sunset by the long
avenue of leafless poplars, where we had passed before, when she held
my hand so long in the palanquin. As we went through the straggling
faubourg of cottages, at the entrance of the town, and crossed the
Place to enter the steep street of Aix, sad faces were seen greeting us
at the windows and at the doors; as kind souls watch the departure of
two belated swallows, who are the last to leave the walls which have
sheltered them. Poor women rose from the stone bench where they were
spinning before their houses; children left the goats and donkeys which
they were driving home; all came to address a word, a look, or even a
silent bow of recognition to the young lady, and the one they supposed
to be her brother. She was so beautiful, so gracious to all, so loved,
it seemed as though the last ray of the year was retiring from the

When we had reached the top of the town, we got down from our mules and
dismissed the children. As we did not wish to lose an hour of this last
day that still shone on the rose-tinted snows of the Alps, we climbed
slowly, and alone, up a narrow path which leads to the garden terrace
of a house called the Maison Chevalier. From this terrace, which seems
like a platform erected in the centre of a panorama, the eye embraces
the town, the lake, the passes of the Rhone, and all the peaks of the
Alpine landscape. We sat down on the fallen trunk of a tree, and leaned
on the parapet wall of the terrace; we remained mute and motionless,
looking by turns at all the different spots, that for the last six
weeks had witnessed our looks and steps, our twofold dreams, and our
sighs. When all these had one by one faded away in the dim shade of
twilight; when there was only one corner of the horizon, to westward,
where a faint light remained,--we started up with one accord, and fled
precipitately, casting vain and sorrowing looks behind as if some
invisible hand had driven us out of this Eden, and pitilessly effaced
on our steps all the scene of our happiness and love.


We returned home and spent a sad evening, although I was to accompany
Julie as far as Lyons on the box of her carriage. When the hand of her
little portable clock marked midnight, I retired, to let her take some
rest before morning. She accompanied me to the door; I opened it, and
said as I kissed her hand in the passage, "Good-bye, till the morrow!"
She did not answer, but I heard her murmur, with a sob, behind the
closing door, "There is no morrow for us!"

There were a few days more, but they were short and bitter, as the last
dregs of a drained cup. We started for Chambery very early in the
morning, not to show our pale cheeks and swollen eyelids in broad
daylight, and passed the day there in a small inn of the Italian
faubourg. The wooden galleries of the inn overlooked a garden with a
stream running through it, and for a few hours we cheated ourselves
into the belief that we were once more in our home at Aix, with its
galleries, its silence, and its solitude.


We wished before we left Chambery and the valley we so much loved to
visit together the humble dwelling of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Madame
de Warens, at Les Charmettes. A landscape is but a man or a woman. What
is Vaucluse without Petrarch? Sorrento without Tasso? What is Sicily
without Theocritus, or the Paraclet without Heloise? What is Annecy
without Madame de Warens? What is Chambery without Jean Jacques
Rousseau? A sky without rays, a voice without echo, a landscape without
life! Man does not only animate his fellow-men, he animates all nature.
He carries his own immortality with him into heaven, but bequeaths
another to the spots that he has consecrated by his presence; it is
only there we can trace his course, and really converse with his
memory. We took with us the volume of the "Confessions" in which the
poet of Les Charmettes describes this rustic retreat. Rousseau was
wrecked there by the first storms of his fate, and was rescued by a
woman, young, lovely, and adventurous, wrecked and lost like himself.
This woman seems to have been a compound of virtues and weaknesses,
sensibility and license, piety and independence of thought, formed
expressly by Nature to cherish and develop the strange youth, whose
mind comprehended that of a sage, a lover, a philosopher, a legislator,
and a madman. Another woman might perhaps have produced another life.
In a man we can always trace the woman whom he first loved. Happy would
he have been who had met Madame de Warens before her profanation! She
was an idol to be adored, but the idol had been polluted. She herself
debased the worship that a young and loving heart tendered her. The
amours of this woman and Rousseau appear like a leaf torn from the
loves of Daphnis and Chloe, and found soiled and defiled on the bed of
a courtesan. It' matters not; it was the first love, or the first
delirium, if you will, of the young man. The birthplace of that love,
the arbor where Rousseau made his first avowal, the room where he
blushed at his first emotions, the yard where he gloried in the most
humble offices to serve his beloved protectress, the spreading
chestnut-trees beneath which they sat together to speak of God, and
intermingled their sportive theology with bursts of merriment and
childish caresses, the landscape, mysterious and wild as they, which
seems so well adapted to them,--have all, for the lover, the poet, or
the philosopher, a deep and hidden attraction. They yield to it without
knowing why. For poets this was the first page of that life which was a
poem; for philosophers it was the cradle of a revolution; for lovers it
is the birthplace of first love.


We followed the stony path at the bottom of the ravine which leads to
Les Charmettes, still talking of this love. We were alone. The
goat-herds even had forsaken the dried-up pastures and the leafless
hedges. The sun shone now and then between the passing clouds, and its
concentrated rays were warmer within the sheltered sides of the ravine.
The redbreasts hopped about the bushes almost within our reach. Every
now and then we would sit on the southern bank of the road to read a
page or two of the "Confessions," and identify ourselves with the

We fancied we saw the young vagrant in his tattered clothes, knocking
at the gate and delivering, with a blush, his letter of recommendation
to the fair recluse, in the lonely path that leads from the house to
the church. They were so present to our fancy, that it seemed as though
they were expecting us, and that we should see them at the window or in
the garden walks of Les Charmettes. We would walk on, then stop again;
the spot seemed to attract and to repel us by turns, as a place where
love had been revealed, but where love had been profaned also. It
presented no such perils to us. We were destined to carry away our love
from thence as pure and as divine as we had brought it there within us.

"Oh," I inwardly exclaimed, "were I a Rousseau, what might not this
other Madame de Warens have made me; she who is as superior to her of
Les Charmettes as I am inferior to Rousseau, not in feeling, but in

Absorbed in these thoughts, we walked up a shelving greensward upon
which a few walnut-trees were scattered here and there. These trees had
seen the lovers beneath their shade. To the right, where the pass
narrows so as to appear to form a barrier to the traveller, stands the
house of Madame de Warens on a high terrace of rough and ill-cemented
stones. It is a little square building of gray stone, with two windows
and a door opening on the terrace, and the same on the garden side;
there are three low rooms on the upper story, and a large room on the
ground floor with no other furniture than a portrait of Madame de
Warens in her youth. Her lovely face beams forth from the dust-covered
and dingy canvas with beauty, sportiveness, and pensive grace. Poor
charming woman! Had she not met that wandering boy on the highway; had
she not opened to him her house and heart, his sensitive and suffering
genius might have been extinguished in the mire. The meeting seemed
like the effect of chance, but it was predestination meeting the great
man under the form of his first love. That woman saved him; she
cultivated him; she excited him in solitude, in liberty, and in love,
as the houris of the East through pleasure raise up martyrs in their
young votaries. She gave him his dreamy imagination, his almost
feminine soul, his tender accents, his passion for nature. Her pensive
fancy imparted to him enthusiasm,--the enthusiasm of women, of young
men, of lovers, of all the poor, the oppressed, the unhappy of his day.
She gave him the world, and he proved ungrateful.... She gave him fame,
and he bequeathed opprobrium.... But posterity should be grateful to
them, and forgive a weakness that gave us the prophet of liberty. When
Rousseau wrote those odious pages against his benefactress, he was no
longer Rousseau, he was a poor madman. Who knows if his morbid and
disordered imagination, which made him at that time see an insult in
every benefit and hatred in all friendship, did not show him likewise
the courtesan in the loving woman, and wantonness instead of love? I
have always suspected it. I defy any rational man to recompose, with a
semblance of probability, the character Rousseau gives to the woman he
loved, from the contradictory elements which he describes in her. Those
elements exclude each other: if she had soul enough to adore Rousseau,
she did not at the same time love Claude Anet; if she grieved for
Claude Anet and Rousseau, she did not love the young hair-dresser. If
she was pious she did not glory in her weakness, but must have deplored
it; if engaging, handsome, and frail, as Rousseau depicts her, she
could not be reduced to look for admirers among the vagrants of the
streets, or on the highways. If she affected devotion with such a life,
she was a calculating hypocrite; and if a hypocrite, she was not the
frank, open, and unreserved creature of the "Confessions." The likeness
cannot be true; it is a fancy head and a fancy heart. There is some
hidden mystery here, which must be attributed rather to the misguided
hand of the artist than to the nature of the woman whom he wished to
represent. We must neither accuse the painter whose discernment was at
that time impaired, nor believe in the portrait which has disfigured
the sketch he at first made of an adorable creature.

For my part I never could believe that Madame de Warens would have
recognized herself in the questionable pages of Rousseau's old age. In
my fancy, I have always restored her to what she was, or what she
appeared at Annecy to the young poet,--lovely, feeling, tender, frail
though really pious, prodigal of kindness, thirsting after love, and
desirous of blending the tender names of mother and of mistress in her
affection for the youth that Providence had confided to her, and whom
her love had adopted. This is the true portrait, such as the old men of
Chambery and Annecy have told me that their fathers had transmitted to
them. Rousseau's mind itself bears witness against his own accusations.
Whence would he have derived his sublime and tender piety, his feminine
melancholy, his exquisite and delicate touches of feeling, if a woman
had not bestowed them with her heart. No, the woman who called into
existence such a man was not a cynical courtesan, but rather a fallen
Heloise--an Heloise fallen by love and not by vice or depravity. I
appeal from Rousseau the morose old man, calumniating human nature, to
Rousseau, the young and ardent lover; and when I go, as I often do, to
muse at Les Charmettes, I seek a Madame de Warens far more touching and
attractive in my imagination than in his.


A poor woman made us some fire in Madame de Warens' room; accustomed to
the visit of strangers, and to their long conversations on the scene of
the early days of a celebrated man, she attended to her usual work in
the kitchen and in the yard, and left us at liberty to warm ourselves,
or to saunter backwards and forwards from the house to the garden. This
little sunny garden, surrounded by a wall which separated it from the
vineyards, and overrun with nettles, mallows, and weeds of all kinds,
resembled one of those village churchyards where the peasants assemble
to bask in the rays of the sun, leaning against the church-walls, with
their feet on the graves of the dead. The walks, so neatly gravelled
once, were now covered with damp earth and yellow moss, and showed the
neglect that had followed on absence. How we would have wished to
discover the print of the footsteps of Madame de Warens, when she used
to go, basket in hand, from tree to tree, from vine to vine, gathering
the pears of the orchard or the grapes of the vineyard, and indulging
in merry frolic with, the pupil or the confessor. But there is no trace
of them in their house, save their memory. That is enough; their name,
their remembrance, their image, the sun they saw, the air they
breathed, which seems still beaming with their youth, warm with their
breath, and filled with their voices, give one back the light, the
dreams, the sounds, which shed enchantment round their spring of life.

I saw by Julie's pensive countenance, and her silent thoughtfulness,
that the sight of this sanctuary of love and genius impressed her as
deeply as myself. At times she shunned me, and remained wrapped in her
own thoughts as if she feared to communicate them; she would go into
the house to warm herself when I was in the garden, and return to sit
on the stone bench in the arbor when I joined her at the fireside. At
length I went to her in the arbor; the last yellow leaves hung loosely
from the vine, and allowed the sun to penetrate and envelop her with
its rays.

"What is it you wish to think of without me?" I said in a tone of
tender reproach. "Do I ever think alone?" "Alas!" she answered, "you
will not believe me, but I was thinking, that I could wish to be Madame
de Warens for you, during one single season, even though I were to be
forsaken for the remainder of my days, and though shame were to attach
to my memory like hers; even though you proved yourself as ungrateful
and calumniating as Rousseau!.... How happy she was," she continued,
gazing up at the sky as though she sought the image of the strange
creature she envied,--"how happy she was! she sacrificed herself for
him she loved."

"What ingratitude and what profanation of yourself and of our
happiness!" I answered, walking slowly back with her towards the house,
upon the dry leaves, that rustled beneath our feet.

"Have I then ever, by a single word, or look, or by a single sigh,
shown that aught was wanting to my bitter but complete felicity? Cannot
you, in your angelic fancy, imagine for another Rousseau (if Nature
could have produced two) another Madame de Warens?--a Madame de Warens,
young and pure, angel, lover, sister, all at once, bestowing her whole
soul, her immaculate and immortal soul, instead of her perishable
charms; bestowing it on a brother who was lost and is found, who was
young, misled, and wandering too in this world, like the son of the
watch-maker; throwing open to that brother, instead of her house and
garden, the bright treasures of her affection, purifying him in her
rays, cleansing him from his first pollutions by her tears, deterring
him forever from any grosser pleasure than that of inward possession
and contemplation, teaching him to value his very privations far above
the sensual enjoyment that man shares with brutes, pointing out to him
his course through life, inciting him to glory and to virtue, and
rewarding his sacrifices by this one thought,--that fame, virtue, and
sacrifices were all taken into account in the heart of his beloved, all
accumulate in her love, are multiplied by her gratitude, and are added
to that treasure of tenderness which is ever increasing here below, to
be expended only in heaven?"


Nevertheless, as I spoke thus, I fell quite overcome, with my face
hidden in my hands, on a chair that was near the wall far from hers. I
remained there without speaking a word. "Let us begone," she said; "I
am cold; this place is not good for us!" We gave some money to the good
woman, and we returned slowly to Chambery.

The next day Julie was to start for Lyons. In the evening Louis came to
see us at the inn, and I induced him to go with me to spend a few weeks
at my father's house, which was situated on the road from Paris to
Lyons. We then went out together to inquire at the coachmaker's in
Chambery for a light caleche, in which we could follow Julie's carriage
as far as the town where we were to separate. We soon found what we

Before daylight we were off, travelling in silence through the winding
defiles of Savoy, which at Pont-de-Beauvoisin open into the monotonous
and stony plains of Dauphiny. At every stage we got down and went to
the first carriage to inquire about the poor invalid. Alas! every turn
of the carriage-wheel which took her further from that spring of life
which she had found in Savoy seemed to rob her of her bloom, and to
bring back the look of languor and the slow fever which had struck me
as being the beauty of death the first time I saw her. As the time for
our leaving her drew near, she was visibly oppressed with grief.
Between La-Tour-du-Pin and Lyons, we got into her carriage for a few
leagues to try and cheer her. I begged her to sing the ballad of Auld
Robin Gray for my friend; she did so, to please me, but at the second
verse, which relates the parting of the two lovers the analogy between
our situation and the hopeless sadness of the ballad, as she sung it,
struck her so forcibly that she burst into tears. She took up a black
shawl that she wore that day, and threw it as a veil over her face, and
I saw her sobbing a long while beneath the shawl. At the last stage she
fell into a fainting fit, which lasted till we reached the hotel where
we were to get down at Lyons. With the assistance of her maid, we
carried her upstairs, and laid her on her bed. In the evening she
rallied, and the next day we pursued our journey towards Macon.


It was there we were to separate definitively. We gave our directions
to her courier, and hurried over the adieux for fear of increasing her
illness by prolonging such painful emotions, as one who with an
unflinching hand hastily bares a wound to spare the sufferer. My friend
left for my father's country house, whither I was to follow the next

Louis was no sooner gone than I felt quite unable to keep my word. I
could not rest under the idea of leaving Julie in tears, to prosecute
her long winter journey with only the care of servants, and the thought
that she might fall ill in some lonely inn, and die while calling for
me in vain, was unbearable. I had no money left; a good old man who had
once lent me twenty-five louis had died during my absence. I took my
watch, a gold chain that one of my mother's friends had given me three
years before, some trinkets, my epaulets, my sword, and the gold lace
off my uniform, wrapped them all in my cloak, and went to my mother's
jeweller, who gave me thirty-five louis for the whole. From thence, I
hurried to the inn where Julie slept, and called her courier; I told
him I should follow the carriage at a distance to the gates of Paris,
but that I did not wish his mistress to know it, for fear she should
object to it, out of consideration to me. I inquired the names of the
towns and the hotels where he intended to stay on the road, in order
that I might stop in the same towns, but stay at other hotels. I
rewarded him by anticipation and liberally for his secrecy, then ran to
the post house, ordered horses, and set off half an hour after the
departure of the carriage I wished to follow.



No unforeseen obstacles counteracted the mysterious watchfulness which
I exercised, though still invisible. The courier gave notice secretly
to the postilions of the approach of another caleche, and, as he
ordered horses for me, I always found the relays ready. I accelerated
or slackened my speed according as I wished to keep at a distance, or
to come nearer to the first carriage, and always questioned the
postilions respecting the health of the young lady they had just
driven. From the top of the hills I could see, far down in the plain,
the carriage speeding through fog or sunshine, and bearing away my
happiness. My thoughts outstripped the horses; in fancy I entered the
carriage and saw Julie asleep, dreaming perhaps of me, or awake, and
weeping over our bright days forever flown. When I closed my eyes, to
see her better, I fancied I heard her breathe. I can scarcely now
comprehend that I had strength of mind and self-denial enough to resist
during a journey of one hundred and twenty leagues the impulse that
unceasingly impelled me towards that carriage which I followed without
attempting to overtake; my whole soul went with it, and my body alone,
insensible to the snow and sleet, followed, and was jolted, tossed and
swung about, without the least consciousness of its own sufferings. But
the fear of causing Julie an unexpected shock which might prove fatal
or of renewing a heartrending scene of separation, repelled me, and the
idea of watching over her safety like a loving Providence, and with
angel-like disinterestedness, nailed me to my resolution.

The first time, she got down at the great Hotel of Autun, and I, in a
little inn of the faubourg close by. Before daylight the two carriages,
within sight of each other, were once more running along the white and
winding road, through the gray plains and druidical oak forests of
Upper Burgundy. We stopped in the little town of Avalon,--she in the
centre, and I at the extremity of the town. The next day we were
rolling on towards Sens. The snow which the north wind had accumulated
on the barren heights of Lucy-le-Bois and of Vermanton, fell in
half-melted flakes on the road, and smothered the sound of the wheels.
One could scarcely distinguish the misty horizon at the distance of a
few feet, through the whirling cloud of snow that the wind drifted from
the adjoining fields. It was no longer possible, by sight or sound, to
judge of the distance between the two carriages. Suddenly I perceived
in front, almost touching my horses' heads, Julie's carriage, which was
drawn up in the middle of the road. The courier had alighted, and was
standing on the steps calling out for help and making signs of
distress. I leaped out and flew to the carriage, by a first impulse
stronger than prudence; I jumped inside, and saw the maid striving to
recall her mistress from a fainting fit brought on by the weather and
fatigue, and perhaps by the storms of the heart. The courier ran to
fetch warm water from the distant cottages, and the maid rubbed her
mistress's cold feet in her hands, or pressed them to her bosom to warm
them. Oh, what I felt, as I held that adored form in my arms during one
long hour of insensibility, desiring that she should hear, and dreading
lest she should recognize, my voice, which recalled her to life, none
can conceive or describe, unless they, too, have felt life and death
thus struggling in their hearts.

At last our tender care, the application of the hot-water bottles which
had been brought by the courier, and the warmth of my hands on hers,
recalled heat to the extremities. The color which began to appear in
her cheeks, and a long and feeble sigh which escaped her lips,
indicated her return to life. I jumped out on the road, so that she
might not see me when she opened her eyes, and remained there, behind
the carriage, my face muffled up in my cloak. I desired the servants to
make no mention of my sudden appearance. They soon made a sign to me
that she was recovering consciousness, and I heard her voice stammer
forth these words, as if in a dream: "Oh, if Raphael were here! I
thought it was Raphael!" I hastily returned to my own carriage; the
horses started afresh, and a wide distance soon lay between us. In the
evening I went to inquire after her at the inn where she had alighted
at Sens. I was told that she was quite well, and was sleeping soundly.

I followed in her track as far as Fossard, a stage near the little town
of Montereau; there the road from Sens to Paris branches off in two
directions,--one branch passing through Fontainebleau, the other
through Melun. This latter being shorter by several leagues, I followed
it in order to precede Julie by a few hours in Paris, and see her get
down at her own door. I paid the postilions double, and arrived long
before dark at the hotel where I was accustomed to put up in Paris. At
nightfall I stationed myself on the quay opposite to Julie's house,
that she had so often described to me; I knew it as if I had lived
there all my life. I observed through the windows that hurrying to and
fro of shadows within, which one sees in a house where some new guest
is expected. I could see on the ceiling of her room the reflection of
the fire which had been lighted on the hearth. An old man's face showed
itself several times at the window, and appeared to watch and listen to
the noises of the quay. It was her husband,--her second father. The
concierge held the door open, and stepped out from time to time, to
watch and listen likewise. Now and then a pale and rapid gleam of light
from the street lamp, which swung backwards and forwards with the gusty
wind of December, shot athwart the pavement before the house, and then
left it in darkness. At last a travelling carriage swept around the
corner of one of the streets which lead to the quay, and stopped before
the house. I darted forward and half-concealed myself in the shade of a
column at the next door to that at which the carriage stopped. I saw
the servants rush to the door. I saw Julie alight, and saw the old man
embrace her, as a father embraces his child after a long absence; he
then walked heavily upstairs, leaning on the arm of the concierge. The
carriage was unpacked, the postilion drove it round to another street
to put it up, the door was closed. I returned to my post near the
parapet on the river side.


I stood a long while contemplating from thence the lighted windows of
Julie's house, and sought to discover what was going on inside. I saw
the usual stir of an arrival, busy people carrying trunks, unpacking
parcels, and setting all things in order; when this bustle had a little
subsided, when the lights no longer ran backwards and forwards from
room to room, and that the old man's room alone was lighted by the pale
rays of a night lamp, I could distinguish, through the closed windows
of the _entresol_ beneath, the motionless shadow of Julie's tall and
drooping form on the white curtains. She remained some time in the same
attitude; then I saw her open the window spite of the cold, look
towards the Seine in my direction, as if her eye had rested upon me
from some preternatural revelation of love, then turn towards the
north, and gaze at a star that we used to contemplate together, and
which we had both agreed to look at in absence, as a meeting-place for
our souls in the inaccessible solitude of the firmament. I felt that
look fall on my heart like living coals of fire. I knew that our hearts
were united in one thought and my resolution vanished. I darted forward
to rush across the quay, to go beneath her windows, and say one word
that might make her recognize her brother at her feet. At the same
instant she closed her window. The rolling of carriages covered the
sound of my voice; the light was extinguished at the _entresol_, and I
remained motionless on the quay. The clock of a neighboring edifice
struck slowly twelve; I approached the door, and kissed it convulsively
without daring to knock. I knelt on the threshold, and prayed to the
stones to preserve to me the supreme treasure which I had brought back
to confide to these walls, and then slowly withdrew.


I left Paris the next day without having seen a single one of the
friends I had there. I inwardly rejoiced at not having bestowed one
look, one word, or a single step on any one but her. The rest of the
world no longer existed for me. Before I left, however, I put into the
post a note dated Paris, and addressed to Julie, which she would
receive on waking. The note only contained these words: "I have
followed you, I have watched over you though invisible. I would not
leave you without knowing that you were under the care of those who
love you. Last night, at midnight, when you opened the window, and
looked at the star, and sighed, I was there! You might have heard my
voice. When you read these lines I shall be far away!"


I travelled day and night in such complete dizziness of thought that I
felt neither cold, hunger nor distance, and arrived at M---- as if
awaking from a dream, and scarcely remembered that I had been to Paris.
I found my friend Louis awaiting me at my father's house in the
country. His presence was soothing to me; I could at least speak to him
of her whom he admired as much as I did. We slept in the same room, and
part of our nights were spent in talking of the heavenly vision, by
which he had been as dazzled as myself. He considered her as one of
those delusions of fancy, one of those women above mortal height, like
Tasso's Eleanora, Dante's Beatrice, Petrarch's Laura, or Vittoria
Colonna, the lover, the poet, and the heroine at once,--forms that flit
across the earth, scarcely touching it, and without tarrying, only to
fascinate the eyes of some men, the privileged few of love, to lead on
their souls to immortal aspirations, and to be the _sursum corda_ of
superior imaginations. As to Louis, he dared not raise his love as high
as his enthusiasm. His sensitive and tender heart, which had been early
wounded, was at that time filled with the image of a poor and pious
orphan, one of his own family. His happiness would have been to have
married her, and to live in obscurity and peace in a cottage among the
hills of Chambery. Want of fortune restricted the two poor lovers to a
hopeless and tender friendship, from the fear of lowering the name of
their family in poverty, or of bequeathing indigence to children. The
young girl died some years after, of solitude and hopelessness. I have
never seen a sweeter face droop and die for the want of a few of
fortune's rays. Her countenance, where might be traced the remains of
blooming youth, equally ready to revive or to fade forever, bore in the
highest degree the sublime and touching impress of that virtue of the
unhappy, called resignation. She became blind in consequence of the
secret tears she shed during her long years of expectation and
uncertainty. I met her once, on my return from one of my journeys to
Italy. She was led by the hand through the streets of Chambery, by one
of her little sisters. When she heard my voice, she turned pale, and
felt for some support with her poor hesitating hand: "Pardon me," she
said; "but when I used formerly to hear that voice, I always heard with
it another." Poor girl! she now listens to her lover's voice in heaven.


How long were the two months that I had to pass away from Julie in my
father's house, before the time came that I could join her in Paris!
During the last three or four months, I had exhausted the allowance I
received from my father, the secret resources of my mother's
indulgence, and the purse of my friends, to pay the debts that
dissipation, play, and my travels had made me contract. I had no means
of obtaining the small sum I required to go to Paris, and to live there
even in seclusion and penury, and was obliged to wait till the month of
January, when my quarter's allowance from my father became due. At that
time of the year, too, I was in the habit of receiving some little
presents from a rich but severe old uncle, and from some good and
prudent old aunts. By means of all these resources, I hoped to collect
a sum of six or eight hundred francs, which would be sufficient to keep
me in Paris for a few months. Privations would be no trial to my
vanity, for my life consisted only in my love. All the riches of this
world could, in my eyes, only have served to purchase for me the
portion of the day that I was to pass with her.

The weary days of expectation were filled with thoughts of her. We
devoted to each other every hour of our time. In the morning, on
waking, she retired to her room to write to me, and at the same instant
I, too, was writing to her; our pages and our thoughts crossed on the
road by every post, questioning, answering, and mingling without a
day's interruption. There were thus in reality for us only a few hours'
absence; in the evening and at night. But even these I consecrated to
her: I was surrounded with her letters,--they lay open upon the table,
my bed was strewn with them; I learned them by heart. I often repeated
to myself the most affecting and impassioned passages, adding in fancy
her voice, her gesture, her tone, her look; I would answer her, and
thus succeed in producing such a complete delusion of her real
presence, that I felt impatient and annoyed when I was summoned to
meals, or interrupted by visitors; at these times it seemed as though
she were torn from me, or driven away from my room. In my long rambles
on the mountains, or in those misty plains without an horizon which
border the Saone, I always took her last letter with me, and would sit
on the rocks, or on the edge of the water, amid the ice and snow, to
read it over and over again. Each time I fancied I discovered some word
or expression that had escaped my notice before. I remember that I
always instinctively directed my course towards the north, as if each
step I took in the direction of Paris brought me nearer to her, and
diminished the cruel distance that separated us. Sometimes I went very
far on the Paris road under this impression, and when it was time to
return, I had always a severe struggle with myself. I felt sorrowful,
and would often look back towards that point of the horizon where she
dwelt, and walk slowly and heavily home. Oh, how I envied the
snow-laden wings of the crows that flew northward through the mist!
What a pang I felt as I saw the carriages rolling towards Paris! How
many of my useless days of youth would I not have given to be in the
place of one of those listless old men who glanced unconcernedly
through their carriage windows at the solitary youth by the wayside,
whose steps travelled in the contrary direction to his heart. Oh, how
interminably long did the short days of December and January appear!
There was one bright hour for me, among all my hours,--it was when I
heard from my room the step, the voice, and the rattle of the postman,
who was distributing the letters in the neighborhood. As soon as I
heard him I opened my window; I saw him coming up the street, with his
hands full of letters, which he distributed to all the maid-servants,
and waited at each door till he received the postage. How I cursed the
slowness of the good women, who seemed never to have done reckoning the
change into his hand! Before the postman rang at my fathers door I had
already flown downstairs, crossed the vestibule, and stood panting at
the door. While the old man fumbled among his letters, I strove to
discover the envelope of fine post paper, and the pretty English
handwriting that distinguished my treasure among all the coarse papers
and clumsy superscriptions of commercial or vulgar letters. I seized it
with a trembling hand; my eyes swam, my heart beat, and my legs refused
their office. I hid the letter in my bosom for fear of meeting some one
on the stairs; and lest so frequent a correspondence should appear
suspicious to my mother, I would run into my room and bolt my door, so
as to devour the pages at leisure, without fear of interruption. How
many tears and kisses I impressed on the paper! Alas, when many years
afterwards I opened the volume of these letters, how many words effaced
by my lips, and that my tears or my transports had washed or torn out,
were wanting to the sense of many sentences!


After breakfast I used to retire to my upper room, to read my letter
over again and to answer it. These were the most feverish and
delightful hours in the day. I would take four sheets of the largest
and thinnest paper that Julie had sent me on purpose from Paris, and
whose every page, commencing very high up, ending very low down,
crossed, and written on the margin, contained thousands of words. These
sheets I covered every morning, and found them too scanty and too soon
filled for the passionate and tumultuous overflow of my thoughts. In
these letters there was no beginning, no middle, no end, and no
grammar; nothing, in short, of what is generally understood by the word
style. It was my soul laid bare before another soul expressing, or
rather stammering forth, as well as it could, the conflicting emotions
that filled it, with the help of the inadequate language of men. But
such language was not made to express unutterable things; its imperfect
signs and empty terms, its hollow speeches and its icy words, were
melted, like refractory ore, by the concentrated fire of our souls, and
cast into an indescribable language, vague, ethereal, flaming and
caressing, like the licking tongues of fire that had no meaning for
others, but which we alone understood, as it was part of ourselves.
These effusions of my heart never ended and never slackened. If the
firmament had been a single page, and God had bid me fill it with my
love, it could not have contained one-half of what spoke within me! I
never stopped till the four sheets were filled; yet I always seemed to
have said nothing, and in truth I had said nothing,--for who could ever
tell what is infinite?


These letters, which were without any pitiful pretensions to talent on
my part, and were a delight and not a labor, might have been of
marvellous service to me at a later period, if fate had destined me to
address my fellow men, or to depict the shades, the transports, or the
pains of passion, in works of imagination. Unknown to myself, I
struggled desperately as Jacob wrestled with the angel, against the
poorness, the rigidity, and the resistance of the language I was forced
to use, as I knew not the language of the skies. The efforts that I
made to conquer, bend, smooth, extend, spiritualize, color, inflame, or
moderate expressions; the wish to render by words the nicest shades of
feeling the most ethereal aspirations of thought, the most irresistible
impulses, and the most chaste reserve of passion; to express looks,
attitudes, sighs, silence, and even the annihilation of the heart
adoring the invisible object of its love,--all these efforts, I repeat,
which seemed to bend my pen beneath my fingers like a rebellious
instrument, made me sometimes find the very word, expression, or cry
that I required to give a voice to the unutterable. I had used no
language, but I had cried forth the cry of my soul; and I was heard.
When I rose from my chair, after this desperate but delightful struggle
against words, pen, and paper, I remembered that, spite of the winter
cold in my room, the perspiration stood upon my forehead, and I used to
open the window to cool my fevered brow.


My letters were not only a cry of love, they were more frequently full
of invocations, contemplation, dreams of the future, prospects of
heaven, consolations, and prayers.

My love, which by its nature was debarred from all those enjoyments
which relax the heart by satisfying the senses, had opened afresh
within me all the springs of piety that had been dried up or polluted
by vile pleasures. I felt in my heart all the purity and elevation of
divine love. I strove to bear away with me to heaven, on the wings of
my excited and almost mystical imagination, that other suffering and
discouraged soul. I spoke of God, who alone was perfect enough to have
created her superhuman perfection of beauty, genius, and tenderness;
great enough to contain our boundless aspirations; infinite and
inexhaustible enough to absorb and whelm in himself the love he had
lighted in us, so that his flame, in consuming us one by the other,
might make us both exhale ourselves in him. I comforted Julie under the
sacrifice that necessity obliged us to make of complete happiness here
below; I pointed out to her the merit of this self-denial of an instant
in the eyes of the Eternal Remunerator of our actions. I blessed the
mournful and sublime purity of such sacrifices, since they would one
day obtain for us a more immaterial and angelic union in the eternal
atmosphere of pure spirits. I went so far as to speak of myself as
happy in my abnegation, and to sing the hymns of the martyrdom of love
to which we were by love, by greater love, condemned. I entreated Julie
not to think of my grief and not to give way to sorrow herself. I
showed a courage and a contempt for terrestrial happiness that I
possessed, alas! very often only in words. I offered up to her, as a
holocaust, all that was human in me. I elevated myself to the
immateriality of angels, so that she might not suspect a suffering or a
desire in my adoration. I besought her to seek in a tender and
sustaining religion, in the shelter of the church, in the mysterious
faith of Christ, the God of tears, in kneeling and in invocation,--the
hopes, the consolations, and the delights that I had tasted in my
childhood. She had renewed in me all my early feelings of piety. I
composed prayers for her,--calm, yet ardent prayers, that ascend like
flames to Heaven, but like flames that no wind can cause to vacillate.
I begged her to pronounce these prayers at certain hours of the day and
night, when I would repeat them also, so that our two minds, united by
the same words, might be elevated at the same hour in one
invocation.... All these were wet with my tears, that left their traces
on my words, and were doubtless more powerful and more eloquent than
they. I used to go and throw into the post by stealth these letters,
the very marrow of my bones; and felt relieved on my return, as if I
had thrown off a part of the weight of my own heart.


Spite of my continual efforts and of the perpetual application of my
young and ardent imagination to communicate to my letters the fire that
consumed me, to create a language for my sighs, to pour my burning soul
upon the paper and make it overleap the distance that divided us,--in
this combat against the impotence of words, I was always surpassed by
Julie. Her letters had more expression in one phrase than mine in their
eight pages,--her heart breathed in the words; one saw her looks in the
lines; the expressions seemed still warm from her lips. In her, nothing
evaporated during that slow and dull transition of the feeling to the
word which lets the lava of the heart cool and pale beneath the pen of
man. Woman has no style, that is why all she says is so well said.
Style is a garment, but the unveiled soul stands forth upon the lips or
beneath the hand of woman. Like the Venus of speech, it rises from the
depths of feeling in its naked beauty, wakes of itself to life, wonders
at its own existence, and is adored ere it knows that it has spoken.


What letters and what ardor! What tones and accents! What fire and
purity combined, like light and transparency in a diamond, like passion
and bashfulness on the brow of the young girl who loves! What powerful
simplicity! What inexhaustible effusions! What sudden revivals in the
midst of languor! What sounds and songs! Then there would be sadness,
recurring like the unexpected notes at the end of an air; caressing
words, which seemed to fan the brow like the breath of a fond mother
bending over her smiling child; a voluptuous lulling of half-whispered
words, and hushed and dreamy sentences, which wrapped one in rays and
murmurs, stillness and perfume, and led one gently by the soft and
soothing syllables to the repose of love, the still sleep of the soul,
unto the kiss upon the page which said farewell! The farewell and the
kiss both silently received, as the lips silently impressed them. I
have seen those letters all again; I have read over, page by page, this
correspondence, bound up and classed, after death, by the pious hand of
friendship; one letter answering the other from the first note down to
the last word written by the death-struck hand, to which love still
imparted strength. I have read them o'er, and burned them with tears,
in secret, as if I committed a crime, and snatching twenty times the
half-consumed page from the flames to read it once again. Why did I
thus destroy? Because their very ashes would have been too burning for
this world, and I have scattered them to the winds of heaven.


At length the day came when I could reckon the hours that still
separated me from Julie. All the resources that I could command did not
amount to a sufficient sum to keep me three or four months in Paris. My
mother, who noticed my distress without guessing its cause, drew from
the casket which her fondness had already nearly emptied a large
diamond, mounted as a ring. Alas, it was the last remaining jewel of
her youth! She slipped it secretly into my hand, with tears. "I suffer
as much as you can, Raphael," she said with a mournful look, "to see
your unprofitable youth wasted in the idleness of a small town, or in
the reveries of a country life. I had always hoped that the gifts of
God, that from your infancy I rejoiced to see in you, would attract the
notice of the world, and open to you a career of fortune and honor. The
poverty against which we have to struggle does not allow us to bring
you forward. Hitherto such has been the will of God, and we must submit
with resignation to his ways, which are always the best. Yet it is with
grief I see you sinking into that moral languor which always follows
fruitless endeavors. Let us try Fate once more. Go, since the earth
here seems to burn beneath your feet,--go and live for awhile in Paris.
Call, with reserve and dignity, on those old friends of your family who
are now in power. Show the talents with which Nature and study have
endowed you. It is impossible that those at the head of the Government
should not strive to attract young men able, as you would be, to serve,
support, and adorn the reign of the princes whom God has restored to
us. Your poor father has much to do to bring up his six children, and
not to fall below his rank in the distresses of our rustic life. Your
other relations are good and kind, but they will not understand that
breathing-space and action are necessary to the devouring activity of
the mind at twenty. Here is my last jewel; I had promised my mother
never to part with it save from dire necessity. Take it, and sell it;
it will serve to maintain you in Paris a few weeks longer. It is the
last token of my love, which I stake for you in the lottery of
Providence. It must bring you good luck; for my solicitude, my prayers,
my tenderness for you go with it." I took the ring, and kissed my
mother's hand; a tear fell upon the diamond. Alas, it served not to
allow me to seek or to await the favor of great men or princes who
turned away from my obscurity, but to live three months of that divine
life of the heart worth centuries of greatness. This sacred diamond was
to me as Cleopatra's pearl dissolved in my cup of life, from which I
drank happiness and love for a short time.


I completely altered my habits from that day, from respect for my poor
mother's repeated sacrifices, and the concentration of all my thoughts
in this one desire,--to see once more my love, and to prolong, as much
as possible, by the strictest economy, the allotted time I was to spend
with Julie. I became as calculating and as sparing of the little gold I
took with me as an old miser. It seemed as though the most trifling sum
I spent was an hour of my happiness, or a drop of my felicity that I
wasted. I resolved to live like Jean Jacques Rousseau, on little or
nothing, and to retrench from my vanity, my dress, or my food, all that
I wished to bestow on the rapture of my soul. I was not, however,
without an undefined hope of making some use of my talents in the cause
of my love. These were as yet made known to a few friends only by some
verses; but in the last three months I had written during my sleepless
nights a little volume of poetry, amatory, melancholy, or pious,
according as my imagination spoke to me in tender or in serious notes.
The whole had been copied out with care in my best handwriting, and
shown to my father, who was an excellent critic, though somewhat
severe; a few friends, too, had favorably judged some fragments. I had
bound up my poetical treasure in green, a color of good omen for my
hopes of fame; but I had not shown it to my mother, whose chaste and
pious purity of mind might have taken alarm at the more antique than
Christian voluptuousness of some of my elegies. I hoped that the simple
grace and the winged enthusiasm of my poetry might please some
intelligent publisher, who would buy my volume, or at least consent to
print it at his own expense; and that the public taste, attracted by
the novelty of a style springing from the heart, and nursed in the
woods, would, perhaps, confer on me a humble fortune and a name.


I had no need to look for a lodging in Paris. One of my friends, the
young Count de V----, who had just returned from his travels, was to
spend the winter and the following spring there, and had offered to
share with me a little _entresol_ that he occupied, over the rooms of
the concierge in the magnificent hotel (since pulled down) of the
Marechal de Richelieu, in the Rue Neuve St. Augustin. The Count de
V----, with whom I was in almost daily correspondence, knew all. I had
given him a letter of introduction to Julie, that he might know the
soul of my soul, and that he might understand, if not my delirium, at
least my adoration for that woman. At first sight, he comprehended and
almost shared my enthusiasm. In his letters, he always alluded, with
tender pity and respect, to that fair vision of melancholy, which
seemed hovering between life and death, and only detained on earth, he
said, by the ineffable love she bore to me. He always spoke to me of
her as of a heavenly gift, sent to my eyes and heart, and which would
raise me above human nature as long as I remained enveloped in her
radiance. V----, who was persuaded of the holy and superhuman nature of
our attachment, considered it as a virtue, and felt no repugnance to
being the mediator and confidant of our love. Julie, on her part, spoke
of V---- as the only friend she considered worthy of me, and for whom
she would have wished to increase my friendship, instead of detracting
from it by a mean jealousy of the heart. Both urged me to come to
Paris, but V----, alone, knew the secret motives, and the strictly
material impossibility, which had detained me till then. Spite of his
devoted friendship, of which he gave me, until his death, so many
proofs during the troubles of my life, it was not in his power at that
time to remove the obstacles that arrested me. His mother had exhausted
her means to give him an education befitting his rank, and to allow him
to travel through Europe. He was himself deep in debt, and could only
offer me a corner in the apartment that his family provided for him. As
to all the rest, he was, at that time of his life, as poor and as much
enslaved as myself by the want so cruelly defined by Horace--_Res
angustae domi_.

I left M---- in a little one-horse jaunting car, consisting of a wooden
seat on an axle-tree, and four poles which supported a tarpaulin to
shelter us against the rain. These cars changed horses every four or
five miles, and served to convey to Paris the masons from the
Bourbonnais and from Auvergne, the weary pedestrians they met on the
road, and soldiers lamed by their long marches who were glad to spare a
day's fatigue for a few sous. I felt no shame or annoyance at this
vulgar mode of conveyance; I would have travelled barefooted through
the snow, and not have felt less proud or less happy, for I was thus
saving one or two louis with which I could purchase some days of
happiness. I reached the barrier of Paris without having felt a pebble
of the road. The night was dark, and it was raining hard; I took up my
portmanteau, and soon after knocked at the door of the humble lodging
of the Count de V----.

He was waiting for me; he embraced me, and spoke of her. I was never
wearied of questioning and listening to him. That same evening I was to
see Julie. V---- was to announce my arrival, and prepare her for joy.
When every visitor had retired from Julie's drawing-room, V---- was to
leave last of all to join me at a little _cafe_ of the neighborhood
where I was to wait for him, and give me notice that she was alone, and
that I might throw myself at her feet. It was only after I had learned
all these particulars that I thought of drying my clothes and taking
some refreshment. I then took possession of the dark alcove of his
ante-room, which was lighted by one round window, and heated by a
stove. I dressed myself neatly and simply, so that she I loved might
not blush for me before her friends.

At eleven o'clock V---- and I went out on foot; we proceeded together
as far as the window which I knew so well. There were three carriages
at the door. V---- went up, and I retired to wait for him at the
appointed place. How long that hour seemed while I waited for him! How
I execrated those visitors who, involuntarily importunate, came in
their indifference to dispose of some idle hours, and delayed the
reunion of two fond hearts who counted each second of their martyrdom
by their palpitations! At last V---- appeared; I followed rapidly on
his steps, he left me at the door, and I went up.


If I were to live a thousand times a thousand years, I should never
forget that instant and that sight. She was standing up in the light,
her elbow resting carelessly on the white marble of the chimney; her
tall and slender figure, her shoulders, and her profile, were reflected
in the glass; her face was turned towards the door, her eyes fixed on a
little dark passage leading to the drawing-room, and her head was bent
forward, and slightly inclined on one side, in the attitude of one
listening for the sound of approaching footsteps. She was dressed in
mourning, in a black silk dress trimmed with black lace round the neck
and the skirt. This profusion of lace, rumpled by the cushions of the
sofa to which her indolent and languid life confined her, hung around
her like the black and clustering bunches of the elder, shedding its
berries in the autumnal wind. The dark color of her gown left only her
shoulders, neck, and face in light, and the mourning of her dress
seemed completed by the natural mourning of her dark hair, which was
gathered up at the back of her head. This uniformity of color added to
her height, and showed to advantage her graceful and flexible figure.
The reflection of the fire in the glass, the light of the lamp on the
chimney-piece striking on her cheek, and the animation of impatient
expectation and love, shed on her countenance a splendor of youth,
bloom, and life, which seemed a transfiguration effected by love.

My first exclamation was one of joy and delighted surprise at seeing

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