Part 2 out of 2
"Hey! tete-Dieu! where has he hid himself?" cried the duke, reaching
the rock beside which his son had been lying.
"He is there," replied Bertrand, pointing to a narrow crevice, the
edges of which had been polished smooth by the repeated assaults of
the high tide.
"Etienne, my beloved son!" called the old man.
The hated child made no reply. For hours the duke entreated,
threatened, implored in turn, receiving no response. Sometimes he was
silent, with his ear at the cleft of the rock, where even his
enfeebled hearing could detect the beating of Etienne's heart, the
quick pulsations of which echoed from the sonorous roof of his rocky
"At least HE lives!" said the old man, in a heartrending voice.
Towards the middle of the day, the father, reduced to despair, had
recourse to prayer:--
"Etienne," he said, "my dear Etienne, God has punished me for
disowning you. He has deprived me of your brother. To-day you are my
only child. I love you more than I love myself. I see the wrong I have
done; I know that you have in your veins my blood with that of your
mother, whose misery was my doing. Come to me; I will try to make you
forget my cruelty; I will cherish you for all that I have lost.
Etienne, you are the Duc de Nivron, and you will be, after me, the Duc
d'Herouville, peer of France, knight of the Orders and of the Golden
Fleece, captain of a hundred men-at-arms, grand-bailiff of Bessin,
Governor of Normandy, lord of twenty-seven domains counting sixty-nine
steeples, Marquis de Saint-Sever. You shall take to wife the daughter
of a prince. Would you have me die of grief? Come! come to me! or here
I kneel until I see you. Your old father prays you, he humbles himself
before his child as before God himself."
The hated son paid no heed to this language bristling with social
ideas and vanities he did not comprehend; his soul remained under the
impressions of unconquerable terror. He was silent, suffering great
agony. Towards evening the old seigneur, after exhausting all formulas
of language, all resources of entreaty, all repentant promises, was
overcome by a sort of religious contrition. He knelt down upon the
sand and made a vow:--
"I swear to build a chapel to Saint-Jean and Saint-Etienne, the
patrons of my wife and son, and to found one hundred masses in honor
of the Virgin, if God and the saints will restore to me the affection
of my son, the Duc de Nivron, here present."
He remained on his knees in deep humility with clasped hands, praying.
Finding that his son, the hope of his name, still did not come to him,
great tears rose in his eyes, dry so long, and rolled down his
withered cheeks. At this moment, Etienne, hearing no further sounds,
glided to the opening of his grotto like a young adder craving the
sun. He saw the tears of the stricken old man, he recognized the signs
of a true grief, and, seizing his father's hand, he kissed him, saying
in the voice of an angel:--
"Oh, mother! forgive me!"
In the fever of his happiness the old duke lifted his feeble offspring
in his arms and carried him, trembling like an abducted girl, toward
the castle. As he felt the palpitation of his son's body he strove to
reassure him, kissing him with all the caution he might have shown in
touching a delicate flower; and speaking in the gentlest tones he had
ever in his life used, in order to soothe him.
"God's truth! you are like my poor Jeanne, dear child!" he said.
"Teach me what would give you pleasure, and I will give you all you
can desire. Grow strong! be well! I will show you how to ride a mare
as pretty and gentle as yourself. Nothing shall ever thwart or trouble
you. Tete-Dieu! all things bow to me as the reeds to the wind. I give
you unlimited power. I bow to you myself as the god of the family."
The father carried his son into the lordly chamber where the mother's
sad existence had been spent. Etienne turned away and leaned against
the window from which his mother was wont to make him signals
announcing the departure of his persecutor, who now, without his
knowing why, had become his slave, like those gigantic genii which the
power of a fairy places at the order of a young prince. That fairy was
Feudality. Beholding once more the melancholy room where his eyes were
accustomed to contemplate the ocean, tears came into those eyes;
recollections of his long misery, mingled with melodious memories of
the pleasures he had had in the only love that was granted to him,
maternal love, all rushed together upon his heart and developed there,
like a poem at once terrible and delicious. The emotions of this
youth, accustomed to live in contemplations of ecstasy as others in
the excitements of the world, resembled none of the habitual emotions
"Will he live?" said the old man, amazed at the fragility of his heir,
and holding his breath as he leaned over him.
"I can live only here," replied Etienne, who had heard him, simply.
"Well, then, this room shall be yours, my child."
"What is that noise?" asked the young man, hearing the retainers of
the castle who were gathering in the guard-room, whither the duke had
summoned them to present his son.
"Come!" said the father, taking him by the hand and leading him into
the great hall.
At this epoch of our history, a duke and peer, with great possessions,
holding public offices and the government of a province, lived the
life of a prince; the cadets of his family did not revolt at serving
him. He had his household guard and officers; the first lieutenant of
his ordnance company was to him what, in our day, an aide-de-camp is
to a marshal. A few years later, Cardinal de Richelieu had his body-
guard. Several princes allied to the royal house--Guise, Conde,
Nevers, and Vendome, etc.--had pages chosen among the sons of the best
families,--a last lingering custom of departed chivalry. The wealth of
the Duc d'Herouville, and the antiquity of his Norman race indicated
by his name ("herus villoe"), permitted him to imitate the
magnificence of families who were in other respects his inferiors,--
those, for instance, of Epernon, Luynes, Balagny, d'O, Zamet, regarded
as parvenus, but living, nevertheless, as princes. It was therefore an
imposing spectacle for poor Etienne to see the assemblage of retainers
of all kinds attached to the service of his father.
The duke seated himself on a chair of state placed under a "solium,"
or dais of carved word, above a platform raised by several steps, from
which, in certain provinces, the great seigneurs still delivered
judgment on their vassals,--a vestige of feudality which disappeared
under the reign of Richelieu. These thrones, like the warden's benches
of the churches, have now become objects of collection as curiosities.
When Etienne was placed beside his father on that raised platform, he
shuddered at feeling himself the centre to which all eyes turned.
"Do not tremble," said the duke, bending his bald head to his son's
ear; "these people are only our servants."
Through the dusky light produced by the setting sun, the rays of which
were reddening the leaded panes of the windows, Etienne saw the
bailiff, the captain and lieutenant of the guard, with certain of
their men-at-arms, the chaplain, the secretaries, the doctor, the
majordomo, the ushers, the steward, the huntsmen, the game-keeper, the
grooms, and the valets. Though all these people stood in respectful
attitudes, induced by the terror the old man inspired in even the most
important persons under his command, a low murmur, caused by curiosity
and expectation, made itself heard. That sound oppressed the bosom of
the young man, who felt for the first time in his life the influence
of the heavy atmosphere produced by the breath of many persons in a
closed hall. His senses, accustomed to the pure and wholesome air from
the sea, were shocked with a rapidity that proved the super-
sensitiveness of his organs. A horrible palpitation, due no doubt to
some defect in the organization of his heart, shook him with
reiterated blows when his father, showing himself to the assemblage
like some majestic old lion, pronounced in a solemn voice the
following brief address:--
"My friends, this is my son Etienne, my first-born son, my heir
presumptive, the Duc de Nivron, to whom the king will no doubt grant
the honors of his deceased brother. I present him to you that you may
acknowledge him and obey him as myself. I warn you that if you, or any
one in this province, over which I am governor, does aught to
displease the young duke, or thwart him in any way whatsoever, it
would be better, should it come to my knowledge, that that man had
never been born. You hear me. Return now to your duties, and God guide
you. The obsequies of my son Maximilien will take place here when his
body arrives. The household will go into mourning eight days hence.
Later, we shall celebrate the accession of my son Etienne here
"Vive monseigneur! Long live the race of Herouville!" cried the people
in a roar that shook the castle.
The valets brought in torches to illuminate the hall. That hurrah, the
sudden lights, the sensations caused by his father's speech, joined to
those he was already feeling, overcame the young man, who fainted
completely and fell into a chair, leaving his slender womanly hand in
the broad palm of his father. As the duke, who had signed to the
lieutenant of his company to come nearer, saying to him, "I am
fortunate, Baron d'Artagnon, in being able to repair my loss; behold
my son!" he felt an icy hand in his. Turning round, he looked at the
new Duc de Nivron, and, thinking him dead, he uttered a cry of horror
which appalled the assemblage.
Beauvouloir rushed to the platform, took the young man in his arms,
and carried him away, saying to his master, "You have killed him by
not preparing him for this ceremony."
"He can never have a child if he is like that!" cried the duke,
following Beauvouloir into the seignorial chamber, where the doctor
laid the young heir upon the bed.
"Well, what think you?" asked the duke presently.
"It is not serious," replied the old physician, showing Etienne, who
was now revived by a cordial, a few drops of which he had given him on
a bit of sugar, a new and precious substance which the apothecaries
were selling for its weight in gold.
"Take this, old rascal!" said the duke, offering his purse to
Beauvouloir, "and treat him like the son of a king! If he dies by your
fault, I'll burn you myself on a gridiron."
"If you continue to be so violent, the Duc de Nivron will die by your
own act," said the doctor, roughly. "Leave him now; he will go to
"Good-night, my love," said the old man, kissing his son upon the
"Good-night, father," replied the youth, whose voice made the father--
thus named by Etienne for the first time--quiver.
The duke took Beauvouloir by the arm and led him to the next room,
where, having pushed him into the recess of a window, he said:--
"Ah ca! old rascal, now we will understand each other."
That term, a favorite sign of graciousness with the duke, made the
doctor, no longer a mere bonesetter, smile.
"You know," said the duke, continuing, "that I wish you no harm. You
have twice delivered my poor Jeanne, you cured my son Maximilien of an
illness, in short, you are a part of my household. Poor Maximilien! I
will avenge him; I take upon myself to kill the man who killed him.
The whole future of the house of Herouville is now in your hands. You
alone can know if there is in that poor abortion the stuff that can
breed a Herouville. You hear me. What think you?"
"His life on the seashore has been so chaste and so pure that nature
is sounder in him than it would have been had he lived in your world.
But so delicate a body is the very humble servant of the soul.
Monseigneur Etienne must himself choose his wife; all things in him
must be the work of nature and not of your will. He will love
artlessly, and will accomplish by his heart's desire that which you
wish him to do for the sake of your name. But if you give your son a
proud, ungainly woman of the world, a great lady, he will flee to his
rocks. More than that; though sudden terror would surely kill him, I
believe that any sudden emotion would be equally fatal. My advice
therefore is to leave Etienne to choose for himself, at his own
pleasure, the path of love. Listen to me, monseigneur; you are a great
and powerful prince, but you understand nothing of such matters. Give
me your entire confidence, your unlimited confidence, and you shall
have a grandson."
"If I obtain a grandson by any sorcery whatever, I shall have you
ennobled. Yes, difficult as it may be, I'll make an old rascal into a
man of honor; you shall be Baron de Forcalier. Employ your magic,
white or black, appeal to your witches' sabbath or the novenas of the
Church; what care I how 'tis done, provided my line male continues?"
"I know," said Beauvouloir, "a whole chapter of sorcerers capable of
destroying your hopes; they are none other than YOURSELF, monseigneur.
I know you. To-day you want male lineage at any price; to-morrow you
will seek to have it on your own conditions; you will torment your
"God preserve me from it!"
"Well, then, go away from here; go to court, where the death of the
marechal and the emancipation of the king must have turned everything
topsy turvy, and where you certainly have business, if only to obtain
the marshal's baton which was promised to you. Leave Monseigneur
Etienne to me. But give me your word of honor as a gentleman to
approve whatever I may do for him."
The duke struck his hand into that of his physician as a sign of
complete acceptance, and retired to his own apartments.
When the days of a high and mighty seigneur are numbered, the
physician becomes a personage of importance in the household. It is,
therefore, not surprising to see a former bonesetter so familiar with
the Duc d'Herouville. Apart from the illegitimate ties which connected
him, by marriage, to this great family and certainly militated in his
favor, his sound good sense had so often been proved by the duke that
the old man had now become his master's most valued counsellor.
Beauvouloir was the Coyctier of this Louis XI. Nevertheless, and no
matter how valuable his knowledge might be, he never obtained over the
government of Normandy, in whom was the ferocity of religious warfare,
as much influence as feudality exercised over that rugged nature. For
this reason the physician was confident that the prejudices of the
noble would thwart the desires and the vows of the father.
Great physician that he was, Beauvouloir saw plainly that to a being
so delicately organized as Etienne marriage must come as a slow and
gentle inspiration, communicating new powers to his being and
vivifying it with the fires of love. As he had said to the father, to
impose a wife on Etienne would be to kill him. Above all it was
important that the young recluse should not be alarmed at the thought
of marriage, of which he knew nothing, or be made aware of the object
of his father's wishes. This unknown poet conceived as yet only the
beautiful and noble passion of Petrarch for Laura, of Dante for
Beatrice. Like his mother he was all pure love and soul; the
opportunity to love must be given to him, and then the event should be
awaited, not compelled. A command to love would have dried within him
the very sources of his life.
Maitre Antoine Beauvouloir was a father; he had a daughter brought up
under conditions which made her the wife for Etienne. It was so
difficult to foresee the events which would make a son, disowned by
his father and destined to the priesthood, the presumptive heir of the
house of Herouville that Beauvouloir had never until now noticed the
resemblance between the fate of Etienne and that of Gabrielle. A
sudden idea which now came to him was inspired more by his devotion to
those two beings than by ambition.
His wife, in spite of his great skill, had died in child-bed leaving
him a daughter whose health was so frail that it seemed as if the
mother had bequeathed to her fruit the germs of death. Beauvouloir
loved his Gabrielle as old men love their only child. His science and
his incessant care had given factitious life to this frail creature,
which he cultivated as a florist cultivates an exotic plant. He had
kept her hidden from all eyes on his estate of Forcalier, where she
was protected against the dangers of the time by the general good-will
felt for a man to whom all owed gratitude, and whose scientific powers
inspired in the ignorant minds of the country-people a superstitious
By attaching himself to the house of Herouville, Beauvouloir had
increased still further the immunity he enjoyed in the province, and
had thwarted all attempts of his enemies by means of his powerful
influence with the governor. He had taken care, however, in coming to
reside at the castle, not to bring with him the flower he cherished in
secret at Forcalier, a domain more important for its landed value than
for the house then upon it, but with which he expected to obtain for
his daughter an establishment in conformity with his views. While
promising the duke a posterity and requiring his master's word of
honor to approve his acts, he thought suddenly of Gabrielle, of that
sweet child whose mother had been neglected and forgotten by the duke
as he had also neglected and forgotten his son Etienne.
He awaited the departure of his master before putting his plan into
execution; foreseeing that, if the duke became aware of it, the
enormous difficulties in the way would be from the first
Beauvouloir's house at Forcalier had a southern exposure on the slope
of one of those gentle hills which surround the vales of Normandy; a
thick wood shielded it from the north; high walls and Norman hedges
and deep ditches made the enclosure inviolable. The garden, descending
by an easy incline to the river which watered the valley, had a thick
double hedge at its foot, forming an natural embankment. Within this
double hedge wound a hidden path, led by the sinuosities of the
stream, which the willows, oaks, and beeches made as leafy as a
woodland glade. From the house to this natural rampart stretched a
mass of verdure peculiar to that rich soil; a beautiful green sheet
bordered by a fringe of rare trees, the tones of which formed a
tapestry of exquisite coloring: there, the silvery tints of a pine
stood forth against the darker green of several alders; here, before a
group of sturdy oaks a slender poplar lifted its palm-like figure,
ever swaying; farther on, the weeping willows drooped their pale
foliage between the stout, round-headed walnuts. This belt of trees
enabled the occupants of the house to go down at all hours to the
river-bank fearless of the rays of the sun.
The facade of the house, before which lay the yellow ribbon of a
gravelled terrace, was shaded by a wooden gallery, around which
climbing plants were twining, and tossing in this month of May their
various blossoms into the very windows of the second floor. Without
being really vast, this garden seemed immense from the manner in which
its vistas were cut; points of view, cleverly contrived through the
rise and fall of the ground, married themselves, as it were, to those
of the valley, where the eye could rove at will. Following the
instincts of her thought, Gabrielle could either enter the solitude of
a narrow space, seeing naught but the thick green and the blue of the
sky above the tree-tops, or she could hover above a glorious prospect,
letting her eyes follow those many-shaded green lines, from the
brilliant colors of the foreground to the pure tones of the horizon on
which they lost themselves, sometimes in the blue ocean of the
atmosphere, sometimes in the cumuli that floated above it.
Watched over by her grandmother and served by her former nurse,
Gabrielle Beauvouloir never left this modest home except for the
parish church, the steeple of which could be seen at the summit of the
hill, whither she was always accompanied by her grandmother, her
nurse, and her father's valet. She had reached the age of seventeen in
that sweet ignorance which the rarity of books allowed a girl to
retain without appearing extraordinary at a period when educated women
were thought phenomenal. The house had been to her a convent, but with
more freedom, less enforced prayer,--a retreat where she had lived
beneath the eye of a pious old woman and the protection of her father,
the only man she had ever known. This absolute solitude, necessitated
from her birth by the apparent feebleness of her constitution, had
been carefully maintained by Beauvouloir.
As Gabrielle grew up, such constant care and the purity of the
atmosphere had gradually strengthened her fragile youth. Still, the
wise physician did not deceive himself when he saw the pearly tints
around his daughter's eyes soften or darken or flush according to the
emotions that overcame her; the weakness of the body and the strength
of the soul were made plain to him in that one indication which his
long experience enabled him to understand. Besides this, Gabrielle's
celestial beauty made him fearful of attempts too common in times of
violence and sedition. Many reasons had thus induced the good father
to deepen the shadows and increase the solitude that surrounded his
daughter, whose excessive sensibility alarmed him; a passion, an
assault, a shock of any kind might wound her mortally. Though she
seldom deserved blame, a mere word of reproach overcame her; she kept
it in the depths of her heart, where it fostered a meditative
melancholy; she would turn away weeping, and wept long.
Thus the moral education of the young girl required no less care than
her physical education. The old physician had been compelled to cease
telling stories, such as all children love, to his daughter; the
impressions she received were too vivid. Wise through long practice,
he endeavored to develop her body in order to deaden the blows which a
soul so powerful gave to it. Gabrielle was all of life and love to her
father, his only heir, and never had he hesitated to procure for her
such things as might produce the results he aimed for. He carefully
removed from her knowledge books, pictures, music, all those creations
of art which awaken thought. Aided by his mother he interested
Gabrielle in manual exercises. Tapestry, sewing, lace-making, the
culture of flowers, household cares, the storage of fruits, in short,
the most material occupations of life, were the food given to the mind
of this charming creature. Beauvouloir brought her beautiful spinning-
wheels, finely-carved chests, rich carpets, pottery of Bernard de
Palissy, tables, prie-dieus, chairs beautifully wrought and covered
with precious stuffs, embroidered line and jewels. With an instinct
given by paternity, the old man always chose his presents among the
works of that fantastic order called arabesque, which, speaking
neither to the soul nor the senses, addresses the mind only by its
creations of pure fantasy.
Thus--singular to say!--the life which the hatred of a father had
imposed on Etienne d'Herouville, paternal love had induced Beauvouloir
to impose on Gabrielle. In both these children the soul was killing
the body; and without an absolute solitude, ordained by cruelty for
one and procured by science for the other, each was likely to succumb,
--he to terror, she beneath the weight of a too keen emotion of love.
But, alas! instead of being born in a region of gorse and moor, in the
midst of an arid nature of hard and angular shapes, such as all great
painters have given as backgrounds to their Virgins, Gabrielle lived
in a rich and fertile valley. Beauvouloir could not destroy the
harmonious grouping of the native woods, the graceful upspringing of
the wild flowers, the cool softness of the grassy slopes, the love
expressed in the intertwining growth of the clustering plants. Such
ever-living poesies have a language heard, rather than understood by
the poor girl, who yielded to vague misery among the shadows. Across
the misty ideas suggested by her long study of this beautiful
landscape, observed at all seasons and through all the variations of a
marine atmosphere in which the fogs of England come to die and the
sunshine of France is born, there rose within her soul a distant
light, a dawn which pierced the darkness in which her father kept her.
Beauvouloir had never withdrawn his daughter from the influence of
Divine love; to a deep admiration of nature she joined her girlish
adoration of the Creator, springing thus into the first way open to
the feelings of womanhood. She loved God, she loved Jesus, the Virgin
and the saints; she loved the Church and its pomps; she was Catholic
after the manner of Saint Teresa, who saw in Jesus an eternal spouse,
a continual marriage. Gabrielle gave herself up to this passion of
strong souls with so touching a simplicity that she would have
disarmed the most brutal seducer by the infantine naivete of her
Whither was this life of innocence leading Gabrielle? How teach a mind
as pure as the water of a tranquil lake, reflecting only the azure of
the skies? What images should be drawn upon that spotless canvas?
Around which tree must the tendrils of this bind-weed twine? No father
has ever put these questions to himself without an inward shudder.
At this moment the good old man of science was riding slowly on his
mule along the roads from Herouville to Ourscamp (the name of the
village near which the estate of Forcalier was situated) as if he
wished to keep that way unending. The infinite love he bore his
daughter suggested a bold project to his mind. One only being in all
the world could make her happy; that man was Etienne. Assuredly, the
angelic son of Jeanne de Saint-Savin and the guileless daughter of
Gertrude Marana were twin beings. All other women would frighten and
kill the heir of Herouville; and Gabrielle, so Beauvouloir argued,
would perish by contact with any man in whom sentiments and external
forms had not the virgin delicacy of those of Etienne. Certainly the
poor physician had never dreamed of such a result; chance had brought
it forward and seemed to ordain it. But, under, the reign of Louis
XIII., to dare to lead a Duc d'Herouville to marry the daughter of a
And yet, from this marriage alone was it likely that the lineage
imperiously demanded by the old duke would result. Nature had destined
these two rare beings for each other; God had brought them together by
a marvellous arrangement of events, while, at the same time, human
ideas and laws placed insuperable barriers between them. Though the
old man thought he saw in this the finger of God, and although he had
forced the duke to pass his word, he was seized with such fear, as his
thoughts reverted to the violence of that ungovernable nature, that he
returned upon his steps when, on reaching the summit of the hill above
Ourscamp, he saw the smoke of his own chimneys among the trees that
enclosed his home. Then, changing his mind once more, the thought of
the illegitimate relationship decided him; that consideration might
have great influence on the mind of his master. Once decided,
Beauvouloir had confidence in the chances and changes of life; it
might be that the duke would die before the marriage; besides, there
were many examples of such marriage; a peasant girl in Dauphine,
Francoise Mignot, had lately married the Marechal d'Hopital; the son
of the Connetable Anne de Montmorency had married Diane, daughter of
Henri II. and a Piedmontese lady named Philippa Duc.
During this mental deliberation in which paternal love measured all
probabilities and discussed both the good and the evil chances,
striving to foresee the future and weighing its elements, Gabrielle
was walking in the garden and gathering flowers for the vases of that
illustrious potter, who did for glaze what Benvenuto Cellini did for
metal. Gabrielle had put one of these vases, decorated with animals in
relief, on a table in the middle of the hall, and was filling it with
flowers to enliven her grandmother, and also, perhaps, to give form to
her own ideas. The noble vase, of the pottery called Limoges, was
filled, arranged, and placed upon the handsome table-cloth, and
Gabrielle was saying to her grandmother, "See!" when Beauvouloir
entered. The young girl ran to her father's arms. After this first
outburst of affection she wanted him to admire her bouquet; but the
old man, after glancing at it, cast a long, deep look at his daughter,
which made her blush.
"The time has come," he said to himself, understanding the language of
those flowers, each of which had doubtless been studied as to form and
as to color, and given its true place in the bouquet, where it
produced its own magical effect.
Gabrielle remained standing, forgetting the flower begun on her
tapestry. As he looked at his daughter a tear rolled from
Beauvouloir's eyes, furrowed his cheeks which seldom wore a serious
aspect, and fell upon his shirt, which, after the fashion of the day,
his open doublet exposed to view above his breeches. He threw off his
felt hat, adorned with an old red plume, in order to rub his hand over
his bald head. Again he looked at his daughter, who, beneath the brown
rafters of that leather-hung room, with its ebony furniture and
portieres of silken damask, and its tall chimney-piece, the whole so
softly lighted, was still his very own. The poor father felt the tears
in his eyes and hastened to wipe them. A father who loves his daughter
longs to keep her always a child; as for him who can without deep pain
see her fall under the dominion of another man, he does not rise to
worlds superior, he falls to lowest space.
"What ails you, my son?" said his old mother, taking off her
spectacles, and seeking the cause of his silence and of the change in
his usually joyous manner.
The old physician signed to the old mother to look at his daughter,
nodding his head with satisfaction as if to say, "How sweet she is!"
What father would not have felt Beauvouloir's emotion on seeing the
young girl as she stood there in the Norman dress of that period?
Gabrielle wore the corset pointed before and square behind, which the
Italian masters give almost invariably to their saints and their
madonnas. This elegant corselet, made of sky-blue velvet, as dainty as
that of a dragon-fly, enclosed the bust like a guimpe and compressed
it, delicately modelling the outline as it seemed to flatten; it
moulded the shoulders, the back, the waist, with the precision of a
drawing made by an able draftsman, ending around the neck in an oblong
curve, adorned at the edges with a slight embroidery in brown silks,
leaving to view as much of the bare throat as was needed to show the
beauty of her womanhood, but not enough to awaken desire. A full brown
skirt, continuing the lines already drawn by the velvet waist, fell to
her feet in narrow flattened pleats. Her figure was so slender that
Gabrielle seemed tall; her arms hung pendent with the inertia that
some deep thought imparts to the attitude. Thus standing, she
presented a living model of those ingenuous works of statuary a taste
for which prevailed at that period,--works which obtained admiration
for the harmony of their lines, straight without stiffness, and for
the firmness of a design which did not exclude vitality. No swallow,
brushing the window-panes at dusk, ever conveyed the idea of greater
elegance of outline.
Gabrielle's face was thin, but not flat; on her neck and forehead ran
bluish threads showing the delicacy of a skin so transparent that the
flowing of the blood through her veins seemed visible. This excessive
whiteness was faintly tinted with rose upon the cheeks. Held beneath a
little coif of sky-blue velvet embroidered with pearls, her hair, of
an even tone, flowed like two rivulets of gold from her temples and
played in ringlets on her neck, which it did not hide. The glowing
color of those silky locks brightened the dazzling whiteness of the
neck, and purified still further by its reflections the outlines of
the face already so pure. The eyes, which were long and as if pressed
between their lids, were in harmony with the delicacy of the head and
body; their pearl-gray tints were brilliant without vivacity, candid
without passion. The line of the nose might have seemed cold, like a
steel blade, without two rosy nostrils, the movements of which were
out of keeping with the chastity of that dreamy brow, often perplexed,
sometimes smiling, but always of an august serenity. An alert little
ear attracted the eye, peeping beneath the coif and between two curls,
and showing a ruby ear-drop, the color of which stood vigorously out
on the milky whiteness of the neck. This was neither Norman beauty,
where flesh abounds, nor French beauty, as fugitive as its own
expressions, nor the beauty of the North, cold and melancholy as the
North itself--it was the deep seraphic beauty of the Catholic Church,
supple and rigid, severe but tender.
"Where could one find a prettier duchess?" thought Beauvouloir,
contemplating his daughter with delight. As she stood there slightly
bending, her neck stretched out to watch the flight of a bird past the
windows, he could only compare her to a gazelle pausing to listen for
the ripple of the water where she seeks to drink.
"Come and sit here," said Beauvouloir, tapping his knee and making a
sign to Gabrielle, which told her he had something to whisper to her.
Gabrielle understood him, and came. She placed herself on his knee
with the lightness of a gazelle, and slipped her arm about his neck,
ruffling his collar.
"Tell me," he said, "what were you thinking of when you gathered those
flowers? You have never before arranged them so charmingly."
"I was thinking of many things," she answered. "Looking at the flowers
made for us, I wondered whom we were made for; who are they who look
at us? You are wise, and I can tell you what I think; you know so much
you can explain all. I feel a sort of force within me that wants to
exercise itself; I struggle against something. When the sky is gray I
am half content; I am sad, but I am calm. When the day is fine, and
the flowers smell sweet, and I sit on my bench down there among the
jasmine and honeysuckles, something rises in me, like waves which beat
against my stillness. Ideas come into my mind which shake me, and fly
away like those birds before the windows; I cannot hold them. Well,
when I have made a bouquet in which the colors blend like tapestry,
and the red contrasts with white, and the greens and the browns cross
each other, when all seems so abundant, the breeze so playful, the
flowers so many that their fragrance mingles and their buds interlace,
--well, then I am happy, for I see what is passing in me. At church
when the organ plays and the clergy respond, there are two distinct
songs speaking to each other,--the human voice and the music. Well,
then, too, I am happy; that harmony echoes in my breast. I pray with a
pleasure which stirs my blood."
While listening to his daughter, Beauvouloir examined her with
sagacious eyes; those eyes seemed almost stupid from the force of his
rushing thoughts, as the water of a cascade seems motionless. He
raised the veil of flesh which hid the secret springs by which the
soul reacts upon the body; he studied the diverse symptoms which his
long experience had noted in persons committed to his care, and he
compared them with those contained in this frail body, the bones of
which frightened him by their delicacy, as the milk-white skin alarmed
him by its want of substance. He tried to bring the teachings of his
science to bear upon the future of that angelic child, and he was
dizzy in so doing, as though he stood upon the verge of an abyss; the
too vibrant voice, the too slender bosom of the young girl filled him
with dread, and he questioned himself after questioning her.
"You suffer here!" he cried at last, driven by a last thought which
summed up his whole meditation.
She bent her head gently.
"By God's grace!" said the old man, with a sigh, "I will take you to
the Chateau d'Herouville, and there you shall take sea-baths to
"Is that true, father? You are not laughing at your little Gabrielle?
I have so longed to see the castle, and the men-at-arms, and the
captains of monseigneur."
"Yes, my daughter, you shall really go there. Your nurse and Jean
shall accompany you."
"To-morrow," said the old man, hurrying into the garden to hide his
agitation from his mother and his child.
"God is my witness," he cried to himself, "that no ambitious thought
impels me. My daughter to save, poor little Etienne to make happy,--
those are my only motives."
If he thus interrogated himself it was because, in the depths of his
consciousness, he felt an inextinguishable satisfaction in knowing
that the success of his project would make Gabrielle some day the
Duchesse d'Herouville. There is always a man in a father. He walked
about a long time, and when he came in to supper he took delight for
the rest of the evening in watching his daughter in the midst of the
soft brown poesy with which he had surrounded her; and when, before
she went to bed, they all--the grandmother, the nurse, the doctor, and
Gabrielle--knelt together to say their evening prayer, he added the
"Let us pray to God to bless my enterprise."
The eyes of the grandmother, who knew his intentions, were moistened
with what tears remained to her. Gabrielle's face was flushed with
happiness. The father trembled, so much did he fear some catastrophe.
"After all," his mother said to him, "fear not, my son. The duke would
never kill his grandchild."
"No," he replied, "but he might compel her to marry some brute of a
baron, and that would kill her."
The next day Gabrielle, mounted on an ass, followed by her nurse on
foot, her father on his mule, and a valet who led two horses laden
with baggage, started for the castle of Herouville, where the caravan
arrived at nightfall. In order to keep this journey secret,
Beauvouloir had taken by-roads, starting early in the morning, and had
brought provisions to be eaten by the way, in order not to show
himself at hostelries. The party arrived, therefore, after dark,
without being noticed by the castle retinue, at the little dwelling on
the seashore, so long occupied by the hated son, where Bertrand, the
only person the doctor had taken into his confidence, awaited them.
The old retainer helped the nurse and valet to unload the horses and
carry in the baggage, and otherwise establish the daughter of
Beauvouloir in Etienne's former abode. When Bertrand saw Gabrielle, he
"I seem to see madame!" he cried. "She is slim and willowy like her;
she has madame's coloring and the same fair hair. The old duke will
surely love her."
"God grant it!" said Beauvouloir. "But will he acknowledge his own
blood after it has passed through mine?"
"He can't deny it," replied Bertrand. "I often went to fetch him from
the door of the Belle Romaine, who lived in the rue Culture-Sainte-
Catherine. The Cardinal de Lorraine was compelled to give her up to
monseigneur, out of shame at being insulted by the mob when he left
her house. Monseigneur, who in those days was still in his twenties,
will remember that affair; bold he was,--I can tell it now--he led the
"He never thinks of the past," said Beauvouloir. "He knows my wife is
dead, but I doubt if he remembers I have a daughter."
"Two old navigators like you and me ought to be able to bring the ship
to port," said Bertrand. "After all, suppose the duke does get angry
and seize our carcasses; they have served their time."
Before starting for Paris, the Duc d'Herouville had forbidden the
castle servants under heavy pains and penalties to go upon the shore
where Etienne had passed his life, unless the Duc de Nivron took any
of them with him. This order, suggested by Beauvouloir, who had shown
the duke the wisdom of leaving Etienne master of his solitude,
guaranteed to Gabrielle and her attendants the inviolability of the
little domain, outside of which he forbade them to go without his
Etienne had remained during these two days shut up in the old
seignorial bedroom under the spell of his tenderest memories. In that
bed his mother had slept; her thoughts had been confided to the
furnishings of that room; she had used them; her eyes had often
wandered among those draperies; how often she had gone to that window
to call with a cry, a sign, her poor disowned child, now master of the
chateau. Alone in that room, whither he had last come secretly,
brought by Beauvouloir to kiss his dying mother, he fancied that she
lived again; he spoke to her, he listened to her, he drank from that
spring that never faileth, and from which have flowed so many songs
like the "Super flumina Babylonis."
The day after Beauvouloir's return he went to see his young master and
blamed him gently for shutting himself up in a single room, pointing
out to him the danger of leading a prison life in place of his former
free life in the open air.
"But this air is vast," replied Etienne. "The spirit of my mother is
The physician prevailed, however, by the gentle influence of
affection, in making Etienne promise that he would go out every day,
either on the seashore, or in the fields and meadows which were still
unknown to him. In spite of this, Etienne, absorbed in his memories,
remained yet another day at his window watching the sea, which offered
him from that point of view aspects so various that never, as he
believed, had he seen it so beautiful. He mingled his contemplations
with readings in Petrarch, one of his most favorite authors,--him
whose poesy went nearest to the young man's heart through the
constancy and the unity of his love. Etienne had not within him the
stuff for several passions. He could love but once, and in one way
only. If that love, like all that is a unit, were intense, it must
also be calm in its expression, sweet and pure like the sonnets of the
At sunset this child of solitude began to sing, in the marvellous
voice which had entered suddenly, like a hope, into the dullest of all
ears to music,--those of his father. He expressed his melancholy by
varying the same air, which he repeated, again and again, like the
nightingale. This air, attributed to the late King Henri IV., was not
the so-called air of "Gabrielle," but something far superior as art,
as melody, as the expression of infinite tenderness. The admirers of
those ancient tunes will recognize the words, composed by the great
king to this air, which were taken, probably, from some folk-song to
which his cradle had been rocked among the mountains of Bearn.
I pray thee;
It gladdens me to see thee;
Whom I love
Is rosy, rosy like thee;
The rose itself,
Has not her freshness;
Ermine has not
Lilies have not
After naively revealing the thought of his heart in song, Etienne
contemplated the sea, saying to himself: "There is my bride; the only
love for me!" Then he sang too other lines of the canzonet,--
"She is fair
repeating it to express the imploring poesy which abounds in the heart
of a timid young man, brave only when alone. Dreams were in that
undulating song, sung, resung, interrupted, renewed, and hushed at
last in a final modulation, the tones of which died away like the
lingering vibrations of a bell.
At this moment a voice, which he fancied was that of a siren rising
from the sea, a woman's voice, repeated the air he had sung, but with
all the hesitations of a person to whom music is revealed for the
first time. He recognized the stammering of a heart born into the
poesy of harmony. Etienne, to whom long study of his own voice had
taught the language of sounds, in which the soul finds resources
greater than speech to express its thoughts, could divine the timid
amazement that attended these attempts. With what religious and
subtile admiration had that unknown being listened to him! The
stillness of the atmosphere enabled him to hear every sound, and he
quivered at the distant rustle of the folds of a gown. He was amazed,
--he, whom all emotions produced by terror sent to the verge of death
--to feel within him the healing, balsamic sensation which his
mother's coming had formerly brought to him.
"Come, Gabrielle, my child," said the voice of Beauvouloir, "I forbade
you to stay upon the seashore after sundown; you must come in, my
"Gabrielle," said Etienne to himself. "Oh! the pretty name!"
Beauvouloir presently came to him, rousing his young master from one
of those meditations which resemble dreams. It was night, and the moon
"Monseigneur," said the physician, "you have not been out to-day, and
it is not wise of you."
"And I," replied Etienne, "can _I_ go on the seashore after sundown?"
The double meaning of this speech, full of the gentle playfulness of a
first desire, made the old man smile.
"You have a daughter, Beauvouloir."
"Yes, monseigneur,--the child of my old age; my darling child.
Monseigneur, the duke, your father, charged me so earnestly to watch
your precious health that, not being able to go to Forcalier, where
she was, I have brought her here, to my great regret. In order to
conceal her from all eyes, I have placed her in the house monseigneur
used to occupy. She is so delicate I fear everything, even a sudden
sentiment or emotion. I have never taught her anything; knowledge
would kill her."
"She knows nothing!" cried Etienne, surprised.
"She has all the talents of a good housewife, but she has lived as the
plants live. Ignorance, monseigneur, is as sacred a thing as
knowledge. Knowledge and ignorance are only two ways of living, for
the human creature. Both preserve the soul and envelop it; knowledge
is your existence, but ignorance will save my daughter's life. Pearls
well-hidden escape the diver, and live happy. I can only compare my
Gabrielle to a pearl; her skin has the pearl's translucence, her soul
its softness, and until this day Forcalier has been her fostering
"Come with me," said Etienne, throwing on a cloak. "I want to walk on
the seashore, the air is so soft."
Beauvouloir and his master walked in silence until they reached a spot
where a line of light, coming from between the shutters of a
fisherman's house, had furrowed the sea with a golden rivulet.
"I know not how to express," said Etienne, addressing his companion,
"the sensations that light, cast upon the water, excites in me. I have
often watched it streaming from the windows of that room," he added,
pointing back to his mother's chamber, "until it was extinguished."
"Delicate as Gabrielle is," said Beauvouloir, gaily, "she can come and
walk with us; the night is warm, and the air has no dampness. I will
fetch her; but be prudent, monseigneur."
Etienne was too timid to propose to accompany Beauvouloir into the
house; besides, he was in that torpid state into which we are plunged
by the influx of ideas and sensations which give birth to the dawn of
passion. Conscious of more freedom in being alone, he cried out,
looking at the sea now gleaming in the moonlight,--
"The Ocean has passed into my soul!"
The sight of the lovely living statuette which was now advancing
towards him, silvered by the moon and wrapped in its light, redoubled
the palpitations of his heart, but without causing him to suffer.
"My child," said Beauvouloir, "this is monseigneur."
In a moment poor Etienne longed for his father's colossal figure; he
would fain have seemed strong, not puny. All the vanities of love and
manhood came into his heart like so many arrows, and he remained in
gloomy silence, measuring for the first time the extent of his
imperfections. Embarrassed by the salutation of the young girl, he
returned it awkwardly, and stayed beside Beauvouloir, with whom he
talked as they paced along the shore; presently, however, Gabrielle's
timid and deprecating countenance emboldened him, and he dared to
address her. The incident of the song was the result of mere chance.
Beauvouloir had intentionally made no preparations; he thought,
wisely, that between two beings in whom solitude had left pure hearts,
love would arise in all its simplicity. The repetition of the air by
Gabrielle was a ready text on which to begin a conversation.
During this promenade Etienne was conscious of that bodily buoyancy
which all men have felt at the moment when a first love transports
their vital principle into another being. He offered to teach
Gabrielle to sing. The poor lad was so glad to show himself to this
young girl invested with some slight superiority that he trembled with
pleasure when she accepted his offer. At that moment the moonlight
fell full upon her, and enabled Etienne to note the points of her
resemblance to his mother, the late duchess. Like Jeanne de Saint-
Savin, Beauvouloir's daughter was slender and delicate; in her, as in
the duchess, sadness and suffering conveyed a mysterious charm. She
had that nobility of manner peculiar to souls on whom the ways of the
world have had no influence, and in whom all is noble because all is
natural. But in Gabrielle's veins there was also the blood of "la
belle Romaine," which had flowed there from two generations, giving to
this young girl the passionate heart of a courtesan in an absolutely
pure soul; hence the enthusiasm that sometimes reddened her cheek,
sanctified her brow, and made her exhale her soul like a flash of
light, and communicated the sparkle of flame to all her motions.
Beauvouloir shuddered when he noticed this phenomenon, which we may
call in these days the phosphorescence of thought; the old physician
of that period regarded it as the precursor of death.
Hidden beside her father, Gabrielle endeavored to see Etienne at her
ease, and her looks expressed as much curiosity as pleasure, as much
kindliness as innocent daring. Etienne detected her in stretching her
neck around Beauvouloir with the movement of a timid bird looking out
of its nest. To her the young man seemed not feeble, but delicate; she
found him so like herself that nothing alarmed her in this sovereign
lord. Etienne's sickly complexion, his beautiful hands, his languid
smile, his hair parted in the middle into two straight bands, ending
in curls on the lace of his large flat collar, his noble brow,
furrowed with youthful wrinkles,--all these contrasts of luxury and
weakness, power and pettiness, pleased her; perhaps they gratified the
instinct of maternal protection, which is the germ of love; perhaps,
also, they stimulated the need that every woman feels to find
distinctive signs in the man she is prompted to love. New ideas, new
sensations were rising in each with a force, with an abundance that
enlarged their souls; both remained silent and overcome, for
sentiments are least demonstrative when most real and deep. All
durable love begins by dreamy meditation. It was suitable that these
two beings should first see each other in the softer light of the
moon, that love and its splendors might not dazzle them too suddenly;
it was well that they met by the shores of the Ocean,--vast image of
the vastness of their feelings. They parted filled with one another,
fearing, each, to have failed to please.
From his window Etienne watched the lights of the house where
Gabrielle was. During that hour of hope mingled with fear, the young
poet found fresh meanings in Petrarch's sonnets. He had now seen
Laura, a delicate, delightful figure, pure and glowing like a sunray,
intelligent as an angel, feeble as a woman. His twenty years of study
found their meaning, he understood the mystic marriage of all
beauties; he perceived how much of womanhood there was in the poems he
adored; in short, he had so long loved unconsciously that his whole
past now blended with the emotions of this glorious night. Gabrielle's
resemblance to his mother seemed to him an order divinely given. He
did not betray his love for the one in loving the other; this new love
continued HER maternity. He contemplated that young girl, asleep in
the cottage, with the same feelings his mother had felt for him when
he was there. Here, again, was a similitude which bound this present
to the past. On the clouds of memory the saddened face of his mother
appeared to him; he saw once more her feeble smile, he heard her
gentle voice; she bowed her head and wept. The lights in the cottage
were extinguished. Etienne sang once more the pretty canzonet, with a
new expression, a new meaning. From afar Gabrielle again replied. The
young girl, too, was making her first voyage into the charmed land of
amorous ecstasy. That echoed answer filled with joy the young man's
heart; the blood flowing in his veins gave him a strength he never yet
had felt, love made him powerful. Feeble beings alone know the
voluptuous joy of that new creation entering their life. The poor, the
suffering, the ill-used, have joys ineffable; small things to them are
worlds. Etienne was bound by many a tie to the dwellers in the City of
Sorrows. His recent accession to grandeur had caused him terror only;
love now shed within him the balm that created strength; he loved
The next day Etienne rose early to hasten to his old house, where
Gabrielle, stirred by curiosity and an impatience she did not
acknowledge to herself, had already curled her hair and put on her
prettiest costume. Both were full of the eager desire to see each
other again,--mutually fearing the results of the interview. As for
Etienne, he had chosen his finest lace, his best-embroidered mantle,
his violet-velvet breeches; in short, those handsome habiliments which
we connect in all memoirs of the time with the pallid face of Louis
XIII., a face oppressed with pain in the midst of grandeur, like that
of Etienne. Clothes were certainly not the only point of resemblance
between the king and the subject. Many other sensibilities were in
Etienne as in Louis XIII.,--chastity, melancholy, vague but real
sufferings, chivalrous timidities, the fear of not being able to
express a feeling in all its purity, the dread of too quickly
approaching happiness, which all great souls desire to delay, the
sense of the burden of power, that tendency to obedience which is
found in natures indifferent to material interests, but full of love
for what a noble religious genius has called the "astral."
Though wholly inexpert in the ways of the world, Gabrielle was
conscious that the daughter of a doctor, the humble inhabitant of
Forcalier, was cast at too great a distance from Monseigneur Etienne,
Duc de Nivron and heir to the house of Herouville, to allow them to be
equal; she had as yet no conception of the ennobling of love. The
naive creature thought with no ambition of a place where every other
girl would have longed to seat herself; she saw the obstacles only.
Loving, without as yet knowing what it was to love, she only felt
herself distant from her pleasure, and longed to get nearer to it, as
a child longs for the golden grapes hanging high above its head. To a
girl whose emotions were stirred at the sight of a flower, and who had
unconsciously foreseen love in the chants of the liturgy, how sweet
and how strong must have been the feelings inspired in her breast the
previous night by the sight of the young seigneur's feebleness, which
seemed to reassure her own. But during the night Etienne had been
magnified to her mind; she had made him a hope, a power; she had
placed him so high that now she despaired of ever reaching him.
"Will you permit me to sometimes enter your domain?" asked the duke,
lowing his eyes.
Seeing Etienne so timid, so humble,--for he, on his part, had
magnified Beauvouloir's daughter,--Gabrielle was embarrassed with the
sceptre he placed in her hands; and yet she was profoundly touched and
flattered by such submission. Women alone know what seduction the
respect of their master and lover has for them. Nevertheless, she
feared to deceive herself, and, curious like the first woman, she
wanted to know all.
"I thought you promised yesterday to teach me music," she answered,
hoping that music might be made a pretext for their meetings.
If the poor child had known what Etienne's life really was, she would
have spared him that doubt. To him his word was the echo of his mind,
and Gabrielle's little speech caused him infinite pain. He had come
with his heart full, fearing some cloud upon his daylight, and he met
a doubt. His joy was extinguished; back into his desert he plunged, no
longer finding there the flowers with which he had embellished it.
With that prescience of sorrows which characterizes the angel charged
to soften them--who is, no doubt, the Charity of heaven--Gabrielle
instantly divined the pain she had caused. She was so vividly aware of
her fault that she prayed for the power of God to lay bare her soul to
Etienne, for she knew the cruel pang a reproach or a stern look was
capable of causing; and she artlessly betrayed to him these clouds as
they rose in her soul,--the golden swathings of her dawning love. One
tear which escaped her eyes turned Etienne's pain to pleasure, and he
inwardly accused himself of tyranny. It was fortunate for both that in
the very beginning of their love they should thus come to know the
diapason of their hearts; they avoided henceforth a thousand shocks
which might have wounded them.
Etienne, impatient to entrench himself behind an occupation, led
Gabrielle to a table before the little window at which he himself had
suffered so long, and where he was henceforth to admire a flower more
dainty than all he had hitherto studied. Then he opened a book over
which they bent their heads till their hair touched and mingled.
These two beings, so strong in heart, so weak in body, but embellished
by all the graces of suffering, were a touching sight. Gabrielle was
ignorant of coquetry; a look was given the instant it was asked for,
the soft rays from the eyes of each never ceasing to mingle, unless
from modesty. The young girl took the joy of telling Etienne what
pleasure his voice gave her as she listened to his song; she forgot
the meaning of his words when he explained to her the position of the
notes or their value; she listened to HIM, leaving melody for the
instrument, the idea for the form; ingenuous flattery! the first that
true love meets. Gabrielle thought Etienne handsome; she would have
liked to stroke the velvet of his mantle, to touch the lace of his
broad collar. As for Etienne he was transformed under the creative
glance of those earnest eyes; they infused into his being a fruitful
sap, which sparkled in his eyes, shone on his brow, remade him
inwardly, so that he did not suffer from this new play of his
faculties; on the contrary they were strengthened by it. Happiness is
the mother's milk of a new life.
As nothing came to distract them from each other, they stayed together
not only this day but all days; for they belonged to one another from
the first hour, passing the sceptre from one to the other and playing
with themselves as children play with life. Sitting, happy and
content, upon the golden sands, they told each other their past,
painful for him, but rich in dreams; dreamy for her, but full of
"I never had a mother," said Gabrielle, "but my father has been good
as God himself."
"I never had a father," said the hated son, "but my mother was all of
heaven to me."
Etienne related his youth, his love for his mother, his taste for
flowers. Gabrielle exclaimed at his last words. Questioned why, she
blushed and avoided answering; then when a shadow passed across that
brow which death seemed to graze with its pinion, across that visible
soul where the young man's slightest emotions showed, she answered:--
"Because I too love flowers."
To believe ourselves linked far back in the past by community of
tastes, is not that a declaration of love such as virgins know how to
give? Love desires to seem old; it is a coquetry of youth.
Etienne brought flowers on the morrow, ordering his people to find
rare ones, as his mother had done in earlier days for him. Who knows
the depths to which the roots of a feeling reach in the soul of a
solitary being thus returning to the traditions of mother-love in
order to bestow upon a woman the same caressing devotion with which
his mother had charmed his life? To him, what grandeur in these
nothings wherein were blended his only two affections. Flowers and
music thus became the language of their love. Gabrielle replied to
Etienne's gifts by nosegays of her own,--nosegays which told the wise
old doctor that his ignorant daughter already knew enough. The
material ignorance of these two lovers was like a dark background on
which the faintest lines of their all-spiritual intercourse were
traced with exquisite delicacy, like the red, pure outlines of
Etruscan figures. Their slightest words brought a flood of ideas,
because each was the fruit of their long meditations. Incapable of
boldly looking forward, each beginning seemed to them an end. Though
absolutely free, they were imprisoned in their own simplicity, which
would have been disheartening had either given a meaning to their
confused desires. They were poets and poem both. Music, the most
sensual of arts for loving souls, was the interpreter of their ideas;
they took delight in repeating the same harmony, letting their passion
flow through those fine sheets of sound in which their souls could
vibrate without obstacle.
Many loves proceed through opposition; through struggles and
reconciliations, the vulgar struggle of mind and matter. But the first
wing-beat of true love sends it far beyond such struggles. Where all
is of the same essence, two natures are no longer to be distinguished;
like genius in its highest expression, such love can sustain itself in
the brightest light; it grows beneath the light, it needs no shade to
bring it into relief. Gabrielle, because she was a woman, Etienne,
because he had suffered much and meditated much, passed quickly
through the regions occupied by common passions and went beyond it.
Like all enfeebled natures, they were quickly penetrated by Faith, by
that celestial glow which doubles strength by doubling the soul. For
them their sun was always at its meridian. Soon they had that divine
belief in themselves which allows of neither jealousy nor torment;
abnegation was ever ready, admiration constant.
Under these conditions, love could have no pain. Equal in their
feebleness, strong in their union, if the noble had some superiority
of knowledge and some conventional grandeur, the daughter of the
physician eclipsed all that by her beauty, by the loftiness of her
sentiments, by the delicacy she gave to their enjoyments. Thus these
two white doves flew with one wing beneath their pure blue heaven;
Etienne loved, he was loved, the present was serene, the future
cloudless; he was sovereign lord; the castle was his, the sea belonged
to both of them; no vexing thought troubled the harmonious concert of
their canticle; virginity of mind and senses enlarged for them the
world, their thoughts rose in their minds without effort; desire, the
satisfactions of which are doomed to blast so much, desire, that evil
of terrestrial love, had not as yet attacked them. Like two zephyrs
swaying on the same willow-branch, they needed nothing more than the
joy of looking at each other in the mirror of the limpid waters;
immensity sufficed them; they admired their Ocean, without one thought
of gliding on it in the white-winged bark with ropes of flowers,
sailed by Hope.
Love has its moment when it suffices to itself, when it is happy in
merely being. During this springtime, when all is budding, the lover
sometimes hides from the beloved woman, in order to enjoy her more, to
see her better; but Etienne and Gabrielle plunged together into all
the delights of that infantine period. Sometimes they were two sisters
in the grace of their confidences, sometimes two brothers in the
boldness of their questionings. Usually love demands a slave and a
god, but these two realized the dream of Plato,--they were but one
being deified. They protected each other. Caresses came slowly, one by
one, but chaste as the merry play--so graceful, so coquettish--of
young animals. The sentiment which induced them to express their souls
in song led them to love by the manifold transformations of the same
happiness. Their joys caused them neither wakefulness nor delirium. It
was the infancy of pleasure developing within them, unaware of the
beautiful red flowers which were to crown its shoots. They gave
themselves to each other, ignorant of all danger; they cast their
whole being into a word, into a look, into a kiss, into the long, long
pressure of their clasping hands. They praised each other's beauties
ingenuously, spending treasures of language on these secret idylls,
inventing soft exaggerations and more diminutives than the ancient
muse of Tibullus, or the poesies of Italy. On their lips and in their
hearts love flowed ever, like the liquid fringes of the sea upon the
sands of the shore,--all alike, all dissimilar. Joyous, eternal
If we must count by days, the time thus spent was five months only; if
we may count by the innumerable sensations, thoughts, dreams, glances,
opening flowers, realized hopes, unceasing joys, speeches interrupted,
renewed, abandoned, frolic laughter, bare feet dabbling in the sea,
hunts, childlike, for shells, kisses, surprises, clasping hands,--call
it a lifetime; death will justify the word. There are existences that
are ever gloomy, lived under ashen skies; but suppose a glorious day,
when the sun of heaven glows in the azure air,--such was the May of
their love, during which Etienne had suspended all his griefs,--griefs
which had passed into the heart of Gabrielle, who, in turn, had
fastened all her joys to come on those of her lord. Etienne had had
but one sorrow in his life,--the death of his mother; he was to have
but one love--Gabrielle.
THE CRUSHED PEARL
The coarse rivalry of an ambitious man hastened the destruction of
this honeyed life. The Duc d'Herouville, an old warrior in wiles and
policy, had no sooner passed his word to his physician than he was
conscious of the voice of distrust. The Baron d'Artagnon, lieutenant
of his company of men-at-arms, possessed his utmost confidence. The
baron was a man after the duke's own heart,--a species of butcher,
built for strength, tall, virile in face, cold and harsh, brave in the
service of the throne, rude in his manners, with an iron will in
action, but supple in manoeuvres, withal an ambitious noble,
possessing the honor of a soldier and the wiles of a politician. He
had the hand his face demanded,--large and hairy like that of a
guerrilla; his manners were brusque, his speech concise. The duke, in
departing, gave to this man the duty of watching and reporting to him
the conduct of Beauvouloir toward the new heir-presumptive.
In spite of the secrecy which surrounded Gabrielle, it was difficult
to long deceive the commander of a company. He heard the singing of
two voices; he saw the lights at night in the dwelling on the
seashore; he guessed that Etienne's orders, repeated constantly, for
flowers concerned a woman; he discovered Gabrielle's nurse making her
way on foot to Forcalier, carrying linen or clothes, and bringing back
with her the work-frame and other articles needed by a young lady. The
spy then watched the cottage, saw the physician's daughter, and fell
in love with her. Beauvouloir he knew was rich. The duke would be
furious at the man's audacity. On those foundations the Baron
d'Artagnon erected the edifice of his fortunes. The duke, on learning
that his son was falling in love, would, of course, instantly endeavor
to detach him from the girl; what better way than to force her son
into a marriage with a noble like himself, giving his son to the
daughter of some great house, the heiress of large estates. The baron
himself had no property. The scheme was excellent, and might have
succeeded with other natures than those of Etienne and Gabrielle; with
them failure was certain.
During his stay in Paris the duke had avenged the death of Maximilien
by killing his son's adversary, and he had planned for Etienne an
alliance with the heiress of a branch of the house of Grandlieu,--a
tall and disdainful beauty, who was flattered by the prospect of some
day bearing the title of Duchesse d'Herouville. The duke expected to
oblige his son to marry her. On learning from d'Artagnon that Etienne
was in love with the daughter of a miserable physician, he was only
the more determined to carry out the marriage. What could such a man
comprehend of love,--he who had let his own wife die beside him
without understanding a single sigh of her heart? Never, perhaps, in
his life had he felt such violent anger as when the last despatch of
the baron told him with what rapidity Beauvouloir's plans were
advancing,--the baron attributing them wholly to the bonesetter's
ambition. The duke ordered out his equipages and started for Rouen,
bringing with him the Comtesse de Grandlieu, her sister the Marquise
de Noirmoutier, and Mademoiselle de Grandlieu, under pretext of
showing them the province of Normandy.
A few days before his arrival a rumor was spread about the country--by
what means no one seemed to know--of the passion of the young Duc de
Nivron for Gabrielle Beauvouloir. People in Rouen spoke of it to the
Duc d'Herouville in the midst of a banquet given to celebrate his
return to the province; for the guests were glad to deliver a blow to
the despot of Normandy. This announcement excited the anger of the
governor to the highest pitch. He wrote to the baron to keep his
coming to Herouville a close secret, giving him certain orders to
avert what he considered to be an evil.
It was under these circumstances that Etienne and Gabrielle unrolled
their thread through the labyrinth of love, where both, not seeking to
leave it, thought to dwell. One day they had remained from morn to
evening near the window where so many events had taken place. The
hours, filled at first with gentle talk, had ended in meditative
silence. They began to feel within them the wish for complete
possession; and presently they reached the point of confiding to each
other their confused ideas, the reflections of two beautiful, pure
souls. During these still, serene hours, Etienne's eyes would
sometimes fill with tears as he held the hand of Gabrielle to his
lips. Like his mother, but at this moment happier in his love than she
had been in hers, the hated son looked down upon the sea, at that hour
golden on the shore, black on the horizon, and slashed here and there
with those silvery caps which betoken a coming storm. Gabrielle,
conforming to her friend's action, looked at the sight and was silent.
A single look, one of those by which two souls support each other,
sufficed to communicate their thoughts. Each loved with that love so
divinely like unto itself at every instant of its eternity that it is
not conscious of devotion or sacrifice or exaction, it fears neither
deceptions nor delay. But Etienne and Gabrielle were in absolute
ignorance of satisfactions, a desire for which was stirring in their
When the first faint tints of twilight drew a veil athwart the sea,
and the hush was interrupted only by the soughing of the flux and
reflux on the shore, Etienne rose; Gabrielle followed his motion with
a vague fear, for he had dropped her hand. He took her in one of his
arms, pressing her to him with a movement of tender cohesion, and she,
comprehending his desire, made him feel the weight of her body enough
to give him the certainty that she was all his, but not enough to be a
burden on him. The lover laid his head heavily on the shoulder of his
friend, his lips touched the heaving bosom, his hair flowed over the
white shoulders and caressed her throat. The girl, ingenuously loving,
bent her head aside to give more place for his head, passing her arm
about his neck to gain support. Thus they remained till nightfall
without uttering a word. The crickets sang in their holes, and the
lovers listened to that music as if to employ their senses on one
sense only. Certainly they could only in that hour be compared to
angels who, with their feet on earth, await the moment to take flight
to heaven. They had fulfilled the noble dream of Plato's mystic
genius, the dream of all who seek a meaning in humanity; they formed
but one soul, they were, indeed, that mysterious Pearl destined to
adorn the brow of a star as yet unknown, but the hope of all!
"Will you take me home?" said Gabrielle, the first to break the
"Why should we part?" replied Etienne.
"We ought to be together always," she said.
"Stay with me."
The heavy step of Beauvouloir sounded in the adjoining room. The
doctor had seen these children at the window locked in each other's
arms, but he found them separated. The purest love demands its
"This is not right, my child," he said to Gabrielle, "to stay so late,
and have no lights."
"Why wrong?" she said; "you know we love each other, and he is master
of the castle."
"My children," said Beauvouloir, "if you love each other, your
happiness requires that you should marry and pass your lives together;
but your marriage depends on the will of monseigneur the duke--"
"My father has promised to gratify all my wishes," cried Etienne
eagerly, interrupting Beauvouloir.
"Write to him, monseigneur," replied the doctor, and give me your
letter that I may enclose it with one which I, myself, have just
written. Bertrand is to start at once and put these despatches into
monseigneur's own hand. I have learned to-night that he is now in
Rouen; he has brought the heiress of the house of Grandlieu with him,
not, as I think, solely for himself. If I listened to my
presentiments, I should take Gabrielle away from here this very
"Separate us?" cried Etienne, half fainting with distress and leaning
on his love.
"Gabrielle," said the physician, holding out to her a smelling-bottle
which he took from a table signing to her to make Etienne inhale its
contents,--"Gabrielle, my knowledge of science tells me that Nature
destined you for each other. I meant to prepare monseigneur the duke
for a marriage which will certainly offend his ideas, but the devil
has already prejudiced him against it. Etienne is Duc de Nivron, and
you, my child, are the daughter of a poor doctor."
"My father swore to contradict me in nothing," said Etienne, calmly.
"He swore to me also to consent to all I might do in finding you a
wife," replied the doctor; "but suppose that he does not keep his
Etienne sat down, as if overcome.
"The sea was dark to-night," he said, after a moment's silence.
"If you could ride a horse, monseigneur," said Beauvouloir, "I should
tell you to fly with Gabrielle this very evening. I know you both, and
I know that any other marriage would be fatal to you. The duke would
certainly fling me into a dungeon and leave me there for the rest of
my days when he heard of your flight; and I should die joyfully if my
death secured your happiness. But alas! to mount a horse would risk
your life and that of Gabrielle. We must face your father's anger
"Here!" repeated Etienne.
"We have been betrayed by some one in the chateau who has stirred your
father's wrath against us," continued Beauvouloir.
"Let us throw ourselves together into the sea," said Etienne to
Gabrielle, leaning down to the ear of the young girl who was kneeling
She bowed her head, smiling. Beauvouloir divined all.
"Monseigneur," he said, "your mind and your knowledge can make you
eloquent, and the force of your love may be irresistible. Declare it
to monseigneur the duke; you will thus confirm my letter. All is not
lost, I think. I love my daughter as well as you love her, and I shall
Etienne shook his head.
"The sea was very dark to-night," he repeated.
"It was like a sheet of gold at our feet," said Gabrielle in a voice
Etienne ordered lights, and sat down at a table to write to his
father. On one side of him knelt Gabrielle, silent, watching the words
he wrote, but not reading them; she read all on Etienne's forehead. On
his other side stood old Beauvouloir, whose jovial countenance was
deeply sad,--sad as that gloomy chamber where Etienne's mother died. A
secret voice cried to the doctor, "The fate of his mother awaits him!"
When the letter was written, Etienne held it out to the old man, who
hastened to give it to Bertrand. The old retainer's horse was waiting
in the courtyard, saddled; the man himself was ready. He started, and
met the duke twelve miles from Herouville.
"Come with me to the gate of the courtyard," said Gabrielle to her
friend when they were alone.
The pair passed through the cardinal's library, and went down through
the tower, in which was a door, the key of which Etienne had given to
Gabrielle. Stupefied by the dread of coming evil, the poor youth left
in the tower the torch he had brought to light the steps of his
beloved, and continued with her toward the cottage. A few steps from
the little garden, which formed a sort of flowery courtyard to the
humble habitation, the lovers stopped. Emboldened by the vague alarm
which oppressed them, they gave each other, in the shades of night, in
the silence, that first kiss in which the senses and the soul unite,
and cause a revealing joy. Etienne comprehended love in its dual
expression, and Gabrielle fled lest she should be drawn by that love--
whither she knew not.
At the moment when the Duc de Nivron reascended the staircase to the
castle, after closing the door of the tower, a cry of horror, uttered
by Gabrielle, echoed in his ears with the sharpness of a flash of
lightning which burns the eyes. Etienne ran through the apartments of
the chateau, down the grand staircase, and along the beach towards
Gabrielle's house, where he saw lights.
When Gabrielle, quitting her lover, had entered the little garden, she
saw, by the gleam of a torch which lighted her nurse's spinning-wheel,
the figure of a man sitting in the chair of that excellent woman. At
the sound of her steps the man arose and came toward her; this had
frightened her, and she gave the cry. The presence and aspect of the
Baron d'Artagnon amply justified the fear thus inspired in the young
"Are you the daughter of Beauvouloir, monseigneur's physician?" asked
the baron when Gabrielle's first alarm had subsided.
"I have matters of the utmost importance to confide to you. I am the
Baron d'Artagnon, lieutenant of the company of men-at-arms commanded
by Monseigneur the Duc d'Herouville."
Gabrielle, under the circumstances in which she and her lover stood,
was struck by these words, and by the frank tone with which the
soldier said them.
"Your nurse is here; she may overhear us. Come this way," said the
He left the garden, and Gabrielle followed him to the beach behind the
"Fear nothing!" said the baron.
That speech would have frightened any one less ignorant than
Gabrielle; but a simple young girl who loves never thinks herself in
"Dear child," said the baron, endeavoring to give a honeyed tone to
his voice, "you and your father are on the verge of an abyss into
which you will fall to-morrow. I cannot see your danger without
warning you. Monseigneur is furious against your father and against
you; he suspects you of having seduced his son, and he would rather
see him dead than see him marry you; so much for his son. As for your
father, this is the decision monseigneur has made about him. Nine
years ago your father was implicated in a criminal affair. The matter
related to the secretion of a child of rank at the time of its birth
which he attended. Monseigneur, knowing that your father was innocent,
guaranteed him from prosecution by the parliament; but now he intends
to have him arrested and delivered up to justice to be tried for the
crime. Your father will be broken on the wheel; though perhaps, in
view of some services he has done to his master, he may obtain the
favor of being hanged. I do not know what course monseigneur has
decided on for you; but I do know that you can save Monseigneur de
Nivron from his father's anger, and your father from the horrible
death which awaits him, and also save yourself."
"What must I do?" said Gabrielle.
"Throw yourself at monseigneur's feet, and tell him that his son loves
you against your will, and say that you do not love him. In proof of
this, offer to marry any man whom the duke himself may select as your
husband. He is generous; he will dower you handsomely."
"I can do all except deny my love."
"But if that alone can save your father, yourself, and Monseigneur de
"Etienne," she replied, "would die of it, and so should I."
"Monseigneur de Nivron will be unhappy at losing you, but he will live
for the honor of his house; you will resign yourself to be the wife of
a baron only, instead of being a duchess, and your father will live
out his days," said the practical man.
At this moment Etienne reached the house. He did not see Gabrielle,
and he uttered a piercing cry.
"He is here!" cried the young girl; "let me go now and comfort him."
"I shall come for your answer to-morrow," said the baron.
"I will consult my father," she replied.
"You will not see him again. I have received orders to arrest him and
send him in chains, under escort, to Rouen," said d'Artagnon, leaving
Gabrielle dumb with terror.
The young girl sprang to the house, and found Etienne horrified by the
silence of the nurse in answer to his question, "Where is she?"
"I am here!" cried the young girl, whose voice was icy, her step
heavy, her color gone.
"What has happened?" he said. "I heard you cry."
"Yes, I hurt my foot against--"
"No, love," replied Etienne, interrupting her. "I heard the steps of a
"Etienne, we must have offended God; let us kneel down and pray. I
will tell you afterwards."
Etienne and Gabrielle knelt down at the prie-dieu, and the nurse
recited her rosary.
"O God!" prayed the girl, with a fervor which carried her beyond
terrestrial space, "if we have not sinned against thy divine
commandments, if we have not offended the Church, not yet the king,
we, who are one and the same being, in whom love shines with the light
that thou hast given to the pearl of the sea, be merciful unto us, and
let us not be parted either in this world or in that which is to
"Mother!" added Etienne, "who art in heaven, obtain from the Virgin
that if we cannot--Gabrielle and I--be happy here below we may at
least die together, and without suffering. Call us, and we will go to
Then, having recited their evening prayers, Gabrielle related her
interview with Baron d'Artagnon.
"Gabrielle," said the young man, gathering strength from his despair,
"I shall know how to resist my father."
He kissed her on the forehead, but not again upon the lips. Then he
returned to the castle, resolved to face the terrible man who had
weighed so fearfully on his life. He did not know that Gabrielle's
house would be surrounded and guarded by soldiers the moment that he
The next day he was struck down with grief when, on going to see her,
he found her a prisoner. But Gabrielle sent her nurse to tell him she
would die sooner than be false to him; and, moreover, that she knew a
way to deceive the guards, and would soon take refuge in the
cardinal's library, where no one would suspect her presence, though
she did not as yet know when she could accomplish it. Etienne on that
returned to his room, where all the forces of his heart were spent in
the dreadful suspense of waiting.
At three o'clock on the afternoon of that day the equipages of the
duke and suite entered the courtyard of the castle. Madame la Comtesse
de Grandlieu, leaning on the arm of her daughter, the duke and
Marquise de Noirmoutier mounted the grand staircase in silence, for
the stern brow of the master had awed the servants. Though Baron
d'Artagnon now knew that Gabrielle had evaded his guards, he assured
the duke she was a prisoner, for he trembled lest his own private
scheme should fail if the duke were angered by this flight. Those two
terrible faces--his and the duke's--wore a fierce expression that was
ill-disguised by an air of gallantry imposed by the occasion. The duke
had already sent to his son, ordering him to be present in the salon.
When the company entered it, d'Artagnon saw by the downcast look on
Etienne's face that as yet he did not know of Gabrielle's escape.
"This is my son," said the old duke, taking Etienne by the hand and
presenting him to the ladies.
Etienne bowed without uttering a word. The countess and Mademoiselle
de Grandlieu exchanged a look which the old man intercepted.
"Your daughter will be ill-matched--is that your thought?" he said in
a low voice.
"I think quite the contrary, my dear duke," replied the mother,
The Marquise de Noirmoutier, who accompanied her sister, laughed
significantly. That laugh stabbed Etienne to the heart; already the
sight of the tall lady had terrified him.
"Well, Monsieur le duc," said the duke in a low voice and assuming a
lively air, "have I not found you a handsome wife? What do you say to
that slip of a girl, my cherub?"
The old duke never doubted his son's obedience; Etienne, to him, was
the son of his mother, of the same dough, docile to his kneading.
"Let him have a child and die," thought the old man; "little I care."
"Father," said the young man, in a gentle voice, "I do not understand
"Come into your own room, I have a few words to say to you," replied
the duke, leading the way into the state bedroom.
Etienne followed his father. The three ladies, stirred with a
curiosity that was shared by Baron d'Artagnon, walked about the great
salon in a manner to group themselves finally near the door of the
bedroom, which the duke had left partially open.
"Dear Benjamin," said the duke, softening his voice, "I have selected
that tall and handsome young lady as your wife; she is heiress to the
estates of the younger branch of the house of Grandlieu, a fine old
family of Bretagne. Therefore make yourself agreeable; remember all
the love-making you have read of in your books, and learn to make
"Father, is it not the first duty of a nobleman to keep his word?"
"Well, then, on the day when I forgave you the death of my mother,
dying here through her marriage with you, did you not promise me never
to thwart my wishes? 'I will obey you as the family god,' were the
words you said to me. I ask nothing of you, I simply demand my freedom
in a matter which concerns my life and myself only,--namely, my
"I understood," replied the old man, all the blood in his body rushing
into his face, "that you would not oppose the continuation of our
"You made no condition," said Etienne. "I do not know what love has to
do with race; but this I know, I love the daughter of your old friend
Beauvouloir, and the granddaughter of your friend La Belle Romaine."
"She is dead," replied the old colossus, with an air both savage and
jeering, which told only too plainly his intention of making away with
A moment of deep silence followed.
The duke saw, through the half-opened door, the three ladies and
d'Artagnon. At that crucial moment Etienne, whose sense of hearing was
acute, heard in the cardinal's library poor Gabrielle's voice,
singing, to let her lover know she was there,--
"Ermine hath not
The lily not her whiteness."
The hated son, whom his father's horrible speech had flung into a gulf
of death, returned to the surface of life at the sound of that voice.
Though the emotion of terror thus rapidly cast off had already in that
instant, broken his heart, he gathered up his strength, looked his
father in the face for the first time in his life, gave scorn for
scorn, and said, in tones of hatred:--
"A nobleman ought not to lie."
Then with one bound he sprang to the door of the library and cried:--
Suddenly the gentle creature appeared among the shadows, like the lily
among its leaves, trembling before those mocking women thus informed
of Etienne's love. As the clouds that bear the thunder project upon
the heavens, so the old duke, reaching a degree of anger that defies
description, stood out upon the brilliant background produced by the
rich clothing of those courtly dames. Between the destruction of his
son and a mesalliance, every other father would have hesitated, but in
this uncontrollable old man ferocity was the power which had so far
solved the difficulties of life for him; he drew his sword in all
cases, as the only remedy that he knew for the gordian knots of life.
Under present circumstances, when the convulsion of his ideas had
reached its height, the nature of the man came uppermost. Twice
detected in flagrant falsehood by the being he abhorred, the son he
cursed, cursing him more than ever in this supreme moment when that
son's despised, and to him most despicable, weakness triumphed over
his own omnipotence, infallible till then, the father and the man
ceased to exist, the tiger issued from its lair. Casting at the angels
before him--the sweetest pair that ever set their feet on earth--a
murderous look of hatred,--
"Die, then, both of you!" he cried. "You, vile abortion, the proof of
my shame--and you," he said to Gabrielle, "miserable strumpet with the
viper tongue, who has poisoned my house."
These words struck home to the hearts of the two children the terror
that already surcharged them. At the moment when Etienne saw the huge
hand of his father raising a weapon upon Gabrielle he died, and
Gabrielle fell dead in striving to retain him.
The old man left them, and closed the door violently, saying to
Mademoiselle de Grandlieu:--
"I will marry you myself!"
"You are young and gallant enough to have a fine new lineage,"
whispered the countess in the ear of the old man, who had served under
seven kings of France.