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The Lily of the Valley by Honore de Balzac

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the inward beatings of an affection which sought its object. But the
fact remained--without money, farewell to these evenings. I wrote to
my mother to send me some. She scolded me and sent only enough to last
a week. Where could I get more? My life depended on it. Thus it
happened that in the dawn of my first great happiness I found the same
sufferings that assailed me elsewhere; but in Paris, at college, at
school I evaded them by abstinence; there my privations were negative,
at Frapesle they were active; so active that I was possessed by the
impulse to theft, by visions of crime, furious desperations which rend
the soul and must be subdued under pain of losing our self-respect.
The memory of what I suffered through my mother's parsimony taught me
that indulgence for young men which one who has stood upon the brink
of the abyss and measured its depths, without falling into them, must
inevitably feel. Though my own rectitude was strengthened by those
moments when life opened and let me see the rocks and quicksands
beneath the surface, I have never known that terrible thing called
human justice draw its blade through the throat of a criminal without
saying to myself: "Penal laws are made by men who have never known

At this crisis I happened to find a treatise on backgammon in Monsieur
de Chessel's library, and I studied it. My host was kind enough to
give me a few lessons; less harshly taught by the count I made good
progress and applied the rules and calculations I knew by heart.
Within a few days I was able to beat Monsieur de Mortsauf; but no
sooner had I done so and won his money for the first time than his
temper became intolerable; his eyes glittered like those of tigers,
his face shrivelled, his brows knit as I never saw brows knit before
or since. His complainings were those of a fretful child. Sometimes he
flung down the dice, quivered with rage, bit the dice-box, and said
insulting things to me. Such violence, however, came to an end. When I
had acquired enough mastery of the game I played it to suit me; I so
managed that we were nearly equal up to the last moment; I allowed him
to win the first half and made matters even during the last half. The
end of the world would have surprised him less than the rapid
superiority of his pupil; but he never admitted it. The unvarying
result of our games was a topic of discourse on which he fastened.

"My poor head," he would say, "is fatigued; you manage to win the last
of the game because by that time I lose my skill."

The countess, who knew backgammon, understood my manoeuvres from the
first, and gave me those mute thanks which swell the heart of a young
man; she granted me the same look she gave to her children. From that
ever-blessed evening she always looked at me when she spoke. I cannot
explain to you the condition I was in when I left her. My soul had
annihilated my body; it weighed nothing; I did not walk, I flew. That
look I carried within me; it bathed me with light just as her last
words, "Adieu, monsieur," still sounded in my soul with the harmonies
of "O filii, o filioe" in the paschal choir. I was born into a new
life, I was something to her! I slept on purple and fine linen. Flames
darted before my closed eyelids, chasing each other in the darkness
like threads of fire in the ashes of burned paper. In my dreams her
voice became, though I cannot describe it, palpable, an atmosphere of
light and fragrance wrapping me, a melody enfolding my spirit. On the
morrow her greeting expressed the fulness of feelings that remained
unuttered, and from that moment I was initiated into the secrets of
her voice.

That day was to be one of the most decisive of my life. After dinner
we walked on the heights across a barren plain where no herbage grew;
the ground was stony, arid, and without vegetable soil of any kind;
nevertheless a few scrub oaks and thorny bushes straggled there, and
in place of grass, a carpet of crimped mosses, illuminated by the
setting sun and so dry that our feet slipped upon it. I held Madeleine
by the hand to keep her up. Madame de Mortsauf was leading Jacques.
The count, who was in front, suddenly turned round and striking the
earth with his cane said to me in a dreadful tone: "Such is my life!--
but before I knew you," he added with a look of penitence at his wife.
The reparation was tardy, for the countess had turned pale; what woman
would not have staggered as she did under the blow?

"But what delightful scenes are wafted here, and what a view of the
sunset!" I cried. "For my part I should like to own this barren moor;
I fancy there may be treasures if we dig for them. But its greatest
wealth is that of being near you. Who would not pay a great cost for
such a view?--all harmony to the eye, with that winding river where
the soul may bathe among the ash-trees and the alders. See the
difference of taste! To you this spot of earth is a barren waste; to
me, it is paradise."

She thanked me with a look.

"Bucolics!" exclaimed the count, with a bitter look. "This is no life
for a man who bears your name." Then he suddenly changed his tone--
"The bells!" he cried, "don't you hear the bells of Azay? I hear them

Madame de Mortsauf gave me a frightened look. Madeleine clung to my

"Suppose we play a game of backgammon?" I said. "Let us go back; the
rattle of the dice will drown the sound of the bells."

We returned to Clochegourde, conversing by fits and starts. Once in
the salon an indefinable uncertainty and dread took possession of us.
The count flung himself into an armchair, absorbed in reverie, which
his wife, who knew the symptoms of his malady and could foresee an
outbreak, was careful not to interrupt. I also kept silence. As she
gave me no hint to leave, perhaps she thought backgammon might divert
the count's mind and quiet those fatal nervous susceptibilities, the
excitements of which were killing him. Nothing was ever harder than to
make him play that game, which, however, he had a great desire to
play. Like a pretty woman, he always required to be coaxed, entreated,
forced, so that he might not seem the obliged person. If by chance,
being interested in the conversation, I forgot to propose it, he grew
sulky, bitter, insulting, and spoiled the talk by contradicting
everything. If, warned by his ill-humor, I suggested a game, he would
dally and demur. "In the first place, it is too late," he would say;
"besides, I don't care for it." Then followed a series of affectations
like those of women, which often leave you in ignorance of their real

On this occasion I pretended a wild gaiety to induce him to play. He
complained of giddiness which hindered him from calculating; his
brain, he said, was squeezed into a vice; he heard noises, he was
choking; and thereupon he sighed heavily. At last, however, he
consented to the game. Madame de Mortsauf left us to put the children
to bed and lead the household in family prayers. All went well during
her absence; I allowed Monsieur de Mortsauf to win, and his delight
seemed to put him beside himself. This sudden change from a gloom that
led him to make the darkest predictions to the wild joy of a drunken
man, expressed in a crazy laugh and without any adequate motive,
distressed and alarmed me. I had never seen him in quite so marked a
paroxysm. Our intimacy had borne fruits in the fact that he no longer
restrained himself before me. Day by day he had endeavored to bring me
under his tyranny, and obtain fresh food, as it were, for his evil
temper; for it really seems as though moral diseases were creatures
with appetites and instincts, seeking to enlarge the boundaries of
their empire as a landowner seeks to increase his domain.

Presently the countess came down, and sat close to the backgammon
table, apparently for better light on her embroidery, though the
anxiety which led her to place her frame was ill-concealed. A piece of
fatal ill-luck which I could not prevent changed the count's face;
from gaiety it fell to gloom, from purple it became yellow, and his
eyes rolled. Then followed worse ill-luck, which I could neither avert
nor repair. Monsieur de Mortsauf made a fatal throw which decided the
game. Instantly he sprang up, flung the table at me and the lamp on
the floor, struck the chimney-piece with his fist and jumped, for I
cannot say he walked, about the room. The torrent of insults,
imprecations, and incoherent words which rushed from his lips would
have made an observer think of the old tales of satanic possession in
the Middle Ages. Imagine my position!

"Go into the garden," said the countess, pressing my hand.

I left the room before the count could notice my disappearance. On the
terrace, where I slowly walked about, I heard his shouts and then his
moans from the bedroom which adjoined the dining-room. Also I heard at
intervals through that tempest of sound the voice of an angel, which
rose like the song of a nightingale as the rain ceases. I walked about
under the acacias in the loveliest night of the month of August,
waiting for the countess to join me. I knew she would come; her
gesture promised it. For several days an explanation seemed to float
between us; a word would suffice to send it gushing from the spring,
overfull, in our souls. What timidity had thus far delayed a perfect
understanding between us? Perhaps she loved, as I did, these
quiverings of the spirit which resembled emotions of fear and numbed
the sensibilities while we held our life unuttered within us,
hesitating to unveil its secrets with the modesty of the young girl
before the husband she loves. An hour passed. I was sitting on the
brick balustrade when the sound of her footsteps blending with the
undulating ripple of her flowing gown stirred the calm air of the
night. These are sensations to which the heart suffices not.

"Monsieur de Mortsauf is sleeping," she said. "When he is thus I give
him an infusion of poppies, a cup of water in which a few poppies have
been steeped; the attacks are so infrequent that this simple remedy
never loses its effect--Monsieur," she continued, changing her tone
and using the most persuasive inflexion of her voice, "this most
unfortunate accident has revealed to you a secret which has hitherto
been sedulously kept; promise me to bury the recollection of that
scene. Do this for my sake, I beg of you. I don't ask you to swear it;
give me your word of honor and I shall be content."

"Need I give it to you?" I said. "Do we not understand each other?"

"You must not judge unfavorably of Monsieur de Mortsauf; you see the
effects of his many sufferings under the emigration," she went on.
"To-morrow he will entirely forget all that he has said and done; you
will find him kind and excellent as ever."

"Do not seek to excuse him, madame," I replied. "I will do all you
wish. I would fling myself into the Indre at this moment if I could
restore Monsieur de Mortsauf's health and ensure you a happy life. The
only thing I cannot change is my opinion. I can give you my life, but
not my convictions; I can pay no heed to what he says, but can I
hinder him from saying it? No, in my opinion Monsieur de Mortsauf

"I understand you," she said, hastily interrupting me; "you are right.
The count is as nervous as a fashionable woman," she added, as if to
conceal the idea of madness by softening the word. "But he is only so
at intervals, once a year, when the weather is very hot. Ah, what
evils have resulted from the emigration! How many fine lives ruined!
He would have been, I am sure of it, a great soldier, an honor to his

"I know," I said, interrupting in my turn to let her see that it was
useless to attempt to deceive me.

She stopped, laid one hand lightly on my brow, and looked at me. "Who
has sent you here," she said, "into this home? Has God sent me help, a
true friendship to support me?" She paused, then added, as she laid
her hand firmly upon mine, "For you are good and generous--" She
raised her eyes to heaven, as if to invoke some invisible testimony to
confirm her thought, and then let them rest upon me. Electrified by
the look, which cast a soul into my soul, I was guilty, judging by
social laws, of a want of tact, though in certain natures such
indelicacy really means a brave desire to meet danger, to avert a
blow, to arrest an evil before it happens; oftener still, an abrupt
call upon a heart, a blow given to learn if it resounds in unison with
ours. Many thoughts rose like gleams within my mind and bade me wash
out the stain that blotted my conscience at this moment when I was
seeking a complete understanding.

"Before we say more," I said in a voice shaken by the throbbings of my
heart, which could be heard in the deep silence that surrounded us,
"suffer me to purify one memory of the past."

"Hush!" she said quickly, touching my lips with a finger which she
instantly removed. She looked at me haughtily, with the glance of a
woman who knows herself too exalted for insult to reach her. "Be
silent; I know of what you are about to speak,--the first, the last,
the only outrage ever offered to me. Never speak to me of that ball.
If as a Christian I have forgiven you, as a woman I still suffer from
your act."

"You are more pitiless than God himself," I said, forcing back the
tears that came into my eyes.

"I ought to be so, I am more feeble," she replied.

"But," I continued with the persistence of a child, "listen to me now
if only for the first, the last, the only time in your life."

"Speak, then," she said; "speak, or you will think I dare not hear

Feeling that this was the turning moment of our lives, I spoke to her
in the tone that commands attention; I told her that all women whom I
had ever seen were nothing to me; but when I met her, I, whose life
was studious, whose nature was not bold, I had been, as it were,
possessed by a frenzy that no one who once felt it could condemn; that
never heart of man had been so filled with the passion which no being
can resist, which conquers all things, even death--

"And contempt?" she asked, stopping me.

"Did you despise me?" I exclaimed.

"Let us say no more on this subject," she replied.

"No, let me say all!" I replied, in the excitement of my intolerable
pain. "It concerns my life, my whole being, my inward self; it
contains a secret you must know or I must die in despair. It also
concerns you, who, unawares, are the lady in whose hand is the crown
promised to the victor in the tournament!"

Then I related to her my childhood and youth, not as I have told it to
you, judged from a distance, but in the language of a young man whose
wounds are still bleeding. My voice was like the axe of a woodsman in
the forest. At every word the dead years fell with echoing sound,
bristling with their anguish like branches robbed of their foliage. I
described to her in feverish language many cruel details which I have
here spared you. I spread before her the treasure of my radiant hopes,
the virgin gold of my desires, the whole of a burning heart kept alive
beneath the snow of these Alps, piled higher and higher by perpetual
winter. When, bowed down by the weight of these remembered sufferings,
related as with the live coal of Isaiah, I awaited the reply of the
woman who listened with a bowed head, she illumined the darkness with
a look, she quickened the worlds terrestrial and divine with a single

"We have had the same childhood!" she said, turning to me a face on
which the halo of the martyrs shone.

After a pause, in which our souls were wedded in the one consoling
thought, "I am not alone in suffering," the countess told me, in the
voice she kept for her little ones, how unwelcome she was as a girl
when sons were wanted. She showed me how her troubles as a daughter
bound to her mother's side differed from those of a boy cast out upon
the world of school and college life. My desolate neglect seemed to me
a paradise compared to that contact with a millstone under which her
soul was ground until the day when her good aunt, her true mother, had
saved her from this misery, the ever-recurring pain of which she now
related to me; misery caused sometimes by incessant faultfinding,
always intolerable to high-strung natures which do not shrink before
death itself but die beneath the sword of Damocles; sometimes by the
crushing of generous impulses beneath an icy hand, by the cold
rebuffal of her kisses, by a stern command of silence, first imposed
and then as often blamed; by inward tears that dared not flow but
stayed within the heart; in short, by all the bitterness and tyranny
of convent rule, hidden to the eyes of the world under the appearance
of an exalted motherly devotion. She gratified her mother's vanity
before strangers, but she dearly paid in private for this homage.
When, believing that by obedience and gentleness she had softened her
mother's heart, she opened hers, the tyrant only armed herself with
the girl's confidence. No spy was ever more traitorous and base. All
the pleasures of girlhood, even her fete days, were dearly purchased,
for she was scolded for her gaiety as much as for her faults. No
teaching and no training for her position had been given in love,
always with sarcastic irony. She was not angry against her mother; in
fact she blamed herself for feeling more terror than love for her.
"Perhaps," she said, dear angel, "these severities were needful; they
had certainly prepared her for her present life." As I listened it
seemed to me that the harp of Job, from which I had drawn such savage
sounds, now touched by the Christian fingers gave forth the litanies
of the Virgin at the foot of the cross.

"We lived in the same sphere before we met in this," I said; "you
coming from the east, I from the west."

She shook her head with a gesture of despair.

"To you the east, to me the west," she replied. "You will live happy,
I must die of pain. Life is what we make of it, and mine is made
forever. No power can break the heavy chain to which a woman is
fastened by this ring of gold--the emblem of a wife's purity."

We knew we were twins of one womb; she never dreamed of a half-
confidence between brothers of the same blood. After a short sigh,
natural to pure hearts when they first open to each other, she told me
of her first married life, her deceptions and disillusions, the
rebirth of her childhood's misery. Like me, she had suffered under
trifles; mighty to souls whose limpid substance quivers to the least
shock, as a lake quivers on the surface and to its utmost depths when
a stone is flung into it. When she married she possessed some girlish
savings; a little gold, the fruit of happy hours and repressed
fancies. These, in a moment when they were needed, she gave to her
husband, not telling him they were gifts and savings of her own. He
took no account of them, and never regarded himself her debtor. She
did not even obtain the glance of thanks that would have paid for all.
Ah! how she went from trial to trial! Monsieur de Mortsauf habitually
neglected to give her money for the household. When, after a struggle
with her timidity, she asked him for it, he seemed surprised and never
once spared her the mortification of petitioning for necessities. What
terror filled her mind when the real nature of the ruined man's
disease was revealed to her, and she quailed under the first outbreak
of his mad anger! What bitter reflections she had made before she
brought herself to admit that her husband was a wreck! What horrible
calamities had come of her bearing children! What anguish she felt at
the sight of those infants born almost dead! With what courage had she
said in her heart: "I will breathe the breath of life into them; I
will bear them anew day by day!" Then conceive the bitterness of
finding her greatest obstacle in the heart and hand from which a wife
should draw her greatest succor! She saw the untold disaster that
threatened him. As each difficulty was conquered, new deserts opened
before her, until the day when she thoroughly understood her husband's
condition, the constitution of her children, and the character of the
neighborhood in which she lived; a day when (like the child taken by
Napoleon from a tender home) she taught her feet to trample through
mud and snow, she trained her nerves to bullets and all her being to
the passive obedience of a soldier.

These things, of which I here make a summary, she told me in all their
dark extent, with every piteous detail of conjugal battles lost and
fruitless struggles.

"You would have to live here many months," she said, in conclusion,
"to understand what difficulties I have met with in improving
Clochegourde; what persuasions I have had to use to make him do a
thing which was most important to his interests. You cannot imagine
the childish glee he has shown when anything that I advised was not at
once successful. All that turned out well he claimed for himself. Yes,
I need an infinite patience to bear his complaints when I am half-
exhausted in the effort to amuse his weary hours, to sweeten his life
and smooth the paths which he himself has strewn with stones. The
reward he gives me is that awful cry: 'Let me die, life is a burden to
me!' When visitors are here and he enjoys them, he forgets his gloom
and is courteous and polite. You ask me why he cannot be so to his
family. I cannot explain that want of loyalty in a man who is truly
chivalrous. He is quite capable of riding at full speed to Paris to
buy me a set of ornaments, as he did the other day before the ball.
Miserly in his household, he would be lavish upon me if I wished it. I
would it were reversed; I need nothing for myself, but the wants of
the household are many. In my strong desire to make him happy, and not
reflecting that I might be a mother, I began my married life by
letting him treat me as a victim, I, who at that time by using a few
caresses could have led him like a child--but I was unable to play a
part I should have thought disgraceful. Now, however, the welfare of
my family requires me to be as calm and stern as the figure of Justice
--and yet, I too have a heart that overflows with tenderness."

"But why," I said, "do you not use this great influence to master him
and govern him?"

"If it concerned myself only I should not attempt either to overcome
the dogged silence with which for days together he meets my arguments,
nor to answer his irrational remarks, his childish reasons. I have no
courage against weakness, any more than I have against childhood; they
may strike me as they will, I cannot resist. Perhaps I might meet
strength with strength, but I am powerless against those I pity. If I
were required to coerce Madeleine in some matter that would save her
life, I should die with her. Pity relaxes all my fibres and unstrings
my nerves. So it is that the violent shocks of the last ten years have
broken me down; my feelings, so often battered, are numb at times;
nothing can revive them; even the courage with which I once faced my
troubles begins to fail me. Yes, sometimes I am beaten. For want of
rest--I mean repose--and sea-baths by which to recover my nervous
strength, I shall perish. Monsieur de Mortsauf will have killed me,
and he will die of my death."

"Why not leave Clochegourde for a few months? Surely you could take
your children and go to the seashore."

"In the first place, Monsieur de Mortsauf would think he were lost if
I left him. Though he will not admit his condition he is well aware of
it. He is both sane and mad, two natures in one man, a contradiction
which explains many an irrational action. Besides this, he would have
good reason for objecting. Nothing would go right here if I were
absent. You may have seen in me the mother of a family watchful to
protect her young from the hawk that is hovering over them; a weighty
task, indeed, but harder still are the cares imposed upon me by
Monsieur de Mortsauf, whose constant cry, as he follows me about is,
'Where is Madame?' I am Jacques' tutor and Madeleine's governess; but
that is not all, I am bailiff and steward too. You will understand
what that means when you come to see, as you will, that the working of
an estate in these parts is the most fatiguing of all employments. We
get small returns in money; the farms are cultivated on shares, a
system which needs the closest supervision. We are obliged ourselves
to sell our own produce, our cattle and harvests of all kinds. Our
competitors in the markets are our own farmers, who meet consumers in
the wine-shops and determine prices by selling first. I should weary
you if I explained the many difficulties of agriculture in this
region. No matter what care I give to it, I cannot always prevent our
tenants from putting our manure upon their ground, I cannot be ever on
the watch lest they take advantage of us in the division of the crops;
neither can I always know the exact moment when sales should be made.
So, if you think of Monsieur de Mortsauf's defective memory, and the
difficulty you have seen me have in persuading him to attend to
business, you can understand the burden that is on my shoulders, and
the impossibility of my laying it down for a single day. If I were
absent we should be ruined. No one would obey Monsieur de Mortsauf. In
the first place his orders are conflicting; then no one likes him; he
finds incessant fault, and he is very domineering. Moreover, like all
men of feeble mind, he listens too readily to his inferiors. If I left
the house not a servant would be in it in a week's time. So you see I
am attached to Clochegourde as those leaden finals are to our roof. I
have no reserves with you. The whole country-side is still ignorant of
the secrets of this house, but you know them, you have seen them. Say
nothing but what is kind and friendly, and you shall have my esteem--
my gratitude," she added in a softer voice. "On those terms you are
welcome at Clochegourde, where you will find friends."

"Ah!" I exclaimed, "I see that I have never really suffered, while

"No, no!" she exclaimed, with a smile, that smile of all resigned
women which might melt a granite rock. "Do not be astonished at my
frank confidence; it shows you life as it is, not as your imagination
pictures it. We all have our defects and our good qualities. If I had
married a spendthrift he would have ruined me. If I had given myself
to an ardent and pleasure-loving young man, perhaps I could not have
retained him; he might have left me, and I should have died of
jealousy. For I am jealous!" she said, in a tone of excitement, which
was like the thunderclap of a passing storm. "But Monsieur de Mortsauf
loves me as much as he is capable of loving; all that his heart
contains of affection he pours at my feet, like the Magdalen's cup of
ointment. Believe me, a life of love is an exception to the laws of
this earth; all flowers fade; great joys and emotions have a morrow of
evil--if a morrow at all. Real life is a life of anguish; its image is
in that nettle growing there at the foot of the wall,--no sun can
reach it and it keeps green. Yet, here, as in parts of the North,
there are smiles in the sky, few to be sure, but they compensate for
many a grief. Moreover, women who are naturally mothers live and love
far more through sacrifices than through pleasures. Here I draw upon
myself the storms I fear may break upon my children or my people; and
in doing so I feel a something I cannot explain, which gives me secret
courage. The resignation of the night carries me through the day that
follows. God does not leave me comfortless. Time was when the
condition of my children filled me with despair; to-day as they
advance in life they grow healthier and stronger. And then, after all,
our home is improved and beautified, our means are improving also. Who
knows but Monsieur de Mortsauf's old age may be a blessing to me? Ah,
believe me! those who stand before the Great Judge with palms in their
hands, leading comforted to Him the beings who cursed their lives,
they, they have turned their sorrows into joy. If my sufferings bring
about the happiness of my family, are they sufferings at all?"

"Yes," I said, "they are; but they were necessary, as mine have been,
to make us understand the true flavor of the fruit that has ripened on
our rocks. Now, surely, we shall taste it together; surely we may
admire its wonders, the sweetness of affection it has poured into our
souls, that inward sap which revives the searing leaves--Good God! do
you not understand me?" I cried, falling into the mystical language to
which our religious training had accustomed us. "See the paths by
which we have approached each other; what magnet led us through that
ocean of bitterness to these springs of running water, flowing at the
foot of those hills above the shining sands and between their green
and flowery meadows? Have we not followed the same star? We stand
before the cradle of a divine child whose joyous carol will renew the
world for us, teach us through happiness a love of life, give to our
nights their long-lost sleep, and to the days their gladness. What
hand is this that year by year has tied new cords between us? Are we
not more than brother and sister? That which heaven has joined we must
not keep asunder. The sufferings you reveal are the seeds scattered by
the sower for the harvest already ripening in the sunshine. Shall we
not gather it sheaf by sheaf? What strength is in me that I dare
address you thus! Answer, or I will never again recross that river!"

"You have spared me the word LOVE," she said, in a stern voice, "but
you have spoken of a sentiment of which I know nothing and which is
not permitted to me. You are a child; and again I pardon you, but for
the last time. Endeavor to understand, Monsieur, that my heart is, as
it were, intoxicated with motherhood. I love Monsieur de Mortsauf
neither from social duty nor from a calculated desire to win eternal
blessings, but from an irresistible feeling which fastens all the
fibres of my heart upon him. Was my marriage a mistake? My sympathy
for misfortune led to it. It is the part of women to heal the woes
caused by the march of events, to comfort those who rush into the
breach and return wounded. How shall I make you understand me? I have
felt a selfish pleasure in seeing that you amused him; is not that
pure motherhood? Did I not make you see by what I owned just now, the
THREE children to whom I am bound, to whom I shall never fail, on whom
I strive to shed a healing dew and the light of my own soul without
withdrawing or adulterating a single particle? Do not embitter the
mother's milk! though as a wife I am invulnerable, you must never
again speak thus to me. If you do not respect this command, simple as
it is, the door of this house will be closed to you. I believed in
pure friendship, in a voluntary brotherhood, more real, I thought,
than the brotherhood of blood. I was mistaken. I wanted a friend who
was not a judge, a friend who would listen to me in those moments of
weakness when reproof is killing, a sacred friend from whom I should
have nothing to fear. Youth is noble, truthful, capable of sacrifice,
disinterested; seeing your persistency in coming to us, I believed,
yes, I will admit that I believed in some divine purpose; I thought I
should find a soul that would be mine, as the priest is the soul of
all; a heart in which to pour my troubles when they deluged mine, a
friend to hear my cries when if I continued to smother them they would
strangle me. Could I but have this friend, my life, so precious to
these children, might be prolonged until Jacques had grown to manhood.
But that is selfish! The Laura of Petrarch cannot be lived again. I
must die at my post, like a soldier, friendless. My confessor is
harsh, austere, and--my aunt is dead."

Two large tears filled her eyes, gleamed in the moonlight, and rolled
down her cheeks; but I stretched my hand in time to catch them, and I
drank them with an avidity excited by her words, by the thought of
those ten years of secret woe, of wasted feelings, of constant care,
of ceaseless dread--years of the lofty heroism of her sex. She looked
at me with gentle stupefaction.

"It is the first communion of love," I said. "Yes, I am now a sharer
of your sorrows. I am united to your soul as our souls are united to
Christ in the sacrament. To love, even without hope, is happiness. Ah!
what woman on earth could give me a joy equal to that of receiving
your tears! I accept the contract which must end in suffering to
myself. I give myself to you with no ulterior thought. I will be to
you that which you will me to be--"

She stopped me with a motion of her hand, and said in her deep voice,
"I consent to this agreement if you will promise never to tighten the
bonds which bind us together."

"Yes," I said; "but the less you grant the more evidence of possession
I ought to have."

"You begin by distrusting me," she replied, with an expression of
melancholy doubt.

"No, I speak from pure happiness. Listen; give me a name by which no
one calls you; a name to be ours only, like the feeling which unites

"That is much to ask," she said, "but I will show you that I am not
petty. Monsieur de Mortsauf calls me Blanche. One only person, the one
I have most loved, my dear aunt, called me Henriette. I will be
Henriette once more, to you."

I took her hand and kissed it. She left it in mine with the
trustfulness that makes a woman so far superior to men; a trustfulness
that shames us. She was leaning on the brick balustrade and gazing at
the river.

"Are you not unwise, my friend, to rush at a bound to the extremes of
friendship? You have drained the cup, offered in all sincerity, at a
draught. It is true that a real feeling is never piecemeal; it must be
whole, or it does not exist. Monsieur de Mortsauf," she added after a
short silence, "is above all things loyal and brave. Perhaps for my
sake you will forget what he said to you to-day; if he has forgotten
it to-morrow, I will myself tell him what occurred. Do not come to
Clochegourde for a few days; he will respect you more if you do not.
On Sunday, after church, he will go to you. I know him; he will wish
to undo the wrong he did, and he will like you all the better for
treating him as a man who is responsible for his words and actions."

"Five days without seeing you, without hearing your voice!"

"Do not put such warmth into your manner of speaking to me," she said.

We walked twice round the terrace in silence. Then she said, in a tone
of command which proved to me that she had taken possession of my
soul, "It is late; we will part."

I wished to kiss her hand; she hesitated, then gave it to me, and said
in a voice of entreaty: "Never take it unless I give it to you; leave
me my freedom; if not, I shall be simply a thing of yours, and that
ought not to be."

"Adieu," I said.

I went out by the little gate of the lower terrace, which she opened
for me. Just as she was about to close it she opened it again and
offered me her hand, saying: "You have been truly good to me this
evening; you have comforted my whole future; take it, my friend, take

I kissed her hand again and again, and when I raised my eyes I saw the
tears in hers. She returned to the upper terrace and I watched her for
a moment from the meadow. When I was on the road to Frapesle I again
saw her white robe shimmering in a moonbeam; then, a few moments
later, a light was in her bedroom.

"Oh, my Henriette!" I cried, "to you I pledge the purest love that
ever shone upon this earth."

I turned at every step as I regained Frapesle. Ineffable contentment
filled my mind. A way was open for the devotion that swells in all
youthful hearts and which in mine had been so long inert. Like the
priest who by one solemn step enters a new life, my vows were taken; I
was consecrated. A simple "Yes" had bound me to keep my love within my
soul and never to abuse our friendship by leading this woman step by
step to love. All noble feelings were awakened within me, and I heard
the murmur of their voices. Before confining myself within the narrow
walls of a room, I stopped beneath the azure heavens sown with stars,
I listened to the ring-dove plaints of my own heart, I heard again the
simple tones of that ingenuous confidence, I gathered in the air the
emanations of that soul which henceforth must ever seek me. How grand
that woman seemed to me, with her absolute forgetfulness of self, her
religion of mercy to wounded hearts, feeble or suffering, her declared
allegiance to her legal yoke. She was there, serene upon her pyre of
saint and martyr. I adored her face as it shone to me in the darkness.
Suddenly I fancied I perceived a meaning in her words, a mysterious
significance which made her to my eyes sublime. Perhaps she longed
that I should be to her what she was to the little world around her.
Perhaps she sought to draw from me her strength and consolation,
putting me thus within her sphere, her equal, or perhaps above her.
The stars, say some bold builders of the universe, communicate to each
other light and motion. This thought lifted me to ethereal regions. I
entered once more the heaven of my former visions; I found a meaning
for the miseries of my childhood in the illimitable happiness to which
they had led me.

Spirits quenched by tears, hearts misunderstood, saintly Clarissa
Harlowes forgotten or ignored, children neglected, exiles innocent of
wrong, all ye who enter life through barren ways, on whom men's faces
everywhere look coldly, to whom ears close and hearts are shut, cease
your complaints! You alone can know the infinitude of joy held in that
moment when one heart opens to you, one ear listens, one look answers
yours. A single day effaces all past evil. Sorrow, despondency,
despair, and melancholy, passed but not forgotten, are links by which
the soul then fastens to its mate. Woman falls heir to all our past,
our sighs, our lost illusions, and gives them back to us ennobled; she
explains those former griefs as payment claimed by destiny for joys
eternal, which she brings to us on the day our souls are wedded. The
angels alone can utter the new name by which that sacred love is
called, and none but women, dear martyrs, truly know what Madame de
Mortsauf now became to me--to me, poor and desolate.



This scene took place on a Tuesday. I waited until Sunday and did not
cross the river. During those five days great events were happening at
Clochegourde. The count received his brevet as general of brigade, the
cross of Saint Louis, and a pension of four thousand francs. The Duc
de Lenoncourt-Givry, made peer of France, recovered possession of two
forests, resumed his place at court, and his wife regained all her
unsold property, which had been made part of the imperial crown lands.
The Comtesse de Mortsauf thus became an heiress. Her mother had
arrived at Clochegourde, bringing her a hundred thousand francs
economized at Givry, the amount of her dowry, still unpaid and never
asked for by the count in spite of his poverty. In all such matters of
external life the conduct of this man was proudly disinterested.
Adding to this sum his own few savings he was able to buy two
neighboring estates, which would yield him some nine thousand francs a
year. His son would of course succeed to the grandfather's peerage,
and the count now saw his way to entail the estate upon him without
injury to Madeleine, for whom the Duc de Lenoncourt would no doubt
assist in promoting a good marriage.

These arrangements and this new happiness shed some balm upon the
count's sore mind. The presence of the Duchesse de Lenoncourt at
Clochegourde was a great event to the neighborhood. I reflected
gloomily that she was a great lady, and the thought made me conscious
of the spirit of caste in the daughter which the nobility of her
sentiments had hitherto hidden from me. Who was I--poor,
insignificant, and with no future but my courage and my faculties? I
did not then think of the consequences of the Restoration either for
me or for others. On Sunday morning, from the private chapel where I
sat with Monsieur and Madame de Chessel and the Abbe de Quelus, I cast
an eager glance at another lateral chapel occupied by the duchess and
her daughter, the count and his children. The large straw hat which
hid my idol from me did not tremble, and this unconsciousness of my
presence seemed to bind me to her more than all the past. This noble
Henriette de Lenoncourt, my Henriette, whose life I longed to garland,
was praying earnestly; faith gave to her figure an abandonment, a
prosternation, the attitude of some religious statue, which moved me
to the soul.

According to village custom, vespers were said soon after mass. Coming
out of church Madame de Chessel naturally proposed to her neighbors to
pass the intermediate time at Frapesle instead of crossing the Indre
and the meadows twice in the great heat. The offer was accepted.
Monsieur de Chessel gave his arm to the duchess, Madame de Chessel
took that of the count. I offered mine to the countess, and felt, for
the first time, that beautiful arm against my side. As we walked from
the church to Frapesle by the woods of Sache, where the light,
filtering down through the foliage, made those pretty patterns on the
path which seem like painted silk, such sensations of pride, such
ideas took possession of me that my heart beat violently.

"What is the matter?" she said, after walking a little way in a
silence I dared not break. "Your heart beats too fast--"

"I have heard of your good fortune," I replied, "and, like all others
who love truly, I am beset with vague fears. Will your new dignities
change you and lessen your friendship?"

"Change me!" she said; "oh, fie! Another such idea and I shall--not
despise you, but forget you forever."

I looked at her with an ecstasy which should have been contagious.

"We profit by the new laws which we have neither brought about nor
demanded," she said; "but we are neither place-hunters nor beggars;
besides, as you know very well, neither Monsieur de Mortsauf nor I can
leave Clochegourde. By my advice he has declined the command to which
his rank entitled him at the Maison Rouge. We are quite content that
my father should have the place. This forced modesty," she added with
some bitterness, "has already been of service to our son. The king, to
whose household my father is appointed, said very graciously that he
would show Jacques the favor we were not willing to accept. Jacques'
education, which must now be thought of, is already being discussed.
He will be the representative of two houses, the Lenoncourt and the
Mortsauf families. I can have no ambition except for him, and
therefore my anxieties seem to have increased. Not only must Jacques
live, but he must be made worthy of his name; two necessities which,
as you know, conflict. And then, later, what friend will keep him safe
for me in Paris, where all things are pitfalls for the soul and
dangers for the body? My friend," she said, in a broken voice, "who
could not see upon your brow and in your eyes that you are one who
will inhabit heights? Be some day the guardian and sponsor of our boy.
Go to Paris; if your father and brother will not second you, our
family, above all my mother, who has a genius for the management of
life, will help you. Profit by our influence; you will never be
without support in whatever career you choose; put the strength of
your desires into a noble ambition--"

"I understand you," I said, interrupting her; "ambition is to be my
mistress. I have no need of that to be wholly yours. No, I will not be
rewarded for my obedience here by receiving favors there. I will go; I
will make my own way; I will rise alone. From you I would accept
everything, from others nothing."

"Child!" she murmured, ill-concealing a smile of pleasure.

"Besides, I have taken my vows," I went on. "Thinking over our
situation I am resolved to bind myself to you by ties that never can
be broken."

She trembled slightly and stopped short to look at me.

"What do you mean?" she asked, letting the couples who preceded us
walk on, and keeping the children at her side.

"This," I said; "but first tell me frankly how you wish me to love

"Love me as my aunt loved me; I gave you her rights when I permitted
you to call me by the name which she chose for her own among my

"Then I am to love without hope and with an absolute devotion. Well,
yes; I will do for you what some men do for God. I shall feel that you
have asked it. I will enter a seminary and make myself a priest, and
then I will educate your son. Jacques shall be myself in his own form;
political conceptions, thoughts, energy, patience, I will give him
all. In that way I shall live near to you, and my love, enclosed in
religion as a silver image in a crystal shrine, can never be suspected
of evil. You will not have to fear the undisciplined passions which
grasp a man and by which already I have allowed myself to be
vanquished. I will consume my own being in the flame, and I will love
you with a purified love."

She turned pale and said, hurrying her words: "Felix, do not put
yourself in bonds that might prove an obstacle to our happiness. I
should die of grief for having caused a suicide like that. Child, do
you think despairing love a life's vocation? Wait for life's trials
before you judge of life; I command it. Marry neither the Church nor a
woman; marry not at all,--I forbid it. Remain free. You are twenty-one
years old--My God! can I have mistaken him? I thought two months
sufficed to know some souls."

"What hope have you?" I cried, with fire in my eyes.

"My friend, accept our help, rise in life, make your way and your
fortune and you shall know my hope. And," she added, as if she were
whispering a secret, "never release the hand you are holding at this

She bent to my ear as she said these words which proved her deep
solicitude for my future.

"Madeleine!" I exclaimed "never!"

We were close to a wooden gate which opened into the park of Frapesle;
I still seem to see its ruined posts overgrown with climbing plants
and briers and mosses. Suddenly an idea, that of the count's death,
flashed through my brain, and I said, "I understand you."

"I am glad of it," she answered in a tone which made me know I had
supposed her capable of a thought that could never be hers.

Her purity drew tears of admiration from my eyes which the selfishness
of passion made bitter indeed. My mind reacted and I felt that she did
not love me enough even to wish for liberty. So long as love recoils
from a crime it seems to have its limits, and love should be infinite.
A spasm shook my heart.

"She does not love me," I thought.

To hide what was in my soul I stooped over Madeleine and kissed her

"I am afraid of your mother," I said to the countess presently, to
renew the conversation.

"So am I," she answered with a gesture full of childlike gaiety.
"Don't forget to call her Madame la duchesse, and to speak to her in
the third person. The young people of the present day have lost these
polite manners; you must learn them; do that for my sake. Besides, it
is such good taste to respect women, no matter what their age may be,
and to recognize social distinctions without disputing them. The
respect shown to established superiority is guarantee for that which
is due to you. Solidarity is the basis of society. Cardinal Della
Rovere and Raffaelle were two powers equally revered. You have sucked
the milk of the Revolution in your academy and your political ideas
may be influenced by it; but as you advance in life you will find that
crude and ill-defined principles of liberty are powerless to create
the happiness of the people. Before considering, as a Lenoncourt, what
an aristocracy ought to be, my common-sense as a woman of the people
tells me that societies can exist only through a hierarchy. You are
now at a turning-point in your life, when you must choose wisely. Be
on our side,--especially now," she added, laughing, "when it

I was keenly touched by these words, in which the depth of her
political feeling mingled with the warmth of affection,--a combination
which gives to women so great a power of persuasion; they know how to
give to the keenest arguments a tone of feeling. In her desire to
justify all her husband's actions Henriette had foreseen the
criticisms that would rise in my mind as soon as I saw the servile
effects of a courtier's life upon him. Monsieur de Mortsauf, king in
his own castle and surrounded by an historic halo, had, to my eyes, a
certain grandiose dignity. I was therefore greatly astonished at the
distance he placed between the duchess and himself by manners that
were nothing less than obsequious. A slave has his pride and will only
serve the greatest despots. I confess I was humiliated at the
degradation of one before whom I trembled as the power that ruled my
love. This inward repulsion made me understand the martyrdom of women
of generous souls yoked to men whose meannesses they bury daily.
Respect is a safeguard which protects both great and small alike; each
side can hold its own. I was respectful to the duchess because of my
youth; but where others saw only a duchess I saw the mother of my
Henriette, and that gave sanctity to my homage.

We reached the great court-yard of Frapesle, where we found the
others. The Comte de Mortsauf presented me very gracefully to the
duchess, who examined me with a cold and reserved air. Madame de
Lenoncourt was then a woman fifty-six years of age, wonderfully well
preserved and with grand manners. When I saw the hard blue eyes, the
hollow temples, the thin emaciated face, the erect, imposing figure
slow of movement, and the yellow whiteness of the skin (reproduced
with such brilliancy in the daughter), I recognized the cold type to
which my own mother belonged, as quickly as a mineralogist recognizes
Swedish iron. Her language was that of the old court; she pronounced
the "oit" like "ait," and said "frait" for "froid," "porteux" for
"porteurs." I was not a courtier, neither was I stiff-backed in my
manner to her; in fact I behaved so well that as I passed the countess
she said in a low voice, "You are perfect."

The count came to me and took my hand, saying: "You are not angry with
me, Felix, are you? If I was hasty you will pardon an old soldier? We
shall probably stay here to dinner, and I invite you to dine with us
on Thursday, the evening before the duchess leaves. I must go to Tours
to-morrow to settle some business. Don't neglect Clochegourde. My
mother-in-law is an acquaintance I advise you to cultivate. Her salon
will set the tone for the faubourg St. Germain. She has all the
traditions of the great world, and possesses an immense amount of
social knowledge; she knows the blazon of the oldest as well as the
newest family in Europe."

The count's good taste, or perhaps the advice of his domestic genius,
appeared under his altered circumstances. He was neither arrogant nor
offensively polite, nor pompous in any way, and the duchess was not
patronizing. Monsieur and Madame de Chessel gratefully accepted the
invitation to dinner on the following Thursday. I pleased the duchess,
and by her glance I knew she was examining a man of whom her daughter
had spoken to her. As we returned from vespers she questioned me about
my family, and asked if the Vandenesse now in diplomacy was my
relative. "He is my brother," I replied. On that she became almost
affectionate. She told me that my great-aunt, the old Marquise de
Listomere, was a Grandlieu. Her manners were as cordial as those of
Monsieur de Mortsauf the day he saw me for the first time; the haughty
glance with which these sovereigns of the earth make you measure the
distance that lies between you and them disappeared. I knew almost
nothing of my family. The duchess told me that my great-uncle, an old
abbe whose very name I did not know, was to be member of the privy
council, that my brother was already promoted, and also that by a
provision of the Charter, of which I had not yet heard, my father
became once more Marquis de Vandenesse.

"I am but one thing, the serf of Clochegourde," I said in a low voice
to the countess.

The transformation scene of the Restoration was carried through with a
rapidity which bewildered the generation brought up under the imperial
regime. To me this revolution meant nothing. The least word or gesture
from Madame de Mortsauf were the sole events to which I attached
importance. I was ignorant of what the privy council was, and knew as
little of politics as of social life; my sole ambition was to love
Henriette better than Petrarch loved Laura. This indifference made the
duchess take me for a child. A large company assembled at Frapesle and
we were thirty at table. What intoxication it is for a young man
unused to the world to see the woman he loves more beautiful than all
others around her, the centre of admiring looks; to know that for him
alone is reserved the chaste fire of those eyes, that none but he can
discern in the tones of that voice, in the words it utters, however
gay or jesting they may be, the proofs of unremitting thought. The
count, delighted with the attentions paid to him, seemed almost young;
his wife looked hopeful of a change; I amused myself with Madeleine,
who, like all children with bodies weaker than their minds, made
others laugh with her clever observations, full of sarcasm, though
never malicious, and which spared no one. It was a happy day. A word,
a hope awakened in the morning illumined nature. Seeing me so joyous,
Henriette was joyful too.

"This happiness smiling on my gray and cloudy life seems good," she
said to me the next day.

That day I naturally spent at Clochegourde. I had been banished for
five days, I was athirst for life. The count left at six in the
morning for Tours. A serious disagreement had arisen between mother
and daughter. The duchess wanted the countess to move to Paris, where
she promised her a place at court, and where the count, reconsidering
his refusal, might obtain some high position. Henriette, who was
thought happy in her married life, would not reveal, even to her
mother, her tragic sufferings and the fatal incapacity of her husband.
It was to hide his condition from the duchess that she persuaded him
to go to Tours and transact business with his notaries. I alone, as
she had truly said, knew the dark secret of Clochegourde. Having
learned by experience how the pure air and the blue sky of the lovely
valley calmed the excitements and soothed the morbid griefs of the
diseased mind, and what beneficial effect the life at Clochegourde had
upon the health of her children, she opposed her mother's desire that
she should leave it with reasons which the overbearing woman, who was
less grieved than mortified by her daughter's bad marriage, vigorously

Henriette saw that the duchess cared little for Jacques and Madeleine,
--a terrible discovery! Like all domineering mothers who expect to
continue the same authority over their married daughters that they
maintained when they were girls, the duchess brooked no opposition;
sometimes she affected a crafty sweetness to force her daughter to
compliance, at other times a cold severity, intending to obtain by
fear what gentleness had failed to win; then, when all means failed,
she displayed the same native sarcasm which I had often observed in my
own mother. In those ten days Henriette passed through all the
contentions a young woman must endure to establish her independence.
You, who for your happiness have the best of mothers, can scarcely
comprehend such trials. To gain a true idea of the struggle between
that cold, calculating, ambitious woman and a daughter abounding in
the tender natural kindness that never faileth, you must imagine a
lily, to which my heart has always compared her, bruised beneath the
polished wheels of a steel car. That mother had nothing in common with
her daughter; she was unable even to imagine the real difficulties
which hindered her from taking advantage of the Restoration and forced
her to continue a life of solitude. Though families bury their
internal dissensions with the utmost care, enter behind the scenes,
and you will find in nearly all of them deep, incurable wounds, which
lessen the natural affections. Sometimes these wounds are given by
passions real and most affecting, rendered eternal by the dignity of
those who feel them; sometimes by latent hatreds which slowly freeze
the heart and dry all tears when the hour of parting comes. Tortured
yesterday and to-day, wounded by all, even by the suffering children
who were guiltless of the ills they endured, how could that poor soul
fail to love the one human being who did not strike her, who would
fain have built a wall of defence around her to guard her from storms,
from harsh contacts and cruel blows? Though I suffered from a
knowledge of these debates, there were moments when I was happy in the
sense that she rested upon my heart; for she told me of these new
troubles. Day by day I learned more fully the meaning of her words,--
"Love me as my aunt loved me."

"Have you no ambition?" the duchess said to me at dinner, with a stern

"Madame," I replied, giving her a serious look, "I have enough in me
to conquer the world; but I am only twenty-one, and I am all alone."

She looked at her daughter with some astonishment. Evidently she
believed that Henriette had crushed my ambition in order to keep me
near her. The visit of Madame de Lenoncourt was a period of unrelieved
constraint. The countess begged me to be cautious; she was frightened
by the least kind word; to please her I wore the harness of deceit.
The great Thursday came; it was a day of wearisome ceremonial,--one of
those stiff days which lovers hate, when their chair is no longer in
its place, and the mistress of the house cannot be with them. Love has
a horror of all that does not concern itself. But the duchess returned
at last to the pomps and vanities of the court, and Clochegourde
recovered its accustomed order.

My little quarrel with the count resulted in making me more at home in
the house than ever; I could go there at all times without hindrance;
and the antecedents of my life inclined me to cling like a climbing
plant to the beautiful soul which had opened to me the enchanting
world of shared emotions. Every hour, every minute, our fraternal
marriage, founded on trust, became a surer thing; each of us settled
firmly into our own position; the countess enfolded me with her
nurturing care, with the white draperies of a love that was wholly
maternal; while my love for her, seraphic in her presence, seared me
as with hot irons when away from her. I loved her with a double love
which shot its arrows of desire, and then lost them in the sky, where
they faded out of sight in the impermeable ether. If you ask me why,
young and ardent, I continued in the deluding dreams of Platonic love,
I must own to you that I was not yet man enough to torture that woman,
who was always in dread of some catastrophe to her children, always
fearing some outburst of her husband's stormy temper, martyrized by
him when not afflicted by the illness of Jacques or Madeleine, and
sitting beside one or the other of them when her husband allowed her a
little rest. The mere sound of too warm a word shook her whole being;
a desire shocked her; what she needed was a veiled love, support
mingled with tenderness,--that, in short, which she gave to others.
Then, need I tell you, who are so truly feminine? this situation
brought with it hours of delightful languor, moments of divine
sweetness and content which followed by secret immolation. Her
conscience was, if I may call it so, contagious; her self-devotion
without earthly recompense awed me by its persistence; the living,
inward piety which was the bond of her other virtues filled the air
about her with spiritual incense. Besides, I was young,--young enough
to concentrate my whole being on the kiss she allowed me too seldom to
lay upon her hand, of which she gave me only the back, and never the
palm, as though she drew the line of sensual emotions there. No two
souls ever clasped each other with so much ardor, no bodies were ever
more victoriously annihilated. Later I understood the cause of this
sufficing joy. At my age no worldly interests distracted my heart; no
ambitions blocked the stream of a love which flowed like a torrent,
bearing all things on its bosom. Later, we love the woman in a woman;
but the first woman we love is the whole of womanhood; her children
are ours, her interests are our interests, her sorrows our greatest
sorrow; we love her gown, the familiar things about her; we are more
grieved by a trifling loss of hers than if we knew we had lost
everything. This is the sacred love that makes us live in the being of
another; whereas later, alas! we draw another life into ours, and
require a woman to enrich our pauper spirit with her young soul.

I was now one of the household, and I knew for the first time an
infinite sweetness, which to a nature bruised as mine was like a bath
to a weary body; the soul is refreshed in every fibre, comforted to
its very depths. You will hardly understand me, for you are a woman,
and I am speaking now of a happiness women give but do not receive. A
man alone knows the choice happiness of being, in the midst of a
strange household, the privileged friend of its mistress, the secret
centre of her affections. No dog barks at you; the servants, like the
dogs, recognize your rights; the children (who are never misled, and
know that their power cannot be lessened, and that you cherish the
light of their life), the children possess the gift of divination,
they play with you like kittens and assume the friendly tyranny they
show only to those they love; they are full of intelligent discretion
and come and go on tiptoe without noise. Every one hastens to do you
service; all like you, and smile upon you. True passions are like
beautiful flowers all the more charming to the eye when they grow in a
barren soil.

But if I enjoyed the delightful benefits of naturalization in a family
where I found relations after my own heart, I had also to pay some
costs for it. Until then Monsieur de Mortsauf had more or less
restrained himself before me. I had only seen his failings in the
mass; I was now to see the full extent of their application and
discover how nobly charitable the countess had been in the account she
had given me of these daily struggles. I learned now all the angles of
her husband's intolerable nature; I heard his perpetual scolding about
nothing, complaints of evils of which not a sign existed; I saw the
inward dissatisfaction which poisoned his life, and the incessant need
of his tyrannical spirit for new victims. When we went to walk in the
evenings he selected the way; but whichever direction we took he was
always bored; when we reached home he blamed others; his wife had
insisted on going where she wanted; why was he governed by her in all
the trifling things of life? was he to have no will, no thought of his
own? must he consent to be a cipher in his own house? If his harshness
was to be received in patient silence he was angry because he felt a
limit to his power; he asked sharply if religion did not require a
wife to please her husband, and whether it was proper to despise the
father of her children? He always ended by touching some sensitive
chord in his wife's mind; and he seemed to find a domineering pleasure
in making it sound. Sometimes he tried gloomy silence and a morbid
depression, which always alarmed his wife and made her pay him the
most tender attentions. Like petted children, who exercise their power
without thinking of the distress of their mother, he would let her
wait upon him as upon Jacques and Madeleine, of whom he was jealous.

I discovered at last that in small things as well as in great ones the
count acted towards his servants, his children, his wife, precisely as
he had acted to me about the backgammon. The day when I understood,
root and branch, these difficulties, which like a rampant overgrowth
repressed the actions and stifled the breathing of the whole family,
hindered the management of the household and retarded the improvement
of the estate by complicating the most necessary acts, I felt an
admiring awe which rose higher than my love and drove it back into my
heart. Good God! what was I? Those tears that I had taken on my lips
solemnized my spirit; I found happiness in wedding the sufferings of
that woman. Hitherto I had yielded to the count's despotism as the
smuggler pays his fine; henceforth I was a voluntary victim that I
might come the nearer to her. The countess understood me, allowed me a
place beside her, and gave me permission to share her sorrows; like
the repentant apostate, eager to rise to heaven with his brethren, I
obtained the favor of dying in the arena.

"Were it not for you I must have succumbed under this life," Henriette
said to me one evening when the count had been, like the flies on a
hot day, more stinging, venomous, and persistent than usual.

He had gone to bed. Henriette and I remained under the acacias; the
children were playing about us, bathed in the setting sun. Our few
exclamatory words revealed the mutuality of the thoughts in which we
rested from our common sufferings. When language failed silence as
faithfully served our souls, which seemed to enter one another without
hindrance; together they luxuriated in the charms of pensive languor,
they met in the undulations of the same dream, they plunged as one
into the river and came out refreshed like two nymphs as closely
united as their souls could wish, but with no earthly tie to bind
them. We entered the unfathomable gulf, we returned to the surface
with empty hands, asking each other by a look, "Among all our days on
earth will there be one for us?"

In spite of the tranquil poetry of evening which gave to the bricks of
the balustrade their orange tones, so soothing and so pure; in spite
of the religious atmosphere of the hour, which softened the voices of
the children and wafted them towards us, desire crept through my veins
like the match to the bonfire. After three months of repression I was
unable to content myself with the fate assigned me. I took Henriette's
hand and softly caressed it, trying to convey to her the ardor that
invaded me. She became at once Madame de Mortsauf, and withdrew her
hand; tears rolled from my eyes, she saw them and gave me a chilling
look, as she offered her hand to my lips.

"You must know," she said, "that this will cause me grief. A
friendship that asks so great a favor is dangerous."

Then I lost my self-control; I reproached her, I spoke of my
sufferings, and the slight alleviation that I asked for them. I dared
to tell her that at my age, if the senses were all soul still the soul
had a sex; that I could meet death, but not with closed lips. She
forced me to silence with her proud glance, in which I seemed to read
the cry of the Mexican: "And I, am I on a bed of roses?" Ever since
that day by the gate of Frapesle, when I attributed to her the hope
that our happiness might spring from a grave, I had turned with shame
from the thought of staining her soul with the desires of a brutal
passion. She now spoke with honeyed lip, and told me that she never
could be wholly mine, and that I ought to know it. As she said the
words I know that in obeying her I dug an abyss between us. I bowed my
head. She went on, saying she had an inward religious certainty that
she might love me as a brother without offending God or man; such love
was a living image of the divine love, which her good Saint-Martin
told her was the life of the world. If I could not be to her somewhat
as her old confessor was, less than a lover yet more than a brother, I
must never see her again. She could die and take to God her sheaf of
sufferings, borne not without tears and anguish.

"I gave you," she said in conclusion, "more than I ought to have
given, so that nothing might be left to take, and I am punished."

I was forced to calm her, to promise never to cause her pain, and to
love her at twenty-one years of age as old men love their youngest

The next day I went early. There were no flowers in the vases of her
gray salon. I rushed into the fields and vineyards to make her two
bouquets; but as I gathered the flowers, one by one, cutting their
long stalks and admiring their beauty, the thought occurred to me that
the colors and foliage had a poetry, a harmony, which meant something
to the understanding while they charmed the eye; just as musical
melodies awaken memories in hearts that are loving and beloved. If
color is light organized, must it not have a meaning of its own, as
the combinations of the air have theirs? I called in the assistance of
Jacques and Madeleine, and all three of us conspired to surprise our
dear one. I arranged, on the lower steps of the portico, where we
established our floral headquarters, two bouquets by which I tried to
convey a sentiment. Picture to yourself a fountain of flowers gushing
from the vases and falling back in curving waves; my message springing
from its bosom in white roses and lilies with their silver cups. All
the blue flowers, harebells, forget-me-nots, and ox-tongues, whose
tines, caught from the skies, blended so well with the whiteness of
the lilies, sparkled on this dewy texture; were they not the type of
two purities, the one that knows nothing, the other that knows all; an
image of the child, an image of the martyr? Love has its blazon, and
the countess discerned it inwardly. She gave me a poignant glance
which was like the cry of a soldier when his wound is touched; she was
humbled but enraptured too. My reward was in that glance; to refresh
her heart, to have given her comfort, what encouragement for me! Then
it was that I pressed the theories of Pere Castel into the service of
love, and recovered a science lost to Europe, where written pages have
supplanted the flowery missives of the Orient with their balmy tints.
What charm in expressing our sensations through these daughters of the
sun, sisters to the flowers that bloom beneath the rays of love!
Before long I communed with the flora of the fields, as a man whom I
met in after days at Grandlieu communed with his bees.

Twice a week during the remainder of my stay at Frapesle I continued
the slow labor of this poetic enterprise, for the ultimate
accomplishment of which I needed all varieties of herbaceous plants;
into these I made a deep research, less as a botanist than as a poet,
studying their spirit rather than their form. To find a flower in its
native haunts I walked enormous distances, beside the brooklets,
through the valleys, to the summit of the cliffs, across the moorland,
garnering thoughts even from the heather. During these rambles I
initiated myself into pleasures unthought of by the man of science who
lives in meditation, unknown to the horticulturist busy with
specialities, to the artisan fettered to a city, to the merchant
fastened to his desk, but known to a few foresters, to a few woodsmen,
and to some dreamers. Nature can show effects the significations of
which are limitless; they rise to the grandeur of the highest moral
conceptions--be it the heather in bloom, covered with the diamonds of
the dew on which the sunlight dances; infinitude decked for the single
glance that may chance to fall upon it:--be it a corner of the forest
hemmed in with time-worn rocks crumbling to gravel and clothed with
mosses overgrown with juniper, which grasps our minds as something
savage, aggressive, terrifying as the cry of the kestrel issuing from
it:--be it a hot and barren moor without vegetation, stony, rigid, its
horizon like those of the desert, where once I gathered a sublime and
solitary flower, the anemone pulsatilla, with its violet petals
opening for the golden stamens; affecting image of my pure idol alone
in her valley:--be it great sheets of water, where nature casts those
spots of greenery, a species of transition between the plant and
animal, where life makes haste to come in flowers and insects,
floating there like worlds in ether:--be it a cottage with its garden
of cabbages, its vineyards, its hedges overhanging a bog, surrounded
by a few sparse fields of rye; true image of many humble existences:--
be it a forest path like some cathedral nave, where the trees are
columns and their branches arch the roof, at the far end of which a
light breaks through, mingled with shadows or tinted with sunset reds
athwart the leaves which gleam like the colored windows of a chancel:
--then, leaving these woods so cool and branchy, behold a chalk-land
lying fallow, where among the warm and cavernous mosses adders glide
to their lairs, or lift their proud slim heads. Cast upon all these
pictures torrents of sunlight like beneficent waters, or the shadow of
gray clouds drawn in lines like the wrinkles of an old man's brow, or
the cool tones of a sky faintly orange and streaked with lines of a
paler tint; then listen--you will hear indefinable harmonies amid a
silence which blends them all.

During the months of September and October I did not make a single
bouquet which cost me less than three hours search; so much did I
admire, with the real sympathy of a poet, these fugitive allegories of
human life, that vast theatre I was about to enter, the scenes of
which my memory must presently recall. Often do I now compare those
splendid scenes with memories of my soul thus expending itself on
nature; again I walk that valley with my sovereign, whose white robe
brushed the coppice and floated on the green sward, whose spirit rose,
like a promised fruit, from each calyx filled with amorous stamens.

No declaration of love, no vows of uncontrollable passion ever
conveyed more than these symphonies of flowers; my baffled desires
impelled me to efforts of expression through them like those of
Beethoven through his notes, to the same bitter reactions, to the same
mighty bounds towards heaven. In their presence Madame de Mortsauf was
my Henriette. She looked at them constantly; they fed her spirit, she
gathered all the thoughts I had given them, saying, as she raised her
head from the embroidery frame to receive my gift, "Ah, how

Natalie, you will understand this delightful intercourse through the
details of a bouquet, just as you would comprehend Saadi from a
fragment of his verse. Have you ever smelt in the fields in the month
of May the perfume that communicates to all created beings the
intoxicating sense of a new creation; the sense that makes you trail
your hand in the water from a boat, and loosen your hair to the breeze
while your mind revives with the springtide greenery of the trees? A
little plant, a species of vernal grass, is a powerful element in this
veiled harmony; it cannot be worn with impunity; take into your hand
its shining blade, striped green and white like a silken robe, and
mysterious emotions will stir the rosebuds your modesty keeps hidden
in the depths of your heart. Round the neck of a porcelain vase
imagine a broad margin of the gray-white tufts peculiar to the sedum
of the vineyards of Touraine, vague image of submissive forms; from
this foundation come tendrils of the bind-weed with its silver bells,
sprays of pink rest-barrow mingled with a few young shoots of oak-
leaves, lustrous and magnificently colored; these creep forth
prostrate, humble as the weeping-willow, timid and supplicating as
prayer. Above, see those delicate threads of the purple amoret, with
its flood of anthers that are nearly yellow; the snowy pyramids of the
meadow-sweet, the green tresses of the wild oats, the slender plumes
of the agrostis, which we call wind-ear; roseate hopes, decking love's
earliest dream and standing forth against the gray surroundings. But
higher still, remark the Bengal roses, sparsely scattered among the
laces of the daucus, the plumes of the linaria, the marabouts of the
meadow-queen; see the umbels of the myrrh, the spun glass of the
clematis in seed, the dainty petals of the cross-wort, white as milk,
the corymbs of the yarrow, the spreading stems of the fumitory with
their black and rosy blossoms, the tendrils of the grape, the twisted
shoots of the honeysuckle; in short, all the innocent creatures have
that is most tangled, wayward, wild,--flames and triple darts, leaves
lanceolated or jagged, stalks convoluted like passionate desires
writhing in the soul. From the bosom of this torrent of love rises the
scarlet poppy, its tassels about to open, spreading its flaming flakes
above the starry jessamine, dominating the rain of pollen--that soft
mist fluttering in the air and reflecting the light in its myriad
particles. What woman intoxicated with the odor of the vernal grasses
would fail to understand this wealth of offered thoughts, these ardent
desires of a love demanding the happiness refused in a hundred
struggles which passion still renews, continuous, unwearying, eternal!

Put this speech of the flowers in the light of a window to show its
crisp details, its delicate contrasts, its arabesques of color, and
allow the sovereign lady to see a tear upon some petal more expanded
than the rest. What do we give to God? perfumes, light, and song, the
purest expression of our nature. Well, these offerings to God, are
they not likewise offered to love in this poem of luminous flowers
murmuring their sadness to the heart, cherishing its hidden
transports, its unuttered hopes, its illusions which gleam and fall to
fragments like the gossamer of a summer's night?

Such neutral pleasures help to soothe a nature irritated by long
contemplation of the person beloved. They were to me, I dare not say
to her, like those fissures in a dam through which the water finds a
vent and avoids disaster. Abstinence brings deadly exhaustion, which a
few crumbs falling from heaven like manna in the desert, suffices to
relieve. Sometimes I found my Henriette standing before these bouquets
with pendant arms, lost in agitated reverie, thoughts swelling her
bosom, illumining her brow as they surged in waves and sank again,
leaving lassitude and languor behind them. Never again have I made a
bouquet for any one. When she and I had created this language and
formed it to our uses, a satisfaction filled our souls like that of a
slave who escapes his masters.

During the rest of this month as I came from the meadows through the
gardens I often saw her face at the window, and when I reached the
salon she was ready at her embroidery frame. If I did not arrive at
the hour expected (though never appointed), I saw a white form
wandering on the terrace, and when I joined her she would say, "I came
to meet you; I must show a few attentions to my youngest child."

The miserable games of backgammon had come to end. The count's late
purchases took all his time in going hither and thither about the
property, surveying, examining, and marking the boundaries of his new
possessions. He had orders to give, rural works to overlook which
needed a master's eye,--all of them planned and decided on by his wife
and himself. We often went to meet him, the countess and I, with the
children, who amused themselves on the way by running after insects,
stag-beetles, darning-needles, they too making their bouquets, or to
speak more truly, their bundles of flowers. To walk beside the woman
we love, to take her on our arm, to guide her steps,--these are
illimitable joys that suffice a lifetime. Confidence is then complete.
We went alone, we returned with the "general," a title given to the
count when he was good-humored. These two ways of taking the same path
gave light and shade to our pleasure, a secret known only to hearts
debarred from union. Our talk, so free as we went, had hidden
significations as we returned, when either of us gave an answer to
some furtive interrogation, or continued a subject, already begun, in
the enigmatic phrases to which our language lends itself, and which
women are so ingenious in composing. Who has not known the pleasure of
such secret understandings in a sphere apart from those about us, a
sphere where spirits meet outside of social laws?

One day a wild hope, quickly dispelled, took possession of me, when
the count, wishing to know what we were talking of, put the inquiry,
and Henriette answered in words that allowed another meaning, which
satisfied him. This amused Madeleine, who laughed; after a moment her
mother blushed and gave me a forbidding look, as if to say she might
still withdraw from me her soul as she had once withdrawn her hand.
But our purely spiritual union had far too many charms, and on the
morrow it continued as before.

The hours, days, and weeks fled by, filled with renascent joys. Grape
harvest, the festal season in Touraine, began. Toward the end of
September the sun, less hot than during the wheat harvest, allows of
our staying in the vineyards without danger of becoming overheated. It
is easier to gather grapes than to mow wheat. Fruits of all kinds are
ripe, harvests are garnered, bread is less dear; the sense of plenty
makes the country people happy. Fears as to the results of rural toil,
in which more money than sweat is often spent, vanish before a full
granary and cellars about to overflow. The vintage is then like a gay
dessert after the dinner is eaten; the skies of Touraine, where the
autumns are always magnificent, smile upon it. In this hospitable land
the vintagers are fed and lodged in the master's house. The meals are
the only ones throughout the year when these poor people taste
substantial, well-cooked food; and they cling to the custom as the
children of patriarchal families cling to anniversaries. As the time
approaches they flock in crowds to those houses where the masters are
known to treat the laborers liberally. The house is full of people and
of provisions. The presses are open. The country is alive with the
coming and going of itinerant coopers, of carts filled with laughing
girls and joyous husbandmen, who earn better wages than at any other
time during the year, and who sing as they go. There is also another
cause of pleasurable content: classes and ranks are equal; women,
children, masters, and men, all that little world, share in the
garnering of the divine hoard. These various elements of satisfaction
explain the hilarity of the vintage, transmitted from age to age in
these last glorious days of autumn, the remembrance of which inspired
Rabelais with the bacchic form of his great work.

The children, Jacques and Madeleine, had never seen a vintage; I was
like them, and they were full of infantine delight at finding a sharer
of their pleasure; their mother, too, promised to accompany us. We
went to Villaines, where baskets are manufactured, in quest of the
prettiest that could be bought; for we four were to cut certain rows
reserved for our scissors; it was, however, agreed that none of us
were to eat too many grapes. To eat the fat bunches of Touraine in a
vineyard seemed so delicious that we all refused the finest grapes on
the dinner-table. Jacques made me swear I would go to no other
vineyard, but stay closely at Clochegourde. Never were these frail
little beings, usually pallid and smiling, so fresh and rosy and
active as they were this morning. They chattered for chatter's sake,
and trotted about without apparent object; they suddenly seemed, like
other children, to have more life than they needed; neither Monsieur
nor Madame de Mortsauf had ever seen them so before. I became a child
again with them, more of a child than either of them, perhaps; I, too,
was hoping for my harvest. It was glorious weather when we went to the
vineyard, and we stayed there half the day. How we disputed as to who
had the finest grapes and who could fill his basket quickest! The
little human shoots ran to and fro from the vines to their mother; not
a bunch could be cut without showing it to her. She laughed with the
good, gay laugh of her girlhood when I, running up with my basket
after Madeleine, cried out, "Mine too! See mine, mamma!" To which she
answered: "Don't get overheated, dear child." Then passing her hand
round my neck and through my hair, she added, giving me a little tap
on the cheek, "You are melting away." It was the only caress she ever
gave me. I looked at the pretty line of purple clusters, the hedges
full of haws and blackberries; I heard the voices of the children; I
watched the trooping girls, the cart loaded with barrels, the men with
the panniers. Ah, it is all engraved on my memory, even to the almond-
tree beside which she stood, girlish, rosy, smiling, beneath the
sunshade held open in her hand. Then I busied myself in cutting the
bunches and filling my basket, going forward to empty it in the vat,
silently, with measured bodily movement and slow steps that left my
spirit free. I discovered then the ineffable pleasure of an external
labor which carries life along, and thus regulates the rush of
passion, often so near, but for this mechanical motion, to kindle into
flame. I learned how much wisdom is contained in uniform labor; I
understood monastic discipline.

For the first time in many days the count was neither surly nor cruel.
His son was so well; the future Duc de Lenoncourt-Mortsauf, fair and
rosy and stained with grape-juice, rejoiced his heart. This day being
the last of the vintage, he had promised a dance in front of
Clochegourde in honor of the return of the Bourbons, so that our
festival gratified everybody. As we returned to the house, the
countess took my arm and leaned upon it, as if to let my heart feel
the weight of hers,--the instinctive movement of a mother who seeks to
convey her joy. Then she whispered in my ear, "You bring us

Ah, to me, who knew her sleepless nights, her cares, her fears, her
former existence, in which, although the hand of God sustained her,
all was barren and wearisome, those words uttered by that rich voice
brought pleasures no other woman in the world could give me.

"The terrible monotony of my life is broken, all things are radiant
with hope," she said after a pause. "Oh, never leave me! Do not
despise my harmless superstitions; be the elder son, the protector of
the younger."

In this, Natalie, there is nothing romantic. To know the infinite of
our deepest feelings, we must in youth cast our lead into those great
lakes upon whose shores we live. Though to many souls passions are
lava torrents flowing among arid rocks, other souls there be in whom
passion, restrained by insurmountable obstacles, fills with purest
water the crater of the volcano.

We had still another fete. Madame de Mortsauf, wishing to accustom her
children to the practical things of life, and to give them some
experience of the toil by which men earn their living, had provided
each of them with a source of income, depending on the chances of
agriculture. To Jacques she gave the produce of the walnut-trees, to
Madeleine that of the chestnuts. The gathering of the nuts began soon
after the vintage,--first the chestnuts, then the walnuts. To beat
Madeleine's trees with a long pole and hear the nuts fall and rebound
on the dry, matted earth of a chestnut-grove; to see the serious
gravity of the little girl as she examined the heaps and estimated
their probable value, which to her represented many pleasures on which
she counted; the congratulations of Manette, the trusted servant who
alone supplied Madame de Mortsauf's place with the children; the
explanations of the mother, showing the necessity of labor to obtain
all crops, so often imperilled by the uncertainties of climate,--all
these things made up a charming scene of innocent, childlike happiness
amid the fading colors of the late autumn.

Madeleine had a little granary of her own, in which I was to see her
brown treasure garnered and share her delight. Well, I quiver still
when I recall the sound of each basketful of nuts as it was emptied on
the mass of yellow husks, mixed with earth, which made the floor of
the granary. The count bought what was needed for the household; the
farmers and tenants, indeed, every one around Clochegourde, sent
buyers to the Mignonne, a pet name which the peasantry give even to
strangers, but which in this case belonged exclusively to Madeleine.

Jacques was less fortunate in gathering his walnuts. It rained for
several days; but I consoled him with the advice to hold back his nuts
and sell them a little later. Monsieur de Chessel had told me that the
walnut-trees in the Brehemont, also those about Amboise and Vouvray,
were not bearing. Walnut oil is in great demand in Touraine. Jacques
might get at least forty sous for the product of each tree, and as he
had two hundred the amount was considerable; he intended to spend it
on the equipment of a pony. This wish led to a discussion with his
father, who bade him think of the uncertainty of such returns, and the
wisdom of creating a reserve fund for the years when the trees might
not bear, and so equalizing his resources. I felt what was passing
through the mother's mind as she sat by in silence; she rejoiced in
the way Jacques listened to his father, the father seeming to recover
the paternal dignity that was lacking to him, thanks to the ideas
which she herself had prompted in him. Did I not tell you truly that
in picturing this woman earthly language was insufficient to render
either her character or her spirit. When such scenes occurred my soul
drank in their delights without analyzing them; but now, with what
vigor they detach themselves on the dark background of my troubled
life! Like diamonds they shine against the settling of thoughts
degraded by alloy, of bitter regrets for a lost happiness. Why do the
names of the two estates purchased after the Restoration, and in which
Monsieur and Madame de Mortsauf both took the deepest interest, the
Cassine and the Rhetoriere, move me more than the sacred names of the
Holy Land or of Greece? "Who loves, knows!" cried La Fontaine. Those
names possess the talismanic power of words uttered under certain
constellations by seers; they explain magic to me; they awaken
sleeping forms which arise and speak to me; they lead me to the happy
valley; they recreate skies and landscape. But such evocations are in
the regions of the spiritual world; they pass in the silence of my own
soul. Be not surprised, therefore, if I dwell on all these homely
scenes; the smallest details of that simple, almost common life are
ties which, frail as they may seem, bound me in closest union to the

The interests of her children gave Madame de Mortsauf almost as much
anxiety as their health. I soon saw the truth of what she had told me
as to her secret share in the management of the family affairs, into
which I became slowly initiated. After ten years' steady effort Madame
de Mortsauf had changed the method of cultivating the estate. She had
"put it in fours," as the saying is in those parts, meaning the new
system under which wheat is sown every four years only, so as to make
the soil produce a different crop yearly. To evade the obstinate
unwillingness of the peasantry it was found necessary to cancel the
old leases and give new ones, to divide the estate into four great
farms and let them on equal shares, the sort of lease that prevails in
Touraine and its neighborhood. The owner of the estate gives the
house, farm-buildings, and seed-grain to tenants-at-will, with whom he
divides the costs of cultivation and the crops. This division is
superintended by an agent or bailiff, whose business it is to take the
share belonging to the owner; a costly system, complicated by the
market changes of values, which alter the character of the shares
constantly. The countess had induced Monsieur de Mortsauf to cultivate
a fifth farm, made up of the reserved lands about Clochegourde, as
much to occupy his mind as to show other farmers the excellence of the
new method by the evidence of facts. Being thus, in a hidden way, the
mistress of the estate, she had slowly and with a woman's persistency
rebuilt two of the farm-houses on the principle of those in Artois and
Flanders. It is easy to see her motive. She wished, after the
expiration of the leases on shares, to relet to intelligent and
capable persons for rental in money, and thus simplify the revenues of
Clochegourde. Fearing to die before her husband, she was anxious to
secure for him a regular income, and to her children a property which
no incapacity could jeopardize. At the present time the fruit-trees
planted during the last ten years were in full bearing; the hedges,
which secured the boundaries from dispute, were in good order; the
elms and poplars were growing well. With the new purchases and the new
farming system well under way, the estate of Clochegourde, divided
into four great farms, two of which still needed new houses, was
capable of bringing in forty thousand francs a year, ten thousand for
each farm, not counting the yield of the vineyards, and the two
hundred acres of woodland which adjoined them, nor the profits of the
model home-farm. The roads to the great farms all opened on an avenue
which followed a straight line from Clochegourde to the main road
leading to Chinon. The distance from the entrance of this avenue to
Tours was only fifteen miles; tenants would never be wanting,
especially now that everybody was talking of the count's improvements
and the excellent condition of his land.

The countess wished to put some fifteen thousand francs into each of
the estates lately purchased, and to turn the present dwellings into
two large farm-houses and buildings, in order that the property might
bring in a better rent after the ground had been cultivated for a year
or two. These ideas, so simple in themselves, but complicated with the
thirty odd thousand francs it was necessary to expend upon them, were
just now the topic of many discussions between herself and the count,
sometimes amounting to bitter quarrels, in which she was sustained by
the thought of her children's interests. The fear, "If I die to-morrow
what will become of them?" made her heart beat. The gentle, peaceful
hearts to whom anger is an impossibility, and whose sole desire is to
shed on those about them their own inward peace, alone know what
strength is needed for such struggles, what demands upon the spirit
must be made before beginning the contest, what weariness ensues when
the fight is over and nothing has been won. At this moment, just as
her children seemed less anemic, less frail, more active (for the
fruit season had had its effect on them), and her moist eyes followed
them as they played about her with a sense of contentment which
renewed her strength and refreshed her heart, the poor woman was
called upon to bear the sharp sarcasms and attacks of an angry
opposition. The count, alarmed at the plans she proposed, denied with
stolid obstinacy the advantages of all she had done and the
possibility of doing more. He replied to conclusive reasoning with the
folly of a child who denies the influence of the sun in summer. The
countess, however, carried the day. The victory of commonsense over
insanity so healed her wounds that she forgot the battle. That day we
all went to the Cassine and the Rhetoriere, to decide upon the
buildings. The count walked alone in front, the children went next,
and we ourselves followed slowly, for she was speaking in a low,
gentle tone, which made her words like the murmur of the sea as it
ripples on a smooth beach.

She was, she said, certain of success. A new line of communication
between Tours and Chinon was to be opened by an active man, a carrier,
a cousin of Manette's, who wanted a large farm on the route. His
family was numerous; the eldest son would drive the carts, the second
could attend to the business, the father living half-way along the
road, at Rabelaye, one of the farms then to let, would look after the
relays and enrich his land with the manure of the stables. As to the
other farm, la Baude, the nearest to Clochegourde, one of their own
people, a worthy, intelligent, and industrious man, who saw the
advantages of the new system of agriculture, was ready to take a lease
on it. The Cassine and the Rhetoriere need give no anxiety; their soil
was the very best in the neighborhood; the farm-houses once built, and
the ground brought into cultivation, it would be quite enough to
advertise them at Tours; tenants would soon apply for them. In two
years' time Clochegourde would be worth at least twenty-four thousand
francs a year. Gravelotte, the farm in Maine, which Monsieur de
Mortsauf had recovered after the emigration, was rented for seven
thousand francs a year for nine years; his pension was four thousand.
This income might not be a fortune, but it was certainly a competence.
Later, other additions to it might enable her to go to Paris and
attend to Jacques' education; in two years, she thought, his health
would be established.

With what feeling she uttered the word "Paris!" I knew her thought;
she wished to be as little separated as possible from her friend. On
that I broke forth; I told her that she did not know me; that without
talking of it, I had resolved to finish my education by working day
and night so as to fit myself to be Jacques' tutor. She looked grave.

"No, Felix," she said, "that cannot be, any more than your priesthood.
I thank you from my heart as a mother, but as a woman who loves you
sincerely I can never allow you to be the victim of your attachment to
me. Such a position would be a social discredit to you, and I could
not allow it. No! I cannot be an injury to you in any way. You,
Vicomte de Vandenesse, a tutor! You, whose motto is 'Ne se vend!' Were
you Richelieu himself it would bar your way in life; it would give the
utmost pain to your family. My friend, you do not know what insult
women of the world, like my mother, can put into a patronizing glance,
what degradation into a word, what contempt into a bow."

"But if you love me, what is the world to me?"

She pretended not to hear, and went on:--

"Though my father is most kind and desirous of doing all I ask, he
would never forgive your taking so humble a position; he would refuse
you his protection. I could not consent to your becoming tutor to the
Dauphin even. You must accept society as it is; never commit the fault
of flying in the face of it. My friend, this rash proposal of--"

"Love," I whispered.

"No, charity," she said, controlling her tears, "this wild idea
enlightens me as to your character; your heart will be your bane. I
shall claim from this moment the right to teach you certain things.
Let my woman's eye see for you sometimes. Yes, from the solitudes of
Clochegourde I mean to share, silently, contentedly, in your
successes. As to a tutor, do not fear; we shall find some good old
abbe, some learned Jesuit, and my father will gladly devote a handsome
sum to the education of the boy who is to bear his name. Jacques is my
pride. He is, however, eleven years old," she added after a pause.
"But it is with him as with you; when I first saw you I took you to be
about thirteen."

We now reached the Cassine, where Jacques, Madeleine, and I followed
her about as children follow a mother; but we were in her way; I left
her presently and went into the orchard where Martineau the elder,
keeper of the place, was discussing with Martineau the younger, the
bailiff, whether certain trees ought or ought not to be taken down;
they were arguing the matter as if it concerned their own property. I
then saw how much the countess was beloved. I spoke of it to a poor
laborer, who, with one foot on his spade and an elbow on its handle,
stood listening to the two doctors of pomology.

"Ah, yes, monsieur," he answered, "she is a good woman, and not
haughty like those hussies at Azay, who would see us die like dogs
sooner than yield us one penny of the price of a grave! The day when
that woman leaves these parts the Blessed Virgin will weep, and we
too. She knows what is due to her, but she knows our hardships, too,
and she puts them into the account."

With what pleasure I gave that man all the money I had.

A few days later a pony arrived for Jacques, his father, an excellent
horseman, wishing to accustom the child by degrees to the fatigues of
such exercise. The boy had a pretty riding-dress, bought with the
product of the nuts. The morning when he took his first lesson
accompanied by his father and by Madeleine, who jumped and shouted
about the lawn round which Jacques was riding, was a great maternal
festival for the countess. The boy wore a blue collar embroidered by
her, a little sky-blue overcoat fastened by a polished leather belt, a
pair of white trousers pleated at the waist, and a Scotch cap, from
which his fair hair flowed in heavy locks. He was charming to behold.
All the servants clustered round to share the domestic joy. The little
heir smiled at his mother as he passed her, sitting erect, and quite
fearless. This first manly act of a child to whom death had often
seemed so near, the promise of a sound future warranted by this ride
which showed him so handsome, so fresh, so rosy,--what a reward for
all her cares! Then too the joy of the father, who seemed to renew his
youth, and who smiled for the first time in many long months; the
pleasure shown on all faces, the shout of an old huntsman of the
Lenoncourts, who had just arrived from Tours, and who, seeing how the
boy held the reins, shouted to him, "Bravo, monsieur le vicomte!"--all
this was too much for the poor mother, and she burst into tears; she,
so calm in her griefs, was too weak to bear the joy of admiring her
boy as he bounded over the gravel, where so often she had led him in
the sunshine inwardly weeping his expected death. She leaned upon my
arm unreservedly, and said: "I think I have never suffered. Do not
leave us to-day."

The lesson over, Jacques jumped into his mother's arms; she caught him
and held him tightly to her, kissing him passionately. I went with
Madeleine to arrange two magnificent bouquets for the dinner-table in
honor of the young equestrian. When we returned to the salon the
countess said: "The fifteenth of October is certainly a great day with
me. Jacques has taken his first riding lesson, and I have just set the
last stitch in my furniture cover."

"Then, Blanche," said the count, laughing, "I must pay you for it."

He offered her his arm and took her to the first courtyard, where
stood an open carriage which her father had sent her, and for which
the count had purchased two English horses. The old huntsman had
prepared the surprise while Jacques was taking his lesson. We got into
the carriage, and went to see where the new avenue entered the main
road towards Chinon. As we returned, the countess said to me in an
anxious tone, "I am too happy; to me happiness is like an illness,--it
overwhelms me; I fear it may vanish like a dream."

I loved her too passionately not to feel jealous,--I who could give
her nothing! In my rage against myself I longed for some means of
dying for her. She asked me to tell her the thoughts that filled my
eyes, and I told her honestly. She was more touched than by all her
presents; then taking me to the portico, she poured comfort into my
heart. "Love me as my aunt loved me," she said, "and that will be
giving me your life; and if I take it, must I not ever be grateful to

"It was time I finished my tapestry," she added as we re-entered the
salon, where I kissed her hand as if to renew my vows. "Perhaps you do
not know, Felix, why I began so formidable a piece of work. Men find
the occupations of life a great resource against troubles; the
management of affairs distracts their mind; but we poor women have no
support within ourselves against our sorrows. To be able to smile
before my children and my husband when my heart was heavy I felt the
need of controlling my inward sufferings by some physical exercise. In
this way I escaped the depression which is apt to follow a great
strain upon the moral strength, and likewise all outbursts of
excitement. The mere action of lifting my arm regularly as I drew the
stitches rocked my thoughts and gave to my spirit when the tempest
raged a monotonous ebb and flow which seemed to regulate its emotions.
To every stitch I confided my secrets,--you understand me, do you not?
Well, while doing my last chair I have thought much, too much, of you,
dear friend. What you have put into your bouquets I have said in my

The dinner was lovely. Jacques, like all children when you take notice
of them, jumped into my arms when he saw the flowers I had arranged
for him as a garland. His mother pretended to be jealous; ah, Natalie,
you should have seen the charming grace with which the dear child
offered them to her. In the afternoon we played a game of backgammon,
I alone against Monsieur and Madame de Mortsauf, and the count was
charming. They accompanied me along the road to Frapesle in the
twilight of a tranquil evening, one of those harmonious evenings when
our feelings gain in depth what they lose in vivacity. It was a day of
days in this poor woman's life; a spot of brightness which often
comforted her thoughts in painful hours.

Soon, however, the riding lessons became a subject of contention. The
countess justly feared the count's harsh reprimands to his son.
Jacques grew thin, dark circles surrounded his sweet blue eyes; rather
than trouble his mother, he suffered in silence. I advised him to tell
his father he was tired when the count's temper was violent; but that
expedient proved unavailing, and it became necessary to substitute the
old huntsman as a teacher in place of the father, who could with
difficulty be induced to resign his pupil. Angry reproaches and
contentions began once more; the count found a text for his continual
complaints in the base ingratitude of women; he flung the carriage,
horses, and liveries in his wife's face twenty times a day. At last a
circumstance occurred on which a man with his nature and his disease
naturally fastened eagerly. The cost of the buildings at the Cassine
and the Rhetoriere proved to be half as much again as the estimate.
This news was unfortunately given in the first instance to Monsieur de
Mortsauf instead of to his wife. It was the ground of a quarrel, which
began mildly but grew more and more embittered until it seemed as
though the count's madness, lulled for a short time, was demanding its
arrearages from the poor wife.

That day I had started from Frapesle at half-past ten to search for
flowers with Madeleine. The child had brought the two vases to the
portico, and I was wandering about the gardens and adjoining meadows
gathering the autumn flowers, so beautiful, but too rare. Returning
from my final quest, I could not find my little lieutenant with her
white cape and broad pink sash; but I heard cries within the house,
and Madeleine presently came running out.

"The general," she said, crying (the term with her was an expression
of dislike), "the general is scolding mamma; go and defend her."

I sprang up the steps of the portico and reached the salon without
being seen by either the count or his wife. Hearing the madman's sharp
cries I first shut all the doors, then I returned and found Henriette
as white as her dress.

"Never marry, Felix," said the count as soon as he saw me; "a woman is
led by the devil; the most virtuous of them would invent evil if it
did not exist; they are all vile."

Then followed arguments without beginning or end. Harking back to the
old troubles, Monsieur de Mortsauf repeated the nonsense of the
peasantry against the new system of farming. He declared that if he
had had the management of Clochegourde he should be twice as rich as
he now was. He shouted these complaints and insults, he swore, he
sprang around the room knocking against the furniture and displacing
it; then in the middle of a sentence he stopped short, complained that
his very marrow was on fire, his brains melting away like his money,
his wife had ruined him! The countess smiled and looked upward.

"Yes, Blanche," he cried, "you are my executioner; you are killing me;
I am in your way; you want to get rid of me; you are monster of
hypocrisy. She is smiling! Do you know why she smiles, Felix?"

I kept silence and looked down.

"That woman," he continued, answering his own question, "denies me all
happiness; she is no more to me than she is to you, and yet she
pretends to be my wife! She bears my name and fulfils none of the
duties which all laws, human and divine, impose upon her; she lies to
God and man. She obliges me to go long distances, hoping to wear me
out and make me leave her to herself; I am displeasing to her, she
hates me; she puts all her art into keeping me away from her; she has
made me mad through the privations she imposes on me--for everything
flies to my poor head; she is killing me by degrees, and she thinks
herself a saint and takes the sacrament every month!"

The countess was weeping bitterly, humiliated by the degradation of
the man, to whom she kept saying for all answer, "Monsieur! monsieur!

Though the count's words made me blush, more for him than for
Henriette, they stirred my heart violently, for they appealed to the
sense of chastity and delicacy which is indeed the very warp and woof
of first love.

"She is virgin at my expense," cried the count.

At these words the countess cried out, "Monsieur!"

"What do you mean with your imperious 'Monsieur!'" he shouted. "Am I
not your master? Must I teach you that I am?"

He came towards her, thrusting forward his white wolf's head, now
hideous, for his yellow eyes had a savage expression which made him
look like a wild beast rushing out of a wood. Henriette slid from her
chair to the ground to avoid a blow, which however was not given; she
lay at full length on the floor and lost consciousness, completely
exhausted. The count was like a murderer who feels the blood of his
victim spurting in his face; he stopped short, bewildered. I took the
poor woman in my arms, and the count let me take her, as though he
felt unworthy to touch her; but he went before me to open the door of
her bedroom next the salon,--a sacred room I had never entered. I put
the countess on her feet and held her for a moment in one arm, passing
the other round her waist, while Monsieur de Mortsauf took the eider-
down coverlet from the bed; then together we lifted her and laid her,
still dressed, on the bed. When she came to herself she motioned to us
to unfasten her belt. Monsieur de Mortsauf found a pair of scissors,
and cut through it; I made her breathe salts, and she opened her eyes.
The count left the room, more ashamed than sorry. Two hours passed in
perfect silence. Henriette's hand lay in mine; she pressed it to mine,
but could not speak. From time to time she opened her eyes as if to
tell me by a look that she wished to be still and silent; then
suddenly, for an instant, there seemed a change; she rose on her elbow
and whispered, "Unhappy man!--ah! if you did but know--"

She fell back upon the pillow. The remembrance of her past sufferings,
joined to the present shock, threw her again into the nervous
convulsions I had just calmed by the magnetism of love,--a power then
unknown to me, but which I used instinctively. I held her with gentle
force, and she gave me a look which made me weep. When the nervous
motions ceased I smoothed her disordered hair, the first and only time
that I ever touched it; then I again took her hand and sat looking at
the room, all brown and gray, at the bed with its simple chintz
curtains, at the toilet table draped in a fashion now discarded, at
the commonplace sofa with its quilted mattress. What poetry I could
read in that room! What renunciations of luxury for herself; the only
luxury being its spotless cleanliness. Sacred cell of a married nun,
filled with holy resignation; its sole adornments were the crucifix of
her bed, and above it the portrait of her aunt; then, on each side of
the holy water basin, two drawings of the children made by herself,
with locks of their hair when they were little. What a retreat for a
woman whose appearance in the great world of fashion would have made
the handsomest of her sex jealous! Such was the chamber where the
daughter of an illustrious family wept out her days, sunken at this
moment in anguish, and denying herself the love that might have
comforted her. Hidden, irreparable woe! Tears of the victim for her
slayer, tears of the slayer for his victim! When the children and
waiting-woman came at length into the room I left it. The count was
waiting for me; he seemed to seek me as a mediating power between
himself and his wife. He caught my hands, exclaiming, "Stay, stay with
us, Felix!"

"Unfortunately," I said, "Monsieur de Chessel has a party, and my
absence would cause remark. But after dinner I will return."

He left the house when I did, and took me to the lower gate without
speaking; then he accompanied me to Frapesle, seeming not to know what
he was doing. At last I said to him, "For heaven's sake, Monsieur le
comte, let her manage your affairs if it pleases her, and don't
torment her."

"I have not long to live," he said gravely; "she will not suffer long
through me; my head is giving way."

He left me in a spasm of involuntary self-pity. After dinner I
returned for news of Madame de Mortsauf, who was already better. If
such were the joys of marriage, if such scenes were frequent, how
could she survive them long? What slow, unpunished murder was this?
During that day I understood the tortures by which the count was
wearing out his wife. Before what tribunal can we arraign such crimes?
These thoughts stunned me; I could say nothing to Henriette by word of
mouth, but I spent the night in writing to her. Of the three or four
letters that I wrote I have kept only the beginning of one, with which
I was not satisfied. Here it is, for though it seems to me to express
nothing, and to speak too much of myself when I ought only to have
thought of her, it will serve to show you the state my soul was in:--

To Madame de Mortsauf:

How many things I had to say to you when I reached the house! I
thought of them on the way, but I forgot them in your presence.
Yes, when I see you, dear Henriette, I find my thoughts no longer
in keeping with the light from your soul which heightens your
beauty; then, too, the happiness of being near you is so ineffable
as to efface all other feelings. Each time we meet I am born into
a broader life; I am like the traveller who climbs a rock and sees
before him a new horizon. Each time you talk with me I add new
treasures to my treasury. There lies, I think, the secret of long
and inexhaustible affections. I can only speak to you of yourself
when away from you. In your presence I am too dazzled to see, too
happy to question my happiness, too full of you to be myself, too
eloquent through you to speak, too eager in seizing the present
moment to remember the past. You must think of this state of
intoxication and forgive me its consequent mistakes.

When near you I can only feel. Yet, I have courage to say, dear
Henriette, that never, in all the many joys you have given me,
never did I taste such joy as filled my soul when, after that
dreadful storm through which you struggled with superhuman
courage, you came to yourself alone with me, in the twilight of
your chamber where that unhappy scene had brought me. I alone
know the light that shines from a woman when through the portals
of death she re-enters life with the dawn of a rebirth tinting her
brow. What harmonies were in your voice! How words, even your
words, seemed paltry when the sound of that adored voice--in
itself the echo of past pains mingled with divine consolations--
blessed me with the gift of your first thought. I knew you were
brilliant with all human splendor, but yesterday I found a new
Henriette, who might be mine if God so willed; I beheld a spirit
freed from the bodily trammels which repress the ardors of the
soul. Ah! thou wert beautiful indeed in thy weakness, majestic in
thy prostration. Yesterday I found something more beautiful than
thy beauty, sweeter than thy voice; lights more sparkling than the
light of thine eyes, perfumes for which there are no words--
yesterday thy soul was visible and palpable. Would I could have
opened my heart and made thee live there! Yesterday I lost the
respectful timidity with which thy presence inspires me; thy
weakness brought us nearer together. Then, when the crisis passed
and thou couldst bear our atmosphere once more, I knew what it was
to breathe in unison with thy breath. How many prayers rose up to
heaven in that moment! Since I did not die as I rushed through
space to ask of God that he would leave thee with me, no human
creature can die of joy nor yet of sorrow. That moment has left
memories buried in my soul which never again will reappear upon
its surface and leave me tearless. Yes, the fears with which my
soul was tortured yesterday are incomparably greater than all
sorrows that the future can bring upon me, just as the joys which
thou hast given me, dear eternal thought of my life! will be
forever greater than any future joy God may be pleased to grant
me. Thou hast made me comprehend the love divine, that sure love,
sure in strength and in duration, that knows no doubt or jealousy.

Deepest melancholy gnawed my soul; the glimpse into that hidden life
was agonizing to a young heart new to social emotions; it was an awful
thing to find this abyss at the opening of life,--a bottomless abyss,
a Dead Sea. This dreadful aggregation of misfortunes suggested many
thoughts; at my first step into social life I found a standard of
comparison by which all other events and circumstances must seem

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