Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

Atlantic Monthly, Volume 8, Issue 49, November, 1861 by Various

Part 1 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download Atlantic Monthly, Volume 8, Issue 49, November, 1861 pdf
File size: 0.6 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Distributed Proofreaders





"Deduci superbo
Non humilis mulier triumpho."

These words are applied by Horace to the great Cleopatra, whose heroic
end he celebrates, even while exulting in her overthrow. We apply them
to another woman of royal soul, who, capitulating with the world of her
contemporaries, does not allow them the ignoble triumph of plundering
the secrets of her life. They have long clamored at its gates, long
shouted at its windows, in defamation and in glorification. Ready now
for their admission, she lets the eager public in; but what they were
most intent to find still eludes them. In the "Histoire de ma Vie" are
the records of her parentage, birth, education. Here are detailed the
subtile influences that aided or hindered Nature in one of her most
lavish pieces of work; here are study, religion, marriage, maternity,
authorship, friendship, travel, litigation: but the passionate loving
woman, and whom she loved, are not here. To the world's triumph they
belong not, and we honor the decency and self-respect which consign them
to oblivion. Nor shall we endeavor to lift the veil which she has thus
thrown over the most intimate portion of her private life. We will not
ask any _Chronique Scandaleuse_, of which there are plenty, to supply
any hiatus in the _dramatis personae_ of her life. We shall take her as
she gives herself to us, bringing out the full significance of what she
says, but not interpolating with it what other people say. For she has
been generous in telling us all that it imports us most to know.
The itching curiosity of the spiteful or the vicious must seek its
gratification at other hands than ours: we will not be its ministers.
With all this, we are not obliged to shut our eyes to the true
significance of what she tells us, or to assume that in the account
she gives us of herself there is necessarily less self-deception than
self-judgment generally exhibits. If she mistakes the selfish for the
heroic, exalts a gratification into a duty, and preaches to her sex as
from the standpoint of a morality superior to theirs, we shall set it
down as it seems to us. But, for the sake of manhood as well as of
womanhood, we would not that any mean or malignant hand should endeavor
to show where she failed, and how.

Was she not to all of us, in our early years, a name of doubt, dread,
and enchantment? Did not all of us feel, in our young admiration for
her, something of the world's great struggle between conservative
discipline and revolutionary inspiration? We knew our parents would not
have us read her, _if they knew_. We knew they were right. Yet we read
her at stolen hours, with waning and still entreated light; and as we
read, in a dreary wintry room, with the flickering candle warning us
of late hours and confiding expectations, the atmosphere grew warm and
glorious about us,--a true human company, a living sympathy crept near
us,--the very world seemed not the same world after as before. She had
given us a real gift; no criticism could take it away. The hands might
be sinful, but the box they broke contained an exceeding precious

At a later day we saw these things rather differently. The electric
intoxication over, which book or being gives but once to the same
person, its elements were viewed with some distrust. Passing from ideal
to real life, as all pass, who live on, we shook our heads over the
books, sighed, ceased to read them. Grown mothers ourselves, we quietly
removed them as far as possible from the young hands about us, and would
rather have deprived them of the noble French language altogether than
have allowed it to bring them such lessons as Jacques and Valentine.
Yet we retain the old love for her; the world of literature still seems
brighter for her footsteps; and should we live to learn her death, tears
must follow it, and the sense of void left by the loss of a true friend,
noble and loyal-hearted, if mistaken. With this confession of sympathy
with the woman, we begin the critical consideration of the memoirs of
herself she has given to the world.

These memoirs begin at the earliest possible period, including the lives
of her parents and grandparents. The latter were illustrious on
one side, obscure on the other. She tells us that by her paternal
grandmother she was allied to the kings of France, and by her maternal
grandfather to the lowest of the people. The grandmother in question
was the natural daughter of the famous Marechal de Saxe, recognized and
educated, but finally left with slender resources, and married to M.
Dupin de Francueil, an accomplished person of good family and fortune,
greatly her senior. To him she bore one child, a son named Maurice,
after the great soldier. As might have been expected, her widowhood was
early and long, for her aged partner soon dropped from her side, beloved
and regretted. George tells us that her grandmother was wont to insist
that an old man can be more agreeable in the marital relation than a
young one, and that M. Dupin de Francueil, elegant, accomplished,
and devoted to her happiness, had in his life left nothing for her
imagination to desire or her heart to regret.

As this lady is one of the heroines of the "Histoire de ma Vie," we
cannot do it justice without lingering a little over her portraiture.
She is described as tall, fair, and of a Saxon type of beauty. Her
manners would seem to have been _de haute ecole_, and her culture was
on a large and noble scale. Austere in her morals, her faith was the
deistic philosophy of the ante-revolutionary period; but, like other
people of noble mind, instead of making doubt a pretext for license, she
brought up virtue to justify the latitude of her creed, that the solid
results of conscience should entitle her to the free interpretation of
doctrine. She was chaste, benevolent, and sincere. Her mother had been a
singer of merit and celebrity, and she, the daughter, had both inherited
her musical talent, and had received one of those thorough musical
educations which alone make the possession of the art a pleasure and
resource. It must often occur to those who hear our young ladies sing
and play, that the accomplishment is little valued by them, save as an
outward social adornment.

Hence those ambitious and perfectly uninteresting performances with
which we are constantly bored in the fashionable musical world. It is
self-love which gives us those flat, empty _adagios_, those cold,
keen runs and embellishments. Love of the art has more modesty in the
undertaking, and more warmth in the execution. George says that she
has heard all the greatest singers of modern times, but that her
grandmother, in her old age, singing fragments of the operas of her own
time in a cracked and trembling voice, and accompanying herself on an
old harpsichord with three fingers of a palsied hand, always remained to
her a type of art above all others.

The first volume of these memoirs gives interesting notice of the
friendships which surrounded Madame Dupin during her married life. These
embraced various celebrities, historical and literary. Her husband was
the congenial friend of the best minds of the day, and was able, among
other things, to procure her the difficult pleasure of an interview
with Jean Jacques Rousseau, then living near her in great spleen and
retirement. We cannot do better than to give the relation of this in
her own words, as preserved by her grand-daughter. It is highly
characteristic of the parties and of the times.

"Before I had seen Rousseau, I had read the 'Nouvelle Heloise' in one
breath, and at the last pages I found myself so overcome that I wept and
sobbed. My husband gently rallied me for this; but that day I could only
cry from morning till evening. During this, M. de Francueil, with the
address and the grace which he knew how to put into everything, ran to
find Jean Jacques. I do not know how he managed it, but he carried him
off, he brought him, without having communicated to me his intention.

"I, unconscious of all this, was not hastening my toilet. I was with
Madame d'Esparbes de Lussan, my friend, the most amiable woman in
the world, and the prettiest, _though she squinted a little, and was
slightly deformed._ M. de Francueil had come several times to see if I
was ready. I did not observe any marks of haste in my husband, and did
not hurry myself, never suspecting that he was there, the sublime Bear,
in my parlor. He had entered, looking partly foolish and partly cross,
and had seated himself in a corner, showing no other impatience than
that about dinner, in order to get away very soon.

"Finally, my toilet finished, and my eyes still red and swollen, I go
to the parlor. I see a little man, ill-dressed and scowling, who rose
clumsily, who _chewed out_ some confused words. I look, and I guess who
it is,--I try to speak,--I burst into tears. Francueil tries to put
us in tune by a pleasantry, and bursts into tears. We could not say
anything to each other. Rousseau pressed my hand without addressing me a
single word. We tried to dine, to cut short all these sobs. But I could
eat nothing. M. de Francueil could not be witty that day, and
Rousseau escaped directly on leaving the table, without having said a
word,--displeased, perhaps, with having found a new contradiction to
his claim of being the most persecuted, the most hated, and the most
calumniated of men."

The simplicity of this narration justifies its quotation here, as
illustrative of the taste and manners that prevailed a hundred years
ago. The lively emotion provoked by the "Nouvelle Heloise" is scarcely
more foreign to our ideas and experience than the triangular fit of
weeping in the parlor, and the dinner, silent through excess of feeling,
that followed it.

M. Dupin de Francueil lived with great, but generous extravagance, and,
as his widow averred, "ruined himself in the most amiable manner in the
world." He died, leaving large estates in great confusion, from which
his widow and young son were compelled to "accept the poverty" of
seventy-five thousand livres of annual income,--a sum which the
Revolution, at a later day, greatly reduced. Till its outbreak, Madame
Dupin lived in peace and affluence, though not on the grand scale of
earlier days,--devoting herself chiefly to the care and education of her
son, Maurice, in which latter task she secured the services of a young
abbe, who afterwards prudently became the _Citizen_ Deschartres, and who
continued in the service of the family during the rest of a tolerably
long life. This personage plays too important a part in the memoirs to
be passed over without special notice. He continued to be the faithful
teacher and companion of Maurice, until the exigencies of military life
removed the latter from his control. He was also the man of business of
Madame Dupin, and, at a later day, the preceptor of George herself, who,
with childish petulance, bestowed on him the sobriquet of _grand homme_,
in consequence, she tells us, of his _omnicompetence_ and his air of
importance. "My grandmother," she says, "had no presentiment, that, in
confiding to him the education of her son, she was securing the tyrant,
the saviour, and the friend of her whole remaining life." We would
gladly give here in full George's portrait of her tutor; but if we
should stop to sketch all the admirable photography of this work, our
review would become a volume. We can only borrow a trait or two, and
pass on to the consideration of other matters.

"He had been good-looking; but I am sure that no one, even in his best
days, could have looked at him without laughing, so clearly was the word
_pedant_ written in all the lines of his face and in every movement of
his person. To be complete, he should have been ignorant, _gourmand_,
and cowardly. But, far from this, he was very learned, temperate, and
madly courageous. He had all the great qualities of the soul, joined
to an insufferable disposition, and a self-satisfaction which amounted
almost to delirium. But what devotion, what zeal, what a tender and
generous soul!"

In the intervals of his necessary occupations he studied medicine and
surgery, in the latter of which he attained considerable skill. In the
many subsequent years of his country life, he made these accomplishments
very useful to the village folk. No stress of weather or
unseasonableness of hours could detain him from attending the sick, when
summoned; but being obliged, as George says, to be ridiculous as well as
sublime in all things, he was wont to beat his patients when they were
bold enough to offer him money for their cure, and even made missile
weapons of the poultry and game which they brought him in acknowledgment
of his services, assailing them with blows and harder words, till they
fled, amused or angry. Maurice, his first pupil, was a delicate and
indolent child, and showed little robustness of character till his early
manhood, when the necessity of a career forced him into the ranks of the
great army.

The first threatenings of the Revolution found in Madame Dupin an
unalarmed observer. As a disciple of Voltaire and Rousseau, she could
not but detest the abuses of the Court; she shared, too, the general
personal alienation of the aristocracy from the _German woman_, as they
called Marie Antoinette. She admired, in turn, the probity of Necker and
the genius of Mirabeau; but the current of disorder finally found its
way to her, and swept away her household peace among the innumerable
wrecks that marked its passage. Implicated as the depository of some
papers supposed to be of treasonable character, she was arrested and
imprisoned in Paris, her son and Deschartres being officially separated
from her and detained at Passy. The imprisonment lasted some months, and
its tedium was beguiled by the most fervent love-letters between the boy
of sixteen and his mother. The sorrow of this separation, George says,
metamorphosed the sickly, spoiled child into a fervent and resolute
youth, whose subsequent career was full of courage and self-denial. Of
the Revolution she writes:--

"In my eyes, it is one of the phases of evangelical life: a tumultuous,
bloody life, terrible at certain moments, full of convulsions, of
delirium, and of sobbing. It is the violent contest of the principle of
equality preached by Jesus, and passing, now like a radiant light, now
like a burning torch, from hand to hand, to our own days, against the
old pagan world, which is not destroyed, which will not be for a long
time yet, in spite of the mission of Christ, and so many other divine
missions, in spite of so many stakes, scaffolds, and martyrs. What is
there, then, to astonish us in the vertigo which seized all minds at
the period of the inextricable _melee_ into which France precipitated
herself in '93? When everything went by retaliation, when every one
became, by deed or intention, victim and executioner in turn, and when
between the oppression endured and the oppression exercised there was
no time for reflection or liberty of choice, how could passion have
abstracted itself in action, or impartiality have dictated quiet
judgments? Passionate souls were judged by others as passionate, and the
human race cried out as in the time of the ancient Hussites,--'This is a
time of mourning, of zeal, and of fury.'"

The tone of our author concerning this and subsequent revolutions which
have come within her own observation is throughout temperate, hopeful,
and charitable. The noblest side of womanhood comes out in this; and
however her fiery youth might have counselled, in the pages now under
consideration she appears as the apologist of humankind, the world's

George loves to linger over the details of her father's early life.
They are, indeed, all she possesses of him, as she was still in early
childhood when he died. So much and such charming narrations has she
to give us of his military life, his musical ability, his courage and
disinterestedness, that she herself does not manage to get born until
nearly the end of the third volume, and that through a series of
concatenations which we must hastily review.

The imprisonment of Madame Dupin was not long; after some months of
detention, she was allowed to rejoin her son at Passy, and the whole
family-party speedily removed to Nohant, in the heart of Berry, which
henceforth figures as the homestead in the pages of these volumes. But
Maurice is soon obliged to adopt a profession. His mother's revenues
have been considerably diminished by the political troubles. He feels in
himself the power, the determination, to carve out a career for
himself, and gallantly enters, as a simple soldier, the armies of the
Republic,--Napoleon Bonaparte being First Consul. Although he soon saw
service, his promotion seems to have been slow and difficult. He was
full of military ardor, and laborious in acquiring the science of his
profession; but there were already so many candidates for every smallest
distinction, and Maurice was no courtier, to help out his deserts with a
little fortunate flattery. He complains in his letters that the tide has
already turned, and that even in the army diplomacy fares better than
real bravery. Still, he soon rose from the ranks, served with honor on
the Rhine and in Italy, and became finally attached to the _personnel_
of Murat, during the occupation of the Peninsula. His title of grandson
of the Marechal de Saxe was sometimes helpful, sometimes hurtful. In the
eyes of his comrades it won him honor; but Napoleon, on hearing his high
descent urged as a claim to consideration, is said to have replied,
brusquely,--"I don't want any of those people." In his letters to
his mother, he recounts his adventures, military and amorous, with
frankness, but without boasting; but his confidences soon become very
partial, and before she knows it the poor mother has a dangerous rival.
We will let him give his own account of the origin of this new relation.

"You know that I was in love in Milan. You guessed it, because I did not
tell you of it. At times I fancied myself beloved in return, and then I
saw, or thought I saw, that I was not. I wished to divert my thoughts; I
went away, desiring to think no more of it.

"This charming woman is here, and we have hardly spoken to each other.
We scarcely exchanged a look. I felt a little vexation, though that is
scarcely in my nature. She was proud towards me, although her heart is
tender and passionate. This morning, during breakfast, we heard distant
cannon. The General ordered me to mount at once, and go to see what it
was. I rise, take the staircase in two bounds, and run to the stable.
At the very moment of mounting my horse I turned and saw behind me this
dear woman, blushing, embarrassed, and casting on me a lingering look,
expressive of fear, interest, love."

This fatal look, as the experienced will readily conceive, did the
business. The young soldier dreamed only of a love affair like twenty
others which had made the pastime of his oft-changing quarters; but this
"dear woman," Sophie Victoire Antoinette Delaborde, daughter of an old
bird-fancier, was destined to become his wife, and the mother of his
daughter, Aurore Dupin, whom the world knows as George Sand. The
circumstances of her youth had been untoward. She was at this period
already the mother of one child, born out of marriage, and seems to have
been making the campaign of Italy under the so-called protection of some
rich man, whose name is not given us. This protection she hastened to
leave, following thenceforward with devotion the precarious fortunes
of the young soldier, and gaining her own subsistence, until their
marriage, by the toil of the needle, to which she had been bred. Of
course, Maurice's confidences to his mother under this head soon cease.
An amour with a person in Victoire's position could be admitted; but
a serious, solid affection, leading to marriage, this would break his
mother's heart, and indeed not without reason. The reader must remember
that this is a chapter out of French society, on which account we
suppress all hysterical comment upon a state of things universally
received and acknowledged therein. Maurice's trivial, and _we_ should
say, unprincipled pursuit of Victoire would be considered perfectly
legitimate in the sphere which made the world to him. The sequel,
perhaps, would not have been considered differently here and there; for,
however we may recognize the sacredness of true affection, a marriage
so unequal and with such sinister antecedents would be regarded in all
society with little approbation, or hope of good. His mother soon grew
alarmed, as various symptoms of an enduring and carefully concealed
attachment became evident to her keen observation. In the years that
followed, she left no means untried to break off this dangerous
connection;--her remonstrances were by turns tender and violent,--her
reasonings, no doubt, in great part just; but Maurice defended the woman
of his choice from all accusations, from every annoyance, on the ground
of her devoted and honorable attachment to him. After four years of
continued trouble and irresolution, in which, George tells us, he had
again and again made the endeavor to sacrifice Victoire to his mother's
happiness, and after the birth of several children, who soon ceased
to live, he wedded her by civil rite. The birth of his daughter soon
followed. "And thus it was," says George, "that I was born legitimate."

"My mother had on a pretty pink dress that day, and my father was
playing some _contredanses_ on his faithful Cremona (I have it yet, that
old instrument by the sound of which I first saw the light). My mother
left the dance and passed into her own room. As she went out very
quietly, the dance continued. At the last _chassez all round_, my Aunt
Lucy went into my mother's room, and immediately cried,--

"Come, come here, Maurice! You have a daughter!"

"She shall be named Aurore, for my poor mother, who is not here to bless
her, but who will bless her one day," said my father, receiving me in
his arms.

"She was born in music and in pink," said my aunt. "She will be happy."

Not eminent, perhaps, has been the realization of this augury.

The young couple were so poor, at this moment of their marriage, that a
slender thread of gold was forced to serve for the nuptial ring; it was
not until some days later that they were able to expend six francs in
the purchase of that indispensable ornament. The act once consummated,
Maurice gave himself up to some hours of bitter suffering, made
inevitable by what he considered a grave act of disobedience against the
best of mothers. His conscience, however, on the whole, justified
him. He had obeyed the Scripture precept, forsaking the old for the
inevitable new relation, and surrounding her who was really his wife
with the immunities of civil recognition. The marriage was concealed for
some months from his mother,--who at a subsequent period left no stone
unturned to prove its nullity. The religious ceremony, which Catholicism
considers as the indissoluble tie, had not yet been performed, and
Mme. Dupin hoped to prove some informality in the civil rite. In
this, however, she did not succeed, and after long resistance, and
ill-concealed displeasure, she concluded by acknowledging the unwelcome
alliance. It was the little Aurore herself whose unconscious hand
severed the Gordian knot of the family difficulties. Introduced by a
stratagem into her grandmother's presence, and seated in her lap as the
child of a stranger, the family traits were suddenly recognized, and the
little one (eight months old) effected a change of heart which neither
lawyer nor priest could have induced. St. Childhood is fortunately
always in the world, working ever these miracles of reconciliation.

George speaks with admirable candor of the inevitable relations between
these two women. She does full justice to the legitimacy of the
grandmother's objections to the marriage, and her fears for its result,
which were founded much more on moral than on social considerations. At
the same time she nobly asserts her mother's claim to rehabilitation
through a passionate and disinterested attachment, a faithful devotion
to the duties of marriage and maternity, and a widowhood whose sorrow
ended only with her life. She says,--"The doctrine of redemption is the
symbol of the principle of expiation and of rehabilitation"; but she
adds,--"Our society recognizes this principle in religious theory,
but not in practice; it is too great, too beautiful for us." She says
farther,--"There still exists a pretended aristocracy of virtue, which,
proud of its privileges, does not admit that the errors of youth are
susceptible of atonement. This condemnation is the more absurd, because,
for what is called the World, it is hypocritical. It is not only women
of really irreproachable life, nor matrons truly respected, who are
called upon to decide upon the merits of their misled sisters. It is not
the company of the excellent of the earth who make opinion. That is all
a dream. The great majority of women of the world is really a majority
of _lost women_." We must understand these remarks as applying to French
society, in respect even of which we are not inclined to admit their
truth. Yet there is a certain justice in the inference that women
are often most severely condemned by those who are no better than
themselves; and this insincerity of uncharity is far more to be dreaded
than the over-zeal of virtuous hearts, which oftenest helps and heals
where it has been obliged to wound.

At the risk of unduly multiplying quotations, we will quote here what
George says of her mother in this, the flower of her days. At a later
day, the ill-regulated character suffered and made others suffer with
its own discords, which education and moral training had done nothing to
reconcile. The manly support, too, of the nobler nature was wanting,
and the best half of her future and its possibilities was buried in the
untimely grave of her husband. Here is what she was when she was at her

"My mother never felt herself either humiliated or honored by the
company of people who might have considered themselves her superiors.
She ridiculed keenly the pride of fools, the vanity of _parvenus_, and,
feeling herself of the people to her very finger-ends, she thought
herself more noble than all the patricians and aristocrats of the earth.
She was wont to say that those of her race had redder blood and larger
veins than others,--which I incline to believe; for, if moral and
physical energy constitute in reality the excellence of races, we cannot
deny that this energy is compelled to diminish in those who lose the
habit of labor and the courage of endurance. This aphorism is certainly
not without exception, and we may add that excess of labor and of
endurance enervates the organization as much as the excess of luxury and
idleness. But it is certain, in general, that life rises from the bottom
of society, and loses itself in measure as it rises to the top, like the
sap in plants.

"My mother was not one of those bold _intrigantes_ whose secret passion
is to struggle against the prejudices of their time, and who think to
make themselves greater by clinging, at the risk of a thousand affronts,
to the false greatness of the world. She was far too proud to expose
herself even to coldness. Her attitude was so reserved that she passed
for a timid person; but if one attempted to encourage her by airs of
protection, she became more than reserved, she showed herself cold and
taciturn. With people who inspired her with respect, she was amiable and
charming; but her real disposition was gay, petulant, active, and, above
all, opposed to constraint. Great dinners, long _soirees_, commonplace
visits, balls themselves, were odious to her. She was the woman of the
fireside or of the rapid and frolicking walk; but in her interior, as in
her goings abroad, intimacy, confidence, relations of entire sincerity,
absolute freedom in her habits and the employment of her time, were
indispensable to her. She, therefore, always lived in a retired manner,
more anxious to avoid unpleasant acquaintances than eager to make
advantageous ones. Such, too, was the foundation of my father's
character, and in this respect never was couple better assorted. They
were never happy out of their little household. And they have bequeathed
me this secret _sauvagerie_, which has always rendered the [fashionable]
world insupportable to me, and home indispensable."

In referring back to these volumes, we are led into continual loiterings
by the way. The style of our heroine is so magical, that we are
constantly tempted to let her tell her own story, and to give to the
gems of hers which we insert in these pages the slightest possible
setting of our own. But it is not our business to anticipate for any one
a reading from which no student of modern literature, or, indeed, of
modern mind, will excuse himself. We must give only so much as shall
make it sure that others will seek more at the fountain-head; but for
this purpose we must turn less to the book, and trust for our narration
to a sufficiently recent perusal still vividly remembered.

Aurore could scarcely have passed out of her third year when she
accompanied her mother to Madrid, where her father was already in
attendance upon Murat. She remembers their quarters in the palace,
magnificently furnished, and the half-broken toys of the royal
children, whose destruction she was allowed to complete. To please his
commander-in-chief, her father caused her to assume a miniature uniform,
like those of the Prince's aide-de-camps, whose splendid discomfort she
still recalls. This would seem a sort of prophecy of that assuming
of male attire in later years which was to constitute a capital
circumstance in her life. The return from the Peninsula was weary and
painful to the mother and child, and made more so by the disgust with
which the Spanish roadside bill-of-fare inspired the more civilized
French stomach. They were forced to make a part of the journey in wagons
with the common soldiery and camp-retainers, and Aurore in this manner
took the itch, to her mother's great mortification. Arrived at Nohant,
however, the care of Deschartres, joined to a self-imposed _regime_ of
green lemons, which the little girl devoured, skins, seeds, and all,
soon healed the ignominious eruption. Here the whole family passed some
months of happy repose, too soon interrupted by the tragical death of
Maurice. He had brought back from Spain a formidable horse, which he had
christened the _terrible_ Leopardo, and which, brave cavalier as he was,
he never mounted without a certain indefinable misgiving. He often said,
"I ride him badly, because I am afraid of him, and he knows it."
Dining with some friends in the neighborhood, one day, he was late in
returning. His wife and mother passed the evening together, the first
jealous and displeased at his protracted absence, the second occupied in
calming the irritation and rebuking the suspicions of her companion. The
wife at last yielded, and retired to rest. But the mother's heart, more
anxious, watched and watched. Towards midnight, a slight confusion in
the house augmented her alarm. She started at once, alone and thinly
dressed, to go and meet her son. The night was dark and rainy; the
terrible Leopardo had fulfilled the prophetic forebodings of his rider.
The poor lady, brought up in habits of extreme inactivity, had taken but
two walks in all her life. The first had been to surprise her son at
Passy, when released from the Revolutionary prison. The second was to
meet and escort back his lifeless body, found senseless by the roadside.

We have done now with Aurore's ancestry, and must occupy our remaining
pages with accounts of herself. Much time is given by her to the record
of her early childhood, and the explanation of its various phases. She
loves children; it is perhaps for this reason that she dwells longest on
this period of her life, describing its minutest incidents with all the
poetry that is in her. One would think that her childhood seemed to
her that actual flower of her life which it is to few in their own
consciousness. Despite the loss of her father, and the vexed relations
between her mother and grandmother which followed his death, her
infancy was joyous and companionable, passed mostly with the country
surroundings and out-door influences which act so magically on the
young. It soon became evident that she was to be confided chiefly to her
grandmother's care; and this, which was at first a fear, soon came to be
a sorrow. Still her mother was often with her, and her time was divided
between the plays of her village-friends and the dreams of romantic
incident which early formed the main feature of her inner life. Already
at a very early age her mother used to say to those who laughed at the
little romancer,--"Let her alone; it is only when she is making her
novels between four chairs that I can work in peace." This habit of
mind grew with her growth. Her very dolls played grandiose parts in her
child-drama. The paper on the wall became animated to her at night, and
in her dreams she witnessed strange adventures between its Satyrs and
Bacchantes. Soon she imagined for herself a sort of angel-companion,
whose name was Corambe. His presence grew to be more real to her than
reality itself, and in her quiet moments she wove out the mythology of
his existence, as Bhavadgheetas and Mahabraatus have been dreamed. In
process of time, she built, or rather entwisted, for him a little shrine
in the woods. All pretty things the child could gather were brought
together there, to give him pleasure. But one day the foot of a little
playmate profaned this sanctuary, and Aurore sought it no more, while
still Corambe was with her everywhere.

Although she seems to have always suffered from her mother's
inequalities of temper, yet for many years she clung to her, and to the
thought of her, with jealous affection. The great difference of age
which separated her from her grandmother inspired fear, and the grand
manners and careful breeding of the elder lady increased this effect.
When left with her, the child fell into a state of melancholy, with
passionate reactions against the chilling, penetrating influence,
which yet, having reason on its side, was destined to subdue her. "Her
chamber, dark and perfumed, gave me the headache, and fits of spasmodic
yawning. When she said to me, '_Amuse yourself quietly_,' it seemed
to me as if she shut me up in a great box with her." What sympathetic
remembrances must this phrase evoke in all who remember the _gene_ of
similar constraints! George draws from this inferences of the wisdom of
Nature in confiding the duties of maternity to young creatures, whose
pulses have not yet lost the impatient leap of early pleasure and
energy, and to whom repose and reflection have not yet become the primal
necessities of life. This want of the nearness and sympathy of age
she was to experience more, as, by the consent of both parties,
her education was to be conducted under the superintendence of her
grandmother, from whom the mother derived her pension, and whose estate
the child was to inherit. The separation from her mother, gradually
effected, was the great sorrow of her childhood. She revolted from it
sometimes openly, sometimes in secret; and the project of escaping and
joining her mother in Paris, where, with her half-sister Caroline,
they would support themselves by needle-work, was soon formed and
long cherished. For the expenses of this intended journey, the child
carefully gathered and kept her little treasures, a coral comb, a ring
with a tiny brilliant, etc., etc. In contemplating these, she consoled
many a heartache; as who is there of us who has not often effectually
beguiled _ennui_ and privation by dreams of joys that never were to have
any other reality? The mother seems to have entered into this plan only
for the moment; it soon escaped her remembrance altogether, and the
little girl waited and waited to be sent for, till finally the whole
vision faded into a dream.

Deschartres, the tutor of Maurice, and of Hippolyte, his illegitimate
son, became also the instructor of the little Aurore. With all her
passion for out-door life, she felt always, she tells us, an invincible
necessity of mental cultivation, and perpetually astonished those
who had charge of her by her ardor alike in work and in play. Her
grandmother soon found that the child was never ill, so long as
sufficient freedom of exercise was permitted; so she was soon allowed to
run at will, dividing her time pretty equally between the study and the
fields. Thus she grew in mind and body from seven to twelve, promising
to be tall and handsome, though not in after-years fulfilling this
promise; for of her stature she tells us that it did not exceed that of
her mother, whom she calls a _petite femme_,--and of her appearance
she simply says that in her youth "with eyes, hair, and a robust
organization," she was neither handsome nor ugly. At the age of twelve,
a social necessity compelled her to go through the form of confession
and the first communion. Her grandmother was divided between the
convictions of her own liberalism, and the desire not to place her
cherished charge in direct opposition to the imperious demands of a
Catholic community. The laxity of the period allowed the compromise to
be managed in a merely formal and superficial manner. The grandmother
tried to give the rite a certain significance, at the same time
imploring the child "not to suppose that she was about to _eat her
Creator_." The confessor asked none of those questions which our author
simply qualifies as infamous, and, with a very mild course of catechism
and slight dose of devotion, that Rubicon of maturity was passed. Not
far beyond it waited a terrible trial, perhaps as great a sorrow as the
whole life was to bring. Aurore's diligence in her studies was marred
by the secret intention, long cherished, of escaping to her mother, and
adopting with her her former profession of dress-maker. Having one day
answered reproof with a petulant assertion of her desire to rejoin her
mother at all hazards, the grandmother determined to put an end to such
projects by a severe measure. Aurore was banished from her presence
during a certain number of days. Neither friend nor servant spoke to
her. She describes naturally enough this lonely, uncomforted condition,
in which, more than ever, she meditated upon the wished-for return to
her mother, and the beginning with her of a new life of industry and
privation. Summoned at last to her grandmother's bedside, and kneeling
to ask for reconciliation, she is forced to stay there, and to listen
to the most cruel and literal account of her mother's life, its early
errors, and their inevitable consequences.

"All that she narrated was true in point of fact, and attested by
circumstances whose detail admitted of no doubt. But this terrible
history might have been unveiled to me without injury to my respect
and love for my mother, and, thus told, it would have been much more
probable and more true. It would have sufficed to tell all the causes of
her misfortunes,--loneliness and poverty from the age of fourteen years,
the corruption of the rich, who are there to lie in wait for hunger and
to blight the flower of innocence, the pitiless rigorism of opinion,
which allows no return and accepts no expiation. They should also have
told me how my mother had redeemed the past, how faithfully she had
loved my father, how, since his death, she had lived humble, sad, and
retired. Finally, my poor grandmother let fall the fatal word. My mother
was a lost woman, and I a blind child rushing towards a precipice."

The horror of this disclosure did not work the miracle anticipated.
Aurore submitted indeed outwardly, but a spell of hardness and
hopelessness was drawn around her young heart, which neither tears nor
tenderness could break. The blow struck at the very roots of life and
hope in her. Self-respect was wounded in its core. If the mother who
bore her was vile, then she was vile also. All object in life seemed
gone. She tried to live from day to day without interest, without hope.
From her dark thoughts she found refuge only in extravagant gayety,
which brought physical weariness, but no repose of mind. She, who
had been on the whole a docile, manageable child, became so riotous,
unreasonable, and insupportable, that the only alternative of utter
waste of character seemed to be the discipline and seclusion of
the convent. She was accordingly taken to Paris, and received as a
_pensionnaire_ in the Convent des Anglaises, which had been, in the
Revolution, her grandmother's prison. To Aurore it was rather a place of
refuge than a place of detention. The chords of life had been cruelly
jarred in her bosom, and the discords in her character thence resulting
agonized her more than they displeased others. As for the extraordinary
communication which had led to this disorder of mind, we do not
hesitate, under the circumstances, to pronounce it an act of gratuitous
cruelty. Of all pangs that can assail a human heart, none transcends
that of learning the worthlessness of those we love; and to lay this
burden, which has crushed and crazed the strongest natures, upon the
tender heart of a child, was little less than murderous. Nor can
the motive assigned justify an act so cruel; since modern morality
increasingly teaches that the means must justify themselves, as well as
the end. In spite of these odious revelations, the child felt that her
love for her mother was undiminished, and a pitying comprehension of the
natural differences between the two nearest to her on earth slowly arose
in her mind, allowing her to do justice to the intentions of both.

Aurore wandered at first about the convent with only a vague feeling
of loneliness. The young girls, French and English, who composed its
classes, surveyed her in the beginning with distrust. Soon the youngest
and wildest set, called _Diables_, accorded her affiliation, and in
their company she managed to increase tolerably the anxieties and
troubles of the under-mistresses.

She was early initiated into the _great secret_, the traditionary legend
of the convent. This pointed at the existence, in some subterranean
dungeon, of a wretched prisoner, or perhaps of several, cut off from
liberty and light; and to _deliver the victim_ became the object of a
hundred wild expeditions, by day and by night, through the uninhabited
rooms and extensive vaults of the ancient edifice. The little ladies
hoarded with care their candle-ends,--they tumbled up and down ruinous
staircases, listened for groans and complaints, tried to undermine walls
and partitions, fortunately with little success. The victim was never
found, but her story was bequeathed from class to class, and her
deliverance was always the object and excuse of the _Diables_.

After much time wasted in these pursuits, attended by a mediocre
progress in the ordinary course of study and what the French call
_lecons d'agrement_, and we accomplishments, a critical moment came for
Aurore. She was weary of frolic and mischief,--she had tormented the
nuns to her heart's content. She knew not what new comedy to invent. She
thought of putting ink in the holy water,--it had been done already; of
hanging the parrot of the under-mistress,--but they had given her so
many frights, there would be nothing new in that. She saw, one
evening, the door of the little chapel open;--its quiet, its exquisite
cleanliness and simplicity attracted her. She had followed thither to
mock at the awkward motions of a little hunch-backed sister at her
devotions,--but once within she forgot this object. A veiled nun was
kneeling in her stall at prayer,--a single lamp feebly illuminated the
white walls,--a star looked in at her through the dim window. The nun
slowly rose and departed. Aurore was left alone. A calm, such as she had
never known, took possession of her,--a sudden light seemed to envelop
her,--she heard the mystical sentence vouchsafed to Saint Augustin:
"_Toile, lege!_" Turning to see who whispered it, she found herself

"I cherished no vain illusion. I did not believe in a miraculous voice.
I understood perfectly the sort of hallucination into which I had
fallen. I was neither elated nor frightened at it. Only, I felt that
Faith was taking possession of me, as I had wished, through the heart. I
was so grateful, in such delight, that a torrent of tears inundated my
face. 'Yes, yes, the veil is torn!' I said, 'I see the light of heaven!
I will go! But, before all, let me render thanks. To whom? how? What is
thy name?' said I to the unknown God who called me to him. 'How shall I
pray to thee? What language worthy of thee and capable of expressing
its love can my soul speak to thee? I know not; but thou readest my
heart,--thou seest that I love thee!'"

From this moment, Aurore gave herself up to the passion of devotion,
which, in natures like hers, is often the first to unclose. There are
all sorts of religious experiences,--some poor and shallow, some rich
and deep, with every variety of shade between. But wherever Love is
capable of being heroic, Religion will also find room to work its larger
miracles. Aurore's devotion was not likely to be a frigid recognition of
doctrine, nor to consist in the minute care of an infinitesimal soul,
whose salvation could be of small avail to any save its possessor. Her
religion could only be a sympathetic and contagious flame, running from
soul to soul, as beacon-fires catch at night and illuminate a whole
tract of country. From this time she became patient, thorough, and
laborious in all the duties of her age and place. A closer sympathy now
drew her to the nuns, with several of whom she formed happy and intimate
relations. The convent life became for the time her ideal of existence,
and she formed the plan, so common among young girls educated in this
manner, of taking the veil herself, when such a step should become
possible. This hidden purpose she carried with her, when, at the age of
sixteen, she quitted the convent with bitter regret, fearing the strange
world, fearing a conventional marriage, and looking back to the pleasant
restraints of tutelage, whose thorn hedges are always in blossom when we
view them from the dusty ways and traffic of real, responsible life.

Aurore exchanged her convent for a life of equal retirement; for her
grandmother, fearing lest the pietistic influences to which she had been
subjected should awake too dominant a chord in the passionate nature of
her pupil, brought her to Nohant at once, where, for a few days, she
realized the delight of a greater freedom from rule and surveillance. It
was pleasant for once, she says, to sleep into _la grasse matinee_, to
wear a bright gingham instead of her dress of purple serge, and to comb
her hair without being reminded that it was indecent for a young girl to
uncover her temples. The projects of marriage which had alarmed her were
abandoned for the present, and she was left to enjoy, unmolested, the
pleasure of finding again the friends and playmates of her youth. It
soon appeared, however, that the convent education had left many a
_lacune_, and the grandmother felt that the result of the three years'
claustration in nowise corresponded to its expense. Aurore set
herself to work to fill up, in secret, the many blanks left by her
preceptresses,--wishing, as she says, to conceal, as far as she could,
their want of faith or of thoroughness. She sat at her books half the
night, being gifted, according to her own account, with a marvellous
power of sacrificing sleep to any other necessity. At this time she
learned to ride on horseback, her first exploit being to tame a colt of
four years, the after-companion of many a wild scramble, who grew old
and died in her service. Her grandmother becoming soon after disabled by
a paralytic stroke, the alternation of this new exercise enabled Aurore
to bear the fatigues of the sick-room without serious inconvenience. Of
this period of her life our heroine speaks as follows:--

"Had my destiny caused me to pass immediately from my grandmother's
control to that of a husband, or of a convent, it is possible that,
subjected always to influences already accepted, I should never have
been myself. But it was decided by Fate that at the age of seventeen
years I should experience a suspension of external authority, and that I
should belong wholly to myself for nearly a year, to become, for good or
evil, what I was to be for nearly all the rest of my life."

Passing much of her time at the bedside of the invalid, now incapable of
giving any further direction to the young life so dear to her, Aurore
plunged into many studies which opened to her new worlds of thought
and observation. She read Chateaubriand with delight. The "Genie du
Christianisme" proved to her rather an intellectual than a religious
stimulant, and under its impulse she proceeded, as she says, to
encounter without ceremony the French and other authors most quoted
at that time, to wit: Locke, Bacon, Montesquieu, Leibnitz, Pascal, La
Bruyere, Pope, Milton, Dante, and others not below these in difficulty.
She studied them in a crude and hurried manner; but that wonderful
alembic of youth, with its fiery heat of ardor, enabled her to compose
these far and hastily gathered ingredients into a certain homogeneity of
knowledge. "The brain was young," she says, "the memory always fugitive;
but the sentiment was quick, and the will ever tense." From these
pursuits, interrupted by the cares of nursing, she broke loose only to
mount her favorite Colette, and accompany Deschartres in his hunting
expeditions. She attempted also to acquire some knowledge of Natural
History, Mineralogy, and so on; but science was always less congenial to
her than literature, and of Leibnitz, the "Theodicee" is the only work
of which she speaks with any familiarity. For convenience in riding and
hunting, she adopted, on occasion, the dress of a boy, a blouse,
cap, and trousers, to the great scandal of the neighborhood, already
indisposed towards her by reason of her eccentric reputation; since, as
one can imagine, a small French province is the last place in the world
where a young girl can display the lone-star banner of individuality
with impunity.

Aurore had promised her aged relative that she would not read Voltaire
before the age of thirty; but her literary wanderings soon brought her
across the path of Rousseau.

The French make the reading of the "Nouvelle Heloise" one of the epochs
in the life of woman. According to its motto, "The mother will not
allow the daughter to read it," this critical act is by common consent
adjourned till after marriage, when, we suppose, it appears something in
the light of a Bill of Rights, a coming to the knowledge of what women
can do, if they will. But as all Julie's _divagations_ occur before
marriage, and as her subsequent life becomes a model of Puritanic duty
and piety, one does not understand the applicability of her example to
French life, in which this progress is reversed. In this, as in all
works of true genius, people of the most opposite ways of thinking
take what is congenial to themselves,--the ardent and passionate fling
themselves on the swollen stream of Saint Preux's stormy love, the
older and colder justify Julie's repentance, and the slow but certain
rehabilitation of her character. With all its magnificences, and even
with the added zest of a forbidden book, the "Nouvelle Heloise" would be
very slow reading for our youth of today. Its perpetual balloon voyage
of sentiment was suited to other times, or finds sympathy to-day
with other races. With all this, there is a great depth of truth and
eloquence in its pages,--and its moral, which at first sight would seem
to be, that the blossom of vice necessarily contains the germ of virtue,
proves to be this wiser one, that you can tell the tree only by its
fruits, which slowly ripen with length of life. As a novel, it is out of
fashion,--for novels have fashion; as a development of the individuality
of passion, it has perhaps no equal. Be sure that Aurore saw in it its
fullest significance. It was strange reading for the disciple of the
convent, but she had laid her bold hand upon the tree of the knowledge
of good and of evil. She was not to be saved like a woman, through
ignorance, but like a man, through the wisdom which has its heavenly and
its earthly side. "Emile," the "Contrat Social," and the rest of the
series succeeded each other in her studies; but she does not speak of
the "Confessions," a book most cruel to those who love the merits of the
author, and to whom the nauseating vulgarity of his personal character
is a disgust scarcely to be recovered from. Taken at his best, however,
Rousseau was the Saint John of the Revolutionary Gospel, though the
bloody complement of its Apocalypse was left for other hands than his to
trace. To Aurore, stumbling almost unaided through fragmentary studies
of science and philosophy, his glowing, broad, synthetic statement was
indeed a revelation. It made an epoch in her life. She compared him to
Mozart. "In politics," she says, "I became the ardent disciple of this
master, and I followed him long without restriction. As to religion,
he seemed to me the most Christian of all the writers of his time. I
pardoned his abjuration of Catholicism the more easily because its
sacraments and title had been given to him in an irreligious manner,
well calculated to disgust him with them." But with Aurore, too, the day
of Catholicism was over,--its rites were become "heavy and unhealthy" to
her. Her faith in things divine was unshaken; but the confessional was
empty, the mass dull, the ceremonial ridiculous to her. She was glad to
pray alone, and in her own words. Hers was a nature beyond forms. By
a rapid intuition, she saw and appropriated what is intrinsic in all
religions,--faith in God and love to man. However wild and volcanic may
have been her creed in other matters, she has never lost sight of these
two cardinal points, which have been the consolation of her life and its
redemption. The year comprising these studies and this new freedom ended
sadly with the death of her grandmother.

And now, her real protectress being removed, the discords of life broke
in upon her, and asserted themselves. Scarcely was the beloved form
cold, when Aurore's mother arrived, to wake the echoes of the chateau
with wild abuse of its late mistress. By testamentary disposition,
Madame Dupin had made Aurore her heir, and had named two of her own
relatives as guardians; but the mother now insisted on her own rights,
and, after much acrimonious dispute and comment, carried Aurore from her
beloved solitudes to her own quarters in Paris,--a journey of sorrow,
and the beginning of sorrows. In her childhood Aurore had often longed
for this mother's breast as her natural refuge, and the true home of her
childish affections. But it "was one of those characters of self-will
and passion which deteriorate in later life, and in which no new moral
beauties spring up to replace the impulsive graces of youth. Regarding
Aurore now as the work of another's hands, she made her the victim of
ceaseless and causeless petulance. Her gross abuse of her mother-in-law
gave Aurore many tears to shed in private, while her persecution of poor
Deschartres drove her daughter to the expedient of shielding him--with
a lie. The poor tutor had administered the affairs of Nohant for some
time. He was now called to account for every farthing with the most
malignant accuracy, and a sum of money, lost by ill-management, not
being satisfactorily accounted for, his new tormentor threatened him
with prison and trial. As he muttered to his late pupil that he would
not survive this disgrace, she stepped forward and shielded him after
the fashion of Consuelo.

"I have received this money," said she.

"You? Impossible! What have you done with it?"

"No matter, I have received it."

Deschartres was saved, and Aurore had only availed herself of the first
of a Frenchwoman's privileges. Nor will we reckon with her too harshly
for this lie, so benevolent in intention, so merciful in effect. A lie
sometimes seems the only refuge of the oppressed; but there is always
something better than a lie, if we could only find it out. Here is her
account of the scene itself:--

"To have gone through a series of lies and of false explanations would
not, perhaps, have been possible for me. But from the moment that it was
only necessary to persist in a 'yes' to save Deschartres, I thought that
I ought not to hesitate. My mother insisted:--

"'If M. Deschartres has paid you eighteen thousand francs, we can
easily find it out. You would not give your word of honor?'

"I felt a shudder, and I saw Deschartres ready to speak out.

"'I would give it!' I cried out

"'Give it, then,' said my aunt.

"'No, Mademoiselle,' said my mother's lawyer, 'don't give it.'

"'She shall give it!' cried my mother, to whom I could scarcely pardon
this infliction of torture.

"'I give it,' I replied;' and God is with me against you in this

"'She has lied! she lies!' cried my mother. 'A bigot, a
_philosophailleuse.' She is lying and defrauding herself.'

"'Oh, as to that,' said the lawyer, laughing, 'she has the right to do
it, since she robs only herself.'

"'I will take her with her Deschartres before the justice of the peace,'
said my mother. 'I will make her take oath by Christ, by the Gospel!'

"'No, Madame,' said the lawyer, 'you will go no further in this matter;
and as for you, Mademoiselle, I beg your pardon for the annoyance I have
given you. Charged with your interests, I felt obliged to do so.'"

Eternal shame to those who make use of any authority to force the
secrets of a generous heart, cutting off from it every alternative but
that of a loathed deceit, or still more hateful, and scarcely less
guilty, betrayal!

Aurore now found herself in the hands of a woman of the people, ennobled
for a time by beauty and a true affection, but sinking, her good
inspiration gone, into the bitterest ill-temper and most vulgar
uncharity. Detesting her superiors in rank and position, she soon
managed to cut off Aurore from all intercourse with her father's family,
and thus to frustrate every prospect of her marriage in the sphere for
which she had been so carefully educated. She was even forbidden to
visit her old friends at the convent, and was eventually placed by her
mother with a family nearly unknown to both, whose pity had been excited
by her friendless condition and unhappy countenance. Aurore's mother
seems to us, _du reste_, the perfect type of a Parisian lorette, the
sort of woman so keenly attractive with the bloom of youth and the
eloquence of passion,--but when these have passed their day, the most
detestable of mistresses, the most undesirable of companions. Men of all
ranks and ages acknowledge their attraction, endure their tyranny, and
curse the misery it inflicts. Marriage and competency had protected this
one from the deteriorations which almost inevitably await those of
her class, but they could not save her from the natural process of an
undisciplined mind, an ungoverned temper, and a caprice verging on
insanity. This self-torment of caprice could be assuaged only by
constant change of circumstance and surroundings; her only resource was
to metamorphose things about her as often and as rapidly as possible.
She changed her lodgings, her furniture, her clothes, retrimmed her
bonnets continually, always finding them worse than before. Finally, she
grew weary of her black hair, and wore a blond periwig, which disgusting
her in turn, she finished by appearing in a different head of hair every
day in the week.

Aurore's new friends proved congenial to her, and the influence of their
happy family-life dispersed, she says, her last dreams of the beatitudes
of the convent. It was in their company that she first met the man
destined to become her husband. Most of us would like to know the
impression he made upon her at first sight. We will give it in her own

"We were eating ices at Tortoni's, after the theatre, when my mother
Angele [her new friend] said to her husband,--'See, there is Casimir.'

"A slender young man, rather elegant, with a gay aspect and military
bearing, came to shake hands with them. He seated himself by Madame
Angele, and asked her in a low voice who I was.

"'It is my daughter,' she replied.

"'Then,' whispered he, 'she is my wife. You know that you have promised
me the hand of your eldest daughter. I thought it would have been
Wilfrid; but as this one seems of an age more suitable to mine, I accept
her, if you will give her to me.'

"Madame Angele laughed at this, but the pleasantry proved a prediction."

Aurore had given her new protectors the titles of Mother Angele and
Father James, and they in turn called her their daughter. The period of
her residence with them at Plessis appears in her souvenirs as an
ideal interval of happiness and repose, a renewal of the freedom and
_insousiance_ of childhood, with the added knowledge of their value, a
suspension of the terrible demands and interests of life. Would that
this ideal period could be prolonged for women!--but the exigencies
of the race, or perhaps the fears of society, do not permit it.
The two-faced spectre of marriage awaits her, for good or ill. The
_aphelion_ of a woman's liberty is soon reached, the dark organic forces
bind her to tread the narrow orbit of her sex, and if, at the farthest
bound of her individual progress, the attraction could fail, and let her
slip from the eternal circle, chaos would be the result.

Uninvited, therefore, but unrepulsed, Hymen approached our heroine in
the form of Casimir Dudevant, the illegitimate, but acknowledged son and
heir of Colonel Dudevant, an officer of good standing and reasonable
fortune. The only feeling he seems to have inspired in the bosom of his
future wife was one of mild good-will. His only recommendation was a
decent degree of suitableness in outward circumstances. For the true
wants of her nature he had neither fitness nor sympathy; but she did not
know herself then,--she was not yet George Sand. From the stand-point of
her later development, her marriage would seem to us a low one; but we
must remember that she started only from the plane, and not the highest
plane, of French society, in which a marriage of some sort is the
first necessity of a woman's life, and not the crowning point of her
experience. To compensate the rigor of such a requisition, a French
marriage, though civilly indissoluble, has yet a hundred modifications
which remove it far from the Puritan ideal which we of the Protestant
faith cherish. Hence the French novel, whose strained sentiment and
deeply logical immorality have wakened strange echoes among us of the
stricter rule and graver usage.

Without passion, then, or tender affection on either side, but with a
tolerable harmony of views for the moment, and after long and causeless
opposition on the part of Aurore's mother, this marriage took place.
Aurore was but eighteen; her bridegroom was of suitable age. With dreams
of a peaceful family existence, and looking forward to maternity as the
great joy and office of the coming years, she brought her husband to
Nohant, whose inheritance had been settled by contract upon the children
of this marriage.

But these dreams were not to be realized. Aurore was not born to be the
companion of a dull, narrow man, nor the Lady Bountiful of a little
village in the heart of France. Would she not have had it so? She tells
us that she would; and as honesty is one of her strong points, we may
believe her. She knew not the stormy ocean of life, nor the precious
freight she carried, when she committed the vessel of her fortunes to so
careless a hand as that of M. Dudevant. She throws no special blame or
odium upon him, nor does he probably deserve any.

The recital of the events spoken of above brings us well into the eighth
volume of the "Histoire de ma Vie"; and as there are but ten in all, the
treatment of the things that follow is pursued with much less
detail, and with many a gap, which the malevolent among our author's
contemporaries would assure us that they know well how to fill up.
Between the extreme reserve of the last two volumes and the wild
assertions of so many we would gladly keep the _juste milieu_, if
we could; but we wish only truth, and it is not at the hands of the
scandalmongers of any society--is it?--that we seek that commodity. The
decree of the court which at a later day gave her the guardianship
of her children, and the friendship of many illustrious and of some
irreproachable men, must be accepted in favor of her of whom we
write,--and the known fanaticism of slander, and the love of the
marvellous, which craves, in stories of good or evil, such monstrous
forms for its gratification, cause us, on the other side, to deduct
a large average from the narrations current against her. But we

Aurore, at first, was neither happy nor unhappy in her marriage. Her
surroundings were friendly and pleasant, and the birth of a son, a third
Maurice, soon brought to her experience the keenest joy of womanhood.
Before this child numbered two years, however, she began to feel a
certain blank in her household existence, an emptiness, a discouragement
as to all things, whose cause she could not understand. In this _ennui_,
she tells us, her husband sympathized, and by common consent they strove
to remedy it by frequent changes of abode. They visited Paris, Plessis,
returned to Nohant, made a journey in the Pyrenees, a visit to Guillery,
the chateau of Colonel Dudevant. Still the dark guest pursued them.
Aurore does not pretend that there was any special cause for her
suffering. It was but the void which her passionate nature found in a
conventional and limited existence, and for which as yet she knew no
remedy. The fervor of Catholic devotion had, as we have seen, long
forsaken her; her studies did not satisfy her; her children--she had by
this time a daughter--were yet in infancy; her husband was not unkind,
but indifferent, and the object of indifference. She occupied herself
with the business of her estate, and with the wants of the neighboring
poor; but she was unsuccessful in administering her expenses, and her
narrow revenue did not allow her to give large satisfaction to her
charitable impulses. After some years of seclusion and effort, she began
to dream of liberty, of wealth,--in a word, of trying her fortunes in
Paris. She felt a power within her for which she had found no adequate
task. She speaks vaguely, too, of a _Being_ platonically loved, and
loving in like manner, absent for most of the year, and seen only for
a few days at long intervals, whose correspondence had added a new
influence to her life. This attenuated relation was, however, broken
before she made her essay of a new life. Her half-brother, Hippolyte,
brought to Nohant a habit of joviality which soon degenerated into
chronic intemperance; and though she does not accuse her husband of
participation in this vice, or, indeed, of any wrong towards her, she
yet makes us understand that an occasional escape from Nohant became to
her almost a matter of necessity. She, therefore, made arrangements,
with her husband's free consent, to pass alternately three months in
Paris and three months at home, for an indefinite period; and leaving
Maurice in good hands, and the little Solange, her daughter, for a
short time only, she came to Paris in the winter with the intention of

Her hopes and pretensions were at first very modest. It had been agreed
that her husband should pay her an annual pension of fifteen hundred
francs. She would have been well satisfied to earn a like sum by her
literary efforts. She established herself in a small _mansarde_, a sort
of garret, and managed by great economy to furnish it so that Solange
could be made comfortable. She washed and ironed her fine linen with
her own hands. Not finding literary employment at once, and her slender
salary running very low, she adopted male attire for a while, as she
says, because she was too poor to dress herself suitably in any other.
The fashion of the period was favorable to her design. Men wore long
square-skirted overcoats, down to the heels. With one of these, and
trousers to match, with a gray hat and large woollen cravat, she might
easily pass for a young student.

"I cannot express the pleasure my boots gave me. I would gladly have
slept with them on. With these little iron-shod heels, I stood firm on
the pavement. I flew from one end of Paris to the other. I could have
made the circuit of the world, thus attired. Besides, my clothes did not
fear spoiling. I ran about in all weathers, I came back at all hours,
I went to the pit of every theatre. No one paid me any attention, or
suspected my disguise. Besides that, I wore it with ease; the entire
want of coquetry in my costume and physiognomy disarmed all suspicion.
I was too ill-dressed, and my manner was too simple, to attract or fix
attention. Women know little how to disguise themselves, even upon the
stage. They are unwilling to sacrifice the slenderness of their waists,
the smallness of their feet, the prettiness of their movements, the
brilliancy of their eyes; and it is by all these, nevertheless, it is
especially by the look, that they might avoid easy detection. There is a
way of gliding in everywhere without causing any one to turn round, and
of speaking in a low, unmodulated tone which does not sound like a
flute in the ears which may hear you. For the rest, in order not to
be remarked _as a man_, you must already have the habit of not making
yourself remarked _as a woman_."

This travesty, our heroine tells us, was of short duration;--it answered
the convenience of some months of poverty and obscurity. Its traditions
did not pass away so soon;--ten years later, her son, in his beardless
adolescence, was often taken for her, and sometimes amused himself
by indulging the error in those who accosted him. But in the greatly
changed circumstances in which she soon found herself, the disguise
became useless and unavailing. Its economy was no longer needed, and the
face of its wearer was soon too well known to be concealed by hat or

We would not be understood as relaxing in any degree the rigor of
repudiation which such an act deserved. Yet it is imaginable, even to an
undepraved mind, that a woman might sometimes like to be on the other
side of the fence, to view the mad bull of publicity in its own pasture,
and feel that it cannot gore her. Poor George! running about in the
little boots, and wearing a great ugly coat and woollen choker,--it was
not through vanity that you did this. Strange sights you must have seen
in Paris!--none, perhaps, stranger than yourself! The would-be nun of
the English convent walking the streets in male attire, and even, as you
tell us, with your hands in your pockets! Yet when little Solange came
to live with you, as we understand, you put on your weeds of weakness
again;--your little daughter made you once more a woman!

For she was George Sand now. Aurore Dupin was civilly dead, Aurore
Dudevant was uncivilly effaced. She had taken half a name from Jules
Sandeau,--she had wrought the glory of that name herself. Yes, a glory,
say what you will. Elizabeth Browning's hands were not too pure to
soothe that forehead, chiding while they soothed; and these hands,
not illustrious as hers, shall soil themselves with no mud flung at a
sister's crowned head.

Every one knows the story of the name: how she and Jules Sandeau wrote a
novel together, and sought a _nom de plume_ which should represent their
literary union,--how soon she found that she could do much better alone,
and the weak work of Carl Sand was forgotten in the strong personality
of George Sand. Of Jules Sandeau she speaks only as of the associate of
a literary enterprise;--the world accords him a much nearer relation to
her; but upon this point she cannot, naturally, be either explicit or
implicit. One thing is certain: she was a hard worker, and did with
her might what her hand found to do. She wrote "Indiana," "Lelia,"
"Valentine," and had fame and money at will. Neither, however, gave
her unmixed pleasure. The _eclat_ of her reputation soon destroyed her
_incognito_, while the sums of money she was supposed to receive for her
works attracted to her innumerable beggars and adventurers of all
sorts. To ascertain the real wants and character of those who in every
imaginable way claimed her assistance became one of the added labors of
her life. She visited wretched garrets or cellars, and saw miserable
families,--discovering often, too late, that both garret and family had
been hired for the occasion. It was now that she first saw the real
plagues and ulcers of society. Her convent had not shown her these, nor
her life amid the peasantry of Berry. Only great cities produce those
unhealthy and unnatural human growths whose monstrosities are their
stock in trade, whose power of life lies in their depravation. She tells
us that these horrors weighed upon her, and caused her to try various
solutions of the ills that are, and are permitted to be. She was never
tempted to become an atheist, never lost sight of the Divine in life,
yet the necessity of a terrible fatalism seemed to envelop her. With her
numerous friends, she sought escape from the dilemma through various
theories of social development; and they often sat or walked half
through the night, discussing the fortunes of the race, and the
intentions of God. With her most intimate set, this sometimes led to a
jest, and "It is time to settle the social question" became the formula
of announcing dinner. These considerations led the way to her adoption
of socialistic theories in later years, of which she herself informs
us, but hints at the same time at many important reservations in her
acceptance of them.

In process of time she visited Italy with Alfred de Musset. The fever
seized on her at Genoa, and she saw the wonders of the fair land through
half-shut eyes, alternately shivering and burning. In the languor of
disease, she allowed the tossing of a coin to decide whether she should
visit Rome or Venice. Venice came uppermost ten times, and she chose to
consider it an affair of destiny. Her long stay in this city suggested
the themes of several of her romances, and the "Lettres d'un Voyageur"
might almost be pages from her own journal. Her companion was here
seized with a terrible illness. She nursed him day and night through all
its length, being so greatly fatigued at the time of his recovery that
she saw every object double, through want of sleep. Yet De Musset went
forth from his sick-room with a heart changed towards her. Hatred
had taken the place of love. Some say that this cruel change was the
punishment of as cruel a deception; others call it a mania of the fever,
perpetuating itself thenceforth in a brain sound as to all else. The
world does not know about this, and she herself tells us nothing. In
the "Lettres d'un Voyageur," however, she gives us to understand that
constancy is not her _forte_, and a sigh escapes with this confession,
"_Prie pour moi, o Marguerite Le Conte!_"

George Sand was now launched,--with brilliant success, in the world of
letters, unheeding the conventional restraints of domestic life. The
choicest spirits of the day gathered round her. She was the luminous
centre of a circle of light. She did not hold a _salon_, the mimic court
of every Frenchwoman of distinction,--nor were the worldly wits of
fashion her vain and supercilious satellites. But De Lamennais climbed
to her _mansarde_, and unfolded therein his theories of saintly and
visionary philosophy. Liszt and Chopin bound her in the enchantment
of their wonderful melodies. De Balzac feasted her in his fantastic
lodgings, and lighted her across the square with a silver-gilt flambeau,
himself attired in a flounced satin dressing-gown, of which he was
extremely proud. Pierre Leroux instructed her in the old and the new
religions, and taught her the history of secret societies. Louis Blanc,
Cavaignac, and Pauline Garcia were bound to her by ties of intimacy.
She knew Lablache, Quinet, Miekiewiez, whom she calls the equal of Lord
Byron. Her intimates in her own province were men of high character and
intelligence, nor were friends wanting among her own sex. Good-will
and sympathy, therefore, not ill-will and antipathy, inspired her best
works. Her views of parties were charitable and conciliatory, and her
revolutionism more reconstructive than destructive. Yet, with all this
array of good company, we cannot accord her a miraculous immunity from
the fatalities of her situation. Of the guilt we are not here called
upon to judge; of the suffering many pages in this record of her
life bear witness. Little as we know, however, of her own power of
self-protection against the tyranny of the selfish and the sensual, we
yet feel as if the really base could never have held her in other than
the briefest thraldom, and as if her nobler nature must have continually
asserted and reasserted itself, with a constant tendency towards that
higher liberty which she had sought in the abandonment of outward
restraints, but which can never be thus attained. Some great moral
safeguards she had in her tireless industry, her love of art, her
honesty and geniality of nature, and, above all, in her passionate love
for her children. Happily, these deep and solid forces of Nature are
calculated to outlast the heyday of the blood, and to redeem its errors.

In connection with her domestic life, she gives some explanations which
must not be overlooked. She did not at first quit her husband's roof
with an intention of permanent absence, but with the intention of a
periodical return thither. In time, however, her presence there became
unwelcome, and she found those arrangements of which, as she says, she
had no right to complain, but which she could not recognize. Friends
intervened, advising an effectual reintegration of the broken marriage;
but against this, she says, her conscience, no less than her heart,
rebelled. There existed, indeed, no virtual bond between herself and
her late husband. Whatever may have been the beginning of their
estrangement, it seems certain that he acquiesced in her independence
with easy satisfaction. He wrote to her,--"I shall not put up at your
lodgings when I come to Paris, because I wish as little to be in your
way as I wish to have you in mine." At the same time, by visiting
her there, and appearing with her in public, he had given a certain
recognition to her position. There was, therefore, no room for penitence
on the one side, for forgiveness on the other, and, through these, for
a renewable moral relation between the two. The law took cognizance of
these facts, when, some years later, M. Dudevant brought an action
for civil divorce, wishing to recover possession of his children. His
complicity in what had taken place, and the amicable nature of the
separation, were so fully established, that the court, recognizing in
the parties neither husband nor wife, followed the pleadings of Nature,
and bestowed the children where, in the present instance, they were
likely to find the warmest cherishing. Under this decision, she gave
up the estate of Nohant to M. Dudevant, who, becoming weary of its
management, returned it to her, by a later compromise, in exchange for
other property, and the home of her childhood now shelters her declining

For the history draws near its close; more travels, more novels, more
successes, more sorrows, much fond talk of her friends, many of whom
death has endeared to her, a shadowy sketch of her seven years' intimacy
with Chopin, a sob over the untimely grave of her married daughter, and
the wonderful book is ended. Surely, it tells its own moral; and we,
who have woven into short measure the tissue of its relations, need not
appear either as the apologist of a very exceptional woman, or as the
vindicator of laws inevitable and universal, the mischief of whose
violation no human knowledge can justly fathom. The world knows that the
life before us is no example for women to follow; but it also knows,
we think, that she who led it was on the whole an earnest and sincere
person, of ardent imagination and large heart, loving the good as well
as the beautiful, even if often mistaken in both,--and above all, honest
in her errors and their acknowledgment. Gross injustice has, no doubt,
been done her. The creations of her powerful fancy have been taken for
images of herself, and the popular mind, delighting to elevate all
things beyond the bounds of Nature, has made her a monster. It is clear,
we think, that those who have represented her as plunged headlong in a
career of vice and dissipation, the companion of all that is low and
trivial, have slandered alike her acts and her intentions. Like the
rest of us, she is the child of her antecedents and surroundings. Her
education was as exceptional as her character. Her marriage brought no
moral influence to bear upon her. Her separation opened before her a new
and strange way, never to be trodden by any with impunity. Yet we do not
believe, that, in the most undesirable circumstances of her life, she
ever long lost sight of its ideal object. We do not doubt that her zeal
for human progress, her sympathy for the wrongs of the race, and her
distrust of existing institutions were deep and sincere. We do not doubt
that she was devoted in friendship, disinterested in love, ardent in
philanthropy. She has seen the poverty and insincerity of society; she
has quarrelled with what she calls the shams of sacred things, the
merely conventional marriage, the God of bigotry and hypocrisy, the
government of oppression and fraud; but she ends by recognizing and
demanding the marriage of heart, the God of enlightened faith, the
government of order and progress. Responding to the dominant chord
of the nineteenth century, she strove to exalt individuality above
sociality, and passion above decorum and usage. Nor would she allow any
World's Congress of morals to settle the delicate limits between these
opposing vital forces, between what we owe to ourselves and what we owe
to others. If there be a divine of passion for which it is noble to
suffer and sacrifice, there is also a deeper divine of duty, far
transcending the other both in sacrifice and in reward. To this divine,
too often obscured to all of us, her later life increasingly renders
homage; and to its gentle redemption, our loving, pitying hearts--the
more loving, the more pitying for her story--are glad to leave her.

Ave, thou long laborious! Ave, thou worker of wonders, thou embalmer of
things most fleeting, most precious, so sealed in thy amber,

"That Nature yet remembers
What was so fugitive!"

Thou hast wrought many a picture of wild and guilty passion,--yet
methinks thou didst always paint the mean as mean, the generous as
generous. Nobler stories, too, thou hast told, and thy Consuelo is as
pure as holy charity and lofty art could make her. They complain, that,
in the world of thy creations, women are sublime and men weak; may not
these things, then, be seen and judged for once through woman's eyes?
Much harm hast thou done? Nay, that can only God know. They misquote
thee, who veil a life of low intrigue with high-flown _dicta_ borrowed
from thy works. Thou art not of their sort,--or, if it be indeed _thee_
they seek to imitate,

"Decipit exemplar vitiis imitabile."

Thy faults have attracted them, not the virtues that redeem them. Shake
thyself free of such, and with those who have loved much, and to whom
much has been forgiven, go in peace! The shades of the Poets will greet
thee as they greeted Dante and Virgil, when, thyself a shade, thou goest
towards them. The heart that fainted at Francesca's sorrows will not
refuse a throb to thine. For there is a gallery of great women, great
with and without sin, where thou must sit, between Sappho and Cleopatra,
the Magdalen thy neighbor,--nor yet removed wholly out of sight the
Mother of the Great Forgiveness of God.

* * * * *


It was really a magnificent ball! The host had determined that his
entertainment should minister to all the senses of his guests, and had
succeeded so well that there was only room to regret there were but five
senses to be gratified. Only five gates in the fortified wall within
which the shy soul intrenches itself, where an attack may be made. And
even when these are all carried by storm, there are sometimes inner
citadels, impregnable to the magic torrent streaming through the
Beautiful Gates, where she may survey intruders with calm disdain. In
vain floods of delicious intoxication beat against her lofty retreat:
she calmly analyzes the sweet poison, (as she thinks it,) separates and
retains the solid fact whose solution had enriched the otherwise barren
stream, and indifferently suffers the rest to flow by. These are the
souls of philosophers and wise men, who never are drowned, never
surprised. But the bountiful host had not cared only for these grand
super-sensual people, but had striven perfectly to satisfy the eyes, the
ears, the noses, the palates of the more numerous throng of weaker folk,
whose inner fortifications were not so well defended. Hundreds of wax
candles illuminated the far-reaching saloons with soft lustre. The walls
were tinted with the most delicate hues, that afforded a pleasant cool
background to the blazing rooms, and relieved the rich colors of the
pictures. In all the pictures adorning the walls, the eye revelled in
the luxurious coloring, careless of the absence of distinctness of form
and grand pure outline. Scenes in the dark heart of tropical forests,
the dense green foliage here and there startlingly relieved by a bright
scarlet flower or the brilliant plumage of a songless bird,--gorgeous
sunsets on American prairies, where the rolling purple ground contrasted
with the crimson and golden glories of eventide,--vivid sketches along
the Mediterranean, the blue sea embracing the twin sky,--vineyards
ripening under the mellow Italian sun,--fields of yellow wheat bending
to the sickles of English reapers,--and sometimes, half hidden by the
folds of a heavy crimson curtain, one was startled to discover the
solemn icebergs and everlasting snows of the Arctic regions. The
wood-work of all the rooms was of dark oak, so that each appeared with
its brilliantly dressed company to be a flashing gem set in a rich
casket. A shadow of music wandered through the air, sometimes blended
with the sound of the falling fountain in the green-house, sometimes
almost absorbed in the fragrance of the flowers.

For two hours the carriages had been steadily streaming under the
archway, and pouring their fair occupants, gauzy as summer, into the
blazing saloons. The flashing candelabra drew the poor little moths from
the outermost corners into the central vortex of light. Dazzled by the
hot radiance, they strove to retreat again into the cool conservatories
and side-rooms; but at that moment threads of music that had been
carelessly winding through the crowd were caught up by an unseen hand
and knotted,--and behold! already the moths found themselves imprisoned
in a strong net-work of sound, whose intricate meshes entangled the
rooms and the company, and the very light itself. The light, however,
was too subtile for long confinement; it slipped along the melodious
mazes, and melted into the rich odor that exhaled from the roses and
jessamines in the conservatory. The light was a welcome visitor to the
hyacinths and roses, obliged to hide in torturing silence in the still
green-house, pouring out their passionate dumb life in intensity of
fragrance. A life just hovering on the borders of the world, and yet
forbidden to enter! But, bathed in the glowing effulgence of the light,
this invisible fragrance could be born, and enter the visible world as
color. For the fragrance is the unborn soul of the flower; color, that
soul arrested in its restless wanderings,--_embodied_ fragrance. Then
the colors upon the purple hyacinths and white jessamines, and the
flashing gems that rested on white bosoms like glittering drops of ice
upon a snow-wreath, and the sheen of rustling silks, and the gilded
picture-frames, and the florid carpets, and the twinkling feet on the
carpets' roses, and the flushing of roses in the dancers' cheeks, and
the radiant heads of the white-robed girls, ran into one another,
blending into an intensity of color that dimmed itself. And the music
still kept spinning and spinning, and finally wove in the color and
fragrance and light with its subtile self; and the background of the
woof was the hum and murmur of voices, and the continual rustling of
feet. No wonder the poor moths were ensnared in such bewilderment!

Do you pity the captives? But it is a delicious imprisonment, and its
fullest delights cannot be realized except by prisoners. In the vast
halls of Intellect and Reason one may indeed be master, marching (a
little chilled perhaps) with firm step and head erect. But on these
enchanted grounds there is no medium between a wretched clearness of
insight that reduces every curve to a number of straight lines, all
clouds to precipitated vapor, all rainbows to an oblique coincidence
between a sunbeam and a drop of water, and a total surrender of self to
the influences of the flitting moment.

Away with these fellows, who would force their miserable microscopes
before the eyes of these happy gauzy moths!--to-night is only the time
for spinning cobwebs. Hold your breath, philosopher, lest you sweep them
away too rudely! Alas for the airy cobwebs! In that cool anteroom is a
philosopher's broom, hard at work, brushing them remorselessly into a
perplexing dilemma,--the frightful increase of the human race.

"If," said the philosopher, emphatically, "if there were any prospect
of emigrating to the moon, there would be some hope; but in the present
state of affairs we shall soon be eating our own heads off, as the
proverb says. Europe is almost exhausted, the _ultima Thule_ of arable
territory in America has been reached, Asia barely supports her own
immense population; nothing is left but Africa, and she presents a
merely hopeful prospect for the future. In a hundred years, what will
society do for breadstuffs?"

"Live on rice and potatoes," suggested Anthrops.

"Rash boy, and check the advance of civilization! Have you not reflected
that the culture of wheat has been an inseparable adjunct to progress
and refinement? The difficulties required to be overcome in preparing
the ground and sowing the grain promote prudence, foresight, and care."

"It is certainly hard work enough to dig potatoes," quoth Anthrops.

The philosopher passed over the interruption with a dignified wave of
the hand, and continued:--

"The watching and waiting, during its progress to maturity, necessarily
produce that patience which is so essential to all scientific effort;
and the graceful loveliness of the plant in its various stages of growth
materially assists in developing that love for the beautiful which is a
necessary element in all harmonious individual or social character. Now
what aesthetic culture can you evolve from that stubbed, straggling weed
you call the potato?"

The discomfited pupil meekly suggested that he had been considering the
dietetic, not the aesthetic properties of the despised vegetable.

"Impossible to separate them, Sir!" cried the philosopher. "If, indeed,
you could fill the stomach without the intervention of any process of
brain or hand, they might be considered apart. But consider the position
of the stomach. Like a Persian monarch, it occupies the centre of the
system; despotic from its remote situation and the absolute power it
exercises, all parts of the external organism are its ministers: the
feet must run for its daily food, the hands must prepare that food with
cunning devices, the brain must direct the operations of feet and hands.
Now, unlearned youth, wilt thou contend that the degree of refinement
evinced by attention or indifference to the niceties of cooking, and so
forth, has no bearing upon the character of the man and the race? Take
as a standard the method of immediately conveying the food to the mouth,
as it has progressed from barbarism. First, fingers; then, pieces of
bark; then, rough wooden spoons, knives, two-pronged steel forks;
and lastly, an epitome of civilization in each one that is used,
five-pronged silver forks, evincing both the increased complexity of the
nature that devises the extra prongs, and the refinement of taste that
insists upon the silver. It is impossible to use wheat in any of its
preparations," ("With five-pronged forks," murmured his attentive pupil
parenthetically,) "without at least a piece of bark, for mixing and
cooking, if not for eating. But in devouring potatoes, we are--I shudder
to think of it--each moment upon the brink of being reduced to the
absolute savageness of fingers. No, Sir! the moon and wheat both failing
us, there is but one method of escaping universal famine,--peremptory
reduction of the population."

Anthrops started; in that country murder was a capital offence.

"I do not mean," continued the philosopher, serenely, "by any forcible
diminution of the existing populace: unfortunately, the vulgar
prejudices in favor of life are so strong, owing to the miserable
preponderance of the Egoistic over the Altruistic instincts, that such
an expedient would be unadvisable. I refer to the"--

"What splendid hair!" suddenly exclaimed his young companion, starting
forward with great animation to gain a nearer glimpse of its beauties.
The owner had stopped for a moment in passing the secluded couple,
and the rich chestnut head was presented in clear relief against the
confused mass of color and light that streamed through the doorway of
the saloon. The billows of hair rose from purple depths of shadow into
gleaming crests of golden light, and fell away again in long undulations
into the whirlpool of the knot.

While Anthrops was feasting his rapt eyes on the lovely picture, some
treacherous fastening gave way, and the whole wavy mass overflowed upon
the white shoulders. Then there was bustling and officious assistance,
then there was flitting of maidens and crowding of men. They did not
care that the hair of the Naiads in the waterfall outside of the city
floated all day long over the glittering green waters, or that the
soughing grass in the marsh stream lazily swayed to and fro always in
sleepy ripples, or that the waving tresses of the weeping-willows were
even then sweeping dreamily through the colored air: they cared for none
of these things; but how eager and anxious were they to gain one glimpse
of her,--fairer in her blushing confusion than before in her stately
loveliness! She wound up the long tresses in her hand, and was
retreating to the dressing-room, when the music, which had paused for a
moment, renewed itself in an inspiriting waltz. Anthrops, forgetful of
wheat, potatoes, and universal famine, rushed forward to claim her hand
for the dance. The lady sighed, the waltz was so lovely, the young
man so attractive, but--her hair? She really must arrange that before
anything could be determined in any other direction. And she started
backwards in her embarrassment to reach the stairs, and slipped into a
little anteroom by mistake. There was but one door; so, when Anthrops
followed her in, she could not get out, without at least hearing an
additional reason for dancing.

"The waltz will be finished," urged Anthrops. "Take this little dagger,
and wind your hair around that; it will be a fitting ornament for you."

As he spoke, he drew from his pocket a small dagger, a toy, but richly
carved at the hilt, and offered it to the maiden. He had bought it that
day for a little nephew, and had happened to leave it in his pocket.
Doubtless, had the waltz been less enticing, or the youth less handsome,
or the little anteroom less secluded, Haguna would have rejected the odd
assistance. But, as it was, she accepted the jewelled toy, and in a few
minutes had dexterously hidden the tiny blade with the thick coils of
hair, just leaving the curiously carved face on the hilt to emerge from
its shadowy nestling-place.

With the readjustment of her tresses, Haguna recovered the marvellously
defensive self-possession that had been momentarily disturbed. So
subtile and indefinable was the curious atmosphere that surrounded her,
that, while it could be almost destroyed by the consciousness of a
disordered toilet, yet the keenest eye could not penetrate beneath it,
the most confident demeanor could not impress it, once reestablished.

Anthrops did not notice the change that had taken place in her aspect.
Was it not enjoyment enough to whirl through the maddening mazes of the
dance, into still deeper entanglements in the mysterious web that now
had immeshed the saloons, borne irresistibly along the rapid torrent of
music, through crowds swept in eddying circles by fresh gusts of sound,
like leaves blown about by the west wind,--at first in low, wide, slow
rounds, then whirling faster and faster, higher and higher, until the
spiral coil suddenly terminated, and the music and motion fell exhausted

It was quite another thing to return to his friend the philosopher, who
was now in a very bad humor.

"Such fooling!" he cried, when Anthrops came back much exhilarated.
"That woman is the plague of my life! See," he continued, sarcastically,
"I picked up one of the ugly little pins that she fastens her hair with;
perhaps you might like it for a keepsake."

Anthrops snatched eagerly at the little black thing his old friend held
contemptuously balanced on his fingers, but dropped it immediately. Such
a miserable thing to hold those glorious tresses! His dagger was better.
The recollection that it was his dagger that now confined them dispelled
the chill which the irate philosopher had thrown over his glowing
excitement; he submissively proposed a return to potatoes, piling up
famine and wheat over the one little thought that diffused such a
delicious warmth through his breast; as charcoal-burners heap dead ashes
over their fire, to hide it from the rough intrusion of chilling winds.

The nest day Haguna sent back the dagger, with a little note, thanking
the owner in graceful terms.

"Your graceful politeness last evening, Herr Anthrops, saved me much
perplexity, and procured me a delightful waltz. One should indeed be
well protected by fortune, to find so readily such a courteous little
sword," ("She does not know the difference between a sword and a
dagger," thought Anthrops, and he was pleased at her ignorance,) "to
supply one's awkward deficiencies." (Anthrops slightly winced as he
thought of the little black pins.) "The old man on the hilt is really
charming. I actually was obliged to kiss him at parting, he looked so
kindly and pleasantly at me. Besides, he was my true benefactor; and
my grandmother has often told me, that in her day maidens were very
properly more expressive in their gratitude than now." (Anthrops
fervently longed for a retrogression in the calendar.) "And I really
think my old friend must have been alive then, and have been changed
into wood, on purpose to preserve his looks till I could see him. It
would be a right pleasant destiny, when one begins to grow old and ugly,
to be transformed into wood, and carved as one would wish to appear
perpetually. And happier fate still, like Philemon and Baucis, to change
into living trees, and flourish for hundreds of years in youth and
vigor. There are willow-trees growing on the banks of the river that may
easily have been girls who wept themselves into trees, because their
hair would soon be gray, and they have exchanged it for tresses of
green. Near those willow-trees the princely stranger who has lately
occupied the castle will next week give a boating _fete_, to which I
am invited; I suppose you also, courteous Sir, will be present, a
knight-errant for distressed damsels?


Anthrops kissed the little old man on the dagger's hilt again and again,
and made two equally firm, but entirely disconnected resolutions,
simultaneously: namely, never to give his nephew the intended present,
and by all means to be at the boat-_fete_ the following week.

The day of the _fete_ arrived,--a clear, lovely day in early June. The
host had provided for the accommodation of his guests a number of boats
of different sizes, holding two, three, or a dozen people, according to
the fancy of the voyagers. Anthrops, descending the flight of steps that
led to the river, came unexpectedly upon his old friend the philosopher,
apparently emerging from the side of the hill.

"I expected you here," said he; "are you going on the river?"

Anthrops replied in the affirmative.

"Haguna is here, and I have come to exact a promise that you will not
sail with her. You will repent it, if you do."

"Better than starvation is a feast and repentance," cried the young man,
gayly. "What harm is there in the girl? Though, to be sure, I had no
particular intention of sailing with her."

"It would be of no use to warn you explicitly," said his friend; "you
would not believe me. But you must not go."

"Nay, good father," returned the youth, a little vexed,--"it is
altogether too unreasonable to expect me to obey like a child; give me
one good reason why I should avoid her as if she had the plague, and I
promise to be guided by you."

"All women have some plague-spot," said the philosopher, sententiously.

"Well, then, I may as well be infected by her as by any one," cried
Anthrops, lightly, and was rushing down the steps again, when the
philosopher caught him by the arm.

"Follow me," he said; "you will not believe, but still you may see."

He led the way down to the river, and, the youth still following,
entered one of the gayly trimmed row-boats and pushed from shore. The
boat seemed possessed by the will of its master, and, needing no other
guide or impetus, floated swiftly into the centre of the channel.
Obeying the same invisible helmsman, it there paused and rocked gently
backwards and forwards as over an unseen anchor. The philosopher drew
from his pocket a small cup and dipped up a little water. He then
handed it to the youth, and bade him look at it through a strong
magnifying-glass, which he also gave him. Anthrops was surprised to find
a white dust in the bottom of the cup.

"Ah!" said his companion, answering his look of inquiry, "it is
bone-dust; and now you may see where it comes from."

Anthrops looked through the magnifying-glass, as he was directed, at the
river itself, and found he could clearly see the sand at the bottom.
He was horrified at seeing the yellow surface strewn with human bones,
bleached by long exposure to the running water.

"Alas!" he exclaimed, sorrowfully, "have so many noble youths perished
in these treacherous waters? That golden sand might be ruddy with the
blood of its numerous victims!"

"Don't be blaming the innocent waters, simple boy!" half sneered
the philosopher. "Lay the blame where it is due, upon the artful
river-nixes. Since the creation of the world, the stream has flowed
tranquilly between these banks; and during that time do you not suppose
that these fair alluring sprites have had opportunity to entice such
silly boys as you into the cool green water there below?"

Anthrops gazed long into the still, cruel depths of the river, held
spell-bound by a horrible fascination; at last he raised his head, and,
drawing a long sigh of relief, exclaimed,--

"Thank fortune, Haguna is no water-nix!"

"What!" cried the angry philosopher, "your mind still running upon that
silly witch? Can you learn no wisdom from the fate of other generations
of fools, but must yourself add another to the catalogue? She is more
dangerous than the nixes: the snares which they laid for their victims
were cobwebs, compared to the one she is weaving for you. You admire her
hair, forsooth! The silk of the Indian corn is a fairer color, spiders'
webs are finer, and the back of the earth-mole is softer; yet in your
eyes nothing will compare with it."

"The silk of the Indian corn is golden, but coarse and rough; the
threads of the spider's web are fine, but dull and gray; the satin hair
of the blind mole is lifeless and stiff. Let me go, old man! I care
nothing for your fancied dangers. I shall row her to-day; that is
pleasure enough." And he attempted to seize the unused oar.

"Once more, pause! Reflect upon what you are leaving: the pleasures of
tranquil meditation, the keen excitements of science, the entrancing
delights of philosophy. All these you must abandon, if you leave me

Anthrops hesitated a moment.

"How so?" he asked.

"He who is devoted to philosophy must share his soul with no other
mistress. No restlessness, no longing after an unseen face, no feverish
anxiety for the love or approval of an earthly maiden must disturb the
balanced calm of his absorbed mind"--

"Herr Anthrops, Herr Anthrops, how you have forgotten your engagement!"

She was in a boat that had pushed up close to them unawares. Some girls
and young men occupied the bows. Haguna was leaning over the stern and
waving her hand to Anthrops. So suddenly had she appeared, that it was
as if she had risen out of the rippling river, and the ripples still
seemed to undulate on her sunny hair and laughing dimpled face: so fresh
and bright and fair she seemed in that glad June morning. What did it
matter whether he reasoned rightly on any subject?

"Let me go!" he exclaimed to his companion. "Farewell, philosophy!
farewell, science! I have chosen."

To his surprise, he discovered that he was suddenly quite alone in the
boat. The philosopher had disappeared,--whether by waxen wings, or an
invisible cap, or any of the other numerous contrivances of many-wiled
philosophers, he did not stop to consider, but hastened to join Haguna
and her companions.

"You are a welcome addition to our company," said Haguna, graciously
reaching out her white hand; "but you choose strange companions. An old
gray owl flew out of your boat a moment ago, scared to find himself
abroad in such a pleasant sunlight. I confess I don't altogether
admire your taste, not being an orni"--

She appealed in pretty perplexity to the student to help her out of the
difficulty into which she had fallen by her rash attempt at large words.

--"Thologist," added Anthrops, much wondering at these new tricks of
the philosopher,--and then again he so much the more applauded his own
wisdom in exchanging for her society the company of an old owl.

So all the day long he stayed by her, all the day long he followed her,
rowing or walking or dancing, or sitting by her under the willows on the
banks of the river. The soft breeze routed her shining hair from its
compact masses; it touched his cheek as he knelt beside her to pull
up the tough-rooted columbine that resisted her fingers; her fragrant
breath mingled with the odor of the sweet-scented violets that he
plucked for her; the trailing tresses of the mournful willow, swaying in
the breeze, brushed them both; the murmuring water at their feet heard a
new tale as it flowed past her, and babbled it to him, adding delicious
nonsense of its own, endless variations upon the same sweet theme. How
happy he was that day! It came to an end, of course; but its death
scattered the seeds of other days, that sprang up in gracious profusion,
yielding dear delights of flower and fruit. All over his garden these
bright plants grew, gradually triumphing over and expelling the coarser
and ruder vegetables.

Nothing but flowers would he cultivate now,--and cared not even that
they should be perennials, if only the present blooming were gay and

One June day, Anthrops joined a pleasure-seeking equestrian party, who
rode from the town to spend the day in the woods. What a lovely day it
was! The pure, fresh air seemed to contain the very essence of the life
it inspired, life drained of all impurity and sadness and foulness
by the early summer rains, the springing joyous life of the delicate
wood-flowers. The strong trees in the leafy woods trembled with
happiness in their boughs and tender sprays; the carolling birds poured
forth their brimming songs from full hearts. And upon the interlacing
greenery of the shrubbery, and the lichens upon the trees, and the soft
moss covering with jealous tenderness the bare places in the ground,
the slant sunbeams glittered in the early morning dew. As Anthrops rode
along silently by the side of Haguna, an inexpressible joyfulness filled
his heart; the light, round, white clouds nestling in the deep bosom of
the sky, the faint, delicious odor of the woods, the rustling, murmuring
presence that forever dwelt there, all made him unspeakably glad and
light-hearted. As he rode, he began to sing a little song that he had
learned awhile before.

We rushed from the mountain,
The streamlet and I,
Restless, unquiet,
We scarcely knew why,--
Till we met a dear maiden,
Whose beauty divine
Stilled with great quiet
This wild heart of mine;
And awed and astonished
To peacefulness sweet,
The fierce mountain-torrent
Lay still at her feet."

"A right rare power for beauty to possess!" laughed Haguna. "Are you so
restless that you need this soothing, fair Sir?"

A deep, sweet smile gushed out from his eyes and illumined his face.
He stretched out his arms lovingly into the warm air, as if he thus
infolded some rich joy, and answered, musingly,--

"In ordinary action, thought, and feeling,--we are too conscious of
ourselves, we are perplexed with the miserable little 'I,' that, by
claiming deed and thought for its own work, makes it little and mean.
But the wondrous Beautiful comes to us entirely from outside; our very
contemplation of it does not belong to us; we are overpowered
and conquered by the vast idea that broods over us. And so that
contemplation is pure happiness."

Haguna laughed a little, and a little wondered what he meant; then
observed, lightly,--

"You must value yourself very modestly, to consider your greatest
happiness to consist in losing your self-consciousness,--unless,
indeed, like Polycrates, you hope to insure future prosperity by
sacrificing your most valuable possession."

"If so, I, like Polycrates, am the gainer by my own precaution; for, in
your presence, dear lady, do I first truly find my right consciousness."

She clapped her hands gleefully, wilfully misunderstanding his meaning.

"Most complimentary of monarchs! So I am the haggard old fisherman who
replaced the lost bawble in the royal treasury! Pray, Sire, remember the
pension with which I should be rewarded!" And she bowed low, in mock
courtesy to her companion.

"Nay," rejoined Anthrops, vexed that his earnest compliment should be so
mishandled,--"blame your own perversity for such an interpretation. At
your side I forget that I live for any other purpose than to look at
you, and lavish my whole soul in an intensity of gazing; and then the
presumptuous thought, that you like to have me near you, nay, are
sometimes even pleased to talk to me, gives my poor self a value in my
own eyes, for the kindness you show me."

"I know all that well enough," said Haguna, quietly. "But in the mean
while, dear Anthrops, you must remember that it is really impolite to
stare so much."

By this time they had ridden deep into the still woods. Following the
light current of their talking, they wound in and out among the green
trees, under their broad arching boughs,--now following the path, now
beating a new track over the short grass mixed with the crisp gray moss.
The sunlight glanced shyly through the fluttering leaves, weaving with
their delicate shadows a rare tracery on the grass. The pattern was so
intricate and yet so suggestive, they were sure that some strange legend
was written there in mysterious characters,--something holding a fateful
reason for their ride together in the green woods. But just as they had
almost deciphered the secret, the broidered shadow disappeared under a
bush, leaving them in new perplexity. They looked for the story in the
windings of the checkerberry-vine and blue-eyed periwinkle, on the
lichens curiously growing on the boles of aged trees; but for all these
they had no dictionary. So they strayed on and on, in the endless
mazes of the forest, till they became entirely separated from their
companions, and lost all clue for recovering the path.

Anthrops looked in some perplexity at Haguna, to see if she were alarmed
at this position of affairs. He was rather surprised to find, that, far
from being discouraged, she seemed highly to enjoy the dilemma. She
leaned forward a little on her horse, her one gloved hand, dropping the
reins on his neck, nestled carelessly in his mane, while the forefinger
of the other hand rested on her lip, with a comical expression of mock
anxiety, as she looked inquiringly at Anthrops.

"I think," finally exclaimed Anthrops, "that we had better push straight
through the woods. We cannot go far without discovering some road that
will lead us back to the city."

"Nobly resolved, courageous Sir! But first tell me how we shall pass
this first barrier that besets our onward march."

And she pointed the end of the riding-whip that hung at her wrist to a
mass of brambles which formed an impenetrable wall immediately in their
path. Anthrops rubbed his eyes, for he could scarce believe that this
thicket had been there before; it seemed to have grown up suddenly while
he turned his head. He then tried to retrace his steps, but was thrown
into fresh perplexity by discovering that the trees seemed to have
closed in around them, so that he could find no opening for a horse.

"It seems evident to me," said Haguna, "that we must dismount, and find
our way on foot. If now we could have deciphered the hieroglyphs of the
shadows, we might have avoided this misfortune."

As cool water upon the brow of a fevered man, fell the clear tones
of her voice upon Anthrops, bewildered and confused by the sudden
enchantment. She, indeed, called it a misfortune, but so cheerily and
gayly that her voice belied the term; and Anthrops insensibly plucked up
heart, and shook off somewhat of that paralyzing astonishment.

He assisted her to dismount, and, leaving the horses to their fate,
they together hunted for some opening in the dense thicket. After much
search, Anthrops succeeded in discovering a small gap in the brambles,
through which he and Haguna crept, but only into fresh perplexity. They
gained a path, but with it no prospect of rejoining their companions;
for it wound an intricate course between ramparts of vine-covered
shrubbery, that shut it in on either side and intercepted all extended
view. The way was too narrow to admit of more than one person passing at
a time; and as Haguna happened to have emerged first from the thicket,
she boldly took the lead, following the path until they emerged into a
more open part of the forest, where the undulating ground was entirely
free from underbrush, and the eye roamed at pleasure through the wide
glades. Haguna followed some unseen waymarks with sure step, still
tacitly compelling Anthrops to follow her without inquiry. As she sped
lightly over the turf, she began to hum a little song:--

"Nodding flowers, and tender grass,
Bend and let the lady pass!
Lighter than the south-wind straying,
In the spring, o'er leaves decaying,
Seeking for his ardent kisses
One small flower that he misses,
Will I press your snowy bosoms,
Dainty, darling little blossoms!"

Singing thus, she descended a little hill, and, gliding round its base,
disappeared under a thick grape-vine that swung across it from two lofty
elms on either side. A spider in conscious security had woven his web
across the archway formed by the drooping festoons of the vine; the
untrodden path was overgrown with moss. Haguna lifted up the vine
and passed under, beckoning Anthrops to follow. He heard her still

"Quick unclasp your tendrils clinging,
Stealthily the trees enringing!
I have learnt your wily secret:
I will use it, I shall keep it!
Cunning spider, cease your spinning!
My web boasts the best beginning.
Yours is wan and pale and ashen:
After no such lifeless fashion
Mine is woven. Golden sunbeams
Prisoned in its meshes, light gleams
From its shadowest recesses.
Tell me, spider, made you ever
Web so strong no knife could sever
Woven of a maiden's tresses?"

On the other side of the viny curtain, Anthrops discovered the entrance
to a large cavern hollowed out in a rock. The cavern was carpeted with
the softest moss of the most variegated shades, ranging from faintest
green to a rich golden brown. The rocky walls were of considerable
height, and curved gracefully around the ample space,--a woodland
apartment. But the most remarkable feature in the grotto was a
rose-colored cloud, that seemed to have been imprisoned in the farther
end, and, in its futile efforts to escape, shifted perpetually into
strange, fantastic figures. Now, the massive form of the Israelitish
giant appeared lying at the feet of the Philistine damsel; anon, the
kingly shoulders of the swift-footed Achilles towered helplessly above
the heads of the island girls. The noble head of Marcus Antoninus bowed
in disgraceful homage before his wife; the gaunt figure of the stern
Florentine trembled at the footsteps of the light Beatrice; the sister
of Honorius, from the throne of half the world, saluted the sister
of Theodosius, grasping the sceptre of the other half in her slender
fingers. Every instance of weak compliance with the whims, of devoted
subjection to the power, of destructive attention to the caprices of
women by men, since Eve ruined her lord with the fatal apple, was
whimsically represented by the rapid configurations of this strange

Anthrops presently discovered Haguna half reclining on a raised
moss-seat, and dreamily running her white fingers through her hair,
which now fell unchecked to her feet. He had lost sight of her but a
few minutes, yet in that short time a strange change had come over her.
Perhaps it was because her rippling hair, which, slightly stirred by the
faint air of the cavern, rose and fell around her in long undulations,
made her appear as if floating in a golden brown haze. Perhaps it was
the familiarity with which she had taken possession of the grotto, as if
it had been a palace that she had expected, prepared for her reception.
But for some reason she appeared a great way off,--no longer a simple
maiden, involved with him in a woodland adventure, but a subtle

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest