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Droll Stories, Complete by Honore de Balzac

Part 9 out of 9

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the provinces. Certain people say that the lady of Chaumont had him in
her castle, to learn the truth about these qualities, and kept him
there for a week, to prevent him begging. But the good man jumped over
the hedges and fled in great terror of being rich. Advancing in age,
this great quintessencer found himself disdained, although his notable
faculties of loving were in no way impaired. This unjust turning away
on the part of the female tribe caused the first trouble of Vieux
par-Chemins, and the celebrated trial of Rouen, to which it is time I

In this eighty-second year of his age he was compelled to remain
continent for about seven months, during which time he met no woman
kindly disposed towards him; and he declared before the judge that
that had caused the greatest astonishment of his long and honourable
life. In this most pitiable state he saw in the fields during the
merry month of May a girl, who by chance was a maiden, and minding
cows. The heat was so excessive that this cowherdess had stretched
herself beneath the shadow of a beech tree, her face to the ground,
after the custom of people who labour in the fields, in order to get a
little nap while her animals were grazing. She was awakened by the
deed of the old man, who had stolen from her that which a poor girl
could only lose once. Finding herself ruined without receiving from
the process either knowledge or pleasure, she cried out so loudly that
the people working in the fields ran to her, and were called upon by
her as witnesses, at the time when that destruction was visible in her
which is appropriate only to a bridal night. She cried and groaned,
saying that the old ape might just as well have played his tricks on
her mother, who would have said nothing.

He made answer to the peasants, who had already raised their hoes to
kill him, that he had been compelled to enjoy himself. These people
objected that a man can enjoy himself very well without enjoying a
maiden--a case for the provost, which would bring him straight to the
gallows; and he was taken with great clamour to the jail of Rouen.

The girl, interrogated by the provost, declared that she was sleeping
in order to do something, and that she thought she was dreaming of her
lover, with whom she was then at loggerheads, because before marriage
he wished to take certain liberties: and jokingly, in this dream she
let him reconnoiter to a certain extent, in order to avoid any dispute
afterwards, and that in spite of her prohibitions he went further than
she had given him leave to go, and finding more pain than pleasure in
the affair, she had been awakened by Vieux par-Chemins, who had
attacked her as a gray-friar would a ham at the end of lent.

This trial caused so great a commotion in the town of Rouen that the
provost was sent for by the duke, who had an intense desire to know if
the thing were true. Upon the affirmation of the provost, he ordered
Vieux par-Chemins to be brought to his palace, in order that he might
hear what defence he had to make. The poor old fellow appeared before
the prince, and informed him naively of the misfortune which his
impulsive nature brought upon him, declaring that he was like a young
fellow impelled by imperious desires; that up to the present year he
had sweethearts of his own, but for the last eight months he had been
a total abstainer; that he was too poor to find favour with the girls
of the town; that honest women who once were charitable to him, had
taken a dislike to his hair, which had feloniously turned white in
spite of the green youth of his love, and that he felt compelled to
avail himself of the chance when he saw this maiden, who, stretched at
full length under the beech tree, left visible the lining of her dress
and two hemispheres, white as snow, which had deprived him of reason;
that the fault was the girl's and not his, because young maidens
should be forbidden to entice passers-by by showing them that which
caused Venus to be named Callipyge; finally the prince ought to be
aware what trouble a man had to control himself at the hour of noon,
because that was the time of day at which King David was smitten with
the wife of the Sieur Uriah, that where a Hebrew king, beloved of God,
had succumbed, a poor man, deprived of all joy, and reduced to begging
for his bread, could not expect to escape; that for that matter of
that, he was quite willing to sing psalms for the remainder of his
days, and play upon a lute by way of penance, in imitation of the said
king, who had had the misfortune to slay a husband, while he had only
done a trifling injury to a peasant girl. The duke listened to the
arguments of Vieux par-Chemins, and said that he was a man of good
parts. Then he made his memorable decree, that if, as this beggar
declared, he had need of such gratification at his age he gave
permission to prove it at the foot of the ladder which he would have
to mount to be hanged, according to the sentence already passed on him
by the provost; that if then, the rope being round his neck, between
the priest and the hangman, a like desire seized him he should have a
free pardon.

This decree becoming known, there was a tremendous crowd to see the
old fellow led to the gallows. There was a line drawn up as if for a
ducal entry, and in it many more bonnets than hats. Vieux par-Chemins
was saved by a lady curious to see how this precious violator would
finish his career. She told the duke that religion demanded that he
should have a fair chance. And she dressed herself as if for a ball;
she brought intentionally into evidence two hillocks of such snowy
whiteness that the whitest linen neckerchief would have paled before
them; indeed, these fruits of love stood out, without a wrinkle, over
her corset, like two beautiful apples, and made one's mouth water, so
exquisite were they. This noble lady, who was one of those who rouse
one's manhood, had a smile ready on her lips for the old fellow. Vieux
par-Chemins, dressed in garments of coarse cloth, more certain of
being in the desired state after hanging than before it, came along
between the officers of justice with a sad countenance, glancing now
here and there, and seeing nothing but head-dresses; and he would he
declared, have given a hundred crowns for a girl tucked up as was the
cowherdess, whose charms, though they had been his ruin, he still
remembered, and they might still have saved him; but, as he was old,
the remembrance was not sufficiently recent. But when, at the foot of
the ladder, he saw the twin charms of the lady, and the pretty delta
that their confluent rotundities produced, the sight so much excited
him that his emotion was patent to the spectators.

"Make haste and see that the required conditions are fulfilled," said
he to the officers. "I have gained my pardon but I cannot answer for
my saviour."

The lady was well pleased with this homage, which, she said, was
greater than his offence. The guards, whose business it was to proceed
to a verification, believed the culprit to be the devil, because never
in their wits had they seen an "I" so perpendicular as was the old
man. He was marched in triumph through the town to the palace of the
duke, to whom the guards and others stated the facts. In that period
of ignorance, this affair was thought so much of that the town voted
the erection of a column on the spot where the old fellow gained his
pardon, and he was portrayed thereon in stone in the attitude he
assumed at the sight of that honest and virtuous lady. The statue was
still to be seen when Rouen was taken by the English, and the writers
of the period have included this history among the notable events of
the reign.

As the town offered to supply the old man with all he required, and
see to his sustenance, clothing, and amusements, the good duke
arranged matters by giving the injured maiden a thousand crowns and
marrying her to her seducer, who then lost his name of Vieux
par-Chemins. He was named by the duke the Sieur de Bonne-C------.
This wife was confined nine months afterwards of a perfectly formed
male child, alive and kicking, and born with two teeth. From this
marriage came the house of Bonne-C------, who from motives modest but
wrong, besought our well-beloved King Louis Eleventh to grant them
letters patent to change their names into that of Bonne-Chose. The
king pointed out to the Sieur de Bonne-C------ that there was in the
state of Venice an illustrious family named Coglioni, who wore three
"C------ au natural" on their coat of arms. The gentlemen of the House
of Bonne-C------ stated to the king that their wives were ashamed to
be thus called in public assemblies; the king answered that they would
lose a great deal, because there is a great deal in a name.
Nevertheless, he granted the letters. After that this race was known
by this name, and founded families in many provinces. The first Sieur
de Bonne-C------ lived another 27 years, and had another son and two
daughters. But he grieved much at becoming rich, and no longer being
able to pick up a living in the street.

From this you can obtain finer lessons and higher morals than from any
story you will read all your life long--of course excepting these
hundred glorious Droll Tales--namely, that never could adventure of
this sort have happened to the impaired and ruined constitutions of
court rascals, rich people and others who dig their graves with their
teeth by over-eating and drinking many wines that impair the
implements of happiness; which said over-fed people were lolling
luxuriously in costly draperies and on feather beds, while the Sieur
de Bonne-Chose was roughing it. In a similar situation, if they had
eaten cabbage, it would have given them the diarrhoea. This may incite
many of those who read this story to change their mode of life, in
order to imitate Vieux par-Chemins in his old age.


When the pope left his good town of Avignon to take up his residence
in Rome, certain pilgrims were thrown out who had set out for this
country, and would have to pass the high Alps, in order to gain this
said town of Rome, where they were going to seek the _remittimus_ of
various sins. Then were to be seen on the roads, and the hostelries,
those who wore the order of Cain, otherwise the flower of the
penitents, all wicked fellows, burdened with leprous souls, which
thirsted to bathe in the papal piscina, and all carrying with them
gold or precious things to purchase absolution, pay for their beds,
and present to the saints. You may be sure that those who drank water
going, on their return, if the landlords gave them water, wished it to
be the holy water of the cellar.

At this time the three pilgrims came to this said Avignon to their
injury, seeing that it was widowed of the pope. While they were
passing the Rhodane, to reach the Mediterranean coast, one of the
three pilgrims, who had with him a son about 10 years of age, parted
company with the others, and near the town of Milan suddenly appeared
again, but without the boy. Now in the evening, at supper, they had a
hearty feast in order to celebrate the return of the pilgrim, who they
thought had become disgusted with penitence through the pope not being
in Avignon. Of these three roamers to Rome, one had come from the city
of Paris, the other from Germany, and the third, who doubtless wished
to instruct his son on the journey, had his home in the duchy of
Burgundy, in which he had certain fiefs, and was a younger son of the
house of Villers-la-Faye (Villa in Fago), and was named La Vaugrenand.
The German baron had met the citizen of Paris just past Lyons, and
both had accosted the Sire de la Vaugrenand in sight of Avignon.

Now in this hostelry the three pilgrims loosened their tongues, and
agreed to journey to Rome together, in order the better to resist the
foot pads, the night-birds, and other malefactors, who made it their
business to ease pilgrims of that which weighed upon their bodies
before the pope eased them of that which weighed upon their
consciences. After drinking the three companions commenced to talk
together, for the bottle is the key of conversation, and each made
this confession--that the cause of his pilgrimage was a woman. The
servant who watched their drinking, told them that of a hundred
pilgrims who stopped in the locality, ninety-nine were travelling from
the same thing. These three wise men then began to consider how
pernicious is woman to man. The Baron showed the heavy gold chain that
he had in his hauberk to present to Saint Peter, and said his crime
was such that he would not get rid of with the value of two such
chains. The Parisian took off his glove, and exposed a ring set with a
white diamond, saying that he had a hundred like it for the pope. The
Burgundian took off his hat, and exhibited two wonderful pearls, that
were beautiful ear-pendants for Notre-Dame-de-Lorette, and candidly
confessed that he would rather have left them round his wife's neck.

Thereupon the servant exclaimed that their sins must have been as
great as those of Visconti.

Then the pilgrims replied that they were such that they had made a
solemn vow in their minds never to go astray again during the
remainder of their days, however beautiful the woman might be, and
this in addition to the penance which the pope might impose upon them.

Then the servant expressed her astonishment that all had made the same
vow. The Burgundian added, that this vow had been the cause of his
lagging behind, because he had been in extreme fear that his son, in
spite of his age, might go astray, and that he had made a vow to
prevent people and beasts alike gratifying their passions in his
house, or upon his estates. The baron having inquired the particulars
of the adventure, the sire narrated the affair as follows:--

"You know that the good Countess Jeane d'Avignon made formerly a law
for the harlots, who she compelled to live in the outskirts of the
town in houses with window-shutters painted red and closed. Now
passing in my company in this vile neighbourhood, my lad remarked
these houses with closed window-shutters, painted red, and his
curiosity being aroused--for these ten-year old little devils have
eyes for everything--he pulled me by the sleeve and kept on pulling
until he had learnt from me what these houses were. Then, to obtain
peace, I told him that young lads had nothing to do with such places,
and could only enter them at the peril of their lives, because it was
a place where men and women were manufactured, and the danger was such
for anyone unacquainted with the business that if a novice entered,
flying chancres and other wild beasts would seize upon his face. Fear
seized the lad, who then followed me to the hostelry in a state of
agitation, and not daring to cast his eyes upon the said bordels.
While I was in the stable, seeing to the putting up of the horses, my
son went off like a robber, and the servant was unable to tell me what
had become of him. Then I was in great fear of the wenches, but had
confidence in the laws, which forbade them to admit such children. At
supper-time the rascal came back to me looking no more ashamed of
himself than did our divine Saviour in the temple among the doctors.

"'Whence comes you?' said I to him.

"'From the houses with the red shutters,' he replied.

"'Little blackguard,' said I, 'I'll give you a taste of the whip.'

"Then he began to moan and cry. I told him that if he would confess
all that had happened to him I would let him off the beating.

"'Ha,' said he, 'I took care not to go in, because of the flying
chancres and other wild beasts. I only looked through the chinks of
the windows, in order to see how men were manufactured.'

"'And what did you see?' I asked.

"'I saw,' said he, 'a fine woman just being finished, because she only
wanted one peg, which a young worker was fitting in with energy.
Directly she was finished she turned round, spoke to, and kissed her

"'Have your supper,' said I; and the same night I returned into
Burgundy, and left him with his mother, being sorely afraid that at
the first town he might want to fit a peg into some girl."

"These children often make these sort of answers," said the Parisian.
"One of my neighbour's children revealed the cuckoldom of his father
by a reply. One day I asked, to see if he was well instructed at
school in religious matters, 'What is hope?' 'One of the king's big
archers, who comes here when father goes out,' said he. Indeed, the
sergeant of the Archers was named Hope. My friend was dumbfounded at
this, and, although to keep his countenance he looked in the mirror,
he could not see his horns there."

The baron observed that the boy's remark was good in this way: that
Hope is a person who comes to bed with us when the realities of life
are out of the way.

"Is a cuckold made in the image of God?" asked the Burgundian.

"No," said the Parisian, "because God was wise in this respect, that
he took no wife; therefore is He happy through all eternity."

"But," said the maid-servant, "cuckolds are made in the image of God
before they are horned."

Then the three pilgrims began to curse women, saying that they were
the cause of all the evils in the world.

"Their heads are as empty as helmets," said the Burgundian.

"Their hearts are as straight as bill-hooks," said the Parisian.

"Why are there so many men pilgrims and so few women pilgrims?" said
the German baron.

"Their cursed member never sins," replied the Parisian; "it knows
neither father nor mother, the commandments of God, nor those of the
Church, neither laws divine or human: their member knows no doctrine,
understands no heresies, and cannot be blamed; it is innocent of all,
and always on the laugh; its understanding is nil; and for this reason
do I hold it in utter detestation."

"I also," said the Burgundian, "and I begin to understand the
different reading by a learned man of the verses of the Bible, in
which the account of the creation is given. In this Commentary, which
in my country we call a Noel, lies the reason of imperfection of this
feature of women, of which, different to that of other females, no man
can slake the thirst, such diabolical heat existing there. In this
Noel is stated that the Lord God, having turned his head to look at a
donkey, who had brayed for the first time in his Paradise, while he
was manufacturing Eve, the devil seized this moment to put his finger
into this divine creature, and made a warm wound, which the Lord took
care to close with a stitch, from which comes the maid. By means of
this frenum, the woman should remain closed, and children be made in
the same manner in which God made the angels, by a pleasure far above
carnal pleasure as the heaven is above the earth. Observing this
closing, the devil, wild at being done, pinched the Sieur Adam, who
was asleep, by the skin, and stretched a portion of it out in
imitation of his diabolical tail; but as the father of man was on his
back this appendage came out in front. Thus these two productions of
the devil had the desire to reunite themselves, following the law of
similarities which God had laid down for the conduct of the world.
From this came the first sin and the sorrows of the human race,
because God, noticing the devil's work, determined to see what would
come of it."

The servant declared that they were quite correct in the statements,
for that woman was a bad animal, and that she herself knew some who
were better under the ground than on it. The pilgrims, noticing then
how pretty the girl was, were afraid of breaking their vows, and went
straight to bed. The girl went and told her mistress she was
harbouring infidels, and told her what they had said about women.

"Ah!" said the landlady, "what matters it to me the thoughts my
customers have in their brains, so long as their purses are well

And when the servant had told of the jewels, she exclaimed--

"Ah, these are questions which concern all women. Let us go and reason
with them. I'll take the nobles, you can have the citizen."

The landlady, who was the most shameless inhabitant of the duchy of
Milan, went into the chamber where the Sire de La Vaugrenand and the
German baron were sleeping, and congratulated them upon their vows,
saying that the women would not lose much by them; but to accomplish
these said vows it was necessary they should endeavour to withstand
the strongest temptations. Then she offered to lie down beside them,
so anxious were she to see if she would be left unmolested, a thing
which had never happened to her yet in the company of a man.

On the morrow, at breakfast, the servant had the ring on her finger,
her mistress had the gold chain and the pearl earrings. The three
pilgrims stayed in the town about a month, spending there all the
money they had in their purses, and agreed that if they had spoken so
severely of women it was because they had not known those of Milan.

On his return to Germany the Baron made this observation: that he was
only guilty of one sin, that of being in his castle. The Citizen of
Paris came back full of stories for his wife, and found her full of
Hope. The Burgundian saw Madame de La Vaugrenand so troubled that he
nearly died of the consolations he administered to her, in spite of
his former opinions. This teaches us to hold our tongues in


By the double crest of my fowl, and by the rose lining of my
sweetheart's slipper! By all the horns of well-beloved cuckolds, and
by the virtue of their blessed wives! the finest work of man is
neither poetry, nor painted pictures, nor music, nor castles, nor
statues, be they carved never so well, nor rowing, nor sailing
galleys, but children.

Understand me, children up to the age of ten years, for after that
they become men or women, and cutting their wisdom teeth, are not
worth what they cost; the worst are the best. Watch them playing,
prettily and innocently, with slippers; above all, cancellated ones,
with the household utensils, leaving that which displeases them,
crying after that which pleases them, munching the sweets and
confectionery in the house, nibbling at the stores, and always
laughing as soon as their teeth are cut, and you will agree with me
that they are in every way lovable; besides which they are flower and
fruit--the fruit of love, the flower of life. Before their minds have
been unsettled by the disturbances of life, there is nothing in this
world more blessed or more pleasant than their sayings, which are
naive beyond description. This is as true as the double chewing
machine of a cow. Do not expect a man to be innocent after the manner
of children, because there is an, I know not what, ingredient of
reason in the naivety of a man, while the naivety of children is
candid, immaculate, and has all the finesse of the mother, which is
plainly proved in this tale.

Queen Catherine was at that time Dauphine, and to make herself welcome
to the king, her father-in-law, who at that time was very ill indeed,
presented him, from time to time, with Italian pictures, knowing that
he liked them much, being a friend of the Sieur Raphael d'Urbin and of
the Sieurs Primatice and Leonardo da Vinci, to whom he sent large sums
of money. She obtained from her family--who had the pick of these
works, because at that time the Duke of the Medicis governed Tuscany
--a precious picture, painted by a Venetian named Titian (artist to
the Emperor Charles, and in very high flavour), in which there were
portraits of Adam and Eve at the moment when God left them to wander
about the terrestrial Paradise, and were painted their full height, in
the costume of the period, in which it is difficult to make a mistake,
because they were attired in their ignorance, and caparisoned with the
divine grace which enveloped them--a difficult thing to execute on
account of the colour, but one in which the said Sieur Titian
excelled. The picture was put into the room of the poor king, who was
then ill with the disease of which he eventually died. It had a great
success at the Court of France, where everyone wished to see it; but
no one was able to until after the king's death, since at his desire
it was allowed to remain in his room as long as he lived.

One day Madame Catherine took with her to the king's room her son
Francis and little Margot, who began to talk at random, as children
will. Now here, now there, these children had heard this picture of
Adam and Eve spoken about, and had tormented their mother to take them
there. Since the two little ones at times amused the old king, Madame
the Dauphine consented to their request.

"You wished to see Adam and Eve, who were our first parents; there
they are," said she.

Then she left them in great astonishment before Titian's picture, and
seated herself by the bedside of the king, who delighted to watch the

"Which of the two is Adam?" said Francis, nudging his sister Margot's

"You silly!" replied she, "to know that, they would have to be

This reply, which delighted the poor king and the mother, was
mentioned in a letter written in Florence by Queen Catherine.

No writer having brought it to light, it will remain, like a sweet
flower, in a corner of these Tales, although it is no way droll, and
there is no other moral to be drawn from it except that to hear these
pretty speeches of infancy one must beget the children.



The lovely lady Imperia, who gloriously opens these tales, because she
was the glory of her time, was compelled to come into the town of
Rome, after the holding of the council, for the cardinal of Ragusa
loved her more than his cardinal's hat, and wished to have her near
him. This rascal was so magnificent, that he presented her with the
beautiful palace that he had in the Papal capital. About this time she
had the misfortune to find herself in an interesting condition by this
cardinal. As everyone knows, this pregnancy finished with a fine
little daughter, concerning whom the Pope said jokingly that she
should be named Theodora, as if to say The Gift Of God. The girl was
thus named, and was exquisitely lovely. The cardinal left his
inheritance to this Theodora, whom the fair Imperia established in her
hotel, for she was flying from Rome as from a pernicious place, where
children were begotten, and where she had nearly spoiled her beautiful
figure, her celebrated perfections, lines of the body, curves of the
back, delicious breasts, and Serpentine charms which placed her as
much above the other women of Christendom as the Holy Father was above
all other Christians. But all her lovers knew that with the assistance
of eleven doctors of Padua, seven master surgeons of Pavia, and five
surgeons come from all parts, who assisted at her confinement, she was
preserved from all injury. Some go so far as to say that she gained
therein superfineness and whiteness of skin. A famous man, of the
school of Salerno, wrote a book on the subject, to show the value of a
confinement for the freshness, health, preservation, and beauty of
women. In this very learned book it was clearly proved to readers that
that which was beautiful to see in Imperia, was that which it was
permissible for lovers alone to behold; a rare case then, for she did
not disarrange her attire for the petty German princes whom she called
her margraves, burgraves, electors, and dukes, just as a captain ranks
his soldiers.

Everyone knows that when she was eighteen years of age, the lovely
Theodora, to atone for her mother's gay life, wished to retire into
the bosom of the Church. With this idea she placed herself in the
hands of a cardinal, in order that he might instruct her in the duties
of the devout. This wicked shepherd found the lamb so magnificently
beautiful that he attempted to debauch her. Theodora instantly stabbed
herself with a stiletto, in order not to be contaminated by the
evil-minded priest. This adventure, which was consigned to the history
of the period, made a great commotion in Rome, and was deplored by
everyone, so much was the daughter of Imperia beloved.

Then this noble courtesan, much afflicted, returned to Rome, there to
weep for her poor daughter. She set out in the thirty-ninth year of
her age, which was, according to some authors, the summer of her
magnificent beauty, because then she had obtained the acme of
perfection, like ripe fruit. Sorrow made her haughty and hard with
those who spoke to her of love, in order to dry her tears. The pope
himself visited her in her palace, and gave her certain words of
admonition. But she refused to be comforted, saying that she would
henceforth devote herself to God, because she had never yet been
satisfied by any man, although she had ardently desired it; and all of
them, even a little priest, whom she had adored like a saint's shrine,
had deceived her. God, she was sure, would not do so.

This resolution disconcerted many, for she was the joy of a vast
number of lords. So that people ran about the streets of Rome crying
out, "Where is Madame Imperia? Is she going to deprive the world of
love?" Some of the ambassadors wrote to their masters on the subject.
The Emperor of the Romans was much cut up about it, because he had
loved her to distraction for eleven weeks; had left her only to go to
the wars, and loved her still as much as his most precious member,
which according to his own statement, was his eye, for that alone
embraced the whole of his dear Imperia. In this extremity the Pope
sent for a Spanish physician, and conducted him to the beautiful
creature, to whom he proved, by various arguments, adorned with Latin
and Greek quotations, that beauty is impaired by tears and
tribulation, and that through sorrow's door wrinkles step in. This
proposition, confirmed by the doctors of the Holy College in
controversy, had the effect of opening the doors of the palace that
same evening. The young cardinals, the foreign envoys, the wealthy
inhabitants, and the principal men of the town of Rome came, crowded
the rooms, and held a joyous festival; the common people made grand
illuminations, and thus the whole population celebrated the return of
the Queen of Pleasure to her occupation, for she was at that time the
presiding deity of Love. The experts in all the arts loved her much,
because she spent considerable sums of money improving the Church in
Rome, which contained poor Theodora's tomb, which was destroyed during
that pillage of Rome in which perished the traitorous constable of
Bourbon, for this holy maiden was placed therein in a massive coffin
of gold and silver, which the cursed soldiers were anxious to obtain.
The basilic cost, it is said, more than the pyramid erected by the
Lady Rhodepa, an Egyptian courtesan, eighteen hundred years before the
coming of our divine Saviour, which proves the antiquity of this
pleasant occupation, the extravagant prices which the wise Egyptians
paid for their pleasures, and how things deteriorate, seeing that now
for a trifle you can have a chemise full of female loveliness in the
Rue du Petit-Heulen, at Paris. Is it not abomination?

Never had Madame Imperia appeared so lovely as at this first gala
after her mourning. All the princes, cardinals, and others declared
that she was worthy the homage of the whole world, which was there
represented by a noble from every known land, and thus was it amply
demonstrated that beauty was in every place queen of everything.

The envoy of the King of France, who was a cadet of the house of l'Ile
Adam, arrived late, although he had never yet seen Imperia, and was
most anxious to do so. He was a handsome young knight, much in favour
with his sovereign, in whose court he had a mistress, whom he loved
with infinite tenderness, and who was the daughter of Monsieur de
Montmorency, a lord whose domains bordered upon those of the house of
l'Ile Adam. To this penniless cadet the king had given certain
missions to the duchy of Milan, of which he had acquitted himself so
well that he was sent to Rome to advance the negotiations concerning
which historians have written so much in their books. Now if he had
nothing of his own, poor little l'Ile Adam relied upon so good a
beginning. He was slightly built, but upright as a column, dark, with
black, glistening eyes; and a man not easily taken in; but concealing
his finesse, he had the air of an innocent child, which made him
gentle and amiable as a laughing maiden. Directly this gentleman
joined her circle, and her eyes had rested upon him, Madame Imperia
felt herself bitten by a strong desire, which stretched the harp
strings of her nature, and produced therefrom a sound she had not
heard for many a day. She was seized with such a vertigo of true love
at the sight of this freshness of youth, that but for her imperial
dignity she would have kissed the good cheeks which shone like little

Now take note of this; that so called modest women, and ladies whose
skirts bear their armorial bearings, are thoroughly ignorant of the
nature of man, because they keep to one alone, like the Queen of
France who believed all men had ulcers in the nose because the king
had; but a great courtesan, like Madame Imperia, knew man to his core,
because she had handled a great many. In her retreat, everyone came
out in his true colours, and concealed nothing, thinking to himself
that he would not be long with her. Having often deplored this
subjection, sometimes she would remark that she suffered from pleasure
more than she suffered from pain. There was the dark shadow of her
life. You may be sure that a lover was often compelled to part with a
nice little heap of crowns in order to pass the night with her, and
was reduced to desperation by a refusal. Now for her it was a joyful
thing to feel a youthful desire, like that she had for the little
priest, whose story commences this collection; but because she was
older than in those merry days, love was more fully established in
her, and she soon perceived that it was of a fiery nature when it
began to make itself felt; indeed, she suffered in her skin like a cat
that is being scorched, and so much so that she had an intense longing
to spring upon this gentleman, and bear him in triumph to her nest, as
a kite does its prey, but with great difficulty she restrained
herself. When he came and bowed to her, she threw back her head, and
assumed a most dignified attitude, as do those who have a love
infatuation in their hearts. The gravity of her demeanour to the young
ambassador caused many to think that she had work in store for him;
equivocating on the word, after the custom of the time.

L'Ile Adam, knowing himself to be dearly loved by his mistress,
troubled himself but little about Madame Imperia, grave or gay, and
frisked about like a goat let loose. The courtesan, terribly annoyed
at this, changed her tone, from being sulky became gay and lively,
came to him, softened her voice, sharpened her glance, gracefully
inclined her head, rubbed against him with her sleeve, and called him
Monsiegneur, embraced him with the loving words, trifled with his
hand, and finished by smiling at him most affably. He, not imagining
that so unprofitable a lover would suit her, for he was as poor as a
church mouse, and did not know that his beauty was the equal in her
eyes to all the treasures of the world, was not taken in her trap, but
continued to ride the high horse with his hand on his hips. This
disdain of her passion irritated Madame to the heart, which by this
spark was set in flame. If you doubt this, it is because you know
nothing of the profession of the Madame Imperia, who by reason of it
might be compared to a chimney, in which a great number of fires have
been lighted, which had filled it with soot; in this state a match was
sufficient to burn everything there, where a hundred fagots has smoked
comfortably. She burned within from top to toe in a horrible manner,
and could not be extinguished save with the water of love. The cadet
of l'Ile Adam left the room without noticing this ardour.

Madame, disconsolate at his departure, lost her senses from her head
to her feet, and so thoroughly that she sent a messenger to him on the
galleries, begging him to pass the night with her. On no other
occasion of her life had she had this cowardice, either for king,
pope, or emperor, since the high price of her favours came from the
bondage in which she held her admirers, whom the more she humbled the
more she raised herself. The disdainful hero of this history was
informed by the head chamber-women, who was a clever jade, that in all
probability a great treat awaited him, for most certainly Madame would
regale him with her most delicate inventions of love. L'Ile Adam
returned to the salons, delighted at this lucky chance. Directly the
envoy of France reappeared, as everyone had seen Imperia turn pale at
his departure, the general joy knew no bounds, because everyone was
delighted to see her return to her old life of love. An English
cardinal, who had drained more than one big-bellied flagon, and wished
to taste Imperia, went to l'Ile Adam and whispered to him, "Hold her
fast, so that she shall never again escape us."

The story of this remark was told to the pope at his levee, and caused
him to remark, _Laetamini, gentes, quoniam surrexit Dominus_. A
quotation which the old cardinals abominated as a profanation of
sacred texts. Seeing which, the pope reprimanded them severely, and
took occasion to lecture them, telling them that if they were good
Christians they were bad politicians. Indeed, he relied upon the fair
Imperia to reclaim the emperor, and with this idea he syringed her
well with flattery.

The lights of the palace being extinguished, the golden flagons on the
floor, and the servants drunk and stretched about on the carpets,
Madame entered her bedchamber, leading by the hand her dear
lover-elect; and she was well pleased, and has since confessed that so
strongly was she bitten with love, she could hardly restrain herself
from rolling at his feet like a beast of the field, begging him to
crush her beneath him if he could. L'Ile Adam slipped off his
garments, and tumbled into bed as if he were in his own house. Seeing
which, Madame hastened her preparations, and sprang into her lover's
arms with a frenzy that astonished her women, who knew her to be
ordinarily one of the most modest of women on these occasions. The
astonishment became general throughout the country, for the pair
remained in bed for nine days, eating, drinking, and embracing in a
marvellous and most masterly manner. Madame told her women that at
last she had placed her hand on a phoenix of love, since he revived
from every attack. Nothing was talked of in Rome and Italy but the
victory that had been gained over Imperia, who had boasted that she
would yield to no man, and spat upon all of them, even the dukes. As
to the aforesaid margraves and burgraves, she gave them the tail of
her dress to hold, and said that if she did not tread them under foot,
they would trample upon her. Madame confessed to her servants that,
differently to all other men she had had to put up with, the more she
fondled this child of love, the more she desired to do so, and that
she would never be able to part with him; nor his splendid eyes, which
blinded her; nor his branch of coral, that she always hungered after.
She further declared that if such were his desire, she would let him
suck her blood, eat her breasts--which were the most lovely in the
world--and cut her tresses, of which she had only given a single one
to the Emperor of the Romans, who kept it in his breast, like a
precious relic; finally, she confessed that on that night only had
life begun for her, because the embrace of Villiers de l'Ile Adam sent
the blood to her in three bounds and in a brace of shakes.

These expressions becoming known, made everyone very miserable.
Directly she went out, Imperia told the ladies of Rome that she should
die it if she were deserted by this gentleman, and would cause
herself, like Queen Cleopatra, to be bitten by an asp. She declared
openly that she had bidden an eternal adieu her to her former gay
life, and would show the whole world what virtue was by abandoning her
empire for this Villiers de l'Ile Adam, whose servant she would rather
be than reign of Christendom. The English cardinal remonstrated with
the pope that this love for one, in the heart of a woman who was the
joy of all, was an infamous depravity, and that he ought with a brief
_in partibus_, to annul this marriage, which robbed the fashionable
world of its principal attraction. But the love of this poor woman,
who had confessed the miseries of her life, was so sweet a thing, and
so moved the most dissipated heart, that she silenced all clamour, and
everyone forgave her her happiness. One day, during Lent, Imperia made
her people fast, and ordered them to go and confess, and return to
God. She herself went and fell at the pope's feet, and there showed
such penitence, that she obtained from him remission of all her sins,
believing that the absolution of the pope would communicate to her
soul that virginity which she was grieved at being unable to offer her
lover. It is impossible to help thinking that there was some virtue in
the ecclesiastical piscina, for the poor cadet was so smothered with
love that he fancied himself in Paradise, and left the negotiations of
the King of France, left his love for Mademoiselle de Montmorency--in
fact, left everything to marry Madame Imperia, in order that he might
live and die with her. Such was the effect of the learned ways of this
great lady of pleasure directly she turned her science to the root of
a virtuous love. Imperia bade adieu to her admirers at a royal feast,
given in honour of her wedding, which was a wonderful ceremony, at
which all the Italian princes were present. She had, it is said, a
million gold crowns; in spite of the vastness of this sum, every one
far from blaming L'Ile Adam, paid him many compliments, because it was
evident that neither Madame Imperia nor her young husband thought of
anything but one. The pope blessed their marriage, and said that it
was a fine thing to see the foolish virgin returning to God by the
road of marriage.

But during that last night in which it would be permissible for all to
behold the Queen of Beauty, who was about to become a simple
chatelaine of the kingdom of France, there were a great number of men
who mourned for the merry nights, the suppers, the masked balls, the
joyous games, and the melting hours, when each one emptied his heart
to her. Everyone regretted the ease and freedom which had always been
found in the residence of this lovely creature, who now appeared more
tempting than she had ever done in her life, for the fervid heat of
her great love made her glisten like a summer sun. Much did they
lament the fact that she had had the sad fantasy to become a
respectable woman. To these Madame de l'Ile Adam answered jestingly,
that after twenty-four years passed in the service of the public, she
had a right to retire. Others said to her, that however distant the
sun was, people could warm themselves in it, while she would show
herself no more. To these she replied that she would still have smiles
to bestow upon those lords who would come and see how she played the
role of a virtuous woman. To this the English envoy answered, he
believed her capable of pushing virtue to its extreme point. She gave
a present to each of her friends, and large sums to the poor and
suffering of Rome; besides this, she left to the convent where her
daughter was to have been, and to the church she had built, the wealth
she had inherited from Theodora, which came from the cardinal of

When the two spouses set out they were accompanied a long way by
knights in mourning, and even by the common people, who wished them
every happiness, because Madame Imperia had been hard on the rich
only, and had always been kind and gentle with the poor. This lovely
queen of love was hailed with acclamations throughout the journey in
all the towns of Italy where the report of her conversion had spread,
and where everyone was curious to see pass, a case so rare as two such
spouses. Several princes received this handsome couple at their
courts, saying it was but right to show honour to this woman who had
the courage to renounce her empire over the world of fashion, to
become a virtuous woman. But there was an evil-minded fellow, one my
lord Duke of Ferrara, who said to l'Ile Adam that his great fortune
had not cost him much. At this first offence Madame Imperia showed
what a good heart she had, for she gave up all the money she had
received from her lovers, to ornament the dome of St. Maria del Fiore,
in the town of Florence, which turned the laugh against the Sire
d'Este, who boasted that he had built a church in spite of the empty
condition of his purse. You may be sure he was reprimanded for this
joke by his brother the cardinal.

The fair Imperia only kept her own wealth and that which the Emperor
had bestowed upon her out of pure friendship since his departure, the
amount of which was however, considerable. The cadet of l'Ile Adam had
a duel with the duke, in which he wounded him. Thus neither Madame de
l'Ile Adam, nor her husband could be in any way reproached. This piece
of chivalry caused her to be gloriously received in all places she
passed through, especially in Piedmont, where the fetes were splendid.
Verses which the poet then composed, such as sonnets, epithalamias,
and odes, have been given in certain collections; but all poetry was
weak in comparison with her, who was, according to an expression of
Monsieur Boccaccio, poetry herself.

The prize in this tourney of fetes and gallantry must be awarded to
the good Emperor of the Romans, who, knowing of the misbehaviour of
the Duke of Ferrara, dispatched an envoy to his old flame, charged
with Latin manuscripts, in which he told her that he loved her so much
for herself, that he was delighted to know that she was happy, but
grieved to know that all her happiness was not derived from him; that
he had lost his right to make her presents, but that, if the king of
France received her coldly, he would think it an honour to acquire a
Villiers to the holy empire, and would give him such principalities as
he might choose from his domains. The fair Imperia replied that she
was extremely obliged to the Emperor, but that had she to suffer
contumely upon contumely in France, she still intended there to finish
her days.


Not knowing if it she would be received or not, the lady of l'Ile Adam
would not go to court, but lived in the country, where her husband
made a fine establishment, purchasing the manor of
Beaumont-le-Vicomte, which gave rise to the equivoque upon his name,
made by our well-beloved Rabelais, in his most magnificent book. He
acquired also the domain of Nointel, the forest of Carenelle, St.
Martin, and other places in the neighbourhood of the l'Ile Adam, where
his brother Villiers resided. These said acquisitions made him the most
powerful lord in the l'Ile de France and county of Paris. He built a
wonderful castle near Beaumont, which was afterwards ruined by the
English, and adorned it with the furniture, foreign tapestries, chests,
pictures, statues, and curiosities, of his wife, who was a great
connoisseur, which made this place equal to the most magnificent
castles known.

The happy pair led a life so envied by all, that nothing was talked
about in Paris and at Court but this marriage, the good fortune of the
Sire de Beaumont, and, above all, of the perfect, loyal, gracious, and
religious life of his wife, who from habit many still called Madame
Imperia; who was no longer proud and sharp as steel, but had the
virtues and qualities of a respectable woman, and was an example in
many things to a queen. She was much beloved by the Church on account
of her great religion, for she had never once forgotten God, having,
as she once said, spent much of her time with churchmen, abbots,
bishops, and cardinals, who had sprinkled her well with holy water,
and under the curtains worked her eternal salvation.

The praises sung in honour of this lady had such an effect, that the
king came to Beauvoisis to gaze upon this wonder, and did the sire the
honour to sleep at Beaumont, remained there three days, and had a
royal hunt there with the queen and the whole Court. You may be sure
that he was surprised, as were also the queen, the ladies, and the
Court, at the manners of this superb creature, who was proclaimed a
lady of courtesy and beauty. The king first, then the queen, and
afterwards every individual member of the company, complemented l'Ile
Adam on having chosen such a wife. The modesty of the chatelaine did
more than pride would have accomplished; for she was invited to court,
and everywhere, so imperious was her great heart, so tyrannic her
violent love for her husband. You may be sure that her charms, hidden
under the garments of virtue, were none the less exquisite. The king
gave the vacant post of lieutenant of the Ile de France and provost of
Paris to his ancient ambassador, giving him the title of Viscount of
Beaumont, which established him as governor of the whole province, and
put him on an excellent footing at court. But this was the cause of a
great wound in Madame's heart, because a wretch, jealous of this
unclouded happiness, asked her, playfully, if Beaumont had ever spoken
to her of his first love, Mademoiselle de Montmorency, who at that
time was twenty-two years of age, as she was sixteen at the time the
marriage took place in Rome--the which young lady loved l'Ile Adam so
much that she remained a maiden, would listen to no proposals of
marriage, and was dying of a broken heart, unable to banish her
perfidious lover from her remembrance and was desirous of entering the
convent of Chelles. Madame Imperia, during the six years of her
marriage, had never heard this name, and was sure from this fact that
she was indeed beloved. You can imagine that this time had been passed
as a single day, that both believed that they had only been married
the evening before, and that each night was as a wedding night, and
that if business took the knight out of doors, he was quite
melancholy, being unwilling ever to have her out of his sight, and she
was the same with him.

The king, who was very partial to the viscount, also made a remark to
him which stung him to the quick, when he said, "You have no

To which Beaumont replied, with the face of a man whose raw place you
have touched with your finger, "Monsiegneur, my brother has; thus our
line is safe."

Now it happened that his brother's two children died suddenly--one
from a fall from his horse at a tournament and the other from illness.
Monsieur l'Ile Adam the elder was so stricken with grief at these two
deaths that he expired soon after, so much did he love his two sons.
By this means the manor of Beaumont, the property at Carenelle, St.
Martin, Nointel, and the surrounding domains, were reunited to the
manor of l'Ile Adam, and the neighbouring forests, and the cadet
became the head of the house. At this time Madame was forty-five, and
was still fit to bear children; but alas! she conceived not. As soon
as she saw the lineage of l'Ile Adam destroyed, she was anxious to
obtain offspring.

Now, as during the seven years which had elapsed she had never once
had the slightest hint of pregnancy, she believed, according to the
statement of a clever physician whom she sent for from Paris, that
this barrenness proceeded from the fact, that both she and her
husband, always more lovers than spouses, allowed pleasure to
interfere with business, and by this means engendering was prevented.
Then she endeavoured to restrain her impetuosity, and to take things
coolly, because the physician had explained to her that in a state of
nature animals never failed to breed, because the females employed
none of those artifices, tricks, and hanky-pankies with which women
accommodate the olives of Poissy, and for this reason they thoroughly
deserved the title of beasts. She promised him no longer to play with
such a serious affair, and to forget all the ingenious devices in
which she had been so fertile. But, alas! although she kept as quiet
as that German woman who lay so still that her husband embraced her to
death, and then went, poor baron, to obtain absolution from the pope,
who delivered his celebrated brief, in which he requested the ladies
of Franconia to be a little more lively, and prevent a repetition of
such a crime. Madame de l'Ile Adam did not conceive, and fell into a
state of great melancholy.

Then she began to notice how thoughtful had become her husband, l'Ile
Adam, whom she watched when he thought she was not looking, and who
wept that he had no fruit of his great love. Soon this pair mingled
their tears, for everything was common to the two in this fine
household, and as they never left the other, the thought of the one
was necessarily the thought of the other. When Madame beheld a poor
person's child she nearly died of grief, and it took her a whole day
to recover. Seeing this great sorrow, l'Ile Adam ordered all children
to be kept out of his wife's sight, and said soothing things to her,
such as that children often turned out badly; to which she replied,
that a child made by those who loved so passionately would be the
finest child in the world. He told her that her sons might perish,
like those of his poor brother; to which she replied, that she would
not let them stir further from her petticoats than a hen allows her
chickens. In fact, she had an answer for everything.

Madame caused a woman to be sent for who dealt in magic, and who was
supposed to be learned in these mysteries, who told her that she had
often seen women unable to conceive in spite of every effort, but yet
they had succeeded by studying the manners and customs of animals.
Madame took the beasts of the fields for her preceptors, but she did
not increase in size; her flesh still remained firm and white as
marble. She returned to the physical science of the master doctors of
Paris, and sent for a celebrated Arabian physician, who had just
arrived in France with a new science. Then this savant, brought up in
the school of one Sieur Averroes, entered into certain medical
details, and declared that the loose life she had formerly led had for
ever ruined her chance of obtaining offspring. The physical reasons
which he assigned were so contrary to the teaching of the holy books
which establish the majesty of man, made in the image of his creator,
and so contrary to the system upheld by sound sense and good doctrine,
that the doctors of Paris laughed them to scorn. The Arabian physician
left the school where his master, the Sieur Averroes, was unknown.

The doctors told Madame, who had come to Paris, that she was to keep
on as usual, since she had had during her gay life the lovely
Theodora, by the cardinal of Ragusa, and that the right of having
children remained with women as long as their blood circulated, and
all that she had to do was to multiply the chances of conception. This
advice appeared to her so good that she multiplied her victories, but
it was only multiplying her defeats, since she obtained the flowers of
love without its fruits.

The poor afflicted woman wrote then to the pope, who loved her much,
and told him of her sorrows. The good pope replied to her with a
gracious homily, written with his own hand, in which he told her that
when human science and things terrestrial had failed, we should turn
to Heaven and implore the grace of God. Then she determined to go with
naked feet, accompanied by her husband, to Notre Dame de Liesse,
celebrated for her intervention in similar cases, and made a vow to
build a magnificent cathedral in gratitude for the child. But she
bruised and injured her pretty feet, and conceived nothing but a
violent grief, which was so great that some of her lovely tresses fell
off and some turned white.

At last the faculty of making children was taken from her, which
brought on the vapours consequent upon hypochondria, and caused her
skin to turn yellow. She was then forty-nine years of age, and lived
in her castle of l'Ile Adam, where she grew as thin as a leper in a
lazar-house. The poor creature was all the more wretched because l'Ile
Adam was still amorous, and as good as gold to her, who failed in her
duty, because she had formerly been too free with the men, and was
now, according to her own disdainful remark, only a cauldron to cook

"Ha!" said she, one evening when these thoughts were tormenting her.
"In spite of the Church, in spite of the king, in spite of everything,
Madame de l'Ile Adam is still the wicked Imperia!"

She fell into a violent passion when she saw this handsome gentleman
have everything a man can desire, great wealth, royal favour,
unequalled love, matchless wife, pleasure such as none other could
produce, and yet fail in that which is dearest to the head of the
house--namely, lineage. With this idea in her head, she wished to die,
thinking how good and noble he had been to her, and how much she
failed in her duty in not giving him children, and in being
henceforward unable to do so. She hid her sorrow in the secret
recesses of her heart, and conceived a devotion worthy her great love.
To put into practice this heroic design she became still more amorous,
took extreme care of her charms, and made use of learned precepts to
maintain her bodily perfection, which threw out an incredible lustre.

About this time the Sieur de Montmorency conquered the repulsion his
daughter entertained for marriage, and her alliance with one Sieur de
Chatillon was much talked about. Madame Imperia, who lived only three
leagues distant from Montmorency, one day sent her husband out hunting
in the forests, and set out towards the castle where the young lady
lived. Arrived in the grounds she walked about there, telling a
servant to inform her mistress that a lady had a most important
communication to make to her, and that she had come to request an
audience. Much interested by the account which she received by the
beauty, courtesy, and manners of the unknown lady, Mademoiselle de
Montmorency went in great haste into the gardens, and there met her
rival, whom she did not know.

"My dear," said the poor woman, weeping to find the young maiden as
beautiful as herself, "I know that they are trying to force you into a
marriage with Monsieur de Chatillon, although you still love Monsieur
de l'Ile Adam. Have confidence in the prophecy that I here make you,
that he whom you have loved, and who only was false to you through a
snare into which an angel might have fallen, will be free from the
burden of his old wife before the leaves fall. Thus the constancy of
your love will have its crown of flowers. Now have the courage to
refuse this marriage they are arranging for you, and you may yet clasp
your first and only love. Pledge me your word to love and cherish
l'Ile Adam, who is the kindest of men; never to cause him a moment's
anguish, and tell him to reveal to you all the secrets of love
invented by Madame Imperia, because, in practicing them, being young,
you will be easily able to obliterate the remembrance of her from his

Mademoiselle de Montmorency was so astonished that she could make no
answer, and let this queen of beauty depart, and believed her to be a
fairy, until a workman told her that the fairy was Madame de l'Ile
Adam. Although the adventure was inexplicable, she told her father
that she would not give her consent to the proposed marriage until
after the autumn, so much is it in the nature of Love to ally itself
with Hope, in spite of the bitter pills which this deceitful and
gracious, companion gives her to swallow like bull's eyes. During the
months when the grapes are gathered, Imperia would not let l'Ile Adam
leave her, and was so amorous that one would have imagined she wished
to kill him, since l'Ile Adam felt as though he had a fresh bride in
his arms every night. The next morning the good woman requested him to
keep the remembrance of these joys in his heart.

Then, to know what her lover's real thoughts on the subject were she
said to him, "Poor l'Ile Adam, we were very silly to marry--a lad like
you, with your twenty-three years, and an old woman close to 40."

He answered her, that his happiness was such that he was the envy of
every one, that at her age her equal did not exist among the younger
women, and that if ever she grew old he would love her wrinkles,
believing that even in the tomb she would be lovely, and her skeleton

To these answers, which brought the tears into her eyes, she one
morning answered maliciously, that Mademoiselle de Montmorency was
very lovely and very faithful. This speech forced l'Ile Adam to tell
her that she pained him by telling him of the only wrong he had ever
committed in his life--the breaking of the troth pledged to his first
sweetheart, all love for whom he had since effaced from his heart.
This candid speech made her seize him and clasp him to her heart,
affected at the loyalty of his discourse on a subject from which many
would have shrunk.

"My dear love," said she, "for a long time past I have been suffering
from a retraction of the heart, which has always since my youth been
dangerous to my life, and in this opinion the Arabian physician
coincides. If I die, I wish you to make the most binding oath a knight
can make, to wed Mademoiselle Montmorency. I am so certain of dying,
that I leave my property to you only on condition that this marriage
takes place."

Hearing this, l'Ile Adam turned pale, and felt faint at the mere
thought of an eternal separation from his good wife.

"Yes, dear treasure of love," continued she. "I am punished by God
there where my sins were committed, for the great joys that I feel
dilate my heart, and have, according to the Arabian doctor, weakened
the vessels which in a moment of excitement will burst; but I have
always implored God to take my life at the age in which I now am,
because I would not see my charms marred by the ravages of time."

This great and noble woman saw then how well she was beloved. This is
how she obtained the greatest sacrifice of love that ever was made
upon this earth. She alone knew what a charm existed in the embraces,
fondlings, and raptures of the conjugal bed, which were such that poor
l'Ile Adam would rather have died than allow himself to be deprived of
the amorous delicacies she knew so well how to prepare. At this
confession made by her that, in the excitement of love her heart would
burst, the chevalier cast himself at her knees, and declared that to
preserve her life he would never ask her for love, but would live
contented to see her only at his side, happy at being able to touch
but the hem of her garment.

She replied, bursting into tears, "that she would rather die than lose
one iota of his love; that she would die as she had lived, since
luckily she could make a man embrace her when such was her desire
without having to put her request into words."

Here it must be stated that the cardinal of Ragusa had given her as a
present an article, which this holy joker called _in articulo mortis_.
It was a tiny glass bottle, no bigger than a bean, made at Venice, and
containing a poison so subtle that by breaking it between the teeth
death came instantly and painlessly. He had received it from Signora
Tophana, the celebrated maker of poisons of the town of Rome.

Now this tiny bottle was under the bezel of a ring, preserved from all
objects that could break it by certain plates of gold. Poor Imperia
put it into her mouth several times without being able to make up her
mind to bite it, so much pleasure did she take in the moment that she
believed to be her last. Then she would pass before her in mental
review all her methods of enjoyment before breaking the glass, and
determined that when she felt the most perfect of all joys she would
bite the bottle.

The poor creature departed this life on the night on the first day of
October. Then was there heard a great clamour in the forests and in
the clouds, as if the loves had cried aloud, "The great Noc is dead!"
in imitation of the pagan gods who, at the coming of the Saviour of
men, fled into the skies, saying, "the great Pan is slain!" A cry
which was heard by some persons navigating the Eubean Sea, and
preserved by a Father of the Church.

Madame Imperia died without being spoiled in shape, so much had God
made her the irreproachable model of a woman. She had, it was said, a
magnificent tint upon her flesh, caused by the proximity of the
flaming wings of Pleasure, who cried and groaned over her corpse. Her
husband mourned for her most bitterly, never suspecting that she had
died to deliver him from a childless wife, for the doctor who embalmed
her said not a word concerning the cause of her death. This great
sacrifice was discovered six years after marriage of l'Ile Adam with
Mademoiselle de Montmorency, because she told him all about the visit
of Madame Imperia. The poor gentleman immediately fell into a state of
great melancholy and finished by dying, being unable to banish the
remembrance of those joys of love which it was beyond the power of a
novice to restore to him; thereby did he prove the truth of that which
was said at that time, that this woman would never die in a heart
where she had once reigned.

This teaches us that virtue is well understood by those who have
practised vice; for among the most modest women few would thus have
sacrificed life, in whatever high state of religion you look for them.


Oh! mad little one, thou whose business it is to make the house merry,
again hast thou been wallowing, in spite of a thousand prohibitions,
in that slough of melancholy, whence thou hast already fished out
Bertha, and come back with thy tresses dishevelled, like a girl who
has been ill-treated by a regiment of soldiers! Where are thy golden
aiglets and bells, thy filigree flowers of fantastic design? Where
hast thou left thy crimson head-dress, ornamented with precious
gewgaws that cost a minot of pearls?

Why spoil with pernicious tears thy black eyes, so pleasant when
therein sparkles the wit of a tale, that popes pardon thee thy sayings
for the sake of thy merry laughter, feel their souls caught between
the ivory of thy teeth, have their hearts drawn by the rose point of
thy sweet tongue, and would barter the holy slipper for a hundred of
the smiles that hover round thy vermillion lips? Laughing lassie, if
thou wouldst remain always fresh and young, weep no more; think of
riding the brideless fleas, of bridling with the golden clouds thy
chameleon chimeras, of metamorphosing the realities of life into
figures clothed with the rainbow, caparisoned with roseate dreams, and
mantled with wings blue as the eyes of the partridge. By the Body and
the Blood, by the Censer and the Seal, by the Book and the Sword, by
the Rag and the Gold, by the Sound and the Colour, if thou does but
return once into that hovel of elegies where eunuchs find ugly women
for imbecile sultans, I'll curse thee; I'll rave at thee; I'll make
thee fast from roguery and love; I'll--

Phist! Here she is astride a sunbeam with a volume that is ready to
burst with merry meteors! She plays in their prisms, tearing about so
madly, so wildly, so boldly, so contrary to good sense, so contrary to
good manners, so contrary to everything, that one has to touch her
with long feathers, to follow her siren's tail in the golden facets
which trifle among the artifices of these new pearls of laughter. Ye
gods! but she is sporting herself in them like a hundred schoolboys in
a hedge full of blackberries, after vespers. To the devil with the
magister! The volume is finished! Out upon work! What ho! my jovial
friends; this way!

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