Infomotions, Inc.A Woman of Thirty / é de, 1799-1850



Author: é de, 1799-1850
Title: A Woman of Thirty
Publisher: Project Gutenberg
Tag(s): marquise; moina; helene; marquis; julie; lord grenville
Contributor(s): Bright, Mynors, 1818-1883 [Translator]
Versions: original; local mirror; HTML (this file); printable
Services: find in a library; evaluate using concordance
Rights: GNU General Public License
Size: 73,280 words (short) Grade range: 9-12 (high school) Readability score: 62 (easy)
Identifier: etext1950
Delicious Bookmark this on Delicious

Discover what books you consider "great". Take the Great Books Survey.

The Project Gutenberg EBook of A Woman of Thirty, by Honore de Balzac

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net


Title: A Woman of Thirty

Author: Honore de Balzac

Translator: Ellen Marriage

Release Date: November 16, 2005 [EBook #1950]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

*** START OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A WOMAN OF THIRTY ***




Produced by Dagny; and John Bickers





                         A WOMAN OF THIRTY

                                 BY

                          HONORE DE BALZAC



                           Translated by
                           Ellen Marriage




                             DEDICATION

                    To Louis Boulanger, Painter.




                         A WOMAN OF THIRTY



                                 I.

                           EARLY MISTAKES

It was a Sunday morning in the beginning of April 1813, a morning
which gave promise of one of those bright days when Parisians, for the
first time in the year, behold dry pavements underfoot and a cloudless
sky overhead. It was not yet noon when a luxurious cabriolet, drawn by
two spirited horses, turned out of the Rue de Castiglione into the Rue
de Rivoli, and drew up behind a row of carriages standing before the
newly opened barrier half-way down the Terrasse de Feuillants. The
owner of the carriage looked anxious and out of health; the thin hair
on his sallow temples, turning gray already, gave a look of premature
age to his face. He flung the reins to a servant who followed on
horseback, and alighted to take in his arms a young girl whose dainty
beauty had already attracted the eyes of loungers on the Terrasse. The
little lady, standing upon the carriage step, graciously submitted to
be taken by the waist, putting an arm round the neck of her guide, who
set her down upon the pavement without so much as ruffling the
trimming of her green rep dress. No lover would have been so careful.
The stranger could only be the father of the young girl, who took his
arm familiarly without a word of thanks, and hurried him into the
Garden of the Tuileries.

The old father noted the wondering stare which some of the young men
gave the couple, and the sad expression left his face for a moment.
Although he had long since reached the time of life when a man is fain
to be content with such illusory delights as vanity bestows, he began
to smile.

"They think you are my wife," he said in the young lady's ear, and he
held himself erect and walked with slow steps, which filled his
daughter with despair.

He seemed to take up the coquette's part for her; perhaps of the two,
he was the more gratified by the curious glances directed at those
little feet, shod with plum-colored prunella; at the dainty figure
outlined by a low-cut bodice, filled in with an embroidered
chemisette, which only partially concealed the girlish throat. Her
dress was lifted by her movements as she walked, giving glimpses
higher than the shoes of delicately moulded outlines beneath open-work
silk stockings. More than one of the idlers turned and passed the pair
again, to admire or to catch a second glimpse of the young face, about
which the brown tresses played; there was a glow in its white and red,
partly reflected from the rose-colored satin lining of her fashionable
bonnet, partly due to the eagerness and impatience which sparkled in
every feature. A mischievous sweetness lighted up the beautiful,
almond-shaped dark eyes, bathed in liquid brightness, shaded by the
long lashes and curving arch of eyebrow. Life and youth displayed
their treasures in the petulant face and in the gracious outlines of
the bust unspoiled even by the fashion of the day, which brought the
girdle under the breast.

The young lady herself appeared to be insensible to admiration. Her
eyes were fixed in a sort of anxiety on the Palace of the Tuileries,
the goal, doubtless, of her petulant promenade. It wanted but fifteen
minutes of noon, yet even at that early hour several women in gala
dress were coming away from the Tuileries, not without backward
glances at the gates and pouting looks of discontent, as if they
regretted the lateness of the arrival which had cheated them of a
longed-for spectacle. Chance carried a few words let fall by one of
these disappointed fair ones to the ears of the charming stranger, and
put her in a more than common uneasiness. The elderly man watched the
signs of impatience and apprehension which flitted across his
companion's pretty face with interest, rather than amusement, in his
eyes, observing her with a close and careful attention, which perhaps
could only be prompted by some after-thought in the depths of a
father's mind.



It was the thirteenth Sunday of the year 1813. In two days' time
Napoleon was to set out upon the disastrous campaign in which he was
to lose first Bessieres, and then Duroc; he was to win the memorable
battles of Lutzen and Bautzen, to see himself treacherously deserted
by Austria, Saxony, Bavaria, and Bernadotte, and to dispute the
dreadful field of Leipsic. The magnificent review commanded for that
day by the Emperor was to be the last of so many which had long drawn
forth the admiration of Paris and of foreign visitors. For the last
time the Old Guard would execute their scientific military manoeuvres
with the pomp and precision which sometimes amazed the Giant himself.
Napoleon was nearly ready for his duel with Europe. It was a sad
sentiment which brought a brilliant and curious throng to the
Tuileries. Each mind seemed to foresee the future, perhaps too in
every mind another thought was dimly present, how that in the future,
when the heroic age of France should have taken the half-fabulous
color with which it is tinged for us to-day, men's imaginations would
more than once seek to retrace the picture of the pageant which they
were assembled to behold.

"Do let us go more quickly, father; I can hear the drums," the young
girl said, and in a half-teasing, half-coaxing manner she urged her
companion forward.

"The troops are marching into the Tuileries," said he.

"Or marching out of it--everybody is coming away," she answered in
childish vexation, which drew a smile from her father.

"The review only begins at half-past twelve," he said; he had fallen
half behind his impetuous daughter.

It might have been supposed that she meant to hasten their progress by
a movement of her right arm, for it swung like an oar blade through
the water. In her impatience she had crushed her handkerchief into a
ball in her tiny, well-gloved fingers. Now and then the old man
smiled, but the smiles were succeeded by an anxious look which crossed
his withered face and saddened it. In his love for the fair young girl
by his side, he was as fain to exalt the present moment as to dread
the future. "She is happy to-day; will her happiness last?" he seemed
to ask himself, for the old are somewhat prone to foresee their own
sorrows in the future of the young.

Father and daughter reached the peristyle under the tower where the
tricolor flag was still waving; but as they passed under the arch by
which people came and went between the Gardens of the Tuileries and
the Place du Carrousel, the sentries on guard called out sternly:

"No admittance this way."

By standing on tiptoe the young girl contrived to catch a glimpse of a
crowd of well-dressed women, thronging either side of the old marble
arcade along which the Emperor was to pass.

"We were too late in starting, father; you can see that quite well." A
little piteous pout revealed the immense importance which she attached
to the sight of this particular review.

"Very well, Julie--let us go away. You dislike a crush."

"Do let us stay, father. Even here I may catch a glimpse of the
Emperor; he might die during this campaign, and then I should never
have seen him."

Her father shuddered at the selfish speech. There were tears in the
girl's voice; he looked at her, and thought that he saw tears beneath
her lowered eyelids; tears caused not so much by the disappointment as
by one of the troubles of early youth, a secret easily guessed by an
old father. Suddenly Julie's face flushed, and she uttered an
exclamation. Neither her father nor the sentinels understood the
meaning of the cry; but an officer within the barrier, who sprang
across the court towards the staircase, heard it, and turned abruptly
at the sound. He went to the arcade by the Gardens of the Tuileries,
and recognized the young lady who had been hidden for a moment by the
tall bearskin caps of the grenadiers. He set aside in favor of the
pair the order which he himself had given. Then, taking no heed of the
murmurings of the fashionable crowd seated under the arcade, he gently
drew the enraptured child towards him.

"I am no longer surprised at her vexation and enthusiasm, if _you_ are
in waiting," the old man said with a half-mocking, half-serious glance
at the officer.

"If you want a good position, M. le Duc," the young man answered, "we
must not spend any time in talking. The Emperor does not like to be
kept waiting, and the Grand Marshal has sent me to announce our
readiness."

As he spoke, he had taken Julie's arm with a certain air of old
acquaintance, and drew her rapidly in the direction of the Place du
Carrousel. Julie was astonished at the sight. An immense crowd was
penned up in a narrow space, shut in between the gray walls of the
palace and the limits marked out by chains round the great sanded
squares in the midst of the courtyard of the Tuileries. The cordon of
sentries posted to keep a clear passage for the Emperor and his staff
had great difficulty in keeping back the eager humming swarm of human
beings.

"Is it going to be a very fine sight?" Julie asked (she was radiant
now).

"Pray take care!" cried her guide, and seizing Julie by the waist, he
lifted her up with as much vigor as rapidity and set her down beside a
pillar.

But for his prompt action, his gazing kinswoman would have come into
collision with the hindquarters of a white horse which Napoleon's
Mameluke held by the bridle; the animal in its trappings of green
velvet and gold stood almost under the arcade, some ten paces behind
the rest of the horses in readiness for the Emperor's staff.

The young officer placed the father and daughter in front of the crowd
in the first space to the right, and recommended them by a sign to the
two veteran grenadiers on either side. Then he went on his way into
the palace; a look of great joy and happiness had succeeded to his
horror-struck expression when the horse backed. Julie had given his
hand a mysterious pressure; had she meant to thank him for the little
service he had done her, or did she tell him, "After all, I shall
really see you?" She bent her head quite graciously in response to the
respectful bow by which the officer took leave of them before he
vanished.

The old man stood a little behind his daughter. He looked grave. He
seemed to have left the two young people together for some purpose of
his own, and now he furtively watched the girl, trying to lull her
into false security by appearing to give his whole attention to the
magnificent sight in the Place du Carrousel. When Julie's eyes turned
to her father with the expression of a schoolboy before his master, he
answered her glance by a gay, kindly smile, but his own keen eyes had
followed the officer under the arcade, and nothing of all that passed
was lost upon him.

"What a grand sight!" said Julie in a low voice, as she pressed her
father's hand; and indeed the pomp and picturesquesness of the
spectacle in the Place du Carrousel drew the same exclamation from
thousands upon thousands of spectators, all agape with wonder. Another
array of sightseers, as tightly packed as the ranks behind the old
noble and his daughter, filled the narrow strip of pavement by the
railings which crossed the Place du Carrousel from side to side in a
line parallel with the Palace of the Tuileries. The dense living mass,
variegated by the colors of the women's dresses, traced out a bold
line across the centre of the Place du Carrousel, filling in the
fourth side of a vast parallelogram, surrounded on three sides by the
Palace of the Tuileries itself. Within the precincts thus railed off
stood the regiments of the Old Guard about to be passed in review,
drawn up opposite the Palace in imposing blue columns, ten ranks in
depth. Without and beyond in the Place du Carrousel stood several
regiments likewise drawn up in parallel lines, ready to march in
through the arch in the centre; the Triumphal Arch, where the bronze
horses of St. Mark from Venice used to stand in those days. At either
end, by the Galeries du Louvre, the regimental bands were stationed,
masked by the Polish Lancers then on duty.

The greater part of the vast graveled space was empty as an arena,
ready for the evolutions of those silent masses disposed with the
symmetry of military art. The sunlight blazed back from ten thousand
bayonets in thin points of flame; the breeze ruffled the men's helmet
plumes till they swayed like the crests of forest-trees before a gale.
The mute glittering ranks of veterans were full of bright contrasting
colors, thanks to their different uniforms, weapons, accoutrements,
and aiguillettes; and the whole great picture, that miniature
battlefield before the combat, was framed by the majestic towering
walls of the Tuileries, which officers and men seemed to rival in
their immobility. Involuntarily the spectator made the comparison
between the walls of men and the walls of stone. The spring sunlight,
flooding white masonry reared but yesterday and buildings centuries
old, shone full likewise upon thousands of bronzed faces, each one
with its own tale of perils passed, each one gravely expectant of
perils to come.

The colonels of the regiments came and went alone before the ranks of
heroes; and behind the masses of troops, checkered with blue and
silver and gold and purple, the curious could discern the tricolor
pennons on the lances of some half-a-dozen indefatigable Polish
cavalry, rushing about like shepherds' dogs in charge of a flock,
caracoling up and down between the troops and the crowd, to keep the
gazers within their proper bounds. But for this slight flutter of
movement, the whole scene might have been taking place in the
courtyard of the palace of the Sleeping Beauty. The very spring
breeze, ruffling up the long fur on the grenadiers' bearskins, bore
witness to the men's immobility, as the smothered murmur of the crowd
emphasized their silence. Now and again the jingling of Chinese bells,
or a chance blow to a big drum, woke the reverberating echoes of the
Imperial Palace with a sound like the far-off rumblings of thunder.

An indescribable, unmistakable enthusiasm was manifest in the
expectancy of the multitude. France was about to take farewell of
Napoleon on the eve of a campaign of which the meanest citizen foresaw
the perils. The existence of the French Empire was at stake--to be, or
not to be. The whole citizen population seemed to be as much inspired
with this thought as that other armed population standing in serried
and silent ranks in the enclosed space, with the Eagles and the genius
of Napoleon hovering above them.

Those very soldiers were the hope of France, her last drop of blood;
and this accounted for not a little of the anxious interest of the
scene. Most of the gazers in the crowd had bidden farewell--perhaps
farewell for ever--to the men who made up the rank and file of the
battalions; and even those most hostile to the Emperor, in their
hearts, put up fervent prayers to heaven for the glory of France; and
those most weary of the struggle with the rest of Europe had left
their hatreds behind as they passed in under the Triumphal Arch. They
too felt that in the hour of danger Napoleon meant France herself.

The clock of the Tuileries struck the half-hour. In a moment the hum
of the crowd ceased. The silence was so deep that you might have heard
a child speak. The old noble and his daughter, wholly intent, seeming
to live only by their eyes, caught a distinct sound of spurs and clank
of swords echoing up under the sonorous peristyle.

And suddenly there appeared a short, somewhat stout figure in a green
uniform, white trousers, and riding boots; a man wearing on his head a
cocked hat well-nigh as magically potent as its wearer; the broad red
ribbon of the Legion of Honor rose and fell on his breast, and a short
sword hung at his side. At one and the same moment the man was seen by
all eyes in all parts of the square.

Immediately the drums beat a salute, both bands struck up a martial
refrain, caught and repeated like a fugue by every instrument from the
thinnest flutes to the largest drum. The clangor of that call to arms
thrilled through every soul. The colors dropped, and the men presented
arms, one unanimous rhythmical movement shaking every bayonet from the
foremost front near the Palace to the last rank in the Place du
Carrousel. The words of command sped from line to line like echoes.
The whole enthusiastic multitude sent up a shout of "Long live the
Emperor!"

Everything shook, quivered, and thrilled at last. Napoleon had mounted
his horse. It was his movement that had put life into those silent
masses of men; the dumb instruments had found a voice at his coming,
the Eagles and the colors had obeyed the same impulse which had
brought emotion into all faces.

The very walls of the high galleries of the old palace seemed to cry
aloud, "Long live the Emperor!"

There was something preternatural about it--it was magic at work, a
counterfeit presentment of the power of God; or rather it was a
fugitive image of a reign itself so fugitive.

And _he_ the centre of such love, such enthusiasm and devotion, and so
many prayers, he for whom the sun had driven the clouds from the sky,
was sitting there on his horse, three paces in front of his Golden
Squadron, with the grand Marshal on his left, and the Marshal-in-waiting
on his right. Amid all the outburst of enthusiasm at his presence not a
feature of his face appeared to alter.

"Oh! yes. At Wagram, in the thick of the firing, on the field of
Borodino, among the dead, always as cool as a cucumber _he_ is!" said
the grenadier, in answer to the questions with which the young girl
plied him. For a moment Julie was absorbed in the contemplation of
that face, so quiet in the security of conscious power. The Emperor
noticed Mlle. de Chatillonest, and leaned to make some brief remark to
Duroc, which drew a smile from the Grand Marshal. Then the review
began.

If hitherto the young lady's attention had been divided between
Napoleon's impassive face and the blue, red, and green ranks of
troops, from this time forth she was wholly intent upon a young
officer moving among the lines as they performed their swift
symmetrical evolutions. She watched him gallop with tireless activity
to and from the group where the plainly dressed Napoleon shone
conspicuous. The officer rode a splendid black horse. His handsome
sky-blue uniform marked him out amid the variegated multitude as one
of the Emperor's orderly staff-officers. His gold lace glittered in
the sunshine which lighted up the aigrette on his tall, narrow shako,
so that the gazer might have compared him to a will-o'-the-wisp, or to
a visible spirit emanating from the Emperor to infuse movement into
those battalions whose swaying bayonets flashed into flames; for, at a
mere glance from his eyes, they broke and gathered again, surging to
and fro like the waves in a bay, or again swept before him like the
long ridges of high-crested wave which the vexed Ocean directs against
the shore.

When the manoeuvres were over the officer galloped back at full speed,
pulled up his horse, and awaited orders. He was not ten paces from
Julie as he stood before the Emperor, much as General Rapp stands in
Gerard's _Battle of Austerlitz_. The young girl could behold her lover
in all his soldierly splendor.

Colonel Victor d'Aiglemont, barely thirty years of age, was tall,
slender, and well made. His well-proportioned figure never showed to
better advantage than now as he exerted his strength to hold in the
restive animal, whose back seemed to curve gracefully to the rider's
weight. His brown masculine face possessed the indefinable charm of
perfectly regular features combined with youth. The fiery eyes under
the broad forehead, shaded by thick eyebrows and long lashes, looked
like white ovals bordered by an outline of black. His nose had the
delicate curve of an eagle's beak; the sinuous lines of the inevitable
black moustache enhanced the crimson of the lips. The brown and tawny
shades which overspread the wide high-colored cheeks told a tale of
unusual vigor, and his whole face bore the impress of dashing courage.
He was the very model which French artists seek to-day for the typical
hero of Imperial France. The horse which he rode was covered with
sweat, the animal's quivering head denoted the last degree of
restiveness; his hind hoofs were set down wide apart and exactly in a
line, he shook his long thick tail to the wind; in his fidelity to his
master he seemed to be a visible presentment of that master's devotion
to the Emperor.

Julie saw her lover watching intently for the Emperor's glances, and
felt a momentary pang of jealousy, for as yet he had not given her a
look. Suddenly at a word from his sovereign Victor gripped his horse's
flanks and set out at a gallop, but the animal took fright at a shadow
cast by a post, shied, backed, and reared up so suddenly that his
rider was all but thrown off. Julie cried out, her face grew white,
people looked at her curiously, but she saw no one, her eyes were
fixed upon the too mettlesome beast. The officer gave the horse a
sharp admonitory cut with the whip, and galloped off with Napoleon's
order.

Julie was so absorbed, so dizzy with sights and sounds, that
unconsciously she clung to her father's arm so tightly that he could
read her thoughts by the varying pressure of her fingers. When Victor
was all but flung out of the saddle, she clutched her father with a
convulsive grip as if she herself were in danger of falling, and the
old man looked at his daughter's tell-tale face with dark and painful
anxiety. Pity, jealousy, something even of regret stole across every
drawn and wrinkled line of mouth and brow. When he saw the unwonted
light in Julie's eyes, when that cry broke from her, when the
convulsive grasp of her fingers drew away the veil and put him in
possession of her secret, then with that revelation of her love there
came surely some swift revelation of the future. Mournful forebodings
could be read in his own face.

Julie's soul seemed at that moment to have passed into the officer's
being. A torturing thought more cruel than any previous dread
contracted the old man's painworn features, as he saw the glance of
understanding that passed between the soldier and Julie. The girl's
eyes were wet, her cheeks glowed with unwonted color. Her father
turned abruptly and led her away into the Garden of the Tuileries.

"Why, father," she cried, "there are still the regiments in the Place
du Carrousel to be passed in review."

"No, child, all the troops are marching out."

"I think you are mistaken, father; M. d'Aiglemont surely told them to
advance----"

"But I feel ill, my child, and I do not care to stay."

Julie could readily believe the words when she glanced at his face; he
looked quite worn out by his fatherly anxieties.

"Are you feeling very ill?" she asked indifferently, her mind was so
full of other thoughts.

"Every day is a reprieve for me, is it not?" returned her father.

"Now do you mean to make me miserable again by talking about your
death? I was in such spirits! Do pray get rid of those horrid gloomy
ideas of yours."

The father heaved a sigh. "Ah! spoiled child," he cried, "the best
hearts are sometimes very cruel. We devote our whole lives to you, you
are our one thought, we plan for your welfare, sacrifice our tastes to
your whims, idolize you, give the very blood in our veins for you, and
all this is nothing, is it? Alas! yes, you take it all as a matter of
course. If we would always have your smiles and your disdainful love,
we should need the power of God in heaven. Then comes another, a
lover, a husband, and steals away your heart."

Julie looked in amazement at her father; he walked slowly along, and
there was no light in the eyes which he turned upon her.

"You hide yourself even from us," he continued, "but, perhaps, also
you hide yourself from yourself--"

"What do you mean by that, father?"

"I think that you have secrets from me, Julie.--You love," he went on
quickly, as he saw the color rise to her face. "Oh! I hoped that you
would stay with your old father until he died. I hoped to keep you
with me, still radiant and happy, to admire you as you were but so
lately. So long as I knew nothing of your future I could believe in a
happy lot for you; but now I cannot possibly take away with me a hope
of happiness for your life, for you love the colonel even more than
the cousin. I can no longer doubt it."

"And why should I be forbidden to love him?" asked Julie, with lively
curiosity in her face.

"Ah, my Julie, you would not understand me," sighed the father.

"Tell me, all the same," said Julie, with an involuntary petulant
gesture.

"Very well, child, listen to me. Girls are apt to imagine noble and
enchanting and totally imaginary figures in their own minds; they have
fanciful extravagant ideas about men, and sentiment, and life; and
then they innocently endow somebody or other with all the perfections
of their day-dreams, and put their trust in him. They fall in love
with this imaginary creature in the man of their choice; and then,
when it is too late to escape from their fate, behold their first
idol, the illusion made fair with their fancies, turns to an odious
skeleton. Julie, I would rather have you fall in love with an old man
than with the Colonel. Ah! if you could but see things from the
standpoint of ten years hence, you would admit that my old experience
was right. I know what Victor is, that gaiety of his is simply animal
spirits--the gaiety of the barracks. He has no ability, and he is a
spendthrift. He is one of those men whom Heaven created to eat and
digest four meals a day, to sleep, to fall in love with the first
woman that comes to hand, and to fight. He does not understand life.
His kind heart, for he has a kind heart, will perhaps lead him to give
his purse to a sufferer or to a comrade; _but_ he is careless, he has
not the delicacy of heart which makes us slaves to a woman's
happiness, he is ignorant, he is selfish. There are plenty of
_buts_--"

"But, father, he must surely be clever, he must have ability, or he
would not be a colonel--"

"My dear, Victor will be a colonel all his life.--I have seen no one
who appears to me to be worthy of you," the old father added, with a
kind of enthusiasm.

He paused an instant, looked at his daughter, and added, "Why, my poor
Julie, you are still too young, too fragile, too delicate for the
cares and rubs of married life. D'Aiglemont's relations have spoiled
him, just as your mother and I have spoiled you. What hope is there
that you two could agree, with two imperious wills diametrically
opposed to each other? You will be either the tyrant or the victim,
and either alternative means, for a wife, an equal sum of misfortune.
But you are modest and sweet-natured, you would yield from the first.
In short," he added, in a quivering voice, "there is a grace of
feeling in you which would never be valued, and then----" he broke
off, for the tears overcame him.

"Victor will give you pain through all the girlish qualities of your
young nature," he went on, after a pause. "I know what soldiers are,
my Julie; I have been in the army. In a man of that kind, love very
seldom gets the better of old habits, due partly to the miseries amid
which soldiers live, partly to the risks they run in a life of
adventure."

"Then you mean to cross my inclinations, do you, father?" asked Julie,
half in earnest, half in jest. "Am I to marry to please you and not to
please myself?"

"To please me!" cried her father, with a start of surprise. "To please
_me_, child? when you will not hear the voice that upbraids you so
tenderly very much longer! But I have always heard children impute
personal motives for the sacrifices that their parents make for them.
Marry Victor, my Julie! Some day you will bitterly deplore his
ineptitude, his thriftless ways, his selfishness, his lack of
delicacy, his inability to understand love, and countless troubles
arising through him. Then, remember, that here under these trees your
old father's prophetic voice sounded in your ears in vain."

He said no more; he had detected a rebellious shake of the head on his
daughter's part. Both made several paces towards the carriage which
was waiting for them at the grating. During that interval of silence,
the young girl stole a glance at her father's face, and little by
little her sullen brow cleared. The intense pain visible on his bowed
forehead made a lively impression upon her.

"Father," she began in gentle tremulous tones, "I promise to say no
more about Victor until you have overcome your prejudices against
him."

The old man looked at her in amazement. Two tears which filled his
eyes overflowed down his withered cheeks. He could not take Julie in
his arms in that crowded place; but he pressed her hand tenderly. A
few minutes later when they had taken their places in the cabriolet,
all the anxious thought which had gathered about his brow had
completely disappeared. Julie's pensive attitude gave him far less
concern than the innocent joy which had betrayed her secret during the
review.



Nearly a year had passed since the Emperor's last review. In early
March 1814 a caleche was rolling along the highroad from Amboise to
Tours. As the carriage came out from beneath the green-roofed aisle of
walnut trees by the post-house of la Frilliere, the horses dashed
forward with such speed that in a moment they gained the bridge built
across the Cise at the point of its confluence with the Loire. There,
however, they come to a sudden stand. One of the traces had given way
in consequence of the furious pace at which the post-boy, obedient to
his orders, had urged on four horses, the most vigorous of their
breed. Chance, therefore, gave the two recently awakened occupants of
the carriage an opportunity of seeing one of the most lovely
landscapes along the enchanting banks of the Loire, and that at their
full leisure.

At a glance the travelers could see to the right the whole winding
course of the Cise meandering like a silver snake among the meadows,
where the grass had taken the deep, bright green of early spring. To
the left lay the Loire in all its glory. A chill morning breeze,
ruffling the surface of the stately river, had fretted the broad
sheets of water far and wide into a network of ripples, which caught
the gleams of the sun, so that the green islets here and there in its
course shone like gems set in a gold necklace. On the opposite bank
the fair rich meadows of Touraine stretched away as far as the eye
could see; the low hills of the Cher, the only limits to the view, lay
on the far horizon, a luminous line against the clear blue sky. Tours
itself, framed by the trees on the islands in a setting of spring
leaves, seemed to rise like Venice out of the waters, and her old
cathedral towers soaring in air were blended with the pale fantastic
cloud shapes in the sky.

Over the side of the bridge, where the carriage had come to a stand,
the traveler looks along a line of cliffs stretching as far as Tours.
Nature in some freakish mood must have raised these barriers of rock,
undermined incessantly by the rippling Loire at their feet, for a
perpetual wonder for spectators. The village of Vouvray nestles, as it
were, among the clefts and crannies of the crags, which begin to
describe a bend at the junction of the Loire and Cise. A whole
population of vine-dressers lives, in fact, in appalling insecurity in
holes in their jagged sides for the whole way between Vouvray and
Tours. In some places there are three tiers of dwellings hollowed out,
one above the other, in the rock, each row communicating with the next
by dizzy staircases cut likewise in the face of the cliff. A little
girl in a short red petticoat runs out into her garden on the roof of
another dwelling; you can watch a wreath of hearth-smoke curling up
among the shoots and trails of the vines. Men are at work in their
almost perpendicular patches of ground, an old woman sits tranquilly
spinning under a blossoming almond tree on a crumbling mass of rock,
and smiles down on the dismay of the travelers far below her feet. The
cracks in the ground trouble her as little as the precarious state of
the old wall, a pendant mass of loose stones, only kept in position by
the crooked stems of its ivy mantle. The sound of coopers' mallets
rings through the skyey caves; for here, where Nature stints human
industry of soil, the soil is everywhere tilled, and everywhere
fertile.

No view along the whole course of the Loire can compare with the rich
landscape of Touraine, here outspread beneath the traveler's eyes. The
triple picture, thus barely sketched in outline, is one of those
scenes which the imagination engraves for ever upon the memory; let a
poet fall under its charm, and he shall be haunted by visions which
shall reproduce its romantic loveliness out of the vague substance of
dreams.

As the carriage stopped on the bridge over the Cise, white sails came
out here and there from among the islands in the Loire to add new
grace to the perfect view. The subtle scent of the willows by the
water's edge was mingled with the damp odor of the breeze from the
river. The monotonous chant of a goat-herd added a plaintive note to
the sound of birds' songs in a chorus which never ends; the cries of
the boatmen brought tidings of distant busy life. Here was Touraine in
all its glory, and the very height of the splendor of spring. Here was
the one peaceful district in France in those troublous days; for it
was so unlikely that a foreign army should trouble its quiet that
Touraine might be said to defy invasion.

As soon as the caleche stopped, a head covered with a foraging cap was
put out of the window, and soon afterwards an impatient military man
flung open the carriage door and sprang down into the road to pick a
quarrel with the postilion, but the skill with which the Tourangeau
was repairing the trace restored Colonel d'Aiglemont's equanimity. He
went back to the carriage, stretched himself to relieve his benumbed
muscles, yawned, looked about him, and finally laid a hand on the arm
of a young woman warmly wrapped up in a furred pelisse.

"Come, Julie," he said hoarsely, "just wake up and take a look at this
country. It is magnificent."

Julie put her head out of the window. She wore a traveling cap of
sable fur. Nothing could be seen of her but her face, for the whole of
her person was completely concealed by the folds of her fur pelisse.
The young girl who tripped to the review at the Tuileries with light
footsteps and joy and gladness in her heart was scarcely recognizable
in Julie d'Aiglemont. Her face, delicate as ever, had lost the
rose-color which once gave it so rich a glow. A few straggling locks of
black hair, straightened out by the damp night air, enhanced its dead
whiteness, and all its life and sparkle seemed to be torpid. Yet her
eyes glittered with preternatural brightness in spite of the violet
shadows under the lashes upon her wan cheeks.

She looked out with indifferent eyes over the fields towards the Cher,
at the islands in the river, at the line of the crags of Vouvray
stretching along the Loire towards Tours; then she sank back as soon
as possible into her seat in the caleche. She did not care to give a
glance to the enchanting valley of the Cise.

"Yes, it is wonderful," she said, and out in the open air her voice
sounded weak and faint to the last degree. Evidently she had had her
way with her father, to her misfortune.

"Would you not like to live here, Julie?"

"Yes; here or anywhere," she answered listlessly.

"Do you feel ill?" asked Colonel d'Aiglemont.

"No, not at all," she answered with momentary energy; and, smiling at
her husband, she added, "I should like to go to sleep."

Suddenly there came a sound of a horse galloping towards them. Victor
d'Aiglemont dropped his wife's hand and turned to watch the bend in
the road. No sooner had he taken his eyes from Julie's pale face than
all the assumed gaiety died out of it; it was as if a light had been
extinguished. She felt no wish to look at the landscape, no curiosity
to see the horseman who was galloping towards them at such a furious
pace, and, ensconcing herself in her corner, stared out before her at
the hindquarters of the post-horses, looking as blank as any Breton
peasant listening to his _recteur's_ sermon.

Suddenly a young man riding a valuable horse came out from behind the
clump of poplars and flowering briar-rose.

"It is an Englishman," remarked the Colonel.

"Lord bless you, yes, General," said the post-boy; "he belongs to the
race of fellows who have a mind to gobble up France, they say."

The stranger was one of the foreigners traveling in France at the time
when Napoleon detained all British subjects within the limits of the
Empire, by way of reprisals for the violation of the Treaty of Amiens,
an outrage of international law perpetrated by the Court of St. James.
These prisoners, compelled to submit to the Emperor's pleasure, were
not all suffered to remain in the houses where they were arrested, nor
yet in the places of residence which at first they were permitted to
choose. Most of the English colony in Touraine had been transplanted
thither from different places where their presence was supposed to be
inimical to the interests of the Continental Policy.

The young man, who was taking the tedium of the early morning hours on
horseback, was one of these victims of bureaucratic tyranny. Two years
previously, a sudden order from the Foreign Office had dragged him
from Montpellier, whither he had gone on account of consumptive
tendencies. He glanced at the Comte d'Aiglemont, saw that he was a
military man, and deliberately looked away, turning his head somewhat
abruptly towards the meadows by the Cise.

"The English are all as insolent as if the globe belonged to them,"
muttered the Colonel. "Luckily, Soult will give them a thrashing
directly."

The prisoner gave a glance to the caleche as he rode by. Brief though
that glance was, he had yet time to notice the sad expression which
lent an indefinable charm to the Countess' pensive face. Many men are
deeply moved by the mere semblance of suffering in a woman; they take
the look of pain for a sign of constancy or of love. Julie herself was
so much absorbed in the contemplation of the opposite cushion that she
saw neither the horse nor the rider. The damaged trace meanwhile had
been quickly and strongly repaired; the Count stepped into his place
again; and the post-boy, doing his best to make up for lost time,
drove the carriage rapidly along the embankment. On they drove under
the overhanging cliffs, with their picturesque vine-dressers' huts and
stores of wine maturing in their dark sides, till in the distance
uprose the spire of the famous Abbey of Marmoutiers, the retreat of
St. Martin.

"What can that diaphanous milord want with us?" exclaimed the Colonel,
turning to assure himself that the horseman who had followed them from
the bridge was the young Englishman.

After all, the stranger committed no breach of good manners by riding
along on the footway, and Colonel d'Aiglemont was fain to lie back in
his corner after sending a scowl in the Englishman's direction. But in
spite of his hostile instincts, he could not help noticing the beauty
of the animal and the graceful horsemanship of the rider. The young
man's face was of that pale, fair-complexioned, insular type, which is
almost girlish in the softness and delicacy of its color and texture.
He was tall, thin, and fair-haired, dressed with the extreme and
elaborate neatness characteristic of a man of fashion in prudish
England. Any one might have thought that bashfulness rather than
pleasure at the sight of the Countess had called up that flush into
his face. Once only Julie raised her eyes and looked at the stranger,
and then only because she was in a manner compelled to do so, for her
husband called upon her to admire the action of the thoroughbred. It
so happened that their glances clashed; and the shy Englishman,
instead of riding abreast of the carriage, fell behind on this, and
followed them at a distance of a few paces.

Yet the Countess had scarcely given him a glance; she saw none of the
various perfections, human and equine, commended to her notice, and
fell back again in the carriage, with a slight movement of the eyelids
intended to express her acquiescence in her husband's views. The
Colonel fell asleep again, and both husband and wife reached Tours
without another word. Not one of those enchanting views of
everchanging landscape through which they sped had drawn so much as a
glance from Julie's eyes.

Mme. d'Aiglemont looked now and again at her sleeping husband. While
she looked, a sudden jolt shook something down upon her knees. It was
her father's portrait, a miniature which she wore suspended about her
neck by a black cord. At the sight of it, the tears, till then kept
back, overflowed her eyes, but no one, save perhaps the Englishman,
saw them glitter there for a brief moment before they dried upon her
pale cheeks.

Colonel d'Aiglemont was on his way to the South. Marshal Soult was
repelling an English invasion of Bearn; and d'Aiglemont, the bearer of
the Emperor's orders to the Marshal, seized the opportunity of taking
his wife as far as Tours to leave her with an elderly relative of his
own, far away from the dangers threatening Paris.

Very shortly the carriage rolled over the paved road of Tours, over
the bridge, along the Grande-Rue, and stopped at last before the old
mansion of the _ci-devant_ Marquise de Listomere-Landon.

The Marquise de Listomere-Landon, with her white hair, pale face, and
shrewd smile, was one of those fine old ladies who still seem to wear
the paniers of the eighteenth century, and affects caps of an extinct
mode. They are nearly always caressing in their manners, as if the
heyday of love still lingered on for these septuagenarian portraits of
the age of Louis Quinze, with the faint perfume of _poudre a la
marechale_ always clinging about them. Bigoted rather than pious, and
less of bigots than they seem, women who can tell a story well and
talk still better, their laughter comes more readily for an old memory
than for a new jest--the present intrudes upon them.

When an old waiting-woman announced to the Marquise de Listomere-Landon
(to give her the title which she was soon to resume) the arrival of a
nephew whom she had not seen since the outbreak of the war with Spain,
the old lady took off her spectacles with alacrity, shut the _Galerie
de l'ancienne Cour_ (her favorite work), and recovered something like
youthful activity, hastening out upon the flight of steps to greet the
young couple there.

Aunt and niece exchanged a rapid glance of survey.

"Good-morning, dear aunt," cried the Colonel, giving the old lady a
hasty embrace. "I am bringing a young lady to put under your wing. I
have come to put my treasure in your keeping. My Julie is neither
jealous nor a coquette, she is as good as an angel. I hope that she
will not be spoiled here," he added, suddenly interrupting himself.

"Scapegrace!" returned the Marquise, with a satirical glance at her
nephew.

She did not wait for her niece to approach her, but with a certain
kindly graciousness went forward herself to kiss Julie, who stood
there thoughtfully, to all appearance more embarrassed than curious
concerning her new relation.

"So we are to make each other's acquaintance, are we, my love?" the
Marquise continued. "Do not be too much alarmed of me. I always try
not to be an old woman with young people."

On the way to the drawing-room, the Marquise ordered breakfast for her
guests in provincial fashion; but the Count checked his aunt's flow of
words by saying soberly that he could only remain in the house while
the horses were changing. On this the three hurried into the
drawing-room. The Colonel had barely time to tell the story of the
political and military events which had compelled him to ask his aunt
for a shelter for his young wife. While he talked on without
interruption, the older lady looked from her nephew to her niece, and
took the sadness in Julie's white face for grief at the enforced
separation. "Eh! eh!" her looks seemed to say, "these young things are
in love with each other."

The crack of the postilion's whip sounded outside in the silent old
grass-grown courtyard. Victor embraced his aunt once more, and rushed
out.

"Good-bye, dear," he said, kissing his wife, who had followed him down
to the carriage.

"Oh! Victor, let me come still further with you," she pleaded
coaxingly. "I do not want to leave you----"

"Can you seriously mean it?"

"Very well," said Julie, "since you wish it." The carriage
disappeared.

"So you are very fond of my poor Victor?" said the Marquise,
interrogating her niece with one of those sagacious glances which
dowagers give younger women.

"Alas, madame!" said Julie, "must one not love a man well indeed to
marry him?"

The words were spoken with an artless accent which revealed either a
pure heart or inscrutable depths. How could a woman, who had been the
friend of Duclos and the Marechal de Richelieu, refrain from trying to
read the riddle of this marriage? Aunt and niece were standing on the
steps, gazing after the fast vanishing caleche. The look in the young
Countess' eyes did not mean love as the Marquise understood it. The
good lady was a Provencale, and her passions had been lively.

"So you were captivated by my good-for-nothing of a nephew?" she
asked.

Involuntarily Julie shuddered, something in the experienced coquette's
look and tone seemed to say that Mme. de Listomere-Landon's knowledge
of her husband's character went perhaps deeper than his wife's. Mme.
d'Aiglemont, in dismay, took refuge in this transparent dissimulation,
ready to her hand, the first resource of an artless unhappiness. Mme.
de Listomere appeared to be satisfied with Julie's answers; but in her
secret heart she rejoiced to think that here was a love affair on hand
to enliven her solitude, for that her niece had some amusing
flirtation on foot she was fully convinced.

In the great drawing-room, hung with tapestry framed in strips of
gilding, young Mme. d'Aiglemont sat before a blazing fire, behind a
Chinese screen placed to shut out the cold draughts from the window,
and her heavy mood scarcely lightened. Among the old eighteenth-century
furniture, under the old paneled ceiling, it was not very easy to be
gay. Yet the young Parisienne took a sort of pleasure in this entrance
upon a life of complete solitude and in the solemn silence of the old
provincial house. She exchanged a few words with the aunt, a stranger,
to whom she had written a bride's letter on her marriage, and then sat
as silent as if she had been listening to an opera. Not until two
hours had been spent in an atmosphere of quiet befitting la Trappe,
did she suddenly awaken to a sense of uncourteous behavior, and
bethink herself of the short answers which she had given her aunt.
Mme. de Listomere, with the gracious tact characteristic of a bygone
age, had respected her niece's mood. When Mme. d'Aiglemont became
conscious of her shortcomings, the dowager sat knitting, though as a
matter of fact she had several times left the room to superintend
preparations in the Green Chamber, whither the Countess' luggage had
been transported; now, however, she had returned to her great
armchair, and stole a glance from time to time at this young relative.
Julie felt ashamed of giving way to irresistible broodings, and tried
to earn her pardon by laughing at herself.

"My dear child, _we_ know the sorrows of widowhood," returned her
aunt. But only the eyes of forty years could have distinguished the
irony hovering about the old lady's mouth.

Next morning the Countess improved. She talked. Mme. de Listomere no
longer despaired of fathoming the new-made wife, whom yesterday she
had set down as a dull, unsociable creature, and discoursed on the
delights of the country, of dances, of houses where they could visit.
All that day the Marquise's questions were so many snares; it was the
old habit of the old Court, she could not help setting traps to
discover her niece's character. For several days Julie, plied with
temptations, steadfastly declined to seek amusement abroad; and much
as the old lady's pride longed to exhibit her pretty niece, she was
fain to renounce all hope of taking her into society, for the young
Countess was still in morning for her father, and found in her loss
and her mourning dress a pretext for her sadness and desire for
seclusion.

By the end of the week the dowager admired Julie's angelic sweetness
of disposition, her diffident charm, her indulgent temper, and
thenceforward began to take a prodigious interest in the mysterious
sadness gnawing at this young heart. The Countess was one of those
women who seem born to be loved and to bring happiness with them. Mme.
de Listomere found her niece's society grown so sweet and precious,
that she doted upon Julie, and could no longer think of parting with
her. A month sufficed to establish an eternal friendship between the
two ladies. The dowager noticed, not without surprise, the changes
that took place in Mme. d'Aiglemont; gradually her bright color died
away, and her face became dead white. Yet, Julie's spirits rose as the
bloom faded from her cheeks. Sometimes the dowager's sallies provoked
outbursts of merriment or peals of laughter, promptly repressed,
however, by some clamorous thought.

Mme. de Listomere had guessed by this time that it was neither
Victor's absence nor a father's death which threw a shadow over her
niece's life; but her mind was so full of dark suspicions, that she
found it difficult to lay a finger upon the real cause of the
mischief. Possibly truth is only discoverable by chance. A day came,
however, at length when Julie flashed out before her aunt's astonished
eyes into a complete forgetfulness of her marriage; she recovered the
wild spirits of careless girlhood. Mme. de Listomere then and there
made up her mind to fathom the depths of this soul, for its exceeding
simplicity was as inscrutable as dissimulation.

Night was falling. The two ladies were sitting by the window which
looked out upon the street, and Julie was looking thoughtful again,
when some one went by on horseback.

"There goes one of your victims," said the Marquise.

Mme. d'Aiglemont looked up; dismay and surprise blended in her face.

"He is a young Englishman, the Honorable Arthur Ormand, Lord
Grenville's eldest son. His history is interesting. His physician sent
him to Montpellier in 1802; it was hoped that in that climate he might
recover from the lung complaint which was gaining ground. He was
detained, like all his fellow-countrymen, by Bonaparte when war broke
out. That monster cannot live without fighting. The young Englishman,
by way of amusing himself, took to studying his own complaint, which
was believed to be incurable. By degrees he acquired a liking for
anatomy and physic, and took quite a craze for that kind of thing, a
most extraordinary taste in a man of quality, though the Regent
certainly amused himself with chemistry! In short, Monsieur Arthur
made astonishing progress in his studies; his health did the same
under the faculty of Montpellier; he consoled his captivity, and at
the same time his cure was thoroughly completed. They say that he
spent two whole years in a cowshed, living on cresses and the milk of
a cow brought from Switzerland, breathing as seldom as he could, and
never speaking a word. Since he come to Tours he has lived quite
alone; he is as proud as a peacock; but you have certainly made a
conquest of him, for probably it is not on my account that he has
ridden under the window twice every day since you have been here.--He
has certainly fallen in love with you."

That last phrase roused the Countess like magic. Her involuntary start
and smile took the Marquise by surprise. So far from showing a sign of
the instinctive satisfaction felt by the most strait-laced of women
when she learns that she has destroyed the peace of mind of some male
victim, there was a hard, haggard expression in Julie's face--a look
of repulsion amounting almost to loathing.

A woman who loves will put the whole world under the ban of Love's
empire for the sake of the one whom she loves; but such a woman can
laugh and jest; and Julie at that moment looked as if the memory of
some recently escaped peril was too sharp and fresh not to bring with
it a quick sensation of pain. Her aunt, by this time convinced that
Julie did not love her nephew, was stupefied by the discovery that she
loved nobody else. She shuddered lest a further discovery should show
her Julie's heart disenchanted, lest the experience of a day, or
perhaps of a night, should have revealed to a young wife the full
extent of Victor's emptiness.

"If she has found him out, there is an end of it," thought the
dowager. "My nephew will soon be made to feel the inconveniences of
wedded life."

The Marquise now proposed to convert Julie to the monarchical
doctrines of the times of Louis Quinze; but a few hours later she
discovered, or, more properly speaking, guessed, the not uncommon
state of affairs, and the real cause of her niece's low spirits.

Julie turned thoughtful on a sudden, and went to her room earlier than
usual. When her maid left her for the night, she still sat by the fire
in the yellow velvet depths of a great chair, an old-world piece of
furniture as well suited for sorrow as for happy people. Tears flowed,
followed by sighs and meditation. After a while she drew a little
table to her, sought writing materials, and began to write. The hours
went by swiftly. Julie's confidences made to the sheet of paper seemed
to cost her dear; every sentence set her dreaming, and at last she
suddenly burst into tears. The clocks were striking two. Her head,
grown heavy as a dying woman's, was bowed over her breast. When she
raised it, her aunt appeared before her as suddenly as if she had
stepped out of the background of tapestry upon the walls.

"What can be the matter with you, child?" asked the Marquise. "Why are
you sitting up so late? And why, in the first place, are you crying
alone, at your age?"

Without further ceremony she sat down beside her niece, her eyes the
while devouring the unfinished letter.

"Were you writing to your husband?"

"Do I know where he is?" returned the Countess.

Her aunt thereupon took up the sheet and proceeded to read it. She had
brought her spectacles; the deed was premeditated. The innocent writer
of the letter allowed her to take it without the slightest remark. It
was neither lack of dignity nor consciousness of secret guilt which
left her thus without energy. Her aunt had come in upon her at a
crisis. She was helpless; right or wrong, reticence and confidence,
like all things else, were matters of indifference. Like some young
maid who had heaped scorn upon her lover, and feels so lonely and sad
when evening comes, that she longs for him to come back or for a heart
to which she can pour out her sorrow, Julie allowed her aunt to
violate the seal which honor places upon an open letter, and sat
musing while the Marquise read on:--

  "MY DEAR LOUISA,--Why do you ask so often for the fulfilment of as
  rash a promise as two young and inexperienced girls could make?
  You say that you often ask yourself why I have given no answer to
  your questions for these six months. If my silence told you
  nothing, perhaps you will understand the reasons for it to-day, as
  you read the secrets which I am about to betray. I should have
  buried them for ever in the depths of my heart if you had not
  announced your own approaching marriage. You are about to be
  married, Louisa. The thought makes me shiver. Poor little one!
  marry, yes, in a few months' time one of the keenest pangs of
  regret will be the recollection of a self which used to be, of the
  two young girls who sat one evening under one of the tallest
  oak-trees on the hillside at Ecouen, and looked along the fair
  valley at our feet in the light of the sunset, which caught us in
  its glow. We sat on a slab of rock in ecstasy, which sobered down
  into melancholy of the gentlest. You were the first to discover that
  the far-off sun spoke to us of the future. How inquisitive and how
  silly we were! Do you remember all the absurd things we said and
  did? We embraced each other; 'like lovers,' said we. We solemnly
  promised that the first bride should faithfully reveal to the
  other the mysteries of marriage, the joys which our childish minds
  imagined to be so delicious. That evening will complete your
  despair, Louisa. In those days you were young and beautiful and
  careless, if not radiantly happy; a few days of marriage, and you
  will be, what I am already--ugly, wretched, and old. Need I tell
  you how proud I was and how vain and glad to be married to Colonel
  Victor d'Aiglemont? And besides, how could I tell you now? for I
  cannot remember that old self. A few moments turned my girlhood to
  a dream. All through the memorable day which consecrated a chain,
  the extent of which was hidden from me, my behavior was not free
  from reproach. Once and again my father tried to repress my
  spirits; the joy which I showed so plainly was thought unbefitting
  the occasion, my talk scarcely innocent, simply because I was so
  innocent. I played endless child's tricks with my bridal veil, my
  wreath, my gown. Left alone that night in the room whither I had
  been conducted in state, I planned a piece of mischief to tease
  Victor. While I awaited his coming, my heart beat wildly, as it
  used to do when I was a child stealing into the drawing-room on
  the last day of the old year to catch a glimpse of the New Year's
  gifts piled up there in heaps. When my husband came in and looked
  for me, my smothered laughter ringing out from beneath the lace in
  which I had shrouded myself, was the last outburst of the
  delicious merriment which brightened our games in childhood . . ."

When the dowager had finished reading the letter, and after such a
beginning the rest must have been sad indeed, she slowly laid her
spectacles on the table, put the letter down beside them, and looked
fixedly at her niece. Age had not dimmed the fire in those green eyes
as yet.

"My little girl," she said, "a married woman cannot write such a
letter as this to a young unmarried woman; it is scarcely proper--"

"So I was thinking," Julie broke in upon her aunt. "I felt ashamed of
myself while you were reading it."

"If a dish at table is not to our taste, there is no occasion to
disgust others with it, child," the old lady continued benignly,
"especially when marriage has seemed to us all, from Eve downwards, so
excellent an institution. . . You have no mother?"

The Countess trembled, then she raised her face meekly, and said:

"I have missed my mother many times already during the past year; but
I have myself to blame, I would not listen to my father. He was
opposed to my marriage; he disapproved of Victor as a son-in-law."

She looked at her aunt. The old face was lighted up with a kindly
look, and a thrill of joy dried Julie's tears. She held out her young,
soft hand to the old Marquise, who seemed to ask for it, and the
understanding between the two women was completed by the close grasp
of their fingers.

"Poor orphan child!"

The words came like a final flash of enlightenment to Julie. It seemed
to her that she heard her father's prophetic voice again.

"Your hands are burning! Are they always like this?" asked the
Marquise.

"The fever only left me seven or eight days ago."

"You had a fever upon you, and said nothing about it to me!"

"I have had it for a year," said Julie, with a kind of timid anxiety.

"My good little angel, then your married life hitherto has been one
long time of suffering?"

Julie did not venture to reply, but an affirmative sign revealed the
whole truth.

"Then you are unhappy?"

"On! no, no, aunt. Victor loves me, he almost idolizes me, and I adore
him, he is so kind."

"Yes, you love him; but you avoid him, do you not?"

"Yes . . . sometimes . . . He seeks me too often."

"And often when you are alone you are troubled with the fear that he
may suddenly break in on your solitude?"

"Alas! yes, aunt. But, indeed, I love him, I do assure you."

"Do you not, in your own thoughts, blame yourself because you find it
impossible to share his pleasures? Do you never think at times that
marriage is a heavier yoke than an illicit passion could be?"

"Oh, that is just it," she wept. "It is all a riddle to me, and can
you guess it all? My faculties are benumbed, I have no ideas, I can
scarcely see at all. I am weighed down by vague dread, which freezes
me till I cannot feel, and keeps me in continual torpor. I have no
voice with which to pity myself, no words to express my trouble. I
suffer, and I am ashamed to suffer when Victor is happy at my cost."

"Babyish nonsense, and rubbish, all of it!" exclaimed the aunt, and a
gay smile, an after-glow of the joys of her own youth, suddenly
lighted up her withered face.

"And do you too laugh!" the younger woman cried despairingly.

"It was just my own case," the Marquise returned promptly. "And now
Victor has left you, you have become a girl again, recovering a
tranquillity without pleasure and without pain, have you not?"

Julie opened wide eyes of bewilderment.

"In fact, my angel, you adore Victor, do you not? But still you would
rather be a sister to him than a wife, and, in short, your marriage is
emphatically not a success?"

"Well--no, aunt. But why do you smile?"

"Oh! you are right, poor child! There is nothing very amusing in all
this. Your future would be big with more than one mishap if I had not
taken you under my protection, if my old experience of life had not
guessed the very innocent cause of your troubles. My nephew did not
deserve his good fortune, the blockhead! In the reign of our
well-beloved Louis Quinze, a young wife in your position would very
soon have punished her husband for behaving like a ruffian. The selfish
creature! The men who serve under this Imperial tyrant are all of them
ignorant boors. They take brutality for gallantry; they know no more
of women than they know of love; and imagine that because they go out
to face death on the morrow, they may dispense to-day with all
consideration and attentions for us. The time was when a man could
love and die too at the proper time. My niece, I will form you. I will
put an end to this unhappy divergence between you, a natural thing
enough, but it would end in mutual hatred and desire for a divorce,
always supposing that you did not die on the way to despair."

Julie's amazement equaled her surprise as she listened to her aunt.
She was surprised by her language, dimly divining rather than
appreciating the wisdom of the words she heard, and very much dismayed
to find what this relative, out of great experience, passed judgment
upon Victor as her father had done, though in somewhat milder terms.
Perhaps some quick prevision of the future crossed her mind;
doubtless, at any rate, she felt the heavy weight of the burden which
must inevitably overwhelm her, for she burst into tears, and sprang to
the old lady's arms. "Be my mother," she sobbed.

The aunt shed no tears. The Revolution had left old ladies of the
Monarchy but few tears to shed. Love, in bygone days, and the Terror
at a later time, had familiarized them with extremes of joy and
anguish in such a sort that, amid the perils of life, they preserved
their dignity and coolness, a capacity for sincere but undemonstrative
affection which never disturbed their well-bred self-possession, and a
dignity of demeanor which a younger generation has done very ill to
discard.

The dowager took Julie in her arms, and kissed her on the forehead
with a tenderness and pity more often found in women's ways and manner
than in their hearts. Then she coaxed her niece with kind, soothing
words, assured her of a happy future, lulled her with promises of
love, and put her to bed as if she had been not a niece, but a
daughter, a much-beloved daughter whose hopes and cares she had made
her own. Perhaps the old Marquise had found her own youth and
inexperience and beauty again in this nephew's wife. And the Countess
fell asleep, happy to have found a friend, nay a mother, to whom she
could tell everything freely.

Next morning, when the two women kissed each other with heartfelt
kindness, and that look of intelligence which marks a real advance in
friendship, a closer intimacy between two souls, they heard the sound
of horsehoofs, and, turning both together, saw the young Englishman
ride slowly past the window, after his wont. Apparently he had made a
certain study of the life led by the two lonely women, for he never
failed to ride by as they sat at breakfast, and again at dinner. His
horse slackened pace of its own accord, and for the space of time
required to pass the two windows in the room, its rider turned a
melancholy look upon the Countess, who seldom deigned to take the
slightest notion of him. Not so the Marquise. Minds not necessarily
little find it difficult to resist the little curiosity which fastens
upon the most trifling event that enlivens provincial life; and the
Englishman's mute way of expressing his timid, earnest love tickled
Mme. de Listomere. For her the periodically recurrent glance became a
part of the day's routine, hailed daily with new jests. As the two
women sat down to table, both of them looked out at the same moment.
This time Julie's eyes met Arthur's with such a precision of sympathy
that the color rose to her face. The stranger immediately urged his
horse into a gallop and went.

"What is to be done, madame?" asked Julie. "People see this Englishman
go past the house, and they will take it for granted that I--"

"Yes," interrupted her aunt.

"Well, then, could I not tell him to discontinue his promenades?"

"Would not that be a way of telling him that he was dangerous? You
might put that notion into his head. And besides, can you prevent a
man from coming and going as he pleases? Our meals shall be served in
another room to-morrow; and when this young gentleman sees us no
longer, there will be an end of making love to you through the window.
There, dear child, that is how a woman of the world does."

But the measure of Julie's misfortune was to be filled up. The two
women had scarcely risen from table when Victor's man arrived in hot
haste from Bourges with a letter for the Countess from her husband.
The servant had ridden by unfrequented ways.

Victor sent his wife news of the downfall of the Empire and the
capitulation of Paris. He himself had gone over to the Bourbons, and
all France was welcoming them back with transports of enthusiasm. He
could not go so far as Tours, but he begged her to come at once to
join him at Orleans, where he hoped to be in readiness with passports
for her. His servant, an old soldier, would be her escort so far as
Orleans; he (Victor) believed that the road was still open.

"You have not a moment to lose, madame," said the man. "The Prussians,
Austrians, and English are about to effect a junction either at Blois
or at Orleans."

A few hours later, Julie's preparations were made, and she started out
upon her journey in an old traveling carriage lent by her aunt.

"Why should you not come with us to Paris?" she asked, as she put her
arms about the Marquise. "Now that the Bourbons have come back you
would be--"

"Even if there had not been this unhoped-for return, I should still
have gone to Paris, my poor child, for my advice is only too necessary
to both you and Victor. So I shall make all my preparations for
rejoining you there."

Julie set out. She took her maid with her, and the old soldier
galloped beside the carriage as escort. At nightfall, as they changed
horses for the last stage before Blois, Julie grew uneasy. All the way
from Amboise she had heard the sound of wheels behind them, a carriage
following hers had kept at the same distance. She stood on the step
and looked out to see who her traveling companions might be, and in
the moonlight saw Arthur standing three paces away, gazing fixedly at
the chaise which contained her. Again their eyes met. The Countess
hastily flung herself back in her seat, but a feeling of dread set her
pulses throbbing. It seemed to her, as to most innocent and
inexperienced young wives, that she was herself to blame for this love
which she had all unwittingly inspired. With this thought came an
instinctive terror, perhaps a sense of her own helplessness before
aggressive audacity. One of a man's strongest weapons is the terrible
power of compelling a woman to think of him when her naturally lively
imagination takes alarm or offence at the thought that she is
followed.

The Countess bethought herself of her aunt's advice, and made up her
mind that she would not stir from her place during the rest of the
journey; but every time the horses were changed she heard the
Englishman pacing round the two carriages, and again upon the road
heard the importunate sound of the wheels of his caleche. Julie soon
began to think that, when once reunited to her husband, Victor would
know how to defend her against this singular persecution.

"Yet suppose that in spite of everything, this young man does not love
me?" This was the thought that came last of all.

No sooner did she reach Orleans than the Prussians stopped the chaise.
It was wheeled into an inn-yard and put under a guard of soldiers.
Resistance was out of the question. The foreign soldiers made the
three travelers understand by signs that they were obeying orders, and
that no one could be allowed to leave the carriage. For about two
hours the Countess sat in tears, a prisoner surrounded by the guard,
who smoked, laughed, and occasionally stared at her with insolent
curiosity. At last, however, she saw her captors fall away from the
carriage with a sort of respect, and heard at the same time the sound
of horses entering the yard. Another moment, and a little group of
foreign officers, with an Austrian general at their head, gathered
about the door of the traveling carriage.

"Madame," said the General, "pray accept our apologies. A mistake has
been made. You may continue your journey without fear; and here is a
passport which will spare you all further annoyance of any kind."

Trembling the Countess took the paper, and faltered out some vague
words of thanks. She saw Arthur, now wearing an English uniform,
standing beside the General, and could not doubt that this prompt
deliverance was due to him. The young Englishman himself looked half
glad, half melancholy; his face was turned away, and he only dared to
steal an occasional glance at Julie's face.

Thanks to the passport, Mme. d'Aiglemont reached Paris without further
misadventure, and there she found her husband. Victor d'Aiglemont,
released from his oath of allegiance to the Emperor, had met with a
most flattering reception from the Comte d'Artois, recently appointed
Lieutenant-General of the kingdom by his brother Louis XVIII.
D'Aiglemont received a commission in the Life Guards, equivalent to
the rank of general. But amid the rejoicings over the return of the
Bourbons, fate dealt poor Julie a terrible blow. The death of the
Marquise de Listomere-Landon was an irreparable loss. The old lady
died of joy and of an accession of gout to the heart when the Duc
d'Angouleme came back to Tours, and the one living being entitled by
her age to enlighten Victor, the woman who, by discreet counsels,
might have brought about perfect unanimity of husband and wife, was
dead; and Julie felt the full extent of her loss. Henceforward she
must stand alone between herself and her husband. But she was young
and timid; there could be no doubt of the result, or that from the
first she would elect to bear her lot in silence. The very perfections
of her character forbade her to venture to swerve from her duties, or
to attempt to inquire into the cause of her sufferings, for to put an
end to them would have been to venture on delicate ground, and Julie's
girlish modesty shrank from the thought.

A word as to M. d'Aiglemont's destinies under the Restoration.

How many men are there whose utter incapacity is a secret kept from
most of their acquaintance. For such as these high rank, high office,
illustrious birth, a certain veneer of politeness, and considerable
reserve of manner, or the _prestige_ of great fortunes, are but so
many sentinels to turn back critics who would penetrate to the
presence of the real man. Such men are like kings, in that their real
figure, character, and life can never be known nor justly appreciated,
because they are always seen from too near or too far. Factitious
merit has a way of asking questions and saying little; and understands
the art of putting others forward to save the necessity of posing
before them; then, with a happy knack of its own, it draws and
attaches others by the thread of the ruling passion of self-interest,
keeping men of far greater abilities to play like puppets, and
despising those whom it has brought down to its own level. The petty
fixed idea naturally prevails; it has the advantage of persistence
over the plasticity of great thoughts.

The observer who should seek to estimate and appraise the negative
values of these empty heads needs subtlety rather than superior wit
for the task; patience is a more necessary part of his judicial outfit
than great mental grasp, cunning and tact rather than any elevation or
greatness of ideas. Yet skilfully as such usurpers can cover and
defend their weak points, it is difficult to delude wife and mother
and children and the house-friend of the family; fortunately for them,
however, these persons almost always keep a secret which in a manner
touches the honor of all, and not unfrequently go so far as to help to
foist the imposture upon the public. And if, thanks to such domestic
conspiracy, many a noodle passes current for a man of ability, on the
other hand many another who has real ability is taken for a noodle to
redress the balance, and the total average of this kind of false coin
in circulation in the state is a pretty constant quantity.

Bethink yourself now of the part to be played by a clever woman quick
to think and feel, mated with a husband of this kind, and can you not
see a vision of lives full of sorrow and self-sacrifice? Nothing upon
earth can repay such hearts so full of love and tender tact. Put a
strong-willed woman in this wretched situation, and she will force a
way out of it for herself by a crime, like Catherine II., whom men
nevertheless style "the Great." But these women are not all seated
upon thrones, they are for the most part doomed to domestic
unhappiness none the less terrible because obscure.

Those who seek consolation in this present world for their woes often
effect nothing but a change of ills if they remain faithful to their
duties; or they commit a sin if they break the laws for their
pleasure. All these reflections are applicable to Julie's domestic
life.

Before the fall of Napoleon nobody was jealous of d'Aiglemont. He was
one colonel among many, an efficient orderly staff-officer, as good a
man as you could find for a dangerous mission, as unfit as well could
be for an important command. D'Aiglemont was looked upon as a dashing
soldier such as the Emperor liked, the kind of man whom his mess
usually calls "a good fellow." The Restoration gave him back his title
of Marquis, and did not find him ungrateful; he followed the Bourbons
into exile at Ghent, a piece of logical loyalty which falsified the
horoscope drawn for him by his late father-in-law, who predicted that
Victor would remain a colonel all his life. After the Hundred Days he
received the appointment of Lieutenant-General, and for the second
time became a marquis; but it was M. d'Aiglemont's ambition to be a
peer of France. He adopted, therefore, the maxims and the politics of
the _Conservateur_, cloaked himself in dissimulation which hid nothing
(there being nothing to hide), cultivated gravity of countenance and
the art of asking questions and saying little, and was taken for a man
of profound wisdom. Nothing drew him from his intrenchments behind the
forms of politeness; he laid in a provision of formulas, and made
lavish use of his stock of the catch-words coined at need in Paris to
give fools the small change for the ore of great ideas and events.
Among men of the world he was reputed a man of taste and discernment;
and as a bigoted upholder of aristocratic opinions he was held up for
a noble character. If by chance he slipped now and again into his old
light-heartedness or levity, others were ready to discover an
undercurrent of diplomatic intention beneath his inanity and
silliness. "Oh! he only says exactly as much as he means to say,"
thought these excellent people.

So d'Aiglemont's defects and good qualities stood him alike in good
stead. He did nothing to forfeit a high military reputation gained by
his dashing courage, for he had never been a commander-in-chief. Great
thoughts surely were engraven upon that manly aristocratic
countenance, which imposed upon every one but his own wife. And when
everybody else believed in the Marquis d'Aiglemont's imaginary
talents, the Marquis persuaded himself before he had done that he was
one of the most remarkable men at Court, where, thanks to his purely
external qualifications, he was in favor and taken at his own
valuation.

At home, however, M. d'Aiglemont was modest. Instinctively he felt
that his wife, young though she was, was his superior; and out of this
involuntary respect there grew an occult power which the Marquise was
obliged to wield in spite of all her efforts to shake off the burden.
She became her husband's adviser, the director of his actions and his
fortunes. It was an unnatural position; she felt it as something of a
humiliation, a source of pain to be buried in the depths of her heart.
From the first her delicately feminine instinct told her that it is a
far better thing to obey a man of talent than to lead a fool; and that
a young wife compelled to act and think like a man is neither man nor
woman, but a being who lays aside all the charms of her womanhood
along with its misfortunes, yet acquires none of the privileges which
our laws give to the stronger sex. Beneath the surface her life was a
bitter mockery. Was she not compelled to protect her protector, to
worship a hollow idol, a poor creature who flung her the love of a
selfish husband as the wages of her continual self-sacrifice; who saw
nothing in her but the woman; and who either did not think it worth
while, or (wrong quite as deep) did not think at all of troubling
himself about her pleasures, of inquiring into the cause of her low
spirits and dwindling health? And the Marquis, like most men who chafe
under a wife's superiority, saved his self-love by arguing from
Julie's physical feebleness a corresponding lack of mental power, for
which he was pleased to pity her; and he would cry out upon fate which
had given him a sickly girl for a wife. The executioner posed, in
fact, as the victim.

All the burdens of this dreary lot fell upon the Marquise, who still
must smile upon her foolish lord, and deck a house of mourning with
flowers, and make a parade of happiness in a countenance wan with
secret torture. And with this sense of responsibility for the honor of
both, with the magnificent immolation of self, the young Marquise
unconsciously acquired a wifely dignity, a consciousness of virtue
which became her safeguard amid many dangers.

Perhaps, if her heart were sounded to the very depths, this intimate
closely hidden wretchedness, following upon her unthinking, girlish
first love, had roused in her an abhorrence of passion; possibly she
had no conception of its rapture, nor of the forbidden but frenzied
bliss for which some women will renounce all the laws of prudence and
the principles of conduct upon which society is based. She put from
her like a dream the thought of bliss and tender harmony of love
promised by Mme. de Listomere-Landon's mature experience, and waited
resignedly for the end of her troubles with a hope that she might die
young.

Her health had declined daily since her return from Touraine; her life
seemed to be measured to her in suffering; yet her ill-health was
graceful, her malady seemed little more than languor, and might well
be taken by careless eyes for a fine lady's whim of invalidism.

Her doctors had condemned her to keep to the sofa, and there among her
flowers lay the Marquise, fading as they faded. She was not strong
enough to walk, nor to bear the open air, and only went out in a
closed carriage. Yet with all the marvels of modern luxury and
invention about her, she looked more like an indolent queen than an
invalid. A few of her friends, half in love perhaps with her sad
plight and her fragile look, sure of finding her at home, and
speculating no doubt upon her future restoration to health, would come
to bring her the news of the day, and kept her informed of the
thousand and one small events which fill life in Paris with variety.
Her melancholy, deep and real though it was was still the melancholy
of a woman rich in many ways. The Marquise d'Aiglemont was like a
flower, with a dark insect gnawing at its root.

Occasionally she went into society, not to please herself, but in
obedience to the exigencies of the position which her husband aspired
to take. In society her beautiful voice and the perfection of her
singing could always gain the social success so gratifying to a young
woman; but what was social success to her, who drew nothing from it
for her heart or her hopes? Her husband did not care for music. And,
moreover, she seldom felt at her ease in salons, where her beauty
attracted homage not wholly disinterested. Her position excited a sort
of cruel compassion, a morbid curiosity. She was suffering from an
inflammatory complaint not infrequently fatal, for which our nosology
as yet has found no name, a complaint spoken of among women in
confidential whispers. In spite of the silence in which her life was
spent, the cause of her ill-health was no secret. She was still but a
girl in spite of her marriage; the slightest glance threw her into
confusion. In her endeavor not to blush, she was always laughing,
always apparently in high spirits; she would never admit that she was
not perfectly well, and anticipated questions as to her health by
shame-stricken subterfuges.

In 1817, however, an event took place which did much to alleviate
Julie's hitherto deplorable existence. A daughter was born to her, and
she determined to nurse her child herself. For two years motherhood,
its all-absorbing multiplicity of cares and anxious joys, made life
less hard for her. She and her husband lived necessarily apart. Her
physicians predicted improved health, but the Marquise herself put no
faith in these auguries based on theory. Perhaps, like many a one for
whom life has lost its sweetness, she looked forward to death as a
happy termination of the drama.

But with the beginning of the year 1819 life grew harder than ever.
Even while she congratulated herself upon the negative happiness which
she had contrived to win, she caught a terrifying glimpse of yawning
depths below it. She had passed by degrees out of her husband's life.
Her fine tact and her prudence told her that misfortune must come, and
that not singly, of this cooling of an affection already lukewarm and
wholly selfish. Sure though she was of her ascendency over Victor, and
certain as she felt of his unalterable esteem, she dreaded the
influence of unbridled passions upon a head so empty, so full of rash
self-conceit.

Julie's friends often found her absorbed in prolonged musings; the
less clairvoyant among them would jestingly ask her what she was
thinking about, as if a young wife would think of nothing but
frivolity, as if there were not almost always a depth of seriousness
in a mother's thoughts. Unhappiness, like great happiness, induces
dreaming. Sometimes as Julie played with her little Helene, she would
gaze darkly at her, giving no reply to the childish questions in which
a mother delights, questioning the present and the future as to the
destiny of this little one. Then some sudden recollection would bring
back the scene of the review at the Tuileries and fill her eyes with
tears. Her father's prophetic warnings rang in her ears, and
conscience reproached her that she had not recognized its wisdom. Her
troubles had all come of her own wayward folly, and often she knew not
which among so many were the hardest to bear. The sweet treasures of
her soul were unheeded, and not only so, she could never succeed in
making her husband understand her, even in the commonest everyday
things. Just as the power to love developed and grew strong and
active, a legitimate channel for the affections of her nature was
denied her, and wedded love was extinguished in grave physical and
mental sufferings. Add to this that she now felt for her husband that
pity closely bordering upon contempt, which withers all affection at
last. Even if she had not learned from conversations with some of her
friends, from examples in life, from sundry occurrences in the great
world, that love can bring ineffable bliss, her own wounds would have
taught her to divine the pure and deep happiness which binds two
kindred souls each to each.

In the picture which her memory traced of the past, Arthur's frank
face stood out daily nobler and purer; it was but a flash, for upon
that recollection she dared not dwell. The young Englishman's shy,
silent love for her was the one event since her marriage which had
left a lingering sweetness in her darkened and lonely heart. It may be
that all the blighted hopes, all the frustrated longings which
gradually clouded Julie's mind, gathered, by a not unnatural trick of
imagination, about this man--whose manners, sentiments, and character
seemed to have so much in common with her own. This idea still
presented itself to her mind fitfully and vaguely, like a dream; yet
from that dream, which always ended in a sigh, Julie awoke to greater
wretchedness, to keener consciousness of the latent anguish brooding
beneath her imaginary bliss.

Occasionally her self-pity took wilder and more daring flights. She
determined to have happiness at any cost; but still more often she lay
a helpless victim of an indescribable numbing stupor, the words she
heard had no meaning to her, or the thoughts which arose in her mind
were so vague and indistinct that she could not find language to
express them. Balked of the wishes of her heart, realities jarred
harshly upon her girlish dreams of life, but she was obliged to devour
her tears. To whom could she make complaint? Of whom be understood?
She possessed, moreover, that highest degree of woman's sensitive
pride, the exquisite delicacy of feeling which silences useless
complainings and declines to use an advantage to gain a triumph which
can only humiliate both victor and vanquished.

Julie tried to endow M. d'Aiglemont with her own abilities and
virtues, flattering herself that thus she might enjoy the happiness
lacking in her lot. All her woman's ingenuity and tack was employed in
making the best of the situation; pure waste of pains unsuspected by
him, whom she thus strengthened in his despotism. There were moments
when misery became an intoxication, expelling all ideas, all
self-control; but, fortunately, sincere piety always brought her back
to one supreme hope; she found a refuge in the belief in a future
life, a wonderful thought which enabled her to take up her painful task
afresh. No elation of victory followed those terrible inward battles
and throes of anguish; no one knew of those long hours of sadness; her
haggard glances met no response from human eyes, and during the brief
moments snatched by chance for weeping, her bitter tears fell unheeded
and in solitude.

One evening in January 1820, the Marquise became aware of the full
gravity of the crisis, gradually brought on by force of circumstances.
When a husband and wife know each other thoroughly, and their relation
has long been a matter of use and wont, when the wife has learned to
interpret every slightest sign, when her quick insight discerns
thoughts and facts which her husband keeps from her, a chance word, or
a remark so carelessly let fall in the first instance, seems, upon
subsequent reflection, like the swift breaking out of light. A wife
not seldom suddenly awakes upon the brink of a precipice or in the
depths of the abyss; and thus it was with the Marquise. She was
feeling glad to have been left to herself for some days, when the real
reason of her solitude flashed upon her. Her husband, whether fickle
and tired of her, or generous and full of pity for her, was hers no
longer.

In the moment of that discovery she forgot herself, her sacrifices,
all that she had passed through, she remembered only that she was a
mother. Looking forward, she thought of her daughter's fortune, of the
future welfare of the one creature through whom some gleams of
happiness came to her, of her Helene, the only possession which bound
her to life.

Then Julie wished to live to save her child from a stepmother's
terrible thraldom, which might crush her darling's life. Upon this new
vision of threatened possibilities followed one of those paroxysms of
thought at fever-heat which consume whole years of life.

Henceforward husband and wife were doomed to be separated by a whole
world of thought, and all the weight of that world she must bear
alone. Hitherto she had felt sure that Victor loved her, in so far as
he could be said to love; she had been the slave of pleasures which
she did not share; to-day the satisfaction of knowing that she
purchased his contentment with her tears was hers no longer. She was
alone in the world, nothing was left to her now but a choice of evils.
In the calm stillness of the night her despondency drained her of all
her strength. She rose from her sofa beside the dying fire, and stood
in the lamplight gazing, dry-eyed, at her child, when M. d'Aiglemont
came in. He was in high spirits. Julie called to him to admire Helene
as she lay asleep, but he met his wife's enthusiasm with a
commonplace:

"All children are nice at that age."

He closed the curtains about the cot after a careless kiss on the
child's forehead. Then he turned his eyes on Julie, took her hand and
drew her to sit beside him on the sofa, where she had been sitting
with such dark thoughts surging up in her mind.

"You are looking very handsome to-night, Mme. d'Aiglemont," he
exclaimed, with the gaiety intolerable to the Marquise, who knew its
emptiness so well.

"Where have you spent the evening?" she asked, with a pretence of
complete indifference.

"At Mme. de Serizy's."

He had taken up a fire-screen, and was looking intently at the gauze.
He had not noticed the traces of tears on his wife's face. Julie
shuddered. Words could not express the overflowing torrent of thoughts
which must be forced down into inner depths.

"Mme. de Serizy is giving a concert on Monday, and is dying for you to
go. You have not been anywhere for some time past, and that is enough
to set her longing to see you at her house. She is a good-natured
woman, and very fond of you. I should be glad if you would go; I all
but promised that you should----"

"I will go."

There was something so penetrating, so significant in the tones of
Julie's voice, in her accent, in the glance that went with the words,
that Victor, startled out of his indifference, stared at his wife in
astonishment.

That was all, Julie had guessed that it was Mme. de Serizy who had
stolen her husband's heart from her. Her brooding despair benumbed
her. She appeared to be deeply interested in the fire. Victor
meanwhile still played with the fire-screen. He looked bored, like a
man who has enjoyed himself elsewhere, and brought home the consequent
lassitude. He yawned once or twice, then he took up a candle in one
hand, and with the other languidly sought his wife's neck for the
usual embrace; but Julie stooped and received the good-night kiss upon
her forehead; the formal, loveless grimace seemed hateful to her at
that moment.

As soon as the door closed upon Victor, his wife sank into a seat. Her
limbs tottered beneath her, she burst into tears. None but those who
have endured the torture of some such scene can fully understand the
anguish that it means, or divine the horror of the long-drawn tragedy
arising out of it.

Those simple, foolish words, the silence that followed between the
husband and wife, the Marquis' gesture and expression, the way in
which he sat before the fire, his attitude as he made that futile
attempt to put a kiss on his wife's throat,--all these things made up
a dark hour for Julie, and the catastrophe of the drama of her sad and
lonely life. In her madness she knelt down before the sofa, burying
her face in it to shut out everything from sight, and prayed to
Heaven, putting a new significance into the words of the evening
prayer, till it became a cry from the depths of her own soul, which
would have gone to her husband's heart if he had heard it.

The following week she spent in deep thought for her future, utterly
overwhelmed by this new trouble. She made a study of it, trying to
discover a way to regain her ascendency over the Marquis, scheming how
to live long enough to watch over her daughter's happiness, yet to
live true to her own heart. Then she made up her mind. She would
struggle with her rival. She would shine once more in society. She
would feign the love which she could no longer feel, she would
captivate her husband's fancy; and when she had lured him into her
power, she would coquet with him like a capricious mistress who takes
delight in tormenting a lover. This hateful strategy was the only
possible way out of her troubles. In this way she would become
mistress of the situation; she would prescribe her own sufferings at
her good pleasure, and reduce them by enslaving her husband, and
bringing him under a tyrannous yoke. She felt not the slightest
remorse for the hard life which he should lead. At a bound she reached
cold, calculating indifference--for her daughter's sake. She had
gained a sudden insight into the treacherous, lying arts of degraded
women; the wiles of coquetry, the revolting cunning which arouses such
profound hatred in men at the mere suspicion of innate corruption in a
woman.

Julie's feminine vanity, her interests, and a vague desire to inflict
punishment, all wrought unconsciously with the mother's love within
her to force her into a path where new sufferings awaited her. But her
nature was too noble, her mind too fastidious, and, above all things,
too open, to be the accomplice of these frauds for very long.
Accustomed as she was to self-scrutiny, at the first step in vice--for
vice it was--the cry of conscience must inevitably drown the clamor of
the passions and of selfishness. Indeed, in a young wife whose heart
is still pure, whose love has never been mated, the very sentiment of
motherhood is overpowered by modesty. Modesty; is not all womanhood
summed up in that? But just now Julie would not see any danger,
anything wrong, in her life.

She went to Mme. de Serizy's concert. Her rival had expected to see a
pallid, drooping woman. The Marquise wore rouge, and appeared in all
the splendor of a toilet which enhanced her beauty.

Mme. de Serizy was one of those women who claim to exercise a sort of
sway over fashions and society in Paris; she issued her decrees, saw
them received in her own circle, and it seemed to her that all the
world obeyed them. She aspired to epigram, she set up for an authority
in matters of taste. Literature, politics, men and women, all alike
were submitted to her censorship, and the lady herself appeared to
defy the censorship of others. Her house was in every respect a model
of good taste.

Julie triumphed over the Countess in her own salon, filled as it was
with beautiful women and women of fashion. Julie's liveliness and
sparkling wit gathered all the most distinguished men in the rooms
about her. Her costume was faultless, for the despair of the women,
who one and all envied her the fashion of her dress, and attributed
the moulded outline of her bodice to the genius of some unknown
dressmaker, for women would rather believe in miracles worked by the
science of chiffons than in the grace and perfection of the form
beneath.

When Julie went to the piano to sing Desdemona's song, the men in the
rooms flocked about her to hear the celebrated voice so long mute, and
there was a deep silence. The Marquise saw the heads clustered thickly
in the doorways, saw all eyes turned upon her, and a sharp thrill of
excitement quivered through her. She looked for her husband, gave him
a coquettish side-glance, and it pleased her to see that his vanity
was gratified to no small degree. In the joy of triumph she sang the
first part of _Al piu salice_. Her audience was enraptured. Never had
Malibran nor Pasta sung with expression and intonation so perfect. But
at the beginning of the second part she glanced over the glistening
groups and saw--Arthur. He never took his eyes from her face. A quick
shudder thrilled through her, and her voice faltered. Up hurried Mme.
de Serizy from her place.

"What is it, dear? Oh! poor little thing! she is in such weak health;
I was so afraid when I saw her begin a piece so far beyond her
strength."

The song was interrupted. Julie was vexed. She had not courage to sing
any longer, and submitted to her rival's treacherous sympathy. There
was a whisper among the women. The incident led to discussions; they
guessed that the struggle had begun between the Marquise and Mme. de
Serizy, and their tongues did not spare the latter.

Julie's strange, perturbing presentiments were suddenly realized.
Through her preoccupation with Arthur she had loved to imagine that
with that gentle, refined face he must remain faithful to his first
love. There were times when she felt proud that this ideal, pure, and
passionate young love should have been hers; the passion of the young
lover whose thoughts are all for her to whom he dedicates every moment
of his life, who blushes as a woman blushes, thinks as a woman might
think, forgetting ambition, fame, and fortune in devotion to his love,
--she need never fear a rival. All these things she had fondly and
idly dreamed of Arthur; now all at once it seemed to her that her
dream had come true. In the young Englishman's half-feminine face she
read the same deep thoughts, the same pensive melancholy, the same
passive acquiescence in a painful lot, and an endurance like her own.
She saw herself in him. Trouble and sadness are the most eloquent of
love's interpreters, and response is marvelously swift between two
suffering creatures, for in them the powers of intuition and of
assimilation of facts and ideas are well-nigh unerring and perfect. So
with the violence of the shock the Marquise's eyes were opened to the
whole extent of the future danger. She was only too glad to find a
pretext for her nervousness in her chronic ill-health, and willingly
submitted to be overwhelmed by Mme. de Serizy's insidious compassion.

That incident of the song caused talk and discussion which differed
with the various groups. Some pitied Julie's fate, and regretted that
such a remarkable woman was lost to society; others fell to wondering
what the cause of her ill-health and seclusion could be.

"Well, now, my dear Ronquerolles," said the Marquis, addressing Mme.
de Serizy's brother, "you used to envy me my good fortune, and you
used to blame me for my infidelities. Pshaw, you would not find much
to envy in my lot, if, like me, you had a pretty wife so fragile that
for the past two years you might not so much as kiss her hand for fear
of damaging her. Do not you encumber yourself with one of those
fragile ornaments, only fit to put in a glass case, so brittle and so
costly that you are always obliged to be careful of them. They tell me
that you are afraid of snow or wet for that fine horse of yours; how
often do you ride him? That is just my own case. It is true that my
wife gives me no ground for jealousy, but my marriage is purely
ornamental business; if you think that I am a married man, you are
grossly mistaken. So there is some excuse for my unfaithfulness. I
should dearly like to know what you gentlemen who laugh at me would do
in my place. Not many men would be so considerate as I am. I am sure,"
(here he lowered his voice) "that Mme. d'Aiglemont suspects nothing.
And then, of course, I have no right to complain at all; I am very
well off. Only there is nothing more trying for a man who feels things
than the sight of suffering in a poor creature to whom you are
attached----"

"You must have a very sensitive nature, then," said M. de
Ronquerolles, "for you are not often at home."

Laughter followed on the friendly epigram; but Arthur, who made one of
the group, maintained a frigid imperturbability in his quality of an
English gentleman who takes gravity for the very basis of his being.
D'Aiglemont's eccentric confidence, no doubt, had kindled some kind of
hope in Arthur, for he stood patiently awaiting an opportunity of a
word with the Marquis. He had not to wait long.

"My Lord Marquis," he said, "I am unspeakably pained to see the state
of Mme. d'Aiglemont's health. I do not think that you would talk
jestingly about it if you knew that unless she adopts a certain course
of treatment she must die miserably. If I use this language to you, it
is because I am in a manner justified in using it, for I am quite
certain that I can save Mme. d'Aiglemont's life and restore her to
health and happiness. It is odd, no doubt, that a man of my rank
should be a physician, yet nevertheless chance determined that I
should study medicine. I find life dull enough here," he continued,
affecting a cold selfishness to gain his ends, "it makes no difference
to me whether I spend my time and travel for the benefit of a
suffering fellow-creature, or waste it in Paris on some nonsense or
other. It is very, very seldom that a cure is completed in these
complaints, for they require constant care, time, and patience, and,
above all things, money. Travel is needed, and a punctilious following
out of prescriptions, by no means unpleasant, and varied daily. Two
_gentlemen_" (laying a stress on the word in its English sense) "can
understand each other. I give you warning that if you accept my
proposal, you shall be a judge of my conduct at every moment. I will
do nothing without consulting you, without your superintendence, and I
will answer for the success of my method if you will consent to follow
it. Yes, unless you wish to be Mme. d'Aiglemont's husband no longer,
and that before long," he added in the Marquis' ear.

The Marquis laughed. "One thing is certain--that only an Englishman
could make me such an extraordinary proposal," he said. "Permit me to
leave it unaccepted and unrejected. I will think it over; and my wife
must be consulted first in any case."

Julie had returned to the piano. This time she sang a song from
_Semiramide, Son regina, son guerriera_, and the whole room applauded,
a stifled outburst of wellbred acclamation which proved that the
Faubourg Saint-Germain had been roused to enthusiasm by her singing.

The evening was over. D'Aiglemont brought his wife home, and Julie saw
with uneasy satisfaction that her first attempt had at once been
successful. Her husband had been roused out of indifference by the
part which she had played, and now he meant to honor her with such a
passing fancy as he might bestow upon some opera nymph. It amused
Julie that she, a virtuous married woman, should be treated thus. She
tried to play with her power, but at the outset her kindness broke
down once more, and she received the most terrible of all the lessons
held in store for her by fate.

Between two and three o'clock in the morning Julie sat up, sombre and
moody, beside her sleeping husband, in the room dimly lighted by the
flickering lamp. Deep silence prevailed. Her agony of remorse had
lasted near an hour; how bitter her tears had been none perhaps can
realize save women who have known such an experience as hers. Only
such natures as Julie's can feel her loathing for a calculated caress,
the horror of a loveless kiss, of the heart's apostasy followed by
dolorous prostitution. She despised herself; she cursed marriage. She
could have longed for death; perhaps if it had not been for a cry from
her child, she would have sprung from the window and dashed herself
upon the pavement. M. d'Aiglemont slept on peacefully at her side; his
wife's hot dropping tears did not waken him.

But next morning Julie could be gay. She made a great effort to look
happy, to hide, not her melancholy, as heretofore, but an insuperable
loathing. From that day she no longer regarded herself as a blameless
wife. Had she not been false to herself? Why should she not play a
double part in the future, and display astounding depths of cunning in
deceiving her husband? In her there lay a hitherto undiscovered latent
depravity, lacking only opportunity, and her marriage was the cause.

Even now she had asked herself why she should struggle with love,
when, with her heart and her whole nature in revolt, she gave herself
to the husband whom she loved no longer. Perhaps, who knows? some
piece of fallacious reasoning, some bit of special pleading, lies at
the root of all sins, of all crimes. How shall society exist unless
every individual of which it is composed will make the necessary
sacrifices of inclination demanded by its laws? If you accept the
benefits of civilized society, do you not by implication engage to
observe the conditions, the conditions of its very existence? And yet,
starving wretches, compelled to respect the laws of property, are not
less to be pitied than women whose natural instincts and sensitiveness
are turned to so many avenues of pain.

A few days after that scene of which the secret lay buried in the
midnight couch, d'Aiglemont introduced Lord Grenville. Julie gave the
guest a stiffly polite reception, which did credit to her powers of
dissimulation. Resolutely she silenced her heart, veiled her eyes,
steadied her voice, and she kept her future in her own hands. Then,
when by these devices, this innate woman-craft, as it may be called,
she had discovered the full extent of the love which she inspired,
Mme. d'Aiglemont welcomed the hope of a speedy cure, and no longer
opposed her husband, who pressed her to accept the young doctor's
offer. Yet she declined to trust herself with Lord Grenville until
after some further study of his words and manner, she could feel
certain that he had sufficient generosity to endure his pain in
silence. She had absolute power over him, and she had begun to abuse
that power already. Was she not a woman?

Montcontour is an old manor-house build upon the sandy cliffs above
the Loire, not far from the bridge where Julie's journey was
interrupted in 1814. It is a picturesque, white chateau, with turrets
covered with fine stone carving like Mechlin lace; a chateau such as
you often see in Touraine, spick and span, ivy clad, standing among
its groves of mulberry trees and vineyards, with its hollow walks, its
stone balustrades, and cellars mined in the rock escarpments mirrored
in the Loire. The roofs of Montcontour gleam in the sun; the whole
land glows in the burning heat. Traces of the romantic charm of Spain
and the south hover about the enchanting spot. The breeze brings the
scent of bell flowers and golden broom, the air is soft, all about you
lies a sunny land, a land which casts its dreamy spell over your soul,
a land of languor and of soft desire, a fair, sweet-scented country,
where pain is lulled to sleep and passion wakes. No heart is cold for
long beneath its clear sky, beside its sparkling waters. One ambition
dies after another, and you sink into serene content and repose, as
the sun sinks at the end of the day swathed about with purple and
azure.



One warm August evening in 1821 two people were climbing the paths cut
in the crags above the chateau, doubtless for the sake of the view
from the heights above. The two were Julie and Lord Grenville, but
this Julie seemed to be a new creature. The unmistakable color of
health glowed in her face. Overflowing vitality had brought a light
into her eyes, which sparkled through a moist film with that liquid
brightness which gives such irresistible charm to the eyes of
children. She was radiant with smiles; she felt the joy of living and
all the possibilities of life. From the very way in which she lifted
her little feet, it was easy to see that no suffering trammeled her
lightest movements; there was no heaviness nor languor in her eyes,
her voice, as heretofore. Under the white silk sunshade which screened
her from the hot sunlight, she looked like some young bride beneath
her veil, or a maiden waiting to yield to the magical enchantments of
Love.

Arthur led her with a lover's care, helping her up the pathway as if
she had been a child, finding the smoothest ways, avoiding the stones
for her, bidding her see glimpses of distance, or some flower beside
the path, always with the unfailing goodness, the same delicate design
in all that he did; the intuitive sense of this woman's wellbeing
seemed to be innate in him, and as much, nay, perhaps more, a part of
his being as the pulse of his own life.

The patient and her doctor went step for step. There was nothing
strange for them in a sympathy which seemed to have existed since the
day when they first walked together. One will swayed them both; they
stopped as their senses received the same impression; every word and
every glance told of the same thought in either mind. They had climbed
up through the vineyards, and now they turned to sit on one of the
long white stones, quarried out of the caves in the hillside; but
Julie stood awhile gazing out over the landscape.

"What a beautiful country!" she cried. "Let us put up a tent and live
here. Victor, Victor, do come up here!"

M. d'Aiglemont answered by a halloo from below. He did not, however,
hurry himself, merely giving his wife a glance from time to time when
the windings of the path gave him a glimpse of her. Julie breathed the
air with delight. She looked up at Arthur, giving him one of those
subtle glances in which a clever woman can put the whole of her
thought.

"Ah, I should like to live here always," she said. "Would it be
possible to tire of this beautiful valley?--What is the picturesque
river called, do you know?"

"That is the Cise."

"The Cise," she repeated. "And all this country below, before us?"

"Those are the low hills above the Cher."

"And away to the right? Ah, that is Tours. Only see how fine the
cathedral towers look in the distance."

She was silent, and let fall the hand which she had stretched out
towards the view upon Arthur's. Both admired the wide landscape made
up of so much blended beauty. Neither of them spoke. The murmuring
voice of the river, the pure air, and the cloudless heaven were all in
tune with their thronging thoughts and their youth and the love in
their hearts.

"Oh! _mon Dieu_, how I love this country!" Julie continued, with
growing and ingenuous enthusiasm. "You lived here for a long while,
did you not?" she added after a pause.

A thrill ran through Lord Grenville at her words.

"It was down there," he said, in a melancholy voice, indicating as he
spoke a cluster of walnut trees by the roadside, "that I, a prisoner,
saw you for the first time."

"Yes, but even at that time I felt very sad. This country looked wild
to me then, but now----" She broke off, and Lord Grenville did not
dare to look at her.

"All this pleasure I owe to you," Julie began at last, after a long
silence. "Only the living can feel the joy of life, and until now have
I not been dead to it all? You have given me more than health, you
have made me feel all its worth--"

Women have an inimitable talent for giving utterance to strong
feelings in colorless words; a woman's eloquence lies in tone and
gesture, manner and glance. Lord Grenville hid his face in his hands,
for his tears filled his eyes. This was Julie's first word of thanks
since they left Paris a year ago.

For a whole year he had watched over the Marquise, putting his whole
self into the task. D'Aiglemont seconding him, he had taken her first
to Aix, then to la Rochelle, to be near the sea. From moment to moment
he had watched the changes worked in Julie's shattered constitution by
his wise and simple prescriptions. He had cultivated her health as an
enthusiastic gardener might cultivate a rare flower. Yet, to all
appearance, the Marquise had quietly accepted Arthur's skill and care
with the egoism of a spoiled Parisienne, or like a courtesan who has
no idea of the cost of things, nor of the worth of a man, and judges
of both by their comparative usefulness to her.

The influence of places upon us is a fact worth remarking. If
melancholy comes over us by the margin of a great water, another
indelible law of our nature so orders it that the mountains exercise a
purifying influence upon our feelings, and among the hills passion
gains in depth by all that it apparently loses in vivacity. Perhaps it
was the light of the wide country by the Loire, the height of the fair
sloping hillside on which the lovers sat, that induced the calm bliss
of the moment when the whole extent of the passion that lies beneath a
few insignificant-sounding words is divined for the first time with a
delicious sense of happiness.

Julie had scarcely spoken the words which had moved Lord Grenville so
deeply, when a caressing breeze ruffled the treetops and filled the
air with coolness from the river; a few clouds crossed the sky, and
the soft cloud-shadows brought out all the beauty of the fair land
below.

Julie turned away her head, lest Arthur should see the tears which she
succeeded in repressing; his emotion had spread at once to her. She
dried her eyes, but she dared not raise them lest he should read the
excess of joy in a glance. Her woman's instinct told her that during
this hour of danger she must hide her love in the depths of her heart.
Yet silence might prove equally dangerous, and Julie saw that Lord
Grenville was unable to utter a word. She went on, therefore, in a
gentle voice:

"You are touched by what I have said. Perhaps such a quick outburst of
feeling is the way in which a gracious and kind nature like yours
reverses a mistaken judgment. You must have thought me ungrateful when
I was cold and reserved, or cynical and hard, all through the journey
which, fortunately, is very near its end. I should not have been
worthy of your care if I had been unable to appreciate it. I have
forgotten nothing. Alas! I shall forget nothing, not the anxious way
in which you watched over me as a mother watches over her child, nor,
and above all else, the noble confidence of our life as brother and
sister, the delicacy of your conduct--winning charms, against which we
women are defenceless. My lord, it is out of my power to make you a
return----"

At these words Julie hastily moved further away, and Lord Grenville
made no attempt to detain her. She went to a rock not far away, and
there sat motionless. What either felt remained a secret known to each
alone; doubtless they wept in silence. The singing of the birds about
them, so blithe, so overflowing with tenderness at sunset time, could
only increase the storm of passion which had driven them apart. Nature
took up their story for them, and found a language for the love of
which they did not dare to speak.

"And now, my lord," said Julie, and she came and stood before Arthur
with a great dignity, which allowed her to take his hand in hers. "I
am going to ask you to hallow and purify the life which you have given
back to me. Here, we will part. I know," she added, as she saw how
white his face grew, "I know that I am repaying you for your devotion
by requiring of you a sacrifice even greater than any which you have
hitherto made for me, sacrifices so great that they should receive
some better recompense than this. . . . But it must be. . . You must
not stay in France. By laying this command upon you, do I not give you
rights which shall be held sacred?" she added, holding his hand
against her beating heart.

"Yes," said Arthur, and he rose.

He looked in the direction of d'Aiglemont, who appeared on the
opposite side of one of the hollow walks with the child in his arms.
He had scrambled up on the balustrade by the chateau that little
Helene might jump down.

"Julie, I will not say a word of my love; we understand each other too
well. Deeply and carefully though I have hidden the pleasures of my
heart, you have shared them all, I feel it, I know it, I see it. And
now, at this moment, as I receive this delicious proof of the constant
sympathy of our hearts, I must go. . . . Cunning schemes for getting
rid of him have crossed my mind too often; the temptation might be
irresistible if I stayed with you."

"I had the same thought," she said, a look of pained surprise in her
troubled face.

Yet in her tone and involuntary shudder there was such virtue, such
certainty of herself, won in many a hard-fought battle with a love
that spoke in Julie's tones and involuntary gestures, that Lord
Grenville stood thrilled with admiration of her. The mere shadow of a
crime had been dispelled from that clear conscience. The religious
sentiment enthroned on the fair forehead could not but drive away the
evil thoughts that arise unbidden, engendered by our imperfect nature,
thoughts which make us aware of the grandeur and the perils of human
destiny.

"And then," she said, "I should have drawn down your scorn upon me,
and--I should have been saved," she added, and her eyes fell. "To be
lowered in your eyes, what is that but death?"

For a moment the two heroic lovers were silent, choking down their
sorrow. Good or ill, it seemed that their thoughts were loyally one,
and the joys in the depths of their heart were no more experiences
apart than the pain which they strove most anxiously to hide.

"I have no right to complain," she said after a while, "my misery is
of my own making," and she raised her tear-filled eyes to the sky.

"Perhaps you don't remember it, but that is the place where we met
each other for the first time," shouted the General from below, and he
waved his hand towards the distance. "There, down yonder, near those
poplars!"

The Englishman nodded abruptly by way of answer.

"So I was bound to die young and to know no happiness," Julie
continued. "Yes, do not think that I live. Sorrow is just as fatal as
the dreadful disease which you have cured. I do not think that I am to
blame. No. My love is stronger than I am, and eternal; but all
unconsciously it grew in me; and I will not be guilty through my love.
Nevertheless, though I shall be faithful to my conscience as a wife,
to my duties as a mother, I will be no less faithful to the instincts
of my heart. Hear me," she cried in an unsteady voice, "henceforth I
belong to _him_ no longer."

By a gesture, dreadful to see in its undisguised loathing she
indicated her husband.

"The social code demands that I shall make his existence happy," she
continued. "I will obey, I will be his servant, my devotion to him
shall be boundless; but from to-day I am a widow. I will neither be a
prostitute in my own eyes nor in those of the world. If I do not
belong to M. d'Aiglemont, I will never belong to another. You shall
have nothing, nothing save this which you have wrung from me. This is
the doom which I have passed upon myself," she said, looking proudly
at him. "And now, know this--if you give way to a single criminal
thought, M. d'Aiglemont's widow will enter a convent in Spain or
Italy. By an evil chance we have spoken of our love; perhaps that
confession was bound to come; but our hearts must never vibrate again
like this. To-morrow you will receive a letter from England, and we
shall part, and never see each other again."

The effort had exhausted all Julie's strength. She felt her knees
trembling, and a feeling of deathly cold came over her. Obeying a
woman's instinct, she sat down, lest she should sink into Arthur's
arms.

"_Julie!_" cried Lord Grenville.

The sharp cry rang through the air like a crack of thunder. Till then
he could not speak; now, all the words which the dumb lover could not
utter gathered themselves in that heartrending appeal.

"Well, what is wrong with her?" asked the General, who had hurried up
at that cry, and now suddenly confronted the two.

"Nothing serious," said Julie, with that wonderful self-possession
which a woman's quick-wittedness usually brings to her aid when it is
most called for. "The chill, damp air under the walnut tree made me
feel quite faint just now, and that must have alarmed this doctor of
mine. Does he not look on me as a very nearly finished work of art? He
was startled, I suppose, by the idea of seeing it destroyed." With
ostentatious coolness she took Lord Grenville's arm, smiled at her
husband, took a last look at the landscape, and went down the pathway,
drawing her traveling companion with her.

"This certainly is the grandest view that we have seen," she said; "I
shall never forget it. Just look, Victor, what distance, what an
expanse of country, and what variety in it! I have fallen in love with
this landscape."

Her laughter was almost hysterical, but to her husband it sounded
natural. She sprang gaily down into the hollow pathway and vanished.

"What?" she cried, when they had left M. d'Aiglemont far behind. "So
soon? Is it so soon? Another moment, and we can neither of us be
ourselves; we shall never be ourselves again, our life is over, in
short--"

"Let us go slowly," said Lord Grenville, "the carriages are still some
way off, and if we may put words into our glances, our hearts may live
a little longer."

They went along the footpath by the river in the late evening light,
almost in silence; such vague words as they uttered, low as the murmur
of the Loire, stirred their souls to the depths. Just as the sun sank,
a last red gleam from the sky fell over them; it was like a mournful
symbol of their ill-starred love.

The General, much put out because the carriage was not at the spot
where they had left it, followed and outstripped the pair without
interrupting their converse. Lord Grenville's high minded and delicate
behavior throughout the journey had completely dispelled the Marquis'
suspicions. For some time past he had left his wife in freedom,
reposing confidence in the noble amateur's Punic faith. Arthur and
Julie walked on together in the close and painful communion of two
hearts laid waste.

So short a while ago as they climbed the cliffs at Montcontour, there
had been a vague hope in either mind, an uneasy joy for which they
dared not account to themselves; but now as they came along the
pathway by the river, they pulled down the frail structure of
imaginings, the child's cardcastle, on which neither of them had dared
to breathe. That hope was over.

That very evening Lord Grenville left them. His last look at Julie
made it miserably plain that since the moment when sympathy revealed
the full extent of a tyrannous passion, he did well to mistrust
himself.

The next morning, M. d'Aiglemont and his wife took their places in the
carriage without their traveling companion, and were whirled swiftly
along the road to Blois. The Marquise was constantly put in mind of
the journey made in 1814, when as yet she know nothing of love, and
had been almost ready to curse it for its persistency. Countless
forgotten impressions were revived. The heart has its own memory. A
woman who cannot recollect the most important great events will
recollect through a lifetime things which appealed to her feelings;
and Julie d'Aiglemont found all the most trifling details of that
journey laid up in her mind. It was pleasant to her to recall its
little incidents as they occurred to her one by one; there were points
in the road when she could even remember the thoughts that passed
through her mind when she saw them first.

Victor had fallen violently in love with his wife since she had
recovered the freshness of her youth and all her beauty, and now he
pressed close to her side like a lover. Once he tried to put his arm
round her, but she gently disengaged herself, finding some excuse or
other for evading the harmless caress. In a little while she shrank
from the close contact with Victor, the sensation of warmth
communicated by their position. She tried to take the unoccupied place
opposite, but Victor gallantly resigned the back seat to her. For this
attention she thanked him with a sigh, whereupon he forgot himself,
and the Don Juan of the garrison construed his wife's melancholy to
his own advantage, so that at the end of the day she was compelled to
speak with a firmness which impressed him.

"You have all but killed me, dear, once already, as you know," said
she. "If I were still an inexperienced girl, I might begin to
sacrifice myself afresh; but I am a mother, I have a daughter to bring
up, and I owe as much to her as to you. Let us resign ourselves to a
misfortune which affects us both alike. You are the less to be pitied.
Have you not, as it is, found consolations which duty and the honor of
both, and (stronger still) which Nature forbids to me? Stay," she
added, "you carelessly left three letters from Mme. de Serizy in a
drawer; here they are. My silence about this matter should make it
plain to you that in me you have a wife who has plenty of indulgence
and does not exact from you the sacrifices prescribed by the law. But
I have thought enough to see that the roles of husband and wife are
quite different, and that the wife alone is predestined to misfortune.
My virtue is based upon firmly fixed and definite principles. I shall
live blamelessly, but let me live."

The Marquis was taken aback by a logic which women grasp with the
clear insight of love, and overawed by a certain dignity natural to
them at such crises. Julie's instinctive repugnance for all that
jarred upon her love and the instincts of her heart is one of the
fairest qualities of woman, and springs perhaps from a natural virtue
which neither laws nor civilization can silence. And who shall dare to
blame women? If a woman can silence the exclusive sentiment which bids
her "forsake all other" for the man whom she loves, what is she but a
priest who has lost his faith? If a rigid mind here and there condemns
Julie for a sort of compromise between love and wifely duty,
impassioned souls will lay it to her charge as a crime. To be thus
blamed by both sides shows one of two things very clearly--that misery
necessarily follows in the train of broken laws, or else that there
are deplorable flaws in the institutions upon which society in Europe
is based.



Two years went by. M. and Mme. d'Aiglemont went their separate ways,
leading their life in the world, meeting each other more frequently
abroad than at home, a refinement upon divorce, in which many a
marriage in the great world is apt to end.

One evening, strange to say, found husband and wife in their own
drawing-room. Mme. d'Aiglemont had been dining at home with a friend,
and the General, who almost invariably dined in town, had not gone out
for once.

"There is a pleasant time in store for you, _Madame la Marquise_,"
said M. d'Aiglemont, setting his coffee cup down upon the table. He
looked at the guest, Mme. de Wimphen, and half-pettishly, half-
mischievously added, "I am starting off for several days' sport with
the Master of the Hounds. For a whole week, at any rate, you will be a
widow in good earnest; just what you wish for, I suppose.--Guillaume,"
he said to the servant who entered, "tell them to put the horses in."

Mme. de Wimphen was the friend to whom Julie had begun the letter upon
her marriage. The glances exchanged by the two women said plainly that
in her Julie had found an intimate friend, an indulgent and invaluable
confidante. Mme. de Wimphen's marriage had been a very happy one.
Perhaps it was her own happiness which secured her devotion to Julie's
unhappy life, for under such circumstances, dissimilarity of destiny
is nearly always a strong bond of union.

"Is the hunting season not over yet?" asked Julie, with an indifferent
glance at her husband.

"The Master of the Hounds comes when and where he pleases, madame. We
are going boar-hunting in the Royal Forest."

"Take care that no accident happens to you."

"Accidents are usually unforeseen," he said, smiling.

"The carriage is ready, my Lord Marquis," said the servant.

"Madame, if I should fall a victim to the boar--" he continued, with a
suppliant air.

"What does this mean?" inquired Mme. de Wimphen.

"Come, come," said Mme. d'Aiglemont, turning to her husband; smiling
at her friend as if to say, "You will soon see."

Julie held up her head; but as her husband came close to her, she
swerved at the last, so that his kiss fell not on her throat, but on
the broad frill about it.

"You will be my witness before heaven now that I need a firman to
obtain this little grace of her," said the Marquis, addressing Mme. de
Wimphen. "This is how this wife of mine understands love. She has
brought me to this pass, by what trickery I am at a loss to
know. . . . A pleasant time to you!" and he went.

"But your poor husband is really very good-natured," cried Louisa de
Wimphen, when the two women were alone together. "He loves you."

"Oh! not another syllable after that last word. The name I bear makes
me shudder----"

"Yes, but Victor obeys you implicitly," said Louisa.

"His obedience is founded in part upon the great esteem which I have
inspired in him. As far as outward things go, I am a model wife. I
make his house pleasant to him; I shut my eyes to his intrigues; I
touch not a penny of his fortune. He is free to squander the interest
exactly as he pleases; I only stipulate that he shall not touch the
principal. At this price I have peace. He neither explains nor
attempts to explain my life. But though my husband is guided by me,
that does not say that I have nothing to fear from his character. I am
a bear leader who daily trembles lest the muzzle should give way at
last. If Victor once took it into his head that I had forfeited my
right to his esteem, what would happen next I dare not think; for he
is violent, full of personal pride, and vain above all things. While
his wits are not keen enough to enable him to behave discreetly at a
delicate crisis when his lowest passions are involved, his character
is weak, and he would very likely kill me provisionally even if he
died of remorse next day. But there is no fear of that fatal good
fortune."

A brief pause followed. Both women were thinking of the real cause of
this state of affairs. Julie gave Louisa a glance which revealed her
thoughts.

"I have been cruelly obeyed," she cried. "Yet I never forbade him to
write to me. Oh! _he_ has forgotten me, and he is right. If his life
had been spoiled, it would have been too tragical; one life is enough,
is it not? Would you believe it, dear; I read English newspapers
simply to see his name in print. But he has not yet taken his seat in
the House of Lords."

"So you know English."

"Did I not tell you?--Yes, I learned."

"Poor little one!" cried Louisa, grasping Julie's hand in hers. "How
can you still live?"

"That is the secret," said the Marquise, with an involuntary gesture
almost childlike in its simplicity. "Listen, I take laudanum. That
duchess in London suggested the idea; you know the story, Maturin made
use of it in one of his novels. My drops are very weak, but I sleep; I
am only awake for seven hours in the day, and those house I spend with
my child."

Louisa gazed into the fire. The full extent of her friend's misery was
opening out before her for the first time, and she dared not look into
her face.

"Keep my secret, Louisa," said Julie, after a moment's silence.

Just as she spoke the footman brought in a letter for the Marquise.

"Ah!" she cried, and her face grew white.

"I need not ask from whom it comes," said Mme. de Wimphen, but the
Marquise was reading the letter, and heeded nothing else.

Mme. de Wimphen, watching her friend, saw strong feeling wrought to
the highest pitch, ecstasy of the most dangerous kind painted on
Julie's face in swift changing white and red. At length Julie flung
the sheet into the fire.

"It burns like fire," she said. "Oh! my heart beats till I cannot
breathe."

She rose to her feet and walked up and down. Her eyes were blazing.

"He did not leave Paris!" she cried.

Mme. de Wimphen did not dare to interrupt the words that followed,
jerked-out sentences, measured by dreadful pauses in between. After
every break the deep notes of her voice sank lower and lower. There
was something awful about the last words.

"He has seen me, constantly, and I have not known it.--A look, taken
by stealth, every day, helps him to live.--Louisa, you do not know!
--He is dying.--He wants to say good-bye to me. He knows that my
husband has gone away for several days. He will be here in a moment.
Oh! I shall die: I am lost.--Listen, Louisa, stay with me!--_I am
afraid!_"

"But my husband knows that I have been dining with you; he is sure to
come for me," said Mme. de Wimphen.

"Well, then, before you go I will send _him_ away. I will play the
executioner for us both. Oh me! he will think that I do not love him
any more--And that letter of his! Dear, I can see those words in
letters of fire."

A carriage rolled in under the archway.

"Ah!" cried the Marquise, with something like joy in her voice, "he is
coming openly. He makes no mystery of it."

"Lord Grenville," announced the servant.

The Marquise stood up rigid and motionless; but at the sight of
Arthur's white face, so thin and haggard, how was it possible to keep
up the show of severity? Lord Grenville saw that Julie was not alone,
but he controlled his fierce annoyance, and looked cool and
unperturbed. Yet for the two women who knew his secret, his face, his
tones, the look in his eyes had something of the power attributed to
the torpedo. Their faculties were benumbed by the sharp shock of
contact with his horrible pain. The sound of his voice set Julie's
heart beating so cruelly that she could not trust herself to speak;
she was afraid that he would see the full extent of his power over
her. Lord Grenville did not dare to look at Julie, and Mme. de Wimphen
was left to sustain a conversation to which no one listened. Julie
glanced at her friend with touching gratefulness in her eyes to thank
her for coming to her aid.

By this time the lovers had quelled emotion into silence, and could
preserve the limits laid down by duty and convention. But M. de
Wimphen was announced, and as he came in the two friends exchanged
glances. Both felt the difficulties of this fresh complication. It was
impossible to enter into explanations with M. de Wimphen, and Louisa
could not think of any sufficient pretext for asking to be left.

Julie went to her, ostensibly to wrap her up in her shawl. "I will be
brave," she said, in a low voice. "He came here in the face of all the
world, so what have I to fear? Yet but for you, in that first moment,
when I saw how changed he looked, I should have fallen at his feet."

"Well, Arthur, you have broken your promise to me," she said, in a
faltering voice, when she returned. Lord Grenville did not venture to
take the seat upon the sofa by her side.

"I could not resist the pleasure of hearing your voice, of being near
you. The thought of it came to be a sort of madness, a delirious
frenzy. I am no longer master of myself. I have taken myself to task;
it is no use, I am too weak, I ought to die. But to die without seeing
you, without having heard the rustle of your dress, or felt your
tears. What a death!"

He moved further away from her; but in his hasty uprising a pistol
fell out of his pocket. The Marquise looked down blankly at the
weapon; all passion, all expression had died out of her eyes. Lord
Grenville stooped for the thing, raging inwardly over an accident
which seemed like a piece of lovesick strategy.

"_Arthur!_"

"Madame," he said, looking down, "I came here in utter desperation; I
meant----" he broke off.

"You meant to die by your own hand here in my house!"

"Not alone!" he said in a low voice.

"Not alone! My husband, perhaps----?"

"No, no," he cried in a choking voice. "Reassure yourself," he
continued, "I have quite given up my deadly purpose. As soon as I came
in, as soon as I saw you, I felt that I was strong enough to suffer in
silence, and to die alone."

Julie sprang up, and flung herself into his arms. Through her sobbing
he caught a few passionate words, "To know happiness, and then to die.
--Yes, let it be so."

All Julie's story was summed up in that cry from the depths; it was
the summons of nature and of love at which women without a religion
surrender. With the fierce energy of unhoped-for joy, Arthur caught
her up and carried her to the sofa; but in a moment she tore herself
from her lover's arms, looked at him with a fixed despairing gaze,
took his hand, snatched up a candle, and drew him into her room. When
they stood by the cot where Helene lay sleeping, she put the curtains
softly aside, shading the candle with her hand, lest the light should
dazzle the half-closed eyes beneath the transparent lids. Helene lay
smiling in her sleep, with her arms outstretched on the coverlet.
Julie glanced from her child to Arthur's face. That look told him all.

"We may leave a husband, even though he loves us: a man is strong; he
has consolations.--We may defy the world and its laws. But a
motherless child!"--all these thoughts, and a thousand others more
moving still, found language in that glance.

"We can take her with us," muttered he; "I will love her dearly."

"Mamma!" cried little Helene, now awake. Julie burst into tears. Lord
Grenville sat down and folded his arms in gloomy silence.

"Mamma!" At the sweet childish name, so many nobler feelings, so many
irresistible yearnings awoke, that for a moment love was effaced by
the all-powerful instinct of motherhood; the mother triumphed over the
woman in Julie, and Lord Grenville could not hold out, he was defeated
by Julie's tears.

Just at that moment a door was flung noisily open. "Madame
d'Aiglemont, are you hereabouts?" called a voice which rang like a
crack of thunder through the hearts of the two lovers. The Marquis had
come home.

Before Julie could recover her presence of mind, her husband was on
the way to the door of her room which opened into his. Luckily, at a
sign, Lord Grenville escaped into the dressing-closet, and she hastily
shut the door upon him.

"Well, my lady, here am I," said Victor, "the hunting party did not
come off. I am just going to bed."

"Good-night, so am I. So go and leave me to undress."

"You are very cross to-night, Madame la Marquise."

The General returned to his room, Julie went with him to the door and
shut it. Then she sprang to the dressing-close to release Arthur. All
her presence of mind returned; she bethought herself that it was quite
natural that her sometime doctor should pay her a visit; she might
have left him in the drawing-room while she put her little girl to
bed. She was about to tell him, under her breath, to go back to the
drawing-room, and had opened the door. Then she shrieked aloud. Lord
Grenville's fingers had been caught and crushed in the door.

"Well, what is it?" demanded her husband.

"Oh! nothing, I have just pricked my finger with a pin."

The General's door opened at once. Julie imagined that the irruption
was due to a sudden concern for her, and cursed a solicitude in which
love had no part. She had barely time to close the dressing-closet,
and Lord Grenville had not extricated his hand. The General did, in
fact, appear, but his wife had mistaken his motives; his apprehensions
were entirely on his own account.

"Can you lend me a bandana handkerchief? The stupid fool Charles
leaves me without a single one. In the early days you used to bother
me with looking after me so carefully. Ah, well, the honeymoon did not
last very long for me, nor yet for my cravats. Nowadays I am given
over to the secular arm, in the shape of servants who do not care one
jack straw for what I say."

"There! There is a bandana for you. Did you go into the drawing-room?"

"No."

"Oh! you might perhaps have been in time to see Lord Grenville."

"Is he in Paris?"

"It seems so."

"Oh! I will go at once. The good doctor."

"But he will have gone by now!" exclaimed Julie.

The Marquis, standing in the middle of the room, was tying the
handkerchief over his head. He looked complacently at himself in the
glass.

"What has become of the servants is more than I know," he remarked. "I
have rung the bell for Charles, and he has not answered it. And your
maid is not here either. Ring for her. I should like another blanket
on my bed to-night."

"Pauline is out," the Marquise said drily.

"What, at midnight!" exclaimed the General.

"I gave her leave to go to the Opera."

"That is funny!" returned her husband, continuing to undress. "I
thought I saw her coming upstairs."

"She has come in then, of course," said Julie, with assumed
impatience, and to allay any possible suspicion on her husband's part
she pretended to ring the bell.



The whole history of that night has never been known, but no doubt it
was as simple and as tragically commonplace as the domestic incidents
that preceded it.

Next day the Marquise d'Aiglemont took to her bed, nor did she leave
it for some days.

"What can have happened in your family so extraordinary that every one
is talking about your wife?" asked M. de Ronquerolles of M.
d'Aiglemont a short time after that night of catastrophes.

"Take my advice and remain a bachelor," said d'Aiglemont. "The
curtains of Helene's cot caught fire, and gave my wife such a shock
that it will be a twelvemonth before she gets over it; so the doctor
says. You marry a pretty wife, and her looks fall off; you marry a
girl in blooming health, and she turns into an invalid. You think she
has a passionate temperament, and find her cold, or else under her
apparent coldness there lurks a nature so passionate that she is the
death of you, or she dishonors your name. Sometimes the meekest of
them will turn out crotchety, though the crotchety ones never grow any
sweeter. Sometimes the mere child, so simple and silly at first, will
develop an iron will to thwart you and the ingenuity of a fiend. I am
tired of marriage."

"Or of your wife?"

"That would be difficult. By-the-by, do you feel inclined to go to
Saint-Thomas d'Aquin with me to attend Lord Grenville's funeral?"

"A singular way of spending time.--Is it really known how he came by
his death?" added Ronquerolles.

"His man says that he spent a whole night sitting on somebody's window
sill to save some woman's character, and it has been infernally cold
lately."

"Such devotion would be highly creditable to one of us old stagers;
but Lord Grenville was a youngster and--an Englishman. Englishmen
never can do anything like anybody else."

"Pooh!" returned d'Aiglemont, "these heroic exploits all depend upon
the woman in the case, and it certainly was not for one that I know,
that poor Arthur came by his death."



                                II.

                           A HIDDEN GRIEF

Between the Seine and the little river Loing lies a wide flat country,
skirted on the one side by the Forest of Fontainebleau, and marked out
as to its southern limits by the towns of Moret, Montereau, and
Nemours. It is a dreary country; little knolls of hills appear only at
rare intervals, and a coppice here and there among the fields affords
for game; and beyond, upon every side, stretches the endless gray or
yellowish horizon peculiar to Beauce, Sologne, and Berri.

In the very centre of the plain, at equal distances from Moret and
Montereau, the traveler passes the old chateau of Saint-Lange,
standing amid surroundings which lack neither dignity nor stateliness.
There are magnificent avenues of elm-trees, great gardens encircled by
the moat, and a circumference of walls about a huge manorial pile
which represents the profits of the _maltote_, the gains of
farmers-general, legalized malversation, or the vast fortunes of great
houses now brought low beneath the hammer of the Civil Code.

Should any artist or dreamer of dreams chance to stray along the roads
full of deep ruts, or over the heavy land which secures the place
against intrusion, he will wonder how it happened that this romantic
old place was set down in a savanna of corn-land, a desert of chalk,
and sand, and marl, where gaiety dies away, and melancholy is a
natural product of the soil. The voiceless solitude, the monotonous
horizon line which weigh upon the spirits are negative beauties, which
only suit with sorrow that refuses to be comforted.

Hither, at the close of the year 1820, came a woman, still young, well
known in Paris for her charm, her fair face, and her wit; and to the
immense astonishment of the little village a mile away, this woman of
high rank and corresponding fortune took up her abode at Saint-Lange.

From time immemorial, farmers and laborers had seen no gentry at the
chateau. The estate, considerable though it was, had been left in
charge of a land-steward and the house to the old servants. Wherefore
the appearance of the lady of the manor caused a kind of sensation in
the district.

A group had gathered in the yard of the wretched little wineshop at
the end of the village (where the road forks to Nemours and Moret) to
see the carriage pass. It went by slowly, for the Marquise had come
from Paris with her own horses, and those on the lookout had ample
opportunity of observing a waiting-maid, who sat with her back to the
horses holding a little girl, with a somewhat dreamy look, upon her
knee. The child's mother lay back in the carriage; she looked like a
dying woman sent out into the country air by her doctors as a last
resource. Village politicians were by no means pleased to see the
young, delicate, downcast face; they had hoped that the new arrival at
Saint-Lange would bring some life and stir into the neighborhood, and
clearly any sort of stir or movement must be distasteful to the
suffering invalid in the traveling carriage.

That evening, when the notables of Saint-Lange were drinking in the
private room of the wineshop, the longest head among them declared
that such depression could admit of but one construction--the Marquise
was ruined. His lordship the Marquis was away in Spain with the Duc
d'Angouleme (so they said in the papers), and beyond a doubt her
ladyship had come to Saint-Lange to retrench after a run of ill-luck
on the Bourse. The Marquis was one of the greatest gamblers on the
face of the globe. Perhaps the estate would be cut up and sold in
little lots. There would be some good strokes of business to be made
in that case, and it behooved everybody to count up his cash, unearth
his savings and to see how he stood, so as to secure his share of the
spoil of Saint-Lange.

So fair did this future seem, that the village worthies, dying to know
whether it was founded on fact, began to think of ways of getting at
the truth through the servants at the chateau. None of these, however,
could throw any light on the calamity which had brought their mistress
into the country at the beginning of winter, and to the old chateau of
Saint-Lange of all places, when she might have taken her choice of
cheerful country-houses famous for their beautiful gardens.

His worship the mayor called to pay his respects; but he did not see
the lady. Then the land-steward tried with no better success.

Madame la Marquise kept her room, only leaving it, while it was set in
order, for the small adjoining drawing-room, where she dined; if,
indeed, to sit down to a table, to look with disgust at the dishes,
and take the precise amount of nourishment required to prevent death
from sheer starvation, can be called dining. The meal over, she
returned at once to the old-fashioned low chair, in which she had sat
since the morning, in the embrasure of the one window that lighted her
room.

Her little girl she only saw for a few minutes daily, during the
dismal dinner, and even for a short time she seemed scarcely able to
bear the child's presence. Surely nothing but the most unheard-of
anguish could have extinguished a mother's love so early.

None of the servants were suffered to come near, her own woman was the
one creature whom she liked to have about her; the chateau must be
perfectly quiet, the child must play at the other end of the house.
The slightest sound had grown so intolerable, that any human voice,
even the voice of her own child, jarred upon her.

At first the whole countryside was deeply interested in these
eccentricities; but time passed on, every possible hypothesis had been
advanced to account for them and the peasants and dwellers in the
little country towns thought no more of the invalid lady.

So the Marquise was left to herself. She might live on, perfectly
silent, amid the silence which she herself had created; there was
nothing to draw her forth from the tapestried chamber where her
grandmother died, whither she herself had come that she might die,
gently, without witnesses, without importunate solicitude, without
suffering from the insincere demonstrations of egoism masquerading as
affection, which double the agony of death in great cities.

She was twenty-six years old. At that age, with plenty of romantic
illusions still left, the mind loves to dwell on the thought of death
when death seems to come as a friend. But with youth, death is coy,
coming up close only to go away, showing himself and hiding again,
till youth has time to fall out of love with him during this
dalliance. There is that uncertainty too that hangs over death's
to-morrow. Youth plunges back into the world of living men, there to
find the pain more pitiless than death, that does not wait to strike.

This woman who refused to live was to know the bitterness of these
reprieves in the depths of her loneliness; in moral agony, which death
would not come to end, she was to serve a terrible apprenticeship to
the egoism which must take the bloom from her heart and break her in
to the life of the world.

This harsh and sorry teaching is the usual outcome of our early
sorrows. For the first, and perhaps for the last time in her life, the
Marquise d'Aiglemont was in very truth suffering. And, indeed, would
it not be an error to suppose that the same sentiment can be
reproduced in us? Once develop the power to feel, is it not always
there in the depths of our nature? The accidents of life may lull or
awaken it, but there it is, of necessity modifying the self, its
abiding place. Hence, every sensation should have its great day once
and for all, its first day of storm, be it long or short. Hence,
likewise, pain, the most abiding of our sensations, could be keenly
felt only at its first irruption, its intensity diminishing with every
subsequent paroxysm, either because we grow accustomed to these
crises, or perhaps because a natural instinct of self-preservation
asserts itself, and opposes to the destroying force of anguish an
equal but passive force of inertia.

Yet of all kinds of suffering, to which does the name of anguish
belong? For the loss of parents, Nature has in a manner prepared us;
physical suffering, again, is an evil which passes over us and is
gone; it lays no hold upon the soul; if it persists, it ceases to be
an evil, it is death. The young mother loses her firstborn, but wedded
love ere long gives her a successor. This grief, too, is transient.
After all, these, and many other troubles like unto them, are in some
sort wounds and bruises; they do not sap the springs of vitality, and
only a succession of such blows can crush in us the instinct that
seeks happiness. Great pain, therefore, pain that arises to anguish,
should be suffering so deadly, that past, present, and future are
alike included in its grip, and no part of life is left sound and
whole. Never afterwards can we think the same thoughts as before.
Anguish engraves itself in ineffaceable characters on mouth and brow;
it passes through us, destroying or relaxing the springs that vibrate
to enjoyment, leaving behind in the soul the seeds of a disgust for
all things in this world.

Yet, again, to be measureless, to weigh like this upon body and soul,
the trouble should befall when soul and body have just come to their
full strength, and smite down a heart that beats high with life. Then
it is that great scars are made. Terrible is the anguish. None, it may
be, can issue from this soul-sickness without undergoing some dramatic
change. Those who survive it, those who remain on earth, return to the
world to wear an actor's countenance and to play an actor's part. They
know the side-scenes where actors may retire to calculate chances,
shed their tears, or pass their jests. Life holds no inscrutable dark
places for those who have passed through this ordeal; their judgments
are Rhadamanthine.

For young women of the Marquise d'Aiglemont's age, this first, this
most poignant pain of all, is always referable to the same cause. A
woman, especially if she is a young woman, greatly beautiful, and by
nature great, never fails to stake her whole life as instinct and
sentiment and society all unite to bid her. Suppose that that life
fails her, suppose that she still lives on, she cannot but endure the
most cruel pangs, inasmuch as a first love is the loveliest of all.
How comes it that this catastrophe has found no painter, no poet? And
yet, can it be painted? Can it be sung? No; for the anguish arising
from it eludes analysis and defies the colors of art. And more than
this, such pain is never confessed. To console the sufferer, you must
be able to divine the past which she hugs in bitterness to her soul
like a remorse; it is like an avalanche in a valley; it laid all waste
before it found a permanent resting-place.

The Marquise was suffering from this anguish, which will for long
remain unknown, because the whole world condemns it, while sentiment
cherishes it, and the conscience of a true woman justifies her in it.
It is with such pain as with children steadily disowned of life, and
therefore bound more closely to the mother's heart than other children
more bounteously endowed. Never, perhaps, was the awful catastrophe in
which the whole world without dies for us, so deadly, so complete, so
cruelly aggravated by circumstance as it had been for the Marquise.
The man whom she had loved was young and generous; in obedience to the
laws of the world, she had refused herself to his love, and he had
died to save a woman's honor, as the world calls it. To whom could she
speak of her misery? Her tears would be an offence against her
husband, the origin of the tragedy. By all laws written and unwritten
she was bound over to silence. A woman would have enjoyed the story; a
man would have schemed for his own benefit. No; such grief as hers can
only weep freely in solitude and in loneliness; she must consume her
pain or be consumed by it; die or kill something within her--her
conscience, it may be.

Day after day she sat gazing at the flat horizon. It lay out before
her like her own life to come. There was nothing to discover, nothing
to hope. The whole of it could be seen at a glance. It was the visible
presentment in the outward world of the chill sense of desolation
which was gnawing restlessly at her heart. The misty mornings, the
pale, bright sky, the low clouds scudding under the gray dome of
heaven, fitted with the moods of her soul-sickness. Her heart did not
contract, was neither more nor less seared, rather it seemed as if her
youth, in its full blossom, was slowly turned to stone by an anguish
intolerable because it was barren. She suffered through herself and
for herself. How could it end save in self-absorption? Ugly torturing
thoughts probed her conscience. Candid self-examination pronounced
that she was double, there were two selves within her; a woman who
felt and a woman who thought; a self that suffered and a self that
could fain suffer no longer. Her mind traveled back to the joys of
childish days; they had gone by, and she had never known how happy
they were. Scenes crowded up in her memory as in a bright mirror
glass, to demonstrate the deception of a marriage which, all that it
should be in the eyes of the world, was in reality wretched. What had
the delicate pride of young womanhood done for her--the bliss
foregone, the sacrifices made to the world? Everything in her
expressed love, awaited love; her movements still were full of perfect
grace; her smile, her charm, were hers as before; why? she asked
herself. The sense of her own youth and physical loveliness no more
affected her than some meaningless reiterated sound. Her very beauty
had grown intolerable to her as a useless thing. She shrank aghast
from the thought that through the rest of life she must remain an
incomplete creature; had not the inner self lost its power of
receiving impressions with that zest, that exquisite sense of
freshness which is the spring of so much of life's gladness? The
impressions of the future would for the most part be effaced as soon
as received, and many of the thoughts which once would have moved her
now would move her no more.

After the childhood of the creature dawns the childhood of the heart;
but this second infancy was over, her lover had taken it down with him
into the grave. The longings of youth remained; she was young yet; but
the completeness of youth was gone, and with that lost completeness
the whole value and savor of life had diminished somewhat. Should she
not always bear within her the seeds of sadness and mistrust, ready to
grow up and rob emotion of its springtide of fervor? Conscious she
must always be that nothing could give her now the happiness so longed
for, that seemed so fair in her dreams. The fire from heaven that
sheds abroad its light in the heart, in the dawn of love, had been
quenched in tears, the first real tears which she had shed; henceforth
she must always suffer, because it was no longer in her power to be
what once she might have been. This is a belief which turns us in
aversion and bitterness of spirit from any proffered new delight.

Julie had come to look at life from the point of view of age about to
die. Young though she felt, the heavy weight of joyless days had
fallen upon her, and left her broken-spirited and old before her time.
With a despairing cry, she asked the world what it could give her in
exchange for the love now lost, by which she had lived. She asked
herself whether in that vanished love, so chaste and pure, her will
had not been more criminal than her deeds, and chose to believe
herself guilty; partly to affront the world, partly for her own
consolation, in that she had missed the close union of body and soul,
which diminishes the pain of the one who is left behind by the
knowledge that once it has known and given joy to the full, and
retains within itself the impress of that which is no more.

Something of the mortification of the actress cheated of her part
mingled with the pain which thrilled through every fibre of her heart
and brain. Her nature had been thwarted, her vanity wounded, her
woman's generosity cheated of self-sacrifice. Then, when she had
raised all these questions, set vibrating all the springs in those
different phases of being which we distinguish as social, moral, and
physical, her energies were so far exhausted and relaxed that she was
powerless to grasp a single thought amid the chase of conflicting
ideas.

Sometimes as the mists fell, she would throw her window open, and
would stay there, motionless, breathing in unheedingly the damp
earthly scent in the air, her mind to all appearance an unintelligent
blank, for the ceaseless burden of sorrow humming in her brain left
her deaf to earth's harmonies and insensible to the delights of
thought.

One day, towards noon, when the sun shone out for a little, her maid
came in without a summons.

"This is the fourth time that M. le Cure has come to see Mme. la
Marquise; to-day he is so determined about it, that we did not know
what to tell him."

"He has come to ask for some money for the poor, no doubt; take him
twenty-five louis from me."

The woman went only to return.

"M. le Cure will not take the money, my lady; he wants to speak to
you."

"Then let him come!" said Mme. d'Aiglemont, with an involuntary shrug
which augured ill for the priest's reception. Evidently the lady meant
to put a stop to persecution by a short and sharp method.

Mme. d'Aiglemont had lost her mother in her early childhood; and as a
natural consequence in her bringing-up, she had felt the influence of
the relaxed notions which loosened the hold of religion upon France
during the Revolution. Piety is a womanly virtue which women alone can
really instil; and the Marquise, a child of the eighteenth century,
had adopted her father's creed of philosophism, and practised no
religious observances. A priest, to her way of thinking, was a civil
servant of very doubtful utility. In her present position, the
teaching of religion could only poison her wounds; she had, moreover,
but scanty faith in the lights of country cures, and made up her mind
to put this one gently but firmly in his place, and to rid herself of
him, after the manner of the rich, by bestowing a benefit.

At first sight of the cure the Marquise felt no inclination to change
her mind. She saw before her a stout, rotund little man, with a ruddy,
wrinkled, elderly face, which awkwardly and unsuccessfully tried to
smile. His bald, quadrant-shaped forehead, furrowed by intersecting
lines, was too heavy for the rest of his face, which seemed to be
dwarfed by it. A fringe of scanty white hair encircled the back of his
head, and almost reached his ears. Yet the priest looked as if by
nature he had a genial disposition; his thick lips, his slightly
curved nose, his chin, which vanished in a double fold of wrinkles,
--all marked him out as a man who took cheerful views of life.

At first the Marquise saw nothing but these salient characteristics,
but at the first word she was struck by the sweetness of the speaker's
voice. Looking at him more closely, she saw that the eyes under the
grizzled eyebrows had shed tears, and his face, turned in profile,
wore so sublime an impress of sorrow, that the Marquise recognized the
man in the cure.

"Madame la Marquise, the rich only come within our province when they
are in trouble. It is easy to see that the troubles of a young,
beautiful, and wealthy woman, who has lost neither children nor
relatives, are caused by wounds whose pangs religion alone can soothe.
Your soul is in danger, madame. I am not speaking now of the hereafter
which awaits us. No, I am not in the confessional. But it is my duty,
is it not, to open your eyes to your future life here on earth? You
will pardon an old man, will you not, for importunity which has your
own happiness for its object?"

"There is no more happiness for me, monsieur. I shall soon be, as you
say, in your province; but it will be for ever."

"Nay, madame. You will not die of this pain which lies heavy upon you,
and can be read in your face. If you had been destined to die of it,
you would not be here at Saint-Lange. A definite regret is not so
deadly as hope deferred. I have known others pass through more
intolerable and more awful anguish, and yet they live."

The Marquise looked incredulous.

"Madame, I know a man whose affliction was so sore that your trouble
would seem to you to be light compared with his."

Perhaps the long solitary hours had begun to hang heavily; perhaps in
the recesses of the Marquise's mind lay the thought that here was a
friendly heart to whom she might be able to pour out her troubles.
However, it was, she gave the cure a questioning glance which could
not be mistaken.

"Madame," he continued, "the man of whom I tell you had but three
children left of a once large family circle. He lost his parents, his
daughter, and his wife, whom he dearly loved. He was left alone at
last on the little farm where he had lived so happily for so long. His
three sons were in the army, and each of the lads had risen in
proportion to his time of service. During the Hundred Days, the oldest
went into the Guard with a colonel's commission; the second was a
major in the artillery; the youngest a major in a regiment of
dragoons. Madame, those three boys loved their father as much as he
loved them. If you but knew how careless young fellows grow of home
ties when they are carried away by the current of their own lives, you
would realize from this one little thing how warmly they loved the
lonely old father, who only lived in and for them--never a week passed
without a letter from one of the boys. But then he on his side had
never been weakly indulgent, to lessen their respect for him; nor
unjustly severe, to thwart their affection; or apt to grudge
sacrifices, the thing that estranges children's hearts. He had been
more than a father; he had been a brother to them, and their friend.

"At last he went to Paris to bid them good-bye before they set out for
Belgium; he wished to see that they had good horses and all that they
needed. And so they went, and the father returned to his home again.
Then the war began. He had letters from Fleurus, and again from Ligny.
All went well. Then came the battle of Waterloo, and you know the
rest. France was plunged into mourning; every family waited in intense
anxiety for news. You may imagine, madame, how the old man waited for
tidings, in anxiety that knew no peace nor rest. He used to read the
gazettes; he went to the coach office every day. One evening he was
told that the colonel's servant had come. The man was riding his
master's horse--what need was there to ask any questions?--the colonel
was dead, cut in two by a shell. Before the evening was out the
youngest son's servant arrived--the youngest had died on the eve of
the battle. At midnight came a gunner with tidings of the death of the
last; upon whom, in those few hours, the poor father had centered all
his life. Madame, they all had fallen."

After a pause the good man controlled his feelings, and added gently:

"And their father is still living, madame. He realized that if God had
left him on earth, he was bound to live on and suffer on earth; but he
took refuge in the sanctuary. What could he be?"

The Marquise looked up and saw the cure's face, grown sublime in its
sorrow and resignation, and waited for him to speak. When the words
came, tears broke from her.

"A priest, madame; consecrated by his own tears previously shed at the
foot of the altar."

Silence prevailed for a little. The Marquise and the cure looked out
at the foggy landscape, as if they could see the figures of those who
were no more.

"Not a priest in a city, but a simple country cure," added he.

"At Saint-Lange," she said, drying her eyes.

"Yes, madame."

Never had the majesty of grief seemed so great to Julie. The two words
sank straight into her heart with the weight of infinite sorrow. The
gentle, sonorous tones troubled her heart. Ah! that full, deep voice,
charged with plangent vibration, was the voice of one who had suffered
indeed.

"And if I do not die, monsieur, what will become of me?" The Marquise
spoke almost reverently.

"Have you not a child, madame?"

"Yes," she said stiffly.

The cure gave her such a glance as a doctor gives a patient whose life
is in danger. Then he determined to do all that in him lay to combat
the evil spirit into whose clutches she had fallen.

"We must live on with our sorrows--you see it yourself, madame, and
religion alone offers us real consolation. Will you permit me to come
again?--to speak to you as a man who can sympathize with every
trouble, a man about whom there is nothing very alarming, I think?"

"Yes, monsieur, come back again. Thank you for your thought of me."

"Very well, madame; then I shall return very shortly."

This visit relaxed the tension of soul, as it were; the heavy strain
of grief and loneliness had been almost too much for the Marquise's
strength. The priest's visit had left a soothing balm in her heart,
his words thrilled through her with healing influence. She began to
feel something of a prisoner's satisfaction, when, after he has had
time to feel his utter loneliness and the weight of his chains, he
hears a neighbor knocking on the wall, and welcomes the sound which
brings a sense of human friendship. Here was an unhoped-for confidant.
But this feeling did not last for long. Soon she sank back into the
old bitterness of spirit, saying to herself, as the prisoner might
say, that a companion in misfortune could neither lighten her own
bondage nor her future.

In the first visit the cure had feared to alarm the susceptibilities
of self-absorbed grief, in a second interview he hoped to make some
progress towards religion. He came back again two days later, and from
the Marquise's welcome it was plain that she had looked forward to the
visit.

"Well, Mme. la Marquise, have you given a little thought to the great
mass of human suffering? Have you raised your eyes above our earth and
seen the immensity of the universe?--the worlds beyond worlds which
crush our vanity into insignificance, and with our vanity reduce our
sorrows?"

"No, monsieur," she said; "I cannot rise to such heights, our social
laws lie too heavily upon me, and rend my heart with a too poignant
anguish. And laws perhaps are less cruel than the usages of the world.
Ah! the world!"

"Madame, we must obey both. Law is the doctrine, and custom the
practice of society."

"Obey society?" cried the Marquise, with an involuntary shudder. "Eh!
monsieur, it is the source of all our woes. God laid down no law to
make us miserable; but mankind, uniting together in social life, have
perverted God's work. Civilization deals harder measure to us women
than nature does. Nature imposes upon us physical suffering which you
have not alleviated; civilization has developed in us thoughts and
feelings which you cheat continually. Nature exterminates the weak;
you condemn them to live, and by so doing, consign them to a life of
misery. The whole weight of the burden of marriage, an institution on
which society is based, falls upon us; for the man liberty, duties for
the woman. We must give up our whole lives to you, you are only bound
to give us a few moments of yours. A man, in fact, makes a choice,
while we blindly submit. Oh, monsieur, to you I can speak freely.
Marriage, in these days, seems to me to be legalized prostitution.
This is the cause of my wretchedness. But among so many miserable
creatures so unhappily yoked, I alone am bound to be silent, I alone
am to blame for my misery. My marriage was my own doing."

She stopped short, and bitter tears fell in the silence.

"In the depths of my wretchedness, in the midst of this sea of
distress," she went on, "I found some sands on which to set foot and
suffer at leisure. A great tempest swept everything away. And here am
I, helpless and alone, too weak to cope with storms."

"We are never weak while God is with us," said the priest. "And if
your cravings for affection cannot be satisfied here on earth, have
you no duties to perform?"

"Duties continually!" she exclaimed, with something of impatience in
her tone. "But where for me are the sentiments which give us strength
to perform them? Nothing from nothing, nothing for nothing,--this,
monsieur, is one of the most inexorable laws of nature, physical or
spiritual. Would you have these trees break into leaf without the sap
which swells the buds? It is the same with our human nature; and in me
the sap is dried up at its source."

"I am not going to speak to you of religious sentiments of which
resignation is born," said the cure, "but of motherhood, madame,
surely--"

"Stop, monsieur!" said the Marquise, "with you I will be sincere.
Alas! in future I can be sincere with no one; I am condemned to
falsehood. The world requires continual grimaces, and we are bidden to
obey its conventions if we would escape reproach. There are two kinds
of motherhood, monsieur; once I knew nothing of such distinctions, but
I know them now. Only half of me has become a mother; it were better
for me if I had not been a mother at all. Helene is not _his_ child!
Oh! do not start. At Saint-Lange there are volcanic depths whence come
lurid gleams of light and earthquake shocks to shake the fragile
edifices of laws not based on nature. I have borne a child, that is
enough, I am a mother in the eyes of the law. But you, monsieur, with
your delicately compassionate soul, can perhaps understand this cry
from an unhappy woman who has suffered no lying illusions to enter her
heart. God will judge me, but surely I have only obeyed His laws by
giving way to the affections which He Himself set in me, and this I
have learned from my own soul.--What is a child, monsieur, but the
image of two beings, the fruit of two sentiments spontaneously
blended? Unless it is owned by every fibre of the body, as by every
chord of tenderness in the heart; unless it recalls the bliss of love,
the hours, the places where two creatures were happy, their words that
overflowed with the music of humanity, and their sweet imaginings,
that child is an incomplete creation. Yes, those two should find the
poetic dreams of their intimate double life realized in their child as
in an exquisite miniature; it should be for them a never-failing
spring of emotion, implying their whole past and their whole future.

"My poor little Helene is her father's child, the offspring of duty
and of chance. In me she finds nothing but the affection of instinct,
the woman's natural compassion for the child of her womb. Socially
speaking, I am above reproach. Have I not sacrificed my life and my
happiness to my child? Her cries go to my heart; if she were to fall
into the water, I should spring to save her, but she is not in my
heart.

"Ah! love set me dreaming of a motherhood far greater and more
complete. In a vanished dream I held in my arms a child conceived in
desire before it was begotten, the exquisite flower of life that
blossoms in the soul before it sees the light of day. I am Helene's
mother only in the sense that I brought her forth. When she needs me
no longer, there will be an end of my motherhood; with the extinction
of the cause, the effects will cease. If it is a woman's adorable
prerogative that her motherhood may last through her child's life,
surely that divine persistence of sentiment is due to the far-reaching
glory of the conception of the soul? Unless a child has lain wrapped
about from life's first beginnings by the mother's soul, the instinct
of motherhood dies in her as in the animals. This is true; I feel that
it is true. As my poor little one grows older, my heart closes. My
sacrifices have driven us apart. And yet I know, monsieur, that to
another child my heart would have gone out in inexhaustible love; for
that other I should not have known what sacrifice meant, all had been
delight. In this, monsieur, my instincts are stronger than reason,
stronger than religion or all else in me. Does the woman who is
neither wife nor mother sin in wishing to die when, for her
misfortune, she has caught a glimpse of the infinite beauty of love,
the limitless joy of motherhood? What can become of her? _I_ can tell
you what she feels. I cannot put that memory from me so resolutely but
that a hundred times, night and day, visions of a happiness, greater
it may be than the reality, rise before me, followed by a shudder
which shakes brain and heart and body. Before these cruel visions, my
feelings and thoughts grow colorless, and I ask myself, 'What would my
life have been _if_----?'"

She hid her face in her hands and burst into tears.

"There you see the depths of my heart!" she continued. "For _his_
child I could have acquiesced in any lot however dreadful. He who
died, bearing the burden of the sins of the world will forgive this
thought of which I am dying; but the world, I know, is merciless. In
its ears my words are blasphemies; I am outraging all its codes. Oh!
that I could wage war against this world and break down and refashion
its laws and traditions! Has it not turned all my thoughts, and
feelings, and longings, and hopes, and every fibre in me into so many
sources of pain? Spoiled my future, present, and past? For me the
daylight is full of gloom, my thoughts pierce me like a sword, my
child is and is not.

"Oh, when Helene speaks to me, I wish that her voice were different,
when she looks into my face I wish that she had other eyes. She
constantly keeps me in mind of all that should have been and is not. I
cannot bear to have her near me. I smile at her, I try to make up to
her for the real affection of which she is defrauded. I am wretched,
monsieur, too wretched to live. And I am supposed to be a pattern
wife. And I have committed no sins. And I am respected! I have fought
down forbidden love which sprang up at unawares within me; but if I
have kept the letter of the law, have I kept it in my heart? There has
never been but one here," she said, laying her right hand on her
breast, "one and no other; and my child feels it. Certain looks and
tones and gestures mould a child's nature, and my poor little one
feels no thrill in the arm I put about her, no tremor comes into my
voice, no softness into my eyes when I speak to her or take her up.
She looks at me, and I cannot endure the reproach in her eyes. There
are times when I shudder to think that some day she may be my judge
and condemn her mother unheard. Heaven grant that hate may not grow up
between us! Ah! God in heaven, rather let the tomb open for me, rather
let me end my days here at Saint-Lange!--I want to go back to the
world where I shall find my other soul and become wholly a mother. Ah!
forgive me, sir, I am mad. Those words were choking me; now they are
spoken. Ah! you are weeping too! You will not despise me--"

She heard the child come in from a walk. "Helene, my child, come
here!" she called. The words sounded like a cry of despair.

The little girl ran in, laughing and calling to her mother to see a
butterfly which she had caught; but at the sight of that mother's
tears she grew quiet of a sudden, and went up close, and received a
kiss on her forehead.

"She will be very beautiful some day," said the priest.

"She is her father's child," said the Marquise, kissing the little one
with eager warmth, as if she meant to pay a debt of affection or to
extinguish some feeling of remorse.

"How hot you are, mamma!"

"There, go away, my angel," said the Marquise.

The child went. She did not seem at all sorry to go; she did not look
back; glad perhaps to escape from a sad face, and instinctively
comprehending already an antagonism of feeling in its expression. A
mother's love finds language in smiles, they are a part of the divine
right of motherhood. The Marquise could not smile. She flushed red as
she felt the cure's eyes. She had hoped to act a mother's part before
him, but neither she nor her child could deceive him. And, indeed,
when a woman loves sincerely, in the kiss she gives there is a divine
honey; it is as if a soul were breathed forth in the caress, a subtle
flame of fire which brings warmth to the heart; the kiss that lacks
this delicious unction is meagre and formal. The priest had felt the
difference. He could fathom the depths that lie between the motherhood
of the flesh and the motherhood of the heart. He gave the Marquise a
keen, scrutinizing glance, then he said:

"You are right, madame; it would be better for you if you were
dead----"

"Ah!" she cried, "then you know all my misery; I see you do if,
Christian priest as you are, you can guess my determination to die and
sanction it. Yes, I meant to die, but I have lacked the courage. The
spirit was strong, but the flesh was weak, and when my hand did not
tremble, the spirit within me wavered.

"I do not know the reason of these inner struggles, and alternations.
I am very pitiably a woman no doubt, weak in my will, strong only to
love. Oh, I despise myself. At night, when all my household was
asleep, I would go out bravely as far as the lake; but when I stood on
the brink, my cowardice shrank from self-destruction. To you I will
confess my weakness. When I lay in my bed, again, shame would come
over me, and courage would come back. Once I took a dose of laudanum;
I was ill, but I did not die. I thought I had emptied the phial, but I
had only taken half the dose."

"You are lost, madame," the cure said gravely, with tears in his
voice. "You will go back into the world, and you will deceive the
world. You will seek and find a compensation (as you imagine it to be)
for your woes; then will come a day of reckoning for your pleasures--"

"Do you think," she cried, "that _I_ shall bestow the last, the most
precious treasures of my heart upon the first base impostor who can
play the comedy of passion? That I would pollute my life for a moment
of doubtful pleasure? No; the flame which shall consume my soul shall
be love, and nothing but love. All men, monsieur, have the senses of
their sex, but not all have the man's soul which satisfies all the
requirements of our nature, drawing out the melodious harmony which
never breaks forth save in response to the pressure of feeling. Such a
soul is not found twice in our lifetime. The future that lies before
me is hideous; I know it. A woman is nothing without love; beauty is
nothing without pleasure. And even if happiness were offered to me a
second time, would not the world frown upon it? I owe my daughter an
honored mother. Oh! I am condemned to live in an iron circle, from
which there is but one shameful way of escape. The round of family
duties, a thankless and irksome task, is in store for me. I shall
curse life; but my child shall have at least a fair semblance of a
mother. I will give her treasures of virtue for the treasures of love
of which I defraud her.

"I have not even the mother's desire to live to enjoy her child's
happiness. I have no belief in happiness. What will Helene's fate be?
My own, beyond doubt. How can a mother ensure that the man to whom she
gives her daughter will be the husband of her heart? You pour scorn on
the miserable creatures who sell themselves for a few coins to any
passer-by, though want and hunger absolve the brief union; while
another union, horrible for quite other reasons, is tolerated, nay
encouraged, by society, and a young and innocent girl is married to a
man whom she has only met occasionally during the previous three
months. She is sold for her whole lifetime. It is true that the price
is high! If you allow her no compensation for her sorrows, you might
at least respect her; but no, the most virtuous of women cannot escape
calumny. This is our fate in its double aspect. Open prostitution and
shame; secret prostitution and unhappiness. As for the poor,
portionless girls, they may die or go mad, without a soul to pity
them. Beauty and virtue are not marketable in the bazaar where souls
and bodies are bought and sold--in the den of selfishness which you
call society. Why not disinherit daughters? Then, at least, you might
fulfil one of the laws of nature, and guided by your own inclinations,
choose your companions."

"Madame, from your talk it is clear to me that neither the spirit of
family nor the sense of religion appeals to you. Why should you
hesitate between the claims of the social selfishness which irritates
you, and the purely personal selfishness which craves satisfactions--"

"The family, monsieur--does such a thing exist? I decline to recognize
as a family a knot of individuals bidden by society to divide the
property after the death of father and mother, and to go their
separate ways. A family means a temporary association of persons
brought together by no will of their own, dissolved at once by death.
Our laws have broken up homes and estates, and the old family
tradition handed down from generation to generation. I see nothing but
wreck and ruin about me."

"Madame, you will only return to God when His hand has been heavy upon
you, and I pray that you have time enough given to you in which to
make your peace with Him. Instead of looking to heaven for comfort,
you are fixing your eyes on earth. Philosophism and personal interest
have invaded your heart; like the children of the sceptical eighteenth
century, you are deaf to the voice of religion. The pleasures of this
life bring nothing but misery. You are about to make an exchange of
sorrows, that is all."

She smiled bitterly.

"I will falsify your predictions," she said. "I shall be faithful to
him who died for me."

"Sorrow," he answered, "is not likely to live long save in souls
disciplined by religion," and he lowered his eyes respectfully lest
the Marquise should read his doubts in them. The energy of her
outburst had grieved him. He had seen the self that lurked beneath so
many forms, and despaired of softening a heart which affliction seemed
to sear. The divine Sower's seed could not take root in such a soil,
and His gentle voice was drowned by the clamorous outcry of self-pity.
Yet the good man returned again and again with an apostle's earnest
persistence, brought back by a hope of leading so noble and proud a
soul to God; until the day when he made the discovery that the
Marquise only cared to talk with him because it was sweet to speak of
him who was no more. He would not lower his ministry by condoning her
passion, and confined the conversation more and more to generalities
and commonplaces.

Spring came, and with the spring the Marquise found distraction from
her deep melancholy. She busied herself for lack of other occupation
with her estate, making improvements for amusement.

In October she left the old chateau. In the life of leisure at
Saint-Lange she had recovered from her grief and grown fair and fresh.
Her grief had been violent at first in its course, as the quoit hurled
forth with all the player's strength, and like the quoit after many
oscillations, each feebler than the last, it had slackened into
melancholy. Melancholy is made up of a succession of such
oscillations, the first touching upon despair, the last on the border
between pain and pleasure; in youth, it is the twilight of dawn; in
age, the dusk of night.

As the Marquise drove through the village in her traveling carriage,
she met the cure on his way back from the church. She bowed in
response to his farewell greeting, but it was with lowered eyes and
averted face. She did not wish to see him again. The village cure had
judged this poor Diana of Ephesus only too well.



                                III.

                          AT THIRTY YEARS

Madame Firmiani was giving a ball. M. Charles de Vandenesse, a young
man of great promise, the bearer of one of those historic names which,
in spite of the efforts of legislation, are always associated with the
glory of France, had received letters of introduction to some of the
great lady's friends in Naples, and had come to thank the hostess and
to take his leave.

Vandenesse had already acquitted himself creditably on several
diplomatic missions; and now that he had received an appointment as
attache to a plenipotentiary at the Congress of Laybach, he wished to
take advantage of the opportunity to make some study of Italy on the
way. This ball was a sort of farewell to Paris and its amusements and
its rapid whirl of life, to the great eddying intellectual centre and
maelstrom of pleasure; and a pleasant thing it is to be borne along by
the current of this sufficiently slandered great city of Paris. Yet
Charles de Vandenesse had little to regret, accustomed as he had been
for the past three years to salute European capitals and turn his back
upon them at the capricious bidding of a diplomatist's destiny. Women
no longer made any impression upon him; perhaps he thought that a real
passion would play too large a part in a diplomatist's life; or
perhaps that the paltry amusements of frivolity were too empty for a
man of strong character. We all of us have huge claims to strength of
character. There is no man in France, be he ever so ordinary a member
of the rank and file of humanity, that will waive pretensions to
something beyond mere cleverness.

Charles, young though he was--he was scarcely turned thirty--looked at
life with a philosophic mind, concerning himself with theories and
means and ends, while other men of his age were thinking of pleasure,
sentiments, and the like illusions. He forced back into some inner
depth the generosity and enthusiasms of youth, and by nature he was
generous. He tried hard to be cool and calculating, to coin the fund
of wealth which chanced to be in his nature into gracious manners, and
courtesy, and attractive arts; 'tis the proper task of an ambitious
man, to play a sorry part to gain "a good position," as we call it in
modern days.

He had been dancing, and now he gave a farewell glance over the rooms,
to carry away a distinct impression of the ball, moved, doubtless, to
some extent by the feeling which prompts a theatre-goer to stay in his
box to see the final tableau before the curtain falls. But M. de
Vandenesse had another reason for his survey. He gazed curiously at
the scene before him, so French in character and in movement, seeking
to carry away a picture of the light and laughter and the faces at
this Parisian fete, to compare with the novel faces and picturesque
surroundings awaiting him at Naples, where he meant to spend a few
days before presenting himself at his post. He seemed to be drawing
the comparison now between this France so variable, changing even as
you study her, with the manners and aspects of that other land known
to him as yet only by contradictory hearsay tales or books of travel,
for the most part unsatisfactory. Thoughts of a somewhat poetical
cast, albeit hackneyed and trite to our modern ideas, crossed his
brain, in response to some longing of which, perhaps, he himself was
hardly conscious, a desire in the depths of a heart fastidious rather
than jaded, vacant rather than seared.

"These are the wealthiest and most fashionable women and the greatest
ladies in Paris," he said to himself. "These are the great men of the
day, great orators and men of letters, great names and titles; artists
and men in power; and yet in it all it seems to me as if there were
nothing but petty intrigues and still-born loves, meaningless smiles
and causeless scorn, eyes lighted by no flame within, brain-power in
abundance running aimlessly to waste. All those pink-and-white faces
are here not so much for enjoyment, as to escape from dulness. None of
the emotion is genuine. If you ask for nothing but court feathers
properly adjusted, fresh gauzes and pretty toilettes and fragile, fair
women, if you desire simply to skim the surface of life, here is your
world for you. Be content with meaningless phrases and fascinating
simpers, and do not ask for real feeling. For my own part, I abhor the
stale intrigues which end in sub-prefectures and receiver-generals'
places and marriages; or, if love comes into the question, in stealthy
compromises, so ashamed are we of the mere semblance of passion. Not a
single one of all these eloquent faces tells you of a soul, a soul
wholly absorbed by one idea as by remorse. Regrets and misfortune go
about shame-facedly clad in jests. There is not one woman here whose
resistance I should care to overcome, not one who could drag you down
to the pit. Where will you find energy in Paris? A poniard here is a
curious toy to hang from a gilt nail, in a picturesque sheath to
match. The women, the brains, and hearts of Paris are all on a par.
There is no passion left, because we have no individuality. High birth
and intellect and fortune are all reduced to one level; we all have
taken to the uniform black coat by way of mourning for a dead France.
There is no love between equals. Between two lovers there should be
differences to efface, wide gulfs to fill. The charm of love fled from
us in 1789. Our dulness and our humdrum lives are the outcome of the
political system. Italy at any rate is the land of sharp contrasts.
Woman there is a malevolent animal, a dangerous unreasoning siren,
guided only by her tastes and appetites, a creature no more to be
trusted than a tiger--"

Mme. Firmiani here came up to interrupt this soliloquy made up of
vague, conflicting, and fragmentary thoughts which cannot be
reproduced in words. The whole charm of such musing lies in its
vagueness--what is it but a sort of mental haze?

"I want to introduce you to some one who has the greatest wish to make
your acquaintance, after all that she has heard of you," said the
lady, taking his arm.

She brought him into the next room, and with such a smile and glance
as a Parisienne alone can give, she indicated a woman sitting by the
hearth.

"Who is she?" the Comte de Vandenesse asked quickly.

"You have heard her name more than once coupled with praise or blame.
She is a woman who lives in seclusion--a perfect mystery."

"Oh! if ever you have been merciful in your life, for pity's sake tell
me her name."

"She is the Marquise d'Aiglemont."

"I will take lessons from her; she had managed to make a peer of
France of that eminently ordinary person her husband, and a dullard
into a power in the land. But, pray tell me this, did Lord Grenville
die for her sake, do you think, as some women say?"

"Possibly. Since that adventure, real or imaginary, she is very much
changed, poor thing! She has not gone into society since. Four years
of constancy--that is something in Paris. If she is here to-night----"
Here Mme. Firmiani broke off, adding with a mysterious expression, "I
am forgetting that I must say nothing. Go and talk with her."

For a moment Charles stood motionless, leaning lightly against the
frame of the doorway, wholly absorbed in his scrutiny of a woman who
had become famous, no one exactly knew how or why. Such curious
anomalies are frequent enough in the world. Mme. d'Aiglemont's
reputation was certainly no more extraordinary than plenty of other
great reputations. There are men who are always in travail of some
great work which never sees the light, statisticians held to be
profound on the score of calculations which they take very good care
not to publish, politicians who live on a newspaper article, men of
letters and artists whose performances are never given to the world,
men of science, much as Sganarelle is a Latinist for those who know no
Latin; there are the men who are allowed by general consent to possess
a peculiar capacity for some one thing, be it for the direction of
arts, or for the conduct of an important mission. The admirable
phrase, "A man with a special subject," might have been invented on
purpose for these acephalous species in the domain of literature and
politics.

Charles gazed longer than he intended. He was vexed with himself for
feeling so strongly interested; it is true, however, that the lady's
appearance was a refutation of the young man's ballroom
generalizations.

The Marquise had reached her thirtieth year. She was beautiful in
spite of her fragile form and extremely delicate look. Her greatest
charm lay in her still face, revealing unfathomed depths of soul. Some
haunting, ever-present thought veiled, as it were, the full brilliance
of eyes which told of a fevered life and boundless resignation. So
seldom did she raise the eyelids soberly downcast, and so listless
were her glances, that it almost seemed as if the fire in her eyes
were reserved for some occult contemplation. Any man of genius and
feeling must have felt strangely attracted by her gentleness and
silence. If the mind sought to explain the mysterious problem of a
constant inward turning from the present to the past, the soul was no
less interested in initiating itself into the secrets of a heart proud
in some sort of its anguish. Everything about her, moreover, was in
keeping with these thoughts which she inspired. Like almost all women
who have very long hair, she was very pale and perfectly white. The
marvelous fineness of her skin (that almost unerring sign) indicated a
quick sensibility which could be seen yet more unmistakably in her
features; there was the same minute and wonderful delicacy of finish
in them that the Chinese artist gives to his fantastic figures.
Perhaps her neck was rather too long, but such necks belong to the
most graceful type, and suggest vague affinities between a woman's
head and the magnetic curves of the serpent. Leave not a single one of
the thousand signs and tokens by which the most inscrutable character
betrays itself to an observer of human nature, he has but to watch
carefully the little movements of a woman's head, the ever-varying
expressive turns and curves of her neck and throat, to read her
nature.

Mme. d'Aiglemont's dress harmonized with the haunting thought that
informed the whole woman. Her hair was gathered up into a tall coronet
of broad plaits, without ornament of any kind; she seemed to have
bidden farewell for ever to elaborate toilettes. Nor were any of the
small arts of coquetry which spoil so many women to be detected in
her. Perhaps her bodice, modest though it was, did not altogether
conceal the dainty grace of her figure, perhaps, too, her gown looked
rich from the extreme distinction of its fashion, and if it is
permissible to look for expression in the arrangement of stuffs,
surely those numerous straight folds invested her with a great
dignity. There may have been some lingering trace of the indelible
feminine foible in the minute care bestowed upon her hand and foot;
yet, if she allowed them to be seen with some pleasure, it would have
tasked the utmost malice of a rival to discover any affectation in her
gestures, so natural did they seem, so much a part of old childish
habit, that her careless grace absolved this vestige of vanity.

All these little characteristics, the nameless trifles which combine
to make up the sum of a woman's prettiness or ugliness, her charm or
lack of charm, can only be indicated, when, as with Mme. d'Aiglemont,
a personality dominates and gives coherence to the details, informing
them, blending them all in an exquisite whole. Her manner was
perfectly in accord with her style of beauty and her dress. Only to
certain women at a certain age is it given to put language into their
attitude. Is it joy or is it sorrow that teaches a woman of thirty the
secret of that eloquence of carriage, so that she must always remain
an enigma which each interprets by the aid of his hopes, desires, or
theories?

The way in which the Marquise leaned both elbows on the arm of her
chair, the toying of her interclasped fingers, the curve of her
throat, the indolent lines of her languid but lissome body as she lay
back in graceful exhaustion, as it were; her indolent limbs, her
unstudied pose, the utter lassitude of her movements,--all suggested
that this was a woman for whom life had lost its interest, a woman who
had known the joys of love only in dreams, a woman bowed down by the
burden of memories of the past, a woman who had long since despaired
of the future and despaired of herself, an unoccupied woman who took
the emptiness of her own life for the nothingness of life.

Charles de Vandenesse saw and admired the beautiful picture before
him, as a kind of artistic success beyond an ordinary woman's powers
of attainment. He was acquainted with d'Aiglemont; and now, at the
first sight of d'Aiglemont's wife, the young diplomatist saw at a
glance a disproportionate marriage, an incompatibility (to use the
legal jargon) so great that it was impossible that the Marquise should
love her husband. And yet--the Marquise d'Aiglemont's life was above
reproach, and for any observer the mystery about her was the more
interesting on this account. The first impulse of surprise over,
Vandenesse cast about for the best way of approaching Mme.
d'Aiglemont. He would try a commonplace piece of diplomacy, he
thought; he would disconcert her by a piece of clumsiness and see how
she would receive it.

"Madame," he said, seating himself near her, "through a fortunate
indiscretion I have learned that, for some reason unknown to me, I
have had the good fortune to attract your notice. I owe you the more
thanks because I have never been so honored before. At the same time,
you are responsible for one of my faults, for I mean never to be
modest again--"

"You will make a mistake, monsieur," she laughed; "vanity should be
left to those who have nothing else to recommend them."

The conversation thus opened ranged at large, in the usual way, over a
multitude of topics--art and literature, politics, men and things
--till insensibly they fell to talking of the eternal theme in France
and all the world over--love, sentiment, and women.

"We are bond-slaves."

"You are queens."

This was the gist and substance of all the more or less ingenious
discourse between Charles and the Marquise, as of all such discourses
--past, present, and to come. Allow a certain space of time, and the
two formulas shall begin to mean "Love me," and "I will love you."

"Madame," Charles de Vandenesse exclaimed under his breath, "you have
made me bitterly regret that I am leaving Paris. In Italy I certainly
shall not pass hours in intellectual enjoyment such as this has been."

"Perhaps, monsieur, you will find happiness, and happiness is worth
more than all the brilliant things, true and false, that are said
every evening in Paris."

Before Charles took leave, he asked permission to pay a farewell call
on the Marquise d'Aiglemont, and very lucky did he feel himself when
the form of words in which he expressed himself for once was used in
all sincerity; and that night, and all day long on the morrow, he
could not put the thought of the Marquise out of his mind.

At times he wondered why she had singled him out, what she had meant
when she asked him to come to see her, and thought supplied an
inexhaustible commentary. Again it seemed to him that he had
discovered the motives of her curiosity, and he grew intoxicated with
hope or frigidly sober with each new construction put upon that piece
of commonplace civility. Sometimes it meant everything, sometimes
nothing. He made up his mind at last that he would not yield to this
inclination, and--went to call on Mme. d'Aiglemont.

There are thoughts which determine our conduct, while we do not so
much as suspect their existence. If at first sight this assertion
appears to be less a truth than a paradox, let any candid inquirer
look into his own life and he shall find abundant confirmation
therein. Charles went to Mme. d'Aiglemont, and so obeyed one of these
latent, pre-existent germs of thought, of which our experience and our
intellectual gains and achievements are but later and tangible
developments.

For a young man a woman of thirty has irresistible attractions. There
is nothing more natural, nothing better established, no human tie of
stouter tissue than the heart-deep attachment between such a woman as
the Marquise d'Aiglemont and such a man as Charles de Vandenesse. You
can see examples of it every day in the world. A girl, as a matter of
fact, has too many young illusions, she is too inexperienced, the
instinct of sex counts for too much in her love for a young man to
feel flattered by it. A woman of thirty knows all that is involved in
the self-surrender to be made. Among the impulses of the first, put
curiosity and other motives than love; the second acts with integrity
of sentiment. The first yields; the second makes deliberate choice. Is
not that choice in itself an immense flattery? A woman armed with
experience, forewarned by knowledge, almost always dearly bought,
seems to give more than herself; while the inexperienced and credulous
girl, unable to draw comparisons for lack of knowledge, can appreciate
nothing at its just worth. She accepts love and ponders it. A woman is
a counselor and a guide at an age when we love to be guided and
obedience is delight; while a girl would fain learn all things,
meeting us with a girl's _naivete_ instead of a woman's tenderness.
She affords a single triumph; with a woman there is resistance upon
resistance to overcome; she has but joy and tears, a woman has rapture
and remorse.

A girl cannot play the part of a mistress unless she is so corrupt
that we turn from her with loathing; a woman has a thousand ways of
preserving her power and her dignity; she has risked so much for love,
that she must bid him pass through his myriad transformations, while
her too submissive rival gives a sense of too serene security which
palls. If the one sacrifices her maidenly pride, the other immolates
the honor of a whole family. A girl's coquetry is of the simplest, she
thinks that all is said when the veil is laid aside; a woman's
coquetry is endless, she shrouds herself in veil after veil, she
satisfies every demand of man's vanity, the novice responds but to
one.

And there are terrors, fears, and hesitations--trouble and storm in
the love of a woman of thirty years, never to be found in a young
girl's love. At thirty years a woman asks her lover to give her back
the esteem she has forfeited for his sake; she lives only for him, her
thoughts are full of his future, he must have a great career, she bids
him make it glorious; she can obey, entreat, command, humble herself,
or rise in pride; times without number she brings comfort when a young
girl can only make moan. And with all the advantages of her position,
the woman of thirty can be a girl again, for she can play all parts,
assume a girl's bashfulness, and grow the fairer even for a mischance.

Between these two feminine types lies the immeasurable difference
which separates the foreseen from the unforeseen, strength from
weakness. The woman of thirty satisfies every requirement; the young
girl must satisfy none, under penalty of ceasing to be a young girl.
Such ideas as these, developing in a young man's mind, help to
strengthen the strongest of all passions, a passion in which all
spontaneous and natural feeling is blended with the artificial
sentiment created by conventional manners.

The most important and decisive step in a woman's life is the very one
that she invariably regards as the most insignificant. After her
marriage she is no longer her own mistress, she is the queen and the
bond-slave of the domestic hearth. The sanctity of womanhood is
incompatible with social liberty and social claims; and for a woman
emancipation means corruption. If you give a stranger the right of
entry into the sanctuary of home, do you not put yourself at his
mercy? How then if she herself bids him enter it? Is not this an
offence, or, to speak more accurately, a first step towards an
offence? You must either accept this theory with all its consequences,
or absolve illicit passion. French society hitherto has chosen the
third and middle course of looking on and laughing when offences come,
apparently upon the Spartan principle of condoning the theft and
punishing clumsiness. And this system, it may be, is a very wise one.
'Tis a most appalling punishment to have all your neighbors pointing
the finger of scorn at you, a punishment that a woman feels in her
very heart. Women are tenacious, and all of them should be tenacious
of respect; without esteem they cannot exist, esteem is the first
demand that they make of love. The most corrupt among them feels that
she must, in the first place, pledge the future to buy absolution for
the past, and strives to make her lover understand that only for
irresistible bliss can she barter the respect which the world
henceforth will refuse to her.

Some such reflections cross the mind of any woman who for the first
time and alone receives a visit from a young man; and this especially
when, like Charles de Vandenesse, the visitor is handsome or clever.
And similarly there are not many young men who would fail to base some
secret wish on one of the thousand and one ideas which justify the
instinct that attracts them to a beautiful, witty, and unhappy woman
like the Marquise d'Aiglemont.

Mme. d'Aiglemont, therefore, felt troubled when M. de Vandenesse was
announced; and as for him, he was almost confused in spite of the
assurance which is like a matter of costume for a diplomatist. But not
for long. The Marquise took refuge at once in the friendliness of
manner which women use as a defence against the misinterpretations of
fatuity, a manner which admits of no afterthought, while it paves the
way to sentiment (to make use of a figure of speech), tempering the
transition through the ordinary forms of politeness. In this ambiguous
position, where the four roads leading respectively to Indifference,
Respect, Wonder, and Passion meet, a woman may stay as long as she
pleases, but only at thirty years does she understand all the
possibilities of the situation. Laughter, tenderness, and jest are all
permitted to her at the crossing of the ways; she has acquired the
tact by which she finds all the responsive chords in a man's nature,
and skill in judging the sounds which she draws forth. Her silence is
as dangerous as her speech. You will never read her at that age, nor
discover if she is frank or false, nor how far she is serious in her
admissions or merely laughing at you. She gives you the right to
engage in a game of fence with her, and suddenly by a glance, a
gesture of proved potency, she closes the combat and turns from you
with your secret in her keeping, free to offer you up in a jest, free
to interest herself in you, safe alike in her weakness and your
strength.

Although the Marquise d'Aiglemont took up her position upon this
neutral ground during the first interview, she knew how to preserve a
high womanly dignity. The sorrows of which she never spoke seemed to
hang over her assumed gaiety like a light cloud obscuring the sun.
When Vandenesse went out, after a conversation which he had enjoyed
more than he had thought possible, he carried with him the conviction
that this was like to be too costly a conquest for his aspirations.

"It would mean sentiment from here to yonder," he thought, "and
correspondence enough to wear out a deputy second-clerk on his
promotion. And yet if I really cared----"

Luckless phrase that has been the ruin of many an infatuated mortal.
In France the way to love lies through self-love. Charles went back to
Mme. d'Aiglemont, and imagined that she showed symptoms of pleasure in
his conversion. And then, instead of giving himself up like a boy to
the joy of falling in love, he tried to play a double role. He did his
best to act passion and to keep cool enough to analyze the progress of
this flirtation, to be lover and diplomatist at once; but youth and
hot blood and analysis could only end in one way, over head and ears
in love; for, natural or artificial, the Marquise was more than his
match. Each time he went out from Mme. d'Aiglemont, he strenuously
held himself to his distrust, and submitted the progressive situations
of his case to a rigorous scrutiny fatal to his own emotions.

"To-day she gave me to understand that she has been very unhappy and
lonely," said he to himself, after the third visit, "and that but for
her little girl she would have longed for death. She was perfectly
resigned. Now as I am neither her brother nor her spiritual director,
why should she confide her troubles to _me_? She loves me."

Two days later he came away apostrophizing modern manners.

"Love takes on the hue of every age. In 1822 love is a doctrinaire.
Instead of proving love by deeds, as in times past, we have taken to
argument and rhetoric and debate. Women's tactics are reduced to three
shifts. In the first place, they declare that we cannot love as they
love. (Coquetry! the Marquise simply threw it at me, like a challenge,
this evening!) Next they grow pathetic, to appeal to our natural
generosity or self-love; for does it not flatter a young man's vanity
to console a woman for a great calamity? And lastly, they have a craze
for virginity. She must have thought that I thought her very innocent.
My good faith is like to become an excellent speculation."

But a day came when every suspicious idea was exhausted. He asked
himself whether the Marquise was not sincere; whether so much
suffering could be feigned, and why she should act the part of
resignation? She lived in complete seclusion; she drank in silence of
a cup of sorrow scarcely to be guessed unless from the accent of some
chance exclamation in a voice always well under control. From that
moment Charles felt a keen interest in Mme. d'Aiglemont. And yet,
though his visits had come to be a recognized thing, and in some sort
a necessity to them both, and though the hour was kept free by tacit
agreement, Vandenesse still thought that this woman with whom he was
in love was more clever than sincere. "Decidedly, she is an uncommonly
clever woman," he used to say to himself as he went away.

When he came into the room, there was the Marquise in her favorite
attitude, melancholy expressed in her whole form. She made no movement
when he entered, only raised her eyes and looked full at him, but the
glance that she gave him was like a smile. Mme. d'Aiglemont's manner
meant confidence and sincere friendship, but of love there was no
trace. Charles sat down and found nothing to say. A sensation for
which no language exists troubled him.

"What is the matter with you?" she asked in a softened voice.

"Nothing. . . . Yes; I am thinking of something of which, as yet, you
have not thought at all."

"What is it?"

"Why--the Congress is over."

"Well," she said, "and ought you to have been at the Congress?"

A direct answer would have been the most eloquent and delicate
declaration of love; but Charles did not make it. Before the candid
friendship in Mme. d'Aiglemont's face all the calculations of vanity,
the hopes of love, and the diplomatist's doubts died away. She did not
suspect, or she seemed not to suspect, his love for her; and Charles,
in utter confusion turning upon himself, was forced to admit that he
had said and done nothing which could warrant such a belief on her
part. For M. de Vandenesse that evening, the Marquise was, as she had
always been, simple and friendly, sincere in her sorrow, glad to have
a friend, proud to find a nature responsive to her own--nothing more.
It had not entered her mind that a woman could yield twice; she had
known love--love lay bleeding still in the depths of her heart, but
she did not imagine that bliss could bring her its rapture twice, for
she believed not merely in the intellect, but in the soul; and for her
love was no simple attraction; it drew her with all noble attractions.

In a moment Charles became a young man again, enthralled by the
splendor of a nature so lofty. He wished for a fuller initiation into
the secret history of a life blighted rather by fate than by her own
fault. Mme. d'Aiglemont heard him ask the cause of the overwhelming
sorrow which had blended all the harmonies of sadness with her beauty;
she gave him one glance, but that searching look was like a seal set
upon some solemn compact.

"Ask no more such questions of me," she said. "Four years ago, on this
very day, the man who loved me, for whom I would have given up
everything, even my own self-respect, died, and died to save my name.
That love was still young and pure and full of illusions when it came
to an end. Before I gave way to passion--and never was a woman so
urged by fate--I had been drawn into the mistake that ruins many a
girl's life, a marriage with a man whose agreeable manners concealed
his emptiness. Marriage plucked my hopes away one by one. And now,
to-day, I have forfeited happiness through marriage, as well as the
happiness styled criminal, and I have known no happiness. Nothing is
left to me. If I could not die, at least I ought to be faithful to my
memories."

No tears came with the words. Her eyes fell, and there was a slight
twisting of the fingers interclasped, according to her wont. It was
simply said, but in her voice there was a note of despair, deep as her
love seemed to have been, which left Charles without a hope. The
dreadful story of a life told in three sentences, with that twisting
of the fingers for all comment, the might of anguish in a fragile
woman, the dark depths masked by a fair face, the tears of four years
of mourning fascinated Vandenesse; he sat silent and diminished in the
presence of her woman's greatness and nobleness, seeing not the
physical beauty so exquisite, so perfectly complete, but the soul so
great in its power to feel. He had found, at last, the ideal of his
fantastic imaginings, the ideal so vigorously invoked by all who look
on life as the raw material of a passion for which many a one seeks
ardently, and dies before he has grasped the whole of the dreamed-of
treasure.

With those words of hers in his ears, in the presence of her sublime
beauty, his own thoughts seemed poor and narrow. Powerless as he felt
himself to find words of his own, simple enough and lofty enough to
scale the heights of this exaltation, he took refuge in platitudes as
to the destiny of women.

"Madame, we must either forget our pain, or hollow out a tomb for
ourselves."

But reason always cuts a poor figure beside sentiment; the one being
essentially restricted, like everything that is positive, while the
other is infinite. To set to work to reason where you are required to
feel, is the mark of a limited nature. Vandenesse therefore held his
peace, sat awhile with his eyes fixed upon her, then came away. A prey
to novel thoughts which exalted woman for him, he was in something the
same position as a painter who has taken the vulgar studio model for a
type of womanhood, and suddenly confronts the _Mnemosyne_ of the Musee
--that noblest and least appreciated of antique statues.

Charles de Vandenesse was deeply in love. He loved Mme. d'Aiglemont
with the loyalty of youth, with the fervor that communicates such
ineffable charm to a first passion, with a simplicity of heart of
which a man only recovers some fragments when he loves again at a
later day. Delicious first passion of youth, almost always deliciously
savored by the woman who calls it forth; for at the golden prime of
thirty, from the poetic summit of a woman's life, she can look out
over the whole course of love--backwards into the past, forwards into
the future--and, knowing all the price to be paid for love, enjoys her
bliss with the dread of losing it ever present with her. Her soul is
still fair with her waning youth, and passion daily gathers strength
from the dismaying prospect of the coming days.

"This is love," Vandenesse said to himself this time as he left the
Marquise, "and for my misfortune I love a woman wedded to her
memories. It is hard work to struggle against a dead rival, never
present to make blunders and fall out of favor, nothing of him left
but his better qualities. What is it but a sort of high treason
against the Ideal to attempt to break the charm of memory, to destroy
the hopes that survive a lost lover, precisely because he only
awakened longings, and all that is loveliest and most enchanting in
love?"

These sober reflections, due to the discouragement and dread of
failure with which love begins in earnest, were the last expiring
effort of diplomatic reasoning. Thenceforward he knew no
afterthoughts, he was the plaything of his love, and lost himself in
the nothings of that strange inexplicable happiness which is full fed
by a chance word, by silence, or a vague hope. He tried to love
Platonically, came daily to breathe the air that she breathed, became
almost a part of her house, and went everywhere with her, slave as he
was of a tyrannous passion compounded of egoism and devotion of the
completest. Love has its own instinct, finding the way to the heart,
as the feeblest insect finds the way to its flower, with a will which
nothing can dismay or turn aside. If feeling is sincere, its destiny
is not doubtful. Let a woman begin to think that her life depends on
the sincerity or fervor or earnestness which her lover shall put into
his longings, and is there not sufficient in the thought to put her
through all the tortures of dread? It is impossible for a woman, be
she wife or mother, to be secure from a young man's love. One thing it
is within her power to do--to refuse to see him as soon as she learns
a secret which she never fails to guess. But this is too decided a
step to take at an age when marriage has become a prosaic and tiresome
yoke, and conjugal affection is something less than tepid (if indeed
her husband has not already begun to neglect her). Is a woman plain?
she is flattered by a love which gives her fairness. Is she young and
charming? She is only to be won by a fascination as great as her own
power to charm, that is to say, a fascination well-nigh irresistible.
Is she virtuous? There is a love sublime in its earthliness which
leads her to find something like absolution in the very greatness of
the surrender and glory in a hard struggle. Everything is a snare. No
lesson, therefore, is too severe where the temptation is so strong.
The seclusion in which the Greeks and Orientals kept and keep their
women, an example more and more followed in modern England, is the
only safeguard of domestic morality; but under this system there is an
end of all the charm of social intercourse; and society, and good
breeding, and refinement of manners become impossible. The nations
must take their choice.

So a few months went by, and Mme. d'Aiglemont discovered that her life
was closely bound with this young man's life, without overmuch
confusion in her surprise, and felt with something almost like
pleasure that she shared his tastes and his thoughts. Had she adopted
Vandenesse's ideas? Or was it Vandenesse who had made her lightest
whims his own? She was not careful to inquire. She had been swept out
already into the current of passion, and yet this adorable woman told
herself with the confident reiteration of misgiving;

"Ah! no. I will be faithful to him who died for me."

Pascal said that "the doubt of God implies belief in God." And
similarly it may be said that a woman only parleys when she has
surrendered. A day came when the Marquise admitted to herself that she
was loved, and with that admission came a time of wavering among
countless conflicting thoughts and feelings. The superstitions of
experience spoke their language. Should she be happy? Was it possible
that she should find happiness outside the limits of the laws which
society rightly or wrongly has set up for humanity to live by?
Hitherto her cup of life had been full of bitterness. Was there any
happy issue possible for the ties which united two human beings held
apart by social conventions? And might not happiness be bought too
dear? Still, this so ardently desired happiness, for which it is so
natural to seek, might perhaps be found after all. Curiosity is always
retained on the lover's side in the suit. The secret tribunal was
still sitting when Vandenesse appeared, and his presence put the
metaphysical spectre, reason, to flight.

If such are the successive transformations through which a sentiment,
transient though it be, passes in a young man and a woman of thirty,
there comes a moment of time when the shades of difference blend into
each other, when all reasonings end in a single and final reflection
which is lost and absorbed in the desire which it confirms. Then the
longer the resistance, the mightier the voice of love. And here endeth
this lesson, or rather this study made from the _ecorche_, to borrow a
most graphic term from the studio, for in this history it is not so
much intended to portray love as to lay bare its mechanism and its
dangers. From this moment every day adds color to these dry bones,
clothes them again with living flesh and blood and the charm of youth,
and puts vitality into their movements; till they glow once more with
the beauty, the persuasive grace of sentiment, the loveliness of life.



Charles found Mme. d'Aiglemont absorbed in thought, and to his "What
is it?" spoken in thrilling tones grown persuasive with the heart's
soft magic, she was careful not to reply. The delicious question bore
witness to the perfect unity of their spirits; and the Marquise felt,
with a woman's wonderful intuition, that to give any expression to the
sorrow in her heart would be to make an advance. If, even now, each
one of those words was fraught with significance for them both, in
what fathomless depths might she not plunge at the first step? She
read herself with a clear and lucid glance. She was silent, and
Vandenesse followed her example.

"I am not feeling well," she said at last, taking alarm at the pause
fraught with such great moment for them both, when the language of the
eyes completely filled the blank left by the helplessness of speech.

"Madame," said Charles, and his voice was tender but unsteady with
strong feeling, "soul and body are both dependent on each other. If
you were happy, you would be young and fresh. Why do you refuse to ask
of love all that love has taken from you? You think that your life is
over when it is only just beginning. Trust yourself to a friend's
care. It is so sweet to be loved."

"I am old already," she said; "there is no reason why I should not
continue to suffer as in the past. And 'one must love,' do you say?
Well, I must not, and I cannot. Your friendship has put some sweetness
into my life, but beside you I care for no one, no one could efface my
memories. A friend I accept; I should fly from a lover. Besides, would
it be a very generous thing to do, to exchange a withered heart for a
young heart; to smile upon illusions which now I cannot share, to
cause happiness in which I should either have no belief, or tremble to
lose? I should perhaps respond to his devotion with egoism, should
weigh and deliberate while he felt; my memory would resent the
poignancy of his happiness. No, if you love once, that love is never
replaced, you see. Indeed, who would have my heart at this price?"

There was a tinge of heartless coquetry in the words, the last effort
of discretion.

"If he loses courage, well and good, I shall live alone and faithful."
The thought came from the very depths of the woman, for her it was the
too slender willow twig caught in vain by a swimmer swept out by the
current.

Vandenesse's involuntary shudder at her dictum plead more eloquently
for him than all his past assiduity. Nothing moves a woman so much as
the discovery of a gracious delicacy in us, such a refinement of
sentiment as her own, for a woman the grace and delicacy are sure
tokens of truth. Charles' start revealed the sincerity of his love.
Mme. d'Aiglemont learned the strength of his affection from the
intensity of his pain.

"Perhaps you are right," he said coldly. "New love, new vexation of
spirit."

Then he changed the subject, and spoke of indifferent matters; but he
was visibly moved, and he concentrated his gaze on Mme. d'Aiglemont as
if he were seeing her for the last time.

"Adieu, madame," he said, with emotion in his voice.

"_Au revoir_," said she, with that subtle coquetry, the secret of a
very few among women.

He made no answer and went.

When Charles was no longer there, when his empty chair spoke for him,
regrets flocked in upon her, and she found fault with herself. Passion
makes an immense advance as soon as a woman persuades herself that she
has failed somewhat in generosity or hurt a noble nature. In love
there is never any need to be on our guard against the worst in us;
that is a safeguard; a woman only surrenders at the summons of a
virtue. "The floor of hell is paved with good intentions,"--it is no
preacher's paradox.

Vandenesse stopped away for several days. Every evening at the
accustomed hour the Marquise sat expectant in remorseful impatience.
She could not write--that would be a declaration, and, moreover, her
instinct told her that he would come back. On the sixth day he was
announced, and never had she heard the name with such delight. Her joy
frightened her.

"You have punished me well," she said, addressing him.

Vandenesse gazed at her in astonishment.

"Punished?" he echoed. "And for what?" He understood her quite well,
but he meant to be avenged for all that he had suffered as soon as she
suspected it.

"Why have you not come to see me?" she demanded with a smile.

"Then you have seen no visitors?" asked he, parrying the question.

"Yes. M. de Ronquerolles and M. de Marsay and young d'Escrignon came
and stayed for nearly two hours, the first two yesterday, the last
this morning. And besides, I have had a call, I believe, from Mme.
Firmiani and from your sister, Mme. de Listomere."

Here was a new infliction, torture which none can comprehend unless
they know love as a fierce and all-invading tyrant whose mildest
symptom is a monstrous jealousy, a perpetual desire to snatch away the
beloved from every other influence.

"What!" thought he to himself, "she has seen visitors, she has been
with happy creatures, and talking to them, while I was unhappy and all
alone."

He buried his annoyance forthwith, and consigned love to the depths of
his heart, like a coffin to the sea. His thoughts were of the kind
that never find expression in words; they pass through the mind
swiftly as a deadly acid, that poisons as it evaporates and vanishes.
His brow, however, was over-clouded; and Mme. d'Aiglemont, guided by
her woman's instinct, shared his sadness without understanding it. She
had hurt him, unwittingly, as Vandenesse knew. He talked over his
position with her, as if his jealousy were one of those hypothetical
cases which lovers love to discuss. Then the Marquise understood it
all. She was so deeply moved, that she could not keep back the tears
--and so these lovers entered the heaven of love.

Heaven and Hell are two great imaginative conceptions formulating our
ideas of Joy and Sorrow--those two poles about which human existence
revolves. Is not heaven a figure of speech covering now and for
evermore an infinite of human feeling impossible to express save in
its accidents--since that Joy is one? And what is Hell but the symbol
of our infinite power to suffer tortures so diverse that of our pain
it is possible to fashion works of art, for no two human sorrows are
alike?

One evening the two lovers sat alone and side by side, silently
watching one of the fairest transformations of the sky, a cloudless
heaven taking hues of pale gold and purple from the last rays of the
sunset. With the slow fading of the daylight, sweet thoughts seem to
awaken, and soft stirrings of passion, and a mysterious sense of
trouble in the midst of calm. Nature sets before us vague images of
bliss, bidding us enjoy the happiness within our reach, or lament it
when it has fled. In those moments fraught with enchantment, when the
tender light in the canopy of the sky blends in harmony with the
spells working within, it is difficult to resist the heart's desires
grown so magically potent. Cares are blunted, joy becomes ecstasy;
pain, intolerable anguish. The pomp of sunset gives the signal for
confessions and draws them forth. Silence grows more dangerous than
speech for it gives to eyes all the power of the infinite of the
heavens reflected in them. And for speech, the least word has
irresistible might. Is not the light infused into the voice and purple
into the glances? Is not heaven within us, or do we feel that we are
in the heavens?

Vandenesse and Julie--for so she had allowed herself to be called for
the past few days by him whom she loved to speak of as Charles
--Vandenesse and Julie were talking together, but they had drifted very
far from their original subject; and if their spoken words had grown
meaningless they listened in delight to the unspoken thoughts that
lurked in the sounds. Her hand lay in his. She had abandoned it to him
without a thought that she had granted a proof of love.

Together they leaned forward to look out upon a majestic cloud
country, full of snows and glaciers and fantastic mountain peaks with
gray stains of shadow on their sides, a picture composed of sharp
contrasts between fiery red and the shadows of darkness, filling the
skies with a fleeting vision of glory which cannot be reproduced
--magnificent swaddling-bands of sunrise, bright shrouds of the dying
sun. As they leaned Julie's hair brushed lightly against Vandenesse's
cheek. She felt that light contact, and shuddered violently, and he
even more, for imperceptibly they both had reached one of those
inexplicable crises when quiet has wrought upon the senses until every
faculty of perception is so keen that the slightest shock fills the
heart lost in melancholy with sadness that overflows in tears; or
raises joy to ecstasy in a heart that is lost in the vertigo of love.
Almost involuntarily Julie pressed her lover's hand. That wooing
pressure gave courage to his timidity. All the joy of the present, all
the hopes of the future were blended in the emotion of a first caress,
the bashful trembling kiss that Mme. d'Aiglemont received upon her
cheek. The slighter the concession, the more dangerous and insinuating
it was. For their double misfortune it was only too sincere a
revelation. Two noble natures had met and blended, drawn each to each
by every law of natural attraction, held apart by every ordinance.

General d'Aiglemont came in at that very moment.

"The Ministry has gone out," he said. "Your uncle will be in the new
cabinet. So you stand an uncommonly good chance of an embassy,
Vandenesse."

Charles and Julie looked at each other and flushed red. That blush was
one more tie to unite them; there was one thought and one remorse in
either mind; between two lovers guilty of a kiss there is a bond quite
as strong and terrible as the bond between two robbers who have
murdered a man. Something had to be said by way of reply.

"I do not care to leave Paris now," Charles said.

"We know why," said the General, with the knowing air of a man who
discovers a secret. "You do not like to leave your uncle, because you
do not wish to lose your chance of succeeding to the title."

The Marquise took refuge in her room, and in her mind passed a
pitiless verdict upon her husband.

"His stupidity is really beyond anything!"



                                IV.

                         THE FINGER OF GOD

Between the Barriere d'Italie and the Barriere de la Sante, along the
boulevard which leads to the Jardin des Plantes, you have a view of
Paris fit to send an artist or the tourist, the most _blase_ in
matters of landscape, into ecstasies. Reach the slightly higher ground
where the line of boulevard, shaded by tall, thick-spreading trees,
curves with the grace of some green and silent forest avenue, and you
see spread out at your feet a deep valley populous with factories
looking almost countrified among green trees and the brown streams of
the Bievre or the Gobelins.

On the opposite slope, beneath some thousands of roofs packed close
together like heads in a crowd, lurks the squalor of the Faubourg
Saint-Marceau. The imposing cupola of the Pantheon, and the grim
melancholy dome of the Val-du-Grace, tower proudly up above a whole
town in itself, built amphitheatre-wise; every tier being grotesquely
represented by a crooked line of street, so that the two public
monuments look like a huge pair of giants dwarfing into insignificance
the poor little houses and the tallest poplars in the valley. To your
left behold the observatory, the daylight, pouring athwart its windows
and galleries, producing such fantastical strange effects that the
building looks like a black spectral skeleton. Further yet in the
distance rises the elegant lantern tower of the Invalides, soaring up
between the bluish pile of the Luxembourg and the gray tours of
Saint-Sulpice. From this standpoint the lines of the architecture are
blended with green leaves and gray shadows, and change every moment
with every aspect of the heavens, every alteration of light or color
in the sky. Afar, the skyey spaces themselves seem to be full of
buildings; near, wind the serpentine curves of waving trees and green
footpaths.

Away to your right, through a great gap in this singular landscape,
you see the canal Saint-Martin, a long pale stripe with its edging of
reddish stone quays and fringes of lime avenue. The long rows of
buildings beside it, in genuine Roman style, are the public granaries.

Beyond, again, on the very last plane of all, see the smoke-dimmed
slopes of Belleville covered with houses and windmills, which blend
their freaks of outline with the chance effects of cloud. And still,
between that horizon, vague as some childish recollection, and the
serried range of roofs in the valley, a whole city lies out of sight:
a huge city, engulfed, as it were, in a vast hollow between the
pinnacles of the Hopital de la Pitie and the ridge line of the
Cimetiere de l'Est, between suffering on the one hand and death on the
other; a city sending up a smothered roar like Ocean grumbling at the
foot of a cliff, as if to let you know that "I am here!"

When the sunlight pours like a flood over this strip of Paris,
purifying and etherealizing the outlines, kindling answering lights
here and there in the window panes, brightening the red tiles, flaming
about the golden crosses, whitening walls and transforming the
atmosphere into a gauzy veil, calling up rich contrasts of light and
fantastic shadow; when the sky is blue and earth quivers in the heat,
and the bells are pealing, then you shall see one of the eloquent
fairy scenes which stamp themselves for ever on the imagination, a
scene that shall find as fanatical worshipers as the wondrous views of
Naples and Byzantium or the isles of Florida. Nothing is wanting to
complete the harmony, the murmur of the world of men and the idyllic
quiet of solitude, the voices of a million human creatures and the
voice of God. There lies a whole capital beneath the peaceful
cypresses of Pere-Lachaise.

The landscape lay in all its beauty, sparkling in the spring sunlight,
as I stood looking out over it one morning, my back against a huge
elm-tree that flung its yellow flowers to the wind. At the sight of
the rich and glorious view before me, I thought bitterly of the scorn
with which even in our literature we affect to hold this land of ours,
and poured maledictions on the pitiable plutocrats who fall out of
love with fair France, and spend their gold to acquire the right of
sneering at their own country, by going through Italy at a gallop and
inspecting that desecrated land through an opera-glass. I cast loving
eyes on modern Paris. I was beginning to dream dreams, when the sound
of a kiss disturbed the solitude and put philosophy to flight. Down
the sidewalk, along the steep bank, above the rippling water, I saw
beyond the Ponte des Gobelins the figure of a woman, dressed with the
daintiest simplicity; she was still young, as it seemed to me, and the
blithe gladness of the landscape was reflected in her sweet face. Her
companion, a handsome young man, had just set down a little boy. A
prettier child has never been seen, and to this day I do not know
whether it was the little one or his mother who received the kiss. In
their young faces, in their eyes, their smile, their every movement,
you could read the same deep and tender thought. Their arms were
interlaced with such glad swiftness; they drew close together with
such marvelous unanimity of impulse that, conscious of nothing but
themselves, they did not so much as see me. A second child, however--a
little girl, who had turned her back upon them in sullen discontent
--threw me a glance, and the expression in her eyes startled me. She
was as pretty and engaging as the little brother whom she left to run
about by himself, sometimes before, sometimes after their mother and
her companion; but her charm was less childish, and now, as she stood
mute and motionless, her attitude and demeanor suggested a torpid
snake. There was something indescribably mechanical in the way in
which the pretty woman and her companion paced up and down. In absence
of mind, probably, they were content to walk to and fro between the
little bridge and a carriage that stood waiting nearby at a corner in
the boulevard, turning, stopping short now and again, looking into
each other's eyes, or breaking into laughter as their casual talk grew
lively or languid, grave or gay.

I watched this delicious picture a while from my hiding-place by the
great elm-tree, and should have turned away no doubt and respected
their privacy, if it had not been for a chance discovery. In the face
of the brooding, silent, elder child I saw traces of thought overdeep
for her age. When her mother and the young man at her side turned and
came near, her head was frequently lowered; the furtive sidelong
glances of intelligence that she gave the pair and the child her
brother were nothing less than extraordinary. Sometimes the pretty
woman or her friend would stroke the little boy's fair curls, or lay a
caressing finger against the baby throat or the white collar as he
played at keeping step with them; and no words can describe the shrewd
subtlety, the ingenuous malice, the fierce intensity which lighted up
that pallid little face with the faint circles already round the eyes.
Truly there was a man's power of passion in the strange-looking,
delicate little girl. Here were traces of suffering or of thought in
her; and which is the more certain token of death when life is in
blossom--physical suffering, or the malady of too early thought
preying upon a soul as yet in bud? Perhaps a mother knows. For my own
part, I know of nothing more dreadful to see than an old man's
thoughts on a child's forehead; even blasphemy from girlish lips is
less monstrous.

The almost stupid stolidity of this child who had begun to think
already, her rare gestures, everything about her, interested me. I
scrutinized her curiously. Then the common whim of the observer drew
me to compare her with her brother, and to note their likeness and
unlikeness.

Her brown hair and dark eyes and look of precocious power made a rich
contrast with the little one's fair curled head and sea-green eyes and
winning helplessness. She, perhaps, was seven or eight years of age;
the boy was full four years younger. Both children were dressed alike;
but here again, looking closely, I noticed a difference. It was very
slight, a little thing enough; but in the light of after events I saw
that it meant a whole romance in the past, a whole tragedy to come.
The little brown-haired maid wore a linen collar with a plain hem, her
brother's was edged with dainty embroidery, that was all; but therein
lay the confession of a heart's secret, a tacit preference which a
child can read in the mother's inmost soul as clearly as if the spirit
of God revealed it. The fair-haired child, careless and glad, looked
almost like a girl, his skin was so fair and fresh, his movements so
graceful, his look so sweet; while his older sister, in spite of her
energy, in spite of the beauty of her features and her dazzling
complexion, looked like a sickly little boy. In her bright eyes there
was none of the humid softness which lends such charm to children's
faces; they seemed, like courtiers' eyes, to be dried by some inner
fire; and in her pallor there was a certain swarthy olive tint, the
sign of vigorous character. Twice her little brother came to her,
holding out a tiny hunting-horn with a touching charm, a winning look,
and wistful expression, which would have sent Charlet into ecstasies,
but she only scowled in answer to his "Here, Helene, will you take
it?" so persuasively spoken. The little girl, so sombre and vehement
beneath her apparent indifference, shuddered, and even flushed red
when her brother came near her; but the little one seemed not to
notice his sister's dark mood, and his unconsciousness, blended with
earnestness, marked a final difference in character between the child
and the little girl, whose brow was overclouded already by the gloom
of a man's knowledge and cares.

"Mamma, Helene will not play," cried the little one, seizing an
opportunity to complain while the two stood silent on the Ponte des
Gobelins.

"Let her alone, Charles; you know very well that she is always cross."

Tears sprang to Helene's eyes at the words so thoughtlessly uttered by
her mother as she turned abruptly to the young man by her side. The
child devoured the speech in silence, but she gave her brother one of
those sagacious looks that seemed inexplicable to me, glancing with a
sinister expression from the bank where he stood to the Bievre, then
at the bridge and the view, and then at me.

I as afraid lest my presence should disturb the happy couple; I
slipped away and took refuge behind a thicket of elder trees, which
completely screened me from all eyes. Sitting quietly on the summit of
the bank, I watched the ever-changing landscape and the fierce-looking
little girl, for with my head almost on a level with the boulevard I
could still see her through the leaves. Helene seemed uneasy over my
disappearance, her dark eyes looked for me down the alley and behind
the trees with indefinable curiosity. What was I to her? Then Charles'
baby laughter rang out like a bird's song in the silence. The tall,
young man, with the same fair hair, was dancing him in his arms,
showering kisses upon him, and the meaningless baby words of that
"little language" which rises to our lips when we play with children.
The mother looked on smiling, now and then, doubtless, putting in some
low word that came up from the heart, for her companion would stop
short in his full happiness, and the blue eyes that turned towards her
were full of glowing light and love and worship. Their voices,
blending with the child's voice, reached me with a vague sense of a
caress. The three figures, charming in themselves, composed a lovely
scene in a glorious landscape, filling it with a pervasive
unimaginable grace. A delicately fair woman, radiant with smiles, a
child of love, a young man with the irresistible charm of youth, a
cloudless sky; nothing was wanting in nature to complete a perfect
harmony for the delight of the soul. I found myself smiling as if
their happiness had been my own.

The clocks struck nine. The young man gave a tender embrace to his
companion, and went towards the tilbury which an old servant drove
slowly to meet him. The lady had grown grave and almost sad. The
child's prattle sounded unchecked through the last farewell kisses.
Then the tilbury rolled away, and the lady stood motionless, listening
to the sound of the wheels, watching the little cloud of dust raised
by its passage along the road. Charles ran down the green pathway back
to the bridge to join his sister. I heard his silver voice calling to
her.

"Why did you not come to say good-bye to my good friend?" cried he.

Helene looked up. Never surely did such hatred gleam from a child's
eyes as from hers at that moment when she turned them on the brother
who stood beside her on the bank side. She gave him an angry push.
Charles lost his footing on the steep slope, stumbled over the roots
of a tree, and fell headlong forwards, dashing his forehead on the
sharp-edged stones of the embankment, and, covered with blood,
disappeared over the edge into the muddy river. The turbid water
closed over a fair, bright head with a shower of splashes; one sharp
shriek after another rang in my ears; then the sounds were stifled by
the thick stream, and the poor child sank with a dull sound as if a
stone had been thrown into the water. The accident had happened with
more than lightning swiftness. I sprang down the footpath, and Helene,
stupefied with horror, shrieked again and again:

"Mamma! mamma!"

The mother was there at my side. She had flown to the spot like a
bird. But neither a mother's eyes nor mine could find the exact place
where the little one had gone under. There was a wide space of black
hurrying water, and below in the bed of the Bievre ten feet of mud.
There was not the smallest possibility of saving the child. No one was
stirring at that hour on a Sunday morning, and there are neither
barges nor anglers on the Bievre. There was not a creature in sight,
not a pole to plumb the filthy stream. What need was there for me to
explain how the ugly-looking accident had happened--accident or
misfortune, whichever it might be? Had Helene avenged her father? Her
jealousy surely was the sword of God. And yet when I looked at the
mother I shivered. What fearful ordeal awaited her when she should
return to her husband, the judge before whom she must stand all her
days? And here with her was an inseparable, incorruptible witness. A
child's forehead is transparent, a child's face hides no thoughts, and
a lie, like a red flame set within glows out red that colors even the
eyes. But the unhappy woman had not thought as yet of the punishment
awaiting her at home; she was staring into the Bievre.



Such an event must inevitably send ghastly echoes through a woman's
life, and here is one of the most terrible of the reverberations that
troubled Julie's love from time to time.

Several years had gone by. The Marquis de Vandenesse wore mourning for
his father, and succeeded to his estates. One evening, therefore,
after dinner it happened that a notary was present in his house. This
was no pettifogging lawyer after Sterne's pattern, but a very solid,
substantial notary of Paris, one of your estimable men who do a stupid
thing pompously, set down a foot heavily upon your private corn, and
then ask what in the world there is to cry out about? If, by accident,
they come to know the full extent of the enormity, "Upon my word," cry
they, "I hadn't a notion!" This was a well-intentioned ass, in short,
who could see nothing in life but deeds and documents.

Mme. de Aiglemont had been dining with M. de Vandenesse; her husband
had excused himself before dinner was over, for he was taking his two
children to the play. They were to go to some Boulevard theatre or
other, to the Ambigu-Comique or the Gaiete, sensational melodrama
being judged harmless here in Paris, and suitable pabulum for
childhood, because innocence is always triumphant in the fifth act.
The boy and girl had teased their father to be there before the
curtain rose, so he had left the table before dessert was served.

But the notary, the imperturbable notary, utterly incapable of asking
himself why Mme. d'Aiglemont should have allowed her husband and
children to go without her to the play, sat on as if he were screwed
to his chair. Dinner was over, dessert had been prolonged by
discussion, and coffee delayed. All these things consumed time,
doubtless precious, and drew impatient movements from that charming
woman; she looked not unlike a thoroughbred pawing the ground before a
race; but the man of law, to whom horses and women were equally
unknown quantities, simply thought the Marquise a very lively and
sparkling personage. So enchanted was he to be in the company of a
woman of fashion and a political celebrity, that he was exerting
himself to shine in conversation, and taking the lady's forced smile
for approbation, talked on with unflagging spirit, till the Marquise
was almost out of patience.

The master of the house, in concert with the lady, had more than once
maintained an eloquent silence when the lawyer expected a civil reply;
but these significant pauses were employed by the talkative nuisance
in looking for anecdotes in the fire. M. de Vandenesse had recourse to
his watch; the charming Marquise tried the experiment of fastening her
bonnet strings, and made as if she would go. But she did not go, and
the notary, blind and deaf, and delighted with himself, was quite
convinced that his interesting conversational powers were sufficient
to keep the lady on the spot.

"I shall certainly have that woman for a client," said he to himself.

Meanwhile the Marquise stood, putting on her gloves, twisting her
fingers, looking from the equally impatient Marquis de Vandenesse to
the lawyer, still pounding away. At every pause in the worthy man's
fire of witticisms the charming pair heaved a sigh of relief, and
their looks said plainly, "At last! He is really going!"

Nothing of the kind. It was a nightmare which could only end in
exasperating the two impassioned creatures, on whom the lawyer had
something of the fascinating effect of a snake on a pair of birds;
before long they would be driven to cut him short.

The clever notary was giving them the history of the discreditable
ways in which one du Tillet (a stockbroker then much in favor) had
laid the foundations of his fortune; all the ins and outs of the whole
disgraceful business were accurately put before them; and the narrator
was in the very middle of his tale when M. de Vandenesse heard the
clock strike nine. Then it became clear to him that his legal adviser
was very emphatically an idiot who must be sent forthwith about his
business. He stopped him resolutely with a gesture.

"The tongs, my lord Marquis?" queried the notary, handing the object
in question to his client.

"No, monsieur, I am compelled to send you away. Mme. d'Aiglemont
wishes to join her children, and I shall have the honor of escorting
her."

"Nine o'clock already! Time goes like a shadow in pleasant company,"
said the man of law, who had talked on end for the past hour.

He looked for his hat, planted himself before the fire, with a
suppressed hiccough; and, without heeding the Marquise's withering
glances, spoke once more to his impatient client:

"To sum up, my lord Marquis. Business before all things. To-morrow,
then, we must subpoena your brother; we will proceed to make out the
inventory, and faith, after that----"

So ill had the lawyer understood his instructions, that his impression
was the exact opposite to the one intended. It was a delicate matter,
and Vandenesse, in spite of himself, began to put the thick-headed
notary right. The discussion which followed took up a certain amount
of time.

"Listen," the diplomatist said at last at a sign from the lady, "You
are puzzling my brains; come back to-morrow, and if the writ is not
issued by noon to-morrow, the days of grace will expire, and then--"

As he spoke, a carriage entered the courtyard. The poor woman turned
sharply away at the sound to hide the tears in her eyes. The Marquis
rang to give the servant orders to say that he was not at home; but
before the footman could answer the bell, the lady's husband
reappeared. He had returned unexpectedly from the Gaiete, and held
both children by the hand. The little girl's eyes were red; the boy
was fretful and very cross.

"What can have happened?" asked the Marquise.

"I will tell you by and by," said the General, and catching a glimpse
through an open door of newspapers on the table in the adjoining
sitting-room, he went off. The Marquise, at the end of her patience,
flung herself down on the sofa in desperation. The notary, thinking it
incumbent upon him to be amiable with the children, spoke to the
little boy in an insinuating tone:

"Well, my little man, and what is there on at the theatre?"

"_The Valley of the Torrent_," said Gustave sulkily.

"Upon my word and honor," declared the notary, "authors nowadays are
half crazy. _The Valley of the Torrent_! Why not the Torrent of the
Valley? It is conceivable that a valley might be without a torrent in
it; now if they had said the Torrent of the Valley, that would have
been something clear, something precise, something definite and
comprehensible. But never mind that. Now, how is the drama to take
place in a torrent and in a valley? You will tell me that in these
days the principal attraction lies in the scenic effect, and the title
is a capital advertisement.--And did you enjoy it, my little friend?"
he continued, sitting down before the child.

When the notary pursued his inquiries as to the possibilities of a
drama in the bed of a torrent, the little girl turned slowly away and
began to cry. Her mother did not notice this in her intense annoyance.

"Oh! yes, monsieur, I enjoyed it very much," said the child. "There is
a dear little boy in the play, and he was all alone in the world,
because his papa could not have been his real papa. And when he came
to the top of the bridge over the torrent, a big, naughty man with a
beard, dressed all in black, came and threw him into the water. And
then Helene began to sob and cry, and everybody scolded us, and father
brought us away quick, quick----"

M. de Vandenesse and the Marquise looked on in dull amazement, as if
all power to think or move had been suddenly paralyzed.

"Do be quiet, Gustave!" cried the General. "I told you that you were
not to talk about anything that happened at the play, and you have
forgotten what I said already."

"Oh, my lord Marquis, your lordship must excuse him," cried the
notary. "I ought not to have asked questions, but I had no idea--"

"He ought not to have answered them," said the General, looking
sternly at the child.

It seemed that the Marquise and the master of the house both perfectly
understood why the children had come back so suddenly. Mme.
d'Aiglemont looked at her daughter, and rose as if to go to her, but a
terrible convulsion passed over her face, and all that could be read
in it was relentless severity.

"That will do, Helene," she said. "Go into the other room, and leave
off crying."

"What can she have done, poor child!" asked the notary, thinking to
appease the mother's anger and to stop Helene's tears at one stroke.
"So pretty as she his, she must be as good as can be; never anything
but a joy to her mother, I will be bound. Isn't that so, my little
girl?"

Helene cowered, looked at her mother, dried her eyes, struggled for
composure, and took refuge in the next room.

"And you, madame, are too good a mother not to love all your children
alike. You are too good a woman, besides, to have any of those
lamentable preferences which have such fatal effects, as we lawyers
have only too much reason to know. Society goes through our hands; we
see its passions in that most revolting form, greed. Here it is the
mother of a family trying to disinherit her husband's children to
enrich the others whom she loves better; or it is the husband who
tries to leave all his property to the child who has done his best to
earn his mother's hatred. And then begin quarrels, and fears, and
deeds, and defeasances, and sham sales, and trusts, and all the rest
of it; a pretty mess, in fact, it is pitiable, upon my honor,
pitiable! There are fathers that will spend their whole lives in
cheating their children and robbing their wives. Yes, robbing is the
only word for it. We were talking of tragedy; oh! I can assure you of
this that if we were at liberty to tell the real reasons of some
donations that I know of, our modern dramatists would have the
material for some sensational _bourgeois_ dramas. How the wife manages
to get her way, as she invariably does, I cannot think; for in spite
of appearances, and in spite of their weakness, it is always the women
who carry the day. Ah! by the way, they don't take _me_ in. I always
know the reason at the bottom of those predilections which the world
politely styles 'unaccountable.' But in justice to the husbands, I
must say that _they_ never discover anything. You will tell me that
this is a merciful dispens--"

Helene had come back to the drawing-room with her father, and was
listening attentively. So well did she understand all that was said,
that she gave her mother a frightened glance, feeling, with a child's
quick instinct, that these remarks would aggravate the punishment
hanging over her. The Marquise turned her white face to Vandenesse;
and, with terror in her eyes, indicated her husband, who stood with
his eyes fixed absently on the flower pattern of the carpet. The
diplomatist, accomplished man of the world though he was, could no
longer contain his wrath, he gave the man of law a withering glance.

"Step this way, sir," he said, and he went hurriedly to the door of
the ante-chamber; the notary left his sentence half finished, and
followed, quaking, and the husband and wife were left together.

"Now, sir" said the Marquise de Vandenesse--he banged the drawing-room
door, and spoke with concentrated rage--"ever since dinner you have
done nothing but make blunders and talk folly. For heaven's sake, go.
You will make the most frightful mischief before you have done. If you
are a clever man in your profession, keep to your profession; and if
by any chance you should go into society, endeavor to be more
circumspect."

With that he went back to the drawing-room, and did not even wish the
notary good-evening. For a moment that worthy stood dumfounded,
bewildered, utterly at a loss. Then, when the buzzing in his ears
subsided, he thought he heard someone moaning in the next room.
Footsteps came and went, and bells were violently rung. He was by no
means anxious to meet the Marquis again, and found the use of his legs
to make good his escape, only to run against a hurrying crowd of
servants at the door.

"Just the way of all these grand folk," said he to himself outside in
the street as he looked about for a cab. "They lead you on to talk
with compliments, and you think you are amusing them. Not a bit of it.
They treat you insolently; put you at a distance; even put you out at
the door without scruple. After all, I talked very cleverly, I said
nothing but what was sensible, well turned, and discreet; and, upon my
word, he advises me to be more circumspect in future. I will take good
care of that! Eh! the mischief take it! I am a notary and a member of
my chamber!--Pshaw! it was an ambassador's fit of temper, nothing is
sacred for people of that kind. To-morrow he shall explain what he
meant by saying that I had done nothing but blunder and talk nonsense
in his house. I will ask him for an explanation--that is, I will ask
him to explain my mistake. After all is done and said, I am in the
wrong perhaps---- Upon my word, it is very good of me to cudgel my
brains like this. What business is it of mine?"

So the notary went home and laid the enigma before his spouse, with a
complete account of the evening's events related in sequence.

And she replied, "My dear Crottat, His Excellency was perfectly right
when he said that you had done nothing but blunder and talk folly."

"Why?"

"My dear, if I told you why, it would not prevent you from doing the
same thing somewhere else to-morrow. I tell you again--talk of nothing
but business when you go out; that is my advice to you."

"If you will not tell me, I shall ask him to-morrow--"

"Why, dear me! the veriest noodle is careful to hide a thing of that
kind, and do you suppose that an ambassador will tell you about it?
Really, Crottat, I have never known you so utterly devoid of
common-sense."

"Thank you, my dear."



                                 V.

                            TWO MEETINGS

One of Napoleon's orderly staff-officers, who shall be known in this
history only as the General or the Marquis, had come to spend the
spring at Versailles. He made a large fortune under the Restoration;
and as his place at Court would not allow him to go very far from
Paris, he had taken a country house between the church and the barrier
of Montreuil, on the road that leads to the Avenue de Saint-Cloud.

The house had been built originally as a retreat for the short-lived
loves of some _grand seigneur_. The grounds were very large; the
gardens on either side extending from the first houses of Montreuil to
the thatched cottages near the barrier, so that the owner could enjoy
all the pleasures of solitude with the city almost at his gates. By an
odd piece of contradiction, the whole front of the house itself, with
the principal entrance, gave directly upon the street. Perhaps in time
past it was a tolerably lonely road, and indeed this theory looks all
the more probable when one comes to think of it; for not so very far
away, on this same road, Louis Quinze built a delicious summer villa
for Mlle. de Romans, and the curious in such things will discover that
the wayside _casinos_ are adorned in a style that recalls traditions
of the ingenious taste displayed in debauchery by our ancestors who,
with all the license paid to their charge, sought to invest it with
secrecy and mystery.

One winter evening the family were by themselves in the lonely house.
The servants had received permission to go to Versailles to celebrate
the wedding of one of their number. It was Christmas time, and the
holiday makers, presuming upon the double festival, did not scruple to
outstay their leave of absence; yet, as the General was well known to
be a man of his word, the culprits felt some twinges of conscience as
they danced on after the hour of return. The clocks struck eleven, and
still there was no sign of the servants.

A deep silence prevailed over the country-side, broken only by the
sound of the northeast wind whistling through the black branches,
wailing about the house, dying in gusts along the corridors. The hard
frost had purified the air, and held the earth in its grip; the roads
gave back every sound with the hard metallic ring which always strikes
us with a new surprise; the heavy footsteps of some belated reveler,
or a cab returning to Paris, could be heard for a long distance with
unwonted distinctness. Out in the courtyard a few dead leaves set
a-dancing by some eddying gust found a voice for the night which fain
had been silent. It was, in fact, one of those sharp, frosty evenings
that wring barren expressions of pity from our selfish ease for
wayfarers and the poor, and fills us with a luxurious sense of the
comfort of the fireside.

But the family party in the salon at that hour gave not a thought to
absent servants nor houseless folk, nor to the gracious charm with
which a winter evening sparkles. No one played the philosopher out of
season. Secure in the protection of an old soldier, women and children
gave themselves up to the joys of home life, so delicious when there
is no restraint upon feeling; and talk and play and glances are bright
with frankness and affection.

The General sat, or more properly speaking, lay buried, in the depths
of a huge, high-back armchair by the hearth. The heaped-up fire burned
scorching clear with the excessive cold of the night. The good father
leaned his head slightly to one side against the back of the chair, in
the indolence of perfect serenity and a glow of happiness. The
languid, half-sleepy droop of his outstretched arms seemed to complete
his expression of placid content. He was watching his youngest, a boy
of five or thereabouts, who, half clad as he was, declined to allow
his mother to undress him. The little one fled from the night-gown and
cap with which he was threatened now and again, and stoutly declined
to part with his embroidered collar, laughing when his mother called
to him, for he saw that she too was laughing at this declaration of
infant independence. The next step was to go back to a game of romps
with his sister. She was as much a child as he, but more mischievous;
and she was older by two years, and could speak distinctly already,
whereas his inarticulate words and confused ideas were a puzzle even
to his parents. Little Moina's playfulness, somewhat coquettish
already, provoked inextinguishable laughter, explosions of merriment
which went off like fireworks for no apparent cause. As they tumbled
about before the fire, unconcernedly displaying little plump bodies
and delicate white contours, as the dark and golden curls mingled in a
collision of rosy cheeks dimpled with childish glee, a father surely,
a mother most certainly, must have understood those little souls, and
seen the character and power of passion already developed for their
eyes. As the cherubs frolicked about, struggling, rolling, and
tumbling without fear of hurt on the soft carpet, its flowers looked
pale beside the glowing white and red of their cheeks and the
brilliant color of their shining eyes.

On the sofa by the fire, opposite the great armchair, the children's
mother sat among a heap of scattered garments, with a little scarlet
shoe in her hand. She seemed to have given herself up completely to
the enjoyment of the moment; wavering discipline had relaxed into a
sweet smile engraved upon her lips. At the age of six-and-thirty, or
thereabouts, she was a beautiful woman still, by reason of the rare
perfection of the outlines of her face, and at this moment light and
warmth and happiness filled it with preternatural brightness.

Again and again her eyes wandered from her children, and their tender
gaze was turned upon her husband's grave face; and now and again the
eyes of husband and wife met with a silent exchange of happiness and
thoughts from some inner depth.

The General's face was deeply bronzed, a stray lock of gray hair
scored shadows on his forehead. The reckless courage of the
battlefield could be read in the lines carved in his hollow cheeks,
and gleams of rugged strength in the blue eyes; clearly the bit of red
ribbon flaunting at his button-hole had been paid for by hardship and
toil. An inexpressible kindliness and frankness shone out of the
strong, resolute face which reflected his children's merriment; the
gray-haired captain found it not so very hard to become a child again.
Is there not always a little love of children in the heart of a
soldier who has seen enough of the seamy side of life to know
something of the piteous limitations of strength and the privileges of
weakness?

At a round table rather further away, in a circle of bright lamplight
that dimmed the feebler illumination of the wax candles on the
chimney-piece, sat a boy of thirteen, rapidly turning the pages of a
thick volume which he was reading, undisturbed by the shouts of the
children. There was a boy's curiosity in his face. From his _lyceens_
uniform he was evidently a schoolboy, and the book he was reading was
the _Arabian Nights_. Small wonder that he was deeply absorbed. He sat
perfectly still in a meditative attitude, with his elbow on the table,
and his hand propping his head--the white fingers contrasting strongly
with the brown hair into which they were thrust. As he sat, with the
light turned full upon his face, and the rest of his body in shadow,
he looked like one of Raphael's dark portraits of himself--a bent head
and intent eyes filled with visions of the future.

Between the table and the Marquise a tall, beautiful girl sat at her
tapestry frame; sometimes she drew back from her work, sometimes she
bent over it, and her hair, picturesque in its ebony smoothness and
darkness, caught the light of the lamp. Helene was a picture in
herself. In her beauty there was a rare distinctive character of power
and refinement. Though her hair was gathered up and drawn back from
her face, so as to trace a clearly marked line about her head, so
thick and abundant was it, so recalcitrant to the comb, that it sprang
back in curl-tendrils to the nape of her neck. The bountiful line of
eyebrows was evenly marked out in dark contrasting outline upon her
pure forehead. On her upper lip, beneath the Grecian nose with its
sensitively perfect curve of nostril, there lay a faint, swarthy
shadow, the sign-manual of courage; but the enchanting roundness of
contour, the frankly innocent expression of her other features, the
transparence of the delicate carnations, the voluptuous softness of
the lips, the flawless oval of the outline of the face, and with
these, and more than all these, the saintlike expression in the
girlish eyes, gave to her vigorous loveliness the distinctive touch of
feminine grace, that enchanting modesty which we look for in these
angels of peace and love. Yet there was no suggestion of fragility
about her; and, surely, with so grand a woman's frame, so attractive a
face, she must possess a corresponding warmth of heart and strength of
soul.

She was as silent as her schoolboy brother. Seemingly a prey to the
fateful maiden meditations which baffle a father's penetration and
even a mother's sagacity, it was impossible to be certain whether it
was the lamplight that cast those shadows that flitted over her face
like thin clouds over a bright sky, or whether they were passing
shades of secret and painful thoughts.

Husband and wife had quite forgotten the two older children at that
moment, though now and again the General's questioning glance traveled
to that second mute picture; a larger growth, a gracious realization,
as it were, of the hopes embodied in the baby forms rioting in the
foreground. Their faces made up a kind of living poem, illustrating
life's various phases. The luxurious background of the salon, the
different attitudes, the strong contrasts of coloring in the faces,
differing with the character of differing ages, the modeling of the
forms brought into high relief by the light--altogether it was a page
of human life, richly illuminated beyond the art of painter, sculptor,
or poet. Silence, solitude, night and winter lent a final touch of
majesty to complete the simplicity and sublimity of this exquisite
effect of nature's contriving. Married life is full of these sacred
hours, which perhaps owe their indefinable charm to some vague memory
of a better world. A divine radiance surely shines upon them, the
destined compensation for some portion of earth's sorrows, the solace
which enables man to accept life. We seem to behold a vision of an
enchanted universe, the great conception of its system widens out
before our eyes, and social life pleads for its laws by bidding us
look to the future.

Yet in spite of the tender glances that Helene gave Abel and Moina
after a fresh outburst of merriment; in spite of the look of gladness
in her transparent face whenever she stole a glance at her father, a
deep melancholy pervaded her gestures, her attitude, and more than
all, her eyes veiled by their long lashes. Those white, strong hands,
through which the light passed, tinting them with a diaphanous, almost
fluid red--those hands were trembling. Once only did the eyes of the
mother and daughter clash without shrinking, and the two women read
each other's thoughts in a look, cold, wan, and respectful on Helene's
part, sombre and threatening on her mother's. At once Helene's eyes
were lowered to her work, she plied her needle swiftly, and it was
long before she raised her head, bowed as it seemed by a weight of
thought too heavy to bear. Was the Marquise over harsh with this one
of her children? Did she think this harshness needful? Was she jealous
of Helene's beauty?--She might still hope to rival Helene, but only by
the magic arts of the toilette. Or again, had her daughter, like many
a girl who reaches the clairvoyant age, read the secrets which this
wife (to all appearance so religiously faithful in the fulfilment of
her duties) believed to be buried in her own heart as deeply as in a
grave?

Helene had reached an age when purity of soul inclines to pass
over-rigid judgments. A certain order of mind is apt to exaggerate
transgression into crime; imagination reacts upon conscience, and a
young girl is a hard judge because she magnifies the seriousness of
the offence. Helene seemed to think herself worthy of no one. Perhaps
there was a secret in her past life, perhaps something had happened,
unintelligible to her at the time, but with gradually developing
significance for a mind grown susceptible to religious influences;
something which lately seemed to have degraded her, as it were, in her
own eyes, and according to her own romantic standard. This change in
her demeanor dated from the day of reading Schiller's noble tragedy of
_Wilhelm Tell_ in a new series of translations. Her mother scolded her
for letting the book fall, and then remarked to herself that the
passage which had so worked on Helene's feelings was the scene in
which Wilhelm Tell, who spilt the blood of a tyrant to save a nation,
fraternizes in some sort with John the Parricide. Helene had grown
humble, dutiful, and self-contained; she no longer cared for gaiety.
Never had she made so much of her father, especially when the Marquise
was not by to watch her girlish caresses. And yet, if Helene's
affection for her mother had cooled at all, the change in her manner
was so slight as to be almost imperceptible; so slight that the
General could not have noticed it, jealous though he might be of the
harmony of home. No masculine insight could have sounded the depths of
those two feminine natures; the one was young and generous, the other
sensitive and proud; the first had a wealth of indulgence in her
nature, the second was full of craft and love. If the Marquise made
her daughter's life a burden to her by a woman's subtle tyranny, it
was a tyranny invisible to all but the victim; and for the rest, these
conjectures only called forth after the event must remain conjectures.
Until this night no accusing flash of light had escaped either of
them, but an ominous mystery was too surely growing up between them, a
mystery known only to themselves and God.

"Come, Abel," called the Marquise, seizing on her opportunity when the
children were tired of play and still for a moment. "Come, come,
child; you must be put to bed--"

And with a glance that must be obeyed, she caught him up and took him
on her knee.

"What!" exclaimed the General. "Half-past ten o'clock, and not one of
the servants has come back! The rascals!--Gustave," he added, turning
to his son, "I allowed you to read that book only on the condition
that you should put it away at ten o'clock. You ought to have shut up
the book at the proper time and gone to bed, as you promised. If you
mean to make your mark in the world, you must keep your word; let it
be a second religion to you, and a point of honor. Fox, one of the
greatest English orators, was remarkable, above all things, for the
beauty of his character, and the very first of his qualities was the
scrupulous faithfulness with which he kept his engagements. When he
was a child, his father (an Englishman of the old school) gave him a
pretty strong lesson which he never forgot. Like most rich Englishmen,
Fox's father had a country house and a considerable park about it.
Now, in the park there was an old summer-house, and orders had been
given that this summer-house was to be pulled down and put up
somewhere else where there was a finer view. Fox was just about your
age, and had come home for the holidays. Boys are fond of seeing
things pulled to pieces, so young Fox asked to stay on at home for a
few days longer to see the old summer-house taken down; but his father
said that he must go back to school on the proper day, so there was
anger between father and son. Fox's mother (like all mammas) took the
boy's part. Then the father solemnly promised that the summer-house
should stay where it was till the next holidays.

"So Fox went back to school; and his father, thinking that lessons
would soon drive the whole thing out of the boy's mind, had the
summer-house pulled down and put up in the new position. But as it
happened, the persistent youngster thought of nothing but that
summer-house; and as soon as he came home again, his first care was to
go out to look at the old building, and he came in to breakfast looking
quite doleful, and said to his father, 'You have broken your promise.'
The old English gentleman said with confusion full of dignity, 'That is
true, my boy; but I will make amends. A man ought to think of keeping
his word before he thinks of his fortune; for by keeping his word he
will gain fortune, while all the fortunes in the world will not efface
the stain left on your conscience by a breach of faith.' Then he gave
orders that the summer-house should be put up again in the old place,
and when it had been rebuilt he had it taken down again for his son to
see. Let this be a lesson to _you_, Gustave."

Gustave had been listening with interest, and now he closed the book
at once. There was a moment's silence, while the General took
possession of Moina, who could scarcely keep her eyes open. The little
one's languid head fell back on her father's breast, and in a moment
she was fast asleep, wrapped round about in her golden curls.

Just then a sound of hurrying footsteps rang on the pavement out in
the street, immediately followed by three knocks on the street door,
waking the echoes of the house. The reverberating blows told, as
plainly as a cry for help that here was a man flying for his life. The
house dog barked furiously. A thrill of excitement ran through Helene
and Gustave and the General and his wife; but neither Abel, with the
night-cap strings just tied under his chin, nor Moina awoke.

"The fellow is in a hurry!" exclaimed the General. He put the little
girl down on the chair, and hastened out of the room, heedless of his
wife's entreating cry, "Dear, do not go down--"

He stepped into his own room for a pair of pistols, lighted a dark
lantern, sprang at lightning speed down the staircase, and in another
minute reached the house door, his oldest boy fearlessly following.

"Who is there?" demanded he.

"Let me in," panted a breathless voice.

"Are you a friend?"

"Yes, friend,"

"Are you alone?"

"Yes! But let me in; _they_ are after me!"

The General had scarcely set the door ajar before a man slipped into
the porch with the uncanny swiftness of a shadow. Before the master of
the house could prevent him, the intruder had closed the door with a
well-directed kick, and set his back against it resolutely, as if he
were determined that it should not be opened again. In a moment the
General had his lantern and pistol at a level with the stranger's
breast, and beheld a man of medium height in a fur-lined pelisse. It
was an old man's garment, both too large and too long for its present
wearer. Chance or caution had slouched the man's hat over his eyes.

"You can lower your pistol, sir," said this person. "I do not claim to
stay in your house against your will; but if I leave it, death is
waiting for me at the barrier. And what a death! You would be
answerable to God for it! I ask for your hospitality for two hours.
And bear this in mind, sir, that, suppliant as I am, I have a right to
command with the despotism of necessity. I want the Arab's
hospitality. Either I and my secret must be inviolable, or open the
door and I will go to my death. I want secrecy, a safe hiding-place,
and water. Oh! water!" he cried again, with a rattle in his throat.

"Who are you?" demanded the General, taken aback by the stranger's
feverish volubility.

"Ah! who am I? Good, open the door, and I will put a distance between
us," retorted the other, and there was a diabolical irony in his tone.

Dexterously as the Marquis passed the light of the lantern over the
man's face, he could only see the lower half of it, and that in nowise
prepossessed him in favor of this singular claimant of hospitality.
The cheeks were livid and quivering, the features dreadfully
contorted. Under the shadow of the hat-brim a pair of eyes gleamed out
like flames; the feeble candle-light looked almost dim in comparison.
Some sort of answer must be made however.

"Your language, sir, is so extraordinary that in my place you
yourself--"

"My life is in your hands!" the intruder broke in. The sound of his
voice was dreadful to hear.

"Two hours?" said the Marquis, wavering.

"Two hours," echoed the other.

Then quite suddenly, with a desperate gesture, he pushed back his hat
and left his forehead bare, and, as if he meant to try a final
expedient, he gave the General a glance that seemed to plunge like a
vivid flash into his very soul. That electrical discharge of
intelligence and will was swift as lightning and crushing as a
thunderbolt; for there are moments when a human being is invested for
a brief space with inexplicable power.

"Come, whoever you may be, you shall be in safety under my roof," the
master of the house said gravely at last, acting, as he imagined, upon
one of those intuitions which a man cannot always explain to himself.

"God will repay you!" said the stranger, with a deep, involuntary
sigh.

"Have you weapons?" asked the General.

For all answer the stranger flung open his fur pelisse, and scarcely
gave the other time for a glance before he wrapped it about him again.
To all appearance he was unarmed and in evening dress. Swift as the
soldier's scrutiny had been, he saw something, however, which made him
exclaim:

"Where the devil have you been to get yourself in such a mess in such
dry weather?"

"More questions!" said the stranger haughtily.

At the words the Marquis caught sight of his son, and his own late
homily on the strict fulfilment of a given word came up to his mind.
In lively vexation, he exclaimed, not without a touch of anger:

"What! little rogue, you here when you ought to be in bed?"

"Because I thought I might be of some good in danger," answered
Gustave.

"There, go up to your room," said his father, mollified by the reply.
--"And you" (addressing the stranger), "come with me."

The two men grew as silent as a pair of gamblers who watch each
other's play with mutual suspicions. The General himself began to be
troubled with ugly presentiments. The strange visit weighed upon his
mind already like a nightmare; but he had passed his word, there was
no help for it now, and he led the way along the passages and
stairways till they reached a large room on the second floor
immediately above the salon. This was an empty room where linen was
dried in the winter. It had but the one door, and for all decoration
boasted one solitary shabby looking-glass above the chimney-piece,
left by the previous owner, and a great pier glass, placed
provisionally opposite the fireplace until such time as a use should
be found for it in the rooms below. The four yellowish walls were
bare. The floor had never been swept. The huge attic was icy-cold, and
the furniture consisted of a couple of rickety straw-bottomed chairs,
or rather frames of chairs. The General set the lantern down upon the
chimney-piece. Then he spoke:

"It is necessary for your own safety to hide you in this comfortless
attic. And, as you have my promise to keep your secret, you will
permit me to lock you in."

The other bent his head in acquiescence.

"I asked for nothing but a hiding-place, secrecy, and water," returned
he.

"I will bring you some directly," said the Marquis, shutting the door
cautiously. He groped his way down into the salon for a lamp before
going to the kitchen to look for a carafe.

"Well, what is it?" the Marquise asked quickly.

"Nothing, dear," he returned coolly.

"But we listened, and we certainly heard you go upstairs with
somebody."

"Helene," said the General, and he looked at his daughter, who raised
her face, "bear in mind that your father's honor depends upon your
discretion. You must have heard nothing."

The girl bent her head in answer. The Marquise was confused and
smarting inwardly at the way in which her husband had thought fit to
silence her.

Meanwhile the General went for the bottle and a tumbler, and returned
to the room above. His prisoner was leaning against the chimney-piece,
his head was bare, he had flung down his hat on one of the two chairs.
Evidently he had not expected to have so bright a light turned upon
him, and he frowned and looked anxious as he met the General's keen
eyes; but his face softened and wore a gracious expression as he
thanked his protector. When the latter placed the bottle and glass on
the mantel-shelf, the stranger's eyes flashed out on him again; and
when he spoke, it was in musical tones with no sign of the previous
guttural convulsion, though his voice was still unsteady with
repressed emotion.

"I shall seem to you to be a strange being, sir, but you must pardon
the caprices of necessity. If you propose to remain in the room, I beg
that you will not look at me while I am drinking."

Vexed at this continual obedience to a man whom he disliked, the
General sharply turned his back upon him. The stranger thereupon drew
a white handkerchief from his pocket and wound it about his right
hand. Then he seized the carafe and emptied it at a draught. The
Marquis, staring vacantly into the tall mirror across the room,
without a thought of breaking his implicit promise, saw the stranger's
figure distinctly reflected by the opposite looking-glass, and saw,
too, a red stain suddenly appear through the folds of the white
bandage. The man's hands were steeped in blood.

"Ah! you saw me!" cried the other. He had drunk off the water and
wrapped himself again in his cloak, and now scrutinized the General
suspiciously. "It is all over with me! Here they come!"

"I don't hear anything," said the Marquis.

"You have not the same interest that I have in listening for sounds in
the air."

"You have been fighting a duel, I suppose, to be in such a state?"
queried the General, not a little disturbed by the color of those
broad, dark patches staining his visitor's cloak.

"Yes, a duel; you have it," said the other, and a bitter smile flitted
over his lips.

As he spoke a sound rang along the distant road, a sound of galloping
horses; but so faint as yet, that it was the merest dawn of a sound.
The General's trained ear recognized the advance of a troop of
regulars.

"That is the gendarmerie," said he.

He glanced at his prisoner to reassure him after his own involuntary
indiscretion, took the lamp, and went down to the salon. He had
scarcely laid the key of the room above upon the chimney-piece when
the hoof beats sounded louder and came swiftly nearer and nearer the
house. The General felt a shiver of excitement, and indeed the horses
stopped at the house door; a few words were exchanged among the men,
and one of them dismounted and knocked loudly. There was no help for
it; the General went to open the door. He could scarcely conceal his
inward perturbation at the sight of half a dozen gendarmes outside,
the metal rims of their caps gleaming like silver in the moonlight.

"My lord," said the corporal, "have you heard a man run past towards
the barrier within the last few minutes?"

"Towards the barrier? No."

"Have you opened the door to any one?"

"Now, am I in the habit of answering the door myself--"

"I ask your pardon, General, but just now it seems to me that--"

"Really!" cried the Marquis wrathfully. "Have you a mind to try joking
with me? What right have you--?"

"None at all, none at all, my lord," cried the corporal, hastily
putting in a soft answer. "You will excuse our zeal. We know, of
course, that a peer of France is not likely to harbor a murderer at
this time of night; but as we want any information we can get--"

"A murderer!" cried the General. "Who can have been--"

"M. le Baron de Mauny has just been murdered. It was a blow from an
axe, and we are in hot pursuit of the criminal. We know for certain
that he is somewhere in this neighborhood, and we shall hunt him down.
By your leave, General," and the man swung himself into the saddle as
he spoke. It was well that he did so, for a corporal of gendarmerie
trained to alert observation and quick surmise would have had his
suspicions at once if he had caught sight of the General's face.
Everything that passed through the soldier's mind was faithfully
revealed in his frank countenance.

"Is it known who the murderer is?" asked he.

"No," said the other, now in the saddle. "He left the bureau full of
banknotes and gold untouched."

"It was revenge, then," said the Marquis.

"On an old man? pshaw! No, no, the fellow hadn't time to take it, that
was all," and the corporal galloped after his comrades, who were
almost out of sight by this time.

For a few minutes the General stood, a victim to perplexities which
need no explanation; but in a moment he heard the servants returning
home, their voices were raised in some sort of dispute at the
cross-roads of Montreuil. When they came in, he gave vent to his
feelings in an explosion of rage, his wrath fell upon them like a
thunderbolt, and all the echoes of the house trembled at the sound
of his voice. In the midst of the storm his own man, the boldest and
cleverest of the party, brought out an excuse; they had been stopped,
he said, by the gendarmerie at the gate of Montreuil, a murder had
been committed, and the police were in pursuit. In a moment the
General's anger vanished, he said not another word; then, bethinking
himself of his own singular position, drily ordered them all off to
bed at once, and left them amazed at his readiness to accept their
fellow servant's lying excuse.

While these incidents took place in the yard, an apparently trifling
occurrence had changed the relative positions of three characters in
this story. The Marquis had scarcely left the room before his wife
looked first towards the key on the mantel-shelf, and then at Helene;
and, after some wavering, bent towards her daughter and said in a low
voice, "Helene your father has left the key on the chimney-piece."

The girl looked up in surprise and glanced timidly at her mother. The
Marquise's eyes sparkled with curiosity.

"Well, mamma?" she said, and her voice had a troubled ring.

"I should like to know what is going on upstairs. If there is anybody
up there, he has not stirred yet. Just go up--"

"_I_?" cried the girl, with something like horror in her tones.

"Are you afraid?"

"No, mamma, but I thought I heard a man's footsteps."

"If I could go myself, I should not have asked you to go, Helene,"
said her mother with cold dignity. "If your father were to come back
and did not see me, he would go to look for me perhaps, but he would
not notice your absence."

"Madame, if you bid me go, I will go," said Helene, "but I shall lose
my father's good opinion--"

"What is this!" cried the Marquise in a sarcastic tone. "But since you
take a thing that was said in joke in earnest, I now _order_ you to go
upstairs and see who is in the room above. Here is the key, child.
When your father told you to say nothing about this thing that
happened, he did not forbid you to go up to the room. Go at once--and
learn that a daughter ought never to judge her mother."

The last words were spoken with all the severity of a justly offended
mother. The Marquise took the key and handed it to Helene, who rose
without a word and left the room.

"My mother can always easily obtain her pardon," thought the girl;
"but as for me, my father will never think the same of me again. Does
she mean to rob me of his tenderness? Does she want to turn me out of
his house?"

These were the thoughts that set her imagination in a sudden ferment,
as she went down the dark passage to the mysterious door at the end.
When she stood before it, her mental confusion grew to a fateful
pitch. Feelings hitherto forced down into inner depths crowded up at
the summons of these confused thoughts. Perhaps hitherto she had never
believed that a happy life lay before her, but now, in this awful
moment, her despair was complete. She shook convulsively as she set
the key in the lock; so great indeed was her agitation, that she
stopped for a moment and laid her hand on her heart, as if to still
the heavy throbs that sounded in her ears. Then she opened the door.

The creaking of the hinges sounded doubtless in vain on the murderer's
ears. Acute as were his powers of hearing, he stood as if lost in
thought, and so motionless that he might have been glued to the wall
against which he leaned. In the circle of semi-opaque darkness, dimly
lit by the bull's-eye lantern, he looked like the shadowy figure of
some dead knight, standing for ever in his shadowy mortuary niche in
the gloom of some Gothic chapel. Drops of cold sweat trickled over the
broad, sallow forehead. An incredible fearlessness looked out from
every tense feature. His eyes of fire were fixed and tearless; he
seemed to be watching some struggle in the darkness beyond him. Stormy
thoughts passed swiftly across a face whose firm decision spoke of a
character of no common order. His whole person, bearing, and frame
bore out the impression of a tameless spirit. The man looked power and
strength personified; he stood facing the darkness as if it were the
visible image of his own future.

These physical characteristics had made no impression upon the
General, familiar as he was with the powerful faces of the group of
giants gathered about Napoleon; speculative curiosity, moreover, as to
the why and wherefore of the apparition had completely filled his
mind; but Helene, with feminine sensitiveness to surface impressions,
was struck by the blended chaos of light and darkness, grandeur and
passion, suggesting a likeness between this stranger and Lucifer
recovering from his fall. Suddenly the storm apparent in his face was
stilled as if by magic; and the indefinable power to sway which the
stranger exercised upon others, and perhaps unconsciously and as by
reflex action upon himself, spread its influence about him with the
progressive swiftness of a flood. A torrent of thought rolled away
from his brow as his face resumed its ordinary expression. Perhaps it
was the strangeness of this meeting, or perhaps it was the mystery
into which she had penetrated, that held the young girl spellbound in
the doorway, so that she could look at a face pleasant to behold and
full of interest. For some moments she stood in the magical silence; a
trouble had come upon her never known before in her young life.
Perhaps some exclamation broke from Helene, perhaps she moved
unconsciously; or it may be that the hunted criminal returned of his
own accord from the world of ideas to the material world, and heard
some one breathing in the room; however it was, he turned his head
towards his host's daughter, and saw dimly in the shadow a noble face
and queenly form, which he must have taken for an angel's, so
motionless she stood, so vague and like a spirit.

"Monsieur . . ." a trembling voice cried.

The murderer trembled.

"A woman!" he cried under his breath. "Is it possible? Go," he cried,
"I deny that any one has a right to pity, to absolve, or condemn me. I
must live alone. Go, my child," he added, with an imperious gesture,
"I should ill requite the service done me by the master of the house
if I were to allow a single creature under his roof to breathe the
same air with me. I must submit to be judged by the laws of the
world."

The last words were uttered in a lower voice. Even as he realized with
a profound intuition all the manifold misery awakened by that
melancholy thought, the glance that he gave Helene had something of
the power of the serpent, stirring a whole dormant world in the mind
of the strange girl before him. To her that glance was like a light
revealing unknown lands. She was stricken with strange trouble,
helpless, quelled by a magnetic power exerted unconsciously. Trembling
and ashamed, she went out and returned to the salon. She had scarcely
entered the room before her father came back, so that she had not time
to say a word to her mother.

The General was wholly absorbed in thought. He folded his arms, and
paced silently to and fro between the windows which looked out upon
the street and the second row which gave upon the garden. His wife lay
the sleeping Abel on her knee, and little Moina lay in untroubled
slumber in the low chair, like a bird in its nest. Her older sister
stared into the fire, a skein of silk in one hand, a needle in the
other.

Deep silence prevailed, broken only by lagging footsteps on the
stairs, as one by one the servants crept away to bed; there was an
occasional burst of stifled laughter, a last echo of the wedding
festivity, or doors were opened as they still talked among themselves,
then shut. A smothered sound came now and again from the bedrooms, a
chair fell, the old coachman coughed feebly, then all was silent.

In a little while the dark majesty with which sleeping earth is
invested at midnight brought all things under its sway. No lights
shone but the light of the stars. The frost gripped the ground. There
was not a sound of a voice, nor a living creature stirring. The
crackling of the fire only seemed to make the depth of the silence
more fully felt.

The church clock of Montreuil had just struck one, when an almost
inaudible sound of a light footstep came from the second flight of
stairs. The Marquis and his daughter, both believing that M. de
Mauny's murderer was a prisoner above, thought that one of the maids
had come down, and no one was at all surprised to hear the door open
in the ante-chamber. Quite suddenly the murderer appeared in their
midst. The Marquis himself was sunk in deep musings, the mother and
daughter were silent, the one from keen curiosity, the other from
sheer astonishment, so that the visitor was almost half-way across the
room when he spoke to the General.

"Sir, the two hours are almost over," he said, in a voice that was
strangely calm and musical.

"_You here_!" cried the General. "By what means----?" and he gave wife
and daughter a formidable questioning glance. Helene grew red as fire.

"You!" he went on, in a tone filled with horror. "_You_ among us! A
murderer covered with blood! You are a blot on this picture! Go, go
out!" he added in a burst of rage.

At that word "murderer," the Marquise cried out; as for Helene, it
seemed to mark an epoch in her life, there was not a trace of surprise
in her face. She looked as if she had been waiting for this--for him.
Those so vast thoughts of hers had found a meaning. The punishment
reserved by Heaven for her sins flamed out before her. In her own eyes
she was as great a criminal as this murderer; she confronted him with
her quiet gaze; she was his fellow, his sister. It seemed to her that
in this accident the command of God had been made manifest. If she had
been a few years older, reason would have disposed of her remorse, but
at this moment she was like one distraught.

The stranger stood impassive and self-possessed; a scornful smile
overspread his features and his thick, red lips.

"You appreciate the magnanimity of my behavior very badly," he said
slowly. "I would not touch with my fingers the glass of water you
brought me to allay my thirst; I did not so much as think of washing
my blood-stained hands under your roof; I am going away, leaving
nothing of _my crime_" (here his lips were compressed) "but the
memory; I have tried to leave no trace of my presence in this house.
Indeed, I would not even allow your daughter to--"

"_My daughter_!" cried the General, with a horror-stricken glance at
Helene. "Vile wretch, go, or I will kill you--"

"The two hours are not yet over," said the other; "if you kill me or
give me up, you must lower yourself in your own eyes--and in mine."

At these last words, the General turned to stare at the criminal in
dumb amazement; but he could not endure the intolerable light in those
eyes which for the second time disorganized his being. He was afraid
of showing weakness once more, conscious as he was that his will was
weaker already.

"An old man! You can never have seen a family," he said, with a
father's glance at his wife and children.

"Yes, an old man," echoed the stranger, frowning slightly.

"Fly!" cried the General, but he did not dare to look at his guest.
"Our compact is broken. I shall not kill you. No! I will never be
purveyor to the scaffold. But go out. You make us shudder."

"I know that," said the other patiently. "There is not a spot on
French soil where I can set foot and be safe; but if man's justice,
like God's, took all into account, if man's justice deigned to inquire
which was the monster--the murderer or his victim--then I might hold
up my head among my fellows. Can you not guess that other crimes
preceded that blow from an axe? I constituted myself his judge and
executioner; I stepped in where man's justice failed. That was my
crime. Farewell, sir. Bitter though you have made your hospitality, I
shall not forget it. I shall always bear in my heart a feeling of
gratitude towards one man in the world, and you are that man. . . .
But I could wish that you had showed yourself more generous!"

He turned towards the door, but in the same instant Helene leaned to
whisper something in her mother's ear.

"Ah! . . ."

At the cry that broke from his wife, the General trembled as if he had
seen Moina lying dead. There stood Helene and the murderer had turned
instinctively, with something like anxiety about these folk in his
face.

"What is it, dear?" asked the General.

"Helene wants to go with him."

The murderer's face flushed.

"If that is how my mother understands an almost involuntary
exclamation," Helene said in a low voice, "I will fulfil her wishes.
She glanced about her with something like fierce pride; then the
girl's eyes fell, and she stood, admirable in her modesty.

"Helene, did you go up to the room where----?"

"Yes, father."

"Helene" (and his voice shook with a convulsive tremor), "is this the
first time that you have seen this man?"

"Yes, father."

"Then it is not natural that you should intend to--"

"If it is not natural, father, at any rate it is true."

"Oh! child," said the Marquise, lowering her voice, but not so much
but that her husband could hear her, "you are false to all the
principles of honor, modesty, and right which I have tried to
cultivate in your heart. If until this fatal hour you life has only
been one lie, there is nothing to regret in your loss. It can hardly
be the moral perfection of this stranger that attracts you to him? Can
it be the kind of power that commits crime? I have too good an opinion
of you to suppose that--"

"Oh, suppose everything, madame," Helene said coldly.

But though her force of character sustained this ordeal, her flashing
eyes could scarcely hold the tears that filled them. The stranger,
watching her, guessed the mother's language from the girl's tears, and
turned his eagle glance upon the Marquise. An irresistible power
constrained her to look at this terrible seducer; but as her eyes met
his bright, glittering gaze, she felt a shiver run through her frame,
such a shock as we feel at the sight of a reptile or the contact of a
Leyden jar.

"Dear!" she cried, turning to her husband, "this is the Fiend himself.
He can divine everything!"

The General rose to his feet and went to the bell.

"He means ruin for you," Helene said to the murderer.

The stranger smiled, took one forward stride, grasped the General's
arm, and compelled him to endure a steady gaze which benumbed the
soldier's brain and left him powerless.

"I will repay you now for your hospitality," he said, "and then we
shall be quits. I will spare you the shame by giving myself up. After
all, what should I do now with my life?"

"You could repent," answered Helene, and her glance conveyed such hope
as only glows in a young girl's eyes.

"_I shall never repent_," said the murderer in a sonorous voice, as he
raised his head proudly.

"His hands are stained with blood," the father said.

"I will wipe it away," she answered.

"But do you so much as know whether he cares for you?" said her
father, not daring now to look at the stranger.

The murderer came up a little nearer. Some light within seemed to glow
through Helene's beauty, grave and maidenly though it was, coloring
and bringing into relief, as it were, the least details, the most
delicate lines in her face. The stranger, with that terrible face
still blazing in his eyes, gave one tender glance to her enchanting
loveliness, then he spoke, his tones revealing how deeply he had been
moved.

"And if I refuse to allow this sacrifice of yourself, and so discharge
my debt of two hours of existence to your father; is not this love,
love for yourself alone?"

"Then do you too reject me?" Helene's cry rang painfully through the
hearts of all who heard her. "Farewell, then, to you all; I will die."

"What does this mean?" asked the father and mother.

Helene gave her mother an eloquent glance and lowered her eyes.

Since the first attempt made by the General and his wife to contest by
word or action the intruder's strange presumption to the right of
staying in their midst, from their first experience of the power of
those glittering eyes, a mysterious torpor had crept over them, and
their benumbed faculties struggled in vain with the preternatural
influence. The air seemed to have suddenly grown so heavy, that they
could scarcely breathe; yet, while they could not find the reason of
this feeling of oppression, a voice within told them that this
magnetic presence was the real cause of their helplessness. In this
moral agony, it flashed across the General that he must make every
effort to overcome this influence on his daughter's reeling brain; he
caught her by the waist and drew her into the embrasure of a window,
as far as possible from the murderer.

"Darling," he murmured, "if some wild love has been suddenly born in
your heart, I cannot believe that you have not the strength of soul to
quell the mad impulse; your innocent life, your pure and dutiful soul,
has given me too many proofs of your character. There must be
something behind all this. Well, this heart of mine is full of
indulgence, you can tell everything to me; even if it breaks, dear
child, I can be silent about my grief, and keep your confession a
secret. What is it? Are you jealous of our love for your brothers or
your little sister? Is it some love trouble? Are you unhappy here at
home? Tell me about it, tell me the reasons that urge you to leave
your home, to rob it of its greatest charm, to leave your mother and
brothers and your little sister?"

"I am in love with no one, father, and jealous of no one, not even of
your friend the diplomatist, M. de Vandenesse."

The Marquise turned pale; her daughter saw this, and stopped short.

"Sooner or later I must live under some man's protection, must I not?"

"That is true."

"Do we ever know," she went on, "the human being to whom we link our
destinies? Now, I believe in this man."

"Oh, child," said the General, raising his voice, "you have no idea of
all the misery that lies in store for you."

"I am thinking of _his_."

"What a life!" groaned the father.

"A woman's life," the girl murmured.

"You have a great knowledge of life!" exclaimed the Marquise, finding
speech at last.

"Madame, my answers are shaped by the questions; but if you desire it,
I will speak more clearly."

"Speak out, my child . . . I am a mother."

Mother and daughter looked each other in the face, and the Marquise
said no more. At last she said:

"Helene, if you have any reproaches to make, I would rather bear them
than see you go away with a man from whom the whole world shrinks in
horror."

"Then you see yourself, madame, that but for me he would be quite
alone."

"That will do, madame," the General cried; "we have but one daughter
left to us now," and he looked at Moina, who slept on. "As for you,"
he added, turning to Helene, "I will put you in a convent."

"So be it, father," she said, in calm despair, "I shall die there. You
are answerable to God alone for my life and for _his_ soul."

A deep sullen silence fell after these words. The on-lookers during
this strange scene, so utterly at variance with all the sentiments of
ordinary life, shunned each other's eyes.

Suddenly the Marquis happened to glance at his pistols. He caught up
one of them, cocked the weapon, and pointed it at the intruder. At the
click of firearms the other turned his piercing gaze full upon the
General; the soldier's arm slackened indescribably and fell heavily to
his side. The pistol dropped to the floor.

"Girl, you are free," said he, exhausted by this ghastly struggle.
"Kiss your mother, if she will let you kiss her. For my own part, I
wish never to see nor to hear of you again."

"Helene," the mother began, "only think of the wretched life before
you."

A sort of rattling sound came from the intruder's deep chest, all eyes
were turned to him. Disdain was plainly visible in his face.

The General rose to his feet. "My hospitality has cost me dear," he
cried. "Before you came you had taken an old man's life; now your are
dealing a deadly blow at a whole family. Whatever happens, there must
be unhappiness in this house."

"And if your daughter is happy?" asked the other, gazing steadily at
the General.

The father made a superhuman effort for self-control. "If she is happy
with you," he said, "she is not worth regretting."

Helene knelt timidly before her father.

"Father, I love and revere you," she said, "whether you lavish all the
treasures of your kindness upon me, or make me feel to the full the
rigor of disgrace. . . . But I entreat that your last words of
farewell shall not be words of anger."

The General could not trust himself to look at her. The stranger came
nearer; there was something half-diabolical, half-divine in the smile
that he gave Helene.

"Angel of pity, you that do not shrink in horror from a murderer,
come, since you persist in your resolution of intrusting your life to
me."

"Inconceivable!" cried her father.

The Marquise then looked strangely at her daughter, opened her arms,
and Helene fled to her in tears.

"Farewell," she said, "farewell, mother!" The stranger trembled as
Helene, undaunted, made sign to him that she was ready. She kissed her
father's hand; and, as if performing a duty, gave a hasty kiss to
Moina and little Abel, then she vanished with the murderer.

"Which way are they going?" exclaimed the General, listening to the
footsteps of the two fugitives.--"Madame," he turned to his wife, "I
think I must be dreaming; there is some mystery behind all this, I do
not understand it; you must know what it means."

The Marquise shivered.

"For some time past your daughter has grown extraordinarily romantic
and strangely high-flown in her ideas. In spite of the pains I have
taken to combat these tendencies in her character--"

"This will not do----" began the General, but fancying that he heard
footsteps in the garden, he broke off to fling open the window.

"Helene!" he shouted.

His voice was lost in the darkness like a vain prophecy. The utterance
of that name, to which there should never be answer any more, acted
like a counterspell; it broke the charm and set him free from the evil
enchantment which lay upon him. It was as if some spirit passed over
his face. He now saw clearly what had taken place, and cursed his
incomprehensible weakness. A shiver of heat rushed from his heart to
his head and feet; he became himself once more, terrible, thirsting
for revenge. He raised a dreadful cry.

"Help!" he thundered, "help!"

He rushed to the bell-pull, pulled till the bells rang with a strange
clamor of din, pulled till the cord gave way. The whole house was
roused with a start. Still shouting, he flung open the windows that
looked upon the street, called for the police, caught up his pistols,
and fired them off to hurry the mounted patrols, the newly-aroused
servants, and the neighbors. The dogs barked at the sound of their
master's voice; the horses neighed and stamped in their stalls. The
quiet night was suddenly filled with hideous uproar. The General on
the staircase, in pursuit of his daughter, saw the scared faces of the
servants flocking from all parts of the house.

"My daughter!" he shouted. "Helene has been carried off. Search the
garden. Keep a lookout on the road! Open the gates for the
gendarmerie!--Murder! Help!"

With the strength of fury he snapped the chain and let loose the great
house-dog.

"Helene!" he cried, "Helene!"

The dog sprang out like a lion, barking furiously, and dashed into the
garden, leaving the General far behind. A troop of horses came along
the road at a gallop, and he flew to open the gates himself.

"Corporal!" he shouted, "cut off the retreat of M. de Mauny's
murderer. They have gone through my garden. Quick! Put a cordon of men
to watch the ways by the Butte de Picardie.--I will beat up the
grounds, parks, and houses.--The rest of you keep a lookout along the
road," he ordered the servants, "form a chain between the barrier and
Versailles. Forward, every man of you!"

He caught up the rifle which his man had brought out, and dashed into
the garden.

"Find them!" he called to the dog.

An ominous baying came in answer from the distance, and he plunged in
the direction from which the growl seemed to come.

It was seven o'clock in the morning; all the search made by gendarmes,
servants, and neighbors had been fruitless, and the dog had not come
back. The General entered the salon, empty now for him though the
other three children were there; he was worn out with fatigue, and
looked old already with that night's work.

"You have been very cold to your daughter," he said, turning his eyes
on his wife.--"And now this is all that is left to us of her," he
added, indicating the embroidery frame, and the flower just begun.
"Only just now she was there, and now she is lost . . . lost!"

Tears followed; he hid his face in his hands, and for a few minutes he
said no more; he could not bear the sight of the room, which so short
a time ago had made a setting to a picture of the sweetest family
happiness. The winter dawn was struggling with the dying lamplight;
the tapers burned down to their paper-wreaths and flared out;
everything was all in keeping with the father's despair.

"This must be destroyed," he said after a pause, pointing to the
tambour-frame. "I shall never bear to see anything again that reminds
us of _her_!"

The terrible Christmas night when the Marquis and his wife lost their
oldest daughter, powerless to oppose the mysterious influence
exercised by the man who involuntarily, as it were, stole Helene from
them, was like a warning sent by Fate. The Marquis was ruined by the
failure of his stock-broker; he borrowed money on his wife's property,
and lost it in the endeavor to retrieve his fortunes. Driven to
desperate expedients, he left France. Six years went by. His family
seldom had news of him; but a few days before Spain recognized the
independence of the American Republics, he wrote that he was coming
home.

So, one fine morning, it happened that several French merchants were
on board a Spanish brig that lay a few leagues out from Bordeaux,
impatient to reach their native land again, with wealth acquired by
long years of toil and perilous adventures in Venezuela and Mexico.

One of the passengers, a man who looked aged by trouble rather than by
years, was leaning against the bulwark netting, apparently quite
unaffected by the sight to be seen from the upper deck. The bright
day, the sense that the voyage was safely over, had brought all the
passengers above to greet their land. The larger number of them
insisted that they could see, far off in the distance, the houses and
lighthouses on the coast of Gascony and the Tower of Cardouan, melting
into the fantastic erections of white cloud along the horizon. But for
the silver fringe that played about their bows, and the long furrow
swiftly effaced in their wake, they might have been perfectly still in
mid-ocean, so calm was the sea. The sky was magically clear, the dark
blue of the vault above paled by imperceptible gradations, until it
blended with the bluish water, a gleaming line that sparkled like
stars marking the dividing line of sea. The sunlight caught myriads of
facets over the wide surface of the ocean, in such a sort that the
vast plains of salt water looked perhaps more full of light than the
fields of sky.

The brig had set all her canvas. The snowy sails, swelled by the
strangely soft wind, the labyrinth of cordage, and the yellow flags
flying at the masthead, all stood out sharp and uncompromisingly clear
against the vivid background of space, sky, and sea; there was nothing
to alter the color but the shadow cast by the great cloudlike sails.

A glorious day, a fair wind, and the fatherland in sight, a sea like a
mill-pond, the melancholy sound of the ripples, a fair, solitary
vessel, gliding across the surface of the water like a woman stealing
out to a tryst--it was a picture full of harmony. That mere speck full
of movement was a starting-point whence the soul of man could descry
the immutable vast of space. Solitude and bustling life, silence and
sound, were all brought together in strange abrupt contrast; you could
not tell where life, or sound, or silence, and nothingness lay, and no
human voice broke the divine spell.

The Spanish captain, the crew, and the French passengers sat or stood,
in a mood of devout ecstasy, in which many memories blended. There was
idleness in the air. The beaming faces told of complete forgetfulness
of past hardships, the men were rocked on the fair vessel as in a
golden dream. Yet, from time to time the elderly passenger, leaning
over the bulwark nettings, looked with something like uneasiness at
the horizon. Distrust of the ways of Fate could be read in his whole
face; he seemed to fear that he should not reach the coast of France
in time. This was the Marquis. Fortune had not been deaf to his
despairing cry and struggles. After five years of endeavor and painful
toil, he was a wealthy man once more. In his impatience to reach his
home again and to bring the good news to his family, he had followed
the example set by some French merchants in Havana, and embarked with
them on a Spanish vessel with a cargo for Bordeaux. And now, grown
tired of evil forebodings, his fancy was tracing out for him the most
delicious pictures of past happiness. In that far-off brown line of
land he seemed to see his wife and children. He sat in his place by
the fireside; they were crowding about him; he felt their caresses.
Moina had grown to be a young girl; she was beautiful, and tall, and
striking. The fancied picture had grown almost real, when the tears
filled his eyes, and, to hide his emotion, he turned his face towards
the sea-line, opposite the hazy streak that meant land.

"There she is again. . . . She is following us!" he said.

"What?" cried the Spanish captain.

"There is a vessel," muttered the General.

"I saw her yesterday," answered Captain Gomez. He looked at his
interlocutor as if to ask what he thought; then he added in the
General's ear, "She has been chasing us all along."

"Then why she has not come up with us, I do not know," said the
General, "for she is a faster sailor than your damned
_Saint-Ferdinand_."

"She will have damaged herself, sprung a leak--"

"She is gaining on us!" the General broke in.

"She is a Columbian privateer," the captain said in his ear, "and we
are still six leagues from land, and the wind is dropping."

"She is not _going_ ahead, she is flying, as if she knew that in two
hours' time her prey would escape her. What audacity!"

"Audacity!" cried the captain. "Oh! she is not called the _Othello_
for nothing. Not so long back she sank a Spanish frigate that carried
thirty guns! This is the one thing I was afraid of, for I had a notion
that she was cruising about somewhere off the Antilles.--Aha!" he
added after a pause, as he watched the sails of his own vessel, "the
wind is rising; we are making way. Get through we must, for 'the
Parisian' will show us no mercy."

"She is making way too!" returned the General.

The _Othello_ was scarce three leagues away by this time; and although
the conversation between the Marquis and Captain Gomez had taken place
apart, passengers and crew, attracted by the sudden appearance of a
sail, came to that side of the vessel. With scarcely an exception,
however, they took the privateer for a merchantman, and watched her
course with interest, till all at once a sailor shouted with some
energy of language:

"By Saint-James, it is all up with us! Yonder is the Parisian
captain!"

At that terrible name dismay, and a panic impossible to describe,
spread through the brig. The Spanish captain's orders put energy into
the crew for a while; and in his resolute determination to make land
at all costs, he set all the studding sails, and crowded on every
stitch of canvas on board. But all this was not the work of a moment;
and naturally the men did not work together with that wonderful
unanimity so fascinating to watch on board a man-of-war. The _Othello_
meanwhile, thanks to the trimming of her sails, flew over the water
like a swallow; but she was making, to all appearance, so little
headway, that the unlucky Frenchmen began to entertain sweet delusive
hopes. At last, after unheard-of efforts, the _Saint-Ferdinand_ sprang
forward, Gomez himself directing the shifting of the sheets with voice
and gesture, when all at once the man at the tiller, steering at
random (purposely, no doubt), swung the vessel round. The wind
striking athwart the beam, the sails shivered so unexpectedly that the
brig heeled to one side, the booms were carried away, and the vessel
was completely out of hand. The captain's face grew whiter than his
sails with unutterable rage. He sprang upon the man at the tiller,
drove his dagger at him in such blind fury, that he missed him, and
hurled the weapon overboard. Gomez took the helm himself, and strove
to right the gallant vessel. Tears of despair rose to his eyes, for it
is harder to lose the result of our carefully-laid plans through
treachery than to face imminent death. But the more the captain swore,
the less the men worked, and it was he himself who fired the alarm-gun,
hoping to be heard on shore. The privateer, now gaining hopelessly
upon them, replied with a cannon-shot, which struck the water ten
fathoms away from the _Saint-Ferdinand_.

"Thunder of heaven!" cried the General, "that was a close shave! They
must have guns made on purpose."

"Oh! when that one yonder speaks, look you, you have to hold your
tongue," said a sailor. "The Parisian would not be afraid to meet an
English man-of-war."

"It is all over with us," the captain cried in desperation; he had
pointed his telescope landwards, and saw not a sign from the shore.
"We are further from the coast than I thought."

"Why do you despair?" asked the General. "All your passengers are
Frenchmen; they have chartered your vessel. The privateer is a
Parisian, you say? Well and good, run up the white flag, and--"

"And he would run us down," retorted the captain. "He can be anything
he likes when he has a mind to seize on a rich booty!"

"Oh! if he is a pirate--"

"Pirate!" said the ferocious looking sailor. "Oh! he always has the
law on his side, or he knows how to be on the same side as the law."

"Very well," said the General, raising his eyes, "let us make up our
minds to it," and his remaining fortitude was still sufficient to keep
back the tears.

The words were hardly out of his mouth before a second cannon-shot,
better aimed, came crashing through the hull of the _Saint-Ferdinand_.

"Heave to!" cried the captain gloomily.

The sailor who had commended the Parisian's law-abiding proclivities
showed himself a clever hand at working a ship after this desperate
order was given. The crew waited for half an hour in an agony of
suspense and the deepest dismay. The _Saint-Ferdinand_ had four
millions of piastres on board, the whole fortunes of the five
passengers, and the General's eleven hundred thousand francs. At
length the _Othello_ lay not ten gunshots away, so that those on the
_Saint-Ferdinand_ could look into the muzzles of her loaded guns. The
vessel seemed to be borne along by a breeze sent by the Devil himself,
but the eyes of an expert would have discovered the secret of her
speed at once. You had but to look for a moment at the rake of her
stern, her long, narrow keel, her tall masts, to see the cut of her
sails, the wonderful lightness of her rigging, and the ease and
perfect seamanship with which her crew trimmed her sails to the wind.
Everything about her gave the impression of the security of power in
this delicately curved inanimate creature, swift and intelligent as a
greyhound or some bird of prey. The privateer crew stood silent, ready
in case of resistance to shatter the wretched merchantman, which,
luckily for her, remained motionless, like a schoolboy caught in
flagrant delict by a master.

"We have guns on board!" cried the General, clutching the Spanish
captain's hand. But the courage in Gomez's eyes was the courage of
despair.

"Have we men?" he said.

The Marquis looked round at the crew of the _Saint-Ferdinand_, and a
cold chill ran through him. There stood the four merchants, pale and
quaking for fear, while the crew gathered about some of their own
number who appeared to be arranging to go over in a body to the enemy.
They watched the _Othello_ with greed and curiosity in their faces.
The captain, the Marquis, and the mate exchanged glances; they were
the only three who had a thought for any but themselves.

"Ah! Captain Gomez, when I left my home and country, my heart was half
dead with the bitterness of parting, and now must I bid it good-bye
once more when I am bringing back happiness and ease for my children?"

The General turned his head away towards the sea, with tears of rage
in his eyes--and saw the steersman swimming out to the privateer.

"This time it will be good-bye for good," said the captain by way of
answer, and the dazed look in the Frenchman's eyes startled the
Spaniard.

By this time the two vessels were almost alongside, and at the first
sight of the enemy's crew the General saw that Gomez's gloomy prophecy
was only too true. The three men at each gun might have been bronze
statues, standing like athletes, with their rugged features, their
bare sinewy arms, men whom Death himself had scarcely thrown off their
feet.

The rest of the crew, well armed, active, light, and vigorous, also
stood motionless. Toil had hardened, and the sun had deeply tanned,
those energetic faces; their eyes glittered like sparks of fire with
infernal glee and clear-sighted courage. Perfect silence on the upper
deck, now black with men, bore abundant testimony to the rigorous
discipline and strong will which held these fiends incarnate in check.

The captain of the _Othello_ stood with folded arms at the foot of the
main mast; he carried no weapons, but an axe lay on the deck beside
him. His face was hidden by the shadow of a broad felt hat. The men
looked like dogs crouching before their master. Gunners, soldiers, and
ship's crew turned their eyes first on his face, and then on the
merchant vessel.

The two brigs came up alongside, and the shock of contact roused the
privateer captain from his musings; he spoke a word in the ear of the
lieutenant who stood beside him.

"Grappling-irons!" shouted the latter, and the _Othello_ grappled the
_Saint-Ferdinand_ with miraculous quickness. The captain of the
privateer gave his orders in a low voice to the lieutenant, who
repeated them; the men, told off in succession for each duty, went on
the upper deck of the _Saint-Ferdinand_, like seminarists going to
mass. They bound crew and passengers hand and foot and seized the
booty. In the twinkling of an eye, provisions and barrels full of
piastres were transferred to the _Othello_; the General thought that
he must be dreaming when he himself, likewise bound, was flung down on
a bale of goods as if he had been part of the cargo.

A brief conference took place between the captain of the privateer and
his lieutenant and a sailor, who seemed to be the mate of the vessel;
then the mate gave a whistle, and the men jumped on board the
_Saint-Ferdinand_, and completely dismantled her with the nimble
dexterity of a soldier who strips a dead comrade of a coveted overcoat
and shoes.

"It is all over with us," said the Spanish captain coolly. He had eyed
the three chiefs during their confabulation, and saw that the sailors
were proceeding to pull his vessel to pieces.

"Why so?" asked the General.

"What would you have them do with us?" returned the Spaniard. "They
have just come to the conclusion that they will scarcely sell the
_Saint-Ferdinand_ in any French or Spanish port, so they are going to
sink her to be rid of her. As for us, do you suppose that they will
put themselves to the expense of feeding us, when they don't know what
port they are to put into?"

The words were scarcely out of the captain's mouth before a hideous
outcry went up, followed by a dull splashing sound, as several bodies
were thrown overboard. He turned, the four merchants were no longer to
be seen, but eight ferocious-looking gunners were still standing with
their arms raised above their heads. He shuddered.

"What did I tell you?" the Spanish captain asked coolly.

The Marquis rose to his feet with a spring. The surface of the sea was
quite smooth again; he could not so much as see the place where his
unhappy fellow-passengers had disappeared. By this time they were
sinking down, bound hand and foot, below the waves, if, indeed, the
fish had not devoured them already.

Only a few paces away, the treacherous steersman and the sailor who
had boasted of the Parisian's power were fraternizing with the crew of
the _Othello_, and pointing out those among their own number, who, in
their opinion, were worthy to join the crew of the privateer. Then the
boys tied the rest together by the feet in spite of frightful oaths.
It was soon over; the eight gunners seized the doomed men and flung
them overboard without more ado, watching the different ways in which
the drowning victims met their death, their contortions, their last
agony, with a sort of malignant curiosity, but with no sign of
amusement, surprise, or pity. For them it was an ordinary event to
which seemingly they were quite accustomed. The older men looked
instead with grim, set smiles at the casks of piastres about the main
mast.

The General and Captain Gomez, left seated on a bale of goods,
consulted each other with well-nigh hopeless looks; they were, in a
sense, the sole survivors of the _Saint-Ferdinand_, for the seven men
pointed out by the spies were transformed amid rejoicings into
Peruvians.

"What atrocious villains!" the General cried. Loyal and generous
indignation silenced prudence and pain on his own account.

"They do it because they must," Gomez answered coolly. "If you came
across one of those fellows, you would run him through the body, would
you not?"

The lieutenant now came up to the Spaniard.

"Captain," said he, "the Parisian has heard of you. He says that you
are the only man who really knows the passages of the Antilles and the
Brazilian coast. Will you--"

The captain cut him short with a scornful exclamation.

"I shall die like a sailor," he said, "and a loyal Spaniard and a
Christian. Do you hear?"

"Heave him overboard!" shouted the lieutenant, and a couple of gunners
seized on Gomez.

"You cowards!" roared the General, seizing hold of the men.

"Don't get too excited, old boy," said the lieutenant. "If your red
ribbon has made some impression upon our captain, I myself do not care
a rap for it.--You and I will have our little bit of talk together
directly."

A smothered sound, with no accompanying cry, told the General that the
gallant captain had died "like a sailor," as he had said.

"My money or death!" cried the Marquis, in a fit of rage terrible to
see.

"Ah! now you talk sensibly!" sneered the lieutenant. "That is the way
to get something out of us----"

Two of the men came up at a sign and hastened to bind the Frenchmen's
feet, but with unlooked-for boldness he snatched the lieutenant's
cutlass and laid about him like a cavalry officer who knows his
business.

"Brigands that you are! You shall not chuck one of Napoleon's troopers
over a ship's side like an oyster!"

At the sound of pistol shots fired point blank at the Frenchman, "the
Parisian" looked round from his occupation of superintending the
transfer of the rigging from the _Saint-Ferdinand_. He came up behind
the brave General, seized him, dragged him to the side, and was about
to fling him over with no more concern than if the man had been a
broken spar. They were at the very edge when the General looked into
the tawny eyes of the man who had stolen his daughter. The recognition
was mutual.

The captain of the privateer, his arm still upraised, suddenly swung
it in the contrary direction as if his victim was but a feather
weight, and set him down at the foot of the main mast. A murmur rose
on the upper deck, but the captain glanced round, and there was a
sudden silence.

"This is Helene's father," said the captain in a clear, firm voice.
"Woe to any one who meddles with him!"

A hurrah of joy went up at the words, a shout rising to the sky like a
prayer of the church; a cry like the first high notes of the _Te
Deum_. The lads swung aloft in the rigging, the men below flung up
their caps, the gunners pounded away on the deck, there was a general
thrill of excitement, an outburst of oaths, yells, and shrill cries in
voluble chorus. The men cheered like fanatics, the General's
misgivings deepened, and he grew uneasy; it seemed to him that there
was some horrible mystery in such wild transports.

"My daughter!" he cried, as soon as he could speak. "Where is my
daughter?"

For all answer, the captain of the privateer gave him a searching
glance, one of those glances which throw the bravest man into a
confusion which no theory can explain. The General was mute, not a
little to the satisfaction of the crew; it pleased them to see their
leader exercise the strange power which he possessed over all with
whom he came in contact. Then the captain led the way down a staircase
and flung open the door of a cabin.

"There she is," he said, and disappeared, leaving the General in a
stupor of bewilderment at the scene before his eyes.

Helene cried out at the sight of him, and sprang up from the sofa on
which she was lying when the door flew open. So changed was she that
none but a father's eyes could have recognized her. The sun of the
tropics had brought warmer tones into the once pale face, and
something of Oriental charm with that wonderful coloring; there was a
certain grandeur about her, a majestic firmness, a profound sentiment
which impresses itself upon the coarsest nature. Her long, thick hair,
falling in large curls about her queenly throat, gave an added idea of
power to the proud face. The consciousness of that power shone out
from every movement, every line of Helene's form. The rose-tinted
nostrils were dilated slightly with the joy of triumph; the serene
happiness of her life had left its plain tokens in the full
development of her beauty. A certain indefinable virginal grace met in
her with the pride of a woman who is loved. This was a slave and a
queen, a queen who would fain obey that she might reign.

Her dress was magnificent and elegant in its richness; India muslin
was the sole material, but her sofa and cushions were of cashmere. A
Persian carpet covered the floor in the large cabin, and her four
children playing at her feet were building castles of gems and pearl
necklaces and jewels of price. The air was full of the scent of rare
flowers in Sevres porcelain vases painted by Madame Jacotot; tiny
South American birds, like living rubies, sapphires, and gold, hovered
among the Mexican jessamines and camellias. A pianoforte had been
fitted into the room, and here and there on the paneled walls, covered
with red silk, hung small pictures by great painters--a _Sunset_ by
Hippolyte Schinner beside a Terburg, one of Raphael's Madonnas
scarcely yielded in charm to a sketch by Gericault, while a Gerard Dow
eclipsed the painters of the Empire. On a lacquered table stood a
golden plate full of delicious fruit. Indeed, Helene might have been
the sovereign lady of some great country, and this cabin of hers a
boudoir in which her crowned lover had brought together all earth's
treasure to please his consort. The children gazed with bright, keen
eyes at their grandfather. Accustomed as they were to a life of
battle, storm, and tumult, they recalled the Roman children in David's
_Brutus_, watching the fighting and bloodshed with curious interest.

"What! is it possible?" cried Helene, catching her father's arm as if
to assure herself that this was no vision.

"Helene!"

"Father!"

They fell into each other's arms, and the old man's embrace was not so
close and warm as Helene's.

"Were you on board that vessel?"

"Yes," he answered sadly, and looking at the little ones, who gathered
about him and gazed with wide open eyes.

"I was about to perish, but--"

"But for my husband," she broke in. "I see how it was."

"Ah!" cried the General, "why must I find you again like this, Helene?
After all the many tears that I have shed, must I still groan for your
fate?"

"And why?" she asked, smiling. "Why should you be sorry to learn that
I am the happiest woman under the sun?"

"_Happy_?" he cried with a start of surprise.

"Yes, happy, my kind father," and she caught his hands in hers and
covered them with kisses, and pressed them to her throbbing heart. Her
caresses, and a something in the carriage of her head, were
interpreted yet more plainly by the joy sparkling in her eyes.

"And how is this?" he asked, wondering at his daughter's life,
forgetful now of everything but the bright glowing face before him.

"Listen, father; I have for lover, husband, servant, and master one
whose soul is as great as the boundless sea, as infinite in his
kindness as heaven, a god on earth! Never during these seven years has
a chance look, or word, or gesture jarred in the divine harmony of his
talk, his love, his caresses. His eyes have never met mine without a
gleam of happiness in them; there has always been a bright smile on
his lips for me. On deck, his voice rises above the thunder of storms
and the tumult of battle; but here below it is soft and melodious as
Rossini's music--for he has Rossini's music sent for me. I have
everything that woman's caprice can imagine. My wishes are more than
fulfilled. In short, I am a queen on the seas; I am obeyed here as
perhaps a queen may be obeyed.--Ah!" she cried, interrupting herself,
"_happy_ did I say? Happiness is no word to express such bliss as
mine. All the happiness that should have fallen to all the women in
the world has been my share. Knowing one's own great love and
self-devotion, to find in _his_ heart an infinite love in which a
woman's soul is lost, and lost for ever--tell me, is this happiness?
I have lived through a thousand lives even now. Here, I am alone;
here, I command. No other woman has set foot on this noble vessel,
and Victor is never more than a few paces distant from me,--he cannot
wander further from me than from stern to prow," she added, with a
shade of mischief in her manner. "Seven years! A love that outlasts
seven years of continual joy, that endures all the tests brought by
all the moments that make up seven years--is this love? Oh, no, no!
it is something better than all that I know of life . . . human
language fails to express the bliss of heaven."

A sudden torrent of tears fell from her burning eyes. The four little
ones raised a piteous cry at this, and flocked like chickens about
their mother. The oldest boy struck the General with a threatening
look.

"Abel, darling," said Helene, "I am crying for joy."

Helene took him on her knee, and the child fondled her, putting his
arms about her queenly neck, as a lion's whelp might play with the
lioness.

"Do you never weary of your life?" asked the General, bewildered by
his daughter's enthusiastic language.

"Yes," she said, "sometimes, when we are on land, yet even then I have
never parted from my husband."

"But you need to be fond of music and balls and fetes."

"His voice is music for me; and for fetes, I devise new toilettes for
him to see. When he likes my dress, it is as if all the world admired
me. Simply for that reason I keep the diamonds and jewels, the
precious things, the flowers and masterpieces of art that he heaps
upon me, saying, 'Helene, as you live out of the world, I will have
the world come to you.' But for that I would fling them all
overboard."

"But there are others on board, wild, reckless men whose passions--"

"I understand, father," she said smiling. "Do not fear for me. Never
was empress encompassed with more observance than I. The men are very
superstitious; they look upon me as a sort of tutelary genius, the
luck of the vessel. But _he_ is their god; they worship him. Once, and
once only, one of the crew showed disrespect, mere words," she added,
laughing; "but before Victor knew of it, the others flung the offender
overboard, although I forgave him. They love me as their good angel; I
nurse them when they are ill; several times I have been so fortunate
as to save a life, by constant care such as a woman can give. Poor
fellows, they are giants, but they are children at the same time."

"And when there is fighting overhead?"

"I am used to it now; I quaked for fear during the first engagement,
but never since.--I am used to such peril, and--I am your daughter,"
she said; "I love it."

"But how if he should fall?"

"I should die with him."

"And your children?"

"They are children of the sea and of danger; they share the life of
their parents. We have but one life, and we do not flinch from it. We
have but one life, our names are written on the same page of the book
of Fate, one skiff bears us and our fortunes, and we know it."

"Do you so love him that he is more to you than all beside?"

"All beside?" echoed she. "Let us leave that mystery alone. Yet stay!
there is this dear little one--well, this too is _he_," and straining
Abel to her in a tight clasp, she set eager kisses on his cheeks and
hair.

"But I can never forget that he has just drowned nine men!" exclaimed
the General.

"There was no help for it, doubtless," she said, "for he is generous
and humane. He sheds as little blood as may be, and only in the
interests of the little world which he defends, and the sacred cause
for which he is fighting. Talk to him about anything that seems to you
to be wrong, and he will convince you, you will see."

"There was that crime of his," muttered the General to himself.

"But how if that crime was a virtue?" she asked, with cold dignity.
"How if man's justice had failed to avenge a great wrong?"

"But a private revenge!" exclaimed her father.

"But what is hell," she cried, "but a revenge through all eternity for
the wrong done in a little day?"

"Ah! you are lost! He has bewitched and perverted you. You are talking
wildly."

"Stay with us one day, father, and if you will but listen to him, and
see him, you will love him."

"Helene, France lies only a few leagues away," he said gravely.

Helene trembled; then she went to the porthole and pointed to the
savannas of green water spreading far and wide.

"There lies my country," she said, tapping the carpet with her foot.

"But are you not coming with me to see your mother and your sister and
brothers?"

"Oh! yes," she cried, with tears in her voice, "if _he_ is willing, if
he will come with me."

"So," the General said sternly, "you have neither country nor kin now,
Helene?"

"I am his wife," she answered proudly, and there was something very
noble in her tone. "This is the first happiness in seven years that
has not come to me through him," she said--then, as she caught her
father's hand and kissed it--"and this is the first word of reproach
that I have heard."

"And your conscience?"

"My conscience; he is my conscience!" she cried, trembling from head
to foot. "Here he is! Even in the thick of a fight I can tell his
footstep among all the others on deck," she cried.

A sudden crimson flushed her cheeks and glowed in her features, her
eyes lighted up, her complexion changed to velvet whiteness, there was
joy and love in every fibre, in the blue veins, in the unconscious
trembling of her whole frame. That quiver of the sensitive plant
softened the General.

It was as she had said. The captain came in, sat down in an easy-chair,
took up his oldest boy, and began to play with him. There was a
moment's silence, for the General's deep musing had grown vague and
dreamy, and the daintily furnished cabin and the playing children
seemed like a nest of halcyons, floating on the waves, between sky and
sea, safe in the protection of this man who steered his way amid the
perils of war and tempest, as other heads of household guide those in
their care among the hazards of common life. He gazed admiringly at
Helene--a dreamlike vision of some sea goddess, gracious in her
loveliness, rich in happiness; all the treasures about her grown poor
in comparison with the wealth of her nature, paling before the
brightness of her eyes, the indefinable romance expressed in her and
her surroundings.

The strangeness of the situation took the General by surprise; the
ideas of ordinary life were thrown into confusion by this lofty
passion and reasoning. Chill and narrow social conventions faded away
before this picture. All these things the old soldier felt, and saw no
less how impossible it was that his daughter should give up so wide a
life, a life so variously rich, filled to the full with such
passionate love. And Helene had tasted danger without shrinking; how
could she return to the pretty stage, the superficial circumscribed
life of society?

It was the captain who broke the silence at last.

"Am I in the way?" he asked, looking at his wife.

"No," said the General, answering for her. "Helene has told me all. I
see that she is lost to us--"

"No," the captain put in quickly; "in a few years' time the statute of
limitations will allow me to go back to France. When the conscience is
clear, and a man has broken the law in obedience to----" he stopped
short, as if scorning to justify himself.

"How can you commit new murders, such as I have seen with my own eyes,
without remorse?"

"We had no provisions," the privateer captain retorted calmly.

"But if you had set the men ashore--"

"They would have given the alarm and sent a man-of-war after us, and
we should never have seen Chili again."

"Before France would have given warning to the Spanish admiralty--"
began the General.

"But France might take it amiss that a man, with a warrant still out
against him, should seize a brig chartered by Bordeaux merchants. And
for that matter, have you never fired a shot or so too many in
battle?"

The General shrank under the other's eyes. He said no more, and his
daughter looked at him half sadly, half triumphant.

"General," the privateer continued, in a deep voice, "I have made it a
rule to abstract nothing from booty. But even so, my share will be
beyond a doubt far larger than your fortune. Permit me to return it to
you in another form--"

He drew a pile of banknotes from the piano, and without counting the
packets handed a million of francs to the Marquis.

"You can understand," he said, "that I cannot spend my time in
watching vessels pass by to Bordeaux. So unless the dangers of this
Bohemian life of ours have some attraction for you, unless you care to
see South America and the nights of the tropics, and a bit of fighting
now and again for the pleasure of helping to win a triumph for a young
nation, or for the name of Simon Bolivar, we must part. The long boat
manned with a trustworthy crew is ready for you. And now let us hope
that our third meeting will be completely happy."

"Victor," said Helene in a dissatisfied tone, "I should like to see a
little more of my father."

"Ten minutes more or less may bring up a French frigate. However, so
be it, we shall have a little fun. The men find things dull."

"Oh, father, go!" cried Helene, "and take these keepsakes from me to
my sister and brothers and--mother," she added. She caught up a
handful of jewels and precious stones, folded them in an Indian shawl,
and timidly held it out.

"But what shall I say to them from you?" asked he. Her hesitation on
the word "mother" seemed to have struck him.

"Oh! can you doubt me? I pray for their happiness every day."

"Helene," he began, as he watched her closely, "how if we should not
meet again? Shall I never know why you left us?"

"That secret is not mine," she answered gravely. "Even if I had the
right to tell it, perhaps I should not. For ten years I was more
miserable than words can say--"

She broke off, and gave her father the presents for her family. The
General had acquired tolerably easy views as to booty in the course of
a soldier's career, so he took Helene's gifts and comforted himself
with the reflection that the Parisian captain was sure to wage war
against the Spaniards as an honorable man, under the influence of
Helene's pure and high-minded nature. His passion for courage carried
all before it. It was ridiculous, he thought, to be squeamish in the
matter; so he shook hands cordially with his captor, and kissed
Helene, his only daughter, with a soldier's expansiveness; letting
fall a tear on the face with the proud, strong look that once he had
loved to see. "The Parisian," deeply moved, brought the children for
his blessing. The parting was over, the last good-bye was a long
farewell look, with something of tender regret on either side.



A strange sight to seaward met the General's eyes. The
_Saint-Ferdinand_ was blazing like a huge bonfire. The men told off
to sink the Spanish brig had found a cargo of rum on board; and as
the _Othello_ was already amply supplied, had lighted a floating bowl
of punch on the high seas, by way of a joke; a pleasantry pardonable
enough in sailors, who hail any chance excitement as a relief from the
apparent monotony of life at sea. As the General went over the side
into the long-boat of the _Saint-Ferdinand_, manned by six vigorous
rowers, he could not help looking at the burning vessel, as well as at
the daughter who stood by her husband's side on the stern of the
_Othello_. He saw Helene's white dress flutter like one more sail in
the breeze; he saw the tall, noble figure against a background of sea,
queenly still even in the presence of Ocean; and so many memories
crowded up in his mind, that, with a soldier's recklessness of life,
he forgot that he was being borne over the grave of the brave Gomez.

A vast column of smoke rising spread like a brown cloud, pierced here
and there by fantastic shafts of sunlight. It was a second sky, a
murky dome reflecting the glow of the fire as if the under surface had
been burnished; but above it soared the unchanging blue of the
firmament, a thousand times fairer for the short-lived contrast. The
strange hues of the smoke cloud, black and red, tawny and pale by
turns, blurred and blending into each other, shrouded the burning
vessel as it flared, crackled and groaned; the hissing tongues of
flame licked up the rigging, and flashed across the hull, like a rumor
of riot flashing along the streets of a city. The burning rum sent up
blue flitting lights. Some sea god might have been stirring the
furious liquor as a student stirs the joyous flames of punch in an
orgy. But in the overpowering sunlight, jealous of the insolent blaze,
the colors were scarcely visible, and the smoke was but a film
fluttering like a thin scarf in the noonday torrent of light and heat.

The _Othello_ made the most of the little wind she could gain to fly
on her new course. Swaying first to one side, then to the other, like
a stag beetle on the wing, the fair vessel beat to windward on her
zigzag flight to the south. Sometimes she was hidden from sight by the
straight column of smoke that flung fantastic shadows across the
water, then gracefully she shot out clear of it, and Helene, catching
sight of her father, waved her handkerchief for yet one more farewell
greeting.

A few more minutes, and the _Saint-Ferdinand_ went down with a
bubbling turmoil, at once effaced by the ocean. Nothing of all that
had been was left but a smoke cloud hanging in the breeze. The
_Othello_ was far away, the long-boat had almost reached land, the
cloud came between the frail skiff and the brig, and it was through a
break in the swaying smoke that the General caught the last glimpse of
Helene. A prophetic vision! Her dress and her white handkerchief stood
out against the murky background. Then the brig was not even visible
between the green water and the blue sky, and Helene was nothing but
an imperceptible speck, a faint graceful line, an angel in heaven, a
mental image, a memory.

The Marquis had retrieved his fortunes, when he died, worn out with
toil. A few months after his death, in 1833, the Marquise was obliged
to take Moina to a watering-place in the Pyrenees, for the capricious
child had a wish to see the beautiful mountain scenery. They left the
baths, and the following tragical incident occurred on their way home.

"Dear me, mother," said Moina, "it was very foolish of us not to stay
among the mountains a few days longer. It was much nicer there. Did
you hear that horrid child moaning all night, and that wretched woman,
gabbling away in patois no doubt, for I could not understand a single
word she said. What kind of people can they have put in the next room
to ours? This is one of the horridest nights I have ever spent in my
life."

"I heard nothing," said the Marquise, "but I will see the landlady,
darling, and engage the next room, and then we shall have the whole
suite of rooms to ourselves, and there will be no more noise. How do
you feel this morning? Are you tired?"

As she spoke, the Marquise rose and went to Moina's bedside.

"Let us see," she said, feeling for the girl's hand.

"Oh! let me alone, mother," said Moina; "your fingers are cold."

She turned her head round on the pillow as she spoke, pettishly, but
with such engaging grace, that a mother could scarcely have taken it
amiss. Just then a wailing cry echoed through the next room, a faint
prolonged cry, that must surely have gone to the heart of any woman
who heard it.

"Why, if you heard _that_ all night long, why did you not wake me? We
should have--"

A deeper moan than any that had gone before it interrupted the
Marquise.

"Some one is dying there," she cried, and hurried out of the room.

"Send Pauline to me!" called Moina. "I shall get up and dress."

The Marquise hastened downstairs, and found the landlady in the
courtyard with a little group about her, apparently much interested in
something that she was telling them.

"Madame, you have put some one in the next room who seems to be very
ill indeed--"

"Oh! don't talk to me about it!" cried the mistress of the house. "I
have just sent some one for the mayor. Just imagine it; it is a woman,
a poor unfortunate creature that came here last night on foot. She
comes from Spain; she has no passport and no money; she was carrying
her baby on her back, and the child was dying. I could not refuse to
take her in. I went up to see her this morning myself; for when she
turned up yesterday, it made me feel dreadfully bad to look at her.
Poor soul! she and the child were lying in bed, and both of them at
death's door. 'Madame,' says she, pulling a gold ring off her finger,
'this is all that I have left; take it in payment, it will be enough;
I shall not stay here long. Poor little one! we shall die together
soon!' she said, looking at the child. I took her ring, and I asked
her who she was, but she never would tell me her name. . . . I have
just sent for the doctor and M. le Maire."

"Why, you must do all that can be done for her," cried the Marquise.
"Good heavens! perhaps it is not too late! I will pay for everything
that is necessary----"

"Ah! my lady, she looks to me uncommonly proud, and I don't know that
she would allow it."

"I will go to see her at once."

The Marquise went up forthwith to the stranger's room, without
thinking of the shock that the sight of her widow's weeds might give
to a woman who was said to be dying. At the sight of that dying woman
the Marquise turned pale. In spite of the changes wrought by fearful
suffering in Helene's beautiful face, she recognized her eldest
daughter.

But Helene, when she saw a woman dressed in black, sat upright in bed
with a shriek of horror. Then she sank back; she knew her mother.

"My daughter," said Mme. d'Aiglemont, "what is to be done?
Pauline! . . . Moina! . . ."

"Nothing now for me," said Helene faintly. "I had hoped to see my
father once more, but your mourning--" she broke off, clutched her
child to her heart as if to give it warmth, and kissed its forehead.
Then she turned her eyes on her mother, and the Marquise met the old
reproach in them, tempered with forgiveness, it is true, but still
reproach. She saw it, and would not see it. She forgot that Helene was
the child conceived amid tears and despair, the child of duty, the
cause of one of the greatest sorrows in her life. She stole to her
eldest daughter's side, remembering nothing but that Helene was her
firstborn, the child who had taught her to know the joys of
motherhood. The mother's eyes were full of tears. "Helene, my
child! . . ." she cried, with her arms about her daughter.

Helene was silent. Her own babe had just drawn its last breath on her
breast.

Moina came into the room with Pauline, her maid, and the landlady and
the doctor. The Marquise was holding her daughter's ice-cold hand in
both of hers, and gazing at her in despair; but the widowed woman, who
had escaped shipwreck with but one of all her fair band of children,
spoke in a voice that was dreadful to hear. "All this is your work,"
she said. "If you had but been for me all that--"

"Moina, go! Go out of the room, all of you!" cried Mme. d'Aiglemont,
her shrill tones drowning Helene's voice.--"For pity's sake," she
continued, "let us not begin these miserable quarrels again now----"

"I will be silent," Helene answered with a preternatural effort. "I am
a mother; I know that Moina ought not . . . Where is my child?"

Moina came back, impelled by curiosity.

"Sister," said the spoiled child, "the doctor--"

"It is all of no use," said Helene. "Oh! why did I not die as a girl
of sixteen when I meant to take my own life? There is no happiness
outside the laws. Moina . . . you . . ."

Her head sank till her face lay against the face of the little one; in
her agony she strained her babe to her breast, and died.

"Your sister, Moina," said Mme. d'Aiglemont, bursting into tears when
she reached her room, "your sister meant no doubt to tell you that a
girl will never find happiness in a romantic life, in living as nobody
else does, and, above all things, far away from her mother."



                                VI.

                   THE OLD AGE OF A GUILTY MOTHER

It was one of the earliest June days of the year 1844. A lady of fifty
or thereabouts, for she looked older than her actual age, was pacing
up and down one of the sunny paths in the garden of a great mansion in
the Rue Plument in Paris. It was noon. The lady took two or three
turns along the gently winding garden walk, careful never to lose
sight of a certain row of windows, to which she seemed to give her
whole attention; then she sat down on a bench, a piece of elegant
semi-rusticity made of branches with the bark left on the wood. From
the place where she sat she could look through the garden railings
along the inner boulevards to the wonderful dome of the Invalides
rising above the crests of a forest of elm-trees, and see the less
striking view of her own grounds terminating in the gray stone front
of one of the finest hotels in the Faubourg Saint-Germain.

Silence lay over the neighboring gardens, and the boulevards
stretching away to the Invalides. Day scarcely begins at noon in that
aristocratic quarter, and masters and servants are all alike asleep,
or just awakening, unless some young lady takes it into her head to go
for an early ride, or a gray-headed diplomatist rises betimes to
redraft a protocol.

The elderly lady stirring abroad at that hour was the Marquise
d'Aiglemont, the mother of Mme. de Saint-Hereen, to whom the great
house belonged. The Marquise had made over the mansion and almost her
whole fortune to her daughter, reserving only an annuity for herself.

The Comtesse Moina de Saint-Hereen was Mme. d'Aiglemont's youngest
child. The Marquise had made every sacrifice to marry her daughter to
the eldest son of one of the greatest houses of France; and this was
only what might have been expected, for the lady had lost her sons,
first one and then the other. Gustave, Marquis d'Aiglemont, had died
of the cholera; Abel, the second, had fallen in Algeria. Gustave had
left a widow and children, but the dowager's affection for her sons
had been only moderately warm, and for the next generation it was
decidedly tepid. She was always civil to her daughter-in-law, but her
feeling towards the young Marquise was the distinctly conventional
affection which good taste and good manners require us to feel for our
relatives. The fortunes of her dead children having been settled, she
could devote her savings and her own property to her darling Moina.

Moina, beautiful and fascinating from childhood, was Mme.
d'Aiglemont's favorite; loved beyond all the others with an
instinctive or involuntary love, a fatal drawing of the heart, which
sometimes seems inexplicable, sometimes, and to a close observer, only
too easy to explain. Her darling's pretty face, the sound of Moina's
voice, her ways, her manner, her looks and gestures, roused all the
deepest emotions that can stir a mother's heart with trouble, rapture,
or delight. The springs of the Marquise's life, of yesterday,
to-morrow, and to-day, lay in that young heart. Moina, with better
fortune, had survived four older children. As a matter of fact, Mme.
d'Aiglemont had lost her eldest daughter, a charming girl, in a most
unfortunate manner, said gossip, nobody knew exactly what became of
her; and then she lost a little boy of five by a dreadful accident.

The child of her affections had, however, been spared to her, and
doubtless the Marquise saw the will of Heaven in that fact; for those
who had died, she kept but very shadowy recollections in some far-off
corner of her heart; her memories of her dead children were like the
headstones on a battlefield, you can scarcely see them for the flowers
that have sprung up about them since. Of course, if the world had
chosen, it might have said some hard truths about the Marquise, might
have taken her to task for shallowness and an overweening preference
for one child at the expense of the rest; but the world of Paris is
swept along by the full flood of new events, new ideas, and new
fashions, and it was inevitable the Mme. d'Aiglemont should be in some
sort allowed to drop out of sight. So nobody thought of blaming her
for coldness or neglect which concerned no one, whereas her quick,
apprehensive tenderness for Moina was found highly interesting by not
a few who respected it as a sort of superstition. Besides, the
Marquise scarcely went into society at all; and the few families who
knew her thought of her as a kindly, gentle, indulgent woman, wholly
devoted to her family. What but a curiosity, keen indeed, would seek
to pry beneath the surface with which the world is quite satisfied?
And what would we not pardon to old people, if only they will efface
themselves like shadows, and consent to be regarded as memories and
nothing more!

Indeed, Mme. d'Aiglemont became a kind of example complacently held up
by the younger generation to fathers of families, and frequently cited
to mothers-in-law. She had made over her property to Moina in her own
lifetime; the young Countess' happiness was enough for her, she only
lived in her daughter. If some cautious old person or morose uncle
here and there condemned the course with--"Perhaps Mme. d'Aiglemont
may be sorry some day that she gave up her fortune to her daughter;
she may be sure of Moina, but how can she be equally sure of her
son-in-law?"--these prophets were cried down on all sides, and from
all sides a chorus of praise went up for Moina.

"It ought to be said, in justice to Mme. de Saint-Hereen, that her
mother cannot feel the slightest difference," remarked a young married
woman. "Mme. d'Aiglemont is admirably well housed. She has a carriage
at her disposal, and can go everywhere just as she used to do--"

"Except to the Italiens," remarked a low voice. (This was an elderly
parasite, one of those persons who show their independence--as they
think--by riddling their friends with epigrams.) "Except to the
Italiens. And if the dowager cares for anything on this earth but her
daughter--it is music. Such a good performer she was in her time! But
the Countess' box is always full of young butterflies, and the
Countess' mother would be in the way; the young lady is talked about
already as a great flirt. So the poor mother never goes to the
Italiens."

"Mme. de Saint-Hereen has delightful 'At Homes' for her mother," said
a rosebud. "All Paris goes to her salon.

"And no one pays any attention to the Marquise," returned the
parasite.

"The fact is that Mme. d'Aiglemont is never alone," remarked a
coxcomb, siding with the young women.

"In the morning," the old observer continued in a discreet voice, "in
the morning dear Moina is asleep. At four o'clock dear Moina drives in
the Bois. In the evening dear Moina goes to a ball or to the Bouffes.
--Still, it is certainly true that Mme. d'Aiglemont has the privilege
of seeing her dear daughter while she dresses, and again at dinner, if
dear Moina happens to dine with her mother. Not a week ago, sir,"
continued the elderly person, laying his hand on the arm of the shy
tutor, a new arrival in the house, "not a week ago, I saw the poor
mother, solitary and sad, by her own fireside.--'What is the matter?'
I asked. The Marquise looked up smiling, but I am quite sure that she
had been crying.--'I was thinking that it is a strange thing that I
should be left alone when I have had five children,' she said, 'but
that is our destiny! And besides, I am happy when I know that Moina is
enjoying herself.'--She could say that to me, for I knew her husband
when he was alive. A poor stick he was, and uncommonly lucky to have
such a wife; it was certainly owing to her that he was made a peer of
France, and had a place at Court under Charles X."

Yet such mistaken ideas get about in social gossip, and such mischief
is done by it, that the historian of manners is bound to exercise his
discretion, and weigh the assertions so recklessly made. After all,
who is to say that either mother or daughter was right or wrong? There
is but One who can read and judge their hearts! And how often does He
wreak His vengeance in the family circle, using throughout all time
children as His instruments against their mothers, and fathers against
their sons, raising up peoples against kings, and princes against
peoples, sowing strife and division everywhere? And in the world of
ideas, are not opinions and feelings expelled by new feelings and
opinions, much as withered leaves are thrust forth by the young
leaf-buds in the spring?--all in obedience to the immutable Scheme; all
to some end which God alone knows. Yet, surely, all things proceed to
Him, or rather, to Him all things return.

Such thoughts of religion, the natural thoughts of age, floated up now
and again on the current of Mme. d'Aiglemont's thoughts; they were
always dimly present in her mind, but sometimes they shone out
clearly, sometimes they were carried under, like flowers tossed on the
vexed surface of a stormy sea.

She sat on a garden-seat, tired with walking, exhausted with much
thinking--with the long thoughts in which a whole lifetime rises up
before the mind, and is spread out like a scroll before the eyes of
those who feel that Death is near.

If a poet had chanced to pass along the boulevard, he would have found
an interesting picture in the face of this woman, grown old before her
time. As she sat under the dotted shadow of the acacia, the shadow the
acacia casts at noon, a thousand thoughts were written for all the
world to see on her features, pale and cold even in the hot, bright
sunlight. There was something sadder than the sense of waning life in
that expressive face, some trouble that went deeper than the weariness
of experience. It was a face of a type that fixes you in a moment
among a host of characterless faces that fail to draw a second glance,
a face to set you thinking. Among a thousand pictures in a gallery,
you are strongly impressed by the sublime anguish on the face of some
Madonna of Murillo's; by some _Beatrice Cenci_ in which Guido's art
portrays the most touching innocence against a background of horror
and crime; by the awe and majesty that should encircle a king, caught
once and for ever by Velasquez in the sombre face of a Philip II., and
so is it with some living human faces; they are tyrannous pictures
which speak to you, submit you to searching scrutiny, and give
response to your inmost thoughts, nay, there are faces that set forth
a whole drama, and Mme. d'Aiglemont's stony face was one of these
awful tragedies, one of such faces as Dante Alighieri saw by thousands
in his vision.

For the little season that a woman's beauty is in flower it serves her
admirably well in the dissimulation to which her natural weakness and
our social laws condemn her. A young face and rich color, and eyes
that glow with light, a gracious maze of such subtle, manifold lines
and curves, flawless and perfectly traced, is a screen that hides
everything that stirs the woman within. A flush tells nothing, it only
heightens the coloring so brilliant already; all the fires that burn
within can add little light to the flame of life in eyes which only
seem the brighter for the flash of a passing pain. Nothing is so
discreet as a young face, for nothing is less mobile; it has the
serenity, the surface smoothness, and the freshness of a lake. There
is not character in women's faces before the age of thirty. The
painter discovers nothing there but pink and white, and the smile and
expression that repeat the same thought in the same way--a thought of
youth and love that goes no further than youth and love. But the face
of an old woman has expressed all that lay in her nature; passion has
carved lines on her features; love and wifehood and motherhood, and
extremes of joy and anguish, having wrung them, and left their traces
in a thousand wrinkles, all of which speak a language of their own;
then it is that a woman's face becomes sublime in its horror,
beautiful in its melancholy, grand in its calm. If it is permissible
to carry the strange metaphor still further, it might be said that in
the dried-up lake you can see the traces of all the torrents that once
poured into it and made it what it is. An old face is nothing to the
frivolous world; the frivolous world is shocked by the sight of the
destruction of such comeliness as it can understand; a commonplace
artist sees nothing there. An old face is the province of the poets
among poets of those who can recognize that something which is called
Beauty, apart from all the conventions underlying so many
superstitions in art and taste.



Though Mme. d'Aiglemont wore a fashionable bonnet, it was easy to see
that her once black hair had been bleached by cruel sorrows; yet her
good taste and the gracious acquired instincts of a woman of fashion
could be seen in the way she wore it, divided into two _bandeaux_,
following the outlines of a forehead that still retained some traces
of former dazzling beauty, worn and lined though it was. The contours
of her face, the regularity of her features, gave some idea, faint in
truth, of that beauty of which surely she had once been proud; but
those traces spoke still more plainly of the anguish which had laid it
waste, of sharp pain that had withered the temples, and made those
hollows in her cheeks, and empurpled the eyelids, and robbed them of
their lashes, and the eyes of their charm. She was in every way so
noiseless; she moved with a slow, self-contained gravity that showed
itself in her whole bearing, and struck a certain awe into others. Her
diffident manner had changed to positive shyness, due apparently to a
habit now of some years' growth, of effacing herself in her daughter's
presence. She spoke very seldom, and in the low tones used by those
who perforce must live within themselves a life of reflection and
concentration. This demeanor led others to regard her with an
indefinable feeling which was neither awe nor compassion, but a
mysterious blending of the many ideas awakened in us by compassion and
awe. Finally, there was something in her wrinkles, in the lines of her
face, in the look of pain in those wan eyes of hers, that bore
eloquent testimony to tears that never had fallen, tears that had been
absorbed by her heart. Unhappy creatures, accustomed to raise their
eyes to heaven, in mute appeal against the bitterness of their lot,
would have seen at once from her eyes that she was broken in to the
cruel discipline of ceaseless prayer, would have discerned the almost
imperceptible symptoms of the secret bruises which destroy all the
flowers of the soul, even the sentiment of motherhood.

Painters have colors for these portraits, but words, and the mental
images called up by words, fail to reproduce such impressions
faithfully; there are mysterious signs and tokens in the tones of the
coloring and in the look of human faces, which the mind only seizes
through the sense of sight; and the poet is fain to record the tale of
the events which wrought the havoc to make their terrible ravages
understood.

The face spoke of cold and steady storm, an inward conflict between a
mother's long-suffering and the limitations of our nature, for our
human affections are bounded by our humanity, and the infinite has no
place in finite creatures. Sorrow endured in silence had at last
produced an indefinable morbid something in this woman. Doubtless
mental anguish had reacted on the physical frame, and some disease,
perhaps an aneurism, was undermining Julie's life. Deep-seated grief
lies to all appearance very quietly in the depths where it is
conceived, yet, so still and apparently dormant as it is, it
ceaselessly corrodes the soul, like the terrible acid which eats away
crystal.

Two tears made their way down the Marquise's cheeks; she rose to her
feet as if some thought more poignant than any that preceded it had
cut her to the quick. She had doubtless come to a conclusion as to
Moina's future; and now, foreseeing clearly all the troubles in store
for her child, the sorrows of her own unhappy life had begun to weigh
once more upon her. The key of her position must be sought in her
daughter's situation.

The Comte de Saint-Hereen had been away for nearly six months on a
political mission. The Countess, whether from sheer giddiness, or in
obedience to the countless instincts of woman's coquetry, or to essay
its power--with all the vanity of a frivolous fine lady, all the
capricious waywardness of a child--was amusing herself, during her
husband's absence, by playing with the passion of a clever but
heartless man, distracted (so he said) with love, the love that
combines readily with every petty social ambition of a self-conceited
coxcomb. Mme. d'Aiglemont, whose long experience had given her a
knowledge of life, and taught her to judge of men and to dread the
world, watched the course of this flirtation, and saw that it could
only end in one way, if her daughter should fall into the hands of an
utterly unscrupulous intriguer. How could it be other than a terrible
thought for her that her daughter listened willingly to this _roue_?
Her darling stood on the brink of a precipice, she felt horribly sure
of it, yet dared not hold her back. She was afraid of the Countess.
She knew too that Moina would not listen to her wise warnings; she
knew that she had no influence over that nature--iron for her,
silken-soft for all others. Her mother's tenderness might have led her
to sympathize with the troubles of a passion called forth by the nobler
qualities of a lover, but this was no passion--it was coquetry, and
the Marquise despised Alfred de Vandenesse, knowing that he had
entered upon this flirtation with Moina as if it were a game of chess.

But if Alfred de Vandenesse made her shudder with disgust, she was
obliged--unhappy mother!--to conceal the strongest reason for her
loathing in the deepest recesses of her heart. She was on terms of
intimate friendship with the Marquis de Vandenesse, the young man's
father; and this friendship, a respectable one in the eyes of the
world, excused the son's constant presence in the house, he professing
an old attachment, dating from childhood, for Mme. de Saint-Hereen.
More than this, in vain did Mme. d'Aiglemont nerve herself to come
between Moina and Alfred de Vandenesse with a terrible word, knowing
beforehand that she should not succeed; knowing that the strong reason
which ought to separate them would carry no weight; that she should
humiliate herself vainly in her daughter's eyes. Alfred was too
corrupt; Moina too clever to believe the revelation; the young
Countess would turn it off and treat it as a piece of maternal
strategy. Mme. d'Aiglemont had built her prison walls with her own
hands; she had immured herself only to see Moina's happiness ruined
thence before she died; she was to look on helplessly at the ruin of
the young life which had been her pride and joy and comfort, a life a
thousand times dearer to her than her own. What words can describe
anguish so hideous beyond belief, such unfathomed depths of pain?

She waited for Moina to rise, with the impatience and sickening dread
of a doomed man, who longs to have done with life, and turns cold at
the thought of the headsman. She had braced herself for a last effort,
but perhaps the prospect of the certain failure of the attempt was
less dreadful to her than the fear of receiving yet again one of those
thrusts that went to her very heart--before that fear her courage
ebbed away. Her mother's love had come to this. To love her child, to
be afraid of her, to shrink from the thought of the stab, yet to go
forward. So great is a mother's affection in a loving nature, that
before it can fade away into indifference the mother herself must die
or find support in some great power without her, in religion or
another love. Since the Marquise rose that morning, her fatal memory
had called up before her some of those things, so slight to all
appearance, that make landmarks in a life. Sometimes, indeed, a whole
tragedy grows out of a single gesture; the tone in which a few words
were spoken rends a whole life in two; a glance into indifferent eyes
is the deathblow of the gladdest love; and, unhappily, such gestures
and such words were only too familiar to Mme. d'Aiglemont--she had met
so many glances that wound the soul. No, there was nothing in those
memories to bid her hope. On the contrary, everything went to show
that Alfred had destroyed her hold on her daughter's heart, that the
thought of her was now associated with duty--not with gladness. In
ways innumerable, in things that were mere trifles in themselves, the
Countess' detestable conduct rose up before her mother; and the
Marquise, it may be, looked on Moina's undutifulness as a punishment,
and found excuses for her daughter in the will of Heaven, that so she
still might adore the hand that smote her.

All these things passed through her memory that morning, and each
recollection wounded her afresh so sorely, that with a very little
additional pain her brimming cup of bitterness must have overflowed. A
cold look might kill her.

The little details of domestic life are difficult to paint; but one or
two perhaps will suffice to give an idea of the rest.

The Marquise d'Aiglemont, for instance, had grown rather deaf, but she
could never induce Moina to raise her voice for her. Once, with the
naivete of suffering, she had begged Moina to repeat some remark which
she had failed to catch, and Moina obeyed, but with so bad a grace,
the Mme. d'Aiglemont had never permitted herself to make her modest
request again. Ever since that day when Moina was talking or retailing
a piece of news, her mother was careful to come near to listen; but
this infirmity of deafness appeared to put the Countess out of
patience, and she would grumble thoughtlessly about it. This instance
is one from among very many that must have gone to the mother's heart;
and yet nearly all of them might have escaped a close observer, they
consisted in faint shades of manner invisible to any but a woman's
eyes. Take another example. Mme. d'Aiglemont happened to say one day
that the Princesse de Cadignan had called upon her. "Did she come to
see _you_!" Moina exclaimed. That was all, but the Countess' voice and
manner expressed surprise and well-bred contempt in semitones. Any
heart, still young and sensitive, might well have applauded the
philanthropy of savage tribes who kill off their old people when they
grow too feeble to cling to a strongly shaken bough. Mme. d'Aiglemont
rose smiling, and went away to weep alone.

Well-bred people, and women especially, only betray their feelings by
imperceptible touches; but those who can look back over their own
experience on such bruises as this mother's heart received, know also
how the heart-strings vibrate to these light touches. Overcome by her
memories, Mme. d'Aiglemont recollected one of those microscopically
small things, so stinging and so painful was it that never till this
moment had she felt all the heartless contempt that lurked beneath
smiles.

At the sound of shutters thrown back at her daughter's windows, she
dried her tears, and hastened up the pathway by the railings. As she
went, it struck her that the gardener had been unusually careful to
rake the sand along the walk which had been neglected for some little
time. As she stood under her daughter's windows, the shutters were
hastily closed.

"Moina, is it you?" she asked.

No answer.

The Marquise went on into the house.

"Mme. la Comtesse is in the little drawing-room," said the maid, when
the Marquise asked whether Mme. de Saint-Hereen had finished dressing.

Mme. d'Aiglemont hurried to the little drawing-room; her heart was too
full, her brain too busy to notice matters so slight; but there on the
sofa sat the Countess in her loose morning-gown, her hair in disorder
under the cap tossed carelessly on he head, her feet thrust into
slippers. The key of her bedroom hung at her girdle. Her face, aglow
with color, bore traces of almost stormy thought.

"What makes people come in!" she cried, crossly. "Oh! it is you,
mother," she interrupted herself, with a preoccupied look.

"Yes, child; it is your mother----"

Something in her tone turned those words into an outpouring of the
heart, the cry of some deep inward feeling, only to be described by
the word "holy." So thoroughly in truth had she rehabilitated the
sacred character of a mother, that her daughter was impressed, and
turned towards her, with something of awe, uneasiness, and remorse in
her manner. The room was the furthest of a suite, and safe from
indiscreet intrusion, for no one could enter it without giving warning
of approach through the previous apartments. The Marquise closed the
door.

"It is my duty, my child, to warn you in one of the most serious
crises in the lives of us women; you have perhaps reached it
unconsciously, and I am come to speak to you as a friend rather than
as a mother. When you married, you acquired freedom of action; you are
only accountable to your husband now; but I asserted my authority so
little (perhaps I was wrong), that I think I have a right to expect
you to listen to me, for once at least, in a critical position when
you must need counsel. Bear in mind, Moina that you are married to a
man of high ability, a man of whom you may well be proud, a man who--"

"I know what you are going to say, mother!" Moina broke in pettishly.
"I am to be lectured about Alfred--"

"Moina," the Marquise said gravely, as she struggled with her tears,
"you would not guess at once if you did not feel--"

"What?" asked Moina, almost haughtily. "Why, really, mother--"

Mme. d'Aiglemont summoned up all her strength. "Moina," she said, "you
must attend carefully to this that I ought to tell you--"

"I am attending," returned the Countess, folding her arms, and
affecting insolent submission. "Permit me, mother, to ring for
Pauline," she added with incredible self-possession; "I will send her
away first."

She rang the bell.

"My dear child, Pauline cannot possibly hear--"

"Mamma," interrupted the Countess, with a gravity which must have
struck her mother as something unusual, "I must--"

She stopped short, for the woman was in the room.

"Pauline, go _yourself_ to Baudran's, and ask why my hat has not yet
been sent."

Then the Countess reseated herself and scrutinized her mother. The
Marquise, with a swelling heart and dry eyes, in painful agitation,
which none but a mother can fully understand, began to open Moina's
eyes to the risk that she was running. But either the Countess felt
hurt and indignant at her mother's suspicions of a son of the Marquis
de Vandenesse, or she was seized with a sudden fit of inexplicable
levity caused by the inexperience of youth. She took advantage of a
pause.

"Mamma, I thought you were only jealous of _the father_--" she said,
with a forced laugh.

Mme. d'Aiglemont shut her eyes and bent her head at the words, with a
very faint, almost inaudible sigh. She looked up and out into space,
as if she felt the common overmastering impulse to appeal to God at
the great crises of our lives; then she looked at her daughter, and
her eyes were full of awful majesty and the expression of profound
sorrow.

"My child," she said, and her voice was hardly recognizable, "you have
been less merciful to your mother than he against whom she sinned;
less merciful than perhaps God Himself will be!"

Mme. d'Aiglemont rose; at the door she turned; but she saw nothing but
surprise in her daughter's face. She went out. Scarcely had she
reached the garden when her strength failed her. There was a violent
pain at her heart, and she sank down on a bench. As her eyes wandered
over the path, she saw fresh marks on the path, a man's footprints
were distinctly recognizable. It was too late, then, beyond a doubt.
Now she began to understand the reason for that order given to
Pauline, and with these torturing thoughts came a revelation more
hateful than any that had gone before it. She drew her own
inferences--the son of the Marquis de Vandenesse had destroyed all
feeling of respect for her in her daughter's mind. The physical pain
grew worse; by degrees she lost consciousness, and sat like one asleep
upon the garden-seat.

The Countess de Saint-Hereen, left to herself, thought that her mother
had given her a somewhat shrewd home-thrust, but a kiss and a few
attentions that evening would make all right again.

A shrill cry came from the garden. She leaned carelessly out, as
Pauline, not yet departed on her errand, called out for help, holding
the Marquise in her arms.

"Do not frighten my daughter!" those were the last words the mother
uttered.

Moina saw them carry in a pale and lifeless form that struggled for
breath, and arms moving restlessly as in protest or effort to speak;
and overcome by the sight, Moina followed in silence, and helped to
undress her mother and lay her on her bed. The burden of her fault was
greater than she could bear. In that supreme hour she learned to know
her mother--too late, she could make no reparation now. She would have
them leave her alone with her mother; and when there was no one else
in the room, when she felt that the hand which had always been so
tender for her was now grown cold to her touch, she broke out into
weeping. Her tears aroused the Marquise; she could still look at her
darling Moina; and at the sound of sobbing, that seemed as if it must
rend the delicate, disheveled breast, could smile back at her
daughter. That smile taught the unnatural child that forgiveness is
always to be found in the great deep of a mother's heart.



Servants on horseback had been dispatched at once for the physician
and surgeon and for Mme. d'Aiglemont's grandchildren. Mme. d'Aiglemont
the younger and her little sons arrived with the medical men, a
sufficiently impressive, silent, and anxious little group, which the
servants of the house came to join. The young Marquise, hearing no
sound, tapped gently at the door. That signal, doubtless, roused Moina
from her grief, for she flung open the doors and stood before them. No
words could have spoken more plainly than that disheveled figure
looking out with haggard eyes upon the assembled family. Before that
living picture of Remorse the rest were dumb. It was easy to see that
the Marquise's feet were stretched out stark and stiff with the agony
of death; and Moina, leaning against the door-frame, looking into
their faces, spoke in a hollow voice:

"I have lost my mother!"



PARIS, 1828-1844.




ADDENDUM

The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Aiglemont, General, Marquis Victor d'
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
  The Firm of Nucingen

Bonaparte, Napoleon
  The Vendetta
  The Gondreville Mystery
  Colonel Chabert
  Domestic Peace
  The Seamy Side of History

Camps, Madame Octave de (nee Cadignan)
  Madame Firmiani
  The Government Clerks
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Member for Arcis

Chatillonest, De
  Modeste Mignon

Crottat, Alexandre
  Cesar Birotteau
  Colonel Chabert
  A Start in Life
  Cousin Pons

Desroches (son)
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Colonel Chabert
  A Start in Life
  The Commission in Lunacy
  The Government Clerks
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Firm of Nucingen
  A Man of Business
  The Middle Classes

Duroc, Gerard-Christophe-Michel
  The Gondreville Mystery

Ronquerolles, Marquis de
  The Imaginary Mistress
  The Peasantry
  Ursule Mirouet
  Another Study of Woman
  The Thirteen
  The Member for Arcis

Saint-Hereen, Comtesse Moina de
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Member for Arcis

Serizy, Comtesse de
  A Start in Life
  The Thirteen
  Ursule Mirouet
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Another Study of Woman
  The Imaginary Mistress

Vandenesse, Marquis Charles de
  A Start in Life
  A Daughter of Eve





End of the Project Gutenberg EBook of A Woman of Thirty, by Honore de Balzac

*** END OF THIS PROJECT GUTENBERG EBOOK A WOMAN OF THIRTY ***

***** This file should be named 1950.txt or 1950.zip *****
This and all associated files of various formats will be found in:
        http://www.gutenberg.org/1/9/5/1950/

Produced by Dagny; and John Bickers

Updated editions will replace the previous one--the old editions
will be renamed.

Creating the works from public domain print editions means that no
one owns a United States copyright in these works, so the Foundation
(and you!) can copy and distribute it in the United States without
permission and without paying copyright royalties.  Special rules,
set forth in the General Terms of Use part of this license, apply to
copying and distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works to
protect the PROJECT GUTENBERG-tm concept and trademark.  Project
Gutenberg is a registered trademark, and may not be used if you
charge for the eBooks, unless you receive specific permission.  If you
do not charge anything for copies of this eBook, complying with the
rules is very easy.  You may use this eBook for nearly any purpose
such as creation of derivative works, reports, performances and
research.  They may be modified and printed and given away--you may do
practically ANYTHING with public domain eBooks.  Redistribution is
subject to the trademark license, especially commercial
redistribution.



*** START: FULL LICENSE ***

THE FULL PROJECT GUTENBERG LICENSE
PLEASE READ THIS BEFORE YOU DISTRIBUTE OR USE THIS WORK

To protect the Project Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting the free
distribution of electronic works, by using or distributing this work
(or any other work associated in any way with the phrase "Project
Gutenberg"), you agree to comply with all the terms of the Full Project
Gutenberg-tm License (available with this file or online at
http://gutenberg.net/license).


Section 1.  General Terms of Use and Redistributing Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic works

1.A.  By reading or using any part of this Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work, you indicate that you have read, understand, agree to
and accept all the terms of this license and intellectual property
(trademark/copyright) agreement.  If you do not agree to abide by all
the terms of this agreement, you must cease using and return or destroy
all copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in your possession.
If you paid a fee for obtaining a copy of or access to a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work and you do not agree to be bound by the
terms of this agreement, you may obtain a refund from the person or
entity to whom you paid the fee as set forth in paragraph 1.E.8.

1.B.  "Project Gutenberg" is a registered trademark.  It may only be
used on or associated in any way with an electronic work by people who
agree to be bound by the terms of this agreement.  There are a few
things that you can do with most Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works
even without complying with the full terms of this agreement.  See
paragraph 1.C below.  There are a lot of things you can do with Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works if you follow the terms of this agreement
and help preserve free future access to Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.  See paragraph 1.E below.

1.C.  The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation ("the Foundation"
or PGLAF), owns a compilation copyright in the collection of Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic works.  Nearly all the individual works in the
collection are in the public domain in the United States.  If an
individual work is in the public domain in the United States and you are
located in the United States, we do not claim a right to prevent you from
copying, distributing, performing, displaying or creating derivative
works based on the work as long as all references to Project Gutenberg
are removed.  Of course, we hope that you will support the Project
Gutenberg-tm mission of promoting free access to electronic works by
freely sharing Project Gutenberg-tm works in compliance with the terms of
this agreement for keeping the Project Gutenberg-tm name associated with
the work.  You can easily comply with the terms of this agreement by
keeping this work in the same format with its attached full Project
Gutenberg-tm License when you share it without charge with others.

1.D.  The copyright laws of the place where you are located also govern
what you can do with this work.  Copyright laws in most countries are in
a constant state of change.  If you are outside the United States, check
the laws of your country in addition to the terms of this agreement
before downloading, copying, displaying, performing, distributing or
creating derivative works based on this work or any other Project
Gutenberg-tm work.  The Foundation makes no representations concerning
the copyright status of any work in any country outside the United
States.

1.E.  Unless you have removed all references to Project Gutenberg:

1.E.1.  The following sentence, with active links to, or other immediate
access to, the full Project Gutenberg-tm License must appear prominently
whenever any copy of a Project Gutenberg-tm work (any work on which the
phrase "Project Gutenberg" appears, or with which the phrase "Project
Gutenberg" is associated) is accessed, displayed, performed, viewed,
copied or distributed:

This eBook is for the use of anyone anywhere at no cost and with
almost no restrictions whatsoever.  You may copy it, give it away or
re-use it under the terms of the Project Gutenberg License included
with this eBook or online at www.gutenberg.net

1.E.2.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is derived
from the public domain (does not contain a notice indicating that it is
posted with permission of the copyright holder), the work can be copied
and distributed to anyone in the United States without paying any fees
or charges.  If you are redistributing or providing access to a work
with the phrase "Project Gutenberg" associated with or appearing on the
work, you must comply either with the requirements of paragraphs 1.E.1
through 1.E.7 or obtain permission for the use of the work and the
Project Gutenberg-tm trademark as set forth in paragraphs 1.E.8 or
1.E.9.

1.E.3.  If an individual Project Gutenberg-tm electronic work is posted
with the permission of the copyright holder, your use and distribution
must comply with both paragraphs 1.E.1 through 1.E.7 and any additional
terms imposed by the copyright holder.  Additional terms will be linked
to the Project Gutenberg-tm License for all works posted with the
permission of the copyright holder found at the beginning of this work.

1.E.4.  Do not unlink or detach or remove the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License terms from this work, or any files containing a part of this
work or any other work associated with Project Gutenberg-tm.

1.E.5.  Do not copy, display, perform, distribute or redistribute this
electronic work, or any part of this electronic work, without
prominently displaying the sentence set forth in paragraph 1.E.1 with
active links or immediate access to the full terms of the Project
Gutenberg-tm License.

1.E.6.  You may convert to and distribute this work in any binary,
compressed, marked up, nonproprietary or proprietary form, including any
word processing or hypertext form.  However, if you provide access to or
distribute copies of a Project Gutenberg-tm work in a format other than
"Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other format used in the official version
posted on the official Project Gutenberg-tm web site (www.gutenberg.net),
you must, at no additional cost, fee or expense to the user, provide a
copy, a means of exporting a copy, or a means of obtaining a copy upon
request, of the work in its original "Plain Vanilla ASCII" or other
form.  Any alternate format must include the full Project Gutenberg-tm
License as specified in paragraph 1.E.1.

1.E.7.  Do not charge a fee for access to, viewing, displaying,
performing, copying or distributing any Project Gutenberg-tm works
unless you comply with paragraph 1.E.8 or 1.E.9.

1.E.8.  You may charge a reasonable fee for copies of or providing
access to or distributing Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works provided
that

- You pay a royalty fee of 20% of the gross profits you derive from
     the use of Project Gutenberg-tm works calculated using the method
     you already use to calculate your applicable taxes.  The fee is
     owed to the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark, but he
     has agreed to donate royalties under this paragraph to the
     Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation.  Royalty payments
     must be paid within 60 days following each date on which you
     prepare (or are legally required to prepare) your periodic tax
     returns.  Royalty payments should be clearly marked as such and
     sent to the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation at the
     address specified in Section 4, "Information about donations to
     the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation."

- You provide a full refund of any money paid by a user who notifies
     you in writing (or by e-mail) within 30 days of receipt that s/he
     does not agree to the terms of the full Project Gutenberg-tm
     License.  You must require such a user to return or
     destroy all copies of the works possessed in a physical medium
     and discontinue all use of and all access to other copies of
     Project Gutenberg-tm works.

- You provide, in accordance with paragraph 1.F.3, a full refund of any
     money paid for a work or a replacement copy, if a defect in the
     electronic work is discovered and reported to you within 90 days
     of receipt of the work.

- You comply with all other terms of this agreement for free
     distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm works.

1.E.9.  If you wish to charge a fee or distribute a Project Gutenberg-tm
electronic work or group of works on different terms than are set
forth in this agreement, you must obtain permission in writing from
both the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation and Michael
Hart, the owner of the Project Gutenberg-tm trademark.  Contact the
Foundation as set forth in Section 3 below.

1.F.

1.F.1.  Project Gutenberg volunteers and employees expend considerable
effort to identify, do copyright research on, transcribe and proofread
public domain works in creating the Project Gutenberg-tm
collection.  Despite these efforts, Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works, and the medium on which they may be stored, may contain
"Defects," such as, but not limited to, incomplete, inaccurate or
corrupt data, transcription errors, a copyright or other intellectual
property infringement, a defective or damaged disk or other medium, a
computer virus, or computer codes that damage or cannot be read by
your equipment.

1.F.2.  LIMITED WARRANTY, DISCLAIMER OF DAMAGES - Except for the "Right
of Replacement or Refund" described in paragraph 1.F.3, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation, the owner of the Project
Gutenberg-tm trademark, and any other party distributing a Project
Gutenberg-tm electronic work under this agreement, disclaim all
liability to you for damages, costs and expenses, including legal
fees.  YOU AGREE THAT YOU HAVE NO REMEDIES FOR NEGLIGENCE, STRICT
LIABILITY, BREACH OF WARRANTY OR BREACH OF CONTRACT EXCEPT THOSE
PROVIDED IN PARAGRAPH F3.  YOU AGREE THAT THE FOUNDATION, THE
TRADEMARK OWNER, AND ANY DISTRIBUTOR UNDER THIS AGREEMENT WILL NOT BE
LIABLE TO YOU FOR ACTUAL, DIRECT, INDIRECT, CONSEQUENTIAL, PUNITIVE OR
INCIDENTAL DAMAGES EVEN IF YOU GIVE NOTICE OF THE POSSIBILITY OF SUCH
DAMAGE.

1.F.3.  LIMITED RIGHT OF REPLACEMENT OR REFUND - If you discover a
defect in this electronic work within 90 days of receiving it, you can
receive a refund of the money (if any) you paid for it by sending a
written explanation to the person you received the work from.  If you
received the work on a physical medium, you must return the medium with
your written explanation.  The person or entity that provided you with
the defective work may elect to provide a replacement copy in lieu of a
refund.  If you received the work electronically, the person or entity
providing it to you may choose to give you a second opportunity to
receive the work electronically in lieu of a refund.  If the second copy
is also defective, you may demand a refund in writing without further
opportunities to fix the problem.

1.F.4.  Except for the limited right of replacement or refund set forth
in paragraph 1.F.3, this work is provided to you 'AS-IS' WITH NO OTHER
WARRANTIES OF ANY KIND, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, INCLUDING BUT NOT LIMITED TO
WARRANTIES OF MERCHANTIBILITY OR FITNESS FOR ANY PURPOSE.

1.F.5.  Some states do not allow disclaimers of certain implied
warranties or the exclusion or limitation of certain types of damages.
If any disclaimer or limitation set forth in this agreement violates the
law of the state applicable to this agreement, the agreement shall be
interpreted to make the maximum disclaimer or limitation permitted by
the applicable state law.  The invalidity or unenforceability of any
provision of this agreement shall not void the remaining provisions.

1.F.6.  INDEMNITY - You agree to indemnify and hold the Foundation, the
trademark owner, any agent or employee of the Foundation, anyone
providing copies of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works in accordance
with this agreement, and any volunteers associated with the production,
promotion and distribution of Project Gutenberg-tm electronic works,
harmless from all liability, costs and expenses, including legal fees,
that arise directly or indirectly from any of the following which you do
or cause to occur: (a) distribution of this or any Project Gutenberg-tm
work, (b) alteration, modification, or additions or deletions to any
Project Gutenberg-tm work, and (c) any Defect you cause.


Section  2.  Information about the Mission of Project Gutenberg-tm

Project Gutenberg-tm is synonymous with the free distribution of
electronic works in formats readable by the widest variety of computers
including obsolete, old, middle-aged and new computers.  It exists
because of the efforts of hundreds of volunteers and donations from
people in all walks of life.

Volunteers and financial support to provide volunteers with the
assistance they need, is critical to reaching Project Gutenberg-tm's
goals and ensuring that the Project Gutenberg-tm collection will
remain freely available for generations to come.  In 2001, the Project
Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation was created to provide a secure
and permanent future for Project Gutenberg-tm and future generations.
To learn more about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation
and how your efforts and donations can help, see Sections 3 and 4
and the Foundation web page at http://www.pglaf.org.


Section 3.  Information about the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive
Foundation

The Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation is a non profit
501(c)(3) educational corporation organized under the laws of the
state of Mississippi and granted tax exempt status by the Internal
Revenue Service.  The Foundation's EIN or federal tax identification
number is 64-6221541.  Its 501(c)(3) letter is posted at
http://pglaf.org/fundraising.  Contributions to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation are tax deductible to the full extent
permitted by U.S. federal laws and your state's laws.

The Foundation's principal office is located at 4557 Melan Dr. S.
Fairbanks, AK, 99712., but its volunteers and employees are scattered
throughout numerous locations.  Its business office is located at
809 North 1500 West, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, (801) 596-1887, email
business@pglaf.org.  Email contact links and up to date contact
information can be found at the Foundation's web site and official
page at http://pglaf.org

For additional contact information:
     Dr. Gregory B. Newby
     Chief Executive and Director
     gbnewby@pglaf.org


Section 4.  Information about Donations to the Project Gutenberg
Literary Archive Foundation

Project Gutenberg-tm depends upon and cannot survive without wide
spread public support and donations to carry out its mission of
increasing the number of public domain and licensed works that can be
freely distributed in machine readable form accessible by the widest
array of equipment including outdated equipment.  Many small donations
($1 to $5,000) are particularly important to maintaining tax exempt
status with the IRS.

The Foundation is committed to complying with the laws regulating
charities and charitable donations in all 50 states of the United
States.  Compliance requirements are not uniform and it takes a
considerable effort, much paperwork and many fees to meet and keep up
with these requirements.  We do not solicit donations in locations
where we have not received written confirmation of compliance.  To
SEND DONATIONS or determine the status of compliance for any
particular state visit http://pglaf.org

While we cannot and do not solicit contributions from states where we
have not met the solicitation requirements, we know of no prohibition
against accepting unsolicited donations from donors in such states who
approach us with offers to donate.

International donations are gratefully accepted, but we cannot make
any statements concerning tax treatment of donations received from
outside the United States.  U.S. laws alone swamp our small staff.

Please check the Project Gutenberg Web pages for current donation
methods and addresses.  Donations are accepted in a number of other
ways including including checks, online payments and credit card
donations.  To donate, please visit: http://pglaf.org/donate


Section 5.  General Information About Project Gutenberg-tm electronic
works.

Professor Michael S. Hart is the originator of the Project Gutenberg-tm
concept of a library of electronic works that could be freely shared
with anyone.  For thirty years, he produced and distributed Project
Gutenberg-tm eBooks with only a loose network of volunteer support.


Project Gutenberg-tm eBooks are often created from several printed
editions, all of which are confirmed as Public Domain in the U.S.
unless a copyright notice is included.  Thus, we do not necessarily
keep eBooks in compliance with any particular paper edition.


Most people start at our Web site which has the main PG search facility:

     http://www.gutenberg.net

This Web site includes information about Project Gutenberg-tm,
including how to make donations to the Project Gutenberg Literary
Archive Foundation, how to help produce our new eBooks, and how to
subscribe to our email newsletter to hear about new eBooks.

Colophon

This file was acquired from Project Gutenberg, and it is in the public domain. It is re-distributed here as a part of the Alex Catalogue of Electronic Texts (http://infomotions.com/alex/) by Eric Lease Morgan (Infomotions, Inc.) for the purpose of freely sharing, distributing, and making available works of great literature. Its Infomotions unique identifier is etext1950, and it should be available from the following URL:

http://infomotions.com/etexts/id/etext1950



Infomotions, Inc.

Infomotions Man says, "Give back to the 'Net."