The Lily of the Valley (Balzac, tr. Wormeley)/Chapter III

185424The Lily of the Valley — Chapter III: THE TWO WOMENKatharine Prescott WormeleyHonoré de Balzac

It was at this time, when I was never more deeply moved in my whole being, when I lived in that soul to which I strove to send the luminous breeze of the mornings and the hope of the crimsoned evenings, that I met, in the salons of the Elysee-Bourbon, one of those illustrious ladies who reign as sovereigns in society. Immensely rich, born of a family whose blood was pure from all misalliance since the Conquest, married to one of the most distinguished old men of the British peerage, it was nevertheless evident that these advantages were mere accessories heightening this lady's beauty, graces, manners, and wit, all of which had a brilliant quality which dazzled before it charmed. She was the idol of the day; reigning the more securely over Parisian society because she possessed the quality most necessary to success,—the hand of iron in the velvet glove spoken of by Bernadotte.

You know the singular characteristics of English people, the distance and coldness of their own Channel which they put between them and whoever has not been presented to them in a proper manner. Humanity seems to be an ant-hill on which they tread; they know none of their species except the few they admit into their circle; they ignore even the language of the rest; tongues may move and eyes may see in their presence but neither sound nor look has reached them; to them, the people are as if they were not. The British present an image of their own island, where law rules everything, where all is automatic in every station of life, where the exercise of virtue appears to be the necessary working of a machine which goes by clockwork. Fortifications of polished steel rise around the Englishwoman behind the golden wires of her household cage (where the feed-box and the drinking-cup, the perches and the food are exquisite in quality), but they make her irresistibly attractive. No people ever trained married women so carefully to hypocrisy by holding them rigidly between the two extremes of death or social station; for them there is no middle path between shame and honor; either the wrong is completed or it does not exist; it is all or nothing,—Hamlet's "To be or not to be." This alternative, coupled with the scorn to which the customs of her country have trained her, make an Englishwoman a being apart in the world. She is a helpless creature, forced to be virtuous yet ready to yield, condemned to live a lie in her heart, yet delightful in outward appearance—for these English rest everything on appearances. Hence the special charms of their women: the enthusiasm for a love which is all their life; the minuteness of their care for their persons; the delicacy of their passion, so charmingly rendered in the famous scene of Romeo and Juliet in which, with one stroke, Shakespeare's genius depicted his country-women.

You, who envy them so many things, what can I tell you that you do not know of these white sirens, impenetrable apparently but easily fathomed, who believe that love suffices love, and turn enjoyments to satiety by never varying them; whose soul has one note only, their voice one syllable—an ocean of love in themselves, it is true, and he who has never swum there misses part of the poetry of the senses, as he who has never seen the sea has lost some strings of his lyre. You know the why and wherefore of these words. My relations with the Marchioness of Dudley had a disastrous celebrity. At an age when the senses have dominion over our conduct, and when in my case they had been violently repressed by circumstances, the image of the saint bearing her slow martyrdom at Clochegourde shone so vividly before my mind that I was able to resist all seductions. It was the lustre of this fidelity which attracted Lady Dudley's attention. My resistance stimulated her passion. What she chiefly desired, like many Englishwoman, was the spice of singularity; she wanted pepper, capsicum, with her heart's food, just as Englishmen need condiments to excite their appetite. The dull languor forced into the lives of these women by the constant perfection of everything about them, the methodical regularity of their habits, leads them to adore the romantic and to welcome difficulty. I was wholly unable to judge of such a character. The more I retreated to a cold distance the more impassioned Lady Dudley became. The struggle, in which she gloried, excited the curiosity of several persons, and this in itself was a form of happiness which to her mind made ultimate triumph obligatory. Ah! I might have been saved if some good friend had then repeated to me her cruel comment on my relations with Madame de Mortsauf.

"I am wearied to death," she said, "of these turtle-dove sighings."

Without seeking to justify my crime, I ask you to observe, Natalie, that a man has fewer means of resisting a woman than she has of escaping him. Our code of manners forbids the brutality of repressing a woman, whereas repression with your sex is not only allurement to ours, but is imposed upon you by conventions. With us, on the contrary, some unwritten law of masculine self-conceit ridicules a man's modesty; we leave you the monopoly of that virtue, that you may have the privilege of granting us favors; but reverse the case, and man succumbs before sarcasm.

Though protected by my love, I was not of an age to be wholly insensible to the triple seductions of pride, devotion, and beauty. When Arabella laid at my feet the homage of a ball-room where she reigned a queen, when she watched by glance to know if my taste approved of her dress, and when she trembled with pleasure on seeing that she pleased me, I was affected by her emotion. Besides, she occupied a social position where I could not escape her; I could not refuse invitations in the diplomatic circle; her rank admitted her everywhere, and with the cleverness all women display to obtain what pleases them, she often contrived that the mistress of the house should place me beside her at dinner. On such occasions she spoke in low tones to my ear. "If I were loved like Madame de Mortsauf," she said once, "I should sacrifice all." She did submit herself with a laugh in many humble ways; she promised me a discretion equal to any test, and even asked that I would merely suffer her to love me. "Your friend always, your mistress when you will," she said. At last, after an evening when she had made herself so beautiful that she was certain to have excited my desires, she came to me. The scandal resounded through England, where the aristocracy was horrified like heaven itself at the fall of its highest angel. Lady Dudley abandoned her place in the British empyrean, gave up her wealth, and endeavored to eclipse by her sacrifices her whose virtue had been the cause of this great disaster. She took delight, like the devil on the pinnacle of the temple, in showing me all the riches of her passionate kingdom.

Read me, I pray you, with indulgence. The matter concerns one of the most interesting problems of human life,—a crisis to which most men are subjected, and which I desire to explain, if only to place a warning light upon the reef. This beautiful woman, so slender, so fragile, this milk-white creature, so yielding, so submissive, so gentle, her brow so endearing, the hair that crowns it so fair and fine, this tender woman, whose brilliancy is phosphorescent and fugitive, has, in truth, an iron nature. No horse, no matter how fiery he may be, can conquer her vigorous wrist, or strive against that hand so soft in appearance, but never tired. She has the foot of a doe, a thin, muscular little foot, indescribably graceful in outline. She is so strong that she fears no struggle; men cannot follow her on horseback; she would win a steeple-chase against a centaur; she can bring down a stag without stopping her horse. Her body never perspires; it inhales the fire of the atmosphere, and lives in water under pain of not living at all. Her love is African; her desires are like the whirlwinds of the desert—the desert, whose torrid expanse is in her eyes, the azure, love-laden desert, with its changeless skies, its cool and starry nights. What a contrast to Clochegourde! the east and the west! the one drawing into her every drop of moisture for her own nourishment, the other exuding her soul, wrapping her dear ones in her luminous atmosphere; the one quick and slender; the other slow and massive.

Have you ever reflected on the actual meaning of the manners and customs and morals of England? Is it not the deification of matter? a well-defined, carefully considered Epicureanism, judiciously applied? No matter what may be said against the statement, England is materialist,—possibly she does not know it herself. She lays claim to religion and morality, from which, however, divine spirituality, the catholic soul, is absent; and its fructifying grace cannot be replaced by any counterfeit, however well presented it may be. England possesses in the highest degree that science of existence which turns to account every particle of materiality; the science that makes her women's slippers the most exquisite slippers in the world, gives to their linen ineffable fragrance, lines their drawers with cedar, serves tea carefully drawn, at a certain hour, banishes dust, nails the carpets to the floors in every corner of the house, brushes the cellar walls, polishes the knocker of the front door, oils the springs of the carriage,—in short, makes matter a nutritive and downy pulp, clean and shining, in the midst of which the soul expires of enjoyment and the frightful monotony of comfort in a life without contrasts, deprived of spontaneity, and which, to sum all in one word, makes a machine of you.

Thus I suddenly came to know, in the bosom of this British luxury, a woman who is perhaps unique among her sex; who caught me in the nets of a love excited by my indifference, and to the warmth of which I opposed a stern continence,—one of those loves possessed of overwhelming charm, an electricity of their own, which lead us to the skies through the ivory gates of slumber, or bear us thither on their powerful pinions. A love monstrously ungrateful, which laughs at the bodies of those it kills; love without memory, a cruel love, resembling the policy of the English nation; a love to which, alas, most men yield. You understand the problem? Man is composed of matter and spirit; animality comes to its end in him, and the angel begins in him. There lies the struggle we all pass through, between the future destiny of which we are conscious and the influence of anterior instincts from which we are not wholly detached,—carnal love and divine love. One man combines them, another abstains altogether; some there are who seek the satisfaction of their anterior appetites from the whole sex; others idealize their love in one woman who is to them the universe; some float irresolutely between the delights of matter and the joys of soul, others spiritualize the body, requiring of it that which it cannot give.

If, thinking over these leading characteristics of love, you take into account the dislikes and the affinities which result from the diversity of organisms, and which sooner or later break all ties between those who have not fully tried each other; if you add to this the mistakes arising from the hopes of those who live more particularly either by their minds, or by their hearts, or by action, who either think, or feel, or act, and whose tendency is misunderstood in the close association in which two persons, equal counterparts, find themselves, you will have great indulgence for sorrows to which the world is pitiless. Well, Lady Dudley gratified the instincts, organs, appetites, the vices and virtues of the subtile matter of which we are made; she was the mistress of the body; Madame de Mortsauf was the wife of the soul. The love which the mistress satisfies has its limits; matter is finite, its inherent qualities have an ascertained force, it is capable of saturation; often I felt a void even in Paris, near Lady Dudley. Infinitude is the region of the heart, love had no limits at Clochegourde. I loved Lady Dudley passionately; and certainly, though the animal in her was magnificent, she was also superior in mind; her sparkling and satirical conversation had a wide range. But I adored Henriette. At night I wept with happiness, in the morning with remorse.

Some women have the art to hide their jealousy under a tone of angelic kindness; they are, like Lady Dudley, over thirty years of age. Such women know how to feel and how to calculate; they press out the juices of to-day and think of the future also; they can stifle a moan, often a natural one, with the will of a huntsman who pays no heed to a wound in the ardor of the chase. Without ever speaking of Madame de Mortsauf, Arabella endeavored to kill her in my soul, where she ever found her, her own passion increasing with the consciousness of that invincible love. Intending to triumph by comparisons which would turn to her advantage, she was never suspicious, or complaining, or inquisitive, as are most young women; but, like a lioness who has seized her prey and carries it to her lair to devour, she watched that nothing should disturb her feast, and guarded me like a rebellious captive. I wrote to Henriette under her very eyes, but she never read a line of my letters; she never sought in any way to know to whom they were addressed. I had my liberty; she seemed to say to herself, "If I lose him it shall be my own fault," and she proudly relied on a love that would have given me her life had I asked for it,—in fact she often told me that if I left her she would kill herself. I have heard her praise the custom of Indian widows who burn themselves upon their husband's grave. "In India that is a distinction reserved for the higher classes," she said, "and is very little understood by Europeans, who are incapable of understanding the grandeur of the privilege; you must admit, however, that on the dead level of our modern customs aristocracy can rise to greatness only through unparalleled devotions. How can I prove to the middle classes that the blood in my veins is not the same as theirs, unless I show them that I can die as they cannot? Women of no birth can have diamonds and satins and horses—even coats-of-arms, which ought to be sacred to us, for any one can buy a name. But to love, with our heads up, in defiance of law; to die for the idol we have chosen, with the sheets of our bed for a shroud; to lay earth and heaven at his feet, robbing the Almighty of his right to make a god, and never to betray that man, never, never, even for virtue's sake,—for, to refuse him anything in the name of duty is to devote ourselves to something that is not he, and let that something be a man or an idea, it is betrayal all the same,—these are heights to which common women cannot attain; they know but two matter-of-fact ways; the great high-road of virtue, or the muddy path of the courtesan."

Pride, you see, was her instrument; she flattered all vanities by deifying them. She put me so high that she might live at my feet; in fact, the seductions of her spirit were literally expressed by an attitude of subserviency and her complete submission. In what words shall I describe those first six months when I was lost in enervating enjoyments, in the meshes of a love fertile in pleasures and knowing how to vary them with a cleverness learned by long experience, yet hiding that knowledge beneath the transports of passion. These pleasures, the sudden revelation of the poetry of the senses, constitute the powerful tie which binds young men to women older than they. It is the chain of the galley-slave; it leaves an ineffaceable brand upon the soul, filling it with disgust for pure and innocent love decked with flowers only, which serves no alcohol in curiously chased cups inlaid with jewels and sparkling with unquenchable fires.

Recalling my early dreams of pleasures I knew nothing of, expressed at Clochegourde in my "selams," the voice of my flowers, pleasures which the union of souls renders all the more ardent, I found many sophistries by which I excused to myself the delight with which I drained that jewelled cup. Often, when, lost in infinite lassitude, my soul disengaged itself from the body and floated far from earth, I thought that these pleasures might be the means of abolishing matter and of rendering to the spirit its power to soar. Sometimes Lady Dudley, like other women, profited by the exaltation in which I was to bind me by promises; under the lash of a desire she wrung blasphemies from my lips against the angel at Clochegourde. Once a traitor I became a scoundrel. I continued to write to Madame de Mortsauf, in the tone of the lad she had first known in his strange blue coat; but, I admit it, her gift of second-sight terrified me when I thought what ruin the indiscretion of a word might bring to the dear castle of my hopes. Often, in the midst of my pleasure a sudden horror seized me; I heard the name of Henriette uttered by a voice above me, like that in the Scriptures, demanding: "Cain, where is thy brother Abel?"

At last my letters remained unanswered. I was seized with horrible anxiety and wished to leave for Clochegourde. Arabella did not oppose it, but she talked of accompanying me to Touraine. Her woman's wit told her that the journey might be a means of finally detaching me from her rival; while I, blind with fear and guilelessly unsuspicious, did not see the trap she set for me. Lady Dudley herself proposed the humblest concessions. She would stay near Tours, at a little country-place, alone, disguised; she would refrain from going out in the day-time, and only meet me in the evening when people were not likely to be about. I left Tours on horseback. I had my reasons for this; my evening excursions to meet her would require a horse, and mine was an Arab which Lady Hester Stanhope had sent to the marchioness, and which she had lately exchanged with me for that famous picture of Rembrandt which I obtained in so singular a way, and which now hangs in her drawing-room in London. I took the road I had traversed on foot six years earlier and stopped beneath my walnut-tree. From there I saw Madame de Mortsauf in a white dress standing at the edge of the terrace. Instantly I rode towards her with the speed of lightning, in a straight line and across country. She heard the stride of the swallow of the desert and when I pulled him up suddenly at the terrace, she said to me: "Oh, you here!"

Those three words blasted me. She knew my treachery. Who had told her? her mother, whose hateful letter she afterwards showed me. The feeble, indifferent voice, once so full of life, the dull pallor of its tones revealed a settled grief, exhaling the breath of flowers cut and left to wither. The tempest of infidelity, like those freshets of the Loire which bury the meadows for all time in sand, had torn its way through her soul, leaving a desert where once the verdure clothed the fields. I led my horse through the little gate; he lay down on the grass at my command and the countess, who came forward slowly, exclaimed, "What a fine animal!" She stood with folded arms lest I should try to take her hand; I guessed her meaning.

"I will let Monsieur de Mortsauf know you are here," she said, leaving me.

I stood still, confounded, letting her go, watching her, always noble, slow, and proud,—whiter than I had ever seen her; on her brow the yellow imprint of bitterest melancholy, her head bent like a lily heavy with rain.

"Henriette!" I cried in the agony of a man about to die.

She did not turn or pause; she disdained to say that she withdrew from me that name, but she did not answer to it and continued on. I may feel paltry and small in this dreadful vale of life where myriads of human beings now dust make the surface of the globe, small indeed among that crowd, hurrying beneath the luminous spaces which light them; but what sense of humiliation could equal that with which I watched her calm white figure inflexibly mounting with even steps the terraces of her chateau of Clochegourde, the pride and the torture of that Christian Dido? I cursed Arabella in a single imprecation which might have killed her had she heard it, she who had left all for me as some leave all for God. I remained lost in a world of thought, conscious of utter misery on all sides. Presently I saw the whole family coming down; Jacques, running with the eagerness of his age. Madeleine, a gazelle with mournful eyes, walked with her mother. Monsieur de Mortsauf came to me with open arms, pressed me to him and kissed me on both cheeks crying out, "Felix, I know now that I owed you my life."

Madame de Mortsauf stood with her back towards me during this little scene, under pretext of showing the horse to Madeleine.

"Ha, the devil! that's what women are," cried the count; "admiring your horse!"

Madeleine turned, came up to me, and I kissed her hand, looking at the countess, who colored.

"Madeleine seems much better," I said.

"Poor little girl!" said the countess, kissing her on her forehead.

"Yes, for the time being they are all well," answered the count. "Except me, Felix; I am as battered as an old tower about to fall."

"The general is still depressed," I remarked to Madame de Mortsauf.

"We all have our blue devils—is not that the English term?" she replied.

The whole party walked on towards the vineyard with the feeling that some serious event had happened. She had no wish to be alone with me. Still, I was her guest.

"But about your horse? why isn't he attended to?" said the count.

"You see I am wrong if I think of him, and wrong if I do not," remarked the countess.

"Well, yes," said her husband; "there is a time to do things, and a time not to do them."

"I will attend to him," I said, finding this sort of greeting intolerable. "No one but myself can put him into his stall; my groom is coming by the coach from Chinon; he will rub him down."

"I suppose your groom is from England," she said.

"That is where they all come from," remarked the count, who grew cheerful in proportion as his wife seemed depressed. Her coldness gave him an opportunity to oppose her, and he overwhelmed me with friendliness.

"My dear Felix," he said, taking my hand, and pressing it affectionately, "pray forgive Madame de Mortsauf; women are so whimsical. But it is owing to their weakness; they cannot have the evenness of temper we owe to our strength of character. She really loves you, I know it; only—"

While the count was speaking Madame de Mortsauf gradually moved away from us so as to leave us alone.

"Felix," said the count, in a low voice, looking at his wife, who was now going up to the house with her two children, "I don't know what is going on in Madame de Mortsauf's mind, but for the last six weeks her disposition has completely changed. She, so gentle, so devoted hitherto, is now extraordinarily peevish."

Manette told me later that the countess had fallen into a state of depression which made her indifferent to the count's provocations. No longer finding a soft substance in which he could plant his arrows, the man became as uneasy as a child when the poor insect it is tormenting ceases to move. He now needed a confidant, as the hangman needs a helper.

"Try to question Madame de Mortsauf," he said after a pause, "and find out what is the matter. A woman always has secrets from her husband; but perhaps she will tell you what troubles her. I would sacrifice everything to make her happy, even to half my remaining days or half my fortune. She is necessary to my very life. If I have not that angel at my side as I grow old I shall be the most wretched of men. I do desire to die easy. Tell her I shall not be here long to trouble her. Yes, Felix, my poor friend, I am going fast, I know it. I hide the fatal truth from every one; why should I worry them beforehand? The trouble is in the orifice of the stomach, my friend. I have at last discovered the true cause of this disease; it is my sensibility that is killing me. Indeed, all our feelings affect the gastric centre."

"Then do you mean," I said, smiling, "that the best-hearted people die of their stomachs?"

"Don't laugh, Felix; nothing is more absolutely true. Too keen a sensibility increases the play of the sympathetic nerve; these excitements of feeling keep the mucous membrane of the stomach in a state of constant irritation. If this state continues it deranges, at first insensibly, the digestive functions; the secretions change, the appetite is impaired, and the digestion becomes capricious; sharp pains are felt; they grow worse day by day, and more frequent; then the disorder comes to a crisis, as if a slow poison were passing the alimentary canal; the mucous membrane thickens, the valve of the pylorus becomes indurated and forms a scirrhus, of which the patient dies. Well, I have reached that point, my dear friend. The induration is proceeding and nothing checks it. Just look at my yellow skin, my feverish eyes, my excessive thinness. I am withering away. But what is to be done? I brought the seeds of the disease home with me from the emigration; heaven knows what I suffered then! My marriage, which might have repaired the wrong, far from soothing my ulcerated mind increased the wound. What did I find? ceaseless fears for the children, domestic jars, a fortune to remake, economies which required great privations, which I was obliged to impose upon my wife, but which I was the one to suffer from; and then,—I can tell this to none but you, Felix,—I have a worse trouble yet. Though Blanche is an angel, she does not understand me; she knows nothing of my sufferings and she aggravates them; but I forgive her. It is a dreadful thing to say, my friend, but a less virtuous woman might have made me more happy by lending herself to consolations which Blanche never thinks of, for she is as silly as a child. Moreover my servants torment me; blockheads who take my French for Greek! When our fortune was finally remade inch by inch, and I had some relief from care, it was too late, the harm was done; I had reached the period when the appetite is vitiated. Then came my severe illness, so ill-managed by Origet. In short, I have not six months to live."

I listened to the count in terror. On meeting the countess I had been struck with her yellow skin and the feverish brilliancy of her eyes. I led the count towards the house while seeming to listen to his complaints and his medical dissertations; but my thoughts were all with Henriette, and I wanted to observe her. We found her in the salon, where she was listening to a lesson in mathematics which the Abbe Dominis was giving Jacques, and at the same time showing Madeleine a stitch of embroidery. Formerly she would have laid aside every occupation the day of my arrival to be with me. But my love was so deeply real that I drove back into my heart the grief I felt at this contrast between the past and the present, and thought only of the fatal yellow tint on that celestial face, which resembled the halo of divine light Italian painters put around the faces of their saints. I felt the icy wind of death pass over me. Then when the fire of her eyes, no longer softened by the liquid light in which in former times they moved, fell upon me, I shuddered; I noticed several changes, caused by grief, which I had not seen in the open air. The slender lines which, at my last visit, were so lightly marked upon her forehead had deepened; her temples with their violet veins seemed burning and concave; her eyes were sunk beneath the brows, their circles browned;—alas! she was discolored like a fruit when decay is beginning to show upon the surface, or a worm is at the core. I, whose whole ambition had been to pour happiness into her soul, I it was who embittered the spring from which she had hoped to refresh her life and renew her courage. I took a seat beside her and said in a voice filled with tears of repentance, "Are you satisfied with your own health?"

"Yes," she answered, plunging her eyes into mine. "My health is there," she added, motioning to Jacques and Madeleine.

The latter, just fifteen, had come victoriously out of her struggle with anaemia, and was now a woman. She had grown tall; the Bengal roses were blooming in her once sallow cheeks. She had lost the unconcern of a child who looks every one in the face, and now dropped her eyes; her movements were slow and infrequent, like those of her mother; her figure was slim, but the gracefulness of the bust was already developing; already an instinct of coquetry had smoothed the magnificent black hair which lay in bands upon her Spanish brow. She was like those pretty statuettes of the Middle Ages, so delicate in outline, so slender in form that the eye as it seizes their charm fears to break them. Health, the fruit of untold efforts, had made her cheeks as velvety as a peach and given to her throat the silken down which, like her mother's, caught the light. She was to live! God had written it, dear bud of the loveliest of human flowers, on the long lashes of her eyelids, on the curve of those shoulders which gave promise of a development as superb as her mother's! This brown young girl, erect as a poplar, contrasted with Jacques, a fragile youth of seventeen, whose head had grown immensely, causing anxiety by the rapid expansion of the forehead, while his feverish, weary eyes were in keeping with a voice that was deep and sonorous. The voice gave forth too strong a volume of tone, the eye too many thoughts. It was Henriette's intellect and soul and heart that were here devouring with swift flames a body without stamina; for Jacques had the milk-white skin and high color which characterize young English women doomed sooner or later to the consumptive curse,—an appearance of health that deceives the eye. Following a sign by which Henriette, after showing me Madeleine, made me look at Jacques drawing geometrical figures and algebraic calculations on a board before the Abbe Dominis, I shivered at the sight of death hidden beneath the roses, and was thankful for the self-deception of his mother.

"When I see my children thus, happiness stills my griefs—just as those griefs are dumb, and even disappear, when I see them failing. My friend," she said, her eyes shining with maternal pleasure, "if other affections fail us, the feelings rewarded here, the duties done and crowned with success, are compensation enough for defeat elsewhere. Jacques will be, like you, a man of the highest education, possessed of the worthiest knowledge; he will be, like you, an honor to his country, which he may assist in governing, helped by you, whose standing will be so high; but I will strive to make him faithful to his first affections. Madeleine, dear creature, has a noble heart; she is pure as the snows on the highest Alps; she will have a woman's devotion and a woman's graceful intellect. She is proud; she is worthy of being a Lenoncourt. My motherhood, once so tried, so tortured, is happy now, happy with an infinite happiness, unmixed with pain. Yes, my life is full, my life is rich. You see, God makes my joy to blossom in the heart of these sanctified affections, and turns to bitterness those that might have led me astray—"

"Good!" cried the abbe, joyfully. "Monsieur le vicomte begins to know as much as I—"

Just then Jacques coughed.

"Enough for to-day, my dear abbe," said the countess, "above all, no chemistry. Go for a ride on horseback, Jacques," she added, letting her son kiss her with the tender and yet dignified pleasure of a mother. "Go, dear, but take care of yourself."

"But," I said, as her eyes followed Jacques with a lingering look, "you have not answered me. Do you feel ill?"

"Oh, sometimes, in my stomach. If I were in Paris I should have the honors of gastritis, the fashionable disease."

"My mother suffers very much and very often," said Madeleine.

"Ah!" she said, "does my health interest you?"

Madeleine, astonished at the irony of these words, looked from one to the other; my eyes counted the roses on the cushion of the gray and green sofa which was in the salon.

"This situation is intolerable," I whispered in her ear.

"Did I create it?" she asked. "Dear child," she said aloud, with one of those cruel levities by which women point their vengeance, "don't you read history? France and England are enemies, and ever have been. Madeleine knows that; she knows that a broad sea, and a cold and stormy one, separates them."

The vases on the mantelshelf had given place to candelabra, no doubt to deprive me of the pleasure of filling them with flowers; I found them later in my own room. When my servant arrived I went out to give him some orders; he had brought me certain things I wished to place in my room.

"Felix," said the countess, "do not make a mistake. My aunt's old room is now Madeleine's. Yours is over the count's."

Though guilty, I had a heart; those words were dagger thrusts coldly given at its tenderest spot, for which she seemed to aim. Moral sufferings are not fixed quantities; they depend on the sensitiveness of souls. The countess had trod each round of the ladder of pain; but, for that very reason, the kindest of women was now as cruel as she was once beneficent. I looked at Henriette, but she averted her head. I went to my new room, which was pretty, white and green. Once there I burst into tears. Henriette heard me as she entered with a bunch of flowers in her hand.

"Henriette," I said, "will you never forgive a wrong that is indeed excusable?"

"Do not call me Henriette," she said. "She no longer exists, poor soul; but you may feel sure of Madame de Mortsauf, a devoted friend, who will listen to you and who will love you. Felix, we will talk of these things later. If you have still any tenderness for me let me grow accustomed to seeing you. Whenever words will not rend my heart, if the day should ever come when I recover courage, I will speak to you, but not till then. Look at the valley," she said, pointing to the Indre, "it hurts me, I love it still."

"Ah, perish England and all her women! I will send my resignation to the king; I will live and die here, pardoned."

"No, love her; love that woman! Henriette is not. This is no play, and you should know it."

She left the room, betraying by the tone of her last words the extent of her wounds. I ran after her and held her back, saying, "Do you no longer love me?"

"You have done me more harm than all my other troubles put together. To-day I suffer less, therefore I love you less. Be kind; do not increase my pain; if you suffer, remember that—I—live."

She withdrew her hand, which I held, cold, motionless, but moist, in mine, and darted like an arrow through the corridor in which this scene of actual tragedy took place.

At dinner, the count subjected me to a torture I had little expected. "So the Marchioness of Dudley is not in Paris?" he said.

I blushed excessively, but answered, "No."

"She is not in Tours," continued the count.

"She is not divorced, and she can go back to England. Her husband would be very glad if she would return to him," I said, eagerly.

"Has she children?" asked Madame de Mortsauf, in a changed voice.

"Two sons," I replied.

"Where are they?"

"In England, with their father."

"Come, Felix," interposed the count; "be frank; is she as handsome as they say?"

"How can you ask him such a question?" cried the countess. "Is not the woman you love always the handsomest of women?"

"Yes, always," I said, firmly, with a glance which she could not sustain.

"You are a happy fellow," said the count; "yes, a very happy one. Ha! in my young days, I should have gone mad over such a conquest—"

"Hush!" said Madame de Mortsauf, reminding the count of Madeleine by a look.

"I am not a child," he said.

When we left the table I followed the countess to the terrace. When we were alone she exclaimed, "How is it possible that some women can sacrifice their children to a man? Wealth, position, the world, I can conceive of; eternity? yes, possibly; but children! deprive one's self of one's children!"

"Yes, and such women would give even more if they had it; they sacrifice everything."

The world was suddenly reversed before her, her ideas became confused. The grandeur of that thought struck her; a suspicion entered her mind that sacrifice, immolation justified happiness; the echo of her own inward cry for love came back to her; she stood dumb in presence of her wasted life. Yes, for a moment horrible doubts possessed her; then she rose, grand and saintly, her head erect.

"Love her well, Felix," she said, with tears in her eyes; "she shall be my happy sister. I will forgive her the harm she has done me if she gives you what you could not have here. You are right; I have never told you that I loved you, and I never have loved you as the world loves. But if she is a mother how can she love you so?"

"Dear saint," I answered, "I must be less moved than I am now, before I can explain to you how it is that you soar victoriously above her. She is a woman of earth, the daughter of decaying races; you are the child of heaven, an angel worthy of worship; you have my heart, she my flesh only. She knows this and it fills her with despair; she would change parts with you even though the cruellest martyrdom were the price of the change. But all is irremediable. To you the soul, to you the thoughts, the love that is pure, to you youth and old age; to her the desires and joys of passing passion; to you remembrance forever, to her oblivion—"

"Tell me, tell me that again, oh, my friend!" she turned to a bench and sat down, bursting into tears. "If that be so, Felix, virtue, purity of life, a mother's love, are not mistakes. Oh, pour that balm upon my wounds! Repeat the words which bear me back to heaven, where once I longed to rise with you. Bless me by a look, by a sacred word,—I forgive you for the sufferings you have caused me the last two months."

"Henriette, there are mysteries in the life of men of which you know nothing. I met you at an age when the feelings of the heart stifle the desires implanted in our nature; but many scenes, the memory of which will kindle my soul to the hour of death, must have told you that this age was drawing to a close, and it was your constant triumph still to prolong its mute delights. A love without possession is maintained by the exasperation of desire; but there comes a moment when all is suffering within us—for in this we have no resemblance to you. We possess a power we cannot abdicate, or we cease to be men. Deprived of the nourishment it needs, the heart feeds upon itself, feeling an exhaustion which is not death, but which precedes it. Nature cannot long be silenced; some trifling accident awakens it to a violence that seems like madness. No, I have not loved, but I have thirsted in the desert."

"The desert!" she said bitterly, pointing to the valley. "Ah!" she exclaimed, "how he reasons! what subtle distinctions! Faithful hearts are not so learned."

"Henriette," I said, "do not quarrel with me for a chance expression. No, my soul has not vacillated, but I have not been master of my senses. That woman is not ignorant that you are the only one I ever loved. She plays a secondary part in my life; she knows it and is resigned. I have the right to leave her as men leave courtesans."

"And then?"

"She tells me that she will kill herself," I answered, thinking that this resolve would startle Henriette. But when she heard it a disdainful smile, more expressive than the thoughts it conveyed, flickered on her lips. "My dear conscience," I continued, "if you would take into account my resistance and the seductions that led to my fall you would understand the fatal—"

"Yes, fatal!" she cried. "I believed in you too much. I believed you capable of the virtue a priest practises. All is over," she continued, after a pause. "I owe you much, my friend; you have extinguished in me the fires of earthly life. The worst of the way is over; age is coming on. I am ailing now, soon I may be ill; I can never be the brilliant fairy who showers you with favors. Be faithful to Lady Dudley. Madeleine, whom I was training to be yours, ah! who will have her now? Poor Madeleine, poor Madeleine!" she repeated, like the mournful burden of a song. "I would you had heard her say to me when you came: 'Mother, you are not kind to Felix!' Dear creature!"

She looked at me in the warm rays of the setting sun as they glided through the foliage. Seized with compassion for the shipwreck of our lives she turned back to memories of our pure past, yielding to meditations which were mutual. We were silent, recalling past scenes; our eyes went from the valley to the fields, from the windows of Clochegourde to those of Frapesle, peopling the dream with my bouquets, the fragrant language of our desires. It was her last hour of pleasure, enjoyed with the purity of her Catholic soul. This scene, so grand to each of us, cast its melancholy on both. She believed my words, and saw where I placed her—in the skies.

"My friend," she said, "I obey God, for his hand is in all this."

I did not know until much later the deep meaning of her words. We slowly returned up the terraces. She took my arm and leaned upon it resignedly, bleeding still, but with a bandage on her wound.

"Human life is thus," she said. "What had Monsieur de Mortsauf done to deserve his fate? It proves the existence of a better world. Alas, for those who walk in happier ways!"

She went on, estimating life so truly, considering its diverse aspects so profoundly that these cold judgments revealed to me the disgust that had come upon her for all things here below. When we reached the portico she dropped my arm and said these last words: "If God has given us the sentiment and the desire for happiness ought he not to take charge himself of innocent souls who have found sorrow only in this low world? Either that must be so, or God is not, and our life is no more than a cruel jest."

She entered and turned the house quickly; I found her on the sofa, crouching, as though blasted by the voice which flung Saul to the ground.

"What is the matter?" I asked.

"I no longer know what is virtue," she replied; "I have no consciousness of my own."

We were silent, petrified, listening to the echo of those words which fell like a stone cast into a gulf.

"If I am mistaken in my life she is right in hers," Henriette said at last.

Thus her last struggle followed her last happiness. When the count came in she complained of illness, she who never complained. I conjured her to tell me exactly where she suffered; but she refused to explain and went to bed, leaving me a prey to unending remorse. Madeleine went with her mother, and the next day I heard that the countess had been seized with nausea, caused, she said, by the violent excitements of that day. Thus I, who longed to give my life for hers, I was killing her.

"Dear count," I said to Monsieur de Mortsauf, who obliged me to play backgammon, "I think the countess very seriously ill. There is still time to save her; pray send for Origet, and persuade her to follow his advice."

"Origet, who half killed me?" cried the count. "No, no; I'll consult Carbonneau."

During this week, especially the first days of it, everything was anguish to me—the beginning of paralysis of the heart—my vanity was mortified, my soul rent. One must needs have been the centre of all looks and aspirations, the mainspring of the life about him, the torch from which all others drew their light, to understand the horror of the void that was now about me. All things were there, the same, but the spirit that gave life to them was extinct, like a blown-out flame. I now understood the desperate desire of lovers never to see each other again when love has flown. To be nothing where we were once so much! To find the chilling silence of the grave where life so lately sparkled! Such comparisons are overwhelming. I came at last to envy the dismal ignorance of all happiness which had darkened my youth. My despair became so great that the countess, I thought, felt pity for it. One day after dinner as we were walking on the meadows beside the river I made a last effort to obtain forgiveness. I told Jacques to go on with his sister, and leaving the count to walk alone, I took Henriette to the punt.

"Henriette," I said; "one word of forgiveness, or I fling myself into the Indre! I have sinned,—yes, it is true; but am I not like a dog in his faithful attachments? I return like him, like him ashamed. If he does wrong he is struck, but he loves the hand that strikes him; strike me, bruise me, but give me back your heart."

"Poor child," she said, "are you not always my son?"

She took my arm and silently rejoined her children, with whom she returned to Clochegourde, leaving me to the count, who began to talk politics apropos of his neighbors.

"Let us go in," I said; "you are bare-headed, and the dew may do you an injury."

"You pity me, my dear Felix," he answered; "you understand me, but my wife never tries to comfort me,—on principle, perhaps."

Never would she have left me to walk home with her husband; it was now I who had to find excuses to join her. I found her with her children, explaining the rules of backgammon to Jacques.

"See there," said the count, who was always jealous of the affection she showed for her children; "it is for them that I am neglected. Husbands, my dear Felix, are always suppressed. The most virtuous woman in the world has ways of satisfying her desire to rob conjugal affection."

She said nothing and continued as before.

"Jacques," he said, "come here."

Jacques objected slightly.

"Your father wants you; go at once, my son," said his mother, pushing him.

"They love me by order," said the old man, who sometimes perceived his situation.

"Monsieur," she answered, passing her hand over Madeleine's smooth tresses, which were dressed that day "a la belle Ferronniere"; "do not be unjust to us poor women; life is not so easy for us to bear. Perhaps the children are the virtues of a mother."

"My dear," said the count, who took it into his head to be logical, "what you say signifies that women who have no children would have no virtue, and would leave their husbands in the lurch."

The countess rose hastily and took Madeleine to the portico.

"That's marriage, my dear fellow," remarked the count to me. "Do you mean to imply by going off in that manner that I am talking nonsense?" he cried to his wife, taking his son by the hand and going to the portico after her with a furious look in his eyes.

"On the contrary, Monsieur, you frightened me. Your words hurt me cruelly," she added, in a hollow voice. "If virtue does not consist in sacrificing everything to our children and our husband, what is virtue?"

"Sac-ri-ficing!" cried the count, making each syllable the blow of a sledge-hammer on the heart of his victim. "What have you sacrificed to your children? What do you sacrifice to me? Speak! what means all this? Answer. What is going on here? What did you mean by what you said?"

"Monsieur," she replied, "would you be satisfied to be loved for love of God, or to know your wife virtuous for virtue's sake?"

"Madame is right," I said, interposing in a shaken voice which vibrated in two hearts; "yes, the noblest privilege conferred by reason is to attribute our virtues to the beings whose happiness is our work, and whom we render happy, not from policy, nor from duty, but from an inexhaustible and voluntary affection—"

A tear shone in Henriette's eyes.

"And, dear count," I continued, "if by chance a woman is involuntarily subjected to feelings other than those society imposes on her, you must admit that the more irresistible that feeling is, the more virtuous she is in smothering it, in sacrificing herself to her husband and children. This theory is not applicable to me who unfortunately show an example to the contrary, nor to you whom it will never concern."

"You have a noble soul, Felix," said the count, slipping his arm, not ungracefully, round his wife's waist and drawing her towards him to say: "Forgive a poor sick man, dear, who wants to be loved more than he deserves."

"There are some hearts that are all generosity," she said, resting her head upon his shoulder. The scene made her tremble to such a degree that her comb fell, her hair rolled down, and she turned pale. The count, holding her up, gave a sort of groan as he felt her fainting; he caught her in his arms as he might a child, and carried her to the sofa in the salon, where we all surrounded her. Henriette held my hand in hers as if to tell me that we two alone knew the secret of that scene, so simple in itself, so heart-rending to her.

"I do wrong," she said to me in a low voice, when the count left the room to fetch a glass of orange-flower water. "I have many wrongs to repent of towards you; I wished to fill you with despair when I ought to have received you mercifully. Dear, you are kindness itself, and I alone can appreciate it. Yes, I know there is a kindness prompted by passion. Men have various ways of being kind; some from contempt, others from impulse, from calculation, through indolence of nature; but you, my friend, you have been absolutely kind."

"If that be so," I replied, "remember that all that is good or great in me comes through you. You know well that I am of your making."

"That word is enough for any woman's happiness," she said, as the count re-entered the room. "I feel better," she said, rising; "I want air."

We went down to the terrace, fragrant with the acacias which were still in bloom. She had taken my right arm, and pressed it against her heart, thus expressing her sad thoughts; but they were, she said, of a sadness dear to her. No doubt she would gladly have been alone with me; but her imagination, inexpert in women's wiles, did not suggest to her any way of sending her children and the count back to the house. We therefore talked on indifferent subjects, while she pondered a means of pouring a few last thoughts from her heart to mine.

"It is a long time since I have driven out," she said, looking at the beauty of the evening. "Monsieur, will you please order the carriage that I may take a turn?"

She knew that after evening prayer she could not speak with me, for the count was sure to want his backgammon. She might have returned to the warm and fragrant terrace after her husband had gone to bed, but she feared, perhaps, to trust herself beneath those shadows, or to walk by the balustrade where our eyes could see the course of the Indre through the dear valley. As the silent and sombre vaults of a cathedral lift the soul to prayer, so leafy ways, lighted by the moon, perfumed with penetrating odors, alive with the murmuring noises of the spring-tide, stir the fibres and weaken the resolves of those who love. The country calms the old, but excites the young. We knew it well. Two strokes of the bell announced the hour of prayer. The countess shivered.

"Dear Henriette, are you ill?"

"There is no Henriette," she said. "Do not bring her back. She was capricious and exacting; now you have a friend whose courage has been strengthened by the words which heaven itself dictated to you. We will talk of this later. We must be punctual at prayers, for it is my day to lead them."

As Madame de Mortsauf said the words in which she begged the help of God through all the adversities of life, a tone came into her voice which struck all present. Did she use her gift of second sight to foresee the terrible emotion she was about to endure through my forgetfulness of an engagement made with Arabella?

"We have time to make three kings before the horses are harnessed," said the count, dragging me back to the salon. "You can go and drive with my wife, and I'll go to bed."

The game was stormy, like all others. The countess heard the count's voice either from her room or from Madeleine's.

"You show a strange hospitality," she said, re-entering the salon.

I looked at her with amazement; I could not get accustomed to the change in her; formerly she would have been most careful not to protect me against the count; then it gladdened her that I should share her sufferings and bear them with patience for love of her.

"I would give my life," I whispered in her ear, "if I could hear you say again, as you once said, 'Poor dear, poor dear!'"

She lowered her eyes, remembering the moment to which I alluded, yet her glance turned to me beneath her eyelids, expressing the joy of a woman who finds the mere passing tones from her heart preferred to the delights of another love. The count was losing the game; he said he was tired, as an excuse to give it up, and we went to walk on the lawn while waiting for the carriage. When the count left us, such pleasure shone on my face that Madame de Mortsauf questioned me by a look of surprise and curiosity.

"Henriette does exist," I said. "You love me still. You wound me with an evident intention to break my heart. I may yet be happy!"

"There was but a fragment of that poor woman left, and you have now destroyed even that," she said. "God be praised; he gives me strength to bear my righteous martyrdom. Yes, I still love you, and I might have erred; the English woman shows me the abyss."

We got into the carriage and the coachman asked for orders.

"Take the road to Chinon by the avenue, and come back by the Charlemagne moor and the road to Sache."

"What day is it?" I asked, with too much eagerness.


"Then don't go that way, madame, the road will be crowded with poultry-men and their carts returning from Tours."

"Do as I told you," she said to the coachman. We knew the tones of our voices too well to be able to hide from each other our least emotion. Henriette understood all.

"You did not think of the poultry-men when you appointed this evening," she said with a tinge of irony. "Lady Dudley is at Tours, and she is coming here to meet you; do not deny it. 'What day is it?—the poultry-men—their carts!' Did you ever take notice of such things in our old drives?"

"It only shows that at Clochegourde I forget everything," I answered, simply.

"She is coming to meet you?"


"At what hour?"

"Half-past eleven."


"On the moor."

"Do not deceive me; is it not at the walnut-tree?"

"On the moor."

"We will go there," she said, "and I shall see her."

When I heard these words I regarded my future life as settled. I at once resolved to marry Lady Dudley and put an end to the miserable struggle which threatened to exhaust my sensibilities and destroy by these repeated shocks the delicate delights which had hitherto resembled the flower of fruits. My sullen silence wounded the countess, the grandeur of whose mind I misjudged.

"Do not be angry with me," she said, in her golden voice. "This, dear, is my punishment. You can never be loved as you are here," she continued, laying my hand upon her heart. "I now confess it; but Lady Dudley has saved me. To her the stains,—I do not envy them,—to me the glorious love of angels! I have traversed vast tracts of thought since you returned here. I have judged life. Lift up the soul and you rend it; the higher we go the less sympathy we meet; instead of suffering in the valley, we suffer in the skies, as the soaring eagle bears in his heart the arrow of some common herdsman. I comprehend at last that earth and heaven are incompatible. Yes, to those who would live in the celestial sphere God must be all in all. We must love our friends as we love our children,—for them, not for ourselves. Self is the cause of misery and grief. My soul is capable of soaring higher than the eagle; there is a love which cannot fail me. But to live for this earthly life is too debasing,—here the selfishness of the senses reigns supreme over the spirituality of the angel that is within us. The pleasures of passion are stormy, followed by enervating anxieties which impair the vigor of the soul. I came to the shores of the sea where such tempests rage; I have seen them too near; they have wrapped me in their clouds; the billows did not break at my feet, they caught me in a rough embrace which chilled my heart. No! I must escape to higher regions; I should perish on the shores of this vast sea. I see in you, as in all others who have grieved me, the guardian of my virtue. My life has been mingled with anguish, fortunately proportioned to my strength; it has thus been kept free from evil passions, from seductive peace, and ever near to God. Our attachment was the mistaken attempt, the innocent effort of two children striving to satisfy their own hearts, God, and men—folly, Felix! Ah," she said quickly, "what does that woman call you?"

"'Amedee,'" I answered, "'Felix' is a being apart, who belongs to none but you."

"'Henriette' is slow to die," she said, with a gentle smile, "but die she will at the first effort of the humble Christian, the self-respecting mother; she whose virtue tottered yesterday and is firm to-day. What may I say to you? This. My life has been, and is, consistent with itself in all its circumstances, great and small. The heart to which the rootlets of my first affection should have clung, my mother's heart, was closed to me, in spite of my persistence in seeking a cleft through which they might have slipped. I was a girl; I came after the death of three boys; and I vainly strove to take their place in the hearts of my parents; the wound I gave to the family pride was never healed. When my gloomy childhood was over and I knew my aunt, death took her from me all too soon. Monsieur de Mortsauf, to whom I vowed myself, has repeatedly, nay without respite, smitten me, not being himself aware of it, poor man! His love has the simple-minded egotism our children show to us. He has no conception of the harm he does me, and he is heartily forgiven for it. My children, those dear children who are bound to my flesh through their sufferings, to my soul by their characters, to my nature by their innocent happiness,—those children were surely given to show me how much strength and patience a mother's breast contains. Yes, my children are my virtues. You know how my heart has been harrowed for them, by them, in spite of them. To be a mother was, for me, to buy the right to suffer. When Hagar cried in the desert an angel came and opened a spring of living water for that poor slave; but I, when the limpid stream to which (do you remember?) you tried to guide me flowed past Clochegourde, its waters changed to bitterness for me. Yes, the sufferings you have inflicted on my soul are terrible. God, no doubt, will pardon those who know affection only through its pains. But if the keenest of these pains has come to me through you, perhaps I deserved them. God is not unjust. Ah, yes, Felix, a kiss furtively taken may be a crime. Perhaps it is just that a woman should harshly expiate the few steps taken apart from husband and children that she might walk alone with thoughts and memories that were not of them, and so walking, marry her soul to another. Perhaps it is the worst of crimes when the inward being lowers itself to the region of human kisses. When a woman bends to receive her husband's kiss with a mask upon her face, that is a crime! It is a crime to think of a future springing from a death, a crime to imagine a motherhood without terrors, handsome children playing in the evening with a beloved father before the eyes of a happy mother. Yes, I sinned, sinned greatly. I have loved the penances inflicted by the Church,—which did not redeem the faults, for the priest was too indulgent. God has placed the punishment in the faults themselves, committing the execution of his vengeance to the one for whom the faults were committed. When I gave my hair, did I not give myself? Why did I so often dress in white? because I seemed the more your lily; did you not see me here, for the first time, all in white? Alas! I have loved my children less, for all intense affection is stolen from the natural affections. Felix, do you not see that all suffering has its meaning. Strike me, wound me even more than Monsieur de Mortsauf and my children's state have wounded me. That woman is the instrument of God's anger; I will meet her without hatred; I will smile upon her; under pain of being neither Christian, wife, nor mother, I ought to love her. If, as you tell me, I contributed to keep your heart unsoiled by the world, that Englishwoman ought not to hate me. A woman should love the mother of the man she loves, and I am your mother. What place have I sought in your heart? that left empty by Madame de Vandenesse. Yes, yes, you have always complained of my coldness; yes, I am indeed your mother only. Forgive me therefore the involuntary harshness with which I met you on your return; a mother ought to rejoice that her son is so well loved—"

She laid her head for a moment on my breast, repeating the words, "Forgive me! oh, forgive me!" in a voice that was neither her girlish voice with its joyous notes, nor the woman's voice with despotic endings; not the sighing sound of the mother's woe, but an agonizing new voice for new sorrows.

"You, Felix," she presently continued, growing animated; "you are the friend who can do no wrong. Ah! you have lost nothing in my heart; do not blame yourself, do not feel the least remorse. It was the height of selfishness in me to ask you to sacrifice the joys of life to an impossible future; impossible, because to realize it a woman must abandon her children, abdicate her position, and renounce eternity. Many a time I have thought you higher than I; you were great and noble, I, petty and criminal. Well, well, it is settled now; I can be to you no more than a light from above, sparkling and cold, but unchanging. Only, Felix, let me not love the brother I have chosen without return. Love me, cherish me! The love of a sister has no dangerous to-morrow, no hours of difficulty. You will never find it necessary to deceive the indulgent heart which will live in future within your life, grieve for your griefs, be joyous with your joys, which will love the women who make you happy, and resent their treachery. I never had a brother to love in that way. Be noble enough to lay aside all self-love and turn our attachment, hitherto so doubtful and full of trouble, into this sweet and sacred love. In this way I shall be enabled to still live. I will begin to-night by taking Lady Dudley's hand."

She did not weep as she said these words so full of bitter knowledge, by which, casting aside the last remaining veil which hid her soul from mine, she showed by how many ties she had linked herself to me, how many chains I had hewn apart. Our emotions were so great that for a time we did not notice it was raining heavily.

"Will Madame la comtesse wait here under shelter?" asked the coachman, pointing to the chief inn of Ballan.

She made a sign of assent, and we stayed nearly half an hour under the vaulted entrance, to the great surprise of the inn-people who wondered what brought Madame de Mortsauf on that road at eleven o'clock at night. Was she going to Tours? Had she come from there? When the storm ceased and the rain turned to what is called in Touraine a "brouee," which does not hinder the moon from shining through the higher mists as the wind with its upper currents whirls them away, the coachman drove from our shelter, and, to my great delight, turned to go back the way we came.

"Follow my orders," said the countess, gently.

We now took the road across the Charlemagne moor, where the rain began again. Half-way across I heard the barking of Arabella's dog; a horse came suddenly from beneath a clump of oaks, jumped the ditch which owners of property dig around their cleared lands when they consider them suitable for cultivation, and carried Lady Dudley to the moor to meet the carriage.

"What pleasure to meet a love thus if it can be done without sin," said Henriette.

The barking of the dog had told Lady Dudley that I was in the carriage. She thought, no doubt, that I had brought it to meet her on account of the rain. When we reached the spot where she was waiting, she urged her horse to the side of the road with the equestrian dexterity for which she was famous, and which to Henriette seemed marvellous.

"Amedee," she said, and the name in her English pronunciation had a fairy-like charm.

"He is here, madame," said the countess, looking at the fantastic creature plainly visible in the moonlight, whose impatient face was oddly swathed in locks of hair now out of curl.

You know with what swiftness two women examine each other. The Englishwoman recognized her rival, and was gloriously English; she gave us a look full of insular contempt, and disappeared in the underbrush with the rapidity of an arrow.

"Drive on quickly to Clochegourde," cried the countess, to whom that cutting look was like the blow of an axe upon her heart.

The coachman turned to get upon the road to Chinon which was better than that to Sache. As the carriage again approached the moor we heard the furious galloping of Arabella's horse and the steps of her dog. All three were skirting the wood behind the bushes.

"She is going; you will lose her forever," said Henriette.

"Let her go," I answered, "and without a regret."

"Oh, poor woman!" cried the countess, with a sort of compassionate horror. "Where will she go?"

"Back to La Grenadiere,—a little house near Saint-Cyr," I said, "where she is staying."

Just as we were entering the avenue of Clochegourde Arabella's dog barked joyfully and bounded up to the carriage.

"She is here before us!" cried the countess; then after a pause she added, "I have never seen a more beautiful woman. What a hand and what a figure! Her complexion outdoes the lily, her eyes are literally bright as diamonds. But she rides too well; she loves to display her strength; I think her violent and too active,—also too bold for our conventions. The woman who recognizes no law is apt to listen only to her caprices. Those who seek to shine, to make a stir, have not the gift of constancy. Love needs tranquillity; I picture it to myself like a vast lake in which the lead can find no bottom; where tempests may be violent, but are rare and controlled within certain limits; where two beings live on a flowery isle far from the world whose luxury and display offend them. Still, love must take the imprint of the character. Perhaps I am wrong. If nature's elements are compelled to take certain forms determined by climate, why is it not the same with the feelings of individuals? No doubt sentiments, feelings, which hold to the general law in the mass, differ in expression only. Each soul has its own method. Lady Dudley is the strong woman who can traverse distances and act with the vigor of a man; she would rescue her lover and kill jailers and guards; while other women can only love with their whole souls; in moments of danger they kneel down to pray, and die. Which of the two women suits you best? That is the question. Yes, yes, Lady Dudley must surely love; she has made many sacrifices. Perhaps she will love you when you have ceased to love her!"

"Dear angel," I said, "let me ask the question you asked me; how is it that you know these things?"

"Every sorrow teaches a lesson, and I have suffered on so many points that my knowledge is vast."

My servant had heard the order given, and thinking we should return by the terraces he held my horse ready for me in the avenue. Arabella's dog had scented the horse, and his mistress, drawn by very natural curiosity, had followed the animal through the woods to the avenue.

"Go and make your peace," said Henriette, smiling without a tinge of sadness. "Say to Lady Dudley how much she mistakes my intention; I wished to show her the true value of the treasure which has fallen to her; my heart holds none but kind feelings, above all neither anger nor contempt. Explain to her that I am her sister, and not her rival."

"I shall not go," I said.

"Have you never discovered," she said with lofty pride, "that certain propitiations are insulting? Go!"

I rode towards Lady Dudley wishing to know the state of her mind. "If she would only be angry and leave me," I thought, "I could return to Clochegourde."

The dog led me to an oak, from which, as I came up, Arabella galloped crying out to me, "Come! away! away!" All that I could do was to follow her to Saint Cyr, which we reached about midnight.

"That lady is in perfect health," said Arabella as she dismounted.

Those who know her can alone imagine the satire contained in that remark, dryly said in a tone which meant, "I should have died!"

"I forbid you to utter any of your sarcasms about Madame de Mortsauf," I said.

"Do I displease your Grace in remarking upon the perfect health of one so dear to your precious heart? Frenchwomen hate, so I am told, even their lover's dog. In England we love all that our masters love; we hate all they hate, because we are flesh of their flesh. Permit me therefore to love this lady as much as you yourself love her. Only, my dear child," she added, clasping me in her arms which were damp with rain, "if you betray me, I shall not be found either lying down or standing up, not in a carriage with liveried lackeys, nor on horseback on the moors of Charlemagne, nor on any other moor beneath the skies, nor in my own bed, nor beneath a roof of my forefathers; I shall not be anywhere, for I will live no longer. I was born in Lancashire, a country where women die for love. Know you, and give you up? I will yield you to none, not even to Death, for I should die with you."

She led me to her rooms, where comfort had already spread its charms.

"Love her, dear," I said warmly. "She loves you sincerely, not in jest."

"Sincerely! you poor child!" she said, unfastening her habit.

With a lover's vanity I tried to exhibit Henriette's noble character to this imperious creature. While her waiting-woman, who did not understand a word of French, arranged her hair I endeavored to picture Madame de Mortsauf by sketching her life; I repeated many of the great thoughts she had uttered at a crisis when nearly all women become either petty or bad. Though Arabella appeared to be paying no attention she did not lose a single word.

"I am delighted," she said when we were alone, "to learn your taste for pious conversation. There's an old vicar on one of my estates who understands writing sermons better than any one I know; the country-people like him, for he suits his prosing to his hearers. I'll write to my father to-morrow and ask him to send the good man here by steamboat; you can meet him in Paris, and when once you have heard him you will never wish to listen to any one else,—all the more because his health is perfect. His moralities won't give you shocks that make you weep; they flow along without tempests, like a limpid stream, and will send you to sleep. Every evening you can if you like satisfy your passion for sermons by digesting one with your dinner. English morality, I do assure you, is as superior to that of Touraine as our cutlery, our plate, and our horses are to your knives and your turf. Do me the kindness to listen to my vicar; promise me. I am only a woman, my dearest; I can love, I can die for you if you will; but I have never studied at Eton, or at Oxford, or in Edinburgh. I am neither a doctor of laws nor a reverend; I can't preach morality; in fact, I am altogether unfit for it, I should be awkward if I tried. I don't blame your tastes; you might have others more depraved, and I should still endeavor to conform to them, for I want you to find near me all you like best,—pleasures of love, pleasures of food, pleasures of piety, good claret, and virtuous Christians. Shall I wear hair-cloth to-night? She is very lucky, that woman, to suit you in morality. From what college did she graduate? Poor I, who can only give you myself, who can only be your slave—"

"Then why did you rush away when I wanted to bring you together?"

"Are you crazy, Amedee? I could go from Paris to Rome disguised as a valet; I would do the most unreasonable thing for your sake; but how can you expect me to speak to a woman on the public roads who has never been presented to me,—and who, besides, would have preached me a sermon under three heads? I speak to peasants, and if I am hungry I would ask a workman to share his bread with me and pay him in guineas,—that is all proper enough; but to stop a carriage on the highway, like the gentlemen of the road in England, is not at all within my code of manners. You poor child, you know only how to love; you don't know how to live. Besides, I am not like you as yet, dear angel; I don't like morality. Still, I am capable of great efforts to please you. Yes, I will go to work; I will learn how to preach; you shall have no more kisses without verses of the Bible interlarded."

She used her power and abused it as soon as she saw in my eyes the ardent expression which was always there when she began her sorceries. She triumphed over everything, and I complacently told myself that the woman who loses all, sacrifices the future, and makes love her only virtue, is far above Catholic polemics.

"So she loves herself better than she loves you?" Arabella went on. "She sets something that is not you above you. Is that love? how can we women find anything to value in ourselves except that which you value in us? No woman, no matter how fine a moralist she may be, is the equal of a man. Tread upon us, kill us; never embarrass your lives on our account. It is for us to die, for you to live, great and honored. For us the dagger in your hand; for you our pardoning love. Does the sun think of the gnats in his beams, that live by his light? they stay as long as they can and when he withdraws his face they die—"

"Or fly somewhere else," I said interrupting her.

"Yes, somewhere else," she replied, with an indifference that would have piqued any man into using the power with which she invested him. "Do you really think it is worthy of womanhood to make a man eat his bread buttered with virtue, and to persuade him that religion is incompatible with love? Am I a reprobate? A woman either gives herself or she refuses. But to refuse and moralize is a double wrong, and is contrary to the rule of the right in all lands. Here, you will get only excellent sandwiches prepared by the hand of your servant Arabella, whose sole morality is to imagine caresses no man has yet felt and which the angels inspire."

I know nothing more destructive than the wit of an Englishwoman; she gives it the eloquent gravity, the tone of pompous conviction with which the British hide the absurdities of their life of prejudice. French wit and humor, on the other hand, is like a lace with which our women adorn the joys they give and the quarrels they invent; it is a mental jewelry, as charming as their pretty dresses. English wit is an acid which corrodes all those on whom it falls until it bares their bones, which it scrapes and polishes. The tongue of a clever Englishwoman is like that of a tiger tearing the flesh from the bone when he is only in play. All-powerful weapon of a sneering devil, English satire leaves a deadly poison in the wound it makes. Arabella chose to show her power like the sultan who, to prove his dexterity, cut off the heads of unoffending beings with his own scimitar.

"My angel," she said, "I can talk morality too if I choose. I have asked myself whether I commit a crime in loving you; whether I violate the divine laws; and I find that my love for you is both natural and pious. Why did God create some beings handsomer than others if not to show us that we ought to adore them? The crime would be in not loving you. This lady insults you by confounding you with other men; the laws of morality are not applicable to you; for God has created you above them. Am I not drawing nearer to divine love in loving you? will God punish a poor woman for seeking the divine? Your great and luminous heart so resembles the heavens that I am like the gnats which flutter about the torches of a fete and burn themselves; are they to be punished for their error? besides, is it an error? may it not be pure worship of the light? They perish of too much piety,—if you call it perishing to fling one's self on the breast of him we love. I have the weakness to love you, whereas that woman has the strength to remain in her Catholic shrine. Now, don't frown. You think I wish her ill. No, I do not. I adore the morality which has led her to leave you free, and enables me to win you and hold you forever—for you are mine forever, are you not?"


"Forever and ever?"


"Ah! I have found favor in my lord! I alone have understood his worth! She knows how to cultivate her estate, you say. Well, I leave that to farmers; I cultivate your heart."

I try to recall this intoxicating babble, that I may picture to you the woman as she is, confirm all I have said of her, and let you into the secret of what happened later. But how shall I describe the accompaniment of the words? She sought to annihilate by the passion of her impetuous love the impressions left in my heart by the chaste and dignified love of my Henriette. Lady Dudley had seen the countess as plainly as the countess had seen her; each had judged the other. The force of Arabella's attack revealed to me the extent of her fear, and her secret admiration for her rival. In the morning I found her with tearful eyes, complaining that she had not slept.

"What troubles you?" I said.

"I fear that my excessive love will ruin me," she answered; "I have given all. Wiser than I, that woman possesses something that you still desire. If you prefer her, forget me; I will not trouble you with my sorrows, my remorse, my sufferings; no, I will go far away and die, like a plant deprived of the life-giving sun."

She was able to wring protestations of love from my reluctant lips, which filled her with joy.

"Ah!" she exclaimed, drying her eyes, "I am happy. Go back to her; I do not choose to owe you to the force of my love, but to the action of your own will. If you return here I shall know that you love me as much as I love you, the possibility of which I have always doubted."

She persuaded me to return to Clochegourde. The false position in which I thus placed myself did not strike me while still under the influence of her wiles. Yet, had I refused to return I should have given Lady Dudley a triumph over Henriette. Arabella would then have taken me to Paris. To go now to Clochegourde was an open insult to Madame de Mortsauf; in that case Arabella was sure of me. Did any woman ever pardon such crimes against love? Unless she were an angel descended from the skies, instead of a purified spirit ascending to them, a loving woman would rather see her lover die than know him happy with another. Thus, look at it as I would, my situation, after I had once left Clochegourde for the Grenadiere, was as fatal to the love of my choice as it was profitable to the transient love that held me. Lady Dudley had calculated all this with consummate cleverness. She owned to me later that if she had not met Madame de Mortsauf on the moor she had intended to compromise me by haunting Clochegourde until she did so.

When I met the countess that morning, and found her pale and depressed like one who has not slept all night, I was conscious of exercising the instinctive perception given to hearts still fresh and generous to show them the true bearing of actions little regarded by the world at large, but judged as criminal by lofty spirits. Like a child going down a precipice in play and gathering flowers, who sees with dread that it can never climb that height again, feels itself alone, with night approaching, and hears the howls of animals, so I now knew that she and I were separated by a universe. A wail arose within our souls like an echo of that woeful "Consummatum est" heard in the churches on Good Friday at the hour the Saviour died,—a dreadful scene which awes young souls whose first love is religion. All Henriette's illusions were killed at one blow; her heart had endured its passion. She did not look at me; she refused me the light that for six long years had shone upon my life. She knew well that the spring of the effulgent rays shed by our eyes was in our souls, to which they served as pathways to reach each other, to blend them in one, meeting, parting, playing, like two confiding women who tell each other all. Bitterly I felt the wrong of bringing beneath this roof, where pleasure was unknown, a face on which the wings of pleasure had shaken their prismatic dust. If, the night before, I had allowed Lady Dudley to depart alone, if I had then returned to Clochegourde, where, it may be, Henriette awaited me, perhaps—perhaps Madame de Mortsauf might not so cruelly have resolved to be my sister. But now she paid me many ostentatious attentions,—playing her part vehemently for the very purpose of not changing it. During breakfast she showed me a thousand civilities, humiliating attentions, caring for me as though I were a sick man whose fate she pitied.

"You were out walking early," said the count; "I hope you have brought back a good appetite, you whose stomach is not yet destroyed."

This remark, which brought the smile of a sister to Henriette's lips, completed my sense of the ridicule of my position. It was impossible to be at Clochegourde by day and Saint-Cyr by night. During the day I felt how difficult it was to become the friend of a woman we have long loved. The transition, easy enough when years have brought it about, is like an illness in youth. I was ashamed; I cursed the pleasure Lady Dudley gave me; I wished that Henriette would demand my blood. I could not tear her rival in pieces before her, for she avoided speaking of her; indeed, had I spoken of Arabella, Henriette, noble and sublime to the inmost recesses of her heart, would have despised my infamy. After five years of delightful intercourse we now had nothing to say to each other; our words had no connection with our thoughts; we were hiding from each other our intolerable pain,—we, whose mutual sufferings had been our first interpreter.

Henriette assumed a cheerful look for me as for herself, but she was sad. She spoke of herself as my sister, and yet found no ground on which to converse; and we remained for the greater part of the time in constrained silence. She increased my inward misery by feigning to believe that she was the only victim.

"I suffer more than you," I said to her at a moment when my self-styled sister was betrayed into a feminine sarcasm.

"How so?" she said haughtily.

"Because I am the one to blame."

At last her manner became so cold and indifferent that I resolved to leave Clochegourde. That evening, on the terrace, I said farewell to the whole family, who were there assembled. They all followed me to the lawn where my horse was waiting. The countess came to me as I took the bridle in my hand.

"Let us walk down the avenue together, alone," she said.

I gave her my arm, and we passed through the courtyard with slow and measured steps, as though our rhythmic movement were consoling to us. When we reached the grove of trees which forms a corner of the boundary she stopped.

"Farewell, my friend," she said, throwing her head upon my breast and her arms around my neck, "Farewell, we shall never meet again. God has given me the sad power to look into the future. Do you remember the terror that seized me the day you first came back, so young, so handsome! and I saw you turn your back on me as you do this day when you are leaving Clochegourde and going to Saint-Cyr? Well, once again, during the past night I have seen into the future. Friend, we are speaking together for the last time. I can hardly now say a few words to you, for it is but a part of me that speaks at all. Death has already seized on something in me. You have taken the mother from her children, I now ask you to take her place to them. You can; Jacques and Madeleine love you—as if you had always made them suffer."

"Death!" I cried, frightened as I looked at her and beheld the fire of her shining eyes, of which I can give no idea to those who have never known their dear ones struck down by her fatal malady, unless I compare those eyes to balls of burnished silver. "Die!" I said. "Henriette, I command you to live. You used to ask an oath of me, I now ask one of you. Swear to me that you will send for Origet and obey him in everything."

"Would you oppose the mercy of God?" she said, interrupting me with a cry of despair at being thus misunderstood.

"You do not love me enough to obey me blindly, as that miserable Lady Dudley does?"

"Yes, yes, I will do all you ask," she cried, goaded by jealousy.

"Then I stay," I said, kissing her on the eyelids.

Frightened at the words, she escaped from my arms and leaned against a tree; then she turned and walked rapidly homeward without looking back. But I followed her; she was weeping and praying. When we reached the lawn I took her hand and kissed it respectfully. This submission touched her.

"I am yours—forever, and as you will," I said; "for I love you as your aunt loved you."

She trembled and wrung my hand.

"One look," I said, "one more, one last of our old looks! The woman who gives herself wholly," I cried, my soul illumined by the glance she gave me, "gives less of life and soul than I have now received. Henriette, thou art my best-beloved—my only love."

"I shall live!" she said; "but cure yourself as well."

That look had effaced the memory of Arabella's sarcasms. Thus I was the plaything of the two irreconcilable passions I have now described to you; I was influenced by each alternately. I loved an angel and a demon; two women equally beautiful,—one adorned with all the virtues which we decry through hatred of our own imperfections, the other with all the vices which we deify through selfishness. Returning along that avenue, looking back again and again at Madame de Mortsauf, as she leaned against a tree surrounded by her children who waved their handkerchiefs, I detected in my soul an emotion of pride in finding myself the arbiter of two such destinies; the glory, in ways so different, of women so distinguished; proud of inspiring such great passions that death must come to whichever I abandoned. Ah! believe me, that passing conceit has been doubly punished!

I know not what demon prompted me to remain with Arabella and await the moment when the death of the count might give me Henriette; for she would ever love me. Her harshness, her tears, her remorse, her Christian resignation, were so many eloquent signs of a sentiment that could no more be effaced from her heart than from mine. Walking slowly down that pretty avenue and making these reflections, I was no longer twenty-five, I was fifty years old. A man passes in a moment, even more quickly than a woman, from youth to middle age. Though long ago I drove these evil thoughts away from me, I was then possessed by them, I must avow it. Perhaps I owed their presence in my mind to the Tuileries, to the king's cabinet. Who could resist the polluting spirit of Louis XVIII.?

When I reached the end of the avenue I turned and rushed back in the twinkling of an eye, seeing that Henriette was still there, and alone! I went to bid her a last farewell, bathed in repentant tears, the cause of which she never knew. Tears sincere indeed; given, although I knew it not, to noble loves forever lost, to virgin emotions—those flowers of our life which cannot bloom again. Later, a man gives nothing, he receives; he loves himself in his mistress; but in youth he loves his mistress in himself. Later, we inoculate with our tastes, perhaps our vices, the woman who loves us; but in the dawn of life she whom we love conveys to us her virtues, her conscience. She invites us with a smile to the noble life; from her we learn the self-devotion which she practises. Woe to the man who has not had his Henriette. Woe to that other one who has never known a Lady Dudley. The latter, if he marries, will not be able to keep his wife; the other will be abandoned by his mistress. But joy to him who can find the two women in one woman; happy the man, dear Natalie, whom you love.

After my return to Paris Arabella and I became more intimate than ever. Soon we insensibly abandoned all the conventional restrictions I had carefully imposed, the strict observance of which often makes the world forgive the false position in which Lady Dudley had placed herself. Society, which delights in looking behind appearances, sanctions much as soon as it knows the secrets they conceal. Lovers who live in the great world make a mistake in flinging down these barriers exacted by the law of salons; they do wrong not to obey scrupulously all conventions which the manners and customs of a community impose,—less for the sake of others than for their own. Outward respect to be maintained, comedies to play, concealments to be managed; all such strategy of love occupies the life, renews desire, and protects the heart against the palsy of habit. But all young passions, being, like youth itself, essentially spendthrift, raze their forests to the ground instead of merely cutting the timber. Arabella adopted none of these bourgeois ideas, and yielded to them only to please me; she wished to exhibit me to the eyes of all Paris as her "sposo." She employed her powers of seduction to keep me under her roof, for she was not content with a rumored scandal which, for want of proof, was only whispered behind the fans. Seeing her so happy in committing an imprudence which frankly admitted her position, how could I help believing in her love?

But no sooner was I plunged into the comforts of illegal marriage than despair seized upon me; I saw my life bound to a course in direct defiance of the ideas and the advice given me by Henriette. Thenceforth I lived in the sort of rage we find in consumptive patients who, knowing their end is near, cannot endure that their lungs should be examined. There was no corner in my heart where I could fly to escape suffering; an avenging spirit filled me incessantly with thoughts on which I dared not dwell. My letters to Henriette depicted this moral malady and did her infinite harm. "At the cost of so many treasures lost, I wished you to be at least happy," she wrote in the only answer I received. But I was not happy. Dear Natalie, happiness is absolute; it allows of no comparisons. My first ardor over, I necessarily compared the two women,—a contrast I had never yet studied. In fact, all great passions press so strongly on the character that at first they check its asperities and cover the track of habits which constitute our defects and our better qualities. But later, when two lovers are accustomed to each other, the features of their moral physiognomies reappear; they mutually judge each other, and it often happens during this reaction of the character after passion, that natural antipathies leading to disunion (which superficial people seize upon to accuse the human heart of instability) come to the surface. This period now began with me. Less blinded by seductions, and dissecting, as it were, my pleasure, I undertook, without perhaps intending to do so, a critical examination of Lady Dudley which resulted to her injury.

In the first place, I found her wanting in the qualities of mind which distinguish Frenchwomen and make them so delightful to love; as all those who have had the opportunity of loving in both countries declare. When a Frenchwoman loves she is metamorphosed; her noted coquetry is used to deck her love; she abandons her dangerous vanity and lays no claim to any merit but that of loving well. She espouses the interests, the hatreds, the friendships, of the man she loves; she acquires in a day the experience of a man of business; she studies the code, she comprehends the mechanism of credit, and could manage a banker's office; naturally heedless and prodigal, she will make no mistakes and waste not a single louis. She becomes, in turn, mother, adviser, doctor, giving to all her transformations a grace of happiness which reveals, in its every detail, her infinite love. She combines the special qualities of the women of other countries and gives unity to the mixture by her wit, that truly French product, which enlivens, sanctions, justifies, and varies all, thus relieving the monotony of a sentiment which rests on a single tense of a single verb. The Frenchwoman loves always, without abatement and without fatigue, in public or in solitude. In public she uses a tone which has meaning for one only; she speaks by silence; she looks at you with lowered eyelids. If the occasion prevents both speech and look she will use the sand and write a word with the point of her little foot; her love will find expression even in sleep; in short, she bends the world to her love. The Englishwoman, on the contrary, makes her love bend to the world. Educated to maintain the icy manners, the Britannic and egotistic deportment which I described to you, she opens and shuts her heart with the ease of a British mechanism. She possesses an impenetrable mask, which she puts on or takes off phlegmatically. Passionate as an Italian when no eye sees her, she becomes coldly dignified before the world. A lover may well doubt his empire when he sees the immobility of face, the aloofness of countenance, and hears the calm voice, with which an Englishwoman leaves her boudoir. Hypocrisy then becomes indifference; she has forgotten all.

Certainly the woman who can lay aside her love like a garment may be thought to be capable of changing it. What tempests arise in the heart of a man, stirred by wounded self-love, when he sees a woman taking and dropping and again picking up her love like a piece of embroidery. These women are too completely mistresses of themselves ever to belong wholly to you; they are too much under the influence of society ever to let you reign supreme. Where a Frenchwoman comforts by a look, or betrays her impatience with visitors by witty jests, an Englishwoman's silence is absolute; it irritates the soul and frets the mind. These women are so constantly, and, under all circumstances, on their dignity, that to most of them fashion reigns omnipotent even over their pleasures. An Englishwoman forces everything into form; though in her case the love of form does not produce the sentiment of art. No matter what may be said against it, Protestantism and Catholicism explain the differences which make the love of Frenchwomen so far superior to the calculating, reasoning love of Englishwomen. Protestantism doubts, searches, and kills belief; it is the death of art and love. Where worldliness is all in all, worldly people must needs obey; but passionate hearts flee from it; to them its laws are insupportable.

You can now understand what a shock my self-love received when I found that Lady Dudley could not live without the world, and that the English system of two lives was familiar to her. It was no sacrifice she felt called upon to make; on the contrary she fell naturally into two forms of life that were inimical to each other. When she loved she loved madly,—no woman of any country could be compared to her; but when the curtain fell upon that fairy scene she banished even the memory of it. In public she never answered to a look or a smile; she was neither mistress nor slave; she was like an ambassadress, obliged to round her phrases and her elbows; she irritated me by her composure, and outraged my heart with her decorum. Thus she degraded love to a mere need, instead of raising it to an ideal through enthusiasm. She expressed neither fear, nor regrets, nor desire; but at a given hour her tenderness reappeared like a fire suddenly lighted.

In which of these two women ought I to believe? I felt, as it were by a thousand pin-pricks, the infinite differences between Henriette and Arabella. When Madame de Mortsauf left me for a while she seemed to leave to the air the duty of reminding me of her; the folds of her gown as she went away spoke to the eye, as their undulating sound to the ear when she returned; infinite tenderness was in the way she lowered her eyelids and looked on the ground; her voice, that musical voice, was a continual caress; her words expressed a constant thought; she was always like unto herself; she did not halve her soul to suit two atmospheres, one ardent, the other icy. In short, Madame de Mortsauf reserved her mind and the flower of her thought to express her feelings; she was coquettish in ideas with her children and with me. But Arabella's mind was never used to make life pleasant; it was never used at all for my benefit; it existed only for the world and by the world, and it was spent in sarcasm. She loved to rend, to bite, as it were,—not for amusement but to satisfy a craving. Madame de Mortsauf would have hidden her happiness from every eye, Lady Dudley chose to exhibit hers to all Paris; and yet with her impenetrable English mask she kept within conventions even while parading in the Bois with me. This mixture of ostentation and dignity, love and coldness, wounded me constantly; for my soul was both virgin and passionate, and as I could not pass from one temperature to the other, my temper suffered. When I complained (never without precaution), she turned her tongue with its triple sting against me; mingling boasts of her love with those cutting English sarcasms. As soon as she found herself in opposition to me, she made it an amusement to hurt my feelings and humiliate my mind; she kneaded me like dough. To any remark of mine as to keeping a medium in all things, she replied by caricaturing my ideas and exaggerating them. When I reproached her for her manner to me, she asked if I wished her to kiss me at the opera before all Paris; and she said it so seriously that I, knowing her desire to make people talk, trembled lest she should execute her threat. In spite of her real passion she was never meditative, self-contained, or reverent, like Henriette; on the contrary she was insatiable as a sandy soil. Madame de Mortsauf was always composed, able to feel my soul in an accent or a glance. Lady Dudley was never affected by a look, or a pressure of the hand, nor yet by a tender word. No proof of love surprised her. She felt so strong a necessity for excitement, noise, celebrity, that nothing attained to her ideal in this respect; hence her violent love, her exaggerated fancy,—everything concerned herself and not me.

The letter you have read from Madame de Mortsauf (a light which still shone brightly on my life), a proof of how the most virtuous of women obeyed the genius of a Frenchwoman, revealing, as it did, her perpetual vigilance, her sound understanding of all my prospects—that letter must have made you see with what care Henriette had studied my material interests, my political relations, my moral conquests, and with what ardor she took hold of my life in all permissible directions. On such points as these Lady Dudley affected the reticence of a mere acquaintance. She never informed herself about my affairs, nor of my likings or dislikings as a man. Prodigal for herself without being generous, she separated too decidedly self-interest and love. Whereas I knew very well, without proving it, that to save me a pang Henriette would have sought for me that which she would never seek for herself. In any great and overwhelming misfortune I should have gone for counsel to Henriette, but I would have let myself be dragged to prison sooner than say a word to Lady Dudley.

Up to this point the contrast relates to feelings; but it was the same in outward things. In France, luxury is the expression of the man, the reproduction of his ideas, of his personal poetry; it portrays the character, and gives, between lovers, a precious value to every little attention by keeping before them the dominant thought of the being loved. But English luxury, which at first allured me by its choiceness and delicacy, proved to be mechanical also. The thousand and one attentions shown me at Clochegourde Arabella would have considered the business of servants; each one had his own duty and speciality. The choice of the footman was the business of her butler, as if it were a matter of horses. She never attached herself to her servants; the death of the best of them would not have affected her, for money could replace the one lost by another equally efficient. As to her duty towards her neighbor, I never saw a tear in her eye for the misfortunes of another; in fact her selfishness was so naively candid that it absolutely created a laugh. The crimson draperies of the great lady covered an iron nature. The delightful siren who sounded at night every bell of her amorous folly could soon make a young man forget the hard and unfeeling Englishwoman, and it was only step by step that I discovered the stony rock on which my seeds were wasted, bringing no harvest. Madame de Mortsauf had penetrated that nature at a glance in their brief encounter. I remembered her prophetic words. She was right; Arabella's love became intolerable to me. I have since remarked that most women who ride well on horseback have little tenderness. Like the Amazons, they lack a breast; their hearts are hard in some direction, but I do not know in which.

At the moment when I begin to feel the burden of the yoke, when weariness took possession of soul and body too, when at last I comprehended the sanctity that true feeling imparts to love, when memories of Clochegourde were bringing me, in spite of distance, the fragrance of the roses, the warmth of the terrace, and the warble of the nightingales,—at this frightful moment, when I saw the stony bed beneath me as the waters of the torrent receded, I received a blow which still resounds in my heart, for at every hour its echo wakes.

I was working in the cabinet of the king, who was to drive out at four o'clock. The Duc de Lenoncourt was on service. When he entered the room the king asked him news of the countess. I raised my head hastily in too eager a manner; the king, offended by the action, gave me the look which always preceded the harsh words he knew so well how to say.

"Sire, my poor daughter is dying," replied the duke.

"Will the king deign to grant me leave of absence?" I cried, with tears in my eyes, braving the anger which I saw about to burst.

"Go, my lord," he answered, smiling at the satire in his words, and withholding his reprimand in favor of his own wit.

More courtier than father, the duke asked no leave but got into the carriage with the king. I started without bidding Lady Dudley good-bye; she was fortunately out when I made my preparations, and I left a note telling her I was sent on a mission by the king. At the Croix de Berny I met his Majesty returning from Verrieres. He threw me a look full of his royal irony, always insufferable in meaning, which seemed to say: "If you mean to be anything in politics come back; don't parley with the dead." The duke waved his hand to me sadly. The two pompous equipages with their eight horses, the colonels and their gold lace, the escort and the clouds of dust rolled rapidly away, to cries of "Vive le Roi!" It seemed to me that the court had driven over the dead body of Madame de Mortsauf with the utter insensibility which nature shows for our catastrophes. Though the duke was an excellent man he would no doubt play whist with Monsieur after the king had retired. As for the duchess, she had long ago given her daughter the first stab by writing to her of Lady Dudley.

My hurried journey was like a dream,—the dream of a ruined gambler; I was in despair at having received no news. Had the confessor pushed austerity so far as to exclude me from Clochegourde? I accused Madeleine, Jacques, the Abbe Dominis, all, even Monsieur de Mortsauf. Beyond Tours, as I came down the road bordered with poplars which leads to Poncher, which I so much admired that first day of my search for mine Unknown, I met Monsieur Origet. He guessed that I was going to Clochegourde; I guessed that he was returning. We stopped our carriages and got out, I to ask for news, he to give it.

"How is Madame de Mortsauf?" I said.

"I doubt if you find her living," he replied. "She is dying a frightful death—of inanition. When she called me in, last June, no medical power could control the disease; she had the symptoms which Monsieur de Mortsauf has no doubt described to you, for he thinks he has them himself. Madame la comtesse was not in any transient condition of ill-health, which our profession can direct and which is often the cause of a better state, nor was she in the crisis of a disorder the effects of which can be repaired; no, her disease had reached a point where science is useless; it is the incurable result of grief, just as a mortal wound is the result of a stab. Her physical condition is produced by the inertia of an organ as necessary to life as the action of the heart itself. Grief has done the work of a dagger. Don't deceive yourself; Madame de Mortsauf is dying of some hidden grief."

"Hidden!" I exclaimed. "Her children have not been ill?"

"No," he said, looking at me significantly, "and since she has been so seriously attacked Monsieur de Mortsauf has ceased to torment her. I am no longer needed; Monsieur Deslandes of Azay is all-sufficient; nothing can be done; her sufferings are dreadful. Young, beautiful, and rich, to die emaciated, shrunken with hunger—for she dies of hunger! During the last forty days the stomach, being as it were closed up, has rejected all nourishment, under whatever form we attempt to give it."

Monsieur Origet pressed my hand with a gesture of respect.

"Courage, monsieur," he said, lifting his eyes to heaven.

The words expressed his compassion for sufferings he thought shared; he little suspected the poisoned arrow which they shot into my heart. I sprang into the carriage and ordered the postilion to drive on, promising a good reward if I arrived in time.

Notwithstanding my impatience I seemed to do the distance in a few minutes, so absorbed was I in the bitter reflections that crowded upon my soul. Dying of grief, yet her children were well? then she died through me! My conscience uttered one of those arraignments which echo throughout our lives and sometimes beyond them. What weakness, what impotence in human justice, which avenges none but open deeds! Why shame and death to the murderer who kills with a blow, who comes upon you unawares in your sleep and makes it last eternally, who strikes without warning and spares you a struggle? Why a happy life, an honored life, to the murderer who drop by drop pours gall into the soul and saps the body to destroy it? How many murderers go unpunished! What indulgence for fashionable vice! What condoning of the homicides caused by moral wrongs! I know not whose avenging hand it was that suddenly, at that moment, raised the painted curtain that reveals society. I saw before me many victims known to you and me,—Madame de Beauseant, dying, and starting for Normandy only a few days earlier; the Duchesse de Langeais lost; Lady Brandon hiding herself in Touraine in the little house where Lady Dudley had stayed two weeks, and dying there, killed by a frightful catastrophe,—you know it. Our period teems with such events. Who does not remember that poor young woman who poisoned herself, overcome by jealousy, which was perhaps killing Madame de Mortsauf? Who has not shuddered at the fate of that enchanting young girl who perished after two years of marriage, like a flower torn by the wind, the victim of her chaste ignorance, the victim of a villain with whom Ronquerolles, Montriveau, and de Marsay shake hands because he is useful to their political projects? What heart has failed to throb at the recital of the last hours of the woman whom no entreaties could soften, and who would never see her husband after nobly paying his debts? Madame d'Aiglemont saw death beside her and was saved only by my brother's care. Society and science are accomplices in crimes for which there are no assizes. The world declares that no one dies of grief, or of despair; nor yet of love, of anguish hidden, of hopes cultivated yet fruitless, again and again replanted yet forever uprooted. Our new scientific nomenclature has plenty of words to explain these things; gastritis, pericarditis, all the thousand maladies of women the names of which are whispered in the ear, all serve as passports to the coffin followed by hypocritical tears that are soon wiped by the hand of a notary. Can there be at the bottom of this great evil some law which we do not know? Must the centenary pitilessly strew the earth with corpses and dry them to dust about him that he may raise himself, as the millionaire battens on a myriad of little industries? Is there some powerful and venomous life which feasts on these gentle, tender creatures? My God! do I belong to the race of tigers?

Remorse gripped my heart in its scorching fingers, and my cheeks were furrowed with tears as I entered the avenue of Clochegourde on a damp October morning, which loosened the dead leaves of the poplars planted by Henriette in the path where once she stood and waved her handkerchief as if to recall me. Was she living? Why did I feel her two white hands upon my head laid prostrate in the dust? In that moment I paid for all the pleasures that Arabella had given me, and I knew that I paid dearly. I swore not to see her again, and a hatred of England took possession of me. Though Lady Dudley was only a variety of her species, I included all Englishwomen in my judgment.

I received a fresh shock as I neared Clochegourde. Jacques, Madeleine, and the Abbe Dominis were kneeling at the foot of a wooden cross placed on a piece of ground that was taken into the enclosure when the iron gate was put up, which the count and countess had never been willing to remove. I sprang from the carriage and went towards them, my heart aching at the sight of these children and that grave old man imploring the mercy of God. The old huntsman was there too, with bared head, standing a little apart.

I stooped to kiss Jacques and Madeleine, who gave me a cold look and continued praying. The abbe rose from his knees; I took him by the arm to support myself, saying, "Is she still alive?" He bowed his head sadly and gently. "Tell me, I implore you for Christ's sake, why are you praying at the foot of this cross? Why are you here, and not with her? Why are the children kneeling here this chilly morning? Tell me all, that I may do no harm through ignorance."

"For the last few days Madame le comtesse has been unwilling to see her children except at stated times.—Monsieur," he continued after a pause, "perhaps you had better wait a few hours before seeing Madame de Mortsauf; she is greatly changed. It is necessary to prepare her for this interview, or it might cause an increase in her sufferings—death would be a blessed release from them."

I wrung the hand of the good man, whose look and voice soothed the pangs of others without sharpening them.

"We are praying God to help her," he continued; "for she, so saintly, so resigned, so fit to die, has shown during the last few weeks a horror of death; for the first time in her life she looks at others who are full of health with gloomy, envious eyes. This aberration comes less, I think, from the fear of death than from some inward intoxication,—from the flowers of her youth which ferment as they wither. Yes, an evil angel is striving against heaven for that glorious soul. She is passing through her struggle on the Mount of Olives; her tears bathe the white roses of her crown as they fall, one by one, from the head of this wedded Jephtha. Wait; do not see her yet. You would bring to her the atmosphere of the court; she would see in your face the reflection of the things of life, and you would add to the bitterness of her regret. Have pity on a weakness which God Himself forgave to His Son when He took our nature upon Him. What merit would there be in conquering if we had no adversary? Permit her confessor or me, two old men whose worn-out lives cause her no pain, to prepare her for this unlooked-for meeting, for emotions which the Abbe Birotteau has required her to renounce. But, in the things of this world there is an invisible thread of divine purpose which religion alone can see; and since you have come perhaps you are led by some celestial star of the moral world which leads to the tomb as to the manger—"

He then told me, with that tempered eloquence which falls like dew upon the heart, that for the last six months the countess had suffered daily more and more, in spite of Monsieur Origet's care. The doctor had come to Clochegourde every evening for two months, striving to rescue her from death; for her one cry had been, "Oh, save me!" "To heal the body the heart must first be healed," the doctor had exclaimed one day.

"As the illness increased, the words of this poor woman, once so gentle, have grown bitter," said the Abbe. "She calls on earth to keep her, instead of asking God to take her; then she repents these murmurs against the divine decree. Such alternations of feeling rend her heart and make the struggle between body and soul most horrible. Often the body triumphs. 'You have cost me dear,' she said one day to Jacques and Madeleine; but in a moment, recalled to God by the look on my face, she turned to Madeleine with these angelic words, 'The happiness of others is the joy of those who cannot themselves be happy,'—and the tone with which she said them brought tears to my eyes. She falls, it is true, but each time that her feet stumble she rises higher towards heaven."

Struck by the tone of the successive intimations chance had sent me, and which in this great concert of misfortunes were like a prelude of mournful modulations to a funereal theme, the mighty cry of expiring love, I cried out: "Surely you believe that this pure lily cut from earth will flower in heaven?"

"You left her still a flower," he answered, "but you will find her consumed, purified by the forces of suffering, pure as a diamond buried in the ashes. Yes, that shining soul, angelic star, will issue glorious from the clouds and pass into the kingdom of the Light."

As I pressed the hand of the good evangelist, my heart overflowing with gratitude, the count put his head, now entirely white, out of the door and immediately sprang towards me with signs of surprise.

"She was right! He is here! 'Felix, Felix, Felix has come!' she kept crying. My dear friend," he continued, beside himself with terror, "death is here. Why did it not take a poor madman like me with one foot in the grave?"

I walked towards the house summoning my courage, but on the threshold of the long antechamber which crossed the house and led to the lawn, the Abbe Birotteau stopped me.

"Madame la comtesse begs you will not enter at present," he said to me.

Giving a glance within the house I saw the servants coming and going, all busy, all dumb with grief, surprised perhaps by the orders Manette gave them.

"What has happened?" cried the count, alarmed by the commotion, as much from fear of the coming event as from the natural uneasiness of his character.

"Only a sick woman's fancy," said the abbe. "Madame la comtesse does not wish to receive monsieur le vicomte as she now is. She talks of dressing; why thwart her?"

Manette came in search of Madeleine, whom I saw leave the house a few moments after she had entered her mother's room. We were all, Jacques and his father, the two abbes and I, silently walking up and down the lawn in front of the house. I looked first at Montbazon and then at Azay, noticing the seared and yellow valley which answered in its mourning (as it ever did on all occasions) to the feelings of my heart. Suddenly I beheld the dear "mignonne" gathering the autumn flowers, no doubt to make a bouquet at her mother's bidding. Thinking of all which that signified, I was so convulsed within me that I staggered, my sight was blurred, and the two abbes, between whom I walked, led me to the wall of a terrace, where I sat for some time completely broken down but not unconscious.

"Poor Felix," said the count, "she forbade me to write to you. She knew how much you loved her."

Though prepared to suffer, I found I had no strength to bear a scene which recalled my memories of past happiness. "Ah!" I thought, "I see it still, that barren moor, dried like a skeleton, lit by a gray sky, in the centre of which grew a single flowering bush, which again and again I looked at with a shudder,—the forecast of this mournful hour!"

All was gloom in the little castle, once so animated, so full of life. The servants were weeping; despair and desolation everywhere. The paths were not raked, work was begun and left undone, the workmen standing idly about the house. Though the grapes were being gathered in the vineyard, not a sound reached us. The place seemed uninhabited, so deep the silence! We walked about like men whose grief rejects all ordinary topics, and we listened to the count, the only one of us who spoke.

After a few words prompted by the mechanical love he felt for his wife he was led by the natural bent of his mind to complain of her. She had never, he said, taken care of herself or listened to him when he gave her good advice. He had been the first to notice the symptoms of her illness, for he had studied them in his own case; he had fought them and cured them without other assistance than careful diet and the avoidance of all emotion. He could have cured the countess, but a husband ought not to take so much responsibility upon himself, especially when he has the misfortune of finding his experience, in this as in everything, despised. In spite of all he could say, the countess insisted on seeing Origet,—Origet, who had managed his case so ill, was now killing his wife. If this disease was, as they said, the result of excessive grief, surely he was the one who had been in a condition to have it. What griefs could the countess have had? She was always happy; she had never had troubles or annoyances. Their fortune, thanks to his care and to his sound ideas, was now in a most satisfactory state; he had always allowed Madame de Mortsauf to reign at Clochegourde; her children, well trained and now in health, gave her no anxiety,—where, then, did this grief they talked of come from?

Thus he argued and discussed the matter, mingling his expressions of despair with senseless accusations. Then, recalled by some sudden memory to the admiration which he felt for his wife, tears rolled from his eyes which had been dry so long.

Madeleine came to tell me that her mother was ready. The Abbe Birotteau followed me. Madeleine, now a grave young girl, stayed with her father, saying that the countess desired to be alone with me, and also that the presence of too many persons would fatigue her. The solemnity of this moment gave me that sense of inward heat and outward cold which overcomes us often in the great events of life. The Abbe Birotteau, one of those men whom God marks for his own by investing them with sweetness and simplicity, together with patience and compassion, took me aside.

"Monsieur," he said, "I wish you to know that I have done all in my power to prevent this meeting. The salvation of this saint required it. I have considered her only, and not you. Now that you are about to see her to whom access ought to have been denied you by the angels, let me say that I shall be present to protect you against yourself and perhaps against her. Respect her weakness. I do not ask this of you as a priest, but as a humble friend whom you did not know you had, and who would fain save you from remorse. Our dear patient is dying of hunger and thirst. Since morning she is a victim to the feverish irritation which precedes that horrible death, and I cannot conceal from you how deeply she regrets life. The cries of her rebellious flesh are stifled in my heart—where they wake echoes of a wound still tender. But Monsieur de Dominis and I accept this duty that we may spare the sight of this moral anguish to her family; as it is, they no longer recognize their star by night and by day in her; they all, husband, children, servants, all are asking, 'Where is she?'—she is so changed! When she sees you, her regrets will revive. Lay aside your thoughts as a man of the world, forget its vanities, be to her the auxiliary of heaven, not of earth. Pray God that this dear saint die not in a moment of doubt, giving voice to her despair."

I did not answer. My silence alarmed the poor confessor. I saw, I heard, I walked, and yet I was no longer on the earth. The thought, "In what state shall I find her? Why do they use these precautions?" gave rise to apprehensions which were the more cruel because so indefinite; all forms of suffering crowded my mind.

We reached the door of the chamber and the abbe opened it. I then saw Henriette, dressed in white, sitting on her little sofa which was placed before the fireplace, on which were two vases filled with flowers; flowers were also on a table near the window. The expression of the abbe's face, which was that of amazement at the change in the room, now restored to its former state, showing me that the dying woman had sent away the repulsive preparations which surround a sick-bed. She had spent the last waning strength of fever in decorating her room to receive him whom in that final hour she loved above all things else. Surrounded by clouds of lace, her shrunken face, which had the greenish pallor of a magnolia flower as it opens, resembled the first outline of a cherished head drawn in chalks upon the yellow canvas of a portrait. To feel how deeply the vulture's talons now buried themselves in my heart, imagine the eyes of that outlined face finished and full of life,—hollow eyes which shone with a brilliancy unusual in a dying person. The calm majesty given to her in the past by her constant victory over sorrow was there no longer. Her forehead, the only part of her face which still kept its beautiful proportions, wore an expression of aggressive will and covert threats. In spite of the waxy texture of her elongated face, inward fires were issuing from it like the fluid mist which seems to flame above the fields of a hot day. Her hollow temples, her sunken cheeks showed the interior formation of the face, and the smile upon her whitened lips vaguely resembled the grin of death. Her robe, which was folded across her breast, showed the emaciation of her beautiful figure. The expression of her head said plainly that she knew she was changed, and that the thought filled her with bitterness. She was no longer the arch Henriette, nor the sublime and saintly Madame de Mortsauf, but the nameless something of Bossuet struggling against annihilation, driven to the selfish battle of life against death by hunger and balked desire. I took her hand, which was dry and burning, to kiss it, as I seated myself beside her. She guessed my sorrowful surprise from the very effort that I made to hide it. Her discolored lips drew up from her famished teeth trying to form a smile,—the forced smile with which we strive to hide either the irony of vengeance, the expectation of pleasure, the intoxication of our souls, or the fury of disappointment.

"Ah, my poor Felix, this is death," she said, "and you do not like death; odious death, of which every human creature, even the boldest lover, feels a horror. This is the end of love; I knew it would be so. Lady Dudley will never see you thus surprised at the change in her. Ah! why have I so longed for you, Felix? You have come at last, and I reward your devotion by the same horrible sight that made the Comte de Rance a Trappist. I, who hoped to remain ever beautiful and noble in your memory, to live there eternally a lily, I it is who destroy your illusions! True love cannot calculate. But stay; do not go, stay. Monsieur Origet said I was much better this morning; I shall recover. Your looks will bring me back to life. When I regain a little strength, when I can take some nourishment, I shall be beautiful again. I am scarcely thirty-five, there are many years of happiness before me,—happiness renews our youth; yes, I must know happiness! I have made delightful plans,—we will leave Clochegourde and go to Italy."

Tears filled my eyes and I turned to the window as if to look at the flowers. The abbe followed me hastily, and bending over the bouquet whispered, "No tears!"

"Henriette, do you no longer care for our dear valley," I said, as if to explain my sudden movement.

"Oh, yes!" she said, turning her forehead to my lips with a fond motion. "But without you it is fatal to me,—without thee," she added, putting her burning lips to my ear and whispering the words like a sigh.

I was horror-struck at the wild caress, and my will was not strong enough to repress the nervous agitation I felt throughout this scene. I listened without reply; or rather I replied by a fixed smile and signs of comprehension; wishing not to thwart her, but to treat her as a mother does a child. Struck at first with the change in her person, I now perceived that the woman, once so dignified in her bearing, showed in her attitude, her voice, her manners, in her looks and her ideas, the naive ignorance of a child, its artless graces, its eager movements, its careless indifference to everything that is not its own desire,—in short all the weaknesses which commend a child to our protection. Is it so with all dying persons? Do they strip off social disguises till they are like children who have never put them on? Or was it that the countess feeling herself on the borders of eternity, rejected every human feeling except love?

"You will bring me health as you used to do, Felix," she said, "and our valley will still be my blessing. How can I help eating what you will give me? You are such a good nurse. Besides, you are so rich in health and vigor that life is contagious beside you. My friend, prove to me that I need not die—die blighted. They think my worst suffering is thirst. Oh, yes, my thirst is great, dear friend. The waters of the Indre are terrible to see; but the thirst of my heart is greater far. I thirsted for thee," she said in a smothered voice, taking my hands in hers, which were burning, and drawing me close that she might whisper in my ear. "My anguish has been in not seeing thee! Did you not bid me live? I will live; I too will ride on horseback; I will know life, Paris, fetes, pleasures, all!"

Ah! Natalie, that awful cry—which time and distance render cold—rang in the ears of the old priest and in mine; the tones of that glorious voice pictured the battles of a lifetime, the anguish of a true love lost. The countess rose with an impatient movement like that of a child which seeks a plaything. When the confessor saw her thus the poor man fell upon his knees and prayed with clasped hands.

"Yes, to live!" she said, making me rise and support her; "to live with realities and not with delusions. All has been delusions in my life; I have counted them up, these lies, these impostures! How can I die, I who have never lived? I who have never roamed a moor to meet him!" She stopped, seemed to listen, and to smell some odor through the walls. "Felix, the vintagers are dining, and I, I," she said, in the voice of a child, "I, the mistress, am hungry. It is so in love,—they are happy, they, they!—"

"Kyrie eleison!" said the poor abbe, who with clasped hands and eyes raised to heaven was reciting his litanies.

She flung an arm around my neck, kissed me violently, and pressed me to her, saying, "You shall not escape me now!" She gave the little nod with which in former days she used, when leaving me for an instant, to say she would return. "We will dine together," she said; "I will go and tell Manette." She turned to go, but fainted; and I laid her, dressed as she was, upon the bed.

"You carried me thus before," she murmured, opening her eyes.

She was very light, but burning; as I took her in my arms I felt the heat of her body. Monsieur Deslandes entered and seemed surprised at the decoration of the room; but seeing me, all was explained to him.

"We must suffer much to die," she said in a changed voice.

The doctor sat down and felt her pulse, then he rose quickly and said a few words in a low voice to the priest, who left the room beckoning me to follow him.

"What are you going to do?" I said to the doctor.

"Save her from intolerable agony," he replied. "Who could have believed in so much strength? We cannot understand how she can have lived in this state so long. This is the forty-second day since she has either eaten or drunk."

Monsieur Deslandes called for Manette. The Abbe Birotteau took me to the gardens.

"Let us leave her to the doctor," he said; "with Manette's help he will wrap her in opium. Well, you have heard her now—if indeed it is she herself."

"No," I said, "it is not she."

I was stupefied with grief. I left the grounds by the little gate of the lower terrace and went to the punt, in which I hid to be alone with my thoughts. I tried to detach myself from the being in which I lived,—a torture like that with which the Tartars punish adultery by fastening a limb of the guilty man in a piece of wood and leaving him with a knife to cut it off if he would not die of hunger. My life was a failure, too! Despair suggested many strange ideas to me. Sometimes I vowed to die beside her; sometimes to bury myself at Meilleraye among the Trappists. I looked at the windows of the room where Henriette was dying, fancying I saw the light that was burning there the night I betrothed my soul to hers. Ah! ought I not to have followed the simple life she had created for me, keeping myself faithfully to her while I worked in the world? Had she not bidden me become a great man expressly that I might be saved from base and shameful passions? Chastity! was it not a sublime distinction which I had not know how to keep? Love, as Arabella understood it, suddenly disgusted me. As I raised my humbled head asking myself where, in future, I could look for light and hope, what interest could hold me to life, the air was stirred by a sudden noise. I turned to the terrace and there saw Madeleine walking alone, with slow steps. During the time it took me to ascend the terrace, intending to ask the dear child the reason of the cold look she had given me when kneeling at the foot of the cross, she had seated herself on the bench. When she saw me approach her, she rose, pretending not to have seen me, and returned towards the house in a significantly hasty manner. She hated me; she fled from her mother's murderer.

When I reached the portico I saw Madeleine like a statue, motionless and erect, evidently listening to the sound of my steps. Jacques was sitting in the portico. His attitude expressed the same insensibility to what was going on about him that I had noticed when I first saw him; it suggested ideas such as we lay aside in some corner of our mind to take up and study at our leisure. I have remarked that young persons who carry death within them are usually unmoved at funerals. I longed to question that gloomy spirit. Had Madeleine kept her thoughts to herself, or had she inspired Jacques with her hatred?

"You know, Jacques," I said, to begin the conversation, "that in me you have a most devoted brother."

"Your friendship is useless to me; I shall follow my mother," he said, giving me a sullen look of pain.

"Jacques!" I cried, "you, too, against me?"

He coughed and walked away; when he returned he showed me his handkerchief stained with blood.

"Do you understand that?" he said.

Thus they had each of them a fatal secret. I saw before long that the brother and sister avoided each other. Henriette laid low, all was in ruins at Clochegourde.

"Madame is asleep," Manette came to say, quite happy in knowing that the countess was out of pain.

In these dreadful moments, though each person knows the inevitable end, strong affections fasten on such minor joys. Minutes are centuries which we long to make restorative; we wish our dear ones to lie on roses, we pray to bear their sufferings, we cling to the hope that their last moment may be to them unexpected.

"Monsieur Deslandes has ordered the flowers taken away; they excited Madame's nerves," said Manette.

Then it was the flowers that caused her delirium; she herself was not a part of it.

"Come, Monsieur Felix," added Manette, "come and see Madame; she is beautiful as an angel."

I returned to the dying woman just as the setting sun was gilding the lace-work on the roofs of the chateau of Azay. All was calm and pure. A soft light lit the bed on which my Henriette was lying, wrapped in opium. The body was, as it were, annihilated; the soul alone reigned on that face, serene as the skies when the tempest is over. Blanche and Henriette, two sublime faces of the same woman, reappeared; all the more beautiful because my recollection, my thought, my imagination, aiding nature, repaired the devastation of each dear feature, where now the soul triumphant sent its gleams through the calm pulsations of her breathing. The two abbes were sitting at the foot of the bed. The count stood, as though stupefied by the banners of death which floated above that adored being. I took her seat on the sofa. We all four turned to each other looks in which admiration for that celestial beauty mingled with tears of mourning. The lights of thought announced the return of the Divine Spirit to that glorious tabernacle.

The Abbe Dominis and I spoke in signs, communicating to each other our mutual ideas. Yes, the angels were watching her! yes, their flaming swords shone above that noble brow, which the august expression of her virtue made, as it were, a visible soul conversing with the spirits of its sphere. The lines of her face cleared; all in her was exalted and became majestic beneath the unseen incense of the seraphs who guarded her. The green tints of bodily suffering gave place to pure white tones, the cold wan pallor of approaching death. Jacques and Madeleine entered. Madeleine made us quiver by the adoring impulse which flung her on her knees beside the bed, crying out, with clasped hand: "My mother! here is my mother!" Jacques smiled; he knew he would follow her where she went.

"She is entering the haven," said the Abbe Birotteau.

The Abbe Dominis looked at me as if to say: "Did I not tell you the star would rise in all its glory?"

Madeleine knelt with her eyes fixed on her mother, breathing when she breathed, listening to the soft breath, the last thread by which she held to life, and which we followed in terror, fearing that every effort of respiration might be the last. Like an angel at the gates of the sanctuary, the young girl was eager yet calm, strong but reverent. At that moment the Angelus rang from the village clock-tower. Waves of tempered air brought its reverberations to remind us that this was the sacred hour when Christianity repeats the words said by the angel to the woman who has redeemed the faults of her sex. "Ave Maria!"—surely, at this moment the words were a salutation from heaven. The prophecy was so plain, the event so near that we burst into tears. The murmuring sounds of evening, melodious breezes in the leafage, last warbling of the birds, the hum and echo of the insects, the voices of the waters, the plaintive cry of the tree-frog,—all country things were bidding farewell to the loveliest lily of the valley, to her simple, rural life. The religious poesy of the hour, now added to that of Nature, expressed so vividly the psalm of the departing soul that our sobs redoubled.

Though the door of the chamber was open we were all so plunged in contemplation of the scene, as if to imprint its memories forever on our souls, that we did not notice the family servants who were kneeling as a group and praying fervently. These poor people, living on hope, had believed their mistress might be spared, and this plain warning overcame them. At a sign from the Abbe Birotteau the old huntsman went to fetch the curate of Sache. The doctor, standing by the bed, calm as science, and holding the hand of the still sleeping woman, had made the confessor a sign to say that this sleep was the only hour without pain which remained for the recalled angel. The moment had come to administer the last sacraments of the Church. At nine o'clock she awoke quietly, looked at us with surprised but gentle eyes, and we beheld our idol once more in all the beauty of former days.

"Mother! you are too beautiful to die—life and health are coming back to you!" cried Madeleine.

"Dear daughter, I shall live—in thee," she answered, smiling.

Then followed heart-rending embraces of the mother and her children. Monsieur de Mortsauf kissed his wife upon her brow. She colored when she saw me.

"Dear Felix," she said, "this is, I think, the only grief that I shall ever have caused you. Forget all that I may have said,—I, a poor creature much beside myself." She held out her hand; I took it and kissed it. Then she said, with her chaste and gracious smile, "As in the old days, Felix?"

We all left the room and went into the salon during the last confession. I approached Madeleine. In presence of others she could not escape me without a breach of civility; but, like her mother, she looked at no one, and kept silence without even once turning her eyes in my direction.

"Dear Madeleine," I said in a low voice, "What have you against me? Why do you show such coldness in the presence of death, which ought to reconcile us all?"

"I hear in my heart what my mother is saying at this moment," she replied, with a look which Ingres gave to his "Mother of God,"—that virgin, already sorrowful, preparing herself to protect the world for which her son was about to die.

"And you condemn me at the moment when your mother absolves me,—if indeed I am guilty."

"You, you," she said, "always your self!"

The tones of her voice revealed the determined hatred of a Corsican, implacable as the judgments of those who, not having studied life, admit of no extenuation of faults committed against the laws of the heart.

An hour went by in deepest silence. The Abbe Birotteau came to us after receiving the countess's general confession, and we followed him back to the room where Henriette, under one of those impulses which often come to noble minds, all sisters of one intent, had made them dress her in the long white garment which was to be her shroud. We found her sitting up; beautiful from expiation, beautiful in hope. I saw in the fireplace the black ashes of my letters which had just been burned, a sacrifice which, as her confessor afterwards told me, she had not been willing to make until the hour of her death. She smiled upon us all with the smile of other days. Her eyes, moist with tears, gave evidence of inward lucidity; she saw the celestial joys of the promised land.

"Dear Felix," she said, holding out her hand and pressing mine, "stay with us. You must be present at the last scene of my life, not the least painful among many such, but one in which you are concerned."

She made a sign and the door was closed. At her request the count sat down; the Abbe Birotteau and I remained standing. Then with Manette's help the countess rose and knelt before the astonished count, persisting in remaining there. A moment after, when Manette had left the room, she raised her head which she had laid upon her husband's knees.

"Though I have been a faithful wife to you," she said, in a faint voice, "I have sometimes failed in my duty. I have just prayed to God to give me strength to ask your pardon. I have given to a friendship outside of my family more affectionate care than I have shown to you. Perhaps I have sometimes irritated you by the comparisons you may have made between these cares, these thoughts, and those I gave to you. I have had," she said, in a sinking voice, "a deep friendship, which no one, not even he who has been its object, has fully known. Though I have continued virtuous according to all human laws, though I have been a irreproachable wife to you, still other thoughts, voluntary or involuntary, have often crossed my mind and, in this hour, I fear I have welcomed them too warmly. But as I have tenderly loved you, and continued to be your submissive wife, and as the clouds passing beneath the sky do not alter its purity, I now pray for your blessing with a clean heart. I shall die without one bitter thought if I can hear from your lips a tender word for your Blanche, for the mother of your children,—if I know that you forgive her those things for which she did not forgive herself till reassured by the great tribunal which pardons all."

"Blanche, Blanche!" cried the broken man, shedding tears upon his wife's head, "Would you kill me?" He raised her with a strength unusual to him, kissed her solemnly on the forehead, and thus holding her continued: "Have I no forgiveness to ask of you? Have I never been harsh? Are you not making too much of your girlish scruples?"

"Perhaps," she said. "But, dear friend, indulge the weakness of a dying woman; tranquillize my mind. When you reach this hour you will remember that I left you with a blessing. Will you grant me permission to leave to our friend now here that pledge of my affection?" she continued, showing a letter that was on the mantelshelf. "He is now my adopted son, and that is all. The heart, dear friend, makes its bequests; my last wishes impose a sacred duty on that dear Felix. I think I do not put too great a burden on him; grant that I do not ask too much of you in desiring to leave him these last words. You see, I am always a woman," she said, bending her head with mournful sweetness; "after obtaining pardon I ask a gift—Read this," she added, giving me the letter; "but not until after my death."

The count saw her color change: he lifted her and carried her himself to the bed, where we all surrounded her.

"Felix," she said, "I may have done something wrong to you. Often I gave you pain by letting you hope for that I could not give you; but see, it was that very courage of wife and mother that now enables me to die forgiven of all. You will forgive me too; you who have so often blamed me, and whose injustice was so dear—"

The Abbe Birotteau laid a finger on his lips. At that sign the dying woman bowed her head, faintness overcame her; presently she waved her hands as if summoning the clergy and her children and the servants to her presence, and then, with an imploring gesture, she showed me the desolate count and the children beside him. The sight of that father, the secret of whose insanity was known to us alone, now to be left sole guardian of those delicate beings, brought mute entreaties to her face, which fell upon my heart like sacred fire. Before receiving extreme unction she asked pardon of her servants if by a hasty word she had sometimes hurt them; she asked their prayers and commended each one, individually, to the count; she nobly confessed that during the last two months she had uttered complaints that were not Christian and might have shocked them; she had repulsed her children and clung to life unworthily; but she attributed this failure of submission to the will of God to her intolerable sufferings. Finally, she publicly thanked the Abbe Birotteau with heartfelt warmth for having shown her the illusion of all earthly things.

When she ceased to speak, prayers were said again, and the curate of Sache gave her the viaticum. A few moments later her breathing became difficult; a film overspread her eyes, but soon they cleared again; she gave me a last look and died to the eyes of earth, hearing perhaps the symphony of our sobs. As her last sigh issued from her lips,—the effort of a life that was one long anguish,—I felt a blow within me that struck on all my faculties. The count and I remained beside the bier all night with the two abbes and the curate, watching, in the glimmer of the tapers, the body of the departed, now so calm, laid upon the mattress of her bed, where once she had suffered cruelly. It was my first communion with death. I remained the whole of that night with my eyes fixed on Henriette, spell-bound by the pure expression that came from the stilling of all tempests, by the whiteness of that face where still I saw the traces of her innumerable affections, although it made no answer to my love. What majesty in that silence, in that coldness! How many thoughts they expressed! What beauty in that cold repose, what power in that immobility! All the past was there and futurity had begun. Ah! I loved her dead as much as I had loved her living. In the morning the count went to bed; the three wearied priests fell asleep in that heavy hour of dawn so well known to those who watch. I could then, without witnesses, kiss that sacred brow with all the love I had never been allowed to utter.

The third day, in a cool autumn morning, we followed the countess to her last home. She was carried by the old huntsman, the two Martineaus, and Manette's husband. We went down by the road I had so joyously ascended the day I first returned to her. We crossed the valley of the Indre to the little cemetery of Sache—a poor village graveyard, placed behind the church on the slope of the hill, where with true humility she had asked to be buried beneath a simple cross of black wood, "like a poor country-woman," she said. When I saw, from the centre of the valley, the village church and the place of the graveyard a convulsive shudder seized me. Alas! we have all our Golgothas, where we leave the first thirty-three years of our lives, with the lance-wound in our side, the crown of thorns and not of roses on our brow—that hill-slope was to me the mount of expiation.

We were followed by an immense crowd, seeking to express the grief of the valley where she had silently buried so many noble actions. Manette, her faithful woman, told me that when her savings did not suffice to help the poor she economized upon her dress. There were babes to be provided for, naked children to be clothed, mothers succored in their need, sacks of flour brought to the millers in winter for helpless old men, a cow sent to some poor home,—deeds of a Christian woman, a mother, and the lady of the manor. Besides these things, there were dowries paid to enable loving hearts to marry; substitutes bought for youths to whom the draft had brought despair, tender offerings of the loving woman who had said: "The happiness of others is the consolation of those who cannot themselves be happy." Such things, related at the "veillees," made the crowd immense. I walked with Jacques and the two abbes behind the coffin. According to custom neither the count nor Madeleine were present; they remained alone at Clochegourde. But Manette insisted in coming with us. "Poor madame! poor madame! she is happy now," I heard her saying to herself amid her sobs.

As the procession left the road to the mills I heard a simultaneous moan and a sound of weeping as though the valley were lamenting for its soul. The church was filled with people. After the service was over we went to the graveyard where she wished to be buried near the cross. When I heard the pebbles and the gravel falling upon the coffin my courage gave way; I staggered and asked the two Martineaus to steady me. They took me, half-dead, to the chateau of Sache, where the owners very kindly invited me to stay, and I accepted. I will own to you that I dreaded a return to Clochegourde, and it was equally repugnant to me to go to Frapesle, where I could see my Henriette's windows. Here, at Sache, I was near her. I lived for some days in a room which looked on the tranquil, solitary valley I have mentioned to you. It is a deep recess among the hills, bordered by oaks that are doubly centenarian, through which a torrent rushes after rain. The scene was in keeping with the stern and solemn meditations to which I desired to abandon myself.

I had perceived, during the day which followed the fatal night, how unwelcome my presence might be at Clochegourde. The count had gone through violent emotions at the death of his wife; but he had expected the event; his mind was made up to it in a way that was something like indifference. I had noticed this several times, and when the countess gave me that letter (which I still dared not read) and when she spoke of her affection for me, I remarked that the count, usually so quick to take offence, made no sign of feeling any. He attributed Henriette's wording to the extreme sensitiveness of a conscience which he knew to be pure. This selfish insensibility was natural to him. The souls of these two beings were no more married than their bodies; they had never had the intimate communion which keeps feeling alive; they had shared neither pains nor pleasures, those strong links which tear us by a thousand edges when broken, because they touch on all our fibers, and are fastened to the inmost recesses of our hearts.

Another consideration forbade my return to Clochegourde,—Madeleine's hostility. That hard young girl was not disposed to modify her hatred beside her mother's coffin. Between the count, who would have talked to me incessantly of himself, and the new mistress of the house, who would have shown me invincible dislike, I should have found myself horribly annoyed. To be treated thus where once the very flowers welcomed me, where the steps of the portico had a voice, where my memory clothed with poetry the balconies, the fountains, the balustrades, the trees, the glimpses of the valleys! to be hated where I once was loved—the thought was intolerable to me. So, from the first, my mind was made up.

Alas! alas! was this the end of the keenest love that ever entered the heart of man? To the eyes of strangers my conduct might be reprehensible, but it had the sanction of my own conscience. It is thus that the noblest feelings, the sublimest dramas of our youth must end. We start at dawn, as I from Tours to Clochegourde, we clutch the world, our hearts hungry for love; then, when our treasure is in the crucible, when we mingle with men and circumstances, all becomes gradually debased and we find but little gold among the ashes. Such is life! life as it is; great pretensions, small realities. I meditated long about myself, debating what I could do after a blow like this which had mown down every flower of my soul. I resolved to rush into the science of politics, into the labyrinth of ambition, to cast woman from my life and to make myself a statesman, cold and passionless, and so remain true to the saint I loved. My thoughts wandered into far-off regions while my eyes were fastened on the splendid tapestry of the yellowing oaks, the stern summits, the bronzed foothills. I asked myself if Henriette's virtue were not, after all, that of ignorance, and if I were indeed guilty of her death. I fought against remorse. At last, in the sweetness of an autumn midday, one of those last smiles of heaven which are so beautiful in Touraine, I read the letter which at her request I was not to open before her death. Judge of my feelings as I read it.

  Madame de Mortsauf to the Vicomte Felix de Vandenesse:

  Felix, friend, loved too well, I must now lay bare my heart to
  you,—not so much to prove my love as to show you the weight of
  obligation you have incurred by the depth and gravity of the
  wounds you have inflicted on it. At this moment, when I sink
  exhausted by the toils of life, worn out by the shocks of its
  battle, the woman within me is, mercifully, dead; the mother alone
  survives. Dear, you are now to see how it was that you were the
  original cause of all my sufferings. Later, I willingly received
  your blows; to-day I am dying of the final wound your hand has
  given,—but there is joy, excessive joy in feeling myself
  destroyed by him I love.

  My physical sufferings will soon put an end to my mental strength;
  I therefore use the last clear gleams of intelligence to implore
  you to befriend my children and replace the heart of which you
  have deprived them. I would solemnly impose this duty upon you if
  I loved you less; but I prefer to let you choose it for yourself
  as an act of sacred repentance, and also in faithful continuance
  of your love—love, for us, was ever mingled with repentant
  thoughts and expiatory fears! but—I know it well—we shall
  forever love each other. Your wrong to me was not so fatal an act
  in itself as the power which I let it have within me. Did I not
  tell you I was jealous, jealous unto death? Well, I die of it.
  But, be comforted, we have kept all human laws. The Church has
  told me, by one of her purest voices, that God will be forgiving
  to those who subdue their natural desires to His commandments. My
  beloved, you are now to know all, for I would not leave you in
  ignorance of any thought of mine. What I confide to God in my last
  hour you, too, must know,—you, king of my heart as He is King of

  Until the ball given to the Duc d'Angouleme (the only ball at
  which I was ever present), marriage had left me in that ignorance
  which gives to the soul of a young girl the beauty of the angels.
  True, I was a mother, but love had never surrounded me with its
  permitted pleasures. How did this happen? I do not know; neither
  do I know by what law everything within me changed in a moment.
  You remember your kisses? they have mastered my life, they have
  furrowed my soul; the ardor of your blood awoke the ardor of mine;
  your youth entered my youth, your desires my soul. When I rose and
  left you proudly I was filled with an emotion for which I know no
  name in any language—for children have not yet found a word to
  express the marriage of their eyes with light, nor the kiss of
  life laid upon their lips. Yes, it was sound coming in the echo,
  light flashing through the darkness, motion shaking the universe;
  at least, it was rapid like all these things, but far more
  beautiful, for it was the birth of the soul! I comprehended then
  that something, I knew not what, existed for me in the world,—a
  force nobler than thought; for it was all thoughts, all forces, it
  was the future itself in a shared emotion. I felt I was but half a
  mother. Falling thus upon my heart this thunderbolt awoke desires
  which slumbered there without my knowledge; suddenly I divined all
  that my aunt had meant when she kissed my forehead, murmuring,
  "Poor Henriette!"

  When I returned to Clochegourde, the springtime, the first leaves,
  the fragrance of the flowers, the white and fleecy clouds, the
  Indre, the sky, all spoke to me in a language till then unknown.
  If you have forgotten those terrible kisses, I have never been
  able to efface them from my memory,—I am dying of them! Yes, each
  time that I have met you since, their impress is revived. I was
  shaken from head to foot when I first saw you; the mere
  presentiment of your coming overcame me. Neither time nor my firm
  will has enabled me to conquer that imperious sense of pleasure. I
  asked myself involuntarily, "What must be such joys?" Our mutual
  looks, the respectful kisses you laid upon my hand, the pressure
  of my arm on yours, your voice with its tender tones,—all, even
  the slightest things, shook me so violently that clouds obscured
  my sight; the murmur of rebellious senses filled my ears. Ah! if
  in those moments when outwardly I increased my coldness you had
  taken me in your arms I should have died of happiness. Sometimes I
  desired it, but prayer subdued the evil thought. Your name uttered
  by my children filled my heart with warmer blood, which gave color
  to my cheeks; I laid snares for my poor Madeleine to induce her to
  say it, so much did I love the tumults of that sensation. Ah! what
  shall I say to you? Your writing had a charm; I gazed at your
  letters as we look at a portrait.

  If on that first day you obtained some fatal power over me,
  conceive, dear friend, how infinite that power became when it was
  given to me to read your soul. What delights filled me when I
  found you so pure, so absolutely truthful, gifted with noble
  qualities, capable of noblest things, and already so tried! Man
  and child, timid yet brave! What joy to find we both were
  consecrated by a common grief! Ever since that evening when we
  confided our childhoods to each other, I have known that to lose
  you would be death,—yes, I have kept you by me selfishly. The
  certainty felt by Monsieur de la Berge that I should die if I lost
  you touched him deeply, for he read my soul. He knew how necessary
  I was to my children and the count; he did not command me to
  forbid you my house, for I promised to continue pure in deed and
  thought. "Thought," he said to me, "is involuntary, but it can be
  watched even in the midst of anguish." "If I think," I replied,
  "all will be lost; save me from myself. Let him remain beside me
  and keep me pure!" The good old man, though stern, was moved by my
  sincerity. "Love him as you would a son, and give him your
  daughter," he said. I accepted bravely that life of suffering that
  I might not lose you, and I suffered joyfully, seeing that we were
  called to bear the same yoke—My God! I have been firm, faithful
  to my husband; I have given you no foothold, Felix, in your
  kingdom. The grandeur of my passion has reacted on my character; I
  have regarded the tortures Monsieur de Mortsauf has inflicted on
  me as expiations; I bore them proudly in condemnation of my faulty
  desires. Formerly I was disposed to murmur at my life, but since
  you entered it I have recovered some gaiety, and this has been the
  better for the count. Without this strength, which I derived
  through you, I should long since have succumbed to the inward life
  of which I told you.

  If you have counted for much in the exercise of my duty so have my
  children also. I felt I had deprived them of something, and I
  feared I could never do enough to make amends to them; my life was
  thus a continual struggle which I loved. Feeling that I was less a
  mother, less an honest wife, remorse entered my heart; fearing to
  fail in my obligations, I constantly went beyond them. Often have
  I put Madeleine between you and me, giving you to each other,
  raising barriers between us,—barriers that were powerless! for
  what could stifle the emotions which you caused me? Absent or
  present, you had the same power. I preferred Madeleine to Jacques
  because Madeleine was sometime to be yours. But I did not yield
  you to my daughter without a struggle. I told myself that I was
  only twenty-eight when I first met you, and you were nearly
  twenty-two; I shortened the distance between us; I gave myself up
  to delusive hopes. Oh, Felix! I tell you these things to save you
  from remorse; also, perhaps, to show you that I was not cold and
  insensible, that our sufferings were cruelly mutual; that Arabella
  had no superiority of love over mine. I too am the daughter of a
  fallen race, such as men love well.

  There came a moment when the struggle was so terrible that I wept
  the long nights through; my hair fell off,—you have it! Do you
  remember the count's illness? Your nobility of soul far from
  raising my soul belittled it. Alas! I dreamed of giving myself to
  you some day as the reward of so much heroism; but the folly was a
  brief one. I laid it at the feet of God during the mass that day
  when you refused to be with me. Jacques' illness and Madeleine's
  sufferings seemed to me the warnings of God calling back to Him
  His lost sheep.

  Then your love—which is so natural—for that Englishwoman
  revealed to me secrets of which I had no knowledge. I loved you
  better than I knew. The constant emotions of this stormy life, the
  efforts that I made to subdue myself with no other succor than
  that religion gave me, all, all has brought about the malady of
  which I die. The terrible shocks I have undergone brought on
  attacks about which I kept silence. I saw in death the sole
  solution of this hidden tragedy. A lifetime of anger, jealousy,
  and rage lay in those two months between the time my mother told
  me of your relations with Lady Dudley, and your return to
  Clochegourde. I wished to go to Paris; murder was in my heart; I
  desired that woman's death; I was indifferent to my children.
  Prayer, which had hitherto been to me a balm, was now without
  influence on my soul. Jealousy made the breach through which death
  has entered. And yet I have kept a placid brow. Yes, that period
  of struggle was a secret between God and myself. After your return
  and when I saw that I was loved, even as I loved you, that nature
  had betrayed me and not your thought, I wished to live,—it was
  then too late! God had taken me under His protection, filled no
  doubt with pity for a being true with herself, true with Him,
  whose sufferings had often led her to the gates of the sanctuary.

  My beloved! God has judged me, Monsieur de Mortsauf will pardon
  me, but you—will you be merciful? Will you listen to this voice
  which now issues from my tomb? Will you repair the evils of which
  we are equally guilty?—you, perhaps, less than I. You know what I
  wish to ask of you. Be to Monsieur de Mortsauf what a sister of
  charity is to a sick man; listen to him, love him—no one loves
  him. Interpose between him and his children as I have done. Your
  task will not be a long one. Jacques will soon leave home to be in
  Paris near his grandfather, and you have long promised me to guide
  him through the dangers of that life. As for Madeleine, she will
  marry; I pray that you may please her. She is all myself, but
  stronger; she has the will in which I am lacking; the energy
  necessary for the companion of a man whose career destines him to
  the storms of political life; she is clever and perceptive. If
  your lives are united she will be happier than her mother. By
  acquiring the right to continue my work at Clochegourde you will
  blot out the faults I have not sufficiently expiated, though they
  are pardoned in heaven and also on earth, for he is generous and
  will forgive me. You see I am ever selfish; is it not the proof of
  a despotic love? I wish you to still love me in mine. Unable to be
  yours in life, I bequeath to you my thoughts and also my duties.
  If you do not wish to marry Madeleine you will at least seek the
  repose of my soul by making Monsieur de Mortsauf as happy as he
  ever can be.

  Farewell, dear child of my heart; this is the farewell of a mind
  absolutely sane, still full of life; the farewell of a spirit on
  which thou hast shed too many and too great joys to suffer thee to
  feel remorse for the catastrophe they have caused. I use that word
  "catastrophe" thinking of you and how you love me; as for me, I
  reach the haven of my rest, sacrificed to duty and not without
  regret—ah! I tremble at that thought. God knows better than I
  whether I have fulfilled his holy laws in accordance with their
  spirit. Often, no doubt, I have tottered, but I have not fallen;
  the most potent cause of my wrong-doing lay in the grandeur of the
  seductions that encompassed me. The Lord will behold me trembling
  when I enter His presence as though I had succumbed. Farewell
  again, a long farewell like that I gave last night to our dear
  valley, where I soon shall rest and where you will often—will you


I fell into an abyss of terrible reflections, as I perceived the depths unknown of the life now lighted up by this expiring flame. The clouds of my egotism rolled away. She had suffered as much as I—more than I, for she was dead. She believed that others would be kind to her friend; she was so blinded by love that she had never so much as suspected the enmity of her daughter. That last proof of her tenderness pained me terribly. Poor Henriette wished to give me Clochegourde and her daughter.

Natalie, from that dread day when first I entered a graveyard following the remains of my noble Henriette, whom now you know, the sun has been less warm, less luminous, the nights more gloomy, movement less agile, thought more dull. There are some departed whom we bury in the earth, but there are others more deeply loved for whom our souls are winding-sheets, whose memory mingles daily with our heart-beats; we think of them as we breathe; they are in us by the tender law of a metempsychosis special to love. A soul is within my soul. When some good thing is done by me, when some true word is spoken, that soul acts and speaks. All that is good within me issues from that grave, as the fragrance of a lily fills the air; sarcasm, bitterness, all that you blame in me is mine. Natalie, when next my eyes are darkened by a cloud or raised to heaven after long contemplation of earth, when my lips make no reply to your words or your devotion, do not ask me again, "Of what are you thinking?" *** Dear Natalie, I ceased to write some days ago; these memories were too bitter for me. Still, I owe you an account of the events which followed this catastrophe; they need few words. When a life is made up of action and movement it is soon told, but when it passes in the higher regions of the soul its story becomes diffuse. Henriette's letter put the star of hope before my eyes. In this great shipwreck I saw an isle on which I might be rescued. To live at Clochegourde with Madeleine, consecrating my life to hers, was a fate which satisfied the ideas of which my heart was full. But it was necessary to know the truth as to her real feelings. As I was bound to bid the count farewell, I went to Clochegourde to see him, and met him on the terrace. We walked up and down for some time. At first he spoke of the countess like a man who knew the extent of his loss, and all the injury it was doing to his inner self. But after the first outbreak of his grief was over he seemed more concerned about the future than the present. He feared his daughter, who, he told me, had not her mother's gentleness. Madeleine's firm character, in which there was something heroic blending with her mother's gracious nature, alarmed the old man, used to Henriette's tenderness, and he now foresaw the power of a will that never yielded. His only consolation for his irreparable loss, he said, was the certainty of soon rejoining his wife; the agitations, the griefs of these last few weeks had increased his illness and brought back all his former pains; the struggle which he foresaw between his authority as a father and that of his daughter, now mistress of the house, would end his days in bitterness; for though he should have struggled against his wife, he should, he knew, be forced to give way before his child. Besides, his son was soon to leave him; his daughter would marry, and what sort of son-in-law was he likely to have? Though he thus talked of dying, his real distress was in feeling himself alone for many years to come without sympathy.

During this hour when he spoke only of himself, and asked for my friendship in his wife's name, he completed a picture in my mind of the remarkable figure of the Emigre,—one of the most imposing types of our period. In appearance he was frail and broken, but life seemed persistent in him because of his sober habits and his country avocations. He is still living.

Though Madeleine could see me on the terrace, she did not come down. Several times she came out upon the portico and went back in again, as if to signify her contempt. I seized a moment when she appeared to beg the count to go to the house and call her, saying I had a last wish of her mother to convey to her, and this would be my only opportunity of doing so. The count brought her, and left us alone together on the terrace.

"Dear Madeleine," I said, "if I am to speak to you, surely it should be here where your mother listened to me when she felt she had less reason to complain of me than of the circumstances of life. I know your thoughts; but are you not condemning me without a knowledge of the facts? My life and happiness are bound up in this place; you know that, and yet you seek to banish me by the coldness you show, in place of the brotherly affection which has always united us, and which death should have strengthened by the bonds of a common grief. Dear Madeleine, you for whom I would gladly give my life without hope of recompense, without your even knowing it,—so deeply do we love the children of those who have succored us,—you are not aware of the project your adorable mother cherished during the last seven years. If you knew it your feelings would doubtless soften towards me; but I do not wish to take advantage of you now. All that I ask is that you do not deprive me of the right to come here, to breathe the air on this terrace, and to wait until time has changed your ideas of social life. At this moment I desire not to ruffle them; I respect a grief which misleads you, for it takes even from me the power of judging soberly the circumstances in which I find myself. The saint who now looks down upon us will approve the reticence with which I simply ask that you stand neutral between your present feelings and my wishes. I love you too well, in spite of the aversion you are showing me, to say one word to the count of a proposal he would welcome eagerly. Be free. Later, remember that you know no one in the world as you know me, that no man will ever have more devoted feelings—"

Up to this moment Madeleine had listened with lowered eyes; now she stopped me by a gesture.

"Monsieur," she said, in a voice trembling with emotion. "I know all your thoughts; but I shall not change my feelings towards you. I would rather fling myself into the Indre than ally myself to you. I will not speak to you of myself, but if my mother's name still possesses any power over you, in her name I beg you never to return to Clochegourde so long as I am in it. The mere sight of you causes me a repugnance I cannot express, but which I shall never overcome."

She bowed to me with dignity, and returned to the house without looking back, impassible as her mother had been for one day only, but more pitiless. The searching eye of that young girl had discovered, though tardily, the secrets of her mother's heart, and her hatred to the man whom she fancied fatal to her mother's life may have been increased by a sense of her innocent complicity.

All before me was now chaos. Madeleine hated me, without considering whether I was the cause or the victim of these misfortunes. She might have hated us equally, her mother and me, had we been happy. Thus it was that the edifice of my happiness fell in ruins. I alone knew the life of that unknown, noble woman. I alone had entered every region of her soul; neither mother, father, husband, nor children had ever known her.—Strange truth! I stir this heap of ashes and take pleasure in spreading them before you; all hearts may find something in them of their closest experience. How many families have had their Henriette! How many noble feelings have left this earth with no historian to fathom their hearts, to measure the depth and breadth of their spirits. Such is human life in all its truth! Often mothers know their children as little as their children know them. So it is with husbands, lovers, brothers. Did I imagine that one day, beside my father's coffin, I should contend with my brother Charles, for whose advancement I had done so much? Good God! how many lessons in the simplest history.

When Madeleine disappeared into the house, I went away with a broken heart. Bidding farewell to my host at Sache, I started for Paris, following the right bank of the Indre, the one I had taken when I entered the valley for the first time. Sadly I drove through the pretty village of Pont-de-Ruan. Yet I was rich, political life courted me; I was not the weary plodder of 1814. Then my heart was full of eager desires, now my eyes were full of tears; once my life was all before me to fill as I could, now I knew it to be a desert. I was still young,—only twenty-nine,—but my heart was withered. A few years had sufficed to despoil that landscape of its early glory, and to disgust me with life. You can imagine my feelings when, on turning round, I saw Madeleine on the terrace.

A prey to imperious sadness, I gave no thought to the end of my journey. Lady Dudley was far, indeed, from my mind, and I entered the courtyard of her house without reflection. The folly once committed, I was forced to carry it out. My habits were conjugal in her house, and I went upstairs thinking of the annoyances of a rupture. If you have fully understood the character and manners of Lady Dudley, you can imagine my discomfiture when her majordomo ushered me, still in my travelling dress, into a salon where I found her sumptuously dressed and surrounded by four persons. Lord Dudley, one of the most distinguished old statesmen of England, was standing with his back to the fireplace, stiff, haughty, frigid, with the sarcastic air he doubtless wore in parliament; he smiled when he heard my name. Arabella's two children, who were amazingly like de Marsay (a natural son of the old lord), were near their mother; de Marsay himself was on the sofa beside her. As soon as Arabella saw me she assumed a distant air, and glanced at my travelling cap as if to ask what brought me there. She looked me over from head to foot, as though I were some country gentlemen just presented to her. As for our intimacy, that eternal passion, those vows of suicide if I ceased to love her, those visions of Armida, all had vanished like a dream. I had never clasped her hand; I was a stranger; she knew me not. In spite of the diplomatic self-possession to which I was gradually being trained, I was confounded; and all others in my place would have felt the same. De Marsay smiled at his boots, which he examined with remarkable interest. I decided at once upon my course. From any other woman I should modestly have accepted my defeat; but, outraged at the glowing appearance of the heroine who had vowed to die for love, and who had scoffed at the woman who was really dead, I resolved to meet insolence with insolence. She knew very well the misfortunes of Lady Brandon; to remind her of them was to send a dagger to her heart, though the weapon might be blunted by the blow.

"Madame," I said, "I am sure you will pardon my unceremonious entrance, when I tell you that I have just arrived from Touraine, and that Lady Brandon has given me a message for you which allows of no delay. I feared you had already started for Lancashire, but as you are still in Paris I will await your orders at any hour you may be pleased to appoint."

She bowed, and I left the room. Since that day I have only met her in society, where we exchange a friendly bow, and occasionally a sarcasm. I talk to her of the inconsolable women of Lancashire; she makes allusion to Frenchwomen who dignify their gastric troubles by calling them despair. Thanks to her, I have a mortal enemy in de Marsay, of whom she is very fond. In return, I call her the wife of two generations.

So my disaster was complete; it lacked nothing. I followed the plan I had laid out for myself during my retreat at Sache; I plunged into work and gave myself wholly to science, literature, and politics. I entered the diplomatic service on the accession of Charles X., who suppressed the employment I held under the late king. From that moment I was firmly resolved to pay no further attention to any woman, no matter how beautiful, witty, or loving she might be. This determination succeeded admirably; I obtained a really marvellous tranquillity of mind, and great powers of work, and I came to understand how much these women waste our lives, believing, all the while, that a few gracious words will repay us.

But—all my resolutions came to naught; you know how and why. Dear Natalie, in telling you my life, without reserve, without concealment, precisely as I tell it to myself, in relating to you feelings in which you have had no share, perhaps I have wounded some corner of your sensitive and jealous heart. But that which might anger a common woman will be to you—I feel sure of it—an additional reason for loving me. Noble women have indeed a sublime mission to fulfil to suffering and sickened hearts,—the mission of the sister of charity who stanches the wound, of the mother who forgives a child. Artists and poets are not the only ones who suffer; men who work for their country, for the future destiny of the nations, enlarging thus the circle of their passions and their thoughts, often make for themselves a cruel solitude. They need a pure, devoted love beside them,—believe me, they understand its grandeur and its worth.

To-morrow I shall know if I have deceived myself in loving you.