Part 4 out of 7

took in my new career, was the first to notice the false direction in
which I was advancing. He found it unbecoming that I should raise my
voice as loudly as his own, and mentioned the matter to Edmee. With
great sweetness she warned me of this, and, lest I should feel annoyed
at her speaking of it, told me that I was quite right in my argument,
but that her father was now too old to be converted to new ideas, and
that I ought to sacrifice my enthusiastic affirmations to his
patriarchal dignity. I promised not to repeat the offence; and I did
not keep my word.

The fact is, the chevalier was imbued with many prejudices.
Considering the days in which he lived, he had received a very good
education for a country nobleman; but the century had moved more
rapidly than he. Edmee, ardent and romantic; the abbe, full of
sentiment and systems, had moved even more rapidly than the century;
and if the vast gulf which lay between them and the patriarch was
scarcely perceptible, this was owing to the respect which they rightly
felt for him, and to the love he had for his daughter. I rushed
forward at full speed, as you may imagine, into Edmee's ideas, but I
had not, like herself, sufficient delicacy of feeling to maintain a
becoming reticence. The violence of my character found an outlet in
politics and philosophy, and I tasted unspeakable pleasure in those
heated disputes which at that time in France, not only at all public
meetings but also in the bosoms of families, were preluding the
tempests of the Revolution. I doubt if there was a single house, from
palace to hovel, which had not its orator--rugged, fiery, absolute,
and ready to descend into the parliamentary arena. I was the orator of
the chateau of Sainte-Severe, and my worthy uncle, accustomed to a
resemblance of authority over those about him, which prevented him
from seeing the real revolt of their minds, could ill endure such
candid opposition as mine. He was proud and hot-tempered, and,
moreover, had a difficulty in expressing himself which increased his
natural impatience, and made him feel annoyed with himself. He would
give a furious kick to the burning logs on the hearth; he would smash
his eye-glasses into a thousand pieces; scatter clouds of snuff about
the floor, and shout so violently as to make the lofty ceilings of his
mansion ring with his resonant voice. All this, I regret to say,
amused me immensely; and with some sentence but newly spelt out from
my books I loved to destroy the frail scaffolding of ideas which had
served him all his life. This was great folly and very foolish pride
on my part; but my love of opposition and my desire to display
intellectually the energy which was wanting in my physical life were
continually carrying me away. In vain would Edmee cough, as a hint
that I should say no more, and make an effort to save her father's
/amour propre/ by bringing forward some argument in his favour, though
against her own judgement; the lukewarmness of her help, and my
apparent submission to her only irritated my adversary more and more.

"Let him have his say," he would cry; "Edmee, you must not interfere;
I want to beat him on all points. If you continually interrupt us, I
shall never be able to make him see his absurdity."

And then the squall would blow stronger from both sides, until at last
the chevalier, seriously offended, would walk out of the room, and go
and vent his ill-humour on his huntsman or his hounds.

What most contributed to the recurrence of these unseemly wrangles and
to the growth of my ridiculous obstinacy was my uncle's extreme
goodness and the rapidity of his recovery. At the end of an hour he
had entirely forgotten my rudeness and his own irritation. He would
speak to me as usual and inquire into all my wishes and all my wants
with that fatherly solicitude which always kept him in a benevolent
mood. This incomparable man could never had slept had he not, before
going to bed, embraced all his family, and atoned, either by a word or
a kindly glance, for any ebullitions of temper which the meanest of
his servants might have had to bear during the day. Such goodness
ought to have disarmed me and closed my mouth forever. Each evening I
vowed that it should; but each morning I returned, as the Scriptures
say, to my vomit again.

Edmee suffered more and more every day from this development of my
character. She cast about for means to cure it. If there was never
/fiancee/ stronger-minded and more reserved than she, never was there
mother more tender. After many discussions with the abbe she resolved
to persuade her father to change the routine of our life somewhat, and
to remove our establishment to Paris for the last weeks of the
carnival. Our long stay in the country; the isolation which the
position of Sainte-Severe and the bad state of the roads had left us
since the beginning of winter; the monotony of our daily life--all
tended to foster our wearisome quibbling. My character was being more
and more spoilt by it; and though it afforded my uncle even greater
pleasure than myself, his health suffered as a result, and the
childish passions daily aroused were no doubt hastening his decay. The
abbe was suffering from /ennui/; Edmee was depressed. Whether in
consequence of our mode of life or owing to causes unknown to the
rest, it was her wish to go, and we went; for her father was uneasy
about her melancholy, and sought only to do as she desired. I jumped
for joy at the thought of seeing Paris; and while Edmee was flattering
herself that intercourse with the world would refine the grossness of
my pedantry, I was dreaming of a triumphal progress through the world
which had been held up to such scorn by our philosophers. We started
on our journey one fine morning in March; the chevalier with his
daughter and Mademoiselle Leblanc in one post-chaise; myself in
another with the abbe, who could ill conceal his delight at the
thought of seeing the capital for the first time in him life; and my
valet Saint-Jean, who, lest he should forget his customary politeness,
made profound bows to every individual we passed.


Old Bernard, tired from talking so long, had promised to resume his
story on the morrow. At the appointed hour we called upon him to keep
his word; and he continued thus:

This visit marked a new phase in my life. At Sainte-Severe I had been
absorbed in my love and my work. I had concentrated all my energies
upon these two points. No sooner had I arrived at Paris than a thick
curtain seemed to fall before my eyes, and, for several days, as I
could not understand anything, I felt astonished at nothing. I formed
a very exaggerated estimate of the passing actors who appeared upon
the scene; but I formed no less exaggerated an estimate of the ease
with which I should soon rival these imaginary powers. My enterprising
and presumptuous nature saw challenges everywhere and obstacles

Though I was in the same house as my uncle and cousin, my room was on
a separate floor, and henceforth I spent the greater part of my time
with the abbe. I was far from being dazed by the material advantages
of my position; but in proportion as I realized how precarious or
painful were the positions of many others, the more conscious I became
of the comfort of my own. I appreciated the excellent character of my
tutor, and the respect my lackey showed me no longer seemed
objectionable. With the freedom that I enjoyed, and the unlimited
money at my command, and the restless energy of youth, it is
astonishing that I did not fall into some excess, were it only
gambling, which might well have appealed to my combative instincts. It
was my own ignorance of everything that prevented this; it made me
extremely suspicious, and the abbe, who was very observant, and held
himself responsible for my actions, managed most cleverly to work upon
my haughty reserve. He increased it in regard to such things as might
have done me harm, and dispelled it in contrary cases. Moreover, he
was careful to provide me with sufficient reasonable distractions,
which while they could not take the place of the joys of love, served
at least to lessen the smart of its wounds. As to temptations to
debauchery, I felt none. I had too much pride to yearn for any woman
in which I had not seen, as in Edmee, the first of her sex.

We used all to meet at dinner, and as a rule we paid visits in the
evening. By observing the world from a corner of a drawing-room, I
learnt more of it in a few days than I should have done in a whole
year from guesses and inquiries. I doubt whether I should ever have
understood society, if I had always been obliged to view it from a
certain distance. My brain refused to form a clear image of the ideas
which occupied the brains of others. But as soon as I found myself in
the midst of this chaos, the confused mass was compelled to fall into
some sort of order and reveal a large part of its elements. This path
which led me into life was not without charms for me, I remember, at
its beginning. Amid all the conflicting interests of the surrounding
world I had nothing to ask for, aim at, or argue about. Fortune had
taken me by the hand. One fine morning she had lifted me out of an
abyss and put me down on a bed of roses and made me a young gentleman.
The eagerness of others was for me but an amusing spectacle. My heart
was interested in the future only on one mysterious point, the love
which I felt for Edmee.

My illness, far from robbing me of my physical vigour, had but
increased it. I was no longer the heavy, sleepy animal, fatigued by
digestion and stupefied by weariness. I felt the vibrations of all my
fibres filling my soul with unknown harmonies; and I was astonished to
discover within myself faculties of which I had never suspected the
use. My good kinfolk were delighted at this, though apparently not
surprised. They had allowed themselves to augur so well of me from the
beginning that it seemed as if they had been accustomed all their
lives to the trade of civilizing barbarians.

The nervous system which had just been developed in me, and which made
me pay for the pleasures and advantages it brought by keen and
constant sufferings during the rest of my life, had rendered me
specially sensitive to impressions from without; and this quickness to
feel the effect of external things was helped by an organic vigour
such as is only found among animals or savages. I was astounded at the
decay of the faculties in other people. These men in spectacles, these
women with their sense of smell deadened by snuff, these premature
graybeards, deaf and gouty before their time, were painful to behold.
To me society seemed like a vast hospital; and when with my robust
constitution I found myself in the midst of these weaklings, it seemed
to me that with a puff of my breath I could have blown them into the
air as if they had been so much thistle-down.

This unfortunately led me into the error of yielding to that rather
stupid kind of pride which makes a man presume upon his natural gifts.
For a long time it induced me to neglect their real improvement, as if
this were a work of supererogation. The idea that gradually grew up in
me of the worthlessness of my fellows prevented me from rising above
those whom I henceforth looked upon as my inferiors. I did not realize
that society is made up of so many elements of little value in
themselves, but so skilfully and solidly put together that before
adding the least extraneous particle a man must be a qualified
artificer. I did not know that in this society there is no resting-
place between the role of the great artist and that of the good
workman. Now, I was neither one nor the other, and, if the truth must
be told, all my ideas have never succeeded in lifting me out of the
ordinary ruck; all my strength has only enabled me with much
difficulty to do as others do.

In a few weeks, then, I passed from an excess of admiration to an
excess of contempt for society. As soon as I understood the workings
of its springs they seemed to me so miserably regulated by a feeble
generation that the hopes of my mentors, unknown to themselves, were
doomed to disappointment. Instead of realizing my own inferiority and
endeavouring to efface myself in the crowd, I imagined that I could
give proof of my superiority whenever I wished; and I fed on fancies
which I blush to recall. If I did not show myself egregiously
ridiculous, it was thanks to the very excess of this vanity which
feared to stultify itself before others.

At that time Paris presented a spectacle which I shall not attempt to
set before you, because no doubt you have often eagerly studied it in
the excellent pictures which have been painted by eye-witnesses in the
form of general history or private memoirs. Besides, such a picture
would exceed the limits of my story, for I promised to tell you only
the cardinal events in my moral and philosophical development. In
order to give you some idea of the workings of my mind at this period
it will suffice to mention that the War of Independence was breaking
out in America; that Voltaire was receiving his apotheosis in Paris;
that Franklin, the prophet of a new political religion, was sowing the
seed of liberty in the very heart of the Court of France; while
Lafayette was secretly preparing his romantic expedition. The majority
of young patricians were being carried away either by fashion, or the
love of change, or the pleasure inherent in all opposition which is
not dangerous.

Opposition took a graver form and called for more serious work in the
case of the old nobles, and among the members of the parliaments. The
spirit of the League was alive again in the ranks of these ancient
patricians and these haughty magistrates, who for form's sake were
still supporting the tottering monarchy with one arm, while with the
other they gave considerable help to the invasions of philosophy. The
privileged classes of society were zealously lending a hand to the
imminent destruction of their privileges by complaining that these had
been curtailed by the kings. They were bringing up their children in
constitutional principles, because they imagined they were going to
found a new monarchy in which the people would help them to regain
their old position above the throne; and it is for this reason that
the greatest admiration for Voltaire and the most ardent sympathies
with Franklin were openly expressed in the most famous salons in

So unusual and, if it must be said, so unnatural a movement of the
human mind had infused fresh life into the vestiges of the Court of
Louis XIV, and replaced the customary coldness and stiffness by a sort
of quarrelsome vivacity. It had also introduced certain serious forms
into the frivolous manners of the regency, and lent them an appearance
of depth. The pure but colourless life of Louis XVI counted for
nothing, and influenced nobody. Never had there been such serious
chatter, so many flimsy maxims, such an affectation of wisdom, so much
inconsistency between words and deeds as might have been found at this
period among the so-called enlightened classes.

It was necessary to remind you of this in order that you might
understand the admiration which I had at first for a world apparently
so disinterested, so courageous, so eager in the pursuit of truth, and
likewise the disgust which I was soon to feel for so much affectation
and levity, for such an abuse of the most hallowed words and the most
sacred convictions. For my own part, I was perfectly sincere; and I
founded my philosophic fervour (that recently discovered sentiment of
liberty which was then called the cult of reason) on the broad base of
an inflexible logic. I was young and of a good constitution, the first
condition perhaps of a healthy mind; my reading, though not extensive,
was solid, for I had been fed on food easy of digestion. The little I
knew served to show me, therefore, that others either knew nothing at
all, or were giving themselves the lie.

At the commencement of our stay in Paris the chevalier had but few
visitors. The friend and contemporary of Turgot and several other
distinguished men, he had not mixed with the gilded youth of his day,
but had lived soberly in the country after loyally serving in the
wars. His circle of friends, therefore, was composed of a few grave
gentlemen of the long robe, several old soldiers, and a few nobles
from his own province, both old and young, who, thanks to a
respectable fortune, were able, like himself, to come and spend the
winter in Paris. He had, moreover, kept up a slight intercourse with a
more brilliant set, among whom Edmee's beauty and refined manners were
noticed as soon as she appeared. Being an only daughter, and passably
rich, she was sought after by various important matrons, those
procuresses of quality who have always a few young proteges whom they
wish to clear from debt at the expense of some family in the
provinces. And then, when it became known that she was engaged to M.
de la Marche, the almost ruined scion of a very illustrious family,
she was still more kindly received, until by degrees the little salon
which she had chosen for her father's old friends became too small for
the wits by quality and profession, and the grand ladies with a turn
for philosophy who wished to know the young Quakeress, the Rose of
Berry (such were the names given her by a certain fashionable woman).

This rapid success in a world in which she had hitherto been unknown
by no mean dazzled Edmee; and the control which she possessed over
herself was so great that, in spite of all the anxiety with which I
watched her slightest movement, I could never discover if she felt
flattered at causing such a stir. But what I could perceive was the
admirable good sense manifested in everything she did and everything
she said. Her manner, at once ingenuous and reserved, and a certain
blending of unconstraint with modest pride, made her shine even among
the women who were the most admired and the most skilled in attracting
attention. And this is the place to mention that at first I was
extremely shocked at the tone and bearing of these women, whom
everybody extolled; to me they seemed ridiculous in their studied
posings, and their grand society manners looked very much like
insufferable effrontery. Yes, I, so intrepid at heart, and but lately
so coarse in my manners, felt ill at ease and abashed in their
presence; and it needed all Edmee's reproaches and remonstrances to
prevent me from displaying a profound contempt for this
meretriciousness of glances, of toilets, and allurements which was
known in society as allowable coquetry, as the charming desire to
please, as amiability, and as grace. The abbe was of my opinion. When
the guests had gone we members of the family used to gather round the
fireside for a short while before separating. It is at such a time
that one feels an impulse to bring together one's scattered
impressions and communicate them to some sympathetic being. The abbe,
then, would break the same lances as myself with my uncle and cousin.
The chevalier, who was an ardent admirer of the fair sex, of which he
had had but little experience, used to take upon himself, like a true
French knight, to defend all the beauties that we were attacking so
unmercifully. He would laughingly accuse the abbe of arguing about
women as the fox in the fable argued about the grapes. For myself, I
used to improve under the abbe's criticisms; this was an emphatic way
of letting Edmee know how much I preferred her to all others. She,
however, appeared to be more scandalized than flattered, and seriously
reproved me for the tendency to malevolence which had its origin, she
said, in my inordinate pride.

It is true that after generously undertaking the defence of the
persons in question, she would come over to our opinion as soon as,
Rousseau in hand, we told her that the women in Paris society had
cavalier manners and a way of looking a man in the face which must
needs be intolerable in the eyes of a sage. When once Rousseau had
delivered judgment, Edmee would object no further; she was ready to
admit with him that the greatest charm of a woman is the intelligent
and modest attention she gives to serious discussions, and I always
used to remind her of the comparison of a superior woman to a
beautiful child with its great eyes full of feeling and sweetness and
delicacy, with its shy questionings and its objections full of sense.
I hoped that she would recognise herself in this portrait upon the
text, and, enlarging the portrait:

"A really superior woman," I said, looking at her earnestly, "is one
who knows enough to prevent her from asking a ridiculous or
unseasonable question, or from ever measuring swords with men of
merit. Such a woman knows when to be silent, especially with the fools
whom she could laugh at, or the ignorant whom she could humiliate. She
is indulgent towards absurdities because she does not yearn to display
her knowledge, and she is observant of whatsoever is good, because she
desires to improve herself. Her great object is to understand, not to
instruct. The great art (since it is recognised that art is required
even in the commerce of words) is not to pit against one another two
arrogant opponents, eager to parade their learning and to amuse the
company by discussing questions the solution of which no one troubles
about, but to illumine every unprofitable disputation by bringing in
the help of all who can throw a little light on the points at issue.
This is a talent of which I can see no signs among the hostesses who
are so cried up. In their houses I always find two fashionable
barristers, and a thunderstruck audience, in which no one dares to be
judge. The only art these ladies have is to make the man of genius
ridiculous, and the ordinary man dumb and inert. One comes away from
such houses saying, 'Those were fine speeches,' and nothing more."

I really think that I was in the right here; but I cannot forget that
my chief cause of anger against these women arose from the fact that
they paid no attention to people, however able they might think
themselves, unless they happened to be famous--the /people/ being
myself, as you may easily imagine. On the other hand, now that I look
back on those days without prejudice and without any sense of wounded
vanity, I am certain that these women had a way of fawning on public
favourites which was much more like childish conceit than sincere
admiration or candid sympathy. They became editors, as it were, of the
conversation, listening with all their might and making peremptory
signals to the audience to listen to every triviality issuing from an
illustrious mouth; while they would suppress a yawn and drum with
their fans at all remarks, however excellent, as soon as they were
unsigned by a fashionable name. I am ignorant of the airs of the
intellectual women of the nineteenth century; nay, I do not know if
the race still exists. Thirty years have passed since I mixed in
society; but, as to the past, you may believe what I tell you. There
were five or six of these women who were absolutely odious to me. One
of them had some wit, and scattered her epigrams right and left. These
were at once hawked about in all drawing-rooms, and I had to listen to
them twenty times in a single day. Another had read Montesquieu, and
gave lessons in law to the oldest magistrates. A third used to play
the harp execrably, but it was agreed that her arms were the most
beautiful in France, and we had to endure the harsh scraping of her
nails over the strings so that she might have an opportunity of
removing her gloves like a coy little girl. What can I say of the
others, except that they vied with one another in all those
affectations and fatuous insincerities, by which all the men
childishly allowed themselves to be duped. One alone was really
pretty, said nothing, and gave pleasure by her very lack of
artificiality. To her I might have been favourably inclined because of
her ignorance, had she not gloried in this, and tried to emphasize her
difference from the others by a piquant ingenuousness. One day I
discovered that she had plenty of wit, and straightway I abhorred her.

Edmee alone preserved all the freshness of sincerity and all the
distinction of natural grace. Sitting on a sofa by the side of M. de
Malesherbes, she was for me the same being that I had gazed on so many
times in the light of the setting sun, as she sat on the stone seat at
the door of Patience's cottage.


You will readily believe that all the homage paid to my cousin fanned
into fresh flames the jealousy which had been smouldering in my
breast. Since the day when, in obedience to her command, I began to
devote myself to work, I could hardly say whether I had dared to count
on her promise that she would become my wife as soon as I was able to
understand her ideas and feelings. To me, indeed, it seemed that the
time for this had already arrived; for it is certain that I understood
Edmee, better perhaps than any of the men who were paying their
addresses to her in prose and verse. I had firmly resolved not to
presume upon the oath extorted from her at Roche-Mauprat; yet, when I
remembered her last promise, freely given at the chapel window, and
the inferences which I could have drawn from her conversation with the
abbe which I had overheard in the parlour at Sainte-Severe; when I
remembered her earnestness in preventing me from going away and in
directing my education; the motherly attentions she had lavished on me
during my illness--did not all these things give me, if not some
right, at least some reason to hope? It is true that her friendship
would become icy as soon as my passion betrayed itself in words or
looks; it is true that since the first day I saw her I had not
advanced a single step towards close affection; it is also true that
M. de la Marche frequently came to the house, and that she always
showed him as much friendship as myself, though with less familiarity
and more respect in it, a distinction which was naturally due to the
difference in our characters and our ages, and did not indicate any
preference for one or the other. It was possible, therefore, to
attribute her promise to the prompting of her conscience; the interest
which she took in my studies to her worship of human dignity as it
stood rehabilitated by philosophy; her quiet and continued affection
for M. de la March to a profound regret, kept in subjection by the
strength and wisdom of her mind. These perplexities I felt very
acutely. The hope of compelling her love by submission and devotion
had sustained me; but this hope was beginning to grow weak; for
though, as all allowed, I had made prodigious efforts and
extraordinary progress, Edmee's regard for me had been very far from
increasing in the same proportion. She had not shown any astonishment
at what she called my lofty intellect; she had always believed in it;
she had praised it unreasonably. But she was not blind to the faults
in my character, to the vices of my soul. She had reproached me with
these with an inexorable sweetness, with a patience calculated to
drive me to despair; for she seemed to have made up her mind that,
whatever the future might bring, she would never love me more and
never less.

Meanwhile all were paying court to her and none were accepted. It had,
indeed, been given out that she was engaged to M. de la Marche, but no
one understood any better than myself the indefinite postponement of
the marriage. People came to the conclusion that she was seeking a
pretext to get rid of him, and they could find no ground for her
repugnance except by supposing that she had conceived a great passion
for myself. My strange history had caused some stir; the women
examined me with curiosity; the men seemed interested in me and showed
me a sort of respect which I affected to despise, but to which,
however, I was far from insensible. And, since nothing finds credence
in the world until it is embellished with some fiction, people
strangely exaggerated my wit, my capabilities and my learning; but, as
soon as they had seen M. de la Marche and myself in Edmee's company,
all their inferences were annihilated by the composure and ease of our
manners. To both of us Edmee was the same in public as in private; M.
de la Marche, a soulless puppet, was perfectly drilled in conventional
manners; and myself, a prey to divers passions, but inscrutable by
reason of my pride and also, I must confess, of my pretensions to the
sublimity of the /American manner/. I should tell you that I had been
fortunate enough to be introduced to Franklin as a sincere devotee of
liberty. Sir Arthur Lee had honoured me with a certain kindness and
some excellent advice; consequently my head was somewhat turned, even
as the heads of those whom I railed at so bitterly were turned, and to
such an extent that this little vainglory brought sorely needed relief
to my agonies of mind. Perhaps you will shrug your shoulders when I
own that I took the greatest pleasure in the world in leaving my hair
unpowdered, in wearing big shoes, and appearing everywhere in a dark-
coloured coat, of aggressively simple cut and stiffly neat--in a word,
in aping, as far as was then permissible without being mistaken for a
regular plebeian, the dress and ways of the Bonhomme Richard! I was
nineteen, and I was living in an age when every one affected a part--
that is my only excuse.

I might plead also that my too indulgent and too simple tutor openly
approved of my conduct; that my Uncle Hubert, though he occasionally
laughed at me, let me do as I wished, and that Edmee said absolutely
nothing about this ridiculous affectation, and appeared never to
notice it.

Meanwhile spring had returned; we were going back to the country; the
salons were being gradually deserted. For myself, I was still in the
same state of uncertainty. I noticed one day that M. de la Marche
seemed anxious to find an opportunity of speaking to Edmee in private.
At first I found pleasure in making him suffer, and did not stir from
my chair. However, I thought I detected on Edmee's brow that slight
frown which I knew so well, and after a silent dialogue with myself I
went out of the room, resolving to observe the results of this /tete-
a-tete/, and to learn my fate, whatever it might be.

At the end of an hour I returned to the drawing-room. My uncle was
there; M. de la Marche was staying to dinner; Edmee seemed meditative
but not melancholy; the abbe's eyes were putting questions to her
which she did not understand, or did not wish to understand.

M. de la Marche accompanied my uncle to the Comedie Francaise. Edmee
said that she had some letters to write and requested permission to
remain at home. I followed the count and the chevalier, but after the
first act I made my escape and returned to the house. Edmee had given
orders that she was not to be disturbed; but I did not consider that
this applied to myself; the servants thought it quite natural that I
should behave as the son of the house. I entered the drawing-room,
fearful lest Edmee should have retired to her bed-room; for there I
could not have followed her. She was sitting near the fire and amusing
herself by pulling out the petals of the blue and white asters which I
had gathered during a walk to the tomb of Jean Jacques Rousseau. These
flowers brought back to me a night of ecstasy, under the clear
moonlight, the only hours of happiness, perhaps, that I could mention
in all my life.

"Back already?" she said, without any change of attitude.

"Already is an unkind word," I replied. "Would you like me to retire
to my room, Edmee?"

"By no means; you are not disturbing me at all; but you would have
derived more profit from seeing /Merope/ than from listening to my
conversation this evening; for I warn you that I feel a complete

"So much the better, cousin; I shall not feel humiliated this evening,
since for the first time we shall be upon a footing of equality. But,
might I ask you why you so despise my asters? I thought that you would
probably keep them as a souvenir."

"Of Rousseau?" she asked with a malicious little smile, and without
raising her eyes to mine.

"Naturally that was my meaning," I answered.

"I am playing a most interesting game," she said; "do not interrupt

"I know it," I said. "All the children in Varenne play it, and there
is not a lass but believes in the decree of fate that it revels. Would
you like me to read your thoughts as you pull out these petals four by

"Come, then, O mighty magician!"

"A little, that is how some one loves you; much, that is how you love
him; passionately, that is how another loves you; not at all, thus do
you love this other."

"And might I inquire, Sir Oracle," replied Edmee, whose face became
more serious, "who some one and another may be? I suspect that you are
like the Pythonesses of old; you do not know the meaning of your
auguries yourself."

"Could you not guess mine, Edmee?"

"I will try to interpret the riddle, if you will promise that
afterward you will do what the Sphinx did when vanquished by OEdipus."

"Oh, Edmee," I cried; "think how long I have been running my head
against walls on account of you and your interpretations. And yet you
have not guessed right a single time."

"Oh, good heavens! I have," she said, throwing the bouquet on to the
mantel-piece. "You shall see. I love M. de la Marche a little, and I
love you much. He loves me passionately, and you love me not at all.
That is the truth."

"I forgive you this malicious interpretation with all my heart for the
sake of the word 'much,' " I replied.

I tried to take her hands. She drew them away quickly, though, in
fact, she had no need to fear; for had she given me them, I merely
intended to press them in brotherly fashion; but this appearance of
distrust aroused memories which were dangerous for me. I fancy she
showed a great deal of coquetry that evening in her expression and
manners; and, until then, I had never seen the least inclination
toward it. I felt my courage rising, though I could not explain why;
and I ventured on some pointed remarks about her interview with M. de
la Marche. She made no effort to deny my interpretations, and began to
laugh when I told her that she ought to thank me for my exquisite
politeness in retiring as soon as I saw her knit her brow.

Her supercilious levity was beginning to irritate me a little, when a
servant entered and handed her a letter, saying that some one was
waiting for an answer.

"Go to my writing-table and cut a pen for me, please," she said to me.

With an air of unconcern she broke the seal and ran through the
letter, while I, quite ignorant of the contents, began preparing her
writing materials.

For some time the crow-quill had been cut ready for use; for some time
the paper with its coloured vignette had been waiting by the side of
the amber writing-case; yet Edmee paid no attention to them and made
no attempt to use them. The letter lay open in her lap; her feet were
on the fire-dogs, her elbows on the arm of her chair in her favourite
attitude of meditation. She was completely absorbed. I spoke to her
softly; she did not hear me. I thought that she had forgotten the
letter and had fallen asleep. After a quarter of an hour the servant
came back and said that the messenger wished to know if there was any

"Certainly," she replied; "ask him to wait."

She read the letter again with the closest attention, and began to
write slowly; then she threw her reply into the fire, pushed away the
arm-chair with her foot, walked round the room a few times, and
suddenly stopped in front of me and looked at me in a cold, hard

"Edmee," I cried, springing to me feet, "what is the matter, and how
does that letter which is worrying you so much concern myself?"

"What is that to you?" she replied.

"What is that to me?" I cried. "And what is the air I breathe to me?
and what is the blood that flows in my veins? Ask me that, if you
like, but do not ask how one of your words or one of your glances can
concern me; for you know very well that my life depends on them."

"Do not talk nonsense now, Bernard," she answered, returning to her
arm-chair in a distracted manner. "There is a time for everything."

"Edmee, Edmee! do not play with the sleeping lion, do not stir up the
fire which is smouldering in the ashes."

She shrugged her shoulders, and began to write with great rapidity.
Her face was flushed, and from time to time she passed her fingers
through the long hair which fell in ringlets over her shoulders. She
was dangerously beautiful in her agitation; she looked as if in love--
but with whom? Doubtless with him to whom she was writing. I began to
feel the fires of jealousy. I walked out of the room abruptly and
crossed the hall. I looked at the man who had brought the letter; he
was in M. de la Marche's livery. I had no further doubts; this,
however, only increased my rage. I returned to the drawing-room and
threw open the door violently. Edmee did not even turn her head; she
continued writing. I sat down opposite her, and stared at her with
flashing eyes. She did not deign to raise her own to mine. I even
fancied that I noticed on her ruby lips the dawn of a smile which
seemed an insult to my agony. At last she finished her letter and
sealed it. I rose and walked towards her, feeling strongly tempted to
snatch it from her hands. I had learnt to control myself somewhat
better than of old; but I realized how, with passionate souls, a
single instant may destroy the labours of many days.

"Edmee," I said to her, in a bitter tone, and with a frightful grimace
that was intended to be a sarcastic smile, "would you like me to hand
this letter to M. de la Marche's lackey, and at the same time tell him
in a whisper at what time his master may come to the tryst?"

"It seems to me," she replied, with a calmness that exasperated me,
"that it was possible to mention the time in my letter, and that there
is no need to inform a servant of it."

"Edmee, you ought to be a little more considerate of me," I cried.

"That doesn't trouble me the least in the world," she replied.

And throwing me the letter she had received across the table she went
out to give the answer to the messenger herself. I do not know whether
she had told me to read this letter; but I do know that the impulse
which urged me to do so was irresistible. It ran somewhat as follows:

"Edmee, I have at last discovered the fatal secret which, according to
you, sets an impassable barrier in the way of our union. Bernard loves
you; his agitation this morning betrayed him. But you do not love him,
I am sure . . . that would be impossible! You would have told me
frankly. The obstacle, then, must be elsewhere. Forgive me! It has
come to my knowledge that you spent two hours in the brigand's den.
Unhappy girl! your misfortune, your prudence, your sublime delicacy
make you still nobler in my eyes. And why did you not confide to me at
once the misfortune of which you were a victim? I could have eased
your sorrow and my own by a word. I could have helped you to hide your
secret. I could have wept with you; or, rather, I could have wiped out
the odious recollection by displaying an attachment proof against
anything. But there is no need to despair; there is still time to say
this word, and I do so now: Edmee, I love you more than ever; more
than ever I am resolved to offer you my name; will you deign to accept

This note was signed Adhemar de la Marche.

I had scarcely finished reading it when Edmee returned, and came
towards the fire-place with an anxious look, as if she had forgotten
some precious object. I handed her the letter that I had just read;
but she took it absently, and, stooping over the hearth with an air of
relief, eagerly seized a crumpled piece of paper which the flames had
merely scorched. This was the first answer she had written to M. de la
Marche's note, the one she had not judged fit to send.

"Edmee," I said, throwing myself on my knees, "let me see that letter.
Whatever if may be, I will submit to the decree dictated by your first

"You really would?" she asked, with an indefinable expression.
"Supposing I loved M. de la Marche, and that I was making a great
sacrifice for your sake in refusing him, would you be generous enough
to release me from my word?"

I hesitated for a moment. A cold sweat broke out all over me. I looked
her full in the face; but her eyes were inscrutable and betrayed no
hint of her thoughts. If I had fancied that she really loved me and
that she was putting my virtue to the test, I should perhaps have
played the hero; but I was afraid of some trap. My passion
overmastered me. I felt that I had not the strength to renounce my
claim with a good grace; and hypocrisy was repugnant to me. I rose to
my feet, trembling with rage.

"You love him!" I cried. "Confess that you love him!"

"And if I did," she answered, putting the letter in her pocket, "where
would be the crime?"

"The crime would be that hitherto you have lied in telling me that you
did not love him."

"Hitherto is saying a good deal," she rejoined, looking at me fixedly;
"we have not discussed the matter since last year. At that time it was
possible that I did not love Adhemar very much, and at present it
might be possible that I loved him more than you. If I compare the
conduct of both to-day I see on the one hand a man without proper
pride and without delicacy, presuming upon a promise which my heart
perhaps has never ratified; on the other I see an admirable friend
whose sublime devotion is ready to brave all prejudices; who--
believing that I bear the smirch of an indelible shame--is none the
less prepared to cover the blot with his protection."

"What! this wretch believes that I have done violence to you, and yet
does not challenge me to a duel?"

"That is not what he believes, Bernard. He knows that you rescued me
from Roche-Mauprat; but he thinks that you helped me too late, and
that I was the victim of the other brigands."

"And he wants to marry you, Edmee? Either the man's devotion is
sublime, as you say, or he is deeper in debt than you think."

"How dare you say that?" said Edmee angrily. "Such an odious
explanation of generous conduct can proceed only from an unfeeling
soul or a perverse mind. Be silent, unless you wish me to hate you."

"Say that you hate me, Edmee; say so without fear; I know it."

"Without fear! You should know likewise that I have not yet done you
the honour to fear you. However, tell me this: without inquiring into
what I intend to do, can you understand that you ought to give me my
liberty, and abandon your barbarous rights?"

"I understand nothing except that I love you madly, and that these
nails of mine shall tear out the heart of any man who tries to win you
from me. I know that I shall force you to love me, and that, if I do
not succeed, I will at any rate not let you belong to another while I
am alive. The man will have to walk over my body riddled with wounds
and bleeding from every pore, ere he can put the wedding-ring on your
finger; with my last breath, too, I will dishonour you by proclaiming
that you are my mistress, and thus cloud the joy of any man who may
triumph over me; and if I can stab you as I die, I will, so that in
the tomb, at least, you may be my wife. That is what I purpose doing,
Edmee. And now, practise all your arts on me; lead me on from trap to
trap; rule me with your admirable diplomacy. I may be duped a hundred
times because of my ignorance, but have I not sworn by the name of

"Mauprat the Hamstringer!" she added with freezing irony.

And she turned to go out.

I was about to seize her arm when the bell rang; it was the abbe who
had returned. As soon as he appeared Edmee shook hands with him, and
retired to her room without saying a single word to me.

The good abbe, noticing my agitation, questioned me with that
assurance which his claims on my affections were henceforth to give
him. The present matter, however, was the only one on which we had
never had an explanation. In vain had he sought to introduce it. He
had not given me a single lesson in history without leading up to some
famous love affairs and drawing from them an example or a precept of
moderation or generosity; but he had not succeeded in making me
breathe a word on this subject. I could not bring myself to forgive
him altogether for having done me an ill turn with Edmee. I even had a
suspicion that he was still injuring my cause; and I therefore put
myself on guard against all the arguments of his philosophy and all
the seductions of his friendship. On this special evening I was more
unassailable than ever. I left him ill at ease and depressed, and went
and threw myself on my bed, where I buried my head in the clothes so
as to stifle the customary sobs, those pitiless conquerors of my pride
and my rage.


The next day I was in a state of gloomy despair; Edmee was icily cold;
M. de la Marche did not come. I fancied I had seen the abbe going to
call on him, and subsequently telling Edmee the result of their
interview. However, they betrayed no signs of agitation, and I had to
endure my suspense in silence. I could not get a minute with Edmee
alone. In the morning I went on foot to M. de la Marche's house. What
I intended saying to him I do not know; my state of exasperation was
such that it drove me to act without either object or plan. Having
learnt that he had left Paris, I returned. I found my uncle very
depressed. On seeing me he frowned, and, after forcing himself to
exchange a few meaningless words with me, left me to the abbe, who
tried to draw me on to speak, but succeeded no better than the night
before. For several days I sought an opportunity of speaking with
Edmee, but she always managed to avoid it. Preparations were being
made for the return to Sainte-Severe; she seemed neither sorry nor
pleased at the prospect. I determined to slip a note between the page
of her book asking for an interview. Within five minutes I received
the following reply:

"An interview would lead to nothing. You are persisting in your
boorish behaviour; I shall persevere in what I believe to be the path
of integrity. An upright conscience cannot go from its word. I had
sworn never to be any man's but yours. I shall not marry, for I did
not swear that I would be yours whatever might happen. If you continue
to be unworthy of my esteem I shall take steps to remain free. My poor
father is sinking into the grave; a convent shall be my refuge when
the only tie which binds me to the world is broken."

I had fulfilled all the conditions imposed by Edmee, and now, it
seemed, her only return was an order that I should break them. I thus
found myself in the same position as on the day of her conversation
with the abbe.

I passed the remainder of the day shut up in my room. All through the
night I walked up and down in violent agitation. I made no effort to
sleep. I will not tell you the thoughts that passed through my mind;
they were not unworthy of an honest man. At daybreak I was at
Lafayette's house. He procured me the necessary papers for leaving
France. He told me to go and await him in Spain, whence he was going
to sail for the United States. I returned to our house to get the
clothes and money indispensable to the humblest of travellers. I left
a note for my uncle, so that he might not feel uneasy at my absence;
this I promised to explain very soon in a long letter. I begged him to
refrain from passing sentence on me until it arrived, and assured him
that I should never forget all his goodness.

I left before any one in the house was up; for I was afraid that my
resolution might be shaken at the least sign of friendship, and I felt
that I could no longer impose upon a too generous affection. I could
not, however, pass Edmee's door without pressing my lips to the lock.
Then, hiding my head in my hands, I rushed away like a madman, and
scarcely stopped until I had reached the other side of the Pyrenees.
There I took a short rest, and wrote to Edmee that, as far as
concerned myself, she was free; that I would not thwart a single wish
of hers; but that it was impossible for me to be a witness of my
rival's triumph. I felt firmly convinced that she loved him; and I
resolved to crush out my own love. I was promising more than I could
perform; but these first manifestations of wounded pride gave me
confidence in myself. I also wrote to my uncle to tell him I should
not hold myself worthy of the boundless affection he had bestowed on
me until I had won my spurs as a knight. I confided to him my hopes of
a soldier's fame and fortune with all the candour of conceit; and
since I felt sure that Edmee would read this letter I feigned
unclouded delight and an ardour that knew no regrets; I did not know
whether my uncle was aware of the real cause of my departure; but my
pride could not bring itself to confess. It was the same with the
abbe, to whom I likewise wrote a letter full of gratitude and
affection. I ended by begging my uncle to put himself to no expense on
my account over the gloomy keep at Roche-Mauprat, assuring him that I
could never bring myself to live there. I urged him to consider the
fief as his daughter's property, and only asked that he would be good
enough to advance me my share of the income for two or three years, so
that I might pay the expenses of my own outfit, and thus prevent my
devotion to the American cause from being a burden to the noble

My conduct and my letters apparently gave satisfaction. Soon after I
reached the coast of Spain I received from my uncle a letter full of
kindly exhortations, and of mild censure for my abrupt departure. He
gave me a father's blessing, and declared on his honour that the fief
of Roche-Mauprat would never be accepted by Edmee, and sent me a
considerable sum of money exclusive of the income due me in the
future. The abbe expressed the same mild censure, together with still
warmer exhortations. It was easy to see that he preferred Edmee's
tranquility to my happiness, and that he was full of genuine joy at my
departure. Nevertheless he had a liking for me, and his friendship
showed itself touchingly through the cruel satisfaction that was
mingled with it. He expressed envy of my lot; proclaimed his
enthusiasm for the cause of independence; and declared that he himself
had more than once felt tempted to throw off the cassock and take up
the musket. All this, however, was mere boyish affectation; his timid,
gentle nature always kept him the priest under the mask of the

Between these two letters I found a little note without any address,
which seemed as if it had been slipped in as an after-thought. I was
not slow to see that it was from the one person in the world who was
of real interest to me. Yet I had not the courage to open it. I walked
up and down the sandy beach, turning over this little piece of paper
in my hands, fearful that by reading it I might destroy the kind of
desperate calm my resolution had given me. Above all, I dreaded lest
it might contain expressions of thanks and enthusiastic joy, behind
which I should have divined the rapture of contented love for another.

"What can she be writing to me about?" I said to myself. "Why does she
write at all? I do not want her pity, still less her gratitude."

I felt tempted to throw this fateful little note into the sea. Once,
indeed I held it out over the waves, but I immediately pressed it to
my bosom, and kept it hidden there a few moments as if I had been a
believer in that second sight preached by the advocates of magnetism,
who assert that they can read with the organs of feeling and thought
as well as with their eyes.

At last I resolved to break the seal. The words I read were these:

"You have done well, Bernard; but I give you no thanks, as your
absence will cause me more suffering than I can tell. Still, go
wherever honour and love of truth call you; you will always be
followed by my good wishes and prayers. Return when your mission is
accomplished; you will find me neither married nor in a convent."

In this note she had inclosed the cornelian ring she had given me
during my illness and which I had returned on leaving Paris. I had a
little gold box made to hold this ring and note, and I wore it near my
heart as a talisman. Lafayette, who had been arrested in France by
order of the Government, which was opposed to his expedition, soon
came and joined us after escaping from prison. I had had time to make
my preparations, and I sailed full of melancholy, ambition, and hope.

You will not expect me to give an account of the American war. Once
again I will separate my existence from the events of history as I
relate my own adventures. Here, however, I shall suppress even my
personal adventures; in my memory these form a special chapter in
which Edmee plays the part of a Madonna, constantly invoked but
invisible. I cannot think that you would be the least interested in
listening to a portion of my narrative from which this angelic figure,
the only one worthy of your attention, firstly by reason of her own
worth, and then from her influence on myself, was entirely absent. I
will only state that from the humble position which I gladly accepted
in the beginning in Washington's army, I rose regularly but rapidly to
the rank of officer. My military education did not take long. Into
this, as into everything that I have undertaken during my life, I put
my whole soul, and through the pertinacity of my will I overcame all

I won the confidence of my illustrious chiefs. My excellent
constitution fitted me well for the hardships of war; my old brigand
habits too were of immense service to me; I endured reverses with a
calmness beyond the reach of most of the young Frenchmen who had
embarked with me, however brilliant their courage might otherwise have
been. My own was cool and tenacious, to the great surprise of our
allies, who more than once doubted my origin, on seeing how quickly I
made myself at home in the forests, and how often my cunning and
suspiciousness made me a match for the savages who sometimes harassed
our manoeuvres.

In the midst of my labours and frequent changes of place I was
fortunate enough to be able to cultivate my mind through my intimacy
with a young man of merit whom Providence sent me as a companion and
friend. Love of the natural sciences had decided him to join our
expedition, and he never failed to show himself a good soldier; but it
was easy to see that political sympathy had played only a secondary
part in his decision. He had no desire for promotion, no aptitude for
strategic studies. His herbarium and his zoological occupations
engaged his thoughts much more than the successes of the war and the
triumph of liberty. He fought too well, when occasion arose, to ever
deserve the reproach of lukewarmness; but up to the eve of a fight and
from the morrow he seemed to have forgotten that he was engaged in
anything beyond a scientific expedition into the wilds of the New
World. His trunk was always full, not of money and valuables, but of
natural history specimens; and while we were lying on the grass on the
alert for the least noise which might reveal the approach of the
enemy, he would be absorbed in the analysis of some plant or insect.
He was an admirable young man, as pure as an angel, as unselfish as a
stoic, as patient as a savant, and withal cheerful and affectionate.
When we were in danger of being surprised, he could think and talk of
nothing but the precious pebbles and the invaluable bits of grass that
he had collected and classified; and yet were one of us wounded, he
would nurse him with a kindness and zeal that none could surpass.

One day he noticed my gold box as I was putting it in my bosom, and he
immediately begged me to let him have it, to keep a few flies' legs
and grasshoppers' wings which he would have defended with the last
drop of his blood. It needed all the reverence I had for the relics of
my love to resist the demands of friendship. All he could obtain from
me was permission to hide away a very pretty little plant in my
precious box. This plant, which he declared he was the first to
discover, was allowed a home by the side of my /fiancee's/ ring and
note only on condition that it should be called Edmunda sylvestris; to
this he consented. He had given the name of Samuel Adams to a
beautiful wild apple-tree; he had christened some industrious bee or
other Franklin; and nothing pleased him more than to associate some
honoured name with his ingenious observations.

The attachment I felt for him was all the more genuine from its being
my first friendship with a man of my own age. The pleasure which I
derived from this intimacy gave me a new insight into life, and
revealed capacities and needs of the soul of which I had hitherto been
ignorant. As I could never wholly break away from that love of
chivalry which had been implanted in me in early childhood, it pleased
me to look upon him as my "brother in arms," and I expressed a wish
that he would give me this special title too, to the exclusion of
every other intimate friend. He caught at the idea with a gladness of
heart that showed me how lively was the sympathy between us. He
declared that I was a born naturalist, because I was so fitted for a
roving life and rough expeditions. Sometimes he would reproach me with
absent-mindedness, and scold me seriously for carelessly stepping upon
interesting plants, but he would assert that I was endowed with a
sense of method, and that some day I might invent, not a theory of
nature, but an excellent system of classification. His prophecy was
never fulfilled, but his encouragement aroused a taste for study in
me, and prevented my mind from being wholly paralyzed by camp life. To
me he was as a messenger from heaven; without him I should perhaps
have become, if not the Hamstringer of Roche-Mauprat, at all events
the savage of Varenne again. His teachings revived in me the
consciousness of intellectual life. He enlarged my ideas and also
ennobled my instincts; for, though his marvellous integrity and his
modest disposition prevented him from throwing himself into
philosophical discussions, he had an innate love of justice, and he
judged all questions of sentiment and morality with unerring wisdom.
He acquired an ascendency over me which the abbe had never been able
to acquire, owing to the attitude of mutual distrust in which we had
been placed from the beginning. He revealed to me the wonders of a
large part of the physical world, but what he taught me of chiefest
value was to learn to know myself, and to ponder over my own
impressions. I succeeded in controlling my impulses up to a certain
point. I could never subdue my pride and violent temper. A man cannot
change the essence of his nature, but he can guide his divers
faculties towards a right path; he can almost succeed in turning his
faults to account--and this, indeed, is the great secret and the great
problem of education.

The conversations with my friend Arthur led me into such a train of
thought that from my recollections of Edmee's conduct I came to deduce
logically the motives which must have inspired it. I found her noble
and generous, especially in those matters which, owing to my distorted
vision and false judgment, had caused me most pain. I did not love her
the more for this--that would have been impossible--but I succeeded in
understanding why I loved her with an unconquerable love in spite of
all she had made me suffer. This sacred fire burned in my soul without
growing dim for one instant during the whole six years of our
separation. In spite of the rich vitality which pulsed through my
veins; in spite of the promptings of an external nature full of
voluptuousness; in spite of the bad examples and numerous
opportunities which tempted mortal weakness in the freedom of a
roving, military life, I call God to witness that I preserved my robe
of innocence undefiled, and that I never felt the kiss of a woman.
Arthur, whose calmer organization was less susceptible to temptation,
and who, moreover, was almost entirely engrossed in intellectual
labour, did not always practise the same austerity; nay, he frequently
advised me not to run the risk of an exceptional life, contrary to the
demands of Nature. When I confided to him that a master-passion
removed all weaknesses from my path and made a fall impossible, he
ceased to reason against what he called my fanaticism (this was a word
very much in vogue and applied indiscriminately to almost everything).
I observed, indeed, that he had a more profound esteem for me, I may
even say a sort of respect which did not express itself in words, but
which was revealed by a thousand little signs of compliance and

One day, when he was speaking of the great power exercised by
gentleness of manners in alliance with a resolute will, citing both
good and bad examples from the history of men, especially the
gentleness of the apostles and the hypocrisy of the priests of all
religions, it came into my mind to ask him if, with my headstrong
nature and hasty temper, I should ever be able to exercise any
influence on my fellows. When I used this last word I was, of course,
thinking only of Edmee. Arthur replied that the influence which I
exercised would be other than that of studied gentleness.

"Your influence," he said, "will be due to your natural goodness of
heart. Warmth of soul, ardour and perseverance in affection, these are
what are needed in family life, and these qualities make our defects
loved even by those who have to suffer from them most. We should
endeavour, therefore, to master ourselves out of love for those who
love us; but to propose to one's self a system of moderation in the
most intimate concerns of love and friendship would, in my opinion, be
a childish task, a work of egotism which would kill all affection, in
ourselves first, and soon afterwards in the others. I was speaking of
studied moderation only in the exercise of authority over the masses.
Now, should your ambition ever . . ."

"You believe, then," I said, without listening to the last part of his
speech, "that, such as I am, I might make a woman happy and force her
to love me, in spite of all my faults and the harm they cause?"

"O lovelorn brain!" he exclaimed. "How difficult it is to distract
your thoughts! . . . Well, if you wish to know, Bernard, I will tell
you what I think of your love-affair. The person you love so ardently
loves you, unless she is incapable of love or quite bereft of

I assured him that she was as much above all other women as the lion
is above the squirrel, the cedar above the hyssop, and with the help
of metaphors I succeeded in convincing him. Then he persuaded me to
tell him a few details, in order, as he said, that he might judge of
my position with regard to Edmee. I opened my heart without reserve,
and told him my history from beginning to end. At this time we were on
the outskirts of a beautiful forest in the last rays of the setting
sun. The park at Sainte-Severe, with its fine lordly oaks which had
never known the insult of an axe, came into my thoughts as I gazed on
these trees of the wilds, exempt from all human care, towering out
above our heads in their might and primitive grace. The glowing
horizon reminded me of the evening visits to Patience's hut, and Edmee
sitting under the golden vine-leaves, and the notes of the merry
parrots brought back to me the warbling of the beautiful exotic birds
she used to keep in her room. I wept as I thought of the land of my
birth so far away, of the broad ocean between us which had swallowed
so many pilgrims in the hour of their return to their native shores. I
also thought of the prospects of fortune, of the dangers of war, and
for the first time I felt the fear of death; for Arthur, pressing my
hand in his, assured me that I was loved, and that in each act of
harshness or distrust he found but a new proof of affection.

"My boy," he said, "cannot you see that if she did not want to marry
you, she would have found a hundred ways of ridding herself of your
pretensions forever? And if she had not felt an inexhaustible
affection for you, would she have taken so much trouble, and imposed
so many sacrifices upon herself to raise you from the abject condition
in which she found you, and make you worthy of her? Well, you are
always dreaming of the mighty deeds of the knight-errants of old:
cannot you see that you are a noble knight condemned by your lady to
rude trials for having failed in the laws of gallantry, for having
demanded in an imperious tone the love which ought to be sued for on
bended knee?"

He then entered into a detailed examination of my misdeeds, and found
that the chastisement was severe but just. Afterwards he discussed the
probabilities of the future, and very sensibly advised me to submit
until she thought right to pardon me.

"But," I said, "is there no shame in a man ripened, as I am now, by
reflection, and roughly tried by war, submitting like a child to the
caprices of a woman?"

"No," replied Arthur, "there is no shame in that; and the conduct of
this woman is not dictated by caprice. One can win nothing but honour
in repairing any evil one has done; and how few men are capable of it!
It is only just that offended modesty should claim its rights and its
natural independence. You have behaved like Albion; do not be
astonished that Edmee behaves like Philadelphia. She will not yield,
except on condition of a glorious peace, and she is right."

He wished to know how she had treated me during the two years we had
been in America. I showed him the few short letters I had received
from her. He was struck by the good sense and perfect integrity which
seemed manifested in their lofty tone and manly precision. In them
Edmee had made me no promise, nor had she even encouraged me by
holding out any direct hopes; but she had displayed a lively desire
for my return, and had spoken of the happiness we should all enjoy
when, as we sat around the fire, I should while away the evenings at
the chateau with accounts of my wonderful adventures; and she had not
hesitated to tell me that, together with her father, I was the one
object of her solicitude in life. Yet, in spite of this never-failing
tenderness, a terrible suspicion harassed me. In these short letters
from my cousin, as in those from her father and in the long, florid
and affectionate epistles from the Abbe Aubert, they never gave me any
news of the events which might be, and ought to be, taking place in
the family. Each spoke of his or her own self and never mentioned the
others; or at most they only spoke of the chevalier's attacks of the
gout. It was as though an agreement had been made between the three
that none should talk about the occupations and state of mind of the
other two.

"Shed light and ease my mind on this matter if you can," I said to
Arthur. "There are moments when I fancy that Edmee must be married,
and that they have agreed not to inform me until I return, and what is
to prevent this, in fact? Is it probable that she likes me enough to
live a life of solitude out of love for me, when this very love, in
obedience to the dictation of a cold reason and an austere conscience,
can resign itself to seeing my absence indefinitely prolonged with the
war? I have duties to perform here, no doubt; honour demands that I
should defend my flag until the day of the triumph or the irreparable
defeat of the cause I serve; but I feel that Edmee is dearer to me
than these empty honours, and that to see her but one hour sooner I
would leave my name to the ridicule or the curses of the world."

"This last thought," replied Arthur, with a smile, "is suggested to
you by the violence of your passion; but you would not act as you say,
even if the opportunity occurred. When we are grappling with a single
one of our faculties we fancy the others annihilated; but let some
extraneous shock arouse them, and we realize that our soul draws its
life from several sources at the same time. You are not insensible to
fame, Bernard; and if Edmee invited you to abandon it you would
perceive that it was dearer to you than you thought. You have ardent
republican convictions, and Edmee herself was the first to inspire you
with them. What, then, would you think of her, and, indeed, what sort
of woman would she be, if she said to you to-day, 'There is something
more important than the religion I preached to you and the gods I
revealed; something more august and more sacred, and that is my own
good pleasure'? Bernard, your love is full of contradictory desires.
Inconsistency, moreover, is the mark of all human loves. Men imagine
that a woman can have no separate existence of her own, and that she
must always be wrapped up in them; and yet the only woman they love
deeply is she whose character seems to raise her above the weakness
and indolence of her sex. You see how all the settlers in this country
dispose of the beauty of their slaves, but they have no love for them,
however beautiful they may be; and if by chance they become genuinely
attached to one of them, their first care is to set her free. Until
then they do not think that they are dealing with a human being. A
spirit of independence, the conception of virtue, a love of duty, all
these privileges of lofty souls are essential, therefore, in the woman
who is to be one's companion through life; and the more your mistress
gives proof of strength and patience, the more you cherish her, in
spite of what you may have to suffer. You must learn, then, to
distinguish love from desire; desire wishes to break through the very
impediments by which it is attracted, and it dies amid the ruins of
the virtue it has vanquished; love wishes to live, and in order to do
that, it would fain see the object of its worship long defended by
that wall of adamant whose strength and splendour mean true worth and
true beauty."

In this way would Arthur explain to me the mysterious springs of my
passion, and throw the light of his wisdom upon the stormy abyss of my
soul. Sometimes he used to add:

"If Heaven had granted me the woman I have now and then dreamed of, I
think I should have succeeded in making a noble and generous passion
of my love; but science has asked for too much of my time. I have not
had leisure to look for my ideal; and if perchance it has crossed my
path, I have not been able either to study it or recognise it. You
have been fortunate, Bernard, but then, you do not sound the deeps of
natural history; one man cannot have everything."

As to my suspicions about Edmee's marriage, he rejected them with
contempt as morbid fancies. To him, indeed, Edmee's silence showed an
admirable delicacy of feeling and conduct.

"A vain person," he said, "would take care to let you know all the
sacrifices she had made on your account, and would enumerate the
titles and qualities of the suitors she had refused. Edmee, however,
has too noble a soul, too serious a mind, to enter into these futile
details. She looks upon your covenant as inviolable, and does not
imitate those weak consciences which are always talking of their
victories, and making a merit of doing that in which true strength
finds no difficulty. She is so faithful by nature that she never
imagines that any one can suspect her of being otherwise."

These talks poured healing balm on my wounds. When at last France
openly declared herself an ally of America, I received a piece of news
from the abbe that entirely set my mind at ease on one point. He wrote
to me that I should probably meet an old friend again in the New
World; the Count de la Marche had been given command of a regiment,
and was setting out for the United States.

"And between ourselves," added the abbe, "it is quite time that he
made a position for himself. This young man, though modest and steady,
has always been weak enough to yield to the prejudices of noble birth.
He has been ashamed of his poverty, and has tried to hide it as one
hides a leprosy. The result is that his efforts to prevent others from
seeing the progress of his ruin, have now ruined him completely.
Society attributes the rupture between Edmee and him to these reverses
of fortune; and people even go so far as to say that he was but little
in love with her person, and very much with her dowry. I cannot bring
myself to credit him with contemptible views; and I can only think
that he is suffering those mortifications which arise from a false
estimate of the value of the good things of this world. If you happen
to meet him, Edmee wishes you to show him some friendship, and to let
him know how great an interest she has always taken in him. Your
excellent cousin's conduct in this matter, as in all others, has been
full of kindness and dignity."


One the eve of M. de la Marche's departure, and after the abbe's
letter had been sent, a little incident had happened in Varenne which,
when I heard of it in America, caused me considerable surprise and
pleasure. Moreover, it is linked in a remarkable manner with the most
important events of my life, as you will see later.

Although rather seriously wounded in the unfortunate affair of
Savannah, I was actively engaged in Virginia, under General Greene, in
collecting the remains of the army commanded by Gates, whom I
considered a much greater hero than his more fortunate rival,
Washington. We had just learnt of the landing of M. de Ternay's
squadron, and the depression which had fallen on us at this period of
reverses and distress was beginning to vanish before the prospect of
re-enforcements. These, as a fact, were less considerable than we had
expected. I was strolling through the woods with Arthur, a short
distance from the camp, and we were taking advantage of this short
respite to have a talk about other matters than Cornwallis and the
infamous Arnold. Long saddened by the sight of the woes of the
American nation, by the fear of seeing injustice and cupidity
triumphing over the cause of the people, we were seeking relief in a
measure of gaiety. When I had an hour's leisure I used to escape from
my stern toils to the oasis of my own thoughts in the family at
Sainte-Severe. At such a time I was wont to tell my kind friend Arthur
some of the comic incidents of my entry into life after leaving Roche-
Mauprat. At one time I would give him a description of the costume in
which I first appeared; at another I would describe Mademoiselle
Leblanc's contempt and loathing for my person, and her recommendation
to her friend Saint-Jean never to approach within arms' length of me.
As I thought of these amusing individuals, the face of the solemn
hidalgo, Marcasse, somehow arose in my memory, and I began to give a
faithful and detailed picture of the dress, and bearing, and
conversation of this enigmatic personage. Not that Marcasse was
actually as comic as he appeared to be in my imagination; but at
twenty a man is only a boy, especially when he is a soldier and has
just escaped great dangers, and so is filled with careless pride at
the conquest of his own life. Arthur would laugh right heartily as he
listened to me, declaring that he would give his whole collection of
specimens for such a curious animal as I had just described. The
pleasure he derived from my childish chatter increased my vivacity,
and I do not know whether I should have been able to resist the
temptation to exaggerate my uncle's peculiarities, when suddenly at a
turn in our path we found ourselves in the presence of a tall man,
poorly dressed, and terribly haggard, who was walking towards us with
a serious pensive expression, and carrying in his hand a long naked
sword, the point of which was peacefully lowered to the ground. This
individual bore such a strong resemblance to the one I had just
described to Arthur, struck by the parallel, burst into uncontrollable
laughter, and moving aside to make way for Marcasse's double, threw
himself upon the grass in a convulsive fit of coughing.

For myself, I was far from laughing; for nothing that has a
supernatural air about it fails to produce a vivid impression even on
the man most accustomed to dangers. With staring eyes and outstretched
arms we drew near to each other, myself and he, not the shade of
Marcasse, but the venerable person himself, in flesh and blood, of the
hidalgo mole-catcher.

Petrified with astonishment when I saw what I had taken for his ghost
slowly carry his hand to the corner of his hat and raise it without
bending the fraction of an inch, I started back a yard or two; and
this movement, which Arthur thought was a joke on my part, only
increased his merriment. The weasel-hunter was by no means
disconcerted; perhaps in his judicial gravity he was thinking that
this was the usual way to greet people on the other side of the ocean.

But Arthur's laughter almost proved infectious when Marcasse said to
me with incomparable gravity:

"Monsieur Bernard, I have had the honour of searching for you for a
long time."

"For a long time, in truth, my good Marcasse," I replied, as I shook
my old friend's hand with delight. "But, tell me by what strange power
I have been lucky enough to draw you hither. In the old days you
passed for a sorcerer; is it possible that I have become one too
without knowing it?"

"I will explain all that, my dear general," answered Marcasse, who was
apparently dazzled by my captain's uniform. "If you will allow me to
accompany you I will tell you many things--many things!"

On hearing Marcasse repeat his words in a low voice, as if furnishing
an echo for himself, a habit which only a minute before I was in the
act of imitating, Arthur burst out laughing again. Marcasse turned
toward him and after surveying him intently bowed with imperturbable
gravity. Arthur, suddenly recovering his serious mood, rose and, with
comic dignity, bowed in return almost to the ground.

We returned to the camp together. On the way Marcasse told me his
story in that brief style of his, which, as it forced his hearer to
ask a thousand wearisome questions, far from simplifying his
narrative, made it extraordinarily complicated. It afforded Arthur
great amusement; but as you would not derive the same pleasure from
listening to an exact reproduction of this interminable dialogue, I
will limit myself to telling you how Marcasse had come to leave his
country and his friends, in order to give the American cause the help
of his sword.

M. de la Marche happened to be setting out for America at the very
time when Marcasse came to his castle in Berry for a week, to make his
annual round among the beams and joists in the barns. The inmates of
the chateau, in their excitement at the count's departure, indulged in
wonderful commentaries on that far country, so full of dangers and
marvels, from which, according to the village wiseacres, no man ever
returned without a vast fortune, and so many gold and silver ingots
that he needed ten ships to carry them all. Now, under his icy
exterior, Don Marcasse, like some hyperborean volcano, concealed a
glowing imagination, a passionate love of the marvellous. Accustomed
to live in a state of equilibrium on narrow beams in evidently loftier
regions than other men, and not insensible to the glory of astounding
the bystanders every day by the calm daring of his acrobatic
movements, he let himself be fired by these pictures of Eldorado; and
his dreams were the more extravagant because, as usual, he unbosomed
himself to no one. M. de la Marche, therefore, was very much surprised
when, on the eve of his departure, Marcasse presented himself, and
proposed to accompany him to America as his valet. In vain did M. de
la Marche remind him that he was very old to abandon his calling and
run the risks of a new kind of life. Marcasse displayed so much
firmness that in the end he gained his point. Various reasons led M.
de la Marche to consent to the strange request. He had resolved to
take with him a servant older still than the weasel-hunter, a man who
was accompanying him only with great reluctance. But this man enjoyed
his entire confidence, a favour which M. de la Marche was very slow to
grant, since he was only able to keep up the outward show of a man of
quality, and wished to be served faithfully, and with economy and
prudence. He knew, however, that Marcasse was scrupulously honest, and
even singularly unselfish; for there was something of Don Quixote in
the man's soul as well as in his appearance. He had found in some
ruins a sort of treasure-trove, that is to say, an earthenware jar
containing a sum of about ten thousand francs in old gold and silver
coins; and not only had he handed it over to the owner of the ruins,
whom he might easily have deceived, but further he had refused to
accept any reward, declaring emphatically in his abbreviated jargon,
"honesty would die selling itself."

Marcasse's economy, his discretion, his punctuality, seemed likely to
make him a valuable man, if he could be trained to put these qualities
at the service of others. The one thing to be feared was that he might
not be able to accustom himself to his loss of independence. However,
M. de la Marche thought that, before M. de Ternay's squadron sailed,
he would have time to test his new squire sufficiently.

On his side, Marcasse felt many regrets at taking leave of his friends
and home; for if he had "friends everywhere and everywhere a native
place," as he said, in allusion to his wandering life, he still had a
very marked preference for Varenne; and of all his castles (for he was
accustomed to call every place he stopped at "his"), the chateau of
Sainte-Severe was the only one which he arrived at with pleasure and
left with regret. One day, when he had missed his footing on the roof
and had rather a serious fall, Edmee, then still a child, had won his
heart by the tears she had shed over this accident, and the artless
attentions she had shown him. And ever since Patience had come to
dwell on the edge of the park, Marcasse had felt still more attracted
toward Sainte-Severe; for in Patience Marcasse had found his Orestes.
Marcasse did not always understand Patience; but Patience was the only
man who thoroughly understood Marcasse, and who knew how much
chivalrous honesty and noble courage lay hidden beneath that odd
exterior. Humbly bowing to the hermit's intellectual superiority, the
weasel-hunter would stop respectfully whenever the poetic frenzy took
possession of Patience and made his words unintelligible. At such a
time Marcasse would refrain from questions and ill-timed remarks with
touching gentleness; would lower his eyes, and nodding his head from
time to time as if he understood and approved, would, at least, afford
his friend the innocent pleasure of being listened to without

Marcasse, however, had understood enough to make him embrace
republican ideas and share in those romantic hopes of universal
levelling and a return to the golden age, which had been so ardently
fostered by old Patience. Having frequently heard his friend say that
these doctrines were to be cultivated with prudence (a precept,
however, to which Patience gave but little heed himself), the hidalgo,
inclined to reticence both by habit and inclination, never spoke of
his philosophy; but he proved himself a more efficacious propagandist
by carrying about from castle to cottage, and from house to farm,
those little cheap editions of /La Science du Bonhomme Richard/, and
other small treatises on popular patriotism, which, according to the
Jesuits, a secret society of Voltairian philosophers, devoted to the
diabolical practice of freemasonry, circulated gratis among the lower

Thus in Marcasse's sudden resolution there was as much revolutionary
enthusiasm as love of adventure. For a long time the dormouse and
polecat had seemed to him overfeeble enemies for his restless valour,
even as the granary floor seemed to afford too narrow a field. Every
day he read the papers of the previous day in the servants' hall of
the houses he visited; and it appeared to him that this war in
America, which was hailed as the awakening of the spirit of justice
and liberty in the New World, ought to produce a revolution in France.
It is true he had a very literal notion of the way in which ideas were
to cross the seas and take possession of the minds of our continent.
In his dreams he used to see an army of victorious Americans
disembarking from numberless ships, and bringing the olive branch of
peace and the horn of plenty to the French nation. In these same
dreams he beheld himself at the head of a legion of heroes returning
to Varenne as a warrior, a legislator, a rival of Washington,
suppressing abuses, cutting down enormous fortunes, assigning to each
proletarian a suitable share, and, in the midst of his far-reaching
and vigorous measures, protecting the good and fair-dealing nobles,
and assuring an honourable existence to them. Needless to say, the
distress inseparable from all great political crises never entered
into Marcasse's mind, and not a single drop of blood sullied the
romantic picture which Patience had unrolled before his eyes.

From these sublime hopes to the role of valet to M. de la Marche was a
far cry; but Marcasse could reach his goal by no other way. The ranks
of the army corps destined for America had long been filled, and it
was only in the character of a passenger attached to the expedition
that he could take his place on one of the merchant ships that
followed the expedition. He had questioned the abbe on these points
without revealing his plans. His departure quite staggered all the
inhabitants of Varenne.

No sooner had he set foot on the shores of the States than he felt an
irresistible inclination to take his big hat and his big sword and go
off all alone through the woods, as he had been accustomed to do in
his own country. His conscience, however, prevented him from quitting
his master after having pledged himself to serve him. He had
calculated that fortune would help him, and fortune did. The war
proved much more bloody and vigorous than had been expected, and M. de
la Marche feared, though wrongly, that he might be impeded by the poor
health of his gaunt squire. Having a suspicion, too, of the man's
desire for liberty, he offered him a sum of money and some letters of
recommendation, to enable him to join the American troops as a
volunteer. Marcasse, knowing the state of his master's fortune,
refused the money, and only accepted the letters; and then set off
with as light a step as the nimblest weasels that he had ever killed.

His intention was to make for Philadelphia; but, through a chance
occurrence which I need not relate, he learnt that I was in the South,
and, rightly calculating that he would obtain both advice and help
from me, he had set out to find me, alone, on foot, through unknown
countries almost uninhabited and often full of danger of all kinds.
His clothes alone had suffered; his yellow face had not changed its
tint, and he was no more surprised at his latest exploit than if he
had merely covered the distance from Sainte-Severe to Gazeau Tower.

The only fresh habit that I noticed in him, was that he would turn
round from time to time, and look behind him, as if he had felt
inclined to call some one; then immediately after he would smile and
sigh almost at the same instant. I could not resist a desire to ask
him the cause of his uneasiness.

"Alas!" he replied, "habit can't get rid of; a poor dog! good dog!
Always saying, 'Here Blaireau! Blaireau, here!' "

"I understand," I said, "Blaireau is dead, and you cannot accustom
yourself to the idea that you will never see him at your heels again."

"Dead!" he exclaimed, with an expression of horror. "No, thank God!
Friend Patience, great friend! Blaireau quite well off, but sad like
his master; his master alone!"

"If Blaireau is with Patience," said Arthur, "he is well off, as you
say; for Patience wants nothing. Patience will love him because he
loves his master, and you are certain to see your good friend and
faithful dog again."

Marcasse turned his eyes upon the individual who seemed to be so well
acquainted with his life; but, feeling sure that he had never seen him
before, he acted as he was wont to do when he did not understand; he
raised his hat and bowed respectfully.

On my immediate recommendation Marcasse was enrolled in my company
and, a little while afterward, was made a sergeant. The worthy man
went through the whole campaign with me, and went through it bravely;
and in 1782, when I rejoined Rochambeau's army to fight under the
French flag, he followed me, as he was anxious to share my lot until
the end. In the early days I looked upon him rather as an amusement
than a companion; but his excellent conduct and calm fearlessness soon
won for him the esteem of all, and I had reason to be proud of my
/protege/. Arthur also conceived a great friendship for him; and, when
off duty, he accompanied us in all our walks, carrying the
naturalist's box and running the snakes through with his sword.

But when I tried to make him speak of my cousin, he by no means
satisfied me. Whether he did not understand how eager I felt to learn
all the details of the life she was leading far away from me, or
whether in this matter he was obeying one of those inviolable laws
which governed his conscience, I could never obtain from him any clear
solution of the doubts which harassed me. Quite early he told me that
there was no question of her marriage with any one; but, accustomed
though I was to his vague manner of expressing himself, I imagined he
seemed embarrassed in making this assertion and had the air of a man
who had sworn to keep a secret. Honour forbade me to insist to such an
extent as to let him see my hopes, and so there always remained
between us a painful point which I tried to avoid touching upon, but
to which, in spite of myself, I was continually returning. As long as
Arthur was near me, I retained my reason, and interpreted Edmee's
letters in the most loyal way; but when I was unfortunate enough to be
separated from him, my sufferings revived, and my stay in America
became more irksome to me every day.

Our separation took place when I left the American army to fight under
the command of the French general. Arthur was an American; and,
moreover, he was only waiting for the end of the war to retire from
the service, and settle in Boston with Dr. Cooper, who loved him as
his son, and who had undertaken to get him appointed principal
librarian to the library of the Philadelphia Society. This was all the
reward Arthur desired for his labours.

The events which filled my last years in America belong to history. It
was with a truly personal delight that I hailed the peace which
proclaimed the United States a free nation. I had begun to chafe at my
long absence from France; my passion had been growing ever greater,
and left no room for the intoxication of military glory. Before my
departure I went to take leave of Arthur. Then I sailed with the
worthy Marcasse, divided between sorrow at parting from my only
friend, and joy at the prospect of once more seeing my only love. The
squadron to which my ship belonged experienced many vicissitudes
during the passage, and several times I gave up all hope of ever
kneeling before Edmee under the great oaks of Sainte-Severe. At last,
after a final storm off the coast of France, I set foot on the shores
of Brittany, and fell into the arms of my poor sergeant, who had borne
our common misfortunes, if not with greater physical courage, at least
with a calmer spirit, and we mingled our tears.


We set out from Brest without sending any letter to announce our

When we arrived near Varenne we alighted from the post-chaise and,
ordering the driver to proceed by the longest road to Saint-Severe,
took a short cut through the woods. As soon as I saw the trees in the
park raising their venerable heads above the copses like a solemn
phalanx of druids in the middle of a prostrate multitude, my heart
began to beat so violently that I was forced to stop.

"Well," said Marcasse, turning round with an almost stern expression,
as if he would have reproached me for my weakness.

But a moment later I saw that his own face, too, was betraying
unexpected emotion. A plaintive whining and a bushy tail brushing
against his legs had made him start. He uttered a loud cry on seeing
Blaireau. The poor animal had scented his master from afar, and had
rushed forward with all the speed of his first youth to roll at his
feet. For a moment we thought he was going to die there, for he
remained motionless and convulsed, as it were, under Marcasse's
caressing hand; then suddenly he sprang up, as if struck with an idea
worthy of a man, and set off with the speed of lightning in the
direction of Patience's hut.

"Yes, go and tell my friend, good dog!" exclaimed Marcasse; "a better
friend than you would be more than man."

He turned towards me, and I saw two big tears trickling down the
cheeks of the impassive hidalgo.

We hastened our steps till we reached the hut. It had undergone
striking improvements; a pretty rustic garden, inclosed by a quickset
hedge with a bank of stones behind, extended round the little house.
The approach to this was no longer a rough little path, but a handsome
walk, on either side of which splendid vegetables stretched out in
regular rows, like an army in marching order. The van was composed of
a battalion of cabbages; carrots and lettuces formed the main body;
and along the hedge some modest sorrel brought up the rear. Beautiful
apple-trees, already well grown, spread their verdant shade above
these plants; while pear-trees, alternately standards and espaliers,
with borders of thyme and sage kissing the feet of sunflowers and
gilliflowers, convicted Patience of a strange return to ideas of
social order, and even to a taste for luxuries.

The change was so remarkable that I thought I should no longer find
Patience in the cottage. A strange feeling of uneasiness began to come
over me; my fear almost turned into certainty when I saw two young men
from the village occupied in trimming the espaliers. Our passage had
lasted more than four months, and it must have been quite six months
since we had had any news of the hermit. Marcasse, however, seemed to
feel no fear; Blaireau had told him plainly that Patience was alive,
and the footmarks of the little dog, freshly printed in the sand of
the walk, showed the direction in which he had gone. Notwithstanding,
I was so afraid of seeing a cloud come over the joy of this day, that
I did not dare to question the gardeners about Patience. Silently I
followed the hidalgo, whose eyes grew full of tears as they gazed upon
this new Eden, and whose prudent mouth let no sound escape save the
word "change," which he repeated several times.

At last I grew impatient; the walk seemed interminable, though very
short in reality, and I began to run, my heart beating wildly.

"Perhaps Edmee," I said to myself, "is here!"

However, she was not there, and I could only hear the voice of the
hermit saying:

"Now, then! What is the matter? Has the poor dog gone mad? Down,
Blaireau! You would never have worried your master in this way. This
is what comes of being too kind!"

"Blaireau is not mad!" I exclaimed, as I entered. "Have you grown deaf
to the approach of a friend, Master Patience?"

Patience, who was in the act of counting a pile of money, let it fall
on the table and came towards me with the old cordiality. I embraced
him heartily; he was surprised and touched at my joy. Then he examined
me from head to foot, and seemed to be wondering at the change in my
appearance, when Marcasse arrived at the door.

Then a sublime expression came over Patience's face, and lifting his
strong arms to heaven, he exclaimed:

"The words of the canticle! Now let me depart in peace; for mine eyes
have seen him I yearned for."

The hidalgo said nothing; he raised his hat as usual; then sitting
down he turned pale and shut his eyes. His dog jumped up on his knees
and displayed his affection by attempts at little cries which changed
into a series of sneezes (you remember that he was born dumb).
Trembling with old age and delight, he stretched out his pointed nose
towards the long nose of his master; but his master did not respond
with the customary "Down, Blaireau!"

Marcasse had fainted.

This loving soul, no more able than Blaireau to express itself in
words, had sunk beneath the weight of his own happiness. Patience ran
and fetched him a large mug of wine of the district, in its second
year--that is to say, the oldest and best possible. He made him
swallow a few drops; its strength revived him. The hidalgo excused his
weakness on the score of fatigue and the heat. He would not or could
not assign it to its real sense. There are souls who die out, after
burning with unsurpassable moral beauty and grandeur, without ever
having found a way, and even without ever having felt the need, of
revealing themselves to others.

When Patience, who was as demonstrative as his friend was the
contrary, had recovered from his first transports, he turned to me and

"Now, my young officer, I see that you have no wish to remain here
long. Let us make haste, then, to the place you are burning to reach.
There is some one who will be much surprised and much delighted, you
may take my word."

We entered the park, and while crossing it, Patience explained the
change which had come over his habitation and his life.

"For myself," he said to me, "you see that I have not changed. The
same appearance, the same ways; and if I offered you some wine just
now, that does not prevent me from drinking water myself. But I have
money, and land, and workmen--yes, I have. Well, all this is in spite
of myself, as you will see. Some three years ago Mademoiselle Edmee
spoke of the difficulty she had in bestowing alms so as to do real
good. The abbe was as unskilful as herself. People would impose on
them every day and use their money for bad ends; whereas proud and
hard-working day-labourers might be in a state of real distress
without any one being able to discover the fact. She was afraid that
if she inquired into their wants they might take it as an insult; and
when worthless fellows appealed to her she preferred being their dupe
to erring against charity. In this manner she used to give away a
great deal of money and do very little good. I then made her
understand how money was the thing that was the least necessary to the
necessitous. I explained that men were really unfortunate, not when
they were unable to dress better than their fellows, or go to the
tavern on Sundays, or display at high-mass a spotlessly white stocking
with a red garter above the knee, or talk about 'My mare, my cow, my
vine, my barn, etc.,' but rather when they were afflicted with poor
health and a bad season, when they could not protect themselves
against the cold, and heat and sickness, against the pangs of hunger
and thirst. I told her, then, not to judge of the strength and health
of peasants by myself, but to go in person and inquire into their
illnesses and their wants.

"These folk are not philosophers," I said; "they have their little
vanities, they are fond of finery, spend the little they earn on
cutting a figure, and have not foresight enough to deprive themselves
of a passing pleasure in order to lay by something against a day of
real need. In short, they do not know how to use their money; they
tell you they are in debt, and, though that may be true, it is not
true that they will use the money you give them to pay what they owe.
They take no thought of the morrow; they will agree to as high a rate
of interest as may be asked, and with your money they will buy a hemp-
field or a set of furniture so as to astonish their neighbours and
make them jealous. Meanwhile their debts go on increasing year by
year, and in the end they have to sell their hemp-field and their
furniture, because the creditor, who is always one of themselves,
calls for repayment or for more interest than they can furnish.
Everything goes; the principal takes all their capital, just as the
interest has taken all their income. Then you grow old and can work no
longer; your children abandon you, because you have brought them up
badly, and because they have the same passions and the same vanities
as yourself. All you can do is to take a wallet and go from door to
door to beg your bread, because you are used to bread and would die if
you had to live on roots like the sorcerer Patience, that outcast of
Nature, whom everybody hates and despises because he has not become a

"The beggar, moreover, is hardly worse off than the day-labourer;
probably he is better off. He is no longer troubled with pride,
whether estimable or foolish; he has no longer to suffer. The folks in
his part of the country are good to him; there is not a beggar that
wants for a bed or supper as he goes his round. The peasants load him
with bits of bread, to such an extent that he has enough to feed both
poultry and pigs in the little hovel where he has left a child and an
old mother to look after his animals. Every week he returns there and
spends two or three days, doing nothing except counting the pennies
that have been given him. These poor coins often serve to satisfy the
superfluous wants which idleness breeds. A peasant rarely takes snuff;
many beggars cannot do without it; they ask for it more eagerly than
for bread. So the beggar is no more to be pitied than the labourer;
but he is corrupt and debauched, when he is not a scoundrel and a
brute, which, in truth, is seldom enough.

" 'This, then, is what ought to be done,' I said to Edmee; 'and the
abbe tells me that this is also the idea of your philosophers. You who
are always ready to help the unfortunate, should give without
consulting the special fancies of the man who asks, but only after
ascertaining his real wants.'

"Edmee objected that it would be impossible for her to obtain the
necessary information; that she would have to give her whole time to
it, and neglect the chevalier, who is growing old and can no longer
read anything without his daughter's eyes and head. The abbe was too
fond of improving his mind from the writings of the wise to have time
for anything else.

" 'That is what comes of all this study of virtue!' I said to her; 'it
makes a man forget to be virtuous.'

" 'You are quite right,' answered Edmee; 'but what is to be done?'

"I promised to think it over; and this is how I went to work. Instead
of taking my walks as usual in the direction of the woods, I paid a
visit every day to the small holdings. It cost me a great effort; I
like to be alone; and everywhere I had shunned my fellow-men for so
many years that I had lost touch with them. However, this was a duty
and I did it. I went to various houses, and by way of conversation,
first of all over hedges, and then inside the houses themselves, I
made inquiries as to those points which I wanted to learn. At first
they gave me a welcome such as they would give to a lost dog in time
of drought; and with a vexation I could scarce conceal I noticed the
hatred and distrust on all their faces. Though I had not cared to live
among other men, I still had an affection for them; I knew that they
were unfortunate rather than vicious; I had spent all my time in
lamenting their woes and railing against those that caused them; and
when for the first time I saw a possibility of doing something for
some of them, these very men shut their doors the very moment they
caught sight of me in the distance, and their children (those pretty
children that I love so much!) would hide themselves in ditches so as
to escape the fever which, it was said, I could give with a glance.
However, as Edmee's friendship for me was well known, they did not
dare to repulse me openly, and I succeeded in getting the information
we wanted. Whenever I told her of any distress she at once supplied a
remedy. One house was full of cracks; and while the daughter was
wearing an apron of cotton-cloth at four francs an ell, the rain was
falling on the grandmother's bed and the little children's cradles.
The roof and walls were repaired; we supplied the materials and paid
the workmen; but no more money for gaudy aprons. In another case, an
old woman had been reduced to beggary because she had listened too
well to her heart, and given all she had to her children, who had
turned her out of doors, or made her life so unbearable that she
preferred to be a tramp. We took up the old woman's cause, and
threatened that we would bring the matter before the courts at our own
expense. Thus we obtained for her a pension, to which we added when it
was not sufficient. We induced several old persons who were in a
similar position to combine and live together under the same roof. We
chose one as head, and gave him a little capital, and as he was an
industrious and methodical man, he turned it to such profit that his
children came and made their peace with him, and asked to be allowed
to help in his establishment.

"We did many other things besides; I need not give you details, as you
will see them yourself. I say 'we,' because, though I did not wish to
be concerned in anything beyond what I had already done, I was
gradually drawn on and obliged to do more and more, to concern myself
with many things, and finally with everything. In short, it is I who
make the investigations, superintend the works, and conduct all
negotiations. Mademoiselle Edmee wished me to keep a sum of money by
me, so that I might dispose of it without consulting her first. This I
have never allowed myself to do; and, moreover, she has never once
opposed any of my ideas. But all this, you know, has meant much work
and many worries. Ever since the people realized that I was a little
Turgot they have grovelled before me, and that has pained me not a
little. And so I have various friends that I don't care for, and
various enemies that I could well do without. The sham poor owe me a
grudge because I do not let myself be duped by them; and there are
perverse and worthless people who think one is always doing too much
for others, and never enough for them. With all this bustle and all
these bickerings, I can no longer take my walk during the night, and
my sleep during the day. I am now Monsieur Patience, and no longer the
sorcerer of Gazeau Tower; but alas! I am a hermit no more; and,
believe me, I would wish with all my heart that I could have been born
selfish, so that I might throw off my harness, and return to my savage
life and my liberty."

When Patience had given us this account of his work we complimented
him on it; but we ventured to express a doubt about his pretended
self-sacrifice; this magnificent garden seemed to indicate a
compromise with "those superfluous necessities," the use of which by
others he had always deplored.

"That?" he said, waving his arm in the direction of his inclosure.
"That does not concern me; they made it against my wishes; but, as
they were worthy folk and my refusal would have grieved them, I was
obliged to allow it. You must know that, if I have stirred ingratitude
in many hearts, I have also made a few happy ones grateful. So, two or
three families to whom I had done some service, tried all possible
means to give me pleasure in return; and, as I refused everything,
they thought they would give me a surprise. Once I had to pay a visit
to Berthenoux for several days, on some confidential business which
had been entrusted to me; for people have come to imagine me a very
clever man, so easy is it to pass from one extreme to another. On my
return I found this garden, marked out, planted and inclosed as you
see it. In vain did I get angry, and explain that I did not want to
work, that I was too old, and that the pleasure of eating a little
more fruit was not worth the trouble that this garden was going to
cost me; they finished it without heeding what I said, and declared
that I need not trouble in the least, because they would undertake to
cultivate it for me. And, indeed, for the last two years the good folk
have not failed to come, now one and now another, and give such time
in each season as was necessary to keep it in perfect order. Besides,
though I have altered nothing in my own ways of living, the produce of
this garden has been very useful; during the winter I was able to feed
several poor people with my vegetables; while my fruit has served to
win the affection of the little children, who no longer cry out 'wolf'
when they see me, but have grown bold enough to come and kiss the
sorcerer. Other people have forced me to accept presents of wine, and
now and then of white bread, and cheeses of cow's milk. All these
things, however, only enable me to be polite to the village elders
when they come and report the deserving cases of the place, so that I
may make them known at the castle. These honours have not turned my
head, as you see; nay, more, I may say that when I have done about all
that I have to do, I shall leave the cares of greatness behind me, and
return to my philosopher's life, perhaps to Gazeau Tower--who knows?"

We were now at the end of our walk. As I set foot on the steps of the
chateau, I was suddenly filled with a feeling of devoutness; I clasped
my hands and called upon Heaven in a sort of terror. A vague,
indefinable fear arose in me; I imagined all manner of things that
might hinder my happiness. I hesitated to cross the threshold of the
house; then I rushed forward. A mist came over my eyes, a buzzing
filled my ears. I met Saint-Jean, who, not recognising me, gave a loud
cry and threw himself in my path to prevent me from entering without
being announced. I pushed him aside, and he sank down astounded on one
of the hall chairs while I hastened to the door of the drawing-room.
But, just as I was about to throw it open, I was seized with a new
fear and checked myself; then I opened it so timidly that Edmee, who
was occupied at some embroidery on a frame, did not raise her eyes,
thinking that in this slight noise she recognised the respectful
Saint-Jean. The chevalier was asleep and did not wake. This old man,
tall and thin like all the Mauprats, was sitting with his head sunk on
his breast; and his pale, wrinkled face, which seemed already wrapped
in the torpor of the grave, resembled one of those angular heads in
carved oak which adorned the back of his big arm-chair. His feet were
stretched out in front of a fire of dried vine-branches, although the
sun was warm and a bright ray was falling on his white head and making
it shine like silver. And how could I describe to you my feelings on
beholding Edmee? She was bending over her tapestry and glancing from
time to time at her father to notice his slightest movements. But what
patience and resignation were revealed in her whole attitude! Edmee
was not fond of needlework; her mind was too vigorous to attach much
importance to the effect of one shade by the side of another shade,
and to the regularity of one stitch laid against another stitch.
Besides, the blood flowed swiftly in her veins, and when her mind was
not absorbed in intellectual work she needed exercise in the open air.
But ever since her father, a prey to the infirmities of old age, had
been almost unable to leave his arm-chair, she had refused to leave
him for a single moment; and, since she could not always be reading
and working her mind, she had felt the necessity of taking up some of
those feminine occupations which, as she said, "are the amusements of
captivity." She had conquered her nature then in truly heroic fashion.
In one of those secret struggles which often take place under our eyes
without our suspecting the issue involved, she had done more than
subdue her nature, she had even changed the circulation of her blood.
I found her thinner; and her complexion had lost that first freshness
of youth which, like the bloom that the breath of morning spreads over
fruit, disappears at the slightest shock from without, although it may
have been respected by the heat of the sun. Yet in this premature
paleness and in this somewhat unhealthy thinness there seemed to be an
indefinable charm; her eyes, more sunken, but inscrutable as ever,
showed less pride and more melancholy than of old; her mouth had
become more mobile, and her smile was more delicate and less
contemptuous. When she spoke to me, I seemed to behold two persons in
her, the old and the new; and I found that, so far from having lost
her beauty, she had attained ideal perfection. Still, I remember
several persons at that time used to declare that she had "changed
very much," which with them meant that she had greatly deteriorated.
Beauty, however, is like a temple in which the profane see naught but
the external magnificence. The divine mystery of the artist's thought
reveals itself only to profound sympathy, and the inspiration in each
detail of the sublime work remains unseen by the eyes of the vulgar.
One of your modern authors, I fancy, has said this in other words and
much better. As for myself, at no moment in her life did I find Edmee
less beautiful than at any other. Even in the hours of suffering, when
beauty in its material sense seems obliterated, hers but assumed a
divine form in my eyes, and in her face I beheld the splendour of a
new moral beauty. However, I am but indifferently endowed with
artistic feeling, and had I been a painter, I could not have created
more than a single type, that which filled my whole soul; for in the
course of my long life only one woman has seemed to me really
beautiful; and that woman was Edmee.

For a few seconds I stood looking at her, so touchingly pale, sad yet
calm, a living image of filial piety, of power in thrall to affection.
Then I rushed forward and fell at her feet without being able to say a
word. She uttered no cry, no exclamation of surprise, but took my head
in her two arms and held it for some time pressed to her bosom. In
this strong pressure, in this silent joy I recognised the blood of my
race, I felt the touch of a sister. The good chevalier, who had waked
with a start, stared at us in astonishment, his body bent forward and
his elbow resting on his knee; then he said:

"Well, well! What is the meaning of this?"

He could not see my face, hidden as it was in Edmee's breast. She
pushed me towards him; and the old man clasped me in his feeble arms
with a burst of generous affection that gave him back for a moment the
vigour of youth.

I leave you to imagine the questions with which I was overwhelmed, and
the attentions that were lavished on me. Edmee was a veritable mother
to me. Her unaffected kindness and confidence savoured so much of
heaven that throughout the day I could not think of her otherwise than
if I had really been her son.

I was very much touched at the pleasure they took in preparing a big
surprise for the abbe; I saw in this a sure proof of the delight he
would feel at my return. They made me hide under Edmee's frame, and
covered me with the large green cloth that was generally thrown over
her work. The abbe sat down quite close to me, and I gave a shout and
seized him by the legs. This was a little practical joke that I used
to play on him in the old days. When, throwing aside the frame, and
sending the balls of wool rolling over the floor, I came out from my
hiding-place, the expression of terror and delight on his face was
most quaint.

But I will spare you all these family scenes to which my memory goes
back too readily.


An immense change had taken place in me during the course of six


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