The Girl with the Golden Eyes, Translated by Ellen Marriage
To Eugene Delacroix, Painter.
One of those sights in which most horror is to be encountered is,
surely, the general aspect of the Parisian populace--a people fearful
to behold, gaunt, yellow, tawny. Is not Paris a vast field in
perpetual turmoil from a storm of interests beneath which are whirled
along a crop of human beings, who are, more often than not, reaped by
death, only to be born again as pinched as ever, men whose twisted and
contorted faces give out at every pore the instinct, the desire, the
poisons with which their brains are pregnant; not faces so much as
masks; masks of weakness, masks of strength, masks of misery, masks of
joy, masks of hypocrisy; all alike worn and stamped with the indelible
signs of a panting cupidity? What is it they want? Gold or pleasure? A
few observations upon the soul of Paris may explain the causes of its
cadaverous physiognomy, which has but two ages--youth and decay:
youth, wan and colorless; decay, painted to seem young. In looking at
this excavated people, foreigners, who are not prone to reflection,
experience at first a movement of disgust towards the capital, that
vast workshop of delights, from which, in a short time, they cannot
even extricate themselves, and where they stay willingly to be
corrupted. A few words will suffice to justify physiologically the
almost infernal hue of Parisian faces, for it is not in mere sport
that Paris has been called a hell. Take the phrase for truth. There
all is smoke and fire, everything gleams, crackles, flames,
evaporates, dies out, then lights up again, with shooting sparks, and
is consumed. In no other country has life ever been more ardent or
acute. The social nature, even in fusion, seems to say after each
completed work: "Pass on to another!" just as Nature says herself.
Like Nature herself, this social nature is busied with insects and
flowers of a day--ephemeral trifles; and so, too, it throws up fire
and flame from its eternal crater. Perhaps, before analyzing the
causes which lend a special physiognomy to each tribe of this
intelligent and mobile nation, the general cause should be pointed out
which bleaches and discolors, tints with blue or brown individuals in
more or less degree.
By dint of taking interest in everything, the Parisian ends by being
interested in nothing. No emotion dominating his face, which friction
has rubbed away, it turns gray like the faces of those houses upon
which all kinds of dust and smoke have blown. In effect, the Parisian,
with his indifference on the day for what the morrow will bring forth,
lives like a child, whatever may be his age. He grumbles at
everything, consoles himself for everything, jests at everything,
forgets, desires, and tastes everything, seizes all with passion,
quits all with indifference--his kings, his conquests, his glory, his
idols of bronze or glass--as he throws away his stockings, his hats,
and his fortune. In Paris no sentiment can withstand the drift of
things, and their current compels a struggle in which the passions are
relaxed: there love is a desire, and hatred a whim; there's no true
kinsman but the thousand-franc note, no better friend than the
pawnbroker. This universal toleration bears its fruits, and in the
salon, as in the street, there is no one de trop, there is no one
absolutely useful, or absolutely harmful--knaves or fools, men of wit
or integrity. There everything is tolerated: the government and the
guillotine, religion and the cholera. You are always acceptable to
this world, you will never be missed by it. What, then, is the
dominating impulse in this country without morals, without faith,
without any sentiment, wherein, however, every sentiment, belief, and
moral has its origin and end? It is gold and pleasure. Take those two
words for a lantern, and explore that great stucco cage, that hive
with its black gutters, and follow the windings of that thought which
agitates, sustains, and occupies it! Consider! And, in the first
place, examine the world which possesses nothing.
The artisan, the man of the proletariat, who uses his hands, his
tongue, his back, his right arm, his five fingers, to live--well, this
very man, who should be the first to economize his vital principle,
outruns his strength, yokes his wife to some machine, wears out his
child, and ties him to the wheel. The manufacturer--or I know not what
secondary thread which sets in motion all these folk who with their
foul hands mould and gild porcelain, sew coats and dresses, beat out
iron, turn wood and steel, weave hemp, festoon crystal, imitate
flowers, work woolen things, break in horses, dress harness, carve in
copper, paint carriages, blow glass, corrode the diamond, polish
metals, turn marble into leaves, labor on pebbles, deck out thought,
tinge, bleach, or blacken everything--well, this middleman has come to
that world of sweat and good-will, of study and patience, with
promises of lavish wages, either in the name of the town's caprices or
with the voice of the monster dubbed speculation. Thus, these
quadrumanes set themselves to watch, work, and suffer, to fast,
sweat, and bestir them. Then, careless of the future, greedy of
pleasure, counting on their right arm as the painter on his palette,
lords for one day, they throw their money on Mondays to the cabarets
which gird the town like a belt of mud, haunts of the most shameless
of the daughters of Venus, in which the periodical money of this
people, as ferocious in their pleasures as they are calm at work, is
squandered as it had been at play. For five days, then, there is no
repose for this laborious portion of Paris! It is given up to actions
which make it warped and rough, lean and pale, gush forth with a
thousand fits of creative energy. And then its pleasure, its repose,
are an exhausting debauch, swarthy and black with blows, white with
intoxication, or yellow with indigestion. It lasts but two days, but
it steals to-morrow's bread, the week's soup, the wife's dress, the
child's wretched rags. Men, born doubtless to be beautiful--for all
creatures have a relative beauty--are enrolled from their childhood
beneath the yoke of force, beneath the rule of the hammer, the chisel,
the loom, and have been promptly vulcanized. Is not Vulcan, with his
hideousness and his strength, the emblem of this strong and hideous
nation--sublime in its mechanical intelligence, patient in its season,
and once in a century terrible, inflammable as gunpowder, and ripe
with brandy for the madness of revolution, with wits enough, in fine,
to take fire at a captious word, which signifies to it always: Gold
and Pleasure! If we comprise in it all those who hold out their hands
for an alms, for lawful wages, or the five francs that are granted to
every kind of Parisian prostitution, in short, for all the money well
or ill earned, this people numbers three hundred thousand individuals.
Were it not for the cabarets, would not the Government be overturned
every Tuesday? Happily, by Tuesday, this people is glutted, sleeps off
its pleasure, is penniless, and returns to its labor, to dry bread,
stimulated by a need of material procreation, which has become a habit
to it. None the less, this people has its phenomenal virtues, its
complete men, unknown Napoleons, who are the type of its strength
carried to its highest expression, and sum up its social capacity in
an existence wherein thought and movement combine less to bring joy
into it than to neutralize the action of sorrow.
Chance has made an artisan economical, chance has favored him with
forethought, he has been able to look forward, has met with a wife and
found himself a father, and, after some years of hard privation, he
embarks in some little draper's business, hires a shop. If neither
sickness nor vice blocks his way--if he has prospered--there is the
sketch of this normal life.
And, in the first place, hail to that king of Parisian activity, to
whom time and space give way. Yes, hail to that being, composed of
saltpetre and gas, who makes children for France during his laborious
nights, and in the day multiplies his personality for the service,
glory, and pleasure of his fellow-citizens. This man solves the
problem of sufficing at once to his amiable wife, to his hearth, to
the Constitutionnel, to his office, to the National Guard, to the
opera, and to God; but, only in order that the Constitutionnel, his
office, the National Guard, the opera, his wife, and God may be
changed into coin. In fine, hail to an irreproachable pluralist. Up
every day at five o'clock, he traverses like a bird the space which
separates his dwelling from the Rue Montmartre. Let it blow or
thunder, rain or snow, he is at the Constitutionnel, and waits there
for the load of newspapers which he has undertaken to distribute. He
receives this political bread with eagerness, takes it, bears it away.
At nine o'clock he is in the bosom of his family, flings a jest to his
wife, snatches a loud kiss from her, gulps down a cup of coffee, or
scolds his children. At a quarter to ten he puts in an appearance at
the Mairie. There, stuck upon a stool, like a parrot on its perch,
warmed by Paris town, he registers until four o'clock, with never a
tear or a smile, the deaths and births of an entire district. The
sorrow, the happiness, of the parish flow beneath his pen--as the
essence of the Constitutionnel traveled before upon his shoulders.
Nothing weighs upon him! He goes always straight before him, takes his
patriotism ready made from the newspaper, contradicts no one, shouts
or applauds with the world, and lives like a bird. Two yards from his
parish, in the event of an important ceremony, he can yield his place
to an assistant, and betake himself to chant a requiem from a stall in
the church of which on Sundays he is the fairest ornament, where his
is the most imposing voice, where he distorts his huge mouth with
energy to thunder out a joyous Amen. So is he chorister. At four
o'clock, freed from his official servitude, he reappears to shed joy
and gaiety upon the most famous shop in the city. Happy is his wife,
he has no time to be jealous: he is a man of action rather than of
sentiment. His mere arrival spurs the young ladies at the counter;
their bright eyes storm the customers; he expands in the midst of all
the finery, the lace and muslin kerchiefs, that their cunning hands
have wrought. Or, again, more often still, before his dinner he waits
on a client, copies the page of a newspaper, or carries to the
doorkeeper some goods that have been delayed. Every other day, at six,
he is faithful to his post. A permanent bass for the chorus, he
betakes himself to the opera, prepared to become a soldier or an arab,
prisoner, savage, peasant, spirit, camel's leg or lion, a devil or a
genie, a slave or a eunuch, black or white; always ready to feign joy
or sorrow, pity or astonishment, to utter cries that never vary, to
hold his tongue, to hunt, or fight for Rome or Egypt, but always at
heart--a huckster still.
At midnight he returns--a man, the good husband, the tender father; he
slips into the conjugal bed, his imagination still afire with the
illusive forms of the operatic nymphs, and so turns to the profit of
conjugal love the world's depravities, the voluptuous curves of
Taglioni's leg. And finally, if he sleeps, he sleeps apace, and
hurries through his slumber as he does his life.
This man sums up all things--history, literature, politics,
government, religion, military science. Is he not a living
encyclopaedia, a grotesque Atlas; ceaselessly in motion, like Paris
itself, and knowing not repose? He is all legs. No physiognomy could
preserve its purity amid such toils. Perhaps the artisan who dies at
thirty, an old man, his stomach tanned by repeated doses of brandy,
will be held, according to certain leisured philosophers, to be
happier than the huckster is. The one perishes in a breath, and the
other by degrees. From his eight industries, from the labor of his
shoulders, his throat, his hands, from his wife and his business, the
one derives--as from so many farms--children, some thousands of
francs, and the most laborious happiness that has ever diverted the
heart of man. This fortune and these children, or the children who sum
up everything for him, become the prey of the world above, to which he
brings his ducats and his daughter or his son, reared at college, who,
with more education than his father, raises higher his ambitious gaze.
Often the son of a retail tradesman would fain be something in the
Ambition of that sort carries on our thought to the second Parisian
sphere. Go up one story, then, and descend to the entresol: or climb
down from the attic and remain on the fourth floor; in fine, penetrate
into the world which has possessions: the same result! Wholesale
merchants, and their men--people with small banking accounts and much
integrity--rogues and catspaws, clerks old and young, sheriffs'
clerks, barristers' clerks, solicitors' clerks; in fine, all the
working, thinking, and speculating members of that lower middle class
which honeycombs the interests of Paris and watches over its granary,
accumulates the coin, stores the products that the proletariat have
made, preserves the fruits of the South, the fishes, the wine from
every sun-favored hill; which stretches its hands over the Orient, and
takes from it the shawls that the Russ and the Turk despise; which
harvests even from the Indies; crouches down in expectation of a sale,
greedy of profit; which discounts bills, turns over and collects all
kinds of securities, holds all Paris in its hand, watches over the
fantasies of children, spies out the caprices and the vices of mature
age, sucks money out of disease. Even so, if they drink no brandy,
like the artisan, nor wallow in the mire of debauch, all equally abuse
their strength, immeasurably strain their bodies and their minds
alike, are burned away with desires, devastated with the swiftness of
the pace. In their case the physical distortion is accomplished
beneath the whip of interests, beneath the scourge of ambitions which
torture the educated portion of this monstrous city, just as in the
case of the proletariat it is brought about by the cruel see-saw of
the material elaborations perpetually required from the despotism of
the aristocratic "I will." Here, too, then, in order to obey that
universal master, pleasure or gold, they must devour time, hasten
time, find more than four-and-twenty hours in the day and night, waste
themselves, slay themselves, and purchase two years of unhealthy
repose with thirty years of old age. Only, the working-man dies in
hospital when the last term of his stunted growth expires; whereas the
man of the middle class is set upon living, and lives on, but in a
state of idiocy. You will meet him, with his worn, flat old face, with
no light in his eyes, with no strength in his limbs, dragging himself
with a dazed air along the boulevard--the belt of his Venus, of his
beloved city. What was his want? The sabre of the National Guard, a
permanent stock-pot, a decent plot in Pere Lachaise, and, for his old
age, a little gold honestly earned. HIS Monday is on Sunday, his
rest a drive in a hired carriage--a country excursion during which his
wife and children glut themselves merrily with dust or bask in the
sun; his dissipation is at the restaurateur's, whose poisonous dinner
has won renown, or at some family ball, where he suffocates till
midnight. Some fools are surprised at the phantasmagoria of the monads
which they see with the aid of the microscope in a drop of water; but
what would Rabelais' Gargantua,--that misunderstood figure of an
audacity so sublime,--what would that giant say, fallen from the
celestial spheres, if he amused himself by contemplating the motions
of this secondary life of Paris, of which here is one of the formulae?
Have you seen one of those little constructions--cold in summer, and
with no other warmth than a small stove in winter--placed beneath the
vast copper dome which crowns the Halle-auble? Madame is there by
morning. She is engaged at the markets, and makes by this occupation
twelve thousand francs a year, people say. Monsieur, when Madame is
up, passes into a gloomy office, where he lends money till the week-
end to the tradesmen of his district. By nine o'clock he is at the
passport office, of which he is one of the minor officials. By evening
he is at the box-office of the Theatre Italien, or of any other
theatre you like. The children are put out to nurse, and only return
to be sent to college or to boarding-school. Monsieur and Madame live
on the third floor, have but one cook, give dances in a salon twelve
foot by eight, lit by argand lamps; but they give a hundred and fifty
thousand francs to their daughter, and retire at the age of fifty, an
age when they begin to show themselves on the balcony of the opera, in
a fiacre at Longchamps; or, on sunny days, in faded clothes on the
boulevards--the fruit of all this sowing. Respected by their
neighbors, in good odor with the government, connected with the upper
middle classes, Monsieur obtains at sixty-five the Cross of the Legion
of Honor, and his daughter's father-in-law, a parochial mayor, invites
him to his evenings. These life-long labors, then, are for the good of
the children, whom these lower middle classes are inevitably driven to
exalt. Thus each sphere directs all its efforts towards the sphere
above it. The son of the rich grocer becomes a notary, the son of the
timber merchant becomes a magistrate. No link is wanting in the chain,
and everything stimulates the upward march of money.
Thus we are brought to the third circle of this hell, which, perhaps,
will some day find its Dante. In this third social circle, a sort of
Parisian belly, in which the interests of the town are digested, and
where they are condensed into the form known as business, there
moves and agitates, as by some acrid and bitter intestinal process,
the crowd of lawyers, doctors, notaries, councillors, business men,
bankers, big merchants, speculators, and magistrates. Here are to be
found even more causes of moral and physical destruction than
elsewhere. These people--almost all of them--live in unhealthy
offices, in fetid ante-chambers, in little barred dens, and spend
their days bowed down beneath the weight of affairs; they rise at dawn
to be in time, not to be left behind, to gain all or not to lose, to
overreach a man or his money, to open or wind up some business, to
take advantage of some fleeting opportunity, to get a man hanged or
set him free. They infect their horses, they overdrive and age and
break them, like their own legs, before their time. Time is their
tyrant: it fails them, it escapes them; they can neither expand it nor
cut it short. What soul can remain great, pure, moral, and generous,
and, consequently, what face retain its beauty in this depraving
practice of a calling which compels one to bear the weight of the
public sorrows, to analyze them, to weigh them, estimate them, and
mark them out by rule? Where do these folk put aside their
hearts? . . . I do not know; but they leave them somewhere or other,
when they have any, before they descend each morning into the abyss of
the misery which puts families on the rack. For them there is no such
thing as mystery; they see the reverse side of society, whose
confessors they are, and despise it. Then, whatever they do, owing to
their contact with corruption, they either are horrified at it and
grow gloomy, or else, out of lassitude, or some secret compromise,
espouse it. In fine, they necessarily become callous to every
sentiment, since man, his laws and his institutions, make them steal,
like jackals, from corpses that are still warm. At all hours the
financier is trampling on the living, the attorney on the dead, the
pleader on the conscience. Forced to be speaking without a rest, they
all substitute words for ideas, phrases for feelings, and their soul
becomes a larynx. Neither the great merchant, nor the judge, nor the
pleader preserves his sense of right; they feel no more, they apply
set rules that leave cases out of count. Borne along by their headlong
course, they are neither husbands nor fathers nor lovers; they glide
on sledges over the facts of life, and live at all times at the high
pressure conduced by business and the vast city. When they return to
their homes they are required to go to a ball, to the opera, into
society, where they can make clients, acquaintances, protectors. They
all eat to excess, play and keep vigil, and their faces become
bloated, flushed, and emaciated.
To this terrific expenditure of intellectual strength, to such
multifold moral contradictions, they oppose--not, indeed pleasure, it
would be too pale a contrast--but debauchery, a debauchery both secret
and alarming, for they have all means at their disposal, and fix the
morality of society. Their genuine stupidity lies hid beneath their
specialism. They know their business, but are ignorant of everything
which is outside it. So that to preserve their self-conceit they
question everything, are crudely and crookedly critical. They appear
to be sceptics and are in reality simpletons; they swamp their wits in
interminable arguments. Almost all conveniently adopt social,
literary, or political prejudices, to do away with the need of having
opinions, just as they adapt their conscience to the standard of the
Code or the Tribunal of Commerce. Having started early to become men
of note, they turn into mediocrities, and crawl over the high places
of the world. So, too, their faces present the harsh pallor, the
deceitful coloring, those dull, tarnished eyes, and garrulous, sensual
mouths, in which the observer recognizes the symptoms of the
degeneracy of the thought and its rotation in the circle of a special
idea which destroys the creative faculties of the brain and the gift
of seeing in large, of generalizing and deducing. No man who has
allowed himself to be caught in the revolutions of the gear of these
huge machines can ever become great. If he is a doctor, either he has
practised little or he is an exception--a Bichat who dies young. If a
great merchant, something remains--he is almost Jacques Coeur. Did
Robespierre practise? Danton was an idler who waited. But who,
moreover has ever felt envious of the figures of Danton and
Robespierre, however lofty they were? These men of affairs, par
excellence, attract money to them, and hoard it in order to ally
themselves with aristocratic families. If the ambition of the working-
man is that of the small tradesman, here, too, are the same passions.
The type of this class might be either an ambitious bourgeois, who,
after a life of privation and continual scheming, passes into the
Council of State as an ant passes through a chink; or some newspaper
editor, jaded with intrigue, whom the king makes a peer of France--
perhaps to revenge himself on the nobility; or some notary become
mayor of his parish: all people crushed with business, who, if they
attain their end, are literally killed in its attainment. In France
the usage is to glorify wigs. Napoleon, Louis XVI., the great rulers,
alone have always wished for young men to fulfil their projects.
Above this sphere the artist world exists. But here, too, the faces
stamped with the seal of originality are worn, nobly indeed, but worn,
fatigued, nervous. Harassed by a need of production, outrun by their
costly fantasies, worn out by devouring genius, hungry for pleasure,
the artists of Paris would all regain by excessive labor what they
have lost by idleness, and vainly seek to reconcile the world and
glory, money and art. To begin with, the artist is ceaselessly panting
under his creditors; his necessities beget his debts, and his debts
require of him his nights. After his labor, his pleasure. The comedian
plays till midnight, studies in the morning, rehearses at noon; the
sculptor is bent before his statue; the journalist is a marching
thought, like the soldier when at war; the painter who is the fashion
is crushed with work, the painter with no occupation, if he feels
himself to be a man of genius, gnaws his entrails. Competition,
rivalry, calumny assail talent. Some, in desperation, plunge into the
abyss of vice, others die young and unknown because they have
discounted their future too soon. Few of these figures, originally
sublime, remain beautiful. On the other hand, the flagrant beauty of
their heads is not understood. An artist's face is always exorbitant,
it is always above or below the conventional lines of what fools call
the beau-ideal. What power is it that destroys them? Passion. Every
passion in Paris resolves into two terms: gold and pleasure. Now, do
you not breathe again? Do you not feel air and space purified? Here is
neither labor nor suffering. The soaring arch of gold has reached the
summit. From the lowest gutters, where its stream commences, from the
little shops where it is stopped by puny coffer-dams, from the heart
of the counting-houses and great workshops, where its volume is that
of ingots--gold, in the shape of dowries and inheritances, guided by
the hands of young girls or the bony fingers of age, courses towards
the aristocracy, where it will become a blazing, expansive stream.
But, before leaving the four territories upon which the utmost wealth
of Paris is based, it is fitting, having cited the moral causes, to
deduce those which are physical, and to call attention to a
pestilence, latent, as it were, which incessantly acts upon the faces
of the porter, the artisan, the small shopkeeper; to point out a
deleterious influence the corruption of which equals that of the
Parisian administrators who allow it so complacently to exist!
If the air of the houses in which the greater proportion of the middle
classes live is noxious, if the atmosphere of the streets belches out
cruel miasmas into stuffy back-kitchens where there is little air,
realize that, apart from this pestilence, the forty thousand houses of
this great city have their foundations in filth, which the powers that
be have not yet seriously attempted to enclose with mortar walls solid
enough to prevent even the most fetid mud from filtering through the
soil, poisoning the wells, and maintaining subterraneously to Lutetia
the tradition of her celebrated name. Half of Paris sleeps amidst the
putrid exhalations of courts and streets and sewers. But let us turn
to the vast saloons, gilded and airy; the hotels in their gardens, the
rich, indolent, happy moneyed world. There the faces are lined and
scarred with vanity. There nothing is real. To seek for pleasure is it
not to find ennui? People in society have at an early age warped
their nature. Having no occupation other than to wallow in pleasure,
they have speedily misused their sense, as the artisan has misused
brandy. Pleasure is of the nature of certain medical substances: in
order to obtain constantly the same effects the doses must be doubled,
and death or degradation is contained in the last. All the lower
classes are on their knees before the wealthy, and watch their tastes
in order to turn them into vices and exploit them. Thus you see in
these folk at an early age tastes instead of passions, romantic
fantasies and lukewarm loves. There impotence reigns; there ideas have
ceased--they have evaporated together with energy amongst the
affectations of the boudoir and the cajolements of women. There are
fledglings of forty, old doctors of sixty years. The wealthy obtain in
Paris ready-made wit and science--formulated opinions which save them
the need of having wit, science, or opinion of their own. The
irrationality of this world is equaled by its weakness and its
licentiousness. It is greedy of time to the point of wasting it. Seek
in it for affection as little as for ideas. Its kisses conceal a
profound indifference, its urbanity a perpetual contempt. It has no
other fashion of love. Flashes of wit without profundity, a wealth of
indiscretion, scandal, and above all, commonplace. Such is the sum of
its speech; but these happy fortunates pretend that they do not meet
to make and repeat maxims in the manner of La Rochefoucauld as though
there did not exist a mean, invented by the eighteenth century,
between a superfluity and absolute blank. If a few men of character
indulge in witticism, at once subtle and refined, they are
misunderstood; soon, tired of giving without receiving, they remain at
home, and leave fools to reign over their territory. This hollow life,
this perpetual expectation of a pleasure which never comes, this
permanent ennui and emptiness of soul, heart, and mind, the
lassitude of the upper Parisian world, is reproduced on its features,
and stamps its parchment faces, its premature wrinkles, that
physiognomy of the wealthy upon which impotence has set its grimace,
in which gold is mirrored, and whence intelligence has fled.
Such a view of moral Paris proves that physical Paris could not be
other than it is. This coroneted town is like a queen, who, being
always with child, has desires of irresistible fury. Paris is the
crown of the world, a brain which perishes of genius and leads human
civilization; it is a great man, a perpetually creative artist, a
politician with second-sight who must of necessity have wrinkles on
his forehead, the vices of a great man, the fantasies of the artist,
and the politician's disillusions. Its physiognomy suggests the
evolution of good and evil, battle and victory; the moral combat of
'89, the clarion calls of which still re-echo in every corner of the
world; and also the downfall of 1814. Thus this city can no more be
moral, or cordial, or clean, than the engines which impel those proud
leviathans which you admire when they cleave the waves! Is not Paris a
sublime vessel laden with intelligence? Yes, her arms are one of those
oracles which fatality sometimes allows. The City of Paris has her
great mast, all of bronze, carved with victories, and for watchman--
Napoleon. The barque may roll and pitch, but she cleaves the world,
illuminates it through the hundred mouths of her tribunes, ploughs the
seas of science, rides with full sail, cries from the height of her
tops, with the voice of her scientists and artists: "Onward, advance!
Follow me!" She carries a huge crew, which delights in adorning her
with fresh streamers. Boys and urchins laughing in the rigging;
ballast of heavy bourgeoisie; working-men and sailor-men touched
with tar; in her cabins the lucky passengers; elegant midshipmen smoke
their cigars leaning over the bulwarks; then, on the deck, her
soldiers, innovators or ambitious, would accost every fresh shore, and
shooting out their bright lights upon it, ask for glory which is
pleasure, or for love which needs gold.
Thus the exorbitant movement of the proletariat, the corrupting
influence of the interests which consume the two middle classes, the
cruelties of the artist's thought, and the excessive pleasure which is
sought for incessantly by the great, explain the normal ugliness of
the Parisian physiognomy. It is only in the Orient that the human race
presents a magnificent figure, but that is an effect of the constant
calm affected by those profound philosophers with their long pipes,
their short legs, their square contour, who despise and hold activity
in horror, whilst in Paris the little and the great and the mediocre
run and leap and drive, whipped on by an inexorable goddess, Necessity
--the necessity for money, glory, and amusement. Thus, any face which
is fresh and graceful and reposeful, any really young face, is in
Paris the most extraordinary of exceptions; it is met with rarely.
Should you see one there, be sure it belongs either to a young and
ardent ecclesiastic or to some good abbe of forty with three chins; to
a young girl of pure life such as is brought up in certain middle-
class families; to a mother of twenty, still full of illusions, as she
suckles her first-born; to a young man newly embarked from the
provinces, and intrusted to the care of some devout dowager who keeps
him without a sou; or, perhaps, to some shop assistant who goes to bed
at midnight wearied out with folding and unfolding calico, and rises
at seven o'clock to arrange the window; often again to some man of
science or poetry, who lives monastically in the embrace of a fine
idea, who remains sober, patient, and chaste; else to some self-
contented fool, feeding himself on folly, reeking of health, in a
perpetual state of absorption with his own smile; or to the soft and
happy race of loungers, the only folk really happy in Paris, which
unfolds for them hour by hour its moving poetry.
Nevertheless, there is in Paris a proportion of privileged beings to
whom this excessive movement of industries, interests, affairs, arts,
and gold is profitable. These beings are women. Although they also
have a thousand secret causes which, here more than elsewhere, destroy
their physiognomy, there are to be found in the feminine world little
happy colonies, who live in Oriental fashion and can preserve their
beauty; but these women rarely show themselves on foot in the streets,
they lie hid like rare plants who only unfold their petals at certain
hours, and constitute veritable exotic exceptions. However, Paris is
essentially the country of contrasts. If true sentiments are rare
there, there also are to be found, as elsewhere, noble friendships and
unlimited devotion. On this battlefield of interests and passions,
just as in the midst of those marching societies where egoism
triumphs, where every one is obliged to defend himself, and which we
call armies, it seems as though sentiments liked to be complete when
they showed themselves, and are sublime by juxtaposition. So it is
with faces. In Paris one sometimes sees in the aristocracy, set like
stars, the ravishing faces of young people, the fruit of quite
exceptional manners and education. To the youthful beauty of the
English stock they unite the firmness of Southern traits. The fire of
their eyes, a delicious bloom on their lips, the lustrous black of
their soft locks, a white complexion, a distinguished caste of
features, render them the flowers of the human race, magnificent to
behold against the mass of other faces, worn, old, wrinkled, and
grimacing. So women, too, admire such young people with that eager
pleasure which men take in watching a pretty girl, elegant, gracious,
and embellished with all the virginal charms with which our
imagination pleases to adorn the perfect woman. If this hurried glance
at the population of Paris has enabled us to conceive the rarity of a
Raphaelesque face, and the passionate admiration which such an one
must inspire at the first sight, the prime interest of our history
will have been justified. Quod erat demonstrandum--if one may be
permitted to apply scholastic formulae to the science of manners.
Upon one of those fine spring mornings, when the leaves, although
unfolded, are not yet green, when the sun begins to gild the roofs,
and the sky is blue, when the population of Paris issues from its
cells to swarm along the boulevards, glides like a serpent of a
thousand coils through the Rue de la Paix towards the Tuileries,
saluting the hymeneal magnificence which the country puts on; on one
of these joyous days, then, a young man as beautiful as the day
itself, dressed with taste, easy of manner--to let out the secret he
was a love-child, the natural son of Lord Dudley and the famous
Marquise de Vordac--was walking in the great avenue of the Tuileries.
This Adonis, by name Henri de Marsay, was born in France, when Lord
Dudley had just married the young lady, already Henri's mother, to an
old gentleman called M. de Marsay. This faded and almost extinguished
butterfly recognized the child as his own in consideration of the life
interest in a fund of a hundred thousand francs definitively assigned
to his putative son; a generosity which did not cost Lord Dudley too
dear. French funds were worth at that time seventeen francs, fifty
centimes. The old gentleman died without having ever known his wife.
Madame de Marsay subsequently married the Marquis de Vordac, but
before becoming a marquise she showed very little anxiety as to her
son and Lord Dudley. To begin with, the declaration of war between
France and England had separated the two lovers, and fidelity at all
costs was not, and never will be, the fashion of Paris. Then the
successes of the woman, elegant, pretty, universally adored, crushed
in the Parisienne the maternal sentiment. Lord Dudley was no more
troubled about his offspring than was the mother,--the speedy
infidelity of a young girl he had ardently loved gave him, perhaps, a
sort of aversion for all that issued from her. Moreover, fathers can,
perhaps, only love the children with whom they are fully acquainted, a
social belief of the utmost importance for the peace of families,
which should be held by all the celibate, proving as it does that
paternity is a sentiment nourished artificially by woman, custom, and
Poor Henri de Marsay knew no other father than that one of the two who
was not compelled to be one. The paternity of M. de Marsay was
naturally most incomplete. In the natural order, it is but for a few
fleeting instants that children have a father, and M. de Marsay
imitated nature. The worthy man would not have sold his name had he
been free from vices. Thus he squandered without remorse in gambling
hells, and drank elsewhere, the few dividends which the National
Treasury paid to its bondholders. Then he handed over the child to an
aged sister, a Demoiselle de Marsay, who took much care of him, and
provided him, out of the meagre sum allowed by her brother, with a
tutor, an abbe without a farthing, who took the measure of the youth's
future, and determined to pay himself out of the hundred thousand
livres for the care given to his pupil, for whom he conceived an
affection. As chance had it, this tutor was a true priest, one of
those ecclesiastics cut out to become cardinals in France, or Borgias
beneath the tiara. He taught the child in three years what he might
have learned at college in ten. Then the great man, by name the Abbe
de Maronis, completed the education of his pupil by making him study
civilization under all its aspects: he nourished him on his
experience, led him little into churches, which at that time were
closed; introduced him sometimes behind the scenes of theatres, more
often into the houses of courtesans; he exhibited human emotions to
him one by one; taught him politics in the drawing-rooms, where they
simmered at the time, explained to him the machinery of government,
and endeavored out of attraction towards a fine nature, deserted, yet
rich in promise, virilely to replace a mother: is not the Church the
mother of orphans? The pupil was responsive to so much care. The
worthy priest died in 1812, a bishop, with the satisfaction of having
left in this world a child whose heart and mind were so well moulded
that he could outwit a man of forty. Who would have expected to have
found a heart of bronze, a brain of steel, beneath external traits as
seductive as ever the old painters, those naive artists, had given to
the serpent in the terrestrial paradise? Nor was that all. In
addition, the good-natured prelate had procured for the child of his
choice certain acquaintances in the best Parisian society, which might
equal in value, in the young man's hand, another hundred thousand
invested livres. In fine, this priest, vicious but politic, sceptical
yet learned, treacherous yet amiable, weak in appearance yet as
vigorous physically as intellectually, was so genuinely useful to his
pupil, so complacent to his vices, so fine a calculator of all kinds
of strength, so profound when it was needful to make some human
reckoning, so youthful at table, at Frascati, at--I know not where,
that the grateful Henri de Marsay was hardly moved at aught in 1814,
except when he looked at the portrait of his beloved bishop, the only
personal possession which the prelate had been able to bequeath him
(admirable type of the men whose genius will preserve the Catholic,
Apostolic, and Roman Church, compromised for the moment by the
feebleness of its recruits and the decrepit age of its pontiffs; but
if the church likes!).
The continental war prevented young De Marsay from knowing his real
father. It is doubtful whether he was aware of his name. A deserted
child, he was equally ignorant of Madame de Marsay. Naturally, he had
little regret for his putative father. As for Mademoiselle de Marsay,
his only mother, he built for her a handsome little monument in Pere
Lachaise when she died. Monseigneur de Maronis had guaranteed to this
old lady one of the best places in the skies, so that when he saw her
die happy, Henri gave her some egotistical tears; he began to weep on
his own account. Observing this grief, the abbe dried his pupil's
tears, bidding him observe that the good woman took her snuff most
offensively, and was becoming so ugly and deaf and tedious that he
ought to return thanks for her death. The bishop had emancipated his
pupil in 1811. Then, when the mother of M. de Marsay remarried, the
priest chose, in a family council, one of those honest dullards,
picked out by him through the windows of his confessional, and charged
him with the administration of the fortune, the revenues of which he
was willing to apply to the needs of the community, but of which he
wished to preserve the capital.
Towards the end of 1814, then, Henri de Marsay had no sentiment of
obligation in the world, and was as free as an unmated bird. Although
he had lived twenty-two years he appeared to be barely seventeen. As a
rule the most fastidious of his rivals considered him to be the
prettiest youth in Paris. From his father, Lord Dudley, he had derived
a pair of the most amorously deceiving blue eyes; from his mother the
bushiest of black hair, from both pure blood, the skin of a young
girl, a gentle and modest expression, a refined and aristocratic
figure, and beautiful hands. For a woman, to see him was to lose her
head for him; do you understand? to conceive one of those desires
which eat the heart, which are forgotten because of the impossibility
of satisfying them, because women in Paris are commonly without
tenacity. Few of them say to themselves, after the fashion of men, the
"Je Maintiendrai," of the House of Orange.
Underneath this fresh young life, and in spite of the limpid springs
in his eyes, Henri had a lion's courage, a monkey's agility. He could
cut a ball in half at ten paces on the blade of a knife; he rode his
horse in a way that made you realize the fable of the Centaur; drove a
four-in-hand with grace; was as light as a cherub and quiet as a lamb,
but knew how to beat a townsman at the terrible game of savate or
cudgels; moreover, he played the piano in a fashion which would have
enabled him to become an artist should he fall on calamity, and owned
a voice which would have been worth to Barbaja fifty thousand francs a
season. Alas, that all these fine qualities, these pretty faults, were
tarnished by one abominable vice: he believed neither in man nor
woman, God nor Devil. Capricious nature had commenced by endowing him,
a priest had completed the work.
To render this adventure comprehensible, it is necessary to add here
that Lord Dudley naturally found many women disposed to reproduce
samples of such a delicious pattern. His second masterpiece of this
kind was a young girl named Euphemie, born of a Spanish lady, reared
in Havana, and brought to Madrid with a young Creole woman of the
Antilles, and with all the ruinous tastes of the Colonies, but
fortunately married to an old and extremely rich Spanish noble, Don
Hijos, Marquis de San-Real, who, since the occupation of Spain by
French troops, had taken up his abode in Paris, and lived in the Rue
St. Lazare. As much from indifference as from any respect for the
innocence of youth, Lord Dudley was not in the habit of keeping his
children informed of the relations he created for them in all parts.
That is a slightly inconvenient form of civilization; it has so many
advantages that we must overlook its drawbacks in consideration of its
benefits. Lord Dudley, to make no more words of it, came to Paris in
1816 to take refuge from the pursuit of English justice, which
protects nothing Oriental except commerce. The exiled lord, when he
saw Henri, asked who that handsome young man might be. Then, upon
hearing the name, "Ah, it is my son. . . . What a pity!" he said.
Such was the story of the young man who, about the middle of the month
of April, 1815, was walking indolently up the broad avenue of the
Tuileries, after the fashion of all those animals who, knowing their
strength, pass along in majesty and peace. Middle-class matrons turned
back naively to look at him again; other women, without turning round,
waited for him to pass again, and engraved him in their minds that
they might remember in due season that fragrant face, which would not
have disadorned the body of the fairest among themselves.
"What are you doing here on Sunday?" said the Marquis de Ronquerolles
to Henri, as he passed.
"There's a fish in the net," answered the young man.
This exchange of thoughts was accomplished by means of two significant
glances, without it appearing that either De Ronquerolles or De Marsay
had any knowledge of the other. The young man was taking note of the
passers-by with that promptitude of eye and ear which is peculiar to
the Parisian who seems, at first, to see and hear nothing, but who
sees and hears all.
At that moment a young man came up to him and took him familiarly by
the arm, saying to him: "How are you, my dear De Marsay?"
"Extremely well," De Marsay answered, with that air of apparent
affection which amongst the young men of Paris proves nothing, either
for the present or the future.
In effect, the youth of Paris resemble the youth of no other town.
They may be divided into two classes: the young man who has something,
and the young man who has nothing; or the young man who thinks and he
who spends. But, be it well understood this applies only to those
natives of the soil who maintain in Paris the delicious course of the
elegant life. There exist, as well, plenty of other young men, but
they are children who are late in conceiving Parisian life, and who
remain its dupes. They do not speculate, they study; they fag, as
the others say. Finally there are to be found, besides, certain young
people, rich or poor, who embrace careers and follow them with a
single heart; they are somewhat like the Emile of Rousseau, of the
flesh of citizens, and they never appear in society. The diplomatic
impolitely dub them fools. Be they that or no, they augment the number
of those mediocrities beneath the yoke of which France is bowed down.
They are always there, always ready to bungle public or private
concerns with the dull trowel of their mediocrity, bragging of their
impotence, which they count for conduct and integrity. This sort of
social prizemen infests the administration, the army, the
magistracy, the chambers, the courts. They diminish and level down the
country and constitute, in some manner, in the body politic, a lymph
which infects it and renders it flabby. These honest folk call men of
talent immoral or rogues. If such rogues require to be paid for their
services, at least their services are there; whereas the other sort do
harm and are respected by the mob; but, happily for France, elegant
youth stigmatizes them ceaselessly under the name of louts.
At the first glance, then, it is natural to consider as very distinct
the two sorts of young men who lead the life of elegance, the amiable
corporation to which Henri de Marsay belonged. But the observer, who
goes beyond the superficial aspect of things, is soon convinced that
the difference is purely moral, and that nothing is so deceptive as
this pretty outside. Nevertheless, all alike take precedence over
everybody else; speak rightly or wrongly of things, of men,
literature, and the fine arts; have ever in their mouth the Pitt and
Coburg of each year; interrupt a conversation with a pun, turn into
ridicule science and the savant; despise all things which they do
not know or which they fear; set themselves above all by constituting
themselves the supreme judges of all. They would all hoax their
fathers, and be ready to shed crocodile tears upon their mothers'
breasts; but generally they believe in nothing, blaspheme women, or
play at modesty, and in reality are led by some old woman or an evil
courtesan. They are all equally eaten to the bone with calculation,
with depravity, with a brutal lust to succeed, and if you plumbed for
their hearts you would find in all a stone. In their normal state they
have the prettiest exterior, stake their friendship at every turn, are
captivating alike. The same badinage dominates their ever-changing
jargon; they seek for oddity in their toilette, glory in repeating the
stupidities of such and such actor who is in fashion, and commence
operations, it matters not with whom, with contempt and impertinence,
in order to have, as it were, the first move in the game; but, woe
betide him who does not know how to take a blow on one cheek for the
sake of rendering two. They resemble, in fine, that pretty white spray
which crests the stormy waves. They dress and dance, dine and take
their pleasure, on the day of Waterloo, in the time of cholera or
revolution. Finally, their expenses are all the same, but here the
contrast comes in. Of this fluctuating fortune, so agreeably flung
away, some possess the capital for which the others wait; they have
the same tailors, but the bills of the latter are still to pay. Next,
if the first, like sieves, take in ideas of all kinds without
retaining any, the latter compare them and assimilate all the good. If
the first believe they know something, know nothing and understand
everything, lend all to those who need nothing and offer nothing to
those who are in need; the latter study secretly others' thoughts and
place out their money, like their follies, at big interest. The one
class have no more faithful impressions, because their soul, like a
mirror, worn from use, no longer reflects any image; the others
economize their senses and life, even while they seem, like the first,
to be flinging them away broadcast. The first, on the faith of a hope,
devote themselves without conviction to a system which has wind and
tide against it, but they leap upon another political craft when the
first goes adrift; the second take the measure of the future, sound
it, and see in political fidelity what the English see in commercial
integrity, an element of success. Where the young man of possessions
makes a pun or an epigram upon the restoration of the throne, he who
has nothing makes a public calculation or a secret reservation, and
obtains everything by giving a handshake to his friends. The one deny
every faculty to others, look upon all their ideas as new, as though
the world had been made yesterday, they have unlimited confidence in
themselves, and no crueler enemy than those same selves. But the
others are armed with an incessant distrust of men, whom they estimate
at their value, and are sufficiently profound to have one thought
beyond their friends, whom they exploit; then of evenings, when they
lay their heads on their pillows, they weigh men as a miser weighs his
gold pieces. The one are vexed at an aimless impertinence, and allow
themselves to be ridiculed by the diplomatic, who make them dance for
them by pulling what is the main string of these puppets--their
vanity. Thus, a day comes when those who had nothing have something,
and those who had something have nothing. The latter look at their
comrades who have achieved positions as cunning fellows; their hearts
may be bad, but their heads are strong. "He is very strong!" is the
supreme praise accorded to those who have attained quibuscumque
viis, political rank, a woman, or a fortune. Amongst them are to be
found certain young men who play this role by commencing with having
debts. Naturally, these are more dangerous than those who play it
without a farthing.
The young man who called himself a friend of Henri de Marsay was a
rattle-head who had come from the provinces, and whom the young men
then in fashion were teaching the art of running through an
inheritance; but he had one last leg to stand on in his province, in
the shape of a secure establishment. He was simply an heir who had
passed without any transition from his pittance of a hundred francs a
month to the entire paternal fortune, and who, if he had not wit
enough to perceive that he was laughed at, was sufficiently cautious
to stop short at two-thirds of his capital. He had learned at Paris,
for a consideration of some thousands of francs, the exact value of
harness, the art of not being too respectful to his gloves, learned to
make skilful meditations upon the right wages to give people, and to
seek out what bargain was the best to close with them. He set store on
his capacity to speak in good terms of his horses, of his Pyrenean
hound; to tell by her dress, her walk, her shoes, to what class a
woman belonged; to study ecarte, remember a few fashionable
catchwords, and win by his sojourn in Parisian society the necessary
authority to import later into his province a taste for tea and silver
of an English fashion, and to obtain the right of despising everything
around him for the rest of his days.
De Marsay had admitted him to his society in order to make use of him
in the world, just as a bold speculator employs a confidential clerk.
The friendship, real or feigned, of De Marsay was a social position
for Paul de Manerville, who, on his side, thought himself astute in
exploiting, after his fashion, his intimate friend. He lived in the
reflecting lustre of his friend, walked constantly under his umbrella,
wore his boots, gilded himself with his rays. When he posed in Henri's
company or walked at his side, he had the air of saying: "Don't insult
us, we are real dogs." He often permitted himself to remark fatuously:
"If I were to ask Henri for such and such a thing, he is a good enough
friend of mine to do it." But he was careful never to ask anything of
him. He feared him, and his fear, although imperceptible, reacted upon
the others, and was of use to De Marsay.
"De Marsay is a man of a thousand," said Paul. "Ah, you will see, he
will be what he likes. I should not be surprised to find him one of
these days Minister of Foreign Affairs. Nothing can withstand him."
He made of De Marsay what Corporal Trim made of his cap, a perpetual
"Ask De Marsay and you will see!"
"The other day we were hunting, De Marsay and I, He would not believe
me, but I jumped a hedge without moving on my horse!"
"We were with some women, De Marsay and I, and upon my word of honor,
I was----" etc.
Thus Paul de Manerville could not be classed amongst the great,
illustrious, and powerful family of fools who succeed. He would one
day be a deputy. For the time he was not even a young man. His friend,
De Marsay, defined him thus: "You ask me what is Paul? Paul? Why, Paul
"I am surprised, my dear fellow," he said to De Marsay, "to see you
here on a Sunday."
"I was going to ask you the same question."
"Is it an intrigue?"
"I can mention it to you without compromising my passion. Besides, a
woman who comes to the Tuileries on Sundays is of no account,
"Hold your tongue then, or I shall tell you nothing. Your laugh is too
loud, you will make people think that we have lunched too well. Last
Thursday, here on the Terrasse des Feuillants, I was walking along,
thinking of nothing at all, but when I got to the gate of the Rue de
Castiglione, by which I intended to leave, I came face to face with a
woman, or rather a young girl; who, if she did not throw herself at my
head, stopped short, less I think, from human respect, than from one
of those movements of profound surprise which affect the limbs, creep
down the length of the spine, and cease only in the sole of the feet,
to nail you to the ground. I have often produced effects of this
nature, a sort of animal magnetism which becomes enormously powerful
when the relations are reciprocally precise. But, my dear fellow, this
was not stupefaction, nor was she a common girl. Morally speaking, her
face seemed to say: 'What, is it you, my ideal! The creation of my
thoughts, of my morning and evening dreams! What, are you there? Why
this morning? Why not yesterday? Take me, I am thine, et cetera!'
Good, I said to myself, another one! Then I scrutinize her. Ah, my
dear fellow, speaking physically, my incognita is the most adorable
feminine person whom I ever met. She belongs to that feminine variety
which the Romans call fulva, flava--the woman of fire. And in chief,
what struck me the most, what I am still taken with, are her two
yellow eyes, like a tiger's, a golden yellow that gleams, living gold,
gold which thinks, gold which loves, and is determined to take refuge
in your pocket."
"My dear fellow, we are full of her!" cried Paul. "She comes here
sometimes--the girl with the golden eyes! That is the name we have
given her. She is a young creature--not more than twenty-two, and I
have seen her here in the time of the Bourbons, but with a woman who
was worth a hundred thousand of her."
"Silence, Paul! It is impossible for any woman to surpass this girl;
she is like the cat who rubs herself against your legs; a white girl
with ash-colored hair, delicate in appearance, but who must have downy
threads on the third phalanx of her fingers, and all along her cheeks
a white down whose line, luminous on fine days, begins at her ears and
loses itself on her neck."
"Ah, the other, my dear De Marsay! She has black eyes which have never
wept, but which burn; black eyebrows which meet and give her an air of
hardness contradicted by the compact curve of her lips, on which the
kisses do not stay, lips burning and fresh; a Moorish color that warms
a man like the sun. But--upon my word of honor, she is like you!"
"You flatter her!"
"A firm figure, the tapering figure of a corvette built for speed,
which rushes down upon the merchant vessel with French impetuosity,
which grapples with her and sinks her at the same time."
"After all, my dear fellow," answered De Marsay, "what has that got to
do with me, since I have never seen her? Ever since I have studied
women, my incognita is the only one whose virginal bosom, whose ardent
and voluptuous forms, have realized for me the only woman of my dreams
--of my dreams! She is the original of that ravishing picture called
La Femme Caressant sa Chimere, the warmest, the most infernal
inspiration of the genius of antiquity; a holy poem prostituted by
those who have copied it for frescoes and mosiacs; for a heap of
bourgeois who see in this gem nothing more than a gew-gaw and hang it
on their watch-chains--whereas, it is the whole woman, an abyss of
pleasure into which one plunges and finds no end; whereas, it is the
ideal woman, to be seen sometimes in reality in Spain or Italy, almost
never in France. Well, I have again seen this girl of the gold eyes,
this woman caressing her chimera. I saw her on Friday. I had a
presentiment that on the following day she would be here at the same
hour; I was not mistaken. I have taken a pleasure in following her
without being observed, in studying her indolent walk, the walk of the
woman without occupation, but in the movements of which one devines
all the pleasure that lies asleep. Well, she turned back again, she
saw me, once more she adored me, once more trembled, shivered. It was
then I noticed the genuine Spanish duenna who looked after her, a
hyena upon whom some jealous man has put a dress, a she-devil well
paid, no doubt, to guard this delicious creature. . . . Ah, then the
duenna made me deeper in love. I grew curious. On Saturday, nobody.
And here I am to-day waiting for this girl whose chimera I am, asking
nothing better than to pose as the monster in the fresco."
"There she is," said Paul. "Every one is turning round to look at
The unknown blushed, her eyes shone; she saw Henri, she shut them and
"You say that she notices you?" cried Paul, facetiously.
The duenna looked fixedly and attentively at the two young men. When
the unknown and Henri passed each other again, the young girl touched
him, and with her hand pressed the hand of the young man. Then she
turned her head and smiled with passion, but the duenna led her away
very quickly to the gate of the Rue de Castiglione.
The two friends followed the young girl, admiring the magnificent
grace of the neck which met her head in a harmony of vigorous lines,
and upon which a few coils of hair were tightly wound. The girl with
the golden eyes had that well-knitted, arched, slender foot which
presents so many attractions to the dainty imagination. Moreover, she
was shod with elegance, and wore a short skirt. During her course she
turned from time to time to look at Henri, and appeared to follow the
old woman regretfully, seeming to be at once her mistress and her
slave; she could break her with blows, but could not dismiss her. All
that was perceptible. The two friends reached the gate. Two men in
livery let down the step of a tasteful coupe emblazoned with
armorial bearings. The girl with the golden eyes was the first to
enter it, took her seat at the side where she could be best seen when
the carriage turned, put her hand on the door, and waved her
handkerchief in the duennna's despite. In contempt of what might be
said by the curious, her handkerchief cried to Henri openly: "Follow
"Have you ever seen a handkerchief better thrown?" said Henri to Paul
Then, observing a fiacre on the point of departure, having just set
down a fare, he made a sign to the driver to wait.
"Follow that carriage, notice the house and the street where it stops
--you shall have ten francs. . . . Paul, adieu."
The cab followed the coupe. The coupe stopped in the Rue Saint
Lazare before one of the finest houses of the neighborhood.
De Marsay was not impulsive. Any other young man would have obeyed his
impulse to obtain at once some information about a girl who realized
so fully the most luminous ideas ever expressed upon women in the
poetry of the East; but, too experienced to compromise his good
fortune, he had told his coachman to continue along the Rue Saint
Lazare and carry him back to his house. The next day, his confidential
valet, Laurent by name, as cunning a fellow as the Frontin of the old
comedy, waited in the vicinity of the house inhabited by the unknown
for the hour at which letters were distributed. In order to be able to
spy at his ease and hang about the house, he had followed the example
of those police officers who seek a good disguise, and bought up cast-
off clothes of an Auvergnat, the appearance of whom he sought to
imitate. When the postman, who went the round of the Rue Saint Lazare
that morning, passed by, Laurent feigned to be a porter unable to
remember the name of a person to whom he had to deliver a parcel, and
consulted the postman. Deceived at first by appearances, this
personage, so picturesque in the midst of Parisian civilization,
informed him that the house in which the girl with the golden eyes
dwelt belonged to Don Hijos, Marquis de San-Real, grandee of Spain.
Naturally, it was not with the Marquis that the Auvergnat was
"My parcel," he said, "is for the marquise."
"She is away," replied the postman. "Her letters are forwarded to
"Then the marquise is not a young girl who . . . ?"
"Ah!" said the postman, interrupting the valet de chambre and
observing him attentively, "you are as much a porter as I'm . . ."
Laurent chinked some pieces of gold before the functionary, who began
"Come, here's the name of your quarry," he said, taking from his
leather wallet a letter bearing a London stamp, upon which the
address, "To Mademoiselle Paquita Valdes, Rue Saint Lazare, Hotel San-
Real, Paris," was written in long, fine characters, which spoke of a
"Could you tap a bottle of Chablis, with a few dozen oysters, and a
filet saute with mushrooms to follow it?" said Laurent, who wished
to win the postman's valuable friendship.
"At half-past nine, when my round is finished---- Where?"
"At the corner of the Rue de la Chaussee-d'Antin and the Rue Neuve-
des-Mathurins, at the Puits sans Vin," said Laurent.
"Hark ye, my friend," said the postman, when he rejoined the valet an
hour after this encounter, "if your master is in love with the girl,
he is in for a famous task. I doubt you'll not succeed in seeing her.
In the ten years that I've been postman in Paris, I have seen plenty
of different kinds of doors! But I can tell you, and no fear of being
called a liar by any of my comrades, there never was a door so
mysterious as M. de San-Real's. No one can get into the house without
the Lord knows what counter-word; and, notice, it has been selected on
purpose between a courtyard and a garden to avoid any communication
with other houses. The porter is an old Spaniard, who never speaks a
word of French, but peers at people as Vidocq might, to see if they
are not thieves. If a lover, a thief, or you--I make no comparisons--
could get the better of this first wicket, well, in the first hall,
which is shut by a glazed door, you would run across a butler
surrounded by lackeys, an old joker more savage and surly even than
the porter. If any one gets past the porter's lodge, my butler comes
out, waits for you at the entrance, and puts you through a cross-
examination like a criminal. That has happened to me, a mere postman.
He took me for an eavesdropper in disguise, he said, laughing at his
nonsense. As for the servants, don't hope to get aught out of them; I
think they are mutes, no one in the neighborhood knows the color of
their speech; I don't know what wages they can pay them to keep them
from talk and drink; the fact is, they are not to be got at, whether
because they are afraid of being shot, or that they have some enormous
sum to lose in the case of an indiscretion. If your master is fond
enough of Mademoiselle Paquita Valdes to surmount all these obstacles,
he certainly won't triumph over Dona Concha Marialva, the duenna who
accompanies her and would put her under her petticoats sooner than
leave her. The two women look as if they were sewn to one another."
"All that you say, worthy postman," went on Laurent, after having
drunk off his wine, "confirms me in what I have learned before. Upon
my word, I thought they were making fun of me! The fruiterer opposite
told me that of nights they let loose dogs whose food is hung up on
stakes just out of their reach. These cursed animals think, therefore,
that any one likely to come in has designs on their victuals, and
would tear one to pieces. You will tell me one might throw them down
pieces, but it seems they have been trained to touch nothing except
from the hand of the porter."
"The porter of the Baron de Nucingen, whose garden joins at the top
that of the Hotel San-Real, told me the same thing," replied the
"Good! my master knows him," said Laurent, to himself. "Do you know,"
he went on, leering at the postman, "I serve a master who is a rare
man, and if he took it into his head to kiss the sole of the foot of
an empress, she would have to give in to him. If he had need of you,
which is what I wish for you, for he is generous, could one count on
"Lord, Monsieur Laurent, my name is Moinot. My name is written exactly
like Moineau, magpie: M-o-i-n-o-t, Moinot."
"Exactly," said Laurent.
"I live at No. 11, Rue des Trois Freres, on the fifth floor," went on
Moinot; "I have a wife and four children. If what you want of me
doesn't transgress the limits of my conscience and my official duties,
you understand! I am your man."
"You are an honest fellow," said Laurent, shaking his hand. . . .
"Paquita Valdes is, no doubt, the mistress of the Marquis de San-Real,
the friend of King Ferdinand. Only an old Spanish mummy of eighty
years is capable of taking such precautions," said Henri, when his
valet de chambre had related the result of his researches.
"Monsieur," said Laurent, "unless he takes a balloon no one can get
into that hotel."
"You are a fool! Is it necessary to get into the hotel to have
Paquita, when Paquita can get out of it?"
"But, sir, the duenna?"
"We will shut her up for a day or two, your duenna."
"So, we shall have Paquita!" said Laurent, rubbing his hands.
"Rascal!" answered Henri, "I shall condemn you to the Concha, if you
carry your impudence so far as to speak so of a woman before she has
become mine. . . . Turn your thoughts to dressing me, I am going out."
Henri remained for a moment plunged in joyous reflections. Let us say
it to the praise of women, he obtained all those whom he deigned to
desire. And what could one think of a woman, having no lover, who
should have known how to resist a young man armed with beauty which is
the intelligence of the body, with intelligence which is a grace of
the soul, armed with moral force and fortune, which are the only two
real powers? Yet, in triumphing with such ease, De Marsay was bound to
grow weary of his triumphs; thus, for about two years he had grown
very weary indeed. And diving deep into the sea of pleasures he
brought back more grit than pearls. Thus had he come, like potentates,
to implore of Chance some obstacle to surmount, some enterprise which
should ask the employment of his dormant moral and physical strength.
Although Paquita Valdes presented him with a marvelous concentration
of perfections which he had only yet enjoyed in detail, the attraction
of passion was almost nil with him. Constant satiety had weakened in
his heart the sentiment of love. Like old men and people
disillusioned, he had no longer anything but extravagant caprices,
ruinous tastes, fantasies, which, once satisfied, left no pleasant
memory in his heart. Amongst young people love is the finest of the
emotions, it makes the life of the soul blossom, it nourishes by its
solar power the finest inspirations and their great thoughts; the
first fruits in all things have a delicious savor. Amongst men love
becomes a passion; strength leads to abuse. Amongst old men it turns
to vice; impotence tends to extremes. Henri was at once an old man, a
man, and a youth. To afford him the feelings of a real love, he needed
like Lovelace, a Clarissa Harlowe. Without the magic lustre of that
unattainable pearl he could only have either passions rendered acute
by some Parisian vanity, or set determinations with himself to bring
such and such a woman to such and such a point of corruption, or else
adventures which stimulated his curiosity.
The report of Laurent, his valet de chambre had just given an
enormous value to the girl with the golden eyes. It was a question of
doing battle with some secret enemy who seemed as dangerous as he was
cunning; and to carry off the victory, all the forces which Henri
could dispose of would be useful. He was about to play in that eternal
old comedy which will be always fresh, and the characters in which are
an old man, a young girl, and a lover: Don Hijos, Paquita, De Marsay.
If Laurent was the equal of Figaro, the duenna seemed incorruptible.
Thus, the living play was supplied by Chance with a stronger plot than
it had ever been by dramatic author! But then is not Chance too, a man
"It must be a cautious game," said Henri, to himself.
"Well," said Paul de Manerville, as he entered the room. "How are we
getting on? I have come to breakfast with you."
"So be it," said Henri. "You won't be shocked if I make my toilette
"We take so many things from the English just now that we might well
become as great prudes and hypocrites as themselves," said Henri.
Laurent had set before his master such a quantity of utensils, so many
different articles of such elegance, that Paul could not refrain from
"But you will take a couple of hours over that?"
"No!" said Henri, "two hours and a half."
"Well, then, since we are by ourselves, and can say what we like,
explain to me why a man as superior as yourself--for you are superior
--should affect to exaggerate a foppery which cannot be natural. Why
spend two hours and a half in adorning yourself, when it is sufficient
to spend a quarter of an hour in your bath, to do your hair in two
minutes, and to dress! There, tell me your system."
"I must be very fond of you, my good dunce, to confide such high
thoughts to you," said the young man, who was at that moment having
his feet rubbed with a soft brush lathered with English soap.
"Have I not the most devoted attachment to you," replied Paul de
Manerville, "and do I not like you because I know your
superiority? . . ."
"You must have noticed, if you are in the least capable of observing
any moral fact, that women love fops," went on De Marsay, without
replying in any way to Paul's declaration except by a look. "Do you
know why women love fops? My friend, fops are the only men who take
care of themselves. Now, to take excessive care of oneself, does it
not imply that one takes care in oneself of what belongs to another?
The man who does not belong to himself is precisely the man on whom
women are keen. Love is essentially a thief. I say nothing about that
excess of niceness to which they are so devoted. Do you know of any
woman who has had a passion for a sloven, even if he were a remarkable
man? If such a fact has occurred, we must put it to the account of
those morbid affections of the breeding woman, mad fancies which float
through the minds of everybody. On the other hand, I have seen most
remarkable people left in the lurch because of their carelessness. A
fop, who is concerned about his person, is concerned with folly, with
petty things. And what is a woman? A petty thing, a bundle of follies.
With two words said to the winds, can you not make her busy for four
hours? She is sure that the fop will be occupied with her, seeing that
he has no mind for great things. She will never be neglected for
glory, ambition, politics, art--those prostitutes who for her are
rivals. Then fops have the courage to cover themselves with ridicule
in order to please a woman, and her heart is full of gratitude towards
the man who is ridiculous for love. In fine, a fop can be no fop
unless he is right in being one. It is women who bestow that rank. The
fop is love's colonel; he has his victories, his regiment of women at
his command. My dear fellow, in Paris everything is known, and a man
cannot be a fop there gratis. You, who have only one woman, and who,
perhaps, are right to have but one, try to act the fop! . . . You will
not even become ridiculous, you will be dead. You will become a
foregone conclusion, one of those men condemned inevitably to do one
and the same thing. You will come to signify folly as inseparably as
M. de La Fayette signifies America; M. de Talleyrand, diplomacy;
Desaugiers, song; M. de Segur, romance. If they once forsake their
own line people no longer attach any value to what they do. So,
foppery, my friend Paul, is the sign of an incontestable power over
the female folk. A man who is loved by many women passes for having
superior qualities, and then, poor fellow, it is a question who shall
have him! But do you think it is nothing to have the right of going
into a drawing-room, of looking down at people from over your cravat,
or through your eye-glass, and of despising the most superior of men
should he wear an old-fashioned waistcoat? . . . Laurent, you are
hurting me! After breakfast, Paul, we will go to the Tuileries and see
the adorable girl with the golden eyes."
When, after making an excellent meal, the two young men had traversed
the Terrasse de Feuillants and the broad walk of the Tuileries, they
nowhere discovered the sublime Paquita Valdes, on whose account some
fifty of the most elegant young men in Paris where to be seen, all
scented, with their high scarfs, spurred and booted, riding, walking,
talking, laughing, and damning themselves mightily.
"It's a white Mass," said Henri; "but I have the most excellent idea
in the world. This girl receives letters from London. The postman must
be bought or made drunk, a letter opened, read of course, and a love-
letter slipped in before it is sealed up again. The old tyrant,
crudel tirano, is certain to know the person who writes the letters
from London, and has ceased to be suspicious of them."
The day after, De Marsay came again to walk on the Terrasse des
Feuillants, and saw Paquita Valdes; already passion had embellished
her for him. Seriously, he was wild for those eyes, whose rays seemed
akin to those which the sun emits, and whose ardor set the seal upon
that of her perfect body, in which all was delight. De Marsay was on
fire to brush the dress of this enchanting girl as they passed one
another in their walk; but his attempts were always vain. But at one
moment, when he had repassed Paquita and the duenna, in order to find
himself on the same side as the girl of the golden eyes, when he
returned, Paquita, no less impatient, came forward hurriedly, and De
Marsay felt his hand pressed by her in a fashion at once so swift and
so passionately significant that it was as though he had received the
emotions surged up in his heart. When the two lovers glanced at one
another, Paquita seemed ashamed, she dropped her eyes lest she should
meet the eyes of Henri, but her gaze sank lower to fasten on the feet
and form of him whom women, before the Revolution, called their
"I am determined to make this girl my mistress," said Henri to
As he followed her along the terrace, in the direction of the Place
Louis XV., he caught sight of the aged Marquis de San-Real, who was
walking on the arm of his valet, stepping with all the precautions due
to gout and decrepitude. Dona Concha, who distrusted Henri, made
Paquita pass between herself and the old man.
"Oh, for you," said De Marsay to himself, casting a glance of disdain
upon the duenna, "if one cannot make you capitulate, with a little
opium one can make you sleep. We know mythology and the fable of
Before entering the carriage, the golden-eyed girl exchanged certain
glances with her lover, of which the meaning was unmistakable and
which enchanted Henri, but one of them was surprised by the duenna;
she said a few rapid words to Paquita, who threw herself into the
coupe with an air of desperation. For some days Paquita did not
appear in the Tuileries. Laurent, who by his master's orders was on
watch by the hotel, learned from the neighbors that neither the two
women nor the aged marquis had been abroad since the day upon which
the duenna had surprised a glance between the young girl in her charge
and Henri. The bond, so flimsy withal, which united the two lovers was
Some days later, none knew by what means, De Marsay had attained his
end; he had a seal and wax, exactly resembling the seal and wax
affixed to the letters sent to Mademoiselle Valdes from London; paper
similar to that which her correspondent used; moreover, all the
implements and stamps necessary to affix the French and English
He wrote the following letter, to which he gave all the appearances of
a letter sent from London:--
"MY DEAR PAQUITA,--I shall not try to paint to you in words the
passion with which you have inspired me. If, to my happiness, you
reciprocate it, understand that I have found a means of
corresponding with you. My name is Adolphe de Gouges, and I live
at No. 54 Rue de l'Universite. If you are too closely watched to
be able to write to me, if you have neither pen nor paper, I shall
understand it by your silence. If then, to-morrow, you have not,
between eight o'clock in the morning and ten o'clock in the
evening, thrown a letter over the wall of your garden into that of
the Baron de Nucingen, where it will be waited for during the
whole of the day, a man, who is entirely devoted to me, will let
down two flasks by a string over your wall at ten o'clock the next
morning. Be walking there at that hour. One of the two flasks will
contain opium to send your Argus to sleep; it will be sufficient
to employ six drops; the other will contain ink. The flask of ink
is of cut glass; the other is plain. Both are of such a size as
can easily be concealed within your bosom. All that I have already
done, in order to be able to correspond with you, should tell you
how greatly I love you. Should you have any doubt of it, I will
confess to you, that to obtain an interview of one hour with you I
would give my life."
"At least they believe that, poor creatures!" said De Marsay; "but
they are right. What should we think of a woman who refused to be
beguiled by a love-letter accompanied by such convincing accessories?"
This letter was delivered by Master Moinot, postman, on the following
day, about eight o'clock in the morning, to the porter of the Hotel
In order to be nearer to the field of action, De Marsay went and
breakfasted with Paul, who lived in the Rue de la Pepiniere. At two
o'clock, just as the two friends were laughingly discussing the
discomfiture of a young man who had attempted to lead the life of
fashion without a settled income, and were devising an end for him,
Henri's coachman came to seek his master at Paul's house, and
presented to him a mysterious personage who insisted on speaking
himself with his master.
This individual was a mulatto, who would assuredly have given Talma a
model for the part of Othello, if he had come across him. Never did
any African face better express the grand vengefulness, the ready
suspicion, the promptitude in the execution of a thought, the strength
of the Moor, and his childish lack of reflection. His black eyes had
the fixity of the eyes of a bird of prey, and they were framed, like a
vulture's, by a bluish membrane devoid of lashes. His forehead, low
and narrow, had something menacing. Evidently, this man was under the
yoke of some single and unique thought. His sinewy arm did not belong
He was followed by a man whom the imaginations of all folk, from those
who shiver in Greenland to those who sweat in the tropics, would paint
in the single phrase: He was an unfortunate man. From this phrase,
everybody will conceive him according to the special ideas of each
country. But who can best imagine his face--white and wrinkled, red at
the extremities, and his long beard. Who will see his lean and yellow
scarf, his greasy shirt-collar, his battered hat, his green frock
coat, his deplorable trousers, his dilapidated waistcoat, his
imitation gold pin, and battered shoes, the strings of which were
plastered in mud? Who will see all that but the Parisian? The
unfortunate man of Paris is the unfortunate man in toto, for he has
still enough mirth to know the extent of his misfortune. The mulatto
was like an executioner of Louis XI. leading a man to the gallows.
"Who has hunted us out these two extraordinary creatures?" said Henri.
"Faith! there is one of them who makes me shudder," replied Paul.
"Who are you--you fellow who look the most like a Christian of the
two?" said Henri, looking at the unfortunate man.
The mulatto stood with his eyes fixed upon the two young men, like a
man who understood nothing, and who sought no less to divine something
from the gestures and movements of the lips.
"I am a public scribe and interpreter; I live at the Palais de
Justice, and am named Poincet."
"Good! . . . and this one?" said Henri to Poincet, looking towards the
"I do not know; he only speaks a sort of Spanish patois, and he has
brought me here to make himself understood by you."
The mulatto drew from his pocket the letter which Henri had written to
Paquita and handed it to him. Henri threw it in the fire.
"Ah--so--the game is beginning," said Henri to himself. "Paul, leave
us alone for a moment."
"I translated this letter for him," went on the interpreter, when they
were alone. "When it was translated, he was in some place which I
don't remember. Then he came back to look for me, and promised me two
louis to fetch him here."
"What have you to say to me, nigger?" asked Henri.
"I did not translate nigger," said the interpreter, waiting for the
mulatto's reply. . . .
"He said, sir," went on the interpreter, after having listened to the
unknown, "that you must be at half-past ten to-morrow night on the
boulevard Montmartre, near the cafe. You will see a carriage there, in
which you must take your place, saying to the man, who will wait to
open the door for you, the word cortejo--a Spanish word, which means
lover," added Poincet, casting a glance of congratulation upon
The mulatto was about to bestow the two louis, but De Marsay would
not permit it, and himself rewarded the interpreter. As he was paying
him, the mulatto began to speak.
"What is he saying?"
"He is warning me," replied the unfortunate, "that if I commit a
single indiscretion he will strangle me. He speaks fair and he looks
remarkably as if he were capable of carrying out his threat."
"I am sure of it," answered Henri; "he would keep his word."
"He says, as well," replied the interpreter, "that the person from
whom he is sent implores you, for your sake and for hers, to act with
the greatest prudence, because the daggers which are raised above your
head would strike your heart before any human power could save you
"He said that? So much the better, it will be more amusing. You can
come in now, Paul," he cried to his friend.
The mulatto, who had not ceased to gaze at the lover of Paquita Valdes
with magnetic attention, went away, followed by the interpreter.
"Well, at last I have an adventure which is entirely romantic," said
Henri, when Paul returned. "After having shared in a certain number I
have finished by finding in Paris an intrigue accompanied by serious
accidents, by grave perils. The deuce! what courage danger gives a
woman! To torment a woman, to try and contradict her--doesn't it give
her the right and the courage to scale in one moment obstacles which
it would take her years to surmount of herself? Pretty creature, jump
then! To die? Poor child! Daggers? Oh, imagination of women! They
cannot help trying to find authority for their little jests. Besides,
can one think of it, Paquita? Can one think of it, my child? The devil
take me, now that I know this beautiful girl, this masterpiece of
nature, is mine, the adventure has lost its charm."
For all his light words, the youth in Henri had reappeared. In order
to live until the morrow without too much pain, he had recourse to
exorbitant pleasure; he played, dined, supped with his friends; he
drank like a fish, ate like a German, and won ten or twelve thousand
francs. He left the Rocher de Cancale at two o'clock in the morning,
slept like a child, awoke the next morning fresh and rosy, and dressed
to go to the Tuileries, with the intention of taking a ride, after
having seen Paquita, in order to get himself an appetite and dine the
better, and so kill the time.
At the hour mentioned Henri was on the boulevard, saw the carriage,
and gave the counter-word to a man who looked to him like the mulatto.
Hearing the word, the man opened the door and quickly let down the
step. Henri was so rapidly carried through Paris, and his thoughts
left him so little capacity to pay attention to the streets through
which he passed, that he did not know where the carriage stopped. The
mulatto let him into a house, the staircase of which was quite close
to the entrance. This staircase was dark, as was also the landing upon
which Henri was obliged to wait while the mulatto was opening the door
of a damp apartment, fetid and unlit, the chambers of which, barely
illuminated by the candle which his guide found in the ante-chamber,
seemed to him empty and ill furnished, like those of a house the
inhabitants of which are away. He recognized the sensation which he
had experienced from the perusal of one of those romances of Anne
Radcliffe, in which the hero traverses the cold, sombre, and
uninhabited saloons of some sad and desert spot.
At last the mulatto opened the door of a salon. The condition of the
old furniture and the dilapidated curtains with which the room was
adorned gave it the air of the reception-room of a house of ill fame.
There was the same pretension to elegance, and the same collection of
things in bad taste, of dust and dirt. Upon a sofa covered with red
Utrecht velvet, by the side of a smoking hearth, the fire of which was
buried in ashes, sat an old, poorly dressed woman, her head capped by
one of those turbans which English women of a certain age have
invented and which would have a mighty success in China, where the
artist's ideal is the monstrous.
The room, the old woman, the cold hearth, all would have chilled love
to death had not Paquita been there, upon an ottoman, in a loose
voluptuous wrapper, free to scatter her gaze of gold and flame, free
to show her arched foot, free of her luminous movements. This first
interview was what every rendezvous must be between persons of
passionate disposition, who have stepped over a wide distance quickly,
who desire each other ardently, and who, nevertheless, do not know
each other. It is impossible that at first there should not occur
certain discordant notes in the situation, which is embarrassing until
the moment when two souls find themselves in unison.
If desire gives a man boldness and disposes him to lay restraint
aside, the mistress, under pain of ceasing to be woman, however great
may be her love, is afraid of arriving at the end so promptly, and
face to face with the necessity of giving herself, which to many women
is equivalent to a fall into an abyss, at the bottom of which they
know not what they shall find. The involuntary coldness of the woman
contrasts with her confessed passion, and necessarily reacts upon the
most passionate lover. Thus ideas, which often float around souls like
vapors, determine in them a sort of temporary malady. In the sweet
journey which two beings undertake through the fair domains of love,
this moment is like a waste land to be traversed, a land without a
tree, alternatively damp and warm, full of scorching sand, traversed
by marshes, which leads to smiling groves clad with roses, where Love
and his retinue of pleasures disport themselves on carpets of soft
verdure. Often the witty man finds himself afflicted with a foolish
laugh which is his only answer to everything; his wit is, as it were,
suffocated beneath the icy pressure of his desires. It would not be
impossible for two beings of equal beauty, intelligence, and passion
to utter at first nothing but the most silly commonplaces, until
chance, a word, the tremor of a certain glance, the communication of a
spark, should have brought them to the happy transition which leads to
that flowery way in which one does not walk, but where one sways and
at the same time does not lapse.
Such a state of mind is always in proportion with the violence of the
feeling. Two creatures who love one another weakly feel nothing
similar. The effect of this crisis can even be compared with that
which is produced by the glow of a clear sky. Nature, at the first
view, appears to be covered with a gauze veil, the azure of the
firmament seems black, the intensity of light is like darkness. With
Henri, as with the Spanish girl, there was an equal intensity of
feeling; and that law of statics, in virtue of which two identical
forces cancel each other, might have been true also in the moral
order. And the embarrassment of the moment was singularly increased by
the presence of the old hag. Love takes pleasure or fright at all, all
has meaning for it, everything is an omen of happiness or sorrow for
This decrepit woman was there like a suggestion of catastrophe, and
represented the horrid fish's tail with which the allegorical geniuses
of Greece have terminated their chimeras and sirens, whose figures,
like all passions, are so seductive, so deceptive.
Although Henri was not a free-thinker--the phrase is always a mockery
--but a man of extraordinary power, a man as great as a man can be
without faith, the conjunction struck him. Moreover, the strongest men
are naturally the most impressionable, and consequently the most
superstitious, if, indeed, one may call superstition the prejudice of
the first thoughts, which, without doubt, is the appreciation of the
result in causes hidden to other eyes but perceptible to their own.
The Spanish girl profited by this moment of stupefaction to let
herself fall into the ecstasy of that infinite adoration which seizes
the heart of a woman, when she truly loves and finds herself in the
presence of an idol for whom she has vainly longed. Her eyes were all
joy, all happiness, and sparks flew from them. She was under the
charm, and fearlessly intoxicated herself with a felicity of which she
had dreamed long. She seemed then so marvelously beautiful to Henri,
that all this phantasmagoria of rags and old age, of worn red drapery
and of the green mats in front of the armchairs, the ill-washed red
tiles, all this sick and dilapidated luxury, disappeared.
The room seemed lit up; and it was only through a cloud that one could
see the fearful harpy fixed and dumb on her red sofa, her yellow eyes
betraying the servile sentiments, inspired by misfortune, or caused by
some vice beneath whose servitude one has fallen as beneath a tyrant
who brutalizes one with the flagellations of his despotism. Her eyes
had the cold glitter of a caged tiger, knowing his impotence and being
compelled to swallow his rage of destruction.
"Who is that woman?" said Henri to Paquita.
But Paquita did not answer. She made a sign that she understood no
French, and asked Henri if he spoke English.
De Marsay repeated his question in English.
"She is the only woman in whom I can confide, although she has sold me
already," said Paquita, tranquilly. "My dear Adolphe, she is my
mother, a slave bought in Georgia for her rare beauty, little enough
of which remains to-day. She only speaks her native tongue."
The attitude of this woman and her eagerness to guess from the
gestures of her daughter and Henri what was passing between them, were
suddenly explained to the young man; and this explanation put him at
"Paquita," he said, "are we never to be free then?"
"Never," she said, with an air of sadness. "Even now we have but a few
days before us."
She lowered her eyes, looked at and counted with her right hand on the
fingers of her left, revealing so the most beautiful hands which Henri
had ever seen.
"One, two, three----"
She counted up to twelve.
"Yes," she said, "we have twelve days."
"After," she said, showing the absorption of a weak woman before the
executioner's axe, and slain in advance, as it were, by a fear which
stripped her of that magnificent energy which Nature seemed to have
bestowed upon her only to aggrandize pleasure and convert the most
vulgar delights into endless poems. "After----" she repeated. Her eyes
took a fixed stare; she seemed to contemplate a threatening object far
"I do not know," she said.
"This girl is mad," said Henri to himself, falling into strange
Paquita appeared to him occupied by something which was not himself,
like a woman constrained equally by remorse and passion. Perhaps she
had in her heart another love which she alternately remembered and
forgot. In a moment Henri was assailed by a thousand contradictory
thoughts. This girl became a mystery for him; but as he contemplated
her with the scientific attention of the blase man, famished for new
pleasures, like that Eastern king who asked that a pleasure should be
created for him,--a horrible thirst with which great souls are seized,
--Henri recognized in Paquita the richest organization that Nature had
ever deigned to compose for love. The presumptive play of this
machinery, setting aside the soul, would have frightened any other man
than Henri; but he was fascinated by that rich harvest of promised
pleasures, by that constant variety in happiness, the dream of every
man, and the desire of every loving woman too. He was infuriated by
the infinite rendered palpable, and transported into the most
excessive raptures of which the creature is capable. All that he saw
in this girl more distinctly than he had yet seen it, for she let
herself be viewed complacently, happy to be admired. The admiration of
De Marsay became a secret fury, and he unveiled her completely,
throwing a glance at her which the Spaniard understood as though she
had been used to receive such.
"If you are not to be mine, mine only, I will kill you!" he cried.
Hearing this speech, Paquita covered her face in her hands, and cried
"Holy Virgin! What have I brought upon myself?"
She rose, flung herself down upon the red sofa, and buried her head in
the rags which covered the bosom of her mother, and wept there. The
old woman received her daughter without issuing from her state of
immobility, or displaying any emotion. The mother possessed in the
highest degree that gravity of savage races, the impassiveness of a
statue upon which all remarks are lost. Did she or did she not love
her daughter? Beneath that mask every human emotion might brood--good
and evil; and from this creature all might be expected. Her gaze
passed slowly from her daughter's beautiful hair, which covered her
like a mantle, to the face of Henri, which she considered with an
She seemed to ask by what fatality he was there, from what caprice
Nature had made so seductive a man.
"These women are making sport of me," said Henri to himself.
At that moment Paquita raised her head, cast at him one of those looks
which reach the very soul and consume it. So beautiful seemed she that
he swore he would possess such a treasure of beauty.
"My Paquita! Be mine!"
"Wouldst thou kill me?" she said fearfully, palpitating and anxious,
but drawn towards him by an inexplicable force.
"Kill thee--I!" he said, smiling.
Paquita uttered a cry of alarm, said a word to the old woman, who
authoritatively seized Henri's hand and that of her daughter. She
gazed at them for a long time, and then released them, wagging her
head in a fashion horribly significant.
"Be mine--this evening, this moment; follow me, do not leave me! It
must be, Paquita! Dost thou love me? Come!"
In a moment he had poured out a thousand foolish words to her, with
the rapidity of a torrent coursing between the rocks, and repeating
the same sound in a thousand different forms.
"It is the same voice!" said Paquita, in a melancholy voice, which De
Marsay could not overhear, "and the same ardor," she added. "So be
it--yes," she said, with an abandonment of passion which no words can
describe. "Yes; but not to-night. To-night Adolphe, I gave too little
opium to La Concha. She might wake up, and I should be lost. At this
moment the whole household believes me to be asleep in my room. In two
days be at the same spot, say the same word to the same man. That man
is my foster-father. Cristemio worships me, and would die in torments
for me before they could extract one word against me from him.
Farewell," she said seizing Henri by the waist and twining round him
like a serpent.
She pressed him on every side at once, lifted her head to his, and
offered him her lips, then snatched a kiss which filled them both with
such a dizziness that it seemed to Henri as though the earth opened;
and Paquita cried: "Enough, depart!" in a voice which told how little
she was mistress of herself. But she clung to him still, still crying
"Depart!" and brought him slowly to the staircase. There the mulatto,
whose white eyes lit up at the sight of Paquita, took the torch from
the hands of his idol, and conducted Henri to the street. He left the
light under the arch, opened the door, put Henri into the carriage,
and set him down on the Boulevard des Italiens with marvelous
rapidity. It was as though the horses had hell-fire in their veins.
The scene was like a dream to De Marsay, but one of those dreams
which, even when they fade away, leave a feeling of supernatural
voluptuousness, which a man runs after for the remainder of his life.
A single kiss had been enough. Never had rendezvous been spent in a
manner more decorous or chaste, or, perhaps, more coldly, in a spot of
which the surroundings were more gruesome, in presence of a more
hideous divinity; for the mother had remained in Henri's imagination
like some infernal, cowering thing, cadaverous, monstrous, savagely
ferocious, which the imagination of poets and painters had not yet
conceived. In effect, no rendezvous had ever irritated his senses
more, revealed more audacious pleasures, or better aroused love from
its centre to shed itself round him like an atmosphere. There was
something sombre, mysterious, sweet, tender, constrained, and
expansive, an intermingling of the awful and the celestial, of
paradise and hell, which made De Marsay like a drunken man.
He was no longer himself, and he was, withal, great enough to be able
to resist the intoxication of pleasure.
In order to render his conduct intelligible in the catastrophe of this
story, it is needful to explain how his soul had broadened at an age
when young men generally belittle themselves in their relations with
women, or in too much occupation with them. Its growth was due to a
concurrence of secret circumstances, which invested him with a vast
and unsuspected power.
This young man held in his hand a sceptre more powerful than that of
modern kings, almost all of whom are curbed in their least wishes by
the laws. De Marsay exercised the autocratic power of an Oriental
despot. But this power, so stupidly put into execution in Asia by
brutish men, was increased tenfold by its conjunction with European
intelligence, with French wit--the most subtle, the keenest of all
intellectual instruments. Henri could do what he would in the interest
of his pleasures and vanities. This invisible action upon the social
world had invested him with a real, but secret, majesty, without
emphasis and deriving from himself. He had not the opinion which Louis
XIV. could have of himself, but that which the proudest of the
Caliphs, the Pharoahs, the Xerxes, who held themselves to be of divine
origin, had of themselves when they imitated God, and veiled
themselves from their subjects under the pretext that their looks
dealt forth death. Thus, without any remorse at being at once the
judge and the accuser, De Marsay coldly condemned to death the man or
the woman who had seriously offended him. Although often pronounced
almost lightly, the verdict was irrevocable. An error was a misfortune
similar to that which a thunderbolt causes when it falls upon a
smiling Parisienne in some hackney coach, instead of crushing the old
coachman who is driving her to a rendezvous. Thus the bitter and
profound sarcasm which distinguished the young man's conversation
usually tended to frighten people; no one was anxious to put him out.
Women are prodigiously fond of those persons who call themselves
pashas, and who are, as it were accompanied by lions and executioners,
and who walk in a panoply of terror. The result, in the case of such
men, is a security of action, a certitude of power, a pride of gaze, a
leonine consciousness, which makes women realize the type of strength
of which they all dream. Such was De Marsay.
Happy, for the moment, with his future, he grew young and pliable, and
thought of nothing but love as he went to bed. He dreamed of the girl
with the golden eyes, as the young and passionate can dream. His
dreams were monstrous images, unattainable extravagances--full of
light, revealing invisible worlds, yet in a manner always incomplete,
for an intervening veil changes the conditions of vision.
For the next and succeeding day Henri disappeared and no one knew what
had become of him. His power only belonged to him under certain
conditions, and, happily for him, during those two days he was a
private soldier in the service of the demon to whom he owed his
talismanic existence. But at the appointed time, in the evening, he
was waiting--and he had not long to wait--for the carriage. The
mulatto approached Henri, in order to repeat to him in French a phrase
which he seemed to have learned by heart.
"If you wish to come, she told me, you must consent to have your eyes
And Cristemio produced a white silk handkerchief.
"No!" said Henri, whose omnipotence revolted suddenly.
He tried to leap in. The mulatto made a sign, and the carriage drove
"Yes!" cried De Marsay, furious at the thought of losing a piece of
good fortune which had been promised him.
He saw, moreover, the impossibility of making terms with a slave whose
obedience was as blind as the hangman's. Nor was it this passive
instrument upon whom his anger could fall.
The mulatto whistled, the carriage returned. Henri got in hastily.
Already a few curious onlookers had assembled like sheep on the
boulevard. Henri was strong; he tried to play the mulatto. When the
carriage started at a gallop he seized his hands, in order to master
him, and retain, by subduing his attendant, the possession of his
faculties, so that he might know whither he was going. It was a vain
attempt. The eyes of the mulatto flashed from the darkness. The fellow
uttered a cry which his fury stifled in his throat, released himself,
threw back De Marsay with a hand like iron, and nailed him, so to
speak, to the bottom of the carriage; then with his free hand, he drew
a triangular dagger, and whistled. The coachman heard the whistle and
stopped. Henri was unarmed, he was forced to yield. He moved his head
towards the handkerchief. The gesture of submission calmed Cristemio,
and he bound his eyes with a respect and care which manifested a sort
of veneration for the person of the man whom his idol loved. But,
before taking this course, he had placed his dagger distrustfully in
his side pocket, and buttoned himself up to the chin.
"That nigger would have killed me!" said De Marsay to himself.
Once more the carriage moved on rapidly. There was one resource still
open to a young man who knew Paris as well as Henri. To know whither
he was going, he had but to collect himself and count, by the number
of gutters crossed, the streets leading from the boulevards by which
the carriage passed, so long as it continued straight along. He could
thus discover into which lateral street it would turn, either towards
the Seine or towards the heights of Montmartre, and guess the name or
position of the street in which his guide should bring him to a halt.
But the violent emotion which his struggle had caused him, the rage
into which his compromised dignity had thrown him, the ideas of
vengeance to which he abandoned himself, the suppositions suggested to
him by the circumstantial care which this girl had taken in order to
bring him to her, all hindered him from the attention, which the blind
have, necessary for the concentration of his intelligence and the
perfect lucidity of his recollection. The journey lasted half an hour.
When the carriage stopped, it was no longer on the street. The mulatto
and the coachman took Henri in their arms, lifted him out, and,
putting him into a sort of litter, conveyed him across a garden. He
could smell its flowers and the perfume peculiar to trees and grass.
The silence which reigned there was so profound that he could
distinguish the noise made by the drops of water falling from the
moist leaves. The two men took him to a staircase, set him on his
feet, led him by his hands through several apartments, and left him in
a room whose atmosphere was perfumed, and the thick carpet of which he
could feel beneath his feet.
A woman's hand pushed him on to a divan, and untied the handkerchief
for him. Henri saw Paquita before him, but Paquita in all her womanly
and voluptuous glory. The section of the boudoir in which Henri found
himself described a circular line, softly gracious, which was faced
opposite by the other perfectly square half, in the midst of which a
chimney-piece shone of gold and white marble. He had entered by a door
on one side, hidden by a rich tapestried screen, opposite which was a
window. The semicircular portion was adorned with a real Turkish
divan, that is to say, a mattress thrown on the ground, but a mattress
as broad as a bed, a divan fifty feet in circumference, made of white
cashmere, relieved by bows of black and scarlet silk, arranged in
panels. The top of this huge bed was raised several inches by numerous
cushions, which further enriched it by their tasteful comfort. The
boudoir was lined with some red stuff, over which an Indian muslin was
stretched, fluted after the fashion of Corinthian columns, in plaits
going in and out, and bound at the top and bottom by bands of poppy-
colored stuff, on which were designs in black arabesque.
Below the muslin the poppy turned to rose, that amorous color, which
was matched by window-curtains, which were of Indian muslin lined with
rose-colored taffeta, and set off with a fringe of poppy-color and
black. Six silver-gilt arms, each supporting two candles, were
attached to the tapestry at an equal distance, to illuminate the
divan. The ceiling, from the middle of which a lustre of unpolished
silver hung, was of a brilliant whiteness, and the cornice was gilded.
The carpet was like an Oriental shawl; it had the designs and recalled
the poetry of Persia, where the hands of slaves had worked on it. The
furniture was covered in white cashmere, relieved by black and poppy-
colored ornaments. The clock, the candelabra, all were in white marble
and gold. The only table there had a cloth of cashmere. Elegant
flower-pots held roses of every kind, flowers white or red. In fine,
the least detail seemed to have been the object of loving thought.
Never had richness hidden itself more coquettishly to become elegance,
to express grace, to inspire pleasure. Everything there would have
warmed the coldest of beings. The caresses of the tapestry, of which
the color changed according to the direction of one's gaze, becoming
either all white or all rose, harmonized with the effects of the light
shed upon the diaphanous tissues of the muslin, which produced an
appearance of mistiness. The soul has I know not what attraction
towards white, love delights in red, and the passions are flattered by
gold, which has the power of realizing their caprices. Thus all that
man possesses within him of vague and mysterious, all his inexplicable
affinities, were caressed in their involuntary sympathies. There was
in this perfect harmony a concert of color to which the soul responded
with vague and voluptuous and fluctuating ideas.
It was out of a misty atmosphere, laden with exquisite perfumes, that
Paquita, clad in a white wrapper, her feet bare, orange blossoms in
her black hair, appeared to Henri, knelt before him, adoring him as
the god of this temple, whither he had deigned to come. Although De
Marsay was accustomed to seeing the utmost efforts of Parisian luxury,
he was surprised at the aspect of this shell, like that from which
Venus rose out of the sea. Whether from an effect of contrast between
the darkness from which he issued and the light which bathed his soul,
whether from a comparison which he swiftly made between this scene and
that of their first interview, he experienced one of those delicate
sensations which true poetry gives. Perceiving in the midst of this
retreat, which had been opened to him as by a fairy's magic wand, the
masterpiece of creation, this girl, whose warmly colored tints, whose
soft skin--soft, but slightly gilded by the shadows, by I know not
what vaporous effusion of love--gleamed as though it reflected the
rays of color and light, his anger, his desire for vengeance, his
wounded vanity, all were lost.
Like an eagle darting on his prey, he took her utterly to him, set her
on his knees, and felt with an indescribable intoxication the
voluptuous pressure of this girl, whose richly developed beauties
softly enveloped him.
"Come to me, Paquita!" he said, in a low voice.
"Speak, speak without fear!" she said. "This retreat was built for
love. No sound can escape from it, so greatly was it desired to guard
avariciously the accents and music of the beloved voice. However loud
should be the cries, they would not be heard without these walls. A
person might be murdered, and his moans would be as vain as if he were
in the midst of the great desert."
"Who has understood jealousy and its needs so well?"
"Never question me as to that," she answered, untying with a gesture
of wonderful sweetness the young man's scarf, doubtless in order the
better to behold his neck.
"Yes, there is the neck I love so well!" she said. "Wouldst thou
This interrogation, rendered by the accent almost lascivious, drew De
Marsay from the reverie in which he had been plunged by Paquita's
authoritative refusal to allow him any research as to the unknown
being who hovered like a shadow about them.
"And if I wished to know who reigns here?"
Paquita looked at him trembling.
"It is not I, then?" he said, rising and freeing himself from the
girl, whose head fell backwards. "Where I am, I would be alone."
"Strike, strike! . . ." said the poor slave, a prey to terror.
"For what do you take me, then? . . . Will you answer?"
Paquita got up gently, her eyes full of tears, took a poniard from one
of the two ebony pieces of furniture, and presented it to Henri with a
gesture of submission which would have moved a tiger.
"Give me a feast such as men give when they love," she said, "and
whilst I sleep, slay me, for I know not how to answer thee. Hearken! I
am bound like some poor beast to a stake; I am amazed that I have been
able to throw a bridge over the abyss which divides us. Intoxicate me,
then kill me! Ah, no, no!" she cried, joining her hands, "do not kill
me! I love life! Life is fair to me! If I am a slave, I am a queen
too. I could beguile you with words, tell you that I love you alone,
prove it to you, profit by my momentary empire to say to you: 'Take me
as one tastes the perfume of a flower when one passes it in a king's
garden.' Then, after having used the cunning eloquence of woman and
soared on the wings of pleasure, after having quenched my thirst, I
could have you cast into a pit, where none could find you, which has
been made to gratify vengeance without having to fear that of the law,
a pit full of lime which would kindle and consume you, until no
particle of you were left. You would stay in my heart, mine forever."
Henri looked at the girl without trembling, and this fearless gaze
filled her with joy.
"No, I shall not do it! You have fallen into no trap here, but upon
the heart of a woman who adores you, and it is I who will be cast into
"All this appears to me prodigiously strange," said De Marsay,
considering her. "But you seem to me a good girl, a strange nature;
you are, upon my word of honor, a living riddle, the answer to which
is very difficult to find."
Paquita understood nothing of what the young man said; she looked at
him gently, opening wide eyes which could never be stupid, so much was
pleasure written in them.
"Come, then, my love," she said, returning to her first idea, "wouldst
thou please me?"
"I would do all that thou wouldst, and even that thou wouldst not,"
answered De Marsay, with a laugh. He had recovered his foppish ease,
as he took the resolve to let himself go to the climax of his good
fortune, looking neither before nor after. Perhaps he counted,
moreover, on his power and his capacity of a man used to adventures,
to dominate this girl a few hours later and learn all her secrets.
"Well," said she, "let me arrange you as I would like."
Paquita went joyously and took from one of the two chests a robe of
red velvet, in which she dressed De Marsay, then adorned his head with
a woman's bonnet and wrapped a shawl round him. Abandoning herself to
these follies with a child's innocence, she laughed a convulsive
laugh, and resembled some bird flapping its wings; but he saw nothing
If it be impossible to paint the unheard-of delights which these two
creatures--made by heaven in a joyous moment--found, it is perhaps
necessary to translate metaphysically the extraordinary and almost
fantastic impressions of the young man. That which persons in the
social position of De Marsay, living as he lived, are best able to
recognize is a girl's innocence. But, strange phenomenon! The girl of
the golden eyes might be virgin, but innocent she was certainly not.
The fantastic union of the mysterious and the real, of darkness and
light, horror and beauty, pleasure and danger, paradise and hell,
which had already been met with in this adventure, was resumed in the
capricious and sublime being with which De Marsay dallied. All the
utmost science or the most refined pleasure, all that Henri could know
of that poetry of the senses which is called love, was excelled by the
treasures poured forth by this girl, whose radiant eyes gave the lie
to none of the promises which they made.
She was an Oriental poem, in which shone the sun that Saadi, that
Hafiz, have set in their pulsing strophes. Only, neither the rhythm of
Saadi, nor that of Pindar, could have expressed the ecstasy--full of
confusion and stupefaction--which seized the delicious girl when the
error in which an iron hand had caused her to live was at an end.
"Dead!" she said, "I am dead, Adolphe! Take me away to the world's
end, to an island where no one knows us. Let there be no traces of our
flight! We should be followed to the gates of hell. God! here is the
day! Escape! Shall I ever see you again? Yes, to-morrow I will see
you, if I have to deal death to all my warders to have that joy. Till
She pressed him in her arms with an embrace in which the terror of
death mingled. Then she touched a spring, which must have been in
connection with a bell, and implored De Marsay to permit his eyes to
"And if I would not--and if I wished to stay here?"
"You would be the death of me more speedily," she said, "for now I
know I am certain to die on your account."
Henri submitted. In the man who had just gorged himself with pleasure
there occurs a propensity to forgetfulness, I know not what
ingratitude, a desire for liberty, a whim to go elsewhere, a tinge of
contempt and, perhaps, of disgust for his idol; in fine, indescribable
sentiments which render him ignoble and ashamed. The certainty of this
confused, but real, feeling in souls who are not illuminated by that
celestial light, nor perfumed with that holy essence from which the
performance of sentiment springs, doubtless suggested to Rousseau the
adventures of Lord Edward, which conclude the letters of the Nouvelle
Heloise. If Rousseau is obviously inspired by the work of Richardson,
he departs from it in a thousand details, which leave his achievement
magnificently original; he has recommended it to posterity by great
ideas which it is difficult to liberate by analysis, when, in one's
youth, one reads this work with the object of finding in it the lurid
representation of the most physical of our feelings, whereas serious
and philosophical writers never employ its images except as the
consequence or the corollary of a vast thought; and the adventures of
Lord Edward are one of the most Europeanly delicate ideas of the whole
Henri, therefore, found himself beneath the domination of that
confused sentiment which is unknown to true love. There was needful,
in some sort, the persuasive grip of comparisons, and the irresistible
attraction of memories to lead him back to a woman. True love rules
above all through recollection. A woman who is not engraven upon the
soul by excess of pleasure or by strength of emotion, how can she ever
be loved? In Henri's case, Paquita had established herself by both of
these reasons. But at this moment, seized as he was by the satiety of
his happiness, that delicious melancholy of the body, he could hardly
analyze his heart, even by recalling to his lips the taste of the
liveliest gratifications that he had ever grasped.
He found himself on the Boulevard Montmartre at the break of day,
gazed stupidly at the retreating carriage, produced two cigars from
his pocket, lit one from the lantern of a good woman who sold brandy
and coffee to workmen and street arabs and chestnut venders--to all
the Parisian populace which begins its work before daybreak; then he
went off, smoking his cigar, and putting his hands in his trousers'
pockets with a devil-may-care air which did him small honor.
"What a good thing a cigar is! That's one thing a man will never tire
of," he said to himself.
Of the girl with the golden eyes, over whom at that time all the
elegant youth of Paris was mad, he hardly thought. The idea of death,
expressed in the midst of their pleasure, and the fear of which had
more than once darkened the brow of that beautiful creature, who held
to the houris of Asia by her mother, to Europe by her education, to
the tropics by her birth, seemed to him merely one of those deceptions
by which women seek to make themselves interesting.
"She is from Havana--the most Spanish region to be found in the New
World. So she preferred to feign terror rather than cast in my teeth
indisposition or difficulty, coquetry or duty, like a Parisian woman.
By her golden eyes, how glad I shall be to sleep."
He saw a hackney coach standing at the corner of Frascati's waiting
for some gambler; he awoke the driver, was driven home, went to bed,
and slept the sleep of the dissipated, which for some queer reason--of
which no rhymer has yet taken advantage--is as profound as that of
innocence. Perhaps it is an instance of the proverbial axiom,
About noon De Marsay awoke and stretched himself; he felt the grip of
that sort of voracious hunger which old soldiers can remember having
experienced on the morrow of victory. He was delighted, therefore, to
see Paul de Manerville standing in front of him, for at such a time
nothing is more agreeable than to eat in company.
"Well," his friend remarked, "we all imagined that you had been shut
up for the last ten days with the girl of the golden eyes."
"The girl of the golden eyes! I have forgotten her. Faith! I have
other fish to fry!"
"Ah! you are playing at discretion."
"Why not?" asked De Marsay, with a laugh. "My dear fellow, discretion
is the best form of calculation. Listen--however, no! I will not say a
word. You never teach me anything; I am not disposed to make you a
gratuitous present of the treasures of my policy. Life is a river
which is of use for the promotion of commerce. In the name of all that
is most sacred in life--of cigars! I am no professor of social economy
for the instruction of fools. Let us breakfast! It costs less to give
you a tunny omelette than to lavish the resources of my brain on you."
"Do you bargain with your friends?"
"My dear fellow," said Henri, who rarely denied himself a sarcasm,
"since all the same, you may some day need, like anybody else, to use
discretion, and since I have much love for you--yes, I like you! Upon
my word, if you only wanted a thousand-franc note to keep you from
blowing your brains out, you would find it here, for we haven't yet
done any business of that sort, eh, Paul? If you had to fight
to-morrow, I would measure the ground and load the pistols, so that
you might be killed according to rule. In short, if anybody besides
myself took it into his head to say ill of you in your absence, he
would have to deal with the somewhat nasty gentleman who walks in my
shoes--there's what I call a friendship beyond question. Well, my good
fellow, if you should ever have need of discretion, understand that
there are two sorts of discretion--the active and the negative.
Negative discretion is that of fools who make use of silence,
negation, an air of refusal, the discretion of locked doors--mere
impotence! Active discretion proceeds by affirmation. Suppose at the
club this evening I were to say: 'Upon my word of honor the golden-
eyed was not worth all she cost me!' Everybody would exclaim when I
was gone: 'Did you hear that fop De Marsay, who tried to make us
believe that he has already had the girl of the golden eyes? It's his
way of trying to disembarrass himself of his rivals: he's no
simpleton.' But such a ruse is vulgar and dangerous. However gross a
folly one utters, there are always idiots to be found who will believe
it. The best form of discretion is that of women when they want to
take the change out of their husbands. It consists in compromising a
woman with whom we are not concerned, or whom we do not love, in order
to save the honor of the one whom we love well enough to respect. It
is what is called the woman-screen. . . . Ah! here is Laurent. What
have you got for us?"
"Some Ostend oysters, Monsieur le Comte."
"You will know some day, Paul, how amusing it is to make a fool of the
world by depriving it of the secret of one's affections. I derive an
immense pleasure in escaping from the stupid jurisdiction of the
crowd, which knows neither what it wants, nor what one wants of it,
which takes the means for the end, and by turns curses and adores,
elevates and destroys! What a delight to impose emotions on it and
receive none from it, to tame it, never to obey it. If one may ever be
proud of anything, is it not a self-acquired power, of which one is at
once the cause and effect, the principle and the result? Well, no man
knows what I love, nor what I wish. Perhaps what I have loved, or what
I may have wished will be known, as a drama which is accomplished is
known; but to let my game be seen--weakness, mistake! I know nothing
more despicable than strength outwitted by cunning. Can I initiate
myself with a laugh into the ambassador's part, if indeed diplomacy is
as difficult as life? I doubt it. Have you any ambition? Would you
like to become something?"
"But, Henri, you are laughing at me--as though I were not sufficiently
mediocre to arrive at anything."
"Good Paul! If you go on laughing at yourself, you will soon be able
to laugh at everybody else."
At breakfast, by the time he had started his cigars, De Marsay began
to see the events of the night in a singular light. Like many men of
great intelligence, his perspicuity was not spontaneous, as it did not
at once penetrate to the heart of things. As with all natures endowed
with the faculty of living greatly in the present, of extracting, so
to speak, the essence of it and assimilating it, his second-sight had
need of a sort of slumber before it could identify itself with causes.
Cardinal de Richelieu was so constituted, and it did not debar in him
the gift of foresight necessary to the conception of great designs.
De Marsay's conditions were alike, but at first he only used his
weapons for the benefit of his pleasures, and only became one of the
most profound politicians of his day when he had saturated himself
with those pleasures to which a young man's thoughts--when he has
money and power--are primarily directed. Man hardens himself thus: he
uses woman in order that she may not make use of him.
At this moment, then, De Marsay perceived that he had been fooled by
the girl of the golden eyes, seeing, as he did, in perspective, all
that night of which the delights had been poured upon him by degrees
until they had ended by flooding him in torrents. He could read, at
last, that page in effect so brilliant, divine its hidden meaning. The
purely physical innocence of Paquita, the bewilderment of her joy,
certain words, obscure at first, but now clear, which had escaped her
in the midst of that joy, all proved to him that he had posed for
another person. As no social corruption was unknown to him, as he
professed a complete indifference towards all perversities, and
believed them to be justified on the simple ground that they were
capable of satisfaction, he was not startled at vice, he knew it as
one knows a friend, but he was wounded at having served as sustenance
for it. If his presumption was right, he had been outraged in the most
sensitive part of him. The mere suspicion filled him with fury, he
broke out with the roar of a tiger who has been the sport of a deer,
the cry of a tiger which united a brute's strength with the
intelligence of the demon.
"I say, what is the matter with you?" asked Paul.
"I should be sorry, if you were to be asked whether you had anything
against me and were to reply with a nothing like that! It would be a
sure case of fighting the next day."
"I fight no more duels," said De Marsay.
"That seems to me even more tragical. Do you assassinate, then?"
"You travesty words. I execute."
"My dear friend," said Paul, "your jokes are of a very sombre color
"What would you have? Pleasure ends in cruelty. Why? I don't know, and
am not sufficiently curious to try and find out. . . . These cigars
are excellent. Give your friend some tea. Do you know, Paul, I live a
brute's life? It should be time to choose oneself a destiny, to employ
one's powers on something which makes life worth living. Life is a
singular comedy. I am frightened, I laugh at the inconsequence of our
social order. The Government cuts off the heads of poor devils who may
have killed a man and licenses creatures who despatch, medically
speaking, a dozen young folks in a season. Morality is powerless
against a dozen vices which destroy society and which nothing can
punish.--Another cup!--Upon my word of honor! man is a jester dancing
upon a precipice. They talk to us about the immorality of the
Liaisons Dangereuses, and any other book you like with a vulgar
reputation; but there exists a book, horrible, filthy, fearful,
corrupting, which is always open and will never be shut, the great
book of the world; not to mention another book, a thousand times more
dangerous, which is composed of all that men whisper into each other's
ears, or women murmur behind their fans, of an evening in society."
"Henri, there is certainly something extraordinary the matter with
you; that is obvious in spite of your active discretion."
"Yes! . . . Come, I must kill the time until this evening. Let's to
the tables. . . . Perhaps I shall have the good luck to lose."
De Marsay rose, took a handful of banknotes and folded them into his
cigar-case, dressed himself, and took advantage of Paul's carriage to
repair to the Salon des Etrangers, where until dinner he consumed the
time in those exciting alternations of loss and gain which are the
last resource of powerful organizations when they are compelled to
exercise themselves in the void. In the evening he repaired to the
trysting-place and submitted complacently to having his eyes bandaged.
Then, with that firm will which only really strong men have the
faculty of concentrating, he devoted his attention and applied his
intelligence to the task of divining through what streets the carriage
passed. He had a sort of certitude of being taken to the Rue Saint-
Lazare, and being brought to a halt at the little gate in the garden
of the Hotel San-Real. When he passed, as on the first occasion,
through this gate, and was put in a litter, carried, doubtless by the
mulatto and the coachman, he understood, as he heard the gravel grate
beneath their feet, why they took such minute precautions. He would
have been able, had he been free, or if he had walked, to pluck a twig
of laurel, to observe the nature of the soil which clung to his boots;
whereas, transported, so to speak, ethereally into an inaccessible
mansion, his good fortune must remain what it had been hitherto, a
dream. But it is man's despair that all his work, whether for good or
evil, is imperfect. All his labors, physical or intellectual, are
sealed with the mark of destruction. There had been a gentle rain, the
earth was moist. At night-time certain vegetable perfumes are far
stronger than during the day; Henri could smell, therefore, the scent
of the mignonette which lined the avenue along which he was conveyed.
This indication was enough to light him in the researches which he
promised himself to make in order to recognize the hotel which
contained Paquita's boudoir. He studied in the same way the turnings
which his bearers took within the house, and believed himself able to
As on the previous night, he found himself on the ottoman before
Paquita, who was undoing his bandage; but he saw her pale and altered.
She had wept. On her knees like an angel in prayer, but like an angel
profoundly sad and melancholy, the poor girl no longer resembled the
curious, impatient, and impetuous creature who had carried De Marsay
on her wings to transport him to the seventh heaven of love. There was
something so true in this despair veiled by pleasure, that the
terrible De Marsay felt within him an admiration for this new
masterpiece of nature, and forgot, for the moment, the chief interest
of his assignation.
"What is the matter with thee, my Paquita?"
"My friend," she said, "carry me away this very night. Bear me to some
place where no one can answer: 'There is a girl with a golden gaze
here, who has long hair.' Yonder I will give thee as many pleasures as
thou wouldst have of me. Then when you love me no longer, you shall
leave me, I shall not complain, I shall say nothing; and your
desertion need cause you no remorse, for one day passed with you, only
one day, in which I have had you before my eyes, will be worth all my
life to me. But if I stay here, I am lost."
"I cannot leave Paris, little one!" replied Henri. "I do not belong to
myself, I am bound by a vow to the fortune of several persons who
stand to me, as I do to them. But I can place you in a refuge in
Paris, where no human power can reach you."
"No," she said, "you forget the power of woman."
Never did phrase uttered by human voice express terror more
"What could reach you, then, if I put myself between you and the
"Poison!" she said. "Dona Concha suspects you already . . . and," she
resumed, letting the tears fall and glisten on her cheeks, "it is easy
enough to see I am no longer the same. Well, if you abandon me to the
fury of the monster who will destroy me, your holy will be done! But
come, let there be all the pleasures of life in our love. Besides, I
will implore, I will weep and cry out and defend myself; perhaps I
shall be saved."
"Whom will your implore?" he asked.
"Silence!" said Paquita. "If I obtain mercy it will perhaps be on
account of my discretion."
"Give me my robe," said Henri, insidiously.
"No, no!" she answered quickly, "be what you are, one of those angels
whom I have been taught to hate, and in whom I only saw ogres, whilst
you are what is fairest under the skies," she said, caressing Henri's
hair. "You do not know how silly I am. I have learned nothing. Since I
was twelve years old I have been shut up without ever seeing any one.
I can neither read nor write, I can only speak English and Spanish."
"How is it, then, that you receive letters from London?"
"My letters? . . . See, here they are!" she said, proceeding to take
some papers out of a tall Japanese vase.
She offered De Marsay some letters, in which the young man saw, with
surprise, strange figures, similar to those of a rebus, traced in
blood, and illustrating phrases full of passion.
"But," he cried, marveling at these hieroglyphics created by the
alertness of jealousy, "you are in the power of an infernal genius?"
"Infernal," she repeated.
"But how, then, were you able to get out?"
"Ah!" she said, "that was my ruin. I drove Dona Concha to choose
between the fear of immediate death and anger to be. I had the
curiosity of a demon, I wished to break the bronze circle which they
had described between creation and me, I wished to see what young
people were like, for I knew nothing of man except the Marquis and
Cristemio. Our coachman and the lackey who accompanies us are old
men. . . ."
"But you were not always thus shut up? Your health . . . ?"
"Ah," she answered, "we used to walk, but it was at night and in the
country, by the side of the Seine, away from people."
"Are you not proud of being loved like that?"
"No," she said, "no longer. However full it be, this hidden life is
but darkness in comparison with the light."
"What do you call the light?"
"Thee, my lovely Adolphe! Thee, for whom I would give my life. All the
passionate things that have been told me, and that I have inspired, I
feel for thee! For a certain time I understood nothing of existence,
but now I know what love is, and hitherto I have been the loved one
only; for myself, I did not love. I would give up everything for you,
take me away. If you like, take me as a toy, but let me be near you
until you break me."
"You will have no regrets?"
"Not one"! she said, letting him read her eyes, whose golden tint was
pure and clear.
"Am I the favored one?" said Henri to himself. If he suspected the
truth, he was ready at that time to pardon the offence in view of a
love so single minded. "I shall soon see," he thought.
If Paquita owed him no account of the past, yet the least recollection
of it became in his eyes a crime. He had therefore the sombre strength
to withhold a portion of his thought, to study her, even while
abandoning himself to the most enticing pleasures that ever peri
descended from the skies had devised for her beloved.
Paquita seemed to have been created for love by a particular effort of
nature. In a night her feminine genius had made the most rapid
progress. Whatever might be the power of this young man, and his
indifference in the matter of pleasures, in spite of his satiety of
the previous night, he found in the girl with the golden eyes that
seraglio which a loving woman knows how to create and which a man
never refuses. Paquita responded to that passion which is felt by all
really great men for the infinite--that mysterious passion so
dramatically expressed in Faust, so poetically translated in Manfred,
and which urged Don Juan to search the heart of women, in his hope to
find there that limitless thought in pursuit of which so many hunters
after spectres have started, which wise men think to discover in
science, and which mystics find in God alone. The hope of possessing
at last the ideal being with whom the struggle could be constant and
tireless ravished De Marsay, who, for the first time for long, opened
his heart. His nerves expanded, his coldness was dissipated in the
atmosphere of that ardent soul, his hard and fast theories melted
away, and happiness colored his existence to the tint of the rose and
white boudoir. Experiencing the sting of a higher pleasure, he was
carried beyond the limits within which he had hitherto confined
passion. He would not be surpassed by this girl, whom a somewhat
artificial love had formed all ready for the needs of his soul, and
then he found in that vanity which urges a man to be in all things a
victor, strength enough to tame the girl; but, at the same time, urged
beyond that line where the soul is mistress over herself, he lost
himself in these delicious limboes, which the vulgar call so foolishly
"the imaginary regions." He was tender, kind, and confidential. He
affected Paquita almost to madness.
"Why should we not go to Sorrento, to Nice, to Chiavari, and pass all
our life so? Will you?" he asked of Paquita, in a penetrating voice.
"Was there need to say to me: 'Will you'?" she cried. "Have I a will?
I am nothing apart from you, except in so far as I am a pleasure for
you. If you would choose a retreat worthy of us, Asia is the only
country where love can unfold his wings. . . ."
"You are right," answered Henri. "Let us go to the Indies, there where
spring is eternal, where the earth grows only flowers, where man can
display the magnificence of kings and none shall say him nay, as in
the foolish lands where they would realize the dull chimera of
equality. Let us go to the country where one lives in the midst of a
nation of slaves, where the sun shines ever on a palace which is
always white, where the air sheds perfumes, the birds sing of love and
where, when one can love no more, one dies. . . ."
"And where one dies together!" said Paquita. "But do not let us start
to-morrow, let us start this moment . . . take Cristemio."
"Faith! pleasure is the fairest climax of life. Let us go to Asia; but
to start, my child, one needs much gold, and to have gold one must set
one's affairs in order."
She understood no part of these ideas.
"Gold! There is a pile of it here--as high as that," she said holding
up her hand.
"It is not mine."
"What does that matter?" she went on; "if we have need of it let us
"It does not belong to you."
"Belong!" she repeated. "Have you not taken me? When we have taken it,
it will belong to us."
He gave a laugh.
"Poor innocent! You know nothing of the world."
"Nay, but this is what I know," she cried, clasping Henri to her.
At the very moment when De Marsay was forgetting all, and conceiving
the desire to appropriate this creature forever, he received in the
midst of his joy a dagger-thrust, which Paquita, who had lifted him
vigorously in the air, as though to contemplate him, exclaimed: "Oh,
"Margarita!" cried the young man, with a roar; "now I know all that I
still tried to disbelieve."
He leaped upon the cabinet in which the long poniard was kept. Happily
for Paquita and for himself, the cupboard was shut. His fury waxed at
this impediment, but he recovered his tranquillity, went and found his
cravat, and advanced towards her with an air of such ferocious meaning
that, without knowing of what crime she had been guilty, Paquita
understood, none the less, that her life was in question. With one
bound she rushed to the other end of the room to escape the fatal knot
which De Marsay tried to pass round her neck. There was a struggle. On
either side there was an equality of strength, agility, and
suppleness. To end the combat Paquita threw between the legs of her
lover a cushion which made him fall, and profited by the respite which
this advantage gave to her, to push the button of the spring which
caused the bell to ring. Promptly the mulatto arrived. In a second
Cristemio leaped on De Marsay and held him down with one foot on his
chest, his heel turned towards the throat. De Marsay realized that, if
he struggled, at a single sign from Paquita he would be instantly
"Why did you want to kill me, my beloved?" she said. De Marsay made no
"In what have I angered you?" she asked. "Speak, let us understand
Henri maintained the phlegmatic attitude of a strong man who feels
himself vanquished; his countenance, cold, silent, entirely English,
revealed the consciousness of his dignity in a momentary resignation.
Moreover, he had already thought, in spite of the vehemence of his
anger, that it was scarcely prudent to compromise himself with the law
by killing this girl on the spur of the moment, before he had arranged
the murder in such a manner as should insure his impunity.
"My beloved," went on Paquita, "speak to me; do not leave me without
one loving farewell! I would not keep in my heart the terror which you
have just inspired in it. . . . Will you speak?" she said, stamping
her foot with anger.
De Marsay, for all reply, gave her a glance, which signified so
plainly, "You must die!" that Paquita threw herself upon him.
"Ah, well, you want to kill me! . . . If my death can give you any
She made a sign to Cristemio, who withdrew his foot from the body of
the young man, and retired without letting his face show that he had
formed any opinion, good or bad, with regard to Paquita.
"That is a man," said De Marsay, pointing to the mulatto, with a
sombre gesture. "There is no devotion like the devotion which obeys in
friendship, and does not stop to weigh motives. In that man you
possess a true friend."
"I will give him you, if you like," she answered; "he will serve you
with the same devotion that he has for me, if I so instruct him."
She waited for a word of recognition, and went on with an accent
replete with tenderness:
"Adolphe, give me then one kind word! . . . It is nearly day."
Henri did not answer. The young man had one sorry quality, for one
considers as something great everything which resembles strength, and
often men invent extravagances. Henri knew not how to pardon. That
returning upon itself which is one of the soul's graces, was a non-
existent sense for him. The ferocity of the Northern man, with which
the English blood is deeply tainted, had been transmitted to him by
his father. He was inexorable both in his good and evil impulses.
Paquita's exclamation had been all the more horrible to him, in that
it had dethroned him from the sweetest triumph which had ever
flattered his man's vanity. Hope, love, and every emotion had been
exalted with him, all had lit up within his heart and his
intelligence, then these torches illuminating his life had been
extinguished by a cold wind. Paquita, in her stupefaction of grief,
had only strength enough to give the signal for departure.
"What is the use of that!" she said, throwing away the bandage. "If he
does not love me, if he hates me, it is all over."
She waited for one look, did not obtain it, and fell, half dead. The
mulatto cast a glance at Henri, so horribly significant, that, for the
first time in his life, the young man, to whom no one denied the gift
of rare courage, trembled. "If you do not love her well, if you give
her the least pain, I will kill you." such was the sense of that
brief gaze. De Marsay was escorted, with a care almost obsequious,
along the dimly lit corridor, at the end of which he issued by a
secret door into the garden of the Hotel San-Real. The mulatto made
him walk cautiously through an avenue of lime trees, which led to a
little gate opening upon a street which was at that hour deserted. De
Marsay took a keen notice of everything. The carriage awaited him.
This time the mulatto did not accompany him, and at the moment when
Henri put his head out of the window to look once more at the gardens
of the hotel, he encountered the white eyes of Cristemio, with whom he
exchanged a glance. On either side there was a provocation, a
challenge, the declaration of a savage war, of a duel in which
ordinary laws were invalid, where treason and treachery were admitted
means. Cristemio knew that Henri had sworn Paquita's death. Henri knew
that Cristemio would like to kill him before he killed Paquita. Both
understood each other to perfection.
"The adventure is growing complicated in a most interesting way," said
"Where is the gentleman going to?" asked the coachman.
De Marsay was driven to the house of Paul de Manerville. For more than
a week Henri was away from home, and no one could discover either what
he did during this period, nor where he stayed. This retreat saved him
from the fury of the mulatto and caused the ruin of the charming
creature who had placed all her hope in him whom she loved as never
human heart had loved on this earth before. On the last day of the
week, about eleven o'clock at night, Henri drove up in a carriage to
the little gate in the garden of the Hotel San-Real. Four men
accompanied him. The driver was evidently one of his friends, for he
stood up on his box, like a man who was to listen, an attentive
sentinel, for the least sound. One of the other three took his stand
outside the gate in the street; the second waited in the garden,
leaning against the wall; the last, who carried in his hand a bunch of
keys, accompanied De Marsay.
"Henri," said his companion to him, "we are betrayed."
"By whom, my good Ferragus?"
"They are not all asleep," replied the chief of the Devourers; "it is
absolutely certain that some one in the house has neither eaten nor
drunk. . . . Look! see that light!"
"We have a plan of the house; from where does it come?"
"I need no plan to know," replied Ferragus; "it comes from the room of
"Ah," cried De Marsay, "no doubt she arrived from London to-day. The
woman has robbed me even of my revenge! But if she has anticipated me,
my good Gratien, we will give her up to the law."
"Listen, listen! . . . The thing is settled," said Ferragus to Henri.
The two friends listened intently, and heard some feeble cries which
might have aroused pity in the breast of a tiger.
"Your marquise did not think the sound would escape by the chimney,"
said the chief of the Devourers, with the laugh of a critic, enchanted
to detect a fault in a work of merit.
"We alone, we know how to provide for every contingency," said Henri.
"Wait for me. I want to see what is going on upstairs--I want to know
how their domestic quarrels are managed. By God! I believe she is
roasting her at a slow fire."
De Marsay lightly scaled the stairs, with which he was familiar, and
recognized the passage leading to the boudoir. When he opened the door
he experienced the involuntary shudder which the sight of bloodshed
gives to the most determined of men. The spectacle which was offered
to his view was, moreover, in more than one respect astonishing to
him. The Marquise was a woman; she had calculated her vengeance with
that perfection of perfidy which distinguishes the weaker animals. She
had dissimulated her anger in order to assure herself of the crime
before she punished it.
"Too late, my beloved!" said Paquita, in her death agony, casting her
pale eyes upon De Marsay.
The girl of the golden eyes expired in a bath of blood. The great
illumination of candles, a delicate perfume which was perceptible, a
certain disorder, in which the eye of a man accustomed to amorous
adventures could not but discern the madness which is common to all
the passions, revealed how cunningly the Marquise had interrogated the
guilty one. The white room, where the blood showed so well, betrayed a
long struggle. The prints of Paquita's hands were on the cushions.
Here she had clung to her life, here she had defended herself, here
she had been struck. Long strips of the tapestry had been torn down by
her bleeding hands, which, without a doubt, had struggled long.
Paquita must have tried to reach the window; her bare feet had left
their imprints on the edge of the divan, along which she must have
run. Her body, mutilated by the dagger-thrusts of her executioner,
told of the fury with which she had disputed a life which Henri had
made precious to her. She lay stretched on the floor, and in her
death-throes had bitten the ankles of Madame de San-Real, who still
held in her hand her dagger, dripping blood. The hair of the Marquise
had been torn out, she was covered with bites, many of which were
bleeding, and her torn dress revealed her in a state of semi-nudity,
with the scratches on her breasts. She was sublime so. Her head, eager
and maddened, exhaled the odor of blood. Her panting mouth was open,
and her nostrils were not sufficient for her breath. There are certain
animals who fall upon their enemy in their rage, do it to death, and
seem in the tranquillity of victory to have forgotten it. There are
others who prowl around their victim, who guard it in fear lest it
should be taken away from them, and who, like the Achilles of Homer,
drag their enemy by the feet nine times round the walls of Troy. The
Marquise was like that. She did not see Henri. In the first place, she
was too secure of her solitude to be afraid of witnesses; and,
secondly, she was too intoxicated with warm blood, too excited with
the fray, too exalted, to take notice of the whole of Paris, if Paris
had formed a circle round her. A thunderbolt would not have disturbed
her. She had not even heard Paquita's last sigh, and believed that the
dead girl could still hear her.
"Die without confessing!" she said. "Go down to hell, monster of
ingratitude; belong to no one but the fiend. For the blood you gave
him you owe me all your own! Die, die, suffer a thousand deaths! I
have been too kind--I was only a moment killing you. I should have
made you experience all the tortures that you have bequeathed to me. I
--I shall live! I shall live in misery. I have no one left to love but
She gazed at her.
"She is dead!" she said to herself, after a pause, in a violent
reaction. "Dead! Oh, I shall die of grief!"
The Marquise was throwing herself upon the divan, stricken with a
despair which deprived her of speech, when this movement brought her
in view of Henri de Marsay.
"Who are you?" she asked, rushing at him with her dagger raised.
Henri caught her arm, and thus they could contemplate each other face
to face. A horrible surprise froze the blood in their veins, and their
limbs quivered like those of frightened horses. In effect, the two
Menoechmi had not been more alike. With one accord they uttered the
"Lord Dudley must have been your father!"
The head of each was drooped in affirmation.
"She was true to the blood," said Henri, pointing to Paquita.
"She was as little guilty as it is possible to be," replied Margarita
Euphemia Porraberil, and she threw herself upon the body of Paquita,
giving vent to a cry of despair. "Poor child! Oh, if I could bring
thee to life again! I was wrong--forgive me, Paquita! Dead! and I
live! I--I am the most unhappy."
At that moment the horrible face of the mother of Paquita appeared.
"You are come to tell me that you never sold her to me to kill," cried
the Marquise. "I know why you have left your lair. I will pay you
twice over. Hold your peace."
She took a bag of gold from the ebony cabinet, and threw it
contemptuously at the old woman's feet. The chink of the gold was
potent enough to excite a smile on the Georgian's impassive face.
"I come at the right moment for you, my sister," said Henri. "The law
will ask of you----"
"Nothing," replied the Marquise. "One person alone might ask for a
reckoning for the death of this girl. Cristemio is dead."
"And the mother," said Henri, pointing to the old woman. "Will you not
always be in her power?"
"She comes from a country where women are not beings, but things--
chattels, with which one does as one wills, which one buys, sells, and
slays; in short, which one uses for one's caprices as you, here, use a
piece of furniture. Besides, she has one passion which dominates all
the others, and which would have stifled her maternal love, even if
she had loved her daughter, a passion----"
"What?" Henri asked quickly, interrupting his sister.
"Play! God keep you from it," answered the Marquise.
"But whom have you," said Henri, looking at the girl of the golden
eyes, "who will help you to remove the traces of this fantasy which
the law would not overlook?"
"I have her mother," replied the Marquise, designating the Georgian,
to whom she made a sign to remain.
"We shall meet again," said Henri, who was thinking anxiously of his
friends and felt that it was time to leave.
"No, brother," she said, "we shall not meet again. I am going back to
Spain to enter the Convent of los Dolores."
"You are too young yet, too lovely," said Henri, taking her in his
arms and giving her a kiss.
"Good-bye," she said; "there is no consolation when you have lost that
which has seemed to you the infinite."
A week later Paul de Manerville met De Marsay in the Tuileries, on the
Terrasse de Feuillants.
"Well, what has become of our beautiful girl of the golden eyes, you
"She is dead."
PARIS, March 1834-April 1835.