by Honore de Balzac
Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley
To Madame la Comtesse Merlin.
CHAPTER I. EXPOSITION
Notwithstanding the discipline which Marechal Suchet had introduced
into his army corps, he was unable to prevent a short period of
trouble and disorder at the taking of Tarragona. According to certain
fair-minded military men, this intoxication of victory bore a striking
resemblance to pillage, though the marechal promptly suppressed it.
Order being re-established, each regiment quartered in its respective
lines, and the commandant of the city appointed, military
administration began. The place assumed a mongrel aspect. Though all
things were organized on a French system, the Spaniards were left free
to follow "in petto" their national tastes.
This period of pillage (it is difficult to determine how long it
lasted) had, like all other sublunary effects, a cause, not so
difficult to discover. In the marechal's army was a regiment, composed
almost entirely of Italians and commanded by a certain Colonel Eugene,
a man of remarkable bravery, a second Murat, who, having entered the
military service too late, obtained neither a Grand Duchy of Berg nor
a Kingdom of Naples, nor balls at the Pizzo. But if he won no crown he
had ample opportunity to obtain wounds, and it was not surprising that
he met with several. His regiment was composed of the scattered
fragments of the Italian legion. This legion was to Italy what the
colonial battalions are to France. Its permanent cantonments,
established on the island of Elba, served as an honorable place of
exile for the troublesome sons of good families and for those great
men who have just missed greatness, whom society brands with a hot
iron and designates by the term "mauvais sujets"; men who are for the
most part misunderstood; whose existence may become either noble
through the smile of a woman lifting them out of their rut, or
shocking at the close of an orgy under the influence of some damnable
reflection dropped by a drunken comrade.
Napoleon had incorporated these vigorous beings in the sixth of the
line, hoping to metamorphose them finally into generals,--barring
those whom the bullets might take off. But the emperor's calculation
was scarcely fulfilled, except in the matter of the bullets. This
regiment, often decimated but always the same in character, acquired a
great reputation for valor in the field and for wickedness in private
life. At the siege of Tarragona it lost its celebrated hero, Bianchi,
the man who, during the campaign, had wagered that he would eat the
heart of a Spanish sentinel, and did eat it. Though Bianchi was the
prince of the devils incarnate to whom the regiment owed its dual
reputation, he had, nevertheless, that sort of chivalrous honor which
excuses, in the army, the worst excesses. In a word, he would have
been, at an earlier period, an admirable pirate. A few days before his
death he distinguished himself by a daring action which the marechal
wished to reward. Bianchi refused rank, pension, and additional
decoration, asking, for sole recompense, the favor of being the first
to mount the breach at the assault on Tarragona. The marechal granted
the request and then forgot his promise; but Bianchi forced him to
remember Bianchi. The enraged hero was the first to plant our flag on
the wall, where he was shot by a monk.
This historical digression was necessary, in order to explain how it
was that the 6th of the line was the regiment to enter Tarragona, and
why the disorder and confusion, natural enough in a city taken by
storm, degenerated for a time into a slight pillage.
This regiment possessed two officers, not at all remarkable among
these men of iron, who played, nevertheless, in the history we shall
now relate, a somewhat important part.
The first, a captain in the quartermaster's department, an officer
half civil, half military, was considered, in soldier phrase, to be
fighting his own battle. He pretended bravery, boasted loudly of
belonging to the 6th of the line, twirled his moustache with the air
of a man who was ready to demolish everything; but his brother
officers did not esteem him. The fortune he possessed made him
cautious. He was nicknamed, for two reasons, "captain of crows." In
the first place, he could smell powder a league off, and took wing at
the sound of a musket; secondly, the nickname was based on an innocent
military pun, which his position in the regiment warranted. Captain
Montefiore, of the illustrious Montefiore family of Milan (though the
laws of the Kingdom of Italy forbade him to bear his title in the
French service) was one of the handsomest men in the army. This beauty
may have been among the secret causes of his prudence on fighting
days. A wound which might have injured his nose, cleft his forehead,
or scarred his cheek, would have destroyed one of the most beautiful
Italian faces which a woman ever dreamed of in all its delicate
proportions. This face, not unlike the type which Girodet has given to
the dying young Turk, in the "Revolt at Cairo," was instinct with that
melancholy by which all women are more or less duped.
The Marquis de Montefiore possessed an entailed property, but his
income was mortgaged for a number of years to pay off the costs of
certain Italian escapades which are inconceivable in Paris. He had
ruined himself in supporting a theatre at Milan in order to force upon
a public a very inferior prima donna, whom he was said to love madly.
A fine future was therefore before him, and he did not care to risk it
for the paltry distinction of a bit of red ribbon. He was not a brave
man, but he was certainly a philosopher; and he had precedents, if we
may use so parliamentary an expression. Did not Philip the Second
register a vow after the battle of Saint Quentin that never again
would he put himself under fire? And did not the Duke of Alba
encourage him in thinking that the worst trade in the world was the
involuntary exchange of a crown for a bullet? Hence, Montefiore was
Philippiste in his capacity of rich marquis and handsome man; and in
other respects also he was quite as profound a politician as Philip
the Second himself. He consoled himself for his nickname, and for the
disesteem of the regiment by thinking that his comrades were
blackguards, whose opinion would never be of any consequence to him if
by chance they survived the present war, which seemed to be one of
extermination. He relied on his face to win him promotion; he saw
himself made colonel by feminine influence and a carefully managed
transition from captain of equipment to orderly officer, and from
orderly officer to aide-de-camp on the staff of some easy-going
marshal. By that time, he reflected, he should come into his property
of a hundred thousand scudi a year, some journal would speak of him as
"the brave Montefiore," he would marry a girl of rank, and no one
would dare to dispute his courage or verify his wounds.
Captain Montefiore had one friend in the person of the quartermaster,
--a Provencal, born in the neighborhood of Nice, whose name was Diard.
A friend, whether at the galleys or in the garret of an artist,
consoles for many troubles. Now Montefiore and Diard were two
philosophers, who consoled each other for their present lives by the
study of vice, as artists soothe the immediate disappointment of their
hopes by the expectation of future fame. Both regarded the war in its
results, not its action; they simply considered those who died for
glory fools. Chance had made soldiers of them; whereas their natural
proclivities would have seated them at the green table of a congress.
Nature had poured Montefiore into the mould of a Rizzio, and Diard
into that of a diplomatist. Both were endowed with that nervous,
feverish, half-feminine organization, which is equally strong for good
or evil, and from which may emanate, according to the impulse of these
singular temperaments, a crime or a generous action, a noble deed or a
base one. The fate of such natures depends at any moment on the
pressure, more or less powerful, produced on their nervous systems by
violent and transitory passions.
Diard was considered a good accountant, but no soldier would have
trusted him with his purse or his will, possibly because of the
antipathy felt by all real soldiers against the bureaucrats. The
quartermaster was not without courage and a certain juvenile
generosity, sentiments which many men give up as they grow older, by
dint of reasoning or calculating. Variable as the beauty of a fair
woman, Diard was a great boaster and a great talker, talking of
everything. He said he was artistic, and he made prizes (like two
celebrated generals) of works of art, solely, he declared, to preserve
them for posterity. His military comrades would have been puzzled
indeed to form a correct judgment of him. Many of them, accustomed to
draw upon his funds when occasion obliged them, thought him rich; but
in truth, he was a gambler, and gamblers may be said to have nothing
of their own. Montefiore was also a gambler, and all the officers of
the regiment played with the pair; for, to the shame of men be it
said, it is not a rare thing to see persons gambling together around a
green table who, when the game is finished, will not bow to their
companions, feeling no respect for them. Montefiore was the man with
whom Bianchi made his bet about the heart of the Spanish sentinel.
Montefiore and Diard were among the last to mount the breach at
Tarragona, but the first in the heart of the town as soon as it was
taken. Accidents of this sort happen in all attacks, but with this
pair of friends they were customary. Supporting each other, they made
their way bravely through a labyrinth of narrow and gloomy little
streets in quest of their personal objects; one seeking for painted
madonnas, the other for madonnas of flesh and blood.
In what part of Tarragona it happened I cannot say, but Diard
presently recognized by its architecture the portal of a convent, the
gate of which was already battered in. Springing into the cloister to
put a stop to the fury of the soldiers, he arrived just in time to
prevent two Parisians from shooting a Virgin by Albano. In spite of
the moustache with which in their military fanaticism they had
decorated her face, he bought the picture. Montefiore, left alone
during this episode, noticed, nearly opposite the convent, the house
and shop of a draper, from which a shot was fired at him at the moment
when his eyes caught a flaming glance from those of an inquisitive
young girl, whose head was advanced under the shelter of a blind.
Tarragona taken by assault, Tarragona furious, firing from every
window, Tarragona violated, with dishevelled hair, and half-naked, was
indeed an object of curiosity,--the curiosity of a daring Spanish
woman. It was a magnified bull-fight.
Montefiore forgot the pillage, and heard, for the moment, neither the
cries, nor the musketry, nor the growling of the artillery. The
profile of that Spanish girl was the most divinely delicious thing
which he, an Italian libertine, weary of Italian beauty, and dreaming
of an impossible woman because he was tired of all women, had ever
seen. He could still quiver, he, who had wasted his fortune on a
thousand follies, the thousand passions of a young and blase man--the
most abominable monster that society generates. An idea came into his
head, suggested perhaps by the shot of the draper-patriot, namely,--to
set fire to the house. But he was now alone, and without any means of
action; the fighting was centred in the market-place, where a few
obstinate beings were still defending the town. A better idea then
occurred to him. Diard came out of the convent, but Montefiore said
not a word of his discovery; on the contrary, he accompanied him on a
series of rambles about the streets. But the next day, the Italian had
obtained his military billet in the house of the draper,--an
appropriate lodging for an equipment captain!
The house of the worthy Spaniard consisted, on the ground-floor, of a
vast and gloomy shop, externally fortified with stout iron bars, such
as we see in the old storehouses of the rue des Lombards. This shop
communicated with a parlor lighted from an interior courtyard, a large
room breathing the very spirit of the middle-ages, with smoky old
pictures, old tapestries, antique "brazero," a plumed hat hanging to a
nail, the musket of the guerrillas, and the cloak of Bartholo. The
kitchen adjoined this unique living-room, where the inmates took their
meals and warmed themselves over the dull glow of the brazier, smoking
cigars and discoursing bitterly to animate all hearts with hatred
against the French. Silver pitchers and precious dishes of plate and
porcelain adorned a buttery shelf of the old fashion. But the light,
sparsely admitted, allowed these dazzling objects to show but
slightly; all things, as in pictures of the Dutch school, looked
brown, even the faces. Between the shop and this living-room, so fine
in color and in its tone of patriarchal life, was a dark staircase
leading to a ware-room where the light, carefully distributed,
permitted the examination of goods. Above this were the apartments of
the merchant and his wife. Rooms for an apprentice and a servant-woman
were in a garret under the roof, which projected over the street and
was supported by buttresses, giving a somewhat fantastic appearance to
the exterior of the building. These chambers were now taken by the
merchant and his wife who gave up their own rooms to the officer who
was billeted upon them,--probably because they wished to avoid all
Montefiore gave himself out as a former Spanish subject, persecuted by
Napoleon, whom he was serving against his will; and these semi-lies
had the success he expected. He was invited to share the meals of the
family, and was treated with the respect due to his name, his birth,
and his title. He had his reasons for capturing the good-will of the
merchant and his wife; he scented his madonna as the ogre scented the
youthful flesh of Tom Thumb and his brothers. But in spite of the
confidence he managed to inspire in the worthy pair the latter
maintained the most profound silence as to the said madonna; and not
only did the captain see no trace of the young girl during the first
day he spent under the roof of the honest Spaniard, but he heard no
sound and came upon no indication which revealed her presence in that
ancient building. Supposing that she was the only daughter of the old
couple, Montefiore concluded they had consigned her to the garret,
where, for the time being, they made their home.
But no revelation came to betray the hiding-place of that precious
treasure. The marquis glued his face to the lozenge-shaped leaded
panes which looked upon the black-walled enclosure of the inner
courtyard; but in vain; he saw no gleam of light except from the
windows of the old couple, whom he could see and hear as they went and
came and talked and coughed. Of the young girl, not a shadow!
Montefiore was far too wary to risk the future of his passion by
exploring the house nocturnally, or by tapping softly on the doors.
Discovery by that hot patriot, the mercer, suspicious as a Spaniard
must be, meant ruin infallibly. The captain therefore resolved to wait
patiently, resting his faith on time and the imperfection of men,
which always results--even with scoundrels, and how much more with
honest men!--in the neglect of precautions.
The next day he discovered a hammock in the kitchen, showing plainly
where the servant-woman slept. As for the apprentice, his bed was
evidently made on the shop counter. During supper on the second day
Montefiore succeeded, by cursing Napoleon, in smoothing the anxious
forehead of the merchant, a grave, black-visaged Spaniard, much like
the faces formerly carved on the handles of Moorish lutes; even the
wife let a gay smile of hatred appear in the folds of her elderly
face. The lamp and the reflections of the brazier illumined
fantastically the shadows of the noble room. The mistress of the house
offered a "cigarrito" to their semi-compatriot. At this moment the
rustle of a dress and the fall of a chair behind the tapestry were
"Ah!" cried the wife, turning pale, "may the saints assist us! God
grant no harm has happened!"
"You have some one in the next room, have you not?" said Montefiore,
giving no sign of emotion.
The draper dropped a word of imprecation against the girls. Evidently
alarmed, the wife opened a secret door, and led in, half fainting, the
Italian's madonna, to whom he was careful to pay no attention; only,
to avoid a too-studied indifference, he glanced at the girl before he
turned to his host and said in his own language:--
"Is that your daughter, signore?"
Perez de Lagounia (such was the merchant's name) had large commercial
relations with Genoa, Florence, and Livorno; he knew Italian, and
replied in the same language:--
"No; if she were my daughter I should take less precautions. The child
is confided to our care, and I would rather die than see any evil
happen to her. But how is it possible to put sense into a girl of
"She is very handsome," said Montefiore, coldly, not looking at her
"Her mother's beauty is celebrated," replied the merchant, briefly.
They continued to smoke, watching each other. Though Montefiore
compelled himself not to give the slightest look which might
contradict his apparent coldness, he could not refrain, at a moment
when Perez turned his head to expectorate, from casting a rapid glance
at the young girl, whose sparkling eyes met his. Then, with that
science of vision which gives to a libertine, as it does to a
sculptor, the fatal power of disrobing, if we may so express it, a
woman, and divining her shape by inductions both rapid and sagacious,
he beheld one of those masterpieces of Nature whose creation appears
to demand as its right all the happiness of love. Here was a fair
young face, on which the sun of Spain had cast faint tones of bistre
which added to its expression of seraphic calmness a passionate pride,
like a flash of light infused beneath that diaphanous complexion,--
due, perhaps, to the Moorish blood which vivified and colored it. Her
hair, raised to the top of her head, fell thence with black
reflections round the delicate transparent ears and defined the
outlines of a blue-veined throat. These luxuriant locks brought into
strong relief the dazzling eyes and the scarlet lips of a well-arched
mouth. The bodice of the country set off the lines of a figure that
swayed as easily as a branch of willow. She was not the Virgin of
Italy, but the Virgin of Spain, of Murillo, the only artist daring
enough to have painted the Mother of God intoxicated with the joy of
conceiving the Christ,--the glowing imagination of the boldest and
also the warmest of painters.
In this young girl three things were united, a single one of which
would have sufficed for the glory of a woman: the purity of the pearl
in the depths of ocean; the sublime exaltation of the Spanish Saint
Teresa; and a passion of love which was ignorant of itself. The
presence of such a woman has the virtue of a talisman. Montefiore no
longer felt worn and jaded. That young girl brought back his youthful
But, though the apparition was delightful, it did not last. The girl
was taken back to the secret chamber, where the servant-woman carried
to her openly both light and food.
"You do right to hide her," said Montefiore in Italian. "I will keep
your secret. The devil! we have generals in our army who are capable
of abducting her."
Montefiore's infatuation went so far as to suggest to him the idea of
marrying her. He accordingly asked her history, and Perez very
willingly told him the circumstances under which she had become his
ward. The prudent Spaniard was led to make this confidence because he
had heard of Montefiore in Italy, and knowing his reputation was
desirous to let him see how strong were the barriers which protected
the young girl from the possibility of seduction. Though the good-man
was gifted with a certain patriarchal eloquence, in keeping with his
simple life and customs, his tale will be improved by abridgment.
At the period when the French Revolution changed the manners and
morals of every country which served as the scene of its wars, a
street prostitute came to Tarragona, driven from Venice at the time of
its fall. The life of this woman had been a tissue of romantic
adventures and strange vicissitudes. To her, oftener than to any other
woman of her class, it had happened, thanks to the caprice of great
lords struck with her extraordinary beauty, to be literally gorged
with gold and jewels and all the delights of excessive wealth,--
flowers, carriages, pages, maids, palaces, pictures, journeys (like
those of Catherine II.); in short, the life of a queen, despotic in
her caprices and obeyed, often beyond her own imaginings. Then,
without herself, or any one, chemist, physician, or man of science,
being able to discover how her gold evaporated, she would find herself
back in the streets, poor, denuded of everything, preserving nothing
but her all-powerful beauty, yet living on without thought or care of
the past, the present, or the future. Cast, in her poverty, into the
hands of some poor gambling officer, she attached herself to him as a
dog to its master, sharing the discomforts of the military life, which
indeed she comforted, as content under the roof of a garret as beneath
the silken hangings of opulence. Italian and Spanish both, she
fulfilled very scrupulously the duties of religion, and more than once
she had said to love:--
"Return to-morrow; to-day I belong to God."
But this slime permeated with gold and perfumes, this careless
indifference to all things, these unbridled passions, these religious
beliefs cast into that heart like diamonds into mire, this life begun,
and ended, in a hospital, these gambling chances transferred to the
soul, to the very existence,--in short, this great alchemy, for which
vice lit the fire beneath the crucible in which fortunes were melted
up and the gold of ancestors and the honor of great names evaporated,
proceeded from a CAUSE, a particular heredity, faithfully transmitted
from mother to daughter since the middle ages. The name of this woman
was La Marana. In her family, existing solely in the female line, the
idea, person, name and power of a father had been completely unknown
since the thirteenth century. The name Marana was to her what the
designation of Stuart is to the celebrated royal race of Scotland, a
name of distinction substituted for the patronymic name by the
constant heredity of the same office devolving on the family.
Formerly, in France, Spain, and Italy, when those three countries had,
in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, mutual interests which
united and disunited them by perpetual warfare, the name Marana served
to express in its general sense, a prostitute. In those days women of
that sort had a certain rank in the world of which nothing in our day
can give an idea. Ninon de l'Enclos and Marian Delorme have alone
played, in France, the role of the Imperias, Catalinas, and Maranas
who, in preceding centuries, gathered around them the cassock, gown,
and sword. An Imperia built I forget which church in Rome in a frenzy
of repentance, as Rhodope built, in earlier times, a pyramid in Egypt.
The name Marana, inflicted at first as a disgrace upon the singular
family with which we are now concerned, had ended by becoming its
veritable name and by ennobling its vice by incontestable antiquity.
One day, a day of opulence or of penury I know not which, for this
event was a secret between herself and God, but assuredly it was in a
moment of repentance and melancholy, this Marana of the nineteenth
century stood with her feet in the slime and her head raised to
heaven. She cursed the blood in her veins, she cursed herself, she
trembled lest she should have a daughter, and she swore, as such women
swear, on the honor and with the will of the galleys--the firmest
will, the most scrupulous honor that there is on earth--she swore,
before an altar, and believing in that altar, to make her daughter a
virtuous creature, a saint, and thus to gain, after that long line of
lost women, criminals in love, an angel in heaven for them all.
The vow once made, the blood of the Maranas spoke; the courtesan
returned to her reckless life, a thought the more within her heart. At
last she loved, with the violent love of such women, as Henrietta
Wilson loved Lord Ponsonby, as Mademoiselle Dupuis loved Bolingbroke,
as the Marchesa Pescara loved her husband--but no, she did not love,
she adored one of those fair men, half women, to whom she gave the
virtues which she had not, striving to keep for herself all that there
was of vice between them. It was from that weak man, that senseless
marriage unblessed by God or man which happiness is thought to
justify, but which no happiness absolves, and for which men blush at
last, that she had a daughter, a daughter to save, a daughter for whom
to desire a noble life and the chastity she had not. Henceforth, happy
or not happy, opulent or beggared, she had in her heart a pure,
untainted sentiment, the highest of all human feelings because the
most disinterested. Love has its egotism, but motherhood has none. La
Marana was a mother like none other; for, in her total, her eternal
shipwreck, motherhood might still redeem her. To accomplish sacredly
through life the task of sending a pure soul to heaven, was not that a
better thing than a tardy repentance? was it not, in truth, the only
spotless prayer which she could lift to God?
So, when this daughter, when her Marie-Juana-Pepita (she would fain
have given her all the saints in the calendar as guardians), when this
dear little creature was granted to her, she became possessed of so
high an idea of the dignity of motherhood that she entreated vice to
grant her a respite. She made herself virtuous and lived in solitude.
No more fetes, no more orgies, no more love. All joys, all fortunes
were centred now in the cradle of her child. The tones of that infant
voice made an oasis for her soul in the burning sands of her
existence. That sentiment could not be measured or estimated by any
other. Did it not, in fact, comprise all human sentiments, all
heavenly hopes? La Marana was so resolved not to soil her daughter
with any stain other than that of birth, that she sought to invest her
with social virtues; she even obliged the young father to settle a
handsome patrimony upon the child and to give her his name. Thus the
girl was not know as Juana Marana, but as Juana di Mancini.
Then, after seven years of joy, and kisses, and intoxicating
happiness, the time came when the poor Marana deprived herself of her
idol. That Juana might never bow her head under their hereditary
shame, the mother had the courage to renounce her child for her
child's sake, and to seek, not without horrible suffering, for another
mother, another home, other principles to follow, other and saintlier
examples to imitate. The abdication of a mother is either a revolting
act or a sublime one; in this case, was it not sublime?
At Tarragona a lucky accident threw the Lagounias in her way, under
circumstances which enabled her to recognize the integrity of the
Spaniard and the noble virtue of his wife. She came to them at a time
when her proposal seemed that of a liberating angel. The fortune and
honor of the merchant, momentarily compromised, required a prompt and
secret succor. La Marana made over to the husband the whole sum she
had obtained of the father for Juana's "dot," requiring neither
acknowledgment nor interest. According to her own code of honor, a
contract, a trust, was a thing of the heart, and God its supreme
judge. After stating the miseries of her position to Dona Lagounia,
she confided her daughter and her daughter's fortune to the fine old
Spanish honor, pure and spotless, which filled the precincts of that
ancient house. Dona Lagounia had no child, and she was only too happy
to obtain one to nurture. The mother then parted from her Juana,
convinced that the child's future was safe, and certain of having
found her a mother, a mother who would bring her up as a Mancini, and
not as a Marana.
Leaving her child in the simple modest house of the merchant where the
burgher virtues reigned, where religion and sacred sentiments and
honor filled the air, the poor prostitute, the disinherited mother was
enabled to bear her trial by visions of Juana, virgin, wife, and
mother, a mother throughout her life. On the threshold of that house
Marana left a tear such as the angels garner up.
Since that day of mourning and hope the mother, drawn by some
invincible presentiment, had thrice returned to see her daughter. Once
when Juana fell ill with a dangerous complaint:
"I knew it," she said to Perez when she reached the house.
Asleep, she had seen her Juana dying. She nursed her and watched her,
until one morning, sure of the girl's convalescence, she kissed her,
still asleep, on the forehead and left her without betraying whom she
was. A second time the Marana came to the church where Juana made her
first communion. Simply dressed, concealing herself behind a column,
the exiled mother recognized herself in her daughter such as she once
had been, pure as the snow fresh-fallen on the Alps. A courtesan even
in maternity, the Marana felt in the depths of her soul a jealous
sentiment, stronger for the moment than that of love, and she left the
church, incapable of resisting any longer the desire to kill Dona
Lagounia, as she sat there, with radiant face, too much the mother of
her child. A third and last meeting had taken place between mother and
daughter in the streets of Milan, to which city the merchant and his
wife had paid a visit. The Marana drove through the Corso in all the
splendor of a sovereign; she passed her daughter like a flash of
lightning and was not recognized. Horrible anguish! To this Marana,
surfeited with kisses, one was lacking, a single one, for which she
would have bartered all the others: the joyous, girlish kiss of a
daughter to a mother, an honored mother, a mother in whom shone all
the domestic virtues. Juana living was dead to her. One thought
revived the soul of the courtesan--a precious thought! Juana was
henceforth safe. She might be the humblest of women, but at least she
was not what her mother was--an infamous courtesan.
The merchant and his wife had fulfilled their trust with scrupulous
integrity. Juana's fortune, managed by them, had increased tenfold.
Perez de Lagounia, now the richest merchant in the provinces, felt for
the young girl a sentiment that was semi-superstitious. Her money had
preserved his ancient house from dishonorable ruin, and the presence
of so precious a treasure had brought him untold prosperity. His wife,
a heart of gold, and full of delicacy, had made the child religious,
and as pure as she was beautiful. Juana might well become the wife of
either a great seigneur or a wealthy merchant; she lacked no virtue
necessary to the highest destiny. Perez had intended taking her to
Madrid and marrying her to some grandee, but the events of the present
war delayed the fulfilment of this project.
"I don't know where the Marana now is," said Perez, ending the above
history, "but in whatever quarter of the world she may be living, when
she hears of the occupation of our province by your armies, and of the
siege of Tarragona, she will assuredly set out at once to come here
and see to her daughter's safety."
CHAPTER II. AUCTION
The foregoing narrative changed the intentions of the Italian captain;
no longer did he think of making a Marchesa di Montefiore of Juana di
Mancini. He recognized the blood of the Maranas in the glance the girl
had given from behind the blinds, in the trick she had just played to
satisfy her curiosity, and also in the parting look she had cast upon
him. The libertine wanted a virtuous woman for a wife.
The adventure was full of danger, but danger of a kind that never
daunts the least courageous man, for love and pleasure followed it.
The apprentice sleeping in the shop, the cook bivouacking in the
kitchen, Perez and his wife sleeping, no doubt, the wakeful sleep of
the aged, the echoing sonority of the old mansion, the close
surveillance of the girl in the day-time,--all these things were
obstacles, and made success a thing well-nigh impossible. But
Montefiore had in his favor against all impossibilities the blood of
the Maranas which gushed in the heart of that inquisitive girl,
Italian by birth, Spanish in principles, virgin indeed, but impatient
to love. Passion, the girl, and Montefiore were ready and able to defy
the whole universe.
Montefiore, impelled as much by the instinct of a man of gallantry as
by those vague hopes which cannot be explained, and to which we give
the name of presentiments (a word of astonishing verbal accuracy),
Montefiore spent the first hours of the night at his window,
endeavoring to look below him to the secret apartment where,
undoubtedly, the merchant and his wife had hidden the love and
joyfulness of their old age. The ware-room of the "entresol" separated
him from the rooms on the ground-floor. The captain therefore could
not have recourse to noises significantly made from one floor to the
other, an artificial language which all lovers know well how to
create. But chance, or it may have been the young girl herself, came
to his assistance. At the moment when he stationed himself at his
window, he saw, on the black wall of the courtyard, a circle of light,
in the centre of which the silhouette of Juana was clearly defined;
the consecutive movement of the arms, and the attitude, gave evidence
that she was arranging her hair for the night.
"Is she alone?" Montefiore asked himself; "could I, without danger,
lower a letter filled with coin and strike it against that circular
window in her hiding-place?"
At once he wrote a note, the note of a man exiled by his family to
Elba, the note of a degraded marquis now a mere captain of equipment.
Then he made a cord of whatever he could find that was capable of
being turned into string, filled the note with a few silver crowns,
and lowered it in the deepest silence to the centre of that spherical
"The shadows will show if her mother or the servant is with her,"
thought Montefiore. "If she is not alone, I can pull up the string at
But, after succeeding with infinite trouble in striking the glass, a
single form, the little figure of Juana, appeared upon the wall. The
young girl opened her window cautiously, saw the note, took it, and
stood before the window while she read it. In it, Montefiore had given
his name and asked for an interview, offering, after the style of the
old romances, his heart and hand to the Signorina Juana di Mancini--a
common trick, the success of which is nearly always certain. At
Juana's age, nobility of soul increases the dangers which surround
youth. A poet of our day has said: "Woman succumbs only to her own
nobility. The lover pretends to doubt the love he inspires at the
moment when he is most beloved; the young girl, confident and proud,
longs to make sacrifices to prove her love, and knows the world and
men too little to continue calm in the midst of her rising emotions
and repel with contempt the man who accepts a life offered in
expiation of a false reproach."
Ever since the constitution of societies the young girl finds herself
torn by a struggle between the caution of prudent virtue and the evils
of wrong-doing. Often she loses a love, delightful in prospect, and
the first, if she resists; on the other hand, she loses a marriage if
she is imprudent. Casting a glance over the vicissitudes of social
life in Paris, it is impossible to doubt the necessity of religion;
and yet Paris is situated in the forty-eighth degree of latitude,
while Tarragona is in the forty-first. The old question of climates is
still useful to narrators to explain the sudden denouements, the
imprudences, or the resistances of love.
Montefiore kept his eyes fixed on the exquisite black profile
projected by the gleam upon the wall. Neither he nor Juana could see
each other; a troublesome cornice, vexatiously placed, deprived them
of the mute correspondence which may be established between a pair of
lovers as they bend to each other from their windows. Thus the mind
and the attention of the captain were concentrated on that luminous
circle where, without perhaps knowing it herself, the young girl
would, he thought, innocently reveal her thoughts by a series of
gestures. But no! The singular motions she proceeded to make gave not
a particle of hope to the expectant lover. Juana was amusing herself
by cutting up his missive. But virtue and innocence sometimes imitate
the clever proceedings inspired by jealousy to the Bartholos of
comedy. Juana, without pens, ink, or paper, was replying by snip of
scissors. Presently she refastened the note to the string; the officer
drew it up, opened it, and read by the light of his lamp one word,
carefully cut out of the paper: COME.
"Come!" he said to himself; "but what of poison? or the dagger or
carbine of Perez? And that apprentice not yet asleep, perhaps, in the
shop? and the servant in her hammock? Besides, this old house echoes
the slightest sound; I can hear old Perez snoring even here. Come,
indeed! She can have nothing more to lose."
Bitter reflection! rakes alone are logical and will punish a woman for
devotion. Man created Satan and Lovelace; but a virgin is an angel on
whom he can bestow naught but his own vices. She is so grand, so
beautiful, that he cannot magnify or embellish her; he has only the
fatal power to blast her and drag her down into his own mire.
Montefiore waited for a later and more somnolent hour of the night;
then, in spite of his reflections, he descended the stairs without
boots, armed with his pistols, moving step by step, stopping to
question the silence, putting forth his hands, measuring the stairs,
peering into the darkness, and ready at the slightest incident to fly
back into his room. The Italian had put on his handsomest uniform; he
had perfumed his black hair, and now shone with the particular
brilliancy which dress and toilet bestow upon natural beauty. Under
such circumstances most men are as feminine as a woman.
The marquis arrived without hindrance before the secret door of the
room in which the girl was hidden, a sort of cell made in the angle of
the house and belonging exclusively to Juana, who had remained there
hidden during the day from every eye while the siege lasted. Up to the
present time she had slept in the room of her adopted mother, but the
limited space in the garret where the merchant and his wife had gone
to make room for the officer who was billeted upon them, did not allow
of her going with them. Dona Lagounia had therefore left the young
girl to the guardianship of lock and key, under the protection of
religious ideas, all the more efficacious because they were partly
superstitious, and also under the shield of a native pride and
sensitive modesty which made the young Mancini in sort an exception
among her sex. Juana possessed in an equal degree the most attaching
virtues and the most passionate impulses; she had needed the modesty
and sanctity of this monotonous life to calm and cool the tumultuous
blood of the Maranas which bounded in her heart, the desires of which
her adopted mother told her were an instigation of the devil.
A faint ray of light traced along the sill of the secret door guided
Montefiore to the place; he scratched the panel softly and Juana
opened to him. Montefiore entered, palpitating, but he recognized in
the expression of the girl's face complete ignorance of her peril, a
sort of naive curiosity, and an innocent admiration. He stopped short,
arrested for a moment by the sacredness of the picture which met his
He saw before him a tapestry on the walls with a gray ground sprinkled
with violets, a little coffer of ebony, an antique mirror, an immense
and very old arm chair also in ebony and covered with tapestry, a
table with twisted legs, a pretty carpet on the floor, near the table
a single chair; and that was all. On the table, however, were flowers
and embroidery; in a recess at the farther end of the room was the
narrow little bed where Juana dreamed. Above the bed were three
pictures; and near the pillow a crucifix, with a holy water basin and
a prayer, printed in letters of gold and framed. Flowers exhaled their
perfume faintly; the candles cast a tender light; all was calm and
pure and sacred. The dreamy thoughts of Juana, but above all Juana
herself, had communicated to all things her own peculiar charm; her
soul appeared to shine there, like the pearl in its matrix. Juana,
dressed in white, beautiful with naught but her own beauty, laying
down her rosary to answer love, might have inspired respect, even in a
Montefiore, if the silence, if the night, if Juana herself had not
seemed so amorous. Montefiore stood still, intoxicated with an unknown
happiness, possibly that of Satan beholding heaven through a rift of
the clouds which form its enclosure.
"As soon as I saw you," he said in pure Tuscan, and in the modest tone
of voice so peculiarly Italian, "I loved you. My soul and my life are
now in you, and in you they will be forever, if you will have it so."
Juana listened, inhaling from the atmosphere the sound of these words
which the accents of love made magnificent.
"Poor child! how have you breathed so long the air of this dismal
house without dying of it? You, made to reign in the world, to inhabit
the palace of a prince, to live in the midst of fetes, to feel the
joys which love bestows, to see the world at your feet, to efface all
other beauty by your own which can have no rival--you, to live here,
solitary, with those two shopkeepers!"
Adroit question! He wished to know if Juana had a lover.
"True," she replied. "But who can have told you my secret thoughts?
For the last few months I have nearly died of sadness. Yes, I would
RATHER die than stay longer in this house. Look at that embroidery;
there is not a stitch there which I did not set with dreadful
thoughts. How many times I have thought of escaping to fling myself
into the sea! Why? I don't know why,--little childish troubles, but
very keen, though they are so silly. Often I have kissed my mother at
night as one would kiss a mother for the last time, saying in my
heart: 'To-morrow I will kill myself.' But I do not die. Suicides go
to hell, you know, and I am so afraid of hell that I resign myself to
live, to get up in the morning and go to bed at night, and work the
same hours, and do the same things. I am not so weary of it, but I
suffer--And yet, my father and mother adore me. Oh! I am bad, I am
bad; I say so to my confessor."
"Do you always live here alone, without amusement, without pleasures?"
"Oh! I have not always been like this. Till I was fifteen the
festivals of the church, the chants, the music gave me pleasure. I was
happy, feeling myself like the angels without sin and able to
communicate every week--I loved God then. But for the last three
years, from day to day, all things have changed. First, I wanted
flowers here--and I have them, lovely flowers! Then I wanted--but I
want nothing now," she added, after a pause, smiling at Montefiore.
"Have you not said that you would love me always?"
"Yes, my Juana," cried Montefiore, softly, taking her round the waist
and pressing her to his heart, "yes. But let me speak to you as you
speak to God. Are you not as beautiful as Mary in heaven? Listen. I
swear to you," he continued, kissing her hair, "I swear to take that
forehead for my altar, to make you my idol, to lay at your feet all
the luxuries of the world. For you, my palace at Milan; for you my
horses, my jewels, the diamonds of my ancient family; for you, each
day, fresh jewels, a thousand pleasures, and all the joys of earth!"
"Yes," she said reflectively, "I would like that; but I feel within my
soul that I would like better than all the world my husband. Mio caro
sposo!" she said, as if it were impossible to give in any other
language the infinite tenderness, the loving elegance with which the
Italian tongue and accent clothe those delightful words. Besides,
Italian was Juana's maternal language.
"I should find," she continued, with a glance at Montefiore in which
shone the purity of the cherubim, "I should find in HIM my dear
religion, him and God--God and him. Is he to be you?" she said. "Yes,
surely it will be you," she cried, after a pause. "Come, and see the
picture my father brought me from Italy."
She took a candle, made a sign to Montefiore, and showed him at the
foot of her bed a Saint Michael overthrowing the demon.
"Look!" she said, "has he not your eyes? When I saw you from my window
in the street, our meeting seemed to me a sign from heaven. Every day
during my morning meditation, while waiting for my mother to call me
to prayer, I have so gazed at that picture, that angel, that I have
ended by thinking him my husband--oh! heavens, I speak to you as
though you were myself. I must seem crazy to you; but if you only knew
how a poor captive wants to tell the thoughts that choke her! When
alone, I talk to my flowers, to my tapestry; they can understand me
better, I think, than my father and mother, who are so grave."
"Juana," said Montefiore, taking her hands and kissing them with the
passion that gushed in his eyes, in his gestures, in the tones of his
voice, "speak to me as your husband, as yourself. I have suffered all
that you have suffered. Between us two few words are needed to make us
comprehend our past, but there will never be enough to express our
coming happiness. Lay your hand upon my heart. Feel how it beats. Let
us promise before God, who sees and hears us, to be faithful to each
other throughout our lives. Here, take my ring--and give me yours."
"Give you my ring!" she said in terror.
"Why not?" asked Montefiore, uneasy at such artlessness.
"But our holy father the Pope has blessed it; it was put upon my
finger in childhood by a beautiful lady who took care of me, and who
told me never to part with it."
"Juana, you cannot love me!"
"Ah!" she said, "here it is; take it. You, are you not another
She held out the ring with a trembling hand, holding it tightly as she
looked at Montefiore with a clear and penetrating eye that questioned
him. That ring! all of herself was in it; but she gave it to him.
"Oh, my Juana!" said Montefiore, again pressing her in his arms. "I
should be a monster indeed if I deceived you. I will love you
Juana was thoughtful. Montefiore, reflecting that in this first
interview he ought to venture upon nothing that might frighten a young
girl so ignorantly pure, so imprudent by virtue rather than from
desire, postponed all further action to the future, relying on his
beauty, of which he knew the power, and on this innocent ring-
marriage, the hymen of the heart, the lightest, yet the strongest of
all ceremonies. For the rest of that night, and throughout the next
day, Juana's imagination was the accomplice of her passion.
On this first evening Montefiore forced himself to be as respectful as
he was tender. With that intention, in the interests of his passion
and the desires with which Juana inspired him, he was caressing and
unctuous in language; he launched the young creature into plans for a
new existence, described to her the world under glowing colors, talked
to her of household details always attractive to the mind of girls,
giving her a sense of the rights and realities of love. Then, having
agreed upon the hour for their future nocturnal interviews, he left
her happy, but changed; the pure and pious Juana existed no longer; in
the last glance she gave him, in the pretty movement by which she
brought her forehead to his lips, there was already more of passion
than a girl should feel. Solitude, weariness of employments contrary
to her nature had brought this about. To make the daughter of the
Maranas truly virtuous, she ought to have been habituated, little by
little, to the world, or else to have been wholly withdrawn from it.
"The day, to-morrow, will seem very long to me," she said, receiving
his kisses on her forehead. "But stay in the salon, and speak loud,
that I may hear your voice; it fills my soul."
Montefiore, clever enough to imagine the girl's life, was all the more
satisfied with himself for restraining his desires because he saw that
it would lead to his greater contentment. He returned to his room
Ten days went by without any event occurring to trouble the peace and
solitude of the house. Montefiore employed his Italian cajolery on old
Perez, on Dona Lagounia, on the apprentice, even on the cook, and they
all liked him; but, in spite of the confidence he now inspired in
them, he never asked to see Juana, or to have the door of her
mysterious hiding-place opened to him. The young girl, hungry to see
her lover, implored him to do so; but he always refused her from an
instinct of prudence. Besides, he had used his best powers and
fascinations to lull the suspicions of the old couple, and had now
accustomed them to see him, a soldier, stay in bed till midday on
pretence that he was ill. Thus the lovers lived only in the night-
time, when the rest of the household were asleep. If Montefiore had
not been one of those libertines whom the habit of gallantry enables
to retain their self-possession under all circumstances, he might have
been lost a dozen times during those ten days. A young lover, in the
simplicity of a first love, would have committed the enchanting
imprudences which are so difficult to resist. But he did resist even
Juana herself, Juana pouting, Juana making her long hair a chain which
she wound about his neck when caution told him he must go.
The most suspicious of guardians would however have been puzzled to
detect the secret of their nightly meetings. It is to be supposed
that, sure of success, the Italian marquis gave himself the ineffable
pleasures of a slow seduction, step by step, leading gradually to the
fire which should end the affair in a conflagration. On the eleventh
day, at the dinner-table, he thought it wise to inform old Perez,
under seal of secrecy, that the reason of his separation from his
family was an ill-assorted marriage. This false revelation was an
infamous thing in view of the nocturnal drama which was being played
under that roof. Montefiore, an experienced rake, was preparing for
the finale of that drama which he foresaw and enjoyed as an artist who
loves his art. He expected to leave before long, and without regret,
the house and his love. It would happen, he thought, in this way:
Juana, after waiting for him in vain for several nights, would risk
her life, perhaps, in asking Perez what had become of his guest; and
Perez would reply, not aware of the importance of his answer,--
"The Marquis de Montefiore is reconciled to his family, who consent to
receive his wife; he has gone to Italy to present her to them."
And Juana?--The marquis never asked himself what would become of
Juana; but he had studied her character, its nobility, candor, and
strength, and he knew he might be sure of her silence.
He obtained a mission from one of the generals. Three days later, on
the night preceding his intended departure, Montefiore, instead of
returning to his own room after dinner, contrived to enter unseen that
of Juana, to make that farewell night the longer. Juana, true Spaniard
and true Italian, was enchanted with such boldness; it argued ardor!
For herself she did not fear discovery. To find in the pure love of
marriage the excitements of intrigue, to hide her husband behind the
curtains of her bed, and say to her adopted father and mother, in case
of detection: "I am the Marquise de Montefiore!"--was to an ignorant
and romantic young girl, who for three years past had dreamed of love
without dreaming of its dangers, delightful. The door closed on this
last evening upon her folly, her happiness, like a veil, which it is
useless here to raise.
It was nine o'clock; the merchant and his wife were reading their
evening prayers; suddenly the noise of a carriage drawn by several
horses resounded in the street; loud and hasty raps echoed from the
shop where the servant hurried to open the door, and into that
venerable salon rushed a woman, magnificently dressed in spite of the
mud upon the wheels of her travelling-carriage, which had just crossed
Italy, France, and Spain. It was, of course, the Marana,--the Marana
who, in spite of her thirty-six years, was still in all the glory of
her ravishing beauty; the Marana who, being at that time the mistress
of a king, had left Naples, the fetes, the skies of Naples, the climax
of her life of luxury, on hearing from her royal lover of the events
in Spain and the siege of Tarragona.
"Tarragona! I must get to Tarragona before the town is taken!" she
cried. "Ten days to reach Tarragona!"
Then without caring for crown or court, she arrived in Tarragona,
furnished with an almost imperial safe-conduct; furnished too with
gold which enabled her to cross France with the velocity of a rocket.
"My daughter! my daughter!" cried the Marana.
At this voice, and the abrupt invasion of their solitude, the prayer-
book fell from the hands of the old couple.
"She is there," replied the merchant, calmly, after a pause during
which he recovered from the emotion caused by the abrupt entrance, and
the look and voice of the mother. "She is there," he repeated,
pointing to the door of the little chamber.
"Yes, but has any harm come to her; is she still--"
"Perfectly well," said Dona Lagounia.
"O God! send me to hell if it so pleases thee!" cried the Marana,
dropping, exhausted and half dead, into a chair.
The flush in her cheeks, due to anxiety, paled suddenly; she had
strength to endure suffering, but none to bear this joy. Joy was more
violent in her soul than suffering, for it contained the echoes of her
pain and the agonies of its own emotion.
"But," she said, "how have you kept her safe? Tarragona is taken."
"Yes," said Perez, "but since you see me living why do you ask that
question? Should I not have died before harm could have come to
At that answer, the Marana seized the calloused hand of the old man,
and kissed it, wetting it with the tears that flowed from her eyes--
she who never wept! those tears were all she had most precious under
"My good Perez!" she said at last. "But have you had no soldiers
quartered in your house?"
"Only one," replied the Spaniard. "Fortunately for us the most loyal
of men; a Spaniard by birth, but now an Italian who hates Bonaparte; a
married man. He is ill, and gets up late and goes to bed early."
"An Italian! What is his name?"
"Can it be the Marquis de Montefiore--"
"Yes, Senora, he himself."
"Has he seen Juana?"
"No," said Dona Lagounia.
"You are mistaken, wife," said Perez. "The marquis must have seen her
for a moment, a short moment, it is true; but I think he looked at her
that evening she came in here during supper."
"Ah, let me see my daughter!"
"Nothing easier," said Perez; "she is now asleep. If she has left the
key in the lock we must waken her."
As he rose to take the duplicate key of Juana's door his eyes fell by
chance on the circular gleam of light upon the black wall of the inner
courtyard. Within that circle he saw the shadow of a group such as
Canova alone has attempted to render. The Spaniard turned back.
"I do not know," he said to the Marana, "where to find the key."
"You are very pale," she said.
"And I will show you why," he cried, seizing his dagger and rapping
its hilt violently on Juana's door as he shouted,--
"Open! open! open! Juana!"
Juana did not open, for she needed time to conceal Montefiore. She
knew nothing of what was passing in the salon; the double portieres of
thick tapestry deadened all sounds.
"Madame, I lied to you in saying I could not find the key. Here it
is," added Perez, taking it from a sideboard. "But it is useless.
Juana's key is in the lock; her door is barricaded. We have been
deceived, my wife!" he added, turning to Dona Lagounia. "There is a
man in Juana's room."
"Impossible! By my eternal salvation I say it is impossible!" said his
"Do not swear, Dona Lagounia. Our honor is dead, and this woman--" He
pointed to the Marana, who had risen and was standing motionless,
blasted by his words, "this woman has the right to despise us. She
saved our life, our fortune, and our honor, and we have saved nothing
for her but her money--Juana!" he cried again, "open, or I will burst
in your door."
His voice, rising in violence, echoed through the garrets in the roof.
He was cold and calm. The life of Montefiore was in his hands; he
would wash away his remorse in the blood of that Italian.
"Out, out, out! out, all of you!" cried the Marana, springing like a
tigress on the dagger, which she wrenched from the hand of the
astonished Perez. "Out, Perez," she continued more calmly, "out, you
and your wife and servants! There will be murder here. You might be
shot by the French. Have nothing to do with this; it is my affair,
mine only. Between my daughter and me there is none but God. As for
the man, he belongs to ME. The whole earth could not tear him from my
grasp. Go, go! I forgive you. I see plainly that the girl is a Marana.
You, your religion, your virtue, were too weak to fight against my
She gave a dreadful sigh, turning her dry eyes on them. She had lost
all, but she knew how to suffer,--a true courtesan.
The door opened. The Marana forgot all else, and Perez, making a sign
to his wife, remained at his post. With his old invincible Spanish
honor he was determined to share the vengeance of the betrayed mother.
Juana, all in white, and softly lighted by the wax candles, was
standing calmly in the centre of her chamber.
"What do you want with me?" she said.
The Marana could not repress a passing shudder.
"Perez," she asked, "has this room another issue?"
Perez made a negative gesture; confiding in that gesture, the mother
entered the room.
"Juana," she said, "I am your mother, your judge; you have placed
yourself in the only situation in which I could reveal myself to you.
You have come down to me, you, whom I thought in heaven. Ah! you have
fallen low indeed. You have a lover in this room."
"Madame, there is and can be no one but my husband," answered the
girl. "I am the Marquise de Montefiore."
"Then there are two," said Perez, in a grave voice. "He told me he was
"Montefiore, my love!" cried the girl, tearing aside the curtain and
revealing the officer. "Come! they are slandering you."
The Italian appeared, pale and speechless; he saw the dagger in the
Marana's hand, and he knew her well. With one bound he sprang from the
room, crying out in a thundering voice,--
"Help! help! they are murdering a Frenchman. Soldiers of the 6th of
the line, rush for Captain Diard! Help, help!"
Perez had gripped the man and was trying to gag him with his large
hand, but the Marana stopped him, saying,--
"Bind him fast, but let him shout. Open the doors, leave them open,
and go, go, as I told you; go, all of you.--As for you," she said,
addressing Montefiore, "shout, call for help if you choose; by the
time your soldiers get here this blade will be in your heart. Are you
Montefiore, who had fallen on the threshold of the door, scarcely a
step from Juana, saw nothing but the blade of the dagger, the gleam of
which blinded him.
"Has he deceived me?" said Juana, slowly. "He told me he was free."
"He told me that he was married," repeated Perez, in his solemn voice.
"Holy Virgin!" murmured Dona Lagounia.
"Answer, soul of corruption," said the Marana, in a low voice, bending
to the ear of the marquis.
"Your daughter--" began Montefiore.
"The daughter that was mine is dead or dying," interrupted the Marana.
"I have no daughter; do not utter that word. Answer, are you married?"
"No, madame," said Montefiore, at last, striving to gain time, "I
desire to marry your daughter."
"My noble Montefiore!" said Juana, drawing a deep breath.
"Then why did you attempt to fly and cry for help?" asked Perez.
Terrible, revealing light!
Juana said nothing, but she wrung her hands and went to her arm-chair
and sat down.
At that moment a tumult rose in the street which was plainly heard in
the silence of the room. A soldier of the 6th, hearing Montefiore's
cry for help, had summoned Diard. The quartermaster, who was
fortunately in his bivouac, came, accompanied by friends.
"Why did I fly?" said Montefiore, hearing the voice of his friend.
"Because I told you the truth; I am married--Diard! Diard!" he shouted
in a piercing voice.
But, at a word from Perez, the apprentice closed and bolted the doors,
so that the soldiers were delayed by battering them in. Before they
could enter, the Marana had time to strike her dagger into the guilty
man; but anger hindered her aim, the blade slipped upon the Italian's
epaulet, though she struck her blow with such force that he fell at
the very feet of Juana, who took no notice of him. The Marana sprang
upon him, and this time, resolved not to miss her prey, she caught him
by the throat.
"I am free and I will marry her! I swear it, by God, by my mother, by
all there is most sacred in the world; I am a bachelor; I will marry
her, on my honor!"
And he bit the arm of the courtesan.
"Mother," said Juana, "kill him. He is so base that I will not have
him for my husband, were he ten times as beautiful."
"Ah! I recognize my daughter!" cried the mother.
"What is all this?" demanded the quartermaster, entering the room.
"They are murdering me," cried Montefiore, "on account of this girl;
she says I am her lover. She inveigled me into a trap, and they are
forcing me to marry her--"
"And you reject her?" cried Diard, struck with the splendid beauty
which contempt, hatred, and indignation had given to the girl, already
so beautiful. "Then you are hard to please. If she wants a husband I
am ready to marry her. Put up your weapons; there is no trouble here."
The Marana pulled the Italian to the side of her daughter's bed and
said to him, in a low voice,--
"If I spare you, give thanks for the rest of your life; but, remember
this, if your tongue ever injures my daughter you will see me again.
Go!--How much 'dot' do you give her?" she continued, going up to
"She has two hundred thousand gold piastres," replied the Spaniard.
"And that is not all, monsieur," said the Marana, turning to Diard.
"Who are you?--Go!" she repeated to Montefiore.
The marquis, hearing this statement of gold piastres, came forward
once more, saying,--
"I am really free--"
A glance from Juana silenced him.
"You are really free to go," she said.
And he went immediately.
"Alas! monsieur," said the girl, turning to Diard, "I thank you with
admiration. But my husband is in heaven. To-morrow I shall enter a
"Juana, my Juana, hush!" cried the mother, clasping her in her arms.
Then she whispered in the girl's ear. "You MUST have another husband."
Juana turned pale. She freed herself from her mother and sat down once
more in her arm-chair.
"Who are you, monsieur?" repeated the Marana, addressing Diard.
"Madame, I am at present only the quartermaster of the 6th of the
line. But for such a wife I have the heart to make myself a marshal of
France. My name is Pierre-Francois Diard. My father was provost of
merchants. I am not--"
"But, at least, you are an honest man, are you not?" cried the Marana,
interrupting him. "If you please the Signorina Juana di Mancini, you
can marry her and be happy together.--Juana," she continued in a grave
tone, "in becoming the wife of a brave and worthy man remember that
you will also be a mother. I have sworn that you shall kiss your
children without a blush upon your face" (her voice faltered
slightly). "I have sworn that you shall live a virtuous life; expect,
therefore, many troubles. But, whatever happens, continue pure, and be
faithful to your husband. Sacrifice all things to him, for he will be
the father of your children--the father of your children! If you take
a lover, I, your mother, will stand between you and him. Do you see
that dagger? It is in your 'dot,'" she continued, throwing the weapon
on Juana's bed. "I leave it there as the guarantee of your honor so
long as my eyes are open and my arm free. Farewell," she said,
restraining her tears. "God grant that we may never meet again."
At that idea, her tears began to flow.
"Poor child!" she added, "you have been happier than you knew in this
dull home.--Do not allow her to regret it," she said, turning to
The foregoing rapid narrative is not the principal subject of this
Study, for the understanding of which it was necessary to explain how
it happened that the quartermaster Diard married Juana di Mancini,
that Montefiore and Diard were intimately known to each other, and to
show plainly what blood and what passions were in Madame Diard.
CHAPTER III. THE HISTORY OF MADAME DIARD
By the time that the quartermaster had fulfilled all the long and
dilatory formalities without which no French soldier can be married,
he was passionately in love with Juana di Mancini, and Juana had had
time to think of her coming destiny.
An awful destiny! Juana, who felt neither esteem nor love for Diard,
was bound to him forever, by a rash but necessary promise. The man was
neither handsome nor well-made. His manners, devoid of all
distinction, were a mixture of the worst army tone, the habits of his
province, and his own insufficient education. How could she love
Diard, she, a young girl all grace and elegance, born with an
invincible instinct for luxury and good taste, her very nature tending
toward the sphere of the higher social classes? As for esteeming him,
she rejected the very thought precisely because he had married her.
This repulsion was natural. Woman is a saintly and noble creature, but
almost always misunderstood, and nearly always misjudged because she
is misunderstood. If Juana had loved Diard she would have esteemed
him. Love creates in a wife a new woman; the woman of the day before
no longer exists on the morrow. Putting on the nuptial robe of a
passion in which life itself is concerned, the woman wraps herself in
purity and whiteness. Reborn into virtue and chastity, there is no
past for her; she is all future, and should forget the things behind
her to relearn life. In this sense the famous words which a modern
poet has put into the lips of Marion Delorme is infused with truth,--
"And Love remade me virgin."
That line seems like a reminiscence of a tragedy of Corneille, so
truly does it recall the energetic diction of the father of our modern
theatre. Yet the poet was forced to sacrifice it to the essentially
vaudevillist spirit of the pit.
So Juana loveless was doomed to be Juana humiliated, degraded,
hopeless. She could not honor the man who took her thus. She felt, in
all the conscientious purity of her youth, that distinction, subtle in
appearance but sacredly true, legal with the heart's legality, which
women apply instinctively to all their feelings, even the least
reflective. Juana became profoundly sad as she saw the nature and the
extent of the life before her. Often she turned her eyes, brimming
with tears proudly repressed, upon Perez and Dona Lagounia, who fully
comprehended, both of them, the bitter thoughts those tears contained.
But they were silent: of what good were reproaches now; why look for
consolations? The deeper they were, the more they enlarged the wound.
One evening, Juana, stupid with grief, heard through the open door of
her little room, which the old couple had thought shut, a pitying moan
from her adopted mother.
"The child will die of grief."
"Yes," said Perez, in a shaking voice, "but what can we do? I cannot
now boast of her beauty and her chastity to Comte d'Arcos, to whom I
hoped to marry her."
"But a single fault is not vice," said the old woman, pitying as the
"Her mother gave her to this man," said Perez.
"Yes, in a moment; without consulting the poor child!" cried Dona
"She knew what she was doing."
"But oh! into what hands our pearl is going!"
"Say no more, or I shall seek a quarrel with that Diard."
"And that would only lead to other miseries."
Hearing these dreadful words Juana saw the happy future she had lost
by her own wrongdoing. The pure and simple years of her quiet life
would have been rewarded by a brilliant existence such as she had
fondly dreamed,--dreams which had caused her ruin. To fall from the
height of Greatness to Monsieur Diard! She wept. At times she went
nearly mad. She floated for a while between vice and religion. Vice
was a speedy solution, religion a lifetime of suffering. The
meditation was stormy and solemn. The next day was the fatal day, the
day for the marriage. But Juana could still remain free. Free, she
knew how far her misery would go; married, she was ignorant of where
it went or what it might bring her.
Religion triumphed. Dona Lagounia stayed beside her child and prayed
and watched as she would have prayed and watched beside the dying.
"God wills it," she said to Juana.
Nature gives to woman alternately a strength which enables her to
suffer and a weakness which leads her to resignation. Juana resigned
herself; and without restriction. She determined to obey her mother's
prayer, and cross the desert of life to reach God's heaven, knowing
well that no flowers grew for her along the way of that painful
She married Diard. As for the quartermaster, though he had no grace in
Juana's eyes, we may well absolve him. He loved her distractedly. The
Marana, so keen to know the signs of love, had recognized in that man
the accents of passion and the brusque nature, the generous impulses,
that are common to Southerners. In the paroxysm of her anger and her
distress she had thought such qualities enough for her daughter's
The first days of this marriage were apparently happy; or, to express
one of those latent facts, the miseries of which are buried by women
in the depths of their souls, Juana would not cast down her husband's
joy,--a double role, dreadful to play, but to which, sooner or later,
all women unhappily married come. This is a history impossible to
recount in its full truth. Juana, struggling hourly against her
nature, a nature both Spanish and Italian, having dried up the source
of her tears by dint of weeping, was a human type, destined to
represent woman's misery in its utmost expression, namely, sorrow
undyingly active; the description of which would need such minute
observations that to persons eager for dramatic emotions they would
seem insipid. This analysis, in which every wife would find some one
of her own sufferings, would require a volume to express them all; a
fruitless, hopeless volume by its very nature, the merit of which
would consist in faintest tints and delicate shadings which critics
would declare to be effeminate and diffuse. Besides, what man could
rightly approach, unless he bore another heart within his heart, those
solemn and touching elegies which certain women carry with them to
their tomb; melancholies, misunderstood even by those who cause them;
sighs unheeded, devotions unrewarded,--on earth at least,--splendid
silences misconstrued; vengeances withheld, disdained; generosities
perpetually bestowed and wasted; pleasures longed for and denied;
angelic charities secretly accomplished,--in short, all the religions
of womanhood and its inextinguishable love.
Juana knew that life; fate spared her nought. She was wholly a wife,
but a sorrowful and suffering wife; a wife incessantly wounded, yet
forgiving always; a wife pure as a flawless diamond,--she who had the
beauty and the glow of the diamond, and in that beauty, that glow, a
vengeance in her hand; for she was certainly not a woman to fear the
dagger added to her "dot."
At first, inspired by a real love, by one of those passions which for
the time being change even odious characters and bring to light all
that may be noble in a soul, Diard behaved like a man of honor. He
forced Montefiore to leave the regiment and even the army corps, so
that his wife might never meet him during the time they remained in
Spain. Next, he petitioned for his own removal, and succeeded in
entering the Imperial Guard. He desired at any price to obtain a
title, honors, and consideration in keeping with his present wealth.
With this idea in his mind, he behaved courageously in one of the most
bloody battles in Germany, but, unfortunately, he was too severely
wounded to remain in the service. Threatened with the loss of a leg,
he was forced to retire on a pension, without the title of baron,
without those rewards he hoped to win, and would have won had he not
This event, this wound, and his thwarted hopes contributed to change
his character. His Provencal energy, roused for a time, sank down. At
first he was sustained by his wife, in whom his efforts, his courage,
his ambition had induced some belief in his nature, and who showed
herself, what women are, tender and consoling in the troubles of life.
Inspired by a few words from Juana, the retired soldier came to Paris,
resolved to win in an administrative career a position to command
respect, bury in oblivion the quartermaster of the 6th of the line,
and secure for Madame Diard a noble title. His passion for that
seductive creature enabled him to divine her most secret wishes. Juana
expressed nothing, but he understood her. He was not loved as a lover
dreams of being loved; he knew this, and he strove to make himself
respected, loved, and cherished. He foresaw a coming happiness, poor
man, in the patience and gentleness shown on all occasions by his
wife; but that patience, that gentleness, were only the outward signs
of the resignation which had made her his wife. Resignation, religion,
were they love? Often Diard wished for refusal where he met with
chaste obedience; often he would have given his eternal life that
Juana might have wept upon his bosom and not disguised her secret
thoughts behind a smiling face which lied to him nobly. Many young men
--for after a certain age men no longer struggle--persist in the
effort to triumph over an evil fate, the thunder of which they hear,
from time to time, on the horizon of their lives; and when at last
they succumb and roll down the precipice of evil, we ought to do them
justice and acknowledge these inward struggles.
Like many men Diard tried all things, and all things were hostile to
him. His wealth enabled him to surround his wife with the enjoyments
of Parisian luxury. She lived in a fine house, with noble rooms, where
she maintained a salon, in which abounded artists (by nature no judges
of men), men of pleasure ready to amuse themselves anywhere, a few
politicians who swelled the numbers, and certain men of fashion, all
of whom admired Juana. Those who put themselves before the eyes of the
public in Paris must either conquer Paris or be subject to it. Diard's
character was not sufficiently strong, compact, or persistent to
command society at that epoch, because it was an epoch when all men
were endeavoring to rise. Social classifications ready-made are
perhaps a great boon even for the people. Napoleon has confided to us
the pains he took to inspire respect in his court, where most of the
courtiers had been his equals. But Napoleon was Corsican, and Diard
Provencal. Given equal genius, an islander will always be more compact
and rounded than the man of terra firma in the same latitude; the arm
of the sea which separates Corsica from Provence is, in spite of human
science, an ocean which has made two nations.
Diard's mongrel position, which he himself made still more
questionable, brought him great troubles. Perhaps there is useful
instruction to be derived from the almost imperceptible connection of
acts which led to the finale of this history.
In the first place, the sneerers of Paris did not see without
malicious smiles and words the pictures with which the former
quartermaster adorned his handsome mansion. Works of art purchased the
night before were said to be spoils from Spain; and this accusation
was the revenge of those who were jealous of his present fortune.
Juana comprehended this reproach, and by her advice Diard sent back to
Tarragona all the pictures he had brought from there. But the public,
determined to see things in the worst light, only said, "That Diard is
shrewd; he has sold his pictures." Worthy people continued to think
that those which remained in the Diard salons were not honorably
acquired. Some jealous women asked how it was that a DIARD (!) had
been able to marry so rich and beautiful a young girl. Hence comments
and satires without end, such as Paris contributes. And yet, it must
be said, that Juana met on all sides the respect inspired by her pure
and religious life, which triumphed over everything, even Parisian
calumny; but this respect stopped short with her, her husband received
none of it. Juana's feminine perception and her keen eye hovering over
her salons, brought her nothing but pain.
This lack of esteem was perfectly natural. Diard's comrades, in spite
of the virtues which our imaginations attribute to soldiers, never
forgave the former quartermaster of the 6th of the line for becoming
suddenly so rich and for attempting to cut a figure in Paris. Now in
Paris, from the last house in the faubourg Saint-Germain to the last
in the rue Saint-Lazare, between the heights of the Luxembourg and the
heights of Montmartre, all that clothes itself and gabbles, clothes
itself to go out and goes out to gabble. All that world of great and
small pretensions, that world of insolence and humble desires, of envy
and cringing, all that is gilded or tarnished, young or old, noble of
yesterday or noble from the fourth century, all that sneers at a
parvenu, all that fears to commit itself, all that wants to demolish
power and worships power if it resists,--ALL those ears hear, ALL
those tongues say, ALL those minds know, in a single evening, where
the new-comer who aspires to honor among them was born and brought up,
and what that interloper has done, or has not done, in the course of
his life. There may be no court of assizes for the upper classes of
society; but at any rate they have the most cruel of public
prosecutors, an intangible moral being, both judge and executioner,
who accuses and brands. Do not hope to hide anything from him; tell
him all yourself; he wants to know all and he will know all. Do not
ask what mysterious telegraph it was which conveyed to him in the
twinkling of an eye, at any hour, in any place, that story, that bit
of news, that scandal; do not ask what prompts him. That telegraph is
a social mystery; no observer can report its effects. Of many
extraordinary instances thereof, one may suffice: The assassination of
the Duc de Berry, which occurred at the Opera-house, was related
within ten minutes in the Ile-Saint-Louis. Thus the opinion of the 6th
of the line as to its quartermaster filtered through society the night
on which he gave his first ball.
Diard was therefore debarred from succeeding in society. Henceforth
his wife alone had the power to make anything of him. Miracle of our
strange civilization! In Paris, if a man is incapable of being
anything himself, his wife, when she is young and clever, may give him
other chances for elevation. We sometimes meet with invalid women,
feeble beings apparently, who, without rising from sofas or leaving
their chambers, have ruled society, moved a thousand springs, and
placed their husbands where their ambition or their vanity prompted.
But Juana, whose childhood was passed in her retreat in Tarragona,
knew nothing of the vices, the meannesses, or the resources of
Parisian society; she looked at that society with the curiosity of a
girl, but she learned from it only that which her sorrow and her
wounded pride revealed to her.
Juana had the tact of a virgin heart which receives impressions in
advance of the event, after the manner of what are called
"sensitives." The solitary young girl, so suddenly become a woman and
a wife, saw plainly that were she to attempt to compel society to
respect her husband, it must be after the manner of Spanish beggars,
carbine in hand. Besides, the multiplicity of the precautions she
would have to take, would they meet the necessity? Suddenly she
divined society as, once before, she had divined life, and she saw
nothing around her but the immense extent of an irreparable disaster.
She had, moreover, the additional grief of tardily recognizing her
husband's peculiar form of incapacity; he was a man unfitted for any
purpose that required continuity of ideas. He could not understand a
consistent part, such as he ought to play in the world; he perceived
it neither as a whole nor in its gradations, and its gradations were
everything. He was in one of those positions where shrewdness and tact
might have taken the place of strength; when shrewdness and tact
succeed, they are, perhaps, the highest form of strength.
Now Diard, far from arresting the spot of oil on his garments left by
his antecedents, did his best to spread it. Incapable of studying the
phase of the empire in the midst of which he came to live in Paris, he
wanted to be made prefect. At that time every one believed in the
genius of Napoleon; his favor enhanced the value of all offices.
Prefectures, those miniature empires, could only be filled by men of
great names, or chamberlains of H.M. the emperor and king. Already the
prefects were a species of vizier. The myrmidons of the great man
scoffed at Diard's pretensions to a prefecture, whereupon he lowered
his demand to a sub-prefecture. There was, of course, a ridiculous
discrepancy between this latter demand and the magnitude of his
fortune. To frequent the imperial salons and live with insolent
luxury, and then to abandon that millionaire life and bury himself as
sub-prefect at Issoudun or Savenay was certainly holding himself below
his position. Juana, too late aware of our laws and habits and
administrative customs, did not enlighten her husband soon enough.
Diard, desperate, petitioned successively all the ministerial powers;
repulsed everywhere, he found nothing open to him; and society then
judged him as the government judged him and as he judged himself.
Diard, grievously wounded on the battlefield, was nevertheless not
decorated; the quartermaster, rich as he was, was allowed no place in
public life, and society logically refused him that to which he
pretended in its midst.
Finally, to cap all, the luckless man felt in his own home the
superiority of his wife. Though she used great tact--we might say
velvet softness if the term were admissible--to disguise from her
husband this supremacy, which surprised and humiliated herself, Diard
ended by being affected by it.
At a game of life like this men are either unmanned, or they grow the
stronger, or they give themselves to evil. The courage or the ardor of
this man lessened under the reiterated blows which his own faults
dealt to his self-appreciation, and fault after fault he committed. In
the first place he had to struggle against his own habits and
character. A passionate Provencal, frank in his vices as in his
virtues, this man whose fibres vibrated like the strings of a harp,
was all heart to his former friends. He succored the shabby and
spattered man as readily as the needy of rank; in short, he accepted
everybody, and gave his hand in his gilded salons to many a poor
devil. Observing this on one occasion, a general of the empire, a
variety of the human species of which no type will presently remain,
refused his hand to Diard, and called him, insolently, "my good
fellow" when he met him. The few persons of really good society whom
Diard knew, treated him with that elegant, polished contempt against
which a new-made man has seldom any weapons. The manners, the semi-
Italian gesticulations, the speech of Diard, his style of dress,--all
contributed to repulse the respect which careful observation of
matters of good taste and dignity might otherwise obtain for vulgar
persons; the yoke of such conventionalities can only be cast off by
great and unthinkable powers. So goes the world.
These details but faintly picture the many tortures to which Juana was
subjected; they came upon her one by one; each social nature pricked
her with its own particular pin; and to a soul which preferred the
thrust of a dagger, there could be no worse suffering than this
struggle in which Diard received insults he did not feel and Juana
felt those she did not receive. A moment came, an awful moment, when
she gained a clear and lucid perception of society, and felt in one
instant all the sorrows which were gathering themselves together to
fall upon her head. She judged her husband incapable of rising to the
honored ranks of the social order, and she felt that he would one day
descend to where his instincts led him. Henceforth Juana felt pity for
The future was very gloomy for this young woman. She lived in constant
apprehension of some disaster. This presentiment was in her soul as a
contagion is in the air, but she had strength of mind and will to
disguise her anguish beneath a smile. Juana had ceased to think of
herself. She used her influence to make Diard resign his various
pretensions and to show him, as a haven, the peaceful and consoling
life of home. Evils came from society--why not banish it? In his home
Diard found peace and respect; he reigned there. She felt herself
strong to accept the trying task of making him happy,--he, a man
dissatisfied with himself. Her energy increased with the difficulties
of life; she had all the secret heroism necessary to her position;
religion inspired her with those desires which support the angel
appointed to protect a Christian soul--occult poesy, allegorical image
of our two natures!
Diard abandoned his projects, closed his house to the world, and lived
in his home. But here he found another reef. The poor soldier had one
of those eccentric souls which need perpetual motion. Diard was one of
the men who are instinctively compelled to start again the moment they
arrive, and whose vital object seems to be to come and go incessantly,
like the wheels mentioned in Holy Writ. Perhaps he felt the need of
flying from himself. Without wearying of Juana, without blaming Juana,
his passion for her, rendered tranquil by time, allowed his natural
character to assert itself. Henceforth his days of gloom were more
frequent, and he often gave way to southern excitement. The more
virtuous a woman is and the more irreproachable, the more a man likes
to find fault with her, if only to assert by that act his legal
superiority. But if by chance she seems really imposing to him, he
feels the need of foisting faults upon her. After that, between man
and wife, trifles increase and grow till they swell to Alps.
But Juana, patient and without pride, gentle and without that
bitterness which women know so well how to cast into their submission,
left Diard no chance for planned ill-humor. Besides, she was one of
those noble creatures to whom it is impossible to speak
disrespectfully; her glance, in which her life, saintly and pure,
shone out, had the weight of a fascination. Diard, embarrassed at
first, then annoyed, ended by feeling that such high virtue was a yoke
upon him. The goodness of his wife gave him no violent emotions, and
violent emotions were what he wanted. What myriads of scenes are
played in the depths of his souls, beneath the cold exterior of lives
that are, apparently, commonplace! Among these dramas, lasting each
but a short time, though they influence life so powerfully and are
frequently the forerunners of the great misfortune doomed to fall on
so many marriages, it is difficult to choose an example. There was a
scene, however, which particularly marked the moment when in the life
of this husband and wife estrangement began. Perhaps it may also serve
to explain the finale of this narrative.
Juana had two children, happily for her, two sons. The first was born
seven months after her marriage. He was called Juan, and he strongly
resembled his mother. The second was born about two years after her
arrival in Paris. The latter resembled both Diard and Juana, but more
particularly Diard. His name was Francisque. For the last five years
Francisque had been the object of Juana's most tender and watchful
care. The mother was constantly occupied with that child; to him her
prettiest caresses; to him the toys, but to him, especially, the
penetrating mother-looks. Juana had watched him from his cradle; she
had studied his cries, his motions; she endeavored to discern his
nature that she might educate him wisely. It seemed at times as if she
had but that one child. Diard, seeing that the eldest, Juan, was in a
way neglected, took him under his own protection; and without
inquiring even of himself whether the boy was the fruit of that
ephemeral love to which he owed his wife, he made him his Benjamin.
Of all the sentiments transmitted to her through the blood of her
grandmothers which consumed her, Madame Diard accepted one alone,--
maternal love. But she loved her children doubly: first with the noble
violence of which her mother the Marana had given her the example;
secondly, with grace and purity, in the spirit of those social virtues
the practice of which was the glory of her life and her inward
recompense. The secret thought, the conscience of her motherhood,
which gave to the Marana's life its stamp of untaught poesy, was to
Juana an acknowledged life, an open consolation at all hours. Her
mother had been virtuous as other women are criminal,--in secret; she
had stolen a fancied happiness, she had never really tasted it. But
Juana, unhappy in her virtue as her mother was unhappy in her vice,
could enjoy at all moments the ineffable delights which her mother had
so craved and could not have. To her, as to her mother, maternity
comprised all earthly sentiments. Each, from differing causes, had no
other comfort in their misery. Juana's maternal love may have been the
strongest because, deprived of all other affections, she put the joys
she lacked into the one joy of her children; and there are noble
passions that resemble vice; the more they are satisfied the more they
increase. Mothers and gamblers are alike insatiable.
When Juana saw the generous pardon laid silently on the head of Juan
by Diard's fatherly affection, she was much moved, and from the day
when the husband and wife changed parts she felt for him the true and
deep interest she had hitherto shown to him as a matter of duty only.
If that man had been more consistent in his life; if he had not
destroyed by fitful inconstancy and restlessness the forces of a true
though excitable sensibility, Juana would doubtless have loved him in
the end. Unfortunately, he was a type of those southern natures which
are keen in perceptions they cannot follow out; capable of great
things over-night, and incapable the next morning; often the victim of
their own virtues, and often lucky through their worst passions;
admirable men in some respects, when their good qualities are kept to
a steady energy by some outward bond. For two years after his retreat
from active life Diard was held captive in his home by the softest
chains. He lived, almost in spite of himself, under the influence of
his wife, who made herself gay and amusing to cheer him, who used the
resources of feminine genius to attract and seduce him to a love of
virtue, but whose ability and cleverness did not go so far as to
At this time all Paris was talking of the affair of a captain in the
army who in a paroxysm of libertine jealousy had killed a woman.
Diard, on coming home to dinner, told his wife that the officer was
dead. He had killed himself to avoid the dishonor of a trial and the
shame of death upon the scaffold. Juana did not see at first the logic
of such conduct, and her husband was obliged to explain to her the
fine jurisprudence of French law, which does not prosecute the dead.
"But, papa, didn't you tell us the other day that the king could
pardon?" asked Francisque.
"The king can give nothing but life," said Juan, half scornfully.
Diard and Juana, the spectators of this little scene, were differently
affected by it. The glance, moist with joy, which his wife cast upon
her eldest child was a fatal revelation to the husband of the secrets
of a heart hitherto impenetrable. That eldest child was all Juana;
Juana comprehended him; she was sure of his heart, his future; she
adored him, but her ardent love was a secret between herself, her
child, and God. Juan instinctively enjoyed the seeming indifference of
his mother in presence of his father and brother, for she pressed him
to her heart when alone. Francisque was Diard, and Juana's incessant
care and watchfulness betrayed her desire to correct in the son the
vices of the father and to encourage his better qualities. Juana,
unaware that her glance had said too much and that her husband had
rightly interpreted it, took Francisque in her lap and gave him, in a
gentle voice still trembling with the pleasure that Juan's answer had
brought her, a lesson upon honor, simplified to his childish
"That boy's character requires care," said Diard.
"Yes," she replied simply.
"How about Juan?"
Madame Diard, struck by the tone in which the words were uttered,
looked at her husband.
"Juan was born perfect," he added.
Then he sat down gloomily, and reflected. Presently, as his wife
continued silent, he added:--
"You love one of YOUR children better than the other."
"You know that," she said.
"No," said Diard, "I did not know until now which of them you
"But neither of them have ever given me a moment's uneasiness," she
"But one of them gives you greater joys," he said, more quickly still.
"I never counted them," she said.
"How false you women are!" cried Diard. "Will you dare to say that
Juan is not the child of your heart?"
"If that were so," she said, with dignity, "do you think it a
"You have never loved me. If you had chosen, I would have conquered
worlds for your sake. You know all that I have struggled to do in
life, supported by the hope of pleasing you. Ah! if you had only loved
"A woman who loves," said Juana, "likes to live in solitude, far from
the world, and that is what we are doing."
"I know, Juana, that YOU are never in the wrong."
The words were said bitterly, and cast, for the rest of their lives
together, a coldness between them.
On the morrow of that fatal day Diard went back to his old companions
and found distractions for his mind in play. Unfortunately, he won
much money, and continued playing. Little by little, he returned to
the dissipated life he had formerly lived. Soon he ceased even to dine
in his own home.
Some months went by in the enjoyment of this new independence; he was
determined to preserve it, and in order to do so he separated himself
from his wife, giving her the large apartments and lodging himself in
the entresol. By the end of the year Diard and Juana only saw each
other in the morning at breakfast.
Like all gamblers, he had his alternations of loss and gain. Not
wishing to cut into the capital of his fortune, he felt the necessity
of withdrawing from his wife the management of their income; and the
day came when he took from her all she had hitherto freely disposed of
for the household benefit, giving her instead a monthly stipend. The
conversation they had on this subject was the last of their married
intercourse. The silence that fell between them was a true divorce;
Juana comprehended that from henceforth she was only a mother, and she
was glad, not seeking for the causes of this evil. For such an event
is a great evil. Children are conjointly one with husband and wife in
the home, and the life of her husband could not be a source of grief
and injury to Juana only.
As for Diard, now emancipated, he speedily grew accustomed to win and
lose enormous sums. A fine player and a heavy player, he soon became
celebrated for his style of playing. The social consideration he had
been unable to win under the Empire, he acquired under the Restoration
by the rolling of his gold on the green cloth and by his talent for
all games that were in vogue. Ambassadors, bankers, persons with
newly-acquired large fortunes, and all those men who, having sucked
life to the dregs, turn to gambling for its feverish joys, admired
Diard at their clubs,--seldom in their own houses,--and they all
gambled with him. He became the fashion. Two or three times during the
winter he gave a fete as a matter of social pride in return for the
civilities he received. At such times Juana once more caught a glimpse
of the world of balls, festivities, luxury, and lights; but for her it
was a sort of tax imposed upon the comfort of her solitude. She, the
queen of these solemnities, appeared like a being fallen from some
other planet. Her simplicity, which nothing had corrupted, her
beautiful virginity of soul, which her peaceful life restored to her,
her beauty and her true modesty, won her sincere homage. But observing
how few women ever entered her salons, she came to understand that
though her husband was following, without communicating its nature to
her, a new line of conduct, he had gained nothing actually in the
Diard was not always lucky; far from it. In three years he had
dissipated three fourths of his fortune, but his passion for play gave
him the energy to continue it. He was intimate with a number of men,
more particularly with the roues of the Bourse, men who, since the
revolution, have set up the principle that robbery done on a large
scale is only a SMIRCH to the reputation,--transferring thus to
financial matters the loose principles of love in the eighteenth
century. Diard now became a sort of business man, and concerned
himself in several of those affairs which are called SHADY in the
slang of the law-courts. He practised the decent thievery by which so
many men, cleverly masked, or hidden in the recesses of the political
world, make their fortunes,--thievery which, if done in the streets by
the light of an oil lamp, would see a poor devil to the galleys, but,
under gilded ceilings and by the light of candelabra, is sanctioned.
Diard brought up, monopolized, and sold sugars; he sold offices; he
had the glory of inventing the "man of straw" for lucrative posts
which it was necessary to keep in his own hands for a short time; he
bought votes, receiving, on one occasion, so much per cent on the
purchase of fifteen parliamentary votes which all passed on one
division from the benches of the Left to the benches of the Right.
Such actions are no longer crimes or thefts,--they are called
governing, developing industry, becoming a financial power. Diard was
placed by public opinion on the bench of infamy where many an able man
was already seated. On that bench is the aristocracy of evil. It is
the upper Chamber of scoundrels of high life. Diard was, therefore,
not a mere commonplace gambler who is seen to be a blackguard, and
ends by begging. That style of gambler is no longer seen in society of
a certain topographical height. In these days bold scoundrels die
brilliantly in the chariot of vice with the trappings of luxury.
Diard, at least, did not buy his remorse at a low price; he made
himself one of these privileged men. Having studied the machinery of
government and learned all the secrets and the passions of the men in
power, he was able to maintain himself in the fiery furnace into which
he had sprung.
Madame Diard knew nothing of her husband's infernal life. Glad of his
abandonment, she felt no curiosity about him, and all her hours were
occupied. She devoted what money she had to the education of her
children, wishing to make men of them, and giving them straight-
forward reasons, without, however, taking the bloom from their young
imaginations. Through them alone came her interests and her emotions;
consequently, she suffered no longer from her blemished life. Her
children were to her what they are to many mothers for a long period
of time,--a sort of renewal of their own existence. Diard was now an
accidental circumstance, not a participator in her life, and since he
had ceased to be the father and the head of the family, Juana felt
bound to him by no tie other than that imposed by conventional laws.
Nevertheless, she brought up her children to the highest respect for
paternal authority, however imaginary it was for them. In this she was
greatly seconded by her husband's continual absence. If he had been
much in the home Diard would have neutralized his wife's efforts. The
boys had too much intelligence and shrewdness not to have judged their
father; and to judge a father is moral parricide.
In the long run, however, Juana's indifference to her husband wore
itself away; it even changed to a species of fear. She understood at
last how the conduct of a father might long weigh on the future of her
children, and her motherly solicitude brought her many, though
incomplete, revelations of the truth. From day to day the dread of
some unknown but inevitable evil in the shadow of which she lived
became more and more keen and terrible. Therefore, during the rare
moments when Diard and Juana met she would cast upon his hollow face,
wan from nights of gambling and furrowed by emotions, a piercing look,
the penetration of which made Diard shudder. At such times the assumed
gaiety of her husband alarmed Juana more than his gloomiest
expressions of anxiety when, by chance, he forgot that assumption of
joy. Diard feared his wife as a criminal fears the executioner. In
him, Juana saw her children's shame; and in her Diard dreaded a calm
vengeance, the judgment of that serene brow, an arm raised, a weapon
After fifteen years of marriage Diard found himself without resources.
He owed three hundred thousand francs and he could scarcely muster one
hundred thousand. The house, his only visible possession, was
mortgaged to its fullest selling value. A few days more, and the sort
of prestige with which opulence had invested him would vanish. Not a
hand would be offered, not a purse would be open to him. Unless some
favorable event occurred he would fall into a slough of contempt,
deeper perhaps than he deserved, precisely because he had mounted to a
height he could not maintain. At this juncture he happened to hear
that a number of strangers of distinction, diplomats and others, were
assembled at the watering-places in the Pyrenees, where they gambled
for enormous sums, and were doubtless well supplied with money.
He determined to go at once to the Pyrenees; but he would not leave
his wife in Paris, lest some importunate creditor might reveal to her
the secret of his horrible position. He therefore took her and the two
children with him, refusing to allow her to take the tutor and
scarcely permitting her to take a maid. His tone was curt and
imperious; he seemed to have recovered some energy. This sudden
journey, the cause of which escaped her penetration, alarmed Juana
secretly. Her husband made it gaily. Obliged to occupy the same
carriage, he showed himself day by day more attentive to the children
and more amiable to their mother. Nevertheless, each day brought Juana
dark presentiments, the presentiments of mothers who tremble without
apparent reason, but who are seldom mistaken when they tremble thus.
For them the veil of the future seems thinner than for others.
At Bordeaux, Diard hired in a quiet street a quiet little house,
neatly furnished, and in it he established his wife. The house was at
the corner of two streets, and had a garden. Joined to the neighboring
house on one side only, it was open to view and accessible on the
other three sides. Diard paid the rent in advance, and left Juana
barely enough money for the necessary expenses of three months, a sum
not exceeding a thousand francs. Madame Diard made no observation on
this unusual meanness. When her husband told her that he was going to
the watering-places and that she would stay at Bordeaux, Juana offered
no difficulty, and at once formed a plan to teach the children Spanish
and Italian, and to make them read the two masterpieces of the two
languages. She was glad to lead a retired life, simply and naturally
economical. To spare herself the troubles of material life, she
arranged with a "traiteur" the day after Diard's departure to send in
their meals. Her maid then sufficed for the service of the house, and
she thus found herself without money, but her wants all provided for
until her husband's return. Her pleasures consisted in taking walks
with the children. She was then thirty-three years old. Her beauty,
greatly developed, was in all its lustre. Therefore as soon as she
appeared, much talk was made in Bordeaux about the beautiful Spanish
stranger. At the first advances made to her Juana ceased to walk
abroad, and confined herself wholly to her own large garden.
Diard at first made a fortune at the baths. In two months he won three
hundred thousand dollars, but it never occurred to him to send any
money to his wife; he kept it all, expecting to make some great stroke
of fortune on a vast stake. Towards the end of the second month the
Marquis de Montefiore appeared at the same baths. The marquis was at
this time celebrated for his wealth, his handsome face, his fortunate
marriage with an Englishwoman, and more especially for his love of
play. Diard, his former companion, encountered him, and desired to add
his spoils to those of others. A gambler with four hundred thousand
francs in hand is always in a position to do as he pleases. Diard,
confident in his luck, renewed acquaintance with Montefiore. The
latter received him very coldly, but nevertheless they played
together, and Diard lost every penny that he possessed, and more.
"My dear Montefiore," said the ex-quartermaster, after making a tour
of the salon, "I owe you a hundred thousand francs; but my money is in
Bordeaux, where I have left my wife."
Diard had the money in bank-bills in his pocket; but with the self-
possession and rapid bird's-eye view of a man accustomed to catch at
all resources, he still hoped to recover himself by some one of the
endless caprices of play. Montefiore had already mentioned his
intention of visiting Bordeaux. Had he paid his debt on the spot,
Diard would have been left without the power to take his revenge; a
revenge at cards often exceeds the amount of all preceding losses. But
these burning expectations depended on the marquis's reply.
"Wait, my dear fellow," said Montefiore, "and we will go together to
Bordeaux. In all conscience, I am rich enough to-day not to wish to
take the money of an old comrade."
Three days later Diard and Montefiore were in Bordeaux at a gambling
table. Diard, having won enough to pay his hundred thousand francs,
went on until he had lost two hundred thousand more on his word. He
was gay as a man who swam in gold. Eleven o'clock sounded; the night
was superb. Montefiore may have felt, like Diard, a desire to breathe
the open air and recover from such emotions in a walk. The latter
proposed to the marquis to come home with him to take a cup of tea and
get his money.
"But Madame Diard?" said Montefiore.
"Bah!" exclaimed the husband.
They went down-stairs; but before taking his hat Diard entered the
dining-room of the establishment and asked for a glass of water. While
it was being brought, he walked up and down the room, and was able,
without being noticed, to pick up one of those small sharp-pointed
steel knives with pearl handles which are used for cutting fruit at
"Where do you live?" said Montefiore, in the courtyard, "for I want to
send a carriage there to fetch me."
Diard told him the exact address.
"You see," said Montefiore, in a low voice, taking Diard's arm, "that
as long as I am with you I have nothing to fear; but if I came home
alone and a scoundrel were to follow me, I should be profitable to
"Have you much with you?"
"No, not much," said the wary Italian, "only my winnings. But they
would make a pretty fortune for a beggar and turn him into an honest
man for the rest of his life."
Diard led the marquis along a lonely street where he remembered to
have seen a house, the door of which was at the end of an avenue of
trees with high and gloomy walls on either side of it. When they
reached this spot he coolly invited the marquis to precede him; but as
if the latter understood him he preferred to keep at his side. Then,
no sooner were they fairly in the avenue, then Diard, with the agility
of a tiger, tripped up the marquis with a kick behind the knees, and
putting a foot on his neck stabbed him again and again to the heart
till the blade of the knife broke in it. Then he searched Montefiore's
pockets, took his wallet, money, everything. But though he had taken
the Italian unawares, and had done the deed with lucid mind and the
quickness of a pickpocket, Montefiore had time to cry "Murder! Help!"
in a shrill and piercing voice which was fit to rouse every sleeper in
the neighborhood. His last sighs were given in those horrible shrieks.
Diard was not aware that at the moment when they entered the avenue a
crowd just issuing from a theatre was passing at the upper end of the
street. The cries of the dying man reached them, though Diard did his
best to stifle the noise by setting his foot firmly on Montefiore's
neck. The crowd began to run towards the avenue, the high walls of
which appeared to echo back the cries, directing them to the very spot
where the crime was committed. The sound of their coming steps seemed
to beat on Diard's brain. But not losing his head as yet, the murderer
left the avenue and came boldly into the street, walking very gently,
like a spectator who sees the inutility of trying to give help. He
even turned round once or twice to judge of the distance between
himself and the crowd, and he saw them rushing up the avenue, with the
exception of one man, who, with a natural sense of caution, began to
"There he is! there he is!" cried the people, who had entered the
avenue as soon as they saw Montefiore stretched out near the door of
the empty house.
As soon as that clamor rose, Diard, feeling himself well in the
advance, began to run or rather to fly, with the vigor of a lion and
the bounds of a deer. At the other end of the street he saw, or
fancied he saw, a mass of persons, and he dashed down a cross street
to avoid them. But already every window was open, and heads were
thrust forth right and left, while from every door came shouts and
gleams of light. Diard kept on, going straight before him, through the
lights and the noise; and his legs were so actively agile that he soon
left the tumult behind him, though without being able to escape some
eyes which took in the extent of his course more rapidly than he could
cover it. Inhabitants, soldiers, gendarmes, every one, seemed afoot in
the twinkling of an eye. Some men awoke the commissaries of police,
others stayed by the body to guard it. The pursuit kept on in the
direction of the fugitive, who dragged it after him like the flame of
Diard, as he ran, had all the sensations of a dream when he heard a
whole city howling, running, panting after him. Nevertheless, he kept
his ideas and his presence of mind. Presently he reached the wall of
the garden of his house. The place was perfectly silent, and he
thought he had foiled his pursuers, though a distant murmur of the
tumult came to his ears like the roaring of the sea. He dipped some
water from a brook and drank it. Then, observing a pile of stones on
the road, he hid his treasure in it; obeying one of those vague
thoughts which come to criminals at a moment when the faculty to judge
their actions under all bearings deserts them, and they think to
establish their innocence by want of proof of their guilt.
That done, he endeavored to assume a placid countenance; he even tried
to smile as he rapped softly on the door of his house, hoping that no
one saw him. He raised his eyes, and through the outer blinds of one
window came a gleam of light from his wife's room. Then, in the midst
of his trouble, visions of her gentle life, spent with her children,
beat upon his brain with the force of a hammer. The maid opened the
door, which Diard hastily closed behind him with a kick. For a moment
he breathed freely; then, noticing that he was bathed in perspiration,
he sent the servant back to Juana and stayed in the darkness of the
passage, where he wiped his face with his handkerchief and put his
clothes in order, like a dandy about to pay a visit to a pretty woman.
After that he walked into a track of the moonlight to examine his
hands. A quiver of joy passed over him as he saw that no blood stains
were on them; the hemorrhage from his victim's body was no doubt
But all this took time. When at last he mounted the stairs to Juana's
room he was calm and collected, and able to reflect on his position,
which resolved itself into two ideas: to leave the house, and get to
the wharves. He did not THINK these ideas, he SAW them written in
fiery letters on the darkness. Once at the wharves he could hide all
day, return at night for his treasure, then conceal himself, like a
rat, in the hold of some vessel and escape without any one suspecting
his whereabouts. But to do all this, money, gold, was his first
necessity,--and he did not possess one penny.
The maid brought a light to show him up.
"Felicie," he said, "don't you hear a noise in the street, shouts,
cries? Go and see what it means, and come and tell me."
His wife, in her white dressing-gown, was sitting at a table, reading
aloud to Francisque and Juan from a Spanish Cervantes, while the boys
followed her pronunciation of the words from the text. They all three
stopped and looked at Diard, who stood in the doorway with his hands
in his pockets; overcome, perhaps, by finding himself in this calm
scene, so softly lighted, so beautiful with the faces of his wife and
children. It was a living picture of the Virgin between her son and
"Juana, I have something to say to you."
"What has happened?" she asked, instantly perceiving from the livid
paleness of her husband that the misfortune she had daily expected was
"Oh, nothing; but I want to speak to you--to you, alone."
And he glanced at his sons.
"My dears, go to your room, and go to bed," said Juana; "say your
prayers without me."
The boys left the room in silence, with the incurious obedience of
"My dear Juana," said Diard, in a coaxing voice, "I left you with very
little money, and I regret it now. Listen to me; since I relieved you
of the care of our income by giving you an allowance, have you not,
like other women, laid something by?"
"No," replied Juana, "I have nothing. In making that allowance you did
not reckon the costs of the children's education. I don't say that to
reproach you, my friend, only to explain my want of money. All that
you gave me went to pay masters and--"
"Enough!" cried Diard, violently. "Thunder of heaven! every instant is
precious! Where are your jewels?"
"You know very well I have never worn any."
"Then there's not a sou to be had here!" cried Diard, frantically.
"Why do you shout in that way?" she asked.
"Juana," he replied, "I have killed a man."
Juana sprang to the door of her children's room and closed it; then
"Your sons must hear nothing," she said. "With whom have you fought?"
"Montefiore," he replied.
"Ah!" she said with a sigh, "the only man you had the right to kill."
"There were many reasons why he should die by my hand. But I can't
lose time--Money, money! for God's sake, money! I may be pursued. We
did not fight. I--I killed him."
"Killed him!" she cried, "how?"
"Why, as one kills anything. He stole my whole fortune and I took it
back, that's all. Juana, now that everything is quiet you must go down
to that heap of stones--you know the heap by the garden wall--and get
that money, since you haven't any in the house."
"The money that you stole?" said Juana.
"What does that matter to you? Have you any money to give me? I tell
you I must get away. They are on my traces."
"The people, the police."
Juana left the room, but returned immediately.
"Here," she said, holding out to him at arm's length a jewel, "that is
Dona Lagounia's cross. There are four rubies in it, of great value, I
have been told. Take it and go--go!"
"Felicie hasn't come back," he cried, with a sudden thought. "Can she
have been arrested?"
Juana laid the cross on the table, and sprang to the windows that
looked on the street. There she saw, in the moonlight, a file of
soldiers posting themselves in deepest silence along the wall of the
house. She turned, affecting to be calm, and said to her husband:--
"You have not a minute to lose; you must escape through the garden.
Here is the key of the little gate."
As a precaution she turned to the other windows, looking on the
garden. In the shadow of the trees she saw the gleam of the silver
lace on the hats of a body of gendarmes; and she heard the distant
mutterings of a crowd of persons whom sentinels were holding back at
the end of the streets up which curiosity had drawn them. Diard had,
in truth, been seen to enter his house by persons at their windows,
and on their information and that of the frightened maid-servant, who
was arrested, the troops and the people had blocked the two streets
which led to the house. A dozen gendarmes, returning from the theatre,
had climbed the walls of the garden, and guarded all exit in that
"Monsieur," said Juana, "you cannot escape. The whole town is here."
Diard ran from window to window with the useless activity of a captive
bird striking against the panes to escape. Juana stood silent and
"Juana, dear Juana, help me! give me, for pity's sake, some advice."
"Yes," said Juana, "I will; and I will save you."
"Ah! you are always my good angel."
Juana left the room and returned immediately, holding out to Diard,
with averted head, one of his own pistols. Diard did not take it.
Juana heard the entrance of the soldiers into the courtyard, where
they laid down the body of the murdered man to confront the assassin
with the sight of it. She turned round and saw Diard white and livid.
The man was nearly fainting, and tried to sit down.
"Your children implore you," she said, putting the pistol beneath his
"But--my good Juana, my little Juana, do you think--Juana! is it so
pressing?--I want to kiss you."
The gendarmes were mounting the staircase. Juana grasped the pistol,
aimed it at Diard, holding him, in spite of his cries, by the throat;
then she blew his brains out and flung the weapon on the ground.
At that instant the door was opened violently. The public prosecutor,
followed by an examining judge, a doctor, a sheriff, and a posse of
gendarmes, all the representatives, in short, of human justice,
entered the room.
"What do you want?" asked Juana.
"Is that Monsieur Diard?" said the prosecutor, pointing to the dead
body bent double on the floor.
"Your gown is covered with blood, madame."
"Do you not see why?" replied Juana.
She went to the little table and sat down, taking up the volume of
Cervantes; she was pale, with a nervous agitation which she
nevertheless controlled, keeping it wholly inward.
"Leave the room," said the prosecutor to the gendarmes.
Then he signed to the examining judge and the doctor to remain.
"Madame, under the circumstances, we can only congratulate you on the
death of your husband," he said. "At least he has died as a soldier
should, whatever crime his passions may have led him to commit. His
act renders negatory that of justice. But however we may desire to
spare you at such a moment, the law requires that we should make an
exact report of all violent deaths. You will permit us to do our
"May I go and change my dress?" she asked, laying down the volume.
"Yes, madame; but you must bring it back to us. The doctor may need
"It would be too painful for madame to see me operate," said the
doctor, understanding the suspicions of the prosecutor. "Messieurs,"
he added, "I hope you will allow her to remain in the next room."
The magistrates approved the request of the merciful physician, and
Felicie was permitted to attend her mistress. The judge and the
prosecutor talked together in a low voice. Officers of the law are
very unfortunate in being forced to suspect all, and to imagine evil
everywhere. By dint of supposing wicked intentions, and of
comprehending them, in order to reach the truth hidden under so many
contradictory actions, it is impossible that the exercise of their
dreadful functions should not, in the long run, dry up at their source
the generous emotions they are constrained to repress. If the
sensibilities of the surgeon who probes into the mysteries of the
human body end by growing callous, what becomes of those of the judge
who is incessantly compelled to search the inner folds of the soul?
Martyrs to their mission, magistrates are all their lives in mourning
for their lost illusions; crime weighs no less heavily on them than on
the criminal. An old man seated on the bench is venerable, but a young
judge makes a thoughtful person shudder. The examining judge in this
case was young, and he felt obliged to say to the public prosecutor,--
"Do you think that woman was her husband's accomplice? Ought we to
take her into custody? Is it best to question her?"
The prosecutor replied, with a careless shrug of his shoulders,--
"Montefiore and Diard were two well-known scoundrels. The maid
evidently knew nothing of the crime. Better let the thing rest there."
The doctor performed the autopsy, and dictated his report to the
sheriff. Suddenly he stopped, and hastily entered the next room.
"Madame--" he said.
Juana, who had removed her bloody gown, came towards him.
"It was you," he whispered, stooping to her ear, "who killed your
"Yes, monsieur," she replied.
The doctor returned and continued his dictation as follows,--
"And, from the above assemblage of facts, it appears evident that the
said Diard killed himself voluntarily and by his own hand."
"Have you finished?" he said to the sheriff after a pause.
"Yes," replied the writer.
The doctor signed the report. Juana, who had followed him into the
room, gave him one glance, repressing with difficulty the tears which
for an instant rose into her eyes and moistened them.
"Messieurs," she said to the public prosecutor and the judge, "I am a
stranger here, and a Spaniard. I am ignorant of the laws, and I know
no one in Bordeaux. I ask of you one kindness: enable me to obtain a
passport for Spain."
"One moment!" cried the examining judge. "Madame, what has become of
the money stolen from the Marquis de Montefiore?"
"Monsieur Diard," she replied, "said something to me vaguely about a
heap of stones, under which he must have hidden it."
"In the street."
The two magistrates looked at each other. Juana made a noble gesture
and motioned to the doctor.
"Monsieur," she said in his ear, "can I be suspected of some infamous
action? I! The pile of stones must be close to the wall of my garden.
Go yourself, I implore you. Look, search, find that money."
The doctor went out, taking with him the examining judge, and together
they found Montefiore's treasure.
Within two days Juana had sold her cross to pay the costs of a
journey. On her way with her two children to take the diligence which
would carry her to the frontiers of Spain, she heard herself being
called in the street. Her dying mother was being carried to a
hospital, and through the curtains of her litter she had seen her
daughter. Juana made the bearers enter a porte-cochere that was near
them, and there the last interview between the mother and the daughter
took place. Though the two spoke to each other in a low voice, Juan
heard these parting words,--
"Mother, die in peace; I have suffered for you all."