by Abbe Prevost
Why did he love her? Curious fool, be still!
Is human love the fruit of human will?
Just about six months before my departure for Spain, I first met
the Chevalier des Grieux. Though I rarely quitted my retreat, still
the interest I felt in my child's welfare induced me occasionally to
undertake short journeys, which, however, I took good care to abridge
as much as possible.
I was one day returning from Rouen, where I had been, at her
request, to attend a cause then pending before the Parliament of
Normandy, respecting an inheritance to which I had claims derived
from my maternal grandfather. Having taken the road by Evreux, where
I slept the first night, I on the following day, about dinner-time,
reached Passy, a distance of five or six leagues. I was amazed, on
entering this quiet town, to see all the inhabitants in commotion.
They were pouring from their houses in crowds, towards the gate of a
small inn, immediately before which two covered vans were drawn up.
Their horses still in harness, and reeking from fatigue and heat,
showed that the cortege had only just arrived. I stopped for a moment
to learn the cause of the tumult, but could gain little information
from the curious mob as they rushed by, heedless of my enquiries, and
hastening impatiently towards the inn in the utmost confusion. At
length an archer of the civic guard, wearing his bandolier, and
carrying a carbine on his shoulder, appeared at the gate; so,
beckoning him towards me, I begged to know the cause of the uproar.
"Nothing, sir," said he, "but a dozen of the frail sisterhood, that I
and my comrades are conducting to Havre-de-Grace, whence we are to
ship them for America. There are one or two of them pretty enough;
and it is that, apparently, which attracts the curiosity of these good
I should have passed on, satisfied with this explanation, if my
attention had not been arrested by the cries of an old woman, who was
coming out of the inn with her hands clasped, and exclaiming:
"A downright barbarity!--A scene to excite horror and compassion!"
"What may this mean?" I enquired. "Oh! sir; go into the house
yourself," said the woman, and see if it is not a sight to rend your
heart!" Curiosity made me dismount; and leaving my horse to the care
of the ostler, I made my way with some difficulty through the crowd,
and did indeed behold a scene sufficiently touching.
Among the twelve girls, who were chained together by the waist in
two rows, there was one, whose whole air and figure seemed so
ill-suited to her present condition, that under other circumstances I
should not have hesitated to pronounce her a person of high birth.
Her excessive grief, and even the wretchedness of her attire,
detracted so little from her surpassing beauty, that at first sight of
her I was inspired with a mingled feeling of respect and pity.
She tried, as well as the chain would permit her, to turn herself
away, and hide her face from the rude gaze of the spectators. There
was something so unaffected in the effort she made to escape
observation, that it could but have sprung from natural and innate
As the six men who escorted the unhappy train were together in the
room, I took the chief one aside and asked for information respecting
this beautiful girl. All that he could supply was of the most vague
kind. "We brought her," he said, "from the Hospital, by order of the
lieutenant-general of police. There is no reason to suppose that she
was shut up there for good conduct.
I have questioned her often upon the road; but she persists in
refusing even to answer me. Yet, although I received no orders to
make any distinction between her and the others, I cannot help
treating her differently, for she seems to me somewhat superior to
her companions. Yonder is a young man," continued the archer, "who
can tell you, better than I can, the cause of her misfortunes. He has
followed her from Paris, and has scarcely dried his tears for a single
moment. He must be either her brother or her lover."
I turned towards the corner of the room, where this young man was
seated. He seemed buried in a profound reverie. Never did I behold
a more affecting picture of grief. He was plainly dressed; but one
may discover at the first glance a man of birth and education. As I
approached him he rose, and there was so refined and noble an
expression in his eyes, in his whole countenance, in his every
movement, that I felt an involuntary impulse to render him any service
in my power. "I am unwilling to intrude upon your sorrows," said I,
taking a seat beside him, "but you will, perhaps, gratify the desire I
feel to learn something about that beautiful girl, who seems little
formed by nature for the miserable condition in which she is placed."
He answered me candidly, that he could not communicate her history
without making himself known, and that he had urgent reasons for
preserving his own incognito. "I may, however, tell you this much,
for it is no longer a secret to these wretches," he continued,
pointing to the guards,--"that I adore her with a passion so ardent
and absorbing as to render me the most unhappy of human beings. I
tried every means at Paris to effect her liberty. Petitions,
artifice, force--all failed. Go where she may, I have resolved to
follow her--to the extremity of the world. I shall embark with her
and cross to America.
But think of the brutal inhumanity of these cowardly ruffians," he
added, speaking of the guards; "they will not allow me to approach
her! I had planned an open attack upon them some leagues from Paris;
having secured, as I thought, the aid of four men, who for a
considerable sum hired me their services. The traitors, however, left
me to execute my scheme single-handed, and decamped with my money.
The impossibility of success made me of course abandon the attempt, I
then implored of the guards permission to follow in their train,
promising them a recompense. The love of money procured their consent;
but as they required payment every time I was allowed to speak to her,
my purse was speedily emptied; and now that I am utterly penniless,
they are barbarous enough to repulse me brutally, whenever I make the
slightest attempt to approach her. It is but a moment since, that
venturing to do so, in spite of their threats, one of the fellows
raised the butt-end of his musket. I am now driven by their exactions
to dispose of the miserable horse that has brought me hither, and am
preparing to continue the journey on foot."
Although he seemed to recite this story tranquilly enough, I
observed the tears start to his eyes as he concluded. This adventure
struck me as being not less singular than it was affecting. "I do not
press you," said I to him, to make me the confidant of your secrets;
but if I can be of use to you in any way, I gladly tender you my
services." "Alas!" replied he, "I see not the slightest ray of hope.
I must reconcile myself to my destiny in all its rigour. I shall go
to America: there, at least, I may be free to live with her I love. I
have written to a friend, who will send me money to Havre-de-Grace.
My only difficulty is to get so far, and to supply that poor
creature," added he, as he cast a look of sorrow at his mistress,
"with some few comforts upon the way." "Well!" said I to him, "I
shall relieve you from that difficulty. Here is some money, of which
I entreat your acceptance: I am only sorry that I can be of no greater
service to you."
I gave him four louis-d'ors without being perceived by the guards;
for I thought that if they knew he had this money, they might have
raised the price of their concessions. It occurred to me, even, to
come to an understanding with them, in order to secure for the young
man the privilege of conversing with his mistress, during the rest of
the journey to Havre, without hindrance. I beckoned the chief to
approach, and made the proposition to him. It seemed to abash the
ruffian, in spite of his habitual effrontery. "It is not, sir," said
he, in an embarrassed tone, "that we refuse to let him speak to the
girl, but he wishes to be always near her, which puts us to
inconvenience; and it is just that we should be paid for the trouble
he occasions." "Let us see!" said I to him, "what would suffice to
prevent you from feeling the inconvenience?" He had the audacity to
demand two louis. I gave them to him on the spot. "But have a care,"
said I to him, "that we have no foul play: for I shall give the young
man my address, in order that he may write to me on his arrival; and
be assured that I am not without the power to punish you." It cost
me altogether six louis-d'ors.
The graceful manner and heartfelt gratitude with which the young
unknown thanked me, confirmed my notion that he was of good birth and
merited my kindness. I addressed a few words to his mistress before I
left the room. She replied to me with a modesty so gentle and so
charming that I could not help making, as I went out, a thousand
reflections upon the incomprehensible character of women.
Returned to my retreat, I remained in ignorance of the result of
this adventure; and ere two years had passed, it was completely
blotted from my recollection, when chance brought me an opportunity
of learning all the circumstances from beginning to end.
I arrived at Calais, from London, with my pupil, the Marquis of
----. We lodged, if I remember rightly, at the "Golden Lion," where,
for some reason, we were obliged to spend the following day and night.
Walking along the streets in the afternoon, I fancied I saw the same
young man whom I had formerly met at Passy. He was miserably dressed,
and much paler than when I first saw him. He carried on his arm an
old portmanteau, having only just arrived in the town. However, there
was an expression in his countenance too amiable not to be easily
recognised, and which immediately brought his features to my
recollection. "Observe that young man,"said I to the Marquis; "we must
His joy was beyond expression when, in his turn, he recognised me.
"Ah, sir!" he cried, kissing my hand, "I have then once again an
opportunity of testifying my eternal gratitude to you!" I enquired of
him whence he came. He replied, that he had just arrived, by sea,
from Havre, where he had lately landed from America. "You do not seem
to be too well off for money," said I to him; "go on to the `Golden
Lion,' where I am lodging; I will join you in a moment."
I returned, in fact, full of impatience to learn the details of
his misfortunes, and the circumstances of his voyage to America. I
gave him a thousand welcomes, and ordered that they should supply him
with everything he wanted. He did not wait to be solicited for the
history of his life. "Sir," said he to me, "your conduct is so
generous, that I should consider it base ingratitude to maintain any
reserve towards you. You shall learn not only my misfortunes and
sufferings, but my faults and most culpable weaknesses. I am sure
that, even while you blame me, you will not refuse me your sympathy."
I should here inform the reader that I wrote down the story almost
immediately after hearing it; and he may, therefore, be assured of the
correctness and fidelity of the narrative. I use the word fidelity
with reference to the substance of reflections and sentiments, which
the young man conveyed in the most graceful language. Here, then, is
his story, which in its progress I shall not encumber with a single
observation that was not his own.
I loved Ophelia! forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum.
"I was seventeen years old, and was finishing my studies at
Amiens, whither my parents, who belonged to one of the first families
in Picardy, had sent me. I led a life so studious and well regulated,
that my masters pointed to me as a model of conduct for the other
scholars. Not that I made any extraordinary efforts to acquire this
reputation, but my disposition was naturally tractable and tranquil;
my inclinations led me to apply to study; and even the natural dislike
I felt for vice was placed to my credit as positive proof of virtue.
The successful progress of my studies, my birth, and some external
advantages of person, made me a general favourite with the
inhabitants of the town.
"I completed my public exercises with such general approbation,
that the bishop of the diocese, who was present, proposed to me to
enter the church, where I could not fail, he said, to acquire more
distinction than in the Order of Malta, for which my parents had
destined me. I was already decorated with the Cross, and called the
Chevalier des Grieux. The vacation having arrived, I was preparing to
return to my father, who had promised to send me soon to the Academy.
"My only regret on quitting Amiens arose from parting with a
friend, some years older than myself, to whom I had always been
tenderly attached. We had been brought up together; but from the
straitened circumstances of his family, he was intended to take
orders, and was to remain after me at Amiens to complete the
requisite studies for his sacred calling. He had a thousand good
qualities. You will recognise in him the very best during the course
of my history, and above all, a zeal and fervour of friendship which
surpass the most illustrious examples of antiquity. If I had at that
time followed his advice, I should have always continued a discreet
and happy man. If I had even taken counsel from his reproaches, when
on the brink of that gulf into which my passions afterwards plunged
me, I should have been spared the melancholy wreck of both fortune and
reputation. But he was doomed to see his friendly admonitions
disregarded; nay, even at times repaid by contempt from an ungrateful
wretch, who often dared to treat his fraternal conduct as offensive
"I had fixed the day for my departure from Amiens. Alas! that I
had not fixed it one day sooner! I should then have carried to my
father's house my innocence untarnished.
"The very evening before my expected departure, as I was walking
with my friend, whose name was Tiberge, we saw the Arras diligence
arrive, and sauntered after it to the inn, at which these coaches
stop. We had no other motive than curiosity. Some worn men alighted,
and immediately retired into the inn. One remained behind: she was
very young, and stood by herself in the court, while a man of advanced
age, who appeared to have charge of her, was busy in getting her
luggage from the vehicle. She struck me as being so extremely
beautiful, that I, who had never before thought of the difference
between the sexes, or looked on woman with the slightest attention--I,
whose conduct had been hitherto the theme of universal admiration,
felt myself, on the instant, deprived of my reason and self-control.
I had been always excessively timid, and easily disconcerted; but
now, instead of meeting with any impediment from this weakness, I
advanced without the slightest reserve towards her, who had thus
become, in a moment, the mistress of my heart.
"Although younger than myself, she received my civilities without
embarrassment. I asked the cause of her journey to Amiens, and
whether she had any acquaintances in the town. She ingenuously told
me that she had been sent there by her parents, to commence her
novitiate for taking the veil. Love had so quickened my perception,
even in the short moment it had been enthroned, that I saw in this
announcement a death-blow to my hopes. I spoke to her in a way that
made her at once understand what was passing in my mind; for she had
more experience than myself. It was against her consent that she was
consigned to a convent, doubtless to repress that inclination for
pleasure which had already become too manifest, and which caused, in
the sequel, all her misfortunes and mine. I combated the cruel
intention of her parents with all the arguments that my new-born
passion and schoolboy eloquence could suggest. She affected neither
austerity nor reserve. She told me, after a moment's silence, that
she foresaw too clearly, what her unhappy fate must be; but that it
was, apparently, the will of Heaven, since there were no means left
her to avert it. The sweetness of her look, the air of sorrow with
which she pronounced these words, or rather perhaps the controlling
destiny which led me on to ruin, allowed me not an instant to weigh my
answer. I assured her that if she would place reliance on my honour,
and on the tender interest with which she had already inspired me, I
would sacrifice my life to deliver her from the tyranny of her
parents, and to render her happy. I have since been a thousand times
astonished in reflecting upon it, to think how I could have expressed
myself with so much boldness and facility; but love could never have
become a divinity, if he had not often worked miracles.
"I made many other pressing and tender speeches; and my unknown
fair one was perfectly aware that mine was not the age for deceit.
She confessed to me that if I could see but a reasonable hope of
being able to effect her enfranchisement, she should deem herself
indebted for my kindness in more than life itself could pay. I
repeated that I was ready to attempt anything in her behalf; but, not
having sufficient experience at once to imagine any reasonable plan of
serving her, I did not go beyond this general assurance, from which
indeed little good could arise either to her or to myself. Her old
guardian having by this time joined us, my hopes would have been
blighted, but that she had tact enough to make amends for my
stupidity. I was surprised, on his approaching us, to hear her call
me her cousin, and say, without being in the slightest degree
disconcerted, that as she had been so fortunate as to fall in with me
at Amiens, she would not go into the convent until the next morning,
in order to have the pleasure of meeting me at supper. Innocent as I
was, I at once comprehended the meaning of this ruse; and proposed
that she should lodge for the night at the house of an innkeeper, who,
after being many years my father's coachman, had lately established
himself at Amiens, and who was sincerely attached to me.
"I conducted her there myself, at which the old Argus appeared to
grumble a little; and my friend Tiberge, who was puzzled by the whole
scene, followed, without uttering a word. He had not heard our
conversation, having walked up and down the court while I was talking
of love to my angelic mistress. As I had some doubts of his
discretion, I got rid of him, by begging that he would execute a
commission for me. I had thus the happiness, on arriving at the inn,
of entertaining alone the sovereign of my heart.
"I soon learned that I was less a child than I had before
imagined. My heart expanded to a thousand sentiments of pleasure, of
which I had not before the remotest idea. A delicious consciousness
of enjoyment diffused itself through my whole mind and soul. I sank
into a kind of ecstasy, which deprived me for a time of the power of
utterance, and which found vent only in a flood of tears.
"Manon Lescaut (this she told me was her name) seemed gratified by
the visible effect of her own charms. She appeared to me not less
excited than myself. She acknowledged that she was greatly pleased
with me, and that she should be enchanted to owe to me her freedom and
future happiness. She would insist on hearing who I was, and the
knowledge only augmented her affection; for, being herself of humble
birth, she was flattered by securing for her lover a man of family.
After many reflections we could discover no other resource than in
flight. To effect this it would be requisite to cheat the vigilance
of Manon's guardian, who required management, although he was but a
servant. We determined, therefore, that, during the night, I should
procure a post-chaise, and return with it at break of day to the inn,
before he was awake; that we should steal away quietly, and go
straight to Paris, where we might be married on our arrival. I had
about fifty crowns in my pocket, the fruit of my little savings at
school; and she had about twice as much. We imagined, like
inexperienced children, that such a sum could never be exhausted, and
we counted, with equal confidence, upon the success of our other
"After having supped, with certainly more satisfaction than I had
ever before experienced, I retired to prepare for our project. All my
arrangements were the more easy, because, for the purpose of returning
on the morrow to my father's, my luggage had been already packed. I
had, therefore, no difficulty in removing my trunk, and having a
chaise prepared for five o'clock in the morning, at which hour the
gates of the town would be opened; but I encountered an obstacle which
I was little prepared for, and which nearly upset all my plans.
"Tiberge, although only three years older than myself, was a youth
of unusually strong mind, and of the best regulated conduct. He loved
me with singular affection. The sight of so lovely a girl as Manon,
my ill-disguised impatience to conduct her to the inn, and the anxiety
I betrayed to get rid of him, had excited in his mind some suspicions
of my passion. He had not ventured to return to the inn where he had
left me, for fear of my being annoyed at his doing so; but went to
wait for me at my lodgings, where, although it was ten o'clock at
night, I found him on my arrival. His presence annoyed me, and he
soon perceived the restraint which it imposed. `I am certain,' he
said to me, without any disguise, `that you have some plan in
contemplation which you will not confide to me; I see it by your
manner.' I answered him rather abruptly, that I was not bound to
render him an account of all my movements. `Certainly not!' he
replied; `but you have always, hitherto, treated me as a friend, and
that appellation implies a certain degree of confidence and candour.'
He pressed me so much and so earnestly to discover my secret, that,
having never up to that moment felt the slightest reserve towards him,
I confided to him now the whole history of my passion. He heard it
with an appearance of disapprobation, which made me tremble; and I
immediately repented of my indiscretion, in telling him of my intended
elopement. He told me he was too sincerely my friend not to oppose
every obstacle in his power to such a scheme; that he would first try
all other means of turning me from such a purpose, but that if I
refused to renounce so fatal a resolution, he assuredly would inform
some persons of my intention, who would be able to defeat it. He held
forth upon the subject for a full quarter of an hour, in the most
serious tone, and ended by again threatening to inform against me, if
I did not pledge him my word that I would return to the paths of
discretion and reason.
"I was in despair at having so awkwardly betrayed myself. However,
love having wonderfully sharpened my intellect during the last two or
three hours, I recollected that I had not yet told him of its being my
intention to execute my project on the following morning, and I at
once determined to deceive him by a little equivocation.
"`Tiberge,' said I to him, `up to the present moment I thought you
were my friend; and I wished to prove it by the test of confidence.
It is true, I am in love; I have not deceived you: but with regard to
my flight, that is a project not to be undertaken without
deliberation. Call for me tomorrow at nine o'clock: you shall see my
mistress, if it be possible, and then judge whether she is not worthy
of any risk or sacrifice on my part.' He left me, with a thousand
protestations of friendship.
I employed the night in preparing for the journey, and on
repairing to the inn at early dawn, I found Manon waiting my arrival.
She was at her window, which looked upon the street, and perceiving
my approach, she came down and opened the door herself. We took our
departure silently, and without creating the least alarm. She merely
brought away a small portion of her apparel, of which I took charge.
The chaise was in readiness, and we were soon at a distance from the
"You will learn in the sequel what was the conduct of Tiberge when
he discovered that I had deceived him; that his zeal to serve me
suffered no diminution; and you will observe to what lengths his
devotion carried him. How ought I to grieve, when I reflect on the
base ingratitude with which his affection was always repaid!
"We made such speed on our journey that before night we reached
St. Denis. I rode alongside of the chaise, which gave us little
opportunity for conversation, except while changing horses; but when
we found ourselves so near Paris, and out of the reach of danger, we
allowed ourselves time for refreshment, not having tasted food since
we quitted Amiens. Passionately in love as I felt with Manon, she
knew how to convince me that she was equally so with me. So little
did we restrain our fondness, that we had not even patience to reserve
our caresses till we were alone. The postilions and innkeepers stared
at us with wonder, and I remarked that they appeared surprised at such
uncontrollable love in children of our age.
"Our project of marriage was forgotten at St. Denis; we defrauded
the Church of her rights; and found ourselves united as man and wife
without reflecting on the consequences. It is certain that with my
easy and constant disposition, I should have been happy for my whole
life, if Manon had remained faithful to me. The more I saw of her,
the more I discovered in her new perfections. Her mind, her heart,
her gentleness and beauty, formed a chain at once so binding and so
agreeable, that I could have found perfect happiness in its enduring
influence. Terrible fatality? that which has been the source of my
despair, might, under a slight change of circumstances, have
constituted my happiness. I find myself the most wretched of mankind,
by the force of that very constancy from which I might have fairly
expected to derive the most serene of human blisses, and the most
perfect recompense of love.
We took a furnished apartment at Paris. in the Rue V----, and, as
it afterwards turned out, to my sorrow, close to the house of M. de
B----, the famous Fermier-general. Three weeks passed, during which I
was so absorbed in my passion, that I never gave a thought to my
family, nor dreamed of the distress which my father probably felt at
my absence. However, as there was yet nothing of profligacy about me,
and as Manon conducted herself with the strictest propriety, the
tranquil life we led served to restore me by degrees to a sense of
I resolved to effect, if possible, a reconciliation with my
parent. My mistress was to me so perfectly lovable, that I could not
a doubt her power of captivating my father, if I could only find the
means of making him acquainted with her good conduct and merit. In a
word, I relied on obtaining his consent to our marriage, having given
up all idea of accomplishing it without his approval. I mentioned the
project to Manon, and explained to her that, besides every motive of
filial love and duty, the weightier one of necessity should also have
some influence; for our finances were sadly reduced, and I began to
see the folly of thinking them, as I once did, inexhaustible.
"Manon received the proposition with considerable coldness.
However, the difficulties she made, being apparently the suggestions
of tenderness alone, or as arising from the natural fear of losing me,
if my father, after learning our address, should refuse his assent to
our union, I had not the smallest suspicion of the cruel blow she was
at the very time preparing to inflict. As to the argument of
necessity, she replied that we had still abundant means of living for
some weeks longer, and that she would then find a resource in the
kindness of some relations in the country, to whom she should write.
She tempered her opposition by caresses so tender and impassioned,
that I, who lived only for her, and who never had the slightest
misgiving as to her love, applauded at once her arguments and her
"To Manon I had committed the care of our finances, and the
house-hold arrangements. In a short time, I observed that our style
of living was improved, and that she had treated herself to more
expensive dresses. As I calculated that we could hardly have at this
period more than fifteen or twenty crowns remaining, I did not conceal
my surprise at this mysterious augmentation of our wealth. She begged
of me, with a smile, to give myself no trouble on that head. `Did I
not promise you,' said she, `that I would find resources?' I loved
her too purely to experience the slightest suspicion.
"One day, having gone out in the afternoon, and told her that I
should not be at home so early as usual, I was astonished, on my
return, at being detained several minutes at the door. Our only
servant was a young girl about our own age. On her letting me in at
last, I asked why she had detained me so long? She replied in an
embarrassed tone, that she did not hear me knock. `I only knocked
once,' said I; `so if you did not hear me, why come to open the door
at all?' This query disconcerted her so visibly, that losing her
presence of mind, she began to cry, assuring me that it was not her
fault; and that her mistress had desired her not to open the door
until M. de B----had had time to go down by the back staircase. I was
so confounded by this information as to be utterly unable to proceed
to our apartment; and was obliged to leave the house, under the
pretext of an appointment. I desired the girl, therefore, to let her
mistress know that I should return in a few minutes, but on no account
to say that she had spoken to me of M. de B----.
"My horror was so great, that I shed tears as I went along, hardly
knowing from what feeling they flowed. I entered a coffee-house close
by, and placing myself at a table, I buried my face between my hands,
as though I would turn my eyes inward to ascertain what was passing in
my heart. Still, I dared not recall what I had heard the moment
before. I strove to look upon it as a dream; and was more than once
on the point of returning to my lodgings, determined to attach no
importance to what I had heard.
It appeared to me so impossible that Manon could have been
unfaithful, that I feared even to wrong her by a suspicion. I adored
her--that was too certain; I had not on my part given her more proofs
of my love than I had received of hers; why then should I charge her
with being less sincere and constant than myself? What reason could
she have to deceive me? Not three hours before, she had lavished upon
me the most tender caresses, and had received mine with transport: I
knew her heart as thoroughly as my own. `No, no!' I said, `it is not
possible that Manon can have deceived me. She well knows that I live
but for her; that I adore her: upon that point I can have no reason to
"Notwithstanding these reflections, the visit of M. de B----, and
his secret departure, gave me some uneasiness. I remembered, too, the
little purchases she had lately made, which seemed beyond our present
means. This looked like the liberality of a new lover. And the
confidence with which she had foretold resources which were to me
unknown? I had some difficulty in solving these mysteries in as
favourable a manner as my heart desired.
"On the other hand, she had been hardly out of my sight since we
entered Paris. However occupied, in our walks, in all our
amusements, she was ever at my side. Heavens! even a momentary
separation would have been too painful. I could not therefore
imagine how Manon could, to any other person, have devoted a single
"At last I thought I had discovered a clue to the mystery. `M. de
B----' said I to myself, `is a man extensively engaged in commercial
affairs; and Manon's relations have no doubt remitted her money
through his house. She has probably already received some from him,
and he is come today to bring her more. She wishes, perhaps, to
derive amusement by and by, from an agreeable surprise, by keeping me
at present in the dark. She would doubtless have at once told me all,
if I had gone in as usual, instead of coming here to distress myself:
at all events, she will not conceal it from me when I broach the
"I cherished this idea so willingly, that it considerably
lightened my grief. I immediately returned to my lodgings, and
embraced Manon as tenderly as ever. She received me as usual. At
first I was tempted to mention my conjectures, which I now, more than
ever, looked upon as certain; but I restrained myself in the hope that
she might render it unnecessary by informing me of all that had
"Supper was served. Assuming an air of gaiety, I took my seat at
table; but by the light of the candles which were between us, I
fancied I perceived an air of melancholy about the eyes and
countenance of my beloved mistress. The very thought soon damped my
gaiety. I remarked that her looks wore an unusual expression, and
although nothing could be more soft or languishing, I was at a loss to
discover whether they conveyed more of love than of compassion. I
gazed at her with equal earnestness, and she perhaps had no less
difficulty in comprehending from my countenance what was passing in my
heart. "We neither spoke nor ate. At length I saw tears starting
from her beauteous eyes--perfidious tears! `Oh heavens!' I cried, `my
dearest Manon, why allow your sorrows to afflict you to this degree
without imparting their cause to me?' She answered me only with
sighs, which increased my misery. I arose trembling from my seat: I
conjured her, with all the urgent earnestness of love, to let me know
the cause of her grief: I wept in endeavouring to soothe her sorrows:
I was more dead than alive. A barbarian would have pitied my
sufferings as I stood trembling with grief and apprehension.
"While my attention was thus confined to her, I heard people
coming upstairs. They tapped gently at the door. Manon gave me a
kiss, and escaping from my arms, quickly entered the boudoir, turning
the key after her. I imagined that, not being dressed to receive
strangers, she was unwilling to meet the persons who had knocked; I
went to let them in.
"I had hardly opened the door, when I found myself seized by three
men, whom I recognised as my father's servants. They offered not the
least violence, but two of them taking me by the arms, the third
examined my pockets, and took out a small knife, the only weapon I had
about me. They begged pardon for the necessity they were under of
treating me with apparent disrespect; telling me frankly that they
were acting by the orders of my father, and that my eldest brother was
in a carriage below waiting to receive me. My feelings were so
overpowered, that I allowed myself to be led away without making
either reply or resistance. I found my brother waiting for me as they
had stated. They placed me by his side, and the coachman immediately
drove, by his orders, towards St. Denis.
My brother embraced me most affectionately, but during our ride,
he uttered not a word, so that, as I was not inclined for
conversation, I had as much leisure as I could desire to reflect upon
That we can call these delicate creatures ours,
And not their appetites.
"The whole affair was so involved in obscurity that I could not
see my way even to a reasonable conjecture. I was cruelly
betrayed--that was certain; but by whom? Tiberge first occurred to
me. `Tiberge!' said I, `it is as much as thy life is worth, if my
suspicions turn out to be well founded.' However, I recollected that
he could not by possibility know my abode; and therefore, he could not
have furnished the information. To accuse Manon was more than my
heart was capable of. The unusual melancholy with which she had
lately seemed weighed down, her tears, the tender kiss she gave me in
parting, made it all as yet a mystery to me. I could only look upon
her recent melancholy as a presentiment of our common misfortune; and
while I was deploring the event which tore me from her, I was
credulous enough to consider her fate as much deserving of pity as my
"The result of my reflections was, that I had been seen and
followed in the streets of Paris by some persons of my acquaintance,
who had conveyed the information to my father. This idea comforted me.
I made up my mind to encounter some reproaches, or perhaps harsh
treatment, for having outraged the paternal authority. I resolved,
however, to suffer with patience, and to promise all that might be
required of me, in order to facilitate my speedy return to Paris, that
I might restore life and happiness to my dear Manon.
"We soon arrived at St. Denis. My brother, surprised at my long
silence, thought it the effect of fear. He assured me that I had
nothing to apprehend from my father's severity, provided I showed a
disposition to return quietly to the path of duty, and prove myself
worthy of his affection. He made me pass the night at St. Denis,
merely taking the precaution of putting the three lackeys to sleep in
my room. It cost me a pang to find myself in the same inn where I had
stopped with Manon on our way from Amiens to Paris. The innkeeper and
his servants recognised me, and guessed at once the truth of my
history. I overheard them say, `Ah! that's the handsome young
gentleman who travelled this road about a month ago, with the
beautiful girl he appeared so much in love with! How pretty she was!
The poor young things, how they caressed each other! Pity if they
have been separated!' I pretended not to hear, and kept as much out
of sight as possible.
"At St. Denis my brother had a chariot waiting for us, in which we
started early the next morning, and arrived at home before night.
He saw my father first, in order to make a favourable impression
by telling him how quietly I had allowed myself to be brought away,
so that his reception of me was less austere than I had expected. He
merely rebuked me in general terms for the offence I had committed, by
absenting myself without his permission. As for my mistress, he said
I richly deserved what had happened to me, for abandoning myself to a
person utterly unknown; that he had entertained a better opinion of my
discretion; but that he hoped this little adventure would make me
wiser. I took the whole lecture only in the sense that accorded with
my own notions. I thanked my father for his indulgence, and promised
that I would in future observe a better regulated and more obedient
course of conduct. I felt that I had secured a triumph; for, from the
present aspect of affairs, there was no doubt that I should be free to
effect my escape from the house even before the night was over.
"We sat down to supper. They rallied me about my Amiens conquest,
and my flight with that paragon of fidelity. I took their jokes in
good part, glad enough at being permitted to revolve in my mind the
plans I had meditated; but some words which fell from my father made
me listen with earnest attention. He spoke of perfidy, and the not
disinterested kindness he had received at the hands of M. de B----. I
was almost paralysed on hearing the name, and begged of my father to
explain himself. He turned to my brother, to ask if he had not told
me the whole story. My brother answered, that I appeared to him so
tranquil upon the road, that he did not suppose I required this remedy
to cure me of my folly. I remarked that my father was doubtful
whether he should give me the explanation or not. I entreated him so
earnestly that he satisfied me, or I should rather say tortured me,
with the following most horrible narration.
"He began by asking me whether I was really simple enough to
believe that I had been really loved by the girl. I told him
confidently that I was perfectly sure of it, and that nothing could
make me for a moment doubt it. `Ha, ha, ha!' said he, with a loud
laugh; `that is excellent! you are a pretty dupe! Admirable idea!
'Twould be a thousand pities, my poor chevalier, to make you a Knight
of Malta, with all the requisites you possess for a patient and
accommodating husband.' He continued in the same tone to ridicule
what he was pleased to call my dullness and credulity.
"He concluded, while I maintained a profound silence, by saying
that, according to the nicest calculation he could make of the time
since my departure from Amiens, Manon must have been in love with me
about twelve days; `for,' said he, `I know that you left Amiens on the
28th of last month; this is, the 29th of the present; it is eleven
days since M. de B---- wrote to me; I suppose he required eight days
to establish a perfect understanding with your mistress; so that, take
eight and eleven from thirty-one days, the time between the 28th of
one month and the 29th of the next, there remains twelve, more or
less!' This joke war, followed by shouts of laughter.
"I heard it all with a kind of sinking of the heart that I thought
I could not bear up against, until he finished. `You must know then,'
continued my father, `since you appear as yet ignorant of it, that M.
de B---- has won the affections of your idol; for he can't be serious
in pretending that it is his disinterested regard for me that has
induced him to take her from you. It would be absurd to expect such
noble sentiments from a man of his description, and one, besides, who
is a perfect stranger to me. He knew that you were my son, and in
order to get rid of you, he wrote to inform me of your abode, and of
the life you led; saying, at the same time, that strong measures
would be necessary to secure you.
He offered to procure me the means of laying hold of you; and it
was by his direction, as well as that of your mistress herself, that
your brother hit upon the moment for catching you unawares. Now, you
may congratulate yourself upon the duration of your triumph. You know
how to conquer, rapid enough; but you have yet to learn how to secure
"I could no longer endure these remarks, every one of which struck
a dagger to my heart. I arose from the table, and had not advanced
four steps towards the door, when I fell upon the floor, perfectly
senseless. By prompt applications they soon brought me to myself. My
eyes opened only to shed a torrent of tears, and my lips to utter the
most sorrowful and heartrending complaints. My father, who always
loved me most affectionately, tried every means to console me. I
listened to him, but his words were without effect. I threw myself at
his feet, in the attitude of prayer, conjuring him to let me return to
Paris, and destroy the monster B----. `No!'cried I; `he has not
gained Manon's heart; he may have seduced her by charms, or by drugs;
he may have even brutally violated her. Manon loves me. Do I not
know that well? He must have terrified her with a poniard, to induce
her to abandon me.' What must he not have done to have robbed me of
my angelic mistress? Oh Heaven! Heaven! can it be possible that
Manon deceived me, or that she has ceased to love me!
"As I continued to rave about returning at once to Paris, and was
perpetually starting up with that purpose, my father clearly saw that
while the paroxysm lasted, no arguments could pacify me. He conducted
me to one of the upper rooms, and left two servants to keep constant
watch over me. I was completely bewildered. I would have given a
thousand lives to be but for one quarter of an hour in Paris. I had
sense enough, however, to know that having so openly declared my
intention, they would not easily allow me to quit my chamber. I
looked at the height of the windows. Seeing no possibility of escaping
that way, I addressed the servants in the most tranquil tone. I
promised, with the most solemn vows, to make at some future day their
fortunes, if they would but consent to my escape. I entreated them; I
tried caresses, and lastly threats; but all were unavailing. I gave
myself up to despair. I resolved to die; and threw myself upon the
bed, with a firm determination to quit it only with my life. In this
situation I passed the night and the following day. I refused the
nourishment that was brought to me next morning.
"My father came to see me in the afternoon. He tried in the most
affectionate manner, to soothe my grief. He desired me so urgently to
take some refreshment, that, to gratify him, I obeyed his wishes.
Several days passed, during which I took nothing but in his presence,
and at his special request. He continued to furnish new arguments to
restore me to my proper senses, and to inspire me with merited
contempt for the faithless Manon. I certainly had lost all esteem for
her: how could I esteem the most fickle and perfidious of created
beings! But her image--those exquisite features, which were engraven
on my heart's core, were still uneffaced. I understood my own
feelings: `I may die,' said I, `and I ought to die after so much
shame and grief; but I might suffer a thousand deaths without being
able to forget the ingrate Manon.'
"My father was surprised at my still continuing so powerfully
affected. He knew that I was imbued with the principles of honour;
and not doubting that her infidelity must make me despise her, fancied
that my obstinacy proceeded less from this particular passion, than
from a general inclination towards the sex. This idea so took
possession of his mind, that, prompted only by his affection for me,
he came one day to reveal his thoughts. `Chevalier,' said he to me,
`it has been hitherto my intention to make you bear the Cross of
Malta: I now see that your inclinations do not bend that way. You are
an admirer of beauty. I shall be able to find you a wife to your
taste. Let me candidly know how you feel upon the subject.'
"I answered that I could never again see the slightest difference
amongst women, and that after the misfortune I had experienced, I
detested them all equally. `I will find you one,' replied my father,
smiling, `who shall resemble Manon in beauty, but who shall be more
faithful.' `Ah! if you have any mercy,' said I, `you will restore my
Manon to me. Be assured, my dear father, that she has not betrayed
me; she is incapable of such base and cruel treachery. It is the
perfidious B---- who deceives both her and me. If you could form an
idea of her tenderness and her sincerity--if you only knew her, you
yourself would love her!' `You are absolutely a child,' replied my
father. `How can you so delude yourself, after what I have told you
about her? It was she who actually delivered you up to your brother.
You ought to obliterate even her name from your memory, and take
advantage, if you are wise, of the indulgence I am showing you.'
"I very clearly perceived that my father was right. It was an
involuntary emotion that made me thus take part with the traitor.
`Alas!' replied I, after a moment's silence, `it is but too true that
I am the unhappy victim of the vilest perfidy. Yes,' I continued,
while shedding tears of anger, `I too clearly perceive that I am
indeed but a child. Credulity like mine was easily gulled; but I
shall be at no loss to revenge myself.' My father enquired of me my
intentions: `I will go to Paris,' I said, `set fire to B----'s house,
and immolate him and the perfidious Manon together.' This burst made
my father laugh, and had only the effect of causing me to be more
vigilantly watched in my cell.
I thus passed six long months; during the first of which my mind
underwent little change. My feelings were in a state of perpetual
alternation between hate and love; between hope and despair; according
as, the tendency of each passing thought brought Manon back to my
recollection. At one time, I could see in her the most delightful of
women only, and sigh for the pleasure of beholding her once more; at
another, I felt she was the most unworthy and perfidious of
mistresses, and I would on these occasions swear never again to seek
her, but for the purpose of revenge.
"I was supplied with books, which served to restore my peace of
mind. I read once again all my favourite authors; and I became
acquainted with new ones. All my former taste for study was revived.
You will see of what use this was to me in the sequel. The light I
had already derived from love, enabled me to comprehend many passages
in Horace and Virgil which had before appeared obscure. I wrote an
amatory commentary upon the fourth book of the AEneid. I intend one
day to publish it, and I flatter myself it will be popular.
"`Alas!' I used to exclaim, whilst employed on that work, it was
for a heart like mine the faithful Dido sighed, and sighed in vain!'
Now, by the strange enchantment that surrounds thee,
There's nothing--nothing thou shalt ask in vain.
"While in my confinement Tiberge came one day to see me. I was
surprised at the affectionate joy with which he saluted me. I had
never, hitherto, observed any peculiar warmth in his friendship that
could lead me to look upon it as anything more than the partiality
common among boys of the same age. He was so altered, and had grown
so manly during the five or six months since I had last seen him, that
his expressive features and his manner of addressing me inspired me
with a feeling of respect. He spoke more in the character of a mentor
than a schoolfellow, lamented the delusion into which I had fallen,
congratulated me on my reformation, which he believed was now sincere,
and ended by exhorting me to profit by my youthful error, and open my
eyes to the vanity of worldly pleasures. I looked at him with some
astonishment, which he at once perceived.
"`My dear chevalier,' said he to me, `you shall hear nothing but
the strict truth, of which I have assured myself by the most serious
examination. I had, perhaps, as strong an inclination for pleasure as
you, but Heaven had at the same time, in its mercy, blessed me with a
taste for virtue. I exercised my reason in comparing the consequences
of the one with those of the other, and the divine aid was graciously
vouchsafed to my reflections. I conceived for the world a contempt
which nothing can equal. Can you guess what it is retains me in it
now,' he added, `and that prevents me from embracing a life of
solitude? Simply the sincere friendship I bear towards you. I know
the excellent qualities of both your heart and head. There is no good
of which you may not render yourself capable. The blandishments of
pleasure have momentarily drawn you aside. What detriment to the
sacred cause of virtue! Your flight from Amiens gave me such intense
sorrow, that I have not since known a moment's happiness. You may
judge of this by the steps it induced me to take.' He then told me
how, after discovering that I had deceived him, and gone off with my
mistress, he procured horses for the purpose of pursuing me, but
having the start of him by four or five hours, he found it impossible
to overtake me; that he arrived, however, at St. Denis half an hour
after I had left it; that, being very sure that I must have stopped in
Paris, he spent six weeks there in a fruitless endeavour to discover
me--visiting every place where he thought he should be likely to meet
me, and that one evening he at length recognised my mistress at the
play, where she was so gorgeously dressed, that he of course set it
down to the account of some new lover; that he had followed her
equipage to her house, and had there learned from a servant that she
was entertained in this style by M. de B----. `I did not stop here,'
continued he; `I returned next day to the house, to learn from her
own lips what had become of you. She turned abruptly away when she
heard the mention of your name, and I was obliged to return into the
country without further information. I there learned the particulars
of your adventure, and the extreme annoyance she had caused you; but I
was unwilling to visit you until I could have assurance of your being
in a more tranquil state.'
"`You have seen Manon then!' cried I, sighing. `Alas! you are
happier than I, who am doomed never again to behold her.' He rebuked
me for this sigh, which still showed my weakness for the perfidious
girl. He flattered me so adroitly upon the goodness of my mind and
disposition, that he really inspired me, even on this first visit,
with a strong inclination to renounce, as he had done, the pleasures
of the world, and enter at once into holy orders.
"The idea was so suited to my present frame of mind, that when
alone I thought of nothing else. I remembered the words of the
Bishop of Amiens, who had given me the same advice, and thought only
of the happiness which he predicted would result from my adoption of
such a course. Piety itself took part in these suggestions. `I shall
lead a holy and a Christian life,' said I; `I shall divide my time
between study and religion, which will allow me no leisure for the
perilous pleasures of love. I shall despise that which men ordinarily
admire; and as I am conscious that my heart will desire nothing but
what it can esteem, my cares will not be greater or more numerous than
my wants and wishes.'
"I thereupon pictured to myself in anticipation a course of life
peaceful and retired. I fancied a retreat embosomed in a wood, with
a limpid stream of running water bounding my garden; a library,
comprising the most select works; a limited circle of friends,
virtuous and intellectual; a table neatly served, but frugal and
temperate. To all these agremens I added a literary correspondence
with a friend whose residence should be in Paris, who should give me
occasional information upon public affairs, less for the gratification
of my curiosity, than to afford a kind of relaxation by hearing of and
lamenting the busy follies of men. `Shall not I be happy?' added I;
`will not my utmost wishes be thus gratified?' This project flattered
my inclinations extremely. But after all the details of this most
admirable and prudent plan, I felt that my heart still yearned for
something; and that in order to leave nothing to desire in this most
enchanting retirement, one ought to be able to share it with Manon.
"However, Tiberge continuing to pay me frequent visits in order to
strengthen me in the purpose with which he had inspired me, I took an
opportunity of opening the subject to my father. He declared that his
intention ever was to leave his children free to choose a profession,
and that in whatever manner I should dispose of myself, all he wished
to reserve was the right of aiding me with his counsel. On this
occasion he gave me some of the wisest, which tended less to divert me
from my project, than to convince me of my good father's sound
judgment and discretion.
The recommencement of the scholastic year being at hand, Tiberge
and I agreed to enter ourselves together at St. Sulpice, he to pursue
his theological studies, and I to begin mine. His merits, which were
not unknown to the bishop of the diocese, procured him the promise of
a living from that prelate before our departure.
"My father, thinking me quite cured of my passion, made no
objection to my taking final leave. We arrived at Paris. The Cross
of Malta gave place to the ecclesiastical habit, and the designation
of the Abbe de Grieux was substituted for that of chevalier. I
applied so diligently to study, that in a few months I had made
extraordinary progress. I never lost a moment of the day, and
employed even part of the night. I soon acquired such a reputation,
that I was already congratulated upon the honours which I was sure of
obtaining; and, without solicitation on my part, my name was inscribed
on the list for a vacant benefice. Piety was by no means neglected,
and I entered with ardent devotion into all the exercises of religion.
Tiberge was proud of what he considered the work of his own hands,
and many a time have I seen him shed tears of delight in noticing what
he styled my perfect conversion.
"It has never been matter of wonder to me that human resolutions
are liable to change; one passion gives them birth, another may
destroy them; but when I reflect upon the sacredness of those motives
that led me to St. Sulpice, and upon the heartfelt satisfaction I
enjoyed while obeying their dictation, I shudder at the facility with
which I outraged them all. If it be true that the benign succour
afforded by Heaven is at all times equal to the strongest of man's
pinions, I shall be glad to learn the nature of the deplorable
ascendancy which causes us suddenly to swerve from the path of duty,
without the power of offering the least resistance, and without even
the slightest visitation of remorse.
"I now thought myself entirely safe from the dangers of love. I
fancied that I could have preferred a single page of St. Augustine,
or a quarter of an hour of Christian meditation, to every sensual
gratification, not excepting any that I might have derived even from
Manon's society. Nevertheless, one unlucky moment plunged me again
headlong into the gulf; and my ruin was the more irreparable, because,
falling at once to the same depth from whence I had been before
rescued, each of the new disorders into which I now lapsed carried me
deeper and deeper still down the profound abyss of vice. I had passed
nearly a year at Paris without hearing of Manon. It cost me no slight
effort to abstain from enquiry; but the unintermitting advice of
Tiberge, and my own reflections, secured this victory over my wishes.
The last months glided away so tranquilly, that I considered the
memory of this charming but treacherous creature about to be consigned
to eternal oblivion.
"The time arrived when I was to undergo a public examination in
the class of theology: I invited several persons of consideration to
honour me with their presence on the occasion. My name was mentioned
in every quarter of Paris: it even reached the ears of her who had
betrayed me. She had some difficulty in recognising it with the
prefix of Abbe; but curiosity, or perhaps remorse for having been
faithless to me (I could never after ascertain by which of these
feelings she was actuated), made her at once take an interest in a
name so like mine; and she came with several other women to the
Sorbonne, where she was present at my examination, and had doubtless
little trouble in recognising my person.
"I had not the remotest suspicion of her presence. It is well
known that in these places there are private seats for ladies, where
they remain screened by a curtain. I returned to St. Sulpice covered
with honours and congratulations. It was six in the evening. The
moment I returned, a lady was announced, who desired to speak with me.
I went to meet her. Heavens! what a surprise!
It was Manon. It was she indeed, but more bewitching and
brilliant than I had ever beheld her. She was now in her eighteenth
year. Her beauty beggars all description. The exquisite grace of her
form, the mild sweetness of expression that animated her features, and
her engaging air, made her seem the very personification of love. The
vision was something too perfect for human beauty.
"I stood like one enchanted at beholding her. Unable to divine
the object of her visit, I waited trembling and with downcast looks
until she explained herself. At first, her embarrassment was equal to
mine; but, seeing that I was not disposed to break silence, she raised
her hand to her eyes to conceal a starting tear, and then, in a timid
tone, said that she well knew she had justly earned my abhorrence by
her infidelity; but that if I had ever really felt any love for her,
there was not much kindness in allowing two long years to pass without
enquiring after her, and as little now in seeing her in the state of
mental distress in which she was, without condescending to bestow upon
her a single word. I shall not attempt to describe what my feelings
were as I listened to this reproof.
"She seated herself. I remained standing, with my face half
turned aside, for I could not muster courage to meet her look. I
several times commenced a reply without power to conclude it. At
length I made an effort, and in a tone of poignant grief exclaimed:
`Perfidious Manon! perfidious, perfidious creature!' She had no wish,
she repeated with a flood of tears, to attempt to justify her
infidelity. `What is your wish, then?' cried I. `I wish to die,' she
answered, `if you will not give me back that heart, without which it
is impossible to endure life.' `Take my life too, then, faithless
girl!' I exclaimed, in vain endeavouring to restrain my tears; `take
my life also! it is the sole sacrifice that remains for me to make,
for my heart has never ceased to be thine.'
"I had hardly uttered these words, when she rose in a transport of
joy, and approached to embrace me. She loaded me with a thousand
caresses. She addressed me by all the endearing appellations with
which love supplies his votaries, to enable them to express the most
passionate fondness. I still answered with affected coldness; but the
sudden transition from a state of quietude, such as that I had up to
this moment enjoyed, to the agitation and tumult which were now
kindled in my breast and tingled through my veins, thrilled me with a
kind of horror, and impressed me with a vague sense that I was about
to undergo some great transformation, and to enter upon a new
"We sat down close by each other. I took her hand within mine,
`Ah! Manon,' said I, with a look of sorrow, `I little thought that
love like mine could have been repaid with treachery! It was a poor
triumph to betray a heart of which you were the absolute
mistress--whose sole happiness it was to gratify and obey you. Tell
me if among others you have found any so affectionate and so devoted?
No, no! I believe nature has cast few hearts in the same mould as
mine. Tell me at least whether you have ever thought of me with
regret! Can I have any reliance on the duration of the feeling that
has brought you back to me today? I perceive too plainly that you are
infinitely lovelier than ever: but I conjure you by all my past
sufferings, dearest Manon, to tell me--can you in future be more
"She gave me in reply such tender assurances of her repentance,
and pledged her fidelity with such solemn protestations and vows,
that I was inexpressibly affected. `Beauteous Manon,' said I, with
rather a profane mixture of amorous and theological expressions, `you
are too adorable for a created being. I feel my heart transported
with triumphant rapture. It is folly to talk of liberty at St.
Sulpice. Fortune and reputation are but slight sacrifices at such a
shrine! I plainly foresee it: I can read my destiny in your bright
eyes; but what abundant recompense shall I not find in your affections
for any loss I may sustain! The favours of fortune have no influence
over me: fame itself appears to me but a mockery; all my projects of a
holy life were wild absurdities: in fact, any joys but those I may
hope for at your side are fit objects of contempt. There are none
that would not vanish into worthlessness before one single glance of
"In promising her, however, a full remission of her past
frailties, I enquired how she permitted herself to be led astray by
B----. She informed me that having seen her at her window, he became
passionately in love with her; that he made his advances in the true
style of a mercantile cit;--that is to say, by giving her to
understand in his letter, that his payments would be proportioned to
her favours; that she had admitted his overtures at first with no
other intention than that of getting from him such a sum as might
enable us to live without inconvenience; but that he had so bewildered
her with splendid promises, that she allowed herself to be misled by
degrees. She added, that I ought to have formed some notion of the
remorse she experienced, by her grief on the night of our separation;
and assured me that, in spite of the splendour in which he maintained
her, she had never known a moment's happiness with him, not only, she
said, because he was utterly devoid of that delicacy of sentiment and
of those agreeable manners which I possessed, but because even in the
midst of the amusements which he unceasingly procured her, she could
never shake off the recollection of my love, or her own ingratitude.
She then spoke of Tiberge, and the extreme embarrassment his visit
caused her. `A dagger's point,' she added, `could not have struck
more terror to my heart. I turned from him, unable to sustain the
interview for a moment.'
"She continued to inform me how she had been apprised of my
residence at Paris, of the change in my condition, and of her
witnessing my examination at the Sorbonne. She told me how agitated
she had been during my intellectual conflict with the examiner; what
difficulty she felt in restraining her tears as well as her sighs,
which were more than once on the point of spurning all control, and
bursting forth; that she was the last person to leave the hall of
examination, for fear of betraying her distress, and that, following
only the instinct of her own heart, and her ardent desires, she came
direct to the seminary, with the firm resolution of surrendering life
itself, if she found me cruel enough to withhold my forgiveness.
"Could any savage remain unmoved by such proofs of cordial
repentance as those I had just witnessed? For my part, I felt at the
moment that I could gladly have given up all the bishoprics in
Christendom for Manon. I asked what course she would recommend in our
present emergency. `It is requisite,' she replied, `at all events, to
quit the seminary, and settle in some safer place.' I consented to
everything she proposed. She got into her carriage to go and wait for
me at the corner of the street. I escaped the next moment, without
attracting the porter's notice. I entered the carriage, and we drove
off to a Jew's. I there resumed my lay-dress and sword. Manon
furnished the supplies, for I was without a sou, and fearing that I
might meet with some new impediment, she would not consent to my
returning to my room at St. Sulpice for my purse. My finances were
in truth wretchedly low, and hers more than sufficiently enriched by
the liberality of M. de B---- to make her think lightly of my loss.
We consulted together at the Jew's as to the course we should now
"In order to enhance the sacrifice she had made for me of her late
lover, she determined to treat him without the least ceremony. `I
shall leave him all his furniture,' she said; `it belongs to him: but
I shall assuredly carry off, as I have a right to do, the jewels, and
about sixty thousand francs, which I have had from him in the last two
years. I have given him no control over me,' she added, `so that we
may remain without apprehension in Paris, taking a convenient house,
where we shall live, oh how happily together!'
"I represented to her that, although there might be no danger for
her, there was a great deal for me, who must be sooner or later
infallibly recognised, and continually exposed to a repetition of the
trials I had before endured. She gave me to understand that she could
not quit Paris without regret. I had such a dread of giving her
annoyance, that there were no risks I would not have encountered for
her sake. However, we compromised matters by resolving to take a
house in some village near Paris, from whence it would be easy for us
to come into town whenever pleasure or business required it. We fixed
on Chaillot, which is at a convenient distance. Manon at once
returned to her house, and I went to wait for her at a side-gate of
the garden of the Tuileries.
"She returned an hour after, in a hired carriage, with a
servant-maid, and several trunks, which contained her dresses, and
everything she had of value.
"We were not long on our way to Chaillot. We lodged the first
night at the inn, in order to have time to find a suitable house, or
at least a commodious lodging. We found one to our taste the next
"My happiness now appeared to be secured beyond the reach of fate.
Manon was everything most sweet and amiable. She was so delicate and
so unceasing in her attentions to me, that I deemed myself but too
bountifully rewarded for all my past troubles. As we had both, by
this time, acquired some experience, we discussed rationally the state
of our finances. Sixty thousand francs (the amount of our wealth) was
not a sum that could be expected to last our whole life; besides, we
were neither of us much disposed to control our expenses. Manon's
chief virtue assuredly was not economy, any more than it was mine.
This was my proposition. `Sixty thousand francs,' said I, `may
support us for ten years. Two thousand crowns a year will suffice, if
we continue to live at Chaillot. We shall keep up appearances, but
live frugally. Our only expense will be occasionally a carriage, and
the theatres. We shall do everything in moderation. You like the
opera; we shall go twice a week, in the season. As for play, we
shall limit ourselves; so that our losses must never exceed three
crowns. It is impossible but that in the space of ten years some
change must occur in my family: my father is even now of an advanced
age; he may die; in which event I must inherit a fortune, and we shall
then be above all other fears.'
"This arrangement would not have been by any means the most silly
act of my life, if we had only been prudent enough to persevere in its
execution; but our resolutions hardly lasted longer than a month.
Manon's passion was for amusement; she was the only object of mine.
New temptations to expense constantly presented themselves, and far
from regretting the money which she sometimes prodigally lavished, I
was the first to procure for her everything likely to afford her
pleasure. Our residence at Chaillot began even to appear tiresome.
"Winter was approaching, and the whole world returning to town;
the country had a deserted look. She proposed to me to take a house
in Paris. I did not approve of this; but, in order partly at least to
satisfy her, I said that we might hire furnished apartments, and that
we might sleep there whenever we were late in quitting the assembly,
whither we often went; for the inconvenience of returning so late to
Chaillot was her excuse for wishing to leave it. We had thus two
dwellings, one in town and the other in the country. This change soon
threw our affairs into confusion, and led to two adventures, which
eventually caused our ruin.
"Manon had a brother in the Guards. He unfortunately lived in the
very street in which we had taken lodgings. He one day recognised his
sister at the window, and hastened over to us. He was a fellow of the
rudest manners, and without the slightest principle of honour. He
entered the room swearing in the most horrible way; and as he knew
part of his sister's history, he loaded her with abuse and reproaches.
"I had gone out the moment before, which was doubtless fortunate
for either him or me, for I was little disposed to brook an insult.
I only returned to the lodgings after he had left them. The low
spirits in which I found Manon convinced me at once that something
extraordinary had occurred. She told me of the provoking scene she
had just gone through, and of the brutal threats of her brother. I
felt such indignation, that I wished to proceed at once to avenge her,
when she entreated me with tears to desist.
"While we were still talking of the adventure, the guardsman again
entered the room in which we sat, without even waiting to be
announced. Had I known him, he should not have met from me as civil a
reception as he did; but saluting us with a smile upon his
countenance, he addressed himself to Manon, and said, he was come to
make excuses for his violence; that he had supposed her to be living a
life of shame and disgrace, and it was this notion that excited his
rage; but having since made enquiry from one of our servants, he had
learned such a character of me, that his only wish was now to be on
terms with us both.
"Although this admission, of having gone for information to one of
my own servants, had in it something ludicrous as well as indelicate,
I acknowledged his compliments with civility, I thought by doing so to
please Manon, and I was not deceived--she was delighted at the
reconciliation. We made him stay to dine with us.
"In a little time he became so familiar, that hearing us speak of
our return to Chaillot, he insisted on accompanying us. We were
obliged to give him a seat in our carriage. This was in fact putting
him into possession, for he soon began to feel so much pleasure in our
company, that he made our house his home, and made himself in some
measure master of all that belonged to us. He called me his brother,
and, under the semblance of fraternal freedom, he put himself on such
a footing as to introduce all his friends without ceremony into our
house at Chaillot, and there entertain them at our expense. His
magnificent uniforms were procured of my tailor and charged to me,
and he even contrived to make Manon and me responsible for all his
debts. I pretended to be blind to this system of tyranny, rather than
annoy Manon, and even to take no notice of the sums of money which
from time to time he received from her. No doubt, as he played very
deep, he was honest enough to repay her a part sometimes, when luck
turned in his favour; but our finances were utterly inadequate to
supply, for any length of time, demands of such magnitude and
"I was on the point of coming to an understanding with him, in
order to put an end to the system, when an unfortunate accident saved
me that trouble, by involving us in inextricable ruin.
"One night we stopped in Paris to sleep, as it had now indeed
become our constant habit. The servant-maid who on such occasions
remained alone at Chaillot, came early the next morning to inform me
that our house had taken fire in the night, and that the flames had
been extinguished with great difficulty. I asked whether the
furniture had suffered. She answered, that there had been such
confusion, owing to the multitude of strangers who came to offer
assistance, that she could hardly ascertain what damage had been done.
I was principally uneasy about our money, which had been locked up in
a little box. I went off in haste to Chaillot. Vain hope! the box
"I discovered that one could love money without being a miser.
This loss afflicted me to such a degree that I was almost out of my
mind. I saw at one glance to what new calamities I should be exposed:
poverty was the least of them. I knew Manon thoroughly; I had already
had abundant proof that, although faithful and attached to me under
happier circumstances, she could not be depended upon in want:
pleasure and plenty she loved too well to sacrifice them for my sake.
`I shall lose her!' I cried; `miserable chevalier! you are about then
to lose all that you love on earth!' This thought agitated me to such
a degree that I actually for some moments considered whether it would
not be best for me to end at once all my miseries by death. I however
preserved presence of mind enough to reflect whether I was entirely
without resource, and an idea occurred to me which quieted my despair.
It would not be impossible, I thought, to conceal our loss from
Manon; and I might perhaps discover some ways and means of supplying
her, so as to ward off the inconveniences of poverty.
"I had calculated in endeavouring to comfort myself, that twenty
thousand crowns would support us for ten years. Suppose that these
ten years had now elapsed, and that none of the events which I had
looked for in my family had occurred. What then would have been my
course? I hardly know; but whatever I should then have done, why may
I not do now? How many are there in Paris, who have neither my
talents, nor the natural advantages I possess, and who,
notwithstanding, owe their support to the exercise of their talents,
such as they are?
"`Has not Providence,' I added, while reflecting on the different
conditions of life, `arranged things wisely?' The greater number of
the powerful and the rich are fools. No one who knows anything of the
world can doubt that. How admirable is the compensating justice
thereof! If wealth brought with it talent also, the rich would be too
happy, and other men too wretched. To these latter are given personal
advantages and genius, to help them out of misery and want. Some of
them share the riches of the wealthy by administering to their
pleasures, or by making them their dupes; others afford them
instruction, and endeavour to make them decent members of society; to
be sure, they do not always succeed; but that was probably not the
intention of the divine wisdom. In every case they derive a benefit
from their labours by living at the expense of their pupils; and, in
whatever point of view it is considered, the follies of the rich are a
bountiful source of revenue to the humbler classes.
"These thoughts restored me a little to my spirits and to my
reason. I determined first to consult M. Lescaut, the brother of
Manon. He knew Paris perfectly; and I had too many opportunities of
learning that it was neither from his own estates, nor from the king's
pay, that he derived the principal portion of his income. I had about
thirty-three crowns left, which I fortunately happened to have about
me. I showed him my purse, and explained to him my misfortune and my
fears, and then asked him whether I had any alternative between
starvation and blowing out my brains in despair. He coolly replied
that suicide was the resource of fools. As to dying of want, there
were hundreds of men of genius who found themselves reduced to that
state when they would not employ their talents; that it was for myself
to discover what I was capable of doing, and he told me to reckon
upon his assistance and his advice in any enterprise I might
"`Vague enough, M. Lescaut!' said I to him: `my wants demand a
more speedy remedy; for what am I to say to Manon?' `Apropos of
Manon,' replied he, `what is it that annoys you about her? Cannot you
always find in her wherewithal to meet your wants, when you wish it?
Such a person ought to support us all, you and me as well as
herself.' He cut short the answer which I was about to give to such
unfeeling and brutal impertinence, by going on to say, that before
night he would ensure me a thousand crowns to divide between us, if I
would only follow his advice; that he was acquainted with a nobleman,
who was so liberal in affairs of the kind, that he was certain he
would not hesitate for a moment to give the sum named for the favours
of such a girl as Manon.
"I stopped him. `I had a better opinion of you,' said I; `I had
imagined that your motive for bestowing your friendship upon me was
very different indeed from the one you now betray.' With the greatest
effrontery he acknowledged that he had been always of the same mind,
and that his sister having once sacrificed her virtue, though it might
be to the man she most loved, he would never have consented to a
reconciliation with her, but with the hope of deriving some advantage
from her past misconduct.
"It was easy to see that we had been hitherto his dupes.
Notwithstanding the disgust with which his proposition inspired me,
still, as I felt that I had occasion for his services, I said, with
apparent complacency, that we ought only to entertain such a plan as a
last resource. I begged of him to suggest some other.
"He proposed to me to turn my youth and the good looks nature had
bestowed upon me to some account, by establishing a liaison with some
generous old dame. This was just as little to my taste, for it would
necessarily have rendered me unfaithful to Manon.
"I mentioned play as the easiest scheme, and the most suitable to
my present situation. He admitted that play certainly was a resource,
but that it was necessary to consider the point well. `Mere play,'
said he, `with its ordinary chances, is the certain road to ruin; and
as for attempting, alone and without an ally, to employ the little
means an adroit man has for correcting the vagaries of luck, it would
be too dangerous an experiment.' There was, he stated, a third course,
which was to enter into what he called a partnership; but he feared
his confederates would consider my youth an objection to my
admittance. He, however, promised to use his influence with them;
and, what was more than I expected at his hands, he said that he would
supply me with a little money whenever I had pressing occasion for
any. The only favour I then asked of him was to say nothing to Manon
of the loss I had experienced, nor of the subject of our
"I certainly derived little comfort from my visit to Lescaut; I
felt even sorry for having confided my secret to him: not a single
thing had he done for me that I might not just as well have done for
myself, without troubling him; and I could not help dreading that he
would violate his promise to keep the secret from Manon. I had also
reason to apprehend, from his late avowals, that he might form the
design of making use of her for his own vile purposes, or at least of
advising her to quit me for some happier and more wealthy lover. This
idea brought in its train a thousand reflections, which had no other
effect than to torment me, and throw me again into the state of
despair in which I had passed the morning. It occurred to me, more
than once, to write to my father; and to pretend a new reformation, in
order to obtain some pecuniary assistance from him; but I could not
forget that, notwithstanding all his natural love and affection for
me, he had shut me up for six months in a confined room for my first
transgression; and I was certain that, after the scandalous sensation
caused by my flight from St. Sulpice, he would be sure to treat me
with infinitely more rigour now.
"At length, out of this chaos of fancies came an idea that all at
once restored ease to my mind, and which I was surprised at not having
hit upon sooner; this was, to go again to my friend Tiberge, in whom I
might be always sure of finding the same unfailing zeal and
friendship. There is nothing more glorious--nothing that does more
honour to true virtue, than the confidence with which one approaches a
friend of tried integrity; no apprehension, no risk of unkind repulse:
if it be not always in his power to afford the required succour, one
is sure at least of meeting kindness and compassion. The heart of the
poor supplicant, which remains impenetrably closed to the rest of the
world, opens in his presence, as a flower expands before the orb of
day, from which it instinctively knows it can derive a cheering and
benign influence only.
"I consider it a blessing to have thought so apropos of Tiberge,
and resolved to take measures to find him before evening. I returned
at once to my lodgings to write him a line, and fix a convenient place
for our meeting. I requested secrecy and discretion, as the most
important service he could render me under present circumstances.
"The pleasure I derived from the prospect of seeing Tiberge
dissipated every trace of melancholy, which Manon would not have
failed otherwise to detect in my countenance. I described our
misfortune at Chaillot as a trifle which ought not to annoy her; and
Paris being the spot she liked best in the world, she was not sorry to
hear me say that it would be necessary for us to remain there
entirely, until the little damage was repaired which had been caused
by the fire at Chaillot.
"In an hour I received an answer from Tiberge, who promised to be
at the appointed rendezvous. I went there punctually. I certainly
felt some shame at encountering a friend whose presence alone ought to
be a reproach to my iniquities; but I was supported by the opinion I
had of the goodness of his heart, as well as by my anxiety about
"I had begged of him to meet me in the garden of the Palais Royal.
He was there before me. He hastened towards me, the moment he saw me
approach and shook me warmly by both hands. I said that I could not
help feeling perfectly ashamed to meet him, and that I was weighed
down by a sense of my ingratitude; that the first thing I implored of
him was to tell me whether I might still consider him my friend, after
having so justly incurred the loss of his esteem and affection. He
replied, in the kindest possible manner, that it was not in the nature
of things to destroy his regard for me; that my misfortunes even, or,
if he might so call them, my faults and transgressions, had but
increased the interest he felt for me; but that he must confess his
affection was not unalloyed by a sentiment of the liveliest sorrow,
such as a person may be supposed to feel at seeing a beloved object on
the brink of ruin, and beyond the reach of his assistance.
"We sat down upon a bench. `Alas!' said I with a deep sigh, `your
compassion must be indeed great, my dear Tiberge, if you assure me it
is equal to my sufferings. I am almost ashamed to recount them, for I
confess they have been brought on by no very creditable course of
conduct: the results, however, are so truly melancholy, that a friend
even less attached than you would be affected by the recital.'
"He then begged of me, in proof of friendship, to let him know,
without any disguise, all that had occurred to me since my departure
from St. Sulpice. I gratified him; and so far from concealing
anything, or attempting to extenuate my faults, I spoke of my passion
with all the ardour with which it still inspired me. I represented it
to him as one of those especial visitations of fate, which draw on the
devoted victim to his ruin, and which it is as impossible for virtue
itself to resist, as for human wisdom to foresee. I painted to him in
the most vivid colours, my excitement, my fears, the state of despair
in which I had been two hours before I saw him, and into which I
should be again plunged, if I found my friends as relentless as fate
had been. I at length made such an impression upon poor Tiberge, that
I saw he was as much affected by compassion, as I by the recollection
of my sufferings.
"He took my hand, and exhorted me to have courage and be
comforted; but, as he seemed to consider it settled that Manon and I
were to separate, I gave him at once to understand that it was that
very separation I considered as the most intolerable of all my
misfortunes; and that I was ready to endure not only the last degree
of misery, but death itself, of the cruellest kind, rather than seek
relief in a remedy worse than the whole accumulation of my woes.
"`Explain yourself, then,' said he to me; `what assistance can I
afford you, if you reject everything I propose?' I had not courage to
tell him that it was from his purse I wanted relief. He, however,
comprehended it in the end; and acknowledging that he believed he now
understood me, he remained for a moment in an attitude of thought,
with the air of a person revolving something in his mind. `Do not
imagine,' he presently said, `that my hesitation arises from any
diminution of my zeal and friendship; but to what an alternative do
you now reduce me, since I must either refuse you the assistance you
ask, or violate my most sacred duty in affording it! For is it not
participating in your sin to furnish you with the means of continuing
"`However,' continued he, after a moment's thought, `it is perhaps
the excited state into which want has thrown you, that denies you now
the liberty of choosing the proper path. Man's mind must be at rest,
to know the luxury of wisdom and virtue. I can afford to let you have
some money; and permit me, my dear chevalier, to impose but one
condition; that is, that you let me know the place of your abode, and
allow me the opportunity of using my exertions to reclaim you. I know
that there is in your heart a love of virtue, and that you have been
only led astray by the violence of your passions.'
"I, of course, agreed to everything he asked, and only begged of
him to deplore the malign destiny which rendered me callous to the
counsels of so virtuous a friend. He then took me to a banker of his
acquaintance, who gave one hundred and seventy crowns for his note of
hand, which was taken as cash. I have already said that he was not
rich. His living was worth about six thousand francs a year, but as
this was the first year since his induction, he had as yet touched
none of the receipts, and it was out of the future income that he made
me this advance.
"I felt the full force of his generosity, even to such a degree as
almost to deplore the fatal passion which thus led me to break through
all the restraints of duty. Virtue had for a moment the ascendancy in
my heart, and made me sensible of my shame and degradation. But this
was soon over. For Manon I could have given up my hopes of heaven,
and when I again found myself at her side, I wondered how I could for
an instant have considered myself degraded by my passion for this
"Manon was a creature of most extraordinary disposition. Never
had mortal a greater contempt for money, and yet she was haunted by
perpetual dread of wanting it. Her only desire was for pleasure and
amusement. She would never have wished to possess a sou, if pleasure
could be procured without money. She never even cared what our purse
contained, provided she could pass the day agreeably; so that, being
neither fond of play nor at all dazzled by the desire of great wealth,
nothing was more easy than to satisfy her, by daily finding out
amusements suited to her moderate wishes. But it became by habit a
thing so absolutely necessary for her to have her mind thus occupied,
that, without it, it was impossible to exercise the smallest influence
over her temper or inclinations. Although she loved me tenderly, and
I was the only person, as she often declared, in whose society she
could ever find the pure enjoyments of love, yet I felt thoroughly
convinced that her attachment could not withstand certain
apprehensions. She would have preferred me, even with a moderate
fortune, to the whole world; but I had no kind of doubt that she
would, on the other hand, abandon me for some new M. de B----, when I
had nothing more to offer her than fidelity and love.
"I resolved therefore so to curtail my own individual expenses, as
to be able always to meet hers, and rather to deprive myself of a
thousand necessaries than even to limit her extravagance. The carriage
made me more uneasy than anything else, for I saw no chance of being
able to maintain either coachman or horses.
"I told M. Lescaut of my difficulties, and did not conceal from
him that I had received a thousand francs from a friend. He
repeated, that if I wished to try the chances of the gaming-table, he
was not without hopes that, by spending a few crowns in entertaining
his associates, I might be, on his recommendation, admitted into the
association. With all my repugnance to cheating, I yielded to dire
"Lescaut presented me that night as a relation of his own. He
added, that I was the more likely to succeed in my new profession,
from wanting the favours of fortune. However, to show them that I was
not quite reduced to the lowest ebb, he said it was my intention to
treat them with a supper. The offer was accepted, and I entertained
them en prince. They talked a good deal about my fashionable
appearance and the apparent amiability of my disposition; they said
that the best hopes might be entertained of me, because there was
something in my countenance that bespoke the gentleman, and no one
therefore could have a suspicion of my honesty: they voted thanks to
Lescaut for having introduced so promising a novice, and deputed one
of the members to instruct me for some days in the necessary
"The principal scene of my exploits was the hotel of Transylvania,
where there was a faro table in one room, and other games of cards and
dice in the gallery. This academy was kept by the Prince of R----,
who then lived at Clagny, and most of his officers belonged to our
society. Shall I mention it to my shame? I profited quickly by my
instructor's tuition. I acquired an amazing facility in sleight of
hand tricks, and learned in perfection to sauter le coup; with the
help of a pair of long ruffles, I shuffled so adroitly as to defy the
quickest observer, and I ruined several fair players. My unrivalled
skill so quickened the progress of my fortunes, that I found myself
master, in a few weeks, of very considerable sums, besides what I
divided in good faith with my companions.
"I had no longer any fear of communicating to Manon the extent of
our loss at Chaillot, and, to console her on the announcement of such
disastrous news, I took a furnished house, where we established
ourselves in all the pride of opulence and security.
"Tiberge was in the habit, at this period, of paying me frequent
visits. He was never tired of his moral lectures. Over and over
again did he represent to me the injury I was inflicting upon my
conscience, my honour, and my fortune. I received all his advice
kindly, and although I had not the smallest inclination to adopt it,
I had no doubt of its sincerity, for I knew its source. Sometimes I
rallied him good-humouredly, and entreated him not to be more
tight-laced than some other priests were, and even bishops, who by no
means considered a mistress incompatible with a good and holy life.'
`Look,' I said, at Manon's eyes, and tell me if there is one in the
long catalogue of sins that might not there find a plea of
justification.' He bore these sallies patiently, and carried his
forbearance almost too far: but when he saw my funds increase, and
that I had not only returned him the hundred and seventy crowns, but
having hired a new house and trebled my expenses, I had plunged deeper
than ever into a life of pleasure, he changed his tone and manner
towards me. He lamented my obduracy. He warned me against the
chastisement of the Divine wrath, and predicted some of the miseries
with which indeed I was shortly afterwards visited. `It is
impossible,' he said, `that the money which now serves to support your
debaucheries can have been acquired honourably. You have come by it
unjustly, and in the same way shall it be taken from you. The most
awful punishment Heaven could inflict would be to allow you the
undisturbed enjoyment of it. All my advice,' he added, `has been
useless; I too plainly perceive that it will shortly become
troublesome to you. I now take my leave; you are a weak, as well as
an ungrateful friend! May your criminal enjoyments vanish as a
shadow! may your ill-gotten wealth leave you without a resource; and
may you yourself remain alone and deserted, to learn the vanity of
these things, which now divert you from better pursuits! When that
time arrives, you will find me disposed to love and to serve you; this
day ends our intercourse, and I once for all avow my horror of the
life you are leading.'
"It was in my room and in Manon's presence that he delivered this
apostolical harangue. He rose to depart. I was about to detain him;
but was prevented by Manon, who said it was better to let the madman
"What he said, however, did not fail to make some impression upon
me. I notice these brief passages of my life when I experienced a
returning sentiment of virtue, because it was to those traces, however
light, that I was afterwards indebted for whatever of fortitude I
displayed under the most trying circumstances.
"Manon's caresses soon dissipated the annoyance this scene had
caused me. We continued to lead a life entirely devoted to pleasure
and love. The increase of our wealth only redoubled our affection.
There none happier among all the devotees of Venus and Fortune.
Heavens! why call this a world of misery, when it can furnish a life
of such rapturous enjoyment? But alas, it is too soon over! For what
ought man to sigh, could such felicity but last for ever? Ours shared
the common fate--in being of short duration, and followed by lasting
"I had realised by play such a considerable sum of money, that I
thought of investing a portion of it. My servants were not ignorant
of my good luck, particularly my valet and Manon's own maid, before
whom we often talked without any reserve. The maid was handsome, and
my valet in love with her. They knew they had to deal with a young
and inexperienced couple, whom they fancied they could impose upon
without much difficulty. They laid a plan, and executed it with so
much skill, that they reduced us to a state from which it was never
afterwards possible for us to extricate ourselves.
"Having supped one evening at Lescaut's, it was about midnight
when we returned home. I asked for my valet, and Manon for her maid;
neither one nor the other could be found. They had not been seen in
the house since eight o'clock, and had gone out, after having some
cases carried before them, according to orders which they pretended to
have received from me. I at once foresaw a part of the truth, but my
suspicions were infinitely surpassed by what presented itself on going
into my room. The lock of my closet had been forced, and my cash as
well as my best clothes were gone. While I stood stupefied with
amazement, Manon came, in the greatest alarm, to inform me that her
apartment had been rifled in the same manner.
"This blow was so perfectly astounding, so cruel, that it was with
difficulty I could refrain from tears. The dread of infecting Manon
with my despair made me assume a more contented air. I said, smiling,
that I should avenge myself upon some unhappy dupe at the hotel of
Transylvania. However, she appeared so sensibly affected, that her
grief increased my sorrow infinitely more than my attempt succeeded in
supporting her spirits. `We are destroyed!' said she, with tears in
her eyes. I endeavoured, in vain, by my entreaties and caresses, to
console her. My own lamentations betrayed my distress and despair.
In fact, we were so completely ruined, that we were bereft almost of
"I determined to send off at once for Lescaut. He advised me to
go immediately to the lieutenant of police, and to give information
also to the Grand Provost of Paris. I went, but it was to add to my
calamities only; for, independently of my visit producing not the
smallest good effect, I, by my absence, allowed Lescaut time for
discussion with his sister, during which he did not fail to inspire
her with the most horrible resolutions. He spoke to her about M.
G---- M----, an old voluptuary, who paid prodigally for his pleasures;
he so glowingly described the advantages of such a connection, that
she entered into all his plans. This discreditable arrangement was
all concluded before my return, and the execution of it only postponed
till the next morning, after Lescaut should have apprised G---- M----.
"I found him, on my return, waiting for me at my house; but Manon
had retired to her own apartment, and she had desired the footman to
tell me that, having need of repose, she hoped she should not be
disturbed that night. Lescaut left me, after offering me a few crowns
which I accepted.
"It was nearly four o'clock when I retired to bed; and having
revolved in my mind various schemes for retrieving my fortunes, I
fell asleep so late that I did not awake till between eleven and
twelve o'clock. I rose at once to enquire after Manon's health; they
told me that she had gone out an hour before with her brother, who had
come for her in a hired carriage. Although there appeared something
mysterious in such a proceeding, I endeavoured to check my rising
suspicions. I allowed some hours to pass, during which I amused
myself with reading. At length, being unable any longer to stifle my
uneasiness, I paced up and down the apartments. A sealed letter upon
Manon's table at last caught my eye. It was addressed to me, and in
her handwriting. I felt my blood freeze as I opened it; it was in
I protest to you, dearest chevalier, that you are the idol of my
heart, and that you are the only being on earth whom I can truly
love; but do you not see, my own poor dear chevalier, that in the
situation to which we are now reduced, fidelity would be worse than
madness? Do you think tenderness possibly compatible with starvation?
For my part, hunger would be sure to drive me to some fatal end.
Heaving some day a sigh for love, I should find it was my last. I
adore you, rely upon that; but leave to me, for a short while, the
management of our fortunes. God help the man who falls into my hands.
My only wish is to render my chevalier rich and happy. My brother
will tell you about me; he can vouch for my grief in yielding to the
necessity of parting from you.
"I remained, after reading this, in a state which it would be
difficult to describe; for even now I know not the nature of the
feelings which then agitated me. It was one of those unique
situations of which others can never have experienced anything even
approaching to similarity. It is impossible to explain it, because
other persons can have no idea of its nature; and one can hardly even
analyse it to oneself. Memory furnishes nothing that will connect it
with the past, and therefore ordinary language is inadequate to
describe it. Whatever was its nature, however, it is certain that
grief, hate, jealousy, and shame entered into its composition.
Fortunate would it have proved for me if love also had not been a
"`That she loves me,' I exclaimed, `I can believe; but could she,
without being a monster, hate me? What right can man ever have to
woman's affections which I had not to Manon's? What is left to me,
after all the sacrifices I have made for her sake? Yet she abandons
me, and the ungrateful creature thinks to screen herself from my
reproaches by professions of love! She pretends to dread starvation!
God of love, what grossness of sentiment! What an answer to the
refinement of my adoration! I had no dread of that kind; I, who have
almost sought starvation for her sake, by renouncing fortune and the
comforts of my father's house! I, who denied myself actual
necessaries, in order to gratify her little whims and caprices! She
adores me, she says. If you adored me, ungrateful creature, I well
know what course you would have taken; you would never have quitted
me, at least without saying adieu. It is only I who can tell the
pangs and torments, of being separated from all one loves. I must
have taken leave of my senses, to have voluntarily brought all this
misery upon myself.'
"My lamentations were interrupted by a visit I little expected; it
was from Lescaut. `Assassin!' cried I, putting my hand upon my sword,
`where is Manon? what have you done with her?' My agitation startled
him. He replied, that if this was the reception he was to meet, when
he came to offer me the most essential service it was in his power to
render me, he should take his leave, and never again cross my
threshold. I ran to the door of the apartment, which I shut. `Do not
imagine,' I said, turning towards him, `that you can once more make a
dupe of me with your lies and inventions. Either defend your life, or
tell me where I can find Manon.' `How impatient you are!' replied he;
`that was in reality the object of my visit. I came to announce a
piece of good fortune which you little expected, and for which you
will probably feel somewhat grateful.' My curiosity was at once
"He informed me that Manon, totally unable to endure the dread of
want, and, above all, the certainty of being at once obliged to
dispense with her equipage, had begged of him to make her acquainted
with M. G---- M----, who had a character for liberality. He carefully
avoided telling me that this was the result of his own advice, and
that he had prepared the way before he introduced his sister. `I took
her there this morning,' said he, `and the fellow was so enchanted
with her looks that he at once invited her to accompany him to his
country seat, where he is gone to pass some days. As I plainly
perceived,' said Lescaut, `the advantage it may be to you, I took care
to let him know that she had lately experienced very considerable
losses; and I so piqued his generosity that he began by giving her
four hundred crowns. I told him that was well enough for a
commencement, but that my sister would have, for the future, many
demands for money; that she had the charge of a young brother, who
had been thrown upon her hands since the death of our parents; and
that, if he wished to prove himself worthy of her affections, he would
not allow her to suffer uneasiness upon account of this child, whom
she regarded as part of herself. This speech produced its effect, he
at once promised to take a house for you and Manon, for you must know
that you are the poor little orphan. He undertook to set you up in
furniture, and to give you four hundred livres a month, which if I
calculate rightly, will amount to four thousand eight hundred per
annum. He left orders with his steward to look out for a house, and to
have it in readiness by the time he returned. You will soon,
therefore, again see Manon, who begged of me to give you a thousand
tender messages, and to assure you that she loves you more dearly than
Infected with that leprosy of lust,
Which taints the hoariest years of vicious men
Making them ransack to the very last
The dregs of pleasure for their vanished joys.
"On sitting down to reflect upon this strange turn of fate, I
found myself so perplexed, and consequently so incapable of arriving
at any rational conclusion, that I allowed Lescaut to put repeated
questions to me without in the slightest degree attending to their
purport. It was then that honour and virtue made me feel the most
poignant remorse, and that I recalled with bitterness Amiens, my
father's house, St. Sulpice, and every spot where I had ever lived in
happy innocence. By what a terrific interval was I now separated from
that blessed state! I beheld it no longer but as a dim shadow in the
distance, still attracting my regrets and desires, but without the
power of rousing me to exertion. `By what fatality,' said I, `have I
become thus degraded? Love is not a guilty passion! why then has it
been to me the source of profligacy and distress? Who prevented me
from leading a virtuous and tranquil life with Manon? Why did I not
marry her before I obtained any concession from her love? Would not
my father, who had the tenderest regard for me, have given his
consent, if I had taken the fair and candid course of soliciting him?
Yes, my father would himself have cherished her as one far too good
to be his son's wife! I should have been happy in the love of Manon,
in the affection of my father, in the esteem of the world, with a
moderate portion of the good things of life, and above all with the
consciousness of virtue. Disastrous change! Into what an infamous
character is it here proposed that I should sink? To share---- But
can I hesitate, if Manon herself suggests it, and if I am to lose her
except upon such conditions? `Lescaut,' said I, putting my hands to
my eyes as if to shut out such a horrifying vision, `if your intention
was to render me a service, I give you thanks. You might perhaps have
struck out a more reputable course, but it is so settled, is it not?
Let us then only think of profiting by your labour, and fulfilling
"Lescaut, who had been considerably embarrassed, not only by my
fury, but by the long silence which followed it, was too happy to see
me now take a course so different from what he had anticipated. He
had not a particle of courage, of which indeed I have, in the sequel
of my story, abundant proof. `Yes, yes,' he quickly answered, `it is
good service I have rendered you, and you will find that we shall
derive infinitely more advantage from it than you now expect.' We
consulted then as to the best mode of preventing the suspicions which
G---- M---- might entertain of our relationship, when he found me
older and of riper manhood than he probably imagined. The only plan
we could hit upon was to assume in his presence an innocent and
provincial air, and to persuade him that it was my intention to enter
the Church, and that with that view I was obliged to go every day to
the college. We also determined that I should appear as awkward as I
possibly could the first time I was admitted to the honour of an
"He returned to town three or four days after, and at once
conducted Manon to the house which his steward had in the meantime
prepared. She immediately apprised Lescaut of her return, and he
having informed me, we went together to her new abode. The old lover
had already gone out.
"In spite of the submission with which I had resigned myself to
her wishes, I could not, at our meeting, repress the compunctious
visitings of my conscience. I appeared before her grieved and
dejected. The joy I felt at seeing her once more could not
altogether dispel my sorrow for her infidelity: she, on the contrary,
appeared transported with the pleasure of seeing me. She accused me of
coldness. I could not help muttering the words perfidious and
unfaithful, though they were profusely mixed with sighs.
"At first she laughed at me for my simplicity; but when she found
that I continued to look at her with an unchanging expression of
melancholy, and that I could not bring myself to enter with alacrity
into a scene so repugnant to all my feelings, she went alone into her
boudoir. I very soon followed her, and then I found her in a flood of
tears. I asked the cause of her sorrow. `You can easily understand
it,' said she; `how can you wish me to live, if my presence can no
longer have any other effect than to give you an air of sadness and
chagrin? Not one kiss have you given me during the long hour you have
been in the house, while you have received my caresses with the
dignified indifference of a Grand Turk, receiving the forced homage of
the Sultanas of his harem.'
"`Hearken to me, Manon,' said I, embracing her; `I cannot conceal
from you that my heart is bitterly afflicted. I do not now allude to
the uneasiness your sudden flight caused me, nor to the unkindness of
quitting me without a word of consolation, after having passed the
night away from me. The pleasure of seeing you again would more than
compensate for all; but do you imagine that I can reflect without
sighs and tears upon the degrading and unhappy life which you now wish
me to lead in this house? Say nothing of my birth, or of my feelings
of honour; love like mine derives no aid from arguments of that feeble
nature; but do you imagine that I can without emotion see my love so
badly recompensed, or rather so cruelly treated, by an ungrateful and
"She interrupted me. `Stop, chevalier,' said she, `it is useless
to torture me with reproaches, which, coming from you, always pierce
my heart. I see what annoys you. I had hoped that you would have
agreed to the project which I had devised for mending our shattered
fortunes, and it was from a feeling of delicacy to you that I began
the execution of it without your assistance; but I give it up since it
does not meet your approbation.' She added that she would now merely
request a little patient forbearance during the remainder of the day;
that she had already received five hundred crowns from the old
gentleman, and that he had promised to bring her that evening a
magnificent pearl necklace with other jewels, and, in advance, half of
the yearly pension he had engaged to allow her. `Leave me only time
enough,' said she to me, to get possession of these presents; I
promise you that he will have little to boast of from his connection
with me, for in the country I repulsed all his advances, putting him
off till our return to town. It is true that he has kissed my hand a
thousand times over, and it is but just that he should pay for even
this amusement: I am sure that, considering his riches as well as his
age, five or six thousand francs is not an unreasonable price!'
"Her determination was of more value in my eyes than twenty
thousand crowns. I could feel that I was not yet bereft of every
sentiment of honour, by the satisfaction I experienced at escaping
thus from infamy, But I was born for brief joys, and miseries of long
duration. Fate never rescued me from one precipice, but to lead me to
another. When I had expressed my delight to Manon at this change in
her intentions, I told her she had better inform Lescaut of it, in
order that we might take our measures in concert. At first he
murmured, but the money in hand induced him to enter into our views.
It was then determined that we should all meet at G---- M----'s
supper table, and that, for two reasons: first, for the amusement of
passing me off as a schoolboy, and brother to Manon; and secondly, to
prevent the old profligate from taking any liberties with his
mistress, on the strength of his liberal payments in advance. Lescaut
and I were to retire, when he went to the room where he expected to
pass the night; and Manon, instead of following him, promised to come
out, and join us. Lescaut undertook to have a coach waiting at the
"The supper hour having arrived, M. G---- M---- made his
appearance. Already Lescaut was with his sister in the supper room.
The moment the lover entered, he presented his fair one with a
complete set of pearls, necklaces, ear-rings, and bracelets, which
must have cost at least a thousand crowns. He then placed on the
table before her, in louis d'or, two thousand four hundred francs, the
half of her year's allowance. He seasoned his present with many
pretty speeches in the true style of the old court. Manon could not
refuse him a few kisses: it was sealing her right to the money which
he had just handed to her. I was at the door, and waiting for
Lescaut's signal to enter the room.
"He approached to take me by the hand, while Manon was securing
the money and jewels, and leading me towards M. G---- M----, he
desired me to make my bow. I made two or three most profound ones.
`Pray excuse him, sir,' said Lescaut, `he is a mere child. He has not
yet acquired much of the ton of Paris; but no doubt with a little
trouble we shall improve him. You will often have the honour of
seeing that gentleman, here,' said he, turning towards me : `take
advantage of it, and endeavour to imitate so good a model.'
"The old libertine appeared to be pleased with me. He patted me
on the cheek, saying that I was a fine boy, but that I should be on
my guard in Paris, where young men were easily debauched. Lescaut
assured him that I was naturally of so grave a character that I
thought of nothing but becoming a clergyman, and that, even as a
child, my favourite amusement was building little chapels. `I fancy a
likeness to Manon,' said the old gentleman, putting his hand under my
chin. I answered him, with the most simple air-- `Sir, the fact is,
that we are very closely connected, and I love my sister as another
portion of myself.' `Do you hear that,' said he to Lescaut; `he is
indeed a clever boy! It is a pity he should not see something of the
world.' `Oh, sir,' I replied, `I have seen a great deal of it at home,
attending church, and I believe I might find in Paris some greater
fools than myself.' `Listen I said he; `it is positively wonderful in
a boy from the country.'
"The whole conversation during supper was of the same kind. Manon,
with her usual gaiety, was several times on the point of spoiling the
joke by her bursts of laughter. I contrived, while eating, to recount
his own identical history, and to paint even the fate that awaited
him. Lescaut and Manon were in an agony of fear during my recital,
especially while I was drawing his portrait to the life: but his own
vanity prevented him from recognising it, and I did it so well that he
was the first to pronounce it extremely laughable. You will allow
that I had reason for dwelling on this ridiculous scene.
At length it was time to retire. He hinted at the impatience of
love. Lescaut and I took our departure. G---- M---- went to his
room, and Manon, making some excuse for her absence, came to join us
at the gate. The coach, that was waiting for us a few doors off,
drove up towards us, and we were out of the street in an instant.
"Although I must confess that this proceeding appeared to me
little short of actual robbery, it was not the most dishonest one
with which I thought I had to reproach myself. I had more scruples
about the money which I had won at play. However, we derived as
little advantage from one as from the other; and Heaven sometimes
ordains that the lightest fault shall meet the severest punishment.
"M. G---- M---- was not long in finding out that he had been
duped. I am not sure whether he took any steps that night to
discover us, but he had influence enough to ensure an effectual
pursuit, and we were sufficiently imprudent to rely upon the extent
of Paris and the distance between our residence and his. Not only did
he discover our abode and our circumstances, but also who I was--the
life that I had led in Paris--Manon's former connection with
B----,--the manner in which she had deceived him: in a word, all the
scandalous facts of our history. He therefore resolved to have us
apprehended, and treated less as criminals than as vagabonds. An
officer came abruptly one morning into our bedroom, with half a dozen
archers of the guard. They first took possession of our money, or I
should rather say, of G----M----'s. They made us quickly get up, and
conducted us to the door, where we found two coaches, into one of
which they forced poor Manon, without any explanation, and I was taken
in the other to St. Lazare.
One must have experienced this kind of reverse, to understand the
despair that is caused by it. The police were savage enough to deny
me the consolation of embracing Manon, or of bidding her farewell. I
remained for a long time ignorant of her fate. It was perhaps
fortunate for me that I was kept in a state of ignorance, for had I
known what she suffered, I should have lost my senses, probably my
"My unhappy mistress was dragged then from my presence, and taken
to a place the very name of which fills me with horror to remember.
This to be the lot of a creature the most perfect, who must have
shared the most splendid throne on earth, if other men had only seen
and felt as I did! She was not treated harshly there, but was shut up
in a narrow prison, and obliged, in solitary confinement, to perform a
certain quantity of work each day, as a necessary condition for
obtaining the most unpalatable food. I did not learn this till a long
time after, when I had myself endured some months of rough and cruel
"My guards not having told me where it was that they had been
ordered to conduct me, it was only on my arrival at St. Lazare that I
learned my destination. I would have preferred death, at that moment,
to the state into which I believed myself about to be thrown. I had
the utmost terror of this place. My misery was increased by the
guards on my entrance, examining once more my pockets, to ascertain
whether I had about me any arms or weapons of defence.
"The governor appeared. He had been informed of my apprehension.
He saluted me with great mildness. `Do not, my good sir,' said I to
him, `allow me to be treated with indignity. I would suffer a hundred
deaths rather than quietly submit to degrading treatment.' `No, no,'
he replied, `you will act quietly and prudently, and we shall be
mutually content with each other.' He begged of me to ascend to one
of the highest rooms; I followed him without a murmur. The archers
accompanied us to the door, and the governor, entering the room, made
a sign for them to depart. `I am your prisoner, I suppose?' said I;
`well, what do you intend to do with me?' He said, he was delighted
to see me adopt so reasonable a tone; that it would be his duty to
endeavour to inspire me with a taste for virtue and religion, and
mine to profit by his exhortations and advice: that lightly as I
might be disposed to rate his attentions to me, I should find nothing
but enjoyment in my solitude. `Ah, enjoyment, indeed!' replied I;
"you do not know, my good sir, the only thing on earth that could
afford me enjoyment.' `I know it,' said he, `but I trust your
inclinations will change.' His answer showed that he had heard of my
adventures, and perhaps of my name. I begged to know if such were the
fact. He told me candidly that they had informed him of every
"This blow was the severest of any I had yet experienced. I
literally shed a torrent of tears, in all the bitterness of unmixed
despair; I could not reconcile myself to the humiliation which would
make me a proverb to all my acquaintances, and the disgrace of my
family. I passed a week in the most profound dejection, without being
capable of gaining any information, or of occupying myself with
anything but my own degradation. The remembrance even of Manon added
nothing to my grief; it only occurred to me as a circumstance that had
preceded my new sorrow; and the sense of shame and confusion was at
present the all-absorbing passion.
"There are few persons who have experienced the force of these
special workings of the mind. The generality of men are only
sensible of five or six passions, in the limited round of which they
pass their lives, and within which all their agitations are confined.
Remove them from the influence of love and hate, pleasure and pain,
hope and fear, and they have no further feeling. But persons of a
finer cast can be affected in a thousand different ways; it would
almost seem that they had more than five senses, and that they are
accessible to ideas and sensations which far exceed the ordinary
faculties of human nature; and, conscious that they possess a capacity
which raises them above the common herd, there is nothing of which
they are more jealous. Hence springs their impatience under contempt
and ridicule; and hence it is that a sense of debasement is perhaps
the most violent of all their emotions.
"I had this melancholy advantage at St. Lazare. My grief appeared
to the governor so excessive, that, dreading the consequences, he
thought he was bound to treat me with more mildness and indulgence.
He visited me two or three times a day; he often made me take a turn
with him in the garden, and showed his interest for me in his
exhortations and good advice. I listened always attentively; and
warmly expressed my sense of his kindness, from which he derived hopes
of my ultimate conversion.
"`You appear to me,' said he one day, `of a disposition so mild
and tractable, that I cannot comprehend the excesses into which you
have fallen. Two things astonish me: one is, how, with your good
qualities, you could have ever abandoned yourself to vice; and the
other, which amazes me still more, is, how you can receive with such
perfect temper my advice and instructions, after having lived so long
in a course of debauchery. If it be sincere repentance, you present a
singular example of the benign mercy of Heaven; if it proceed from the
natural goodness of your disposition, then you certainly have that
within you which warrants the hope that a protracted residence in this
place will not be required to bring you back to a regular and
"I was delighted to find that he had such an opinion of me. I
resolved to strengthen it by a continuance of good conduct, convinced
that it was the surest means of abridging the term of my confinement.
I begged of him to furnish me with books. He was agreeably surprised
to find that when he requested me to say what I should prefer, I
mentioned only some religious and instructive works. I pretended to
devote myself assiduously to study, and I thus gave him convincing
proof of the moral reformation he was so anxious to bring about. It
was nothing, however, but rank hypocrisy--I blush to confess it.
Instead of studying, when alone I did nothing but curse my destiny.
I lavished the bitterest execrations on my prison, and the tyrants
who detained me there. If I ceased for a moment from these
lamentations, it was only to relapse into the tormenting remembrance
of my fatal and unhappy love. Manon's absence--the mystery in which
her fate was veiled--the dread of never again beholding her; these
formed the subject of my melancholy thoughts. I fancied her in the
arms of G---- M----. Far from imagining that he could have been brute
enough to subject her to the same treatment to which I was condemned,
I felt persuaded that he had only procured my removal, in order that
he might possess her in undisturbed enjoyment.
"Oh! how miserable were the days and nights I thus passed! They
seemed to be of endless duration. My only hope of escape now, was in
hypocrisy; I scrutinised the countenance, and carefully marked every
observation that fell from the governor, in order to ascertain what he
really thought of me; and looking on him as the sole arbiter of my
future fate, I made it my study to win, if possible, his favour. I
soon had the satisfaction to find that I was firmly established in his
good graces, and no longer doubted his disposition to befriend me.
"I, one day, ventured to ask him whether my liberation depended on
him. He replied that it was not altogether in his hands, but that he
had no doubt that on his representation M. G---- M----, at whose
instance the lieutenant-general of police had ordered me to be
confined, would consent to my being set at liberty. `May I flatter
myself,' rejoined I, in the mildest tone, `that he will consider two
months, which I have now spent in this prison, as a sufficient
atonement?' He offered to speak to him, if I wished it. I implored
him without delay to do me that favour.
"He told me two days afterwards that G---- M---- was so sensibly
affected by what he had heard, that he not only was ready to consent
to my liberation, but that he had even expressed a strong desire to
become better acquainted with me, and that he himself purposed to pay
me a visit in prison. Although his presence could not afford me much
pleasure, I looked upon it as a certain prelude to my liberation.
"He accordingly came to St. Lazare. I met him with an air more
grave and certainly less silly than I had exhibited at his house with
Manon. He spoke reasonably enough of my former bad conduct. He added,
as if to excuse his own delinquencies, that it was graciously
permitted to the weakness of man to indulge in certain pleasures,
almost, indeed, prompted by nature, but that dishonesty and such
shameful practices ought to be, and always would be, inexorably
"I listened to all he said with an air of submission, which quite
charmed him. I betrayed no symptoms of annoyance even at some jokes
in which he indulged about my relationship with Manon and Lescaut, and
about the little chapels of which he supposed I must have had time to
erect a great many in St. Lazare, as I was so fond of that occupation.
But he happened, unluckily both for me and for himself, to add, that
he hoped Manon had also employed herself in the same edifying manner
at the Magdalen. Notwithstanding the thrill of horror I felt at the
sound of the name, I had still presence of mind enough to beg, in the
gentlest manner, that he would explain himself. `Oh! yes,' he
replied, `she has been these last two months at the Magdalen learning
to be prudent, and I trust she has improved herself as much there, as
you have done at St. Lazare!'
"If an eternal imprisonment, or death itself, had been presented
to my view, I could not have restrained the excitement into which
this afflicting announcement threw me. I flung myself upon him in so
violent a rage that half my strength was exhausted by the effort. I
had, however, more than enough left to drag him to the ground, and
grasp him by the throat. I should infallibly have strangled him, if
his fall, and the half-stifled cries which he had still the power to
utter, had not attracted the governor and several of the priests to my
room. They rescued him from my fury.
"I was, myself, breathless and almost impotent from rage. `Oh
God!' I cried--`Heavenly justice! Must I survive this infamy?' I
tried again to seize the barbarian who had thus roused my
indignation--they prevented me. My despair--my cries--my tears,
exceeded all belief: I raved in so incoherent a manner that all the
bystanders, who were ignorant of the cause, looked at each other with
as much dread as surprise.
"G---- M---- in the meantime adjusted his wig and cravat, and in
his anger at having been so ill-treated, ordered me to be kept under
more severe restraint than before, and to be punished in the manner
usual with offenders in St. Lazare. `No, sir!' said the governor, `it
is not with a person of his birth that we are in the habit of using
such means of coercion; besides, he is habitually so mild and
well-conducted, that I cannot but think you must have given
provocation for such excessive violence.' This reply disconcerted
G---- M---- beyond measure and he went away, declaring that he knew
how to be revenged on the governor, as well as on me, and everyone
else who dared to thwart him.
"The Superior, having ordered some of the brotherhood to escort
him out of the prison, remained alone with me. He conjured me to
tell him at once what was the cause of the fracas.--`Oh, my good
sir!' said I to him, continuing to cry like a child, `imagine the
most horrible cruelty, figure to yourself the most inhuman of
atrocities--that is what G---- M---- has had the cowardly baseness to
perpetrate: he has pierced my heart. Never shall I recover from this
blow! I would gladly tell you the whole circumstance,' added I,
sobbing with grief; `you are kind-hearted, and cannot fail to pity
"I gave him, as briefly as I could, a history of my long-standing
and insurmountable passion for Manon, of the flourishing condition of
our fortunes previous to the robbery committed by our servants, of the
offers which G---- M---- had made to my mistress, of the understanding
they had come to, and the manner in which it had been defeated. To be
sure, I represented things to him in as favourable a light for us as
possible. `Now you can comprehend,' continued I, `the source of M.
G---- M----'s holy zeal for my conversion. He has had influence
enough to have me shut up here, out of mere revenge. That I can
pardon; but, my good sir, that is not all. He has taken from me my
heart's blood: he has had Manon shamefully incarcerated in the
Magdalen; and had the effrontery to announce it to me this day with
his own lips. In the Magdalen, good sir! Oh heavens! my adorable
mistress, my beloved Manon, a degraded inmate of the Hospital! How
shall I command strength of mind enough to survive this grief and
"The good Father, seeing me in such affliction, endeavoured to
console me. He told me that he had never understood my history, as I
just now related it; he had of course known that I led a dissolute
life, but he had imagined that M. G---- M----'s interest about me was
the result of his esteem and friendship for my family; that it was in
this sense he had explained the matter to him; that what I had now
told him should assuredly produce a change in my treatment, and that
he had no doubt but the accurate detail which he should immediately
transmit to the lieutenant-general of police would bring about my
"He then enquired why I had never thought of informing my family
of what had taken place, since they had not been instrumental to my
incarceration. I satisfactorily answered this by stating my
unwillingness to cause my father pain, or to bring upon myself the
humiliation of such an exposure. In the end, he promised to go
directly to the lieutenant-general of police if it were only, said he,
to be beforehand with M. G---- M----, who went off in such a rage, and
who had sufficient influence to make himself formidable.
"I looked for the good Father's return with all the suspense of a
man expecting sentence of death. It was torture to me to think of
Manon at the Magdalen. Besides the infamy of such a prison, I knew
not how she might be treated there; and the recollection of some
particulars I had formerly heard of this horrible place, incessantly
renewed my misery. Cost what it might, I was so bent upon relieving
her by some means or other, that I should assuredly have set fire to
St. Lazare, if no other mode of escape had presented itself.
"I considered what chances would remain to me if the lieutenant-
general still kept me in confinement. I taxed my ingenuity: I
scanned every imaginable gleam of hope--I could discover nothing that
gave me any prospect of escape, and I feared that I should experience
only more rigid confinement, if I made an unsuccessful attempt. I
thought of some friends from whom I might hope for aid, but then, how
was I to make them aware of my situation? At length I fancied that I
had hit upon a plan so ingenious, as to offer a fair probability of
success. I postponed the details of its arrangement until after the
Superior's return, in case of his having failed in the object of his
"He soon arrived: I did not observe upon his countenance any of
those marks of joy that indicate good news. `I have spoken,' said
he, `to the lieutenant-general of police, but I was too late, M. G----
M---- went straight to him after quitting us, and so prejudiced him
against you, that he was on the point of sending me fresh instructions
to subject you to closer confinement.
"`However, when I let him know the truth of your story, he
reconsidered the matter, and, smiling at the incontinence of old
G---- M----, he said it would be necessary to keep you here for six
months longer, in order to pacify him; the less to be lamented,' he
added, `because your morals would be sure to benefit by your residence
here. He desired that I would show you every kindness and attention,
and I need not assure you that you shall have no reason to complain of
"This speech of the Superior's was long enough to afford me time
to form a prudent resolution. I saw that by betraying too strong an
impatience for my liberty, I should probably be upsetting all my
projects. I acknowledged to him, that, as it was necessary to me to
remain, it was an infinite comfort to know that I possessed a place in
his esteem. I then requested, and with unaffected sincerity, a
favour, which could be of no consequence to others, and which would
contribute much to my peace of mind; it was to inform a friend of
mine, a devout clergyman, who lived at St. Sulpice, that I was at St.
Lazare, and to permit me occasionally to receive his visits.
"This was of course my friend Tiberge; not that I could hope from
him the assistance necessary for effecting my liberty; but I wished to
make him the unconscious instrument of my designs. In a word, this
was my project: I wished to write to Lescaut, and to charge him and
our common friends with the task of my deliverance. The first
difficulty was to have my letter conveyed to him: this should be
Tiberge's office. However, as he knew him to be Manon's brother, I
doubted whether he would take charge of this commission. My plan was
to enclose my letter to Lescaut in another to some respectable man of
my acquaintance, begging of him to transmit the first to its address
without delay; and as it was necessary that I should have personal
communication with Lescaut, in order to arrange our proceedings, I
told him to call on me at St. Lazare, and assume the name of my eldest
brother, as if he had come to Paris expressly to see me. I postponed
till our meeting all mention of the safest and most expeditious course
I intended to suggest for our future conduct. The governor informed
Tiberge of my wish to see him. This ever-faithful friend had not so
entirely lost sight of me as to be ignorant of my present abode, and
it is probable that, in his heart, he did not regret the circumstance,
from an idea that it might furnish the means of my moral regeneration.
He lost no time in paying me the desired visit.
It is a strange thing to note the excess of this passion;
and how it braves the nature and value of things, by this--
that the speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing
but in love.--BACON.
"My interview with Tiberge was of the most friendly description. I
saw that his object was to discover the present temper of my mind. I
opened my heart to him without any reserve, except as to the mere
point of my intention of escaping. `It is not from such a friend as
you,' said I, `that I can ever wish to dissemble my real feelings. If
you flattered yourself with a hope that you were at last about to find
me grown prudent and regular in my conduct, a libertine reclaimed by
the chastisements of fortune, released alike from the trammels of
love, and the dominion that Manon wields over me, I must in candour
say, that you deceive yourself. You still behold me, as you left me
four months ago, the slave--if you will, the unhappy slave--of a
passion, from which I now hope, as fervently and as confidently as I
ever did, to derive eventually solid comfort.'
"He answered, that such an acknowledgment rendered me utterly
inexcusable; that it was no uncommon case to meet sinners who allowed
themselves to be so dazzled with the glare of vice as to prefer it
openly to the true splendour of virtue; they were at least deluded by
the false image of happiness, the poor dupes of an empty shadow; but
the know and feel as I did, that the object of my attachment was only
calculated to render me culpable and unhappy, and to continue thus
voluntarily in a career of misery and crime, involved a contradiction
of ideas and of conduct little creditable to my reason.
"`Tiberge,' replied I, `it is easy to triumph when your arguments
are unopposed. Allow me to reason for a few moments in my turn. Can
you pretend that what you call the happiness of virtue is exempt from
troubles, and crosses, and cares? By what name will you designate the
dungeon, the rack, the inflections and tortures of tyrants? Will you
say with the Mystics that the soul derives pleasure from the
torments of the body? You are not bold enough to hold such a
doctrine--a paradox not to be maintained. This happiness, then, that
you prize so much, has a thousand drawbacks, or is, more properly
speaking, but a tissue of sufferings through which one hopes to attain
felicity. If by the power of imagination one can even derive pleasure
from these sufferings, hoping that they may lead to a happy end, why,
let me ask, do you deem my conduct senseless, when it is directed by
precisely the same principle? I love Manon: I wade through sorrow
and suffering in order to attain happiness with her. My path is one
indeed of difficulties, but the mere hope of reaching the desired goal
makes it easy and delightful; and I shall think myself but too
bountifully repaid by one moment of her society, for all the troubles
I encounter in my course. There appears therefore no difference
between us, or, if there be any, it is assuredly in my favour; for the
bliss I hope for is near and tangible, yours is far distant, and
purely speculative. Mine is of the same kind as my sufferings, that
is to say, evident to my senses; yours is of an incomprehensible
nature, and only discernible through the dim medium of faith.'
 A favourite tenet of the Mystics, advocated by Madame de
Guyon, and adopted by the amiable and eloquent Fenelon, was, that the
love of the Supreme Being must be pure and disinterested; that is,
exempt from all views of interest, and all hope of reward. See the
controversy between Bossuet and Fenelon.
"Tiberge appeared shocked by my remarks. He retired two or three
paces from me, while he said, in the most serious tone, that my
argument was not only a violation of good sense, but that it was the
miserable sophistry of irreligion; `for the comparison,' he added, `of
the pitiful reward of your sufferings with that held out to us by the
divine revelation, is the essence of impiety and absurdity combined.'
"`I acknowledge,' said I, `that the comparison is not a just one,
but my argument does not at all depend upon it. I was about to
explain what you consider a contradiction--the persevering in a
painful pursuit; and I think I have satisfactorily proved, that if
there be any contradiction in that, we shall be both equally obnoxious
to the charge. It was in this light, only, that I could observe no
difference in our cases, and I cannot as yet perceive any.
"`You may probably answer, that the proposed end, the promised
reward, of virtue, is infinitely superior to that of love? No one
disputes it, but that is not the question--we are only discussing the
relative aid they both afford in the endurance of affliction. Judge
of that by the practical effect: are there not multitudes who abandon
a life of strict virtue? how few give up the pursuits of love!
"`Again, you will reply that if there be difficulties in the
exercise of virtue, they are by no means universal and sure; that the
good man does not necessarily meet tyrants and tortures, and that, on
the contrary, a life of virtue is perfectly compatible with repose and
enjoyment. I can say with equal truth, that love is often accompanied
by content and happiness; and what makes another distinction of
infinite advantage to my argument, I may add that love, though it
often deludes, never holds out other than hopes of bliss and joy,
whilst religion exacts from her votaries mortification and sorrow.
"`Do not be alarmed,' said I, perceiving that I had almost
offended his zealous feelings of devotion. `I only wish to say, that
there is no more unsuccessful method of weaning man's heart from love,
than by endeavouring to decry its enjoyments, and by promising him
more pleasure from the exercise of virtue. It is an inherent
principle in our nature, that our felicity consists only in pleasure.
I defy you to conceive any other notion of it; and it requires little
time to arrive at the conviction, that, of all pleasures, those of
love are immeasurably the most enchanting. A man quickly discerns the
delusion, when he hears the promise made of livelier enjoyment, and
the effect of such misrepresentation is only to make him doubt the
truth of a more solid promise.
"`Let the preacher who seeks the reformation of a sinner tell me
that virtue is indispensably necessary, but not disguise its
difficulty and its attendant denials. Say that the enjoyments of
love are fleeting, if you will, that they are rigidly forbidden, that
they lead with certainty to eternal suffering; and, what would
assuredly make a deeper impression upon me than any other argument,
say that the more sweet and delectable they are, the brighter will be
the reward of Heaven for giving them up in sacrifice; but do in the
name of justice admit, that, constituted as the heart of man is, they
form here, on earth, our most perfect happiness.'
"My last sentence restored to Tiberge his good humour. He allowed
that my ideas were not altogether so unreasonable. The only point he
made, was in asking me why I did not carry my own principle into
operation, by sacrificing my passion to the hope of that remuneration
of which I had drawn so brilliant a picture. `Oh! my dear friend,'
replied I; `that it is which makes me conscious of my own misery and
weakness: true, alas! it is indeed my duty to act according to my
argument; but have I the power of governing my own actions? What aid
will enable me to forget Manon's charms?' 'God forgive me,' said
Tiberge, `I can almost fancy you a Jansenist. `I know not of what
sect I am,' replied I, `nor do I indeed very clearly see to which I
ought to belong; but I cannot help feeling the truth of this at least
of their tenets.'
 The first proposition of the Jansenists was, that there are
divine precepts which good men, notwithstanding their desire to
observe them, are nevertheless absolutely unable to obey: God not
having given them such a measure of grace as is essentially necessary
to render them capable of obedience.--Mosheim's Eccles. Hist., ii.
"One effect of our conversation was to revive my friend's pity for
me in all its force. He perceived that there was in my errors more of
weakness than of vice; and he was the more disposed in the end to give
me assistance; without which I should infallibly have perished from
distress of mind. However, I carefully concealed from him my
intention of escaping from St. Lazare. I merely begged of him to take
charge of my letter; I had it ready before he came, and I soon found
an excuse for the necessity of writing. He faithfully transmitted it,
and Lescaut received before evening the one I had enclosed for him.
"He came to see me next morning, and fortunately was admitted
under my brother's name. I was overjoyed at finding him in my room.
I carefully closed the door. `Let us lose no time,' I said. `First
tell me about Manon, and then advise me how I am to shake off these
fetters.' He assured me that he had not seen his sister since the day
before my arrest, and that it was only by repeated enquiries, and
after much trouble, that he had at length been able to discover her
fate as well as mine; and that he had two or three times presented
himself at the Magdalen, and been refused admittance. `Wretch!'
muttered I to myself, `dearly shall G---- M---- pay for this!'
`As to your escape,' continued Lescaut, `it will not be so easy as
you imagine. Last evening, I and a couple of friends walked round
this establishment to reconnoitre it; and we agreed that, as your
windows looked into a court surrounded by buildings, as you yourself
mentioned in your letter, there would be vast difficulty in getting
you out. Besides, you are on the third story, and it would be
impossible to introduce ropes or ladders through the window. I
therefore see no means from without--in the house itself we must hit
upon some scheme.'
"`No,' replied I; `I have examined everything minutely,
particularly since, through the governor's indulgence, my confinement
has been less rigorous. I am no longer locked into my room; I have
liberty to walk in the gallery; but there is, upon every landing, a
strong door kept closed night and day, so that it is impossible that
ingenuity alone, unaided by some violent efforts, can rescue me.
"`Wait,' said I, after turning in my mind for a moment an idea
that struck me as excellent; `could you bring me a pistol?' `Softly,'
said Lescaut to me, `you don't think of committing murder?' I assured
him that I had so little intention of shooting anyone, that it would
not be even necessary to have the pistol loaded. `Bring it to me
tomorrow,' I added, `and do not fail to be exactly opposite the great
entrance with two or three of your friends at eleven tomorrow night; I
think I shall be able to join you there.' He in vain requested me to
explain my plan. I told him that such an attempt as I contemplated
could only appear rational after it had succeeded. I begged of him to
shorten his visit, in order that he might with the less difficulty be
admitted next morning. He was accordingly admitted as readily as on
his first visit. He had put on so serious an air, moreover, that a
stranger would have taken him for a respectable person.
"When I found in my hand the instrument of my liberty, I no longer
doubted my success. It was certainly a strange and a bold project;
but of what was I not capable, with the motives that inspired me? I
had, since I was allowed permission to walk in the galleries, found
opportunities of observing that every night the porter brought the
keys of all the doors to the governor, and subsequently there always
reigned a profound silence in the house, which showed that the inmates
had retired to rest. There was an open communication between my room
and that of the Superior. My resolution was, if he refused quietly to
surrender the keys, to force him, by fear of the pistol, to deliver
them up, and then by their help to gain the street. I impatiently
awaited the moment for executing my purpose. The porter arrived at
his usual time, that is to say, soon after nine o'clock. I allowed an
hour to elapse, in order that the priests as well as the servants
might be all asleep. I at length proceeded with my pistol and a
lighted candle. I first gave a gentle tap at the governor's door to
awaken without alarming him. I knocked a second time before he heard
me; and supposing of course that it was one of the priests who was
taken ill and wanted assistance, he got out of bed, dressed himself,
and came to the door. He had, however, the precaution to ask first
who it was, and what was wanted? I was obliged to mention my name,
but I assumed a plaintive tone, to make him believe that I was
indisposed. `Ah! it is you, my dear boy,' said he on opening the
door; `what can bring you here at this hour?' I stepped inside the
door, and leading him to the opposite side of the room, I declared to
him that it was absolutely impossible for me to remain longer at St.
Lazare; that the night was the most favourable time for going out
unobserved, and that I confidently expected, from his tried
friendship, that he would consent to open the gates for me, or
entrust me with the keys to let myself out.
"This compliment to his friendship seemed to surprise him. He
stood for a few moments looking at me without making any reply.
Finding that I had no time to lose, I just begged to assure him that
I had the most lively sense of all his kindnesses, but that freedom
was dearer to man than every other consideration, especially so to me,
who had been cruelly and unjustly deprived of it; that I was resolved
this night to recover it, cost what it would, and fearing lest he
might raise his voice and call for assistance, I let him see the
powerful incentive to silence which I had kept concealed in my bosom.
`A pistol!' cried he. `What! my son? will you take away my life in
return for the attentions I have shown you?' `God forbid,' replied I;
`you are too reasonable to drive me to that horrible extremity: but I
am determined to be free, and so firmly determined, that if you
defeat my project, I will put an end to your existence.' `But, my
dear son!' said he, pale and frightened, `what have I done to you?
What reason have you for taking my life?' `No!' replied I,
impatiently, `I have no design upon your life, if you, yourself, wish
to live; open but the doors for me, and you will find me the most
attached of friends.' I perceived the keys upon the table. I
requested he would take them in his hand and walk before me, making as
little noise as he possibly could.
"He saw the necessity of consenting. We proceeded, and as he
opened each door, he repeated, always with a sigh, `Ah! my son, who
could have believed it?' `No noise, good Father, no noise,' I as
often answered in my turn. At length we reached a kind of barrier,
just inside the great entrance. I already fancied myself free, and
kept close behind the governor, with my candle in one hand, and my
pistol in the other.
"While he was endeavouring to open the heavy gate, one of the
servants, who slept in an adjoining room, hearing the noise of the
bolts, jumped out of bed, and peeped forth to see what was passing.
The good Father apparently thought him strong enough to overpower me.
He commanded him, most imprudently, to come to his assistance. He
was a powerful ruffian, and threw himself upon me without an instant's
hesitation. There was no time for parleying--I levelled my pistol and
lodged the contents in his breast! `See, Father, of what mischief you
have been the cause,' said I to my guide; `but that must not prevent
us from finishing our work,' I added, pushing him on towards the last
door. He did not dare refuse to open it. I made my exit in perfect
safety, and, a few paces off, found Lescaut with two friends waiting
for me, according to his promise.
"We removed at once to a distance. Lescaut enquired whether he
had not heard the report of a pistol? `You are to blame,' said I,
`why did you bring it charged?' I, however, could not help thanking
him for having taken this precaution, without which I doubtless must
have continued much longer at St. Lazare. We went to pass the night
at a tavern, where I made up, in some degree, for the miserable fare
which had been doled out to me for nearly three months. I was very
far, however, from tasting perfect enjoyment; Manon's sufferings were
mine. `She must be released,' said I to my companions: `this was my
sole object in desiring my own liberty. I rely on your aiding me with
all your ingenuity; as for myself, my life shall be devoted to the
"Lescaut, who was not deficient in tact, and still less in that
better part of valour called discretion, dwelt upon the necessity of
acting with extreme caution: he said that my escape from St. Lazare,
and the accident that happened on my leaving it, would assuredly
create a sensation; that the lieutenant-general of police would cause
a strict search to be made for me, and it would be difficult to evade
him; in fine, that, unless disposed to encounter something worse,
perhaps, than St. Lazare, it would be requisite for me to remain
concealed for a few days, in order to give the enemy's zeal time to
cool. No doubt this was wise counsel; but, one should have been wise
oneself to have followed it. Such calculating slowness little suited
my passion. The utmost I could bring myself to promise was, that I
would sleep through the whole of the next day. He locked me in my
bedroom, where I remained patiently until night.
"I employed great part of the time in devising schemes for
relieving Manon. I felt persuaded that her prison was even more
inaccessible than mine had been. Force was out of the question.
Artifice was the only resource; but the goddess of invention herself
could not have told me how to begin. I felt the impossibility of
working in the dark, and therefore postponed the further consideration
of my schemes until I could acquire some knowledge of the internal
arrangements of the Hospital, in which she was confined.
"As soon as night restored to me my liberty, I begged of Lescaut
to accompany me. We were not long in drawing one of the porters into
conversation; he appeared a reasonable man. I passed for a stranger
who had often with admiration heard talk of the Hospital, and of the
order that reigned within it. I enquired into the most minute
details; and, proceeding from one subject to another, we at length
spoke of the managers, and of these I begged to know the names and the
respective characters. He gave me such information upon the latter
point as at once suggested an idea which flattered my hopes, and I
immediately set about carrying it into execution.
I asked him (this being a matter essential to my plan) whether any
of the gentlemen had children. He said he could not answer me with
certainty as to all, but as for M. de T----, one of the principal
directors, he knew that he had a son old enough to be married, and who
had come several times to the Hospital with his father. This was
enough for my purpose.
"I immediately put an end to our interview, and, in returning, I
told Lescaut of the plan I had formed. `I have taken it,' said I,
`into my head, that M. de T----, the son, who is rich and of good
family, must have the same taste for pleasure that other young men of
his age generally have. He could hardly be so bad a friend to the
fair sex, nor so absurd as to refuse his services in an affair of
love. I have arranged a plan for interesting him in favour of Manon.
If he is a man of feeling and of right mind, he will give us his
assistance from generosity. If he is not to be touched by a motive of
this kind, he will at least do something for a handsome girl, if it
were only with the hope of hereafter sharing her favours. I will not
defer seeing him,' added I, `beyond tomorrow. I really feel so elated
by this project, that I derive from it a good omen.'
"Lescaut himself allowed that the idea was not unreasonable, and
that we might fairly entertain a hope of turning it to account. I
passed the night less sorrowfully.
Next morning I dressed as well as, in my present state of
indigence, I could possibly contrive to do; and went in a hackney
coach to the residence of M. de T----. He was surprised at receiving
a visit from a perfect stranger. I augured favourably from his
countenance and the civility of his manner. I explained my object in
the most candid way; and, to excite his feelings as much as possible,
I spoke of my ardent passion and of Manon's merit, as of two things
that were unequalled, except by each other. He told me, that although
he had never seen Manon, he had heard of her; at least, if the person
I was talking of was the same who had been the mistress of old G----
M----. I conjectured that he must have heard of the part I had acted
in that transaction, and in order to conciliate him more and more by
treating him with confidence, I told him everything that had occurred
to Manon and myself. `You see, sir,' said I, `that all that can
interest me in life, all that can command my affections, is in your
hands. I have no reserve with you, because I have been informed of
your generous and noble character; and, being of the same age, I trust
I shall find some resemblance in our dispositions.'
"He seemed flattered by this mark of candour and confidence. He
replied in a manner that became a man of the world, and a man of
feeling also, for they are not always synonymous terms. He told me
that he appreciated my visit as a piece of good fortune; that he
considered my friendship as a valuable acquisition, and that he would
endeavour to prove himself worthy of it, by the sincerity of his
services. He could not absolutely promise to restore Manon to my
arms, because, as he said, he himself had very little influence; but
he offered to procure me the pleasure of seeing her, and to do
everything in his power to effect her release. I was the more
satisfied with this frank avowal as to his want of influence, than I
should have been by an unqualified promise of fulfilling all my
wishes. I found in his moderation a pledge of his sincerity: in a
word, I no longer doubted my entire success. The promise alone of
enabling me to see Manon filled me with gratitude, and I testified it
in so earnest a manner, as to give him a favourable opinion of my
heart and disposition; we shook hands warmly, and parted sworn
friends, merely from mutual regard, and that natural feeling which
prompts a man of kind and generous sentiments to esteem another of
"He, indeed, exceeded me in the proofs of his esteem; for,
inferring from my adventures, and especially my late escape from St.
Lazare, that I might be in want of money, he offered me his purse, and
pressed me to accept it. I refused, but said to him, `You are too
kind, my dear sir! If in addition to such proofs of kindness and
friendship, you enable me to see Manon again, rely on my eternal
regard and gratitude. If you succeed in restoring altogether this
dear creature to my arms, I should think myself happy in spilling the
last drop of my blood in your service.'
"Before we parted, we agreed as to the time and place for our
meeting. He was so considerate as to appoint the afternoon of the
"I waited for him at a cafe, where he joined me about four
o'clock, and we went together towards the Magdalen; my knees trembled
under me as I crossed the courts. `Ye heavenly powers!' said I, `then
I shall once more behold the idol of my heart--the dear object of so
many sighs and lamentations! All I now ask of Providence is, to
vouchsafe me strength enough to reach her presence, and after that, to
dispose as it pleaseth of my future fate, and of my life itself.
Beyond this, I have no prayer to utter.'
"M. de T---- spoke to some of the porters of the establishment,
who appeared all anxious to please him. The quarter in which Manon's
room lay was pointed out to us, and our guide carried in his hand the
key of her chamber: it was of frightful size. I asked the man who
conducted us, and whose duty it was to attend to Manon, how she passed
her time? He said, that she had a temper of the most angelic
sweetness; that even he, disagreeable as his official duties must
render him, had never heard from her a single syllable in the nature
of rebuke or harshness; that her tears had never ceased to flow during
the first six weeks after her arrival, but that latterly she seemed to
bear her misfortunes with more resignation, and that she employed
herself from morning till night with her needle, excepting some hours
that she, each day, devoted to reading. I asked whether she had been
decently provided for. He assured me that at least she had never felt
the want of necessaries.
"We now approached her door. My heart. beat almost audibly in my
bosom. I said to M. de T----, `Go in alone, and prepare her for my
visit; I fear that she may be overcome by seeing me unexpectedly.'
The door was opened. I remained in the passage, and listened to the
conversation. He said that he came to bring her consolation; that he
was a friend of mine, and felt deeply interested for the happiness of
us both. She asked with the tenderest anxiety, whether he could tell
her what had become of me. He promised that she should soon see me at
her feet, as affectionate and as faithful as ever. `When?' she asked.
`This very day,' said he; `the happy moment shall not be long delayed;
nay, this very instant even, if you wish it.' She at once understood
that I was at the door; as she was rushing towards it, I entered. We
embraced each other with that abounding and impassioned tenderness,
which an absence of many months makes so delicious to those who truly
love. Our sighs, our broken exclamations, the thousand endearing
appellations of love, exchanged in languishing rapture, astonished M.
de T----, and affected him even to tears.
"`I cannot help envying you,' said he, as he begged us to be
seated; `there is no lot, however glorious, that I would hold as
comparable to the possession of a mistress at once so tender and
impassioned.' `Nor would I,' I replied, `give up her love for
"The remainder of an interview which had been so long and so
ardently desired by me, was of course as tender as the commencement.
Poor Manon related all her adventures, and I told her mine: we
bitterly wept over each other's story. M. de T---- consoled us by his
renewed promises to exert himself in our service. He advised us not
to make this, our first interview, of too long duration, that he might
have the less difficulty in procuring us the same enjoyment again. He
at length induced us to follow his advice. Manon especially could not
reconcile herself to the separation: she made me a hundred times
resume my seat. At one time she held me by my hands, at another by my
coat. `Alas!' she said, `in what an abode do you leave me! Who will
answer for my ever seeing you again?' M. de T---- promised her that
he would often come and see her with me. `As to the abode,' he said,
'it must no longer be called the Magdalen; it is Versailles! now that
it contains a person who deserves the empire of all hearts.'
"I made the man who attended a present as I went out, in order to
quicken his zeal and attentions. This fellow had a mind less rough
and vulgar than the generality of his class. He had witnessed our
interview, and was affected by it. The interest he felt was doubtless
increased by the louis d'or I gave him. He took me aside as we went
down into the courtyard. `Sir,' said he, `if you will only take me
into your service, or indemnify me in any way for the loss of the
situation which I fill here, I think I should not have much difficulty
in liberating the beauteous Manon.'
"I caught readily at the suggestion, and, although at the moment I
was almost in a state of destitution, I gave him promises far beyond
his desires. I considered that it would be at all times easy to
recompense a man of his description. `Be assured, my friend,' said I
to him, `that there is nothing I will not be ready to do for you, and
that your fortune is just as certain as my own.' I enquired what
means he intended to employ. `None other,' said he, `than merely to
open the door of her cell for her at night, and to conduct her to the
street door, where you, of course, will be to receive her.' I asked
whether there was no danger of her being recognised as she traversed
the long galleries and the courts. He admitted that there was danger,
but that nothing could be done without some slight risk.
"Although I was delighted to find him so determined, I called M.
de T----, and informed him of the project, and of the only difficulty
in the way. He thought it not so easy of execution. He allowed the
possibility of escaping thus: `But if she be recognised,' continued
he, `if she be stopped in the attempt, all hope will be over with her,
perhaps for ever. Besides, you would be obliged to quit Paris
instantly, for you could never evade the search that would be made for
you: they would redouble their efforts as much on your own account as
hers. A single man may easily escape detection, but in company with a
handsome woman, it would be utterly impossible to remain
"However sound this reasoning, it could not, in my mind, outweigh
the immediate prospect of restoring Manon to liberty. I said as much
to M. de T----, and trusted that he would excuse my imprudence and
rashness, on the ground of love. I added that it was already my
intention to quit Paris for some neighbouring village, as I had once
before done. We then settled with the servant that he should carry
his project into execution the following day, and to render our
success as certain as he could, we resolved to carry into the prison
men's clothes, in order to facilitate her escape.
There was a difficulty to be surmounted in carrying them in, but I
had ingenuity enough to meet it. I begged of M. de T---- only to put
on two light waistcoats the next morning, and I undertook to arrange
We returned the following day to the Hospital. I took with me
linen, stockings, etc., for Manon, and over my body-coat a surtout,
which concealed the bulk I carried in my pockets. We remained but a
moment in her room. M. de T---- left her one of his waistcoats; I
gave her my short coat, the surtout being sufficient for me. She
found nothing wanting for her complete equipment but a pair of
pantaloons, which in my hurry I had forgotten.
"The want of so necessary an article might have amused us, if the
embarrassment it caused had been of a less serious kind. I was in
despair at having our whole scheme foiled by a trifling omission of
this nature. However, I soon hit on a remedy, and determined to make
my own exit sans-culotte, leaving that portion of my dress with Manon.
My surtout was long, and I contrived by the help of a few pins to put
myself in a decent condition for passing the gate.
"The remainder of the day appeared to me of endless length. When
at last night came, we went in a coach to within a few yards of the
Hospital. We were not long waiting, when we saw Manon make her
appearance with her guide. The door of the coach being opened, they
both stepped in without delay. I opened my arms to receive my adored
mistress; she trembled like an aspen leaf. The coachman asked where
he was to drive? `To the end of the world!' I exclaimed; `to some
place where I can never again be separated from Manon.'
"This burst, which I could not control, was near bringing me into
fresh trouble. The coachman reflected upon what I said, and when I
afterwards told him the name of the street to which I wished him to
drive, he answered that he feared I was about to implicate him in some
bad business; that he saw plainly enough that the good- looking young
man whom I called Manon was a girl eloping from the Hospital, and that
he was little disposed indeed to ruin himself for love of me.
"Extortion was the source of this scoundrel's delicacy. We were
still too near the Hospital to make any noise. `Silence!' said I to
him, `you shall have a louis d'or for the job': for less than that he
would have helped me to burn the Hospital.
"We arrived at Lescaut's house. As it was late, M. de T---- left
us on the way, promising to visit us the next morning. The servant
"I held Manon in such close embrace in my arms, that we occupied
but one place in the coach. She cried for joy, and I could feel her
tears trickling down my cheeks.
"When we were about getting out at Lescaut's, I had a new
difficulty with the coachman, which was attended with the most
unfortunate results. I repented of having promised the fellow a
louis d'or, not only because it was extravagant folly, but for
another stronger reason, that it was at the moment out of my power to
pay him. I called for Lescaut, and he came down to the door. I
whispered to him the cause of my present embarrassment. Being
naturally rough, and not at all in the habit of treating
hackney-coachmen with respect, he answered that I could not be
serious. `A louis!' said he; `twenty blows of a cane would be the
right payment for that rascal!' I entreated him not to destroy us;
when he snatched my cane from my hand, and was about to lay it on the
coachman. The fellow had probably before experienced the weight of a
guardsman's arm, and instantly drove off, crying out, that I had
cheated him, and should hear of him again. I in vain endeavoured to
"His flight caused me, of course, the greatest alarm. I had no
doubt that he would immediately give information to the police. `You
have ruined me,' said I to Lescaut; `I shall be no longer safe at your
house; we must go hence at once.' I gave Manon my arm, and as quickly
as possible got out of the dangerous neighbourhood. Lescaut
The Chevalier des Grieux having occupied more than an hour with
his story, I begged him to give himself a little rest, and meanwhile
to share our supper. He saw, by the attention we paid him, that we
were amused, and promised that we should hear something of perhaps
greater interest in the sequel. When we had finished supper, he
continued in the following words.
. . . How chances mock,
And changes fill the cup of alteration
With divers liquors.
"How inscrutably does Providence connect events! We had hardly
proceeded for five minutes on our way, when a man, whose face I could
not see, recognised Lescaut. He had no doubt been watching for him
near his home, with the horrible intention which he now unhappily
executed. `It IS Lescaut!' said he, snapping a pistol at his head;
`he shall sup tonight with the angels!' He then instantly
disappeared. Lescaut fell, without the least sign of life. I pressed
Manon to fly, for we could be of no use to a dead man, and I feared
being arrested by the police, who would certainly be soon upon the
spot. I turned down the first narrow street with her and the servant:
she was so overpowered by the scene she had just witnessed, that I
could hardly support her. At last, at the end of the street, I
perceived a hackney-coach; we got into it, but when the coachman asked
whither he should drive, I was scarcely able to answer him. I had no
certain asylum--no confidential friend to whom I could have recourse.
I was almost destitute of money, having but one dollar left in my
purse. Fright and fatigue had so unnerved Manon, that she was almost
fainting at my side. My imagination too was full of the murder of
Lescaut, and I was not without strong apprehensions of the patrol.
What was to be done? I luckily remembered the inn at Chaillot, where
we first went to reside in that village. I hoped to be not only
secure, but to continue there for some time without being pressed for
payment. `Take us to Chaillot,' said I to the coachman. He refused
to drive us so far at that late hour for less than twelve francs. A
new embarrassment! At last we agreed for half that sum--all that my
"I tried to console Manon as we went along, but despair was
rankling in my own heart. I should have destroyed myself a thousand
times over, if I had not felt that I held in my arms all that could
attach me to life: this reflection reconciled me. `I possess her at
least,' said I; `she loves me! she is mine! Vainly does Tiberge call
this a mere phantom of happiness.' I could, without feeling interest
or emotion, see the whole world besides perish around me. Why?
Because I have in it no object of affection beyond her.
"This sentiment was true; however, while I so lightly esteemed the
good things of the world, I felt that there was no doing without some
little portion of them, were it only to inspire a more thorough
contempt for the remainder. Love is more powerful than wealth--more
attractive than grandeur or fame; but, alas! it cannot exist without
certain artificial aids; and there is nothing more humiliating to the
feelings, of a sensitive lover, than to find himself, by want of
means, reduced to the level of the most vulgar minds.
"It was eleven o'clock when we arrived at Chaillot. They received
us at the inn as old acquaintances, and expressed no sort of surprise
at seeing Manon in male attire, for it was the custom in Paris and the
environs to adopt all disguises. I took care to have her served with
as much attention as if I had been in prosperous circumstances. She
was ignorant of my poverty, and I carefully kept her so, being
resolved to return alone the following day to Paris, to seek some cure
for this vexatious kind of malady.
"At supper she appeared pale and thin; I had not observed this at
the Hospital, as the room in which I saw her was badly lighted. I
asked her if the excessive paleness were not caused by the shock of
witnessing her brother's death? She assured me that, horrified as she
naturally was at the event, her paleness was purely the effect of a
three months' absence from me. `You do love me then devotedly?' I
"`A thousand times more than I can tell!' was her reply.
"`You will never leave me again?' I added.
"`No! never, never!' answered she.
"This assurance was confirmed by so many caresses and vows, that
it appeared impossible she could, to the end of time, forget them. I
have never doubted that she was at that moment sincere. What motive
could she have had for dissembling to such a degree? But she became
afterwards still more volatile than ever, or rather she was no longer
anything, and entirely forgot herself, when, in poverty and want, she
saw other women living in abundance. I was now on the point of
receiving a new proof of her inconstancy, which threw all that had
passed into the shade, and which led to the strangest adventure that
ever happened to a man of my birth and prospects.
"As I knew her disposition, I hastened the next day to Paris. The
death of her brother, and the necessity of getting linen and clothes
for her, were such good reasons, that I had no occasion for any
further pretext. I left the inn, with the intention, as I told Manon
and the landlord, of going in a hired carriage, but this was a mere
flourish; necessity obliged me to travel on foot: I walked very fast
as far as Cours-la-Reine, where I intended to rest. A moment of
solitude and tranquillity was requisite to compose myself, and to
consider what was to be done in Paris.
"I sat down upon the grass. I plunged into a sea of thoughts and
considerations, which at length resolved themselves into three
principal heads. I had pressing want of an infinite number of
absolute necessaries; I had to seek some mode of at least raising a
hope for the future; and, though last, not least in importance, I had
to gain information, and adopt measures, to secure Manon's safety and
my own. After having exhausted myself in devising projects upon these
three chief points, I was obliged to put out of view for the moment
the two last. We were not ill sheltered from observation in the inn
at Chaillot; and as to future wants, I thought it would be time enough
to think about them when those of the moment were satisfied.
"The main object now was to replenish my purse. M. de T---- had
once offered me his, but I had an extreme repugnance to mention the
subject to him again. What a degradation to expose one's misery to a
stranger, and to ask for charity: it must be either a man of low mind
who would thus demean himself, and that from a baseness which must
render him insensible to the degradation, or a humble Christian, from
a consciousness of generosity in himself, which must put him above the
sense of shame. I would have sacrificed half my life to be spared the
"`Tiberge,' said I, `kind Tiberge, will he refuse me what he has
it in his power to grant? No, he will assuredly sympathise in my
misery; but he will also torture me with his lectures! One must
endure his reproaches, his exhortations, his threats: I shall have to
purchase his assistance so dearly, that I would rather make any
sacrifice than encounter this distressing scene, which cannot fail to
leave me full of sorrow and remorse. Well,' thought I again, `all
hope must be relinquished, since no other course presents itself: so
far am I from adopting either of these, that I would sooner shed half
my blood than face one of these evils, or the last drop rather than
encounter both. Yes, the very last drop,' I repeated after a moment's
reflection, `I would sacrifice willingly rather than submit to such
"`But it is not in reality a question of my existence! Manon's
life and maintenance, her love and her fidelity, are at stake! What
consideration can outweigh that? In her are centred all my glory,
happiness, and future fortune! There are doubtless many things that I
would gladly give up my life to obtain, or to avoid; but to estimate a
thing merely beyond the value of my own life, is not putting it on a
par with that of Manon.' This idea soon decided me: I went on my way,
resolved to go first to Tiberge, and afterwards to M. de T----.
"On entering Paris I took a hackney-coach, though I had not
wherewithal to pay for it; I calculated on the loan I was going to
solicit. I drove to the Luxembourg, whence I sent word to Tiberge
that I was waiting for him. I had not to stay many minutes. I told
him without hesitation the extremity of my wants. He asked if the
fifty pounds which I had returned to him would suffice, and he at once
went to fetch it with that generous air, that pleasure in bestowing
which `blesseth him that gives, and him that takes,' and which can
only be known to love or to true friendship.
"Although I had never entertained a doubt of Tiberge's readiness
to grant my request, yet I was surprised at having obtained it on
such easy terms, that is to say, without a word of reprimand for my
impenitence; but I was premature in fancying myself safe from his
reproaches, for when he had counted out the money, and I was on the
point of going away, he begged of me to take a walk with him in the
garden. I had not mentioned Manon's name; he knew nothing of her
escape; so that his lecture was merely upon my own rash flight from
St. Lazare, and upon his apprehensions lest, instead of profiting by
the lessons of morality which I had received there, I should again
relapse into dissipation.
"He told me, that having gone to pay me a visit at St. Lazare, the
day after my escape, he had been astonished beyond expression at
hearing the mode in which I had effected it; that he had afterwards a
conversation with the Superior; that the good Father had not quite
recovered the shock; that he had, however, the generosity to conceal
the real circumstances from the lieutenant-general of police, and that
he had prevented the death of the porter from becoming known outside
the walls; that I had, therefore, upon that score, no ground for
alarm, but that, if I retained one grain of prudence, I should profit
by this happy turn which Providence had given to my affairs, and begin
by writing to my father, and reconciling myself to his favour; and
finally that, if I would be guided by his advice, I should at once
quit Paris, and return to the bosom of my family.
"I listened to him attentively till he had finished. There was
much in what he said to gratify me. In the first place, I was
delighted to learn that I had nothing to fear on account of St.
Lazare--the streets of Paris at least were again open to me. Then I
rejoiced to find that Tiberge had no suspicion of Manon's escape, and
her return to my arms. I even remarked that he had not mentioned her
name, probably from the idea that, by my seeming indifference to her,
she had become less dear to my heart. I resolved, if not to return
home, at least to write to my father, as he advised me, and to assure
him that I was disposed to return to my duty, and consult his wishes.
My intention was to urge him to send me money for the purpose of
pursuing my ordinary studies at the University, for I should have
found it difficult to persuade him that I had any inclination to
resume my ecclesiastical habit. I was in truth not at all averse to
what I was now going to promise him. On the contrary, I was ready to
apply myself to some creditable and rational pursuit, so far as the
occupation would be compatible with my love. I reckoned upon being
able to live with my mistress, and at the same time continuing my
studies. I saw no inconsistency in this plan.
"These thoughts were so satisfactory to my mind, that I promised
Tiberge to dispatch a letter by that day's post to my father: in
fact, on leaving him, I went into a scrivener's, and wrote in such a
submissive and dutiful tone, that, on reading over my own letter, I
anticipated the triumph I was going to achieve over my father's heart.
"Although I had money enough to pay for a hackney-coach after my
interview with Tiberge, I felt a pleasure in walking independently
through the streets to M. de T----'s house. There was great comfort
in this unaccustomed exercise of my liberty, as to which my friend had
assured me I had nothing now to apprehend. However, it suddenly
occurred to me, that he had been only referring to St. Lazare, and
that I had the other affair of the Hospital on my hands; being
implicated, if not as an accomplice, at all events as a witness. This
thought alarmed me so much, that I slipped down the first narrow
street, and called a coach. I went at once to M. de T----'s, and he
laughed at my apprehensions. I myself thought them ridiculous enough,
when he informed me that there was no more danger from Lescaut's
affray, than from the Hospital adventure. He told me that, from the
fear of their suspecting that he had a hand in Manon's escape, he had
gone that morning to the Hospital and asked to see her, pretending
not to know anything of what had happened; that they were so far from
entertaining the least suspicion of either of us, that they lost no
time in relating the adventure as a piece of news to him; and that
they wondered how so pretty a girl as Manon Lescaut could have thought
of eloping with a servant: that he replied with seeming indifference,
that it by no means astonished him, for people would do anything for
the sake of liberty.
"He continued to tell me how he then went to Lescaut's apartments,
in the hope of finding me there with my dear mistress; that the master
of the house, who was a coachmaker, protested he had seen neither me
nor Manon; but that it was no wonder that we had not appeared there,
if our object was to see Lescaut, for that we must have doubtless
heard of his having been assassinated about the very same time; upon
which, he related all that he knew of the cause and circumstances of
"About two hours previously, a guardsman of Lescaut's acquaintance
had come to see him, and proposed play. Lescaut had such a rapid and
extravagant run of luck, that in an hour the young man was minus
twelve hundred francs--all the money he had. Finding himself without a
sou, he begged of Lescaut to lend him half the sum he had lost; and
there being some difficulty on this point, an angry quarrel arose
between them. Lescaut had refused to give him the required
satisfaction, and the other swore, on quitting him, that he would take
his life; a threat which he carried into execution the same night. M.
de T---- was kind enough to add, that he had felt the utmost anxiety
on our account, and that, such as they were, he should gladly continue
to us his services. I at once told him the place of our retreat. He
begged of me to allow him to sup with us.
"As I had nothing more to do than to procure the linen and clothes
for Manon, I told him that we might start almost immediately, if he
would be so good as to wait for me a moment while I went into one or
two shops. I know not whether he suspected that I made this
proposition with the view of calling his generosity into play, or
whether it was by the mere impulse of a kind heart; but, having
consented to start immediately, he took me to a shopkeeper, who had
lately furnished his house. He there made me select several articles
of a much higher price than I had proposed to myself; and when I was
about paying the bill, he desired the man not to take a sou from me.
This he did so gracefully, that I felt no shame in accepting his
present. We then took the road to Chaillot together, where I arrived
much more easy in mind than when I had left it that morning.
"My return and the polite attentions of M. de T---- dispelled all
Manon's melancholy. `Let us forget our past annoyances, my dear
soul,' said I to her, `and endeavour to live a still happier life than
before. After all, there are worse masters than love: fate cannot
subject, us to as much sorrow as love enables us to taste of
happiness.' Our supper was a true scene of joy.
"In possession of Manon and of twelve hundred and fifty francs, I
was prouder and more contented than the richest voluptuary of Paris
with untold treasures. Wealth should be measured by the means it
affords us of satisfying our desires. There did not remain to me at
this moment a single wish unaccomplished. Even the future gave me
little concern. I felt a hope, amounting almost to certainty, that my
father would allow me the means of living respectably in Paris,
because I had become entitled, on entering upon my twentieth year, to
a share of my mother's fortune. I did not conceal from Manon what was
the extent of my present wealth; but I added, that it might suffice to
support us until our fortune was bettered, either by the inheritance I
have just alluded to, or by the resources of the hazard-table.
This Passion hath its floods in the very times of weakness,
which are great prosperity, and great adversity; both which
times kindle Love, and make it more fervent.--BACON.
"For several weeks I thus continued to think only of enjoying the
full luxury of my situation; and being restrained, by a sense of
honour, as well as a lurking apprehension of the police, from renewing
my intimacy with my former companions at the hotel of Transylvania, I
began to play in certain coteries less notorious, where my good luck
rendered it unnecessary for me to have recourse to my former
accomplishments. I passed a part of the afternoon in town, and
returned always to supper at Chaillot, accompanied very often by M. de
T----, whose intimacy and friendship for us daily increased.
"Manon soon found resources against ennui. She became acquainted
with some young ladies, whom the spring brought into the
neighbourhood. They occupied their leisure hours in walking, and the
customary amusements of persons of their sex and age. Their little
gains at cards (always within innocent limits) were laid out in
defraying the expense of a coach, in which they took an airing
occasionally in the Bois de Boulogne; and each night when I returned,
I was sure of finding Manon more beautiful--more contented--more
affectionate than ever.
"There arose, however, certain clouds, which seemed to threaten
the continuance of this blissful tranquillity, but they were soon
dispelled; and Manon's sprightliness made the affair so excessively
comical in its termination, that it is even now pleasing to recur to
it, as a proof of the tenderness as well as the cheerfulness of her
"The only servant we had came to me one day, with great
embarrassment, and taking me aside, told me that he had a secret of
the utmost importance to communicate to me. I urged him to explain
himself without reserve. After some hesitation, he gave me to
understand that a foreigner of high rank had apparently fallen in love
with Manon. I felt my blood boil at the announcement. `Has she shown
any penchant for him?' I enquired, interrupting my informant with
more impatience than was requisite, if I desired to have a full
"He was alarmed at my excitement; and replied in an undecided
tone, that he had not made sufficiently minute observation to satisfy
me; but that, having noticed for several days together the regular
arrival of the stranger at the Bois de Boulogne, where, quitting his
carriage, he walked by himself in the cross-avenues, appearing to seek
opportunities of meeting Manon, it had occurred to him to form an
acquaintance with the servants, in order to discover the name of their
master; that they spoke of him as an Italian prince, and that they
also suspected he was upon some adventure of gallantry. He had not
been able to learn anything further, he added, trembling as he spoke,
because the prince, then on the point of leaving the wood, had
approached him, and with the most condescending familiarity asked his
name; upon which, as if he at once knew that he was in our service, he
congratulated him on having, for his mistress, the most enchanting
person upon earth.
"I listened to this recital with the greatest impatience. He
ended with the most awkward excuses, which I attributed to the
premature and imprudent display of my own agitation. In vain I
implored him to continue his history. He protested that he knew
nothing more, and that what he had previously told me, having only
happened the preceding day, he had not had a second opportunity of
seeing the prince's servants. I encouraged him, not only with
praises, but with a substantial recompense; and without betraying the
slightest distrust of Manon, I requested him, in the mildest manner,
to keep strict watch upon all the foreigner's movements.
"In truth, the effect of his fright was to leave me in a state of
the cruellest suspense. It was possible that she had ordered him to
suppress part of the truth. However, after a little reflection, I
recovered sufficiently from my fears to see the manner in which I had
exposed my weaknesses. I could hardly consider it a crime in Manon to
be loved. Judging from appearances, it was probable that she was not
even aware of her conquest. `And what kind of life shall I in future
lead,' thought I, `if I am capable of letting jealousy so easily take
possession of my mind?'
"I returned on the following day to Paris, with no other intention
than to hasten the improvement of my fortune, by playing deeper than
ever, in order to be in a condition to quit Chaillot on the first real
occasion for uneasiness. That night I learned nothing at all
calculated to trouble my repose. The foreigner had, as usual, made
his appearance in the Bois de Boulogne; and venturing, from what had
passed the preceding day, to accost my servant more familiarly, he
spoke to him openly of his passion, but in such terms as not to lead
to the slightest suspicion of Manon's being aware of it. He put a
thousand questions to him, and at last tried to bribe him with large
promises; and taking a letter from his pocket, he in vain entreated
him, with the promise of some louis d'ors, to convey it to her.
"Two days passed without anything more occurring: the third was of
a different character. I learned on my arrival, later than usual,
from Paris, that Manon, while in the wood, had left her companions for
a moment, and that the foreigner, who had followed her at a short
distance, approached, upon her making him a sign, and that she handed
him a letter, which he took with a transport of joy. He had only time
to express his delight by kissing the billet-doux, for she was out of
sight in an instant. But she appeared in unusually high spirits the
remainder of the day; and even after her return to our lodgings, her
gaiety continued. I trembled at every word.
"`Are you perfectly sure,' said I, in an agony of fear, to my
servant, `that your eyes have not deceived you?' He called Heaven to
witness the truth of what he had told me.
"I know not to what excess the torments of my mind would have
driven me, if Manon, who heard me come in, had not met me with an air
of impatience, and complained of my delay. Before I had time to
reply, she loaded me with caresses; and when she found we were alone,
she reproached me warmly with the habit I was contracting of staying
out so late. My silence gave her an opportunity of continuing; and
she then said that for the last three weeks I had never spent one
entire day in her society; that she could not endure such prolonged
absence; that she should at least expect me to give up a day to her
from time to time, and that she particularly wished me to be with, her
on the following day from morning till night.
"`You may be very certain I shall do that,' said I, in rather a
sharp tone. She did not appear to notice my annoyance; she seemed to
me to have more than her usual cheerfulness; and she described, with
infinite pleasantry, the manner in which she had spent the day.
"`Incomprehensible girl!" said I to myself; `what am I to expect
after such a prelude?' The adventures of my first separation occurred
to me; nevertheless, I fancied I saw in her cheerfulness, and the
affectionate reception she gave me, an air of truth that perfectly
accorded with her professions.
"It was an easy matter at supper to account for the low spirits
which I could not conceal, by attributing them to a loss I had that
day sustained at the gaming-table. I considered it most fortunate
that the idea of my remaining all the next day at Chaillot was
suggested by herself: I should thus have ample time for deliberation.
My presence would prevent any fears for at least the next day; and if
nothing should occur to compel me to disclose the discovery I had
already made, I was determined on the following day to move my
establishment into town, and fix myself in a quarter where I should
have nothing to apprehend from the interference of princes. This
arrangement made me pass the night more tranquilly, but it by no means
put an end to the alarm I felt at the prospect of a new infidelity.
"When I awoke in the morning, Manon said to me, that although we
were to pass the day at home, she did not at all wish that I should
be less carefully dressed than on other occasions; and that she had a
particular fancy for doing the duties of my toilette that morning with
her own hands. It was an amusement she often indulged in: but she
appeared to take more pains on this occasion than I had ever observed
before. To gratify her, I was obliged to sit at her toilette table,
and try all the different modes she imagined for dressing my hair. In
the course of the operation, she made me often turn my head round
towards her, and putting both hands upon my shoulders, she would
examine me with most anxious curiosity: then, showing her approbation
by one or two kisses, she would make me resume my position before the
glass, in order to continue her occupation.
"This amatory trifling engaged us till dinner-time. The pleasure
she seemed to derive from it, and her more than usual gaiety, appeared
to me so thoroughly natural, that I found it impossible any longer to
suspect the treason I had previously conjured up; and I was several
times on the point of candidly opening my mind to her, and throwing
off a load that had begun to weigh heavily upon my heart: but I
flattered myself with the hope that the explanation would every moment
come from herself, and I anticipated the delicious triumph this would
"We returned to her boudoir. She began again to put my hair in
order, and I humoured all her whims; when they came to say that the
Prince of ---- was below, and wished to see her. The name alone
almost threw me into a rage.
"`What then,' exclaimed I, as I indignantly pushed her from me,
"She made no answer to my enquiries.
"`Show him upstairs,' said she coolly to the servant; and then
turning towards me, `Dearest love! you whom I so fervently adore,'
she added in the most bewitching tone, `I only ask of you one moment's
patience; one moment, one single moment! I will love you ten thousand
times more than ever: your compliance now shall never, during my life,
"Indignation and astonishment deprived me of the power of
utterance. She renewed her entreaties, and I could not find adequate
expressions to convey my feelings of anger and contempt. But hearing
the door of the ante-chamber open, she grasped with one hand my locks,
which were floating over my shoulders, while she took her toilette
mirror in the other, and with all her strength led me in this manner
to the door of the boudoir, which she opened with her knee, and
presented to the foreigner, who had been prevented by the noise he
heard inside from advancing beyond the middle of the ante-chamber, a
spectacle that must have indeed amazed him. I saw a man extremely
well dressed, but with a particularly ill-favoured countenance.
"Notwithstanding his embarrassment, he made her a profound bow.
Manon gave him no time for speech-making; she held up the mirror
before him: `Look, sir,' said she to him, `observe yourself
minutely, and I only ask you then to do me justice. You wish me to
love you: this is the man whom I love, and whom I have sworn to love
during my whole life: make the comparison yourself. If you think you
can rival him in my affections, tell me at least upon what
pretensions; for I solemnly declare to you, that, in the estimation of
your most obedient humble servant, all the princes in Italy are not
worth a single one of the hairs I now hold in my hand.'
"During this whimsical harangue, which she had apparently prepared
beforehand, I tried in vain to disengage myself, and feeling
compassion for a person of such consideration, I was desirous, by my
politeness at least, of making some reparation for this little
outrage. But recovering his self-possession with the ease of a man
accustomed to the world, he put an end to my feelings of pity by his
reply, which was, in my opinion, rude enough.
"`Young lady! young lady!' said he to her, with a sardonic smile,
'my eyes in truth are opened, and I perceive that you are much less of
a novice than I had pictured to myself.'
"He immediately retired without looking at her again, muttering to
himself that the French women were quite as bad as those of Italy. I
felt little desire, on this occasion, to change his opinion of the
"Manon let go my hand, threw herself into an armchair, and made
the room resound with her shouts of laughter. I candidly confess
that I was touched most sensibly by this unexpected proof of her
affection, and by the sacrifice of her own interest which I had just
witnessed, and which she could only have been induced to make by her
excessive love for me. Still, however, I could not help thinking she
had gone rather too far. I reproached her with what I called her
indiscretion. She told me that my rival, after having besieged her
for several days in the Bois de Boulogne, and having made her
comprehend his object by signs and grimaces, had actually made an open
declaration of love; informing her at the same time of his name and
all his titles, by means of a letter, which he had sent through the
hands of the coachman who drove her and her companions; that he had
promised her, on the other side of the Alps, a brilliant fortune and
eternal adoration; that she returned to Chaillot, with the intention
of relating to me the whole adventure, but that, fancying it might be
made a source of amusement to us, she could not help gratifying her
whim; that she accordingly invited the Italian prince, by a flattering
note, to pay her a visit; and that it had afforded her equal delight
to make me an accomplice, without giving me the least suspicion of
her plan. I said not a word of the information I had received
through another channel; and the intoxication of triumphant love made
me applaud all she had done.
'Twas ever thus;--from childhood's hour
I've seen my fondest hopes decay;--
I never loved a tree or flower,
But it was sure to fade away;
I never nursed a dear Gazelle,
To glad me with its dark-blue eye,
But, when it came to know me well,
And love me, it was sure to die.
"During my life I have remarked that fate has invariably chosen
for the time of its severest visitations, those moments when my
fortune seemed established on the firmest basis. In the friendship
of M. de T----, and the tender affections of Manon, I imagined myself
so thoroughly happy, that I could not harbour the slightest
apprehension of any new misfortune: there was one, nevertheless, at
this very period impending, which reduced me to the state in which you
beheld me at Passy, and which eventually brought in its train miseries
of so deplorable a nature, that you will have difficulty in believing
the simple recital that follows.
"One evening, when M. de T---- remained to sup with us, we heard
the sound of a carriage stopping at the door of the inn. Curiosity
tempted us to see who it was that arrived at this hour. They told us
it was young G---- M----, the son of our most vindictive enemy, of
that debauched old sinner who had incarcerated me in St. Lazare, and
Manon in the Hospital. His name made the blood mount to my cheeks.
`It is Providence that has led him here,' said I to M. de T----, that
I may punish him for the cowardly baseness of his father. He shall
not escape without our measuring swords at least.' M. de T----, who
knew him, and was even one of his most intimate friends, tried to
moderate my feelings of anger towards him. He assured me that he was
a most amiable young man, and so little capable of countenancing his
father's conduct, that I could not be many minutes in his society
without feeling esteem and affection for him. After saying many more
things in his praise, he begged my permission to invite him to come
and sit in our apartment, as well as to share the remainder of our
supper. As to the objection of Manon being exposed by this proceeding
to any danger, he pledged his honour and good faith, that when once
the young man became acquainted with us, we should find in him a most
zealous defender. After such an assurance, I could offer no further
"M. de T---- did not introduce him without delaying a few moments
outside, to let him know who we were. He certainly came in with an
air that prepossessed us in his favour: he shook hands with me; we sat
down; he admired Manon; he appeared pleased with me, and with
everything that belonged to us; and he ate with an appetite that did
abundant honour to our hospitality.
"When the table was cleared, our conversation became more serious.
He hung down his head while he spoke of his father's conduct towards
us. He made, on his own part, the most submissive excuses. `I say the
less upon the subject,' said he, `because I do not wish to recall a
circumstance that fills me with grief and shame.' If he were sincere
in the beginning, he became much more so in the end, for the
conversation had not lasted half an hour, when I perceived that
Manon's charms had made a visible impression upon him. His looks and
his manner became by degrees more tender. He, however, allowed no
expression to escape him; but, without even the aid of jealousy, I had
had experience enough in love affairs to discern what was passing.
"He remained with us till a late hour in the night, and before he
took his leave, congratulated himself on having made our acquaintance,
and begged permission to call and renew the offer of his services. He
went off next morning with M. de T----, who accepted the offer of a
seat in his carriage.
"I felt, as I before said, not the slightest symptom of jealousy I
had a more foolish confidence than ever in Manon's vows. This dear
creature had so absolute a dominion over my whole soul and affections,
that I could give place to no other sentiment towards her than that of
admiration and love. Far from considering it a crime that she should
have pleased young G---- M----, I was gratified by the effect of her
charms, and experienced only a feeling of pride in being loved by a
girl whom the whole world found so enchanting. I did not even deem it
worth while to mention my suspicions to her. We were for some days
occupied in arranging her new wardrobe, and in considering whether we
might venture to the theatre without the risk of being recognised. M.
de T---- came again to see us before the end of the week, and we
consulted him upon this point. He saw clearly that the way to please
Manon was to say yes: we resolved to go all together that same
"We were not able, however, to carry this intention into effect;
for, having taken me aside, `I have been in the greatest
embarrassment,' said he to me, `since I saw you, and that is the
cause of my visiting you today. G---- M---- is in love with your
mistress: he told me so in confidence; I am his intimate friend, and
disposed to do him any service in my power; but I am not less devoted
to you; his designs appeared to me unjustifiable, and I expressed my
disapprobation of them; I should not have divulged his secret, if he
had only intended to use fair and ordinary means for gaining Manon's
affections; but he is aware of her capricious disposition; he has
learned, God knows how, that her ruling passion is for affluence and
pleasure; and, as he is already in possession of a considerable
fortune, he declared his intention of tempting her at once with a
present of great value, and the offer of an annuity of six thousand
francs; if I had in all other points considered you both in an equal
light, I should have had perhaps to do more violence to my feelings in
betraying him: but a sense of justice as well as of friendship was on
your side, and the more so from having been myself the imprudent,
though unconscious, cause of his passion in introducing him here. I
feel it my duty therefore to avert any evil consequences from the
mischief I have inadvertently caused.
"I thanked M. de T---- for rendering me so important a service,
and confessed to him, in a like spirit of confidence, that Manon's
disposition was precisely what G---- M---- had imagined; that is to
say, that she was incapable of enduring even the thought of poverty.
`However,' said I to him, `when it is a mere question of more or
less, I do not believe that she would give me up for any other person;
I can afford to let her want for nothing, and I have from day to day
reason to hope that my fortune will improve; I only dread one thing,'
continued I, `which is, that G---- M---- may take unfair advantage of
the knowledge he has of our place of residence, and bring us into
trouble by disclosing it.'
"M. de T---- assured me that I might be perfectly easy upon that
head; that G---- M---- might be capable of a silly passion, but not
of an act of baseness; that if he ever could be villain enough for
such a thing, he, de T----, would be the first to punish him, and by
that means make reparation for the mischief he had occasioned. `I
feel grateful for what you say,' said I, `but the mischief will have
been all done, and the remedy even seems doubtful; the wisest plan
therefore will be to quit Chaillot, and go to reside elsewhere.'
`Very true,' said M. de T----, `but you will not be able to do it
quickly enough, for G---- M---- is to be here at noon; he told me so
yesterday, and it was that intelligence that made me come so early
this morning to inform you of his intentions. You may expect him
"The urgency of the occasion made me view this matter in a more
serious light. As it seemed to me impossible to escape the visit of
G---- M----, and perhaps equally so to prevent him from making his
declaration to Manon, I resolved to tell her beforehand of the designs
of my new rival. I fancied that when she knew I was aware of the
offers that would be made to her, and made probably in my presence,
she would be the more likely to reject them. I told M. de T---- of my
intention, and he observed that he thought it a matter of extreme
delicacy. `I admit it,' said I, `but no man ever had more reason for
confiding in a mistress, than I have for relying on the affection of
mine. The only thing that could possibly for a moment blind her, is
the splendour of his offers; no doubt she loves her ease, but she
loves me also; and in my present circumstances, I cannot believe that
she would abandon me for the son of the man who had incarcerated her
in the Magdalen.' In fine, I persisted in my intentions, and taking
Manon aside, I candidly told her what I had learned.
"She thanked me for the good opinion I entertained of her, and
promised to receive G---- M----'s offers in a way that should prevent
a repetition of them. `No,' said I, `you must not irritate him by
incivility: he has it in his power to injure us. But you know well
enough, you little rogue,' continued I, smiling, `how to rid yourself
of a disagreeable or useless lover!' After a moment's pause she said:
`I have just thought of an admirable plan, and I certainly have a
fertile invention. G---- M---- is the son of our bitterest enemy: we
must avenge ourselves on the father, not through the son's person, but
through his purse. My plan is to listen to his proposals, accept his
presents, and then laugh at him.'
"`The project is not a bad one,' said I to her; `but you forget,
my dear child, that it is precisely the same course that conducted us
formerly to the penitentiary.' I represented to her the danger of
such an enterprise; she replied, that the only thing necessary was to
take our measures with caution, and she found an answer to every
objection I started. `Show me the lover who does not blindly humour
every whim of an adored mistress, and I will then allow that I was
wrong in yielding so easily on this occasion.' The resolution was
taken to make a dupe of G----M----, and by an unforeseen and unlucky
turn of fortune, I became the victim myself.
"About eleven o'clock his carriage drove up to the door. He made
the most complaisant and refined speeches upon the liberty he had
taken of coming to dine with us uninvited. He was not surprised at
meeting M. de T----, who had the night before promised to meet him
there, and who had, under some pretext or other, refused a seat in his
carriage. Although there was not a single person in the party who was
not at heart meditating treachery, we all sat down with an air of
mutual confidence and friendship. G---- M---- easily found an
opportunity of declaring his sentiments to Manon. I did not wish to
annoy him by appearing vigilant, so I left the room purposely for
"I perceived on my return that he had not had to encounter any
very discouraging austerity on Manon's part, for he was in the best
possible spirits. I affected good humour also. He was laughing in
his mind at my simplicity, while I was not less diverted by his own.
During the whole evening we were thus supplying to each other an
inexhaustible fund of amusement. I contrived, before his departure,
to let him have Manon for another moment to himself; so that he had
reason to applaud my complaisance, as well as the hospitable reception
I had given him.
"As soon as he got into his carriage with M. de T----, Manon ran
towards me with extended arms, and embraced me; laughing all the
while immoderately. She repeated all his speeches and proposals,
without altering a word. This was the substance: He of course
adored her; and wished to share with her a large fortune of which he
was already in possession, without counting what he was to inherit at
his father's death. She should be sole mistress of his heart and
fortune; and as an immediate token of his liberality, he was ready at
once to supply her with an equipage, a furnished house, a lady's maid,
three footmen, and a man-cook.
"`There is indeed a son,' said I, `very different from his father!
But tell me truly, now, does not such an offer tempt you?' `Me!' she
replied, adapting to the idea two verses from Racine--
Moi! vous me soupconnez de cette perfidie? Moi! je pourrais
souffrir un visage odieux, Qui rappelle toujours l'Hopital a mes yeux?
`No I' replied I, continuing the parody--
J'aurais peine a penser que l'Hopital, madame, Fut un trait dont
l'amour l'eut grave dans votre ame.
`But it assuredly is a temptation--a furnished house, a lady's
maid, a cook, a carriage, and three servants--gallantry can offer but
few more seductive temptations.'
"She protested that her heart was entirely mine, and that it was
for the future only open to the impressions I chose to make upon it.
`I look upon his promises,' said she, `as an instrument for revenge,
rather than as a mark of love.' I asked her if she thought of
accepting the hotel and the carriage. She replied that his money was
all she wanted.
The difficulty was, how to obtain the one without the other; we
resolved to wait for a detailed explanation of the whole project in a
letter which G---- M---- promised to write to her, and which in fact
she received next morning by a servant out of livery, who, very
cleverly, contrived an opportunity of speaking to her alone.
She told him to wait for an answer, and immediately brought the
letter to me: we opened it together.
"Passing over the usual commonplace expressions of tenderness, it
gave a particular detail of my rival's promises. There were no limits
to the expense. He engaged to pay her down ten thousand francs on her
taking possession of the hotel, and to supply her expenditure in such
a way as that she should never have less than that sum at her command.
The appointed day for her entering into possession was close at hand.
He only required two days for all his preparations, and he mentioned
the name of the street and the hotel, where he promised to be in
waiting for her in the afternoon of the second day, if she could
manage to escape my vigilance. That was the only point upon which he
begged of her to relieve his uneasiness; he seemed to be quite
satisfied upon every other: but he added that, if she apprehended any
difficulty in escaping from me, he could find sure means for
facilitating her flight.
"G---- M---- the younger was more cunning than the old gentleman.
He wanted to secure his prey before he counted out the cash. We
considered what course Manon should adopt. I made another effort to
induce her to give up the scheme, and strongly represented all its
dangers; nothing, however, could shake her determination.
"Her answer to G---- M---- was brief, merely assuring him that she
could be, without the least difficulty, in Paris on the appointed day
and that he might expect her with certainty.
"We then resolved, that I should instantly hire lodgings in some
village on the other side of Paris, and that I should take our
luggage with me; that in the afternoon of the following day, which
was the time appointed, she should go to Paris; that, after receiving
G---- M----'s presents, she should earnestly entreat him to take her
to the theatre; that she should carry with her as large a portion of
the money as she could, and charge my servant with the remainder, for
it was agreed that he was to accompany her. He was the man who had
rescued her from the Magdalen, and he was devotedly attached to us. I
was to be with a hackney-coach at the end of the street of St.
Andre-des-arcs, and to leave it there about seven o'clock, while I
stole, under cover of the twilight, to the door of the theatre. Manon
promised to make some excuse for quitting her box for a moment, when
she would come down and join me. The rest could be easily done. We
were then to return to my hackney-coach, and quit Paris by the
Faubourg St. Antoine, which was the road to our new residence.
"This plan, extravagant as it was, appeared to us satisfactorily
arranged. But our greatest folly was in imagining that, succeed as
we might in its execution, it would be possible for us to escape the
consequences. Nevertheless, we exposed ourselves to all risk with the
blindest confidence. Manon took her departure with Marcel--so was the
servant called. I could not help feeling a pang as she took leave of
me. `Manon,' said I, `do not deceive me; will you be faithful to me?'
She complained, in the tenderest tone, of my want of confidence, and
renewed all her protestations of eternal love.
"She was to be in Paris at three o'clock. I went some time after.
I spent the remainder of the afternoon moping in the Cafe de Fere,
near the Pont St. Michel. I remained there till nightfall. I then
hired a hackney-coach, which I placed, according to our plan, at the
end of the street of St. Andre-des-arcs, and went on foot to the door
of the theatre. I was surprised at not seeing Marcel, who was to have
been there waiting for me. I waited patiently for a full hour,
standing among a crowd of lackeys, and gazing at every person that
passed. At length, seven o'clock having struck, without my being able
to discover anything or any person connected with our project, I
procured a pit ticket, in order to ascertain if Manon and G---- M----
were in the boxes. Neither one nor the other could I find. I returned
to the door, where I again stopped for a quarter of an hour, in an
agony of impatience and uneasiness. No person appeared, and I went
back to the coach, without knowing what to conjecture. The coachman,
seeing me, advanced a few paces towards me, and said, with a
mysterious air, that a very handsome young person had been waiting
more than an hour for me in the coach; that she described me so
exactly that he could not be mistaken, and having learned that I
intended to return, she said she would enter the coach and wait with
"`I felt confident that it was Manon. I approached. I beheld a
very pretty face, certainly, but alas, not hers. The lady asked, in a
voice that I had never before heard, whether she had the honour of
speaking to the Chevalier des Grieux? I answered, `That is my name.'
`I have a letter for you,' said she, `which will tell you what has
brought me here, and by what means I learned your name.' I begged she
would allow me a few moments to read it in an adjoining cafe. She
proposed to follow me, and advised me to ask for a private room, to
which I consented. `Who is the writer of this letter?' I enquired.
She referred me to the letter itself.
"I recognised Manon's hand. This is nearly the substance of the
letter: G---- M---- had received her with a politeness and
magnificence beyond anything she had previously conceived. He had
loaded her with the most gorgeous presents. She had the prospect of
almost imperial splendour. She assured me, however, that she could
not forget me amidst all this magnificence; but that, not being able
to prevail on G---- M---- to take her that evening to the play, she
was obliged to defer the pleasure of seeing me; and that, as a slight
consolation for the disappointment which she feared this might cause
me, she had found a messenger in one of the loveliest girls in all
Paris. She signed herself, `Your loving and constant, MANON LESCAUT.'
"There was something so cruel and so insulting in the letter,
that, what between indignation and grief, I resolutely determined to
forget eternally my ungrateful and perjured mistress. I looked at the
young woman who stood before me: she was exceedingly pretty, and I
could have wished that she had been sufficiently so to render me
inconstant in my turn. But there were wanting those lovely and
languishing eyes, that divine gracefulness, that exquisite complexion,
in fine, those innumerable charms which nature had so profusely
lavished upon the perfidious Manon. `No, no,' said I, turning away
from her; `the ungrateful wretch who sent you knew in her heart that
she was sending you on a useless errand. Return to her; and tell her
from me, to triumph in her crime, and enjoy it, if she can, without
remorse. I abandon her in despair, and, at the same time, renounce
all women, who, without her fascination, are no doubt her equals in
baseness and infidelity.'
"I was then on the point of going away, determined never to bestow
another thought on Manon: the mortal jealousy that was racking my
heart lay concealed under a dark and sullen melancholy, and I fancied,
because I felt none of those violent emotions which I had experienced
upon former occasions, that I had shaken off my thraldom. Alas! I was
even at that moment infinitely more the dupe of love, than of, G----
M---- and Manon.
"The girl who had brought the letter, seeing me about to depart,
asked me what I wished her to say to M. G---- M----, and to the lady
who was with him? At this question, I stepped back again into the
room, and by one of those unaccountable transitions that are only
known to the victims of violent passion, I passed in an instant from
the state of subdued tranquillity which I have just described, into an
ungovernable fury `Away!' said I to her, `tell the traitor G----
M----and his abandoned mistress the state of despair into which your
accursed mission has cast me; but warn them that it shall not be long
a source of amusement to them, and that my own hands shall be warmed
with the heart's blood of both!' I sank back upon a chair; my hat
fell on one side, and my cane upon the other: torrents of bitter tears
rolled down my cheeks. The paroxysm of rage changed into a profound
and silent grief: I did nothing but weep and sigh. `Approach, my
child, approach,' said I to the young girl; `approach, since it is you
they have sent to bring me comfort; tell me whether you have any balm
to administer for the pangs of despair and rage--any argument to offer
against the crime of self-destruction, which I have resolved upon,
after ridding the world of two perfidious monsters. Yes, approach,'
continued I, perceiving that she advanced with timid and doubtful
steps; `come and dry my sorrows; come and restore peace to my mind;
come and tell me that at least you love me: you are handsome--I may
perhaps love you in return.' The poor child, who was only sixteen or
seventeen years of age, and who appeared more modest than girls of her
class generally are, was thunderstruck at this unusual scene. She
however gently approached to caress me, when with uplifted hands I
rudely repulsed her. `What do you wish with me?' exclaimed I to her.
`Ah! you are a woman, and of a sex I abhor, and can no longer
tolerate; the very gentleness of your look threatens me with some new
treason. Go, leave me here alone!' She made me a curtsy without
uttering a word, and turned to go out. I called to her to stop:
`Tell me at least,' said I, `wherefore-- how--with what design they
sent you here? how did you discover my name, or the place where you
could find me?'
"She told me that she had long known M. G---- M----; that he had
sent for her that evening about five o'clock; and that, having
followed the servant who had been dispatched to her, she was shown
into a large house, where she found him playing at picquet with a
beautiful young woman; and that they both charged her to deliver the
letter into my hands, after telling her that she would find me in a
hackney-coach at the bottom of the street of St. Andre. I asked if
they had said nothing more. She blushed while she replied, that they
had certainly made her believe that I should be glad of her society.
`They have deceived you too,' said I, `my poor girl--they have
deceived you; you are a woman, and probably wish for a lover; but you
must find one who is rich and happy, and it is not here you will find
him. Return, return to M. G---- M----; he possesses everything
requisite to make a man beloved. He has furnished houses and
equipages to bestow, while I, who have nothing but constancy of love
to offer, am despised for my poverty, and laughed at for my
"I continued in a tone of sorrow or violence, as these feelings
alternately took possession of my mind. However, by the very excess
of my agitation, I became gradually so subdued as to be able calmly to
reflect upon the situation of affairs. I compared this new misfortune
with those which I had already experienced of the same kind, and I
could not perceive that there was any more reason for despair now,
than upon former occasions. I knew Manon: why then distress myself on
account of a calamity which I could not but have plainly foreseen?
Why not rather think of seeking a remedy? there was yet time; I at
least ought not to spare my own exertions, if I wished to avoid the
bitter reproach of having contributed, by my own indolence, to my
misery. I thereupon set about considering every means of raising a
gleam of hope.
"To attempt to take her by main force from the hands of G----M----
was too desperate a project, calculated only to ruin me, and without
the slightest probability of succeeding. But it seemed to me that if
I could ensure a moment's interview with her, I could not fail to
regain my influence over her affections. I so well knew how to excite
her sensibilities! I was so confident of her love for me! The very
whim even of sending me a pretty woman by way of consoling me, I would
stake my existence, was her idea, and that it was the suggestion of
her own sincere sympathy for my sufferings.
"I resolved to exert every nerve to procure an interview. After a
multitude of plans which I canvassed one after another, I fixed upon
the following: M. de T---- had shown so much sincerity in the
services he had rendered me, that I could not entertain a doubt of his
zeal and good faith. I proposed to call upon him at once, and make
him send for G---- M----, under pretence of some important business.
Half an hour would suffice to enable me to see Manon. I thought it
would not be difficult to get introduced into her apartment during
G---- M----'s absence.
"This determination pacified me, and I gave a liberal present to
the girl, who was still with me; and in order to prevent her from
returning to those who had sent her, I took down her address, and
half promised to call upon her at a later hour. I then got into the
hackney-coach, and drove quickly to M. de T----'s. I was fortunate
enough to find him at home. I had been apprehensive upon this point
as I went along. A single sentence put him in possession of the whole
case, as well of my sufferings, as of the friendly service I had come
to supplicate at his hands.
"He was so astonished to learn that G---- M---- had been able to
seduce Manon from me, that, not being aware that I had myself lent a
hand to my own misfortune, he generously offered to assemble his
friends, and evoke their aid for the deliverance of my mistress. I
told him that such a proceeding might by its publicity be attended
with danger to Manon and to me. `Let us risk our lives,' said I,
`only as a last resource. My plan is of a more peaceful nature, and
promising at least equal success.' He entered without a murmur into
all that I proposed; so again stating that all I required was, that he
should send for G---- M----, and contrive to keep him an hour or two
from home, we at once set about our operations.
"We first of all considered what expedient we could make use of
for keeping him out so long a time. I proposed that he should write
a note dated from a cafe, begging of him to come there as soon as
possible upon an affair of too urgent importance to admit of delay.
`I will watch,' added I, `the moment he quits the house, and
introduce myself without any difficulty, being only known to Manon,
and my servant Marcel. You can at the same time tell G---- M----,
that the important affair upon which you wished to see him was the
immediate want of a sum of money; that you had just emptied your purse
at play, and that you had played on, with continued bad luck, upon
credit. He will require some time to take you to his father's house,
where he keeps his money, and I shall have quite sufficient for the
execution of my plan.'
"M. de T---- minutely adhered to these directions. I left him in
a cafe, where he at once wrote his letter. I took my station close by
Manon's house. I saw de T----'s messenger arrive, and G---- M----
come out the next moment, followed by a servant. Allowing him barely
time to get out of the street, I advanced to my deceiver's door, and
notwithstanding the anger I felt, I knocked with as much respect as at
the portal of a church. Fortunately it was Marcel who opened for me.
Although I had nothing to apprehend from the other servants, I asked
him in a low voice if he could conduct me unseen into the room in
which Manon was. He said that was easily done, by merely ascending
the great staircase. `Come then at once,' said I to him, `and
endeavour to prevent anyone from coming up while I am there.' I
reached the apartment without any difficulty.
"Manon was reading. I had there an opportunity of admiring the
singular character of this girl. Instead of being nervous or alarmed
at my appearance, she scarcely betrayed a symptom of surprise, which
few persons, however indifferent, could restrain, on seeing one whom
they imagined to be far distant. `Ah! it is you, my dear love,' said
she, approaching to embrace me with her usual tenderness. `Good
heavens, how venturesome and foolhardy you are! Who could have
expected to see you in this place!' Instead of embracing her in
return, I repulsed her with indignation, and retreated two or three
paces from her. This evidently disconcerted her. She remained
immovable, and fixed her eyes on me, while she changed colour.
"I was in reality so delighted to behold her once more, that, with
so much real cause for anger, I could hardly bring my lips to upbraid
her. My heart, however, felt the cruel outrage she had inflicted upon
me. I endeavoured to revive the recollection of it in my own mind, in
order to excite my feelings, and put on a look of stern indignation.
I remained silent for a few moments, when I remarked that she
observed my agitation, and trembled: apparently the effect of her
"I could not longer endure this spectacle. `Ah! Manon,' said I to
her in the mildest tone, `faithless and perjured Manon! How am I to
complain of your conduct? I see you pale and trembling, and I am
still so much alive to your slightest sufferings, that I am unwilling
to add to them by my reproaches. But, Manon, I tell you that my heart
is pierced with sorrow at your treatment of me--treatment that is
seldom inflicted but with the purpose of destroying one's life. This
is the third time, Manon; I have kept a correct account; it is
impossible to forget that. It is now for you to consider what course
you will adopt; for my afflicted heart is no longer capable of
sustaining such shocks. I know and feel that it must give way, and it
is at this moment ready to burst with grief. I can say no more,'
added I, throwing myself into a chair; `I have hardly strength to
speak, or to support myself.'
"She made me no reply; but when I was seated, she sank down upon
her knees, and rested her head upon my lap, covering her face with
her hands. I perceived in a moment that she was shedding floods of
tears. Heavens! with what conflicting sensations was I at that
instant agitated! `Ah! Manon, Manon,' said I, sighing, `it is too
late to give me tears after the death-blow you have inflicted. You
affect a sorrow which you cannot feel. The greatest of your
misfortunes is no doubt my presence, which has been always an obstacle
to your happiness. Open your eyes; look up and see who it is that is
here; you will not throw away tears of tenderness upon an unhappy
wretch whom you have betrayed and abandoned.'
"She kissed my hands without changing her position. `Inconstant
Manon,' said I again, `ungrateful and faithless girl, where now are
all your promises and your vows? Capricious and cruel that you are!
what has now become of the love that you protested for me this very
day? Just Heavens,' added I, `is it thus you permit a traitor to mock
you, after having called you so solemnly to witness her vows!
Recompense and reward then are for the perjured! Despair and neglect
are the lot of fidelity and truth!'
"These words conveyed even to my own mind a sentiment so bitterly
severe, that, in spite of myself, some tears escaped from me. Manon
perceived this by the change in my voice. She at length spoke. `I
must have indeed done something most culpable,' said she, sobbing with
grief, `to have excited and annoyed you to this degree; but, I call
Heaven to attest my utter unconsciousness of crime, and my innocence
of all criminal intention!'
"This speech struck me as so devoid of reason and of truth, that I
could not restrain a lively feeling of anger. `Horrible hypocrisy!'
cried I; `I see more plainly than ever that you are dishonest and
treacherous. Now at length I learn your wretched disposition. Adieu,
base creature,' said I, rising from my seat; `I would prefer death a
thousand times rather than continue to hold the slightest
communication with you. May Heaven punish me, if I ever again waste
upon you the smallest regard! Live on with your new lover--renounce
all feelings of honour--detest me--your love is now a matter to me of
"Manon was so terrified by the violence of my anger, that,
remaining on her knees by the chair from which I had just before
risen, breathless and trembling, she fixed her eyes upon me. I
advanced a little farther towards the door, but, unless I had lost
the last spark of humanity, I could not continue longer unmoved by
such a spectacle.
"So far, indeed, was I from this kind of stoical indifference,
that, rushing at once into the very opposite extreme, I returned, or
rather flew back to her without an instant's reflection. I lifted her
in my arms; I gave her a thousand tender kisses; I implored her to
pardon my ungovernable temper; I confessed that I was an absolute
brute, and unworthy of being loved by such an angel.
"I made her sit down, and throwing myself, in my turn, upon my
knees, I conjured her to listen to me in that attitude. Then I
briefly expressed all that a submissive and impassioned lover could
say most tender and respectful. I supplicated her pardon. She let her
arms fall over my neck, as she said that it was she who stood in need
of forgiveness, and begged of me in mercy to forget all the annoyances
she had caused me, and that she began, with reason, to fear that I
should not approve of what she had to say in her justification. `Me!'
said I interrupting her impatiently; `I require no justification; I
approve of all you have done. It is not for me to demand excuses for
anything you do; I am but too happy, too contented, if my dear Manon
will only leave me master of her affections! But,' continued I,
remembering that it was the crisis of my fate, `may I not, Manon,
all-powerful Manon, you who wield at your pleasure my joys and
sorrows, may I not be permitted, after having conciliated you by my
submission and all the signs of repentance, to speak to you now of my
misery and distress? May I now learn from your own lips what my
destiny is to be, and whether you are resolved to sign my
death-warrant, by spending even a single night with my rival?'
"She considered a moment before she replied. `My good chevalier,'
said she, resuming the most tranquil tone, `if you had only at first
explained yourself thus distinctly, you would have spared yourself a
world of trouble, and prevented a scene that has really annoyed me.
Since your distress is the result of jealousy, I could at first have
cured that by offering to accompany you where you pleased. But I
imagined it was caused by the letter which I was obliged to write in
the presence of G---- M----, and of the girl whom we sent with it. I
thought you might have construed that letter into a mockery; and have
fancied that, by sending such a messenger, I meant to announce my
abandonment of you for the sake of G---- M----. It was this idea that
at once overwhelmed me with grief; for, innocent as I knew myself to
be, I could not but allow that appearances were against me. However,'
continued she, `I will leave you to judge of my conduct, after I shall
have explained the whole truth.'
"She then told me all that had occurred to her after joining G----
M----, whom she found punctually awaiting her arrival. He had in fact
received her in the most princely style. He showed her through all
the apartments, which were fitted up in the neatest and most correct
taste. He had counted out to her in her boudoir ten thousand francs,
as well as a quantity of jewels, amongst which were the identical
pearl necklace and bracelets which she had once before received as a
present from his father. He then led her into a splendid room, which
she had not before seen, and in which an exquisite collation was
served; she was waited upon by the new servants, whom he had hired
purposely for her, and whom he now desired to consider themselves as
exclusively her attendants; the carriage and the horses were
afterwards paraded, and he then proposed a game of cards, until
supper should be announced.
"`I acknowledge,' continued Manon, `that I was dazzled by all this
magnificence. It struck me that it would be madness to sacrifice at
once so many good things for the mere sake of carrying off the money
and the jewels already in my possession; that it was a certain fortune
made for both you and me, and that we might pass the remainder of our
lives most agreeably and comfortably at the expense of G---- M----.
"`Instead of proposing the theatre, I thought it more prudent to
sound his feelings with regard to you, in order to ascertain what
facilities we should have for meeting in future, on the supposition
that I could carry my project into effect. I found him of a most
tractable disposition. He asked me how I felt towards you, and if I
had not experienced some compunction at quitting you. I told him that
you were so truly amiable, and had ever treated me with such
undeviating kindness, that it was impossible I could hate you. He
admitted that you were a man of merit, and expressed an ardent desire
to gain your friendship.
"`He was anxious to know how I thought you would take my
elopement, particularly when you should learn that I was in his
hands. I answered, that our love was of such long standing as to
have had time to moderate a little; that, besides, you were not in
very easy circumstances, and would probably not consider my departure
as any severe misfortune, inasmuch as it would relieve you from a
burden of no very insignificant nature. I added that, being perfectly
convinced you would take the whole matter rationally, I had not
hesitated to tell you that I had some business in Paris; but you had
at once consented, and that having accompanied me yourself, you did
not seem very uneasy when we separated.
"`If I thought,' said he to me, 'that he could bring himself to
live on good terms with me, I should be too happy to make him a
tender of my services and attentions.' I assured him that, from what
I knew of your disposition, I had no doubt you would acknowledge his
kindness in a congenial spirit: especially, I added, if he could
assist you in your affairs, which had become embarrassed since your
disagreement with your family. He interrupted me by declaring, that
he would gladly render you any service in his power, and that if you
were disposed to form a new attachment, he would introduce you to an
extremely pretty woman, whom he had just given up for me.
"`I approved of all he said,' she added, `for fear of exciting any
suspicions; and being more and more satisfied of the feasibility of my
scheme, I only longed for an opportunity of letting you into it, lest
you should be alarmed at my not keeping my appointment. With this
view I suggested the idea of sending this young lady to you, in order
to have an opportunity of writing; I was obliged to have recourse to
this plan, because I could not see a chance of his leaving me to
myself for a moment.'
"`He was greatly amused with my proposition; he called his valet,
and asking him whether he could immediately find his late mistress, he
dispatched him at once in search of her. He imagined that she would
have to go to Chaillot to meet you, but I told him that, when we
parted, I promised to meet you again at the theatre, or that, if
anything should prevent me from going there, you were to wait for me
in a coach at the, end of the street of St. Andre; that consequently
it would be best to send your new love there, if it were only to save
you from the misery of suspense during the whole night. I said it
would be also necessary to write you a line of explanation, without
which you would probably be puzzled by the whole transaction. He
consented; but I was obliged to write in his presence; and I took
especial care not to explain matters too palpably in my letter.
"`This is the history,' said Manon, `of the entire affair. I
conceal nothing from you, of either my conduct or my intentions. The
girl arrived; I thought her handsome; and as I doubted not that you
would be mortified by my absence, I did most sincerely hope that she
would be able to dissipate something of your ennui: for it is the
fidelity of the heart alone that I value. I should have been too
delighted to have sent Marcel, but I could not for a single instant
find an opportunity of telling him what I wished to communicate to
you.' She finished her story by describing the embarrassment into
which M. de T----'s letter had thrown G---- M----; `he hesitated,'
said she, `about leaving, and assured me that he should not be long
absent; and it is on this account that I am uneasy at seeing you here,
and that I betrayed, at your appearance, some slight feeling of
"I listened to her with great patience. There were certainly
parts of her recital sufficiently cruel and mortifying; for the
intention, at least, of the infidelity was so obvious, that she had
not even taken the trouble to disguise it. She could never have
imagined that G---- M---- meant to venerate her as a vestal. She must
therefore clearly have made up her mind to pass at least one night
with him. What an avowal for a lover's ears! However, I considered
myself as partly the cause of her guilt, by having been the first to
let her know G---- M----'s sentiments towards her, and by the silly
readiness with which I entered into this rash project. Besides, by a
natural bent of my mind, peculiar I believe to myself, I was duped by
the ingenuousness of her story--by that open and winning manner with
which she related even the circumstances most calculated to annoy me.
`There is nothing of wanton vice,' said I to myself, `in her
transgressions; she is volatile and imprudent, but she is sincere and
affectionate.' My love alone rendered me blind to all her faults. I
was enchanted at the prospect of rescuing her that very night from my
rival. I said to her: `With whom do you mean to pass the night?'
She was evidently disconcerted by the question, and answered me in an
embarrassed manner with BUTS and IFS.
"I felt for her, and interrupted her by saying that I at once
expected her to accompany me.
"`Nothing can give me more pleasure,' said she; `but you don't
approve then of my project?'
"`Is it not enough,' replied I, `that I approve of all that you
have, up to this moment, done?'
"`What,' said she, `are we not even to take the ten thousand
francs with us? Why, he gave me the money; it is mine.'
"I advised her to leave everything, and let us think only of
escaping for although I had been hardly half an hour with her, I
began to dread the return of G---- M----. However, she so earnestly
urged me to consent to our going out with something in our pockets,
that I thought myself bound to make her, on my part, some concession,
in return for all she yielded to me.
"While we were getting ready for our departure, I heard someone
knock at the street door. I felt convinced that it must be G----
M----; and in the heat of the moment, I told Manon, that as sure as
he appeared I would take his life. In truth, I felt that I was not
sufficiently recovered from my late excitement to be able to restrain
my fury if I met him. Marcel put an end to my uneasiness, by handing
me a letter which he had received for me at the door; it was from M.
"He told me that, as G---- M---- had gone to his father's house
for the money which he wanted, he had taken advantage of his absence
to communicate to me an amusing idea that had just come into his head;
that it appeared to him, I could not possibly take a more agreeable
revenge upon my rival, than by eating his supper, and spending the
night in the very bed which he had hoped to share with my mistress;
all this seemed to him easy enough, if I could only find two or three
men upon whom I could depend, of courage sufficient to stop him in the
street, and detain him in custody until next morning; that he would
undertake to keep him occupied for another hour at least, under some
pretext, which he could devise before G---- M----'s return.
"I showed the note to Manon; I told her at the same time of the
manner in which I had procured the interview with her. My scheme, as
well as the new one of M. de T----'s, delighted her: we laughed
heartily at it for some minutes; but when I treated it as a mere joke,
I was surprised at her insisting seriously upon it, as a thing
perfectly practicable, and too delightful to be neglected. In vain I
enquired where she thought I could possibly find, on a sudden, men fit
for such an adventure? and on whom I could rely for keeping G----
M---- in strict custody? She said that I should at least try, as M.
de T---- ensured us yet a full hour; and as to my other objections,
she said that I was playing the tyrant, and did not show the slightest
indulgence to her fancies. She said that it was impossible there
could be a more enchanting project. `You will have his place at
supper; you will sleep in his bed; and tomorrow, as early as you like,
you can walk off with both his mistress and his money. You may thus,
at one blow, be amply revenged upon father and son.'
"I yielded to her entreaties, in spite of the secret misgivings of
my own mind, which seemed to forebode the unhappy catastrophe that
afterwards befell me. I went out with the intention of asking two or
three guardsmen, with whom Lescaut had made me acquainted, to
undertake the arrest of G---- M----. I found only one of them at
home, but he was a fellow ripe for any adventure; and he no sooner
heard our plan, than he assured me of certain success: all he required
were six pistoles, to reward the three private soldiers whom he
determined to employ in the business. I begged of him to lose no
time. He got them together in less than a quarter of in hour. I
waited at his lodgings till he returned with them, and then conducted
him to the corner of a street through which I knew G---- M---- must
pass an going back to Manon's house. I requested him not to treat
G---- M---- roughly, but to keep him confined, and so strictly
watched, until seven o'clock next morning, that I might be free from
all apprehension of his escape. He told me his intention was to bring
him a prisoner to his own room, and make him undress and sleep in his
bed, while he and his gallant comrades should spend the night in
drinking and playing.
"I remained with them until we saw G---- M---- returning
homewards; and I then withdrew a few steps into a dark recess in the
street, to enjoy so entertaining and extraordinary a scene. The
officer challenged him with a pistol to his breast, and then told him,
in a civil tone, that he did not want either his money or his life;
but that if he hesitated to follow him, or if he gave the slightest
alarm, he would blow his brains out. G---- M----, seeing that his
assailant was supported by three soldiers, and perhaps not
uninfluenced by a dread of the pistol, yielded without further
resistance. I saw him led away like a lamb.
What lost a world, and bade a hero fly?
The timid tear in Cleopatra's eye.
Yet be the soft triumvir's fault forgiven,
By this, how many lose--not earth--but heaven!
Consign their souls to man's eternal foe,
And seal their own, to spare some wanton's, woe!
I soon returned to Manon; and to prevent the servants from having
any suspicion, I told her in their hearing, that she need not expect
M. G---- M---- to supper; that he was most reluctantly occupied with
business which detained him, and that he had commissioned me to come
and make his excuses, and to fill his place at the supper table;
which, in the company of so beautiful a lady, I could not but consider
a very high honour. She seconded me with her usual adroitness. We
sat down to supper. I put on the most serious air I could assume,
while the servants were in the room, and at length having got rid of
them, we passed, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable evening of
my life. I gave Marcel orders to find a hackney-coach, and engage it
to be at the gate on the following morning a little before six
o'clock. I pretended to take leave of Manon about midnight, but
easily gaining admission again, through Marcel, I proceeded to occupy
G---- M----'s bed, as I had filled his place at the supper table.
"In the meantime our evil genius was at work for our destruction.
We were like children enjoying the success of our silly scheme, while
the sword hung suspended over our heads. The thread which upheld it
was just about to break; but the better to understand all the
circumstances of our ruin, it is necessary to know the immediate
"G---- M---- was followed by a servant, when he was stopped by my
friend the guardsman. Alarmed by what he saw, this fellow retraced
his steps, and the first thing he did was to go and inform old G----
M---- of what had just happened.
"Such a piece of news, of course, excited him greatly. This was
his only son; and considering the old gentleman's advanced age, he
was extremely active and ardent. He first enquired of the servant
what his son had been doing that afternoon; whether he had had any
quarrel on his own account, or interfered in any other; whether he had
been in any suspicious house. The lackey, who fancied his master in
imminent danger, and thought he ought not to have any reserve in such
an emergency, disclosed at once all that he knew of his connection
with Manon, and of the expense he had gone to on her account; the
manner in which he had passed the afternoon with her until about nine
o'clock, the circumstance of his leaving her, and the outrage he
encountered on his return. This was enough to convince him that his
son's affair was a love quarrel. Although it was then at least
half-past ten at night, he determined at once to call on the
lieutenant of police. He begged of him to issue immediate orders to
all the detachments that were out on duty, and he himself, taking some
men with him, hastened to the street where his son had been stopped:
he visited every place where he thought he might have a chance of
finding him; and not being able to discover the slightest trace of
him, he went off to the house of his mistress, to which he thought he
probably might by this time have returned.
"I was stepping into bed when he arrived. The door of the chamber
being closed, I did not hear the knock at the gate, but he rushed into
the house, accompanied by two archers of the guard, and after
fruitless enquiries of the servants about his son, he resolved to try
whether he could get any information from their mistress. He came up
to the apartment, still accompanied by the guard. We were just on the
point of lying down when he burst open the door, and electrified us by
his appearance. `Heavens!' said I to Manon, `it is old G---- M----.'
I attempted to get possession of my sword; but it was fortunately
entangled in my belt. The archers, who saw my object, advanced to lay
hold of me. Stript to my shirt, I could, of course, offer no
resistance, and they speedily deprived me of all means of defence.
"G---- M----, although a good deal embarrassed by the whole scene,
soon recognised me; and Manon still more easily. `Is this a dream?'
said he, in the most serious tone--`do I not see before me the
Chevalier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut?' I was so overcome with shame
and disappointment, that I could make him no reply. He appeared for
some minutes revolving different thoughts in his mind; and as if they
had suddenly excited his anger, he exclaimed, addressing himself to
me: `Wretch! I am confident that you have murdered my son!'
"I felt indignant at so insulting a charge. `You hoary and
lecherous villain!' I exclaimed, `if I had been inclined to kill any
of your worthless family, it is with you I should most assuredly have
"`Hold him fast,' cried he to the archers; `he must give me some
tidings of my son; I shall have him hanged tomorrow, if he does not
presently let me know how he has disposed of him.'
"`You will have me hanged,' said I, `will you? Infamous scoundre!
it is for such as you that the gibbet is erected. Know that the blood
which flows in my veins is noble, and purer in every sense than yours.
Yes,' I added, `I do know what has happened to your son; and if you
irritate me further, I will have him strangled before morning; and I
promise you the consolation of meeting in your own person the same
fate, after he is disposed of.'
"I was imprudent in acknowledging that I knew where his son was,
but excess of anger made me commit this indiscretion. He immediately
called in five or six other archers, who were waiting at the gate, and
ordered them to take all the servants into custody. `Ah! ah!
Chevalier,' said he, in a tone of sardonic raillery,--`so you do know
where my son is, and you will have him strangled, you say? We will
try to set that matter to rights.'
"I now saw the folly I had committed.
"He approached Manon, who was sitting upon the bed, bathed in a
flood of tears. He said something, with the most cruel irony, of the
despotic power she wielded over old and young, father and son-- her
edifying dominion over her empire. This superannuated monster of
incontinence actually attempted to take liberties with her.
"`Take care,' exclaimed I, `how you lay a finger upon her!--
neither divine nor human law will be able, should your folly arouse
it, to shield you from my vengeance!'
"He quitted the room, desiring the archers to make us dress as
quickly as possible.
"I know not what were his intentions at that moment with regard to
us; we might perhaps have regained our liberty if we had told him
where his son was. As I dressed, I considered whether this would not
be the wisest course. But if, on quitting the room, such had been the
disposition of his mind, it was very different when he returned. He
had first gone to question Manon's servants, who were in the custody
of the guard. From those who had been expressly hired for her service
by his son, he could learn nothing; but when he found that Marcel had
been previously our servant, he determined to extract some information
from him, by means of intimidation, threats, or bribes.
"This lad was faithful, but weak and unsophisticated. The
remembrance of what he had done at the penitentiary for Manon's
release, joined to the terror with which G---- M---- now inspired
him, so subdued his mind, that he thought they were about leading him
to the gallows, or the rack. He promised that, if they would spare
his life, he would disclose everything he knew. This speech made
G---- M---- imagine that there was something more serious in the
affair than he had before supposed; he not only gave Marcel a promise
of his life, but a handsome reward in hand for his intended
"The booby then told him the leading features of our plot, of
which we had made no secret before him, as he was himself to have
borne a part in it. True, he knew nothing of the alterations we had
made at Paris in our original design; but he had been informed, before
quitting Chaillot, of our projected adventure, and of the part he was
to perform. He therefore told him that the object was to make a dupe
of his son; and that Manon was to receive, if she had not already
received, ten thousand francs, which, according to our project, would
be effectually lost to G---- M----, his heirs and assigns for ever.
"Having acquired this information, the old gentleman hastened back
in a rage to the apartment. Without uttering a word, he passed into
the boudoir, where he easily put his hand upon the money and the
jewels. He then accosted us, bursting with rage; and holding up what
he was pleased to call our plunder, he loaded us with the most
indignant reproaches. He placed close to Manon's eye the pearl
necklace and bracelets. `Do you recognise them?' said he, in a tone
of mockery; 'it is not, perhaps, the first time you may have seen
them. The identical pearls, by my faith! They were selected by your
own exquisite taste! The poor innocents!' added he; `they really are
most amiable creatures, both one and the other; but they are perhaps a
little too much inclined to roguery.'
"I could hardly contain my indignation at this speech. I would
have given for one moment's liberty--Heavens! what would I not have
given? At length, I suppressed my feelings sufficiently to say in a
tone of moderation, which was but the refinement of rage: `Put an
end, sir, to this insolent mockery! What is your object? What do you
purpose doing with us?'
"`M. Chevalier,' he answered, `my object is to see you quietly
lodged in the prison of Le Chatelet. Tomorrow will bring daylight
with it, and we shall then be able to take a clearer view of matters;
and I hope you will at last do me the favour to let me know where my
"It did not require much consideration to feel convinced that our
incarceration in Le Chatelet would be a serious calamity. I foresaw
all the dangers that would ensue. In spite of my pride, I plainly saw
the necessity of bending before my fate, and conciliating my most
implacable enemy by submission. I begged of him, in the quietest
manner, to listen to me. `I wish to do myself but common justice,
sir,' said I to him; `I admit that my youth has led me into egregious
follies; and that you have had fair reason to complain: but if you
have ever felt the resistless power of love, if you can enter into the
sufferings of an unhappy young man, from whom all that he most loved
was ravished, you may think me perhaps not so culpable in seeking the
gratification of an innocent revenge; or at least, you may consider me
sufficiently punished, by the exposure and degradation I have just
now endured. Neither pains nor imprisonment will be requisite to make
me tell you where your son now is. He is in perfect safety. It was
never my intention to injure him, nor to give you just cause for
offence. I am ready to let you know the place where he is safely
passing the night, if, in return, you will set us at liberty.'
"The old tiger, far from being softened by my prayer, turned his
back upon me and laughed. A few words, escaped him, which showed
that he perfectly well knew our whole plan from the commencement. As
for his son, the brute said that he would easily find him, since I had
not assassinated him. `Conduct them to the Petit-Chatelet,' said he
to the archers; `and take especial care that the chevalier does not
escape you: he is a scamp that once before escaped from St. Lazare.'
"He went out, and left me in a condition that you may picture to
yourself. `O Heavens!' cried I to myself, `I receive with humble
submission all your visitations; but that a wretched scoundrel should
thus have the power to tyrannise over me! this it is that plunges me
into the depths of despair!' The archers begged that we would not
detain them any longer. They had a coach at the door. `Come, my dear
angel,' said I to Manon, as we went down, `come, let us submit to our
destiny in all its rigour: it may one day please Heaven to render us
"We went in the same coach. I supported her in my arms. I had
not heard her utter a single word since G---- M----'s first
appearance: but now, finding herself alone with me, she addressed me
in the tenderest manner, and accused herself of being the cause of all
my troubles. I assured her that I never could complain, while she
continued to love me. `It is not I that have reason to complain,' I
added; `imprisonment for a few months has no terrors for me, and I
would infinitely prefer Le Chatelet to St. Lazare; but it is for you,
my dearest soul, that my heart bleeds. What a lot for such an angel!
How can you, gracious Heaven! subject to such rigour the most perfect
work of your own hands? Why are we not both of us born with qualities
conformable to our wretched condition? We are endowed with spirit,
with taste, with feeling; while the vilest of God's creatures--brutes,
alone worthy of our unhappy fate, are revelling in all the favours of
"These feelings filled me with grief; but it was bliss compared
with my prospects for the future. My fear, on account of Manon, knew
no bounds. She had already been an inmate of the Magdalen; and even
if she had left it by fair means, I knew that a relapse of this nature
would be attended with disastrous consequences. I wished to let her
know my fears: I was apprehensive of exciting hers. I trembled for
her, without daring to put her on her guard against the danger; and I
embraced her tenderly, to satisfy her, at least, of my love, which was
almost the only sentiment to which I dared to give expression.
`Manon,' said I, `tell me sincerely, will you ever cease to love me?'
"She answered, that it made her unhappy to think that I could
"`Very well,' replied I, `I do so no longer; and with this
conviction, I may well defy all my enemies. Through the influence of
my family, I can ensure my own liberation from the Chatelet; and my
life will be of little use, and of short duration, if I do not succeed
in rescuing you.'
"We arrived at the prison, where they put us into separate cells.
This blow was the less severe, because I was prepared for it. I
recommended Manon to the attention of the porter, telling him that I
was a person of some distinction, and promising him a considerable
recompense. I embraced my dearest mistress before we parted; I
implored her not to distress herself too much, and to fear nothing
while I lived. I had money with me: I gave her some; and I paid the
porter, out of what remained, the amount of a month's expenses for
both of us in, advance. This had an excellent effect, for I found
myself placed in an apartment comfortably furnished, and they assured
me that Manon was in one equally good.
"I immediately set about devising the means of procuring my
liberty. There certainly had been nothing actually criminal in my
conduct; and supposing even that our felonious intention was
established by the evidence of Marcel, I knew that criminal
intentions alone were not punishable. I resolved to write
immediately to my father, and beg of him to come himself to Paris. I
felt much less humiliation, as I have already said, in being in Le
Chatelet than in St. Lazare. Besides, although I preserved, all
proper respect for the paternal authority, age and experience had
considerably lessened my timidity. I wrote, and they made no
difficulty in the prison about forwarding my letter; but it was a
trouble I should have spared myself, had I known that my father was
about to arrive on the following day in Paris. He had received the
letter I had written to him a week before; it gave him extreme
delight; but, notwithstanding the flattering hopes I had held out of
my conversion, he could not implicitly rely on my statements. He
determined therefore to satisfy himself of my reformation by the
evidence of his own senses, and to regulate his conduct towards me
according to his conviction of my sincerity. He arrived the day after
"His first visit was to Tiberge, to whose care I begged that he
would address his answer. He could not learn from him either my
present abode or condition: Tiberge merely told him of my principal
adventures since I had escaped from St. Lazare. Tiberge spoke warmly
of the disposition to virtue which I had evinced at our last
interview. He added, that he considered me as having quite got rid of
Manon; but that he was nevertheless surprised at my not having given
him any intelligence about myself for a week. My father was not to be
duped. He fully comprehended that there was something in the silence
of which Tiberge complained, which had escaped my poor friend's
penetration; and he took such pains to find me out, that in two days
after his arrival he learned that I was in Le Chatelet.
"Before I received this visit, which I little expected so soon, I
had the honour of one from the lieutenant-general of police, or, to
call things by their right names, I was subjected to an official
examination. He upbraided me certainly, but not in any harsh or
annoying manner. He told me, in the kindest tone, that he bitterly
lamented my bad conduct; that I had committed a gross indiscretion in
making an enemy of such a man as M. G---- M----; that in truth it was
easy to see that there was, in the affair, more of imprudence and
folly than of malice; but that still it was the second time I had been
brought as a culprit under his cognisance; and that he had hoped I
should have become more sedate, after the experience of two or three
months in St. Lazare.
"Delighted at finding that I had a rational judge to deal with, I
explained the affair to him in a manner at once so respectful and so
moderate, that he seemed exceedingly satisfied with my answers to all
the queries he put. He desired me not to abandon myself to grief, and
assured me that he felt every disposition to serve me, as well on
account of my birth as my inexperience. I ventured to bespeak his
attentions in favour of Manon, and I dwelt upon her gentle and
excellent disposition. He replied, with a smile, that he had not yet
seen her, but that she had been represented to him as a most dangerous
person. This expression so excited my sympathy, that I urged a
thousand anxious arguments in favour of my poor mistress, and I could
not restrain even from shedding tears.
He desired them to conduct me back to my chamber. `Love! love!'
cried this grave magistrate as I went out, `thou art never to be
reconciled with discretion!'
"I had been occupied with the most melancholy reflections, and was
thinking of the conversation I had had with the lieutenant-general of
police, when I heard my door open. It was my father. Although I
ought to have been half prepared for seeing him, and had reasons to
expect his arrival within a day or two, yet I was so thunderstruck,
that I could willingly have sunk into the earth, if it had been open
at my feet. I embraced him in the greatest possible state of
confusion. He took a seat, without either one or other of us having
uttered a word.
"As I remained standing, with my head uncovered, and my eyes cast
on the ground, `Be seated, sir,' said he in a solemn voice; `be
seated. I have to thank the notoriety of your debaucheries for
learning the place of your abode. It is the privilege of such fame as
yours, that it cannot lie concealed. You are acquiring celebrity by
an unerring path. Doubtless it will lead you to the Greve, and you
will then have the unfading glory of being held up to the admiration
of the world.'
Who has e'er been at Paris must needs know the Greve, The fatal
retreat of th' unfortunate brave, Where honour and justice most oddly
contribute, To ease heroes' pains by the halter and gibbet.--PRIOR.
"I made no reply. He continued: `What an unhappy lot is that of
a father, who having tenderly loved a child, and strained every nerve
to bring him up a virtuous and respectable man, finds him turn out in
the end a worthless profligate, who dishonours him. To an ordinary
reverse of fortune one may be reconciled; time softens the affliction,
and even the indulgence of sorrow itself is not unavailing; but what
remedy is there for an evil that is perpetually augmenting, such as
the profligacy of a vicious son, who has deserted every principle of
honour, and is ever plunging from deep into deeper vice? You are
silent,' added he: `look at this counterfeit modesty, this
hypocritical air of gentleness!-- might he not pass for the most
respectable member of his family?'
"Although I could not but feel that I deserved, in some degree,
these reproaches, yet he appeared to me to carry them beyond all
reason. I thought I might be permitted to explain my feelings.
"`I assure you, sir,' said I to him, `that the modesty which you
ridicule is by no means affected; it is the natural feeling of a son
who entertains sincere respect for his father, and above all, a father
irritated as you justly are by his faults. Neither have I, sir, the
slightest wish to pass for the most respectable member of my family.
I know that I have merited your reproaches, but I conjure you to
temper them with mercy, and not to look upon me as the most infamous
of mankind. I do not deserve such harsh names. It is love, you know
it, that has caused all my errors. Fatal passion! Have you yourself
never felt its force? Is it possible that you, with the same blood in
your veins that flows in mine, should have passed through life
unscathed by the same excitements? Love has rendered me perhaps
foolishly tender--too easily excited-- too impassioned--too faithful,
and probably too indulgent to the desires and caprices, or, if you
will, the faults of an adored mistress. These are my crimes; are they
such as to reflect dishonour upon you? Come, my dear father,' said I
tenderly, `show some pity for a son, who has never ceased to feel
respect and affection for you--who has not renounced, as you say, all
feelings of honour and of duty, and who is himself a thousand times
more an object of pity than you imagine.' I could not help shedding a
tear as I concluded this appeal.
"A father's heart is a chef-d'oeuvre of creation. There nature
rules in undisturbed dominion, and regulates at will its most secret
springs. He was a man of high feeling and good taste, and was so
sensibly affected by the turn I had given to my defence, that he could
no longer hide from me the change I had wrought.
"`Come to me, my poor chevalier,' said he; `come and embrace me.
I do pity you!'
"I embraced him: he pressed me to him in such a manner, that I
guessed what was passing in his heart.
"`But how are we,' said he, `to extricate you from this place?
Explain to me the real situation of your affairs.'
"As there really was not anything in my conduct so grossly
improper as to reflect dishonour upon me; at least, in comparison
with the conduct of other young men of a certain station in the
world; and as a mistress is not considered a disgrace, any more than
a little dexterity in drawing some advantage from play, I gave my
father a candid detail of the life I had been leading. As I recounted
each transgression, I took care to cite some illustrious example in my
justification, in order to palliate my own faults.
"`I lived,' said I, `with a mistress without the solemnity of
marriage. The Duke of ---- keeps two before the eyes of all Paris.
M---- D---- has had one now for ten years, and loves her with a
fidelity which he has never shown to his wife. Two-thirds of the men
of fashion in Paris keep mistresses.
"`I certainly have on one or two occasions cheated at play. Well,
the Marquis of ---- and the Count ---- have no other source of
revenue. The Prince of ---- and the Duke of ---- are at the head of a
gang of the same industrious order.' As for the designs I had upon
the pockets of the two G---- M----s, I might just as easily have
proved that I had abundant models for that also; but I had too much
pride to plead guilty to this charge, and rest on the justification of
example; so that I begged of my father to ascribe my weakness on this
occasion to the violence of the two passions which agitated
me--Revenge and Love.
"He asked me whether I could suggest any means of obtaining my
liberty, and in such a way as to avoid publicity as much as possible.
I told him of the kind feelings which the lieutenant- general of
police had expressed towards me. `If you encounter any obstacles,'
said I, `they will be offered only by the two G---- M----s; so that I
think it would be advisable to call upon them.'
He promised to do so.
"I did not dare ask him to solicit Manon's liberation; this was
not from want of courage, but from the apprehension of exasperating
him by such a proposition, and perhaps driving him to form some design
fatal to the future happiness of us both. It remains to this hour a
problem whether this fear on my part was not the immediate cause of
all my most terrible misfortunes, by preventing me from ascertaining
my father's disposition, and endeavouring to inspire him with
favourable feelings towards my poor mistress: I might have perhaps
once more succeeded in exciting his commiseration; I might have put
him on his guard against the impression which he was sure of receiving
from a visit to old G---- M----. But how can I tell what the
consequences would have been! My unhappy fate would have most
probably counteracted all my efforts; but it would have been a
consolation to have had nothing else but that, and the cruelty of my
enemies, to blame for my afflictions.
"On quitting me, my father went to pay a visit to M. G---- M----.
He found him with his son, whom the guardsman had safely restored to
liberty. I never learned the particulars of their conversation; but I
could easily infer them from the disastrous results. They went
together (the two old gentlemen) to the lieutenant-general of police,
from whom they requested one favour each: the first was to have me at
once liberated from Le Chatelet; the second to condemn Manon to
perpetual imprisonment, or to transport her for life to America. They
happened, at that very period, to be sending out a number of convicts
to the Mississippi. The lieutenant-general promised to have her
embarked on board the first vessel that sailed.
"M. G---- M---- and my father came together to bring me the news
of my liberation. M. G---- M---- said something civil with reference
to what had passed; and having congratulated me upon my happiness in
having such a father, he exhorted me to profit henceforward by his
instruction and example. My father desired me to express my sorrow
for the injustice I had even contemplated against his family, and my
gratitude for his having assisted in procuring my liberation.
"We all left the prison together, without the mention of Manon's
name. I dared not in their presence speak of her to the turnkeys.
Alas! all my entreaties in her favour would have been useless. The
cruel sentence upon Manon had arrived at the same time as the warrant
for my discharge. The unfortunate girl was conducted in an hour after
to the Hospital, to be there classed with some other wretched women,
who had been condemned to the same punishment.
"My father having forced me to accompany him to the house where he
was residing, it was near six o'clock before I had an opportunity of
escaping his vigilance. In returning to Le Chatelet, my only wish was
to convey some refreshments to Manon, and to recommend her to the
attention of the porter; for I had no hope of being permitted to see
her; nor had I, as yet, had time to reflect on the best means of
"I asked for the porter. I had won his heart, as much by my
liberality to him, as by the mildness of my manner; so that, having a
disposition to serve me, he spoke of Manon's sentence as a calamity
which he sincerely regretted, since it was calculated to mortify me.
I was at first unable to comprehend his meaning. We conversed for
some minutes without my understanding him. At length perceiving that
an explanation was necessary, he gave me such a one, as on a former
occasion I wanted courage to relate to you, and which, even now, makes
my blood curdle in my veins to remember.
Alack! it is not when we sleep soft and wake merrily that we think
on other people's sufferings; but when the hour of trouble comes,
said Jeanie Deans.--WALTER SCOTT.
"Never did apoplexy produce on mortal a more sudden or terrific
effect than did the announcement of Manon's sentence upon me. I fell
prostrate, with so intense a palpitation of the heart, that as I
swooned I thought that death itself was come upon me. This idea
continued even after I had been restored to my senses. I gazed around
me upon every part of the room, then upon my own paralysed limbs,
doubting, in my delirium, whether I still bore about me the attributes
of a living man. It is quite certain that, in obedience to the desire
I felt of terminating my sufferings, even by my own hand, nothing
could have been to me more welcome than death at that moment of
anguish and despair. Religion itself could depict nothing more
insupportable after death than the racking agony with which I was then
convulsed. Yet, by a miracle, only within the power of omnipotent
love, I soon regained strength enough to express my gratitude to
Heaven for restoring me to sense and reason. My death could have only
been a relief and blessing to myself; whereas Manon had occasion for
my prolonged existence, in order to deliver her--to succour her--to
avenge her wrongs: I swore to devote that existence unremittingly to
"The porter gave me every assistance that I could have expected at
the hands of my oldest friend: I accepted his services with the
liveliest gratitude. `Alas!' said I to him, `you then are affected by
my sufferings! The whole world abandons me; my own father proves one
of the very cruellest of my persecutors; no person feels pity for me!
You alone, in this abode of suffering and shame--you alone exhibit
compassion for the most wretched of mankind!' He advised me not to
appear in the street until I had recovered a little from my
affliction. `Do not stop me,' said I, as I went out; `we shall meet
again sooner than you imagine: get ready your darkest dungeon, for I
shall shortly become its tenant.'
"In fact, my first idea was nothing less than to make away with
the two G---- M----s, and the lieutenant-general of police; and then
to attack the Hospital, sword in hand, assisted by all whom I could
enlist in my cause. Even my father's life was hardly respected, so
just appeared my feelings of vengeance; for the porter had informed me
that he and G---- M---- were jointly the authors of my ruin.
"But when I had advanced some paces into the street, and the fresh
air had cooled my excitement, I gradually viewed matters in a more
rational mood. The death of our enemies could be of little use to
Manon; and the obvious effect of such violence would be to deprive me
of all other chance of serving her. Besides, could I ever bring myself
to be a cowardly assassin? By what other means could I accomplish my
revenge? I set all my ingenuity and all my efforts at work to procure
the deliverance of Manon, leaving everything else to be considered
hereafter when I had succeeded in this first and paramount object.
"I had very little money left; money, however, was an
indispensable basis for all my operations. I only knew three persons
from whom I had any right to ask pecuniary assistance--M. de T----,
Tiberge, and my father. There appeared little chance of obtaining any
from the two latter, and I was really ashamed again to importune M. de
T----. But it is not in desperate emergencies that one stands upon
points of ceremony. I went first to the seminary of St. Sulpice,
without considering whether I should be recognised. I asked for
Tiberge. His first words showed me that he knew nothing of my latest
adventure: this made me change the design I had originally formed of
appealing at once to his compassion. I spoke generally of the
pleasure it had given me to see my father again; and I then begged of
him to lend me some money, under the pretext of being anxious before I
left Paris to pay a few little debts, which I wished to keep secret.
He handed me his purse, without a single remark. I took twenty or
twenty-five pounds, which it contained. I offered him my note of
hand, but he was too generous to accept it.
"I then went to M. de T----: I had no reserve with him. I plainly
told him my misfortunes and distress: he already knew everything, and
had informed himself even of the most trifling circumstance, on
account of the interest he naturally took in young G---- M----'s
adventure. He, however, listened to me, and seemed sincerely to
lament what had occurred. When I consulted him as to the best means
of rescuing Manon, he answered that he saw such little ground for
hope, that, without some extraordinary interposition of Providence, it
would be folly to expect relief; that he had paid a visit expressly to
the Hospital since Manon had been transferred from the Chatelet, but
that he could not even obtain permission to see her, as the
lieutenant-general of police had given the strictest orders to the
contrary; and that, to complete the catastrophe, the unfortunate train
of convicts, in which she was to be included, was to take its
departure from Paris the day but one after.
"I was so confounded by what he said, that if he had gone on
speaking for another hour, I should not have interrupted him. He
continued to tell me, that the reason of his not calling to see me at
the Chatelet was, that he hoped to be of more use by appearing to be
unknown to me; that for the last few hours, since I had been set at
liberty, he had in vain looked for me, in order to suggest the only
plan through which he could see a hope of averting Manon's fate. He
told me it was dangerous counsel to give, and implored me never to
mention the part he took in it; it was to find some enterprising
fellows gallant enough to attack Manon's guard on getting outside the
barriere. Nor did he wait for me to urge a plea of poverty. `Here is
fifty pounds,' he said, presenting me his purse; `it may be of use to
you; you can repay me when you are in better circumstances.' He
added, that if the fear of losing his character did not prevent him
from embarking in such an enterprise, he would have willingly put his
sword and his life at my service.
"This unlooked-for generosity affected me to tears. I expressed
my gratitude with as much warmth as my depressed spirits left at my
command. I asked him if there were nothing to be expected from
interceding with the lieutenant-general of police: he said that he had
considered that point; but that he looked upon it as a hopeless
attempt, because a favour of that nature was never accorded without
some strong motive, and he did not see what inducement could be held
out for engaging the intercession of any person of power on her
behalf; that if any hope could possibly be entertained upon the point,
it must be by working a change in the feelings of old G---- M---- and
my father, and by prevailing on them to solicit from the
lieutenant-general of police the revocation of Manon's sentence. He
offered to do everything in his power to gain over the younger G----
M----, although he fancied a coldness in that gentleman's manner
towards him, probably from some suspicions he might entertain of his
being concerned in the late affair; and he entreated me to lose no
opportunity of effecting the desired change in my father's mind.
"This was no easy undertaking for me; not only on account of the
difficulty I should naturally meet in overcoming his opinion, but for
another reason which made me fear even to approach him; I had quitted
his lodgings contrary to his express orders, and was resolved, since I
had learned the sad fate of my poor Manon, never again to return
thither. I was not without apprehensions indeed of his now retaining
me against my will, and perhaps taking me at once back with him into
the country. My elder brother had formerly had recourse to this
violent measure. True, I was now somewhat older; but age is a feeble
argument against force. I hit upon a mode, however, of avoiding this
danger, which was to get him by contrivance to some public place, and
there announce myself to him under an assumed name: I immediately
resolved on this method. M. de T---- went to G---- M----'s, and I to
the Luxembourg, whence I sent my father word, that a gentleman waited
there to speak with him. I hardly thought he would come, as the night
was advancing. He, however, soon made his appearance, followed by a
servant: I begged of him to choose a walk where we could be alone. We
walked at least a hundred paces without speaking. He doubtless
imagined that so much precaution could not be taken without some
important object. He waited for my opening speech, and I was
meditating how to commence it.
At length I began.
"`Sir,' said I, trembling, `you are a good and affectionate
parent; you have loaded me with favours, and have forgiven me an
infinite number of faults; I also, in my turn, call Heaven to witness
the sincere, and tender, and respectful sentiments I entertain towards
you. But it does seem to me, that your inexorable severity----'
"`Well, sir, my severity!' interrupted my father, who no doubt
found my hesitation little suited to his impatience.
"`Ah, sir,' I replied, `it does seem to me that your severity is
excessive in the penalty you inflict upon the unfortunate Manon. You
have taken only M. G---- M----'s report of her. His hatred has made
him represent her to you in the most odious colours: you have formed a
frightful idea of her. She is, on the contrary, the mildest and most
amiable of living creatures; would that Heaven had but inspired you at
any one moment with the desire of seeing her! I am convinced that you
would be not less sensible of her perfections than your unhappy son.
You would then have been her advocate; you would have abhorred the
foul artifices of G---- M----; you would have had pity on both her and
me. Alas! I am persuaded of it; your heart is not insensible; it
must ere now have melted with compassion.'
"He interrupted me again, perceiving that I spoke with a warmth
which would not allow me to finish very briefly. He begged to know
with what request I intended to wind up so fervent an harangue.
"`To ask my life at your hands,' said I, `which I never can retain
if Manon once embark for America.'
"`No! no!' replied he, in the severest tone; `I would rather see
you lifeless, than infamous and depraved.'
"`We have gone far enough, then,' said I, catching hold of his
arm; `take from me, in common mercy, my life! weary and odious and
insupportable as it henceforward must be; for in the state of despair
into which you now plunge me, death would be the greatest favour you
could bestow--a favour worthy of a father's hand.'
"`I should only give you what you deserve,' replied he; `I know
fathers who would not have shown as much patience as I have, but
would themselves have executed speedy justice; but it is my foolish
and excessive forbearance that has been your ruin.'
"I threw myself at his feet: `Ah!' exclaimed I, `if you have
still any remains of mercy, do not harden your heart against my
distress and sorrow. Remember that I am your child! Alas! think of
my poor mother! you loved her tenderly! would you have suffered her to
be torn from your arms? You would have defended her to the death!
May not the same feeling then be pardoned in others? Can persons
become barbarous and cruel, after having themselves experienced the
softening influence of tenderness and grief?'
"`Breathe not again the sacred name of your mother,' he exclaimed,
in a voice of thunder; `the very allusion to her memory rouses my
indignation. Had she lived to witness the unredeemed profligacy of
your life, it would have brought her in pain and sorrow to her
grave.--Let us put an end to this discussion' he added; `it distresses
me, and makes not the slightest change in my determination: I am going
back to my lodgings, and I desire you to follow me.'
"The cool and resolute tone in which he uttered this command,
convinced me that he was inexorable. I stepped some paces aside, for
fear he should think fit to lay hands upon me.
"`Do not increase my misery and despair,' said I to him, `by
forcing me to disobey you. It is impossible for me to follow you;
and equally so that I should continue to live, after the unkind
treatment I have experienced from you. I, therefore, bid you an
eternal adieu. When you know that I am dead, as I shall soon be, the
paternal affection which you once entertained for me may be perhaps
"As I was about to turn away from him: `You refuse then to follow
me,' cried he, in a tone of excessive anger. `Go! go on to your ruin.
Adieu! ungrateful and disobedient boy.'
"`Adieu!' exclaimed I to him, in a burst of grief, `adieu, cruel
and unnatural father!'
"I left the Luxembourg, and rushed like a madman through the
streets to M. de T----'s house. I raised my hands and eyes as I went
along, invoking the Almighty Powers: `O Heaven,' cried I, `will you
not prove more merciful than man! The only hope that remains to me is
"M. de T---- had not yet returned home; but he arrived before many
minutes had elapsed. His negotiation had been as unsuccessful as my
own. He told me so with the most sorrowful countenance. Young G----
M----, although less irritated than his father against Manon and me,
would not undertake to petition in our favour. He was, in great
measure, deterred by the fear which he himself had of the vindictive
old lecher, who had already vented his anger against him for his
design of forming a connection with Manon.
"There only remained to me, therefore, the violent measures which
M. T---- had suggested. I now confined all my hopes to them. They
were questionless most uncertain; but they held out to me, at least, a
substantial consolation, in the certainty of meeting death in the
attempt, if unsuccessful. I left him, begging that he would offer up
his best wishes for my triumph; and I thought only of finding some
companions, to whom I might communicate a portion of my own courage
"The first that occurred to me was the same guardsman whom I had
employed to arrest G---- M----. I had intended indeed to pass the
night at his rooms, not having had a moment of leisure during the
afternoon to procure myself a lodging. I found him alone. He was glad
to see me out of the Chatelet. He made me an offer of his services.
I explained to him in what way he might now do me the greatest
kindness. He had good sense enough to perceive all the difficulties;
but he was also generous enough to undertake to surmount them.
"We spent part of the night in considering how the plot was to be
executed. He spoke of the three soldiers whom he had made use of on
the last occasion, as men whose courage had been proved. M. de T----
had told me the exact number of archers that would escort Manon; they
were but six. Five strong and determined men could not fail to strike
terror into these fellows, who would never think of defending
themselves bravely, when they were to be allowed the alternative of
avoiding danger by surrendering; and of that they would no doubt avail
themselves. As I was not without money, the guardsman advised me to
spare no pains or expense to ensure success. `We must be mounted,' he
said, `and each man must have his carbine and pistols; I will take
care to prepare everything requisite by tomorrow. We shall also want
three new suits of regimentals for the soldiers, who dare not appear
in an affray of this kind in the uniform of their regiment. I handed
him the hundred pistoles which I had got from M. de T----; it was all
expended the next morning, to the very last sou. I inspected the
three soldiers; I animated them with the most liberal promises; and to
confirm their confidence in me, I began by making each man a present
of ten pistoles.
"The momentous day having arrived, I sent one of them at an early
hour to the Hospital, to ascertain the exact time when the police were
to start with their prisoners. Although I merely took this precaution
from my excessive anxiety, it turned out to have been a prudent step.
I had formed my plans upon false information, which I had received as
to their destination; and believing that it was at Rochelle this
unhappy group was to embark, all my trouble would have been thrown
away in waiting for them on the Orleans road. However, I learned, by
the soldier's report, that they would go out towards Rouen, and that
it was from Havre-de-Grace they were to sail for America.
"We at once went to the gate of St. Honore, taking care to go by
different streets. We assembled at the end of the faubourg. Our
horses were fresh. In a little time we observed before us the six
archers and the two wretched caravans, which you saw at Passy two
years ago. The sight alone almost deprived me of my strength and
senses. `Oh fate!' said I to myself, `cruel fate! grant me now either
death or victory.'
"We hastily consulted as to the mode of making the attack. The
cavalcade was only four hundred paces in advance, and we might
intercept them by cutting across a small field, round which the high
road led. The guardsman was for this course, in order to fall
suddenly upon them while unprepared. I approved of the plan, and was
the first to spur my horse forward--but fate once again relentlessly
blasted all my hopes.
"The escort, seeing five horsemen riding towards them, inferred
that it was for the purpose of attacking them. They put themselves
in a position of defence, preparing their bayonets and guns with an
air of resolution.
"This demonstration, which in the guardsman and myself only
inspired fresh courage, had a very different effect upon our three
cowardly companions. They stopped simultaneously, and having muttered
to each other some words which I could not hear, they turned their
horses' heads, threw the bridles on their necks, and galloped back
"`Good heavens!' said the guardsman, who appeared as much annoyed
as I was by this infamous desertion, `what is to be done? we are but
"From rage and consternation I had lost all power of speech. I
doubted whether my first revenge should not be in pursuing the
cowards who had abandoned me. I saw them flying, and looked in the
other direction at the escort: if it had been possible to divide
myself, I should at once have fallen upon both these objects of my
fury; I should have destroyed all at the same moment.
"The guardsman, who saw my irresolution by my wandering gaze,
begged of me to hear his advice. `Being but two,' he said, `it would
be madness to attack six men as well armed as ourselves, and who seem
determined to receive us firmly. Let us return to Paris, and
endeavour to succeed better in the choice of our comrades. The police
cannot make very rapid progress with two heavy vans; we may overtake
them tomorrow without difficulty.'
"I reflected a moment on this suggestion; but seeing nothing
around me but despair, I took a final and indeed desperate
resolution: this was to thank my companion for his services, and, far
from attacking the police, to go up with submission and implore them
to receive me among them, that I might accompany Manon to
Havre-de-Grace, and afterwards, if possible, cross the Atlantic with
her. `The whole world is either persecuting or betraying me,' said I
to the guardsman; `I have no longer the power of interesting anyone in
my favour; I expect nothing more either from fortune or the friendship
of man; my misery is at its height; it only remains for me to submit,
so that I close my eyes henceforward against every gleam of hope. May
Heaven,' I continued, `reward you for your generosity! Adieu! I
shall go and aid my wretched destiny in filling up the full measure of
my ruin!' He, in vain, endeavoured to persuade me to return with him
to Paris. I entreated him to leave me at once, lest the police should
still suspect us of an intention to attack them.
The pauses and intermissions of pain become positive pleasures;
and have thus a power of shedding a satisfaction over the
intervals of ease, which few enjoyments exceed.--PALEY.
"Riding towards the cortege at a slow pace, and with a sorrowful
countenance, the guards could hardly see anything very terrific in my
approach. They seemed, however, to expect an attack. `Be persuaded,
gentlemen,' said I to them, `that I come not to wage war, but rather
to ask favours.' I then begged of them to continue their progress
without any distrust, and as we went along I made my solicitations.
They consulted together to ascertain in what way they should
entertain my request. The chief of them spoke for the rest. He said
that the orders they had received to watch the prisoners vigilantly
were of the strictest kind; that, however, I seemed so interesting a
young man, that they might be induced to relax a little in their duty;
but that I must know, of course, that this would cost me something.
I had about sixteen pistoles left, and candidly told them what my
purse contained. `Well,' said the gendarme, `we will act generously.
It shall only cost you a crown an hour for conversing with any of our
girls that you may prefer-- that is the ordinary price in Paris.'
"I said not a word of Manon, because I did not wish to let them
know of my passion. They at first supposed it was merely a boyish
whim, that made me think of amusing myself with these creatures but
when they discovered that I was in love, they increased their demands
in such a way, that my purse was completely empty on leaving Mantes,
where we had slept the night before our arrival at Passy.
"Shall I describe to you my heart-rending interviews with Manon
during this journey, and what my sensations were when I obtained from
the guards permission to approach her caravan? Oh! language never can
adequately express the sentiments of the heart; but picture to
yourself my poor mistress, with a chain round her waist, seated upon a
handful of straw, her head resting languidly against the panel of the
carriage, her face pale and bathed with tears, which forced a passage
between her eyelids, although she kept them continually closed. She
had not even the curiosity to open her eyes on hearing the bustle of
the guards when they expected our attack. Her clothes were soiled,
and in disorder; her delicate hands exposed to the rough air; in fine,
her whole angelic form, that face, lovely enough to carry back the
world to idolatry, presented a spectacle of distress and anguish
"I spent some moments gazing at her as I rode alongside the
carriage. I had so lost my self-possession, that I was several times
on the point of falling from my horse. My sighs and frequent
exclamations at length attracted her attention. She looked at and
recognised me, and I remarked that on the first impulse, she
unconsciously tried to leap from the carriage towards me, but being
checked by her chain, she fell into her former attitude.
"I begged of the guards to stop one moment for the sake of mercy;
they consented for the sake of avarice. I dismounted to go and sit
near her. She was so languid and feeble, that she was for some time
without the power of speech, and could not raise her hands: I bathed
them with my tears; and being myself unable to utter a word, we formed
together as deplorable a picture of distress as could well be seen.
When at length we were able to speak, our conversation was not less
sorrowful. Manon said little: shame and grief appeared to have
altered the character of her voice; its tone was feeble and tremulous.
"She thanked me for not having forgotten her, and for the comfort
I gave her in allowing her to see me once more, and she then bade me a
long and last farewell. But when I assured her that no power on earth
could ever separate me from her, and that I was resolved to follow her
to the extremity of the world--to watch over her--to guard her--to
love her--and inseparably to unite my wretched destiny with hers, the
poor girl gave way to such feelings of tenderness and grief, that I
almost dreaded danger to her life from the violence of her emotion:
the agitation of her whole soul seemed intensely concentrated in her
eyes; she fixed them steadfastly upon me. She more than once opened
her lips without the power of giving utterance to her thoughts. I
could, however, catch some expressions that dropped from her, of
admiration and wonder at my excessive love--of doubt that she could
have been fortunate enough to inspire me with a passion so perfect--of
earnest entreaty that I would abandon my intention of following her,
and seek elsewhere a lot more worthy of me, and which, she said, I
could never hope to find with her.
"In spite of the cruellest inflictions of Fate, I derived comfort
from her looks, and from the conviction that I now possessed her
undivided affection. I had in truth lost all that other men value;
but I was the master of Manon's heart, the only possession that I
prized. Whether in Europe or in America, of what moment to me was the
place of my abode, provided I might live happy in the society of my
mistress? Is not the universe the residence of two fond and faithful
lovers? Does not each find in the other, father, mother, friends,
relations, riches, felicity?
"If anything caused me uneasiness, it was the fear of seeing Manon
exposed to want. I fancied myself already with her in a barbarous
country, inhabited by savages. `I am quite certain,' said I, `there
will be none there more cruel than G---- M---- and my father. They
will, at least, allow us to live in peace. If the accounts we read of
savages be true, they obey the laws of nature: they neither know the
mean rapacity of avarice, nor the false and fantastic notions of
dignity, which have raised me up an enemy in my own father. They will
not harass and persecute two lovers, when they see us adopt their own
simple habits.' I was therefore at ease upon that point.
"But my romantic ideas were not formed with a proper view to the
ordinary wants of life. I had too often found that there were
necessaries which could not be dispensed with, particularly by a
young and delicate woman, accustomed to comfort and abundance. I was
in despair at having so fruitlessly emptied my purse, and the little
money that now remained was about being forced from me by the rascally
imposition of the gendarmes. I imagined that a very trifling sum
would suffice for our support for some time in America, where money
was scarce, and might also enable me to form some undertaking there
for our permanent establishment.
"This idea made me resolve on writing to Tiberge, whom I had ever
found ready to hold out the generous hand of friendship. I wrote from
the first town we passed through. I only alluded to the destitute
condition in which I foresaw that I should find myself on arriving at
Havre-de-Grace, to which place I acknowledged that I was accompanying
Manon. I asked him for only fifty pistoles. `You can remit it to
me,' said I to him, `through the hands of the postmaster. You must
perceive that it is the last time I can by possibility trespass on
your friendly kindness; and my poor unhappy mistress being about to be
exiled from her country for ever, I cannot let her depart without
supplying her with some few comforts, to soften the sufferings of her
lot, as well as to assuage my own sorrows.'
"The gendarmes became so rapacious when they saw the violence of
my passion, continually increasing their demands for the slightest
favours, that they soon left me penniless. Love did not permit me to
put any bounds to my liberality. At Manon's side I was not master of
myself; and it was no longer by the hour that time was measured;
rather by the duration of whole days. At length, my funds being
completely exhausted, I found myself exposed to the brutal caprice of
these six wretches who treated me with intolerable rudeness--you
yourself witnessed it at Passy. My meeting with you was a momentary
relaxation accorded me by fate. Your compassion at the sight of my
sufferings was my only recommendation to your generous nature. The
assistance which you so liberally extended, enabled me to reach Havre,
and the guards kept their promise more faithfully than I had ventured
"We arrived at Havre. I went to the post-office: Tiberge had not
yet had time to answer my letter. I ascertained the earliest day I
might reckon upon his answer: it could not possibly arrive for two
days longer; and by an extraordinary fatality, our vessel was to sail
on the very morning of the day when the letter might be expected. I
cannot give you an idea of my despair. `Alas!' cried I, `even amongst
the unfortunate, I am to be ever the most wretched!'
"Manon replied: `Alas! does a life so thoroughly miserable
deserve the care we bestow on ours? Let us die at Havre, dearest
chevalier! Let death at once put an end to our afflictions! Shall we
persevere, and go to drag on this hopeless existence in an unknown
land, where we shall, no doubt, have to encounter the most horrible
pains, since it has been their object to punish me by exile? Let us
die,' she repeated, `or do at least in mercy rid me of life, and then
you can seek another lot in the arms of some happier lover.'
"`No, no, Manon,' said I; `it is but too enviable a lot, in my
estimation, to be allowed to share your misfortunes.'
"Her observations made me tremble. I saw that she was overpowered
by her afflictions. I tried to assume a more tranquil air, in order
to dissipate such melancholy thoughts of death and despair.
I resolved to adopt the same course in future; and I learned by
the results, that nothing is more calculated to inspire a woman with
courage than the demonstration of intrepidity in the man she loves.
"When I lost all hope of receiving the expected assistance from
Tiberge, I sold my horse; the money it brought, joined to what
remained of your generous gift, amounted to the small sum of forty
pistoles; I expended eight in the purchase of some necessary articles
for Manon; and I put the remainder by, as the capital upon which we
were to rest our hopes and raise our fortunes in America. I had no
difficulty in getting admitted on board the vessel. They were at the
time looking for young men as voluntary emigrants to the colony. The
passage and provisions were supplied gratis. I left a letter for
Tiberge, which was to go by the post next morning to Paris. It was no
doubt written in a tone calculated to affect him deeply, since it
induced him to form a resolution, which could only be carried into
execution by the tenderest and most generous sympathy for his unhappy
Sunt hie etiam sua proemia laudi,
Sunt lachrymae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.
E'en the mute walls relate the victim's fame.
And sinner's tears the good man's pity claim.
"We set sail; the wind continued favourable during the entire
passage. I obtained from the captain's kindness a separate cabin for
the use of Manon and myself. He was so good as to distinguish us from
the herd of our miserable associates. I took an opportunity, on the
second day, of conciliating his attentions, by telling him part of our
unfortunate history. I did not feel that I was guilty of any very
culpable falsehood in saying that I was the husband of Manon. He
appeared to believe it, and promised me his protection; and indeed we
experienced, during the whole passage, the most flattering evidences
of his sincerity. He took care that our table was comfortably
provided; and his attentions procured us the marked respect of our
companions in misery. The unwearied object of my solicitude was to
save Manon from every inconvenience. She felt this, and her
gratitude, together with a lively sense of the singular position in
which I had placed myself solely for her sake, rendered the dear
creature so tender and impassioned, so attentive also to my most
trifling wants, that it was between us a continual emulation of
attentions and of love. I felt no regret at quitting Europe; on the
contrary, the nearer we approached America, the more did I feel my
heart expand and become tranquil. If I had not felt a dread of our
perhaps wanting, by and by, the absolute necessaries of life, I should
have been grateful to fate for having at length given so favourable a
turn to our affairs.
"`After a passage of two months, we at length reached the banks of
the desired river. The country offered at first sight nothing
agreeable. We saw only sterile and uninhabited plains, covered with
rushes, and some trees rooted up by the wind. No trace either of men
or animals. However, the captain having discharged some pieces of
artillery, we presently observed a group of the inhabitants of New
Orleans, who approached us with evident signs of joy. We had not
perceived the town: it is concealed upon the side on which we
approached it by a hill. We were received as persons dropped from the
"The poor inhabitants hastened to put a thousand questions to us
upon the state of France, and of the different provinces in which
they were born. They embraced us as brothers, and as beloved
companions, who had come to share their pains and their solitude.
We turned towards the town with them; but we were astonished to
perceive, as we advanced, that what we had hitherto heard spoken of
as a respectable town, was nothing more than a collection of miserable
huts. They were inhabited by five or six hundred persons. The
governor's house was a little distinguished from the rest by its
height and its position. It was surrounded by some earthen ramparts,
and a deep ditch.
"We were first presented to him. He continued for some time in
conversation with the captain; and then advancing towards us, he
looked attentively at the women one after another: there were thirty
of them, for another troop of convicts had joined us at Havre. After
having thus inspected them, he sent for several young men of the
colony who were desirous to marry. He assigned the handsomest women
to the principal of these, and the remainder were disposed of by lot.
He had not yet addressed Manon; but having ordered the others to
depart, he made us remain. `I learn from the captain,' said he, `that
you are married, and he is convinced by your conduct on the passage
that you are both persons of merit and of education. I have nothing
to do with the cause of your misfortunes; but if it be true that you
are as conversant with the world and society as your appearance would
indicate, I shall spare no pains to soften the severity of your lot,
and you may on your part contribute towards rendering this savage and
desert abode less disagreeable to me.' I replied in the manner which
I thought best calculated to confirm the opinion he had formed of us.
He gave orders to have a habitation prepared for us in the town, and
detained us to supper. I was really surprised to find so much
politeness in a governor of transported convicts. In the presence of
others he abstained from enquiring about our past adventures. The
conversation was general; and in spite of our degradation, Manon and I
exerted ourselves to make it lively and agreeable.
"At night we were conducted to the lodging prepared for us. We
found a wretched hovel composed of planks and mud, containing three
rooms on the ground, and a loft overhead. He had sent there six
chairs, and some few necessaries of life.
"Manon appeared frightened by the first view of this melancholy
dwelling. It was on my account much more than upon her own, that she
distressed herself. When we were left to ourselves, she sat down and
wept bitterly. I attempted at first to console her; but when she
enabled me to understand that it was for my sake she deplored our
privations, and that in our common afflictions she only considered me
as the sufferer, I put on an air of resolution, and even of content,
sufficient to encourage her.
"`What is there in my lot to lament?' said I; `I possess all that
I have ever desired. You love me, Manon, do you not? What happiness
beyond this have I ever longed for? Let us leave to Providence the
direction of our destiny; it by no means appears to me so desperate.
The governor is civil and obliging; he has already given us marks of
his consideration; he will not allow us to want for necessaries. As
to our rude hut and the squalidness of our furniture, you might have
noticed that there are few persons in the colony better lodged or more
comfortably furnished than we are: and then you are an admirable
chemist,' added I, embracing her; `you transform everything into
"`In that case,' she answered, `you shall be the richest man in
the universe; for, as there never was love surpassing yours, so it is
impossible for man to be loved more tenderly than you are by me. I
well know,' she continued, `that I have never merited the almost
incredible fidelity and attachment which you have shown for me. I
have often caused you annoyances, which nothing but excessive fondness
could have induced you to pardon. I have been thoughtless and
volatile; and even while loving you as I have always done to
distraction, I was never free from a consciousness of ingratitude.
But you cannot believe how much my nature is altered; those tears
which you have so frequently seen me shed since quitting the French
shore, have not been caused by my own misfortunes. Since you began to
share them with me, I have been a stranger to selfishness: I only wept
from tenderness and compassion for you. I am inconsolable at the
thought of having given you one instant's pain during my past life. I
never cease upbraiding myself with my former inconstancy, and
wondering at the sacrifices which love has induced you to make for a
miserable and unworthy wretch, who could not, with the last drop of
her blood, compensate for half the torments she has caused you.'
"Her grief, the language, and the tone in which she expressed
herself, made such an impression, that I felt my heart ready to break
in me. `Take care,' said I to her, `take care, dear Manon; I have not
strength to endure such exciting marks of your affection; I am little
accustomed to the rapturous sensations which you now kindle in my
heart. Oh Heaven!' cried I, `I have now nothing further to ask of
you. I am sure of Manon's love. That has been alone wanting to
complete my happiness; I can now never cease to be happy: my felicity
is well secured.'
"`It is indeed,' she replied, `if it depends upon me, and I well
know where I can be ever certain of finding my own happiness centred.'
"With these ideas, capable of turning my hut into a palace worthy
of earth's proudest monarch, I lay down to rest. America appeared to
my view the true land of milk and honey, the abode of contentment and
delight. `People should come to New Orleans,' I often said to Manon,
`who wish to enjoy the real rapture of love! It is here that love is
divested of all selfishness, all jealousy, all inconstancy. Our
countrymen come here in search of gold; they little think that we have
discovered treasures of inestimably greater value.'
"We carefully cultivated the governor's friendship. He bestowed
upon me, a few weeks after our arrival, a small appointment which
became vacant in the fort. Although not one of any distinction, I
gratefully accepted it as a gift of Providence, as it enabled me to
live independently of others' aid. I took a servant for myself, and a
woman for Manon. Our little establishment became settled: nothing
could surpass the regularity of my conduct, or that of Manon; we lost
no opportunity of serving or doing an act of kindness to our
neighbours. This friendly disposition, and the mildness of our
manners, secured us the confidence and affection of the whole colony.
We soon became so respected, that we ranked as the principal persons
in the town after the governor.
"The simplicity of our habits and occupations, and the perfect
innocence in which we lived, revived insensibly our early feelings of
devotion. Manon had never been an irreligious girl, and I was far
from being one of those reckless libertines who delight in adding
impiety and sacrilege to moral depravity: all the disorders of our
lives might be fairly ascribed to the natural influences of youth and
love. Experience had now begun with us to do the office of age; it
produced the same effect upon us as years must have done. Our
conversation, which was generally of a serious turn, by degrees
engendered a longing for virtuous love. I first proposed this change
to Manon. I knew the principles of her heart; she was frank and
natural in all her sentiments, qualities which invariably predispose
to virtue. I said to her that there was but one thing wanting to
complete our happiness: `it is,' said I, `to invoke upon our union the
benediction of Heaven. We have both of us hearts too sensitive and
minds too refined, to continue voluntarily in the wilful violation of
so sacred a duty. It signifies nothing our having lived while in
France in such a manner, because there it was as impossible for us not
to love, as to be united by a legitimate tie: but in America, where we
are under no restraint, where we owe no allegiance to the arbitrary
distinctions of birth and aristocratic prejudice, where besides we are
already supposed to be married, why should we not actually become
so--why should we not sanctify our love by the holy ordinances of
religion? As for me,' I added, `I offer nothing new in offering you
my hand and my heart; but I am ready to ratify it at the foot of the
"This speech seemed to inspire her with joy. `Would you believe
it,' she replied, `I have thought of this a thousand times since our
arrival in America? The fear of annoying you has kept it shut up in
my breast. I felt that I had no pretensions to aspire to the
character of your wife.'
"`Ah! Manon,' said I, `you should very soon be a sovereign's
consort, if I had been born to the inheritance of a crown. Let us
not hesitate; we have no obstacle to impede us: I will this day speak
to the governor on the subject, and acknowledge that we have in this
particular hitherto deceived him. Let us leave,' added I, `to vulgar
lovers the dread of the indissoluble bonds of marriage; they would
not fear them if they were assured, as we are, of the continuance of
those of love.' I left Manon enchanted by this resolution.
Some say that Love, at sight of human ties, Spreads his light
wings, and in a moment flies.
"I am persuaded that no honest man could disapprove of this
intention in my present situation; that is to say, fatally enslaved
as I was by a passion which I could not subdue, and visited by
compunction and remorse which I ought not to stifle. But will any man
charge me with injustice or impiety if I complain of the rigour of
Heaven in defeating a design that I could only have formed with the
view of conciliating its favour and complying with its decrees? Alas
I do I say defeated? nay punished as a new crime. I was patiently
permitted to go blindly along the high road of vice; and the cruellest
chastisements were reserved for the period when I was returning to the
paths of virtue. I now fear that I shall have hardly fortitude enough
left to recount the most disastrous circumstances that ever occurred
to any man.
"I waited upon the governor, as I had settled with Manon, to
procure his consent to the ceremony of our marriage. I should have
avoided speaking to him or to any other person upon the subject, if I
had imagined that his chaplain, who was the only minister in the town,
would have performed the office for me without his knowledge; but not
daring to hope that he would do so privately, I determined to act
ingenuously in the matter.
"The governor had a nephew named Synnelet, of whom he was
particularly fond. He was about thirty; brave, but of a headstrong
and violent disposition. He was not married. Manon's beauty had
struck him on the first day of our arrival; and the numberless
opportunities he had of seeing her during the last nine or ten months,
had so inflamed his passion, that he was absolutely pining for her in
secret. However, as he was convinced in common with his uncle and the
whole colony that I was married, he put such a restraint upon his
feelings, that they remained generally unnoticed; and he lost no
opportunity of showing the most disinterested friendship for me.
"He happened to be with his uncle when I arrived at the government
house. I had no reason for keeping my intention a secret from him, so
that I explained myself without hesitation in his presence. The
governor heard me with his usual kindness. I related to him a part of
my history, to which he listened with evident interest; and when I
requested his presence at the intended ceremony, he was so generous as
to say, that he must be permitted to defray the expenses of the
succeeding entertainment. I retired perfectly satisfied.
"In an hour after, the chaplain paid me a visit. I thought he was
come to prepare me by religious instruction for the sacred ceremony;
but, after a cold salutation, he announced to me in two words, that
the governor desired I would relinquish all thoughts of such a thing,
for that he had other views for Manon.
"`Other views for Manon!' said I, as I felt my heart sink within
me; `what views then can they be, chaplain?'
"He replied, that I must be, of course, aware that the governor
was absolute master here; that Manon, having been transported from
France to the colony, was entirely at his disposal; that, hitherto he
had not exercised his right, believing that she was a married woman;
but that now, having learned from my own lips that it was not so, he
had resolved to assign her to M. Synnelet, who was passionately in
love with her.
"My indignation overcame my prudence. Irritated as I was, I
desired the chaplain instantly to quit my house, swearing at the same
time that neither governor, Synnelet, nor the whole colony together,
should lay hands upon my wife, or mistress, if they chose so to call
"I immediately told Manon of the distressing message I had just
received. We conjectured that Synnelet had warped his uncle's mind
after my departure, and that it was all the effect of a premeditated
design. They were, questionless, the stronger party. We found
ourselves in New Orleans, as in the midst of the ocean, separated from
the rest of the world by an immense interval of space. In a country
perfectly unknown, a desert, or inhabited, if not by brutes, at least
by savages quite as ferocious, to what corner could we fly? I was
respected in the town, but I could not hope to excite the people in my
favour to such a degree as to derive assistance from them proportioned
to the impending danger: money was requisite for that purpose, and I
was poor. Besides, the success of a popular commotion was uncertain;
and if we failed in the attempt, our doom would be inevitably sealed.
"I revolved these thoughts in my mind; I mentioned them in part to
Manon; I found new ones, without waiting for her replies; I determined
upon one course, and then abandoned that to adopt another; I talked to
myself, and answered my own thoughts aloud; at length I sank into a
kind of hysterical stupor that I can compare to nothing, because
nothing ever equalled it. Manon observed my emotion, and from its
violence, judged how imminent was our danger; and, apprehensive more
on my account than on her own, the dear girl could not even venture to
give expression to her fears.
"After a multitude of reflections, I resolved to call upon the
governor, and appeal to his feelings of honour, to the recollection
of my unvarying respect for him, and the marks he had given of his own
affection for us both. Manon endeavoured to dissuade me from this
attempt: she said, with tears in her eyes, `You are rushing into the
jaws of death; they will murder you--I shall never again see you--I am
determined to die before you.' I had great difficulty in persuading
her that it was absolutely necessary that I should go, and that she
should remain at home. I promised that she should see me again in a
few moments. She did not foresee, nor did I, that it was against
herself the whole anger of Heaven, and the rabid fury of our enemies,
was about to be concentrated.
"I went to the fort: the governor was there with his chaplain. I
supplicated him in a tone of humble submission that I could have ill
brooked under other circumstances. I invoked his clemency by every
argument calculated to soften any heart less ferocious and cruel than
"The barbarian made to all my prayers but two short answers, which
he repeated over and over again. `Manon,' he said, `was at his
disposal: and he had given a promise to his nephew.' I was resolved
to command my feelings to the last: I merely replied, that I had
imagined he was too sincerely my friend to desire my death, to which I
would infinitely rather consent than to the loss of my mistress.
"I felt persuaded, on quitting him, that it was folly to expect
anything from the obstinate tyrant, who would have damned himself a
hundred times over to please his nephew. However, I persevered in
restraining my temper to the end; deeply resolved, if they persisted
in such flagrant injustice, to make America the scene of one of the
most horrible and bloody murders that even love had ever led to.
"I was, on my return home, meditating upon this design, when fate,
as if impatient to expedite my ruin, threw Synnelet in my way. He
read in my countenance a portion of my thoughts. I before said, he
was brave. He approached me.
"`Are you not seeking me?' he enquired. `I know that my
intentions have given you mortal offence, and that the death of one
of us is indispensable: let us see who is to be the happy man.'
"I replied, that such was unquestionably the fact, and that
nothing but death could end the difference between us.
"We retired about one hundred paces out of the town. We drew: I
wounded and disarmed him at the first onset. He was so enraged, that
he peremptorily refused either to ask his life or renounce his claims
to Manon. I might have been perhaps justified in ending both by a
single blow; but noble blood ever vindicates its origin. I threw him
back his sword. `Let us renew the struggle,' said I to him, `and
remember that there shall be now no quarter.' He attacked me with
redoubled fury. I must confess that I was not an accomplished
swordsman, having had but three months' tuition in Paris. Love,
however, guided my weapon. Synnelet pierced me through and through the
left arm; but I caught him whilst thus engaged, and made so vigorous a
thrust that I stretched him senseless at my feet.
"In spite of the triumphant feeling that victory, after a mortal
conflict, inspires, I was immediately horrified by the certain
consequences of his death. There could not be the slightest hope of
either pardon or respite from the vengeance I had thus incurred.
Aware, as I was, of the affection of the governor for his nephew, I
felt perfectly sure that my death would not be delayed a single hour
after his should become known. `Urgent as this apprehension was, it
still was by no means the principal source of my uneasiness. Manon,
the welfare of Manon, the peril that impended over her, and the
certainty of my being now at length separated from her, afflicted me
to such a degree, that I was incapable of recognising the place in
which I stood. I regretted Synnelet's death: instant suicide seemed
the only remedy for my woes.
"However, it was this very thought that quickly restored me to my
reason, and enabled me to form a resolution. `What,' said I to
myself, `die, in order to end my pain! Then there is something I
dread more than the loss of all I love! No, let me suffer the
cruellest extremities in order to aid her; and when these prove of no
avail, fly to death as a last resource!'
"I returned towards the town; on my arrival at home, I found Manon
half dead with fright and anxiety: my presence restored her. I could
not conceal from her the terrible accident that had happened. On my
mentioning the death of Synnelet and my own wound, she fell in a state
of insensibility into my arms. It was a quarter of an hour before I
could bring her again to her senses.
"I was myself in a most deplorable state of mind; I could not
discern the slightest prospect of safety for either of us. `Manon,'
said I to her, when she had recovered a little, `what shall we do?
Alas, what hope remains to us? I must necessarily fly. Will you
remain in the town? Yes dearest Manon, do remain; you may possibly
still be happy here; while I, far away from you, may seek death and
find it amongst the savages, or the wild beasts.'
"She raised herself in spite of her weakness, and taking hold of
my hand to lead me towards the door: `Let us,' said she, `fly
together, we have not a moment to lose; Synnelet's body may be found
by chance, and we shall then have no time to escape.' `But, dear
Manon,' replied I, `to what place can we fly? Do you perceive any
resource? Would it not be better that you should endeavour to live on
without me; and that I should go and voluntarily place my life in the
"This proposal had only the effect of making her more impatient
for our departure. I had presence of mind enough, on going out, to
take with me some strong liquors which I had in my chamber, and as
much food as I could carry in my pockets. We told our servants, who
were in the adjoining room, that we were going to take our evening
walk, as was our invariable habit; and we left the town behind us more
rapidly than I had thought possible from Manon's delicate state of
"Although I had not formed any resolve as to our future
destination, I still cherished a hope, without which I should have
infinitely preferred death to my suspense about Manon's safety. I had
acquired a sufficient knowledge of the country, during nearly ten
months which I had now passed in America, to know in what manner the
natives should be approached. Death was not the necessary consequence
of falling into their hands. I had learned a few words of their
language, and some of their customs, having had many opportunities of
"Besides this sad resource, I derived some hopes from the fact,
that the English had, like ourselves, established colonies in this
part of the New World. But the distance was terrific. In order to
reach them, we should have to traverse deserts of many days' journey,
and more than one range of mountains so steep and vast as to seem
almost impassable to the strongest man. I nevertheless flattered
myself that we might derive partial relief from one or other of these
sources: the savages might serve us as guides, and the English receive
us in their settlements.
"We journeyed on as long as Manon's strength would permit, that is
to say, about six miles; for this incomparable creature, with her
usual absence of selfishness, refused my repeated entreaties to stop.
Overpowered at length by fatigue, she acknowledged the utter
impossibility of proceeding farther. It was already night: we sat
down in the midst of an extensive plain, where we could not even find
a tree to shelter us. Her first care was to dress my wound, which she
had bandaged before our departure. I, in vain, entreated her to desist
from exertion: it would have only added to her distress if I had
refused her the satisfaction of seeing me at ease and out of danger,
before her own wants were attended to. I allowed her therefore to
gratify herself, and in shame and silence submitted to her delicate
"But when she had completed her tender task, with what ardour did
I not enter upon mine! I took off my clothes and stretched them under
her, to render more endurable the hard and rugged ground on which she
lay. I protected her delicate hands from the cold by my burning
kisses and the warmth of my sighs. I passed the livelong night in
watching over her as she slept, and praying Heaven to refresh her with
soft and undisturbed repose. `You can bear witness, just and
all-seeing God I to the fervour and sincerity of those prayers, and
Thou alone knowest with what awful rigour they were rejected.'
"You will excuse me, if I now cut short a story which it
distresses me beyond endurance to relate. It is, I believe, a
calamity without parallel. I can never cease to deplore it. But
although it continues, of course, deeply and indelibly impressed on
my memory, yet my heart seems to shrink within me each time that I
attempt the recital.
"We had thus tranquilly passed the night. I had fondly imagined
that my beloved mistress was in a profound sleep, and I hardly dared
to breathe lest I should disturb her. As day broke, I observed that
her hands were cold and trembling; I pressed them to my bosom in the
hope of restoring animation. This movement roused her attention, and
making an effort to grasp my hand, she said, in a feeble voice, that
she thought her last moments had arrived.
"I, at first, took this for a passing weakness, or the ordinary
language of distress; and I answered with the usual consolations that
love prompted. But her incessant sighs, her silence, and inattention
to my enquiries, the convulsed grasp of her hands, in which she
retained mine, soon convinced me that the crowning end of all my
miseries was approaching.
"Do not now expect me to attempt a description of my feelings, or
to repeat her dying expressions. I lost her--I received the purest
assurances of her love even at the very instant that her spirit fled.
I have not nerve to say more upon this fatal and disastrous event.
"My spirit was not destined to accompany Manon's. Doubtless,
Heaven did not as yet consider me sufficiently punished, and
therefore ordained that I should continue to drag on a languid and
joyless existence. I willingly renounced every hope of leading a
"I remained for twenty-four hours without taking my lips from the
still beauteous countenance and hands of my adored Manon. My
intention was to await my own death in that position; but at the
beginning of the second day, I reflected that, after I was gone, she
must of necessity become the prey of wild beasts. I then determined
to bury her, and wait my own doom upon her grave. I was already,
indeed, so near my end from the combined effect of long fasting and
grief, that it was with the greatest difficulty I could support myself
standing. I was obliged to have recourse to the liquors which I had
brought with me, and these restored sufficient strength to enable me
to set about my last sad office. From the sandy nature of the soil
there was little trouble in opening the ground. I broke my sword and
used it for the purpose; but my bare hands were of greater service. I
dug a deep grave, and there deposited the idol of my heart, after
having wrapt around her my clothes to prevent the sand from touching
her. I kissed her ten thousand times with all the ardour of the most
glowing love, before I laid her in this melancholy bed. I sat for
some time upon the bank intently gazing on her, and could not command
fortitude enough to close the grave over her. At length, feeling that
my strength was giving way, and apprehensive of its being entirely
exhausted before the completion of my task, I committed to the earth
all that it had ever contained most perfect and peerless. I then lay
myself with my face down upon the grave, and closing my eyes with the
determination never again to open them, I invoked the mercy of Heaven,
and ardently prayed for death.
"You will find it difficult to believe that, during the whole time
of this protracted and distressing ceremony, not a tear or a sigh
escaped to relieve my agony. The state of profound affliction in
which I was, and the deep settled resolution I had taken to die, had
silenced the sighs of despair, and effectually dried up the ordinary
channels of grief. It was thus impossible for me, in this posture
upon the grave, to continue for any time in possession of my
"After what you have listened to, the remainder of my own history
would ill repay the attention you seem inclined to bestow upon it.
Synnelet having been carried into the town and skilfully examined, it
was found that, so far from being dead, he was not even dangerously
wounded. He informed his uncle of the manner in which the affray had
occurred between us, and he generously did justice to my conduct on
the occasion. I was sent for; and as neither of us could be found,
our flight was immediately suspected. It was then too late to attempt
to trace me, but the next day and the following one were employed in
"I was found, without any appearance of life, upon the grave of
Manon: and the persons who discovered me in this situation, seeing
that I was almost naked and bleeding from my wounds, naturally
supposed that I had been robbed and assassinated. They carried me
into the town. The motion restored me to my senses. The sighs I
heaved on opening my eyes and finding myself still amongst the living,
showed that I was not beyond the reach of art: they were but too
successful in its application.
"I was immediately confined as a close prisoner. My trial was
ordered; and as Manon was not forthcoming, I was accused of having
murdered her from rage and jealousy. I naturally related all that had
occurred. Synnelet, though bitterly grieved and disappointed by what
he heard, had the generosity to solicit my pardon: he obtained it.
"I was so reduced, that they were obliged to carry me from the
prison to my bed, and there I suffered for three long months under
severe illness. My aversion from life knew no diminution. I
continually prayed for death, and obstinately for some time refused
every remedy. But Providence, after having punished me with atoning
rigour, saw fit to turn to my own use its chastisements and the memory
of my multiplied sorrows. It at length deigned to shed upon me its
redeeming light, and revived in my mind ideas worthy of my birth and
my early education.
"My tranquillity of mind being again restored, my cure speedily
followed. I began only to feel the highest aspirations of honour,
and diligently performed the duties of my appointment, whilst
expecting the arrival of the vessels from France, which were always
due at this period of the year. I resolved to return to my native
country, there to expiate the scandal of my former life by my future
good conduct. Synnelet had the remains of my dear mistress removed
into a more hallowed spot.
"It was six weeks after my recovery that, one day walking alone
upon the banks of the river, I saw a vessel arrive, which some
mercantile speculation had directed to New Orleans. I stood by
whilst the passengers landed. Judge my surprise on recognising
Tiberge amongst those who proceeded towards the town. This
ever-faithful friend knew me at a distance, in spite of the ravages
which care and sorrow had worked upon my countenance. He told me that
the sole object of his voyage had been to see me once more, and to
induce me to return with him to France; that on receipt of the last
letter which I had written to him from Havre, he started for that
place, and was himself the bearer of the succour which I solicited;
that he had been sensibly affected on learning my departure, and that
he would have instantly followed me, if there had been a vessel bound
for the same destination; that he had been for several months
endeavouring to hear of one in the various seaport towns, and that,
having at length found one at St. Malo which was weighing anchor for
Martinique, he embarked, in the expectation of easily passing from
thence to New Orleans; that the St. Malo vessel having been captured
by Spanish pirates and taken to one of their islands, he had contrived
to escape; and that, in short, after many adventures, he had got on
board the vessel which had just arrived, and at length happily
attained his object.
"I was totally unable adequately to express my feelings of
gratitude to this generous and unshaken friend. I conducted him to
my house, and placed all I possessed at his service. I related to him
every circumstance that had occurred to me since I left France: and in
order to gladden him with tidings which I knew he did not expect, I
assured him that the seeds of virtue which he had in former days
implanted in my heart, were now about to produce fruit, of which even
he should be proud. He declared to me, that this gladdening
announcement more than repaid him for all the fatigue and trouble he
"We passed two months together at New Orleans whilst waiting the
departure of a vessel direct to France; and having at length sailed,
we landed only a fortnight since at Havre-de-Grace. On my arrival I
wrote to my family. By a letter from my elder brother, I there
learned my father's death, which, I dread to think, the disorders of
my youth might have hastened. The wind being favourable for Calais, I
embarked for this port, and am now going to the house of one of my
relations who lives a few miles off, where my brother said that he
should anxiously await my arrival."