A Second Home
by Honore de Balzac
Translated by Clara Bell
To Madame la Comtesse Louise de Turheim as a token of
remembrance and affectionate respect.
The Rue du Tourniquet-Saint-Jean, formerly one of the darkest and most
tortuous of the streets about the Hotel de Ville, zigzagged round the
little gardens of the Paris Prefecture, and ended at the Rue Martroi,
exactly at the angle of an old wall now pulled down. Here stood the
turnstile to which the street owed its name; it was not removed till
1823, when the Municipality built a ballroom on the garden plot
adjoining the Hotel de Ville, for the fete given in honor of the Duc
d'Angouleme on his return from Spain.
The widest part of the Rue du Tourniquet was the end opening into the
Rue de la Tixeranderie, and even there it was less than six feet
across. Hence in rainy weather the gutter water was soon deep at the
foot of the old houses, sweeping down with it the dust and refuse
deposited at the corner-stones by the residents. As the dust-carts
could not pass through, the inhabitants trusted to storms to wash
their always miry alley; for how could it be clean? When the summer
sun shed its perpendicular rays on Paris like a sheet of gold, but as
piercing as the point of a sword, it lighted up the blackness of this
street for a few minutes without drying the permanent damp that rose
from the ground-floor to the first story of these dark and silent
The residents, who lighted their lamps at five o'clock in the month of
June, in winter never put them out. To this day the enterprising
wayfarer who should approach the Marais along the quays, past the end
of the Rue du Chaume, the Rues de l'Homme Arme, des Billettes, and des
Deux-Portes, all leading to the Rue du Tourniquet, might think he had
passed through cellars all the way.
Almost all the streets of old Paris, of which ancient chronicles laud
the magnificence, were like this damp and gloomy labyrinth, where the
antiquaries still find historical curiosities to admire. For instance,
on the house then forming the corner where the Rue du Tourniquet
joined the Rue de la Tixeranderie, the clamps might still be seen of
two strong iron rings fixed to the wall, the relics of the chains put
up every night by the watch to secure public safety.
This house, remarkable for its antiquity, had been constructed in a
way that bore witness to the unhealthiness of these old dwellings;
for, to preserve the ground-floor from damp, the arches of the cellars
rose about two feet above the soil, and the house was entered up three
outside steps. The door was crowned by a closed arch, of which the
keystone bore a female head and some time-eaten arabesques. Three
windows, their sills about five feet from the ground, belonged to a
small set of rooms looking out on the Rue du Tourniquet, whence they
derived their light. These windows were protected by strong iron bars,
very wide apart, and ending below in an outward curve like the bars of
a baker's window.
If any passer-by during the day were curious enough to peep into the
two rooms forming this little dwelling, he could see nothing; for only
under the sun of July could he discern, in the second room, two beds
hung with green serge, placed side by side under the paneling of an
old-fashioned alcove; but in the afternoon, by about three o'clock,
when the candles were lighted, through the pane of the first room an
old woman might be seen sitting on a stool by the fireplace, where she
nursed the fire in a brazier, to simmer a stew, such as porters' wives
are expert in. A few kitchen utensils, hung up against the wall, were
visible in the twilight.
At that hour an old table on trestles, but bare of linen, was laid
with pewter-spoons, and the dish concocted by the old woman. Three
wretched chairs were all the furniture of this room, which was at once
the kitchen and the dining-room. Over the chimney-piece were a piece
of looking-glass, a tinder-box, three glasses, some matches, and a
large, cracked white jug. Still, the floor, the utensils, the
fireplace, all gave a pleasant sense of the perfect cleanliness and
thrift that pervaded the dull and gloomy home.
The old woman's pale, withered face was quite in harmony with the
darkness of the street and the mustiness of the place. As she sat
there, motionless, in her chair, it might have been thought that she
was as inseparable from the house as a snail from its brown shell; her
face, alert with a vague expression of mischief, was framed in a flat
cap made of net, which barely covered her white hair; her fine, gray
eyes were as quiet as the street, and the many wrinkles in her face
might be compared to the cracks in the walls. Whether she had been
born to poverty, or had fallen from some past splendor, she now seemed
to have been long resigned to her melancholy existence.
From sunrise till dark, excepting when she was getting a meal ready,
or, with a basket on her arm, was out purchasing provisions, the old
woman sat in the adjoining room by the further window, opposite a
young girl. At any hour of the day the passer-by could see the
needlewoman seated in an old, red velvet chair, bending over an
embroidery frame, and stitching indefatigably.
Her mother had a green pillow on her knee, and busied herself with
hand-made net; but her fingers could move the bobbin but slowly; her
sight was feeble, for on her nose there rested a pair of those
antiquated spectacles which keep their place on the nostrils by the
grip of a spring. By night these two hardworking women set a lamp
between them; and the light, concentrated by two globe-shaped bottles
of water, showed the elder the fine network made by the threads on her
pillow, and the younger the most delicate details of the pattern she
was embroidering. The outward bend of the window had allowed the girl
to rest a box of earth on the window-sill, in which grew some sweet
peas, nasturtiums, a sickly little honeysuckle, and some convolvulus
that twined its frail stems up the iron bars. These etiolated plants
produced a few pale flowers, and added a touch of indescribable
sadness and sweetness to the picture offered by this window, in which
the two figures were appropriately framed.
The most selfish soul who chanced to see this domestic scene would
carry away with him a perfect image of the life led in Paris by the
working class of women, for the embroideress evidently lived by her
needle. Many, as they passed through the turnstile, found themselves
wondering how a girl could preserve her color, living in such a
cellar. A student of lively imagination, going that way to cross to
the Quartier-Latin, would compare this obscure and vegetative life to
that of the ivy that clung to these chill walls, to that of the
peasants born to labor, who are born, toil, and die unknown to the
world they have helped to feed. A house-owner, after studying the
house with the eye of a valuer, would have said, "What will become of
those two women if embroidery should go out of fashion?" Among the men
who, having some appointment at the Hotel de Ville or the Palais de
Justice, were obliged to go through this street at fixed hours, either
on their way to business or on their return home, there may have been
some charitable soul. Some widower or Adonis of forty, brought so
often into the secrets of these sad lives, may perhaps have reckoned
on the poverty of this mother and daughter, and have hoped to become
the master at no great cost of the innocent work-woman, whose nimble
and dimpled fingers, youthful figure, and white skin--a charm due, no
doubt, to living in this sunless street--had excited his admiration.
Perhaps, again, some honest clerk, with twelve hundred francs a year,
seeing every day the diligence the girl gave to her needle, and
appreciating the purity of her life, was only waiting for improved
prospects to unite one humble life with another, one form of toil to
another, and to bring at any rate a man's arm and a calm affection,
pale-hued like the flowers in the window, to uphold this home.
Vague hope certainly gave life to the mother's dim, gray eyes. Every
morning, after the most frugal breakfast, she took up her pillow,
though chiefly for the look of the thing, for she would lay her
spectacles on a little mahogany worktable as old as herself, and look
out of the window from about half-past eight till ten at the regular
passers in the street; she caught their glances, remarked on their
gait, their dress, their countenance, and almost seemed to be offering
her daughter, her gossiping eyes so evidently tried to attract some
magnetic sympathy by manoeuvres worthy of the stage. It was evident
that this little review was as good as a play to her, and perhaps her
The daughter rarely looked up. Modesty, or a painful consciousness of
poverty, seemed to keep her eyes riveted to the work-frame; and only
some exclamation of surprise from her mother moved her to show her
small features. Then a clerk in a new coat, or who unexpectedly
appeared with a woman on his arm, might catch sight of the girl's
slightly upturned nose, her rosy mouth, and gray eyes, always bright
and lively in spite of her fatiguing toil. Her late hours had left a
trace on her face by a pale circle marked under each eye on the fresh
rosiness of her cheeks. The poor child looked as if she were made for
love and cheerfulness--for love, which had drawn two perfect arches
above her eyelids, and had given her such a mass of chestnut hair,
that she might have hidden under it as under a tent, impenetrable to
the lover's eye--for cheerfulness, which gave quivering animation to
her nostrils, which carved two dimples in her rosy cheeks, and made
her quick to forget her troubles; cheerfulness, the blossom of hope,
which gave her strength to look out without shuddering on the barren
path of life.
The girl's hair was always carefully dressed. After the manner of
Paris needlewomen, her toilet seemed to her quite complete when she
had brushed her hair smooth and tucked up the little short curls that
played on each temple in contrast with the whiteness of her skin. The
growth of it on the back of her neck was so pretty, and the brown
line, so clearly traced, gave such a pleasing idea of her youth and
charm, that the observer, seeing her bent over her work, and unmoved
by any sound, was inclined to think of her as a coquette. Such
inviting promise had excited the interest of more than one young man,
who turned round in the vain hope of seeing that modest countenance.
"Caroline, there is a new face that passes regularly by, and not one
of the old ones to compare with it."
These words, spoken in a low voice by her mother one August morning in
1815, had vanquished the young needlewoman's indifference, and she
looked out on the street; but in vain, the stranger was gone.
"Where has he flown to?" said she.
"He will come back no doubt at four; I shall see him coming, and will
touch your foot with mine. I am sure he will come back; he has been
through the street regularly for the last three days; but his hours
vary. The first day he came by at six o'clock, the day before
yesterday it was four, yesterday as early as three. I remember seeing
him occasionally some time ago. He is some clerk in the Prefet's
office who has moved to the Marais.--Why!" she exclaimed, after
glancing down the street, "our gentleman of the brown coat has taken
to wearing a wig; how much it alters him!"
The gentleman of the brown coat was, it would seem, the individual who
commonly closed the daily procession, for the old woman put on her
spectacles and took up her work with a sigh, glancing at her daughter
with so strange a look that Lavater himself would have found it
difficult to interpret. Admiration, gratitude, a sort of hope for
better days, were mingled with pride at having such a pretty daughter.
At about four in the afternoon the old lady pushed her foot against
Caroline's, and the girl looked up quickly enough to see the new
actor, whose regular advent would thenceforth lend variety to the
scene. He was tall and thin, and wore black, a man of about forty,
with a certain solemnity of demeanor; as his piercing hazel eye met
the old woman's dull gaze, he made her quake, for she felt as though
he had the gift of reading hearts, or much practice in it, and his
presence must surely be as icy as the air of this dank street. Was the
dull, sallow complexion of that ominous face due to excess of work, or
the result of delicate health?
The old woman supplied twenty different answers to this question; but
Caroline, next day, discerned the lines of long mental suffering on
that brow that was so prompt to frown. The rather hollow cheeks of the
Unknown bore the stamp of the seal which sorrow sets on its victims as
if to grant them the consolation of common recognition and brotherly
union for resistance. Though the girl's expression was at first one of
lively but innocent curiosity, it assumed a look of gentle sympathy as
the stranger receded from view, like a last relation following in a
The heat of the weather was so great, and the gentleman was so absent-
minded, that he had taken off his hat and forgotten to put it on again
as he went down the squalid street. Caroline could see the stern look
given to his countenance by the way the hair was brushed from his
forehead. The strong impression, devoid of charm, made on the girl by
this man's appearance was totally unlike any sensation produced by the
other passengers who used the street; for the first time in her life
she was moved to pity for some one else than herself and her mother;
she made no reply to the absurd conjectures that supplied material for
the old woman's provoking volubility, and drew her long needle in
silence through the web of stretched net; she only regretted not
having seen the stranger more closely, and looked forward to the
morrow to form a definite opinion of him.
It was the first time, indeed, that a man passing down the street had
ever given rise to much thought in her mind. She generally had nothing
but a smile in response to her mother's hypotheses, for the old woman
looked on every passer-by as a possible protector for her daughter.
And if such suggestions, so crudely presented, gave rise to no evil
thoughts in Caroline's mind, her indifference must be ascribed to the
persistent and unfortunately inevitable toil in which the energies of
her sweet youth were being spent, and which would infallibly mar the
clearness of her eyes or steal from her fresh cheeks the bloom that
still colored them.
For two months or more the "Black Gentleman"--the name they had given
him--was erratic in his movements; he did not always come down the Rue
du Tourniquet; the old woman sometimes saw him in the evening when he
had not passed in the morning, and he did not come by at such regular
hours as the clerks who served Madame Crochard instead of a clock;
moreover, excepting on the first occasion, when his look had given the
old mother a sense of alarm, his eyes had never once dwelt on the
weird picture of these two female gnomes. With the exception of two
carriage-gates and a dark ironmonger's shop, there were in the Rue du
Tourniquet only barred windows, giving light to the staircases of the
neighboring houses; thus the stranger's lack of curiosity was not to
be accounted for by the presence of dangerous rivals; and Madame
Crochard was greatly piqued to see her "Black Gentleman" always lost
in thought, his eyes fixed on the ground, or straight before him, as
though he hoped to read the future in the fog of the Rue du
Tourniquet. However, one morning, about the middle of September,
Caroline Crochard's roguish face stood out so brightly against the
dark background of the room, looking so fresh among the belated
flowers and faded leaves that twined round the window-bars, the daily
scene was gay with such contrasts of light and shade, of pink and
white blending with the light material on which the pretty needlewoman
was working, and with the red and brown hues of the chairs, that the
stranger gazed very attentively at the effects of this living picture.
In point of fact, the old woman, provoked by her "Black Gentleman's"
indifference, had made such a clatter with her bobbins that the gloomy
and pensive passer-by was perhaps prompted to look up by the unusual
The stranger merely exchanged glances with Caroline, swift indeed, but
enough to effect a certain contact between their souls, and both were
aware that they would think of each other. When the stranger came by
again, at four in the afternoon, Caroline recognized the sound of his
step on the echoing pavement; they looked steadily at each other, and
with evident purpose; his eyes had an expression of kindliness which
made him smile, and Caroline colored; the old mother noted them with
satisfaction. Ever after that memorable afternoon, the Gentleman in
Black went by twice a day, with rare exceptions, which both the women
observed. They concluded from the irregularity of the hours of his
homecoming that he was not released so early, nor so precisely
punctual as a subordinate official.
All through the first three winter months, twice a day, Caroline and
the stranger thus saw each other for so long as it took him to
traverse the piece of road that lay along the length of the door and
three windows of the house. Day after day this brief interview had the
hue of friendly sympathy which at last had acquired a sort of
fraternal kindness. Caroline and the stranger seemed to understand
each other from the first; and then, by dint of scrutinizing each
other's faces, they learned to know them well. Ere long it came to be,
as it were, a visit that the Unknown owed to Caroline; if by any
chance her Gentleman in Black went by without bestowing on her the
half-smile of his expressive lips, or the cordial glance of his brown
eyes, something was missing to her all day. She felt as an old man
does to whom the daily study of a newspaper is such an indispensable
pleasure that on the day after any great holiday he wanders about
quite lost, and seeking, as much out of vagueness as for want of
patience, the sheet by which he cheats an hour of life.
But these brief meetings had the charm of intimate friendliness, quite
as much for the stranger as for Caroline. The girl could no more hide
a vexation, a grief, or some slight ailment from the keen eye of her
appreciative friend than he could conceal anxiety from hers.
"He must have had some trouble yesterday," was the thought that
constantly arose in the embroideress' mind as she saw some change in
the features of the "Black Gentleman."
"Oh, he has been working too hard!" was a reflection due to another
shade of expression which Caroline could discern.
The stranger, on his part, could guess when the girl had spent Sunday
in finishing a dress, and he felt an interest in the pattern. As
quarter-day came near he could see that her pretty face was clouded by
anxiety, and he could guess when Caroline had sat up late at work; but
above all, he noted how the gloomy thoughts that dimmed the cheerful
and delicate features of her young face gradually vanished by degrees
as their acquaintance ripened. When winter had killed the climbers and
plants of her window garden, and the window was kept closed, it was
not without a smile of gentle amusement that the stranger observed the
concentration of the light within, just at the level of Caroline's
head. The very small fire and the frosty red of the two women's faces
betrayed the poverty of their home; but if ever his own countenance
expressed regretful compassion, the girl proudly met it with assumed
Meanwhile the feelings that had arisen in their hearts remained buried
there, no incident occurring to reveal to either of them how deep and
strong they were in the other; they had never even heard the sound of
each other's voice. These mute friends were even on their guard
against any nearer acquaintance, as though it meant disaster. Each
seemed to fear lest it should bring on the other some grief more
serious than those they felt tempted to share. Was it shyness or
friendship that checked them? Was it a dread of meeting with
selfishness, or the odious distrust which sunders all the residents
within the walls of a populous city? Did the voice of conscience warn
them of approaching danger? It would be impossible to explain the
instinct which made them as much enemies as friends, at once
indifferent and attached, drawn to each other by impulse, and severed
by circumstance. Each perhaps hoped to preserve a cherished illusion.
It might almost have been thought that the stranger feared lest he
should hear some vulgar word from those lips as fresh and pure as a
flower, and that Caroline felt herself unworthy of the mysterious
personage who was evidently possessed of power and wealth.
As to Madame Crochard, that tender mother, almost angry at her
daughter's persistent lack of decisiveness, now showed a sulky face to
the "Black Gentleman," on whom she had hitherto smiled with a sort of
benevolent servility. Never before had she complained so bitterly of
being compelled, at her age, to do the cooking; never had her catarrh
and her rheumatism wrung so many groans from her; finally, she could
not, this winter, promise so many ells of net as Caroline had hitherto
been able to count on.
Under these circumstances, and towards the end of December, at the
time when bread was dearest, and that dearth of corn was beginning to
be felt which made the year 1816 so hard on the poor, the stranger
observed on the features of the girl whose name was still unknown to
him, the painful traces of a secret sorrow which his kindest smiles
could not dispel. Before long he saw in Caroline's eyes the dimness
attributed to long hours at night. One night, towards the end of the
month, the Gentleman in Black passed down the Rue du Tourniquet at the
quite unwonted hour of one in the morning. The perfect silence allowed
of his hearing before passing the house the lachrymose voice of the
old mother, and Caroline's even sadder tones, mingling with the swish
of a shower of sleet. He crept along as slowly as he could; and then,
at the risk of being taken up by the police, he stood still below the
window to hear the mother and daughter, while watching them through
the largest of the holes in the yellow muslin curtains, which were
eaten away by wear as a cabbage leaf is riddled by caterpillars. The
inquisitive stranger saw a sheet of paper on the table that stood
between the two work-frames, and on which stood the lamp and the
globes filled with water. He at once identified it as a writ. Madame
Crochard was weeping, and Caroline's voice was thick, and had lost its
sweet, caressing tone.
"Why be so heartbroken, mother? Monsieur Molineux will not sell us up
or turn us out before I have finished this dress; only two nights more
and I shall take it home to Madame Roguin."
"And supposing she keeps you waiting as usual?--And will the money for
the gown pay the baker too?"
The spectator of this scene had long practice in reading faces; he
fancied he could discern that the mother's grief was as false as the
daughter's was genuine; he turned away, and presently came back. When
he next peeped through the hole in the curtain, Madame Crochard was in
bed. The young needlewoman, bending over her frame, was embroidering
with indefatigable diligence; on the table, with the writ lay a
triangular hunch of bread, placed there, no doubt, to sustain her in
the night and to remind her of the reward of her industry. The
stranger was tremulous with pity and sympathy; he threw his purse in
through a cracked pane so that it should fall at the girl's feet; and
then, without waiting to enjoy her surprise, he escaped, his cheeks
Next morning the shy and melancholy stranger went past with a look of
deep preoccupation, but he could not escape Caroline's gratitude; she
had opened her window and affected to be digging in the square window-
box buried in snow, a pretext of which the clumsy ingenuity plainly
told her benefactor that she had been resolved not to see him only
through the pane. Her eyes were full of tears as she bowed her head,
as much as to say to her benefactor, "I can only repay you from my
But the Gentleman in Black affected not to understand the meaning of
this sincere gratitude. In the evening, as he came by, Caroline was
busy mending the window with a sheet of paper, and she smiled at him,
showing her row of pearly teeth like a promise. Thenceforth the
Stranger went another way, and was no more seen in the Rue due
It was one day early in the following May that, as Caroline was giving
the roots of the honeysuckle a glass of water, one Saturday morning,
she caught sight of a narrow strip of cloudless blue between the black
lines of houses, and said to her mother:
"Mamma, we must go to-morrow for a trip to Montmorency!"
She had scarcely uttered the words, in a tone of glee, when the
Gentleman in Black came by, sadder and more dejected than ever.
Caroline's innocent and ingratiating glance might have been taken for
an invitation. And, in fact, on the following day, when Madame
Crochard, dressed in a pelisse of claret-colored merinos, a silk
bonnet, and striped shawl of an imitation Indian pattern, came out to
choose seats in a chaise at the corner of the Rue du Faubourg Saint-
Denis and the Rue d'Enghien, there she found her Unknown standing like
a man waiting for his wife. A smile of pleasure lighted up the
Stranger's face when his eye fell on Caroline, her neat feet shod in
plum-colored prunella gaiters, and her white dress tossed by a breeze
that would have been fatal to an ill-made woman, but which displayed
her graceful form. Her face, shaded by a rice-straw bonnet lined with
pink silk, seemed to beam with a reflection from heaven; her broad,
plum-colored belt set off a waist he could have spanned; her hair,
parted in two brown bands over a forehead as white as snow, gave her
an expression of innocence which no other feature contradicted.
Enjoyment seemed to have made Caroline as light as the straw of her
hat; but when she saw the Gentleman in Black, radiant hope suddenly
eclipsed her bright dress and her beauty. The Stranger, who appeared
to be in doubt, had not perhaps made up his mind to be the girl's
escort for the day till this revelation of the delight she felt on
seeing him. He at once hired a vehicle with a fairly good horse, to
drive to Saint-Leu-Taverny, and he offered Madame Crochard and her
daughter seats by his side. The mother accepted without ado; but
presently, when they were already on the way to Saint-Denis, she was
by way of having scruples, and made a few civil speeches as to the
possible inconvenience two women might cause their companion.
"Perhaps, monsieur, you wished to drive alone to Saint-Leu-Taverny,"
said she, with affected simplicity.
Before long she complained of the heat, and especially of her cough,
which, she said, had hindered her from closing her eyes all night; and
by the time the carriage had reached Saint-Denis, Madame Crochard
seemed to be fast asleep. Her snores, indeed, seemed, to the Gentleman
in Black, rather doubtfully genuine, and he frowned as he looked at
the old woman with a very suspicious eye.
"Oh, she is fast asleep," said Caroline quilelessly; "she never ceased
coughing all night. She must be very tired."
Her companion made no reply, but he looked at the girl with a smile
that seemed to say:
"Poor child, you little know your mother!"
However, in spite of his distrust, as the chaise made its way down the
long avenue of poplars leading to Eaubonne, the Stranger thought that
Madame Crochard was really asleep; perhaps he did not care to inquire
how far her slumbers were genuine or feigned. Whether it were that the
brilliant sky, the pure country air, and the heady fragrance of the
first green shoots of the poplars, the catkins of willow, and the
flowers of the blackthorn had inclined his heart to open like all the
nature around him; or that any long restraint was too oppressive while
Caroline's sparkling eyes responded to his own, the Gentleman in Black
entered on a conversation with his young companion, as aimless as the
swaying of the branches in the wind, as devious as the flitting of the
butterflies in the azure air, as illogical as the melodious murmur of
the fields, and, like it, full of mysterious love. At that season is
not the rural country as tremulous as a bride that has donned her
marriage robe; does it not invite the coldest soul to be happy? What
heart could remain unthawed, and what lips could keep its secret, on
leaving the gloomy streets of the Marais for the first time since the
previous autumn, and entering the smiling and picturesque valley of
Montmorency; on seeing it in the morning light, its endless horizons
receding from view; and then lifting a charmed gaze to eyes which
expressed no less infinitude mingled with love?
The Stranger discovered that Caroline was sprightly rather than witty,
affectionate, but ill educated; but while her laugh was giddy, her
words promised genuine feeling. When, in response to her companion's
shrewd questioning, the girl spoke with the heartfelt effusiveness of
which the lower classes are lavish, not guarding it with reticence
like people of the world, the Black Gentleman's face brightened, and
seemed to renew its youth. His countenance by degrees lost the sadness
that lent sternness to his features, and little by little they gained
a look of handsome youthfulness which made Caroline proud and happy.
The pretty needlewoman guessed that her new friend had been long
weaned from tenderness and love, and no longer believed in the
devotion of woman. Finally, some unexpected sally in Caroline's light
prattle lifted the last veil that concealed the real youth and genuine
character of the Stranger's physiognomy; he seemed to bid farewell to
the ideas that haunted him, and showed the natural liveliness that lay
beneath the solemnity of his expression.
Their conversation had insensibly become so intimate, that by the time
when the carriage stopped at the first houses of the straggling
village of Saint-Leu, Caroline was calling the gentleman Monsieur
Roger. Then for the first time the old mother awoke.
"Caroline, she has heard everything!" said Roger suspiciously in the
Caroline's reply was an exquisite smile of disbelief, which dissipated
the dark cloud that his fear of some plot on the old woman's part had
brought to this suspicious mortal's brow. Madame Crochard was amazed
at nothing, approved of everything, followed her daughter and Monsieur
Roger into the park, where the two young people had agreed to wander
through the smiling meadows and fragrant copses made famous by the
taste of Queen Hortense.
"Good heavens! how lovely!" exclaimed Caroline when standing on the
green ridge where the forest of Montmorency begins, she saw lying at
her feet the wide valley with its combes sheltering scattered
villages, its horizon of blue hills, its church towers, its meadows
and fields, whence a murmur came up, to die on her ear like the swell
of the ocean. The three wanderers made their way by the bank of an
artificial stream and came to the Swiss valley, where stands a chalet
that had more than once given shelter to Hortense and Napoleon. When
Caroline had seated herself with pious reverence on the mossy wooden
bench where kings and princesses and the Emperor had rested, Madame
Crochard expressed a wish to have a nearer view of a bridge that hung
across between two rocks at some little distance, and bent her steps
towards that rural curiosity, leaving her daughter in Monsieur Roger's
care, though telling them that she would not go out of sight.
"What, poor child!" cried Roger, "have you never longed for wealth and
the pleasures of luxury? Have you never wished that you might wear the
beautiful dresses you embroider?"
"It would not be the truth, Monsieur Roger, if I were to tell you that
I never think how happy people must be who are rich. Oh yes! I often
fancy, especially when I am going to sleep, how glad I should be to
see my poor mother no longer compelled to go out, whatever the
weather, to buy our little provisions, at her age. I should like her
to have a servant who, every morning before she was up, would bring
her up her coffee, nicely sweetened with white sugar. And she loves
reading novels, poor dear soul! Well, and I would rather see her
wearing out her eyes over her favorite books than over twisting her
bobbins from morning till night. And again, she ought to have a little
good wine. In short, I should like to see her comfortable--she is so
"Then she has shown you great kindness?"
"Oh yes," said the girl, in a tone of conviction. Then, after a short
pause, during which the two young people stood watching Madame
Crochard, who had got to the middle of the rustic bridge, and was
shaking her finger at them, Caroline went on:
"Oh yes, she has been so good to me. What care she took of me when I
was little! She sold her last silver forks to apprentice me to the old
maid who taught me to embroider.--And my poor father! What did she not
go through to make him end his days in happiness!" The girl shivered
at the remembrance, and hid her face in her hands.--"Well! come! let
us forget past sorrows!" she added, trying to rally her high spirits.
She blushed as she saw that Roger too was moved, but she dared not
look at him.
"What was your father?" he asked.
"He was an opera-dancer before the Revolution," said she, with an air
of perfect simplicity, "and my mother sang in the chorus. My father,
who was leader of the figures on the stage, happened to be present at
the siege of the Bastille. He was recognized by some of the
assailants, who asked him whether he could not lead a real attack,
since he was used to leading such enterprises on the boards. My father
was brave; he accepted the post, led the insurgents, and was rewarded
by the nomination to the rank of captain in the army of Sambre-et-
Meuse, where he distinguished himself so far as to rise rapidly to be
a colonel. But at Lutzen he was so badly wounded that, after a year's
sufferings, he died in Paris.--The Bourbons returned; my mother could
obtain no pension, and we fell into such abject misery that we were
compelled to work for our living. For some time past she has been
ailing, poor dear, and I have never known her so little resigned; she
complains a good deal, and, indeed, I cannot wonder, for she has known
the pleasures of an easy life. For my part, I cannot pine for delights
I have never known, I have but one thing to wish for."
"And that is?" said Roger eagerly, as if roused from a dream.
"That women may continue to wear embroidered net dresses, so that I
may never lack work."
The frankness of this confession interested the young man, who looked
with less hostile eyes on Madame Crochard as she slowly made her way
back to them.
"Well, children, have you had a long talk?" said she, with a half-
laughing, half-indulgent air. "When I think, Monsieur Roger, that the
'little Corporal' has sat where you are sitting," she went on after a
pause. "Poor man! how my husband worshiped him! Ah! Crochard did well
to die, for he could not have borne to think of him where they have
Roger put his finger to his lips, and the good woman went on very
gravely, with a shake of her head:
"All right, mouth shut and tongue still! But," added she, unhooking a
bit of her bodice, and showing a ribbon and cross tied round her neck
by a piece of black ribbon, "they shall never hinder me from wearing
what he gave to my poor Crochard, and I will have it buried with
On hearing this speech, which at that time was regarded as seditious,
Roger interrupted the old lady by rising suddenly, and they returned
to the village through the park walks. The young man left them for a
few minutes while he went to order a meal at the best eating-house in
Taverny; then, returning to fetch them, he led the way through the
alleys cut in the forest.
The dinner was cheerful. Roger was no longer the melancholy shade that
was wont to pass along the Rue du Tourniquet; he was not the "Black
Gentleman," but rather a confiding young man ready to take life as it
came, like the two hard-working women who, on the morrow, might lack
bread; he seemed alive to all the joys of youth, his smile was quite
affectionate and childlike.
When, at five o'clock, this happy meal was ended with a few glasses of
champagne, Roger was the first to propose that they should join the
village ball under the chestnuts, where he and Caroline danced
together. Their hands met with sympathetic pressure, their hearts beat
with the same hopes; and under the blue sky and the slanting, rosy
beams of sunset, their eyes sparkled with fires which, to them, made
the glory of the heavens pale. How strange is the power of an idea, of
a desire! To these two nothing seemed impossible. In such magic
moments, when enjoyment sheds its reflections on the future, the soul
foresees nothing but happiness. This sweet day had created memories
for these two to which nothing could be compared in all their past
existence. Would the source prove to be more beautiful than the river,
the desire more enchanting than its gratification, the thing hoped for
more delightful than the thing possessed?
"So the day is already at an end!" On hearing this exclamation from
her unknown friend when the dance was over, Caroline looked at him
compassionately, as his face assumed once more a faint shade of
"Why should you not be as happy in Paris as you are here?" she asked.
"Is happiness to be found only at Saint-Leu? It seems to me that I can
henceforth never be unhappy anywhere."
Roger was struck by these words, spoken with the glad unrestraint that
always carries a woman further than she intended, just as prudery
often lends her greater cruelty than she feels. For the first time
since that glance, which had, in a way, been the beginning of their
friendship, Caroline and Roger had the same idea; though they did not
express it, they felt it at the same instant, as a result of a common
impression like that of a comforting fire cheering both under the
frost of winter; then, as if frightened by each other's silence, they
made their way to the spot where the carriage was waiting. But before
getting into it, they playfully took hands and ran together down the
dark avenue in front of Madame Crochard. When they could no longer see
the white net cap, which showed as a speck through the leaves where
the old woman was--"Caroline!" said Roger in a tremulous voice, and
with a beating heart.
The girl was startled, and drew back a few steps, understanding the
invitation this question conveyed; however, she held out her hand,
which was passionately kissed, but which she hastily withdrew, for by
standing on tiptoe she could see her mother.
Madame Crochard affected blindness, as if, with a reminiscence of her
old parts, she was only required to figure as a supernumerary.
The adventures of these two young people were not continued in the Rue
du Tourniquet. To see Roger and Caroline once more, we must leap into
the heart of modern Paris, where, in some of the newly-built houses,
there are apartments that seem made on purpose for newly-married
couples to spend their honeymoon in. There the paper and paint are as
fresh as the bride and bridegroom, and the decorations are in blossom
like their love; everything is in harmony with youthful notions and
Half-way down the Rue Taitbout, in a house whose stone walls were
still white, where the columns of the hall and the doorway were as yet
spotless, and the inner walls shone with the neat painting which our
recent intimacy with English ways had brought into fashion, there was,
on the second floor, a small set of rooms fitted by the architect as
though he had known what their use would be. A simple airy ante-room,
with a stucco dado, formed an entrance into a drawing-room and dining-
room. Out of the drawing-room opened a pretty bedroom, with a bathroom
beyond. Every chimney-shelf had over it a fine mirror elegantly
framed. The doors were crowded with arabesques in good taste, and the
cornices were in the best style. Any amateur would have discerned
there the sense of distinction and decorative fitness which mark the
work of modern French architects.
For above a month Caroline had been at home in this apartment,
furnished by an upholsterer who submitted to an artist's guidance. A
short description of the principal room will suffice to give us an
idea of the wonders it offered to Caroline's delighted eyes when Roger
installed her there. Hangings of gray stuff trimmed with green silk
adorned the walls of her bedroom; the seats, covered with light-
colored woolen sateen, were of easy and comfortable shapes, and in the
latest fashion; a chest of drawers of some simple wood, inlaid with
lines of a darker hue, contained the treasures of the toilet; a
writing-table to match served for inditing love-letters on scented
paper; the bed, with antique draperies, could not fail to suggest
thoughts of love by its soft hangings of elegant muslin; the window-
curtains, of drab silk with green fringe, were always half drawn to
subdue the light; a bronze clock represented Love crowning Psyche; and
a carpet of Gothic design on a red ground set off the other
accessories of this delightful retreat. There was a small dressing-
table in front of a long glass, and here the needlewoman sat, out of
patience with Plaisir, the famous hairdresser.
"Do you think you will have done to-day?" said she.
"Your hair is so long and so thick, madame," replied Plaisir.
Caroline could not help smiling. The man's flattery had no doubt
revived in her mind the memory of the passionate praises lavished by
her lover on the beauty of her hair, which he delighted in.
The hairdresser having done, a waiting-maid came and held counsel with
her as to the dress in which Roger would like best to see her. It was
the beginning of September 1816, and the weather was cold; she chose a
green grenadine trimmed with chinchilla. As soon as she was dressed,
Caroline flew into the drawing-room and opened a window, out of which
she stepped on to the elegant balcony, that adorned the front of the
house; there she stood, with her arms crossed, in a charming attitude,
not to show herself to the admiration of the passers-by and see them
turn to gaze at her, but to be able to look out on the Boulevard at
the bottom of the Rue Taitbout. This side view, really very comparable
to the peephole made by actors in the drop-scene of a theatre, enabled
her to catch a glimpse of numbers of elegant carriages, and a crowd of
persons, swept past with the rapidity of Ombres Chinoises. Not
knowing whether Roger would arrive in a carriage or on foot, the
needlewoman from the Rue du Tourniquet looked by turns at the foot-
passengers, and at the tilburies--light cabs introduced into Paris by
Expressions of refractoriness and of love passed by turns over her
youthful face when, after waiting for a quarter of an hour, neither
her keen eye nor her heart had announced the arrival of him whom she
knew to be due. What disdain, what indifference were shown in her
beautiful features for all the other creatures who were bustling like
ants below her feet. Her gray eyes, sparkling with fun, now positively
flamed. Given over to her passion, she avoided admiration with as much
care as the proudest devote to encouraging it when they drive about
Paris, certainly feeling no care as to whether her fair countenance
leaning over the balcony, or her little foot between the bars, and the
picture of her bright eyes and delicious turned-up nose would be
effaced or no from the minds of the passers-by who admired them; she
saw but one face, and had but one idea. When the spotted head of a
certain bay horse happened to cross the narrow strip between the two
rows of houses, Caroline gave a little shiver and stood on tiptoe in
hope of recognizing the white traces and the color of the tilbury. It
Roger turned the corner of the street, saw the balcony, whipped the
horse, which came up at a gallop, and stopped at the bronze-green door
that he knew as well as his master did. The door of the apartment was
opened at once by the maid, who had heard her mistress' exclamation of
delight. Roger rushed up to the drawing-room, clasped Caroline in his
arms, and embraced her with the effusive feeling natural when two
beings who love each other rarely meet. He led her, or rather they
went by a common impulse, their arms about each other, into the quiet
and fragrant bedroom; a settee stood ready for them to sit by the
fire, and for a moment they looked at each other in silence,
expressing their happiness only by their clasped hands, and
communicating their thoughts in a fond gaze.
"Yes, it is he!" she said at last. "Yes, it is you. Do you know, I
have not seen you for three long days, an age!--But what is the
matter? You are unhappy."
"My poor Caroline--"
"There, you see! 'poor Caroline'--"
"No, no, do not laugh, my darling; we cannot go to the Feydeau Theatre
together this evening."
Caroline put on a little pout, but it vanished immediately.
"How absurd I am! How can I think of going to the play when I see you?
Is not the sight of you the only spectacle I care for?" she cried,
pushing her fingers through Roger's hair.
"I am obliged to go to the Attorney-General's. We have a knotty case
in hand. He met me in the great hall at the Palais; and as I am to
plead, he asked me to dine with him. But, my dearest, you can go to
the theatre with your mother, and I will join you if the meeting
breaks up early."
"To the theatre without you!" cried she in a tone of amazement; "enjoy
any pleasure you do not share! O my Roger! you do not deserve a kiss,"
she added, throwing her arms round his neck with an artless and
"Caroline, I must go home and dress. The Marais is some way off, and I
still have some business to finish."
"Take care what you are saying, monsieur," said she, interrupting him.
"My mother says that when a man begins to talk about his business, he
is ceasing to love."
"Caroline! Am I not here? Have I not stolen this hour from my
"Hush!" said she, laying a finger on his mouth. "Don't you see that I
am in jest."
They had now come back to the drawing-room, and Roger's eye fell on an
object brought home that morning by the cabinetmaker. Caroline's old
rosewood embroidery-frame, by which she and her mother had earned
their bread when they lived in the Rue du Tourniquet-Saint-Jean, had
been refitted and polished, and a net dress, of elaborate design, was
already stretched upon it.
"Well, then, my dear, I shall do some work this evening. As I stitch,
I shall fancy myself gone back to those early days when you used to
pass by me without a word, but not without a glance; the days when the
remembrance of your look kept me awake all night. Oh my dear old frame
--the best piece of furniture in my room, though you did not give it
me!--You cannot think," said she, seating herself on Roger's knees;
for he, overcome by irresistible feelings, had dropped into a chair.
"Listen.--All I can earn by my work I mean to give to the poor. You
have made me rich. How I love that pretty home at Bellefeuille, less
because of what it is than because you gave it me! But tell me, Roger,
I should like to call myself Caroline de Bellefeuille--can I? You must
know: is it legal or permissible?"
As she saw a little affirmative grimace--for Roger hated the name of
Crochard--Caroline jumped for glee, and clapped her hands.
"I feel," said she, "as if I should more especially belong to you.
Usually a woman gives up her own name and takes her husband's--" An
idea forced itself upon her and made her blush. She took Roger's hand
and led him to the open piano.--"Listen," said she, "I can play my
sonata now like an angel!" and her fingers were already running over
the ivory keys, when she felt herself seized round the waist.
"Caroline, I ought to be far from hence!"
"You insist on going? Well, go," said she, with a pretty pout, but she
smiled as she looked at the clock and exclaimed joyfully, "At any
rate, I have detained you a quarter of an hour!"
"Good-bye, Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille," said he, with the gentle
irony of love.
She kissed him and saw her lover to the door; when the sound of his
steps had died away on the stairs she ran out on to the balcony to see
him get into the tilbury, to see him gather up the reins, to catch a
parting look, hear the crack of his whip and the sound of his wheels
on the stones, watch the handsome horse, the master's hat, the tiger's
gold lace, and at last to stand gazing long after the dark corner of
the street had eclipsed this vision.
Five years after Mademoiselle Caroline de Bellefeuille had taken up
her abode in the pretty house in the Rue Taitbout, we again look in on
one of those home-scenes which tighten the bonds of affection between
two persons who truly love. In the middle of the blue drawing-room, in
front of the window opening to the balcony, a little boy of four was
making a tremendous noise as he whipped the rocking-horse, whose two
curved supports for the legs did not move fast enough to please him;
his pretty face, framed in fair curls that fell over his white collar,
smiled up like a cherub's at his mother when she said to him from the
depths of an easy-chair, "Not so much noise, Charles; you will wake
your little sister."
The inquisitive boy suddenly got off his horse, and treading on tiptoe
as if he were afraid of the sound of his feet on the carpet, came up
with one finger between his little teeth, and standing in one of those
childish attitudes that are so graceful because they are so perfectly
natural, raised the muslin veil that hid the rosy face of a little
girl sleeping on her mother's knee.
"Is Eugenie asleep, then?" said he, quite astonished. "Why is she
asleep when we are awake?" he added, looking up with large, liquid
"That only God can know," replied Caroline, with a smile.
The mother and boy gazed at the infant, only that morning baptized.
Caroline, now about four-and-twenty, showed the ripe beauty which had
expanded under the influence of cloudless happiness and constant
enjoyment. In her the Woman was complete.
Delighted to obey her dear Roger's every wish, she had acquired the
accomplishments she had lacked; she played the piano fairly well, and
sang sweetly. Ignorant of the customs of a world that would have
treated her as an outcast, and which she would not have cared for even
if it had welcomed her--for a happy woman does not care for the world
--she had not caught the elegance of manner or learned the art of
conversation, abounding in words and devoid of ideas, which is current
in fashionable drawing-rooms; on the other hand, she worked hard to
gain the knowledge indispensable to a mother whose chief ambition is
to bring up her children well. Never to lose sight of her boy, to give
him from the cradle that training of every minute which impresses on
the young a love of all that is good and beautiful, to shelter him
from every evil influence and fulfil both the painful duties of a
nurse and the tender offices of a mother,--these were her chief
The coy and gentle being had from the first day so fully resigned
herself never to step beyond the enchanted sphere where she found all
her happiness, that, after six years of the tenderest intimacy, she
still knew her lover only by the name of Roger. A print of the picture
of the Psyche lighting her lamp to gaze on Love in spite of his
prohibition, hung in her room, and constantly reminded her of the
conditions of her happiness. Through all these six years her humble
pleasures had never importuned Roger by a single indiscreet ambition,
and his heart was a treasure-house of kindness. Never had she longed
for diamonds or fine clothes, and had again and again refused the
luxury of a carriage which he had offered her. To look out from her
balcony for Roger's cab, to go with him to the play or make excursions
with him, on fine days in the environs of Paris, to long for him, to
see him, and then to long again,--these made up the history of her
life, poor in incidents but rich in happiness.
As she rocked the infant, now a few months old, on her knee, singing
the while, she allowed herself to recall the memories of the past. She
lingered more especially on the months of September, when Roger was
accustomed to take her to Bellefeuille and spend the delightful days
which seem to combine the charms of every season. Nature is equally
prodigal of flowers and fruit, the evenings are mild, the mornings
bright, and a blaze of summer often returns after a spell of autumn
gloom. During the early days of their love, Caroline had ascribed the
even mind and gentle temper, of which Roger gave her so many proofs,
to the rarity of their always longed-for meetings, and to their mode
of life, which did not compel them to be constantly together, as a
husband and wife must be. But now she could remember with rapture
that, tortured by foolish fears, she had watched him with trembling
during their first stay on this little estate in the Gatinais. Vain
suspiciousness of love! Each of these months of happiness had passed
like a dream in the midst of joys which never rang false. She had
always seen that kind creature with a tender smile on his lips, a
smile that seemed to mirror her own.
As she called up these vivid pictures, her eyes filled with tears; she
thought she could not love him enough, and was tempted to regard her
ambiguous position as a sort of tax levied by Fate on her love.
Finally, invincible curiosity led her to wonder for the thousandth
time what events they could be that led so tender a heart as Roger's
to find his pleasure in clandestine and illicit happiness. She
invented a thousand romances on purpose really to avoid recognizing
the true reason, which she had long suspected but tried not to believe
in. She rose, and carrying the baby in her arms, went into the dining-
room to superintend the preparations for dinner.
It was the 6th of May 1822, the anniversary of the excursion to the
Park of Saint-Leu, which had been the turning-point of her life; each
year it had been marked by heartfelt rejoicing. Caroline chose the
linen to be used, and arranged the dessert. Having attended with joy
to these details, which touched Roger, she placed the infant in her
pretty cot and went out on to the balcony, whence she presently saw
the carriage which her friend, as he grew to riper years, now used
instead of the smart tilbury of his youth. After submitting to the
first fire of Caroline's embraces and the kisses of the little rogue
who addressed him as papa, Roger went to the cradle, looked at his
little sleeping daughter, kissed her forehead, and then took out of
his pocket a document covered with black writing.
"Caroline," said he, "here is the marriage portion of Mademoiselle
Eugenie de Bellefeuille."
The mother gratefully took the paper, a deed of gift of securities in
the State funds.
"Buy why," said she, "have you given Eugenie three thousand francs a
year, and Charles no more than fifteen hundred?"
"Charles, my love, will be a man," replied he. "Fifteen hundred francs
are enough for him. With so much for certain, a man of courage is
above poverty. And if by chance your son should turn out a nonentity,
I do not wish him to be able to play the fool. If he is ambitious,
this small income will give him a taste for work.--Eugenie is a girl;
she must have a little fortune."
The father then turned to play with his boy, whose effusive affection
showed the independence and freedom in which he was brought up. No
sort of shyness between the father and child interfered with the charm
which rewards a parent for his devotion; and the cheerfulness of the
little family was as sweet as it was genuine. In the evening a magic-
lantern displayed its illusions and mysterious pictures on a white
sheet to Charles' great surprise, and more than once the innocent
child's heavenly rapture made Caroline and Roger laugh heartily.
Later, when the little boy was in bed, the baby woke and craved its
limpid nourishment. By the light of a lamp in the chimney corner,
Roger enjoyed the scene of peace and comfort, and gave himself up to
the happiness of contemplating the sweet picture of the child clinging
to Caroline's white bosom as she sat, as fresh as a newly opened lily,
while her hair fell in long brown curls that almost hid her neck. The
lamplight enhanced the grace of the young mother, shedding over her,
her dress, and the infant, the picturesque effects of strong light and
The calm and silent woman's face struck Roger as a thousand times
sweeter than ever, and he gazed tenderly at the rosy, pouting lips
from which no harsh word had ever been heard. The very same thought
was legible in Caroline's eyes as she gave a sidelong look at Roger,
either to enjoy the effect she was producing on him, or to see what
the end of the evening was to be. He, understanding the meaning of
this cunning glance, said with assumed regret, "I must be going. I
have a serious case to be finished, and I am expected at home. Duty
before all things--don't you think so, my darling?"
Caroline looked him in the face with an expression at once sad and
sweet, with the resignation which does not, however, disguise the
pangs of a sacrifice.
"Good-bye, then," said she. "Go, for if you stay an hour longer I
cannot so lightly bear to set you free."
"My dearest," said he with a smile, "I have three days' holiday, and
am supposed to be twenty leagues away from Paris."
A few days after this anniversary of the 6th of May, Mademoiselle de
Bellefeuille hurried off one morning to the Rue Saint-Louis, in the
Marais, only hoping she might not arrive too late at a house where she
commonly went once a week. An express messenger had just come to
inform her that her mother, Madame Crochard, was sinking under a
complication of disorders produced by constant catarrh and rheumatism.
While the hackney coach-driver was flogging up his horses at
Caroline's urgent request, supported by the promise of a handsome
present, the timid old women, who had been Madame Crochard's friends
during her later years, had brought a priest into the neat and
comfortable second-floor rooms occupied by the old widow. Madame
Crochard's maid did not know that the pretty lady at whose house her
mistress so often dined was her daughter, and she was one of the first
to suggest the services of a confessor, in the hope that this priest
might be at least as useful to herself as to the sick woman. Between
two games of boston, or out walking in the Jardin Turc, the old
beldames with whom the widow gossiped all day had succeeded in rousing
in their friend's stony heart some scruples as to her former life,
some visions of the future, some fears of hell, and some hopes of
forgiveness if she should return in sincerity to a religious life. So
on this solemn morning three ancient females had settled themselves in
the drawing-room where Madame Crochard was "at home" every Tuesday.
Each in turn left her armchair to go to the poor old woman's bedside
and sit with her, giving her the false hopes with which people delude
At the same time, when the end was drawing near, when the physician
called in the day before would no longer answer for her life, the
three dames took counsel together as to whether it would not be well
to send word to Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille. Francoise having been
duly informed, it was decided that a commissionaire should go to the
Rue Taitbout to inform the young relation whose influence was so
disquieting to the four women; still, they hoped that the Auvergnat
would be too late in bringing back the person who so certainly held
the first place in the widow Crochard's affections. The widow,
evidently in the enjoyment of a thousand crowns a year, would not have
been so fondly cherished by this feminine trio, but that neither of
them, nor Francoise herself knew of her having any heir. The wealth
enjoyed by Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille, whom Madame Crochard, in
obedience to the traditions of the older opera, never allowed herself
to speak of by the affectionate name of daughter, almost justified the
four women in their scheme of dividing among themselves the old
Presently the one of these three sibyls who kept guard over the sick
woman came shaking her head at the other anxious two, and said:
"It is time we should be sending for the Abbe Fontanon. In another two
hours she will neither have the wit nor the strength to write a line."
Thereupon the toothless old cook went off, and returned with a man
wearing a black gown. A low forehead showed a small mind in this
priest, whose features were mean; his flabby, fat cheeks and double
chin betrayed the easy-going egotist; his powdered hair gave him a
pleasant look, till he raised his small, brown eyes, prominent under a
flat forehead, and not unworthy to glitter under the brows of a
"Monsieur l'Abbe," said Francoise, "I thank you for all your advice;
but believe me, I have taken the greatest care of the dear soul."
But the servant, with her dragging step and woe-begone look, was
silent when she saw that the door of the apartment was open, and that
the most insinuating of the three dowagers was standing on the landing
to be the first to speak with the confessor. When the priest had
politely faced the honeyed and bigoted broadside of words fired off
from the widow's three friends, he went into the sickroom to sit by
Madame Crochard. Decency, and some sense of reserve, compelled the
three women and old Francoise to remain in the sitting-room, and to
make such grimaces of grief as are possible in perfection only to such
"Oh, is it not ill-luck!" cried Francoise, heaving a sigh. "This is
the fourth mistress I have buried. The first left me a hundred francs
a year, the second a sum of fifty crowns, and the third a thousand
crowns down. After thirty years' service, that is all I have to call
The woman took advantage of her freedom to come and go, to slip into a
cupboard, whence she could hear the priest.
"I see with pleasure, daughter," said Fontanon, "that you have pious
sentiments; you have a sacred relic round your neck."
Madame Crochard, with a feeble vagueness which seemed to show that she
had not all her wits about her, pulled out the Imperial Cross of the
Legion of Honor. The priest started back at seeing the Emperor's head;
he went up to the penitent again, and she spoke to him, but in such a
low tone that for some minutes Francoise could hear nothing.
"Woe upon me!" cried the old woman suddenly. "Do not desert me. What,
Monsieur l'Abbe, do you think I shall be called to account for my
The Abbe spoke too low, and the partition was too thick for Francoise
to hear the reply.
"Alas!" sobbed the woman, "the wretch has left me nothing that I can
bequeath. When he robbed me of my dear Caroline, he parted us, and
only allowed me three thousand francs a year, of which the capital
belongs to my daughter."
"Madame has a daughter, and nothing to live on but an annuity,"
shrieked Francoise, bursting into the drawing-room.
The three old crones looked at each other in dismay. One of them,
whose nose and chin nearly met with an expression that betrayed a
superior type of hypocrisy and cunning, winked her eyes; and as soon
as Francoise's back was turned, she gave her friends a nod, as much as
to say, "That slut is too knowing by half; her name has figured in
three wills already."
So the three old dames sat on.
However, the Abbe presently came out, and at a word from him the
witches scuttered down the stairs at his heels, leaving Francoise
alone with her mistress. Madame Crochard, whose sufferings increased
in severity, rang, but in vain, for this woman, who only called out,
"Coming, coming--in a minute!" The doors of cupboards and wardrobes
were slamming as though Francoise were hunting high and low for a lost
Just as this crisis was at a climax, Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille came
to stand by her mother's bed, lavishing tender words on her.
"Oh my dear mother, how criminal I have been! You are ill, and I did
not know it; my heart did not warn me. However, here I am--"
"What is it?"
"They fetched a priest--"
"But send for a doctor, bless me!" cried Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille.
"Francoise, a doctor! How is it that these ladies never sent for a
"They sent for a priest----" repeated the old woman with a gasp.
"She is so ill--and no soothing draught, nothing on her table!"
The mother made a vague sign, which Caroline's watchful eye
understood, for she was silent to let her mother speak.
"They brought a priest--to hear my confession, as they said.--Beware,
Caroline!" cried the old woman with an effort, "the priest made me
tell him your benefactor's name."
"But who can have told you, poor mother?"
The old woman died, trying to look knowingly cunning. If Mademoiselle
de Bellefeuille had noted her mother's face she might have seen what
no one ever will see--Death laughing.
To enter into the interests that lay beneath this introduction to my
tale, we must for a moment forget the actors in it, and look back at
certain previous incidents, of which the last was closely concerned
with the death of Madame Crochard. The two parts will then form a
whole--a story which, by a law peculiar to life in Paris, was made up
of two distinct sets of actions.
Towards the close of the month of November 1805, a young barrister,
aged about six-and-twenty, was going down the stairs of the hotel
where the High Chancellor of the Empire resided, at about three
o'clock one morning. Having reached the courtyard in full evening
dress, under a keen frost, he could not help giving vent to an
exclamation of dismay--qualified, however, by the spirit which rarely
deserts a Frenchman--at seeing no hackney coach waiting outside the
gates, and hearing no noises such as arise from the wooden shoes or
harsh voices of the hackney-coachmen of Paris. The occasional pawing
of the horses of the Chief Justice's carriage--the young man having
left him still playing bouillote with Cambaceres--alone rang out in
the paved court, which was scarcely lighted by the carriage lamps.
Suddenly the young lawyer felt a friendly hand on his shoulder, and
turning round, found himself face to face with the Judge, to whom he
bowed. As the footman let down the steps of his carriage, the old
gentleman, who had served the Convention, suspected the junior's
"All cats are gray in the dark," said he good-humoredly. "The Chief
Justice cannot compromise himself by putting a pleader in the right
way! Especially," he went on, "when the pleader is the nephew of an
old colleague, one of the lights of the grand Council of State which
gave France the Napoleonic Code."
At a gesture from the chief magistrate of France under the Empire, the
foot-passenger got into the carriage.
"Where do you live?" asked the great man, before the footman who
awaited his orders had closed the door.
"Quai des Augustins, monseigneur."
The horses started, and the young man found himself alone with the
Minister, to whom he had vainly tried to speak before and after the
sumptuous dinner given by Cambaceres; in fact, the great man had
evidently avoided him throughout the evening.
"Well, Monsieur de Granville, you are on the high road!"
"So long as I sit by your Excellency's side--"
"Nay, I am not jesting," said the Minister. "You were called two years
since, and your defence in the case of Simeuse and Hauteserre had
raised you high in your profession."
"I had supposed that my interest in those unfortunate emigres had done
me no good."
"You are still very young," said the great man gravely. "But the High
Chancellor," he went on, after a pause, "was greatly pleased with you
this evening. Get a judgeship in the lower courts; we want men. The
nephew of a man in whom Cambaceres and I take great interest must not
remain in the background for lack of encouragement. Your uncle helped
us to tide over a very stormy season, and services of that kind are
not forgotten." The Minister sat silent for a few minutes. "Before
long," he went on, "I shall have three vacancies open in the Lower
Courts and in the Imperial Court in Paris. Come to see me, and take
the place you prefer. Till then work hard, but do not be seen at my
receptions. In the first place, I am overwhelmed with work; and
besides that, your rivals may suspect your purpose and do you harm
with the patron. Cambaceres and I, by not speaking a word to you this
evening, have averted the accusation of favoritism."
As the great man ceased speaking, the carriage drew up on the Quai des
Augustins; the young lawyer thanked his generous patron for the two
lifts he had conferred on him, and then knocked at his door pretty
loudly, for the bitter wind blew cold about his calves. At last the
old lodgekeeper pulled up the latch; and as the young man passed his
window, called out in a hoarse voice, "Monsieur Granville, here is a
letter for you."
The young man took the letter, and in spite of the cold, tried to
identify the writing by the gleam of a dull lamp fast dying out. "From
my father!" he exclaimed, as he took his bedroom candle, which the
porter at last had lighted. And he ran up to his room to read the
"Set off by the next mail; and if you can get here soon enough,
your fortune is made. Mademoiselle Angelique Bontems has lost her
sister; she is now an only child; and, as we know, she does not
hate you. Madame Bontems can now leave her about forty thousand
francs a year, besides whatever she may give her when she marries.
I have prepared the way.
"Our friends will wonder to see a family of old nobility allying
itself to the Bontems; old Bontems was a red republican of the
deepest dye, owning large quantities of the nationalized land,
that he bought for a mere song. But he held nothing but convent
lands, and the monks will not come back; and then, as you have
already so far derogated as to become a lawyer, I cannot see why
we should shrink from a further concession to the prevalent ideas.
The girl will have three hundred thousand francs; I can give you a
hundred thousand; your mother's property must be worth fifty
thousand crowns, more or less; so if you choose to take a
judgeship, my dear son, you are quite in a position to become a
senator as much as any other man. My brother-in-law the Councillor
of State will not indeed lend you a helping-hand; still, as he is
not married, his property will some day be yours, and if you are
not senator by your own efforts, you will get it through him. Then
you will be perched high enough to look on at events. Farewell.
So young Granville went to bed full of schemes, each fairer than the
last. Under the powerful protection of the High Chancellor, the Chief
Justice, and his mother's brother--one of the originators of the Code
--he was about to make a start in a coveted position before the
highest court of the Empire, and he already saw himself a member of
the bench whence Napoleon selected the chief functionaries of the
realm. He could also promise himself a fortune handsome enough to keep
up his rank, for which the slender income of five thousand francs from
an estate left him by his mother would be quite insufficient.
To crown his ambitious dreams with a vision of happiness, he called up
the guileless face of Mademoiselle Angelique Bontems, the companion of
his childhood. Until he came to boyhood his father and mother had made
no objection to his intimacy with their neighbor's pretty little
daughter; but when, during his brief holiday visits to Bayeux, his
parents, who prided themselves on their good birth, saw what friends
the young people were, they forbade his ever thinking of her. Thus for
ten years past Granville had only had occasional glimpses of the girl,
whom he still sometimes thought of as "his little wife." And in those
brief moments when they met free from the active watchfulness of their
families, they had scarcely exchanged a few vague civilities at the
church door or in the street. Their happiest days had been those when,
brought together by one of those country festivities known in Normandy
as Assemblees, they could steal a glance at each other from afar.
In the course of the last vacation Granville had twice seen Angelique,
and her downcast eyes and drooping attitude had led him to suppose
that she was crushed by some unknown tyranny.
He was off by seven next morning to the coach office in the Rue Notre-
Dame-des-Victoires, and was so lucky as to find a vacant seat in the
diligence then starting for Caen.
It was not without deep emotion that the young lawyer saw once more
the spires of the cathedral at Bayeux. As yet no hope of his life had
been cheated, and his heart swelled with the generous feelings that
expand in the youthful soul.
After the too lengthy feast of welcome prepared by his father, who
awaited him with some friends, the impatient youth was conducted to a
house, long familiar to him, standing in the Rue Teinture. His heart
beat high when his father--still known in the town of Bayeux as the
Comte de Granville--knocked loudly at a carriage gate off which the
green paint was dropping in scales. It was about four in the
afternoon. A young maid-servant, in a cotton cap, dropped a short
curtsey to the two gentlemen, and said that the ladies would soon be
home from vespers.
The Count and his son were shown into a low room used as a drawing-
room, but more like a convent parlor. Polished panels of dark walnut
made it gloomy enough, and around it some old-fashioned chairs covered
with worsted work and stiff armchairs were symmetrically arranged. The
stone chimney-shelf had no ornament but a discolored mirror, and on
each side of it were the twisted branches of a pair of candle-
brackets, such as were made at the time of the Peace of Utrecht.
Against a panel opposite, young Granville saw an enormous crucifix of
ebony and ivory surrounded by a wreath of box that had been blessed.
Though there were three windows to the room, looking out on a country-
town garden, laid out in formal square beds edged with box, the room
was so dark that it was difficult to discern, on the wall opposite the
windows, three pictures of sacred subjects painted by a skilled hand,
and purchased, no doubt, during the Revolution by old Bontems, who, as
governor of the district, had never neglected his opportunities. From
the carefully polished floor to the green checked holland curtains
everything shone with conventual cleanliness.
The young man's heart felt an involuntary chill in this silent retreat
where Angelique dwelt. The habit of frequenting the glittering Paris
drawing-rooms, and the constant whirl of society, had effaced from his
memory the dull and peaceful surroundings of a country life, and the
contrast was so startling as to give him a sort of internal shiver. To
have just left a party at the house of Cambaceres, where life was so
large, where minds could expand, where the splendor of the Imperial
Court was so vividly reflected, and to be dropped suddenly into a
sphere of squalidly narrow ideas--was it not like a leap from Italy
into Greenland?--"Living here is not life!" said he to himself, as he
looked round the Methodistical room. The old Count, seeing his son's
dismay, went up to him, and taking his hand, led him to a window,
where there was still a gleam of daylight, and while the maid was
lighting the yellow tapers in the candle branches he tried to clear
away the clouds that the dreary place had brought to his brow.
"Listen, my boy," said he. "Old Bontems' widow is a frenzied bigot.
'When the devil is old--' you know! I see that the place goes against
the grain. Well, this is the whole truth; the old woman is priest-
ridden; they have persuaded her that it was high time to make sure of
heaven, and the better to secure Saint Peter and his keys she pays
before-hand. She goes to Mass every day, attends every service, takes
the communion every Sunday God has made, and amuses herself by
restoring chapels. She had given so many ornaments, and albs, and
chasubles, she has crowned the canopy with so many feathers, that on
the occasion of the last Corpus Christi procession as great a crowd
came together as to see a man hanged, just to stare at the priests in
their splendid dresses and all the vessels regilt. This house too is a
sort of Holy Land. It was I who hindered her from giving those three
pictures to the Church--a Domenichino, a Correggio, and an Andrea del
Sarto--worth a good deal of money."
"But Angelique?" asked the young man.
"If you do not marry her, Angelique is done for," said the Count. "Our
holy apostles counsel her to live a virgin martyr. I have had the
utmost difficulty in stirring up her little heart, since she has been
the only child, by talking to her of you; but, as you will easily
understand, as soon as she is married you will carry her off to Paris.
There, festivities, married life, the theatres, and the rush of
Parisian society, will soon make her forget confessionals, and
fasting, and hair shirts, and Masses, which are the exclusive
nourishment of such creatures."
"But the fifty thousand francs a year derived from Church property?
Will not all that return--"
"That is the point!" exclaimed the Count, with a cunning glance. "In
consideration of this marriage--for Madame Bontems' vanity is not a
little flattered by the notion of grafting the Bontems on to the
genealogical tree of the Granvilles--the aforenamed mother agrees to
settle her fortune absolutely on the girl, reserving only a life-
interest. The priesthood, therefore, are set against the marriage; but
I have had the banns published, everything is ready, and in a week you
will be out of the clutches of the mother and her Abbes. You will have
the prettiest girl in Bayeux, a good little soul who will give you no
trouble, because she has sound principles. She has been mortified, as
they say in their jargon, by fasting and prayer--and," he added in a
low voice, "by her mother."
A modest tap at the door silenced the Count, who expected to see the
two ladies appear. A little page came in, evidently in a great hurry;
but, abashed by the presence of the two gentlemen, he beckoned to a
housekeeper, who followed him. Dressed in a blue cloth jacket with
short tails, and blue-and-white striped trousers, his hair cut short
all round, the boy's expression was that of a chorister, so strongly
was it stamped with the compulsory propriety that marks every member
of a bigoted household.
"Mademoiselle Gatienne," said he, "do you know where the books are for
the offices of the Virgin? The ladies of the Congregation of the
Sacred Heart are going in procession this evening round the church."
Gatienne went in search of the books.
"Will they go on much longer, my little man?" asked the Count.
"Oh, half an hour at most."
"Let us go to look on," said the father to his son. "There will be
some pretty women there, and a visit to the Cathedral can do us no
The young lawyer followed him with a doubtful expression.
"What is the matter?" asked the Count.
"The matter, father, is that I am sure I am right."
"But you have said nothing."
"No; but I have been thinking that you have still ten thousand francs
a year left of your original fortune. You will leave them to me--as
long a time hence as possible, I hope. But if you are ready to give me
a hundred thousand francs to make a foolish match, you will surely
allow me to ask you for only fifty thousand to save me from such a
misfortune, and enjoy as a bachelor a fortune equal to what your
Mademoiselle Bontems would bring me."
"Are you crazy?"
"No, father. These are the facts. The Chief Justice promised me
yesterday that I should have a seat on the Bench. Fifty thousand
francs added to what I have, and to the pay of my appointment, will
give me an income of twelve thousand francs a year. And I then shall
most certainly have a chance of marrying a fortune, better than this
alliance, which will be poor in happiness if rich in goods."
"It is very clear," said his father, "that you were not brought up
under the old regime. Does a man of our rank ever allow his wife to
be in his way?"
"But, my dear father, in these days marriage is--"
"Bless me!" cried the Count, interrupting his son, "then what my old
emigre friends tell me is true, I suppose. The Revolution has left
us habits devoid of pleasure, and has infected all the young men with
vulgar principles. You, like my Jacobin brother-in-law, will harangue
me, I suppose, on the Nation, Public Morals, and Disinterestedness!--
Good Heavens! But for the Emperor's sisters, where should we be?"
The still hale old man, whom the peasants on the estate persisted in
calling the Signeur de Granville, ended his speech as they entered the
Cathedral porch. In spite of the sanctity of the place, and even as he
dipped his fingers in the holy water, he hummed an air from the opera
of Rose et Colas, and then led the way down the side aisles,
stopping by each pillar to survey the rows of heads, all in lines like
ranks of soldiers on parade.
The special service of the Sacred Heart was about to begin. The ladies
affiliated to that congregation were in front near the choir, so the
Count and his son made their way to that part of the nave, and stood
leaning against one of the columns where there was least light, whence
they could command a view of this mass of faces, looking like a meadow
full of flowers. Suddenly, close to young Granville, a voice, sweeter
than it seemed possible to ascribe to a human being, broke into song,
like the first nightingale when winter is past. Though it mingled with
the voices of a thousand other women and the notes of the organ, that
voice stirred his nerves as though they vibrated to the too full and
too piercing sounds of a harmonium. The Parisian turned round, and,
seeing a young figure, though, the head being bent, her face was
entirely concealed by a large white bonnet, concluded that the voice
was hers. He fancied that he recognized Angelique in spite of a brown
merino pelisse that wrapped her, and he nudged his father's elbow.
"Yes, there she is," said the Count, after looking where his son
pointed, and then, by an expressive glance, he directed his attention
to the pale face of an elderly woman who had already detected the
strangers, though her false eyes, deep set in dark circles, did not
seem to have strayed from the prayer-book she held.
Angelique raised her face, gazing at the altar as if to inhale the
heavy scent of the incense that came wafted in clouds over the two
women. And then, in the doubtful light that the tapers shed down the
nave, with that of a central lamp and of some lights round the
pillars, the young man beheld a face which shook his determination. A
white watered-silk bonnet closely framed features of perfect
regularity, the oval being completed by the satin ribbon tie that
fastened it under her dimpled chin. Over her forehead, very sweet
though low, hair of a pale gold color parted in two bands and fell
over her cheeks, like the shadow of leaves on a flower. The arches of
her eyebrows were drawn with the accuracy we admire in the best
Chinese paintings. Her nose, almost aquiline in profile, was
exceptionally firmly cut, and her lips were like two rose lines
lovingly traced with a delicate brush. Her eyes, of a light blue, were
expressive of innocence.
Though Granville discerned a sort of rigid reserve in this girlish
face, he could ascribe it to the devotion in which Angelique was rapt.
The solemn words of prayer, visible in the cold, came from between
rows of pearls, like a fragrant mist, as it were. The young man
involuntarily bent over her a little to breathe this diviner air. This
movement attracted the girl's notice; her gaze, raised to the altar,
was diverted to Granville, whom she could see but dimly in the gloom;
but she recognized him as the companion of her youth, and a memory
more vivid than prayer brought a supernatural glow to her face; she
blushed. The young lawyer was thrilled with joy at seeing the hopes of
another life overpowered by those of love, and the glory of the
sanctuary eclipsed by earthly reminiscences; but his triumph was
brief. Angelique dropped her veil, assumed a calm demeanor, and went
on singing without letting her voice betray the least emotion.
Granville was a prey to one single wish, and every thought of prudence
vanished. By the time the service was ended, his impatience was so
great that he could not leave the ladies to go home alone, but came at
once to make his bow to "his little wife." They bashfully greeted each
other in the Cathedral porch in the presence of the congregation.
Madame Bontems was tremulous with pride as she took the Comte de
Granville's arm, though he, forced to offer it in the presence of all
the world was vexed enough with his son for his ill-advised
For about a fortnight, between the official announcement of the
intended marriage of the Vicomte de Granville to Mademoiselle Bontems
and the solemn day of the wedding, he came assiduously to visit his
lady-love in the dismal drawing-room, to which he became accustomed.
His long calls were devoted to watching Angelique's character; for his
prudence, happily, had made itself heard again in the day after their
first meeting. He always found her seated at a little table of some
West Indian wood, and engaged in marking the linen of her trousseau.
Angelique never spoke first on the subject of religion. If the young
lawyer amused himself with fingering the handsome rosary that she kept
in a little green velvet bag, if he laughed as he looked at a relic
such as usually is attached to this means of grace, Angelique would
gently take the rosary out of his hands and replace it in the bag
without a word, putting it away at once. When, now and then, Granville
was so bold as to make mischievous remarks as to certain religious
practices, the pretty girl listened to him with the obstinate smile of
"You must either believe nothing, or believe everything the Church
teaches," she would say. "Would you wish to have a woman without a
religion as the mother of your children?--No.--What man may dare judge
as between disbelievers and God? And how can I then blame what the
Angelique appeared to be animated by such fervent charity, the young
man saw her look at him with such perfect conviction, that he
sometimes felt tempted to embrace her religious views; her firm belief
that she was in the only right road aroused doubts in his mind, which
she tried to turn to account.
But then Granville committed the fatal blunder of mistaking the
enchantment of desire for that of love. Angelique was so happy in
reconciling the voice of her heart with that of duty, by giving way to
a liking that had grown up with her from childhood, that the deluded
man could not discern which of the two spoke the louder. Are not all
young men ready to trust the promise of a pretty face and to infer
beauty of soul from beauty of feature? An indefinable impulse leads
them to believe that moral perfection must co-exist with physical
perfection. If Angelique had not been at liberty to give vent to her
sentiments, they would soon have dried up in her heart like a plant
watered with some deadly acid. How should a lover be aware of bigotry
so well hidden?
This was the course of young Granville's feelings during that
fortnight, devoured by him like a book of which the end is absorbing.
Angelique, carefully watched by him, seemed the gentlest of creatures,
and he even caught himself feeling grateful to Madame Bontems, who, by
implanting so deeply the principles of religion, had in some degree
inured her to meet the troubles of life.
On the day named for signing the inevitable contract, Madame Bontems
made her son-in-law pledge himself solemnly to respect her daughter's
religious practices, to allow her entire liberty of conscience, to
permit her to go to communion, to church, to confession as often as
she pleased, and never to control her choice of priestly advisers. At
this critical moment Angelique looked at her future husband with such
pure and innocent eyes, that Granville did not hesitate to give his
word. A smile puckered the lips of the Abbe Fontanon, a pale man, who
directed the consciences of this household. Mademoiselle Bontems, by a
slight nod, seemed to promise that she would never take an unfair
advantage of this freedom. As to the old Count, he gently whistled the
tune of an old song, Va-t-en-voir s'ils viennent ("Go and see if
they are coming on!")
A few days after the wedding festivities of which so much is thought
in the provinces, Granville and his wife went to Paris, whither the
young man was recalled by his appointment as public prosecutor to the
Supreme Court of the Seine circuit.
When the young couple set out to find a residence, Angelique used the
influence that the honeymoon gives to every wife in persuading her
husband to take a large apartment in the ground-floor of a house at
the corner of the Vieille Rue du Temple and the Rue Nueve Saint-
Francois. Her chief reason for this choice was that the house was
close to the Rue d'Orleans, where there was a church, and not far from
a small chapel in the Rue Saint-Louis.
"A good housewife provides for everything," said her husband,
Angelique pointed out to him that this part of Paris, known as the
Marais, was within easy reach of the Palais de Justice, and that the
lawyers they knew lived in the neighborhood. A fairly large garden
made the apartment particularly advantageous to a young couple; the
children--if Heaven should send them any--could play in the open air;
the courtyard was spacious, and there were good stables.
The lawyer wished to live in the Chaussee d'Antin, where everything is
fresh and bright, where the fashions may be seen while still new,
where a well-dressed crowd throngs the Boulevards, and the distance is
less to the theatres or places of amusement; but he was obliged to
give way to the coaxing ways of a young wife, who asked this as his
first favor; so, to please her, he settled in the Marais. Granville's
duties required him to work hard--all the more, because they were new
to him--so he devoted himself in the first place to furnishing his
private study and arranging his books. He was soon established in a
room crammed with papers, and left the decoration of the house to his
wife. He was all the better pleased to plunge Angelique into the
bustle of buying furniture and fittings, the source of so much
pleasure and of so many associations to most young women, because he
was rather ashamed of depriving her of his company more often than the
usages of early married life require. As soon as his work was fairly
under way, he gladly allowed his wife to tempt him out of his study to
consider the effect of furniture or hangings, which he had before only
seen piecemeal or unfinished.
If the old adage is true that says a woman may be judged of from her
front door, her rooms must express her mind with even greater
fidelity. Madame de Granville had perhaps stamped the various things
she had ordered with the seal of her own character; the young lawyer
was certainly startled by the cold, arid solemnity that reigned in
these rooms; he found nothing to charm his taste; everything was
discordant, nothing gratified the eye. The rigid mannerism that
prevailed in the sitting-room at Bayeux had invaded his home; the
broad panels were hollowed in circles, and decorated with those
arabesques of which the long, monotonous mouldings are in such bad
taste. Anxious to find excuses for his wife, the young husband began
again, looking first at the long and lofty ante-room through which the
apartment was entered. The color of the panels, as ordered by his
wife, was too heavy, and the very dark green velvet used to cover the
benches added to the gloom of this entrance--not, to be sure, an
important room, but giving a first impression--just as we measure a
man's intelligence by his first address. An ante-room is a kind of
preface which announces what is to follow, but promises nothing.
The young husband wondered whether his wife could really have chosen
the lamp of an antique pattern, which hung in the centre of this bare
hall, the pavement of black and white marble, and the paper in
imitation of blocks of stone, with green moss on them in places. A
handsome, but not new, barometer hung on the middle of one of the
walls, as if to accentuate the void. At the sight of it all, he looked
round at his wife; he saw her so much pleased by the red braid binding
to the cotton curtains, so satisfied with the barometer and the
strictly decent statue that ornamented a large Gothic stove, that he
had not the barbarous courage to overthrow such deep convictions.
Instead of blaming his wife, Granville blamed himself, accusing
himself of having failed in his duty of guiding the first steps in
Paris of a girl brought up at Bayeux.
From this specimen, what might not be expected of the other rooms?
What was to be looked for from a woman who took fright at the bare
legs of a Caryatid, and who would not look at a chandelier or a
candle-stick if she saw on it the nude outlines of an Egyptian bust?
At this date the school of David was at the height of its glory; all
the art of France bore the stamp of his correct design and his love of
antique types, which indeed gave his pictures the character of colored
sculpture. But none of these devices of Imperial luxury found civic
rights under Madame de Granville's roof. The spacious, square drawing-
room remained as it had been left from the time of Louis XV., in white
and tarnished gold, lavishly adorned by the architect with checkered
lattice-work and the hideous garlands due to the uninventive designers
of the time. Still, if harmony at least had prevailed, if the
furniture of modern mahogany had but assumed the twisted forms of
which Boucher's corrupt taste first set the fashion, Angelique's room
would only have suggested the fantastic contrast of a young couple in
the nineteenth century living as though they were in the eighteenth;
but a number of details were in ridiculous discord. The consoles, the
clocks, the candelabra, were decorated with the military trophies
which the wars of the Empire commended to the affections of the
Parisians; and the Greek helmets, the Roman crossed daggers, and the
shields so dear to military enthusiasm that they were introduced on
furniture of the most peaceful uses, had no fitness side by side with
the delicate and profuse arabesques that delighted Madame de
Bigotry tends to an indescribably tiresome kind of humility which does
not exclude pride. Whether from modesty or by choice, Madame de
Granville seemed to have a horror of light and cheerful colors;
perhaps, too, she imagined that brown and purple beseemed the dignity
of a magistrate. How could a girl accustomed to an austere life have
admitted the luxurious divans that may suggest evil thoughts, the
elegant and tempting boudoirs where naughtiness may be imagined?
The poor husband was in despair. From the tone in which he approved,
only seconding the praises she bestowed on herself, Angelique
understood that nothing really pleased him; and she expressed so much
regret at her want of success, that Granville, who was very much in
love, regarded her disappointment as a proof of her affection instead
of resentment for an offence to her self-conceit. After all, could he
expect a girl just snatched from the humdrum of country notions, with
no experience of the niceties and grace of Paris life, to know or do
any better? Rather would he believe that his wife's choice had been
overruled by the tradesmen than allow himself to own the truth. If he
had been less in love, he would have understood that the dealers,
always quick to discern their customers' ideas, had blessed Heaven for
sending them a tasteless little bigot, who would take their old-
fashioned goods off their hands. So he comforted the pretty
"Happiness, dear Angelique, does not depend on a more or less elegant
piece of furniture; it depends on the wife's sweetness, gentleness,
"Why, it is my duty to love you," said Angelique mildly, "and I can
have no more delightful duty to carry out."
Nature has implanted in the heart of woman so great a desire to
please, so deep a craving for love, that, even in a youthful bigot,
the ideas of salvation and a future existence must give way to the
happiness of early married life. And, in fact, from the month of
April, when they were married, till the beginning of winter, the
husband and wife lived in perfect union. Love and hard work have the
grace of making a man tolerably indifferent to external matters. Being
obliged to spend half the day in court fighting for the gravest
interests of men's lives or fortunes, Granville was less alive than
another might have been to certain facts in his household.
If, on a Friday, he found none but Lenten fare, and by chance asked
for a dish of meat without getting it, his wife, forbidden by the
Gospel to tell a lie, could still, by such subterfuges as are
permissible in the interests of religion, cloak what was premeditated
purpose under some pretext of her own carelessness or the scarcity in
the market. She would often exculpate herself at the expense of the
cook, and even go so far as to scold him. At that time young lawyers
did not, as they do now, keep the fasts of the Church, the four
rogation seasons, and the vigils of festivals; so Granville was not at
first aware of the regular recurrence of these Lenten meals, which his
wife took care should be made dainty by the addition of teal, moor-
hen, and fish-pies, that their amphibious meat or high seasoning might
cheat his palate. Thus the young man unconsciously lived in strict
orthodoxy, and worked out his salvation without knowing it.
On week-days he did not know whether his wife went to Mass or no. On
Sundays, with very natural amiability, he accompanied her to church to
make up to her, as it were, for sometimes giving up vespers in favor
of his company; he could not at first fully enter into the strictness
of his wife's religious views. The theatres being impossible in summer
by reason of the heat, Granville had not even the opportunity of the
great success of a piece to give rise to the serious question of play-
going. And, in short, at the early stage of a union to which a man has
been led by a young girl's beauty, he can hardly be exacting as to his
amusements. Youth is greedy rather than dainty, and possession has a
charm in itself. How should he be keen to note coldness, dignity, and
reserve in the woman to whom he ascribes the excitement he himself
feels, and lends the glow of the fire that burns within him? He must
have attained a certain conjugal calm before he discovers that a bigot
sits waiting for love with her arms folded.
Granville, therefore, believed himself happy till a fatal event
brought its influence to bear on his married life. In the month of
November 1808 the Canon of Bayeux Cathedral who had been the keeper of
Madame Bontems' conscience and her daughter's, came to Paris, spurred
by the ambition to be at the head of a church in the capital--a
position which he regarded perhaps as the stepping-stone to a
bishopric. On resuming his former control of this wandering lamb, he
was horrified to find her already so much deteriorated by the air of
Paris, and strove to reclaim her to his chilly fold. Frightened by the
exhortations of this priest, a man of about eight-and-thirty, who
brought with him, into the circle of the enlightened and tolerant
Paris clergy, the bitter provincial catholicism and the inflexible
bigotry which fetter timid souls with endless exactions, Madame de
Granville did penance and returned from her Jansenist errors.
It would be tiresome to describe minutely all the circumstances which
insensibly brought disaster on this household; it will be enough to
relate the simple facts without giving them in strict order of time.
The first misunderstanding between the young couple was, however, a
When Granville took his wife into society she never declined solemn
functions, such as dinners, concerts, or parties given by the Judges
superior to her husband in the legal profession; but for a long time
she constantly excused herself on the plea of a sick headache when
they were invited to a ball. One day Granville, out of patience with
these assumed indispositions, destroyed a note of invitation to a ball
at the house of a Councillor of State, and gave his wife only a verbal
invitation. Then, on the evening, her health being quite above
suspicion, he took her to a magnificent entertainment.
"My dear," said he, on their return home, seeing her wear an offensive
air of depression, "your position as a wife, the rank you hold in
society, and the fortune you enjoy, impose on you certain duties of
which no divine law can relieve you. Are you not your husband's pride?
You are required to go to balls when I go, and to appear in a becoming
"And what is there, my dear, so disastrous in my dress?"
"It is your manner, my dear. When a young man comes up to speak to
you, you look so serious that a spiteful person might believe you
doubtful of your own virtue. You seem to fear lest a smile should undo
you. You really look as if you were asking forgiveness of God for the
sins that may be committed around you. The world, my dearest, is not a
convent.--But, as you mentioned your dress, I may confess to you that
it is no less a duty to conform to the customs and fashions of
"Do you wish that I should display my shape like those indecent women
who wear gowns so low that impudent eyes can stare at their bare
shoulders and their--"
"There is a difference, my dear," said her husband, interrupting her,
"between uncovering your whole bust and giving some grace to your
dress. You wear three rows of net frills that cover your throat up to
your chin. You look as if you had desired your dressmaker to destroy
the graceful line of your shoulders and bosom with as much care as a
coquette would devote to obtaining from hers a bodice that might
emphasize her covered form. Your bust is wrapped in so many folds that
every one was laughing at your affectation of prudery. You would be
really grieved if I were to repeat the ill-natured remarks made on
"Those who admire such obscenity will not have to bear the burthen if
we sin," said the lady tartly.
"And you did not dance?" asked Granville.
"I shall never dance," she replied.
"If I tell you that you ought to dance!" said her husband sharply.
"Yes, you ought to follow the fashions, to wear flowers in your hair,
and diamonds. Remember, my dear, that rich people--and we are rich--
are obliged to keep up luxury in the State. Is it not far better to
encourage manufacturers than to distribute money in the form of alms
through the medium of the clergy?"
"You talk as a statesman!" said Angelique.
"And you as a priest," he retorted.
The discussion was bitter. Madame de Granville's answers, though
spoken very sweetly and in a voice as clear as a church bell, showed
an obstinacy that betrayed priestly influence. When she appealed to
the rights secured to her by Granville's promise, she added that her
director specially forbade her going to balls; then her husband
pointed out to her that the priest was overstepping the regulations of
This odious theological dispute was renewed with great violence and
acerbity on both sides when Granville proposed to take his wife to the
play. Finally, the lawyer, whose sole aim was to defeat the pernicious
influence exerted over his wife by her old confessor, placed the
question on such a footing that Madame de Granville, in a spirit of
defiance, referred it by writing to the Court of Rome, asking in so
many words whether a woman could wear low gowns and go to the play and
to balls without compromising her salvation.
The reply of the venerable Pope Pius VII. came at once, strongly
condemning the wife's recalcitrancy and blaming the priest. This
letter, a chapter on conjugal duties, might have been dictated by the
spirit of Fenelon, whose grace and tenderness pervaded every line.
"A wife is right to go wherever her husband may take her. Even if she
sins by his command, she will not be ultimately held answerable."
These two sentences of the Pope's homily only made Madame de Granville
and her director accuse him of irreligion.
But before this letter had arrived, Granville had discovered the
strict observance of fast days that his wife forced upon him, and gave
his servants orders to serve him with meat every day in the year.
However much annoyed his wife might be by these commands, Granville,
who cared not a straw for such indulgence or abstinence, persisted
with manly determination.
Is it not an offence to the weakest creature that can think at all to
be compelled to do, by the will of another, anything that he would
otherwise have done simply of his own accord? Of all forms of tyranny,
the most odious is that which constantly robs the soul of the merit of
its thoughts and deeds. It has to abdicate without having reigned. The
word we are readiest to speak, the feelings we most love to express,
die when we are commanded to utter them.
Ere long the young man ceased to invite his friends, to give parties
or dinners; the house might have been shrouded in crape. A house where
the mistress is a bigot has an atmosphere of its own. The servants,
who are, of course, under her immediate control, are chosen among a
class who call themselves pious, and who have an unmistakable
physiognomy. Just as the jolliest fellow alive, when he joins the
gendarmerie, has the countenance of a gendarme, so those who give
themselves over to the habit of lowering their eyes and preserving a
sanctimonious mien clothes them in a livery of hypocrisy which rogues
can affect to perfection.
And besides, bigots constitute a sort of republic; they all know each
other; the servants they recommend and hand on from one to another are
a race apart, and preserved by them, as horse-breeders will admit no
animal into their stables that has not a pedigree. The more the
impious--as they are thought--come to understand a household of
bigots, the more they perceive that everything is stamped with an
indescribable squalor; they find there, at the same time, an
appearance of avarice and mystery, as in a miser's home, and the dank
scent of cold incense which gives a chill to the stale atmosphere of a
chapel. This methodical meanness, this narrowness of thought, which is
visible in every detail, can only be expressed by one word--Bigotry.
In these sinister and pitiless houses Bigotry is written on the
furniture, the prints, the pictures; speech is bigoted, the silence is
bigoted, the faces are those of bigots. The transformation of men and
things into bigotry is an inexplicable mystery, but the fact is
evident. Everybody can see that bigots do not walk, do not sit, do not
speak, as men of the world walk, sit, and speak. Under their roof
every one is ill at ease, no one laughs, stiffness and formality
infect everything, from the mistress' cap down to her pincushion; eyes
are not honest, the folks are more like shadows, and the lady of the
house seems perched on a throne of ice.
One morning poor Granville discerned with grief and pain that all the
symptoms of bigotry had invaded his home. There are in the world
different spheres in which the same effects are seen though produced
by dissimilar causes. Dulness hedges such miserable homes round with
walls of brass, enclosing the horrors of the desert and the infinite
void. The home is not so much a tomb as that far worse thing--a
convent. In the center of this icy sphere the lawyer could study his
wife dispassionately. He observed, not without keen regret, the
narrow-mindedness that stood confessed in the very way that her hair
grew, low on the forehead, which was slightly depressed; he discovered
in the perfect regularity of her features a certain set rigidity which
before long made him hate the assumed sweetness that had bewitched
him. Intuition told him that one day of disaster those thin lips might
say, "My dear, it is for your good!"
Madame de Granville's complexion was acquiring a dull pallor and an
austere expression that were a kill-joy to all who came near her. Was
this change wrought by the ascetic habits of a pharisaism which is not
piety any more than avarice is economy? It would be hard to say.
Beauty without expression is perhaps an imposture. This imperturbable
set smile that the young wife always wore when she looked at Granville
seemed to be a sort of Jesuitical formula of happiness, by which she
thought to satisfy all the requirements of married life. Her charity
was an offence, her soulless beauty was monstrous to those who knew
her; the mildness of her speech was an irritation: she acted, not on
feeling, but on duty.
There are faults which may yield in a wife to the stern lessons of
experience, or to a husband's warnings; but nothing can counteract
false ideas of religion. An eternity of happiness to be won, set in
the scale against worldly enjoyment, triumphs over everything and
makes every pang endurable. Is it not the apotheosis of egotism, of
Self beyond the grave? Thus even the Pope was censured at the tribunal
of the priest and the young devotee. To be always in the right is a
feeling which absorbs every other in these tyrannous souls.
For some time past a secret struggle had been going on between the
ideas of the husband and wife, and the young man was soon weary of a
battle to which there could be no end. What man, what temper, can
endure the sight of a hypocritically affectionate face and categorical
resistance to his slightest wishes? What is to be done with a wife who
takes advantage of his passion to protect her coldness, who seems
determined on being blandly inexorable, prepares herself ecstatically
to play the martyr, and looks on her husband as a scourge from God, a
means of flagellation that may spare her the fires of purgatory? What
picture can give an idea of these women who make virtue hateful by
defying the gentle precepts of that faith which Saint John epitomized
in the words, "Love one another"?
If there was a bonnet to be found in a milliner's shop that was
condemned to remain in the window, or to be packed off to the
colonies, Granville was certain to see it on his wife's head; if a
material of bad color or hideous design were to be found, she would
select it. These hapless bigots are heart-breaking in their notions of
dress. Want of taste is a defect inseparable from false pietism.
And so, in the home-life that needs the fullest sympathy, Granville
had no true companionship. He went out alone to parties and the
theatres. Nothing in his house appealed to him. A huge Crucifix that
hung between his bed and Angelique's seemed figurative of his destiny.
Does it not represent a murdered Divinity, a Man-God, done to death in
all the prime of life and beauty? The ivory of that cross was less
cold than Angelique crucifying her husband under the plea of virtue.
This it was that lay at the root of their woes; the young wife saw
nothing but duty where she should have given love. Here, one Ash
Wednesday, rose the pale and spectral form of Fasting in Lent, of
Total Abstinence, commanded in a severe tone--and Granville did not
deem it advisable to write in his turn to the Pope and take the
opinion of the Consistory on the proper way of observing Lent, the
Ember days, and the eve of great festivals.
His misfortune was too great! He could not even complain, for what
could he say? He had a pretty young wife attached to her duties,
virtuous--nay, a model of all the virtues. She had a child every year,
nursed them herself, and brought them up in the highest principles.
Being charitable, Angelique was promoted to rank as an angel. The old
women who constituted the circle in which she moved--for at that time
it was not yet "the thing" for young women to be religious as a matter
of fashion--all admired Madame de Granville's piety, and regarded her,
not indeed as a virgin, but as a martyr. They blamed not the wife's
scruples, but the barbarous philoprogenitiveness of the husband.
Granville, by insensible degrees, overdone with work, bereft of
conjugal consolations, and weary of a world in which he wandered
alone, by the time he was two-and-thirty had sunk into the Slough of
Despond. He hated life. Having too lofty a notion of the
responsibilities imposed on him by his position to set the example of
a dissipated life, he tried to deaden feeling by hard study, and began
a great book on Law.
But he was not allowed to enjoy the monastic peace he had hoped for.
When the celestial Angelique saw him desert worldly society to work at
home with such regularity, she tried to convert him. It had been a
real sorrow to her to know that her husband's opinions were not
strictly Christian; and she sometimes wept as she reflected that if
her husband should die it would be in a state of final impenitence, so
that she could not hope to snatch him from the eternal fires of Hell.
Thus Granville was a mark for the mean ideas, the vacuous arguments,
the narrow views by which his wife--fancying she had achieved the
first victory--tried to gain a second by bringing him back within the
pale of the Church.
This was the last straw. What can be more intolerable than the blind
struggle in which the obstinacy of a bigot tries to meet the acumen of
a lawyer? What more terrible to endure than the acrimonious pin-pricks
to which a passionate soul prefers a dagger-thrust? Granville
neglected his home. Everything there was unendurable. His children,
broken by their mother's frigid despotism, dared not go with him to
the play; indeed, Granville could never give them any pleasure without
bringing down punishment from their terrible mother. His loving nature
was weaned to indifference, to a selfishness worse than death. His
boys, indeed, he saved from this hell by sending them to school at an
early age, and insisting on his right to train them. He rarely
interfered between his wife and her daughters; but he was resolved
that they should marry as soon as they were old enough.
Even if he had wished to take violent measures, he could have found no
justification; his wife, backed by a formidable army of dowagers,
would have had him condemned by the whole world. Thus Granville had no
choice but to live in complete isolation; but, crushed under the
tyranny of misery, he could not himself bear to see how altered he was
by grief and toil. And he dreaded any connection or intimacy with
women of the world, having no hope of finding any consolation.
The improving history of this melancholy household gave rise to no
events worthy of record during the fifteen years between 1806 and
1825. Madame de Granville was exactly the same after losing her
husband's affection as she had been during the time when she called
herself happy. She paid for Masses, beseeching God and the Saints to
enlighten her as to what the faults were which displeased her husband,
and to show her the way to restore the erring sheep; but the more
fervent her prayers, the less was Granville to be seen at home.
For about five years now, having achieved a high position as a judge,
Granville had occupied the entresol of the house to avoid living
with the Comtesse de Granville. Every morning a little scene took
place, which, if evil tongues are to be believed, is repeated in many
households as the result of incompatibility of temper, of moral or
physical malady, or of antagonisms leading to such disaster as is
recorded in this history. At about eight in the morning a housekeeper,
bearing no small resemblance to a nun, rang at the Comte de
Granville's door. Admitted to the room next to the Judge's study, she
always repeated the same message to the footman, and always in the
"Madame would be glad to know whether Monsieur le Comte has had a good
night, and if she is to have the pleasure of his company at
"Monsieur presents his compliments to Madame la Comtesse," the valet
would say, after speaking with his master, "and begs her to hold him
excused; important business compels him to be in court this morning."
A minute later the woman reappeared and asked on madame's behalf
whether she would have the pleasure of seeing Monsieur le Comte before
he went out.
"He is gone," was always the rely, though often his carriage was still
This little dialogue by proxy became a daily ceremonial. Granville's
servant, a favorite with his master, and the cause of more than one
quarrel over his irreligious and dissipated conduct, would even go
into his master's room, as a matter of form, when the Count was not
there, and come back with the same formula in reply.
The aggrieved wife was always on the watch for her husband's return,
and standing on the steps so as to meet him like an embodiment of
remorse. The petty aggressiveness which lies at the root of the
monastic temper was the foundation of Madame de Granville's; she was
now five-and-thirty, and looked forty. When the count was compelled by
decency to speak to his wife or to dine at home, she was only too well
pleased to inflict her company upon him, with her acid-sweet remarks
and the intolerable dulness of her narrow-minded circle, and she tried
to put him in the wrong before the servants and her charitable
When, at this time, the post of President in a provincial court was
offered to the Comte de Granville, who was in high favor, he begged to
be allowed to remain in Paris. This refusal, of which the Keeper of
the Seals alone knew the reasons, gave rise to extraordinary
conjectures on the part of the Countess' intimate friends and of her
director. Granville, a rich man with a hundred thousand francs a year,
belonged to one of the first families of Normandy. His appointment to
be Presiding Judge would have been the stepping-stone to a peer's
seat; whence this strange lack of ambition? Why had he given up his
great book on Law? What was the meaning of the dissipation which for
nearly six years had made him a stranger to his home, his family, his
study, to all he ought to hold dear? The Countess' confessor, who
based his hopes of a bishopric quite as much on the families he
governed as on the services he rendered to an association of which he
was an ardent propagator, was much disappointed by Granville's
refusal, and tried to insinuate calumnious explanations: "If Monsieur
le Comte had such an objection to provincial life, it was perhaps
because he dreaded finding himself under the necessity of leading a
regular life, compelled to set an example of moral conduct, and to
live with the Countess, from whom nothing could have alienated him but
some illicit connection; for how could a woman so pure as Madame de
Granville ever tolerate the disorderly life into which her husband had
drifted?" The sanctimonious woman accepted as facts these hints, which
unluckily were not merely hypothetical, and Madame de Granville was
stricken as by a thunderbolt.
Angelique, knowing nothing of the world, of love and its follies, was
so far from conceiving of any conditions of married life unlike those
that had alienated her husband as possible, that she believed him to
be incapable of the errors which are crimes in the eyes of any wife.
When the Count ceased to demand anything of her, she imagined that the
tranquillity he now seemed to enjoy was in the course of nature; and,
as she had really given to him all the love which her heart was
capable of feeling for a man, while the priest's conjectures were the
utter destruction of the illusions she had hitherto cherished, she
defended her husband; at the same time, she could not eradicate the
suspicion that had been so ingeniously sown in her soul.
These alarms wrought such havoc in her feeble brain that they made her
ill; she was worn by low fever. These incidents took place during Lent
1822; she would not pretermit her austerities, and fell into a decline
that put her life in danger. Granville's indifference was added
torture; his care and attention were such as a nephew feels himself
bound to give to some old uncle.
Though the Countess had given up her persistent nagging and
remonstrances, and tried to receive her husband with affectionate
words, the sharpness of the bigot showed through, and one speech would
often undo the work of a week.
Towards the end of May, the warm breath of spring, and more nourishing
diet than her Lenten fare, restored Madame de Granville to a little
strength. One morning, on coming home from Mass, she sat down on a
stone bench in the little garden, where the sun's kisses reminded her
of the early days of her married life, and she looked back across the
years to see wherein she might have failed in her duty as a wife and
mother. She was broken in upon by the Abbe Fontanon in an almost
indescribable state of excitement.
"Has any misfortune befallen you, Father?" she asked with filial
"Ah! I only wish," cried the Normandy priest, "that all the woes
inflicted on you by the hand of God were dealt out to me; but, my
admirable friend, there are trials to which you can but bow."
"Can any worse punishments await me than those with which Providence
crushes me by making my husband the instrument of His wrath?"
"You must prepare yourself, daughter, to yet worse mischief than we
and your pious friends had ever conceived of."
"Then I may thank God," said the Countess, "for vouchsafing to use you
as the messenger of His will, and thus, as ever, setting the treasures
of mercy by the side of the scourges of His wrath, just as in bygone
days He showed a spring to Hagar when He had driven her into the
"He measures your sufferings by the strength of your resignation and
the weight of your sins."
"Speak; I am ready to hear!" As she said it she cast her eyes up to
heaven. "Speak, Monsieur Fontanon."
"For seven years Monsieur Granville has lived in sin with a concubine,
by whom he has two children; and on this adulterous connection he has
spent more than five hundred thousand francs, which ought to have been
the property of his legitimate family."
"I must see it to believe it!" cried the Countess.
"Far be it from you!" exclaimed the Abbe. "You must forgive, my
daughter, and wait in patience and prayer till God enlightens your
husband; unless, indeed, you choose to adopt against him the means
offered you by human laws."
The long conversation that ensued between the priest and his penitent
resulted in an extraordinary change in the Countess; she abruptly
dismissed him, called her servants who were alarmed at her flushed
face and crazy energy. She ordered her carriage--countermanded it--
changed her mind twenty times in the hour; but at last, at about three
o'clock, as if she had come to some great determination, she went out,
leaving the whole household in amazement at such a sudden
"Is the Count coming home to dinner?" she asked of his servant, to
whom she would never speak.
"Did you go with him to the Courts this morning?"
"And to-day is Monday?"
"Then do the Courts sit on Mondays nowadays?"
"Devil take you!" cried the man, as his mistress drove off after
saying to the coachman:
Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille was weeping: Roger, sitting by her side,
held one of her hands between his own. He was silent, looking by turns
at little Charles--who, not understanding his mother's grief, stood
speechless at the sight of her tears--at the cot where Eugenie lay
sleeping, and Caroline's face, on which grief had the effect of rain
falling across the beams of cheerful sunshine.
"Yes, my darling," said Roger, after a long silence, "that is the
great secret: I am married. But some day I hope we may form but one
family. My wife has been given over ever since last March. I do not
wish her dead; still, if it should please God to take her to Himself,
I believe she will be happier in Paradise than in a world to whose
griefs and pleasures she is equally indifferent."
"How I hate that woman! How could she bear to make you unhappy? And
yet it is to that unhappiness that I owe my happiness!"
Her tears suddenly ceased.
"Caroline, let us hope," cried Roger. "Do not be frightened by
anything that priest may have said to you. Though my wife's confessor
is a man to be feared for his power in the congregation, if he should
try to blight our happiness I would find means--"
"What could you do?"
"We would go to Italy: I would fly--"
A shriek that rang out from the adjoining room made Roger start and
Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille quake; but she rushed into the drawing-
room, and there found Madame de Granville in a dead faint. When the
Countess recovered her senses, she sighed deeply on finding herself
supported by the Count and her rival, whom she instinctively pushed
away with a gesture of contempt. Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille rose to
"You are at home, madame," said Granville, taking Caroline by the arm.
The Judge took up his wife in his arms, carried her to the carriage,
and got into it with her.
"Who is it that has brought you to the point of wishing me dead, of
resolving to fly?" asked the Countess, looking at her husband with
grief mingled with indignation. "Was I not young? you thought me
pretty--what fault have you to find with me? Have I been false to you?
Have I not been a virtuous and well-conducted wife? My heart has
cherished no image but yours, my ears have listened to no other voice.
What duty have I failed in? What have I ever denied you?"
"Happiness, madame," said the Count severely. "You know, madame, that
there are two ways of serving God. Some Christians imagine that by
going to church at fixed hours to say a Paternoster, by attending
Mass regularly and avoiding sin, they may win heaven--but they,
madame, will go to hell; they have not loved God for himself, they
have not worshiped Him as He chooses to be worshiped, they have made
no sacrifice. Though mild in seeming, they are hard on their
neighbors; they see the law, the letter, not the spirit.--This is how
you have treated me, your earthly husband; you have sacrificed my
happiness to your salvation; you were always absorbed in prayer when I
came to you in gladness of heart; you wept when you should have
cheered my toil; you have never tried to satisfy any demands I have
made on you."
"And if they were wicked," cried the Countess hotly, "was I to lose my
soul to please you?"
"It is a sacrifice which another, a more loving woman, has dared to
make," said Granville coldly.
"Dear God!" she cried, bursting into tears, "Thou hearest! Has he been
worthy of the prayers and penance I have lived in, wearing myself out
to atone for his sins and my own?--Of what avail is virtue?"
"To win Heaven, my dear. A woman cannot be at the same time the wife
of a man and the spouse of Christ. That would be bigamy; she must
choose between a husband and a nunnery. For the sake of future
advantage you have stripped your soul of all the love, all the
devotion, which God commands that you should have for me, you have
cherished no feeling but hatred--"
"Have I not loved you?" she put in.
"Then what is love?" the Countess involuntarily inquired.
"Love, my dear," replied Granville, with a sort of ironical surprise,
"you are incapable of understanding it. The cold sky of Normandy is
not that of Spain. This difference of climate is no doubt the secret
of our disaster.--To yield to our caprices, to guess them, to find
pleasure in pain, to sacrifice the world's opinion, your pride, your
religion even, and still regard these offerings as mere grains of
incense burnt in honor of the idol--that is love--"
"The love of ballet-girls!" cried the Countess in horror. "Such flames
cannot last, and must soon leave nothing but ashes and cinders, regret
or despair. A wife ought, in my opinion, to bring you true friendship,
"You speak of warmth as negroes speak of ice," retorted the Count,
with a sardonic smile. "Consider that the humblest daisy has more
charms than the proudest and most gorgeous of the red hawthorns that
attract us in spring by their strong scent and brilliant color.--At
the same time," he went on, "I will do you justice. You have kept so
precisely in the straight path of imaginary duty prescribed by law,
that only to make you understand wherein you have failed towards me, I
should be obliged to enter into details which would offend your
dignity, and instruct you in matters which would seem to you to
undermine all morality."
"And you dare to speak of morality when you have but just left the
house where you have dissipated your children's fortune in
debaucheries?" cried the Countess, maddened by her husband's
"There, madame, I must correct you," said the Count, coolly
interrupting his wife. "Though Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille is rich,
it is at nobody's expense. My uncle was master of his fortune, and had
several heirs. In his lifetime, and out of pure friendship, regarding
her as his niece, he gave her the little estate of Bellefeuille. As
for anything else, I owe it to his liberality--"
"Such conduct is only worthy of a Jacobin!" said the sanctimonious
"Madame, you are forgetting that your own father was one of the
Jacobins whom you scorn so uncharitably," said the Count severely.
"Citizen Bontems was signing death-warrants at a time when my uncle
was doing France good service."
Madame de Granville was silenced. But after a short pause, the
remembrance of what she had just seen reawakened in her soul the
jealousy which nothing can kill in a woman's heart, and she murmured,
as if to herself--"How can a woman thus destroy her own soul and that
"Bless me, madame," replied the Count, tired of this dialogue, "you
yourself may some day have to answer that question." The Countess was
scared. "You perhaps will be held excused by the merciful Judge, who
will weigh our sins," he went on, "in consideration of the conviction
with which you have worked out my misery. I do not hate you--I hate
those who have perverted your heart and your reason. You have prayed
for me, just as Mademoiselle de Bellefeuille has given me her heart
and crowned my life with love. You should have been my mistress and
the prayerful saint by turns.--Do me the justice to confess that I am
no reprobate, no debauchee. My life was cleanly. Alas! after seven
years of wretchedness, the craving for happiness led me by an
imperceptible descent to love another woman and make a second home.
And do not imagine that I am singular; there are in this city
thousands of husbands, all led by various causes to live this twofold
"Great God!" cried the Countess. "How heavy is the cross Thou hast
laid on me to bear! If the husband Thou hast given me here below in
Thy wrath can only be made happy through my death, take me to
"If you had always breathed such admirable sentiments and such
devotion, we should be happy yet," said the Count coldly.
"Indeed," cried Angelique, melting into a flood of tears, "forgive me
if I have done any wrong. Yes, monsieur, I am ready to obey you in all
things, feeling sure that you will desire nothing but what is just and
natural; henceforth I will be all you can wish your wife to be."
"If your purpose, madame, is to compel me to say that I no longer love
you, I shall find the cruel courage to tell you so. Can I command my
heart? Can I wipe out in an instant the traces of fifteen years of
suffering?--I have ceased to love.--These words contain a mystery as
deep as lies the words I love. Esteem, respect, friendship may be
won, lost, regained; but as to love--I might school myself for a
thousand years, and it would not blossom again, especially for a woman
too old to respond to it."
"I hope, Monsieur le Comte, I sincerely hope, that such words may not
be spoken to you some day by the woman you love, and in such a tone
"Will you put on a dress a la Grecque this evening, and come to the
The shudder with which the Countess received the suggestion was a mute
Early in December 1833, a man, whose perfectly white hair and worn
features seemed to show that he was aged by grief rather than by
years, was walking at midnight along the Rue Gaillon. Having reached a
house of modest appearance, and only two stories high, he paused to
look up at one of the attic windows that pierced the roof at regular
intervals. A dim light scarcely showed through the humble panes, some
of which had been repaired with paper. The man below was watching the
wavering glimmer with the vague curiosity of a Paris idler, when a
young man came out of the house. As the light of the street lamp fell
full on the face of the first comer, it will not seem surprising that,
in spite of the darkness, this young man went towards the passer-by,
though with the hesitancy that is usual when we have any fear of
making a mistake in recognizing an acquaintance.
"What, is it you," cried he, "Monsieur le President? Alone at this
hour, and so far from the Rue Saint-Lazare. Allow me to have the honor
of giving you my arm.--The pavement is so greasy this morning, that if
we do not hold each other up," he added, to soothe the elder man's
susceptibilities, "we shall find it hard to escape a tumble."
"But, my dear sir, I am no more than fifty-five, unfortunately for
me," replied the Comte de Granville. "A physician of your celebrity
must know that at that age a man is still hale and strong."
"Then you are in waiting on a lady, I suppose," replied Horace
Bianchon. "You are not, I imagine, in the habit of going about Paris
on foot. When a man keeps such fine horses----"
"Still, when I am not visiting in the evening, I commonly return from
the Courts or the club on foot," replied the Count.
"And with large sums of money about you, perhaps!" cried the doctor.
"It is a positive invitation to the assassin's knife."
"I am not afraid of that," said Granville, with melancholy
"But, at least, do not stand about," said the doctor, leading the
Count towards the boulevard. "A little more and I shall believe that
you are bent of robbing me of your last illness, and dying by some
other hand than mine."
"You caught me playing the spy," said the Count. "Whether on foot or
in a carriage, and at whatever hour of the night I may come by, I have
for some time past observed at a window on the third floor of your
house the shadow of a person who seems to work with heroic constancy."
The Count paused as if he felt some sudden pain. "And I take as great
an interest in that garret," he went on, "as a citizen of Paris must
feel in the finishing of the Palais Royal."
"Well," said Horace Bianchon eagerly, "I can tell you--"
"Tell me nothing," replied Granville, cutting the doctor short. "I
would not give a centime to know whether the shadow that moves across
that shabby blind is that of a man or a woman, nor whether the
inhabitant of that attic is happy or miserable. Though I was surprised
to see no one at work there this evening, and though I stopped to
look, it was solely for the pleasure of indulging in conjectures as
numerous and as idiotic as those of idlers who see a building left
half finished. For nine years, my young--" the Count hesitated to use
a word; then he waved his hand, exclaiming--"No, I will not say friend
--I hate everything that savors of sentiment.--Well, for nine years
past I have ceased to wonder that old men amuse themselves with
growing flowers and planting trees; the events of life have taught
them disbelief in all human affection; and I grew old within a few
days. I will no longer attach myself to any creature but to
unreasoning animals, or plants, or superficial things. I think more of
Taglioni's grace than of all human feeling. I abhor life and the world
in which I live alone. Nothing, nothing," he went on, in a tone that
startled the younger man, "no, nothing can move or interest me."
"But you have children?"
"My children!" he repeated bitterly. "Yes--well, is not my eldest
daughter the Comtesse de Vandenesse? The other will, through her
sister's connections, make some good match. As to my sons, have they
not succeeded? The Viscount was public prosecutor at Limoges, and is
now President of the Court at Orleans; the younger is public
prosecutor in Paris.--My children have their own cares, their own
anxieties and business to attend to. If of all those hearts one had
been devoted to me, if one had tried by entire affection to fill up
the void I have here," and he struck his breast, "well, that one would
have failed in life, have sacrificed it to me. And why should he? Why?
To bring sunshine into my few remaining years--and would he have
succeeded? Might I not have accepted such generosity as a debt? But,
doctor," and the Count smiled with deep irony, "it is not for nothing
that we teach them arithmetic and how to count. At this moment perhaps
they are waiting for my money."
"O Monsieur le Comte, how could such an idea enter your head--you who
are kind, friendly, and humane! Indeed, if I were not myself a living
proof of the benevolence you exercise so liberally and so nobly--"
"To please myself," replied the Count. "I pay for a sensation, as I
would to-morrow pay a pile of gold to recover the most childish
illusion that would but make my heart glow.--I help my fellow-
creatures for my own sake, just as I gamble; and I look for gratitude
from none. I should see you die without blinking; and I beg of you to
feel the same with regard to me. I tell you, young man, the events of
life have swept over my heart like the lavas of Vesuvius over
Herculaneum. The town is there--dead."
"Those who have brought a soul as warm and as living as yours was to
such a pitch of indifference are indeed guilty!"
"Say no more," said the Count, with a shudder of aversion.
"You have a malady which you ought to allow me to treat," said
Bianchon in a tone of deep emotion.
"What, do you know of a cure for death?" cried the Count irritably.
"I undertake, Monsieur le Comte, to revive the heart you believe to be
"Are you a match for Talma, then?" asked the Count satirically.
"No, Monsieur le Comte. But Nature is as far above Talma as Talma is
superior to me.--Listen: the garret you are interested in is inhabited
by a woman of about thirty, and in her love is carried to fanaticism.
The object of her adoration is a young man of pleasing appearance but
endowed by some malignant fairy with every conceivable vice. This
fellow is a gambler, and it is hard to say which he is most addicted
to--wine or women; he has, to my knowledge, committed acts deserving
punishment by law. Well, and to him this unhappy woman sacrificed a
life of ease, a man who worshiped her, and the father of her children.
--But what is wrong, Monsieur le Comte?"
"Nothing. Go on."
"She has allowed him to squander a perfect fortune; she would, I
believe, give him the world if she had it; she works night and day;
and many a time she has, without a murmur, seen the wretch she adores
rob her even of the money saved to buy the clothes the children need,
and their food for the morrow. Only three days ago she sold her hair,
the finest hair I ever saw; he came in, she could not hide the gold
piece quickly enough, and he asked her for it. For a smile, for a
kiss, she gave up the price of a fortnight's life and peace. Is it not
dreadful, and yet sublime?--But work is wearing her cheeks hollow. Her
children's crying has broken her heart; she is ill, and at this moment
on her wretched bed. This evening they had nothing to eat; the
children have not strength to cry, they were silent when I went up."
Horace Bianchon stood still. Just then the Comte de Granville, in
spite of himself, as it were, had put his hand into his waistcoat
"I can guess, my young friend, how it is that she is yet alive if you
attend her," said the elder man.
"O poor soul!" cried the doctor, "who could refuse to help her? I only
wish I were richer, for I hope to cure her of her passion."
"But how can you expect me to pity a form of misery of which the joys
to me would seem cheaply purchased with my whole fortune!" exclaimed
the Count, taking his hand out of his pocket empty of the notes which
Bianchon had supposed his patron to be feeling for. "That woman feels,
she is alive! Would not Louis XV. have given his kingdom to rise from
the grave and have three days of youth and life! And is not that the
history of thousands of dead men, thousands of sick men, thousands of
"Poor Caroline!" cried Bianchon.
As he heard the name the Count shuddered, and grasped the doctor's arm
with the grip of an iron vise, as it seemed to Bianchon.
"Her name is Caroline Crochard?" asked the President, in a voice that
was evidently broken.
"Then you know her?" said the doctor, astonished.
"And the wretch's name is Solvet.--Ay, you have kept your word!"
exclaimed Granville; "you have roused my heart to the most terrible
pain it can suffer till it is dust. That emotion, too, is a gift from
hell, and I always know how to pay those debts."
By this time the Count and the doctor had reached the corner of the
Rue de la Chaussee d'Antin. One of those night-birds who wonder round
with a basket on their back and crook in hand, and were, during the
Revolution, facetiously called the Committee of Research, was standing
by the curbstone where the two men now stopped. This scavenger had a
shriveled face worthy of those immortalized by Charlet in his
caricatures of the sweepers of Paris.
"Do you ever pick up a thousand-franc note?"
"Now and then, master."
"And you restore them?"
"It depends on the reward offered."
"You're the man for me," cried the Count, giving the man a thousand-
franc note. "Take this, but, remember, I give it to you on condition
of your spending it at the wineshop, of your getting drunk, fighting,
beating your wife, blacking your friends' eyes. That will give work to
the watch, the surgeon, the druggist--perhaps to the police, the
public prosecutor, the judge, and the prison warders. Do not try to do
anything else, or the devil will be revenged on you sooner or later."
A draughtsman would need at once the pencil of Charlet and of Callot,
the brush of Teniers and of Rembrandt, to give a true notion of this
"Now I have squared accounts with hell, and had some pleasure for my
money," said the Count in a deep voice, pointing out the indescribable
physiognomy of the gaping scavenger to the doctor, who stood
stupefied. "As for Caroline Crochard!--she may die of hunger and
thirst, hearing the heartrending shrieks of her starving children, and
convinced of the baseness of the man she loves. I will not give a sou
to rescue her; and because you have helped her, I will see you no
The Count left Bianchon standing like a statue, and walked as briskly
as a young man to the Rue Saint-Lazare, soon reaching the little house
where he resided, and where, to his surprise, he found a carriage
waiting at the door.
"Monsieur, your son, the attorney-general, came about an hour since,"
said the man-servant, "and is waiting for you in your bedroom."
Granville signed to the man to leave him.
"What motive can be strong enough to require you to infringe the order
I have given my children never to come to me unless I send for them?"
asked the Count of his son as he went into the room.
"Father," replied the younger man in a tremulous voice, and with great
respect, "I venture to hope that you will forgive me when you have
"Your reply is proper," said the Count. "Sit down," and he pointed to
a chair, "But whether I walk up and down, or take a seat, speak
without heeding me."
"Father," the son went on, "this afternoon, at four o'clock, a very
young man who was arrested in the house of a friend of mine, whom he
had robbed to a considerable extent, appealed to you.--He says he is
"His name?" asked the Count hoarsely.
"That will do," said the father, with an imperious wave of the hand.
Granville paced the room in solemn silence, and his son took care not
to break it.
"My son," he began, and the words were pronounced in a voice so mild
and fatherly, that the young lawyer started, "Charles Crochard spoke
the truth.--I am glad you came to me to-night, my good Eugene," he
added. "Here is a considerable sum of money"--and he gave him a bundle
of banknotes--"you can make any use of them you think proper in this
matter. I trust you implicitly, and approve beforehand whatever
arrangements you may make, either in the present or for the future.--
Eugene my dear son, kiss me. We part perhaps for the last time. I
shall to-morrow crave my dismissal from the King, and I am going to
"Though a father owes no account of his life to his children, he is
bound to bequeath to them the experience Fate sells him so dearly--is
it not a part of their inheritance?--When you marry," the count went
on, with a little involuntary shudder, "do not undertake it lightly;
that act is the most important of all which society requires of us.
Remember to study at your leisure the character of the woman who is to
be your partner; but consult me too, I will judge of her myself. A
lack of union between husband and wife, from whatever cause, leads to
terrible misfortune; sooner or later we are always punished for
contravening the social law.--But I will write to you on this subject
from Florence. A father who has the honor of presiding over a supreme
court of justice must not have to blush in the presence of his son.
PARIS, February 1830-January 1842.
The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.
The Middle Classes
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Atheist's Mass
The Commission in Lunacy
A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
A Bachelor's Establishment
The Secrets of a Princess
The Government Clerks
A Study of Woman
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Seamy Side of History
The Magic Skin
A Prince of Bohemia
Letters of Two Brides
The Muse of the Department
The Imaginary Mistress
The Middle Classes
The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
Another Study of Woman
La Grande Breteche
The Middle Classes
The Government Clerks
The Member for Arcis
Granville, Vicomte de (later Comte)
The Gondreville Mystery
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
A Daughter of Eve
Granville, Comtesse Angelique de
A Daughter of Eve
Granville, Vicomte de
A Daughter of Eve
The Country Parson
Granville, Baron Eugene de
Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
The Gondreville Mystery
At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
A Daughter of Eve
Vandenesse, Comtesse Felix de
A Daughter of Eve
The Muse of the Department