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