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