Part 2 out of 5
some excavations. He asked only:
"Have you invited her? When are you going?"
He had the wisdom not to make any objection, judging that opposition
would only make her capriciousness firmer, and fearing to give impetus to
that foolish idea. He said:
"Surely, to travel is an agreeable pastime. I thought that we might in
the spring visit the Caucasus and Turkestan. There is an interesting
country. General Annenkoff will place at our disposal carriages, trains,
and everything else on his railway. He is a friend of mine; he is quite
charmed with you. He will provide us with an escort of Cossacks."
He persisted in trying to flatter her vanity, unable to realize that her
mind was not worldly. She replied, negligently, that it might be a
pleasant trip. Then he praised the mountains, the ancient cities, the
bazaars, the costumes, the armor.
"We shall take some friends with us--Princess Seniavine, General
Lariviere, perhaps Vence or Le Menil."
She replied, with a little dry laugh, that they had time to select their
He became attentive to her wants.
"You are not eating. You will injure your health."
Without yet believing in this prompt departure, he felt some anxiety
about it. Each had regained freedom, but he did not like to be alone.
He felt that he was himself only when his wife was there. And then, he
had decided to give two or three political dinners during the session.
He saw his party growing. This was the moment to assert himself, to make
a dazzling show. He said, mysteriously:
"Something might happen requiring the aid of all our friends. You have
not followed the march of events, Therese?"
"No, my dear."
"I am sorry. You have judgment, liberality of mind. If you had followed
the march of events you would have been struck by the current that is
leading the country back to moderate opinions. The country is tired of
exaggerations. It rejects the men compromised by radical politics and
religious persecution. Some day or other it will be necessary to make
over a Casimir-Perier ministry with other men, and that day--"
He stopped: really she listened too inattentively.
She was thinking, sad and disenchanted. It seemed to her that the pretty
woman, who, among the warm shadows of a closed room, placed her bare feet
in the fur of the brown bear rug, and to whom her lover gave kisses while
she twisted her hair in front of a glass, was not herself, was not even a
woman that she knew well, or that she desired to know, but a person whose
affairs were of no interest to her. A pin badly set in her hair, one of
the pins from the Bohemian glass cup, fell on her neck. She shivered.
"Yet we really must give three or four dinners to our good political
friends," said M. Martin-Belleme. "We shall invite some of the ancient
radicals to meet the people of our circle. It will be well to find some
pretty women. We might invite Madame Berard de la Malle; there has been
no gossip about her for two years. What do you think of it?"
"But, my dear, since I am to go next week--"
This filled him with consternation.
They went, both silent and moody, into the drawing-room, where Paul Vence
was waiting. He often came in the evening.
She extended her hand to him.
"I am very glad to see you. I am going out of town. Paris is cold and
bleak. This weather tires and saddens me. I am going to Florence, for
six weeks, to visit Miss Bell."
M. Martin-Belleme then lifted his eyes to heaven.
Vence asked whether she had been in Italy often.
"Three times; but I saw nothing. This time I wish to see, to throw
myself into things. From Florence I shall take walks into Tuscany, into
Umbria. And, finally, I shall go to Venice."
"You will do well. Venice suggests the peace of the Sabbath-day in the
grand week of creative and divine Italy."
"Your friend Dechartre talked very prettily to me of Venice, of the
atmosphere of Venice, which sows pearls."
"Yes, at Venice the sky is a colorist. Florence inspires the mind.
An old author has said: 'The sky of Florence is light and subtle, and
feeds the beautiful ideas of men.' I have lived delicious days in
Tuscany. I wish I could live them again."
"Come and see me there."
The newspaper, books, and his daily work prevented him.
M. Martin-Belleme said everyone should bow before such reasons, and that
one was too happy to read the articles and the fine books written by M.
Paul Vence to have any wish to take him from his work.
"Oh, my books! One never says in a book what one wishes to say. It is
impossible to express one's self. I know how to talk with my pen as well
as any other person; but, after all, to talk or to write, what futile
occupations! How wretchedly inadequate are the little signs which form
syllables, words, and phrases. What becomes of the idea, the beautiful
idea, which these miserable hieroglyphics hide? What does the reader
make of my writing? A series of false sense, of counter sense, and of
nonsense. To read, to hear, is to translate. There are beautiful
translations, perhaps. There are no faithful translations. Why should I
care for the admiration which they give to my books, since it is what
they themselves see in them that they admire? Every reader substitutes
his visions in the place of ours. We furnish him with the means to
quicken his imagination. It is a horrible thing to be a cause of such
exercises. It is an infamous profession."
"You are jesting," said M. Martin-Belleme.
"I do not think so," said Therese. "He recognizes that one mind is
impenetrable to another mind, and he suffers from this. He feels that he
is alone when he is thinking, alone when he is writing. Whatever one may
do, one is always alone in the world. That is what he wishes to say.
He is right. You may always explain: you never are understood."
"There are signs--" said Paul Vence.
"Don't you think, Monsieur Vence, that signs also are a form of
hieroglyphics? Give me news of Monsieur Choulette. I do not see him any
Vence replied that Choulette was very busy in forming the Third Order of
"The idea, Madame, came to him in a marvellous fashion one day when he
had gone to call on his Maria in the street where she lives, behind the
public hospital--a street always damp, the houses on which are tottering.
You must know that he considers Maria the saint and martyr who is
responsible for the sins of the people.
"He pulled the bell-rope, made greasy by two centuries of visitors.
Either because the martyr was at the wine-shop, where she is familiarly
known, or because she was busy in her room, she did not open the door.
Choulette rang for a long time, and so violently that the bellrope
remained in his hand. Skilful at understanding symbols and the hidden
meaning of things, he understood at once that this rope had not been
detached without the permission of spiritual powers. He made of it a
belt, and realized that he had been chosen to lead back into its
primitive purity the Third Order of Saint Francis. He renounced the
beauty of women, the delights of poetry, the brightness of glory, and
studied the life and the doctrine of Saint Francis. However, he has sold
to his editor a book entitled 'Les Blandices', which contains, he says,
the description of all sorts of loves. He flatters himself that in it he
has shown himself a criminal with some elegance. But far from harming
his mystic undertakings, this book favors them in this sense, that,
corrected by his later work, he will become honest and exemplary; and the
gold that he has received in payment, which would not have been paid to
him for a more chaste volume, will serve for a pilgrimage to Assisi."
Madame Martin asked how much of this story was really true. Vence
replied that she must not try to learn.
He confessed that he was the idealist historian of the poet, and that the
adventures which he related of him were not to be taken in the literal
and Judaic sense.
He affirmed that at least Choulette was publishing Les Blandices, and
desired to visit the cell and the grave of St. Francis.
"Then," exclaimed Madame Martin, "I will take him to Italy with me.
Find him, Monsieur Vence, and bring him to me. I am going next week."
M. Martin then excused himself, not being able to remain longer. He had
to finish a report which was to be laid before the Chamber the next day.
Madame Martin said that nobody interested her so much as Choulette.
Paul Vence said that he was a singular specimen of humanity.
"He is not very different from the saints of whose extraordinary lives
we read. He is as sincere as they. He has an exquisite delicacy of
sentiment and a terrible violence of mind. If he shocks one by many of
his acts, the reason is that he is weaker, less supported, or perhaps
less closely observed. And then there are unworthy saints, just as there
are bad angels: Choulette is a worldly saint, that is all. But his poems
are true poems, and much finer than those written by the bishops of the
She interrupted him:
"While I think of it, I wish to congratulate you on your friend
Dechartre. He has a charming mind."
"Perhaps he is a little too timid."
Vence reminded her that he had told her she would find Dechartre
"I know him by heart; he has been my friend since our childhood."
"You knew his parents?"
"Yes. He is the only son of Philippe Dechartre."
"The architect who, under Napoleon III, restored so many castles and
churches in Touraine and the Orleanais. He had taste and knowledge.
Solitary and quiet in his life, he had the imprudence to attack Viollet-
le-Duc, then all-powerful. He reproached him with trying to reestablish
buildings in their primitive plan, as they had been, or as they might
have been, at the beginning. Philippe Dechartre, on the contrary, wished
that everything which the lapse of centuries had added to a church, an
abbey, or a castle should be respected. To abolish anachronisms and
restore a building to its primitive unity, seemed to him to be a
scientific barbarity as culpable as that of ignorance. He said: 'It is a
crime to efface the successive imprints made in stone by the hands of our
ancestors. New stones cut in old style are false witnesses.' He wished
to limit the task of the archaeologic architect to that of supporting and
consolidating walls. He was right. Everybody said that he was wrong.
He achieved his ruin by dying young, while his rival triumphed. He
bequeathed an honest fortune to his widow and his son. Jacques Dechartre
was brought up by his mother, who adored him. I do not think that
maternal tenderness ever was more impetuous. Jacques is a charming
fellow; but he is a spoiled child."
"Yet he appears so indifferent, so easy to understand, so distant from
"Do not rely on this. He has a tormented and tormenting imagination."
"Does he like women?"
"Why do you ask?"
"Oh, it isn't with any idea of match-making."
"Yes, he likes them. I told you that he was an egoist. Only selfish men
really love women. After the death of his mother, he had a long liaison
with a well-known actress, Jeanne Tancrede."
Madame Martin remembered Jeanne Tancrede; not very pretty, but graceful
with a certain slowness of action in playing romantic roles.
"They lived almost together in a little house at Auteuil," Paul Vence
continued. "I often called on them. I found him lost in his dreams,
forgetting to model a figure drying under its cloths, alone with himself,
pursuing his idea, absolutely incapable of listening to anybody; she,
studying her roles, her complexion burned by rouge, her eyes tender,
pretty because of her intelligence and her activity. She complained to
me that he was inattentive, cross, and unreasonable. She loved him and
deceived him only to obtain roles. And when she deceived him, it was
done on the spur of the moment. Afterward she never thought of it.
A typical woman! But she was imprudent; she smiled upon Joseph Springer
in the hope that he would make her a member of the Comedie Francaise.
Dechartre left her. Now she finds it more practical to live with her
managers, and Jacques finds it more agreeable to travel."
"Does he regret her?"
"How can one know the things that agitate a mind anxious and mobile,
selfish and passionate, desirous to surrender itself, prompt in
disengaging itself, liking itself most of all among the beautiful things
that it finds in the world?"
Brusquely she changed the subject.
"And your novel, Monsieur Vence?"
"I have reached the last chapter, Madame. My little workingman has been
guillotined. He died with that indifference of virgins without desire,
who never have felt on their lips the warm taste of life. The journals
and the public approve the act of justice which has just been
accomplished. But in another garret, another workingman, sober, sad, and
a chemist, swears to himself that he will commit an expiatory murder."
He rose and said good-night.
She called him back.
"Monsieur Vence, you know that I was serious. Bring Choulette to me."
When she went up to her room, her husband was waiting for her, in his
red-brown plush robe, with a sort of doge's cap framing his pale and
hollow face. He had an air of gravity. Behind him, by the open door of
his workroom, appeared under the lamp a mass of documents bound in blue,
a collection of the annual budgets. Before she could reach her room he
motioned that he wished to speak to her.
"My dear, I can not understand you. You are very inconsequential. It
does you a great deal of harm. You intend to leave your home without any
reason, without even a pretext. And you wish to run through Europe with
whom? With a Bohemian, a drunkard--that man Choulette."
She replied that she should travel with Madame Marmet, in which there
could be nothing objectionable.
"But you announce your going to everybody, yet you do not even know
whether Madame Marmet can accompany you."
"Oh, Madame Marmet will soon pack her boxes. Nothing keeps her in Paris
except her dog. She will leave it to you; you may take care of it."
"Does your father know of your project?"
It was his last resource to invoke the authority of Montessuy. He knew
that his wife feared to displease her father. He insisted:
"Your father is full of sense and tact. I have been happy to find him
agreeing with me several times in the advices which I have permitted
myself to give you. He thinks as I do, that Madame Meillan's house is
not a fit place for you to visit. The company that meets there is mixed,
and the mistress of the house favors intrigue. You are wrong, I must
say, not to take account of what people think. I am mistaken if your
father does not think it singular that you should go away with so much
frivolity, and the absence will be the more remarked, my dear, since
circumstances have made me eminent in the course of this legislature.
My merit has nothing to do with the case, surely. But if you had
consented to listen to me at dinner I should have demonstrated to you
that the group of politicians to which I belong has almost reached power.
In such a moment you should not renounce your duties as mistress of the
house. You must understand this yourself."
She replied "You annoy me." And, turning her back to him, she shut the
door of her room between them. That night in her bed she opened a book,
as she always did before going to sleep. It was a novel. She was
turning the leaves with indifference, when her eyes fell on these lines:
"Love is like devotion: it comes late. A woman is hardly in love or
devout at twenty, unless she has a special disposition to be either, a
sort of native sanctity. Women who are predestined to love, themselves
struggle a long time against that grace of love which is more terrible
than the thunderbolt that fell on the road to Damascus. A woman oftenest
yields to the passion of love only when age or solitude does not frighten
her. Passion is an arid and burning desert. Passion is profane
asceticism, as harsh as religious asceticism. Great woman lovers are as
rare as great penitent women. Those who know life well know that women
do not easily bind themselves in the chains of real love. They know that
nothing is less common than sacrifice among them. And consider how much
a worldly woman must sacrifice when she is in love--liberty, quietness,
the charming play of a free mind, coquetry, amusement, pleasure--she
"Coquetry is permissible. One may conciliate that with all the
exigencies of fashionable life. Not so love. Love is the least mundane
of passions, the most anti-social, the most savage, the most barbarous.
So the world judges it more severely than mere gallantry or looseness of
manners. In one sense the world is right. A woman in love betrays her
nature and fails in her function, which is to be admired by all men, like
a work of art. A woman is a work of art, the most marvellous that man's
industry ever has produced. A woman is a wonderful artifice, due to the
concourse of all the arts mechanical and of all the arts liberal. She is
the work of everybody, she belongs to the world."
Therese closed the book and thought that these ideas were only the dreams
of novelists who did not know life. She knew very well that there was in
reality neither a Carmel of passion nor a chain of love, nor a beautiful
and terrible vocation against which the predestined one resisted in vain;
she knew very well that love was only a brief intoxication from which one
recovered a little sadder. And yet, perhaps, she did not know
everything; perhaps there were loves in which one was deliciously lost.
She put out her lamp. The dreams of her first youth came back to her.
A DISTINGUISHED RELICT
It was raining. Madame Martin-Belleme saw confusedly through the glass
of her coupe the multitude of passing umbrellas, like black turtles under
the watery skies. She was thinking. Her thoughts were gray and
indistinct, like the aspect of the streets and the squares.
She no longer knew why the idea had come to her to spend a month with
Miss Bell. Truly, she never had known. The idea had been like a spring,
at first hidden by leaves, and now forming the current of a deep and
rapid stream. She remembered that Tuesday night at dinner she had said
suddenly that she wished to go, but she could not remember the first
flush of that desire. It was not the wish to act toward Robert Le Menil
as he was acting toward her. Doubtless she thought it excellent to go
travelling in Italy while he went fox-hunting. This seemed to her a fair
arrangement. Robert, who was always pleased to see her when he came
back, would not find her on his return. She thought this would be right.
She had not thought of it at first. And since then she had thought
little of it, and really she was not going for the pleasure of making him
grieve. She had against him a thought less piquant, and more harsh.
She did not wish to see him soon. He had become to her almost a
stranger. He seemed to her a man like others--better than most others--
good-looking, estimable, and who did not displease her; but he did not
preoccupy her. Suddenly he had gone out of her life. She could not
remember how he had become mingled with it. The idea of belonging to him
shocked her. The thought that they might meet again in the small
apartment of the Rue Spontini was so painful to her that she discarded it
at once. She preferred to think that an unforeseen event would prevent
their meeting again--the end of the world, for example. M. Lagrange,
member of the Academie des Sciences, had told her the day before of a
comet which some day might meet the earth, envelop it with its flaming
hair, imbue animals and plants with unknown poisons, and make all men die
in a frenzy of laughter. She expected that this, or something else,
would happen next month. It was not inexplicable that she wished to go.
But that her desire to go should contain a vague joy, that she should
feel the charm of what she was to find, was inexplicable to her.
Her carriage left her at the corner of a street.
There, under the roof of a tall house, behind five windows, in a small,
neat apartment, Madame Marmet had lived since the death of her husband.
Countess Martin found her in her modest drawing-room, opposite
M. Lagrange, half asleep in a deep armchair. This worldly old savant had
remained ever faithful to her. He it was who, the day after M. Marmet's
funeral, had conveyed to the unfortunate widow the poisoned speech
delivered by Schmoll. She had fainted in his arms. Madame Marmet
thought that he lacked judgment, but he was her best friend. They
dined together often with rich friends.
Madame Martin, slender and erect in her zibeline corsage opening on a
flood of lace, awakened with the charming brightness of her gray eyes the
good man, who was susceptible to the graces of women. He had told her
the day before how the world would come to an end. He asked her whether
she had not been frightened at night by pictures of the earth devoured by
flames or frozen to a mass of ice. While he talked to her with affected
gallantry, she looked at the mahogany bookcase. There were not many
books in it, but on one of the shelves was a skeleton in armor. It
amazed one to see in this good lady's house that Etruscan warrior wearing
a green bronze helmet and a cuirass. He slept among boxes of bonbons,
vases of gilded porcelain, and carved images of the Virgin, picked up at
Lucerne and on the Righi. Madame Marmet, in her widowhood, had sold the
books which her husband had left. Of all the ancient objects collected
by the archaeologist, she had retained nothing except the Etruscan. Many
persons had tried to sell it for her. Paul Vence had obtained from the
administration a promise to buy it for the Louvre, but the good widow
would not part with it. It seemed to her that if she lost that warrior
with his green bronze helmet she would lose the name that she wore
worthily, and would cease to be the widow of Louis Marmet of the Academie
"Do not be afraid, Madame; a comet will not soon strike the earth. Such
a phenomenon is very improbable."
Madame Martin replied that she knew no serious reason why the earth and
humanity should not be annihilated at once.
Old Lagrange exclaimed with profound sincerity that he hoped the
cataclysm would come as late as possible.
She looked at him. His bald head could boast only a few hairs dyed
black. His eyelids fell like rags over eyes still smiling; his cheeks
hung in loose folds, and one divined that his body was equally withered.
She thought, "And even he likes life!"
Madame Marmet hoped, too, that the end of the world was not near at hand.
"Monsieur Lagrange," said Madame Martin, "you live, do you not, in a
pretty little house, the windows of which overlook the Botanical Gardens?
It seems to me it must be a joy to live in that garden, which makes me
think of the Noah's Ark of my infancy, and of the terrestrial paradises
in the old Bibles."
But he was not at all charmed with his house. It was small, unimproved,
infested with rats.
She acknowledged that one seldom felt at home anywhere, and that rats
were found everywhere, either real or symbolical, legions of pests that
torment us. Yet she liked the Botanical Gardens; she had always wished
to go there, yet never had gone. There was also the museum, which she
was curious to visit.
Smiling, happy, he offered to escort her there. He considered it his
house. He would show her rare specimens, some of which were superb.
She did not know what a bolide was. She recalled that some one had said
to her that at the museum were bones carved by primitive men, and plaques
of ivory on which were engraved pictures of animals, which were long ago
extinct. She asked whether that were true. Lagrange ceased to smile.
He replied indifferently that such objects concerned one of his
"Ah!" said Madame Martin, "then they are not in your showcase."
She observed that learned men were not curious, and that it is indiscreet
to question them on things that are not in their own showcases. It is
true that Lagrange had made a scientific fortune in studying meteors.
This had led him to study comets. But he was wise. For twenty years he
had been preoccupied by nothing except dining out.
When he had left, Countess Martin told Madame Marmet what she expected of
"I am going next week to Fiesole, to visit Miss Bell, and you are coming
The good Madame Marmet, with placid brow yet searching eyes, was silent
for a moment; then she refused gently, but finally consented.
MADAME HAS HER WAY
The Marseilles express was ready on the quay, where the postmen ran, and
the carriages rolled amid smoke and noise, under the light that fell from
the windows. Through the open doors travellers in long cloaks came and
went. At the end of the station, blinding with soot and dust, a small
rainbow could be discerned, not larger than one's hand. Countess Martin
and the good Madame Marniet were already in their carriage, under the
rack loaded with bags, among newspapers thrown on the cushions.
Choulette had not appeared, and Madame Martin expected him no longer.
Yet he had promised to be at the station. He had made his arrangements
to go, and had received from his publisher the price of Les Blandices.
Paul Vence had brought him one evening to Madame Martin's house. He had
been sweet, polished, full of witty gayety and naive joy. She had
promised herself much pleasure in travelling with a man of genius,
original, picturesquely ugly, with an amusing simplicity; like a child
prematurely old and abandoned, full of vices, yet with a certain degree
of innocence. The doors closed. She expected him no longer. She should
not have counted on his impulsive and vagabondish mind. At the moment
when the engine began to breathe hoarsely, Madame Marmet, who was looking
out of the window, said, quietly:
"I think that Monsieur Choulette is coming."
He was walking along the quay, limping, with his hat on the back of his
head, his beard unkempt, and dragging an old carpet-bag. He was almost
repulsive; yet, in spite of his fifty years of age, he looked young, so
clear and lustrous were his eyes, so much ingenuous audacity had been
retained in his yellow, hollow face, so vividly did this old man express
the eternal adolescence of the poet and artist. When she saw him,
Therese regretted having invited so strange a companion. He walked
along, throwing a hasty glance into every carriage--a glance which,
little by little, became sullen and distrustful. But when he recognized
Madame Martin, he smiled so sweetly and said good-morning to her in so
caressing a voice that nothing was left of the ferocious old vagabond
walking on the quay, nothing except the old carpet-bag, the handles of
which were half broken.
He placed it in the rack with great care, among the elegant bags
enveloped with gray cloth, beside which it looked conspicuously sordid.
It was studded with yellow flowers on a blood-colored background.
He was soon perfectly at ease, and complimented Madame Martin on the
elegance of her travelling attire.
"Excuse me, ladies," he added, "I was afraid I should be late. I went to
six o'clock mass at Saint Severin, my parish, in the Virgin Chapel, under
those pretty, but absurd columns that point toward heaven though frail as
reeds-like us, poor sinners that we are."
"Ah," said Madame Martin, "you are pious to-day."
And she asked him whether he wore the cordon of the order which he was
founding. He assumed a grave and penitent air.
"I am afraid, Madame, that Monsieur Paul Vence has told you many absurd
stories about me. I have heard that he goes about circulating rumors
that my ribbon is a bell-rope--and of what a bell! I should be pained if
anybody believed so wretched a story. My ribbon, Madame, is a symbolical
ribbon. It is represented by a simple thread, which one wears under
one's clothes after a pauper has touched it, as a sign that poverty is
holy, and that it will save the world. There is nothing good except in
poverty; and since I have received the price of Les Blandices, I feel
that I am unjust and harsh. It is a good thing that I have placed in my
bag several of these mystic ribbons."
And, pointing to the horrible carpet-bag:
"I have also placed in it a host which a bad priest gave to me, the works
of Monsieur de Maistre, shirts, and several other things:"
Madame Martin lifted her eyebrows, a little ill at ease. But the good
Madame Marmet retained her habitual placidity.
As the train rolled through the homely scenes of the outskirts, that
black fringe which makes an unlovely border to the city, Choulette took
from his pocket an old book which he began to fumble. The writer, hidden
under the vagabond, revealed himself. Choulette, without wishing to
appear to be careful of his papers, was very orderly about them. He
assured himself that he had not lost the pieces of paper on which he
noted at the coffeehouse his ideas for poems, nor the dozen of flattering
letters which, soiled and spotted, he carried with him continually, to
read them to his newly-made companions at night. After assuring himself
that nothing was missing, he took from the book a letter folded in an
open envelope. He waved it for a while, with an air of mysterious
impudence, then handed it to the Countess Martin. It was a letter of
introduction from the Marquise de Rieu to a princess of the House of
France, a near relative of the Comte de Chambord, who, old and a widow,
lived in retirement near the gates of Florence. Having enjoyed the
effect which he expected to produce, he said that he should perhaps visit
the Princess; that she was a good person, and pious.
"A truly great lady," he added, "who does not show her magnificence in
gowns and hats. She wears her chemises for six weeks, and sometimes
longer. The gentlemen of her train have seen her wear very dirty white
stockings, which fell around her heels. The virtues of the great queens
of Spain are revived in her. Oh, those soiled stockings, what real glory
there is in them!"
He took the letter and put it back in his book. Then, arming himself
with a horn-handled knife, he began, with its point, to finish a figure
sketched in the handle of his stick. He complimented himself on it:
"I am skilful in all the arts of beggars and vagabonds. I know how to
open locks with a nail, and how to carve wood with a bad knife."
The head began to appear. It was the head of a thin woman, weeping.
Choulette wished to express in it human misery, not simple and touching,
such as men of other times may have felt it in a world of mingled
harshness and kindness; but hideous, and reflecting the state of ugliness
created by the free-thinking bourgeois and the military patriots of the
French Revolution. According to him the present regime embodied only
hypocrisy and brutality.
"Their barracks are a hideous invention of modern times. They date from
the seventeenth century. Before that time there were only guard-houses
where the soldiers played cards and told tales. Louis XIV was a
precursor of Bonaparte. But the evil has attained its plenitude since
the monstrous institution of the obligatory enlistment. The shame of
emperors and of republics is to have made it an obligation for men to
kill. In the ages called barbarous, cities and princes entrusted their
defence to mercenaries, who fought prudently. In a great battle only
five or six men were killed. And when knights went to the wars, at least
they were not forced to do it; they died for their pleasure. They were
good for nothing else. Nobody in the time of Saint Louis would have
thought of sending to battle a man of learning. And the laborer was not
torn from the soil to be killed. Nowadays it is a duty for a poor
peasant to be a soldier. He is exiled from his house, the roof of which
smokes in the silence of night; from the fat prairies where the oxen
graze; from the fields and the paternal woods. He is taught how to kill
men; he is threatened, insulted, put in prison and told that it is an
honor; and, if he does not care for that sort of honor, he is fusilladed.
He obeys because he is terrorized, and is of all domestic animals the
gentlest and most docile. We are warlike in France, and we are citizens.
Another reason to be proud, this being a citizen! For the poor it
consists in sustaining and preserving the wealthy in their power and
their laziness. The poor must work for this, in presence of the majestic
quality of the law which prohibits the wealthy as well as the poor from
sleeping under the bridges, from begging in the streets, and from
stealing bread. That is one of the good effects of the Revolution.
As this Revolution was made by fools and idiots for the benefit of those
who acquired national lands, and resulted in nothing but making the
fortune of crafty peasants and financiering bourgeois, the Revolution
only made stronger, under the pretence of making all men equal, the
empire of wealth. It has betrayed France into the hands of the men of
wealth. They are masters and lords. The apparent government, composed
of poor devils, is in the pay of the financiers. For one hundred years,
in this poisoned country, whoever has loved the poor has been considered
a traitor to society. A man is called dangerous when he says that there
are wretched people. There are laws against indignation and pity, and
what I say here could not go into print."
Choulette became excited and waved his knife, while under the wintry
sunlight passed fields of brown earth, trees despoiled by winter, and
curtains of poplars beside silvery rivers.
He looked with tenderness at the figure carved on his stick.
"Here you are," he said, "poor humanity, thin and weeping, stupid with
shame and misery, as you were made by your masters--soldiers and men of
The good Madame Marmet, whose nephew was a captain in the artillery, was
shocked at the violence with which Choulette attacked the army. Madame
Martin saw in this only an amusing fantasy. Choulette's ideas did not
frighten her. She was afraid of nothing. But she thought they were a
little absurd. She did not think that the past had ever been better than
"I believe, Monsieur Choulette, that men were always as they are to-day,
selfish, avaricious, and pitiless. I believe that laws and manners were
always harsh and cruel to the unfortunate."
Between La Roche and Dijon they took breakfast in the dining-car, and
left Choulette in it, alone with his pipe, his glass of benedictine, and
In the carriage, Madame Marmet talked with peaceful tenderness of the
husband she had lost. He had married her for love; he had written
admirable verses to her, which she had kept, and never shown to any one.
He was lively and very gay. One would not have thought it who had seen
him later, tired by work and weakened by illness. He studied until the
last moment. Two hours before he died he was trying to read again. He
was affectionate and kind. Even in suffering he retained all his
sweetness. Madame Martin said to her:
"You have had long years of happiness; you have kept the reminiscence of
them; that is a share of happiness in this world."
But good Madame Marmet sighed; a cloud passed over her quiet brow.
"Yes," she said, "Louis was the best of men and the best of husbands.
Yet he made me very miserable. He had only one fault, but I suffered
from it cruelly. He was jealous. Good, kind, tender, and generous as
he was, this horrible passion made him unjust, ironical, and violent.
I can assure you that my behavior gave not the least cause for suspicion.
I was not a coquette. But I was young, fresh; I passed for beautiful.
That was enough. He would not let me go out alone, and would not let me
receive calls in his absence. Whenever we went to a reception, I
trembled in advance with the fear of the scene which he would make later
in the carriage."
And the good Madame Marmet added, with a sigh:
"It is true that I liked to dance. But I had to renounce going to balls;
it made him suffer too much."
Countess Martin expressed astonishment. She had always imagined Marmet
as an old man, timid, and absorbed by his thoughts; a little ridiculous,
between his wife, plump, white, and amiable, and the skeleton wearing a
helmet of bronze and gold. But the excellent widow confided to her that,
at fifty-five years of age, when she was fifty-three, Louis was just as
jealous as on the first day of their marriage.
And Therese thought that Robert had never tormented her with jealousy.
Was it on his part a proof of tact and good taste, a mark of confidence,
or was it that he did not love her enough to make her suffer? She did
not know, and she did not have the heart to try to know. She would have
to look through recesses of her mind which she preferred not to open.
She murmured carelessly:
"We long to be loved, and when we are loved we are tormented or worried."
The day was finished in reading and thinking. Choulette did not
reappear. Night covered little by little with its gray clouds the
mulberry-trees of the Dauphine. Madame Marmet went to sleep peacefully,
resting on herself as on a mass of pillows. Therese looked at her and
"She is happy, since she likes to remember."
The sadness of night penetrated her heart. And when the moon rose on the
fields of olive-trees, seeing the soft lines of plains and of hills pass,
Therese, in this landscape wherein everything spoke of peace and
oblivion, and nothing spoke of her, regretted the Seine, the Arc de
Triomphe with its radiating avenues, and the alleys of the park where,
at least, the trees and the stones knew her.
Suddenly Choulette threw himself into the carriage. Armed with his
knotty stick, his face and head enveloped in red wool and a fur cap, he
almost frightened her. It was what he wished to do. His violent
attitudes and his savage dress were studied. Always seeking to produce
effects, it pleased him to seem frightful.
He was a coward himself, and was glad to inspire the fears he often felt.
A moment before, as he was smoking his pipe, he had felt, while seeing
the moon swallowed up by the clouds, one of those childish frights that
tormented his light mind. He had come near the Countess to be reassured.
"Arles," he said. "Do you know Arles? It is a place of pure beauty.
I have seen, in the cloister, doves resting on the shoulders of statues,
and I have seen the little gray lizards warming themselves in the sun on
the tombs. The tombs are now in two rows on the road that leads to the
church. They are formed like cisterns, and serve as beds for the poor at
night. One night, when I was walking among them, I met a good old woman
who was placing dried herbs in the tomb of an old maid who had died on
her wedding-day. We said goodnight to her. She replied: 'May God hear-
you! but fate wills that this tomb should open on the side of the
northwest wind. If only it were open on the other side, I should be
lying as comfortably as Queen Jeanne.'"
Therese made no answer. She was dozing. And Choulette shivered in the
cold of the night, in the fear of death.
THE LADY OF THE BELLS
In her English cart, which she drove herself, Miss Bell had brought over
the hills, from the railway station at Florence, the Countess Martin-
Belleme and Madame Marmet to her pink-tinted house at Fiesole, which,
crowned with a long balustrade, overlooked the incomparable city. The
maid followed with the luggage. Choulette, lodged, by Miss Bell's
attention, in the house of a sacristan's widow, in the shadow of the
cathedral of Fiesole, was not expected until dinner. Plain and gentle,
wearing short hair, a waistcoat, a man's shirt on a chest like a boy's,
almost graceful, with small hips, the poetess was doing for her French
friends the honors of the house, which reflected the ardent delicacy of
her taste. On the walls of the drawing-room were pale Virgins, with long
hands, reigning peacefully among angels, patriarchs, and saints in
beautiful gilded frames. On a pedestal stood a Magdalena, clothed only
with her hair, frightful with thinness and old age, some beggar of the
road to Pistoia, burned by the suns and the snows, whom some unknown
precursor of Donatello had moulded. And everywhere were Miss Bell's
chosen arms-bells and cymbals. The largest lifted their bronze clappers
at the angles of the room; others formed a chain at the foot of the
walls. Smaller ones ran along the cornices. There were bells over the
hearth, on the cabinets, and on the chairs. The shelves were full of
silver and golden bells. There were big bronze bells marked with the
Florentine lily; bells of the Renaissance, representing a lady wearing a
white gown; bells of the dead, decorated with tears and bones; bells
covered with symbolical animals and leaves, which had rung in the
churches in the time of St. Louis; table-bells of the seventeenth
century, having a statuette for a handle; the flat, clear cow-bells of
the Ruth Valley; Hindu bells; Chinese bells formed like cylinders--they
had come from all countries and all times, at the magic call of little
"You look at my speaking arms," she said to Madame Martin. "I think that
all these Misses Bell are pleased to be here, and I should not be
astonished if some day they all began to sing together. But you must not
admire them all equally. Reserve your purest and most fervent praise for
And striking with her finger a dark, bare bell which gave a faint sound:
"This one," she said, "is a holy village-bell of the fifth century.
She is a spiritual daughter of Saint Paulin de Nole, who was the first to
make the sky sing over our heads. The metal is rare. Soon I will show
to you a gentle Florentine, the queen of bells. She is coming. But I
bore you, darling, with my babble. And I bore, too, the good Madame
Marmet. It is wrong."
She escorted them to their rooms.
An hour later, Madame Martin, rested, fresh, in a gown of foulard and
lace, went on the terrace where Miss Bell was waiting for her. The humid
air, warmed by the sun, exhaled the restless sweetness of spring.
Therese, resting on the balustrade, bathed her eyes in the light. At her
feet, the cypress-trees raised their black distaffs, and the olive-trees
looked like sheep on the hills. In the valley, Florence extended its
domes, its towers, and the multitudes of its red roofs, through which the
Arno showed its undulating line. Beyond were the soft blue hills.
She tried to recognize the Boboli Gardens, where she had walked at her
first visit; the Cascine, which she did not like; the Pitti Palace. Then
the charming infinity of the sky attracted her. She looked at the forms
in the clouds.
After a long silence, Vivian Bell extended her hand toward the horizon.
"Darling, I do not know how to say what I wish. But look, darling, look
again. What you see there is unique in the world. Nature is nowhere
else so subtle, elegant, and fine. The god who made the hills of
Florence was an artist. Oh, he was a jeweller, an engraver, a sculptor,
a bronze-founder, and a painter; he was a Florentine. He did nothing
else in the world, darling. The rest was made by a hand less delicate,
whose work was less perfect. How can you think that that violet hill of
San Miniato, so firm and so pure in relief, was made by the author of
Mont Blanc? It is not possible. This landscape has the beauty of an
antique medal and of a precious painting. It is a perfect and measured
work of art. And here is another thing that I do not know how to say,
that I can not even understand, but which is a real thing. In this
country I feel--and you will feel as I do, darling--half alive and half
dead; in a condition which is sad, noble, and very sweet. Look, look
again; you will realize the melancholy of those hills that surround
Florence, and see a delicious sadness ascend from the land of the dead."
The sun was low over the horizon. The bright points of the mountain-
peaks faded one by one, while the clouds inflamed the sky. Madame Marmet
Miss Bell sent for some shawls, and warned the French women that the
evenings were fresh and that the night-air was dangerous.
Then suddenly she said:
"Darling, you know Monsieur Jacques Dechartre? Well, he wrote to me that
he would be at Florence next week. I am glad Monsieur Jacques Dechartre
is to meet you in our city. He will accompany us to the churches and to
the museums, and he will be a good guide. He understands beautiful
things, because he loves them. And he has an exquisite talent as a
sculptor. His figures in medallions are admired more in England than in
France. Oh, I am so glad Monsieur Jacques Dechartre and you are to meet
at Florence, darling!"
CHOULETTE FINDS A NEW FRIEND
She next day, as they were traversing the square where are planted, in
imitation of antique amphitheatres, two marble pillars, Madame Marmet
said to the Countess Martin:
"I think I see Monsieur Choulette."
Seated in a shoemaker's shop, his pipe in his hand, Choulette was making
rhythmic gestures, and appeared to be reciting verses. The Florentine
cobbler listened with a kind smile. He was a little, bald man, and
represented one of the types familiar to Flemish painters. On a table,
among wooden lasts, nails, leather, and wax, a basilic plant displayed
its round green head. A sparrow, lacking a leg, which had been replaced
by a match, hopped on the old man's shoulder and head.
Madame Martin, amused by this spectacle, called Choulette from the
threshold. He was softly humming a tune, and she asked him why he had
not gone with her to visit the Spanish chapel.
He arose and replied:
"Madame, you are preoccupied by vain images; but I live in life and in
He shook the cobbler's hand and followed the two ladies.
"While going to church," he said, "I saw this old man, who, bending over
his work, and pressing a last between his knees as in a vise, was sewing
coarse shoes. I felt that he was simple and kind. I said to him, in
Italian: 'My father, will you drink with me a glass of Chianti?' He
consented. He went for a flagon and some glasses, and I kept the shop."
And Choulette pointed to two glasses and a flagon placed on a stove.
"When he came back we drank together; I said vague but kind things to
him, and I charmed him by the sweetness of sounds. I will go again to
his shop; I will learn from him how to make shoes, and how to live
without desire. After which, I shall not be sad again. For desire and
idleness alone make us sad."
The Countess Martin smiled.
"Monsieur Choulette, I desire nothing, and, nevertheless, I am not
joyful. Must I make shoes, too?"
Choulette replied, gravely:
"It is not yet time for that."
When they reached the gardens of the Oricellari, Madame Marmet sank
on a bench. She had examined at Santa Maria-Novella the frescoes of
Ghirlandajo, the stalls of the choir, the Virgin of Cimabue, the
paintings in the cloister. She had done this carefully, in memory of her
husband, who had greatly liked Italian art. She was tired. Choulette
sat by her and said:
"Madame, could you tell me whether it is true that the Pope's gowns are
made by Worth?"
Madame Marmet thought not. Nevertheless, Choulette had heard people say
this in cafes. Madame Marmet was astonished that Choulette, a Catholic
and a socialist, should speak so disrespectfully of a pope friendly to
the republic. But he did not like Leo XIII.
"The wisdom of princes is shortsighted," he said; "the salvation of the
Church must come from the Italian republic, as Leo XIII believes and
wishes; but the Church will not be saved in the manner which this pious
Machiavelli thinks. The revolution will make the Pope lose his last sou,
with the rest of his patrimony. And it will be salvation. The Pope,
destitute and poor, will then become powerful. He will agitate the
world. We shall see again Peter, Lin, Clet, Anaclet, and Clement; the
humble, the ignorant; men like the early saints will change the face of
the earth. If to-morrow, in the chair of Peter, came to sit a real
bishop, a real Christian, I would go to him, and say: 'Do not be an old
man buried alive in a golden tomb; quit your noble guards and your
cardinals; quit your court and its similacrums of power. Take my arm and
come with me to beg for your bread among the nations. Covered with rags,
poor, ill, dying, go on the highways, showing in yourself the image of
Jesus. Say, "I am begging my bread for the condemnation of the wealthy."
Go into the cities, and shout from door to door, with a sublime
stupidity, "Be humble, be gentle, be poor!" Announce peace and charity
to the cities, to the dens, and to the barracks. You will be disdained;
the mob will throw stones at you. Policemen will drag you into prison.
You shall be for the humble as for the powerful, for the poor as for the
rich, a subject of laughter, an object of disgust and of pity. Your
priests will dethrone you, and elevate against you an anti-pope, or will
say that you are crazy. And it is necessary that they should tell the
truth; it is necessary that you should be crazy; the lunatics have saved
the world. Men will give to you the crown of thorns and the reed
sceptre, and they will spit in your face, and it is by that sign that you
will appear as Christ and true king; and it is by such means that you
will establish Christian socialism, which is the kingdom of God on
Having spoken in this way, Choulette lighted one of those long and
tortuous Italian cigars, which are pierced with a straw. He drew from it
several puffs of infectious vapor, then he continued, tranquilly:
"And it would be practical. You may refuse to acknowledge any quality in
me except my clear view of situations. Ah, Madame Marmet, you will never
know how true it is that the great works of this world were always
achieved by madmen. Do you think, Madame Martin, that if Saint Francis
of Assisi had been reasonable, he would have poured upon the earth, for
the refreshment of peoples, the living water of charity and all the
perfumes of love?"
"I do not know," replied Madame Martin; "but reasonable people have
always seemed to me to be bores. I can say this to you, Monsieur
They returned to Fiesole by the steam tramway which goes up the hill.
The rain fell. Madame Marmet went to sleep and Choulette complained.
All his ills came to attack him at once: the humidity in the air gave him
a pain in the knee, and he could not bend his leg; his carpet-bag, lost
the day before in the trip from the station to Fiesole, had not been
found, and it was an irreparable disaster; a Paris review had just
published one of his poems, with typographical errors as glaring as
He accused men and things of being hostile to him. He became puerile,
absurd, odious. Madame Martin, whom Choulette and the rain saddened,
thought the trip would never end. When she reached the house she found
Miss Bell in the drawing-room, copying with gold ink on a leaf of
parchment, in a handwriting formed after the Aldine italics, verses which
she had composed in the night. At her friend's coming she raised her
little face, plain but illuminated by splendid eyes.
"Darling, permit me to introduce to you the Prince Albertinelli."
The Prince possessed a certain youthful, godlike beauty, that his black
beard intensified. He bowed.
"Madame, you would make one love France, if that sentiment were not
already in our hearts."
The Countess and Choulette asked Miss Bell to read to them the verses she
was writing. She excused herself from reciting her uncertain cadence to
the French poet, whom she liked best after Francois Villon. Then she
recited in her pretty, hissing, birdlike voice.
"That is very pretty," said Choulette, "and bears the mark of Italy
softly veiled by the mists of Thule."
"Yes," said the Countess Martin, "that is pretty. But why, dear Vivian,
did your two beautiful innocents wish to die?"
"Oh, darling, because they felt as happy as possible, and desired nothing
more. It was discouraging, darling, discouraging. How is it that you do
not understand that?"
"And do you think that if we live the reason is that we hope?"
"Oh, yes. We live in the hope of what to-morrow, tomorrow, king of the
land of fairies, will bring in his black mantle studded with stars,
flowers, and tears. Oh, bright king, To-morrow!"
ETEXT EDITOR'S BOOKMARKS:
A hero must be human. Napoleon was human
Anti-Semitism is making fearful progress everywhere
Brilliancy of a fortune too new
Curious to know her face of that day
Do you think that people have not talked about us?
Each had regained freedom, but he did not like to be alone
Fringe which makes an unlovely border to the city
Gave value to her affability by not squandering it
He could not imagine that often words are the same as actions
He does not bear ill-will to those whom he persecutes
He is not intelligent enough to doubt
He studied until the last moment
Her husband had become quite bearable
His habit of pleasing had prolonged his youth
I feel in them (churches) the grandeur of nothingness
I gave myself to him because he loved me
I haven't a taste, I have tastes
It was too late: she did not wish to win
Knew that life is not worth so much anxiety nor so much hope
Laughing in every wrinkle of his face
Learn to live without desire
Life as a whole is too vast and too remote
Life is made up of just such trifles
Life is not a great thing
Love was only a brief intoxication
Made life give all it could yield
Miserable beings who contribute to the grandeur of the past
None but fools resisted the current
Not everything is known, but everything is said
One would think that the wind would put them out: the stars
Recesses of her mind which she preferred not to open
Relatives whom she did not know and who irritated her
She is happy, since she likes to remember
She pleased society by appearing to find pleasure in it
Should like better to do an immoral thing than a cruel one
So well satisfied with his reply that he repeated it twice
That if we live the reason is that we hope
That sort of cold charity which is called altruism
The discouragement which the irreparable gives
The most radical breviary of scepticism since Montaigne
The violent pleasure of losing
Umbrellas, like black turtles under the watery skies
Was I not warned enough of the sadness of everything?
Whether they know or do not know, they talk
THE RED LILY
By ANATOLE FRANCE
DECHARTRE ARRIVES IN FLORENCE
They had dressed for dinner. In the drawing-room Miss Bell was sketching
monsters in imitation of Leonard. She created them, to know what they
would say afterward, sure that they would speak and express rare ideas in
odd rhythms, and that she would listen to them. It was in this way that
she often found her inspiration.
Prince Albertinelli strummed on the piano the Sicilian 'O Lola'! His
soft fingers hardly touched the keys.
Choulette, even harsher than was his habit, asked for thread and needles
that he might mend his clothes. He grumbled because he had lost a
needle-case which he had carried for thirty years in his pocket, and
which was dear to him for the sweetness of the reminiscences and the
strength of the good advice that he had received from it. He thought he
had lost it in the hall devoted to historic subjects in the Pitti Palace;
and he blamed for this loss the Medicis and all the Italian painters.
Looking at Miss Bell with an evil eye, he said:
"I compose verses while mending my clothes. I like to work with my
hands. I sing songs to myself while sweeping my room; that is the reason
why my songs have gone to the hearts of men, like the old songs of the
farmers and artisans, which are even more beautiful than mine, but not
more natural. I have pride enough not to want any other servant than
myself. The sacristan's widow offered to repair my clothes. I would not
permit her to do it. It is wrong to make others do servilely for us work
which we can do ourselves with noble pride."
The Prince was nonchalantly playing his nonchalant music. Therese, who
for eight days had been running to churches and museums in the company of
Madame Marmet, was thinking of the annoyance which her companion caused
her by discovering in the faces of the old painters resemblances to
persons she knew. In the morning, at the Ricardi Palace, on the frescoes
of Gozzoli, she had recognized M. Gamin, M. Lagrange, M. Schmoll, the
Princess Seniavine as a page, and M. Renan on horseback. She was
terrified at finding M. Renan everywhere. She led all her ideas back to
her little circle of academicians and fashionable people, by an easy
turn, which irritated her friend. She recalled in her soft voice the
public meetings at the Institute, the lectures at the Sorbonne, the
evening receptions where shone the worldly and the spiritualist
philosophers. As for the women, they were all charming and
irreproachable. She dined with all of them. And Therese thought: "She
is too prudent. She bores me." And she thought of leaving her at
Fiesole and visiting the churches alone. Employing a word that Le Menil
had taught her, she said to herself:
"I will 'plant' Madame Marmet."
A lithe old man came into the parlor. His waxed moustache and his white
imperial made him look like an old soldier; but his glance betrayed,
under his glasses, the fine softness of eyes worn by science and
voluptuousness. He was a Florentine, a friend of Miss Bell and of the
Prince, Professor Arrighi, formerly adored by women, and now celebrated
in Tuscany for his studies of agriculture. He pleased the Countess Martin
at once. She questioned him on his methods, and on the results he
obtained from them. He said that he worked with prudent energy. "The
earth," he said, "is like women. The earth does not wish one to treat it
with either timidity or brutality." The Ave Maria rang in all the
campaniles, seeming to make of the sky an immense instrument of religious
music. "Darling," said Miss Bell, "do you observe that the air of
Florence is made sonorous and silvery at night by the sound of the
"It is singular," said Choulette, "we have the air of people who are
waiting for something."
Vivian Bell replied that they were waiting for M. Dechartre. He was a
little late; she feared he had missed the train.
Choulette approached Madame Marmet, and said, gravely "Madame Marmet, is
it possible for you to look at a door--a simple, painted, wooden door
like yours, I suppose, or like mine, or like this one, or like any other
--without being terror-stricken at the thought of the visitor who might,
at any moment, come in? The door of one's room, Madame Marmet, opens on
the infinite. Have you ever thought of that? Does one ever know the
true name of the man or woman, who, under a human guise, with a known
face, in ordinary clothes, comes into one's house?"
He added that when he was closeted in his room he could not look at the
door without feeling his hair stand on end. But Madame Marmet saw the
doors of her rooms open without fear. She knew the name of every one who
came to see her--charming persons.
Choulette looked at her sadly, and said, shaking his head: "Madame
Marmet, those whom you call by their terrestrial names have other names
which you do not know, and which are their real names."
Madame Martin asked Choulette if he thought that misfortune needed to
cross the threshold in order to enter one's life.
"Misfortune is ingenious and subtle. It comes by the window, it goes
through walls. It does not always show itself, but it is always there.
The poor doors are innocent of the coming of that unwelcome visitor."
Choulette warned Madame Martin severely that she should not call
misfortune an unwelcome visitor.
"Misfortune is our greatest master and our best friend. Misfortune
teaches us the meaning of life. Madame, when you suffer, you know what
you must know; you believe what you must believe; you do what you must
do; you are what you must be. And you shall have joy, which pleasure
expels. True joy is timid, and does not find pleasure among a multitude."
Prince Albertinelli said that Miss Bell and her French friends did not
need to be unfortunate in order to be perfect, and that the doctrine of
perfection reached by suffering was a barbarous cruelty, held in horror
under the beautiful sky of Italy. When the conversation languished, he
prudently sought again at the piano the phrases of the graceful and banal
Sicilian air, fearing to slip into an air of Trovatore, which was written
in the same manner.
Vivian Bell questioned the monsters she had created, and complained of
their absurd replies.
"At this moment," she said, "I should like to hear speak only figures on
tapestries which should say tender things, ancient and precious as
And the handsome Prince, carried away by the flood of melody, sang. His
voice displayed itself like a peacock's plumage, and died in spasms of
"ohs" and "ahs."
The good Madame Marmet, her eyes fixed on the door, said:
"I think that Monsieur Dechartre is coming."
He came in, animated, with joy on his usually grave face.
Miss Bell welcomed him with birdlike cries.
"Monsieur Dechartre, we were impatient to see you. Monsieur Choulette
was talking evil of doors--yes, of doors of houses; and he was saying
also that misfortune is a very obliging old gentleman. You have lost all
these beautiful things. You have made us wait very long, Monsieur
He apologized; he had taken only the time to go to his hotel and change
his dress. He had not even gone to bow to his old friend the bronze San
Marco, so imposing in his niche on the San Michele wall. He praised the
poetess and saluted the Countess Martin with joy hardly concealed.
"Before quitting Paris I went to your house, where I was told you had
gone to wait for spring at Fiesole, with Miss Bell. I then had the hope
of finding you in this country, which I love now more than ever."
She asked him whether he had gone to Venice, and whether he had seen
again at Ravenna the empresses wearing aureolas, and the phantoms that
had formerly dazzled him.
No, he had not stopped anywhere.
She said nothing. Her eyes remained fixed on the corner of the wall, on
the St. Paulin bell.
He said to her:
"You are looking at the Nolette."
Vivian Bell laid aside her papers and her pencils.
"You shall soon see a marvel, Monsieur Dechartre. I have found the queen
of small bells. I found it at Rimini, in an old building in ruins, which
is used as a warehouse. I bought it and packed it myself. I am waiting
for it. You shall see. It bears a Christ on a cross, between the Virgin
and Saint John, the date of 1400, and the arms of Malatesta--Monsieur
Dechartre, you are not listening enough. Listen to me attentively. In
1400 Lorenzo Ghiberti, fleeing from war and the plague, took refuge at
Rimini, at Paola Malatesta's house. It was he that modelled the figures
of my bell. And you shall see here, next week, Ghiberti's work."
The servant announced that dinner was served.
Miss Bell apologized for serving to them Italian dishes. Her cook was a
poet of Fiesole.
At table, before the fiascani enveloped with corn straw, they talked of
the fifteenth century, which they loved. Prince Albertinelli praised the
artists of that epoch for their universality, for the fervent love they
gave to their art, and for the genius that devoured them. He talked with
emphasis, in a caressing voice.
Dechartre admired them. But he admired them in another way.
"To praise in a becoming manner," he said, "those men, who worked so
heartily, the praise should be modest and just. They should be placed in
their workshops, in the shops where they worked as artisans. It is there
that one may admire their simplicity and their genius. They were
ignorant and rude. They had read little and seen little. The hills that
surround Florence were the boundary of their horizon. They knew only
their city, the Holy Scriptures, and some fragments of antique
sculptures, studied and caressed lovingly."
"You are right," said Professor Arrighi. "They had no other care than to
use the best processes. Their minds bent only on preparing varnish and
mixing colors. The one who first thought of pasting a canvas on a panel,
in order that the painting should not be broken when the wood was split,
passed for a marvellous man. Every master had his secret formulae."
"Happy time," said Dechartre, "when nobody troubled himself about that
originality for which we are so avidly seeking to-day. The apprentice
tried to work like the master. He had no other ambition than to resemble
him, and it was without trying to be that he was different from the
others. They worked not for glory, but to live."
"They were right," said Choulette. "Nothing is better than to work for a
"The desire to attain fame," continued Dechartre, "did not trouble them.
As they did not know the past, they did not conceive the future; and
their dream did not go beyond their lives. They exercised a powerful
will in working well. Being simple, they made few mistakes, and saw the
truth which our intelligence conceals from us."
Choulette began to relate to Madame Marmet the incidents of a call he had
made during the day on the Princess of the House of France to whom the
Marquise de Rieu had given him a letter of introduction. He liked to
impress upon people the fact that he, the Bohemian and vagabond, had been
received by that royal Princess, at whose house neither Miss Bell nor the
Countess Martin would have been admitted, and whom Prince Albertinelli
prided himself on having met one day at some ceremony.
"She devotes herself," said the Prince, "to the practices of piety."
"She is admirable for her nobility, and her simplicity," said Choulette.
"In her house, surrounded by her gentlemen and her ladies, she causes the
most rigorous etiquette to be observed, so that her grandeur is almost a
penance, and every morning she scrubs the pavement of the church. It is
a village church, where the chickens roam, while the 'cure' plays
briscola with the sacristan."
And Choulette, bending over the table, imitated, with his napkin, a
servant scrubbing; then, raising his head, he said, gravely:
"After waiting in consecutive anterooms, I was at last permitted to kiss
And he stopped.
Madame Martin asked, impatiently:
"What did she say to you, that Princess so admirable for her nobility and
"She said to me: 'Have you visited Florence? I am told that recently new
and handsome shops have been opened which are lighted at night.'
She said also 'We have a good chemist here. The Austrian chemists are
not better. He placed on my leg, six months ago, a porous plaster which
has not yet come off.' Such are the words that Maria Therese deigned to
address to me. O simple grandeur! O Christian virtue! O daughter of
Saint Louis! O marvellous echo of your voice, holy Elizabeth of
Madame Martin smiled. She thought that Choulette was mocking. But he
denied the charge, indignantly, and Miss Bell said that Madame Martin was
wrong. It was a fault of the French, she said, to think that people were
Then they reverted to the subject of art, which in that country is
inhaled with the air.
"As for me," said the Countess Martin, "I am not learned enough to admire
Giotto and his school. What strikes me is the sensuality of that art of
the fifteenth century which is said to be Christian. I have seen piety
and purity only in the images of Fra Angelico, although they are very
pretty. The rest, those figures of Virgins and angels, are voluptuous,
caressing, and at times perversely ingenuous. What is there religious in
those young Magian kings, handsome as women; in that Saint Sebastian,
brilliant with youth, who seems merely the dolorous Bacchus of
Dechartre replied that he thought as she did, and that they must be
right, she and he; since Savonarola was of the same opinion, and, finding
no piety in any work of art, wished to burn them all.
"There were at Florence, in the time of the superb Manfred, who was half
a Mussulman, men who were said to be of the sect of Epicurus, and who
sought for arguments against the existence of God. Guido Cavalcanti
disdained the ignorant folk who believed in the immortality of the soul.
The following phrase by him was quoted: 'The death of man is exactly
similar to that of brutes.' Later, when antique beauty was excavated
from ruins, the Christian style of art seemed sad. The painters that
worked in the churches and cloisters were neither devout nor chaste.
Perugino was an atheist, and did not conceal it."
"Yes," said Miss Bell; "but it was said that his head was hard, and that
celestial truths, could not penetrate his thick cranium. He was harsh
and avaricious, and quite embedded in material interests. He thought
only of buying houses."
Professor Arrighi defended Pietro Vanucci of Perugia.
"He was," he said, "an honest man. And the prior of the Gesuati of
Florence was wrong to mistrust him. That monk practised the art of
manufacturing ultramarine blue by crushing stones of burned lapis-lazuli.
Ultramarine was then worth its weight in gold; and the prior, who
doubtless had a secret, esteemed it more precious than rubies or
sapphires. He asked Pietro Vanucci to decorate the two cloisters of his
convent, and he expected marvels, less from the skilfulness of the master
than from the beauty of that ultramarine in the skies. During all the
time that the painter worked in the cloisters at the history of Jesus
Christ, the prior kept by his side and presented to him the precious
powder in a bag which he never quitted. Pietro took from it, under the
saintly man's eyes, the quantity he needed, and dipped his brush, loaded
with color, in a cupful of water, before rubbing the wall with it. He
used in that manner a great quantity of the powder. And the good father,
seeing his bag getting thinner, sighed: 'Jesus! How that lime devours
the ultramarine!' When the frescoes were finished, and Perugino had
received from the monk the agreed price, he placed in his hand a package
of blue powder: 'This is for you, father. Your ultramarine which I took
with my brush fell to the bottom of my cup, whence I gathered it every
day. I return it to you. Learn to trust honest people."
"Oh," said Therese, "there is nothing extraordinary in the fact that
Perugino was avaricious yet honest. Interested people are not always the
least scrupulous. There are many misers who are honest."
"Naturally, darling," said Miss Bell. "Misers do not wish to owe
anything, and prodigal people can bear to have debts. They do not think
of the money they have, and they think less of the money they owe.
I did not say that Pietro Vanucci of Perugia was a man without property.
I said that he had a hard business head and that he bought houses. I am
very glad to hear that he returned the ultramarine to the prior of the
"Since your Pietro was rich," said Choulette, "it was his duty to return
the ultramarine. The rich are morally bound to be honest; the poor are
At this moment, Choulette, to whom the waiter was presenting a silver
bowl, extended his hands for the perfumed water. It came from a vase
which Miss Bell passed to her guests, in accordance with antique usage,
"I wash my hands," he said, "of the evil that Madame Martin does or may
do by her speech, or otherwise."
And he rose, awkwardly, after Miss Bell, who took the arm of Professor
In the drawing-room she said, while serving the coffee:
"Monsieur Choulette, why do you condemn us to the savage sadness of
equality? Why, Daphnis's flute would not be melodious if it were made of
seven equal reeds. You wish to destroy the beautiful harmonies between
masters and servants, aristocrats and artisans. Oh, I fear you are a sad
barbarian, Monsieur Choulette. You are full of pity for those who are in
need, and you have no pity for divine beauty, which you exile from this
world. You expel beauty, Monsieur Choulette; you repudiate her, nude and
in tears. Be certain of this: she will not remain on earth when the poor
little men shall all be weak, delicate, and ignorant. Believe me, to
abolish the ingenious grouping which men of diverse conditions form in
society, the humble with the magnificent, is to be the enemy of the poor
and of the rich, is to be the enemy of the human race."
"Enemies of the human race!" replied Choulette, while stirring his
coffee. "That is the phrase the harsh Roman applied to the Christians
who talked of divine love to him."
Dechartre, seated near Madame Martin, questioned her on her tastes about
art and beauty, sustained, led, animated her admirations, at times
prompted her with caressing brusquerie, wished her to see all that he had
seen, to love all that he loved.
He wished that she should go in the gardens at the first flush of spring.
He contemplated her in advance on the noble terraces; he saw already the
light playing on her neck and in her hair; the shadow of laurel-trees
falling on her eyes. For him the land and the sky of Florence had
nothing more to do than to serve as an adornment to this young woman.
He praised the simplicity with which she dressed, the characteristics of
her form and of her grace, the charming frankness of the lines which
every one of her movements created. He liked, he said, the animated and
living, subtle, and free gowns which one sees so rarely, which one never
Although she had been much lauded, she had never heard praise which had
pleased her more. She knew she dressed well, with bold and sure taste.
But no man except her father had made to her on the subject the
compliments of an expert. She thought that men were capable of feeling
only the effect of a gown, without understanding the ingenious details of
it. Some men who knew gowns disgusted her by their effeminate air. She
was resigned to the appreciation of women only, and these had in their
appreciation narrowness of mind, malignity, and envy. The artistic
admiration of Dechartre astonished and pleased her. She received
agreeably the praise he gave her, without thinking that perhaps it was
too intimate and almost indiscreet.
"So you look at gowns, Monsieur Dechartre?"
No, he seldom looked at them. There were so few women well dressed,
even now, when women dress as well as, and even better, than ever.
He found no pleasure in seeing packages of dry-goods walk. But if a
woman having rhythm and line passed before him, he blessed her.
He continued, in a tone a little more elevated:
"I can not think of a woman who takes care to deck herself every day,
without meditating on the great lesson which she gives to artists.
She dresses for a few hours, and the care she has taken is not lost.
We must, like her, ornament life without thinking of the future.
To paint, carve, or write for posterity is only the silliness of
"Monsieur Dechartre," asked Prince Albertinelli, "how do you think a
mauve waist studded with silver flowers would become Miss Bell?"
"I think," said Choulette, "so little of a terrestrial future, that I
have written my finest poems on cigarette paper. They vanished easily,
leaving to my verses only a sort of metaphysical existence."
He had an air of negligence for which he posed. In fact, he had never
lost a line of his writing. Dechartre was more sincere. He was not
desirous of immortality. Miss Bell reproached him for this.
"Monsieur Dechartre, that life may be great and complete, one must put
into it the past and the future. Our works of poetry and of art must be
accomplished in honor of the dead and with the thought of those who are
to come after us. Thus we shall participate in what has been, in what
is, and in what shall be. You do not wish to be immortal, Monsieur
Dechartre? Beware, for God may hear you."
"It would be enough for me to live one moment more."
And he said good-night, promising to return the next day to escort Madame
Martin to the Brancacci chapel.
An hour later, in the aesthetic room hung with tapestry, whereon citron-
trees loaded with golden fruit formed a fairy forest, Therese, her head
on the pillow, and her handsome bare arms folded under her head, was
thinking, seeing float confusedly before her the images of her new life:
Vivian Bell and her bells, her pre-Raphaelite figures, light as shadows,
ladies, isolated knights, indifferent among pious scenes, a little sad,
and looking to see who was coming; she thought also of the Prince
Albertinelli, Professor Arrighi, Choulette, with his odd play of ideas,
and Dechartre, with youthful eyes in a careworn face.
She thought he had a charming imagination, a mind richer than all those
that had been revealed to her, and an attraction which she no longer
tried to resist. She had always recognized his gift to please. She
discovered now that he had the will to please. This idea was delightful
to her; she closed her eyes to retain it. Then, suddenly, she shuddered.
She had felt a deep blow struck within her in the depth of her being.
She had a sudden vision of Robert, his gun under his arm, in the woods.
He walked with firm and regular step in the shadowy thicket. She could
not see his face, and that troubled her. She bore him no ill-will.
She was not discontented with him, but with herself. Robert went
straight on, without turning his head, far, and still farther, until he
was only a black point in the desolate wood. She thought that perhaps
she had been capricious and harsh in leaving him without a word of
farewell, without even a letter. He was her lover and her only friend.
She never had had another. "I do not wish him to be unfortunate because
of me," she thought.
Little by little she was reassured. He loved her, doubtless; but he was
not susceptible, not ingenious, happily, in tormenting himself. She said
"He is hunting and enjoying the sport. He is with his aunt, whom he
admires." She calmed her fears and returned to the charming gayety of
Florence. She had seen casually, at the Offices, a picture that
Dechartre liked. It was a decapitated head of the Medusa, a work wherein
Leonardo, the sculptor said, had expressed the minute profundity and
tragic refinement of his genius. She wished to see it again, regretting
that she had not seen it better at first. She extinguished her lamp and
went to sleep.
She dreamed that she met in a deserted church Robert Le Menil enveloped
in furs which she had never seen him wear. He was waiting for her, but a
crowd of priests had separated them. She did not know what had become of
him. She had not seen his face, and that frightened her. She awoke and
heard at the open window a sad, monotonous cry, and saw a humming-bird
darting about in the light of early dawn. Then, without cause, she began
to weep in a passion of self-pity, and with the abandon of a child.
"THE DAWN OF FAITH AND LOVE"
She took pleasure in dressing early, with delicate and subtle taste.
Her dressing-room, an aesthetic fantasy of Vivian Bell, with its coarsely
varnished pottery, its tall copper pitchers, and its faience pavement,
like a chess-board, resembled a fairy's kitchen. It was rustic and
marvellous, and the Countess Martin could have in it the agreeable
surprise of mistaking herself for a fairy. While her maid was dressing
her hair, she heard Dechartre and Choulette talking under her windows.
She rearranged all the work Pauline had done, and uncovered the line of
her nape, which was fine and pure. She looked at herself in the glass,
and went into the garden.
Dechartre was there, reciting verses of Dante, and looking at Florence:
"At the hour when our mind, a greater stranger to the flesh. . ."
Near him, Choulette, seated on the balustrade of the terrace, his legs
hanging, and his nose in his beard, was still at work on the figure of
Misery on his stick.
Dechartre resumed the rhymes of the canticle: "At the hour when our mind,
a greater stranger to the flesh; and less under the obsession of
thoughts, is almost divine in its visions, . . . ."
She approached beside the boxwood hedge, holding a parasol and dressed in
a straw-colored gown. The faint sunlight of winter enveloped her in pale
Dechartre greeted her joyfully.
"You are reciting verses that I do not know. I know only Metastasio.
My teacher liked only Metastasio. What is the hour when the mind has
"Madame, that hour is the dawn of the day. It may be also the dawn of
faith and of love."
Choulette doubted that the poet meant dreams of the morning, which leave
at awakening vivid and painful impressions, and which are not altogether
strangers to the flesh. But Dechartre had quoted these verses in the
pleasure of the glorious dawn which he had seen that morning on the
golden hills. He had been, for a long time, troubled about the images
that one sees in sleep, and he believed that these images were not
related to the object that preoccupies one the most, but, on the
contrary, to ideas abandoned during the day.
Therese recalled her morning dream, the hunter lost in the thicket.
"Yes," said Dechartre, "the things we see at night are unfortunate
remains of what we have neglected the day before. Dreams avenge things
one has disdained. They are reproaches of abandoned friends. Hence
She was lost in dreams for a moment, then she said:
"That is perhaps true."
Then, quickly, she asked Choulette if he had finished the portrait of
Misery on his stick. Misery had now become a figure of Piety, and
Choulette recognized the Virgin in it. He had even composed a quatrain
which he was to write on it in spiral form--a didactic and moral
quatrain. He would cease to write, except in the style of the
commandments of God rendered into French verses. The four lines
expressed simplicity and goodness. He consented to recite them.
Therese rested on the balustrade of the terrace and sought in the
distance, in the depth of the sea of light, the peaks of Vallambrosa,
almost as blue as the sky. Jacques Dechartre looked at her. It seemed
to him that he saw her for the first time, such was the delicacy that he
discovered in her face, which tenderness and intelligence had invested
with thoughtfulness without altering its young, fresh grace. The
daylight which she liked, was indulgent to her. And truly she was
pretty, bathed in that light of Florence, which caresses beautiful forms
and feeds noble thoughts. A fine, pink color rose to her well-rounded
cheeks; her eyes, bluish-gray, laughed; and when she talked, the
brilliancy of her teeth set off her lips of ardent sweetness. His look
embraced her supple bust, her full hips, and the bold attitude of her
waist. She held her parasol with her left hand, the other hand played
with violets. Dechartre had a mania for beautiful hands. Hands
presented to his eyes a physiognomy as striking as the face--a character,
a soul. These hands enchanted him. They were exquisite. He adored
their slender fingers, their pink nails, their palms soft and tender,
traversed by lines as elegant as arabesques, and rising at the base of
the fingers in harmonious mounts. He examined them with charmed
attention until she closed them on the handle of her umbrella. Then,
standing behind her, he looked at her again. Her bust and arms, graceful
and pure in line, her beautiful form, which was like that of a living
amphora, pleased him.
"Monsieur Dechartre, that black spot over there is the Boboli Gardens, is
it not? I saw the gardens three years ago. There were not many flowers
in them. Nevertheless, I liked their tall, sombre trees."
It astonished him that she talked, that she thought. The clear sound of
her voice amazed him, as if he never had heard it.
He replied at random. He was awkward. She feigned not to notice it, but
felt a deep inward joy. His low voice, which was veiled and softened,
seemed to caress her. She said ordinary things:
"That view is beautiful, The weather is fine."
In the morning, her head on the embroidered pillow, Therese was thinking
of the walks of the day before; of the Virgins, framed with angels;
of the innumerable children, painted or carved, all beautiful, all happy,
who sing ingenuously the Alleluia of grace and of beauty. In the
illustrious chapel of the Brancacci, before those frescoes, pale and
resplendent as a divine dawn, he had talked to her of Masaccio, in
language so vivid that it had seemed to her as if she had seen him,
the adolescent master of the masters, his mouth half open, his eyes dark
and blue, dying, enchanted. And she had liked these marvels of a morning
more charming than a day. Dechartre was for her the soul of those
magnificent forms, the mind of those noble things. It was by him, it was
through him, that she understood art and life. She took no interest in
things that did not interest him. How had this affection come to her?
She had no precise remembrance of it. In the first place, when Paul
Vence wished to introduce him to her, she had no desire to know him, no
presentiment that he would please her. She recalled elegant bronze
statuettes, fine waxworks signed with his name, that she had remarked at
the Champ de Mars salon or at Durand-Ruel's. But she did not imagine
that he could be agreeable to her, or more seductive than many artists
and lovers of art at whom she laughed with her friends. When she saw
him, he pleased her; she had a desire to attract him, to see him often.
The night he dined at her house she realized that she had for him a noble
and elevating affection. But soon after he irritated her a little;
it made her impatient to see him closeted within himself and too little
preoccupied by her. She would have liked to disturb him. She was in
that state of impatience when she met him one evening, in front of the
grille of the Musee des Religions, and he talked to her of Ravenna and
of the Empress seated on a gold chair in her tomb. She had found him
serious and charming, his voice warm, his eyes soft in the shadow of the
night, but too much a stranger, too far from her, too unknown. She had
felt a sort of uneasiness, and she did not know, when she walked along
the boxwood bordering the terrace, whether she desired to see him every
day or never to see him again.
Since then, at Florence, her only pleasure was to feel that he was near
her, to hear him. He made life for her charming, diverse, animated, new.
He revealed to her delicate joys and a delightful sadness; he awakened
in her a voluptuousness which had been always dormant. Now she was
determined never to give him up. But how? She foresaw difficulties;
her lucid mind and her temperament presented them all to her. For a
moment she tried to deceive herself; she reflected that perhaps he,
a dreamer, exalted, lost in his studies of art, might remain assiduous
without being exacting. But she did not wish to reassure herself with
that idea. If Dechartre were not a lover, he lost all his charm. She
did not dare to think of the future. She lived in the present, happy,
anxious, and closing her eyes.
She was dreaming thus, in the shade traversed by arrows of light, when
Pauline brought to her some letters with the morning tea. On an envelope
marked with the monogram of the Rue Royale Club she recognized the
handwriting of Le Menil. She had expected that letter. She was only
astonished that what was sure to come had come, as in her childhood, when
the infallible clock struck the hour of her piano lesson.
In his letter Robert made reasonable reproaches. Why did she go without
saying anything, without leaving a word of farewell? Since his return to
Paris he had expected every morning a letter which had not come. He was
happier the year before, when he had received in the morning, two or
three times a week, letters so gentle and so well written that he
regretted not being able to print them. Anxious, he had gone to her
"I was astounded to hear of your departure. Your husband received me.
He said that, yielding to his advice, you had gone to finish the winter
at Florence with Miss Bell. He said that for some time you had looked
pale and thin. He thought a change of air would do you good. You had
not wished to go, but, as you suffered more and more, he succeeded in
"I had not noticed that you were thin. It seemed to me, on the contrary,
that your health was good. And then Florence is not a good winter
resort. I cannot understand your departure. I am much tormented by it.
Reassure me at once, I pray you.
"Do you think it is agreeable for me to get news of you from your husband
and to receive his confidences? He is sorry you are not here; it annoys
him that the obligations of public life compel him to remain in Paris.
I heard at the club that he had chances to become a minister.
This astonishes me, because ministers are not usually chosen among
Then he related hunting tales to her. He had brought for her three fox-
skins, one of which was very beautiful; the skin of a brave animal which
he had pulled by the tail, and which had bitten his hand.
In Paris he was worried. His cousin had been presented at the club.
He feared he might be blackballed. His candidacy had been posted.
Under these conditions he did not dare advise him to withdraw; it would
be taking too great a responsibility. If he were blackballed it would be
very disagreeable. He finished by praying her to write and to return
Having read this letter, she tore it up gently, threw it in the fire,
and calmly watched it burn.
Doubtless, he was right. He had said what he had to say; he had
complained, as it was his duty to complain. What could she answer?
Should she continue her quarrel? The subject of it had become so
indifferent to her that it needed reflection to recall it. Oh, no; she
had no desire to be tormented. She felt, on the contrary, very gentle
toward him! Seeing that he loved her with confidence, in stubborn
tranquillity, she became sad and frightened. He had not changed. He was
the same man he had been before. She was not the same woman. They were
separated now by imperceptible yet strong influences, like essences in
the air that make one live or die. When her maid came to dress her, she
had not begun to write an answer.
Anxious, she thought: "He trusts me. He suspects nothing." This made
her more impatient than anything. It irritated her to think that there
were simple people who doubt neither themselves nor others.
She went into the parlor, where she found Vivian Bell writing. The
"Do you wish to know, darling, what I was doing while waiting for you?
Nothing and everything. Verses. Oh, darling, poetry must be our souls
Therese kissed Miss Bell, rested her head on her friend's shoulder, and
"May I look?"
"Look if you wish, dear. They are verses made on the model of the
popular songs of your country."
"Is it a symbol, Vivian? Explain it to me."
"Oh, darling, why explain, why? A poetic image must have several
meanings. The one that you find is the real one. But there is a very
clear meaning in them, my love; that is, that one should not lightly
disengage one's self from what one has taken into the heart."
The horses were harnessed. They went, as had been agreed, to visit the
Albertinelli gallery. The Prince was waiting for them, and Dechartre was
to meet them in the palace. On the way, while the carriage rolled along
the wide highway, Vivian Bell talked with her usual transcendentalism.
As they were descending among houses pink and white, gardens and terraces
ornamented with statues and fountains, she showed to her friend the
villa, hidden under bluish pines, where the ladies and the cavaliers of
the Decameron took refuge from the plague that ravaged Florence, and
diverted one another with tales frivolous, facetious, or tragic. Then
she confessed the thought which had come to her the day before.
"You had gone, darling, to Carmine with Monsieur Dechartre, and you had
left at Fiesole Madame Marmet, who is an agreeable person, a moderate and
polished woman. She knows many anecdotes about persons of distinction
who live in Paris. And when she tells them, she does as my cook
Pompaloni does when he serves eggs: he does not put salt in them, but he
puts the salt-cellar next to them. Madame Marmet's tongue is very sweet,
but the salt is near it, in her eyes. Her conversation is like
Pompaloni's dish, my love--each one seasons to his taste. Oh, I like
Madame Marmet a great deal. Yesterday, after you had gone, I found her
alone and sad in a corner of the drawing-room. She was thinking
mournfully of her husband. I said to her: 'Do you wish me to think of
your husband, too? I will think of him with you. I have been told that
he was a learned man, a member of the Royal Society of Paris. Madame
Marmet, talk to me of him.' She replied that he had devoted himself to
the Etruscans, and that he had given to them his entire life. Oh,
darling, I cherished at once the memory of that Monsieur Marmet, who
lived for the Etruscans. And then a good idea came to me. I said to
Madame Marmet, 'We have at Fiesole, in the Pretorio Palace, a modest
little Etruscan museum. Come and visit it with me. Will you?' She
replied it was what she most desired to see in Italy. We went to the
Pretorio Palace; we saw a lioness and a great many little bronze figures,
grotesque, very fat or very thin. The Etruscans were a seriously gay
people. They made bronze caricatures. But the monkeys--some afflicted
with big stomachs, others astonished to show their bones--Madame Marmet
looked at them with reluctant admiration. She contemplated them like--
there is a beautiful French word that escapes me--like the monuments and
the trophies of Monsieur Marmet."
Madame Martin smiled. But she was restless. She thought the sky dull,
the streets ugly, the passers-by common.
"Oh, darling, the Prince will be very glad to receive you in his palace."
"I do not think so."
"Why, darling, why?"
"Because I do not please him much."
Vivian Bell declared that the Prince, on the contrary, was a great
admirer of the Countess Martin.
The horses stopped before the Albertinelli palace. On the sombre facade
were sealed those bronze rings which formerly, on festival nights, held
rosin torches. These bronze rings mark, in Florence, the palaces of the
most illustrious families. The palace had an air of lofty pride.
The Prince hastened to meet them, and led them through the empty salons
into the gallery. He, apologized for showing canvases which perhaps had
not an attractive aspect. The gallery had been formed by Cardinal Giulio
Albertinelli at a time when the taste for Guido and Caraccio, now fallen,
had predominated. His ancestor had taken pleasure in gathering the works
of the school of Bologna. But he would show to Madame Martin several
paintings which had not displeased Miss Bell, among others a Mantegna.
The Countess Martin recognized at once a banal and doubtful collection;
she felt bored among the multitude of little Parrocels, showing in the
darkness a bit of armor and a white horse.
A valet presented a card.
The Prince read aloud the name of Jacques Dechartre. At that moment he
was turning his back on the two visitors. His face wore the expression
of cruel displeasure one finds on the marble busts of Roman emperors.
Dechartre was on the staircase.
The Prince went toward him with a languid smile. He was no longer Nero,
"I invited Monsieur Dechartre to come to the Albertinelli palace," said
Miss Bell. "I knew it would please you. He wished to see your gallery."
And it is true that Dechartre had wished to be there with Madame Martin.
Now all four walked among the Guidos and the Albanos.
Miss Bell babbled to the Prince--her usual prattle about those old men
and those Virgins whose blue mantles were agitated by an immovable
tempest. Dechartre, pale, enervated, approached Therese, and said to
her, in a low tone:
"This gallery is a warehouse where picture dealers of the entire world
hang the things they can not sell. And the Prince sells here things that
Jews could not sell."
He led her to a Holy Family exhibited on an easel draped with green
velvet, and bearing on the border the name of Michael-Angelo.
"I have seen that Holy Family in the shops of picture-dealers of London,
of Basle, and of Paris. As they could not get the twenty-five louis that
it is worth, they have commissioned the last of the Albertinellis to sell
it for fifty thousand francs."
The Prince, divining what they were saying, approached them gracefully.
"There is a copy of this picture almost everywhere. I do not affirm that
this is the original. But it has always been in the family, and old
inventories attribute it to Michael-Angelo. That is all I can say about
And the Prince turned toward Miss Bell, who was trying to find pictures
by the pre-Raphaelites.
Dechartre felt uneasy. Since the day before he had thought of Therese.
He had all night dreamed and yearned over her image. He saw her again,
delightful, but in another manner, and even more desirable than he had
imagined in his insomnia; less visionary, of a more vivid piquancy, and
also of a mind more mysteriously impenetrable. She was sad; she seemed
cold and indifferent. He said to himself that he was nothing to her;
that he was becoming importunate and ridiculous. This irritated him. He
murmured bitterly in her ear: "I have reflected. I did not wish to come.
Why did I come?" She understood at once what he meant, that he feared her
now, and that he was impatient, timid, and awkward. It pleased her that
he was thus, and she was grateful to him for the trouble and the desires
he inspired in her. Her heart throbbed faster. But, affecting to
understand that he regretted having disturbed himself to come and look at
bad paintings, she replied that in truth this gallery was not
interesting. Already, under the terror of displeasing her, he felt
reassured, and believed that, really indifferent, she had not perceived
the accent nor the significance of what he had said. He said "No,
nothing interesting." The Prince, who had invited the two visitors to
breakfast, asked their friend to remain with them. Dechartre excused
himself. He was about to depart when, in the large empty salon, he found
himself alone with Madame Martin. He had had the idea of running away
from her. He had no other wish now than to see her again. He recalled
to her that she was the next morning to visit the Bargello. "You have
permitted me to accompany you." She asked him if he had not found her
moody and tiresome. Oh, no; he had not thought her tiresome, but he
feared she was sad.
"Alas," he added, "your sadness, your joys, I have not the right to know
them." She turned toward him a glance almost harsh. "You do not think
that I shall take you for a confidante, do you?" And she walked away
"YOU MUST TAKE ME WITH MY OWN SOUL!"
After dinner, in the salon of the bells, under the lamps from which the
great shades permitted only an obscure light to filter, good Madame
Marmet was warming herself by the hearth, with a white cat on her knees.
The evening was cool. Madame Martin, her eyes reminiscent of the golden
light, the violet peaks, and the ancient trees of Florence, smiled with