Part 2 out of 2
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