"'My life is drawing to a close; the grave will soon open to receive me, and I have no relations to whom to bequeath my only wealth,—the unaspiring celebrity of my name, and the humble fortune that I have acquired by my labors. Hitherto I have lived alone, completely absorbed by the studies that have consumed and dignified my life. I draw near to the close of my existence, and I am painfully aware that I have not commenced to live, since I have not thought of loving. It is too late to retrace my steps, and follow the path of happiness instead of that of glory, which I have unfortunately chosen; and yet I would not die without leaving in some memory that prolongation of existence in the existence of another, which is called affection,—the only immortality in which I believe. I cannot hope for more than gratitude, and I feel that it is from you that I should wish to obtain it. But,' added he, more timidly, 'for that, you must consent to accept, in the eyes of the world, and for the world only, the name, the hand, and the affection of an old man who would he a father under the name of husband, and who, as such, would merely seek the right of receiving you into his house, and loving you as his child.'
"He stopped, and refused that day to hear the answer which was already hovering on my lips. He was the only man among all the visitors of the house who had evinced any feeling towards me, beyond that vulgar and almost insolent admiration which shows itself in looks and exclamations, and is as much an offence as an homage. I knew nothing of love; I only felt an absence of all family ties which I thought the tenderness of my adoptive father would replace. I was offered a safe and honorable refuge against the dangers of the life in which I was to enter in a few months; and a name which would be as a diadem to the woman who bore it. His hair had grown white, it was true, but under the touch of Fame, which bestows eternal youth upon its favorites; his years would have numbered four times mine, but his regular and majestic features inspired respect for time, and no disgust for old age, and his countenance, where genius and goodness were combined, possessed that beauty of declining age which attracts the eye and affection even of childhood."
* * * * *
"The very day I quitted forever the Orphan Establishment, I entered my husband's house, not as his wife, but as his daughter. The world gave him the name of husband, but he never suffered me to call him anything but father, and he was such to me in care and tenderness. He made me the adored and radiating centre of a select and distinguished circle, composed for the greater part of those old men, eminent in letters, politics, or philosophy, who had been the glory of the preceding century and had escaped the fury of the Revolution, and the voluntary servitude of the Empire. He selected for me friends and guides among those women of the same period who were most remarkable for their talents or virtues; he promoted and encouraged all those connections most likely to interest my mind or heart, and to diversify the monotonous life I led in an old man's house; and far from being severe or jealous in respect of my acquaintances, he sought by the most courteous attention to attract all those distinguished men whose society might have charms for me. He would have liked whomever I had chosen, and would have been pleased if I had shown preference to any one among the crowd. I was the worshipped idol of the house, and the general idolatry of which I was the object went far, perhaps, to guard me against any individual predilection. I was too happy and too much flattered to inquire into the state of my own heart, and besides, there was so much paternal tenderness in my husband's manner towards me, although he only showed his fondness by sometimes holding me to his heart, and kissing my forehead, from which he gently parted my hair, that I should have feared to disturb my happiness by seeking to render it complete. He would sometimes, however, playfully rally me on my indifference, and tell me that all that tended to add to my happiness would increase his own.
"Once, and once only, I thought I loved and was beloved. A man whose genius had rendered him illustrious, who was powerful from his high favor with the Emperor, and who was doubly captivating by his renown and appearance, although he had passed the meridian of life, sought me with a signal devotion that deceived me. I was not elated with pride, but rather with gratitude and surprise. I loved him for a time, or rather I loved a self-created delusion under his name. I might have yielded to the charm of such a feeling, had I not discovered that what I supposed to be a passionate attachment of the heart was on his part only an infatuation of the senses. When I perceived the real nature of his love, it became odious to me, and I blushed to think how I had been deceived; I took back my heart, and wrapped myself once more in the cold monotony of my happiness.
"The morning was spent in deep and engaging studies with my husband, whose willing disciple I was. During the day we took long and solitary walks in the woods of St. Cloud or of Meudon; and in the evening a few grave, and for the most part elderly, friends would meet and discourse on various topics, with all the freedom of intimacy. These cold but indulgent hearts inclined toward my youth, from that natural bias which makes the love of the aged descend on the youthful, as the streams of snow-covered summits flow downwards to the plain. But these hoary heads seemed to shed their snows on me, and my youth pined and wasted away in the ungenial atmosphere of age. There lay too great a space of years between their hearts and mine! Oh, what would I not have given to have had one friend of my own age, by the contact of whose warm heart I might have dissolved the thoughts that froze within me, as the dew of morning congeals upon the plants that grow too near these mountain glaciers!
"My husband often looked sadly at me, and seemed alarmed at my pale face and languid voice. He would have desired, at any cost, to give air and motion to my heart. He continually tried to induce me to mingle in diversions which might dispel my melancholy, and would use gentle force to oblige me to appear at balls and theatres, in the hope that the natural pride which my youth and beauty might have given me would have made me share in the pleasure of those around me. The next morning, as soon as I was awake, he would come into my room and make me relate the impression I had produced, the admiration I had attracted, and even speak of the hearts that I had seemed to touch. 'And you,' would he say, in a tone of gentle interrogation, 'do you share none of these feelings that you inspire? Is your young heart at twenty as old as mine? Oh, that I could see you single out from among all these admirers one superior being, who might one day, by his love, render your happiness complete, and when I am gone, continue my affection for you under a younger and more tender form!' 'Your affection suffices me,' I would answer; 'I feel no pain; I desire nothing; I am happy!' 'Yes,' he would rejoin, 'you are happy, but you are growing old at twenty! Oh, remember that it is your task to close my eyes! Live and love! oh, do but live, that I may not survive you!
"He called in one doctor after another; they wearied me with questions, and all agreed in saying that I was threatened with spasm of the heart. The fainting fits, incident to the disease, had begun to show themselves. I required, it was said, to break through the usual routine of my life, to relinquish for some time my sedentary habits, and seek a complete change of air and scene, in order to give me that stimulus and energy that my tropical nature required, and which it had lost in the cold and misty atmosphere of Paris. My husband did not hesitate one moment between the hope of prolonging my life and the happiness of keeping me near him. As he could not, by reason of his age and occupations, accompany me, he confided me to the care of friends who were travelling in Switzerland and Italy, with two daughters of my own age. I travelled with that family two years; I have seen mountains and seas that reminded me of those of my native land; I have breathed the balmy and stimulating air of the waves and glaciers; but nothing has restored to me the youth that has withered in my heart, although it sometimes appears to bloom on my face, so as to deceive even me. The doctors of Geneva have sent me here, as the last resource of their art; they have advised me to prolong my stay as long as one ray of sun lingers in the autumnal sky; then I shall rejoin my husband. Alas, that I could have shown him his daughter, once more young, and radiant with health and hope! But I feel that I shall return only to sadden his latter days, and perhaps to expire in his arms! Well," she rejoined in a resigned and almost joyful tone, "I shall not now leave earth without having seen my long-expected brother,—the brother of the soul, that some secret instinct taught me to expect, and whose image, foreshadowed in my fancy, had made me indifferent to all real beings. Yes," she said, covering her eyes with her rosy taper fingers between which I saw one or two tears trickle; "oh, yes, the dream of all my nights was embodied in you this morning, when I awoke! ... Oh, if it were not too late to live on, I would wish to live for centuries, to prolong the consciousness of that look, which seemed to weep over me, of that heart that pitied me, of that voice," she added, unveiling her eyes which were raised to heaven,—"of that voice that called me sister! ... That tender name will never more be taken from me," she added with a look and tone of gentle interrogation, "during life, or after death?"
I sank at her feet overpowered with felicity, and pressed my lips to them without saying a word. I heard the step of the boatmen, who came to tell us that the lake was calm, and that there was but just sufficient daylight left to cross over to the Savoy shore. We rose to follow them, with unsteady steps, as if intoxicated with joy. Oh, who can describe what I experienced, as I felt the weight of her pliant but exhausted frame hanging delightfully on my arm, as though she wished to feel, and make me feel, that I was henceforward her only support in weakness, her only trust in sorrow, the only link by which she held to earth! Methinks I hear even now, though fifteen years have passed since that hour, the sound of the dry leaves as they rustled beneath our tread; I see our two long shadows blended into one, which the sun cast on the left side on the grass of the orchard, and which seemed, like a living shroud tracking the steps of youth and love, to develop them before their time. I feel the gentle warmth of her shoulder against my heart, and the touch of one of the tresses of her hair, which the wind of the lake waved against my face, and which my lips strove to retain and to kiss. O Time, what eternities of joy thou buriest in one such minute, or rather, how powerless art thou against memory; how impotent to give forgetfulness!
The evening was as warm and peaceful as the preceding day had been cold and stormy. The mountains were bathed in a soft purple light which made them appear larger and more distant than usual, and they seemed like huge floating shadows through whose transparency one could perceive the warm sky of Italy which lay beyond. The sky was mottled with small crimson clouds, like the ensanguined plumes which fall from the wing of the wounded swan, struggling in the grasp of an eagle.
The wind had subsided as evening came on; the silvery rippling waves threw a slight fringe of spray around the rocks, from which the dripping branches of the fig-trees depended. The smoke from the cottages, which lay scattered on the Mont du Chat, rose here and there, and crept upward along the mountain sides, while the cascades fell into the ravines below, like a smoke of waters. The waves of the lake were so transparent, that as we leaned over the side of the boat, we could see the reflection of the oars and of our own faces, and so warm, that as we drew our fingers through them, we felt but a voluptuous caress of the waters. We were separated from the boatmen by a small curtain, as in the gondolas of Venice. She was lying on one of the benches of the boat, as on a couch, with her elbow resting upon a cushion; she was enveloped in shawls to protect her from the damp of evening, and my cloak was placed in several folds upon her feet; her face, at times in shade, was at others illumined by the last rosy tints of the sun, which seemed suspended over the dark firs of the Grande Chartreuse. I was lying on a heap of nets at the bottom of the boat; my heart was full, my lips were mute, my eyes were fixed on hers. What need had we to speak, when the sun, the hour, the mountains, the air and water, the voluptuous balancing of the boat, the light ripple of the murmuring waters as we divided them, our looks, our silence, and our hearts, which beat in unison,—all spoke so eloquently for us? We rather seemed to fear instinctively that the least sound of voice or words would jar discordantly on such enchanting silence. We seemed to glide from the azure of the lake to the azure of the horizon, without seeing the shores we left, or the shores on which we were about to land.
I heard one longer and more deep-drawn sigh fall slowly from her lips, as though her bosom, oppressed by some secret weight, had at one breath exhaled the aspirations of a long life. I felt alarmed. "Are you in pain?" I inquired, sadly. "No," she said; "it was not pain, it was thought." "What were you thinking of so intensely?" I rejoined. "I was thinking," she answered, "that if God were at this instant to strike all nature with immobility; if the sun were to remain thus, its disk half hidden behind those dark firs, which seem the fringed lashes of the eye of heaven; if light and shade remained thus blended in the atmosphere, this lake in its same transparency, this air as balmy, these two shores forever at the same distance from this boat, the same ray of ethereal light on your brow, the same look of pity reflected from your eyes in mine, this same fulness of joy in my heart,—I should comprehend what I have never comprehended since I first began to think, or to dream." "What?" said I, anxiously. "Eternity in one instant, and the Infinite in one sensation!" she exclaimed, half leaning over the edge of the boat, as if to look at the water and to spare me the embarrassment of an answer. I was awkward enough to reply by some commonplace phrase of vulgar gallantry, which unfortunately rose to my lips, instead of the chaste and ineffable adoration which inundated my heart. It was something to the effect that such happiness would not suffice me, if it were not the promise of another and a greater felicity. She understood me but too well, and blushed, on my account rather than her own. She turned to me with all the emotion of profaned purity depicted on her face, and in accents as tender, but more solemn and heartfelt than any that had yet fallen from her lips: "You have given me pain," she said in a low voice; "come hither, nearer to me, and listen; I know not if what I feel for you, and what you appear to feel for me, be what is termed love, in the obscure and confused language of this world in which the same words serve to express feelings that bear no resemblance to each other, save in the sound they yield upon the lips of man. I do not wish to know it; and you—oh, I beseech you, never seek to know it! But this I know, that it is the most supreme and entire happiness that the soul of one created being can draw from the soul, the eyes, and the voice of another being like to herself, of a being who till now was wanting to her happiness, and of whom she completes the existence. Besides this boundless happiness, this mutual response of thought to thought, of heart to heart, of soul to soul, which blends them in one indivisible existence, and makes them as inseparable as the ray of yonder setting sun, and the beam of yonder rising moon, when they meet in this same sky, and ascend in mingled light in the same ether—is there another joy, gross image of the one I feel, as far removed from the eternal and immaterial union of our souls as dust is from these stars, or a minute from eternity? I know not! and I will not, cannot know!" she added in a tone of disdainful sadness. "But," she resumed, with a confiding look and attitude, which seemed to make her wholly mine, "what do words signify? I love you! All nature would say it for me, if I did not; or rather, let me proclaim it first, for both: We love each other!"
"Oh, say, say it once more, say it a thousand times," I exclaimed, rising like a madman, and walking backwards and forwards in the boat, which shook beneath my feet. "Let us say it together, say it to God and man, say it to heaven and earth, say it to the mute, unheeding elements! Say it eternally, and let all nature repeat it eternally with us!" ... I fell on my knees before her, with my hands clasped, and my disordered hair falling over my face. "Be calm," she said, placing her fingers on my lips, "and let me speak without interruption to the end." I sat down and remained silent.
"I have said," she resumed, "or rather I have not said, I have called out to you from the depths of my soul, that I love you! I love with all the accumulated power of the expectations, dreams, and impatient longings of a sterile life of eight-and-twenty years, passed in watching and not seeing, in seeking and not finding, what some presentiment taught me to expect, and you have revealed to me. But, alas, I have known and loved you too late, if you understand love as most men do, and as you seemed to comprehend it, when you spoke just now, those light and profane words. Listen to me once more," she added, "and understand me; I am yours, wholly yours. I belong to you as I do to myself, and I may say so without wronging the adoptive father, who never considered me but as a daughter. I am wholly yours, and of myself I only keep back what you wish me to retain. Do not be surprised at this language, which is not that of the women of Europe; they love and are beloved tamely, and would fear to weaken the sentiments they inspire by avowing a secret that they wish to have wrested from them. I differ from them by my country, by my feelings, and by my education. I have lived with a philosopher in the society of free-thinkers, unshackled by the belief and observances of the religion they have undermined, and have none of the superstitions, weaknesses and scruples which make ordinary women bow before another judge than their conscience. The God of their childhood is not my God. I believe in the God who has written his symbol in Nature, his law in our hearts, his morality in our reason. Reason, feeling and conscience are the only Revelation in which I believe. Neither of these oracles of my life forbid me to be yours, and the impulse of my whole soul would cast me into your arms, if you could only be happy at that price. But shall you or I place our happiness in a fugitive delirium of the senses, which cannot give half the enjoyment that its voluntary renunciation would afford our hearts? Shall we not more fully believe in the immateriality and eternity of our love, if it remains, like a pure thought, in those regions which are inaccessible to change and death, than if it were degraded and profaned by unworthy delights? If ever," she added, after a short silence, and blushing deeply, "if ever, in a moment of frenzy and incredulity, you exacted from me such a proof of abnegation, the sacrifice would not only be one of dignity, but of existence; in robbing my love of its innocency, you would rob me of life; when you thought to embrace happiness, you would clasp only death in your arms; I am but a shade, and in one sigh I may exhale my soul!..."
We remained silent for some time. At last, with a deep-drawn sigh, I said, "I understand you, and in my heart I had sworn the eternal innocency of my love, before you had done speaking, or required it of me."
My resigned tone seemed to delight her, and to redouble the confiding charm of her manner. Night had spread over all, the stars glassed themselves in the lake, and the silence of Nature lulled the earth to rest. The winds, the trees and waves were hushed, to let us listen to all the fugitive impressions of feeling and of thought that whisper in the hearts of the happy. The boatmen sang snatches of their drawling and monotonous chants, which seem like the noted modulations of the waves on the shore. I was reminded of her voice, which seemed ever to sound in my ear, and I exclaimed, "Oh, that you would mark this enchanting night for me, by some sweet tones addressed to these winds and waves, so that they may be forever full of you!" I made a sign to the boatmen to be silent, and to stifle the sound of their oars, from which the drops came trickling back into the lake like a musical accompaniment of silvery notes. She sang a Scotch ballad, half naval and half pastoral, in which a young girl, whose sailor lover has left her to seek wealth beyond the seas, relates how her parents, wearied of waiting his return, had induced her to marry an old man, with whom she might have been happy, but for the remembrance of her early love. The ballad begins thus:
"When the sheep are in the fauld and the ky at hame, And a' the weary warld to rest are gane, The waes of my heart fa' in showers frae my e'e, While my gude-man lies sound by me."
After each verse there is a long revery, sung in vague notes, without words, which lulls the heart with unspeakable melancholy, and brings tears into the eyes and voice. Each succeeding verse takes up the story in the dull and distant tone of memory, weeping, regretting, yet resigned. If the Greek strophes of Sappho are the very fire of love, these Scotch notes are the very life's blood and tears of a heart stricken to death by Fate. I know not who wrote the music, but whoever he may be, thanks be to him for having found in a few notes, and in the mournful melody of a voice, the expression of infinite human sadness. I have never since then heard the first measures of that air without flying from it as one pursued by a spirit; and when I wish to soften my heart by a tear, I sing within myself the plaintive burden of that song, and feel ready to weep,—I, who never weep!
We reached the little mole that stretches out into the lake where the boats are moored; it is the harbor of Aix, and is situated at about half a league from the town. It was midnight, and there were no longer any carriages or donkeys on the pier to convey strangers to the town. The distance was too great for a delicate suffering woman to walk, and after knocking fruitlessly at the doors of one or two cottages in the vicinity of the lake, the boatmen proposed carrying the lady to Aix. They cheerfully slipped their oars from the rings which fastened them to the boat, and tied them together with the ropes of their nets; then they placed one of the cushions of the boat on these ropes, and thus formed a soft and flexible kind of litter for the stranger. Four of them then took up the oars, and each placing one end on his shoulder, they set off with the palanquin, to which they imparted no other motion than that of their steps. I would have wished to have my share in the pleasure of bearing their precious burden, but was repulsed by them with jealous eagerness. I walked beside the litter with my right hand in hers, so that she might cling to me when the movement of her conveyance was too rough. I thus prevented her slipping off the narrow cushion on which she was stretched. We walked in this manner slowly and silently in the moonlight down the long avenue of poplars. Oh, how short that avenue seemed to me, and how I wished that it could have led us on thus to the last step of both our lives! She did not speak, and I said nothing, but I felt the whole weight of her body trustingly suspended to my arm; I felt both her cold hands clasp mine, and from time to time an involuntary pressure, or a warmer breath upon them, made me feel that she had approached her lips to my hand to warm it. Never was silence so eloquent in its mute revealings. We enjoyed the happiness of a century in one hour. By the time we arrived at the old doctor's house, and had deposited the invalid at her chamber door, the whole world that lay between us had disappeared. My hand was wet with her tears; I dried them with my lips, and threw myself without undressing on my bed.
In vain I tossed and turned on my pillow; I could not sleep. The thousand impressions of the preceding days were traced so vividly on my mind that I could not believe they were past, and I seemed to hear and see over again all I had seen or heard the previous day. The fever of my soul had extended to my body. I rose and laid down again without finding repose. At last I gave it up. I tried by bodily motion to calm the agitation of my mind; I opened the window, turned over the leaves of books which I did not understand as I read them, paced up and down, and changed the position of my table and my chair a dozen times, without finding a place where I could bear to spend the night. All this noise was heard in the adjoining room; and my steps disturbed the poor invalid, who, doubtless, was as wakeful as I was. I heard a light step on the creaking floor approach the bolted oak door which separated her sitting-room from my bedroom; I listened with my ear close to the door, and heard a suppressed breathing, and the rustle of a silk gown against the wall. The light of a lamp shone through the chinks of the door, and streamed from beneath it on my floor. It was she! she was there listening too, with her ear perhaps close to my brow; she might have heard my heart beat. "Are you ill?" whispered a voice, which I should have recognized by a single sigh. "No," I answered, "but I am too happy! Excess of joy is as exciting as excess of anguish. The fever I feel is one of life; I do not wish to dispel it, or to fly from it, but I am sitting up to enjoy it." "Child that you are!" she said, "go and sleep while I watch; it is now my turn to watch over you." "But you," whispered I, "why are you not sleeping?" "I never wish to sleep more," she replied; "I would not lose one minute of the consciousness of my overwhelming bliss. I have but little time in which to enjoy my happiness, and do not like to give any portion of it to forgetfulness in sleep. I came to sit here in the hopes of hearing you, or at any rate to feel nearer to you." "Oh, why still so far?" I murmured. "Why so far? Why is this wall between us?" "Is there only this door between us then," she said, "and not our will and our vow? There! if you are only restrained by this material obstacle, it is removed!" and I heard her withdraw the bolt on her side. "Yes," she continued, "if there be not in you some feeling stronger than love itself to subdue and master your passion, you can pass. Yes," she added with an accent at once more solemn and more impassioned, "I will owe nothing but to yourself,—you may pass; you will meet with love equal to your own, but such love would be my death...."
I was overcome by the violence of my feelings, the impetuous impulse of my heart that impelled me towards that voice, and the moral violence that repulsed me; and I fell as one mortally wounded on the threshold of that closed door. As to her, I heard her sit down on a cushion which she had taken from a sofa, and thrown on the floor. During the greater part of the night we continued to converse in a low tone, through the intervals between the floor and the rough wood-work of the door. Who can describe the outpourings of our hearts, the words unused in the ordinary language of men that seemed to be wafted like night-dreams between heaven and earth, and were interrupted by silence in which our hearts and not our lips communed revealed their unutterable thoughts? At length the intervals of silence became longer, the voices grew faster and, overcome with fatigue, I fell asleep, with my hand clasped on my knees, and my cheek leaning against the wall.
The sun was already high in the heavens when I woke, and my room was flooded with light. The redbreasts were chirping and pecking at the vines and currant bushes beneath my windows; all nature seemed to be illumined and adorned and to have awakened before me, to usher in and welcome this first day of my new life. All the sounds and noises in the house seemed joyful as I was. I heard the light steps of the maid who went and came in the passage to carry breakfast to her mistress, the childish voices of the little girls of the mountains who brought flowers from the edge of the glaciers, and the tinkling bells and stamping hoofs of the mules which were waiting in the yard to carry her to the lake or to the mountain. I changed my soiled and dusty clothes, I bathed my red and swollen eyes, smoothed my disordered hair, put on my leather gaiters, like a chamois hunter of the Alps, and taking my gun in hand, I went down to join the old doctor and his family at the breakfast-table.
At breakfast they talked of the storm on the lake, of the danger in which the stranger had been, her fainting at Haute-Combe, her absence during two days, and my good fortune in having met with her and brought her home. I begged the doctor to request for me the favor of inquiring in person after her health, and accompanying her in her excursions. He came down again with her; she looked lovelier and more interesting than ever, and happiness seemed to have given her fresh youth. She enchanted every one, but she looked only at me. I alone understood her looks and words with their double meaning. The guides lifted her joyfully on the seat with the swinging foot-board, which serves as a saddle for the women of Savoy; and I walked beside the mule with the tinkling bells which was that day to carry her to the highest chalets of the mountain.
We passed the whole day there, but we scarcely spoke, so well did we already understand each other without words. Sometimes we stood contemplating the cheerful valley of Chambery which appeared to widen as we mounted higher; or we loitered on the edge of cascades, whose sun-tinted vapors enveloped us in watery rainbows that seemed to be the mysterious halo of our love; or we would gather the latest flowers of earth on the sloping meadows before the chalets, and exchange them between us, as the letters of the fragrant alphabet of Nature, intelligible to us alone; or we gathered chestnuts which we brought home to roast at night by her fire; or we sat under shelter of the highest chalets which were already abandoned by their owners, and thought how happy two beings like ourselves might be, confined by fate to one of these deserted huts, made from rough boards and trunks of trees,—so near the stars, so near the murmuring winds, the snows and glaciers, but divided from man by solitude, and sufficing to each other during a life filled with one thought and but one feeling!
In the evening we came down slowly from the mountain with saddened looks, as though we had been leaving our domains and happiness behind us. She retired to her apartment, and I remained below to sup with our host and his guests. After supper I knocked, as had been agreed upon, at her door; she received me as she might a friend of childhood after a long absence. Henceforward I spent all my days and all my evenings in the same manner; I generally found her reclining on a sofa with a white cover, which was placed in a corner between the fireplace and the window; upon a small table on which stood a brass lamp there were some books, the letters she had received or commenced during the day, a little common tea-pot,—which she gave me when she went away, and which has always stood upon my chimney since,—and two cups of blue and pink china, in which we used to take tea at midnight. The old doctor would sometimes go up with me, to chat with his fair patient; but after half an hour's conversation, the good old man would find out that my presence went further than his advice or his baths to re-establish the health that was so precious to us all, and would leave us to our books and conversation. At midnight, I kissed the hand she extended to me across the table, and went to my own room; but I never retired to rest until all was silent in hers.
We led this delightful, twofold life during six long or short weeks; long, when I call to mind the numberless palpitations of joy in our hearts, but short, when I remember the imperceptible rapidity of the hours that filled them. By a miracle of Providence, which does not occur once in ten years, the season seemed to connive at our happiness, and to conspire with us to prolong it. The whole month of October, and half of November, seemed like a new but leafless spring; the air was still soft, the waters blue, the clouds were rosy, and the sun shone brightly. The days were shorter, it is true, but the long evenings spent beside her fire drew us closer together; they made us more exclusively present to each other, and prevented our looks and hearts from evaporating amid the splendor of external nature. We loved them better than the long summer days. Our light was within us, and it shone more brightly when we confined ourselves to the house during the long darkness of November evenings, with the moaning of the autumnal winds around us, and the first rattling of the sleet and hail against the windows. The wintry rain seemed to throw us back upon ourselves, and to cry aloud: Hasten to say all that is yet untold in your hearts, and all that must be spoken before man and woman die, for I am the voice of the evil days that are near at hand to part you!
We visited together, in succession, every creek and cove, or sandy beach of the lake, every mountain pass or ridge; every grotto or remote valley; every cascade hidden among the rocks of Savoy. We saw more sublime or smiling landscapes, more mysterious solitudes, more enchanted deserts, more cottages hanging on the mountain brow half-way between the clouds and the abyss, more foaming waters in the sloping meadows, more forests of dark pines disclosing their gloomy colonnades and echoing our steps beneath their domes, than might have hidden a whole world of lovers. To each of these we gave a sigh, a rapture, or a blessing; we implored them to preserve the memory of the hours we had passed together, of the thoughts they had inspired, the air they had given us, the drop of water we had drunk in the hollow of our hands, the leaf or flower we had gathered, the print of our footsteps on the dewy grass, and to give them back to us one day with the particle of existence that we had left there as we passed; so that nought might be lost of the bliss that overflowed within us, and that we might receive back each minute of ecstasy, or emanation of ourselves, in that faithful treasure house of Eternity, where nothing is lost, not even the breath we have just exhaled, or the minute we think we have lost. Never, perhaps, since the creation of these lakes, these torrents, and these rocks, did such tender and fervent hymns ascend from these mountains to Heaven! There was in our souls life and love enough to animate all nature, earth, air, and water, rocks and trees, cedar and hyssop, and to make them give forth sighs, aspirations, voice, perfume, and flame enough to fill the whole sanctuary of Nature, even if more vast and mute than the desert in which we wandered. Had a globe been created for ourselves alone, we alone would have sufficed to people and to quicken it, to give it voice and language, praise and love for all eternity! And who shall say that the human soul is not infinite? Who, beside the woman he adores, before the face of Nature, and beneath the eye of God, e'er felt the limits of existence, or of his power of life and love? O Love! the base may fear thee, and the wicked proscribe thee! Thou art the high priest of this world, the revealer of Immortality, the fire of the altar; and without thy ray man would not even dimly comprehend Eternity!
These six weeks were to me as a baptism of fire which transfigured my soul, and cleansed it of all the impurities with which it had been stained. Love was the torch which, while it fired my heart, enlightened all nature, heaven, and earth, and showed me to myself. I understood the nothingness of this world when I felt how it vanished before a single spark of true life. I loathed myself as I looked back into the past, and compared it with the purity and perfection of the one I loved. I entered into the heaven of my soul, as my heart and eyes fathomed the ocean of beauty, tenderness, and purity which expanded hourly in the eyes, in the voice, and in the discourse, of the heavenly creature who had manifested herself to me. How often did I kneel before her, my head bowed to the earth in the attitude and with the feeling of adoration! How often did I beseech her, as I would a being of another order, to cleanse me in her tears, absorb me in her flame, or to inhale me in her breath,—so that nothing of myself should be left in me, save the purifying water with which she had cleansed me, the flame that had consumed me, or the new breath that she had infused into my new being; so that I might become her, or she might become me, and that God himself in calling us to him should not distinguish or divide what the miracle of love had transformed and mingled!... Oh, if you have a brother or a son, who has never understood virtue, pray that he may love as I did! As long as he loves thus, he will be capable of every sacrifice or heroic devotion to equal the ideal of his love; and when he no longer loves, he will still retain in his soul a remembrance of celestial delights, which will make him turn with disgust from the waters of vice, and his eye will be often secretly uplifted towards the pure spring at which he once knelt to drink. I cannot tell the feeling of salutary shame which oppressed me in the presence of the one I loved; but her reproaches were so tender, her looks so gentle, though penetrating, her pardon so divine, that in humbling myself before her I did not feel myself abased, but rather raised and dignified. I almost mistook for my own and inward light, what was only the reverberation in me of her splendor and purity. Involuntarily I compared her to all the other women I had approached, except Antonina, who appeared to me like Julie in her artless infancy; and save my mother, whom she resembled in her virtue and maturity, no woman in my eyes could bear the slightest comparison. A single look of hers seemed to throw all my past life into shade. Her discourse revealed to me depths of feelings and refinements of passion, which transported me into unknown regions, where I seemed to breathe for the first time the native air of my own thoughts. All the levity, fickleness, and vanity, the aridity, irony, and bitterness, of the evil days of my youth, disappeared, and I scarcely recognized myself. When I left her presence I felt myself good, and thought myself pure. Once more I felt enthusiasm, prayer, inward piety, and the warm tears which flow not from the eyes, but well out like a secret spring from beneath our apparent aridity, and cleanse the heart without enervating it. I vowed never to descend from the celestial but by no means giddy heights to which I had been raised by her tender reproaches, her voice, her single presence. It was as a second innocence of my soul, imparted by the rays of the eternal innocence of her love.
I could not say whether there was most piety, or fascination in the impression I received, so much did passion and adoration mingle in equal portions, and in my thoughts change, a thousand times in one minute, love into worship, or worship into love. Oh, is not that the height, the very pinnacle of love,—enthusiasm in the possession of perfect beauty, and rapture in supreme adoration?... All she had said seemed to me eternal; all she had looked on appeared to me sacred. I envied the earth on which she had trodden; the sunshine which had enveloped her during our walks appeared to me happy to have touched her. I would have wished to abstract and separate forever from the liquid plains of air, the air that she had sanctified in breathing it; I would have enclosed the empty place that she had just ceased to fill in space, so that no inferior creature should occupy it, so long as the world should last. In a word, I saw and felt, I worshipped God himself, through the medium of my love. If life were to last in such a condition of the soul, Nature would stand still, the blood would cease to circulate, the heart forget to beat, or rather, there would be neither motion, precipitation, nor lassitude, neither life, nor death, in our senses; there would be only one endless and living absorption of our being in another's, such as must be the state of the soul at once annihilated and living in God.
Oh, joy! the vile desires of sensual passion were annulled (as she had wished) in the full possession of each other's soul, and happiness, as happiness ever does, made me feel better and more pious than I had ever been. God and my love were so mingled in my heart, that my adoration of her became a perpetual adoration of the Supreme Being who had created her. During the day, when we loitered on the sloping hills or on the borders of the lake, or sat on the root of some tree in a sunny lawn, to rest, to gaze, and to admire, our conversation would often, from the natural overflowing of two full hearts, tend towards that fathomless abyss of all thought,—the Infinite! and towards Him who alone can fill infinite space,—God! When I pronounced this last word, with the heartfelt gratitude which reveals so much in one single accent, I was surprised to see her averted looks, or remark on her brow and in the corners of her mouth a trace of sad and painful incredulity, which seemed to me in contradiction with our enthusiasm. One day, I asked her, timidly, the reason. "It is that that word gives me pain," she answered. "And how," said I, "how can the word that comprehends all life, all love, and all goodness give pain to the most perfect of God's creations?" "Alas!" she said with the tone of a despairing soul, "that word represents the idea of a Being, whose existence I have passionately desired might not be a dream; and yet that Being," she added in a low and mournful tone, "in my eyes, and in those of the sages whose lessons I have received, is but the most marvellous and unreal delusion of our thoughts." "What!" said I, "your teachers do not believe there is a God? But you, who love, how can you disbelieve? Does not every throb of our hearts proclaim Him?" "Oh," she answered hastily, "do not interpret as folly the wisdom of those men who have uplifted for me the veils of philosophy, and have caused the broad day of reason and of science to shine before my eyes, instead of the pale and glimmering lamp with which Superstition lights the voluntary darkness, that she wilfully casts around her childish divinity. It is in the God of your mother and my nurse that I no longer believe, and not the God of Nature and of Science. I believe in a Being who is the Principle and Cause, spring and end of all other beings, or rather, who is himself the eternity, form, and law of all those beings, visible or invisible, intelligent or unintelligent, animate or inanimate, quick or dead, of which is composed the only real name of this Being of beings, the Infinite. But the idea of the incommensurable greatness, the sovereign fatality, the inflexible and absolute necessity of all the acts of this Being, whom you call God and we term Law, excludes from our thoughts all precise intelligibility, exact denomination, reasonable imagining, personal manifestation, revelation, or incarnation, and the idea of any possible relation between that Being and ourselves, even of homage and of prayer. Wherefore should the Consequence pray to the Cause?
"It is a cruel thought," she added; "for how many blessings, prayers, and tears I should have poured out at His feet since I have loved you! But," she resumed, "I surprise and pain you; pray forgive me. Is not truth the first of virtues, if virtue there be? On this single point we cannot agree; let us never speak of it. You have been brought up by a pious mother, in the midst of a Christian family, and have inhaled with your first breath the holy credulity of your home. You have been led by the hand into the temples; you have been shown images, mysteries, and altars; you have been taught prayers and told, God is here, who listens and will answer you; and you believed, for you were not of an age to inquire. Since then, you have discarded these baubles of your childhood, to conceive a less feminine and less puerile God, than this God of the Christian tabernacles; but the first dazzling glare has not departed from your eyes; the real light that you have thought to see has been blended, unknown to yourself, with that false brightness which fascinated you on your entrance into life; you have retained two weaknesses of intelligence,—mystery and prayer. There is no mystery" she said, in a more solemn tone; "there is only reason, which dispels all mystery! It is man, crafty or credulous man, who invented mystery,—God made reason! And prayer does not exist," she continued mournfully, "for an inflexible law will not relent, and a necessary law cannot be changed.
"The ancients, with that profound wisdom which was often hidden beneath their popular ignorance, knew that full well," she added; "for they prayed to all the gods of their invention, but they never implored the supreme law,—Destiny."
She was silent. "It appears to me," I said after a long pause, "that the teachers who have instilled their wisdom into you have too much subordinated the feeling to the reasoning Being, in their theory of the relation of God to man; in a word, they have overlooked the heart in man,—the heart which is the organ of love, as intelligence is the organ of thought. The imaginings of man in respect of God may be puerile and mistaken, but his instincts, which are his unwritten law, must be sometimes right; if not, Nature would have lied in creating him. You do not think Nature a lie," I said smiling,—"you, who said just now that truth was perhaps the only virtue? Now, whatever may have been the intention of God in giving those two instincts, mystery and prayer, whether he meant thereby to show that he was the incomprehensible God, and that his name was Mystery; or that he desired that all creatures should give him honor and praise, and that prayer should be the universal incense of nature,—it is most certain that man, when he thinks on God, feels within him two instincts, mystery and adoration. Reason's province," I pursued, "is to enlighten and disperse mystery, more and more every day, but never to dispel it entirely. Prayer is the natural desire of the heart to pour forth unceasingly its supplications, efficacious or not, heard or unheard, as a precious perfume on the feet of God. What matters it if the perfume fall to the ground, or whether it anoint the feet of God? It is always a tribute of weakness, humility, and adoration.
"But who can say that it is ever lost?" I added in the tone of one whose hopes triumph over his doubts; "who can say that prayer, the mysterious communication with invisible Omnipotence, is not in reality the greatest of all the natural or supernatural powers of man? Who can say that the supreme and immortal Will has not ordained from all eternity that prayer should be continually inspired and heard, and that man should thus, by his invocations, participate in the ordering of his own destiny? Who knows whether God, in his love, and perpetual blessing on the beings which emanate from him, has not established this bond with them, as the invisible chain which links the thoughts of all worlds to his? Who knows but that, in his majestic solitude which he peoples alone, he has willed that this living murmur, this continual communing with nature, should ascend and descend continually in all space from him to all the beings that he vivifies and loves, and from those beings to him? At all events, prayer is the highest privilege of man, since it allows him to speak to God. If God were deaf to our prayers, we should still pray; for if in his majesty he would not hear us, still prayer would dignify man."
I saw that my reasonings touched without convincing her, and that the springs of her soul, which science had dried up, had not yet flowed towards God. But love was to soften her religion as it had softened her heart; the delights and anguish of passion were soon to bring forth adoration and prayer, those two perfumes of the souls that burn and languish. The one is full of rapture; the other full of tears,—both are divine!
In the meantime her health improved daily. Happiness, solitude with a beloved companion (that paradise of tender souls), and the daily discovery on her part of some new mystery of thought in me which corresponded to her own nature; the autumnal air in the mountains, which, like stoves heated during summer, preserve the warmth of the sun until the winter snows; our distant excursions to the chalets, or on the waters; the motion of the boat, or the gentle pace of the mules; the milk brought frothing from the pastures in the wooden cups the shepherds carve; and above all, the gentle excitement, the peaceful revery, the continual infatuation of a heart which first love upheld as with wings and led on from thought to thought, from dream to dream, through a new-found heaven,—all seemed to contribute visibly to her recovery. Every day seemed to bring fresh youth; it was as a convalescence of the soul which showed itself on the features. Her face, which had been at first slightly marked round the eyes with those dark and bluish tints which seem like the impress of the fingers of Death, gradually recovered the roundness of the cheek, the mantling blood, the soft down, and blooming complexion of a young girl who has been on the mountains, and whose cheek has been visited by the first cold bracing winds from the glaciers. Her lips had recovered their fulness, her eyes their brightness; the lid no longer drooped, and the eye itself seemed to swim in that continual and luminous mist which rises like a vapor from the burning heart, and is condensed into tears on the eye, whose fire absorbs these tears, that always rise, and never flow. There was more strength in her attitudes, more pliancy in her movements; her step was light and lively as a child's. Whenever we entered the yard of the house on our return from our rambles, the old doctor and his family would express their surprise at the prodigious change that a day had wrought in her appearance, and wonder at the life and light that she seemed to shed around her.
In truth, happiness seemed to encompass her with a radiant atmosphere, in which she not only walked herself, but enveloped all those who looked upon her. This radiance of beauty, this atmosphere of love, are not, as many think, only the fancies of a poet; the poet merely sees more distinctly what escapes the blind or indifferent eye of other men. It has often been said of a lovely woman, that she illumines the darkness of night; it might be said of Julie that she warmed the surrounding air. I lived and moved, enveloped in this warm emanation of her reviving beauty; others but felt it as they passed.
When I was obliged to leave her for a short time, and returned to my room, I felt, even at mid-day, as if I had been immured in a dungeon without air or light. The brightest sun afforded me no light, unless its rays were reflected by her eyes. I admired her more, the more I saw her; and could not believe she was a being of the same order as myself. The divine nature of her love had become a part of the creed of my imagination; and in spirit I was ever prostrate before the being who appeared to me too tender to be a divinity—too divine to be a woman! I sought a name for her, and found none. I called her Mystery, and under that vague and indefinite title, offered her worship which partook of earth by its tenderness, of a dream by its enthusiasm, of reality by her presence, and of heaven by my adoration.
She had obliged me to confess that I had sometimes written verses, but I had never shown her any. She did not much like that artificial and set form of speech, which, when it does not idealize, generally impairs the simplicity of feeling and expression. Her nature was too full of impulse, too feeling, and too serious, to bend itself to all the precision, form, and delay of written poetry. She was Poetry without a lyre—true as the heart, simple as the untutored thought, dreamy as night, brilliant as day, swift as lightning, boundless as space! No rules of harmony could have bounded the infinite music of her mind; her very voice was a perpetual melody, that no cadence of verse could have equalled. Had I lived long with her, I should never have read or written poetry. She was the living poem of Nature and of myself; my thoughts were in her heart, my imagery in her eyes, and my harmony in her voice.
She had in her room a few volumes of the principal poets of the end of the eighteenth century, and of the Empire, such as Delille and Fontanes; but their high-sounding and material poetry was not suited to us. She had been lulled by the melodious murmur of the waves of the tropic, and her soul contained treasures of love, imagination, and melancholy, which all the voices of the air and waters could not have expressed. She would sometimes attempt with me to read these books, on the strength of their reputation, but would throw them down again impatiently; they gave no sound beneath her touch, like those broken chords which remain voiceless when we strike the keys. The music of her heart was in mine, but I could never give it forth to the world; and the verses she was one day to inspire were destined to sound only on her grave. She never knew before she died whom she had loved. In her eyes I was her brother, and it would have mattered little to her that I had been a poet for the rest of the world. Her love saw nothing in me but myself.
Only once I involuntarily betrayed before her the poor gift of poetry that I possessed, and which she neither suspected nor desired in me. My friend Louis—had come to stay a few days with us. The evening had been spent till midnight in reading, in confidential talk, in musing, in sadness, and in smiles. We wondered to see three young lives, which a short time before were unknown to each other, now united and identified beneath the same roof, at the same fireside, with the same murmur of autumnal winds around, in a cottage of the mountains of Savoy; we strove to foresee by what sport of Providence, or Chance, the stormy winds of life might scatter or reunite us once more. These distant vistas of the horizon of our future lives had saddened us, and we remained silent round the little tea-table on which we were leaning. At last Louis, who was a poet, felt a mournful inspiration rising in his heart, and wished to write it down. She gave him paper and a pencil, and he leaned on the marble chimney-piece and wrote a few stanzas, plaintive and tearful as the funeral strophes of Gilbert. He resembled Gilbert, and he might have written those lines of his, which will live as long as the lamentations of Job, in the language of men:
Au banquet de la vie, infortune convive, J'apparus un jour et je meurs; Je meurs, et sur ma tombe, ou lentement j'arrive, Nul ne viendra verser des pleurs!
Louis's verses had affected me; I took the pencil from him, and, withdrawing for an instant to the end of the room, I wrote in my turn the following verses, which will die with me unknown to all; they were the first verses that sprung from my heart, and not from my imagination. I read them out without daring to raise my eyes to her, to whom they were addressed. They ran thus—
* * * * *
but, no! I efface them! My love was all my genius, and they have departed together.
As I finished reading the verses, I saw on Julie's face, on which the light of the lamp fell, such a tender expression of surprise and such superhuman beauty, that I stood uncertain, as my verses had expressed it, between the woman and the angel,—between love and adoration. This latter feeling predominated at last in my heart, and in that of my friend. We fell on our knees before the sofa, and kissed the end of the black shawl which enveloped her feet. The verses seemed to her merely an instantaneous and solitary expression of my feelings towards her; she praised them, but never mentioned them again. She much preferred our familiar discourse, or even our pensive silence in each other's company, to these exercises of the mind which profane our feelings rather than reveal them, Louis left us after a few days.
In consequence of these first verses of mine, which were but one feeble strophe of the perpetual hymn of my heart, she requested me to write an ode for her, which she would address as a tribute of admiration, and as a specimen of my talents, to one of the men of her Paris acquaintance, for whom she felt the greatest respect and attachment, M. de Bonald. I knew nothing of him but his name, and the well-deserved renown that attached to it as that of a Christian, a philosopher, and a legislator. I fancied that I was to address a modern Moses, who derived from the rays of another Mount Sinai the divine light which he shed upon human laws. I wrote the ode in one night, and read it the next morning, beneath a spreading chestnut-tree, to her who had inspired it. She made me read it three times over, and in the evening she copied it with her light and steady hand. Her writing flew upon the paper like the shadow of the wings of thought, with the swiftness, elegance, and freedom of a bird on the wing. The next day she sent it to Paris. M. de Bonald replied by many obliging auguries respecting my talents. This was the beginning of my acquaintance with that most excellent man, whose character I have always admired and loved since, without sharing his theocratical doctrines. My approval of his creed, of which I knew nothing, was at that time a concession to my love; at a later period it would have been an homage rendered to his virtues. M. de Bonald was, like M. de Maistre, a prophet of the past, one of those men whose ideas were of bygone days, and to whom we bow with veneration, as we see them seated on the threshold of futurity; they will not pass onward, but tarry to listen to the sublime lament of all that dies in the human mind.
Autumn was already gone; but the sun shone out now and then between the clouds and lighted and warmed the mild winter which had succeeded. We tried to deceive ourselves, and to say that it was still autumn, so much did we dread to recognize winter, that was to separate us. The snow sometimes fell in the morning in light flakes on the roses and everlastings in the garden, like the white down of the swans which we often saw traversing the air. At noon the snow melted, and then there were delightful hours on the lake. The last rays of the sun seemed to be warmer when they played on the waters. The fig-trees which hung from the rocks exposed to the south, in the sheltered coves, had kept their wide-spreading leaves; and the reflection of the sun on the rocks imparted to them the splendid coloring and the warmth of summer evenings. But these hours glided as swiftly by as the stroke of the oars which served to take us round the foam-covered rocks that form the southern border of the lake. The glancing rays of the sun on the fire-trees; the green moss; the winter birds, more fully feathered and more familiar than those of summer; the mountain streams, whose white and frothing waters dashed down the sides of the sloping meadows, and meeting in some ravine fell with sonorous and splashing murmurs from the black and shining rocks into the lake; the cadenced sound of the oar, which seemed to accompany us with its mysterious and plaintive regrets, like some friendly voice hidden beneath the waters; the perfect repose we felt in this warm and luminous atmosphere, so near each other, and separated from the world by an abyss of waters,—gave us at times so great an enjoyment in the sense of existence, such fulness of inward joy, such an overflowing of peace and love, that we might have defied Heaven itself to add to our felicity. But with this happiness was mixed the consciousness that it was soon to end; each stroke of the oar resounded in our hearts as one step of the day that brought us nearer to separation. Who knows whether these trembling leaves may not to-morrow have fallen in the waters? If this moss on which we still can sit may not to-morrow be covered with a thick mantle of snow; if this blue sky, these illumined rocks and sparkling waves, may not, during the mists of this next night, be enveloped and confounded in one dim and wintry ocean?
A long sigh would escape our lips at thoughts like these; but we never communicated them to each other, for fear of arousing misfortune by naming it. Oh, who, in the course of his life, has not felt some joy without security and without a morrow; when life seems concentrated in one short hour which we would wish to make eternal, and which we feel slipping away minute by minute, while we listen to the pendulum which counts the seconds, or look at the hand that seems to gallop o'er the dial, or watch a carriage-wheel, of which each turn abridges distance, or hearken to the splashing of a prow that distances the waves, and brings us nearer to the shore where we must descend from the heaven of our dreams on the bleak and barren strand of harsh reality.
One sunny evening when our boat lay in a calm and sheltered creek, formed by the Mont du Chat, and we were delightfully lulled by the distant sound of a cascade which perpetually murmurs in the grottos through which it filtrates before losing itself in the abyss of water, our boatmen landed to draw some nets they had set the day before. We remained alone in the boat which was moored to the branch of a fig-tree by a slender rope; the motion of the boat caused the branch to bend and break without our being aware of it, and we drifted out to the middle of the bay, nearly three hundred yards from the perpendicular rocks with which it is surrounded. The waters of the lake in this part were of that bronzed color and had that molten appearance and look of heavy immobility which the shade of overhanging cliffs always gives; and the perpendicular rocks which surrounded it indicated the unfathomable depth of its waters. I might have taken up the oars and returned to shore, but we felt a thrill of pleasure at our loneliness and the absence of any form of living nature. We would have wished to wander thus on a boundless firmament, instead of on a sea with shores. We no longer heard the voices of the boatmen who had gone along the Savoy shore, and were now hidden from our view by some projecting rocks; we only heard the distant trickling of the cascade, the harmonious sighs of the pines when some playful breeze swept for an instant through the still and heavy air, and the low ripple of the water against the sides of the boat which gently undulated at our slightest movement.
Our boat lay half in shade and half in sunshine,—the head in sunshine, and the stern in shade. I was sitting at Julie's feet in the bottom of the boat, as on the first day when I brought her back from Haute-Combe. We took delight in calling to remembrance every circumstance of that first day, that mysterious era from which the world commenced for us,—for that day was the date of our meeting and of our love! She was half reclining with one arm hanging over the side of the boat, the other leaned upon my shoulder, and her hand played with a lock of my long hair; my head was thrown back, so that I could only see the heavens above and her face, which stood out on the blue background of the sky. She bent over me, as if to contemplate her sun on my brow, her light in my eyes; an expression of deep, calm, and ineffable happiness was diffused over her features, and gave to her beauty a radiance and splendor which was in harmony with the surrounding glory of the sky. Suddenly I saw her turn pale and withdraw her arms from the side of the boat and from my shoulder; she started up as if awaked from sleep, covered for one instant her face with her two hands, and remained in deep and silent thought; then withdrawing her hands, which were wet with tears, she said, in a tone of calm and serene determination, "Oh, let us die! ..."
After these words she remained silent for an instant, then resumed: "Yes, let us die, for earth has nothing more to give, and Heaven nothing more to promise!" She gazed at the sky and mountain, the lake and its translucid waves around us. "Seest thou," she said (it was the first and the last time that she ever used that form of speech which is tender or solemn, according as we address God or man),—"seest thou that all is ready around us for the blessed close of our two lives? Seest thou the sun of the brightest of our days which sets, not to rise for us perhaps to-morrow? Seest thou the mountains glass themselves for the last time in the lake? They stretch out their long shadows towards us, as if to say, Wrap yourselves in this shroud which I extend towards you! See! the deep and clear, the silent waves have prepared for us a sandy couch from which no man shall wake us and tell us to be gone! No human eye can see us. None will know from what mysterious cause the empty bark has been washed ashore upon some rock. No ripple on these waters will betray to the curious or the indifferent the spot where our two bodies slid beneath the wave, in one embrace; where our two souls rose mingled in the surrounding ether; no sound of earth will follow us, but the slight ripple of the closing wave!... Oh, let us die in this delight of soul, and feel of death only its entrancing joy. One day we shall wish to die, and we shall die less happy. I am a few years older than you, and this difference which is unfelt now will increase with time. The little beauty which has attracted you will early fade, and you will only recall with wonder the memory of your departed enthusiasm. Besides, I am to you but as a spirit; ... you will seek another happiness; ... I should die of jealousy if you found it with another, ... and I should die of grief, if I saw you unhappy through me!... Oh, let us die, let us die! Let us efface the dark or doubtful future with one last sigh, which will only leave on our lips the unallayed taste of complete felicity."
At the same moment my heart spoke to me as forcibly as she did, and said what her voice said to my ear, what her looks said to my eyes, what solemn, mute, funereal Nature in the splendor of her last hour, said to all my senses. The two voices that I heard, the inward and the outer voice, said the same words, as if one had been the echo or translation of the other. I forgot the universe, and I answered, "Let us die!"
* * * * *
I wound the fisherman's ropes which I found in the boat several times round her body and mine, which were bound as in the same winding sheet. I took her up in my arms, which I had left disengaged in order to precipitate her with me into the lake.
At the very instant that I was taking the spring which would forever have buried us in the waters, I saw her turn pale, her head drooped, its lifeless weight sank upon my shoulder, and I felt her knees give way beneath her body. Excessive emotion and the joy of dying together had forestalled death. She had fainted in my arms. The idea of taking advantage of her insensible state to hurry her, unknown to herself, and perhaps against her will, into my grave, struck me with horror. I fell back into the boat with my burden; I loosed the ropes that bound us, and laid her on the seat; I dipped my hands into the lake and sprinkled the cold drops of water on her lips and forehead. I know not how long she remained thus without color, voice, or motion. When she first opened her eyes and regained consciousness, night was coming on, and the slow drift of the boat had carried us into the middle of the lake.
"God wills it not," I said. "We live; what we thought the privilege of our love was a double crime. Is there no one to whom we belong on earth? No one in heaven?" I added looking upwards reverentially, as though I had seen in the firmament the sovereign Judge and Lord of our destinies. "Speak no more of it," she said in a low and hurried tone; "never speak of it again! You have chosen that I should live; I will live; my crime was not in dying, but in taking you with me!" There was something of bitterness and tender reproach in her tone and in her look. "It may be," said I, replying to her thoughts,—"it may be that heaven itself has no such hours as those we have just passed; but life has,—that is enough to make me love it." She soon recovered her bloom and her serenity. I seized the oars, and slowly rowed back to the little sandy beach, where we heard the voices of the boatmen, who had lighted a fire beneath a projecting rock. We recrossed the lake, and returned home silently and thoughtfully.
In the evening, when I went into her room, I found her seated in tears before her little table, where several open letters were lying scattered among the tea things. "We had better have died at once, for here is the lingering death of separation, which begins for me," she said, pointing to some letters which bore the postmark of Paris and Geneva.
Her husband wrote that he began to be very anxious at her long absence at a season of the year when the weather might become inclement from day to day; that he felt himself gradually declining and that he wished to embrace and bless her before he died. His mournful entreaties were intermingled with many expressions of paternal fondness, and some sportive allusions to the fair young brother, who made her forget her other friends. The other letter was from the Genevese doctor, who was to have come to take her back to Paris. He wrote to say that he was obliged unexpectedly to leave home to attend a German prince who required his care, and that he sent in his stead a respectable, trustworthy man, who would accompany her to Paris and act as her courier on the road. This man had arrived, and her departure was fixed for the day after the morrow.
Although this news had been long foreseen, it affected us as though it had been quite unexpected. We passed a long evening and nearly half the night in silence, leaning opposite to one another on the little table, and neither daring to look at each other, or to speak, for fear of bursting into tears. We strove to interrupt the speechless agony of our hearts by a few unconnected words, but these were said in a deep and hollow voice, which resounded in the room like tear-drops on a coffin. I had instantly determined to go also.
The next day was the eve of our separation. The morning, as if to mock us, rose more bright and warm than in the fairest days of October.
While the trunks were being packed, and the carriage got ready, we started with the mules and guides. We visited both hill and valley, to say farewell, and to make, as it were, a pilgrimage of love to all the spots where we had first seen each other, then met and walked; where we had sat, and talked, and loved, during the long and heavenly intercourse between ourselves and lonely Nature. We began by the lovely hill of Tresserves which rises like a verdant cliff between the valley of Aix and the lake; its sides, that rise almost perpendicularly from the water's edge, are covered with chestnut-trees, rivalling those of Sicily, through their branches, which overhang the water, one sees snatches of the blue lake or of the sky, according as one looks high or low. It was on the velvet of the moss-covered roots of these noble trees, which have seen successive generations of young men and women pass like ants beneath their shade, that we in our contemplative hours had dreamed our fairest dreams. From thence we descended by a steep declivity to a small solitary chateau called Bon Port. This little castle is so embosomed in the chestnut-trees of Tresserves on the land side, and so well hidden on the water side in the deep windings of a sheltered bay, that it is difficult to see it either from the mountain or from the little sea of Bourget. A terrace with a few fig-trees divides the chateau from the sandy beach, where the gentle waves continually come rippling in, to lick the shore and murmuringly expire. Oh, how we envied the fortunate possessors of this retreat unknown to men, hidden in the trees and waters, and only visited by the birds of the lake, the sunshine and the soft south wind. We blessed it a thousand times in its repose, and prayed that it might shelter hearts like ours.
From Bon Port we proceeded towards the high mountains which overlook the valley between Chambery and Geneva, going round by the northern side of the hill of Tresserves. We saw once more the meadows, the pastures, the cottages hidden beneath the walnut-trees, and the grassy slopes, where the young heifers play, their little bell tinkles continually, to give notice of their wandering march through the grass to the shepherd, who tends them at a distance. We ascended to the highest chalets; the winter wind had already scorched the tips of the grass. We remembered the delightful hours we had spent there, the words we had spoken, the fond delusion we had entertained of an entire separation from the world, the sighs we had confided to the mountain winds and rays to waft them to heaven. We recalled all our hours of peace and happiness so swiftly flown, all our words, dreams, gestures, looks and wishes, as one strips a dwelling that one leaves of all that is most precious. We mentally buried all these treasures of memory and hope within the walls of these wooden chalets which would remain closed until the spring, to find them entire on our return, if ever we returned.
We came down by the wooded slopes to the foaming bed of a cascade. There we saw a small funereal monument erected to the memory of a young and lovely woman, Madame de Broc; she fell some years ago into this whirl-pool, whose foaming waters gave up a long while after a part of her white dress, and thus caused her body to be found in the deep grotto in which it had been ingulfed. Lovers often come and visit this watery tomb; their hearts feel heavy, and they draw closer to each other as they think how their fragile felicity may be dashed to atoms by one false step on the slippery rock.
From this cascade, which bears the name of Madame de Broc, we walked in silence towards the Chateau de Saint Innocent, from whence one commands an extensive view of the whole lake. We got down from our mules beneath the shade of some lofty oaks, which were interspersed here and there with a few patches of heath. It was a lonely place at that time, but since then a rich planter, on his return to his native land, has built himself a country house, and planted a garden in these, his paternal acres. Our mules were turned loose, and left to graze in the wood under the care of the children who acted as our guides. We walked on alone from tree to tree, from one glade to another on the narrow neck of land, until we reached the extreme point, where we saw the shining lake, and heard its splashing waters. This wood of Saint Innocent is a promontory that stretches out into the lake at the wildest and most lonely part of its shores; it ends in some rocks of gray granite, which are sometimes washed by the foam of the wind-tossed waves, but are dry and shining when the waters subside into repose. We sat down on two stones close to each other. Before us, the dark pile of the Abbey of Haute-Combe rose on the opposite shore of the lake. Our eyes were fixed on a little white speck that seemed to shine at the foot of the gloomy terraces of the monastery. It was the fisherman's house, where we had been thrown together by the waves, and united forever by that chance meeting; it was the room where we had spent that heavenly and yet funereal night which had decided the fate of both our lives. "It was there!" she said, stretching out her arm, and pointing to the bright speck, which was scarcely visible in the distance and darkness of the opposite shore. "Will there come a day and a place," she added mournfully, "in which the memory of all we felt there during those deathless hours will appear to you, in the remoteness of the past, but as that little speck on the dark background of yonder shore?"
I could not reply to these words; her tone, her doubts, the prospect of death, inconstancy, and frailty, and the possibility of forgetfulness, had struck me to the heart, and filled me with sad forebodings. I burst into tears. I hid my face in my hands, and turned towards the evening breeze, that it might dry my tears in my eyes; but she had seen them.
"Raphael," she resumed with greater tenderness, "no, you will never forget me. I know it, I feel it; but love is short, and life is slow. You will live many years beyond me. You will drain all that is sweet, or powerful, or bitter in the cup that Nature offers to the lips of man. You will be a man! I know it by your sensibility, which is at once manly and feminine. You will be a man to the full extent of all the wretchedness and dignity of that name by which God has called one of his strangest creatures! In one of your aspirations there is breath for a thousand lives! You will live with all the energy and in the full meaning of the word—life! I ..." she stopped for an instant, and raised her eyes and arms to Heaven as if in thank fulness: "I—I have lived!—I have lived enough," she resumed in a contented tone, "since I have inhaled, to bear it forever within me, the spirit of the soul that I waited for on earth, and which would vivify me even in death, from whence you once recalled me.... I shall die young, and without regret now, for I have drained at a single draught the life that you will not exhaust before your dark hair has become as white as the spray that dashes over your feet.
"This sky, this lake, these shores, these mountains, have been the scene of my only real life here below. Swear to me to blend so completely in your remembrance this sky, this lake, these shores, these mountains, with my memory, that their image and mine may henceforward be inseparable for you; that this landscape in your eyes, and I in your heart, may make but one ... so that," she added, "when you return after long days, to see once more this lonely spot, to wander beneath these trees, on the margin of these waves, to listen to the breeze and murmuring winds, you may see me once more, as living, as present, and as loving as I am here!..."
She could say no more and burst into tears. Oh, how we wept! how long we wept! The sound of our stifled sobs mingled with the sobbing of the water on the sand. Our tears fell trickling in the water at our feet. After a lapse of fifteen years, I cannot write it without tears, even now.
O man! fear not for thy affections, and feel no dread lest time should efface them. There is neither to-day nor yesterday in the powerful echoes of memory; there is only always. He who no longer feels has never felt. There are two memories,—the memory of the senses, which wears out with the senses, and in which perishable things decay; and the memory of the soul, for which time does not exist, and which lives over at the same instant every moment of its past and present existence; it is a faculty of the soul, which, like the soul, enjoys ubiquity, universality, and immortality of spirit. Fear not, ye who love! Time has power over hours, none over the soul.
I strove to speak, but could not. My sobs spoke, and my tears promised. We got up to join the muleteers, and returned at sunset by the long avenue of leafless poplars, where we had passed before, when she held my hand so long in the palanquin. As we went through the straggling faubourg of cottages, at the entrance of the town, and crossed the Place to enter the steep street of Aix, sad faces were seen greeting us at the windows and at the doors; as kind souls watch the departure of two belated swallows, who are the last to leave the walls which have sheltered them. Poor women rose from the stone bench where they were spinning before their houses; children left the goats and donkeys which they were driving home; all came to address a word, a look, or even a silent bow of recognition to the young lady, and the one they supposed to be her brother. She was so beautiful, so gracious to all, so loved, it seemed as though the last ray of the year was retiring from the valley.
When we had reached the top of the town, we got down from our mules and dismissed the children. As we did not wish to lose an hour of this last day that still shone on the rose-tinted snows of the Alps, we climbed slowly, and alone, up a narrow path which leads to the garden terrace of a house called the Maison Chevalier. From this terrace, which seems like a platform erected in the centre of a panorama, the eye embraces the town, the lake, the passes of the Rhone, and all the peaks of the Alpine landscape. We sat down on the fallen trunk of a tree, and leaned on the parapet wall of the terrace; we remained mute and motionless, looking by turns at all the different spots, that for the last six weeks had witnessed our looks and steps, our twofold dreams, and our sighs. When all these had one by one faded away in the dim shade of twilight; when there was only one corner of the horizon, to westward, where a faint light remained,—we started up with one accord, and fled precipitately, casting vain and sorrowing looks behind as if some invisible hand had driven us out of this Eden, and pitilessly effaced on our steps all the scene of our happiness and love.
We returned home and spent a sad evening, although I was to accompany Julie as far as Lyons on the box of her carriage. When the hand of her little portable clock marked midnight, I retired, to let her take some rest before morning. She accompanied me to the door; I opened it, and said as I kissed her hand in the passage, "Good-bye, till the morrow!" She did not answer, but I heard her murmur, with a sob, behind the closing door, "There is no morrow for us!"
There were a few days more, but they were short and bitter, as the last dregs of a drained cup. We started for Chambery very early in the morning, not to show our pale cheeks and swollen eyelids in broad daylight, and passed the day there in a small inn of the Italian faubourg. The wooden galleries of the inn overlooked a garden with a stream running through it, and for a few hours we cheated ourselves into the belief that we were once more in our home at Aix, with its galleries, its silence, and its solitude.
We wished before we left Chambery and the valley we so much loved to visit together the humble dwelling of Jean Jacques Rousseau and Madame de Warens, at Les Charmettes. A landscape is but a man or a woman. What is Vaucluse without Petrarch? Sorrento without Tasso? What is Sicily without Theocritus, or the Paraclet without Heloise? What is Annecy without Madame de Warens? What is Chambery without Jean Jacques Rousseau? A sky without rays, a voice without echo, a landscape without life! Man does not only animate his fellow-men, he animates all nature. He carries his own immortality with him into heaven, but bequeaths another to the spots that he has consecrated by his presence; it is only there we can trace his course, and really converse with his memory. We took with us the volume of the "Confessions" in which the poet of Les Charmettes describes this rustic retreat. Rousseau was wrecked there by the first storms of his fate, and was rescued by a woman, young, lovely, and adventurous, wrecked and lost like himself. This woman seems to have been a compound of virtues and weaknesses, sensibility and license, piety and independence of thought, formed expressly by Nature to cherish and develop the strange youth, whose mind comprehended that of a sage, a lover, a philosopher, a legislator, and a madman. Another woman might perhaps have produced another life. In a man we can always trace the woman whom he first loved. Happy would he have been who had met Madame de Warens before her profanation! She was an idol to be adored, but the idol had been polluted. She herself debased the worship that a young and loving heart tendered her. The amours of this woman and Rousseau appear like a leaf torn from the loves of Daphnis and Chloe, and found soiled and defiled on the bed of a courtesan. It' matters not; it was the first love, or the first delirium, if you will, of the young man. The birthplace of that love, the arbor where Rousseau made his first avowal, the room where he blushed at his first emotions, the yard where he gloried in the most humble offices to serve his beloved protectress, the spreading chestnut-trees beneath which they sat together to speak of God, and intermingled their sportive theology with bursts of merriment and childish caresses, the landscape, mysterious and wild as they, which seems so well adapted to them,—have all, for the lover, the poet, or the philosopher, a deep and hidden attraction. They yield to it without knowing why. For poets this was the first page of that life which was a poem; for philosophers it was the cradle of a revolution; for lovers it is the birthplace of first love.
We followed the stony path at the bottom of the ravine which leads to Les Charmettes, still talking of this love. We were alone. The goat-herds even had forsaken the dried-up pastures and the leafless hedges. The sun shone now and then between the passing clouds, and its concentrated rays were warmer within the sheltered sides of the ravine. The redbreasts hopped about the bushes almost within our reach. Every now and then we would sit on the southern bank of the road to read a page or two of the "Confessions," and identify ourselves with the place.
We fancied we saw the young vagrant in his tattered clothes, knocking at the gate and delivering, with a blush, his letter of recommendation to the fair recluse, in the lonely path that leads from the house to the church. They were so present to our fancy, that it seemed as though they were expecting us, and that we should see them at the window or in the garden walks of Les Charmettes. We would walk on, then stop again; the spot seemed to attract and to repel us by turns, as a place where love had been revealed, but where love had been profaned also. It presented no such perils to us. We were destined to carry away our love from thence as pure and as divine as we had brought it there within us.
"Oh," I inwardly exclaimed, "were I a Rousseau, what might not this other Madame de Warens have made me; she who is as superior to her of Les Charmettes as I am inferior to Rousseau, not in feeling, but in genius."
Absorbed in these thoughts, we walked up a shelving greensward upon which a few walnut-trees were scattered here and there. These trees had seen the lovers beneath their shade. To the right, where the pass narrows so as to appear to form a barrier to the traveller, stands the house of Madame de Warens on a high terrace of rough and ill-cemented stones. It is a little square building of gray stone, with two windows and a door opening on the terrace, and the same on the garden side; there are three low rooms on the upper story, and a large room on the ground floor with no other furniture than a portrait of Madame de Warens in her youth. Her lovely face beams forth from the dust-covered and dingy canvas with beauty, sportiveness, and pensive grace. Poor charming woman! Had she not met that wandering boy on the highway; had she not opened to him her house and heart, his sensitive and suffering genius might have been extinguished in the mire. The meeting seemed like the effect of chance, but it was predestination meeting the great man under the form of his first love. That woman saved him; she cultivated him; she excited him in solitude, in liberty, and in love, as the houris of the East through pleasure raise up martyrs in their young votaries. She gave him his dreamy imagination, his almost feminine soul, his tender accents, his passion for nature. Her pensive fancy imparted to him enthusiasm,—the enthusiasm of women, of young men, of lovers, of all the poor, the oppressed, the unhappy of his day. She gave him the world, and he proved ungrateful.... She gave him fame, and he bequeathed opprobrium.... But posterity should be grateful to them, and forgive a weakness that gave us the prophet of liberty. When Rousseau wrote those odious pages against his benefactress, he was no longer Rousseau, he was a poor madman. Who knows if his morbid and disordered imagination, which made him at that time see an insult in every benefit and hatred in all friendship, did not show him likewise the courtesan in the loving woman, and wantonness instead of love? I have always suspected it. I defy any rational man to recompose, with a semblance of probability, the character Rousseau gives to the woman he loved, from the contradictory elements which he describes in her. Those elements exclude each other: if she had soul enough to adore Rousseau, she did not at the same time love Claude Anet; if she grieved for Claude Anet and Rousseau, she did not love the young hair-dresser. If she was pious she did not glory in her weakness, but must have deplored it; if engaging, handsome, and frail, as Rousseau depicts her, she could not be reduced to look for admirers among the vagrants of the streets, or on the highways. If she affected devotion with such a life, she was a calculating hypocrite; and if a hypocrite, she was not the frank, open, and unreserved creature of the "Confessions." The likeness cannot be true; it is a fancy head and a fancy heart. There is some hidden mystery here, which must be attributed rather to the misguided hand of the artist than to the nature of the woman whom he wished to represent. We must neither accuse the painter whose discernment was at that time impaired, nor believe in the portrait which has disfigured the sketch he at first made of an adorable creature.
For my part I never could believe that Madame de Warens would have recognized herself in the questionable pages of Rousseau's old age. In my fancy, I have always restored her to what she was, or what she appeared at Annecy to the young poet,—lovely, feeling, tender, frail though really pious, prodigal of kindness, thirsting after love, and desirous of blending the tender names of mother and of mistress in her affection for the youth that Providence had confided to her, and whom her love had adopted. This is the true portrait, such as the old men of Chambery and Annecy have told me that their fathers had transmitted to them. Rousseau's mind itself bears witness against his own accusations. Whence would he have derived his sublime and tender piety, his feminine melancholy, his exquisite and delicate touches of feeling, if a woman had not bestowed them with her heart. No, the woman who called into existence such a man was not a cynical courtesan, but rather a fallen Heloise—an Heloise fallen by love and not by vice or depravity. I appeal from Rousseau the morose old man, calumniating human nature, to Rousseau, the young and ardent lover; and when I go, as I often do, to muse at Les Charmettes, I seek a Madame de Warens far more touching and attractive in my imagination than in his.
A poor woman made us some fire in Madame de Warens' room; accustomed to the visit of strangers, and to their long conversations on the scene of the early days of a celebrated man, she attended to her usual work in the kitchen and in the yard, and left us at liberty to warm ourselves, or to saunter backwards and forwards from the house to the garden. This little sunny garden, surrounded by a wall which separated it from the vineyards, and overrun with nettles, mallows, and weeds of all kinds, resembled one of those village churchyards where the peasants assemble to bask in the rays of the sun, leaning against the church-walls, with their feet on the graves of the dead. The walks, so neatly gravelled once, were now covered with damp earth and yellow moss, and showed the neglect that had followed on absence. How we would have wished to discover the print of the footsteps of Madame de Warens, when she used to go, basket in hand, from tree to tree, from vine to vine, gathering the pears of the orchard or the grapes of the vineyard, and indulging in merry frolic with, the pupil or the confessor. But there is no trace of them in their house, save their memory. That is enough; their name, their remembrance, their image, the sun they saw, the air they breathed, which seems still beaming with their youth, warm with their breath, and filled with their voices, give one back the light, the dreams, the sounds, which shed enchantment round their spring of life.
I saw by Julie's pensive countenance, and her silent thoughtfulness, that the sight of this sanctuary of love and genius impressed her as deeply as myself. At times she shunned me, and remained wrapped in her own thoughts as if she feared to communicate them; she would go into the house to warm herself when I was in the garden, and return to sit on the stone bench in the arbor when I joined her at the fireside. At length I went to her in the arbor; the last yellow leaves hung loosely from the vine, and allowed the sun to penetrate and envelop her with its rays.
"What is it you wish to think of without me?" I said in a tone of tender reproach. "Do I ever think alone?" "Alas!" she answered, "you will not believe me, but I was thinking, that I could wish to be Madame de Warens for you, during one single season, even though I were to be forsaken for the remainder of my days, and though shame were to attach to my memory like hers; even though you proved yourself as ungrateful and calumniating as Rousseau!.... How happy she was," she continued, gazing up at the sky as though she sought the image of the strange creature she envied,—"how happy she was! she sacrificed herself for him she loved."
"What ingratitude and what profanation of yourself and of our happiness!" I answered, walking slowly back with her towards the house, upon the dry leaves, that rustled beneath our feet.
"Have I then ever, by a single word, or look, or by a single sigh, shown that aught was wanting to my bitter but complete felicity? Cannot you, in your angelic fancy, imagine for another Rousseau (if Nature could have produced two) another Madame de Warens?—a Madame de Warens, young and pure, angel, lover, sister, all at once, bestowing her whole soul, her immaculate and immortal soul, instead of her perishable charms; bestowing it on a brother who was lost and is found, who was young, misled, and wandering too in this world, like the son of the watch-maker; throwing open to that brother, instead of her house and garden, the bright treasures of her affection, purifying him in her rays, cleansing him from his first pollutions by her tears, deterring him forever from any grosser pleasure than that of inward possession and contemplation, teaching him to value his very privations far above the sensual enjoyment that man shares with brutes, pointing out to him his course through life, inciting him to glory and to virtue, and rewarding his sacrifices by this one thought,—that fame, virtue, and sacrifices were all taken into account in the heart of his beloved, all accumulate in her love, are multiplied by her gratitude, and are added to that treasure of tenderness which is ever increasing here below, to be expended only in heaven?"
Nevertheless, as I spoke thus, I fell quite overcome, with my face hidden in my hands, on a chair that was near the wall far from hers. I remained there without speaking a word. "Let us begone," she said; "I am cold; this place is not good for us!" We gave some money to the good woman, and we returned slowly to Chambery.
The next day Julie was to start for Lyons. In the evening Louis came to see us at the inn, and I induced him to go with me to spend a few weeks at my father's house, which was situated on the road from Paris to Lyons. We then went out together to inquire at the coachmaker's in Chambery for a light caleche, in which we could follow Julie's carriage as far as the town where we were to separate. We soon found what we sought.
Before daylight we were off, travelling in silence through the winding defiles of Savoy, which at Pont-de-Beauvoisin open into the monotonous and stony plains of Dauphiny. At every stage we got down and went to the first carriage to inquire about the poor invalid. Alas! every turn of the carriage-wheel which took her further from that spring of life which she had found in Savoy seemed to rob her of her bloom, and to bring back the look of languor and the slow fever which had struck me as being the beauty of death the first time I saw her. As the time for our leaving her drew near, she was visibly oppressed with grief. Between La-Tour-du-Pin and Lyons, we got into her carriage for a few leagues to try and cheer her. I begged her to sing the ballad of Auld Robin Gray for my friend; she did so, to please me, but at the second verse, which relates the parting of the two lovers the analogy between our situation and the hopeless sadness of the ballad, as she sung it, struck her so forcibly that she burst into tears. She took up a black shawl that she wore that day, and threw it as a veil over her face, and I saw her sobbing a long while beneath the shawl. At the last stage she fell into a fainting fit, which lasted till we reached the hotel where we were to get down at Lyons. With the assistance of her maid, we carried her upstairs, and laid her on her bed. In the evening she rallied, and the next day we pursued our journey towards Macon.