"Well, Lucette, dear child," said her father, "won't you recite one of Lafontaine's fables before you go to bed?"
"Here," observed M. de Salvandy, "is a little person who to-day recites fables and who one of these days will inspire romances."
Lucette did not understand. She merely gazed with her big wondering eyes at Salvandy who was lolling in his chair with an air of benevolent condescension.
"Well, Lucette." he went on, "will you not recite a fable for us?"
The child required no urging, and began in her naive little voice, her fine, frank, sweet eyes still fixed upon Salvandy:
One easily believes one's self to be somebody in France.
During the run of M. Ponsard's "Lucrece", I had the following dialogue with M. Viennet at a meeting of the Academy:
M. VIENNET.—Have you seen the "Lucrece" that is being played at the Odeon?
M. VIENNET.—It is very good.
MYSELF.—Really, is it good?
M. VIENNET.—It is more than good, it is fine.
MYSELF.—Really, is it fine?
M. VIENNET.—It is more than fine, it is magnificent.
MYSELF.—Really, now, magnificent?
M. VIENNET.—Oh! magnificent!
MYSELF.—Come, now, is it as good as "Zaire"?
M. VIENNET.—Oh! no! Oh! you are going too far, you know. Gracious! "Zaire"! No, it is not as good as "Zaire".
MYSELF.—Well, you see, "Zaire" is a very poor piece indeed!
AN ELECTION SESSION.
February 11, 1847.
Thirty-one Academicians present. Sixteen votes are necessary.
Emile Deschamps 2 votes. Victor Leclerc 14 " Empis 15 "
Lamartine and M. Ballanche arrive at the end of the first ballot. M. Thiers arrives at the commencement of the second; which makes 34.
The director asks M. Thiers whether he has promised his vote. He laughingly replies: "No," and adds: "I have offered it." (Laughter.)
M. Cousin, to M. Lebrun, director: "You did not employ the sacramental expression. One does not ask an Academician whether he has *promised* his vote, but whether he has *pledged* it."
Emile Deschamps 2 votes. Empis 18 " Victor Leclerc 14 "
M. Empis is elected. The election was decided by Lamartine and M. Ballanche.
On my way out I meet Leon Gozlan, who says to me: "Well?"
I reply: "There has been an election. It is Empis."
"How do you look at it?" he asks.
"In both ways."
"And tant pis!"
March 16, 1847.
At the Academy to-day, while listening to the poems, bad to the point of grotesqueness, that have been sent for the competition of 1847, M. de Barante remarked: "Really, in these times, we no longer know how to make mediocre verses."
Great praise of the poetical and literary excellence of these times, although M. de Barante was not conscious of it.
April 22, 1847.
Election of M. Ampere. This is an improvement upon the last. A slow improvement. But Academies, like old people, go slowly.
During the session and after the election Lamartine sent to me by an usher the following lines:
C'est un etat peu prospere D'aller d'Empis en Ampere.
I replied to him by the same usher:
Toutefois ce serait pis D'aller d'Ampere en Empis.
October 4, 1847.
I have just heard M. Viennet say: "I think in bronze."
December 29, 1848. Friday.
Yesterday, Thursday, I had two duties to attend to at one and the same time, the Assembly and the Academy; the salt question on the one hand, on the other the much smaller question of two vacant seats. Yet I gave the preference to the latter. This is why: At the Palais Bourbon the Cavaignac party had to be prevented from killing the new Cabinet; at the Palais Mazarin the Academy had to be prevented from offending the memory of Chateaubriand. There are cases in which the dead count for more than the living; I went to the Academy.
The Academy last Thursday had suddenly decided, at the opening of the session, at a time when nobody had yet put in an appearance, when there were only four or five round the green table, that on January 11 (that is to say, in three weeks) it would fill the two seats left vacant by MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout. This strange alliance, I do not say of names, but of words,—"replace MM. de Chateaubriand and Vatout,"—did not stop it for one minute. The Academy is thus made; its wit and that wisdom which produces so many follies, are composed of extreme lightness combined with extreme heaviness. Hence a good deal of foolishness and a good many foolish acts.
Beneath this lightness, however, there was an intention. This giddiness was fraught with deep meaning. The brave party that leads the Academy, for there are parties everywhere, even at the Academy, hoped, public attention being directed elsewhere, politics absorbing everything, to juggle the seat of Chateaubriand pell-mell with the seat of M. Vatout; two peas in the same goblet. In this way the astonished public would turn round one fine morning and simply see M. de Noailles in Chateaubriand's seat: a small matter, a great lord in the place of a great writer!
Then, after a roar of laughter, everybody would go about his business again, distractions would speedily come, thanks to the veering of politics, and, as to the Academy, oh! a duke and peer the more in it, a little more ridicule upon it, what would that matter? It would go on just the same!
Besides, M. de Noailles is a considerable personage. Bearing a great name, being lofty of manner, enjoying an immense fortune, of certain political weight under Louis Philippe, accepted by the Conservatives although, or because, a Legitimist, reading speeches that were listened to, he occupied an important place in the Chamber of Peers; which proves that the Chamber of Peers occupied an unimportant place in the country.
Chateaubriand, who hated all that could replace him and smiled at all that could make him regretted, had had the kindness to tell him sometimes, by Mme. Recamier's fireside, "that he hoped he would be his successor;" which prompted M. de Noailles to dash off a big book in two volumes about Mme. de Maintenon, at the commencement of which, on the first page of the preface, I was stopped by a lordly breach of grammar.
This was the state of things when I concluded to go to the Academy.
The session which was announced to begin at two o'clock, as usual, opened, as usual, at a quarter past three. And at half past three—
At half past three the candidacy of Monsieur the Duke do Noailles, *replacing* Chateaubriand, was irresistibly acclaimed.
Decidedly, I ought to have gone to the Assembly.
March 26, 1850. Tuesday.
I had arrived early, at noon.
I was warming myself, for it is very cold, and the ground is covered with snow, which is not good for the apricot trees. M. Guizot, leaning against the mantelpiece, was saying to me:
"As a member of the dramatic prize committee, I read yesterday, in a single day, mind you, no fewer than six plays!"
"That," I responded, "was to punish you for not having seen one acted in eighteen years."
At this moment M. Thiers came up and the two men exchanged greetings. This is how they did it:
M. THIERS: Good afternoon, Guizot.
M. GUIZOT: Good afternoon, Monsieur.
AN ELECTION SESSION. March 28, 1850.
M. Guizot presided. At the roll call, when M. Pasquier's name was reached he said: "Monsieur the Chancellor—" When he got to that of M. Dupin, President of the National Assembly, he called: "Monsieur Dupin."
First ballot. Alfred de Musset 5 votes. M. Nisard 23 "
M. Nisard is elected.
To-day, September 12, the Academy worked at the dictionary. A propos of the word "increase," this example, taken from the works of Mme. de Stael, was proposed:
"Poverty increases ignorance, and ignorance poverty."
Three objections were immediately raised:
2. Contemporary writer.
3. Dangerous thing to say.
The Academy rejected the example.
LOVE IN PRISON.
BESIDES misdeeds, robberies, the division of spoils after an ambuscade, and the twilight exploitation of the barriers of Paris, footpads, burglars, and gaol-birds generally have another industry: they have ideal loves.
This requires explanation.
The trade in negro slaves moves us, and with good reason; we examine this social sore, and we do well. But let us also learn to lay bare another ulcer, which is more painful, perhaps: the traffic in white women.
Here is one of the singular things connected with and characteristic of this poignant disorder of our civilization:
Every gaol contains a prisoner who is known as the "artist."
All kinds of trades and professions peculiar to prisons develop behind the bars. There is the vendor of liquorice-water, the vendor of scarfs, the writer, the advocate, the usurer, the hut-maker, and the barker. The artist takes rank among these local and peculiar professions between the writer and the advocate.
To be an artist is it necessary to know how to draw? By no means. A bit of a bench to sit upon, a wall to lean against, a lead pencil, a bit of pasteboard, a needle stuck in a handle made out of a piece of wood, a little Indian ink or sepia, a little Prussian blue, and a little vermilion in three cracked beechwood spoons,—this is all that is requisite; a knowledge of drawing is superfluous. Thieves are as fond of colouring as children are, and as fond of tattooing as are savages. The artist by means of his three spoons satisfies the first of these needs, and by means of his needle the second. His remuneration is a "nip" of wine.
The result is this:
Some prisoners, say, lack everything, or are simply desirous of living more comfortably. They combine, wait upon the artist, offer him their glasses of wine or their bowls of soup, hand him a sheet of paper and order of him a bouquet. In the bouquet there must be as many flowers as there are prisoners in the group. If there be three prisoners, there must be three flowers. Each flower bears a figure, or, if preferred, a number, which number is that of the prisoner.
The bouquet when painted is sent, through the mysterious means of communication between the various prisons that the police are powerless to prevent, to Saint Lazare. Saint Lazare is the women's prison, and where there are women there also is pity. The bouquet circulates from hand to hand among the unfortunate creatures that the police detain administratively at Saint Lazare; and in a few days the infallible secret post apprises those who sent the bouquet that Palmyre has chosen the tuberose, that Fanny prefers the azalea, and that Seraphine has adopted the geranium. Never is this lugubrious handkerchief thrown into the seraglio without being picked up.
Thenceforward the three bandits have three servants whose names are Palmyre, Fanny, and Seraphine. Administrative detentions are relatively of short duration. These women are released from prison before the men. And what do they do? They support them. In elegant phraseology they are providences; in plain language they are milch-cows.
Pity has been transformed into love. The heart of woman is susceptible of such sombre graftings. These women say:
"I am married." They are married indeed. By whom? By the flower. With whom? With the abyss. They are fiancees of the unknown. Enraptured and enthusiastic fiancees. Pale Sulamites of fancy and fog. When the known is so odious, how can they help loving the unknown?
In these nocturnal regions and with the winds of dispersion that blow, meetings are almost impossible. The lovers see each other in dreams. In all probability the woman will never set eyes on the man. Is he young? Is he old? Is he handsome? Is he ugly? She does not know; she knows nothing about him. She adores him. And it is because she does not know him that she loves him. Idolatry is born of mystery.
This woman, drifting aimlessly on life's tide, yearns for something to cling to, a tie to bind her, a duty to perform. The pit from amid its scum throws it to her; she accepts it and devotes herself to it. This mysterious bandit, transformed into heliotrope or iris, becomes a religion to her. She espouses him in the presence of night. She has a thousand little wifely attentions for him; poor for herself, she is rich for him; she whelms this manure with her delicate solicitude. She is faithful to him with all the fidelity of which she is still capable; the incorruptible emanates from the corruptible. Never does this woman betray her love. It is an immaterial, pure, ethereal love, subtile as the breath of spring, solid as brass.
A flower has done all this. What a well is the human heart, and how giddy it makes one to peer into it! Lo! the cloaca. Of what is it thinking? Of perfume. A prostitute loves a thief through a lily. What plunger into human thought could reach the bottom of this? Who shall fathom this immense yearning for flowers that springs from mud? In the secret self of these hapless women is a strange equilibrium that consoles and reassures them. A rose counterbalances an act of shame.
Hence these amours based on and sustained by illusion. This thief is idolized by this girl. She has not seen his face, she does not know his name; she sees him in visions induced by the perfume of jessamine or of pinks. Henceforward flower-gardens, the May sunshine, the birds in their nests, exquisite tints, radiant blossoms, boxes of orange trees and daphne odora, velvet petals upon which golden bees alight, the sacred odours of spring-tide, balms, incense, purling brooks, and soft green grass are associated with this bandit. The divine smile of nature penetrates and illumines him.
This desperate aspiring to paradise lost, this deformed dream of the beautiful, is not less tenacious on the part of the man. He turns towards the woman; and this preoccupation, become insensate, persists even when the dreadful shadow of the two red posts of the guillotine is thrown upon the window of his cell. The day before his execution Delaporte, chief of the Trappes band, who was wearing the strait-jacket, asked of the convict Cogniard, whom, through the grating in the door of the condemned cell, he saw passing by: "Are there any pretty women in the visitors' parlor this morning?" Another condemned man, Avril (what a name!), in this same cell, bequeathed all that he possessed—five francs—to a female prisoner whom he had seen at a distance in the women's yard, "in order that she may buy herself a fichu a la mode."
Between the male and female wretch dreams build a Bridge of Sighs, as it were. The mire of the gutter dallies with the door of a prison cell. The Aspasia of the street-corner aspires and respires with the heart of the Alcibiades who waylays the passer-by at the corner of a wood.
You laugh? You should not. It is a terrible thing.
The murderer is a flower for the courtesan. The prostitute is the Clytia of the assassin sun. The eye of the woman damned languourously seeks Satan among the myrtles.
What is this phenomenon? It is the need of the ideal. A sublime and awful need.
A terrible thing, I say.
Is it a disease? Is it a remedy? Both. This noble yearning is at the same time and for the same beings a chastisement and a reward; a voluptuousness full of expiation; a chastisement for faults committed, a recompense for sorrows borne! None may escape it. It is a hunger of angels felt by demons. Saint Theresa experiences it, Messalina also. This need of the immaterial is the most deeply rooted of all needs. One must have bread; but before bread, one must have the ideal. One is a thief, one is a street-walker—all the more reason. The more one drinks of the darkness of night the more is one thirsty for the light of dawn. Schinderhannes becomes a cornflower, Poulailler a violet. Hence these sinisterly ideal weddings.
And then, what happens?
What I have just said.
Cloaca, but abyss. Here the human heart opens partly, disclosing unimaginable depths. Astarte becomes platonic. The miracle of the transformation of monsters by love is being accomplished. Hell is being gilded. The vulture is being metamorphosed into a bluebird. Horror ends in the pastoral. You think you are at Vouglans's and Parent-Duchatelet's; you are at Longus's. Another step and you will stumble into Berquin's. Strange indeed is it to encounter Daphnis and Chloe in the Forest of Bondy!
The dark Saint Martin Canal, into which the footpad pushes the passer-by with his elbow as he snatches his victim's watch, traverses the Tender and empties itself into the Lignon. Poulmann begs a ribbon bow; one is tempted to present a shepherdess's crook to Papavoine. Through the straw of the sabot one sees gossamer wings appearing on horrible heels. The miracle of the roses is performed for Goton. All fatalities combined have for result a flower. A vague Rambouillet Palace is superposed upon the forbidding silhouette of the Salpetriere. The leprous wall of evil, suddenly covered with blossoms, affords a pendant to the wreath of Juliet. The sonnets of Petrarch, that flight of the ideal which soars in the shadow of souls, venture through the twilight towards this abjection and suffering, attracted by one knows not what obscure affinity, even as a swarm of bees is sometimes seen humming over a dungheap from which arises, perceptible to the bees alone and mingling with the miasms, the perfume of a hidden flower. The gemoniae are Elysian. The chimerical thread of celestial unions floats 'neath the darkest vault of the human Erebus and binds despairing hearts to hearts that are monstrous. Manon through the infinite sends to Cartouche a smile ineffable as that with which Everallin entranced Fingal. From one pole of misery to the other, from one gehenna to another, from the galleys to the brothel, tenebrous mouths wildly exchange the kiss of azure.
It is night. The monstrous ditch of Clamart opens. From it arises a miasm, a phosphorescent glow. It shines and flickers in two separate tarts; it takes shape, the head rejoins the body, it is a phantom; the phantom gazes into the darkness with wild, baleful eyes, rises, grows bigger and blue, hovers for an instant and then speeds away to the zenith to open the door of the palace of the sun where butterflies flit from flower to flower and angels flit from star to star.
In all these strange, concordant phenomena appears the inadmissibility of the principle that is all of man. The mysterious marriage which we have just related, marriage of servitude with captivity, exaggerates the ideal from the very fact that it is weighed down by all the most hideous burdens of destiny. A frightful combination! It is the From it rises a miasm, a phosphorescent glow. It shines meeting of these two redoubtable words in which human existence is summed up: enjoy and suffer.
Alas! And how can we prevent this cry from escaping us? For these hapless ones, enjoy, laugh, sing, please, and love exist, persist; but there is a death-rattle in sing, a grating sound in laugh, putrefaction in enjoy, there are ashes in please, there is night in love. All these joys are attached to their destiny by coffin-nails.
What does that matter? They thirst for these lugubrious, chimerical glimpses of light that are full of dreams.
What is tobacco, that is so precious and so dear to the prisoner? It is a dream. "Put me in the dungeon," said a convict, "but give me some tobacco." In other words: "Throw me into a pit, but give me a palace." Press the prostitute and the bandit, mix Tartarus and Avernus, stir the fatal vat of social mire, pile all the deformities of matter together, and what issues therefrom? The immaterial.
The ideal is the Greek fire of the gutter. It burns there. Its brightness in the impure water dazzles the thinker and touches his heart. Nini Lassive stirs and brightens with Fiesehi's bilets-doux that sombre lamp of Vesta which is in the heart of every woman, and which is as inextinguishable in that of the courtesan as in that of the Carmelite. This is what explains the word "virgin," accorded by the Bible equally to the foolish virgin and to the wise virgin.
That was so yesterday, it is so to-day. Here again the surface has changed, the bottom remains the same. The frank harshness of the Middle Ages has been somewhat softened in our times. Ribald is pronounced light o' love; Toinon answers to the name of Olympia or Imperia; Thomasse-la-Maraude is called Mme. de Saint Alphonse. The caterpillar was real, the butterfly is false; that is the only change. Clout has become chiffon.
Regnier used to say "sows "; we say "fillies."
Other fashions; same manners.
The foolish virgin is lugubriously immutable.
Whosoever witnesses this kind of anguish witnesses the extreme of human misfortune.
Dark zones are these. Baleful night bursts and spreads o'er them. Evil accumulated dissolves in misfortune upon them, they are swept with blasts of despair by the tempest of fatalities, there a downpour of trials and sorrows streams upon dishevelled heads in the darkness; squalls, hail, a hurricane of distress, swirl and whirl back and forth athwart them; it rains, rains without cease: it rains horror, it rains vice, it rains crime, it rains the blackness of night; yet we must explore this obscurity, and in the sombre storm the mind essays a difficult flight, the flight of a wet bird, as it were.
There is always a vague, spectral dread in these low regions where hell penetrates; they are so little in the human order and so disproportionate that they create phantoms. It is hardly surprising, therefore, that a legend should be connected with this sinister bouquet offered by Bicetre to La Salpetriere or by La Force to Saint Lazare; it is related at night in the cells and wards after the keepers have gone their rounds.
It was shortly after the murder of the money-changer Joseph. A bouquet was sent from La Force to a woman's prison, Saint Lazare or the Madelonnettes. In this bouquet was a sprig of white lilac which one of the women prisoners selected.
A month or two elapsed; the woman was released from prison. She was extremely enamoured, through the white lilac, of the unknown master she had given to herself. She began to perform for him her strange function of sister, mother, and mystic spouse, ignorant of his name, knowing only his prison number. All her miserable savings, religiously deposited with the clerk of the prison, went to this man. In order the better to affiance herself to him, she took advantage of the advent of spring to cull a sprig of real lilac in the fields. This sprig of lilac, attached by a piece of sky-blue ribbon to the head of his bed, formed a pendant to a sprig of consecrated box, an ornament which these poor desolate alcoves never lack. The lilac withered thus.
This woman, like all Paris, had heard of the affair of the Palais-Royal and of the two Italians, Malagutti and Ratta, arrested for the murder of the money-changer.
She thought little about the tragedy, which did not concern her, and lived only in her white lilac. This lilac was all in all to her; she thought only of doing her "duty" to it.
One bright, sunny day she was seated in her room, sewing some garment or other for her sorry evening toilet. Now and then she looked up from her work at the lilac that hung at the head of the bed. At one of these moments while her gaze was fixed upon the sprig of faded flower the clock struck four.
Then she fancied she saw an extraordinary thing.
A sort of crimson pearl oozed from the extremity of the stalk of the flower, grew larger, and dripped on to the white sheet of the bed.
It was a spot of blood.
That day, at that very hour, Ratta and Malagutti were executed.
It was evident that the white lilac was one of these two. But which one?
The hapless girl became insane and had to be confined in La Salpetriere. She died there. From morn to night, and from night to morn, she would gibber: "I am Mme. Ratta-Malagutti."
Thus are these sombre hearts.
Prostitution is an Isis whose final veil none has raised. There is a sphinx in this gloomy odalisk of the frightful Sultan Everybody. None has solved its enigma. It is Nakedness masked. A terrible spectacle!
Alas! in all that we have just recounted man is abominable, woman is touching.
How many hapless ones have been driven to their fall!
The abyss is the friend of dreams. Fallen, as we have said, their lamentable hearts have no other resource than to dream.
What caused their ruin was another dream, the dreadful dream of riches; nightmare of glory, of azure, and ecstasy which weighs upon the chest of the poor; flourish of trumpets heard in the gehenna, with the triumph of the fortunate appearing resplendent in the immense night; prodigious overture full of dawn! Carriages roll, gold falls in showers, laces rustle.
Why should I not have this, too? Formidable thought!
This gleam from the sinister vent-hole dazzled them; this puff of the sombre vapour inebriated them, and they were lost, and they were rich.
Wealth is a fatal distant light; woman flies frantically towards it. This mirror catches this lark.
Wherefore they have been rich. They, too, have had their day of enchantment, their minute of fete, their sparkle.
They have had that fever which is fatal to modesty. They have drained the sonorous cup that is full of nothingness. They have drunk of the madness of forgetfulness. What a flattering hope! What temptation! To do nothing and have everything; alas! and also to have nothing, not even one's own self. To be slave-flesh, to be beauty for sale, a woman fallen to a thing! They have dreamed and they have had—which is the same thing, complete possession being but a dream—mansions, carriages, servants in livery, suppers joyous with laughter, the house of gold, silk, velvet, diamonds, pearls, life giddy with voluptuousness—every pleasure.
Oh! how much better is the innocence of those poor little barefooted ones on the shore of the sea, who hear at nightfall the tinkling of the cracked bells of the goats on the cliffs!
There was a disastrous morrow to these brief, perfidious joys that they had savoured. The word love signified hatred. The invisible doubles the visible, and it is lugubrious. Those who shared their raptures, those to whom they gave all, received all and accepted nothing. They—the fallen ones—sowed their seed in ashes. They were deserted even as they were being embraced. Abandonment sniggered behind the mask of the kiss.
And now, what are they to do? They must perforce continue to love.
Oh! if they could, the unhappy creatures, if they could put from them their hearts, their dreams, harden themselves with a hardness that could not be softened, be forever cold and passionless, tear out their entrails, and, since they are filth, become monsters! If they could no longer think! If they could ignore the flower, efface the star, stop up the mouth of the pit, close heaven! They would at least no longer suffer. But no. They have a right to marriage, they have a right to the heart, they have a right to torture, they have a right to the ideal. No chilling of their hearts can put out the internal fire. However cold they may be they burn. This, we have said, is at once their misery and their crown. This sublimeness combines with their abjection to overwhelm them and raise them up. Whether they will or not, the inextinguishable does not become extinguished. Illusion is untamable. Nothing is more invincible than dreams, and man is almost made up of dreams. Nature will not agree to be insolvable. One must contemplate, aspire, love. If need be marble will set the example. The statue becomes a woman rather than the woman a statue.
The sewer is a sanctuary in spite of itself. It is unhealthy, there is vitiated air in it, but the irresistible phenomenon is none the less accomplished; all the holy generosities bloom livid in this cave. Cynicism and the secret despair of pity are driven back by ecstasy, the magnificences of kindness shine through infamy; this orphan creature feels herself to be wife, sister, mother; and this fraternity which has no family, and this maternity which has no children, and this adoration which has no altar, she casts into the outer darkness. Some one marries her. Who? The man in the gloom. She sees on her finger the ring made of the mysterious gold of dreams. And she sobs. Torrents of tears well from her eyes. Sombre delights!
And at the same time, let us repeat it, she suffers unheard-of tortures. She does not belong to him to whom she has given herself. Everybody takes her away again. The brutal public hand holds the wretched creature and will not let her go. She fain would flee. Flee whither? From whom? From you, herself, above all from him whom she loves, the funereal ideal man. She cannot.
Thus, and these are extreme afflictions, this hapless wight expiates, and her expiation is brought upon her by her grandeur. Whatever she may do, she has to love. She is condemned to the light. She has to condole, she has to succour, she has to devote herself, she has to be kind. A woman who has lost her modesty, fain would know love no more; impossible. The refluxes of the heart are as inevitable as those of the sea; the lights of the heart are as fixed as those of the night.
There is within us that which we can never lose. Abnegation, sacrifice, tenderness, enthusiasm, all these rays turn against the woman within her inmost self and attack and burn her. All these virtues remain to avenge themselves upon her. When she would have been a wife, she is a slave. Hers is the hopeless, thankless task of lulling a brigand in the blue nebulousness of her illusions and of decking Mandrin with a starry rag. She is the sister of charity of crime. She loves, alas! She endures her inadmissible divinity; she is magnanimous and thrills at so being. She is happy with a horrible happiness. She enters backwards into indignant Eden.
We do not sufficiently reflect upon this that is within us and cannot be lost.
Prostitution, vice, crime, what matters!
Night may become as black as it likes, the spark is still there. However low you go there is light. Light in the vagabond, light in the mendicant, light in the thief, light in the street-walker. The deeper you go the more the miraculous light persists in showing itself.
Every heart has its pearl, which is the same for the heart gutter and the heart ocean—love.
No mire can dissolve this particle of God.
Wherefore, there, at the extreme of gloom, of despondency, of chill-heartedness and abandonment; in this obscurity, in this putrefaction, in these gaols, in these dark paths, in this shipwreck; beneath the lowest layer of the heap of miseries, under the bog of public disdain which is ice and night; behind the eddying of those frightful snowflakes the judges, the gendarmes, the warders and the executioners for the bandit, the passers-by for the prostitute, which cross each other, innumerable, in the dull grey mist that for these wretches replace the sun; beneath these pitiless fatalities; beneath this bewildering maze of vaults, some of granite, the others of hatred; at the deepest depths of horror; in the midst of asphyxiation; at the bottom of the chaos of all possible blacknesses; under the frightful thickness of a deluge composed of expectorations, there where all is extinct, where all is dead, something moves and shines. What is it? A flame.
And what flame?
O adorable prodigy!
Love, the ideal, is found even in the Pit.
AT THE TUILERIES. 1844-1848.
I. THE KING. II. THE DUCHESS D'ORLEANS. III. THE PRINCES.
I. THE KING. * June, 28, 1844.
* Louis Philippe.
The King told me that Talleyrand said to him one day:
"You will never be able to do anything with Thiers, although he would make an excellent tool. He is one of those men one cannot make use of unless one is able to satisfy them. Now, he never will be satisfied. It is unfortunate for him, as for you, that in our times, he cannot be made a cardinal."
A propos of the fortifications of Paris, the King told me how the Emperor Napoleon learned the news of the taking of Paris by the allies.
The Emperor was marching upon Paris at the head of his guard. Near Juvisy, at a place in the Forest of Fontainebleau where there is an obelisk ("that I never see without feeling heavy at heart," remarked the King), a courier on his way to meet Napoleon brought him the news of the capitulation of Paris. Paris had been taken. The enemy had entered it. The Emperor turned pale. He hid his face in his hands and remained thus, motionless, for a quarter of an hour. Then, without saying a word, he turned about and took the road back to Fontainebleau.
General Athalin witnessed this scene and recounted it to the King.
A few days ago the King said to Marshal Soult (in presence of others):
"Marshal, do you remember the siege of Cadiz?"
"Rather, sire, I should think so. I swore enough before that cursed Cadiz. I invested the place and was forced to go away as I had come."
"Marshal, while you were before it, I was inside it."
"I know, sire."
"The Cortes and the English Cabinet offered me the command of the Spanish army."
"I remember it."
"The offer was a grave one. I hesitated long. Bear arms against France! For my family, it is possible; but against my country! I was greatly perplexed. At this juncture you asked me, through a trusty person, for a secret interview in a little house situated on the Cortadura, between the city and your camp. Do you remember the fact, Monsieur the Marshal?"
"Perfectly, sire; the day was fixed and the interview arranged."
"And I did not turn up."
"That is so."
"Do you know why?"
"I never knew."
"I will tell you. As I was preparing to go to meet you, the commander of the English squadron, apprised of the matter, I know not how, dropped upon me brusquely and warned me that I was about to fall into a trap; that Cadiz being impregnable, they despaired of seizing me, but that at the Cortadura I should be arrested by you; that the Emperor wished to make of the Duke d'Orleans a second volume of the Duke d'Enghien, and that you would have me shot immediately. There, really," added the King with a smile, "your hand on your conscience, were you going to shoot me?"
The Marshal remained silent for a moment, then replied, with a smile not less inexpressible than that of the King:
"No, sire; I wanted to compromise you."
The subject of conversation was changed. A few minutes later the Marshal took leave of the King, and the King, as he watched him go, said with a smile to the person who heard this conversation:
"Compromise! compromise! To-day it is called compromise. In reality, he would have shot me!"
August 4, 1844.
Yesterday the King said to me:
"One of my embarrassments at present, in all this affair of the University and the clergy, is M. Affre." *
* Archbishop Affre was shot and killed in the Faubourg Saint Antoine on September 25, 1848, while trying to stop the fighting between the troops and insurgents.
"Then why, sire," said I, "did you appoint him?"
"I made a mistake, I admit. I had at first appointed to the archbishopric of Paris the Cardinal of Arras, M. de la Tour d'Auvergne."
"It was a good choice," I observed.
"Yes, good. He is insignificant. An honest old man of no account. An easy-going fellow. He was much sought after by the Carlists. Greatly imposed upon. His whole family hated me. He was induced to refuse. Not knowing what to do, and being in haste, I named M. Affre. I ought to have been suspicious of him. His countenance is neither open nor frank. I took his underhand air for a priestly air; I did wrong. And then, you know, it was in 1840. Thiers proposed him to me, and urged me to appoint him. Thiers is no judge of archbishops. I did it without sufficient reflection. I ought to have remembered what Talleyrand said to me one day: 'The Archbishop of Paris must always be an old man. The see is quieter and becomes vacant more frequently.' I appointed M. Affre, who is young; it was a mistake. However, I will re-establish the chapter of St. Denis and appoint as primate of it the Cardinal de la Tour d'Auvergne. The Papal Nuncio, to whom I spoke of my project just now, laughed heartily at it, and said: 'The Abbe Affre will commit some folly. Should he go to Rome the Pope will receive him very badly. He has acted pusillanimously and blunderingly on all occasions since he has been an archbishop. An archbishop of Paris who has any wit ought always to be on good terms with the King here and the Pope yonder.'"
A month or two ago the King went to Dreux. It was the anniversary of the death of the Duke d'Orleans. The King had chosen this day to put the coffins of his relatives in the family vault in order.
Among the number was a coffin that contained all the bones of the princes of the House of Orleans that the Duchess d'Orleans, mother of the King, had been able to collect after the Revolution, when the sepulchre was violated and they were dispersed. The coffin, placed in a separate vault, had recently been smashed in by the fall of an arch. The debris of the arch, stones and plaster, had become mingled with the bones.
The King had the coffin brought and opened before him. He was alone in the vault with the chaplain and two aides-de-camp. Another coffin, larger and stronger, had been prepared. The King himself, with his own hands, took, one after the other, the bones of his ancestors from the broken coffin and arranged them carefully in the new one. He would not permit any one else to touch them. From time to time he counted the skulls and said: "This is Monsieur the Duke de Penthievre. This is Monsieur the Count de Beaujolais." Then to the best of his ability and as far as he was able to he completed each group of bones.
This ceremony lasted from nine o'clock in the morning until seven o'clock in the evening without the King taking either rest or nourishment.
Yesterday, the 15th, after having dined at M. Villemain's, who lives in a country house near Neuilly, I called upon the King.
The King was not in the salon, where there were only the Queen, Madame Adelaide and a few ladies, among them Mme. Firmin-Rogier, who is charming. There were many visitors, among others the Duke de Brogue and M. Rossi, who were of the dinner party at which I had been present, M. de Lesseps, who lately distinguished himself as consul at Barcelona, M. Firmin-Rogier and the Count d'Agout.
I bowed to the Queen, who spoke to me at length about the Princess de Joinvile, who was delivered the day before yesterday, and whose baby arrived on the very day the news of the bombardment of Tangier by its father was received. It is a little girl. The Princess de Joinvile passes the whole day kissing her and saying: "How pretty she is!" with that sweet southern accent which the raillery of her brothers-in-law has not yet caused her to lose.
While I was talking to the Queen, the Duchess d'Orleans, dressed in black, came in and sat beside Madame Adelaide, who said to her: "Good evening, dear Helene."
A moment afterwards, M. Guizot, in black, wearing a chain of decorations, with a red ribbon in his buttonhole and the badge of the Legion of Honour on his coat, and looking pale and grave, crossed the salon. I grasped his hand as he passed and he said:
"I have sought you vainly during the past few days. Come and spend a day with me in the country. We have a lot to talk about. I am at Auteuil, No. 4, Place d'Agueneau."
"Will the King come to-night?" I asked.
"I do not think so," he replied. "He is with Admiral de Mackau. There is serious news. He will be occupied all the evening."
Then M. Guizot went away.
It was nearly ten o'clock, and I also was about to take my departure when one of Madame Adelaide's ladies of honour, sent by the Princess, came and told me that the King desired to speak with me and requested that I would remain. I returned to the salon, which had become almost empty.
A moment later, as ten o'clock was striking, the King came in. He wore no decorations and had a preoccupied air. As he passed by he said to me:
"Wait until I have gone my round; we shall have a little more time when everybody has left. There are only four persons here now and I have only four words to say to them."
In truth, he only tarried a moment with the Prussian Ambassador and M. de Lesseps, who had to communicate to him a letter from Alexandria relative to the strange abdication of the Pacha of Egypt.
Everybody took leave, and then the King came to me, thrust his arm in mine and led me into the large anteroom where he seated himself, and bade me be seated, upon a red lounge which is between two doors opposite the fireplace. Then he began to talk rapidly, energetically, as though a weight were being lifted from his mind:
"Monsieur Hugo, I am pleased to see you. What do you think of it all? All this is grave, yet it appears graver than it really is. But in politics, I know, one has sometimes to take as much into account that which appears grave as that which is grave. We made a mistake in taking this confounded protectorate. * We thought we were doing something popular for France, and we have done something embarrassing for the world. The popular effect was mediocre; the embarrassing effect is enormous. What did we want to hamper ourselves with Tahiti (the King pronounced it Taete) for? What to us was this pinch of tobacco seeds in the middle of the ocean? What is the use of lodging our honour four thousand leagues away in the box of a sentry insulted by a savage and a madman? Upon the whole there is something laughable about it. When all is said and done it is a small matter and nothing big will come of it. Sir Robert Peel has spoken thoughtlessly. He has acted with schoolboy foolishness. He has diminished his consideration in Europe. He is a serious man, but capable of committing thoughtless acts. Then he does not know any languages. Unless he be a genius there are perforce gaps in the ideas of a man who is not a linguist. Now, Sir Robert has no genius. Would you believe it? He does not know French. Consequently he does not understand anything about France. French ideas pass before him like shadows. He is not malevolent, no; he is not open, that is all. He has spoken without reflection. I judged him to be what he is forty years ago. It was, too, forty years ago that I saw him for the first time. He was then a young man and secretary of the Earl of—(I did not quite catch the name. The King spoke quickly). I often visited that house. I was then in England. When I saw young Peel I felt sure that he would go a long way, but that he would stop. Was I mistaken? There are Englishmen, and of the highest rank, who do not understand Frenchmen a bit. Like that poor Duke of Clarence, who afterwards was William IV. He was but a sailor. One must beware of the sailor mind, as I often say to my son Joinville. He who is only a sailor is nothing on land. Well, this Duke of Clarence used to say to me: 'Duke d'Orleans, a war between France and England is necessary every twenty years. History shows it.' I would reply: 'My dear duke, of what use are people of intelligence if they allow mankind to do the same foolish things over and over again?' The Duke of Clarence, like Peel, did not know a word of French.
* The protectorate of Tahiti.
"What a difference between these men and Huskisson! You know, Huskisson who was killed on a railway. He was a masterly man, if you like. He knew French and liked France. He had been my comrade at the Jacobins' Club. I do not say this in bad part. He understood everything. If there were in England now a man like him, he and I would ensure the peace of the world.—Monsieur Hugo, we will do it without him. I will do it alone. Sir Robert Peel will reconsider what he has said. Egad! he said that! Does he even know why or how?
"Have you seen the English Parliament? You speak from your place, standing, in the midst of your own party; you are carried away; you say more often than not what others think instead of what you think yourself. There is a magnetic communication. You are subjected to it. You rise (here the King rose and imitated the gesture of an orator speaking in Parliament). The assembly ferments all round and close to you; you let yourself go. On this side somebody says: 'England has suffered a gross insult;' and on that side: 'with gross indignity.' It is simply applause that is sought on both sides. Nothing more. But this is bad. It is dangerous. It is baleful. In France our tribune which isolates the orator has many advantages.
"Of all the English statesmen, I have known only one who was able to withstand this influence of assemblies. He was M. Pitt. M. Pitt was a clever man, although he was very tall. He had an air of awkwardness and spoke hesitatingly. His lower jaw weighed a hundredweight. Hence a certain slowness which forcibly brought prudence into his speeches. Besides, what a statesman this Pitt was! They will render justice to him one of these days, even in France. Pitt and Coburg are still being harped upon. But it is a childish foolishness that will pass. M. Pitt knew French. To carry on politics properly we must have Englishmen who know French and Frenchmen who know English.
"Look here, I am going to England next month. I shall be very well received: I speak English. And then, Englishmen appreciate the fact that I have studied them closely enough not to detest them. For one always begins by detesting the English. This is an effect of the surface. I esteem them, and pride myself upon the fact. Between ourselves, there is one thing I apprehend in going to England, and that is, a too warm welcome. I shall have to elude an ovation. Popularity there would render me unpopular here. But I must not get myself badly received either. Badly received there, taunted here. Oh! it is not easy to move when one is Louis Philippe, is it, Monsieur Hugo?
"However, I will endeavour to manage it better than that big stupid the Emperor of Russia, who went riding full gallop in search of a fall. There is an addle-pate for you. What a simpleton! He is nothing but a Russian corporal, occupied with a boot-heel and a gaiter button. What an idea to arrive in London on the eve of the Polish ball! Do you think I would go to England on the eve of the anniversary of Waterloo? What is the use of running deliberately into trouble? Nations do not derange their ideas for us princes.
"Monsieur Hugo! Monsieur Hugo! intelligent princes are very rare. Look at this Pacha of Egypt, who had a bright mind and who abdicates, like Charles V., who, although he was not without genius, committed the same foolish action. Look at this idiotic King of Morocco! What a job to govern amid this mob of bewildered Kings. They won't force me into committing the great mistake of going to war. I am being pushed, but they won't push me over. Listen to this and remember it: the secret of maintaining peace is to look at everything from the good side and at nothing from the bad point of view. Oh! Sir Robert Peel is a singular man to speak so wildly. He does not know all our strength. He does not reflect!
"The Prince of Prussia made a very true remark to my daughter at Brussels last winter: 'What we envy France, is Algeria. Not on account of the territory, but on account of the war. It is a great and rare good fortune for France to have at her doors a war that does not trouble Europe and which is making an army for her. We as yet have only review and parade soldiers. When a collision occurs we shall only have soldiers who have been made by peace. France, thanks to Algiers, will have soldiers made by war.' This is what the Prince of Prussia said, and it was true.
"Meanwhile, we are making children, too. Last month it was my daughter of Nemours, this month it is my daughter of Joinville. She has given me a princess. I would have preferred a prince. But, pish! in view of the fact that they are trying to isolate my house among the royal houses of Europe future alliances must be thought of. Well, my grandchildren will marry among themselves. This little one who was born yesterday will not lack cousins, nor, consequently, a husband."
Here the King laughed, and I rose. He had spoken almost without interruption for an hour and a quarter. I had only said a few words here and there. During this sort of long monologue Madame Adelaide passed as she retired to her apartments. The King said to her: "I will join you directly," and he continued his conversation with me. It was nearly half-past eleven when I quitted the King.
It was during this conversation that the King said to me:
"Have you ever been to England?"
"Well, when you do go—for you will go—you will see how strange it is. It resembles France in nothing. Over there are order, arrangement, symmetry, cleanliness, wellmown lawns, and profound silence in the streets. The passers-by are as serious and mute as spectres. When, being French and alive, you speak in the street, these spectres look back at you and murmur with an inexpressible mixture of gravity and disdain: 'French people!' When I was in London I was walking arm-in-arm with my wife and sister. We were conversing, not in a too loud tone of voice, for we are well-bred persons, you know; yet all the passers-by, bourgeois and men of the people, turned to gaze at us and we could hear them growling behind us: 'French people! French people!'"
September 5, 1844.
The King rose, paced to and fro for a few moments, as though violently agitated, then came and sat beside me and said:
"Look here, you made a remark to Villemain that he repeated to me. You said to him:
"'The trouble between France and England a propos of Tahiti and Pritchard reminds me of a quarrel in a cafe between a couple of sub-lieutenants, one of whom has looked at the other in a way the latter does not like. A duel to the death is the result. But two great nations ought not to act like a couple of musketeers. Besides, in a duel to the death between two nations like England and France, it is civilization that would be slain.'
"This is really what you said, is it not?"
"I was greatly struck by your observation, and this very evening I reproduced it in a letter to a crowned head, for I frequently write all night long. I pass many a night doing over again what others have undone. I do not say anything about it. So far from being grateful to me they would only abuse me for it. Oh! yes, mine is hard work indeed. At my age, with my seventy-one years, I do not get an instant of real repose either by day or by night. I am always unquiet, and how can it be otherwise when I feel that I am the pivot upon which Europe revolves?"
September 6, 1844.
The King said to me yesterday:
"What makes the maintenance of peace so difficult is that there are two things in Europe that Europe detests, France and myself—myself even more than France. I am talking to you in all frankness. They hate me because I am Orleans; they hate me because I am myself. As for France, they dislike her, but would tolerate her in other hands. Napoleon was a burden to them; they overthrew him by egging him on to war of which he was so fond. I am a burden to them; they would like to throw me down by forcing me to break that peace which I love."
Then he covered his eyes with his hands, and leaning his head back upon the cushions of the sofa, remained thus for a space pensive, and as though crushed.
September 6, 1844.
"I only met Robespierre in society once," said the King to me. "It was at a place called Mignot, near Poissy, which still exists. It belonged to a wealthy cloth manufacturer of Louviers, named M. Decreteau. It was in ninety-one or two. M. Decreteau one day invited me to dinner at Mignot. I went. When the time came we took our places at table. The other guests were Robespierre and Petion, but I had never before seen Robespierre. Mirabeau aptly traced his portrait in a word when he said that his face was suggestive of that of 'a cat drinking vinegar.' He was very gloomy, and hardly spoke. When he did let drop a word from time to time, it was uttered sourly and with reluctance. He seemed to be vexed at having come, and because I was there.
"In the middle of the dinner, Petion, addressing M. Decreteau, exclaimed: 'My dear host, you must get this buck married!' He pointed to Robespierre.
"'What do you mean, Petion?' retorted Robespierre.
"'Mean,' said Petion, 'why, that you must get married. I insist upon marrying you. You are full of sourness, hypochondria, gall, bad humour, biliousness and atrabiliousness I am fearful of all this on our account. What you want is a woman to sweeten this sourness and transform you into an easy-going old fogey.'
"Robespierre tossed his head and tried to smile, but only succeeded in making a grimace. It was the only time," repeated the King, "that I met Robespierre in society. After that I saw him in the tribune of the Convention. He was wearisome to a supreme degree, spoke slowly, heavily and at length, and was more sour, more gloomy, more bitter than ever. It was easy to see that Petion had not married him."
September 7, 1844.
Said the King to me last Thursday:
"M. Guizot has great qualities and immense defects. (Queerly enough, M. Guizot on Tuesday had made precisely the same remark to me about the King, beginning with the defects.) M. Guizot has in the highest degree, and I esteem him for it profoundly, the courage of his unpopularity among his adversaries; among his friends he lacks it. He does not know how to quarrel momentarily with his partisans, which was Pitt's great art. In the affair of Tahiti, as in that of the right of search, M. Guizot is not afraid of the Opposition, nor of the press, nor of the Radicals, nor of the Carlists, nor of the Legitimists, nor of the hundred thousand howlers in the hundred thousand public squares of France; he is afraid of Jacques Lefebvre. What will Jacques Lefebvre say? And Jacques Lefebvre is afraid of the Twelfth Arrondissement. * What will the Twelfth Arrondissement say? The Twelfth Arrondissement does not like the English: we must stand firm against the English; but it does not like war: we must give way to the English. Stand firm and give way. Reconcile that. The Twelfth Arrondissement governs Jacques Lefebvre, Jacques Lefebvre governs Guizot; a little more and the Twelfth Arrondissement will govern France. I say to Guizot: 'What are you afraid of? Have a little pluck. Have an opinion.' But there they all stand, pale and motionless and make no reply. Oh! fear! Monsieur Hugo, it is a strange thing, this fear of the hubbub that will be raised outside! It seizes upon this one, then that one, then that one, and it goes the round of the table. I am not a Minister, but if I were, it seems to me that I should not be afraid. I should see the right and go straight towards it. And what greater aim could there be than civilization through peace?"
* Twelfth District of Paris.
The Duke d'Orleans, a few years ago, recounted to me that during the period which followed immediately upon the revolution of July, the King gave him a seat at his council table. The young Prince took part in the deliberations of the Ministers. One day M. Merilhou, who was Minister of Justice, fell asleep while the King was speaking.
"Chartres," said the King to his son, "wake up Monsieur the Keeper of the Seals."
The Duke d'Orleans obeyed. He was seated next to M. Merilhou, and nudged him gently with his elbow. The Minister was sleeping soundly; the Prince recommenced, but the Minister slept on. Finally the Prince laid his hand upon M. Merilhou's knee. The Minister awoke with a start and exclaimed:
"Leave off, Sophie, you are tickling me!"
This is how the word "subject" came to be eliminated from the preamble of laws and ordinances.
M. Dupont de l'Eure, in 1830, was Minister of Justice. On August 7, the very day the Duke d'Orleans took the oath as King, M. Dupont de l'Eure laid before him a law to sign. The preamble read: "Be it known and decreed to all our subjects," etc. The clerk who was instructed to copy the law, a hot-headed young fellow, objected to the word "subjects," and did not copy it.
The Minister of Justice arrived. The young man was employed in his office.
"Well," said the Minister, "is the copy ready to be taken to the King for signature?"
"No, Monsieur the Minister," replied the clerk.
Explanations. M. Dupont de l'Eure listened, then pinching the young man's ear said, half smilingly, half angrily:
"Nonsense, Monsieur the Republican, you just copy it at once."
The clerk hung his head, like a clerk that he was, and copied it.
M. Dupont, however, laughingly told the King about it. The King did not laugh. Everything appeared to be a serious matter at that time. M. Dupin senior, Minister without a portfolio, had entered the council chamber. He avoided the use of the word and got round the obstacle. He proposed this wording, which was agreed to and has always been used since: "Be it known and decreed to all."
The State carriage of Louis Philippe was a big blue coach drawn by eight horses. The interior was of gold coloured damask. On the doors was the King's monogram surmounted by a crown, and on the panels were royal crowns. The roof was bordered by eight little silver crowns. There was a gigantic coachman on the box and three lackeys behind. All wore silk stockings and the tri-colour livery of the d'Orleans.
The King would enter the carriage first and seat himself in the right hand corner. Then the Duke de Nemours would take his place beside the King. The three other princes would follow and seat themselves, M. de Joinville opposite the King, M. de Montpensier opposite M. de Nemours, and M. d'Aumale in the middle.
The day the King attended Parliament, the grand deputations from both Houses, twelve peers and twenty-five deputies chosen by lot, awaited him on the grand staircase of the Palais Bourbon. As the sessions were nearly always held in winter, it was very cold on the stairs, a biting wind made all these old men shiver, and there are old generals of the Empire who did not die as the result of having been at Austerlitz, at Friedland, at the cemetery at Eylau, at the storming of the grand redoubt at Moskowa and under the fire of the Scottish squares at Waterloo, but of having waited in the cold upon these stairs.
The peers stood to the right and the deputies to the left, leaving the middle of the stairs clear. The staircase was partitioned off with hangings of white drill with blue stripes, which was a poor protection against draughts. Where are the good and magnificent tapestries of Louis XIV. They were indeed royal; wherefore they were taken down. Drill is a common material and more pleasing to the deputies. It charms and it freezes them.
The Queen arrived first with the princesses, but without the Duchess d'Orleans, who came separately with the Count de Paris. These ladies walked quickly upstairs, bowing to right and left, without speaking, but graciously, followed by a swarm of aides-de-camp and grim turbaned old women whom M. de Joinville called "the Queen's Turks"—Mmes. de Dolokieu, de Chanaleilles, etc.
At the royal session of 1847, the Queen gave her arm to the Duchess de Montpensier. The princess was muffled up on account of the cold. I could see only a big red nose. The three other princesses walked behind, chatting and laughing. M. Anatole de Montesquiou came next in the much worn uniform of a major-general.
The King arrived about five minutes after the Queen; he walked upstairs even more quickly than she had done, followed by the princes running like schoolboys, and bowed to the peers on the right and the deputies on the left. He tarried a moment in the throne-room and exchanged a few greetings with the members of the two deputations. Then he entered the large hall.
The speech from the throne was written on parchment, on both sides of the sheet, and usually filled four pages. The King read it in a firm, well modulated voice.
Marshal Soult was present, resplendent with decorations, sashes, and gold lace, and complaining of his rheumatism. M. Pasquier, the Chancellor, did not put in an appearance. He had excused himself on the plea of the cold and of his eighty years. He had been present the year before. It was the last time.
In 1847 I was a member of the grand deputation. While I strolled about the waiting room, conversing with M. Villemain about Cracow, the Vienna treaties and the frontier of the Rhine, I could hear the buzzing of the groups around me, and scraps of conversation reached my ears.
COUNT DE LAGRANGE.—Ah! here comes the Marshal (Soult).
BARON PEDRE LACAZE.—He is getting old.
VISCOUNT CAVAIGNAC.—Sixty-nine years!
MARQUIS DR RAIGECOURT.—Who is the dean of the Chamber of Peers at present?
DUKE DE TREVISE.—M. de Pontecoulant, is he not?
MARQUIS DE LAPLACE.—NO, President Boyer. He is ninety-two.
PRESIDENT BARTHE.—He is older than that.
BARON D'OBERLIN.—He no longer comes to the Chamber.
M. VIENNET.—They say that M. Rossi is returning from Rome.
DUKE DE FESENZAC.—Well, I pity him for quitting Rome. It is the finest and most amiable city in the world. I hope to end my days there.
COUNT DE MONTALEMBERT.—And Naples!
BARON THENARD.—I prefer Naples.
M. FULCHIRON.—Yes, Naples, that's the place. By the by, I was there when poor Nourrit killed himself. I was staying in the house next to his.
BARON CHARLES DUPIN.—He took his life? It was not an accident?
M. FULCHIRON.—Oh! it was a case of suicide, sure enough. He had been hissed the previous day. He could not stand that. It was in an opera composed expressly for him—"Polyceucte." He threw himself from a height of sixty feet. His voice did not please that particular public. Nourrit was too much accustomed to sing Glueck and Mozart. The Neapolitans said of him: "Vecchico canto."
BARON DUPIN.—Poor Nourrit! why did he not wait! Duprez has lost his voice. Eleven years ago Duprez demolished Nourrit; to-day Nourrit would demolish Duprez.
MARQUIS DE BOISSY.—How cold it is on this staircase.
COUNT PHILIPPE DE SEGUR.—It was even colder at the Academy the other day. That poor Dupaty is a good man, but he made a bad speech.
BARON FEUTRIER.—I am trying to warm myself. What a frightful draught! It is enough to drive one away.
BARON CHARLES DUPIN.—M. Francais de Nantes had conceived this expedient to rid himself of those who came to solicit favours and abridge their solicitations: he was given to receiving people between two doors.
M. Thiers at this time had a veritable court of deputies about him. After the session he walked out in front of me. A gigantic deputy, whose back only I could see, stepped aside, saying: "Make way for historical men!" And the big man let the little man pass.
Historical? May be. In what way?
II. THE DUCHESS D'ORLEANS.
Madame the Duchess d'Orleans is a rare woman, of great wit and common sense. I do not think that she is fully appreciated at the Tuileries. The King, though, holds her in high esteem and often engages in long conversations with her. Frequently he gives her his arm to escort her from the family drawing-room to her apartments. The royal daughters-in-law do not always appear to act as kindly towards her.
February 26, 1844.
Yesterday the Duchess d'Orleans said to me:
"My son is not what one would call an amiable child. He is not one of those pretty little prodigies who are an honour to their mothers, and of whom people say: 'What a clever child! What wit! What grace!' He has a kind heart, I know; he has wit, I believe; but nobody knows and believes this save myself. He is timid, wild, uncommunicative, easily scared. What will he become? I have no idea. Often at his age a child in his position understands that he must make himself agreeable, and, little as he is, sets himself to play his role. Mine hides himself in his mother's skirt and lowers his eyes. But I love him, just as he is. I even prefer him this way. I like a savage better than a comedian."
The Count de Paris has signed the birth certificate of the Princess Francoise de Joinville. It was the first time that the little prince had signed his name. He did not know what was wanted of him, and when the King handed him the certificate and said "Paris, sign your name," the child refused. The Duchess d'Orleans took him on her knee and whispered something to him. Then the child took the pen, and at the dictation of his grandfather wrote upon the certificate L. P. d. O. He made the O much too large and wrote the other letters awkwardly, and was very much embarrassed and shy.
He is charming, though, and adores his mother, but he hardly knows that his name is Louis Philippe d'Orleans. He writes to his comrades, to his tutor, and to his mother, but he signs his little missives "Paris." It is the only name he knows himself by.
This evening the King sent for M. Regnier, the prince's tutor, and gave him orders to teach the Count de Paris to sign his name.
The Count de Paris is of a grave and sweet disposition; he learns well. He is imbued with a natural tenderness, and is kind to those who suffer.
His young cousin of Wurtemberg, who is two months older, is jealous of him; as his mother, the Princess Marie, was jealous of the mother of the Count de Paris. During the lifetime of the Duke d'Orleans little Wurtemberg was long the object of the Queen's preferences, and, in the little court of the corridors and bedchambers, it was the custom to flatter the Queen by comparisons between the one and the other that were always favourable to Wurtemberg. To-day that inequality has ceased. The Queen, by a touching sentiment, inclined towards little Wurtemberg because he had lost his mother; now there is no reason why she should not lean towards the Count de Paris, seeing that he has lost his father.
Little Michel Ney plays with the two princes every Sunday. He is eleven years old, and the son of the Duke d'Elchingen. The other day he said to his mother:
"Wurtemberg is an ambitious fellow. When we play he always wants to be the leader. Besides, he insists upon being called Monseigneur. I don't mind calling him Monseigneur, but I won't let him be leader. One day I invented a game, and I said to him: 'No, Monseigneur, you are not going to be the leader. I will be leader, for I invented the game, and Chabannes will be my lieutenant. You and the Count de Paris will be soldiers.' Paris was willing, but Wurtemberg walked away. He is an ambitious fellow."
Of these young mothers of the Chateau, apart from the Duchess d'Orleans, Mme. de Joinville is the only one who does not spoil her children. At the Tuileries, everybody, even the King himself, calls her little daughter "Chiquette." The Prince of Joinville calls his wife "Chicarde" since the pierrots' ball, hence "Chiquette." At this pierrots' ball the King exclaimed: "How Chicarde is amusing herself!" The Prince de Joinville danced all the risquee dances. Mme. de Montpensier and Mme. Liaderes were the only ones who were not decolletees. "It is not in good taste," said the Queen. "But it is pretty," observed the King.
III. THE PRINCES. 1847.
At the Tuileries the Prince de Joinville passes his time doing all sorts of wild things. One day he turned on all the taps and flooded the apartments. Another day he cut all the bell ropes. A sign that he is bored and does not know what to do with himself.
And what bores these poor princes most is to receive and talk to people ceremoniously. This is almost a daily obligation. They call it—for princes have their slang—"performing the function." The Duke de Montpensier is the only one who performs it gracefully. One day the Duchess d'Orleans asked him the reason. He replied: "It amuses me."
He is twenty years old, he is beginning.
When the marriage of M. de Montpensier with the Infanta was published, the King of the Belgians was sulky with the Tuileries. He is an Orleans, but he is a Coburg. It was as though his left hand had smitten his right cheek.
The wedding over, while the young couple were making their way from Madrid to Paris, King Leopold arrived at Saint Cloud, where King Louis Philippe was staying. The King of the Belgians wore an air of coldness and severity. Louis Philippe, after dinner, took him aside into a recess of the Queen's drawing-room, and they conversed for fully an hour. Leopold's face preserved its thoughtful and *English* expression. However at the conclusion of the conversation, Louis Philippe said to him:
"He is precisely the man I do not want to see."
"See him," urged the King. "We will resume this conversation when you have done so."
The next day M. Guizot waited upon King Leopold. He had with him an enormous portfolio filled with papers. The King received him. His manner was cold in the extreme. Both were reserved. It is probable that M. Guizot communicated to the King of the Belgians all the documents relative to the marriage and all the diplomatic papers. No one knows what passed between them. What is certain is that when M. Guizot left the King's room Leopold's air was gracious, though sad, and that he was heard to say to the Minister as he took leave of him: "I came here greatly dissatisfied with you. I shall go away satisfied. You have, in fact, in this affair acquired a new title to my esteem and to our gratitude. I intended to scold you; I thank you."
These were the King's own words.
The Prince de Joinville's deafness increases. Sometimes it saddens him, sometimes he makes light of it. One day he said to me: "Speak louder, I am as deaf as a post." On another occasion he bent towards me and said with a laugh:
"J'abaisse le pavillion de l'oreille."
"It is the only one your highness will ever lower," I replied.
M. de Joinville is of somewhat queer disposition. Now he is joyous to the point of folly, anon gloomy as a hypochondriac. He is silent for three days at a time, or his bursts of laughter are heard in the very attics of the Tuileries. When he is on a voyage he rises at four o'clock in the morning, wakes everybody up and performs his duties as a sailor conscientiously. It is as though he were to win his epaulettes afterwards.
He loves France and feels all that touches her. This explains his fits of moodiness. Since he cannot talk as he wants to, he keeps his thoughts to himself, and this sours him, He has spoken more than once, however, and bravely. He was not listened to and he was not heeded. "They needn't talk about me," he said to me one day, "it is they who are deaf!"
Unlike the late Duke d'Orleans, he has no princely coquettishness, which is such a victorious grace, and has no desire to appear agreeable. He rarely seeks to please individuals. He loves the nation, the country, his profession, the sea. His manner is frank, he has a taste for noisy pleasures, a fine appearance, a handsome face, with a kind heart, and a few feats of arms to his credit that have been exaggerated; he is popular.
M. de Nemours is just the contrary. At court they say: "There is something unlucky about the Duke de Nemours."
M. de Montpensier has the good sense to love, to esteem and to honour profoundly the Duchess d'Orleans.
The other day there was a masked and costumed ball, but only for the family and the intimate court circle—the princesses and ladies of honour. M. de Joinville appeared all in rags, in complete Chicard costume. He was extravagantly gay and danced a thousand unheard-of dances. These capers, prohibited elsewhere, rendered the Queen thoughtful. "Wherever did he learn all this?" she asked, and added: "What naughty dances! Fie!" Then she murmured: "How graceful he is!"
Mme. de Joinville was dressed as a bargee and affected the manner of a street gamin. She likes to go to those places that the court detests the most, *the theatres and concerts of the boulevards*.
The other day she greatly shocked Mme. de Hall, the wife of an admiral, who is a Protestant and Puritan, by asking her: "Madame, have you seen the "Closerie des Genets"?"
The Prince de Joinville had imagined a nuisance that exasperated the Queen. He procured an old barrel organ somewhere, and would enter her apartments playing it and singing in a hoarse, grating voice. The Queen laughed at first. But it lasted a quarter of an hour, half an hour. "Joinville, stop it!" He continued to grind away. "Joinville, go away!" The prince, driven out of one door, entered by another with his organ, his songs and his hoarseness. Finally the Queen fled to the King's apartments.
The Duchess d'Aumale did not speak French very fluently; but as soon as she began to speak Italian, the Italian of Naples, she thrilled like a fish that falls back into the water, and gesticulated with Neapolitan verve. "Put your hands in your pockets," the Duke d'Aumale would say to her. "I shall have to have your hands tied. Why do you gesticulate like that?"
"I didn't notice it," the princess would reply.
"That is true, she doesn't notice it," said the Prince to me one day. "You wouldn't believe it, but my mother, who is so dignified, so cold, so reserved when she is speaking French, begins gesticulating like Punchinello when by chance she speaks Neapolitan."
The Duke de Montpensier salutes passers-by graciously and gaily. The Duke d'Aumale does not salute more often than he is compelled to; at Neuilly they say he is afraid of ruffling his hair. The Duke de Nemours manifests less eagerness than the Duke de Montpensier and less negligence than the Duke d'Aumale; moreover, women say that when saluting them he looks at them in a most embarrassing way.
Donizetti's "Elixir of Love" was performed at court on February 5, 1847, by the Italian singers, the Persiani, Mario, Tagliafico. Ronconi acted (acted is the word, for he acted very well) the role of Dulcamara, usually represented by Lablache. It was in the matter of size, but not of talent, a giant in the place of a dwarf. The decoration of the theatre at the Tuileries was then still the same as it had been in the time of the Empire—designs in gold on a grey background, the ensemble being cold and pale.
There were few pretty women present. Mme. Cuvillier-Floury was the prettiest; Mme. V. H. the most handsome. The men were in uniform or full evening dress. Two officers of the Empire were conspicuous in their uniforms of that period. Count Dutaillis, a one-armed soldier of the Empire, wore the old uniform of a general of division, embroidered with oak leaves to the facings. The big straight collar reached to his occiput; his star of the Legion of Honour was all dented; his embroidery was rusty and dull. Count de Lagrange, an old beau, wore a white spangled waistcoat, black silk breeches, white, or rather pink, stockings; shoes with buckles on them, a sword at his side, a black dress coat, and a peer's hat with white plumes in it. Count Dutaillis was a greater success than Count de Lagrange. The one recalled Monaco and Trenitz; the other recalled Wagram.
M. Thiers, who the previous day had made a somewhat poor speech, carried opposition to the point of wearing a black cravat.
The Duchess de Montpensier, who had attained her fifteenth birthday eight days before, wore a large crown of diamonds and looked very pretty. M. de Joinville was absent. The three other princes were there in lieutenant-general's uniform with the star and grand cordon of the Legion of Honour. M. de Montpensier alone wore the order of the Golden Fleece.
Mme. Ronconi, a handsome person, but of a wild and savage beauty, was in a small box on the stage, in rear of the proscenium. She attracted much attention.
There was no applause, which chilled the singers and everybody else.
Five minutes before the piece terminated the King began to pack up. He folded his programme and put it in his pocket, then he wiped the glasses of his opera-glass, closed it up carefully, looked round for the case which he had laid on his chair, placed the glass in it and adjusted the hooks very scrupulously. There was a good deal of character in his methodical manner.
M. de Rambuteau was there. His latest "rambutisms" (the word was Alexis de Saint-Priest's) were recounted among the audience. It was said that on the last day of the year M. de Rambuteau wrote on his card: "M. de Rambuteau et Venus," or as a variation: "M. de Rambuteau, Venus en personne."
Wednesday, February 24, the Duke de Nemours gave a concert at the Tuileries. The singers were Mlle. Grisi, Mme. Persiani, a Mme. Corbari, Mario, Lablache and Ronconi. M. Aubert, who conducted, did not put any of his own music on the programme: Rossini, Mozart, and Donizetti, that was all.
The guests arrived at half-past eight. The Duke de Nemours lives on the first floor of the Pavilion de Marsan, over the apartments of the Duchess d'Orleans. The guests waited in a first salon until the doors of the grand salon were opened, the women seated, the men standing. As soon as the prince and princess appeared the doors were thrown wide open and everybody went in. This grand salon is a very fine room. The ceiling is evidently of the time of Louis XIV. The wails are hung with green damask striped with gold. The inner window curtains are of red damask. The furniture is in green and gold damask. The ensemble is royal.
The King and Queen of the Belgians were at this concert. The Duke de Nemours entered with the Queen, his sister, upon his arm, the King giving his arm to the Duchess de Nemours. Mmes. d'Aumale and de Montpensier followed. The Queen of the Belgians resembles the Queen of the French, save in the matter of age. She wore a sky-blue toque, Mme. d'Aumale a wreath of roses, Mme. de Montpensier a diadem of diamonds, Mme. de Nemours her golden hair. The four princesses sat in high-backed chairs opposite the piano; all the other women sat behind them; the men were in the rear, filling the doorway and the first salon. The King of the Belgians has a rather handsome and grave face, and a delicate and agreeable smile; he was seated to the left of the princesses.
The Duke de Brogue sat on his left. Next to the Duke were Count Mole and M. Dupin senior. M. de Salvandy, seeing an empty chair to the right of the King, seated himself upon it. All five wore the red sash, including M. Dupin. These four men about the King of the Belgians represented the old military nobility, the parliamentary aristocracy, the pettifogging bourgeoisie, and moonshine literature; that is to say, a little of what France possesses that is illustrious, and a little of what she possesses that is ridiculous.
MM. d'Aumale and de Montpensier were to the right in the recess of a window with the Duke of Wurtemberg, whom they called their "brother Alexander." All the princes wore the grand cordon and star of Leopold in honour of the King of the Belgians; MM. de Nemours and de Montpensier also wore the Golden Fleece. The Fleece of M. de Montpensier was of diamonds, and magnificent.
The Italian singers sang standing by the piano. When seated they occupied chairs with wooden backs.
The Prince de Joinville was absent, as was also his wife. It was said that lately he was the hero of a love affair. M. de Joinville is prodigiously strong. I heard a big lackey behind me say: "I shouldn't care to receive a slap from him." While he was strolling to his rendezvous M. de Joinville thought he noticed that he was being followed. He turned back, went up to the fellow and struck him.
After the first part of the concert MM. d'Aumale and de Montpensier came into the other salon where I had taken refuge with Theophile Gautier, and we chatted for fully an hour. The two princes spoke to me at length about literary matters, about "Les Burgraves," "Ruy Blas," "Lucrece Borgia," Mme. Halley, Mlle. Georges, and Frederick Lemaitre. Also a good deal about Spain, the royal wedding, bull-fights, hand-kissings, and etiquette, that M. de Montpensier "detests." "The Spaniards love royalty," he added, "and especially etiquette. In politics as in religion they are bigots rather than believers. They were greatly shocked during the wedding fetes because the Queen one day dared to venture out afoot!"
MM. d'Aumale and de Montpensier are charming young men, bright, gay, gracious, witty, sincere, full of that ease that communicates itself to others. They have a fine air. They are princes; they are perhaps men of intellect. M. de Nemours is embarrassed and embarrassing. When he comes towards you with his blond whiskers, his blue eyes, his red sash, his white waistcoat and his melancholy air he perturbs you. He never looks you in the face. He always casts about for something to say and never knows what he does say.
November 5, 1847.
Four years ago the Duke d'Aumale was in barracks at Courbevoie with the 17th, of which he was then colonel. During the summer, in the morning, after the manoeuvres which took place at Neuilly, he frequently strolled back along the river bank, alone, his hands behind his back. Nearly every day he happened upon a pretty girl named Adele Protat, who every morning went from Courbevoie to Neuilly and returned at the same hour as M. d'Aumale. The young girl noticed the young officer in undress uniform, but was not aware that he was a prince. At length they struck up an acquaintance, and walked and chatted together. Under the influence of the sun, the flowers, and the fine mornings something very much like love sprang up between them. Adele Protat thought she had to do with a captain at the most. He said to her: "Come and see me at Courbevoie." She refused. Feebly.
One evening she was passing near Neuilly in a boat. Two young men were bathing. She recognized her officer.
"There is the Duke d'Aumale," said the boatman.
"Really!" said she, and turned pale.
The next day she had ceased to love him. She had seen him naked, and knew that he was a prince.
IN THE CHAMBER OF PEERS. 1846.
Yesterday, February 22, I went to the Chamber of Peers. The weather was fine and very cold, in spite of the noonday sun. In the Rue de Tournon I met a man in the custody of two soldiers. The man was fair, pale, thin, haggard; about thirty years old; he wore coarse linen trousers; his bare and lacerated feet were visible in his sabots, and blood-stained bandages round his ankles took the place of stockings; his short blouse was soiled with mud in the back, which indicated that he habitually slept on the ground; his head was bare, his hair dishevelled. Under his arm was a loaf. The people who surrounded him said that he had stolen the loaf, and it was for this that he had been arrested.
When they reached the gendarmerie barracks one of the soldiers entered, and the man stayed at the door guarded by the other soldier.
A carriage was standing at the door of the barracks. It was decorated with a coat of arms; on the lanterns was a ducal coronet; two grey horses were harnessed to it; behind it were two lackeys. The windows were raised, but the interior, upholstered in yellow damask, was visible. The gaze of the man fixed upon this carriage, attracted mine. In the carriage was a woman in a pink bonnet and costume of black velvet, fresh, white, beautiful, dazzling, who was laughing and playing with a charming child of sixteen months, buried in ribbons, lace and furs.