George Sand.

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CoNSCELO was deq^ mored hf a dci nonH i atkm
which refaabffitatcd her in her own eyes and quieted
her conscien c e. Untfl that moment she had often
ficared that she had yielded impnidently to her gen^
erostjand courage; bat now she r e c eived sanction
and compensation for it. Her tears of joy miiiglfd
with the old man%and the/ both remained for a long
dme too deep]/ moved to continue the conversation.

Cottsnek)^ however, did not yet understand die.
piopoation which had been made to her, and die
coonty believing that he had explained himself deailf
enon^ r^;arded her slence and her tears as signs of
assent and gradtode.

<< I win go,** he said to her at last, «*and bring mj
son to yoor feet^ that he maj add his Wftung* to
mine when he learns the extent of his happiness.**

''Hold.m/ kudl^said Ccmsado^ amaxed at this
predptancj. ** I do not imderstand what yon ask
of me. Yon approve of the affecdon whidi Coont
Albert has diown for me and of die devotion whidi
I have had for him. Yon grant me your confidence^

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\ A .\ i ;i .. ..
yoa know that I will not betray it; bat how can I
nndertake to devote my whole life to an intimacy of
80 delicate a nature? I see tfiat yon trust to time
and to my reason for maintaining the mental healdi
of your noUe son and for calming the intensity of
his attachment for me. But I do not know how long
I shall have this power; and beade% even if it were
not a very dangerous intimacy for so passionate a
man, I am not free to consecrate my days to thb
f^xynxxA task ; I do not belong to myself.**

''O heaven 1 what are you saying, Consuelo?
Did yoa not understand me? Or did you decdve
me in saying that yon were free, that you had neither
an attachment of the heart, an engagement nor a

^But, my lord/* replied Consuelo astounded, '^I
have a work, a callings a profession. I belong to the
art to n^iich I have been devoted from my chiM-
hood.- '.

^ What are you saying? Great heaven ! you wish
to return to the stage?** .- i

^ As for tfiat, I do not know; and I should ten the
truth in saying that my desires do not lead that way.
I have only experienced honiUe sufferings thus tu
in that stormy career; but I still fed that I shook! be
rash if I were to undertake to renounce it. I have
been destined to it, and perhaps one cannot escape
from the future which one has laid out for one*s seK
Whether I return to the stage, or whether I give
lessons and concerts, I am, and ou^t to be, a singer.

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Besides, what could I do? ^VheTe could I find in-
dependence? How could I occupy my mind trained
to labor and thirsty for this sort of emotion?"

** O Consuelo, Consuelo ! " cried Count Christian
sorrowfully, '' all that you say is true. But I thought
that you loved my son, and now I Ae that you do

''And if I were to come to love him with the
passion which I would need to give myself up, what
would you say, my lord?*' cried Consuelo irritated.
** Do you think it absolutely impossible for a woman
to &11 in love with Count Albert, since you ask me to
remain with him always? **

"What ! Have I explained my meaning so badly,
or do you think me mad, dear Consuelo? Have I
not asked your heart and your hand for my son?
Have I not laid at your feet a legitimate and certainly
honorable alliance? If you loved Albert, yoa would
no doubt find in the happiness of sharing his life a
compensation for the loss of your glory and your
triumphs ! But you do not love him, since you con>
nder it impossible to renounce what you call your
destiny I "

It was hardly the good count's fault that this ex-
planation had been so tardy. Not witfa5ut a mixture
of terror and mortal repugnance had the old lord
sacrificed to the happiness of his son all the ideas of
his life, an the principles of his caste; and when, after
a long and painfiil struggle with Albert mid himself
he had consummated the sacrifice, the-absohite ratifi-

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cation of so terriUe an act had not reached his lips
from his heart without an effort.

Consuelo felt this, or guessed it, for at the moment
when Christian appeared to renounce gaining her
consent to this marriage, there was certainly on his
(ace an involmftary expresnon of joy, min^^ with
strange consternation. «

In a moment Consndo understood her situation,
and a pride which was somewhat too personal, per-
haps, fiUed her irith averaon to the unkmiriiich was
being proposed to her.

« You wish me to become Count Albert's wife? ••
she said, still stunned by so strange an offer. ^ YoQ
would consent to call me your dau^ter, to give me
your name, to present me to your family, your friends?
Ah, my lord 1 how much you love your son, and how
your son must love you r*

** If you find so great a generosity in this, it is
because your heart cannot conceive one like it, or
because the object does not appear to you worthy
ofit»» ' .

** hLy lord," said Consuelo, after collecting herself
with her face hidden in her hands, ^ I seem to be
dreaming. My pride is awakened in spite of me at
the idea of the humiliations with which my life would
be filled if I dared accept the sacrifice which your
paternal love suggests to yon.**

^Who would dare to humiliate you, ConSuelo»
when the husband and father cover you with Uie
8^ of marriage and the family?**

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«< And the aunt, mj lord? Could the aunt, who is
a true mother here, see this without blushing? **

««She herself wiU join her prayers to ours, if yoa
promise to allow yourself to be persuaded. Do not
ask more than the weakness of human nature can
bear. A lover, a fother, can undergo the humiliation
and the grief of a refiisaL My aster could not ven-
ture that But with the certainty of success, we will
bring her to your arms, my daughter.**

<< My lord," said Consuelo trembling, *^ did Coont
Albert tell you that I loved him?"

^No," replied the count, struck by a sudden
recollection, ^Albert told me that the obstacle would
be in your heart. He repeated it to me a hundred
times, but I could not believe it. Your integrity and
your delicacy seemed to me reason enough for your
reserve. But I thought that when I freed you from
your scruples I should gain from you the avowal
which you refused to him."

** And what did he tell you of ourwalk to-day?"

"A single word, — *Try, my &ther; it b the only
way to know whetiier it is pride or aversion whidi
closes her heart against me.' "

^ Alas, my lord I what would you think^ me if I
told you that I do not know myself?"

<'I shouki think that it was aveiaon, dear Consn-
ck>. Ah, my son, my poor son ! What a frig^tfol
frite is his ! To be unable to be loved by the only
woman whom he could, whom he ever can love, per-
haps! This last misfortune is all that jfas wanting 1"

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"O God ! you must hate me, mj lord I You can-
not undeistand that my pride should re»st when you
sacrifice your own. The pride of a giil like me seems
to you to have much less foundation ; and yet believe
me that there b now as violent a struggle in my heart
as that which you have won yonrselfl**

^ I understand it. Do not think, rignoni, that I
have so litde respect for purity, intq;rity and disin-
terestedness that I cannot appreciate pride founded
on such treasures. But what a Other's love has been
able to overcome (you see that I speak to you with
endre frankness), I think that a woman's love could
conquer likewise. Well, even though all Albert'a life^
yours and mine were to be a struggle against the
prejudices <^ the world, let me suppose, and thou|^
we an three had to suffer long and much, and my sis-
ter with us, would there not be, in our love for each
other, in the evidences of our conscience and in the
fruits of our devotion, enough to make us stronger
than an the world beside? To a great love these evOs
win s»eem but light which now seem to you too heavy
for you and for us. But anxious and trembling, you
seek for this great love in the bottom of your hearty
and you do not find it, Consueto, because it b not

** Yes, that b the whole quesdon,** said Consuelo^
presang her hands hard against her heart; ^'aU the
rest b nothing. I, too, had prejudices; your example
shows me that it b my duty to trample them under
&x>^ and to be as great, as heroic, as yon. Let us

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speak no more of my repugnance, of my false shame.
Let us speak no more of my future, of my art,** she
added, heaving a deep si^ ** I can give up even
that if— if I love Albert For that is what I must
know. Listen to me, my lord. I have asked it of
myself a hundred times, but never with the security
which 3rour consent alone could give. How could I
question myself seriously when this question itself was
a folly and a crime in my eyes? Now, it seems to me
that I can know myself and decide. I ask a few days
of you to collect myself and to determine whether the
immense devotion which I feel for him, the unlimited
esteem and respect which his virtues inspire in me^
the powerful sympathy, the strange influence which
his words exeit upon me, proceed from bve or ad-
miration. For I feel all that, my lord, and yet it is
opposed in me by an indefinable terror, by a profound
sadness, and — ^^I will tell you all, my noUe friend I
— by the memory of a less enthusiastic but a sweeter
and more tender love, whic& resembles this in no

" Strange and noUe girl,** replied Christian afleo-
tionately, ''what wisdom and what strangeness are in
yourwords and in your ideas 1 You resemble my poor
Albeit in many respects^ and the agitated uncertainty
of your sentiments recalls to me my wife^ my noUe
and beautiful and sad Wanda. O Consudol you
awaken in me veiy sweet and very Utter memories.
I was about to say to you — overcome this irresohi*
tion, conquer this Tepugnance; love, by virtue great-

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I ness of soul, compassion, or the $trength of an ardent

/ and pious charity, this man who adores you, and who^

though he may perhaps make you unhappy, win yet
[ owe you his salvation, and will cause you to merit a

) , heavenly recompense. But you have reminded me of

his mother, — his mother who gave herself to me from a
\ sense of duty and from friendship. She could not fed

' for me, a simple, easy-going and timid man, the en-

thusiasm with which her imagination was aUaze. She
was faithful and generous to the end, nevertheless;
but how she suffered I Alas, her affection was at once
my joy and torment ; her constancy, my pride and
remorse. She died under the torture, and my heart
was broken forever. And now if I am an insignificant
nonentity, dead though not buried, do not be too
much astonished, Consuelo ; I have suffered what no
one has understood, what I have told to no one, and
now confess to you with trembling. Ah, rather than
induce you to make such a sacrifice^ and rather than
uige Albeit to accept it, I would have my eyes dose -
in sorrow and my son succumb at once to his destiny!
I know too well what it costs to wish to force nature
and combat the insatiable needs of the souL There-
fore, take time to reflect, my daughter,*' said the old
r count, as he pressed Consuelo against his heaving

breast, and kissed her noble brow with a father's love.
^An win be for the best in this way. If you must
refuse, Albert, prepared by anxiety, will not be crashed
by thb frightful news as he would have been to-day.**
They separated after this agreement, and Consudo^


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eoNSUEla 9

slipping throngh the cbrridon in fear of meeting
Anzoleto, went to shut herself up in her room, worn
out with fatigue and emotion.

She first tried to recover the necessary calmneai
by taking a litde repose. She felt exhausted, and
throwing herself upon her bed, she fell into a sort of
torpor, more pauufiil than refreshing. She would have
liked to fan asleep with the thought of Albert in her
mind, so as to have it before her during those mysid^'
rious manifestations of slumber in which wie befieve'
we sometimes find a prophetic indication concemmg
the things which fill our thought But the broken
dreams which visited her for several hours brought
Anzoleto ceaselessly before her eyes instead of Albert.
It was always Venice always the Corte Minelli, always'
her first love, calm, smiling and poetic; and every
time that she awoke, the memory of Albert was isso^''
dated with the firightful cavern in which the sound of
his violin, multiplied by the echoes, called up die
dead, and wailed over 2^enkd*s new-made grave.' At
this idea fear and sadness closed her heart to the
appeals of love. The future which they ofktei, her"
appeared surrounded by cold shadows and bloody
idaons^ while the pas^ radiant and Uoonung^catised '
her bosom to swell and her heart to throb. Itseembd'
to her that as she dreamed of this past she heaM bdr
own voice resounding through space, fiUiiig all nature
and floating grandiose as it rose to the skies, while it
became hollow andmufiled and was lost in the depths
of the earth like the rattle of a dying man, when the

W 1

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fimtastic sounds of the. violin in the cavern recurred
to her memoij.

These vagne reveries £itigued her so modi that she
arose to drive them away; and as the first stroke of
the ben warned her that dinner would be served in
half an hour, she set about her toilet, still preserving
the same train of thouj^t. But, strange to say, for
the first time in her life she was more attentive to her
mirror and nx>re concerned about her hair and her
gown than the serious affiurs which she was seeking to
decide. In spite of herself she made herself hand-
some and desired to be so. And it was not to
awaken the destresand the jealousy of two rival lovers
that die felt this irresistible impulse of coquetry; she
believed she could think of but one. Albert had
never told her a word about her face. In the enthn-
siasm of Us passion he thought her handsomer, per*
haps^ than she really was; but his ideas were so lofty
and his love so great that he would have feared to
pro£sme it by lodung at her with the passionate eyes
of a lover or the scrutinizing satisfaction of an artist
She had always appeared to him surrounded by a
cloud which his look did not dare to penetrate and
which his thoughts stiQ encircled with a darriing
aureole. Whether she was more or less beautiful, he
though her always the same. He had seen her livid,*
fleshless, withered, fighting against death and more
like a spectre than a woman. Then he had sought in
her fiice attentively and anxiously for the varying sjrmp-
toms of her disease^ but he had not noticed whether

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she had been ugly at dmesy or an object of horror and
disgust And when she had recovered the histre of
youth and the expression of life, he had not nodced
whether she lost or gained in beauty. In life as in
death she was his ideal of all youth, all sublimity of
expression, all unique and incomparable beauty. And
so Consuelo had never thought of him when arranging
herself before her mirror.

But what a difference with Anzoleto 1 With what
minute care had he looked at her, judged her and ex-
amined her on the day that he had asked himself if
she was not ugly ! How he had taken account of the
smallest graces of ^her person, of the slightest efforts
which she had made to please I How well he knew
her hair, her arms, her foot, her walk, the colors which
became her complexion, the smallest folds of her
dress 1 And with what ardent vivacity he had praised
her 1 With what voluptuous languor he had gazed at
her 1 The chaste child had not then understood the
flutterings of her own heart She did not wish to
understand them now, and yet she felt them almost
as violent at the idea of appearing before him again.
She became angry with herself blushed with shame
and disgust, and tried to make herself believe_that she
was bededdng herself for Albert alcme; and still she
caught herself seeking the head-dress, the ribbon and
eventhesmilewhichused to please Anzoleto. ^Alas^
alas ! " she thought, as she tore herself from her mir-
ror when her toilet was finished, "it is true, then, that
I can think only of him, and that past happiness exer*

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dses greater power over me than present ooutempt
and the promise of another love 1 It is useless to
look mto the future ; without him it offers me only
terror and despair. But what should I be with him?
Do I not know that the happy days in Venice can
never return, that innocence would not dwell widi ns^
that Anzoleto*s soul' has become wholly vile^ that his
caresses would degrade me, and that my life would
be incessantly poisoned by shame, jealousy, fear and

When she questioned herself strictly on this pointy
Consuelo realized that she did not deceive herself and
that she had no longer the most secret feeling of desire
for Anzoleto. She no longer loved him in the present,
she dreaded and almost hated him in a future in which
his pervernty could but increase ; but in the past, she
so adored him that her heart and her life could not be
separated from him. Henceforth he would appear to
hcT like a portrait which recalls a beloved being and
days of happiness ; and like a widow who hidet her-
self from her new husband to look at the lecture of
her former one, she felt that the dead man was more
living in her heart than the other.

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CoNSOELO had too much judgment and loftiness of
mind not to know that of the two loves which she in-
spired, the truer, the nobler and the more precious
was that of Albert, without any possible comparison.
Consequently, when she found herself between them,
she thought at first that she had successfully ressted
her enemy. Albert^s penetrating look, which seemed
to reach to the very bottom of her heart, and the
strong, lingering pressure of his loyal hand, made her
understand that he knew the result of her interview with
Count Christian, and that he was awaiting her dedsion
with resignation and gratitude. Indeed, Albert had
obtained more than he hoped, and this doubt was
sweet to him after what he had feared, so removed
was he from the ove r weening vanity of Anzoleto. The
latter, on the contrary, had armed himself with all his
resolution. Surmising very nearly what was going on
about him, he determined to fight foot by foot, even
though they turned him out of doors by the shoulders.
His flippant manner and his bold, ironical look caused
Consuelo the most profound disgust; and when he
approached her brazenly to ofier her his hand to lead
her to the table, she turned away and took that iriiich
Albert held out to her.

The young count sat opponte Con^elo, as usoal.

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and old Christian caused her to sit down at his left,
in the place which Amelia fonneri/ occnpied. The
canoness invited the pretended brother to rit at Con*
suelo's lefty between her and the chaplain ; and from
this it resulted that Anzoleto could murmur his bitter
sarcasms in an undertone in the youi^ girl's ear, and
scandalize the old priest with his audadous jests, a
work which he had already begun.

Anzoleto's plan was very simple. He wished to
make himself odious and insupportable to those of
the family who were, he felt, hostile to the projected
marriage, and to give them, by his bad manners, his
impertinent familiarity and his ill-bred speeches, the
worst possible opinion of Consuelo*s family and sur-
roundings. ^We will see,'' he said to himself '*if

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Online LibraryGeorge SandConsuelo, Volume 3 → online text (page 1 of 20)