men, for the sole purpose of attracting attention. His fixed
gaze followed a girl who was dancing, and betrayed some
strong feeling. His slender, easy frame recalled the noble
proportions of the Apollo. Fine black hair curled naturally
over a high forehead. At a glance Mademoiselle de Fon-
taine observed that his linen was fine, his gloves fresh, and
evidently bought of a good maker, and his feet small and
well shod in boots of Irish kid. He had none of the vulgar
trinkets displayed by the dandies of the National Guard or
the Lovelaces of the counting-house. A black ribbon, to
which an eyeglass was attached, hung over a waistcoat of
the most fashionable cut. Never had the fastidious Emilie
seen a man's eyes shaded by such long, curled lashes. Mel-
116 BALZAC 'S WORKS
ancholy and passion were expressed in this face, and the
complexion was of a manly olive hue. His mouth seemed
ready to smile, unbending the corners of eloquent lips; but
this, far from hinting at gayety, revealed on the contrary a
sort of pathetic grace. There was too much promise in that
head, too much distinction in his whole person, to allow of
one's saying. "What a handsome man!" or "What a fine
man!" One wanted to know him. The most clear-sighted
observer, on seeing this stranger, could not have helped tak-
ing him for a clever man attracted to this rural festivity by
some powerful motive.
All these observations cost Emilie only a minute's atten-
tion, during which the privileged gentleman under her severe
scrutiny became the object of her secret admiration. She did
not say to herself, "He must be a peer of France!" but, "Oh,
if only he is noble, and he surely must be Without
finishing her thought, she suddenly cose, and, followed by
her brother the General, made her way toward the column,
affecting to watch the merry quadrilles ; but by a stratagem
of the eye, familiar to women, she lost not a gesture of the
young man as she went toward him. The stranger politely
moved to make way for the new-comers, and went to lean
against another pillar. Emilie, as much nettled by his po-
liteness as she might have been by an impertinence, began
talking to her brother in a louder voice than good taste en-
joined; she turned and tossed her head, gesticulated eagerly,
and laughed for no particular reason, less to amuse her
brother than to attract the attention of the imperturbable
stranger. None of her. little arts succeeded. Mademoiselle
de Fontaine then followed the direction in which his eyes
were fixed, and discovered the cause of his indifference.
In the midst of the quadrille, close in front of them, a
pale girl was dancing; her face was like one of the divinities
which Grirodet has introduced into his immense composition
of French Warriors received by Ossian. Emilie fancied that
she recognized her as a distinguished milady who for some
months had been living on a neighboring estate. Her part-
THE SCEAUX BALL 117
ner was a lad of about fifteen, with red hands, and dressed
in nankeen trousers, a blue coat, and white shoes, which
showed that the damsel's love of dancing made her easy to
please in the matter of partners. Her movements did not
betray her apparent delicacy, but a faint flush already tinged
her white cheeks, and her complexion was gaining color.
Mademoiselle de Fontaine went nearer, to be able to ex-
amine the young lady at the moment when she returned to
her place, while the side couples in their turn danced the
figure. But the stranger went up to the pretty dancer, and,
leaning over, said in a gentle but commanding tone: "Clara,
my child, do not dance any more."
Clara made a little pouting face, bent her head, and finally
smiled. When the dance was over, the young man wrapped
her in a cashmere shawl with a lover's care, and seated her
in a place sheltered from the wind. Very soon Mademoi-
selle de Fontaine, seeing them rise and walk round the place
as if preparing to leave, found means to follow them under
pretence of admiring the views from the garden. Her brother
lent himself with malicious good-humor to the divagations of
her rather eccentric wanderings. Emilie then saw the attrac-
tive couple get into an elegant Tilbury, by which stood a
mounted groom in livery. At the moment when, from his
high seat, the young man was drawing the reins even, she
caught a glance from his eye such as a man casts aimlessly
at the crowd; and then she enjoyed the feeble satisfaction
of seeing him twice turn his head to look at her. The young
lady did the same. Was it from jealousy ?
"I imagine you have now seen enough of the garden,"
said her brother. "We may go back to the dancing."
"I am ready," said she. "Do you think the girl can be
a relation of Lady Dudley's?"
"Lady Dudley may have some male relation staying
with her," said the Baron de Fontaine; "but a young
Next day Mademoiselle de Fontaine expressed a wish to
take a ride. Then she gradually accustomed her old uncle
118 BALZAC'S WORKS
and her brothers to escorting her in very early rides, excel-
lent, she declared, for her health. She had a particular fancy
for the environs of the hamlet where Lady Dudley was liv-
ing. Notwithstanding her cavalry manoeuvres, she did not
meet the stranger so soon as the eager search she pursued
might have allowed her to hope. She went several times
to the "Bal de Sceaux' : without seeing the young English-
man who had dropped from the skies to pervade and beau-
tify her dreams. Though nothing spurs on a young girl's
infant passion so effectually as an obstacle, there was a time
when Mademoiselle de Fontaine was on the point of giving
up her strange and secret search, almost despairing of the
success of an enterprise whose singularity may give some
idea of the boldness of her temper. In point of fact, she
might have wandered long about the village of Ch&tenay
without meeting her Unknown. The fair Clara since that
was the name Bmilie had overheard was not English, and
the stranger who escorted her did not dwell among the
flowery and fragrant bowers of Chatenay.
One evening Emilie, out riding with her uncle, who,
during the fine weather, had gained a fairly long truce
from the gout, met Lady "Dudley. The distinguished for-
eigner had with her in her open carriage Monsieur Van-
denesse. Emilie recognized the handsome couple, and her
suppositions were at once dissipated like a dream. An-
noyed, as any woman must be whose expectations are frus-
trated, she touched up her horse so suddenly that her uncle
had the greatest difficulty in following her, she had set off
at such a pace.
"I am too old, it would seem, to understand these youth-
ful spirits," said the old sailor to himself as he put his horse
to a canter; "or perhaps young people are not what they used
to be. But what ails my niece ? Now she is walking at a
foot-pace like a gendarme on patrol in the Paris streets.
One might fancy she wanted to outflank that worthy man,
who looks to me like an author dreaming over his poetry,
for he has, I think, a notebook in his hand. My word, I
THE SCEAUX BALL 119
am a great simpleton ! Is not that the very young man we
are in search of!"
At this idea the old admiral moderated his horse's pace
so as to follow his niece without making any noise. He had
played too many pranks in the years 1771 and soon after, a
time of our history when gallantry was held in honor, not
to guess at once that by the merest chance Emilie had met
the Unknown of the Sceaux gardens. In spite of the film
which age had drawn over his gray eyes, the Comte de Ker-
garouet could recognize the signs of extreme agitation in his
niece, under the unmoved expression she tried to give to her
features. The girl's piercing eyes were fixed in a sort of dull
amazement on the stranger, who quietly walked on in front
"Ay, that's it," thought the sailor. "She is following
him as a pirate follows a merchantman. Then, when she
has lost sight of him, she will be in despair at not knowing
who it is she is in love with, and whether he is a marquis
or a shopkeeper. Really these young heads need an old
fogy like me always by their side ..."
He unexpectedly spurred his horse in such a way as to
make his niece's bolt, and rode so hastily between her and
the young man on foot that he obliged him to fall back on
to the grassy bank which rose from the roadside. Then,
abruptly drawing up, the Count exclaimed: "Couldn't you
get out of the way?"
"I beg your pardon, Monsieur. But I did not know that
it lay with me to apologize to you because you almost rode
"There, enough of that, my good fellow!" replied the
sailor harshly, in a sneering tone that was nothing less
than insulting. At the same time the Count raised his
hunting crop as if to strike his horse, and touched the
young fellow's shoulder, saying, "A liberal citizen is a
reasoner; every reasoner should be prudent."
The young man went up the bankside as he heard the
sarcasm; then he crossed his arms, and said in an excited
120 BALZAC'S WORKS
tone of voice, "I cannot suppose, Monsieur, as I look at
your white hairs, that you still amuse yourself by provok-
ing duels "
"White hairs!" cried the sailor, interrupting him.
"You lie in your throat. They are only gray."
A quarrel thus begun had in a few seconds become so
fierce that the younger man forgot the moderation he had
tried to preserve. Just as the Comte de Kergarouet saw
his niece coming back to them with every sign of the great-
est uneasiness, he told his antagonist his name, bidding
him keep silence before the young lady intrusted to his
care. The stranger could not help smiling as he gave a
visiting card to the old man, desiring him to observe that
he was living in a country-house at Chevreuse; and, after
pointing this out to him, he hurried away.
"You very nearly damaged that poor young counter-
jumper, my dear," said the Count, advancing hastily to
meet Emilie. "Do you not know how to hold your horse
in ? And there you leave me to compromise my dignity
in order to screen your folly; whereas if you had but
stopped, one of your looks, or one of your pretty speeches
one of those you can make so prettily when you are not
pert would have set everything right, even if you had
broken his arm."
"But, my dear uncle, it was your horse, not mine, that
caused the accident. I really think you can no longer
ride; you are not so good a horseman as you were last
year. But instead of talking nonsense "
"Nonsense, by Gad! Is it nothing to be so impertinent
to your uncle ? ' '
"Ought we not to go on and inquire if the young man is
hurt? He is limping, uncle, only look!"
"No, he is running; I rated him soundly."
"Oh, yes, uncle; I know you there!"
"Stop," said the Count, pulling Emilie 's horse by the
bridle, "I do not see the necessity of making advances to
some shopkeeper who is only too lucky to have been
THE SCEAUX BALL 121
thrown down by a charming young lady, or the com-
mander of 'La Belle-Poule. ' '
14 Why do you think he is anything so common, my dear
uncle ? He seems to me to have very fine manners."
''Everyone has manners nowadays, my dear. "
"No, uncle, not every one has the air and style which
come of the habit of frequenting drawing-rooms, and I am
ready to lay a bet with you that the young man is of noble
"You had not long to study him."
"No, but it is not the first time I have seen him."
"Nor is it the first time you have looked for him," re-
plied the admiral with a laugh.
Emilie colored. Her uncle amused himself for some time
with her embarrassment; then he said: "Emilie, you know
that I love you as my own child, precisely because you are
the only member of the family who has the legitimate pride
of high birth. Devil take it, child, who could have believed
that sound principles would become so rare ? Well, I will
be your confidant. My dear child, I see that this young
gentleman is not indifferent to you. Hush I All the family
would laugh at us if we sailed under the wrong flag. You
know what that means. We two will keep our secret, and I
promise to bring him straight into the drawing-room."
"But, my dear uncle, I am not committed to any-
"Nothing whatever, and you may bombard him, set fire
to him, and leave him to founder like an old hulk if you
choose. He won't be the first, I fancy?"
''You are kind, uncle 1"
As soon as the Count got home he put on his glasses,
quietly took the card out of his pocket, and read, "Maxi-
milien Longueville, Rue du Sentier."
"Make yourself happy, my dear niece," he said to
Emilie, "you may hook him with an easy conscience; he
Vol. A BALZAC 6
122 BALZAC'S WORKS
belongs to one of our historical families, and if he is not a
peer of France, he infallibly will be."
"How do you know so much^"
"That is iny secret."
"Then do you know his name?"
The old man bowed his gray head, which was not unlike
a gnarled oak-stump, with a few leaves fluttering about it,
withered by autumnal frosts; and his niece immediately
began to try the ever-new power of her coquettish arts.
Long familiar with the secret of cajoling the old man, she
lavished on him the most childlike caresses, the tenderest
names; she even went so far as to kiss him to induce him
to divulge so important a secret. The old man, who spent
his life in playing off these scenes on his niece, often pay-
ing lor them with a present of jewelry, or by giving her
his box at the opera, this time amused himself with her en-
treaties, and, above all, her caresses. But as he spun c ut
this pleasure too long, Bmilie grew angry, passed from
coaxing to sarcasm and sulks; then, urged by curiosity,
she recovered herself. The diplomatic admiral extracted
a solemn promise from his niece that she would for the
future be gentler, less noisy, and less wilful, that she would
spend less, and, above all, tell him everything. The treaty
being concluded, and signed by a kiss impressed on Emilie's
white brow, he led her into a corner of the room, drew her
on to his knee, held the card under his thumbs so as to
hide it, and then uncovered the letters one by one, spelling
the name of Longueville; but he firmly refused to show her
This incident added to the intensity of Mademoiselle de
Fontaine's secret sentiment, and during chief part of the
night she evolved the most brilliant pictures from the
dreams with which she had fed her hopes. At last,
thanks to chance, to which she had so often appealed,
Emilie could now see something very unlike a chimera at
the fountain-head of the imaginary wealth with which she
gilded her married life. Ignorant, as all young girls are,
THE SCEAUX BALL
of the perils of love and marriage, she was passionately-
captivated by the externals of marriage and love. Is not
this as much as to say that her feeling had birth like all the
feelings of extreme youth sweet but cruel mistakes, which
exert a fatal influence on the lives of young girls so inex-
perienced as to trust their "own judgment to take care of
their future happiness?
Next morning, before Emilie was awake, her uncle had
hastened to Ihevreuse. On recognizing, in the courtyard
of an elegant little villa, the young man he had so deter-
minedly insulted the day before, he went up to him with
the pressing politeness of men of the old court.
"Why, my dear sir, who could have guessed that I
should have a brush, at the age of seventy -three, with the
son, or the grandson, of one of my best friends ? I am a
vice-admiral, Monsieur; is not that as much as to say that
I think no more of fighting a duel than of smoking a cigar?
Why, in my time, no two young men could be intimate till
they had seen the color of their blood! But 'sdeath, sir,
last evening, sailor-like, I had taken a drop too much grog
on board, and I ran you down. Shake hands; I would
rather take a hundred rebuffs from a Longueville than cause
his family the smallest regret."
However coldly the young man tried to behave to the
Comte de Kergarouet, he could not long resist the frank
cordiality of his manner, and presently gave him his
"You were going out riding," said the Count. "Do not
let me detain you. But, unless you have other plans, I beg
you will come to dinner to-day- at the Villa Planat. My
nephew, the Comte de Fontaine, is a man it is essential
that you should know. Ah, ha! And I propose to make
up to you for my clumsiness by introducing you to five of
the prettiest women in Paris. So, so, young man, your
brow is clearing! I am fond of young people, and I like
to see them happy. Their happiness reminds me of the
good times of my youth, when adventures were not lack-
124 BALZAC'S WORKS
ing, any more than duels. We were gay dogs then! Now-
adays you think and worry over everything, as though
there had never been a fifteenth and a sixteenth century."
"But, Monsieur, are we not in the right? The six-
teenth century only gave religious liberty to Europe, and
the nineteenth will give it political lib "
"Oh, we will not talk politics. I am a perfect old woman
ultra you see. But I do not hinder young men from being
revolutionary, so long as they leave the King at liberty to
disperse their assemblies."
When they had gone a little way, and the Count and
his companion were in the heart of the woods, the old
sailor pointed out a slender young birch sapling, pulled up
his horse, took out one of his pistols, and the bullet was
lodged in the heart of the tree, fifteen paces away.
"You see, my dear fellow, that I am not afraid of a
duel," he said with comical gravity, as he looked at Mon-
"Nor am I," replied the young man, promptly cocking
his pistol; he aimed at the hole made by the Comte's bullet,
and sent his own in close to it.
"That is what I call a well-educated man," cried the
admiral with enthusiasm.
During this ride with the youth, whom he already re-
garded as his nephew, he found endless opportunities of
catechising him on all the trifles of which a perfect knowl-
edge constituted, according to his private code, an accom-
"Have you any debts?" he at last asked of his com-
panion, after many other inquiries.
"What, you pay for all you have?"
"Punctually; otherwise we should lose our credit, and
every sort of respect. ' '
"But at least you have more than one mistress? Ah,
you blush, comrade! Well, manners have changed. All
these notions of lawful order, Kantism, and liberty have
THE SCEAUX BALL 125
spoiled the young men. You have no Guimard now, no
Blithe*, no creditors and you know nothing of heraldry;
why, my dear young friend, you are not fully fledged.
The man who does not sow his wild oats in the spring
sows them in the winter. If I have but eighty thousand
francs a year at the age of seventy, it is because I ran
through the capital at thirty. Oh! with my wife in de-
cency and honor. However, your imperfections will not
interfere with my introducing you at the Pavilion Planat.
Kemember you have promised to come, and I shall expect
"What an odd little old man!" said Longueville to him-
self. "He is so jolly and hale ; but though he wishes to seem
a good fellow, I will not trust him too far."
Next day, at about four o'clock, when the house party
were dispersed in the drawing-rooms and billiard-room, a
servant announced to the inhabitants of the Villa Planat,
"Monsieur de Longueville." On hearing the name of the
old admiral's protege, every one, down to the player who
was about to miss his stroke, rushed in, as much to study
Mademoiselle de Fontaine's countenance as to judge of this
phoenix of men, who had earned honorable mention to the
detriment of so many rivals. A simple but elegant style of
dress, an air of perfect ease, polite manners, a pleasant voice
with a ring in it which found a response in the hearer's heart-
strings, won the goodwill of the family for Monsieur Longue-
ville. He did not seem unaccustomed to the luxury of the
Receiver-General's ostentatious mansion. Though his con-
versation was that of a man of the world, it was easy to dis-
cern that he had had a brilliant education, and that his
knowledge was as thorough as it was extensive. He knew
so well the right thing to say in a discussion on naval archi-
tecture, trivial, it is true, started by the old admiral, that one
of the ladies remarked that he must have passed through the
"And I think, madame, " he replied, "that I may regard
it as an honor to have got in."
126 BALZAC'S WORKS
In spite of urgent pressing, he refused politely but firmly
to he kept to dinner, and put an end to the persistence of the
ladies by saying that he was the Hippocrates of his young
sister, whose delicate health required great care.
"Monsieur is perhaps a medical man?" asked one of
Emilie's sisters-in-law with ironical meaning.
"Monsieur has left the Ecole Polytechnique," Mademoi-
selle de Fontaine kindly put in; her face had flushed with
richer color, as she learned that the young lady of the ball
was Monsieur Longueville's sister.
"But, my dear, he may be a doctor and yet have been to
the Ecole Polytechnique is it not so, Monsieur?"
"There is nothing to prevent it, Madame," replied the
Every eye was on Emilie, who was gazing with uneasy
curiosity at the fascinating stranger. She breathed more
freely when he added, not without a smile, "I have not the
honor of belonging to the medical profession; and I even
gave up going into the Engineers in order to preserve my
"And you did well," said the Count. "But how can you
regard it as an honor to be a doctor?" added the Breton
nobleman. "Ah, my young friend, such a man as you "
"Monsieur le Comte, I respect every profession that has
a useful purpose. ' '
"Well, in that we agree. You respect those professions,
I imagine, as a young man respects a dowager. ' '
Monsieur Longueville made his visit neither too long nor
too short. He left at the moment when he saw that he had
pleased everybody, and that each one's curiosity about him
had been roused.
"He is a cunning rascal!" said the Count, coming into
the drawing-room after seeing him to the door.
Mademoiselle de Fontaine, who had been in the secret
of this call, had dressed with some care to attract the young
man's eye; but she had the little disappointment of finding
that he did not bestow on her so much attention as she
THE SCEAUX BALL 127
thought she deserved. The family were a good deal sur-
prised at the silence into which she had retired. Emilie
generally displayed all her arts for the benefit of new-comers,
her witty prattle, and the inexhaustible eloquence of her
eyes and attitudes. Whether it was that the young man's
pleasing voice and attractive manners had charmed her, that
she was seriously in love, and that this feeling had worked
a change in her, her demeanor had lost all its affectations.
Being simple and natural, she must, no doubt, have seemed
more beautiful. Some of her sisters, and an old lady, a
friend of the family, saw in this behavior a refinement of art.
They supposed that Emilie, judging the man worthy of her,
intended to delay revealing her merits, so as to dazzle him
suddenly when she found that she pleased him. Every mem-
ber of the family was curious to know what this capricious
creature thought of the stranger; but when, during dinner,
every one chose to endow Monsieur Longueville with some
fresh quality which no one else had discovered, Mademoi-
selle de Fontaine sat for some time in silence. A sarcastic
remark of her uncle's suddenly roused her from her apathy;
she said, somewhat epigrammatically, that such heavenlj
perfection must cover some great defect, and that she would
take good care how she judged so gifted a man at first sight.
"Those who please everybody, please nobody," she
added; "and the worst of all faults is to have none."
Like all girls who are in love, Emilie cherished the hope
of being able to hide her feelings at the bottom of her heart,
by putting the Argus-eyes that watched on the wrong tack;
but by the end of a fortnight there was not a member of the
large family party who was not in this little domestic secret.
When Monsieur Longueville called for the third time, Emilie
believed it was chiefly for her sake. This discovery gave
her such intoxicating pleasure that she was startled as she
reflected on it. There was something in it very painful to
her pride. Accustomed as she was to be the centre of her
world, she was obliged to recognize a force that attracted
her outside herself; she tried to resist, but she could not