my crown, not an illusion perished in my heart, what a
dream is there! Think what it would be to bear about
a young heart in an aged body, to see only cold, dumb
faces around me, where even strangers used to smile; to
be a worthy matron ! Can Hell have a worse torture ?
On this very subject, in fact, Felipe and I have had our
first quarrel. I contended that he ought to have sufficient
moral strength to kill me in my sleep when I have reached
thirty, so that I might pass from one dream to another.
The wretch declined. I threatened to leave him alone in
the world, and, poor child, he turned white as a sheet.
My dear, this distinguished statesman is neither more nor
less than a baby. It is incredible what youth and sim-
plicity he contrived to hide away. Now that I allow my-
self to think aloud with him, as I do with you, and have
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES 56i
no secrets from him, we are always giving each other
Dear Rene*e, Felipe and Louise, the pair of lovers, want
to send a present to the young mother. We would like to
get something that would give you pleasure, and we don't
share the popular taste for surprises; so tell me quite
frankly, please, what you "would like. It ought to be
something which would recall us to you in a pleasant
way, something which you will use every day, and which
won't wear out with use. The meal which with us is most
cheerful and friendly is lunch, and therefore the idea oc-
curred to me of a special luncheon service, ornamented
with figures of babies. If you approve of this, let me
know at once; for it will have to be ordered immediately
if we are to bring it. Paris artists are gentlemen, of far too
much importance to be hurried. This will be my offering
Farewell, dear nursing-mother. May all a mother's de-
lights be yours! I await with impatience your first letter,
which will tell me all about it, I hope. Some of the de-
tails in your husband's letter went to my heart. Poor
ReneX a mother has a heavy price to pay. I will tell my
godson how dearly he must love you. No end of love,
my sweet one.
RENEE DE I/ESTORADE TO LOUISE DE MACUMER
/T 18 NEARLY five months now since baby was born,
and not once, dear heart, have I found a single moment
for writing to you. When you are a mother yourself,
you will be more ready to excuse me than you are now; for
you have punished me a little bit in making your own let-
ters so few and far between. Do write, my darling! Tell
me of your pleasures; lay on the blue as brightly as yu
556 BALZAC'S WORKS
please. It mil not hurt me, for I am happy now, happier
than you can imagine.
I went in state to the parish church to hear the mass for
recovery from childbirth, as is the custom in the old fam-
ilies of Provence. I was supported on either side by the
two grandfathers Louis's father and my own. Never had
I knelt before God with such a flood of gratitude in my
heart. I have so much to tell you of, so many feelings to
describe, that I don't know where to begin; but from
amid these confused memories, one rises distinctly, that
of my prayer in the church.
When I found myself transformed into a joyful mother,
on the very spot where, as a girl, I had trembled for my
future, it seemed to my fancy that the Virgin on the altar
bowed her head and pointed to the infant Christ, who
smiled at me! My heart full of pure and heavenly love,
I held out little Armand for the priest to bless and bathe,
in anticipation of the regular baptism to come later. But
you will see us together then, Armand and me.
My child see how readily the word comes, and indeed
there is none sweeter to a mother's heart and mind or on
her lips well, then, dear child, during the last two months
I used to drag myself wearily and heavily about the gar-
dens, not realizing yet how precious was the burden, spite
of all the discomforts it brought! I was haunted by fore-
bodings so gloomy and ghastly, that they got the better
even of curiosity; in vain did I reason with myself that
no natural function could be so very terrible, in vain did
I picture the delights of motherhood. My heart made no
response even to the thought of the little one, who an-
nounced himself by lively kicking. That is a sensation,
dear, which may be welcome when it is familiar; but as a
novelty, it is more strange than pleasing. I speak for my-
self at least; you know 1 would never affect anything I
did not really feel, and I look on my child as a gift straight
from Heaven. For one who saw in it rather the image of
the man she loved, it might be different.
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES 557
But enough of such sad thoughts, gone, I trust, forever.
When the crisis came, I summoned all my powers of
resistance, and braced myself so well for suffering, that I
bore the horrible agony so they tell me quite marvel-
lously. For about an hour I sank into a sort of stupor, of
the nature of a dream. I seemed to myself then two beings
an outer covering racked and tortured by red-hot pincers,
and a soul at peace. In this strange state the pain formed
itself into a sort of halo hovering over me. A gigantic rose
seemed to spring out of my head and grow ever larger and
larger, till it enfolded me in its blood-red petals. The
same color dyed the air around, and everything I saw was
blood-red. At last the climax came, when soul and body
seemed no longer able to hold together; the spasms of pain
gripped me like death itself. I screamed aloud, and found
fresh strength against this fresh torture. Suddenly this
concert of hideous cries was overborne by a joyful sound
the shrill wail of the new-born infant. No words can
describe that moment. It was as though the universe took
part in my cries, when all at once the chorus of pain fell
hushed before the child's feeble note.
They laid me back again in the large bed, and it felt like
paradise to me, even in my extreme exhaustion. Three or
four happy faces pointed through tears to the child. My
dear, I exclaimed in terror:
"It's just like a little monkey! Are you really and
truly certain it is a child?"
I fell back on my side, miserably disappointed at my
first experience of motherly feeling.
"Don't worry, dear," said my mother, who had installed
herself as nurse. "Why, you've got the finest baby in
the world. You mustn't excite yourself; but give your
whole mind now to turning yourself as much as possible
into an animal, a milch cow, pasturing in the meadow."
I fell asleep then, fully resolved to let nature have
Ah! my sweet, how heavenly it was to waken up from
558 BALZAC'S WORKS
all the pain and haziness of the first days, when every-
thing was still dim, uncomfortable, confused. .A ray of
light pierced the darkness; my heart and soul, my inner
self a self I had never known before rent the envelope
of gloomy suffering, as a flower bursts its sheath at the
first warm kiss of the sun, at the moment when the little
wretch fastened on my breast and sucked. Not even the
sensation of the child's first cry was so exquisite as this.
This is the dawn of motherhood, this is the Fiat lux!
Here is happiness, joy ineffable, though it comes not
without pangs. Oh! my sweet jealous soul, how you will
relish a delight which exists only for ourselves, the child,
and God! For this tiny creature all knowledge is summed
up in its mother's breast. This is the one bright spot in
its world, toward which its puny strength goes forth. Its
thoughts cluster round this spring of life, which it leaves
only to sleep, and whither it returns on waking. Its lips
have a sweetness beyond words, and their pressure is at
once a pain and a delight, a delight which by very excess
becomes pain, or a pain which culminates in delight. The
sensation which rises from it, and which penetrates to the
very core of my life, baffles all description. It seems a
sort of centre whence a myriad joy-bearing rays gladden
the heart and soul. To bear a child is nothing; to nour-
ish it is birth renewed every hour.
Oh ! Louise, there is no caress of lover with half the
power of those little pink hands, as they stray about, seek-
ing whereby to lay hold on life. And the infant glances,
now turned upon the breast, now raised to meet our own!
What dreams come to us as we watch the clinging nurs-
ling! All our powers, whether of mind or body, are at its
service; for it we breathe and think, in it our longings are
more than satisfied! The sweet sensation of warmth at the
heart, which the sound of his first cry brought to me like
the first ray of sunshine on the earth came again as I felt
the milk flow into his mouth, again as his eyes met mine,
and at this moment I have felt it once more as his first
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES 559
smile gave token of a mind working within for he has
laughed, my dear! A laugh, a glance, a bite, a cry four
miracles of gladness which go straight to the heart and
strike chords that respond to no other touch. A child is
tied to our heartstrings as the spheres are linked to their
creator; we cannot think of God except as a mother's heart
It is only in the act of nursing that a woman realizes her
motherhood in visible and tangible fashion; it is a joy of
every moment. The milk becomes flesh before our eyes;
it blossoms into the tips of those delicate flower-like fin-
gers; it expands in tender, transparent nails; it spins the
silky tresses ; it kicks in the little feet. Oh ! those baby feet,
how plainly they talk to us ! In them the child finds its first
Yes, Louise, nursing is a miracle of transformation
going on before one's bewildered eyes. Those cries, they
go to your heart and not your ears; those smiling eyes and
lips, those plunging feet, they speak in words which could
not be plainer if God traced them before you in letters of
fire ! What else is there in the world to care about ? The
father ? Why, you could kill him if he dreamed of waking
the baby! Just as the child is the world to us, so do we
stand alone in the world for the child. The sweet conscious-
ness of a common life is ample recompense for all the trouble
and suffering for suffering there is. Heaven save you,
Louise, from ever knowing the maddening agony of a wound
which gapes afresh with every pressure of rosy lips, and is
so hard to heal the heaviest tax perhaps imposed on beauty.
For know, Louise, and beware ! it visits only a fair and deli-
My little ape has in five months developed into the pret-
tiest darling that ever mother bathed in tears of joy, washed,
brushed, combed, and made smart; for God knows what un-
wearied care we lavish upon these tender blossoms! So my
monkey has ceased to exist, and behold in his stead, a baby,
as my English nurse says, a regular pink-and-white baby.
560 BALZAC'S WORKS
He cries very little too now, for he is conscious of the love
bestowed on him; indeed, I hardly ever leave him, and I
strive to wrap him round in the atmosphere of my love.
Dear, I have a feeling now for Louis which is not love,
but which ought to be the crown of a woman's love where
it exists. Nay, I am not sure whether this tender fondness,
this unselfish gratitude, is not superior to love. From all
that you have told me of it, dear pet, I gather that love has
something terribly earthly about it, while a strain of holy
pietv purifies the affection a happy mother feels for the
author of her far-reaching and enduring joys. A mother's
happiness is like a beacon, lighting up the future but reflected
also on the past in the guise of fond memories.
The old 1'Estorade and his son have moreover redoubled
their devotion to me; I am like a new person to them.
Every time they see me and speak to me, it is with a fresh
holiday joy, which touches me deeply. The grandfather
has, I verily believe, turned child again; he looks at me
admiringly, and the first time I came down to lunch he was
moved to tears to see me eating and suckling the child. The
moisture in these dry old eyes, generally expressive only of
avarice, was a wonderful comfort to me. I felt that the good
soul entered into my joy.
As for Louis, he would shout aloud to the trees and stones
of the highway that he has a son; and he spends whole hours
watching your sleeping godson. He does not know, he says,
when he will grow used to it. These extravagant expres-
sions of delight show me how great must have been their
fears beforehand. Louis has confided in me that he had
believed himself condemned to be childless. Poor fellow!
he has all at once developed very much, and he works even
harder than he did. The father in him has quickened his
For myself, dear soul, I grow happier and happier every
moment. Each hour creates a fresh tie between the mother
and her infant. The very nature of my feelings proves to me
that they are normal, permanent, and indestructible; whereas
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES 561
I shrewdly suspect love, for instance, of being intermittent.
Certainly it is not the same at all moments, the flowers which
it weaves into the web of life are not all of equal brightness;
love, in short, can and must decline. But a mother's love
has no ebb-tide to fear; rather it grows with the growth of
the child's needs, and strengthens with its strength. Is it not
at once a passion, a natural craving, a feeling, a duty, a
necessity, a joy? Yes, darling, here is woman's true sphere.
Here the passion for self-sacrifice can expend itself, and no
Here, too, is perhaps the single point on which society
and nature are at one. Society, in this matter, enforces the
dictates of nature, strengthening the maternal instinct by
adding to it family spirit and the desire of perpetuating a
name, a race, an estate. How tenderly must not a woman
cherish the child who has been the first to open up to her
these joys, the first to call forth the energies of her nature
and to instruct her in the grand art of motherhood! The
right of the eldest, which in the earliest times formed a part
of the natural order and was lost in the origins of society,
ought never, in my opinion, to have been questioned. Ah!
how much a mother learns from her child! The constant
protection of a helpless being forces us to so strict an alliance
with virtue, that a woman never shows to full advantage
except as a mother. Then alone can her character expand
in the fulfilment of all life's duties and the enjoyment of all
its pleasures. A woman who is not a mother is maimed and
incomplete. Hasten, then, my sweetest, to fulfil your mis-
sion. Your present happiness will then be multiplied by
the wealth of my delights.
I HAD to tear myself from you because your godson was
crying. I can hear his cry from the bottom of the garden.
But I would not let this go without a word of farewell. I
have just been reading over what I have said, and am horri-
fied to see how vulgar are the feelings expressed! What I.
feel, every mother, alas! since the beginning must have felt,
562 BALZAC'S WORKS
I suppose, in the same way, and put into the same words.
You will laugh at me, as we do at the naive father who dilates
on the beauty and cleverness of his (of course) quite excep-
tional offspring. But the refrain of my letter, darling, is this,
and I -repeat it: I am as happy now as I used to be miser-
able. This grange and is it not going to be an estate, a
family property? has become my land of promise. The
desert is past and over. A thousand loves, darling pet.
Write to me, for now I can read without a tear the tale of
your happy love. Farewell.
MME. DE MACUMER TO MME. DE I/ESTORADE
TT\0 YOU KNOW, DEAR, that it is more than three
/ M months since I have written to you or heard from
you ? I am the more guilty of the two, for I did
not reply to your last, but you don't stand on punctilio
Macumer and I have taken your silence for consent as
regards the baby-wreathed luncheon service, and the little
cherubs are starting this morning for Marseilles. It took six
months to carry out the design. And so when Felipe asked
me to come and see the service before it was packed, I sud-
denly waked up to the fact that we had not interchanged a
word since the letter of yours which gave me an insight into
a mother's heart.
My sweet, it is this terrible Paris there's my excuse.
What, pray, is yours? Oh! what a whirlpool is society!
Didn't I tell you once that in Paris one must be as the Pari-
sians? Society there drives out all sentiment; it lays an
embargo on your time ; and unless you are very careful, soon
eats away your heart altogether. What an amazing master-
piece is the character of Celimene in Moliere's "Le Misan-
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES 563
thrope" ! She is the society woman, not only of Louis XIV. 's
time, but of our own, and of all time.
Where should I be but for my breastplate the love I bear
Felipe ? This very morning I told him, as the outcome of
these reflections, that he was my salvation. If my evenings
are a continuous round of parties, balls, concerts, and the-
atres, at night my heart expands again, and is healed of the
wounds received in the world by the delights of the pas-
sionate love which await my return.
I dine at home only when we have friends, so-called, with
us, and spend the afternoon there only on my day, for I have
a day now Wednesday for receiving. I have entered the
lists with Mines. d'Espard and de Maufrigneuse, and with
the old Duchesse de Lenoncourt, and my house has the repu-
tation of being a very lively one. I allowed myself to become
the fashion, because I saw how much pleasure my success
gave Felipe. My mornings are his; from four in the after-
noon till two in the morning I belong to Paris. Macumer
makes an admirable host, witty and dignified, perfect in
courtesy, and with an air of real distinction. No woman
could help loving such a husband even if she had chosen
him without consulting her heart.
My father and mother have left for Madrid. Louis
XVIII. being out of the way, the Duchess had no difficulty
in obtaining from our good-natured Charles X. the appoint-
ment of her fascinating poet; so he is carried off in the
capacity of attache.
My brother, the Due de Bhe'tore', deigns to recognize me
as a person of mark. As for my younger brother, the Comte
de Chaulieu, this buckram warrior owes me everlasting grati-
tude. Before my father left, he spent my fortune in acquir-
ing for the Count an estate of forty thousand francs a year,
entailed on the title, and his marriage with Mile, de Mortsauf,
an heiress from Touraiiie, is definitely arranged. The King,
in order to preserve the name and titles of the de Lenoncourt
and de Givry families from extinction, is to confer these,
together with the armorial bearings, by patent on my brother.
564 BALZAC'S WORKS
Certainly it would never have clone to allow these two fine
names and their splendid motto, Faciem semper monstramus,
to perish. Mile, de Mortsauf, who is granddaughter and sole
heiress of the Due de Lenoncourt-Givrv, will, it is said, in-
herit altogether more than one hundred thousand livres a
year. The only stipulation my father has made is that the
de Chaulieu arms should appear in the centre of the de Le-
noncourt escutcheon: thus my brother will be Due de Lenon-
court. The young de Mortsauf, to whom everything would
otherwise go, is in the last stage of consumption; his death
is looked for every day. The marriage will take place next
winter when the family are out of mourning. I am told that
I shall have a charming sister-in-law in Mile, de Mortsauf.
So you see that my father's reasoning is justified. The
outcome of it all has won me many compliments, and my
marriage is explained to everybody's satisfaction. To com-
plete our success, the Prince de Talleyrand, out of affection
for my grandmother, is showing himself a warm friend to
Macumer. Society, which began by criticising me, has now
passed to cordial admiration.
In short, I now reign a queen where, barely two years
ago, I was an insignificant item. Macumer finds himself the
object of universal envy, as the husband of "the most charm-
ing woman in Paris." At least a score of women, as you
know, are always in that proud position. Men murmur sweet
things in my ear, or content themselves with greedy glances.
This chorus of longing and admiration is so soothing to one's
vanity, that I confess I begin to understand the unconscion-
able price women are ready to pay for such frail and precari-
ous privileges. A triumph of this kind is like strong wine
to vanity, self-love, and all the self-regarding feelings. To
pose perpetually as a divinity is a draught so potent in its
intoxicating effects, that I am no longer surprised to see
women grow selfish, callous, and frivolous in the heart of
this adoration. The fumes of society mount to the head.
You lavish the wealth of your soul and spirit, the treasures
of your time, the noblest efforts of your will, upon a crowd
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES 566
of people who repay you in smiles and jealousy. The false
coin of their pretty speeches, compliments, and flattery is
the only return they give for the solid gold of your courage
and sacrifices, and all the thought that must go to keep up
without flagging the standard of beauty, dress, sparkling
talk, and general affability. You are perfectly aware how
much it costs, and that the whole thing is a fraud, but you
cannot keep out of the vortex.
Ah! my sweetheart, how one craves for a real friend!
How precious to me are the love and devotion of Felipe, and
how my heart goes out to you ! Joyfully indeed are we pre-
paring for our move to Chantepleurs, where we can rest from
the comedy of the Kue du Bac and of the Paris drawing-
rooms. Having just read your letter again, I feel that I
cannot better describe this demoniac paradise than by saying
that no woman of fashion in Paris can possibly be a good
Good-by, then, for a short time, dear one. We shall
stay at Chantepleurs only a week at most, and shall be with
you about May 10th. So we are actually to meet again after
more than two years ! What changes since then ! Here we
are, both matrons, both in our promised land I of love,
you of motherhood.
If I have not written, my sweetest, it is not because I have
forgotten you. And what of the monkey godson? Is he
still pretty and a credit to me ? He must be more than nine
months old now. I should dearly like to be present when
he makes his first steps upon this earth; but Macumer tells
me that even precocious infants hardly walk at ten months.
We shall have some good gossips there, and "cut pina-
fores," as the Blois folk say. I shall see whether a child,
as the saying goes, spoils the pattern.
P.S. If you deign to reply from your maternal heights,
address to Chantepleurs. I am just off.
566 BALZAC'S WORKS
MME. DE L'ESTORADE TO MME. DE MACUMEB
Tj ^r Y CHILD If ever you become a mother, you will
/I// find out that it is impossible to write letters during
the first two months of your nursing. Mary, my
English nurse, and I are both quite knocked up. It is triie
I had not told you that I was determined to do everything
myself. Before the event I had with my own fingers sewn
the baby-clothes and embroidered and edged with lace the
little caps. I am a slave, my pet, a slave day and night.
To begin with, Master Armand-Louis takes his meals
when it pleases him, and that is always; then he has often
to be changed, washed, and dressed. His mother is so fond
of watching him asleep, of singing songs to him, of walking
him about in her arms on a fine day, that she has little time
left to attend to herself. In short, what society has been to
you, my child our child has been to me!
I cannot tell you how full and rich my life has become,
and I long for your coming that you may see for yourself.
The only thing is, I am afraid he will soon be teething,
and that you will find a peevish, crying baby. So far he
has not cried much, for I am always at hand. Babies only
cry when their wants are not understood, and I am con-
stantly on the lookout for his. Oh! my sweet, my heart
has opened up so wide, while you allow yours to shrink
and shrivel at the bidding of society ! I look for your
coming with all a hermit's longing. I want so much to
know what you think of 1'Estorade, just as you no doubt
are curious for my opinion of Macumer.
Write to me from your last resting-place. The gentle-
men want to go and meet our distinguished guests. Come,
Queen of Paris, come to our humble grange, where love at
least will greet you !
LETTERS OF TWO BRIDES 567