appeared lost Perhaps the enthusiastic vigilance
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN I2J
of this young man might have baffled the treason.
However great may have been the errors of the
Duchesse de Maufrigneuse in the eyes of the bour-
geois world, the conduct of her son has certainly
effaced them in the eyes of the aristocratic world.
There was something of nobility and of grandeur in
thus risking the only son and the heir of an histor-
ical house. There are those, reputed clever, who
repair the errors of private life by political services,
and reciprocally ; but no sordid calculations entered
into the actions of the Princesse de Cadignan.
Perhaps there were none, either, in any of those who
thus contributed. Events count for at least half in
On one of the first fine days of the month of May,
1833, the Marquise d'Espard and the princess were
slowly promenading, it could not be called walking,
in the only garden alley which surrounded the turf
of the little enclosure, about two o'clock in the
afternoon, in the declining sunlight The rays
reflected by the walls made a warm atmosphere in
this little space perfumed by the flowers, a present
from the marchioness.
"We will soon lose De Marsay," said Madame
d'Espard to the princess, "and with him will go
your last hope of fortune for the Due de Maufrig-
neuse; for, since you have tricked him so prettily,
this great politician has again found his affection
"My son will never yield to the younger branch,"
replied the princess, "should he die of hunger, should
124 THE SECRETS OF
I have to work for him. But Berthe de Cinq-Cygne
does not hate him."
"Children," said Madame d'Espard, "have not
the same engagements as their fathers "
"Do not speak of it," said the princess. "It will
be well enough, if I cannot bring the Marquise de
Cinq-Cygne to reason, to marry my son to some
blacksmith's daughter, as did that little d'Esgrig-
"Did you love him?" asked the marchioness.
"No," replied the princess gravely. "The
naivete of d'Esgrignon was a species of depart-
mental dulness of which I became aware a little too
late, or a little too early, if you prefer."
"De Marsay played with me as if I were a doll.
1 was so young ! We never fall in love with the
men who constitute themselves our instructors; they
ruffle too much our little vanities."
"And that little miserable who hanged himself?"
"Lucien? That was an Antinous and a great
poet I very sincerely loved him. I might have be-
come happy. But he loved a young girl, and I
yielded him to Madame de Serizy . If he had loved
me, would I have yielded him?"
"What a fantastical thing! you to come in con-
flict with an Esther !"
"She was more beautiful than I," said the prin-
cess. "Here are now nearly three years which I
have passed in a complete solitude," she resumed
after a pause; "well, this calm has had in it nothing
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN I2J
painful. To you alone, I would dare to say that
here I have found myself happy. 1 was weary of
adoration, fatigued without pleasure, moved super-
ficially without ever having my heart touched by
emotion. I have found all the men whom I have
known, little, mean, superficial ; not one of them has
ever caused me the slightest surprise; they were
without innocence, without grandeur, without deli-
cacy. I would have liked to have met someone
who would have seemed imposing to me."
"Would you be, then, like me, my dear?" asked
the marchioness; "would you have never encoun-
tered love in endeavoring to love?"
"Never," replied the princess, interrupting the
marchioness, and laying her hand on her arm.
Both of them went and seated themselves on a
rustic wooden bench, under a bush of flowering
jessamine. Both of them had uttered one of those
words so solemn for women of their age.
"Like you," resumed the princess, "perhaps I
have been more loved than are other women ; but
through so many adventures, I feel it, I have not
known happiness. I have committed many follies,
but they all had an object, and the object recoiled
in proportion as I advanced ! In my heart grown
old, I am conscious of an innocence which has not
yet been touched. Yes, under so much experience
still lies a first love which might be abused; just
as, notwithstanding so much wear and fatigue, I
still feel myself young and handsome. We can love
without being happy, we can be happy and not love ;
126 THE SECRETS OF
but to love and to have happiness, to bring to-
gether these two immense human enjoyments, that is
a prodigy. This prodigy has not been accomplished
"Nor by me," said Madame d'Espard.
"I am pursued in my retreat by a frightful
regret, 1 have amused myself, but I have never
"What an incredible secret!" cried the mar-
"Ah! my dear," replied the princess, "these
secrets, we can only confide them to ourselves : no
one in Paris would believe us."
"And," resumed the marchioness, "if we had not
both of us passed the age of thirty-six, we should
not, perhaps, make this avowal to ourselves "
"Yes, when we are young we have some very
stupid fatuities !" said the princess. "We resem-
ble at times those poor young people who play with
a tooth-pick to make believe that they have dined
"In short, here we are," replied Madame d'Espard,
with a coquettish grace, making a charming gesture
of sapient innocence, "and we are, it seems to me,
still enough alive to take a revenge."
"When you told me, the other day, that Beatrix
had gone off with Conti, I thought about it all
night long," resumed the princess, after a pause.
"One must be very happy to sacrifice thus one's
position, one's future, and renounce the world
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN 127
"She is a little fool," said Madame d'Espard,
gravely. "Mademoiselle de Touches was enchanted
to be rid of Conti. Beatrix did not comprehend
how much this abandonment, made by a superior
woman, who has not for a single moment defended
her pretended happiness, revealed the nothingness
"She will then be unhappy?"
"She is so already," replied Madame d'Espard.
"Of what good is it to leave your husband? In a
woman, is not this an avowal of want of power?"
"Thus you believe that Madame de Rochefide
was not influenced by the desire to enjoy in peace
a real happiness, that happiness the enjoyment of
which, for us two, is still a dream?"
"No; she mimicked Madame de Beauseant and
Madame de Langeais, who, it may be said between
us, in a century less vulgar than ours, would have
been, like you, moreover, figures as great as those
of the La Vallieres, of the Montespans, of the Dianes
de Poitiers, of the Duchesses d'tampes and de
"Oh! without the king, my dear. Ah! I would
like to be able to evoke those women and ask them
"But," said the marchioness, interrupting the
princess, "it is not necessary to make the dead
speak ; we know some living women who are happy.
There are more than twenty times that 1 have
had lately, intimate conversations on such mat-
ters with the Comtesse de Montcornet, who, for
128 THE SECRETS OF
the last fifteen years, has been the happiest
woman in the world with that little Emile Blondet,
not one infidelity, not one wandering thought;
they are to-day as on the very first day ; but we
have always been interfered with, interrupted at
the most interesting moment These long attach-
ments, like those of Rastignac and of Madame de
Nucingen, of Madame de Camps, your cousin, for
her Octave, have a secret, and this secret we are
ignorant of, my dear. The world does us the ex-
treme honor to take us for profligates worthy of
the Court of the Regent, and we are as innocent as
two little school-girls."
"I should be still happy in that innocence,"
cried the princess, jestingly; "but ours is worse,
there is in it something humiliating. What would
you have! We will offer this mortification to
God in expiation of our fruitless researches; for,
my dear, it is not probable that we shall find, in the
late autumn, the fine flower which we have missed
during the spring and the summer."
"That is not the question," resumed the mar-
chioness after a pause full of retrospective medita-
tions. "We are still handsome enough to inspire
a passion; but we shall never convince anyone of
our innocence and of our virtue."
"If it were a lie, it would be soon enough orna-
mented with commentaries, served up with pretty
preparations which would make it believable and
devoured like a delicious fruit; but to make a truth
believed ! Ah ! the greatest men have perished in
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN 129
that attempt," added the princess, with one of those
fine smiles which the brush of Leonardo da Vinci
alone could render.
"The simpletons love well enough sometimes,"
said the marchioness.
"But," observed the princess, "for this, the sim-
pletons themselves would not have sufficient cred-
"You are right," said the marchioness, laughing.
"But it is neither a fool nor even a man of talent
that we should seek for. To solve such a problem
will require a man of genius. Genius alone has
the faith of. childhood, the religion of love, and will-
ingly lets its eyes be bandaged. Look at Canalis
and the Duchesse de Chaulieu. If, you and I, we
have met with men of genius, they were perhaps too
far from us, too much occupied, and we were too
frivolous, too much carried away, too much taken
up with other things."
"Ah, I would very much like, however, not to
quit this world without having known the pleasures
of a true love," cried the princess.
"It is nothing to inspire it only," said Madame
d'Espard; "it is a question of experiencing it I
see many women who are only the pretext of a
passion, instead of being at once the cause and the
effect of it."
"The last passion which I inspired was a saintly
and beautiful thing," said the princess; "it had a
future. Fortune sent to me this time that man of
genius who is due to us, and who is so difficult to
130 THE SECRETS OF
take, for there are more pretty women than gen-
iuses. But the devil interfered in the adventure."
"Tell me that, my dear; that is entirely new to
"1 only became aware of this fine passion in the
middle of the winter of 1829. Every Friday, at the
Opera, I saw in the orchestra seats a young man of
about thirty years of age, who came there for my
sake, always in the same seat, looking at me with
eyes of fire, but often saddened by the distance
which he found between us, or perhaps also by the
impossibility of succeeding."
"Poor boy! When one is in love, one becomes
very stupid," said the marchioness.
"Between each act he slipped into the corridor,"
resumed the princess, smiling at the friendly
epigram with which the marchioness had inter-
rupted her; "then, once or twice, to see me or
to make himself seen, he showed his nose at the
glass of a box opposite mine. If I received a visit,
I perceived him flattened in my doorway; he could
then throw me a furtive glance ; he had ended by
knowing by sight the persons of my society; he fol-
lowed them when they came toward my box, in
order to have the benefit of the opening of my door.
The poor youth doubtless soon learned who I was,
for he knew by sight Monsieur de Maufrigneuse and
my father-in-law. I found, after that, my mysteri-
ous unknown at the Italiens, in a seat in which he
could admire me, directly opposite, in a simple
ecstasy : it was very pretty. When coming out of
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN 131
the Opera, as out of the Bouffons, I saw him planted
in the crowd, motionless on his two legs, he was
elbowed, but he was not moved. His eyes became
less brilliant when he perceived me leaning on the
arm of some favorite. All this time, not a word,
not a letter, not a demonstration. You must admit
that it was in good taste. Sometimes, on returning
home in the morning, I found my man seated on
one of the sides of my porte-cochere. This loving
one had very fine eyes, a thick and long beard
cut fan-shaped, an imperial, a mustache and
whiskers ; you could only see two white cheeks and
a handsome forehead ; in short, a veritable antique
head. The prince, as you know, defended the
Tuileries on the side of the quays during the days
of July. He returned in the evening to Saint-Cloud
when everything was lost 'My dear,* he said to
me, 'I just escaped being killed about four o'clock.
I was aimed at by one of the insurgents, when a
young man with a long beard, whom 1 think I have
seen at the Italiens and who led the attack, turned
aside the barrel of the musket' The ball struck
I know not what man, a quartermaster in the regi-
ment, and who was within two steps of my hus-
band. This young man must then have been a
Republican. In 1831, when I came back to live here,
1 encountered him leaning against the wall of this
house ; he seemed joyful because of my disasters,
which, perhaps it seemed to him, would bring us
nearer; but, since the affair of Saint-Merri I have
no longer seen him : he perished in it The evening
132 THE SECRETS OF
of the funeral of General Lamarque, I went out
on foot with my son, and my Republican followed
us, sometimes behind, sometimes before us, from
the Madeleine to the Passage des Panoramas, where
I was going."
"Is that all ?" said the marchioness.
"All," replied the princess. "Ah! the morning
of the taking of Saint-Merri, a street boy wished to
speak to me and handed me a letter, written on com-
mon paper, signed with the name of the unknown."
"Show it to me," said the marchioness.
"No, my dear. This love was too great and too
holy in this man's heart for me to violate his secret
This letter, short and terrible, still moves me to the
heart when I think of it This dead man causes me
more emotion than all the living ones whom I have
distinguished, he returns again into my thoughts."
"His name?" asked the marchioness.
"Oh, a very common name, Michel Chrestien."
"You have done very well to tell it to me,"
replied Madame d'Espard, quickly, "I have often
heard him spoken of. This Michel Chrestien was
the friend of a celebrated man whom you have
already wished to see, of Daniel d'Arthez, who
comes once or twice a winter to my house. This
Chrestien, who was really killed at Saint-Merri, did
not lack for friends. I have heard it said that he
was one of those great politicians to whom, as to
De Marsay, it is only needful that the foot-ball of
circumstances should come their way for them to
become all at once what they should be. "
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN 133
"It is better, then, that he should be dead," said
the princess, with a melancholy air under which she
concealed her thoughts.
"Would you like to meet d'Arthez some evening
at my house?" asked the marchioness; "you could
talk of your apparition."
"Willingly, my dear. "
Some days after this conversation, Blondet and
Rastignac, who knew d'Arthez, promised Madame
d'Espard to induce him to come and dine with her.
This promise would without doubt have been im-
prudent were it not for the name of the princess,
the meeting with whom could not be indifferent to
this great writer.
Daniel d'Arthez, one of those rare men, who in
our day, unite a fine character to a fine talent, had
already obtained, not all the popularity which his
works should have procured him, but a respectful
esteem to which chosen souls could add nothing.
His reputation would certainly increase still more,
but it had already attained its full development in
the eyes of connoisseurs, he is of those authors
who, sooner or later, find their true place, and
retain it A poor gentleman, he had compre-
hended his epoch in requiring everything from a
personal illustration. He had combated for a long
period in the Parisian arena, against the will of a
rich uncle, who, through a contradiction which
vanity endeavors to justify, after having left him a
prey to the greatest poverty, had bequeathed to the
celebrated man the fortune pitilessly refused to the
134 THE SECRETS OF
unknown writer. This sudden change had changed
nothing in the manners of Daniel d'Arthez: he con-
tinued his labors with a simplicity worthy of antique
times, and imposed new ones on himself by accept-
ing a seat in the Chamber of Deputies, where he
took a place on the Right Since his attainment
to fame he had gone out sometimes into society.
One of his old friends, a great physician, Horace
Bianchon, had made him acquainted with the Baron
de Rastignac, Under-Secretary of State to a min-
ister, and friend of De Marsay. These two men of
politics had with sufficient nobility lent their aid to
Daniel, Horace and some intimate friends of Michel
Chrestien, who wished to withdraw the body of this
Republican from the church of Saint-Merri and ren-
der it funeral honors. Gratitude for a service
which contrasted so strongly with the administra-
tive rigors displayed at this period in which politi-
cal passions were so freely unchained, had bound, as
it were, d'Arthez to Rastignac. The Under-Sec-
retary of State and the illustrious minister were too
skilful not to profit by this circumstance; they
thus gained over some friends of Michel Chrestien,
who, moreover, did not share his opinions, and who
henceforth attached themselves to the new govern-
ment One of them, Leon Giraud, appointed at
first Maitre des Requites, became Councillor of
State. The existence of Daniel d'Arthez is entirely
consecrated to work, he only sees society in occa-
sional glimpses; it is for him like a dream. His
house is a convent, in which he leads the life of a
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN 135
Benedictine, the same sobriety in the regimen, the
same regularity in the occupations. His friends
know that up to the present time woman has only
been for him an accident always dreaded, he has
observed her too much not to fear her ; but, by dint
of studying her, he has ended by no longer knowing
her, resembling in this those profound tacticians
who will always be beaten on unforeseen ground
where their scientific axioms are modified and con-
tradicted. He has remained the most candid child,
while showing himself the most learned observer.
This contrast, apparently impossible, is easily
explicable for those who are able to measure the
depth which separates the faculties from the feel-
ings : one proceeds from the head and the other from
the heart. One can be a great man and a wicked
one, as one can be a fool and a sublime lover.
D'Arthez is one of those privileged beings in whom
the finesse of the intellect, the wide extent of the
qualities of the brain, exclude neither the strength
nor the grandeur of feeling. He is, by a rare privi-
lege, a man of action and a man of reflection, both
at once. His private life is noble and pure. If he
had carefully avoided love up to this time, he knew
himself well ; he knew in advance what would be
the empire of a passion over him. During a long
period, the heavy labors by which he prepared the
solid ground of his glorious works, and the cold of
poverty, had been a marvelous preservative. When
he had attained to ease, he had the most vulgar and
the most incomprehensible liaison with a woman
136 THE SECRETS OF
sufficiently attractive, but who belonged to the lower
orders, without any instruction, without manners,
and carefully concealed from all observation.
Michel Chrestien conceded to men of genius the
power to transform the most massive creatures into
sylphids, the stupid ones into women of wit, the
peasant women into marchionesses: the more a
woman was accomplished, the more she lost in their
eyes; for, according to him, their imagination had no
part to play in this business. According to him also,
love, the simple craving of the senses in inferior
beings, was, in the superior beings, the most im-
mense and the most attaching of all moral creations.
In order to justify d'Arthez, he fell back upon the
example given by Raphael and the Fornarina. He
might have offered himself as a model in this
respect, he who saw an angel in the Duchesse
de Maufrigneuse. The curious whim of d'Arthez
might, moreover, be justified in various ways, per-
haps he had promptly and at once despaired of ever
encountering here below a woman who would
respond in any degree to that delightful chimera
which every man of intelligence creates for himself ;
perhaps he was possessed of a heart too sensitive,
too delicate, to be yielded up to a woman of the
world; perhaps he thought it better to give to nature
her due merely and to keep his illusions intact by
cultivating his ideal ; perhaps he had put aside love
as something incompatible with his work, with the
regularity of a monastic life in which passion would
have disarranged everything. For the last few
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN 137
months d'Arthez had been the object of the jests of
Blondet and of Rastignac, who reproached him with
knowing neither the world nor women. According
to them, his works were sufficiently numerous and
carried sufficiently far for him to permit himself
some distractions, he had a fine fortune and he
lived like a poor scholar; he enjoyed nothing,
neither his gold nor his glory ; he was ignorant of
the exquisite pleasure of that noble and delicate
passion which certain women well-born and well-
educated inspire in others or feel themselves ; was
it not unworthy of himself to have never known
anything but the grossness of love? Love, reduced
to that which nature makes of it, was in their eyes
the most sottish thing in the world. One of the
glories of society, is to have created the woman
where nature had made a female ; to have created
the perpetuity of desire where nature had thought
only of the perpetuity of the species ; to have, in
short, invented love, the very finest human re-
ligion. D'Arthez knew nothing of the charming
delicacies of language, nothing of those proofs of
affection incessantly given by soul and spirit, noth-
ing of those desires ennobled by manners, nothing
of those angelic forms lent to the grossest things by
refined and charming women. He was, perhaps,
acquainted with the woman, but he was ignorant of
the divinity. It requires an extraordinary art, very
many beautiful toilets of the body and of the soul in
a woman to secure true love. Finally, in lauding
the delightful depravations of the thought which
138 THE SECRETS OF
constitute the Parisian coquetry, these two cor-
ruptors pitied d'Arthez, whose diet was simple and
wholesome, and without any seasoning, for never
having tasted the delicacies of the finest Parisian
cooking, and they greatly stimulated his curiosity.
Doctor Bianchon, in whom d'Arthez confided, was
aware that this curiosity had been finally aroused.
The long liaison of this great writer with a common
woman, far from becoming satisfactory through
habit, had now become to him insupportable; but he
was restrained from breaking away by the excessive
timidity which takes possession of all solitary men.
"How," said Rastignac, "when one bears party
per bend dexter gules and or to a bezant and a torteau
from one to the other, why not make this old Picard
shield glitter on a carriage panel? You have thirty
thousand francs of income and the products of
your pen; you have justified your motto, which
makes the pun so much desired by our ancestors :
ARS, JHESaurusqm virtus and you do not prom-
enade yourself in the Bois de Boulogne! We are in
a century in which virtue should show itself."
"If you read your works to that species of gross
Lafore't who makes your delights, I would pardon
you for keeping her," said Blondet "But, my
dear fellow, if you are reduced to dry bread in mate-
rial things, with respect to the spiritual you have
not even bread "
This little friendly warfare had been going on
between Daniel and his friends for several months
when Madame d'Espard asked Rastignac and Blondet
LA PRINCESSE DE CADIGNAN 139
to persuade d'Arthez to come and dine with her,
saying to them that the Princesse de Cadignan had
a very great desire to meet this celebrated man.
These species of curiosity are, for certain women,
what the magic lantern is for children, a pleasure
for the eyes, a poor eneugh one, moreover, and full of
disenchantments. The greater the curiosity and
interest which a clever and distinguished man
excites at a distance, the less satisfactory he is
when brought near ; the more brilliant he has been
dreamed to be, the sooner he tarnishes. In this
connection, the disappointed curiosity often goes to
the extreme of injustice. Neither Blondet nor Ras-