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Honoré de Balzac.

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abruptly from the salon where he was pretending to
listen to a caprice of Herold which his wife was
murdering upon the piano, and ran to the marchion-
ess's house with the speed of a man flying to a ren-
dezvous. He leaped into the park through a breach
that he knew of, walked slowly along the paths,
pausing from time to time as if to try to repress
the loud beating of his heart; when he was near the
chateau, he listened to. the muffled sounds and con-
cluded that all the servants were at table. He went
as far as Madame de Beauseant's apartments. The
marchioness never left her bedroom. Monsieur de
Nueil succeeded in reaching the door without mak-
ing the least noise. There he saw, by the light of
two candles, the marchioness, pale and emaciated,
seated in a great easy-chair, her brow bent, her
hands hanging at her sides, her eyes fixed upon
some object which she seemed not to see. There
was the most heartbroken sorrow in her expression.



364 THE DESERTED MISTRESS

There was a vague suggestion of hope in her atti-
tude, but it was impossible to say whether Claire
de Bourgogne was looking toward the tomb or into
the past. Perhaps Monsieur de Nueil's tears glis-
tened in the darkness, perhaps his breathing made
a slight noise, perhaps an involuntary sigh escaped
him, or perhaps his presence was impossible without
the phenomenon of introsusception, which is at once
the glory, the joy and the test of true love. Ma-
dame de Beauseant turned her face toward the door
and saw her former lover. Monsieur de Nueil there-
upon stepped forward a few steps.

"If you come nearer, monsieur," cried the mar-
chioness, turning pale, "I will throw myself out of
the window!"

She jumped upon the window-seat, threw' the
window open and placed one foot on the sill outside,
with her hand on the balcony-rail and her face
turned toward Gaston.

"Go! go!" she cried, "or I jump."

At that terrible cry, Monsieur de Nueil, hearing a
commotion among the servants, fled like a criminal.

He returned home, wrote a very short letter and
bade his valet carry it to Madame de Beauseant and
to give her to understand that, for him, it concerned
a matter of life or death. When the messenger had
gone, Monsieur de Nueil returned to the salon and
found his wife there, still mangling the caprice.
He sat down, awaiting a reply. An hour later, the
caprice being at an end, the husband and wife were
sitting silent, opposite each other, on each side of



THE DESERTED MISTRESS 365

the fireplace, when the valet returned from Valleroy
and handed his master the letter, which had not
been opened. Monsieur de Nueil walked into the
boudoir adjoining the salon, where he had placed
his gun on his return from hunting, and shot him-
self.

This prompt and fatal conclusion, so contrary to
all the customs of young France, was quite natural.

Those people who have carefully observed or
blissfully experienced the phenomena to which the
perfect union of two beings gives birth, will per-
fectly understand this suicide. A woman does not
form herself, does not mould herself in a day to the
caprices of passion. Pleasure, like a rare flower,
demands the most ingenious care and cultivation;
time and perfect accord between two hearts can
alone reveal all its resources and bring forth the
keen and exquisite enjoyment, concerning which
we are imbued with countless superstitions and
which we believe to be inherent in the person whose
heart lavishes it upon us. This admirable mutual
understanding, this religious faith and the regener-
ating certainty of feeling a peculiar or excessive de-
light beside the loved one, explain in part the secret
of durable attachments and long-enduring passions.
With a woman who possesses the genius of her sex,
love never degenerates into a habit; her adorable
tenderness has the art of assuming such varied
forms, she is so bright and so loving at the same
moment, she imports so many artifices into her na-
ture, so much that is natural into her artifices, that



366 THE DESERTED MISTRESS

she exerts as much power in her lover's mind when
absent as by her presence. Beside her, all women
seem pale shadows. One must have known the
fear of losing, or must have lost so vast and glorious
a love, to appreciate its real worth. But if a man
who has appreciated it to the full, deprives himself
of it to enter into a dull, loveless marriage; if the
wife with whom he has hoped to experience the
same felicity proves to him, by some of those inci-
dents that are buried in the darkness of conjugal
life, that it will never be born again for him; if he
still has upon his lips the taste of a celestial love,
and knows that he has mortally wounded his veri-
table wife for the benefit of asocial chimera, then he
must die unless he have recourse to that material,
selfish, cold philosophy that fills passionate hearts
with horror.

As for Madame de Beauseant, she did not, in all
probability, believe that her lover's despair would
go so far as suicide, after she had quenched his
thirst with copious draughts of love for nine years.
Perhaps she thought that she alone would have to
suffer. Moreover, she was abundantly in the right
to refuse to be concerned in the most degrading
division of privileges that can exist, a division
that a wife may endure for social reasons, but that
a mistress should hold in detestation, because the
only justification of her love is found in its purity.

Angouleme, September, 1832.



LIST OF ETCHINGS



VOLUME XVIII

PAGE

JULIE AND LORD GRENVILLE Fronts.

JULIE AT THE PIANO 80

IN JULIE'S BEDROOM 112

THE CURE OF SAINT-LANGE CALLS UPON JULIE . . 132

AT THE B1EVRE 192

ON BOARD THE SAINT-FERDINAND 256

THE DEATH OF JULIE 292

MME. DE BEAUSEANT AND M. DE NUEIL 301



18 C. II., W. 30, J. 367



UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA LIBRARY, LOS ANGELES

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