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and filled the air with the fresh odors from the river ;
a wandering cloud obscured the sun, and the soft
shadows brought out all the beauties of the lovely
scene. Julie turned her head away to hide from
the young nobleman the traces of the tears she
succeeded in forcing back and drying, for Arthur's
emotion had quickly infected her. She dared not
look into his face for fear he might detect too much
joy in her eyes. Her womanly instinct told her that
at such a perilous moment she must bury her love
at the bottom of her heart. And yet silence might
be no less redoubtable. When she saw that Lord
Grenville was unable to utter a word, Julie began
in a soft voice :

"You are touched by what I said, milord. Per-
haps this sudden overflow of feeling is the method
adopted by a generous, kindly heart like yours to re-
tract a false judgment. You thought me ungrateful
when I seemed to you cold and reserved or thought-
less and insensible during our travels, which happily
are so soon to come to an end. I should not have
been worthy to receive your attentions had I not
been capable of appreciating them. Milord, I have
forgotten nothing. Alas! I shall forget nothing
neither the solicitude that led you to watch over me
as a mother watches over her child, nor above all else
the generous confidence of our fraternal intercourse,
the delicacy of your conduct; against these forms
of seduction we are without defensive weapons.
Milord, it is beyond my power to make up to you "



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 91

At that point Julie moved swiftly away, and Lord
Grenville made no movement to detain her; the
marchioness walked to a large stone a short distance
away, and stood motionless there; their emotions
were a secret even to themselves, doubtless they
were weeping in silence; the singing of the birds,
always so light of heart and so lavish of loving ex-
pressions at sunset, was well adapted to increase
the violent internal commotion that had forced them
to separate; nature undertook the duty of giving
expression to a love of which they dared not speak.

"Well, milord," continued Julie, standing before
him in a dignified attitude which permitted her to
take his hand, "I will ask you to make the life you
have restored to me pure and holy. We will part
here. I know," she added, as she saw the color
leave Lord Grenville's cheeks, "that, as the reward
of your devotion, I am going to demand of you a
sacrifice even greater than those previous ones for
which I should have shown myself more grateful.
But it must be. You must not remain in France.
By issuing orders to you thus, do I not give you
rights which I must look upon as sacred?" she
added, placing the young man's hand upon her fast-
beating heart.

"Yes," said Arthur, rising to his feet.

As he spoke he pointed to D'Aiglemont, who made
his appearance on the other side of a wooded road,
on the balustrade of the chateau, with his daughter
in his arms. He had climbed up there to amuse
little Helene.



92 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

"Julie, I won't speak to you of my love, for our
hearts understand each other too well. However
deeply hidden, however secret my heart's joys have
been, you have shared them all. I feel it, I know
it, I see it. Now, I possess the delicious certainty
of the never-failing sympathy between our hearts,
but I will fly. I have already given too much
thought to the various ways of killing that man to
be able to resist forever, if 1 should stay with you."

"I have had the same thought," she said, with an
expression of pained surprise upon her troubled fea-
tures.

But there was such consciousness of virtue, such
absolute certainty of herself, and a suggestion of so
many victories over importunate love in Julie's
accent and gesture, that Lord Grenville was struck
dumb with admiration. The very shadow of sin
faded away in that innocent conscience. The
religious sentiment that held sway upon that lovely
brow would always drive away the involuntary evil
thought which our imperfect nature engenders, and
which demonstrates at once the grandeur and the
perils of our destiny.

"In that case, 1 should have incurred your con-
tempt and that thought would have saved me," she
continued, lowering her eyes. "Would it not be
like death to forfeit your esteem?"

These two heroic lovers were silent for another
brief space, devouring their suffering; good or bad,
their thoughts were alike faithful, and their under-
standing was as perfect in relation to their most



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 93

carefully concealed sorrows as to their secret pleas-
ures.

"I ought not to complain, the misery of my life is
my own work," said she, raising her eyes, stream-
ing with tears, to heaven.

"Milord," cried the general, waving his hand
from his elevated position, "this is where we first
met. Perhaps you don't remember? It was down
yonder by those walnut trees."

The Englishman replied with an abrupt nod.

"I am fated to die young and unhappy," said
Julie. "Oh! don't think that I shall live. Sorrow
will be quite as fatal as the terrible disease of
which you have cured me could be. I do not think
I am to be blamed. No, the attachment I have
formed for you is irresistible, everlasting, but alto-
gether involuntary, and 1 propose to remain a vir-
tuous woman. However, I shall be faithful to my
conscience as a wife, to my duties as a mother, and to
the yearning of my heart Listen to what I say,"
she said in an altered voice; "I will never again
belong to that man, never !"

And with a gesture of horror and resolution terri-
ble to see, Julie pointed to her husband.

"The laws of society," she continued, "demand
that I should make his life happy, and I will obey
them; I will be his servant; my devotion to him
will know no bounds, but from this day I am a
widow. I will not be a harlot in my own eyes or
in those of society; if I do not belong to Monsieur
d'Aiglemont I will belong to no other man. You



94 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

shall have nothing from me save what you have ex-
torted from me. That is the decree I have pro-
nounced against myself," she said, looking proudly
at Arthur. "It is irrevocable, milord. And now,
understand that, if you yield to a criminal thought,
Monsieur d'Aiglemont's widow will enter a cloister,
either in Italy or in Spain. Fate willed that we
should speak of our love. These avowals were in-
evitable, perhaps; but let this be the last time that
our hearts beat so violently. To-morrow you will
pretend to receive a letter which calls you back to
England, and we will part, never to meet again."

Exhausted by the effort she had made, Julie felt
her knees giving way beneath her, a deathlike chill
ran through her veins, and, in obedience to a truly
feminine impulse, she sat down to avoid falling into
Arthur's arms.

"Julie!" cried Lord Grenville.

This piercing shriek echoed like a peal of thunder ;
a heartrending outcry that expressed all that the
lover, thus far mute, had been unable to say.

"Well, well, what's the matter with her?" cried
the general, who had quickened his pace when he
heard the cry and suddenly appeared in front of the
lovers.

"It's nothing at all," said Julie with the marvel-
ous presence of mind which the natural craft of
women often places at their disposal in the great
crises of life. "The overpowering odor from this
walnut tree very nearly made me lose consciousness,
and my doctor must have shuddered with alarm.



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 95

What am I in his eyes but an unfinished work of
art? He may have trembled at the thought of see-
ing it destroyed "

She boldly took Lord Grenville's arm, smiled at
her husband, glanced at the view before leaving
the brow of the cliff and led her traveling compan-
ion away, taking his hand in her own.

"Really, this is the loveliest view we have seen
yet," said she; "I shall never forget it. Look,
Victor, how far we can see ; how extensive the view
is and how varied ! This country gives me an idea
of what love might be."

Laughing almost convulsively, but in a way to
mislead her husband, she plunged gayly into the
wooded path and disappeared.

"What! so soon?" she said, when they had left
Monsieur d'Aiglemont far behind. "What! my
friend, a moment more and we can no longer be and
shall never again be ourselves, in fact we shall cease
to live"

"Let us walk slowly," replied Lord Grenville,
"the carriages are still a long way off. We will
walk along together, and if we are permitted to put
words into our glances our hearts will live a moment
longer."

They walked along the levee, on the river brink,
in the last rays of the setting sun, almost silently,
saying a few vague words, soft as the murmuring of
the Loire, but with the power of stirring the heart to
its depths. The sun, as it was about to sink below
the horizon, enveloped them in a flood of red light



g6 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

before disappearing, a depressing image of their
fatal passion. Much disturbed at not finding his
carriage at the spot where they had left it, the gen-
eral followed them or went on before without tak-
ing part in the conversation. The noble and delicate
conduct of Lord Grenville during the journey had
put the marquis' suspicions to flight, and for some
time past he had left his wife free, trusting to
the punic faith of the nobleman-doctor. Arthur and
Julie walked on, their bruised hearts in sad and sor-
rowful accord. But lately, as they climbed the
slopes of Montcontour, they had both felt a vague
hope, a resistless happiness which they dared not
analyze; but as they went down together by the
levee they had overturned the frail edifice upon
which they dared not breathe, like children who
fear the downfall of the cardhouses they have built.
They were without hope.

That same evening Lord Grenville took his leave
of them. The last glance he bestowed upon Julie
unhappily made it plain that since their sympathy
had disclosed to them the extent of their ardent
passion, he had had reason to lose confidence in
himself.

When Monsieur d'Aiglemont and his wife were
seated on the back seat of their carriage the next
day, without their late traveling companion, and
were driving swiftly along the road traversed once
before in 1814, by the marchioness, who was then
entirely ignorant of love and had almost cursed the
idea of constancy, a thousand forgotten impressions



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 97

came rushing back to her mind. The heart has its
own memory. A woman who is utterly incapable
of recalling the most important events, will remem-
ber all her life things that affect her sentiments.
So Julie remembered perfectly well many of the
most trivial details; she recalled with a feeling of
delight the slightest incidents of her first journey,
even to the thoughts that had come to her mind at
certain points on the road. Victor, who had fallen
passionately in love with his wife once more since
she had recovered the fresh bloom of youth and all
her beauty, pressed her to his side after the fashion
of lovers. When he tried to take her in his arms she
gently extricated herself and invented some pretext
or other to avoid that harmless caress. Soon she
began to loathe Victor's touch, although she felt and
shared his emotion caused by the way they were
sitting. She wished to sit alone on the front seat;
but her husband was gallant enough to leave the
back seat at her disposal. She thanked him for the
attention with a sigh that he misunderstood, and
the old-time garrison Don Juan construed his wife's
melancholy to his own advantage, so that, toward
the end of the day, she was compelled to speak to
him with a degree of firmness that made a deep im-
pression upon him.

"My dear," she said, "you have already come
within an ace of killing me; you know that If I
were still an inexperienced girl, I might begin anew
the sacrifice of my life; but I am a mother, I have a
daughter to bring up, and I owe myself to her as
7



98 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

much as to you. Let us submit to an unfortunate
state of things which weighs upon us both alike.
You are less to be pitied than I. Haven't you suc-
ceeded in finding such consolation as my duty, our
common honor, and more than all else nature,
make impossible for me? See," she added, "you
carelessly left three letters from Madame de Serizy
in a drawer; here they are. Doesn't my silence
prove to you that you have in me an indulgent wife,
who does not demand from you the sacrifices to
which the laws condemn her ? but I have reflected
enough to know that our r61es are not the same and
that the wife alone is predestined to unhappiness.
My virtue rests upon fixed, unchanging principles.
I shall not fail to lead an irreproachable life; but let
me live."

The marquis, abashed by the logic that women
are quick to learn by the bright light of love, was
subjugated by the dignity that comes natural to
them in such crises. The instinctive repulsion that
Julie manifested for everything that wounded her
love and the aspirations of her heart is one of the
loveliest traits in woman, and proceeds from an in-
nate virtue upon which neither law nor civilization
can impose silence. But who would dare to blame
the woman ? When they have imposed silence upon
the sentiment which forbids them to belong to two
men at once, are they not like priests without faith ?
If some rigid creatures blame the sort of bargain
made by Julie between her duty and her love, other
passionate hearts will impute it to her as a crime.



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 99

This general reprobation is proof positive of the
misery that attends upon disobedience to the law,
or else it points to very deplorable imperfections
in the institutions upon which European society
rests.



Two years passed, during which Monsieur and
Madame d'Aiglemont led the life of society people,
each going his or her own way, and meeting in
others' salons more frequently than in their own
house; a fashionable sort of divorce by which many
marriages in high life end. One evening, by an
extraordinary chance, the husband and wife found
themselves together in their own salon. Madame
d'Aiglemont had had a friend of her own sex to
dinner, and the general, who almost invariably
dined out, had remained at home.

"You are very lucky, Madame la Marquise," said
Monsieur d'Aiglemont as he placed his empty coffee-
cup upon a table.

He glanced at Madame Wimphen with a half-
malicious, half-vexed expression, and added:

"1 am going off on a long hunting expedition with
the grand huntsman. You will be absolutely a
widow for at least a week, and that's what you
want, I fancy Guillaume," he said to the ser-
vant who came to remove the cups, "order the
horses."

Madame de Wimphen was the Louisa upon whom
Madame d'Aiglemont once attempted to urge the ex-
pediency of celibacy. The two women exchanged
a significant glance which proved that Julie had

(101)



102 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

found in her friend a confidante of her woes, a pre-
cious, charitable confidante, for Madame de Wim-
phen was very happy in her marriage; and, in the
strongly contrasted positions they occupied, perhaps
the happiness of the one was a guaranty of her de-
votion to the other in her misery. In such cases, the
dissimilarity of destinies is almost always a strong
bond of friendship.

"Is this the hunting season?" Julie said with an
indifferent glance at her husband.

It was the end of March.

"Madame, the grand huntsman hunts when and
where he chooses. We are going to the royal pre-
serves to kill wild boars."

"Take care -that nothing happens to you "

"Accidents are always unexpected," he replied
with a smile.

"Monsieur's carriage is ready," said Guillaume.

The general rose, kissed Madame de Wimphen's
hand, and turned to Julie.

"Madame, suppose I should fall a victim to a wild
boar? " he said with a suppliant air.

"What does that mean?" asked Madame deWim-
phen.

"Come here," said Madame d'Aiglemont to
Victor.

She smiled, as if to say to Louisa: "You will see."

Julie put out her neck to her husband, who
walked up to her to kiss her ; but she bent her head
so far that the conjugal caress grazed the ruffle of
her pUerine.



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 103

"You will be my witness before God," rejoined
the marquis, addressing Madame de Wimphen,
"that I need a firman to obtain even this slight
favor. That is my wife's idea of love. She has
brought me round to it by some artifice or other.
Much pleasure to you!"

And he left the room.

"Why your poor husband is really very kind to
you," cried Louisa, when the two women were left
alone. "He loves you."

"Oh! don't say another syllable. The very name
I bear fills me with loathing."

"That may be, but Victor obeys you implicitly,"
said Louisa.

"His obedience," Julie replied, "is based in part
upon the great esteem I have inspired in him. I
am a very virtuous woman, in the eyes of the law ;
I make his house pleasant for him, I close my eyes
to his intrigues, I don't encroach upon his fortune;
he can squander his income as he pleases; I simply
take care that the capital is kept intact. At that
price I am left in peace. He doesn't understand,
or doesn't choose to understand my life. But
although I lead my husband as you see, I am not
without apprehension as to the effects of his char-
acter, lam like a bear-leader who trembles for fear
that the muzzle will break some day. If Victor
thought that he was entitled to withdraw his esteem
from me, I don't dare think of what might happen ;
for he is very violent and overflowing with self-
esteem and with vanity above everything. If his



104 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

wit is not keen enough to enable him to act judi-
ciously in a delicate crisis where his evil passions
are brought into play, his is a weak character, and he
would kill me provisionally, to die of grief perhaps
the next day. But such fatal good-fortune is not to
be feared "

There was silence for a moment, while the minds
of the two friends reverted to the secret cause of the
existing condition of affairs.

"I have been obeyed with cruel scrupulousness,"
continued Julie, with a meaning glance at Louisa.
"But I didn't forbid him to write to me. Ah! he
has forgotten, and he was right It would be far too
great a pity that his whole life should be ruined!
isn't mine enough? Would you believe, my dear,
that I read the English newspapers, solely in the
hope of seeing his name mentioned. He hasn't yet
appeared in the House of Lords."

"Pray, do you know English?"

"Didn't I tell you? I have learned it."

"Poor darling, " cried Louisa, seizing Julie's hand,
"how can you live?"

"That's a secret," replied the marchioness, with
a gesture almost childlike in its innocent frankness.
"Listen. I take opium. The story of the Duchess

of , in London, gave me the idea. You know,

Mathurin has made a novel of it. My laudanum
drops are very weak. I sleep a great deal. I am
only awake about seven hours and those I give to
my daughter."

Louisa stared at the fire, not daring to look at her



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 10$

friend, whose whole misery was laid bare to her
eyes for the first time.

"Louisa, keep my secret," said Julie after a
moment's silence.

At that moment a servant brought her a letter.

"Ah!" she cried, turning pale.

"I won't ask from whom it comes," said Madame
de Wimphen.

The marchioness read, and heard nothing more ;
her friend saw traces of the most intense excite-
ment, the most dangerous agitation upon Madame
d'Aiglemont's face, as she turned pale and red and
pale again in rapid succession. At last she tossed
the letter into the fire.

"It's an incendiary letter! Oh! my heart is
choking me."

She rose and paced up and down the room ; her
eyes were on fife.

"He hasn't left Paris!" she cried.

Her fitful speech, which Madame de Wimphen
dared not interrupt, was broken by alarming pauses.
After every interruption, the next words were
uttered with more and more pronounced emphasis.
The last words were something terrible.

"He hasn't ceased to see me, unknown to me. A
glance from me, caught on the wing every day,
makes it possible for him to live. Think of it,
Louisa, he is dying, and wants to say adieu to me;
he knows that my husband has gone away to-night
for several days, and he is coming in a moment.
Oh ! I shall die. 1 am lost Come, stay with me.



106 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

Before two women, he won't dare! Oh! stay; I
am afraid of myself."

"But my husband knows that I dined with you,"
replied Madame de Wimphen, "and he is to come
here for me."

"Well, I shall have sent him away before you go.
I will act as executioner for both of us. Alas ! he
will think I have ceased to love him. And that
letter! My dear, it contained sentences that I can
see now written in lines of fire. "

A carriage stopped at the door.

"Ah!" cried the marchioness with a sort of joy,
"he comes publicly and without mystery.

"Lord Grenville!" cried the servant.

The marchioness remained where she stood,
motionless as a statue. When she saw how pale
and thin and haggard Arthur was, severity was out
of the question. Although he was bitterly disap-
pointed not to find Julie alone, he seemed calm and
cold. But, to those two women who had been
initiated in the mysteries of his love, his counte-
nance, the tone of his voice, the expression of his
eyes had something of the power attributed to the
crampfish. The marchioness and Madame de Wim-
phen seemed benumbed by the sudden contagion of
horrible suffering. The sound of Lord Grenville's
voice made Madame d'Aiglemont's heart beat so
violently that she dared not reply to him for fear of
betraying the extent of his power over her ; Lord
Grenville dared not look at Julie, so that Madame
de Wimphen bore almost the entire burden of a



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 107

prosaic conversation. By a glance overflowing with
touching gratitude, Julie thanked her for her assist-
ance. Thereupon the lovers imposed silence upon
their feelings and struggled to hold themselves
within the limits prescribed by duty and propriety.
But soon Monsieur de Wimphen was announced; as
he entered the room the two friends exchanged
glances, and understood, without a word, the fresh
complications of the situation. It was impossible to
admit Monsieur de Wimphen to the secret of the
drama, and Louisa had no plausible reason to give
her husband for asking him to remain at her friend's
house. When Madame de Wimphen was putting
on her shawl, Julie rose as if to assist her, and said
in an undertone:

"I shall have courage. As long as he came here
openly, what need I fear? But except for you I
should have fallen at his feet at first, when I saw
how changed he was. Well, Arthur, you didn't
obey me," she said in a trembling voice, as she re-
sumed her seat upon a couch, where Lord Grenville
dared not join her.

"I could resist no longer the pleasure of hearing
your voice, of being near you. It was rank mad-
ness, delirium on my part I am no longer master
of myself. I have studied my own condition and I
am too weak. I must die. But to die without see-
ing you, without hearing the rustling of your dress,
without catching your tears as they fall what a
death!"

He turned as if to walk away from her, but his



108 A WOMAN OF THIRTY

abrupt movement caused a pistol to fall from his
pocket. The marchioness looked at the weapon
with an eye from which all passion and power of
thought had vanished. Lord Grenville picked up
the pistol and seemed intensely annoyed by an
accident which might be looked upon as a lover's
speculation.

"Arthur?" said Julie.

"Madame," he replied lowering his eyes, "I
came here in despair, I intended "

He paused.

"You intended to kill yourself in my house!" she
cried.

"Not alone," he said in a low voice.

"What! my husband, perhaps?"

"No, no!" he cried in a choking voice. "But
have no fear," he continued, "my fatal project has
vanished. When I came in, when I saw you, then
I felt that I had the courage to hold my peace and to
die alone."

Julie rose and threw herself into Arthur's arms,
and through his mistress' sobs he distinguished
these passionate words :

"To know true happiness, and die " she said.
"Ah, yes!"

Julie's whole story was told in that cry of solemn
meaning, the cry of nature and of love to which
women without religious feeling succumb; Arthur
seized her and bore her to a couch with an impulsive
movement accompanied by the violence that un-
hoped-for happiness arouses. But suddenly the



A WOMAN OF THIRTY 109

marchioness tore herself from her lover's arms,
looked him in the face with the fixed stare of a
woman in despair, took him by the hand, seized a


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Online LibraryHonoré de BalzacHonoré de Balzac, now for the first time completely translated into English.. (Volume 18) → online text (page 6 of 22)