The Girl With the Golden Eyes
By Honore de Balzac
Public Domain Books
“My dear fellow,” said Henri, who rarely denied himself a sarcasm, “since all the same, you may some day need, like anybody else, to use discretion, and since I have much love for you–yes, I like you! Upon my word, if you only wanted a thousand-franc note to keep you from blowing your brains out, you would find it here, for we haven’t yet done any business of that sort, eh, Paul? If you had to fight to-morrow, I would measure the ground and load the pistols, so that you might be killed according to rule. In short, if anybody besides myself took it into his head to say ill of you in your absence, he would have to deal with the somewhat nasty gentleman who walks in my shoes–there’s what I call a friendship beyond question. Well, my good fellow, if you should ever have need of discretion, understand that there are two sorts of discretion–the active and the negative. Negative discretion is that of fools who make use of silence, negation, an air of refusal, the discretion of locked doors–mere impotence! Active discretion proceeds by affirmation. Suppose at the club this evening I were to say: ’Upon my word of honor the golden-eyed was not worth all she cost me!’ Everybody would exclaim when I was gone: ’Did you hear that fop De Marsay, who tried to make us believe that he has already had the girl of the golden eyes? It’s his way of trying to disembarrass himself of his rivals: he’s no simpleton.’ But such a ruse is vulgar and dangerous. However gross a folly one utters, there are always idiots to be found who will believe it. The best form of discretion is that of women when they want to take the change out of their husbands. It consists in compromising a woman with whom we are not concerned, or whom we do not love, in order to save the honor of the one whom we love well enough to respect. It is what is called the woman-screen. . . . Ah! here is Laurent. What have you got for us?”
“Some Ostend oysters, Monsieur le Comte.”
“You will know some day, Paul, how amusing it is to make a fool of the world by depriving it of the secret of one’s affections. I derive an immense pleasure in escaping from the stupid jurisdiction of the crowd, which knows neither what it wants, nor what one wants of it, which takes the means for the end, and by turns curses and adores, elevates and destroys! What a delight to impose emotions on it and receive none from it, to tame it, never to obey it. If one may ever be proud of anything, is it not a self-acquired power, of which one is at once the cause and effect, the principle and the result? Well, no man knows what I love, nor what I wish. Perhaps what I have loved, or what I may have wished will be known, as a drama which is accomplished is known; but to let my game be seen–weakness, mistake! I know nothing more despicable than strength outwitted by cunning. Can I initiate myself with a laugh into the ambassador’s part, if indeed diplomacy is as difficult as life? I doubt it. Have you any ambition? Would you like to become something?”
“But, Henri, you are laughing at me–as though I were not sufficiently mediocre to arrive at anything.”
“Good Paul! If you go on laughing at yourself, you will soon be able to laugh at everybody else.”
At breakfast, by the time he had started his cigars, De Marsay began to see the events of the night in a singular light. Like many men of great intelligence, his perspicuity was not spontaneous, as it did not at once penetrate to the heart of things. As with all natures endowed with the faculty of living greatly in the present, of extracting, so to speak, the essence of it and assimilating it, his second-sight had need of a sort of slumber before it could identify itself with causes. Cardinal de Richelieu was so constituted, and it did not debar in him the gift of foresight necessary to the conception of great designs.
De Marsay’s conditions were alike, but at first he only used his weapons for the benefit of his pleasures, and only became one of the most profound politicians of his day when he had saturated himself with those pleasures to which a young man’s thoughts–when he has money and power–are primarily directed. Man hardens himself thus: he uses woman in order that she may not make use of him.
At this moment, then, De Marsay perceived that he had been fooled by the girl of the golden eyes, seeing, as he did, in perspective, all that night of which the delights had been poured upon him by degrees until they had ended by flooding him in torrents. He could read, at last, that page in effect so brilliant, divine its hidden meaning. The purely physical innocence of Paquita, the bewilderment of her joy, certain words, obscure at first, but now clear, which had escaped her in the midst of that joy, all proved to him that he had posed for another person. As no social corruption was unknown to him, as he professed a complete indifference towards all perversities, and believed them to be justified on the simple ground that they were capable of satisfaction, he was not startled at vice, he knew it as one knows a friend, but he was wounded at having served as sustenance for it. If his presumption was right, he had been outraged in the most sensitive part of him. The mere suspicion filled him with fury, he broke out with the roar of a tiger who has been the sport of a deer, the cry of a tiger which united a brute’s strength with the intelligence of the demon.
“I say, what is the matter with you?” asked Paul.
“I should be sorry, if you were to be asked whether you had anything against me and were to reply with a nothing like that! It would be a sure case of fighting the next day.”
“I fight no more duels,” said De Marsay.
“That seems to me even more tragical. Do you assassinate, then?”
“You travesty words. I execute.”
“My dear friend,” said Paul, “your jokes are of a very sombre color this morning.”
“What would you have? Pleasure ends in cruelty. Why? I don’t know, and am not sufficiently curious to try and find out. . . . These cigars are excellent. Give your friend some tea. Do you know, Paul, I live a brute’s life? It should be time to choose oneself a destiny, to employ one’s powers on something which makes life worth living. Life is a singular comedy. I am frightened, I laugh at the inconsequence of our social order. The Government cuts off the heads of poor devils who may have killed a man and licenses creatures who despatch, medically speaking, a dozen young folks in a season. Morality is powerless against a dozen vices which destroy society and which nothing can punish.–Another cup!–Upon my word of honor! man is a jester dancing upon a precipice. They talk to us about the immorality of the Liaisons Dangereuses, and any other book you like with a vulgar reputation; but there exists a book, horrible, filthy, fearful, corrupting, which is always open and will never be shut, the great book of the world; not to mention another book, a thousand times more dangerous, which is composed of all that men whisper into each other’s ears, or women murmur behind their fans, of an evening in society.”
“Henri, there is certainly something extraordinary the matter with you; that is obvious in spite of your active discretion.”
“Yes! . . . Come, I must kill the time until this evening. Let’s to the tables. . . . Perhaps I shall have the good luck to lose.”
De Marsay rose, took a handful of banknotes and folded them into his cigar-case, dressed himself, and took advantage of Paul’s carriage to repair to the Salon des Etrangers, where until dinner he consumed the time in those exciting alternations of loss and gain which are the last resource of powerful organizations when they are compelled to exercise themselves in the void. In the evening he repaired to the trysting-place and submitted complacently to having his eyes bandaged. Then, with that firm will which only really strong men have the faculty of concentrating, he devoted his attention and applied his intelligence to the task of divining through what streets the carriage passed. He had a sort of certitude of being taken to the Rue Saint-Lazare, and being brought to a halt at the little gate in the garden of the Hotel San-Real. When he passed, as on the first occasion, through this gate, and was put in a litter, carried, doubtless by the mulatto and the coachman, he understood, as he heard the gravel grate beneath their feet, why they took such minute precautions. He would have been able, had he been free, or if he had walked, to pluck a twig of laurel, to observe the nature of the soil which clung to his boots; whereas, transported, so to speak, ethereally into an inaccessible mansion, his good fortune must remain what it had been hitherto, a dream. But it is man’s despair that all his work, whether for good or evil, is imperfect. All his labors, physical or intellectual, are sealed with the mark of destruction. There had been a gentle rain, the earth was moist. At night-time certain vegetable perfumes are far stronger than during the day; Henri could smell, therefore, the scent of the mignonette which lined the avenue along which he was conveyed. This indication was enough to light him in the researches which he promised himself to make in order to recognize the hotel which contained Paquita’s boudoir. He studied in the same way the turnings which his bearers took within the house, and believed himself able to recall them.
As on the previous night, he found himself on the ottoman before Paquita, who was undoing his bandage; but he saw her pale and altered. She had wept. On her knees like an angel in prayer, but like an angel profoundly sad and melancholy, the poor girl no longer resembled the curious, impatient, and impetuous creature who had carried De Marsay on her wings to transport him to the seventh heaven of love. There was something so true in this despair veiled by pleasure, that the terrible De Marsay felt within him an admiration for this new masterpiece of nature, and forgot, for the moment, the chief interest of his assignation.
“What is the matter with thee, my Paquita?”
“My friend,” she said, “carry me away this very night. Bear me to some place where no one can answer: ’There is a girl with a golden gaze here, who has long hair.’ Yonder I will give thee as many pleasures as thou wouldst have of me. Then when you love me no longer, you shall leave me, I shall not complain, I shall say nothing; and your desertion need cause you no remorse, for one day passed with you, only one day, in which I have had you before my eyes, will be worth all my life to me. But if I stay here, I am lost.”
“I cannot leave Paris, little one!” replied Henri. “I do not belong to myself, I am bound by a vow to the fortune of several persons who stand to me, as I do to them. But I can place you in a refuge in Paris, where no human power can reach you.”
“No,” she said, “you forget the power of woman.”
Never did phrase uttered by human voice express terror more absolutely.
“What could reach you, then, if I put myself between you and the world?”
“Poison!” she said. “Dona Concha suspects you already . . . and,” she resumed, letting the tears fall and glisten on her cheeks, “it is easy enough to see I am no longer the same. Well, if you abandon me to the fury of the monster who will destroy me, your holy will be done! But come, let there be all the pleasures of life in our love. Besides, I will implore, I will weep and cry out and defend myself; perhaps I shall be saved.”
“Whom will your implore?” he asked.
“Silence!” said Paquita. “If I obtain mercy it will perhaps be on account of my discretion.”
“Give me my robe,” said Henri, insidiously.
“No, no!” she answered quickly, “be what you are, one of those angels whom I have been taught to hate, and in whom I only saw ogres, whilst you are what is fairest under the skies,” she said, caressing Henri’s hair. “You do not know how silly I am. I have learned nothing. Since I was twelve years old I have been shut up without ever seeing any one. I can neither read nor write, I can only speak English and Spanish.”
“How is it, then, that you receive letters from London?”
“My letters? . . . See, here they are!” she said, proceeding to take some papers out of a tall Japanese vase.
She offered De Marsay some letters, in which the young man saw, with surprise, strange figures, similar to those of a rebus, traced in blood, and illustrating phrases full of passion.
“But,” he cried, marveling at these hieroglyphics created by the alertness of jealousy, “you are in the power of an infernal genius?”
“Infernal,” she repeated.
“But how, then, were you able to get out?”
“Ah!” she said, “that was my ruin. I drove Dona Concha to choose between the fear of immediate death and anger to be. I had the curiosity of a demon, I wished to break the bronze circle which they had described between creation and me, I wished to see what young people were like, for I knew nothing of man except the Marquis and Cristemio. Our coachman and the lackey who accompanies us are old men. . . .”
“But you were not always thus shut up? Your health . . . ?”
“Ah,” she answered, “we used to walk, but it was at night and in the country, by the side of the Seine, away from people.”
“Are you not proud of being loved like that?”
“No,” she said, “no longer. However full it be, this hidden life is but darkness in comparison with the light.”
“What do you call the light?”
“Thee, my lovely Adolphe! Thee, for whom I would give my life. All the passionate things that have been told me, and that I have inspired, I feel for thee! For a certain time I understood nothing of existence, but now I know what love is, and hitherto I have been the loved one only; for myself, I did not love. I would give up everything for you, take me away. If you like, take me as a toy, but let me be near you until you break me.”
“You will have no regrets?”
“Not one”! she said, letting him read her eyes, whose golden tint was pure and clear.
“Am I the favored one?” said Henri to himself. If he suspected the truth, he was ready at that time to pardon the offence in view of a love so single minded. “I shall soon see,” he thought.
If Paquita owed him no account of the past, yet the least recollection of it became in his eyes a crime. He had therefore the sombre strength to withhold a portion of his thought, to study her, even while abandoning himself to the most enticing pleasures that ever peri descended from the skies had devised for her beloved.
Paquita seemed to have been created for love by a particular effort of nature. In a night her feminine genius had made the most rapid progress. Whatever might be the power of this young man, and his indifference in the matter of pleasures, in spite of his satiety of the previous night, he found in the girl with the golden eyes that seraglio which a loving woman knows how to create and which a man never refuses. Paquita responded to that passion which is felt by all really great men for the infinite–that mysterious passion so dramatically expressed in Faust, so poetically translated in Manfred, and which urged Don Juan to search the heart of women, in his hope to find there that limitless thought in pursuit of which so many hunters after spectres have started, which wise men think to discover in science, and which mystics find in God alone. The hope of possessing at last the ideal being with whom the struggle could be constant and tireless ravished De Marsay, who, for the first time for long, opened his heart. His nerves expanded, his coldness was dissipated in the atmosphere of that ardent soul, his hard and fast theories melted away, and happiness colored his existence to the tint of the rose and white boudoir. Experiencing the sting of a higher pleasure, he was carried beyond the limits within which he had hitherto confined passion. He would not be surpassed by this girl, whom a somewhat artificial love had formed all ready for the needs of his soul, and then he found in that vanity which urges a man to be in all things a victor, strength enough to tame the girl; but, at the same time, urged beyond that line where the soul is mistress over herself, he lost himself in these delicious limboes, which the vulgar call so foolishly “the imaginary regions.” He was tender, kind, and confidential. He affected Paquita almost to madness.
“Why should we not go to Sorrento, to Nice, to Chiavari, and pass all our life so? Will you?” he asked of Paquita, in a penetrating voice.
“Was there need to say to me: ’Will you’?” she cried. “Have I a will? I am nothing apart from you, except in so far as I am a pleasure for you. If you would choose a retreat worthy of us, Asia is the only country where love can unfold his wings. . . .”
“You are right,” answered Henri. “Let us go to the Indies, there where spring is eternal, where the earth grows only flowers, where man can display the magnificence of kings and none shall say him nay, as in the foolish lands where they would realize the dull chimera of equality. Let us go to the country where one lives in the midst of a nation of slaves, where the sun shines ever on a palace which is always white, where the air sheds perfumes, the birds sing of love and where, when one can love no more, one dies. . . .”
“And where one dies together!” said Paquita. “But do not let us start to-morrow, let us start this moment . . . take Cristemio.”
“Faith! pleasure is the fairest climax of life. Let us go to Asia; but to start, my child, one needs much gold, and to have gold one must set one’s affairs in order.”
She understood no part of these ideas.
“Gold! There is a pile of it here–as high as that,” she said holding up her hand.
“It is not mine.”
“What does that matter?” she went on; “if we have need of it let us take it.”
“It does not belong to you.”
“Belong!” she repeated. “Have you not taken me? When we have taken it, it will belong to us.”
He gave a laugh.
“Poor innocent! You know nothing of the world.”
“Nay, but this is what I know,” she cried, clasping Henri to her.
At the very moment when De Marsay was forgetting all, and conceiving the desire to appropriate this creature forever, he received in the midst of his joy a dagger-thrust, which Paquita, who had lifted him vigorously in the air, as though to contemplate him, exclaimed: “Oh, Margarita!”
“Margarita!” cried the young man, with a roar; “now I know all that I still tried to disbelieve.”
He leaped upon the cabinet in which the long poniard was kept. Happily for Paquita and for himself, the cupboard was shut. His fury waxed at this impediment, but he recovered his tranquillity, went and found his cravat, and advanced towards her with an air of such ferocious meaning that, without knowing of what crime she had been guilty, Paquita understood, none the less, that her life was in question. With one bound she rushed to the other end of the room to escape the fatal knot which De Marsay tried to pass round her neck. There was a struggle. On either side there was an equality of strength, agility, and suppleness. To end the combat Paquita threw between the legs of her lover a cushion which made him fall, and profited by the respite which this advantage gave to her, to push the button of the spring which caused the bell to ring. Promptly the mulatto arrived. In a second Cristemio leaped on De Marsay and held him down with one foot on his chest, his heel turned towards the throat. De Marsay realized that, if he struggled, at a single sign from Paquita he would be instantly crushed.
“Why did you want to kill me, my beloved?” she said. De Marsay made no reply.
“In what have I angered you?” she asked. “Speak, let us understand each other.”
Henri maintained the phlegmatic attitude of a strong man who feels himself vanquished; his countenance, cold, silent, entirely English, revealed the consciousness of his dignity in a momentary resignation. Moreover, he had already thought, in spite of the vehemence of his anger, that it was scarcely prudent to compromise himself with the law by killing this girl on the spur of the moment, before he had arranged the murder in such a manner as should insure his impunity.
“My beloved,” went on Paquita, “speak to me; do not leave me without one loving farewell! I would not keep in my heart the terror which you have just inspired in it. . . . Will you speak?” she said, stamping her foot with anger.
De Marsay, for all reply, gave her a glance, which signified so plainly, ’You must die!_” that Paquita threw herself upon him.
“Ah, well, you want to kill me! . . . If my death can give you any pleasure–kill me!”
She made a sign to Cristemio, who withdrew his foot from the body of the young man, and retired without letting his face show that he had formed any opinion, good or bad, with regard to Paquita.
“That is a man,” said De Marsay, pointing to the mulatto, with a sombre gesture. “There is no devotion like the devotion which obeys in friendship, and does not stop to weigh motives. In that man you possess a true friend.”
“I will give him you, if you like,” she answered; “he will serve you with the same devotion that he has for me, if I so instruct him.”
She waited for a word of recognition, and went on with an accent replete with tenderness:
“Adolphe, give me then one kind word! . . . It is nearly day.”
Henri did not answer. The young man had one sorry quality, for one considers as something great everything which resembles strength, and often men invent extravagances. Henri knew not how to pardon. That returning upon itself which is one of the soul’s graces, was a non-existent sense for him. The ferocity of the Northern man, with which the English blood is deeply tainted, had been transmitted to him by his father. He was inexorable both in his good and evil impulses. Paquita’s exclamation had been all the more horrible to him, in that it had dethroned him from the sweetest triumph which had ever flattered his man’s vanity. Hope, love, and every emotion had been exalted with him, all had lit up within his heart and his intelligence, then these torches illuminating his life had been extinguished by a cold wind. Paquita, in her stupefaction of grief, had only strength enough to give the signal for departure.
“What is the use of that!” she said, throwing away the bandage. “If he does not love me, if he hates me, it is all over.”
She waited for one look, did not obtain it, and fell, half dead. The mulatto cast a glance at Henri, so horribly significant, that, for the first time in his life, the young man, to whom no one denied the gift of rare courage, trembled. ’If you do not love her well, if you give her the least pain, I will kill you.” such was the sense of that brief gaze. De Marsay was escorted, with a care almost obsequious, along the dimly lit corridor, at the end of which he issued by a secret door into the garden of the Hotel San-Real. The mulatto made him walk cautiously through an avenue of lime trees, which led to a little gate opening upon a street which was at that hour deserted. De Marsay took a keen notice of everything. The carriage awaited him. This time the mulatto did not accompany him, and at the moment when Henri put his head out of the window to look once more at the gardens of the hotel, he encountered the white eyes of Cristemio, with whom he exchanged a glance. On either side there was a provocation, a challenge, the declaration of a savage war, of a duel in which ordinary laws were invalid, where treason and treachery were admitted means. Cristemio knew that Henri had sworn Paquita’s death. Henri knew that Cristemio would like to kill him before he killed Paquita. Both understood each other to perfection.
“The adventure is growing complicated in a most interesting way,” said Henri.
“Where is the gentleman going to?” asked the coachman.
De Marsay was driven to the house of Paul de Manerville. For more than a week Henri was away from home, and no one could discover either what he did during this period, nor where he stayed. This retreat saved him from the fury of the mulatto and caused the ruin of the charming creature who had placed all her hope in him whom she loved as never human heart had loved on this earth before. On the last day of the week, about eleven o’clock at night, Henri drove up in a carriage to the little gate in the garden of the Hotel San-Real. Four men accompanied him. The driver was evidently one of his friends, for he stood up on his box, like a man who was to listen, an attentive sentinel, for the least sound. One of the other three took his stand outside the gate in the street; the second waited in the garden, leaning against the wall; the last, who carried in his hand a bunch of keys, accompanied De Marsay.
“Henri,” said his companion to him, “we are betrayed.”
“By whom, my good Ferragus?”
“They are not all asleep,” replied the chief of the Devourers; “it is absolutely certain that some one in the house has neither eaten nor drunk. . . . Look! see that light!”
“We have a plan of the house; from where does it come?”
“I need no plan to know,” replied Ferragus; “it comes from the room of the Marquise.”
“Ah,” cried De Marsay, “no doubt she arrived from London to-day. The woman has robbed me even of my revenge! But if she has anticipated me, my good Gratien, we will give her up to the law.”
“Listen, listen! . . . The thing is settled,” said Ferragus to Henri.
The two friends listened intently, and heard some feeble cries which might have aroused pity in the breast of a tiger.
“Your marquise did not think the sound would escape by the chimney," said the chief of the Devourers, with the laugh of a critic, enchanted to detect a fault in a work of merit.
“We alone, we know how to provide for every contingency,” said Henri. “Wait for me. I want to see what is going on upstairs–I want to know how their domestic quarrels are managed. By God! I believe she is roasting her at a slow fire.”
De Marsay lightly scaled the stairs, with which he was familiar, and recognized the passage leading to the boudoir. When he opened the door he experienced the involuntary shudder which the sight of bloodshed gives to the most determined of men. The spectacle which was offered to his view was, moreover, in more than one respect astonishing to him. The Marquise was a woman; she had calculated her vengeance with that perfection of perfidy which distinguishes the weaker animals. She had dissimulated her anger in order to assure herself of the crime before she punished it.
“Too late, my beloved!” said Paquita, in her death agony, casting her pale eyes upon De Marsay.
The girl of the golden eyes expired in a bath of blood. The great illumination of candles, a delicate perfume which was perceptible, a certain disorder, in which the eye of a man accustomed to amorous adventures could not but discern the madness which is common to all the passions, revealed how cunningly the Marquise had interrogated the guilty one. The white room, where the blood showed so well, betrayed a long struggle. The prints of Paquita’s hands were on the cushions. Here she had clung to her life, here she had defended herself, here she had been struck. Long strips of the tapestry had been torn down by her bleeding hands, which, without a doubt, had struggled long. Paquita must have tried to reach the window; her bare feet had left their imprints on the edge of the divan, along which she must have run. Her body, mutilated by the dagger-thrusts of her executioner, told of the fury with which she had disputed a life which Henri had made precious to her. She lay stretched on the floor, and in her death-throes had bitten the ankles of Madame de San-Real, who still held in her hand her dagger, dripping blood. The hair of the Marquise had been torn out, she was covered with bites, many of which were bleeding, and her torn dress revealed her in a state of semi-nudity, with the scratches on her breasts. She was sublime so. Her head, eager and maddened, exhaled the odor of blood. Her panting mouth was open, and her nostrils were not sufficient for her breath. There are certain animals who fall upon their enemy in their rage, do it to death, and seem in the tranquillity of victory to have forgotten it. There are others who prowl around their victim, who guard it in fear lest it should be taken away from them, and who, like the Achilles of Homer, drag their enemy by the feet nine times round the walls of Troy. The Marquise was like that. She did not see Henri. In the first place, she was too secure of her solitude to be afraid of witnesses; and, secondly, she was too intoxicated with warm blood, too excited with the fray, too exalted, to take notice of the whole of Paris, if Paris had formed a circle round her. A thunderbolt would not have disturbed her. She had not even heard Paquita’s last sigh, and believed that the dead girl could still hear her.
“Die without confessing!” she said. “Go down to hell, monster of ingratitude; belong to no one but the fiend. For the blood you gave him you owe me all your own! Die, die, suffer a thousand deaths! I have been too kind–I was only a moment killing you. I should have made you experience all the tortures that you have bequeathed to me. I –I shall live! I shall live in misery. I have no one left to love but God!”
She gazed at her.
“She is dead!” she said to herself, after a pause, in a violent reaction. “Dead! Oh, I shall die of grief!”
The Marquise was throwing herself upon the divan, stricken with a despair which deprived her of speech, when this movement brought her in view of Henri de Marsay.
“Who are you?” she asked, rushing at him with her dagger raised.
Henri caught her arm, and thus they could contemplate each other face to face. A horrible surprise froze the blood in their veins, and their limbs quivered like those of frightened horses. In effect, the two Menoechmi had not been more alike. With one accord they uttered the same phrase:
“Lord Dudley must have been your father!”
The head of each was drooped in affirmation.
“She was true to the blood,” said Henri, pointing to Paquita.
“She was as little guilty as it is possible to be,” replied Margarita Euphemia Porraberil, and she threw herself upon the body of Paquita, giving vent to a cry of despair. “Poor child! Oh, if I could bring thee to life again! I was wrong–forgive me, Paquita! Dead! and I live! I–I am the most unhappy.”
At that moment the horrible face of the mother of Paquita appeared.
“You are come to tell me that you never sold her to me to kill,” cried the Marquise. “I know why you have left your lair. I will pay you twice over. Hold your peace.”
She took a bag of gold from the ebony cabinet, and threw it contemptuously at the old woman’s feet. The chink of the gold was potent enough to excite a smile on the Georgian’s impassive face.
“I come at the right moment for you, my sister,” said Henri. “The law will ask of you––”
“Nothing,” replied the Marquise. “One person alone might ask for a reckoning for the death of this girl. Cristemio is dead.”
“And the mother,” said Henri, pointing to the old woman. “Will you not always be in her power?”
“She comes from a country where women are not beings, but things –chattels, with which one does as one wills, which one buys, sells, and slays; in short, which one uses for one’s caprices as you, here, use a piece of furniture. Besides, she has one passion which dominates all the others, and which would have stifled her maternal love, even if she had loved her daughter, a passion––”
“What?” Henri asked quickly, interrupting his sister.
“Play! God keep you from it,” answered the Marquise.
“But whom have you,” said Henri, looking at the girl of the golden eyes, “who will help you to remove the traces of this fantasy which the law would not overlook?”
“I have her mother,” replied the Marquise, designating the Georgian, to whom she made a sign to remain.
“We shall meet again,” said Henri, who was thinking anxiously of his friends and felt that it was time to leave.
“No, brother,” she said, “we shall not meet again. I am going back to Spain to enter the Convent of los Dolores.”
“You are too young yet, too lovely,” said Henri, taking her in his arms and giving her a kiss.
“Good-bye,” she said; “there is no consolation when you have lost that which has seemed to you the infinite.”
A week later Paul de Manerville met De Marsay in the Tuileries, on the Terrasse de Feuillants.
“Well, what has become of our beautiful girl of the golden eyes, you rascal?”
“She is dead.”
PARIS, March 1834-April 1835.