Beatrix, by Honoré de Balzac

XVII

A Death: A Marriage

Felicite’s tender love was preparing for Calyste a prosperous future. Being allied to the family of Grandlieu, the ducal branch of which was ending in five daughters for lack of a male heir, she had written to the Duchesse de Grandlieu, describing Calyste and giving his history, and also stating certain intentions of her own, which were as follows: She had lately sold her house in the rue du Mont–Blanc, for which a party of speculators had given her two millions five hundred thousand francs. Her man of business had since purchased for her a charming new house in the rue de Bourbon for seven hundred thousand francs; one million she intended to devote to the recovery of the du Guenic estates, and the rest of her fortune she desired to settle upon Sabine de Grandlieu. Felicite had long known the plans of the duke and duchess as to the settlement of their five daughters: the youngest was to marry the Vicomte de Grandlieu, the heir to their ducal title; Clotilde–Frederique, the second daughter, desired to remain unmarried, in memory of a man she had deeply loved, Lucien de Rubempre, while, at the same time, she did not wish to become a nun like her eldest sister; two of the remaining sisters were already married, and the youngest but one, the pretty Sabine, just twenty years old, was the only disposable daughter left. It was Sabine on whom Felicite resolved to lay the burden of curing Calyste’s passion for Beatrix.

During the journey to Paris Mademoiselle des Touches revealed to the baroness these arrangements. The new house in the rue de Bourbon was being decorated, and she intended it for the home of Sabine and Calyste if her plans succeeded.

The party had been invited to stay at the hotel de Grandlieu, where the baroness was received with all the distinction due to her rank as the wife of a du Guenic and the daughter of a British peer. Mademoiselle des Touches urged Calyste to see Paris, while she herself made the necessary inquiries about Beatrix (who had disappeared from the world, and was travelling abroad), and she took care to throw him into the midst of diversions and amusements of all kinds. The season for balls and fetes was just beginning, and the duchess and her daughters did the honors of Paris to the young Breton, who was insensibly diverted from his own thoughts by the movement and life of the great city. He found some resemblance of mind between Madame de Rochefide and Sabine de Grandlieu, who was certainly one of the handsomest and most charming girls in Parisian society, and this fancied likeness made him give to her coquetries a willing attention which no other woman could possibly have obtained from him. Sabine herself was greatly pleased with Calyste, and matters went so well that during the winter of 1837 the young Baron du Guenic, whose youth and health had returned to him, listened without repugnance to his mother when she reminded him of the promise made to his dying father and proposed to him a marriage with Sabine de Grandlieu. Still, while agreeing to fulfil his promise, he concealed within his soul an indifference to all things, of which the baroness alone was aware, but which she trusted would be conquered by the pleasures of a happy home.

On the day when the Grandlieu family and the baroness, accompanied by her relations who came from England for this occasion, assembled in the grand salon of the hotel de Grandlieu to sign the marriage contract, and Leopold Hannequin, the family notary, explained the preliminaries of that contract before reading it, Calyste, on whose forehead every one present might have noticed clouds, suddenly and curtly refused to accept the benefactions offered him by Mademoiselle des Touches. Did he still count on Felicite’s devotion to recover Beatrix? In the midst of the embarrassment and stupefaction of the assembled families, Sabine de Grandlieu entered the room and gave him a letter, explaining that Mademoiselle des Touches had requested her to give it to him on this occasion.

Calyste turned away from the company to the embrasure of a window and read as follows:—

Camille Maupin to Calyste.

Calyste, before I enter my convent cell I am permitted to cast a look upon the world I am now to leave for a life of prayer and solitude. That look is to you, who have been the whole world to me in these last months. My voice will reach you, if my calculations do not miscarry, at the moment of a ceremony I am unable to take part in.

On the day when you stand before the altar giving your hand and name to a young and charming girl who can love you openly before earth and heaven, I shall be before another altar in a convent at Nantes betrothed forever to Him who will neither fail nor betray me. But I do not write to sadden you — only to entreat you not to hinder by false delicacy the service I have wished to do you since we first met. Do not contest my rights so dearly bought.

If love is suffering, ah! I have loved you indeed, my Calyste. But feel no remorse; the only happiness I have known in life I owe to you; the pangs were caused by my own self. Make me compensation, then, for all those pangs, those sorrows, by causing me an everlasting joy. Let the poor Camille, who is no longer, still be something in the material comfort you enjoy. Dear, let me be like the fragrance of flowers in your life, mingling myself with it unseen and not importunate.

To you, Calyste, I shall owe my eternal happiness; will you not accept a few paltry and fleeting benefits from me? Surely you will not be wanting in generosity? Do you not see in this the last message of a renounced love? Calyste, the world without you had nothing more for me; you made it the most awful of solitudes; and you have thus brought Camille Maupin, the unbeliever, the writer of books, which I am soon to repudiate solemnly — you have cast her, daring and perverted, bound hand and foot, before God.

I am today what I might have been, what I was born to be, — innocent, and a child. I have washed my robes in the tears of repentance; I can come before the altar whither my guardian angel, my beloved Calyste, has led me. With what tender comfort I give you that name, which the step I now take sanctifies. I love you without self-seeking, as a mother loves her son, as the Church loves her children. I can pray for you and for yours without one thought or wish except for your happiness. Ah! if you only knew the sublime tranquillity in which I live, now that I have risen in thought above all petty earthly interests, and how precious is the thought of DOING (as your noble motto days) our duty, you would enter your beautiful new life with unfaltering step and never a glance behind you or about you. Above all, my earnest prayer to you is that you be faithful to yourself and to those belonging to you. Dear, society, in which you are to live, cannot exist without the religion of duty, and you will terribly mistake it, as I mistook it, if you allow yourself to yield to passion and to fancy, as I did. Woman is the equal of man only in making her life a continual offering, as that of man is a perpetual action; my life has been, on the contrary, one long egotism. If may be that God placed you, toward evening, by the door of my house, as a messenger from Himself, bearing my punishment and my pardon.

Heed this confession of a woman to whom fame has been like a pharos, warning her of the only true path. Be wise, be noble; sacrifice your fancy to your duties, as head of your race, as husband, as father. Raise the fallen standard of the old du Guenics; show to this century of irreligion and want of principle what a gentleman is in all his grandeur and his honor. Dear child of my soul, let me play the part of a mother to you; your own mother will not be jealous of this voice from a tomb, these hands uplifted to heaven, imploring blessings on you. To-day, more than ever, does rank and nobility need fortune. Calyste, accept a part of mine, and make a worthy use of it. It is not a gift; it is a trust I place in your hands. I have thought more of your children and of your old Breton house than of you in offering you the profits which time has brought to my property in Paris.

“Let us now sign the contract,” said the young baron, returning to the assembled company.

The Abbe Grimont, to whom the honor of the conversion of this celebrated woman was attributed, became, soon after, vicar-general of the diocese.

The following week, after the marriage ceremony, which, according to the custom of many families of the faubourg Saint–Germain, was celebrated at seven in the morning at the church of Saint Thomas d’Aquin, Calyste and Sabine got into their pretty travelling-carriage, amid the tears, embraces, and congratulations of a score of friends, collected under the awning of the hotel de Grandlieu. The congratulations came from the four witnesses, and the men present; the tears were in the eyes of the Duchesse de Grandlieu and her daughter Clotilde, who both trembled under the weight of the same thought —

“She is launched upon the sea of life! Poor Sabine! at the mercy of a man who does not marry entirely of his own free will.”

Marriage is not wholly made up of pleasures — as fugitive in that relation as in all others; it involves compatibility of temper, physical sympathies, harmonies of character, which make of that social necessity an eternal problem. Marriageable daughters, as well as mothers, know the terms as well as the dangers of this lottery; and that is why women weep at a wedding while men smile; men believe that they risk nothing, while women know, or very nearly know, what they risk.

In another carriage, which preceded the married pair, was the Baronne du Guenic, to whom the duchess had said at parting —

“You are a mother, though you have only had one son; try to take my place to my dear Sabine.”

On the box of the bridal carriage sat a chasseur, who acted as courier, and in the rumble were two waiting-maids. The four postilions dressed in their finest uniforms, for each carriage was drawn by four horses, appeared with bouquets on their breasts and ribbons on their hats, which the Duc de Grandlieu had the utmost difficulty in making them relinquish, even by bribing them with money. The French postilion is eminently intelligent, but he likes his fun. These fellows took their bribes and replaced their ribbons at the barrier.

“Well, good-bye, Sabine,” said the duchess; “remember your promise; write to me often. Calyste, I say nothing more to you, but you understand me.”

Clotilde, leaning on the youngest sister Athenais, who was smiling to the Vicomte de Grandlieu, cast a reflecting look through her tears at the bride, and followed the carriage with her eyes as it disappeared to the clacking of four whips, more noisy than the shots of a pistol gallery. In a few minutes the gay convoy had reached the esplanade of the Invalides, the barrier of Passy by the quay of the Pont d’Iena, and were fairly on the high-road to Brittany.

Is it not a singular thing that the artisans of Switzerland and Germany, and the great families of France and England should, one and all, follow the custom of setting out on a journey after the marriage ceremony? The great people shut themselves in a box which rolls along; the little people gaily tramp the roads, sitting down in the woods, banqueting at the inns, as long as their joy, or rather their money lasts. A moralist is puzzled to decide on which side is the finer sense of modesty — that which hides from the public eye and inaugurates the domestic hearth and bed in private, as to the worthy burghers of all lands, or that which withdraws from the family and exhibits itself publicly on the high-roads and in face of strangers. One would think that delicate souls might desire solitude and seek to escape both the world and their family. The love which begins a marriage is a pearl, a diamond, a jewel cut by the choicest of arts, a treasure to bury in the depths of the soul.

Who can relate a honeymoon, unless it be the bride? How many women reading this history will admit to themselves that this period of uncertain duration is the forecast of conjugal life? The first three letters of Sabine to her mother will depict a situation not surprising to some young brides and to many old women. All those who find themselves the sick-nurses, so to speak, of a husband’s heart, do not, as Sabine did, discover this at once. But young girls of the faubourg Saint–Germain, if intelligent, are women in mind. Before marriage, they have received from their mothers and the world they live in the baptism of good manners; though women of rank, anxious to hand down their traditions, do not always see the bearing of their own lessons when they say to their daughters: “That is a motion that must not be made;” “Never laugh at such things;” “No lady ever flings herself on a sofa; she sits down quietly;” “Pray give up such detestable ways;” “My dear, that is a thing which is never done,” etc.

Many bourgeois critics unjustly deny the innocence and virtue of young girls who, like Sabine, are truly virgin at heart, improved by the training of their minds, by the habit of noble bearing, by natural good taste, while, from the age of sixteen, they have learned how to use their opera-glasses. Sabine was a girl of this school, which was also that of Mademoiselle de Chaulieu. This inborn sense of the fitness of things, these gifts of race made Sabine de Grandlieu as interesting a young woman as the heroine of the “Memoirs of two young Married Women.” Her letters to her mother during the honeymoon, of which we here give three or four, will show the qualities of her mind and temperament.

Guerande, April, 1838.

To Madame la Duchesse de Grandlieu:

Dear Mamma — You will understand why I did not write to you during the journey — our wits are then like wheels. Here I am, for the last two days, in the depths of Brittany, at the hotel du Guenic, — a house as covered with carving as a sandal-wood box. In spite of the affectionate devotion of Calyste’s family, I feel a keen desire to fly to you, to tell you many things which can only be trusted to a mother.

Calyste married, dear mamma, with a great sorrow in his heart. We all knew that, and you did not hide from me the difficulties of my position; but alas! they are greater than you thought. Ah! my dear mother, what experience we acquire in the short space of a few days — I might even say a few hours! All your counsels have proved fruitless; you will see why from one sentence: I love Calyste as if he were not my husband — that is to say, if I were married to another, and were travelling with Calyste, I should love Calyste and hate my husband.

Now think of a man beloved so completely, involuntarily, absolutely, and all the other adverbs you may choose to employ, and you will see that my servitude is established in spite of your good advice. You told me to be grand, noble, dignified, and self-respecting in order to obtain from Calyste the feelings that are never subject to the chances and changes of life — esteem, honor, and the consideration which sanctifies a woman in the bosom of her family. I remember how you blamed, I dare say justly, the young women of the present day, who, under pretext of living happily with their husbands, begin by compliance, flattery, familiarity, an abandonment, you called it, a little too wanton (a word I did not fully understand), all of which, if I must believe you, are relays that lead rapidly to indifference and possibly to contempt. “Remember that you are a Grandlieu!” yes, I remember that you told me all that —

But oh! that advice, filled with the maternal eloquence of a female Daedelus has had the fate of all things mythological. Dear, beloved mother, could you ever have supposed it possible that I should begin by the catastrophe which, according to you, ends the honeymoon of the young women of the present day?

When Calyste and I were fairly alone in the travelling carriage, we felt rather foolish in each other’s company, understanding the importance of the first word, the first look; and we both, bewildered by the solemnity, looked out of our respective windows. It became so ridiculous that when we reached the barrier monsieur began, in a rather troubled tone of voice, a set discourse, prepared, no doubt, like other improvisations, to which I listened with a beating heart, and which I take the liberty of here abridging.

“My dear Sabine,” he said, “I want you to be happy, and, above all, do I wish you to be happy in your own way. Therefore, in the situation in which we are, instead of deceiving ourselves mutually about our characters and our feelings by noble compliances, let us endeavor to be to each other at once what we should be years hence. Think always that you have a friend and a brother in me, as I shall feel I have a sister and a friend in you.”

Though it was all said with the utmost delicacy, I found nothing in this first conjugal love-speech which responded to the feelings in my soul, and I remained pensive after replying that I was animated by the same sentiments. After this declaration of our rights to mutual coldness, we talked of weather, relays, and scenery in the most charming manner — I with rather a forced little laugh, he absent-mindedly.

At last, as we were leaving Versailles, I turned to Calyste — whom I called my dear Calyste, and he called me my dear Sabine — and asked him plainly to tell me the events which had led him to the point of death, and to which I was aware that I owed the happiness of being his wife. He hesitated long. In fact, my request gave rise to a little argument between us, which lasted through three relays — I endeavoring to maintain the part of an obstinate girl, and trying to sulk; he debating within himself the question which the newspapers used to put to Charles X.: “Must the king yield or not?” At last, after passing Verneuil, and exchanging oaths enough to satisfy three dynasties never to reproach him for his folly, and never to treat him coldly, etc., etc., he related to me his love for Madame de Rochefide.

“I do not wish,” he said, in conclusion, “to have any secrets between us.”

Poor, dear Calyste, it seems, was ignorant that his friend, Mademoiselle des Touches, and you had thought it right to tell me the truth. Well, mother — for I can tell all to a mother as tender as you — I was deeply hurt by perceiving that he had yielded less to my request than to his own desire to talk of that strange passion. Do you blame me, darling mother, for having wished to reconnoitre the extent of the grief, the open wound of the heart of which you warned me?

So, eight hours after receiving the rector’s blessing at Saint–Thomas d’Aquin, your Sabine was in the rather false position of a young wife listening to a confidence, from the very lips of her husband, of his misplaced love for an unworthy rival. Yes, there I was, in the drama of a young woman learning, officially, as it were, that she owed her marriage to the disdainful rejection of an old and faded beauty!

Still, I gained what I sought. “What was that?” you will ask. Ah! mother dear, I have seen too much of love going on around me not to know how to put a little of it into practice. Well, Calyste ended the poem of his miseries with the warmest protestations of an absolute forgetting of what he called his madness. All kinds of affirmations have to be signed, you know. The happy unhappy one took my hand, carried it to his lips, and, after that, he kept it for a long time clasped in his own. A declaration followed. That one seemed to me more conformable than the first to the demands of our new condition, though our lips never said a word. Perhaps I owed it to the vigorous indignation I felt and showed at the bad taste of a woman foolish enough not to love my beautiful, my glorious Calyste.

They are calling me to play a game of cards, which I do not yet understand. I will finish my letter tomorrow. To leave you at this moment to make a fifth at mouche (that is the name of the game) can only be done in the depths of Brittany — Adieu.

Your Sabine.

Guerande, May, 1838.

I take up my Odyssey. On the third day your children no longer used the ceremonious “you;” they thee’d and thou’d each other like lovers. My mother-inlaw, enchanted to see us so happy, is trying to take your place to me, dear mother, and, as often happens when people play a part to efface other memories, she has been so charming that she is, almost, you to me.

I think she has guessed the heroism of my conduct, for at the beginning of our journey she tried to hide her anxiety with such care that it was visible from excessive precaution.

When I saw the towers of Guerande rising in the distance, I whispered in the ear of your son-inlaw, “Have you really forgotten her?” My husband, now become my angel, can’t know anything, I think, about sincere and simple love, for the words made him wild with happiness. Still, I think the desire to put Madame de Rochefide forever out of his mind led me too far. But how could I help it? I love, and I am half a Portuguese — for I am much more like you, mamma, than like my father.

Calyste accepts all from me as spoilt children accept things, they think it their right; he is an only child, I remember that. But, between ourselves, I will not give my daughter (if I have any daughters) to an only son. I see a variety of tyrants in an only son. So, mamma, we have rather inverted our parts, and I am the devoted half of the pair. There are dangers, I know, in devotion, though we profit by it; we lose our dignity, for one thing. I feel bound to tell you of the wreck of that semi-virtue. Dignity, after all, is only a screen set up before pride, behind which we rage as we please; but how could I help it? you were not here, and I saw a gulf opening before me. Had I remained upon my dignity, I should have won only the cold joys (or pains) of a sort of brotherhood which would soon have drifted into indifference. What sort of future might that have led to? My devotion has, I know, made me Calyste’s slave; but shall I regret it? We shall see.

As for the present, I am delighted with it. I love Calyste; I love him absolutely, with the folly of a mother, who thinks that all her son may do is right, even if he tyrannizes a trifle over her.

Guerande, May 15th.

Up to the present moment, dear mamma, I find marriage a delightful affair, I can spend all my tenderness on the noblest of men whom a foolish woman disdained for a fiddler — for that woman evidently was a fool, and a cold fool, the worst kind! I, in my legitimate love, am charitable; I am curing his wounds while I lay my heart open to incurable ones. Yes, the more I love Calyste, the more I feel that I should die of grief if our present happiness ever ceased.

I must tell you how the whole family and the circle which meets at the hotel de Guenic adore me. They are all personages born under tapestries of the highest warp; in fact, they seem to have stepped from those old tapestries as if to prove that the impossible may exist. Some day, when we are alone together, I will describe to you my Aunt Zephirine, Mademoiselle de Pen–Hoel, the Chevalier du Halga, the Demoiselles de Kergarouet, and others. They all, even to the two servants, Gasselin and Mariotte (whom I wish they would let me take to Paris), regard me as an angel sent from heaven; they tremble when I speak. Dear people! they ought to be preserved under glass.

My mother-inlaw has solemnly installed us in the apartments formerly occupied by herself and her late husband. The scene was touching. She said to us —

“I spent my whole married life, a happy woman, in these rooms; may the omen be a happy one for you, my children.”

She has taken Calyste’s former room for hers. Saintly soul! she seems intent on laying off her memories and all her conjugal dignities to invest us with them. The province of Brittany, this town, this family of ancient morals and ancient customs has, in spite of certain absurdities which strike the eye of a frivolous Parisian girl, something inexplicable, something grandiose even in its trifles, which can only be defined by the word sacred.

All the tenants of the vast domains of the house of Guenic, bought back, as you know, by Mademoiselle des Touches (whom we are going to visit in her convent), have been in a body to pay their respects to us. These worthy people, in their holiday costumes, expressing their genuine joy in the fact that Calyste has now become really and truly their master, made me understand Brittany, the feudal system and old France. The whole scene was a festival I can’t describe to you in writing, but I will tell you about it when we meet. The terms of the leases have been proposed by the gars themselves. We shall sign them, after making a tour of inspection round the estates, which have been mortgaged away from us for one hundred and fifty years! Mademoiselle de Pen–Hoel told me that the gars have reckoned up the revenues and estimated the rentals with a veracity and justice Parisians would never believe.

We start in three days on horseback for this trip. I will write you on my return, dear mother. I shall have nothing more to tell you about myself, for my happiness is at its height — and how can that be told? I shall write you only what you know already, and that is, how I love you.

Nantes, June, 1838.

Having now played the role of a chatelaine, adored by her vassals as if the revolutions of 1789 and 1830 had lowered no banners; and after rides through forests, and halts at farmhouses, dinners on oaken tables, covered with centenary linen, bending under Homeric viands served on antediluvian dishes; after drinking the choicest wines in goblets to volleys of musketry, accompanied by cries of “Long live the Guenics!” till I was deafened; after balls, where the only orchestra was a bagpipe, blown by a man for ten hours; and after bouquets, and young brides who wanted us to bless them, and downright weariness, which made me find in my bed a sleep I never knew before, with delightful awakenings when love shone radiant as the sun pouring in upon me, and scintillating with a million of flies, all buzzing in the Breton dialect! — in short, after a most grotesque residence in the Chateau du Guenic, where the windows are gates and the cows grace peacefully on the grass in the halls (which castle we have sworn to repair and to inhabit for a while very year to the wild acclamations of the clan du Guenic, a gars of which bore high our banner)— ouf! I am at Nantes.

But oh! what a day was that when we arrived at the old castle! The rector came out, mother, with all his clergy, crowned with flowers, to receive us and bless us, expressing such joy — the tears are in my eyes as I think of it. And my noble Calyste! who played his part of seigneur like a personage in Walter Scott! My lord received his tenants’ homage as if he were back in the thirteenth century. I heard the girls and the women saying to each other, “Oh, what a beautiful seigneur we have!” for all the world like an opera chorus. The old men talked of Calyste’s resemblance to the former Guenics whom they had known in their youth. Ah! noble, sublime Brittany! land of belief and faith! But progress has got its eye upon it; bridges are being built, roads made, ideas are coming, and then farewell to the sublime! The peasants will certainly not be as free and proud as I have now seen them, when progress has proved to them that they are Calyste’s equals — if, indeed, they could ever be got to believe it.

After this poem of our pacific Restoration had been sung, and the contracts and leases signed, we left that ravishing land, all flowery, gay, solemn, lonely by turns, and came here to kneel with our happiness at the feet of her who gave it to us.

Calyste and I both felt the need of thanking the sister of the Visitation. In memory of her he has quartered his own arms with those of Des Touches, which are: party couped, tranche and taille or and sinople, on the latter two eagles argent. He means to take one of the eagles argent for his own supporter and put this motto in its beak: Souviegne-vous.

Yesterday we went to the convent of the ladies of the Visitation, to which we were taken by the Abbe Grimont, a friend of the du Guenic family, who told us that your dear Felicite, mamma, was indeed a saint. She could not very well be anything else to him, for her conversion, which was thought to be his doing, has led to his appointment as vicar-general of the diocese. Mademoiselle des Touches declined to receive Calyste, and would only see me. I found her slightly changed, thinner and paler; but she seemed much pleased at my visit.

“Tell Calyste,” she said, in a low voice, “that it is a matter of conscience with me not to see him, for I am permitted to do so. I prefer not to buy that happiness by months of suffering. Ah, you do not know what it costs me to reply to the question, ‘Of what are you thinking?’ Certainly the mother of the novices has no conception of the number and extent of the ideas which are rushing through my mind when she asks that question. Sometimes I am seeing Italy or Paris, with all its sights; always thinking, however, of Calyste, who is”— she said this in that poetic way you know and admire so much —“who is the sun of memory to me. I found,” she continued, “that I was too old to be received among the Carmelites, and I have entered the order of Saint–Francois de Sales solely because he said, ‘I will bare your heads instead of your feet,’— objecting, as he did, to austerities which mortified the body only. It is, in truth, the head that sins. The saintly bishop was right to make his rule austere toward the intellect, and terrible against the will. That is what I sought; for my head was the guilty part of me. It deceived me as to my heart until I reached that fatal age of forty, when, for a few brief moments, we are forty times happier than young women, and then, speedily, fifty times more unhappy. But, my child, tell me,” she asked, ceasing with visible satisfaction to speak of herself, “are you happy?”

“You see me under all the enchantments of love and happiness,” I answered.

“Calyste is as good and simple as he is noble and beautiful,” she said, gravely. “I have made you my heiress in more things than property; you now possess the double ideal of which I dreamed. I rejoice in what I have done,” she continued, after a pause. “But, my child, make no mistake; do yourself no wrong. You have easily won happiness; you have only to stretch out your hand to take it, and it is yours; but be careful to preserve it. If you had come here solely to carry away with you the counsels that my knowledge of your husband alone can give you, the journey would be well repaid. Calyste is moved at this moment by a communicated passion, but you have not inspired it. To make your happiness lasting, try, my dear child, to give him something of his former emotions. In the interests of both of you, be capricious, be coquettish; to tell you the truth, you must be. I am not advising any odious scheming, or petty tyranny; this that I tell you is the science of a woman’s life. Between usury and prodigality, my child, is economy. Study, therefore, to acquire honorably a certain empire over Calyste. These are the last words on earthly interests that I shall ever utter, and I have kept them to say as we part; for there are times when I tremble in my conscience lest to save Calyste I may have sacrificed you. Bind him to you, firmly, give him children, let him respect their mother in you — and,” she added, in a low and trembling voice, “manage, if you can, that he shall never again see Beatrix.”

That name plunged us both into a sort of stupor; we looked into each other’s eyes, exchanging a vague uneasiness.

“Do you return to Guerande?” she asked me.

“Yes,” I said.

“Never go to Les Touches. I did wrong to give him that property.”

“Why?” I asked.

“Child!” she answered, “Les Touches for you is Bluebeard’s chamber. There is nothing so dangerous as to wake a sleeping passion.”

I have given you, dear mamma, the substance, or at any rate, the meaning of our conversation. If Mademoiselle des Touches made me talk to her freely, she also gave me much to think of; and all the more because, in the delight of this trip, and the charm of these relations with my Calyste, I had well-nigh forgotten the serious situation of which I spoke to you in my first letter, and about which you warned me.

But oh! mother, it is impossible for me to follow these counsels. I cannot put an appearance of opposition or caprice into my love; it would falsify it. Calyste will do with me what he pleases. According to your theory, the more I am a woman the more I make myself his toy; for I am, and I know it, horribly weak in my happiness; I cannot resist a single glance of my lord. But no! I do not abandon myself to love; I only cling to it, as a mother presses her infant to her breast, fearing some evil.

Note. — When “Beatrix” was first published, in 1839, the volume ended

with the following paragraph: “Calyste, rich and married to the most beautiful woman in Paris, retains a sadness in his soul which nothing dissipates — not even the birth of a son at Guerande, in 1839, to the great joy of Zephirine du Guenic. Beatrix lives still in the depths of his heart, and it is impossible to foresee what disasters might result should he again meet with Madame de Rochefide.” In 1842 this concluding paragraph was suppressed and the story continued as here follows. — TR.

http://ebooks.adelaide.edu.au/b/balzac/beatrix/chapter17.html

Last updated Wednesday, March 12, 2014 at 13:31