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the novel Camille


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Camille(LaDameauxCamilias)
byAlexandreDumas,fils
January,1999[Etext#1608]

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CAMILLE(LADAMEAUXCAMILIAS)
byALEXANDREDUMASfils


ChapterI
Inmyopinion,itisimpossibletocreatecharactersuntilonehasspentalong
timeinstudyingmen,asitisimpossibletospeakalanguageuntilithasbeen
seriouslyacquired.Notbeingoldenoughtoinvent,Icontentmyselfwith
narrating,andIbegthereadertoassurehimselfofthetruthofastoryinwhich
allthecharacters,withtheexceptionoftheheroine,arestillalive.Eye-witnesses
ofthegreaterpartofthefactswhichIhavecollectedaretobefoundinParis,
andImightcalluponthemtoconfirmmeifmytestimonyisnotenough.And,
thankstoaparticularcircumstance,Ialonecanwritethesethings,forIaloneam
abletogivethefinaldetails,withoutwhichitwouldhavebeenimpossibleto
makethestoryatonceinterestingandcomplete.
Thisishowthesedetailscametomyknowledge.Onthe12thofMarch,1847,I
sawintheRueLafitteagreatyellowplacardannouncingasaleoffurnitureand
curiosities.Thesalewastotakeplaceonaccountofthedeathoftheowner.The
owner’snamewasnotmentioned,butthesalewastobeheldat9,Rued’Antin,
onthe16th,from12to5.Theplacardfurtherannouncedthattheroomsand
furniturecouldbeseenonthe13thand14th.
Ihavealwaysbeenveryfondofcuriosities,andImadeupmymindnottomiss
theoccasion,ifnotofbuyingsome,atalleventsofseeingthem.NextdayI
calledat9,Rued’Antin.
Itwasearlyintheday,andyettherewerealreadyanumberofvisitors,bothmen
andwomen,andthewomen,thoughtheyweredressedincashmereandvelvet,
andhadtheircarriageswaitingforthematthedoor,gazedwithastonishment
andadmirationattheluxurywhichtheysawbeforethem.
Iwasnotlongindiscoveringthereasonofthisastonishmentandadmiration,for,
havingbeguntoexaminethingsalittlecarefully,Idiscoveredwithoutdifficulty
thatIwasinthehouseofakeptwoman.Now,ifthereisonethingwhichwomen
insocietywouldliketosee(andthereweresocietywomenthere),itisthehome
ofthosewomenwhosecarriagessplashtheirowncarriagesdaybyday,who,like
them,sidebysidewiththem,havetheirboxesattheOperaandattheItaliens,
andwhoparadeinParistheopulentinsolenceoftheirbeauty,theirdiamonds,
andtheirscandal.


Thisonewasdead,sothemostvirtuousofwomencouldenterevenher
bedroom.Deathhadpurifiedtheairofthisabodeofsplendidfoulness,andif
moreexcusewereneeded,theyhadtheexcusethattheyhadmerelycometoa
sale,theyknewnotwhose.Theyhadreadtheplacards,theywishedtoseewhat
theplacardshadannounced,andtomaketheirchoicebeforehand.Whatcouldbe
morenatural?Yet,allthesame,inthemidstofallthesebeautifulthings,they
couldnothelplookingaboutforsometracesofthiscourtesan’slife,ofwhich
theyhadheard,nodoubt,strangeenoughstories.
Unfortunatelythemysteryhadvanishedwiththegoddess,and,foralltheir
endeavours,theydiscoveredonlywhatwasonsalesincetheowner’sdecease,
andnothingofwhathadbeenonsaleduringherlifetime.Fortherest,therewere
plentyofthingsworthbuying.Thefurniturewassuperb;therewererosewood
andbuhlcabinetsandtables,SevresandChinesevases,Saxestatuettes,satin,
velvet,lace;therewasnothinglacking.
Isaunteredthroughtherooms,followingtheinquisitiveladiesofdistinction.
TheyenteredaroomwithPersianhangings,andIwasjustgoingtoenterinturn,
whentheycameoutagainalmostimmediately,smiling,andasifashamedof
theirowncuriosity.Iwasallthemoreeagertoseetheroom.Itwasthedressingroom,laidoutwithallthearticlesoftoilet,inwhichthedeadwoman’s
extravaganceseemedtobeseenatitsheight.
Onalargetableagainstthewall,atablethreefeetinwidthandsixinlength,
glitteredallthetreasuresofAucocandOdiot.Itwasamagnificentcollection,
andtherewasnotoneofthosethousandlittlethingssonecessarytothetoiletof
awomanofthekindwhichwasnotingoldorsilver.Suchacollectioncould
onlyhavebeengottogetherlittlebylittle,andthesameloverhadcertainlynot
begunandendedit.
Notbeingshockedatthesightofakeptwoman’sdressing-room,Iamused
myselfwithexaminingeverydetail,andIdiscoveredthatthesemagnificently
chiselledobjectsboredifferentinitialsanddifferentcoronets.Ilookedatone
afteranother,eachrecallingaseparateshame,andIsaidthatGodhadbeen
mercifultothepoorchild,innothavinglefthertopaytheordinarypenalty,but
rathertodieinthemidstofherbeautyandluxury,beforethecomingofoldage,
thecourtesan’sfirstdeath.
Isthereanythingsadderintheworldthantheoldageofvice,especiallyin


woman?Shepreservesnodignity,sheinspiresnointerest.Theeverlasting
repentance,notoftheevilwaysfollowed,butoftheplansthathavemiscarried,
themoneythathasbeenspentinvain,isassaddeningathingasonecanwell
meetwith.Iknewanagedwomanwhohadoncebeen“gay,”whoseonlylink
withthepastwasadaughteralmostasbeautifulassheherselfhadbeen.This
poorcreaturetowhomhermotherhadneversaid,“Youaremychild,”exceptto
bidhernourishheroldageassheherselfhadnourishedheryouth,wascalled
Louise,and,beingobedienttohermother,sheabandonedherselfwithout
volition,withoutpassion,withoutpleasure,asshewouldhaveworkedatany
otherprofessionthatmighthavebeentaughther.
Theconstantsightofdissipation,precociousdissipation,inadditiontoher
constantsicklystate,hadextinguishedinhermindalltheknowledgeofgood
andevilthatGodhadperhapsgivenher,butthatnoonehadeverthoughtof
developing.Ishallalwaysrememberher,asshepassedalongtheboulevards
almosteverydayatthesamehour,accompaniedbyhermotherasassiduouslyas
arealmothermighthaveaccompaniedherdaughter.Iwasveryyoungthen,and
readytoacceptformyselftheeasymoralityoftheage.Iremember,however,the
contemptanddisgustwhichawokeinmeatthesightofthisscandalous
chaperoning.Herface,too,wasinexpressiblyvirginalinitsexpressionof
innocenceandofmelancholysuffering.ShewaslikeafigureofResignation.
Onedaythegirl’sfacewastransfigured.Inthemidstofallthedebauches
mappedoutbyhermother,itseemedtoherasifGodhadleftoverforherone
happiness.AndwhyindeedshouldGod,whohadmadeherwithoutstrength,
haveleftherwithoutconsolation,underthesorrowfulburdenofherlife?One
day,then,sherealizedthatshewastohaveachild,andallthatremainedtoher
ofchastityleapedforjoy.Thesoulhasstrangerefuges.Louiserantotellthe
goodnewstohermother.Itisashamefulthingtospeakof,butwearenottelling
talesofpleasantsins;wearetellingoftruefacts,whichitwouldbebetter,no
doubt,topassoverinsilence,ifwedidnotbelievethatitisneedfulfromtimeto
timetorevealthemartyrdomofthosewhoarecondemnedwithoutbearing,
scornedwithoutjudging;shamefulitis,butthismotheransweredthedaughter
thattheyhadalreadyscarceenoughfortwo,andwouldcertainlynothave
enoughforthree;thatsuchchildrenareuseless,andalying-inissomuchtime
lost.
Nextdayamidwife,ofwhomallwewillsayisthatshewasafriendofthe
mother,visitedLouise,whoremainedinbedforafewdays,andthengotup


palerandfeeblerthanbefore.
Threemonthsafterwardamantookpityonherandtriedtohealher,morallyand
physically;butthelastshockhadbeentooviolent,andLouisediedofit.The
motherstilllives;how?Godknows.
ThisstoryreturnedtomymindwhileIlookedatthesilvertoiletthings,anda
certainspaceoftimemusthaveelapsedduringthesereflections,fornoonewas
leftintheroombutmyselfandanattendant,who,standingnearthedoor,was
carefullywatchingmetoseethatIdidnotpocketanything.
Iwentuptotheman,towhomIwascausingsomuchanxiety.“Sir,”Isaid,“can
youtellmethenameofthepersonwhoformerlylivedhere?”
“MademoiselleMargueriteGautier.”
Iknewherbynameandbysight.
“What!”Isaidtotheattendant;“MargueriteGautierisdead?”
“Yes,sir.”
“Whendidshedie?”
“Threeweeksago,Ibelieve.”
“Andwhyaretheroomsonview?”
“Thecreditorsbelievethatitwillsenduptheprices.Peoplecanseebeforehand
theeffectofthethings;youseethatinducesthemtobuy.”
“Shewasindebt,then?”
“Toanyextent,sir.”
“Butthesalewillcoverit?”
“Andmoretoo.”
“Whowillgetwhatremainsover?”


“Herfamily.”
“Shehadafamily?”
“Itseemsso.”
“Thanks.”
Theattendant,reassuredastomyintentions,touchedhishat,andIwentout.
“Poorgirl!”IsaidtomyselfasIreturnedhome;“shemusthavehadasaddeath,
for,inherworld,onehasfriendsonlywhenoneisperfectlywell.”Andinspite
ofmyselfIbegantofeelmelancholyoverthefateofMargueriteGautier.
Itwillseemabsurdtomanypeople,butIhaveanunboundedsympathyfor
womenofthiskind,andIdonotthinkitnecessarytoapologizeforsuch
sympathy.
Oneday,asIwasgoingtothePrefectureforapassport,Isawinoneofthe
neighbouringstreetsapoorgirlwhowasbeingmarchedalongbytwo
policemen.Idonotknowwhatwasthematter.AllIknowisthatshewas
weepingbitterlyasshekissedaninfantonlyafewmonthsold,fromwhomher
arrestwastoseparateher.SincethatdayIhaveneverdaredtodespiseawoman
atfirstsight.


Chapter2
Thesalewastotakeplaceonthe16th.Aday’sintervalhadbeenleftbetween
thevisitingdaysandthesale,inordertogivetimefortakingdownthehangings,
curtains,etc.Ihadjustreturnedfromabroad.ItwasnaturalthatIhadnotheard
ofMarguerite’sdeathamongthepiecesofnewswhichone’sfriendsalwaystell
onreturningafteranabsence.Margueritewasaprettywoman;butthoughthe
lifeofsuchwomenmakessensationenough,theirdeathmakesverylittle.They
aresunswhichsetastheyrose,unobserved.Theirdeath,whentheydieyoung,is
heardofbyalltheirloversatthesamemoment,forinParisalmostallthelovers
ofawell-knownwomanarefriends.Afewrecollectionsareexchanged,and
everybody’slifegoesonasiftheincidenthadneveroccurred,withoutsomuch
asatear.
Nowadays,attwenty-five,tearshavebecomesorareathingthattheyarenotto
besquanderedindiscriminately.Itisthemostthatcanbeexpectediftheparents
whopayforbeingweptoverareweptoverinreturnforthepricetheypay.
Asforme,thoughmyinitialsdidnotoccuronanyofMarguerite’sbelongings,
thatinstinctiveindulgence,thatnaturalpitythatIhavealreadyconfessed,setme
thinkingoverherdeath,moreperhapsthanitwasworththinkingover.I
rememberedhavingoftenmetMargueriteintheBois,whereshewentregularly
everydayinalittlebluecoupedrawnbytwomagnificentbays,andIhad
noticedinheradistinctionquiteapartfromotherwomenofherkind,a
distinctionwhichwasenhancedbyareallyexceptionalbeauty.
Theseunfortunatecreatureswhenevertheygooutarealwaysaccompaniedby
somebodyorother.Asnomancarestomakehimselfconspicuousbybeingseen
intheircompany,andastheyareafraidofsolitude,theytakewiththemeither
thosewhoarenotwellenoughofftohaveacarriage,oroneoranotherofthose
elegant,ancientladies,whoseeleganceisalittleinexplicable,andtowhomone
canalwaysgoforinformationinregardtothewomenwhomtheyaccompany.
InMarguerite’scaseitwasquitedifferent.Shewasalwaysalonewhenshedrove
intheChamps-Elysees,lyingbackinhercarriageasmuchaspossible,dressed
infursinwinter,andinsummerwearingverysimpledresses;andthoughshe
oftenpassedpeoplewhomsheknew,hersmile,whenshechosetosmile,was


seenonlybythem,andaduchessmighthavesmiledinjustsuchamanner.She
didnotdrivetoandfroliketheothers,fromtheRond-Pointtotheendofthe
Champs-Elysees.ShedrovestraighttotheBois.Thereshelefthercarriage,
walkedforanhour,returnedtohercarriage,anddroverapidlyhome.
AllthesecircumstanceswhichIhadsooftenwitnessedcamebacktomy
memory,andIregrettedherdeathasonemightregretthedestructionofa
beautifulworkofart.
ItwasimpossibletoseemorecharminbeautythaninthatofMarguerite.
Excessivelytallandthin,shehadinthefullestdegreetheartofrepairingthis
oversightofNaturebythemerearrangementofthethingsshewore.Her
cashmerereachedtotheground,andshowedoneachsidethelargeflouncesofa
silkdress,andtheheavymuffwhichsheheldpressedagainstherbosomwas
surroundedbysuchcunninglyarrangedfoldsthattheeye,howeverexacting,
couldfindnofaultwiththecontourofthelines.Herhead,amarvel,wasthe
objectofthemostcoquettishcare.Itwassmall,andhermother,asMusset
wouldsay,seemedtohavemadeitsoinordertomakeitwithcare.
Set,inanovalofindescribablegrace,twoblackeyes,surmountedbyeyebrows
ofsopureacurvethatitseemedasifpainted;veiltheseeyeswithlovelylashes,
which,whendrooped,casttheirshadowontherosyhueofthecheeks;tracea
delicate,straightnose,thenostrilsalittleopen,inanardentaspirationtowardthe
lifeofthesenses;designaregularmouth,withlipspartedgraciouslyoverteeth
aswhiteasmilk;colourtheskinwiththedownofapeachthatnohandhas
touched,andyouwillhavethegeneralaspectofthatcharmingcountenance.The
hair,blackasjet,wavingnaturallyornot,waspartedontheforeheadintwo
largefoldsanddrapedbackoverthehead,leavinginsightjustthetipoftheears,
inwhichthereglitteredtwodiamonds,worthfourtofivethousandfrancseach.
HowitwasthatherardentlifehadleftonMarguerite’sfacethevirginal,almost
childlikeexpression,whichcharacterizedit,isaproblemwhichwecanbutstate,
withoutattemptingtosolveit.
Margueritehadamarvellousportraitofherself,byVidal,theonlymanwhose
pencilcoulddoherjustice.Ihadthisportraitbymeforafewdaysafterher
death,andthelikenesswassoastonishingthatithashelpedtorefreshmy
memoryinregardtosomepointswhichImightnototherwisehaveremembered.
Someamongthedetailsofthischapterdidnotreachmeuntillater,butIwrite


themheresoasnottobeobligedtoreturntothemwhenthestoryitselfhas
begun.
Margueritewasalwayspresentateveryfirstnight,andpassedeveryevening
eitheratthetheatreortheball.Whenevertherewasanewpieceshewascertain
tobeseen,andsheinvariablyhadthreethingswithherontheledgeofher
ground-floorbox:heropera-glass,abagofsweets,andabouquetofcamellias.
Fortwenty-fivedaysofthemonththecamelliaswerewhite,andforfivethey
werered;nooneeverknewthereasonofthischangeofcolour,whichImention
thoughIcannotexplainit;itwasnoticedbothbyherfriendsandbythe
habitue’softhetheatrestowhichshemostoftenwent.Shewasneverseenwith
anyflowersbutcamellias.Attheflorist’s,MadameBarjon’s,shehadcometobe
called“theLadyoftheCamellias,”andthenamestucktoher.
LikeallthosewhomoveinacertainsetinParis,IknewthatMargueritehad
livedwithsomeofthemostfashionableyoungmeninsociety,thatshespokeof
itopenly,andthattheythemselvesboastedofit;sothatallseemedequally
pleasedwithoneanother.Nevertheless,foraboutthreeyears,afteravisitto
Bagnees,shewassaidtobelivingwithanoldduke,aforeigner,enormously
rich,whohadtriedtoremoveherasfaraspossiblefromherformerlife,and,as
itseemed,entirelytoherownsatisfaction.
ThisiswhatIwastoldonthesubject.Inthespringof1847Margueritewassoill
thatthedoctorsorderedhertotakethewaters,andshewenttoBagneres.Among
theinvalidswasthedaughterofthisduke;shewasnotonlysufferingfromthe
samecomplaint,butshewassolikeMargueriteinappearancethattheymight
havebeentakenforsisters;theyoungduchesswasinthelaststageof
consumption,andafewdaysafterMarguerite’sarrivalshedied.Onemorning,
theduke,whohadremainedatBagnerestobenearthesoilthathadburiedapart
ofhisheart,caughtsightofMargueriteataturnoftheroad.Heseemedtosee
theshadowofhischild,andgoinguptoher,hetookherhands,embracedand
weptoverher,andwithoutevenaskingherwhoshewas,beggedhertolethim
loveinherthelivingimageofhisdeadchild.Marguerite,aloneatBagnereswith
hermaid,andnotbeinginanyfearofcompromisingherself,grantedtheduke’s
request.Somepeoplewhoknewher,happeningtobeatBagneres,tookupon
themselvestoexplainMademoiselleGautier’struepositiontotheduke.Itwasa
blowtotheoldman,fortheresemblancewithhisdaughterwasendedinone
direction,butitwastoolate.Shehadbecomeanecessitytohisheart,hisonly


pretext,hisonlyexcuse,forliving.Hemadenoreproaches,hehadindeedno
righttodoso,butheaskedherifshefeltherselfcapableofchanginghermode
oflife,offeringherinreturnforthesacrificeeverycompensationthatshecould
desire.Sheconsented.
ItmustbesaidthatMargueritewasjustthenveryill.Thepastseemedtoher
sensitivenatureasifitwereoneofthemaincausesofherillness,andasortof
superstitionledhertohopethatGodwouldrestoretoherbothhealthandbeauty
inreturnforherrepentanceandconversion.Bytheendofthesummer,the
waters,sleep,thenaturalfatigueoflongwalks,hadindeedmoreorlessrestored
herhealth.ThedukeaccompaniedhertoParis,wherehecontinuedtoseeheras
hehaddoneatBagneres.
Thisliaison,whosemotiveandoriginwerequiteunknown,causedagreat
sensation,fortheduke,alreadyknownforhisimmensefortune,nowbecame
knownforhisprodigality.Allthiswassetdowntothedebaucheryofarichold
man,andeverythingwasbelievedexceptthetruth.Thefather’ssentimentfor
Margueritehad,intruth,sopureacausethatanythingbutacommunionof
heartswouldhaveseemedtohimakindofincest,andhehadneverspokento
herawordwhichhisdaughtermightnothaveheard.
Farbeitfrommetomakeoutourheroinetobeanythingbutwhatshewas.As
longassheremainedatBagneres,thepromiseshehadmadetothedukehadnot
beenhardtokeep,andshehadkeptit;but,oncebackinParis,itseemedtoher,
accustomedtoalifeofdissipation,ofballs,oforgies,asifthesolitude,only
interruptedbytheduke’sstatedvisits,wouldkillherwithboredom,andthehot
breathofheroldlifecamebackacrossherheadandheart.
WemustaddthatMargueritehadreturnedmorebeautifulthanshehadever
been;shewasbuttwenty,andhermalady,sleepingbutnotsubdued,continued
togiveherthosefeverishdesireswhicharealmostalwaystheresultofdiseases
ofthechest.
Itwasagreatgrieftothedukewhenhisfriends,alwaysonthelookoutforsome
scandalonthepartofthewomanwithwhom,itseemedtothem,hewas
compromisinghimself,cametotellhim,indeedtoprovetohim,thatattimes
whenshewassureofnotseeinghimshereceivedothervisits,andthatthese
visitswereoftenprolongedtillthefollowingday.Onbeingquestioned,
Margueriteadmittedeverythingtotheduke,andadvisedhim,withoutarriere-


pensee,toconcernhimselfwithhernolonger,forshefeltincapableofcarrying
outwhatshehadundertaken,andshedidnotwishtogoonacceptingbenefits
fromamanwhomshewasdeceiving.Thedukedidnotreturnforaweek;itwas
allhecoulddo,andontheeighthdayhecametobegMargueritetolethimstill
visither,promisingthathewouldtakeherasshewas,solongashemightsee
her,andswearingthathewouldneverutterareproachagainsther,notthoughhe
weretodieofit.
This,then,wasthestateofthingsthreemonthsafterMarguerite’sreturn;thatis
tosay,inNovemberorDecember,
1842.


Chapter3
Atoneo’clockonthe16thIwenttotheRued’Antin.Thevoiceofthe
auctioneercouldbeheardfromtheouterdoor.Theroomswerecrowdedwith
people.Therewereallthecelebritiesofthemostelegantimpropriety,furtively
examinedbycertaingreatladieswhohadagainseizedtheopportunityofthe
saleinordertobeabletosee,closeathand,womenwhomtheymightnever
haveanotheroccasionofmeeting,andwhomtheyenviedperhapsinsecretfor
theireasypleasures.TheDuchessofF.elbowedMlle.A.,oneofthemost
melancholyexamplesofourmoderncourtesan;theMarquisdeT.hesitatedover
apieceoffurniturethepriceofwhichwasbeingrunhighbyMme.D.,themost
elegantandfamousadulteressofourtime;theDukeofY.,whoinMadridis
supposedtoberuininghimselfinParis,andinParistoberuininghimselfin
Madrid,andwho,asamatteroffact,neverevenreachesthelimitofhisincome,
talkedwithMme.M.,oneofourwittieststory-tellers,whofromtimetotime
writeswhatshesaysandsignswhatshewrites,whileatthesametimehe
exchangedconfidentialglanceswithMme.deN.,afairornamentofthe
Champs-Elysees,almostalwaysdressedinpinkorblue,anddrivingtwobig
blackhorseswhichTonyhadsoldherfor10,000francs,andforwhichshehad
paid,afterherfashion;finally,Mlle.R.,whomakesbyhermeretalenttwice
whatthewomenoftheworldmakebytheirdotandthreetimesasmuchasthe
othersmakebytheiramours,hadcome,inspiteofthecold,tomakesome
purchases,andwasnottheleastlookedatamongthecrowd.
Wemightcitetheinitialsofmanymoreofthosewhofoundthemselves,not
withoutsomemutualsurprise,sidebysideinoneroom.Butwefeartoweary
thereader.Wewillonlyaddthateveryonewasinthehighestspirits,andthat
manyofthosepresenthadknownthedeadwoman,andseemedquiteoblivious
ofthefact.Therewasasoundofloudlaughter;theauctioneersshoutedatthe
topoftheirvoices;thedealerswhohadfilledthebenchesinfrontoftheauction
tabletriedinvaintoobtainsilence,inordertotransacttheirbusinessinpeace.
Neverwasthereanoisieroramorevariedgathering.
Islippedquietlyintothemidstofthistumult,sadtothinkofwhenone
rememberedthatthepoorcreaturewhosegoodswerebeingsoldtopayherdebts
haddiedinthenextroom.Havingcomerathertoexaminethantobuy,Iwatched
thefacesoftheauctioneers,noticinghowtheybeamedwithdelightwhenever


anythingreachedapricebeyondtheirexpectations.Honestcreatures,whohad
speculateduponthiswoman’sprostitution,whohadgainedtheirhundredper
centoutofher,whohadplaguedwiththeirwritsthelastmomentsofherlife,
andwhocamenowafterherdeathtogatherinatoncethefruitsoftheir
dishonourablecalculationsandtheinterestontheirshamefulcredit,Howwise
weretheancientsinhavingonlyoneGodfortradersandrobbers!
Dresses,cashmeres,jewels,weresoldwithincrediblerapidity.Therewas
nothingthatIcaredfor,andIstillwaited.AllatonceIheard:“Avolume,
beautifullybound,gilt-edged,entitledManonLescaut.Thereissomething
writtenonthefirstpage.Tenfrancs.”
“Twelve,”saidavoiceafteralongishsilence.
“Fifteen,”Isaid.
Why?Ididnotknow.Doubtlessforthesomethingwritten.
“Fifteen,”repeatedtheauctioneer.
“Thirty,”saidthefirstbidderinatonewhichseemedtodefyfurthercompetition.
Ithadnowbecomeastruggle.“Thirty-five,”Icriedinthesametone.
“Forty.”
“Fifty.”
“Sixty.”
“Ahundred.”
IfIhadwishedtomakeasensationIshouldcertainlyhavesucceeded,fora
profoundsilencehadensued,andpeoplegazedatmeasiftoseewhatsortofa
personitwas,whoseemedtobesodeterminedtopossessthevolume.
TheaccentwhichIhadgiventomylastwordseemedtoconvincemyadversary;
hepreferredtoabandonaconflictwhichcouldonlyhaveresultedinmakingme
paytentimesitspriceforthevolume,and,bowing,hesaidverygracefully,
thoughindeedalittlelate:


“Igiveway,sir.”
Nothingmorebeingoffered,thebookwasassignedtome.
AsIwasafraidofsomenewfitofobstinacy,whichmyamourpropremight
havesustainedsomewhatbetterthanmypurse,Iwrotedownmyname,hadthe
bookputononeside,andwentout.Imusthavegivenconsiderablefoodfor
reflectiontothewitnessesofthisscene,whowouldnodoubtaskthemselves
whatmypurposecouldhavebeeninpayingahundredfrancsforabookwhichI
couldhavehadanywhereforten,or,attheoutside,fifteen.
Anhourafter,Isentformypurchase.Onthefirstpagewaswritteninink,inan
eleganthand,aninscriptiononthepartofthegiver.Itconsistedofthesewords:
ManontoMarguerite.
Humility.
ItwassignedArmandDuval.
WhatwasthemeaningofthewordHumility?WasManontorecognisein
Marguerite,intheopinionofM.ArmandDuval,hersuperiorinviceorin
affection?Thesecondinterpretationseemedthemoreprobable,forthefirst
wouldhavebeenanimpertinentpieceofplainspeakingwhichMarguerite,
whateverheropinionofherself,wouldneverhaveaccepted.
Iwentoutagain,andthoughtnomoreofthebookuntilatnight,whenIwas
goingtobed.
ManonLescautisatouchingstory.Iknoweverydetailofit,andyetwheneverI
comeacrossthevolumethesamesympathyalwaysdrawsmetoit;Iopenit,and
forthehundredthtimeIliveoveragainwiththeheroineoftheAbbePrevost.
NowthisheroineissotruetolifethatIfeelasifIhadknownher;andthusthe
sortofcomparisonbetweenherandMargueritegavemeanunusualinclination
toreadit,andmyindulgencepassedintopity,almostintoakindofloveforthe
poorgirltowhomIowedthevolume.Manondiedinthedesert,itistrue,butin
thearmsofthemanwholovedherwiththewholeenergyofhissoul;who,when
shewasdead,dugagraveforher,andwatereditwithhistears,andburiedhis
heartinit;whileMarguerite,asinnerlikeManon,andperhapsconvertedlike
her,haddiedinasumptuousbed(itseemed,afterwhatIhadseen,thebedofher


past),butinthatdesertoftheheart,amorebarren,avaster,amorepitilessdesert
thanthatinwhichManonhadfoundherlastresting-place.
Marguerite,infact,asIhadfoundfromsomefriendswhoknewofthelast
circumstancesofherlife,hadnotasinglerealfriendbyherbedsideduringthe
twomonthsofherlongandpainfulagony.
ThenfromManonandMargueritemymindwanderedtothosewhomIknew,
andwhomIsawsingingalongthewaywhichledtojustsuchanotherdeath.
Poorsouls!ifitisnotrighttolovethem,isitnotwelltopitythem?Youpitythe
blindmanwhohasneverseenthedaylight,thedeafwhohasneverheardthe
harmoniesofnature,thedumbwhohasneverfoundavoiceforhissoul,and,
underafalsecloakofshame,youwillnotpitythisblindnessofheart,this
deafnessofsoul,thisdumbnessofconscience,whichsetsthepoorafflicted
creaturebesideherselfandmakesher,inspiteofherself,incapableofseeing
whatisgood,ofbearingtheLord,andofspeakingthepurelanguageofloveand
faith.
HugohaswrittenMarionDelorme,MussethaswrittenBernerette,Alexandre
DumashaswrittenFernande,thethinkersandpoetsofalltimehavebroughtto
thecourtesantheofferingoftheirpity,andattimesagreatmanhasrehabilitated
themwithhisloveandevenwithhisname.IfIinsistonthispoint,itisbecause
manyamongthosewhohavebeguntoreadmewillbereadytothrowdowna
bookinwhichtheywillfeartofindanapologyforviceandprostitution;andthe
author’sagewilldosomething,nodoubt,toincreasethisfear.Letmeundeceive
thosewhothinkthus,andletthemgoonreading,ifnothingbutsuchafear
hindersthem.
Iamquitesimplyconvincedofacertainprinciple,whichis:Forthewoman
whoseeducationhasnottaughtherwhatisright,Godalmostalwaysopenstwo
wayswhichleadthitherthewaysofsorrowandoflove.Theyarehard;those
whowalkinthemwalkwithbleedingfeetandtornhands,buttheyalsoleavethe
trappingsofviceuponthethornsofthewayside,andreachthejourney’sendina
nakednesswhichisnotshamefulinthesightoftheLord.
Thosewhomeettheseboldtravellersoughttosuccourthem,andtotellallthat
theyhavemetthem,forinsodoingtheypointouttheway.Itisnotaquestionof
settingattheoutsetoflifetwosign-posts,onebearingtheinscription“TheRight
Way,”theothertheinscription“TheWrongWay,”andofsayingtothosewho


comethere,“Choose.”Onemustneeds,likeChrist,pointoutthewayswhich
leadfromthesecondroadtothefirst,tothosewhohavebeeneasilyledastray;
anditisneedfulthatthebeginningofthesewaysshouldnotbetoopainfulnor
appeartooimpenetrable.
HereisChristianitywithitsmarvellousparableoftheProdigalSontoteachus
indulgenceandpardon.Jesuswasfullofloveforsoulswoundedbythepassions
ofmen;helovedtobinduptheirwoundsandtofindinthoseverywoundsthe
balmwhichshouldhealthem.ThushesaidtotheMagdalen:“Muchshallbe
forgiventheebecausethouhastlovedmuch,”asublimityofpardonwhichcan
onlyhavecalledforthasublimefaith.
WhydowemakeourselvesmorestrictthanChrist?Why,holdingobstinatelyto
theopinionsoftheworld,whichhardensitselfinorderthatitmaybethought
strong,dowereject,asitrejects,soulsbleedingatwoundsbywhich,likeasick
man’sbadblood,theeviloftheirpastmaybehealed,ifonlyafriendlyhandis
stretchedouttolavethemandsetthemintheconvalescenceoftheheart?
ItistomyowngenerationthatIspeak,tothoseforwhomthetheoriesofM.de
Voltairehappilyexistnolonger,tothosewho,likemyself,realizethathumanity,
fortheselastfifteenyears,hasbeeninoneofitsmostaudaciousmomentsof
expansion.Thescienceofgoodandevilisacquiredforever;faithisrefashioned,
respectforsacredthingshasreturnedtous,andiftheworldhasnotallatonce
becomegood,ithasatleastbecomebetter.Theeffortsofeveryintelligentman
tendinthesamedirection,andeverystrongwillisharnessedtothesame
principle:Begood,beyoung,betrue!Evilisnothingbutvanity,letushavethe
prideofgood,andaboveallletusneverdespair.Donotletusdespisethe
womanwhoisneithermother,sister,maid,norwife.Donotletuslimitesteem
tothefamilynorindulgencetoegoism.Since“thereismorejoyinheavenover
onesinnerthatrepenteththanoverninetyandninejustpersonsthatneedno
repentance,”letusgivejoytoheaven.Heavenwillrenderitbacktouswith
usury.Letusleaveonourwaythealmsofpardonforthosewhomearthly
desireshavedrivenastray,whomadivinehopeshallperhapssave,and,asold
womensaywhentheyofferyou.somehomelyremedyoftheirown,ifitdoesno
gooditwilldonoharm.
Doubtlessitmustseemaboldthingtoattempttodeducethesegrandresultsout
ofthemeagresubjectthatIdealwith;butIamoneofthosewhobelievethatall
isinlittle.Thechildissmall,andheincludestheman;thebrainisnarrow,andit


harboursthought;theeyeisbutapoint,anditcoversleagues.


Chapter4
Twodaysafter,thesalewasended.Ithadproduced3.50,000francs.The
creditorsdividedamongthemtwothirds,andthefamily,asisterandagrandnephew,receivedtheremainder.
Thesisteropenedhereyesverywidewhenthelawyerwrotetoherthatshehad
inherited50,000francs.Thegirlhadnotseenhersisterforsixorsevenyears,
anddidnotknowwhathadbecomeofherfromthemomentwhenshehad
disappearedfromhome.ShecameuptoParisinhaste,andgreatwasthe
astonishmentofthosewhohadknownMargueritewhentheysawasheronly
heirafine,fatcountrygirl,whountilthenhadneverlefthervillage.Shehad
madethefortuneatasinglestroke,withoutevenknowingthesourceofthat
fortune.Shewentback,Iheardafterward,tohercountryside,greatlysaddened
byhersister’sdeath,butwithasadnesswhichwassomewhatlightenedbythe
investmentatfourandahalfpercentwhichshehadbeenabletomake.
Allthesecircumstances,oftenrepeatedinParis,themothercityofscandal,had
beguntobeforgotten,andIwasevenlittlebylittleforgettingthepartIhad
takeninthem,whenanewincidentbroughttomyknowledgethewholeof
Marguerite’slife,andacquaintedmewithsuchpatheticdetailsthatIwastaken
withtheideaofwritingdownthestorywhichInowwrite.
Therooms,nowemptiedofalltheirfurniture,hadbeentoletforthreeorfour
dayswhenonemorningtherewasaringatmydoor.
Myservant,or,rather,myporter,whoactedasmyservant,wenttothedoorand
broughtmeacard,sayingthatthepersonwhohadgivenittohimwishedtosee
me.
Iglancedatthecardandtherereadthesetwowords:ArmandDuval.
ItriedtothinkwhereIhadseenthename,andrememberedthefirstleafofthe
copyofManonLescaut.Whatcouldthepersonwhohadgiventhebookto
Margueritewantofme?Igaveorderstoaskhiminatonce.
Isawayoungman,blond,tall,pale,dressedinatravellingsuitwhichlookedas
ifhehadnotchangeditforsomedays,andhadnoteventakenthetroubleto


brushitonarrivingatParis,foritwascoveredwithdust.
M.Duvalwasdeeplyagitated;hemadenoattempttoconcealhisagitation,and
itwaswithtearsinhiseyesandatremblingvoicethathesaidtome:
“Sir,Ibegyoutoexcusemyvisitandmycostume;butyoungpeoplearenot
veryceremoniouswithoneanother,andIwassoanxioustoseeyouto-daythatI
havenotevengonetothehoteltowhichIhavesentmyluggage,andhave
rushedstraighthere,fearingthat,afterall,Imightmissyou,earlyasitis.”
IbeggedM.Duvaltositdownbythefire;hedidso,and,takinghis
handkerchieffromhispocket,hidhisfaceinitforamoment.
“Youmustbeatalosstounderstand,”hewenton,sighingsadly,“forwhat
purposeanunknownvisitor,atsuchanhour,insuchacostume,andintears,can
havecometoseeyou.Ihavesimplycometoaskofyouagreatservice.”
“Speakon,sir,Iamentirelyatyourdisposal.”
“YouwerepresentatthesaleofMargueriteGautier?”
Atthiswordtheemotion,whichhehadgotthebetterofforaninstant,wastoo
muchforhim,andhewasobligedtocoverhiseyeswithhishand.
“Imustseemtoyouveryabsurd,”headded,“butpardonme,andbelievethatI
shallneverforgetthepatiencewithwhichyouhavelistenedtome.”
“Sir,”Ianswered,“iftheservicewhichIcanrenderyouisabletolessenyour
troublealittle,tellmeatoncewhatIcandoforyou,andyouwillfindmeonly
toohappytoobligeyou.”
M.Duval’ssorrowwassympathetic,aridinspiteofmyselfIfeltthedesireof
doinghimakindness.Thereuponhesaidtome:
“YouboughtsomethingatMarguerite’ssale?”
“Yes,abook.”
“ManonLescaut?”


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