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Title: The Lady and the Arsenic
Author: Marjorie Bowen (writing as Joseph Shearing)
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The Lady and the Arsenic

by

Marjorie Bowen
Writing as Joseph Shearing

Cover Image

THE LIFE AND DEATH OF A ROMANTIC

MARIE CAPPELLE, MADAME LAFARGE: 1816-1852

First published by Heinemann, London, 1937



"...ce fut un succès de mouchoirs; dit l'Empereur ému, qui était allé aussi de sa larme."
Preface to Madame Lafarge Correspondence. Paris, 1913.

* * *
"Comme il faut souffrir pour vivre; comme il faut souffrir pour mourir."
Madame Lafarge.

* * *

"To one who will carefully scan the events of this singular drama, there is offered much that should be the subject of very earnest and anxious enquiry—problems, indeed, upon the solution of which depend the security and the happiness of society; the more narrowly we investigate each fearful step in this appalling proceeding, the more profound will be our astonishment and alarm."
The Edinburgh Review. July, 1842. Article reviewing "Mémoires de Marie Cappelle" and "Procès de Madame Lafarge," etc.



Cover Image

The Lady and the Arsenic, Heinemann, London, 1937



TABLE OF CONTENTS



LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS




Illustration

Mme. Lafarge. From an old stamp drawing in possession of
the author, supposed to have been drawn from life at the trial.



I. FOREWORD — THE STAGE IS SET

THIS is a biography in the form of a novelette, such a tale as our grandparents might have read in the pages of The Family Herald. The material refused to take any other form.

In this there is perhaps little to arouse the emotions, to stir compassion or sympathy, but there is much to provoke an intense curiosity and that kind of excitement we feel when gazing at something most extraordinary. For, after all, this is not a novelette, but a truthful chronicle. No detail has been set down that is not taken from the contemporary records of the ténébreuse affaire Lafarge. And what ample records they are! What countless pages of memoirs, letters, what endless newspaper articles, what sheaves of verses, morceaux, reports, dossiers, shorthand accounts of cross-examinations, protestations and recriminations were evoked by this puzzle, this enigma, this strange, fantastic romance.

Yet when all this vast amount of material is selected, sifted, arranged so as to form a coherent story, it shapes itself, fact as it all is, into a feuilleton of the most lurid and tawdry description. There is hardly a character in this case about whom it could not reasonably be argued—"such a person never existed"—hardly an event of which it could not be reasonably said—"such a thing could never have happened."

Yet seldom have characters or events been better authenticated, better documented, for this was a case that excited the whole of France for years, and every scrap of evidence concerning it was carefully treasured. You may not believe in these people, but you are forced to admit that once they existed; you may refuse to credit these events, but you must acknowledge that once they took place. There it all is in black and white, in judicial files, in the reports of journalists, in the letters that these men and women wrote to one another, never suspecting that other persons would ever look at their passionate correspondence.

France has richly contributed to the annals of crime; not only are French misdeeds in themselves highly exciting, uncommon and grotesque, but the French methods of investigation, trial, report and punishment of crime are highly satisfactory—at least to the curious in these matters.

These long, patient, exhaustive examinations, conducted not only in open court but between the suspect and the examining magistrate in private, so carefully reported and arranged in these vast dossiers, allow almost exact reconstructions of French crimes and mysteries. There is also something extremely piquant in observing the cold, logical, keen and merciless mind of the French magistrate or lawyer pitted against the dramatic emotionalism, usually varied by cynic hauteur, of the prisoner; conflicting aspects of the national character usually provoke a common fury that involves judge, jury, lawyers, accused and witnesses in clouds of angry rhetoric. The drama, exotic to us, of these trials is considerably heightened if the accused be a woman and her alleged offence murder. French female criminals are most remarkable; not all of them are interesting save in the briefest outline.

Marie Boyer, daughter of a respectable merchant, educated in a convent, wishes to become a nun, weeps bitterly when, at her father's death, her mother fetches her home. She is described as "small, dark, very pretty and dainty." Her mother has a lover, a young scoundrel named Vitalis; he wins the affection of Marie, who is fifteen years of age. After two years, they plan to murder Mme. Boyer; she is a bore with her jealousy and they want her money. Vitalis commits the crime with his hands and a knife in the presence and with the assistance of the dainty Marie. They dismember the body between them and take it in parcels to a ditch outside the town. Clumsy inattention to detail causes their arrest; Marie, escaping with life imprisonment, becomes a model penitent, even saintly, "cannot think how she came to be so misled"; her conduct is so exemplary that she is released after twelve years, still young, still elegant and modest.

This Léon Vitalis, then, possessed Satanic beauty, fascination, great gifts of mind and body? Not at all. The reporters at the trial noted that he was mean-looking, stooped, was physically weak and had a livid, bilious complexion.

Gabrielle Ferrayrou, a good-looking, middle-class woman "of a superior education," devoted to her two children, married to a coarse, brutal chemist, twenty years her senior, takes Louis Aubert, his assistant, aged twenty-one, as a lover. Upon her husband's discovering the intrigue, Gabrielle agrees—"for fear of losing her children"—to help him murder the lover. After elaborate precautions the wretched youth is lured by the woman to a lonely house, where she assists the husband to murder him. Afterwards the pair take the body in a goat-chaise to the river and lower it from the bridge with a rope; they are assisted by Ferrayrou's brother Lucien. Then they go to the station cafe for drinks. Madame Gabrielle feels, she afterwards declared, très émotionnée.

When the crime was discovered this woman turned informer against her husband, giving the police sufficient evidence to convict him and his brother of murder. She received a life sentence and became, through good conduct, head of one of the prison workshops; she was described as "affectionate, docile, with few material wants, an idealist who only required to be loved and understood."

Gabrielle Bompard, seductive little swallow of the Paris pavements—"with a dozen lovers after her"—agrees with a chance admirer, Michel Eyraud, that a little more money would be pleasant, and arranges with him to decoy and murder the first likely-looking stranger. One Gouffé is the victim, and Gabrielle, the girl of twenty-two, spends the night alone in the flat with the body in a trunk while her accomplice is arranging their flight. "It was not very pleasant being left alone with a corpse," she pouted afterwards.

She travelled with her lover and the body to Lyons, where the remains of Gouffé were thrown over a cliff, and the couple departed gaily for England and America with the spoils. When arrested she gave evidence "in a half amused way" and suggested that she might have been hypnotised.

Such are the silhouettes of three French women-criminals; they arouse no desire for further investigation, they are freaks, grotesques, monsters, and there is no interest to be hoped for in tracing their dismal careers. Nor do they possess any mystery; they were convicted of crimes that they confessed to committing, they excited no sympathy in the intellectuals of their day, they had no champions and aroused no controversy; their dreary dramas were played out in a prosaic, matter-of-fact period, the latter half of the nineteenth century.

Go back fifty years from this date; we are in a very different atmosphere, in full romanticism, in the early years of the Orléans King of the French, Louis-Philippe.

It is a century ago, the Monarchy of July has endured six years, the son of Citizen Prince, Philippe-Egalité, contrives to rule over the people who beheaded his father. He only does so, however, by employing all the arts of corruption; the country is still shaken by the shocks of the revolution of 1789, that bold essay in democracy which proved so costly a failure, and by the excitements of the unequalled military successes of the first Empire. Louis-Philippe represents a compromise; he is a Bourbon, but not of the elder branch. The legitimate King, Charles X, shivers amid the rigours of Holyrood and has an heir. Louis-Philippe has erased the lilies from his shield, is bon bourgeois, a family man with an umbrella and a roll of newspapers under his arm; he has been educated by his father's mistress, Madame de Sillery, in the Spartan principles of Jean-Jacques Rousseau. For all that, he is a Bourbon-Orleans, full of tricks and ambitions, unscrupulous, untrustworthy, incompetent in the nobler arts of government. To his own distress and even misfortune, his reign, which has been described as "eighteen years—nothing," is remarkable for an extraordinary number of sensational crimes.

In the year of the revolution that puts the Duke of Orléans on the stripped throne of France, the old Prince de Condé, first Prince of the Blood after the royal family and one of the richest men in Europe, is found hanging to his own window-frame in his sumptuous château of Saint-Leu. Suicide! cry the Royalists. But sinister rumours begin to circulate. M. de Condé was under the dominion of his mistress, the English Sophie Dawes, and she is high in the friendship of the new King and Queen—her carriage often waits for her outside the Palais-Royal—moreover, the old man's huge fortune has gone to the King's son, M. de Nemours, with a fine slice for Sophie Dawes, Madame la baronne de Feuchères.

It is known that M. de Condé wished to leave his money to the heir of the exiled Charles X, that he planned to escape from his mistress and from France. The reign begins badly with this huge scandal; an action is brought by the old Prince's heirs-at-law, Sophie Dawes is suspected of murder. But she is highly protected, the case is hushed up, the King, with great loss of reputation and prestige, has secured the Condé millions.

While this affair is still amusing and agitating the public mind, another scandal rends France into two factions and sets the fashionable world agog.

General the Baron de Morell, a hero of the Napoleonic wars, of noble birth, connected with some of the most famous names of France, holding a high position in the military school at Saumur, brings an action for the attempted rape and the attempted murder of his daughter against Lieutenant de la Roncière, son of another glorious veteran of the late wars, equally patrician, well-placed, respected, honoured.

Great ladies, artists, poets, all the beau monde fight for places at this Parisian trial, even tearing the clothes off one another's backs in their eagerness to hear and to see this drama. The Press, rejoicing in new-found powers, "write-up" the case, Daumier draws sketches of all the characters, the foremost lawyers of the day are employed, the great and noble Berryer, Odilon Barrot, Chaix de l'Est-Ange—no accessories of melodrama are lacking.

The Morell family have been persecuted by abusive, threatening, anonymous letters—eighteen in all; then Marie de Morell's main has been entered at night by a man who has beaten, wounded and abused her and escaped through the window. The letters are signed with the initials of Emile de la Roncière, and Marie declares that he was her "nocturnal visitor." All this the prisoner vehemently denies—two great families are in violent opposition and Paris is divided, the majority being partisans of "the angelic victim."

Marie, after her distressing experience, has developed a painful illness; she lies in a trance all day and regains semi-consciousness only from twelve at night until four in the morning. In this state her evidence is taken; at midnight, into a court respectfully silent, the girl of seventeen is tenderly led; she sinks into an easy chair, her eyes are closed, her beautiful features barely visible behind the veils and ribbons of her fashionable bonnet; she answers in a drowsy voice the questions of the judge and the lawyers. Death is the penalty for rape or attempted rape, the prisoner is young, handsome, elegant, with a Byronic reputation—could any affaire be more exciting, more delicious?

Everyone agrees that there is an "atmosphere of Satan" about the case. The anonymous letters are frequently described as "Satanic." One of them begins: "I am neither man nor woman, neither demon nor angel..." When it is read aloud a delightful shudder goes through the densely packed spectators; one expects hopefully "des horreurs."

It is agreed that no theatre has ever offered a moment of more poignant drama than that when Marie de Morell throws back her veil, gazes across the court at the graceful figure of the prisoner (the reporters note his "sensual mouth," his "petites moustaches") and says in low yet steady accents: "C'est lui!"

The feminine portion of the audience clasp one another's hands convulsively—what could be more emotional, more romantic! It is pure Byron, pure Walter Scott, it is a novel by Lamartine, by George Sand—it is completely à la mode.

It is also something else, though few see what, and those few dare not speak frankly; even the defence does not venture to do more than respectfully hint at a possibility that no one can really be expected to credit. In this atmosphere of acute emotionalism the voice of reason is stifled.

There is, however, the evidence of the experts; four of them declare "the Satanic letters" to be not in the handwriting of Emile de la Roncière, but in that of Marie de Morell clumsily disguised. The paper on which they are written is similar to that of her lesson books—an uncommon make. No one has seen these letters delivered; the last was sent after La Roncière was in prison; while driving in a carriage with her mother the girl suddenly produced it, saying it had been thrust into her hand, which was hanging outside the window. Experts say that it would have taken three men to put a ladder against the girl's window in order to enter her room; no one saw or heard the intruder, no one but a young English governess knew of the outrage until the next morning when the parents were told. The alleged wounds were so slight that the girl was dancing at a ball in high spirits three days later.

The girl had before been discovered writing anonymous letters and telling romantic lies, her mother had had to reprove her for secret novel-reading; she was periodically subject to hallucinations, trances and crises de nerfs. She had said she found one of the letters pinned on a wall—it was impossible, the wall was of stone.

La Roncière has an alibi for "the fatal night"—three respectable people testify to his being in his lodging; the front door of this house is locked all night. Marie declares that her assailant wore a red military cap—no such cap is known at Saumur, all the military headgear is blue; challenged on this point, the girl says "she may have been mistaken." The glass of her broken window is outside, on the sloping roof. She is not examined medically until three months after the alleged outrage; the doctors then find her in perfect health—no sign of wounds or of the maternity the letters threatened, nor of any "outrage."

Of what use is this clear evidence?

It is indignantly rejected by the vast majority—the Morells are furious. What, suspect this pure young virgin of sixteen years of age of these vile "Satanic" letters, of these low coarse words, of such thoughts, of such a plot?

So innocent and ignorant is this maiden who is convent-bred, who has never read anything but the Bible (and a few smuggled novels), that her mother has never dared to ask her what really happened on that terrible night. "I have respected her sixteen years," says the noble matron dramatically in the witness-box to a murmur of sympathy.

Miss Allen, the governess, who found the girl on the floor bound "lightly with a handkerchief and a cord" and heard her first version of the story, is overcome by "English prudery" when giving evidence, so one hardly knows what the young man is accused of: "...he tore off my chemise, scratched me, jumped on me and said—'that will do for her,'" declares the entranced Marie, and almost everyone believes her, despite the experts, despite common sense.

It is argued that her strange illness has been brought on by the shock of her terrible experiences—the doctors declare that in the intervals between her attacks of trance and convulsions she is entirely reliable, clear-headed and intelligent.

No one sees that "the noble and innocent victim" suffers from acute hysteria, that she is a pathological liar, in modern jargon "a schyzophrene" (dweller in fantasy), that she has abnormal erotic sensibility, that the letters, far from being "Satanic," are merely silly, that they concern only sex and that there is nothing in them that a cunning schoolgirl could not have made herself acquainted with—even to the "bad words" easily overheard in a garrison town—that their style is that of a clumsy copy of Lamartine, George Sand or Scott.

No one inquires into the character and history of Miss Allen, "who always has a Bible in her hand," who is "very pretty" and twenty-three years of age. These two girls have been much alone, the charming, popular mother is often occupied with her social duties. No one asks what these girls talked of, what books they contrived to procure, if they discussed the young officers by whom they were surrounded. There can be no cross-examination on such subjects; these are well-bred jeunes filles, they know nothing, see nothing, hear nothing—they are pure to the point of negation. No, Paris prefers to believe in the fiendish young man who is half a demon, who belongs to a dreadful secret society, "The Bare Arms," who has vowed to work evil for evil's sake.

Marvellous romances of his former life are concocted—what numerous mistresses he has had, what bloody duels, what desperate gamblings, what sinister appearances and disappearances he has indulged in! How sardonic his black eyes, his full lips, his pallor! Is it possible that he is the Comte Saint-Germain, Cagliostro, or even the Wandering Jew? In reality Emile de la Roncière is a poor devil of a lieutenant who has behaved like all his comrades, who has quarrelled with his father about outrunning his allowance, who has the usual little sweetheart, who is very clever with his hands and likes to draw, to embroider and to make bedroom slippers. He swears, "with tears," that he has hardly noticed Marie de Morell, and that the letters seem to him "those of a lunatic."

All useless; he is found guilty, with extenuating circumstances. This last absurdity means that the jury are not quite sure of themselves—there might have been some truth in what those experts said, after all!

Lieutenant de la Roncière gets ten years for attracting the immature passion of an hysterical girl, and Marie de Morell's problems are solved by a husband and a large family. She is, however, all her life under treatment for hysteria.

Then an English lawyer, Lord Abinger (Sir James Scarlett), a German doctor, Mathieu, come forward; the distracted father works frantically for his son, public opinion hesitates, veers, one learns a little more about the complications of hysteria. The case is "reconsidered," and after several years of prison the unhappy La Roncière is released, restored to his military rank, given a high colonial post, decorated.

The two old fathers, heart-broken, retire and die in seclusion, each bitterly struck in his pride, his honour, his affection, his dignity.

Protected by money, rank, sentiment, influential relatives and friends, in particular by Maréchal Soult, Marie de Morell escapes even censure; no one ventures to suggest that, if this dangerous woman is responsible for her actions, she should be tried for perjury, that if irresponsible, she should be kept under medical care.

She has done her utmost to send an innocent man to the guillotine, and if there is anything "Satanic" in the case it is her cold cruelty, so often the accompaniment of abnormal erotic sensibility.

* * * * *

Meanwhile Paris—all France—is excited by another dramatic enigma that plunges the romantics, the intellectuals into wild excitement and greatly troubles the King himself.

Again the prisoner is a man, the victim of a woman, but this time a dead woman. Her character, conduct and love affairs form, however, the pivot on which the case turns.

Two years after La Roncière had disappeared into prison, the elegant and famous Gavarni (Paul-Sulpice), celebrated for his sketches and caricatures of Parisian life published in Les Gens du Monde and Charivari, and one of the leading figures in the artistic life of the capital, received by express from Bourg, a provincial town near the frontiers of Savoy, a desperate appeal from an old friend, a colleague, Sébastien-Benoît Peytel—"Help, my friend, and quickly!"

Peytel was in prison on a charge of a triple murder; the circumstances were dramatic, the mise en scène romantic, the whole affair mysterious, exciting. Gavarni threw himself into it with fervour and ran about Paris enlisting the sympathy and the help of all Peytel's friends and acquaintances; among them were such famous men as Honoré Balzac, Alphonse de Lamartine, father of the "romantics," Emile de Girardin, Henri Berthoud and Louis Desnoyers.

This Peytel came from Macon; he had been educated for the law, but instead of practising it he tried his fortune in Paris. He achieved some success in journalism and quickly made lifelong friends of some of the best minds of the day; he was what we should term "modern," what he called contemporain, and his acrid, shrewd and effective style was chiefly employed in attacking, in the traditional manner of the young intellectual, all existing institutions. Louis-Philippe, under the symbol of "The Pear" (La Poire), was one of Peytel's favourite butts, and some of these satires were considered very successful.

Before the revolution of 1830, he had brought out several literary journals, printed on rose-coloured paper—Le Sylphe, Le Trilby, Le Lutin; after this date he purchased, with Balzac, shares in Le Voleur; he helped to edit this and wrote the theatrical reviews. A daring pamphlet against the King made him popular with the wits of the boulevards, but not only did he earn nothing by his journalistic enterprises, they ate up a considerable portion of his modest patrimony.

At the age of thirty Peytel decided to return to the law and to purchase a provincial legal practice; he chose that of one Maître Cerdon, notary public at Belley, in the valley of the Rhône near the Savoy borders. Proposed public works, a new bridge, a new road, a steamboat on the Rhône, promised some profitable work in this far-away spot, and Peytel agreed to pay M. Cerdon forty thousand francs for his practice—a high price for the place and the period. To meet these expenses, Peytel looked out for an heiress, and soon found one—a girl of twenty years of age, Félice Alcazar, who was staying at Belley with her sister, Madame Montrichard, wife of the Commandant of the gendarmerie of the district.

Félice was a white Creole from Port-d'Espagne, of a good family of Spanish extraction; she was ill-educated, spoilt, indolent, petulant and greedy to a disgusting extent. All these defects had a common origin; the girl was nearly blind, she could not get up and downstairs or cut her food without assistance. She was, however, "coquette," and had contrived to imbibe many of the romantic notions of the period; ni laide, ni jolie, this feeble creature had few attractions beyond her dowry, which was considerable.

She brought her husband property in Gibraltar, shares in an English business, an annual income of two thousand francs, one hundred and eighty francs in French government bonds, and a floating capital of eight thousand five hundred francs. They were married in May, 1838; Lamartine, Gavarni, Desnoyers and Berthoud signed the register as witnesses.

At first Peytel and his wife lived with a married sister, Madame Casimir Broussis, at Bourg, near Belley, then at Belley itself with the Montrichards. In the autumn they were in Peytel's native town of Mâcon, and by the end of October he was ready to go to Belley again to take up official residence as notary public. He travelled in a one-horse covered carriage (phaéton à soufflet) with his wife, and was followed by a baggage cart that contained a considerable sum of money as well as luggage; the horse that drew this was led by Peytel's young servant, Louis Rey, an ex-soldier of excellent character whom he had obtained from his brother-in-law, Lieutenant Montrichard.

Because of long delays at each stage this cavalcade did not reach the last stretch of the journey—that between Roussillon and Belley—until eleven o'clock at night, when a frightful storm of wind and rain was added to the darkness and the wildness of the lonely road that wound, between rocks, lakes and precipices, through a gorge known as la montée de la Darde to a bridge called the Pont d'Andert over the river Furand.

Well beyond this bridge stood the lonely cottage and forge of a blacksmith, one Termet. In the fields beyond the ravine were a few scattered farms, but no spot in a civilised country could have been more desolate, especially on this night—All Saints' Eve—of violent tempest.

Amid the howling of the wind and the lashing of the rain the son of Joseph Termet heard a knocking at their door; the youth called his father and the two gazed cautiously from the window; some ragged moonbeams revealed a closed phaéton, the horse led by a gentleman who declared that he was Maître Peytel, the new notary at Belley, that his wife had just been murdered by his servant and that he wanted help to take her into Belley.

The two Termets accompanied Peytel to the road over the Darde, and there the body of Félice was found face downwards by the roadside in wet muslins and broken hat, horribly disfigured and half-submerged in a flooded field. When this corpse had been placed in the phaéton, Peytel directed the carriage towards Belley, but, after a few yards, drew up to point out to the blacksmith another body in the middle of the road. It was that of Louis Rey, his brains beaten in with a hammer; Peytel tried to drive over the corpse and, when prevented, explained laconically that "ce brigand" had shot Madame Peyel and that he in revenge had killed him with a geologist's hammer that he carried.

When the phaéton arrived at Belley, Peytel sprang out, knocked up the principal citizens and again told his frightful story to the doctor and magistrate. The former could not help Félice—she was already cold, with two pistol balls in her head. The little town of five thousand inhabitants was soon in a state of commotion, into the midst of which wandered the horse with the baggage wagon seeking his stable. Lieutenant Wolff of the gendarmerie soon appeared on the scene and listened sceptically to the tale of the dreadful events in the gorge of the Darde.

"All very well," was his comment, "but three went out and one returns. I arrest you, monsieur."

Such was the plight of Sébastien Peytel when he wrote his appeal to Gavarni. The ex-journalist's friends were soon up in arms, and his foremost champion was Balzac, once his co-editor on Le Voleur.

The preliminary enquiries, so important in French legal cases, were wholly unfavourable to Peytel. His story of the night of November 1st was proved, upon investigation, to be false. However Madame Peytel and Louis Rey had died, it had not been in the way in which Peytel declared they had. The career of the servant was discovered to be blameless; this foundling, without relatives, was a jolly, pleasant, industrious fellow, liked by all who had known him. Peytel's money affairs were bad, he had caused his wife to make a will in his favour, he had inserted in the marriage contract a clause, which the wife's notary had overlooked, that left him the master of her capital. Worse, a paper was found in Félice's writing confessing to miserable behaviour—some unspecified misconduct—and this was proved to be the half-blind girl's tracing in ink over her husband's pencilling. Worst of all, Mme. Peytel was, at the time of her murder, a few months from motherhood, and if she had had a child nothing could have prevented it from inheriting her fortune.

The six months' married life of the Peytels had been a wretched affair—the girl had been wilful, lazy, greedy, childish, but the man had been violent, brutal; his "scenes" had often reduced his partner to panic fright; she had never liked him and had lately come to regard him with physical repulsion.

In view of these facts it might have been reasonably supposed that Peytel had destroyed his unwanted wife and child, and then the servant, in order to put the blame on this victim. So far the story was sordid enough, but all the evidence (of which there was a great deal) pointed to the guilt of Peytel and to motives of cupidity, and, perhaps, a furious exasperation against a tiresome fool who was in the way. But the "romantic" element so popular at the time soon appeared; when Peytel was first arrested he exclaimed to Lieutenant Wolff—"You do not know all my misfortunes—my wife and my servant were lovers!" He afterwards denied having said this and treated any doubt of his wife's fidelity with offended scorn.

But when Gavarni visited him in prison, Peytel threw himself into his friend's arms and whispered "a secret." Gavarni never revealed this, but allowed it to be assumed that it was what Peytel had already told Wolff. The artist dashed back to Paris, told Balzac "the secret," and the two friends returned to Bourg post-haste. On the road the novelist indulged in some innocent publicity; at the first relay, he said to the postilion: "Ah, my friend, make haste! I can earn a hundred francs a day, this gentleman fifty francs, so you see how this loss of time ruins us!" The sums rose at every stage until Balzac was a self-confessed millionaire by the time he reached Bourg.

The novelist heard Peytel's story, believed it, and took up the case with all the full glow of that creative imagination so detrimental to the discovery of the truth. He visited the scene of the crime and was greatly impressed with the lonely gloom of the montée of the Darde. Yes, the rich colours of romanticism were here! The scenery of rock, abyss, lake and winding road was "Satanic," like that of the infernal regions. What a splendid setting for a crime of passion! Here Peytel, "essentially good," fiery, sensitive, proud, had destroyed the two base creatures who had "soiled his name"—and then tried to save the miserable woman's "honour" by a noble lie. Or had the guilty lovers tried to murder and rob the husband and been killed by Peytel in self-defence?

Balzac was not quite sure, but he returned to Paris and dashed off a brochure in defence of Peytel that contained such a severe attack on Félice that her brother-in-law entered the field to protect her memory. In Balzac's imagination the murdered woman was "horrible, low, mean, disgusting," she had "stooped to the embraces of a slave" and deserved even the terrible punishment that she had received.

Meanwhile Peytel had been put on his trial for murder. He appeared fashionably dressed, his black hair "cast back in the mode," his heavy whiskers carefully trimmed, his air haughty and aloof. Under cross-examination he showed that verbal dexterity which exasperates without convincing; his attitude towards the law was extremely insolent. He was fortified, not only by the knowledge of the exertions of Gavarni and Balzac, but by an enthusiastic letter on his behalf written by Lamartine, the French Byron.

There were suggestions that Peytel had been a little "Byronic" himself—that he used a skull as a drinking vessel and so on; neither this atmosphere of romantic gloom, however, nor his "Manfred" air in the dock impressed a provincial jury; he was found guilty and sentenced to death, to the amazement and rage of his friends. Gavarni, generous and impulsive, Balzac, warmhearted and opinionated, used every effort for a reopening of the case that became more and more obscured by theatricalisms.

Peytel spent his time in writing verses, memoirs, letters, sonnets to his friends, accounts of his youth—anything as long as he scribbled something. Like the Girondins, he was ready to write on the steps of the guillotine; he belonged to that class of pseudo-intellectuals which, without talent, must be continually expressing their own nullity of heart and mind All Peytel's output was banal and coloured by the literary fashion of his time; his style so enervated his thought that nothing of interest is to be found in this outpouring written in such horrible circumstances.

But Peytel, as the date of his death drew near, did pen one poignant document; it was a letter to Gavarni. The prisoner was not allowed to write to anyone or see anyone, but he enclosed this letter in another and contrived to cast it out of his cell window. A passer-by picked it up outside the prison walls. The covering letter contained a passionate appeal to the stranger who might find the letter not to read the inner epistle—"if you do, you will violate an important secret"—but to post it at once to Gavarni in Paris.

The finder of the letter had the charity to carry out the instructions and Gavarni duly received the desperate document. This was long, half-incoherent, and in places unintelligible; it referred to Peytel in the third person and was obviously written in a state of despair. It contained no confession, but many complaints of the conduct of the trial, a hint that his pamphlet against the King might injure him now, and minute instructions for a large quantity of opium to be smuggled into his cell within the lining of the covers of a Bible.

Gavarni sent this letter, secretly and direct, to the King. Louis-Philippe was greatly disturbed—"he neither ate nor slept for forty- eight hours." He always signed a death sentence with great reluctance, and in this case his instinct was to be magnanimous towards the man who had once libelled him. But after an exhaustive personal examination of the evidence the King, who had a shrewd, well-trained mind, could find no justification for saving Peytel from the guillotine.

Louis-Philippe returned the letter to Gavarni by a faithful hand and kept the secret entrusted to him; he had himself sealed the letter from Peytel and written across the envelope: "Faithfully resealed. L. P." He also suspended the death sentence on Peytel for a few days, to give Gavarni, it was supposed, time to send the poison to the prisoner; why the artist did not do this is not clear.

Peytel was guillotined in the market-place of Bourg without confessing. Balzac thought he had been "assassinated."

None of the romantics showed any pity for the wretched girl slain so horribly in such awful circumstances, or for the cheerful, likeable youth trudging along with his charge and suddenly blotted out of existence; no, all sympathy, all interest, all efforts were concentrated on the gloomy figure of Peytel, who by his own confession had murdered Louis Rey and according to the evidence murdered also his wife and child. He was a journalist, a poet, dark, haughty, sensitive to his "honour," a Manfred, a Childe Harold, the victim of "Satanic influences." If he had been tried in Paris he would probably have been acquitted, but the jurymen of Bourg were farther removed from the influence of the capital than were the jurymen who condemned Emile de la Roncière; these provincials had probably not read Byron, Lamartine or George Sand; it is known that they considered the black-browed, insolent young notary, with his shallow arrogance and harsh features, extremely unprepossessing—and the King shared their opinion that this Parisian journalist, so much admired by so many famous men, was a brutal murderer, a cunning liar.

The early years of the reign were disturbed also by the exploits of the poet-bandit, Lacenaire, who affected to be a kind of Francois Villon. He outstripped his model, however, and began not only robbing as a "gesture" against society, but murdering for the sheer excitement of the thing—for the thrill, as we should say.

This cynic scoundrel and bad versifier became, together with his accomplice Avril, one of the heroes of the day, sighed after by the women, admired—even imitated—by some of the men. He was so very fascinating with his sardonic smile, his black locks, his haughty disdain of all conventions, his mysterious evil; there was the double attraction—evil and despair. Yet he was, the reporters declared, mean-looking, bilious, small.

The romantics, the jeune France of the first quarter of the nineteenth century, were born either under the experimental stages of the French Revolution or during the first Empire; sons and daughters of men and women who had experienced or witnessed anarchy and the extremes of violence, passionate heroism, lofty idealism and bestial excesses, the intense excitement following unheard-of military glory and success, these romantics invented for themselves all the heady emotional experience that their parents had undergone at first hand.

Classicism, the craze of the last generation, was swept aside, declared dull, stupid, bourgeois (most scathing of insults), and the romantics, inspired by Horace Walpole, Charles Maturin, Mrs. Radcliffe, Sir Walter Scott, William Beckford, Hoffmann, and their own writers, Gautier, Hugo, De Vigny, became frantically gothique or "moyen âge." By these vague terms the romantics, whose ignorance of history was deplorable, meant any period from that of the Merovingian Kings to that of Francois I. They were dépaysés in their own country and century, and used every means to endeavour to live spiritually and emotionally in these past centuries that were, they falsely believed, full of what they termed "romance." There was also "a nostalgia of Asia Minor," for the East of the Crusades, for the Spain of chivalry, for China, Persia, India—anywhere, as long as the lotus bloomed and the breezes blew soft.

The romantic ideal was a lazy life, full of costly luxuries, deliciously agitated by love affairs, voluptuously refined, relieved by the violent drama of evil, jealousy, quarrels, death, murder, suicide, adorned with poetry, music and all that was soothing to the senses, and quite untouched by sordid (practical) cares and considerations. The romantics regarded with bitter contempt touched with fury the ordinary people, the great majority of their countrymen and countrywomen who were managing the France in which they had leisure to play their antics.

Romanticism penetrated deeply into the life of the people; not only was it found in the capital among the intellectuals, the poets, painters, novelists, journalists and architects, it infected even the ranks of Philistia. The King restored (and nearly ruined) some of the royal châteaux; the royal burial place, Saint-Denis, wrecked by the revolutionaries, was reconstructed by His Majesty at a vast cost and with the lamentable result that the Gothic abbey looked like a railway station. The nobility restored their country-seats in style gothique and furnished them in the same manner. It was the hey-day of the antique dealer; medieval furniture and bric-a-brac were sold (and made) in huge quantities; it was with an antique pistol that Peytel—a noted collector—shot his wife, and with another of these ancient weapons that the duc de Praslin beat out the brains of his duchess in the last year of the reign of Louis-Philippe. At the time of the murder the duc was spending large sums on rebuilding his magnificent château of Choiseul-Praslin in the pure Gothic style.

The middle classes did what they could by putting tourelles and ogive windows, castellated roof lines and a thousand other absurdities on or into their modest country houses. The provinces copied Paris; every city had its group of romantics, its secret society, its clubs founded on something desperate, dark and evil, like Medmenham and the Hellfire Clubs.

There were "cigarette" and "cigar" clubs (oddly enough, smoking was considered romantic), there were other clubs, the Black Pin, the Eagles of Napoleon, for example, that existed to subvert society, connected with the illuminati, the Rosicrucians and Freemasonry; these clubs, eccentric fag-ends of the revolutionary societies, gave the police a great deal of trouble. One of them, "The Bared Arms," was mentioned in the La Roncière case, and another was supposed to be behind the mysterious murder of the Duc de Berri, heir to the throne, on the steps of the Opera House.

A great feature of these clubs was the periodic orgies; an example of these collective debaucheries—something very difficult to do well—is given in Balzac's Peau de chagrin.

The music of Liszt and Chopin inflamed the romantics; in Les Préludes Liszt translates Lamartine into music and gives us the quintessence of romanticism; Berlioz added his erotic genius to the ferment and in several pieces, notably Les Francs Juges, gave a furious romantic's impression of the fascination, the gloom, the wizardry, the masked terrors of the Middle Ages.

The male costumes of jeune France were copied as near as possible from those seen on the boards during a representation of a Victor Hugo drama. Discarding the austere clothes of the Republicans and the fantastic uniforms of the Empire, the romantics tried to dress like the Frankish Kings, like the courtiers of the Valois, like pages of the Renaissance. It was said that the boulevards looked like a flower garden owing to the coloured felt hats of the gallants; these were slouched at all angles—à la Vandyck, à la Velasquez, à la Rubens—and surmounted long, flowing locks, fierce moustachios, and, often, as much beard as could be produced. The clothes were of fine cloth, silk, velvet, satin, and in brilliant colours—sky-blue and apple-green were favourite hues. There were less cheerful ones—grey, "the colour of ruins," "the colour of despair," "the colour of a thunderstorm." Cloaks were extremely fashionable and no romantic showed a scrap of linen; it was essential that the "frac" should be turned back with huge revers, showing a puffed-up waistcoat and a black cravat wound up to the ears; this cravat had to be black—a black "of shadows," "of hell," of "eternal damnation." The waistcoat was very important; Gautier set the fashion of red for this garment, but young men sat up half the night discussing what shade of red they should wear—"flame of Hell," gooseberry, pomegranate, cherry, purple, ox-blood, fires of love?

To wear this trying toilet with success one had to be tall, slender, elegant, white-faced, hollow-eyed, with black hair and brows. When a royal Prince, the duc de Nemours, fell a victim to the craze and grew his hair and beard long, he was regarded as a failure because he was so "disgustingly blond." No, one must look like Satan, like Manfred, like a damned soul, while the least touch of plumpness, especially about the waist-line, made the whole thing ridiculous.

In order to conform in some degree with the usual mode of their day, the romantics wore trousers, tight and gaily-coloured, and sometimes top-hats. Some of them dressed in complete black with cropped hair and side-whiskers; these usually wore corsets to give sharpness to the sombre silhouette. Every kind of braid, fur, tassels, galon, soutaches, feather and jewel was worn by these young men—anything to be different from the Philistine, the bourgeois.

Petrus Borel, the painter, wore pantaloons coloured vert d'eau and gloves coloured sang royaliste—"the entire history of France paraded the streets." Some wore their hair parted in the centre and hanging straight down like a portrait by Giotto, others had their locks tossed back "in wild and savage beauty"—anything as long as one was "flamboyant."

"We should have liked," wrote Gautier, "to have negro timbalists to precede us in the streets, a hundred clarions to follow us."

These young men had their own language; they wrote to one another in old French, they called one another Loys, Jehan, Don Antonio, Karl, Antonio, they referred to one another's complexions as "plus basané que les Maures d'Afrique," to one another's beards as "fauve et rutilante." Those who had money aimed at having a "castle" with pages, musicians, champing steeds, ghosts and skeletons; those who had no money wrote about these things.

Costume balls were the rage; the archives of Paris were ransacked (and much damaged) by enthusiasts looking for ideas for gothique costumes; one romantic, trying to waltz in plate armour, fell down in a fit. Alexandre Dumas wore real "museum pieces" looted during the revolution of 1830—"une palingénésie habillée des archives nationales." Names that seemed prosaic or bourgeois were changed into romantic forms. Théophile Dondey becomes Philottée O'Neddy—Auguste Maquet Augustus MacKeat—Elie Garimon Elias Ongimar—one must find a baroque pseudonym, one must "gothiciser."

The only words of praise to be obtained from a romantic were "c'est gothique," "c'est gothique flamboyant," "c'est cathédrale," "c'est satanique," "c'est asphyxiant."


Ressembler à Manfred! Oh la joie enivrante!
Avoir la bouche amère et le front soucieux,
Ignorer à jamais l'espérance riante,
Et se sentir maudit! Et blasphémer les cieux!


The women were shut out of many of these romantic pleasures but were none the less avid of them; while the men had their clubs, their orgies, their papers, journals and promenades, the women sat at home with their albums and pianofortes and scribbled and sketched and tinkled and languished. Clothes were the great solace. The women, like the men, turned their backs on classicism and tried to dress like Valois Princesses or Queens of Spain; huge gigot sleeves were worn, jewels on the forehead, veils, scarves, bracelets, belts fashioned like Gothic castles, gates and windows. A modish girl tried to get a "book of hours" and a prie-Dieu, and, if possible, a secret love intrigue—a note dropped by a dark-eyed stranger into her hand while the duenna (governess) was not looking, a lute struck beneath her window, a roll of verse cast into her carriage, a single flower offered in silence as she hurried to mass—and she was happy.

The wealthy have the fancy-dress balls; what joy to be Marie de Bourgogne, Isabeau de Bavière, Marguerite de Valois, Agnès Sorel—but above all, what joy to be Mary, Queen of Scots! This heroine is the female ideal; the lofty, captive, wronged Queen, so refined, so sad, with a secret passion disturbing her tender heart—above all, so persecuted, so unhappy—with a dozen cavaliers ready to risk their lives for her rescue.

The female romantics also dream of the château, the castle—oh, to be a châtelaine! To sit on a terrace and dream of a knight returning from the East! To move through Gothic galleries in brocades and silks, with a lute, a prayer-book, a love-sick page! To muse over the orange groves of Smyrna, over the courts of the Valois, over jousts where, crowned with roses, one gives the prize to the victor—anything to escape from the deadly tedium of reality and the commonplace!

The children were dressed as pages with feathered caps and velvet jackets; the pianofortes on which their mothers and sisters played the melodies of Chopin and Liszt had fronts shaped like the windows of a Gothic cathedral; many a gloomy old country-house where the women of the eighteenth century had groaned in boredom was discovered to be "delicious," "ravishing," if it had but tourelles, hooded chimney-pieces or any such fashionable anachronisms; any discomfort was enjoyed as long as one obtained the atmosphere of that vague dreamland, le moyen age.

Into a society thus prepared to receive them with enthusiasm came the powerful allies of romanticism—George Sand and the Valse.

When Amantine Aurore, Baronne Dudevant, ran away from a dull husband and tiresome children to live in Paris With a young student, when this emancipated lady began to paint, to write novels, to acquire fame and famous lovers, to wear male attire, to earn large sums of money, to become the idol of the intellectual world of Paris, a shudder of mingled horror and delight ran through French womanhood. The elderly, the orthodox, the happily situated woman regarded with alarm and horror this adulterous wife, this shameless wanton with her cigars and trousers, her skill with sword and pistol, but the large majority of the young, the lonely, the dissatisfied, the frustrated women admired Madame Dudevant either openly or secretly, and many imitated her as far as they dared.

Another aspect of womanhood became blended with the meek, languishing châtelaine, the lionne, dashing, bold, passionate, able to manage an Arabian charger, to handle a sword, to pick and choose her lovers regardless of conventions or the laws.

The Byronic scoundrel, the brigand, the pirate, the murderer, the "Satanic" villain had long been popular among the male romantics; now the women, hitherto held back by fear, lack of a leader and tradition, hastened to indulge in moral anarchy, though with some timidity.

Madame Dudevant, writing under a male name, George Sand, packed the whole philosophy of her generation into the glittering, seductive and sensual romances that rapidly found their way into every boudoir, every kitchen, every schoolroom in the land. George Sand had great talents, an enticing style, a strong gift of narrative, a vivid manner of presenting her theories that was acceptable alike to the ignorant and to the fastidious. Her novels could act like an enchantment on Jenny at the wash-tub and the young duchesse in her pseudo-Gothic apartments, on the lazy, stupid schoolgirl and on the refined, intelligent woman of middle age. Under the guise of the most voluptuous colours, the most exciting situations, George Sand preached woman's right to love; carrying much farther the doctrines of her master, J.-J. Rousseau, and embellishing these with her own gifts and colouring them with her own temperament, George Sand taught that there was no such thing as illicit love—a sincere passion was above all laws and justified itself; this sincere love might be renewed many times without blame, it brought with it purity, redemption from sin, and had a high spiritual value; it justified adultery, suicide, any contravention of the law—it was the only thing that made life worth while.

Marriage was ridiculous, dull, degrading, a man-made institution, little better than slavery; only in complete sex freedom did a woman find dignity, happiness, repose. This theory, eagerly accepted by other writers (perhaps simultaneously thought of by them), culminated in the apotheosis of the courtesan who regained her virginity by the purifying fires of a pure love—Marion de l'Orme, Angelo and La Dame aux Camélias served to make this point of view popular. The influence of George Sand made a heroine of the unfaithful wife, the harlot, the déclassés woman, the rebel, deceived a hundred times, still seeking for the true love that should not only restore her chastity but set her on the side of the angels.

Mary Magdalene was the patron saint of the romantics—the saying "because she has loved much" was taken to mean that the penitent beauty won merit by experimenting frequently in physical love. With rare devices of literary talent these theories, combined with a general lawlessness, and insistence on the general aspect of love and what the orthodox considered blasphemy, were expounded in Indiana, Valentine, Léone Léoni', Jacques, Simon Mauprat, La Dernière, Aldini, Les Mâitre, Mosaïstes, Pauline, Un Hiver à Majorque, Lucrezia Floriani and La Comtesse de Rudolstadt.

Other romances spread the same philosophy with fierce, but no more impressive fervour; Eugène Sue, Frédéric Soulié, with their hideous pictures of the most degraded people, the most repellent vices, Balzac and Hugo with their exaltation of the immoral woman, De Vigny, De Musset with their enervating and luxurious themes of misunderstood love and genius, and humanity's right to commit suicide, all of them with their common conception of "wickedness" as grand, splendid, intellectual, goodness as pale, mean, bourgeois, with their elevation of emotion over reason, their discovery of heroism in unrestrained passion, and their preoccupation with sex, sadism and hedonism, set the fashion of thought and conduct for at least the younger generation and permeated the whole of society with the taint of blood and patchouli, the reek of the slaughter-house or the thieves' kitchen and the sickly odours of the courtesan's boudoir.

God was used by these writers, but only as a stage effect; dumb and blind, the Deity sat apart like a sphinx in a desert, but when dramatic ends were served he might be either evoked or defied or prayed to by one of the frantic company of jeune France.

Lélia was the handbook of the female romantics; few could resist the intoxicating pages in which the luscious sentences of George Sand depicted a world without restraints, without laws, in which a refined sensuality, an erotic sensibility was lightly cloaked by pretences of intellectualism and philosophy.

This novel and its fellows—all the output of the romantics—were loose, contradictory and incoherent in their basic ideas, which were, as far as they could be co-ordinated, entirely unworkable, false and confused.

In the masterpieces of Stendhal (Henri Beyle), Le Rouge et Le Noir (note the careless cynicism of the title), La Chartreuse de Parme and L'Amour, there is a complete reversal of all moral values. Julien forces himself to seduce Madame de Renal, it is his duty; Angélique is indignant that Fabian should be in peril for killing a man (an actor), his inferior in birth.

A miasma of the most refined and fastidious evil hangs over all these books; it is a decadence of the heart and the mind not only of morals and manners that Stendhal paints; it is worse than vice, it is virtue and heroism upside down.

"What is evil?" ask the romantics contemptuously. "Good and evil alike come from God."

Numbers of the inferior authors copied these fashionable writers, every newspaper had its feuilleton; novels were brought out in cheap weekly parts, were sold at low prices, crowded the shelves of the circulating libraries—romances, verses, memoirs were everywhere; the conductors of the new omnibuses read them as their heavy vehicles trundled over the cobbles of Paris, the errand boys were absorbed in "the blood and mud" of Eugène Sue's Mystères de Paris, the elegant lady in her briska or brougham had her copy of Lélia or Léone Léoni in her muff. We have seen how Marie de Morell obtained these novels, innocent from a convent school as she was, and how Peytel, the friend of Balzac, in irons in the condemned cell, scribbled in the style of Eugène Sue or Victor Hugo.

To this moral bouleversement was added the delicious excitement of the valse; in the year of Queen Victoria's coronation, Johann Strauss the elder gave seventy-eight concerts in London, and his melodious dance tunes were soon the rage of Paris; this sensuous music, this whirling measure with men and women clasped in one another's arms while they kept time to a pleasing rhythm, suited the romantics—it took a high place in that world where the Gothic castle, the Court of Francois, le roi chevalier, the slums of Paris, the criminal's cell, the harlot's garret and the boudoir of the châtelaine jostled the verses of Byron and Lamartine, the novels of Schiller and George Sand in the phantasmagoria of a nightmare.

The theatre showed the romantic point of view in the most alluring colours; the austere and noble characters of Racine and Corneille were cast aside, the witty, elegant comedies of Molière were ignored, people and scenes never before considered worthy of the dignity of drama were displayed in the Parisian playhouses amid a fervour of enthusiasm; plays showing a state of moral anarchy were nightly applauded by crowded audiences.

The dramas exalted "the grandeur of evil," "the sublimity of passion," ("With me," declared one villain-hero, "you are sublime—with an ordinary bourgeois you would be nothing but an honest woman.") Scoundrels were made fascinating—"bronzes cast by Satan." Every conceivable vice or wrong-doing was romanticised; every criminal had something great about him, nothing was despised save the law-abiding, the well-behaved, the bourgeois. The rebels against society were shown as noble and attractive compared to the dull hypocrites who formed this society; the mother, the matron, the married woman, the tradesman, the whole fabric of law and order were nightly held up to derision on the boards of the Parisian theatre, while the Parisians applauded the triumph of the femme déclassée, the criminal and the brigand.

Marion de l'Orme cries:

"Mon Didier! Près de toi, rien de moi nest resté
Et ton amour m'a fait une virginité!"

And every woman in the theatre applauded, sighed, and envied such a voluptuous return to a long lost chastity—who would not, under such conditions, have a succession of lovers?

The theatres that catered for the audiences who could not pay quite so much for their seats provided plays that dealt with the darker side of romanticism, the Gothic romance of ghosts and terror combined with the lurid horrors made popular by Soulié and Sue.

Plays in which every extravagance and every abomination were displayed had a succès fou in these cheaper theatres—La Nonne Sanglante, Le Chiffonnier de Paris, Les Nuits de la Seine, Dix ans de la vie d'une femme, La Tour de Nesle were some of the best known of these melodramas. So, while the mistress was listening to the ravings of Antony or Angelo acclaiming the genius of evil, the maid was agape before "the bleeding nun," "the rag-picker of Paris," or some scene of sordid crime set in Newgate or a morgue.

When they compared their entertainments over the morning's toilet, they would both devour the last instalment of Le Juif errant or some such feuilleton.

The Chatterton of Alfred de Vigny was held responsible for the annual rise in suicides, nearly doubled between 1830 and 1840, and many young, ardent, gifted souls certainly destroyed themselves because the romantics taught that the ability to commit suicide was the great distinction between man and beast, and because they thought that this self-destruction was a fine gesture of contempt towards a dull bourgeois world.

Such victims of romanticism were usually male; the women clung more tenaciously to life; they were not less corrupted.

George Sand received packets of letters from despairing husbands and fathers who accused her of ruining their homes. Contented wives and mothers dipped into the pages of Lélia or some of its successors and straightway found their husbands plain and coarse, their children tedious, their lives paltry; finding reality intolerable, these women tried to create in their actions and surroundings the atmosphere of the enchanting fictions that had turned their heads.

The unmarried women of the upper classes were in a better position to indulge romanticism. Idle, luxurious, often talented and well-trained in "accomplishments," often charming and pretty, they were able to produce a certain illusion of romance; it was easy for them to assume a melancholy air, to play valses, to sing verses, to recite poetry, to attend balls and theatres in "fancy" costume or in white muslin with flowers in their tresses, to exchange romantic confidences with a female friend—above all, it was easy to read, read, read, and to write, write, write letters, verses, essais, songs, pensées, réflexions. Carefully they cultivated l'air romantique, the pale face, the black hair and eyes (if possible), the enigmatic, brooding manner, the graceful languor, the half-suppressed passion, the nostalgia for the past, for the East, the scorn for their own times and for everything practical.

To obtain the sylph-like figure made "the rage" by Madame Taglioni, these ladies starved and forced themselves into iron corsets; food was despised, the romantic played with an egg, with a salad, with a little fruit, she drank quantities of China tea, of soda water, and ate mufflings (muffins); if the result was a face blanched with anaemia or shadowed with the pains of indigestion, so much the better. Some girls drank vinegar and sucked lead pencils to give themselves a pallid complexion; it was considered "interesting" to have consumption of the lungs, to die young. In a habit amazone, with her hair flying and a whip in her gauntleted hand, the romantic would gallop solitary through the Bois, but never quite beyond the range of admiring glances of spectators.

These women indulged in musings over death as well as passion; not only was their air melancholy, dark, not only did they put bistre round their eyes and belladonna into their eyes to obtain this "beyond-the-tomb" fixity of gaze, but they adorned their salons with pictures of vampires, witches, Sabbaths, phantoms, skeletons and flights of bats, favoured white gowns with black roses, boughs of cypress instead of fans, and named their drawing-rooms salle de la mélancolie or "The Spectre's Antechamber."

It is not to be supposed that in the country of Voltaire, Molière and Rabelais the romantics went unnoticed by the satirists; a whole literature, a series of albums, of drawings were devoted to this subject; some of the leading romantics themselves almost satirised the movement, but this was too powerful even for sarcasm or ridicule to check—it went its headlong course until Madame Bovary did for romanticism what Don Quixote did for chivalry.

Gustave Flaubert did not kill romanticism; what is implied in this term is common to human nature in all ages and countries, but he put it out of fashion for a time at least, and by coldly dissecting the romantic woman put femininity out of love with this particular role—though constantly recurring specimens of the romantic woman prove that the type is immortal.

Never before was it encouraged and exalted as in the period that we are considering; this enthusiasm for feminine romanticism Was owing partly to ignorance of much that is now common knowledge. The phenomena of hysteria, magnetism, mesmerism, trance, ecstasy were imperfectly understood; the science of psychology was in its infancy; women who then could pass for femmes fatales or "eternal enigmas" would now be docketed as mental cases. Least of all was pathological lying or the creation of a fantasy-life by a person dissatisfied with reality credited, or even considered seriously—as we have seen in the Marie de Morell case. Some few doctors understood at least something of this large subject, but they were not listened to and often dared not say what they thought. Yet it was to this dangerous state of "make-believe" that many romantic women were reduced.

From reading novelettes to writing novelettes, and then to living novelettes, the steps were easy. The romantic deliberately created out of herself a character that approached that of her favourite heroine, and sometimes, like Frankenstein, found that she had created a monster who ran away, not into realms of fantasy, but into the sordid tragedies of everyday.

The great difficulty that faced the romantics—it was greater in the case of the ladies—was this inevitable conflict with reality. After all, pretend as one would, one was living in the nineteenth century and not in the Middle Ages, in France, not in fairyland. George Sand was one in a million; where was the average woman, even if well-born, well-to-do, young and pleasing, to find the means of leading the free life of Madame Dudevant that was the result of great gifts, a powerful character, a capacity for earning money?

All very well to dream of freedom in love, of a hundred errors effaced by the one pure passion, but even the errors had to have a partner and where were the men coming from? These Satanic heroes, passionate, refined and sardonic, or deliciously damned and cursed, were rare; when they did appear they usually lacked money; often they lacked the means to support even a castle in Spain. And a Frenchwoman, however romantic, had strong inherited ideas of security, comfort, the convenable; she did not want a starving poet though he might look like Byron, or a grocer's assistant though he might resemble Satan. The family tradition was still powerful—papa and mamma had to be considered; she was dependent on them for everything; her relations guarded her dot carefully, it was to be parted with only to a man of good position and prospects—such a one was, too often, not a romantic, or, if he were infected with the fashionable malaise, did not look in the least like a George Sand hero or the portraits of Alfred de Musset.

Even in the wildest throes of romanticism most of the women retained some glimmerings of the national shrewdness and common sense and tried to make the most of both worlds. The usual expedient was to marry the "best" parti procurable, and afterwards to indulge oneself as far as possible in romantic caprices—these, if circumstances were favourable, might include a lover; but as a rule the romantic was careful not to outrage too violently that dull society which she despised but which she also feared and which accorded her—as long as she behaved herself—security, comfort, and often luxury.

Many women achieved this double life with the ease of natural duplicity and that elegant feminine dexterity for which hypocrisy is too coarse a word. But some bold, passionate creatures found it extremely difficult to subscribe to a social order they loathed; few, however, had the courage to cast aside all restraints and to follow the example of George Sand. Despite romanticism the feminine code was extremely strict and the well-brought-up young woman hesitated a long time before she took the step that would cut her off from the help and protection of her family, the countenance of her class and all the advantages to be gained from a pose of respectability in a world that was still, on the whole, respectable—at least in appearance.

Marriage, for instance, might be odious, degrading, but for the ordinary woman what was the alternative? Spinsterhood (one was vieille fille at twenty-five years of age), boredom—a life barren of dignity, importance and excitement. Save for the very few, a "career" was not to be thought of; the market for feminine talents and activities was extremely small; a lady had no training for anything but a post as governess; the arts were out of the question unless one was very gifted; actresses were not recruited from the ranks of gentlewomen; nor was it easy to become a famous courtesan; lack of gifts, opportunities and courage prevented most well-born women from taking up this career that was so seductively romantic. But how to set about being a Marion de l'Orme or a Ninon de Lenclos?

Driven back to the conventions the young romantic sullenly acquiesced in her destiny and tried to do the best with the material at her command—her dreams, her books, her scribblings, her albums, her chance secret opportunities for adventure, for rebellion, for realisation of her own potentialities.

Thrown thus on herself, infected with the moral anarchy of the endless romances she read, the sensitive, imaginative young woman began to invent the exciting life she was denied, to lie, to combine real details with an intricate pattern of falsehood, to intrigue to gain her ends; she became skilful in provoking the passions of those about her, in creating "sensations," in making mischief, in assuming poses, even often an adept in the most subtle duplicity and that subtle combination of truth and falsehood more dangerous than lies.

The amount of pain, distress, trouble and confusion, even of wrong and suffering, caused by this type of romantic liar was often vast and far-reaching in its effects; not even the shrewdest, best-trained legal brains of the day could cope with the fearful complications created by the perverse egotism of the hysteric female desperately anxious to be the centre of some powerful drama.

A mysterious murder took place at the dawn of the romantic movement that illustrates the terrible power of this type of hysterical woman to confuse justice and to inflame the public imagination to fury. The murdered body of a M. Fualdès, a middle-aged magistrate of the town of Rodez, was found in the river that flows through his native town. The police decided that the crime had been committed in the hovel of a certain couple named Bancal who lived in one of the worst quarters of the town and were of the most degraded description; perpetrated by this couple and a wretch named Collard who lived with them at the instigation of two well-known citizens related to the murdered man—Joseph Jousion and Bernard-Charles Bastide-Grammont.

The police theory was that the two principals had hired the others to abduct and murder Fualdès and afterwards to carry his body through the town and cast it into the river. The motive could not be clearly guessed at—Bastide-Grammont owed Fualdès money, and Fualdès had been carrying a large sum on the night of his murder; there were also suspicions of political motives, private vendettas and the vengeance of one of the secret societies with which France was then riddled. Fualdès had been one of the jurymen who tried Charlotte de Corday, and even this was brought up as a possible explanation of the murder.

The accused had, on their side, good alibis and a reasonable defence, lack of motives, previous good characters, the unlikelihood that men of education and position would commit such a crude, barbarous and stupid crime, and so on.

The affair was then, and has since remained, a mystery, one of the most exasperating of causes célèbres; the interest of it, for a student of romanticism, lies in the intervention in the case of Clarisse Manson.

This lady, née Enjalran, was the daughter of a magistrate of Rodez, neither pretty nor graceful, but pleasing and vivacious; she had been born and bred in the country and was in everything a little provincial; she found the provinces, however, intolerably dull, was an insatiable novel-reader and early stated her creed—"I am a romantic." She revolted against the idea of an ordinary marriage with an ordinary man, but was induced to give her hand to M. Antoine Manson, whom she found, however, extremely commonplace.

To liven up the marriage she indulged in make-believe; the husband was forbidden the house and forced to woo her as if he were a secret lover. He sang Spanish songs under her balcony, sent her pearl-grey doves with notes under their wings, baskets of fruit with cashmere shawls, voiles d'Angleterre and verses, and kept rendez-vous in a pavilion in the garden that Clarisse pretended to think was extremely dangerous. She wrote the whole story in a series of egotistical, foolish letters to a schoolgirl friend at Rodez; those epistles were composed in the high-flown language of the persistent fiction-reader who had no experience of life.

Clarisse soon wearied of her romantic pretences—do what she would, Antoine Manson was bourgeois, she could not turn him into a Byron, a Schiller, a troubadour or even a Spanish cavalier. M. Manson also tired of being kept out of his own house, entering his wife's room by the window, sending her verses and presents, every day getting up with the dawn to sing aubades beneath her balcony, and of listening to silly chatter about Aleppo and Corinne.

The couple separated; Clarisse kept the only child, a boy of whom she was foolishly fond, and returned to the dull house of her dull parents. Idle, discontented, consumed with daydreams, always brooding over some novel, and imagining herself the heroine, Clarisse Manson wearied of the fetters of a tedious existence; she was a nonentity with neither beauty nor gifts, in a small provincial town (Rodez is near Toulouse and the Spanish frontier, a long way from Paris), a woman whom no one noticed, into whose dreary life came neither drama nor romance nor excitement of any kind.

With the Fualdès affair came Clarisse's great chance, and she took it; shortly after the arrest of the accused man she went to the prefecture and signed a deposition to the effect that she had been in the Bancal hovel during the murder and that she could identify Bastide-Grammont and Jousion as the murderers. She had been wandering down this slum of an ugly reputation in the dark of a March evening when she heard a noise that frightened her and she fled into a doorway; a hag pulled her in and thrust her into a cupboard, telling her to be silent; when she was let out she saw both Bastide-Grammont and Jousion; the former had wished to kill her, the latter had saved her life but had forced her to swear secrecy; half-dead with terror she was led through the room where the corpse of Fualdès was extended on the table, taken to a distant part of the town and left; she had been wearing a dark dress and veil.

The prosecution declared that Clarisse Manson "was an angel sent by God to bring hideous criminals to justice," and Clarisse was one of the first witnesses to be called. With her opening words, however, she took her story back—she had never been in the Bancals' hut; after making this declaration she fainted.

Upon recovery she showed great terror at the sight of the prisoners in the dock, made some incoherent statements about "knives, blood" and so on, and fell into convulsions. The impression she made was that she was terrified of the vengeance of the prisoners if they were acquitted, or of that of relatives if they were condemned—and that she was afraid to speak.

She was promised legal protection; a file of soldiers was placed between her and the prisoners, and she was entreated, even by the advocate for the defence, to speak the truth. Having thus attracted a lively attention, Clarisse Manson proceeded to disturb and confuse, not only Rodez but the whole of France, with what can only be described as a novelette in the form of a jig-saw puzzle.

Her evidence, spread over weeks, was incoherent, contradictory, incredible, baffling to a maddening degree; the interest of the case shifted from the men on trial for their lives to Clarisse Manson who, without looks, talents or fortune, contrived to occupy a position of dazzling publicity. In the course of her evidence, which was always given with much drama and emotion and interrupted by fainting fits and convulsions, Clarisse Manson swore to the following different stories:

She had never been to the Bancals' house—she knew a woman who had been, but could not reveal her name.

She had been to the Bancals' house, she had hidden in a closet, a cupboard, under a bed, behind a door; she had heard nothing, she had heard Fualdès being killed. She had seen the murderers and recognised them, she had seen some men she could not recognise. She had worn a black veil, a dark dress; she had been attired as a man. She had the jacket and waistcoat—the pantaloons had been destroyed because they were blood-stained; this blood had come from the corpse that she had brushed against in leaving the Bancals, it had come from her own nose, which had bled, as she had fallen against a shutter.

To these contradictory statements Clarisse Manson added others to account for her being in such an ill-reputed place at such an hour. She was there to meet a secret lover, she was there to meet her husband with whom she was on the point of being reconciled, she was there to surprise her husband with the charming Rose Perrin, with whom he had, she suspected, an intrigue, she was there because she had seen someone she knew in the street and out of curiosity had followed him into this ill-famed dwelling—finally, she would veer right round and declare: "I was not there at all, at the foot of the scaffold I would maintain that."

She continually cast looks of indignation at the prisoners and addressed them in terms of reproach and horror; she was so much affected by the sight of weapons that the officer of gens d'armes standing near her had to take off his sword; she declared that she was in great fear of her own life and an armed guard accompanied her when she went abroad in Rodez. She frequently alluded to "a secret" that no torture should tear from her, and often held up the business of the court by long swoons or trances during which she muttered incoherencies like a seeress.

Some of her dramatic exclamations, notably: "All the murderers are not in the dock!" spread alarm and confusion, not only throughout Rodez, but throughout France.

All the accused showed great firmness and patience in denying all her stories and none of them was trapped by her insinuations into any admission of guilt.

Finally, there being some realists among the magistrates, Clarisse Manson was arrested on a charge of perjury and sent to Paris. She then assumed a melancholy air of resignation, still talked of her "secret," wept, laughed, and began, true to type, to write her memoirs. She was very well treated, allowed to have her child, whom she pampered, and to receive visitors; her likeness appeared in all the papers and she occupied more of the public attention than any question of the moment, however important. By no other means than the public utterance of fantastic lies this commonplace woman achieved more notoriety than is usually accorded to great heroines or great criminals.

The journalists analysed her character and described her person with the greatest care, her "honour" and her "virtue" were discussed as if these vague abstractions had great importance. Only a few had the shrewdness to describe Madame Manson's appearances in the witness-box as "véritables scènes de mélodrame" and to comment "lorsque la passion paraît la justice s'en va." Only a few laughed at her fantastic "romans" of that famous and fatal night, among which was one about an Englishwoman, Miss Gipson [sic], who, wearing remarkable green plumes, had been secreted in the cupboard of the thieves' kitchen that the Bancals owned.

Five of the prisoners were condemned to death for the murder of M. Fualdès; their guilt is still a matter of dispute. Their condemnation was in part owing to the intervention of Madame Manson, for, though she was accused of perjury, she contrived to create an atmosphere of mystery that was most prejudicial to the accused men and woman.

In a series of letters to the Prefect of Aveyron, written from prison, Madame Manson denied absolutely having ever been in the Bancals' hut, giving an alibi for the night of the murder. She declared that a certain M. Clémendot had seen her at the theatre, tried to force his attention on her, and in doing so had roused the anger of her brother. Fearful of a duel between the two men and of separation from her child ("mon Edouard, mon seul bien"), exhausted by lack of food and sleep, she had made the false declaration in a state of mental confusion.

She soon offered a variation of this tale. M. Clémendot was her lover, he had been false to her with Rose Perrin, and it was to surprise the lovers that she had gone to the maison Bancal. Her final word, however, was that she did not even know where this house was situated.

How often, when some bright, sensitive creature has destroyed himself, has the coroner remarked: "He lived in a world of fantasy." Tragic indeed are such cases where the impact of reality is too hard for the dreamer to endure, and he ends a life of promise by suicide; but even more tragic are the cases where the dweller in realms of fantasy tries to superimpose a romantic invention on reality and to live in a self-created world of those imaginings that are, when translated into speech and action, plain falsehoods. Better for such a one to destroy himself than to involve others in all the terrible consequences of an attempt to turn daydreams into actualities and to translate into action the eccentric and egotistical fancies that bewilder the neurotic, the romantic, the hysterical.

All the mise en scène of romanticism—as the early nineteenth century understood the word—seems ridiculous and pitiful. We smile at these damned, cursed souls, at these "Satanic" characters, at all the melodramatic properties of the romantics, but if we consider the too frequent cases, of which Marie de Morell and Clarisse Manson are typical examples, where the atmosphere of the novelette is shadowed by prison bars and the knife of the guillotine, where the inventions, poses and half-unconscious actions of some irresponsible, emotional woman bring misery, disgrace and ruin and perhaps death to innocent people, where the lurid incidents of melodrama blend with the grimmest realities of life and death, then we may be inclined to think that indeed there is something Satanic about romanticism, which may be described as the father of all lies.

Even in the first half of the nineteenth century of France not everyone was a romantic; the law existed and so did a large number of people ready to enforce the law; petty, sordid passions, cupidity, spite, envy, snobbery animated many ordinary folk who were without romanticism. The orthodox, the law-abiding were still powerful, especially in the provinces; thousands of women read romances and went no farther than sighing over them in secret; the true romantic was faced with a world where he could work endless mischief, but which sooner or later would defeat him.

The morbid rebel, the social anarchist, even in this period, came sooner or later into conflict with forces that eclipsed or destroyed them; the romantic who could not keep his fantasies under control found himself confronted with a tragedy in which, too often, others were involved disastrously.

Not so much harm has been done by the realist who, understanding his world, and knowing what he wants, has unscrupulously striven for his ends, as by the romantic who, inhabitant of a novelette-melodrama-created world, has endeavoured to subordinate reality to his own fantasy.

While Clarisse Manson was distracting France with her lies and postures, a little girl was growing up who was to outshine her in her own sphere, and who, romantic of the romantics, was to combine in her short career all the ingredients of romanticism—"the secret of the cradle," "the secret of the tomb," an entangled intrigue that included a handsome Spaniard, stolen diamonds, the honour of a great lady, a frustrated love affair, an unhappy marriage, a Gothic castle, swoons, convulsions, a murder, ghosts, a cause célèbre, prisons, "the shadow of the scaffold," an abundance of period fripperies.

This little girl was Marie Cappelle, afterwards Madame Lafarge, whose slender figure, hair like swathes of crape, huge eyes with bistre shadows, hollow cough, all with l'air romantique, half-infernal, half-angelic, a whole generation found almost unbearably fascinating.

Her own character, her circumstances, the period in which she lived combined to make this woman symbolic of the whole French romantic movement and illustrative of an important facet of human nature.

Far more gifted, intelligent and remarkable than either Marie de Morell or Clarisse Manson, Marie Cappelle's melodrama was more lurid and "sensational" than either the affair of the anonymous letters or Mme. Manson's part in the Fualdès murder.

By her friends and partisans (of whom she had a vast number, and who comprised some of the finest minds in France) she was termed "l'ange de l'arsénic," an unconscious parody of Lamartine's description of Charlotte de Corday as "the angel of assassination"—and she herself described the dangerous delights of the George Sand romances as "diamonds in a rose."

This biography has been named The Lady and the Arsenic, because each of these two plays an important part in the tale.

The bibliography at the end of the volume contains the principal authorities on which this study of a famous romantic has been based.

Joseph Shearing.
Paris,
May, 1936.


II. DROP SCENE—THE HAUNTED MONASTERY, 1869

O les beaux jours! Comme j'étais malheureuse! —Sophie Arnould.


"BLOW your nose, dear, and stop shuffling your feet—poor Mamma has a terrible headache—yes, we are stopping here, no, I don't know where we are going to have luncheon—oh, mon Dieu, Mamma said, blow your nose, not wipe it on your glove!"

The family party descended from the carriage, and a fatigued lady with a chignon, a mauve-and-white check dress and panniers and bustle of prune-coloured taffeta dragged along a tiresome child in a straw hat; the father and son in a check pardessus followed. At the entrance gate to the monastery were already waiting a young English couple, a solitary middle-aged traveller in a plaid cape and three students from Orléans University.

The porter opened the gates and a Carthusian monk waited to conduct the tourists round the buildings; the exhausted mother braced herself for an hour or so of intolerable tedium—how unreasonable of Pierre to indulge his taste for antiquity at her expense!

It was bad enough to have to take little Lucille to see her grandmother, all those miles of travelling, without having to go over all the curiosities on the way.

Lucille began to whimper; she was hungry and certainly had a cold in the head; with a damp cotton glove she rubbed her little red nose.

The English visitors stood together shyly and pretended not to notice that they were among foreigners; the man in the plaid cape consulted a German guide-book, the students admired the sumptuous restorations of the ancient abbey.

The monk had his story by heart; as the little party followed him through the cloisters he raised his voice and paused now and then to look over his shoulder to see if he was understood or not.

"Mesdames et messieurs, a crime was the cause of the foundation of the chartreuse of Glandier—one of the finest buildings that this famous order possessed in France—fourteen establishments..."

"What does he say, William?" whispered the bride. "That it was a crime to build the place?"

"Hush, dear! Surely not!—but he talks so rapidly..."

The Carthusian pitched his tone even higher, sensing more than hearing the interruption:

"In the year of Our Lord 1210, two powerful knights of Tulle quarrelled—Bernard de Ventadour and Galhard de Cardalhac. In spite the latter murdered a monk—or seven as some say—belonging to a monastery under the protection of De Ventadour. In his penitence De Cardalhac built this monastery in the middle of a vast forest of oaks—hence the name. An acorn garland was also on the shield of De Ventadour, as you may perceive from this sculpture..."

The monk pointed to a stone shield in one of the spandrels of the windows.

"You see, my love," remarked the Englishman, "'glandiers' means 'acorns.'"

"The holy monks," continued the guide, "lived here in the odour of sanctity..."

"Be quiet, Lucille, don't pull at my skirt—mon Dieu, I don't know what the odour of sanctity smells like!"

"Mademoiselle perhaps will never know," remarked the monk sternly, "unless she learns a more reverent behaviour..."

"The little one is suffering!" exclaimed the indignant mother. "See, she has la grippe..."

"Be silent," commanded the agitated father. "And, Lucille, if you are not a good little girl I shall make you into a big parcel and send you home."

"How big, Papa?" snuffled Lucille.

The guide strode ahead, talking to the students who took no notice of him and to the English couple who understood nothing of what he said:

"In the revolution of 1793 when the monasteries were secularised, Glandier was bought by a certain judge of the peace at Vigeois—one Jean-Baptiste-Pouch Lafarge. He pulled down a portion of the old buildings and erected a dwelling-house, leaving the rest of the edifice to fall into decay..."

"How disgraceful!" exclaimed one of the students. "It must have been a beautiful specimen of early Gothic..."

"Worse, monsieur, was to follow. It occurred to M. Lafarge fils that the charcoal to be obtained from the forest could be made to supply factory furnaces, so he began an iron foundry here, cutting down the magnificent oaks and building his factory from the materials obtained from further demolition of the monastery—but, mesdames et messieurs, the secular owners of consecrated property never flourish for long. M. Lafarge fils came to a terrible end..."

"Ah, the affaire Lafarge!" exclaimed the students one after another.

The English couple caught the name and the lady whispered: "Yes, now he is coming to it—indeed, my love, that is really what I wanted to see here. Will you please ask if her house is still standing?"

"I do not like to—it would seem frivolous," whispered back the young man, whose knowledge of the French language was by no means equal to this task.

The German traveller spoke for the first time, raising spectacled eyes from his guide-book:

"Here it says that the forges went bankrupt after the death of M. Lafarge in 1839?"

"Yes, and the property was bought at a very cheap rate from the creditors by the Baron Léon de Jouvenel, châtelain of Castel Novel," added the Carthusian.

"Who was asked, after the ban on the religious orders had been lifted, to sell to the Carthusians, but declined for fear of becoming unpopular with the anti-clerical party," put in the German rapidly.

"Yes, yes," agreed the monk, irritated by the interruptions of the foreigner. "But, as you see, we obtained Glandier, nevertheless."

He strode rapidly ahead, flung open a door, and the party straggled after him into a large garth surrounded by handsome buildings that the best architects in France had carefully restored on the ruins, neglected for seventy years, of the ancient abbey.

The Englishman remarked on the probable cost of these restorations, the Frenchman exclaimed on their magnificence, and the two women asked, one in English, one in French:

"Where is the house of Madame Lafarge?"

The monk smiled sternly and pointed to a square building with sloping high roof in one corner of the garth; it was one-storeyed with five windows above the door.

"That is the house—much of the secular buildings has been demolished. The factory, the gardens and farm sheds have been destroyed, we have tried to regain the ancient character of Glandiers as much as possible—we have even replanted the wood of oaks ..."

"Mamma, can I have another handkerchief, mine is all wet!"

"Papa will lend you his handkerchief, my darling."

The stout gentleman with the auburn side-whiskers stooped and wrung Lucille's damp nose so vigorously that she began to howl.

"So badly behaved these foreign children," murmured the Englishwoman. "And how oddly dressed!"

The monk cleared his throat and concluded his story:

"In 1859 an old notary waited on M. de Jouvenel and offered him in cash the price asked for Glandier. It was accepted. The purchaser was a Carthusian in disguise. The Order immediately took possession of their rightful property, and, as you see, in ten years they have almost completely restored it to its original splendour."

Lucille sat down on the wet gravel, drumming the heels of her patent-leather boots and screaming at the top of her voice:

"Papa hurt me! Naughty papa!"

The monk strode ahead with the students and the German.

"Madame Lafarge was also a spoilt child," he said darkly. "Thus it always begins..."

"The case Lafarge," remarked the German, peering into his guide-book. "Ah, so that was some years past—here, yes, it gives the story—shall I read it, no?"

"Monsieur," replied the monk hastily, "it is only too well known here in the Limousin—no doubt even these young gentlemen have heard of it."

The students assented; though they had been children at the time of the tragedy, the tale had been retold so often.

"Besides, we are architects, we came to see the restorations, as our professor recommended."

"But perhaps you will care to enter the maison Lafarge—from the windows is a fine view of the property..."

They hurried on, hoping to outdistance the others, but the English couple, with quick strides, soon overtook them, and Lucille was dragged along between her parents, who disputed over her head.

Through the round door the party entered the house, which had a sad air; the ground floor was used as a store-place for gardening implements; the entrance passage and staircase were dark.

The monk led them to the first floor. They entered a bare room in a bad state of repair with windows looking on to vegetable gardens, beyond which was a river that flowed at the foot of a wood.

"That is where there used to be flower parterres and the stables," said the brother. "We use the ground for a more practical purpose."

The party divided; a group crowded to each of the windows.

The prospect that they beheld in the mellow light of the autumn sun was beautiful. The narrow river was edged with reeds, flags and bulrushes; on its surface floated the flat, yellowing leaves of water-lilies; beyond, full in the rich light, on a gentle slope rose the oak woods. Many of the ancient, magnificent trees remained, and there were groves of young saplings that the Carthusians had planted in place of the superb timber that had been sacrificed to the furnaces of the iron-foundry. Above, the deep violet blue of the sky was broken by a curdle of thick white clouds.

"It is a dull place, William, no comforts at all," remarked the English lady. Lucille's mamma was of the same opinion:

"But there is nothing to see. Do, pray, let us get the child back to the carriage—she is quite unmanageable. No, Lucille, you could not play marbles here..."

"I have an idea," smiled the German brightly. He thrust his hand into the pocket of his ginger-coloured trousers and pulled out a large piece of coconut ice. "Here, my little dear, put that in your mouth."

Lucille snatched the sweetmeat greedily and her parents were profuse in their thanks.

"Why didn't they think of that themselves?" queried the Englishwoman.

"No doubt," said her husband, "she has long since devoured their supplies."

The German beamed with pleasure in his success in quieting Lucille, whose chin was rapidly becoming moist with pink sugar.

"My guide-book says that Glandier is haunted," he announced cheerfully.

"By the spectres of the seven murdered monks without doubt," suggested one of the students flippantly.

The guide, with some reserve, admitted that the monastery was haunted. This seemed to be a subject on which he did not care to dwell.

The two women glanced at each other and wished that they could discuss the story of Madame Lafarge, who, for a brief period thirty years before, had moved through these rooms, gazed from these windows, been rowed on that placid little river and had wandered through the glades of despoiled oaks. They felt that there was something in this case that no man could wholly understand, but that would be clear to all women without much trouble.

They went into the next room and stood in the centre of the bare floor; the two squares of sunlight on the floor, falling from the plain windows, showed the dust on the boards; the remains of a faded green paper were on the walls, a cracked black chimney-piece projected above an ugly iron grate and bars red with rust.

There was nothing in the room, and the prospect without was peaceful and even drowsy in the afternoon sun, but an uncomfortable silence fell on the tourists. Lucille's mother did not notice that the child, having used up her gloves and her father's handkerchief, was now wiping her nose, mouth and chin, sticky from the coconut ice, on the bottom of her white merino frock round which were narrow rows of black velvet.

"The bedchamber of Madame Lafarge," announced the monk gravely.

The German spoke.

"Perhaps you have her ghost, also?"

Then they were silent again, standing in that empty room beyond which was the empty landscape.

"There is another apartment," said the Carthusian.

They followed him through a door in the right wall into a room similar to that which they had left, but smaller and in the other facade of the house.

"There used to be visible from these windows a miserable avenue of poplars planted by M. Lafarge aîné. We had them cut down—you now look out on an orchard planted with apple-trees that are beginning to bear fruit."

The monk gazed from the window as he spoke, while the depressed group of tourists stood in the centre of the empty room in the melancholy sunshine.

"It is the bedchamber of M. Lafarge," said the Carthusian. "In that corner stood the bed on which he died."

They trooped back to the other room, the women holding up their long, flounced dresses out of the dust, Lucille complaining of malaise, the German checking everything the monk had said with his guide-book printed in Berlin.

"Here, mesdames et messieurs, is an object of interest." The Carthusian pointed to a little brass plate set in the wall beside the cracked black marble chimney-piece and the rusty grate. "Here Madame Lafarge kept her cabinet of poisons."


III. THE DRAMA

1. THE SECRET OF THE CRADLE

"BLOW your nose, dear, and stop shuffling your feet! Poor Mamma has a terrible headache. Yes, we are stopping here—no, I don't know where we are going to have luncheon—oh, mon Dieu, Mamma said, blow your nose, don't wipe it on your glove!"

The smart equipage drew up outside the convent gates, the footman sprang from the box-seat and jangled the long iron bell-pull; little Marie continued to scrape her feet on the floor of the carriage and to dab at her nose with the tips of her white kid gloves.

The mother leaned back on the cushions with an air of elegant exhaustion; she was a good-looking young woman, fashionably dressed in a fur pelisse, which protected her from the winds of March, and a high black felt hat covered with ribbons and plumes. The child also was warmly and handsomely clad in green cloth braided with silk in military style and had a sable tippet and muff; with suspicion verging on bad temper she eyed her bored and languid mother.

"Why are we stopping here? I don't like this place! Why have we come so far? Why didn't I go in the Tuileries to-day? I am hungry and I have eaten all my sweets."

Madame Cappelle cast up her eyes and hands to heaven as if she dedicated her fatigue and tedium as an offering to her patron saint, and descended from the carriage followed by the reluctant and hostile child.

The convent portress admitted them at once; as the gates closed behind them Marie had the sensation of being drowned in high waves, the tall buildings of the ancient abbey about her seemed to overwhelm her small person and to blot out earth and sky, to eclipse everything with which she was familiar.

The surintendante of the convent, Madame de Bourgoing, received Madame Cappelle and her daughter in an austere parlour where gloomy religious pictures hung on the dark walls.

The lady was very courteously received, for she had been introduced by Maréchal Macdonald, who was the chief of this maison royale de Saint-Denis, and, it seemed, a close friend of M. Collard, father of Madame Cappelle.

Influenced by these circumstances, Madame de Bourgoing embraced and kissed little Marie, exclaiming tenderly:

"So, madame, I have one daughter more!"

"What!" cried the child, fiercely. "This is a pension and I am to remain!"

"Yes," admitted Madame Cappelle, sighing with weariness. "I did not dare tell you, Marie, I feared a scene. Ah, madame,"—she turned to the surintendante—"you must be prepared for scenes, cries of despair, fits of temper!"

"One is always prepared, madame. It is a question of discipline."

Marie was overwhelmed by this black treachery on the part of her mother, but pride prevented her from making the display of emotion that Madame Cappelle expected; she turned away and, consumed with rage and self-pity, pressed her face against the window-pane.

For a quarter of an hour, the mother, speaking quickly, nervously, detailed her daughter's faults. Madame de Bourgoing did not listen; she sat with an air of attention, a sympathetic smile on her face, her thoughts far away on her housekeeping accounts; but Marie drank in every word.

"Her grandmother and her father have spoiled the little one, madame! She was so delicate, we feared to lose her, every caprice was indulged! M. Collard allowed her to run wild at Villers-Hellon, his estate in Picardy. Then we were at Douai, where my husband had command of the garrison, and there, conceive my terrors, madame, M. Cappelle allowed Marie to attend the Sunday parades! I used to smother her with toys and sweets to distract her, but no, as soon as my husband had his sword on, she was round his neck weeping—and one gave way!"

"It is a pity, for the little one's sake, always to give way," said the bland nun mechanically.

"She used to go with Ursule, her nurse. I never could support such a spectacle! Imagine—she used to be allowed to fire the little cannon, to handle the bayonets! To march with the regiment! Never would she learn anything from me—but when we were at Mézières she learned reading and deportment from a sergeant-major! I tried to have her taught scripture, geography, music, but she used to run away and hide on the ramparts."

Madame de Bourgoing recalled her thoughts to this rambling monologue and remarked:

"And when you came to Paris your difficulties, madame, were augmented?"

"They became impossible! Marie, deprived of her wild life, was morose, violent—the scenes, mon Dieu! She is quite unmanageable! My health has suffered, I assure you, madame! I have another daughter, so different, an angel, my little Antonine! Marie has always been so jealous—it is terrible! I must tell you that when she was five years old we allowed her to act as marraine for her little cousin—she learnt for a whole month what she had to say, but when she came into the church with a great bouquet—ribbons from her head to her feet—she forgot every word! Worse, when the schoolmaster—we were at Villers-Hellon—instead of whispering them to her, spoke them out loud, she sulked, threw down her bouquet and refused the excellent dragées that my father gave her! She passed the rest of that day in a dark closet..."

"One understands," put in the nun gently, "that a spoiled child presents a problem."

Madame Cappelle glanced over her shoulder at the mute little figure in the window.

"We have an apartment in Paris—my husband is in Valence with his regiment—and Marie jumps and climbs all over the place, upsetting things, breaking things. Only this morning, a Swiss vase! My nerves really cannot support it! We have only the one salon and when I have a visitor Marie has to be sent to the bedchamber. I have had masters for her, but she refuses to learn—she will not, for instance, practise her scales and exercises, but must try to play some tunes she heard the shepherds sing in Picardy."

Madame de Bourgoing thought that courtesy—even that due to a friend of Maréchal Macdonald's—had been satisfied; she rose and touched a hand-bell.

"We shall do our best for your little girl, madame. We have two hundred pupils here, all from the first families in France, so we have considerable experience in training young ladies."

Madame Cappelle, as if trying to justify her action in sending Marie from home, still continued to lament her child's faults; a nun entered the room and went at once to the little girl standing rigid in the window.

Marie's first impulse was to make what her mother termed "a scene"; but, since she knew that that was what the three women were expecting, she controlled herself and marched proudly out of the room behind the dark billowing draperies of the nun.

It was Madame Cappelle that began to weep, from vexation, fatigue and remorse. Madame de Bourgoing offered her a vinaigrette and spoke a few words of consolation; she was used to these frivolous women who could neither manage their children nor give them up. While the lady recovered herself the surintendante wrote in the school register particulars of her new pupil:

Marie-Fortunée Cappelle, born 1816, daughter of M. Cappelle, Lieutenant-Colonel of Artillery (formerly an officer in the Imperial Guard of the Emperor Napoleon), at present in command of the garrison at Valence, and of Madame Cappelle, formerly Mlle. Collard, daughter of M. Collard, formerly Quartermaster-General of the Republic.

Little Marie Cappelle, then, came through both parents of distinguished families, of good positions and reputations.

Madame de Bourgoing knew, though she did not add these particulars to her register, that both Madame Cappelle's sisters were married well, one to M. le baron de Martens, a Prussian diplomat, the other to M. le baron Garat, Secretary to the Bank of France.

The family of little Marie had friends also who were very well-placed and influential, besides Maréchal Macdonald. One of these was M. le prince de Talleyrand-Périgord, another was the daughter of that Madame de Genlis-Sillery who had been governess to the children of Philippe-Egalité, one of her former pupils; the present M. le duc d'Orléans had not infrequently visited Villers-Hellon.

It was a satisfactory record; the nun smiled across at Madame Cappelle, who was drying her handsome dark eyes with a handkerchief bordered with point d'Alençon.

"Your daughter shares your own political sympathies, madame—she is Bonapartist?"

"Yes, poor little one! A picture of the imperial angel, the King of Rome, hangs always above her bed!"

"She will find a number of young ladies here who share her enthusiasm on that point—we have every shade of political opinion at Saint-Denis," smiled the nun, then, with the first shade of genuine interest that she had shown: "But your family, madame, had royalist connections—your mother had the honour of sharing the education of M. le duc d'Orléans?"

The lady smiled with a touch of reserve.

"My mother was the daughter of M. Campton, a colonel in the English army. She was orphaned at nine years of age, and Madame de Genlis-Sillery, then in England, had the goodness to rescue the poor orphan and to introduce her into the household of M. d'Orléans."

The vivacious glance of Madame Cappelle seemed to contradict her words—as if she conveyed to her hearer the permission to put any interpretation she chose on this romantic tale.

* * * * *

The sister took Marie to the ward-room and there gently told her to undress herself; the child obeyed in bitter silence, taking off her fine braided coat, her charming frock of green silk, her fichu and scarf of white lace, her petticoat frilled with flounces of Indian muslin, her long culottes tied with pink ribbons, her green silk sandals and white silk stockings.

In her elegant chemise she stood rigidly by the stove, eyeing the nun with hatred.

Marie Cappelle was nine years of age, yellow-complexioned, thin to an alarming extent, tall for her age; her heavy hair, of a dense black, hung straight down her back, her forehead was high and prominent, her nose was long and delicate, her lips well-shaped and firmly pressed together, her eyes large, dark and expressive; there were pride and grace in her movements, in the carriage of her head, in the ease of her walk, in the movements of her hands.

Even humbled and defeated in her little chemise, with her bony limbs revealed and her face pallid with suppressed passion, she was extremely elegant.

With the indifference of one who performs a routine duty the nun put away the Parisian finery and brought out the articles of clothing that formed the uniform of a boarder in the school of Saint-Denis—a long black robe, a bonnet of the same material, thick woollen stockings, coarse heavy shoes, and a large black bag, which each pupil had to keep always under her arm.

With considerable courage the child allowed herself to be clothed in these garments that appeared to her hideous and degrading beyond words and to be led again to the parlour where her mother still lingered, uneasy, regretful.

When Madame Cappelle saw her daughter in the gloomy black robe she burst into tears and embraced Marie in a passion of affection and remorse; the little girl, although alarmingly pale, retained her dignified silence; the distressed mother fled from the parlour and Marie was taken to the dormitory that she might be shown her bed.

It was one of two hundred, which stood side by side in the large, long, whitewashed room lit by plain, uncurtained windows, between which were lamps in brackets.

Timidly waiting to welcome Marie Cappelle were two other little girls, Marie, daughter of General Daumesnil, a friend of infancy, and Mlle. Vallin, a niece of Marie's aunt, Mme. Garat. Completely ignoring their consolations, the newcomer flung herself on her bed and gave vent to her pent-up rage and despair; she flung off the bonnet, kicked off her shoes, dragged at her coarse robe, and, with cries and sobs, screamed for her father, her grandfather to come and rescue her!

One of the teachers, Mlle. Flurot, who had met Marie in her mother's salon, rushed up with vivacious comfort, but the desperate child continued to roll on the bed in violent hysterics, biting the sheets, kicking and screaming.

Attracted by this scene, one of the elder pupils came up and, staring down at Marie, remarked scornfully:

"Silly little fool! She is certainly a Bonapartist!"

Marie heard the taunt, sat up and screamed:

"Treacherous royalist!" and kicked the other child on the shins. "I shall report you, little rat!" yelled the loyal follower of Charles X.

"Report," retorted Marie with great spirit, "that you are stupid and wicked and that will be nothing fresh to those who know you!"

This sally was greeted with laughter by the girls gathered round the bed; the royalist was not popular and sympathy was with Marie Cappelle.

"Little rat!" repeated the other child, and flung away.

"Listen, Marie," said Mlle. Daumesnil, "there are many Bonapartists here—you shall meet them all and they will make much of you because of your father and grandfather."

The mention of these two adored relatives caused Marie to burst into sobs again.

"Come," urged the assistant mistress, Mlle. Flurot, in a hopeless attempt at severity, "you have a holiday to-day, your first day. You, Mlle. Daumesnil, will take charge of your little friend. Take her to the music-room, I know that she is fond of the piano."

After much coaxing, Marie consented to accompany her little guardian and a small troop of followers to the music-room.

This was a large chamber, in which were fifty pianos; at each instrument sat a pupil, and the air was torn by fifty different exercises, cadenzas, romances, scales and valses, all being rendered with various degrees of strength and skill.

A girl gladly gave up her place to Marie, who mounted the round red stool only to howl louder, her nerves further shaken by the infernal discords of the maltreated pianos.

"How difficult she is," sighed Mlle. Daumesnil. "Ah, there is the dinner-bell!"

Marie, dragged into the refectory, refused to touch the thin soup and coarse bread; when the meal was over, her bored guardian took her into the garden, and there, disgusted with her continuous tears, abandoned her on a bench.

"Papa! Mamma! Antonine! Ursule!" screamed Marie, shivering in the March wind that blew keenly round the walls and towers of the ancient abbey.

Her enemy, the royalist, who had been following her at a prudent distance, now seeing that she was alone, approached and, with great skill, kicked the unsuspecting Marie on the shins.

"There is your kick returned to you, little rat!"

Excess of rage produced a fit or seizure in the ill-treated Marie; she fell off the bench in convulsions that alarmed the other child, who ran back crying into the building.

Mlle. Flurot came hastening out and Marie was dragged to a cabinet de toilette and held under one of the faucets; the strong jet of cold water soon quieted her, but her nose began to bleed. To cure this, a large door-key, chill as ice, was slipped down her back; she was then taken to Madame de Bourgoing, who gave her a routine lecture on obedience, submission and a few other of the more unpopular Christian virtues.

Marie was now utterly exhausted and allowed herself to be put to bed without further protests. As soon, however, as the lights were out, Mlle. Daumesnil, who had the next bed to hers, roused her and whispered that she would introduce her to a Bonapartist club that met every evening in the corridor.

Half-unconscious from fatigue and need of sleep, Marie pattered after the other children into the long corridor that ran behind the dormitory; this was lit by one oil lamp set high on the wall.

Shivering in their calico nightgowns, the little girls crouched under this dim light and consulted in whispers on the best means of effecting a Bonapartist restoration. Marie, because of her father, a former officer of the Imperial Guard, and her grandfather, a friend of the Emperor's, was treated with great respect. Half-delirious from fatigue, she began to boast:

"My grandmother was a princess—I remember her, in a long red shawl, bending over my cradle. She used to sit up in bed and unroll balls of coloured ribbons to amuse me—she was blonde and rosy..."

"Not like you, then," interrupted a vivacious girl. "Mon Dieu, how thin and yellow she is!"

"But very distinguished," said Mlle. Daumesnil hastily, seeing Marie's swollen eyes flash.

"When I was at Villers-Hellon I used to ride on a sheep—a merino sheep. Once I fell down under a plum-tree and broke my arm—Ursule, my nurse, was not looking for me, she was flirting with a gardener..."

"Hush!" A shiver of delicious apprehension ran through the little group of conspirators. "One of the sisters is coming!"

There was a clever, noiseless scamper back to the straight white beds and skilfully feigned snores broke the silence when the nun, going her rounds, looked in at the dormitory.

In the morning Marie woke with la grippe, a touch of fever and a sensation of complete despair.

* * * * *

It was a long time before Marie Cappelle could accustom herself to the sad routine of Saint-Denis.

At six in the morning the bell rang, each of the pupils dragged a comb through her hair, when they hastened, twenty at a time, into a cabinet de toilette, where several taps were placed over a metal bath.

Even in March this room was unheated and the water icy; the girls never washed, but stood watching the taps splash the cold streams into the bath, while they strove to retain the warmth of their beds by quickly huddling on their clothes.

Marie's fastidious folly in really bathing her face caused much amusement, and the greenish-blue tint that her sallow complexion assumed provoked lively mockery; several of the other girls informed her that she was not only plain but ugly, and when she told them that she had been born on her father's jour de fête, they danced round her jeering.

"What a fine bouquet! What a lovely birthday present!"

After the toilet came Mass; the little girls trooped into the dark, beautiful Gothic chapel and listened to supplications to God to render them good children and to give their parents health and happiness. The chaplain then read a long prayer for the Pope, the King, the bishops, the deacons, the archdeacons...

By the time this was reached, the younger children, bending forward on their knees, were asleep, and the elder ones were either mechanically repeating the words of the priest or reading some romance that they had contrived to slip inside their prayer-books.

The Mass over, the children went, two and two, to the refectory, where bad soup and coarse bread were served out; then there was a short "break" in the cloisters, supposed to be for preparing lessons but spent in giggling and gossiping.

It had been found difficult to place Marie in the classes; she knew a little of everything but nothing well. Finally she was allowed to take her place in the class where Marie Daumesnil worked so industriously; the new student's quick intelligence soon gave her a reputation for brilliancy; no one was sufficiently interested in her to observe that her facility in learning was extremely superficial.

At delicate embroidery, at essay-writing, at repartee she was really clever; courage supported her lively pride; she not only insulted but fought the royalists, and so gained the respect of the daughters and granddaughters of Napoleon's former generals and courtiers, who formed such a powerful section of the boarders at Saint-Denis.

The lessons caused Marie no difficulty, but practising on one of the fifty pianos during the music hour always gave her a headache and sometimes brought on a severe "nervous crisis."

At eight o'clock, supper, of the plainest fare, was served, then more prayers that seemed the very essence of tedium, and then bed.

Marie Cappelle was not a success as a pupil; she was continually tripping over her clumsy robe, forgetting the large bag in which her handkerchiefs and copybooks were kept, omitting to drop a curtsy every time she opened or closed a door and running into supper without the large hat the girls wore at meal times.

She upset the classes by taking the wrong place on the bench, by giggling, by talking in a high-pitched voice; for these and similar acts of frivolity she was frequently condemned, as a sign of disgrace, to wear her hat or bonnet back to front.

Insupportable as the children found the tyranny exercised over their actions, they enjoyed complete freedom of thought; if a girl was decorous in her behaviour, neat in her person, she was considered virtuous. The lessons were well taught, the mistresses grounded the pupils thoroughly in the various subjects, but they never spoke with the girls nor strove in any way to influence them; lessons over, the mistresses withdrew into their own lives, and the children, clustering together, exchanged romantic, false and silly ideas.

Marie Cappelle soon had her little group of admirers to whom she would relate amusing tales of the splendours and grandeurs of her family and the glories of Villers-Hellon, where, drawn in her little cart under the trees, she had been really happy; she gave lively sketches of her faithful and adoring servants—Mamie, the chief femme de chambre, fat, round, with her huge bunch of keys, her eternal smile, her spectacles perched on her tiny nose; La her mother's maid, who had been in the service of Madame Collard, tall, thin, philosophical, always ready with a wonderful tale, Bluebeard, The Wild Ass's Skin, The Sleeping Beauty; Briquet, the coachman, proud of his smart calèche and his handsome horses; Durand, the chef de cuisine, who wept with emotion when mixing one of his famous sauces.

"It is a château, Villers-Hellon, you understand," insisted Marie, talking rapidly with elegant gestures. "There are gracious meadows, avenues of walnuts, apple orchards, a lake bordered with lime-trees, a stream with water-cresses—all the families near are rich and noble, they all visit my grandfather. There is Madame Elmore, her father, M. Séquin, is a millionaire, he was the contractor for the armies in Spain, he is very eccentric—ah, I could tell you some stories about him! There is Madame la maréchale Gérard, who is the daughter of Madame de Genlis-Sillery..."

As Marie's breath failed, her loyal friend, Mlle. Daumesnil, put in words of confirmation and support.

"My father, who is called the hero of Vincennes, lives near Villers-Hellon. It is a superb château! Close by lives Madame la vicomtesse de Montesquiou at Long-Pont—there are other châteaux, that of Madame d'Eckmühl, that of M. de Violaine, who is the Chief Inspector of Forests..."

Marie rushed into words again.

"But Covey! Ah, that is the finest château in Picardy! My dearest friend visits there, my sweet, adorable Marie de Nicolai..."

Her black eyes filled with facile tears and she ran on about her grandmother.

"She died when I was six years old, but I remember her so well—she taught me about flowers, about birds, she had a pretty volière. M. d'Orléans used to come and visit her..."

"Tell us something amusing, Marie," came a rebellious voice. Fearful of losing her audience, the little girl changed her tone at once and began with a malicious air:

"My father had M. de Talleyrand-Périgord for his parrain, and Napoleon's delicious sister, Pauline, for his commère.

"The Prince wished to do everything handsomely to show his luxury and good taste, so he ordered a most costly corbeille from Paris." Marie closed her eyes and clasped her hands dramatically. "A most beautiful gilt basket, tied with rainbow-coloured ribbons and adorned with exquisite flowers in wax and velvet—inside were the choicest bonbons and the most delicious articles for the toilet, in the fashions of to-morrow, you understand. M. de Talleyrand described this beautiful basket so enthusiastically that everyone crowded round when it arrived. It was undone..." Marie opened her great black bag and added impressively, "and, my little ones, what was found? Plaster bonbons, faded ribbons a year old, torn old scarves, paper flowers and huge cotton gloves! Madame de Talleyrand had, in a moment of spite, made the exchange! I saw the Prince blanch with rage."

Among the murmurs of admiration was one jarring question:

"How could you know, Marie, what happened at your father's baptism?"

"My grandmother often told this story..."

"But you said that you saw M. de Talleyrand blanch with rage."

"That was another time—M. de Talleyrand came to Villers-Hellon when I was about six years old," replied Marie without the least confusion. "Someone reminded him of that fatal baptism..."

"You are making it all up," interrupted the objector, rising. "I think you make up a lot of things, Marie. I don't believe that your grandmother was a Princess."

"She was! But it is a secret, I must never speak of it—the secret of the cradle, my grandfather calls it. Her sister, my great-aunt, was named Pamela, she married an Irish lord, who led an army against the King of England—and died a martyr for his country!"

"Bah!" replied the sceptic with a rude gesture. "You are a liar!"

Marie sprang up and a brief scuffle ensued, which ended in Mlle. Flurot's coming on the scene and dragging Marie before Madame de Bourgoing. This lady was totally occupied with a private grief; the loss of an adored relative paralysed her heart, and she was even more indifferent than usual to her charges, erect, pale, with the cordon of the légion d'honneur on her breast, she listened wearily to the assistant mistress's account of Marie Cappellethe child was so romantic, so frivolous, so light, so disobedient! She was always turning the heads of the other girls with her crazy stories.

The surintendante forced herself to do her duty; Marie, looking ridiculous in her heavy robe, with her hat, as usual, round the wrong way in token of disgrace, was perched on a high chair, crying loudly, knuckling her eyes with soiled fingers so that dirt apd tears mingled on her thin cheeks.

"Mon Dieu," thought Madame de Bourgoing, "it is a hideous little rat—and of such an excellent family!"

Aloud she said:

"My child, how is it that you are always in trouble, always discontented? Try to control yourself and tell me what you would like."

"I should like, madame, to return to Villers-Hellon."

"One understands. You love your grandfather and your parents, of course."

Marie sniffed back her tears, her sobs.

"I like the life too, madame, liberty..."

"Yes, and what else? Tell me frankly, ma petite, what sort of life you do like?"

The child heaved a great sigh.

"I like elegance and luxury." She warmed to her subject, her eyes flashed, her voice became eloquent. "A delicious salon, perfumed with costly flowers, lit by a thousand wax candles, set in crystal..."

"It is difficult to find such places, Marie."

"M. Séquin has such a room in his château..."

"M. Séquin," replied Madame de Bourgoing dryly, "is a millionaire. He was once a poor chemist in a very small way who chanced to discover a method of tanning leather, very useful to the armies of the Republic—he remains a parvenu..."

In her excitement Marie dared to interrupt the surintendante:

"He gives the most sumptuous children's balls, in the best of taste! There are others, too..."

"Hush!" Madame de Bourgoing roused herself wearily. "You have very worldly tastes, you are a naughty girl, you don't always tell the truth—I fear that you have been very much spoiled..."

The lecture ran on. Marie sat rigid, with closed eyes, in bitter rebellion.

* * * * *

Marie Cappelle came to see Marie about once a month, always on Sundays, and always in the presence of Madame de Bourgoing, so that the child was restrained and sullen, refusing to confide in her mother while the surintendante was present.

These visits brought no relief to the exile, as she considered herself; her agony of nostalgia was rather increased by the sight of her pretty mother in her elegant robes, with her fashionable veils, feathers and perfumes, her little cries of affection, her warm kisses.

Sometimes she brought Antonine, adorable in satin and swansdown, lisping over a new toy or a box of dragées, and then Marie's jealous pain would bring on attacks of vomiting, which the nuns treated with black pills and chicory water.

The lively spirit, however, gradually began to make the best of her slavery; she learnt her lessons without difficulty and was soon at the top of all her classes, and she became a very active figure in the royalist-bonapartist feuds. These were organised by the oldest girls, who were about sixteen years of age; each of these enrolled several younger pupils as her servitors, and in return for their labours rewarded them, if she were a royalist, with copies of some of Béranger's songs or popular hymns written on the birth of the Duc de Bordeaux, son of the murdered Duc de Berri, if she were an Imperialist, she gratified her followers with scraps of tricolour ribbon, tiny metal eagles or little portraits of the King of Rome.

Marie Cappelle, always accompanied by Marie Daumesnil, entered into these intrigues with a spirit that led her into many escapades, followed by sermons and punishments. In the evenings the two little girls, holding each other's hand outstretched from the straight white beds, would whisper together of the holidays to come, of Antonine, of Marie Daumesnil's brother, of their hero Napoleon I, of General Daumesnil's wooden leg.

When Marie could obtain a little liberty she made a daring use of it, leaping along the cloisters, sliding down the banisters of the great staircase, executing pirouettes and dance-steps even in the chapel.

* * * * *

When Marie had been at Saint-Denis for nearly a year she was taken ill with inflammation of the stomach. Her mother had joined M. Cappelle in Valence, and her place was taken by her sister Louise, Madame la baronne de Garat, a charming girl who had all the delicate grace and sweetness of a moss-rose; this exquisite creature constantly visited her niece, and when she was convalescent, begged a month's holiday for her; this was granted and Marie was taken to the handsome apartment of M. Garat over the offices of the Bank of France in the centre of Paris.

Every kind of pleasure was heaped on the little invalid; friends, in particular a M. de Brack, took her for drives in elegant tilburies, she was given a dinner at the Café Anglais and taken to the theatre; on all these occasions she returned home laden with toys, bonbons and new clothes.

She was taken to see M. Cuvier and yawned through the learned conversation in the cabinet of the savant; she was taken to wait on Mlle. Mars, of whom she had heard so much, and was disappointed at finding that the famous actress looked a very ordinary person. Wrapped in a white peignoir, Mlle. Mars offered her little visitor marrons glacés and talked in a most melodious voice of the fluctuations of the Stock Exchange.

Marie visited the Opéra and the Porte-Saint-Martin, where she was ravished with the spectacle of Les petites Danaïdes, but the greatest joy she experienced was when a lackey covered with gold braid brought an invitation from Madame d'Orléans to a children's ball at the Palais-Royal; M. de Brack offered to buy her costume from Victorine, most chic of dressmakers, and Marie could scarcely contain her rapture.

The night before the ball she had her straight black locks put into fifty curl-papers, screwed so tight on to her head that she could not sleep; her dress was of azure-coloured crape, which unfortunately heightened the yellow tinge of her complexion; her wonderful little blue shoes were much too tight and by the time she reached the palace she was nearly crying with pain, fatigue and vexation; the remembrance of her reflection in the mirror was not reassuring.

The Garat party entered the ballroom as the charming little Sicilian Princess, the Duchesse de Berri, was opening the ball with a quadrille, she wore a romantic dress of white crape trimmed with rose-coloured and white plumes, a garland of similar feathers was in her fair, rather untidy hair, she was plump and squinted.

"Her toilette is prettier than her face," whispered Marie spitefully.

The Dauphine, once known as "The Orphan of the Temple," was pointed out to Marie, who declared that this martyr Princess looked dull and pedantic. Marie was presented to the exquisite Orleans children, and M. le duc de Nemours, who was about her own age, offered to dance a grand galop with her; unfortunately Monseigneur did not know his steps and trod continually on his partner's feet, already aching viciously from the tight shoes. Marie left the ball in tears, feeling that the evening from which so much had been hoped had proved a failure; Cinderella had not met the prince or even been admired.

Madame Garat tried to console her by whispering to her that she was really related to all these princes and princesses: "But you must not talk about it, Marie, it is a secret."

* * * * *

Exhausted by late nights, excitement, rich food, renewed pain in her irritated stomach, weakened by hot rooms, lack of exercise and the infected air of theatres, salons and closed carriages, Marie returned to Saint-Denis in the depth of winter, to cold-water bathing, long hours in an icy chapel, poor meals, hard bed, rough clothes, and a furious discontent of spirit.

After a few days of vigorous treatment she became ill again, this time seriously; brain fever developed, and Marie, now in a room by herself, raved in delirium, accusing her mother, her father, her grandfather of black treachery in sending her to Saint-Denis.

Her doctor wrote to the parents at Valence that it was doubtful if she could survive, and Madame Cappelle hastened to Paris, in an agony of terror, her horses galloping from stage to stage in furious haste. When the remorseful mother joined Madame Garat at the bedside of the raving Marie, the child, burnt with fever, had been in a delirium for nearly fifteen days; she recognised Madame Cappelle, however, and frantically implored her to take her away—and, for ever—from Saint-Denis. This hoarsely whispered request was instantly granted and the invalid, not without a sigh of triumph, sank into a long slumber.

* * * * *

As soon as Marie could be moved she was taken to Villers-Hellon; the spring was sweetening the meadows of Picardy, the château was en fête for the invalid, who was not to think of lessons and was to be indulged in every possible way; she was delivered to the care of the devoted Lalo and everyone in Villers-Hellon, from her grandfather, M. Collard, to the humblest shepherd, was at her service.

When she became stronger there were balls, concerts, picnics, given in her honour, and M. Elmore, the English son-in-law of M. Séquin, the eccentric millionaire, taught her to ride; a smart grey pony was bought for her, and she became a daring horsewoman, leaping ditches and hedges with little cries of excitement.

During the summer the neighbouring châteaux were filled with elegant company and Marie was petted by all these elegant Parisians en vacances; everything was very brilliant; during the day there were fêtes, held in the forests, during the evening comedies were played in the salons; seated at her grandfather's knee, Marie heard him discuss the glories of his youth with M. de Montrond, who also had flourished under the Directory; the child heard the names of Mmes. Roland, Tallien, de Genlis, and de Staël whispered by the elegant, handsome old men.

* * * * *

In November Marie accompanied her mother, sister and a train of servants to Strasbourg; the eager child, peering from the window of the heavy travelling-carriage, saw with delight the pure opal tints of the mountains rising into the deep blue sky above the dark pines of the Black Forest, then the Rhine veiled in vapours that took fantastic shapes, then the rigid grace of the spire of Strasbourg Cathedral, impressive against the delicate clouds of the horizon.

As the great city was approached, Marie admired the rich campaign, the prosperous little villages, the dark firs along the chain of the Vosges, Saverne coquettishly perched on a little hill, the Gothic ruins through which the sun cast a golden glow; the sound of a hastening horse roused the child, leaning farther from the window she screamed: "Papa!" The cavalier approached; it was M. Cappelle; frantic greetings were exchanged between him and his family, he gave his horse to a groom and took the box seat of the carriage, Marie on his knee, half fainting with ecstasy, as they drove through the superb country and the gorgeous autumn morning.

* * * * *

Marie's life in Strasbourg was as enchanting as even her nature, romantic, luxurious, avid for pleasures, yet fastidious and squeamish, could have desired; her father was in command of the garrison and Madame Cappelle therefore moved in the first society, which was not only gay, but as Marie said "follement joyeuse."

In the intervals between amusements, Marie had lessons in the piano, in history, in literature, in fencing. All the time that her father could spare from his duties was given to her; he was her companion on long horseback rides beyond the city, in the salle d'armes, where he sometimes permitted her to beat him with the foils, and on the ramparts, where the girl again was allowed to handle a bayonet and to fire a cannon.

When M. Cappelle was occupied with his soldiers, Marie and her friends diverted themselves under the charge of Ursule; in the winter they played in the snow that lay thick in the fields beyond the walls, creeping, when cold and tired, into the clean stables of a cosy farm, to heat themselves against the warm flanks of the cows.

Crouching in the fragrant hay the girls discussed the future, balls, husbands, babies.

In the summer they fastened swings between the walnut trees in the garden, or worked at delicate pieces of embroidery, which they sold for the benefit of poor children; sometimes they were joined by the young soldier son of General Neigre who, putting an apron over his uniform, would help them to make bonbons, play at cache-cache with them, or indulge in a romping game of blind-man's-buff. The Christmas she passed in Strasbourg was a time of great excitement for Marie.

Several days before this great festival there was an air of excitement in the old Alsatian city and the Place de la Cathédrale was covered with stalls, where all kinds of merchandise were sold. On Christmas Eve Marie and her friends were gathered in the ante-chamber of the grand salon, a signal was given, the folding doors were opened and in the darkened chamber the Christmas tree was revealed, a splendid tree; the topmost boughs touched the ceiling, the stem rose from an immense cake, a thousand little candles twinkled among the black pine-needles and gleamed on the clusters of bonbons and sugar candles hanging on the boughs; above all hovered two waxen cherubim with gauze wings; round the tree were tables; each had the name of a child, and candles to the number of that child's years; these tables were covered with beautiful surprises, dolls, toys, sweetmeats, a pair of spectacles, a Bible, a portrait of a dear absent one, a toy gun, a toy whip, fruits, ribbons, flowers, everywhere joy, ecstasy, thanks, kisses, which seemed as if they would never end, a perfume of delight, of nameless excitement.

No one read the wise advice printed on the ribbons that floated from the waxen cherubim, "Be good, be discreet, be pious."

* * * * *

With the spring Marie returned to Villers-Hellon and was prepared for her first communion; she learned Scripture, the catechism, she visited the cottages of the poorest peasants and gave them food and clothes; her grandfather made her his almoner and she was delighted to be blessed by his grateful dependants; an aroma of sanctity began to pervade her existence, she felt exalted, full of tenderness and a delicious melancholy, she saw herself as the Christian virgin, pure and meek, dedicating herself to God; when the solemn day arrived—that of Fête-Dieu (Corpus-Christi), she was almost overwhelmed by an emotion that was partly spiritual, partly sensual, and that was much heightened by her pleasure in her exquisite white robe and fine veil, which floated about her like an angelic benediction.

Her mother crowned her with a garland of jasmine, symbol of innocence and piety, and wept as she gave her blessing to the slender figure kneeling before her; the bells sounded from the village church and Marie Cappelle, her hands crossed on her bosom, her eyes downcast, joined the procession of white-clad young girls.

The rich Gothic interior of the ancient church had been adorned with garlands of flowers; the altar was nearly hidden under branches of white lilac, acacia and myrtle, chains of cornflowers and daisies encircled the thick candles of scented wax, which stood either side of the tabernacle; trembling with emotion under their gauze veils and coronals of white flowers the girls sang the praises of the Lord.

The curé of Villers-Hellon, a young man, and one who had always been indulgent towards the faults of Marie, looked handsome in his beautiful vestments as he raised the chalice above the heads of the kneeling virgins.

The perfume of the incense, of the flowers, saluted the Redeemer of the world; Marie felt a voluptuous sense of her own purity, her own exquisite femininity as it was being offered to God; she felt as if she was slipping into one of those warm, scented baths she so delighted in; her eyes closed, her knees trembled beneath her, she swayed forward. In the flowers, the wax lights, the comely priest, the music, the fumes of the smouldering pastilles, she felt the presence of God—a God who was kind, powerful and, above all, masculine. Tears filled the black eyes that she kept turned towards the glittering chalice, it seemed to her that she was about to die, and that her guardian angel, hovering over her, had touched her with the tip of one of his cold white wings.

* * * * *

Soon after she was received into the bosom of Holy Church Marie experienced another thrill of ecstasy, caused this time by an earthly monarch, Charles X, who, on a fine October day, made his state entry into Strasbourg. The reception offered to the King was magnificent, the rich Alsatian peasants, wearing their gorgeous holiday costumes, riding their little mountain horses, formed an escort for the royal carriage, from which gazed the worn, gracious countenance of His Most Christian Majesty, still handsome despite the debauchery of his gay youth and the austerities of his pious old age.

The women, beautiful in their fine laces and bright smiles, with their large blue eyes, blonde tresses and bouquets of autumn flowers followed in light chariots; the sound of the cannon firing a royal salute mingled with the bells of the churches, the hurrahs of the people.

Marie was one of the young girls, robed in white and crowned with hot-house roses, who at the palace gate presented to the King the keys of the city of Strasbourg on a satin cushion. As the elegant Bourbon, who had loved so many women, who had once been the incomparable Comte d'Artois, glanced at Marie, the girl sank in a half-swooning curtsy, full of enthusiasm, of loyalty, of love.

In the evening there was a magnificent ball, and the aigrettes of the fireworks cast up from the Vosges, picked out in light and shade their feudal ruins, their dark forests; the Cathedral illuminated its granite lace, and everywhere enthusiastic devotion to the House of Bourbon was plainly manifest. The festival was enlivened by the presence of that lively Parisienne, Madame Garat, whose elegance, fresh gaiety and beauty caused much heartache among the young officers of the garrison. M. Cappelle greatly admired his fair sister-in-law and offered her continual entertainments, pleasure and admirers; Marie shared in all these delights; light-footed, graceful, seductive, with brilliant accomplishments, this young girl, when she looked in the mirror, was no longer disturbed by her pallor, her irregular features or her thinness; she had compensations for these defects, large black eyes, masses of ebony locks, abundant vivacity, a voice deliciously soft, vibrant and enchanting.

* * * * *

During the last fine days of autumn Marie and her sister went to stay with a friend, Mme. de T——, who had a charming house in the country; there the two girls played with the daughters of their hostess beneath the yellowing chestnuts and on the borders of a little lake, where a toy pavilion offered them shelter and repose.

Sometimes they drove in a pretty little calèche into Strasbourg, where professors, delighted with their charming pupils, gave them lessons in painting, music and deportment; almost every evening, M. Cappelle rode out in the mellow autumn twilight to visit his daughters; Marie would often spend hours waiting on the road that led through Mine de T——'s estate, waiting to hear the sound of his horse's hoofs; she experienced a pleasure that was so acute as to be almost painful when she saw, appearing round the bend of dusty road, flanked by laurels and ilex, the tall horseman in his glittering uniform, followed by his servant. When he saw Marie, the brilliant officer would dismount and throwing his reins to his orderly walk slowly through the dusky park towards the charming house where his wife awaited him; Marie hanging on his arm, used a thousand tricks and endearments in order to prolong the time, that she might have this adored parent to herself.

One day, when only the last withered leaves remained on the trees, and the grass was brown and dry, Marie waited in vain for her father.

The servant came riding up alone and, refusing to stop, hastened on to the house, crying out that he had a message for Madame Cappelle. Before Marie could reach home, a light tilbury passed her; inside was her mother, pale and gazing fixedly before her, while she mechanically tied the long satin ribbons of her hastily donned hat.

That night Marie, full of dreadful apprehension, could not sleep; in the morning Ursule dressed her and Antonine in town clothes and told them that their father was ill and had sent for his daughters.

In silence the girls mounted the calèche that had been sent to fetch them; no sooner had they left the park than Ursule began to cry, and told them, between her sobs, that M. Cappelle had been gravely injured by his gun's exploding in his hand, when he was out shooting.

This news threw Marie into such despair, that, on arriving at the Strasbourg house, she had to remain an hour in the antechamber of her father's room before she could control her sobs, cries and convulsions. These lamentations reached the ears of the injured man, and he ordered Marie to be admitted to his bedside.

Silenced, half-paralysed by an excess of grief, the little girl trembled into the darkened apartment. M. Cappelle, propped on many pillows, lay on a bed from which the curtains were looped up under a crown of feathers; his right arm and side were heavily bandaged, his black hair and whiskers showed sombrely against his greenish complexion; his wife wept in the bed recess; a priest, a doctor, a nurse were in attendance.

Marie threw herself on her knees by the bed-step and heard a labouring voice say:

"My child, it weakens my courage to doubt yours..."

Marie stretched out her arms, the dying man's head rested on her shoulder.

"I feel a tear on your cheek, papa; it is caused by the agony of farewell! My heart is broken!"

She collapsed on the floor; the doctor and the nurse carried her from the room; for several hours she remained unconscious. When her senses returned she sprang from her couch and tried to find her father but she was forbidden to enter his room. Her cries, screams, convulsions of despair and entreaties endured for two days; in the middle of the night a severe-faced man entered the chamber where Antonine slept in the lap of Ursule, and Marie, haggard and sobbing, prayed before a crucifix that hung above her bed, and led them to their mother's apartment. Madame Cappelle, in a rose-coloured peignoir, her naked feet thrust into brocade shoes, her scented hair fallen about her shoulders, was crying hysterically in the midst of a group of friends who tried to console her with ejaculations of pity and affection.

"My poor Marie! All is finished! Your poor papa is dead!"

2. MAIDEN DREAMS

The death of her father caused a black gloom to descend over the existence of Marie Cappelle. In her own words, "it obscured and veiled my thoughts"; she saw everywhere the image of death. All the amusements and occupations that she had shared with her father became hateful to her; she could not see a door open without trembling in the expectation of his appearance. Her tears were her sole consolation; when she was alone she repeated the words, the advice of her father, and promised herself that although she was a woman she would be worthy of this brilliant and gallant soldier; she promised his memory that she would be great and noble and struggle against the weak and foolish sides of her character.

When she had somewhat recovered her health and her courage, she took up her studies again, but so intense was her grief that she found it impossible to concentrate and often reproached herself for being alive when her father was dead.

M. Maurice Collard, Marie's uncle, came to Strasbourg to console his sister in her widowhood. He passed the winter in the Alsatian capital, and his wedding in the spring with the fair and sentimental Cécile Deprès was much discussed and served to distract Marie from her sorrows. This project, however, came to nothing save more tears, sighs and reddened eyes.

It was decided that the widow and the orphan should return to Villers-Hellon in the spring; the prospect of this, as well as the passage of time, did something to assuage the violent grief of Marie.

She had another and far more painful distraction. It soon became clear that one of the few friends who were allowed to wait upon Madame Cappelle in her retirement, a certain M. de Coëhorn, was a suitor for the hand of the exquisite widow. Marie's critical eye could not perceive any fault in the young Alsatian, whom she found elegant, handsome, amiable and full of a chivalrous spirit, so that he seemed "more like a knight of the Middle Ages than a gentleman of the nineteenth century."

This attractive cavalier was a frequent visitor to Madame Cappelle's house; he spoilt Antonine, bringing her sweets and toys every time he entered the school-room, and showed himself amiable and attentive towards Marie. He wasted his pains, however, because when the girl perceived that her mother was about to be married for the second time, her grief and vexation were so lively as to overwhelm completely her health; Marie, outraged in her tenderest sentiments, made a confidente of Madame Deprès, then of Ursule, and finally put her troubles before the old Abbé of the regiment, who loved her like a daughter. All these people told her that she had not the right to judge her mother, that her father himself would have been displeased at her attitude and would have told her to cultivate resignation and to conceal her tears. The good priest advised Marie to return home, cast herself on her mother's neck and demand her entire confidence.

Before the girl, however, could put into practice this good advice, she was shocked by overhearing a conversation between her mother and Madame Deprès, who said:

"Marie is desperate, she does not like Eugène de Coëhorn. Her pride is wounded by your proposed marriage. If you want to keep her quiet, you must send her away."

"Such a separation would indeed cause me great grief," replied Madame Cappelle sadly, upon which the other lady laughed and remarked:

"Ah, well, my dear Caroline, believe me, your young husband will not long endure these two living souvenirs of the past!"

Marie retreated from the antechamber where she had overheard these stinging words, and, reflecting that they were spoken by her mother and one of her father's best friends, she received an unpleasant impression of the falsity, egoism and hypocrisy of the world and decided to conceal her suffering. Not having the courage to talk to her mother and not being able to live under the weight of rage and suffering that oppressed her, the young girl seized a pen and with great facility poured out her feelings in a long epistle to Madame Cappelle.

The result of this was a painful interview between mother and daughter. The death of her father had taught Marie the meaning of the word "grief"; the behaviour of her mother and the words she had overheard Madame Deprès speak taught her the meaning of the word "society."

Madame Cappelle, soft and gracious in her new happiness, was tender with her young daughter, whom she did not trouble to understand. She declared that M. de Coëhorn could not hope to be Marie's father, but did expect to be allowed to be called her best friend; she declared that she would not send Marie away to school, but that she would keep her always near her and that she hoped to see a pleasant relationship spring up between her daughter and her future husband, the gallant, romantic and fascinating Eugène.

Marie was neither soothed nor consoled by these easy promises; she was, indeed, offended by the light coquettish tone adopted by her mother, who had lost her beloved husband in so violent a manner only a few months before; resentment hardened the child's heart and she proudly resolved to disguise her feelings.

* * * * *

In the spring the whole party went to Villers-Hellon; Marie left with delight those superb scenes where she had once been so happy but which now reminded her of her cruel loss. When she went to pray at, and to kiss for the last time the stone that closed her father's grave, she had an outburst of grief that brought on a slight attack of fever.

M. Collard received his daughter-in-law and his grandchildren with great affection, surrounding them with a thousand attentions, a thousand tendernesses; Lalo and Mamie also welcomed the two girls with tears and regrets as well as exuberant protestations of affection.

Marie spent her first days in Picardy in conversing of her father to those who had been his servants, in caressing his favourite horses and dogs and in traversing alone those walks that she had so often enjoyed in his company.

Madame Cappelle now began to undertake seriously the education of her daughters; in this task the charming, worldly woman showed great patience and even some severity. When Marie, in an outburst of affection, threw herself into her arms and began to cover her with kisses, Madame Cappelle would say:

"Not so much exaggeration, Marie. The best proof of tenderness that you can give me will be to correct your faults, which cause me so much suffering."

The emotional child, eager for love, was always chilled and depressed by these rebukes, which did not, however, prevent her from indulging in her favourite faults of independence, wilfulness and impertinence.

M. de Coëhorn soon came to stay at Villers-Hellon. He taught Marie German and always showed himself indulgent and tender; he often took the girl for long rides in the park and along the pleasant roads of Picardy, while he explained to her the beauties of poetry and the noble and Utopian ideals of the German philosophers. All these attentions, however, did little to reconcile Marie to her mother's approaching marriage.

* * * * *

In August a brilliant event disturbed the gracious tranquillity of the life at Villers-Hellon; M. Collard received notice of an approaching visit from the family of the Duc d'Orléans. The château was decorated in order that it might be worthy of this honour.

On the borders of the estate, by the principal entrance, a large arch of greenery was erected; columns of laurel and oak were placed at the top of the avenue; the grilles of the lower windows of the château were all intertwined with leaves; all the tenants were told to put on their holiday clothes and to stand in reverent attitudes along the drive, while it was Marie's duty to see that the sheep that grazed in the park were arranged in picturesque groups, not altogether an easy task as the stupid animals would stray out of the admirable designs into which Marie so carefully formed them.

The interior of the pretty little house was richly adorned with flowers; the coat-of-arms of the House of Orleans, the younger branch of the House of Bourbon, was formed of cornflowers and daisies from the fields, surmounted with garlands of oak-leaves and roses that filled the drawing-room and dining-room with perfume.

The weather, while these preparations were being made, was radiant, and nothing could have been more charming and picturesque than the haymakers in their Sunday clothes leaning on their rakes, the merino sheep grouped coquettishly on the rich slopes of grass beneath the noble trees of the park, and the château garlanded with wreaths of oak, laurel and bay.

Shortly before the Duc d'Orléans and his family were due, however, a violent thunderstorm broke; the decorations were ruined, the peasants were obliged to take shelter and the sheep scattered under the trees. The Duke and Duchess, who were in an open carriage, arrived somewhat blown and damp, despite Monseigneur's large umbrella, but the little Princes and Princesses travelled in a large omnibus that was nothing less than magnificent. The distinguished guests showed the most perfect good-humour, and, after luncheon, and protected only by umbrellas and goloshes, insisted, despite the rain, on making an inspection of the gardens and farms. They admired everything—the park, the roads, the trees, and had some gracious words even for the pretty Swiss dairy.

M. Collard had always been an enthusiastic supporter of the House of Orleans, and had inculcated this loyal devotion so thoroughly in the breasts of all his dependants that the old schoolmaster of Villers-Hellon was fanatic enough in his desire to see this great Prince to put on a lackey's old uniform and join the servants who waited upon Monseigneur at the luncheon table. Such was the old man's excitement at this extraordinary honour that in hastening to offer the Duke a glass of wine, the eager servitor slipped and fell on the polished tiles at His Highness's feet.

The enthusiasm that had caused this upset being explained to Monseigneur, he graciously ordered the loyal pedagogue to be his sole cup-bearer for the rest of his visit; this grotesque incident caused Marie the first amusement she had felt since the death of her father; the royal visitors praised her grace and charm; she felt almost happy.

* * * * *

In the autumn, exactly a year after her first husband's death, Madame Cappelle was married. As M. de Coëhorn was a Protestant the ceremony took place in the drawing-room of Villers-Hellon. This was one consolation to Marie in her vexation and distress; she felt that a ceremony in her beloved village church would have been a profanation. She was pleased to know that the aisles had not been decked with flowers, that the perfumed candles on the altar that had not been lit, that the cloths that covered the images of the Virgin, the Angel, the Great Cross and the Tabernacle during the week-day had not been removed for this marriage that was to her a desecration.

She wept bitterly at being forced to put aside the mourning dress that she had worn for a year; she felt outraged in her love, her religion, her pride, and she stood gloomily without even trying to force a smile while the black-habited Protestant minister performed the marriage ceremony in front of a work-table arranged as an altar. When Madame Cappelle had become Madame de Coëhorn, Marie rushed to her room, and throwing herself on her bed, covered with tears and kisses the portrait of her dear papa.

* * * * *

Soon after, Monsieur and Madame de Coëhorn and the two children left Villers-Hellon to take up residence in the castle of Ittenwillers, where Marie, save for a few daily hours devoted to lessons, was allowed to run wild in the noble park. In this splendid country residence there were plenty of recreations, plenty of liberty, plenty of dogs, cats and birds. Antonine was completely happy, and so was Marie save when she chanced to see her mother leaning on the arm of M. de Coëhorn, and then she became vicariously jealous for her dead father.

The newly married pair, absorbed in each other, for this had been a true love match, lived a very isolated life; there was no brilliant company here, none of the frequent gay comings and goings of Villers-Hellon. The only visitors were some members of the family of M. de Coëhorn, strangers to Marie, who, though amiable and courteous, took very little notice of the wilful, sullen child.

She fell into indolent habits, often spending hours under a tree in the park or in a window-seat day-dreaming, a neglected book by her side; under the excuse of fatigue, of headaches, of sickness, she avoided as far as possible all drudgery, but she was quite willing to recite and to write verses, and to execute on the piano brilliant valses, romances and studies, though she refused steadily to practise scales and exercises. She began to scribble for the hour together; with the pretence of forming her style, she was allowed to write letters either to her mother or to some imaginary relative; into these epistles she poured all her fancies and feelings, skilfully analysing with great detail all her griefs, sensations, dreams, hopes and fears.

Madame de Coëhorn, absorbed in her own happiness, seldom read these long sentimental and romantic epistles. Kissing Marie on the forehead she would say: "You shouldn't trouble your head with so much nonsense, little one. Be a good girl, run away now, and don't concern yourself with philosophy."

There was a fine library of German, English and French books at Ittenwillers. Marie developed a passion for reading; histories, in particular the history of Charles XII by Voltaire, the plays of Racine and Corneille and Molière, the travels of Cortez and Pizarro, and the innumerable books that dealt with the campaigns of her hero, Napoleon I, stimulated and excited her until reality became vague and fantasy startlingly vivid.

* * * * *

When Marie was fifteen years old she heard of the Revolution of July. Louis-Philippe, the amiable gentleman with the goloshes and the umbrella who had admired the merino sheep, the garlands of daisies and the model farm at Villers-Hellon, had become King of the French. Marie, though knowing nothing of politics, was delighted with this turn of events and so excited herself by reading newspapers that her mother had to forbid her to read those copies of the French Press that were sent from Paris to Ittenwillers.

In the autumn it was Villers-Hellon again, and, as Madame de Coëhorn had dropped into a state of invalidism, her husband again gave Marie her lessons and again was her companion on the long rides through the park and along the country roads in which the high-spirited, wilful child so delighted.

All the rich, aristocratic, brilliant and charming neighbours were in residence again, and Marie resumed her delightful life of visits paid and received, of balls, concerts, comedies and sparkling intercourse with witty, polished and accomplished people.

In the spring Madame de Coëhorn gave birth to a daughter, whom she placed in Marie's arms bidding her "always love and protect her little sister." The girl responded with a burst of facile tears, which she declared washed away not the memory of her father but the profound grief that his death had occasioned her and all the jealousy she had felt towards Eugène.

Madame Garat came from Paris, bringing with her the aroma of the elegant, delicious Parisian life and a crowd of coquettish and charming friends.

Marie began to pay visits to the neighbouring châteaux; one of the first of these was to the donjon of General Daumesnil. There Marie found Mlle. Daumesnil, whom she had not seen since both had been boarders at Saint-Denis six years before; this other Marie was then an accomplished young lady, who thought of nothing but her toilette and who had abandoned all serious occupation through the dread of lining her face by study; she had even renounced a fine talent for the piano for fear of injuring the delicate whiteness of her pretty hands. The friendship that had been so warm and promising between the two girls withered. Marie Cappelle viewed with some scorn the elegant, languid delicacy of Marie Daumesnil, who returned this light irony by an elegant grimace of contempt for her former friend's sallow complexion and rustic ways.

This brilliant life was broken up by an epidemic of cholera that devastated France; panic terror invaded Picardy and M. Collard turned his château into a hospital, bringing a young doctor from Paris and dispensing medicine and nursing free to all his tenants.

Madame de Coëhorn and her three daughters left for Alsace in the charge of her brother-in-law, who was secretary to M. de Sebastiani at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. This young man, M. Edmond de Coëhorn, was an excellent amateur musician, and during her second residence at Ittenwillers Marie's great diversion was to hear him playing romances, valses and idylls upon the piano, to which he sometimes sang in Italian in a fine tenor voice.

Deprived of her husband, Madame de Coëhorn no longer lived in blissful isolation, but gathered round her a charming, animated, aristocratic company; still, however, none of these people took much notice of Marie, who was no longer a wilful little child to be petted, spoiled, caressed and reproved, but a tall, awkward girl. Her mother, who did not admire her appearance in the least, continually told her that she was ugly and insignificant, and it was true that she provoked so little homage from the young men who came to the château that when M. Edmond one day kissed her hand she was so much astonished and so proud that she thanked him gratefully.

Thus isolated from the radiant society that surrounded her by her awkward age and her lack of obvious charms, Marie plunged again into reading. She followed the taste of the day and was soon deep in the romances of Sir Walter Scott, then the rage in the polite society of Europe. Marie was speedily entranced by these delicious novels, which transported her into a world exactly to her taste. In the company of Fergus, The Master of Ravenswood, Rob Roy, Flora, Black Ivor and Diana Vernon, Marie Cappelle no longer felt isolated or slighted; in particular the last-named heroine struck her odd imagination. Diana Vernon, the noble and frank young girl, became the companion of her dreams and the sister of her thoughts; she identified herself with this splendid, romantic creature and every night when she laid her head on her pillow she evoked the image of Di Vernon, who began to have on her life more influence than any living creature. Side by side with the phantom of Diana Vernon, Marie Cappelle would ride a white horse across the Scotch heather; she imagined that the beautiful heroine was her confidante, that they were exchanging joys, hates and sorrows.

Absorbed into this world of romance, Marie cared less and less what was happening about her; her sense of reality began to be blunted; the figures of her young companions were not as vivid to her as the creations of Sir Walter Scott. Like a bird joyously taking wing in its native air after being for long in a gilded, comfortable cage, the soul of Marie Cappelle flew into the world of romanticism that surrounded her. Everything fostered her daydreams, the music, the Italian songs of M. Edmond de Coëhorn, the languishing, amorous grace of the young marriageable girls who visited her mother, the superb scenery with the Gothic ruins and broken abbeys, the rocky passes, the feudal castles, the wild landscapes of Alsace.

* * * * *

She was often a member of parties organised by one of the rich landowners of the district, which ascended the mountains on stout ponies until a superb view was reached, and there, on the mossy carpet at the foot of a ruined tower, they made a delicious picnic meal; while champagne was being drunk and pâtés were being eaten, the wind produced charming melodies from the Eolian harp set in the trees or a group of peasants played one of their entrancing Ländler tunes, to which the aristocratic merrymakers danced with ardour and enthusiasm. These Alsatian dances were valses and galops; the rhythm of them intoxicated Marie Cappelle.

In the daytime her cavaliers were two boys of her own age, witty, gay, charming; but at the balls, which took place almost every evening, she liked to dance with her step-father's brother, M. Edmond de Coëhorn, an excellent waltzer who, whirling Marie round the gaily-decorated salon, made her feel as light as a feather.

* * * * *

These gaieties were increased by the arrival of Marie's second aunt, Madame de Martens, who had been for a long while in Constantinople, Where her husband was Ambassador of the King of Prussia to the Sublime Porte.

This lady, elegant, charming, spirituelle and fascinating like the other daughters of M. Collard, brought with her her two pretty, accomplished daughters, and a joyous family reunion took place at Ittenwillers.

Marie was now seventeen years old and was considered to have taken her place in the world; she attended all the balls and her name was always on the cards of invitation that found their way to Ittenwillers; she visited all the aristocratic salons of Strasbourg and all the charming country houses that surrounded the city. Much as she enjoyed all these entertainments and amusements, the ardent, dreamy girl was not altogether without a sense of disillusionment and bitterness; she found this social life, so longed-after in her schooldays, by now a little wearisome, a little fatiguing. The truth was that she provoked no especial admiration; the death of her father had considerably altered her social position for the worse; she was not a beauty, her dowry was known to be small, and there were many beautiful and wealthy girls in Strasbourg; finding herself, therefore, the object of only superficial compliments and mechanical attentions, irritated by all the formalities that surrounded her position as an unmarried girl, Marie began to take a dislike to balls and parties and to retire more and more into the world of romance that she had created for herself.

* * * * *

In the spring came another domestic grief; Jeanne, Madame de Coëhorn's little daughter, fell into a decline; after six months she died, to the despair of the parents who buried her under a white rose-tree in the park; in the dead baby's hands rested a lock of Marie's hair with which she had played during her long illness.

Stupefied with grief and in a languishing state of health, Madame de Coëhorn allowed her two sisters, Madame Garat and Madame de Martens, to conduct her and her two daughters to Villers-Hellon, where M. Collard received with a passionate affection all the surviving members of his family, for Madame de Martens brought with her her two daughters, Hermine and Bertha.

With the spring Marie accompanied her mother and aunt to Paris, where she hoped to meet with the most exciting and romantic adventures. Her first experiences were, however, disappointing. Invited to a ball at the Tuileries, where she knew few people and where lack of partners forced her to sit on a bench by the wall nearly all the evening, she was driven by wounded vanity into developing a superb contempt for society; she resolved to withdraw from the world and to give herself up to day-dreams and good works; she would have, she resolved, no other friend than Diana Vernon and no other amusement than the reading of the romances of Sir Walter Scott.

This mood was quickly changed by an invitation from the Maréchale Suchet, a former friend of her father's, to another ball. The maréchale took great pains to see that the young girl enjoyed herself; several attractive young men asked her to dance, several distinguished women took the trouble to be civil to her; she felt that she was admired; in her silver muslin robe with a crown of white roses she felt "as light, as diaphanous as those delicious insects, dragon-flies and butterflies which dance in springtime on the crystal waves of little streams." When, flushed and animated by this success, she returned home, she felt she renounced with less emphasis the works of Satan, "the pomp and vanities of this wicked world."

Her aunt took her to the opera to hear Nourrit in Robert le Diable. The martial, amorous music of Meyerbeer sent Marie again through those entrancing realms into which she had first been led by the genius of Walter Scott; she began to dream of knights in chain armour, of black-eyed houris reclining under the shade of orange groves, a whole world of pagan ease, luxury and voluptuous love; with eager expectation she awaited a lover.

* * * * *

In the spring Madame de Coëhorn gave birth to another daughter, who was named Elizabeth. The mother had long been languishing and was unable to recover from her confinement. To add to the suffering of the sensitive woman there was a slight estrangement from her husband, who, once so passionately in love with her, seemed to be wearying of a wife several years older than himself who was always in ill-health.

Marie accompanied the poor woman to her château in Alsace and employed her time in nursing the pretty, rosy infant Elizabeth and in playing and singing to her mother; the girl had become a really good musician and knew how to sing and to play with taste and distinction; into the valses and nocturnes of Liszt and Chopin, the minuets and serenades of Mozart, she put all her passionate, emotional and tender feelings; but she was still too self-conscious to be able to sing the love poems that would have best expressed the emotions of her heart.

M. de Coëhorn joined his wife in Alsace, but their estrangement continued; Marie was no longer forced to regard reluctantly a passionate love idyll; the handsome young man no longer led his wife out on moonlit nights on to the terrace to press her hand while they gazed at the moon, no longer did they wander by the borders of the ornamental lake, or sit and sigh beneath the weeping willow tree; he occupied himself with his business, the management of her estate, and she was taken up with her suffering of mind and body.

Soon after the New Year she died, a frightful scene of unrestrained emotion taking place round her death-bed. Marie, pale and thin from a recent long and lamentable attack of indigestion, bathed her mother's hands with tears, tormenting the expiring woman with agonised kisses. Antonine and the servants stood at the head of the bed, weeping noisily. M. de Coëhorn beat his breast in an agony of remorse, imploring his wife to speak to him and to forgive him for his late neglect, now so unaccountable even to himself.

Marie's distress became so violent that the doctor was forced to draw her away from the bedside; Eugène at once took her place, and falling on his knees, rested his head on the pillow beside his wife's. Several hours passed thus, then, towards the dawn, the haggard Eugène raised his head with a cry of despair:

"She has left us!"

After a day passed in a state of semi-consciousness, Marie resolved to see her mother once more and stole into the death chamber where Madame de Coëhorn, with a lace cap tied under her chin and surrounded with hot-house flowers, lay on smooth coverlets under an embroidered tapestry.

Marie fell on her knees beside the corpse as if she were worshipping a saint:

"Mother, forgive me. I did not adore you sufficiently when you were alive. Look now from heaven into my heart—see how I suffer. Pardon me, my poor mother, and become my guardian angel."

Having relieved herself of this prayer, Marie longed to cut a curl off the head of the corpse as a souvenir. When she got to her feet, however, she found herself unable to touch her mother, who seemed to her "as sacred as the wafers in the Eucharist." She wished to press a last kiss upon the dead forehead and at length found the courage to do so; the touch of the icy brow brought on a new fit of despair and she fell unconscious on the floor beside the bed.

When the girl recovered her senses it was only to witness the frightful despair of M. de Coëhorn, who wept, who cried, who struck his head against the wall, who knelt down and kissed the chair where his wife had sat, who handled and caressed her books, her piano, the rug she had had over her knees, who embraced his daughter until she wailed with pain, and pressed his two stepchildren in his arms, exclaiming in accents of agony:

"My poor children, I must lose you too!"

When a little calm was restored to this house of mourning, M. de Coëhorn, with many tearful apologies, informed Marie that it was her mother's last wish to be buried under the rose-tree where little Jeanne slept and where she had tasted her great happiness in her second marriage.

Marie was agonised at this request; she wished her mother to rest under the gravestone that covered her father, and said so in a voice broken by passionate sobs; M. de Coëhorn, however, pressed her to give her consent; it was necessary to get a special authorisation from the Bishop for this burial and Marie had to sign it as well as himself.

"It will be a new bond between us, Marie. You will come and stay with me in order to weep on your mother's tomb."

Marie then reminded the frantic widower that he might follow his wife's example and take in time a second mate. He repelled this idea with horror, and Marie, overwhelmed by his insistence, gave the desired consent; Madame de Coëhorn was buried under the white rose-tree in the romantic park of Ittenwillers, where two small crosses marked the lonely graves of the charming woman and her infant daughter Elizabeth.

* * * * *

When the first violent convulsions of grief were over, Marie surveyed her position and found it desolate. Although her parents had brought her up in reckless luxury, they had left her but a small fortune; for the completion of her education, for her introduction into the world, for her settlement in life she must look to her two aunts and their husbands, since M. Collard was a feeble old man.

Marie dreamed of spending the rest of her life at Villers-Hellon, the support and consolation of this beloved grandfather, the object of the compassion and adoration of all the servants, tenants and neighbours, who would no doubt overwhelm with tenderness the delicate orphan-girl sustaining herself so bravely in her profound grief.

Guardian angels, indeed, soon hovered close to the poor orphan; prominent among these was Madame de Valence, her mother's godmother; in this lady's sumptuous château, surrounded by tendernesses, Marie passed the first few months after her mother's death, while little Antonine, whose education had been somewhat neglected, was sent to a pension in Paris.

Marie learnt, with a mixture of surprise and gratification, that Madame Adelaide, a sister of the King, had undertaken to pay for the education of this dear little sister. The connection, then, between her family and that of His Majesty, the King of the French, was not a mere fable? When Marie ventured to broach the subject, her aunt playfully tapped her cheek, bid her be a good girl, discreet and obedient, and warned her once more that this connection with the royal family was a profound secret.

In the summer following the death of her mother Marie went again to Villers-Hellon, where her grandfather did all in his power to console her still devastating grief. Here, also, was her aunt Madame Garat, who began to assume airs of authority towards her niece. The delicious baroness, in every respect a perfect Parisian, had been married at sixteen years of age and had one daughter, who had inherited none of her mother's brilliant charms, but was a sickly and morose little creature, continually being dosed with black pills to improve her health, and long sermons to improve her character. For the bringing up of this unsatisfactory child Madame Garat had adopted a system of absolute maternal domination; this she began to apply to Marie, whom she regarded as being strictly in her charge. The girl, vain, proud and wilful, at once resented it, and withdrew herself into a mute rebellion whenever she was rebuked for her continual faults of deportment, speech or thoughts.

She was now at an age when she required a confidente. She did not find one among the three cousins who were with her ar Villers-Hellon. Mlle. Garat, full of duplicity, self-will and caprice, did not please Marie; Hermine de Martens was cold, and Bertha only a child, while in her own sister Antonine, Marie observed a meek, placid, dull creature who was not in the least suited to be a recipient of the wild, fantastic dreams that disturbed Marie's heart and head; Antonine, besides, was at home only for the holidays.

Thrust back upon herself by this lack of friends of her own age and by the severity of her elders, Marie devoted her time to improving her accomplishments in the hope of making up in brilliancy what she lacked in beauty, and to easing her mind by pouring out on paper her ardent, romantic thoughts. She continued to dream of a possible lover; she believed that when she met this ideal being, her real existence would begin; whenever she jotted down what she considered noble thoughts or sweet lines of poetry, whenever she conquered a difficulty in her musical exercises, whenever she performed what she thought was a good action, she offered all these successes to the imaginary cavalier who she hoped would one day become her husband. These dreams, in themselves almost sacred, she breathed to none. Indeed, the few words that Madame Garat had spoken to her on the subject of her possible marriage were far from encouraging; the elegant, worldly lady had said with a dry smile that Marie must not fill her head too much with romantic dreams, as the reality of marriage was very different from what it appeared in the fancies of ardent young girls.

"There is something more in marriage, my dear Marie, than a fine position in the world, pleasures, a handsome trousseau, a round of delicious entertainments."

* * * * *

Marie's pleasantest hours were spent with her grandfather, who pampered and spoiled the delicate, sensitive girl. He had given her in Villers-Hellon a room next to his own; the first hours of the morning and the last hours of the evening she spent in the old man's chamber, either playing an idyll, a romance or a valse on the charming piano that he kept in his apartment, or reading to him or allowing him to tell her for the hundredth time one of his favourite stories.

During this period Marie received her first offer of marriage from a certain M. de L——, she had seen this man only occasionally and he had never expressed any admiration for her. It would not, indeed, have been possible for him to do so as Marie was always strictly chaperoned. This gentleman was young, but of commonplace appearance and possessed a fortune of only five thousand francs; his offer, therefore, was refused, but it had caused in the ardent heart of Marie a profound excitement. She felt her importance considerably increased, her dreams of the future became more rosy than before.

In the winter Marie left Villers-Hellon and stayed with Madame de Valence, daughter of Madame de Genlis-Sillery, in her charming apartment in the rue de Barri; she had her own bedroom and boudoir, and an excellent servant, a sister of old Mamie, to wait upon her. Madame de Valence belonged to a circle of wealthy, well-placed people, most of whom had made fortunes under the Empire, either through military service or through supplies to the armies; her daughter, Madame la maréchale Gérard, was an influential leader of society. Marie moved with daily increasing assurance and grace through the handsome salons where this society, always wealthy, and sometimes brilliant, amused itself. She met sportsmen, diplomats, lions, dandies, those who were termed "men of honour" and those who were termed "men of wit," and she began to notice the other side of her world, which hitherto had been for her a succession of luxuries, caresses, indulgences—a round of pleasures broken only by lessons that taught her the most desirable and delicate accomplishments.

Marie, quick, shrewd, and with a sense of irony running through all her romanticism, began to understand something of the society in which her life was to be passed. She gauged the brittleness of conventions, yet she saw the horrible penalties inflicted on those who broke them; she saw that money was the basis on which this charming, frivolous and indolent existence was built; she saw thai while the men had the greatest possible licence, the rules for the women were very strict; but she soon realised that feminine duplicity, of which she herself had a considerable share, was usually more than equal to circumventing the rules that must not be broken.

Life in these Parisian salons was much the same as life had been in the convent school of Saint-Denis; if an outward appearance of decorum was maintained, if all the little laws governing speech, conduct, etiquette, were kept, if one had a gift for intrigue, for chicanery, for manoeuvring in secret, well, then, the most dainty, fastidious lady of them all might have almost as much freedom as the wildest lion or dandy.

Marie acquired naturally, by instinct, that elaborate technique which women, oppressed, almost enslaved by the men, regarded as mere ornaments in the salons, or as upper servants in the housekeeper's room, had acquired from one generation to another.

The girl soon learnt also to cultivate that inner life of fancy and imagination into which she had already entered through the enchanted pages of Sir Walter Scott. Like so many of these women of wealth and leisure, living in a society unstable and corrupt, Marie Cappelle protected herself from boredom by making a fine art of day-dreams. She was carefully watched and guarded against any contact with what her guardians would have termed "reality." She had been delighted to wander round the lanes of Picardy distributing loaves, suits and blankets to the poor people on her grandfather's estate, but she knew nothing, and wished to know nothing of the slums of Paris—of that underworld where crime was bred from the dregs of revolution and war, where poverty and disease had formulated their own code, their own religion, their own ceremonies and moralities.

Marie knew nothing of the infamous poverty, the sordid vice, the despairing corruption of the great city; she seldom went abroad on foot, but when she did she was always accompanied by her aunt or her old servant. Her knowledge of Paris was confined to the fashionable quarters, the modish shops, the opera, the smartest theatres, a few elegant cafés and restaurants.

Nor was she interested in anything that was not elegant, choice and lovely; she had an exquisite taste and a keen perception of what was orderly and seemly. The coquettish salons through which she moved, with their furniture of gilt and satin, their pictures of beautifully-dressed women on the silken walls, their curtains of finest lace, their vases of agate and marble, were fitting backgrounds to the handsomely-dressed men and women who danced, sang, played cards, conversed and idled with such charming indolence and such polished elegance.

Marie liked to drive abroad in a smart briska, calèche or tilbury with liveried servants on the box; she liked to walk in the Tuileries gardens under the opulent red-and-white chestnut trees, between the parterres of costly flowers; she enjoyed the opera, the drama, a concert of music, a fashionable ball; she liked to buy and to wear the finest, most exquisite of garments, in perfect taste, that fondled her slim body as a breeze fondles the superb calyx of the opening lily; she knew, partly by instinct and partly by training, the right thing to wear, the right thing to do; she never made a social mistake. Passionately desirous of being admired, of being, if possible, even loved, she was very careful never to give offence and very careful to adapt herself to any company in which she might be placed. She did not disdain flattery, either given or taken, and so, though she was neither beautiful enough nor rich enough to be really popular, her presence was always acceptable among the set in which Madame de Valence and Madame Garat moved.

* * * * *

The greatest influence in Marie's life was not, however, any of these people whom she saw daily under such pleasant circumstances, but the novels of Madame George Sand. Paris was in full romanticism, and there were few girls or women who had escaped the spells of Indiana or the other romances that appeared under the name of George Sand.

Among the idle, the indolent, the voluptuous classes, this passion for romanticism rose to a delirium. Disdaining both their own age and the classic period, which had lately been so much in vogue, the romantics turned back to the Middle Ages that, ignorant of history, they regarded as a vague period adorned by knights, ladies, pages, troubadours, white palfreys, love-sick musicians, feudal castles and beautiful maidens in distress. Everything Gothic was fashionable.

At the costume balls to which Marie frequently went, the favourite characters assumed were Mary, Queen of Scots, Isabelle of Burgundy, Marguerite de Valois; the houses, the furniture, the ornaments were made in what was supposed to be Gothic style. The romances of Walter Scott, Charles Maturin and Mrs. Radcliffe had already filled the minds of their eager readers with images of ruins, gloomy landscapes, witches, spectres, skeletons, beautiful girls in peril, handsome young men rescuing them—a whole phantasmagoria of impossible, adorable excitement.

The romances of the daring lady who wrote under the pseudonym of George Sand were, to such a type of woman as was Marie Cappelle, an even headier draught than that supplied by Sir Walter Scott, the German romanticists, the poems of Lamartine or Byron; here was not only a new world, but a new doctrine; the delicious theory, which soon insinuated itself into the hearts of every discontented woman, was that a great love between the sexes was its own justification, that what had formerly been called "virtue" was bourgeoise and contemptible, and that nothing mattered in life but a great passion greatly pursued. According to Madame Dudevant, all duties, to both God and man, should be thrown aside if they conflicted with a sincere, a passionate love; even crimes—adultery, murder—might be excused if lovers found it necessary to commit them.

These theories, developed in a brilliant style, and adorned with the most seductive of images, the luxury of rich interiors, of gorgeous clothes, of beautiful music and paintings, of Italian scenery, intoxicated all the young and half of the middle-aged women of France.

Marie would sigh and muse by the hour together over these entrancing pages; she at once identified herself with Madame Sand's heroines, as she had before identified herself with Diana Vernon. Her imagination was ardent and well-nourished by wide miscellaneous reading; she had only to close her eyes to believe herself on a marble terrace shaded by orange trees, wearing a robe of violet velvet with a chaplet of lilies on her head, while a handsome cavalier kneeling on a satin cushion poured out his love at her feet—or to imagine herself mounted on a white horse, with silver veils and orange plumes floating from her streaming black locks, galloping over a vast plain towards a Gothic castle outlined against a stormy sky; by her side, of course, would be riding the inevitable lover, bold, handsome, young, brave, with something dark and Satanic in his air—a Manfred, a Harold, a bold, half-infernal creature whose pale lips would be twisted in disdain of the entire world; yet this paragon would be ready to melt into passionate prayers of gratitude if she but conceded to him a touch of her white fingers.

Absorbed in these day-dreams to the point of physical collapse, to the point of ecstasy, Marie began to make herself into the kind of woman she desired to be. Out of the creature who was Marie Cappelle, who had already been formed by a spoilt childhood, an intermittent education, a succession of emotional crises, this skilful girl, still under twenty years of age, tried to form a heroine of exotic romance. The Parisian perfumers soon furnished her with lotions to blanch her sallow skin, to whiten her long hands and to make her thick, black hair glossy. She strove to increase this interesting pallor by drinking in secret quantities of vinegar and by sucking lead pencils. She was also, like other romantics, extremely careful about her diet; it was gross and vulgar to concern oneself with food, and Marie, in common with the other elegant young Parisians, was never seen to eat more than an egg, a little tart, a morsel of fruit or a muffin; she drank quantities of weak China tea and denied herself all bonbons and sweetmeats, of which she was inordinately fond; not only did this light diet make the romantic woman appear interesting, as if she was too ethereal to eat substantial food or too absorbed in some secret grief to heed it, but it was absolutely necessary if a sylph-like figure and a pale face were to be maintained.

Marie, however, could not always control the agonies of hunger, and her old servant would often bring in secretly to her chamber a tray laden with substantial food. This weakness once produced unfortunate consequences. Among the gentlemen who visited the house of Madame de Valence was one who had been greatly impressed by Marie's elegant disdain for food when she sat, pale and languishing, at her hostess's dinner table. So openly expressed was his interest in Marie that her friend began to hope that he would make an offer for her hand. These expectations were blighted by the following incident.

Marie, having played with a fragment of chicken and a few grapes at déjeuner, was sustaining herself with peas, cutlets, rolls and pastries in the salon when this potential suitor was unexpectedly shown into her presence. Revolted by what he termed "disgusting hypocrisy," the gentleman ceased to visit the apartment of Madame de Valence. He was wrong, however, in imputing hypocrisy to Marie Cappelle; she was no more a hypocrite than the actress who throws herself into the part she is playing and then relaxes behind the scenes. While Marie was in company—on the stage, as it were—she was quite unconscious of being other than herself; she was for those moments the sentimental, passionate, misunderstood, spirituelle romantic, disdainful of everything that was gross, common or mundane.

Her health, never good, did not long resist this poor diet, the vinegar-drinking, the hours in powerfully-scented hot baths, the lack of exercise and the close air of salons, over-perfumed with the scent of tuberoses, jasmine, lilies and aromatic pastilles. Marie had several returns of her ancient complaint, an inflamed stomach, which developed into a more or less chronic gastritis; she also became anaemic, subject to giddiness, vomiting and fainting fits. Inconvenient as these complaints were, she rejoiced in them, as they gave her an air of delicacy, and even hinted at the suspicion of that disease then so extremely fashionable—consumption. Illness, too, gave her a natural pallor far beyond that to be obtained by the lavish use of any bleaching lotion; it put bistre circles round her eyes, far more effective than any paint could have been, and gave to all her movements a ravishing languor; besides, the weakness of her body encouraged the activity of her mind. A few days of semi-starvation, a few glasses of champagne, a hot perfumed bath, and Marie, touched by fever, would lie in bed tossing in voluptuous dreams as vivid and poignant as an actual experience.

* * * * *

There were few outward events during this period in the life of the girl whose inner adventures were so enthralling. Her beloved uncle Maurice married a gracious and charming young girl, Mlle. Blanche de Montaigu, the daughter of a noble house whose aristocratic relatives—dukes, counts and marquesses—openly despised the moneyed family into which the fair Blanche had married, while M. Collard showed a bitter jealousy towards his son's bride.

This sumptuous marriage, celebrated amid every circumstance of luxury, cast Marie into a restless melancholy. Her longdreamed-of lover was slow in making his appearance; there had been no offer of marriage from any of the gallants who frequented the salons of Madame Garat or Madame de Valence. Marie never lacked partners in the ball-room, or amiable companions to escort her and her gouvernante to the theatre or the opera, but no one had ever whispered words of love into her ear, pressed her hand tenderly, slipped a note into her glove, played a guitar under her window, or, in brief, performed any of the thousand and one delicate acts of devotion for which she sighed so ardently. So eager was she for amorous experiences, so starved for love, that had any of the gentlemen of her acquaintance, even the plainest in feature and the most mediocre in character, the most miserable in fortune, besieged her with even the most timid of love-making, this accomplished, brilliant, elegant young creature would have flung herself gratefully into his arms. She had, too, her practical moments, and in these she could not but perceive that she was in a false position. Her dowry was small, the income from her capital was only sufficient to supply her with lavish pocket-money, and for the rest she was dependent upon the goodness of Madame Garat, who did not fail to hint that the sooner the poor, orphaned Marie found a good husband with a substantial fortune, the better it would be for the entire family.

Marie thought that she loved her aunt, but she certainly did not like being under her authority. Madame Garat, though a worldling herself, thought that Marie had been spoiled, and did not show herself very indulgent towards her whims, caprices, tempers, melancholies and reveries. Marie, irked by what she considered a domestic tyranny, longed not only for the delirious joys of a romantic love affair, but for the liberty accorded to a married woman; she was tired of being perpetually under some one's orders, of always being accompanied—spied on, it seemed to her—wherever she went, of never having a moment to herself, of having to go to Mass every day, of having to account for every second of her time, show her letters, her diaries, what she was reading, to her aunt, who as often as not disapproved and said so coldly.

* * * * *

Marie's day-dreams often took the form of seeing herself as the gracious and amiable mistress of a charming Gothic castle, with devoted servants and reverent tenants, an adoring husband, a delicious family of rosy infants, who would not, as her health would always be delicate, be allowed to annoy her, but would be kept in perfect contentment by a devoted old nurse of the type of Lalo. Marie saw herself galloping over her husband's estates on a splendid white horse, her hair, plumes and veils floating in the breeze. She would visit the cottages on the estate and dispense charity with sweet words that would be valued more than her gifts; she would give balls in her charming salon, being kind and gracious towards all; she would have many admirers among the cavaliers in the neighbourhood; perhaps with one of them she would achieve a romantic love affair, an episode of broken sighs, of interrupted glances, of exchanged verses, of moody and passionate piano-playing, of a first and last interview beneath noble trees, one kiss, abnegation, resignation, farewell.

Tormented by these dreams, which began to grow stale and torture her with their repetition, Marie pined among the splendours of Parisian society. Her health really suffered; she was fatigued by sharp, internal pains produced by her recurrent attacks of gastritis and weakened by the severe dieting that gave her a figure light as a feather in the breeze. Had she not been sternly faithful to her ideal of a romantic heroine, she would have become peevish and irritable as well as indolent and melancholy, but she always remembered that a sad sweetness and a gentle resignation were attributes of her ideal of womanhood—so, save very occasionally when she was provoked by scme sharp rebuke from her aunt, she preserved outwardly at least an even temper and always spoke in a carefully modulated, harmonious voice. But with every week that passed her sense of disillusionment and disappointment increased; all her friends were getting married; she knew that behind her back she was being spoken of as an "old maid." Twenty, twenty-one—her aunt had married at sixteen, her mother at seventeen, her grandmother at fifteen. Eligible husbands came and went in the noble faubourg; not one of them chose Marie Cappelle.

She was thus forced back upon her dreams, which became to her not only a consolation but a drug, and a drug that had to be taken in increasing doses. The music of Liszt, of Mozart, of Chopin arousing sensuous, voluptuous, romantic images, the theatre where noble lovers sang and clung together against a background of bloody and heroic events, above all the romances of George Sand with their moral anarchy, their brilliant attraction, their power of taking the reader into a world that had never existed and never would exist, became absolutely necessary to Marie Cappelle. She became so entangled in this web of fantasy, of romanticism, of impossible events, highly-coloured, flamboyant, passionate and exciting, that she began to look upon the world of reality with the dazed eyes of the opium addict who lives only for his dreams. She began to avoid company and to withdraw into a languorous solitude. Her great delight: was to get the salon to herself when her aunt and uncle and their daughter were abroad; she would put out all the lights save the two candles on the piano, array herself in a gown of pearl-coloured satin, thrust some flowers through her flowing black hair, powder her face until it appeared of a startling pallor, pose gracefully at the piano, and in the half-lights, play a nocturne by Chopin or a romance by Liszt—until she could almost persuade herself that her lover was waiting for her beneath a myrtle-wreathed balcony on a black gondola floating between the sombre palaces of Venice or in the hanging gardens of Smyrna, where the plash of silver fountains mingled with the notes of the nightingale.

2. ROMANTIC ENCOUNTER IN AN OMNIBUS

After she had moved from the apartment of Madame de Valence to that of Madame Garat, her aunt, over the Bank of France, Marie Cappelle received great stimulus and consolation from a friendship that sprang up between her and her cousin, a former intimate of childhood. Marie de Nicolai was an accomplished, finished Parisienne, marriageable, and, no doubt, soon to be married. Her family was not only one of the most honourable in France, but extremely wealthy, and Marie possessed that elegance, exquisite taste, delicate figure and those well-groomed features that in a fashionable girl pass for beauty. She was as incorrigibly romantic as Marie Cappelle, and the two girls soon became confidential friends.

Marie Cappelle, by far the more accomplished and intelligent of the two, did not disdain to coax and flatter a girl who was in everything save birth and wealth her inferior, but in whom she believed she had found the perfect friend. It was with immense relief that Marie Cappelle poured forth all her romantic dreams, speculations, anticipations into the patient and willing ears of Marie de Nicolai, who herself dwelt in the self-same world of fantasy.

Her circumstances were peculiar; she was staying in Paris with her wealthy and indulgent sister, Madame de Montbreton, when Marie Cappelle first renewed acquaintance with her, and afterwards she resided close to the Bank of France with her mother and father, the Comte and Comtesse de Nicolai. The life led by this wealthy, spoilt young girl was considered extremely daring for a young, unmarried woman; both in her sister's house and in her mother's she had her own suite of rooms, and though a maid or governess—both entirely at her service—was supposed to accompany her wherever she went, she was allowed a degree of liberty that alarmed the rigorous society of the faubourg. Her manners, too, were considered bold and dashing for a jeune fille à marier, and many prudent mammas refused to allow their daughters to become the intimate friends of the dashing Marie de Nicolai.

Madame Garat herself demurred when she observed that Marie Cappelle was seeing this dangerous friend not only every few days but every few hours, sharing her rides in the Bois, her parties and her music lessons, her shopping excursions. The characters, however, of both Madame de Montbreton and Madame de Nicolai were unexceptional and the impetuous and frivolous Marie de Nicolai was certainly wealthy and well-born, so Madame Garat's objections were, rather reluctantly, withdrawn, and the feverish intimacy of this schoolgirl friendship continued.

Marie Cappelle admired and envied this young girl, so much less gifted, less intelligent than herself, for the Comtesse Marie had complete power over her parents and her married sister and lived very much the life that Marie Cappelle would like to have lived; Marie de Nicolai had the least possible supervision, was allowed to receive her own friends in her little salon, to go to entertainments and theatres with no companion save her young and frivolous maid or complaisant governess whom she ruled absolutely.

Mlle. de Nicolai, coquettish, avid for pleasure, to the last degree worldly and frivolous, was, like Marie Cappelle, always dreaming of some exquisite love affair that should be adorned with every detail of romantic beauty and sensual delight.

The two girls exchanged their ardent confidences, and Marie Cappelle soon began to share Marie de Nicolai's life of independence, and, in consequence, luxury, that was so much blamed by the prudent mammas of the noble faubourg.

* * * * *

Mlle. Delvaux, Mlle. de Nicolai's governess, was a middle-aged gentlewoman of good birth and small means, who, having secured a good position in this wealthy household, employed all her wiles to keep it; she realised that her function of guardian was merely nominal, and that Marie de Nicolai, adored by her parents and her grandmother, was to be allowed to do very much what she liked. She, therefore, turned a blind eye to a thousand imprudencies and indiscretions, troubled Madame de Nicolai with no complaints of her daughter's behaviour and accepted with gratitude all the handsome little gifts that her grateful charge showered upon her.

This Mlle. Delvaux did not look upon Marie Cappelle very favourably; she was jealous of the influence that this intelligent girl might obtain over the other Marie, who had been for so long not only her peculiar charge but her peculiar perquisite. The young heiress's lavish and thoughtless presents were now divided between Mlle. Delvaux and Mlle. Cappelle; besides, this wayward and impetuous friendship gave the governess extra trouble; she now found herself in charge of two daring, rebellious and disobedient girls instead of one. She thought that Marie Cappelle encouraged her charge's frivolity and daring, and a dislike that soon grew into a feud arose between the indolent and unscrupulous governess and the indolent and unscrupulous young girl; they engaged in a tenacious, silent struggle for the possession of the confidence of the spoilt heiress.

* * * * *

One day the two Marks were alone in Mlle. de Nicolai's splendid little salon; both the young girls were in a state of considerable excitement, as they always were when they met to exchange confidences. Marie de Nicolai lay in bed drinking a cup of chocolate; above her head a swirl of rainbow-coloured silk curtains fell from delicate gilt coronet; her room was very luxuriously furnished and not approved of by the prudent mammas of the faubourg, who found it altogether too coquette and extravagant for a young unmarried woman. Indeed, Marie de Nicolai had lately given rather too much cause for comment among her neighbours and friends, and her parents and sister, indolent as they were and afraid as always to offend her, had somewhat circumscribed her liberty. She had lately, with pouts and petulant cries, confided to Marie Cappelle that she was no longer allowed to stay so late at balls, to ride alone with parties of young acquaintances in the Bois and that her correspondence was now all censored, that is, every letter she received was to pass through the hands of Mlle. Delvaux or those of her mother.

As soon as Marie Cappelle entered this perfumed, elegant chamber, she rushed to the bedside and the two friends covered each other with kisses. There was always a feverish sense of tension in their friendship that was expressed in brittle, tinkling phrases. They talked about little else besides what they termed "love" and "amusements," though Marie Cappelle would occasionally repeat to Marie de Nicolai plots and scenes from the innumerable romances she read. Mlle. de Nicolai, being a not inconsiderable heiress, went into society a great deal more than her confidente, whom she was fond of regaling with stories of her success at balls and the admiration she received when promenading in the Champs-Elysées; she fascinated and tormented the other girl with her accounts of her almost incredible list of admirers. When they were abroad together, in every phaéton that passed or on every horse that galloped by would be some young man who had offered for Marie de Nicolai's hand or some lady whose jealousy had been aroused by the heiress's brilliant charms. Not only did Mlle. de Nicolai boast that almost every beau parti or handsome cavalier in Paris had offered for her hand, but she confided to her friend that often, when dancing the quadrille or the polka, her married partner pressed her hand and vowed eternal love; she declared that there were several gentlemen whom she dare not recognise when abroad for fear of the jealousy of their wives.

Marie Cappelle had been able to counter these stories with tales of the romantic young Alsatians and Germans who had been her companions on moonlit drives, rides and picnics in the Vosges, who had shared her rustic repasts beneath the ruins of a feudal tower or wandered with her over some deserted Gothic castle, while they had breathed ardent devotion to her melancholy charms. Marie Cappelle had also a more specific romance to relate; a certain dark-browed count who was a neighbour of her grandfather's often rode over and offered her delicate homage, sometimes falling on his knees and covering her hands with kisses; he, too, had been allowed to be her companion on long rides across the beautiful meadows of Picardy—he had called her his Diana Vernon, declared she was even more dashing, beautiful, noble and desirable than the Scotch heroine. This gentleman was a speculator in railroads and had asked Marie Cappelle, when he opened a new line—as he hoped to do soon—if she would ride on the first wagon, as the Goddess of Speed. He was not, unfortunately, free; not only were his affairs in a bad way, but he had some mysterious, illicit ties which prevented him from offering his hand in marriage, even to the heroine of his dreams. He hoped, however, to be clear soon of both these embarrassments, and he hardly saw Marie without pressing her hand and whispering: "In a year, my love, in a year." He had been godfather and she godmother to the child of a neighbour, and Marie had proudly shown to Mlle. de Nicolai the magnificent corbeille that this desirable Count de C—— had given her on this occasion, in which everything—gloves, handkerchiefs, laces, toilette articles, flowers—had been of the purest white.

Imagination more than heart entered into these recitals and feeling not at all; the girls romanced wildly, hardly even trying to check their fervent imaginations, yet they would have been exceedingly surprised if anyone had termed them liars.

They were self-deceived and were not able to disentangle their own fictions from those they continually read. The sober truth was—and sometimes Marie Cappelle, by far the shrewder of the two, faced it—that neither had received yet a love-letter, a declaration of love, or even a suitable offer of marriage. Marie Cappelle's guardians and Mlle. de Nicolai's parents had certainly discussed possible husbands for the two girls, but no romance had entered into any of these possible business arrangements.

Marie Cappelle seated herself by the bedside after looking with a sigh of envy round the elegant little room, so much more sumptuous than that she could herself afford, and prepared to listen to Mlle. de Nicolai's accounts of her triumphs of the night before when she had been present at the ball given by the British Ambassador, and where, of course, burning words of passion had been whispered to her during the cotillion or the valse. Sometimes Mlle. de Nicolai paused from boasting of her love affairs to boast of her high rank among the aristocratic circles of Paris, even affecting to disdain the homely Court of Louis-Philippe and declaring that she would never attend any of the entertainments in the Tuileries, as she had no wish to display her graces to a company of grocers, chemists and little bourgeoisie.

It was not, however, one of her usual tales of social triumph that Marie de Nicolai now had to relate. Seated in her bed with her rose-coloured swansdown wrap floating about her rather thin shoulders and her large dark eyes gleaming with excitement, Mlle. de Nicolai, affecting great caution, lowered her voice and began the following story, not, however, before extorting from her eager confidente the usual schoolgirl vows of complete discretion, obedience and secrecy.

"One day, the beginning of last winter, I went out—you know I used to be allowed to go like that, though I am not now—with just my maid to make some purchases in the rue Saint-Honoré. Well, I was in the perfumer's with Louise when a most frightful storm of rain came on. I had promised to be home in time to change for dinner as Mamma was taking me out that evening, and though we had an umbrella, we thought we would run for it. We had no sooner got to the corner of the street, however, than the rain became so violent that I felt I should be drowned; there was an omnibus passing just there, and I knew it went by the rue d'Angoulême, so, what do you think I did? I jumped in. The conductor rang the bell and the omnibus started leaving poor Louise standing on the pavement—"

"Oh, Marie, how could you?" interrupted Marie Cappelle. "You got into an omnibus—and alone!"

"Yes, all by myself. Now here comes my great secret. I was all wet and panting and hardly able to get into the horrid thing when a most elegant hand in a fine yellow glove, in the most correct manner, was stretched out towards me. It was a young man, Marie—everything about him was absolutely correct, I assure you. He had the manners of a nobleman, an air altogether grand seigneur. Of course, as you know, it is quite a long way from the perfumer's shop to our street, almost the whole length of the rue Saint-Honoré—and so we sat opposite each other, and I had an opportunity of observing him closely. Oh, my dear, such large black eyes, such classic outlines, such an air! When he paid for his ticket the conductor gave him some ugly, common sous with the silver, and he leant and threw these out of the door to some poor people on the pavement. Of course, I saw that he was simply devouring me with his eyes and wondering who I was—so I pulled out my handkerchief, you know I had one of those little lilac ones, and there was my Comtesse's coronet in the corner with my name, embroidered in gold thread. I held it on my knee so that he could not fail to see it. I was afraid he would think it very strange that I was riding alone in an omnibus. I was very careful, of course, to keep myself away from anyone else in the horrid vehicle. When at last it stopped at the rue d'Angoulême, the stranger jumped out too, when he saw I was going to alight, and helped me off the step in the most respectful and gallant way. Then he saluted me, just as if I had been a Queen, and stood with his hat in his hand gazing after me. Yes, he stood there, Marie, in the middle of the rain with his feet in the mud—and he had such fine varnished boots on—and watched me until the door of my hôtel dosed behind me."

"Did you see him again?" breathed Marie Cappelle, clasping her hands.

"Yes, at church—Saint-Philippe. You know I go there every Sunday with Mlle. Delvaux. You know the church is small, and soon after the meeting in the omnibus there was a charity sermon to be preached by the Abbé du Guerry. We were rather late, couldn't find seats, and then suddenly there he was offering us two chairs that he had kept behind a pillar. Oh, Marie, it was he! I accepted, I thanked him, and he spent the whole of that service leaning against one of the neighbouring pillars gazing at me. Well, after that, my darling little one, we often met—in the Champs-Elysées, in the Tuileries, at Saint-Philippe. We never spoke, but of course our glances told everything."

"Oh, Marie, you are in love with him—with this stranger?"

"Yes, he is a stranger—a foreigner, I think, but, oh, so distinguished, so comme il faut—I think he is a prince at least. I have seen him in the Bois riding a magnificent horse, and he is always so perfectly dressed."

Mlle. de Nicolai then proceeded to relate how she had been conducting a mute love affair with the handsome stranger. He contrived to follow her in nearly all her promenades and nearly all her visits to the church, and she contrived exaggerated scenes of effusion and coquetry with all her male friends so that he might witness how popular, what a reigning beauty she was. She managed, too, to say in a loud voice to her governess all that she wished him to overhear, so that he must by now have a fairly good idea of her circumstances and history. She also thoroughly enjoyed the shades of melancholy, gloom, spite, jealousy and rancour that she saw successively pass over his handsome, expressive face. Sometimes she rewarded his constancy by dropping a flower from her bouquet and with a smile giving him permission to put it in his buttonhole.

Marie Cappelle listened with intense interest, some incredulity and a good deal of envy to this romance; she had often read of such things, but had almost given up hope of hearing of them in real life; she plied Marie de Nicolai with questions that she was not able to answer; she did not know who the unknown admirer was nor could she think of any means of discovering. All she knew was that he had the manners, the elegance, the distinction of la haute noblesse. Nor would Marie de Nicolai commit herself as to whether or no she intended to offer her hand, for which so many wealthy admirers, according to her tale, were contending, to this romantic lover. She was highly pleased with the effect she had produced on her friend and with the state of excitement and enthusiasm into which Marie Cappelle had been thrown, and it was decided between the two girls that they should pay a visit to the Louvre on the next day when the stranger was certain to be there in the long galleries of paintings.

"He knows that I always go there on a Thursday morning, and during the entire season he has not failed to appear."

* * * * *

Permission for this visit to the museum having been duly received from Madame de Valence, with whom Marie Cappelle was then staying, and Madame de Nicolai, the two cousins and the governess entered the long gallery hung with sombre masterpieces down which the Emperor Napoleon had led the Empress Louise on their wedding-day.

As it was early in the morning, there were few people about, save a few poor students from the rive gauche, who were copying some of the rich canvases of Rubens or Tintoretto; the two dark girls, slender and extremely elegant in their flowing robes, flowing skirts, tight waists and bonnets lightly veiled with gauze, affected to take a passionate interest in the boring paintings, while Mlle. Delvaux recited a dull little homily on the ennobling influence of art.

"There he is," whispered Mlle. de Nicolai at last, feverishly pressing her companion's hand.

Marie Cappelle looked round. Truly, imagination could not invent a more accomplished hero! There the young man was, tall, with an athletic, flexible figure, an expressive and melancholy countenance, with a singular air of distinction and originality, that Satanic air of despair which romantics had made so fashionable, clothes that the fastidious young woman at once noticed were in every detail correct, large ardent black eyes and a mass of black curly hair that showed beneath the tall hat he doffed on seeing the ladies.

Dutifully playing her part of loyal confidente, Marie Cappelle devoted herself to the governess, whom she flattered by earnestly consulting her on the merits and faults of the paintings.

This Mlle. Delvaux was by no means to Marie Cappelle's taste; she was unexceptionable in taste and deportment, but there was something dry, arrogant and suspicious about her that the girl did not like; Marie knew her to be venal, hypocritical and servile, and scorned her while she flattered her.

Forced now into intimate conversation with the governess, Marie Cappelle discovered her to be extremely boring. Nothing could have been more banal than her remarks or more tedious than her manner. The girl, however, was rewarded by seeing, whenever she glanced over her shoulder, that the lovers, though not venturing to speak, were enjoying a delicious exchange of glances, sighs and gestures.

* * * * *

From this moment Marie Cappelle became the confidente in this romantic intrigue; more resolute and less frivolous than her friend, Marie Cappelle at once set about finding out who the romantic stranger was. It did not take her long to come upon this information; casually pointing him out to her uncle, M. Garat, on one occasion when they were at church, she discovered that the young man was named Felix Clavé, that he was Spanish and that his father was the head of a humble Institution that took as pupils the sons of superior tradespeople. This house, which was quite close to the church of Saint-Philippe, was a modest white building on which, in large yellow letters, was written "Institution Clavé." It was, then, quite easy to understand how the young man was able to watch Mlle. de Nicolai's comings and goings and to be always present when she attended church.

Not without a good deal of secret and malicious satisfaction did Marie Cappelle explode her friend's romantic dreams of the stranger's being a Marquis, a Duke or a Prince, and though she pretended that love was everything and that Mlle. de Nicolai ought to be completely satisfied with becoming Madame Clavé, she knew perfectly well that her friend would never do this, that she was, between her pride and vanity and the romance that had become so dear to her, in a miserable dilemma.

Mlle. de Nicolai made no pretence of courage, but gratified Marie Cappelle by showing the utmost grief and confusion. She declared that she loved this Felix Clavé, that she had hoped that he would one day be her husband, but now the whole thing was impossible. He had no family, no position, no money, and, according to M. Garat's information, gained a miserable existence by helping his father with his lessons and by contributing a few paragraphs to the more wretched of the Paris journals.

"What! I?—and to marry a man who earns his living by his pen!" exclaimed Mlle. de Nicolai in a passion of tears.

Marie Cappelle rejoiced at seeing her friend thus humbled, and took the occasion to lecture her on snobbery, prejudice and worldliness, declaring that M. Clavé's nobility was to be seen in his forehead, his glance, his carriage, and that if Marie de Nicolai had any spirit at all, she would run away with this romantic lover, gladly forfeiting her place in society and willingly affronting the wrath of her parents and relatives.

Wearied by these exhortations, Mlle. de Nicolai retorted sharply, and the girls parted coldly after an exchange of spiteful remarks.

* * * * *

The affair, however, was far from finished. A few days later Marie Cappelle was again summoned to Mlle. de Nicolai's bedchamber, where she found her friend restless, feverish with a sick headache.

Mlle. de Nicolai, it seemed, had wounded her mute admirer by fiery looks of disdain, and for several days she had not seen him either in the church or in the museum or on her promenades. She found that she could not endure life without his presence, so she had taken the extreme step of writing to him, begging him to appear at two o'clock in the usual place in the Champs-Elysées. The cavalier had not only kept this appointment, but had replied with a passionate love-letter in which he declared that Mlle. de Nicolai was the only gleam of light in his poor life, that he adored her on his knees as "the consolation of the afflicted," "the mystic Rose of the Earth," and so on and so on.

This letter was not signed, and Mlle. de Nicolai had shown it to her mother, declaring that it came from an old servant whom she had been helping through a severe illness. M. de Nicolai, proud of his daughter's generosity, read the letter aloud to the company that was gathered in the salon when Marie received it, and thoroughly enjoyed the praises lavished upon his charitable daughter.

"Now," declared Mlle. de Nicolai, "I must see him once more for a first and last interview and a final explanation."

Marie Cappelle was perfectly willing to enter into this intrigue, which promised to give her something of interest in her life and also to increase her own importance. If one could not be the heroine of such a romantic love affair, it was better than nothing to be the confidente. She undertook to receive the correspondence, as, when she was staying with Madame de Valence, her letters were not inspected. This was to continue until Mlle. de Nicolai departed in the summer for her father's country house, where it would be very easy for her to receive the correspondence without suspicion.

M. Clavé willingly entered into this amorous correspondence. The girls read his letters together and expressed themselves as moved and excited by these sweet expressions of love, these gracious words—"echoes of a noble heart," as Marie Cappelle thought them.

Sometimes Mlle. de Nicolai was not able to go to her friend's house to receive these billets-doux. On these occasions she would send a little note bidding Marie Cappelle answer them for her. In return for this service, Marie Cappelle received from the enamoured Spaniard grateful epistles in which he declared that he would make the second Marie his confidente, that he dare put before her all the bitternesses of his soul, that he would confide to her sympathetic heart all his hopes and fears.

In these letters the young man related the story of his life. He had been born on the Spanish frontier, he had grown up in the mountains, having "the great lakes for mirrors, the little birds for confidants and the beautiful stars for friends." Despite appearances, he was, he declared, of noble birth, his real name and title of nobility being Villa Nova. Through "the vicissitudes of war his father was obliged to leave his sword behind in Spain and to come to Paris to educate the children of others, that he might have money to educate his own"; not wishing "to disgrace the blazonry of his ancestors" by his present position, he had taken the name of Clavé. M. Felix declared that his heart was one "that had sufficient grandeur to despise fortune," but he nevertheless suffered from his humiliating position and "sought a refuge in religion and poetry." He sent his thoughts on the former subject and his essays on the latter in bulky packets, over which the two girls sighed and languished together. The Comtesse Marie already possessed "volumes of sonnets, album-leaves, and romances in her honour and pyramids of dried flowers, souvenirs of regrets."

Sometimes delicious doubts and shudderings would disturb the two young ladies as they perused these ardent epistles. Both had been taught at school that men were "serpents, demons, spirits of the abyss who fascinated only to deceive," and they had no experience of men at all save in the characters of fathers or elderly relatives; they had been taught that they must never look a gentleman straight in the face, but with down-dropped lids merely reply: "Yes, sir—No, sir;" a syllable too much might compromise them, two syllables too much might dishonour them.

They did not know and did not attempt to discover what they meant by the word "love," which they tossed to and fro between them like a gilded ball, light as a feather, as glittering as a diamond. They did not know how to analyse or even how to understand dimly the feelings of mingled repulsion, fascination, fear and delight that consumed them during the progress of this delicious yet forbidden affair.

This business with M. Clavé reached its climax in a great public charity ball which was given at Tivoli "for the benefit of the poor pensioners on the Civil List."

M. Clavé had written that he would be there, and the two girls induced Mme. de Nicolai to take them. It was a splendid fête; young and pretty women laughing and talking wandered over the exquisite lawns; everyone was dressed as a different flower, the old and ugly dowagers as poppies, peonies, tiger-lilies; the young girls as heliotropes, rose pompons, cornflowers, sensitive plants. Marie de Nicolai appeared as a poppy in the middle of a garland of daisies represented by her friends in white frocks, others were dressed as forget-me-nots, violets, pansies; Marie Cappelle, in gauze of different shades of mauve and heliotrope, represented a spray of Persian lilac.

The ball, being public, was very crowded, there was hardly room for the contredanse in the tent set aside for the ball, and Mme. de Nicolai was an indolent guardian, so it was possible as the evening advanced for M. Clavé to approach the two girls and to ask them severally to waltz with him. Marie Cappelle almost fainted with emotion when she found herself resting lightly in the arms of the elegant stranger and circling with him to the intoxicating strains of a valse by Johann Strauss.

"My good angel," he whispered gently in her ear, "speak to me of her that I may hear her name breathed in your soft voice! Oh, what have I done to merit that she should deign to lower her eyes to me and that you should become my friend?"

He went on to ask the enchanted Marie Cappelle always to remain his friend, near his adored one, then confided to the palpitating girl his ambition one day to espouse the noble Comtesse de Nicolai. Since there were so few opportunities, he declared, in Paris for him of distinguishing himself, he intended to offer his sword to Queen Christina of Spain and to fight for her "till death or fortune crowned his efforts."

* * * * *

The following day the two girls met again—it was Mlle. de Nicolai's last day in Paris. They talked of nothing but the ball of the night before, and of this so incessantly one against the other that they were both almost in a delirium.

The Comtesse Marie was not at all pleased with her lover's romantic project of carving the way to fortune for himself with his sword.

"What! he is to be gone three years, and I am to remain pining like the pale betrothed in the German ballad? No, let him retake the name of Villa Nova and enter diplomacy. Then he can come forward openly and demand my hand of my father."

The hour of departure came; there were tears, embraces, vows. Marie de Nicolai found that after all it would be very risky for her to attempt to receive the letters from M. Clavé in her father's country house. Marie Cappelle was therefore to remain, as before, the confidente; M. Clavé's letters were to be sent to her and she was to enclose them in one of hers when she wrote to Mlle. de Nicolai; as the latter feared that she would not be able to hide her correspondence from the espionage of Mlle. Delvaux, the letters of M. Clavé were to be all returned to Marie Cappelle, who was to keep them jealously.

After the departure of Mlle. de Nicolai for the country, Marie Cappelle found her main excitement in this secret correspondence; the letters were all immensely long and very numerous; there were M. Clavé's letters to his beloved to be forwarded, there were his own letters of warm friendship to herself, and there were Marie's letters pouring out her soul to her sympathetic friend.

* * * * *

This exciting state of affairs was broken by the alarming news of M. Collard's serious illness; Marie Cappelle went as fast as the horses would take her to Villers-Hellon and found her grandfather already out of danger; however, she stayed with him, indulging in transports of affection towards all her old friends for several days; as the old gentleman recovered health, he confided to his granddaughter that his affairs were in a very bad way. They had been for many years, through carelessness on his part, neglected. He suggested to Marie that she should become his little châtelaine, live at Villers-Hellon, regulate his estate, dispense his housekeeping account, look after his tenantry and try to get the place into good running order. He told Marie that he hoped to leave her a good dowry, that he longed to see her settle down with a good husband and a fine boy at Villers-Hellon. These were also Marie's hopes, but there seemed no chance of their fruition; despite all the efforts of her aunt Madame Garat, her aunt Madame de Martens, and their respective husbands, no suitable match had yet been found for the elegant and fastidious, sentimental and passionate Marie.

This episode had broken the correspondence with the Comtesse Marie and M. Clavé; several weeks elapsed before Marie heard from her friend; when a letter did arrive it was one that caused her much vexation. Mlle. de Nicolai confessed that Mlle. Delvaux had, by dint of strict espionage, discovered the romantic intrigue with M. Clavé and that she had threatened to divulge the whole story to Mme. de Nicolai unless all the letters were retrieved from Marie Cappelle, who was henceforth to be deprived of the role of confidente, the governess taking her place. Mlle. de Nicolai wrote that the governess's terms must obviously be acceded to—she had the peace of mind, nay, the whole future, of her pupil in her power.

Marie Cappelle now understood why M. Clavé had ceased the correspondence—no doubt he also had been told the terms on which Mlle. Delvaux's silence was to be purchased; Marie Cappelle wrote back harshly that she was hurt and humiliated by this turn of affairs. She would not trust the letters to the post, but, when she was in Paris, Mlle. de Nicolai might fetch them.

Soon after Marie returned to Mme. Garat's handsome apartment over the Bank of France, Mlle. de Nicolai called on her. Something had obviously happened to the old friendship; the girls were strange and even offended in manner, though they strove to be as affectionate as before. Marie Cappelle reproached her friend for withdrawing her confidence from her, asked her wherein she had failed her, and added some injurious expression about the hateful governess, Mlle. Delvaux.

Mlle. de Nicolai, uneasy and shamefaced, defended herself as best she could. With much embarrassment she declared that she had not seen the amorous young Spaniard since the ball at Tivoli, that she did not intend to see him again, or even to correspond with him, and that she wished to destroy all his letters, which Mlle. Delvaux had assured her would be most compromising for her future reputation. She broke off in great agitation to demand of her friend if she were sure she had all the letters; she said she had a list of them with numbers attached, and that she hoped not even one was missing.

Taking offence at this, Marie Cappelle replied disdainfully that she had indeed all the letters, but that she would keep those that M. Clavé had addressed to her; the conversation had reached this point when Mme. Garat entered the room and Marie de Nicolai was forced to leave the house without receiving her letters.

The following day was the first of the school holidays, and Antonine, covered with medals and praises, was to be taken to Villers-Hellon for a six-weeks' vacance. It was then a matter of urgency to obtain the letters before the departure of Marie Cappelle for the country. Mlle. Delvaux herself called to receive them, and a painful interview took place between the two women, whose dislike of each other was no longer disguised. The governess took upon herself to lecture Marie Cappelle, telling her that her conduct had been unpardonable, putting all the blame of the intrigue on her, declaring that she, with her romantic and fantastic notions, had traded on the frankness and simplicity of Marie de Nicolai in order to lead her astray, that she was a most dangerous friend for her pupil, and that it was only on the condition that this friendship was entirely broken off that she had, out of regard for the future and the honour of the two young girls, consented not to speak to Mme. de Nicolai about the disgraceful intrigue with M. Clavé.

Marie Cappelle listened to this harangue with inner fury, but replied with hypocritical meekness:

"Not having the happiness, Mademoiselle, of possessing a wise and prudent guide like yourself, being a poor orphan, I have decided to confide to my aunt, Mme. Garat, the whole affair. She will find a way to protect what you are kind enough to declare in danger—my future and my honour. As for the letters, I do not for the moment know where to find them. I have put them safely away, but where I cannot think. When I discover them I shall confide them to my aunt."

The governess had to confess herself beaten; astounded at this bold move, she humiliated herself to plead with the girl not to tell Mme. Garat of the affair and to give her the letters. Marie Cappelle, however, decided to indulge her spite to the full. She left for Villers-Hellon without returning the correspondence, and only after several desperate letters from Marie de Nicolai and one of humble apology from Mlle. Delvaux did she condescend to do so.

However, this affair that had begun so brilliantly and ended so miserably was not over; Mme. Garat's maid had listened at the door during the interview between Mlle. Delvaux and Marie Cappelle and had taken a garbled version of what she partly overheard to her mistress. The result was a tempestuous scene between Marie and her aunt, in which the young girl was accused of an illicit love-affair. Refusing to betray her friend, she was punished by being shut up in her chamber for several days. During this time she received two "terrible letters," as she termed them, from her aunts. These ladies, writing passionately and unguardedly, accused Marie Cappelle of the most intolerable conduct, and declared that her behaviour was such that it would be almost impossible for them "to settle her in life." They added other causes of complaint to that of the supposed secret and undignified love-affair; Marie was disobedient, was frivolous, was imprudent, was idle, and, most unpleasant of all, she was, her angry relatives declared, very careless in distinguishing between what was hers and what belonged to other people. A set of turquoise buttons from Mme. Garat's toilette had been missing, some gold pieces had been taken from a drawer and leather discs substituted. There was the same complaint to make about other trifles—a packet of lace, a purse of money; of course, it was to be understood that if Marie had taken these things, she did not know she had done so; she had been as a child so spoilt that she regarded everything in the house where she lived as hers to do as she would with; she must understand that these manners would not pass in society. She was allowed the full revenue from her capital to spend as pocket-money, and that should be sufficient. Marie cast up her eyes and hands to heaven in horror at these petty accusations that were not proceeded with.

She burst out of her room and, confronting her aunt Garat with a violence that alarmed that lady, denied having ever seen any of the objects that she was accused of having, in absent-mindedness, no doubt, appropriated; if the buttons, the lace and so on had been found in her chamber, it must have been due to the carelessness of a valet or some chambermaid, perhaps the very one who had spied upon her and so falsely reported her words. The passionate girl thus overwhelmed her two aunts, and they agreed to take her into favour again upon her swearing that the conversation had not referred to herself, but to a friend whose name she could not divulge.

* * * * *

The autumn holidays passed very pleasantly after all these emotional storms at Villers-Hellon. Another husband was proposed for Marie, a certain M. de V——. He proved, however, upon enquiries, to be a mere fortune-hunter, forty years of age, violent and despotic in temper, with very little means and entirely absorbed in a passion for a married woman. He was therefore rejected, not without some regret. An establishment for Marie seemed farther off than ever, and long attacks of brooding melancholy alternated with her feverish high spirits.

When she returned to Paris for the winter, there was another round of balls, pleasures and fêtes. She moved once again in the most elegant society of the Chaussée d'Antin; it was once again the old round of pleasures, Marie was acceptable everywhere without finding a definite admirer anywhere; she began to avoid the balls where she passed, good dancer as she was, too much of her time seated on the red velvet benches next the wall, the entertainments where the younger girls received all the homage of the gentlemen, and the rides in the Bois, where the more beautiful amazons had all the gallant escorts.

She heard nothing from Marie de Nicolai and saw nothing of M. Clavé, and often, in rereading the letters that the young Spaniard had addressed to herself, sighed over that romance in which she had vicariously enjoyed the ardours of first love. She began to return to her old solitary habits, spent many hours sitting at the piano playing romances or idylls, many more brooding over novels or scribbling down pensées or poetry, and began to take as her intimate playmate little Gabrielle, her aunt's youngest daughter, who had been born since Marie had come to live in Paris.

Little Gabrielle, a charming blonde child less than three years old, was in the charge of a nurse and an English gouvernante who had to serve also as chaperon for Marie when her aunts were not able to keep her company, and the four often spent the afternoon walking down the long allées of the Tuileries gardens. The little child was very fond of Marie, who warmly returned this charming affection; she liked to push the little creature in her toy-cart or to guide her toddling steps, and when she saw glances of admiration cast on her lovely charge, she felt that she "was really a woman and really worthy of respect."

* * * * *

It was during one of these promenades that an adventure occurred that seemed to be an exact replica of the one of which Marie de Nicolai had been the heroine. A young and handsome man followed, with respect and admiration in his glance, the governess, the nurse, the young lady and the child; his attire, his air, his manners, proclaimed him, in Marie Cappelle's judgment, infallibly a nobleman. His appearance was in every detail fashionable; he was tall, dark, pale, with a high forehead, black hair, deep-set black eyes, that gloomy look of being misunderstood by a despised world that was so fashionable, and, most entrancing of all, a little dry cough surely denoted a weak chest or the first stages of consumption. Added to these advantages, he had yellow gloves of the most correct shade, varnished boots of impeccable brilliancy, and an air so altogether distinguished that the old English governess—who could not fail to mark his constant attendance on their promenades—declared that in her own country it was quite usual for love affairs to begin this way, that many a young English miss had found in such a romantic encounter a happy marriage.

At this time there appeared a romance entitled Anatole, by the Abbé Sicart, in which the hero, who resembled in every way the mysterious stranger of the Tuileries, was deaf and dumb. Marie began to imagine that the elegant gentleman who followed them in their promenades also suffered from this affliction, and she at once thought of herself devoting her life, as the heroine of the novel did to her beloved, to alleviating his sufferings and to learning the language of the deaf and dumb which the Abbé Sicart had just invented. As if following out the romance of Mlle. de Nicolai in every detail, the handsome unknown followed Marie Cappelle to Mass at the chapel of Saint-Calvaire at Saint-Roth. There he would stand at the door and offer a stoop of holy water, first to the old governess, then to the charming Marie.

On one of these occasions he proved that he was neither deaf nor dumb by exchanging a few graceful words with the ladies; he also discovered that Marie went frequently to buy violets and roses for her aunt to a certain flower-shop in the Passage Vivienne. He would wait outside the shop till she had finished her purchases, then enter it and buy some flowers that she had touched or breathed upon, and wear them for the rest of the day in his buttonhole.

These delicate attentions from one so handsome, so manifestly noble and fastidious, caused Marie Cappelle such happiness that she seemed to be treading on air. The image of the unknown filled her waking and her sleeping dreams and her joy reached its climax when one day, on entering the florist's shop, the woman presented her with a large bunch of perfect white roses, begging her to accept them as a present from herself. "No doubt," said the smiling florist coquettishly, "this little gift will bring me happiness."

Without waiting for a reply, she put the white roses in a silk paper and then placed them in Marie's arms.

When the excited girl arrived in her room and unwrapped the flowers to arrange them in the vases, a letter fell out on the carpet. She snatched it up, broke the seal and read it, then fell almost fainting into a chair. It was a love-letter; she learnt that she was "loved, passionately loved, and for all her life." It was, of course, from the handsome unknown. Too joyous, too excited by this good fortune to be able to contain her emotion, Marie pretended to have a bad headache and did not leave the house for several days. She peeped through the curtains, however, and saw her dejected admirer stationed forlornly on the pavement in front of the house. After four days of this he appeared no more, and Marie knew, from the frightful desolation that overtook her, what this adventure meant in her life. She wrote a passionate reply to the letter she had received, waited for an opportunity, and, when to her intense joy she saw the stranger again at Saint-Roch, she contrived, as they passed at the doorway, to slip the note into his hand.

The affair continued like this for several weeks, meetings in the gardens of the Tuileries, in the Champs-Elysées, in the church, notes passed in bouquets of flowers, dropped with a handkerchief, or even, in the dark porch of the church, slipped from hand to hand.

When the day came for Marie Cappelle to depart for Villers-Hellon, she was not greatly disturbed, for she knew that he received the letters she wrote, addressed to the unknown, care of the florist's shop, familiar to both of them, in the Passage Vivienne. Unhappily she had not been long in the country before Madame Garat, entering her room unexpectedly, found her writing one of these letters.

A terrible scene followed. Mme. Garat declared herself revolted to discover her niece involved in this imprudent and ridiculous intrigue; she humiliated the girl with bitter words. She said that her niece was "lost, dishonoured"; she declared that Marie was the victim of an adventurer who would show her letters everywhere, make her an object of contempt; that if he were not an adventurer but an honourable gentleman, he would never marry a young girl so imprudent as to write such letters to a young man unknown to her family, with whom she had never exchanged a word.

"It is far more likely, however," cried the indignant lady furiously, "that he is doing all this as a speculation. He believes you are a rich heiress, and all the time all your dowry would not buy his silence."

"What!" cried Marie Cappelle, "I, not yet twenty-two years old, and no more hope, no more honour—oh, my aunt, save me!"—and bursting into tears she fell almost unconscious on the floor, "desperate, her head on fire, overwhelmed by these cutting words of contempt." Lalo, her old nurse, could barely console her; she declared that she wished to die, and would at the first opportunity commit suicide. Her grandfather tried to console her by telling her that her aunt had spoken in exaggerated terms, that the ridiculous affair was not, after all, so serious; Lalo also declared that in her opinion this gentleman could "not be so wicked as to ruin the future of a poor girl who had done him no wrong."

Marie then decided to write a desperate, supplicating letter to the stranger, and Lalo said that she would make one of her nephews go six leagues to post it secretly at Soissons.

When Marie was a little calmer, a family council was held; she put herself unreservedly in the hands of her grandfather and her aunt, and it was decided that Mme. Garat, furnished with full details of the "unknown," should go to Paris and discover who and what he was, and what his intentions might be.

While her aunt was in Paris, Marie spent an agonising time, largely in bed, with the most frightful headaches and attacks of fever; only the affectionate ministrations of Lalo and her grandfather were able to induce her to maintain a little control.

When her aunt returned there was another family council; Madame Garat was no longer violent, but cool and a little ironical. Marie, hardly able to support herself on her feet for shame and weakness, sat beside her grandfather hiding her face in her hands.

"Well, my dear Marie," said Mme. Garat in an icy voice, "I have found out who your hero is. He is a chemist's assistant who has six hundred francs a year. I have interviewed these good people. The young man offers you his heart and his hand—you may reign over his rhubarb and his senna before the end of the summer."

Marie was so overwhelmed by this dreadful news that she dared neither raise her eyes, nor speak, nor even weep.

"This proposed marriage does not please me, certainly," added Mme. Garat coolly. "You could remain here with us, happy, honoured, loved...but do not let us talk any more about it. Love does not know obstacles, and one is always happy with the choice of one's heart. Meanwhile your young hero returned me your letters, at least these letters—perhaps you will be good enough to tell me, Marie, if you wrote them or not?"

The lady then drew some letters from her reticule, while Marie, half swooning, crouched lower and lower on her seat, until she dropped on her knees and hid her face in the skirts of her grandfather's coat.

"I forgot to tell you, Marie," added Mme. Garat, "that his name is Guyot and that his father's shop is not in Paris, but in a small provincial town; he was en vacances when he met you. Doubtless love will sweeten your exile."

She proceeded to read aloud in a clear impartial voice the letter that Marie had written when she had seen the young man parading beneath her window, the answer to the letter she had found in the bouquet of white roses.

Monday.

If you would only understand that nothing wounds the heart more than neglect! Tell me what makes you indifferent to my suffering? But, no, life is full of delusions. This was very sweet, but the disappointment which always awaits me is once again mine. A caprice for eight days and then—nothing! And I believed you. Oh, the world is very false, and you are of the world.

Madame Garat sighed, paused, and read the next letter:

Tuesday.

I cannot go out. She will give you this letter. If I see you perhaps I shall still believe you. No, good-bye, I pardon everything. Goodbye, be happy and never deceive anyone again. Do not write to me any more, do not speak of me any more. Oh, for pity's sake, remember that I am an orphan! God must be my father and my mother—everything. I am mad, my head is going round and round! Do not deceive me, do not forget me. I have loved you. You are a man of honour, I believe in you, save me by the most complete silence. May God and may you have pity on me. By an incredible folly my honour is now in your hands.

M. Collard, full of compassion for poor Marie, crouching so forlornly at his feet in an access of humiliation, begged his daughter to cease reading these foolish letters.

"Come, my child," he said, patting Marie's thick black hair. "This is only a little comedy that one plays, you understand! There has been no proposal of marriage. M. Guyot surrendered your letters and all pretensions to your hand when he discovered that you were not the rich heiress of the Bank of France, but only a poor orphan. As for your letter—!—it is simply a little romance of a schoolgirl, now terminated."

This kindness could not save Marie from herself. The disappointment, humiliation, shame and disillusionment were too much for her ardent spirit; she fell into a state of unconsciousness that lasted several days and resulted in a fever that, after tormenting her for weeks, left her in a state of excessive weakness and enfeebled by a recurrence of gastritis.

* * * * *

In the autumn of 1838, Marie Cappelle's beloved grandfather died, and she was plunged anew into emotional scenes and physical and mental sufferings. Her position was now, indeed, forlorn. Her grandfather had not, after all, been able to leave her a fortune, only a small estate at Villers-Hellon. His son, M. Maurice Collard, who had already an heir by his marriage with Mlle. Blanche Montaigu, found that he had inherited an estate rendered almost worthless by mortgages and a condition of disorder that Marie, playing prettily and intermittently at being a châtelaine, had not been by any means able to straighten out. There was nothing for Marie, no longer even a home at Villers-Hellon. M. Maurice had his own family and did not offer her an asylum. She had, apart from what the kindness of her aunts might provide for her, a dowry of a hundred thousand francs.

Her long illness had saved Marie Cappelle from the scorn and reproaches of her aunts, the rebukes of her uncle and the compassion of her grandfather, on the subject of her foolish love affair, all, under the circumstances, so intolerable. As she had escaped from Saint-Denis by having brain-fever, so she escaped from the awkward consequences of her imprudent love affair by a lingering disease that lasted for months and caused the doctors to shake their heads over her and say once more that she must be denied nothing and indulged in every whim. How often had this been said of Marie Cappelle!

During her illness she received news of Marie de Nicolai. That arrogant young heiress was married at last, and not so splendidly after all. A certain Vicomte de Léautaud, a member of the noblesse de province, who had an estate named Busagny, near Pontoise, had proved Marie de Nicolai's choice. Some weeks after this fashionable wedding, Marie Cappelle received a letter couched in terms of bitter irony from M. Felix Clavé, who had taken his noble heart, his wounded feelings, his poetry and his poverty to Algiers.

After her recovery from her illness and the death of her grandfather, Marie Cappelle returned once more to Paris, bitterness in her heart, her health seemingly permanently ruined, an exquisite, accomplished Parisienne, afflicted with constant gastritis, which rendered it unnecessary for her to drink vinegar or to suck lead pencils in order to acquire a pale complexion; nor was she any longer forced to diet herself in the hope of retaining her slim figure; her stomach, ruined by continual medicine, illness, too severe dieting, had become exceedingly capricious and delicate; she was liable to sudden attacks of fever, to frequent fits of sickness after any but the lightest meals, to nervous headaches, to constant internal pains; she was what was then vaguely termed "suffering, delicate," and afflicted by nerves so excitable that the least emotion would cause her to fall into hysterics or swoons. She continued her music-playing, her romance reading, her round of balls and entertainments. Her aunts began to regard her with more and more disapproval, her friends and acquaintances whispered that she would soon, for all her vivacity, brilliance and seductiveness, be an old maid.

4. A MARRIAGE HAS BEEN ARRANGED

Soon after Madame la vicomtesse de Léautaud, reigning in her charming little château, near Pontoise, had given birth to a son and heir, she wrote to Marie Cappelle asking her to pay her a visit in this "delicious retreat."

Mme. Garat, not sorry to be rid for a while of her difficult niece, urged on Marie the acceptance of this invitation. It was true that formerly Marie Cappelle had been forbidden the friendship of Mlle. de Nicolai, and Mlle. de Nicolai had been forbidden to see Marie Cappelle. But that was a trouble of the past; the Comtesse Marie, as a decorous married woman, had no doubt completely changed from the wild girl whose exploits had shocked the prudent mamas of the noble faubourg. Mme. Garat argued that dear Marie's health would be much set up by a stay in the country, by drinking milk fresh from the cow, by idle hours in hay-fields and groves and by the general change of scene and company. So Marie Cappelle, accompanied by her maid Clementine, the daughter of old Lalo, and a fine toilette of Parisian clothes, travelled down to Busagny, near Pontoise.

She found the château, which stood in the midst of a pleasant estate, very charming. The place was elegant and well run, but Marie Cappelle, who had always envied her richer friend's better fortune, was not sorry to note shrewdly that Marie de Léautaud seemed listless and bored, that the infant proudly displayed wearing a bonnet of Marie Cappelle's handiwork, was puny and whining, that M. de Léautaud was a very ordinary young man, who spent most of his time overlooking his estate, fishing and shooting, and that there was, after all, nothing very romantic, splendid, or impressive in what life had finally offered to the exacting and arrogant Marie de Nicolai.

Marie Cappelle had already been at the trouble to inform herself that M. de Léautaud's fortune was not large, that he had a fair number of debts, that Marie de Nicolai's fortune had been very useful in smoothing out his financial difficulties and that the marriage had been a purely business one on his part, and on hers a matter of convenience. Despite the dukes, marquesses and counts who were supposed to be clamouring and competing for the honour of her hand, Marie de Nicolai, like poor Marie Cappelle, had been afraid of spinsterhood; she had therefore closed with this not very tempting bargain.

* * * * *

Life, however, was pleasant enough at the little château, and Marie Cappelle, with her easy social grace, her vivacious ways, her gifts as a musician and singer, was soon a favourite with all the numerous company that was being entertained. It was the question of a family wedding that was occupying everyone and that caused an air of festival to emanate from the gracious little salons of the château Busagny.

An uncle of Mme. de Léautaud, M. Scipion de Nicolai, who lived at the neighbouring château of Osny, a famous man of fashion well-known at the Jockey Club and on the Boulevard de Gand, was celebrating the approaching marriage of his sister-in-law, Mlle. de Beauvoir, a gracious young lady of considerable wealth, then entirely occupied with the details of her trousseau. During the preparations for this marriage there were frequent comings and goings between the two châteaux, and Mme. de Léautaud took frequent opportunities of renewing her former intimacy with Marie Cappelle.

On a long, pleasant lawn by the artificial lake, seated in the pavilions or on the balcony of the château itself, the two young women discussed again the subject that had once absorbed them so completely, which they termed "love." Marie Cappelle showed to Mme. de Léautaud the letter she had received from M. Clavé in Algiers; to her surprise the other lady showed a good deal of embarrassment and agitation, and declared that this epistle was a trap. She knew, she said, that M. Clavé was in Paris—she had seen him singing in the chorus in William Tell at the opera. This Marie Cappelle vehemently denied; she had frequently been at the opera, she had witnessed Rossini's masterpiece, but she had not seen among the members of the chorus anyone who remotely resembled M. Clavé.

The Vicomtesse de Léautaud, however, would not relinquish her point, and she declared that she was very uneasy to think that this young man who had been the object of her imprudent schoolgirl intrigue, should still be in Paris and in possession of her letters so desperately compromising. She avowed that her husband was extremely jealous, that he had often reproached her with the frivolity of her girlhood, and that she would be ruined should he have the least suspicion of the affair with M. Clavé The lady also confided to Marie Cappelle that it was largely because of this sinister secret that Mlle. Delvaux was still in her household, as a dame de compagnie.

After this agitating affair had been discussed a thousand times and in a thousand details, Mme. de Léautaud abruptly started another subject. She declared that her dear Marie must have seen for herself that the married state meant an end to all such tender romances and foolish dreams as they as care-free girls had once indulged in, and she advised her darling friend to put all such ideas out of her head, to forget all she had learnt from her novel-reading and to take a husband. She added that she had found a suitable parti. This, to Marie Cappelle's astonishment, proved to be none other than the brother of Mlle. Delvaux.

Marie Cappelle listened with attention, and her friend went on to say that the prétendant was thirty-eight years old, had no fortune, but high hopes for the future, was the sous-préfet of his department, intelligent, good-looking, and, as a final attraction, named Georges, and that, despite their former differences, Mlle. Delvaux now perfectly understood and honoured Marie Cappelle's part in the Clavé intrigue, and wished ardently to have her as a sister-in-law. Then, with a sigh of boredom, Mme. de Léautaud began to deliver a little sermon:

"You are nearly twenty-three years old, you have not much fortune, you want a good marriage in order that you may enjoy the liberty that is necessary to your character. Listen to me without interrupting me with your pleasantries and allow me to say those truths that are not agreeable, but are very useful. You are always a little invalidish, and continual pains in the stomach do not render you very pretty. Soon you will be an old maid, boring and bored. You are difficult and capricious, your relatives do not seem to take much trouble in settling you. I intend to make you happy despite yourself. You must drop all your exaggerated pretensions, your ideas of romantic love such as one reads in the novelists and poets, and you must resign yourself to make a good mariage de convenance."

Marie Cappelle said that she was resigned to the realities of life, and agreed to see M. Georges Delvaux with an idea of considering him as a possible husband. Meanwhile she took the precaution to write, without telling her hostess what she was doing, to her aunt and to an old friend of her father's, M. de Mornay, to ask them to find out all they could about M. Georges Delvaux and to advise her if she should accept his hand in marriage.

While she was waiting for these replies, the suitor himself arrived at the château. He resembled his sister in having red hair, blue eyes and a florid complexion; he was well-dressed, well-behaved and appeared sensible; there was nothing in the least romantic about him, but Marie Cappelle was prepared to consider him as a suitor for her hand. Her ardent imagination already threw a romantic halo, not round the man, but round his position; she did not doubt that by using the influence of her relatives, she would be able to have him advanced to the position of prefect of his department, and she saw herself reigning over a brilliant society that would willingly accept her as their patroness and their model.

M. Delvaux on his side showed himself impressed by the gaiety, elegance and seductive graces of Marie. His sister was very amiable and an air of carelessness, gaiety and amusement reigned in the little château, despite the constant withdrawals from the scene of M. de Léautaud and the bored airs of his young wife.

Marie Cappelle obtained a little amusement and excitement for herself by flirting with M. de Beauvoir, a cousin of the bride. Her health had been improved by her stay of several weeks in the country, fresh air, exercise and the agreeable emotion that the talk of her marriage had produced in her. Sadness and boredom fell from her, she felt herself once more important, desired, even loved, and she bloomed brilliantly in the handsome Parisian garments that she wore with so much taste—gowns of ruffled taffeta, bonnets of straw with wreaths of marguerites and pompon roses, gauze veils, tinsel-striped scarves, dainty flounced parasols, doeskin gloves and satin slippers.

* * * * *

A very unpleasant incident suddenly marred the superficial gaiety of these days of festival. Mme. de Léautaud had confided to Marie Cappelle that she had received from her husband's family a very handsome parure of diamonds which was far too costly and conspicuous for her to wear in the country, but which she hoped one day to display at the Parisian balls. She kept these valuable jewels locked in a case in her bedchamber and several times took them out to show them to the admiring glances of Marie, even allowing her to try them against her bosom, neck and hair.

On this occasion a large company was assembled in a room that opened by French-windows on to a terrace. A fête was being given to the tenantry to celebrate the marriage of Mlle. de Beauvoir, and Busagny was empty save for these people who, already arrayed in outdoor attire, were waiting for the carriages to take them to Osny.

An argument arose, provoked by some comment of Marie Cappelle's, on the possibility of imitating diamonds so that it would be impossible to detect them from the originals. To prove her point, which was vehemently contradicted by some of the guests, Marie Cappelle ran upstairs and fetched down her Mass book, which was ornamented with strass jewels, and Mme. de Léautaud fetched the case that contained her famous parure. The diamonds were compared with the strass, and all the ladies declared that the real and false stones were identical, and all the gentlemen declared that no one would be deceived for a moment.

In the midst of the argument the company perceived the carriages arriving on the drive below the terrace; it was twilight and another distraction suddenly occurred in the unexpected display of fireworks, which rose above the summer trees. The ladies went out on to the terrace and descended the steps, exclaiming about the beauty of the stars and bouquets of fire that dazzled with such brilliancy into the violet sky. There was then some bustle and confusion about getting into the carriages, and it was not until Mme. de Léautaud's vehicle had nearly passed out of her own park into that of Osny that she exclaimed with a start of terror that she had left her case of diamonds on the work-table by the open window. Bidding the coachman turn the horses at once, speaking with profound agitation, she hurried home; then, springing from the carriage, Mme. de Léautaud ran up the terrace steps and entered the little salon, still in disorder from her gay company of guests; she saw the case lying on the pretty little work-table by the open window, ran upstairs without opening it, put it in her cabinet, locked it, hurried downstairs again, got into the waiting carriage and joined the other merrymakers for the wedding festivities at Osny.

No more was heard of the diamonds until the day before the ceremonious marriage was to take place, then Mme. de Léautaud wished to show to some relatives who had come to attend the festival her handsome parure; she sent her maid to fetch the case; it was brought, but when the owner opened it she discovered it to be empty. The diamonds had been stolen:

A profound and disagreeable agitation caused the joyous badinage of the elegant guests to turn to exclamations of dismay. A search was made high and low in the château; the guests were all questioned and everyone remembered that on the night of the fireworks the case of diamonds had been left for a few moments close to the open window, and Mme. de Léautaud confessed that she had completely forgotten it and had returned in haste to put it in a place of safety, and this in her hurry she had done without examining whether the jewels were in the case or not.

The Vicomte de Léautaud showed little chivalry or consideration on this painful occasion; he flew into a violent temper, rated his wife for carelessness, and without any thought for the peace of mind and comfort of his guests, servants and tenants, alternately raved and lamented this unfortunate incident. The wedding festivities were quite marred; people could no longer talk of the beautiful bride, the handsome bridegroom, the charming bridesmaids and the delicious festival, but only of the mysterious loss of these valuable diamonds.

M. de Léautaud ran about the house pulling out all the drawers, emptying all the cabinets, and continually, in the most disagreeable fashion, reproaching his wife with her negligence. M. de Nicolai, his father-in-law, took cooler but not less severe measures; he insisted upon putting the affair in the hands of the police, and in consequence two gendarmes came to the château and searched the rooms of all the servants.

These officials were not able to find the missing jewels; that was not strange, considering that the master of the house had already searched in every corner, and the dainty little château had been turned upside-down.

During these days of excitement and disagreeable agitation, Marie Cappelle was taken with one of her feverish attacks and burning headaches. Confined to her bed, and waited on by the faithful Lalo, who had accompanied her in the capacity of maid, she still showed a restless interest in the affair of the missing diamonds, and she seemed greatly distressed when her maid informed her that a certain Etienne, one of the gardeners, had been accused of being the thief. Though there was no direct evidence against him, the poor man was in much distress and feared that he would at least lose his place; he had been, it seemed, working in the garden gathering flowers for the wedding festival at the precise moment when the case had been left by the open window, and as there had been no one else in the château or near it, on him the blame fell.

* * * * *

Marie Cappelle's distress and discomfiture were increased by the replies to her letters to her aunt and M. de Mornay. Both these prudent guardians of her future happiness warned her sternly against a marriage with M. Delvaux. In the words of M. de Mornay, there was "everything to fear and nothing to hope for in such a union." M. Delvaux had absolutely no prospects, and all enquiries made about him had resulted in most unfavourable reports.

Mme. de Léautaud, already greatly irritated by the loss of her diamonds and the subsequent scenes that her husband had made, was not ready to receive with equanimity Marie's refusal to marry her protégé; both she and her mother, Mme. de Nicolai, swept into the sick girl's room and lectured her on the pretensions of her friends and her own folly in refusing as good a match as she could hope to find. She was not, they reminded her sternly, in a position to pick and choose; sick, dependent, plain and difficult-tempered as she was, she would be wise to accept the first-comer.

An effort was made to put all these disagreeables in the background for the marriage of Mlle. de Beauvoir, but the company, under their forced gaiety, remained exasperated and disturbed, and it was without much regret on either side that Marie Cappelle parted from her hostess; the visit that had begun so pleasantly ended under a cloud; Marie returned to Paris; after travelling through the beautiful June weather under the pine-trees of the forests of Saint-Germain in a light briska with two fine horses, she had the excitement of finishing her journey in the new railway, which she wittily named "The Pegasus of the Materialists."

* * * * *

The rest of Marie Cappelle's summer was spent in visits to Courcy, where Mme. de Montbreton, the other Nicolai sister, sympathised with her on the disagreeableness of her visit to Mme. de Léautaud, and to Villers-Hellon, where, despite the kindness of her uncle and aunt, she was saddened by seeing her grandfather's empty chair and those familiar places of her childhood, where she would play no more. Here she was ill again; her gastritis returned with renewed force, and continual pain rendered her thin and pale.

Mme. de Montbreton endeavoured to cure her by hypnotism, without much success. Long horseback rides, amateur theatricals, and the usual round of rustic gaieties indulged in by the elegant persons en vacances passed the summer for Marie. She performed with great success in a play by Scribe, and it was after one of these performances that, when fatigued with emotion, deafened by applause, surrounded by the perfume of the bouquets given her by the delighted audience, she received a letter from Mme. Garat saying that M. de Martens, her uncle, had at last found a husband for his seductive but difficult niece.

Full of excitement, and expecting not only a settlement in life but all manner of romantic adventures, Marie Cappelle returned to the capital still flushed and animated by her theatrical success, her carriage piled with fading bouquets, tinsel still in her hair, rouge on her cheeks.

Her aunt received her rather coldly; she had broken up her own holiday to come to Paris for this affair and she accused her niece of delaying on the road; after this dry preamble Mme. Garat spoke to Marie with an austerity equal to that employed by her friends, Mme. de Nicolai and Mme. de Léautaud; she also remarked that Marie was twenty-three years old, neither rich nor beautiful, indolent and luxurious in her tastes, independent in her temper, and that she had but a dismal future before her unless she could find a husband. Mme. Garat also hinted that she had done her duty by her sister's child and that she would not be sorry to have her establishment free from the tiresome presence of this difficult dependant. What she did not mention, but what Marie guessed, was that her relatives had been to a matrimonial agency in order to procure her a husband. M. de Martens, indeed, tired of the perpetual illnesses, emotions, imprudences of Marie, had been to M. Foy, the best-known and most reliable matrimonial agent in Paris; he had at once suggested to him the son of a postmaster established in one of the suburbs of Paris, who had a fine fortune, a handsome face and was twenty-six years old.

It was the advice of Marie's relatives that she should accept this offer, but she did not share in their enthusiasm and flounced off to bed with a grimace. There were two strong objections to this match in her eyes; one was that the social position of a postmaster did not seem to her to equal her pretensions, and the other was that she would have to live outside Paris.

After a day of family argument, M. de Martens declared that he had come round to Marie's point of view, that the son of the postmaster was not good enough, that he had found another husband, a young ironmaster. The ladies laughed coquettishly and asked M. de Martens where he found this "rich mine of husbands," as they termed it, to which the baron replied dryly that he met these desirable young men in the house of one of his business friends. This excuse was accepted, though both Marie and her aunt knew perfectly well that the baron was negotiating with a matrimonial agent.

An ironmaster! Marie Cappelle eagerly seized this suggestion and turned it over in her mind. She had known only one iron-master, a certain M. Nuel, who was very rich, very elegant and who passed six months in Paris and six months in the Vosges; she knew that he had a fine position and a good deal of influence in his native country; she remembered his luxurious establishment, his wife's Paris gowns and maids. Yes, an ironmaster did not sound a hopeless proposition.

M. de Martens then asked his niece if she objected to going far from Paris. This ironmaster's château and business establishment were in the Limousin. Of course, once Marie was there she would reign like a queen over the provincial society, the château was handsome, and so on and so on—but for a Parisienne to live out of Paris would surely be an exile?

Marie did not think so; she recalled Strasbourg. The life there had been in every way as gay, as elegant and as exciting as in Paris. She did not wish to live in the suburbs of the capital, which she had seen and disliked—but to be, as her uncle said, the queen of an elegant provincial society, to have her own château—she thought at once of Villers-Hellon, of Busagny, of Osny—well, for a girl in her position she might do worse.

"If one has money," she said in a tone of animation, "all distances disappear, and I like the life of a chatelaine."

She had still her head full of the pleasures of her country visits and she saw herself in the position of Mme. de Léautaud or Mme. de Montbreton, not only the Queen, but the goddess, of servants, tenantry and neighbours; she saw herself entertaining large crowds of her friends and relatives, dispensing hospitality with a gracious air, always surrounded by admirers, while, of course, at least six months of the year—the winter—would be spent in Paris.

While Marie Cappelle was at once weaving rosy dreams about this possible future, M. de Martens, her practical uncle, was putting before her the hard facts of the case, and these were agreeable enough.

The prospective husband's name was M. Charles Pouch Lafarge; he was twenty-eight years old, vigorous and healthy, of a very honourable family and of irreproachable character, most intelligent, and highly respected in his province, where he was considered one of the principal inhabitants. He possessed one of the handsomest and most agreeable properties in the Limousin, a factory, some smelting works, an estate worth at least 200,000 francs, and considerable revenues coming in from the ironworks. He had been six months in Paris on combined business and pleasure, and it was supposed that he would continue to spend that period each year in the capital. Not only was his business flourishing, but, M. de Martens declared, there were considerable hopes that it would greatly increase and, in fact, in time bring in a very large fortune indeed—the new railways would certainly require a large quantity of iron.

This extremely desirable young man wished, the baron declared, to take back to his charming château an elegant and intelligent woman who would, by her wit, talent and affection, "animate him in his labours and entertain and cherish him in his leisure." All this sounded attractive enough, but Marie was transported from satisfaction to delight—almost to rapture—when she was informed that the château, named Glandier, was built on the ruins of an ancient Gothic abbey that had been one of the richest Carthusian establishments in France; there were cloisters, an ancient church, gardens, a river, hills still covered with ancient oak trees—in fact, everything that was fashionable at the moment—romantic, mysterious, sentimental.

Marie Cappelle saw herself as the brilliant and beautiful mistress of a dwelling that most of her friends would have given ten years of their lives to have possessed; she saw herself at once as Mary Stuart, as Isabelle de Bourgogne, as Marguerite de Valois, seated at an ogive window with a page in attendance, lightly touching the strings of a guitar, while underneath in a garden full of roses and lilies, her lover would hasten home to her side through a purple twilight spangled with stars.

There was no relative of M. Lafarge in Paris to answer for him, but he gave as references, M. Gauthier (Deputy of Uzerche) and General Petit, peer of France.

Marie noticed that nothing was said about the person of her proposed husband, and this reserve made her a little anxious. With all the advantages that the match offered, she did not feel that she could unite herself to one who had a common, vulgar or mean appearance; an interview therefore that was to appear casual was arranged between herself and M. Lafarge; she was to be conducted by M. de Martens to a concert in the rue Vivienne, and there, as if the thing had taken place by chance, she was to be presented to the prospective bridegroom as one of her uncle's friends; a general conversation then was to take place, and the day after the young couple were to confide to their friends their impressions.

Marie looked forward to this concert with great excitement; her aunt, who seemed full of delight at the future opening before her niece, began at once to plan the trousseau and the corbeille, filling the romantic young woman's head with details of all the beautiful clothes, ornaments, furniture and so on that she would buy for her, painting the delights she would enjoy as Queen of the ancient Gothic château in its secluded valley.

The day of the concert was superb; there was not a cloud on the azure of the sky and not a presentiment in the soul of Marie Cappelle. She had been dressed by her aunt in a delicious robe of rose-coloured muslin, a bonnet of white rice-straw with lavender ribbons; she had been allowed a little powder, a little colour on her lips and cheeks, which contrasted admirably with her habitual pallor. She looked elegant, ethereal, sophisticated and seductive as she floated down the aisle of the concert hall, her white gloved hand resting lightly on the arm of her uncle, the stout, easy and capable Russian diplomat.

The concert had begun and the orchestra was playing one of the charming valses of Strauss, which brought back to Marie's mind many souvenirs of balls and of pleasures, when she was presented to the man proposed to her as her future husband.

Her first impression was not favourable. M. Lafarge, as she had feared, was truly ugly, and, what was worse, his figure, his manner, his clothes, were those of a provincial, a business man—nothing here of the languorous cavalier, of the fastidious young romantic, of the lion or the dandy. Marie recoiled and her intense disappointment was only slightly assuaged by reading in the gaping expression of M. Lafarge that she had impressed him and pleased him extremely.

He was seated, next to her at the concert and tried to keep up a conversation; this, Marie suspected, from what she could hear of it, was both stupid and commonplace, but the brilliant melodies of the orchestra glossed it over and she did not need to reply with more than a smile or so.

Excited, hesitant, doubtful, Marie retired to her room with a headache as soon as her party reached the apartment above the Bank of France. Her dreams that night were more full of the images excited by the valses of Strauss than by the recollection of M. Lafarge.

* * * * *

In the morning her aunt, in a state of considerable joyous agitation, entered her chamber with a mass of letters in her hand. M. Lafarge had, she declared, fallen desperately in love with Marie during the concert, and had at once made her an offer of his hand and his fortune. He had also sent the most detailed accounts of the latter and many letters of warm recommendation from friends—one from his cousin, who was also an ironmaster in a large way, one from the family lawyer, one from the local curé, one from the Deputy of his department. All these gentlemen praised M. Lafarge, his fortune, his pecuniary and industrial position, his business capacity, his beautiful château at Glandier, his domestic virtues and his moral character, and all agreed that the Lafarge fortune was one of the finest and the most stable in France.

Marie lay motionless in her coquettish bed while her aunt, seated on the satin chair by the side of it, read out in delighted tones all these eulogies. Hearing all these attractions, Marie decided to make no objection to M. Lafarge's person. She even began to romanticise his appearance; after all, was there not something grand and simple—like one of the savage heroes of George Sand—in those blunt features? His figure, though clumsy, was manly, he had good teeth and a quantity of dark chestnut hair. Marie dwelt on these advantages and began to foresee her life at Glandier in the most picturesque, rainbow colours.

* * * * *

During the next few days her aunt rushed Marie from shop to shop buying her trousseau. She had no more than brief, formal meetings with her future husband, who, on these occasions, expressed himself with an enthusiasm remarkable in a raw provincial about Marie's beauty, charms and his prospects of happiness with her in his delicious château at Glandier. With an air of great candour he put before Marie's guardians details of all his affairs; his factories brought him in an income of 30,000 to 35,000 francs; but this was a mere nothing compared to what he hoped to gain when the new railways had been laid down through Uzerche; at present he had to use mules for transport. He had discovered also a new way of smelting iron which he was eager to patent; in brief, he thought that in a year or so his revenues would be augmented to the amount of at least 50,000 francs yearly.


Illustration

Le Glandier
From an old engraving in possession of the author.


As to Marie's dot, the young man expressed himself entirely disinterested, it was the young woman herself whom he required, whom, as he declared, he already loved madly, passionately—her dowry was of small account.

When these words were repeated to Marie she felt a glow of gratitude towards the creature, whom she already, in her sentimental heart, termed "the noble savage."

Her delight was increased by a plan of the château of Glandier which her aunt showed her, and which was embellished by a watercolour drawing of the dwelling itself; nothing could have been more acceptable than this delicious château with the blue tiles contrasting coquettishly with the blue sky, white terraces descending one below the other to a well-kept garden where there were parterres of flowers, rococo fountains and classic statues; a well-kept lawn sloped gently down to a river bordered with weeping willows and strewn with lilies; on the other side of this was a magnificent forest; round the gardens were the ancient Gothic ruins of the monastery and church in a delightful state of owl-haunted, ghost-ridden decay.

Marie could not abstain from a cry of delight. Madame Garat embraced her, exclaiming:

"This little château is yours! The banns will be published this morning!"

Marie had been acquainted with her betrothed only four days; however, there were excellent excuses for this haste. M. Lafarge had been away from his business for six months, and it was absolutely indispensable that he should return immediately; moreover, he was most anxious, "burning with impatient love" as he termed it, to show off his young wife at the races at Pompadour, which took place on the 19th of the month, and where the élite of several departments would be gathered.

Marie was startled, moved, excited by all this haste; she seated herself at the piano and dreamily played a romance by Liszt while Mme. Garat and M. Lafarge discussed her corbeille, which the enamoured bridegroom wished to have as costly as possible and which Mme. Garat archly declared must not be "foolishly luxurious."

M. Lafarge left this discussion to join his fiancée at the piano; he declared that he too was enchanted by music, that he discovered in Marie a marked talent and that he intended to buy her a handsome piano for Glandier.

Delighted with this delicate generosity, Marie spent the rest of the day in the great salons of M. Pleyel. Several pianos were sent to the apartment of Mme. Garat that Marie might try the effect of them in a small room; finally she chose a delicious little square piano, which was sent on ahead of her by road to the Limousin that she might find it there on her arrival.

* * * * *

During these days of almost frenzied preparation for her marriage, Marie had little time to think of her future husband; she was entirely absorbed in the frivolous delights of buying clothes and fitting on the various garments that comprised her trousseau, and that, chosen by her aunt from one of the finest dressmakers' of Paris, showed good taste and elegant simplicity as well as the last caprices of Parisian fashion. The corbeille had been left to the exquisite discretion of Mme. Garat, who searched all Paris for charming, costly novelties for the toilette—some new materials, some bonnet never seen before, some surprising hat, but all stamped with the true elegance of the fastidious gentlewoman.

All Marie's relatives and friends were delighted to hear of her good, in fact brilliant, fortune. Antonine, her little sister, who had been for some months Madame de Violaine, embraced her with joy, and she received a long letter of congratulation from Mme. de Léautaud. This lady could not resist writing, however, of the continued chagrin and misery of her household caused by the loss of the diamonds, of which no trace had been found and which M. de Léautaud continued to lament with unabated fury.

Handsome presents for Marie arrived from her beloved Villers-Hellon, sent by her aunt and uncle Collard, her old servants and tenantry. Marie had asked that in her corbeille there should be a purse containing fifty louis d'or; this she spent in giving presents to all these friends of her youth and childhood; she took the greatest pleasure in going round the delightful Parisian shops and in buying these little souvenirs, which she wrapped up and sent off herself. For her sister, then expecting her first child, she bought a complete layette; for her aunt, Mme. Garat, she bought a magnificent piece of English lace, which, on the day of her marriage, she coquettishly attached to her aunt's bonnet; for her uncle there was a cane with a golden knob; for Mme. de Martens a bracelet that she had admired in a shop-window; to her cousin Hermine she sent a box of water-colours and to Mme. de Léautaud a set of buttons in the form of lucky ladybirds.

As the day of the marriage approached, M. Lafarge redoubled his attentions; anxious to win the good graces of his bride's family, he went to Enghien, where Madame de Martens was taking the waters, and was approved by that lady. Whenever Marie saw him he was everything that was attentive; in a hundred delicate ways he showed Marie those elegant attentions that she most desired. He had heard, he said, that she was very fond of baths, and he showed her the plan of a handsome bathroom that he was going to have built entirely for her use at Glandier. He feared, he said, that his bride was too delicate to support the fatigue of travelling to the Limousin in the ordinary post-chaise, so he had bought an elegant briska and two smart horses for the journey. Every morning there arrived, in his name, an exquisite bouquet of flowers surrounded with silver lace and tied with rose-colour or azure ribbons.

"He is as good as he is ugly!" exclaimed the affectionate Lalo.

Marie was allowed to have one or two interviews with her future husband, her little cousin Gabrielle acting as chaperon; she took these occasions to ask M. Lafarge, eagerly enough, to describe to her her future residence. He depicted this in the most attractive colours; he said that her salon, very large and very light, was entirely furnished in red velvet with a Persian carpet and some handsome pictures, that the dining-room opened on to a terrace, which, in its turn, gave on to the most delicious view, that she should have a horse of any breed or colour she liked, that his own favourite mount was ebony black, and that he had five or six good horses in his stables; as to the establishment, it consisted of his mother—and Mme. Lafarge, according to her son, was waiting to receive her daughter-in-law with the most profound, the most anxious affection—who ruled over a household of four menservants (not counting the gardeners and the coachmen), a cook and two maids. It was agreed that Marie should bring her own femme de chambre with her, and she decided at once to take Clementine, who was the young niece of the devoted Lalo; pert, charming and gifted, this Clé, as she was termed, was an attractive, indolent young Parisian grisette.

* * * * *

This excitement was suddenly broken by a rather disagreeable piece of news, which was a thunderbolt to Marie. One day when Mme. de Martens, who had come to Paris for the wedding, had brought her a plain gold ring, inside which was the date when she had first met M. Lafarge, then his name, then hers, she told her niece:

"My child, I want you to be reasonable. I have just learnt something that is natural enough, but that I am sure you will not care about. M. Lafarge is a widower."

Marie was extremely upset. There were only three days before she was to sign her contract, but still she had a sensation of regret and fear, as if, even now, she wished to draw back; sinister and romantic ideas came into her exalted mind; she had often said, she declared, that she would never marry a widower.

"I will not," she vowed, "replace a cold bride who sleeps in her coffin," and regardless of the caresses and exhortations of her aunt, she broke into a passion of tears. She was only reconciled to the marriage by the declarations of all her relatives that she could not take back her word once pledged, and that she would look a fool if the marriage did not take place.

On Saturday, loth of August, the family notaries and all Marie's masculine relatives were gathered in the apartment above the Bank of France for the examination and signing of her marriage contracts. Marie did not read these, neither were they explained to her. She sat on a stool at the foot of the chaise longue, on which Antonine, languid and suffering, was resting, and the two sisters talked together of the joys of maternity.

The contracts signed, it was suddenly announced that as it was really necessary for the young couple to depart for the Limousin as soon as possible, the civil ceremony might take place that very day. Before Marie had time to protest, her aunt had dressed her in the most charming toilette of her trousseau, hurried her into a carriage and driven with her to a large gloomy building, where, in a little dark chamber, they were received by an usher who grimaced a formal welcome and opened before them books in which they had to write their names and titles.

Here they were joined by M. Lafarge and his supporters, and the whole company proceeded to a salon with dirty draperies surmounted by the Gallic cock, where they were gravely received by a fat man wearing a tricolour scarf holding a copy of the French Marriage Code in his hands.

Marie glanced mechanically over her shoulder at the large glass that gave her the only pleasing picture in the room, that of herself in her charming lilac-and-white gown, with her white straw bonnet and the long, floating, pale-green feathers; despite this consolation she was so awed by this lugubrious ceremony, that she burst into tears, and was only comforted when her aunt told her that now, as a married woman, she was free and independent, and that she might enjoy her first day of liberty all by herself without even the company of her husband or her sister.

Putting her own pretty little coupé at the service of her niece, Mme. Garat returned with the other members of the party to the apartment above the Bank of France, and Marie Lafarge, as she now was, for the first time completely alone, unspied on and untrammelled, drove through Paris.

She went first to the flower market, and told the coachman to drive her up and down the street lined with the radiant, odorous flowers, shrubs and plants that now, in this month of August, were enamelled in their most beautiful colours, adorned with their richest lustres and most pungent perfumes.

Marie then went to the church of Saint-Roth, which she entered, and, kneeling in the cool gloom—so refreshing after the heat of the day—offered a short prayer to God and her dear ones then in Paradise.

She concluded her adventure with a visit to Mme. de Valence, who was receiving company and who was astonished to see Marie enter alone floating her plumes and her cashmere shawl with the assurance of a married woman. There followed a charming little gossip with her old friend; she told her that she was to remain "mademoiselle" to the entire world for another two days until the religious ceremony had taken place. She thanked Mme. de Valence for the beautiful scarf she had sent her and so, with laughter, kisses and gaiety, the two women parted.

Marie returned along the Champs-Elysées. The weather was superb, an elegant crowd were walking under the shade of the tall allées; Marie felt happy to think that she would now be allowed to join those people without a chaperon or any guardian save the man whom she now thought of as her lord and master. She ordered the carriage to stop and, dismounting, joined the crowd under the trees; but she soon found that many curious and censorious glances were passed in her direction, and, covered with confusion, had to regain the coupé.

When she arrived at her aunt's apartment she found M. Lafarge waiting for her with a magnificent bouquet of orange flowers and magnolia. That evening a party was given in her honour; everyone was pleased, flattering, gay; Marie felt extremely happy. Refusing to put on any of her bridal splendour she attired herself in a robe of plain Indian muslin and in her dark hair wound some garlands of daisies, adorned only with a few rose-coloured ribbons.

It was with a light and confident heart that the bride danced until the dawn, with smiles for those whom she was about to leave and smiles for him to whom she was about to confide her life. When she reached her chamber she was so tired that she flung herself upon her bed and slept, without removing her crushed muslin or her disarranged daisy wreaths.

The next day, a Sunday, Marie, in reaction from her high spirits of the Saturday, was sentimental and tearful, as she thought of all the farewells still to be made, saw the reddened eyes of her sister and the good Lalo, noticed the disorder of her dear, pretty little room, which already had an abandoned look and was full of cardboard boxes and faded bouquets.

Her vexation was increased when M. Lafarge knocked at her door, and, despite her protests, insisted on entering, seizing her round the waist and giving her a smacking kiss.

Marie's delicacy was outraged, her nerves jangled. She disdainfully withdrew herself from her husband's embrace and burst into tears; nor, when M. Lafarge followed her and on his knees demanded pardon, did she grant more than a formal acceptance of his apologies.

That evening was spent by the newly-married couple and Marie's friends and relatives in going to dine at Véry's restaurant, and afterwards in seeing the circus in the Champs-Elysées; Marie returned from this evening's entertainment in a state of high nervous tension; she had no sooner reached her room than she began to relate to Clé the following story:

"In front of their seats at the circus had been a young man and his father and an old retired officer of the most brutal appearance. The last, in taking out his snuff-box, knocked off the old man's hat. An argument had ensued, during which the soldier had conducted himself with the greatest rudeness. The young man had taken his father out of the theatre, then had returned, and in a whisper arranged a duel with the coarse aggressor, who had remarked: 'I shall meet you very willingly, monsieur, but I have never missed my man—I am merely warning you.'

"'Be silent! To-morrow at eight o'clock. Here is my card and my address.'

"I became," declared Marie, "quite pale on hearing these words. The young man, looking up, saw that I had overheard and sympathised, and thanked me with a grateful glance. He then left the theatre."

Marie had been, she declared, so preoccupied by this little drama that she had not been able to enjoy a minute of the spectacle. Before this was over, however, the brutal old soldier had drawn out the young man's card with his handkerchief and let it fall on the ground. Marie had seized the chance, stooped down quickly, picked up the card, thrust it in her mouth, chewed it to pieces, and, as she declared, returned home feeling that she had done at least one good action.

She was far more occupied by this little drama than she was by her own future and sat up far into the night relating to the sympathetic grisette the pallor, noble appearance, black eyes and dignified behaviour of the unknown young man who had shown such tenderness towards his aged father and such gallantry in, defending him.

* * * * *

The next day was that of the religious ceremony; Marie was adorned in white satin, a trembling crown of orange blossom was pressed on her long black locks, rich veils of English lace were placed beneath this virginal coronal, and thus attired she knelt before her two aunts, who blessed her in the name of her mother, in the name of her father, in the name of all the absent ones.

Before this touching ceremony was completed M. Lafarge entered the salon; he too knelt before the two ladies and covered Marie's hands with kisses.

The marriage took place at the church of the Petits-Pères; Marie found the Mass very short and the sermon very dry. Her aunts were pleased at her behaviour and told her afterwards that she had been a bride "of perfect dignity and decorum."

A long and animated wedding breakfast followed, then Marie was taken into Mme. Garat's boudoir, where her two aunts gave her little homilies as to her future duties as wife and châtelaine. This over, the bride's cousins took off her marriage robe and divided among themselves her crown of orange blossom. One of the pure flowers of this virginal crown was preserved by Marie herself; she enclosed it in a little locket in the form of a heart that once belonged to her mother, and vowed inwardly that it should never leave her; she was by now in a state of great emotion.

* * * * *

The departure of the bridal couple for the Limousin had been fixed for four o'clock, but M. Lafarge, who had gone about his affairs, did not arrive at this hour; Marie, already half-suffocated by kisses, tears, farewells and embraces, had an attack of nerves at this delay. She was placed half-fainting upon Mme. de Martens' bed and the departure was put off until the morrow.

Marie passed a night of sickness, tears and nervous apprehensions, watched by Mme. de Martens and her sister Antonine, while Mme. Garat, who had had enough of emotional crises to last her a lifetime, went to the opera to hear Duprez.

This was the end of all the delays. In the morning Marie was forced to tear herself away from her affectionate relatives, put on her charming plumed bonnet and cashmere shawl and ascend the pretty little briska that M. Lafarge had bought for his voyage de noces. Clementine, the coquettish Parisian grisette, was on the box with the smart liveried coachman, while behind were strapped the elegant trunks and boxes that contained Marie's necessaries for the journey; her heavy luggage had, like the Pleyel piano, been sent in advance by wagon.

It was a superb August day, the early morning was fresh and brilliant. As the little briska rolled out of Paris, Marie, looking from the window, saw about her woods and fields glowing in rich colours beneath the azure sky; she saw Clementine and the coachman talking gaily, coquettishly. As the fresh wind blew across her face she felt soothed, and began once more to indulge in romantic dreams of the future.

M. Lafarge certainly adored her; it was true that she had not learnt to love him, but she was quite prepared to believe that she would soon do so; he was so attentive, so respectful. She recalled the gentle kisses that he had imprinted on her brow and those with which he had covered her hands; she remembered with pleasure his presents, the bathroom, the briska, the piano, his gifts of flowers, his distantly adoring glances. It seemed that the pages from all the romances she had ever read came into her head; she imagined M. Lafarge in the role of timid, humble lover, wooing her with the greatest delicacy—music beneath her window, baskets of flowers every morning, tender, notes slipped into the centre of a bouquet—while she would gradually begin to grant him the most reserved of favours, the tips of her fingers, a kiss on the forehead, a saunter beneath the moon that would silver the oaks of Glandier, or the ancient cloisters of the Carthusian monks.

5. CASTLE IN THE AIR

Marie Lafarge, still gazing from the window of the briska, was dreaming of love, of a manly arm on which she could rest when fatigued, of a voice vibrant with tenderness that would whisper in her ears "I love you," and that, later, with the first star of the night, would murmur "My angel, do you love me?" and the morning passed rapidly.

A halt to water the horses reminded her of her companion; she glanced round; her husband was asleep in the corner of the briska. The halt awakened him; he stretched, gave a prolonged yawn, and instead of the passionate endearments that Marie was pleasurably expecting, he demanded in a tone of voice she had never heard before:

"Well, now, little woman, where's the cold chicken?"

Marie was filled with fear, astonishment and disgust; M. Lafarge, who took no notice of her dismay, drew from under the seat a basket well stored with provisions; among these was a roast fowl, which the young man unwrapped with relish and tore in half with his fingers, offering a portion to his bride.

Marie refused with a shudder.

"Are you ill?" demanded M. Lafarge, drawing out a large bottle of Burgundy. "Here, take a glass of this. This will cheer you up."

Marie, pale, half-fainting with mortification, shook her head.

"Well, you and I are one, so I'll drink the whole lot, and that'll be the same thing," leered M. Lafarge, and complacently tipping up the bottle poured the contents down his throat.

This was too much for Marie; the carriage had not yet started; she sprang out and told Clementine that she would take her place on the box-seat.

"The odour that Monsieur's dinner gives out—it's impossible!" she exclaimed.

After a couple of hours on the box-seat she took advantage of another halt to take her place again in the carriage, daintily disposing her silken skirts and flounced mantle. M. Lafarge was now absorbed in his accounts or note-books; his wife began to talk to him of novels, of theatres, and of her dear, beloved Villers-Hellon. M. Lafarge seemed to take no interest in any of these subjects, replying to his wife's pretty conversation merely with grunts, but when she mentioned the beautiful forests near Villers-Hellon, he became suddenly animated and began to talk about the immense quantity of wood that his furnaces consumed, the price he had to pay for fuel and charcoal, and the difficulties of getting supplies since the magnificent oak forests of the monks were now almost demolished. As Marie did not reply to this conversation, to her insufferably dull, M. Lafarge took his portfolio out of his pocket and began to make a list of his expenses, an occupation that he evidently found disagreeable, judging from his frowns, grimaces and grunts.

Towards five o'clock the bridal couple reached Orleans. The interior of the briska had been insupportably hot and Mme. Lafarge had a violent headache. The sky had clouded over, the air was oppressive, and the young woman, nervous and exhausted, felt as if enclosed in a mantle of lead. She had difficulty in ascending the stairs, even with the help of Clementine, and as soon as she reached the chamber that had been assigned to her, she demanded a hot bath. This was brought, and Mme. Lafarge, slipping off her elegant but dusty toilette, sank with a sigh of relief into the water that she had perfumed with a flask of the orange-flower scent that she carried with her among her luxurious toilette necessaries.

Clementine was in the ante-chamber preparing a cup of delicate China tea for her fatigued mistress when M. Lafarge struck violently upon the door. When the waiting-maid said haughtily and reproachfully that Madame was in her bath, the ironmaster answered with a brutal accent that he knew it and that was the reason why he wished to enter the chamber.

"Madame is my wife," he cried rudely, "to the devil with all these Parisian niceties! These silly monkey tricks!"

Madame Lafarge overheard the altercation and, raising her voice, entreated her husband not to make a scene on the stairhead and added that in a quarter of an hour she would be attired and ready to receive him. The reply to this was a storm of curses and foul words from M. Lafarge, which caused his young wife to shudder with genuine disgust. She gathered, from his almost incoherent expostulations, that he wished to insist upon entering her room, that he was not, as she might think, an imbecile, and that he had been fooled enough by her sickening Parisian whims.

Shivering with indignation and from the cold air on her wet body, Mme. Lafarge threw a towel round her, rushed into the ante-chamber and called with the tone of a tragedy queen through the keyhole:

"Understand, once and for all, that you can force me to nothing!" After another explosion of bad language from behind the door, the indignant husband went away.

Mme. Lafarge, confounded and exasperated, and really ill and fatigued, dressed herself hastily, flung herself on a couch and drank the tea prepared by Clementine, while that faithful servant went to find M. Lafarge, with whom she expostulated with all the impertinent vivacity of a Parisian grisette, telling him that he would kill his wife if he continued scenes of that sort, that she had never been used to such treatment, such brutality, coarseness and lack of all consideration.

M. Lafarge took these reproaches ill; he shrugged his shoulders and told the maid, to whom he had begun to take an intense dislike, that Madame might please herself during the journey, but when they reached Glandier she would have to learn her place.

Mme. Lafarge sailed out of her bedroom pale and offended; she passed her husband without deigning to cast him a word. He demanded with a leer if she had got over her childish mood, then, evidently fearing that she was really ill, he became, in his clumsy way, attentive, and allowed her to pass an hour alone on the balcony while the carriage was made ready.

It was a beautiful evening, the sky covered with brilliant stars, the air scented with the wayside flowers and trees, and Mme.

Lafarge's courage was restored to her in this romantic atmosphere. She began even to find a certain interest, not to say pleasure, in the thought of the violent passion she must have aroused in her husband's breast and to turn over in her mind the thousand subtle coquetries and caprices that she would use to refine this crude ardour to the ideal delicacy that she required in a lover.

She slept a little, lulled by the movements of the carriage, and when in the morning they arrived at Châteauroux she had recovered something of her spirits.

In this little town the bridal couple were received by M. Pontier, M. Lafarge's uncle, a man of fifty years of age with a fresh, open face and warm and expansive manners, and Mme. Lafarge's spirits continued to rise. The Pontiers were very amiable, paid her a thousand compliments, offered her a charming déjeuner, and Mme. Pontier, her new aunt, informed her that she would accompany her as far as Glandier; this reassured Mme. Lafarge, for she believed that her husband would control his transports in the presence of this chaperon.

She was, however, displeased with the chuckling words of condolence that Mme. Pontier addressed to her when they were alone in that lady's chamber, Marie with a daily paper across her knees, Mme. Pontier squeezing with hot irons the curl papers that confined her tresses; these, she told Marie, had been arranged by her husband, who acted as her femme de chambre.

"You should do the same, my dear Marie. It is most economical and commodious to have one's husband as one's lady's maid. Pontier is a divine hairdresser, has a ravishing touch with the lace or a ribbon, can drape a shawl or a sash better than anyone, and has a light hand with the ironing."

Marie smiled in amiable disdain at this inelegant arrangement, but Mme. Pontier's next words offended her deeply. The good lady turned on her stool and with a broad smile said:

"You had a good deal of courage to leave Paris for Glandier! Why, it is a shame to send anyone like you to an establishment like that. Charles is as ugly as his own iron, and your mother-in-law is a woman without education, ideas or manners." She laughed meaningly, paid several insipid compliments to the beauty, grace and pretty air of Mme. Lafarge, and hardly concealed her wonder that she had not been able to do better with so many charms.

Marie replied disdainfully that she liked the life of a châtelaine, that she esteemed her husband highly, that she intended to spend half the year in Paris, and during the other half to entertain her relatives at Glandier.

Mme. Pontier laughed, lifting her plump shoulders, and began to ask curiously about the Parisian life, that, no doubt, Mme. Lafarge had led. She talked about Victor Hugo, about Alexandre Dumas, and then about the immoral Mme. Sand.

"Such a woman, I assure you," said Mme. Pontier, "would not be received in even the humblest salon of the Limousin. Why, most of the women here have never even heard her name. One of her infamous books, that entitled Lélia, came into my hands—the sous-préfet lent it to my husband. Is it not a detestable book? I hope you have not read it, my dear Marie?"

"Yes, I have read that, and Indiana," replied Mme. Lafarge coldly. "I am not prepared to dispute about the morals of these romances, but you must admire that beautiful prose, splendid and gracious as a diamond, hidden in the leaves of a rose."

At this Mme. Pontier cast her eyes to heaven and said she was astonished to find so much perversity in one so young.

* * * * *

The tiresome journey to Glandier began again. Mme. Pontier and Mme. Lafarge shared the interior of the carriage with a soiled and dirty greyhound bitch, which was a great favourite with Mme. Pontier, but which annoyed Mme. Lafarge intensely by pawing all over her elegantly frilled skirts. The animal rendered the travelling detestable to Marie Lafarge, who, however, as she ironically said to herself—"perceiving that in the heart of Mme. Pontier the greyhound was her daughter"—received her as a cousin and allowed her to sit on her lap or the edges of her skirt.

After leaving Châteauroux the scenery became wilder and grander; Marie, looking out of the window, beheld several magnificent landscapes, rocks, valleys, mountains and fine forests of ancient trees.

Towards the evening M. Lafarge left the box-seat and joined the two women in the interior of the carriage. The conversation then became very free and easy, and turned, in coarse terms, on the primitive marriage customs of the Limousin; so crudely did aunt and nephew enlarge on this topic that Mme. Lafarge withdrew into her corner and, shading her face with her hand, pretended to sleep.

When the party reached Massera a terrible storm, which had arisen suddenly, broke over the landscape. The dawn was blotted out by grey clouds. At eight o'clock in the morning it was not possible to see more than a white ribbon of road winding between forests, closed in by heavy and continuous rain that the carriage appeared enveloped in a thick grey mist. The postilion put up his hood; the horses, steaming and panting, struggled on the slippery road.

The storm had nothing abated of its dismal violence when Mme. Pontier and M. Lafarge pointed out to Marie some broken-down hovels, which they said formed the suburb of Sainte-Eulalie belonging to the town of Uzerche.

The carriage rocked along the road, at one side of which flowed the swollen waters of the Vézère, and then stopped at a mean-looking inn where Marie was welcomed by her brother-in-law, M. Buffière. This personage Marie found commonplace and even vulgar in appearance; disappointed and disdainful, she suffered him to kiss her cheeks and then retired to an upper room while the two men went out to examine the carriage, which had broken a wheel on the rough, slippery road.

Mme. Lafarge threw herself on the bed she found in a corner of the room, but an extremely disagreeable odour rose from the stale draperies and coverlets, and, in disgust, she placed herself on a chair by the window where at least she could have a little fresh air, and asked Clementine that a cup of tea might be brought to her.

After a long delay of an hour or so, during which Mme. Lafarge's disappointment, fatigue and sick headache all increased, Clementine returned almost in tears. On a tray was what the Limousin inn considered "the fragrant beverage of China"; a large water jug, closed with a paper lid, contained a few tea-leaves floating about in tepid water.

Mme. Lafarge put aside the nauseous drink in disgust and, throwing open the window, looked out over Uzerche. The rain had ceased, but a heavy mist obscured the houses; suddenly, animated and joyous, all the bells of all the churches of the little town rang out, and at the same moment all the doors were opened; looking down through the mist Marie could see the faithful people turning towards the churches; she remembered, with a pang, that it was the fête day of the Virgin, of Our Lady of August, her own. patron.

Snatching up her cashmere shawl she ran from the room; she would take her disappointment, her fatigue, her misery, to the Altar of Our Lady, but on the stairs she met her husband, who told her that it would be impossible for her to go out.

"You will be," he said coarsely, "the object of all the stares, of all the cancans, of all the jokes of the entire populace."

"What does that matter?" replied Marie Lafarge disdainfully. "I am above such mean considerations."

"I have told you," he insisted with a brutal accent, "you cannot go. I do not wish to be made ridiculous. I know a great many people—I have even relations here. Nothing will be noticed or talked about but your Parisian clothes."

"You flatter my poor taste," replied Marie haughtily, "but since you order it, I will not go to church."

"Don't show your claws, my little cat," grinned her husband. "It is only because I love you that I don't want everybody staring at your shawls, your jewels, your plumes."

Marie Lafarge returned to the dismal hôtel bedroom; she recalled the other days of this August fête when she had always been dressed in white, the livery of the Virgin, when her grandfather, during her stays at Villers-Hellon, had always sent her a special flower to place in her bosom; always in the evening there had been a fête given for Marie; she had had a cake with her name in candles and in flowers; she had danced until the evening, when she had slept, fatigued with excitement and pleasure. How different was this fête day; she was alone, isolated, without prayers, without flowers, without friends.

It was nearly eleven, o'clock before the carriage was mended. Marie was glad to leave the ugly, dismal little town behind; she fixed her mind on her charming little castle, which she hoped soon to see. She remembered the drawing over which she had pored with such delight in Paris, the Gothic ruins, the feudal estates, the forests, the delicious little château with the blue tiles against the blue sky.

At Vigeois there was an hour's halt. Madame Pontier here left the bridal couple. A cousin of M. Lafarge received them in his house and offered them saddle horses for the rest of the journey, but Marie was so bruised and shaken by the fatigue of the long travelling that she preferred to remain in the carriage.

At this there was much exclamation; the road was bad, hardly fit for a carriage, and she would be even more jolted about if she insisted on traversing the savage country round Glandier in a wheeled vehicle than if she went on horseback.

The day had darkened down again into storms; heavy clouds covered the sky, the trees seemed to bend beneath the weight of the rain, heavy drippings from their leaves increased the volume of water on the roadway. The road became worse and worse, the horses could hardly drag the carriage over the stones, the streams of water, the ruts left by small farm carts.

After three hours of this slow progress Mme. Lafarge had to descend from the carriage and with her husband's help to pick her way along the wet rough road under the pouring rain while the coachman led the horses and tried to assist the lamenting Clementine. Marie's elegant flowing clothes, cashmere shawl, plumed bonnet, thin shoes and flowing skirts were soon soaked with rain. Her pride and her vanity alike were wounded; she insisted on entering the carriage again and tried desperately to repair her toilette.

A shout from her husband brought her to the window. He pointed out where, through the rain, columns of black smoke were rising above the dripping trees.

"That is Glandier—my factory," he grinned through the rain that poured off his hat.

Marie did not reply; she appeared to be in a trance.

They soon cleared the forest and Marie saw the dark outlines of the iron factory rise before her; smoke from the furnaces covered the countryside; there had been no drawing of these works on the plan of Glandier that Marie had seen in Paris, and she had forgotten to ask where they were or what effect they might have on her own château en style gothique.

The carriage stopped at a broken-down wall and a mean, rusty gate, behind which was a thin avenue of poplars completely blackened and withered by the continual smoke.

"This is your home, Marie," said M. Lafarge, gripping his wife's shoulders and passing her into the arms of two drab-looking women waiting at the gate under a large cotton umbrella that dripped rain from bent ribs.

Marie at first took these to be two servants, but to her utter dismay realised that they were her mother-in-law and sister-in-law; they embraced her and took her into the house, chattering all the time in a patois that she could scarcely understand and could scarcely bring herself to answer; they also stared at her with a curiosity they did not try to disguise.

Thus, broken by fatigue, soaked with rain, agitated by disappointment and apprehension, Marie Lafarge entered Glandier. The steps that led to the front door were of worn dirty stone, she noticed; from the choked gutter of the roof a spout of fouled rain-water fell on the handrail; the Parisienne glanced round in despair. There was no garden, only a waste of neglected ground heaped with rubbish and broken crocks.

Following the two women, she entered what they termed the salon, and there she sank on to the first chair she met and gazed about, too stupefied to speak. Her mother-in-law held one of her hands and continued to stare at her with great curiosity; her sister-in-law stood in front of her plying her with questions, which Marie could not even hear, much less answer.

Mme. Lafarge mère possessed what would have passed in Paris for the appearance of an upper servant or housekeeper; her plain black dress of serviceable cloth was covered with a large working apron by no means spotless; her hair, which had been of a reddish brown, was streaked with grey and bandaged severely over her ears; a large brooch of twisted gold fastened the once white tucker at her thin neck She was sixty-three years of age and might easily have claimed the dignity of another decade, so little trouble had she taken to preserve her figure, her complexion or any of the few charms she had possibly once possessed; her hands bore witness to her incessant domestic labours, her face was grimed by smoke and ash dust and about her person was the stale greasy odour associated pith an ill-kept kitchen.

Mme. Buffière was a little woman with a fresh, rosy complexion, but with a common air and quick, incessant, vulgar movements; she too wore drab clothes and had entirely neglected her person.

M. Lafarge joined this touching family scene and, seating himself near to Marie, tried to draw her on his knees; when she rebuffed him, he said with a wink and a coarse laugh to the other two women "that his little wife would only caress him when they were alone together," and, addressing Marie as a dear little puppy, he pinched her nose, kissed her cheeks and pulled her towards him by clasping her round the waist; the bride trembled with indignation at these brutal caresses.

"I am neither a cat nor a puppy," she said under her breath; she put her hand to her throat and made an effort to choke back a violent scream of despair. "I am very tired, you must let me go to my room. I have some letters to write."

The other two women exchanged glances; M. Lafarge shrugged his shoulders and made a little sign as much as to say, "We must put up with a little more of this," and his mother without a word conducted her daughter-in-law up the dirty staircase to her bedchamber.

Stepping daintily and with looks of disdain, Clementine, laden with valises and hat-boxes, staggering on her high heels on the greasy stone, followed.

The bedchamber assigned to Mme. Lafarge was directly over the salon and of the same size. It was unfurnished save for two iron beds, a rickety table and four wooden chairs, which seemed to wander in the solitude like Bedouins in the desert.

"Clementine!" exclaimed Mme. Lafarge, gazing round her in genuine panic-terror. "Bring me some paper and ink."

The chambermaid tripped away and presently with a grimace of sympathy and disdain brought in a broken jam-jar, in which a scrap of cotton floated in some grey water, an old broken pen and some squares of sky-blue paper.

"What are you going to do, Madame?" exclaimed Clementine, alarmed by her mistress's looks of frenzy.

"I don't know, Clementine. Indeed, I don't know."

Marie flung off the bonnet with the drenched feather, the fine cashmere shawl with the damp fringe, on which the beads of moisture glistened. She did not move while the chambermaid went on her knees and unlaced her wet sandals.

"You will be ill, you will catch a fever," cried the girl with concern. "Oh, this dreadful, dreadful place!"

"Hush, Clementine, hush! I have been most terribly deceived. Is this Glandier, this the château I was promised? That vulgar woman my mother-in-law, that common girl my sister-in-law? And he, not only my husband, but my master? What shall I do? Mon Dieu, what shall I do?"

She gripped the girl's shoulders and stared at her with an intensity of genuine horror and alarm.

"I never liked him," said Clementine. "What was M. de Martens thinking of to marry you to that odious man?"

"They were all tired of me, Clementine. I have been difficult and capricious too long. They thought I should be an old maid."

"Better to be an old maid in Paris than a married woman here," said Clementine. "There is nothing, nothing!"

"Are there no servants?"

"There are one or two peasants in the kitchen, which is an abominable place. Mme. Lafarge, your mother-in-law, keeps the turkeys and fowls they are going to eat in her bedroom to fatten. The factory is close on to the house, so are the hovels where the workers live."

"I never thought of that. And this smoke, this will always continue?"

"Yes," said Clementine. "You can see, the factory chimneys are right against the house. This black smoke blows across everything. There is no garden, only a wilderness."

"The river that seemed so charming?" stammered Mme. Lafarge.

The grisette shrugged her shoulders. "They use that as water power for the factory. It is all fouled."

"Mon Dieu, Clementine, I can bear no more! We are a hundred leagues from Paris!"

Mme. Lafarge, with a frantic effort over her failing strength, rose and went to the window. The rain was descending, it was nothing less than a deluge; thickened by the fumes from the factory smoke it blotted out everything, trees, river, neglected garden. Nothing could have been in more bitter contrast to Marie's dreams than the prospect on which she gazed.

She sat down at the rickety table, seized the broken pen, and dipping it in the ink rendered pale with vinegar, began to write on the sheets of sky-blue paper that Clementine had brought her. Her facility, her gift of throwing extravagant sentiments into words, served her well. She became inspired with her theme, and covered the page with her nervous, flowing handwriting on each side.

Glandier, Aug. 15th, 1839.

Charles, on my knees I ask your pardon. I have most unworthily deceived you, for I do not love you and I love another. Mon Dieu, how I have suffered! Let me die, you whom I esteem with all my heart. Bid me die, and I will thank you, and to-morrow I shall exist no more. I feel as if my head was broken. Will you help me? For pity's sake, listen to me! listen to me!

He also is named Charles; he is handsome, he is noble, he has been educated near me. We loved each other before we knew what love was. A year ago another woman robbed me of his heart, I believed that I should have died of this. In despair I decided to marry you.

Alas, I knew nothing of the mysteries of marriage! Even the touch of your hand caused me to tremble, unhappy woman that I am! I believed that all I should owe you would be a kiss on the forehead, that you would be to me like a father.

Can you understand how I have suffered during the three days since we left Paris? Can you understand that if you do not save me I shall have to die? Wait, I will tell you everything.

I esteem you with all my soul, I venerate you; but our habits, our education, have put between us an immense barrier. Everything you say and do, the way you try to express your heart and spirit, raises nothing but revulsion in me. Besides, he repents. I have seen him at Orleans. You were at dinner; he was on the balcony close to mine. He is here even, hidden at Uzerche. I shall become an unfaithful wife, an adulteress, despite you, despite myself, if you do not save me.

Charles, whom I have offended so horribly, save me from yourself and from him. This evening tell me that you will consent, have ready for me two horses to take the road to Brives. I will then take the post coach to Bordeaux, where I shall embark for Smyrna. I will leave you my fortune. God will permit that it brings you prosperity, for you deserve it. As for myself, I shall live on what I can earn by my work or by my lessons.

I pray you never to let anyone know that I still exist. If you wish I will throw my mantle on the edge of one of your precipices, and all will be finished. If you wish I will take some arsenic—I have it. All will be thus ended.

You have been so good that I can, in refusing you my affection, give you my life; but to receive your caresses, no, never!

In the name of the honour of your mother do not refuse me, in the name of God pardon me. I await your reply as a criminal awaits his arrest. Ah, if I did not love him more than life, I might, because I esteem you, be able to love you—but as it is, your caresses revolt me. Tell me I merit pardon. Meanwhile my sole hope is in you. Put a paper under my door this evening; if not, by tomorrow morning I shall be dead.

Do not concern yourself about me. I shall go on foot to Brives if it must be. I will never rest here, your mother so tender, your sister so gentle—all that overwhelms me. I am horrified at myself. Oh, be generous, save me from killing myself. To whom am I to confide if not to you? Shall I address myself to him, never! If I cannot belong to you, I shall not belong to him. These affections will be the cause of my death. Be a man! If you do not still love me, pardon me.

Perhaps the trace of the horses would be discovered. Give me two dirty costumes belonging to your peasants. Pardon, may God recompense you for the evil that I have done you.

I shall take with me only some little trinkets belonging to my friends as souvenirs. As for the rest of what I have, you can send it to me at Bordeaux, if you care to, but everything will be yours. Do not accuse me of falsity. Since Monday, since the hour when I learnt you would be something other than a brother, since my aunts tried to tell me what it meant to give oneself to a man, I swore to die. I took some poison, a little dose at Orleans. Yesterday I vomited. I have a little pistol, 'tis loaded; I held it against my head when I was alone in the carriage; I thought that with every jolt it would go of and kill me.

To-day everything depends on you. I shall retract nothing. Save me, be the good angel of the poor orphan, or kill her, or tell her to kill herself. Write to me, for without your word of honour—and I believe in you—without this written word of honour, I shall not open my door.

Marie.

This frantic epistle sealed with the dainty paraphernalia that had been one of Marie's wedding presents, the bride prepared to put through the evening in this terrible house, in this horrible company. Even in her despair, which was, despite her habitual duplicity and hypocrisy, genuine, she had some consolation. A glance in her hand-mirror had told her that she was romantically pale—"white as a phantom," as she expressed it herself—and that her appearance in her elegant Parisian robe shone against this unsupportable background like a lily against a refuse heap.

There was another consolation, too, in the ardent devotion of Clé, who seemed perfectly ready to play the part of confidential maid or confidente, one of those devoted, bold, intriguing creatures without whom no heroine of romance was complete.

Mme. Lafarge, hardly speaking, refusing to touch either the food or wine that was put before her, passed what seemed to her an interminable evening in the long, gaunt dining-room of Glandier. Several of her marriage relations were gathered round the board, which was loaded with coarse, badly-cooked food and lit by a small, continually smoking oil lamp with an opal glass shade.

Marie Lafarge did not see these people distinctly; their coarse, provincial faces, their uncouth, provincial clothes were blurred to her in one phantasmagoria of horror; nor did she even try to understand their Limousin patois as they discussed with one another their domestic and business affairs.

Without waiting to take leave of anyone, and giving her inevitable excuse of fatigue and a headache, she rose. Her husband was soon also on his feet and offered to accompany her; Marie begged in accents of terror for a few moments alone in her chamber; she heard the coarse laughter going up from the guests; she noted with a tremor of disgust that the men had not risen when she had left the table, but continued to eat and drink with very little regard for her presence.

She ran upstairs; the faithful Clementine was waiting for her. "Take him the note—now, at once. Then come back. I am going to lock the door."

The little grisette, who also felt cheated and trapped at finding herself in such a place and who was sincerely devoted to her mistress, thoroughly enjoyed the important part assigned to her in this dramatic incident.

She soon returned, saying that she had slipped the sky-blue note to M. Lafarge, who had received it with a leer.

The gaunt, unfurnished bedroom littered with the elegant Parisian bandboxes, valises and packages, was lit only by a half tallow candle in a pewter stick, which had been given to Clementine by the elder Mme. Lafarge. By this sickly light the two women waited, Clementine on guard by the locked door, Marie Lafarge on her knees by one of the iron beds, her face in her hands, her slender body shaken by sobs.

"Here he is," cried the chamber-woman excitedly.

There were heavy steps on the stairs outside, heavy blows on the door, and the harsh voice of M. Lafarge raised in oaths, expostulations, exclamations, and threats to force the lock.

Marie Lafarge sprang to her feet.

"Open the door," she said to Clementine, and moved against the window, at the same instant unlatching it on to the night. She remembered the similar action of Rebecca in Ivanhoe when the wicked Crusader pestered her with his unwanted attentions; she found, even in her distress, a pleasure in imitating this heroine of romance.

The young ironmaster entered the room; anger, wine and agitation had distorted his coarse features; he spoke from his heart, bitterly, hurriedly, forgetting the careful French that he usually employed when in Paris or among distinguished strangers, mingling his speech with patois and words peculiar to the Limousin.

"Don't you understand, you little fool, that you belong to me? What does this outrageous behaviour mean? You shan't go, you can't leave my house. Why do you think I married you? I've need of a wife, I haven't enough money to buy a mistress. You belong to me before the law—I tell you you shan't go. Come along, no more of this nonsense."

He advanced towards her and Marie withdrew still farther against the open window, declaring coldly that, if he as much as touched her, she would throw herself out.

Seeing her so energetically desperate, Charles Lafarge withdrew, and, standing in the doorway, shouted for his mother and sister, who came running in, weeping and screaming and imploring this haughty and incomprehensible stranger "to have mercy on their poor Charles."

The scene now became a frightful confusion; the four women, for Clementine added her part, all spoke at once, mingling protests, sobs, exclamations, high-flown talk of honour, courage and despair, with apologies for the state of the house and the rooms on the part of the elder Mme. Lafarge and her daughter, demands for fresh linen and coverlets that she might make up the bed from Clementine, and sighs for a cup of China tea from the half frantic bride.

Finally, urged on by his mother, M. Lafarge threw himself on his knees before his wife, demanding pardon; he was by now almost in hysterics himself.

"I have," he sobbed, "deceived you. This is not the place that I painted it in Paris! But, my beautiful Marie, I loved you so much that I had, at any price, to obtain you!"

"As for the house," put in the elder Mme. Lafarge, wiping her eyes with the corner of her dirty apron, "it is not, my dear child, as bad as you think. No doubt you are homesick and miss all your pretty elegances and all your fine friends, but I assure you once the sun shines the country is really very pretty round here. Besides, if you don't like the house, you can alter it—you will be the absolute mistress."

"Yes, yes," interrupted Charles Lafarge. "You will be the queen here, everything shall be according to your tastes. I have bought you a briska, I have bought you a piano, I have promised you a bathroom. To-morrow the masons and carpenters will arrive and everything shall be as you wish."

All this flattery was very familiar language to Marie Lafarge; it consoled her and she began to dry her tears, too, on her elegant, lace-embroidered handkerchief. She was very used, after she had made a scene, to being petted, pampered, caressed and coaxed into good temper, and she knew how to take advantage of this kind of concession. She did not, however, at once give in; standing still beside the open window, pale and dignified, she declared that she could easily pardon everything, even the odious lies of which she had been the victim, that she would abandon her dowry without regret, that she would keep pure and honourable the name she had accepted, "but never, never," she added with a sincerity that overrode the conventional hypocrisy of her words, "can I remain here. I must go away, far, far away, and if you force me to stay I shall kill myself."

Her sister-in-law, Mme. Buffière, then approached her, put her arms round her kindly and began to caress her; at this Marie's courage gave way; she was really fatigued, forlorn, frightened and consumed as with a flame by nostalgia.

Sobbing on her sister-in-law's shoulder she began to stammer out the story of the scene at Orleans when her husband had tried to force his way into her room when she was in the bath; Mme. Buffière then obtained from her the admission that there was no lover, that she had no arsenic and no pistol in her possession, though she had a little phial of laudanum, which the family doctor allowed her to use when she had violent, nervous headaches.

Having obtained this information Mme. Buffière drew her agitated brother into a corner of the room, where she had a long, whispered, animated conversation with him. Meanwhile, the elder Mme. Lafarge tried to comfort poor Marie, telling her that she was proud of her, that she thought her beautiful, elegant and charming, that the house should be made worthy of her, that her son's rude manners must be excused because he was so madly in love with his exquisite bride, that the whole house should be turned upside-down to please her if she would but consent to remain, and then in accents that sincerity made moving, the old woman explained the terrible scandal that Marie's departure would make in the neighbourhood, the confusion into which it would throw the affairs of the Lafarge family and the impossible position Marie herself would be in in the future.

Considerably calmed, but not yet prepared to give way, Marie repeated that her husband could keep her dowry but that she must leave Glandier and the family Lafarge.

Her husband then came forward from the corner where he had been conversing with his sister; his manner was much more calm.

He explained, in a matter-of-fact way, that it would be impossible for him to keep Marie's dowry without her family's consent. He declared, with an air of generosity, that he had no wish to keep his wife near him against her will—he only begged for two or three days in which to obtain her pardon, to prove his love and to render her happy, as he put it. If at the end of that time she still wished to leave Glandier, she might, but not he hoped for such an outlandish place as Smyrna, but rather for Paris, where no doubt her relatives would receive her with open arms.

Marie was pleased with this homage, moved by the tears and agitation of these three people, and not uninfluenced by Clementine's whispered advice: "Accept, Madame, accept. You have brought them all to your knees, you have won a victory."

The words "return to Paris" had a little brought Marie to her senses; she knew with that shrewdness and sense of irony which penetrated all her romance and hypocrisy that her aunts and uncles, even her friends, would not be very pleased to see her again. There would be scenes, reproaches, trouble over her dowry, some of her friends would smile, others mock; she would be really in a very ridiculous position. Besides, fatigue was falling over her like a leaden veil; her knees trembled beneath her; she sank on one of the iron beds and said faintly:

"Very well, Charles, I will stay for a few days at least, as long as you consent to treat me like a sister."

The young ironmaster eagerly accepted this concession. Mme. Buffière offered to share her room in order to protect her against any possible ardours on the part of her husband; this favour Mme. Lafarge faintly refused; she said that she would keep Clementine to sleep with her every night.

This painful and violent scene brought on an attack of nerves; for an hour the young woman lay on the mean iron bed unconscious in her Parisian finery. Her new relatives watched her half through the night, fearing that she had, after all, taken poison; but finally, upon Clementine's insisting that such attacks were usual in a lady of Madame's delicate physique, that she would be herself after a little repose, the confused, dismayed and bewildered Lafarge family left the grisette and her mistress to the heavy slumbers of exhaustion.

* * * * *

When, late in the morning, the bride woke, she sent Clementine to ask news of the family. Her husband, it seemed, was ill and forced to keep his bed; he too had indulged in a crise de nerfs.

"I must remember my promise, Clementine, and try to endure this life for a few days."

Marie put on a charming morning toilette of muslin with a blue ribbon girded round her waist, and went downstairs to déjeuner. She met there the persons who had been presented to her the night before and a friend of the family, an old advocate of the name of Chauveron, whose courtly manners and dignified discourse did something to restore the bride to equanimity.

As soon as the meal was over she was presented to a new arrival, a M. Pontier, a doctor at Uzerche, another brother of Mme. Lafarge, and uncle of Charles Lafarge. He was a man of forty years of age, with a noble, intelligent appearance and a manner far more polished than that of the other provincials.

Marie felt that this man was her friend, and when, pressing her hand, he drew her apart, she went with him willingly. The shrewd doctor knew how to manage the romantic and impressionable young woman.

The day was fine; even the heavy factory smoke could not totally obscure the superb prospect—the river, the sloping hills, the forests of oak, the gardens, which, though neglected, showed rich lawns and clusters of half-wild bushes and flowers.

Leading Marie through the ruins of the old Carthusian abbey, which was feudal enough and Gothic enough to please even her taste, he told her their origin, their history, their legend, then glided into a touching picture of the love that was waiting for Marie in her new family and told her of the happiness that she herself perhaps would not enjoy but that she might scatter radiantly about her. Cautiously, delicately, and insinuating wherever it was possible subtle flattery, M. Pontier spoke of his nephew.

"He is, of course, an uncultured, rude, even savage young man, wild, but if I may say so, grand like his own mountains. He has never been taught anything but work and business. He is not, perhaps, highly intelligent, but he has plenty of good sense."

Then M. Pontier pointed out how deeply his nephew loved his bride; he declared that no feelings of interest had entered into this union, that the bridegroom was heart-broken over the scene of the night before and would do anything to please his Marie.

Comforted by this conversation and reassured by the friendship of the dignified doctor, re-established in her own importance, Marie paid a visit to the invalid, who was installed in the room next the nuptial chamber and who showed himself so grateful for this concession that she was even more softened towards him, though she tried not to look at him in his cotton night-cap.

He asked her faintly if she had seen over his factories; and she replied "no"; she was waiting for his recovery in order that he might himself explain to her the works of which she understood nothing at all, then slipped away with a dignified coquetry.

During the rest of the day she felt calm, almost as if she had forgotten her frightful despair of the evening before. The place certainly looked much better by daylight, and everybody was so touchingly eager to make her happy, the women almost obsequious; she was treated as if she were indeed a superior being; if she smiled everyone seemed happy, if she was silent, everyone downcast! all in their different ways hurried to do her little services.

Clementine told her that she had been summoned to M. Lafarge's bedside and that he had there confided to the grisette his desperate and passionate love for her mistress, that he was willing to surround her with all kinds of care and affectionate regards, if only she would remain in his house.

Marie felt distinctly soothed by all this attention; the situation after all had something in it of romance; she began to cast back, as usual, into the novels she had read, the poetry and romances she had devoured and composed. Was there not in one of the novels of George Sand such a situation, when a rude, wild, half-savage young man had been tamed by the grace and beauty of an elegant young woman, and after a long apprenticeship of years of tender devotion been granted her love?

M. Lafarge's message, brought back by Clementine, was that if she did not like the house, she could pull it down and rebuild it according to her tastes, that at any time she liked to give the command the workmen would be ready to obey her orders.

Marie began to dream of those Gothic cloisters that M. Pontier had shown her, of the old monkish garths, of the ruins of the church. Could not these be restored and joined to the mansion, which, in its turn, might be entirely altered? Could she not have furniture sent, not only from Uzerche or Brives, but from Paris?

As for what she lacked in her own chamber, M. Lafarge had assured her that if she would only make a list of the first necessities, they would be sent by express from Uzerche, and in a day or so she might have everything she wished. She could also send immediately to her aunt, Mme. Garat, in Paris, for a civilised servant. That night Marie, soothed and exhausted, slept as sound as if the frantic letter on the sky-blue paper had never been written.

* * * * *

The next morning M. Lafarge had recovered. The weather was fine and Marie quite enioyed her visit to the factory, where she was received by the ironworkers with a touching enthusiasm. Seeing her husband as the undisputed master and controller of these men raised him in her estimation; here on his own ground he appeared composed, dignified, easy, in direct contrast to his incorrect, embarrassed manner in a lady's drawing-room.


Illustration

A Ride in the Forest
From an old engraving in possession of the author.


Marie, who enjoyed being gracious, shared the midday meal of the ironworkers, and begged her husband to add to this repast of coarse soup and black bread a little fruit and wine, in which she drank their health and they drank hers. She was presented with a crown of fresh green leaves to place round her wide straw hat, and on leaving the factory she found a may-pole had been arranged in the courtyard; this, decorated with garlands of flowers and tricolour ribbons, served as the centre round which peasants in the costumes of the Limousin were dancing to the music of a solitary musician who was playing his musette in a corner.

Marie thought of Venus deigning to visit Vulcan and his workmen in the heart of the mountain and became somewhat reconciled to her position. After all it was not so contemptible a destiny to be adored by so many worthy if rude people.

When, pleasantly fatigued and feeling a delicious lassitude from the heat of the day, she allowed M. Lafarge to row her back on the little river that twisted round the works to the château she closed her eyes, and trailing her fingers in the water, began to make a romance of her present circumstances. She would alter everything, the house, the gardens, the way of living, the servants; there would be no trouble with her mother-in-law and sister-in-law—these two women were, she could see, only too eager to be at her service. Old Mme. Lafarge could continue the burden of the housekeeping once she had learnt Marie's Parisian ways. Mme. Buffière, if she was to live permanently at Glandier—and Marie meant to avoid that if she could—would willingly slip into a position not much above that of Clementine's, the respectful confidente. The two uncles Pontier were already, Marie knew, her devoted friends; they had been dazzled by her beauty, her brilliancy, her social rank. As to her young lord and master, as she was pleased to call him to herself, she believed that she had him now completely in her power; he was not likely to offend any more by intrusions upon her privacy or brutal caresses of her in public. She liked the situation she had created for herself, the outer status of a married woman, the inner virginal life of a demoiselle in a convent.

Charles Lafarge was no doubt ugly, coarse and rough, but he was manly, masterful, and, as she believed, desperately in love with her. A subtle and fascinating game could be played with such material; she would see to it that he kept to his bargain of treating her as his sister; at the same time she would exercise on him a thbusand delicate coquetries—advance, retreat, advance, retreat, twisting him this way and that, affording him a little hope, casting him into despair, according as her mood changed. She would make him alter, she had already decided, everything, then when she had changed the man, his surroundings, his relatives and his life to suit her own fastidious tastes, she might perhaps accord him the supreme honour of consenting to live with him as his wife. By then no doubt he would be making the revenue of 100,000 francs a year of which he had spoken in Paris.

Marie sighed and opened her eyes on to the sunset as the boat touched the neglected lawn of Glandier. The future, after all, did not look so hopelessly dark.

6. THE TRAGEDY AT GLANDIER

Marie Lafarge looked round her sad little domain, as she termed it, and at once began to plan vast changes. The household, being still afraid of her and eager to do anything that might prevent her leaving them, willingly gathered in a little conclave, where she explained her intentions.

She had already made an inspection of the dismal little château and the neglected grounds; the entrance passage and the great salons, which the elder Mme. Lafarge had always kept shut up save on rare occasions of festival or entertainment, particularly aroused Marie Lafarge's horror and disgust. In her opinion it expressed "a vivid vulgarity that would soon overwhelm all the thoughts of anyone who tried to live in these dismal surroundings." The walls were covered with a hideous yellow paper, much stained by damp and age; in one wall were two windows, in the opposite an alcove; all three were furnished with red cotton draperies with yellow fringes. On a large walnut commode was draped a floor carpet with a crude design of two shapeless doves dangling in knots of ribbon against a sky-blue background. There was no covering on the boarded floor; the chimney-piece, which framed a coarse iron grate, was ornamented with five monstrous china oranges, two soiled white candles in brass sticks, which had never been lit, and a large white glass night-light-holder with a design of "Adam and Eve," who were, as Marie Cappelle remarked, "without sin but also without fig-leaves"; two coarsely-executed colour-prints showing a pair of young lovers, a Greek and an Albanian, were hung carelessly on the dismal yellow paper. The rest of the furniture consisted of two arm-chairs covered in worn, red Utrecht velvet and some other chairs with straw seats arranged against the wall. In this unfortunate salon there were two doors painted a dull grey and two more with the upper portion in glass.

M. Lafarge, who had seen his wife's horrified and disdainful glance round this apartment, began to talk hastily of plans and projects for renovating and altering the building.

Marie Lafarge then spoke. Glancing at her husband, her mother-in-law, her sister-in-law and brother-in-law, she proceeded to state what she intended doing.

"I must have, you understand, elegant and pleasant surroundings. I advise you to transform this great room into a bedchamber, with bathrooms and toilette closets. It must, of course, be entirely repainted, repapered and refurnished, and the windows must be altered. Then, as for your entrance corridor, so horribly sinister, it could be turned into an open gallery lit by gracious and elegant ogive windows and paved with white tiles. Then that frightful desert, without doors or windows, which you call the kitchen, has fine enough proportions to allow it to be metamorphosed into a great Gothic salon, with massive doors hung with tapestry and set with statues. To the right of that are several little rooms, which could easily be knocked into one fine dining-room. The little salon to the left, which you do not seem to use at all, could be turned into a workroom or boudoir for me, where I can employ my solitary hours with books, pen, the piano."

The elder Mme. Lafarge listened with stupefaction to this plan of drastic alterations to her house and seemed to think that her new daughter-in-law was a little crazy. Mme. Buffière laughed and asked sarcastically if it was a custom among the Parisian girls thus to alter the houses into which they came on their marriage? But M. Lafarge accepted all his wife's plans and told her that she should immediately have a master-mason and some workmen at her entire disposal.

* * * * *

The races at Pompadour, which had been the cause for hurrying on Marie Lafarge's marriage, took place on the following day. The bride was too fatigued to go. While her husband escorted his mother and sister to Pompadour she remained at home trying over the piano, which had arrived from Uzerche, and which, despite the jolts of its journey of a hundred leagues, was not in the least damaged, and gave off brilliant and sonorous notes, which rejoiced the exiled Parisienne.

The trunks with the elaborate trousseau also arrived, and the ladies of the household took an infantile delight in emptying and in turning over the novelties from the city that they contained.

The following days consisted of rounds of visits paid and received. Clementine took great pride in making her mistress as elegant as possible and in seeing her astonish the provincials with the superb elegance of her simple toilette, usually of fine white muslin. Her dark hair was caught up with golden pins and gracefully arranged by the expert grisette. M. Lafarge, doing all in his power to please his romantic and capricious young wife, sent her every morning a spray of wild flowers from the woods beyond the river—these, in the evenings when she made her appearance at the family dinner table, were coquettishly entwined in her ebony locks; she thus wore now a delicious branch of foxglove, now honeysuckle, sometimes a spray of heather or of fern, and occasionally she allowed her husband respectfully to kiss the brow that he had thus adorned.

Everything that the family Lafarge could do to please their difficult, charming and delicate young relation was done; there were picnics on the banks of the river, there were continual visits to the forge to see the display "as fine as fireworks" of the sparks rising from the great furnaces, there were rides in the woods; a handsome grey horse of the name of Arabska was presented by M. Lafarge to his wife, and she was allowed to take, sometimes alone, sometimes with him, long rides through the mountain passes and ravines and to return with baskets full of wild flowers and plants hanging to her saddle; trails of wild hops, of briony, of honeysuckle, and briar were brought in by Marie Lafarge to adorn the salons, in which, as the time went by, she began to effect considerable improvements.

The work of altering Glandier, however, went on slowly; neither the masons, who under her direction were digging round the ruins of the ancient monastery, nor the gardeners, who were endeavouring to restore order to the neglected ground, made much progress, and the summer passed before Marie Lafarge had realised her dreams of Gothic salons, open cloisters, fountains, terraces planted with orange and arbutus trees and parterres filled with delicious flowers. She had, however, most of the broken windows mended and locks put on most of the swinging doors; she had the carpet with the doves taken from the commode and laid on the floor; she had cobwebs swept away and a wash of white paint put over the hideous yellow paper and the coarse grey colour of the doors; the fine china oranges and "Adam and Eve" had been banished to the attics.

From Paris were sent several articles that were, as she declared, the first necessities—a bath, several oil lamps, a respectable dinner service, some linen for table and bed, a hundred other domestic utensils, and, most valuable of all, two good servants, a cook named Mion, and Alfred, a young man who was the son of the old coachman at Villers-Hellon.

With the support of these allies and helped by Clementine, Marie Lafarge entirely altered the government of the house; her mother-in-law had, with same petulance, offered her the domestic keys, saying that "she had ruled the establishment for forty years with order and economy." The younger woman had refused to take this symbol of authority, but the elder had insisted; the result of this dispute, insincere on both sides, was a dangerous divided authority. Duplicate keys were made, and each woman had an undefined power.

Mme. Marie Lafarge, supported by the three Parisian servants, had the house cleaned from top to bottom, all the rubbish swept away, all the faded, dirty draperies taken down, clean muslin curtains put up at the windows and in the alcove, the tiled floor polished till it shone, all the atrocious ornaments and detestable pictures removed, the windows set open to the light and air and pots and branches of fresh flowers placed in every chamber.

These drastic changes caused a revolution among the retainers of old Mme. Lafarge—gross peasants, who had been allowed to do much as they liked for years. Their last stronghold was the kitchen, and Marie Lafarge and her allies found it almost impossible to effect any changes in this hideous apartment where the servants' children squealed in dirty cradles, pigs and poultry, whose carcasses were designed for the table, wandered at will over the floor—cocks and hens perching even on the tables and chairs—where rank-smelling cheeses hung from one corner and turkeys being fattened occupied another enclosed in a filthy pen in foul straw.

A series of domestic upsets ended in the giving of notice by the servants who had been in the employ of old Mme. Lafarge; and the younger woman recruited from the neighbourhood some girls who were willing to work under the Parisian servants. After this there was some peace and quiet in Glandier, and the elder woman, shocked, astonished and outraged, was silenced but not defeated. She still affected to love, admire and caress her daughter-in-law, and did all in her power to soothe and flatter her, but there were occasions when what she considered the incomprehensible and outrageous changes in her establishment were more than she could bear, and when, in suppressed fury, she would retire to her own chamber. This was a replica of the kitchen; in one corner cheeses ripened, in another poultry were being fattened; some sucking pigs, destined for an approaching feast-day, lapped milk in the chimney corner; a hundred and one pots, saucepans, cooking appliances, dried meats, herbs, preserves, sauces, stood on shelves and round the floor. In the midst of this culinary confusion stood the old woman's bed, heavily curtained with drugget and piled with dirty coverlets. These were never changed, nor did Madame Lafarge mère allow anyone to enter her room even to sweep it out. It was her own sanctum, most jealously guarded, and when she left it she locked it and kept the key in her pocket.

This formidable person was a very plain woman, who had had an exceedingly unhappy married life. Her husband had been openly unfaithful to her and had died with shocking suddenness one day at table, after eating a quantity of nougat sent him by a so-called friend; Madame Lafarge had always bitterly declared that this nougat had been poisoned and that her husband's death was the work of an enemy; the doctors, however, had laughed at this hysterical exaggeration, as they termed it, and declared that M. Lafarge had departed this life through injudicious living that had brought on apoplexy.

Since this gloomy event, over which she constantly brooded, Madame Lafarge had never changed from her widow's weeds; she wore the most sober of black clothes, full skirt, plain bonnet and cashmere shawl; nor did she change these at night, merely, when she lay down on her bed, turning her shawl inside out and putting it back again when she rose in the morning.

One of Marie Lafarge's chief complaints about the régime of Glandier was the vast amount of food eaten; her delicate stomach was sickened by the numerous coarse dishes that were placed on the table at every meal, and there were four meals each day. With her ironic wit, so displeasing to the vain and downright provincials, she declared that each meal was a "massacre of the innocents," since dozens of birds and animals had to be slain in order to provide it, and she added that it seemed as if the different portions of a lamb's carcass had made a rendez-vous on the dinner table at Glandier, for there would be six or seven different dishes all composed of portions of the same animal.

After she had her new life well in train Marie Lafarge reformed this gross feeding; the result was many a bitter battle with her mother-in-law, who did not appreciate the elegant table with spotless napery, gleaming silver, vases of flowers and one or two well-cooked and excellently served dishes that Marie offered to her guests.

The elder Mme. Lafarge thought that this manner of housekeeping disgraced herself and her son, and Charles Lafarge was appealed to by both the women; Marie won, but at the price of increasing the rage and hatred the elder woman felt for her person and her ways.

After she had been a few weeks at Glandier she was relieved by the departure of her sister and brother-in-law, Monsieur and Madame Buffière, for another factory where M. Buffière had found employment. There had been no love between the two women, and Mme. Charles made no pretence of missing her sister-in-law.

A great deal of her time was taken up with visits in the neighbourhood; the Lafarge family knew everyone and there was a vast curiosity to see the outlandish Parisienne who was making such extraordinary changes in Glandier. She was received with bluff friendliness everywhere, and exerted herself to be in return amiable and gracious, from a desire not only to live on good terms with her neighbours, but to show herself worthy of admiration. She wished, even in this rude place, to be adored, worshipped, loved.

Yet when a ball at the local inn was given in her honour, Madame Charles, radiant in her Parisian clothes, white muslin and daisies, could hardly suppress an ironic smile and one or two sardonic comments provoked by the toilettes of the local beauties. The corsages of these provincial ball-dresses were, she observed sarcastically, cut no lower than the tunic of the statue of the Virgin in the local church, and the cotton gloves of Scottish thread barely covered, and certainly did not disguise, the size and the redness of the ladies' hands.

Marie, though gracious as ever, did not refrain from remarking in tones of gentle rebuke to her husband how disgusting it was to see all these already overfed people eating and drinking too much, stamping with their feet when they danced, and when the lemonade and wine had freely circulated, shouting at one another coarse pleasantries; she was also highly amused when she saw one young woman who had tried to copy her own Paris frock, and forgetting to put in the little chemisette of lawn that held it up over the shoulders and bust, appeared in a gown so low-cut that it was the subject of a severe sermon by the Abbé the next day at church. Nor did the good priest forget to glance rather severely at the stranger in their midst, this brilliant but somewhat too gay lady from Paris who was introducing among the simple maidens of the Limousin all the fashions, manners and gaieties of the too fascinating, too seductive capital, where virtue, the pious Abbé had always understood, was less regarded than pleasure and amusement.

* * * * *

Among these admiring but bewildered and censorious neighbours, Marie Lafarge found one sentimental friendship. This was with her husband's niece, Emma Pontier, seventeen years of age, the gentle, charming daughter of Doctor Pontier, who developed a sincere admiration for Mme. Lafarge and spent long mornings and afternoons with her, either walking or riding, or in the partly-renovated salons of Glandier. Emma too was a romantic who had read Walter Scott and other romancers, though she had never been permitted to open the novels of George Sand; and she would sit enthralled by the hour together while Marie Lafarge, on her brilliant Parisian piano, played the Requiem of Mozart, the delicious melodies of Schubert, stirring tunes from The Huguenots or the Semiramis, or sang with great feeling and dramatic expression either the plaintive Casta Diva from Norma or the gay raillery of The Barber of Seville.

Marie found in the gentle and devoted Emma Pontier the ideal confidente, and the affectionate respect of the charming girl did much to reconcile her with her new life; the fastidious bride also found the task of reforming her husband as interesting as that of reforming her household. She had told his uncle, M. Pontier, all that Charles must not do, and something of what he must do, if he were in time to gain her favours.

The young ironmaster had been told by his uncle "that a lady's chamber was a sanctuary where she was the all-powerful Queen, that love in the heart of a delicate woman could not exist unless it was fostered by the most tender consideration and the most loving care." M. Charles Lafarge was warned "that the greatest delicacy of words, of thought and of action would alone gain the confidence, the esteem of his young wife, and possibly, after a long apprenticeship, her affection." It did not occur to Madame Charles that it was rather difficult to alter thus a man nearly thirty years of age, and that the good doctor, if sincere, might have before tried to reform his nephew.

When Mme. Lafarge had charged M. Pontier with thus improving the mental tone and manners of her husband, she sent her waiting-woman to improve his appearance. Clementine was entrusted with the task of reforming the young man's clumsy toilet; she told him all his wife's tastes, her little caprices and manias, the collars that she preferred in gentlemen's attire, the way she liked a cravat folded or tied. The sprightly grisette advised M. Lafarge to shave every day, to grow side-whiskers, to cut his hair at least once a week, to change his cravat twice and his shirt once a day, never to come into his wife's presence with what Marie termed "two safeguards against love," nails that were in mourning and down-at-heel slippers. Neither was he, the waiting-maid warned him, to wear waistcoats of brilliant colours—orange or scarlet—but rather those of a tender lilac, mauve, purple or soft blue.

Life ran very well like this for several weeks, and was only disturbed by a painful scene made by M. Lafarge one evening when he had drunk too much champagne and tried to force his way into his wife's room, where she was lying down with one of her usual sick headaches. Both the lady and her maid prevented the entrance of the intoxicated man as long as they could, but when he finally kicked down the door, Marie Lafarge snatched a sheet from her bed and began fastening it to the window. Before, however, she could escape by this means, her husband had not only entered the room but fallen down in a fit, which so alarmed Clementine that she begged her mistress to call for help.

The mother then came running, and with the help of the servants her beloved Charles was dragged to his bed and the doctor summoned. The end of all the disturbance was a diagnosis of drunkenness, which had brought on a nervous crisis or fit; M. Lafarge was often subject to attacks of this sort, as his relations and his doctor informed the pallid, disgusted young wife.

In the morning Charles showed the greatest penitence and humbled himself before the agitated and disdainful Marie, showing himself so contrite that she forgave him. The reconciliation was sealed by a row on the river in the moonlight; M. Lafarge took his wife away from Glandier and the factory out into the open country, where the little river wound through charming meadows, above which rose rocks shaded by a dense forest broken here and there by some of those feudal ruins that Marie loved so well. It was a romantic moment; Marie was far from miserable; languid and charming she lay indolently against the cushions of the boat, swinging idly in her hand a large water-lily she had picked from the superb white blooms that floated beneath the trembling reeds.

She had certainly considerably improved the manners and appearance of M. Lafarge; she felt like the Princess in the story of The Beauty and The Beast; love was surely effecting a transformation in the savage. With his hair cut and brushed, his swarthy cheeks shaven, his clothes better-fitting and his hands clean, he was not altogether unpresentable. In the moonlight she could at least make the best of him: if he was only an ironmaster, if he was ugly and coarse, he was at least young, a man, and in love with her.

When, taking advantage of her mood, he made some clumsy overtures towards her, she defended herself coquettishly with the water-lily, splashing him with drops of water and declaring that she would consent to remain at Glandier if she might continue indefinitely to live with him as a sister, and might in time, if he was faithful, good and patient, reward him by consenting to live with him as his wife; Charles seemed pleased even by this concession and rowed back in the moonlight in a well-behaved manner.

* * * * *

Soon after this Marie Lafarge was taken on a round of visits to all her husband's relatives in the Limousin, and in company with some of these to Tulle, the chief town of the department of Corrèze. This little town was, Marie Lafarge found, picturesquely situated amid some low hills, on the sides of which had been built the mansions of the suburbs set in terrace gardens.

There were pleasant drives along these outskirts where the inhabitants, either on foot or in carriages, took the air in the evening. These hills formed a kind of rude amphitheatre, in the centre of which was situated the town proper, and this was far from being a picturesque or charming spot.

Mme. Lafarge was disgusted to see, in the midst of the villas

Of the rich bourgeoisie, the miserable black, broken hovels, with staircases as difficult, as she remarked, "as those that lead to Paradise," that formed the centre of the town. The inhabitants of these frightful streets were dirty, covered with smoke and clothed in rags, and were mostly employed in the manufacture of arms, for which Tulle was celebrated. It was impossible to pass up and down the sloping streets in a carriage, so Mme. Lafarge had to satisfy her curiosity by walking through these slums, where the women cast vituperations after her elegant appearance.

She was taken on a visit of state to the Prefect of the Department, then to some other friends of M. Lafarge, mostly manufacturers of arms, to whom he supplied raw material; the sojourn at Tulle was then supposed to be concluded, but she declared that she wished to satisfy a melancholy curiosity and to see the prison, the cemetery and the Law Court.

The Assizes were being held when Mme. Lafarge was escorted to the Palais de Justice, a sad, sombre, grey building situated near the poorer quarters of the town in front of a large, mournful square. Mme. Lafarge was allowed by her uncle, who was her escort, to peep into one of the courts where a case was being tried. This was a sordid enough affair; a young woman of the poorer class stood in the dock charged with infanticide. Marie Lafarge thought this dismal chamber where Justice held her seat, sad and not in the least imposing; it had rather, to her fastidious taste, a squalid and sinister air.

She was shuddering out of the court with scarcely a glance for the unfortunate young mother standing downcast in her rags and chains in the dock, when her attention was attracted by the rich, sonorous eloquence of the young advocate who was defending the prisoner. She looked at him eagerly; he was a young man such as she had often approved of in her dreams and not often met in her mundane existence.

"Who is he?" she whispered to her uncle, and M. Pontier replied that the young advocate was a certain Maître Charles Lachaud.

He had indeed a remarkable appearance; he was tall, well-formed, with a majestic head and countenance, on the classic model; his gestures were expressive, his words well-chosen and forceful, and Marie Lafarge noted with approval his well-kept hands, his exquisite linen and the scrupulous nicety of his toilet, which put the provincial lawyer on a level with the elegants of Paris.

* * * * *

That evening Marie Lafarge was taken by her uncle for a promenade on one of the rocky terraces above Tulle. There she learnt from him that the young girl she had seen on trial for her life that morning had been acquitted, and shortly afterwards M. Lachaud, who, like herself, was enjoying the freshness of the evening, was presented to her.

Both the handsome young man and the circumstances under which she had met him roused a profound emotion in Marie Lafarge's susceptible breast. She was pleased that he was presented to her, and she flattered herself that he was pleased in his turn to make her acquaintance.

He joined them in their promenade; the sky was covered with a light mist that veiled the stars sparkling above the mountain, the angelus sounded from the churches in the little city below. The rocky path along which the party proceeded became so steep that Marie Lafarge was glad to accept the arm of Charles Lachaud; he said nothing but what was commonplace, but she felt that he was looking at her with a sympathetic interest; he seemed to be studying her, questioning her, and, as she believed, divining all her secrets.

* * * * *

After three weeks of these visits Marie Lafarge returned to Glandier and absorbed herself once more in reigning over her strange household and in directing the masons who were proceeding so slowly with the reconstruction and restoration of the Gothic ruins and in the transformation of the little château.

M. Lafarge took this opportunity, first, of introducing to her a new manager, whom he had brought from Paris to take the place of his brother-in-law in helping him with the ironworks, and, secondly, of showing her his will, which he had made in her favour, leaving her heiress to all he possessed. Mme. Lafarge was perfectly ready to make a will in her turn leaving her husband all her possessions, save a small legacy to her sister and her sister's child, but reserving some of her personal possessions to be left as souvenirs to her relatives and friends. She wrote this will out roughly in her own hand, put it in an envelope, which she sealed, and delivered it into the charge of her mother-in-law, telling her it was to be a secret from her son.

The elder Mme. Lafarge, who had been in a bad humour ever since Marie's return, because she had been once more dispossessed of her kingdom, received this confidence with touching gratitude, and bathing her daughter-in-law's hands with tears of happiness, thanked her warmly for her generosity.

But if this business passed off pleasantly, that of the new manager did not. Mme. Lafarge took an instant dislike to this man, who was of a vulgar Parisian type, one with whom her rela-tives would never have associated, a creature whom she would never have met in the salons she frequented in the capital. His name was Denis, his appearance common, his manner insolent and his habits coarse.

When Mme. Lafarge protested to her husband against this choice of a manager, he declared that though the exterior of M. Denis was not very prepossessing, everything must be put up with since he was such a clever manager, such an expert in iron foundry and such an enthusiastic worker.

Mme. Lafarge, however, soon discovered—and that from the lips of M. Denis himself—that this new manager had had no experi-ence at all in the iron business; by his own admission he had been brought up in idleness, but losing all his money through a bad speculation, he had been reduced to accepting a position as assistant in a shop where iced lemonades were sold, which had been his sole commercial experience.

Stupefied and outraged by this intelligence, Mme. Lafarge reproached her husband for engaging such an assistant. She did not succeed, however, in shaking his resolution to retain the insolent M. Denis in his employment.

Marie Lafarge's indignation was heightened by the fact that her mother-in-law had taken the stranger into great favour and seemed to regard him as a second son. For a day or so the offended lady endured the presence of this man at her table and in her salon, then, his odious familiarities becoming insupportable, she declared that she would no longer tolerate an intimacy with one so detestable.

At this, Mme. Lafarge the elder, in high umbrage, took M. Denis off with her every morning to share her chamber with the fattening pigs and turkeys, the ripening cheeses and the cakes and sweet-meats that she was eternally cooking on her untidy hearth.

Soon after the making of the will and the arrival of M. Denis at Glandier, M. Lafarge informed his wife of the state of his business affairs. These, the young woman soon discovered, were not altogether satisfactory. From the long and rambling explanation that her husband gave her, and that she only partly understood, she gathered the salient fact that the iron foundry required more capital, and required it rather desperately at once.

One of the troubles with which M. Lafarge, who spent so much of his time shut in his little office on the ground floor, had to contend was shortage of wood and the high cost of the modicum he was able to pi ocure. He had used nearly all the ancient oaks planted by the Carthusians; the forests were cleared for miles round and it had now become necessary to purchase and transport wood from a long way off.

Faced with this embarrassment the young man had set himself to work to invent a process whereby the iron could be smelted and thus spend less on wood. He explained this to his young wife, who understood nothing of it at all, but, moved by his courtesy and enthusiasm, showed herself pleased and attentive. He then told her that he meant to go to Paris to patent his invention and to raise, by a mortgage on the ironworks, some of the capital he required. He suggested that she should lend him some money by realising some of her capital; this of course could, and would, easily be put back when the ironworks were again prosperous.

M. Lafarge spoke boldly and confidently; he was sure that a large fortune was round the corner and that when his invention was patented he would become one of the richest men in France. He also suggested to Marie that she should write to her various well-placed friends and relations begging them to recommend him to the Minister as a fitting person to receive a patent and to give him introductions to various people likely to be interested in his business and to invest in Glandier.

Marie agreed and wrote in warm terms to her relatives and friends, speaking of her increased happiness in her marriage, of the bright prospects of the iron foundry, of the virtues and devo-tion of her husband, and begging them to lend him all the help in their power.

Affairs were at this juncture when two of Marie's friends, a M. and Mme. Sabatié, arrived to pay her a visit. This filled the young woman with pleasure and excitement; they were the first friends of her girlhood whom she had seen since her marriage, and she exerted herself to do them honour. She was no longer ashamed of Glandier, because not only had she really improved it, but she had surrounded it with all the glamour of her day-dreams and already saw it as a Gothic castle of no mean pretension.

M. Lafarge made himself very agreeable to his wife's friends and all four of them laughed over his story of the letter—"full of frightful lies," as Marie herself said—that she had written on the night of her first arrival at Glandier. All that romantic episode was now a matter for jest and raillery, and Marie was really proud when she was able to show Mme. Sabatié her genuine Gothic cloisters, the magnificent ruins of the Carthusian church, and several fine statues and arches that her masons had excarated.

Before M. and Madame Sabatié left Glandier, M. Lafarge had discovered that the lady had a property worth three hundred thousand francs situated a long way from Paris that her husband was anxious to sell, and he at once urged M. Sabatié to get rid of this inconvenient estate as soon as possible and to invest his capital in the ironworks at Glandier.

Soon after the departure of her friends Marie had an alarming attack of illness during which her life was despaired of; the local doctors, called in hastily by the alarmed Lafarge family, declared that she was suffering from an attack of nerves that had brought on a cerebral congestion, that her life had only been saved by the attention of Clementine, who was continually pouring iced water over her head, and the devotion of M. Lafarge, who held her feet for hours in a bath of hot water.

When Marie recovered consciousness after lying senseless for several days, she was touched, moved and even further reconciled to Glandier by the emotions she saw on the faces of all those gathered round her bedside. Even her mother-in-law, whom she had come to regard with dislike and suspicion, seemed overwhelmed by the prospect of her loss; Emma Pontier was in tears, M. Lafarge had not left her bedside day and night for nearly a week, and in the ante-chamber all the servants, over whom she had so elegantly tyrannised, and all the workmen who had been labouring to erect her Gothic château for her, were on their knees praying for her recovery.

Touched by all this enthusiastic affection Marie Lafarge languidly returned to life, and soon after she was out of danger her young husband took his departure for Paris, after an affectionate farewell and warm good wishes from Marie.

* * * * *

The autumn days were now closing down into winter, but Marie Lafarge was able to look forward to that gloomy season with some equanimity. She had really made herself comfortable; her large bedchamber was daintily furnished, there was a soft carpet on the floor, the bed was freshly curtained, adorned with fine linen sheets and satin coverlets, the walls of the room had been papered in silver, a large, handsome writing desk held everything that was necessary for an author, muslin curtains of a brilliant whiteness shaded by others of rose-coloured silk were at the window, and on the shining walls were portraits of all those whom Marie had loved or lost—her mother, her father, her grandfather, her infant half-sister, her uncles and aunts—charming miniatures in dainty frames tied up with coquettish bows of satin and velvet. A handsome press held all Marie's Parisian toilette, kept in exquisite condition by Clementine, and still, after several months of provincial wear, sufficiently up-to-date to dazzle the whole of the Limousin. This chamber, furnished also with books, music, materials for water-colour painting and embroidery, was regarded as a sanctuary by Marie, and the door that communicated with the ill-kept chamber of M. Lafarge was never unlocked.

The absence of her "lord and master" added considerably to Marie Lafarge's peace of mind; when he was far away he was easier to idealise, she did not have under her eyes the hundred and one instances of meanness, inferiority, common and vulgar ideas that prevented her from really respecting or admiring her husband. Besides, when he was away he wrote her love-letters, passionate and romantic enough to please even her difficult taste; she liked to receive these and she liked to answer them. This she did in a fantastic, extravagant strain, forgetting in the pleasure of putting her amorous feelings on paper the man to whom the was writing.

Often in the evening she would put on a ball-gown, loosen her hair, put through her locks a spray of the only flowers then available—ground ivy or mistletoe—and, with a mirror in front of her in which she could see her pale and noble reflection whenever she raised her eyes, would write with her dangerous facility letters full of devotion, passion and friendship to the absent Charles Lafarge. He replied in the same strain, on one occasion even going so far as to write protestations of eternal devotion in his own blood, to which he affixed with a speck of gum a lock of his own hair, bidding his beloved little Marie kiss the place three or four times because his lips had already rested there.

Marie Lafarge tried to keep this interesting and even exciting correspondence entirely to herself. She found that she had to face the jealousy and suspicion of her mother-in-law, who wished to see every line her son wrote. Marie Lafarge tried to arrange this difficulty by asking her husband to send her formal letters she could show to his mother and others enclosed that would be for herself alone. This trickery was soon discovered by the elder woman, who made a bitter scene on the strength of it, and soon after retired altogether to her own apartment, where she suffered no one to enter but the favourite M. Denis, who was disliked every day more and more by Marie, who kept out of his way when possible, and who, when forced to meet him in her house, gave him disdainful glances.

She was glad of the quarrel that had rid her of the sad, gloomy and suspicious presence of Mme. Lafarge, and she made the devoted and romantic Emma Pontier her sole companion. The two young women spent all their leisure together, reading romances and poetry, playing or singing, comparing and discussing their frocks, their embroidery, their water-colours, their daydreams. They wandered together in the ruins that the masons had now abandoned until the spring, and that, dark and foreboding, rose up with true Gothic gloom against the cloudy skies of the departing year. Emma read aloud from the pages of Chateaubriand while Marie played Schubert or Mozart.

The effect of this delicious harmony of poetry and music was often too much for the tender and impressionable organism of Emma. Sometimes when the heavy twilight invaded the salon, when black shadows lay in the corners of the lofty room, it seemed to both these sensitive young women that phantoms surrounded them, and Emma would rest her head on Marie's shoulders and break into melancholy tears. Mme. Lafarge would sometimes share her young cousin's agitation and the two would be found clasped together weeping when the servant brought in the lamp.

As the winter evenings shortened, Emma Pontier took up her residence at Glandier; her home, that of a hard-working provincial doctor, was a poor one; she had little fortune and small hope of any but an ordinary marriage. Resigned to this fate, with little ambition and no bitterness in her gentle disposition, the young girl indulged, however, with an almost despairing avidity, in romantic dreams; seated either in the bedchamber or in the salon by the dying fire in those precious twilight hours before the light was brought in, the two girls would repeat to each other the romantic and horrible stories connected with Glandier, which Emma had known all her life and which Marie had lately heard from the lips of her mother-in-law or the servants, told in the hushed whispers of trembling credulity.

They talked of the seven monks whose murders had been the cause of the foundation of the Carthusian monastery, they talked of the brother who, in the days long ago, had murdered his own child in the convent and cast its body into the lake, they discussed the ghost of the old abbot that was supposed at night to traverse the ruined cloisters chanting the penitential psalms; then there was the tale of the mistress of Glandier who, two generations before, had been apprised of the approaching death of her husband by a supernatural kiss, cold as ice, upon her forehead in the middle of the night. Mme. Lafarge the elder had herself often declared in a voice full of terror that she had frequently seen, when alone on a cold and stormy winter night, a grey phantom creep into her fire and extend skeleton hands to the blaze, while from the depths of the shadowy skull frozen tears had slowly trickled from the empty eye-sockets.

Emma and Marie often sat up till two or three in the morning, playing the piano, reading novels and telling each other these stories. On one such occasion Marie, with her hair loosened to her waist and a garland of flowers on her brow—artificial blooms of silk and velvet, for it was impossible to gather natural blossoms at this season of the year—was seated at the piano playing mournful melodies. Emma, restless and refusing to go to bed, had insisted on opening Marie's trunk and on bringing out her wedding dress. Then nothing would please Emma but Marie must attire herself in this virginal splendour; pleased at this insistence, half-intoxicated by the love-letters she had been writing, by the music she had been playing and by the gloomy silence of the hour, Marie agreed. She was arrayed by the tender, admiring Emma in her bridal splendour, covered with her veil of English lace and crowned with her garland of orange blossom. Sighing in voluptuous melancholy the young woman indulged in mournful reflections, thinking of all the romantic hopes that had filled her foolish heart when last she had donned this splendid attire and how all now were dispersed by the cold breath of reality.

Emma insisted on having her bed brought into Marie's chamber, so Clementine carried in the little couch and placed it beside the high-curtained, draped bed of Madame Lafarge. She then bade good-night to the two young ladies and left them. A solitary lamp lit the large room and outside a thunderstorm began to break above the ruins, the hills, the river of Glandier.

Marie, still in her bridal attire, sat upon the bed clasping in a kind of rapture of terror the small, frail hand of Emma. Suddenly the lamp went out and the large room was lit only by the flickering flames of the expiring fire.

"I am afraid," whispered Emma, nervously pressing closer to her friend.

Marie was a little afraid herself, but feeling it her duty to reassure the younger girl she began to tell her tales of somnambulism, magnetism and other such wonders that in the opinion of some people were supposed to explain all seeming supernatural happenings.

While Marie was speaking, however, she was distracted, as was her companion, by the sound of the rain on the window, the whining of the wind in the corridor, the hoots of the owls outside and the distant bark of the wolves in the mountains. She gradually became silent; the two girls, half concealed under Marie's bridal veil, clasped each other convulsively. The sinking fire now lit only the corners of the piano, which looked like an immense coffin.

Emma shivered, her teeth chattered. Marie felt her heart heavy with presentiments. It seemed to her that a gigantic phantom of a monk stood between her and the window. With a stifled cry she pressed Emma to her heart; the two girls plunged beneath the sheets and coverlets, and hiding their heads in the bed curtains remained thus mute and trembling until the first ray of light was announced by the bell of the angelus.

The next morning at déjeuner the two girls recounted to Mme. Lafarge what they had imagined they had seen during the sombre storm of that gloomy night; Marie however did not add to her account a description of the phantom of the monk; she felt unwilling, she told herself, to add another superstition to all the superstitions that already troubled the solitude of Glandier.

* * * * *

The elder Mme. Lafarge began to show herself very jealous of her daughter-in-law's friendship for Emma and took an opportunity of telling the young girl the story of Marie Lafarge's arrival at Glandier, of the letter on sky-blue paper she had written, in which she avowed her love for another man and her intention to fly to Smyrna. To this tale, already fantastic, she added a few spiteful touches of her own invention; so the poor child was affected and depressed.

Marie Lafarge, noticing a change in the demeanour of her confidente, soon got from her an account of the old woman's perfidy, which she was able to counter-balance by telling Emma the whole story of her courtship, marriage, her journey to the Limousin, the scenes at Orleans, all the incidents disgusting, horrible or trivial that had led up to the state of affairs in which she had written the letter full of such fantastic lies.

Emma entirely sympathised with her friend, and the two girls became more confidential than ever, the more so as M. Pontier, the father of Emma, soon left the Limousin to go on business to Algiers for a long visit.

* * * * *

Into this indolent, dreamy, romantic existence continued to come reminders of the reality of the outer world—desperate letters from M. Lafarge. He found it very difficult to obtain his patent; as for the loan, the achievement of this seemed to present insuperable difficulties; a succession of disastrous speculations had rendered bankers irritable and suspicious. M. Lafarge again asked his wife for monetary assistance, and in return she sent him a letter that amounted to a power of attorney, telling him that he might either sell or raise a mortgage on the land she had inherited from her grandfather at Villers-Hellon. She begged him to have patience and courage, and declared that she would stand beside him as loyal partner and wife in all his difficulties. He replied to this generous offer with a letter full of gratitude and a passionate request for her portrait.

Marie accordingly had this executed by a neighbour, a certain Mlle. Ann Lebrun, who was an amateur painter of high local reputation and miserable performance. Mme. Lafarge did not like this young woman, whom she termed in her heart "an old maid," and who was flattering and servile in a far from pleasant manner, but who seemed at the same time intriguing, shrewd and sharp-tongued.

After several days of intense labour Mlle. Lebrun produced a female face with eyes, nose, lips, a red-and-white complexion, a mass of black hair posed against a bright blue sky and tied by a knot of bright pink ribbon. Mme. Lafarge the elder declared herself enthusiastic over this portrait; Mlle. Lebrun admitted that it was a fine piece of work, and when Marie Lafarge protested that the complexion was far too bright, the answer was that rosy cheeks looked very well against a bright blue sky.

The picture was carefully packed up to be sent by the post-chaise to Paris, and, as a pretty romantic thought, Marie Lafarge added to the parcel six of the little cakes that her mother-in-law was so skilful in making and of which her son was so fond. She asked him to eat these on a certain evening at a certain hour; she would, at the same time, eat another such cake, after a feast of turkey and truffles, and this would form a mystic love-feast. She also asked her husband to send her a few little cakes from the famous shop Felix that had been one of the charming rendez-vous for herself and her friends during her joyous girlhood in Paris. Not, she added, that she thought the cakes would be eatable by the time they reached Glandier, but even to see and touch one would evoke pleasant memories.

Antonine, Mme. de Violaine, Marie Lafarge's sister, was in Paris, and Marie suggested to her husband that she should be invited to the little feast. In her turn, she invited Mme. Buffière to Glandier, but this lady refused, saying that she was too ill to make the journey. Marie Lafarge, however, held her "little feast of the absent ones," as she termed it, and the sombre château of Glandier echoed to the sound of music, dancing, songs, the clink of glasses and the notes of laughter and animated conversation. Mme. Lafarge had brought in the servants and workmen, who still, when-ever the weather was fine enough, were employed in embellishing the Gothic ruins, to share in this feast, and Clementine made that delicate China tea which was still the wonder of Glandier.

In cups of tea and in glasses of wine the health of M. Lafarge, the absent master of Glandier and the ironworks, and success to his hopes of obtaining a loan and a patent for his invention were drunk.

Marie's solitude was soon after enlivened by the presence of her little niece. Mme. Buffière was expecting another child and found it convenient to send her child to Glandier. No sooner had this charming creature, who was however rude and wild, arrived at the château than Mlle. Lebrun expressed a passionate desire to paint her portrait. For this reason, or under this excuse, the elder Mme. Lafarge invited her to stay at the château indefinitely, since she declared that it would take her several weeks—or perhaps months—to paint the charming little rosebud in a manner that would do her justice.

When a letter arrived from M. Lafarge acknowledging receipt of the packet, it was discovered that Marie's scheme of a love-feast had been a failure. M. Lafarge had received the cakes and the portrait on December 17th, the day after that which his wife had arranged for the festival. He had had a business appointment and been forced to leave his room almost immediately after he had received the parcel; he had however broken off a morsel of the cake and eaten that; Madame de Violaine was absent from Paris.

After his return late in the evening he had been taken very ill with a frightful headache and vomiting, and he informed his wife that his health was by no means re-established. Nor had he been successful in his business. The Ministry still delayed in granting him a patent and the only money he had been able to obtain was that which he had raised on his wife's property; this sum, of about 25,000 francs, he was bringing back with him to Glandier, for, despairing of obtaining any results from a longer stay in Paris, he had decided to come home without waiting either for the patent or the possibility of a further loan on his property.

Mlle. Lebrun, who was plain, poor, of a complaining turn of mind, allied herself to the party of the elder Mme. Lafarge, and when she was not meddling at her daub that was supposed to represent the little Mlle. Buffière, she was closeted with the old lady, and sometimes with M. Denis, in the bedchamber where the cheeses ripened and the turkeys fattened. Marie Lafarge, disdaining this intrigue, kept herself aloof; she was glad, she declared to her mother-in-law, to offer her home and her hospitality to poor Mlle. Lebrun, but she did not desire too much of her company, to which the old woman replied that she was trying to marry the unfortunate spinster to a rich widower of the neighbouring town, a certain "monsieur" who lived at Excideuil, not far from Faye.

So far the two Mesdames Lafarge had been on terms of armed neutrality during the absence of the master of the house, but a few days before his return was expected a terrible scene disclosed the real state of affairs.

This began by the elder woman's remarking on two rich pearls, set either side a handsome diamond, which Marie Lafarge wore to fasten her elegant collar of English lace, and which the prudent provincial declared was far too splendid to be worn when reading a novel or playing the piano. Marie Lafarge, with some disdain, replied that these rich jewels had been a wedding present from a relative. The talk then fell upon Marie Lafarge's fortune, the land she owned at Villers-Hellon, the money she might raise with the help of her wealthy relatives until the younger woman understood that it was the intention of the Lafarge family to absorb every penny she possessed. Too unbusinesslike, frivolous and light-headed to realise that she might be reducing herself to penury through sheer carelessness, that her husband and his relatives might be deceiving her and the ironworks worth little or nothing, she said with her grand air to the elder Mme. Lafarge:

"You know I have made a will in favour of Charles. He shall have everything save a few legacies. Besides, I have already sent Charles a power of attorney in Paris and he has raised money on my property at Villers-Hellon."

The elder woman seemed satisfied with this declaration and took the opportunity of drawing a paper from her pocket and of giving it to her daughter-in-law to sign. This the young woman did, indifferently enough. It was, her mother-in-law told her, an order for wood, which it was absolutely necessary to have unless the factories were to close down.

Marie Lafarge demanded, with a flash of insight: "Is Charles then so much in debt that his name alone is not good enough to obtain credit?"

The elder Mme. Lafarge did not reply, but with pursed-up lips and an air of offence left the salon.

The young woman felt angry. Despite their submission, their flatteries, their almost servility, she began to suspect that all these people were using her; she remembered the will, the power of attorney, and she thought that perhaps before she had signed either she should have had the advice of her aunts and uncles. With this thought vaguely in her mind and with some unformed intention of telling M. de Martens or M. Garat of her circumstances, Marie Lafarge went to the desk in the salon where she had seen her mother-in-law put the holograph will she had given her some months before. The desk was unlocked, but the will had gone.

Marie then went to her mother-in-law's apartment, the one chamber in the house that she usually carefully avoided, and entering, demanded of the old lady the will.

After many evasions and much delay this was produced, and Marie took it to her own bedchamber, drew it out of the envelope and began to peruse it. She noticed at once, with rage and dismay, that it was not the same document that she had given to her mother-in-law, although it embodied the same intentions. She soon saw what had been done. Mme. Lafarge had broken the seal after solemnly promising not to do so, had read the will, had taken it to the family lawyer and had it recast in watertight, legal terms, while Marie's signature, cut from the holograph script, had been attached to the bottom.

Marie noticed, too, with an inexpressible indignation, that her legacies to her sister and her relatives had been cut out, and that the will as it stood now left Charles Lafarge the absolute heir to all that she might possess at the time of her decease.

"What," she exclaimed, "they have speculated in my marriage! Do they now wish to speculate in my death?"—and she went at once in a tempest of indignation to her mother-in-law's room and charged her with breaking open the envelope that contained the secret will and altering it.

The elder woman made no attempt to deny her offence, but falling on her knees besought her daughter-in-law's pity, declaring that what she had done had been entirely for the sake of her beloved Charles, that she had not wished to disturb Marie with dry legal details and that she thought she had done her a service in consulting the lawyer secretly. She refused to rise from her knees or to cease her entreaties until Mme. Charles, exhausted and overwrought, promised not to mention her fault to her son.

The elder woman then began her usual flattery and coaxing, and told Marie that she was certain to have a child—and probably before long—and that would make all questions regarding the will ridiculous, as of course another one would have to be made leaving everything to the infant heir.

This talk of her possible maternity pleased and flattered Marie; she had always promised herself if she had a child that it should be a daughter, and named Jacqueline in memory of her beloved grandfather.

Seeing her pleased and soothed, the elder woman began to tell her that she was sure from her pallor, fainting fits, nausea and so on, that she was likely to have a child quite soon. Marie thought that from the platonic relations she maintained with her husband this was not likely, but allowed herself to be persuaded by the experienced matron that it might be possible. She returned to her room confused and excited by this new thought, but still full of suspicion and indignation towards Mme. Lafarge. She wrote to her sister and aunt speaking of the possible advent of "little Jacqueline."

The commotion caused by this scene had scarcely died down when the young ironmaster returned home. It was clear both to his mother and to his wife the moment he stepped from his carriage that he was extremely ill; he was not able to give them any information about his affairs, but was at once hurried to bed; he seemed better, shared the débris of a chicken and truffles with his wife, then immediately dropped into a state of insensibility broken only by violent attacks of pain and vomiting fits.

Charles Lafarge had brought with him two heavy leather cases that contained the 25,000 francs he had raised on his wife's property and that had been in the charge of a trusty domestic. On his arrival at Glandier, M. Lafarge, though half-unconscious, had ordered this precious money to be placed in his office. This was done, and in the confusion of his sudden and, as it seemed, terrible illness, no further notice was taken of the matter.

The household, ruled over by two women of conflicting interests and tempers, had never been harmonious or well-organised, and now at this crisis speedily fell into chaos. Not only his wife and his mother, but M. Denis, the other clerk Magnaud, Mlle. Lebrun, Clementine and all the servants passed in and out of the chamber of the sick man, whose attacks of pain were frightful to behold and whose weakness was alarming.

When M. Fleyniat, a doctor and uncle of the patient, arrived, however, he made light of the illness, declaring that it was due merely to indigestion—to which M. Lafarge was very subject—and the fatigue of the journey added to business anxieties, as a cure he ordered copious drinks of orangeade. After M. Lafarge had partaken of this refreshment he seemed much better, and calling his wife to his bedside, showed her with pride a paper that he drew from underneath his pillow. It was none other than the long-expected patent for his smelting invention that he had finally obtained.

Marie received this surprise with joy and enthusiasm, and in her turn showed her husband a little present she had had sent from Paris during his absence. This consisted of a little seal in green malachite engraved with a device of her own invention that included a forge.

M. Lafarge displayed this trifle with great pleasure to his mother, exclaiming: "How Marie loves me! How good she is! She is always thinking of me, even when I'm absent!"

The elder Mme. Lafarge did not, however, share her son's pleasure. After the scene about the will she had, despite her remorse and dismay, adopted a very hostile, bitter attitude towards her daughter-in-law.

Asking his wife to share his supper, which his weakness forced him to take in bed, M. Lafarge questioned her about what had happened during his absence. She had nothing but ill news to give him. She told him of the increasing negligence and impertinence of M. Denis, of the lack of charcoal that had caused a large portion of the factory to close down, of her own loneliness, personal grief and torment; immediately after supper the invalid was taken with a terrible attack of pain; he passed, however, a good night, but in the morning was extremely weak. He made an effort to interview M. Denis and enquired about the two bags of money that had been left in his office; M. Denis reported to him that these were safe.

M. Buffière, the brother-in-law, then arrived and had a long interview with the sick man that seemed to leave him suffering and exhausted.

By five o'clock that evening his attacks of sickness had become alarmingly violent; they were attributed by his mother to some meringues filled with perfumed whipped cream that he had insisted on taking at midday.

M. Buffière made light of the whole affair and told the young wife that his brother-in-law frequently had these attacks; but there being no abatement in M. Lafarge's illness, no one went to bed that night in Glandier. The elder Mme. Lafarge showed the greatest anxiety and lack of control and, wandering about the house, declared that her son had been poisoned, probably by his enemies in Paris; and she went back to the old story that her husband had been disposed of by a piece of poisoned nougat; she added gloomily that his symptoms were exactly the same as those from which her son was now suffering.

At two o'clock in the morning another doctor, M. Bardon, arrived in the midst of the agitated household. Marie Lafarge met him in the entrance hall, which was always to her so gloomy and sinister, and told him of the state of the invalid and the frightful suspicions of his mother.

The good doctor laughed and said that Mme. Lafarge suffered from a very fantastic imagination. After he had examined the invalid, he said that there were no signs of poison, that Charles Lafarge was suffering from an inflammation of the stomach; he added that the death of his father had been a natural one, that he had looked after him himself; he declared, too, that Charles Lafarge suffered from an angina, and he gave his wife directions for nursing him; he was to be given nothing cold but to have frequent doses of soothing syrups.

While the doctor was giving these directions to Marie Lafarge in the bedchamber of her sick husband, he noticed the noise the rats made by running about overhead, and he asked the young lady if she had never done anything to combat this nuisance.

She replied that she had, after trying nux vomica in vain, bought a small quantity of arsenic on December 12th, that she had mixed this with flour and water and laid it about in various cupboards, but that this had had no effect, as it had been ruined through the stupidity of a servant, who had mixed it so stiffly that it was like nothing but a piece of plaster and quite impossible to break or for the animals to gnaw.

M. Bardon then advised Marie Lafarge to mix with the flour and poison some sugar and butter, and as she declared she had no more arsenic he advised her to buy more, so she wrote a little note to the same chemist, M. Eyssartier, asking him to send some arsenic, some marshmallow and some powdered gum with other medicinal articles.

* * * * *

Charles Lafarge did not prove an amiable invalid; he sent "to the devil" everyone who came into his chamber and showed the greatest annoyance and rage when he saw his brother-in-law, his sister and his mother gossiping together in corners. He was also intensely exasperated that, when his affairs were in such a disastrous state, he was not able to rise to attend to them; all the women in the house went to and fro for hours with drinks, frictions, poultices and broth, as well as the medicines ordered by the doctor, so that there was a perpetual cancan in the sick man's chamber, but none thought of hushing their agitated voices, their lamentations, their contradictions and counter-directions for his sake.

Mlle. Lebrun made herself so useful that her hostess begged her to spend a few more days at Glandier, so she joined the others in running between the kitchen and the sick chamber with glasses, bowls and pots full of various nauseous, useless and sickly mixtures.

All the while there was a determined but subtle and underground battle going on between wife and mother for the favours of the sick man, who showed a decided preference for the younger woman, which filled her with ignoble triumph and encouraged her to show off before the mother the dominion she had over the son. She believed herself justified in this unpleasant action because she had learnt from the broken sentences of Charles that his mother had done her best to poison his mind against his wife.

The confusion in Glandier increased hourly, and the hatred of the famille Lafarge for Marie Cappelle became so manifest that even her vanity could no longer mistake the passions she had aroused in the hearts of these people whom she had despised and whom she had treated with such flippant condescension.

She became aware that she was an object of fear and detestation to Madame Lafarge mère, that M. Denis, the clerk Magnaud, and M. Buffière, who had returned to Glandier on the news of his brother-in-law's illness, were all working against her, that she, in some obscure way, was interfering with their plans, that she had no friend or ally in this dismal dwelling save her maid Clementine, the Parisienne Mion, whom she had installed in the kitchen, Alfred, the manservant, son of her father's old coachman, who had been sent from Villers-Hellon, and Emma Pontier who paid frequent visits from Uzerche.

M. Lafarge was installed in his wife's large bedchamber, which she had furnished so comfortably for her own use, and Marie occupied the adjoining room that had been his; as this opened directly on to the stairs, it served as a corridor to the sick chamber and Marie had neither privacy nor repose. The elder Madame Lafarge, Mlle. Lebrun, Denis and his wife, the clerk Magnaud, went freely in and out of M. Lafarge's room, with remedies, tisanes of all descriptions, lamenting, chattering, offering advice and discussing business affairs; the wife and her maid, the other servants also took their turns at watching and dosing the patient, who, tormented by this continual brouhaha about his bed, tossed about with cries of despair and furious curses.

The confusion was increased by the arrival of an aunt, Madame Panzini, who rushed into the mêlée with new balms, new tisanes, new plasters and advice so voluble that the groans and protests of her nephew could scarcely be heard above her flood of words; she also brought some holy water that Marie Lafarge drank in error.

* * * * *

The weather was wild; torrents of rain blotted out the view from the windows, hung with Marie's fresh muslin curtains, violent gusts of wind wailed along the narrow corridors, rushed down the chimneys and blew out the ashes and embers of the dreary neglected dwelling that Marie Cappelle's efforts had done so little to improve; baths, medicines, drinks of all kinds, plasters, balsams, were continually being prepared, not only in the kitchen, but in the bedchamber of Madame Lafarge mère and on the grate in the rooms occupied by the patient and his wife.

All these attentions were violently refused by Charles Lafarge, who would take nothing but copious draughts of cold water.

M. Bardon, who came every morning, ordered soothing drinks, leeches, hot flannels, and plasters and continued to assure wife and mother that the illness was not dangerous, but merely the result of fatigue and worry, and that the seeming agonies of the patient were mere manifestations of a violent, nervous and choleric temperament.

On one occasion he gave M. Lafarge a gargle of alum, which the patient declared burnt his throat, and was, he was sure, vitriol, which had been given him by mistake. He added that M. Bardon kept his surgery in dirt and disorder and was quite likely to make such an error.

As the miserable days, filled with recriminations, arguments, expressions of unrestrained alarm, agitation and suspense, dragged on, the sufferings of Charles Lafarge increased; his vomitings became less frequent, but his attacks of agony succeeded one another with frightful rapidity.

The brief hours of murky daylight were followed by the long nights lit by oil lamps and candles; there was no sleep for the patient, and little for those who considered themselves his nurses. Marie, exhausted, sickened by the revolting details of her husband's illness, was weakened by cramp in the stomach and a severe cough on her chest; she vomited every time she tried to eat and was tormented with a constant headache.

With an extraordinary display of nervous energy, she refused to take more than a few hours of repose and kept her place by her husband's bed and took her turn in waiting on him.

The scenes she had to witness were of the most appalling description; one night Charles Lafarge, in a paroxysm of agony, tried to open his veins with a razor and to dash his head against the wall; he was quieted by the buckets of cold water that the shuddering Marie emptied over his naked torso, and by the bitter winter air flowing in from the window that Ann Lebrun desperately opened.

As the patient regarded his wife with more favour than the other members of his household, she was charged with the thankless task of endeavouring to induce him to take the medicines prescribed; she tried secretly to place powdered gum, marshmallow or linseed in the drinks of cold water that her husband constantly demanded.

These efforts were viewed with suspicion by Madame Lafarge mère who was in and out of the two rooms "fifty times a minute" as her daughter-in-law complained, with her own particular brews and nostrums, and who continually added to the tortures of the patient by long, agitated and insistent cross-examinations as to his sufferings and so on.

* * * * *

On the Tuesday evening the patient felt easier and had fallen asleep with his head on his wife's shoulder, when his sister Amena, who had been summoned to Glandier, threw herself like a madwoman into the room and, casting herself on her brother, screamed:

"Charles—you are dying! What will become of me! Oh, my brother, I will follow you to the grave!"

A painful scene followed; the sick man, deeply alarmed, protested that he felt better; his hysterical sister, who was expecting a child in a few weeks, insisted that he was dying, and Marie, angrily, ordered M. Buffière to take his wife away. When the struggling, weeping Amena was finally dragged from the chamber, M. Lafarge was in a state of collapse from terror, and Marie had to keep guard all night to prevent his sister from re-entering his room.

On the doctor's visit the next morning his patient was so obviously worse that Marie Lafarge demanded another physician and asked for a certain M. Segeral, a man highly recommended by her uncle, M. Pontier, then in the East; Madame Lafarge mère objected to this doctor, however, and Denis was sent into Brives to fetch a certain Dr. Massenat.

This gentleman, after a long examination of the patient, declared him to be suffering from a nervous disorder—the attacks of agony, the weakness, the low pulse, the cold extremities, were all, he said, nervous symptoms. He took his leave, declaring that M.

Lafarge was in no danger and quite safe in the hands of M. Bardon. He ordered soothing syrups, chicken broth and a little opium, mounted his coupé and drove off through the rain.

Marie and Amena became reconciled on the strength of this good news and tried to induce the elder woman to take some rest; this the mother harshly refused, declaring that there was a plot to be rid of her, and sharp words were exchanged between her and Marie.

"Mon Dieu, madame!" cried the young wife. "Do as you please. As soon as Charles is well I shall go far out of the reach of your jealousies and calumnies—if he cares for me he will follow me, if he prefers you I shall not complain!"

With this declaration of open warfare Marie Cappelle swept her elegant flounces out of the sick chamber, leaving her mother-in-law to pour complaints against her into the ear of the sick man. Marie had already learned from Clementine that MM. Denis, Magnaud and Buffière were spreading all kinds of tales to her discredit in the neighbourhood; the impertinent tittle-tattle of the lively grisette did not improve the atmosphere of Glandier, already electric with evil passions.

* * * * *

The invalid complained bitterly of the rats, declaring that they jumped on his bed and drank his tisanes, while Marie had found some of her dresses, notably an elegant green amazone, and lingerie eaten by the vermin. She therefore begged M. Denis, the next time he was in Brives, to bring her the arsenic that he had once forgotten; on January 10th he handed her a large parcel that he declared contained 64 grammes of arsenic and that she placed in the pocket of her apron.

When next time she visited her husband he spoke again of the noise the rats made over his head. Upon that she said: "Never mind, I have something here that will kill an army of rats," and she showed him the arsenic that was wrapped in two papers.

He playfully reproached her for bringing the poison so near his food, and she gave it to Clementine, bidding her make a pâte—mort aux rats.

This incident took place on the Friday night; the invalid seemed better, and Marie, sick and fatigued, retired to the ante-chamber or "corridor" room that she shared with Mlle. Lebrun.

She was roused next morning by Mme. Buffière, who asked after her health and persuaded her to take a chicken broth of her own making; when this was brought Marie drank it all; her sister-in-law entering from the chamber of M. Lafarge complained that there was none of this lait de poule left for her brother, who wished par sentiment to share his wife's refreshment. The two women then agreed that Amena should prepare a second bowl of broth, which M. Lafarge would think a portion of that which his wife had drunk.

When this was brought the patient was asleep; the bowl was, therefore, placed on the night-table by the side of Marie's bed, then, after a while, taken away by Amena in order that it might be kept hot; when M. Lafarge woke he was given this broth and drank half of it.

M. Bardon arrived at midday, declared the patient better and ordered sops of bread, dipped in Bordeaux wine; when Marie gave him these, he complained that they burnt his throat and stomach. "No wonder," remarked Marie to Mlle. Lebrun. "He has gastric inflammation and they give him wine!"

That afternoon Magnaud had a business interview with M. Lafarge that terribly upset the patient. Upon Marie's protest, the clerk said:

"Eh, well, madame, if you do not want your husband fatigued, pray sign these blank papers and I can get on with the business without bothering M. Lafarge."

Marie, thereupon, very willingly signed several blank pieces of paper—undated, in accordance with the clerk's express desire.

That evening (the Saturday) Emma Pontier arrived from Uzerche and, as Marie was seized with an attack of cramp in the stomach, took over her turn of watching by the bed of M. Lafarge, whom with difficulty she induced to drink the' medicine ordered by M. Bardon.

Emma was soon rudely sent out of the sick chamber, which was again occupied by the family Lafarge and the two clerks; she joined Marie in her room and the two young women discussed the hostile behaviour of their relatives and speculated on the matters that were being so constantly and secretly discussed during the conferences held in the chamber of Mme. Lafarge mère.

Emma declared her fears that the iron foundry was ruined through speculation, but she could not understand the hostility manifested towards Marie; at four o'clock in the morning the two young women were roused to attend the sick man; he had not had the opiate ordered by the doctor and now whispered to his wife to give him this; she prepared the drink and was offering it to her husband when the mother snatched it from her hand and declared that she had put some "white powder" in it; this was, both Marie and Emma declared, powdered gum arabic, to sweeten the draught, but Madame Lafarge mère violently sent away the young women, ordering Emma to return to Uzerche, and this the girl did at daybreak, promising Marie to return soon.

On the Sunday morning, another scene occurred by the bed of the sick man; M. Denis and Mme. Amena were installed there, and when Marie offered her husband a drink, Amena snatched it from her; Charles Lafarge, half-unconscious, seemed to regard his wife with mingled terror and regretful affection.

M. Fleyniat, the doctor uncle of the patient, arrived at Glandier and had a long conference with the Lafarge family; Marie stopped him in the corridor and begged him to tell her the truth about her husband's condition.

M. Fleyniat replied that it was a pity that she had resisted the sending for another doctor; upon that she replied that for the last ten days she had desired the advice of M. Segeral, but that her mother-in-law had forbidden her to summon this doctor; M. Fleyniat seemed astonished at this; there was another family conference from which Marie was excluded, and as a result M. Denis was sent to fetch not M. Segeral, but another doctor, M. Jules Lespinas, from the town of Lubersac.

Meanwhile, M. Fleyniat ordered draughts of tepid water for the patient; this prescription was resisted by Madame Lafarge mère and her daughter, but Marie, despite their harsh protests, spent that afternoon giving her husband constant draughts of water. M. Magnaud had another interview with M. Lafarge; after this the patient appeared more distressed and turned away from his wife when she re-entered his room.

The family, their hatred for the Parisienne now hardly veiled, scornfully ordered Marie to her chamber, but she refused to leave and, taking a book, sat, pale and rigid, in a corner of the sick chamber, while the women and the two men laughed and gossiped by the light of the oil lamps, M. Magnaud finally falling asleep with-his head on the shoulder of Amena.

Towards two o'clock in the morning Denis returned, bringing M. Lespinas, a young man with a self-assured, vulgar air.

After examining the patient he declared that he was suffering from gastro-enteritis, a long, painful but not fatal malady. He then began asking Marie Lafarge questions about her tastes and habits—how she liked Glandier after Paris and so on; then, approaching the fire, he put his feet on the chimney piece and with a fatuous smile sipped the sugared water that Madame Lafarge mère, with many flatteries, brought him.

Alarmed by several meaning looks that she saw exchanged between the doctor and her husband's relatives, Marie demanded what they were concealing from her; for answer they all combined in entreating her to preserve her health for this long, but not dangerous malady, through which she would have to help to nurse her husband. Marie Lafarge then retreated to her own chamber, though well aware that their professed care for her health was hypocritical and that the new doctor had joined the Lafarge family in a determined hostility towards herself. On the next (Monday) morning, she was allowed into her husband's room again and saw a frightful change in him; he was of a livid pallor, his eyes fixed; she fell on her knees by the bed; the dying man tried to speak, his glaring eyes were full of terror, rage and reproach; Marie glanced up and saw that the room was crowded with people who were strangers to her, relatives and friends of the Lafarge family; all there, like so many spies, stared at Marie, whispered together, and regarded her with an insatiable curiosity.

The dying man tried to speak, to touch his wife, but his watchful mother at once prevented him; unable to endure the scene, Marie rose and in silence left the room; when, a little calmed, she wished to return, she found the chamber door locked against her; driven from the "corridor" room she took refuge in a guest chamber next to that of her mother-in-law's at the other side of the house, where Clementine brought all her possessions.

* * * * *

That day, Monday, January 16th, 1840, Charles Pouch Lafarge died, without his wife's being allowed to see him again; apart from her own servants the only people that visited her were Emma and the priest who brought the viaticum; the day passed in a state of terror and suspense for the widow. Towards evening, Marie, supported by the weeping Emma, was allowed to visit the death chamber where again she was subjected to indications of icy contempt and hatred on the part of the crowd of relatives and friends.


Illustration

The last moments of M. Lafarge
From an old engraving in possession of the author.


In a state of collapse she withdrew and fell into a fit of insensibility that lasted until late on the Tuesday morning, when she was roused by the lamentations of Emma; warned by this friend to keep her room, Marie passed a day of isolation, broken only by a visit from M. Buffière, who, embracing her with tears, induced her to sign another paper "pour les affaires."

Emma and Clementine told the young widow that the Lafarge family had taken possession of the entire contents of the house, having packed up the silver and sent it to Faye, impounded all papers and so on; Madame Lafarge mère had also seized the two bags of money that her son had brought from Paris; she declared that she had found in them, not the twenty-five thousand francs Charles had said that they contained, but about five hundred francs.

Acting on Emma's advice, Marie found her husband's will that left her mistress of Glandier and sent it, by her servant Alfred, to the notary at Soissons; she wrote also several letters to her relatives, imploring them to come and fetch her home.

On the Wednesday morning, Madame Lafarge mère entered her daughter-in-law's room through the hitherto locked door that led to her own apartment, and embracing her in a friendly fashion, begged her to visit Amena, who was too ill to leave her bed. Marie complied and passed into the other room where Mme. Buffière was sitting over the fire, in a disordered mourning dress, but not, seemingly, ill; Axnena demanded her brother's patent (brevet) that she might cover it with kisses. While Marie was protesting that she did not even know where this document was she heard violent noises in her room, to which she tried to return but could not, as the door was bolted on the inside. Rushing to the outer door, Marie called Clementine, who came in considerable agitation, saying that Madame Lafarge mère was despoiling her daughter-in-law's room and that a locksmith was breaking open her desk.

"This is infamous!" cried Marie Lafarge; Amena instantly retorted: "My mother is mistress here and can do what she likes," and she added that Charles had left a later will than that his wife had just sent to Soissons, and by this all he possessed (including his wife's dowry) had gone to his mother and sister.

Soon afterwards Marie was allowed to re-enter her room and shut herself in with Clementine.

The apartment had been stripped, the desk broken open, all the papers, the marriage contract, title deeds, etc., taken away, together with Marie's family portraits, her jewellery and girlish souvenirs of Villers-Hellon, Strasbourg and Paris.

While she was still overwhelmed by this outrage Emma entered and cast herself into her arms and, sobbing, cried:

"Marie, they say that you have poisoned Charles! My aunt is saying the most frightful things! She tells everyone that you are a murderess!"

Marie Lafarge gasped out some words of astonishment and protest and sank, half-unconsciously, on the bed, imploring Emma to tell her the whole truth.

"Marie," stammered the sobbing girl, "you have had arsenic—two parcels—you spoke of arsenic in that letter you wrote to Charles, the first night that you came to Glandier—"

"But, Emma, you know that I am innocent!"

"Oh, Marie, they took some chicken broth to M. Bardon—there was white powder on the surface—the doctor said that it was ash from the fire, but M. Eyssartier, the chemist at Brives—found out that it was arsenic! If you made some fatal mistake!"

"It is impossible! I put some gum in the chicken broth—such as I ate myself, before and after—"

"Marie—Marie—that little agate box you had in your apron pocket—that I took from you yesterday—what did you have in it?"

"Powdered gum."

"Alas! No. I asked M. Fleyniat to examine that powder—it is arsenic!"

"Arsenic! Impossible! Your uncle must be mistaken—calm yourself, I beseech you!"

Both Clementine and Emma, however, continued to weep and lament, talking of the Assize court, of prison, of the scaffold, until Marie commanded them to fetch M. Fleyniat who was still at Glandier.

This gentleman entered Marie's chamber with a very embarrassed air, assured her, with a good deal of phrase-making, that he considered her innocent, then told her the case against her. The family Lafarge asserted that the cakes Marie had sent to Paris had been poisoned by her, that she had put arsenic in the truffles, in the chicken broth and in other drinks that she had given to her husband and had strewn the poison on a piece of flannel that had been used to give frictions to the patient.

Marie, though refusing to take up an attitude of defence, since her tone was one of complete innocence, yet remarked that the infamous calumnies were easily refuted, since Madame Lafarge mère had made the cakes that had been sent to Paris and Amena had prepared the chicken broth, and MM. Denis and Magnaud had given the sick man his frictions.

M. Fleyniat seemed unconvinced; he declared that M. Lespinas was certain that Lafarge had been poisoned by his wife. M. Fleyniat admitted, however, that Denis, when bringing the young doctor from Lubersac, had told him that, for a certainty, the Parisienne was dosing a detested husband with arsenic, Madame Lafarge mère, Amena and Ann Lebrun having all actually seen Marie Lafarge scatter the poison into various drinks. The young widow then learnt that, when she had been sent out of the room on the arrival of Dr. Lespinas, a frightful scene had taken place. The dying man had been told by his mother and the doctor that he had been poisoned by his wife.

Marie's reply to M. Fleyniat was to press for an autopsy and to demand once more the attendance of M. Segeral.

* * * * *

The freely circulated rumours of a crime at Glandier brought the magistrate from Lubersac on the scene twenty-four hours after the death, on January 15th; this functionary and two of his clerks, with some police directed by the father of M. Buffière made a search of the house, turned over Marie's books, her remaining papers, examined her packets of gum, of almond paste and turned over her clothes.

No sooner had these officials left the room than Alfred, the manservant from Villers-Hellon, broke in, sobbing with distress and alarm:

"My poor mistress! They say that I shall send you to the scaffold and mount it myself!"

This was the story the poor fellow told when slightly calmed: Clementine had given him the arsenic to mix into a paste for the rats; he had forgotten to do this, but had left the poison in an old hat on a commode in the chamber of M. Lafarge for two days; then, on hearing of the suspicions that were being broadcast against his mistress, he had thought to do her a service by burying the poison in the garden.

Several of his fellow-servants had seen him do this, and had told Mme. Buffière, who had informed the magistrate from Lubersac. The poison was then being sought for by the police.

Alfred had hardly finished his recital when Mion, the Parisienne cook, entered Marie's apartment, indignantly declaring that Madame Lafarge mère had accused her to her face of having poisoned the cakes sent to Paris, that the family Lafarge were pillaging the house, sending the furniture and even the provisions away; she added that the servants and the work-people were all very indignant at the accusations against Marie Lafarge.

Towards the evening M. Buffière paid his sister-in-law a visit, affecting not to have heard of the poisoning charges nor to know why an autopsy was being held on the body of his brother-in-law. He had another paper for Marie to sign, but this she refused to do until the doctor's verdict had been given, though M. Buffière spoke of bankruptcy, a dishonoured name and so on.

After a day of agonising suspense, the doctors, Bardon, Massenat, Fleyniat and Lespinas, announced that there was not the least trace of arsenic in the body of Charles Lafarge. Some of the contents of the stomach, however, was to be sent to Limoges to be analysed. Dr. Lespinas had tried to say that there was arsenic in the corpse and been rebuked by the other doctors.

To the bottles and vases containing these substances the mother added a piece of flannel that, she declared, was covered with a white powder.

A curious fact now was announced by the police—the white substance that they had dug up in the garden and that Alfred declared to Marie was what he had buried, proved not to be arsenic but bicarbonate of soda.

Marie Lafarge was now surrounded by people congratulating her on her proved innocence, even the gendarmes joining in the general rejoicing. The mother, weeping and excusing herself on the score of maternal affection, patched up a reconciliation with the daughter-in-law and soon after left Glandier with Amena, for Faye; Emma was obliged to return to Uzerche and Marie Lafarge remained alone in the stripped and dreary château which was placed in the charge of M. Denis.

The young widow now believed herself fere, even from suspicion and, as diligently as her health would permit, made preparations for her return to Paris, writing long letters to her relatives and helping Clementine and Mion to pack what remained of the exquisite trousseau she had brought from Paris. The weather was still wild and cold, continual rains blotted out the prospect of the river, the fields, the despoiled woods and the ruins where the masons no longer worked on the Gothic cloisters and arches where Marie had hoped to see some of her ideals of a feudal château realised.

All was in disorder in the house; the family Lafarge had taken away everything save the largest pieces of furniture, the Parisian muslin curtains flapped mournfully at the blank windows, the Pleyel piano looked gaunt and out of place in the chamber, bare save for that and the bed, where Charles Lafarge had died.

The carpet and the ornaments had gone from the gloomy salon, and Marie's efforts to make the sinister, dirty house attractive had by now left no trace.

The iron foundry was closed; when Madame Lafarge visited the cold forges she found several of the work-people idling about, waiting to know the future of Glandier; all movable property had been taken from the factory and everyone spoke of the enormous number of debts left by the young ironmaster.

Marie advised these workmen to seek employment at a neighbouring factory.

M. Roque, a banker and business associate of the Lafarge family, who had shown some consideration towards Marie, now waited on her and asked for payment from her dowry of 28,000 francs for money advanced by him to M. Lafarge.

When the widow exclaimed at this large sum, M. Roque showed her the guarantees on which he had advanced her husband this money; the most important of these was an alleged letter from M. de Violaine, Antonine's husband, promising to invest a large sum` in the ironworks.

Marie Lafarge at once saw that this was a forgery and said so; thereupon M. Roque brought out from his portfolio a mass of papers, all purporting to be undertakings by Marie's relatives and friends to put money in Glandier.

All were forged.

M. Roque exclaimed in anger and dismay that it was well that Charles Lafarge had died, since if he had lived he would have gone to the galleys; the painful interview ended by the young widow's signing away, for the sake of her dead husband's name, 28,000 francs of her dowry to replace the monies advanced by M. Roque.

It was now clear, even to her romantic, inexperienced mind, that she had married not only a bankrupt but a criminal, that the tales of his position, income and so on, given by Charles Lafarge before his marriage, were so many lies. It was also now obvious that all the caresses, considerations and indulgences that had been offered her to induce her to remain at Glandier had been merely traps to secure her money; her husband's secret will, leaving all his property to his mother and sister, after he had obtained a will in his favour from his wife, proved this.

It might also now be guessed that Marie had flattered herself when she had taken seriously her husband's love-letters from Paris; he had been merely humouring her in order to obtain every sou she possessed—the piano, the bathroom, the work on the ruins had all been offered with the same end. None of these amenities was paid for. Marie Lafarge, after a week's acquaintance marrying a man whom her uncle had found at a marriage broker's, had been grossly deceived and, it appeared, beggared.

M. Lalande, notary to M. Roque, tried to put a little order into the affairs of the unfortunate young woman, and learnt of the will that she had sent to her lawyer at Soissons. This M. Lalande told her that her mother-in-law was staying at Pompadour and spreading all over the department tales against Marie and still adhering to the accusation of poisoning; M. Lalande admitted that such was the hatred these two women felt for Marie that they had been bitterly disappointed at the result of the autopsy and were hoping that arsenic would be found in the organs then being examined by the chemists at Limoges.

M. Lalande added that public opinion at Brives was entirely against her—the stranger, almost regarded as a foreigner—and that MM. Magnaud, Buffière and Denis had spread such tales about her that she had not a friend in the Limousin. In conclusion he suggested flight and offered her his cabriolet and his wife's passport.

Marie Lafarge refused the offer, but, as she was without a sou, accepted a loan of several hundred francs from the kindly lawyer.

* * * * *

Soon after Emma Pontier arrived at Glandier with bitter news; M. Buffière had sent to the magistrate Marie's letter of August 15th, written on sky-blue paper, and other letters stolen from her rifled desk; an immense quantity of arsenic had been found in the dregs of chicken broth, on the flannels used for frictions, in the little box taken by Emma from Marie's pocket; did not all this poison account for the missing lump of arsenic for which had been substituted the bicarbonate of soda?

Here were mysteries that were interpreted in a manner entirely to the discredit of Marie Lafarge; Ann Lebrun, ill with an attack of nerves, declared her state due to having seen Marie put the arsenic in the broth, and M. Denis also told the angry creditors that for fifteen days the Parisienne had poisoned her husband, after having ruined him by her crazy extravagance.

Towards the end of the month the Public Prosecutor for the department of Corrèze, and the magistrate from Brives, visited Glandier and examined M. Denis, the servants, and Ann Lebrun summoned from her sick-bed.

Afterwards they examined Marie Lafarge for the space of three hours; the two lawyers behaved with consideration and even sympathy towards the wretched young woman whose health was so obviously ruined, whose situation, innocent or guilty, was so forlorn, so frightful, whose surroundings were so sordid and globmy. The result of the interview, during which Marie had wept, lamented and shown every symptom of despair, was that the Public Prosecutor, M. Rivet, announced that she would be arrested and conducted by gendarmes to the prison at Brives.

The scene of despair that followed was only relieved by the offers of Emma and Clementine to share the misfortunes of Marie, and even her cell. This offer was refused by the police. M. Brugère, a local lawyer, who had offered to protect the accused woman's interests, waited on the Prosecutor-General, M. Dumont Saint-Priest, at Limoges, and asked the favour of escorting the prisoner and her maid to Brives in his own carriage, with a police guard.

M. Dumont Saint-Priest, however, had already listened to the stories of Madame Lafarge mère and her allies and had accepted their view of the odious conduct of Marie—he therefore refused all favours to a monstre as he termed the young widow. Marie waited, under arrest and a guard of gendarmes in Glandier, for the result of M. Brugère's appeal.

M. Denis continued to reside in the desolate house and one evening broke into Marie's chamber, completely drunk, exulting in her terrible misfortune, jeering at her "head of a Princess" that would soon roll on the scaffold, reminding her that she had thought herself too good to sit at the same table with himself and adding that she would soon find herself in prison, in company with the most degraded of women.

To rid herself of this man, Marie was forced to call one of the police to her assistance.

* * * * *

On a windy, wet morning at one o'clock, at the end of January, in the complete dark, Marie Lafarge left Glandier under circumstances even more dismal than those that had marked her miserable arrival at this gloomy abode.

She went on horseback, riding Arabska, the companion of her romantic rides, with the mounted police closing in on her on every side and a peasant to guide the party across the mountains to Vigeois, where a carriage awaited the prisoner.

She had been a kind mistress and the servants, work-people and peasants who gathered by torch and lantern light to see this tragic departure, called down blessings on her head, and expressed their belief in her innocence.

The rain increased as the cavalcade made a painful progress under the bare trees, the black skies, along the steep, slippery paths. By the time the dawn cast a melancholy light through the forest, the guide had lost his way, and the prisoner herself was forced to act as guide. Marie was soaked to the skin; one of the gendarmes gave her his mantle to cover her shivering shoulders and his huge gloves to slip over her icy hands.

After five hours of this toilsome progress, Marie arrived at Vigeois; there she found M. Fleyniat, who offered to accompany her to Brives.

Half-way to this town the prisoner was in a state of collapse and had to rest several hours at a wayside inn, so that it was late in the winter day when the solitary carriage with the drenched escort of police drove into the main square of Brives, where the prison was situated. A large crowd had gathered, and cries of hate, fury and contempt assailed the ears of the exhausted woman as the police forced a way through the press for the carriage.

Soon the door of the prison cell closed on Marie Lafarge; she stumbled into her cell and flung herself on the narrow bed above which hung, on the bare walls, the gaunt outlines of the crucifix. On hearing of her arrest M. de Léautaud had accused her of steal-ing his wife's diamonds.

She was even more unfortunate than she knew; the police, in searching her room, had come upon a green silk bag containing several loose diamonds and broken settings, oddly overlooked by the family Lafarge in their search, or replaced by them before the arrival of the police, and these had been identified by M. de Léautaud as those stolen from his wife the previous summer; Marie Lafarge had to face two charges, murder and theft, at the same time.

7. ON TRIAL FOR THEFT AND MURDER

From the day (January 15th, 1840) that she was lodged in the prison at Brives, Marie Cappelle, Widow Lafarge, became a figure of international importance. Her extraordinary case, her remarkable story was discussed with the greatest interest and even passion, not only in France but abroad.

In her native country the newspapers, which devoted columns every day to the affaire Lafarge—which promised to be the most remarkable of causes céièbres—declared that France was more interested in Marie Lafarge than in the Eastern war or the future of the Monarchy. The Limoges chemists who had analysed the organs of Charles Lafarge declared that he had died of arsenical poisoning.

Opinions were sharply divided. Behind Marie Lafarge were, in solid support, her family, her friends (who hastened to Brives), her servants, everyone who had known her from her childhood—the tenantry at Villers-Hellon, the acquaintances whom she had made at Strasbourg and in Paris; these, and they included members of some of the most distinguished, wealthy and aristocratic families in France, protested her complete innocence with warm indignation and gave her the best of characters, declaring, from their personal knowledge, that she had always been generous, high-minded, warm-hearted, loving, pious and highly intelligent. The intellectuals and the young romantics who followed them were, with very few exceptions, also of this opinion; to them Marie Lafarge, now described as beautiful and without dispute as elegant, seductive and fastidious, refined in manners, delicate in health, was the outraged victim of the odious machinations of the vile family to whom, most unfortunately, she had been united by a disastrous marriage. In the view of her champions Marie Lafarge was a woman deeply wronged; she had been trapped into marriage with a criminal, a man on the verge of fraudulent bankruptcy, she had been treated with the greatest hostility and harshness by his ignorant and grasping relatives, her generous inexperience had been taken advantage of to strip her of her property by one means or another, and finally the vindictive hatred of the Lafarge family had risen to such a height that they had combined to fabricate an accusation against the unfortunate Parisian.

As regards the nature of the death of Charles Lafarge, Marie's supporters were divided in opinion; some thought that he had died of gastro-enteritis, others believed that a criminal, but not Mme. Lafarge, had poisoned the young ironmaster, while a third opinion was that arsenic had been introduced into the sick man's drinks by error.

On the other hand the middle classes, the common people, and nearly the whole of the Limousin, were violently prejudiced against Marie Lafarge. Besides her late husband's family and their numerous relatives, a solid body of local opinion depicted her, in the favourite term of her enemies, as a "monster." The basis of their case against her was the famous letter of August 15th, written on sky-blue paper, in which she had declared herself to be in the possession of arsenic and in love with another man than her husband. The prisoner was painted by these people as a consummate hypocrite, completely false, crafty and malicious, who, from the moment she had seen the wretched state of Glandier and realised how distasteful to her her husband was, had resolved to feign a resignation to her fate in order to free herself by violent means.

All these aspects of the affalre Lafarge were discussed with a freedom, a passion, a prejudice that augured ill for a cool investigation into the proofs. All sorts of tales, rumours, slanders and innuendoes about Marie Lafarge were industriously circulated by her enemies, while her friends on their side were busy depicting hei as a saint.

* * * * *

From January to August Marie Lafarge remained in prison at Brives awaiting trial, Her case was extraordinarily complicated and greatly enhanced in interest in the public estimation by M. de Léautaud's accusation of theft. The discovery of Marie de Nicolai's diamonds in Marie Lafarge's possession had been a severe blow to the lawyers who had first taken up her defence. These were two local advocates, Theodore Bac and that Charles Lachaud, the handsome young man whom Marie had met in Tulle after seeing him so successfully defend the poor young woman in the Assize court. This lawyer, though possessing only a provincial practice, was intelligent, eloquent, and appeared to be on the verge of a most successful career; he had, on hearing of the accusation against Mme. Lafarge, offered his services with enthusiasm, being, as he declared, completely convinced of her innocence.

When these two lawyers visited Marie in her prison and asked her to account for the possession of the diamonds, she told them at first that the jewels were her own, adding these mysterious words:

"They were sent me by a relation whose name I don't know, who lives I don't know where—at Toulouse, I believe. They were sent me by some means that I don't know of."

In despair at these pitiful evasions, Marie's defenders told her that the jewels had been identified as those belonging to Mme. de Léautaud and that a charge of theft had been lodged against her in the name of M. de Léautaud. Pressed to give a more reasonable reply, she said, still with an air of mystery:

"The person from whom I had these diamonds will not long allow me to be suspected."

There was a general opinion that M. de Léautaud might have withheld the charge of theft until that of murder had been tried; but not only did he accuse Marie Lafarge of stealing his wife's diamonds during her visit to the château of Busagny in June or August, 1839, but he added, in an attempt to destroy the moral character of the accused, a number of complaints against her behaviour.

These accusations, which were of petty theft, lying and cheating, were corroborated by Mme. de Montbreton and other relatives of the family Léautaud. Marie, in the document in which she was accused of stealing the diamonds, was described as having, ever since she was a child, stolen objects of value from her family and friends—money, jewellery, parcels and letters that were not addressed to her, and even laces and chiffon from shops—indeed represented "as essentially corrupt."

When told of these charges Mme. Lafarge denied them with a disdain too deep to be indignant and only expressed herself as amazed at the pettiness of her friends; she then accounted for the possession of the diamonds by the following story given to her lawyers, that she declared she only divulged because of her own great danger, and that, if Mme. de Léautaud had not proved herself thus vindictive, nothing would have induced her to disclose.

She stated that when she had been on her famous visit the summer before to Marie de Nicolai, that young woman had been in a state of considerable agitation on the subject of M. Felix Clavé; although Marie told her friend that she had had a letter from the young man dated from Algiers, Mme. de Léautaud insisted that she had seen him on the boards of the opera, where he had a place in the chorus; she had emphasised the jealousy of her husband, her terror lest this schoolgirl romance might come to light, and her fear that M. Clavé would begin blackmailing her on the strength of the love-letters of hers that he possessed; so deep had been the lady's agitation that Marie, though her modesty as an unmarried woman did not allow her to probe the matter, had a slight suspicion that the affair with the handsome young Spaniard had gone much further than she knew of, and that there really was some most compromising secret that might ruin the honour and the family peace of her friend.

Therefore, according to her story, after much pressure she had agreed to take the diamonds, to break them up, to sell them in Paris, and to send the proceeds intact to M. Clavé as the price of his silence. At this time she had believed that she was going to marry M. Delvaux, the brother of Mme. de Léautaud's governess, and he was to help her in the scheme. Still, according to Mme. Lafarge's story, a mock robbery was staged in the château; Mme. de Léautaud kept the jewels first in her own room, then took them to that of Marie Cappelle. The two young women between them broke up the parure, using scissors and the heels of their shoes for this purpose; when the diamonds were all separated and the settings broken, Madame de Léautaud presented two pearls and a diamond to her friend, partly as a wedding present and partly in exchange for a loan of 180 francs that Marie had given her before her marriage; these were the jewels that Marie had been seen wearing at Glandier.

When her brief engagement to M. Delvaux was broken off, Marie Cappelle begged her friend to take back the diamonds, upon which Mme. de Léautaud made a frightful scene, declared that she could do nothing of the kind, and begged Marie to take them to Paris and to keep them until she had an opportunity of selling them.

When some weeks afterwards Marie became engaged to M. Lafarge, she again wrote to her friend declaring that she no longer wanted the responsibility of keeping the jewels and asking what she should do with them, to which Mme. de Léautaud replied that she was to keep them for the present. Marie then took the jewels with her to Glandier, where she kept them concealed in her desk. One day, shortly after the violent illness in which her life had been despaired of, her husband brought her in a basket of apples and, playing about with one of these, broke a window; it was impossible to get a glazier immediately, and Marie thought that she would use one of Mme. de Léautaud's diamonds to cut some glass; she fetched the stone out for this purpose and thereby revealed her possession of these valuable gems to her husband. He expressed his astonishment, and she told him the entire story; upon which he suggested that the diamonds should be sold, the money they fetched invested in the iron foundry, and Mme. de Léautaud paid 10 per cent on her capital. Marie Lafarge then wrote to Mme de Léautaud to this effect, but received no reply. The diamonds were put back in her desk and she had forgotten all about them during the tragedy of her husband's illness, until they had been discovered by the police.

Such was the story given by Mme. Lafarge to account for her possession of her friend's diamonds, and she gave it with a smiling, happy, even triumphant air—being delighted, as she said, to be able to prove how loyal she had been to her friend.

M. Bac then went to Paris, waited on Mme. de Léautaud, told her the story that his client had told him, and gave her the following letter from Marie Cappelle:

Marie, may God never harm you as you are harming me! Alas, I know you are good, but you are also weak! You thought that I, accused of an atrocious crime, could endure yet another infamy. I entrusted to your honour the care of mine. You have not spoken. The day of justice has arrived! Marie, in the name of your conscience, of our common past, save me! Without doubt I do wrong to remind you of that past, but there are some positions in which one is forced to forget delicacy, and I know not on which brow the blush should be. Would you have my death to reproach yourself with? Oh, without a doubt I shall not survive. I shall die. But before the priest absolves me of my sin, before my friends, before Christ I shall say that I die your victim, that I am innocent, that I desire to be rehabilitated in my tomb. I shall leave my memory in the hearts of my friends. When I am dead, Marie, they will weep for me, they will avenge me—your weakness will be a crime and a dishonour. There is only one thing you can do now. You must write a letter dated last June, in which you declare that you have confided your diamonds to me, with authorisation to sell them if I deem it proper to do so. This will stop the whole affair. You can then explain your conduct as you choose to your husband. All your letters will be sent back to you and the most profound secrecy will guarantee your honour and your repose. Adieu. Understand clearly, Marie, that you can save me. I have endured a martyrdom of two months. You have forgotten me. I would have given you my life, but my reputation, the hearts of my friends, the honour of my sister, never!

Maître Bac met with the reception that he had sadly expected. Mme. de Léautaud denied absolutely Marie Lafarge's story, and rejected her appeal as a piece of wicked insolence. She declared that she had not seen M. Clavé for three years; it had been the merest schoolgirl adventure into which she had been led by Marie Cappelle. She had never told her friend that she was afraid of blackmail. Both she and her husband took Marie Lafarge's defence as the grossest of outrages and were resolved to press the case.

Maître Lachaud then came to Paris, waited upon Mme. de Léautaud and pressed his client's cause, begging that the charge might at least be held over till that of murder had been faced. Mme. de Léautaud and her husband were adamant; they declared their honour to be at stake; they had no pity for Mme. Lafarge, whom they depicted as a woman who had been corrupt from early childhood, who was a liar, a thief, and, as it now seemed, a murderess.

The public found this business of the diamonds so exciting that for a while the question of the murder went into the background. Nothing, to the mind of the French people, could have been more sensational than these counter-accusations between two young women of such high rank, such refined upbringing, such distinguished and wealthy connections. It was a case in which it was almost impossible to come at the truth; it was a question of one woman's word against another's, and the word of Mme. Lafarge, a woman who, after five months of marriage, had been arrested for the murder of her husband by arsenic, was already suspect; on the other hand, her tale about M. Clavé was temptingly romantic, dramatic and, possibly, scandalous.

The case of the diamonds was to be heard on July 9th at Tulle. Marie Lafarge's lawyers pleaded for a delay under the excuse that it was impossible for them to get their defence together in so short a time. Above all they wished to get M. Felix Clavé, the romantic young Spaniard, as a witness, and he had disappeared in Africa. This delay was refused, and public opinion was astonished that a misdemeanour (a délit) should be heard while that of a felony (a crime) was still in suspense.

Hot passions and strong prejudices were excited on each side; there were whispers of influence used for and against the prisoner; while her friends and partisans increased in their arduous championship, it seemed as if the Government and the Tribunal at Limoges were not only prejudiced but incensed against her, and prepared to go any lengths to secure her conviction, and that the charge of theft was being hurried on to damage the prisoner's character before the murder charge was examined. Why there should be this animosity to Marie Lafarge is not quite clear. The influence of the family Lafarge and their relatives could not have been so extremely powerful in the Limousin, especially since the ruin of the iron foundry and the disgrace attending the bankruptcy of the dead man; but some powerful influence did seem at work against Marie Lafarge.

The secret that she and her aunts had termed "the secret of the cradle" was now common property. The story was circulated, and by most people believed that her grandmother, Mme. Collard, had been not the daughter of an English colonel, but the child of Philippe-Egalité and Mme. de Genlis, audaciously introduced by the intriguing gouvernante into the household where she educated her royal pupils. If this tale was true, Marie Cappelle (she often reverted to her own name and used Cappelle as frequently as she used Lafarge) was a great-niece of Louis-Philippe; this relationship was supposed to be a strong handicap to the prisoner, since neither the democratic King nor his Ministers dare show any favour to the descendant of an illegitimate Bourbon. Their feeling was rather that it would be better for her to be sacrificed to plebeian resentment than to allow the nation to suppose that a drop of royal blood would secure special favours for one suspected of an atrocious crime.

* * * * *

While the battle round Mme. Lafarge divided France there was no doubt of her own success in her extraordinary role of prisoner. No longer a spoilt young aristocrat, romantic, ailing and capticious, nor the suspected, defiant and hopelessly out-of-place young city-bred wife immured in the dismal country village, but a public character, Marie Lafarge filled her part as successfully as a great actress stepping on the boards in a favourite part.

She made a conquest of everyone who approached her; her lawyers became her enthusiastic and devoted champions. In the heart of Charles Lachaud this sentiment soon became tinged with a romantic passion. The prisoners, the jailers, the doctors who attended on her in her frequent fits of ill-health, in fact all who came in contact with her declared her to be not only innocent, but a saint. She had a power of looks, of words, of gestures, of deportment that was truly enchanting; she showed neither despair, nor irritability, neither temper nor fear, but bore herself in a manner that all agreed was of perfect decorum and of dignity.

She soon gained such an empire over the other prisoners that their manners and ways of life entirely changed; whenever she appeared at exercise in the public yard, at service in the chapel, in passing between her cell and the room where her lawyers and the magistrates examined her so continually, decency and decorum reigned. Her appearance, the delicate state of her health were also greatly in Marie's favour; she was, all the young intellectuals declared enthusiastically, a "true romantic" with her huge, dark eyes, her pale face, her masses of black hair like bands of crape, her air of enigma, of mystery, her pathetic resignation under the hideous charges brought against her.

She received, before her case was heard for the first time on July 9th, at Brives, about a thousand letters of sympathy, many of them containing verses and poems written in her honour, offers of assistance and requests for her hand in marriage.

With the feverish energy so often possessed by delicate and over-wrought women, Marie Lafarge answered most of these with her own hands, besides writing voluminous letters, couched in an extravagant, romantic and emotional style, to all her friends and supporters and putting together notes for her memoirs.

* * * * *

After having struggled in vain for a delay that she herself did not wish for, Marie's lawyers in despair were forced to advise her to allow the case to go by default, since, in the absence of witnesses, she had no defence.

When she appeared before the tribunal de police correctionnelle at Brives a large crowd of elegant spectators were crushed into the court, "that had been decorated as if for a spectacle." With a deplorable disregard of the dignity of the law, rich and aristocratic people, mostly women, had been allowed to push out the inhabitants of Brives and fill the benches of the salle d'audience with their elegant toilettes, floating plumes, scarves and parasols, and the air with their senseless gossip.

Since Mme. Lafarge had been advised to offer no defence—she had none, especially in the absence of M. Clavé—these proceedings were but a sad travesty of justice. They, however, gave the prisoner a chance of showing her moving beauty, her elegance and the exact propriety of her sad demeanour. She confronted with the most exquisite calm the curious, hostile and heartless glances of the men and women of her own rank who had thronged to see her in her disgrace.

Her lawyers again tried to get the case postponed, first because the crime of which the prisoner was accused ought to be tried before the délit, secondly because there had not been time to prepare a defence.

The case however going against her, owing to default, she was sentenced to two years' imprisonment for the theft of the diamonds and, on August 6th, she was transferred to the prison in the Assize town of Tulle; the murder charge had to be heard at the Assizes.

The public interest was whipped up to fever pitch by the news that a young chemist of Montbédy had committed suicide when he learned of Marie Cappelle's sentence. He was consumptive and, it seemed, had several years ago seen and secretly fallen in love with Marie Cappelle, to whom he had addressed a series of romantic letters—to which she had replied with some tenderness. This suicide gave the final "aureole of romance" to the figure of the mysterious prisoner.

Her lawyers appealed against the conviction for theft; this was quashed by the Court of Appeal at Tulle on the ground that the appeal should have been heard before the case was proceeded with, and on September 3rd the charge of theft was heard again.

Still the prisoner had no witnesses to bring on her behalf and the family Léautaud had added to the list of theirs that were all relatives, friends or servants of their own. The case against the prisoner seemed unanswerable and her moral character was severely aspersed by the stream of witnesses brought by M. Corali, M. de Léautaud's vehement and skilful lawyer, to prove all her youthful faults and errors.

As the case proceeded, however, one witness—and that a curious one—appeared for the defence. This was a certain M. Clavé (no relation to M. Felix Clavé) who was employed in the Administration of the Military Hospital at Algiers; he, by letter, made the following voluntary statement.

He said that towards the month of November or December, 1839, a parcel had been sent to his address. He did not think that it was really intended for himself and tried to find if there was anyone else of the same name resident in Algiers. Finally he discovered at the Regency Hôtel M. Felix Clavé, who said that the box had come from Madame de Léautaud and contained water-colours.

If this story was correct Mme. de Léautaud had been telling a lie when she said that she had had no communication with the romantic young Spaniard since 1836.

Maître Corali, Mme. de Léautaud's lawyer, declared that this statement was false or given in error, and that, given time, he would prove that the parcel had not come from his client.

In conclusion the Tribunal of Tulle suspended the affair of the diamonds indefinitely, until the criminal charge had been tried.

Marie Lafarge's family engaged, for her defence on the murder charge, Maître Paillet, a Parisian lawyer, who retained Maître Bac and Maître Lachaud as his assistants.

The trial took place at the Tulle Assizes of Corrèze on September 3rd, before a Limousin jury, most of whom were illiterate and few of whom took any trouble to disguise their dislike of the Parisienne, against whom they took sides as a foreigner who had brought ruin upon a local family; a preliminary enquiry had already been held before la chambre des mises en accusation.

The prosecution was confided to Maître Decous, the Solicitor-General (avocat général), a lawyer renowned for his partiality and his fiery eloquence.

Before the trial came on Mme. Lafarge's lawyers suggested to her that as her husband's estate was shortly to be declared bankrupt, she should put in her claim for the 100,000 francs, the amount of her dowry, which he had had. This she refused to do, not wishing, she said, with her grand, romantic air, "to tarnish the name that she had borne."

The trial opened in a tense atmosphere of emotion, passion, recrimination, prejudice and partiality. There seemed to be little pretence of endeavouring to ascertain the truth, at least on the part of the prosecution, but rather a question of setting one conviction against another conviction.

Strangers had crowded Tulle for days; witnesses and sensation-mongers filled the hotels, every house let rooms at high prices; the idle élégantes and their escorts besieged the Palais de Justice at five o'clock in the morning though the doors were not open until half-past seven; three thousand people were pressed into the salle d'audience, which had been decorated like a theatre for this dramatic occasion. A special tribune had been built for ladies near the entrance door.

Amid a profound "sensation" Marie Lafarge entered, pale, all in black, with downcast eyes, elegantly drawing about her slender person the immense flounces of her crape skirt; when she heard whisperings among the audience that was feasting so eagerly on her tragedy, she raised her eyes and in the words of a witness, "le feu de ses regards resplendit dans la salle." It was remarked that "the long tortures of her captivity" had not broken her spirit or dimmed the dark brilliance of her glance.

The conduct of the trial caused immense surprise, not only in England, where it was taken as a glaring example of the French maladministration of justice, but in France itself.

The arrêt or acte d'accusation, read aloud in court, was a bitter diatribe against the prisoner. Maître Decous took the same tone that Maître Corali had taken, and addressed the prisoner as a criminal already condemned to suffer for the most atrocious of crimes. There seemed to be no doubt from the first in the minds of the prosecuting lawyers, of the judge and of the jury, that Marie Cappelle, Widow Lafarge, was guilty of murder, and moreover, "corrupt."

The eloquence of M. Decous knew no restraint. He used the grandiose, high-flown, pompous, sentimental style of his day, but used it in excess. His opening address was full of inaccuracies, and his appeal was not to cool reason and deliberate justice, but to sentiment and emotionalism. His arrêt, drawn up by himself and read before the Court, seemed more like a highly-coloured novel than a legal document; in glowing colours he painted the murdered man as a model of all the virtues, a prosperous manufacturer, a loving husband, son and brother who, falling tenderly in love with what he considered a charming young woman, was, "by this fiend in female shape," slowly poisoned.

M. Decous drew a terrible picture of the sufferings of Charles Lafarge, dying by inches in the presence of his old mother, his sister, his faithful clerks and retainers—while the wife, surrounded with her perfidious servants, stood coolly by his bedside, administering powerful doses of arsenic in every drink she gave him.

The fiery prosecutor declared that Marie Lafarge had changed the cakes her mother-in-law had made and that instead of the four little buns that the old woman had so lovingly cooked for her son, the malignant wife placed in the box with her portrait a large cake liberally dosed with arsenic. It was indeed proved by the servant who had been present when Charles Lafarge had opened the parcel that the small cakes made by his mother had somehow been changed into one large cake. It was also proved that the string and seals that Marie Lafarge had put on the parcel in the presence of her mother-in-law and Ann Lebrun had been meddled with; there was no proof, however, where and how this had been done, whether in Glandier or in the post.

M. Decous's case was also that when Charles Lafarge, already suffering from poisoning, had returned home, his wife had immediately given him some more poison in the truffles that he had shared with her during his first meal after his homecoming, and after that, coming to an end of her poison bought on December 12th, five days before the sending of the cakes, she had bought more supplies through M. Denis, from the chemist, M. Eyssartier, on January 5th. The family, the charge continued, by now having become extremely suspicious of her manceuvres, had kept a watch on her, with the result that the two women, Mme. Lafarge the elder and Ann Lebrun, both declared they had seen her strew white powder in the chicken broth and in other drinks. They had preserved what was left of the broth sediment and taken it in the bowl to the chemist; he had discovered that it contained enough arsenic to poison ten people. Emma Pontier, in great distress at these suspicions cast on her beloved cousin, had taken the little agate box supposed to be full of powdered gum that Marie kept in her apron and given it to her doctor uncle, M. Fleyniat, who had found this also to be arsenic.

Not content with this, Marie Lafarge, according to the accusations, had strewn arsenic also on the flannels with which her unfortunate husband was receiving frictions. At last the family, in desperation, had sent M. Denis into Lubersac for another doctor, M. Lespinas, telling him that Charles Lafarge was dying from arsenical poisoning administered by his wife. The doctor, when he arrived at Glandier in the middle of the night and examined the patient, agreed with this opinion. Marie Cappelle was sent out of the room and the dying man was told that his death was owing to poison that had been given him by his wfe. A frightful scene followed and when Marie had tried again to come into her husband's chamber he repelled her with terror and hatred.

Out of this highly-coloured tirade only a few undisputed facts emerged. The principal of these were the two purchases of arsenic, on December 12th, 1839, one ordered on the 5th and received on janbary loth, 1840. It was also a fact, and one hardly in favour of the prisoner, that when the white substance buried by the frightened servant Alfred in the garden had been dug up by the police, it was found to be not arsenic but bicarbonate of soda. What, then, had become of the large quantity of arsenic bought by Marie through M. Denis on January 10th.

The prosecution pointed out triumphantly that this was precisely the arsenic found in a pot discovered in the commode, found in the chicken broth, on the flannels, in the agate box, and in the internal organs of Charles Lafarge. There were also some particles of white powder found strewn upon a commode and the same kind of particles in the pocket of Marie Lafarge's apron; these were all proved to be arsenic.

M. Decous also emphasised the atrocious sufferings of Charles Lafarge, the agonies through which his mother and sister had passed, the misery of this loving family, and in brief, spared no emotional touch likely to blacken the character of Marie Lafarge or arouse pity for her alleged victim and his family. The whole of his address was couched in terms of contempt, fury and loathing, nor did he make the least pretence of impartiality. The prisoner listened to this bitter eloquence with perfect calm, gently coughing, languidly smelling her vinaigrette.

The soberer spirits among the packed audience felt that it was indeed unnecessary to hold a trial, since the prisoner appeared to be regarded as condemned in advance.

The trial lasted four weeks and, apart from the display of emotionalism and theatricalism that would not have been tolerated in an English Court of Law, presented several examples of procedure highly reprehensible from the point of view of British jurisprudence. For example, a large number of witnesses were heard who had only hearsay evidence to give; gossip, rumour and spiteful, exaggerated tales of servants and peasants were accepted as evidence. Then again, the affair of the diamonds was sub judice and had nothing whatever to do with the murder of Charles Lafarge, but was brought in to damage Marie's moral character: and M. Decous allowed himself to address the prisoner in this fashion during his long, highly-coloured diatribe; after telling the story of the alleged murder, he added:

"I wish, gentlemen, that I could confine myself to this exposition, already so long; I wish that it was not my duty now to call your attention to other facts and to impress upon the forehead of this woman the brand of another ignominy not resulting from the present accusation. Why did she not herself wish to save me this painful task? In place of striving against the evidence, in place of irritating justice—if justice can be irritated—by a system of defence which is in itself a crime, if she had confessed herself guilty of the charge of stealing the diamonds that has been preferred against her, I should, in bringing before you this evidence of her character, experience a feeling of pain."

After thus admitting that there was no connection between the two charges of murder and theft, M. Decous summed up in the following strain:

"By the side of this most infamous theft is thus placed the most infamous defamation in the world—calumny, another species of poisoning, moral poisoning, which kills not the body, but which kills honour. Do you hear that, Marie Cappelle?"

According to that French law which always bears so hard upon the accused, the presiding judge himself cross-examined the prisoner, using a severe and, at times, hostile tone. She had already been fully examined by the vice-President of the Tribunal of Tulle, and she had had no more to add to what she had stated on that occasion. By the more moderate-minded class of people who had studied the case, and they were but few, her tale as told by herself in her various examinations did not seem to justify the accusations hurled at her by the avocat général.

Her manner was approved by all; not even her enemies denied her touching dignity, her moving grace and the unexceptionable propriety with which she gave her modest, respectful answers; only, while her champions declared that all these charms were owing to her spotless innocence, her enemies declared that they were produced by the skilful acting of a heartless hypocrite.

Her famous letter of August 15th, written on sky-blue paper, seemed to the judge an extraordinary, even a criminal, document, and he listened with much scepticism to the prisoner's explanation that gradually took the form of her version of her life story.

She declared that, as she was left an orphan with a moderate fortune, her family were anxious to provide for her an establishment by means of a husband. She did not know that they had gone to a matrimonial agent to obtain one; she married for the sake of the position a husband could give her, and she was led by the representations of her family and of Lafarge himself to believe that she was about to become the mistress of a comfortable and even elegant household.

Married at twenty-three years of age after an acquaintance with her future husband of a few days, being romantic in temperament and delicate in health, she was alarmed and startled—almost beyond her powers of self-control to conceal—when she found herself separated from all she had known through life and in the absolute power of the stranger who was her husband. The painful scenes that took place on her journey to the Limousin, notably that in the hôtel at Orleans when her husband had tried to force his way into her room when she was in the bath, so excited and heated her mind, she declared, that she was in a state almost of frenzy when she arrived at Glandier and found it a rude, dilapidated and wretched habitation ruled over by two women who seemed to her by education and appearance to be little better than upper servants and run by the peasants termed domestics.

Marie Lafarge, answering the dry, unsympathetic questions of the judge, declared that in a fit of agony she wrote to her husband the wild and desperate letter of August 15th in the foolish hope of regaining her liberty. She declared:

"I was in such despair at my position, I desired so much that M. Lafarge should allow me to go away, that I said things the most inconceivable and false in order to obtain my wish."

Pressed by the judge to explain why she had put so many falsehoods in her letter, the prisoner replied:

"I beg of you to have some indulgence towards me. I left my home the day after my marriage, I left my family, I found myself isolated from all the world, at Orleans I had with my husband an extremely disagreeable scene. In truth, I was extremely wretched during the whole journey. When I arrived at Glandier, in place of that charming country house with which they had lured me, I found a dilapidated and ruined habitation. I found myself alone, shut up in a large desolate chamber that was to be mine for life. I lost my reason. I had an idea of travelling to the East. I thought of all those things, the contrast, and my imagination was excited. I was so wretched that I would have given the whole world to get away."

The judge was by no means satisfied with this answer; he could not understand the attitude of the young woman, much less sympathise with it, and he remarked, with a sarcastic dryness:

"So then your conduct on your arrival at Glandier was the result of the discontent you felt upon seeing a dwelling that, without doubt, did not answer the expectations that had been raised in you?"

"Yes, sir."

The judge then proceeded to the change in the young wife's conduct after she had come to some terms with her husband and his family. This seemed to him inexplicable.

The prisoner then explained that Lafarge, by his constant kindness, had conquered her first repugnance and won her goodwill, that therefore she wished to make him happy and occupied herself with her husband and husband's affairs; as these affairs were not fully understood by her, she had accepted her husband's explanation of them. He had persuaded her that the new process that he had discovered (or thought he had discovered) for the smelting of iron was likely to bring in great wealth; she wrote to her friends in Paris begging them to interest themselves in this discovery, for the purpose of obtaining the patent that Lafarge sought, as well as of borrowing some money needed for the more expensive apparatus contemplated. The prisoner said:

"My husband gave me the plan of the letters that I was to write to this effect. I copied them and sent them."

The judge was not impressed by this explanation. He remarked with a sneer:

"So then, these letters were not the expression of your own opinion? Your calculations, then, were nothing more than the result of the calculations of M. Lafarge for the purpose of obtaining for him the money he needed? It was a species of seduction, which you desired to employ in regard to those to whom you wrote."

With such remarks as these the judge laid aside all pretence of impartiality and gave the jury, the lawyers and the audience to understand that he considered the prisoner guilty.

Marie Lafarge was also closely cross-examined about the tender and affectionate letters she had sent to her husband while in Paris. The judge wanted to know how the prisoner could reconcile this sort of "mystic affection" with the cruel letter she had written some months before on her arrival at Glandier.

"It is very difficult," he said sarcastically, "to understand this metamorphosis."

The prisoner replied that she saw no relation between the scene of August 15th and the letters. The judge then declared with some heat that he insisted on having an answer, and he put his question with the following insinuation:

"In the first letter it is easy to see that there was nothing in common between you and the husband you had accepted, either in your intellect or in your affection. In the other letters, on the contrary, there is the expansion of a heart that gives itself with warm affection, and even with enthusiasm, to the husband to whom it is united."

To this Marie Lafarge answered:

"I have already stated that the kind offices of M. Lafarge had gained my heart. In truth I loved him, not indeed with love, but with affection. He wrote me very passionate, tender letters, and I believed it my duty to make him happy by using the same language."

"So then," exclaimed the judge, "according to you, in the space of three or four months to this antipathy that you had conceived to your husband, and that had led you to desire to escape to Smyrna to get rid of him, had succeeded sentiments of gratitude, of tenderness and devotion?"

"Yes, monsieur. You know that when one receives a letter very kind, very good, one always feels disposed to make happy the person who has shown one this affection—above all, when it is the husband that writes, then one wishes to make this husband happy."


The question of the cakes, in which, the prosecution alleged, Marie Lafarge had put poison, was then gone into. When the box with the letter and the portrait left Glandier it had four or five small cakes in it made by the elder Mme. Lafarge—when the box arrived in Paris it contained only one large cake. This cake was not produced; evidence was given by the hôtel servant who was present when the box was opened to show that the cake was as large as a plate and that there was one cake only in the box; it had been left in a cupboard and thrown away after M. Lafarge had returned to Glandier. But it was also shown that it had been entirely out of the hands of the prisoner in its transition from Glandier to Paris. It was closed by the servant Clementine in the presence of the prisoner, of her mother-in-law, of Mlle. Lebrun and another young woman, and then given to a sei vant who took it to the coach office. It would have been difficult for the prisoner to make a poisoned cake; she was under constant espionage, she did not know how to cook, and never during her stay in Glandier had been in the kitchen. There was some vague hint that the Parisian cook Mion might have poisoned the cake for her mistress, but this was not followed up. When the box left Glandier it was sealed; these seals, when it reached Paris, were broken by the officers of the octroi or Paris Customs, it was said, but this was not proved.

It came out during the evidence that Denis's real name was Denis Barbier, that he had a bad record, that he had been employed by Lafarge to falsify bills and forge accounts. While Lafarge was in Paris, Denis had been there too, though he had said he was going elsewhere. No explanation was given of this mysterious journey; an enormous amount of irrelevant matter was sifted during this part Of the trial; the minute cross-examination of the prisoner and of the other witnesses threw no real light on the mysterious death of Charles Lafarge, but afforded ample opportunity for emotional scenes and theatrical displays.

* * * * *

The defence demanded a third examination of the body of Charles Lafarge. This was exhumed and, though in an advanced state of putrefaction, was once more examined for traces of arsenic. This operation took place in the room adjoining the Court-house of Tulle; the odours of decay were so powerful and so nauseous that it was necessary to burn twelve braziers of charcoal in order to give the Court a little relief.

While the chemists were conducting this examination, which they were doing by means of the newly-invented apparatus of Marsh, the English chemist, Mme. Lafarge the elder gave her evidence; this was considered very moving; everyone was prepared to offer profound sympathy to the bereaved mother whose distress and agony had been painted in such lively colours by M. Decous. Her evidence was, of course, virulently against Marie Lafarge, whom she depicted as a hypocritical, heartless, corrupt young woman.

With much dramatic effect, the old lady, whose white hair and bent figure aroused murmurs of compassion from the susceptible audience, described the terrors of her son on his death-bed, and after showing the Court how, with staring eyes and outstretched hands, Charles Lafarge repulsed the advance of his wife to his sick-bed, she broke down into a passion of tears. The Court was respectfully silent for several minutes; it does not seem to have occurred to anyone that Mme. Lafarge the elder might have spared her son this last torment by not informing him that he was dying of poison by his wife's hand. Even if Marie Lafarge had given her husband arsenic, it was not her fault that he knew as much, but that of his mother and Doctor Lespinas. The fact that what the French Press termed "the dishonoured remains of Charles Lafarge" were being examined in the next room while his mother was giving evidence was supposed by the audience to lend great dramatic pathos to the examination of this witness.

All the facts that were actually proved against the prisoner among all this irrelevant evidence were that the arsenic had been in Glandier, in Marie's possession, and certainly in her power from December 12th, when she bought the first supply.

The prosecution tried in vain to prove that she administered this poison to the dead man. It appeared that she had sent for some powdered gum at the same time that she had ordered her arsenic, and that of this powdered gum she herself drank repeatedly. The direct charge was that while pretending to give her husband this gum, she gave him the poison; the so-called proof of this was confused and weak.

After the story of the wretched marriage, the disappointment, the romantic letter, the quarrels with her husband, the wild tale of the cakes sent to Paris, M. Decous had brought forward all the fancies that had entered into the heads of the Lafarge family, the conjectures of gossiping servants, the malicious insinuations of neighbours, and stories spread by M. Denis, M. Buffière and M. Magnaud that Mme. Lafarge was certainly going to poison her husband.

These tales were repeated by bailiffs and farmers in the neighbourhood; they proved, of course, nothing more than that these three men had been industriously slandering Marie Lafarge long before any direct suspicion attached to her; it was clear that these people had determined beforehand to accuse Marie Lafarge of murder and that they had made their plan so as to give their predetermined accusation an air of truth.

Moreover, Mme. Lafarge the elder had spread around the neighbourhood the story of the letter of August 15th, and so it was common gossip that the new mistress of Glandier was very rich, that she and her husband were not happy together, and that she had written a letter in which she declared that she loved another man.

After all this hearsay evidence had been admitted and had had its due effect upon the jury and the audience, the witness Denis Barbier, despite his dubious history and doubtful character, was allayed to give his opinion of the guilt of the prisoner by saying that he had only bought the arsenic after he had been twice told to get it because he was afraid that Marie Lafarge would use it to poison her husband. The clerk Magnaud was declared by M. Denis to have said that he had heard Mme. Charles, as Marie Lafarge was termed, say that if she wished it her husband would not be alive in twenty-four hours, that she should wear mourning only a year and live in Paris when her husband died, and that she always had arsenic by her.

The evidence of Ann Lebrun was also much against the prisoner, but under cross-examination it appeared that she had not, as she first stated, actually seen the arsenic put into drinks, but she had seen Mme. Lafarge put her arm out of bed, reach the bowl of broth from the chimney-piece and shake into it something out of a piece of torn paper. This, Marie had said, was powder of orange flowers or gum; it was Ann Lebrun who had found the dregs of the lait de poule that had been placed on the chimney-piece and on the surface of it there were floating some white globules; she showed them to the sister who spoke about them to the physician, M. Bardon, who said he thought they were lime from the wood ash; she, Ann Lebrun and Madame Lafarge mère, had tried in vain to obtain this ash. The broth was then thrown away, but a thick residue remained; this was locked up by the mother and given by her to the officers of justice, examined by the chemists, and by them declared to contain a very large quantity of arsenic.

Mlle. Lebrun's evidence then continued:

"In the afternoon of the same day I was alone with Mme. Marie in the sick man's room. She took a glass of water coloured with wine and went towards the commode. I was working near the chimney and I could not see what she was doing, but I thought I heard the drawer opened and the noise of a spoon striking against the side of the glass. Madame then gave a spoonful to her husband; he said, 'That burns my throat.' I asked what he said and Madame repeated it."

"Did this astonish you?"

"No. I did not see her put anything into it [the glass], but on the surface [of the wine and water] I saw a white powder. I went near the commode and I saw a trail of powder. As the drawer was half open I saw in it a little pot and the trail corresponded with the position of the pot. I tasted the powder and it produced a pricking sensation for nearly an hour. I remarked also a glass on the night-table; it contained some white powder and some drops of water. I took it between my fingers and it was like a fine resilient sand. I compared it with the gum and the gum glued my fingers. I remarked upon this to Mme. Marie who said it was gum. 'Besides,' she said, 'I am going to drink it,' and she filled the glass with water and I believe she drank it."

"After having drunk did she vomit?"

"I have not spoken of her vomiting on this occasion, she did so every day. Every time she ate, she vomited."

Mlle. Lebrun went on to say that she had thrown some of this mysterious white powder on the fire and that it had smelt of garlic, also that the breath of the sick man had the same odour.

M. Lespinas, the doctor from Lubersac, confirmed this statement. He also said that upon finding so strong a smell of garlic from burning the powder, he had no longer any doubt that Lafarge was being poisoned. No one pointed out that arsenic had no taste, and that therefore if it was arsenic that she put on her tongue, Mlle. Ann Lebrun must have imagined the pricking sensation, and that though arsenic smells of garlic when cast on the fire, it would not have had this odour in the breath of the sick man.

As for the prisoner, she denied all knowledge of the little pot and its contents, saying that she never saw it, that she never put any poison into anything.

The evidence of Emma Pontier was to the effect that she arrived at Glandier on January 11th, found Lafarge dying, and his wife, as she, Emma Pontier, firmly believed, sincerely distressed. When suspicion of the poisoning arose, Emma Pontier heard Mme. Marie address her maidservant with great warmth and ask what she had done with the arsenic that she had confided to her. The answer was that the maidservant Clementine Servat had given it to Alfred, who had put it into a hat that he had placed in the room of M. Lafarge. Emma Pontier declared that on the morning of the death of M. Lafarge she saw his wife undress herself, and while she was so doing, she saw for the first time a small agate box in the pocket of her apron. She asked Clementine what it contained and she answered "gum." Remembering all the suspicion cast upon her friend, Marie Lafarge, Emma Pontier took the box and gave it to her uncle; afterwards he gave it to the officers of justice. She was afraid that arsenic might be in it and that Marie might commit suicide. Her uncle had told her, Emma Pontier, that the agate box contained arsenic, but this did not seem to have been proved and the box and contents were lost sight of.

The evidence of the servants and employees at the forge was all in favour of Marie Lafarge; though she was a stranger, and therefore they were likely to be prejudiced against her, they all spoke of her most highly. "She was a kind mistress—a gracious lady," "I never saw a better," and so on.

These people said that Denis came among them with bitter talk of Marie Lafarge; on one occasion he had said that he wished to see her "torn in pieces." He had also said to the work-people at the forge, "I am master now, I will turn you out of doors."

A peasant named Bardon, employed in the house at Glandier, also declared that when helping during the illness of Charles Lafarge he had found a packet of white powder in a foot-warmer belonging to Mme. Lafarge, the mother.

The evidence clearly established that Denis Barbier had lived for some time by forgery, that Lafarge was guilty with his agent of issuing fictitious bills, that Lafarge forged a letter purporting to be written by his brother-in-law, M. de Violaine, and that he was—and had been for some time—utterly insolvent.

It seemed fairly obvious, too, that Denis had intended in some way to employ Charles Lafarge as his tool, that the wife was in his way, and that he had conceived a violent hatred for her—not only for this reason, but because of her haughty manners towards him and her refusal to receive himself and his wife at her table.

These affairs were not, however, gone into; much was left obscure. Nor was there any investigation into why, when Denis had pretended to go to Jueret, he had gone to Paris, or what had become of the large sum of money that Lafarge had raised on his wife's dowry and brought back with him from Paris to Glandier, but of which only a very small portion had been found.

The evidence also made it quite clear that Marie Lafarge, by the blank papers she had signed, both shortly before and after her arrest, and by the covering sum of 28,000 francs which she had paid away to M. Roque, had entirely exhausted her patrimony and had beggared herself to pay the debts of the man whom she was accused of murdering; it was then obvious that whatever her motives had been in getting rid of her husband, if indeed she had done so, they had not been mercenary.

It appeared to anyone who took the trouble to put the story carefully together and to disregard the masses of irrelevant matter that the clerk Denis had carefully circulated to arouse suspicion against Marie Lafarge—he had told the mother that her son was poisoned, he had had access to the mother's apartment, to that of the sick man, to every part of the house, and that he might have strewn the poison where it was afterwards found. The sediment of the broth in which the chemists had found such an enormous quantity of poison had been standing about for such a long period that anyone might have tampered with it. Mlle. Lebrun stated that a small quantity of powder had been put into this broth; and the chemist had found sufficient arsenic to kill ten persons. This was very extraordinary, considering that half the broth had been drunk, a further portion thrown away and there only remained a sediment at the bottom of the bowl; yet this still contained enough to poison ten persons. As for the small pot found in the commode, this did contain powdered gum and a small quantity of arsenic, but the trail of powder from the pot was pure arsenic. If into a pot containing powdered gum anyone had shaken a small quantity of arsenic, and then shaken a trail of it along the outside of the commode, such would be the exact state of the case. In the pot, there would be gum and arsenic, out of it, arsenic alone. Then there was the small agate box carried by Mme. Lafarge in the pocket of her apron that was taken by Emma Pontier and given to her uncle. When this powder was first examined no arsenic was found; when the same powder underwent a second examination a small quantity of arsenic was found. This box was proved to have been at several times out of the possession of Marie Lafarge; before the officers of justice came to the house on the 15th every part of it was open to the Lafarge family, Denis and the other clerk.

The suspected flannels had been taken possession of, collected by the mother and put by her into a wrapper. It was clear that any of these might have been tampered with; they were, for twenty-four hours, in the power of Marie's avowed enemy, Madame Lafarge mère.

It appeared, too, in evidence that after the body was opened, the entrails were put into vases, ticketed, but not sealed. The whole was then placed on the back of a horse and taken to Brives. The officers thus describe the journey:

"We slept at Vigeois. On the 17th we arrived at Brives. I have heard that it was then that the stomach was put into a glass before being wrapped in a cloth. On the 18th the surgeons commenced their analysis, which lasted three days. During this time we returned to Glandier and not till our return were any seals put on the vases."


It was thus obvious that during this time any person might have interfered with these remains and strewn arsenic on or in them. Such, in brief, was the long, confused and rambling case for the prosecution.

One autopsy had discovered no arsenic in the remains of Charles Lafarge, a second had found arsenic, a third examination was in progress during the trial. The defence consisted largely in calling witnesses to the prisoner's high character.

On Marie's behalf, not only her relations but friends like the Curé from Villers-Hellon and highly-placed aristocrats like the Maréchale Gérard and Madame de Valence spoke warmly on her behalf, giving her the best possible character and repudiating indignantly everything that she was accused of, from the petty thieving of finery down to the poisoning of her husband. This mass of evidence was in direct contradiction to that given by equally important people, including Madame de Nicolai and Madame de Montbreton, who had testified that Marie Cappelle, with whom they had lived in the greatest intimacy, was "essentially corrupt."

As the trial dragged on the prisoner's health suffered sadly. She was often hardly able to walk into court, she was much weakened by continual dry coughs, frequently used vinaigrettes, and seemed often on the point of swooning in her place. Her attire was always the same and of the utmost elegance—a full suit of widow's mourning, a black bonnet tied under her chin and curtained by a heavy veil, which she kept thrown back.

Her torments were somewhat eased for her by the frequent visits she received from her devoted lawyers, from her relatives and friends, all of whom protested their complete belief in her innocence with the utmost fervour. She also continued to receive letters sent not only from all parts of France, but from England and even America; most of these she insisted on answering with her own hand.

Among the witnesses called was the father of Charles Lafarge's first wife, who gave his former son-in-law a bad character, said that he had broken his first wife's heart by his infidelities and brutalities, and that he, the witness, had been forced into consenting to the match only because of money difficulties. He, too, had been deceived about Charles Lafarge's financial position and prospects.

The trial was interrupted by the findings of the chemists of Limoges, who were continuing their analysis in the room next the court; as definitely as the chemists of Brives had declared that there was arsenic in the body of Charles Lafarge, so these experts, who were among the most celebrated in France, declared positively that these organs did not contain arsenic. Their spokesman, M. Dupuygren, came into court and solemnly declared that after careful experiments with the apparatus invented by Marsh they had obtained no results.

There was a profound "sensation" in court; the prisoner, so long pale, immobile, half-unconscious in her chair, roused herself with a "spasm of joy." Her advocate Maître Paillet burst into tears; he was completely exhausted from conducting in the face of so much hostility and prejudice a case that seemed so hopeless, but that to him concerned the life or death of an innocent woman.

Even the heartless, fashionable audience that had listened with avidity to all the scraps of gossip, sensationalism and slander that they had heard during nearly three weeks, were moved by a generous emotion and burst into applause.

M. Decous, the avocat général, then leapt to his feet in an explosion of wrath that would have done justice to a Lord Jeffreys; entirely forgetting, or never indeed having conceived, that it was his duty also to rejoice that the prisoner was not a murderess and no part of his duty to strain every effort to obtain a conviction, he abused the enthusiastic audience roundly, singled out one young man, who was applauding, threatened to commit him, and exclaimed furiously:

"Since when has it happened that the sanctuary of justice has become an arena for evil passions? Do you think that there remain no further resources to the prosecution? Do you think that there does not remain a grand and solemn mission to fulfil? Take care lest the accused may have perhaps to accuse you of having acted so as to prolong her anxiety and to retard the period for the termination of this enquiry."

This violent explosion of passion was obviously not provoked by a fear that the truth had been missed, but by humiliated vanity and rage at defeat. M. Decous had already addressed the prisoner as "a criminal without parallel."

The question before the Court seemed now to have narrowed down to whether or no there was arsenic in the body of Charles Lafarge. The other equally important question whether it could be proved who had given him this arsenic was not then raised. It had come out in the course of the trial that M. Lafarge had been suffering from some disease that he had endeavoured to treat himself, and a doctor in Paris had given him medicine to be taken internally and externally that contained arsenic. Had then some portions of this poison been found in the remains, it was always possible that they had by this means found their way there.

Marie Lafarge's gleam of hope was soon over. She was returned to her prison and M. Orfila, one of the most celebrated chemists in France, was sent for to examine once again the mortal remains of Charles Lafarge. At the same time the defence sent for M. Francois Raspail, an equally famous chemist and a Liberal whose politics had several times sent him to prison. This gentleman had already taken a lively interest in the trial of Marie Lafarge. He believed on the evidence he had read that she was innocent; he was therefore delighted to offer her his services. There was some delay, however, in sending for him, and the young lawyer who was sent to Paris to fetch him was in such a hurry that he was not even able to tell the great chemist his name but had to relate the whole story of Marie Lafarge's difficulties and the present situation of the case while the two men were hurrying in a carriage from Paris to Tulle.

Meanwhile M. Orfila had arrived in Tulle and taken over the examination of the remains; Maître Paillet, Marie Lafarge's lawyer, had already communicated with this savant, and Orfila had sent a letter in which he declared it was his opinion that, from following the results of the first analysis of the remains, there had been no arsenic in them.

* * * * *

Mathieu-Joseph-Bonaventura Orfila was considered one of the most distinguished toxicologists of the day. He was a native of Minorca and born in 1787; he had studied at the university of Valencia, and had been so promising a student that the University of Barcelona sent him at its own expense to Paris. In this city he arrived in 1807, passed his examinations brilliantly and obtained a medical degree. His private lectures on Chemistry, Forensic Medicine and Anatomy became famous, and he began researches into toxicology. Some of the most eminent names in French medicine were to be found among his pupils. His fame soon spread; he was appointed Corresponding Member of the Institute, and in 1819 Professor of Forensic Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine. In 1816 he was appointed Physician to Louis XVIII and on the constitution of the Academy of Medicine he was one, and the youngest, of its seventy original members.

As he had always attached himself to the House of Orléans, the Revolution of 1830 brought him to the forefront. He was chosen Dean of the Faculty, Member of the Council-General of Hospitals and Member of the Council-General of the Department. He became a naturalised Frenchman, and was appointed a Member of the Council of Public Instruction. His discoveries in toxicology were recognised throughout Europe and his evidence was consequently in requisition for the guidance of all legal Tribunals. His works on Forensic Medicine, Medical Chemistry and his treatises on poisons were considered authorities. His personal character was beyond reproach and he was universally honoured and esteemed. In person, however, the great savant was formidable, even repulsive, like "a bird of prey"; his manner was dry; among the ardent young romantics of this period he was regarded as being almost as inhuman as a machine.

The appearance of this celebrated scientist in the little town of Tulle was one of the most poignant sensations of the trial. His lean, black-coated figure, his pale face with the hawk-like nose and bald head, grey whiskers and severe mouth, became an object of insatiable curiosity.


Illustration

Mathieu-Joseph-Bonaventura Orfila, distinguished toxicologist
From a lithograph by Delpech in the possession of the author.


During four days of almost intolerable suspense he conducted his experiments assisted by his usual colleagues, M. de Bussy and M. Olliver d'Angers, both celebrated as chemists and toxicologists. When the illustrious savant came into the box to give evidence a violent storm was breaking over Tulle, and the half-horrified, half-delighted audience trembled with the excitement of this sinister drama—the court-house darkened by the storm without, thunder rolling overhead, lightning flashing before the windows, the black-robed prisoner half-fainting amid her crapes and veils, the stern, implacable figure of the scientist in the witness-box; his first words fell among the audience with a sensation as profound as if a thunderbolt had split the roof of the Tribunal: "I have found arsenic in the body of Lafarge." This declaration, so explicit, so unexpected, caused everyone to tremble. Mme. Lefarge rose to her feet, paled, pressed her hand to her heart; a profound excitement thrilled the assembly.

In cool, measured terms, and at great length, the chemist proceeded to explain his experiments and the result of them. In various portions of the anatomy of Lafarge, in the stomach, the thorax, the abdomen, the liver, the heart, the brain and the intestinal canal, arsenic, though in a very small quantity, had been discovered; there had been, however, nothing found in the flesh; thus, the possibility that the poison had been placed after death in the body.

The chemist went on to demonstrate that this arsenic had nothing to do with the natural arsenic that might possibly have been found in a human body, nor with any arsenic likely to have been in the earth in which the body had been buried. He also proved, to his own satisfaction at least, that it was quite easy to explain why the other chemists had not found it, even though they had used the apparatus of Marsh, which had been employed by M. Orfila himself.

The truth was, the great man explained, that they, these other chemists of Limoges, had not been expert enough in the way they had used the apparatus, which was quite a new invention and required the most delicate handling.

When M. Orfila had finished his icy exposition and left the witness-box in silence, a deep gloom fell over the audience. Mme. Lafarge bent her face in her hands and sank half-conscious in her chair; her advocates stood beside her, pale, rigid, the sweat beading on their foreheads; outside the thunder rolled, the lightning flashed and the rain dashed against the darkened windows.

It was commonly felt that the evidence of Orfila had condemned the prisoner. The prosecuting lawyer, the judge and the jury triumphed as if they had been fighting for a victory and not for the truth. It was well known that several of the jurymen, even befo-re the trial had commenced, had gone about Tulle saying that they hoped and believed that Mme. Lafarge was guilty.

These men, then, received with sombre pleasure the confirmation of their expectation, and even, as they confessed themselves, their hope. They wanted to know that this woman was guilty and they wanted to see her sacrificed to the furies of the family Lafarge and the suspicions of the inhabitants of the Limousin.

Meanwhile M. Raspail and his young friend were hastening from Paris; they were delayed by the bad weather and an accident to their carriage; despite the agonised efforts of the lawyer and the goodwill of M. Raspail they did not arrive in Tulle until after the trial was over—therefore too late to be of any assistance to Marie Lafarge.

Before the avocat général, with an air of satisfied vengeance, made his final address to the jury, one or two circumstances had come to light that should have been in favour of the prisoner. M. Buffière, her brother-in-law, had said to one of his creditors that he knew that Marie Lafarge would be condemned and that all the debts on the Lafarge property would be satisfied out of the indemnity that family would receive.

The defence had wished to recall M. Denis Barbier, but he had disappeared, nor could all the efforts of the law discover him; this was a severe reflection on the character of one of the principal witnesses for the prosecution.

There had been also another incident that displeased even those who believed Marie Lafarge was guilty; her mother-in-law, without waiting for the result of the trial, had put in a claim for 40,000 francs damages against her daughter-in-law; considering that this young woman had already sacrificed her entire fortune to the family Lafarge, this grasping cupidity was considered a scandal.

M. Decous's final speech to the jury was in the same style as that he had adopted throughout, that of dramatic invective. He ran over in a picturesque but inaccurate fashion all the evidence and told once again the gloomy and mysterious story of the marriage of Charles Lafarge and Marie Cappelle and her life at Glandier.

"Lafarge," said M. Decous dramatically, "is dead of poison. Who has poisoned him? Who? Why, it is this woman who wrote the frightful letter of the first days of her marriage, where already the words crime and poison are to be found. After the apparent reconciliation with his wife, Charles Lafarge was a condemned man. Cupidity was then the ignoble accessory of the crime, but the criminal also wished to free herself from the caresses of a man whom she detested."

Turning towards the prisoner, the avocat général exclaimed:

"Yes, Marie Cappelle, it is you that poisoned your husband, you that during fifteen days fed him on poison. It is you that bought the poison, quantities of poison. If you are not guilty, tell us who it was that substituted one cake for another in the box you sent to Paris, tell us what happened to the enormous quantities of arsenic bought by you and for which bicarbonate of soda was substituted!"

After this violent speech the audience was suspended until the evening. It was necessary to carry out Mme. Lafarge in a chair; the spectators noticed that she seemed unconscious, that a frightful convulsion had passed over her features. The sight of her produced a painful and prolonged "sensation" and "sourdes rumeurs."

When the Court reassembled it was Maître Paillet that spoke:

"Messieurs, after eight months of captivity, of sorrows and of resignation, Mme. Lafarge can at last hear a friendly voice raised before her judges!"

Maître Paillet, who was an extremely eloquent and learned lawyer with a harmonious voice and a graceful delivery, continued in the same tone of melancholy indignation. Like his adversary the avocat général, this advocate wandered from the case and made an emotional appeal both to the jury and to the spectators, painting the grief, sorrow, forlorn position of this interesting and charming young woman so delicately nurtured, and exclaiming against the campaign of calumny that had been carried on against her in all parts of France.

"It is outrageous against a woman, captive, suffering, who cannot defend herself!"

After expressing warm resentment at the treatment the unfortunate prisoner had received before she had been judged. Maître Paillet entered once more into her story, treating it from the opposite angle to that taken by the avocat général. He dwelt on the graces, the virtues, the innocence and the breeding of Marie Lafarge. He mentioned the letters she had sent to the apothecary's son, M. Guyot, which the prosecution had put in as proof of her immorality, and dismissed them lightly, with the smile of a man of the world, as mere schoolgirl romance.

He dwelt upon her happy family life at Villers-Hellon, where everyone from the Curé down to the humblest peasant remembered her with love and veneration. He put in all the letters of the great ladies who had known her, such as the Comtesse de Valence, and who now warmly attested to their firm belief in her innocence and virtue. He sketched with scorn the career of M. Lafarge, who had come a ruined man to Paris to try and find a rich wife to patch up his fallen fortunes. First, he had not said he was a widower, then he had said he was rich, having an income between 30,000 and 40,000 francs, he had described Glandier as a delightful residence, he had said that his factory was worth 80,000 francs—the truth being that he was already reduced to forging notes.

Maître Paillet put in and read aloud extracts from several charming and touching letters written by Marie Cappelle, during her brief engagement, to her old friend and nurse, in which she spoke hopefully of the charming little château that would be hers, the handsome domain over which she would reign and her expectations of a happy married life.

He then passed to the episode of the cakes and tried to show that there was no reason to suppose that if a substitution had been made it had been done by Marie Lafarge, he drew the character of Ann Lebrun as a spiteful, hysterical young woman whose word was not to be relied on, and he tried to shake the evidence of Mme. Lafarge mère by pointing out that she had stolen the copy of the will from her daughter-in-law, and that while her son's body was yet warm, she had rifled the house, packed up all the valuables, sent them away, and a few hours afterwards broken into her daughter-in-law's room, smashed her desk and taken away her papers. He also attacked warmly the character of Denis Barbier, the witness who had disappeared—a forger who did not disguise his atrocious hatred for the young woman who had married his accomplice, who made a mysterious journey to Paris that he lied about, who was going under an assumed name. He concluded by demanding what possible motive Marie Lafarge could have had for poisoning her husband? It certainly was not a mercenary one; she had always shown herself indifferent to money and she had willingly signed away her entire fortune to save her dead husband's name from dishonour.

Working himself and his audience up to a state of profound emotion, Maître Paillet at the end of a two days' speech concluded thus. Turning towards the prisoner, he demanded:

"I ask, has there ever been a more lamentable destiny than hers? Orphan though she was, she had at least the glorious name that her father had left her, a patrimony, modest without doubt, but sufficient, an honourable family. She had, also, from her distinguished education and her personal graces, the hope of a happy future.

"Lafarge appeared. You know how he obtained her hand, you know in what state was his position. Lafarge appeared, and soon, thanks to this fatal marriage, honour, fortune, illusions, hope, health itself—yes, health, all is vanished for her, and vanished for ever. All this, messieurs, you cannot give her again, but there is something that you can do. Hasten to restore this unhappy woman to the tenderness, the care of her family! Hasten to let them take from prison all that the slow agony of eight months has left this young woman, formerly so brilliant, and such an object of envy! See now to what a deplorable state she is reduced; she must be even to her enemies a subject for compassion and pity!

"Courage, however, courage, poor Marie! I hope that Providence, which has so miraculously sustained you during these long trials, will not abandon you now. No, you will live for your family who love you so much, for your numerous friends—you will live as a glorious witness of human justice, when she is confided to pure hands, to enlightened spirits, to compassionate and sensible souls."

At the conclusion of this moving oration Marie Lafarge was carried half-unconscious to her cell. There she at once sat down and wrote to her defender two lines:

My noble saviour, I send you what to me is the most precious
thing I possess in the world—my father's Cross of Honour.

* * * * *

When the jury had retired to consider their verdict there was a short legal debate between M. Bac and the avocat général on the affair of the diamonds, which the former wished dealt with at once.

Marie Lafarge was brought in again. She was questioned once more about the crime, asked if she had anything more to say about it? Hardly able to rise from her chair, in a faint voice she said:

"Monsieur le Président, I am innocent, I swear to you."

There was the usual "sensation" in the court; the judge declared he had not been able to hear what the prisoner had whispered; M. Bac spoke:

"The accused has said, 'I am innocent, I swear'."

Some members of the audience were now weeping. The judge resumed the debate. The question was put to the jury:

"Marie Cappelle, widow of Pouch Lafarge, is she proved guilty of having, in December and January last, killed her husband by poison?"

The accused was then again borne away to the cell; she was unable to walk; the Court retired; it was then a quarter to eight; after an hour the judge returned, the jury having sent out to say that they had reached a decision; a complete silence reigned in the room; Marie Lafarge, waving aside those who would have assisted her, rose to her feet, rigid in her mourning. The jury filed in; the foreman said slowly, in his heavy Limousin accent:

"By a majority of votes the accused is found guilty."

There were movements and exclamations in the crowded, gasping audience. The stolid foreman repeated:

"Yes, by the majority, she is declared guilty. There are, however, extenuating circumstances in favour of the accused."

Marie Lafarge fell insensible, was caught by her lawyers, and carried to the cells below; after a short pause the judge demanded her return; Maître Paillet, whose face was covered with sweat and whose voice was almost extinct after his labours of the last few days, said that the state of Mme. Lafarge rendered her presence impossible.

The Court then, after a deliberation of an hour on points of law, pronounced a sentence that condemned Marie Cappelle, Widow Lafarge, to hard labour for life and public exposure in the market-place of Tulle.

* * * * *

It was the handsome and romantic young advocate Charles Lachaud that had the painful mission of telling the prisoner her sentence. He entered into her cell and held out his hand without speaking, "casting on her glances of immense pity." She understood, and rising with a feverish energy, exclaimed:

"I will return. I will tell them once more that I am innocent. I am strong, I can go."

But this violent movement exhausted her strength and she fell again unconscious. At this moment Maître Beaubeau Laribrière, the young advocate of Limoges who had gone to Paris to fetch M. Raspail, arrived at Tulle exhausted and too late; the famous chemist, who had been unwell when summoned from Paris, was in a state of fever, as his dusty carriage drawn by two sweating horses galloped into the open square of Tulle.

It was soon surrounded by sympathisers with Marie, who shouted: "You've killed her, unhappy wretch! She's been condemned to hard labour for life. She was counting on you, to the minute, to the second! It is entirely your fault!"

The young advocate, almost in a state of collapse, exclaimed: "It is not our fault! We have done 120 leagues in forty hours, by mountain ways, through hideous weather! Our carriage broke dolvn twice!"

The following morning M. Raspail was introduced into the cell of the condemned woman, where she was surrounded by her family and friends. He has left the following account of this strange visit:

Marie Cappelle asked me to go and see her on the following morning. Permission was not refused; everyone in the Palais de Justice, even to the jailers, appeared frankly interested in her fate. Her family had not quitted her for a moment. Their friendly faces were always about the Tribunal asking for news of her; I did not then lack people to introduce me. I was conducted from one hand to another to the door of her cell and there left for a moment in the ante-chamber. The door was opened and in the cell Marie Cappelle was embracing her sister. This moving scene reminded me of several similar touching incidents that had taken place when I, in my turn, was a prisoner. Marie Cappelle desired to speak to me alone, and having at her disposition only one room, asked her family, and even her dear sister, to leave her. I wished to say all I had to say before everyone, but the wish of the condemned woman was to me as sacred as the wishes of one about to die. I submitted without the least protest. I found her ill in her bed, behind two cotton curtains in squares of blue and white that served to divide her chamber into two, the first of which was occupied by the woman Clementine Servat, who served her in the times of her prosperity and who will not leave her now she is a prisoner and without resources. The example of fidelity in unhappiness that this good girl gives to the whole country seems to have carried good luck to Marie Cappelle. She has lost very few friends in her misfortune. May God preserve in her a little health, for she has, in her soul and in her heart, enough energy left to re-establish herself, abandoned as she is in the public opinion, which she seemed to me more desirous to reconquer than to obtain her liberty. I was much moved. At my age, having a little girl to educate, my emotions need not be suspect. I did all I could to remain cold, as a chemist, as a scientist, and I terminated my interview by some words relative to religious sentiment, which Marie Cappelle seemed to me to possess without exaggeration and without hypocrisy. Her intimate friends have confirmed me in this opinion. An outburst of weeping seeming to suffocate the sick woman, I retired. She had told me that my visit had given her a little hope, more than she ever thought to have again, and had added one consolation more to the consolations that her friends brought her. In leaving the Palais de Justice, depressed and dazzled, as one always feels when leaving a prisoner, I asked myself if it was indeed Madame Lafarge whom I had seen. And now, at 120 leagues away, I still ask myself the same question. It seems to me that the only person whom I had under my eyes was Marie Cappelle. Madame Lafarge, such as I have seen her in her prison cell, is a woman whom grief devours, without having entirely altered the regularity of her features. She must once have been a beautiful young girl and could no doubt, given a little good fortune and health, again become so. Were not her features so animated, one would perceive that they are a little irregular. The quick, lively, changing expressions of her face prevent one from seeing, observing this slight lack of harmony. Her glance, such as one can divine it through her tears, has lost nothing of the magic that fascinated at the same time friends and enemies. They tell me that one man only in all the Tribunal could remain unmoved by Madame Lafarge—that was the avocat général. It is a pity that this lawyer showed so much violent partiality. The complexion of Madame Lafarge is not livid; it is pale, her black hair is worn in a bandeau and was covered with one of those ordinary calico night-caps that I remember seeing worn by the prisoners in Versailles whom I used to see so often passing beneath my windows. Madame Lafarge, in her prison, is no more than a daughter of the people, abandoned by men to the hands of the law. I did not feel in the least awkward in her presence. Her friends assured me that during her captivity she had always been the same and that even before she had the same taste for simplicity. Her conversation, sweet and caressing, preserved in misfortune and in humiliation a trace of the harmony and sympathy that rendered Marie Cappelle so interesting at the height of her prospeity. It would be difficult to meet a woman of the world who knows better how to put at ease everyone who speaks to her, and who tempers graciousness with wit. She tries to please everyone and never to offend a soul. She talks of everything with the same interest and the same talent. She plays the piano exceedingly well, she has a beautiful voice and it is very well and carefully trained. She knows something of science, can explain and translate Goethe at sight, talks several languages, improvises Italian verse with as much grace and purity of style as French verse. Marie Cappelle was indeed an exotic plant in the midst of that rude Limousin household, and there she has found death.

* * * * *

On the question of the finding of the arsenic in the remains of the body of Charles Lafarge, M. Raspail had a great deal to say. He did not agree with M. Orfila's experiments and their results, and wrote a long letter to this effect that was published in the Press.

Complicated technical arguments were now exchanged between the two savants, and though many people believed in the findings of M. Raspail and that M. Orfila had been either mistaken or malicious, there were those who did not hesitate to say that he had acted entirely in the interests of the prosecution.

There was no hope for Marie Cappelle, now regarded as civilly dead. Her case, however, was taken to the Court of Appeal in Paris. When on September 28th at half-past eleven at night the usher went to the bed of Mme. Lafarge to read over her sentence, he found her in the most alarming state, incapable even of understanding what was said to her. Doctors were in attendance, among them that M. Segeral whom she had demanded in vain at Glandier; they declared her to be suffering from a severe nervous affection complicated by heart trouble; they also said that there were marked indications of the beginning of tuberculosis.

She was well enough, however, to send a touching, graceful and dignified letter of thanks dated October 1st to M. Raspail after she had read the pamphlet he had published on her behalf.

* * * * *

M. de Léautaud now pressed the charge of theft to the great indignation of Marie's friends. What could he obtain, they demanded, from a woman condemned to imprisonment for life? And how vindiztive to pursue a poor creature already in torment!

M. de Léautaud, however, persisted in "clearing the honour of his wife" as he termed it; the Vicomtesse had been severely handled by the Paris Press and her husband was exceedingly bitter about the whole affair. Madame Lafarge's lawyers did not succeed in obtaining—even on medical evidence as to their client's state of health—the postponement of the charge of theft beyond May 3rd, 1841.

Marie Cappelle's "civil death" was waived, and the woman, already sentenced to imprisonment for life, was placed again in the dock.

The case was heard in the Assize Court of Tulle, where Marie had been tried before; she retained the same lawyers; M. de Léautaud had added to M. Corali, the formidable M. Odilon Barrot, one of the most celebrated advocates in France.

The prisoner, who was allowed to wear widow's weeds, was obviously in frail health; there were white streaks in the black locks of this woman of twenty-five years of age, but her demeanour was cold and correct, and she met with icy dignity the hostile gaze of M. de Léautaud, who was seated by his lawyers: many people thought that his presence was in the worst of taste; it was remarked that his wife, who before had faced her girlhood's friend so unflinchingly, was not present. M. Lachaud began by a protest based on a legal quibble, his client was "morte civilement," she did not, in the eyes of the law, exist—it was too late to charge her with any crime.

Nor had he time to get together his witnesses; M. de Léautaud had offered to pay the expenses of finding these, but this "suspect" offer had been refused. Maître Corali replied by sarcastically reminding Maître Lachaud that at Brives he had said it was too soon to take the case of the diamonds and he argued that now it was too tate. When, then, was the time for his client to clear up matters that were so vital to her, and that had already caused her so much bitter anguish? He based his chief reproach against Marie Cappelle, not on the theft, but on the calumny with which she had tried to cover it up. It was the odious story of M. Felix Clavé, and the feared blackmail that had alienated the family Léautaud and made them implacable in their demand for a complete vindication of the honour of the former Marie de Nicolai—whose name, owing to Marie Cappelle, had been dragged through the gutter Press of France.

These dramatic and emotional sallies apart, very little fresh evidence had been gathered in the exasperating affair. The family Clavé had, save for two young girls, left France—possibly with the assistance, the defence hinted, of M. Léautaud, the celebrated Felix had disappeared in Mexico.

M. Corali had, he said, followed up the statement sent by the other M. Clavé from Algiers and had discovered that the box that had been sent to this gentleman in error had not been sent from Mme. de Léautaud, but from Mme. La Rochefoucauld. This, however, was not proved, and this second M. Clavé, in a letter that he sent the Court from Africa, still declared that the box had been addressed to M. Felix Clavé and came from Mme. de Léautaud.

When M. Corali flung the words "poisoner—thief—slanderer" at Marie Cappelle, she sprang to her feet and, passionately breaking her disdainful calm, exclaimed: "Coward! those are lies!"

A commotion followed, the President rang his bell in vain, and M. Lachaud, hotly replying to his opponent, demanded permission to call witnesses to the immorality of Madame de Léautaud—"car toute la cause est la."

At this interesting point the judge suspended the sitting; when it was resumed the case was postponed until the following August and Marie Lafarge, always calm and modest, stepped into her carriage to return to her prison and her lengthy letters—that would already have filled several volumes, and to enjoy the beautiful white field flowers, sparkling with dew, that her friends sent her in order that she might further moisten them with her "tears of a martyr" and to deaden her sufferings with drops of laudanum.

* * * * *

The fifth of August, 1841, saw the Tribunal of Tulle again crowded by curious spectators and the pale, black-clad prisoner again in her place; M. Odilon Barrot was assisting M. Corali; M. Lacombe, M. Lachaud; Madame de Léautaud "shone by her absence"; the whole tedious affair was once more gone into, with prejudice, with passion, with emotion, with a multitude of legal quibbles.


Illustration

M. Odilon-Barrot
Reproduced from Giraux's engraving of the painting by Ary Scheffer


M. Lachaud's main plea still was that he refused to defend his case until he had his witnesses—in particular M. Felix Clavé; no further delay being allowed on this score, Marie Cappelle retired—after casting a severe and disdainful glance at the place where Madame de Léautaud should have been, but was not.

M. Lachaud had found one witness, who declared that shortly before the fascinating Felix had left Paris he had received a mysterious 600 francs, and another, who declared that the Spaniard had fled from Algiers oppressed by debts. He had then, the defence argued, been in serious need of money, and had received unaccounted for sums—the inference was that he had been blackmailing Mme. de Léautaud.

M. Corali had, however, other witnesses who totally denied these tales and declared that it was impossible for a debtor to leave Algiers, and that M. Felix Clavé was in easy circumstances. Despite all the desperate appeals made by Marie Cappelle in the French Press, the Spaniard had not come forward, but he had sent from Mexico two letters "to the honour of Madame de Léautaud and to the shame of Marie Cappelle" that M. Lachaud refused to credit, declaring that they were not genuine, or, if genuine, had been bought.

M. Lachaud took the opportunity of declaring his absolute belief in the innocence of his client and his resolution to devote his life to her cause. Part of Marie Cappelle's story was proved true; there had been a suggestion of a marriage between herself and M. Delvaux, brother of the governess to Marie de Nicolai, and she had several letters from M. Clavé that proved the existence of a romantic intrigue between him and the two girls. Madame Lafarge mère declared that she had seen the diamonds at Glandier and that her daughter-in-law had said they were her own—a family heirloom.

The sittings of the Court became extremely heated; and the case went by default. As soon as she had returned to prison, Marie Cappelle wrote a passionate letter, which she sent to the Press and which was eagerly published.

In this document the prisoner stated her anguish at the gross unfairness of her trial and declared that she had "been sacrificed to the honour of a great lady."

She declared that, feeble woman as she was, without name or future, without even a legal right to the air she breathed, she would always continue to protest "before the tribunal of the world, and I shall be acquitted by the great voice of the people that is the voice of God."

She added that she did not envy Madame de Léautaud who had not dared to face her in the court—"believe me, Marie, I was not too weak to serve you, I shall not be too weak to fight you. In the bottom of your soul, you must esteem me as much as I have the right to despise you...I await strength from God, and from Him also I await the hour of your remorse."

Meanwhile, the case had been heard in the absence of the prisoner, who refused to plead, and Madame de Léautaud appeared in person to receive the congratulations and "hommages" of her lawyers and her friends. Marie Cappelle wrote another letter to the papers, passionately calling upon M. Clavé to appear, and after the case had been heard in her absence, she was declared guilty of the theft of the diamonds, but no punishment was inflicted, as she was already a life prisoner.

* * * * *

On December 10th the appeal against the verdict of the Court of Tulle on the murder charge was heard in the Appeal Court of Paris (cour de cassation) before an enormous crowd of fashionables and notabilities, including the relations and the friends of the accused. After two days of deliberation the Court rejected the appeal, and it seemed that human justice had said the last word in the case of Madame Lafarge, who now remained definitely condemned, and, in the eyes of the law, dead.

Out of pity for her state of health and her noble friends the public exposure in the market-place of Tulle was omitted from her punishment; nor was there any suggestion that "hard labour" (travaux forcés) should be inflicted on Marie Lafarge.

When she received the news that her appeal had been dismissed, the prisoner tried to commit suicide by starvation, refusing food and drink for several days.

She was induced to return to life by another gleam of hope brought her by her friends. She was encouraged to accept a return to the struggle by a report that the mysterious Denis Barbier had confessed, in a moment of intoxication, to a reliable witness that he had exchanged the arsenic he had bought from the chemist for bicarbonate of soda, which he had given to Marie Lafarge. This witness, a respectable doctor, had unaccountably allowed Barbier to disappear again after making this statement and had not immediately come forward with the information.

Marie's lawyers at once tried to find Barbier in order to prosecute him for perjury, for he had sworn in the court that it was arsenic that he had given to Mme. Lafarge. It was impossible, however, to get hold of this man; he was leading a vagabond life, and, as he had no domicile in any city, town, or village of France it was, technically, impossible to charge him; nor could he be charged in the name of Marie Lafarge, now dead in the eyes of the law.

The lawyers traced this scoundrel from one place to another, but before they could put the machinery of the law in motion to charge him, he had disappeared again. The hope, however, that he might be arrested and charged sustained Marie through the first weeks after the failure of her appeal. The doctor to whom Denis was alleged to have made this statement died before the man could be found, but he left a paper behind in which he solemnly declared the truth of his declaration. Madame Lafarge's champions added to the mystery of the affair by declaring that they had seen this strange Denis Barbier, cloaked like a Spanish conspirator in a nineteenth-century opera, lurking in the twilight beneath the walls of the prison of Tulle.

* * * * *

The case against Denis Barbier was summed up by two Prussian lawyers, Counsellors in the Criminal Court of Berlin, Herren Temme and Noerner, who had carefully followed and studied the Lafarge trial and written an exhaustive treatise on it; in their opinion Madame Lafarge should have been acquitted completely through lack of proof. In this way the two German lawyers put the case against Denis Barbier:

It is impossible to avoid a painful sensation every time that the image of this Denis Barbier comes before us. The defence presents him as a dishonest man, depraved, and boasting of his depravation. He had aided Lafarge to commit his forgeries, perhaps even induced him to commit them. If these had been discovered before Lafarge's death, both the men would have been sent to the galleys. Barbier arrived in Paris some days before the sending of the cakes, and in secret. Even at Glandier no one knew he was in Paris. Lafarge dare not speak of this visit, his manceuvres must not run any risk of being discovered. What was Denis doing in Paris? No one has been able to pierce this mystery. When one is dealing with such a man, it is quite reasonable to suspect a crime. Is it not possible that this Denis wished to remove Lafarge, his accomplice and a witness of his own criminal acts? Was it not possible for him to have changed the cakes, even to have been in the apartment of Lafarge in Paris, to have opened the packet—it is remembered that Lafarge found the seals broken—and substituted the large poisoned cake? He returned to Glandier three days before his master; he had free access to the room of the sick man; he had the same opportunity as had the wife of administering the poison. It would be easier to prove a case against him than it was to prove one against her. It might easily have been he who substituted the bicarbonate of soda for the arsenic, which he used for poisoning Lafarge. It must be remembered that he was the one who first cast suspicion on Marie Lafarge, that he had at least as powerful a motive for getting rid of Charles Lafarge as she had, and that her character was infinitely better than his. It is no credit to the magistrates of Tulle that this witness's evidence was swallowed whole, that he was not more severely cross-examined, and that he was allowed to disappear. He should have been arrested and tried, if not for perjury, at least for the fabrication of the false bills.

Against this able reasoning it may be argued that even if it had been proved that Barbier substituted bicarbonate of soda for the arsenic that he certainly purchased from M. Eyssartier, still it would not have been proved that Marie Lafarge had not murdered her husband—the amount of poison that she had bought on December 12th would have been sufficient to kill her husband, and this she had had, without question, in her possession.

As soon as Marie Cappelle was condemned, public opinion swerved in her favour. The sad heroine of Glandier was now regarded as an innocent martyr, not only by the young, the ardent romantics, the intellectuals, her own aristocratic friends, but by the great majority of the people of France.

She continued to make the most favourable impression on all who came into contact with her; hypocrite or saint, there was no questioning the power of her personal seduction. The crime, if crime it was, was discussed with the same fervour as it had been before the sentence. Everyone agreed that here was a baffling mystery, only equalled in obscurity by the maddening enigma of the diamonds.

Marie's lawyers, deeply moved by her misfortune, swore to devote their time and energy to seeing that justice was done. It was, however, as they too well knew, almost impossible for them to reopen the case.

Maître Charles Lachaud in particular devoted himself with enthusiasm to the cause of Marie Lafarge, with whom he was more than a little in love. The letters that they constantly exchanged were couched in high-flown, romantic terms of regard and affection.

Marie Lafarge had in the intervals between her appearance before the Tribunal and her attacks of illness and unconsciousness, been writing incessantly in the prison of Tulle. Apart from the numerous letters that she had written, Marie Cappelle had put together her Mémoires, which, touched up by professional writers, had been published in France and translated at once into English with a dedication to the women of England by the author herself.

These Mémoires, lively, witty, charming, not written in any spirit of vindictiveness, contained brilliant little pen sketches of Marie's friends, relatives and enemies, and a charming picture of her happy childhood and girlhood at Villers-Hellon, Paris and Strasbourg; though they were, of course, in the nature of special pleading and written with the avowed purpose of proving her innocence, Marie Lafarge did not spare herself in these Mémoires, but showed, if not all her faults, at least many of them.

This attractive and seductive book did not however do the cause of Mme. Lafarge much good. It seems, even, that it roused popular feeling against her. Her most sincere friends believed that she was receiving far too much publicity and advised her not to write so often to the Press; she refused to listen.

* * * * *

Marie found in the prison chamber where she was confined in Tulle a writing on the wall, signed by the name "Capel." She learned that this man who had borne her name had been confined there sixty years previously, that he had been guillotined for a crime that, it was afterwards discovered, he had not committed; Marie Cappelle engraved her name under that of the other prisoner.

In the last days of October, 1841, she was moved to the prison at Montpellier. She was taken by road to this new imprisonment, where she was installed on October 11th, 1841. During this painful journey she was subjected to the furies and curiosities of the inhaitants of the towns and villages she passed through. At Argentac these demonstrations reached a dangerous point; the people crowded round the carriage of the heroine of the drama of Glandier with cries of fury, demanding her death. When, however, Marie threw back her sombre crape veil, and gazing from the carriage said, "What have I done, what do you want with me?"—a revulsion of feeling seized the emotional crowd, who went from one excess to another, and demonstrations of a sympathetic pity, almost of affection, replaced the threat of death.

* * * * *

During the fifteen months that her fate had been in suspense she had received more than six thousand letters, of which only five or six were hostile. The others, and a large number were signed with honourable names, were full of affectionate consolation, of enthusiastic protestations of belief in the prisoner's innocence, of demands in marriage. Some offered her the means of escape, some assured her of golden retreats in a distant country; one offered indeed to lead her to that Smyrna where she might taste all the ephemeral delights that she had dreamt of so desperately in the sordid gloom of Glandier.

Her misfortune had, under one aspect at least, caused her romantic dreams to be realised. She was now indeed, and in the eyes of hundreds of thousands of people, a persecuted heroine, a beautiful, seductive, wronged woman enduring the most outrageous of injuries. Her name appeared continually in the papers, her portrait was frequently reproduced—a mysterious-looking profile with bands of waving black hair and a huge dark eye, and a delicate silhouette with bonnet, veil and shawl, were the two favourite representations of Marie Lafarge. There was also another, showing her seated at a table in her cell, and yet another, showing her sketched face to face with Mme. de Léautaud with the disputed parure of diamonds between them.

Marie Lafarge's cell might be plain, narrow and sad, but she was free within it to dream of herself, not only now as a Diana Vernon, but as a Mary, Queen of Scots, a Blanche of Castille, even a Run of Arc, for her champions did not hesitate to depict her not merely as a foolish woman bitterly wronged, but as a saint of the most dazzling purity and glittering Christian virtues.

Her piety, which had been pronounced in her youth but somewhat forgotten during her Strasbourg and Paris days, and not much in evidence during her brief married life at Glandier, now began to shine with renewed splendour. She fell directly under the influence of the nuns and priests who conducted the prison for women at Montpellier, and in particular under that of a certain Abbé Brunet, who soon came to regard his penitent as not only innocent of the crimes of theft and murder, but as a supremely good woman.

Her room gave on to an empty prison court; her sole furniture was a chair and a little iron bed poorly covered with coarse cotton sheets; there was a stove fed with wood, and a small barred window.

At first the delicate captive's sufferings were extreme; the cold of the first winter she found intense; she could keep warm only by crouching over the stove. She was also quite incapable of looking after herself; she had always despised small domestic details, which were quite beneath, she believed, her lively intelligence.

"To live for the sake of living—what misery!" she would exclaim.

In consequence she did not know how to boil water or milk or how to light her stove; after a while she was allowed a female prisoner to wait on her, and as her health failed the company of the devoted Clementine Servat; soon afterwards her friends were allowed to refurnish completely her cell. She had a fine bed, an arm-chair, a writing table, a commode with a washing service, mirrors, and much indeed of the luxury to which she had been accustomed in Paris. Anyone who wished to see her was given permission to do so, all the new books, newspapers and pamphlets were sent her, she was allowed materials for sewing and embroidery, and to receive and to write as many letters as she wished.

This distinction between her condition and that of the other female prisoners soon caused a scandal in France. The favouritism shown her was put down to her illegitimate connection with the royal family, and the Ministers, always fearful of arousing democratic and republican feelings, sent orders to the Director of the prison at Montpellier to remove from Marie Lafarge's cell all the objects of luxury she enjoyed, to restrict her visits and her correspondence. She was even ordered to take off the widow's dress she had hitherto worn and to put on that uniform worn by the other prisoners. This she refused to do, preferring to remain continually in bed.

The Director of the prison himself gave her the wise advice to struggle no longer with the inevitable and to cease writing those long, impassioned, half-hysterical letters to the Press, to her friends, to strangers who wrote to her so frequently.

"Allow yourself to be forgotten, Madame. Let it seem that you are dead. Only on that condition will you ever come to life again."

Marie Lafarge refused to listen to this good advice. She continued to send from her cell at Montpellier shrill cries of despair, passionate protestations of innocence, lamentations, warm expressions of gratitude to those who believed in her, dignified rebukes to her enemies.

* * * * *

She found a definite if sombre pleasure in the part she was forced to play and flung herself into the role of wronged, stainless heroine as ardently as she had cast her brilliant talents into the part of the reserved, misunderstood child, the society belle, the fastidious bride.

She could now be assured of a wider audience than she could possibly have once hoped for—she was more famous than actress or singer, than any queen or courtesan, she had more would-be lovers, more offers of marriage, more delicious, sentimental, romantic friendships than any princess, than any heiress.

In Clé she had a devotion seldom to be found outside the pages of a novel; in Emma Pontier, and later, in Adèle Collard, she had ideal friendships with members of her own sex; among the most famous men of the day she had ardent champions. Dark misfortunes had raised her above the common lot of women; her destiny might be frightful but it was not bourgeois; better to be in a cell in Montpellier with world-wide publicity than sharing the miserable economies of Glandier with the family Lafarge, unknown to her contemporaries.

Moreover, her shocking fate gave her a poignant affinity with the gloomy, cursed figures that wandered through the pages of her beloved novelists and poets; she belonged now to the unhappy sisterhood that included Lélia and Indiana, Amy Robsart, Edmée and the other more shadowy heroines who crept in and out of the shelves of the circulating libraries.

She could not take down her volume of Byron and read the stage directions from Manfred: "A Gothic Gallery at Midnight, storm without, Manfred alone..." without feeling that she too was one of this lost company of immortal sufferers.

In Montpellier there were many drowsy opium-blurred hours in which to dream of Smyrna and the incredible islands of Florida, to indulge that haunting nostalgia for the impossible land where dreams came true, that drugged and maddened all the romantics. There were moments when reality broke through this web of sombre but seductive imaginings, when the prisoner realised her drab walls, her cotton curtains, her drugget dress, her barred windows, the stigma across her name, and then the awakened dreamer cried aloud in an unbearable agony that her anxious doctors had to quiet with doses of laudanum that every time were increased in strength.

8. BRIDE OF MISFORTUNE

On November 11th, 1841, Marie Cappelle, Widow Lafarge, was lodged in what was termed the matson centrale, the prison for women at Montpellier. She had been sent there, if not at her own request, certainly to her own advantage, because her great-uncle—her beloved grandfather's brother, M. Collard—resided in this district. He had from the first shown himself Marie's ardent champion, and had done all in his power to alleviate her misfortune.

His daughter took the place of Emma Ponder, who had been forced to return to her relatives in the Limousin, as guardian angel of the prisoner, and he was willing that his son should marry the condemned woman if and when she obtained her long-hoped-for release. Another cousin, son of Mme. de Martens, was also willing to marry the prisoner of Montpellier. Both these offers, which seem to have been made in rather a fantastic spirit of chivalry and romantic extravagance, Marie Cappelle refused, though she did not deny to either of the suitors her inevitable letters.

Whatever her behaviour might have been before her sentence, and whether she was guilty or not, her conduct during her imprisonment was unexceptionable. Nothing could have been more delicate, more high-toned, refined and idealistic than the numerous letters sent out of her prison. She kept up a correspondence, not only with her relatives and friends, but with all the notable men who had championed her cause and with many of the unknown sympathisers who had written to her or sent her presents.

Two years after her sentence, much of this correspondence, together with a detailed account of her trial, was published in two volumes at Brussels by M. René, the editor and publisher of the Mémoires. The four books—two volumes of Mémoires, two of Correspondances and accounts of the trial—were issued together as propaganda in favour of Marie Cappelle.

The whole affair of the poisoning and the diamonds was gone into most laboriously by M. René, who also published letters from several lawyers and public men who had gone minutely into the case and considered Marie Cappelle innocent.

Francois Raspail kept up a warfare with the other chemist Orfila, striving to prove that he had been mistaken in believing he had found arsenic in the remains of Charles Lafarge, and arguing that even if he had, the small quantity he alleged he had dis-covered would not account for the vast amount with which Marie Cappelle was said to have dosed her husband during fifteen days.

The French Press, that had not spared either Marie Cappelle or Mme. de Léautaud during the trial, continued to print fantastic and scandalous stories of the private lives of both these aristocratic young ladies, and this paper war of ignoble slander did much to intensify the bitterness between the two families. It had become like a clan or party feud. People took sides either with the family of Marie Cappelle or with the family Léautaud, and reason and decency were lost in the struggle.

Marie's lawyers, absolutely convinced of her innocence, left no stone unturned to secure a reopening of the case or her pardon. As she was in the eyes of the French law civilly dead, their task was of extraordinary difficulty. Petitions were presented to the King and to the Queen, and Marie's defenders, as well as a large portion of the populace of France, thought that this was a case towards which the King might have extended his mercy and his pity. Why Louis-Philippe did not do so remains a mystery. The excuse given by him and his Ministers, and by the Queen, who personally declared herself convinced of the innocence of Marie Cappelle, was that a scandal would be caused by showing favour to one now well known to be closely, if illegitimately, connected with the House of Orleans, which somewhat uneasily occupied the throne of France.

* * * * *

M. Charles Lachaud wished to devote the rest of his life to the service of Marie Cappelle and to take up his residence at Montpellier. He was dissuaded from this course by Marie herself, who urged him to go to Paris and follow his destiny, which seemed to be a brilliant one; he obeyed her and a long correspondence took place between them. Marie's letters breathed the most delicate gratitude, the most tender respect, and that kirid of idealistic, romantic love in which she had already indulged on paper in at least two instances, the young apothecary Guyot and her husband Charles Lafarge.

When M. Lachaud had nothing more to do in her case, and there was no excuse of legal matters to be discussed between them, the correspondence gradually ceased; Lachaud married, but all his life preserved a romantic attachment for Marie Cappelle; he became one of the most famous lawyers at the French Bar and died suddenly of a seizure when pleading a case. When he was removed in an unconscious condition to an ante-chamber, the attendant who opened his coat and shirt found the miniature of Marie Lafarge hanging above his heart.


Illustration

Louis-Philippe, King of the French
From the painting by Franz Xaver Winterhalter (1805-1873)


Not only did Marie Cappelle write letters of fervent gratitude, admiration and love to all her friends and supporters, she wrote dignified and scathing letters to her enemies, addressing one to M. Orfila, several to the Press against the family Léautaud, and, in short, left no opportunity of giving publicity to her case unexploited.

She was warned by several, who affected to be her good friends, the humane Director of the prison, her Confessor, that this blaze of publicity was bad for her cause and was creating such a sensation and such a scandal in France that it would be impossible for those in authority to release her; she refused to listen and the Press continued to supply its readers with protests, recriminations, laments, petitions and arguments from the pen of Marie Cappelle and her defenders, as well as sensational details about her life, both at Montpellier and before her condemnation.

The result of this was that she was not allowed to receive or to write so many letters, and the luxuries that her friends had freely supplied her with were cut down; nor was she allowed any longer to receive the pamphlets and newspapers in which her case was exploited. The prisoner took this procedure so much to heart that she left untouched at the door of her cell such papers and letters as she was allowed to receive.

Apart from this burning obsession of obtaining the rehabilitation of her honour, the prisoner had two powerful factors in her life, those that have influenced most prisoners. Like Mary, Queen of Scots, she became absorbed in her health of mind and body; the doctors and the priests who were her constant attendants received all her confidences, and when she was not concerning herself with the miserable state of her health, she was struggling for resignation to the will of God and trying to console herself with the hopes of a martyr's palm in Heaven. Her constitution, always delicate, had deteriorated with shocking rapidity after her sentence; she passed days, sometimes weeks, in bed, in a half-unconscious condition; she suffered from atrocious pains in the head, from heart attacks, from fainting fits, fevers and a continual cough. The doctors, who in every way showed themselves humane and devoted, diagnosed her case as consumption of the lungs, complicated with heart disease and extreme nervous debility.

Her own letters paint a state of health so appalling that it seems marvellous she could have resisted as long as she did. Her sufferings, both physical and mental, were truly intense. Apart from the humiliation of her position, she was deprived of all those luxuries that had become second nature to her. Her various accomplishments, which she had taken such pains to acquire and which she had so enjoyed exercising, were now completely denied to her. No longer could she on a white steed imagine herself to be Diana Vernon, no longer could she sit at her Pleyel piano playing Mozart, Haydn, a romance of Chopin or Liszt, no longer could she exercise her harmonious, soft and well-trained voice in some languishing love idyll, no more show her superb figure and her exquisite art in leading the dance, as she had led it for the last time in the ball at Brives when, as she had written to her aunts, she had appeared "deliciously attired in a double-flounced, white muslin robe wreathed with marguerites," with marguerites in her hair and at her breast, waltzing to a melody by Johann Strauss.

She who had, to the point of passion, loved all that was delicate, dainty, fastidious and sophisticated, was now forced to reduce herself to the bare necessaries of life, comforted only by the few luxuries that her friends were allowed now and then to send her. She had a few books and read continuously; her sleepless nights were occupied in devouring the luscious pages of George Sand, the heroic romances of Walter Scott, the lurid poems of Lord Byron, supplemented by the Bible, Rousseau and a few classic authors.

When her health permitted, she studied Greek and Latin, and with her astonishing quickness and application, soon knew the dead languages well enough to venture on some translations. Everyone who met her was favourably impressed with her intelligence, her sweetness, her delicacy and her pious resignation; only the nuns and the doctors saw her occasional and frightful fits of frantic despair.

She fell much under the influence of the Director of Religious Instruction at Montpellier, the Abbé Brunet, and her letters to him when he was moved to another post were so full of touching resignation and candid piety that the good priest kept them to show to his other penitents as examples of "Christian thought." The Abbé Coural, another of her spiritual comforters, was so impressed by her as to present a personal petition on her behalf to the Queen, the prudish daughter of King Big Nose.

The question of the drugget dress (robe de bure) that she was supposed to wear came up again at Montpellier. At first she refused to put on this convict garb, declaring she would pass all her time in bed; but her Confessor was able to induce her to look upon this garment, not as a mark of degradation, but as the insignia of martyrdom. Under this persuasion Marie Cappelle donned and wore for the remainder of her imprisonment the same uniform as that worn by the other women prisoners; she even began to take the same pleasure in it as she had once taken in her garlands of lilies, her veils of point d'Angleterre, her green amazone, for she felt the aureole gild her forehead.

She made friends with the nuns who nursed in the Infirmary, and often, when her own health permitted, assisted them in their labours, arbitrated in their disputes and reported them to the Abbé Brunet. She proved herself a docile, intelligent and kind nurse, and those who watched her remembered the report of Doctor Bardon, that during those dreadful days at Glandier "everybody in the house had lost her head except Madame Charles, who showed coolness and courage."

* * * * *

Marie Cappelle found time partly to write another volume, entitled Hours of Prison (Heures de Prison) in which, in her high-flown, romantic style broken here and there by passages of acute observation and gentle irony, she related her daily life and the thoughts that haunted her in prison; this, unfinished, was not published until after her death.

The publication of her letters aroused the enthusiasm of her champions to frenzy. She was, in the extravagant language of the time, termed a "Francesca da Rimini," a "Pia dei Tolemei," an "Iphigenia," an "Ariadne," and celebrated under such fantastic titles as "Angel of Arsenic," "Bride of Misfortune," "Muse of the Prison," and "Wounded Dove Trailing her Broken Wings towards the Tomb."

* * * * *

Alexandre Dumas, Jacques Jasmin, Emile de Girardin were among the celebrated men who warmly and openly expressed their belief in the innocence of Marie Cappelle; Jasmin sent her a copy of his poems, which she read carefully, returning an extremely acute and delicate criticism of the work.

Emile de Girardin was one of the champions of Peytel, who was executed for a triple murder, and who had assisted Girardin in the editorship of Le Voleur; this elegant journalist, who was of good birth, had subsequently edited a journal that Marie Cappelle must often have turned over in her happier days—La Mode, that was issued under the patronage of the charming, squinting Duchesse de Berri, queen of romantics.

After the revolution of 1830, Girardin had devoted himself to journalism that was, in the literal sense of the word, cheap; in La Presse he issued the first penny (deux sous) newspaper. Soon after, he killed in a duel the republican leader Armand Carrell, who had taken the high-flown tone that to issue cheap newspapers was an insult to letters; Girardin fought three other duels in the same cause and made a success of his commercial enterprise. When he championed Marie Cappelle he was a member of the Chambre de Députés and an influential person in Parisian life; he lived to thrust, in 1849, an act of abdication under the dazed eyes of Louis-Philippe, to bundle him into a hackney carriage, and to face the mob shouting "Confidence, confidence!" He was subsequently imprisoned, and then retired into private life, amusing himself by revising the formidable masses of paper that he had, during an active life, found time to cover with ink.

Such was one of the most ardent champions of "the dark muse of prison." Girardin, an accomplished journalist, an audacious arriviste, satisfied not only his chivalry and love of justice by his partisanship of the notorious Marie, but also, with a nice sense of the popular taste, supplied his readers with copious sensational details of the Lafarge-Léautaud cases.

The grateful letters of Marie Cappelle were highly gratifying to Girardin, as a man, a romantic and a publicist; he never ceased his efforts to obtain, if not her pardon, her release.

Jacques Jasmin was a different type from the dashing Girardin, but he was a character likely to appeal to the taste of Marie Cappelle.

This peasant poet had revived the old Romance language of the Troubadours and in this dialect composed verses very well suited to the period of the Gothic revival; he was of picturesque descent, had a hunch-backed father, a lame mother and had had no schooling.

Inspired by Chateaubriand's essay on Robert Burns, Jasmin strove to do for the South of France what the Scot had done for his native land; he used to recite his poems himself and gave to charity the large sums that he earned in this manner. His subjects were of a fashionable gloominess—L'Abugio de Castel Cuillé, rather unfortunately "rendered into English" by Longfellow, told "with exquisite pathos" of a girl, who, forsaken by her lover because she is disfigured by disease, dies, if not to slow music, to slow verse. Most of his other themes were similar; it was, then, hardly surprising if the tender-hearted Jasmin, so used to dwelling on the woes of imaginary heroines, should feel a lively sympathy with the mournful prisoner of Montpellier.

On the other hand "the poor Marie," as she so often called herself, found a severe, even bitter critic, in another famous figure of literary Paris, Jules Janin, who, detesting the romantics, had begun by parodying Victor Hugo in L'âne mort, et la femme guillotinée, and who found his vocation as one of the most acute and brilliant critics of the day; his weekly theatrical articles in the Débats were famous; he edited most of the French classics and wrote several fine novels quiet untinged by romanticism; Janin translated the Odes of Horace and wrote an astringent account of the Great Exhibition in London 1851; such an intellect, dry, shrewd, ironic, loathing sentimentality and all the luscious, enervating trappings of romance, was not likely to be impressed with the exasperating case of Marie Lafarge.

He thought her an audacious criminal, an accomplished hypocrite, and said so in the columns of the Débats, adding his opinion that it was a disgrace to French letters that this woman was allowed so exhaustive a hearing and accorded so many partisans; the Mémoires in particular disgusted the fastidious classicist. Every rogue who got into prison wrote some trash that was, out of sheer sensationalism, accorded a hysterical reception.

Jules Janin protested haughtily—"the names of a Lacenaire, a Peytel, a Marie Lafarge, soil the pages of French literature."

This icy attack was furiously answered by the prisoner's friends and she herself treated it with saintly disdain.

But it did her harm; Janin's reputation was high, and the man in the street was inclined to respect the judgment of the sensitive and penetrating critic of the Débats rather than the emotional and excited assertions of men like Girardin and Jasmin and Dumas, who were obviously pledged to be the champion of any femme fatale.

It may be questioned if among Marie's champions was one as cool-headed, as well-trained, as experienced, both in life and letters, as Jules Janin.

On one point Marie scored a triumph over her dangerous enemy; Janin had "made" Rachel by his enthusiastic praise, then quarrelled with her and tried in vain to "unmake" her; perhaps because of this, perhaps because of a natural sympathy with a sister actress and fellow-romantic, when Rachel went to Montpellier she gave the prisoner of the maison centrale a specimen of that dramatic art that brought all fashionable Paris to the Théâtre Francais to hear the daughter of a Jew pedlar declaim the incredibly noble and sonorous lines of Pierre Corneille.

"Ariane, ma soeur, de quel amour blessée.
Vous mourûtes aux bords où vous fûtes laissée..."

There was much in common between the two women, the descendant of the corrupt branche cadette des Bourbons and the descendant of nameless Jew beggars; Rachel Félix, daughter of a mother who kept a rag shop, had as much regal grace and fascinating charm as the daughter of that exquisite mondaine Caroline Collard.

These two women were much of an age, had large black eyes, swathes of black hair, and each was troubled by the dry cough that foretold the disease that would one day kill her.

Before the enraptured prisoner in her sacrificial dress of drugget, the tragédienne in her classic robes declaimed with solemn passion the anguish of Phèdre, symbolic of all the agonies of the victims of Venus Libitina and the stately heroics of Athalie.

Jacques Jasmin also visited Marie and tried to make her monotonous life a little less dreary by reciting The Blind Girl and his famous Martha the Madwoman, that had drawn more tears than any pathetic poem ever published, Jasmin's admirers claimed.

Whether Marie could understand the obsolete dialect of the Troubadours sufficiently to appreciate the finer points of Marthe la Folle is doubtful, but she wrote a letter of thanks to Jasmin, criticising his work that, when it was published, Sainte-Beuve, the great supporter of Jasmin, found worthy of a professional pen.

In these letters to the kind poet, Marie introduced, with telling effect, her own case—"Voltaire saved Calas—sing to me, monsieur, and perhaps I shall also return from the dead. I am innocent!..."

Marie Cappelle was mistaken in thinking that Voltaire had saved Calas; a similar vagueness touched her praise of Jasmin—"Your muse is a Christian virgin, but she is coquettishly crowned with the roses and violets once worn by Tibullus, Horace and Anacreon."

She concluded her smooth praises of the poet with a trite axiom that, if her own account of her case was true, she had not proved correct—"If great actions bring glory, good actions bring happiness."

* * * * *

Yet with all this excitement in her favour, with the publication both in Germany and in England of scathing reports on the partiality and injustice of her trial, no headway was made in having her case reopened, nor was it even possible to obtain a pardon for Marie Cappelle, which would have left the question of her guilt or innocence untouched. Nor did the French police make any serious attempt to secure Denis Barbier.

The affair of the diamonds remained mysterious. M. Felix Clavé, supposed to be in Mexico, did not appear; it might even have been doubted whether such a person had existed save in the romantic imagination of two young girls, had not his letters to Marie Cappelle been published among her other correspondence. These were such as did honour to the mysterious young man, being couched in high-flown, idealistic and romantic language. They supported rather Marie Cappelle's version of the story than that of Mme. de Léautaud, since they did not appear to be the letters of a man at all likely to threaten blackmail or even to cause a woman apprehension on that score.

As this important witness did not appear the public could believe as they liked, either that he had seen Marie de Nicolai only once in the street and spoken to her only for a moment at a ball, that all the letters that had passed in this schoolgirl affair had been written by Marie Cappelle, or they could believe Marie Cappelle's version of a long and dangerous coquetry between the handsome stranger and Marie de Nicolai that had ended in her fear of blackmail.

The point whether or no M. Clavé had ever appeared in the chorus of William Tell was also not to be cleared up, though the Press continued to publish exasperating surmises, hints and innuendoes on the subject. Had Mme. de Léautaud admitted that Marie Cappelle's story was true and that she had in a moment of foolish agitation given her the diamonds, her reputation could hardly have suffered more than it did now, exposed to all the malicious devices of the prisoner's journalistic friends.

* * * * *

As her health declined Marie Cappelle began to make extensive use of drugs; her doctors supplied her with laudanum, morphia and opium, which she took in increasing quantities, sometimes for days together not accepting any nourishment. It began to be a torture to her to be deprived of this laudanum, and some of her letters are full of bitter complaints against the nuns or the doctors who kept from her what she considered necessary doses to alleviate her constant and terrible pain. These outbursts were, however, invariably followed by expressions of regret and contrition.

Her family, though continuing to live in Paris, often visited her, all save her sister Antonine, Madame de Violaine, who, though she had shown herself at first enthusiastic in Marie's cause, seems to have gradually separated herself from the prisoner.

Marie Cappelle's aunts and uncles paid dearly for the imprudence that had allowed them to accept a stranger as a husband for their niece. They nearly beggared themselves in her defence; it does not appear that she was given any of the considerable sums of money that her Mémoires and other works, sold all over Europe, must have brought in, and her dowry had been entirely swallowed up in the bankruptcy of Glandier.

The elder Mme. Lafarge and her daughter, Mme. Buffière, disappeared out of the story and lived quietly in the Limousin. They did not, however, escape the severest strictures cast on them by Marie's champions, who pointed out with much bitterness the extraordinary part that the elder Mme. Lafarge had played in the tragedy of Glandier—breaking open the envelope of the will entrusted to her, having it altered by the lawyers, and accepting so readily and spreading so bitterly the story of Marie's poisoning of her husband.

It was also again brought up against the elder Mme. Lafarge that she had committed the hideous cruelty of telling her dying son that his wife had poisoned him, and that, before his body was cold, she had ransacked and pillaged the house, driving her daughter-in-law out of her room while she broke open her desk and stole her papers.

Neither of these women, however, was brought to book for this behaviour, and they remained silent under the charges that were openly circulated against them. In the review of the trial and the Mémoires published in the Edinburgh Review of 1842, the writer, after inveighing against the injustice of which Marie Cappelle had been the victim, concluded by saying that the mother was by no means free from suspicion, the inference being that the old woman, in a frenzy of hatred for her daughter-in-law, and distracted by the financial ruin she saw ahead, had poisoned her son in order to secure her daughter-in-law's fortune and to get rid of her by making her appear guilty of the crime.

Emma Pontier married unromantically into respectable dullness and settled in the Limousin; she became the mother of a large family, continued always to believe in the innocence of Marie, and to declare, as she had declared at the trial, that she had taken the box of arsenic out of Marie's apron pocket, not because she feared she was going to poison her husband with it, but because she thought she might, overwhelmed by the unjust charges made against her, attempt suicide.

* * * * *

Marie Cappelle's remarkable correspondence, not written, as her admirers were careful to point out, with any idea of publicity, but nevertheless published, most of it during her lifetime, can be illustrated by the following extracts, typical of the tone and subject matter of the hundreds of letters that she wrote during her confinement in Tulle and Montpellier. One to her lawyer, M. Bac, refers to one of her persistent day-dreams, that Smyrna that she had declared she would fly to in her fatal letter of August 15th:

M. D—— T—— has been giving me details about Smyrna. After the street of roses, after the perfumed allée that you know of, there is a great wood with ravines, rocks and cascades. There one goes to find shade and charming walks in which to stroll. While the horses that have brought you there are feeding on boughs of lauriers-roses, you suspend hammocks beside the stream, and there you rest enjoying pleasant conversation during the burning hours of the day. Towards night some slave sings you a sad, sweet, monotonous song. We will not have slaves, but if my voice is sweet to you, O my friend, it will try to pierce your dreams. In each house there are charming bathrooms, perfumed, tepid, vaporous. This is a more selfish pleasure, but this isolation in the water and the perfume are still very sweet. One easily receives letters and books from Europe, often French travellers will pass to stay some days and take back with them some remembrances of your happiness in the heart of an enemy who still recalls you. Dream with me. Do we love less the brilliant little stars of our sky because they are so far from us?

Then, to M. Lachaud:

Alas, if I were still a young woman, free, esteemed, loved, what joy I should take in your affection; how proud I should be of your success if I were worthy to share it. Irreparable, irreparable! I touch my forehead, which burns under the sign of degradation. I shall cease to write to you, I shall open my "Imitation of Christ" and I shall repeat to you the words with which God has inspired me. "Lord, You see the desire of my heart. May it be that of Your Will, all that is done is in Your Name. Give me what You will, as much as You will, and when You will. I am in Your hands; I am Your servant, submissive to any affliction."

Again, a few days later:

Ah, you are great and pure, my friend. How different you are from other men, and how few of them are capable of understanding your virtues! Do not speak to me of your "weakness" when I mean to overwhelm you with my gratitude! Never have I been better understood than by you, never has a holy affection given me so much strength and courage as has yours!

To another friend she wrote, in the early days of her imprisonment, these words:

I breathe more at my ease in knowing that you are free under this beautiful sky, reposing among the perfume of the flowers. It seems to me that you must be happy in the middle of the beauties of nature. As for myself, I will not regret your company and I enjoy the thought of everything that makes you happy. In the evening when it is not yet quite dark, but when the light has nearly gone, I think of you and feel as if I was approaching your great chair, where perhaps you are dreaming, sadly thinking of me. I say to you words such as you used to love, some words of confidence, then also some words of despair. To the first you give a sweet smile of acceptance, to the others a stern rebuke. Then your mother, so good, so tender, you wake her by a kiss, and you talk to her in a low voice of the poor, traduced woman. Teach her to love me. I merit it. For me, I love her enough to sacrifice without hesitation your presence to her desire. I live in a complete solitude, my windows look out on to emptiness. I have, indeed, a great need to put a little order into my soul and calm into my spirit. Solitude that tortures the heart stimulates the thought. That is its strength, as suffering is its dignity. I am going to read a mountain of newspapers. I understand now the danger and the usefulness of the Press. Tell me what they are saying among your mountains, tell me if your people have belief in and pity for me. Adieu, adieu. The thought of you often comes to fill the emptiness of my days and calm the agonies of my nights.

When some of her visitors tried to tell Marie Cappelle in a cool but friendly fashion that she was living in a world of fantasy and that facts were all against her, she deeply resented this touch of realism, as the following letter to an unknown correspondent shows. A certain "M. S." had been warning her of the horrors of her position:

M. S.—— has told me that the worst is being hidden from me, that I am surrounded by young people full of illusions who would ruin me by their fantasies, that the scaffold is not a romance, that I am surrounding myself with an aureola of improbabilities that would never be understood by the jury. I replied: "I am quite capable of seeing the approach of death without fear, and I leave remorse and horror to the guilty one, I know how to endure to see the sword suspended over my head when my innocence is painted on my forehead, my friends are strong enough to tell me all the truth, I despise the world and so on. I am overwhelmed by this cold reason that tries to freeze the soul. Let death come; it will find me resigned and smiling, martyred and loved. Is it not so?"

To the faithful M. Lachaud, in 1841, she sent this little picture of romantic misery:

I was in much pain again yesterday. Last night the storm cut the sky into zigzags of fire. The heat was stifling. Worn out with presentiments and profound regret, timid, discouraged, nervous, I opened my window, and rested my burning head against the bars dashed with rain. I wept, I became icy cold, and this morning I had the most frightful agony in my head and ears. I had to force my courage to write to you, that is tormented even by the effort of breaking open the envelope of your letter.

When Mlle. Adèle Collard sent her some family portraits including that of her beloved grandfather, Marie Cappelle answered with this letter:

My dear little sister, I embrace you twice, three, four times, and then I am silent, for I have had this evening such violent pains in the head, augmented by a heavy cold that I spare you the stupid remarks that my state would reduce me to. A thousand respectful tendernesses to your good mother. My uncle is at his post of guardian angel, close to my couch. You three well-beloved beings are my first and my last thoughts. When I see my grandfather smiling at me from the picture, it seems to me that he encourages me and that now the contempt of other men means nothing to me at all. I feel myself strong. I feel myself great and worthy of affection. All those whom I have truly loved are in Heaven, they will save me, they will bless me. The immensity of my sufferings has certainly effaced the inconsequences and the faults of my foolish mind, and if I am the humiliation of those who love me I am nevertheless the joy and the pride of those who wait for me in Heaven. You grumble at me because I sometimes desire death, but don't you understand who is waiting for me in Heaven, that I shall see them again, that I shall be there without stain, that in Heaven a true rehabilitation awaits me? Oh, that I could have wings to leave this valley of tears, to cast off this mantle of degradation that men have cast on me! Poor child, may God preserve you from this torture of calumny. At twenty-four years of age they have made of me a pariah. I am a humiliation for my family, a sorrow for my friends. No man dares love me; anyone who dared to unite his life to mine would be thrown out from society as infamous. The child who called me mother would be cursed by men. Oh, understand then that I love death, and that I wish to die. Adieu, mon Adèle. I will love you enough to say to you, I love you.—Marie.

The long correspondence with Abbé Brunet is largely filled with passages full of religious exaltation. Marie Cappelle saw herself as a Magdalene, a penitent, sometimes even as a saint. These ecstatic letters are also full of a warm affection for the priest, who had professed so openly his belief in the innocence of the prisoner:

Can I call you my brother? from the bottom of the soul. With all the strength of my soul, can I vow for you the affection that a sister vows to her brother? With all the force of my heart, can I hope that you will give me a little of that fraternal friendship that I offer you so completely? I can write to you as I wish, can I not, or will it be too much? If I have need of advice, of consolation, can I turn towards you, my brother? Can I count on you without fearing, in waiting for your response, that I have shown myself indiscreet? My letters are to you alone. God alone will judge them, and I do not fear for them this judgment of the Lord. You talk to me of my health. Alas, it is too good, or too bad, why am I not ripe for Heaven, I also? Why, according to your own superb expression, have not "my tears brought to maturity the crown of thorns that death prepares for me on the threshold of eternity?" So young, and so rich in love, to die! To die, when so many poor creatures with nothing to attach them to life, useless to all, by all forgotten, continue to live. Ah, these thrustful contradictions that with each step baffle us! The Queen, the Duchess of Orleans, the Maréchale Gérard, the Marquise de Mornay have most nobly interested themselves in my cause. The Queen has charged M. Hébert to say that she believes in my innocence: "Tell Marie Cappelle that I have wept in reading her letter, that she shall not weep any more because I am watching over her fate." You will understand, my brother, these words seem to me more sweet than a promise of liberty. It is not from a longing for restoration to life that I suffer, but for restoration to honour.

In these letters to the Abbé Brunet, Marie Cappelle spoke of a drama that she was writing entitled A Lost Woman. This was never published and the manuscript seems to have disappeared; the tide suggests that in this theatrical effort Marie Cappelle had once more dramatised herself and her life.

Marie Cappelle continued other labours while in prison; she rejoiced to make delicate objects in embroidery for her friends. One is reminded of the exquisite pieces of needlework Mary, Queen of Scots, embroidered for her son and for Queen Elizabeth. For the wife of M. Lacombe, the Limousin lawyer who had become one of her champions, and for several of their friends, doctors and lawyers who had laboured in her behalf, the prisoner sent several of these little objects worked by her own hands, and with them this letter, typical of her delicacy of thought and expression:

I send to you two little poppies that I have embroidered for your wife, three little pens, also my own work, for our philosopher M. Regert, and the good doctor, a little packet for M. de Laspeyrie. A living creature would not dare to send to those whom she loved these poor little objects, but a poor, dead creature uses her rights and her privileges. One learns that sufferings weaken the fingers, that tear-drops too often end in feeble sight. It is not so easy to finish a work of labour and of patience. For six months I have commenced two fans for your chimney-piece and my wretched head will not allow me to finish them. Pardon me. If one embroidered with one's heart nothing would equal the talent, strength and rapidity with which Marie would work for those whom she loved. Adieu, dear and respected support of my nothingness. Be happy, my prayers are all for you. Do not forget me. My hope is all in you. I send you a little picture of myself. The window against which I am leaning is that of my cell, it gives on to the courtyard of the prison. Beneath my window are bell-flowers and other blossoms sown by my hand. When my picture was taken the sun was not strong enough to show my features, so they allowed me to take off the black robe that as a rule I must wear and put on a white garment. If you read a smile in my eyes, take it, dear friend, it is addressed to you.

On other occasions despair became the ruling emotion of the prisoner, and she vented her agonies in passages like the following, addressed to Charles Lachaud:

Ah, how black and humiliating the grilles of my prison windows are! How sad my cell is. The poor flowers that I have here are all faded, and I am far from you. All to-day I have felt feeble and discouraged. I have said over piously my prayers for a dear, absent one without drawing from that much resignation. I see you at Paris near those whom I love, and who without doubt no longer love me. I hear the cold words with which they reply to your noble championship. I feel that you are surrounded by indifference, by frivolity. Dear and noble friend, when everyone else abandons me, I shall lean on you and know no longer how to weep. Our friendship is holy and pure. The world that I despise may not put its seal upon it, but God will bless it.

Again:

Pardon me for coming to cast a new inquietude into your festival. I suffer, I am alone, and I rest my feebleness on your courage. Yesterday after you had left me I remained a long time at the window gazing in the sky at a radiant little star that seemed to smile at me. I dream, and for too long, for habituated to my close, stale air, the freshness of the night chilled me and I was punished for my imprudence by extremely violent pains in the head. I could not close an eye for the rest of the night. This morning I was obliged to send for the doctor. When he arrived he found fever, an extraordinary excitement, and this excellent friend took my poor head between his hands and begged me with sweet and affectionate words to try and sleep.

The fragments that Marie Cappelle wrote while in prison and that were afterwards published are all in the same style as her letters. Among them is this description of her cell, written in 1841 in the prison of Montpellier:

Autumn has dropped the last leaf from her crown. It is cold, and when a little fire is lit in my room my bed coverlet is still insufficient to warm me. To obtain a little heat I have to remain in bed all day. That is very long—ten solitary, unoccupied hours. I try to live when everyone else reposes and sleeps. Night is the domain of the dead; then, when night has fallen I try to unite myself to all the spirits who circle in the shade and whose cries I can hear in the wind. But this is only the nightmare of my life, this is only the dream of my sugering. Tears stifle me, I would weep and I laugh. My ideas take vague and changing forms. I cannot collect my thoughts. Things come and go in my head without my volition. Where there should be light, there is shade. I hear the echo without the sound, the efiect without the cause. No, I am not mad, though my fear deceives me, for mad people do not love, and I love. Mad people do not believe, and I believe. My cell is square, it is full of an air of death. I have asked my jailer to go in a straight line from the door to the window and to count his steps; his feet are large, and mine in the same place could be put twice. Therefore, I may call the room large. The walls are of lime with a mixture of black material; the stone comes from the local quarries. This is my furniture: by the side of the door, a stove in sheet iron; the chimney goes obliquely across the wall with an air of a boa-constrictor; it is very ugly, but I am grateful for the warmth it gives. In front of this stove is a case that holds my books; under this a table; near to the window a commode. My bed has cotton curtains, grey colour; then there are two chairs and an arm-chair in coarse cotton. That is all. But is it not luxury for a poor woman who has passed two years with no other furniture than a chair? I have forgotten to describe my most precious possession—the holy little chapel of my souvenirs. Towards the middle of the bed I have a statuette of the Virgin, fastened against the wall, on a little stand covered with a white napkin; on each side are suspended the portraits, circled in black velvet—for gold is forbidden—of my father, my mother, my grandfather and my grandmother. Beyond the stove, I have placed the crucifix that was before by my bedside. The Divine glance must help me to bear my cross. Under the crucifix are placed piously two branches of cypress plucked from the cemetery of Villers-Hellon. The cemetery of Villers-Hellon! Oh, my friends, do not demand anything more of me! I have finished with tears what I commenced with a smile.

* * * * *

Marie Cappelle passed eleven years in the maison centrale prison of Montpellier. Some of her friends and relations died, some became indifferent to her fate, time began to dim the blazing scandal of the cause célèbre of which she had been the sad heroine. Her health became more and more enfeebled; her religious ecstasy and her despair of mortal happiness increased together; she had seen, as the years wore on, one petition after another rejected, one device after another for her rehabilitation fail.


Illustration

Mme. Lafarge in Prison
From an old engraving in possession of the author.


At first she had refused the petition for a pardon that might mean release—she wished her honour re-established; but after the Revolution of 1849 when Louis-Philippe and his Queen, in whom Marie Cappelle had placed such high hopes, were driven from the throne, the prisoner of Montpellier was induced to petition the President of the new Republic, Louis Napoleon, for pardon and release. Her old friend, Emile de Girardin, pressed her appeal with vehemence.

She had, perhaps, a greater claim on the consideration of a Bonaparte than on that of an Orleans. Her family had given distinguished servants to the cause of the great Emperor, Napoleon I; moved by this consideration and by the strenuous exertions of Emile de Girardin and M. Collard, Prince Napoleon showed himself merciful; four distinguished doctors were sent to visit the prisoner of Montpellier; their reports declared that her sole hope of life lay in her instant release.

She was therefore—without the question of her guilt being opened—sent on February 21st, 1851, to the hospital at Saint-Rémy. This State establishment had a sinister name, L'asile des aliénés, and was in fact a maison de santé or mad-house, but Marie was treated with great consideration by the director, M. de Chabran, and in her letter of gratitude to Girardin she gives this charming description of her new refuge:

...we pass Beaucaire and arrive at Saint-Rémy, a very discreet and pious little town, surrounded by green, crowned with white, that wakes with the morning angelus and sleeps with the evening angelus. Long white limestone walls surround the hospital, an avenue of cypress leads to the doors; at the entrance is a porter, at the doors, a nun, who scrutinises the passports of all visitors. Free of them you can admire the old Gothic porch, the slender columns of the cloisters, whose capitals are crowned by archangels and chimeras, who kneel side by side like the young nuns beneath them who recite aloud the same rosary and dream silently the same dream. Ascend the stairs—you will reach a large black grille—it will be opened, you will find yourself with me.

After expressing a lively gratitude, Marie Cappelle had some complaints to make.

She was as much a prisoner as before, under lock and key; no one, not even the Abbé Coural nor her faithful doctor from Montpellier, was allowed to visit her without an order from the Ministry; from eight o'clock, "lorsque les folles se couchent," she was forced to retire from the little cabinet allowed her and locked in her bedroom.

But she had her consolations:

The sun of the good God that freely enters my room, the nightingale that comes to sing his Ténèbres and Matines to me, the pigeons that eat out of my hand, and Adèle, sister of my soul.

Most precious of all, she boasted of three letters from Emile de Girardin:

I press my lips to the seal Stabo, I tell myself that my oracle is the oracle of France, my hope her hope, my saviour the great man who will save this poor people!

According to Marie all was not well in the saintly establishment of Saint-Paul at Saint-Rémy; the Mother Superior was jealous of the Abbé Chargros, who wished to console Marie, and the good man had to cease his visits; the nuns were dry, cold, autocratic; used to dealing with lunatics, they did as they pleased—"there is no worse despotism than that of virtue," noted Marie bitterly.

* * * * *

A year later she was officially released (June 11th, 1852), and her letters to Girardin breathe not only joyous gratitude but "hopes, projects, dreams."

She returned to Montpellier, to the paternal care of M. Collard, who had, as she declared, stinted his children to provide for her prison luxuries.

In reply to Girardin's question concerning her position, she wrote: "I have absolutely nothing." She hoped, however, to earn some money with which to repay the Collards; she had some manuscripts by her, and she felt "a vocation" for journalism; she was eager for the employment that she hoped Girardin would find for her. But a subsequent letter confessed:

My pen is broken, my ink upset, I am the victim of a cough, a fever, of the doctors' directions, I have scarcely the strength to live, much less to write...

Gustave Collard, she said, had again offered his hand and been refused.

In truth her state was desperate, and it was, unaccountably, decided that she should leave her retreat with the Collards and go with Adèle to take the waters at Ussat.

She had herself a profound disinclination to leave her "nest" as she termed it with the Collards at Montpellier, and no one else offered her an asylum. It is perhaps odd that none of her ardent admirers and supporters came forward now to parade her in triumph in the capital, where her name had for twelve years blazed in an incredible publicity; but the wronged prisoner was easier to champion than the forlorn, penniless invalid who had been pardoned without being absolved of the guilt of two crimes. Besides, Paris was in the ferment of the gaudy dawn of the Second Empire and that peculiar type of Romanticism that had idolised Marie Cappelle was out of fashion.

No one came forward to offer the released prisoner the attentions that would have made her liberty worth while; there were only the vague offers from Girardin, so soon to be himself a prisoner, and the homely kindness of the Collards; the rest of Marie Cappelle's relatives held aloof. After the long drama of her imprisonment this liberty that did not include rehabilitation was a dull thing to the sick, passionate woman.


IV. LAST DROP SCENE

THE SECRET OF THE TOMB, 1852

THE affairs of Marie Cappelle, though she had so many intelligent, enthusiastic people interfering in them, were always lamentably ill-managed. Though her doctors pronounced her to be dying of tuberculosis and heart disease, and though for twelve years she had been in prison, and therefore was quite out of touch with the world, she was sent with only the inexperienced Adèle, and Clementine Servat who had also been in Montpellier for years, to "take the waters" at Ussat, a place where she had no friends or acquaintances but where her fantastic story was well known—as indeed it was in every corner of Europe.

Without any attempt to disguise her person or name, with only a dying man as an escort, Marie Cappelle set out on what she termed "the last stage of my calvary."

Yet she had hopes, she still dreamed of Paris, of literary work, of fame, of some revival of her dead, corrupted happiness; in September she set out for the Pyrenees. Adèle Collard was herself ill, and Clementine Servat was no longer the gay grisette—the blonde Mimi Pinson, who had troubled with her impertinence the coarse provincial household of Glandier, but a sober, middle-aged woman, absorbed in an obsession—devotion to her mistress.

A brutal reality was before the three romantics; their escort, Colonel Andoury, an old companion-in-arms of M. Cappelle, sixty-five years of age and in the last stages of an incurable disease, accompanied them to the principal hôtel of Ussat, in the district of Ornolac. An aureole of piety and self-sacrifice was about this little group of travellers, who seemed not to expect any pleasure or repose in this world, and only to regard the next through a veil of tears.

Both Adèle Collard, whose health had suffered from the continual visits she had paid Marie Cappelle in prison (often she had remained in her company for days and nights together), and Clementine Servat offered examples of a moving and heroic fidelity. Not only had Clementine Servat on one occasion taken infinite trouble to arrange a plan of escape whereby she was to take her mistress's place in prison, a scheme that might have had some chance of success had not Marie Cappelle refused to take advantage of it, but, when during one period she had been banished from the prison, she had earned her living in Montpellier by domestic service and needlework in order to be as near as possible to her beloved mistress and to earn a little money with which to soften her imprisonment.

Marie Cappelle thus wrote of her faithful servant:

During my long trial she was sublime in her energy and fidelity. After my condemnation her devotion rose even higher. I was amazed to see this young girl, formerly so careless and gay, weeping my tears, suffering my sorrows, caring for me day and night with the inexhaustible tenderness of a mother or a sister, condemned like myself to the rigours of an imprisonment that deprived us of air, of exercise, and often of all communication with the outside world; not only did my poor Clé never complain, but never allowed me to think that there was anything to complain of. She smiled at the bars, she smiled at the locks; the jailer's dog was her friend, the concierge's cat was her companion; the children loved her sugar, the old men her tobacco, everyone her good grace, and under her hands even the chains ceased to gall.

Of her no less faithful friend, Adèle Collard, Marie Cappelle had written in these terms:

Yesterday Adèle was so sad that you would have taken her for the prisoner and me for the young girl who was free to pluck the roses and drink in the sunshine in the meadows. "Listen, my dearest," I said to her, "listen. Near the streams in Villers-Hellon grow yellow and blue irises. Pick me two of those, two where the buds have not yet broken into blossom. Bring them to me. I shall watch them bloom in my chamber, and perhaps the past will also blossom a moment around me." Adèle threw her arms round my neck and did not answer me. "If you find that little pearly treasure, that little blue flower, that some people call 'forget-me-not', and others 'love me,' make me a bouquet. All that remains of life is symbolised in these poor little flowers. You understand me, do you not?" Adèle took my hand; it was clear that she had comprehended my thoughts. "Listen again. When you are seated near the stream, let your hand play with the fresh bubbling water. Throw into the current a willow leaf and tell me if the current has taken it away or if it has sunk to the bottom of the water. Before, I used to consult the oracle thus. Alas, it deceived me, but I still believe in it. Test it for yourself, darling, and—finally—breathe in all the flowers that open round you; take in the air, the sun, the liberty for both of us, and come back to me and give me my share. Come back quickly!" In reply Adèle took oft her hat and gloves and said, "Listen in your turn. When you are unhappy I shall be unhappy. As long as you are a prisoner I shall never quit you, and when the day of liberty comes, well, it will be a good day for both of us."

This longed-for, this hoped-for, this planned-for day had at length arrived, and the three women were free and in the little watering-place where they hoped to find obscurity and repose.

* * * * *

Marie Cappelle had received a pardon, or what passed as a pardon, but not a rehabilitation; she remained civilly dead, and therefore, not only did she not possess anything, but she never could pretend to any inheritance; a modest purse filled from the charity of the Collards was her sole resource; her attire was heavy mourning, her appearance wasted in the extreme.

Colonel Andoury wished to provide for the daughter of his old companion-in-arms; he had realised all his fortune and tried to put the portfolio containing this sum of money into the hands of Marie Cappelle as soon as they had arrived at the hôtel, but she refused.

Her first occupation was to write a letter of thanks to the President of the Republic; this was her last literary effort.

A few weeks afterwards the Colonel died, after declaring to Mme. Lafarge that it was his last wish that she should become his heiress. This Marie Cappelle refused to do, and as soon as Colonel Andoury was dead she returned to his relations the sum of money that he had left behind in his trunk, thus leaving herself with extremely limited means.

The death of this old soldier left the three women without a protector. For various reasons, all of which are not now clear, none of the devoted friends who had for so long championed the cause of Marie Cappelle came forward to guard or soften the liberty which she had obtained too late for happiness or repose; she was allowed to endure an agony worse than that she had suffered at Montpellier or Saint-Rémy.

After she had buried her old friend, Colonel Andoury, in the little cemetery at Ornolac, Marie Lafarge, who had made no friends at Ussat save the Abbé Bounel, whom she had taken as her confessor, went to Toulouse to find a dentist; she was maddened by neuralgia resulting from decayed teeth.

Her means being extremely limited she took the common diligence, but found it impossible to continue in it; even in this remote part of France her story was known, and she was recognised at Tarascon by several women, who insulted her openly as "thief and murderess" and tried to tear the veil away she kept in front of her bonnet.

From Toulouse she wrote one of her last letters to the sympathetic Curé of Ornolac; she was trying to finish an epistle to George Sand, whom she had endeavoured to interest in her case, but sordid details of every-day were overwhelming her; romanticism was no charm against the acute suffering caused by neglected teeth—but were not these agonies also part of "the royal road of the cross"?

God must love me to torment me so. A dentist at Montpellier so damaged the nerve of one of my teeth that I could neither eat, nor speak, nor sleep, pain brought on fever—under these circumstances what good could the waters [of Ussat] do me? There is no dentist at Foix, so I have gone to be tortured at Toulouse, and if I am not too cruelly exhausted by this operation, I shall return in a couple of days and hope to pass September peacefully at Ornolac.

The broken tooth was extracted and Mme. Lafarge returned to Ussat, where she presented herself, with her two companions, at the Hôtel des Bains, where she had stayed before and where Colonel Andoury had died. She was refused accommodation; the proprietor had not succumbed to her famous charm and he feared both her notoriety and her poverty.

After trying all the neighbouring hôtels, where they received the same humiliating rebuffs, the three forlorn women went round all the furnished apartments in the little town. They were refused at all of these, until, when the evening fell, they received rough accommodation at the house of a M. Rouau, who, however, could give them nothing except a couple of mattresses on the floor in an underground room.

From this miserable retreat the hunted woman, face to face with a cruel reality from which there was not even a prison wall to protect her, scribbled her last letter, to the Abbé Bound:

Monsieur,

Yesterday I returned, full of hope, to those dear springs where, it seemed to me, God had allowed me to drink renewed life. Unfortunately, almost unsurmountable difficulties awaited us...while Adèle was arranging about our rooms, the price, etc., M. Pélissier told us that he had no free room. All the other hôtels are full. We must, then, return to Montpellier—unless you can, Monsieur, once more serve us as Providence. In this hope, we await you—hoping that you will come as soon as possible to the hôtel Rouau, where we sleep on the floor, on one mattress...

Marie Lafarge was not able to await the arrival of the priest; during the night her basement window was assailed by curious people, who tried to peer in and who shouted abuse. Desperately frightened the three women called for help; the other lodgers in the wretched house were awakened; there was a scene during which the crowd outside shouted that they wished to see "the poisoner, the adventuress, the thief," and the lodgers complained that their night's rest was disturbed. Before the dawn the outcasts were turned into the street.

A further desperate and agonising search for shelter resulted in the priest's finding apartments for them in a modest house known as la maison Neuville on the environs of the town.

These painful experiences inflicted on the dying woman a severe nervous crisis, and it was an unconscious woman whom Adèle Collard and Clementine Servat put to bed in the poor lodging, which was now the sole refuge of the ex-prisoner of Montpellier.

Marie Lafarge had come to Ornolac with a certain revival of her hopes. She was thirty-six years of age, she still had moments when she dreamed of a future that might not be by any possibility happy, but might be respected and peaceful. She had dreamed of a reopening of her case, of a reinstatement of herself in society. she had entered into negotiations with M. René, who had published her Mémoires, for book-reviewing and the writing of fiction; she hoped by this means to be able to support herself. But her experiences at Ornolac had robbed her even of this faint and dubious prospect. She had, since she was a child, chosen the hysteric's way of escape from reality—that of illness; she was now dying of emotionalism, named by the doctors hydropéricardite.

It was the end of August when she found shelter in the modest lodgings where, owing to her state of health, she was unmolested, and on the 6th September the good Curé of Ornolac, visiting his sick in the environs of the little town, was met by Mlle. Adèle Collard, who asked him to come at once to her cousin, who was, she believed, a dying woman.

The sequel may be told in the priest's own words:

"Make haste," said Mlle. Collard, "my cousin waits for you. She is very ill."

I found, indeed, when I reached her lodgings, that Mme. Lafarge was stifling, that she was demanding water, that she had asked everyone to open the windows, that she was struggling in an inexpressible agony. I tried to console her, to reassure her, but did not doubt that she was lost. The next day she was due to confess and to attend the fête of the Nativity. Between two nervous convulsions Mme. Lafarge found the strength to tell me that she feared she would not be able to attend Church the next day. I profited by this to ask her if she would like to confess then. She consented. The crises of her illness followed in swift succession and it was impossible to do anything. I went back to my presbytery after telling Mlle. Collard to send for me if the sick woman became worse. I had not been in bed an hour when I heard someone twice knock at the door. I took the holy Viaticum from the Church and carried it with me without any ceremony. Towards midnight I arrived at the maison Neuville. The sick woman was seated across the bed, her back resting on cushions; her struggles for breath had taken on an extraordinary violence; she had already the face of a corpse. I told her, not to alarm her, that thinking she might not be able to come to the Church on the following day, "I have brought the Viaticum." She appeared very pleased with the attention, as she put it, that the good God had for her. At this moment the room was full of people. Before administering the Sacrament I asked of the sick woman, as the ritual demands, "Do you pardon your enemies?" She raised her head and replied in a firm voice, "I wish that God may do them as much good as they have done me evil." Then, when I prayed God for her cure, she said, speaking in a voice full of sweetness, "Do not ask God for the prolongation of my days. Pray Him, on the contrary, that He will allow me to unite myself to Him."

Early in the morning of the next day, September 7th, after several hours of agony, watched by curious eyes, Marie Cappelle died. The priest thus continued his account:

She was about to enter on her thirty-seventh year. She had passed twelve of those years in prison. A strange incident marked the day of the funeral. Some officials of the Department happened to be passing Ussat. The Prefect wished to see the poor, dead woman. When he entered into her room she was already arranged in her bier, but still uncovered. Kneeling near her was her cousin, who still held her hand.

"See," said Mlle. Collard, "how beautiful she still is. Her hand is warm as if she was still living."

This observation impressed the assistants; a doctor examined the corpse, found it still warm, and ordered that the funeral should be postponed. But an hour had scarcely gone by when the body, suddenly becoming decomposed, turned completely blue. The funeral was then hastened.

I conducted my poor friend to the little cemetery. Mlle. Collard followed the convoy on foot. She was not able to stifle her sobs and tears. As for me, I mingled my tears with my prayers.

This simple country priest firmly believed in the innocence of the strange woman whom he had seen dying from "the anguish of life." Some years after her death he was questioned on the subject by curious visitors to Ornolac, who had made a pilgrimage to the lonely cross in the desolate little cemetery beneath which Marie Cappelle rested. It was, of course, impossible to probe the good Curé with regard to anything that might have been said to him under the seal of confession; but the visitors did venture to ask:

"Then, M. le Curé, you do not doubt the innocence of Madame Lafarge? You believe that she neither poisoned her husband nor stole the diamonds?"

The priest replied:

"If she was guilty—with the sentiments that she expressed, with that sincerity of soul and that angelic beauty which distinguished her—one must suppose that Madame Lafarge had a degree of perversity that scarcely exists in human nature. If she were guilty it must have been the devil himself whom I blessed and consoled. All I can say to you, Messieurs, is that I wish that all my penitents had as holy a death as hers."

* * * * *

On September 7th, the Abbé Bounel wrote to the confessor of the Collard family at Montpellier advising them of the death of Marie Lafarge and of the approaching return of Mlle. Adèle—"...the excellent, the interesting young lady from whom the bon Dieu had exacted the most cruel of sacrifices!"

The priest filled this letter with praises of the dead woman: "...never, during the eighteen years of my priesthood, have I been so profoundly edified as by this holy death-bed."

On the 12th of the same month M. Bounel wrote to the Bishop of Pamiers; in this he stated that Marie Lafarge, under the seal of confession, had declared herself innocent of all the crimes of which she was accused, and that he would like to publish this fact in the interest of Marie Cappelle's family.

His Eminence replied guardedly that the secret of the confession must not be revealed even to the family of the penitent, and that the enthusiastic Abbé, "using his good sense," must not go further than informing the friends of Marie Cappelle that she had died with the consolations of the Church—there must not be, on the Abbé's part, "any attestation, any writing." However, both the letters were afterwards published.

The Abbé Bounel's conviction of his penitent's innocence had not much value, since it was not founded on any study of her story or her character, but merely on the emotional appeal the extraordinary personality of the dying woman had made on his simple, generous nature.

Adèle Collard wrote to Emile de Girardin, announcing the death of her poor cousin in high-flown terms:

She had such a serenity in her features that it was doubted whether she was dead; she was taken from her coffin and I massaged her myself; two doctors came, the funeral was delayed four hours...Her last moments were sublime; in the terrible crisis that preceded her short agony, she crossed her hands, and, casting her eyes up to heaven, exclaimed: "Oh, my friends, where are you? O, mon Dieu, how I suffer! You know, however, that I have done nothing!"

* * * * *

In the lonely little cemetery, shaded by pines, in view of the mountains, the remains of Marie Cappelle rest near to those of Colonel Andoury, her father's companion-in-arms, and far from the graves of all the others whom she had loved. A modest cross of rough stone was raised over what, in the language of the day, was termed a "terrible enigma" or "the secret of the tomb." There the peasants, whose brutal curiosity and rough insults had embittered the dead woman's last days, came, by a crude revulsion of feeling, to say their prayers, lay their wreaths and shed their ready tears as if she, whom during her life they had reviled as a murderess, had after her death become a saint.

* * * * *

Nearly a year after the death of Marie Cappelle the Abbé Bounel wrote to M. Maurice Collard, her great-uncle, at Montpellier, who had undertaken to pay for the last earthly needs of his niece. Once again reality impinged on romance; M. Blagg insisted on 120 francs for the grille of the tomb, and then had refused to paint it—"with great lack of delicacy."

As for the cross, the priest had bargained with a workman of Pamiers to make this for twelve francs and to deliver it by the middle of July (1853). Six weeks went by, however, without the fulfilment of this promise; finally, the cross arrived, nicely finished; it was set in place, and made, in the priest's opinion, "a fine, original effect."

There were other troubles; he had planted a weeping willow tree above the grave; at first it had flourished, then the sight-seers who wore smooth the hitherto grassy graveyard path had stripped it bare and it had died.

The menaces and prayers of the priest were alike ceaseless—not only the unfortunate willow, but all the flowers placed on the grave were snatched away by the crowd, who "encumbered the cemetery"; everyone wanted a souvenir of Marie Cappelle.

However, as the Abbé consoled himself and M. Collard, all this "veneration" was very flattering and the damage was easily repaired: "I shall plant another willow and some more flowers—and in time they will be left in peace."

V. EPILOGUE. WHAT WAS THE TRUTH?

THOSE who retold the story of Marie Cappelle soon after her death declared that she had passed from the judgment of men to that of God, and no more fitting phrase with which to sum up her story can be found.

It is now impossible to hope that the mystery of Glandier and that of the diamonds will ever be cleared up. The trial and investigation were conducted in such a careless, violent and partial spirit, so much irrelevant matter was allowed to obscure the main issues, so much hearsay, rumour and gossip was admitted as evidence, that it is, even after a most careful reading of all the available material, impossible to come to a conclusion as to the truth of the matter.

It is obvious that Marie Cappelle would not have been condemned, even in those days, by an English judge and jury. She may have been guilty, but the evidence against her was weak, vague and confused. It was not even absolutely proved that Charles Lafarge died of poison; it was certainly not proved that his wife administered to him the poison.

In that disordered, chaotic household, where everything was dirty, neglected and managed by ignorant people, in that atmosphere of prejudice, excitement and base passions where everyone had lost his head, anything was possible in the way of crime or accident; any one of those people who ran in and out of the chamber of M. Lafarge during the fifteen days of his illness might have put the poison where it was afterwards found, in the bowl that had contained chicken-broth on the night-table, in the little pot, and in the agate box that Marie Cappelle had in the pocket of her apron; anyone might have substituted the bicarbonate of soda for the arsenic that stood for several days in the old hat in the room of the sick man; on the other hand it is quite possible that the story that credited Denis with boasting that he had made the exchange before he gave the white powder to Mme. Lafarge was true. These matters were never investigated.

As far as circumstantial evidence went, this pointed to the culprit's being the man Denis Barbier, who so unfortunately and so inexplicably was never brought to book. Ann Lebrun, such an important witness for the prosecution, was hysterical and spiteful. All the members of the family Lafarge were strongly prejudiced against Marie Cappelle, who had deeply outraged them by her behaviour since she had come to Glandier.

The famous letter on sky-blue paper of August 15th, on which the accusation against Marie Cappelle was largely based, may well have been the fantasy of a romantic and frightened young girl. The only point in it against the writer is that she does mention arsenic by name. She may have lied when she said it was in her possession, but it was certainly in her thoughts.

It was clearly stressed by the defence that she had no object in this murder. Mercenary motives she could not have had, since her husband was ruined and she was possessed of a comfortable fortune that she entirely devoted to his needs.

Not the utmost efforts of the prosecution could discover that she had a lover, nor any man whom she desired to marry. That part at least of the famous letter of August 15th was fiction. The only possible motives she could have had would have been disgust, terror, a desire to be free at all costs from a husband whom she detested and a life that she found unsupportable.

One of the astonishing facts in this extraordinary affair is the shocking invective that M. Decous was allowed to employ against a woman accused, but not condemned. It is also difficult to account for the vindictive attitude taken up by the Government against Marie Cappelle; this would hardly seem to be accounted for by the fact of her illegitimate connection with the House of Orleans and the subsequent fear of favouritism on the part of the King. But then again, why was the jury, even though it was composed of illiterate peasants of the Limousin, so implacable towards the prisoner, in whose condition there was so much that was touching and whose person was so attractive? Marie Cappelle appeared to be able to charm everyone save her judge and her jury.

The affair of the diamonds remains as exasperatingly obscure as the tragedy of Glandier. In this case there was only one fact, that the broken parure was found in Marie Cappelle's room at Glandier.

Her account of how she obtained it is certainly fantastic, but it is also fantastic to suppose that she stole these valuable jewels from her friend and kept them for so long concealed without making use of them save to have three pearls set into an ornament. She never lacked luxuries of any kind; she could have been under no temptation to steal the diamonds that she must have known she would never be able to wear or sell, and that would, as long as they remained in her possession, subject her to a grave peril.

Her story that her husband knew she had these jewels in her possession it was impossible to corroborate, nor, given the bad character of M. Lafarge, would it have helped her much if she had been able to do so. It was extraordinary that the famous Spaniard, M. Felix Clavé, never came forward despite Marie Cappelle's indignant appeal published in the Paris newspaper:

M. Felix Clavé, you are a coward. I have cried to you from the depth of my prison, I have demanded from everybody, from the world, from the Press, from your own remorse, to carry my voice to the interior of the desert where you hide yourself. Why do you delay to avenge your honour and that of her whom you ruin? You have crossed the seas to remake your fortune. Could not you cross them to remake your reputation? There only is needed a word, one only, and you have not come.

Marie Cappelle concluded this passionate appeal by declaring that she would sell her mother's wedding ring to supply the funds to bring M. Felix Clavé to Paris. Such extreme measures were not necessary; M. de Léautaud himself offered to pay the expenses of any witness whom Marie Cappelle might wish to call. This offer was refused by her lawyers, since they did not think they could trust the witnesses procured through the expense of the prosecution.

It is difficult to see, however, of what particular use M. Clairé would have been to Marie Cappelle's cause. What was the one word that would have cleared her? He was scarcely likely to have admitted that he had blackmailed or intended to blackmail Mme. de Léautaud, and even if he had gone so far as to admit a long intimacy—perhaps a dishonourable love affair between himself and Marie de Nicolai—that still would not have proved that the diamonds had been given to Marie Cappelle to buy his silence.

It is not at all clear why this M. Felix Clavé did not come forward; it is impossible to believe that he had not, even in Mexico or Algiers, heard of this sensational case that was debated so ardently all over Europe. None of the minute chronicles of the case of Marie Cappelle had any account of the further life or actions of this young man. Like Denis Barbier, he disappears completely from the scene; two letters "to the honour of Madame de Léautaud" that he was supposed to have sent from Mexico were not accepted by Marie Cappelle's lawyers.

There is a possibility that the family Léautaud, so powerful with their wealth and connections, bribed the young Spaniard not to appear, but this supposition does not seem very reasonable. If M. Clavé was a man who could be bought, and there is nothing to make us suppose that he was, M. de Léautaud would surely have suborned him to come forward and declare that he had never had any connection with Mme. de Léautaud save in the nebulous, schoolgirl flirtation that had only involved her in one or two foolish notes and one meeting at the Charity Ball. If the young Spaniard had gone into the box to swear this, he would have done much to convince the public that Marie Cappelle's story was fiction. As he did not do it, Marie, in the minds of many people, received the benefit of the doubt, and the family Léautaud's long, vindictive and grim fight for what they termed their honour had the result that perhaps a majority of the public believed that Marie de Léautaud was a cowardly, perjured woman who had sworn to a tissue of lies in order to save her own good name and who had sacrificed in the most odious manner a woman who had proved a staunch friend to her. Indeed, Mme. de Léautaud lost as much reputation as Marie Cappelle over the extraordinary affair of the diamonds.

It is precisely this double accusation that so complicates the case of Marie Cappelle. If she had been accused only of the poisoning or only of the theft, it might have been easy to believe she was calumniated; but the fact that she was accused, before she was twenty-four years of age, of two crimes, makes it difficult to credit such an extraordinary series of misfortune.

As to the accusations of petty theft put in by the family Léautaud and largely supported by Mme. de Montbreton, who had been one of Marie Cappelle's most intimate friends, they were neither proved nor disproved. Marie Cappelle's lawyers strove to show that she had not been in residence at the houses of her friends when these stolen articles were missed. It is not to be denied, however, that she had been in residence with her aunt, Mme. Garat, when the leathern discs were substituted for gold pieces in that lady's desk, when the turquoise buttons had been missed, when, in brief, there had been a whole series of petty pilfering. It was never proved that Marie Cappelle was the thief; but unless Mme. de Montbreton and all the friends of Marie de Nicolai were combined in a conspiracy to defame the unfortunate prisoner, there does seem to have been a strong suspicion among Marie Cappelle's friends that she was apt slyly to pocket articles of value from a banknote to a few chiffons or buttons. However, this was not proved one way or another.

What was proved, beyond glossing over all denials, was the character of the prisoner. Is there here a solution to this extraordinary mystery, or rather series of mysteries?

When M. de Léautaud preferred his charge of theft against Marie Cappelle, he remarked, and repeated more than once, that he had always suspected her of the theft of his wife's diamonds "because of her romantic and extravagant character." Does this statement contain the clue to the whole labyrinth of obscure happenings that finally brought Marie Cappelle to the prison at Montpellier and the tomb at Ornolac?

M. de Léautaud was, as painted by Marie Cappelle in her Mémoires, a dour, commonplace young man, and he made a bad impression on the public by bringing a charge of theft against a woman already accused of murder. It was said that he had waited on Mme. Garat and offered to drop his charge if the price of the diamonds was refunded, but that this offer had been refused, as an acceptance would mean that Marie Cappelle's guilt was acknowledged. He certainly played an unpleasant, possibly an ignoble part in prosecuting a woman so unfortunate for the sake of the 20,000 francs at which the famous parure was valued.

This conduct was also more especially odious if he believed, as he said, that Marie Cappelle had committed the theft because she was "romantic and extravagant"; in other words, because she was hardly responsible for her action. Once the prisoner had told her story, which the Léautaud family regarded as such a scandalous outrage, there was perhaps some excuse for M. de Léautaud's vindictiveness; he must have spent, on the affair of the diamonds, far more than these unfortunate jewels were worth, and his lawyers, M. Corali and the famous M. Odilon Barrot, attacked Marie, probably on M. de Léautaud's instructions, without a touch of pity or regret.

Marie Cappelle did not fail to note with scorn the lack of chivalry that characterised this French nobleman in persecuting so bitterly for the sake of a small sum of money a woman already so desperately unhappy.

But, however mediocre M. de Léautaud's character, however reprehensible his behaviour in this wretched affair of the diamonds, he may have had the shrewdness to put his finger on the solution to the mystery—"the romantic and extravagant character" of Marie Cappelle. Nor has she herself denied that she was romantic and extravagant; indeed, she rather gloried in this description. Her friends also admitted that she was of an extreme, nervous sensibility, but no one, friend or enemy, save M. de Léautaud, seemed to make this connection between the "extravagant, romantic character" and the alleged criminal actions.

Was Marie Cappelle a pathological liar, a fantasy-dweller, one of those criminals who are able to convince others of their innocence because they believe in it themselves? One remembers Clarisse Manson and Marie de Morell.*

[* See Foreword.]

Madame Lafarge was certainly able to persuade, and for years, many intelligent, sensible, learned and careful people that she was not only a wronged woman but a saint and a martyr. Many prisoners would have been able to do the same if they could have put out of the way the proof of their crime. As there was no proof against Marie Cappelle she was readily believed; for all that it is just possible that the unlettered peasants who composed the Limousin jury and the dry lawyer who presided over them were right in deciding that "the Angel of Arsenic" was guilty, both of theft and murder. By her own confession she was able to identify herself with heroines of romance and passed most of her time in day-dreaming in an almost trance-like condition, projecting her personality into that of some imaginary being. Nothing could be more high-flown and romantic than some of the passages in her Mémoires; the elaborate, passionate and idealistic love affair with the mysterious M. C—— is probably entirely an invention. She was continually reading, as we have seen, luscious romances, the voluptuous immoralities of George Sand, the impossible adventures of Walter Scott. When she received the love-letter from the apothecary's son she replied at once in the most ardent and fervent terms, no doubt imagining herself as the heroine of one of the fictions that she so continually read. She admits herself that having just read of a deaf-and-dumb hero she persuaded herself that the man who followed her in the Tuileries was similarly afflicted.

We see the same disposition at Glandier when she let down her hair and, seated in front of a mirror, wrote passionate love-letters to the husband to whom she was indifferent, if not hostile.

The letter of August 15th does not appear to be that of a woman with criminal intentions, but it is certainly either the most consummate hypocrisy or written by one unbalanced in her mind. Even when Marie Cappelle's thoughts were of flight, suicide, the glamorous beauties of the East and of poison, she declared that she had arsenic in her possession.

It was not long after that that she did really procure arsenic, and on her own initiative before there seemed to have been any complaints about the rats. It is possible that she was neither a deeply-wronged woman nor a hardened criminal, a Brinvilliers or a Messalina, as the prosecution termed her, but merely a woman so wrapped in fantasy, romance and day-dreaming, so highly-strung, nervous and excitable as to be almost a dual personality? The state of her health must be remembered; she was tubercular, she suffered from violent neuralgic headaches, she developed heart disease, she was tormented by gastric trouble, she dosed herself, even before her Montpellier days, with laudanum, and she was subject to what she termed "nervous crises," long swoons or trances, sometimes accompanied by convulsions that had perhaps an epileptic character.

She had had one of these attacks, so violent that her life was despaired of, shortly before the fatal box of cakes was sent to her husband in Paris. The defence pointed out triumphantly that it would have been impossible for her to substitute the large one for the small cakes without being noticed, since the only oven was in the kitchen and all her movements were spied upon. It is, however, just possible that she might have been able to have access to this kitchen without the knowledge of the rest of the household, since one of her Parisian servants, Mion, was then the cook. It must be remembered that the elder Mme. Lafarge accused this Parisian cook of putting the poison in the cake; it might have been possible for Marie Lafarge to have slipped down into the kitchen and obtained the large cake without her own servants' taking much heed of her movements; she might also have been able to break the parcel open and substitute this cake after Ann Lebrun and Mme. Lafarge had seen the small cakes packed.

In the same way it was quite possible, since she had arsenic in her possession, for her to have strewn some on the truffles that her husband ate after his arrival at Glandier and that provoked such a terrible access of his illness.

Considering the state of her health, the nervous suffering she must have been undergoing at Glandier, was it not possible that, hardly knowing what she was doing, she did put some poison in her husband's food or drink? Not the enormous quantities that she was accused of putting—all the evidence seems to go against that, and the people among whom she was placed were unreliable witnesses, vindictively disposed towards her and almost sure to exaggerate—but a modicum of poison sufficient to kill her husband.

That she possessed considerable powers of intrigue she admitted herself. If her own story of how the diamonds came into her possession was true, she was quite capable of acting a part and sustaining it under difficult circumstances. She says in her Mémoires that she engineered the disappearance of the diamonds and also the episode that brought their loss to light; she also admits that she stood by and saw the servants suspected of the theft; one man in particular was deeply distressed. Marie Cappelle states that she also felt wretched on his account, but she contented herself with telling him that she would find him a place if he lost that he already held. She was not sufficiently moved by the anguish of this innocent man to expose the whole trick.

By her own confession too she was able to contrive both the intrigue with the apothecary's son and that with M. Clavé, and showed herself quite clever at engaging the attention of the chaperon, at sending and receiving letters secretly. Moreover, when she was angry with Mlle. Delvaux, she played yet another trick on her by pretending that she did not know where to find the letters, keeping her in suspense until the compromising documents were in her hands.

All these episodes are from Marie Cappelle's own Mémoires. If true, they show her to be an accomplished intrigante; if they are not true, they show that she could at least imagine such intrigues and that she was not ashamed to confess to them.

When the diamonds were discovered, she lied again when she declared that they had been sent to her by a relation from Toulouse and that she had already told this story to the family Lafarge. Of course, she argued that these falsehoods would save the honour of Mme. de Léautaud, but that does not alter the fact that she was ready to utter them without any confusion or hesitation. She was then, on her own showing, capable of inventing the whole story of how she came to obtain these unfortunate jewels. In the same way she may have been quite capable of poisoning her husband, scarcely knowing that she did so.

The enemies by whom she was surrounded, in particular the contemptible M. Denis Barbier, may have seen what she was about and, realising that her crime would fit in with their scheme, have added on their own account quantities of arsenic to the drink, the famous chicken broth, and strewn it on the commode in order to put her guilt beyond question.

If this were the case, Marie Cappelle, when she swore that she did not know how the arsenic had got into the chicken broth, or on to the commode, or into the little box found in her apron, would have been telling the truth, and it may well have been Denis Barbier who substituted, as he afterwards was supposed to have boasted, the bicarbonate of soda for the arsenic in order to inculpate Marie Cappelle. She had already in her possession sufficient arsenic to have poisoned her husband, and it must be remembered that it was a very small quantity that Orfila found in the body.

In this case, given her pathological state, Marie Cappelle might easily have persuaded herself of her entire innocence; if that were so, she told everyone the truth when she said that she had nothing to do with the large quantities of arsenic that the family Lafarge accused her of giving to her husband, and in the excitement of the whole business she would gradually come to be convinced of her entire innocence and quite forget the small grains of poison that she had, in a state of exaltation, given to Charles Lafarge.

Her admirable behaviour in prison is no proof that she was not either a thief or a murderess. Too many criminals have become exemplary penitents for Marie Cappelle's piety and resignation to prove anything. Indeed, the very religious exaltation that so impressed the nuns and the priests was perhaps but another proof of her plastic, hysterical nature. The most famous poisoner in criminal annals, Mme. de Brinvilliers, achieved the reputation of a saint in the few weeks that elapsed between her condemnation to death and the carrying out of the sentence. Marie Cappelle herself avowed, and on several occasions and with much passion, her intense desire of being loved and admired, caressed and flattered. This desire in itself often leads to profound hypocrisy; a nature that must have this continuous flow of love, of admiration, works for it by every art, striving to please different types in different ways.

The letters that Marie Cappelle wrote to the Abbé Brunet, that so impressed that good priest as the outpourings of a penitent soul, are concerned not so much with God as with His minister. Under cover of pious reflection Marie Cappelle, in the whole of this correspondence, is attracting attention to herself and soliciting the priest's interest.

The same tone runs through her correspondence with Charles Lachaud and the other notable men who were so warmly her champions. She is all the time dramatising, romanticising herself, posing as the martyr, the victim, the poor prisoner, the poor Marie, the exhausted, dying woman who only solicits a little love, a little pity, a little remembrance from those who believe in her innocence.

Against her in the diamond affair is the unlikelihood of Madame de Léautaud's allowing her to keep the parure and even to take it to Glandier. Of what use was it there, either to bribe M. Clavé or for any other purpose? If Madame de Léautaud feared blackmail, why did she not implore her confidente to raise money somehow on the diamonds? Moreover, it is unlikely that if M. Lafarge had known of these jewels, he would not at once have sold them.

In her numerous letters, writings, scribblings, these accounts of tortures of pain, to be assuaged only by laudanum, morphia or opium, these cries and lamentations, these protestations of complete innocence are by no means incompatible with the type of woman who might have been, not a cold-blooded murderess, not a mercenary thief, but a creature capable of committing both these crimes in moods of romantic exaltation.

If she did take the parure of Marie de Nicolai, it was not because she needed it either as an ornament or as a means of raising money, but because she enjoyed the romance and drama of the situation, because she wished to cause an upset, an excitement in this placid household, that she found, no doubt, dull and boring, because she wanted to see the commonplace young husband whom she despised moved to vexation, because she wanted to see Marie de Nicolai weeping and Mlle. Delvaux confused and agitated, because, with her histrionic instinct, she longed to throw this dramatic episode into the smug, pompous and monotonous festival of the wedding.

She was not at that time married or betrothed, and there is no doubt that love and marriage ran much in her mind. She may have been, half-unconsciously, agitated, first by seeing her friend married, with a husband, a child, a château, an establishment, then by seeing the preparations for the marriage of another young girl who was the heroine of these rejoicings in which she, Marie Cappelle, was nothing; the fact that nearly all those who met her thought her to the last degree modest, does not prove that Marie Cappelle was without vanity. She may have possessed, it seems probable she did possess, that enormous vanity which knows how to disguise itself most subtly by a shrinking timidity, a delicate reserve.

Marie Cappelle knew how to appeal to the sensitive, the high-minded, the intelligent, the generous; these, by the score, by the hundred, became her friends, her champions, and she rewarded them with a touching gratitude; nothing she said or did ever offended her supporters—this may have been as much art as sincerity; she was always playing for esteem, for admiration, for love, and she knew how to control any passion, any behaviour that might have cost her esteem, admiration or love.

There is another extraordinary episode in her case that proves her to have been either a fantasy-dweller or an accomplished hypocrite. In her Mémoires she took enormous, and, it seems, unnecessary pains, to impress on the reader the fact that her relations with her husband were always platonic; she lived with him as his sister, she declares, and though she had promised him that she would be his wife in more than name if he continued to please her, he died while their relations were still those of brother and sister.

At the same time she declares, in these same Mémoires, that her mother-in-law persuaded her that she was going to have a child. In her letters to her sister and her aunt she refers continually to her hope of maternity. She declares that her dreams were filled with this child and with the preparations she was making for it; it was to be named Jacqueline, after her beloved grandfather, and many charming and delicate lines were penned by Mme. Lafarge in honour of this expected daughter.

After her husband's death she told the lawyers (still according to her own account) who were enquiring about the will, that there was no occasion for them to concern themselves, since she was about to have a child who would, of course, be the universal heir or heiress to the Glandier property. She was then informed, brutally enough, that the family Lafarge knew that this was all mythical and that she would never have a child, at least by Charles Lafarge.

The letters of M. Lafarge to his wife, written when he was in Paris, do not altogether bear out the story of their platonic relationship; they are not, however, decisive on this point.

The matter was evidently considered too delicate to be gone into at the trial, and this false and foolish reserve prevented a very important point from being threshed out. If Marie Lafarge was living a normal life with her husband, why did she take such pains to assert that she was not doing so? If, on the other hand, their relations were really those of brother and sister, how was it possible for Marie Lafarge to allow her mother-in-law to persuade her that she was about to have a child? The answers to these questions would have thrown a good deal of light on the character of the prisoner. Only once were they touched upon, and then she was evasive; she stammered, blushed, cast down her eyes, talked of its being her duty to make her husband happy and so on. The matter was then dropped.

Marie Lafarge declared that her terror and sufferings on the journey from Paris to Glandier and during the first days in her husband's home were largely due to her entire ignorance of what married life really meant. This is possible.

On the other hand Marie Cappelle seemed quite familiar with the subject of maternity and discussed her friends and their babies, both to come and in existence, with the utmost candour. She had been present at two of her mother's confinements; she often declared herself passionately desirous of having children, and it was one of her constant lamentations while in prison that she was shut off from all hope of maternity. This mixture of false delicacy, affected reserve and ordinary human emotion, should have been probed. Either Marie Cappelle had good reason to believe that she might expect a child, and it was a needless and indeed inexplicable hypocrisy for her to pretend that she had lived the life of a nun at Glandier, or she was so ignorant, romantic and flighty, as to be able to believe without the least difficulty in the possibility of an imaginary conception. This matter should have been cleared up. Either supposition shows Marie Cappelle to have been an irresponsible, dangerous woman.

In 1841 Marie Cappelle wrote to a certain "M. A.," who had sent her some novels, the following letter:

Let me thank you, sir, for the friends whom you have sent to shorten the hours that I pass behind my bolts. I owe you the sweet and tender emotions that I have experienced in reading them. I have wept with Geneviève, I have held out my hands towards Adolphe, I have passed many days, many nights with this great and beautiful Lélia whom society has banned, Lélia whom women will not recognise, will not understand in their virtuous simplicity! Poor Lélia who was reproached for her first love, on whom a second love was forced, poor woman who suftered all sorrows, all doubts, all possible discouragements, who was nailed to the earth by sad passion, raised towards Heaven by sublime instinct, who possessed equally the power of good and the power of evil, who would not be a feeble woman and who could not become an angel! I have been indiscreet, I have kept my friends, the books, too long. Forgive me, monsieur, and if you have kept any belief in me, remember me always.

When Marie Cappelle wrote this letter, was she, perhaps unconsciously, describing herself?

We will conclude by allowing this extraordinary and mysterious woman to speak for herself. The following remarkable letter, already referred to in the text, was written by Marie Cappelle to M. Cavel, Inspector of the Central Prison (Maison Centrale) in the year 1846, preserved by him, and afterwards in 1913 published in La Nouvelle Revue. The prisoner's relations with the Inspector of Prisons, whom she can scarcely have seen many times, are obscure; they seemed to have at least exchanged letters, unless the whole affair was a fantasy invented by Marie Cappelle. It must be left to the reader to judge if this letter is written by a sincere, wronged, noble-hearted woman, or by a sly criminal hypocrite, or by a woman, who though hysterical, emotional and romantic, is scarcely responsible for her words or actions.

To M. Cavel, Inspector of the Central Prison, 1846.

Thank you, monsieur, thank you. Your letter, it is yourself. It is your dear brutality, your loyal frankness, your wit, your intelligence. Your letter, it is the shadow of yourself, and that is why it has made me dream, weep, smile, why I can find the courage to reply to it in the only manner worthy of you and of myself. If I was a happy woman I should use my prerogative as a daughter of Eve and I should let you understand from day to day my heart, slowly, capriciously, my secret. Here I cannot, I must not. Listen to me, and with your honour protect my conscience. I love you, but with all my will, with all my conscience, with all my strength, with all my courage I have decided not to love you. I do not ask of you to respect this avowal. I do not ask it because in reading this you feel how I suffer. God has never given to our hearts the baptism of His holy love. Had things been otherwise we might have been happy, but in this society, as things are, I should know that there would weigh on you half of the unjust malediction that obscures me. Do not come back to Montpellier. Forget me. That will be easy for you; for you—for me—your friendship has been of the utmost joy. I am the star that brightens in the night during the absence of the sun, that is extinguished at its return. According to the spirit of our civilised code, this that I write to you is a fault; it is a painful duty that I have accomplished. You are stronger than I am. For the first time in my life I feel the charm of an indefinable attraction, that I only submit to while I revolt. I wish to talk of your memory, with God, without blushing. I wish without blushing to merit the esteem of my friends. Above all I will not expose myself to the rays of the sun. They say that they are powerful enough to render one mad. That I understand. Do not be irritated. I suffer. Let us suffer together. To do so is almost a happiness. Above all understand the sentiment that inspires this letter. As a young girl I dreamed many adorable dreams. I was deceived later, in the first serious affection of my life, before this affection had become a passion, I was recalled by my aunts to the commonsense of life, and seeing around me that the marriages of my sister, my cousins, my friends to the first men who came along satisfied their relations, I thought that so it would happen to me, and so I gave myself in marriage. But though in the face of the world I acquiesced, in my heart I revolted. I abandoned my dowry, my will, my life to one who had married me merely to help his business with my fortune, furnish his drawing-room with my person, complete his life with my poor existence. But I declare one can only give love against love, and you know what was the reward of my candour—death, dishonour, a perpetual agony! In prison noble devotions pressed round me. They adore the martyr. The woman remains calm. One alone appeared to love me a little for myself. He felt, however, but the vanity of love, not its holy faith; he forgot me, and as it was less he who deceived me than I who deceived myself I pardoned him. I consoled myself by proudly rallying my strength; I felt myself invulnerable, invincible. I was wrong. God has punished me; to-day I am afraid. Listen to me again. If you love a noble woman who loves you—I believe as much when I recall the Imitation that you read each evening—do not forget her even for a day. Listen to me. I have left only the consolation of living face to face with myself without having need to blush for any memory. Do not envy me this consolation. It is not that I believe that love is a dishonour before God; if I were a happy free woman I should dare to love with all the abandonment of my soul and my heart and my being. In my position it is impossible. In my position as regards you it is even more impossible. An Inspector-General! Ah, why have you looked on me, as no one ever looked on me before? Why have you understood me, dominated me, fascinated me, as no one has ever understood me, dominated me, fascinated me before? Adieu, monsieur, adieu. If your heart can read mine, it will understand that it is irrevocable that I prefer the respect of your dear, of your beloved memory to the happiness of saying to you au revoir, to exposing myself perhaps to merit your contempt. I suffer. Be happy, and in the solitude of your empty hearth, your hearth shadowed by death, do not believe yourself alone—for one is never alone when one is loved. They sent me your letter closed; knowing it by heart I have burnt it; burn mine. For eight days I have had fever. That is the result of my courage—that always affects my health. It is nothing serious unfortunately. I am only able to be active for about three hours every evening. I am still under the power of an infatuation. You believe that that will not continue. It is very flattering, but is true, I fear it. Poor, half-dead creature that I am, I have come again to life. I have given myself the task of bearing all my sicknesses in my heart, of crushing all my instincts of revolt. It is hard to endure, but less hard than a fixed idea. M. de Villars has tried to console me with a charming delicacy. I have seen his pictures of Corsica, in which you are interested. We talk Italian together. I look often with pleasure at the beautiful face of St. John because I know that you also look at it with pleasure and find it beautiful. Adieu. If you ever need a sister, call Marie. She will respond. I am keeping up bravely despite the cough and the fever. This is what has been arranged—at half-past four I go to the Infirmary and superintend the bandaging; I write down observations on the sick people to guide M. Pourchet, also on the state of the invalids. Besides, the good M.—— whom I have seen has given me the charge of superintending everything, so that I can go about a little and console the most interesting prisoners and perhaps be useful to them, by charging myself with their correspondence and so on. The Inspector has shown me all over the hospital. His astonishment was prodigious when he saw that I knew the names of the various prisoners, and that in spite of all the surveillance. This visit, that I feared, was instead a real triumph. There was a young, sick woman lying in agony. She had a contagious malady and was in a room by herself. Even in her delirium she was tormented by despair for fear that she would not see me as her companions did. When I entered and the nun told her my name, she raised her large mournful eyes towards me and said, "No, it is not she. It is an illusion of my illness. I must die alone." I talked to her, I took her hand. "Ah," cried she in recognising my voice, "It is indeed she, and I did not know her." The efiect of my long visit was so good that this evening she is better, and perhaps I have saved her. You have given me advice. I °ffer you the half of the first joy that has come to me. Love me then a little. You see that I have been forced to love you much. M. Moreau and the Prefect have sent me from Paris a piano-organ and I hope that we shall play and sing to you a beautiful Mass when you return. Meanwhile, if you pray for me, let it be to God to take me to another world. I sufier. The years are so long that, in seeing your return across their shadows, I desire it no more. One word of reproach to conclude. Why have you asked my advice on the most difficult practices of our religion when you would be able to give me lessons on that subject? As for myself, poor woman that I am, I have never reached the heights of a confession by double-entry [en partie double]. After your departure when I passed near my table I felt the memory of a little ray of sun upon my cheek. You know what I mean, you will remember my little ray in one of those moments when you ask for plenary indulgence, by denouncing the beams that are found in the heart of your neighbour. It is true that a ray of sun on the cheek is not a beam in the heart, but nevertheless forget. I shall remember for both. What a great saint you would be! Avow that you owe me a compliment when I tell you that with your character you will find in a great happiness or an immense joy the strength to cast yourself into a Confessional! This is to make a prophecy. The glance turns backwards.


AUTHOR'S NOTE

ALL the material on which this study is based has been taken from French sources, not hitherto translated, save in the case of the Mémoires. I have not seen the English version of this book. In offering translations of the letters of an arch-romantic writing in the first half of the nineteenth century, I should like to borrow the apology of the writer of the article on the Lafarge case in the Edinburgh Review, 1842—"It is difficult, if not impossible, to put into intelligible English, these expressions of French sentiment."


BIBLIOGRAPHY AND NOTES

REPORTS of the trials of Madame Lafarge, her correspondence and her Mémoires are the main authorities for the foregoing narrative, which owes nothing to the invention of the author.

The Memoirs of Madame Lafarge, written in the prison of Tulle and published in order to raise funds for her defence, is a remarkable piece of writing. Not only does the writer present a clear portrait of herself as she wished to appear, she gives a skilful and often charming and brilliant account of her childhood and youth, and of her family and friends. In parts the autobiography can be compared with Stendhal's Henri Brulard. Marie Cappelle does not spare either herself or her acquaintances; both her self-revelations and her comments on the behaviour of others are shrewd, ironic and often very intelligent; she gives lively character sketches neither sentimentalised nor malicious, and there are many passages of genuine feeling and tenderness. She even seems to have the capacity of laughing at herself and her chagrins, humiliations and disappointments; her faults and failures are chronicled with what appears to be detached irony. Other passages reveal more than the writer intended, the incurable romantic, the implacable egotist, an erotic sensibility, a greed for luxury, ease and pleasure, a keen eye to material security as well as an absorption in a dream life.

The exact degree of truth contained in these fascinating pages will never be known; many of the details are obviously true, all that can be placed under the heading "period atmosphere" must be accurate. Marie Cappelle had no object in falsifying the world that she accepted as a matter of course. As to how far she may be taken as a guide through the intricacies of her own story, this must be left to the discretion of her readers; it is not perhaps difficult to see the truth beneath the graceful phrases and attractive colouring of what is a skilful piece of special pleading—a speech for the defence.

Most of Marie Cappelle's very large correspondence has been published, and the reports of her trials and comments thereon are voluminous.


List of books Used in The Lady and the Arsenic:

Mémoires de Marie Cappelle. (With correspondence). 4 vols. Edited by A. René. Bruxelles, 1841-1843.

Correspondance de Marie Cappelle. 2 vols. Edited by Boyer d'Agen. Paris, 1913.

Du Roman et du Théâtre contemporains, etc. Eugène Poitou. Paris, 1857.

Le Roman historique à l'époque romantique. Louis Maigron. Paris, 1910.

Le Romantisme et les Maeurs. Louis Maigron. Paris, 1910.

Le Romantisme et la Mode. Louis Maigron. Paris, 1911.

Le Romantisme et le Sentiment religieux. Louis Maigron. Paris, 1912.

Procès de Madame Lafarge (Vol et Empoisonnement), complets et détaillés. Deuxième édition. Annaks criminelles, au Bureau Rue d'Enghien. Paris, 1840.

Procès de Madame Lafarge, etc. Deuxième édition. Payveue, Editeur. Paris, 1840.

Mémoires de Marie Cappelle, Veuve Lafarge. Ecrits par ellemême. 2 tomes. 8vo. Londres, 1841.

Madame Lafarge. Causes Célèbres. Septième livraison. Paris, 1858. Heures de Prison. Madame Lafarge. Paris, 18—.

Review of three works on Madame Lafarge: the two above accounts of the trial and the Mémoires in the Edinburgh Review for July, 1842.

The author of this article considers the Memoirs to be the work of a professional writer employing material supplied by Madame Lafarge.

A careful study of her correspondence does not, however, support this view. That the literary style of the Mémoirs was corrected in the publisher's office is probable; but unless Madame Lafarge was self-deceived to the point of insanity, the Mémoirs were written by herself, since she refers to her authorship of the work constantly to the publisher himself, who, if she had not written it, must have known so. Besides, her long letters, her Heures de Prison, her pensées, her poems, her authorship of which has never been challenged, show the same style, the same talent as the Mémoires.

The French novels, plays, newspapers and letters of the period—1818-1850—which are essential to an understanding of the story of Marie Cappelle form a list too long to be given here; many of these romances and dramas have become classics.

The iconography of this period is very rich and indispensable to a study of it; but no catalogue of that branch of it that bears upon the subject of Marie Cappelle can be attempted here; in the 1843 edition of the Mémoires (given above) are three portraits of this heroine and one of her fellow-romantic, Marie de Nicolai, the Vicomtesse de Léautard.



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The Lady and the Arsenic, Armed Services Edition


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