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had joined the set ignorant of their vis-a-vis, Domen and Madame de Montes would have remained there abandoned and repudiated. Do you not think that this ball, which seemed to you a triumph, had been purchased at a cruel price?”.
“But was it always so ?"
“No, most assuredly, neighbour; neither one or other would have a second time endured a similar affront; but is it not sufficient to have once suffered to fear unceasingly? It was then that Madame de Montes imbibed that taste for solitude which, after all, is but a self-imposed exile. Domen loves her, and Domen wishes to make her house agreeable; the men flock thither in crowds; the women hold themselves aloof. Some husbands would have dared to have taken their wives there, for they could appreciate what there was of honour and devotion in this culpable position. They dared it once, but not a second time. After the insult which repels comes the insult which deserts.
“And now, monsieur, once this leaven cast into their existence, all is imbittered, all. If, for instance, during a walk, a friend passes without seeing them, they at once limagine, not that he might not have observed them, but that he is afraid to salute them. If in the house one of the servants is insolent, it is but because he fancies he has a right to insult a woman who bears not his master's name. And in those journeys of which I spoke to you, a man will come up to Domen, having Madam de Montes on his arm, and he will say to Domen that he is proud and happy in meeting such an illustrious sculptor-the rival of Thorwaldsen and Canova; and as this man knows Domen only in his artistical life, he will incline with a smile towards the woman who is leaning on the great artist's arm, and felicitate her upon bearing such an illustrious name.
“What can they reply ? Must they confide to this stranger their position, their history, their entire life? Ought they to keep silent ? But on the following day this man will tell every one that he met M. and Madame Domen; he will invite them, fête them, until one of those parasites who live on the secret anecdotes of their neighbours' lives, informs him that he is deceived, or rather that he has been deceived. Here will be a new proscription, with this accusation the more--namely, that they have added deceit to their previous fault. And yet they have always done everything in their power to prevent strangers being deceived as to their true position in the world. Do you call this living happily ?"
“Hum! it is tiresome, certainly ; but there are compensations; first of all for Domen, who is received everywhere."
“And who exiles himself from every place. Do you know that he has given orders to his domestics to remit his letters to him secretly; for he might find among their number a letter of invitation in his own name alone, and then Madame de Montes would undergo the pain and insult of this exclusion; and if she learns this order of Domen's, if she learns that they hide from her the letters which he receives, think you that at the first glance she will discover in this action the devoted attention that seeks to spare her a chagrin ? No, she will see a mystery, an intrigue, a new amour-she will be jealous.
“And has she not the right? not because Domen is frivolous or in
constant, but because she knows that he suffers, that he is unhappy ; because she knows that she has taken him from his proper position in the world ; because she knows that, finding at home but solitude, sadness, and complaints, he must go elsewhere to seek in society those pleasures and distractions which are so necessary for the man whose labour is severe and incessant; for he works without ceasing to cover with at least a veil of luxury the miserable existence which he leads.
"After the leaven which has imbittered this existence comes jealousy. It is no longer an incessant though uncomplaining grief; now come cries, despair, tempests, threats of suicide, hatred of life. They love each other, monsieur, and they pardon each other, and they swear never to give each other up to that world which would crush them with so much indifference. Domen will then appear at a few soirèes. He consents—she wishes it.
“But while in society they greet him as a traveller upon whose presence they can no longer depend, making him thus feel what he leaves, and what he returns to seek. What does this poor woman ? She waits, she suffers, she paces to and fro in her magnificent apartment, the more empty and solitary as it is immense. Ask her if at that hour she would not far better love your garret without a sou, but with a needle which would gain for her her daily bread? If he returns early, he finds her in tears—tears which she has not had time to wipe away; if late, in anger; 'for,' says she, it is no longer a duty which he accomplishes, it is a pleasure in the midst of which I am forgotten. I have said to you that of all their miseries this is the most terrible ; this is not a history, because it has no events; it is not a sudden calamity which destroys an entire fortune at a blow ; it is not a dying child; it is not a disaster which strikes, crushes, and passes away; it is a state of suffering of every hour, every minute in the day. I do not recount to you what people in general understand as unhappiness, it is a state of constänt, endless misery of which I speak. This state of existence is not disturbed by any of those well-known and violent diseases which strike and kill, or yield to the remedies of the physicians ; it is devoured by a hidden, unseizable, nameless suffering ; it is the penalty inflicted by society on those who violate its laws. I tell you, young man, it is hell upon earth!”
"Well," said Mark Anthony, “I will admit that they are unhappy, but permit me to use your own comparison. You have assimilated their misery to one of those hidden diseases which escape the physician's skill. Whom do these diseases attack? Nervous, delicate, susceptible people. These two persons have a moral neuralgia, that's all; but in my idea this may be attributed as much to their constitutions as to their position in the world. Suppose, now, that they were physically and morally of a robust and insensible nature, and all these little pin-pricks would not be felt. I will go further,-make them vicious and they would not suffer. Now stop a moment; look for example at Mademoiselle Debora, what an extraordinary history the life of that girl presents! Yes, certainly she has been very unhappy, and she has indeed paid in advance for the luxury she now enjoys; but it has at last dowed in upon her in most liberal profusion.
“What was she? a poor beggar girl who sung at the corners of the streets, eagerly catching at the few halfpence flung to her through charity by the passers-by ; beaten when she returned at night without carrying home the sum demanded by the strolling juggler who called himself her father ; nakedness, misery, hunger, excessive labour, constant fear. Such has been her life up to the moment when chance permitted that talent which had been born within her to show itself to the light of day.
"Upon that day she appeared upon the stage : then that voice, disdained in the alley, was listened to with delight at the theatre, and moved with admiration those to whom she recited the glorious music of a Gluck, a Rossini, or a Mozart. In a few years came glory, fortune; and, that nothing might be wanting to swell the triumphs of this ambitious beauty, the handsomest, the most admired, the most elegant men of the day hastened to deposit their love and fortune at her feet: she has, they say, tasted before choosing, and she has chosen him whom the loveliest and noblest have sighed for in vain. This man adores her, he is her slave; and it is not as M. Domen, he is not afraid of displaying his love; he decks her out in the richest attire, he shows her to the world as his acknowledged mistress; and, as I do not suppose that La Debora has imbibed during her childhood those little feelings of delicacy which cause the unhappiness of Madame de Montes, as, in her position, love is almost a right; and, as I do not suppose she is troubled with much remorse for her past transgressions, I cannot conceive what there is to disturb a state of happiness so perfect ; for it is not happiness alone, it is triumph, victory. Madame de Montes has fallen from her position in society; she suffers in consequence; I can conceive that. But this Debora is higher than in her wildest reveries she could ever have dreamt of becoming ; and if she is not happy, I should like to know who is ?”
“None, probably," returned his visitor, “since you are not so yourself; for Debora has her hell as well as Madame de Montes."
“She is jealous of her lover?”
“Ah!" said the old gentleman, scratching his nose, “ this will be a difficult point to make you understand." Then he continued " Are you an artist in any way whatever ?"
“Have you ever committed any extravaganzas in the way of your expenses?"
Never." 10 "Let me see ; have you any friend who may be rich, or who spends money as if he were so ?”..
" Yes.” "Ah! that's well; perhaps I may be able to find you a door at
this side of the house, through which you may succeed in penetrating into the unhappiness which imbitters the life you think so delightful. Tell me, have you and your friend ever given what they call a grisette dinner?'
"Certainly, more than one, and very good ones they were, too."
“That's just what I want; for it is impossible that what I allude to has not occurred to you and your friend. The grisette whom you have taken to the Rocher de Caucale, or to Douix, has ordered the dinner; she has first of all consulted the carte on the right-hand side, that is to say, by the columns of pounds, shillings, and pence, and she has ordered, not what she has liked, but what, according to lier opinion, ought to be the best because it was the most expensive?”
“Certainly, that has happened to me, and I shall never in all my life forget a dinner we had this winter, composed of fifteen francs' worth of radishes, asparagus at sixty francs, and a plate of strawberries at forty-five francs, with a pheasant and a lobster."
"Was that all?". “Oh faith! I forgot the accessories, wine, liqueurs, &c.: however, I know the dinner for four came to a hundred crowns." - - }
“What! and at this sumptuous dinner did not some little eatable peep in entirely out of place among the other dishes ?"
"Oh yes, by Jove! and a most comical one it was, too. Only conceive, that our two grisettes, after having tasted all these excellent things, ended by calling for a dish of pickled pork and cabbage." ;i .
"Come, now I shall be able to make you understand. Well, my dear neighbour, the beautiful and celebrated Debora is in the position of your grisettes ; her glory, her fortune, her love, these are the asparagus, the strawberries, and the lobster of your fair guests; with these condiments they would die of hunger, with these magnificent advantages she dies of ennui.".
"Ah bah !” exclaimed Mark Anthony ; then he added, laughing beforehand at the joke he was about to perpetrate " but cannot she, like the grisettes, have her salt pork and cabbage?".
" Ah!” said the old man, “it is here the difference commences ; it is here is found that strange, dense, unseizable cloud which envelops Debora, and all women of her stamp. It is not; like Madame de Montes, a conflict between herself and the world which she sustains; it is a contest between inind and habit, a combat between primitive and acquired nature." .
“The devil! that's very complicated.". .. . .. , a
“ Listen to me attentively. It would be impossible for any one to reach the height which Debora has attained in her profession without possessing in oneself a mind capable of assimilating itself with all great ideas."
" That is incontestable."
“But no one can have lived in misery and poverty, in mendicity above all, without having insensibly acquired habits of hypocrisy which, when the mendicant has ceased his comedy, change it into a series of coarse pleasures, loud laughter, and rough jokes, which they fire off at the expense of the benefactor whose compassion they have excited by their well-dissembled complaints."
“ That may be.".
“ Well, my dear friend, when Debora is upon the stage, the height of her ideas are on a par with those which she expresses ; she enjoys these theatrical games simply because they are theatrical, and she gives to the public what the public demand from her. But when she has divested herself of her silken robe, and laid aside her regal diadem, she returns not to her primitive liberty, the wild jest, the hearty laughter, the careless indifference of her previous wandering life, she re-enters, unhappily for herself, into another comedy. Her drawing-rooms are now thrown open, men of talent and fashion occupy them, women of perfect breeding are found there. La Debora is proud ; La Debora is herself alone worth all these women put together, and she wishes to show it also. After being a queen at the theatre, she is a grande dame in her salon ; she converses, she flatters, she satirizes, until the moment when, fatigued with this new stage, this new audience, she escapes from the room into a little hidden antechamber, where the sovereign, who just before held every one in admiration and respect, cries out to her lover who follows her, —
««• This bothers my life out!'
“He remonstrates with her. She flies into a fury ; but not one of those polished, well-bred furies that education has taught us; she tells her lover that he may go to the devil; she swears, she sacres, she breaks the furniture; and if an unfortunate maid servant should make her appearance, she salutes her with a kick or a cuff; with that same voice which sings of gold and diamonds, she calls the most elegant man in France a cornichon : he is distressed; she turns him out of the room; and if by chance she should have taken an extra glass of wine, ten to one if she does not sup with her coachman, and hob-nob with her femmes de chambre.”
“ Impossible !"
“Then comes the following day, bringing with it repentance; for she loves him, or rather, Debora's intelligent half esteems and regards this man's affection. She well knows all that she is worth—she who has learnt in the basest school the thin varnish which passes for mind and talent and she condemns herself for nourishing these remembrances and regrets, and these backslidings upon her villanous past life; she feels herself made to become all that her lover wishes she should be; she recals him, asks his pardon, and recommences her comedy; she again becomes the charming and distinguished woman whom he loves; she exerts all her strength, all her love to please him ; but it does not last long, the thread breaks, and then the same scenes are enacted over again. Then she flies; she leaves her own carriage to get into a crazy hackney coach; she wanders to the environs; and when she surprises a conjuror exchanging with his confederate the cunning glance which signalizes the successful coup; and when he shows the piece of silver which he has cleverly juggled from the spectator, and with which they will shortly laugh and drink at his expense; when Debora sees all this, she experiences a feeling of poignant regret ; and if ever she does weep, it is most certainly at that moment.
“For what weeps she? her present fortune? Sometimes. Her passed misery? Yes, and no. Ambition, intelligence, elevated desires,