evening when

I left Jacques after this jesting remark which I laughed at him with a
gaiety sufficiently well simulated for the strange pain I was stifling
to escape his irony. Here was my cowardice again, my grievous
inconsequence of heart which was always the same in spite of experience,
in spite of resolution, and in spite of age! I had run after my friend
all the afternoon to beg him not to slight his poor friend by abandoning
her so brutally. I had come to the theatre to exhort Camille not to
judge her lover as she did, for her possible vengeance had moved me with
anxiety to the depths of my soul. I ought then to rejoice at their
reconciliation. So much the better if Madam de Bonnivet’s coquetry had
produced naturally a result which without doubt my counsel would not.
But it was not so. The fact of the actress pardoning with the facility
of a true lover wounded me in a still unsuspected place, and the thought
of their appointment on the morrow was more painful still. I could see
them in each other’s arms, with the help of that terribly precise
imagination which a painter’s craft develops in him. This unsupportable
vision made me admit the sad truth. I was jealous, jealous without hope,
and the right to be so, with a childish, grotesque and unacceptable
jealousy. I was about to enter, I had entered into that hell of false
sentiments in which one feels the worst of passion’s sorrow without
tasting any of its joys. How well I knew that cursed path!

In the course of my love affairs, which were as incomplete and
incoherent as the rest of my existence, I had already experienced this
dangerous situation more than once. I had been the too tender friend of
a woman who was in love with some one else, but never with the sudden
emotion, with the troubled ardour in the sympathy which Camille Favier
inspired in me. I was afraid, so I concluded a solemn compact with
myself. I took my hand and said aloud: “I give my word of honour to
myself I will keep my door shut all the week, and I will neither go to
see Jacques, nor to the theatre, nor to the Rue de la Barouillére. I
will work and cure myself.”

Every one in his character has strong points which correspond to his
weak ones. The latter are the ransom of the former. My task of energy in
positive action is compensated by a rare power of passive energy, if
that expression is allowable. Incapable of going forward vigorously,
even when my keenest desire urges me on, I am capable of singular
endurance in abstention, in abnegation and absence. Telling a woman that
I love her stifles me with timidity into thinking that I shall die of
it. I have been able to fly with savage energy from mistresses I have
passionately adored, and remain even without answering their letters,
though in agonies of grief, because I had sworn never to see them again.
To keep my oath as regards Camille was much easier. In fact the week I
deemed sufficient for my cure passed without my giving to her or to
Jacques any sign of my existence. Neither did the two lovers give me any
sign of their existence.

The first part of the programme was completed, but not the second, for
the cure did not come. I must say that my wisdom in my actions was not
accompanied by equal wisdom in my thoughts. I worked hard, but at what!
I tried at first for forty eight hours to resume my “Psyché pardonnée.”
I could not become absorbed in it. The smile and the eyes of my friend’s
mistress ceaselessly interposed between my picture and myself. I put
down my brush. I told Malvina Ducras, my stupid model with a common
voice and such sad eyes, to take a little rest, and while the girl
smoked cigarettes and read a bad novel, my mind went far away from my
studio and I could see Camille again. I had read too many books, as my
custom was, about this fable of Psyché for it not to make me dream. The
idea represented by this story, this cruel affirmation that the soul can
only love in unconsciousness, has always appeared to me to be a theme of
inexpressible melancholy. Alas! it is not for matters of love only that
the Psyché imprisoned and palpitating in each of us submits to this law
of ignorant and obscure instinct. This stern law dominates matters of
religion and matters of art. To believe is to renounce understanding. To
create is to renounce reflection.

When an artist like myself suffers from a hypertrophy of the
intelligence, when he feels himself intoxicated by criticism, paralysed
by theories, this symbol of the cursed and wandering nymph who expiates
in distress the crime of wishing to know, becomes, too, too real, too
true. It agitates too powerfully cords which are too deep. I always felt
myself attracted by this subject, without doubt on account of that, and
I have never been able to make a success of the scenes of canvasses on
which I have begun to treat the subject. Camille Favier is far away and
the “Psyché pardonnée” is still unfinished. I would like to introduce
into the picture, too, many tints. But then the slightest pretext has
always been and will always be enough to distract me. The clear
impression which I retained of Camille was of all these pretexts the
most delightful, and the one which least disturbed my craft as a
painter, thanks to the strange compromise of conscience which I devised,
about which I will tell you.

“As I cannot help thinking of her all day long,” I said to myself at
last, “suppose I try to paint her portrait from memory? Goethe pretended
that to deliver himself from a sorrow, it was sufficient for him to
compose a poem. Why should not a painted poem have the same virtue as a
written one?” Was not this paradoxical and foolish enterprise, the
portrait without a model of a woman seen but twice, the work of a poet?
It was paradoxical but not foolish. I had to fix upon canvas this pale
silhouette which haunted my dreams, my first impression of which was so
clear that by shutting my eyes I could see her before me just as she
appeared—upon the stage, fine and fairylike in her youth and genius
beneath her make-up, with the blue costume of her part; then in her
dressing-room, by turns tender and satirical, with the picturesque
disorder around her which betrayed the thousand small miseries of her
calling; then along the wall of the Invalides under the stars of that
December night, leaning on my arm, pale and magnified as if she were
transfigured by the sadness of her confidences; and last of all at home,
tragic and trembling at the deceit practised upon her? All these
Camilles were blended in my mind into an image hardly less clear than
her presence itself. I dismissed Malvina. I relegated “_Psyché_” to a
corner of the studio, and I made a large red crayon drawing of my
phantom. The likeness in this portrait outlined in the fever of a
passionate pity was striking. Camille smiled at me from the bluish
paper. It was only a sketch, but so lifelike that I was astonished at it

As usual I doubted my own talent, and to verify the fact that this
portrait from memory was really successful to this extent, I went to a
shop in the Rue de Rivoli where photographs of famous people were for
sale. I asked for one of the fashionable actress. They had a collection
of six. I bought them with a blush on my face, a ridiculous timidity
considering my age, my profession, and the innocence of the purchase. I
waited before examining, them in detail till I was alone beneath the
bare chestnuts in the Tuileries on this overcast autumn afternoon, which
accorded well with the nostalgia with which I was seized before these
portraits. The most charming of them represented Camille in walking
dress. It must have been at least two years old, at a period certainly
before she became Jacques’ mistress. There was in the eyes and at the
lips of this girlish picture a maidenly and somewhat shy expression, the
shamefaced nervous reserve of a soul which has not yet given itself—the
soul of a child which foresees its destiny and fears it, but desires the
mysterious unknown. Two others of these photographs represented the
debutante in the two parts she had played at the Odéon. She was the same
innocent child, but the determination to succeed had formed a wrinkle
between her brows, and there was the light of battle in her eyes; the
firm, almost strained fold of the mouth revealed the anxiety of an
ambition which doubts itself. The three latter photographs showed in the
costume of the Blue Duchess the woman at last born from the child. The
revelation of love was displayed by the nostrils which breathed life,
and by the eyes in which the flame of pleasure, light and burning,
floated; and the mouth had something like a trace, upon its fuller lips,
of kisses given and received.

Would another day come when other pictures would tell no more of the
romance of the artist and lover, but of the venal slave of gallantry,
kept by a Tournade, by several Tournades, and forever branded by
shameless and profligate luxury. But I always went back to the earliest
of these photographs, the one I would have desired, had I been able to
meet the living model in that same garden of the Tuileries, on her way
to the Conservatoire. Now I could think of her only as she had been
before her first stain, such as she would never be again!

“Poesy is deliverance”; yes, perhaps, for a Goethe, or for a Leonard,
for one of those sovereign creatures who throw all their inner being
into, and incarnate it in, a written or painted work. There is another
race of artists to whom their work is only an exaltation of a certain
inner state. They do not rid themselves of suffering by expressing it,
they develop it, they inflame it, perhaps because they do not know how
to express it and to entirely rid themselves of it. This was so in my
own case. Before these photographs my project for a portrait became
praise. I only retained the first one. It was the eighteen-year-old
Camille I wished to evoke and paint. It was a phantom, the phantom of
her whom I might have known in her purity, as a virgin, might have loved
and perhaps married. It was a portrait of a phantom, of a dead woman.

From this task was diffused upon me during the week’s seclusion and
uninterrupted labour that vague and satisfying delight which floats
around a woman’s form which has gone for ever. In analysing under the
microscope the tiny details of this face upon this bad and almost faded
photograph, I enjoyed for hours a voluptuous and unutterably attractive
soul’s pleasure. There was not a trait in this ingenuous face in which I
did not discover a proof, quite obvious and physiological to me, of an
exquisite delicacy of nature in the person, of whom that had been a
momentary likeness. The tiny ear with its pretty lobe told of her
breeding. Her pale silky hair displayed tints in its ringlets which
seemed faded and washed out. The construction of the lower part of the
face could be seen to be fine and robust beneath her slender cheeks.
There was a shade of sensuality in her lower lip which was slightly
flattened and split by the wrinkle which betokens great goodness. There
was intelligence and gaiety in her straight nose, which was cut a trifle
short in comparison with her chin. But what of her eyes? Her great,
clear, profound eyes, innocent and tender, curious and dreamy! As I
looked at them, to my overwrought imagination they seemed to be animate.
Her little head turned upon a neck, which fine attachment displayed the
slenderness of the rest of the body.

I never understood so well as in that period of contemplative exaltation
that oriental jealousy which protects their women from the caress of the
glance, which is as passionate, as enveloping, and almost as deflowering
as the other caresses. To contemplate is to possess. How I felt that
during those long sittings spent in putting on to canvas such a real and
deceptive mirage as the smile and eyes of Camille, her smile of the
past, and her eyes of to-day lit by ether flames! How I felt, too, that
my talent was not in the depths of my soul, since the intoxication of
this spiritual possession was not achieved by a definite creature! I
have only sketched these days in which I lived and experienced the
sensations produced by the achievement of a masterpiece. At least I
respected in myself this attack of the sacred fever, and I never again
touched, to complete it, the portrait I had drawn in that week. Why was
not the period prolonged?

Why? The fault is not alone in my own weakness. A simple incident
occurred which did not depend upon my will. It sufficed to dismiss me
from the drama of coquetry and real love which I wished to shun, to
avoid being the confidant of former tragedies boasted of by Jacques—a
confidant himself wounded and bleeding. Because of my troubles during
the day following my introduction to the Bonnivets, and during my week’s
solitary work, I had neglected to call upon them and leave my card. For
that reason I felt I was not likely to see Queen Anne again. But that
was the quarter from which reached me the pretext to break this period
of solitude and work in the ordinary shape of a perfumed note emblazoned
and scrawled in the most coquettish and impersonal English handwriting,
by Madam de Bonnivet herself. It was an invitation to dine with her and
a small party of mutual friends.

The fact that this invitation reached me after my breach of etiquette
proved clearly enough that her quarrel with Jacques had not lasted. The
brief notice the dinner was for the following day, showed on the other
hand that it was an unexpected invitation. A third fact added an
enigmatic character to this note, which was as commonplace as the
writing in it! Why had it not reached me through Jacques or with a few
lines from him? My first idea was to refuse it. A dinner in town had
appeared to me for years an insupportable and useless task. The too
numerous family feasts I am constrained to attend, why?—the monthly love
feasts of fellow artists which I am weak enough to frequent—why
again?—two or three friends who dine with me from time to time—because I
like them—the dining-room at the club where I go when I am very
bored—these gatherings to a great extent suffice for the social sense
which has withered in me with age. I shall end, I think, by only dining
out about once in three years.

The dinner to which the beautiful and dangerous Queen Anne had invited
me was one the more to be avoided, as it plunged me once more into the
current of emotions I had stemmed so resolutely and painfully. I sat
down to write a note of refusal, which I put into an envelope and
stamped. Then instead of sending the letter to the post, I put it in my
pocket to post myself. I called a passing cab, and instead of telling
the driver to stop at the nearest post office I gave him Molan’s
address, Place Delaborde—the house I had sworn not to enter again. Would
there not still be time to send my refusal after finding out from
Jacques the reason of Madam de Bonnivet’s amiability, about which I
could say with Ségur of the promotion of officers, after the battle of
Moskwa: “These favours threatened?”

The page showed me this time into the great man’s study. Molan was
sitting at his writing-table which was of massive oak with numerous
drawers in it. Bookcases were all round this little room, and in
appearance the volumes were works of reference often used but always put
back in their places. There was no dust on them, nor was there any trace
of the disorder to be found with the writer-born, whose fancy
ceaselessly interrupts his work. A high desk held out an invitation for
standing composition. Another bookcase, lofty and revolving, full of
dictionaries, atlas, books of reference, and maps stood at the corner of
the writing-table; and the order of the latter piece of furniture, with
its sheets of paper carefully cut, its stock of useful articles, its
place for answered letters and for letters to be answered, demonstrated
the methodical habits of work daily allotted and executed. These details
of practical installation were too like their owner for a single one to
escape me. There was not a work of art to be seen, not even on the
mantelpiece, where stood the usual library clock. This timepiece which
marked the hours of work was a good, accurate instrument, metallic and
clear in its glass and copper case.

What other portrait could one paint of this writer, who was an absolute
stranger to anything not his own business, as methodical as if he were
not a man of the world, as regular as if he were not, by his art itself,
the painter of all the troubles and all the disorders of the human soul,
than sitting at his table with his cold and reflective face, and his way
of using his pen with a free, measured and regular gesture. To make his
portrait really typical it was necessary to paint Molan as I surprised
him, engaged in reading the four pages he had written since his
awakening that morning—four little sheets covered with lines of equal
length in a handwriting every letter of which was properly made, every T
crossed and every I dotted. Was I envious as I noted these details with
an irritation not justified in appearance? He had the right after all,
this fellow, to administer his literary fortune as if it were a house of
business. But is there not something in us, almost a sense which this
indefinable deception offends: this working of a fine talent, with so
much egoism, so much calculation at its base, and so little moral unity
between the written thought and the thought lived?

Another mannerism of Jacques’ irritated my nerves. He stretched out his
hand to me with an indifferent cordiality quite his own. He had been for
months without seeing me till we met at the club, and he spoke to me
then in as friendly a way as if we had met on the previous day. He had
told me about the two adventures he had on hand as if I were his best
and surest friend. Directly I turned on my heel I saw or heard no more
of him. I had ceased to exist as far as he was concerned. When I saw him
again he greeted me with just the same handshake. How much I prefer, to
these smiling and facile friends, the suspicious, the susceptible, and
the irritable ones with whom you quarrel, who either want you or do not
do so, who often get angry with you, sometimes wrongly and by the most
involuntary negligence, but for whom you exist and are real with human
living reality! To the real egoists, on the other hand, you are an
object, a thing the equal in their eyes of the couch they offer you to
sit down upon with their most amiable and empty smile. Your only reality
to them is your presence, and the pleasure or the reverse they feel at
it. To be entirely frank, perhaps I should have wished Camille’s lover
to receive me in the way he always had done, with his impersonal
graciousness, if I had not found him looking a little pale and
heavy-eyed; and I was obliged to attribute this slight fatigue to his
love of the charming girl, whose maidenly grace of the past I had just
spent a week in evoking, sustained by the most passionate of
retrospective hypnotism. This impression was as painful to me as if I
had over Camille other rights than those of dream and sympathy. I had
really come to talk about her, and I would have liked to depart without
even her name being mentioned. This silence was the more impossible as
after our greeting I held out to Jacques Madam de Bonnivet’s invitation.

“Were you the cause of this being sent to me?” I asked him. “Who will be
present at this dinner? What answer shall I give?”

“I?” he said, after reading the letter, unable to conceal his
astonishment. “No. I had nothing to do with it. You must accept for two
reasons: first because it will amuse you, and then you, by doing so,
will be rendering me a real service.”

“You a service?”

“Yes. It is very simple,” he replied, a little impatient at my
stupidity. “You don’t understand that Madam de Bonnivet has invited you
because she hopes to find out from you my actual relations with Camille
Favier? It is a little ruse. As a matter of fact, you have deserted me
again and are not up-to-date. But you know me well enough to be sure
that I have not let the week pass without manœuvring skilfully in the
little war which Queen Anne and myself are waging! I say skilfully, but
it is merely working a scheme, the foundation of which never varies.
Mine has progressed in the way I told you, by persuading the lady more
and more that I have a profound passion for little Camille. There is no
need for me to tell you my various stratagems, the simplest of which has
been to behave with Camille as if I really loved her. But Queen Anne is
clever, and is studying my play. I have only to make one slip and my
plan will fail.”

“Come. I don’t understand you. One fact is that you are courting Madam
de Bonnivet. You talk to her about your passion for little Favier; that
is another fact. How do you manage that? For to pay court to one is not
to have a passion for the other?”

“But, my dear fellow,” he interrupted, “you forget the remorse and the
temptation. I am not paying court to Queen Anne, I am arranging to do
so. Have you ever kept a dog? Yes. Then you have seen it, when you were
at table enjoying a cutlet, look at you and the bone with eyes in which
the honest sentiments of duty and the gluttonous appetite of the
carnivorous animal were striving for mastery? Ah, well, I have those
eyes for Queen Anne at each new ruse she employs to arouse my desire for
her beauty. The man being superior to the dog in virtue, sir, and in
self-control, duty carries him away. I leave her quickly like some one
who does not wish to succumb to temptation. Stop, shall I give you an
illustration? Take, for example, yesterday; we were in a carriage in the
fog; it was what I call a nice little adultery fog. Madam de Bonnivet
and I had met in a curiosity shop, where she had gone to buy tapestry,
and so had I. What luck! She offered me a lift.”

“In her own carriage?” I asked.

“You would have preferred a public carriage, would you not?” he asked
me. “I do not, for let me tell you that carriage rides are very
fashionable. There are innocent and guilty ones. You can imagine us,
then, in this small carriage filled with the perfume of woman, one of
those vague and penetrating aromas in which a hundred scents are
mingled. Queen Anne and I were in this soft, warm atmosphere. The fog
enveloped the carriage. I took her hand, which she did not withdraw. I
pressed the little hand, and it returned my pressure. I put my arm
around her waist. Her loins bent as if to avoid me, in reality to make
me feel their suppleness. She turned to me as if to become indignant,
but in reality to envelop me with her staring eyes and madden me. My
lips sought her lips. She struggled, and suddenly instead of insisting,
I repulsed her. It was I who said: ‘No, no, no. It would be too wicked.’
I could not do that to her, and made use of the expressions usual to her
sex at such times. I it was who stopped the carriage and fled! With a
mistress on the other side of Paris, who loves and pleases you, to whom
to bring the desire awakened by her rival, this is truly the most
delightful of sports. It is very natural that Queen Anne will allow
herself to be taken. The feeling that she is passionately desired and at
the same time shunned is likely to provoke the worst follies in a woman,
who is a little corrupt and a little cold, a little vain and a little

“Then if I have understood you, my part at to-morrow’s dinner would
consist of lying to the same effect as yourself when Madam de Bonnivet
speaks to me of Camille? In that case it would be useless for me to
accept the invitation. I will not commit that villainy.”

“Villainy is a hard word. Why not?” asked Jacques with a laugh.

“Because I should feel remorse at contributing to the success of this
dirty intrigue,” I replied, getting quite angry at his laughter.
“Whether Madam de Bonnivet does or does not deceive her husband is no
business of mine, nor would it concern me if either of you injured
yourself through the villainous game you are playing. But when I meet
real sentiment, I take my hat off to it, and I do not trample on it. It
is real sentiment which Camille Favier feels for you. I heard her speak
of her love, the evening I saw her, while you were at supper with your
coquette. I saw her, too, the next day when she received your cruel
reply. This girl is true as gold. She loves you with all her heart. No,
no, I will not help you to betray her, all the more so as the crisis is
graver than you think.”

I was wound up. I went on telling him with all the eloquence at my
command the discoveries I had made and omitted to tell him a week
before: the troubles of the pretty actress, what he had been, what he
was to her, the ideal of passion and art she believed she was realizing
in their liaison, the temptations of luxury which surrounded her, and
the crime it is to provoke the first great deception in a human being.
At last I was expending, in defending the little Blue Duchess to her
lover, the warmth of the unfortunate love I myself felt for her. And I
was so jealous of it! It was a grievous sentimental anomaly which
Jacques did not discern in spite of his keenness. He could only see in
my protests the deplorable _naïveté_ with which he always believed me to
be contaminated, and he replied with a smile more indulgent than

“Did she tell you this in the two or three hours you were together? It
is not a boat she has manned, it is a squadron, a flotilla, an armada!
But, my friend, do you think I have not noticed the feelings of our
little Blue Duchess? It is perfectly true that she was chaste before
meeting me. But as she first threw herself at my head and knew perfectly
well what she was doing, however modest she may have been, you will
permit me to have no remorse, and all the more so since I have never
concealed from her that I only offered her a fantasy and that I did not
love her with real love. Even I have my own code of loyalty to women,
although you don’t think so. Only I place it so as not to deceive them
upon the quality of the little combination to which I invite them in
courting them. It is for them to accept and take the consequences. If
to-day Camille experiences the temptation for luxury, which, by the way,
I think very natural, this temptation has nothing to do with her broken
ideal. She makes that pretty excuse to herself, and that, I think, is
very natural too. She is almost as sincere as the young girls who make a
wealthy marriage and excuse themselves for a first love betrayed. Let
her take her rich lover—you can give her my permission; let him pay for
dresses for her by Worth, horses, carriages, a house and jewels! Let her
take him this afternoon, to-morrow, and I swear to you I shall have no
more remorse than I have in lighting this cigarette. It will even amuse
me when she does so. In the meantime, accept Madam Bonnivet’s
invitation. You will have a good dinner, a thing never to be disdained,
and then you can thwart my dirty intrigue, as you call it, as much as
you please. In love it is just as at chess. Nothing is so interesting as
playing in difficulties. Besides, I am foolish to suppose even for a
moment that you would not go. You will go, I can see it in your eyes.”

“How?” I asked him, somewhat confused at his perspicacity. It was true
that I felt my resolution to refuse destroyed by his presence alone.

“How? By your look while you are listening to me. Would you pay such
attention if the story did not passionately interest you? It means that
you would imagine us all three, Camille, Madame Bonnivet and myself,
rather than pass from knowing us. I told you the other day, you are a
born looker-on and confidant. You have been mine. You suddenly became
Camille’s, and now you must become Madam de Bonnivet’s. You will receive
the confidences of this woman of the world; you will receive them and
believe them!” he insisted, accentuating each syllable, and he
concluded: “That will be the punishment for your blasphemies. But it has
just occurred to me, when do you begin the portrait of the Blue

It must be admitted that this devil of a man was not wrong; as a matter
of fact, his adventure hypnotized me with irresistible magnetism. After
all, I did not leave his study till I had written with his pen on his
paper a letter of acceptance to Madam Bonnivet. Besides that, I had done
worse. In spite of the spasm of unreasonable and morbid jealousy which
clutched my heart each time I thought of the intercourse between Jacques
and his mistress, I made an appointment to begin the promised portrait,
not that of the ideal dream Camille, but of the real one, who belonged
to this man, who gave him her mouth, and her throat, and who surrendered
herself entirely to him, and we arranged the first sitting for the day
after Madam de Bonnivet’s dinner, in my studio!

I repented of these two weaknesses before I was down the staircase of
the house in the Place Delaborde, but not enough, alas, to return and
take back my note, which Jacques had promised to deliver. My remorse
increased as directly I entered my studio I saw Camille’s head upon my
easel. Delicious in her phantom and unfinished life, she smiled at me
from her frameless canvas. “No, you will never finish me,” she seemed to
say to me with her sad eyes, her fine oval face, and her mouth framed in
a melancholy smile. It is certain that neither that evening nor during
the hours which followed had I the courage to touch that poor head, nor
have I done so since. The enchantment was broken. I passed the ensuing
hours in a state of singular agitation. I was seized again by the fever
of my new-born passion, and this time I had neither the hope nor the
will to struggle. I felt that this week of renunciation and seclusion
with the ideal Camille had given me the only joy that this passion,
which was so false and also condemned in advance, would ever give me.
These joys I renounced were symbolized to me by this chimerical

But to continue, I spent the day before Madam de Bonnivet’s dinner in
contemplation. Then when the moment of departure had come, I wished to
bid adieu to this picture, or, rather, to ask its pardon. I experienced
in the presence of this dream portrait, with which I had spent a sweet
romantic week, as much inner remorse as if it had been the image, not of
a chimera, but of an actually betrayed _fiancée_. I can see myself now
as I appeared in the large mirror of the studio, walking with my fur
coat open like a guilty man towards the canvas, which, after gazing at
for the last time, I was about to hide by turning it face towards the
wall in an adjoining garret. Did not the Camille Favier of my fancy
disappear to give place to another as pretty, as touching perhaps, but
not my Camille?

But come, my sweet phantom, one more sigh, one more look, and I will
return to reality. Reality was, in fact, a cab waiting at the door to
take me through the driving rain to the Rue des Écuries d’Artois, where
the fashionable rival of the pretty actress dwelt. What would she say
when Jacques told her that I had dined at her rival’s house? He would be
sure to tell her in order to enjoy my embarrassment. What would Madam de
Bonnivet herself say? Why had she invited me? What did I really know
about it? What did I know of her, save that the sight of her gave me a
pronounced feeling of antipathy, and Jacques had told me many unpleasant
things about her? But my antipathy might be mistaken, and Jacques might
be slandering her as he did Camille Favier. “Suppose,” I asked myself,
“this coquette is caught in the net? It is not very likely,” I replied,
“seeing the hard blue of her eyes, her thin lips, her sharp profile, and
the haughty harshness of her face. But still she might!”

It was less probable still, when one came to consider the frequent
festivities and the gaiety at the house before which my modest cab
stopped in the course of this monologue. I don’t consider myself more
stupidly plebeian than most people, but the sensation of arriving at a
600,000 franc house to take part in a fifty pound dinner in a vehicle
fare thirty-five sous will always suffice to disgust me with the smart
world without anything else. But other things had a similar effect on
me, and the Bonnivets’ house was one of them, for it seemed to me most
like a parody of architecture, in which the feat has been achieved of
mingling twenty-five styles and building a wooden staircase in the
English style in a Renaissance framework; the hang-dog faces of the
footmen in livery seemed like a gallery of mute insolence to the
visitor. How could I bear this adornment of things and people without
perceiving its hideous artificiality? How could I help detesting the
impression made by this furniture, which smelt of plunder and curiosity
shops, for nothing was in its place: eighteenth century tapestry
alternated with sixteenth century pictures, with furniture of the days
of Louis XV, with modern sliding curtains, and with bits of ancient
stoles furnishing off a reclining chair, the back of a couch, or the
cushion of a divan! In short, when I was ushered into the boudoir
drawing-room where Madam de Bonnivet held her assizes I was a greater
partisan than ever of Camille, the brave little actress, as she had
appeared to me in the modest room in the Rue de la Barouillére.

The millionairess rival of this poor girl was reclining rather than
sitting upon a kind of bed of the purest Empire style, after the manner
in which David has immortalized the cruel grace of Madam Récamier, the
illustrious patroness of coquettes of the siren order. She wore one of
those dresses which are very simple in appearance, but which in reality
mark the limit between superior elegance and the other kind. The
greatest artists in the business are the only ones successful with them.
It consisted of a skirt of a thick dead-black silk which absorbed the
light instead of reflecting it. A cuirass, a jet coat of mail, applied
to this stuff, showed distinctly the shape of the bust, and allowed the
whiteness of the flesh to shine through at the bare places at the
shoulders and arms. A jet girdle, a model of those worn in ancient
statues on tombs by queens of the Middle Ages, followed the sinuous line
of the hips, and terminated in two pendants crossed very low down.
Enormous turquoises surrounded by diamonds shone in this pretty woman’s
ears. These turquoises and a golden serpent on each arm—two marvellous
copies of golden serpents in the Museum at Naples—were the only jewels
to lighten this costume, which made her figure look longer and more
slender even than it was. Her blonde pallor, heightened by the contrast
of this sombre harmony in black and gold, took the delicacy of living
ivory. Not a stone shone in her clear golden hair, and it looked as if
she had matched the blue of her turquoise with the blue of her eyes, so
exactly similar was the shade, except that the blue of these stones,
which is supposed to pale when the wearer is in danger, revealed tender
and almost loving shades when compared with the metallic and implacable
azure of her eyes. She was fanning herself with a large feather fan as
black as her dress, on which was a countess’ coronet encrusted in roses.
It was without doubt a slight effort towards a definite relationship
with the real Bonnivet. I have found out since that she went further
than that. But the real Duc de Bonnivet, on the occasion of a charity
fête, where Queen Anne had risked claiming a title, had interposed with
a lordly and inflexible letter, and all that was left of this thwarted
pretension was this coronet, embroidered here and there, without a coat
of arms.

Near this slender and dangerous creature, so blonde and white in the
dead-black sheath of her spangled corsage and skirt, Senneterre, “the
beater,” was sitting on a very low chair, almost a footstool, while
Pierre de Bonnivet warmed at the fire the soles of his pumps as he
talked to my master Miraut. The latter seemed somewhat surprised, and
not very pleased to see me. Dear old master; if he only knew how wrong
he was in thinking that I was his rival for a 20,000-franc portrait! But
this pastel merchant comes of the race of good giants. Besides his six
foot in height, and suppleness from exercise, his porter’s shoulders,
broadened still more by his daily boxing, his Francis I profile,
sensual, fine, and gluttonous, he has retained, beneath the trickery of
the profession, a generous temperament. So he received me with a
friendly though a little too patronizing greeting!

“Ah! then you know my pupil?” he said to Madam de Bonnivet. “He has
great ability, only he lacks assurance and confidence in himself.”

“But there are so many who have too much of these qualities,” the young
woman interposed, casting an evil glance at the pastelist who seemed
disconcerted. “He makes up for them.”

“Good!” I thought, “she is not in a good humour, nor even polite. It is
quite true that Miraut is a little too conceited. But he is a man of
great talent, who has done her a great honour by coming here. How
bad-tempered she looks this evening! Bonnivet, too, looks preoccupied in
spite of his mask of gaiety! I will stand by what I told Jacques the
other day. I would not trust either the woman or the husband. These
cold-looking blondes are capable of anything, and so are strong
full-blooded men like the husband. Now we shall see Jacques’ manœuvre.
To think that he could be so happy quite simply with his little friend!
Life is really very badly arranged.”

This fresh internal monologue was almost as distinct as I have written
it. This doubling process proved the extreme excitement of my faculties.
For my clear, distinct thoughts did not prevent me being all attention
to the conversation which was reinforced by the presence of Count and
Countess Abel Mosé. He is an accomplished type of the great modern
financier. Strange to say, this kind of face which is often met with
among the Jews is not displeasing to me. I can see in it the setting of
a real passion. For people of this kind the vanity of their club and
drawing-room life has at least its realism. In playing the part of the
noble host they prove they have mounted one step of the social ladder.
The life of fashion is to them a second business, which is in
juxtaposition to the other and continues it. It is a step gained; but
what a life theirs must be to endure the wear and tear of these two
existences, anxious cares alternating with exhausting pleasures, and
years made up of days on the Stock Exchange followed by dinners in town.
Then, too, Madam Mosé is very beautiful in her oriental fashion, with
nothing of the conventional style and irregular features about her! She
is the Biblical Judith, the creature with eyes burning like the sands in
the desert, over which the soldiers of Holophernes passed. “Who could
hate the Hebrews when they have such women?” I said with them.

Five minutes afterwards pretty Madam Éthorel entered with her husband;
then—“naturally,” as Miraut said between his teeth, to make me
understand that he knew the secrets of this society—Crucé the collector;
then came Machault, a professional athlete, whom I have seen fence at
the School of Arms; then appeared a certain Baron Desforges, a man of
sixty, whose eye at once struck me as being almost too acute, and whose
colour was too red, like that of a man of the world grown old. The
conversation began to buzz, obligatory questions as to the weather and
health being mingled with previous scandals and recollections of the
day, which were very often full of ennui and simply mentioned for the
sake of something to say. I can still hear some of these phrases.

“You don’t take enough walking exercise,” Desforges was saying to Mosé,
who had declared that he felt a little heavy after a meal. “People
digest with their legs, that is what Doctor Noirot is always dinning
into my ears.”

“But the time?” the financier replied.

“Try massage then,” Desforges went on. “I will send Noirot to you.
Massage is the essence of exercise.”

“You did not buy these two candelabra?” Crucé was saying to Éthorel. “At
three thousand francs, my dear fellow, they were being given away.”

“You were not skating this morning, Anne, dear,” Madam Mosé was saying
to Madam de Bonnivet; “it is a fine chance to take advantage of the
early winter. Before the first of January, too! Think of it! It does not
happen twice in a century. I looked for you there!”

“So did I,” Madam Éthorel said. “You would have been amused at the sight
of that old fool Madam Hurtrel on the ice, running after young Liauran.
She was red in the face and perspiring, while he was carrying on with
Mabel Adrahan.”

“It amuses you, madam. But if I said I pitied her?” Senneterre said.

“Respect love! We know her,” Madam de Bonnivet interrupted with that
bitter laugh which I had noticed at the theatre. She was visibly in a
nervous state, which I explained to myself when the dinner was served
and Jacques had not arrived. I was soon to learn both the false excuse
and the real reason of his absence. During the first course the flowers
and silver upon the dinner-table directed the conversation to the
subject of the taste of the period and mistakes made on the stage. The
guests all combined to praise the skill of the late M. Perrin in the
putting on of modern comedies. The talk drifted to actual plays, and an
allusion being made to _La Duchesse Blue_, one of the guests, Machault,
I think it was, said—

“Has its run ceased altogether? As I passed along the Boulevard I saw
there was a change of bill at the Vaudeville this evening. Do you know
the cause of it?”

“Because Bressoré has a severe cold and is too unwell to act. I heard
that by accident at the Club,” Mosé said, “and the play rests upon his
shoulders. He is clever, but he is the only one in the company,” he went
on, and this proved that Madam de Bonnivet’s antipathy to Camille Favier
had not escaped the dark, observant eyes of the business man.

“It appears to be contagious in the theatre,” said Bonnivet. “Molan
should have been here, but he excused himself at the last moment. He has
a slight attack himself.”

As he said this he looked at his wife, who did not even deign to listen
to him. She was talking to Miraut, who was near her. Neither her
metallic voice nor her hard, clear eyes betrayed the least sign of
trouble, but the cruel curves she sometimes had at the corners of her
mouth made it more cruel, and a little throbbing of the nostrils,
imperceptible but to one of my profession or a jealous man, revealed
that the absence of Jacques was the cause of her nervousness. At the
same time I felt that Bonnivet was scrutinizing my face with the same
look which he gave to his wife, and three things became evident to me:
one, and the most terrible was that the husband was suspicious of the
relations between Queen Anne and my comrade; the second was that my
companion had seized the opportunity of the change of bill to provoke in
the coquette an access of spiteful jealousy by passing, or pretending to
pass, the evening with Camille Favier; the third was that this simple
ruse wounded the vanity of the pretty actress’ rival to the quick. These
three instinctive conclusions, two of which at least were fraught with
the most serious consequences, were sufficient to render the commonplace
dinner passionately interesting to me.

I could not help concentrating my whole attention on Pierre de Bonnivet
and his wife. On the other hand, I feared that directly we left the
dinner-table they would try to make me talk, and I did not wish to
betray Molan either to her, or particularly to him. The easily distended
veins of his full-blooded forehead, his greenish eyes so quick to
display anger, and the coarse red hair, which grew right down his arms
to his fingers, were all signs of brutality which gave me the impression
that he was a redoubtable person. Tragic action would be as natural to
him as grievous timidity to me or fatuous insolence to Jacques. The
evening ought not to end without furnishing me with the proof that my
diverse intuitions had not deceived me. We had just left the
dinner-table for the smoking-room when Machault said to me as he took my

“You see a good deal of Jacques Molan, don’t you, La Croix?”

“We were at college together, and I see him sometimes still,” I replied

“Ah, well! If you see him in a day or two, warn him that Senneterre met
him to-night when on his way here. Consequently they know his cold and
headache are only an excuse. It is of no other importance, but with Anne
it is always better to be well informed.”

I had no time to question the brave swordsman, who had smiled an
unaccountable smile as he uttered this enigmatic phrase, for just then
Pierre de Bonnivet came towards us with a box of cigars in one hand and
a box of cigarettes in the other. I took a Russian cigarette, while the
robust gladiator put into his mouth a veritable tree trunk, wrinkled and
black. Then before the coffee, espying upon the table a bottle of fine
champagne, he filled a little glass, which he proceeded to enjoy, saying
as he did so—-

“This is an excellent appetizer with which to start the evening.”

“Will you have, M. la Croix, a cup of coffee? No. A drop of Kummel or
Chartreuse?” Bonnivet asked. “Not even a thimbleful of cherry brandy?”

“No liqueur or coffee this evening,” I said, and I added with a smile:
“I have not the stomach or the nerves of a Hercules.”

“There is no need to be as strong as Machault to like alcohol. Take our
friend Molan, for instance,” the husband said, watching me as he
pronounced the name. Then after a short silence he said: “Do you know
what is really the matter with him?”

“I don’t know,” I replied. “Perhaps he has overworked himself. He works
harder than he drinks.”

“But he loves little Favier still more?” my questioner insisted, giving
me another keen glance.

“He loves little Favier more still,” I replied in the same indifferent

“Has this affair been going on for long?” the husband asked after a
little hesitation.

“As long as _La Duchesse Blue_ has been running. It is a honeymoon in
its first quarter.”

“But his indisposition this evening when she is not acting?” he asked me
without entirely formulating his question, though I completed it in my
reply, giving it a cynical form which relieved my discomfort.

“Would it be an excuse to pass an evening with her and afterwards the
night? I don’t know, I am sure, but it is very likely.”

I could see at these words, which I hope if Camille Favier ever reads
these pages she will forgive, the face of the jealous husband brighten.
Evidently the note of excuse sent by Molan at the last minute had not
seemed to him genuine. He had found out that Madam de Bonnivet was
annoyed at it, and asked himself the reason. Did he think that he had
stumbled upon, between his wife and Jacques, one of those momentary
quarrels which, more than constant attentions, denounce a love intrigue?
He suspected that I was in my comrade’s confidence. He thought I knew
the real reason of his absence, and his suspicion was soothed at the
sincerity of my voice. As jealous people, being all imagination,
mistrust themselves and reassure themselves at the same time, he assumed
his most charming manner to say to Baron Deforges, who came in, having
delayed a little while in joining us—

“Ah, well, Frederick, were you pleased with the dinner?”

“I have just called Asmé to congratulate him on the little timbales and
to make an observation about the _foie gras_,” the Baron replied. “I
shall not tell you what it was, but you shall judge from experience. He
is, as I have always said, what I call a real chef. But he is still

“He will shape better,” said Bonnivet as he threw me a meaning look,
“with a master like you.”

“He is the seventh who has passed through my hands,” Deforges said with
a shrug of the shoulders and in the most serious tones, “not one more,
since I have known what eating really is. The seventh, do you hear? Then
I pass them on to you and you spoil them by your praise. Chefs are like
other artists. They are not proof against the compliments of the

I had reckoned on going for a short time from the smoking-room to the
drawing-room and, after a short period of polite and general
conversation there, on leaving in the English fashion, taking advantage
of the return of the smokers or the arrival of fresh guests to do so.
When I reached the drawing-room there were only the two ladies who had
dined and Senneterre there. Such small parties being unfavourable to
private conversation, I had reason to hope that Madam de Bonnivet would
not have the opportunity of cornering and confessing me. I little knew
this capricious and authoritative woman who was also well acquainted
with her husband’s ways. She had realized that it would not do for her
to talk to me in Bonnivet’s presence. Directly I appeared she rose from
the couch where she was sitting by Madam Éthorel’s side facing Madam
Mosé, with Senneterre on a low chair at her feet holding her fan. She
came towards me and led the way into a second drawing-room which opened
out of the first, where she sat down upon a couch near me.

“We can talk more quietly here,” she began. Then she sharply said: “Is
your portrait of Mademoiselle Favier far advanced?” She had a way of
questioning which betrayed the despotism of the rich and pretty woman
who regards the person to whom she is talking in the light of a servant
to amuse or inform her. Each time I come across this unconscious
insolence in a fashionable doll an irresistible desire seizes me to give
her a disagreeable answer. Jacques had without doubt speculated upon
this trait of my character in making me play the part of exciter, which,
however, I refused with such loyal energy to do.

“The portrait of Mademoiselle Favier? Why, I have not even begun it,” I

“Ah!” she said with a nasty smile, “has Molan changed his mind and
forbidden it? You are in love with the pretty little woman, M. la Croix,
confess it?”

“In love with her?” I replied. “Not the least bit in the world.”

“It looked like it the other day,” she said, “and Jacques Molan was, in
fact, a little bit jealous of you.”

“All lovers are more or less jealous,” I interposed, and yielding to the
desire I felt to hurt her, I added: “He is very wrong; Camille Favier
loves him with all her heart, and she has a big heart.”

“It is a great misfortune for her talent,” Madam de Bonnivet said,
knitting her blonde brows just enough to let me know that I had struck

“I cannot agree with you, madam,” I replied this time with conviction.
“Little Favier has not only adorable beauty, but she has a sort of
genius too, and a charming heart and mind.”

“One would never suspect it from seeing her act,” she replied, “at
least, in my opinion. But if so, it is worse still. Happiness has never
yet inspired a writer. But I am sure this affair will not last long.
Molan will find out that she has deceived him with a side scene with a
member of the company and then——”

“You are wrongly informed about this poor girl, madam,” I interrupted
more quickly than was absolutely polite. “She is very noble, very proud,
and quite incapable of a mean action.”

“But that does not prevent her being kept by Molan,” she interrupted,
“if my information is accurate, and eating up his author’s rights to the
last sou.”

“Kept!” I cried. “No, madam, your information is very inaccurate. If she
desired luxury she could have it. She has refused a house, horses,
dresses, jewels, and all the things which tempt one in her position, to
give herself where her heart is. She loves Jacques with a most sincere
and beautiful attachment.”

“I pity her if you are right,” she said with a sneer; “for your friend
is not much good.”

“He is my friend,” I replied with an aggressive dryness, “and I am
original enough to defend my friends.”

“That is a reason why one should attack them all the more.” This pretty
woman’s fine face expressed, as she made this commonplace observation,
such detestable wickedness, and the conversation betrayed on her part
such odious meanness and hatred, that my antipathy for her increased to
hate, and I replied to her insolence by another—

“In the world in which you live, perhaps, madam, but not in our world
where there are a few decent people.”

She looked at me as I launched this impertinence, which was not even
clever, at her. I read in her blue eyes less anger than surprise. One of
the peculiar characteristics of these coquettish jades is to esteem
those who oppose them in some degree or manner. She smiled an almost
amiable smile.

“Molan told me that you were original,” she replied. “But you know I am
somewhat original, too, and I think we should get on together.”

Here was a sudden change of front in her conversation, and I was again
given an exhibition of that female intelligence which in the box had
enabled her to hit upon the words to please me. Now she talked to me of
my travels. She herself had visited Italy. Without doubt she had there
met some distinguished artist who had acted as her guide, for she
enunciated ideas which contrasted strangely with the mediocrity of her
previous conversation. Assuredly the ideas were not her own, but she
retained them and realized that now was her chance to place them. She
made in this way two or three ingenuous remarks upon Perugins and
Raphael, notably upon the illogicalness of the latter, in eliminating
from his Madonnas every Christian sentiment to give them too much
beauty, a paganism of health irreconcilable with the mystic beyond and
his dream. She had such a way of appearing to understand what she was
saying, that I did not think ridiculous the admiration with which the
ninny Senneterre, who had joined us, listened to her remarks. This
jealous fellow had not been able to prevent himself from interrupting
our _tête-à-tête_, and as Madam de Bonnivet, strange to say, did not
bully him, he began to lavish his benevolence upon me. He had his plan,
too, the final scene of his naïve thinking out being a Vaudeville scene
that evening when I experienced for a moment a little dramatic shudder.
He insisted, when I said good night, before eleven, on accompanying me,
and he began to sing the praises of Queen Anne as we walked along the
Champs Élysées. Then as we passed the Avenue d’Antin he asked me

“Have you ever done any pistol shooting?”

“Never,” I replied.

“Bonnivet is a first-rate shot,” he went on, “quite first class. Go and
see his target cards some day. He has put ten shots in a space as large
as a 20 franc piece; it is quite a curiosity, I can assure you.”

He left me to go along the Rue François I, where he lived, with this
sinister warning.

“Ah! did he work the infallible pistol trick on you?” Jacques said with
a burst of his loudest laughter when we met the following day. “That is
very good. He looked you in the face to make you understand that if you
court Madam de Bonnivet, you run the risk of getting in your head one of
the bullets with which the husband every day salutes the sheet-iron man
at the range. He did better with me. He took me to see the targets.”

This conversation took place at the breakfast-table, for Jacques had
called on the following morning as soon as his four pages were finished
to ask for the classic egg and cutlet, a thing he had never done before.
This curious haste proved to me how interested he was in the success of
his manœuvre in diplomatic gallantry. I had not received him very

“Tricks like that are not very attractive,” I said to him; “you force me
to accept an invitation to dinner which is odious to me, on purpose to
meet you there, and then you do not turn up.”

“But you must admit that it was very jolly!” he replied in such a gay
tone that I had not the heart to be angry any more. After he had very
minutely questioned me as to the diverse attitudes of different persons,
concluding with the ridiculous warning of Senneterre the Jealous, he
said seriously—

“You noticed nothing in particular then, even you who know how to see?
Yes, you painters do not understand, but you know how to see. Nothing in
the intercourse of Machault and Queen Anne, for instance?”

“Stop,” I replied; “certainly when he warned me that Senneterre had met
you, Machault gave me a singular look. Why do you ask me that? Is he
paying court to her too?”

“I think, if she has already risked a false step, it is with Machault.”

“With Machault?” I cried. “With Machault, the drunken colossus, the
gladiator in black, the fencing machine, while she herself is such a
fine woman, though a little too angular for my taste, and so
aristocratic? It is not possible. The other day, too, you told me that
you thought she was true to her husband.”

“Ah, my dear fellow!” he said with a nod, “you do not know that when one
wishes to find out of whom an ideal woman, a siren, a madonna, an angel,
is the mistress, one must first think of the most vulgar person of her
own circle. There has been a good deal of gossip about her, I know, and
she knows that I know. I have not concealed the fact from her.
Consequently, the presence of Machault last evening was designed to
produce upon me exactly the same effect which I produced upon her by my
absence. I took the initiative, and I was right. Besides,” he added with
almost hateful acrimony in his voice, “one of two things, either she has
already had lovers and she is a jade. In that case I should be the
greatest of fools if I did not have her in my turn. Or else she has not
had lovers and is a coquette who will not make me go the same way as the

“If you are not wasting your time,” I replied to him, “I shall be very
surprised. I studied her yesterday, and as you admit the eagle eyes of
our profession, let me tell you that I have diagnosed in her the signs
of the most complete absence of temperament, which are a little throat,
small hips, skin without down, thin lips, the lower one receding a
little, hard and lean nostrils, and metallic voice. I would wager that
she has no palate, and that she does not know what she eats or drinks.
She is a creature all intellect without a shadow of sensuality.”

“But these cold women have just as many intrigues as the others!” he
interrupted. “You do not know that class then? They give themselves, not
to surrender themselves, but to take others. When it is necessary for
them to grip a lover tightly, a lover they need, they do so with their
person the more easily since the pleasure of it is a matter of
indifference to them. They know that possession detaches some men and
attaches others. It is simply a question of persuading them that one is
of the kind who become attached in this way, when one is not. Then, too,
there are cold women who are hunters, and then! Sometimes I place Madam
de Bonnivet in the first group, sometimes in the second. I do not
pretend to solve the riddle of this sphinx. But failing the answer to
the riddle of this sphinx, I will have the sphinx in person, or my name
is not Jacques Molan. Then, as you have helped me and are just, you
shall have a reward. You will no longer reproach me with that dinner in
the Rue des Écuries d’Artois. You shall be paid for your unpleasant
task. What time is it? Half-past one. Prepare to see in ten minutes
Mademoiselle Camille Favier herself enter with her respectable mother to
arrange about the portrait. Is not that good of me? But I have been
better still, and I have not told her where you dined yesterday.”

He had hardly told me of this visit, so disturbing to me, in his joking
way, when the servant said that two ladies were waiting for me in the
studio. God! how my heart beat when I was about to enter the presence of
the woman I had sworn to avoid! How my heart beats even now at my vivid
and precise recollection of this meeting long ago! I believe that I can
see the two of them, mother and daughter, in the crude light of that
bright January day which filled, by means of the large glass bay, the
studio with a cold pale light. Madam Favier, more placid and smiling
than ever, walked from canvas to canvas, looking at them with her great
laughing eyes. She would suddenly ask me what was the net cost of a
picture, and what did it fetch, with as much simplicity as if it were a
question of a dress or a curio. Camille sat down opposite a copy of
“L’Allégorie du Printemps,” which I had made in Florence so lovingly. In
the long and supple dancers of the divine Sandro, who lent with tender
grace their blonde and dreamy though bitter faces, the little Blue
Duchess could recognize her sisters. She did not see them, absorbed as
she was in a memory, the nature of which I could easily guess, seeing
that she had not acted the previous evening, and had found a way to
spend that free evening with Jacques, thanks to a complaisant cousin. It
hurt me to detect around her tender, almost blood-shot eyes a pearly
halo of lassitude, and on her mouth tremors which told of happiness. But
what made me feel worse still was that Jacques, directly he came in,
copied the photographs I had used to make my dream-picture of her—that
chimerical picture of my week of folly, which happily I had put aside
and well concealed; and at the moment Camille was greeting me with a
slightly embarrassed smile, he displayed those instructive pictures and
said maliciously—

“You can see, mademoiselle, that if Vincent has not been to see you
again as he promised, he has not forgotten you.”

“It was to better prepare the studies for my future picture,” I
stammered. “The great painter Lenbach does so.”

“Who contradicted you?” Molan went on even more maliciously.

“Oh! you have not picked out the best ones,” the mother interrupted as
she showed her daughter the photograph I loved best. “You see,” she
said, “that in spite of your prohibition, this picture which is such a
bad likeness of you is still being sold. Come, now, is it anything like
her? I ask you to decide the point, M. La Croix.”

“I was three years younger,” Camille said, “and he did not know me
then.” Taking the photograph she looked at it in her turn. Then putting
it by the side of her face so that I could see the model and the
portrait at the same time, she asked me: “Have I changed very much?”

Poor little Blue Duchess, the sincere lover of the least loving of my
friends, romantic child stranded by an ironical caprice of fate in the
profession most fatal to mystery, silence and solitude, when the pretty,
delicate flowers of your woman’s soul needed a warm atmosphere of
protective intimacy, say, did you suspect my emotion when I looked at
your face, paled by the pleasures of the previous evening, smiling at me
thus by the side of another face, the face of the innocent child you
were once, when I might have loved you as my betrothed wife? No,
certainly you did not. For you were good; and if you had guessed what I
suffered, you would not have imposed upon me this useless ordeal. You
would not on that visit have arranged with me the details of that series
of sittings which began the following day and were for me a strange and
sorrowful Calvary! Yes, however, perhaps you did guess, for there was
sadness and pity in your smile—sorrow for yourself and pity for me. You
saw so clearly from that moment that I bore an affection for you which
was too quickly awakened to be the reasonable and simple friendship of a
comrade! You saw it without wishing to admit it, for love is an egoist.
Yours had need of being related, to be encouraged in its hopes,
comforted in its doubts, and pitied in its grief. Who would have
rendered you the service of lending himself as a complaisant echo of
your passion like I did? If it cost me my rest for weeks and weeks; if
on your departure from my studio after each sitting, just as after your
first visit, I remained for hours struggling against the bitterness of
which I have not yet emptied my heart, you did not wish to know, and I
had not the strength to condemn you to do so. After all, you made me
feel, as Jacques used to say, and there will come a time perhaps when,
passing my memories in review, I shall bless you for the tears I shed,
sometimes as if I were no more than eighteen, on your account, who did
not see them. Had you seen them, you would have refused to believe in
them, to preserve the right to initiate me into the inner tragedy in
which you then lived, and which by a counter stroke, alas! was not
spared me.

If I allowed these impressions to go on, I should fill the pages with
groans like this, and never reach the tragedy itself, or rather the
tragic comedy, in which I played the part of the ancient Chorus, the
ineffectual witness of catastrophies, who deplored them without
preventing them. Let us employ the only remedy for this useless elegy.
Let us note the little facts clearly. I have mentioned that this visit
of mother and daughter had as its object the arrangement of a series of
sittings. I have also mentioned that the first of these sittings was
placed for the following day.

On the following day Camille arrived, not accompanied by her mother, but
alone. It was so almost always during the four weeks which this painting
lasted, but during the whole of this time the work did not succeed in
interesting the artist in me, for my attention was too much absorbed by
the adorable child’s confidences, confidences which were ceaselessly
interrupted, repeated and prolonged by the interruptions till the
details were multiplied and complicated to infinity. Yes, many little
facts come into my mind in trying to recall these private sittings which
were always somewhat bitter to me. This liberty proved to me how many
favourable opportunities her intrigue with Jacques had obtained. Too
many little scenes recur to me, and too many multiple and over-lapping
impressions which my memory is apt to confuse. It is like a tangled
skein of thread I am trying in vain to unravel. Let us see if I can
reduce them to some kind of order in classifying them.

These recollections, which are so numerous and so similar that they
become mixed, are distributed, when I reflect, into three distinct
groups; and these groups mark the stages of this purely moral drama, in
which Camille, Jacques and Madam de Bonnivet were engaged, in its
progress to a real and terrible drama. When I reflect again, it was the
difference between these three groups of emotions which justified me in
not making a success of this portrait. Had I been an artist who was an
imperturbable master of execution, in place of being what I am, half an
amateur, always uncertain, and a sort of “Adolphe” of the brush, all
intention and touches, all scratching out and alteration, I should not
have been able to execute a unique canvas under such conditions. It was
not a woman I had before me during these too long and too short
sittings, it was three women.

One after the other I will resuscitate these three women, I will make
them pose before my eyes, according to the taste of my memory, as if the
irreparable, and such an irreparable, were not between us! One after the
other they come back to sit in this studio where I am writing these
lines. One after the other I listen to them telling me, the first her
joy, the second her sorrow, and the third the fury of her jealousy and
the fever of her indignation; and yet to-day I do not know before which
of the three women, and during which of the three periods I suffered the
most, my suffering being the greater because I was obliged to be silent;
and behind each of the confidences little Favier gave me, whether she
were happy, melancholy, or angry, I could see the hard silhouette of the
elegant rival, to whose caprices this joy, sorrow or anger were
subordinated. Oh, God! what punishment for hybrid sentiments, those
sentiments which have not the courage to go to the end in the logic of
sacrifice or gratification, I experienced during those sittings! But
still I would like to begin them again. I am writing of misery again and
composing more elegies. Let me get on with the facts, facts, facts!

The first period, that of joy, was not of long duration. The scene which
marked its culminating point took place on the fourth of these sittings.
The scene, though a fine expression, merely consisted of a conversation
without any other incident than Camille’s entry into the studio with a
bunch of roses—large, heavy roses of all shades—some pale with the dewy
pallor of her face, others blonde and almost of the same golden tint as
her beautiful hair, others as red as her pretty mouth with its lower lip
so tightly rolled, others dark, which by contrast appeared to light up
her bloodless colour that morning. The question was, which of these
flowers I should choose for her to hold in her hand. I wished to paint
her in an absolute unity of tone, like Gainsborough’s blue boy. She had
to stand wearing a dress of blue gauze, that of her part, with blue silk
mittens, blue velvet at the neck, blue ribbons at the sleeves, her feet
in blue satin shoes, with no jewels but sapphires and turquoises on a
ground of peacock blue velvetine, with no head-dress but the blonde
cloud of her fine hair, with the back of one of her hands resting upon
her supple hip, while she offered a rose with her other hand.

“It is my youth that I will offer Jacques,” she said to me that morning
while we studied the pose together; “my twenty-two years and my
happiness. I am so happy now!”

“You don’t experience any more evil temptations, then?” I asked.

“Do you remember?” she replied, laughing and blushing at the same time.
“No, I don’t feel them now. I turned Tournade out of my dressing-room,
and pretty quickly, I can assure you. But do you know what pleases me
most? I never see that ugly woman now; you remember, Madam de Bonnivet.
She does not come to the theatre, and the other day Jacques ought to
have dined with her, but he did not go. I am quite sure of that, for he
wrote his letter of excuse in my presence. It was the evening Bressoré
could not act: there was a change of bill and I was free for the
evening. I wanted so badly to ask him if we could spend it together, but
I did not dare. He suggested it himself, and now every day I have a
fresh proof of his tenderness. He is coming for me presently to take me
to lunch. Ah! how I love him, how I love him! How proud I am of loving

What answer could I make to such phrases, and what could I do but allow
her to remain enraptured by this illusion as she was enraptured by the
scent of the roses which she inhaled, closing as she did so her clear
azure eyes—another note of blue in the harmony which I sought? What
could I do but suffer in silence at the idea that this recrudescence of
tenderness in the sensual and complex Molan was, without doubt, a trick.
Some harshness on the other woman’s part was certainly the cause of it.
Camille took for the marks of passionate ardour the fever of excitation
into which Madam de Bonnivet had thrown Jacques without gratifying it.
When a woman has, as the pretty actress so nicely put it, her twenty
years of age and her youth to offer, she cannot guess that in her arms
her lover is thinking of another woman, and exalting his senses by her
image! That morning I kept silent as to what I knew. To make her laugh
and keep myself from weeping, I told her the story of a real duchess of
the eighteenth century, who wished to give her miniature to her lover
before he took the field with the troops. She went to the painter with
her eyes so fatigued by the tender folly of her good-bye that the
painter declared he would not continue the portrait if she did not
become more virtuous, for her beauty had changed so.

“Ah!” the duchess said as she put her arms round her lover’s neck in the
painter’s presence, “if that is the case, then life is too short to have
one’s portrait painted.”

“Ah! how true what he has just been saying is, Jacques!” Camille cried
as she went to meet Jacques who came in at that moment. I can see her
now leaning her loving head upon the knave’s shoulder, the latter being
condescending, indulgent, almost tender, because I was there to assist
at this foolish explosion of affection. This picture is a very good
résumé of the first period which might be entitled: Camille happy!

Camille sad! That was title of the second period which began almost
immediately and lasted much longer. The scene which sums up the period
in my memory is one quite unlike that of the roses, the scent of which
she inhaled with such confident ecstasy, and that of the kiss she gave
Jacques with such charming shamelessness. This time it was about the
eleventh or twelfth sitting. I had noticed for some days that my model’s
expression had changed. I had not dared to question her, for I was just
as much afraid to learn that Jacques treated her well as that he treated
her badly. That morning she was to come at half-past ten, and it was not
ten yet. I was engaged in looking through a portfolio of drawings after
the old Florentine masters, without succeeding in engrossing myself in
their study. That is what takes the place of opium with me in my bad
moments. Usually merely looking at these sketches recalls to me the
frescoes of Ghirlandajo, of Benozzo, of Fra Filippo Lippi, of
Signorelli, and many others; I find intact in me that fervour for the
ideal which made me almost mad in my youth, when I went from little town
to little town, from church to church, and from cloister to cloister.

In those days a half-effaced silhouette of the Madonna, hardly visible
upon a bit of wall eaten up by the sun, was enough to make me happy for
an afternoon. The profiles of virgins dreamed by the old Tuscans, the
bent figures of their young lords in their puffy doublets, the minute
horizons in their vast landscapes, with battlements and campaniles upon
the eminences, roads bordered by cypress trees and valleys glistening
with running water—all this charm of primitive art was there imprisoned
in this portfolio of sketches and ready to emerge from it to charm my
fantasy. But my imagination was elsewhere, occupied with this problem in
æsthetics very far distant from the frescoes and convents of Pisa or
Sienne. “Camille was very sad again yesterday. Has the absurd Jacques
resumed with the absurd Madam de Bonnivet?” That was what I was asking
myself, instead of by the help of my sketches revisiting Italy, dear
divine Italy, the land of beauty.

The reply to my question as to the cause of Camille’s sadness was given
me by Molan himself. I had not had any private conversation with him
since our chance breakfast on the day previous to the first sitting. I
did not expect to see him enter my studio that morning more than any
other morning, knowing his rule to write four pages before midday, and
the vigour with which this methodical purveyor of literature conformed
to it. So when his voice disturbed me I was for a moment really
apprehensive. The servant had opened the door without me hearing him,
reclining as I was upon a divan turning over the portfolio of sketches
as if I were rendered unconscious by my excess of anxiety. I had no time
to form an hypothesis in my own mind. My unexpected visitor had realized
my astonishment from my face, and he anticipated my questions by saying—

“Yes, here I am! You did not expect me, did you? Make your mind easy, I
am not come to inform you that Camille has asphyxiated herself with a
coke fire of the latest fashion, nor that she has thrown herself into
the Seine because of my bad conduct. By the way, the portrait is not a
bad one. You have made progress, much progress, with it. But that is not
the reason of my visit. Camille will be here directly, and I want you to
tell her that I dined with you last evening, and that we did not
separate till one o’clock this morning!”

“You have conceived the brilliant idea of involving me in your lies,” I
replied irritably “I thought I told you the part did not suit me.”

“I know,” he said in a half apologetic tone obviously destined to
wheedle me, “and I understand your scruples so thoroughly that I have
left you in peace all this time. But matters progress in the other
direction, and if you had been able to assist me, Bonnivet would no
longer pass under the Arc de Triomphe. Excuse the pleasantry worthy of
the late Paul de Kock. But this time it is not on my account, but for
Camille’s sake; I want to spare her an unnecessary sorrow. Have you
noticed how sad she has been lately?”

“Yes, and thought it was a sorrow of your making.”

“You are turning to psychology,” he replied not without irony. “It is
very much out of fashion, I warn you. But don’t let us exchange
epigrams,” he went on seriously. “The little one will be here to pose
directly, and if I met her we should be lost. I will put you in
possession of the facts in five minutes. I must first tell you that she
is again on the track of my flirtation with Queen Anne, on whom, in
parenthesis, you have not called and left your card. By the way, give me
one and I will leave it for you on my next visit. As the flirtation is
at the moment very accentuated, Camille is very, very jealous and very
distrustful. In short, yesterday there was the inverse of the other
comedy. You recall the dinner trick, don’t you? I received about four
o’clock two notes, one from Madam de B—— signifying that … But the
contents of this note would make you jump if I told them to you. In
reality you are very naïve and still believe in a woman’s modesty.
Confine yourself to the knowledge that in her husband’s absence—he has
been called into the country to see a sick relative—Queen Anne had
arranged to dine and spend the evening with me. The other note was from
Camille, to tell me that in the absence of her mother, who was also
called into the country by a sick relative, knowing that I was
disengaged for the evening, she had arranged for us to dine and return
home together after _La Duchesse Curtain_.

“So you naturally preferred Madam de B——, and told Camille that you were
dining with me?”

“I have not told you everything,” he said. “I thought it better to
receive the note too late. For I might have gone out at four o’clock and
not have returned to dinner? She will be here directly. Be careful not
to mention my visit this morning. Say incidentally, without appearing to
intend to do so, that you had some friends to dinner yesterday, and that
I was among them. She believes you. When she reaches home she will find
a wire from ‘yours truly’ confirming the story, and the trick is done,
unless Senneterre——”

“What has Senneterre to do with it?” I asked.

“I told you that he was Queen Anne’s platonic lover, and you observed it
yourself; he is platonic, and as jealous as if he had the right to be
so. Consequently he detests me. He goes still further and watches me.
The idea has occurred to him to join hands with Camille. He had the
audacity to ask me, in an off-hand way, to introduce him, and four or
five times afterwards I found him in her dressing-room. Has she not
mentioned it to you? No. He is quite likely to have told her, before
last evening, as if by accident, that Bonnivet was leaving Paris with
the sole object of letting her loose at me and of putting a spoke in the
wheel of the carriage in which Queen Anne has at last consented to ride.
Do not be too scandalized, we have only got as far as the carriage.
There is no question, too, between us of what some women of the world
call so quaintly, ‘the little crime.’ But it is a quarter past ten and I
must go. Drop me a line this afternoon.”

“What about this morning’s four pages?” I asked as I accompanied him to
the door.

“I have given myself a holiday,” he replied; “my two-act comedy is
finished, and if I bring off this coup I shall give myself quite ten
days’ holiday. What do you think of my luck? How fortunate that this
adventure with Queen Anne should have happened this month, between two
periods of work?”

This audacious person was quite right to talk of his luck. Had he been a
moment later in going out he would have met his poor mistress on my
staircase. Camille, who was usually a little later than half-past ten in
arriving, was this morning early. The old Breton clock, to whose
monotonous voice I had so long listened in my studio like a constant and
never-heeded warning not to waste work-time in reverie, made the time
twenty-five minutes past ten. When the charming girl appeared I could
see at a glance that she was again experiencing an acute crisis of
sorrow. Insomnia had encircled her eyes with bluish rings. Fever had
cracked and dried up her lips, which were generally so fresh, young and
full. A sombre flame burned in the depths of her eyes. Insomnia had made
her cheeks livid, and with her fingers she was mechanically twisting a
little cambric handkerchief with red flowers on it from which her teeth
had torn all shape. I had before me the living image of jealousy and
despair. What a contrast with the victorious smile I had just seen
hovering around the lips and in the eyes of the man who had caused that
pain and thought as much of it as of his first article! I realized once
more that morning how easily pity leads to lies. The unhappy creature
had hardly taken off her hat and cloak before I began to chide her in
our usual friendly joking tone.

“I don’t think we shall do any work to-day,” I said to her, “little Blue
Duchess, and I am much afraid it will not be for the same motive which
made the other Duchess say, a hundred years ago, that life is too short
to have one’s portrait painted; but I will say it is too short for the
troubles you are making for yourself. You have been crying, confess?”

“No,” she replied evasively. “But I did not close my eyes all night. I
did not even go to bed.”

“Jacques will scold you when I tell him of your conduct, and I warn you
that I shall report it.”

“Jacques,” she said, knitting the blonde bar of her pretty lashes. “He
looks after me well, does Jacques,” and she shrugged her shoulders as
she repeated: “He looks after me well!”

“You are again unjust,” I said with my heart pierced by remorse at my
own tender hypocrisy. “You ought to have heard him talk about you last
evening after dinner!”

“Last evening?” she replied, raising her head and her drooping shoulders
with a movement which shamed me. It betrayed such passionate gratitude.
“Did you see Jacques last evening then?”

“He stopped to dinner,” I said, “and we separated at an impossible hour
after midnight.”

“Is that true?” she asked in an almost raucous voice; and she
supplicatingly said: “Tell me that it is true and I will believe you.
But don’t lie to me. From you it would be too horrible.” She seized my
hand in hers as she said: “Do not be offended. I know that you would not
lend yourself to deceive me and that you are my friend. I will explain
it to you now how I heard that Bonnivet, you know, the husband of that
horrible woman, was away. Then I got the idea into my head that they
would take advantage of his absence, Jacques and her, to spend the
evening together; I freed myself by lying to my mother, the first time I
have done so, and I wrote a note to him asking him to dine with me. I
was well punished for my two lies. He did not reply. Repeat to me that I
was foolish, that he was with you last evening, not with her. O God! let
me weep. It does me so much good. Oh, thank God he was not with her, not
with her!”

As she talked to me like this every word entered my conscience like the
most cruel reproach. She then burst into tears, and the tears which
flowed down her thin cheeks were long, abundant tears which she wiped
with her poor little handkerchief on which the edges of her teeth had
left traces of her nervousness and anguish. I experienced, as I watched
her genuine tears flow, poignant remorse for my falseness. It was no
longer possible for me to go back on what I had said, and ninety-nine
men out of a hundred in acting as I had done would have believed that
they were doing right. I myself had enough evidence to realize that this
passage from pity to lies, which had been so natural to me, constituted
a real crime in the presence of such profound passion. The heart which
loves and suffers has a right to know the entire truth whatever it may
be. The thankful smiles which Camille gave me through her tears were
almost physically intolerable to me. Besides, one does not deceive for
long the lucidity of justified jealousy. Can it be blinded even for a
minute? It is soothed by being misled as regards the facts. What are
facts? When a woman feels herself to be loved even the most convincing
count for nothing. When a woman feels, as Camille did, treachery
hovering around her in the atmosphere, illusion is no sooner produced on
one point than lucidity awakens on another. The person goes on searching
in the dark for a proof which is always forthcoming, very often by a
chance which is all the more grievous as it is not considered. No. If it
were to begin over again at the risk of playing in my own eyes the
obvious part of the cruel wretch, I would not lend myself to that
cowardly lying charity to which I leant myself that morning. The only
result of it was to render more painful the scene, to the recital of
which I have now come, the scene which marks the definite entrance into
the third period, that of furious certainty and exasperated despair.