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A History of the French Novel, Vol. 1

Could not fail to disabuse Valville


As a rule, it is either temperament, or feeding, or laziness and luxury, which give _us_ such of it as we have. But in order to acquire the kind of which I am speaking, it is necessary to have given oneself up with a saintlike earnestness to the task. It can only be the result of delicate, loving, and devout attention to the comfort and well-being of the body. It shows not only that life--and a healthy life--is an object of desire, but that it is wanted soft, undisturbed, and dainty; and that, while enjoying the pleasures of good health, the person enjoying it bestows on herself all the pettings and the privileges of a perpetual convalescence.

Also this religious plumpness is different in outward form from ours, which is profane of aspect; it does not so much make a face fat, as it makes it grave and decent; and so it gives the countenance an air, not so much joyous, as tranquil and contented.

Further, when you look at these good ladies, you find in them an affable exterior; but perhaps, for all that, an interior indifference. Their faces, and not their souls, give you sympathy and tenderness; they are comely images, which seem to possess sensibility, and which yet have merely a surface of kindness and sentiment.[338]

Acute as this is, it may be said to be somewhat

displaced--though it must be remembered that it is the Marianne of fifty, "Mme. la Comtesse de * * *," who is supposed to be writing, not the Marianne of fifteen. No such objection can be taken to what follows.

[_She is, after the breach with Climal, and after Valville has earlier discovered his wicked uncle on his knees before her, packing up the--well! not wages of iniquity, but baits for it--to send back to the giver. A little "cutting" may be made._]

[Sidenote: She returns the gift-clothes.]

Thereupon I opened my trunk to take out first the newly bought linen. "Yes, M. de Valville, yes!" said I, pulling it out, "you shall learn to know me and to think of me as you ought." This thought spurred me on, so that, without my exactly thinking of it, it was rather to him than to his uncle that I was returning the whole, all the more so that the return of linen, dress, and money, with a note I should write, could not fail to disabuse Valville, and make him regret the loss of me. He had seemed to me to possess a generous soul; and I applauded myself beforehand on the sorrow which he would feel at having treated so outrageously a girl so worthy of respectful treatment as I was--for I saw in myself, confessedly, I don't know how many titles to respect.

In the first place I put my bad luck, which was unique; to add to this bad luck I had virtue, and they went so well together! Then I was young, and on the top of it all I was pretty, and what more do you want? If I had arranged matters designedly to render myself an object of sympathy, to make a generous lover sigh at having maltreated me, I could not have succeeded better; and, provided I hurt Valville's feelings, I was satisfied. My little plan was never to see him again in my lifetime; and this seemed to me a very fair and proud one; for I loved him, and I was even very glad to have loved him, because he had perceived my love, and, seeing me break with him, notwithstanding, would see also what a heart he had had to do with.


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