Wednesday, October 24, 2007


Manon Lescaut by the Abbe Prevost

Manon Lescaut
by the Abbe Prevost
Why did he love her? Curious fool, be still!
Is human love the fruit of human will?
Just about six months before my departure for Spain, I first met
the Chevalier des Grieux. Though I rarely quitted my retreat,
still the interest I felt in my child's welfare induced me
occasionally to undertake short journeys, which, however, I took
good care to abridge as much as possible.
I was one day returning from Rouen, where I had been, at her
request, to attend a cause then pending before the Parliament of
Normandy, respecting an inheritance to which I had claims derived
from my maternal grandfather. Having taken the road by Evreux,
where I slept the first night, I on the following day, about
dinner-time, reached Passy, a distance of five or six leagues. I
was amazed, on entering this quiet town, to see all the
inhabitants in commotion. They were pouring from their houses in
crowds, towards the gate of a small inn, immediately before which
two covered vans were drawn up. Their horses still in harness,
and reeking from fatigue and heat, showed that the cortege had
only just arrived. I stopped for a moment to learn the cause of
the tumult, but could gain little information from the curious
mob as they rushed by, heedless of my enquiries, and hastening
impatiently towards the inn in the utmost confusion. At length
an archer of the civic guard, wearing his bandolier, and carrying
a carbine on his shoulder, appeared at the gate; so, beckoning
him towards me, I begged to know the cause of the uproar.
"Nothing, sir," said he, "but a dozen of the frail sisterhood,
that I and my comrades are conducting to Havre-de-Grace, whence
we are to ship them for America. There are one or two of them
pretty enough; and it is that, apparently, which attracts the
curiosity of these good people."
I should have passed on, satisfied with this explanation, if my
attention had not been arrested by the cries of an old woman, who
was coming out of the inn with her hands clasped, and exclaiming:
"A downright barbarity!--A scene to excite horror and
compassion!" "What may this mean?" I enquired. "Oh! sir; go
into the house yourself," said the woman, and see if it is not a
sight to rend your heart!" Curiosity made me dismount; and
leaving my horse to the care of the ostler, I made my way with
some difficulty through the crowd, and did indeed behold a scene
sufficiently touching.
Among the twelve girls, who were chained together by the waist in
two rows, there was one, whose whole air and figure seemed so
ill-suited to her present condition, that under other
circumstances I should not have hesitated to pronounce her a
person of high birth. Her excessive grief, and even the
wretchedness of her attire, detracted so little from her
surpassing beauty, that at first sight of her I was inspired with
a mingled feeling of respect and pity.
She tried, as well as the chain would permit her, to turn herself
away, and hide her face from the rude gaze of the spectators.
There was something so unaffected in the effort she made to
escape observation, that it could but have sprung from natural
and innate modesty alone.
As the six men who escorted the unhappy train were together in
the room, I took the chief one aside and asked for information
respecting this beautiful girl. All that he could supply was of
the most vague kind. "We brought her," he said, "from the
Hospital, by order of the lieutenant-general of police. There is
no reason to suppose that she was shut up there for good conduct.
I have questioned her often upon the road; but she persists in
refusing even to answer me. Yet, although I received no orders
to make any distinction between her and the others, I cannot help
treating her differently, for she seems to me somewhat superior
to her companions. Yonder is a young man," continued the
archer, "who can tell you, better than I can, the cause of her
misfortunes. He has followed her from Paris, and has scarcely dried
his tears for a single moment. He must be either her brother or
her lover."
I turned towards the corner of the room, where this young man was
seated. He seemed buried in a profound reverie. Never did I
behold a more affecting picture of grief. He was plainly
dressed; but one may discover at the first glance a man of birth
and education. As I approached him he rose, and there was so
refined and noble an expression in his eyes, in his whole
countenance, in his every movement, that I felt an involuntary
impulse to render him any service in my power. "I am unwilling
to intrude upon your sorrows," said I, taking a seat beside him,
"but you will, perhaps, gratify the desire I feel to learn
something about that beautiful girl, who seems little formed by
nature for the miserable condition in which she is placed."
He answered me candidly, that he could not communicate her
history without making himself known, and that he had urgent
reasons for preserving his own incognito. "I may, however, tell
you this much, for it is no longer a secret to these wretches,"
he continued, pointing to the guards,--"that I adore her with a
passion so ardent and absorbing as to render me the most unhappy
of human beings. I tried every means at Paris to effect her
liberty. Petitions, artifice, force--all failed. Go where
she may, I have resolved to follow her--to the extremity of the
world. I shall embark with her and cross to America.
But think of the brutal inhumanity of these cowardly ruffians,"
he added, speaking of the guards; "they will not allow me to
approach her! I had planned an open attack upon them some
leagues from Paris; having secured, as I thought, the aid of four
men, who for a considerable sum hired me their services. The
traitors, however, left me to execute my scheme single-handed,
and decamped with my money. The impossibility of success made me
of course abandon the attempt, I then implored of the guards
permission to follow in their train, promising them a recompense.
The love of money procured their consent; but as they required
payment every time I was allowed to speak to her, my purse was
speedily emptied; and now that I am utterly penniless, they are
barbarous enough to repulse me brutally, whenever I make the
slightest attempt to approach her. It is but a moment since,
that venturing to do so, in spite of their threats, one of the
fellows raised the butt-end of his musket. I am now driven by
their exactions to dispose of the miserable horse that has
brought me hither, and am preparing to continue the journey on foot."
Although he seemed to recite this story tranquilly enough, I
observed the tears start to his eyes as he concluded. This
adventure struck me as being not less singular than it was
affecting. "I do not press you," said I to him, to make me the
confidant of your secrets; but if I can be of use to you in any
way, I gladly tender you my services." "Alas!" replied he,
"I see not the slightest ray of hope. I must reconcile myself
to my destiny in all its rigour. I shall go to America: there,
at least, I may be free to live with her I love. I have written
to a friend, who will send me money to Havre-de-Grace. My only
difficulty is to get so far, and to supply that poor creature,"
added he, as he cast a look of sorrow at his mistress, "with
some few comforts upon the way." "Well!" said I to him, "I
shall relieve you from that difficulty. Here is some money, of
which I entreat your acceptance: I am only sorry that I can be of
no greater service to you."
I gave him four louis-d'ors without being perceived by the
guards; for I thought that if they knew he had this money, they
might have raised the price of their concessions. It occurred to
me, even, to come to an understanding with them, in order to
secure for the young man the privilege of conversing with his
mistress, during the rest of the journey to Havre, without
hindrance. I beckoned the chief to approach, and made the
proposition to him. It seemed to abash the ruffian, in spite of
his habitual effrontery. "It is not, sir," said he, in an
embarrassed tone, "that we refuse to let him speak to the girl,
but he wishes to be always near her, which puts us to
inconvenience; and it is just that we should be paid for the
trouble he occasions." "Let us see!" said I to him, "what
would suffice to prevent you from feeling the inconvenience?"
He had the audacity to demand two louis. I gave them
to him on the spot. "But have a care," said I to him,
"that we have no foul play: for I shall give the young man my
address, in order that he may write to me on his arrival; and be
assured that I am not without the power to punish you." It cost
me altogether six louis-d'ors.
The graceful manner and heartfelt gratitude with which the young
unknown thanked me, confirmed my notion that he was of good birth
and merited my kindness. I addressed a few words to his mistress
before I left the room. She replied to me with a modesty so
gentle and so charming that I could not help making, as I went
out, a thousand reflections upon the incomprehensible character
of women.
Returned to my retreat, I remained in ignorance of the result of
this adventure; and ere two years had passed, it was completely
blotted from my recollection, when chance brought me an
opportunity of learning all the circumstances from beginning to
I arrived at Calais, from London, with my pupil, the Marquis of
----. We lodged, if I remember rightly, at the "Golden Lion,"
where, for some reason, we were obliged to spend the following
day and night. Walking along the streets in the afternoon, I
fancied I saw the same young man whom I had formerly met at
Passy. He was miserably dressed, and much paler than when I
first saw him. He carried on his arm an old portmanteau, having
only just arrived in the town. However, there was an expression
in his countenance too amiable not to be easily recognised, and
which immediately brought his features to my recollection.
"Observe that young man,"said I to the Marquis; "we must
accost him."
His joy was beyond expression when, in his turn, he recognised
"Ah, sir!" he cried, kissing my hand, "I have then once again
an opportunity of testifying my eternal gratitude to you!" I
enquired of him whence he came. He replied, that he had just
arrived, by sea, from Havre, where he had lately landed from
America. "You do not seem to be too well off for money," said
I to him; "go on to the `Golden Lion,' where I am lodging; I
will join you in a moment."
I returned, in fact, full of impatience to learn the details of
his misfortunes, and the circumstances of his voyage to America.
I gave him a thousand welcomes, and ordered that they should
supply him with everything he wanted. He did not wait to be
solicited for the history of his life. "Sir," said he to me,
"your conduct is so generous, that I should consider it base
ingratitude to maintain any reserve towards you. You shall learn
not only my misfortunes and sufferings, but my faults and most
culpable weaknesses. I am sure that, even while you blame me,
you will not refuse me your sympathy."
I should here inform the reader that I wrote down the story
almost immediately after hearing it; and he may, therefore, be
assured of the correctness and fidelity of the narrative. I use
the word fidelity with reference to the substance of reflections
and sentiments, which the young man conveyed in the most graceful
language. Here, then, is his story, which in its progress I
shall not encumber with a single observation that was not his own.
I loved Ophelia! forty thousand brothers
Could not, with all their quantity of love,
Make up my sum.
"I was seventeen years old, and was finishing my studies at
Amiens, whither my parents, who belonged to one of the first
families in Picardy, had sent me. I led a life so studious and
well regulated, that my masters pointed to me as a model of
conduct for the other scholars. Not that I made any
extraordinary efforts to acquire this reputation, but my
disposition was naturally tractable and tranquil; my inclinations
led me to apply to study; and even the natural dislike I felt for
vice was placed to my credit as positive proof of virtue. The
successful progress of my studies, my birth, and some external
advantages of person, made me a general favourite with the
inhabitants of the town.
"I completed my public exercises with such general approbation,
that the bishop of the diocese, who was present, proposed to me
to enter the church, where I could not fail, he said, to acquire
more distinction than in the Order of Malta, for which my parents
had destined me. I was already decorated with the Cross, and
called the Chevalier des Grieux. The vacation having arrived, I
was preparing to return to my father, who had promised to send me
soon to the Academy.
"My only regret on quitting Amiens arose from parting with a
friend, some years older than myself, to whom I had always been
tenderly attached. We had been brought up together; but from the
straitened circumstances of his family, he was intended to take
orders, and was to remain after me at Amiens to complete the
requisite studies for his sacred calling. He had a thousand good
qualities. You will recognise in him the very best during the
course of my history, and above all, a zeal and fervour of
friendship which surpass the most illustrious examples of
antiquity. If I had at that time followed his advice, I should
have always continued a discreet and happy man. If I had even
taken counsel from his reproaches, when on the brink of that gulf
into which my passions afterwards plunged me, I should have been
spared the melancholy wreck of both fortune and reputation. But
he was doomed to see his friendly admonitions disregarded; nay,
even at times repaid by contempt from an ungrateful wretch, who
often dared to treat his fraternal conduct as offensive and
"I had fixed the day for my departure from Amiens. Alas! that I
had not fixed it one day sooner! I should then have carried to
my father's house my innocence untarnished.
"The very evening before my expected departure, as I was walking
with my friend, whose name was Tiberge, we saw the Arras
diligence arrive, and sauntered after it to the inn, at which
these coaches stop. We had no other motive than curiosity. Some
worn men alighted, and immediately retired into the inn. One
remained behind: she was very young, and stood by herself in the
court, while a man of advanced age, who appeared to have charge
of her, was busy in getting her luggage from the vehicle. She
struck me as being so extremely beautiful, that I, who had never
before thought of the difference between the sexes, or looked on
woman with the slightest attention--I, whose conduct had been
hitherto the theme of universal admiration, felt myself, on the
instant, deprived of my reason and self-control. I had been
always excessively timid, and easily disconcerted; but now,
instead of meeting with any impediment from this weakness, I
advanced without the slightest reserve towards her, who had thus
become, in a moment, the mistress of my heart.
"Although younger than myself, she received my civilities
without embarrassment. I asked the cause of her journey to
Amiens, and whether she had any acquaintances in the town. She
ingenuously told me that she had been sent there by her parents,
to commence her novitiate for taking the veil. Love had so
quickened my perception, even in the short moment it had been
enthroned, that I saw in this announcement a death-blow to my
hopes. I spoke to her in a way that made her at once understand
what was passing in my mind; for she had more experience than
myself. It was against her consent that she was consigned to a
convent, doubtless to repress that inclination for pleasure which
had already become too manifest, and which caused, in the sequel,
all her misfortunes and mine. I combated the cruel intention of
her parents with all the arguments that my new-born passion and
schoolboy eloquence could suggest. She affected neither
austerity nor reserve. She told me, after a moment's silence,
that she foresaw too clearly, what her unhappy fate must be; but
that it was, apparently, the will of Heaven, since there were no
means left her to avert it. The sweetness of her look, the air
of sorrow with which she pronounced these words, or rather
perhaps the controlling destiny which led me on to ruin, allowed
me not an instant to weigh my answer. I assured her that if she
would place reliance on my honour, and on the tender interest
with which she had already inspired me, I would sacrifice my life
to deliver her from the tyranny of her parents, and to render her
happy. I have since been a thousand times astonished in
reflecting upon it, to think how I could have expressed myself
with so much boldness and facility; but love could never have
become a divinity, if he had not often worked miracles.
"I made many other pressing and tender speeches; and my unknown
fair one was perfectly aware that mine was not the age for
deceit. She confessed to me that if I could see but a reasonable
hope of being able to effect her enfranchisement, she should deem
herself indebted for my kindness in more than life itself could
pay. I repeated that I was ready to attempt anything in her
behalf; but, not having sufficient experience at once to imagine
any reasonable plan of serving her, I did not go beyond this
general assurance, from which indeed little good could arise
either to her or to myself. Her old guardian having by this time
joined us, my hopes would have been blighted, but that she had
tact enough to make amends for my stupidity. I was surprised, on
his approaching us, to hear her call me her cousin, and say,
without being in the slightest degree disconcerted, that as she
had been so fortunate as to fall in with me at Amiens, she would
not go into the convent until the next morning, in order to have
the pleasure of meeting me at supper. Innocent as I was, I at
once comprehended the meaning of this ruse; and proposed that she
should lodge for the night at the house of an innkeeper, who,
after being many years my father's coachman, had lately
established himself at Amiens, and who was sincerely attached to
"I conducted her there myself, at which the old Argus appeared
to grumble a little; and my friend Tiberge, who was puzzled by
the whole scene, followed, without uttering a word. He had not
heard our conversation, having walked up and down the court while
I was talking of love to my angelic mistress. As I had some
doubts of his discretion, I got rid of him, by begging that he
would execute a commission for me. I had thus the happiness, on
arriving at the inn, of entertaining alone the sovereign of my
"I soon learned that I was less a child than I had before
imagined. My heart expanded to a thousand sentiments of
pleasure, of which I had not before the remotest idea. A
delicious consciousness of enjoyment diffused itself through my
whole mind and soul. I sank into a kind of ecstasy, which
deprived me for a time of the power of utterance, and which found
vent only in a flood of tears.
"Manon Lescaut (this she told me was her name) seemed gratified
by the visible effect of her own charms. She appeared to me not
less excited than myself. She acknowledged that she was greatly
pleased with me, and that she should be enchanted to owe to me
her freedom and future happiness. She would insist on hearing
who I was, and the knowledge only augmented her affection; for,
being herself of humble birth, she was flattered by securing for
her lover a man of family.
After many reflections we could discover no other resource than
in flight. To effect this it would be requisite to cheat the
vigilance of Manon's guardian, who required management, although
he was but a servant. We determined, therefore, that, during the
night, I should procure a post-chaise, and return with it at
break of day to the inn, before he was awake; that we should
steal away quietly, and go straight to Paris, where we might be
married on our arrival. I had about fifty crowns in my pocket,
the fruit of my little savings at school; and she had about twice
as much. We imagined, like inexperienced children, that such a
sum could never be exhausted, and we counted, with equal
confidence, upon the success of our other schemes.
"After having supped, with certainly more satisfaction than I
had ever before experienced, I retired to prepare for our
project. All my arrangements were the more easy, because, for
the purpose of returning on the morrow to my father's, my luggage
had been already packed. I had, therefore, no difficulty in
removing my trunk, and having a chaise prepared for five o'clock
in the morning, at which hour the gates of the town would be
opened; but I encountered an obstacle which I was little prepared
for, and which nearly upset all my plans.
"Tiberge, although only three years older than myself, was a
youth of unusually strong mind, and of the best regulated
conduct. He loved me with singular affection. The sight of so
lovely a girl as Manon, my ill-disguised impatience to conduct
her to the inn, and the anxiety I betrayed to get rid of him, had
excited in his mind some suspicions of my passion. He had not
ventured to return to the inn where he had left me, for fear of
my being annoyed at his doing so; but went to wait for me at my
lodgings, where, although it was ten o'clock at night, I found
him on my arrival. His presence annoyed me, and he soon
perceived the restraint which it imposed. `I am certain,' he
said to me, without any disguise, `that you have some plan in
contemplation which you will not confide to me; I see it by your
manner.' I answered him rather abruptly, that I was not bound to
render him an account of all my movements. `Certainly not!' he
replied; `but you have always, hitherto, treated me as a friend,
and that appellation implies a certain degree of confidence and
candour.' He pressed me so much and so earnestly to discover my
secret, that, having never up to that moment felt the slightest
reserve towards him, I confided to him now the whole history of
my passion. He heard it with an appearance of disapprobation,
which made me tremble; and I immediately repented of my
indiscretion, in telling him of my intended elopement. He told
me he was too sincerely my friend not to oppose every obstacle in
his power to such a scheme; that he would first try all other
means of turning me from such a purpose, but that if I refused to
renounce so fatal a resolution, he assuredly would inform some
persons of my intention, who would be able to defeat it. He held
forth upon the subject for a full quarter of an hour, in the most
serious tone, and ended by again threatening to inform against
me, if I did not pledge him my word that I would return to the
paths of discretion and reason.
"I was in despair at having so awkwardly betrayed myself.
However, love having wonderfully sharpened my intellect during
the last two or three hours, I recollected that I had not yet
told him of its being my intention to execute my project on the
following morning, and I at once determined to deceive him by a
little equivocation.
"`Tiberge,' said I to him, `up to the present moment I thought
you were my friend; and I wished to prove it by the test of
confidence. It is true, I am in love; I have not deceived you:
but with regard to my flight, that is a project not to be
undertaken without deliberation. Call for me tomorrow at nine
o'clock: you shall see my mistress, if it be possible, and then
judge whether she is not worthy of any risk or sacrifice on my
part.' He left me, with a thousand protestations of friendship.
I employed the night in preparing for the journey, and on
repairing to the inn at early dawn, I found Manon waiting my
arrival. She was at her window, which looked upon the street,
and perceiving my approach, she came down and opened the door
herself. We took our departure silently, and without creating
the least alarm. She merely brought away a small portion of her
apparel, of which I took charge. The chaise was in readiness,
and we were soon at a distance from the town.
"You will learn in the sequel what was the conduct of Tiberge
when he discovered that I had deceived him; that his zeal to
serve me suffered no diminution; and you will observe to what
lengths his devotion carried him. How ought I to grieve, when I
reflect on the base ingratitude with which his affection was
always repaid!
"We made such speed on our journey that before night we reached
St. Denis. I rode alongside of the chaise, which gave us little
opportunity for conversation, except while changing horses; but
when we found ourselves so near Paris, and out of the reach of
danger, we allowed ourselves time for refreshment, not having
tasted food since we quitted Amiens. Passionately in love as I
felt with Manon, she knew how to convince me that she was equally
so with me. So little did we restrain our fondness, that we had
not even patience to reserve our caresses till we were alone.
The postilions and innkeepers stared at us with wonder, and I
remarked that they appeared surprised at such uncontrollable love
in children of our age.
"Our project of marriage was forgotten at St. Denis; we
defrauded the Church of her rights; and found ourselves united as
man and wife without reflecting on the consequences. It is
certain that with my easy and constant disposition, I should have
been happy for my whole life, if Manon had remained faithful to
me. The more I saw of her, the more I discovered in her new
perfections. Her mind, her heart, her gentleness and beauty,
formed a chain at once so binding and so agreeable, that I could
have found perfect happiness in its enduring influence. Terrible
fatality? that which has been the source of my despair, might,
under a slight change of circumstances, have constituted my
happiness. I find myself the most wretched of mankind, by the
force of that very constancy from which I might have fairly
expected to derive the most serene of human blisses, and the most
perfect recompense of love.
We took a furnished apartment at Paris. in the Rue V----, and, as
it afterwards turned out, to my sorrow, close to the house of M.
de B----, the famous Fermier-general. Three weeks passed, during
which I was so absorbed in my passion, that I never gave a
thought to my family, nor dreamed of the distress which my father
probably felt at my absence. However, as there was yet nothing
of profligacy about me, and as Manon conducted herself with the
strictest propriety, the tranquil life we led served to restore
me by degrees to a sense of duty.
I resolved to effect, if possible, a reconciliation with my
parent. My mistress was to me so perfectly lovable, that I could
not a doubt her power of captivating my father, if I could only
find the means of making him acquainted with her good conduct and
merit. In a word, I relied on obtaining his consent to our
marriage, having given up all idea of accomplishing it without
his approval. I mentioned the project to Manon, and explained to
her that, besides every motive of filial love and duty, the
weightier one of necessity should also have some influence; for
our finances were sadly reduced, and I began to see the folly of
thinking them, as I once did, inexhaustible.
"Manon received the proposition with considerable coldness.
However, the difficulties she made, being apparently the
suggestions of tenderness alone, or as arising from the natural
fear of losing me, if my father, after learning our address,
should refuse his assent to our union, I had not the smallest
suspicion of the cruel blow she was at the very time preparing to
inflict. As to the argument of necessity, she replied that we
had still abundant means of living for some weeks longer, and
that she would then find a resource in the kindness of some
relations in the country, to whom she should write. She tempered
her opposition by caresses so tender and impassioned, that I, who
lived only for her, and who never had the slightest misgiving as
to her love, applauded at once her arguments and her resolutions.
"To Manon I had committed the care of our finances, and the
house-hold arrangements. In a short time, I observed that our
style of living was improved, and that she had treated herself to
more expensive dresses. As I calculated that we could hardly
have at this period more than fifteen or twenty crowns remaining,
I did not conceal my surprise at this mysterious augmentation of
our wealth. She begged of me, with a smile, to give myself no
trouble on that head. `Did I not promise you,' said she, `that I
would find resources?' I loved her too purely to experience the
slightest suspicion.
"One day, having gone out in the afternoon, and told her that I
should not be at home so early as usual, I was astonished, on my
return, at being detained several minutes at the door. Our only
servant was a young girl about our own age. On her letting me in
at last, I asked why she had detained me so long? She replied in
an embarrassed tone, that she did not hear me knock. `I only
knocked once,' said I; `so if you did not hear me, why come to
open the door at all?' This query disconcerted her so visibly,
that losing her presence of mind, she began to cry, assuring me
that it was not her fault; and that her mistress had desired her
not to open the door until M. de B----had had time to go down by
the back staircase. I was so confounded by this information as
to be utterly unable to proceed to our apartment; and was obliged
to leave the house, under the pretext of an appointment. I
desired the girl, therefore, to let her mistress know that I
should return in a few minutes, but on no account to say that she
had spoken to me of M. de B----.
"My horror was so great, that I shed tears as I went along,
hardly knowing from what feeling they flowed. I entered a
coffee-house close by, and placing myself at a table, I buried my
face between my hands, as though I would turn my eyes inward to
ascertain what was passing in my heart. Still, I dared not
recall what I had heard the moment before. I strove to look upon
it as a dream; and was more than once on the point of returning
to my lodgings, determined to attach no importance to what I had
It appeared to me so impossible that Manon could have been
unfaithful, that I feared even to wrong her by a suspicion. I
adored her--that was too certain; I had not on my part given her
more proofs of my love than I had received of hers; why then
should I charge her with being less sincere and constant than
myself? What reason could she have to deceive me? Not three
hours before, she had lavished upon me the most tender caresses,
and had received mine with transport: I knew her heart as
thoroughly as my own. `No, no!' I said, `it is not possible that
Manon can have deceived me. She well knows that I live but for
her; that I adore her: upon that point I can have no reason to be
"Notwithstanding these reflections, the visit of M. de B----,
and his secret departure, gave me some uneasiness. I remembered,
too, the little purchases she had lately made, which seemed
beyond our present means. This looked like the liberality of a
new lover. And the confidence with which she had foretold
resources which were to me unknown? I had some difficulty in
solving these mysteries in as favourable a manner as my heart
"On the other hand, she had been hardly out of my sight since we
entered Paris. However occupied, in our walks, in all our
amusements, she was ever at my side. Heavens! even a momentary
separation would have been too painful. I could not therefore
imagine how Manon could, to any other person, have devoted a
single instant.
"At last I thought I had discovered a clue to the mystery. `M.
de B----' said I to myself, `is a man extensively engaged in
commercial affairs; and Manon's relations have no doubt remitted
her money through his house. She has probably already received
some from him, and he is come today to bring her more. She
wishes, perhaps, to derive amusement by and by, from an agreeable
surprise, by keeping me at present in the dark. She would
doubtless have at once told me all, if I had gone in as usual,
instead of coming here to distress myself: at all events, she
will not conceal it from me when I broach the subject myself.'
"I cherished this idea so willingly, that it considerably
lightened my grief. I immediately returned to my lodgings, and
embraced Manon as tenderly as ever. She received me as usual.
At first I was tempted to mention my conjectures, which I now,
more than ever, looked upon as certain; but I restrained myself
in the hope that she might render it unnecessary by informing me
of all that had passed.
"Supper was served. Assuming an air of gaiety, I took my seat
at table; but by the light of the candles which were between us,
I fancied I perceived an air of melancholy about the eyes and
countenance of my beloved mistress. The very thought soon damped
my gaiety. I remarked that her looks wore an unusual expression,
and although nothing could be more soft or languishing, I was at
a loss to discover whether they conveyed more of love than of
compassion. I gazed at her with equal earnestness, and she
perhaps had no less difficulty in comprehending from my
countenance what was passing in my heart. "We neither spoke nor
ate. At length I saw tears starting from her beauteous
eyes--perfidious tears! `Oh heavens!' I cried, `my dearest
Manon, why allow your sorrows to afflict you to this degree
without imparting their cause to me?' She answered me only with
sighs, which increased my misery. I arose trembling from my
seat: I conjured her, with all the urgent earnestness of love, to
let me know the cause of her grief: I wept in endeavouring to
soothe her sorrows: I was more dead than alive. A barbarian
would have pitied my sufferings as I stood trembling with grief
and apprehension.
"While my attention was thus confined to her, I heard people
coming upstairs. They tapped gently at the door. Manon gave me
a kiss, and escaping from my arms, quickly entered the boudoir,
turning the key after her. I imagined that, not being dressed to
receive strangers, she was unwilling to meet the persons who had
knocked; I went to let them in.
"I had hardly opened the door, when I found myself seized by
three men, whom I recognised as my father's servants. They
offered not the least violence, but two of them taking me by the
arms, the third examined my pockets, and took out a small knife,
the only weapon I had about me. They begged pardon for the
necessity they were under of treating me with apparent
disrespect; telling me frankly that they were acting by the
orders of my father, and that my eldest brother was in a carriage
below waiting to receive me. My feelings were so overpowered,
that I allowed myself to be led away without making either reply
or resistance. I found my brother waiting for me as they had
stated. They placed me by his side, and the coachman immediately
drove, by his orders, towards St. Denis.
My brother embraced me most affectionately, but during our ride,
he uttered not a word, so that, as I was not inclined for
conversation, I had as much leisure as I could desire to reflect
upon my misfortunes.
That we can call these delicate creatures ours,
And not their appetites.
"The whole affair was so involved in obscurity that I could not
see my way even to a reasonable conjecture. I was cruelly
betrayed--that was certain; but by whom? Tiberge first occurred
to me. `Tiberge!' said I, `it is as much as thy life is worth,
if my suspicions turn out to be well founded.' However, I
recollected that he could not by possibility know my abode; and
therefore, he could not have furnished the information. To
accuse Manon was more than my heart was capable of. The unusual
melancholy with which she had lately seemed weighed down, her
tears, the tender kiss she gave me in parting, made it all as yet
a mystery to me. I could only look upon her recent melancholy as
a presentiment of our common misfortune; and while I was
deploring the event which tore me from her, I was credulous
enough to consider her fate as much deserving of pity as my own.
"The result of my reflections was, that I had been seen and
followed in the streets of Paris by some persons of my
acquaintance, who had conveyed the information to my father.
This idea comforted me. I made up my mind to encounter some
reproaches, or perhaps harsh treatment, for having outraged the
paternal authority. I resolved, however, to suffer with
patience, and to promise all that might be required of me, in
order to facilitate my speedy return to Paris, that I might
restore life and happiness to my dear Manon.
"We soon arrived at St. Denis. My brother, surprised at my long
silence, thought it the effect of fear. He assured me that I had
nothing to apprehend from my father's severity, provided I showed
a disposition to return quietly to the path of duty, and prove
myself worthy of his affection. He made me pass the night at St.
Denis, merely taking the precaution of putting the three lackeys
to sleep in my room. It cost me a pang to find myself in the
same inn where I had stopped with Manon on our way from Amiens to
Paris. The innkeeper and his servants recognised me, and guessed
at once the truth of my history. I overheard them say, `Ah!
that's the handsome young gentleman who travelled this road about
a month ago, with the beautiful girl he appeared so much in love
with! How pretty she was! The poor young things, how they
caressed each other! Pity if they have been separated!' I
pretended not to hear, and kept as much out of sight as possible.
"At St. Denis my brother had a chariot waiting for us, in which
we started early the next morning, and arrived at home before
He saw my father first, in order to make a favourable impression
by telling him how quietly I had allowed myself to be brought
away, so that his reception of me was less austere than I had
expected. He merely rebuked me in general terms for the offence
I had committed, by absenting myself without his permission. As
for my mistress, he said I richly deserved what had happened to
me, for abandoning myself to a person utterly unknown; that he
had entertained a better opinion of my discretion; but that he
hoped this little adventure would make me wiser. I took the
whole lecture only in the sense that accorded with my own
notions. I thanked my father for his indulgence, and promised
that I would in future observe a better regulated and more
obedient course of conduct. I felt that I had secured a triumph;
for, from the present aspect of affairs, there was no doubt that
I should be free to effect my escape from the house even before
the night was over.
"We sat down to supper. They rallied me about my Amiens
conquest, and my flight with that paragon of fidelity. I took
their jokes in good part, glad enough at being permitted to
revolve in my mind the plans I had meditated; but some words
which fell from my father made me listen with earnest attention.
He spoke of perfidy, and the not disinterested kindness he had
received at the hands of M. de B----. I was almost paralysed on
hearing the name, and begged of my father to explain himself. He
turned to my brother, to ask if he had not told me the whole
story. My brother answered, that I appeared to him so tranquil
upon the road, that he did not suppose I required this remedy to
cure me of my folly. I remarked that my father was doubtful
whether he should give me the explanation or not. I entreated
him so earnestly that he satisfied me, or I should rather say
tortured me, with the following most horrible narration.
"He began by asking me whether I was really simple enough to
believe that I had been really loved by the girl. I told him
confidently that I was perfectly sure of it, and that nothing
could make me for a moment doubt it. `Ha, ha, ha!' said he, with
a loud laugh; `that is excellent! you are a pretty dupe!
Admirable idea! 'Twould be a thousand pities, my poor chevalier,
to make you a Knight of Malta, with all the requisites you
possess for a patient and accommodating husband.' He continued
in the same tone to ridicule what he was pleased to call my
dullness and credulity.
"He concluded, while I maintained a profound silence, by saying
that, according to the nicest calculation he could make of the
time since my departure from Amiens, Manon must have been in love
with me about twelve days; `for,' said he, `I know that you left
Amiens on the 28th of last month; this is, the 29th of the
present; it is eleven days since M. de B---- wrote to me; I
suppose he required eight days to establish a perfect
understanding with your mistress; so that, take eight and eleven
from thirty-one days, the time between the 28th of one month and
the 29th of the next, there remains twelve, more or less!' This
joke war, followed by shouts of laughter.
"I heard it all with a kind of sinking of the heart that I
thought I could not bear up against, until he finished. `You
must know then,' continued my father, `since you appear as yet
ignorant of it, that M. de B---- has won the affections of your
idol; for he can't be serious in pretending that it is his
disinterested regard for me that has induced him to take her from
you. It would be absurd to expect such noble sentiments from a
man of his description, and one, besides, who is a perfect
stranger to me. He knew that you were my son, and in order to
get rid of you, he wrote to inform me of your abode, and of the
life you led; saying, at the same time, that strong measures
would be necessary to secure you.
He offered to procure me the means of laying hold of you; and it
was by his direction, as well as that of your mistress herself,
that your brother hit upon the moment for catching you unawares.
Now, you may congratulate yourself upon the duration of your
triumph. You know how to conquer, rapid enough; but you have yet
to learn how to secure your conquests.'
"I could no longer endure these remarks, every one of which
struck a dagger to my heart. I arose from the table, and had not
advanced four steps towards the door, when I fell upon the floor,
perfectly senseless. By prompt applications they soon brought me
to myself. My eyes opened only to shed a torrent of tears, and
my lips to utter the most sorrowful and heartrending complaints.
My father, who always loved me most affectionately, tried every
means to console me. I listened to him, but his words were
without effect. I threw myself at his feet, in the attitude of
prayer, conjuring him to let me return to Paris, and destroy the
monster B----. `No!'cried I; `he has not gained Manon's heart;
he may have seduced her by charms, or by drugs; he may have even
brutally violated her. Manon loves me. Do I not know that well?
He must have terrified her with a poniard, to induce her to
abandon me.' What must he not have done to have robbed me of my
angelic mistress? Oh Heaven! Heaven! can it be possible that
Manon deceived me, or that she has ceased to love me!
"As I continued to rave about returning at once to Paris, and
was perpetually starting up with that purpose, my father clearly
saw that while the paroxysm lasted, no arguments could pacify me.
He conducted me to one of the upper rooms, and left two servants
to keep constant watch over me. I was completely bewildered. I
would have given a thousand lives to be but for one quarter of an
hour in Paris. I had sense enough, however, to know that having
so openly declared my intention, they would not easily allow me
to quit my chamber. I looked at the height of the windows.
Seeing no possibility of escaping that way, I addressed the
servants in the most tranquil tone. I promised, with the most
solemn vows, to make at some future day their fortunes, if they
would but consent to my escape. I entreated them; I tried
caresses, and lastly threats; but all were unavailing. I gave
myself up to despair. I resolved to die; and threw myself upon
the bed, with a firm determination to quit it only with my life.
In this situation I passed the night and the following day. I
refused the nourishment that was brought to me next morning.
"My father came to see me in the afternoon. He tried in the
most affectionate manner, to soothe my grief. He desired me so
urgently to take some refreshment, that, to gratify him, I obeyed
his wishes. Several days passed, during which I took nothing but
in his presence, and at his special request. He continued to
furnish new arguments to restore me to my proper senses, and to
inspire me with merited contempt for the faithless Manon. I
certainly had lost all esteem for her: how could I esteem the
most fickle and perfidious of created beings! But her
image--those exquisite features, which were engraven on my
heart's core, were still uneffaced. I understood my own
feelings: `I may die,' said I, `and I ought to die after so much
shame and grief; but I might suffer a thousand deaths without
being able to forget the ingrate Manon.'
"My father was surprised at my still continuing so powerfully
affected. He knew that I was imbued with the principles of
honour; and not doubting that her infidelity must make me despise
her, fancied that my obstinacy proceeded less from this
particular passion, than from a general inclination towards the
sex. This idea so took possession of his mind, that, prompted
only by his affection for me, he came one day to reveal his
thoughts. `Chevalier,' said he to me, `it has been hitherto my
intention to make you bear the Cross of Malta: I now see that
your inclinations do not bend that way. You are an admirer of
beauty. I shall be able to find you a wife to your taste. Let
me candidly know how you feel upon the subject.'
"I answered that I could never again see the slightest
difference amongst women, and that after the misfortune I had
experienced, I detested them all equally. `I will find you one,'
replied my father, smiling, `who shall resemble Manon in beauty,
but who shall be more faithful.' `Ah! if you have any mercy,'
said I, `you will restore my Manon to me. Be assured, my dear
father, that she has not betrayed me; she is incapable of such
base and cruel treachery. It is the perfidious B---- who
deceives both her and me. If you could form an idea of her
tenderness and her sincerity--if you only knew her, you yourself
would love her!' `You are absolutely a child,' replied my
father. `How can you so delude yourself, after what I have told
you about her? It was she who actually delivered you up to your
brother. You ought to obliterate even her name from your memory,
and take advantage, if you are wise, of the indulgence I am
showing you.'
"I very clearly perceived that my father was right. It was an
involuntary emotion that made me thus take part with the traitor.
`Alas!' replied I, after a moment's silence, `it is but too true
that I am the unhappy victim of the vilest perfidy. Yes,' I
continued, while shedding tears of anger, `I too clearly perceive
that I am indeed but a child. Credulity like mine was easily
gulled; but I shall be at no loss to revenge myself.' My father
enquired of me my intentions: `I will go to Paris,' I said, `set
fire to B----'s house, and immolate him and the perfidious Manon
together.' This burst made my father laugh, and had only the
effect of causing me to be more vigilantly watched in my cell.
I thus passed six long months; during the first of which my mind
underwent little change. My feelings were in a state of
perpetual alternation between hate and love; between hope and
despair; according as, the tendency of each passing thought
brought Manon back to my recollection. At one time, I could see
in her the most delightful of women only, and sigh for the
pleasure of beholding her once more; at another, I felt she was
the most unworthy and perfidious of mistresses, and I would on
these occasions swear never again to seek her, but for the
purpose of revenge.
"I was supplied with books, which served to restore my peace of
mind. I read once again all my favourite authors; and I became
acquainted with new ones. All my former taste for study was
revived. You will see of what use this was to me in the sequel.
The light I had already derived from love, enabled me to
comprehend many passages in Horace and Virgil which had before
appeared obscure. I wrote an amatory commentary upon the fourth
book of the AEneid. I intend one day to publish it, and I
flatter myself it will be popular.
"`Alas!' I used to exclaim, whilst employed on that work, it
was for a heart like mine the faithful Dido sighed, and sighed in
Now, by the strange enchantment that surrounds thee,
There's nothing--nothing thou shalt ask in vain.
"While in my confinement Tiberge came one day to see me. I was
surprised at the affectionate joy with which he saluted me. I
had never, hitherto, observed any peculiar warmth in his
friendship that could lead me to look upon it as anything more
than the partiality common among boys of the same age. He was so
altered, and had grown so manly during the five or six months
since I had last seen him, that his expressive features and his
manner of addressing me inspired me with a feeling of respect.
He spoke more in the character of a mentor than a schoolfellow,
lamented the delusion into which I had fallen, congratulated me
on my reformation, which he believed was now sincere, and ended
by exhorting me to profit by my youthful error, and open my eyes
to the vanity of worldly pleasures. I looked at him with some
astonishment, which he at once perceived.
"`My dear chevalier,' said he to me, `you shall hear nothing
but the strict truth, of which I have assured myself by the most
serious examination. I had, perhaps, as strong an inclination
for pleasure as you, but Heaven had at the same time, in its
mercy, blessed me with a taste for virtue. I exercised my reason
in comparing the consequences of the one with those of the other,
and the divine aid was graciously vouchsafed to my reflections.
I conceived for the world a contempt which nothing can equal.
Can you guess what it is retains me in it now,' he added, `and
that prevents me from embracing a life of solitude? Simply the
sincere friendship I bear towards you. I know the excellent
qualities of both your heart and head. There is no good of which
you may not render yourself capable. The blandishments of
pleasure have momentarily drawn you aside. What detriment to the
sacred cause of virtue! Your flight from Amiens gave me such
intense sorrow, that I have not since known a moment's happiness.
You may judge of this by the steps it induced me to take.' He
then told me how, after discovering that I had deceived him, and
gone off with my mistress, he procured horses for the purpose of
pursuing me, but having the start of him by four or five hours,
he found it impossible to overtake me; that he arrived, however,
at St. Denis half an hour after I had left it; that, being very
sure that I must have stopped in Paris, he spent six weeks there
in a fruitless endeavour to discover me--visiting every place
where he thought he should be likely to meet me, and that one
evening he at length recognised my mistress at the play, where
she was so gorgeously dressed, that he of course set it down to
the account of some new lover; that he had followed her equipage
to her house, and had there learned from a servant that she was
entertained in this style by M. de B----. `I did not stop here,'
continued he; `I returned next day to the house, to learn from
her own lips what had become of you. She turned abruptly away
when she heard the mention of your name, and I was obliged to
return into the country without further information. I there
learned the particulars of your adventure, and the extreme
annoyance she had caused you; but I was unwilling to visit you
until I could have assurance of your being in a more tranquil
"`You have seen Manon then!' cried I, sighing. `Alas! you are
happier than I, who am doomed never again to behold her.' He
rebuked me for this sigh, which still showed my weakness for the
perfidious girl. He flattered me so adroitly upon the goodness
of my mind and disposition, that he really inspired me, even on
this first visit, with a strong inclination to renounce, as he
had done, the pleasures of the world, and enter at once into holy
"The idea was so suited to my present frame of mind, that when
alone I thought of nothing else. I remembered the words of the
Bishop of Amiens, who had given me the same advice, and thought
only of the happiness which he predicted would result from my
adoption of such a course. Piety itself took part in these
suggestions. `I shall lead a holy and a Christian life,' said I;
`I shall divide my time between study and religion, which will
allow me no leisure for the perilous pleasures of love. I shall
despise that which men ordinarily admire; and as I am conscious
that my heart will desire nothing but what it can esteem, my
cares will not be greater or more numerous than my wants and
"I thereupon pictured to myself in anticipation a course of life
peaceful and retired. I fancied a retreat embosomed in a wood,
with a limpid stream of running water bounding my garden; a
library, comprising the most select works; a limited circle of
friends, virtuous and intellectual; a table neatly served, but
frugal and temperate. To all these agremens I added a literary
correspondence with a friend whose residence should be in Paris,
who should give me occasional information upon public affairs,
less for the gratification of my curiosity, than to afford a kind
of relaxation by hearing of and lamenting the busy follies of
men. `Shall not I be happy?' added I; `will not my utmost wishes
be thus gratified?' This project flattered my inclinations
extremely. But after all the details of this most admirable and
prudent plan, I felt that my heart still yearned for something;
and that in order to leave nothing to desire in this most
enchanting retirement, one ought to be able to share it with
"However, Tiberge continuing to pay me frequent visits in order
to strengthen me in the purpose with which he had inspired me, I
took an opportunity of opening the subject to my father. He
declared that his intention ever was to leave his children free
to choose a profession, and that in whatever manner I should
dispose of myself, all he wished to reserve was the right of
aiding me with his counsel. On this occasion he gave me some of
the wisest, which tended less to divert me from my project, than
to convince me of my good father's sound judgment and discretion.
The recommencement of the scholastic year being at hand, Tiberge
and I agreed to enter ourselves together at St. Sulpice, he to
pursue his theological studies, and I to begin mine. His merits,
which were not unknown to the bishop of the diocese, procured him
the promise of a living from that prelate before our departure.
"My father, thinking me quite cured of my passion, made no
objection to my taking final leave. We arrived at Paris. The
Cross of Malta gave place to the ecclesiastical habit, and the
designation of the Abbe de Grieux was substituted for that of
chevalier. I applied so diligently to study, that in a few
months I had made extraordinary progress. I never lost a moment
of the day, and employed even part of the night. I soon acquired
such a reputation, that I was already congratulated upon the
honours which I was sure of obtaining; and, without solicitation
on my part, my name was inscribed on the list for a vacant
benefice. Piety was by no means neglected, and I entered with
ardent devotion into all the exercises of religion. Tiberge was
proud of what he considered the work of his own hands, and many a
time have I seen him shed tears of delight in noticing what he
styled my perfect conversion.
"It has never been matter of wonder to me that human resolutions
are liable to change; one passion gives them birth, another may
destroy them; but when I reflect upon the sacredness of those
motives that led me to St. Sulpice, and upon the heartfelt
satisfaction I enjoyed while obeying their dictation, I shudder
at the facility with which I outraged them all. If it be true
that the benign succour afforded by Heaven is at all times equal
to the strongest of man's pinions, I shall be glad to learn the
nature of the deplorable ascendancy which causes us suddenly to
swerve from the path of duty, without the power of offering the
least resistance, and without even the slightest visitation of
"I now thought myself entirely safe from the dangers of love. I
fancied that I could have preferred a single page of St.
Augustine, or a quarter of an hour of Christian meditation, to
every sensual gratification, not excepting any that I might have
derived even from Manon's society. Nevertheless, one unlucky
moment plunged me again headlong into the gulf; and my ruin was
the more irreparable, because, falling at once to the same depth
from whence I had been before rescued, each of the new disorders
into which I now lapsed carried me deeper and deeper still down
the profound abyss of vice. I had passed nearly a year at Paris
without hearing of Manon. It cost me no slight effort to abstain
from enquiry; but the unintermitting advice of Tiberge, and my
own reflections, secured this victory over my wishes. The last
months glided away so tranquilly, that I considered the memory of
this charming but treacherous creature about to be consigned to
eternal oblivion.
"The time arrived when I was to undergo a public examination in
the class of theology: I invited several persons of
consideration to honour me with their presence on the occasion.
My name was mentioned in every quarter of Paris: it even reached
the ears of her who had betrayed me. She had some difficulty in
recognising it with the prefix of Abbe; but curiosity, or perhaps
remorse for having been faithless to me (I could never after
ascertain by which of these feelings she was actuated), made her
at once take an interest in a name so like mine; and she came
with several other women to the Sorbonne, where she was present
at my examination, and had doubtless little trouble in
recognising my person.
"I had not the remotest suspicion of her presence. It is well
known that in these places there are private seats for ladies,
where they remain screened by a curtain. I returned to St.
Sulpice covered with honours and congratulations. It was six in
the evening. The moment I returned, a lady was announced, who
desired to speak with me. I went to meet her. Heavens! what a
It was Manon. It was she indeed, but more bewitching and
brilliant than I had ever beheld her. She was now in her
eighteenth year. Her beauty beggars all description. The
exquisite grace of her form, the mild sweetness of expression
that animated her features, and her engaging air, made her seem
the very personification of love. The vision was something too
perfect for human beauty.
"I stood like one enchanted at beholding her. Unable to divine
the object of her visit, I waited trembling and with downcast
looks until she explained herself. At first, her embarrassment
was equal to mine; but, seeing that I was not disposed to break
silence, she raised her hand to her eyes to conceal a starting
tear, and then, in a timid tone, said that she well knew she had
justly earned my abhorrence by her infidelity; but that if I had
ever really felt any love for her, there was not much kindness in
allowing two long years to pass without enquiring after her, and
as little now in seeing her in the state of mental distress in
which she was, without condescending to bestow upon her a single
word. I shall not attempt to describe what my feelings were as I
listened to this reproof.
"She seated herself. I remained standing, with my face half
turned aside, for I could not muster courage to meet her look. I
several times commenced a reply without power to conclude it. At
length I made an effort, and in a tone of poignant grief
exclaimed: `Perfidious Manon! perfidious, perfidious creature!'
She had no wish, she repeated with a flood of tears, to attempt
to justify her infidelity. `What is your wish, then?' cried I.
`I wish to die,' she answered, `if you will not give me back that
heart, without which it is impossible to endure life.' `Take my
life too, then, faithless girl!' I exclaimed, in vain
endeavouring to restrain my tears; `take my life also! it is the
sole sacrifice that remains for me to make, for my heart has
never ceased to be thine.'
"I had hardly uttered these words, when she rose in a transport
of joy, and approached to embrace me. She loaded me with a
thousand caresses. She addressed me by all the endearing
appellations with which love supplies his votaries, to enable
them to express the most passionate fondness. I still answered
with affected coldness; but the sudden transition from a state of
quietude, such as that I had up to this moment enjoyed, to the
agitation and tumult which were now kindled in my breast and
tingled through my veins, thrilled me with a kind of horror, and
impressed me with a vague sense that I was about to undergo some
great transformation, and to enter upon a new existence.
"We sat down close by each other. I took her hand within mine,
`Ah! Manon,' said I, with a look of sorrow, `I little thought
that love like mine could have been repaid with treachery! It
was a poor triumph to betray a heart of which you were the
absolute mistress--whose sole happiness it was to gratify and
obey you. Tell me if among others you have found any so
affectionate and so devoted? No, no! I believe nature has cast
few hearts in the same mould as mine. Tell me at least whether
you have ever thought of me with regret! Can I have any reliance
on the duration of the feeling that has brought you back to me
today? I perceive too plainly that you are infinitely lovelier
than ever: but I conjure you by all my past sufferings, dearest
Manon, to tell me--can you in future be more faithful?'
"She gave me in reply such tender assurances of her repentance,
and pledged her fidelity with such solemn protestations and vows,
that I was inexpressibly affected. `Beauteous Manon,' said I,
with rather a profane mixture of amorous and theological
expressions, `you are too adorable for a created being. I feel
my heart transported with triumphant rapture. It is folly to
talk of liberty at St. Sulpice. Fortune and reputation are but
slight sacrifices at such a shrine! I plainly foresee it: I can
read my destiny in your bright eyes; but what abundant recompense
shall I not find in your affections for any loss I may sustain!
The favours of fortune have no influence over me: fame itself
appears to me but a mockery; all my projects of a holy life were
wild absurdities: in fact, any joys but those I may hope for at
your side are fit objects of contempt. There are none that would
not vanish into worthlessness before one single glance of thine!'
"In promising her, however, a full remission of her past
frailties, I enquired how she permitted herself to be led astray
by B----. She informed me that having seen her at her window, he
became passionately in love with her; that he made his advances
in the true style of a mercantile cit;--that is to say, by giving
her to understand in his letter, that his payments would be
proportioned to her favours; that she had admitted his overtures
at first with no other intention than that of getting from him
such a sum as might enable us to live without inconvenience; but
that he had so bewildered her with splendid promises, that she
allowed herself to be misled by degrees. She added, that I ought
to have formed some notion of the remorse she experienced, by her
grief on the night of our separation; and assured me that, in
spite of the splendour in which he maintained her, she had never
known a moment's happiness with him, not only, she said, because
he was utterly devoid of that delicacy of sentiment and of those
agreeable manners which I possessed, but because even in the
midst of the amusements which he unceasingly procured her, she
could never shake off the recollection of my love, or her own
ingratitude. She then spoke of Tiberge, and the extreme
embarrassment his visit caused her. `A dagger's point,' she
added, `could not have struck more terror to my heart. I turned
from him, unable to sustain the interview for a moment.'
"She continued to inform me how she had been apprised of my
residence at Paris, of the change in my condition, and of her
witnessing my examination at the Sorbonne. She told me how
agitated she had been during my intellectual conflict with the
examiner; what difficulty she felt in restraining her tears as
well as her sighs, which were more than once on the point of
spurning all control, and bursting forth; that she was the last
person to leave the hall of examination, for fear of betraying
her distress, and that, following only the instinct of her own
heart, and her ardent desires, she came direct to the seminary,
with the firm resolution of surrendering life itself, if she
found me cruel enough to withhold my forgiveness.
"Could any savage remain unmoved by such proofs of cordial
repentance as those I had just witnessed? For my part, I felt at
the moment that I could gladly have given up all the bishoprics
in Christendom for Manon. I asked what course she would
recommend in our present emergency. `It is requisite,' she
replied, `at all events, to quit the seminary, and settle in some
safer place.' I consented to everything she proposed. She got
into her carriage to go and wait for me at the corner of the
street. I escaped the next moment, without attracting the
porter's notice. I entered the carriage, and we drove off to a
Jew's. I there resumed my lay-dress and sword. Manon furnished
the supplies, for I was without a sou, and fearing that I might
meet with some new impediment, she would not consent to my
returning to my room at St. Sulpice for my purse. My finances
were in truth wretchedly low, and hers more than sufficiently
enriched by the liberality of M. de B---- to make her think
lightly of my loss. We consulted together at the Jew's as to the
course we should now adopt.
"In order to enhance the sacrifice she had made for me of her
late lover, she determined to treat him without the least
ceremony. `I shall leave him all his furniture,' she said; `it
belongs to him: but I shall assuredly carry off, as I have a
right to do, the jewels, and about sixty thousand francs, which I
have had from him in the last two years. I have given him no
control over me,' she added, `so that we may remain without
apprehension in Paris, taking a convenient house, where we shall
live, oh how happily together!'
"I represented to her that, although there might be no danger
for her, there was a great deal for me, who must be sooner or
later infallibly recognised, and continually exposed to a
repetition of the trials I had before endured. She gave me to
understand that she could not quit Paris without regret. I had
such a dread of giving her annoyance, that there were no risks I
would not have encountered for her sake. However, we compromised
matters by resolving to take a house in some village near Paris,
from whence it would be easy for us to come into town whenever
pleasure or business required it. We fixed on Chaillot, which is
at a convenient distance. Manon at once returned to her house,
and I went to wait for her at a side-gate of the garden of the
"She returned an hour after, in a hired carriage, with a
servant-maid, and several trunks, which contained her dresses,
and everything she had of value.
"We were not long on our way to Chaillot. We lodged the first
night at the inn, in order to have time to find a suitable house,
or at least a commodious lodging. We found one to our taste the
next morning.
"My happiness now appeared to be secured beyond the reach of
fate. Manon was everything most sweet and amiable. She was so
delicate and so unceasing in her attentions to me, that I deemed
myself but too bountifully rewarded for all my past troubles. As
we had both, by this time, acquired some experience, we discussed
rationally the state of our finances. Sixty thousand francs (the
amount of our wealth) was not a sum that could be expected to
last our whole life; besides, we were neither of us much disposed
to control our expenses. Manon's chief virtue assuredly was not
economy, any more than it was mine. This was my proposition.
`Sixty thousand francs,' said I, `may support us for ten years.
Two thousand crowns a year will suffice, if we continue to live
at Chaillot. We shall keep up appearances, but live frugally.
Our only expense will be occasionally a carriage, and the
theatres. We shall do everything in moderation. You like the
opera; we shall go twice a week, in the season. As for play, we
shall limit ourselves; so that our losses must never exceed three
crowns. It is impossible but that in the space of ten years some
change must occur in my family: my father is even now of an
advanced age; he may die; in which event I must inherit a
fortune, and we shall then be above all other fears.'
"This arrangement would not have been by any means the most
silly act of my life, if we had only been prudent enough to
persevere in its execution; but our resolutions hardly lasted
longer than a month. Manon's passion was for amusement; she was
the only object of mine. New temptations to expense constantly
presented themselves, and far from regretting the money which she
sometimes prodigally lavished, I was the first to procure for her
everything likely to afford her pleasure. Our residence at
Chaillot began even to appear tiresome.
"Winter was approaching, and the whole world returning to town;
the country had a deserted look. She proposed to me to take a
house in Paris. I did not approve of this; but, in order partly
at least to satisfy her, I said that we might hire furnished
apartments, and that we might sleep there whenever we were late
in quitting the assembly, whither we often went; for the
inconvenience of returning so late to Chaillot was her excuse for
wishing to leave it. We had thus two dwellings, one in town and
the other in the country. This change soon threw our affairs
into confusion, and led to two adventures, which eventually
caused our ruin.
"Manon had a brother in the Guards. He unfortunately lived in
the very street in which we had taken lodgings. He one day
recognised his sister at the window, and hastened over to us. He
was a fellow of the rudest manners, and without the slightest
principle of honour. He entered the room swearing in the most
horrible way; and as he knew part of his sister's history, he
loaded her with abuse and reproaches.
"I had gone out the moment before, which was doubtless fortunate
for either him or me, for I was little disposed to brook an
insult. I only returned to the lodgings after he had left them.
The low spirits in which I found Manon convinced me at once that
something extraordinary had occurred. She told me of the
provoking scene she had just gone through, and of the brutal
threats of her brother. I felt such indignation, that I wished
to proceed at once to avenge her, when she entreated me with
tears to desist.
"While we were still talking of the adventure, the guardsman
again entered the room in which we sat, without even waiting to
be announced. Had I known him, he should not have met from me as
civil a reception as he did; but saluting us with a smile upon
his countenance, he addressed himself to Manon, and said, he was
come to make excuses for his violence; that he had supposed her
to be living a life of shame and disgrace, and it was this notion
that excited his rage; but having since made enquiry from one of
our servants, he had learned such a character of me, that his
only wish was now to be on terms with us both.
"Although this admission, of having gone for information to one
of my own servants, had in it something ludicrous as well as
indelicate, I acknowledged his compliments with civility, I
thought by doing so to please Manon, and I was not deceived--she
was delighted at the reconciliation. We made him stay to dine
with us.
"In a little time he became so familiar, that hearing us speak
of our return to Chaillot, he insisted on accompanying us. We
were obliged to give him a seat in our carriage. This was in
fact putting him into possession, for he soon began to feel so
much pleasure in our company, that he made our house his home,
and made himself in some measure master of all that belonged to
us. He called me his brother, and, under the semblance of
fraternal freedom, he put himself on such a footing as to
introduce all his friends without ceremony into our house at
Chaillot, and there entertain them at our expense. His
magnificent uniforms were procured of my tailor and charged to
me, and he even contrived to make Manon and me responsible for
all his debts. I pretended to be blind to this system of
tyranny, rather than annoy Manon, and even to take no notice of
the sums of money which from time to time he received from her.
No doubt, as he played very deep, he was honest enough to repay
her a part sometimes, when luck turned in his favour; but our
finances were utterly inadequate to supply, for any length of
time, demands of such magnitude and frequency.
"I was on the point of coming to an understanding with him, in
order to put an end to the system, when an unfortunate accident
saved me that trouble, by involving us in inextricable ruin.
"One night we stopped in Paris to sleep, as it had now indeed
become our constant habit. The servant-maid who on such
occasions remained alone at Chaillot, came early the next morning
to inform me that our house had taken fire in the night, and that
the flames had been extinguished with great difficulty. I asked
whether the furniture had suffered. She answered, that there had
been such confusion, owing to the multitude of strangers who came
to offer assistance, that she could hardly ascertain what damage
had been done. I was principally uneasy about our money, which
had been locked up in a little box. I went off in haste to
Chaillot. Vain hope! the box had disappeared!
"I discovered that one could love money without being a miser.
This loss afflicted me to such a degree that I was almost out of
my mind. I saw at one glance to what new calamities I should be
exposed: poverty was the least of them. I knew Manon thoroughly;
I had already had abundant proof that, although faithful and
attached to me under happier circumstances, she could not be
depended upon in want: pleasure and plenty she loved too well to
sacrifice them for my sake. `I shall lose her!' I cried;
`miserable chevalier! you are about then to lose all that you
love on earth!' This thought agitated me to such a degree that I
actually for some moments considered whether it would not be best
for me to end at once all my miseries by death. I however
preserved presence of mind enough to reflect whether I was
entirely without resource, and an idea occurred to me which
quieted my despair. It would not be impossible, I thought, to
conceal our loss from Manon; and I might perhaps discover some
ways and means of supplying her, so as to ward off the
inconveniences of poverty.
"I had calculated in endeavouring to comfort myself, that twenty
thousand crowns would support us for ten years. Suppose that
these ten years had now elapsed, and that none of the events
which I had looked for in my family had occurred. What then
would have been my course? I hardly know; but whatever I should
then have done, why may I not do now? How many are there in
Paris, who have neither my talents, nor the natural advantages I
possess, and who, notwithstanding, owe their support to the
exercise of their talents, such as they are?
"`Has not Providence,' I added, while reflecting on the
different conditions of life, `arranged things wisely?' The
greater number of the powerful and the rich are fools. No one
who knows anything of the world can doubt that. How admirable is
the compensating justice thereof! If wealth brought with it
talent also, the rich would be too happy, and other men too
wretched. To these latter are given personal advantages and
genius, to help them out of misery and want. Some of them share
the riches of the wealthy by administering to their pleasures, or
by making them their dupes; others afford them instruction, and
endeavour to make them decent members of society; to be sure,
they do not always succeed; but that was probably not the
intention of the divine wisdom. In every case they derive a
benefit from their labours by living at the expense of their
pupils; and, in whatever point of view it is considered, the
follies of the rich are a bountiful source of revenue to the
humbler classes.
"These thoughts restored me a little to my spirits and to my
reason. I determined first to consult M. Lescaut, the brother of
Manon. He knew Paris perfectly; and I had too many opportunities
of learning that it was neither from his own estates, nor from
the king's pay, that he derived the principal portion of his
income. I had about thirty-three crowns left, which I
fortunately happened to have about me. I showed him my purse,
and explained to him my misfortune and my fears, and then asked
him whether I had any alternative between starvation and blowing
out my brains in despair. He coolly replied that suicide was the
resource of fools. As to dying of want, there were hundreds of
men of genius who found themselves reduced to that state when
they would not employ their talents; that it was for myself to
discover what I was capable of doing, and he told me to reckon
upon his assistance and his advice in any enterprise I might
"`Vague enough, M. Lescaut!' said I to him: `my wants demand a
more speedy remedy; for what am I to say to Manon?' `Apropos of
Manon,' replied he, `what is it that annoys you about her?
Cannot you always find in her wherewithal to meet your wants,
when you wish it? Such a person ought to support us all, you and
me as well as herself.' He cut short the answer which I was
about to give to such unfeeling and brutal impertinence, by going
on to say, that before night he would ensure me a thousand crowns
to divide between us, if I would only follow his advice; that he
was acquainted with a nobleman, who was so liberal in affairs of
the kind, that he was certain he would not hesitate for a moment
to give the sum named for the favours of such a girl as Manon.
"I stopped him. `I had a better opinion of you,' said I; `I had
imagined that your motive for bestowing your friendship upon me
was very different indeed from the one you now betray.' With the
greatest effrontery he acknowledged that he had been always of
the same mind, and that his sister having once sacrificed her
virtue, though it might be to the man she most loved, he would
never have consented to a reconciliation with her, but with the
hope of deriving some advantage from her past misconduct.
"It was easy to see that we had been hitherto his dupes.
Notwithstanding the disgust with which his proposition inspired
me, still, as I felt that I had occasion for his services, I
said, with apparent complacency, that we ought only to entertain
such a plan as a last resource. I begged of him to suggest some
"He proposed to me to turn my youth and the good looks nature
had bestowed upon me to some account, by establishing a liaison
with some generous old dame. This was just as little to my
taste, for it would necessarily have rendered me unfaithful to
"I mentioned play as the easiest scheme, and the most suitable
to my present situation. He admitted that play certainly was a
resource, but that it was necessary to consider the point well.
`Mere play,' said he, `with its ordinary chances, is the certain
road to ruin; and as for attempting, alone and without an ally,
to employ the little means an adroit man has for correcting the
vagaries of luck, it would be too dangerous an experiment.'
There was, he stated, a third course, which was to enter into
what he called a partnership; but he feared his confederates
would consider my youth an objection to my admittance. He,
however, promised to use his influence with them; and, what was
more than I expected at his hands, he said that he would supply
me with a little money whenever I had pressing occasion for any.
The only favour I then asked of him was to say nothing to Manon
of the loss I had experienced, nor of the subject of our
"I certainly derived little comfort from my visit to Lescaut; I
felt even sorry for having confided my secret to him: not a
single thing had he done for me that I might not just as well
have done for myself, without troubling him; and I could not help
dreading that he would violate his promise to keep the secret
from Manon. I had also reason to apprehend, from his late
avowals, that he might form the design of making use of her for
his own vile purposes, or at least of advising her to quit me for
some happier and more wealthy lover. This idea brought in its
train a thousand reflections, which had no other effect than to
torment me, and throw me again into the state of despair in which
I had passed the morning. It occurred to me, more than once, to
write to my father; and to pretend a new reformation, in order to
obtain some pecuniary assistance from him; but I could not forget
that, notwithstanding all his natural love and affection for me,
he had shut me up for six months in a confined room for my first
transgression; and I was certain that, after the scandalous
sensation caused by my flight from St. Sulpice, he would be sure
to treat me with infinitely more rigour now.
"At length, out of this chaos of fancies came an idea that all
at once restored ease to my mind, and which I was surprised at
not having hit upon sooner; this was, to go again to my friend
Tiberge, in whom I might be always sure of finding the same
unfailing zeal and friendship. There is nothing more
glorious--nothing that does more honour to true virtue, than the
confidence with which one approaches a friend of tried integrity;
no apprehension, no risk of unkind repulse: if it be not always
in his power to afford the required succour, one is sure at least
of meeting kindness and compassion. The heart of the poor
supplicant, which remains impenetrably closed to the rest of the
world, opens in his presence, as a flower expands before the orb
of day, from which it instinctively knows it can derive a
cheering and benign influence only.
"I consider it a blessing to have thought so apropos of Tiberge,
and resolved to take measures to find him before evening. I
returned at once to my lodgings to write him a line, and fix a
convenient place for our meeting. I requested secrecy and
discretion, as the most important service he could render me
under present circumstances.
"The pleasure I derived from the prospect of seeing Tiberge
dissipated every trace of melancholy, which Manon would not have
failed otherwise to detect in my countenance. I described our
misfortune at Chaillot as a trifle which ought not to annoy her;
and Paris being the spot she liked best in the world, she was not
sorry to hear me say that it would be necessary for us to remain
there entirely, until the little damage was repaired which had
been caused by the fire at Chaillot.
"In an hour I received an answer from Tiberge, who promised to
be at the appointed rendezvous. I went there punctually. I
certainly felt some shame at encountering a friend whose presence
alone ought to be a reproach to my iniquities; but I was
supported by the opinion I had of the goodness of his heart, as
well as by my anxiety about Manon.
"I had begged of him to meet me in the garden of the Palais
Royal. He was there before me. He hastened towards me, the
moment he saw me approach and shook me warmly by both hands. I
said that I could not help feeling perfectly ashamed to meet him,
and that I was weighed down by a sense of my ingratitude; that
the first thing I implored of him was to tell me whether I might
still consider him my friend, after having so justly incurred the
loss of his esteem and affection. He replied, in the kindest
possible manner, that it was not in the nature of things to
destroy his regard for me; that my misfortunes even, or, if he
might so call them, my faults and transgressions, had but
increased the interest he felt for me; but that he must confess
his affection was not unalloyed by a sentiment of the liveliest
sorrow, such as a person may be supposed to feel at seeing a
beloved object on the brink of ruin, and beyond the reach of his
"We sat down upon a bench. `Alas!' said I with a deep sigh,
`your compassion must be indeed great, my dear Tiberge, if you
assure me it is equal to my sufferings. I am almost ashamed to
recount them, for I confess they have been brought on by no very
creditable course of conduct: the results, however, are so truly
melancholy, that a friend even less attached than you would be
affected by the recital.'
"He then begged of me, in proof of friendship, to let him know,
without any disguise, all that had occurred to me since my
departure from St. Sulpice. I gratified him; and so far from
concealing anything, or attempting to extenuate my faults, I
spoke of my passion with all the ardour with which it still
inspired me. I represented it to him as one of those especial
visitations of fate, which draw on the devoted victim to his
ruin, and which it is as impossible for virtue itself to resist,
as for human wisdom to foresee. I painted to him in the most
vivid colours, my excitement, my fears, the state of despair in
which I had been two hours before I saw him, and into which I
should be again plunged, if I found my friends as relentless as
fate had been. I at length made such an impression upon poor
Tiberge, that I saw he was as much affected by compassion, as I
by the recollection of my sufferings.
"He took my hand, and exhorted me to have courage and be
comforted; but, as he seemed to consider it settled that Manon
and I were to separate, I gave him at once to understand that it
was that very separation I considered as the most intolerable of
all my misfortunes; and that I was ready to endure not only the
last degree of misery, but death itself, of the cruellest kind,
rather than seek relief in a remedy worse than the whole
accumulation of my woes.
"`Explain yourself, then,' said he to me; `what assistance can
I afford you, if you reject everything I propose?' I had not
courage to tell him that it was from his purse I wanted relief.
He, however, comprehended it in the end; and acknowledging that
he believed he now understood me, he remained for a moment in an
attitude of thought, with the air of a person revolving something
in his mind. `Do not imagine,' he presently said, `that my
hesitation arises from any diminution of my zeal and friendship;
but to what an alternative do you now reduce me, since I must
either refuse you the assistance you ask, or violate my most
sacred duty in affording it! For is it not participating in your
sin to furnish you with the means of continuing its indulgence?'
"`However,' continued he, after a moment's thought, `it is
perhaps the excited state into which want has thrown you, that
denies you now the liberty of choosing the proper path. Man's
mind must be at rest, to know the luxury of wisdom and virtue. I
can afford to let you have some money; and permit me, my dear
chevalier, to impose but one condition; that is, that you let me
know the place of your abode, and allow me the opportunity of
using my exertions to reclaim you. I know that there is in your
heart a love of virtue, and that you have been only led astray by
the violence of your passions.'
"I, of course, agreed to everything he asked, and only begged of
him to deplore the malign destiny which rendered me callous to
the counsels of so virtuous a friend. He then took me to a
banker of his acquaintance, who gave one hundred and seventy
crowns for his note of hand, which was taken as cash. I have
already said that he was not rich. His living was worth about
six thousand francs a year, but as this was the first year since
his induction, he had as yet touched none of the receipts, and it
was out of the future income that he made me this advance.
"I felt the full force of his generosity, even to such a degree
as almost to deplore the fatal passion which thus led me to break
through all the restraints of duty. Virtue had for a moment the
ascendancy in my heart, and made me sensible of my shame and
degradation. But this was soon over. For Manon I could have
given up my hopes of heaven, and when I again found myself at her
side, I wondered how I could for an instant have considered
myself degraded by my passion for this enchanting girl.
"Manon was a creature of most extraordinary disposition. Never
had mortal a greater contempt for money, and yet she was haunted
by perpetual dread of wanting it. Her only desire was for
pleasure and amusement. She would never have wished to possess a
sou, if pleasure could be procured without money. She never even
cared what our purse contained, provided she could pass the day
agreeably; so that, being neither fond of play nor at all dazzled
by the desire of great wealth, nothing was more easy than to
satisfy her, by daily finding out amusements suited to her
moderate wishes. But it became by habit a thing so absolutely
necessary for her to have her mind thus occupied, that, without
it, it was impossible to exercise the smallest influence over her
temper or inclinations. Although she loved me tenderly, and I
was the only person, as she often declared, in whose society she
could ever find the pure enjoyments of love, yet I felt
thoroughly convinced that her attachment could not withstand
certain apprehensions. She would have preferred me, even with a
moderate fortune, to the whole world; but I had no kind of doubt
that she would, on the other hand, abandon me for some new M. de
B----, when I had nothing more to offer her than fidelity and
"I resolved therefore so to curtail my own individual expenses,
as to be able always to meet hers, and rather to deprive myself
of a thousand necessaries than even to limit her extravagance.
The carriage made me more uneasy than anything else, for I saw no
chance of being able to maintain either coachman or horses.
"I told M. Lescaut of my difficulties, and did not conceal from
him that I had received a thousand francs from a friend. He
repeated, that if I wished to try the chances of the
gaming-table, he was not without hopes that, by spending a few
crowns in entertaining his associates, I might be, on his
recommendation, admitted into the association. With all my
repugnance to cheating, I yielded to dire necessity.
"Lescaut presented me that night as a relation of his own. He
added, that I was the more likely to succeed in my new
profession, from wanting the favours of fortune. However, to
show them that I was not quite reduced to the lowest ebb, he said
it was my intention to treat them with a supper. The offer was
accepted, and I entertained them en prince. They talked a good
deal about my fashionable appearance and the apparent amiability
of my disposition; they said that the best hopes might be
entertained of me, because there was something in my countenance
that bespoke the gentleman, and no one therefore could have a
suspicion of my honesty: they voted thanks to Lescaut for having
introduced so promising a novice, and deputed one of the members
to instruct me for some days in the necessary manoeuvres.
"The principal scene of my exploits was the hotel of
Transylvania, where there was a faro table in one room, and other
games of cards and dice in the gallery. This academy was kept by
the Prince of R----, who then lived at Clagny, and most of his
officers belonged to our society. Shall I mention it to my
shame? I profited quickly by my instructor's tuition. I
acquired an amazing facility in sleight of hand tricks, and
learned in perfection to sauter le coup; with the help of a pair
of long ruffles, I shuffled so adroitly as to defy the quickest
observer, and I ruined several fair players. My unrivalled skill
so quickened the progress of my fortunes, that I found myself
master, in a few weeks, of very considerable sums, besides what I
divided in good faith with my companions.
"I had no longer any fear of communicating to Manon the extent
of our loss at Chaillot, and, to console her on the announcement
of such disastrous news, I took a furnished house, where we
established ourselves in all the pride of opulence and security.
"Tiberge was in the habit, at this period, of paying me frequent
visits. He was never tired of his moral lectures. Over and over
again did he represent to me the injury I was inflicting upon my
conscience, my honour, and my fortune. I received all his advice
kindly, and although I had not the smallest inclination to adopt
it, I had no doubt of its sincerity, for I knew its source.
Sometimes I rallied him good-humouredly, and entreated him not to
be more tight-laced than some other priests were, and even
bishops, who by no means considered a mistress incompatible with
a good and holy life.' `Look,' I said, at Manon's eyes, and tell
me if there is one in the long catalogue of sins that might not
there find a plea of justification.' He bore these sallies
patiently, and carried his forbearance almost too far: but when
he saw my funds increase, and that I had not only returned him
the hundred and seventy crowns, but having hired a new house and
trebled my expenses, I had plunged deeper than ever into a life
of pleasure, he changed his tone and manner towards me. He
lamented my obduracy. He warned me against the chastisement of
the Divine wrath, and predicted some of the miseries with which
indeed I was shortly afterwards visited. `It is impossible,' he
said, `that the money which now serves to support your
debaucheries can have been acquired honourably. You have come by
it unjustly, and in the same way shall it be taken from you. The
most awful punishment Heaven could inflict would be to allow you
the undisturbed enjoyment of it. All my advice,' he added, `has
been useless; I too plainly perceive that it will shortly become
troublesome to you. I now take my leave; you are a weak, as well
as an ungrateful friend! May your criminal enjoyments vanish as
a shadow! may your ill-gotten wealth leave you without a
resource; and may you yourself remain alone and deserted, to
learn the vanity of these things, which now divert you from
better pursuits! When that time arrives, you will find me
disposed to love and to serve you; this day ends our intercourse,
and I once for all avow my horror of the life you are leading.'
"It was in my room and in Manon's presence that he delivered
this apostolical harangue. He rose to depart. I was about to
detain him; but was prevented by Manon, who said it was better to
let the madman go.
"What he said, however, did not fail to make some impression
upon me. I notice these brief passages of my life when I
experienced a returning sentiment of virtue, because it was to
those traces, however light, that I was afterwards indebted for
whatever of fortitude I displayed under the most trying
"Manon's caresses soon dissipated the annoyance this scene had
caused me. We continued to lead a life entirely devoted to
pleasure and love. The increase of our wealth only redoubled our
affection. There none happier among all the devotees of Venus
and Fortune. Heavens! why call this a world of misery, when it
can furnish a life of such rapturous enjoyment? But alas, it is
too soon over! For what ought man to sigh, could such felicity
but last for ever? Ours shared the common fate--in being of
short duration, and followed by lasting regrets.
"I had realised by play such a considerable sum of money, that I
thought of investing a portion of it. My servants were not
ignorant of my good luck, particularly my valet and Manon's own
maid, before whom we often talked without any reserve. The maid
was handsome, and my valet in love with her. They knew they had
to deal with a young and inexperienced couple, whom they fancied
they could impose upon without much difficulty. They laid a
plan, and executed it with so much skill, that they reduced us to
a state from which it was never afterwards possible for us to
extricate ourselves.
"Having supped one evening at Lescaut's, it was about midnight
when we returned home. I asked for my valet, and Manon for her
maid; neither one nor the other could be found. They had not
been seen in the house since eight o'clock, and had gone out,
after having some cases carried before them, according to orders
which they pretended to have received from me. I at once foresaw
a part of the truth, but my suspicions were infinitely surpassed
by what presented itself on going into my room. The lock of my
closet had been forced, and my cash as well as my best clothes
were gone. While I stood stupefied with amazement, Manon came,
in the greatest alarm, to inform me that her apartment had been
rifled in the same manner.
"This blow was so perfectly astounding, so cruel, that it was
with difficulty I could refrain from tears. The dread of
infecting Manon with my despair made me assume a more contented
air. I said, smiling, that I should avenge myself upon some
unhappy dupe at the hotel of Transylvania. However, she appeared
so sensibly affected, that her grief increased my sorrow
infinitely more than my attempt succeeded in supporting her
spirits. `We are destroyed!' said she, with tears in her eyes.
I endeavoured, in vain, by my entreaties and caresses, to console
her. My own lamentations betrayed my distress and despair. In
fact, we were so completely ruined, that we were bereft almost of
decent covering.
"I determined to send off at once for Lescaut. He advised me to
go immediately to the lieutenant of police, and to give
information also to the Grand Provost of Paris. I went, but it
was to add to my calamities only; for, independently of my visit
producing not the smallest good effect, I, by my absence, allowed
Lescaut time for discussion with his sister, during which he did
not fail to inspire her with the most horrible resolutions. He
spoke to her about M. G---- M----, an old voluptuary, who paid
prodigally for his pleasures; he so glowingly described the
advantages of such a connection, that she entered into all his
plans. This discreditable arrangement was all concluded before
my return, and the execution of it only postponed till the next
morning, after Lescaut should have apprised G---- M----.
"I found him, on my return, waiting for me at my house; but
Manon had retired to her own apartment, and she had desired the
footman to tell me that, having need of repose, she hoped she
should not be disturbed that night. Lescaut left me, after
offering me a few crowns which I accepted.
"It was nearly four o'clock when I retired to bed; and having
revolved in my mind various schemes for retrieving my fortunes, I
fell asleep so late that I did not awake till between eleven and
twelve o'clock. I rose at once to enquire after Manon's health;
they told me that she had gone out an hour before with her
brother, who had come for her in a hired carriage. Although
there appeared something mysterious in such a proceeding, I
endeavoured to check my rising suspicions. I allowed some hours
to pass, during which I amused myself with reading. At length,
being unable any longer to stifle my uneasiness, I paced up and
down the apartments. A sealed letter upon Manon's table at last
caught my eye. It was addressed to me, and in her handwriting.
I felt my blood freeze as I opened it; it was in these words:
I protest to you, dearest chevalier, that you are the idol of my
heart, and that you are the only being on earth whom I can truly
love; but do you not see, my own poor dear chevalier, that in the
situation to which we are now reduced, fidelity would be worse
than madness? Do you think tenderness possibly compatible with
starvation? For my part, hunger would be sure to drive me to
some fatal end. Heaving some day a sigh for love, I should find
it was my last. I adore you, rely upon that; but leave to me,
for a short while, the management of our fortunes. God help the
man who falls into my hands. My only wish is to render my
chevalier rich and happy. My brother will tell you about me; he
can vouch for my grief in yielding to the necessity of parting
from you.
"I remained, after reading this, in a state which it would be
difficult to describe; for even now I know not the nature of the
feelings which then agitated me. It was one of those unique
situations of which others can never have experienced anything
even approaching to similarity. It is impossible to explain it,
because other persons can have no idea of its nature; and one can
hardly even analyse it to oneself. Memory furnishes nothing that
will connect it with the past, and therefore ordinary language is
inadequate to describe it. Whatever was its nature, however, it
is certain that grief, hate, jealousy, and shame entered into its
composition. Fortunate would it have proved for me if love also
had not been a component part!
"`That she loves me,' I exclaimed, `I can believe; but could
she, without being a monster, hate me? What right can man ever
have to woman's affections which I had not to Manon's? What is
left to me, after all the sacrifices I have made for her sake?
Yet she abandons me, and the ungrateful creature thinks to screen
herself from my reproaches by professions of love! She pretends
to dread starvation! God of love, what grossness of sentiment!
What an answer to the refinement of my adoration! I had no dread
of that kind; I, who have almost sought starvation for her sake,
by renouncing fortune and the comforts of my father's house! I,
who denied myself actual necessaries, in order to gratify her
little whims and caprices! She adores me, she says. If you
adored me, ungrateful creature, I well know what course you would
have taken; you would never have quitted me, at least without
saying adieu. It is only I who can tell the pangs and torments,
of being separated from all one loves. I must have taken leave
of my senses, to have voluntarily brought all this misery upon
"My lamentations were interrupted by a visit I little expected;
it was from Lescaut. `Assassin!' cried I, putting my hand upon
my sword, `where is Manon? what have you done with her?' My
agitation startled him. He replied, that if this was the
reception he was to meet, when he came to offer me the most
essential service it was in his power to render me, he should
take his leave, and never again cross my threshold. I ran to the
door of the apartment, which I shut. `Do not imagine,' I said,
turning towards him, `that you can once more make a dupe of me
with your lies and inventions. Either defend your life, or tell
me where I can find Manon.' `How impatient you are!' replied he;
`that was in reality the object of my visit. I came to announce
a piece of good fortune which you little expected, and for which
you will probably feel somewhat grateful.' My curiosity was at
once excited.
"He informed me that Manon, totally unable to endure the dread
of want, and, above all, the certainty of being at once obliged
to dispense with her equipage, had begged of him to make her
acquainted with M. G---- M----, who had a character for
liberality. He carefully avoided telling me that this was the
result of his own advice, and that he had prepared the way before
he introduced his sister. `I took her there this morning,' said
he, `and the fellow was so enchanted with her looks that he at
once invited her to accompany him to his country seat, where he
is gone to pass some days. As I plainly perceived,' said
Lescaut, `the advantage it may be to you, I took care to let him
know that she had lately experienced very considerable losses;
and I so piqued his generosity that he began by giving her four
hundred crowns. I told him that was well enough for a
commencement, but that my sister would have, for the future, many
demands for money; that she had the charge of a young brother,
who had been thrown upon her hands since the death of our
parents; and that, if he wished to prove himself worthy of her
affections, he would not allow her to suffer uneasiness upon
account of this child, whom she regarded as part of herself.
This speech produced its effect, he at once promised to take a
house for you and Manon, for you must know that you are the poor
little orphan. He undertook to set you up in furniture, and to
give you four hundred livres a month, which if I calculate
rightly, will amount to four thousand eight hundred per annum.
He left orders with his steward to look out for a house, and to
have it in readiness by the time he returned. You will soon,
therefore, again see Manon, who begged of me to give you a
thousand tender messages, and to assure you that she loves you
more dearly than ever.'
Infected with that leprosy of lust,
Which taints the hoariest years of vicious men
Making them ransack to the very last
The dregs of pleasure for their vanished joys.
"On sitting down to reflect upon this strange turn of fate, I
found myself so perplexed, and consequently so incapable of
arriving at any rational conclusion, that I allowed Lescaut to
put repeated questions to me without in the slightest degree
attending to their purport. It was then that honour and virtue
made me feel the most poignant remorse, and that I recalled with
bitterness Amiens, my father's house, St. Sulpice, and every spot
where I had ever lived in happy innocence. By what a terrific
interval was I now separated from that blessed state! I beheld
it no longer but as a dim shadow in the distance, still
attracting my regrets and desires, but without the power of
rousing me to exertion. `By what fatality,' said I, `have I
become thus degraded? Love is not a guilty passion! why then has
it been to me the source of profligacy and distress? Who
prevented me from leading a virtuous and tranquil life with
Manon? Why did I not marry her before I obtained any concession
from her love? Would not my father, who had the tenderest regard
for me, have given his consent, if I had taken the fair and
candid course of soliciting him? Yes, my father would himself
have cherished her as one far too good to be his son's wife! I
should have been happy in the love of Manon, in the affection of
my father, in the esteem of the world, with a moderate portion of
the good things of life, and above all with the consciousness of
virtue. Disastrous change! Into what an infamous character is
it here proposed that I should sink? To share---- But can I
hesitate, if Manon herself suggests it, and if I am to lose her
except upon such conditions? `Lescaut,' said I, putting my hands
to my eyes as if to shut out such a horrifying vision, `if your
intention was to render me a service, I give you thanks. You
might perhaps have struck out a more reputable course, but it is
so settled, is it not? Let us then only think of profiting by
your labour, and fulfilling your engagements.'
"Lescaut, who had been considerably embarrassed, not only by my
fury, but by the long silence which followed it, was too happy to
see me now take a course so different from what he had
anticipated. He had not a particle of courage, of which indeed I
have, in the sequel of my story, abundant proof. `Yes, yes,' he
quickly answered, `it is good service I have rendered you, and
you will find that we shall derive infinitely more advantage from
it than you now expect.' We consulted then as to the best mode
of preventing the suspicions which G---- M---- might entertain of
our relationship, when he found me older and of riper manhood
than he probably imagined. The only plan we could hit upon was
to assume in his presence an innocent and provincial air, and to
persuade him that it was my intention to enter the Church, and
that with that view I was obliged to go every day to the college.
We also determined that I should appear as awkward as I possibly
could the first time I was admitted to the honour of an
"He returned to town three or four days after, and at once
conducted Manon to the house which his steward had in the
meantime prepared. She immediately apprised Lescaut of her
return, and he having informed me, we went together to her new
abode. The old lover had already gone out.
"In spite of the submission with which I had resigned myself to
her wishes, I could not, at our meeting, repress the compunctious
visitings of my conscience. I appeared before her grieved and
dejected. The joy I felt at seeing her once more could not
altogether dispel my sorrow for her infidelity: she, on the
contrary, appeared transported with the pleasure of seeing me.
She accused me of coldness. I could not help muttering the words
perfidious and unfaithful, though they were profusely mixed with
"At first she laughed at me for my simplicity; but when she
found that I continued to look at her with an unchanging
expression of melancholy, and that I could not bring myself to
enter with alacrity into a scene so repugnant to all my feelings,
she went alone into her boudoir. I very soon followed her, and
then I found her in a flood of tears. I asked the cause of her
sorrow. `You can easily understand it,' said she; `how can you
wish me to live, if my presence can no longer have any other
effect than to give you an air of sadness and chagrin? Not one
kiss have you given me during the long hour you have been in the
house, while you have received my caresses with the dignified
indifference of a Grand Turk, receiving the forced homage of the
Sultanas of his harem.'
"`Hearken to me, Manon,' said I, embracing her; `I cannot
conceal from you that my heart is bitterly afflicted. I do not
now allude to the uneasiness your sudden flight caused me, nor to
the unkindness of quitting me without a word of consolation,
after having passed the night away from me. The pleasure of
seeing you again would more than compensate for all; but do you
imagine that I can reflect without sighs and tears upon the
degrading and unhappy life which you now wish me to lead in this
house? Say nothing of my birth, or of my feelings of honour;
love like mine derives no aid from arguments of that feeble
nature; but do you imagine that I can without emotion see my love
so badly recompensed, or rather so cruelly treated, by an
ungrateful and unfeeling mistress?'
"She interrupted me. `Stop, chevalier,' said she, `it is useless
to torture me with reproaches, which, coming from you, always
pierce my heart. I see what annoys you. I had hoped that you
would have agreed to the project which I had devised for mending
our shattered fortunes, and it was from a feeling of delicacy to
you that I began the execution of it without your assistance; but
I give it up since it does not meet your approbation.' She added
that she would now merely request a little patient forbearance
during the remainder of the day; that she had already received
five hundred crowns from the old gentleman, and that he had
promised to bring her that evening a magnificent pearl necklace
with other jewels, and, in advance, half of the yearly pension he
had engaged to allow her. `Leave me only time enough,' said she
to me, to get possession of these presents; I promise you that he
will have little to boast of from his connection with me, for in
the country I repulsed all his advances, putting him off till our
return to town. It is true that he has kissed my hand a thousand
times over, and it is but just that he should pay for even this
amusement: I am sure that, considering his riches as well as his
age, five or six thousand francs is not an unreasonable price!'
"Her determination was of more value in my eyes than twenty
thousand crowns. I could feel that I was not yet bereft of every
sentiment of honour, by the satisfaction I experienced at
escaping thus from infamy, But I was born for brief joys, and
miseries of long duration. Fate never rescued me from one
precipice, but to lead me to another. When I had expressed my
delight to Manon at this change in her intentions, I told her she
had better inform Lescaut of it, in order that we might take our
measures in concert. At first he murmured, but the money in hand
induced him to enter into our views. It was then determined that
we should all meet at G---- M----'s supper table, and that, for
two reasons: first, for the amusement of passing me off as a
schoolboy, and brother to Manon; and secondly, to prevent the old
profligate from taking any liberties with his mistress, on the
strength of his liberal payments in advance. Lescaut and I were
to retire, when he went to the room where he expected to pass the
night; and Manon, instead of following him, promised to come out,
and join us. Lescaut undertook to have a coach waiting at the
"The supper hour having arrived, M. G---- M---- made his
appearance. Already Lescaut was with his sister in the supper
room. The moment the lover entered, he presented his fair one
with a complete set of pearls, necklaces, ear-rings, and
bracelets, which must have cost at least a thousand crowns. He
then placed on the table before her, in louis d'or, two thousand
four hundred francs, the half of her year's allowance. He
seasoned his present with many pretty speeches in the true style
of the old court. Manon could not refuse him a few kisses: it
was sealing her right to the money which he had just handed to
her. I was at the door, and waiting for Lescaut's signal to
enter the room.
"He approached to take me by the hand, while Manon was securing
the money and jewels, and leading me towards M. G---- M----, he
desired me to make my bow. I made two or three most profound
ones. `Pray excuse him, sir,' said Lescaut, `he is a mere child.
He has not yet acquired much of the ton of Paris; but no doubt
with a little trouble we shall improve him. You will often have
the honour of seeing that gentleman, here,' said he, turning
towards me : `take advantage of it, and endeavour to imitate so
good a model.'
"The old libertine appeared to be pleased with me. He patted me
on the cheek, saying that I was a fine boy, but that I should be
on my guard in Paris, where young men were easily debauched.
Lescaut assured him that I was naturally of so grave a character
that I thought of nothing but becoming a clergyman, and that,
even as a child, my favourite amusement was building little
chapels. `I fancy a likeness to Manon,' said the old gentleman,
putting his hand under my chin. I answered him, with the most
simple air-- `Sir, the fact is, that we are very closely
connected, and I love my sister as another portion of myself.'
`Do you hear that,' said he to Lescaut; `he is indeed a clever
boy! It is a pity he should not see something of the world.'
`Oh, sir,' I replied, `I have seen a great deal of it at home,
attending church, and I believe I might find in Paris some
greater fools than myself.' `Listen I said he; `it is positively
wonderful in a boy from the country.'
"The whole conversation during supper was of the same kind.
Manon, with her usual gaiety, was several times on the point of
spoiling the joke by her bursts of laughter. I contrived, while
eating, to recount his own identical history, and to paint even
the fate that awaited him. Lescaut and Manon were in an agony of
fear during my recital, especially while I was drawing his
portrait to the life: but his own vanity prevented him from
recognising it, and I did it so well that he was the first to
pronounce it extremely laughable. You will allow that I had
reason for dwelling on this ridiculous scene.
At length it was time to retire. He hinted at the impatience of
love. Lescaut and I took our departure. G---- M---- went to his
room, and Manon, making some excuse for her absence, came to join
us at the gate. The coach, that was waiting for us a few doors
off, drove up towards us, and we were out of the street in an
"Although I must confess that this proceeding appeared to me
little short of actual robbery, it was not the most dishonest one
with which I thought I had to reproach myself. I had more
scruples about the money which I had won at play. However, we
derived as little advantage from one as from the other; and
Heaven sometimes ordains that the lightest fault shall meet the
severest punishment.
"M. G---- M---- was not long in finding out that he had been
duped. I am not sure whether he took any steps that night to
discover us, but he had influence enough to ensure an effectual
pursuit, and we were sufficiently imprudent to rely upon the
extent of Paris and the distance between our residence and his.
Not only did he discover our abode and our circumstances, but
also who I was--the life that I had led in Paris--Manon's former
connection with B----,--the manner in which she had deceived him:
in a word, all the scandalous facts of our history. He therefore
resolved to have us apprehended, and treated less as criminals
than as vagabonds. An officer came abruptly one morning into our
bedroom, with half a dozen archers of the guard. They first took
possession of our money, or I should rather say, of G----M----'s.
They made us quickly get up, and conducted us to the door,
where we found two coaches, into one of which they forced
poor Manon, without any explanation, and I was taken in the
other to St. Lazare.
One must have experienced this kind of reverse, to understand the
despair that is caused by it. The police were savage enough to
deny me the consolation of embracing Manon, or of bidding her
farewell. I remained for a long time ignorant of her fate. It
was perhaps fortunate for me that I was kept in a state of
ignorance, for had I known what she suffered, I should have lost
my senses, probably my life.
"My unhappy mistress was dragged then from my presence, and
taken to a place the very name of which fills me with horror to
remember. This to be the lot of a creature the most perfect, who
must have shared the most splendid throne on earth, if other men
had only seen and felt as I did! She was not treated harshly
there, but was shut up in a narrow prison, and obliged, in
solitary confinement, to perform a certain quantity of work each
day, as a necessary condition for obtaining the most unpalatable
food. I did not learn this till a long time after, when I had
myself endured some months of rough and cruel treatment.
"My guards not having told me where it was that they had been
ordered to conduct me, it was only on my arrival at St. Lazare
that I learned my destination. I would have preferred death, at
that moment, to the state into which I believed myself about to
be thrown. I had the utmost terror of this place. My misery was
increased by the guards on my entrance, examining once more my
pockets, to ascertain whether I had about me any arms or weapons
of defence.
"The governor appeared. He had been informed of my
apprehension. He saluted me with great mildness. `Do not, my
good sir,' said I to him, `allow me to be treated with indignity.
I would suffer a hundred deaths rather than quietly submit to
degrading treatment.' `No, no,' he replied, `you will act
quietly and prudently, and we shall be mutually content with each
other.' He begged of me to ascend to one of the highest rooms; I
followed him without a murmur. The archers accompanied us to the
door, and the governor, entering the room, made a sign for them
to depart. `I am your prisoner, I suppose?' said I; `well, what
do you intend to do with me?' He said, he was delighted to see
me adopt so reasonable a tone; that it would be his duty to
endeavour to inspire me with a taste for virtue and religion, and
mine to profit by his exhortations and advice: that lightly as I
might be disposed to rate his attentions to me, I should find
nothing but enjoyment in my solitude. `Ah, enjoyment, indeed!'
replied I; "you do not know, my good sir, the only thing on
earth that could afford me enjoyment.' `I know it,' said he,
`but I trust your inclinations will change.' His answer showed
that he had heard of my adventures, and perhaps of my name. I
begged to know if such were the fact. He told me candidly that
they had informed him of every particular.
"This blow was the severest of any I had yet experienced. I
literally shed a torrent of tears, in all the bitterness of
unmixed despair; I could not reconcile myself to the humiliation
which would make me a proverb to all my acquaintances, and the
disgrace of my family. I passed a week in the most profound
dejection, without being capable of gaining any information, or
of occupying myself with anything but my own degradation. The
remembrance even of Manon added nothing to my grief; it only
occurred to me as a circumstance that had preceded my new sorrow;
and the sense of shame and confusion was at present the
all-absorbing passion.
"There are few persons who have experienced the force of these
special workings of the mind. The generality of men are only
sensible of five or six passions, in the limited round of which
they pass their lives, and within which all their agitations are
confined. Remove them from the influence of love and hate,
pleasure and pain, hope and fear, and they have no further
feeling. But persons of a finer cast can be affected in a
thousand different ways; it would almost seem that they had more
than five senses, and that they are accessible to ideas and
sensations which far exceed the ordinary faculties of human
nature; and, conscious that they possess a capacity which raises
them above the common herd, there is nothing of which they are
more jealous. Hence springs their impatience under contempt and
ridicule; and hence it is that a sense of debasement is perhaps
the most violent of all their emotions.
"I had this melancholy advantage at St. Lazare. My grief
appeared to the governor so excessive, that, dreading the
consequences, he thought he was bound to treat me with more
mildness and indulgence. He visited me two or three times a day;
he often made me take a turn with him in the garden, and showed
his interest for me in his exhortations and good advice. I
listened always attentively; and warmly expressed my sense of his
kindness, from which he derived hopes of my ultimate conversion.
"`You appear to me,' said he one day, `of a disposition so mild
and tractable, that I cannot comprehend the excesses into which
you have fallen. Two things astonish me: one is, how, with your
good qualities, you could have ever abandoned yourself to vice;
and the other, which amazes me still more, is, how you can
receive with such perfect temper my advice and instructions,
after having lived so long in a course of debauchery. If it be
sincere repentance, you present a singular example of the benign
mercy of Heaven; if it proceed from the natural goodness of your
disposition, then you certainly have that within you which
warrants the hope that a protracted residence in this place will
not be required to bring you back to a regular and respectable
"I was delighted to find that he had such an opinion of me. I
resolved to strengthen it by a continuance of good conduct,
convinced that it was the surest means of abridging the term of
my confinement. I begged of him to furnish me with books. He
was agreeably surprised to find that when he requested me to say
what I should prefer, I mentioned only some religious and
instructive works. I pretended to devote myself assiduously to
study, and I thus gave him convincing proof of the moral
reformation he was so anxious to bring about. It was nothing,
however, but rank hypocrisy--I blush to confess it. Instead of
studying, when alone I did nothing but curse my destiny. I
lavished the bitterest execrations on my prison, and the tyrants
who detained me there. If I ceased for a moment from these
lamentations, it was only to relapse into the tormenting
remembrance of my fatal and unhappy love. Manon's absence--the
mystery in which her fate was veiled--the dread of never again
beholding her; these formed the subject of my melancholy
thoughts. I fancied her in the arms of G---- M----. Far from
imagining that he could have been brute enough to subject her to
the same treatment to which I was condemned, I felt persuaded
that he had only procured my removal, in order that he might
possess her in undisturbed enjoyment.
"Oh! how miserable were the days and nights I thus passed! They
seemed to be of endless duration. My only hope of escape now,
was in hypocrisy; I scrutinised the countenance, and carefully
marked every observation that fell from the governor, in order to
ascertain what he really thought of me; and looking on him as the
sole arbiter of my future fate, I made it my study to win, if
possible, his favour. I soon had the satisfaction to find that I
was firmly established in his good graces, and no longer doubted
his disposition to befriend me.
"I, one day, ventured to ask him whether my liberation depended
on him. He replied that it was not altogether in his hands, but
that he had no doubt that on his representation M. G---- M----,
at whose instance the lieutenant-general of police had ordered me
to be confined, would consent to my being set at liberty. `May I
flatter myself,' rejoined I, in the mildest tone, `that he will
consider two months, which I have now spent in this prison, as a
sufficient atonement?' He offered to speak to him, if I wished
it. I implored him without delay to do me that favour.
"He told me two days afterwards that G---- M---- was so sensibly
affected by what he had heard, that he not only was ready to
consent to my liberation, but that he had even expressed a strong
desire to become better acquainted with me, and that he himself
purposed to pay me a visit in prison. Although his presence
could not afford me much pleasure, I looked upon it as a certain
prelude to my liberation.
"He accordingly came to St. Lazare. I met him with an air more
grave and certainly less silly than I had exhibited at his house
with Manon. He spoke reasonably enough of my former bad conduct.
He added, as if to excuse his own delinquencies, that it was
graciously permitted to the weakness of man to indulge in certain
pleasures, almost, indeed, prompted by nature, but that
dishonesty and such shameful practices ought to be, and always
would be, inexorably punished.
"I listened to all he said with an air of submission, which
quite charmed him. I betrayed no symptoms of annoyance even at
some jokes in which he indulged about my relationship with Manon
and Lescaut, and about the little chapels of which he supposed I
must have had time to erect a great many in St. Lazare, as I was
so fond of that occupation. But he happened, unluckily both for
me and for himself, to add, that he hoped Manon had also employed
herself in the same edifying manner at the Magdalen.
Notwithstanding the thrill of horror I felt at the sound of the
name, I had still presence of mind enough to beg, in the gentlest
manner, that he would explain himself. `Oh! yes,' he replied,
`she has been these last two months at the Magdalen learning to
be prudent, and I trust she has improved herself as much there,
as you have done at St. Lazare!'
"If an eternal imprisonment, or death itself, had been presented
to my view, I could not have restrained the excitement into which
this afflicting announcement threw me. I flung myself upon him
in so violent a rage that half my strength was exhausted by the
effort. I had, however, more than enough left to drag him to the
ground, and grasp him by the throat. I should infallibly have
strangled him, if his fall, and the half-stifled cries which he
had still the power to utter, had not attracted the governor and
several of the priests to my room. They rescued him from my
"I was, myself, breathless and almost impotent from rage. `Oh
God!' I cried--`Heavenly justice! Must I survive this infamy?'
I tried again to seize the barbarian who had thus roused my
indignation--they prevented me. My despair--my cries--my tears,
exceeded all belief: I raved in so incoherent a manner that all
the bystanders, who were ignorant of the cause, looked at each
other with as much dread as surprise.
"G---- M---- in the meantime adjusted his wig and cravat, and in
his anger at having been so ill-treated, ordered me to be kept
under more severe restraint than before, and to be punished in
the manner usual with offenders in St. Lazare. `No, sir!' said
the governor, `it is not with a person of his birth that we are
in the habit of using such means of coercion; besides, he is
habitually so mild and well-conducted, that I cannot but think
you must have given provocation for such excessive violence.'
This reply disconcerted G---- M---- beyond measure and he went
away, declaring that he knew how to be revenged on the governor,
as well as on me, and everyone else who dared to thwart him.
"The Superior, having ordered some of the brotherhood to escort
him out of the prison, remained alone with me. He conjured me to
tell him at once what was the cause of the fracas.--`Oh, my good
sir!' said I to him, continuing to cry like a child, `imagine the
most horrible cruelty, figure to yourself the most inhuman of
atrocities--that is what G---- M---- has had the cowardly
baseness to perpetrate: he has pierced my heart. Never shall I
recover from this blow! I would gladly tell you the whole
circumstance,' added I, sobbing with grief; `you are
kind-hearted, and cannot fail to pity me.'
"I gave him, as briefly as I could, a history of my
long-standing and insurmountable passion for Manon, of the
flourishing condition of our fortunes previous to the robbery
committed by our servants, of the offers which G---- M---- had
made to my mistress, of the understanding they had come to, and
the manner in which it had been defeated. To be sure, I
represented things to him in as favourable a light for us as
possible. `Now you can comprehend,' continued I, `the source of
M. G---- M----'s holy zeal for my conversion. He has had
influence enough to have me shut up here, out of mere revenge.
That I can pardon; but, my good sir, that is not all. He has
taken from me my heart's blood: he has had Manon shamefully
incarcerated in the Magdalen; and had the effrontery to announce
it to me this day with his own lips. In the Magdalen, good sir!
Oh heavens! my adorable mistress, my beloved Manon, a degraded
inmate of the Hospital! How shall I command strength of mind
enough to survive this grief and shame!'
"The good Father, seeing me in such affliction, endeavoured to
console me. He told me that he had never understood my history,
as I just now related it; he had of course known that I led a
dissolute life, but he had imagined that M. G---- M----'s
interest about me was the result of his esteem and friendship for
my family; that it was in this sense he had explained the matter
to him; that what I had now told him should assuredly produce a
change in my treatment, and that he had no doubt but the accurate
detail which he should immediately transmit to the
lieutenant-general of police would bring about my liberation.
"He then enquired why I had never thought of informing my family
of what had taken place, since they had not been instrumental to
my incarceration. I satisfactorily answered this by stating my
unwillingness to cause my father pain, or to bring upon myself
the humiliation of such an exposure. In the end, he promised to
go directly to the lieutenant-general of police if it were only,
said he, to be beforehand with M. G---- M----, who went off in
such a rage, and who had sufficient influence to make himself
"I looked for the good Father's return with all the suspense of
a man expecting sentence of death. It was torture to me to think
of Manon at the Magdalen. Besides the infamy of such a prison, I
knew not how she might be treated there; and the recollection of
some particulars I had formerly heard of this horrible place,
incessantly renewed my misery. Cost what it might, I was so bent
upon relieving her by some means or other, that I should
assuredly have set fire to St. Lazare, if no other mode of escape
had presented itself.
"I considered what chances would remain to me if the lieutenantgeneral
still kept me in confinement. I taxed my ingenuity: I
scanned every imaginable gleam of hope--I could discover nothing
that gave me any prospect of escape, and I feared that I should
experience only more rigid confinement, if I made an unsuccessful
attempt. I thought of some friends from whom I might hope for
aid, but then, how was I to make them aware of my situation? At
length I fancied that I had hit upon a plan so ingenious, as to
offer a fair probability of success. I postponed the details of
its arrangement until after the Superior's return, in case of his
having failed in the object of his visit.
"He soon arrived: I did not observe upon his countenance any of
those marks of joy that indicate good news. `I have spoken,'
said he, `to the lieutenant-general of police, but I was too
late, M. G---- M---- went straight to him after quitting us, and
so prejudiced him against you, that he was on the point of
sending me fresh instructions to subject you to closer
"`However, when I let him know the truth of your story, he
reconsidered the matter, and, smiling at the incontinence of old
G---- M----, he said it would be necessary to keep you here for
six months longer, in order to pacify him; the less to be
lamented,' he added, `because your morals would be sure to
benefit by your residence here. He desired that I would show you
every kindness and attention, and I need not assure you that you
shall have no reason to complain of your treatment.'
"This speech of the Superior's was long enough to afford me time
to form a prudent resolution. I saw that by betraying too strong
an impatience for my liberty, I should probably be upsetting all
my projects. I acknowledged to him, that, as it was necessary to
me to remain, it was an infinite comfort to know that I possessed
a place in his esteem. I then requested, and with unaffected
sincerity, a favour, which could be of no consequence to others,
and which would contribute much to my peace of mind; it was to
inform a friend of mine, a devout clergyman, who lived at St.
Sulpice, that I was at St. Lazare, and to permit me occasionally
to receive his visits.
"This was of course my friend Tiberge; not that I could hope
from him the assistance necessary for effecting my liberty; but I
wished to make him the unconscious instrument of my designs. In
a word, this was my project: I wished to write to Lescaut, and to
charge him and our common friends with the task of my
deliverance. The first difficulty was to have my letter conveyed
to him: this should be Tiberge's office. However, as he knew him
to be Manon's brother, I doubted whether he would take charge of
this commission. My plan was to enclose my letter to Lescaut in
another to some respectable man of my acquaintance, begging of
him to transmit the first to its address without delay; and as it
was necessary that I should have personal communication with
Lescaut, in order to arrange our proceedings, I told him to call
on me at St. Lazare, and assume the name of my eldest brother, as
if he had come to Paris expressly to see me. I postponed till
our meeting all mention of the safest and most expeditious course
I intended to suggest for our future conduct. The governor
informed Tiberge of my wish to see him. This ever-faithful
friend had not so entirely lost sight of me as to be ignorant of
my present abode, and it is probable that, in his heart, he did
not regret the circumstance, from an idea that it might furnish
the means of my moral regeneration. He lost no time in paying me
the desired visit.
It is a strange thing to note the excess of this passion;
and how it braves the nature and value of things, by this--
that the speaking in a perpetual hyperbole is comely in nothing
but in love.--BACON.
"My interview with Tiberge was of the most friendly description.
I saw that his object was to discover the present temper of my
mind. I opened my heart to him without any reserve, except as to
the mere point of my intention of escaping. `It is not from such
a friend as you,' said I, `that I can ever wish to dissemble my
real feelings. If you flattered yourself with a hope that you
were at last about to find me grown prudent and regular in my
conduct, a libertine reclaimed by the chastisements of fortune,
released alike from the trammels of love, and the dominion that
Manon wields over me, I must in candour say, that you deceive
yourself. You still behold me, as you left me four months ago,
the slave--if you will, the unhappy slave--of a passion, from
which I now hope, as fervently and as confidently as I ever did,
to derive eventually solid comfort.'
"He answered, that such an acknowledgment rendered me utterly
inexcusable; that it was no uncommon case to meet sinners who
allowed themselves to be so dazzled with the glare of vice as to
prefer it openly to the true splendour of virtue; they were at
least deluded by the false image of happiness, the poor dupes of
an empty shadow; but the know and feel as I did, that the object
of my attachment was only calculated to render me culpable and
unhappy, and to continue thus voluntarily in a career of misery
and crime, involved a contradiction of ideas and of conduct
little creditable to my reason.
"`Tiberge,' replied I, `it is easy to triumph when your
arguments are unopposed. Allow me to reason for a few moments in
my turn. Can you pretend that what you call the happiness of
virtue is exempt from troubles, and crosses, and cares? By what
name will you designate the dungeon, the rack, the inflections
and tortures of tyrants? Will you say with the Mystics[1] that
the soul derives pleasure from the torments of the body? You are
not bold enough to hold such a doctrine--a paradox not to be
maintained. This happiness, then, that you prize so much, has a
thousand drawbacks, or is, more properly speaking, but a tissue
of sufferings through which one hopes to attain felicity. If by
the power of imagination one can even derive pleasure from these
sufferings, hoping that they may lead to a happy end, why, let me
ask, do you deem my conduct senseless, when it is directed by
precisely the same principle? I love Manon: I wade through
sorrow and suffering in order to attain happiness with her. My
path is one indeed of difficulties, but the mere hope of reaching
the desired goal makes it easy and delightful; and I shall think
myself but too bountifully repaid by one moment of her society,
for all the troubles I encounter in my course. There appears
therefore no difference between us, or, if there be any, it is
assuredly in my favour; for the bliss I hope for is near and
tangible, yours is far distant, and purely speculative. Mine is
of the same kind as my sufferings, that is to say, evident to my
senses; yours is of an incomprehensible nature, and only
discernible through the dim medium of faith.'
[1] A favourite tenet of the Mystics, advocated by Madame de
Guyon, and adopted by the amiable and eloquent Fenelon, was, that
the love of the Supreme Being must be pure and disinterested;
that is, exempt from all views of interest, and all hope of
reward. See the controversy between Bossuet and Fenelon.
"Tiberge appeared shocked by my remarks. He retired two or
three paces from me, while he said, in the most serious tone,
that my argument was not only a violation of good sense, but that
it was the miserable sophistry of irreligion; `for the
comparison,' he added, `of the pitiful reward of your sufferings
with that held out to us by the divine revelation, is the essence
of impiety and absurdity combined.'
"`I acknowledge,' said I, `that the comparison is not a just
one, but my argument does not at all depend upon it. I was about
to explain what you consider a contradiction--the persevering in
a painful pursuit; and I think I have satisfactorily proved, that
if there be any contradiction in that, we shall be both equally
obnoxious to the charge. It was in this light, only, that I
could observe no difference in our cases, and I cannot as yet
perceive any.
"`You may probably answer, that the proposed end, the promised
reward, of virtue, is infinitely superior to that of love? No
one disputes it, but that is not the question--we are only
discussing the relative aid they both afford in the endurance of
affliction. Judge of that by the practical effect: are there not
multitudes who abandon a life of strict virtue? how few give up
the pursuits of love!
"`Again, you will reply that if there be difficulties in the
exercise of virtue, they are by no means universal and sure; that
the good man does not necessarily meet tyrants and tortures, and
that, on the contrary, a life of virtue is perfectly compatible
with repose and enjoyment. I can say with equal truth, that love
is often accompanied by content and happiness; and what makes
another distinction of infinite advantage to my argument, I may
add that love, though it often deludes, never holds out other
than hopes of bliss and joy, whilst religion exacts from her
votaries mortification and sorrow.
"`Do not be alarmed,' said I, perceiving that I had almost
offended his zealous feelings of devotion. `I only wish to say,
that there is no more unsuccessful method of weaning man's heart
from love, than by endeavouring to decry its enjoyments, and by
promising him more pleasure from the exercise of virtue. It is
an inherent principle in our nature, that our felicity consists
only in pleasure. I defy you to conceive any other notion of it;
and it requires little time to arrive at the conviction, that, of
all pleasures, those of love are immeasurably the most
enchanting. A man quickly discerns the delusion, when he hears
the promise made of livelier enjoyment, and the effect of such
misrepresentation is only to make him doubt the truth of a more
solid promise.
"`Let the preacher who seeks the reformation of a sinner tell
me that virtue is indispensably necessary, but not disguise its
difficulty and its attendant denials. Say that the enjoyments of
love are fleeting, if you will, that they are rigidly forbidden,
that they lead with certainty to eternal suffering; and, what
would assuredly make a deeper impression upon me than any other
argument, say that the more sweet and delectable they are, the
brighter will be the reward of Heaven for giving them up in
sacrifice; but do in the name of justice admit, that, constituted
as the heart of man is, they form here, on earth, our most
perfect happiness.'
"My last sentence restored to Tiberge his good humour. He
allowed that my ideas were not altogether so unreasonable. The
only point he made, was in asking me why I did not carry my own
principle into operation, by sacrificing my passion to the hope
of that remuneration of which I had drawn so brilliant a picture.
`Oh! my dear friend,' replied I; `that it is which makes me
conscious of my own misery and weakness: true, alas! it is indeed
my duty to act according to my argument; but have I the power of
governing my own actions? What aid will enable me to forget
Manon's charms?' 'God forgive me,' said Tiberge, `I can almost
fancy you a Jansenist[1]. `I know not of what sect I am,'
replied I, `nor do I indeed very clearly see to which I ought to
belong; but I cannot help feeling the truth of this at least of
their tenets.'
[1] The first proposition of the Jansenists was, that there are
divine precepts which good men, notwithstanding their desire to
observe them, are nevertheless absolutely unable to obey: God not
having given them such a measure of grace as is essentially
necessary to render them capable of obedience.--Mosheim's Eccles.
Hist., ii. 397.
"One effect of our conversation was to revive my friend's pity
for me in all its force. He perceived that there was in my
errors more of weakness than of vice; and he was the more
disposed in the end to give me assistance; without which I should
infallibly have perished from distress of mind. However, I
carefully concealed from him my intention of escaping from St.
Lazare. I merely begged of him to take charge of my letter; I
had it ready before he came, and I soon found an excuse for the
necessity of writing. He faithfully transmitted it, and Lescaut
received before evening the one I had enclosed for him.
"He came to see me next morning, and fortunately was admitted
under my brother's name. I was overjoyed at finding him in my
room. I carefully closed the door. `Let us lose no time,' I
said. `First tell me about Manon, and then advise me how I am to
shake off these fetters.' He assured me that he had not seen his
sister since the day before my arrest, and that it was only by
repeated enquiries, and after much trouble, that he had at length
been able to discover her fate as well as mine; and that he had
two or three times presented himself at the Magdalen, and been
refused admittance. `Wretch!' muttered I to myself, `dearly
shall G---- M---- pay for this!'
`As to your escape,' continued Lescaut, `it will not be so easy
as you imagine. Last evening, I and a couple of friends walked
round this establishment to reconnoitre it; and we agreed that,
as your windows looked into a court surrounded by buildings, as
you yourself mentioned in your letter, there would be vast
difficulty in getting you out. Besides, you are on the third
story, and it would be impossible to introduce ropes or ladders
through the window. I therefore see no means from without--in
the house itself we must hit upon some scheme.'
"`No,' replied I; `I have examined everything minutely,
particularly since, through the governor's indulgence, my
confinement has been less rigorous. I am no longer locked into
my room; I have liberty to walk in the gallery; but there is,
upon every landing, a strong door kept closed night and day, so
that it is impossible that ingenuity alone, unaided by some
violent efforts, can rescue me.
"`Wait,' said I, after turning in my mind for a moment an idea
that struck me as excellent; `could you bring me a pistol?'
`Softly,' said Lescaut to me, `you don't think of committing
murder?' I assured him that I had so little intention of
shooting anyone, that it would not be even necessary to have the
pistol loaded. `Bring it to me tomorrow,' I added, `and do not
fail to be exactly opposite the great entrance with two or three
of your friends at eleven tomorrow night; I think I shall be able
to join you there.' He in vain requested me to explain my plan.
I told him that such an attempt as I contemplated could only
appear rational after it had succeeded. I begged of him to
shorten his visit, in order that he might with the less
difficulty be admitted next morning. He was accordingly admitted
as readily as on his first visit. He had put on so serious an
air, moreover, that a stranger would have taken him for a
respectable person.
"When I found in my hand the instrument of my liberty, I no
longer doubted my success. It was certainly a strange and a bold
project; but of what was I not capable, with the motives that
inspired me? I had, since I was allowed permission to walk in
the galleries, found opportunities of observing that every night
the porter brought the keys of all the doors to the governor, and
subsequently there always reigned a profound silence in the
house, which showed that the inmates had retired to rest. There
was an open communication between my room and that of the
Superior. My resolution was, if he refused quietly to surrender
the keys, to force him, by fear of the pistol, to deliver them
up, and then by their help to gain the street. I impatiently
awaited the moment for executing my purpose. The porter arrived
at his usual time, that is to say, soon after nine o'clock. I
allowed an hour to elapse, in order that the priests as well as
the servants might be all asleep. I at length proceeded with my
pistol and a lighted candle. I first gave a gentle tap at the
governor's door to awaken without alarming him. I knocked a
second time before he heard me; and supposing of course that it
was one of the priests who was taken ill and wanted assistance,
he got out of bed, dressed himself, and came to the door. He
had, however, the precaution to ask first who it was, and what
was wanted? I was obliged to mention my name, but I assumed a
plaintive tone, to make him believe that I was indisposed. `Ah!
it is you, my dear boy,' said he on opening the door; `what can
bring you here at this hour?' I stepped inside the door, and
leading him to the opposite side of the room, I declared to him
that it was absolutely impossible for me to remain longer at St.
Lazare; that the night was the most favourable time for going out
unobserved, and that I confidently expected, from his tried
friendship, that he would consent to open the gates for me, or
entrust me with the keys to let myself out.
"This compliment to his friendship seemed to surprise him. He
stood for a few moments looking at me without making any reply.
Finding that I had no time to lose, I just begged to assure him
that I had the most lively sense of all his kindnesses, but that
freedom was dearer to man than every other consideration,
especially so to me, who had been cruelly and unjustly deprived
of it; that I was resolved this night to recover it, cost what it
would, and fearing lest he might raise his voice and call for
assistance, I let him see the powerful incentive to silence which
I had kept concealed in my bosom. `A pistol!' cried he. `What!
my son? will you take away my life in return for the attentions I
have shown you?' `God forbid,' replied I; `you are too
reasonable to drive me to that horrible extremity: but I am
determined to be free, and so firmly determined, that if you
defeat my project, I will put an end to your existence.' `But,
my dear son!' said he, pale and frightened, `what have I done to
you? What reason have you for taking my life?' `No!' replied I,
impatiently, `I have no design upon your life, if you, yourself,
wish to live; open but the doors for me, and you will find me the
most attached of friends.' I perceived the keys upon the table.
I requested he would take them in his hand and walk before me,
making as little noise as he possibly could.
"He saw the necessity of consenting. We proceeded, and as he
opened each door, he repeated, always with a sigh, `Ah! my son,
who could have believed it?' `No noise, good Father, no noise,'
I as often answered in my turn. At length we reached a kind of
barrier, just inside the great entrance. I already fancied
myself free, and kept close behind the governor, with my candle
in one hand, and my pistol in the other.
"While he was endeavouring to open the heavy gate, one of the
servants, who slept in an adjoining room, hearing the noise of
the bolts, jumped out of bed, and peeped forth to see what was
passing. The good Father apparently thought him strong enough to
overpower me. He commanded him, most imprudently, to come to his
assistance. He was a powerful ruffian, and threw himself upon me
without an instant's hesitation. There was no time for
parleying--I levelled my pistol and lodged the contents in his
breast! `See, Father, of what mischief you have been the cause,'
said I to my guide; `but that must not prevent us from finishing
our work,' I added, pushing him on towards the last door. He did
not dare refuse to open it. I made my exit in perfect safety,
and, a few paces off, found Lescaut with two friends waiting for
me, according to his promise.
"We removed at once to a distance. Lescaut enquired whether he
had not heard the report of a pistol? `You are to blame,' said
I, `why did you bring it charged?' I, however, could not help
thanking him for having taken this precaution, without which I
doubtless must have continued much longer at St. Lazare. We went
to pass the night at a tavern, where I made up, in some degree,
for the miserable fare which had been doled out to me for nearly
three months. I was very far, however, from tasting perfect
enjoyment; Manon's sufferings were mine. `She must be released,'
said I to my companions: `this was my sole object in desiring my
own liberty. I rely on your aiding me with all your ingenuity;
as for myself, my life shall be devoted to the purpose.'
"Lescaut, who was not deficient in tact, and still less in that
better part of valour called discretion, dwelt upon the necessity
of acting with extreme caution: he said that my escape from St.
Lazare, and the accident that happened on my leaving it, would
assuredly create a sensation; that the lieutenant-general of
police would cause a strict search to be made for me, and it
would be difficult to evade him; in fine, that, unless disposed
to encounter something worse, perhaps, than St. Lazare, it would
be requisite for me to remain concealed for a few days, in order
to give the enemy's zeal time to cool. No doubt this was wise
counsel; but, one should have been wise oneself to have followed
it. Such calculating slowness little suited my passion. The
utmost I could bring myself to promise was, that I would sleep
through the whole of the next day. He locked me in my bedroom,
where I remained patiently until night.
"I employed great part of the time in devising schemes for
relieving Manon. I felt persuaded that her prison was even more
inaccessible than mine had been. Force was out of the question.
Artifice was the only resource; but the goddess of invention
herself could not have told me how to begin. I felt the
impossibility of working in the dark, and therefore postponed the
further consideration of my schemes until I could acquire some
knowledge of the internal arrangements of the Hospital, in which
she was confined.
"As soon as night restored to me my liberty, I begged of Lescaut
to accompany me. We were not long in drawing one of the porters
into conversation; he appeared a reasonable man. I passed for a
stranger who had often with admiration heard talk of the
Hospital, and of the order that reigned within it. I enquired
into the most minute details; and, proceeding from one subject to
another, we at length spoke of the managers, and of these I
begged to know the names and the respective characters. He gave
me such information upon the latter point as at once suggested an
idea which flattered my hopes, and I immediately set about
carrying it into execution.
I asked him (this being a matter essential to my plan) whether
any of the gentlemen had children. He said he could not answer
me with certainty as to all, but as for M. de T----, one of the
principal directors, he knew that he had a son old enough to be
married, and who had come several times to the Hospital with his
father. This was enough for my purpose.
"I immediately put an end to our interview, and, in returning, I
told Lescaut of the plan I had formed. `I have taken it,' said
I, `into my head, that M. de T----, the son, who is rich and of
good family, must have the same taste for pleasure that other
young men of his age generally have. He could hardly be so bad a
friend to the fair sex, nor so absurd as to refuse his services
in an affair of love. I have arranged a plan for interesting him
in favour of Manon. If he is a man of feeling and of right mind,
he will give us his assistance from generosity. If he is not to
be touched by a motive of this kind, he will at least do
something for a handsome girl, if it were only with the hope of
hereafter sharing her favours. I will not defer seeing him,'
added I, `beyond tomorrow. I really feel so elated by this
project, that I derive from it a good omen.'
"Lescaut himself allowed that the idea was not unreasonable, and
that we might fairly entertain a hope of turning it to account.
I passed the night less sorrowfully.
Next morning I dressed as well as, in my present state of
indigence, I could possibly contrive to do; and went in a hackney
coach to the residence of M. de T----. He was surprised at
receiving a visit from a perfect stranger. I augured favourably
from his countenance and the civility of his manner. I explained
my object in the most candid way; and, to excite his feelings as
much as possible, I spoke of my ardent passion and of Manon's
merit, as of two things that were unequalled, except by each
other. He told me, that although he had never seen Manon, he had
heard of her; at least, if the person I was talking of was the
same who had been the mistress of old G---- M----. I conjectured
that he must have heard of the part I had acted in that
transaction, and in order to conciliate him more and more by
treating him with confidence, I told him everything that had
occurred to Manon and myself. `You see, sir,' said I, `that all
that can interest me in life, all that can command my affections,
is in your hands. I have no reserve with you, because I have
been informed of your generous and noble character; and, being of
the same age, I trust I shall find some resemblance in our
"He seemed flattered by this mark of candour and confidence. He
replied in a manner that became a man of the world, and a man of
feeling also, for they are not always synonymous terms. He told
me that he appreciated my visit as a piece of good fortune; that
he considered my friendship as a valuable acquisition, and that
he would endeavour to prove himself worthy of it, by the
sincerity of his services. He could not absolutely promise to
restore Manon to my arms, because, as he said, he himself had
very little influence; but he offered to procure me the pleasure
of seeing her, and to do everything in his power to effect her
release. I was the more satisfied with this frank avowal as to
his want of influence, than I should have been by an unqualified
promise of fulfilling all my wishes. I found in his moderation a
pledge of his sincerity: in a word, I no longer doubted my entire
success. The promise alone of enabling me to see Manon filled me
with gratitude, and I testified it in so earnest a manner, as to
give him a favourable opinion of my heart and disposition; we
shook hands warmly, and parted sworn friends, merely from mutual
regard, and that natural feeling which prompts a man of kind and
generous sentiments to esteem another of congenial mind.
"He, indeed, exceeded me in the proofs of his esteem; for,
inferring from my adventures, and especially my late escape from
St. Lazare, that I might be in want of money, he offered me his
purse, and pressed me to accept it. I refused, but said to him,
`You are too kind, my dear sir! If in addition to such proofs of
kindness and friendship, you enable me to see Manon again, rely
on my eternal regard and gratitude. If you succeed in restoring
altogether this dear creature to my arms, I should think myself
happy in spilling the last drop of my blood in your service.'
"Before we parted, we agreed as to the time and place for our
meeting. He was so considerate as to appoint the afternoon of
the same day.
"I waited for him at a cafe, where he joined me about four
o'clock, and we went together towards the Magdalen; my knees
trembled under me as I crossed the courts. `Ye heavenly powers!'
said I, `then I shall once more behold the idol of my heart--the
dear object of so many sighs and lamentations! All I now ask of
Providence is, to vouchsafe me strength enough to reach her
presence, and after that, to dispose as it pleaseth of my future
fate, and of my life itself. Beyond this, I have no prayer to
"M. de T---- spoke to some of the porters of the establishment,
who appeared all anxious to please him. The quarter in which
Manon's room lay was pointed out to us, and our guide carried in
his hand the key of her chamber: it was of frightful size. I
asked the man who conducted us, and whose duty it was to attend
to Manon, how she passed her time? He said, that she had a
temper of the most angelic sweetness; that even he, disagreeable
as his official duties must render him, had never heard from her
a single syllable in the nature of rebuke or harshness; that her
tears had never ceased to flow during the first six weeks after
her arrival, but that latterly she seemed to bear her misfortunes
with more resignation, and that she employed herself from morning
till night with her needle, excepting some hours that she, each
day, devoted to reading. I asked whether she had been decently
provided for. He assured me that at least she had never felt the
want of necessaries.
"We now approached her door. My heart. beat almost audibly in
my bosom. I said to M. de T----, `Go in alone, and prepare her
for my visit; I fear that she may be overcome by seeing me
unexpectedly.' The door was opened. I remained in the passage,
and listened to the conversation. He said that he came to bring
her consolation; that he was a friend of mine, and felt deeply
interested for the happiness of us both. She asked with the
tenderest anxiety, whether he could tell her what had become of
me. He promised that she should soon see me at her feet, as
affectionate and as faithful as ever. `When?' she asked. `This
very day,' said he; `the happy moment shall not be long delayed;
nay, this very instant even, if you wish it.' She at once
understood that I was at the door; as she was rushing towards it,
I entered. We embraced each other with that abounding and
impassioned tenderness, which an absence of many months makes so
delicious to those who truly love. Our sighs, our broken
exclamations, the thousand endearing appellations of love,
exchanged in languishing rapture, astonished M. de T----, and
affected him even to tears.
"`I cannot help envying you,' said he, as he begged us to be
seated; `there is no lot, however glorious, that I would hold as
comparable to the possession of a mistress at once so tender and
impassioned.' `Nor would I,' I replied, `give up her love for
universal empire!'
"The remainder of an interview which had been so long and so
ardently desired by me, was of course as tender as the
commencement. Poor Manon related all her adventures, and I told
her mine: we bitterly wept over each other's story. M. de T----
consoled us by his renewed promises to exert himself in our
service. He advised us not to make this, our first interview, of
too long duration, that he might have the less difficulty in
procuring us the same enjoyment again. He at length induced us
to follow his advice. Manon especially could not reconcile
herself to the separation: she made me a hundred times resume my
seat. At one time she held me by my hands, at another by my
coat. `Alas!' she said, `in what an abode do you leave me! Who
will answer for my ever seeing you again?' M. de T---- promised
her that he would often come and see her with me. `As to the
abode,' he said, 'it must no longer be called the Magdalen; it is
Versailles! now that it contains a person who deserves the empire
of all hearts.'
"I made the man who attended a present as I went out, in order
to quicken his zeal and attentions. This fellow had a mind less
rough and vulgar than the generality of his class. He had
witnessed our interview, and was affected by it. The interest he
felt was doubtless increased by the louis d'or I gave him. He
took me aside as we went down into the courtyard. `Sir,' said
he, `if you will only take me into your service, or indemnify me
in any way for the loss of the situation which I fill here, I
think I should not have much difficulty in liberating the
beauteous Manon.'
"I caught readily at the suggestion, and, although at the moment
I was almost in a state of destitution, I gave him promises far
beyond his desires. I considered that it would be at all times
easy to recompense a man of his description. `Be assured, my
friend,' said I to him, `that there is nothing I will not be
ready to do for you, and that your fortune is just as certain as
my own.' I enquired what means he intended to employ. `None
other,' said he, `than merely to open the door of her cell for
her at night, and to conduct her to the street door, where you,
of course, will be to receive her.' I asked whether there was no
danger of her being recognised as she traversed the long
galleries and the courts. He admitted that there was danger, but
that nothing could be done without some slight risk.
"Although I was delighted to find him so determined, I called M.
de T----, and informed him of the project, and of the only
difficulty in the way. He thought it not so easy of execution.
He allowed the possibility of escaping thus: `But if she be
recognised,' continued he, `if she be stopped in the attempt, all
hope will be over with her, perhaps for ever. Besides, you would
be obliged to quit Paris instantly, for you could never evade the
search that would be made for you: they would redouble their
efforts as much on your own account as hers. A single man may
easily escape detection, but in company with a handsome woman, it
would be utterly impossible to remain undiscovered.'
"However sound this reasoning, it could not, in my mind,
outweigh the immediate prospect of restoring Manon to liberty. I
said as much to M. de T----, and trusted that he would excuse my
imprudence and rashness, on the ground of love. I added that it
was already my intention to quit Paris for some neighbouring
village, as I had once before done. We then settled with the
servant that he should carry his project into execution the
following day, and to render our success as certain as he could,
we resolved to carry into the prison men's clothes, in order to
facilitate her escape.
There was a difficulty to be surmounted in carrying them in, but
I had ingenuity enough to meet it. I begged of M. de T---- only
to put on two light waistcoats the next morning, and I undertook
to arrange the rest.
We returned the following day to the Hospital. I took with me
linen, stockings, etc., for Manon, and over my body-coat a
surtout, which concealed the bulk I carried in my pockets. We
remained but a moment in her room. M. de T---- left her one of
his waistcoats; I gave her my short coat, the surtout being
sufficient for me. She found nothing wanting for her complete
equipment but a pair of pantaloons, which in my hurry I had
"The want of so necessary an article might have amused us, if
the embarrassment it caused had been of a less serious kind. I
was in despair at having our whole scheme foiled by a trifling
omission of this nature. However, I soon hit on a remedy, and
determined to make my own exit sans-culotte, leaving that portion
of my dress with Manon. My surtout was long, and I contrived by
the help of a few pins to put myself in a decent condition for
passing the gate.
"The remainder of the day appeared to me of endless length.
When at last night came, we went in a coach to within a few yards
of the Hospital. We were not long waiting, when we saw Manon
make her appearance with her guide. The door of the coach being
opened, they both stepped in without delay. I opened my arms to
receive my adored mistress; she trembled like an aspen leaf. The
coachman asked where he was to drive? `To the end of the world!'
I exclaimed; `to some place where I can never again be separated
from Manon.'
"This burst, which I could not control, was near bringing me
into fresh trouble. The coachman reflected upon what I said, and
when I afterwards told him the name of the street to which I
wished him to drive, he answered that he feared I was about to
implicate him in some bad business; that he saw plainly enough
that the good- looking young man whom I called Manon was a girl
eloping from the Hospital, and that he was little disposed indeed
to ruin himself for love of me.
"Extortion was the source of this scoundrel's delicacy. We were
still too near the Hospital to make any noise. `Silence!' said I
to him, `you shall have a louis d'or for the job': for less than
that he would have helped me to burn the Hospital.
"We arrived at Lescaut's house. As it was late, M. de T----
left us on the way, promising to visit us the next morning. The
servant alone remained.
"I held Manon in such close embrace in my arms, that we occupied
but one place in the coach. She cried for joy, and I could feel
her tears trickling down my cheeks.
"When we were about getting out at Lescaut's, I had a new
difficulty with the coachman, which was attended with the most
unfortunate results. I repented of having promised the fellow a
louis d'or, not only because it was extravagant folly, but for
another stronger reason, that it was at the moment out of my
power to pay him. I called for Lescaut, and he came down to the
door. I whispered to him the cause of my present embarrassment.
Being naturally rough, and not at all in the habit of treating
hackney-coachmen with respect, he answered that I could not be
serious. `A louis!' said he; `twenty blows of a cane would be
the right payment for that rascal!' I entreated him not to
destroy us; when he snatched my cane from my hand, and was about
to lay it on the coachman. The fellow had probably before
experienced the weight of a guardsman's arm, and instantly drove
off, crying out, that I had cheated him, and should hear of him
again. I in vain endeavoured to stop him.
"His flight caused me, of course, the greatest alarm. I had no
doubt that he would immediately give information to the police.
`You have ruined me,' said I to Lescaut; `I shall be no longer
safe at your house; we must go hence at once.' I gave Manon my
arm, and as quickly as possible got out of the dangerous
neighbourhood. Lescaut accompanied us."
The Chevalier des Grieux having occupied more than an hour with
his story, I begged him to give himself a little rest, and
meanwhile to share our supper. He saw, by the attention we paid
him, that we were amused, and promised that we should hear
something of perhaps greater interest in the sequel. When we had
finished supper, he continued in the following words.
. . . How chances mock,
And changes fill the cup of alteration
With divers liquors.
"How inscrutably does Providence connect events! We had hardly
proceeded for five minutes on our way, when a man, whose face I
could not see, recognised Lescaut. He had no doubt been watching
for him near his home, with the horrible intention which he now
unhappily executed. `It IS Lescaut!' said he, snapping a pistol
at his head; `he shall sup tonight with the angels!' He then
instantly disappeared. Lescaut fell, without the least sign of
life. I pressed Manon to fly, for we could be of no use to a
dead man, and I feared being arrested by the police, who would
certainly be soon upon the spot. I turned down the first narrow
street with her and the servant: she was so overpowered by the
scene she had just witnessed, that I could hardly support her.
At last, at the end of the street, I perceived a hackney-coach;
we got into it, but when the coachman asked whither he should
drive, I was scarcely able to answer him. I had no certain
asylum--no confidential friend to whom I could have recourse. I
was almost destitute of money, having but one dollar left in my
purse. Fright and fatigue had so unnerved Manon, that she was
almost fainting at my side. My imagination too was full of the
murder of Lescaut, and I was not without strong apprehensions of
the patrol. What was to be done? I luckily remembered the inn
at Chaillot, where we first went to reside in that village. I
hoped to be not only secure, but to continue there for some time
without being pressed for payment. `Take us to Chaillot,' said I
to the coachman. He refused to drive us so far at that late hour
for less than twelve francs. A new embarrassment! At last we
agreed for half that sum--all that my purse contained.
"I tried to console Manon as we went along, but despair was
rankling in my own heart. I should have destroyed myself a
thousand times over, if I had not felt that I held in my arms all
that could attach me to life: this reflection reconciled me. `I
possess her at least,' said I; `she loves me! she is mine!
Vainly does Tiberge call this a mere phantom of happiness.' I
could, without feeling interest or emotion, see the whole world
besides perish around me. Why? Because I have in it no object
of affection beyond her.
"This sentiment was true; however, while I so lightly esteemed
the good things of the world, I felt that there was no doing
without some little portion of them, were it only to inspire a
more thorough contempt for the remainder. Love is more powerful
than wealth--more attractive than grandeur or fame; but, alas! it
cannot exist without certain artificial aids; and there is
nothing more humiliating to the feelings, of a sensitive lover,
than to find himself, by want of means, reduced to the level of
the most vulgar minds.
"It was eleven o'clock when we arrived at Chaillot. They
received us at the inn as old acquaintances, and expressed no
sort of surprise at seeing Manon in male attire, for it was the
custom in Paris and the environs to adopt all disguises. I took
care to have her served with as much attention as if I had been
in prosperous circumstances. She was ignorant of my poverty, and
I carefully kept her so, being resolved to return alone the
following day to Paris, to seek some cure for this vexatious kind
of malady.
"At supper she appeared pale and thin; I had not observed this
at the Hospital, as the room in which I saw her was badly
lighted. I asked her if the excessive paleness were not caused
by the shock of witnessing her brother's death? She assured me
that, horrified as she naturally was at the event, her paleness
was purely the effect of a three months' absence from me. `You
do love me then devotedly?' I exclaimed.
"`A thousand times more than I can tell!' was her reply.
"`You will never leave me again?' I added.
"`No! never, never!' answered she.
"This assurance was confirmed by so many caresses and vows, that
it appeared impossible she could, to the end of time, forget
them. I have never doubted that she was at that moment sincere.
What motive could she have had for dissembling to such a degree?
But she became afterwards still more volatile than ever, or
rather she was no longer anything, and entirely forgot herself,
when, in poverty and want, she saw other women living in
abundance. I was now on the point of receiving a new proof of
her inconstancy, which threw all that had passed into the shade,
and which led to the strangest adventure that ever happened to a
man of my birth and prospects.
"As I knew her disposition, I hastened the next day to Paris.
The death of her brother, and the necessity of getting linen and
clothes for her, were such good reasons, that I had no occasion
for any further pretext. I left the inn, with the intention, as
I told Manon and the landlord, of going in a hired carriage, but
this was a mere flourish; necessity obliged me to travel on foot:
I walked very fast as far as Cours-la-Reine, where I intended to
rest. A moment of solitude and tranquillity was requisite to
compose myself, and to consider what was to be done in Paris.
"I sat down upon the grass. I plunged into a sea of thoughts
and considerations, which at length resolved themselves into
three principal heads. I had pressing want of an infinite number
of absolute necessaries; I had to seek some mode of at least
raising a hope for the future; and, though last, not least in
importance, I had to gain information, and adopt measures, to
secure Manon's safety and my own. After having exhausted myself
in devising projects upon these three chief points, I was obliged
to put out of view for the moment the two last. We were not ill
sheltered from observation in the inn at Chaillot; and as to
future wants, I thought it would be time enough to think about
them when those of the moment were satisfied.
"The main object now was to replenish my purse. M. de T---- had
once offered me his, but I had an extreme repugnance to mention
the subject to him again. What a degradation to expose one's
misery to a stranger, and to ask for charity: it must be either a
man of low mind who would thus demean himself, and that from a
baseness which must render him insensible to the degradation, or
a humble Christian, from a consciousness of generosity in
himself, which must put him above the sense of shame. I would
have sacrificed half my life to be spared the humiliation.
"`Tiberge,' said I, `kind Tiberge, will he refuse me what he
has it in his power to grant? No, he will assuredly sympathise
in my misery; but he will also torture me with his lectures! One
must endure his reproaches, his exhortations, his threats: I
shall have to purchase his assistance so dearly, that I would
rather make any sacrifice than encounter this distressing scene,
which cannot fail to leave me full of sorrow and remorse. Well,'
thought I again, `all hope must be relinquished, since no other
course presents itself: so far am I from adopting either of
these, that I would sooner shed half my blood than face one of
these evils, or the last drop rather than encounter both. Yes,
the very last drop,' I repeated after a moment's reflection, `I
would sacrifice willingly rather than submit to such base
"`But it is not in reality a question of my existence! Manon's
life and maintenance, her love and her fidelity, are at stake!
What consideration can outweigh that? In her are centred all my
glory, happiness, and future fortune! There are doubtless many
things that I would gladly give up my life to obtain, or to
avoid; but to estimate a thing merely beyond the value of my own
life, is not putting it on a par with that of Manon.' This idea
soon decided me: I went on my way, resolved to go first to
Tiberge, and afterwards to M. de T----.
"On entering Paris I took a hackney-coach, though I had not
wherewithal to pay for it; I calculated on the loan I was going
to solicit. I drove to the Luxembourg, whence I sent word to
Tiberge that I was waiting for him. I had not to stay many
minutes. I told him without hesitation the extremity of my
wants. He asked if the fifty pounds which I had returned to him
would suffice, and he at once went to fetch it with that generous
air, that pleasure in bestowing which `blesseth him that gives,
and him that takes,' and which can only be known to love or to
true friendship.
"Although I had never entertained a doubt of Tiberge's readiness
to grant my request, yet I was surprised at having obtained it on
such easy terms, that is to say, without a word of reprimand for
my impenitence; but I was premature in fancying myself safe from
his reproaches, for when he had counted out the money, and I was
on the point of going away, he begged of me to take a walk with
him in the garden. I had not mentioned Manon's name; he knew
nothing of her escape; so that his lecture was merely upon my own
rash flight from St. Lazare, and upon his apprehensions lest,
instead of profiting by the lessons of morality which I had
received there, I should again relapse into dissipation.
"He told me, that having gone to pay me a visit at St. Lazare,
the day after my escape, he had been astonished beyond expression
at hearing the mode in which I had effected it; that he had
afterwards a conversation with the Superior; that the good Father
had not quite recovered the shock; that he had, however, the
generosity to conceal the real circumstances from the
lieutenant-general of police, and that he had prevented the death
of the porter from becoming known outside the walls; that I had,
therefore, upon that score, no ground for alarm, but that, if I
retained one grain of prudence, I should profit by this happy
turn which Providence had given to my affairs, and begin by
writing to my father, and reconciling myself to his favour; and
finally that, if I would be guided by his advice, I should at
once quit Paris, and return to the bosom of my family.
"I listened to him attentively till he had finished. There was
much in what he said to gratify me. In the first place, I was
delighted to learn that I had nothing to fear on account of St.
Lazare--the streets of Paris at least were again open to me.
Then I rejoiced to find that Tiberge had no suspicion of Manon's
escape, and her return to my arms. I even remarked that he had
not mentioned her name, probably from the idea that, by my
seeming indifference to her, she had become less dear to my
heart. I resolved, if not to return home, at least to write to
my father, as he advised me, and to assure him that I was
disposed to return to my duty, and consult his wishes. My
intention was to urge him to send me money for the purpose of
pursuing my ordinary studies at the University, for I should have
found it difficult to persuade him that I had any inclination to
resume my ecclesiastical habit. I was in truth not at all averse
to what I was now going to promise him. On the contrary, I was
ready to apply myself to some creditable and rational pursuit, so
far as the occupation would be compatible with my love. I
reckoned upon being able to live with my mistress, and at the
same time continuing my studies. I saw no inconsistency in this
"These thoughts were so satisfactory to my mind, that I promised
Tiberge to dispatch a letter by that day's post to my father: in
fact, on leaving him, I went into a scrivener's, and wrote in
such a submissive and dutiful tone, that, on reading over my own
letter, I anticipated the triumph I was going to achieve over my
father's heart.
"Although I had money enough to pay for a hackney-coach after my
interview with Tiberge, I felt a pleasure in walking
independently through the streets to M. de T----'s house. There
was great comfort in this unaccustomed exercise of my liberty, as
to which my friend had assured me I had nothing now to apprehend.
However, it suddenly occurred to me, that he had been only
referring to St. Lazare, and that I had the other affair of the
Hospital on my hands; being implicated, if not as an accomplice,
at all events as a witness. This thought alarmed me so much,
that I slipped down the first narrow street, and called a coach.
I went at once to M. de T----'s, and he laughed at my
apprehensions. I myself thought them ridiculous enough, when he
informed me that there was no more danger from Lescaut's affray,
than from the Hospital adventure. He told me that, from the fear
of their suspecting that he had a hand in Manon's escape, he had
gone that morning to the Hospital and asked to see her,
pretending not to know anything of what had happened; that they
were so far from entertaining the least suspicion of either of
us, that they lost no time in relating the adventure as a piece
of news to him; and that they wondered how so pretty a girl as
Manon Lescaut could have thought of eloping with a servant: that
he replied with seeming indifference, that it by no means
astonished him, for people would do anything for the sake of
"He continued to tell me how he then went to Lescaut's
apartments, in the hope of finding me there with my dear
mistress; that the master of the house, who was a coachmaker,
protested he had seen neither me nor Manon; but that it was no
wonder that we had not appeared there, if our object was to see
Lescaut, for that we must have doubtless heard of his having been
assassinated about the very same time; upon which, he related all
that he knew of the cause and circumstances of the murder.
"About two hours previously, a guardsman of Lescaut's
acquaintance had come to see him, and proposed play. Lescaut had
such a rapid and extravagant run of luck, that in an hour the
young man was minus twelve hundred francs--all the money he had.
Finding himself without a sou, he begged of Lescaut to lend him
half the sum he had lost; and there being some difficulty on this
point, an angry quarrel arose between them. Lescaut had refused
to give him the required satisfaction, and the other swore, on
quitting him, that he would take his life; a threat which he
carried into execution the same night. M. de T---- was kind
enough to add, that he had felt the utmost anxiety on our
account, and that, such as they were, he should gladly continue
to us his services. I at once told him the place of our retreat.
He begged of me to allow him to sup with us.
"As I had nothing more to do than to procure the linen and
clothes for Manon, I told him that we might start almost
immediately, if he would be so good as to wait for me a moment
while I went into one or two shops. I know not whether he
suspected that I made this proposition with the view of calling
his generosity into play, or whether it was by the mere impulse
of a kind heart; but, having consented to start immediately, he
took me to a shopkeeper, who had lately furnished his house. He
there made me select several articles of a much higher price than
I had proposed to myself; and when I was about paying the bill,
he desired the man not to take a sou from me. This he did so
gracefully, that I felt no shame in accepting his present. We
then took the road to Chaillot together, where I arrived much
more easy in mind than when I had left it that morning.
"My return and the polite attentions of M. de T---- dispelled
all Manon's melancholy. `Let us forget our past annoyances, my
dear soul,' said I to her, `and endeavour to live a still happier
life than before. After all, there are worse masters than love:
fate cannot subject, us to as much sorrow as love enables us to
taste of happiness.' Our supper was a true scene of joy.
"In possession of Manon and of twelve hundred and fifty francs,
I was prouder and more contented than the richest voluptuary of
Paris with untold treasures. Wealth should be measured by the
means it affords us of satisfying our desires. There did not
remain to me at this moment a single wish unaccomplished. Even
the future gave me little concern. I felt a hope, amounting
almost to certainty, that my father would allow me the means of
living respectably in Paris, because I had become entitled, on
entering upon my twentieth year, to a share of my mother's
fortune. I did not conceal from Manon what was the extent of my
present wealth; but I added, that it might suffice to support us
until our fortune was bettered, either by the inheritance I have
just alluded to, or by the resources of the hazard-table.
This Passion hath its floods in the very times of weakness,
which are great prosperity, and great adversity; both which
times kindle Love, and make it more fervent.--BACON.
"For several weeks I thus continued to think only of enjoying
the full luxury of my situation; and being restrained, by a sense
of honour, as well as a lurking apprehension of the police, from
renewing my intimacy with my former companions at the hotel of
Transylvania, I began to play in certain coteries less notorious,
where my good luck rendered it unnecessary for me to have
recourse to my former accomplishments. I passed a part of the
afternoon in town, and returned always to supper at Chaillot,
accompanied very often by M. de T----, whose intimacy and
friendship for us daily increased.
"Manon soon found resources against ennui. She became
acquainted with some young ladies, whom the spring brought into
the neighbourhood. They occupied their leisure hours in walking,
and the customary amusements of persons of their sex and age.
Their little gains at cards (always within innocent limits) were
laid out in defraying the expense of a coach, in which they took
an airing occasionally in the Bois de Boulogne; and each night
when I returned, I was sure of finding Manon more beautiful--more
contented--more affectionate than ever.
"There arose, however, certain clouds, which seemed to threaten
the continuance of this blissful tranquillity, but they were soon
dispelled; and Manon's sprightliness made the affair so
excessively comical in its termination, that it is even now
pleasing to recur to it, as a proof of the tenderness as well as
the cheerfulness of her disposition.
"The only servant we had came to me one day, with great
embarrassment, and taking me aside, told me that he had a secret
of the utmost importance to communicate to me. I urged him to
explain himself without reserve. After some hesitation, he gave
me to understand that a foreigner of high rank had apparently
fallen in love with Manon. I felt my blood boil at the
announcement. `Has she shown any penchant for him?' I enquired,
interrupting my informant with more impatience than was
requisite, if I desired to have a full explanation.
"He was alarmed at my excitement; and replied in an undecided
tone, that he had not made sufficiently minute observation to
satisfy me; but that, having noticed for several days together
the regular arrival of the stranger at the Bois de Boulogne,
where, quitting his carriage, he walked by himself in the
cross-avenues, appearing to seek opportunities of meeting Manon,
it had occurred to him to form an acquaintance with the servants,
in order to discover the name of their master; that they spoke of
him as an Italian prince, and that they also suspected he was
upon some adventure of gallantry. He had not been able to learn
anything further, he added, trembling as he spoke, because the
prince, then on the point of leaving the wood, had approached
him, and with the most condescending familiarity asked his name;
upon which, as if he at once knew that he was in our service, he
congratulated him on having, for his mistress, the most
enchanting person upon earth.
"I listened to this recital with the greatest impatience. He
ended with the most awkward excuses, which I attributed to the
premature and imprudent display of my own agitation. In vain I
implored him to continue his history. He protested that he knew
nothing more, and that what he had previously told me, having
only happened the preceding day, he had not had a second
opportunity of seeing the prince's servants. I encouraged him,
not only with praises, but with a substantial recompense; and
without betraying the slightest distrust of Manon, I requested
him, in the mildest manner, to keep strict watch upon all the
foreigner's movements.
"In truth, the effect of his fright was to leave me in a state
of the cruellest suspense. It was possible that she had ordered
him to suppress part of the truth. However, after a little
reflection, I recovered sufficiently from my fears to see the
manner in which I had exposed my weaknesses. I could hardly
consider it a crime in Manon to be loved. Judging from
appearances, it was probable that she was not even aware of her
conquest. `And what kind of life shall I in future lead,'
thought I, `if I am capable of letting jealousy so easily take
possession of my mind?'
"I returned on the following day to Paris, with no other
intention than to hasten the improvement of my fortune, by
playing deeper than ever, in order to be in a condition to quit
Chaillot on the first real occasion for uneasiness. That night I
learned nothing at all calculated to trouble my repose. The
foreigner had, as usual, made his appearance in the Bois de
Boulogne; and venturing, from what had passed the preceding day,
to accost my servant more familiarly, he spoke to him openly of
his passion, but in such terms as not to lead to the slightest
suspicion of Manon's being aware of it. He put a thousand
questions to him, and at last tried to bribe him with large
promises; and taking a letter from his pocket, he in vain
entreated him, with the promise of some louis d'ors, to convey it
to her.
"Two days passed without anything more occurring: the third was
of a different character. I learned on my arrival, later than
usual, from Paris, that Manon, while in the wood, had left her
companions for a moment, and that the foreigner, who had followed
her at a short distance, approached, upon her making him a sign,
and that she handed him a letter, which he took with a transport
of joy. He had only time to express his delight by kissing the
billet-doux, for she was out of sight in an instant. But she
appeared in unusually high spirits the remainder of the day; and
even after her return to our lodgings, her gaiety continued. I
trembled at every word.
"`Are you perfectly sure,' said I, in an agony of fear, to my
servant, `that your eyes have not deceived you?' He called
Heaven to witness the truth of what he had told me.
"I know not to what excess the torments of my mind would have
driven me, if Manon, who heard me come in, had not met me with an
air of impatience, and complained of my delay. Before I had time
to reply, she loaded me with caresses; and when she found we were
alone, she reproached me warmly with the habit I was contracting
of staying out so late. My silence gave her an opportunity of
continuing; and she then said that for the last three weeks I had
never spent one entire day in her society; that she could not
endure such prolonged absence; that she should at least expect me
to give up a day to her from time to time, and that she
particularly wished me to be with, her on the following day from
morning till night.
"`You may be very certain I shall do that,' said I, in rather a
sharp tone. She did not appear to notice my annoyance; she
seemed to me to have more than her usual cheerfulness; and she
described, with infinite pleasantry, the manner in which she had
spent the day.
"`Incomprehensible girl!" said I to myself; `what am I to
expect after such a prelude?' The adventures of my first
separation occurred to me; nevertheless, I fancied I saw in her
cheerfulness, and the affectionate reception she gave me, an air
of truth that perfectly accorded with her professions.
"It was an easy matter at supper to account for the low spirits
which I could not conceal, by attributing them to a loss I had
that day sustained at the gaming-table. I considered it most
fortunate that the idea of my remaining all the next day at
Chaillot was suggested by herself: I should thus have ample time
for deliberation. My presence would prevent any fears for at
least the next day; and if nothing should occur to compel me to
disclose the discovery I had already made, I was determined on
the following day to move my establishment into town, and fix
myself in a quarter where I should have nothing to apprehend from
the interference of princes. This arrangement made me pass the
night more tranquilly, but it by no means put an end to the alarm
I felt at the prospect of a new infidelity.
"When I awoke in the morning, Manon said to me, that although we
were to pass the day at home, she did not at all wish that I
should be less carefully dressed than on other occasions; and
that she had a particular fancy for doing the duties of my
toilette that morning with her own hands. It was an amusement
she often indulged in: but she appeared to take more pains on
this occasion than I had ever observed before. To gratify her, I
was obliged to sit at her toilette table, and try all the
different modes she imagined for dressing my hair. In the course
of the operation, she made me often turn my head round towards
her, and putting both hands upon my shoulders, she would examine
me with most anxious curiosity: then, showing her approbation by
one or two kisses, she would make me resume my position before
the glass, in order to continue her occupation.
"This amatory trifling engaged us till dinner-time. The
pleasure she seemed to derive from it, and her more than usual
gaiety, appeared to me so thoroughly natural, that I found it
impossible any longer to suspect the treason I had previously
conjured up; and I was several times on the point of candidly
opening my mind to her, and throwing off a load that had begun to
weigh heavily upon my heart: but I flattered myself with the hope
that the explanation would every moment come from herself, and I
anticipated the delicious triumph this would afford me.
"We returned to her boudoir. She began again to put my hair in
order, and I humoured all her whims; when they came to say that
the Prince of ---- was below, and wished to see her. The name
alone almost threw me into a rage.
"`What then,' exclaimed I, as I indignantly pushed her from me,
`who?--what prince?'
"She made no answer to my enquiries.
"`Show him upstairs,' said she coolly to the servant; and then
turning towards me, `Dearest love! you whom I so fervently
adore,' she added in the most bewitching tone, `I only ask of you
one moment's patience; one moment, one single moment! I will
love you ten thousand times more than ever: your compliance now
shall never, during my life, be forgotten.'
"Indignation and astonishment deprived me of the power of
utterance. She renewed her entreaties, and I could not find
adequate expressions to convey my feelings of anger and contempt.
But hearing the door of the ante-chamber open, she grasped with
one hand my locks, which were floating over my shoulders, while
she took her toilette mirror in the other, and with all her
strength led me in this manner to the door of the boudoir, which
she opened with her knee, and presented to the foreigner, who had
been prevented by the noise he heard inside from advancing beyond
the middle of the ante-chamber, a spectacle that must have indeed
amazed him. I saw a man extremely well dressed, but with a
particularly ill-favoured countenance.
"Notwithstanding his embarrassment, he made her a profound bow.
Manon gave him no time for speech-making; she held up the mirror
before him: `Look, sir,' said she to him, `observe yourself
minutely, and I only ask you then to do me justice. You wish me
to love you: this is the man whom I love, and whom I have sworn
to love during my whole life: make the comparison yourself. If
you think you can rival him in my affections, tell me at least
upon what pretensions; for I solemnly declare to you, that, in
the estimation of your most obedient humble servant, all the
princes in Italy are not worth a single one of the hairs I now
hold in my hand.'
"During this whimsical harangue, which she had apparently
prepared beforehand, I tried in vain to disengage myself, and
feeling compassion for a person of such consideration, I was
desirous, by my politeness at least, of making some reparation
for this little outrage. But recovering his self-possession with
the ease of a man accustomed to the world, he put an end to my
feelings of pity by his reply, which was, in my opinion, rude
"`Young lady! young lady!' said he to her, with a sardonic
smile, 'my eyes in truth are opened, and I perceive that you are
much less of a novice than I had pictured to myself.'
"He immediately retired without looking at her again, muttering
to himself that the French women were quite as bad as those of
Italy. I felt little desire, on this occasion, to change his
opinion of the fair sex.
"Manon let go my hand, threw herself into an armchair, and made
the room resound with her shouts of laughter. I candidly confess
that I was touched most sensibly by this unexpected proof of her
affection, and by the sacrifice of her own interest which I had
just witnessed, and which she could only have been induced to
make by her excessive love for me. Still, however, I could not
help thinking she had gone rather too far. I reproached her with
what I called her indiscretion. She told me that my rival, after
having besieged her for several days in the Bois de Boulogne, and
having made her comprehend his object by signs and grimaces, had
actually made an open declaration of love; informing her at the
same time of his name and all his titles, by means of a letter,
which he had sent through the hands of the coachman who drove her
and her companions; that he had promised her, on the other side
of the Alps, a brilliant fortune and eternal adoration; that she
returned to Chaillot, with the intention of relating to me the
whole adventure, but that, fancying it might be made a source of
amusement to us, she could not help gratifying her whim; that she
accordingly invited the Italian prince, by a flattering note, to
pay her a visit; and that it had afforded her equal delight to
make me an accomplice, without giving me the least suspicion of
her plan. I said not a word of the information I had received
through another channel; and the intoxication of triumphant love
made me applaud all she had done.
'Twas ever thus;--from childhood's hour
I've seen my fondest hopes decay;--
I never loved a tree or flower,
But it was sure to fade away;
I never nursed a dear Gazelle,
To glad me with its dark-blue eye,
But, when it came to know me well,
And love me, it was sure to die.
"During my life I have remarked that fate has invariably chosen
for the time of its severest visitations, those moments when my
fortune seemed established on the firmest basis. In the
friendship of M. de T----, and the tender affections of Manon, I
imagined myself so thoroughly happy, that I could not harbour the
slightest apprehension of any new misfortune: there was one,
nevertheless, at this very period impending, which reduced me to
the state in which you beheld me at Passy, and which eventually
brought in its train miseries of so deplorable a nature, that you
will have difficulty in believing the simple recital that follows.
"One evening, when M. de T---- remained to sup with us, we heard
the sound of a carriage stopping at the door of the inn.
Curiosity tempted us to see who it was that arrived at this hour.
They told us it was young G---- M----, the son of our most
vindictive enemy, of that debauched old sinner who had
incarcerated me in St. Lazare, and Manon in the Hospital. His
name made the blood mount to my cheeks. `It is Providence that
has led him here,' said I to M. de T----, that I may punish him
for the cowardly baseness of his father. He shall not escape
without our measuring swords at least.' M. de T----, who knew
him, and was even one of his most intimate friends, tried to
moderate my feelings of anger towards him. He assured me that he
was a most amiable young man, and so little capable of
countenancing his father's conduct, that I could not be many
minutes in his society without feeling esteem and affection for
him. After saying many more things in his praise, he begged my
permission to invite him to come and sit in our apartment, as
well as to share the remainder of our supper. As to the
objection of Manon being exposed by this proceeding to any
danger, he pledged his honour and good faith, that when once the
young man became acquainted with us, we should find in him a most
zealous defender. After such an assurance, I could offer no
further opposition.
"M. de T---- did not introduce him without delaying a few
moments outside, to let him know who we were. He certainly came
in with an air that prepossessed us in his favour: he shook hands
with me; we sat down; he admired Manon; he appeared pleased with
me, and with everything that belonged to us; and he ate with an
appetite that did abundant honour to our hospitality.
"When the table was cleared, our conversation became more
serious. He hung down his head while he spoke of his father's
conduct towards us. He made, on his own part, the most submissive
excuses. `I say the less upon the subject,' said he, `because I
do not wish to recall a circumstance that fills me with grief and
shame.' If he were sincere in the beginning, he became much more
so in the end, for the conversation had not lasted half an hour,
when I perceived that Manon's charms had made a visible
impression upon him. His looks and his manner became by degrees
more tender. He, however, allowed no expression to escape him;
but, without even the aid of jealousy, I had had experience
enough in love affairs to discern what was passing.
"He remained with us till a late hour in the night, and before
he took his leave, congratulated himself on having made our
acquaintance, and begged permission to call and renew the offer
of his services. He went off next morning with M. de T----, who
accepted the offer of a seat in his carriage.
"I felt, as I before said, not the slightest symptom of jealousy
I had a more foolish confidence than ever in Manon's vows. This
dear creature had so absolute a dominion over my whole soul and
affections, that I could give place to no other sentiment towards
her than that of admiration and love. Far from considering it a
crime that she should have pleased young G---- M----, I was
gratified by the effect of her charms, and experienced only a
feeling of pride in being loved by a girl whom the whole world
found so enchanting. I did not even deem it worth while to
mention my suspicions to her. We were for some days occupied in
arranging her new wardrobe, and in considering whether we might
venture to the theatre without the risk of being recognised. M.
de T---- came again to see us before the end of the week, and we
consulted him upon this point. He saw clearly that the way to
please Manon was to say yes: we resolved to go all together that
same evening.
"We were not able, however, to carry this intention into effect;
for, having taken me aside, `I have been in the greatest
embarrassment,' said he to me, `since I saw you, and that is the
cause of my visiting you today. G---- M---- is in love with your
mistress: he told me so in confidence; I am his intimate friend,
and disposed to do him any service in my power; but I am not less
devoted to you; his designs appeared to me unjustifiable, and I
expressed my disapprobation of them; I should not have divulged
his secret, if he had only intended to use fair and ordinary
means for gaining Manon's affections; but he is aware of her
capricious disposition; he has learned, God knows how, that her
ruling passion is for affluence and pleasure; and, as he is
already in possession of a considerable fortune, he declared his
intention of tempting her at once with a present of great value,
and the offer of an annuity of six thousand francs; if I had in
all other points considered you both in an equal light, I should
have had perhaps to do more violence to my feelings in betraying
him: but a sense of justice as well as of friendship was on your
side, and the more so from having been myself the imprudent,
though unconscious, cause of his passion in introducing him here.
I feel it my duty therefore to avert any evil consequences from
the mischief I have inadvertently caused.
"I thanked M. de T---- for rendering me so important a service,
and confessed to him, in a like spirit of confidence, that
Manon's disposition was precisely what G---- M---- had imagined;
that is to say, that she was incapable of enduring even the
thought of poverty. `However,' said I to him, `when it is a mere
question of more or less, I do not believe that she would give me
up for any other person; I can afford to let her want for
nothing, and I have from day to day reason to hope that my
fortune will improve; I only dread one thing,' continued I,
`which is, that G---- M---- may take unfair advantage of the
knowledge he has of our place of residence, and bring us into
trouble by disclosing it.'
"M. de T---- assured me that I might be perfectly easy upon that
head; that G---- M---- might be capable of a silly passion, but
not of an act of baseness; that if he ever could be villain
enough for such a thing, he, de T----, would be the first to
punish him, and by that means make reparation for the mischief he
had occasioned. `I feel grateful for what you say,' said I, `but
the mischief will have been all done, and the remedy even seems
doubtful; the wisest plan therefore will be to quit Chaillot, and
go to reside elsewhere.' `Very true,' said M. de T----, `but you
will not be able to do it quickly enough, for G---- M---- is to
be here at noon; he told me so yesterday, and it was that
intelligence that made me come so early this morning to inform
you of his intentions. You may expect him every moment."
"The urgency of the occasion made me view this matter in a more
serious light. As it seemed to me impossible to escape the visit
of G---- M----, and perhaps equally so to prevent him from making
his declaration to Manon, I resolved to tell her beforehand of
the designs of my new rival. I fancied that when she knew I was
aware of the offers that would be made to her, and made probably
in my presence, she would be the more likely to reject them. I
told M. de T---- of my intention, and he observed that he thought
it a matter of extreme delicacy. `I admit it,' said I, `but no
man ever had more reason for confiding in a mistress, than I have
for relying on the affection of mine. The only thing that could
possibly for a moment blind her, is the splendour of his offers;
no doubt she loves her ease, but she loves me also; and in my
present circumstances, I cannot believe that she would abandon me
for the son of the man who had incarcerated her in the Magdalen.'
In fine, I persisted in my intentions, and taking Manon aside, I
candidly told her what I had learned.
"She thanked me for the good opinion I entertained of her, and
promised to receive G---- M----'s offers in a way that should
prevent a repetition of them. `No,' said I, `you must not
irritate him by incivility: he has it in his power to injure us.
But you know well enough, you little rogue,' continued I,
smiling, `how to rid yourself of a disagreeable or useless
lover!' After a moment's pause she said: `I have just thought
of an admirable plan, and I certainly have a fertile invention.
G---- M---- is the son of our bitterest enemy: we must avenge
ourselves on the father, not through the son's person, but
through his purse. My plan is to listen to his proposals, accept
his presents, and then laugh at him.'
"`The project is not a bad one,' said I to her; `but you
forget, my dear child, that it is precisely the same course that
conducted us formerly to the penitentiary.' I represented to her
the danger of such an enterprise; she replied, that the only
thing necessary was to take our measures with caution, and she
found an answer to every objection I started. `Show me the lover
who does not blindly humour every whim of an adored mistress, and
I will then allow that I was wrong in yielding so easily on this
occasion.' The resolution was taken to make a dupe of G----M----,
and by an unforeseen and unlucky turn of fortune, I became
the victim myself.
"About eleven o'clock his carriage drove up to the door. He
made the most complaisant and refined speeches upon the liberty
he had taken of coming to dine with us uninvited. He was not
surprised at meeting M. de T----, who had the night before
promised to meet him there, and who had, under some pretext or
other, refused a seat in his carriage. Although there was not a
single person in the party who was not at heart meditating
treachery, we all sat down with an air of mutual confidence and
friendship. G---- M---- easily found an opportunity of declaring
his sentiments to Manon. I did not wish to annoy him by
appearing vigilant, so I left the room purposely for several
"I perceived on my return that he had not had to encounter any
very discouraging austerity on Manon's part, for he was in the
best possible spirits. I affected good humour also. He was
laughing in his mind at my simplicity, while I was not less
diverted by his own. During the whole evening we were thus
supplying to each other an inexhaustible fund of amusement. I
contrived, before his departure, to let him have Manon for
another moment to himself; so that he had reason to applaud my
complaisance, as well as the hospitable reception I had given
"As soon as he got into his carriage with M. de T----, Manon ran
towards me with extended arms, and embraced me; laughing all the
while immoderately. She repeated all his speeches and proposals,
without altering a word. This was the substance: He of course
adored her; and wished to share with her a large fortune of which
he was already in possession, without counting what he was to
inherit at his father's death. She should be sole mistress of
his heart and fortune; and as an immediate token of his
liberality, he was ready at once to supply her with an equipage,
a furnished house, a lady's maid, three footmen, and a man-cook.
"`There is indeed a son,' said I, `very different from his father!
But tell me truly, now, does not such an offer tempt you?'
`Me!' she replied, adapting to the idea two verses from Racine--
Moi! vous me soupconnez de cette perfidie?
Moi! je pourrais souffrir un visage odieux,
Qui rappelle toujours l'Hopital a mes yeux?
`No I' replied I, continuing the parody--
J'aurais peine a penser que l'Hopital, madame,
Fut un trait dont l'amour l'eut grave dans votre ame.
`But it assuredly is a temptation--a furnished house, a lady's
maid, a cook, a carriage, and three servants--gallantry can offer
but few more seductive temptations.'
"She protested that her heart was entirely mine, and that it was
for the future only open to the impressions I chose to make upon
it. `I look upon his promises,' said she, `as an instrument for
revenge, rather than as a mark of love.' I asked her if she
thought of accepting the hotel and the carriage. She replied
that his money was all she wanted.
The difficulty was, how to obtain the one without the other; we
resolved to wait for a detailed explanation of the whole project
in a letter which G---- M---- promised to write to her, and which
in fact she received next morning by a servant out of livery,
who, very cleverly, contrived an opportunity of speaking to her
She told him to wait for an answer, and immediately brought the
letter to me: we opened it together.
"Passing over the usual commonplace expressions of tenderness,
it gave a particular detail of my rival's promises. There were
no limits to the expense. He engaged to pay her down ten
thousand francs on her taking possession of the hotel, and to
supply her expenditure in such a way as that she should never
have less than that sum at her command. The appointed day for
her entering into possession was close at hand. He only required
two days for all his preparations, and he mentioned the name of
the street and the hotel, where he promised to be in waiting for
her in the afternoon of the second day, if she could manage to
escape my vigilance. That was the only point upon which he
begged of her to relieve his uneasiness; he seemed to be quite
satisfied upon every other: but he added that, if she apprehended
any difficulty in escaping from me, he could find sure means for
facilitating her flight.
"G---- M---- the younger was more cunning than the old
gentleman. He wanted to secure his prey before he counted out
the cash. We considered what course Manon should adopt. I made
another effort to induce her to give up the scheme, and strongly
represented all its dangers; nothing, however, could shake her
"Her answer to G---- M---- was brief, merely assuring him that
she could be, without the least difficulty, in Paris on the
appointed day and that he might expect her with certainty.
"We then resolved, that I should instantly hire lodgings in some
village on the other side of Paris, and that I should take our
luggage with me; that in the afternoon of the following day,
which was the time appointed, she should go to Paris; that, after
receiving G---- M----'s presents, she should earnestly entreat
him to take her to the theatre; that she should carry with her as
large a portion of the money as she could, and charge my servant
with the remainder, for it was agreed that he was to accompany
her. He was the man who had rescued her from the Magdalen, and
he was devotedly attached to us. I was to be with a
hackney-coach at the end of the street of St. Andre-des-arcs, and
to leave it there about seven o'clock, while I stole, under cover
of the twilight, to the door of the theatre. Manon promised to
make some excuse for quitting her box for a moment, when she
would come down and join me. The rest could be easily done. We
were then to return to my hackney-coach, and quit Paris by the
Faubourg St. Antoine, which was the road to our new residence.
"This plan, extravagant as it was, appeared to us satisfactorily
arranged. But our greatest folly was in imagining that, succeed
as we might in its execution, it would be possible for us to
escape the consequences. Nevertheless, we exposed ourselves to
all risk with the blindest confidence. Manon took her departure
with Marcel--so was the servant called. I could not help feeling
a pang as she took leave of me. `Manon,' said I, `do not deceive
me; will you be faithful to me?' She complained, in the
tenderest tone, of my want of confidence, and renewed all her
protestations of eternal love.
"She was to be in Paris at three o'clock. I went some time
after. I spent the remainder of the afternoon moping in the Cafe
de Fere, near the Pont St. Michel. I remained there till
nightfall. I then hired a hackney-coach, which I placed,
according to our plan, at the end of the street of St.
Andre-des-arcs, and went on foot to the door of the theatre. I
was surprised at not seeing Marcel, who was to have been there
waiting for me. I waited patiently for a full hour, standing
among a crowd of lackeys, and gazing at every person that passed.
At length, seven o'clock having struck, without my being able to
discover anything or any person connected with our project, I
procured a pit ticket, in order to ascertain if Manon and G----
M---- were in the boxes. Neither one nor the other could I find.
I returned to the door, where I again stopped for a quarter of an
hour, in an agony of impatience and uneasiness. No person
appeared, and I went back to the coach, without knowing what to
conjecture. The coachman, seeing me, advanced a few paces
towards me, and said, with a mysterious air, that a very handsome
young person had been waiting more than an hour for me in the
coach; that she described me so exactly that he could not be
mistaken, and having learned that I intended to return, she said
she would enter the coach and wait with patience.
"`I felt confident that it was Manon. I approached. I beheld
a very pretty face, certainly, but alas, not hers. The lady
asked, in a voice that I had never before heard, whether she had
the honour of speaking to the Chevalier des Grieux? I answered,
`That is my name.' `I have a letter for you,' said she, `which
will tell you what has brought me here, and by what means I
learned your name.' I begged she would allow me a few moments to
read it in an adjoining cafe. She proposed to follow me, and
advised me to ask for a private room, to which I consented. `Who
is the writer of this letter?' I enquired. She referred me to
the letter itself.
"I recognised Manon's hand. This is nearly the substance of the
letter: G---- M---- had received her with a politeness and
magnificence beyond anything she had previously conceived. He
had loaded her with the most gorgeous presents. She had the
prospect of almost imperial splendour. She assured me, however,
that she could not forget me amidst all this magnificence; but
that, not being able to prevail on G---- M---- to take her that
evening to the play, she was obliged to defer the pleasure of
seeing me; and that, as a slight consolation for the
disappointment which she feared this might cause me, she had
found a messenger in one of the loveliest girls in all Paris.
She signed herself, `Your loving and constant, MANON LESCAUT.'
"There was something so cruel and so insulting in the letter,
that, what between indignation and grief, I resolutely determined
to forget eternally my ungrateful and perjured mistress. I
looked at the young woman who stood before me: she was
exceedingly pretty, and I could have wished that she had been
sufficiently so to render me inconstant in my turn. But there
were wanting those lovely and languishing eyes, that divine
gracefulness, that exquisite complexion, in fine, those
innumerable charms which nature had so profusely lavished upon
the perfidious Manon. `No, no,' said I, turning away from her;
`the ungrateful wretch who sent you knew in her heart that she
was sending you on a useless errand. Return to her; and tell her
from me, to triumph in her crime, and enjoy it, if she can,
without remorse. I abandon her in despair, and, at the same
time, renounce all women, who, without her fascination, are no
doubt her equals in baseness and infidelity.'
"I was then on the point of going away, determined never to
bestow another thought on Manon: the mortal jealousy that was
racking my heart lay concealed under a dark and sullen
melancholy, and I fancied, because I felt none of those violent
emotions which I had experienced upon former occasions, that I
had shaken off my thraldom. Alas! I was even at that moment
infinitely more the dupe of love, than of, G---- M---- and Manon.
"The girl who had brought the letter, seeing me about to depart,
asked me what I wished her to say to M. G---- M----, and to the
lady who was with him? At this question, I stepped back again
into the room, and by one of those unaccountable transitions that
are only known to the victims of violent passion, I passed in an
instant from the state of subdued tranquillity which I have just
described, into an ungovernable fury `Away!' said I to her, `tell
the traitor G---- M----and his abandoned mistress the state of
despair into which your accursed mission has cast me; but warn
them that it shall not be long a source of amusement to them, and
that my own hands shall be warmed with the heart's blood of
both!' I sank back upon a chair; my hat fell on one side, and my
cane upon the other: torrents of bitter tears rolled down my
cheeks. The paroxysm of rage changed into a profound and silent
grief: I did nothing but weep and sigh. `Approach, my child,
approach,' said I to the young girl; `approach, since it is you
they have sent to bring me comfort; tell me whether you have any
balm to administer for the pangs of despair and rage--any
argument to offer against the crime of self-destruction, which I
have resolved upon, after ridding the world of two perfidious
monsters. Yes, approach,' continued I, perceiving that she
advanced with timid and doubtful steps; `come and dry my sorrows;
come and restore peace to my mind; come and tell me that at least
you love me: you are handsome--I may perhaps love you in return.'
The poor child, who was only sixteen or seventeen years of age,
and who appeared more modest than girls of her class generally
are, was thunderstruck at this unusual scene. She however gently
approached to caress me, when with uplifted hands I rudely
repulsed her. `What do you wish with me?' exclaimed I to her.
`Ah! you are a woman, and of a sex I abhor, and can no longer
tolerate; the very gentleness of your look threatens me with some
new treason. Go, leave me here alone!' She made me a curtsy
without uttering a word, and turned to go out. I called to her
to stop: `Tell me at least,' said I, `wherefore-- how--with what
design they sent you here? how did you discover my name, or the
place where you could find me?'
"She told me that she had long known M. G---- M----; that he had
sent for her that evening about five o'clock; and that, having
followed the servant who had been dispatched to her, she was
shown into a large house, where she found him playing at picquet
with a beautiful young woman; and that they both charged her to
deliver the letter into my hands, after telling her that she
would find me in a hackney-coach at the bottom of the street of
St. Andre. I asked if they had said nothing more. She blushed
while she replied, that they had certainly made her believe that
I should be glad of her society. `They have deceived you too,'
said I, `my poor girl--they have deceived you; you are a woman,
and probably wish for a lover; but you must find one who is rich
and happy, and it is not here you will find him. Return, return
to M. G---- M----; he possesses everything requisite to make a
man beloved. He has furnished houses and equipages to bestow,
while I, who have nothing but constancy of love to offer, am
despised for my poverty, and laughed at for my simplicity.'
"I continued in a tone of sorrow or violence, as these feelings
alternately took possession of my mind. However, by the very
excess of my agitation, I became gradually so subdued as to be
able calmly to reflect upon the situation of affairs. I compared
this new misfortune with those which I had already experienced of
the same kind, and I could not perceive that there was any more
reason for despair now, than upon former occasions. I knew
Manon: why then distress myself on account of a calamity which I
could not but have plainly foreseen? Why not rather think of
seeking a remedy? there was yet time; I at least ought not to
spare my own exertions, if I wished to avoid the bitter reproach
of having contributed, by my own indolence, to my misery. I
thereupon set about considering every means of raising a gleam of
"To attempt to take her by main force from the hands of
G----M---- was too desperate a project, calculated only to ruin
me, and without the slightest probability of succeeding. But it
seemed to me that if I could ensure a moment's interview with
her, I could not fail to regain my influence over her affections.
I so well knew how to excite her sensibilities! I was so
confident of her love for me! The very whim even of sending me a
pretty woman by way of consoling me, I would stake my existence,
was her idea, and that it was the suggestion of her own sincere
sympathy for my sufferings.
"I resolved to exert every nerve to procure an interview. After
a multitude of plans which I canvassed one after another, I fixed
upon the following: M. de T---- had shown so much sincerity in
the services he had rendered me, that I could not entertain a
doubt of his zeal and good faith. I proposed to call upon him at
once, and make him send for G---- M----, under pretence of some
important business. Half an hour would suffice to enable me to
see Manon. I thought it would not be difficult to get introduced
into her apartment during G---- M----'s absence.
"This determination pacified me, and I gave a liberal present to
the girl, who was still with me; and in order to prevent her from
returning to those who had sent her, I took down her address, and
half promised to call upon her at a later hour. I then got into
the hackney-coach, and drove quickly to M. de T----'s. I was
fortunate enough to find him at home. I had been apprehensive
upon this point as I went along. A single sentence put him in
possession of the whole case, as well of my sufferings, as of the
friendly service I had come to supplicate at his hands.
"He was so astonished to learn that G---- M---- had been able to
seduce Manon from me, that, not being aware that I had myself
lent a hand to my own misfortune, he generously offered to
assemble his friends, and evoke their aid for the deliverance of
my mistress. I told him that such a proceeding might by its
publicity be attended with danger to Manon and to me. `Let us
risk our lives,' said I, `only as a last resource. My plan is of
a more peaceful nature, and promising at least equal success.'
He entered without a murmur into all that I proposed; so again
stating that all I required was, that he should send for G----
M----, and contrive to keep him an hour or two from home, we at
once set about our operations.
"We first of all considered what expedient we could make use of
for keeping him out so long a time. I proposed that he should
write a note dated from a cafe, begging of him to come there as
soon as possible upon an affair of too urgent importance to admit
of delay. `I will watch,' added I, `the moment he quits the
house, and introduce myself without any difficulty, being only
known to Manon, and my servant Marcel. You can at the same time
tell G---- M----, that the important affair upon which you
wished to see him was the immediate want of a sum of money; that
you had just emptied your purse at play, and that you had played
on, with continued bad luck, upon credit. He will require some
time to take you to his father's house, where he keeps his money,
and I shall have quite sufficient for the execution of my plan.'
"M. de T---- minutely adhered to these directions. I left him
in a cafe, where he at once wrote his letter. I took my station
close by Manon's house. I saw de T----'s messenger arrive, and
G---- M---- come out the next moment, followed by a servant.
Allowing him barely time to get out of the street, I advanced to
my deceiver's door, and notwithstanding the anger I felt, I
knocked with as much respect as at the portal of a church.
Fortunately it was Marcel who opened for me. Although I had
nothing to apprehend from the other servants, I asked him in a
low voice if he could conduct me unseen into the room in which
Manon was. He said that was easily done, by merely ascending the
great staircase. `Come then at once,' said I to him, `and
endeavour to prevent anyone from coming up while I am there.' I
reached the apartment without any difficulty.
"Manon was reading. I had there an opportunity of admiring the
singular character of this girl. Instead of being nervous or
alarmed at my appearance, she scarcely betrayed a symptom of
surprise, which few persons, however indifferent, could restrain,
on seeing one whom they imagined to be far distant. `Ah! it is
you, my dear love,' said she, approaching to embrace me with her
usual tenderness. `Good heavens, how venturesome and foolhardy
you are! Who could have expected to see you in this place!'
Instead of embracing her in return, I repulsed her with
indignation, and retreated two or three paces from her. This
evidently disconcerted her. She remained immovable, and fixed
her eyes on me, while she changed colour.
"I was in reality so delighted to behold her once more, that,
with so much real cause for anger, I could hardly bring my lips
to upbraid her. My heart, however, felt the cruel outrage she
had inflicted upon me. I endeavoured to revive the recollection
of it in my own mind, in order to excite my feelings, and put on
a look of stern indignation. I remained silent for a few
moments, when I remarked that she observed my agitation, and
trembled: apparently the effect of her fears.
"I could not longer endure this spectacle. `Ah! Manon,' said I
to her in the mildest tone, `faithless and perjured Manon! How
am I to complain of your conduct? I see you pale and trembling,
and I am still so much alive to your slightest sufferings, that I
am unwilling to add to them by my reproaches. But, Manon, I tell
you that my heart is pierced with sorrow at your treatment of
me--treatment that is seldom inflicted but with the purpose of
destroying one's life. This is the third time, Manon; I have
kept a correct account; it is impossible to forget that. It is
now for you to consider what course you will adopt; for my
afflicted heart is no longer capable of sustaining such shocks.
I know and feel that it must give way, and it is at this moment
ready to burst with grief. I can say no more,' added I, throwing
myself into a chair; `I have hardly strength to speak, or to
support myself.'
"She made me no reply; but when I was seated, she sank down upon
her knees, and rested her head upon my lap, covering her face
with her hands. I perceived in a moment that she was shedding
floods of tears. Heavens! with what conflicting sensations was I
at that instant agitated! `Ah! Manon, Manon,' said I, sighing,
`it is too late to give me tears after the death-blow you have
inflicted. You affect a sorrow which you cannot feel. The
greatest of your misfortunes is no doubt my presence, which has
been always an obstacle to your happiness. Open your eyes; look
up and see who it is that is here; you will not throw away tears
of tenderness upon an unhappy wretch whom you have betrayed and
"She kissed my hands without changing her position. `Inconstant
Manon,' said I again, `ungrateful and faithless girl, where now
are all your promises and your vows? Capricious and cruel that
you are! what has now become of the love that you protested for
me this very day? Just Heavens,' added I, `is it thus you permit
a traitor to mock you, after having called you so solemnly to
witness her vows! Recompense and reward then are for the
perjured! Despair and neglect are the lot of fidelity and
"These words conveyed even to my own mind a sentiment so
bitterly severe, that, in spite of myself, some tears escaped
from me. Manon perceived this by the change in my voice. She at
length spoke. `I must have indeed done something most culpable,'
said she, sobbing with grief, `to have excited and annoyed you to
this degree; but, I call Heaven to attest my utter
unconsciousness of crime, and my innocence of all criminal
"This speech struck me as so devoid of reason and of truth, that
I could not restrain a lively feeling of anger. `Horrible
hypocrisy!' cried I; `I see more plainly than ever that you are
dishonest and treacherous. Now at length I learn your wretched
disposition. Adieu, base creature,' said I, rising from my seat;
`I would prefer death a thousand times rather than continue to
hold the slightest communication with you. May Heaven punish me,
if I ever again waste upon you the smallest regard! Live on with
your new lover--renounce all feelings of honour--detest me--your
love is now a matter to me of utter insignificance!'
"Manon was so terrified by the violence of my anger, that,
remaining on her knees by the chair from which I had just before
risen, breathless and trembling, she fixed her eyes upon me. I
advanced a little farther towards the door, but, unless I had
lost the last spark of humanity, I could not continue longer
unmoved by such a spectacle.
"So far, indeed, was I from this kind of stoical indifference,
that, rushing at once into the very opposite extreme, I returned,
or rather flew back to her without an instant's reflection. I
lifted her in my arms; I gave her a thousand tender kisses; I
implored her to pardon my ungovernable temper; I confessed that I
was an absolute brute, and unworthy of being loved by such an
"I made her sit down, and throwing myself, in my turn, upon my
knees, I conjured her to listen to me in that attitude. Then I
briefly expressed all that a submissive and impassioned lover
could say most tender and respectful. I supplicated her pardon.
She let her arms fall over my neck, as she said that it was she
who stood in need of forgiveness, and begged of me in mercy to
forget all the annoyances she had caused me, and that she began,
with reason, to fear that I should not approve of what she had to
say in her justification. `Me!' said I interrupting her
impatiently; `I require no justification; I approve of all you
have done. It is not for me to demand excuses for anything you
do; I am but too happy, too contented, if my dear Manon will only
leave me master of her affections! But,' continued I,
remembering that it was the crisis of my fate, `may I not, Manon,
all-powerful Manon, you who wield at your pleasure my joys and
sorrows, may I not be permitted, after having conciliated you by
my submission and all the signs of repentance, to speak to you
now of my misery and distress? May I now learn from your own
lips what my destiny is to be, and whether you are resolved to
sign my death-warrant, by spending even a single night with my
"She considered a moment before she replied. `My good
chevalier,' said she, resuming the most tranquil tone, `if you
had only at first explained yourself thus distinctly, you would
have spared yourself a world of trouble, and prevented a scene
that has really annoyed me. Since your distress is the result of
jealousy, I could at first have cured that by offering to
accompany you where you pleased. But I imagined it was caused by
the letter which I was obliged to write in the presence of G----
M----, and of the girl whom we sent with it. I thought you might
have construed that letter into a mockery; and have fancied that,
by sending such a messenger, I meant to announce my abandonment
of you for the sake of G---- M----. It was this idea that at
once overwhelmed me with grief; for, innocent as I knew myself to
be, I could not but allow that appearances were against me.
However,' continued she, `I will leave you to judge of my
conduct, after I shall have explained the whole truth.'
"She then told me all that had occurred to her after joining
G---- M----, whom she found punctually awaiting her arrival. He
had in fact received her in the most princely style. He showed
her through all the apartments, which were fitted up in the
neatest and most correct taste. He had counted out to her in her
boudoir ten thousand francs, as well as a quantity of jewels,
amongst which were the identical pearl necklace and bracelets
which she had once before received as a present from his father.
He then led her into a splendid room, which she had not before
seen, and in which an exquisite collation was served; she was
waited upon by the new servants, whom he had hired purposely for
her, and whom he now desired to consider themselves as
exclusively her attendants; the carriage and the horses were
afterwards paraded, and he then proposed a game of cards, until
supper should be announced.
"`I acknowledge,' continued Manon, `that I was dazzled by all
this magnificence. It struck me that it would be madness to
sacrifice at once so many good things for the mere sake of
carrying off the money and the jewels already in my possession;
that it was a certain fortune made for both you and me, and that
we might pass the remainder of our lives most agreeably and
comfortably at the expense of G---- M----.
"`Instead of proposing the theatre, I thought it more prudent
to sound his feelings with regard to you, in order to ascertain
what facilities we should have for meeting in future, on the
supposition that I could carry my project into effect. I found
him of a most tractable disposition. He asked me how I felt
towards you, and if I had not experienced some compunction at
quitting you. I told him that you were so truly amiable, and had
ever treated me with such undeviating kindness, that it was
impossible I could hate you. He admitted that you were a man of
merit, and expressed an ardent desire to gain your friendship.
"`He was anxious to know how I thought you would take my
elopement, particularly when you should learn that I was in his
hands. I answered, that our love was of such long standing as to
have had time to moderate a little; that, besides, you were not
in very easy circumstances, and would probably not consider my
departure as any severe misfortune, inasmuch as it would relieve
you from a burden of no very insignificant nature. I added that,
being perfectly convinced you would take the whole matter
rationally, I had not hesitated to tell you that I had some
business in Paris; but you had at once consented, and that having
accompanied me yourself, you did not seem very uneasy when we
"`If I thought,' said he to me, 'that he could bring himself to
live on good terms with me, I should be too happy to make him a
tender of my services and attentions.' I assured him that, from
what I knew of your disposition, I had no doubt you would
acknowledge his kindness in a congenial spirit: especially, I
added, if he could assist you in your affairs, which had become
embarrassed since your disagreement with your family. He
interrupted me by declaring, that he would gladly render you any
service in his power, and that if you were disposed to form a new
attachment, he would introduce you to an extremely pretty woman,
whom he had just given up for me.
"`I approved of all he said,' she added, `for fear of exciting
any suspicions; and being more and more satisfied of the
feasibility of my scheme, I only longed for an opportunity of
letting you into it, lest you should be alarmed at my not keeping
my appointment. With this view I suggested the idea of sending
this young lady to you, in order to have an opportunity of
writing; I was obliged to have recourse to this plan, because I
could not see a chance of his leaving me to myself for a moment.'
"`He was greatly amused with my proposition; he called his
valet, and asking him whether he could immediately find his late
mistress, he dispatched him at once in search of her. He
imagined that she would have to go to Chaillot to meet you, but I
told him that, when we parted, I promised to meet you again at
the theatre, or that, if anything should prevent me from going
there, you were to wait for me in a coach at the, end of the
street of St. Andre; that consequently it would be best to send
your new love there, if it were only to save you from the misery
of suspense during the whole night. I said it would be also
necessary to write you a line of explanation, without which you
would probably be puzzled by the whole transaction. He
consented; but I was obliged to write in his presence; and I took
especial care not to explain matters too palpably in my letter.
"`This is the history,' said Manon, `of the entire affair. I
conceal nothing from you, of either my conduct or my intentions.
The girl arrived; I thought her handsome; and as I doubted not
that you would be mortified by my absence, I did most sincerely
hope that she would be able to dissipate something of your ennui:
for it is the fidelity of the heart alone that I value. I should
have been too delighted to have sent Marcel, but I could not for
a single instant find an opportunity of telling him what I wished
to communicate to you.' She finished her story by describing the
embarrassment into which M. de T----'s letter had thrown G----
M----; `he hesitated,' said she, `about leaving, and assured me
that he should not be long absent; and it is on this account that
I am uneasy at seeing you here, and that I betrayed, at your
appearance, some slight feeling of surprise.'
"I listened to her with great patience. There were certainly
parts of her recital sufficiently cruel and mortifying; for the
intention, at least, of the infidelity was so obvious, that she
had not even taken the trouble to disguise it. She could never
have imagined that G---- M---- meant to venerate her as a vestal.
She must therefore clearly have made up her mind to pass at least
one night with him. What an avowal for a lover's ears! However,
I considered myself as partly the cause of her guilt, by having
been the first to let her know G---- M----'s sentiments towards
her, and by the silly readiness with which I entered into this
rash project. Besides, by a natural bent of my mind, peculiar I
believe to myself, I was duped by the ingenuousness of her
story--by that open and winning manner with which she related
even the circumstances most calculated to annoy me. `There is
nothing of wanton vice,' said I to myself, `in her
transgressions; she is volatile and imprudent, but she is sincere
and affectionate.' My love alone rendered me blind to all her
faults. I was enchanted at the prospect of rescuing her that
very night from my rival. I said to her: `With whom do you mean
to pass the night?' She was evidently disconcerted by the
question, and answered me in an embarrassed manner with BUTS and
"I felt for her, and interrupted her by saying that I at once
expected her to accompany me.
"`Nothing can give me more pleasure,' said she; `but you don't
approve then of my project?'
"`Is it not enough,' replied I, `that I approve of all that you
have, up to this moment, done?'
"`What,' said she, `are we not even to take the ten thousand
francs with us? Why, he gave me the money; it is mine.'
"I advised her to leave everything, and let us think only of
escaping for although I had been hardly half an hour with her, I
began to dread the return of G---- M----. However, she so
earnestly urged me to consent to our going out with something in
our pockets, that I thought myself bound to make her, on my part,
some concession, in return for all she yielded to me.
"While we were getting ready for our departure, I heard someone
knock at the street door. I felt convinced that it must be G----
M----; and in the heat of the moment, I told Manon, that as sure
as he appeared I would take his life. In truth, I felt that I
was not sufficiently recovered from my late excitement to be able
to restrain my fury if I met him. Marcel put an end to my
uneasiness, by handing me a letter which he had received for me
at the door; it was from M. de T----.
"He told me that, as G---- M---- had gone to his father's house
for the money which he wanted, he had taken advantage of his
absence to communicate to me an amusing idea that had just come
into his head; that it appeared to him, I could not possibly take
a more agreeable revenge upon my rival, than by eating his
supper, and spending the night in the very bed which he had hoped
to share with my mistress; all this seemed to him easy enough, if
I could only find two or three men upon whom I could depend, of
courage sufficient to stop him in the street, and detain him in
custody until next morning; that he would undertake to keep him
occupied for another hour at least, under some pretext, which he
could devise before G---- M----'s return.
"I showed the note to Manon; I told her at the same time of the
manner in which I had procured the interview with her. My
scheme, as well as the new one of M. de T----'s, delighted her:
we laughed heartily at it for some minutes; but when I treated it
as a mere joke, I was surprised at her insisting seriously upon
it, as a thing perfectly practicable, and too delightful to be
neglected. In vain I enquired where she thought I could possibly
find, on a sudden, men fit for such an adventure? and on whom I
could rely for keeping G---- M---- in strict custody? She said
that I should at least try, as M. de T---- ensured us yet a full
hour; and as to my other objections, she said that I was playing
the tyrant, and did not show the slightest indulgence to her
fancies. She said that it was impossible there could be a more
enchanting project. `You will have his place at supper; you will
sleep in his bed; and tomorrow, as early as you like, you can
walk off with both his mistress and his money. You may thus, at
one blow, be amply revenged upon father and son.'
"I yielded to her entreaties, in spite of the secret misgivings
of my own mind, which seemed to forebode the unhappy catastrophe
that afterwards befell me. I went out with the intention of
asking two or three guardsmen, with whom Lescaut had made me
acquainted, to undertake the arrest of G---- M----. I found only
one of them at home, but he was a fellow ripe for any adventure;
and he no sooner heard our plan, than he assured me of certain
success: all he required were six pistoles, to reward the three
private soldiers whom he determined to employ in the business. I
begged of him to lose no time. He got them together in less than
a quarter of in hour. I waited at his lodgings till he returned
with them, and then conducted him to the corner of a street
through which I knew G---- M---- must pass an going back to
Manon's house. I requested him not to treat G---- M---- roughly,
but to keep him confined, and so strictly watched, until seven
o'clock next morning, that I might be free from all apprehension
of his escape. He told me his intention was to bring him a
prisoner to his own room, and make him undress and sleep in his
bed, while he and his gallant comrades should spend the night in
drinking and playing.
"I remained with them until we saw G---- M---- returning
homewards; and I then withdrew a few steps into a dark recess in
the street, to enjoy so entertaining and extraordinary a scene.
The officer challenged him with a pistol to his breast, and then
told him, in a civil tone, that he did not want either his money
or his life; but that if he hesitated to follow him, or if he
gave the slightest alarm, he would blow his brains out. G----
M----, seeing that his assailant was supported by three soldiers,
and perhaps not uninfluenced by a dread of the pistol, yielded
without further resistance. I saw him led away like a lamb.
What lost a world, and bade a hero fly?
The timid tear in Cleopatra's eye.
Yet be the soft triumvir's fault forgiven,
By this, how many lose--not earth--but heaven!
Consign their souls to man's eternal foe,
And seal their own, to spare some wanton's, woe!
I soon returned to Manon; and to prevent the servants from having
any suspicion, I told her in their hearing, that she need not
expect M. G---- M---- to supper; that he was most reluctantly
occupied with business which detained him, and that he had
commissioned me to come and make his excuses, and to fill his
place at the supper table; which, in the company of so beautiful
a lady, I could not but consider a very high honour. She
seconded me with her usual adroitness. We sat down to supper. I
put on the most serious air I could assume, while the servants
were in the room, and at length having got rid of them, we
passed, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable evening of my
life. I gave Marcel orders to find a hackney-coach, and engage
it to be at the gate on the following morning a little before six
o'clock. I pretended to take leave of Manon about midnight, but
easily gaining admission again, through Marcel, I proceeded to
occupy G---- M----'s bed, as I had filled his place at the supper
"In the meantime our evil genius was at work for our
destruction. We were like children enjoying the success of our
silly scheme, while the sword hung suspended over our heads. The
thread which upheld it was just about to break; but the better to
understand all the circumstances of our ruin, it is necessary to
know the immediate cause.
"G---- M---- was followed by a servant, when he was stopped by
my friend the guardsman. Alarmed by what he saw, this fellow
retraced his steps, and the first thing he did was to go and
inform old G---- M---- of what had just happened.
"Such a piece of news, of course, excited him greatly. This was
his only son; and considering the old gentleman's advanced age,
he was extremely active and ardent. He first enquired of the
servant what his son had been doing that afternoon; whether he
had had any quarrel on his own account, or interfered in any
other; whether he had been in any suspicious house. The lackey,
who fancied his master in imminent danger, and thought he ought
not to have any reserve in such an emergency, disclosed at once
all that he knew of his connection with Manon, and of the expense
he had gone to on her account; the manner in which he had passed
the afternoon with her until about nine o'clock, the circumstance
of his leaving her, and the outrage he encountered on his return.
This was enough to convince him that his son's affair was a love
quarrel. Although it was then at least half-past ten at night,
he determined at once to call on the lieutenant of police. He
begged of him to issue immediate orders to all the detachments
that were out on duty, and he himself, taking some men with him,
hastened to the street where his son had been stopped: he visited
every place where he thought he might have a chance of finding
him; and not being able to discover the slightest trace of him,
he went off to the house of his mistress, to which he thought he
probably might by this time have returned.
"I was stepping into bed when he arrived. The door of the
chamber being closed, I did not hear the knock at the gate, but
he rushed into the house, accompanied by two archers of the
guard, and after fruitless enquiries of the servants about his
son, he resolved to try whether he could get any information from
their mistress. He came up to the apartment, still accompanied
by the guard. We were just on the point of lying down when he
burst open the door, and electrified us by his appearance.
`Heavens!' said I to Manon, `it is old G---- M----.' I attempted
to get possession of my sword; but it was fortunately entangled
in my belt. The archers, who saw my object, advanced to lay hold
of me. Stript to my shirt, I could, of course, offer no
resistance, and they speedily deprived me of all means of
"G---- M----, although a good deal embarrassed by the whole
scene, soon recognised me; and Manon still more easily. `Is this
a dream?' said he, in the most serious tone--`do I not see before
me the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut?' I was so
overcome with shame and disappointment, that I could make him no
reply. He appeared for some minutes revolving different thoughts
in his mind; and as if they had suddenly excited his anger, he
exclaimed, addressing himself to me: `Wretch! I am confident
that you have murdered my son!'
"I felt indignant at so insulting a charge. `You hoary and
lecherous villain!' I exclaimed, `if I had been inclined to kill
any of your worthless family, it is with you I should most
assuredly have commenced.'
"`Hold him fast,' cried he to the archers; `he must give me
some tidings of my son; I shall have him hanged tomorrow, if he
does not presently let me know how he has disposed of him.'
"`You will have me hanged,' said I, `will you? Infamous
scoundre! it is for such as you that the gibbet is erected. Know
that the blood which flows in my veins is noble, and purer in
every sense than yours. Yes,' I added, `I do know what has
happened to your son; and if you irritate me further, I will have
him strangled before morning; and I promise you the consolation
of meeting in your own person the same fate, after he is disposed
"I was imprudent in acknowledging that I knew where his son was,
but excess of anger made me commit this indiscretion. He
immediately called in five or six other archers, who were waiting
at the gate, and ordered them to take all the servants into
custody. `Ah! ah! Chevalier,' said he, in a tone of sardonic
raillery,--`so you do know where my son is, and you will have him
strangled, you say? We will try to set that matter to rights.'
"I now saw the folly I had committed.
"He approached Manon, who was sitting upon the bed, bathed in a
flood of tears. He said something, with the most cruel irony, of
the despotic power she wielded over old and young, father and
son-- her edifying dominion over her empire. This superannuated
monster of incontinence actually attempted to take liberties with
"`Take care,' exclaimed I, `how you lay a finger upon her!--
neither divine nor human law will be able, should your folly
arouse it, to shield you from my vengeance!'
"He quitted the room, desiring the archers to make us dress as
quickly as possible.
"I know not what were his intentions at that moment with regard
to us; we might perhaps have regained our liberty if we had told
him where his son was. As I dressed, I considered whether this
would not be the wisest course. But if, on quitting the room,
such had been the disposition of his mind, it was very different
when he returned. He had first gone to question Manon's
servants, who were in the custody of the guard. From those who
had been expressly hired for her service by his son, he could
learn nothing; but when he found that Marcel had been previously
our servant, he determined to extract some information from him,
by means of intimidation, threats, or bribes.
"This lad was faithful, but weak and unsophisticated. The
remembrance of what he had done at the penitentiary for Manon's
release, joined to the terror with which G---- M---- now inspired
him, so subdued his mind, that he thought they were about leading
him to the gallows, or the rack. He promised that, if they would
spare his life, he would disclose everything he knew. This
speech made G---- M---- imagine that there was something more
serious in the affair than he had before supposed; he not only
gave Marcel a promise of his life, but a handsome reward in hand
for his intended confession.
"The booby then told him the leading features of our plot, of
which we had made no secret before him, as he was himself to have
borne a part in it. True, he knew nothing of the alterations we
had made at Paris in our original design; but he had been
informed, before quitting Chaillot, of our projected adventure,
and of the part he was to perform. He therefore told him that
the object was to make a dupe of his son; and that Manon was to
receive, if she had not already received, ten thousand francs,
which, according to our project, would be effectually lost to
G---- M----, his heirs and assigns for ever.
"Having acquired this information, the old gentleman hastened
back in a rage to the apartment. Without uttering a word, he
passed into the boudoir, where he easily put his hand upon the
money and the jewels. He then accosted us, bursting with rage;
and holding up what he was pleased to call our plunder, he loaded
us with the most indignant reproaches. He placed close to
Manon's eye the pearl necklace and bracelets. `Do you recognise
them?' said he, in a tone of mockery; 'it is not, perhaps, the
first time you may have seen them. The identical pearls, by my
faith! They were selected by your own exquisite taste! The poor
innocents!' added he; `they really are most amiable creatures,
both one and the other; but they are perhaps a little too much
inclined to roguery.'
"I could hardly contain my indignation at this speech. I would
have given for one moment's liberty--Heavens! what would I not
have given? At length, I suppressed my feelings sufficiently to
say in a tone of moderation, which was but the refinement of
rage: `Put an end, sir, to this insolent mockery! What is your
object? What do you purpose doing with us?'
"`M. Chevalier,' he answered, `my object is to see you quietly
lodged in the prison of Le Chatelet. Tomorrow will bring
daylight with it, and we shall then be able to take a clearer
view of matters; and I hope you will at last do me the favour to
let me know where my son is.'
"It did not require much consideration to feel convinced that
our incarceration in Le Chatelet would be a serious calamity. I
foresaw all the dangers that would ensue. In spite of my pride,
I plainly saw the necessity of bending before my fate, and
conciliating my most implacable enemy by submission. I begged of
him, in the quietest manner, to listen to me. `I wish to do
myself but common justice, sir,' said I to him; `I admit that my
youth has led me into egregious follies; and that you have had
fair reason to complain: but if you have ever felt the resistless
power of love, if you can enter into the sufferings of an unhappy
young man, from whom all that he most loved was ravished, you may
think me perhaps not so culpable in seeking the gratification of
an innocent revenge; or at least, you may consider me
sufficiently punished, by the exposure and degradation I have
just now endured. Neither pains nor imprisonment will be
requisite to make me tell you where your son now is. He is in
perfect safety. It was never my intention to injure him, nor to
give you just cause for offence. I am ready to let you know the
place where he is safely passing the night, if, in return, you
will set us at liberty.'
"The old tiger, far from being softened by my prayer, turned his
back upon me and laughed. A few words, escaped him, which showed
that he perfectly well knew our whole plan from the commencement.
As for his son, the brute said that he would easily find him,
since I had not assassinated him. `Conduct them to the
Petit-Chatelet,' said he to the archers; `and take especial care
that the chevalier does not escape you: he is a scamp that once
before escaped from St. Lazare.'
"He went out, and left me in a condition that you may picture to
yourself. `O Heavens!' cried I to myself, `I receive with humble
submission all your visitations; but that a wretched scoundrel
should thus have the power to tyrannise over me! this it is that
plunges me into the depths of despair!' The archers begged that
we would not detain them any longer. They had a coach at the
door. `Come, my dear angel,' said I to Manon, as we went down,
`come, let us submit to our destiny in all its rigour: it may one
day please Heaven to render us more happy.'
"We went in the same coach. I supported her in my arms. I had
not heard her utter a single word since G---- M----'s first
appearance: but now, finding herself alone with me, she addressed
me in the tenderest manner, and accused herself of being the
cause of all my troubles. I assured her that I never could
complain, while she continued to love me. `It is not I that have
reason to complain,' I added; `imprisonment for a few months has
no terrors for me, and I would infinitely prefer Le Chatelet to
St. Lazare; but it is for you, my dearest soul, that my heart
bleeds. What a lot for such an angel! How can you, gracious
Heaven! subject to such rigour the most perfect work of your own
hands? Why are we not both of us born with qualities conformable
to our wretched condition? We are endowed with spirit, with
taste, with feeling; while the vilest of God's creatures--brutes,
alone worthy of our unhappy fate, are revelling in all the
favours of fortune.'
"These feelings filled me with grief; but it was bliss compared
with my prospects for the future. My fear, on account of Manon,
knew no bounds. She had already been an inmate of the Magdalen;
and even if she had left it by fair means, I knew that a relapse
of this nature would be attended with disastrous consequences. I
wished to let her know my fears: I was apprehensive of exciting
hers. I trembled for her, without daring to put her on her guard
against the danger; and I embraced her tenderly, to satisfy her,
at least, of my love, which was almost the only sentiment to
which I dared to give expression. `Manon,' said I, `tell me
sincerely, will you ever cease to love me?'
"She answered, that it made her unhappy to think that I could
doubt it.
"`Very well,' replied I, `I do so no longer; and with this
conviction, I may well defy all my enemies. Through the
influence of my family, I can ensure my own liberation from the
Chatelet; and my life will be of little use, and of short
duration, if I do not succeed in rescuing you.'
"We arrived at the prison, where they put us into separate
cells. This blow was the less severe, because I was prepared for
it. I recommended Manon to the attention of the porter, telling
him that I was a person of some distinction, and promising him a
considerable recompense. I embraced my dearest mistress before
we parted; I implored her not to distress herself too much, and
to fear nothing while I lived. I had money with me: I gave her
some; and I paid the porter, out of what remained, the amount of
a month's expenses for both of us in, advance. This had an
excellent effect, for I found myself placed in an apartment
comfortably furnished, and they assured me that Manon was in one
equally good.
"I immediately set about devising the means of procuring my
liberty. There certainly had been nothing actually criminal in
my conduct; and supposing even that our felonious intention was
established by the evidence of Marcel, I knew that criminal
intentions alone were not punishable. I resolved to write
immediately to my father, and beg of him to come himself to
Paris. I felt much less humiliation, as I have already said, in
being in Le Chatelet than in St. Lazare. Besides, although I
preserved, all proper respect for the paternal authority, age and
experience had considerably lessened my timidity. I wrote, and
they made no difficulty in the prison about forwarding my letter;
but it was a trouble I should have spared myself, had I known
that my father was about to arrive on the following day in Paris.
He had received the letter I had written to him a week before; it
gave him extreme delight; but, notwithstanding the flattering
hopes I had held out of my conversion, he could not implicitly
rely on my statements. He determined therefore to satisfy
himself of my reformation by the evidence of his own senses, and
to regulate his conduct towards me according to his conviction of
my sincerity. He arrived the day after my imprisonment.
"His first visit was to Tiberge, to whose care I begged that he
would address his answer. He could not learn from him either my
present abode or condition: Tiberge merely told him of my
principal adventures since I had escaped from St. Lazare.
Tiberge spoke warmly of the disposition to virtue which I had
evinced at our last interview. He added, that he considered me
as having quite got rid of Manon; but that he was nevertheless
surprised at my not having given him any intelligence about
myself for a week. My father was not to be duped. He fully
comprehended that there was something in the silence of which
Tiberge complained, which had escaped my poor friend's
penetration; and he took such pains to find me out, that in two
days after his arrival he learned that I was in Le Chatelet.
"Before I received this visit, which I little expected so soon,
I had the honour of one from the lieutenant-general of police,
or, to call things by their right names, I was subjected to an
official examination. He upbraided me certainly, but not in any
harsh or annoying manner. He told me, in the kindest tone, that
he bitterly lamented my bad conduct; that I had committed a gross
indiscretion in making an enemy of such a man as M. G---- M----;
that in truth it was easy to see that there was, in the affair,
more of imprudence and folly than of malice; but that still it
was the second time I had been brought as a culprit under his
cognisance; and that he had hoped I should have become more
sedate, after the experience of two or three months in St.
"Delighted at finding that I had a rational judge to deal with,
I explained the affair to him in a manner at once so respectful
and so moderate, that he seemed exceedingly satisfied with my
answers to all the queries he put. He desired me not to abandon
myself to grief, and assured me that he felt every disposition to
serve me, as well on account of my birth as my inexperience. I
ventured to bespeak his attentions in favour of Manon, and I
dwelt upon her gentle and excellent disposition. He replied,
with a smile, that he had not yet seen her, but that she had been
represented to him as a most dangerous person. This expression
so excited my sympathy, that I urged a thousand anxious arguments
in favour of my poor mistress, and I could not restrain even from
shedding tears.
He desired them to conduct me back to my chamber. `Love! love!'
cried this grave magistrate as I went out, `thou art never to be
reconciled with discretion!'
"I had been occupied with the most melancholy reflections, and
was thinking of the conversation I had had with the
lieutenant-general of police, when I heard my door open. It was
my father. Although I ought to have been half prepared for
seeing him, and had reasons to expect his arrival within a day or
two, yet I was so thunderstruck, that I could willingly have sunk
into the earth, if it had been open at my feet. I embraced him
in the greatest possible state of confusion. He took a seat,
without either one or other of us having uttered a word.
"As I remained standing, with my head uncovered, and my eyes
cast on the ground, `Be seated, sir,' said he in a solemn voice;
`be seated. I have to thank the notoriety of your debaucheries
for learning the place of your abode. It is the privilege of
such fame as yours, that it cannot lie concealed. You are
acquiring celebrity by an unerring path. Doubtless it will lead
you to the Greve,[1] and you will then have the unfading glory of
being held up to the admiration of the world.'
[1]Who has e'er been at Paris must needs know the Greve,
The fatal retreat of th' unfortunate brave,
Where honour and justice most oddly contribute,
To ease heroes' pains by the halter and gibbet.--PRIOR.
"I made no reply. He continued: `What an unhappy lot is that
of a father, who having tenderly loved a child, and strained
every nerve to bring him up a virtuous and respectable man, finds
him turn out in the end a worthless profligate, who dishonours
him. To an ordinary reverse of fortune one may be reconciled;
time softens the affliction, and even the indulgence of sorrow
itself is not unavailing; but what remedy is there for an evil
that is perpetually augmenting, such as the profligacy of a
vicious son, who has deserted every principle of honour, and is
ever plunging from deep into deeper vice? You are silent,' added
he: `look at this counterfeit modesty, this hypocritical air of
gentleness!-- might he not pass for the most respectable member
of his family?'
"Although I could not but feel that I deserved, in some degree,
these reproaches, yet he appeared to me to carry them beyond all
reason. I thought I might be permitted to explain my feelings.
"`I assure you, sir,' said I to him, `that the modesty which
you ridicule is by no means affected; it is the natural feeling
of a son who entertains sincere respect for his father, and above
all, a father irritated as you justly are by his faults. Neither
have I, sir, the slightest wish to pass for the most respectable
member of my family. I know that I have merited your reproaches,
but I conjure you to temper them with mercy, and not to look upon
me as the most infamous of mankind. I do not deserve such harsh
names. It is love, you know it, that has caused all my errors.
Fatal passion! Have you yourself never felt its force? Is it
possible that you, with the same blood in your veins that flows
in mine, should have passed through life unscathed by the same
excitements? Love has rendered me perhaps foolishly tender--too
easily excited-- too impassioned--too faithful, and probably too
indulgent to the desires and caprices, or, if you will, the
faults of an adored mistress. These are my crimes; are they such
as to reflect dishonour upon you? Come, my dear father,' said I
tenderly, `show some pity for a son, who has never ceased to feel
respect and affection for you--who has not renounced, as you say,
all feelings of honour and of duty, and who is himself a thousand
times more an object of pity than you imagine.' I could not help
shedding a tear as I concluded this appeal.
"A father's heart is a chef-d'oeuvre of creation. There nature
rules in undisturbed dominion, and regulates at will its most
secret springs. He was a man of high feeling and good taste, and
was so sensibly affected by the turn I had given to my defence,
that he could no longer hide from me the change I had wrought.
"`Come to me, my poor chevalier,' said he; `come and embrace
me. I do pity you!'
"I embraced him: he pressed me to him in such a manner, that I
guessed what was passing in his heart.
"`But how are we,' said he, `to extricate you from this place?
Explain to me the real situation of your affairs.'
"As there really was not anything in my conduct so grossly
improper as to reflect dishonour upon me; at least, in comparison
with the conduct of other young men of a certain station in the
world; and as a mistress is not considered a disgrace, any more
than a little dexterity in drawing some advantage from play, I
gave my father a candid detail of the life I had been leading.
As I recounted each transgression, I took care to cite some
illustrious example in my justification, in order to palliate my
own faults.
"`I lived,' said I, `with a mistress without the solemnity of
marriage. The Duke of ---- keeps two before the eyes of all
Paris. M---- D---- has had one now for ten years, and loves her
with a fidelity which he has never shown to his wife. Two-thirds
of the men of fashion in Paris keep mistresses.
"`I certainly have on one or two occasions cheated at play.
Well, the Marquis of ---- and the Count ---- have no other source
of revenue. The Prince of ---- and the Duke of ---- are at the
head of a gang of the same industrious order.' As for the
designs I had upon the pockets of the two G---- M----s, I might
just as easily have proved that I had abundant models for that
also; but I had too much pride to plead guilty to this charge,
and rest on the justification of example; so that I begged of my
father to ascribe my weakness on this occasion to the violence of
the two passions which agitated me--Revenge and Love.
"He asked me whether I could suggest any means of obtaining my
liberty, and in such a way as to avoid publicity as much as
possible. I told him of the kind feelings which the lieutenantgeneral
of police had expressed towards me. `If you encounter
any obstacles,' said I, `they will be offered only by the two
G---- M----s; so that I think it would be advisable to call upon them.'
He promised to do so.
"I did not dare ask him to solicit Manon's liberation; this was
not from want of courage, but from the apprehension of
exasperating him by such a proposition, and perhaps driving him
to form some design fatal to the future happiness of us both. It
remains to this hour a problem whether this fear on my part was
not the immediate cause of all my most terrible misfortunes, by
preventing me from ascertaining my father's disposition, and
endeavouring to inspire him with favourable feelings towards my
poor mistress: I might have perhaps once more succeeded in
exciting his commiseration; I might have put him on his guard
against the impression which he was sure of receiving from a
visit to old G---- M----. But how can I tell what the
consequences would have been! My unhappy fate would have most
probably counteracted all my efforts; but it would have been a
consolation to have had nothing else but that, and the cruelty of
my enemies, to blame for my afflictions.
"On quitting me, my father went to pay a visit to M. G----
M----. He found him with his son, whom the guardsman had safely
restored to liberty. I never learned the particulars of their
conversation; but I could easily infer them from the disastrous
results. They went together (the two old gentlemen) to the
lieutenant-general of police, from whom they requested one favour
each: the first was to have me at once liberated from Le
Chatelet; the second to condemn Manon to perpetual imprisonment,
or to transport her for life to America. They happened, at that
very period, to be sending out a number of convicts to the
Mississippi. The lieutenant-general promised to have her
embarked on board the first vessel that sailed.
"M. G---- M---- and my father came together to bring me the news
of my liberation. M. G---- M---- said something civil with
reference to what had passed; and having congratulated me upon my
happiness in having such a father, he exhorted me to profit
henceforward by his instruction and example. My father desired
me to express my sorrow for the injustice I had even contemplated
against his family, and my gratitude for his having assisted in
procuring my liberation.
"We all left the prison together, without the mention of Manon's
name. I dared not in their presence speak of her to the
turnkeys. Alas! all my entreaties in her favour would have been
useless. The cruel sentence upon Manon had arrived at the same
time as the warrant for my discharge. The unfortunate girl was
conducted in an hour after to the Hospital, to be there classed
with some other wretched women, who had been condemned to the
same punishment.
"My father having forced me to accompany him to the house where
he was residing, it was near six o'clock before I had an
opportunity of escaping his vigilance. In returning to Le
Chatelet, my only wish was to convey some refreshments to Manon,
and to recommend her to the attention of the porter; for I had no
hope of being permitted to see her; nor had I, as yet, had time
to reflect on the best means of rescuing her.
"I asked for the porter. I had won his heart, as much by my
liberality to him, as by the mildness of my manner; so that,
having a disposition to serve me, he spoke of Manon's sentence as
a calamity which he sincerely regretted, since it was calculated
to mortify me. I was at first unable to comprehend his meaning.
We conversed for some minutes without my understanding him. At
length perceiving that an explanation was necessary, he gave me
such a one, as on a former occasion I wanted courage to relate to
you, and which, even now, makes my blood curdle in my veins to
Alack! it is not when we sleep soft and wake merrily that we think
on other people's sufferings; but when the hour of trouble comes,
said Jeanie Deans.--WALTER SCOTT.
"Never did apoplexy produce on mortal a more sudden or terrific
effect than did the announcement of Manon's sentence upon me. I
fell prostrate, with so intense a palpitation of the heart, that
as I swooned I thought that death itself was come upon me. This
idea continued even after I had been restored to my senses. I
gazed around me upon every part of the room, then upon my own
paralysed limbs, doubting, in my delirium, whether I still bore
about me the attributes of a living man. It is quite certain
that, in obedience to the desire I felt of terminating my
sufferings, even by my own hand, nothing could have been to me
more welcome than death at that moment of anguish and despair.
Religion itself could depict nothing more insupportable after
death than the racking agony with which I was then convulsed.
Yet, by a miracle, only within the power of omnipotent love, I
soon regained strength enough to express my gratitude to Heaven
for restoring me to sense and reason. My death could have only
been a relief and blessing to myself; whereas Manon had occasion
for my prolonged existence, in order to deliver her--to succour
her--to avenge her wrongs: I swore to devote that existence
unremittingly to these objects.
"The porter gave me every assistance that I could have expected
at the hands of my oldest friend: I accepted his services with
the liveliest gratitude. `Alas!' said I to him, `you then are
affected by my sufferings! The whole world abandons me; my own
father proves one of the very cruellest of my persecutors; no
person feels pity for me! You alone, in this abode of suffering
and shame--you alone exhibit compassion for the most wretched of
mankind!' He advised me not to appear in the street until I had
recovered a little from my affliction. `Do not stop me,' said I,
as I went out; `we shall meet again sooner than you imagine: get
ready your darkest dungeon, for I shall shortly become its
"In fact, my first idea was nothing less than to make away with
the two G---- M----s, and the lieutenant-general of police; and
then to attack the Hospital, sword in hand, assisted by all whom
I could enlist in my cause. Even my father's life was hardly
respected, so just appeared my feelings of vengeance; for the
porter had informed me that he and G---- M---- were jointly the
authors of my ruin.
"But when I had advanced some paces into the street, and the
fresh air had cooled my excitement, I gradually viewed matters in
a more rational mood. The death of our enemies could be of
little use to Manon; and the obvious effect of such violence
would be to deprive me of all other chance of serving her.
Besides, could I ever bring myself to be a cowardly assassin? By
what other means could I accomplish my revenge? I set all my
ingenuity and all my efforts at work to procure the deliverance
of Manon, leaving everything else to be considered hereafter when
I had succeeded in this first and paramount object.
"I had very little money left; money, however, was an
indispensable basis for all my operations. I only knew three
persons from whom I had any right to ask pecuniary assistance--M.
de T----, Tiberge, and my father. There appeared little chance
of obtaining any from the two latter, and I was really ashamed
again to importune M. de T----. But it is not in desperate
emergencies that one stands upon points of ceremony. I went
first to the seminary of St. Sulpice, without considering whether
I should be recognised. I asked for Tiberge. His first words
showed me that he knew nothing of my latest adventure: this made
me change the design I had originally formed of appealing at once
to his compassion. I spoke generally of the pleasure it had
given me to see my father again; and I then begged of him to lend
me some money, under the pretext of being anxious before I left
Paris to pay a few little debts, which I wished to keep secret.
He handed me his purse, without a single remark. I took twenty
or twenty-five pounds, which it contained. I offered him my note
of hand, but he was too generous to accept it.
"I then went to M. de T----: I had no reserve with him. I
plainly told him my misfortunes and distress: he already knew
everything, and had informed himself even of the most trifling
circumstance, on account of the interest he naturally took in
young G---- M----'s adventure. He, however, listened to me, and
seemed sincerely to lament what had occurred. When I consulted
him as to the best means of rescuing Manon, he answered that he
saw such little ground for hope, that, without some extraordinary
interposition of Providence, it would be folly to expect relief;
that he had paid a visit expressly to the Hospital since Manon
had been transferred from the Chatelet, but that he could not
even obtain permission to see her, as the lieutenant-general of
police had given the strictest orders to the contrary; and that,
to complete the catastrophe, the unfortunate train of convicts,
in which she was to be included, was to take its departure from
Paris the day but one after.
"I was so confounded by what he said, that if he had gone on
speaking for another hour, I should not have interrupted him. He
continued to tell me, that the reason of his not calling to see
me at the Chatelet was, that he hoped to be of more use by
appearing to be unknown to me; that for the last few hours, since
I had been set at liberty, he had in vain looked for me, in order
to suggest the only plan through which he could see a hope of
averting Manon's fate. He told me it was dangerous counsel to
give, and implored me never to mention the part he took in it; it
was to find some enterprising fellows gallant enough to attack
Manon's guard on getting outside the barriere. Nor did he wait
for me to urge a plea of poverty. `Here is fifty pounds,' he
said, presenting me his purse; `it may be of use to you; you can
repay me when you are in better circumstances.' He added, that
if the fear of losing his character did not prevent him from
embarking in such an enterprise, he would have willingly put his
sword and his life at my service.
"This unlooked-for generosity affected me to tears. I expressed
my gratitude with as much warmth as my depressed spirits left at
my command. I asked him if there were nothing to be expected
from interceding with the lieutenant-general of police: he said
that he had considered that point; but that he looked upon it as
a hopeless attempt, because a favour of that nature was never
accorded without some strong motive, and he did not see what
inducement could be held out for engaging the intercession of any
person of power on her behalf; that if any hope could possibly be
entertained upon the point, it must be by working a change in the
feelings of old G---- M---- and my father, and by prevailing on
them to solicit from the lieutenant-general of police the
revocation of Manon's sentence. He offered to do everything in
his power to gain over the younger G---- M----, although he
fancied a coldness in that gentleman's manner towards him,
probably from some suspicions he might entertain of his being
concerned in the late affair; and he entreated me to lose no
opportunity of effecting the desired change in my father's mind.
"This was no easy undertaking for me; not only on account of the
difficulty I should naturally meet in overcoming his opinion, but
for another reason which made me fear even to approach him; I had
quitted his lodgings contrary to his express orders, and was
resolved, since I had learned the sad fate of my poor Manon,
never again to return thither. I was not without apprehensions
indeed of his now retaining me against my will, and perhaps
taking me at once back with him into the country. My elder
brother had formerly had recourse to this violent measure. True,
I was now somewhat older; but age is a feeble argument against
force. I hit upon a mode, however, of avoiding this danger,
which was to get him by contrivance to some public place, and
there announce myself to him under an assumed name: I immediately
resolved on this method. M. de T---- went to G---- M----'s, and
I to the Luxembourg, whence I sent my father word, that a
gentleman waited there to speak with him. I hardly thought he
would come, as the night was advancing. He, however, soon made
his appearance, followed by a servant: I begged of him to choose
a walk where we could be alone. We walked at least a hundred
paces without speaking. He doubtless imagined that so much
precaution could not be taken without some important object. He
waited for my opening speech, and I was meditating how to
commence it.
At length I began.
"`Sir,' said I, trembling, `you are a good and affectionate
parent; you have loaded me with favours, and have forgiven me an
infinite number of faults; I also, in my turn, call Heaven to
witness the sincere, and tender, and respectful sentiments I
entertain towards you. But it does seem to me, that your
inexorable severity----'
"`Well, sir, my severity!' interrupted my father, who no doubt
found my hesitation little suited to his impatience.
"`Ah, sir,' I replied, `it does seem to me that your severity
is excessive in the penalty you inflict upon the unfortunate
Manon. You have taken only M. G---- M----'s report of her. His
hatred has made him represent her to you in the most odious
colours: you have formed a frightful idea of her. She is, on the
contrary, the mildest and most amiable of living creatures; would
that Heaven had but inspired you at any one moment with the
desire of seeing her! I am convinced that you would be not less
sensible of her perfections than your unhappy son. You would
then have been her advocate; you would have abhorred the foul
artifices of G---- M----; you would have had pity on both her and
me. Alas! I am persuaded of it; your heart is not insensible; it
must ere now have melted with compassion.'
"He interrupted me again, perceiving that I spoke with a warmth
which would not allow me to finish very briefly. He begged to
know with what request I intended to wind up so fervent an
"`To ask my life at your hands,' said I, `which I never can
retain if Manon once embark for America.'
"`No! no!' replied he, in the severest tone; `I would rather
see you lifeless, than infamous and depraved.'
"`We have gone far enough, then,' said I, catching hold of his
arm; `take from me, in common mercy, my life! weary and odious
and insupportable as it henceforward must be; for in the state of
despair into which you now plunge me, death would be the greatest
favour you could bestow--a favour worthy of a father's hand.'
"`I should only give you what you deserve,' replied he; `I know
fathers who would not have shown as much patience as I have, but
would themselves have executed speedy justice; but it is my
foolish and excessive forbearance that has been your ruin.'
"I threw myself at his feet: `Ah!' exclaimed I, `if you have
still any remains of mercy, do not harden your heart against my
distress and sorrow. Remember that I am your child! Alas! think
of my poor mother! you loved her tenderly! would you have
suffered her to be torn from your arms? You would have defended
her to the death! May not the same feeling then be pardoned in
others? Can persons become barbarous and cruel, after having
themselves experienced the softening influence of tenderness and
"`Breathe not again the sacred name of your mother,' he
exclaimed, in a voice of thunder; `the very allusion to her
memory rouses my indignation. Had she lived to witness the
unredeemed profligacy of your life, it would have brought her in
pain and sorrow to her grave.--Let us put an end to this
discussion' he added; `it distresses me, and makes not the
slightest change in my determination: I am going back to my
lodgings, and I desire you to follow me.'
"The cool and resolute tone in which he uttered this command,
convinced me that he was inexorable. I stepped some paces aside,
for fear he should think fit to lay hands upon me.
"`Do not increase my misery and despair,' said I to him, `by
forcing me to disobey you. It is impossible for me to follow
you; and equally so that I should continue to live, after the
unkind treatment I have experienced from you. I, therefore, bid
you an eternal adieu. When you know that I am dead, as I shall
soon be, the paternal affection which you once entertained for me
may be perhaps revived.'
"As I was about to turn away from him: `You refuse then to
follow me,' cried he, in a tone of excessive anger. `Go! go on
to your ruin. Adieu! ungrateful and disobedient boy.'
"`Adieu!' exclaimed I to him, in a burst of grief, `adieu,
cruel and unnatural father!'
"I left the Luxembourg, and rushed like a madman through the
streets to M. de T----'s house. I raised my hands and eyes as I
went along, invoking the Almighty Powers: `O Heaven,' cried I,
`will you not prove more merciful than man! The only hope that
remains to me is from above!'
"M. de T---- had not yet returned home; but he arrived before
many minutes had elapsed. His negotiation had been as
unsuccessful as my own. He told me so with the most sorrowful
countenance. Young G---- M----, although less irritated than his
father against Manon and me, would not undertake to petition in
our favour. He was, in great measure, deterred by the fear which
he himself had of the vindictive old lecher, who had already
vented his anger against him for his design of forming a
connection with Manon.
"There only remained to me, therefore, the violent measures
which M. T---- had suggested. I now confined all my hopes to
them. They were questionless most uncertain; but they held out
to me, at least, a substantial consolation, in the certainty of
meeting death in the attempt, if unsuccessful. I left him,
begging that he would offer up his best wishes for my triumph;
and I thought only of finding some companions, to whom I might
communicate a portion of my own courage and determination.
"The first that occurred to me was the same guardsman whom I had
employed to arrest G---- M----. I had intended indeed to pass
the night at his rooms, not having had a moment of leisure during
the afternoon to procure myself a lodging. I found him alone.
He was glad to see me out of the Chatelet. He made me an offer
of his services. I explained to him in what way he might now do
me the greatest kindness. He had good sense enough to perceive
all the difficulties; but he was also generous enough to
undertake to surmount them.
"We spent part of the night in considering how the plot was to
be executed. He spoke of the three soldiers whom he had made use
of on the last occasion, as men whose courage had been proved.
M. de T---- had told me the exact number of archers that would
escort Manon; they were but six. Five strong and determined men
could not fail to strike terror into these fellows, who would
never think of defending themselves bravely, when they were to be
allowed the alternative of avoiding danger by surrendering; and
of that they would no doubt avail themselves. As I was not
without money, the guardsman advised me to spare no pains or
expense to ensure success. `We must be mounted,' he said, `and
each man must have his carbine and pistols; I will take care to
prepare everything requisite by tomorrow. We shall also want
three new suits of regimentals for the soldiers, who dare not
appear in an affray of this kind in the uniform of their
regiment. I handed him the hundred pistoles which I had got from
M. de T----; it was all expended the next morning, to the very
last sou. I inspected the three soldiers; I animated them with
the most liberal promises; and to confirm their confidence in me,
I began by making each man a present of ten pistoles.
"The momentous day having arrived, I sent one of them at an
early hour to the Hospital, to ascertain the exact time when the
police were to start with their prisoners. Although I merely
took this precaution from my excessive anxiety, it turned out to
have been a prudent step. I had formed my plans upon false
information, which I had received as to their destination; and
believing that it was at Rochelle this unhappy group was to
embark, all my trouble would have been thrown away in waiting for
them on the Orleans road. However, I learned, by the soldier's
report, that they would go out towards Rouen, and that it was
from Havre-de-Grace they were to sail for America.
"We at once went to the gate of St. Honore, taking care to go by
different streets. We assembled at the end of the faubourg. Our
horses were fresh. In a little time we observed before us the
six archers and the two wretched caravans, which you saw at Passy
two years ago. The sight alone almost deprived me of my strength
and senses. `Oh fate!' said I to myself, `cruel fate! grant me
now either death or victory.'
"We hastily consulted as to the mode of making the attack. The
cavalcade was only four hundred paces in advance, and we might
intercept them by cutting across a small field, round which the
high road led. The guardsman was for this course, in order to
fall suddenly upon them while unprepared. I approved of the
plan, and was the first to spur my horse forward--but fate once
again relentlessly blasted all my hopes.
"The escort, seeing five horsemen riding towards them, inferred
that it was for the purpose of attacking them. They put
themselves in a position of defence, preparing their bayonets and
guns with an air of resolution.
"This demonstration, which in the guardsman and myself only
inspired fresh courage, had a very different effect upon our
three cowardly companions. They stopped simultaneously, and
having muttered to each other some words which I could not hear,
they turned their horses' heads, threw the bridles on their
necks, and galloped back towards Paris.
"`Good heavens!' said the guardsman, who appeared as much
annoyed as I was by this infamous desertion, `what is to be done?
we are but two now.'
"From rage and consternation I had lost all power of speech. I
doubted whether my first revenge should not be in pursuing the
cowards who had abandoned me. I saw them flying, and looked in
the other direction at the escort: if it had been possible to
divide myself, I should at once have fallen upon both these
objects of my fury; I should have destroyed all at the same
"The guardsman, who saw my irresolution by my wandering gaze,
begged of me to hear his advice. `Being but two,' he said, `it
would be madness to attack six men as well armed as ourselves,
and who seem determined to receive us firmly. Let us return to
Paris, and endeavour to succeed better in the choice of our
comrades. The police cannot make very rapid progress with two
heavy vans; we may overtake them tomorrow without difficulty.'
"I reflected a moment on this suggestion; but seeing nothing
around me but despair, I took a final and indeed desperate
resolution: this was to thank my companion for his services, and,
far from attacking the police, to go up with submission and
implore them to receive me among them, that I might accompany
Manon to Havre-de-Grace, and afterwards, if possible, cross the
Atlantic with her. `The whole world is either persecuting or
betraying me,' said I to the guardsman; `I have no longer the
power of interesting anyone in my favour; I expect nothing more
either from fortune or the friendship of man; my misery is at its
height; it only remains for me to submit, so that I close my eyes
henceforward against every gleam of hope. May Heaven,' I
continued, `reward you for your generosity! Adieu! I shall go
and aid my wretched destiny in filling up the full measure of my
ruin!' He, in vain, endeavoured to persuade me to return with
him to Paris. I entreated him to leave me at once, lest the
police should still suspect us of an intention to attack them.
The pauses and intermissions of pain become positive pleasures;
and have thus a power of shedding a satisfaction over the
intervals of ease, which few enjoyments exceed.--PALEY.
"Riding towards the cortege at a slow pace, and with a sorrowful
countenance, the guards could hardly see anything very terrific
in my approach. They seemed, however, to expect an attack. `Be
persuaded, gentlemen,' said I to them, `that I come not to wage
war, but rather to ask favours.' I then begged of them to
continue their progress without any distrust, and as we went
along I made my solicitations. They consulted together to
ascertain in what way they should entertain my request. The
chief of them spoke for the rest. He said that the orders they
had received to watch the prisoners vigilantly were of the
strictest kind; that, however, I seemed so interesting a young
man, that they might be induced to relax a little in their duty;
but that I must know, of course, that this would cost me
something. I had about sixteen pistoles left, and candidly told
them what my purse contained. `Well,' said the gendarme, `we
will act generously. It shall only cost you a crown an hour for
conversing with any of our girls that you may prefer-- that is
the ordinary price in Paris.'
"I said not a word of Manon, because I did not wish to let them
know of my passion. They at first supposed it was merely a
boyish whim, that made me think of amusing myself with these
creatures but when they discovered that I was in love, they
increased their demands in such a way, that my purse was
completely empty on leaving Mantes, where we had slept the night
before our arrival at Passy.
"Shall I describe to you my heart-rending interviews with Manon
during this journey, and what my sensations were when I obtained
from the guards permission to approach her caravan? Oh! language
never can adequately express the sentiments of the heart; but
picture to yourself my poor mistress, with a chain round her
waist, seated upon a handful of straw, her head resting languidly
against the panel of the carriage, her face pale and bathed with
tears, which forced a passage between her eyelids, although she
kept them continually closed. She had not even the curiosity to
open her eyes on hearing the bustle of the guards when they
expected our attack. Her clothes were soiled, and in disorder;
her delicate hands exposed to the rough air; in fine, her whole
angelic form, that face, lovely enough to carry back the world to
idolatry, presented a spectacle of distress and anguish utterly
"I spent some moments gazing at her as I rode alongside the
carriage. I had so lost my self-possession, that I was several
times on the point of falling from my horse. My sighs and
frequent exclamations at length attracted her attention. She
looked at and recognised me, and I remarked that on the first
impulse, she unconsciously tried to leap from the carriage
towards me, but being checked by her chain, she fell into her
former attitude.
"I begged of the guards to stop one moment for the sake of
mercy; they consented for the sake of avarice. I dismounted to
go and sit near her. She was so languid and feeble, that she was
for some time without the power of speech, and could not raise
her hands: I bathed them with my tears; and being myself unable
to utter a word, we formed together as deplorable a picture of
distress as could well be seen. When at length we were able to
speak, our conversation was not less sorrowful. Manon said
little: shame and grief appeared to have altered the character of
her voice; its tone was feeble and tremulous.
"She thanked me for not having forgotten her, and for the
comfort I gave her in allowing her to see me once more, and she
then bade me a long and last farewell. But when I assured her
that no power on earth could ever separate me from her, and that
I was resolved to follow her to the extremity of the world--to
watch over her--to guard her--to love her--and inseparably to
unite my wretched destiny with hers, the poor girl gave way to
such feelings of tenderness and grief, that I almost dreaded
danger to her life from the violence of her emotion: the
agitation of her whole soul seemed intensely concentrated in her
eyes; she fixed them steadfastly upon me. She more than once
opened her lips without the power of giving utterance to her
thoughts. I could, however, catch some expressions that dropped
from her, of admiration and wonder at my excessive love--of doubt
that she could have been fortunate enough to inspire me with a
passion so perfect--of earnest entreaty that I would abandon my
intention of following her, and seek elsewhere a lot more worthy
of me, and which, she said, I could never hope to find with her.
"In spite of the cruellest inflictions of Fate, I derived
comfort from her looks, and from the conviction that I now
possessed her undivided affection. I had in truth lost all that
other men value; but I was the master of Manon's heart, the only
possession that I prized. Whether in Europe or in America, of
what moment to me was the place of my abode, provided I might
live happy in the society of my mistress? Is not the universe
the residence of two fond and faithful lovers? Does not each
find in the other, father, mother, friends, relations, riches,
"If anything caused me uneasiness, it was the fear of seeing
Manon exposed to want. I fancied myself already with her in a
barbarous country, inhabited by savages. `I am quite certain,'
said I, `there will be none there more cruel than G---- M---- and
my father. They will, at least, allow us to live in peace. If
the accounts we read of savages be true, they obey the laws of
nature: they neither know the mean rapacity of avarice, nor the
false and fantastic notions of dignity, which have raised me up
an enemy in my own father. They will not harass and persecute
two lovers, when they see us adopt their own simple habits.' I
was therefore at ease upon that point.
"But my romantic ideas were not formed with a proper view to the
ordinary wants of life. I had too often found that there were
necessaries which could not be dispensed with, particularly by a
young and delicate woman, accustomed to comfort and abundance. I
was in despair at having so fruitlessly emptied my purse, and the
little money that now remained was about being forced from me by
the rascally imposition of the gendarmes. I imagined that a very
trifling sum would suffice for our support for some time in
America, where money was scarce, and might also enable me to form
some undertaking there for our permanent establishment.
"This idea made me resolve on writing to Tiberge, whom I had
ever found ready to hold out the generous hand of friendship. I
wrote from the first town we passed through. I only alluded to
the destitute condition in which I foresaw that I should find
myself on arriving at Havre-de-Grace, to which place I
acknowledged that I was accompanying Manon. I asked him for only
fifty pistoles. `You can remit it to me,' said I to him,
`through the hands of the postmaster. You must perceive that it
is the last time I can by possibility trespass on your friendly
kindness; and my poor unhappy mistress being about to be exiled
from her country for ever, I cannot let her depart without
supplying her with some few comforts, to soften the sufferings of
her lot, as well as to assuage my own sorrows.'
"The gendarmes became so rapacious when they saw the violence of
my passion, continually increasing their demands for the
slightest favours, that they soon left me penniless. Love did
not permit me to put any bounds to my liberality. At Manon's
side I was not master of myself; and it was no longer by the hour
that time was measured; rather by the duration of whole days. At
length, my funds being completely exhausted, I found myself
exposed to the brutal caprice of these six wretches who treated
me with intolerable rudeness--you yourself witnessed it at Passy.
My meeting with you was a momentary relaxation accorded me by
fate. Your compassion at the sight of my sufferings was my only
recommendation to your generous nature. The assistance which you
so liberally extended, enabled me to reach Havre, and the guards
kept their promise more faithfully than I had ventured to hope.
"We arrived at Havre. I went to the post-office: Tiberge had
not yet had time to answer my letter. I ascertained the earliest
day I might reckon upon his answer: it could not possibly arrive
for two days longer; and by an extraordinary fatality, our vessel
was to sail on the very morning of the day when the letter might
be expected. I cannot give you an idea of my despair. `Alas!'
cried I, `even amongst the unfortunate, I am to be ever the most
"Manon replied: `Alas! does a life so thoroughly miserable
deserve the care we bestow on ours? Let us die at Havre, dearest
chevalier! Let death at once put an end to our afflictions!
Shall we persevere, and go to drag on this hopeless existence in
an unknown land, where we shall, no doubt, have to encounter the
most horrible pains, since it has been their object to punish me
by exile? Let us die,' she repeated, `or do at least in mercy
rid me of life, and then you can seek another lot in the arms of
some happier lover.'
"`No, no, Manon,' said I; `it is but too enviable a lot, in my
estimation, to be allowed to share your misfortunes.'
"Her observations made me tremble. I saw that she was
overpowered by her afflictions. I tried to assume a more
tranquil air, in order to dissipate such melancholy thoughts of
death and despair.
I resolved to adopt the same course in future; and I learned by
the results, that nothing is more calculated to inspire a woman
with courage than the demonstration of intrepidity in the man she
"When I lost all hope of receiving the expected assistance from
Tiberge, I sold my horse; the money it brought, joined to what
remained of your generous gift, amounted to the small sum of
forty pistoles; I expended eight in the purchase of some
necessary articles for Manon; and I put the remainder by, as the
capital upon which we were to rest our hopes and raise our
fortunes in America. I had no difficulty in getting admitted on
board the vessel. They were at the time looking for young men as
voluntary emigrants to the colony. The passage and provisions
were supplied gratis. I left a letter for Tiberge, which was to
go by the post next morning to Paris. It was no doubt written in
a tone calculated to affect him deeply, since it induced him to
form a resolution, which could only be carried into execution by
the tenderest and most generous sympathy for his unhappy friend.
Sunt hie etiam sua proemia laudi,
Sunt lachrymae rerum, et mentem mortalia tangunt.
E'en the mute walls relate the victim's fame.
And sinner's tears the good man's pity claim.
"We set sail; the wind continued favourable during the entire
passage. I obtained from the captain's kindness a separate cabin
for the use of Manon and myself. He was so good as to
distinguish us from the herd of our miserable associates. I took
an opportunity, on the second day, of conciliating his
attentions, by telling him part of our unfortunate history. I
did not feel that I was guilty of any very culpable falsehood in
saying that I was the husband of Manon. He appeared to believe
it, and promised me his protection; and indeed we experienced,
during the whole passage, the most flattering evidences of his
sincerity. He took care that our table was comfortably provided;
and his attentions procured us the marked respect of our
companions in misery. The unwearied object of my solicitude was
to save Manon from every inconvenience. She felt this, and her
gratitude, together with a lively sense of the singular position
in which I had placed myself solely for her sake, rendered the
dear creature so tender and impassioned, so attentive also to my
most trifling wants, that it was between us a continual emulation
of attentions and of love. I felt no regret at quitting Europe;
on the contrary, the nearer we approached America, the more did I
feel my heart expand and become tranquil. If I had not felt a
dread of our perhaps wanting, by and by, the absolute necessaries
of life, I should have been grateful to fate for having at length
given so favourable a turn to our affairs.
"`After a passage of two months, we at length reached the banks
of the desired river. The country offered at first sight nothing
agreeable. We saw only sterile and uninhabited plains, covered
with rushes, and some trees rooted up by the wind. No trace
either of men or animals. However, the captain having discharged
some pieces of artillery, we presently observed a group of the
inhabitants of New Orleans, who approached us with evident signs
of joy. We had not perceived the town: it is concealed upon the
side on which we approached it by a hill. We were received as
persons dropped from the clouds.
"The poor inhabitants hastened to put a thousand questions to us
upon the state of France, and of the different provinces in which
they were born. They embraced us as brothers, and as beloved
companions, who had come to share their pains and their solitude.
We turned towards the town with them; but we were astonished to
perceive, as we advanced, that what we had hitherto heard spoken
of as a respectable town, was nothing more than a collection of
miserable huts. They were inhabited by five or six hundred
persons. The governor's house was a little distinguished from
the rest by its height and its position. It was surrounded by
some earthen ramparts, and a deep ditch.
"We were first presented to him. He continued for some time in
conversation with the captain; and then advancing towards us, he
looked attentively at the women one after another: there were
thirty of them, for another troop of convicts had joined us at
Havre. After having thus inspected them, he sent for several
young men of the colony who were desirous to marry. He assigned
the handsomest women to the principal of these, and the remainder
were disposed of by lot. He had not yet addressed Manon; but
having ordered the others to depart, he made us remain. `I learn
from the captain,' said he, `that you are married, and he is
convinced by your conduct on the passage that you are both
persons of merit and of education. I have nothing to do with the
cause of your misfortunes; but if it be true that you are as
conversant with the world and society as your appearance would
indicate, I shall spare no pains to soften the severity of your
lot, and you may on your part contribute towards rendering this
savage and desert abode less disagreeable to me.' I replied in
the manner which I thought best calculated to confirm the opinion
he had formed of us. He gave orders to have a habitation
prepared for us in the town, and detained us to supper. I was
really surprised to find so much politeness in a governor of
transported convicts. In the presence of others he abstained
from enquiring about our past adventures. The conversation was
general; and in spite of our degradation, Manon and I exerted
ourselves to make it lively and agreeable.
"At night we were conducted to the lodging prepared for us. We
found a wretched hovel composed of planks and mud, containing
three rooms on the ground, and a loft overhead. He had sent
there six chairs, and some few necessaries of life.
"Manon appeared frightened by the first view of this melancholy
dwelling. It was on my account much more than upon her own, that
she distressed herself. When we were left to ourselves, she sat
down and wept bitterly. I attempted at first to console her; but
when she enabled me to understand that it was for my sake she
deplored our privations, and that in our common afflictions she
only considered me as the sufferer, I put on an air of
resolution, and even of content, sufficient to encourage her.
"`What is there in my lot to lament?' said I; `I possess all
that I have ever desired. You love me, Manon, do you not? What
happiness beyond this have I ever longed for? Let us leave to
Providence the direction of our destiny; it by no means appears
to me so desperate. The governor is civil and obliging; he has
already given us marks of his consideration; he will not allow us
to want for necessaries. As to our rude hut and the squalidness
of our furniture, you might have noticed that there are few
persons in the colony better lodged or more comfortably furnished
than we are: and then you are an admirable chemist,' added I,
embracing her; `you transform everything into gold.'
"`In that case,' she answered, `you shall be the richest man in
the universe; for, as there never was love surpassing yours, so
it is impossible for man to be loved more tenderly than you are
by me. I well know,' she continued, `that I have never merited
the almost incredible fidelity and attachment which you have
shown for me. I have often caused you annoyances, which nothing
but excessive fondness could have induced you to pardon. I have
been thoughtless and volatile; and even while loving you as I
have always done to distraction, I was never free from a
consciousness of ingratitude. But you cannot believe how much my
nature is altered; those tears which you have so frequently seen
me shed since quitting the French shore, have not been caused by
my own misfortunes. Since you began to share them with me, I
have been a stranger to selfishness: I only wept from tenderness
and compassion for you. I am inconsolable at the thought of
having given you one instant's pain during my past life. I never
cease upbraiding myself with my former inconstancy, and wondering
at the sacrifices which love has induced you to make for a
miserable and unworthy wretch, who could not, with the last drop
of her blood, compensate for half the torments she has caused
"Her grief, the language, and the tone in which she expressed
herself, made such an impression, that I felt my heart ready to
break in me. `Take care,' said I to her, `take care, dear Manon;
I have not strength to endure such exciting marks of your
affection; I am little accustomed to the rapturous sensations
which you now kindle in my heart. Oh Heaven!' cried I, `I have
now nothing further to ask of you. I am sure of Manon's love.
That has been alone wanting to complete my happiness; I can now
never cease to be happy: my felicity is well secured.'
"`It is indeed,' she replied, `if it depends upon me, and I
well know where I can be ever certain of finding my own happiness
"With these ideas, capable of turning my hut into a palace
worthy of earth's proudest monarch, I lay down to rest. America
appeared to my view the true land of milk and honey, the abode of
contentment and delight. `People should come to New Orleans,' I
often said to Manon, `who wish to enjoy the real rapture of love!
It is here that love is divested of all selfishness, all
jealousy, all inconstancy. Our countrymen come here in search of
gold; they little think that we have discovered treasures of
inestimably greater value.'
"We carefully cultivated the governor's friendship. He bestowed
upon me, a few weeks after our arrival, a small appointment which
became vacant in the fort. Although not one of any distinction,
I gratefully accepted it as a gift of Providence, as it enabled
me to live independently of others' aid. I took a servant for
myself, and a woman for Manon. Our little establishment became
settled: nothing could surpass the regularity of my conduct, or
that of Manon; we lost no opportunity of serving or doing an act
of kindness to our neighbours. This friendly disposition, and
the mildness of our manners, secured us the confidence and
affection of the whole colony. We soon became so respected, that
we ranked as the principal persons in the town after the
"The simplicity of our habits and occupations, and the perfect
innocence in which we lived, revived insensibly our early
feelings of devotion. Manon had never been an irreligious girl,
and I was far from being one of those reckless libertines who
delight in adding impiety and sacrilege to moral depravity: all
the disorders of our lives might be fairly ascribed to the
natural influences of youth and love. Experience had now begun
with us to do the office of age; it produced the same effect upon
us as years must have done. Our conversation, which was
generally of a serious turn, by degrees engendered a longing for
virtuous love. I first proposed this change to Manon. I knew
the principles of her heart; she was frank and natural in all her
sentiments, qualities which invariably predispose to virtue. I
said to her that there was but one thing wanting to complete our
happiness: `it is,' said I, `to invoke upon our union the
benediction of Heaven. We have both of us hearts too sensitive
and minds too refined, to continue voluntarily in the wilful
violation of so sacred a duty. It signifies nothing our having
lived while in France in such a manner, because there it was as
impossible for us not to love, as to be united by a legitimate
tie: but in America, where we are under no restraint, where we
owe no allegiance to the arbitrary distinctions of birth and
aristocratic prejudice, where besides we are already supposed to
be married, why should we not actually become so--why should we
not sanctify our love by the holy ordinances of religion? As for
me,' I added, `I offer nothing new in offering you my hand and my
heart; but I am ready to ratify it at the foot of the altar.'
"This speech seemed to inspire her with joy. `Would you believe
it,' she replied, `I have thought of this a thousand times since
our arrival in America? The fear of annoying you has kept it
shut up in my breast. I felt that I had no pretensions to aspire
to the character of your wife.'
"`Ah! Manon,' said I, `you should very soon be a sovereign's
consort, if I had been born to the inheritance of a crown. Let
us not hesitate; we have no obstacle to impede us: I will this
day speak to the governor on the subject, and acknowledge that we
have in this particular hitherto deceived him. Let us leave,'
added I, `to vulgar lovers the dread of the indissoluble bonds of
marriage;[1] they would not fear them if they were assured, as we
are, of the continuance of those of love.' I left Manon
enchanted by this resolution.
[1]Some say that Love, at sight of human ties,
Spreads his light wings, and in a moment flies.
"I am persuaded that no honest man could disapprove of this
intention in my present situation; that is to say, fatally
enslaved as I was by a passion which I could not subdue, and
visited by compunction and remorse which I ought not to stifle.
But will any man charge me with injustice or impiety if I
complain of the rigour of Heaven in defeating a design that I
could only have formed with the view of conciliating its favour
and complying with its decrees? Alas I do I say defeated? nay
punished as a new crime. I was patiently permitted to go blindly
along the high road of vice; and the cruellest chastisements were
reserved for the period when I was returning to the paths of
virtue. I now fear that I shall have hardly fortitude enough
left to recount the most disastrous circumstances that ever
occurred to any man.
"I waited upon the governor, as I had settled with Manon, to
procure his consent to the ceremony of our marriage. I should
have avoided speaking to him or to any other person upon the
subject, if I had imagined that his chaplain, who was the only
minister in the town, would have performed the office for me
without his knowledge; but not daring to hope that he would do so
privately, I determined to act ingenuously in the matter.
"The governor had a nephew named Synnelet, of whom he was
particularly fond. He was about thirty; brave, but of a
headstrong and violent disposition. He was not married. Manon's
beauty had struck him on the first day of our arrival; and the
numberless opportunities he had of seeing her during the last
nine or ten months, had so inflamed his passion, that he was
absolutely pining for her in secret. However, as he was
convinced in common with his uncle and the whole colony that I
was married, he put such a restraint upon his feelings, that they
remained generally unnoticed; and he lost no opportunity of
showing the most disinterested friendship for me.
"He happened to be with his uncle when I arrived at the
government house. I had no reason for keeping my intention a
secret from him, so that I explained myself without hesitation in
his presence. The governor heard me with his usual kindness. I
related to him a part of my history, to which he listened with
evident interest; and when I requested his presence at the
intended ceremony, he was so generous as to say, that he must be
permitted to defray the expenses of the succeeding entertainment.
I retired perfectly satisfied.
"In an hour after, the chaplain paid me a visit. I thought he
was come to prepare me by religious instruction for the sacred
ceremony; but, after a cold salutation, he announced to me in two
words, that the governor desired I would relinquish all thoughts
of such a thing, for that he had other views for Manon.
"`Other views for Manon!' said I, as I felt my heart sink
within me; `what views then can they be, chaplain?'
"He replied, that I must be, of course, aware that the governor
was absolute master here; that Manon, having been transported
from France to the colony, was entirely at his disposal; that,
hitherto he had not exercised his right, believing that she was a
married woman; but that now, having learned from my own lips that
it was not so, he had resolved to assign her to M. Synnelet, who
was passionately in love with her.
"My indignation overcame my prudence. Irritated as I was, I
desired the chaplain instantly to quit my house, swearing at the
same time that neither governor, Synnelet, nor the whole colony
together, should lay hands upon my wife, or mistress, if they
chose so to call her.
"I immediately told Manon of the distressing message I had just
received. We conjectured that Synnelet had warped his uncle's
mind after my departure, and that it was all the effect of a
premeditated design. They were, questionless, the stronger
party. We found ourselves in New Orleans, as in the midst of the
ocean, separated from the rest of the world by an immense
interval of space. In a country perfectly unknown, a desert, or
inhabited, if not by brutes, at least by savages quite as
ferocious, to what corner could we fly? I was respected in the
town, but I could not hope to excite the people in my favour to
such a degree as to derive assistance from them proportioned to
the impending danger: money was requisite for that purpose, and I
was poor. Besides, the success of a popular commotion was
uncertain; and if we failed in the attempt, our doom would be
inevitably sealed.
"I revolved these thoughts in my mind; I mentioned them in part
to Manon; I found new ones, without waiting for her replies; I
determined upon one course, and then abandoned that to adopt
another; I talked to myself, and answered my own thoughts aloud;
at length I sank into a kind of hysterical stupor that I can
compare to nothing, because nothing ever equalled it. Manon
observed my emotion, and from its violence, judged how imminent
was our danger; and, apprehensive more on my account than on her
own, the dear girl could not even venture to give expression to
her fears.
"After a multitude of reflections, I resolved to call upon the
governor, and appeal to his feelings of honour, to the
recollection of my unvarying respect for him, and the marks he
had given of his own affection for us both. Manon endeavoured to
dissuade me from this attempt: she said, with tears in her eyes,
`You are rushing into the jaws of death; they will murder you--I
shall never again see you--I am determined to die before you.' I
had great difficulty in persuading her that it was absolutely
necessary that I should go, and that she should remain at home.
I promised that she should see me again in a few moments. She
did not foresee, nor did I, that it was against herself the whole
anger of Heaven, and the rabid fury of our enemies, was about to
be concentrated.
"I went to the fort: the governor was there with his chaplain.
I supplicated him in a tone of humble submission that I could
have ill brooked under other circumstances. I invoked his
clemency by every argument calculated to soften any heart less
ferocious and cruel than a tiger's.
"The barbarian made to all my prayers but two short answers,
which he repeated over and over again. `Manon,' he said, `was at
his disposal: and he had given a promise to his nephew.' I was
resolved to command my feelings to the last: I merely replied,
that I had imagined he was too sincerely my friend to desire my
death, to which I would infinitely rather consent than to the
loss of my mistress.
"I felt persuaded, on quitting him, that it was folly to expect
anything from the obstinate tyrant, who would have damned himself
a hundred times over to please his nephew. However, I persevered
in restraining my temper to the end; deeply resolved, if they
persisted in such flagrant injustice, to make America the scene
of one of the most horrible and bloody murders that even love had
ever led to.
"I was, on my return home, meditating upon this design, when
fate, as if impatient to expedite my ruin, threw Synnelet in my
way. He read in my countenance a portion of my thoughts. I
before said, he was brave. He approached me.
"`Are you not seeking me?' he enquired. `I know that my
intentions have given you mortal offence, and that the death of
one of us is indispensable: let us see who is to be the happy
"I replied, that such was unquestionably the fact, and that
nothing but death could end the difference between us.
"We retired about one hundred paces out of the town. We drew: I
wounded and disarmed him at the first onset. He was so enraged,
that he peremptorily refused either to ask his life or renounce
his claims to Manon. I might have been perhaps justified in
ending both by a single blow; but noble blood ever vindicates its
origin. I threw him back his sword. `Let us renew the
struggle,' said I to him, `and remember that there shall be now
no quarter.' He attacked me with redoubled fury. I must confess
that I was not an accomplished swordsman, having had but three
months' tuition in Paris. Love, however, guided my weapon.
Synnelet pierced me through and through the left arm; but I
caught him whilst thus engaged, and made so vigorous a thrust
that I stretched him senseless at my feet.
"In spite of the triumphant feeling that victory, after a mortal
conflict, inspires, I was immediately horrified by the certain
consequences of his death. There could not be the slightest hope
of either pardon or respite from the vengeance I had thus
incurred. Aware, as I was, of the affection of the governor for
his nephew, I felt perfectly sure that my death would not be
delayed a single hour after his should become known. `Urgent as
this apprehension was, it still was by no means the principal
source of my uneasiness. Manon, the welfare of Manon, the peril
that impended over her, and the certainty of my being now at
length separated from her, afflicted me to such a degree, that I
was incapable of recognising the place in which I stood. I
regretted Synnelet's death: instant suicide seemed the only
remedy for my woes.
"However, it was this very thought that quickly restored me to
my reason, and enabled me to form a resolution. `What,' said I
to myself, `die, in order to end my pain! Then there is
something I dread more than the loss of all I love! No, let me
suffer the cruellest extremities in order to aid her; and when
these prove of no avail, fly to death as a last resource!'
"I returned towards the town; on my arrival at home, I found
Manon half dead with fright and anxiety: my presence restored
her. I could not conceal from her the terrible accident that had
happened. On my mentioning the death of Synnelet and my own
wound, she fell in a state of insensibility into my arms. It was
a quarter of an hour before I could bring her again to her
"I was myself in a most deplorable state of mind; I could not
discern the slightest prospect of safety for either of us.
`Manon,' said I to her, when she had recovered a little, `what
shall we do? Alas, what hope remains to us? I must necessarily
fly. Will you remain in the town? Yes dearest Manon, do remain;
you may possibly still be happy here; while I, far away from you,
may seek death and find it amongst the savages, or the wild
"She raised herself in spite of her weakness, and taking hold of
my hand to lead me towards the door: `Let us,' said she, `fly
together, we have not a moment to lose; Synnelet's body may be
found by chance, and we shall then have no time to escape.'
`But, dear Manon,' replied I, `to what place can we fly? Do you
perceive any resource? Would it not be better that you should
endeavour to live on without me; and that I should go and
voluntarily place my life in the governor's hands?'
"This proposal had only the effect of making her more impatient
for our departure. I had presence of mind enough, on going out,
to take with me some strong liquors which I had in my chamber,
and as much food as I could carry in my pockets. We told our
servants, who were in the adjoining room, that we were going to
take our evening walk, as was our invariable habit; and we left
the town behind us more rapidly than I had thought possible from
Manon's delicate state of health.
"Although I had not formed any resolve as to our future
destination, I still cherished a hope, without which I should
have infinitely preferred death to my suspense about Manon's
safety. I had acquired a sufficient knowledge of the country,
during nearly ten months which I had now passed in America, to
know in what manner the natives should be approached. Death was
not the necessary consequence of falling into their hands. I had
learned a few words of their language, and some of their customs,
having had many opportunities of seeing them.
"Besides this sad resource, I derived some hopes from the fact,
that the English had, like ourselves, established colonies in
this part of the New World. But the distance was terrific. In
order to reach them, we should have to traverse deserts of many
days' journey, and more than one range of mountains so steep and
vast as to seem almost impassable to the strongest man. I
nevertheless flattered myself that we might derive partial relief
from one or other of these sources: the savages might serve us as
guides, and the English receive us in their settlements.
"We journeyed on as long as Manon's strength would permit, that
is to say, about six miles; for this incomparable creature, with
her usual absence of selfishness, refused my repeated entreaties
to stop. Overpowered at length by fatigue, she acknowledged the
utter impossibility of proceeding farther. It was already night:
we sat down in the midst of an extensive plain, where we could
not even find a tree to shelter us. Her first care was to dress
my wound, which she had bandaged before our departure. I, in
vain, entreated her to desist from exertion: it would have only
added to her distress if I had refused her the satisfaction of
seeing me at ease and out of danger, before her own wants were
attended to. I allowed her therefore to gratify herself, and in
shame and silence submitted to her delicate attentions.
"But when she had completed her tender task, with what ardour
did I not enter upon mine! I took off my clothes and stretched
them under her, to render more endurable the hard and rugged
ground on which she lay. I protected her delicate hands from the
cold by my burning kisses and the warmth of my sighs. I passed
the livelong night in watching over her as she slept, and praying
Heaven to refresh her with soft and undisturbed repose. `You can
bear witness, just and all-seeing God I to the fervour and
sincerity of those prayers, and Thou alone knowest with what
awful rigour they were rejected.'
"You will excuse me, if I now cut short a story which it
distresses me beyond endurance to relate. It is, I believe, a
calamity without parallel. I can never cease to deplore it. But
although it continues, of course, deeply and indelibly impressed
on my memory, yet my heart seems to shrink within me each time
that I attempt the recital.
"We had thus tranquilly passed the night. I had fondly imagined
that my beloved mistress was in a profound sleep, and I hardly
dared to breathe lest I should disturb her. As day broke, I
observed that her hands were cold and trembling; I pressed them
to my bosom in the hope of restoring animation. This movement
roused her attention, and making an effort to grasp my hand, she
said, in a feeble voice, that she thought her last moments had
"I, at first, took this for a passing weakness, or the ordinary
language of distress; and I answered with the usual consolations
that love prompted. But her incessant sighs, her silence, and
inattention to my enquiries, the convulsed grasp of her hands, in
which she retained mine, soon convinced me that the crowning end
of all my miseries was approaching.
"Do not now expect me to attempt a description of my feelings,
or to repeat her dying expressions. I lost her--I received the
purest assurances of her love even at the very instant that her
spirit fled. I have not nerve to say more upon this fatal and
disastrous event.
"My spirit was not destined to accompany Manon's. Doubtless,
Heaven did not as yet consider me sufficiently punished, and
therefore ordained that I should continue to drag on a languid
and joyless existence. I willingly renounced every hope of
leading a happy one.
"I remained for twenty-four hours without taking my lips from
the still beauteous countenance and hands of my adored Manon. My
intention was to await my own death in that position; but at the
beginning of the second day, I reflected that, after I was gone,
she must of necessity become the prey of wild beasts. I then
determined to bury her, and wait my own doom upon her grave. I
was already, indeed, so near my end from the combined effect of
long fasting and grief, that it was with the greatest difficulty
I could support myself standing. I was obliged to have recourse
to the liquors which I had brought with me, and these restored
sufficient strength to enable me to set about my last sad office.
From the sandy nature of the soil there was little trouble in
opening the ground. I broke my sword and used it for the
purpose; but my bare hands were of greater service. I dug a deep
grave, and there deposited the idol of my heart, after having
wrapt around her my clothes to prevent the sand from touching
her. I kissed her ten thousand times with all the ardour of the
most glowing love, before I laid her in this melancholy bed. I
sat for some time upon the bank intently gazing on her, and could
not command fortitude enough to close the grave over her. At
length, feeling that my strength was giving way, and apprehensive
of its being entirely exhausted before the completion of my task,
I committed to the earth all that it had ever contained most
perfect and peerless. I then lay myself with my face down upon
the grave, and closing my eyes with the determination never again
to open them, I invoked the mercy of Heaven, and ardently prayed
for death.
"You will find it difficult to believe that, during the whole
time of this protracted and distressing ceremony, not a tear or a
sigh escaped to relieve my agony. The state of profound
affliction in which I was, and the deep settled resolution I had
taken to die, had silenced the sighs of despair, and effectually
dried up the ordinary channels of grief. It was thus impossible
for me, in this posture upon the grave, to continue for any time
in possession of my faculties.
"After what you have listened to, the remainder of my own
history would ill repay the attention you seem inclined to bestow
upon it. Synnelet having been carried into the town and
skilfully examined, it was found that, so far from being dead, he
was not even dangerously wounded. He informed his uncle of the
manner in which the affray had occurred between us, and he
generously did justice to my conduct on the occasion. I was sent
for; and as neither of us could be found, our flight was
immediately suspected. It was then too late to attempt to trace
me, but the next day and the following one were employed in the
"I was found, without any appearance of life, upon the grave of
Manon: and the persons who discovered me in this situation,
seeing that I was almost naked and bleeding from my wounds,
naturally supposed that I had been robbed and assassinated. They
carried me into the town. The motion restored me to my senses.
The sighs I heaved on opening my eyes and finding myself still
amongst the living, showed that I was not beyond the reach of
art: they were but too successful in its application.
"I was immediately confined as a close prisoner. My trial was
ordered; and as Manon was not forthcoming, I was accused of
having murdered her from rage and jealousy. I naturally related
all that had occurred. Synnelet, though bitterly grieved and
disappointed by what he heard, had the generosity to solicit my
pardon: he obtained it.
"I was so reduced, that they were obliged to carry me from the
prison to my bed, and there I suffered for three long months
under severe illness. My aversion from life knew no diminution.
I continually prayed for death, and obstinately for some time
refused every remedy. But Providence, after having punished me
with atoning rigour, saw fit to turn to my own use its
chastisements and the memory of my multiplied sorrows. It at
length deigned to shed upon me its redeeming light, and revived
in my mind ideas worthy of my birth and my early education.
"My tranquillity of mind being again restored, my cure speedily
followed. I began only to feel the highest aspirations of
honour, and diligently performed the duties of my appointment,
whilst expecting the arrival of the vessels from France, which
were always due at this period of the year. I resolved to return
to my native country, there to expiate the scandal of my former
life by my future good conduct. Synnelet had the remains of my
dear mistress removed into a more hallowed spot.
"It was six weeks after my recovery that, one day walking alone
upon the banks of the river, I saw a vessel arrive, which some
mercantile speculation had directed to New Orleans. I stood by
whilst the passengers landed. Judge my surprise on recognising
Tiberge amongst those who proceeded towards the town. This
ever-faithful friend knew me at a distance, in spite of the
ravages which care and sorrow had worked upon my countenance. He
told me that the sole object of his voyage had been to see me
once more, and to induce me to return with him to France; that on
receipt of the last letter which I had written to him from Havre,
he started for that place, and was himself the bearer of the
succour which I solicited; that he had been sensibly affected on
learning my departure, and that he would have instantly followed
me, if there had been a vessel bound for the same destination;
that he had been for several months endeavouring to hear of one
in the various seaport towns, and that, having at length found
one at St. Malo which was weighing anchor for Martinique, he
embarked, in the expectation of easily passing from thence to New
Orleans; that the St. Malo vessel having been captured by Spanish
pirates and taken to one of their islands, he had contrived to
escape; and that, in short, after many adventures, he had got on
board the vessel which had just arrived, and at length happily
attained his object.
"I was totally unable adequately to express my feelings of
gratitude to this generous and unshaken friend. I conducted him
to my house, and placed all I possessed at his service. I
related to him every circumstance that had occurred to me since I
left France: and in order to gladden him with tidings which I
knew he did not expect, I assured him that the seeds of virtue
which he had in former days implanted in my heart, were now about
to produce fruit, of which even he should be proud. He declared
to me, that this gladdening announcement more than repaid him for
all the fatigue and trouble he had endured.
"We passed two months together at New Orleans whilst waiting the
departure of a vessel direct to France; and having at length
sailed, we landed only a fortnight since at Havre-de-Grace. On
my arrival I wrote to my family. By a letter from my elder
brother, I there learned my father's death, which, I dread to
think, the disorders of my youth might have hastened. The wind
being favourable for Calais, I embarked for this port, and am now
going to the house of one of my relations who lives a few miles off,
where my brother said that he should anxiously await my arrival."

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