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RE DE COULEV 



LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OP 
CALIPORN1A 

SAN DIEGO 



> 



presented to the 

UNIVERSITY LIBRARY 

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA 

SAN DIEGO 

by 



ON THE BRANCH 



/o& 3/3 

ON THE 

BRANCH 

From the French of 
PIERRE DE COULEVAIN 





NEW YORK 

E-P-DUTTON fir COMPANY 
PUBLISHERS 



Copyright, 1909 
BY E. P. BUTTON & COMPANY 



From the soul of the daughter 
To the soul of the Mother 



CONTENTS 

PAGE 

I. PARIS . . . c 1 

II. CANNES 16 

III. PARIS / . . 40 

IV. ENGLAND 51 

V. PARIS 110 

VI. BAGNOLES-DE-I/ORNE 112 

VII. PARIS 176 

VIII. AlX-LES-BAINS 299 

IX. PORTE-JOIE S19 

X. TOURAINE 324 

XI. PARIS 387 



ON THE BRANCH 



ON THE BRANCH 



PARIS 

Paris. 

SURELY I have now almost come to the end of my 
journey, a journey which has already lasted fifty-seven 
years. Fifty-seven years my brain has been working, 
my heart beating and my feet walking. Very good 
machinery mine must certainly be, for I cannot see any 
sign yet of its being the worse for wear. 

I was doomed to travel quite alone the last stage of 
my journey. A terrible storm burst, one day, without 
any warning, over me, a storm which robbed me of my 
husband, family and home. Ever since then I have 
lived in hotels, " on the branch." Nothing could be 
more practical and more agreeable for a woman in my 
present position. To feel lost in a home too large for 
me, to sit alone at a table at which I had always seen 
faces that I loved, 'to hear the furniture creak during 
the long winter evenings, to see my visitors gradually 
dropping off and only to be in touch with the outside 
world by means of newspapers all this would be a ver- 
itable death in life to me. Providence has spared me 
such an ordeal, and I am eternally grateful. 

Free from all domestic cares and from all material 

1 



2 ON THE BRANCH 

pre-occupation, my mind has taken a new bent. It is 
as though it has been recharged, and this time with a 
more subtle and powerful electricity. At an age when 
one generally feels one's self getting feebler, it seems 
to me that I am making progress, and I have been able 
to get into " the last boat." This phenomenon is cer- 
tainly not peculiar to me alone. Corot used to say that 
" in order to get the true beauty and the soul of a land- 
scape one must know just where to sit down," and I 
think I have succeeded in learning where to sit down 
and how to look at life. After much groping about 
I have at last found a place from which it appears to 
me beautiful and good, yes, good. ... I no 
longer see man blind, and yet with full liberty but as a 
co-operator in the Divine work and immortal as that is. 
I see him walking in boundless eternity, led on towards 
distant and glorious horizons. This new vision is a 
source of precious education to me, a source of consola- 
tion and of infinite hope. Why should I not give these 
to all who need them ? Why should I not think for those 
who have no time to think? Why should I not look at 
things for those who have no time to look ? " On the 
branch " one sees things from a much higher plane and 
one sees much farther, too oh, very much farther. 

Paris. 

A bed-room and a dressing-room on the fourth floor 
of a first-class hotel in the foreigners' quarter such is 
my home. The contents of three trunks constitute my 
worldly possessions. The scenery for my fifth act is 
neither grand nor luxurious, but, such as it is, it gives 
me infinite pleasure. 

My window looks on to a fine street, and I see count- 
less human beings pass by, who are most interesting 



PARIS 3 

on account of the variety of their station in life and of 
their general appearance. From my balcony I have a 
view of a narrow but extensive strip of the Panorama 
of Paris, from Sainte-Clotilde to the Cathedral of the 
Sacre-Cceur, from the Tuileries Gardens to the Boule- 
vard des Italiens, and the colours of the setting sun light 
up the sky most divinely. 

Within the few square yards up and down which I 
pace, there are a wonderful number of things a bed, 
a sofa, two tables, two arm-chairs and a trunk. On one 
panel of the wall, between the folds of some antique 
brocade, are the protraits of my remaining friends. 
On another are those of my acquaintances, people of 
whom I have a pleasant recollection. Then there are 
the photographs of dogs that I have loved Blanch- 
ette, Charmant, Bob and Jack. I keep them for 
the sake of the beam of canine affection that the light 
has caught in the depth of their eyes. To the right 
of the chimney-piece is the bracket with my favour- 
ite books the Bible, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, 
Moliere, Diderot, Don Quixote and Manon Lescaut. 
Above these is Lefevre's " Truth " and underneath Ary 
Scheffer's " Monica and St. Augustine." Facing the 
door the " Victory of Samothrace," and, fastened on the 
wall by the side of my bed, a strange, beautiful engrav- 
ing by Willette. It represents a dark sky illumined 
with lightning, and, standing out against this back- 
ground, a huge cross upon which is nailed a human being 
with hard features roughly drawn. It is the wicked 
thief, and he is there in his death agony, his hair blown 
about by the stormy wind, but he is not alone. A woman 
of the people has her arms round his neck, her lips to 
his. In order to reach up to his mouth she has had to 
mount on the beast she has been riding, a small white 



4 ON THE BRANCH 

donkey driven by a child who, quite abashed, is leaning 
against the ignominious cross. It may be a Montmartre, 
St. Ouen or St. Lazare love-story, that I cannot 
tell, but in that kiss, that straining of the woman's 
body in order to reach up to the crucified man, there is 
a force of maternal tenderness, which makes one believe 
in forgiveness. All these things people my solitude, 
crowd to my heart and brain, calling forth all kinds of 
thoughts and feelings. When, added to all this, I have 
a fire and some flowers in my room, everything seems 
very gay and delightfully snug. To a woman of my 
temperament, a woman who likes large rooms with high 
ceilings, silk draperies, artistic objects that are alike 
pleasant to the eye and to the touch, and beautiful 
pictures, it seems as though this most ordinary dwelling 
place would be a perfect torture. Strangely enough it 
is not so, for I have become attached to the things with 
which I am surrounded, because of their very ugliness. 
The shepherdess on my clock, with her round hat, a 
dove on her shoulder, a sheep at her feet and a crook in 
her hand, the clock itself, which would formerly have 
made me grind my teeth, are now quite dear to me. 
What I love, though, above all is this great trunk, marked 
with red and blue, painted with my initials and orna- 
mented with labels which remind me that I am a nomad. 
I pack and unpack it with equal pleasure. It holds ali 
that is necessary for me, with my life simplified as it 
now is. In one of its compartments there is the last 
dress I shall ever wear, my " coffin dress," and the 
slippers that are to be put on my feet, for there is no 
one left now to see to all this for me. Ah, my dear 
trunk! When I die I shall regret it more than I 
should a palace, and the idea that some day a stranger's 
hands will rummage in it and disperse its contents is 
very disagreeable to me. 



PARIS 5 

Yesterday, as I was looking round my room, I could 
not help smiling. On the chimney-piece is a small 
statue of St. Anthony of Padoua, the gift of a very re- 
ligious friend. On the wall I have a horse-shoe, the 
mistletoe from last Christmas and the Easter branch of 
palm. Then there are my gris-a-gris, fetiches, and sym- 
bols, such as one might have found in the ancestral 
hut. All this is very curious, for I know that these 
things will not bring me luck, and that they will not 
preserve me from any evil, yet all the same they are 
there. 

The hotel in which I live, like all the houses in this 
neighbourhood, dates from the First Empire. In order 
to introduce the springs necessary for our modern life 
in a building of another epoch, prodigies of ingenuity 
were required. I was present at this evolution of the 
human habitation, and it interested me immensely. It is 
like the evolution of the mind carried into the material 
order. The processes resemble each other in the most 
striking way. In the material order the workman comes 
across a wall that is too thick, a partition too slight, a 
beam that is too old. In the intellectual order of things 
science is impeded by some ancient prejudice, some time- 
honoured belief, some weak, hesitating mind. It is 
necessary to bore through, to prop up, to pull down and 
to reconstruct with infinite precaution, in order to in- 
troduce fresh springs into the building and into 
the brain. The wood and stone will creak and craunch, 
the intellect will protest, but the inevitable work must be 
carried through. Baths, lifts, electricity, water-pipes, 
wires find their place within the old walls. Just in the 
same way a new ideal takes possession of the mind and 
the world moves on. I was present at the hotel when the 
gas-meter was turned off, in order to admit the brilliant 
new modern light, and on seeing this slay that, I could 



6 ON THE BRANCH 

not help feeling a pang at my heart. Ah, well I 
am among all that is included in the " that " now. 

Paris. 

The knowledge of three languages has made a cos- 
mopolitan of me. It is both a happiness and a mis- 
fortune to be a cosmopolitan. It develops the mental 
faculties, but the soul retains the characteristics of its 
race, the heart is true to its own country, to its own 
parish, even. One inspires one's compatriots with dis- 
trust and also with envy. One is apt to shock their sta- 
tionary ideas, their prejudices. One can no longer un- 
derstand them, and when with them one always feels a 
painful sensation of isolation. 

That it should be possible to get the germ of cos- 
mopolitanism in a small provincial town seems incon- 
ceivable, but this was what happened nevertheless. 
Providence sometimes brings from afar the elements of 
which it has need for human destinies. An English 
woman made her appearance in Bourg society. There 
had never been one in the little town before her. She 
was the wife of a young doctor and, as she had married 
against the wishes of her family, all her people ceased 
to have anything to do with her. English literature of 
the commencement of the last century had such influence 
over us as we have never felt since. My mother had the 
most passionate admiration for Byron, Shelley and 
Walter Scott, and a countrywoman of theirs could not 
fail to inspire her with sympathy. She became very in- 
timate with Madame Andre, who lived in the next house 
to ours. This friendship had a certain influence over 
my physical education. When I came into the world 
I was received, clothed and treated as English children 
are. My limbs were left free, my head was not covered 
up, and I was inured to fresh air and cold water. Later 



PARIS 7 

on I wore very short, low-necked frocks, had bare 
legs and wore my hair down my back. My mother was 
severely blamed for these innovations, and my playfel- 
lows made fun of me and called me " English." 
Madame Andre talked to me in her own language as 
she did to her little boy, and I learned it unconsciously. 
Homesickness and grief at being separated from her 
relatives developed the germs of consumption in my 
mother's friend. She was taken ill and died within a 
week and her husband then left the place, taking with 
him his son who had hitherto been my playfellow. 
After that it seemed only likely that the foreign element 
would be absent from my life. Such was not the 
case, for five years later, when I was nearly twelve, 
an Englishman arrived at Bourg. No one ever knew 
how or why. He lodged with a widow who had a small 
house at the entrance to the town and took boarders, 
professors and others. Madame Permet was a very 
kind-hearted woman and she took an interest in this 
foreigner. At his request she tried to find him some 
pupils, and succeeded in getting five, including myself. 
Poor Mr. Gray, I feel sure that no one else in the world 
remembers him. His portrait no longer exists, probably, 
except in one of the cells of my brain. I wonder how 
it was that it ever made such a deep impression there. 
Perhaps it was due to the occult power of the man's own 
hidden sorrow. I can see him now with his frail out- 
line, his long bent body, his pearly complexion and his 
sad eyes. It is a curious thing, and would be almost 
incredible to anyone who does not know what marvels 
we are, but I can still feel the impression of physical 
cold which the sight of that body, from which life was 
ebbing, used to give me. I can see his slender, trans- 
parent hands, with well-kept nails, holding my books. 
They fascinated and awed me ; it was as though I uncon- 



8 ON THE BRANCH 

sciously felt the prestige of superior race to which they 
testified. With Mr. Gray I was extraordinarily atten- 
tive and docile. He taught me his language from 
Robertson's Grammar. Either the method was good 
or I had a gift for languages, as before long I under- 
stood this one. In English there was quite a literature 
for children at a time when in French we were reduced 
to the Velllees du Chateau, Exiles en Siberie, Berquin's 
Contes. Our pink and blue series of books for children 
were still in the limbo of a few feminine minds. In those 
English books there were no sermons, no models of good- 
ness, impossible to imitate, but real little boys and girls, 
all the animals of Noah's ark, real life, in fact. This 
suited me. I was delighted with the stories and, urged 
on by curiosity, I searched untiringly for word after 
word in the dictionary. I learned those nursery 
rhymes that can be accompanied on the piano by one 
finger, the tunes of which are so easy to catch. All this 
rooted English very deeply in my mind. Whilst I was 
advancing in my Robertson's Grammar, Mr. Gray was 
advancing in the book of his life. His pallor increased, 
the slowness of his movements was more pronounced, his 
nose began to look pinched, and he had every appear- 
ance of being in consumption. During each of my 
lessons mother made him drink a glass of old Bur- 
gundy. While under the influence of the tonic a slight 
colour came into his pale face, and that colour gave 
me intense satisfaction. His vital force suddenly failed 
and he was obliged to stay in bed. He lingered on 
for a few weeks, and three days before his death his 
brother arrived. The brother looked older, and gave one 
the idea that he was of noble birth. What misfortune 
or what error could have caused Mr. Gray's ruin and 
his lamentable stranding at Bourg? No one ever dis- 
covered the key to the mystery. The Englishman, as 



PARIS 9 

everyone called him, was accompanied to the cemetery 
by his pupils, their parents and his landlady. His 
brother read some prayers over the open grave. Chance, 
if indeed it was chance, placed Mr. Gray next to 
Madame Andre, his countrywoman. According to 
orders left with the Mayor of the town, my tutor's 
tomb was enclosed by a railing. On the stone which 
covered it the initials A. G. were carved, and the fol- 
lowing words, which I found later on in the Bible: 
" All His waves and billows have gone over me." As 
long as we lived at Bourg the exile had flowers and 
wreaths on his grave. The thought of that poor chilly 
body under the cold earth haunted me for a long time, 
and made me sob at night in my bed. 

The year following, at the Sacre-Coeur convent, I took 
up my English studies again with an Irish nun. 
Among the Superiors there was a remarkably pretty 
Piedmontese woman, and for the pleasure of having 
lessons from her I asked to be allowed to learn Italian. 
Later on, after spending my holidays with an uncle in 
Alsace, I wanted to learn German, and a professor was 
found for me. And all this, English, Italian and 
German, served to give various shades of thought to 
my mind so that I might live the life which was destined 
for me. 

Paris. 

It is now fifteen years since I was uprooted. The 
death of my husband, M. de Myeres, and the ruin which 
followed, drove me abruptly from the Chateau of 
Chavigny, in the department of Cher, and from my 
beautiful Paris flat in the Place Fra^ois I. When the 
disastrous whirlwind was over, I found myself " on the 
branch " in a hotel. My private fortune had been 
saved, so that I could try to forget everything by 



10 ON THE BRANCH 

travelling and I tried hard. For several years I 
wandered along all the routes frequented by idlers until, 
finally, I was weary of seeing museums, churches, monu- 
ments and ruins. My banker pointed out to me the 
necessity of curtailing my peregrinations. I spent more 
time in Paris, leading there the independent life of a 
foreigner. My idleness suddenly began to weigh on 
me and I began to feel the need of creating for my- 
self some interest in life but what was it to be ? 
I should have liked to do some good in the world, to 
devote myself to a charitable cause, but no inspiration 
came to me. No one seemed to have any need of me. 
Then, too, the winter time of my life began to manifest 
itself in a hundred disagreeable ways. The warmth and 
light of my days were gradually diminishing. A 
flatterer once wanted to persuade Madame Recamier 
that she was as beautiful as ever, but she answered, with 
a smile : " No, no, I cannot deceive myself on that 
score, the little chimney-sweeps never look at me now." 
Unfortunately there never had been a time when they 
had looked at me, but I used to possess a little of that 
mysterious fluid which attracts a glance, or a certain 
sympathy, and which is our secret pride. I was con- 
scious of the precise moment when this left me. It was 
one evening at the theatre. I suddenly felt a sensation 
of strange solitude, the house seemed empty and immense, 
and I shivered as though a gust of cold wind were blow- 
ing over me. It was simply that my magnetic power 
had been withdrawn. All women have experienced, or 
will experience at some time of their life, the suffering 
caused by this operation of Nature. The moral crisis 
which ensued produced in me the most unexpected of 
phenomena. I certainly possessed the gift of cerebral 
creation. My imagination as a child was always manu- 



PARIS 11 

facturing fairy tales and stories. I frequently could not 
distinguish them from realities, so that they were 
called untruths. Later on some interior or exterior 
force incited me to write. I heard it through all 
my sorrows, my joys and my amusements. I could not 
go to sleep, and I cannot now, without commencing either 
a romance or a play. As soon as my head is on the 
pillow the characters take shape, situations are sketched 
out in my mind and I even hear the persons talking. 
Then, as though the object of this phantasmagoria were 
to plunge me into a real dream, sleep overcomes me and 
prevents my arriving at the denouement. When I was 
young I was a great reader. I was envious of George 
Sand's glory, but I believe that her masculine attire and 
her free life tempted me still more. My mother, alarmed 
at these tendencies, always made fun of blue-stockings, 
holding them up to me as very ridiculous personages. 
Thanks to my indolence and frivolity, she had no 
difficulty in deterring me from my vocation. Before 
very long, too, I was caught in a veritable gear wheel, 
which would certainly have destroyed my creative faculty, 
if that could have been destroyed. For years I had felt 
this within me, like something living and precious, like 
a treasure which I did not use, but that I was glad to 
possess. And now, in the great silence of age, inspiration 
has come to me again, strong and irresistible, and I have 
yielded to it. I remember the day, the very minute when 
I became its instrument, its creature. In spite of all my 
efforts I could not escape from it. Without suspecting 
it, my thought power, as a result of being better nur- 
tured, had acquired force. It had freed from its prison 
a something which was in some cell at the back of my 
forehead, and this freedom changed my twilight into 
a splendid aurora-borealis. When an American woman 



12 ON THE BRANCH 

discovers in herself some talent, or some special taste, 
she exclaims j oy fully : " I know now why I was born ! " 
Well, then I know now why I have lived. 

Oh, that first novel! The title came into my mind, 
the climax and the last word. In this triangle, my 
thoughts worked for two whole years. And to my 
great surprise, to my amazement, I found that my brain 
had been slowly, very slowly prepared for the work 
it had to do. American women had been assigned to 
me as models, I had been thrown constantly with them 
and had been admitted into their intimacy. Quite un- 
consciously I had been collecting the notes and the ma- 
terials necessary for their portraits. The more pro- 
found knowledge of life that I had acquired at such 
cost, my own troubles, my uprooting, my apparently 
aimless travelling, the millions of impressions that I 
had been storing up all this was indispensable. The 
more I advanced, the more struck was I with admiration 
at the work which had been accomplished within me and 
at that which I was executing. 

My inexperience was both pathetic and comic. Often 
when inspiration did not come I went out for a walk. 
At other times when it arrived like a warm, living wave, 
I was so joyful that I went out again, taking it with 
me to the Rue de la Paix, or to the terrace of the Tuile- 
ries, and it bore me company. 

That first novel! I dragged it about with me in my 
trunk and it was written in I cannot tell how many 
hotels. One night at Rheinfelden-les-Bains there was 
a terrible storm. A thunderbolt set fire to a summer- 
house in the garden. No one went to bed, but prepared 
for flight; we all waited in the hall to see what would 
happen. Some women had their children, others a dog ; 
all of them had little bags containing their jewellery 
and money. As for me, I simply had my manuscript 



PARIS 13 

fastened round me with a strap. That was my sole 
treasure. An Alsatian gentleman ventured to ask me, 
in a joke, what my strange-looking parcel contained. 

" A novel that I am writing," I answered. 

The mockery of his smile hurt my feelings, but I did 
not betray myself. When the volume was published I 
sent him a copy, with a dedication recalling the incident. 
He read it, and then wrote to me, " You were quite 
right in wanting to save it." 

With the exception of some easy crochet work for 
the poor, I have never been able to finish anything I 
have begun. I thought it would be the same with my 
novel, but from the very first moment I felt myself 
bound to my writing-table. If I left it for rather 
too long a time I was drawn back to it irresistibly. 
Providence had, besides, prepared the aid necessary for 
the accomplishment of my task and this aid was a 
French friend who lived near me in the Place Vendome. 
I had made her acquaintance ten years previously. For 
many long months she had been a prisoner on account 
of an illness which finally proved fatal. She kept up 
with the times by her reading. The nobility of her 
character inspired me with an admiration which I have 
rarely felt for anyone. She was the only person with 
whom I should not have feared to be ill and to die. To 
her alone I talked of my work. She took such an ardent 
interest in it that I felt encouraged, and often went up 
to read a few chapters to her. She used to lie on a 
sofa, and I would sit down comfortably in a large arm- 
chair facing her, with a cup of tea on a small table 
to my right. She listened to me with intense interest, 
and nothing distracted her attention. It was a fresh 
pleasure to see the emotions I had created reflected in 
her magnificent black eyes. Her presence and her 
words acted on my brain in an inspiring and beneficial 



14 ON THE BRANCH 

manner. I used to go back to my hotel with my mind 
literally warmed by her sympathy. Without her I am 
convinced that my novel would have gone to join the 
unfinished drawings, tapestries and embroideries with 
which my path through life had been strewn. I finished 
it victoriously and signed it " Jean Noel " ! 

Why Jean Noel? Simply because the name sounded 
joyous and of good omen. The child was born, but 
what was to be done with it? My friend procured an 
introduction for me to the manager of one of our im- 
portant daily papers. I decided, after some hesitation, 
to take it to him. A woman of fifty-two, absolute^ 
unknown, presenting herself with a manuscript! It 
seemed somewhat audacious and ridiculous. I was fully 
aware of this and was as nervous as a young actress 
making her debut. The offices of the paper in question 
made a disagreeable impression on me. There was some- 
thing hard in the atmosphere, a something bourgeois 

which immediately ruffled all my feathers. M. P , 

for whom I had the introduction, received me very kindly, 
but with the brusque politeness peculiar to that firm. He 
took the manuscript from my hands, tossed it on to his 
desk, saying " C'est bien, madame, nous lirons 9a." 
(Very good, madame, we will read that.) 

That! the word took my breath away. He just 
called it that this thing which had caused nature 
years of work, which was life itself ! Ah, he little knew ! 
No, publishers and editors do not yet know, in the 
twentieth century, what a manuscript is. If they had 
any inkling of what it is they would handle it like the 
Holy Sacrament. 

Anyhow my novel was read. It was read, accepted, 
published as a serial, and then in volume form. Its 
success gave me the presentiment that Jean Noel would 
very likely prolong the existence here of Madame de 



PARIS 15 

Myeres. I do not see the necessity, but Providence prob- 
ably does. 

I wrote a second novel. The favourable criticism of 
the first one by an Academician, who was a disinterested 
lover of literature, and who delighted in bringing to 
notice any works of merit, opened for me the pages of 
one of our best reviews. My friend died before the 
appearance of this new volume which she had partic- 
ularly liked. The very day of its publication a curious 
thing happened. I went to call on her mother, and I 
waited for her in the room where we had so often talked 
together. It was in April, towards the close of a fine 
day, and all around me was the silence of twilight. I 
was just thinking of my friend's sweet, Madonna-like 
face, with its black eyes, and of her graceful figure, 
and was regretting that she was no longer there. Sud- 
denly, in the still air, without a single leaf of the trees 
in the courtyard stirring, a gust of wind extraordi- 
narily gentle entered by the open window, enveloped 
me, and then seemed to go out again. I started, and 
my heart began to beat fast. I had an instantaneous 
idea that this manifestation came from her. This im- 
pression has never left me. . . . Who knows? 
Ah, who knows! 

I have just finished my third novel and have com- 
menced copying it. For the last five years I have been 
studying the effect of the work of Life on others, and 
the curiosity has come to me to study its effect on myself. 
It is perhaps very imprudent. God knows what cells of 
the brain my thoughts may open again. Will they be 
able to avoid that zone which contains so many sacred 
and sorrowful things? I must be careful as there are 
some ghosts which should never be evoked. 



n 

CANNES 

Cannes, Hotel Riche. 

IF ever any creature had a belief in liberty it is cer- 
tainly I. This belief has always made me curiously 
sensitive to the suggestion of movement. It often hap- 
pens that I sit down to dinner without having the 
slightest idea of going out afterwards. If there should 
be any one in the dining-room ready equipped for the 
theatre I immediately- feel inclined to go too, and I 
accordingly do so. When I see a friend packing her 
trunks I have all the difficulty in the world to restrain 
myself from imitating her. No one could realise all the 
fluttering about of a woman " on the branch." 

As a result of hearing all around me the words " I 
am going to Nice, to Cannes, to Monte Carlo," a 
longing to see the south of France again came to me. 
The ideas which influence our life come to us from out- 
side, and I had received my orders to advance. It was 
like a little holiday accorded to me after the comple- 
tion of my novel. Cannes was the only place in the 
Riviera that I did not know. A sort of fate had always 
barred the road to it for me hitherto. It attracted me 
now for that very reason. 

To arrive at night in an unknown town, to open 
my window the following morning on a new horizon 
and to go out alone in strange streets is an exquisite 
pleasure to me. The presence of anyone, no matter 
whom, would entirely spoil this pleasure for me. It is, 

16 



CANNES 17 

as it were, a communion with the soul of the country, that 
soul created by the race of its inhabitants, the architecture 
of its houses, the climate, a crowd of things visible and 
invisible. I always feel it very distinctly. It makes 
a deep impression on me, and causes me either sadness 
or joy. The first impression is never effaced, and the 
remembrance of it alone suffices to reproduce it. After 
the pleasure of exploring the place to which I have 
been brought, there is that of making acquaintance 
with my hotel. The general effect is about the same 
everywhere. Corridors with doors on each side, like 
those of a convent or a prison, a dining-room with square 
or round tables covered with white cloths with their stiff 
creases, a reading-room with newspapers, hideous books 
of advertisements, heavy, uncomfortable armchairs, 
drawing-rooms that are often very magnificent, but 
which do not look any more private than the street. 
In spite of all that is hopelessly commonplace, every 
hotel has a special atmosphere. This atmosphere is 
antipathetic or congenial, gloomy or gay, according to 
the disposition of the proprietors, according to the 
people who frequent it, the general tone of the servants, 
the arrangements of the rooms. The atmosphere of the 
immense caravanseras run by companies is icy-cold. It 
would be impossible for me to endure it for a long time. 
The Hotel Riche, where I am staying, is about ten 
minutes from the town, in the midst of a park. I like 
its general aspect. I have a nice room on the fourth 
floor, and the view from my balcony is very fine. With 
flowers, my books, a few photographs, my pens, ink- 
stand and my papers, I can make any place where I 
am staying seem like home. The arrival in any hotel 
where I am going to stay for some time always amuses 
me. The strangers with whom I am about to enter 
into contact resuscitate my life, vary it, turn it, per- 



18 ON THE BRANCH 

haps, in another direction, and I, myself, have some kind 
of influence on them. This excites my curiosity in- 
tensely. As soon as one is in a fresh centre one feels 
the play of those fluids to which are due the continuance 
of the human being. Your presence affects this person 
disagreeably, that one agreeably and leaves the others 
indifferent. Affinities of education, of sentiment, of 
mind make you find your level quickly. The Hotel 
Riche is rather behind the times. It still has a table 
d'hote as well as private tables. This is less chic, but 
it develops sociability. My first dinner has left me 
with a good impression. Flowers, men and women in 
evening dress, gave an elegant look to the room. 
The conversation seemed to me gay and animated. I 
saw a few faces that I liked and that were even in- 
teresting. The English and American element predom- 
inates. I am glad of that, as it means more cleanliness 
and more propriety. There are enough French, Rus- 
sians and Spaniards to give a warm colouring to this 
human group. Well, I do not think I shall be bored 
here, at any rate. 

Cannes. 

Travelling and the change of surroundings always 
cause a kind of bewilderment to the mind, a brusque 
cessation of its work. According to the place in which 
it finds itself transplanted, it requires more or less time 
for taking up again the thread of its thoughts. It 
feels the ground, moves round on the same spot and 
finally recovers its activity. I am now installed and 
acclimatized. The new track on which my life has been 
placed is rather agreeable than otherwise. At seven 
o'clock my tea is brought to me. I have it in front 
of my open window, and, while drinking it slowly, I 
write, with my book on my lap. The pure morning 



CANNES 19 

air is wonderfully refreshing. At times I gaze out at 
the mountains and the sea . . . my pen stops and 
a curious intoxication takes possession of me. It is 
as though I enter into all this beauty of light, as though 
I am absorbed by something very great. I am no longer 
here but over yonder up there far away from 
my body, and I am divinely happy. This sensation is 
comparatively new to me. It is of brief duration, un- 
fortunately, and I am only too quickly brought back 
to my scribbling, to my breakfast, to all that I 
have to do. As soon as I am dressed I go out into 
the town. The place itself, with its agglomeration 
of houses, of people, and its shop windows, exercise 
a certain fascination which no one escapes. The old 
town of Cannes charms and attracts me always. I 
stop at the flower-market, I go into the book-shop, I 
stroll along on the Croisette. After lunch and the little 
chat during coffee, I go back to my room. I lie down 
on the sofa, read the papers and sleep for a few minutes. 
After this daily siesta I always get up feeling fresh and 
rested. In the afternoon, either alone or with someone, 
I go for a long walk or drive which invariably ends 
with a cup of tea at Rumpelmayer's. On returning 
to the hotel I write until dinner time. During the even- 
ing I play cards, billiards, dominoes or roulette. All 
games amuse and absorb me. When I am at the whist- 
table, for instance, nothing exists for me except the 
card combinations. These unexpected combinations, 
which vary ad infinitum cause me a surprise of which 
I never weary. This is a good example of atavism, 
as my father and grandfather were great gamblers. 
This distraction, in which there is no question of in- 
terest, refreshes my brain. Whilst at the green table, 
the characters in novels and comedies, all philosoph- 
ical thoughts and troublesome questions vanish. As 



20 ON THE BRANCH 

soon as I go back to my room they all come to life again 
and I am sometimes obliged to work until a very late 
hour. I have not a moment for ruminating over the 
past, nor for thinking of the horrors of the old age which 
is approaching. Hotel life compels me to pay more 
attention to my person, to my dress, to be amiable, even- 
tempered, not to think of my weariness or slight ail- 
ments; in short it prevents me from getting lax, phys- 
ically and morally. 

Cannes. 

When, in the evening, I see all these people of various 
races in the hotel rooms, I cannot believe that it is just 
due to chance or to their own will that they are here. 
Some of them come from very far away, from Chili, 
from San Francisco. Is it just to gossip, talk and 
play games that they have been gathered together under 
the same roof? No, it certainly is not. There must be 
under all this some very interesting weaving, some com- 
mencement of things, an exchange of life necessary 
to the progress of all. They all appear to belong to the 
same society, to the same civilization, and yet they rep- 
resent different degrees of moral elevation. Three 
circles are constituted and reconstituted invariably: the 
English circle, the American circle, the French circle. 

In the English circle the women knit long, ribbed stock- 
ings of the kind so dear to sportsmen, or gloves for 
the Newfoundland fishermen. They talk in a monot- 
onous voice; their faces are grave and cold, but their 
eyes are soft. They play cards with a concentrated 
passion that is perfectly disciplined. In the French 
circle there is more light and vivacity. The women 
manufacture pretty little things in bright colours. 
They talk, not perhaps about very elevated subjects, 
but the conversation is kept up without flagging. The 



CANNES 21 

game, whatever it may be, is played gaily, with an ac- 
companiment of droll remarks. In the American circle 
there is more beauty, more elegance and youth. The 
women, most of them with large hats which are appar- 
ently riveted to their heads, and purses with gold meshes 
hanging round their wrists, chatter unceasingly. They 
play poker with an ardour that brings patches of 
colour to their cheeks. Some charming exotic women 
come and go among these groups. What fine races 
they represent ! The setting of their eyes always amazes 
me. On their small-featured faces one sees the re- 
flection of a kindly, childlike soul. The Russian and 
Polish women stand out in extraordinary relief. One 
feels their immense capabilities. In these modern sur- 
roundings, with their intense-looking expression, their 
enthusiasm, they seem to me curiously out-of-date. I 
always come back to the American women with pleasure 
and interest. When they talk French all their fine self- 
assurance vanishes. Their expression, their very voices 
soften, a something naive is evolved from them, a some- 
thing very young, which is, perhaps, the real basis of 
their soul. I owe much to them. Their activity has 
often stimulated my idleness. Through them I have, 
as it were, felt the ebullition of the life of their country. 
In the class which I call " Young America " I notice 
a growing nervosity, an extreme lassitude, a disgust of 
money even. One of them, after passing the winter 
at Naples, said to me : " How refreshing it is to meet 
people who are well-born and poor ! " These extremely 
worldly women have a vacillating look in their eyes, the 
expression of hunted creatures. They come to rest 
themselves in the slower movement of our life, and then 
they start again, hurled afresh into the wild saraband, 
where they will end by falling down victims to nervous 
prostration. When I observe them I am not surprised 



22 ON THE BRANCH 

at the increasing number of divorces, at the social dis- 
location, proofs of which are given us in the news- 
papers. All this, however, only happens on the surface, 
and over a very limited extent. There is in the United 
States an admirable stratum of resistance, a class which 
we scarcely know, and of which we have no equivalent. 
The rigid principles, the indomitable faith that the emi- 
grants from England and Holland took into the New 
World with their family Bible were like a kind of ce- 
ment. It is thanks to this cement that their work of 
founders resisted the assaults of adventurers, and that 
it still resists the thrusts of the multitude greedy for 
money. This Puritan soul of the Pilgrim Fathers is 
not confined to the clan of their direct descendants, the 
famous Four Hundred. It is, perhaps, enfeebled there 
but it has penetrated the whole country north, east, 
and west. It is predominant in Boston and in Phil- 
adelphia. It has created a kind of moral humus, thanks 
to which we have serious, high-minded men and women. 
When such men and women are three generations old 
they are what the Yankees call " our best people," and I 
always describe them as " Old America.'* In " Old 
America " divorces are rare and families very united. 
The women do not willingly leave their homes. They 
only come to Europe, as a rule, in order to learn, and 
most of them are highly cultured. The Puritan spirit 
causes their mentality to be somewhat limited and very 
bourgeois in its severity. It manifests itself still with 
them by an absence of taste, a contempt for dress. 
They are wanting in charm and in brilliancy, but they 
give an agreeable impression of sincerity and of purity. 
The question is whether Nature cannot give brilliancy 
to worthy people or whether she does not wish to do so. 
I delight in bringing French and American women 
into contact with each other. In the most simple con- 



CANNES 23 

versation their difference of character is evident. The 
other day I introduced a woman belonging to " Old 
America " to a provincial woman of Paris. 

" Have you any children ? " asked the French woman. 

The face of the American woman lighted up prettily. 

" Four," she replied, " and twelve grandchildren." 

" Four children and twelve grandchildren and you 
are in Europe? " 

" Oh, they don't need me." 

" No, perhaps not ; but if I were in your place I 
should need them." 

"What for?" 

This " what for " caused Madame de B a visible 

shock. 

" I write to my children every night,'* continued 
Mrs. Wilson. " I tell them what I have done and 
what I have seen. My letter leaves every Wednesday. 
Each mail brings me news from one or the other of them. 
We are, therefore, in constant communication. God has 
given me excellent health and I ought to take advantage 
of it. There are so many things still to see ! " 

"What things?" 

" Sweden, Norway I am going there this sum- 
mer. I went to Japan at the time of the chrysan- 
themums, and I must go there again when the cherry- 
trees are in blossom." 

Oh, the expression of Madame de B , of the left 

bank of the River Seine, on hearing this woman of fifty- 
five years of age, a woman with twelve grandchildren, 
talk of going back to Japan to see the cherry-trees in 
blossom. It amuses me whenever I think of it. Much 
she cared for Sweden, Norway and Japan. The French 
woman, like the Latin woman generally, is still entirely 
absorbed by man and maternity. When love is over 
she sees nothing else here on earth. When her children 



24 ON THE BRANCH 

marry she clings to them, endeavours to get back her 
son or her daughter, and is always in the way in the 
new home. Most of these women try to find consola- 
tion in the exercise of puerile religious devotions, or in 
some regular charitable work. All of them grow old 
very quickly. 

The American woman prides herself in having found 
out the secret of not growing old. Her advice is never 
to lose interest in life, but, on the contrary, to draw from 
its best forces, to keep up with it, to learn all the time 
and not even to keep count of the years. She is scien- 
tifically right. The real fountain of youth is in our 
brain. If we keep up the activity of its cells this will 
accelerate the circulation of the blood, of the vital fluids, 
give brilliancy to the eyes, preserve the suppleness of 
the body, keep off illness and old age and even death. 
God grant that there may be some day in France grand- 
mothers capable of going, like courageous bees, to seek 
afar beautiful sights and impressions in a word, to 
get honey for their grandchildren. 

Carmes. 

I have never liked what is known by the pretentious 
name of the Cote d' Azur, and this fresh experience does 
not reconcile me with it. Unnatural heat and blinding 
light, a breath of mistral in the atmosphere, which 
sweeps away all mists, intensifies the blue of the sky and 
sea to a sombre indigo, and gives a disagreeable hardness 
to all lines. Verdure and flowers, it is true, but the 
silence of winter without the songs of the birds. The 
peasants kill the birds through ignorance and avarice. 
The sunsets are wonderful, but treacherous. One would 
like to stay out in order not to miss one single effect 
of the changing light, of that golden violet which no 



CANNES 25 

human palette can render, but one is driven indoors. 
A peculiar humidity causes a deathly chill to run down 
one's back. The air is laden with visible and invisible 
enemies and in this pernicious air the mosquitoes, winged 
poison as they are, intoxicated with their love, dance 
their wild dance and take in, perhaps, a fresh provision 
of venom. I must own frankly that I prefer the sun- 
sets of Paris. Though I do not like the South of France, 
I like the cosmopolitans one meets there. Beside the 
society people and the gay set, there are always a 
number of individuals who come there in search of ob- 
livion or health, in search of a little physical or moral 
warmth. Something has been, or is now, going on 
within their soul. 

About a week ago, an Englishman, who at once aroused 
my interest, arrived at the Hotel Riche. He is about 
fifty-five or sixty years of age. His tall, upright figure 
gives him a robust appearance, but the leaden pallor 
of his face, his features which are being chiselled, as it 
were, from within, and his liquid eyes betray the work 
of destruction that is being accomplished within his fine- 
looking body. I had seen from the visitors' list that 
his name was Sir William Randolph. He was accom- 
panied by his wife and, although he seemed to wish to 
keep aloof, I was sure that we should make each other's 
acquaintance. In the evening, when I was playing 
bridge, I met his gaze several times fixed on me with 
an expression of astonishment, and I noticed on his 
lips that irritating, humorous smile peculiar to English- 
men. This morning, as I was resting under the veran- 
dah after my walk in town, I saw him coming along 
from the far end of the Park. My sympathy went out 
involuntarily towards him and reached him in some in- 
visible manner, for he came direct to my arm-chair. 



26 ON THE BRANCH 

" I do not know whether it is the correct thing to 
speak without an introduction to an authoress in order 
to thank her for the pleasure she has given me? " 

" It may not be the correct thing, but it is very nice 
of you," I answered, amused at this general way of 
entering into conversation. I pointed to a chair and 
added : " You like novels, then ? " 

" When they are good, yes, just as I like a good 
cigar. I am not allowed to smoke, so I make up for 
that by reading novels. Don't you think it strange 
that a man should require stories and the theatre when 
he has life to look at ? " 

" No, for his faculties do not allow him to grasp 
things sufficiently. The novel and the theatre are not 
the mirror of life, they are life in the mirror. It is 
only there that he can see it, and, besides, he finds there 
the complete action which satisfies his innate desire to 
know the end of things." 

Sir William Randolph looked at me in surprise. 

" I think you have hit it," he said. " Your explana- 
tion seems to me very plausible." 

" How did you come across my stories ? " I asked 
curiously. 

" As chance would have it, your publisher is my book- 
seller, and he sent me your two works to Algeria. I 
opened them with misgiving." 

" Because they were by a French author, I suppose? " 

" Precisely. French novelists have a great deal of 
talent, but they too often treat disagreeable subjects. 
This is a matter of regret not only to the * hypocritical 
English,' " said Sir William Randolph, mischievously, 
" but to refined people in all countries." 

" People do not write the novels they would like to 
write, that is very certain," I said. " My dream was 



CANNES 27 

to publish stories about the humble classes, about ani- 
mals, about a strong and simple kind of life. You 
have seen what I have written." 

" I am not sorry, though. Your books contain so 
many thoughts, and a study of characters which has 
interested me keenly, although I have not very much 
sympathy with our American cousins." 

" I should have been surprised if it had been other- 
wise," I said smiling. 

" I have no prejudice against them, believe me. 
Their faults shock me, and my education prevents me 
from appreciating their extremely modern qualities. 
Judge for yourself. They are the only women in the 
world who willingly leave their husband and children, 
enjoy themselves, and are quite happy away from them." 

" That is true, but have you ever thought that, if the 
conjugal bond were as close in their country as in 
ours, it would interfere with the action of the men and 
hinder their work? Do you not think that these women 
are the necessary agents of exchange between the New 
and the Old World, the unconscious vehicles of ideas 
and of impressions? " 

" No ; I have not a novelist's imagination." 

" There is no imagination in that ; it is scientifically 
true. The invisible cargo of an Atlantic liner is consid- 
erably more important than that which pays duty, but 
in quite another way." 

Sir William looked at me an instant. 

" You amaze me more and more. When my wife 
came and told me that you were Jean Noel, I did not 
think it possible." 

" Because you thought I was too old to be a new 
author? " 

" No, I could not believe that the person who had 



28 ON THE BRANCH 

stirred up ideas such as those which had struck me, 
could shuffle cards with such animation and be so ab- 
sorbed in that abominable bridge." 

" But the person is not the same," I exclaimed, in 
all good faith. " This one is Madame de Myeres, a 
very frivolous woman, who would willingly finish her 
life playing bezique. Jean Noel was only born five 
years ago. He remained long enough in limbo, you 
see." 

" That is why he is so vigorous. I am glad of it, 
for I intend waging war with him on many points." 

" You are not a Francophobe, I hope? " 

" No ; I even have an instinctive liking for the French, 
but I do not always understand them. I do not under- 
stand them when they exclaim, after every check : ' We 
have been betrayed ! * I do not understand them in 
defeat, when, instead of rallying round their govern- 
ment, instead of standing shoulder to shoulder, they 
quarrel and kill each other. With us, Napoleon might 
have avenged Waterloo. It was you who sent him to 
St. Helena." 

" You are quite right." 

" I did not understand the French in their way of 
treating Ferry, in the Boulanger affair, and still less 
in the Dreyfus affair. Their attitude at the time of our 
war with the Boers pained me, and had the same effect 
on other people. We had been attacked, and we were 
defeated at Majuba Hill, and we could not stop at that. 
All great nations have sins of conquest on their con- 
science, if, indeed, these be sins. Are you not keeping 
a certain little Malgache queen in exile ? " 

" Your country and mine are both accomplishing the 
work that is imposed upon us, that is all. But would 
you like me to give you the key to our character? " 

" Ah ? I should be delighted if you would." 



CANNES 29 

" Well, then, the Saxon and Teutonic races, and their 
various branches, are masculine. The Latin, Slavonic, 
and Celtic races are feminine. The feminine element 
predominates in the French soul. Study our history 
and our literature, and you will find it there constantly, 
with all its defects and all its good qualities." 

The face of Sir William lighted up. 

" Upon my word," he exclaimed, " it must be that ! " 

" I have often visited England," I said, " and I 
regret that we should remain so obstinately foreign to 
each other." 

" And yet, in your books, you have carefully excluded 
the Englishman from the field of your observations, I 
have noticed that." 

" Well, you will not lose anything by waiting. I 
have a volume on your country in preparation." 

"Oh, I shall enjoy that!" 

" I have hesitated a hundred times, with pen in hand, 
before expressing an opinion. I have made it a point 
of honour to be fair, as I do not want to be found 
guilty of injustice or of partiality. At the same time 
I have tried to give you a clearer and truer idea of our 
character. I am sure that you have never crossed the 
threshold of a French house." 

" Yes, I have. Three years ago Lably Randolph and 
I met the Lussons at the Hotel Riche. They are 
charming people, with a daughter of eighteen. We 
were very soon on friendly terms with them, and one 
day, during the conversation, my wife, who is Irish, 
happened to mention that one of her cousins on her 
mother's side had married a Frenchman, named La 
Reynie. To our mutual amazement, we discovered that 
the said cousin was the grandmother of Madame de 
Lusson." 

" Life has pleasant surprises for us sometimes." 



30 

" And cruel ones still more often. However that may 
be, this discovery brought about a very delightful friend- 
ship between us and our new acquaintances. They came 
and stayed with us for a month at Simley Hall, Staf- 
fordshire. We paid them a visit later on in Touraine. 
I really came into touch then with France, and saw more 
of your good qualities than I had yet seen. The Lus- 
sons' estate, the Commanderie de Rouziers, is about 
seven miles from Tours." 

" The Commanderie de Rouziers ! " I exclaimed, 
"Why, I know it!" 

"Really?" 

" An adorable house in Louis XIII style? " 

" Exactly." 

" The last ten years I have spent the month of Octo- 
ber at Vouvray with some friends there. They pointed 
out the house to me on one of our excursions." 

" How curious that is ! " said Sir William Randolph. 
" We shall find yet that we have mutual ties." 

" I should not be surprised, meetings in this world 
are often prepared from afar " 

At this moment the luncheon-bell rang and we rose. 
I held out my hand to my companion and said " Au 
revoir." 

" If you will allow me, I should like to introduce 
my wife this afternoon." 

" With pleasure," I answered ; " but to whom shall 
you introduce her to Madame de Myeres or to Jean 
Noel? " 

Sir William looked at me, hesitated, and then, with a 
mocking smile, replied 

" I will introduce her to Madame de Myeres, for 
she plays whist and dominoes. I will keep Jean Noel 
for myself, if you will allow me to do so." 

" Very well," I answered, and upon this we separated 



CANNES 31 

and I went upstairs to my room rather agitated, with 
that sensation which always warn me, now that some- 
thing has happened or is about to happen. Was it in 
order to come into contact with this mind that I had 
been sent to Cannes? 

Cannes. 

Well, we are friends now, the Randolphs and I! 
Friends! What a delightful phenomenon it is, this 
friendship of human creatures! For a long time they 
walk along different paths, then they cross suddenly 
towards the same point and meet each other. A hundred 
circumstances bring them together with significant per- 
sistance. A photographic transmission of images and 
impressions takes place between their brains. Each of 
them puts a little of his substance into the soul of the 
other, enough to produce mutual vibrations, more or 
less profound, of course. The Randolphs, of whose very 
existence I was unaware a fortnight ago, now know my 
mother, that luminous figure, the memory of which 
brightens my life. They know my father, too, and my 
friends, dead and living. I have talked to them of my 
childhood, of my youth and, incidentally, of my mar- 
riage. With that intuition of refined natures, they felt 
that this chapter contained something painful, and they 
did not want me to dwell on it. I feel really that from 
henceforth anything that may happen to me, either 
for good or for evil, would not be indifferent to them. 
This is to me both pleasant and embarrassing, for I 
have a jealous love of my solitude and my independence. 
They, on their side, have told me about their life. They 
have spoken of their eldest son, who died in India, of 
their married daughter, of their three grand-children, 
of their son Claude, and of Simley Hall, their old family 
home. I even know the names of all their dogs. Sir 



32 ON THE BRANCH 

William is at the head of an important colliery com- 
pany, and owns coal mines in Staffordshire. Few men 
have given me such an impression of will-power. It 
seems as though strength emanates from his person. 
When I walk with him I have a distinct sensation of pro- 
tection. He must have been very authoritative, a ver- 
itable lord and master for his wife and for all those 
connected with him. The horrible affection of the heart, 
which is killing him, has evidently softened and trans- 
formed his character. At times the sudden inflation of 
his nostrils, the instantaneous rigidity of his lips, betray 
the old man in him. He reminds me of a dying lion. 
There is in him that manly spirituality which is created 
in the Englishman by the Bible. It is very different 
from the keen and sensual spirituality which drives cer- 
tain Frenchmen into the cloister or to religious devotion. 
Sir William loves Nature, flowers and animals passion- 
ately. Astronomy is his favourite study. He has had 
an observatory built on his estate. In the evening when 
we are strolling about under the verandah, his gaze is 
always exploring the sky. Unless I am mistaken, there 
was something particularly sad about the death of his 
eldest son. It weighs on his mind in a way that is 
unusual. 

The day before yesterday I do not remember what 
we were discussing, but I happened to say, as I fre- 
quently do, " How beautiful life is ! " He turned ab- 
ruptly towards me with his features contracted and in 
a sarcastic tone said: 

" Life beautiful ! With all its baseness, its incurable 
ills. Ah no, it is not beautiful. It is very praiseworthy, 
that we should refrain from cursing it. Tell me, how 
do you look upon life? " 

" As a wonderful assembly of forces, all contributing 
to the universal work. We have no right, either, to 



CANNES 3S 

judge it, as we do not know anything about its contin- 
uation or its end. When I see or think of any of the 
horrors here below, I immediately think of something 
that has been improved, and I say to myself, this -will 
become that. Beauty is ugliness corrected, virtue is vice 
purified. By what processes, Nature alone knows." 

" Oh well, I simply believe that we all have the in- 
stincts of brutes, against which we have to struggle 
unceasingly. There is, I must confess, a certain pleasure 
in the strife." 

" That is very English ! " 

" Do you also happen to admire mankind ? " 

" Certainly I do. Whether a man be wielding a 
broom or a sceptre I see in him the agent, the instrument 
of God. I consider that the very humblest is as neces- 
sary as I am myself. When once he is on the ladder of 
life he never comes off it. He may fall down a few 
steps or even to the bottom, but he will rise again and 
will be urged on inevitably towards perfection and hap- 
piness." 

" Where have you obtained your information ? " 

" From science." 

" Science, ah, that is good ! " 

" Well, science has opened out infinite v perspectives 
to me. I believe now in the promises of the beatitudes, 
which used to make me smile in my ignorance. Logic- 
ally they must be realised. ' Those who are hungry 
will be filled ' I am sure of that." 

" Amen ! " said my companion, with a long sigh. 

Sir William's mockery is particularly cutting. He is 
endowed with that faculty which is termed humour, by 
means of which he sees the comic side of things at once. 
He adores chaffing. I, too, take great pleasure in that, 
and we do not spare each other. My aptitude in passing 
from a frivolous to a very grave subject is a constant 



34 ON THE BRANCH 

astonishment to him. I am the first French woman with 
whom he has been able to exchange ideas. I see that he 
is perplexed every minute. The day before yesterday he 
came and sat with me under the verandah in the morning. 

" I would wager that you are superstitious," he began, 
as a kind of attack. 

" Terribly so," I replied. 

" You do not like to see the new moon through the 
window ? " 

" Oh, no." 

" And you believe in the evil eye ? " 

" I believe that the meeting certain persons may coin- 
cide with happy events, and the meeting others with un- 
happy events ! Are we not constantly the instruments 
of joy or of sorrow for each other, the messengers of 
good or evil fortune ? " . 

" Superstitious temperaments are to be found at the 
two extremities of the human ladder : with those who are 
governed by instinct, and with those whose sensitive organ 
is very keen." 

" Ah, well, I caught this disease in Italy. By con- 
stantly hearing ' that is lucky ' or ' that is unlucky,' one 
finally gets impressed. Do you not believe in presenti- 
ments ? " 

" Unfortunately I cannot help believing in them. 
When my son started for India, I felt, as we shook 
hands for the last time, that I should not see him again. 
He himself, when the boat was in the roadstead, asked his 
mother for an old song that she used to sing to him when 
he was a child." 

" Something happened to me, too," I said, " which 
was very curious. When I was staying at Rome with 
M. de Myeres the very year of his death, I went to see 
the Corsini chapel at St. Jean's of Latran, where there is 
a Pieta that I shall never forget. It does not represent 



CANNES 35 

a virgin above and beyond all humanity, but a simple 
woman holding, across her knees, the body of a man who 
had been racked by torture and was now lifeless, the body 
of a man whom she had loved or to whom she had given 
birth. The group is lighted up by a reflection which 
leaves the crypt in shadow. This grief, intensified 
by the light, was communicated magnetically to me, 
although I was neither a believer nor a mother. I broke 
into sobs, to the great surprise of the other visitors. The 
more I wiped away my tears the more they flowed. Six 
months later my husband was taken from me. Whilst, 
in my anguish, I was preparing him for the grave, the 
Pieta group came again to my mind, and I saw myself in 
the same attitude as the woman of the Corsini chapel. 
Sometimes, as you say so truly in English, ' Coming 
events cast their shadows before them.' " 

" That is quite certain." 

" Is not that a proof that our destiny is fore- 
ordained? " 

" A proof, yes, but it may be a fallacious one," and, 
turning to me with his nostrils quivering with mischief, 
he added: 

" The prettiest proof would be for love to be a fluid, 
as you affirm in your last novel. We have felt it, 
both you and I, formerly I should like to see it 
now." 

" To see it ! " I exclaimed. " But what do you see 
here below? Only things. Have you ever seen an idea, 
a thought, a sentiment ? " 

Sir William Randolph's face expressed a sudden be- 
wilderment. 

" Why, no, I never even took into account that I had 
not seen them." 

" And yet they lead you along, these great Invisibles. 
They overturn the world ; they make it live, act " 



86 ON THE BRANCH 

" Was it between two games of bridge that you dis- 
covered that? " 

" Perhaps so : it was certainly not during the game." 

" I suppose not. Joking apart, though, you must 
have thought a great deal." 

" What is there to do, on the branch, unless one thinks ? 
Jean Noel has acquired a little of the wisdom that you 
attribute to old owls. He has become ' as wise as an 
owl.' " 

As though these daily conversations did not make us 
intimate enough, the Randolphs invited me every after- 
noon to share their carriage, and we have been to all the 
suburbs of Cannes together. The spring is now very 
far advanced. The blue tones get softer each day, and 
there is more gold in the violet shades of the setting sun. 
Those birds which have escaped the stupid massacre at- 
tempted on them, and also those which have come back 
from afar, are beginning to sing of love. Yesterday, on 
ascending a hill, I had the sensation of entering a bath of 
azure and of vibrating light. The real season of the 
Riviera ought to be the summer. 

On returning from the drive Lady Randolph usually 
prepares some excellent tea for us. Her invalid then 
takes a little rest, and she and I play piquet until the 
dinner hour. She is the true type of the gentle, sub- 
missive English wife. She recognizes, with touching 
humility, the great superiority of her husband. She is 
delighted that he finds some pleasure in talking to me. 
And these new friends who have, as it were, adopted me 
are leaving to-morrow. I regret this very much, and 
should like to have returned to Paris at the same time as 
they do, but my room at the hotel will not be free 
for a week. 

This evening after dinner, as we were walking up and 



CANNES S7 

down for the last time under the verandah, Sir William 
Randolph asked me whether I intended to go to England 
in June. 

" Oh, no," I answered, " I am going to Touraine to 
see the springtime there. It is a fancy I have had for 
some time." 

" Would you not give up this fancy for my sake ? " he 
asked. " My wife intends asking you to come and spend 
some weeks at Simley Hall." 

" Next year, if you like," I answered. 

He stopped short and turned towards me. 

" Do I look like a man who will live another year? " 
he asked me in a bitter tone. 

A pang went through my heart, but I had strength 
enough to hide my feelings. 

" You have a constitution capable of resisting disease 
for a long time, and of even conquering it," I said. 

" Do you think so ? " he observed, with sorrowful 
irony. " I am not of your opinion. Anyhow, I cer- 
tainly have the right to be a despot. I should like to 
show you my favourite stars, the little village I have 
built, Simley and its old trees. Let me have this pleas- 
ure, and come in June." 

Some inward force obliged me to yield, and I answered : 

" Very well, then June. You see there is no need 
to press me much." 

An expression of joy lighted up the face of Sir Wil- 
liam. 

" You are kindness itself," he said. " We will invite 
the Lussons as we pass through Paris, so that your visit 
will be more pleasant. We shall have young people 
my son, my daughter and grandchildren. Madame de 
Myeres will not be short of partners for bridge, and Jean 
Noel will be able to study an English family, quite of 



38 ON THE BRANCH 

the old school. Such families are disappearing fast, you 
know. Altogether, we shall do our best to entertain 
you." 

" I do not doubt it, and I expect to be very happy." 

" Well, then, we can count on you ? " 

" Certainly." 

" Thank you ; I suppose a Frenchman would kiss your 
hand," said Sir William with a flash of mockery in his 
eyes, " but there are some things that John Bull cannot 
do, and this is one of them." 

And so my compass now points to England. My visit 
to Cannes has changed all my plans. Was that the ob- 
ject of it? 

Cannes. 

I feel very lonely now. The season is nearly at an 
end, and our number diminishes every day. The table 
d'hote is, after all, the vulgar image of what the poet 
Gilbert called "The Banquet of Life." People disap- 
pear and whilst the absence of one person causes a sensa- 
tion of emptiness, which is often very sorrowful, the 
absence of another does not affect one at all. This fact, 
although commonplace, is curious. It indicates, in my 
opinion, the existence of an isolating fluid. It is, thanks 
to this fluid, that we can pass through a crowd without 
mixing with it, without coming into touch with it. 
Otherwise, we should fall over each other like card 
houses, or we should embrace each other or tear each 
other to pieces. Ah, what would be left of us if it were 
not for this invisible barrier! It seems to me that here 
on earth beings are grouped into systems. When, at the 
turning-points of our road, we happen to come across 
people unexpectedly, whom we have seen elsewhere, we 
say, How small the world is ! It is not the world that is 
small, but our respective orbits, circles or ellipses. 



CANNES 39 

Although separated by considerable distance, by ob- 
stacles of all kinds, the individuals who belong to the 
same system meet always at a given moment and for un- 
known ends. Hidden affinities, conducting wires unite 
or re-unite them, they have an influence on each other, 
affect each other mutually, and, however fugitive may be 
the contact, the glance or pressure of the hand, it leaves 
an impression and produces the vibrations necessary to 
life in common. When the time comes to say farewell, 
we feel the bonds that have been formed without our 
knowledge. The breaking of them is like the tearing 
away of a thousand small inward fibres. The railway 
train makes departures particularly painful. It looks as 
implacable as Fate, as Nature. We understand that no 
human cry will make it slacken its pace, and that it will 
not give us back those it takes away. A carriage, on the 
contrary, leaves us with a vague hope, a possibility of re- 
turn. 

Towards the close of the season, either at a watering 
place or elsewhere, whenever I hear people talking of 
their home, I realise my own uprootal. It causes me a 
slight shock, some sorrow, and a kind of humiliation. 
At holiday times, too, I feel the lack of a home. Its 
warmth is wanting, and I shiver inwardly, but when such 
moments are over I am glad to be " on the branch." 



Ill 



PARIS 

Hotel de Castiglione, Paris. 

ON arriving at the station I had no family nor even 
any servants to meet me. There was the little yellow 
omnibus of the Lyons-Mediterranean Co., and after that 
the hotel, everyone's abode, and a bedroom which had be- 
longed to someone else yesterday. I should like to keep 
my beloved bedroom and lock it up when I go away. 
However, I shall soon make it mine again. It is curious 
that, although it has been occupied by strangers for 
several months, as soon as I go into it again it once 
more becomes familiar, and it seems as though I find some 
of my own life there. I have thought so many thoughts 
in that room, had so many memories and meditated so 
much there. Surely, all that must leave traces. The 
table invites me to work as though it were a medium's 
table. There is no place where my brain is so active, 
no place where I feel such keen inspiration. It is in 
this room, no doubt, that I am to accomplish the work of 
my last days. I will start on it, at any rate, gaily. 

I am always glad to get back to Paris again. It is 
the one spot on this planet that I shall regret the most. 
I love it as one loves an individual, and I quite agree with 
the person who says that there are certain landscapes 
one would like to kiss. I remember one evening, in the 
Tuileries, looking at the beautiful view of the Arc de 
Triomphe, at the end of the Avenue des Champs Elysees, 

40 



PARIS 41 

with the setting sun adding its glory to the scene, and 
I stretched out my arms in an irresistible impulse of affec- 
tion. In my opinion the beauty of Paris is not due 
merely to its topography, its well-cut streets, its monu- 
ments, its elegance, but also to its sky, its atmosphere, 
its soul. Its sky has tones of infinite delicacy and 
variety, it is never too low nor too high; its atmosphere 
is light, its mists bluish, its haze of pearl-grey. Its 
soul is young, gay, enthusiastic, idealistic, passionate and 
violent; its vibrations have a champagne-like effect on 
the air, and communicates to everyone a kind of exulta- 
tion and sprightliness. There is no city more misunder- 
stood and more slandered. On throwing a penny into 
certain Cinematographs, they instantly give a picture 
of the Moulin Rouge, or of other similar places. In the 
same way, in the majority of foreign masculine brains, 
the word Paris suggests the picture of a half -naked 
woman with her feet up in the air, or else the exhibitions 
of the cafe-concert. The feminine mind conjures up 
furbelows and jewellery, together with forbidden fruit of 
all flavours. It is not in the penny Cinematographs that 
one ought to see Paris, as they cannot register its higher 
life, and the higher life of Paris is intense. People may 
enjoy themselves more there, but they pray more there, 
and they love and work more there, too. Paris is for me 
an inexhaustible source of impressions. Formerly it 
used to amuse me, but now it interests me profoundly. 
In December and in January, I like to go into the Rue 
de la Paix, between five and six o'clock, the hour of flirta- 
tion and of the amorous aperitive. The whole length of 
the dazzling shop-windows Vie Parisienne personages file 
by, Lavedan's characters, those who " cultivate their beau- 
tiful physique." One recognises the hats, the stockings, 
the petticoats, etc. The very sight of them is amusing. 
All these society women and these demi-mondaines are 



42 ON THE BRANCH 

more interesting than would be imagined. They are 
very courageous, and they suffer just as you do, and just 
as we all do. Their small minds writhe with envy and 
jealousy, and are pierced with pin-pricks, and nothing 
reaches the heart so surely and so thoroughly as pin- 
pricks. In spite of the brilliancy of their ornaments, I 
have surprised expressions of despair, and I have seen 
spasms of grief end in smiles. Every evening these 
people come to this part of Paris, as though drawn 
thither by the attraction of diamonds and precious stones, 
and all kinds of feelings are aroused in their minds. 
They meet each other here, and there are greetings and 
merry outbursts of laughter. This human fluttering 
about always reminds me of the dance of mosquitoes. 
It is not so prolific, but it must come into the same order 
of facts. It lasts for an hour, and then everyone disap- 
pears ; the street looks as usual, the scene is played out, 
and I always have an idea that something 1 as happened. 
Twenty yards further on something else happens, 
something immense, colossal. At the absinthe hour, the 
five o'clock of the frequenters of the Boulevards, from 
the Madeleine to the Rue Drouot, the crowd becomes com- 
pact, brought thither no one knows how, from the four 
cardinal points of the capital. Hands meet and grasp 
each other. There is a rapid, extraordinary transmis- 
sion of thought, of ideas, opinions and sentiments. 
Business affairs are arranged, resulting in the ruin of one 
man and the fortune of another. This person is praised 
and that one run down. Words are uttered which will 
have unforeseen consequences, either dire or happy ones. 
The germs of disease or of death are absorbed. Love, 
hatred, jealousy, all meet here, and this lasts an hour at 
the most, then everyone separates, and the inevitable 
work has been accomplished. I am lost in admiration in 
face of the Power which directs this human tide, which 



PARIS 43 

knows how each of the thoughts of these thousands of 
brains and each of all the movements of these bodies will 
end. Sometimes, when passing through a crowd, I see 
partially, as though by the gleam of a flash of lightning, 
the work that is being done, and I stop short, dazed as it 
were, frightened, and then I hurry away quickly. Life 
is always in fusion throughout the entire universe; but 
in certain places, at certain moments, fixed or not fixed, 
a still fiercer ebullition takes place and this is destined 
to accelerate the march of humanity ; it is, perhaps, a pro- 
cess of clarification. And so it is that in this vat called 
Paris, there are at intervals, at fixed times, various ebul- 
litions. In the Churches there is an ebullition of 
ideality ; in the universities and the laboratories an ebul- 
lition of thought. In Parliament there is an ebullition of 
what ? alas ! not of patriotism, but of political pas- 
sions, of ambition and of envy. At the Moulin Rouge, 
and places of that kind, there is an ebullition of inferior 
and sensual life. In the districts inhabited by the work- 
ing classes there is an ebullition of material forces, of 
courage, spite, love, hatred, and especially of pain and 
grief. The latter is the most prolonged, the most in- 
teresting, too. Yes, it really seems to me that I know 
" where to sit down in order to see life," for I see it all 
the time more beautiful and more grand oh, so grand, 
that I am rather in awe, and yet I have confidence. 

Paris. 

When one comes into contact with the upper ten, one 
is out of love with all humanity, but when one observes 
the people one is reconciled again to humanity. That 
is the conclusion to which I came this afternoon. The 
Figaro announced a Charity Bazaar at the house of the 
D 's. All the organisers, belonging to our best aris- 
tocracy, were to dress in the costumes peculiar to our old 



44 ON THE BRANCH 

provinces. This was the chief attraction. The recon- 
stitution of the peasantry in one of those beautiful 
eighteenth century mansions, which are my delight, could 
not fail to tempt me irresistibly. I therefore went to the 

Rue de Varennes. . At the entrance, the Marquis d'A , 

wearing a wide hat, an embroidered waistcoat, a short vel- 
vet coat, knee-breeches, gaiters and thick shoes, received 
my two-franc piece and, beside allowing me to pass, 
favoured me with a gracious smile, as a well-born peasant 
had to be generous. 

I crossed the hall and passed through a long suite of 
reception-rooms. The French windows opened on to one 
of those old gardens only to be seen now in the Faubourg 
Saint-Germain. There was a background of large trees 
and walls covered with ivy, a badly cut lawn, bushes of 
rhododendrons and lilac, flowers along the borders and 
pebbled paths. 

In the midst of this scenery, which the springtime 
made more modern, were small shops, rustic pavilions, an 
orchestra of supposed gipsies, groups of women in light 
dresses, the effect of which was toned down by the sombre 
costumes of the dowagers and the black cassocks of the 
priests. Standing out in relief were the costumes of 
Brittany, Anjou and Poitou, worn by girls and young 
men, who were moving to and fro, with the evident inten- 
tion of showing themselves off, full face, profile and back 

view. I went to Mademoiselle de C and asked for a 

cup of tea. She waited on me very graciously. In the 
dairy a superb cow was installed. Well groomed for the 
occasion, its coat shone more brilliantly than a society 
man's hat. It appeared to be hypnotised by the aristc 
cratic surroundings in which it found Itself. Only to 
think of being received in the Faubourg Saint-Germain. 
(It was for the sake of its milk, it is true; but, all the 
same, what an honour!) Even a beast may expect any- 



PARIS 45 

ihmg here below. This one stood there motionless, 
neither ruminating nor eating, but gazing at these imita- 
tion peasants with so bewildered and so anxious an ex- 
pression that I could not help laughing. I should not be 
surprised if the shock had dried up its milk. 

I strolled about rather a long time in the crowd. 
Among the young men, under many of the Breton or 
Vendean hats, I saw some interesting faces of the old 
type, faces that were extremely refined, but in which there 
was no sign of strength. The listless expression, the slow 
movements, the languid bearing of these young men be- 
trayed a lack of vitality which must make them unfit for 
any struggle. Oh, there is no doubt about it, other men 
than these are needed to guide the ship of France past the 
modern rocks. I understood better than I had ever done 
why the command had been taken from them. I have no 
doubt but that in the moment of danger the fire of hero- 
ism would shine in these blue or brown eyes, that these 
slender bodies would strain themselves to the very death in 
an effort of hereditary bravery to defend their country, 
but they do not know how to live for her; and in broad 
daylight, parading about in this old garden, dressed up in 
fancy costumes, these grand seigneurs cut a rather sorry 
figure. After the young men, I looked at the girls. 
With them there was more distinction than beauty, no 
individuality, very dreamy eyes, but it was an anagmic 
dreaminess. No freshness, no light in their faces, a 
something almost old-looking. All of them reminded me 
of convent flowers. As to the women between fifty and 
sixty years of age, it was rather painful to see them. 
Enormous, shapeless and badly dressed, it was evident 
that Court etiquette had not disciplined them, and that 
they were ignorant or disdainful of the laws of modern 
hygiene. The carriage of their heads was fine, a shade 
of melancholy softened their severe and rigid expression. 



46 ON THE BRANCH 

There was an air of moral and aristocratic authority 
about them which prevented anyone from taking them for 
ordinary middle-class women. I glanced round in search 
of the American duchesses and countesses. It seemed as 
though they ought to stand out in relief in this dull, Old 
World, milieu. Strangely enough, they almost mingled 
with it. They have copied its tone and manners, adopted 
its prejudices, forsworn their own gods, either through 
snobbishness or under the influence of suggestion, but 
they have not yet succeeded in acquiring its charm. They 
are stiff and unnatural, veritable counterfeits. I do not 
believe, though, that they have been drawn into this Old 
World for the mere gratification of their vanity, but to 
bring into it elements of evolution. They are probably 
to transmit to their children the new spirit, modified so 
that it may be more easily absorbed. The working of 
Providence is so marvellously profound. 

What was so comic and characteristic in this Charity 
Bazaar was that everyone appeared to be attending to 
something else. The Mothers of the Church talked with 
their spiritual director, the young people flirted. The 
stall-holders forgot to make the most of the articles for 
sale. They talked to each other, left their counters in 
order to go and have a word with first one person and 
then another. The receipts must have suffered, for 
money rarely comes by itself into the treasury of the 
poor. In a corner, though, there was a sale by auction 
of a quantity of extraordinary ob j ects. The aristocratic 
auctioneer was droll, but one expected still more from 
him. He was a descendant of one of the most brilliant 
and witty men of the eighteenth century, and it was a 
case of Noblesse oblige. Perhaps, though, all that he 
needed was a little more training. A few women of the 
upper middle class suddenly appeared in the old garden. 
Their elegance, enhanced by jewellery, their modernity 



PARIS 47 

made a striking contrast. They took a few turns along 
the garden paths, whispering, laughing, exchanging 
smiles, examining people and things with visible curiosity. 
They bought right and left, most generously, with a cer- 
tain ostentation, and then they disappeared. They prob- 
ably thought that it was better than this at home. Yes, 
it may have been better, but not as good, perhaps. 

A Royal Highness honoured the bazaar with his pres- 
ence. All homage was paid to him. The young men 
escorted him about and the Dowagers made him Court 
reverences. It was as though we had returned to the 
days of His Majesty, Louis Phillippe, or farther back 
even. The men took off their peasants' hats with that 
graceful movement of the left hand which they had in- 
herited from their ancestors of beplumed hats. They 
kissed the womens' hands, bent the knee before them, when 
offering them lottery tickets, with a naturalness and grace 
in which something of the olden times lived again. The 
whole of the afternoon I had the sensation of the past, 
and this sensation was singularly agreeable, infinitely 
restful. 

At dinner, that evening, the hotel dining-room was full 
of American women, most of them very pretty and dressed 
charmingly. Some of them had been to Versailles, Fon- 
tainebleau, the races, and others were going to the Opera. 
The husbands were in America, of course, and, with the 
sense they have of their right to freedom and amusement, 
these women were " having a good time," as they say in 
their child-like way. Were they happier than their 
sisters, the duchesses and countesses of the Faubourg 
Saint-Germain ? The scales for weighing human happi- 
ness are in the hands of God alone. I compared, in my 
mind, the retrospective picture I had seen in the Rue de 
Varennes with the one I had before my eyes, and I real- 
ised the superior value of the former one. It had re- 



48 ON THE BRANCH 

quired centuries to produce the harmony which had 
charmed me, and even that lack of moral vigour which had 
saddened me. The second scene was like a water-colour 
sketch, quickly and vigorously washed in, giving a vivid 
impression of life and youth. In each of these pictures 
one could follow the thought and recognise the hand of 
the Master. In order to follow that thought and to see 
the hand, it had been really necessary for me to be placed 
" on the branch." 

Paris. 

Since my return to Paris I have noticed that the circle 
of my life has become considerably smaller. Absorbed 
beyond measure by my last novel, I refused invitation 
after invitation, left a number of letters unanswered, neg- 
lected to return visits, in a word, failed in all my social 
duties. My physical activity has also slackened. Res- 
taurant dinners, theatres, driving in the Bois, all tempt 
me less and less. For the first time the Salon has left me 
indifferent. Is it really old age that has come upon me? 
Paris life is so intense that one feels it, according to one's 
affinities, without taking part in it. The waves of it 
come as far as my room and communicate to me the im- 
pression of a social or artistic fete. I see the reunions of 
Auteuil, of Bagatelle, the polo matches, feminine figures, 
light dresses standing out against the green of the lawns 
with a clearness which satisfies me and encourages my 
idleness. I live on the effluvium of things now-a-days. 
This new state of mind has made too much emptiness 
around me, and this causes me some sadness. It is so 
much like the end! Madame de Myeres has become a 
stranger in her own country. Jean Noel lives apart from 
the literary world and, between the two, they have not 
the social position of a retired grocer. 

It is only the last few years that I have noticed the 



PARIS 49 

help that Providence gives us. In my hours of extreme 
weariness, someone or something has always been sent to 
me to reanimate or to encourage me. Sometimes it has 
been a few words from one of my unknown readers. A 
" bravo " even came to me from the extreme limits of 
Alaska. Sometimes it has been the reappearance in my 
orbit of a person whom I like, and sometimes flowers have 
been sent me. In one of my bad moments, at my table in 
the hotel, I looked up and met the kind, intelligent eyes 
of two American women who had arrived the evening be- 
fore. A current of sympathy was at once established 
between us. By means of that apparatus for wireless 
telegraphy, which we have behind our foreheads, we en- 
tered into communication with each other, we exchanged 
smiles and then words, the inevitable liaison was made, 
and this liaison has warmed my life again with real 
friendship. There is the invitation of the Randolphs 
now. It has just come in time. I feel the need of a rest 
from the hotel, of coming down a little from the branch. 
It seems to me that I have cramp in my limbs and in my 
heart. I want to see some children, to stroke some ani- 
mals, to hear the songs of birds, the purring of cats, to 
breathe the perfume of living flowers ... I have 
an infinite need of plenty of air and space. I shall have 
all that at Simley Hall, and I am enjoying it in advance. 
I leave Paris to-morrow. It is extraordinary that the 
unmooring of a poor little barque like mine should re- 
quire so much effort and movement. I am always sur- 
prised at the amount of trifles that a human being can 
accumulate. Papers, cards, bills, odds and ends, pieces 
of lace and of ribbon increase with incredible rapidity. 
It is all in vain that I destroy, burn, give away, some- 
thing always remains at the moment of my departure. 
A few years ago I owned five trunks ; I have now only 
three my inseparable one, and then the two which I 



50 ON THE BRANCH 

leave at the hotel. This simplification delights me ; I ex- 
perience a curious pleasure in throwing out ballast. I 
am more of a grasshopper than an ant. I admire the 
American women who, uprooted as I am, without chil- 
dren, without home (and there are legions of them), go 
on buying all along their solitary road a quantity of 
things which " fascinate them," as they say : old ivories, 
valuable laces, old jewellery. They fill case after case 
with these things, and frequently do not see them again 
but deposit them with their banker! It evidently is 
not for themselves that they forage. The objects that 
they collect are destined to delight other eyes, to pro- 
duce the necessary impressions in other brains, but in 
whose? How interesting it would be to be able to fol- 
low, for rather a longer time, human work. And what 
about mine? It is not for my own pleasure that I tran- 
scribe these thoughts which are elaborated slowly and 
painfully in my mind. The germ of them comes from 
very far off, perhaps. What life will come forth from 
these parcels of my life? It is annoying not to see all 
this at once. I know at least that I shall not die, and 
I begin to suspect that I have been living a long time. 
And yet there are people who think life stupid! Ah, 
well, they have sight, but not vision. This latter came 
to me late, and only after a series of very painful opera- 
tions. I no longer pity myself, as it was well worth 
all I suffered. 



IV 

ENGLAND 

Simley Hall, Staffordshire. 

SIR WILLIAM RANDOLPH came purposely to London 
to fetch me. He was waiting for me at Charing Cross. 
Ah, the cruel heart disease has not stopped in its prog- 
ress! It has refined his features still more and made 
his limbs thinner. All my self-control was necessary in 
order that he should not guess the painful impression 
made on me. He appeared very glad to see me again, 
and when we shook hands a transmission of warm friend- 
ship took place. Sir William took me at once to the 
Great Western Hotel, the Terminus of Paddington Sta- 
tion, from whence we started at two o'clock the follow- 
ing day for Staffordshire. Simley Hall is near Wolver- 
hampton, in a zone of verdure in the very heart of what 
is known as the Black Country, the land of iron-works 
and coal-mines. After passing Oxford, the mist be- 
came gradually thicker, and at Birmingham it was a 
yellow fog, into which the tall furnaces threw out 
what looked like will-o'-the-wisps. In a meadow, with 
wretched huts scattered about, and heaps of rubbish, a 
little boy was trying to fly a kite. It floated about a 
few yards from the ground without being able to rise. 
It was infinitely pathetic. Sir William had the same 
impression, and pointed to it with his finger. 

"A symbol of us Englishmen, is it not?" he asked, 
51 



52 ON THE BRANCH 

with his caustic smile. " You see it is not easy to rise 
in our ambient air." 

" You should cultivate the ascensional force more, 
and the force of expansion less," I replied, carried away 
by my love of teasing. 

" Well hit ! " exclaimed my companion gaily. " You 
have commenced Franco-English hostilities, remember 
that." 

As we approached Wolverhampton the atmosphere 
became clearer and lighter. At the station we found 
a victoria, drawn by a pair of fine horses which, with 
a quick, rhythmic step went along a road with hedges 
on each side, and a slight incline, then a long avenue 
of beech-trees until it landed us in front of the porch 
of Simley Hall. There Lady Randolph, her son-in- 
law, her daughter, her three grandchildren, two fox 
terriers and a collie gave me an affectionate welcome 
and, surrounded by these kind hosts, I sat down to tea, 
which was served in the hall. I was treated at once as 
one of the family. 

Simley is an old English home, the principal lines of 
which are Gothic, but in which many of the windows 
have been enlarged in order to have more air and sun- 
shine. It is almost entirely covered with ivy, surrounded 
by magnificent cedars, velvety lawns, flowers, and built 
in the midst of an immense park. It is a nest in which 
the same family has lived, continued and been renewed 
for more than two hundred years. And I am invited 
here, room has been made for me, an unknown woman, 
met at the hotel. I always try now to find out the 
object of Providence. It is far-off, invisible, beyond 
us, perhaps. In this particular case I have not even 
a notion about it. 

The interior of Simley is both luxurious and simple. 
The furniture of old mahogany and old oak, covered 



ENGLAND 53 

with Utrecht velvet or tapestry, the Flemish pictures, 
the fine library, the massive silver, give one the impres- 
sion of intense respectability, of security even. There 
are long corridors, windows with shutters, deep recesses, 
delicious nooks. Sir William's illness and the death of the 
eldest son throw a shadow of sadness over the whole 
dwelling. The portrait of the latter is in the father's 
study and underneath it, hung horizontally, is the sword 
which his hand will never again draw from the sheath. 
At the far end of the park is the observatory, where my 
host spends part of the tranquil nights, not only, I 
am sure, to make mathematical calculations, but to med- 
itate as a poet and philosopher. I had never imagined 
a building so scientifically fitted up. It has a movable 
roof, and the telescope is better than the ordinary instru- 
ment of an amateur. The stables at Simley are lux- 
uriously supplied with horses. Besides these, there are 
the children's ponies and donkeys. The kennel is or- 
ganised with a care which shows a thorough compre- 
hension of the canine race. In the meadows confining 
the park, little brown Jersey cows graze all day, and not 
far away is to be seen the thatched roof of a very old 
farm. The children have shown me, in one corner of 
the park, the animal's cemetery. There are dogs, cats 
and birds, each one with its tombstone, on which is its 
name and a few words to its memory. Why should they 
be forgotten, the creatures which have loved us, which 
have brightened the home? All these things together 
give the impression of a simple, healthy life, the sight 
of whicli refreshes the eyes and heart. 

The rotate of Sir William's health has necessarily lim- 
ited the Simley hospitality. To the great regret of 
my hosts, the Lussons were not able to come to Eng- 
land this year. The visit of Mrs. Loftus, the daugh- 
ter of the house, was arranged to be at the same time 



54 ON THE BRANCH 

as mine. She is a true English beauty, not delicate 
and languid, but healthy and active. She adores the 
country, sports and animals. One feels in her, as in 
her father, a latent power, a something which inspires 
confidence. Mr. Loftus is the type of the young Eng- 
lish squire, of good birth, fair, pink and substantial, 
a man who at eighty years of age will have thick white 
hair, fine red cheeks, bright eyes, and who will sit upright 
in his saddle until his last day, and only be unhorsed 
by death. As to Claude Randolph, he won my heart at 
once. I divined in him a francophile mentality. He 
will neither be a thinker nor a philosopher, but he will 
have an understanding of life, a gift which I put above 
all others. He has a splendid physique, and he pos- 
sesses a fund of gaiety which makes him very amusing. 
As a special sign, which ought to be noted because of 
its increasing rarity among young Englishmen, he does 
not talk to women with his hands in his pockets, and 
he takes the trouble to open the door for them. Men- 
tally I gave a good mark to Lady Randolph, for whether 
a man is well or badly brought up depends on his 
mother. 

They are old-fashioned at Simley Hall, as Sir Wil- 
liam said. There are family prayers and a chapter 
read from the Bible, morning and evening, and my 
host carves the meat at table. I always enter with great 
ease into the circle of English life, thanks to the dis- 
cipline and freedom to be found there. At half past 
seven a neat housemaid, with down-cast eyes according 
to rule, brings me an early cup of tea. At nine o'clock 
I sit down at table with the family, and a substantial 
breakfast is served, a breakfast consisting of eggs, of 
that fried bacon which sharpens the appetite, of fish, 
cold meats, tea and coffee. It is a very pleasant meal. 
One opens one's letters and newspapers, the news is cir- 



ENGLAND 55 

culated and the programme of the day arranged. The 
hosts then attend to their own affairs, the guests go 
into the morning room or out for a walk. I generally 
go into the park and join the children as their big 
friend, and we visit the animals together. A round 
hut has been assigned to me as my study. It is a 
summer-house, furnished with a table and a round 
bench which has been supplied with a red cushion in my 
honour. I take my books and papers there. The win- 
dows in it look on to the meadow with the pretty brown 
cows, whose milk I drink copiously. When I leave the 
door open, robins, blackbirds, warblers, tomtits, wrens 
and even partridges approach curiously, put their little 
heads on one side as though to see me better, and seem 
to be saying : " Who are you ? " I talk to them and 
they all appear to be sensitive to the endearment in the 
tone of my voice. They are helped to live during the 
winter; in the spring they make their nests in the hos- 
pitable parks, and during the summer they pay their 
benefactors in bird-money with songs and melodies. No 
one could imagine the inward joy which this proces- 
sion of visitors gives me. At half-past eleven a maid 
arrives with a cup of Benger's Food, one of the nutri- 
tive preparations which are English specialties. Sir 
William comes to see me at about half-past twelve. 
We go and take a stroll in the kitchen garden, in the 
hot houses where the grapes, peaches and apricots are 
ripening. After luncheon, at half-past one, everyone 
goes to rest for a short or long time, according to the 
afternoon's programme. For some there is a drive, 
for the others golf, tennis, garden-parties. Tea is 
served at five o'clock in the hall or else in the garden 
among the flowers. There are always unexpected guests. 
After tea, which sometimes lasts a long while, one goes 
to one's room and does not come down until the sec- 



56 ON THE BRANCH 

ond dinner-bell. In the evening there are games at 
whist, bridge and billiards. At eleven o'clock the happy 
day is over for everyone. No one presses you to do this 
or that, you are not obliged to be entertained, but you 
are surrounded with a tactful solicitude that is abso- 
lutely delicious. At Simley Hall I feel as though I 
am carried along by waves. The best spare room is 
given to me, and it has a magnificent view of the park 
and the distant hills. The classical English four-post 
bed and the old furniture give it a severe look, singu- 
larly warm and comfortable though. Sir William had 
remembered hearing me say at Cannes that it was my 
lot to find more or less rickety writing tables everywhere 
I went. He had had a large, firm one prepared for 
me, and the day of my arrival I found on it a bouquet 
of those roses which are named after my country. I 
was rather surprised to see here and there, in the bed- 
rooms, in the library and on the landings, Scripture 
texts. Formerly in all the English railway stations 
there used to be such texts, but they are now replaced 
by advertisements in many colours. Opposite to my 
bed I have the words " Walk while ye have the light, 
lest darkness come upon you." Between the two win- 
dows : " Blessed are they that have not seen and yet 
have believed." Above a bracket filled with books: 
"To the Jews first." What was it? The Divine 
words, the good tidings? Why, yes, Jesus was Semitic 
and He was thinking of his brethren. We Christians 
always forget His origin, and then when something hap- 
pens to remind us of it we are amazed. I smiled on see- 
ing all around me these pieces of cardboard with Gothic 
letters, and now this morning under the suggestion 
of these words : " Walk while ye have the light," my 
movements became almost rapid. I hurried as though 
I really feared to be overtaken by the darkness. This 



ENGLAND 57 

trifling phenomenon gave me food for reflection and 
the conclusion of it was that we know nothing noth- 
ing yet. 

Simley Hatt. 

Ever since I arrived here, a week ago, the summer 
nights, generally so beautiful in England, have been, 
as though on purpose, overcast. Now that I have a 
good telescope at my disposal I have no stars. Sir 
William is as disappointed as I am. Between the show- 
ers I have been taken to the places nearby. They are 
remarkably pretty. England has, I fancy, the whole 
scale of greens. In the dark green of this Stafford- 
shire landscape there is a great deal of yellow. This 
shade is felt even in the light. That is my impression 
at least. Wolverhampton, the little town in the neigh- 
bourhood of Simley, owes its growing prosperity to 
the manufacture of bicycles. Within the last forty 
years it has been almost entirely rebuilt with those red 
bricks which now give to the English panoramas a 
warmer and more cheerful aspect. All round the town 
radiate the various roads, with small houses and villas 
gay with flowers. Then there are the fine dwellings 
standing alone, surrounded by parks, in which the an- 
cient trees of old England display their centenarian 
majesty. At the foot of the hill on which Simley Hall 
is built is an ideal village, the creation of Sir William. 
In the centre is a very ancient church with its grave-* 
yard, then some new cottages, but with the large roofs 
of former days, windows with several shutters, lovely 
porches, cottages, surrounded with gardens festooned 
with verdure, such as queens must often envy. The 
school, the post-office, the police-station even, are all 
adorned with flowers. The Club-house, a meeting place 
for the farmers and workmen of the neighbourhood, is 



58 ON THE BRANCH 

covered with creepers. Sir William has supplied each 
of these habitations with everything that is necessary 
for the physical and moral health of the individual, 
with all that may facilitate cleanliness. The children 
looked to me resplendent with health. The children in 
England are legion. It is absolutely dreadful to think 
that women have given birth to all these small fry. 
They will never own it, but I am persuaded that here 
they must all have had two of them at a time. Along 
all the roads, in the ditches which edge the paths, one 
meets clusters of baby children. And the hen is never 
with her chickens. The brother of four years old 
watches over a smaller sister, and brings her back, safe 
and sound, to the house. By what miracle Mother Na- 
ture alone knows. This responsibility certainly helps 
in the formation of character. And it is scarcely cred- 
ible, but I have never seen any ugly children in England. 
Many of them have the most adorable faces. If only 
this beauty remained the English race would certainly 
be privileged, but it falls away like a flower. Between 
the age of fourteen and eighteen a cruel change takes 
place with most of the young people. Their mouths 
alter in shape, their features lose their purity, the 
complexion its brilliancy. I attribute this entirely to 
the climate. An English doctor once said to me, 
" Dampness spoils everything." It is so true that peo- 
ple are even obliged to put their pictures under glass 
in this country. It is impossible to protect individuals 
in the same way and with the feeble ones, with those 
whose organism does not offer sufficient resistance, the 
damp changes the tissues, the bones, and, perhaps, other 
parts of the body besides. Sports are certainly pre- 
scribed by Nature in this climate. I have been taken 
to see golf, cricket, croquet and tennis, and all these 
games are admirably organised and played. For the 



ENGLAND 59 

hundredth time I have regretted that around our 
provincial towns and our villages there are not these 
enclosed fields where young people can train themselves 
to physical effort. That will, however, all come in the 
appointed time. 

I let myself be taken out, amused and entertained. 
It seems to me that it is all a delightful dream. I am 
always glad to enter for a time into the circle of other 
people's lives, and always glad to come out of it again. 
The longing for freedom, for solitude, comes to me 
again, more or less quickly, according to the surround- 
ings. I shall not be in a great hurry, I am sure, to 
leave my present hosts and to bid farewell to this beau- 
tiful Simley, so warm with friendship and sympathy. 

Simley Hall. 

Yesterday evening I did something which the same 
morning, an hour or even a minute beforehand, I should 
have thought impossible. I told Sir William, a for- 
eigner, and an Englishman of all men, the great trouble 
of my life. How it all came about I cannot understand. 
I have broken off my friendship with people for the 
sake of concealing it better. I have kept it a secret 
for fifteen years, and now, suddenly, without being asked 
a single question, without even wondering whether it were 
wise or foolish, the secret left my lips, and in the most 
natural way in the world. I experienced a strange 
pleasure in feeling my old self living again, after be- 
lieving that I was dead and buried ; I felt pleasure, too, 
in pronouncing certain names, in seeing certain images 
take form again. As I continued my story the picture 
of the past unfurled itself under my gaze, the work 
accomplished in my soul appeared to me in luminous 
flashes. By whom was I urged to speak? By that 
irresistible force, no doubt, which we might call the 



60 ON THE BRANCH 

Being of Beings. It sometimes puts into our mouths 
words which we hear distinctly, which we should like 
to take back, and which will have unforeseen consequen- 
ces. This phenomenon of duality occurs at every in- 
stant. I recognise it at once, now, but I experience it 
nevertheless. 

Yesterday evening the night was as serene as could 
be desired. The stars seemed as numberless as the grains 
of sand on our beaches. Consequently, just after ten 
o'clock, my host and I, followed by the dog Freddy, 
set off for the observatory. Sir William affirms that 
the animal is interested in his work, and that it often 
lifts its head towards the sky, as though endeavouring 
to discover what its master is looking for. I quite 
think that a fox terrier is capable of that. 

The Simley observatory is a rotunda, flanked by 
two lower pavilions, one of which is a study and the other 
a small sitting-room, each opening on to the park with 
French windows. In the study the long table strewn 
with sheets of paper black with figures, the sidereal 
clock, the library of astronomical books, the instruments 
used for physics, the celestial maps, all reveal laborious 
hours. The little sitting-room with its divan, covered 
with Oriental stuff, its large arm-chairs, seems to be pre- 
pared for rest and meditation. As soon as we had 
arrived, Sir William, impatient to show me his planets 
and stars, put his foot in the loop of a rope, and to 
my great terror made the roof turn round, climbed on 
to the platform, adjusted the telescope and said simply t 
" There it is ! " Hitherto my Observatory had been 
either the Place Vendome or the Place de la Concorde, 
with their astronomers and optical instruments as poor 
as each other. I felt startled by the sight now pre- 
sented to my view. I had the sensation of immensity, 
of infinite number, of perfect harmony, and at the same 



ENGLAND 61 

time of a silence and a peace that were unearthly. The 
Twins fascinated me and in looking at them a strange 
joy came to me. 

" What an adorable creation these sister-stars ! " I ex- 
claimed. 

" Unique ! " my host replied. " They appear to be 
quite near each other and they are separated by an 
enormous distance." 

" That does not matter, for they must be in constant 
communion, as they have the same light, and do you 
know I have seen that same blue light, so warm and soft, 
at the bottom of a commutator. Are not the Twins 
centres of electricity ? " 

" Perhaps." 

I looked for a long time at the dazzling heavens, and 
all at once, for the first time, the consciousness came to 
me that we were part of them. 

" But our earth is up there ! " I exclaimed, stupefied. 

" Certainly," replied Sir William. 

" And it goes along in company with all these stars ! 
It mingles its little light with theirs, and by means 
of my own feeble organs I can see beyond our planet 
and enter into contact with the rest of the Universe! 
It is wonderful ! " 

With this exclamation I came down from the plat- 
form, literally dazed by my own grandeur. 

Sir William, very much amused at my naivete, took 
me into his little sitting-room. I sank down into an 
arm-chair in front of the open window. He sat down 
facing me and Freddy at once sprang on to his knees 
and nestled down there. 

" The companion of my meditations," he said, strok- 
ing the animal. " When I am thinking I have got into 
the habit of twisting his ears. While under the im- 
pression of anything painful or when thinking over 



62 ON THE BRANCH 

a tiresome question, it sometimes happens that I pinch 
them cruelly. He protests by a cry, but never owes 
me a grudge. Freddy, too, is up there, you know." 

" Don't make fun," I said gravely. " Our childish 
expressions here below, such, for instance, as the setting 
and rising of the sun deceive us so much. Prov- 
idence has, perhaps, brought me here to put my vision 
right, to give me more exact notions. What good they 
will be I do not know, but I am sure that they will not 
be wasted." 

" I do not know anyone who has the consciousness 
of immortality and growth as you have; you con- 
sider yourself the instrument of Providence." 

" It is in that that my pride and my hope rest. 
From the moment that I am part of the integral work 
of God I cannot perish." 

" You are logical astonishingly so, for a woman." 

" Thank you. Twenty times a day man proclaims 
his free will and still more often when he is stopped 
by things over which he has no power he storms against 
destiny. Have you noticed that he always attributes 
his good fortune to his own wits and his ill fortune to 
fatality?" 

" Yes, that is so." 

" Well, I attribute everything to Providence. I have 
been led to acknowledge that Providence alone, here 
below, has the guidance." 

" Belief in one's self. What a force, though, that 



is! 



i 



" But I believe in myself because I believe in God 
and I believe in God because I believe in myself." 

A long sigh escaped from the breast of my host. 

" I would give a great deal to have your faith," 
he said. " It would rid me of a certain remorse which 
weighs terribly on my life. My eldest son was very 



ENGLAND 63 

much in love with a girl whom I thought below him, 
unworthy of him. I refused my consent to his marriage, 
and he went to India, and was killed in an ambush very 
soon after he arrived. Was it I who sent him out to 
his death ? Was it God, even ? " 

" God, do not doubt that. You could not see what 
awaited him. His premature end has, perhaps, been a 
great mercy." 

"What has given you such absolute faith?" 

"My own life." 

" Your life? " 

It was only at this moment that I realised I was a 
stranger to my host. I could not help the colour com- 
ing into my face. 

" It is true, you do not know anything about me, 
and you invited me to Simley Hall and have admitted 
me into the intimacy of your family." 

" I know a lady when I see one," answered Sir Wil- 
liam, smiling. 

I bowed my thanks and then continued: 

" I am surprised that you did not feel distrust when 
you saw me living in hotels in my own country." 

" Not in the least ; but, now that I know you better, 
your uprootal makes me feel sorry. Yesterday it 
seemed to me that you were looking regretfully at my 
little cottages. Am I mistaken ? " 

" No, there are times when I have a longing for a 
home, but it is only rarely. For a French woman to be 
uprooted there must have been a terrific shock. I ex- 
perienced this, and it had been prepared for me from a 
long way off. Would you believe that, at the age of 
fourteen, I saw in a dream M. de Myeres, whom I was 
to marry eleven years later." 

"Is it possible?" 

" It was so. One night I dreamt that I was in a 



64 ON THE BRANCH 

little bare, dark church, lighted by a side-door which 
opened on to the country. In this doorway, with a 
background of verdure, I suddenly saw the outline of a 
tall man, whose features I could not distinguish. He 
came slowly from the doorway, advanced straight 
towards me, took my hand and put a ring on my finger. 
The ring was too large, and it fell from my hand and 
rolled along the flags slowly, very slowly indeed, with 
a metallic sound. In my efforts to get it again I woke 
up, my forehead bathed in the perspiration of night- 
mare. I told this strange dream to my mother, and 
she appeared to be painfully affected by it. As to me 
I could never forget it. It left in my childish mind 
an anguish mingled with joy. Time only made the im- 
pression more vivid. The man's outline instead of 
fading away, became more distinct, more vivid. Some- 
times, in my girlish fancies, I saw this figure coming 
towards me, and it made me feel a delicious commotion. 
We have no idea yet of the complexity of the human 
atom," I added, reflectively. 

" Of the feminine atom especially," said Sir William 
with a smile. 

" During the years which followed, this dream occu- 
pied my imagination. I gave various faces to the man, 
each one more handsome than the last one. I attributed 
to my phantom all the gifts and all good qualities. 
My coming out was delayed by the death of my grand- 
parents. I was twenty years old before going to my 
first ball. Oh, that first ball! It was at the house of 
a lady in our neighbourhood. Expense had not been 
spared for my dress, and I wore one of those famous 
girls' dresses which first made the reputation of our 
great dress-maker, Doucet. It was of white tarlatan, 
with ruches, and trimmed with wild flowers. I can see 
it now, but I cannot see myself at all. Our own face 



ENGLAND 65 

is unknown to us. The reflection in the glass is not 
sufficient for making an impression on our brain-cells, 
it appears." 

" That is an observation I had never made," con- 
fessed my host. 

" Is it not curious," I continued, " to think that the 
brain goes on keeping indelibly the colour of some fur- 
below, the style of a garment, whilst a crowd of other 
souvenirs disappears? These little things probably 
form part of a chain. Anyhow, that particular evening 
I was strangely happy in my pretty dress from Paris 
and in the joy of my first social success. I was talking 
gaily to my host, quite unconscious of what was about 
to happen, when my eyes fell on a tall, dark man, with 
a tawny moustache, who was coming towards us. The 
words stopped on my lips, my heart beat more quickly 
and I had the distinct sensation that this man was the 
personage of my dream, in flesh and blood. However 
that may be, his presence might well affect me, as he 
was my destiny, * the master of the moment,' my future 
husband. Oh, don't you see that life is such a fas- 
cinating combination, that if we were allowed to know 
it still better we should give up eating and drinking ? " 

" That would be serious," remarked Sir William, in 
a mocking tone. 

" The stranger, who was one of the guests of the 

clidteau, came up to M. de B who introduced him. 

' Monsieur de Myeres, Mademoiselle Latour.' These 
two names, thus associated together, echoed within me 
as though they had been pronounced in a very loud 
voice. I can hear them still. M. de Myeres was a 
man of good family. He was then thirty-five years 
of age, and had the voice and face of a charmer of 
women. You know that mellow voice, the vibrations 
of which penetrate to the very depths of one's being. 



66 ON THE BRANCH 

He had an Intelligent face, bold, tender eyes, and a 
sensual mouth. That was the type of man. We began 
to talk at once. He asked me for a waltz, and, with- 
out troubling about the fact that I had promised my 
mother only to dance polkas and quadrilles, I gave it 
to him. He guided me along through the room, and 
I do not know whether it was the intoxication of the 
movement, regulated by the music, or the effect of his 
magnetism, but for a few moments I lost all notion 
of time, place and my own personality. When he took 
me back to my place I fancied that I had just tasted 
the bliss of the elect. M. de Myeres was married, but 
separated from his wife through serious incompatibility 
of character. He owned the Chateau of Chavigny in 
the department of Cher, and spent some months of 
the year there. The rest of the time he lived in Paris. 
After this first meeting, many circumstances, independ- 
ent of our own will, threw us together. For a young 
girl of my generation a married man did not exist. 
I merely said to myself that I would never marry a 
man unless he were like M. de Myeres. Every time 
anyone was proposed to me, his figure that of the man 
of my dream, for they were one now rose up in my 
mind and I refused to hear of anyone else. One even- 
ing, at Trouville, where he was spending the season, 
as we were, I was strolling along the beach with a dis- 
tant cousin, a friend of my childhood. For the tenth 
time this cousin was pleading his cause, and so ardently 
that I nearly allowed myself to be touched by it. 
It was a little before the dinner hour, the horizon was 
covered with clouds and the sea looked gloomy. Out 
of this dark background I saw M. de Myeres come forth. 
He was leaving the Casino and walking slowly, his head 
bent down. The sight of him aroused in me a curious 
pity, and to the words of my companion I replied, in 



ENGLAND 67 

quite a loud voice, ' No, no ! ' I spoke with such vehe- 
mence that the poor fellow thought I had a horror of 
him. To sum up, the following year M. de Myeres 
was free and, as soon as etiquette allowed, he asked 
for my hand. He was wealthy, his family was one of 
the oldest and most respected of Berry, he himself was 
known as a man of honour. It was what was called a 
good match. My mother, however, only gave her con- 
sent regretfully. She knew that M. de Myeres was 
rather unsteady, and that he gambled. She would have 
liked to keep from me sorrows such as she had known, 
but she could not. I turned a deaf ear to her ob- 
jections and even to her prayers." 

I stopped abruptly, and a painful blush mounted to 
my cheeks. It was so sorrowful, so humiliating all 
that remained to be told. 

" And you were not happy, of course ? " said my 
host, with a look full of sympathy. This question pro- 
voked a nervous laugh from me. 

" Not happy," I repeated with irony. " I was, 
though, extremely so, on the contrary, happy as few 
women are, but my happiness was false. M. de Myeres 
had the qualities which fascinated me the most, which 
still fascinate me. He was an aristocrat, with perfect 
manners, brilliant in society, exquisite in everyday life. 
He had the mentality of a writer, the temperament of a 
gambler, an irresistible mixture of forces and weak- 
nesses. He had only one fault, he loved gambling. 
I can see again in his eyes the look which betrays that 
kind of folly and announces the return of the attack. 
These fits were rare with him, but like my mother, I 
soon learnt the effects of loss and gain. I went through 
the long nights of waiting and of anguish. His return 
though, the sound of his footstep, of his voice, made 
me forget instantaneously. I have always believed that 



68 ON THE BRANCH 

he possessed some special magnetism, for his presence 
had such power. Then, too, he loved me, and he told 
me so over and over again, and in the most charming 
words. I felt a foolish pride when I said to myself 
that I had been able to retain the heart and passion 
of this man who was reputed to be so changeable in 
love affairs. After fourteen years of marriage my first 
real grief was +he change in his health. Rheumatism, 
from which he suffered from time to time, attacked the 
heart. He complained of feeling a coldness there which 
nothing could alleviate; fits of suffocation followed, and 
each crisis meant that his life was in danger. The last 
attack continued a week, during which time I never took 
a minute's rest. Finally he was better, and at last one 
evening the doctor said that all danger was over. In 
spite of that I would not leave him. Towards ten 
o'clock he was resting peacefully, and I laid my head 
on his pillow, put my hand on his and, whilst listening 
with delicious joy to his regular breathing, fell asleep 
soundly myself. In the morning I was aroused by a 
sensation of strange, intense cold, that of death. It 
had really come * like a thief in the night,' and was 
there, rigid, implacable and mysterious." 

Freddy uttered a cry. Under the influence of the 
emotion caused by my story, his master had pinched 
his ear nervously. 

" Leave Freddy's ears alone," I said, with surprising 
calmness, " or just now you will run the risk of pulling 
them off. After all I have told you," I continued, 
" you will understand how perfectly united we were. I 
have always imagined that our union dated much further 
back than my dream. The separation was terrible. 
Whilst I was preparing my husband for the grave, and 
moving his lifeless limbs, I felt for the first time, the 
voluptuousness of excessive suffering. There was a cer- 



ENGLAND 69 

tain pleasure in feeling the warm tears flow. Death 
had smoothed away the lines of care from my husband's 
forehead, and given back to his face a serenity and a 
youthfulness that I had never seen there. He appeared 
to me wonderfully handsome. From a kind of jealousy 
I did not want to have anyone near him. His bed- 
room was next to our small drawing-room and I kept 
the door open whilst doing all that was necessary. All 
my strength of character came to my aid and helped 
me to be perfectly clear-minded. Towards five o'clock 
the footman brought me three letters for M. de Myeres, 
addressed to him at his club. The groom had just 
come with them. I though I recognized the hand-writ- 
ing of the Baroness d'Hauterive, a first cousin of mine, 
and a great friend of my childhood. She lived at the 
Chateau of Rocheilles, near Perigueux. I opened this 
letter mechanically, and read it once and then a second 
time. Ah, I had difficulty in understanding it. Do 
you know what it told me? Just simply that this first 
cousin, this friend of my childhood, was my husband's 
mistress." 

Sir William uttered an exclamation. 

" Yes, she told him of her arrival at the Hotel V 

accompanied by little Guy, his god-child, who in reality, 
it appeared, was his son. This revelation roused a sort 
of whirlwind in my brain. I rushed towards M. de 
Myeres, in a transport of madness, and I shook his dead 
body exclaiming, ' You have deceived me, then ; you 
have deceived me ! ' Letting the rigid corpse fall down 
again I stepped back horrified at my own sacrilege. 
For a few seconds I gazed at my husband with that 
curiosity which is always felt for criminals. He had 
betrayed me ; he belonged to another ! A wave of anger 
went through all my being, and I made a movement 
forward, feeling a desire to kill this dead man ! The 



70 ON THE BRANCH 

desire to kill a dead man, you cannot imagine what that 
is like," I added, lowering my voice. " It is as though 
the stain of it has remained ever since on my soul. 
Before leaving M. de Myeres I bent down again over him 
quite close and I said to him between my clenched teeth, 
' I will never, never forgive you, do you understand ? ' 
No, he did not understand; he was beyond my reach, 
beyond my vengeance above and beyond it. Was he 
so far away, though? As I rose again, I saw, floating 
over his lips, a life-like smile in which there was deep 
tenderness and pity, that pity which one has for chil- 
dren. There was something extraordinary in that smile, 
the meaning of which I have not yet discovered. It 
acted on me like Divine magnetism. It tamed me calmed 
me. I felt it follow me as I went away. On the thres- 
hold of the door I turned round to cry out again to 
my husband, ' I will never forgive ' and it hushed my 
words, that mysterious smile. During all these years 
it has been my drop of dew." 

" What a cruel trial ! " said my host, with an accent 
of deep compassion. 

" Yes, less painful, though, than you imagine. I 
endeavour now to be just to Providence. It handles 
in an admirable way the forces which we are. Great 
sorrows produce a kind of numbness. After this fright- 
ful scene I went to my own room, my legs powerless 
from emotion, my limbs shaking with nervous trembling, 
but I did not suffer. I sat down to my desk, and, find- 
ing in my clenched hand the tell-tale letter, I unfolded 
it, spread it out, passed my fingers over it in order to 
smooth out the creases, as though it were some precious 
document. At that moment, the door opened and 
Madame d'Hauterive, in person, burst into my room. 
It was a curious thing, but the sight of her did not 
rouse my anger. It was, no doubt, exhausted. 



ENGLAND 71 

" ' Oh, Antone, Antone,' she said, stretching out her 
hands to me, ' I have just heard 

" * That M. de Myeres is dead,' I interrupted tran- 
quilly. ' Yes, he died this morning, that is why he 
was not able to go to the Hotel V .' 

" Madame d'Hauterive stepped back, seized with wild 
terror. Her eyes fell upon her own letter, and she 
threw herself on her knees, took my hand in hers and 
begged for my forgiveness. She talked for a long time, 
trying, I suppose, to justify herself. I did not listen. 
I looked at her with curiosity. I could see her again 
as a child, as a girl, as a young wife, deliciously pure. 
And she had become the mistress of my husband 
she, who was almost my sister. My dear little Colette of 
olden days. It all seemed to me fantastic. My silence 
made her think that she had touched me, and she begged 
me to let her see M. de Myeres. How dared she? The 
audacious request made me start, but did not provoke 
any burst of anger. With a calmness which astonishes 
me even now, I told her that if I could have sent him 

to the Hotel V I would willingly have done so, but 

that under my roof she would not see him. I forbade 
her to be present at the funeral, threatening her that if 
she should take it into her head to be there, I should 
disclose all to her husband, and I then ordered her to 
go away. She rose, and I saw her stagger to the door, 
search for the handle as though she were blind, and 
then disappear. We have never met each other since 
then. After her departure I burnt her letter, lest I 
should yield to the temptation of sending it to Baron 
d'Hauterive." 

" I am glad you did that," said my host. 

" I am, too," I answered. " I am glad to have done 
it, as it was more prudent," I added, smiling. 

" All this brought on brain fever, and for three days 



72 ON THE BRANCH 

I struggled in wild delirium. Would you believe that 
when M. de Myeres left the house I knew it by instinct. 
I sat up suddenly in bed, ray senses made singularly 
keener, and I listened. In the corridor, outside of 
my bedroom, I heard muffled sounds, low voices, then 
the creaking of the floor, the effort of the bearers 
I had the sensation of the heaviness of the body. These 
good people tried to deaden the sound of their footsteps. 
The precaution made me smile, for it seemed to me 
so unnecessary. It was not the man of my dream, of 
my life that they were taking away, it was Colette d'Hau- 
terive's lover, and I was glad of it yes, glad ! It is not 
really death which separates individuals most. To-day 
when I can philosophise over human sentiments, I am 
astonished at the strength of jealousy and the effects of 
infidelity. This opportune fever spared me the difficulty 
of pretending to be ill or so prostrated with grief as 
to be unable to accompany my husband to his last rest- 
ing-place in the R cemetery. My sister-in-law and my 
brother-in-law went in my stead. God, whom I had im- 
mediately accused of cruelty, had, on the contrary, shown 
me infinite compassion. For the last two years M. de 
Myeres' speculations on the Stock Exchange had been 
disastrous. It meant ruin in the near future. The 
Chateau of Chavigny was sold. The financial situation 
was then settled honourably, and nothing remained for 
me but my private fortune. We had been living in one 
of the prettiest flats I have ever known. It was in a cor- 
ner house of the Place Fra^ois I, and was very sunny. 
With wicked joy I at once began to destroy this elegant, 
comfortable and hospitable nest, in which I had had fif- 
teen years of false happiness. I sent everything to the 
auction-room, furniture, pictures, relics, souvenirs. I 
should have liked to burn them in a heap. What a fine 
grief fire it would have been! I made my will afresh, 



ENGLAND 73 

with the sole object of expressing my formal wish to be 
cremated. The idea of being buried side by side with 
M. de Myeres was intolerable to me. I felt that my body 
would turn all the time in a tomb shared with him. I 
was in a wild hurry to be alone and free, to escape from 
my relatives, friends and acquaintances, to cut away my 
roots. I did it brutally, and there were so many oh so 
many! In spite of my activity it took a certain time. 
The day arrived, finally, when I closed for ever behind me 
the door of home and found myself " on the branch." 
I went to stay at the Hotel de Castiglione. The owner of 
it was an Italian, kind and sympathetic, and he treated 
me with a consideration which made me like his house. I 
at once began my preparation for a journey to Cairo, as 
I had resolved to commence my pilgrimages with Egypt. 
And do you know what I did before leaving Paris ? " 

" No." 

" Well, at night-fall, like a criminal, I went and threw 
my wedding ring into the Seine." 

" Oh ! " exclaimed Sir William, with a horrified expres- 
sion. 

" Yes, it was abominable I know, and I feel remorseful 
about it. When I cross the Concorde bridge I always 
have a painful sensation, and in spite of myself my eyes 
are attracted towards the spot where the sacred or ac- 
cursed symbol was swallowed up. Do you remember in 
my dream the stranger's ring slipped from my finger and 
rolled along the flags of the little Church? M. de 
Myeres' ring was not to stay with me. Look " I added, 
showing my ringless finger. 

" Curious very curious," murmured my host. 

" Is it not ? And now that I have told you this ter- 
rible story, in order to be just to the gods I must show 
you what its eifect has been on me. You will see then, 
certainly, that it was intended, written in the book of 



74 ON THE BRANCH 

fate, necessary. My father's family for generations past 
had been unbelievers and sceptical. My mother's family, 
on the contrary had always had the most ardent and ab- 
solute faith." 

" Those different elements must have caused great 
conflict in you." 

" No, for I had inherited solely the paternal men- 
tality." 

" Ah, that was more simple." 

" Yes ; and do you know what was my first question ? 
I wanted to know why God had created wolves and 
nettles. The wolves which devour the young lambs and 
the nettles which stung my bare legs seemed to me in- 
compatible with that Divine goodness about which I was 
always being told." 

" It was not easy to answer your question." 

" Those I asked got out of it by saying they had been 
created in order to make children prudent and wise. 
That did not satisfy me at all and the day when I realised 
what human misery was, I began to say, ' God has not 
a kind heart ! ' I frequently repeated the childish phrase, 
and nothing could make me change this sentiment. 
When I learnt that he made orphans, I refused to pray 
to him. My father used to say, laughing, * Antone has 
quarrelled with God.' ' 

" You must have been a pleasant child to bring up," 
observed Sir William, smiling. 

" A grievous child for a mother like mine," I con- 
fessed, not without regret. " Poor Mother ! She shrank 
from the task of preparing me for confirmation and 
placed me at the Convent of the Sacred Heart, in the 
hope that the atmosphere there would develop religious 
feeling in my soul. I was there two whole years, and I 
should be sorry not to have lived those years. It was 
not long before the atmosphere of the convent began to 



ENGLAND 75 

act upon me. I ceased reasoning and arguing. My in- 
tellectual and physical activity relaxed. I was seized with 
a sort of delicious languor. Sacred music, religious 
ceremonies, which had hitherto left me indifferent, touched 
me deeply. I was no longer bored by the mass and ves- 
pers. The liturgy seemed to me magnificent and I de- 
lighted in repeating it. The words sounded grand to my 
ear. Sometimes I slipped away from the noisy recreation 
and stole into the quiet church. I stayed there without 
praying, without thinking even, my eyes fixed on the 
gilded door of the tabernacle, as though hypnotised by 
a real presence, and I had the sensation that waves passed 
and repassed over me. I am glad to have known that 
state of mind, it has helped me to understand the irresist- 
ible vocations and sublime renunciations of others. 
Catholicism alone puts into action the forces which allow 
one to reach the Beyond. My first communion brought 
this crisis of religious fervour to a paroxysm. It was 
only a crisis as you can imagine. When once I left the 
Convent my mind became troubled again, ever seeking the 
truth, unbelieving. I took the dogma, point by point, 
and discussed it constantly with my mother. She clung 
to the faith which was her only consolation, and I tried to 
take it from her. May she forgive me, for I did not know 
what I was doing. Human suffering, the sufferings of 
animals, especially, the apparent injustice of things, the 
cruelties of the laws of Nature, the sight of the cat tor- 
turing the mouse, all this was revolting to me. I did not 
believe in the efficacy of prayer, I did not see any hope of 
mercy anywhere. Beside all this, although I had not 
read Candide my dreams were of a God whom I could 
simply adore and thank, like the one of the beautiful 
country of Eldorado. Unconsciously I have always 
been looking for Him and I have now found Him. The 
promise of the Gospel has been verified for me." 



76 ON THE BRANCH 

" Tell me about that," said Sir William, with an ex- 
pression of keen interest. 

" By leaving Paris I fancied I should more easily 
forget M. de Myeres. You can imagine how possible 
that was ! During our fifteen years of communion he had 
left too much of his soul in me for the impress of it to 
be effaced at will. I travelled in Egypt, Italy, Germany, 
England, Holland and Switzerland. I covered miles 
and miles by railroad, boat and carriage. I heaped 
up impressions upon impressions, images upon im- 
ages, without succeeding in forgetting him. Often 
when looking at some celebrated site, when en- 
joying some fine view of Nature, some work of art, three 
little words would come forth from one of the cells of 
my brain, three adverbs Where ? When ? How ? and 
my vision was at once troubled, and all pleasure de- 
stroyed. Where had he loved Colette d'Hauterive? 
When had he betrayed me? How had she come to give 
herself to him? These were the three questions that 
came to my lips, on the Nile even, in the unique splendour 
of its sunsets, in Italy, in the silence of its Coliseum, in 
Switzerland, on the Alpine heights. Where, when and 
how? These questions formed a triangle in my mind. 
I knew too much and too little. I kept going back to 
the past to find some indication. Little Guy was ten 
years old and he was the son of M. de Myeres. Before 
and after that time I could find nothing suspicious, unless 
it were a marked change in my cousin's character, in her 
manner with me, a change that I had attributed to all 
kinds of causes except the right one. Then, too, she 
knew how to obtain forgiveness for so many things. She 
was a brilliant, impulsive woman, instinctively coquettish, 
but good at heart. She had a charm of manner and 
conversation of which one never wearied. We had sur- 
named her ' the linnet,' and we spoiled her as much as 



ENGLAND 77 

we could. Going through her childhood and youth in 
my memory, I could not find one single act of disloyalty. 
Her husband adored her and she seemed to have great 
affection for him. They were very happy and very 
united in their home. The year after the birth of Guy 
she had desired to leave Paris definitely and had stayed 
at ' Les Rocheilles,' where she had become a lady bounti- 
ful. Later on, Baron d'Hauterive and M. de Myeres 
had a political quarrel which rather separated us, with- 
out actually breaking off a friendship as old as ours. 
During the last years of my husband's life he had always 
appeared to avoid rather than to seek the society of my 
cousin. Their good comradeship of former times had 
changed into a hostility about which I had foolishly 
grieved. The comedy had been well played, so well that 
I had never detected any sign of indifference on the part 
of my husband. My presence always brought an ex- 
pression of pleasure to his face. Three weeks before his 
death, as he was going out of my room, he turned back 
on the threshold of the door and said, in a tender tone, 
' Antone, I adore you ! ' And he was lying to me all the 
time! I do not know which poet it was who said: 
' The worst grief is not to be able to mourn those whom 
we have lost.' " 

" Byron," replied Sir William promptly. " It was 
his mother that he could not regret." 

" He was the only man I had ever loved. I envied the 
people who had dead friends whom they could mourn. 
One day at Rome, in the cemetery, I saw a widow sobbing 
at the tomb of her husband. I stooped down to- 
wards her and said in a very low voice, * How fortu- 
nate you are ! ' She must have thought that these were 
the words of a mad person. Rome I have not 
suffered anywhere, I think, as much as there. I 
often wondered why it was. M. de My&res and I had 



78 ON THE BRANCH 

stayed there for a few weeks during the winter which pre- 
ceded his death. I was imprudent enough to return 
eighteen months after, and I found him there, just as 
though he had gone, too. I stayed at the Hotel Quirinal, 
and had a drawing-room and bedroom with a sunny as- 
pect, looking over a flower-garden. The society there was 
pleasant, and yet I was very sad, the hateful memory pur- 
sued me pitilessly. As soon as I was out in the street I 
found myself engulfed in a strange atmosphere. Certain 
spots were particularly trying; the banks of the Tiber 
outside the Nomentana Gate, the Villa Medicis, the neigh- 
bourhood of the Maxence Circus. There, more than 
anywhere else, I felt the presence of M. de Myeres. His 
affectionate words would come back to me, and every one 
of them caused me intense grief. I was like a woman 
whose wreath of roses had been changed by some evil 
spell into a crown of thorns. And then, too, whatever 
I did, my uprootal was very painful to me. Love, 
friendship, social relations, wealth, everything had been 
taken from me at the same time. This brutal dis- 
mantling caused me a sensation of nakedness and humilia- 
tion. The most curious part was that I worked hard for 
that end myself. Announcements of marriages and 
deaths, invitations, letters from friends, I threw into the 
waste-paper basket, and yet it took me five years to die 
socially. When I received nothing more from anyone, 
I tried to persuade myself that I was satisfied, but I was 
not, by any means. I was some time, too, getting used 
to my room at the hotel. After the Chateau of Chav- 
igny and my Paris flat in the Place Fra^ois I, the 
* traveller's house ' as the Hindoos call hotels, seemed to 
me terribly cold and commonplace. I was always knock- 
ing myself, mentally and physically, against the walls, 
which were too near together. Oh, I can tell you that I 
gnawed my bit ! " 



ENGLAND 79 

" Did not your cousin ever make any attempt to see 
you again ? " asked Sir William. 

" Yes, she wrote to me more than ten times I burnt 
all her letters without reading them.' 1 

" That was bad. There were perhaps extenuating cir- 
cumstances for her sin." 

" They could not have prevented little Guy from being 
the son of M. de Myeres. I did not want to hear them, 
for I did not want to hate less. I was wrong, I know, and 
I certainly increased my grief myself as though for the 
very pleasure of it. All that, you see, had no other ob- 
ject than to help me to come out of myself, and I came 
out, for I can assure you that it was neither good nor 
beautiful within my soul. My reading had been light 
and frivolous rather than anything else, but I had had 
the foundation of a good education, and this enabled me 
to enjoy and understand serious things. I grew passion- 
ately fond of history and followed with growing interest 
the work of science. I could only follow at a distance, 
and at a great distance, but still I was near enough to 
be conscious of the present evolution. I very quickly 
understood that it was God who made history, and not 
man. The discovery of the infinitely small things and 
that of electricity, which is so infinitely great, gave me 
the conviction that we could only be simple factors in the 
universe. For weeks I amused myself with counting, 
among my everyday acts those which seemed to depend 
on my own will. Very often there was not a single one. 
I would then count those over which I had no power, and 
these were always the most numerous. Try this little 
exercise, it will teach you more than all the books of phi- 
losophy." 

" I will try it," answered my companion gravely. 

" Until then I had only looked at the surface of life. 
I now began to study its texture and what there was un- 



80 ON THE BRANCH 

derneath it. I strove to follow a word along its path, 
to search for the threads, of which a marriage or a birth 
is composed. I was struck with the mathematical clear- 
ness of coincidences. I noticed that the orders from the 
Invisible come to us sometimes direct, sometimes through 
a number of our fellow-creatures. This transmission of 
the Divine will is extraordinarily interesting. For in- 
stance, how did the idea come to you to invite me to Sim- 
ley?" 

Sir William reflected for a few seconds. 
" I do not know," he replied. " It came to me in a 
vague way after our first conversations, and then, one 
evening, as we were strolling along under the verandah 
I thought that it would interest you to see the sky nearer 
with a good telescope." 

" Well, in my opinion, you simply obeyed the sugges- 
tion of Providence. That does not lessen my gratitude 
in the least. Oh, Providence recompenses me from time 
to time." 

" On that score I, too, have been recompensed," said 
my host pleasantly. 

" We both have," I added, smiling. " You see I have 
trained myself to say : ' God wishes it, God wills it,' in- 
stead of ' I wish it, I wanted it.' Ah, that was not ea&y. 
But what glorious pride I now have in feeling that I am 
working with Him, that from morning to night I .go 
along transmitting His orders, that I am necessary to 
Him. I had no idea of my own powers of radiation. 
Just think of it, not a word useless ! " 

Sir William began to laugh. 

"That's it, now we have woman justified! My com- 
pliments, Madame de Myeres." 

" Make fun if you like, but words and gestures will 
have their effect for a long time. Long after our 
death they will continue our action in this world. The 



ENGLAND 81 

day when I realised these things I had the same surprise 
as just now on discovering that I was up there, and I 
exclaimed, ' But I am already in eternal life we all 
are.' " 

My host started. 

" What an idea ! " he exclaimed. 

" And do you know what I imagined ? " 

" After that, I scarcely see what there was left for you 
to imagine," said Sir William in a caustic tone. 

" That God did not create pain, that He could not even 
prevent it. It seems to me that it is the result of the 
forces put into motion. As to injustice it can only be 
apparent. It could not exist without destroying the laws 
of equilibrium." 

" There, as a mathematician, I am of your opinion." 

" From the point which I have now reached, through 
much difficulty and suffering, the treason of M. de 
Myeres has lost its importance in a strange way. I 
know, too, of course, that man was created a polyg- 
amist." 

Sir William's face lighted up with mischief and gaiety. 

" Oh, indeed, you admit that. Come I shall begin to 
think you are serious." 

" Perfectly serious. It is only with the object of lim- 
iting the creation of the westerner that Nature has given 
to him the counter-law of monogamy. The general law 
must be stronger than the partial one, and through this 
there are painful transgressions. When they occur, 
they too are necessary." 

" Well, then, you will have to forgive your cousin and 
your husband." 

" I forgave them a long time ago." 

" And you have given up the idea of being cremated, 
I suppose," asked Sir William, to see how far I would go. 

My heart thrilled suddenly, and I answered 



82 ON THE BRANCH 

" I forgive, I excuse and understand, but I cannot for- 
get. The thought of M. de Myeres is always painful to 
me. I shall go back to my parents as divorced women 
do. I do not want to be cremated now." 

"Ah, why not?" 

" I happened to pay a visit to one of our writers some 
time before his death. He was very stout. With his 
elbows spread out, his wide head quite near to his paper, 
he gave one the idea of a ruminating, intellectual being, 
and was rather imposing. On reading that he had been 
cremated I instantly saw a handful of ashes on his writ- 
ing-table. He has always remained that for me. 
Frankly speaking, the idea of such a transformation of 
the human being is rather painful. Underground one 
can think that there is still someone there. It is true that 
I shall not leave anyone to whom my little heap of dust 
could be painful." 

" You do not know that." 

" It is probable. And now," I asked, " does it not 
seem to you that I have merely lived my life, and not 
made it myself? " 

" One would certainly say so." 

" It was ordained like this. But all through my 
destiny I can distinguish a foreseeing Power. My 
shoulders had been prepared for the burden. A certain 
physical and moral robustness helped me to react. And 
the most marvellous thing still is this intellectual work 
which has been given to me, these brain cells which have 
been put into activity at the age of fifty, thus giving to 
my old age the divine joy of creation, a compensation, 
perhaps, for the sterility of my earlier life." 

" I agree with you that it is absolutely extraordi- 
nary." 

" Oh, I do not quarrel any more with God, I can as- 
sure you, we are even on the best of terms. Although 



ENGLAND 83 

I do not live in Eldorado, far from it, indeed, I never 
ask Him for anything; I simply adore Him and thank 
Him." I then added, looking up at the sky as I rose, 
" This is one of the dramas of up there, for it is up there 
that all this has happened." 

" A moment ago," said Sir William, " you said that 
not one of your words would be lost. I do not know 
anything about that ; but I can assure you that not one 
of those of this evening will be lost for me." 

" Well, that gives me great pleasure." 

" I have never had the opportunity of talking seri- 
ously with a Frenchwoman. Providence, as you insist 
on that, has sent me one who is worth ten," remarked 
Sir William with a jesting smile. 

" One who has lived for ten anyhow," I replied. 

With these words we left the observatory and walked 
slowly and silently back through the Park. In face 
of grief an Englishman rarely finds words. He shows 
his sympathy by his attitude, his way of listening, an 
increase of respect and of attentions. In the very way 
in which my host opened the doors for me, there was a 
more marked shade of respect, and in the hearty hand- 
shake I felt an infinity of things that were very sweet 
and, I may as well confess it, very agreeable to me. 

I was not only able to tell this painful episode of my 
life then, but to repeat it here. There is truly no more 
hatred and no more anger in my heart; only a sense of 
humiliation remains. Little Guy was destined to be 
born, to bring certain forces into life. I know that. 
He was destined to be born, but of another woman. 
Why was that? This idea still brings a blush to my 
face, although I am an old woman. It wounds me to 
the very depths of my being. I would never have 
owned that to an Englishman. Would he even have 
understood it? This past which has so unexpectedly 



8* ON THE BRANCH 

been stirred up again still affects me. Is it a sign that 
all is not yet finished? My cousin and the son of M. de 
Myeres are still in this world. The elements for an 
epilogue are there certainly. Jean Noel would not re- 
sist the pleasure of writing it, but may Providence not be 
tempted to make me live it! 

Smiley Hall. 

In every English house there is the nursery, just as 
with the bees there is the place where the young ones 
are reared. The nursery may be more or less large, more 
or less comfortable, but it exists ; it is one of the charac- 
teristics even of the nation. When I pay a visit to a 
family where there are young children I try to get into 
the good graces of the rearer in order to have access there. 
The Simley nurseries are delightful. Several genera- 
tions have succeeded each other in them, and they have 
been modernised by degrees. Mrs. Loftus and her two 
brothers were brought up in them. Her three children, 
Frank, seven years old, Lily, six, and William, two, in- 
habit them at present. They are situated in the corner 
of the right wing, and are composed of several rooms, 
a bath room, and a tiny kitchen with tiled walls adjoin- 
ing, where the various milk foods and dainty dishes are 
prepared. One of the rooms is occupied by the head 
nurse, and the other by the brother and sister. A pretty 
screen separates their two beds, and in this human nest 
there is the brightest freshness and cleanliness imagi- 
nable. The papers are light and are framed with old 
mouldings. Everything in the room is made of simple 
things, muslin, cretonne and white wood. There is a 
portrait of the grandmother, whose smile follows one 
everywhere; then there are photographs of the parents 
and of favourite animals. Beautiful lithographs add 
to the animation and gaiety. A picture of Christ, 



ENGLAND 85 

with the words " Suffer little children to come unto Me " 
in Gothic letters at the foot, brings a ray of sentiment 
and of elevated thought into the room. The day nurs- 
ery is my delight. It is a long room with beams, 
lighted by two wide windows and furnished with a mas- 
sive table with rounded ends, an old piano, a red leather 
sofa, a cupboard with glass doors, chairs of all sizes and 
a small rocking chair. It is full of old, primitive things 
and simple toys. One feels that one is among real chil- 
dren, and that is delightful. The other day, seated in 
one of the visitors' armchairs, I looked around and began 
mentally to admire the instinct or the science of parents 
who place the newcomers under the suggestion of ob- 
jects likely to supply their brains with the best germs. 
Those flowers that I saw on the mantelshelf, those pic- 
tures of animals fastened up here and there, give to the 
children the love of Nature. And those engravings, 
illustrating the discoveries of Robinson Crusoe, teach 
them the necessity of effort. The portraits of the 
King and Queen are destined to create loyalty in them. 
And that map of the British empire, surmounted by the 
Union Jack, awakens in their hearts love and pride of 
their country. There is a touching scene of a rescue at 
sea which communicates to them a desire for heroism 
which, later on, may result in some valiant deed. The 
remembrance of that scroll over the mantelshelf, on which 
the Gospel precept flames out in red letters : " Do unto 
others what ye would that they should do unto 
you." This will serve later on to check the tongue or 
the hand inclined to some injustice. Mrs. Loftus nursed 
her three children herself; the nurse has weaned them 
and brought them up with remarkable intelligence. Her 
firmness gives her a hard look, under which one divines a 
motherly and tender heart. Beside this, there is a certain 
poetic vein in her which must have come to her from 



86 ON THE BRANCH 

Ireland. She feels Nature and has an inexhaustible 
fund of tales, legends and pretty verses with which she 
regales the children in the winter, by the fire and during 
the long twilights. Her disposition, which softens the 
atmosphere around her, does not prevent her from main- 
taining strict discipline in the nursery. The other day, 
on entering, I noticed Master Frank seated in a mel- 
ancholy way in the middle of the room, without any play- 
things, his hands resting on the arms of his chair. 

" What is he doing there ? " I asked at once. 

" What is he doing, madame," repeated Sarah, as- 
tonished at my question. " He is learning to keep still. 
Ten minutes in the morning and ten minutes in the after- 
noon ; that rests him and me too." 

Learning to keep still! How evident it is that we 
were never taught that. I have had more than one op- 
portunity of admiring the prompt obedience that this 
simple woman obtains from her little ones. Yesterday 
morning she was bathing Lily. The baby, still in his 
cot, was awaiting his turn, not without impatience, for 
he kept getting up every minute to see how far ad- 
vanced the operation was. Sarah noticed it, and called 
out in an imperative tone 

" Lie down, sir." 

At this command the child lay down on his back, with 
such a rapid, precise movement that it might have been 
taken for a drill. It was irresistibly droll. 

" What a good general you would make, Sarah ! " I 
said. 

" Thank you, madame," she answered, with an expres- 
sion of pleasure. 

Frank and Lily, it appears, had been very much 
afraid of the French lady, whose arrival had been an- 
nounced to them. Heaven knows what image of her 
had been formed in their brains. When I arrived they 



ENGLAND 87 

held out their little hands to me with visible distrust. 
I was fortunate enough to find words which at once put 
them at ease. From the very next day they showed me 
their treasures in the way of toys and picture-books, in- 
troduced to me their fox terrier, Kim, the cat, Rose, two 
habitual guests of the nursery, Tit and Bit, their ponies, 
Dodo the baby's donkey. They are charming to look at, 
in their simple, convenient clothes, their bare legs and 
feet covered, according to the precepts of Kneipp, with 
leathern sandals, which are very much in vogue at pres- 
ent. Their features give promise of beauty. Lily has 
large blue eyes and hair the colour of ripe chestnuts. 
The shape of little Frank's head is remarkably good, 
and always excites my admiration. At times he presses 
his lips together with an expression which suddenly 
hardens his babyish expression, and which may be the 
sign of a strong will. Once or twice I have seen in 
him that repugnance to confess himself beaten which 
is a characteristic of his race. Once, when out walking, 
we came to one of those barriers called stiles. 

"Do you think I could jump it?" he asked his 
mother. 

" Yes," she replied, " but you would run the risk of 
hurting yourself, and badly enough to be obliged to send 
for the doctor." 

The child looked as though he were measuring the 
height of the obstacle. The struggle going on in his 
mind made the blood come and go under his delicate 
skin. 

" I think I will jump it," he declared at last. 

" You are free to do as you like," said Mrs. Loftus. 

He quickly took off his sandals, climbed up the three 
bars of the stile, balanced himself for an instant on the 
top, and then dropped down on the other side on his 
feet. 



88 ON THE BRANCH 

" I have not hurt myself," he cried, with an accent of 
triumph. 

" So much the better, my love," replied his mother 
tranquilly. 

We glanced at each other. She was glad that the 
young urchin had risked the jump, and so was I. I am 
always charmed to see the important place that flowers 
and animals have in the life of English children. Lily 
and Frank often come back from their walks with 
branches of green for decorating their nursery. They 
know the names of all the birds which frequent the lawn, 
and are interested about the nests. Sarah told me that 
in the spring she noticed that the cushions belonging to 
the chairs of the brother and sister had suddenly be- 
come singularly flat. It was all in vain that she shook 
them and put them out in the sunshine, for they were 
smaller every day. She finally suspected the under 
nurse of stuffing her own bed at the expense of these 
pillows, but one fine morning, through the open door, 
she saw Lily and her brother busy pulling, out of the 
inside slips, pinches of horsehair, which they were throw- 
ing through the window. 

" What are you doing ? " she exclaimed. 

" We are giving the birds some horsehair for their 
nests," answered the little girl, with the most adorable 
serenity. 

The nurse, quite disarmed, only told them that they 
must not give away things belonging to their parents 
without asking permission. It certainly was a pretty 
idea. 

I often dress early for dinner so that I may be present 
when the children are put to bed. It is the sweetest 
little picture. All is done with a decency which delights 
me. Childhood is respected here, and not made unpoeti- 



ENGLAND 89 

cal. The day before yesterday, Lily, in her night-dress, 
said to me in a reproachful tone 

" Madame de Myeres, you don't notice how I fold 
my clothes." 

I at once went up to the chair upon which she spreads 
her clothes every evening and complimented her. Her 
pretty face flushed with pleasure. One evening, whilst 
undressing, she asked me suddenly, stretching out her 
round, white arms 

" Do you like my arms ? " 

" Very much," I replied seriously. 

" And my hair ? " she asked, presenting to me the 
golden ends of her plait. 

" Yes." 

" And my foot ? " she added. 

" Yes, that too," and I squeezed the plump little 
foot she held out to me. 

She went through everything her eyes, nose, mouth, 
teeth, and finally I told her that I liked good little girls 
altogether, but I could not help smiling at the English 
expression " Do you like? " which really means " Do 
you think it pretty ? " 

The evening prayer always touches me very much. 
It consists of the following words, which the child, with 
clasped hands, repeats, keeping its eyes fixed on the 
nurse's lips : " Pray God bless my dear papa and 
mamma, my brother and sister, all my relations and 
friends, and make me a good child, for Jesus Christ's 
sake, Amen." The two elder children add the Lord's 
prayer and a very simple hymn. Sarah reads them a 
verse from the Old or New Testament and so the day 
finishes in the Simley Hall " nest." 

When the children heard that the day of my departure 
was very near, it occurred to Frank and Lily to invite 



90 ON THE BRANCH 

me to tea in their nursery. I would not, upon any ac- 
count, have refused this invitation written in big letters, 
so touching by the effort that it represented. At four 
o'clock precisely I arrived in their domain, and found 
there a charming girl who lives near. She is a great 
friend of theirs, and they had asked her to help them 
to entertain me. The dear children, what joy there was 
when they saw me appear! They had gathered the 
wild flowers which decorated the table, ordered from the 
cook hot cakes such as she makes for grown-up people, 
and superintended all the arrangements. They seemed 
very proud of their work, and my surprise and compli- 
ments brought a bright look of pleasure on to their 
sweet faces. Their friend, Miss Mills, poured tea, and 
Sarah passed the cups, whilst they did the honours of 
the dainties with a perfect self-forgetfulness. The pic- 
ture of our table was droll and not at all commonplace. 
At one end of it an old woman, at the other end a young 
girl dressed in white serge, to the right a charming 
baby-child, a doll, a little girl of six years old; to the 
left a little fellow in sailor costume, and then the fox 
terrier Kim, and Rosy, the cat, both on tall chairs. 
Frank, feeling most hospitable, expressed his regret at 
not being able to make toast for me at the nursery 
fire as they do in winter. His sister asked me to come 
again at Christmas, which was the most beautiful time of 
the year. The remembrance of the last Christmas fes- 
tivities still delights them. The little boy showed me 
the lion fastened on to the wall. It was the Christmas 
present of their Illustrated Paper. He told me all the 
lion's misdeeds. In his imagination the wild beast had 
devoured more than a thousand lambs, and when he was 
grown up it was his intention to go and kill it. Lily 
told me about the vaccination of her daughter Fanny. 
With an expression of maternal pride she told us that 



ENGLAND 91 

her child had been very brave and had not cried. Whilst 
hearing all this a curious thing took place. I forgot 
reality and my age. I had a sensation of a fresh life, 
of light atmosphere; it seemed to me that I was com- 
mencing and this was delicious. The entrance of Sir 
William put an end to the illusion. He stopped an in- 
stant on the threshold of the door. 

" Ah, Madame de Myeres," he said, with a slight 
quivering of the nostrils from emotion, " this is what I 
call the essence of goodness." 

" Don't say any more," I answered, smiling, " I am 
taking a bath of childhood. That could only happen 
here." 

Frank and Lily hurried towards their grandfather, 
installed him in his arm-chair, and gave him some tea. 

" What a number of things these children will know ! " 
he said, with an accent of regret. 

"Will they be happier?" 

" Will they not be better armed ? Does not progress 
consist in furnishing the elements for life? " 

" Furnishing the elements for life ! " I repeated. 
" Yes, that is the care of you Englishmen. We, on the 
other hand, without intending it, we furnish the elements 
for death. I do not think I am mistaken in saying that 
a great part of the physical and moral force of your 
country is acquired in the nursery." 

" That is my opinion." 

" In France we have no nursery." 

"Why do you not have it? I have often wondered." 

" Because we generally live in flats," I replied, " on 
shelves that are very uncomfortable and insufficient." 

" But in the provinces you have beautiful roomy 
houses where you could install nurseries, studies, bath- 
room, a gymnasium, and everything that is necessary 
for the development of the individual." 



92 ON THE BRANCH 

" In the provinces, alas, the minds and the furniture 
are always under dust-covers. People deliberately close 
their ears in order not to hear scientific men, lest these 
should destroy ancient prejudices. They close their 
shutters so that the sun may not fade their curtains. 
In the provinces people respect their prejudices and cur- 
tains. The basis of our economy is avarice; the basis 
of our paternal and maternal love is egotism. We love 
our family, our children; we do not love the species. 
These are the real causes of the depopulation which 
alarms and humiliates us. If Providence wished it, these 
would disappear, and Providence will wish it some day, 
you may be sure." 

" I sincerely hope so," said Sir William. 

After thanking the children heartily, I left the nursery 
with my host, and we took a few turns in the park. 

" If you had had ten children, Madame de Myeres," 
he said, " you could not understand them better." 

" I should understand them less," I replied. " A 
mother loves her children blindly, she does not know 
them. She cannot detach herself from them enough 
to study them. This study would even seem impious 
to her, I fancy. I will confess, not without shame, that 
I have never cared for children. I had, during one 
year only, a sort of hunger for motherhood. Five years 
ago the daughter of the proprietor of my hotel was 
expecting her baby, and the birth of a human creature 
which was about to take place near me suddenly in- 
terested me. The sight of the preparations, of the 
bassinette, the scales and the first clothes stirred my 
heart and aroused my curiosity. I had seen the end of 
life; it seemed to me that I ought to see the beginning. 
It was as though Providence prided itself on supplying 
me with an excellent specimen for my subject of study, 
as the newly-sent child was a miracle of beauty. Its 



ENGLAND 93 

head was covered with golden brown hair, as curly as 
a lamb's fleece. She was introduced to me under a 
stream of electric light and, dazzled by it, she blinked 
her eyes. I put my finger into her hand, and she squeezed 
it as though from an instinctive need to cling to some- 
thing. The contact of this warm, soft, animated 
flesh was so delicious that the sensation of it has re- 
mained with me. Ever since that moment, for the last 
five years, I have watched the development of the child's 
body and intelligence. I was not long in discovering 
that children are the most unknown and the most mis- 
understood of all beings." 

" It is because each one has a different character and 
it is impossible to judge one by another," objected Sir 
William. 

" Yes, but the inner stimulus which determines its 
act is the same. Have you not noticed that the baby 
of five or six months always throws away the plaything 
that is given to it, and as far as possible? " 

" That is so." 

" And that directly afterwards it moves forward as 
though to fetch it." 

" Yes, exactly." 

" That is just simply the means Nature has found 
for putting into action its muscles of locomotion. To 
run after something that is the primordial, eternal 
instinct. When the child wants to obey this instinct, 
the mother or nurse, who is holding it keeps it back by 
force, and so provokes its anger. I am convinced that 
what we call naughtiness is only play. The little one 
likes to tease the big one, the big one does not under- 
stand, punishes and often whips the child. The new- 
comer, on arrival here, must touch objects, an infinite 
number of objects, in order to come into contact with 
life. We hinder this, rightly or wrongly. The child 



94 ON THE BRANCH 

is a born explorer, and we hold him in as much as pos- 
sible. The cries that he utters are necessary for enlarg- 
ing his chest, for exercising his lungs, and we correct 
him in order to make him be quiet. And this sort of 
thing continues through ignorance. We thwart the in- 
stinct which is really a great force, instead of guiding 
it with wisdom. I wonder why naturalists do not study 
the child as they do ants and bees." 

" Darwin undertook that study." 

" Yes, in order to try to find proofs of our filiation 
with the animals. I should like it to be done without 
any preconceived idea. Men of science ought to be the 
ones to enlighten a mother, to guide the education. 
But we are only children ourselves. In the meantime 
the study that I made of little Loulou revealed many 
things to me and aided Jean Noel considerably. I saw 
the awakening of her sensitiveness, various glimmerings 
soon over, which were reproduced at rather long intervals, 
and then more and more frequently. I caught strange 
reflections in her eyes, gleams of sensuality, of a soul 
older than the body. I watched her attempts to stand 
up. Oh, how touching it is, that effort of the human 
creature. The day when, after refusing my help, she 
succeeded, her face beamed and she looked round in quest 
of applause. It was as though she had a vague con- 
sciousness of having mounted one step of the ladder 
of life. One day, gentle as she is, she threw the play- 
thing she was holding at the head of her nurse, without 
any provocation. I shall never forget the pathetic ter- 
ror of her expression when she stammered out, * I 
couldn't help it.' The reflex action which I had 
witnessed staggered me. How many times do we do 
what we cannot help. The phenomenon of suggestion 
has always excited my admiration more than any other. 
After the bedtime play I was often present during the 



ENGLAND 95 

prayers. I was amazed to see the nurse, a humble 
Breton woman with her hieratic head-dress, standing up 
near the cot, her hand on the child's chest, transmitting 
to her, unconsciously, the antique formulas, and the 
child, its eyes fixed on her lips, repeating, without under- 
standing them, words which came to her across nineteen 
centuries : ' Jesus, the fruit of your entrails, is blessed.' 
You cannot imagine anything like the contrast of such 
words from those childish lips." 

My host smiled. 

" No, and I can imagine that a mother would not see 
those things just as Jean Noel did." 

" It was not my mind alone that was interested. I had 
grown fond of this child I was studying. The hour 
that I was with her was the happiest of my day. I 
began to love her dolls. I enjoyed handling her toys. 
She could not pronounce my name, and so she called 
me * Mi.' This note, uttered in her exquisite voice, gave 
me great joy. Little Loulou has gone out of the circle 
of my life, but she has left behind her a luminous track. 
She put me into communion with the soul of a child. 
That was probably her mission, for I must see and hear 
children now. Yours have added very much to the 
pleasure of my visit to Simley Hall." 

" And I am not sure they will not forget the French 
lady. You have made them francophile for ever. That 
was your secret object, wasn't it? " added my companion 
in a bantering way, though visibly touched. 

" Yes. Is not that a good sort of patriotism ? " 

" The very best there is, and the most agreeable," 
replied Sir William smiling. 

Simley Hall. 

The day after to-morrow I am leaving this hospitable 
dwelling where I have been at rest a whole month. For 



96 ON THE BRANCH 

a few weeks I shall certainly feel the coldness of the 
hotel and shall regret the home life that I have been 
sharing. I pay, with a good grace, for the joys that 
are accorded me. It was necessary that I should come 
for a time among these strangers. . . . What was 
I to do ? What elements have I brought to them ? A lit- 
tle of my Latin soul, some of my French ideas, no doubt. 
Sir William declares that I have done him a great deal 
of good. And he on his side, what a number of things 
he has taught me during our long conversations. I 
have always desired and appreciated the society of men 
of culture. My destiny has been to live among worldly 
people, among frivolous men and women, and a certain 
side of my nature has adapted itself very well to this, 
I must own. Most savants, too, only possess knowledge 
of special subjects and have no idea of things as a whole. 
With my host I have had the pleasure of being able to 
look at life and to discuss it. He has more science and 
I more intuition. Intuition is the science of the ig- 
norant. By means of these two factors we have arrived 
at conclusions, and have mutually enlarged our ideas. 
Was that the object of our meeting? This question 
keeps coming to my lips and to my pen. Lady Ran- 
dolph has contributed greatly to the pleasure of my stay 
at Simley Hall. What a contrast this woman is so re- 
spectful of the orders and wishes of her husband, and 
such an inflexible guardian of tradition and customs 
to the emancipated American women among whom I live. 
I like to watch her in the evening, at the head of the 
table, in her low-necked silk dress trimmed with old lace, 
and her old jewellery. She carves the enormous pieces 
of roast beef placed before her with an elegance such as 
I have never before seen. And it is a pretty sight, the 
mistress of the house dispensing to her family and guests 
the elements of life. When, during dinner, the modern 



ENGLAND 97 

spirit makes itself too evident, when ideas which are 
slightly audacious are launched by Sir William, or by his 
children, she draws herself up at once, and in a tone mod- 
ulated by gentleness and authority she remarks, " I 
wish you would not say that." It is with these words 
that she draws the reins and everyone stops. She is 
an Irish woman and a Protestant. She is very dark, 
her face rather hard, but it softens wonderfully when 
she looks at her husband. I have many a time surprised 
a glance betraying the anguish of her soul. She fol- 
lows him everywhere with her eyes, with eyes which know 
that they will not see him long. She has never spoken 
to me of her anguish, but she knows that I have guessed 
it, and there is a constant current of feminine sympathy 
between us. 

To-day was my last Sunday in England. When Sir 
William told me that they had family prayers at Simley 
Hall, he said that I was free to attend them if I liked, 
adding in his caustic tone, " They won't hurt you, you 
know." I did attend them, and I found great comfort in 
them. On Sundays, hymns are sung, which Lady Ran- 
dolph accompanies on the piano. The old butler, the 
cook, the housemaids all arrive with their little bench 
and their hymn-books. Sir William, whose vocal cords 
are already affected, can no longer read the chapter 
from the Bible. His son or his grandson reads for 
him, but he always chooses the chapter. The sight of 
these men kneeling down like little children affects me 
in spite of myself. This evening my eyes fell on my 
host and I saw his back. His shoulders were prominent 
under the cloth, and his smoking-coat hung in the most 
lamentable manner. He had asked for his favourite 
hymn to be sung, and in his poor broken voice he re- 
peated the following verse 



98 ON THE BRANCH 

" Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee, 
E'en though it be a cross that raiseth me, 
Still all my song shall be 
Nearer my God to Thee, nearer to Thee." 

In the mouth of this doomed man these words had a 
poignant meaning. I felt that he uttered them with 
a full knowledge of the situation, and that they were 
Jiis confession of resignation. Nearer to God . 
.ah, how near he already was! When the little service 
was over, the domestics went quietly away, according 
to their custom, without a word or sign from the family. 
This always surprises me, and my host caught my look 
as I watched them leave the room. 

" Nice kind of Christianity, isn't it ? " he said, in a 
mocking tone. " We pray together, but we neither say 
good-morning nor good-night to each other." 

" But William," protested Lady Randolph, " you 
know very well that it would be impossible." 

" That is precisely what I deplore. We have an 
etiquette in flagrant contradiction to our religion and 
the principles we profess." 

" Papa you are a Radical," said Mrs. Loftus, smil- 
ing. 

" No, but in the presence of foreigners I feel our 
hardness and how illogical we are. Let us go and look 
at the stars, Madame de Myeres," added Sir William in 
a brusque tone. " Up there, at least, all seems to be 
harmony." 

Svmley Hatt. 

This evening, after dinner, which was earlier than 
usual on account of a departure, my host and I took our 
way for the last time to the observatory. Freddy ac- 
companied us as usual. We walked slowly, with our 



ENGLAND $9 

heads rather bent, as human beings do when they are 
sad. When we were seated before the open window of 
the little room I shivered nervously. 

" Are you cold? " asked Sir William. 

" No, it is the effect of your twilight." 

" Do you feel it then, too? " 

" Do I feel it? Why, it is extraordinary, uncanny 
as you say, and never the same. Sometimes it is pleasant, 
sometimes sinister, grey, black, yellow, like this one; 
look at it." 

The sky was of a transparent lividness. The gleam, 
made of the gold of the setting sun and the evening 
mists, gave to the landscape a boreal and mysterious 
aspect. The foliage looked black, bats came forth from 
right and left with the haste of starving creatures, big 
star beetles went hither and thither snapping up late 
gnats. In the air there was a sort of silence of ex- 
pectation. 

" Nothing would convince me," I said, " that at this 
hour the space is not entirely peopled. In Rome and 
in England I have had this sensation of invisible pres- 
ence." 

" Shakespeare, a great many poets, and even simple 
mortals have had that sensation. There are no painters, 
I fancy, capable of rendering the atmosphere of one 
of our twilights." 

" Ary Scheffer would, perhaps, have succeeded. 
Do you know his picture of St. Augustine and Mon- 
ica?" 

My companion's face lighted up with pleasure. 

" Do I know it ? I have never passed so much time 
before any other picture. I am glad you mentioned 
it. On each of our journeys to Paris I have been to 
the Louvre to see it again. Ary Scheffer is not reckoned 
among the first artists, and yet that was a stroke of 



100 ON THE BRANCH 

the brush which I look upon as a veritable revelation. 
The light on Monica's face is unearthly, it is the re- 
flection of a marvellous vision." 

" Yes, and it is because of that light that I have 
always the photograph of the picture in my bedroom." 

" It is enough to make one believe in the Hereafter." 

" You don't need that in order to believe in it," I 
said, smiling. 

" Thank God, I know, with Tennyson that I shall 
see my pilot face to face, when I have crossed the bar." 

There was a rather long silence between my companion 
and me. 

" Have you ever imagined the shape of the Uni- 
verse ? " asked Sir William suddenly. 

" No ; have you ? " 

" I think I have seen it ! " 

" Ah, indeed ! Where was that? " 

" About twenty years ago when I was for the first 
time in front of the Pyramids. I was greatly impressed. 
They stood out against the old Egyptian sky with ex- 
traordinary clearness. Their mathematical beauty 
struck me. The idea struck me, too, that perhaps that 
was the form of the Universe. Between the four tri- 
angular faces of the figure I saw millions of human 
beings moving about, rising and refining themselves, in 
order to join each other at the same summit, a summit 
of beauty, perfection and happiness, such as we could 
not conceive. I said to myself that this symbol of uni- 
versal life, placed over tombs perhaps signified ' Immor- 
tality.' " 

" You have, perhaps, guessed rightly," I said. " I 
have looked at the Pyramids for hours without pene- 
trating the symbol. The sight of them irritated me 
finally." 

"They caused me secret joy, on the contrary." 



ENGLAND 101 

" You see * the wind bloweth where it listeth.' What I 
discern here below is the movement of the shuttle. It 
seems to me that an invisible hand passes it backwards 
and 1 forwards through the threads of our existence. 
When I see it going I look for it coming back. That 
amuses me like a game." 

Sir William began to laugh. 

" Your speculations concerning the soul must be 
curious," he said. 

" Well, I think the soul is the holy sacrament of the 
body." 

I saw my host's nostrils dilate. 

" The soul . . . the holy sacrament of the body," 
he repeated. 

" Yes, that does not mean anything to you, because 
you are not a Roman Catholic." 

" It means a great deal, on the contrary go on." 

" It envelops the body like a radiant aureole. It 
transmits to it the inspirations that it receives. And 
the body, with its marvellous organs of thought, of 
sensations and action, is its instrument of progress. 
It is given to it for a minute, an hour, three-quarters of 
a century. It lasts as long as it is intended to last. 
It wears out, is broken up, destroyed. Nature sup- 
plies the soul with another one. The one that it leaves 
is transformed, as you know, and life continues, uninter- 
rupted, eternal." 

" I can only say, with the Italians, ' If it is not true 
it is well imagined.' " 

" Is it not ? " I said with secret complacency. " Any- 
how, these are only a woman's speculations. They are 
probably of no philosophical value. They amuse and 
console me. I have given them to you, because you 
wished to hear them." 

" And you probably believe in the soul of animals ? " 



102 ON THE BRANCH 

" As I do in my own. There must be souls of species, 
individual souls and souls of all degrees, a marvellous 
ladder of them I do not doubt; that ladder, perhaps, 
the symbol of which Jacob saw in a dream. Do you 
not feel a psychological bond between yourself and 
Freddy?" 

" Yes, I do feel it. Oh, we understand each other 
perfectly well, don't we, old boy ? " said Sir William. 

The fox terrier, who appeared to be asleep, raised 
his head at once, fixed his speaking eyes on his master, 
and shook his short tail joyously. 

" You see," I said, " even in his sleep, he has not only 
heard your voice, but caught the caressing tone. It 
needs more than ears for that." 

" You are right." 

" The day before yesterday your collie began to bark 
at a little calf, when passing by the meadow at the bot- 
tom of the hill. The mother was grazing a few yards 
away. She turned round, and then advanced slowly, 
her gaze fixed on me with an expression that attracted 
me, as it was so human. I have never seen a finer and 
more psychological expression in the eyes of a woman 
mother, for it was that of maternal love, in arms. If it 
had not been for the high barrier which protected us 
we should have run real danger. Man has not yet 
seriously studied animals. He has not looked for the 
divine spark in them. When he is more perfect he will 
acquire over the inferior creatures the power which the 
Bible attributed to him at the beginning of the world. 
If I have any doubts about the existence of an earthly 
Paradise, I do not doubt about a future Eden." 

" That is something," observed my host, with gentle 
mockery; and then, after looking at me for a few sec- 
onds, he added, " Evidently, if you had had a house to 
manage, servants to superintend, social relations to keep 



ENGLAND 103 

up, you would not have had time to look at life in the 
way you have done." 

" No, especially considering my frivolity. Providence 
literally put me into lodgings in order to oblige me to 
reflect and to work, but why so late in the day ? " 

My companion raised his a^rms and let them fall 
again. 

"Who knows?" 

" And I feel myself curiously urged on. I always 
have the intuition now that I must make haste." 

" You are not to be pitied for having been put into 
lodgings as you call it. The success you have had must 
cause you some satisfaction? " 

" A satisfaction that is very much attenuated, I can 
assure you. Formerly this success, which I have so little 
time to enjoy, and of which my own people have never 
known, would have seemed to me cruel irony, an insult 
even. At present I know that it could not have hap- 
pened earlier. Besides, everything has been late in my 
life. Would you believe that, at the age of forty, I 
no more felt Nature than if I had been deaf and blind? " 

"Is that possible?" 

" Absolutely ; my physical activity, my absorbing love 
for M. de Myeres rendered me refractory to the all-power- 
fulness of Nature. The summer after the catastrophe 
about which you know, I happened to be in Switzerland, 
at Lucerne. I had always liked walking for the pleasure 
of movement and the contact with the air. From habit 
I went every day for my walk, but my pace had become 
decidedly slower. I went straight along, anywhere, my 
head bent, and with a heavy tread like a very old woman. 
I took a book with me to read during my halts, my 
halts in front of pictures which were full of life and 
of Divine light. One afternoon I was alone, and lost, 
as it were, on one of the plains which dominated the 



104) ON THE BRANCH 

town. Before going down again I was resting at the 
foot of a tree, and I looked round with my habitual 
indifference. The sun was sinking in the horizon with 
unusual splendour. Whilst it filled the West with gold 
it softened and blended the blues and the greens, and 
the greys of the east stumped the mountain tops and 
created mysterious distances. An evening breeze, light 
and silent, made the meadow grass lie down and stirred 
the leaves over my head. Not a human being was in 
this picture. What was taking place? The phenom- 
enon which brings about conversions probably. My 
gaze was held as though by an invisible force. It seemed 
to me as though a fluid body were penetrating me, and 
suddenly I felt the sky, the mountain, the warm splen- 
dour of the West, the cold sadness of the East. This 
first communion with Nature was more exquisite than 
anything you could imagine. It opened to me a source 
of inexhaustible en j oyment. The cloud which passes, 
and the play of light, now make me vibrate like a sound- 
ing board. There is no doubt but that on this par- 
ticular day I was put into communion with the soul of 
the world. I have returned several times on a pilgrim- 
age to the spot where the miracle took place. You see 
that with this faculty of seeing Nature, which doubles 
my power of life and my intellectual life, I have some- 
thing with which to go through old age." 

Sir William began to twist Freddy's ears. He looked 
at me and then hesitated: 

" Have you any relatives ? " he asked at last. 

" No, unless it is the Baroness d'Hauterive," I replied, 
not without some bitterness. 

" You have, of course, some good friends? " 

" Yes, but there is not one single friend of my child- 
hood left, not one of those to whom one can say, 
' You remember? ' I am weeks without speaking 



ENGLAND 105 

French. It is the most complete isolation in the midst 
of a crowd, the most profound silence in the midst of 
noise." 

" A very extraordinary life's end," said my host pen- 
sively. 

He began once more to twist Freddy's ears. I guessed 
that his interest in me was struggling against that ad- 
mirable discretion which distinguishes the English char- 
acter. The interest won the day. 

" In case of serious illness, what should you do ? " he 
asked. 

" Oh, we have houses where I shall find the necessary 
care. And I hope," I added smiling, " that Providence 
has reserved for me a nice Sister of Mercy, one of its 
gentle collaborators who will close my eyes and dress me 
for the grave with decency and respect." 

Sir William lowered his eyelids and there was another 
silence between us. 

" Is it decided that you will not go to Touraine this 
year? " 

" No, after going to Bagnoles de 1'Orne, for the 
waters, I shall return to Paris, as I said." 

" I am sorry." 

"Why?" 

" Because if you had been at Vouvray I would have 
asked you to call on the Lussons and take them news 
of us. I have spoken of you to them. They would 
have made you welcome at the Commanderie of Rou- 
ziers." 

" I do not doubt it." 

" I should very much like you to know them. Have 
you any objection? " 

"Any objection? No, not exactly," I replied, with 
some embarrassment ; " but I have not time for cultiva- 
ting social relations." 



106 ON THE BRANCH 

" It is not a question of social relations, and I fancy 
that there would soon be great friendship between you 
and the Lussons. I shall ask them to call on you as 
soon as they are back in Paris. The daughter will 
interest you. She has the Latin soul, but in her char- 
acter the Celtic and Saxon element she has inherited 
is easily distinguished. She has a generous, active, in- 
dependent nature, great individuality." 

"Is she pretty?" 

" Yes, very attractive ; very healthy, above all." 

" So much the better ; nothing delights me as much 
as that." 

" As to the father he will surely win you over. Be- 
sides, in my opinion, a Frenchman of good birth who 
is well bred is perfection." 

" Thanks for my countrymen," I said, secretly flat- 
tered. 

" Shall you spend all the winter in Paris ? " asked Sir 
William. 

" Probably, unless you return to Cannes. If so I 
will join you there in January." 

" At Cannes ! I don't think I shall be allowed to go. 
The doctor considers me like a broken table; he fears 
any shaking that is prolonged. I shall have to give 
up long j ourneys. You see, I have always suffered from 
a lack of light and of the picturesque. Those are the 
things which for years I have gone in search of in 
France, Italy and the East. When I have revelled in 
them for two or three months I am glad to return to 
see our rich verdure again, our magnificent trees, and 
with fine human ingratitude I say rabidly, * After all, 
there is no country equal to old England.' You will 
come again to Simley, I hope." 

" Jf you invite me, certainly," 



ENGLAND 107 

" If I do not invite you, it will be for a good rea- 
son." 

These words were accompanied by a smile painful to 
see. 

" My son will take my place. He will be very happy 
to welcome you. He is more and more interested in 
astronomy. That gives me great pleasure, as I am 
glad to think this little observatory will not be use- 
less." 

My host looked round with a long, sad gaze, which 
he fixed finally on me. 

" Do you believe that we ever find again those whom 
we have lost? " 

" Oh, we find them again, not, however, as we do in 
the fifth act of our melodramas ; still, we may be placed 
in the same circle, and continue our evolution together. 
For instance, I fancy that you and I are very old 
friends. If it were not so you would not have ventured 
to tease me the first moment we met as you did. You 
would not have invited me to Simley Hall and I should 
not have made my confession to you. Our meeting, I 
am convinced, has not been useless, and it will take place 
again elsewhere." 

" Ah well, I hope, then, that it will be less brief," 
said my host gently. 

" I hope so, too." 

It was now quite dark, as our strange conversation had 
been broken by long silences. 

Sir William looked up at the starry firmament. 

" You want to say farewell to your stars, I suppose ? " 
he said, his voice slightly broken. 

I answered by a nod in the affirmative. He rose, and 
I followed him into the observatory. He had soon put 
the telescope in position. 



108 ON THE BRANCH 

" No mist this evening," he said ; " a night made 
for you." 

No, there was no mist, and the beautiful centres of 
light and life shone with rare brilliancy. I was not 
long before I felt myself penetrated with and enveloped 
in the peace and silence of the Infinite. I heard dis- 
tinctly oh, so distinctly ! the seconds that the side- 
real clock above me counted. It was fantastic, these sec- 
onds of earth, sounding one by one in the midst of 
immensity. And I was conscious that they were not 
lost, that they were going to join the seconds of all these 
other worlds, that, in reality, they sounded up there. 
I sent a mute adieu to my favourite stars and it was 
with difficulty that I could tear myself away from a 
contemplation which filled my soul with admiration, joy 
and hope. 

" Supposing that you could choose, to which planet 
of our solar system would you go on leaving the earth ? " 
asked Sir William, when I had come down from the 
platform. 

" To Jupiter," I replied. 

" That's unfortunate, for astronomers affirm that it 
is not habitable." 

" They may be mistaken ; it would not be the first 
time. About thirty years ago, at the commencement of 
experiments with magnetism, one of my father's friends, 
who had extraordinary power, sent one of his farmer's 
sons to sleep, a boy of fifteen years old. Several times, 
at my request, he put me into communication with him. 
One day the idea occurred to me to send him to Mars. 
His face at once expressed abject terror, real suffering. 
By an effort of will I hurried him to Jupiter and there 
it was delight that he felt. He saw things which I 
will not repeat, because they would seem absurd to you, 
but they made me wish to be sent there." 



ENGLAND 109 

" Let it be Jupiter, then," said Sir William, with a 
smile. 

This jesting, which hid our mutual emotion, ended 
the conversation. We went back to the house slowly 
and silently, both of us aware that we had just had our 
last communion in this world. 



PABIS 

Hotel de Castiglione. 

THEY were all at the station, the parents, the grand- 
parents, the grandchildren, Kim and Freddy, the two 
fox terriers. And, towering above the group by his tall 
figure Sir William stood there, impassive, his nostrils di- 
lating with the effort of breathing. His eyes, which 
know, said to me adieu and not au revoir. That was 
very painful. Claude Randolph went with me to Lon- 
don. His father had told him to take me to dine at the 
Carlton, and then to a cafe concert to make up for the 
austerity of Simley Hall. We went, but during the 
whole of the evening I saw nothing but the starry field, 
the little observatory, and the solitary figure of the friend 
whom I had left. Beside that picture, the dining-room 
of the Carlton, with its worldly men and women, the large 
music-hall with its actors, all gave me an impression 
such as I had never experienced of lower life. I left 
the following day. The heat was intense, and London 
nearly empty. Paris was in the same state. I was in 
a hurry to commence my cure at Bagnoles. Every year 
I must have a good season at a watering-place. This 
macerating of the body in spring water, which is full 
of purifying elements, seems to me necessary to health. 
I had decided to go to Aix-les-Bains, and then I was 
impelled towards a spot the very name of which I did 
not know two months before. The secretary and the 

110 



PARIS 111 

housekeeper of the Hotel de Castiglione, two straight- 
forward, intelligent people, had the brilliant idea of 
marrying each other, and had been appointed to manage 
the Grand Hotel at Bagnoles. After giving me an al- 
luring description of the country round, they persuaded 
me to go there, offering me a bedroom and sitting room 
in the part of the hotel which had been allotted to them. 
This tempted me as I knew they would do all in their 
power to make me comfortable. I am beginning to feel 
a vague need of protection, and this is a bad sign. I 
bought, and had framed, one of Braun's beautiful carbon 
photographs of Monica and St. Augustine, by Ary 
Scheffer, and sent it to Sir William. I wanted him to 
have that wonderful ray from the other world, so that 
it might give him hope, as it has done to so many others. 
Oh, how much a stroke of the artist's brush may con- 
tain! 

And now en route for the famous Bagnoles-de-1'Orne. 



VI 

BAGNOLES-DE-I/OBNE 

Grand Hotel, Bagnoles-de-VOrne. 

AH, I knew very well that it would have an epilogue, 
my grievous calamity! The theatre, as a dramatic 
author said to me the other day, is the art of prepara- 
tions, and life is certainly the science of them. We do 
not study closely enough the chain work of circumstan- 
ces, the admirable progression which leads to decisive 
events. All that I had told Sir William had prepared 
me unawares for what was awaiting me here. I arrived 
at Bagnoles by the last train. On leaving my compart- 
ment I found myself among scenery of almost unreal 
beauty, depths of vast forest, a slumbering lake, a 
church on the heights, houses scattered about, white 
roads, and the whole divinely lighted by the warm bril- 
liancy of a summer moon. 

The manager and his wife were awaiting me at the 
station. I was glad to see them there. They took me 
to the hotel, which was only a few yards away, and 
showed me the rooms they had prepared for me. All 
was new, simple and charming. In the little drawing- 
room, Madame Lima had neither forgotten the large, 
substantial writing-table nor the sofa, which are both 
so necessary to me. There were, besides, some forest 
flowers and a tray with cold meat, fruit and milk. My 
first impression was so pleasant that I congratulated 
myself mentally on having accepted the proposal of 
these good people. I should probably not have been 

112 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 113 

allowed to have done otherwise. It took the whole 
of the following morning to install myself. I pinned 
up my photographs, my Notre Dame de la Victoire 
(the Victory of Samothrace) opposite my bed, and I 
fastened my gris-grls up here and there. I took from 
my trunks the books which are my inseparable com- 
panions, those pages written " on the branch " and 
which are already numerous. I then prepared my writ- 
ing table, and all that with a childish pleasure, with that 
pathetic ignorance, which the human being has, of events 
which are about to happen. I went downstairs towards 
noon and, after walking through the rooms and admir- 
ing the beautiful view from the terrace, I returned, 
quite satisfied, and sat down in the hall to watch " the 
guests," as the Americans call them, file by, and to find 
out into what milieu I had been sent. I had been there 
for a few minutes when, suddenly, I felt a violent shock. 
I made a movement forwards, my hands seemed to be- 
come incrusted in the arms of my chair and my eyes 
remained fixed on the corridor, where I had just seen 
an apparition, a tall young man in riding-dress with 
whip in hand. He had come in through the gateway, 
and had passed quickly in front of me. His moun- 
taineer hat was pushed back and showed his face, the 
living face of M. de Myeres! I remained there, as 
though thunderstruck, for a few seconds, then, rising, 
all tottering as I was, I went to the hall porter. 

" Who is that young man? " I asked. 

The Baron d'Hauterive I was told. My husband's 
son ! Had I not seen it ! Had I not felt it ! 

" His mother has been here for some weeks," con- 
tinued Louis. " Poor lady, she was so ill when she ar- 
rived that she had to be carried from the station to the 
hotel. Now she can walk alone, and she goes round 



114 ON THE BRANCH 

the terrace and into the garden every day. A good ad- 
vertisement for the Bagnoles waters ! " 

" Where are her rooms? " 

" On the ground-floor. She has a suite of rooms 
No. 10." 

Colette, too, there quite near me ! 

At that moment the manager approached to show 
me into the dining-room. I followed him mechanically 
and took the seat he gave me. The immense room had 
panes of glass along one side. The light caused me 
a disagreeable sensation. It was as though it fell on 
a naked wound. I did not distinguish anyone. My 
eyes remained rivetted on the door with the desire and 
fear of seeing Guy d'Hauterive enter. I could not 
endure this tension very long, and left the table before 
the end of luncheon. I went up to my room and, by 
a curious instinct, turned the key in my door, as I always 
do when under the sway of any agitation. I com- 
menced walking up and down, stopping now and then 
to touch some object or change its place. Ever since 
I had disciplined my mind to consider the human being 
as a simple factor, my hatred for Colette had changed to 
pity. I was sure that she, too, had suffered very much. 
Several times even I had had a secret wish to see her 
again. I had not, however, foreseen the double trial 
which awaited me, the meeting of the mother and of the 
son. The existence of the latter had remained intolerable 
to me, like a live thorn in my heart. The news of his 
death would certainly have been a relief to me. During 
the last two years, at the theatre, at the Concours Hip- 
pique, whilst taking tea at the Ritz, I had been haunted 
by the fear of distinguishing in the crowd a young man 
with the features of M. de Myeres. The unexpected 
sight of him, his outrageous resemblance, provoked in me 
a sort of sex anger which was stronger than all my phi- 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 115 

losophy, and, to my own horror, made me descend to the 
level of the woman of the harem or of the tent. 

Suddenly my gaze was directed towards the " Victory 
of Samothrace." She seemed to be coming to meet me, 
her wings joyously outstretched, her step light. Her 
beauty seemed to emit a ray of Divine light and my fem- 
inine jealousy suddenly appeared to me vile and paltry 
so that my mind rose above it. I was struck by the chain 
of events which had brought me to Bagnoles. One would 
have to be singularly dense only to see there the effect of 
chance. I had been pushed along towards Colette like 
a piece on a chess-board. What was the reason of this 
move ? I could not tell yet, but a painful meeting seemed 
inevitable. There was nothing to prevent my avoiding 
it. In less than an hour I could have my trunk packed 
again. The train was there a few steps away, 
whistling in my ears, offering to take me wher- 
ever I liked. Was I not free ? Free no, I was held 
back by curiosity to see the work of these fifteen last 
years on my cousin, by the wretched vanity of show- 
ing myself, old, yes, but in the plenitude of my faculties, 
with the little halo that literary success had given me. 
Was I not held back, too, by the desire of seeing the son 
of M. de Myeres again, of hearing the sound of his voice, 
of knowing just how far it was he! These senti- 
ments chained me there more effectually than material 
bonds could have done. No, I will not go away, Provi- 
dence has decided otherwise. God has willed it; God 
wishes it ! What security and what force there is in that 
conviction ! Wearied out by the violence of the inward 
storm I had just weathered, I lay down on my sofa and 
tried to familiarise myself with the idea of seeing Colette 
again. Was she as ill as the hall-porter said? Had 
I been sent here to bring her peace? If so, I would 
certainly give it her at any cost. I saw her again with 



116 ON THE BRANCH 

her dull, warm complexion like white velvet, her magnif- 
icent black eyes, her smiling, kind lips. Memories of 
childhood and youth emerged from all the circumvolu- 
tions of my brain. They showed me a woman ardent 
and impulsive, but frank and good. How? When? 
Where? This triangle of questions came again to my 
mind for the hundred thousandth time. I was to know 
at last. And the fresh trial was only, perhaps, like so 
many others, a blessing in disguise. In what way had 
Providence arranged for our meeting? Would Colette 
come to me? Should I go to her? This question was 
scarcely formulated when someone knocked at my door. 
It was one of the pages. 

" From Madame la Baronne d'Hauterive," he said, 
presenting me with a letter on a salver. 

The unformed, delicate hand-writing, recognisable 
among a thousand, caused my heart to beat violently. 
She knew, then, she too, that we were under the same 
roof. And this is what she wrote to me : 

" Antone, a week ago, Madame Lima, the Manager's 
wife, told me that Jean Noel was coming here and told 
me too the author's real name was Madame de Myeres! 
I have not yet recovered from this revelation, and I have 
been waiting for you with anguish mixed with joy, such 
as you cannot imagine. You the novelist whose books 
have moved me so deeply ! It is too beautiful, incon- 
ceivable. I have forgotten everything else. God 
brings us together again after fifteen years. I can guess 
what this favour forebodes. I came to Bagnoles to get 
up my strength for an operation for tumour which is to 
take place early in September. It depends on you 
whether I am to face death without terror. Grant me 
this interview for which I have so often begged in vain. 
Madame de Myeres may be implacable Jean Noel must 
be able to forgive. It is to him that I appeal. Will he 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 117 

receive me to-morrow afternoon and at what time ? " 
Tears started from my eyes and these tears for 
Colette refreshed my heart like dew. I replied at once: 
" Jean Noel will expect you to-morrow at four. Do not 
be afraid to come." I was rather surprised that she 
should have fixed the next day instead of this one. 
Was it not prolonging our anxiety uselessly? When 
once my note was sent I felt an urgent need of fresh air, 
and put on my hat to go out and reconnoitre. On leav- 
ing the Grand Hotel I found myself in the scenery of 
the night before, but by sunlight it had lost something of 
its beauty. The little church, admirably situated, which 
one reaches by a monumental flight of steps with a double 
turning, is of cast zinc. It looked as though it had been 
made of sardine boxes. In the midst of this exquisite 
panorama it seems more out of place than it would 
elsewhere. Whoever built it could not have had the 
sense of Catholic worship nor any sense of art whatever. 
The landscape, on the other hand, delighted me. It 
seemed to me that this watering-place was in an im- 
mense forest glade. After a few minutes I came to 
an avenue where the sunshine could not penetrate. It 
had been pretentiously named " Dante's Avenue," and it 
leads to the bathing establishment. I felt at once, the ex- 
quisite quality of the air. I opened my nostrils to ab- 
sorb still more of it. These odours of larches, beeches 
and pines, did me good instantaneously. Nature, at 
times so cruel, can be kind. It was so at that moment 
for me. It gave me the perfume of its best trees, its best 
champagne. Under its action my chest expanded, my 
heart and my step grew lighter. I came out into a park, 
at the entrance of which were the bathing establishment 
and a newly-built hotel. I sat down under the verandah 
and took tea, looking anxiously each way, expecting to 
see Guy d'Hauterive emerge from one avenue or another. 



118 ON THE BRANCH 

The sun disappeared early behind the wooded heights, 
and the damp coolness which followed compelled me to go 
back again. After looking to see where I was, I returned 
by a different path. It led me to the edge of the lake, 
over a stone bridge, and from there into the garden of 
the Grand Hotel, the front of which was still brilliantly 
lighted. 

I went slowly up the wide steps and arrived on the 
terrace, which was entirely deserted except for one woman 
who was lying back in an armchair. I went a few steps 
in her direction and then suddenly, with a pang at my 
heart stood still. 

"Colette!" 

" Antone ! " 

The recognition had been simultaneous. Madame 
d'Hauterive uttered my name like an appeal. She made 
an effort to stand up, but fell back again. I went to her 
and put my hand on hers. 

" Here I am," I said to her. 

Her eyes filled with tears. 

" I am glad to see you again," she murmured. 

I drew a chair forward and sat down. Colette's hair 
was nearly white; she had the livid pallor of a doomed 
woman ; lips without a vestige of colour ! The sight of 
her caused the deepest pity in my soul. 

" I hear," I said, " that the Bagnoles waters have done 
you a great deal of good." 

" Yes, I could not walk when I arrived. At Lourdes 
I was looked upon as a person on whom a miracle had 
been wrought and I really am now as you are here," 
she added, lowering her voice. " Shall we go to my 
rooms ? " she said, her cheeks flushing slightly. 

I nodded and she rose, not without difficulty, and with a 
slow step led me towards the end of the terrace where 
her rooms were situated. As soon as we were in her draw- 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 119 

ing-room she turned towards me, gazed at me silently for 
a few seconds and then said 

" You look very well I am glad," and instan- 
taneously obeying one of her irresistible impulses, she 
flung her arms round my neck and clung to me. " An- 
tone ! forgive me, forgive me ! " she repeated, with a 
passionate accent. 

It had often happened to her to ask my forgiveness 
in this way, after some fit of anger or after unjust words. 
It was a curious thing, but her action made me think 
of her in the old days and, forgetting her cruel offence, 
I put my arms round her and soothed her as I used to do. 
I was living over again a former moment probably. Am 
I not right in saying that we are marvels? Visibly ex- 
hausted, she sank down in an arm-chair, and pointing 
to a chair for me, said: 

" Do sit down, won't you? " 

She was wrapped in a mantle of black taffeta, all 
trimmed with silk muslin. It showed up in relief her 
head, which looked like a cameo, her face, ravaged by 
disease, in which the eyes, so full of intense light, shone 
brilliantly. 

" How good you are ! Have you become a believer ? " 
she asked naively. 

" Yes," I answered. 

An expression of joy came over her face. 

" I am no longer surprised then," she said. 

" Life has given me faith." 

" Life ! It has very often nearly taken mine away. 
Oh, very often," she added, bitterly. 

" Because you have not studied it long enough." 

" Perhaps. Any way it is surely God who has 
brought us together again, here. He has condemned me 
to die, so that He certainly owed me that." 

" To die ! People do not die of an operation." 



120 ON THE BRANCH 

" No, not always," said the poor woman, with a nerv- 
ous smile. She looked at me again, and then con- 
tinued : 

" And so you are this Jean Noel, to whom I have so 
often been tempted to write. Fancy becoming a novel- 
ist and making a name at your age! Nothing has ever 
caused me such surprise." 

" I am astonished at it myself," I said. 

" You see," observed Colette, with a pathetic accent, 
" people can do good or bad things, of which they would 
have believed themselves incapable." 

" I know it." 

" And your novels they affected me and moved me as 
no others ever did. Certain phrases seemed to have been 
written for me ! " 

" They perhaps were, without my being aware of it 
Life is still such a mystery to us." 

Colette rose and went to fetch a volume with a yellow 
cover from the table. It was my last book. 

" Look," she said, " how attentively this has been 
read." She showed me the pages turned down and 
marked, and then, opening it at a certain place, she 
pointed out a paragraph to me. " You really believe 
that? " she asked with an anxious look. 

" Absolutely." 

" So much the better, so much the better ! Then, I can 
tell you all." 

An instinctive fear of further suffering dominated the 
desire, the need I had to know. 

" Oh, no confessions," I exclaimed, " what is the use? " 

" To clear Guy's memory, to make me seem less odious. 
You no doubt thought that I exercised my damnable 
coquetry on your husband in order to take him from you, 
and that our liaison lasted years ? " 

" Could I believe anything else after reading that note 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 

which informed me that Guy was the son of M. de 
Myeres? " 

Colette flinched. 

" That is true. Well we were not as base as we seemed. 
There was no premeditation on either side. You remem- 
ber that M. de Myeres and I were always good comrades. 
We were too familiar perhaps. He had a curious power 
of rousing my spirits. I never did and said so many 
foolish things as when he was present. I amused him and 
he delighted in teasing me. To him and to all of you 
I was only a brilliant, spoiled creature, whose words and 
deeds were not of any consequence. Did you not nick- 
name me ' The Linnet? ' Well, a linnet can feel and 
suffer all the same," said Madame d'Hauterive, with an 
attempt at a smile. " One day at your house at 
Chavigny, Guy was ready to go out shooting. He was 
on horseback, just by the stone steps, exchanging some 
gay farewell words with us. Impelled by I cannot tell 
what nonsense I suddenly put my foot into his right 
stirrup and said foolishly, ' Take me with you.' * I'll 
take you,' he answered, and bending down he put his arm 
round my waist, lifted me up to his saddle, and, intend- 
ing to kiss my cheek, touched the corner of my mouth, 
and then put me down again on the ground. It was all 
done so quickly, with such strength and dexterity, that 
you began to clap your hands." 

" I remember it," I said, not without a slight pang at 
my heart. 

" It was the beginning of all our trouble that you were 
applauding. If you had known that, how you would 
have grieved ! But you did not know ! Such things are 
what confound my reason and shake my faith ! " 

" They make things clearer tp me," I said. 

Colette's hands moved about nervously, and she con- 
tinued 



ON THE BRANCH 

" An Italian proverb declares that a kiss is never lost. 
Well, that one was not. M. de Myeres had kissed me hun- 
dreds of times. What was there in me, in the atmosphere 
of that precise moment, for that ordinary kiss to impress 
and affect me so deeply? I have often wondered. It 
acted like a poison, like a spell. The presence of Guy 
began to disturb me. His looks, his words made more 
and more impression on me. He soon noticed this 
change and, without any idea of harm, amused him- 
self with playing on my awakened sensibility. He pro- 
voked me, and I defied him in the most foolish, imprudent 
manner. I thought myself so thoroughly protected by 
my principles, by my affection for Henri, by my friend- 
ship for you. The misfortune is that we do not know 
the forces of Nature, and that we consider life in too 
ideal a way." 

" What you say is perfectly right." 

" Oh, I have thought about all this so much since," 
said Colette with a bitter accent. 

" Science will help us to explain things," I said. 

" God grant it. Then, too, while treating me as a 
spoiled child, you all kept me from taking myself se- 
riously. I did not think this flirtation was dangerous 
either for myself or for Guy. I reckoned without cir- 
cumstances, and they betrayed us treacherously. One 
day in the autumn M. de Myeres came alone to ' Les 
Rocheilles.' You had broken your arm, falling from 
your horse, and preferred staying at Chavigny." 

" Yes, I remember that Guy did not want to leave me. 
I had to insist on his starting alone." 

" You see, you see," said Madame d'Hauterive, rubbing 
her clasped hands together. 

" I see, dear, that we were always led." 

" The first week of his visit we went to spend an after- 
noon at the Lagnys, Uncle Georges, Aunt Lucie, the 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 

Montbruns, M. de Myeres and I. Henri was, of course 
obliged to stay at home. The weather, later on, was so 
threatening that they would not let us start back. This 
improvised night's lodging made us all very gay. There 
were only two spare rooms in the Chateau and these were 
given to the Montbruns so that we were put up in the 
summer house at the end of the park. Uncle Georges 
and Aunt Lucie were on the first floor and Guy and I 
had the two rooms on the ground floor " 

Here Colette stopped. Waves of emotion passed over 
her face and her lips moved without being able to utter a 
word. 

" And it was there ? " I said, with all the pity of a con- 
fessor. 

My cousin bowed her head. 

" It was there," she continued in a hollow voice. 
" And everything led up to it, an exciting game at 
poker, the champagne, the storm which broke with 
extraordinary violence, many other things, too, no doubt, 
for I was not really bad, was I ? " she asked with a 
pathetic accent. 

" Certainly not, but there were dangerous elements in 
you." 

" I was not aware of them. When I go beck to that 
time it seems to me that I was an absolute baby. My 
parents had married me very well, I must own, but my 
kind, handsome Henri had never been able to inspire me 
with anything but a great friendship. I had always 
needed emotion and excitement, I wanted to feel that I was 
living. Instinctively, perhaps, I sought for love as all 
human creatures do. To some it is granted, to others 
forbidden. Why is this ? Ah, how many of these Whys 
I have asked in my life ! " said Colette with something 
of her old drollery. " I talk of love, but Guy never loved 
me ! He did not take me seriously any more than all of 



ON THE BRANCH 

you did. He blamed me for having tempted him to 
deceive you." 

" I am not surprised at that. A weak man always 
throws the blame on others for his own faults or fail- 
ures," I answered, with involuntary anger. 

" His indifference exasperated me, his visible remorse 
provoked my wrath. What a pair of lovers we were ! " 
said Madame d'Hauterive with irony. " In your first 
novel you described the sufferings of the mistress. How 
could you imagine all that, you who were the wife? " 

" By intuition probably." 

" Ah, well, I have experienced them. Six months 
after Guy's birth, a cruel scene, provoked no doubt 
purposely by M. de Myeres, gave me the courage to 
break off with him. He went away to Algeria with you. 
I persuaded Henri to leave Paris altogether and I took up 
my abode at * Les Rocheilles.' I should have eaten my 
heart out with remorse and dullness if Providence had not 
sent me a wonderful priest, a man who understood human 
nature, a healer of souls. He neither insisted on peni- 
tence nor on prayers for me, but he made me turn my 
thoughts away from myself and think of others. He 
helped me by opening my eyes to the ignorance of our 
peasants, to the want of hygiene and cleanliness which 
ruins our country places. Under his guidance I began, 
in our neighbourhood, a work of civilisation which inter- 
ested me all the time more and more passionately. I be- 
came that modern lady of the manor, about whom you 
were always joking. This new phase which you called 
' Colette's conversion ' was in reality Colette's expiation. 
You have the key now to my apparent oddities, to the un- 
certainty of my welcome, to my manner towards your 
husband. His presence was for a long time intolerable 
to me. He did his utmost to avoid coming. The differ- 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 125 

ence of political opinions between him and Henri created 
a coolness between them which made things more easy. 
My love was over but not my remorse and the existence of 
Guy made this very keen. Ah, you see, they always talk 
to a woman of purity, but never of honour. She is 
taught nothing of what she ought to know. If she were 
impressed with the idea that she is responsible to the 
world at large for the integrity of race, she would feel 
greater, more sacred, she would not make herself so 
cheap." 

" You are right ; she is not yet conscious of what she is 
in Nature, of what she might be in Life." 

" M. de Myeres adored the child," continued Madame 
d'Hauterive, in a broken voice. " He often begged me 
to bring the boy to see him. I dared not refuse. Be- 
fore he was taken ill he had written to me to ask this with 
a curious urgency that was perhaps a presentiment. 
When writing to tell him of my arrival at the Hotel V 
I asked him to be more careful of what he said, adding 
that he had terrified me the last time he had paid me a 
visit, and that the child, who was very precocious might 
remember his words later on. ... If you remem- 
ber, there was not a word of love in that note." 

" That is true, but I saw nothing in it but the one bare 
fact." 

" That fact," repeated Madame d'Hauterive. " Oh, 
Antone, I am surprised that that revelation did not kill 
you on the spot." 

" My task was not accomplished, probably. But how- 
did you know of the death of M. de Myeres? I never 
understood that." 

"As he did not appear at the time appointed, I sent the 
page from the Hotel V to ask at the Club if he were 
away, and there he was told what had happened. I 



126 ON THE BRANCH 

hurried to you, and you remember the rest. If you had 
granted me the interview for which I have asked for 
five years you would have suffered less." 

" No, for I was not ready to listen to you." 

Colette looked at me with an expression that was sud- 
denly anxious, her eyes filled with distress, and her lips 
quivered nervously. 

" Antone," she said, in a muffled voice, " Guy is here 
with me." 

" I know," I replied tranquilly, " I saw him this morn- 
ing." 

" You recognised him ! " exclaimed Madame d'Haute- 
rive, her eyes growing larger with terror. 

I nodded. 

" And you are here? " 

" I am here by the will of Providence. It has taken 
fifteen years to bring me here." 

" That is true," murmured Colette. 

" Providence works slowly, but surely. To-day I 
know that we have both lived out our destinies. It is not 
for me to judge your responsibility. In all that you 
have confessed to me I only distinguish the action of a 
higher force and I see that transmutation of evil into 
good which always has to take place here or elsewhere. 
Without all this you would have remained a frivolous, 
useless woman. Your repentance put into activity qual- 
ities which no one suspected. Have you not accom- 
plished miracles for ten miles round ' Les Rocheilles ' ? 
As for me, if I had not been uprooted, I should have 
vegetated in a small flat in Paris, I should have grown 
old in a poor way." 

" And you would not have become Jean Noel." 

" The world would not have lost anything by that, but 
I should not have known the joy of intellectual work, 
I should not have acquired the understanding of Life 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 127 

which is priceless. I consider that your trial nas been 
greater than mine." 

" Hasn't it, oh, hasn't it? " said Madame d'Hauterive 
eagerly. 

At that moment the sound of a footstep on the terrace 
caught our ears, and, in the midst of the poignant silence 
which it caused, Guy d'Hauterive appeared on the step of 
the French window. Colette's eyelids drooped with 
shame, a wave of pale blood rushed to her face. That 
second must have been one of the most cruel in her life. 
The young man gazed at me an instant. 

" Madame de Myeres," he exclaimed, " I recognise 
you." 

His voice, too, the voice that had been mute fifteen 
years ! 

" You recognise me because you knew that I was to ar- 
rive, probably," I said, with a desperate effort to govern 
my emotion. 

" No, no, there is a portrait of you at ' Les Ro- 
cheilles ' in Uncle Georges' study, and then, too, you 
gave me too many sweets and playthings for me to have 
been able to forget you. I have often asked for you, 
have I not, Mother? " 

" Yes, really," answered Colette. 

" Later on I was told that there had been some dis- 
agreements, some family quarrel, and that you were trav- 
elling. You would never have recognised me, though, 
would you ? " 

Not recognised him good Heavens ! 

" To recognise a child of ten years old in a grown-up 
man is more difficult," I said. 

" I should think so," answered Guy with a flash of 
pride, as he drew up an armchair and put it near mine. 

" And so you are Jean Noel ! Do you know I took 
jour first novel to * Les Rocheilles ! ' It caused endless 



128 ON THE BRANCH 

discussions there. No one agreed about the sex of the 
author. We little thought he belonged to the family. 
And it was at Bagnoles of all places in the world that we 
were to learn his real name and our relationship to him. 
I never saw mother so excited. By-the-bye, I hope you 
have made peace? " 

" It would have been made a long time ago if I had not 
been living as a nomad and rather as an egotist." 

" Well, you are captured again by the family now. 
We shall not let you escape, and I fancy that we shall 
become friends," he added, with a smile. 

My heart stopped beating M. de Myeres' smile, too ! 

" All things are possible," I stammered. 

Under this light talk there was such a current of pain- 
ful sensations and grievous memories that the very air 
became suffocating. I rose, and Colette followed my ex- 
ample. 

" Oh, Madame de Myeres," exclaimed Guy, " do stay 
a little longer. Let me see you at least ! " 

" To-morrow we shall see each other," I replied hast- 
ily. 

" To-morrow, no I'm leaving for Houlgate. I 

shall be away for two or three days," he said, with a shade 
of embarrassment. " Mother is so well that I have no 
scruples about leaving her, and now that you are here I 
shall go away feeling quite at ease." 

" You may," I said. 

" When I come back we will have a talk, won't we ? " 

He held out his hand and I was obliged to give him 
mine. He raised it to his lips, and that kiss entered into 
me and produced a wave of exquisite suffering which 
made me shudder. I met Colette's eyes. They were so 
full of mute supplication that, spontaneously, I put my 
arms round her neck, and my cheek against hers 
one of our old embraces. 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 129 

" The worst is over," I whispered to her and then 
aloud I added, " Good-bye till to-morrow." 

In spite of my protestations Guy insisted on accom- 
panying me to the lift. I arrived in my own rooms, 
trembling from head to foot, like a horse which, under 
the master's spur has just cleared a dreaded obstacle. 



Bagnoles-de-VOrne. 

My cousin's confession has had a curious effect on me. 
It was a sort of gauge, and I am not precisely proud of 
the results. It was not a matter of indifference to me to 
learn that her liaison with M. de Myeres was only of 
short duration. My vanity now suffers less, and at times 
I feel almost joyous. But then, I hear her words again 
" All things led up to it, an exciting game of poker, the 
champagne, the storm which burst with extraordinary 
force. . . . ! " and I see her, frightened, clinging to 
him. I see him putting his arms round her, holding her 
there oh, of course he held her there, I see this 
I see it with that power of vision which Jean Noel 
has acquired, and a whirlwind of anger overturns 
everything within my soul. I do not bear her any 
grudge not her, but him. And then that resemblance. 
Near to, it is perhaps less striking. The large fore- 
head, the nose, the chin remind me of my cousin's father, 
but the brown hair, the tawny moustache, the shadow 
which softens the corner of the blue eyes, the delicate, 
sensual mouth, the smile, the height ! All that is M. de 
Myeres. Is not love necessary, real love, in order to be 
reproduced like this? I wondered, and a painful blush 
rose to my face. All through life, here below, the hu- 
man creature makes efforts to stand upright morally. 
Some die without having succeeded. I have certainly 
just fallen down again on all fours and it is this wretched 



130 ON THE BRANCH 

femininity which has caused me to do so. No matter, I 
will stand up again. Up up ! Sursum corda! 

Yesterday and to-day I spent part of the afternoon 
with Colette on the terrace of the hotel. Poor woman! 
Her blood, formerly so rich, appears to be irremediably 
impoverished, her splendid vitality destroyed for ever. 
As she now is, in her suffering and affliction, she ap- 
pears to me more interesting than formerly. Her charm 
has not left her, and her languid movements have retained 
their grace. With her dress of black silk muslin, en- 
tirely pleated and loose in front, her pearl necklace 
and an elegant mantle thrown over her shoulders she is 
delicious. I told her so and the compliment brought an 
expression of pleasure to her face. 

" A grey linnet, you see," she said with a melancholy 
smile, touching her beautiful, wavy hair. 

In these first days of our meeting again the absence of 
Guy was a relief to both of us. Conversation was rather 
difficult to us. We had so much to say, and we did not 
know where to begin. Then, afterwards, we felt our- 
selves so far, so very far away from each other. At 
times we just looked at each other without speaking, as- 
tonished at having become strangers. The threads 
of our lives seemed as though they could not join again 
across the weavings of these last fifteen years, and then, 
imperceptibly, the marvellous work was suddenly ac- 
complished. Colette spoke to me with deep feeling about 
the death of her husband, about her sorrow. She has 
been a widow three years. Henri and his brother 
Georges, the d'Hauterive twins, as they were called, had 
never been separated. The latter has consecrated his 
life, his science, to the improvement of the family domain. 
He is at worV there still, with the help of an experienced 
cultivator. Robert, my cousin's eldest son, is a brilliant 
cavalry officer. he hopes that later on he will be lord 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 131 

of the manor at " Les Rocheilles " and will continue 
there the work of his father and uncle. Colette's 
confidences concerning the family stopped there. I felt 
that she did not dare to mention Guy. I had a curious 
desire to know something about him, about his char- 
acter, and I brought him into the conversation. The 
mother gave me a touching look of thanks. 

" Up to the present, everything has been right with 
him," she said, in rather a muffled voice. " He passed 
his examinations brilliantly. After his military service 
he went for a voyage of eighteen months round the 
world, and he stayed for a year at the Pinharas. He 
is now attending the lectures of the Grignon school for 
the pure love of it. My dream for him is some big 
agricultural enterprise, either in France or in Tunis. 
He came into the entire fortune of his godmother, but 
until he is thirty can only receive half of his income. 
He is so well provided for that he could leave ' Les Ro- 
cheilles ' for his brother," added Madame d'Hauterive, 
blushing slightly, " and I do not doubt but that he will 
do it." 

I understood that this arrangement would lighten her 
conscience. 

" Is he good to you ? " I asked. 

Colette's face lighted up with affection. 

" He is perfect. A daughter could not have more care 
and forethought." 

" He looks intelligent." 

" He is, oh yes, he is, and so brave and strong." 

" He has your father's square chin." 

" Yes, you noticed that? It is just what consoles me. 
He won't be weak ! " added the poor woman with an ex> 
pression of pride. 

By tacit accord we went quickly back over the inter- 
vening years to our young days. When once there we 



132 ON THE BRANCH 

were ourselves again. A crowd of pleasant memories, 
stored I know not where, awoke one after the other and 
chased away the phantom which was between us. With 
that faculty of duality which I have acquired whilst 
Madame de Myeres talked, Jean Noel saw the amphi- 
theatre of verdure, the lake streaked with light, the white 
terrace shaded by a group of trees and in the midst of 
this scenery of harmonious melancholy, two elderly 
women, meeting again after fifteen years of separation, 
going along slowly evoking the past and drawing from it 
a moment's joy and oblivion. The novelist took into 
account the time and the forces which this little human 
scene represented, and was once more struck with ad- 
miration at the work of the Master. 

" Oh, we were wholesome good little creatures," added 
Colette, after turning over one or two pages of our girl- 
hood. 

" Rather alarming, all the same, with our precocious 
coquetry. Wasn't it you who first had the intuition of 
the ugliness of our underclothes in those days, and or- 
ganised the revolution in chemises? " 

" The revolution in chemises ? " 

" Certainly. One fine day you took it into your 
head, standing at your glass, no doubt, that they were 
frightful. You proposed to me that the sleeves should 
be suppressed and that they should be shortened. You 
may claim for yourself the idea of the transformation 
.which was doomed to take place later on. We carried 
it out in secret and were delighted at the effect. In 
spite of our precautions for delaying the discovery of our 
experiment, your fond mother found our new specimen 
in your chest of drawers. I was present and I remem- 
ber her asking the maid what it was. * Mademoiselle's 
underlinen ' said Fran9oise. ' That ! ' exclaimed your 
mother, with an expression which still makes me laugh 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 133 

when I think of it. She held the garment up between 
her fingers and thumb and turning to me, asked: ' Can 
you explain this to me ? ' ' Yes, aunt,' I said, ' Colette 
and I want to alter our underlinen. All the garments 
are so hideous and make us look so unpoetical.' The 
words appeared so comic to your mother that her anger 
gave way, but we were lectured all the same and for- 
bidden ever to touch our trousseaux again." 

Colette laughed heartily. 

" Oh, I remember, I remember," she said. " But you, 
too, did not want to look ' unpoetical.' How often 
you reproached your poor aunt for putting you into a 
yellow bed-jacket when you had measles. I wonder how 
it came about that two provincial girls, such as 
we were, should have felt this need of elegance. You 
tied ribbons everywhere, and you were always moving 
the furniture about in your bed-room. The carpet 
squares that used to be put before each chair in the 
drawing room made your hair stand on end. One day, 
when they had been imprudent enough to take us to 
the house of an old lady, you began to push all these 
little carpets under the chairs and armchairs with your 
feet. I followed your example and in no time the 
polished floor was bare. The lady of the house was 
half blind and did not notice what we were doing, but 
your mother had seen and all the way home we were 
scolded. There's no denying it, we were two born mod- 
ernists. You have kept up with the movement of the 
times." 

" Thank God, I have. I am as interested in the 
progress of science, in discoveries, in the future of the 
world, as though I were to live in it for centuries. The 
day when my skiff will no longer be able to follow, I shall 
be glad to go away." 

My cousin reminded me of the garret where we spent 



ON THE BRANCH 

rainy days, the dear garret full of odd things. There 
was old furniture with which we made drawing-rooms 
and there was a certain cedar-wood chest containing our 
great-grandmother's dresses, which we put on when we 
were acting. 

" Acting was your strong point," added Colette. 
" When I think of the stories you invented, the adven- 
tures you arranged for your favourite hero, Robinson 
Crusoe, I ought not to be surprised that you should 
have become a novelist. Jean Noel existed then within 
you." 

" He had probably existed a long time. How I did 
dream of big voyages, of freedom ! I used to go and 
stand in front of the gipsies' caravans, hoping to be 
stolen. Gaillard's stage-coach from Paris to Geneva, fas- 
cinated me; I used to escape, so that I could watch the 
horses being changed. No one ever suspected how 
tempted I was to creep under the seats. It seemed to 
me that the coach must be taking the people to won- 
derful countries. I have now been these long voyages, 
I have the liberty I wanted, my trunk takes no longer 
to pack than a tent to fold. You see, I fancy that we 
come into the world with our brains ready for our 
respective destinies. We begin to live our destinies 
instinctively by our pronounced tastes, our aspirations, 
our desires, and then the vocation becomes evident. The 
future sometimes affects us. We can feel and suffer 
beforehand." 

Madame d'Hauterive suddenly appeared troubled ; she 
looked at me, her eyes filled with tears to the brim and 
the tears made her more beautiful, as in the olden days. 

" It was that then ! " she murmured. 

" What ? " I asked, surprised. 

" One day you rushed into my father's study with 
your doll in your arms crying out : ' Monsieur, Mon- 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 135 

sieur a wicked woman has stolen my husband ! ' It was 
only in play, but suddenly you began to sob, and we had 
the greatest difficulty to calm you. Antone, I was that 
wicked woman ! " 

I laid my hand affectionately on my cousin's. 

" Well then," I said, " that episode which I had for- 
gotten, absolves you once more." 

" Life is cruel, abominable ! " exclaimed Madame 
d'Hauterive. " I understood, later on, your rebellion 
against it." 

" The rebellion of an ignorant person," said I, smil- 
ing. " Oh, I am not proud of all that. One of our 
old Marianne's speeches has often come back to my 
mind. One day on hearing me repeat my usual re- 
mark ' If I were God I would do this or that,' she gave 
a mocking wink and said ' You are not bad-natured, 
Mademoiselle, but I would rather be in God's hands 
than in yours ! ' And she was quite right." 

" In spite of your optimism," observed Colette, " you 
cannot deny that there are in the world claws, teeth, 
poisons, microbes, nameless horrors." 

" There is a great deal of pain, I know," I answered. 
" My heart is constantly bleeding for one or another. 
But I have acquired the conviction that the shoulders 
are fashioned for each burden, and that suffering is 
necessary." 

"Suffering necessary? You believe that?" asked 
Madame d'Hauterive. 

"Absolutely. In my novels, for instance, it was not 
possible to have anything great without that. In order 
to bring my heroes to give their full measure I often 
had to put their souls under the pressure of inferior 
forces, to make use of envy, ingratitude, passion of all 
kinds, of evil sentiments and I then obtained splendid 
moral reactions. One day I was fascinated by the work 



136 ON THE BRANCH 

of a painter struggling with the red of a woman's hair. 
On his palette he had black, red, green and ochre and 
he was dipping his brush in, delicately, as though at 
hazard. I guessed there would be a secret and violent 
battle between these various tones of colour and then 
gradually, I do not know by what magic, and the artist 
himself confessed to me that he did not know, the 
colours blended and the beautiful shade exactly, lighted 
up the canvas. The right colour had come. This is 
how Nature proceeds, I suppose, in order to arrive at 
harmony. This is how she works. She has all eternity, 
and so have we, too, so that some day all will be right." 

" What things you have learnt," said Colette, with 
an expression of astonishment. 

" I had to learn a great deal in order to acquire 
faith." 

At that moment a telegram was brought to my cousin. 
On reading it her lips contracted slightly. 

" From Guy," she said ; " he asks if he may stay 
until Saturday. They are all the same. And I boasted 
to you of his strength of character. He is kept at 
Houlgate by a woman with whom he has been passion- 
ately in love for the last two years, a society woman, 
I suppose. I detest her. Anyhow I am sure I shall 
detest my daughter-in-law." 

" Oh Colette ! " I exclaimed. 

" Mothers are jealous, too, I fancy." 

" That's the misfortune. Bishop Mermillod, of 
Geneva, told me one day that he was constantly sur- 
prised to see good Christian women, of great piety, be- 
come the desperate enemies of their daughters-in-law, 
and lose all sense of justice. I explained to him that 
it was a sex- jealousy. He was quite struck by this 
idea, but on reflection he acknowledged that I was right." 

" A sex- jealousy ! Impossible ! " 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 137 

" Why, no, my poor dear. With a woman, love is 
only maternity in flower, and maternity love in fruit." 

" Then it is Nature that is guilty. Oh I do owe it 
a grudge then." 

I began to laugh. 

" You are wrong, for Nature always places the rem- 
edy beside the evil. In maternity, for instance, there 
is abnegation, there is devotion. To wish for, the wel- 
fare of one's child is an ordinary sentiment; we ought 
to arrive at wishing for it by means, if need be, of 
another person. I have such faith in the progress of 
humanity that I am persuaded there will some day be 
good mothers-in-law on this world's stage." 

" Ah, Antone, how changed you are." 

" I hope I am." 

" It is not only to give me peace again that God 
has brought you here. It is so that you may communi- 
cate to me a little of the strength and the wisdom that 
you have acquired." 

We were walking, and I took Colette's arm, drew 
it through mine, and we talked until sunset. I do not 
know whether I have transmitted to her any strength, 
as she says, but for my part, I took away with me a 
deep joy which went straight to the right place. I 
fancy that something very fine took place on that ter- 
race of the Grand Hotel of Bagnoles. 

Bagnoles-de-VOrne. 

Guy returned from Houlgate visibly happy. In his 
eyes and round his lips there was a beautiful vibrating 
light; in his voice there were notes of triumph. This 
caused me an incomprehensible irritation. Under the 
impulsion of his inward joy he was ridiculously tender 
to his mother and to me. I had made up my mind to 
keep him at a distance but this was not easy. The 



138 ON THE BRANCH 

dominating force that he has inherited from his father 
nearly always gets the better of my will. He felt my 
resistance and this urged him on. He has resolved to 
take possession of me in the name of the family. He 
does not pay any attention to my coldness, but my 
abruptness astonishes him, nevertheless, at times. He 
raises his eyebrows, looks at me intently, and then the 
irresistible smile reappears on his lips, and I am softened 
again as by a miracle. The idea occurred to him to 
call me " god-mother," and Colette, uneasy in her mind, 
remonstrated with him at once. 

" I must call her something, though," he answered 
gaily. " Cousin is ridiculous, and Madame de Myeres 
too solemn. You would be jealous if I called her mother. 
Besides, the name really belongs to her, as she was the 
wife of my god-father." 

We could not say anything in reply. The things 
that are the most difficult for me to endure are the 
ironies of fate. They always exasperate me. This one 
is most disagreeable to me. My pen has just stopped, 
as it does when I am not quite frank with myself. Is 
it really disagreeable to me? 

The day after his return Guy came up to call on me. 
After a sharp, light knock he entered the room, as 
though he were at home. The small and rather low- 
ceilinged sitting-room put in such striking relief the 
resemblance of his tall figure with that of my husband 
that I was overcome by it. 

" And so here I am at Jean Noel's," he said, laughing, 
but with some feeling. " Isn't it amusing? " 

" Tragically amusing, yes," I thought. He looked 
round him with curiosity, read the titles of my books, 
examined my photographs, among which he recognised 
those of two of my heroines, was amused at my gris-gris, 
threw a kiss to my " Victory of Samothrace," touched 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 139 

everything like a badly brought-up boy, but with a 
familiarity in which there was tenderness and respect. 
And I watched him without saying anything, deeply 
moved, troubled, protesting inwardly against this some- 
thing of M. de Myeres which was entering my life again. 

" One feels all right here," he said, sitting down at 
my writing-table, " just as one does everywhere where 
people think and work I have discovered that." 

" A discovery that does you honour," I said, sud- 
denly softened. 

" Doesn't it ? Oh you see I am not a bad sort." 

" I hope not, for your mother's sake." 

" Where is my god-father's portrait? " he asked, just 
as he was going away. 

" Somewhere else," I replied, brusquely. 

" That's just it. With a woman the portrait she 
does not show is the only one that counts." 

" You know a great deal about women," I said, in 
a mocking tone. 

I was standing up. He put his hands on my shoul- 
ders. 

" I know enough, god-mother, to be aware that you 
are the right sort." 

These words fell like a drop of oil on my rancour. 
Several times since they have come back to my ears, 
causing me a pleasure of which I am ashamed. What 
subtle art there is in our complexity ! Guy confided 
to me his anxiety about his mother. He loves her pas- 
sionately and he wants to be reassured all the time 
as regards the probable result of the operation to which 
she is doomed. This filial anguish, even in the son 
of M. de Myeres, touches me, and I do my utmost to 
chase it away. The strange god-son that Providence 
has given me monopolises me more and more. When 
he sees me starting on my way to take the waters in 



140 ON THE BRANCH 

the afternoon, he leaves everything, comes to me and 
accompanies me there. He goes and fetches my glass 
of water, sits down beside me, and then brings me back 
through the forest by the longest road. I often try 
to escape him, and once he noticed this. 

" I believe you want to get rid of me, god-mother," 
he said, with a reproachful look, " do I bore you? " and 
out of politeness I had to protest. 

The other day when we were walking along he wanted 
to tell me something and he suddenly put his arm through 
mine and pressed it firmly. I had a violent pang at 
my heart and my body recoiled instinctively. This 
gesture of affection and confidence had been peculiar to 
my husband. He had walked like this with me miles 
and miles on the terrace of Chavigny. As I thought 
of him I suddenly saw his shadow appear at my side, his 
elegant and distinguished outline lengthen out on the 
road. His outline? Ah, no, that of his son, but so 
similar, so cruelly similar. My eyes were rivetted on 
it with a mixture of love and hate, of happiness and 
grief. It was poignant and exquisite. Most certainly 
Jean Noel could never have imagined anything like 
that. 

Bagnoles-de-l 'Orne. 

My first automobile excursion, with Guy as driver! 
How strange my life is becoming. I was imprudent 
enough to express before him the desire I had to try 
the new method of locomotion. This afternoon he came 
to my rooms with a long cloak over his arm. 

" God-mother," he said, in a joyful voice, " I have 
my friend d'Urville's Panhard and I am going to take 
you out." 

I began by refusing, but he would not accept any 
of my poor reasons. He then made me put on my hat, 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 141 

twisted a veil round my head, helped me on with his 
mother's cloak and before I had time to recognise my- 
self he had installed me in the vehicle. Colette, who 
was at the door, thanked me by a glance for consenting 
to let myself be taken off. Guy, in his turn, then got 
in, put his hand on the guide, and we started. What 
a surprise this new motion was for my old body. It 
seemed to me that the motor was in me. Neither driver 
nor horse in front of us, nothing but space, and we 
entered freely, triumphantly into that, as though it all 
belonged to us. It gave me the sensation of an increase 
of grandeur and power. 

" When I looked at this bright, beautiful machine, so 
well disciplined," I said to my companion, " I realise 
what progress has been made in so short a time. Eight 
years ago I was present at one of the first automobile 
races. There were about twenty cars. They started 
from the Arc de Triomphe with a wild trepidation, a 
noise of machinery like the jingling of saucepans, and 
they left behind them the most offensive smoke. And 
now here they are almost perfect, hurrying along noise- 
lessly, obeying like living things. It is marvellous ! " 

" What calculations and figures have had to be worked 
out on paper in order to arrive at this result," added 
Guy. 

" And where did they come from, all these figures ? 
Ask the engineers whether they know! I like to fancy 
that the invisible agents of Providence work the human 
brain in the same way. Under their action its thought 
becomes stronger, more harmonious, its faculties become 
flexible, its wavering diminishes, and it is less subject 
to stoppages, to those terrible stoppages." 

Guy began to laugh. 

" Stoppages ? Well, your brain, god-mother, cannot 
know those." 



142 ON THE BRANCH 

" Oh, it does know them. Only too often my mind 
fumbles along, and that distresses me." 

" A little oil in the lubricators, that is all that is 
wanting, I am sure." 

" Which means? " 

" Plenty of family affection. The hotel and stran- 
gers all the time cannot be very comforting. Now 
you will have Mother, Uncle Georges and me. When 
I think that if we had not come to Bagnoles we should, 
perhaps, never have met each other again in this world." 

" Yes, but we were intended to meet each other again." 

" You don't regret it, I hope ? " 

" Oh no," I answered sincerely. 

" That's a good thing." 

Guy, tempted by the fine road which stretched out 
before us as far as the eye could see, was not long in 
increasing the speed of his machine. I closed my eyes. 
The soft, stimulating air, which we cut through, 
thoroughly intoxicated me. It seemed to me that I no 
longer had any body, and this was a most strange sen- 
sation. As soon as my driver slackened speed I became 
conscious again. 

" You weren't afraid? " he asked, anxiously. 

" I hadn't time to be," I answered. 

" We won't tell that we went at thirty-seven an hour." 

" No, we won't tell, agreed. I am glad to have had 
the experience of that fine speed." 

Half an hour later, after going through a little town 
called Forte Mace, we arrived safe and sound at the 
door of the Grand Hotel. Guy jumped down, and with 
a smile, the smile I had loved so much, he held out his 
hands, and I gave him mine. This was more marvellous 
still than the Panhards and the Gardner-Serpollets. 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 148 

Bagnoles-de-rOme. 

It seems as though Providence is bent on thrusting 
this son of Monsieur de Myeres upon me and letting him 
be part of my life. For what object, I wonder? Ah, 
Providence has reasons " which reason ignores." In 
the meantime the strongest instincts of my whole being 
protest. The combat of which my brain is the theatre 
is certainly fine and curious to study, but it is painful 
to experience. My peace, which had been bought so 
dearly, no longer exists. At every instant the mellow 
sound of an unforgotten voice makes me start, a glance 
startles me and rouses sleeping memories. At such 
times my old heart beats heavily, waves of emotion 
colour my face, and I am furious. Guy attracts and 
repels me. It gives me pleasure to see him appear and 
then, after a few minutes, his presence causes me real 
distress. I should like to discover in him faults which 
are antipathetic to me, but he has those which I like 
and the qualities which I prefer as well. I am ashamed 
to own it, but I hoped to find in him some trace of 
degeneration. Well, I am disappointed, for he gives 
one the impression of perfect balance, of candour and of 
fresh air. His expression is frank and bright. In his 
eyes he has not that unsteady look which indicates a 
passion for gambling. His hand-shake is neither feeble 
nor ordinary, it is that of a personality. He has the 
artistic soul and the nervous temperament of his father, 
but to these have been added some of the elements of 
force which characterized the Molays, the paternal 
ancestors of my cousin, the Huguenot ancestors. Na- 
ture went to them to find these elements. Is that why 
Colette ? That idea makes me stagger. I dare 
not yet look so deeply into life. 

As though to please me still more, Guy has a faint 
tinge of cosmopolitanism. The long voyage that he 



144 ON THE BRANCH 

took after his military service enlarged his vision. He 
speaks English and German well. He goes to Scot- 
land for the shooting ; he has spent several months of his 
holidays at Bonn. He knows perfectly well that in 
England there is more discipline, more real discipline 
than with us, that in Germany there is a wider love of 
science, more respect for any superiority. He does not 
insist with hue and cry, like a blind man, that France 
is the first of nations, but he knows that it might be- 
come the first. He knows its weak points, and the strong 
points of our neighbours. He has acquired a good 
basis of judgment. Will he have the will-power to 
create around him, and to the extent of his influence, 
the energies necessary to the well-being of his country? 
Will he have the courage to react against low ambitions 
and bad faith? I doubt it. It seems to me that he 
is already affected with egotism, that moral microbe 
which one finds so frequently among good people, and 
which paralyses their action. At " Les Rocheilles " he 
has acquired a taste for the country and for a free life. 
He is attending the lectures at the Grignon school with 
the idea of some day being the owner of a large domain. 
At present he is not troubling much about clearing 
the land and making canals. He is nothing but a 
lover. With whom is he in love ? Is it a society woman ? 
Is she a widow, a married or divorced woman? Or is 
she a demi-mondaine? On seeing his ardent expression 
it is evident that it is no young girl's face which is 
in his mind. Guy loves to talk and I encourage 
him through curiosity about the modern soul. Poor soul 
in transition! We judge it severely and do not know 
its work. It is neither beautiful nor poetical, I grant. 
Its adolescence has no dreams, its youth no ideal, no 
enthusiasm, no illusions. There is a gloominess about 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 145 

it. The ancient faith has disappeared from its 
horizon, and the new faith has not yet risen. It is 
not allowed to soar, but is constrained to dive with 
neither truce nor interval, in order to drag from the 
depths of Nature the elements and forces necessary for 
a more intense life, a more rapid evolution. For this 
prodigious effort the faculties of the brain are strained, 
and also the muscles of the body. I feel great pity, 
for I fancy that this thankless labour is preparing for 
humanity a period of beauty, grandeur and happiness. 

Bagnoles-de-l 'Orne. 

If Guy were not so young he would no doubt notice 
the tension that exists when Colette, he and I are to- 
gether. I am obliged every instant to turn the con- 
versation into another channel, to avoid dangerous 
themes. On certain days it is as though evil spirits 
delight in making the situation intolerable. He takes 
all his meals with his mother, and in the evening plays 
cards with her. He has asked me several times to take 
a hand at whist. I have refused under the pretext that 
I have my bath at five in the morning, and after dinner 
I return to my rooms lest he should come and insist on 
my returning to the drawing-room. He has a very 
vivid remembrance of his god-father, his " handsome 
god-father," as he calls him. He began to talk about 
him with enthusiastic admiration, and in such an affec- 
tionate manner that I felt suddenly choked. I did not 
add a word to his praises. Another time I cut him short 
in such an abrupt way that he was surprised. He is 
astonished to see that I am one of those people who 
dare not look at their dead. The weakness on my part 
disappoints him, I am sure. My modernism and my 
cosmopolitanism constantly disconcert him. I evidently 



146 ON THE BRANCH 

interfere with his conception of what an elderly woman 
should be. He is above all shocked to see me living 
at the hotel. A word betrayed his ideas. 

" You think that it is wanting in dignity," I said, 
with a half smile. 

" No, but it seems to me that you must feel the need 
of a home." 

" Sometimes it happens that I have a longing for 
a nice flat, away from the outside world, a maid, an 
excellent cook, friends, a carriage and pair. And yet 
I am persuaded that if all that were given to me, before 
very long I should ask for my room again at the Hotel 
de Castiglione. I like being ' on the branch ' better than 
living in an empty nest with my feet doubled up. My 
sole regret is not to have a nook in the country, not 
to be able to enjoy either the summer or the autumn. 
I have a horror of hotel landscapes." 

Guy's face lighted up. 

" But you will have ' Les Rocheilles ' now," he ex- 
claimed ; " verdure, trees, flowers to your heart's con- 
tent. We might arrange the summer-house in the 
Orangery for you, couldn't we, mother? " 

" A good idea," answered Colette, without looking at 
me. 

" Uncle Georges will not be sorry. We can have some 
bridge and poker there. As soon as mother is con- 
valescent I will come and fetch you. You must spend 
the autumn with us by way of a trial." 

I felt my cousin's anguish magnetically. 

" Agreed ! " I said gaily. 

The poor woman gave a sigh of relief. If ever a 
word did her any good it was that one, and I am glad 
that I was able to utter it. Colette and Guy are keenly 
interested in my literary work. They wanted to know 
the genesis of my books. I told them with real pleasure. 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 147 

I know now how much I have missed in having no 
family, and I understand why success has given me so 
little joy. Madame d'Hauterive asked me whether I 
had the manuscript of the novel which is to appear 
in a Review in December. On my reply in the affirma- 
tive, she expressed a wish to read it. 

" You see," she added, with a nervous smile, " I 
might not be there then." 

I made fun of that supposition, but I took her my 
little manuscript books. She stroked them, with her 
pretty pale hand, opened them slowly with respect, 
and looked at the hand-writing as at an old acquaint- 
ance. 

" Always firm, always clear, and not at all the old 
school. It will be the first time I have ever read a 
novel in manuscript," she said, with childish satisfac- 
tion. 

The next day, to my great surprise, she arrived in my 
rooms with the book. 

" Finished already ! " I exclaimed. 

" Oh yes, I could not leave it." 

" That's a compliment." 

She put her arms round my neck. 

" Oh, Antone, it is more beautiful, stronger than the 
others That happens with real children you know. 
The last are often the greatest successes. You can be 
proud of this one. I adore it, and you with it," she 
added, pressing her cheek to mine. 

" Well, sit down there," I said, pointing to the couch, 
" I am curious to hear the impressions of my first reader, 
you understand." 

She lay down and I arranged the cushions behind 
her back. Then with an animated expression she spoke 
to me of the scenes that had pleased her the most, of 
the ideas that had struck her. 



148 ON THE BRANCH 

" And my heroine, did you discover her resemblance 
to anyone? " 

Colette blushed. 

" To me? I was not flattering myself then? " 

" Without intending it, I must own that I have given 
her your style, a great deal of your character and many 
of your habits. Did you notice that when she prays 
she closes her eyes very tightly like you ? " 

" I no longer close them. What disturbs me is in- 
side now." 

" And the pretty way you handle your lorgnette, I 
have lent her that. You see, there are effects, sensations, 
gestures which fix themselves in our brains, without 
our knowing it, to be used for the work that has to be 
done, for some far-off work, even." 

" It is marvellous," murmured Madame d'Hauterive, 
" And what things you have discovered in a simple love 
story." 

" Not the thousandth part of what it contains prob- 
ably." 

" The hopes that you give seem so true," added Co- 
lette. 

" Because they come from Life itself. Life is full of 
precious matters, man has only been able to draw mud 
and clay from it hitherto, some day he will arrive at 
its real treasures." 

" And when I think that your optimism is born of a 
great sorrow." 

" It is the proof of its logic and of its sincerity." 

" No doubt. Antone, you must write these pages 
with real hope." 

" Providence has known how to oblige me to do it." 

" And it has made use of me. That idea will always 
bring me back to pessimism. It is all in vain that I 
say to myself all the time I have lived out my destiny, 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 149 

there are moments when I feel guilty. You see, I know 
exactly where my conscience is placed; it is here below 
my heart. With me this spot must be bruised, blue 
with remorse." 

I could not help smiling. 

Madame d'Hauterive rose to go away. She tapped 
my manuscript tenderly. 

" I am glad to think that when you began this novel 
you could already consider me without any ill-will." 

" Without ill will ! " I exclaimed. " Did you not see 
that I had a special affection for that heroine who resem- 
bles you ? I did not imagine that our meeting was to be 
so soon, but at the bottom of my heart I wished for it." 

"And I, just think!" 

" We did not bring it about. It happened independ- 
ently of our will. What other proof do you want in 
order to believe that we are led? " 

My cousin put her hand over mine and pressed it 
firmly. 

" May you keep the absolute and triumphant faith 
which has put forgiveness into your heart ! " she said. 

God knows that my forgiveness is complete. Colette 
does not cause me pain like M. de Myeres and Guy. 
I am once more sensitive to her delicate charm. She 
inspires me with a kind of maternal friendship. That 
does not mean that we are as near to each other as we 
were formerly. No, there are, in the depth of our be- 
ings, hereditary repugnances which are stronger than 
reason. At certain moments a thought, a memory, 
either of hers or of mine, changes the atmosphere, pro- 
duces a chill; an invisible barrier rises between us, there 
is a silence and we leave each other saddened and sur- 
prised. I have kissed Madame d'Hauterive several 
times, I have held her in my arms, yet I could neither 
drink tea, nor play cards with her! We had, from our 



150 ON THE BRANCH 

childhood liked tea. We took it in our two families be- 
cause we enjoyed the taste of it, at a time when in 
France it was still considered as a medicine. It had an 
exhilarating effect on our brains. We prepared it with 
jealous care, we did everything we could to bring out 
its aroma, and we only offered it to those who appre- 
ciated it. Monsieur de Myeres was one of these people. 
It was particularly delightful at Chavigny, this five 
o'clock communion. I can see Colette and myself dis- 
tinctly, installed in the recess of one of the high windows. 
On the table between us, lighted up by the rays of the 
setting sun, the old silver, the singing kettle, the Chi- 
nese porcelain of sea-green, the small linen napkins, 
and the fragrant steam rising from the cups. That 
little exotic spirit of the tea. which we absorbed slowly, 
communicated to us an instantaneous feeling of well- 
being, a slight intoxication. Our conversation became 
more animated, everything seemed better here below. 
We called that time " the rose coloured hour." It is 
all this which could not be reproduced. Madame d'Hau- 
terive feels it as well as I do. The other day the maid 
brought in the tea-tray while I was there. She sent 
it away again brusquely, and her delicate eyebrows met 
in a contraction of pain. Why was this? 

As to cards, we used to love them, not after the man- 
ner of gamblers, but like living capricious things which 
were in turn favourable or unfavourable to us, which 
gave us a sensation of good or bad luck. Without 
being able in those days to account for it, we were agree- 
ably affected by the electricity that they produced. 
From our earliest childhood we had played donkey and 
battle, later on it was bezique, ecarte or piquet. Oh, 
the glorious games we had, I have thought of them 
more than once. I never played with an adversary as 
amusing as my cousin. She was incapable of con- 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 151 

trolling herself, and her behaviour would have scan- 
dalised English people. Her exclamations, her looks 
betrayed her at times, but she played cautiously and 
well. When she continued losing rather too long a 
time, she began to invoke her ancestors, all the saints 
she knew, St. Anthony of Padua, who was just be- 
ginning to be in favour, and Joan of Arc. The excite- 
ment of the game gave her a pretty colour. My aunt, 
who did not like seeing us spend hours at the card table, 
suggested to us one day that we should, at any rate, 
make " a pool " for the poor. We caught at the idea, 
which we thought brilliant. It gave new interest to our 
games, and put a certain harmony into our passion. 
The sight of the stockings and shirts we saw being made 
around us no longer caused us any remorse, for we were 
making the Queen of Spades work for charity. This 
was not commonplace, and it was very amusing. She 
supplied warm clothes, filled plenty of lamps with oil, 
and eased the last days of many old people. I remem- 
ber that once we took it into our heads to bring about 
a marriage between two young people of Chavigny ; 
both of them had been children deserted by their parents. 
They liked each other, and they had " a marrying dis- 
position," as the Cher people say, but they had not 
sixpence between them with which to go into house- 
keeping. We started, for their benefit, a memorable 
" pool." I do not think any other ever gave us so 
much pleasure. After playing for two or three hours 
we would cry out triumphantly, " We have won the 
kitchen utensils." After this it was the household linen 
and then the bed. When we had arrived at the sum of 
fifteen pounds we had the banns put up and ordered 
the violins. Ah, what a happy memory that is. Our 
proteges are now very comfortably off, and they have 
two children. The eldest son is apprenticed as a gar- 



152 ON THE BRANCH 

dener at Vilmorin. Cards, which have destroyed so many 
homes, created one, anyhow. It is a satisfaction to 
think that our games of bezique, ecarte and piquet have 
produced something good, life, even, which will be per- 
petuated long after us. And we can never begin them 
again, those dear games. The idea of Madame de 
Myeres and Colette d'Hauterive playing at bezique and 
ecarte together! Impossible! The very thought of it 
makes my imagination rebel. It seems to me ridiculous. 
What is ridicule? It is a want of harmony that makes 
people laugh. I do not see any other explanation. All 
lack of harmony is painful or ugly. The last few 
days I have been thinking a great deal about Madame 
Victor Hugo. When the publisher, Lacroix, gave a ban- 
quet in honour of the poet's sixtieth anniversary, she au- 
thorised her husband to invite his mistress, and she drank 
a toast herself to her health. Frankly, I feel that I am 
incapable of arriving at that height. She considered her 
husband perhaps as a demi-god evidently, whilst for 
me, Monsieur de Myeres was just a man. 

Bagnoles-de-l'Orne. 

Colette leaves Bagnoles to-morrow. At my request, 
she has prolonged her stay a week. We shall have spent 
fifteen days together after having kept aloof from each 
other for fifteen years. When I saw the maid beginning 
to pack the trunks I had a pang at my heart. Am I not 
to see her again? She has gained strength at Bagnoles. 
The pain which makes her have recourse to injections of 
morphia is less frequent, but she is terribly anaemic. I 
have never seen such deep circles under any living eyes. 
It is this which makes me uneasy. The dread of the 
operation she has to undergo weighs on her mind, and 
with what a weight I can imagine. Often when she has 
been making plans she has stopped short and been silent, 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 153 

as though she had seen the edge of the sword hanging 
over her head. She has given me a sealed envelope, beg- 
ging me to open it if she should die. I have used all my 
eloquence to reassure her, I have invented all the instances 
of cure I could think of, and I believe I have succeeded in 
inspiring her with a little hope. 

Guy wanted us to dine together this evening at the 
restaurant and I could not refuse. In order to lessen the 
tension that she foresaw, Madame d'Hauterive tried to 
persuade him to invite one of his friends who was staying 
near Bagnoles. 

" Oh no," he answered " only three. It will be nicer 
and more homelike." More homelike ... he little 
thought to what degree! Oh, that dinner, the memory 
of it, and the suffering, too, will remain with me for a 
long time. In his ignorance of the torture he was inflict- 
ing upon us, Guy had ordered a very dainty meal, and 
had sent flowers from Ferte-Mace. I had never seen him 
dressed for dinner. His well-cut smoking jacket and 
his white shirt-front emphasised his resemblance to Mon- 
sieur de Myeres in such a pitiless way that my voice was 
constantly altered by my emotion. He fascinated me, 
and when I looked at him I felt, instinctively, the embar- 
rassment of Madame d'Hauterive. We scarcely ate any- 
thing, but we drank a great deal of champagne. Under 
its influence Colette's eyes dilated, their circles became 
more hollow, two red patches, like two flowers of blood, 
coloured her cheeks. In the shadow thrown by the lamp- 
shades this superficial brilliancy showed up all the more, 
and gave me a painful impression. In spite of our ef- 
forts it was difficult to keep up the conversation, and there 
were cold currents, heavy silences, false notes. Without 
knowing it Guy himself was affected by all this. Colette, 
her son, the son of Monsieur de Myeres, and I, the wife, 
gathered round the same table, sharing the bread and 



154 ON THE BRANCH 

wine, it was too flagrantly inharmonious, and that was 
why it was so painful. Ah, this want of harmony, is it 
not the cause of all the evils, of all the ugliness here and 
elsewhere? The occult struggle, which goes on without 
truce in the whole universe, is not the unique object of it 
to create harmony? 

Bagnoles-de-l'Orne. 

Colette has gone she and her son, of course. The 
idea that we should, perhaps, never see each other again 
made our farewell deeply felt and painful. We could not 
take our eyes from each other and could not loose hands. 
Guy felt this and tried, by his gaiety, to dissipate our 
emotion. 

" We shall keep an eye on you, god-mother," he said 
at the last moment. " And above all, don't try to escape 
from your family." 

" I shall not try," I answered. He kissed my hand, 
sprang into the compartment, took off his hat, and called 
out, " Good-bye, till we meet at ' Les Rocheilles ' ! " 

And I repeated " ' Les Rocheilles.' " The train moved 
off. It made an immense curve before disappearing. 
Colette stayed at the window. I saw her white face 
going farther away and getting smaller, and then a 
thick cloud of black smoke hid it abruptly from me, and I 
stood there, seized with a superstitious. fear. I had not 
the courage to return to the hotel, so went for a walk in 
the forest. I have not felt such a sensation of solitude 
for years. The situation between Madame d'Hauterive, 
Guy and myself was false, intolerable at times, but as 
long as they were there I was once more protected I be- 
longed to someone. I was glad to say " my cousin," 
to show that I had relatives like everyone else. As a 
matter of fact, family gives force and dignity to the 
individual. Whilst walking along with bent head I lived 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 155 

over again this last chapter, and life appeared to me more 
extraordinary, more marvellous than ever. I would 
have given a great deal to have been able to talk all this 
over with Sir William Randolph. I wrote to him about 
my meeting with Madame d'Hauterive, to him, sole con- 
fidant. What will he think of it? If I had been told 
when I left England that a fortnight later I should part 
from Colette with sorrow, I should not have failed to an- 
swer : " Never, impossible ! " and yet I do feel sorrow. 
We should do wisely to efface these two ridiculous adverbs 
from our vocabulary. 

Bagnoles-de-l'Orne. 

Three days ago I had been thinking a great deal about 
Simley Hall and Sir William, and he was writing the 
original letter I have just received, a letter that is very 
English in tone, very masculine in character ; in which all 
sentiment and feeling are dissimulated by humour and 
bantering, and in which an involuntary bitterness is per- 
ceptible. " In spite of my reluctance," he says, " I am 
compelled to admit that this meeting with your cousin has 
all the appearance of having been foreordained, and also 
the reconciliation which followed it. After that I cannot, 
without failing in the logic which is your strong point, 
praise your generosity. And by the same argument I 
ought to declare the woman murderer, H., who is to be 
hanged to-morrow at Newgate, innocent. Your belief 
is desperately perplexing. Anyhow, I can congratulate 
you on having arrived at a degree of perfection which 
permits you to forgive so completely, and this I do heart- 
ily. Although you have not arrived at making me see 
life under the same aspect as you see it, do not regret 
your visit to Simley. You did me a great deal of good. 
Certain ideas of yours have germinated in my brain and 
produced something. The action of your Latin soul 



156 -ON THE BRANCH 

upon my rough Saxon soul has not been in vain. You 
can be proud of that ! " 

In his last page he adds : " It is useless to hope for 
anything better for me, in case you were childish enough 
to do so. Hope rather that courage may be given me. 
I try to believe with you that the vibrations of joy and 
sorrow are necessary for alimenting universal life, and 
that it is indispensable that I should be suffocated, 
frankly, at that point, I do not succeed. You have 
done wisely in supplementing your philosophy by send- 
ing that picture by Ary Scheffer. I have put it facing 
my bed, and I blend my hope with that which shines on 
the face of St. Monica. That is, perhaps, more sure. 
I fancy that she sees a place where one can breathe well, 
where the air is oxygenated, divine. Oh, to be able to 
breathe! That alone at times seems to represent Para- 
dise for me. When Goethe was dying he asked for more 
light ; it is more air for which I shall ask." 

While reading these lines my heart filled with affection- 
ate sympathy, and my eyes with tears. Oh no, I do not 
regret my visit to Simley Hah 1 . Enclosed in her grand- 
father's letter was an absolutely delightful one from little 
Lily. 

" Dear Madame de Myeres," she wrote, " we have just 
had a great trouble. Rosy, the black nursery cat, who 
had tea with you, is dead. She would not eat and hid 
under the beds and under the tables. The day before 
yesterday Sarah called her, but she did not come, because 
she was not alive. I have cried a great deal. Frank 
choked down his tears, boys always do that, isn't it 
funny ? Grandpapa says there is a Paradise for animals, 
and we believe that Rosy is happy. She was so nice 
and so obedient. We buried her in the animals' cemetery, 
and when there are flowers on her grave we shall send you 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 157 

some. We do not know yet what we shall plant there. 
We hope you will soon come again to Simley." 

There are children for you, real children ! God bless 
them ! I shall not fail to send them my condolences for 
Rosy's death. 

Bagnoles-de-VOrne. 

Bagnoles has three wonderful things : its air, its water 
and its forest. The air is neither light nor keen, but soft 
and pure. Its molecules have the property of making 
objects seem larger, of bringing them nearer. At night 
the sky appears remarkably low. Nowhere in Europe 
have I seen the stars so large and so near to me. In this 
little northern place, there is the same luminous clearness, 
the same vibrating atmosphere as in the Maritime- Alps. 
The mineral water, like that of Gastein, unique in France, 
is unctuous. It seems like liquefied resinous sap, and 
it is a beautifying water. I have amused myself with 
studying its effects. After about twenty minutes in the 
bath the body takes a peculiar whiteness, it looks blood- 
less. It is as though the blood were all driven back. 
The reaction afterwards gives a sensation of warmth, of 
absolutely delicious well-being. The Andaines Forest, 
is all around the spring and was probably created by it. 
It is not imposing, but infinitely calm and beneficent. It 
has wild nooks in it, the aspect of which causes one an al- 
most sacred terror; there are undergrowths of delicate 
foliage, interspersed with pink heather, and heights from 
which the pines,, stirred by the wind, emit fragrant and 
harmonious waves of odour. It attracts and holds you. 
You walk and walk, and your breathing gets easy. That 
soul of the trees, which makes a flame in the fire-grates, 
increases your vitality, and you come away from your 
communion with it refreshed, physically and morally. 



158 ON THE BRANCH 

The air, the water, the forest form here a reservoir of 
forces and of health. We do not yet know how to dis- 
tribute them nor how to draw them out, that is the mis- 
fortune. 

In the hands of the Germans or the Swiss, Bagnoles 
would at present be a watering-place of first rank. For 
forty years it has vegetated most obscurely. It only had 
one hotel, a most primitive one, and an insufficient estab- 
lishment for the waters. The provincial people and the 
lower middle class who frequent it, have egotistically re- 
frained from proclaiming the virtue of the waters. 
They have taken their daily baths, I am sure, in con- 
stant dread of the place becoming more expensive. The 
doctors and a member of Parliament, with the best inten- 
tions, finally undertook to run it. At their suggestion 
a company was formed and a magnificent, luxurious and 
absurd hotel, which cost eighty thousand pounds, was 
built opposite the station, on the unique lake. After this 
first impetus, avenues were traced out in the heart of the 
forest. Villas and cottages sprang up as though by 
magic, but on land that had not been prepared, that is 
before all the canalisations necessary for health had been 
made, so that the water from the houses forms, here and 
there, whitish streams coloured with grease which smell 
badly. These streams run down as they can to the lake, 
which they pollute, and which would pollute all the coun- 
try round if the air were not absolutely antiseptic. A 
peasant woman, with whom I walked a little way the 
other day, assured me that before the war disease was 
unknown in the neighbourhood, and that people only 
died there of old age. Bagnoles is still classed among 
the insignificant places, but it has a future. Avarice, 
selfishness, the want of organisation and practical com- 
mon sense, politics, even, have impeded its prosperity, as 
they impede our progress and all our work, perhaps with 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 159 

a purpose. There are nations which require to be urged 
on, and others which need to be held back. Who knows 
if we are not one of the latter? A rather curious 
fact is the hostility which the building of the Grand 
Hotel provoked among all the peasants of the district. 
With their conservative mind, perhaps, they liked the old 
Bathing Establishment ; or did this revelation of modern 
luxury offend them? They could not tell themselves, 
very likely, but from the very first minute they detested 
it, and they watched it being built with increasing dis- 
trust. They come in groups and stand before the gate- 
way, look at it with open mouths and astonished eyes, and 
then turn silently on their heels. Some of them make 
bold to go up the flight of stone steps, to cross the hall 
and reading room, and go down again by the terrace 
steps. La Grande Hotel, as they persist in calling it, 
has not exhausted their curiosity. It is an object of pil- 
grimage for all the weddings, and the richer ones take re- 
freshments there. Last Sunday I witnessed, in the din- 
ing-room, a little scene very characteristic of our epoch. 
A farmer, a man of seventy at least, wearing a long blue 
blouse and well washed shirt, had been freshly shaven, 
and arrived to dinner with his son and daughter-in-law. 
They were shown to a table near mine, and they took their 
seats. The father, with the dignity natural to the head 
of a family and the assurance of the one who pays, re- 
marked to the waiter, pushing aside the menu that was 
offered to him : " Give us everything you have." He 
did not appear to be at all impressed by the fine ladies 
and gentlemen in the midst of whom he found himself. 
His children were more intimidated than he was. The 
woman, in spite of her fine black silk dress and her flower- 
trimmed hat, which by-the-bye, made her look consider- 
ably uglier, appeared uncomfortable. She felt, by fem- 
inine intuition, that she was " not in it." To be in it 



160 ON THE BRANCH 

or not to be in it means so much. I did not lose sight 
of the old Norman. He ate all the dishes with visible 
enjoyment, smacked his tongue over the Saint- Julien and 
to complete the little festivity ordered coffee and liqueurs. 
I watched him when the bill came and he was certainly 
very chic. He put on his spectacles and looked at the 
total. The total, which would probably have given 
his father an apoplectic fit, did not cause him any sur- 
prise. He brought out a big purse, paid without flinch- 
ing, and then, crossing his hands on his cudgel, looked 
round him with an expression of pride in his little sly 
eyes and a j oking smile that said plainly : " We've got 
money too." He had, certainly, and no doubt the good 
fellow, standing there in that dining-room full of middle 
class folk, had a sweet illusion of equality if not of fra- 
ternity. 

Bagnoles-de-l 'Orne. 

I have received two telegrams from Guy and this morn- 
ing the first letter from Madame d'Hauterive. The 
sight of the latter caused me deep emotion that was very 
sweet. On touching it I felt that particular fluid which 
is evolved by the thoughts of those with whom Nature 
has linked us. Linked ! Science will some day reveal to 
us the meaning of those beautiful words which we still 
utter like children. Colette had arrived at " Les Ro- 
cheilles " without too much fatigue, after resting two 
days and a night at Paris. She had wanted to put up at 
the Hotel Castiglione, and this is what she wrote me on 
the sub j ect 

" I asked for your room, and fortunately, it happened 
to be free. I entered it with an almost religious feeling. 
The smallness of its dimensions gave me a pang at my 
heart. How could you have lived there and only there, 
you who always needed space and never thought rooms 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 161 

were large and high enough? I asked to have the table 
on which Madame de Myeres wrote. The maid answered 
stiffly : ' We don't give it to other people.' I could 
have kissed her for this, and I then explained to her that 
I was a relative, and that I wanted to see how you were 
installed there. The good woman's face brightened with 
comprehension and she quickly lent herself to my fancy. 
From my bed my eyes rested for a long time on that 
table, where your novels were born, where all those ideas, 
all those sentiments which were to stir my soul were de- 
veloped. I listened to the ticking of the old clock which 
marked your hours of work. And neither this table nor 
this clock are yours even. Oh, Antone, I cannot endure 
that. I do not know whether your room possesses a par- 
ticular charm, but it was good to be there oh, so good, 
that I should have liked to have been able to stay until 
the end of the week. I visited the house, and I had your 
table pointed out to me in the dining-room. We lunched 
at it, Guy and I. Yes, everything is elegant and com- 
fortable, as you said, but that hptel coldness how could 
you get used to it ? How is it that it did not freeze your 
very soul? " 

Dear Colette! I am glad that she has slept in my 
room. It seemed small to her. Yes, it is small. What 
does it matter, though I know now, with the poet, 
" The space one needs in which to love, to live and to 
die." The hotel freeze my soul! Oh no, I found rest 
there, the models whom I needed, all that was necessary 
for the work assigned to me by Providence. Farther on 
Madame d'Hauterive said 

" The doctor was amazed at the effect of the waters. 
When I saw him again I nearly fell on his neck, by way 
of thanking him for having indicated Bagnoles to me. 
I still have these youthful impulses in imagination. 
The dear man ! He little thought, though the phrase 



162 ON THE BRANCH 

I was going to write has stopped my pen. No he 
little thought. Without his knowing it, his prescription 
was destined to make us meet again. It was the best pre- 
scription he ever wrote. And what about you? Was 
it not the manager and his wife who brought you to the 
Grand Hotel? They were the secret and unconscious 
agents of our meeting. Oh, Antone, you are right ; life 
is greater, more magnificent than we imagine. You shall 
teach me to look at it. You shall be my professor for 
the study of life; will you? When we were young we 
dreamed our dreams together, now we are old we will 
philosopsise. All the people in the country round are 
delighted to see me walk. The hope that I read on their 
faces has entered into me. It has dissipated my gloomy 
presentiments, and even my fear. For years I have not 
felt so well in mind and body. Let us know whether Bag- 
noles has not some patron saint to whom I can send 
an offering. Uncle Georges was very happy about our 
reconciliation. He shook hands with me several times 
while looking into my eyes in a way that rather disturbed 
me. Can he have suspected? . . . No matter now. 
The transformation of Madame de Myeres into a novelist 
stupefied him. He is now reading your books again. 
He will write to you to congratulate you. We talk of 
you every day. It gives me a childish pleasure to utter 
your name aloud. It puts some joy into the atmosphere 
of ' Les Rocheilles.' And it is good to be writing to 
you from here. Don't loose my hand again, Antone. 
But I am quite easy about that, for if you were tempted 
to do so, Jean Noel would know how to prevent it. Jean 
Noel is the better part, the essence of Madame de Myeres. 
God bless you both." 

Loose her hand! No, certainly not. When certain 
thoughts make its contact painful to me I will clasp it 
firmly and my rebellious flesh will get accustomed to it. 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 163 

Poor little pale hand ! I have only one dread now, and 
that is that it may be taken brutally away from me. 

Bagnoles-de-l'Orne. 

Life at Bagnoles suits me and delights me infinitely. 
It is not so amusing as that of Aix-les-Bains, but it has a 
something that is better. I fancy that I am the only one 
to appreciate this something better. I take my bath at 
five in the morning. I wake up easily and feel quite gay. 
It amuses me to go downstairs through the sleeping hotel. 
An omnibus takes us to the Establishment. It contains 
six persons, who all arrive more or less crabby. Ah, we 
are not nice-looking, seen thus, just out of bed and in the 
fresh light of dawn. The drive is too short, only a few 
minutes. The beauty of the morning, which I so rarely 
see, causes me a physical enjoyment. I want to breathe 
it in, to fill my lungs and my eyes with it. The beauty 
of night, on the contrary, touches my soul. Here the 
dawn is remarkably luminous. In its distilled atmos- 
phere, the forest, the peaks of which are scarcely lighted 
up by the sun, seems still more gloomy and mysterious. 
The little motionless lake, with its dark, clear shadows, 
looks like a mirror showing an abyss. The houses and 
the road are of pinky white. The sleeping landscape 
gives one the impression of something unreal. And this 
morning bloom, different each day, delights me. It has 
the brief duration of all exquisite things. When I pass 
by again an hour later it has disappeared. After the 
bath and the douche, the omnibus takes me back to the 
hotel, where I find my room full of sunshine. My tea is 
then brought to me, I take it with my usual enjoyment, 
and after that I lie down on my couch and, as a result of 
the mysterious process of reaction, I fall into a refreshing 
sleep. At half past eight I am at my writing-table, 
where I spend the rest of my morning. After luncheon 



164 ON THE BRANCH 

I allow myself a little chat or a game of bridge. I then 
return to my rooms to read the papers and write letters. 
Towards four o'clock I go for my glass of water, 
and then set off in one direction or another, not with a 
light step, alas ! When in Paris I scarcely exercise my 
locomotive muscles, so that when I arrive in the country, 
or at a watering-place, I am obliged to train myself to 
walking. It is so true that we can obtain a great deal 
from our body, even when it is old, that after a few days 
I can take good walks. Very few people go to the casi- 
no. We have fairly good music at the hotel, and we 
spend the evenings scattered about in the drawing-rooms 
and hall or on the terrace. The scene is pleasant to look 
at and the place well lighted. The guests are more or less 
elegant, and one might imagine one's self staying at a 
country house with the hosts absent. 

For the first time since I was put " on the branch " 
I find myself in entirely French surroundings and, to my 
horror and sorrow, I recognise that I am out of my ele- 
ment in it. When I talk to these people of my own race 
I shock prejudices which I had forgotten, I offend old 
ideas, and, in the falling back on myself to which I am 
accustomed, I see plainly their defects and their qual- 
ities, I feel the wall at once. To feel the wall between 
those one loves, one's own people, is terribly painful. 
The foreigners I have met in the course of my peregrina- 
tions, people frequently in an influential position, have 
welcomed me, received me and invited me. My com- 
patriots, on the contrary, have treated me with a certain 
reserve. The nomadic and cosmopolitan woman I now 
am does not inspire them with much confidence. They 
particularly disapprove of my way of living. The 
other day, hi the midst of a conversation, the theme of 
which was domestics, my neighbour turned to me 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 165 

" As you have no house, this cannot interest you," she 
said, with a disdainful smile. 

A provincial woman then added, with an expressive 
click of her knitting-needles 

" One ought to have one's house, parish and charities." 

I at once felt annihilated, for I do not possess any of 
these things which constitute social respectability. I do 
not even pay taxes now. I took care not to confess it, 
but must own that this rather humiliates me. My civic 
pride obliges me to give, indirectly, every year the 
amount which I think that I owe to the community. 
Should I like to be connected once more with the world? 
Frankly, I must say that I should not. This is an ex- 
ample of contentment with one's station in life. I only 
hope it is given to all creatures as it is to me. 

Bagnolts-de-VOrne. 

The Grand Hotel is crowded. I have, before my eyes, 
gathered together, as though for psychological study, 
specimens of the aristocracy and of upper and lower 
middle classes, the three upper layers of society. It 
really is as though individuals had been arranged in 
layers, like the geological ground. As a matter of fact, 
they all have a share of common elements, but these 
elements, worked and mixed differently, make them in- 
conceivably varied. ^Nature has not yet arrived at the 
amalgamation which will give fraternity; far from it. 
These French people who have been gathered under the 
same roof by similar ills, who ask for health from the 
same spring, who meet twenty times a day, do not know 
each other and do not mix with each other. Although 
they do not wear on their breast the sacred badge of their 
caste, like the Hindoos, it is visible in their education, in 
their persons, in their whole bearing, and it separates 



166 ON THE BRANCH 

them implacably. There is envy felt by them, and there 
are hereditary rancours. I observe these groups, which 
are so profoundly distinct, with curiosity. The aristo- 
cratic clan takes meals at the restaurant and passes the 
evenings in the corridors or in the hall. If some members 
should enter the drawing-room to look at the newspapers, 
they never stay long ; they are driven away by the nerv- 
ous irritation that hostile surroundings always cause. In 
this clan everyone is well bred. In spite of crutches and 
canes, the men take off their hats as they pass through 
the reading-room, whilst the " Papa's sons," of bourgeois 
race, would never think of raising it if they had four 
hands free. The bourgeois clan is certainly less refined, 
but it has superior force and more vitality. Thanks to 
automobiles, we have a large number of masculine vis- 
itors, journalists, members of Parliament, manufacturers. 
The forthcoming elections excite them. I hear political 
discussions every day. Like those c .' the Chamber, they 
give me the painful, humiliating impression that France 
has become a kind of safe, from which each person may 
take, but which no one thinks of filling up again. And 
it is not for France that people are working, but either 
for the Republic, the Monarchy, or the Empire. Under 
the influence of these petty ambitions France can only 
lose all that was imposing about it and become bourgeois. 
Foreigners ask me the meaning of this word bourgeois 
that we generally fling out with a marked accent of dis- 
dain. I am always puzzled to explain it to them. The 
dictionary says it means " common," " undistinguished." 
It is not quite that, though. Bourgeoisism, like provin~ 
cialism, is a mentality. To be it represents a fruit- 
stone without pulp, and it evidently belongs to the pot-au- 
feu cell. It is one of the props of society, and mere props 
are never either beautiful or graceful. Without it I do 
not know how the world would keep its equilibrium, and 



BAGNOLES DE-L'ORNE 167 

with it, alone, I do not know either how it would progress. 
It gives to individuals a shell-like impenetrability. One 
finds certain characteristics of it in people who have re- 
ceived a good education, who have superior culture, and 
with whom taste and a sense of beauty are developed. 
It betrays itself by petty ideas, hopeless intolerance, blind 
obstinacy, and especially by an incapacity to understand 
liberty and to give it generously. This mentality creates 
a particular atmosphere that is immediately felt. The 
peasant, the workman and the artist are not bourgeois. 
I could mention a king who is more so than people born 
in the Rue du Sentier. Napoleon I. was bourgeois, 
Napoleon II. was not. Balzac, Guy de Maupassant were 
not bourgeois, but Zola was. Two of our important 
newspapers and one of our best reviews are bourgeois. 
The church of St. Augustine is bourgeois, St. Roch is 
not. The Comedie Francaise, the Opera Comique the 
Palais-Royal, are all bourgeois', the Vaudeville the 
Varietes, the Theatre Antoine, the cafes-concerts of 
Montmartre are not. The tea-rooms are all bourgeois, 
except one. England, Italy, Spain are not bourgeois, 
Germany is, but its Emperor is not. France is in danger 
of becoming so, and it is that which distresses me. France 
bourgeois! Heaven forbid ! 

From what I see and hear at this place I realise the 
difficulty that foreigners have in understanding us. 
They cannot understand that difference of character, 
which is the individual nature, and that difference of soul, 
which is the essence of the race. The French themselves 
are not chary of saying, " We have a difficult charac- 
ter." That is true, but we have a noble and wonderful 
soul. I feel this all around me. At certain moments 
this soul shines out on all faces, it bursts out in generous 
words, it clears the atmosphere laden with rancour, with 
political passions. It is in this that my hope of good and 



168 ON THE BRANCH 

of improvement lies. The feminine element is well rep- 
resented at the Grand Hotel of Bagnoles. I study it cu- 
riously, and am surprised to see that it has remained al- 
most stationary. As in my time, I see girls who dream 
and grandmothers telling their beads or grumbling. 
Sentiment, sentimentality, all that is feminine, the or- 
dinary charity, and nothing else as yet. Not a single 
aspiration towards a wider life, not a sign of individ- 
uality. In these surroundings I am almost ashamed 
of my modernism. Accustomed as I am to the frank 
ways of the Englishwoman, to the open mind of the 
American woman, the French girl, is to me an anachron- 
ism. She gives me the impression of a plant which has 
never had enough air and water, and which has difficulty 
in breathing. Slow and languid, she does not feel the 
mere joy of living, the need of action. She tries sports, 
in order to sacrifice to fashion, but her body, badly 
trained for it, protests. The knowledge with which her 
brain has been crammed, does not make ideas germinate 
there, and does not give her the desire to know still more. 
She seems to me tired, satiated, artificial already. I 
should like to take her into the forest, to the mountain 
or to the sea-side in order to put her in direct contact 
with all the divine forces of Nature. I should like, too, 
to take her on a pilgrimage to Italy, to Spain, and 
through France, so that she might know the treasures of 
beauty which are our inheritance. When I watch her, 
her needle plying backwards and forwards through a 
piece of silk or canvas, I long to shake her. I know what 
she is dreaming about. Without being aware of it her- 
self, she is already subjected to the possession of man. 
Her thoughts wander towards the mystery that she sus- 
pects, disturbing images are formed in her mind, and the 
warm breath of instinct tarnishes the first bloom of her 
being. Mothers ought to remember. Mothers! They 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 169 

think of nothing but of guarding their daughters, of giv- 
ing them a liberal dowry and of arranging a rich mar- 
riage for them. They spoil their sons in the hope of at- 
taching them to themselves, and of thus winning them 
from their future rival, the daughter-in-law. This is ma- 
ternity as practised still with us in the twentieth century. 

The other day I was imprudent enough to express the 
desire of seeing the French girl come out of her groove, 
take part in life and bring into it the fresh forces of her 
heart and mind. 

" It is her emancipation that you would like, then? " 
said a fond mother with a scandalised air. 

" Yes, but not before she has been prepared for it by 
education, and, above all things, not before mothers have 
educated their sons to have an absolute respect for 
woman, and changed the wolves into shepherds." 

" Wolves into shepherds ! " exclaimed a pretty Pari- 
sian woman. " And what about instinct and Na- 
ture?" 

" American women have discovered the secret of dis- 
ciplining them. They are the only women who love their 
own sex." 

" Then they are not women," answered my interloc- 
utor briefly. 

" And then France is not America ! " declared an old 
lady in a cutting tone. 

That fact clinched me. I felt the wall again and 
I was silent. I will venture to say that the Japanese 
woman will have accomplished her evolution before the 
Latin woman. 

Bagnoles-de-l'Ome. 

Bagnoles is not bourgeois. From a picturesque point 
of view I ought not to regret that it should be in the 
practical hands of my compatriots, and I am delighted 



170 ON THE BRANCH 

to see its heights crowned by chateaux instead of by 
vulgar inns. Nature employs the English, the Swiss and 
the Germans for its works of public utility, but it gives 
to the Latins its choice hunting-grounds, the places of 
beauty that it wishes to keep as they are here below. 
With the exception of three rather long excursions that 
I am keeping for October, I have explored the environs 
on foot or driving, and in this small place, situated 
on the borders of Maine, Normandy and Brittany. I 
have felt distinctly the force of the North, the obscure 
and religious thought of the West, and the gay mild- 
ness of the Centre of France. Its forest, its strange 
rocks, its Druidic stones, its good fairy, Andaine, its 
evil fairy, Gione, its saints, its heroic legends, its mas- 
sive chateaux lend to it an undeniable dignity, an intense 
charm. At times it seems as though there is a soul in 
the wind which caresses you. Several times its contact 
has startled me. The country round, too, gives an im- 
pression of richness, of fecundity. I am no longer sur- 
prised that the peasants are able to treat themselves 
to luncheon at the Grand Hotel. 

To-day I took a road, running parallel with the rail- 
way, for the first time. I had disdained it on account 
of this proximity, and it gave me a very interesting after- 
noon. It skirts the forest, passes at the back of the 
race-course and, with a very gradual ascent, goes up 
above the valley. After walking for a quarter of an 
hour I came across some trees, on the branches of which 
were little stones. I thought it must be some child's 
game, but there were more and more of them and I 
stopped short, amazed, when I came to a spot where all 
the trees were laden with them. The effect of these 
pebbles up in the air amongst the foliage was fantastic, 
and I understood that it meant something more than 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 171 

play. I asked an old peasant woman why they were 
there. 

" They are St. Ortaire's stones," she answered ; " a 
very good saint who cures the ' rheumatics.' He has his 
chapel five minutes from here. People make pilgrimages 
to it and, on coming down again, every person places 
a stone j ust as high as his own suffering is. I have put 
one for my knees. Would Madame like to see it ? " 

" Certainly," I answered, very much interested. I 
followed the good woman, and she pointed out a pebble 
in the first forked branch of a beech. 

" There it is," she said, with a complacent air. " The 
men say that it's all nonsense. Now-a-days they've no 
more faith than the animals. Anyhow, my * rheumatics ' 
have gone, and I walk without a stick." 

I looked round and saw that there were pebbles as 
low as the ground, the mark of painful feet, no doubt; 
others were placed as high as the knees, the shoulders, the 
forehead. I was astonished that they should stay where 
they were put, and that no one had been tempted to dis- 
turb them. The peasant woman lifted her chin. 

" No danger," she exclaimed, " anyone who touches 
them would get the disease of those who put them there. 
They know that all the bad boys, fortunately." 

The sight of these strange ex-votos hypnotised me 
for a few minutes. Each one represented human suf- 
fering and hope, and there were hundreds of them. I 
would not for anything in the world have laid hands 
on one; not because of any fear of punishment, but 
out of mere respect. I was curious now to make the ac- 
quaintance of St. Ortaire. I continued my way until 
I arrived at the little hamlet bearing his name. It is 
right at the top, admirably situated. I first came to 
two houses of the b&wrgeoi* type. On the ground-floor 



172 ON THE BRANCH 

of the nearest a placard attracted my attention and, 
to my surprise, I saw a list of works of abstruse 
philosophy mentioned upon it, with the following words 
at the foot : " Apply to the author at the villa oppo- 
site." The idea of this puff, placed behind the window 
of a room full of potatoes, seemed to me delightfully 
naive. I made inquiries and was told that the author 
was a priest. His dwelling, in the warm sunshine, on 
the borders of the forest, made me think of Jocelyn. 
I rang the bell there, intending to get his works. He 
was absent, so that I decided to come again. St. Or- 
taire is only a group of about half a dozen houses, 
in the midst of which the rubbish heap ferments 
and the liquid manure runs. There is not a single 
climbing plant, not an attempt at beautifying the place. 
In England all the cottages would have had flowers. I 
could not help regretting that the good priest who lives 
there should not attend to hygiene rather than phi- 
losophy. I asked a woman, who had just been milking, 
for a cup of milk, and I went into her kitchen, which 
was large and which also served as a bedroom, for I 
noticed a bed in it. The table was covered with vege- 
table parings, the unwashed crockery was on the sink, 
and the brick floor had not been swept. The flour 
bowl in which she gave me the milk seemed to be clean, 
though, and when she opened her large Norman ward- 
robe, to get change for my two-franc piece I saw 
piles of very white linen, arranged in the most orderly 
way. Her housekeeping pride was, no doubt, in that. 
Two little boys came running in, each with a piece of 
bread-and-butter in his hand. One of them seized a 
pitcher of cider, drank from it and then gave it to his 
brother. 

"You let those little ones drink cider like that?" I 
said, horrified. "Why not give them milk?" 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 173 

" Because the milk sells better ; we never have enough." 

I spoke to her of the danger of letting children take 
fermented drinks, but she only shrugged her shoulders. 

" Those are all doctor's stories," she said, with a dis- 
dainful accent. " They know nothing at all about it." 

I thought it was useless to add another word on the 
subject. I asked her whether in the winter the people 
of the village met together in the evenings. 

" Oh no," she answered, " everyone stays at home and 
like that there is no quarreling. Besides there are only 
three families belonging here; the others are all work- 
men and Italians, and so we don't have anything to do 
with them ! " 

There was a sample of " our difficult character." 

On leaving my typical Norman woman, I went in the 
direction of the little chapel. With its fa9ade covered 
by an enormous rose-tree, and its rustic steeple, it re- 
lieves the surrounding ugliness by a little poetry. Quite 
small and gloomy, it is inhabited by St. Radegonde 
and St. Ortaire, whose polychrome statues are, as usual, 
little honour to religious art. I sat down in front of 
the altar, and was soon penetrated by that atmosphere 
peculiar to Catholic churches, which makes all images, 
impressions and sentiments so curiously keen. My dis- 
tress about Madame d'Hauterive was painfully inten- 
sified. The date of the terrible trial was approaching. 
With each of the letters, so full of hope I had a fresh 
pang at my heart. " My little Colette." This expres- 
sion of olden days escaped my lips and there was an 
echo of it in the silence of the sanctuary. "My little 
Colette," and, unconsciously, my eyes looked up in 
prayer to the placid face of the healing saint. If 
I had returned to Bagnoles by the road I should, 
perhaps, have put a stone for him on the trees, but I took 
a zig-zag path through the forest. The sun, which 



174 ON THE BRANCH 

was already low, touched the foot of the trees obliquely 
and threw golden rings into the foliage. The tall ferns, 
which the breeze did not stir, made an impression on me 
by their very stillness. In spite of myself I quickened 
my steps, and was honestly glad when I found myself 
once more on the open road opposite the station and 
the Grand Hotel. 

Bagnoles-de-l 'Orne. 

" Operation, admirable success. Mother as well a*, 
possible. So glad Could kiss everybody." 

This is the telegram I have just received from Guy. 
It caused me unmixed joy unmixed. I am glad to 
repeat it, for it is the truth God be praised ! 

Bagnoles-de-l' Orne. 

I knew it Oh, I knew it ! She was not to live she 
could not live. She had to disappear, and I felt this 
vaguely. Two telegrams from Uncle Georges arrived 
forty-eight hours after Guy's. The first said : " Peri- 
tonitis. Colette very ill." The second : " Taken from 
us within a few hours." This news caused me the same 
pain as a violent blow ; it was as though something had 
snapped. Yes, it had been really renewed again, the 
bond between us, and more firmly than I had thought. I 
felt an irresistible need of seeing her again, of accom- 
panying her along that last piece of her road here below. 
I at once began to pack my trunk. It seemed to me as 
though I were doing something for her. 

Everything is now ready. I start for " Les Ro- 
cheilles " to-morrow by the first train. I immediately 
thought of that letter which she had given me on leaving. 
I took it out of my pocket-book with deep emotion. I 



BAGNOLES-DE-L'ORNE 175 

do not know anything so pathetic as the handwriting 
of a dead person. The handwriting ! The form of the 
person's thought, intangible, but always living im- 
mortal too. I did not dare open this envelope, which 
bore the name of Jean Noel I guessed the request 
that it contained. 

I was right; it was just that. She asks me to watch 
over Guy, to be his friend, his adviser, to get him out 
of the hands of the woman who holds him to find a 
wife for him ! After reading it I exclaimed aloud 

" No, no, I cannot ; it is impossible." Out of 
Madame de Myeres and Jean Noel there is not material 
to make a really superior being, a being capable of 
this supreme effort. Poor Colette! She little thought 
how much I loved her, and how I hate my husband's 
son. She little imagined all that so complex a senti- 
ment could produce. She finishes by telling me that 
she shall go away with the consolation of having placed 
Guy under good influence, and knowing that he has a 
better friend than his mother. Oh God, where am I 
to get the strength necessary for carrying out the 
wishes of a dying woman! 



PARIS 

Hotel de Castiglione, Paris. 

AH, it has turned quickly for me, the " Wheel of 
Things," since my departure from Paris at the end of 
July. This acceleration of movement has stirred me 
to the very depths of my being. It is now more than 
a fortnight since I left " Les Rocheilles " and my soul 
is still vibrating with grief and emotion. " Les Ro- 
cheilles ! " The home that was formerly so dear to 
me, so hospitable and so gay. I entered it again after 
fifteen years of estrangement in the double silence of 
deafch and night. Uncle Georges came to the station 
for me. The way in which he welcomed me, the accent 
with which he said to me : "1 am glad you have come, 
she is waiting for you," made me imagine that he had 
suspected the cause of our rupture. During the drive 
I heard the details of the catastrophe. The operation 
had been very satisfactory and then, as so often happens, 
a mere nothing, something impossible to have foreseen, 
brought on peritonitis. She did not feel that she was 
dying. She was taken off in a fit of pain, and she 
was now " waiting for me," to use the expression of 
M. d'Hauterive. Guy would not have her put in the 
coffin until I arrived. I found her still on her bed and 
he was watching beside her. Suffering had aged the 
young man's face, accentuated in such a way the re- 
semblance, that I started back involuntarily. On seeing 

176 



PARIS 177 

me again he could not utter a word. His tearful affec- 
tionate eyes looked from his mother to me with such 
a pathetic expression that my heart was full of pity. 
I had stopped in Paris to get some white carnations 
and roses, Colette's favourite flowers. I placed them 
tenderly on her breast and on her feet and then, turn- 
ing to Guy, I said : " Let me finish the night with her. 
We still have so many things to say to each other." 
He bent his head in answer, raised my hand to his lips, 
and then went away. We remained alone together, the 
dead woman and I. With her dress of ivory white satin, 
the hood of fine lace drawn over her hair, she looked 
as though she were ready for some fete. The delicate 
oval of her face, the long black eyelashes lowered, 
the arched curves of the mouth, gave her an expression 
of feminine frailty. This was a revelation, a supreme 
excuse. Seized with remorse at the remembrance of 
my hardness I bent over her, kissed her forehead, her 
pretty hand and knelt down, repeating aloud : " My 
dear little Colette ! My dear little Colette !" At this 
moment it appeared to me that something stirred the 
atmosphere around me, that a circular wave enveloped 
me. Was it the wind coming in through the open 
window? I do not know, but for the second time in 
my existence I had the distinct sensation of an imma- 
terial presence, and I shuddered. I looked eagerly at 
the motionless face of Madame d'Hauterive. It was 
motionless, but not rigid. There was a living gentle- 
ness on it, an expression of peace, which was certainly 
the last ray from her soul. And it was good to say 
to myself that she was, perhaps, still there. Death! 
Only the end of a chapter. The romance, I am sure, 
will continue through eternity and it will get more full 
of love, beauty and light. 

At break of day she was placed in the coffin, "my 



178 ON THE BRANCH 

little Colette, and towards eleven o'clock we took her 
to the cemetery here, where the dead have an ideal 
resting-place. Provincial funerals, the rites of which 
I have forgotten, have a veritable grandeur in their 
simplicity. Owners of the chateaux in the environs, and 
middle-class people, peasants, poor folks had all come 
from miles round to accompany the Baroness d'Hau- 
terive to her last home. From my window I could see 
carriages, carts, people in mourning and with the white 
head-gear peculiar to that part of the world, arriving 
along the roads. The village church was too small 
to hold everyone. The doors were left open, and the 
crowd, massed in the square, could thus follow the service. 
The cemetery dominates the whole valley, its white walls, 
its black yews rising up on the top of a hill planted with 
vines. It is reached by a rather steep path, broken by 
steps at intervals, and the bodies are carried on the 
men's shoulders. Behind the family, represented by 
Uncle Georges, his sister and me, the long procession 
followed, absolutely quiet and serious. It almost en- 
tirely filled the immense " field of the dead." There was 
not a word, not a whisper, all heads were uncovered or 
bent. There were tears, prayers for the dead, an ex- 
teriorisation of sympathy and of regret most sweet to 
see and to feel. The final benediction was pronounced 
amidst silence so profound, that from the neighbouring 
bush, a little bird ventured to give responses, and 
its pure, clear song rose like a prayer. In this separa- 
tion, an ordeal which is forced upon us, there is a 
certain moment of infinite pain: it is when we are 
obliged to leave our dead in the dark grave, in the 
solitude of the cemetery. As though the fleshly bonds 
were not quite broken, our dear one holds us, calls us 
back, and we cannot help feeling a kind of remorse 



PARIS 179 

when we return alone to the warm, living house. I felt 
all that for Colette. 

According to the custom, after the funeral ceremony, 
a meal, composed of very simple dishes, was served to 
all who had come from a distance, rich and poor alike. 
This love feast is like a symbol of fraternity in sor- 
row. There is something good about the provinces. 
In the important circumstances of life they are better 
than Paris. One feels that there is more reality, more 
depth of feeling. Several people recognised me and 
appeared surprised at my presence, and I was pained 
and rather embarrassed at this. 

When all was over at " Les Rocheilles " Guy ac- 
companied me to my rooms. During this cruel day 
he had put a brave face on. His grief had only be- 
trayed itself by the extreme rigidity of his expression 
and the hoarseness of his voice. As my little friend 
Lily would have said, " he had choked down his tears," 
and many tears, too. As soon as we were alone, his 
heroism appeared to leave him. He threw his arms 
round my neck and I longed to console him. My heart 
was full of tenderness and of affectionate words, and 
yet I remained inert, mute, stiffening myself with all 
the evil forces of my being. 

" God-mother, oh, god-mother," he repeated, leaning 
against me like a baby. 

" Poor boy," I murmured, touched finally by his 
child-like lament, by his accent of distress. 

His arms were still round me and I freed myself 
gently and laid my hand on his shoulder. 

" If ever you need a friend," I said, " you will come 
straight to me, won't you ? " 

Guy looked at me with an expression in which aston- 
ishment and reproach were mingled. 



180 ON THE BRANCH 

" I need one now, god-mother," he answered. " I 
shall always need one. Men who have had a mother 
like mine know the value of a woman's heart. They 
can never afterwards do without it." 

Then, drawing himself up with a fresh eifort of 
courage, he tried to smile. 

" I am selfish," he observed. " You must be worn 
out with fatigue. I will let you rest." 

He glanced round the room to see that everything 
was there for my comfort. He then drew the couch 
up to the hearth where a wood fire had been lighted 
and arranged the cushions on it. 

" Lie down here," he said, " I will send your tea 
up." He then added : " Thank you for coming. I 
am so glad to have you with us." 

With these words he went away, his tread instinctively 
muffled. I remained standing in the middle of the room, 
ashamed of my coldness. Poor boy! These words 
came to my lips and they were all I had found to say- 
by way of consolation to Colette's son. Yes, but to 
the son of my husband, too. 

I stayed three days at " Les Rocheilles." It seemed 
to me that I owed it to my cousin not to leave 
her dwelling immediately, for she is still so living there. 
I made the acquaintance again of Robert, her eldest 
son. I had seen him last at the age of fifteen, and I 
find him now a man of thirty. Of medium height, very 
dark, distinguished-looking, and with plenty of muscle, 
he has all the characteristics of one of our best races, 
and I felt a curious pleasure in seeing that lie was 
quite a d'Hauterive. He is engaged to a very rich and 
pretty heiress in the neighbourhood. His intention is 
to leave the army and to take his place in the country. 
TJncle George feels the loss of his sister-in-law very 
keenly. He had lived under the charm of her pleasant 



PARIS 181 

disposition and kindliness. He understood her so well 
that he excused everything always. Without making 
any allusion to our estrangement, he has shown me 
several times over his joy at seeing me again. We 
conversed together as though we had only left each 
other the day before. I have never missed reading the 
delightful article, entitled " Life in the country," which 
he writes every week in an important evening paper. 
It -is by him that I have always been kept informed of 
the return of the swallows and the migratory birds. 
His appreciation of my novels gave me real satisfac- 
tion. Mademoiselle Marthe d'Hauterive, his sister, a 
very original old spinster whom we used to call " the 
Canoness," did not fail to show her surprise at my 
reappearance on the scene. She has even tried to 
draw me into a confession about my rupture with my 
cousin. Then, too, as she is one of those persons who 
feel it necessary to let you know their way of thinking, 
she told me that she disapproved of family quarrels. 
More than this she owed to me that she had never under- 
stood my way of living after the death of my husband. 
Happy Canoness ! There are many things that she will 
not have understood in this world. She is an excellent 
creature, though, and very devoted to her own family. 
I fancy she will stay at the " Les Rocheilles " until her 
nephew brings the new mistress there. I wanted to see 
something of Colette's work, the work commenced a 
year after Guy's birth, twenty-four years ago. I was 
amazed at what one woman had been able to do. The 
village of C , a village which counts three hundred 
inhabitants, had been entirely reconstructed. Every- 
thing has been introduced which is necessary for facili- 
tating cleanliness and hygiene. The race, whose sickly 
ugliness we had so frequently deplored, has improved 
in the most inconceivable manner. The complexions of 



18* ON THE BRANCH 

the people are clear, their eyes bright, their .limbs 
straight, tuberculosis has become rare. A score of 
foundling children, placed in the most trustworthy fam- 
ilies by Madame d'Hauterive, have grown up under her 
patronage. Uncle Georges has built, at his own ex- 
pense, a room for meetings, the attractions of which 
compete triumphantly with the public-house. By means 
of lectures and discussions, he has succeeded in bringing 
the masses into the way of progress. He and Madame 
d'Hauterive have awakened in the peasants around a love 
of their own kind, pride of their own race. Hitherto 
they had only been proud of their animals, they are 
beginning to be so of their children. A woman said 
to me, lifting up her head as she spoke, " Oh, we have 
some handsome men now, when the review takes place." 
This fresh sentiment delighted me. I consider it an 
immense step forward. And all that represents " Co- 
lette's expiation." And so, without knowing it, I have 
participated in this work of civilisation. A little of 
my sorrow has entered into the higher morality, which 
I have found here. Have I the right to regret my 
sorrow? Should I like to see the wretched-looking 
faces of unhealthy baby-children again such as those 
I remember? To this question which I asked myself 
I was able to answer, " No, a thousand times no," 
and, before leaving, I went up to the cemetery with this 
" No " in my mind and heart. I repeated it very qui- 
etly to Colette and I took with me from " Les Rocheilles " 
the conviction that, as Maeterh'nck says, " Evil is the 
good that we do not understand." 

Paris. 

I might have stopped at Touraine and spent the whole 
month of October there, but I felt the need of being 
alone, and so I returned to Paris. 



PARIS 183 

It was very sweet to me to think that Colette had 
inhabited my room for a few hours. The maid who 
had waited upon her remembered the lady with the 
beautiful black eyes, and, when I told her of her death 
an expression of sorrow came into her face which 
touched me. Guy gave me a photograph of his mother 
taken last year. There is in her whole person an un- 
deniable nobility, which revealed to me, better than 
words, the work of grief. I have put this portrait 
facing my bed. Should I ever have imagined that it 
would one day be there? It attracts my eyes every 
minute. Between it and me I feel a sort of current 
of warmth and life, and I find myself repeating aloud, 
"Dear little Colette!" To be just, I think I ought 
to say, "Great Colette!" 

As soon as I was back I wrote to Sir William Ran' 
dolph. He expressed his sympathy in those manly, 
simple phrases which are so characteristic of him, and 
which are so sincere. He spoke of the Lussons after- 
wards. " I had no difficulty," he said, " in inspiring 
them with the wish to make your acquaintance, for 
they have read your novels and are among your ad- 
mirers. They declare that they are delighted to be 
allowed to call on you." Then, with his lively banter 
he adds : " I did not guarantee that Madame de Myeres 
was exactly like Jean Noel but I told them that she was 
nice, very nice. From them, as well as from you, I shall 
now expect thanks." Sir William insists on providing 
me with friends. My comparative solitude grieves him. 
He thinks that these people, my own country-people, 
will be nearer to me than foreigners. What kindliness 
there is in this thought. I lend myself to his whim 
with a mixture of dread and curiosity. I wonder what 
will be the result of this acquaintanceship, about which 
he is so keen. 



184 ON THE BRANCH 

Paris. 

I had never seen Paris in October. I should not 
have thought that it could have had so provincial a look. 
There is no question but that the idlers, the society 
people, the fine carriages are decorative and that they 
create an agreeable atmosphere. One notices this when 
they are missing. The American women one meets at this 
season do nothing but shopping and trying on of dresses. 
They are preparing for their departure and their fine 
feathers are in their trunks. The society people wil] 
arrive in November. The streets are animated with 
breaks full of those individuals known in France as 
" Cook's tourists." This agency seems to have been 
charged with the mobilising of millions of individuals. 
The creation of it was one of the first signs of the times. 
Everyone makes fun of these good people. They in- 
spire me with affectionate interest. I think that they 
are the collaborators of Providence and valuable col- 
laborators too. As soon as they have earned money, the 
irresistible desire comes to them to travel, to see beau- 
tiful things, to know the consecrated places of earth. 
Without being aware of it, they are storing up impres- 
sions which will develop their mentality, and this they 
will give out around them and transmit to their chil- 
dren. Is not the past destined to urge on the present 
and aliment the future? The other day in the Place 
Vendome I saw a break full of Cook's travellers pull 
up at the column. The guide gave a short but clear 
history of it in a loud voice. All those eyes, which had 
come from so far, were rivetted on the bronze shaft, 
with an expression of ardent curiosity, and the memory 
of Napoleon, evoked by it, breught to those common 
faces a certain radiance, a flash of emotion. The tragic 
image of the hero was probably photographed in some 
cell of their brains. What was this to produce? Ah, 



PARIS 185 

it is no use asking that. I realised the occult work, 
though, and it stirred me with admiration. I felt a 
sentiment of respect for those in whom it was being 
accomplished. In truth the gods seem to be preparing, 
here below, a most wonderful work. They are deliver- 
ing over to us, one by one, their secrets, giving us new 
forces, putting us into closer communion. They employ 
great and small means for accelerating our cerebral ac- 
tivity. The invention of picture postcards, for instance, 
had no other end in view, I daresay, than to multiply 
images. This month, the views I have received are 
strangely different: Darjiling, in India, with its chain 
of snowy peaks, the marble palace of Mr. Belmont 
at Newport; a certain district of New York with build- 
ings of twenty-two storys, the Palisades of the Hudson, a 
peaceful street in a Touraine village; an old church. 
Each one of these cards provoked different sensations, 
gave birth in me to a crowd of thoughts and reflec- 
tions, and nothing of all that is lost. 

Paris. 

By way of rusticating this Autumn, I have only had 
the Tuileries. That is not much, but I am very fond 
of " my garden." During the winter and the spring, 
when I take my tea at the hotel, I go there for my walk. 
I do not know by whom it was designed, but there is 
a harmony about its lines of which one never wearies. 
Every day it has a different look. My favourite ter- 
race is the one overlooking the Place de la Concorde 
on the right side. It is nearly always deserted. Now 
and then a couple of lovers come there to take refuge, 
middle-class people, professors, employes, young bour- 
geois women out of love with their prosaic life. Such 
lovers are ill at ease, and out of pity I keep clear of them. 

The sight of the Place de la Concorde fascinates me. 



186 ON THE BRANCH 

There is nothing like it in the world. There is a joyous 
activity about it. It is like the thoroughfare of a 
great ant-hill. By the side of the rapid automobiles, 
cabs begin to have a comical look. In twenty years 
time, they will probably have disappeared. I have more 
than once regretted not having someone to stroll about 
with there, who takes an interest in Life and knows how 
to look at it merely as a spectator. When going along 
the path which skirts the Rue de Rivoli I often stop 
and lean on the balustrade to observe the children as 
they play below. The present generation of children, at 
the age of ten or twelve years, seems to me decidedly 
better looking and more healthy. I have noticed that in 
sports, even the more violent ones, our Latin race has 
a gracefulness, a suppleness, quite foreign to the Saxon 
race. And the future, as I see it, in the sweet, bright 
faces of the children, seems to me full of promise. 

The sunset is one of the glories of Paris. It gives 
to the sky pink mauves, greenish yellows, shades of 
light such as I have never seen elsewhere. The busy 
crowd never even sees all this. On certain evenings, the 
sunset gives to the plebeian Tuileries a royal and im- 
perial splendour, under which all the vulgarities which 
dishonour them disappear. Yesterday, seated near to 
Christophe's " Woman with the Mask," I saw the au- 
tumn in its zenith of glory. The whole sky seemed to 
be of bright gold, the branches of the freshly-clipped 
trees still had their reddish shades, the chrysanthemums 
in the flower-beds and the strewn leaves completed a 
harmony of colour which made a sort of symphony in 
yellow. The water in the pool was sleeping, the air 
quite still. A single bird's cry, shrill and sad, came 
through the space, and then there was silence, as though 
to permit all creatures to hear this supreme note that 
Nature takes a year to produce, and which will never 



PARIS 187 

be repeated. I heard it, and so I consider that my 
month of October has not been lost. 



Paris. 

My third novel is to appear in a well-known Review 
on the 15th of December. Ever since my return, I 
have been busy repolishing it. This repolishing puts 
more light into it. I see it and I feel it myself, and it 
causes me a delicate pleasure. It is probable that few 
readers will appreciate this clearness, but no matter. 
I always have a desire for perfection which I must sat- 
isfy to the best of my ability. My literary conscience 
is only at rest at this price. I feel no hurry and no 
joy to see my novel appear. Such as it is, written by 
hand in my little halfpenny exercise-books, it is very 
dear to me. I am greatly attached to it, and when I 
touch it, I feel a certain physical enjoyment, as though 
it were something living. When I look at it type- 
written, it appears foreign to me, but when once it is 
printed and in circulation, I have some difficulty in be- 
lieving that it is by me. A similar phenomenon takes 
place with mothers it appears. As their children grow 
up they realise less and less that they were born of 
them. Reading my novel over again recalled to me 
its origin and its development, very distinctly. Two 
years and a half ago, an old friend was kind enough 
to take me for a drive to the Bois in his carriage. As 
we were coming back down the Champs Elysees, he be- 
gan to speak with admiration about the book Zola had 
just written on Rome. 

" Why should you not write an Italo-American 
book ? " he suddenly said to me. " You understand the 
characteristics of both races, you might do something 
very good." 



188 ON THE BRANCH 

" Nothing as powerful as the work by Zola," I an- 
swered. " That would discourage me." 

" It would be different. Don't be too ambitious, but 
try." 

The last words were uttered at the turning of the 
Hotel Continental and the Rue de Castiglione. It was 
there that my novel was born. A woman and an author 
can always, I am sure, tell the exact creative second. 

Curiously enough, the idea was put into my mind 
by an Italian married to an American woman. It was 
perhaps inspired by the contrasts, the incompatibilities, 
the incomprehensions from which he had suffered. 
Chi lo sa? Anyhow it was not to be lost. It germinat- 
ed, but slowly and against my will. Every time that 
it begun to spring up, I buried it again. Three months 
later, at the Hotel Beau-Rivage at Ouchy, I noticed 
a young Roman with his mother. His table was quite 
near mine. I took pleasure in watching him, without 
any intention of making any mental notes, but simply 
because he had handsome, classical features and the Latin 
charm. I was not long in discovering that he was in 
love with a very pretty American woman whom I knew. 
I saw it in his eyes, in his changeable expression, full 
of passion and jealousy. I saw, too, the resistance of 
the young married woman, who was very good, but co- 
quettish, and who liked to please. This interested me, as 
do all the manifestations of Life. Thanks to this, the 
idea of the Italo-American novel developed rapidly, and 
triumphed over everything in spite of me. I remained 
harnessed to it for two whole years. The result that 
I now have to look at seems to me rather satisfactory 
than otherwise. It remains to be seen whether the pub- 
lic will be of my opinion. I have tried to study, within 
myself, the gestation of the production of a novel. It 
is almost impossible to account to one's self for the 



PARIS 189 

phenomenon, and it must be quite different with each 
author. I do not believe that the brain is a generator. 
It seems to me that it is merely a receptive and trans- 
mitting apparatus. We say, intuitively, perhaps, " I 
have an idea," or " an idea came to me." Yes, the 
idea comes, it comes from outside. That, at least, is 
my impression. The elements necessary for the pro- 
creation of a work are sent to us in the most unexpected 
manner, sometimes in the most startling way. The 
models appear and reappear in our orbit, as though 
to allow us to render them better. Men of science, art 
and letters are all helped in this way. The brain is 
previously prepared, without our being aware of it. 
According to my idea, the novelist works exactly as 
the painter does. It seems to me that I have, in my 
mind, certain faculties which perform the office of paint- 
brushes. The one sketches, the other takes from inside 
and outside parcels of life, the other groups them, de- 
velops the images, the scenes, touches them up and 
retouches them, until they have attained the desired de- 
gree of perfection. I long, all the time, for the last 
word to arrive, and yet I never write it without a pang. 
I feel, distinctly, that it is something of myself that 
is leaving me. I have often wondered of what use are 
the monuments that men raise at the price of so much 
effort, the pictures that they paint, the objects of art 
that they fashion, the musical and literary works that 
they produce. Many a time, at my publisher's, on 
looking at the shelves laden with yellow or green books, 
I have said to myself " What is the good of all this ? " 
Novels, particularly, used to seem to me childish things. 
I have felt rather humiliated, even, at having produced 
any. This morning, while I was slowly drinking my tea, 
the question was formulated in my mind for the thou- 
sandth time. Suddenly, the idea came to me, and it cer- 



190 ON THE BRANCH 

tainly did come to me, that monuments, works of art, 
books, novels, were all accumulators, in the most concrete 
sense of the word, veritable piles of psychical electricity. 
A wave of joyful emotion was produced in me, and I put 
down my cup and rose, exclaiming, " That is the ex- 
planation, certainly." Accumulators, destined to main- 
tain life, to renew it, just as torches light other torches, 
which propagate and preserve the sacred fire. The more 
perfect the work, the more force and strength must the 
accumulator have. What power in the picture of a 
Michael Angelo or a Raphael ! Our Louvre and all the 
Louvres, are they not full of accumulators? Many 
have come to us from very far, and they have not been 
collected by mere chance. Each one is destined to touch 
certain brains, to produce certain effects. This con- 
ception seemed to me true, very probable and wonderful. 
I fell back into my arm-chair, feeling the sensation of 
a widened vision. A conversation which I had had the 
evening before came back to my memory. Without being 
aware of it, it had perhaps influenced my thought this 
morning. A well-known American lawyer, who has 
lived for years in Paris, a man of cultivated mind and 
refined nature, told me of the pleasure he felt when 
he saw any of his country people sensitive to the things 
of art, to the souvenirs of the Old World. He told me 
that one day in England, in Winchester Cathedral, one 
of his travelling companions, a rough sort of Yankee, 
who, during the whole voyage had done nothing but 
drink and gamble, and whom he had avoided like the 
plague, came up to him all at once and said, in a low, 
deeply affected voice, " It's too beautiful, I must shake 
hands with somebody." And the two men, there and 
then, exchanged a hearty and never-to-be forgotten 
hand-shake. On another occasion on the road to the 
Acropolis, a very gay and very vulgar American had 



PARIS 191 

been telling coarse stories all the time. They had dis- 
gusted Mr. K for he saw beforehand his whole pil- 
grimage spoiled. On arriving at the top of the sacred 
hill, in front of the glorious ruin, the man seemed to 
be struck by it. The expression of his face changed, 
and a minute after he stuttered out, " I'm sorry to 
have talked as I did, coming up to see this." 

" The Victoire de Samothrace has more force and more 
influence than any other statue," added Mr. K . " I 
remember taking one of my colleagues from New York 
to see the Louvre. He is the busiest and most prosaic 
of men. He looked at everything without understand- 
ing and without feeling anything and I was furious. 
When we came to the triumphant messenger he raised 
his arms instinctively, and, with a deep sigh, exclaimed, 
* Ah, here's something that rests one.' " 

Yes, it is an accumulator! Winchester Cathedral is 
an accumulator of harmony ; the Acropolis is an ac- 
cumulator of beauty ; the great mutilated woman is 
an accumulator of hope; and the novel I have here on 
my table is an accumulator, poor and feeble, perhaps, 
but an accumulator all the same. 

And now I come to think of it, are not all creatures, 
men and animals, accumulators of various forces, of 
higher or lower life? Do not the dead, even, the saints, 
heroes, poets and artists supply humanity with its great 
sources of energy? It seems to me that every day 
some scales fall from my eyes. I am like a blind person, 
slowly recovering sight, and my eyelids still close when 
the ray of light is too strong. 

Paris. 

Guy has come back to Paris. He came to call the 
very day of his arrival and sent a splendid bunch of 
chrysanthemums up to me. I did not receive him in 



192 ON THE BRANCH 

the hotel drawing-room, but in my own room. His tall 
figure made me realise its small proportions. I felt 
embarrassed, and pointed to an arm-chair in rather an 
awkward way. There was a moment of inevitable emo- 
tion for us both. After thanking him for the flowers, 
asked for news of Uncle Georges, his brother and th 
Canoness. 

" What a void there is at ' Les Rocheilles ' 
mother," he said, nervously clasping the arm of his 
chair. " I have been tempted to rush away several times 
to escape from it, but I stayed, because I do not want 
mother ever to be dead. She would have had a horror 
of our letting there be silence around her memory. 
We have got into the way of assembling in the draw- 
ing-room of the left wing, where she always received 
her intimate friends. I put her portrait by the side 
of father's." 

The name of father, applied to Monsieur d'Hauterive, 
brought a fugitive blush to my cheeks. 

" You did rightly," I stammered out. 

" We talk there, play cards and have music. She 
will at least be with us, even if we can no longer be 
with her." 

" It is great happiness, to have our dead so dear to 
us," I said. 

"It is, isn't it?" 

The young man, in a voice full of feeling, talked to me 
for a long time about his mother, without any sentimen- 
tality but with deep affection. He then told me about 
family affairs, as though he wanted me to feel that I was 
one of the family. I listened to him in a vague way. 
He was seated facing me, but placed so that I saw him 
with a three-quarter outline. The light rested on his 
face, and the cheek tinged with amber and the tawny 
moustache gave his face the warm, rather reddish colour- 



\ 

' 



PARIS 193 

ing peculiar to my husband. I was more fascinated than 
irritated, so much fascinated that I gave a slight start 
when he held out a letter to me ! 

Look what I found after you left," he said, " read 
it." 

It was from Colette and I read. She told her son that 
she had asked me to replace her in case she should be 
taken away. She begged him to consult me in all serious 
circumstances, and she added something like the follow- 
ing words. " Be a son to her. Bring her gently back 
from her isolation. She cannot possibly be satisfied with 
living on the branch. At her age she needs security and 
rest. Give her all this. Your love and your strong 
arm must always be at her service. I count on you for 
making her old age happy." 

Poor Colette! She wanted to give me this son who 
ought to have been mine. What an ardent desire for 
reparation there was in those lines. 

" You see, god-mother," he said, taking back his 
mother's letter, " she has left us to each other. For 
my part, I adopt you," he added, smiling, " and I shall 
obey the instructions given me." 

" Fortunately for you," I said, trying to dissimulate 
my emotion, " I am an old woman, very much occupied, 
and very independent." 

He rose. 

" I know, I know," he answered. " You will have to 
make a little place for me, though, in your life. I prom- 
ise you to respect your work, but not your independence. 
For instance I am going to begin by asking you if I may 
come and dine with you to-morrow may I ? " 

What an odd thing human nature is ? I had intended 
inviting Guy, and now I hardened myself involuntarily 
against his request. 

*' To-morrow, to-morrow," I said, as though trying 



194 ON THE BRANCH 

to think whether I had any engagement. " Yes, I am 
free," I added, finally, ashamed of this petty feeling. 
" Come; I shall be very glad to see you. Dinner is at 
half past seven." 

He put his arm round my neck. 

" Thank you, and try to like me a little, god-mother," 
he said, gently. " I am very fond of you, very fond 
indeed." 

I was chilled through by the strange feeling that those 
words were being spoken by Monsieur de Myeres, and 
well I did not want him to care for me ! 

Guy dined with me. His arrival made quite a sensa- 
tion. Four pretty American women of my acquaintance 
gazed at me with notes of interrogation in their eyes. 
The most inconceivable and ridiculous part of the whole 
affair is that Guy's good looks flattered my vanity. 
Heaven knows, though, that that has nothing to do with 
me. The waiter put two plates before me, so that I was 
obliged to serve my guest. I did so, and it gave me a cu- 
rious and profound pleasure. At times the thought of the 
strangeness of the situation crossed my mind, and my 
throat became dry. The young man talked to me a long 
time about his projects, he initiated me into the details 
of his life. He lives on the ground floor flat of a house 
in the Rue d'Aguesseau, which was part of his inheritance 
from his god-mother. He intends going to the lectures 
at the Grignon school all the winter, and he will go every 
day in the automobile Panhard is to send him, a very 
practical and safe machine, it appears, in which he in- 
tends taking me for my tour through France. The 
careless way in which my guest looked at the very fasci- 
nating women who were there would have proved to me 
that he was in love, if I had not known it. 



PARIS 195 

" See how American beauty lights things up," I said 
smiling. 

" Yes, but it does not warm brr ! " he replied, 
in a joking way. " It is the illustration of the principle 
6 more light, less warmth ; more warmth, less light.' ' 

" And you prefer warmth ? " 

" I like a happy mixture of the two." 

" The impossible." 

" No, oh no, it is to be found," he answered, with a 
sudden gleam in his eyes and a little smile of pride. 

I quite understood. 

This dinner that I had dreaded was more agreeable 
than otherwise. Towards the end of it, though, it began 
to get on my nerves. All the sentiments that Guy pro- 
vokes in me are strangely tinged with affection, hatred, 
fascination and loathing. His presence soon becomes 
painful to me, and then, when he goes away, my heart 
literally runs after him. I should like to be able to hate 
him thoroughly or love him generously. 

Paris. 

I am tempted to thank Sir William Randolph at once. 
I have just had a visit from Madame and Mademoiselle 
de Lusson and I have not had so agreeable an impression 
for a long time. French people, as a rule, do not like 
being received in a hotel drawing-room. I feel this, and 
it paralyses me. My visitors of to-day did not appear 
to be affected by the chilly commonplace surroundings. 
A sympathetic current was at once set up between us. 
There was not even any ice to break, our mutual friend 
had prepared our minds so well. 

Madame de Lusson is a woman of about fifty, fair and 
just turning grey, with pleasant features and a happy, 
attractive expression. The daughter is of medium 



196 ON THE BRANCH 

height, very elegant in her tailor costume, astrakhan 
bolero and ermine fur. She captivated me at once. 
Curiously enough, she made me think of Guy's ideal, " a 
happy mixture of light and warmth." It seemed to me 
that I saw those two forces shining over her face. There 
is light in her dark blonde hair, so thick and wavy, in 
her blue-grey eyes, her clear complexion ; the warmth of 
kindliness is on her pretty lips, and, besides this, if I am 
not mistaken, there is strength in the wide forehead, the 
straight eyebrows, the shapely nose. As soon as we had 
exchanged our first hand-shake she looked at me with a 
little emotion that was very juvenile. 

" And you are Jean Noel, Madame ! " she said. 

" Not a young woman, you see," I replied. " Don't 
be too deeply disappointed." 

" Well, you won't believe me, perhaps, but I am de- 
lighted. We can, at least, talk and discuss things to- 
gether. I am not allowed masculine novelists, of course," 
she added, smiling. 

After that the conversation flowed freely. We talked 
about Simley Hall, about England, Touraine. I had tea 
brought in, and I found, not without pleasure, that my 
guests could drink it. And all the time I felt in mother 
and daughter a feint vein of cosmopolitanism which con- 
tributed, no doubt, to put us in communion with each 
other. Monsieur de Lusson is still in the country. I 
accepted an invitation to dinner for the following week, 
on condition that it should be quite informal, and we all 
separated with a sincere desire, I think, to meet again. 

Paris. 

My third novel began to-day in the Revue de France. 
I received a telegram of congratulation from the Ran- 
dolphs, and another from Uncle Georges. Two friends, 
now at the hotel, sent me some chrysanthemums, the 



PARIS 197 

Lussons some orchids, and Guy well, he sent me 
some red roses, of course. What made him choose these, 
I should very much like to know. Red roses ! They 
were not only my favourite flower, but those of my hus- 
band too, and we loved them in a superstitious way. 
There were always a few in the small drawing-room 
which separated or rather united our bedrooms. I had 
banished red roses for fifteen years. When any hap- 
pened to be sent to me I had always thrown them 
away remorselessly. The very sight of them has been 
very painful to me for a long time. This morning when, 
after breaking the florist's seal, I saw a vivid bunch of 
them appear, my hands began to tremble nervously. 
They seemed to hypnotise me, but the thought never oc- 
curred to me to get rid of them. I gazed at them with in- 
creasing and delicious emotion, and then timidly, almost 
ashamed, I smelt their fresh, penetrating perfume. It 
went to my very heart, it took me back to the threshold 
of that past which was my lost Paradise, and it brought 
a blush to my face. Flowers can do all that! They 
are there quite near me, and I gaze at them with a sort 
of religious terror. It seems to me that they are an 
offering from my husband. And are they not? In 
order to judge Life as it ought to be judged, we must 
have the courage to look it in the face, to forget ourselves, 
and that is very difficult. And so Jean Noel cannot help 
admiring the way in which these love-flowers so dear to 
memory, have forced the door and the heart of the be- 
trayed woman, but Madame de Myeres suffers foolishly 
by it. 

In spite of my anger, I have more than once regretted 
that my husband should not have read my novels. I 
would give much for certain pages to have passed before 
his eyes. To-day I have been trying to picture to my- 
self the expression of his face, if, on coming back to the 



198 ON THE BRANCH 

world, I could have introduced to him this other self, 
whom he did not know, and whom he, nevertheless, helped 
to create. I could see in his eyes an immense surprise, 
and under his tawny moustache a tremor of emotion. I 
could hear him murmur, almost incredulously, " Antone 
Jean Noel ! " Then I imagined that he took my 
hand, and lifted it to his lips as in the olden days, as a 
sign of approval, and I positively blushed with pleasure. 
Surely it must have been the flowers that caused this 
hallucination. I have always said that they are dan- 
gerous little things. 

On the publication of my last two novels, I was so 
unknown that it would not have been very painful 
if they had not proved successes. It would be painful 
to me now, because of those friends who have so recently 
come into my life, and particularly because of Guy. 
Yes, a failure before my husband's son would humiliate 
me terribly. He must see me triumphant. This wish 
is full of petty vanity, I know, but I am not above fem- 
inine weaknesses. I acknowledge all of them, for Nature 
will be able to transform them into forces. 

I had the Revue de France sent to Sir William. He 
reads French better than he speaks it. I am glad to 
know that he will thoroughly understand me. I glanced 
again through the first part of my novel to see whether it 
would have any chance of interesting him. I think it 
will. I know exactly the passages which will rouse his 
satirical vein, which will make him want to argue with 
me, and the passages, too, that will make his expressive 
nostrils dilate with emotion. And those little black let- 
ters are going to produce all that ! Those little black 
letters! But they will make me go on living, neither 
more nor less than that ; they give me an infinite power. 
It is by means of them that my mind will go and commu- 
nicate with that distant mind. Since I have been ca- 



PARIS 199 

pable of understanding what human handwriting in real- 
ity is, I never look at it without respect and wonder 
Even the type-setters are now of great importance in my 
eyes. I am glad to have seen the grandeur of my own 
littleness. 

This evening I dined with two young friends who pass 
a few months of the year at the Hotel de Castiglione. 
The husband was born in the Antilles, the wife is Eng- 
lish, and we have known each other now for a long time. 
I paid them two visits in England, and I commenced one 
of my novels at their house. I have always finished my 
luncheon and dinner before them, and I then join them at 
their table. We discuss the events of the day. Both 
of them are interested in Life, and we watch it together. 
This is a very great pleasure. There are so few people 
capable of getting outside the circle of their own exist- 
ence. In the evening we play bridge. I am rather in- 
clined to think that Providence sent them to me to keep 
me " in my box." If I had not had them, I should 
probably have sought worldly distractions, which 
would have taken me from my work. They were 
very much interested in this last novel, as they were 
in the others, and we had agreed to celebrate its appear- 
ance with the best champagne in the hotel. This ar- 
rangement prevented my inviting Guy and he was visibly 
disappointed. 

" God-mother," he said, with an accent of reproach, 
" in certain circumstances, the family ought to come be- 
fore strangers." 

" Strangers have been my only family for fifteen 
years," I answered, wickedly ; " I could not neglect them 
at present." 

" I understand that," he said ; " but at least give me the 
precedence over them," and, seizing my hand, he added, 
" Come, now, will you promise? " 



200 ON THE BRANCH 

" No, no," I answered, brusquely, " at my age I can- 
not make fresh engagements." 

This pained him, I could see, and I felt a secret satis- 
faction. I was obeying an obscure, instinctive desire 
for vengeance. It was the father I wanted to wound in 
the son. I blushed as I realised this. When one begins 
to go in for autopsychology one must be sincere, though, 
and just now, I said that I was glad to have seen the gran- 
deur of my littleness. Well, now I will add that I see 
the pettiness of all my grandeur. 

Paris. 

Guy has had his revenge. He came to fetch me early 
to-day with a nice carriage from his Club and insisted 
on taking me to the Bois. It was a wonderful Sunday 
for December. The air was cold and fresh but not 
bitterly cold. At my request we went along the most de- 
serted paths. The bluish mist, the black branches of 
the trees, the dark green of the moss which covered their 
trunks, all blended with an art of which Nature alone is 
capable. Through the open window of the carriage, 
a little of the silence and repose of the Winter reached 
me. I stopped talking and listening, and a sensation of 
comfort, of dreaminess took possession of me. I did not 
know whither we were driving so gently, nor whence we 
had come. It was exquisite, that complete oblivion. 
How long a time it lasted I cannot tell. I came to myself 
again when we were near the lake. 

" What a delightful drive ! " I said to my companion. 
And, with that happy knack that I have of changing 
from one mood to another, I began to chat gaily, and 
to watch the crowd dressed in its Sunday clothes. It 
was half-past three when we left the Bois. The carriage 
went down the Champs Elysees again, and turned into the 
Avenue d'Antin. 



PARIS 201 

" Where are we going ? " I asked, in surprise. 

" To 60, Rue d' Aguesseau," replied Guy, his face 
lighting up with mischief. 

"To your abode?" 

" To my abode. I am going to give you tea." 

" No, no," I exclaimed, impulsively. " We will have 
it at the Ritz." 

" Not at all. You are my guest, or rather my pris- 
oner, and the coachman has had his orders. I would 
wager that you have never had tea in a bachelor's den." 

" Never, that I remember," I said, half laughing and 
half vexed. 

" Well, then, that would be a thing missing in your 
life. A novelist likes fresh experiences. I have ar- 
ranged one for you. All women have the curiosity to like 
to breathe, if only for once, the atmosphere of a bach- 
elor's abode. Mothers delight in visiting the den where 
their son lives his life." 

" Who gave you that information ? " 

"No one." 

" My compliments, then, for your gift of intuition." 

" When mother came to Paris, she used to stay at the 
hotel, but I always invited her to luncheon and tea. She 
loved these little festivities. She always arrived a little 
excited and her hands full of flowers. Before leaving 
she made an inspection of my household, opened the 
cupboards and the chests of drawers, to see that I was not 
short of anything. She used to shake my pillows, under 
pretence of seeing that they were quite right, but in real- 
ity just to fondle them." 

I looked at the precocious psychologist with increasing 
stupefaction. 

" Women's hearts have no more secrets from you," I 
said, ironically. 

" Mother was so thoroughly a woman and I was her 



202 ON THE BRANCH 

Benjamin. Between ourselves, she always liked me bet- 
ter, " he remarked, " than my brother." 

" Ah ! " I said, my heart feeling suddenly heavy. The 
young man put his hand on mine. 

" And as she has asked you to take her place, you must 
see my rooms. Besides, I'll wager you were dying to do 
so." 

A flush of anger came to my face. 

" I know," said Guy, with a smile. " You are a thor- 
ough woman too, thank Heaven ! " he added, raising my 
hand to his lips. 

At that moment the carriage stopped and we got out. 
I felt strangely moved. It was not without a certain 
pleasure that I recognised the domestic who opened the 
door for us. It was Louis, a brother of the cook at " Les 
Rocheilles." The good fellow's face brightened with 
pleasure on seeing me. His master had evidently told 
him of my visit. Guy showed me into a large study 
which Colette, painted by C , seemed to fill entirely. I 
went to her at once. 

" Which portrait do you prefer ? " asked Guy. " The 
one at Les Rocheilles or this one? " 

The question troubled me. The portrait at " Les Ro- 
cheilles " represented a brilliant, happy woman, the ir- 
resistible " Linnet " whom we had so dearly loved. This 
one, which dated from five years back, gave a very differ- 
ent impression. The fascinating smile in the eyes had 
given way to a melancholy that was pathetic, the laugh- 
ing mouth had become severe. In the attitude of the 
head and body there was a firmness, absolutely foreign 
to Madame d'Hauterive of olden times. 

" I prefer this portrait," I said at last, with the 
meritorious desire to be just, with regard to the per- 
fected work of Providence. 

" I, too. In the other she is younger. I recognise 



PARIS 203 

her features, but her expression is unknown to me, and 
makes her seem like a stranger to me." 

He little thought what truth there was in his words. 
He was the son of this woman and not of the other one. 
After throwing a kiss on my two fingers to Colette, I 
went to one of the French windows. By the waning 
daylight I saw a few stone steps, some trees and shrubs. 

" Why, you have a garden ! " I exclaimed, " and you 
never told me. Ah that's what I envy you ! " 

" It is charming in the Spring, as you shall see. I 
have two old sycamores full of nests, and lilac, violets and 
primroses." 

Guy took off my cloak, and my fur in a gentle way 
and then, picking up the Revue de France which was on 
his desk, he said 

" You see, when I came back from Grignon yesterday, 
I dined here alone and passed all the evening with you. 
And what a delightful evening it was! I am glad that 
mother read it, too," he added, with emotion. " It 
means more success for Jean Noel ! " 

" We shall see whether you are a good prophet," I 
answered, thoroughly rejoicing at heart to hear his 
words. 

In spite of my secret resistance, this room, to which I 
had been brought in so strange a way, charmed me at 
first sight. Two book-cases stood half way up the walls 
the rest of which were hung with old prints, drawings, 
engravings and arms. On the mantel-shelf, there was an 
antique bust of a woman and there were also bunches of 
yellow chrysanthemums. The electric light and the 
flame from the fire made the brass mountings of the Em- 
pire furniture shine and at the same time they softened its 
lines. In a corner there were some cups of delicate china, 
and some dainties spread out on a round table, covered 
with a cloth trimmed with guipure lace. Three splendid 



204 ON THE BRANCH 

red roses marked my place at the table. The sight of 
them made me start. Guy saw this. 

" I hope, god-mother," he said, " that you like red 
roses. I simply love them." 

" Naturally," I replied, bitterly. 

" Mother liked them," he continued, " because they are 
the symbol of sacrifice." 

" And you," I put in, " because they are the symbol of 
love as well as sacrifice." 

A blush passed over the young man's face, and he gave 
a happy laugh. 

" Yes, I must confess that love appeals to me more 
than renunciation. I only have one thing with which 
to reproach those roses and that is they don't know 
how to die. Have you noticed that they turn quite 
black?" 

" Yes, as though they were burnt, a true image of dead 
passion." 

" That is so, and it makes me ridiculously sad." 

The domestic entered with the samovar. He closed the 
shutters, drew the curtains and arranged the fire. My 
host installed me comfortably, and prepared the tea, with 
a care that betrayed he had had good practice in after- 
noon teas. On looking round, I smiled. 

" What amuses you ? " asked Guy. 

" The sight of your bookcases reminded me of a re- 
mark that an American woman made to me a few days 
ago. I was lecturing her for having gone to take tea, 
although she had a friend with her, at Count M 's 
" Oh, there were lots of books about, that made it all 
right ! ' she said." 

" That's good, that is ! " exclaimed my host, laughing. 

" Yes ; but I was charmed by that subtle instinct, by 
means of which the young woman had felt that books 
were like silent witnesses, a sort of protection. Accord- 



PARIS 205 

ing to that," I added by way of jesting, " this must be 
the respectable room of your abode." 

" And respected always, you cannot doubt that," said 
the young man, glancing up at the portrait of his 
mother. Not a sound from outside reached us, and this 
provincial silence added to the comfort and cosiness of 
our afternoon tea. Besides this, I was under the cruel 
charm of Guy's resemblance to his father. It had never 
shown itself so distinctly as now, when he was quite at 
ease in his own home, where I saw him for the first time. 
Good God, how great the resemblance was! I had in- 
sisted on his smoking a cigarette after tea, and he 
smoked just as my husband used to. At a certain mo- 
ment I had the impression that Monsieur de Myeres was 
really before me, and that we were alone in this world. 

" It is strange ! " I exclaimed, unconsciously, after 
my brief hallucination. 

"What?" asked my companion, astonished at this 
exclamation, for which there seemed to be no reason. 

" This tea with you," I replied, laughing nervously. 

" I captured you cleverly, didn't I? I was rejoicing 
all the week at the good trick I was going to play you. 
You are not angry with me for it, are you, god-mother? 
Say you are not. It is such a pleasure to have you here. 
It is so nice to be with you." 

" Why shouldn't it be nice to be with me. I am not 
crabby, as far as I know." 

" It is not a question of disposition, I think, but of 
secret affinities. There are elements in you, probably, 
which make me happy. I have never felt this except 
with mother and with you." 

" Oh, with another woman, too, I fancy." 

The young man's face lighted up. 

" With another woman, too ; yes," he repeated, lower- 
ing his eyelids to hide the love in his eyes. 



206 ON THE BRANCH 

" No doubt," I said, " every creature has a special at- 
mosphere. One meets with women who are young, pretty 
and intelligent, but who possess no magnetism. In spite 
of their efforts, people keep clear of them. Those, for 
instance, who are magnetic attract invincibly. My 
doctor told me that, considering the diversity of our 
respective fluids and the struggle that goes on between 
them, he was surprised that there are not more unhappy 
marriages." 

" Your doctor might have found out the cause of 
these incompatibilities which bring about so many dis- 
asters. In your opinion, which is the truest and most 
lasting love that which springs up at the first meeting, 
or that which germinates slowly ? " 

" You ask a difficult question. It seems to me 
though, that for love at first sight, or, in other words, 
for the short circuit to occur, there must be stronger 
affinities. I even believe that for creatures to be at- 
tracted by each other like this, they must have been in re- 
lation with each other previously, elsewhere." 

" Yes yes," murmured Guy, " and in once more 
taking possession, in this instantaneous union, there is 
something all powerful, something inevitable. How 
beautiful love is, isn't it god-mother? " he said, lifting 
his head with a movement of manly pride. 

" It is the marvel of marvels," I replied, gravely. I 
rose and went across to the hearth. " Fire and flame are 
beautiful, too," I said, in order to break the silence that 
had fallen between us. 

" And this sensation of being at home, isn't it pleasant ? 
You can never have it at the hotel." 

" I am used to doing without it, now," I replied. 

" You wouldn't be sorry to have it again, I am 
sure. Do you know, a good idea has occurred to 
me." 



PARIS 207 

"What is it?" 

" The lease of the tenant who has the flat on the second 
floor is up next year. You ought to have that flat." 

" No, no ; this ground-floor with the garden is the only 
one that would tempt me. When you marry you can 
let me have it," I said, with the intention of sounding 
him. 

" Marry I marry ! Ah, my dear god-mother, if 
you are reckoning on that ! Never, never ! " 

" Marriage frightens you? " 

" No ; a young girl does though." 

" Oh, that is not so grave." 

" The Latin runs more risk of being disappointed than 
the Oriental." 

" You exaggerate." 

" Not at all. His fiancee is almost as unknown to him, 
morally ; and if he should happen to meet with a girl of 
the wrong kind he has no harem, where he can shut her up 
and then make up for his disappointment. I know a 
number of young wives who are warnings to me. They 
have either a bad or a petty conception of life. The 
idea of maternity is repugnant to them. They detest 
the country and the open air ; they must have the atmos- 
phere of places of amusement, and they can never be suf- 
ficiently saturated with smoke and vulgarities. They do 
not read, they literally live on those little spicy stories 
which form the conversation at luncheons and dinners 
now-a-days. When they are tired of seeing objection- 
able things, they try them on for themselves, and go in for 
having a lover by way of creating an interest in life." 

" That all happens in the society which you frequent, 
but in the older bourgeois society, and in the real aris- 
tocracy, there are plenty of very high-minded women." 

" I know ; but unfortunately they know nothing of 
modern life, and they don't prepare their children for it. 



208 ON THE BRANCH 

This summer at Bagnoles, at the picnic balls we gave at 
the Grand Hotel, I danced and talked with the sister of 
my friend d'Urville, a pretty girl, brought up with the 
best of principles, I do not doubt. The parents have a 
country estate in the neighbourhood. They stay there 
until December for the shooting. She told me how it 
bored her to have to stay in the country until so late in 
the season, and she owned to me that she and her sister 
were reduced to making pancakes by way of entertain- 
ment." 

" Pancakes ! The archaism of that is delightful ! In 
the eighteenth century it was the great amusement in the 
convents. Mademoiselle de Charolais was making pan- 
cakes in the Chateau of Madrid, when her lover was 
brought in, mutilated by a stag. And so there are still 
girls in France who make pancakes ! " 

" And you may be sure they don't succeed with 
them." 

" With your ideas, the Anglo-Saxon woman would 
suit you better." 

" No, she is never more than a comrade. I should want 
a woman who would be wife, mistress and friend." 

"Only that?" 

" And I shall never find her in all these dolls, pulled 
forward by their garters." 

" Guy, Guy, be proper," I said, laughing in spite of 
myself. " How are you so well informed? " 

" Thanks to the shop-windows, in the first place, and 
then to the gait of the young persons in question. At 
present they are being subjected to a torture which takes 
away from them all suppleness and grace, and gives them 
the deportment of crabs." 

" Nature is certainly engaged in modifying the struc- 
ture of woman. 



PARIS 209 

" Anyhow, it does not seem to be preparing her for 
maternity," said my host bad-temperedly. 

" Come, come," I said, " it is evident that the present 
state of your heart does not allow you to think of mar- 
riage. When you have sufficiently sacrificed to the false 
goddesses, you will think better of it, and, perhaps, be- 
fore I die I shall have your flat and garden." 

" If the goddess I love is false, god-mother, there is not 
a true one." 

After these words, which showed plainly enough how 
deeply the young man was in love, I prepared to take my 
departure. Guy showed me the rest of his flat. The 
furniture, like that of his library, is of the purest Empire. 
He has inherited it from his god-mother. The drawing- 
room opens on to the garden. A picture by Roybet, two 
landscapes by Harpignies, some Tanagra statues, a 
piano and some beautiful vases give it a warm, congenial 
atmosphere. The bedroom is plain, but elegant. The 
look of this bachelor's abode gave me an impression of 
moral cleanliness, of dignity. There was nothing to in- 
dicate any kind of pose. I do not know whether it was 
the effect of my imagination, but I had the sensation of 
a presence. Was it that of the false or the true goddess ? 
I felt curiously ill at ease, and could not look straight at 
the various objects, nor look at them long. I only walked 
through the rooms, and, when once outside again, I 
breathed in a good supply of fresh air, to chase away the 
something which oppressed me. 

Guy took me back to the hotel. I ought to have kept 
him for dinner, but had not the courage to do so. I was 
upset, bruised, as it were, inwardly, as I am every time I 
spend any time with him. And now I am full of curios- 
ity to know the woman he loves. He is too discreet and 
chivalrous to confide in me about that. She must 



210 ON THE BRANCH 

be dark, with a dull, white skin, as there was a great deal 
of pale yellow in the Rue d'Aguesseau flat. If I am to 
fulfil the mission which Colette imposed upon me, Provi- 
dence will help me in it. 

Pan*, 

New Year's Day. 

In spite of ourselves we always turn round and look 
back at the landmarks on our path here below. I am 
amazed at having stood the shock of all the events which 
have succeeded each other these last four months as well 
as I have. When I began writing these pages I only 
intended to take down the impressions of a spectator. I 
flattered myself that I had lived everything down, and 
that from henceforth peace and rest would be my lot in 
life. I am evidently destined to continue the struggle. 
My smooth, easy path has come to a sharp turn, and it is 
now hard, unequal and rough, so that I am once more 
shaken mercilessly. I will not pretend that I regret my 
fine peace. I dare be frank now, and I will confess that I 
like to feel my heart beating and my veins throbbing. In 
this struggle with the father, through the son, I find a 
kind of pleasure. This odious resemblance of Guy 
d'Hauterive makes the heart-strings, which I believed 
broken for ever, vibrate as though touched with a bow; 
and however much I suffer, it is not without a certain 
pleasure that I hear them. It is a curious thing, but the 
novelist within me takes a keen interest in the phases of 
this psychological drama. A certain actress was severely 
blamed for having studied the death grin on the lips of 
her lover. I can affirm that without Madame de Myeres' 
suffering any less, and without her being any less sincere, 
Jean Noel was able to seize her impressions, to hear even 
the altered notes of her voice, and I will add that the more 
poignant the situation, the more complete was the dual- 
itj. 



PARIS 

I had made up my mind, that whatever might be my 
increase of fortune, I would never change my way of liv- 
ing, and yet I am now obliged to make some modifications, 
for I could not continue receiving Guy in my room. 
When he entered he seemed to take possession of the 
whole room and of me, too. I felt his presence too much, 
or rather that of my husband, and it made me want to 
send him away. I have, therefore, taken the drawing- 
room, into which another door in my room opens. It is 
nicely furnished, and a very pleasant room. I have put 
some green plants in it, some flowers and photographs. I 
took my pens, ink and paper there, but, to my great sur- 
prise, I could not work there, and so, feeling quite peni- 
tent, I returned to my dear old table. From time to time 
I get up and, with childish pleasure, pace up and down 
these few square yards that have been conceded to me. It 
seems good, all the same, to have a little more space. 
Space, infinite space, that is my great idea of Para- 
dise. 

I took possession on Christmas Day, and, according to 
English custom, the owner of the hotel sent to me and to 
all his visitors some Christmas holly and mistletoe. I 
have decorated my two rooms with it. I also received a 
basket of magnificent black grapes from Uncle Georges 
and orchids, roses and lilac from various friends. When 
I glance round the room I say to myself that there are 
many old women in the world who are more forgotten than 
I am. Guy sent to England for a bridge-table for trav- 
elling. It is a perfect gem of cabinet-maker's work, and 
fits into a box. On his return from " Les Rocheilles," 
where he has gone for the festivities, he will not fail to 
want to try it for the first time. I shall not be able to 
refuse, and Madame de Myeres will play bridge with the 
son of her husband and her cousin. The sight of this 
will delight the eyes of the humoristic gods, I do not 



212 ON THE BRANCH 

doubt. What a curious power there is in these ironies 
of fate, which are so often seen in the lives of nations and 
individuals. 

Like a child, I love receiving Christmas and New Year 
cards. They come to me from all parts of the globe. 
English and American women are the most faithful in 
their memories. There are some whom I have not seen 
for twelve and fourteen years, and yet they have never 
missed sending me their " Merry Christmas " or their 
" Happy New Year " wishes and I like having them. 
Lady Randolph has sent the portrait of Sir William 
taken with Freddy, his inseparable companion. This 
photograph made my heart ache by the intensity of suf- 
fering it betrays. With my eyes full of tears, I slipped 
it into my writing-case. It seemed to me that it would 
be a profanation to leave it out, exposed to the gaze of 
strangers. I had some pretty cards from Frank and 
Lily. The dear children, I can imagine what a pleasure 
it has been to them to choose them ! My parcel of toys, 
among which was the inevitable Parisian doll, must have 
crossed their cards on the journey. The purchase of 
that doll gave me a great deal of trouble. The frightful 
little persons that were shown to me, with wild yellow 
hair, large hats with feathers and befrilled underclothes, 
seemed to me like budding cocottes. I thought of the 
white Simley nursery, little Lily with her simple clothes, 
her bare legs, and her sandals, and I felt that I could not 
send her a doll of this kind. After vainly endeavouring 
to find one that was both elegant and proper, I had to 
have one dressed. It was welcomed with transports of 
joy, and named Parisette. Our very dolls show how little 
we understand children. The sort of lady, that we put 
into the hands of our little girls, will always be powerless 
to either awake in them, or to nourish, the sentiment of 
maternity. They are proud of them, but they can 



PARIS 213 

scarcely love them. And who knows if such dolls do not 
have a bad, withering action on their fresh young souls? 

This custom of exchanging presents and good wishes 
at certain epochs is so ancient and universal that it seems 
to be a law of Nature. I begin to suspect it is necessary 
for accelerating the movement of the " Wheel of Things." 
As a matter of fact, memories are reawakened, thoughts 
go out to each other, hearts open, and a sort of whole- 
some relaxation takes place, an ebullition of life which 
is probably very profitable. If the wishes were all in 
vain, we should not have received the instinct to formulate 
them. These impulses of the will, for the happiness or 
unhappiness of another person, may create certain cur- 
rents, disperse or attract certain forces. The least 
scrupulous of human beings hesitates to wish bad wishes, 
and the most sceptical of persons is affected by them. I 
have always liked this rite which marks the commence- 
ment of every year, and now it interests me very deeply. 

The proprietor of the Hotel Ritz has the genial idea of 
inviting to the Christmas Eve supper or reveillon, not 
only the guests staying there, but those who frequent the 
restaurant and the afternoon tea. In virtue of this I am 
always invited, and I go, as it amuses me. The little 
festivity consists of a concert, a Christmas-tree and a 
supper at little tables, the whole of it very elegant and 
perfect. As a tableau vivant it is curious. The elite of 
the foreign colony is to be seen, pretty American women, 
great ladies from England, enjoying themselves incog- 
nito, a few of the French aristocrats who mix with for- 
eigners, people who have splendid dwellings and probably 
no homes. Many of the women come on leaving the thea- 
tre. Their handsome cloaks are thrown back, showing 
their evening dresses, their pearls, diamonds and precious 
stones. Everyone walks up and down the narrow hall, 
which serves as a drawing-room, and gathers round the 



ON THE BRANCH 

tree to receive the bauble offered by Chance. People 
shake hands with each other. Each person is astonished 
to be there, and no one more so than I. Finally we all 
group ourselves round the little tables and sit down 
to supper. There is no gaiety on the faces ; it is just the 
same as everywhere else, we do not really enjoy ourselves, 
but we play at it. The English women only, seem to be 
really merry. The champagne, which is generously sup- 
plied, finally revives the spirits of all these poor worldly 
people, and the scene becomes brilliant and animated, 
enough so to give the illusion of enjoyment. Last year I 
had supper with a nice Franco-American husband and 
wife. Suddenly the remembrance of my beautiful Christ- 
mas Eves at Chavigny rose traitorously to my memory. 
I thought of the return home with lanterns from the 
midnight Mass, the agreeable impression on entering the 
well-lighted dining-room, warmed by the huge logs that 
flamed in the two fire-grates. I saw myself again at the 
head of the table, all decorated with greenery and with 
flowers and fruit, with the priest to my right, friends all 
round, and my husband opposite me. This vision, which 
continued to develop itself as though in a cine- 
matograph, arrested the movement of my hand in raising 
a champagne glass to my lips. I put it down again 
without drinking. I looked all round and shivered with 
the coldness of my own solitude. What a distance from 
the Chavigny Chateau to the Hotel Ritz ! 

This year I spent Christmas Eve by my own fireside 
with Jean Noel ; the following day I dined with the 
Lussons. They live in the Rue de Lille in a house of 
their own. They have one of those flats, dating from 
the end of the eighteenth century, which make one feel 
the vulgarity of the modern habitation, where the arch- 
itect employs all his talent of trickery in creating things 
to deceive the eye. There is a fine suite of rooms with 



PARIS 215 

high ceilings, the over-doors are painted, there are charm- 
ing door-frames and the rooms look on to an old garden. 
It is easy to guess, from the very atmosphere, that the 
furniture, the knick-knacks and pictures have all been 
there a long time. In this good dwelling-place there are 
huge green plants, flowers, books, a dog, a cat, and an 
atmosphere of real kindliness which communicates a sen- 
sation of ease and comfort. Sir William was not mis- 
taken in saying that I should like Monsieur de Lusson. 
We were friends from the first time we shook hands. 
He is, I am sure, this side of sixty, and has the refined 
type and the slightly arched nose of the native of Tou- 
raine. His hair and moustache are of a very soft grey. 
At times his eyes have a gleam of wit which seems 
to light up his very eyeglasses. Curiously enough, we 
seemed to understand each other immediately, and we 
carried on the conversation. Madame de Lusson, with 
her warm-hearted kindness and her natural gaiety, re- 
minds me of Colette. She is the spoilt child of her 
husband and of her daughter. As to Mademoiselle 
Josee, she interests and charms me. Her healthy youth- 
fulness, her fine physical and moral vitality, seem to fill 
the house, and I found myself looking at her as though 
she were a sunbeam. She continues her studies, goes 
to classes and lectures with a desire to comprehend 
Life more thoroughly. She has a wholesome curiosity 
about it. When a subject interests her, her face takes 
a completely fixed look; it seems as though she is listen- 
ing even with her pretty blue-grey eyes. I should be 
very much surprised if her time here below were not 
signalised by some good. I like her hand. It is a 
skilful, active, clever hand, which could dress a wound, 
give help, arrange flowers, fondle a child or stroke an 
animal. We ought to study the hand more, for it 
never deceives us. In such surroundings my Christ- 



216 ON THE BRANCH 

mas dinner could not fail to be enjoyable. I had not 
experienced so agreeable a sensation of comfort and 
family intimacy, in my own country, for a long time. 
How many people and how many things Providence 
had employed in order to give me that simple Christmas ! 
The Lussons seem determined to tear me from my 
solitude. I struggle against them weakly enough. 
At times I feel tempted to repel these friendships, to 
rush away, to go and hide somewhere, to escape from 
them, from Guy, and from Destiny ; but I can feel 
that I shall not escape. I have the distinct sensation 
that I am descending a rapid, dizzy slope, and that my 
soul is emitting its last flame. No matter, it is better 
to die giving out flame than smoke. 

Paris. 

Formerly Parisian women took cakes or sandwiches 
and a glass of Spanish wine in the afternoon, at Gage's, 
Cuvillier's, or at the Madeline pastry-shop. The tea- 
room now belongs to our institutions, and afternoon 
tea has become one of our habits. This little evolution, 
which has a certain effect on our manners and customs, 
dates about fifteen years back. It had its origin in the 
Rue de Rivoli, at a stationer's shop known as the Pape- 
ierie de la Concorde, kept by two English brothers 
named Neal. Were they inspired by the memory of 
the brown teapot which, between half-past four and 
five, appears in all the City offices in London? Did 
they think of doing charitable, and at the same time 
profitable, work, in supplying their country people 
with a national beverage? This I cannot tell, but 
certain it is that on two tables at the end of their 
counter, behind a screen and amidst books and news- 
papers, they began to serve tea and biscuits. Paris 
saw for the first time a sign with the words " Afternoon 



PARIS 217 

Tea." Tea and biscuits in a stationer's shop! Only 
English people would have ventured on that. The 
sign worked wonders, and more than one Britisher on 
his holidays, more than one couple of lovers has known 
this little nook, and still remembers it, perhaps, with 
gratitude. 

That was the birthplace of the tea-rooms which, dur- 
ing the last five years, have sprung up like mushrooms. 
They are to be found everywhere now, in the Rue 
Cambon, Rue de Rivoli, Rue St. Honore, on the road 
to the Louvre and to the Bon Marche. Paris has 
gone beyond London in this respect. Does that mean 
that the Frenchwoman has become a tea-drinker? Not 
at all, and what is more, she never will be. She neither 
knows how to drink it, how to prepare it, nor how to 
serve it. She swallows it in an absent-minded way, 
like any kind of infusion. It excites her nerves without 
making her gay. She is too fond of talking, and of 
showing off to advantage, to give the necessary attention 
to the teapot, samovar or kettle. She is incapable of 
repeating several times over the prescribed questions: 
" Strong or weak? How many pieces of sugar? 
Cream or lemon ? " And when she does ask the ques- 
tions she never listens to the answers. The tea-room 
where, if she is not afraid of appearing too bourgeois, 
she takes her chocolate, makes a pleasant halting-place 
between her shopping and her trying-on. It answers 
two purposes her wish to be sociable and at the same 
time exclusive. 

The five o'clock tea at the Hotel Ritz is certainly the 
most elegant of any in Paris. The interior is neither 
imposing nor luxurious. It is only a narrow hall with 
two rooms opening on to it, but there are footmen and 
butlers as correct as Embassy attaches. The best 
dressed women in Paris meet there. This creates a 



218 ON THE BRANCH 

most unique general effect. That space, with mirrors 
on both sides, has, at the tea-hour, the look of a large 
aviary full of many-coloured birds, and the noise of 
the various conversations is like a sort of warbling, but 
we may add the human warbling is not very har- 
monious. When I go alone to the Hotel Ritz, I sit in 
a corner from which I can take in the whole scene. 
Madame de Myeres likes the rustling of the well-made 
dresses, and also the beautiful jewellery; Jean Noel is 
delighted to study and compare the looks and gestures 
of the specimens under his eyes, and both have " a good 
time," as the Americans say. 

The other day, as I was watching these worldly 
women file by, with their handsome furs of sable, 
chinchilla, black or blue fox, one of them caught hers 
up with a gesture that made me start. Her gesture 
gave me instantly a retrospective vision of the far-off 
ancestress who at once appeared before me, tall, strong 
and majestic, with a wild beast's fleece or skin over her 
splendid nudity. I saw her standing on the threshold 
of her cave watching for the return of the man. I 
gazed in a sort of stupor at this descendant. Nature 
has continued her work of improvement through the 
long centuries, and has arrived at this! Yes, she has 
refined the body of woman, given all kinds of shades 
to her soul, but within her are the primordial instincts 
still jealousy, envy, ruse and cruel coquetry. Her 
winter garment is different; the wild beast's skin has 
become a valuable fur, but, as formerly, so the irony of 
the gods has willed it, this is ornamental with tails, 
claws, little ferocious heads. And in spite of myself, in 
this elegant creature taking her tea there and putting 
the dainties delicately between her painted lips, I could 
still distinguish the ancestress. From the primitive den 
to the Hotel Ritz there is certainly a long distance to 



PARIS 219 

travel, and to go back along the path bewilders one's 
mind, but I love such bewilderment. 

The frequenters of these afternoon teas may be di- 
vided into actresses and spectators. The actresses are 
the Parisian women, the American Duchesses, Mar- 
chionesses and Countesses, and the exotics. The spec- 
tators are the English and American travellers. 

The Frenchwoman sails in. She enters just like a 
sail-boat with a delicate mast that has the wind behind 
it, conscious, without looking so, of her elegance and 
beauty. Her gait, her bearing, her gestures are all in 
perfect harmony. The Franco- American woman is very 
stiff and awkward in her attempts to copy the Old 
World. It is all in vain that she tries to be correct, 
makes a round with her arm, lifts it to the height of 
the shoulder to shake hands, she is " not in it," never- 
theless. She is " not in it," no, not yet. One guesses 
the nai've pleasure she feels, the triumph of parading 
before her countrywomen, of letting herself be seen in 
" noble company," of hearing her title repeated as she 
goes along. Why should she not feel this? You and 
I would have the same satisfaction. The pretty Spanish- 
American woman is content with exhibiting the latest 
creations of her milliner and dressmaker. She looks 
round with her beautiful black eyes, in order to make 
sure that she is the best-dressed woman present. There 
is no harm in that. 

The Englishwoman, who has come here out of a cu- 
riosity, wears a tailor-made dress or, if on her honey- 
moon, a hideous travelling dress. She drinks her tea 
religiously, exchanges a few remarks between two 
pieces of bread-and-butter, and remains rather scared 
by this foreign mimicry which she does not under- 
stand, by this living picture in which she recognises 
no one. The simple American woman is refreshing to 



220 ON THE BRANCH 

see in these surroundings. She chatters gaily, takes 
in, without any scruple, a whole dish of gossip, sees 
everything, criticises everything, and goes away no wiser 
by a single jot, but glad to have had her money's 
worth. Society men are rather rare at the Ritz after- 
noon tea. A few elderly marcheurs are to be seen, and 
also a few young men who are trying to get into 
society, whilst certain curious individuals, always the 
same ones, walk up and down the hall to see who is 
there and who is not there. I do not know whether I 
am mistaken, but it seems to me that the Frenchwoman 
has lost much of her power over man. She is more 
elegant and knows more, but she can neither attract 
nor hold him as she did formerly. She has not ceased, 
though, being very fascinating. I realise, by compari- 
son, her superior charm. Even with these Parisian 
worldly women, veritable birds of Paradise, whose lives 
are so narrow, so pitifully stupid, there is an infinitely 
complex soul full of delicate shades. Many of them 
excite my curiosity. I try to get a glimpse of their 
" sincere face," " the one," as Baudelaire says, " that 
is sheltered by the face that lies," and this is not easy. 
I have been particularly struck by one of them. She 
is not a regular comer, but only appears when she is 
invited, or when she invites others, and she always 
arrives late. Her general bearing and the way she 
carries her head make her appear taller than she really 
is. Her thick, chestnut hair, streaked either naturally 
or artificially with tawny shades, her dull, white com- 
plexion, her painted lips, give her a warm colouring. 
Her wide forehead, with her straight eyebrows, and her 
extremely open nostrils, would make the face hard, if 
it were not softened by golden brown eyes full of light. 
Her mouth, with its slow, voluptuous smile, is one of 
the most beautiful and most irresistible I have ever 



PARIS 221 

seen. And yet this woman is not happy, I am sure. At 
times her face expresses a profound weariness and moral 
distress, her expression becomes vague, and she only 
answers in monosyllables. When some word recalls 
her to herself, she draws herself up at once and lifts 
her head in a defiant way, as though preparing herself 
to struggle with an invisible enemy. I have never 
had an opportunity of finding out her name. The 
group with which she mingles is the most aristocratic 
of the assembly. The men kiss her hand with marked 
devotion, and she has all the characteristics of great 
races. I had not seen her since my return, and to-day 
she made her reappearance at the Hotel Ritz. She 
looked as though she were in half-mourning. Her 
body was moulded into a dress of light grey cloth, and 
on her shoulders she had a truly royal stole of blue- 
black fox. Her hat was very becoming, a kind of toque 
trimmed with the same fur. She had two large pearls 
in her ears and a row of pearls round her neck, and 
she had never appeared so fascinating to me. In spite 
of myself now, when I am at the Ritz I think of Guy's 
beloved, and this afternoon, when my unknown woman 
entered, I felt a little upset as I wondered whether it 
could be she. The question came instantaneously 
to my mind. If she were the woman, then God help 
him ! I can imagine what power she could exercise over 
a man of his temperament. How Colette would have 
detested her! 

When I see these worldly women, who have charm- 
ing homes, come day after day to sit at these cold, 
inconvenient restaurant tables, I cannot help regretting 
that the most intelligent of them, those who have a 
social position and who are endowed with magnetic 
power, do not give a tea once a week at least, a nice 
well-arranged tea in a friendly way, in order to gather 



ON THE BRANCH 

together, round the samovar, people who are pleasant 
and well educated. They might thus create a centre 
where they themselves would shine. They would win 
some of the men from their cards at the Club. Such 
victories would do them more honour than the sex 
victories which most of them can win if they like. 
God grant that this other ambition may be given to 
them. At present Nature seems to want to put women 
of various nationalities together, and they come in a 
docile way. They do not speak, but they watch and 
criticise each other mercilessly. With all this, invisible 
exchanges are probably taking place, there are the in- 
dispensable transmissions of images. The tea-rooms 
have their ratson d'etre like all the rest, but we do not 
understand. Ah, no, we do not understand! 

Paris. 

I discovered the name of my unknown woman in a 
curious way, just when I was thinking least about it. 
Yesterday, the Will that guides my acts and deeds 
took me to Virot's, in the Rue de la Paix, at exactly the 
right moment. I am one of the oldest customers of 
this celebrated millinery house. I have had my hats 
from there for the last thirty years, first from the 
great artist who founded the business, then from her 
two disciples, Madame Marie and Mademoiselle Amelie. 
I have known all the saleswomen. I buy very little now 
for myself, but from time to time I go up there to see 
what they have. I always receive as much attention as 
formerly, for they all know that I appreciate the real 
art that is in all their beautiful creations. I sit down 
by the counter, in a place well known to the old habi- 
tuees. The saleswomen come to see " how my hat is," 
they take it off to give it a twist. I talk fashions with 
as much pleasure as I talk painting. I know that Na- 



PARIS 223 

ture inspires her workwomen, that she guides her hand 
for our hats as well as for our dresses, and these combina- 
tions of flowers, ribbons and feathers, which are the 
agents of feminine destinies, interest me extraordinarily. 
The day before yesterday I was there in the large 
show-room, admiring and criticising the hats which 
were waiting to be purchased, and which will probably 
be silent witnesses of many strange adventures, when 
suddenly, behind me, in one of the tall mirrors between 
the windows, I saw my unknown woman from the Ritz 
appear. With her arms lifted, she was placing a sort 
of toque on her reddish-brown hair. Her fur-lined 
bolero was open, and her blouse of white satin brought 
into tempting relief the beauty of her figure. Our 
eyes met in the glass, and for a few seconds we remained 
as though hypnotised by each other. Then both of 
us turned round at the same time, with a wheeling 
movement that was almost comic. She looked at me 
in a surprised and haughty way, and I replied by a 
smile. I was at last going to know her name! It 
seemed to me as though I caught her! Without hur- 
rying, and with affected indifference, I finished going 
round the room, and then went straight up to the cashier. 

" Who is that pretty, dark woman trying on at the 
back ? " I asked him. 

" The Marquise de Mauriones, ex-Duchesse de 
Longwy," he added, lowering his voice. 

The Marquise de Mauriones! I had often seen that 
name in the Figaro and the Gaulois. The ex-Duchesse 
de Longwy ! By raking my memory I found there a 
rather confused divorce story which, four years ago, had 
supplied material for society gossip. I decided to ask 
my god-son for further information. 



ON THE BRANCH 

Paris. 

This woman is Guy's beloved! My intuition did not 
play me false when I saw, distinctly, their two faces 
together in my mind. Let who will explain the 
mystery. I little thought I should make this fine dis- 
covery to-day, and it was so neatly brought about ! 
Jean Noel is lost in admiration. I very rarely go out 
in the morning, but for forty-eight hours I had been 
struggling in the agonies of a literary " deadlock." 
From a medley of my impressions not one would 
come out clearly enough to give me the leit motiv. 
Thoroughly exasperated, I put on my hat and set out 
for a good saunter. I went first to my publisher's, Rue 
Auber. After a pleasant visit, during which I heard 
that my novel was a success, I went for what I call a 
" curiosity walk," stopping before all the windows that 
interested me. Those of Louchet first, where the won- 
ders of the " Art Nouveau " are shown. The " Art 
Nouveau," yes, living art, psychological art ! Those 
women lamp-holders, with perverse faces haggard with 
passion, live and, more than that, suffer; those bodies 
twined round the bowls are also living. Those orna- 
ments of twisted odd shapes, those admirably-set 
stones, have a physiognomy. There are rings which 
have a wicked look, waistband buckles which give an 
impression of clever and cruel coquetry. And the soul 
which emanates from these things is a sorrowful, 
complex soul, a soul that is yearning after something. 
Artists have been powerless to incarnate, in these 
masterpieces, a flame of wholesome joy, a ray of hope. 
In fifty years, perhaps, pages and pages will be written 
about these knick-knacks, this jewellery; I congratulate 
myself on having been able to understand and admire 
them. When I had succeeded in tearing myself away 
from the Louchet exhibition, I went up the Boulevard, 



PARIS 225 

down the Rue de la Paix and urged on, as always, by 
an instinctive wish to be in communion with my 
epoch, I looked at pictures, objects of art, jewellery, 
chiffons, etc. My saunter terminated in a visit to a 
shop in my neighbourhood, a very modern shop, which 
has made a name for itself, in Paris and America, by 
its special stationery and its morocco-leather goods. 
I had watched this business grow, from the very begin- 
ning, in a little shop in the Rue St. Honore. I had 
watched not only its development and its transforma- 
tion, but also the occult change which had taken place 
in the woman who founded it. She does not know 
herself how she has arrived at the splendid result at- 
tained. She recognises, though, that she owes much 
to American women. Their need of luxury and ele- 
gance was a revelation to her. In order to attract them 
she exercised her ingenuity, together with the colla- 
boration of the best workmen, to create pretty 
things. 

She began to set card-cases, purses, handbags and 
writing-table accessories with precious stones. She 
familiarised herself with the Louis XV, Louis XVI and 
Empire styles, and drew her inspirations from them. 
Ideas crowded into her mind; her taste was formed. 
Under the action of forces, of which she did not even 
suspect the existence, she began to appreciate colour 
and line. I notice that to-day she handles, with an 
artist's unconscious respect, the knick-knacks in her 
windows. They have evidently become for her more 
than mere goods. She " works " at her business as I 
work at my novels. According to her expression, she 
has her whole shop in her brain. She thinks of it 
unceasingly. She cannot stay away from it long at a 
time. She experiences a legitimate pride in feeling 
that so many people depend on her now. She shows 



226 ON THE BRANCH 

me her new things with visible pleasure, and her face 
brightens when I admire them. It is to me a veritable 
joy to meet with this longing for perfection, this in- 
tuition of the beautiful which are the characteristics of 
our race. She consoles me with regard to the future of 
France. A halt in a shop like this is more interesting 
than a social reception. I am always amazed at the 
amount of effort, intelligence and work that a few cells 
of our human beehives represents. 

This morning, I was there, admiring the mounting 
and the clasp of a small bag which was just out of the 
hands of the workman, when an automobile stopped 
at the door and, quite taken aback, I saw Guy get out 
of it, Guy, accompanied by a lady wearing a fur coat 
with the collar turned up and a thick veil over her face. 
Both of them entered the shop and moved to the right. 
My god-son raised his hat and asked for an automobile 
bottle-case like one he had bought before. Whilst this 
was being fetched, he said a few words to his com- 
panion. I literally felt the warmth which emanated 
from his eyes and his lips. As though he, in his turn, 
were affected by my thought, he turned his head 
brusquely my way, his eyes met mine and, colouring 
violently, he came across to me. 

" Outdoors at this hour, god-mother ! " he said in the 
easiest tone he could adopt. 

" I am playing truant like you," I added. 

" That's true," he replied, with a nervous smile. " I 
am on foot. I have asked for a few alterations to be 
made to my machine, and I am superintending the 
execution of them. I intended to come and dine with 
you to-day. May I ? " 

" Certainly." 

" Till this evening, then," he said in a gentle tone 
of voice. 



PARIS 227 

I nodded, and, after kissing my hand, he returned 
fco the unknown woman. The unknown woman she 
was no longer that. She had turned round to see the 
person whom the Baron d'Hauterive knew, and, as her 
veil was slightly raised, I recognised the mouth of the 
Marquise de Mauriones, that sensual and refined mouth, 
the shape of which had struck me as so beautiful and 
rare. I left the shop first and returned to my room, 
deeply troubled. My morning's pleasure was quite 
spoiled. Could that really be the woman whom Guy 
had loved for two years? Perhaps he had merely ac- 
companied ,her out of politeness? No, I had felt the 
magnetic sensation of love. 

Without my encouraging him, my godson, since god- 
son he is to be, often comes now to dinner to the Hotel 
de Castiglione. This evening when he sent up his name 
I awaited him in great anxiety, for I was resolved not 
to let this opportunity slip by of knowing the truth. 
When he arrived, there was a moment's embarrassment 
between us. He looked at me with a questioning ex- 
pression, and I tried to appear indifferent. 

" And so you, too, are a customer at my shop," I 
said, when we were at table. 

" An old customer even," he answered. " I have done 
a great deal of shopping there. Mother bought all 
her writing-paper there. You might have met each 
other in that shop." 

Colette and I might have met in that shop! It made 
me shiver to think of it. Providence had arranged 
things with more mercy, and I offered up my thanks 
mentally. 

" Was that not the Marquise de Mauriones with 
you this morning? " I asked, in the most natural 
way. 

" Do you know her? " exclaimed my god-son, with 



228 ON THE BRANCH 

an expression that betrayed astonishment and sudden 
anxiety. 

" I have seen her from time to time at the Ritz. To 
tell the truth, I have only known her name the last 
two days." 

" And what do you think of her? " 

" She is dangerously beautiful." 

A flame leapt in the young man's eyes. He at once 
lowered his eyelids, as though to hide from me his 
pride as a happy lover. 

" She is divorced, is she not ? " I began again. 

" Yes, her husband, Due de Longwy, was a bad 
lot." 

" How does she get the name and title of Marquise 
de Mauriones? " 

" They belonged to her family." 

" Is she rich? " 

" I suppose so, she lives in good style." 

" What a false position she must be in." 

" Yes, it is really cruel." 

" Oh, she cannot be short of people to console her." 

At this commonplace remark, uttered without any 
mean intention, Guy's expression changed suddenly, and 
in such a way that I was struck by it. 

" No, she certainly is not short of such people," he 
said in a hoarse voice. 

I know now. She it certainly is whom he loves. I 
could only repeat, " God help him ! " And Colette had 
asked me to arrange a marriage for him! 

Paris. 

" What do you think of the American colony ? '* 
" What is thought of it in Paris ? " Jean Noel has not 
been asked any questions as often as these by inter- 
viewers. He has always refused to answer, fearing 



PARIS 229 

lest his words should be perverted in order to pander 
to a crowd of petty spites. The feminine American 
colony of Europe is treated in New York with a severity 
it does not deserve, and envy accounts in a great 
measure for this. That would be denied, of course, and 
I should be answered that when people have wealth 
and position in their own country they cannot very 
well envy the uprooted ones. Well, these uprooted 
ones, who are nobodies " at home," and whom no one 
cares to know, acquire a certain prestige by their so- 
journ in Europe, by their contact with the society of 
the Old World, a contact singularly exaggerated, too, 
in the " Society Echoes," and people in America are 
jealous of them. When foreigners put in the same 
category all members of the American colony, it is 
through ignorance, but when their own country people 
do it, it is through injustice. In Paris there are three 
distinct groups: the cosmopolitan American women, 
the real American women, and the American women 
who come to Paris in search of higher artistic or intel- 
lectual culture. The first group is composed of wealthy 
parvenues, among whom are a number of deserters 
from marriage, of grass widows, of divorced women 
whose one aim is to succeed in becoming members of 
the aristocratic clan, less out of snobbishness than for the 
sake of having, the revenge on the ostracism shown 
to them by society in their own country. The ques- 
tion is, have they obtained foothold in the Faubourg 
St. Germain? No, a thousand times no, not even by 
marriage. They have only succeeded in believing, and 
making others believe, that they have " arrived," as we 
say in Parisian slang. And they alone know what in- 
trigues and money it has cost them to produce this 
illusion. One of them, for instance, believes that she has 
a " royalist salon" She would close her doors to the 



2SO ON THE BRANCH 

President of the Republic for fear of compromising 
herself. Another one is fully persuaded that she has 
a " mixed salon," a salon where everyone meets. None 
of them have any idea that the creation of such social 
centres requires years and special qualities, forces 
which could not be bought for money. They do not 
know it, and it is this which appeases me. They ai 
evolving amongst us, without understanding us, with- 
out getting any nearer to us by a single thought or 
sentiment. They are navigating in our waters, with- 
out suspecting the depth of these. They heap up 
blunders upon blunders, and continue to float on the 
surface where Frenchwomen would perish. They are 
always going ahead, only conscious of the power which 
wealth gives them, trying their golden key in the best 
guarded doors. Many doors resist, but they do not 
talk of these. They will not, any more than so many 
children, do any harm to any one. What mission are 
they accomplishing? Of what use is this superficial 
contact with the Old World? My eyes are not yet 
strong enough to see this, but Nature has not brought 
it about in vain. 

The real American women belong generally to what 
the Yankees call " our best class." Their husbands 
have felt the need of retiring from the conflict of busi- 
ness; they themselves prefer Paris, where life is less 
" rapid " than in their own country, where they can 
escape from the terrible emulation which, in the United 
States, strands so many women. They do not seek 
to get into French society, but keep strictly to them- 
selves. Most of them have very beautiful homes, and 
live in a luxurious style that is restful and in good 
taste. Nearly all of them have created for themselves 
some special interest in life. One goes in for music, 
another for painting, and besides this they do a great 



PARIS 231 

deal of good. By the side of these two worldly clans 
there is the group of artists. They interest and amaze 
me, these creatures whom a spark of electricity has 
separated from their own people. Whilst all around 
them business and dollars were being discussed, their 
ears were trying to catch chords and harmonies, their 
eyes were fascinated by colour and line. Across the 
enormous distance, they felt the attraction of old Eu- 
rope. In spite of the deafening noise of machinery, 
they heard its call, and at the price of a thousand sacri- 
fices they answered it. Their growing number has 
necessitated certain institutions, among others that of 
a " Home Club." This is installed, if you please, in 
the old Chevreuse mansion, a house with a carriage 
gateway, a garden, a terrace with wrought-iron balus- 
trade, a roof with pretty attic rooms. Providence has 
been kind to them, these transatlantic bees. Every day 
at five o'clock, tea is served at this club, and American 
women of the Bohemian order assemble there. Oh, 
what droll girls, and what an untamed look one sees 
in their eyes! They arrive with their violins, their 
sketching folios, or their books. They wear dresses 
that are too short, hats that are not fresh-looking, 
jackets that are too thin, and their faces are drawn by 
privations. The piles of bread-and-butter placed before 
them quickly disappear. It is most touching to see 
these grasshoppers coming to warm themselves and 
take shelter, for an instant, under the starry banner of 
their mother-country. Some of them have been brought 
here from long distances, from the Far West, even. 
What are they to do here? They are, no doubt, in- 
tended to come into touch with the great accumulators 
of art which we possess, to see beauty, hear harmony, 
and then produce these in their turn. Very few of 
them, alas, will succeed in this. It requires many paint- 



ON THE BRANCH 

ers in order to produce one painter, and many musicians 
for producing one musician. 

Paris likes the American woman, not only because 
she leaves it her money (as it is conscious of giving 
her in exchange for that, things that are infinitely more 
valuable), but because she is pretty, well-made, and 
sets off its creations wonderfully well. Paris likes 
her because her brilliant beauty brightens its streets 
and theatres. She is like one more flower in its wreath. 
The shop-people appreciate this astonishing woman 
who does as she likes with her money, who only con- 
sults her own fancy, and who, when once the price is 
agreed upon, pays her bills without deducting the cop- 
pers. The action of American women on our habits 
and customs, although superficial, is none the less ob- 
vious. Following their example we lunch in hats. 
Under their inspiration the feminine toilet has become 
less discreet, the taste for jewellery has developed, the 
luxury of the thousand accessories of life has increased, 
comfort also. Bath-rooms have been multiplied, hotels 
transformed. Only a dozen years ago dining-room 
tables were bare-looking. I remember seeing Ameri- 
can women bring in bunches of violets and roses to 
enliven their meals. Influenced by this happy sugges- 
tion, hotel-keepers have begun decorating " the travel- 
lers' table " ; I therefore owe to them the pretty bouquet 
which now delights my eyes at luncheon and at dinner. 
The American quarter, in the neighbourhood of the 
Etoile, looks different from other parts. The Saxon- 
Protestant soul makes itself felt there. The whole dis- 
trict is elegant, formal and cold. The Faubourg St. 
Germain is infinitely warmer and more congenial. 
When one goes from the Rue de Varennes to the Place 
des Etats Unis, it is like passing from the Old World 
into the New World. 



PARIS 233 

It was my conversation with Guy, this evening, that 
led me to write all this. He was with me when a note 
was brought from one of my American friends inviting 
me prettily to a " hen-dinner." 

" A ' hen-dinner ' ! " he exclaimed, smiling. " You 
won't accept, I hope ! " 

"Why, yes." 

" Do you mean to say that you would resign yourself 
to hearing scandal and chiffons talked the whole even- 
ing?" 

" But I am not sure that the entertainment will be 
limited to that. Miss X will carefully select her 
countrywomen, in order to give me a pleasant impres- 
sion." 

" You have too good an opinion of American women. 
Believe me, they are humbugs. Most of them come to 
Europe ostensibly for their health, or for the education 
of their children; in reality to amuse themselves in 
the masculine sense of the word. With us it is the men 
who amuse themselves; in the United States it is the 
women. Poor Yankees ! " 

" Don't pity them, my dear boy. One of them made 
this magnificent speech to me one day : ' In our coun- 
try all the laws are in favour of women, and it is we, 
the men, who made those laws.' * In France,' I added, 
* all the laws are against women, and it is you, the 
men, who have made them.' ' 

" That is so, and I am not exactly proud of it," an- 
swered my god-son. " But the magnanimity of the 
American men is not calculated to encourage us. They 
have been badly enough rewarded, you must agree. 
You have flattered the Transatlantics in your novels, 
god-mother. I have not found in them that respect 
for truth which you attribute to them. They tell you 
stories which send you to sleep. According to them, 



ON THE BRANCH 

their daughters have refused the greatest names in the 
Almanac de Gotha, the Faubourg St. Germain has no 
secrets for them. One of my friends visits an American 
woman who goes in for social electicisms, and wants 
to bring about the coalition of parties by means of 
music. You can imagine what that is! She had in 
her salon, one day, not a bouquet, but a bush of rare 
flowers ! Georges Serizay began to tease her about 
them. She told him that they were an offering from 
the Republican party, and added, ' When my friend, 
Count C , saw the card which accompanied them, 
he tore it up, saying, ' This is a royalist salon ! ' Isn't 
that comic? " 

" Comic. " I exclaimed, laughing heartily. " It is 
killing. I hope the anecdote is true ! " 

"True? I guarantee it. That's just like parverws. 
They want to climb the social ladder four steps at a 
time and to live quickly, very, very quickly. They 
haven't time to wait for events to happen, they invent 
them. You don't know the real American women." 

"Possibly not." 

" A * hen-dinner ! ' ' repeated Guy, picking up the 
invitation. " I think I shall do well to fetch you away 
at ten o'clock." 

" Oh, there is no need to come for me," I said 
promptly. " Miss X lives in the Avenue du Bois 
de Boulogne, and I am quite used to coming home alone." 

" That was all right when you had no one ; but now 
you are under my immediate protection. At ten o'clock 
I shall come and release you." 

" Anyhow, not at ten o'clock, if you please." 

" At eleven, then." 

" Yes, let it be eleven, then," I said, both irritated and 
pleased. 



PARIS 235 

Paris. 

The famous " hen-dinner " took place yesterday, and 
was a thorough success from every point of view. Miss 
X lives with her father in a flat in the Avenue du Bois 
de Boulogne, in which elegance, art and comfort are hap- 
pily combined. The dining-room had a particularly 
brilliant aspect. We were ten, round a table covered 
with an embroidered cloth, which had, as its centre-piece, 
a basket of superb fruit, and was strewn as if by hazard 
with roses of various species. We seemed to be eating in 
the midst of flowers. Each guest was in full dress, and 
had put on her " war-paint " as though for masculine 
conquest. The American woman, as a matter of fact, 
dresses for woman more than for man. Our amphitryon 
wore a dress of lace and silk muslin of a warm-white, and 
round her neck she had a high pearl collar. In my 
quality of dowager, she placed me opposite her. I was, 
of course, the only Frenchwoman there. Miss X had 
gathered together girls and also women of thirty and 
forty. My neighbour was a Baltimore beauty, married 
and living at Washington, very tall, with fair hair and 
complexion. She had small features and immense eyes of 
dark blue, shaded by lashes that looked like those of a 
child. It was a real pleasure to look at her. All these 
women were rich, absolutely independent, although nom- 
inally under the control of parents or husbands. Each 
of them had an object in life, an ambition or an occupa- 
tion. One of them, who was introduced to me as Dr. 
V , is house-surgeon in one of the large' Boston hospi- 
tals. From her gentle face and timid expression I should 
never have guessed her vocation, and expressed my aston- 
ishment. 

" I inherited this taste from my father, who was not 
able himself to study," she replied simply. " I love art 
and society, but my profession above everything." 



236 ON THE BRANCH 

In spite of myself, during dinner, my eyes were at- 
tracted by this woman's delicate, long, thin hands which 
handled the knife and lancet. The sight of them gave 
me little shivers down my back. Paris supplied unlim- 
ited material for conversation. Among the guests, some 
had visited all the Montmartre establishments, had been 
to supper in all the night restaurants; the others had 
been fascinated with the Latin Quarter and had dined 
in its taverns, an indication of mentality. The French 
little think what prestige the Latin Quarter still has for 
foreigners, who neither understand its lower nor its 
higher life, but are fascinated by its ebullition of youth 
and forces. In the window of Galignani's English li- 
brary there is always a row of books, among which that 
magic title flares out. On hearing the various impres- 
sions that Paris calls forth, I realised that, alone of all 
the capitals of Europe, it is a complete orchestra, an or- 
chestra which has a sound for each human ear. I asked 
my neighbour, the most beautiful of the " hens " present, 
if she were amusing herself here. 

" No, I am resting here. That is much better." 

" You are resting in Paris ? " 

" Certainly. I come here with my maid and my dog. 
When I arrive, I am so tired of Society life that I hope 
never to see my husband, my house and my pictures 
again. After a little time my nerves recover, and I 
return home with pleasure." 

" And Mr. H. gives you holidays like this ? " 

" Oh, our men are so good ! " 

I should have liked Guy to hear this speech. 

" In what way do you rest ? " I asked, inquisitively. 

" I have a singing-lesson every day, I take Loulou out 
for a walk, I go to the theatre, to all the concerts, I call 
on the old French ladies whose sons have been attaches at 
Washington. They are terribly shocked at my in- 



PARIS 237 

dependence. They have the greatest difficulty in think- 
ing me all right, but they like to see me, and to please 
them I put on my very prettiest frocks. This morning 
I lunched with one of them, and we were waited on by a 
man-servant in a white apron. It was delightful ! " 

A man-servant in a white apron, delightful! How 
one must have been surfeited with luxury to have this 
impression ! 

" I am not surprised that the French cannot under- 
stand you," I said, smiling. 

" But they do not even try to do so," said our hostess, 
" and that is what maddens me. All those I have met 
out, for the last twelve years, have asked me the same 
questions : ' Do you like Paris ? Have you been away 
from America long ? ' Not one of them has gone beyond 
that. I have tried to talk art or literature; they have 
looked at me with astonishment, and have never attempted 
to continue the conversation." 

" Have you had the same experience ? " I asked an 
American woman, who owns a chateau not far from Paris. 

" Exactly. It took me long time to become intimate 
with my neighbours. There is one thing that never 
ceases to astonish them, that is my individual liberty in 
married life." 

" How behind the times they must seem to you ! " 

" Yes and no. They have shades and a delicacy that 
we have not acquired. This autumn I spent three 
months in Boston, and my compatriots seemed to me ter- 
ribly raw." 

" Don't say that before Madame de Myeres," ex- 
claimed Miss V . " It is treason." 

" Not at all," I said, smiling. " Do I not know that 
Nature refuses to hurry up. You have refinement, but 
not its niceties. With us, raw people are generally 
coarse." 



238 ON THE BRANCH 

"How just you are!" said the "beauty," with a 
pleased look. 

" I try to be." 

" That is why we are not afraid of you," added our 
hostess. 

With these amiable words she made me the conven- 
tional sign, and we rose from the table and went into the 
drawing-room. We sat down there round the fire. Cof- 
fee was brought in, and a few cigarettes were lighted. It 
was as though the Buddhist gods and goddesses of the 
admirable collection in the adjoining room had influenced 
our minds in an occult way, for the conversation grad- 
ually turned to India, China and Japan. A crowd of 
anecdotes and reminiscences surged up from these fresh 
memories. 

" What a contrast between a city like Benares and New 
York ! " I said. " That is an impression that I envy 
you." 

" It is not as striking as you imagine it to be," replied 
Madame B . " It is too much toned down by the pres- 
ence of foreigners. What is most extraordinary is the 
revelation of that psychical force which, immaterial and 
invisible, sustains millions of individuals, and commu- 
nicates to them a power of endurance superior to our 
own. All the time, in the midst of the real and unreal, 
I had the sensation that India was a soul upon which we 
were walking." 

" And upon which the English play tennis and golf." 

" Yes, and it is abominable ; you cannot imagine how 
vulgar we seem by the side of these poor Hindoos who 
live in the Beyond. I was invited to a tea ceremony at 
the house of a native lady. There were endless bows, 
compliments and changing of cups. It was as though 
the movements were timed by music. I could not under- 
stand anything, but all the time I was thinking of our 



PARIS 239 

Society teas, our chatter, our abrupt gestures, and the 
comparison was not to our advantage. I should have 
liked to go back to India this year, but I belong to a cer- 
tain committee, so must go home. It means work. 
Miss Gould, our President, sets the example herself." 

" I would give a great deal to be present at the meet- 
ings of a committee of women," I said, laughing. 

" Oh, I will not say that they are always dignified. 
We quarrel, and give each other vicious little stabs ; but 
we come to an understanding finally, and with good re- 
sults. For instance, formerly, in the eyes of the whole 
world our Chicago was only a pig-market. The women 
took it into their heads to show that it was capable of 
appreciating works of art, and even of producing them. 
They seized the opportunity of its exhibition. Thanks to 
them there were, by the side of the display of its material 
power, oases of beauty and poetry. The initial move- 
ment, once given, has not slackened. In Chicago now, 
music is cultivated with passion, pictures are collected, 
taste is getting more and more refined, and it will not be 
long before Chicago eclipses New York. That is what 
we have accomplished." 

" You ought to be grateful to the men who have given 
you the necessary liberty." 

" Oh, our American men are too clever and too prac- 
tical not to know that their big paws are not suitable for 
certain work. They leave it to us willingly. In the 
twentieth century woman cannot belong solely to husband 
and child. Civilisation claims her. She has acquired 
the right of working for the progress of this world." 

At this moment my eyes were magnetically attracted 
towards the next room. A ray of electricity was thrown 
upon a Buddhist goddess, giving her a semblance of 
life. A mysterious smile gleamed from between her 
half -closed eyelids, descended to her lips, and I saw that 



ON THE BRANCH 

she had numerous arms. Irresistibly attracted, I went 
towards her, took her up with reverence, and brought her 
with me into the midst of our circle. 

" You see," I then said, " the future power of woman 
seems to have formed part of the Buddhist dream. Here 
is a goddess with four heads, and at least a dozen arms ! " 

" Twenty-four, if you please," rectified Miss X " It 
is Kwan-Gin, and her name means ' She who listens to 
the sounds of earth and lends her ear to the words of 
men.' She is adored in China and Japan like an ' Our 
Lady of Pity ' here." 

The American women rose, gathered round the bronze 
statue and stroked it one after the other. 

" She's holding a thunderbolt," exclaimed one. 

" The goblet of sacrifice ! " 

" The wooden bowl for the almsgiving ! " 

" The book of the law ! " 

" The prayer-wheel ! " 

" The Wheel of Things ! " 

" Come, now," I said, smiling, " that's enough to sat- 
isfy the most feminine of us. ' She who listens to the 
sound of earth ' must have heard our voices." 

As I was putting Kwan-Gin gently back on her ped- 
estal eleven o'clock struck. The evening had passed in- 
credibly quickly. These American women, away from 
the magnetic influence of man, had been amusing, orig- 
inal and charming. I said so to our hostess. 

" Yes," she replied, " our cackling has not been dull." 

" On the contrary, it has been brilliant ; let us con- 
gratulate ourselves." 

" Let us congratulate ourselves," they repeated gaily. 

My carriage was announced, and in the hall I found 
Louis, Guy's servant man. I could not help smiling. 
Would any one believe it possible that I felt a sort of 
vain satisfaction? It is rather humiliating to own it. 



PARIS 

My godson had done things well, for he was waiting 
for me in a carriage from his club. 

" Well, god-mother," he asked at once, " did you not 
regret that I was not here earlier? " 

" Not at all ; I have not en j oyed myself so much for 
a long time. And I can assure you that we have not said 
any harm of a single person, and we have not talked 
chiffons." 

"Ah, indeed!" 

" Several times I wished that you were hidden behind 
one of the screens. If you had heard us you would have 
had a better opinion of women." 

The young man laughed nervously. 

" A better opinion of women ! That's exactly what I 
need to have at this moment." 

** Have you a bad one, then." 

" Yes, yes ; but no matter," he said brusquely. 

I refrained from insisting, and there was silence be- 
tween us. The Avenue du Bois de Boulogne was 
deserted, and the night cold and rainy. I gradually 
began to feel, as I used to do with my husband, a deli- 
cious sensation of security, of moral and physical 
warmth. Was it not he who was giving it me again, 
or at least the something of him that still exists? In- 
stinctively I turned towards my companion, and, meet- 
ing his eyes, I saw in them that gleam which I always 
see, the gleam that came from his father's soul. It 
touched me more directly than it had ever done, and I 
felt very happy. I remembered our returns from balls 
and theatres, the joy of reaching home again. I saw 
again our little drawing-room, enlivened by a beautiful 
wood fire, and the dainty supper which awaited us. ... 
Suddenly overcome, I lowered the window, and was 
deeply moved by what I saw. To avoid the slippery 
pavement of the Champs Elysees, the coachman had 



242 ON THE BRANCH 

turned off to the right, and we were now driving along 
the Rue Fra^ois I. The carriage crossed the square 
and turned the corner slowly. I could not breathe, and 
was foolish enough to say to myself, " What if this 
were an evil dream supposing it were to stop there, 
in front of the house ! " No, I was not dreaming ; the 
carriage drove on and took me to the hotel. Oh, 
Providence, too, puts delicate shades into its novels! 

Paris. 

It is very curious and rather disquieting, but for the 
last few days I have met Madame de Mauriones every- 
where. She crosses my path, I cross hers, we exchange 
a glance and pass on. I know Life well enough now to 
be aware that these meetings of individuals are never 
casual, but that they frequently prepare events. Are 
we to become acquainted, and, if so, why and how ? 

The day before yesterday I witnessed a scene which 
disturbed my mind in the most singular way. Some 
American friends took me to the Hotel Ritz to dinner. 
The assembly was large and elegant. In the white 
framework of the restaurant, the tables, decorated with 
flowers, at which women in evening dress were seated, 
had the prettiest effect. The brilliancy of eyes, of 
smiles, and of red lips, the play of hands covered with 
diamonds, and the glitter of jewels, gave to the atmos 
phere a sort of joyous life. Not far from me I sud- 
denly caught sight of the Marquise de Mauriones. 
" There she is again ! " I thought. Together with two 
pretty women, accompanied by their husbands, she was 
the guest of Prince K , a Russian who is spending 
his fortune gallantly in Paris. From my seat I could 
see the outlines of her bust, the passionate and yet sad 
expression of her face. She was all in black, and her 
dress was of some light texture, trimmed with ribbon 



PARIS 243 

velvet. The under bodice was cut very low, showing, 
through the high-necked gauze, her shoulders and 
bosom. Her hat, which was also black, suited her 
profile and hair to perfection. Several rows of flawless 
pearls relieved the simplicity of her toilette. I looked 
at the prince with some curiosity. He was still young, 
with a body rendered heavy and shapeless by good living. 
His features were regular, but bloated by excesses of all 
kinds. I had only seen him hitherto in the distance, and 
was surprised at the refined and caustic expression of 
his face. This poor rake knows, I am sure, how far to 
count on the sincerity of the praise heaped on him, and 
he knows, too, how much his parasites are worth. I 
at once had the intuition that there was something be- 
tween him and Madame de Mauriones. He was admiring 
her openly and trying to monopolise her. She defended 
herself with a certain haughtiness, avoided his gaze, kept 
her head obstinately turned towards her right-hand 
neighbour, looking back again towards him with that 
plow smile of irresistible fascination peculiar to her. At 
the end of dinner, both of them, with an almost religious 
gesture, raised their champagne glass simultaneously. 
For a few seconds, looking into each other's eyes, they 
held it to their lips, as though for a communion of love. 
Then brusquely, without drinking, and with a little 
wicked laugh, the Marquise put her glass down again. 
Prince K turned pale, drank his champagne at one 
draught and stood up. His guests, rather startled, tak- 
ing this for the signal of departure, followed his example, 
and all four left the restaurant. The scene had been 
well played out, and what a fine scene ! There had been 
a physiological and psychological struggle that was both 
intense and poignant. It was not a mere flirtation. 
Was Guy to be betrayed ? This idea caused me a sudden 
joy, of which I was ashamed. The son of my hus- 



244 ON THE BRANCH 

band betrayed! Such retribution probably satisfied 
my feminine soul. That handsome boy, with his limpid 
eyes beaming with manly and healthy youth, was to be 
betrayed for this shapeless rake. Impossible! Alas, 
do I not know that everything is possible! 

Paris. 

I have just returned to the hotel after an absence of 
six days and, during those six days, marvellous things 
have been accomplished within me. Jean Noel, who 
fancied himself very learned in psychology, had no idea 
of what the human soul is capable. Last Monday, as 
I was finishing luncheon, I was called to the telephone. 
It was my god-son's manservant. In a distressed voice 
he begged me to come and help him. The Baron, he 
said, was alarmingly feverish, did not recognise him, 
and appeared to be very ill. Deeply affected by the 
strange news, I answered that I would go there at once. 
" Madame de Mauriones ! " I thought, as I hung up the 
telephone receiver. I arrived, in a very excited state, at 
the Rue d'Aguesseau. Louis' face did not reassure me. 
I asked him what had happened to his master. 

" God knows ! " he said, lifting his arms. " There is 
certainly a love affair at the bottom of it. Madame 
knows what young men are. If women will make a 
handsome young man like Monsieur Guy miserable, what 
can all the others expect ? " 

I could not help smiling. 

" For some time," continued the worthy man, " Mon- 
sieur has been in a queer way. For the last three days 
he has not been to Grignon, he's done nothing but go 
in and out, and pace up and down in the flat. Yester- 
day, when I asked him whether he was dining at home, 
he looked at me as though he did not understand, and 
then gave a nod. I prepared him a nice little dinner, and 



PARIS 245 

he tried to do honour to it, but I saw very well that ii 
wouldn't go down. He complained of a bad headache. 
I made him some lime-leaf tea, and then he sent me 
away, saying he did not want anything else, and that 
he should go to bed early. This morning he did not hear 
me go into his room, and, thinking that he was sleeping 
naturally, I would not wake him. At twelve o'clock I 
went back to him, I called and called, but he only an- 
swered by groans ; it's as though he cannot open his eyes. 
Madame will see for herself." 

I went to his room and found him in his Empire bed. 
He was quite inert, and looked as though he were dead. 
His pulse was slow, irregular, languid; his breathing 
rapid, his eyes fixed, and he appeared to be plunged 
in a semi-coma. I was very much alarmed. 

" Quick, quick to the telephone*," I said to Louis. 
" Ask for Dr. H ." 

Fortunately this doctor was at home and, after beg- 
ging him to come immediately, I returned to Guy. 

Forces that we do not see, jealousy, treachery, per- 
haps had laid this vigorous body low. As I stood look- 
ing at this poor vanquished one, I was very much moved, 
tears dimmed my sight, and, beneath my heart, in that 
sacred region which is the tabernacle of maternity, a 
region hitherto sterile and silent within me, I suddenly 
felt a curious tenderness born, a tenderness that was new 
and infinitely sweet. Guy moved about and groaned. 

" Mother mother ! " he called, with an accent of 
pitiful distress. 

And I, unconsciously, replied 

" My child my dear child ! " 

I put my hand on his head to bless him, to adopt or 
soothe him I cannot tell what. The maternal instinct 
had just been roused in the depth of my being. It had 
triumphed over all paltry sentiments, over my woman's 



246 ON THE BRANCH 

spite, and I repeated once more, with intense joy, " My 
child my dear child ! " 

I was ready to second Nature and Science with all the 
forces of my intelligence and my heart. Was it not 
this that Providence wanted? 

The doctor arrived at full speed, as I had asked him. 
On seeing me so anxious at the bedside of this young 
man, his face betrayed some surprise, and I blushed! 
At my age it was too ridiculous. 

" Baron d'Hauterive is a relative of mine," I then 
said. 

For the first time I realised that my husband's son 
was my second cousin. 

At the first glance the doctor judged the case serious. 

" Brain fever," he said, " and it will give us some 
trouble. A shock, I suppose, or overwork? " 

" A shock more probably." 

He took the patient's temperature. 

" One hundred and four," he announced, " and it will 
not stop there. Who is going to nurse him ? " 

" His valet and I. The man is very devoted to him." 

" That is not enough. You must have an experienced 
nurse. I know an English one who is free. Shall I 
telephone to her to come ? " 

" Do all that you think necessary, and save him for 
me ! " I said, unconscious at the time of the strange- 
ness of this speech. 

" We will try, we will try," answered the doctor, with 
a look, the inquisitiveness of which I can still feel. 

In less than an hour everything was organised and 
the rescue of the poor boy began. And what a rescue ! 
A long and trying one. Doctor H , the nurse, Uncle 
Georges, Louis and I all worked with a will. For three 
days Guy was in extreme danger. Ice on his head, baths, 
subcutaneous injections seemed powerless to reduce his 



PARIS 247 

temperature. It even went up to one hundred and six. 
I had the horrible impression that his brain was under 
some very heavy weight which would crush him to death. 
The doctor spoke of an operation. I sat with him from 
midnight to six, and then again from one to six. I 
know now something of the force which makes mothers so 
brave at the bedside of their children. I felt an exquisite 
joy in procuring a little relief for my invalid. I had the 
magnetic consciousness that through the darkness he felt 
my presence, and that I did him good. I tried eagerly 
to seize the incoherent words of his delirium, in order 
to guess what could have caused this horrible collapse. 
He often called his mother, and then his god-mother, and 
that made me very happy. The name of Anne came 
constantly to his lips. He asked for millions, for money, 
much money! He saw black foxes on the walls of his 
room ; he beat the air with his arms to chase them away. 
After these moments of excitement, he had fits of sudden 
drowsiness which terrified me still more. During the 
third night I thought he was falling into a mortal coma, 
and, according to the doctor's orders, I gave him injec- 
tions of cafeme. Towards morning he opened his eyes, 
a sort of smile passed over his lips, he gave a long sigh, 
and then his eyes closed again. I thought he was dead. 
I bent over him in fearful anguish. His breathing had 
not ceased, it became regular and gentle. I had an idea 
that a change had just taken place, and went to fetch 
the nurse. She examined the patient. Her face bright- 
ened with a gleam that seemed to me divine ; she put her 
hand on mine and pressed it warmly. 

" I think he is saved now," she said to me very quietly. 

And he was saved. 

When he recovered consciousness, he did not look 
astonished to see me with him. 

" Have you nursed me, god-mother ? " he asked gently. 



248 ON THE BBANCH 

I nodded. 

" Have I been very ill ? " 

" 111 enough for me to have sent for Uncle Georges 
and to have frightened me terribly." 

Memory returned to him, no doubt, for the colour 
came into his face, and he did not utter a word. After 
the scene I had witnessed at the Ritz, I did not doubt but 
that the blow had come from Madame de Mauriones. 
How had he learnt about her liaison or flirtation with 
Prince K ? And those millions which seemed to torture 
him ? And the black foxes ? Black foxes ! This vision 
would not have surprised me in the brain of an inebriate, 
but in the brain of a lover I could not explain it. Jean 
Noel would have liked to know. I watched with great 
admiration the clearing of the faculties of " my child," 
the marvellous process of recovery. I said to myself that 
everything is beautiful in Life, even illness, even what 
we call death. The only thing is, we do not yet know 
how to look at such things in their proper light. In the 
meantime, Nature and Youth are at work repairing the 
physical ravages in Guy's constitution. As to the moral 
ravage, I have not yet been able to judge of that. 

Paris. 

On returning to my hotel, I found a magnificent 
bouquet from the Lussons. I had at once sent them 
word about the illness of my relative. Guy, my rela- 
tive ! How droll it is ! They shared my anxiety with the 
most affectionate interest. Several times a day they 
asked for news by telephone. The telephone is a ter- 
rible revealer of secrets. It gives you the true character 
of people in the intonations it brings to you. I can 
judge a friend or a woman when I hear their voice 
through the telephone. Josee de Lusson's came to me 
warm, gay and kind. I did not catch a single harsh or 



PARIS 249 

false note in it. If I were a man, I would marry her 
on the strength of her voice ! 

Among the letters which were waiting for me there 
was one from Sir William Randolph. He is spending 
the winter at Torquay, which he finds dreadfully Eng- 
lish. His physical suffering is betrayed by an increase 
of humour. He has written, on the margins of the Revue 
de France, the criticisms and reflections which my novel 
suggested to him. " I found in it," he says, " a number 
of thoughts that were comforting, oxygenised. Oxygen 
has become my idea of all that is good, you know. At 
times I was tempted to believe that those thoughts were 
written for that poor Englishman you met at Cannes, 
and that they were messages. That would be very fine, 
but would it not be a great honour both for Jean Noel 
and for me ? " 

What pleasure those words gave me! Very much 
honour for Jean Noel? Evidently, and I am conscious 
of it. Oh, it is working, my accumulator ! 

Paris. 

This feeling of maternity continues. I was afraid 
that it would pass away with the danger which had given 
birth to it, but it is always there, clinging to my very 
heart. I look upon it as a recompense, it seems to me 
that it has renewed my blood and my life, that it has made 
me younger. Guy is far from well. He has relapses 
of fever, followed by complete prostration. The doctor 
says that he will not be himself for another week. Uncle 
Georges, the nurse and Louis tend him admirably. I go 
and spend all the afternoon with him. The expression 
of pleasure that my presence brings to his face, his 
grateful kiss on my hand, go straight to my heart. I 
take him flowers, I shake his pillows, stroke them as 
Colette did; I tempt his appetite with one thing or an- 



250 ON THE BRANCH 

other, and it is all very delightful. In calling him " my 
child," this son of Madame d'Hauterive and my husband, 
I experience an enjoyment which is certainly very com- 
plex, but of which I never tire. I sit near him and, 
whilst crocheting my mufflers, the only feminine work 
which does not exasperate me, I tell him the news of the 
day. I do my best to interest him. When I succeed in 
this I am satisfied. He is crushed morally by the humil- 
iation that infidelity always inflicts on man and woman. 
We can console ourselves for the loss of the being we love 
the most, but we cannot reconcile ourselves to the idea of 
having been deceived. This is an insult which penetrates 
to the most sacred depths of our being. At times the 
memory of this insult brings a deep colour to Guy's face. 
Ah, I know it so well how it makes the face burn ! He 
looks away from me, so that I shall not see his wound. 
I can no longer meet his gaze. I have forbidden Louis 
to give him his correspondence. He has not asked for 
it, either. Among the letters there are three, I am sure, 
from Madame de Mauriones. The envelopes are of an 
elegant shape, the paper slightly tinted ; the large Gothic 
handwriting seems to me characteristic of the woman 
she must be. If only she does not get him back! Re- 
conciliations are always demoralising. For these youth- 
ful passions a violent, unlingering death is better. 
There is in Guy an innate dignity which reassures me. 
To-day I was watching him while he slept. When his 
eyes are closed he has exactly the energetic expression 
of Colette's grandfather, of all the Nolays. Nature 
went there to fetch this vein of force that she required, 
disdaining me and my rights. It will help him to get 
the upper hand, and later on, what will it produce ? 

" A great deal of good, I hope," I murmured in- 
wardly. 

A little shiver of cold or pain made me go to the fire. 



PARIS 251 

I stood there warming myself, my gaze fixed on the 
flame, my head slightly bent. When I raised it I was 
thunderstruck, literally hypnotised. In the glass the 
face of my husband had just appeared; for a few sec- 
onds I did not realise that it was a photograph; I had 
the impression of a vision, and I did not dare to breathe 
for fear that it should vanish. This portrait, which I 
had dreaded and yet wished to see in Guy's room, was 
partially hidden by the automobile bottle-case that Louis 
had put in front of it. I seized it with trembling hands. 
For sixteen years I had not seen that face, except in my 
own mind ! I gazed at it eagerly, with an emotion which, 
starting from the heart, spread like a warm wave through 
all my being. This photograph, which I did not know, 
must have been taken during the last month of my hus- 
band's life. The light had seized and revealed what no 
one then saw approaching death. It was there in the 
thinness and the pallor of the ear, in the hollow of the 
temples, on the under lip. Between the two eyebrows 
there was a furrow of suffering. All that had escaped 
me ! The flood of affection, held back so long, overflowed 
at last, and through beneficent, purifying tears I re- 
peated, " My beloved, my poor beloved ! " I tenderly 
replaced the portrait of my husband, and then, half turn- 
ing round, my eyes rested on his son, still asleep, and I 
was glad to have him, yes glad ! Was it this, then, that 
the enigmatic smile of pity and love, which I had seen 
on his lips after death, was promising me! Did not 
that smile mean, " A great joy will spring out of your 
present grief. Let Providence work in its own way." 
His soul, perhaps, knew all! 

Pan*. 

Guy is quite convalescent. He has left his bed for the 
sofa, and walked round the room a few times, resting on 



252 ON THE BRANCH 

my arm. He tries to read. He is interested in the 
double dummy bridge which I play with Uncle Georges, 
and he keeps our scores. To-day I allowed him to see his 
correspondence. I took it to him myself. The truth is 
that Jean Noel was curious to observe the effect of the 
three feminine letters. On seeing them Le became very 
pale; he was expecting them and wishing for them, no 
doubt, but, thanks to human perversity, they immediately 
provoked his contempt and anger. With dilated nostrils 
and set jaw he tore them into two, and then four, with 
a snort of painful pleasure which I very well divined, and 
threw them into the fire. I watched them burn. The 
paper, the little black letters flamed up, but not the 
thoughts! Those thoughts which were not doomed to 
arrive at their destination, what became of them? The 
idea struck me that, like vain resolutions, fruitless im- 
pulses, aborted plans, they were the sparks of Life's 
hearth, that they would be decomposed and, perhaps, re- 
composed, and would not be lost. 

" From Robert," said Guy, opening an envelope with 
his still trembling fingers. His expression softened on 
reading the affectionate lines from his brother. Another 
letter appeared to give him pleasure. 

" From Dawson City, god-mother, from the land of 
gold ! " he said, holding it out to me ; " this will interest 
you." 

" Do you know some one, then, out there? " 

" Yes, one of my best friends is there, that is, if there 
are any good friends Max Rennes." 

" Max Rennes ! " I exclaimed, " but that is the miner 
who sent a ' Bravo ! ' from Klondyke to Jean Noel, after 
reading her second novel." 

" I am not surprised at that ; he has an enthusiastic 
young soul and a bold and adventurous nature, he is 
a Frenchman of the old type. He maintains that the 



PARIS 253 

auriferous wealth of Alaska surpasses all imagination. 
He is in despair at seeing it exploited by foreign, not 
French, companies. He invites me to go and join him 
in the Klondyke. He wants me to judge for myself, so 
that I may make it known at home. I shall go! Oh 
yes, I shall certainly go! A gold-digger! If I had 
known Life better I should have commenced as that." 

I immediately felt a pang at my heart. My new 
maternity is no laughing matter, it appears. 

" It seems to me that you have money enough to be 
happy," I said. 

The young man burst into laughter that was painful 
to hear. 

" You think so ! But everything is so extravagantly 
dear, god-mother. Love, illusions, happiness ! " 

" Guy, Guy! Is it really you talking like this? " 

He rose and paced up and down the room. 

" Yes," he said, " it is I, with experience and knowl- 
edge of men and women. What truth there is in the 
fable that teaches us that we can have everything for a 
little gold-dust ? No matter ! I shall go and fetch some 
from out yonder! I will dig shafts, and with such 
energy that the very ice will melt with it ! I shall make 
a splendid miner. En route for Alaska ! " 

With these wild words my god-son threw himself 
down on the sofa, patches of colour on his face, and his 
eyes brilliant. I went and sat down near him. 

" I am sure, anyhow, that if you find gold you will 
use it well," I said, with the intention of pacifying him. 

" One cannot be sure of anything, nor of any one," 
he replied in a cutting tone. 

" You cannot be sure of Uncle Georges nor of me, 
for instance ? " 

His face softened instantly. 

" Forgive me," he said, half rising. " I am a brute." 



254 ON THE BRANCH 

Then, in a low, suppressed voice, he continued : " You 
do not know how treachery hurts, how it maddens one." 

" I do know ! Oh, I do know ! " I said, forcing my- 
self to smile. 

" You." 

I nodded. He looked at me in an astonished way, 
and I felt myself blush at the pity that came into his 
eyes. Oh, that blush of humiliation that always comes 
still! 

" Poor god-mother ! " he said gently, and taking my 
hand, he raised it to his lips with such tenderness and 
respect that I was very happy and even rather proud. 

" You see," I said, " trials of this sort resemble the 
tempering process. The soul, after a high temperature, 
is suddenly cooled by grief, and thus acquires superior 
force. A few days ago you were still a child " 

" A child ! Say, rather, an imbecile, an idiot ! " 

" No, a child. To-day you are a man. In my opin- 
ion, the being who has not suffered has no value." 

My god-son laughed nervously. 

" Then I shall have great value, for I have suffered 
very much, god-mother," he said simply. 

I begin to think that money has something to do 
with the affair that brought Guy to death's door. With 
a mercenary woman it would be comprehensible, but 
the Marquise de Mauriones! Perhaps he wanted to 
marry her, and she preferred Prince K to him. 

I expected a great deal from the firmness of my 
god-son, but I did not expect so much. To-day I left 
him asleep on the sofa in his room, and I was alone in 
the salon working near the window. Louis entered, 
looking mysterious and upset. 

" There is a person here who wishes to speak to 
madame," he said. 

" Who is the person ? " 



PARIS 255 

" A lady." Then, rolling up the corner of his apron 
and colouring, the good fellow added, " It would, per- 
haps, be better for Monsieur Guy not to see her." 

I guessed at once who the visitor was. 

" Certainly," I replied. " I will see her. Where is 
she?" 

" In the library." 

" Good." 

I went towards the adjoining room, feeling a little 
disturbed in my mind. A woman was standing waiting 
for me. A long mantle partially concealed her figure, 
a very thick-spotted gauze veil hid her features as com- 
pletely as a mask. On my entrance she raised the 
veil, and this little act of confidence or audacity pleased 
me. 

" Madame de Mauriones," she said simply. 

I bowed and pointed to an arm-chair. 

" Monsieur d'Hauterive is out of danger I 
hope ? " she said, in a broken voice which betrayed great 
emotion. " I heard yesterday that he had had a re- 
lapse." 

" No, he is as well as possible, but the doctor insists 
on perfect quiet." 

She at once guessed my thought. 

" You may be quite sure that I shall not disturb him. 
It is Jean Noel whom I have come to see, just as one 
goes to a confessor, without any introduction. Few 
women, I should think, have been hit more directly 
than I by your last novel. You know not only the 
human heart, but Life; you must know that there are 
some terrible wheels in it from which it is nearly im- 
possible to escape, if merely the hem of one's dress has 
been caught." 

" I know it." 

" Well, then, I have come to ask you to make Guy 



256 ON THE BRANCH 

understand that, so that he may hate me less, for he 
does hate me, does he not? " she asked in a low voice. 

" He has not confided in me, and he will not do so, 
since there is a woman in the matter." 

" You understand, though, that he has had a cruel 
disappointment? " 

" Yes, since he nearly died of it." 

A painful colour mounted to the cheeks of Madame 
de Mauriones; she lowered her eyelids, and when she 
raised them again her eyes were full of tears. 

" That thought adds to my sorrow and to my re- 
morse. I fear above all that it may affect him morally. 
I should like to know his state of mind. Would it be 
indiscreet to ask if he has any plan ? " 

" He seems to be taken with the gold-fever," I said, 
rather maliciously. 

The Marquise turned pale to her lips. 

" Ah ! " she said, crushing up the little handkerchief 
which she held in the palm of her hand, a nervous move- 
ment, by the bye, which is quite modern. 

" He wants to go and join his friend, Max Rennes, 
at Dawson City." 

" Oh, you will not let him ! You must prevent him 
at all costs ! " added Madame de Mauriones vehemently. 

" I shall do my utmost. He has been forced into my 
life ; it would be painful to me to lose him now." 

" You alone can keep him. You have a great deal of 
influence with him. He often spoke to me of his god- 
mother. He told me how you had come across each 
other at Bagnoles. You were, perhaps, destined to nurse 
him and save him." 

" Everything is providential." 

" In that case, Providence has to answer for very ter- 
rible things." 



PARIS 257 

" Things which seem to us terrible, because we know 
neither the beginning nor the end of them, but prob- 
ably they are not so." 

" Then you believe, as you say, that everything is for 
the best for every one." 

" It seems to me that otherwise the justice of God 
would not be satisfied." 

The young Marquise gave a deep sigh. 

At this moment the door opened. The same intui- 
tion made us both rise to our feet. Guy ! And it was 
Guy, roused, no doubt, by the presence of Madame de 
Mauriones, attracted unawares by her. The change in 
his features, his pallor on seeing her, caused me to move 
towards him. Believing that I intended to go away, 
he put his hand on my shoulder to prevent me, and 
leaned on it in his weakness. 

" Stay, god-mother," he said. " Madame de Mauri- 
ones and I have nothing to say to each other, nothing." 

" Nothing," repeated the Marquise, with a haughty 
dignity that excited my admiration. " My visit was to 
Jean Noel." 

" I suppose so," answered my god-son coldly. " I 
regret to have interrupted it," and thereupon he took 
his hand from my bruised shoulder, bowed, and went 
out of the room. The woman before me followed him 
with her eyes, and with her very soul beyond the door. 
She then fell back against her arm-chair as if all strength 
had deserted her. 

" He is very much changed," she stammered out. " I 
hope that this fresh emotion will not do him any harm. 
I was not trying to meet him." 

She caught the expression of incredulity on my face, 
and added 

" You do not believe me ? You are right," she said, 



258 ON THE BRANCH 

with that pale smile peculiar to her. " I had persuaded 
myself that it was only Jean Noel I had come to see 
it was him, too, and I have seen him." 

There was such real grief in the expression of her 
face that, touched with pity, I laid my hand on hers. 

" Since you attribute to me a certain knowledge of 
Life, believe in my experience these affections outside 
the home do not produce anything good, and they 
absorb the best sap of the individual." 

" I know it, but am I not doomed to remain outside ? 
Did I not begin by a divorce, by running off the rails ? " 
said the Marquise, with a little nervous laugh. 

" Some one or something will put you back on the 
line. Nature will utilise the great forces she has given 
to you." 

" You think she has given great forces to me ? Ah, 
this time, Jean Noel, your intuition is at fault." 

" I think not. It is more than two years now since 
I noticed you at the Hotel Ritz. Perhaps I had some 
foreboding of what was to happen. I was certainty 
conscious of the individuality which made itself felt 
in your person. When you appeared, all the interest 
seemed to be concentrated in you." 

" Really ! It is very pleasant to hear any good about 
oneself," said Madame de Mauriones, with pretty frank- 
ness. 

" Especially when it is said sincerely." 

"Thank you." 

My visitor rose. She looked at me for some seconds 
in silence. 

" We can never see each other again," she added, 
with quivering lips ; " I feel that, and I regret it with all 
my heart. Write a great many novels, though, so that 
at least I may read you." 

" No, only one would tempt me now," I said, " it 



PARIS 259 

is the novel of Life, and I shall not have time enough 
allotted to me for that. Some one else will have that 
honour." 

" The novel of Life," repeated Madame de Mauriones. 

" Yes, I should like to show the texture of Life. F'or 
instance, take yourself, and consider for a moment all 
that it has required to bring you here to me in this 
flat in the Rue d'Auguesseau." 

The Marquise reflected, and waves of emotion coloured 
her face, while astonishment and admiration made her 
eyes larger. 

" It is true," she said at last, " I had never thought 
of looking at things like that." 

" Well, try it. Amuse yourself by following the 
consequences of a few words, the effect of a meeting. 
You will be so amazed that you will forget your sor- 
rows. You are too young yet, I fear, for this kind of 
work. I saw the seed in your mind to-day ; it will, 
perhaps, germinate later on and bear fruit, and your 
visit to Jean Noel will not have been useless." 

" No, and I shall never forget it, you may be sure." 

I held out my hand to her, and she pressed it slowly, 
feelingly. She then turned and looked at the portrait 
of Guy's mother, drew down her veil, and moved towards 
the door. Before crossing the threshold she turned 
round and, in a broken, passionate voice, added 

" Do not let him go away." 

I remained under the charm of her warm beauty, 
her voice, her perfect manners. I know two women 
now, each bearing the name of Marquise de Mauriones, 
the one who dined at the Ritz, an artificial and clever 
coquette, and then the grande amoureuse who has just 
been to see me. Which is the true one? The latter, I 
believe. Her fear lest Guy should do something rash, 
and her desire to prevent him, seem to prove this. The 



260 ON THE BRANCH 

certainty that their rupture is final had made me indul- 
gent. Before leaving the library I raised my eyes in- 
stinctively to Colette. It seemed to me that she was 
smiling, the jealous mother. 

I found Guy lying back in an arm-chair by the fire, 
his hands clasped at the back of his head. He did not 
ask me a single question, but the whole of the after- 
noon he watched me eagerly in order to read my im- 
pressions. The visit of Madame de Mauriones has, in 
any case, been balm to the man's vanity. He did not 
believe for an instant that she came for Jean Noel. 
This visit has raised him again in his own estimation. 
In his movements and in the sound of his voice I divined 
an unconscious joy. We must now beware of the re- 
action ! 

Paris. 

I am tingling with emotion to the very tips of my 
fingers. I have just been with Guy to the station. He 
is going with Uncle Georges to Algeria, Tunis and 
Spain. Only a change of moral and material atmos- 
phere can now complete his cure. I suggested Africa, 
as I know its charm and salutary effect. If Colette 
had not charged him with looking after me, he would 
have gone to Alaska, but he dare not forsake me, and 
I am secretly delighted. When the train started, bear- 
ing him away, I felt the deepest anguish, and, after- 
wards, when he had quite disappeared, a void that was 
more painful still. This is the grief that the French 
mother dreads so much. It is to spare herself this that 
she keeps her sons with her, that she hinders them 
from going far away in search of valuable forces. If 
only she trained herself to bring up her children for 
society at large, for themselves, she would be better 
prepared for sacrifice. It seems to me that human 



PARIS 261 

maternity begins with self-forgetfulness, otherwise it 
would only be animal maternity. Whatever may be 
said, maternal love is certainly the most selfish of all 
sentiments. Did I not regret to see that Guy no longer 
needed my care? His convalescence procured for me 
a hundred little delicate joys; I should have liked it to 
be still further prolonged. This last week I have spent 
the afternoons at the Rue d'Aguesseau with him and 
Uncle Georges. We have had tea and dined together, 
read, talked, argued, played bridge. Madame de 
Myeres was thoroughly happy. She found herself once 
more in her element ; Jean Noel was not pleased. He 
kept pulling her dress all the time. This evening he 
had a sort of sensation of release. He sat down j oy fully 
to his writing-table, where the first proofs of the novel, 
which is soon to appear in volume form, awaited him; 
he turned over the leaves of his manuscript-book 01; 
England most tenderly. He once more took possession 
of Guy's god-mother, and he seems determined not to 
let her go again. 

Paris. 

Lady Randolph gives me news of Sir William, but, 
alas ! it is not good news. " His vocal cords are so 
much affected," she writes, " that we can scarcely hear 
him at all. I have never been his intellectual equal, 
and I take a melancholy pleasure in feeling that I alone 
understand him now." Does not that show a good kind 
of womanliness, that sentiment? 

Pan*. 

This afternoon will, perhaps, count for something. 
What has happened? Only a look. Ever since the 
month of December my little friend, Josee, has been 
taking skating lessons. She is passionately fond of this 



262 ON THE BRANCH 

sport. I expressed a wish to judge of her progress; 
her mother and she took me to the rink at the Palais 
de Glace. We arrived rather early. Madame de Lus- 
son and I took our seats at one of the tables on the 
raised circular platform, and Josee went to the cloak- 
room to have her skates put on. There were not many 
people there, and I looked with curiosity at the dazzling 
arena. A feminine figure, dressed entirely in black, 
rivetted my attention. With her toque trimmed with 
an aigrette and fur, her hands in her muff, her close- 
fitting skirt falling in folds lower down, she gave a 
striking impression of harmony. A thick veil masked 
her face. Her skating was something better than mere 
sport, she seemed swayed by an interior rhythm which 
expressed, in turn, desire, passion, a need of intoxica- 
tion and of oblivion, and also extreme weariness. And 
this solitary figure, gliding like a huge night-bird over 
the white ground, had something sad about it, almost 
pathetic. Mademoiselle de Lusson, on coming back from 
the cloak-room, well and duly shod, explored the track 
at a glance. 

" Ah, how annoying! " she exclaimed; " she is there! " 

"Who?" 

" The Marquise de Mauriones, that lady in black, who 
shoots along and disappears," she replied, with a smile. 

" The Marquise de Mauriones ! " I repeated, thunder- 
struck. "Are you sure?" 

" Perfectly sure. She is very regular here, and she 
is my despair. By the side of her, I feel that I am very 
awkward. I should very much like to know what she 
is thinking about to be able to forget that fear of falling 
which puts an iron bar into your body. I shall make 
no effect on you now." 

As the young girl said this, her professor came up. 
held out his hand and took her away. Her skating was 



PARIS 263 

simple and bold, a well-executed physical exercise. 
When she returned to us, I complimented her sincerely. 

" Just watch her ! " she said, looking at the Marquise. 
" Isn't it beautiful, that suppleness ! Ah, I would give 
everything to skate like that ! " 

" You need not envy her," I said, impulsively. 

"Why not?" 

" Because if you skated as she does you would no 
longer be the girl that you are, and that would be a 
pity." 

Leaning on the railing, Mademoiselle de Lusson 
watched the Marquise. 

" Do you know her? " she asked. 

" Slightly." 

" I cannot help admiring her. She fascinates and 
exasperates me. I believe that if I were a man I should 
fall in love with her." 

The professor came by and took his pupil again. 

" You are very lucky to-day," said Madame de Lus- 
son ; " the best skaters are here, Baron B and Mon- 
sieur R , a very scientific skater. I am not suf- 
ficiently well initiated to appreciate what Josee calls 
' their work,' but, it appears, they do wonders." 

The rink had gradually filled. There were baby chil- 
dren, young men, girls, and stout ladies who were 
skating in order to get thinner. I amused myself by 
comparing the correct and stiff movements of the 
Englishman with the graceful and capricious style of 
the Frenchman. The former appears jointless, the lat- 
ter disjointed. The former seems to split the ice, the 
latter to skim over and to caress it. I soon distinguished 
the eccentrics who are the characteristic figures of the 
establishment. Every sport is required by Nature, but 
of what use is this one ? Whilst watching the evolutions, 
more or less geometrical, of these human beings, I won- 



264 ON THE BRANCH 

dered what sort of pleasure they experienced. Josee, 
skating gracefully back to us, answered this question 
without knowing it 

" It is delicious ! " she exclaimed, touching the rail- 
ing. " The skates are like wings on one's feet ! " 

We had tea early, in order to leave before the arrival 
of the " light cavalry." Whilst Madame de Lusson paid 
the waiter, I accompanied her daughter to the cloak- 
room. At the door we met Madame de Mauriones, who 
was just coming out, with her veil raised. She looked 
straight at Mademoiselle de Lusson, then at me; her 
lips quivered as she bowed and passed by. All this had 
taken place in a second, but that jealous, violent gaze 
meant, " Is that young girl for Guy ? " For Guy 
Josee ? The suggestion struck me like an arrow and 
it came from Madame de Mauriones! Her look made 
a curious image rise in my brain, that of a long, dark 
road, which grew narrower farther on, and at the end 
of which an intense light appeared. What does it 
mean? In the mean time I am once more greatly dis- 
turbed in my mind. 

Paris. 

My novel has just appeared in book form. Josee has 
been to the Boulevards and to the principal streets, 
solely to see it in the shop-windows, and, quite de- 
lighted, her pretty grey eyes shining with affection and 
pleasure, she came to me, saying, " Madame de Myeres, 
it is at Achille's and everywhere, everywhere." Yes, 
for some time it will be everywhere. Its title and my 
name will glare in all the windows, in all the news- 
papers, people will talk about it, discuss it. Two or 
three times a day I shall receive yellow envelopes from 
the Courier de la Presse, letters from friends, from 
strangers. It will all be very exciting. Then the 



PARIS 265 

ebullition, after reaching the highest degree it is 
destined to attain, will gradually diminish. It will last 
a more or less long time, according to the success that 
the book attains. The question is on what does success 
depend ? On the value of the work ? No, not always ; 
but on whether it touches the fibres of the majority or 
of the minority. A success certainly indicates the state 
of mind of the masses. Precursors are doomed not to 
be present at their own triumph. Providence, who em- 
ploys them in preparing its ways, gives them, I am 
sure, intense inward satisfaction. Monticelli, the im- 
pressionist painter, one of the masters of the present 
school, left Paris cried down by the critics, misunder- 
stood, like Nature itself, and took refuge in a quiet 
corner of Marseilles, his native city. He painted small 
pictures in order to live from day to day, exhibited 
them sometimes in the streets at the foot of some tree, 
offered them for twelve shillings, and frequently did 
not sell them. One day, impelled by the consciousness 
of his own genius, he hurried after a customer who had 
bargained with him in the most imbecile way. 

" I say," he said, catching him by the arm, " remem- 
ber that it is not for you I have worked, but for France." 

Better still, the great artist had been working for 
Life. In our country real criticism no longer exists. 
In America it does not yet exist. Over there the pub- 
lishers send their new books for review to young girls, 
whose intellect is not ripe, and who pay for reading 
them by writing anything about anybody. I have very 
naively sought for lessons and counsel in the articles 
by literary men who have reviewed my books. With 
the exception of two, all of them have been satisfied 
with giving a more or less correct resume of my novels ; 
they have then " unpacked " their own ideas, and ended 
by stringing together a few adjectives, eulogistic or 



266 ON THE BRANCH 

otherwise, for my benefit. In a word, they have only 
supplied copy. The criticism of literary productions 
or of works of art ought not to be given indiscrim- 
inately to every one. A judgment, pronounced by an 
incompetent writer, may ruin or slay his man. In 
order to obtain the right of censure, the critic, as well 
as the magistrate, ought to undergo examinations ad 
hoc, he ought to prove that he possesses the necessary 
knowledge, and that he is endowed with the particular 
sense which the function requires. In this way we 
should, perhaps, have the " good critic." The good 
critic, in my opinion, is the man who would study the 
construction, the style, the composition of a work, and 
would respect the conception of the author. The man 
who knows that in the most imperfect of human pro- 
ductions there is something good, and who would apply 
himself to bring it to light the man, in fact, who 
would not serve up his criticism warm, and who would 
refrain from judging in a rapid, superficial way, works 
which have cost months and months of toil. That 
would be justice. Alas, the earth will not possess justice 
until it arrives at its golden age, and has itself been 
brought to the point. I look with fear and amazement 
at the pile of volumes that the publisher has sent me. 
Poor little yellow-covered books! They are to carry 
about, here and there and far away, the thoughts, 
images and sentiments which I have had in my mind. 
These books will reprint them in other minds. For 
what end? Ah, I know not. There are now in the 
world three little accumulators, the energy of which has 
been drawn from my soul. God grant that they may 
produce much life, much good! 

Paris. 

Guy writes to me by every post; his letters are like 
a cheerful ray of sunshine to me. I finger them with 



PARIS 267 

delight; they are full of affectionate words. Affection- 
ate words ! I little thought that there were any more 
for me in this world. If any one had told me this time 
last year that I should be called " Dear god-mother," 
" God-mother darling," and this by the son of my hus- 
band, how I should have bounded with indignation ! 
And invisible forces, Providence, were going on pre- 
paring this surprise for me. Guy affects a gaiety 
which does not deceive me. Ah! I know it so well, his 
present state of mind. He looks at the sea, the sky, the 
beautiful horizons of Africa, but he only sees Madame 
de Mauriones, her eyes encircled with paint, her sensual 
lips. The remembrance of her treachery gnaws at his 
heart, freezes him, and he, too, doubtless wonders, 
where? when? how? Then he makes desperate efforts 
of the imagination to see and hear, and he sees and 
hears his throat becomes dry, his anger smoulders 
within him. He returns to the hotel, persuaded that 
Nature is a fraud, that Life has nothing in it which 
makes it worth living and all this is very painful. 
Although I know all this, the idea of his marriage with 
Josee is very dear to me. What a splendid couple they 
would make! I should like to unite these forces, to 
give them to Life. But is he in a state to fall in love 
with any one at all? Perhaps. Grief sensibilises the 
individual in an extraordinary way, and at twenty-six 
one is in love with love. A woman is more likely to 
marry again at the end of a year of widowhood than 
after several years. Did not Chopin fall in love with 
George Sand at first sight, six months after his separa- 
tion from the girl he had loved so long? This psycho- 
logical, or physiological fact gives me some hope. 



268 ON THE BRANCH 

Paris. 

The Randolphs have left Torquay and have returned 
home. At Sir William's request, I had sent him the 
manuscript of my book on England. He wanted to 
read it before " going aWay." He has just sent me his 
criticism of it. This gave me very great pleasure. 
Among other things, he said, " You have been quite 
fair. This is so much the more extraordinary, as the 
sense of justice is very feeble in women. Naturalists 
have omitted to note this characteristic, out of polite^ 
ness, no doubt. I mention it, as I am not polite. 
Certain chapters of your work would not have been 
written if you had not come to Staffordshire, and, ac- 
cording to you, they were destined to be written. I 
was a predestined agent, then ; a sort of co-operator ? 
You see I am happy and proud about it. There is good 
in your ideas sometimes." Then he added at the end 
of his letter, " I have no voice, you know, now, and my 
silence troubles Freddy. He questions my face all the 
time with an anxious look that is intensely human, 
in order to find out if I am angry with him, and I am 
obliged to reassure him by caresses. A voiceless master, 
that must be sad for a dog, don't you think so ? " Poor 
Sir William ! He has now at Simley Hall his son, his 
daughter and his grandchildren. They are all there 
by his wish. Does he, then, feel that the hour of his 
departure is approaching? 

Paris. 

It is really as though Providence delights in astonish- 
ing Jean Noel, in multiplying surprises for him. Yes- 
terday I was dining at the Lussons'. After soup, 
Josee's father suddenly asked me 

" Were the Myeres who owned the Chateau of Cha- 
vigny, in the Department of Cher, relatives of yours? " 



PARIS 269 

This unexpected question caused me such a shock 
that the fork fell from my hand. 

" Very near relatives," I replied, forcing myself to 
smile ; " my husband and I were those Myeres. I lived 
at Chavigny fifteen years." 

My host uttered an exclamation. 

" Forgive me," said Monsieur de Lusson, in consterna- 
tion. " I did not know ; I ought to have found out." 

" There is no harm done, I assure you. Why did you 
ask me that ? " 

" Oh, for no particular reason." 

" Ah, but I want to know now. You have roused 
my curiosity." 

" Well, then, Chavigny is to be sold again. The 
people who bought it very common people, it appears 
have not succeeded in getting into society in the 
neighbourhood, so they now want to get rid of it and 
leave the locality. It has been offered to me this au- 
tumn and we have been over it. Josee is quite in love 
with it, and is worrying me to put her dowry into it." 

" Oh, Madame de Myeres," exclaimed the young girl, 
" I did not know." 

She was sitting next to me ; I put my hand on hers and 
pressed it affectionately. 

" Do not be afraid of paining me. It will soon be 
sixteen years since I left Chavigny. I am no longer 
the same person. It would be no more to me now 
than an empty nest, and I would not have it again at 
any price. Nothing would give me such delight as 
to see you the mistress of it. I would have chosen you 
among a thousand." 

Josee's face brightened with joy. 

" You hear, father? " she said. 

" I hear," answered Monsieur de Lusson, with an ag- 
gravating smile. 



270 ON THE BRANCH 

" You like Chavigny very much, then ? " I asked. 

" Like is not the word. I loved it at first sight like 
a person. The beech-avenue, the row of old elms, the 
wood that serves as a background, give it such a warm, 
homelike look. It has a beautiful flight of stone steps." 

The stone steps ! Those words made the memory of 
Colette's confession flame up in my mind, and I felt 
myself blush. 

" I have been dreaming of it ever since," added my 
little friend. 

" And talking of it," put in Madame de Lusson. 

" I have had a letter from my lawyer this morning," 
continued my host. " It appears that there are three 
farms quite near that could be bought, and it would be 
an excellent affair." 

" Buy it ! buy it ! " I said eagerly. " I shall be spe- 
cially grateful to you." 

" The pleasure of living at Chavigny would, perhaps, 
decide Mademoiselle Josee to marry, and we should have 
her quite near." 

The girl put two fingers on her lips and threw 8 kiss 
to her father. 

After dinner we talked again for a long time of this 
purchase; I hope it will be concluded, all the more so 
as Monsieur de Lusson has a son by a first wife, and he 
probably intends to leave him the " Commanderie de Rou- 
ziers." My anger had made me quite indifferent to 
the fate of Chavigny. I ought not to say indifferent, 
for I had rejoiced to know that it was in the hands of 
ignorant parvenus who would disfigure and mutilate 
it. It seemed to me that my husband would suffer by 
that. I had been abominable, I, too. This marriage 
with Josee would put Guy back in the home nest. 
Could such a thing really come to pass? It often 
happens, alas that the forces we obey seem to push 



PARIS 271 

our barques along towards certain places on the shore, 
and then, suddenly, without any visible or known rea- 
sons, they change their direction and take them to the 
opposite point. 

Paris. 

Poor Guy ! I know now the cause of his rupture 
with Madame de Mauriones. Chance no, not chance, 
but Providence always Providence has put me in pos- 
session of this secret which he could not confide to me. 
This afternoon I went alone to the Ritz to tea. There 
was only one seat free in the first room, between the 
fire-place and the door. I took it, as there was no 
other. At the next table to mine there were two old 
men, well known in society. " Love affairs," the elder 
one was saying, as he lighted a cigar, " what nonsense ! 
They don't exist, they never have existed. I have not 
been more unfortunate than other men " 

" You have been more fortunate." 

" No, but anyhow one might have fancied ah well 
my dear fellow. I have always paid, always, even 
when dresses did not cost two hundred pounds. Now- 
a-days, when women adorn themselves with jewellery 
like the Byzantine Empresses, the budget of most of the 
society women balances as badly as that of the demi- 
mondaines, and they all make up their deficit in the 
same way they have no choice." 

At that moment the Marquise de Mauriones crossed 

the hall. The Due D winked at his companion, 

and, lowering his voice, said 

" Prince K must know what that costs him 

that love-affair ! " 

" Do you really think that she goes the pace ? " 

This slang term, so abominably expressive, applied 
to the grande dame that I know, gave me a veritable 
shock. 



212 ON THE BRANCH 

" She gallops, even," replied my neighbour. " Her 
husband allows her an income of sixty thousand francs, 
her private fortune is not as much as that, and she 
spends at the rate of three hundred thousand a year. 
She has on her shoulders at this minute a stole of black 
fox absolutely unique, it appears, which all the women 
envy her. It represents the marriage dowry of a middle- 
class woman and must be a present from the Prince, no 
doubt." 

" If Hauterive heard you say that she's his fancy." 

" Ah, well, I did not know that. In our world the 
ground is so hollow that one does not know where to 
tread to avoid quagmires. Good heavens, he might have 
heard me say that, or any one else. It's current gossip." 

" Well, I shouldn't be surprised if the said gossip 
were the cause of the brain fever which nearly took 
him off." 

The Due shrugged his shoulders. 

" Life will teach him as it has taught us. It gives 
deuced hard lessons sometimes." 

Upon this the two men rose and moved away. 

Ah yes, poor Guy! What a tempest such a revela- 
tion must have produced in him! And so this was 
why, in his delirious voice, he kept asking so pitifully 
for millions; this is why, in his fever, he saw black 
foxes everywhere. The tell-tale stole had stamped them 
on his brain. The Marquise was his first love. He 
had loved both the woman and the great lady; he had 
believed in her more than in God. Did he not say to 
me, " If the goddess I adore is false, there is no true 
one." And the goddess had sold her favours. As 
for Madame de Mauriones, I cannot help pitying her. 
After her divorce, out of vanity and for bravado, she 
wanted to continue living in the same style as when 
she was Duchesse de Longwy. Quite alone, she had 



PARIS 273 

been compelled to hold her own in the world with her 
creditors. The struggle had exhausted her strength, 
so that she had fallen in among those wheels of which 
she had spoken, and her honour, her peace and her 
happiness had passed under them. She must suffer 
through herself intensely. And on seeing her, in her 
well-appointed victoria, some poverty-stricken woman 
says, perhaps, with a heart full of bitterness 

" There goes one who has a good time in this 
world." 

Paris. 

After sad things come the consoling ones. It is the 
eternal play of light and shade. Madame de Lusson 
had left the carriage at her daughter's disposal, and 
the latter came one day to take me to the Bois. The 
close companionship of the carriage, with a person one 
likes or who is congenial, gives an entirely unique sen- 
sation. The narrow space is filled with human elec- 
tricity, glances meet like feelers, the voice takes a 
gentle distinctness, and words fall more deeply within 
you. Nowhere better than between these padded walls, 
which act as an insulator, does one have the impression 
of an absolute tete-a-tete; and a tete-a-tete out in the 
street, in the midst of and yet outside the crowd, always 
seems to me delicious. As we went up towards the 
Arc de Triomphe, a certain liveliness seemed to take 
possession of me, as though my companion had trans- 
mitted to me a little of her splendid vitality. 

" I love to imprison you like this, Madame de 
Myeres," she said prettily. " At least we can talk." 

And we did talk. I am teaching her to look at in- 
trinsic Life. I let her place herself at the same point 
with me, at that point from which one sees something 
of its grandeur and its beauty. Her grey eyes, which 
seem to listen, light up with comprehension, and it is 



274 ON THE BRANCH 

with joy that I hear her say, " I had never thought of 
that. Oh, I see, I see." 

To-day the Bois looked to me divine. There was sap 
in all the buds, under the trees a silence of expectation, 
broken by a few timid notes of love. A gentle, living 
air caressed the branches, the thickets, the very grass, 
as though to hasten the resurrection. It must be good 
to be a tree in the spring, I thought enviously. Nature, 
too, 'has its psychological moments, and that was one 
of them. I congratulated myself on having surprised 
it. The remembrance of my winter drive with Guy 
in the same avenues brought me back to Mademoiselle 
de Lusson. 

" Well, you do not talk any more of Chavigny," I 
said to her. " Has the affair fallen through? " 

" Oh no, it's going on in the right way," she an- 
swered, " and I am wildly delighted about it." Then, 
with a penitent air, she added, " I ought not to let you 
see that I am, perhaps." 

" On the contrary, my dear girl. If, after all, some 
one else were to have it, it would be a real grief to me. 
The next thing is now to find a master for it to my 
taste. I am terribly difficult to please." 

" And what about me ! " said the young girl, laugh- 
ing. "..I very much fear that I shall never be able to 
marry, and my parents are quite bent on it," she added 
seriously. 

u Is the idea of marriage repugnant to you ? " 

" No, I ask for nothing better than to have a com- 
panion for my journey through life, but I want an 
agreeable companion." 

" I understand that." 

" Well, all who have been introduced so far have 
been uncongenial to me, at first sight." 



PARIS 275 

" Because not one of them was the right man. You 
have not met your fate." 

" Well, then, why does Providence let so many old 
ladies busy themselves uselessly ? " 

" To stir them up a little, I fancy. The woof of life 
is very thick, but all its threads serve for something, 
you may be sure of that. When Providence sends you 
the man who is to be your husband, you will love him, 
even if he should net have any of the qualities you 
would like him to have." 

" I am afraid I should. Perhaps, though, I am des- 
tined to be an old maid." 

" You don't look as though you are." 

" So much the better," said the girl, with that delight- 
ful frankness which makes her so rare a creature. " And 
yet that would seem less hard to me than to become the 
wife of certain men of my acquaintance." 

" You don't ask for a perfect being, I hope ? " 

" Heaven forbid ! Perfectible beings are much more 
interesting." 

" That is true." 

" In the first place, I should want my husband to be 
a gentleman, in the full acceptation of the word, a 
man of the world, but not a society man ; I should like 
him to be very straightforward and to be able to ride 
well over all obstacles." 

" All that is quite reasonable," I said, suppressing a 
smile. 

" Yes, isn't it ? I should like him, too, to be gay, to 
have a taste for a wide, active life, and I should want 
him to feel the necessity of being useful to his country 
and to his fellow-beings. Is that asking too much? " 

" No go on." 

" I should like him to be endowed with plenty of 



276 ON THE BRANCH 

intuition, and to comprehend Nature and art, and be 
interested in everything, everything." 

I was rejoicing inwardly, for it seemed to me that 
Guy was the very man of this dream. 

" All those are the elements for great happiness, for 
good, wholesome happiness," I said, delighted. " And 
all that is to be found." 

" Not among the young men of our world. They are 
badly brought up, absurd. They even spoil the pleasure 
of dancing for me. When I come back from a ball 
I always say, ' It wasn't worth the trouble.' ' 

I began to laugh. 

" Not very long ago a young man of my acquaintance 
spoke to me of girls in the same terms. He said they 
did not inspire him with any confidence." 

" I don't blame him, they are rather alarming ; but 
it is not their fault. Thanks to the education they 
receive they feel Life, and then they are not allowed to 
take any part in it. Many of them have generous 
ideas, a wish to do good ; they beg with all their might 
and main to be permitted to organise societies for 
relieving the poor, but they are always answered, 
* When you are married ! ' They are obliged to have 
recourse to dress and frivolities. Idleness either cor- 
rupts or weakens them. And all that, you know, 
Madame de Myeres, is because parents dare not alter the 
approved routine. I can say this without any disloy- 
alty to my parents, for they have gone as far in their 
concessions as the manners and customs of our country 
allow. During my stay at Simley Hall, two years ago, 
I envied the English girls their active life, their com- 
radeship with real young men. All the girls there have 
their schools or clubs, an interest in life of some kind. 
They do something, in fact." 



PARIS 277 

" Why should you not take the initiative in imitating 
them?" 

Josee looked at me, hesitated, and then, with a pretty 
smile, she said 

" Well, I am going to tell you a secret. There are 
six of us now who are doing something." 

" Oh, what good news ! " I exclaimed, delighted. 
"And what are you doing?" 

" Well, this is how it is. My greatest friend, Jocelyne 
Montford, lost her father, and as soon as she came into 
her share of the family fortune she allowed herself the 
luxury of having a family ; she made a home for twelve 
little girls, twelve poor little deserted creatures. She 
brings them up at her own expense in a little house 
with a garden, that she has rented at Neuilly. A Scotch 
lady offered to help her, and she is the matron there. 
With only one servant, Mrs. Ardoch manages every- 
thing. You cannot imagine anything as nice as that 
home. From attic to cellar, in the very atmosphere 
even, the taste and refinement of two ladies can be 
felt." 

" Who teaches these children ? " 

" They go to the ordinary day-school. At eight 
o'clock, when they start, they have had breakfast and 
put the house to rights, under the superintendence of 
the servant. My friend neglects nothing in order to 
make them feel that they have a home. Mrs. Ardoch 
is Mother Mary, and Mademoiselle Montfort Mother 
Jocelyne. Four other girls and I go to Neuilly regu- 
larly on Thursdays and Sundays. We give them gym- 
nastic and singing lessons. We examine their linen 
and their clothes to see what they need. We go to 
the Bon Marche and buy remnants, and we look out 
for bargains, like economical housewives. Nothing is 



278 ON THE BRANCH 

more amusing. Ah, they do wear out their things 
though, these little brats ; but they are all so well," said 
Josee, with maternal satisfaction. " It is curious, but 
when we are working for them we have noticed that 
we get a special, delicious kind of warmth in the tips 
of our fingers. It is the effect of imagination, per- 
haps." 

" Oh no," I said, " for I feel it myself when I am 
crocheting my poor mufflers. It is a kind of electricity, 
the fluid of fraternity, perhaps. When savants study 
the exteriorisation of man they will discover the phe- 
nomenon. But how did your families look upon this 
initiative? " 

" With very unwilling eyes. Mademoiselle Montf ort 
had to do battle, but we finished by winning the day. 
They are all obliged to own that we are doing some 
good. Our mothers are more inclined to 1 be proud of 
us now. The comic part is that they go about priding 
themselves on their liberal spirit and praise themselves 
for our emancipation. Mademoiselle Montfort was 
really a pioneer. Her example will be followed. I 
have four boys at Rouziers, you know," added Josee, 
blushing. 

" And you never told me that, you sly child." 

" It wasn't worth while." 

" Who takes care of them ? " 

" My old English governess. She has deserted me 
for them, and she brings them up wonderfully well. 
When I am married," added the young girl, with a 
mocking intonation, " I shall have twelve of them. 
Jocelyne and I will then let our children marry each 
other. Another of our friends is trying educating boys 
and girls together. Oh, we have some magnificent 
plans!" 



PARIS 279 

" I hope you will persevere when you are married," 
I said, gaily. 

" Perhaps we shall not find any men courageous 
enough to marry philanthropic girls. Anyhow, we 
have promised each other only to marry men capable 
of interesting themselves in our work. We are resolved 
not to let ourselves be absorbed by them. A whole 
woman for a husband is too much." 

This delicious enormity brought a smile through the 
refreshing tears which had filled my eyes. Have I seen, 
then, to-day, at the same time as the spring, the begin- 
ning of the evolution which is to give us true mothers? 
May God grant it. France stands in need, not of chil- 
dren, but of mothers. 

Paris. 

The return of Guy and Uncle Georges gave me many 
joys that I never thought to experience again in this 
world. For sixteen years I have had no one to expect, 
and I had forgotten the sweetness and the emotion of 
these home-comings. The morning of their arrival I 
went to the Rue d'Aguesseau to see that everything was 
right and to take some flowers there. I was surprised 
to find the little garden full of life, after leaving it two 
months before, still and silent. The sycamores had 
leaves and birds, the lilacs were in flower, the rose-trees 
in bud, and around the four ivy-covered walls there were 
violets and primroses. When I went out on to the stone 
steps a gust of perfumed air fanned my face, and, with 
a long breath, I absorbed a little of the spring. It is 
curious how thoroughly I enjoy this season of the year. 
It is as though it were the first or the last I am ever to 
see. I realise that a multitude of various saps is destined 
to aliment the life of man, and the life of man to aliment 



280 ON THE BRANCH 

universal Life. I have the consciousness of being really 
in the midst of eternity. 

Louis took me all through the flat, and I complimented 
him on the perfect order to which it testified. A pile of 
house linen which I had ordered had arrived the evening 
before. I looked through it, article by article, with 
childish satisfaction. That odour of linen, which re- 
called my own housekeeping, was most fragrant. I put 
the flowers I had brought here and there. That little 
ground-floor flat (so gay at this season, so comfortable 
in winter), which gets the light of the setting sun, makes 
me envious. I should like to end my days there tran- 
quilly. Louis took me into his confidence about the sur- 
prise he had in store for his master. During Guy's ab- 
sence he has been to Panhard's, learning to drive an au- 
tomobile. He told me that he did not want to have to 
hang about in Paris, while his master was on the high 
roads. An innate taste for machinery had made his ap- 
prenticeship an easy one, and he had obtained his cer- 
tificate. I completed his delight by asking him to call 
at the hotel for me on the way to the station. In his 
impatience he arrived half-an-hour too soon. Whilst 
walking up and down on the platform, I felt very happy 
and extremely proud of having some one to expect. 
Pride is to be found everywhere. When the train en- 
tered the station I looked out eagerly for my travellers. 
Presently I felt an arm round my neck, and heard the 
well-remembered voice exclaim 

" Thank you, god-mother. It was just you that I 
wanted to see." 

Alas, no, it was not, poor boy ! Uncle Georges gave 
me one of those hearty handshakes in which he manages 
to put an infinite number of pleasant things. My god- 
son was glad to find his automobile there, and still more 
glad to see it driven by Louis. 



PARIS 281 

"You were jealous of my chauffeur, were you? " he 
said, smiling. 

" Perhaps I was, Monsieur Guy," answered the good 
fellow, colouring at being found out. 

" You animal ! " 

The tone in which this epithet was uttered converted 
it into a friendly expression. 

I dined at the Rue d'Aguesseau, unnecessary to say, 
and we talked until very late. This unburdening of 
mind and heart, which absence prepares, is good. Guy 
has come back to me in perfect health, but he has 
changed in the most extraordinary way. The fine bloom 
of youth which he had retained has disappeared. His 
face has aged ten years; he is thinner, and that makes 
him look taller. His features have received a sort of 
final chiselling which has refined them and made them 
more decided. His mouth has become obstinate and 
hard. He rarely finishes his smile. His voice has ac- 
quired some fine, deep notes. There is more relief, more 
character about his whole person. And Nature has ac- 
complished all this work by means of that invisible agent 
called Sorrow. The changes that he has undergone 
have accentuated still more his resemblance to my hus- 
band. Every instant it gives me an inward shock. 

I am doing my best to soften the bitterness of his dis- 
appointment. I endeavour to make him understand, as 
Madame de Mauriones asked me to do, the inevitable 
force of certain currents of Life. The conversation I 
had overheard allowed me to treat his soul with a thor- 
ough knowledge of the case. I insisted on his returning 
to Grignon ; I make him work. He clings to me like a 
child. He comes to dinner nearly every evening at the 
Hotel Castiglione. On Sunday he takes me for a long 
carriage or automobile drive, then we go to his rooms 
for tea. Yesterday, almost as soon as I was there, he 



ON THE BRANCH 

showed me two small portraits framed together: that of 
Monsieur de Myeres and mine. 

I felt myself colouring violently. 

" Where did you get that photograph? " I stammered. 

" I had it from Uncle Georges, but not without dif- 
ficulty, and on condition that I would have it repro- 
duced." 

It was a portrait of me at thirty-eight, with very thick 
brown hair coiled on the top of my head, as it is worn 
to-day, my eyes full of happiness, a triumphant smile, 
a face without wrinkles, the pure oval still there. This 
photograph, which I remembered well, only reproduces 
my bust; the low, draped bodice, made by Worth, has 
the beautiful classic lines of which he possesses the art, 
and which are safe from the caprices of fashion. 
Thanks to that, I do not look like an antiquated being. 
Would any one believe it? In spite of the tumult of 
awakened memories, I noticed this and rejoiced. 

" What fancy took you ? " I said to Guy, overcoming 
my emotion. 

" God-father looked so lonely. I put you together 
there as you are in my affection ; wasn't that right ? " 
asked the young man, looking at me fixedly. 

" Quite right," I answered firmly. 

He took the photographs which I was holding out to 
him and kissed my hand. He has united us again he, 
of all people! Oh, the great, sweet, cruel irony of it! 

Paris. 

The Chateau of Chavigny became the property of my 
little friend Josee yesterday. Jean Noel would be 
tempted to put an immense note of admiration there ! 
When, this evening after dinner, I told Guy the news, 
he sprang up from his arm-chair and changed colour. 

" Chavigny was to be sold and you never told me, 



PARIS 283 

god-mother ! " he exclaimed, with an accent of pain and 
reproach. 

I then told him the strange way in which the fact 
had come to my knowledge. He paced up and down 
the room in increasing agitation. 

" Chavigny to be sold ! If only I had known ! Why, 
I should have bought it ! " 

" What for? " I asked, obeying an unaccountable 
perverseness. 

The young man stopped in front of me and looked 
at me with an expression which disturbed my equanimity. 

" How can you ask what for, god-mother? " he said. 
" So that it should not fall into the hands of strangers." 

" Do you remember it ? " 

" Do I remember it ! Why, I was nine years old when 
I was taken there for the last time, and god-father let 
me have my first shot in the wood which skirts the river." 

Instantaneously, these words created in my mind the 
image of my husband with this handsome lad, who was 
really his son. My throat was parched with emotion. 

" Ah, you never told me ! " 

" No, it was to be a great secret between us two," 
replied the young man, with a smile. " Four years ago, 
when on a visit in the Department of the Cher, I wanted 
to see the chateau again. I went roaming round it like 
a thief. It looked desolate, badly kept. It was easy to 
guess that those who lived in it were only intruders, and 
I said to myself that I would buy it back if it ever came 
into the market." 

" But I cannot imagine you there, all alone perhaps 
you were thinking of marrying? " 

Guy, who was smoking furiously, took his cigarette 
from his lips and began to laugh. 

" I, thinking of marrying! Heaven forbid! I would 
give up my share of Paradise if I had to acquire it by 



284 ON THE BRANCH 

running such a risk. You would have come to live at 
Chavigny with me. That would have torn you away 
from your hotel life. In the neighbourhood there are 
acres and acres of land to be worked. I should have 
succeeded in making a splendid estate of it. What a 
fine dream it was, wasn't it ? " 

" A childish dream, my boy. Nothing would have 
induced me to receive hospitality in a house in which, 
for so long a time, I had dispensed it. Then, too, what 
is the use of discussing it? Providence has disposed 
of it in another way." 

" Providence ! Well, then, I don't thank Providence. 
It might have remembered my existence and my rights." 

" Your rights ? " I repeated, startled. 

Guy coloured. 

" Well, yes, that's a way of speaking. Since your 
sister-in-law died without children, there is no one else 
belonging to the family. So that Chavigny ought to 
have come to me in my quality of god-son and second 
cousin by marriage. I am sure that god-father would 
have wished it. He was very fond of me; very fond 
of me, you know." 

" I know I know," I answered brusquely. 

" I say, god-mother," the young man began again, 
after a moment's silence, " is there no way of getting 
Monsieur de Lusson to let me take over his purchase? 
Suppose you were to ask him ? " 

" Impossible. All the more so as it is a very good 
piece of business. Even if he were inclined to consent, 
his daughter would object. She is in love with Cha- 
vigny, and would not let her parents rest in peace until 
they had put her dowry into it. For my part, I am 
glad that it has fallen into hands like hers. She will 
appreciate it, and will know how to give it back its 
former beauty." 



PARIS 285 

" She may marry some idiot who will not trouble him- 
self about it." 

" I am quite easy about that ; she will never marry an 
idiot." 

" She likes the country ? " 

"Very much." 

" A phenomenon then ? " said Guy, in an ironical tone. 

" No, but Mademoiselle de Lusson has Irish and Eng- 
lish blood in her veins. Hence her need of physical 
activity and fresh air. Is it not wonderful that Sir 
William Randolph, a foreigner, should have introduced 
to me the future mistress of Chavigny ? " 

" It would be less wonderful, but more just, if I had 
become the master of it," said the young man, with an 
irritation which I felt was caused by disappointment. " A 
girl who makes her people buy her a chateau! Did any 
one ever hear of such a thing ? " he added between his 
teeth. 

Race ! That profound and sacred thing, that soul of 
the soul, I saw it in him. It was that which was suf- 
fering just now in my husband's son, it was that which 
protested, which claimed the ancestral home ! The grief 
which Guy had just felt may be able to put him on 
the road to happiness. In spite of himself, he will 
think of the mistress of Chavigny, with irritation, per- 
haps, but he will think of her. It is impossible that she 
should not inspire him with some curiosity. Before his 
departure, he left a card at the Lussons' in order to thank 
them for having asked after him when he was ill. I am 
too intimate with them now to be able to delay introduc- 
ing him to them. When I happen to mention " my god- 
son," and I do it often unintentionally, I feel that Josee 
is listening, and I have an intuition that my words hit 
their mark. Is it an illusion? Very much depends on 
the first meeting. If the gods intend me to arrange this 



286 ON THE BRANCH 

marriage, they will suggest to me the propitious hour 
and minute. 

Paris. 

Another tomb on my road! There were already so 
many ! Sir William Randolph is no more. I feel from 
here the grief of his family, even of Freddy; the void 
caused by his absence in that home which he filled so com- 
pletely. I feel, above all, that I have lost some one. 
How could two brief meetings have united us so closely? 
Did we not already know each other when he came to me 
on the verandah of the Hotel Riche last year, with a 
friendly glance, a jesting word on his lips? Do we 
know, ah, do we know? The day before he died, he 
went for a walk in the park, and passed the evening in 
the observatory in the company of his son. His night 
was painful and sleepless. He did not get up at the 
usual hour, but he felt tired! Ah, God, how tired he 
must have been! As soon as breakfast was over, Lady 
Randolph went up-stairs again to him. His body was 
there, his eyes closed, he was motionless, still warm, but 
the soul had gone, gone without a sound, without a fare- 
well, like a being who had escaped. This morning the 
English post brought me a letter from the dead man, 
his living thought, and that thought I transcribe here 

" Just a word to say good-bye, whilst the wick is still 
smoking. Oh, it is really smoking ! When this reaches 
you, Freddy's master will no longer be in this world. 
The world will not notice this, but at two imperceptible 
points of the globe, at Simley and in a certain Parisian 
hotel, he will be regretted a little, he will be thought of 
with affection. This idea is not disagreeable. My 
sufferings have become such that I am in a hurry to leave 
this broken body, which no longer breathes and can no 



PARIS 287 

longer speak. It has the effect on me of a loathsome 
rag, and at times I am tempted to kick it away. Death 
is much more terrible from afar than near. No doubt 
Nature always prepares us for it. I wanted to assure 
you of this in exchange for what you have brought me. 
Your rational faith, enlightened by the little science we 
possess, has strengthened my blind and frequently waver- 
ing faith. I do not mind confessing it. And this help 
was to come to me from a Frenchwoman, from a bridge- 
player. It is enough to excite the humouristic spirit 
of a Britisher, even, when dying this is my last jest. 
Accept it graciously, as you did all the others. I 
should like you to come every year to rest for a time at 
Simley. I give you a formal invitation. All my fam- 
ily, great and small, will be happy to have you. Claude 
will take my place at the observatory. When you are 
there, do ask Freddy where his master is ; I wager that he 
will lift his head towards that sky which he has seen me 
exploring so long. The soul of a dog is not as obscure 
as it is believed to be. 

" The fable of Pandora, which shows us Hope at the 
bottom of the famous box the human brain, no doubt, 
was certainly a divine inspiration. The hope of im- 
mortality, and of meeting every one again, has taken the 
place of the hope of cure, it increases the nearer I ap- 
proach the bar, and, thanks to this, I shall cross it with- 
out fear, if not without regret. 

" I send an affectionate message to the Lussons, 
and good wishes to our friend Josee. What you have 
just written concerning the purchase of your old home 
amazed me. Evidently a little role was destined for me 
in your life here below. I hope to have a larger one 
elsewhere. 

" Now I am waiting for my call ; it cannot be long 
delayed. Whether it should come with the morning star 



288 ON THE BRANCH 

or with the evening star, at midday or at midnight, I 
am ready ! God bless you ! " 

How many things I felt and divined between these 
brave lines. 

The Lussons felt deep regret at the death of Sir 
William. We shall often talk of him. I gave them 
his letter to them, and Josee read it with eyes full of 
tears. 

" After all, father," she said, folding it again rever- 
ently, " it is a great thing to have faith." 

Monsieur de Lusson coloured slightly, and turned 
away his head. 

Paris. 

Well, Guy's introduction to Mademoiselle de Lusson 
is an accomplished fact, and I had nothing to do with it. 
Jean Noel could never have imagined such a pretty scene 
for a first meeting. He must now content himself with 
reproducing it. Yesterday, after luncheon, I was called 
to the telephone by Josee. She asked me whether I 
should like to go to a lecture at the People's University 
in the Faubourg St. Antoine. Upon my reply in the 
affirmative, she said that her father and she would call 
for me that evening at eight o'clock. They came, and on 
the way Monsieur de Lusson told me that he went there 
twice a week to give lessons in chess. That is his part 
of the co-operation. We got out of the carriage in front 
of a very gloomy house, and, after going along an alley 
and across a courtyard, we penetrated into a sort of hall, 
at the entrance of which was a plaster statue, the repro- 
duction of an antique. A few gentlemen were talking 
with some workmen. Monsieur de Lusson went into the 
room reserved for the noble game. Josee showed me the 
library. The long table was occupied by readers, men 



PARIS 289 

and women, who were so much absorbed that they did not 
look at us. Among them I noticed a young girl, simply 
dressed, but evidently a lady. She was accompanied by 
an elderly maid. On our entrance she rose and came to- 
wards us, smiling. I guessed that it was Jocelyne Mont- 
fort. As soon as we were outside, Mademoiselle de Lus- 
son introduced her to me. 

She is a brunette, and her pretty face, with its dull, 
white complexion, its intelligent eyes and kind mouth, 
charmed me. I held out my hand to her and clasped hers 
affectionately. We entered the meeting-hall together. 
It was nearly full. The public was composed of work- 
ing men and women, of women without hats who looked 
as though they had come in as neighbours, and of poor 
artists. We slipped into the last row. All around on 
the walls I saw, with pleasure, pictures, beautiful pho- 
tographs, maps ; the lecturer, a congenial young student, 
took his place on the platform. To his right, at the foot 
of the steps, I suddenly saw, to my great surprise, Guy 
in person, Guy manipulating the lantern slides ! His 
presence there certainly was the most unexpected of 
things. He had never spoken to me of the People's 
University or of any work of the kind. More than once 
I had pointed out to him the necessity of helping the 
weak, of entering into the struggle for the amelioration 
and progress of humanity. He had always contented 
himself with answering, " You are right." Had my 
words carried ? Was he trying to forget his disappoint- 
ment by occupying himself with others? In this case 
Madame de Mauriones' treachery will have produced 
some good. I turned towards Josee. 

" Monsieur d'Hauterive is over there, by the screen ! " 
I said to her. 

The darkness of the room prevented my seeing the 
expression of her face, but I felt magnetically the shock 



290 ON THE BRANCH 

that my words caused her. I am persuaded that my 
god-son quite eclipsed the lecturer for her. As for me, 
I was soon captivated by the subject he treated, " Egypt- 
ian art and the Egyptian people." I wondered at 
first how that could interest people who only had the most 
elementary education. Well, yes, Egyptian art and the 
Egyptian people did interest these humble ones. They 
listened as I had never seen people listen ; they were all 
eyes and ears ! Preceding lectures must have made them 
able to comprehend, for they seemed to follow the young 
savant perfectly. As I saw, appearing on the white 
sheet, projections of gigantic temples, pieces of frescoes, 
of gods, of ancient symbols, I realised that these were 
fragments of the great accumulators left by the Egypt- 
ians. By means of photography, which has become one 
of Nature's vehicles and agents, these images, forms 
and lines have arrived across the centuries, from the 
banks of the Nile to the banks of the Seine, to stamp 
themselves again on the brains of these Parisian workmen, 
in order to scatter there the germs of other works of art, 
no doubt. How divine it is, this work! That history 
lesson, so clear and so well composed, caused me real 
pleasure. I was delighted to see the lecturer awaken in- 
terest in these predecessors and gratitude to them, by 
showing us the close bonds which unite us, by enumera- 
ting the inherited forces and light which come to us from 
them. Retrospective fraternity is a step towards fu- 
ture fraternity. 

When the lecture was over we went to wait for Mon- 
sieur de Lusson in the hall. I looked anxiously towards 
the door, wishing, yet fearing, to see Guy appear, won- 
dering whether the time for the introduction had come? 
As I was asking myself that question he arrived in com- 
pany with the lecturer and stopped to exchange a few 
words with a group of workmen. Just at the moment 



PARIS 291 

when the father of my little friend joined us, he turned 
round, caught sight of me, and came at once to me. 

" God-mother! " he exclaimed. 

He stopped short, embarrassed by his own indiscre- 
tion. In his surprise he had not noticed that I was not 
alone. 

I could not hesitate any longer, and I introduced my 
god-son. Monsieur de Lusson held out his hand to him 
and put him at his ease with a few pleasant words. In 
this genial atmosphere, where there was co-operation of 
ideas, we chatted very agreeably for a few minutes. 
What I had foreseen happened. Guy looked at the mis- 
tress of Chavigny, and Josee looked at the god-son of 
Madame de Myeres. They were both curious, to my 
great satisfaction. The light fell full on the two faces, 
and, good or bad, the impression must have been very 
distinct. 

I returned home rather disconcerted, like a chauffeur 
who has seen the guiding-wheel which he held taken out 
of his hands. To-day I have felt upset and nervous. I 
was sure that Guy would want to talk about last evening. 
I was right. He " brought himself here," as people 
now say. The funniest part is that he thought it his 
duty to make an excuse for coming. 

" The attraction of your society, god-mother, and the 
cuisine of the Hotel de Castiglione make me intrusive," 
he said. " You will be asking me one of these days to 
take my meals elsewhere a little more often ! " 

" Perhaps so. To-day, besides the good dinner, jjou 
came in search of compliments, did you not? " 

Guy coloured. 

" Jean Noel, you are terrible," he said, good-hu- 
mouredly. 

" I will not be niggardly with them. Your presence 
at the People's University gave me great pleasure. To 



292 ON THE BRANCH 

work for others is a manly way of getting away from 
one's own sorrow. I hope that you will, in your turn, 
give some lectures." 

" Next winter, yes." 

" I was delighted to have the opportunity of intro- 
ducing you to Monsieur de Lusson. What did you think 
of him?" 

" I found him very congenial." 

" You owe a visit to his wife now. I shall take you 
to the Rue de Lille one of these days." 

" Very well, when you like," my godson replied, with 
surprising docility. 

" By the bye, what were those girls doing there? " 
he continued, as though the question had not been all the 
time on his lips. 

" Why, they are members of the Association ; they 
are interested in its development, and look after the 
library ; they have attended the lectures all the winter." 

" Rather blue, are they? " 

" Why not ? Do you know that Mademoiselle Mont- 
fort has a family of twelve children, whom she brings up 
at her own expense? " 

" Indeed ! And the mistress of Chavigny, how many 
has she? " asked Guy, in a more mocking tone. 

" Four," I replied, tranquilly. 

" It's a new fashion then? A trick for getting eman- 
cipated, perhaps." 

" There, that's how you are, you men," I said, indig- 
nantly. " You complain of the frivolity of girls, and 
then, when one of them is trying to employ her affec- 
tion and her intellect creditably, you are at once dis- 
trustful. You want to continue having them kept on a 
skewer just ready for you. It is not purity you ask for, 
but merely ignorance of the one thing which you your- 
selves wish to reveal to them, and in the fear of depriving 



PARIS 293 

yourself of this doubtful pleasure, in order to satisfy 
this barbarous requirement of yours, girls are to be held 
in, they are not to be allowed to mix in social life. 
The fresh forces of which humanity has need are to be 
immobilised. Later on, if their husband ceases to please 
them, they will ask ^vers for the only happiness they 
have been taught to Know. You get exactly the wives 
you deserve." 

" God-mother, are you going in for feminism? " asked 
Guy, smiling. 

" Not the feminism that preaches hatred of the strong 
sex, but that which claims for women participation in the 
affairs of this world. No one has a greater admiration 
than I for man, as regards brain. When I see him 
driving in the piles of a bridge, boring through moun- 
tains, extorting Nature's secrets, one by one, I feel very 
small. The heaviness of his burden, even, inspires me 
with maternal pity. But I also see that he cannot suffice 
for everything. If woman is necessary to complete his 
life, she is also necessary to complete his work. She 
is capable of helping him in fighting against tubercu- 
losis, alcoholism, of aiding him to create salubrious 
dwellings, where the little ones can grow up comfortably. 
Under the government of man alone there are too many 
people cold and hungry, there is too much vice also, too 
much moral uncleanliness. In our country, public char- 
ity is organised in such a way that out of five francs 
only two reach the poor two, do you understand ? 
The hospitals are a disgrace to France. It is time 
high time that woman should intervene in the things 
that are within her competence, for she is the mother, 
after all. She alone ought to be charged with helping 
the wounded on Life's battlefield. She alone ought 
to hold the purse for the poor. Am I unreasonable? " 

"No." 



294 ON THE BRANCH 

" Well, then, my dear boy," I continued, " all that 
requires an apprenticeship. This apprenticeship ought 
to be the complement of the young girl's education. We 
shall arrive at that in time. Nature has made use of the 
Saxon woman for opening the way, for clearing the 
ground; she now has need of the warmth of soul, the 
idealism, the femininity even of the Latin and Slavonic 
woman. She will not delay putting these fine forces 
into action. If I am not mistaken, the initial move- 
ment has been given. In Paris we are beginning to meet 
young girls in the dispensaries, in the creches." 

" And in the People's Universities," added Guy, mock- 
ingly. 

" And in the People's Universities, as you saw," I 
replied coldly. 

" It is somewhat disquieting." 

" Reserve your disquietude for other girls than Made- 
moiselle Montfort and Mademoiselle de Lusson. The 
former is over twenty -five years of age; she has never 
made bad use of the liberty she has conquered. The 
latter is as good as the day." 

" God-mother, I shall get seriously jealous of this 
young person. You are bewitched by her. She has 
already supplanted me at Chavigny; I won't have her 
supplanting me with you." 

This, said in a joking tone, ended our discussion. 
I refrained from asking him what he thought of Josee. 
If she had been uncongenial to him, he would not have 
failed to tell me. His silence reassures me on this point. 

Paris. 

The Lussons have given the signal for the break- 
up. They are the first to leave Paris. Our friendship 
has been so much closer these last months that their 
absence makes a great void for me. We are to meet 



PARIS 295 

again at Aix-les-Bains. After our stay there, for the 
waters, we are to travel together to Touraine. I shall 
first go to Vouvray to visit some friends, and then to Rou- 
ziers. That is the programme of our holidays. Guy is 
to spend some time at " Les Rocheilles," and then join me 
with his automobile. We have made some fine plans for 
excursions in Savoy and Switzerland. I am now quite 
accustomed to modern locomotion. At first, I was wildly 
afraid, afraid of the turns in the road, afraid of run- 
ning over children or animals. I did not allow this to be 
seen, so that my companion's pleasure should not be 
spoilt, and still more because of my vanity as an old 
woman. At present I understand the automobile, and I 
love it like something living. This blind force, of which 
the chauffeur becomes the soul, does not cease to amaze 
me. I know when I may talk to my steersman and when 
I ought to be quiet. This has frequently won 
compliments for me. We are now exploring the 
environs of Paris. There are a number of places that 
I wanted to see again: Chantilly, Enghien, Malmaison, 
Fontainebleau. The forest is very dear to me. Some 
ten years ago, during a rather long stay at the 
Hotel Ville of Lyon, I walked through it in all direc- 
tions. It consoled me in a mysterious manner. I al- 
ways felt better after I had been there. The remem- 
brance of my isolation, then, makes the pleasure more in- 
tense which I feel at being cared for and protected once 
more. Is it the father or the son who is taking me 
about with him? At times I do not know, and I am 
thoroughly happy. I am afraid, though, of suddenly 
waking up and finding myself alone, as before, in the 
middle of one of the crossroads. 

In spite of this I keep begging Guy to leave Paris. 
The stay here is not good for him, as too many things 
must remind him of what he ought to forget. His 



296 ON THE BRANCH 

expression is always strained and serious. It really 
only brightens up for me. When we are going through 
the Bois, I am always expecting, at the turn of one of 
the avenues, to come face to face with Madame de Mau- 
riones, and I cannot help wishing for this. Does he still 
love her, or is he only suffering from the insult that 
she offered him? That is what interests Jean Noel. 
He would not be sorry to see them again in presence of 
each other. How pitiless a novelist's inquisitiveness is! 

Paris. 

Jean Noel has had his wish, and, as usual, in an 
unexpected way. Guy came to fetch me this afternoon at 
half-past four for our last drive, as he leaves to-morrow. 

" It is rather warm still," I said ; " let us go and have 
tea at the Ritz." 

" All right, god-mother," he answered ; " I have not 
set foot inside there this year." 

Upon which he turned his automobile towards the 
Place Vendome. 

The garden of the Ritz Hotel has a look of the eight- 
eenth century which harmonises well with the light 
dresses of the women. This green nook situated between 
the Rue de la Paix and the Rue de Castiglione, is delight- 
ful. When I am alone I go there very early. It is 
quite silent then, and full of birds. Gradually the tea- 
drinkers arrive, form themselves into groups, and then 
curious human cackling begins, and gets louder and 
louder. I have learnt to listen to it. It is very ugly, 
and I am amazed to think that it can express so many 
things. There were a great many people there when 
we arrived. My usual table was free. We sat down, 
and I ordered tea. As the waiter moved away, I sud- 
denly saw Madame de Mauriones behind where he had 
been standing. She was seated almost facing us, under 



PARIS 297 

one of the large parasols in the garden, in company 
with three other young women, the Marchioness d'A , 
and Countess C . At the same moment I saw her eyes 
and those of Guy meet like two swords. A slight pallor 
passed over my god-son's face, his nostrils dilated, and 
his mouth became rigid. The Marquise gave a sudden 
start, and shrank back like a creature who had been 
struck. Her eyelids fell as though under an invisible 
pressure. One of those shocks to the soul had occurred, 
which reveal the real sentiments of individuals. I com- 
prehended that with Guy there was nothing left but the 
anger of the male who has been deceived, whilst with Ma- 
dame de Mauriones love was still there. 

Our tea was brought, and I poured a cup for my com- 
panion. As he stirred it his hand shook slightly, but 
his face was impassive. 

" A pretty sight ! " he said, looking round the room. 

" A twentieth century tea," I said. " There is noth- 
ing imposing about it, but it is brilliant, and there are 
plenty of beauties." 

" Of deceptions ! " he remarked. " Dyed hair and 
painted lips. Just look round, you who are a physiog- 
nomist, and tell me whether you discover one woman, one 
single woman," he repeated, maliciously, " who looks 
capable of any deep sentiment at all." 

" I do not see that the presence of a few grandes 
amoureuses is necessary to complete the picture of this 
afternoon tea. Providence does not lavish its treasures 
like that!" 

Guy began to laugh. 

" Oh, god-mother, what a way of looking at life ! " 

" It is the right way, my dear boy," I answered, seri- 
ously. " And it is a crime to try to pick a quarrel with 
Nature and with humanity in such perfect weather." 

" Well, then, let us say with Candide that ' all is for 



298 ON THE BRANCH 

the best in the best of worlds,' " said the young man 
ironically. 

I turned the conversation on to the subject of " Les 
Rocheilles," and then spoke of his brother, and his irrita- 
tion gradually calmed down. I could not help glancing 
at Madame de Mauriones. She was adorable in a del- 
icate-looking dress of pale mauve, and under a hat 
trimmed with large anemones of the same tone of colour. 
She was chattering gaily, but two pink spots were burn- 
ing her cheek-bones. Our eyes met several times. Mine 
were full of the maternal pity with which she inspires 
me. She understood, and thanked me with her slow 
smile. I was in a hurry to get away. 

" If you have finished tea, Guy, let us start, shall 
we? " I said. 

" There's no hurry, god-mother," he replied. " It's 
quite nice here, a regular Paradise ! " 

He lighted a cigarette, and I understood that he did 
not want to be the first to move away. The light fell 
full on him, and his face, bronzed by the open air, was 
very manly-looking. The contrast of the dark hair, the 
dark blue eyes and the tawny moustache, that contrast I 
had loved so much in the old days, made him cruelly fas- 
cinating. I dare say he is just as conscious of his power 
as any woman. I was horribly uncomfortable. It seemed 
to me as though I were lending myself as an accomplice 
for this masculine revenge. Madame de Mauriones' tea- 
party came to an end. She passed by us as she went out 
with the Marchioness d'A , and the pride of her bearing 
was like a challenge. Guy watched her with an expres- 
sion in which there was a kind of astonishment. When 
she had disappeared he rose and threw away his cigarette. 

" I am ready for your orders now, god-mother." 

" A man who has been wounded is certainly very 
cruel," I said to myself. 



VIII 

AIX-LES-BAINS. 

Palace Hotel, Aix-les-Bams. 

IT is always with regret that I leave my comfortable 
" brancK " in Paris. The Hotel de Castiglione is not 
commonplace, and it has nothing of the coldness which 
usually characterises the ordinary " travellers' house." 
This is due to its Franco-Italian atmosphere. The 
owner of it is Italian and his wife French. Uncon- 
sciously he brings into his business the qualities of his 
race. He is 'not only the hotel-keeper, he is the host. 
Independently of all questions of interest, he likes every 
one to be comfortable under his roof, to enjoy the table 
and like the rooms. As soon as one enters this hotel one 
feels the desire that every one connected with it has to be 
agreeable, from the hall-porter and smart pages to those 
employed in the office, and to the manager himself. In 
the dining-room .the waiters, who are mostly Italians, 
have that innate courtesy and gentleness which distin- 
guishes the people of their country. The valets and 
the chamber-maids, who are all French, like their work 
and the people they wait upon. Louis and Eugenie, a 
married couple who look after me, are not mere machines 
for cleaning and sweeping. They are kindly and sen- 
sible, they appreciate a pleasant word as much as a grat- 
uity. This exteriorisation of the Latin soul impreg- 
nates the atmosphere with a something that one never 
meets with in English, German or Swiss hotels. The 

299 



300 ON THE BRANCH 

intangible something is always recognised by foreigners 
who have lived in Italy. It is, no doubt, a little warmth 
which one likes, and which one cannot help missing aft- 
erwards. I never regretted leaving the Hotel de Castigli- 
one so much before. At the last moment I went back to 
the lift, ostensibly to go up to my room and see whether 
I had forgotten anything, but in reality to say another 
farewell to it. The very walls seemed to want to keep 
me there. Can it be that I shall never go back there, 
even to die. The door of the station omnibus, which 
took me away, banged in a peculiar way which made a 
curious impression on me. 

The hall-porter accompanied me to the station. Last 
year, when he was seeing me off for England, I said to 
him, smiling 

" Some day, Henri, you will not put me into a train, 
but into a hearse." 

" May that day be a long way off, madame," he said, 
" for I shall not be as gay then as I am now." 

No society man could have made a better little speech. 

The heat had compelled me to take the night train, but 
at break of day I was looking at those wild, harmonious 
sites of Savoy which are so fascinating to me. All man- 
kind was sleeping, and one could have fancied that the 
human race did not yet exist. This impression is unique, 
and the landscape appears so much grander without man. 
The Bourget Lake made me utter an exclamation of de- 
light. Motionless, as though enchanted, and of an ex- 
traordinary blue which makes it look like a sheet of elec- 
tricity, I shuddered as I gazed at it, as I might have done 
on the brink of a precipice. I do not know any lak>- 
more variable and more strange. It has almost a face } 
a passionate and perfidious face. Beneath its calm one 
feels that there is violence, and under the violence ont 
feels its calm, and is never weary of it. It affected me 



AIX-LES-BAINS 301 

deeply to see Aix-les-Bains again. During the last five 
years of my husband's life we had always spent half of 
July and the whole of August there. I had never been 
able to persuade myself to return to it. Why should it 
make me suffer more than any other place? I cannot 
explain that to myself. 

According to the advice of the Lussons, I went to 
the Palace Hotel, one of the best in the town. The 
room that had been reserved made a very good impression 
on me. It has everything necessary for one's comfort. 
One of the windows looks on to the valley and has a beau- 
tiful distant view of mountain-tops; the other looks on 
to the Villa des Fleurs. My first walk was a pilgrimage. 
I wanted to see the villa in which my husband and I had 
lived, a villa situated on the heights a few steps away 
from the Splendide. A friend used to let it to us each 
season. Bitter-sweet memories were stirred as I climbed 
the hill, and when I arrived at the house I had neither 
breath nor legs. I caught hold of the iron entrance 
gate, and I gazed at the house with all my soul. The 
trees had grown bushy and the wild vine covered it en- 
tirely. My eyes went straight to the verandah where 
Guy and I the other Guy had spent delightful 
evenings, with the moon lighting up the valley and the 
Dent du Chat, and the music sounding like a distant ac- 
companiment to our conversation. Those evenings were 
for my husband his proofs of a gambler's repentance, and 
the repentances of gamblers are such that they almost 
make one wish for more relapses. Certainly there was 
no longer anything of us in that dwelling, and yet, thanks 
to a phenomenon still unexplained and entirely subjec- 
tive, it seemed to me as though it were surrounded by a 
vibrating atmosphere. There was a magnetic current be- 
tween those walls and me, which gave me back something 
of my former happiness. Science will not spoil any- 



302 ON THE BRANCH 

thing when it reveals to us the divine mysteries of our 
life. I believe that love is a thousand times more beau- 
tiful and greater than we see it. I am not sorry to be 
alone here for a few days. Isolation would be intolerable 
to me now, but I could not give up my solitude and inde- 
pendence entirely. 

Aix-les-Bams. 

It is amusing to suddenly see changes that have been 
taking place gradually. Aix has not been losing its 
time since my last visit, just sixteen years ago. Its 
cleanliness was the first new feature which struck me. 
The Mayor and the Municipal Council deserve a good 
mark, all the more so as cleanliness is not among the 
instincts of the natives. I found that fragment of an 
arch, which is all that remains of the Aix of the Romans, 
still standing. It seems to say to the Aix of the Savoy- 
ards. " Remember that you must die." The visitors 
are more numerous, and there is more rustling of silk 
now. There are more amusements, too, but in spite 
of all that, Aix has lost something. It has been deserted 
by a certain class of people, and it no longer has that 
aristocratic stamp which formerly covered the multitude 
of its sins. Its sins ! In all watering-places Life de- 
scribes a parabole which has its raison d'etre, the sole 
end of which is not merely to fill the pockets of the in- 
habitants. In March or April the arrival of the first 
visitors gives the initial movement this movement goes 
on increasing all the time. In August it attains its max- 
imum, it then begins to decrease, and in October it ceases 
completely. At Aix, in that peaceful valley which is like 
a bee-hive turned upside down, with mountains for walls, 
there is an alarming ebullition of passions, of joyous 
effervescence of life, produced by the beauty of women, 
pretty toilettes, the glitter of jewellery, by an infinity 



AIX-LES-BAINS 303 

of things which good people do not suspect, but which 
they unconsciously enjoy. All this lasts for five or six 
weeks. People love at Aix by the day, the hour or the 
night; they hate each other, are jealous, gamble madly, 
get rich or are ruined. Pleasures succeed pleasures. 
There are dinners, suppers, the theatre, excursions, pic- 
nics, music, illuminations, dynamite fireworks. All this 
increases the speed of the whirlwind, which is most 
violent in the gambling-room of the Club and of the Villa 
des Fleurs. The little cards covered with figures, with 
red and black signs, the combinations of which are not 
left to men, create tempests under the human craniums 
round the green tables. The demi-mondaines add the 
eternal temptation, and the atmosphere is laden with de- 
sire, covetousness and greed. Words are heard and bar- 
gains made that give one a shiver of pity, ah, yes, of 
pity, and after a minute or two one has to go away to 
get a breath of fresh air from outside. The Folies-Aix- 
oises is opposite my hotel. The other evening the wild 
rhythm of the music and the vociferations which accom- 
panied it made me suddenly start violently and exclaim 
aloud, " Why, it is a regular bamboula! " It was as 
though something within me had recognised it, and I was 
by no means proud of this. It may be that Nature takes 
this way of over-exciting life at certain points with us, 
just as with the negroes of Africa? Is not the regular 
annual phenomenon which we call " the season," in the 
capitals and the watering-places, the bamboula of white 
people? I am afraid it is so. As a matter of fact, our 
bamboulas are more elegant and refined, they include the 
nobler elements that we have acquired through all the 
centuries, but all the same they are of the same character. 
We certainly have beautiful classical music, but we also 
have the tam-tam of the music-halls, which reminds one 
of the tribe and of the tent. What do these bamboulas 



304 ON THE BRANCH 

produce? We should be amazed, perhaps, if we were 
allowed to know, and I repeat with Maeterlinck : " Evil 
is the good that we do not understand." Aix-les-Bains, 
Trouville, Biarritz, Monte Carlo are, perhaps, only ac- 
celerators. 

Aix-les-Bains. 

The Lussons have been here for ten days. Their 
suite of rooms is on the same floor as mine, and we take 
our meals together at the restaurant. Thanks to this in- 
timacy I am learning to know Josee better, and she de- 
lights me more and more. I am struck with the number 
of Irish and English traits in her character which I do 
not see in her mother. Race, like disease, frequently 
comes out only in the second or third generation. 
Mademoiselle de Lusson loves to make herself useful, to 
do things for others. Her L!ndness is prompt and spon- 
taneous. I take my bath at half -past five in the morn- 
ing. She gets up at five, prepares a small cup of tea 
with lemon, and brings it to me. She looks sweet in 
her thin white dressing-gown, through which one can 
distinguish the youthfulness and harmony of her fig- 
ure. Her thick plait hangs down her back, and her 
hair is loose above the square, pure forehead still moist 
from sleep. The man who marries her will have reason 
to thank the gods. 

Josee goes through the furnace in which we live like 
a true young girl. She certainly has a little of Eve'? 
curiosity, though. The demi-mondaines, with their ele- 
gance and their jewellery, puzzle her. She calls them 
" the women with bad eyes." She does not understand 
their role, and is trying to find out what it is. When 
she looks at them, she draws her eyebrows together in 
a comic way, as though she had some problem to re- 
solve. She has not time, fortunately, to dwell upon the 



AIX-LES-BAINS 305 

subject. In the morning she goes to the swimming- 
baths and then for a cycle ride. In the afternoon, when 
the concert is over, she goes up to the Splendide to 
tennis. She is a capital player. I hope that this provi- 
dential tennis will create between her and Guy that 
comradeship which so frequently is the first manifesta- 
tion of love. In the evening she is taken to the theatre 
whenever the play is possible. During the intervals 
she comes to talk to me on the terrace, and her fresh 
impressions give me great pleasure. And to think that 
we have to be old in order to realise what youth is. 

I am getting into touch again with the good people 
of this part of the world, people whom I always liked 
very much indeed. I find them very little changed. 
They are less Savoyard, but not yet French. The native 
of Savoy has a very marked individuality. He is both 
rugged and gentle like his mountains; his character is 
rather difficult; he is alive to his own interests, proud, 
susceptible, obstinate, rebellious to progress. There is 
thorny brushwood to lift, but underneath a generous, 
idealistic and intuitive soul, a refined nature. Many of 
these distinctive traits are to be found among the people, 
particularly among the bathing men and women. 
Formerly the latter were simple peasants, the women 
were unaware of the power they had in their fingers, 
but they instinctively exercised it, thanks to their 
atavism. Now-a-days they call themselves professors, 
and fancy they are superior to the doctors. The 
massage under water which constitutes the douche at 
Aix is really unique. I realise now what an art there 
is in that gentle, and yet firm pressure which makes our 
muscles flexible again. I am grateful to Providence, 
and I have the utmost respect for the hands of these 
humble people, which are neither more nor less than 
the instruments of Providence, and which give me a 



306 

little of their strength and their life. Nearly all these 
bathing-women have intelligent faces. However mer- 
cenary they may be, the gratuity alone does not suffice 
to make them like their patients, but when they do 
like them they put something more into the massage. 
When they are resting, they put on a picturesque cloak 
of rough, black cloth with a cape, which they cut out 
for themselves, and, curiously enough, this is now the 
latest fashion. The bathing establishment has now 
become very grand. There is quite an army of attend- 
ants, and a very smart hall-porter who speaks English. 
I could not help smiling when I noticed that the people 
of Aix have divided their streets in order to multiply 
them and to be able to give more names to them. 
Every ten yards there is now a fresh street. There is, 
of course, the Avenue Pierpont Morgan and Georges I 
Street. The American millionaire and the King of 
Greece are very popular, not only because they leave 
money to the country, but because, in some occult way, 
they have won the favour of the crowd. The native 
of Savoy was Piedmontese with something of the Italian 
in him. He does not care for the person who loves him 
or who does him any good turn; he only cares for any 
one who is congenial to him. 

Aix-les-Bains has tea-rooms, of course. I have just 
discovered a new one in the Place Carnot. It is kept 
by two young English women. The tables, with green 
marble tops, the cane-bottomed chairs, as plain as Chip- 
pendales, the brown tea-services, give to the whole a 
touch of originality and British Puritanism which has 
a certain charm. Flowers relieve the severity, the tea 
is perfect, and the warm, buttered scones delicious. 
" My boy " will appreciate them. " My boy ! " I often 
call him this now, for the appellation expresses just 
the sentiment of maternal and feminine affection that 



AIX-LES-BAINS 307 

I feel for him. I am anxious to see him again, and I 
wonder in what state of mind he will arrive. I am 
counting on his automobile for taking baths of moun- 
tain air. The Aix air, filled from morning to night 
with the music of the Villa des Fleurs, the tam-tam of 
the Folies-Aixoises, the railway whistle, which the echo 
of the surrounding mountains repeats, tires me hor- 
ribly. Yesterday, a dear friend, whom I had met again 
here, took me to Chante-Merle, a village on the heights. 
The silence did me so much good that I did not want 
to come down again. Evidently I am too old for bam- 
boulas. 

Aix-les-Bains. 

Guy arrived sooner than I expected him. When I 
expressed my surprise at this, he put his arm round 
my neck. 

" I can't do without you now, god-mother," he said, 
drawing me towards him. 

Then, standing back to read my face, he continued 

" You are not sorry to see me again, are you ? " 

" I rather think that your absence seemed long to 
me," I answered, not without some emotion. 

"That's all right!" 

His face clouded over with sudden sadness. 

" ' Les Rocheilles ' is so cold now. No more beautiful 
dark eyes ; no more affectionate smiles ; no pretty silk 
rustlings. It wants a mother, it wants a woman," he 
added, turning a little pale. " I hadn't the strength of 
mind to stay any longer, so here I am." 

He had come in two days through the Jura and with- 
out a breakdown, with Louis, of course. By my advice 
he put up at the Splendide. The presence of Josee 
at the Palace Hotel made that arrangement seem better. 
He joined our circle, of course. The vague resemblance 



308 ON THE BRANCH 

between Madame de Lusson and his mother struck him, 
as it had me, and awakened his interest. The ice be- 
tween him and my little friend was broken at once by 
the words which came to my lips, I do not know how. 

" Here is some one who has a serious grudge against 
you," I said to the latter. 

" Who has a grudge against me ? " 

Josee looked at Guy with wide-open eyes. 

" Yes, because you are now the mistress of Chavigny. 
As Monsieur de Myeres' god-son, and as second cousin by 
marriage, M. de Hauterive thinks he has more right to it 
than you, and he declares that you have cut the ground 
from under his feet." 

" I am sorry that I do not regret it," answered Made- 
moiselle de Lusson, mischievously. 

" Anyhow, if one of these days you should be tempted 
to sell your estate, you will know where to find a pur- 
chaser, and you will at least give him the preference." 

"To sell it? Oh, never!" 

To my secret delight I saw the spirit of teasing come 
into " my boy's " eyes. 

"Who knows? I shall go on hoping," he answered, 
tranquilly. 

" Oh, as to that, I have no objection." 

" You are very kind." 

These words, pronounced in a mocking tone, pro- 
duced a gaiety which seemed to me of good omen. I 
had never seen my god-son among strangers. He is 
neither awkward nor shy. He always seems to show 
to the best advantage, and his manners are perfect. 
Much of his refinement is due, I am sure, to the in- 
fluence of Madame de Mauriones. One can tell a man 
among a hundred who owes his initiation to a woman 
of good birth, rather than to a mere society woman. 
Guy appears to be very gay; he is trying to make me 



AIX-LES-BAINS 309 

believe that he has completely recovered his self-mas- 
tery. I am not taken in by appearances, though. The 
day before yesterday I was watching him without his 
knowledge. He was leaning back in an arm-chair, on 
the terrace of the Club, with an unread newspaper 
on his knees, his head rather thrown back, his eyes 
half-closed under the turned-down brim of his hat. 
He appeared to be dreaming or dozing, and on his 
face there was such an expression of sadness, and in 
his whole attitude such discouragement, that I was 
touched by it to the very depths of my soul. I moved 
away discreetly without approaching him. He does 
not want commonplace consolations. I constantly see 
some of the pretty women of the Villa des Fleurs prowl- 
ing round him, trying to attract his attention, even in 
my presence. It always leaves him visibly cold. Love, 
offered in a common cup, cannot tempt his lips which 
have drunk, for the first time, from a cup of gold. The 
state of mind in which he now is seems to render him 
inaccessible. I am afraid lest Josee should fall in love 
with him and he should not care for her. Heaven pre- 
serve me from being the instrument of such grief for 
my little friend. Nothing would ever console me for 
that. This thought keeps me awake half the night. 
Will he notice her hair that grows so prettily, her 
Irish eyes, her elegant figure? Will he notice? Every- 
thing depends on that. 

Aix-les-Bains. 

What subtlety in the working out of our destiny ! 
This afternoon the rain, a veritable Aix douche, had 
made tennis impossible. My god-son and I had taken 
tea on the terrace of the Club. 

" Do you know," I said, looking at the people grouped 
about here and there, " that I have never seen any 



310 ON THE BRANCH 

French people here with a book or a review in their 
hands." 

" Aix is not precisely favourable for reading." 

" Agreed, but look at all those English people deep 
in their novels. I believe that, after the Italian and 
Spanish, we are the people who read the least. It is 
rather discouraging for writers. The other day, 
though, I had a pleasant surprise. I saw a young man 
near me reading guess what ? " 

" One of Jean Noel's novels ? " 

" No, silly boy," I answered, smiling. " He was 
reading Jocelyn, by Lamartine! Jocelyn, under the 
shade of the Villa des Fleurs, a few steps away from the 
baccarat tables and from a crowd of pretty women ! I 
at once looked to see whether the reader were deformed 
or lame. No, he was even very handsome, but he had 
a poet's forehead, dreamy eyes, and long, slender hands. 
He was smoking his cigarette leisurely, and on his smooth 
lips I could see something of the emotion that I had 
once experienced myself. I could have kissed him." 

Guy drew himself up, his eye sparkling with fun. 

" God-mother, I must buy this Jocelyn" he said. 

" Buying it is not everything ; you must be capable 
of feeling it." 

" You think I have not the necessary bumps," he 
said, taking off his hat, " and that my fingers do not 
taper enough? " 

" Perhaps not," I answered, smiling. 

" Very well, we will see," he remarked, stung to the 
quick. 

" Joking apart, I don't know any book which gives 
such a sensation of true love." 

" A sensation of true love ! " repeated my god-son, 
with an ironical vibration in his voice. " Ah, I'll treat 
myself to that ! Where can I get this precious book ? " 



AIX-LES-BAINS 311 

" At Carrier's, Rue des Bains." 

" Til go at once." 

And he started, leaving me quite aghast at the effect 
of my words. 

Jocelyn! Ah, the divine accumulator! It was by it 
that I had had the sensation of love long before know- 
ing it. Every time that I have read it since, even last 
year, it communicated to me the same warmth, the 
same emotion. By touching it only, as if a peculiar 
fluid emanated from it, my very fingers are affected 
by it. Is Providence about to employ this agent for 
touching Guy's heart once more? Nothing is too small 
for the greatness of Providence. 

Aix-les-Bains. 

E fatto il miracolo! as the priest says, when showing 
the Neapolitan people the liquified blood of St. Janvier. 
The miracle is accomplished! Guy, I believe, has no- 
ticed " the hair that grows so prettily, the Irish eyes, and 
the elegant figure " of my little friend. The admiration 
of another man opened his eyes. The way is as classic 
as Nature itself, but some variety is always introduced. 
I was lucky enough to be present and to witness the 
phenomenon. It seemed to me very pretty. 

My god-son, who has no rheumatism, goes in the 
early morning to bathe in the lake, like a young god, 
and towards ten o'clock he arrives at the Palace Hotel 
with his automobile and takes us, the Lussons and 
me, for a drive in the environs. Josee, to whom 
Madame de Lusson willingly gives up her seat, is get- 
ting more and more devoted to this sport, which she 
thinks more exciting than cycling. She does not fail 
to express our delight to our driver, but he only 
smiles vaguely. I am quite aware that the chauffeur 
always belongs too much to his machine to be able to 



ON THE BRANCH 

think of anything else. He is always more or less 
intoxicated with speed and air; I have therefore given 
up my afternoon excursions, and sent my two young 
people to tennis. A real mother could not be worse. 
There is at present a brilliant team of women and, 
thanks to the presence of three good men players, the 
game is more interesting than usual. Yesterday I went 
with my little friend. The tennis-ground, the trellis 
of which is covered with wild vines, makes a charming 
frame for all these active young people dressed in 
white. Seated in the shade, I watched the game with 
interest. How much race and character can be dis- 
tinguished in sports ! The French girl, whether she 
takes the ball straight or backhanded or when it is 
down, or whether she is serving even a hard service, 
is always graceful, and never dislocates herself like 
the English girl. Her well-cut dress always seems to 
harmonise with the rhythm of her movements. Dur- 
ing the intervals she is a living poem of the most varied 
and charming attitudes. Ah, she really knows how to 
make the most of herself! The Frenchwoman is the 
woman for the intervals of life, as well as of tennis. 

Mademoiselle de Lusson was my god-son's adversary. 
On both sides the game was well played, but the victory 
was in the latter's camp. Guy at once came to me. He 
looked very handsome in his flannels, with the excite- 
ment of combat and the pleasure of triumph on his 
face. 

A few steps away from us were two Englishmen who, 
with a conscious air of superiority in sport, had fol- 
lowed the last phases of the game. 

" Deuced pretty girl over there, holding her racket 
behind her back. Plays a good game, too. English, 
I bet," said one of them. 

" Oh ! she is French enough ! Where are your eyes ? 



AIX-LES-BAINS 313 

Look at her figure, and her dress too. Parisian make, 
I should say," answered the other. 

" Well, if she is not English, she ought to be 
Deuced pretty girl." 

With this twice repeated compliment the two Eng- 
lishmen moved away. They had said their say, played 
their little role, no doubt. Thanks to the suggestion 
in their words, I saw Guy's eyes wander towards Made- 
moiselle de Lusson and suddenly shine, as though they 
had been touched by an inward flame. It was only a 
flash, but that flash was reflected within me. 

" You heard ? " I said, smiling to my companion. " Is 
it not curious that young John Bull should have recog- 
nised his race in Mademoiselle de Lusson? " 

" By her attitude, no doubt. She often puts her 
hands behind her back like English girls. I took it 
for a rather wicked bit of coquetry on her part; it is, 
perhaps, only atavism." 

" No doubt of it. Her eyes, for instance, are cer- 
tainly Irish." 

" You think so." 

Josee, to whom I had beckoned, came to us. Guy 
looked at her with a new curiosity, as if to see what 
there was Irish in her eyes. 

" Let us go ? " I said, " it is getting late ; we shall 
scarcely have time to change our dresses." 

My god-son went with us some little way along the 
road, and when he stopped to take leave of us, he said 
mischievously, raising his hat to my little friend 

" Homage to the vanquished." 

" Who will be the conqueror to-morrow," she replied 
good-humouredly. 

I looked up and saw that we were exactly opposite 
the house where M. de Myeres and I had lived. These 
words of consolation and hope, just where the very 



314 ON THE BRANCH 

atmosphere was full of his memory, seemed to me 
prophetic. Deeply moved, and amazed as well, I went 
down the hill saying to myself: E fatto II miracolo. 

Aix-les-Bains. 

No, I was not mistaken. Everything has happened 
to confirm the impression I had on the Splendide ten- 
nis-ground. I have a deep conviction that the work 
for which I was sent here is accomplished. Will it 
lead to the union that I desire? Chi lo sa? How wise 
and deep it is, that Italian phrase ! 

Guy openly seeks the society of Mademoiselle de 
Lusson. It has amused him to draw her out, to make 
her talk, and, in a bantering way, the cleverness of 
which has not been lost on me, he has led her on to 
reveal herself. The revelation has rather charmed him, 
I think. He expressed his surprise to me on discover- 
ing in her that fine instinct of altruism which broadens 
not only our views, but life itself. 

" Marriage will soon bring her down to the common 
level," he added. " At the end of two years of married 
life, young women who have received a higher educa- 
tion have forgotten everything. I am not the only one 
to have noticed this." 

" That is not the fault of marriage, but of the hus- 
band. An American once expressed his surprise to me 
on seeing that the wife in France has so little social 
existence, and seems still to be the property of the 
husband, his chattel. I could not deny it. I hope that 
my little friend will find a companion intelligent enough 
to cultivate her individuality instead of trying to lessen 
it." 

" Amen, god-mother," he answered, with an enigmatic 
smile. 

On Tuesday something very curious happened. We 



AIX-LES-BAINS 315 

had just arrived by automobile at Annecy, Monsieur de 
Lusson, his daughter and I. We were walking by the 
lake whilst lunch was being prepared at the Hotel de Ver- 
dun et de Geneve. Guy suddenly began to walk on ahead 
of us, and Josee, by an irresistible impulse, I am sure, 
imitated him, so that for about a hundred yards they 
were walking along side by side, as though on the way 
to some distant goal. I saw Monsieur de Lusson frown 
and watch them with a vexed look. To my great relief 
the girl suddenly stopped, turned round and waited 
for us. 

" We are going on as though we wanted to leave 
you," she said, with a pretty confusion. 

" I think speed is contagious," added Guy, not with- 
out some embarrassment. " When one gets out of an 
automobile, it seems as though one must run instead of 
walk." 

" It has not that effect on us, the automobile, has it, 
Madame de Myeres? " said my companion in a mocking 
tone. 

" Alas, no," I replied, with deep regret. 

Neither of the two young people had any idea of 
the force which had brought them together at that 
moment, but I had guessed what it was. 

On Thursday I invited the Lussons, some other friends, 
and my god-son to tea at the little English tea-shop, 
Place Carnot. Out of pure psychological curiosity I 
asked Josee to pour. She did so with her customary ease. 
I noticed that she prepared Guy's tea much more slowly, 
and that her fingers lingered over this task as though they 
found a secret pleasure in it. When she passed him his 
cup there was astonishment mingled with anxiety in her 
eyes, and at the corner of her lips an excited smile. She 
could not have explained all this herself, probably. She 
will have many other surprises, this little friend of mine ; 



316 ON THE BRANCH 

but in the mean time I feel sure about her state of mind. 

As to Guy, it seemed to me that his face lighted up, 
that the sap of youth, which for a time had been ar- 
rested, had been revived within him. The unusual 
weather which we are having has made me give up my 
journey to Switzerland, so that he has decided to go 
alone to Dauphiny. In order to draw him again within 
our circle where, I think, he might find happiness, I asked 
him to come to Tours towards the end of October, to take 
me to the Chateaux on the Loire and then back to Paris. 

His face lighted up with youthful j oy , but there was a 
suspicious colour too. 

" God-mother, you are a veritable well of good ideas," 
he exclaimed. " I neither know Loches, Chenonceaux nor 
Amboise." 

" Well, then, we will see them together," I said, 
smiling ; " and so that they may be more living, I advise 
you to read up the epoch again in Henri Martin's His- 
tory of France." 

" I will read it, yes, I will certainly read it," he replied 
with enthusiasm. " Do you know that it is the reading 
of your Jocelyn which made me want to see Dauphiny ? 
I shall take it with me. If I should die on the road, 
people will be very much surprised to find that poem of 
Lamertine's in the portmanteau of an automobilist. You 
are right," he added in a more serious voice, " it contains 
the very essence of love." 

" Of pure love. Certainly the drink would be danger- 
ous for a boarding-school girl, but I think it is good for 
a young man." 

" And although I have not a poet's forehead, nor long, 
slender hands, I appreciate the flavour of it." 

" So much the better, my dear boy," I answered, 
smiling at him and his wounded vanity. 

Yes, he has gone to the Dauphiny mountains, and the 



AIX-LES-BAINS 317 

intangible, invisible force which made him turn his ma- 
chine in that direction was a ray from the soul of Lamar- 
tine. How beautiful Life is ! 

We all went up to the Splendide to be there for his 
departure. He seemed to be quite touched by that. 
After shaking hands cordially, he stepped brusquely into 
his quivering machine. With his left hand on the steer- 
ing-wheel, he turned round, raised his hat to us again, and 
his last look went straight, not to god-mother but to 
Josee! God-mother now retired to the background! 
Still another little move, and, like the marionettes of be- 
loved memory, she will disappear altogether. Ah, well, 
Life is always beautiful! 

Aix-les-Bains. 

Aix has completely changed. The fine birds of prey 
have flown away to Biarritz ; the fashionable women have 
returned to their chateaux or villas. The brilliant waves 
have disappeared with them, the picture has become dull, 
the movement has slackened. There is still a noise, but 
no more hubbub. An American woman said to me yes- 
terday, with that frank way of speaking which amuses 
me, " Aix has become disgustingly respectable." It is 
true, serious people lack electricity, they have not the 
joyous effervescence of champagne, but rather the quiet 
strength of Burgundy. When men of science are able 
to decompose the moral elements, of which we are con- 
stituted, they will have some fine surprises. I leave this 
evening, and am not going direct to Touraine, but to 
Normandy, as a kind and pressing invitation has come 
to me from there. The noise, the heat and my tension of 
mind have caused me such fatigue that I feel in desperate 
need of the country and of quiet. The Lussons wanted 
to come back here for me from Thonon, where they have 
gone to pay a short visit before returning home, but I 
objected to this. 



318 ON THE BRANCH 

According to an old habit I went to take leave of the 
places and things which had given me pleasure. I said 
a long farewell to the beloved villa on the hill. I went 
up to the Boulevard des Cotes and to that of La Roche- 
du-Roy to see the little valley again, to feel once more 
fchat effect of light which gives to these mountains and 
to the lake a voice, a soul, a subtle and living charm, such 
as I have never met with elsewhere. On coming down 
again I looked for a few moments with wonder and grat- 
itude at a certain group, signed by Geoffroy, placed at 
the entrance to the park. It represents a lion lying laz- 
ily down ; the lioness is exciting it to play by offering it 
the top of her head, which it licks gravely, its eyes half 
closed in happiness. This wild beast's kiss, is it very zo- 
ological? This I do not know, but such deep sentiment 
emanates from it, and such strength of love, that, every 
morning on passing it on my way to the baths, it gave 
my old woman's heart a ray of warmth, a sensation of 
great affection. Am I not right in saying that every 
work of art is destined to maintain and propagate Life 
on earth? 

This evening I shall bid farewell to the Palace Hotel, 
to the few persons with whom I have made acquaintance, 
to Fran9oise, my Savoy maid. How many farewells I 
have said and heard during the last sixteen years ! 



IX 



POETE-JOIE 

Porte-Joie. 

A SMALL, village of one hundred and fifty inhabitants, 
on the left bank of the Seine and on the borders of a 
huge fertile plain, in the midst of wonderful scenery ; 
a village which is only two hours and a half by rail 
from Paris, but which leads nowhere. Neither a poor 
person, a tramp nor a mere stroller is ever to be met 
with there. It is a place only known to artists, a place 
where Daubigny planted his tent. A year ago I did 
not know of its existence. The Will which has made 
my destiny so fantastic, arranged, last winter, for me 
to make the acquaintance of the owner of the only villa 
in the village, and a cordial, affectionate invitation has 
brought me here. I cannot describe the pleasure I felt 
on finding, at the station of St. Pierre-du-Vouvray, 
not an omnibus, but a farmer's trap, drawn by a regular 
country priest's donkey, so strong and plump. As 
soon as I was in this free expanse of open country 
I had a sense of restfulness and well-being. The house, 
preceded by what is called " a Norman courtyard," that 
is, a meadow planted with apple-trees, made an agreeable 
impression on me. Its verandah is fringed with wild 
vine and its walls covered with fruit-trees. The interior 
of the house is very congenial. No pretentious drawing- 
room, but a cheerful, light studio, its wide bay windows 
opening on the Seine. Here and there the artist is 

319 



320 ON THE BRANCH 

revealed by a piece of sculpture, a picture, tapestry, and 
the arrangement of the flowers. In my room, which 
is as long as a picture-gallery, I have the morning, mid- 
day and evening light. With its five windows, my room 
takes in nearly the whole of the horizon, from the pretty 
Herqueville beach on the other bank of the river, to the 
hills that bound the plain. Under my windows is a 
garden full of roses, opposite to me the steeple of the 
old church, and quite near a tree inhabited by black- 
caps, torn-tits and goldfinches, who give me the joy of 
their little lives. I felt a childish pleasure in seeing the 
boats of the Navigation Co. going up and down the 
Seine, and I never tire of admiring the neatness of their 
storage. I had not had such entertainment for a long 
time. 

My hostess, who is very much occupied, and also 
very tactful, leaves me free to wander at my fancy. 
I have been for some long walks along the river and 
across the plain, drinking in with delight that keen, 
sweet air which seems to have been specially prepared 
for my lungs. On the way I had fragments of amusing 
conversation with old peasant women, and I noticed, 
not without pleasure, that animals are better under- 
stood and better treated than formerly. One could tell 
that, too, by their gentleness. I often stopped to say a 
friendly word to the beautiful Normandy cows, to the 
pretty heifers, and all of them appeared sensitive to 
the caressing tone of my voice. I am on very good 
terms with a troop of geese which sport about every 
morning in the Seine and attend to their toilette on 
the grassy banks. The first day, the sight of me alarmed 
them all, the second day they put up with me, and now 
they know me perfectly well. How good and restful 
all this is after the season of Aix-les-Bains. I must say, 
though, that Porte- Joie does not justify its name. It is 



PORTE-JOIE 821 

ideally pretty, but has nothing exhilarating; it is curi- 
ously cold. Built on the banks of the river, it has no 
depth, and only extends lengthwise. Its farms have 
not the picturesqueness of the former dwellings of the 
peasants. They are new houses of bourgeois aspect, 
with manure-heaps and poultry-yards. The Municipal 
school is as ugly here as it is everywhere else. Then 
Porte-Joie is not a religious place, and the inhabitants 
do not go much to Church. On Sunday, at Mass, there 
were five persons, " one of whom was a man," as Footit 
would say. There is, therefore, no resident priest. 
The presbytery is let to railway employes. The old 
Church, which turns its apsis towards the Seine, is closed 
all the week. Its silent steeple neither rings the Angelus 
nor the fete days. One would say that in this part of 
the world people are neither born, nor do they marry 
nor die. The peasants have hard, even hostile faces. 
They do not salute strangers like the Touraine peasants. 
Along the roads of the Norman plain one meets hand- 
some young men with blue eyes and clearly modelled 
features. They remind one of certain Englishmen of 
old race who, probably, have the same ancestors as these 
Normans. 

The increase of luxury and comfort is perceptible 
here as elsewhere. The baby-children and the little 
girls all have a scrap of ribbon to tie up their hair. 
Yesterday I met a child of fourteen. She was very well 
dressed, and in one hand she had a book, while with 
the other she held the ropes of three cows that she was 
taking to the field. This seemed to me very character- 
istic of our epoch, and I smiled at this progress. 

Before disappearing behind the heights of Gaillon, 
the sun sends some of its rays over the river, flashes 
bands of gold, silver and of that green called in 
heraldry sinople. Just above the Herqueville shore it 



322 ON THE BRANCH 

touches some rocks, which seem to have been left bare 
in order to receive its kiss when setting, and this mar- 
vellous illumination only produces sadness. Why is 
this? This Seine is very wide here, and, divided by 
islands, it looks like a grand old river. On moonlight 
nights it has a powerful effect. The woody slope of the 
opposite bank throws fantastic shadows on to it. At 
a certain turning one expects to see, not barges, and 
still less towing boats, but pirogues, and twice I have 
felt, when standing at my window, the thrill of a far- 
distant past. No, Porte-Joie is not gay, and yet the 
fortnight's halt that I have just had here has seemed 
to me delightful, refreshing and very short too short, 
alas, for to-morrow I must go away. I am now feeling 
the fatigue of all that I have lived through during the 
year that has just gone by. My mind and body have 
never ceased to be under high pressure, and they are 
now beginning to need rest. At times I am tempted 
to return to Paris, to take refuge in my rooms at the 
Hotel de Castiglione and not to leave them again. Ap- 
parently there is nothing to prevent my doing this, 
but I know very well that my Vouvray friends, the 
Lussons, Josee, Guy, Colette's wish, my own desire to 
finish my work, are only mediums of that providential 
Will which is sending me to Touraine. I feel, never- 
theless, within me a vague resistance. The thought of 
the little journey alarms me; I am not sufficiently rested, 
probably. Then, too, I shall regret my hostess, this 
home which has really been " a good resting-place," and 
my large room full of light. I shall regret Jean-Jean, 
f l*e cat, and its pretty purring; Jeanette, the ass which 
has taken me out so patiently and so philosophically, 
saluting me always with a joyous bray. Of what use 
are regrets? They help to make Life, I fancy. 

The Porte-Joie evenings are melancholy, but the 



PORTE-JOIE 323 

dawns are radiant. I wanted to enjoy one for the last 
time, and this morning I opened my window before 
six o'clock and was deeply impressed by the beauty of 
the picture before me. The sun had just risen above 
the Herqueville slope; the sky was absolutely clear; 
the Seine rosy and without a single eddy. In the peace- 
ful air, of such dewy transparency, hundreds of swal- 
lows formed a living whirlwind, describing circles above 
the garden, around the trees and the steeple, skimming 
against each other's beaks as though to exchange a 
word. This lasted five minutes, and then I saw them 
rise very high and disappear, leaving silence behind 
them. Dear little sisters! They are sent away very 
far. Their mission is over yonder, in Africa, in Aus- 
tralia. The itinerary of their course is traced, per- 
haps, in some cell of their brain ; their slight bodies, 
their nerved wings, possess that power of movement 
which man is seeking, but through the wind and tem- 
pest they are sustained by another force still, the in- 
tangible, invisible force of their destiny. They are 
just like us, and we are just like them in this particular. 
They are not afraid, because they are ignorant of every- 
thing; we are afraid, because we do not know enough. 



TOURAINE 

Vouvray, Touraine. 

THIS is the eleventh year that I have returned to 
Vouvray and to the same roof. I made the acquaintance 
of my hosts at Vouvray in a casual and droll way. 
One evening, after dinner, I was seated on the lounge 
of the Hotel des Ambassadeurs, waiting for it to be 
time to go to the Casino, when a tall gentleman stopped 
quite near me to light a cigar. A flower-seller who 
was roaming about there, thinking that we were to- 
gether, rushed at once to him and, with the tactics that 
succeed nine times out of ten, said 

" Buy these beautiful roses for Madame ! " 

I coloured with anger, and sharply ordered the poor 

girl to go away. Monsieur A , very much amused 

at my confusion, could not resist the tantalising pleasure 
of increasing it by purchasing the roses. Then, rais- 
ing his hat, he presented them to me. 

" Madame, I have no right to offer you them," he 
said in a good-natured way. " Please accept them all 
the same, if only to help me out of a difficulty." 

I could not help laughing, and, disarmed by the ludi- 
crousness of the situation, I took the magnificent bunch 
of flowers he was holding out to me. 

A few minutes later, Madame A joined her hus- 
band, and, finding him in conversation with an un- 
known woman, gave me the most cutting glance I have 

324 



TOURAINE 325 

ever received. I hastened to explain the incident to her, 
and it amused her. 

" I am very much surprised," she then said to him, 
" that you should have had such a happy idea ! " 

" I, too, my love," he replied placidly. 

The comic note of this fragment of conjugal dialogue 
struck me and amused me inwardly. The conversation 
we exchanged afterwards continued to break the ice 
between us with surprising rapidity, considering our 
respective characters. A flower-seller from Vichy was 
thus the unconscious agent of our acquaintanceship. 
Her little phrase, for which I had snubbed her, was 
to give me some very good friends. It has brought me 
over and over again to Touraine, and its effect still 
lasts. This is a fair sample of the web of life. 

Among the halts which Providence has prepared for 
me, that of Vouvray has been one of the sweetest and 
most restful. The house of my hosts is just at the en- 
trance of the village. It is preceded by a courtyard 
which attracts the gaze of all the passers-by, as it is so 
picturesque with its walls covered with creepers, and 
its borders of brilliant flowers, its old sycamore, and its 
well, encircled with verdure. When its iron gates open 
to me I have the sensation of shelter and of kindly hos- 
pitality. It is very agreeable to see the pleasant faces 
of the servants, to hear the purr of welcome from the 
cat, Mirette, who always recognises my voice. I am 
always delighted to find myself in the blue room with 
its soft bed. The arm-chairs and other chairs of the 
room have been embroidered by three generations of 
women. The house is charming, sufficiently provincial 
to have a character of its own, modern enough to 
be very comfortable. I have watched with curiosity 
the introduction of the new spirit and of more modern 
taste in this interior. The appearance of a hundred 



326 ON THE BRANCH 

little innovations has made its aspect less stiff, more 
particularly the flowers and light which are to be seen 
everywhere now. The garden, which is curious, like 
all those here, is on the other side of the street, and is 
joined to the house by a subterranean passage. It has 
a magnificent thicket of chestnuts, a terrace planted 
with trees, among which are two monumental yews, 
male and female, then lower down a regular country 
priest's garden, with vegetables, fruits, box-wood 
borders and simple flowers. I enjoy watching the 
working of the wheels of this well-ordered household, 
it reminds me of my old home. 

I look inside the cupboards filled with linen, the 
store-room so richly provided with fruit, the niches 
hollowed in the rock where the wine grows old. I visit 
the granaries, even, for I adore granaries. Often, on 
returning from my walk, I enter the beautiful kitchen, 
brilliant with ripolin and copper, to say a word to Con- 
stance, the most amiable of cooks that I have ever met. 
I approach the huge fire-place to see the wood flaming, 
the soup simmering and the spit turning. All these 
prosaic things make part of a home and interest me 
now. They have a certain poetry in my eyes. They 
take me back to domestic life, to my past. And that 
past, which I disdained when it was present, is ever 
uppermost now in my soul and is very sweet to me. 
It seems as though man is an animal which must turn 
round before he can see aright. 

Vouvray. 

Porte-Joie has made me feel more deeply still the 
charm of this little country on the banks of the Loire. 
Vouvray is not laic! And how could it be, under this 
Touraine sky of such a soft blue, in this atmosphere 
vibrating with light, with the beautiful Chateau of 



TOURAINE 327 

Moncontour ennobling the whole scenery with its past, 
and with the generous wine of its slopes, with its re- 
fined and handsome race of people? How picturesque it 
is too ! Vine-covered rocks hollowed out, bored through 
with doors and windows, inhabited as in the olden times, 
and at the foot rustic houses, elegant villas. Here 
one lives in the rock and of the rock. The mason 
and the architect have been inspired to respect the rock 
everywhere. Instead of knocking it down and levelling 
it, they have made use of its ruggedness. They have 
created irregular paths, curious little gardens, goat 
steps. This unique configuration is, I think, fertile in 
surprises, and makes the walks all around singularly 
interesting. On the heights it is not a rare thing to 
see a chimney emerging from the bushes; the vil- 
lage steeple looks as though it were coming out of 
the ground. From the garden of my friends, the 
statue of the Virgin, placed over the large door of the 
church, seems to hover in the blue sky. By moonlight 
their courtyard has a fantastic aspect. A number of 
dwellings have rooms and out-buildings in the rock, 
subterranean places which make cellars worthy of the 
heroes of Rabelais, where the Vouvray wine has the 
silence that it needs in order to grow old properly. 
The aristocratic part of the village is on the heights. 
Its street is bordered on one side by white houses, all 
different from each other, and by a pretty church; on 
the other side by gardens which go down in slopes 
and terraces to the road. I have never seen anywhere 
else walls that are so picturesque and so covered with 
flowers. They give one an oppressive feeling; there 
are too many of them. One feels the need of escaping 
from them, and so one climbs up on to the plateau. 
When once there one feels absolutely free. There is 
an immense horizon and plenty of fresh air, so that 



328 ON THE BRANCH 

when walking through the beautiful vines one feels the 
gladness of life. Monumental flights of steps lead to 
the Chateau of Moncontour, a military stronghold of 
the fifteenth century which stands on the heights. From 
its towers one no longer keeps watch on the country, but 
one admires it, which is what our fathers never thought 
of doing. And from there one has the pathetic sight 
of a dying river of the poor Loire choked by its beautiful 
violet sand. It is never dragged and is therefore dying 
slowly, in a dignified way, like a grande dame. There 
is scarcely even a living wave for the sun to light up on 
the Tours side, nothing but sombre lagoons. The other 
evening I felt grieved on noticing this, but I do not 
know whether I should like to see the towing boats of a 
Navigation Co. in its waters, passing in front of Blois. 
Such boats are more suitable for the democratic, com- 
mercial and industrial Seine. It may be that Nature is 
of my opinion. In my walks, revisiting old haunts, I 
never forget the Cisse bridge, so dear to Balzac, and 
there is another place that attracts me particularly, and 
that is the cemetery. I do not know another one like it. 
It is entirely bathed in light and sun, so that one could 
never be quite dead there. The wind has always 
sounded strange to me there, and I often go to listen 
to it. 

Fortunately I have found the Convent of the Presen- 
tation still there. I was afraid that this little poetical 
place might have been done -away with. It is a very 
humble house with the garden and school running down- 
hill. Leaning over the wall one sees the sisters, 
dressed in black and white, coming and going with 
their light step. One sees, too, cats that are curiously 
black and white, as though the mother cats had re- 
ceived an impression from the colours of the Order. 



TOURAINE 329 

The fresh voices of children can be heard, at times, 
singing a canticle or some old French song. Yesterday, 
as I was passing, the refrain of the Chevalier de la Mar- 
jolaine brought me to an abrupt halt. I repeated, 
mechanically, the words of the pretty song, and re- 
freshing tears came to my eyes. 

Vouvray, like the whole of Touraine, is melancholy, 
but there is a certain gentleness in its moral atmos- 
phere. Its soul is certainly not laic. Laicism has its 
raison d'etre, I suppose, but it is neither beautiful nor 
congenial. 

I have been here nearly a fortnight, and have neither 
noticed the hours nor the days pass by; I have not 
even been tempted to go to Tours. This provincial 
life in the country has the great attraction of change 
to me. I have enjoyed the succulent luncheons and 
dinners which are the pride of my hostess. The golden 
wine of certain noted years is brought from the cellar, 
and the priest contributes his good humour and serenity 
to these meals, which are enlivened by gay and familiar 
conversation. We have played cards twice a day, 
worked, had tea under the chestnuts, and chatted a 
great deal. The comic note, which struck me at my 
first meeting with Madame A , is to be heard con- 
stantly, and also sallies of wit which are the special- 
ity of the Thuringian mind. All this causes me irresist- 
ible fits of gaiety. I laugh as I did at the age of 
twenty. I hear myself laughing, and that seems good to 
me. I had spoken to my friends of my quarrel with 
Madame d'Hauterive, my only relative, but without 
telling them the reason of it. I described to them in 
detail our meeting at Bagnoles and our reconciliation ; 
I told them of my friendship for my pseudo-god-son, 
the way in which I had been led to make the acquaint- 



330 ON THE BRANCH 

ance of the Lussons, the owners of that " Commanderie " 
which they had pointed out to me one day on returning 
from the Rochefort Chateau. 

" It is quite upsetting ! " exclaimed Madame A , 

her eyes wide open with interest. 

" If we had time to observe Life we should often be 
upset," I answered, smiling. 

" Well, I prefer keeping on my feet ! " replied my 
very prosaic friend, promptly. 

Upsetting, in truth, this epilogue! Upsetting, this 
affection that I feel for the son of Monsieur de Myeres 
and Colette! I wonder what I should do now without 
that tall, authoritative young man coming to my 
rooms. I should miss him very much. He has been 
for a splendid tour through Dauphiny, and I am in a 
hurry to hear about it. He is at present at " Les 
Rocheilles." In his letters there is such juvenile effu- 
sion and such fresh warmth of love that I feel it all 
from here. He is impatient to come and join me, I 
feel sure of that, but I have the intuition that it is 
no longer god-mother alone who attracts him. So much 
the better, oh, so much the better! I shall never be 
quite a mother until I have known the pain of sacrifice. 

Commanderie de Rouzwrs. 
" A Louis XIII place patched up fairly well." This 

was Monsieur A 's criticism of the house when he 

had first drawn my attention to it, little thinking that a 
few years later I was to receive such kind hospitality in 
it. It was here that the Lussons brought me a week 
ago. They came to Tours to fetch me, and I got out 
of the carriage of my friends to get into theirs. And 
what a warm welcome they gave me! On seeing me, 
my little friend's face flushed with pink. Was it 
Madame de Myeres or Guy's god-mother who produced 



TOURAINE 331 

tins effect? It was very pretty, anyhow. The " Cora- 
manderie " is about seven miles from Tours and half- 
an-hour from the village of Rouziers. It does not look 
like a chateau, but there is a certain ancient strength 
about its massive architecture. It was no doubt part of 
a military benefice. The beautiful ivy covering of its 
right wing, the bright simple flowers which surround 
it on every side soften its aspect. The park area is 
admirably planted. All this will no doubt fall to the 
share of Josee's half-brother, who married the daughter 
of a rich Canadian banker last year and now lives at 
Montreal. The " Commanderie " has been " thoroughly 
patched up," and not only outwardly, as modern com- 
forts have been introduced, with much art and respect, 
into the inside of the house, which is very comfortable. 
The atmosphere of it is not only due to the old furni- 
ture, the beautiful tapestries and family relics. One 
sees signs of intellectual and manual occupation every- 
where, and these signs are not, as in so many houses, 
theatrical accessories. Warm wraps are crocheted 
with the balls of wool from the basket in one of the 
window recesses of the large drawing-room. Em- 
broidery is done every day on the canvas stretched on 
the tapestry frame. There is a piano which is not 
silent. On the tables are reviews that are read; there 
is a library which is frequented; and there are large 
fire-places in which fires are lighted; foliage and flowers 
are arranged by skilful hands. There is, in short, real 
life about everything, and this makes itself felt. Cer- 
tain houses, although inhabited, always look empty, 
others, even when enipty, would look inhabited. That 
of the Lussons is among this number. In the rooms 
they have given me there is a beautiful view over the 
park and the country. The Randolphs had these rooms 
during their stay here. My bedroom is the one Sir 



332 ON THE BRANCH 

William occupied I feel a melancholy joy in say- 
ing to myself that his eyes and his thoughts were at- 
tracted by the objects around me. There are family 
portraits which parvenus would consign to the attic, 
bulgy chests of drawers, comfortable arm-chairs, an 
immense bureau, a Louis XV toilet-table which is my 
delight, a wardrobe, with glass doors, full of those old 
books which I love to look through. My bed is in 
an alcove, and over it is a holy water vase and a branch 
of Easter palm. It is a delightful suite of rooms for a 
dowager. In the little drawing-room, hung with Beau- 
vair tapestry, I feel as though I am a person of import- 
ance. My little friend has ornamented it with roses 
and chrysanthemums. Madame de Lusson informed 
me that she had constituted herself my hostess, and I 
could see that by her glance all round the room to be 
quite sure that nothing is wanting. 

As soon as I arrived, I wanted to see Josee's boys. 
She took me to " The Cottage," as their little home is 
called. " The Cottage " is one of the out-buildings of 
the farm. A long, low house between an orchard and 
a kitchen garden. A Canadian vine climbs right up 
to its attics. Its little windows have curtains with red 
and white stripes, and are all decorated with plants. 
Two cats were attending to their toilet on rustic 
benches placed on either side of the door; a large 
sheep-dog was lying down on the threshold. It all 
had a warm, gay look. A queen, such' as the Queen of 
England, would en j oy staying there ! 

Miss Jones came to meet us and was introduced to 
me. Her faded, fair hair, her ruddy complexion, to- 
gether with her freckles and a turn-up nose, give her 
an ugliness that is thoroughly Saxon; but her ex- 
tremely kind-looking blue eyes, her cheery expression, 
make her quite attractive. She has been a sort of 



TOURAINE 333 

governess to Mademoiselle de Lusson. When, two years 
ago, her pupil gave herself a little family, she asked 
to be allowed to take charge of it, and courageously 
exiled herself in the country. A former nun, who 
belonged to one of the congregations under the ban 
of the French government acts as servant, and does 
the work of ten persons. 

The interior of " The Cottage " delighted me. There 
are no steps, and one enters a room lighted by two 
windows, the brick floor is covered with mats, and 
there is a wooden staircase leading to the first floor. 
In this kind of hall the children take their meals, study 
and play. It is furnished with a large table, a dozen 
chairs and two straw arm-chairs. Some cupboards con- 
tain the books and the playthings, a large clock strikes 
the hours, and a stove warms it in winter. Parallel 
with this room, and looking on the garden, is a light, 
cheerful kitchen, and adjoining it the wash-house con- 
taining a bath. Each of the children's rooms has two 
little beds, two chests of drawers surmounted with a 
looking-glass, two desks and two chairs. The general 
wash-stand is provided with everything necessary. 
Miss Jones has very pretty rooms, a study down-stairs, 
and up-stairs a comfortable bedroom. Madame de 
Lusson has arranged an extra room for her, so that she 
can invite a friend. Amidst all this simplicity one 
recognizes Josee's taste. The china on the sideboard, 
although common, is pretty. On the enamel-painted 
walls of a delicate shade, there are engravings and pic- 
tures, pinned on under bands of Turkey-red twill; some 
rough pottery vases contain flowers and leaves. In the 
little house there is order and movement. Order without 
movement is icy cold. Open books, chairs in harness, 
a hundred odd things tell that children are there. The 
old furniture, brought down from the attics of the 



334 ON THE BRANCH 

" Commanderie," ,gives to the whole a home-like look. 
The children were at the end of the kitchen garden. 
Mademoiselle de Lusson put the silver whistle, which 
she wears as a charm, to her lips. When they all came 
running to her, calling out " God-mother, god-mother," 
she turned to me, saying, with a blushing smile 

" You see I am a god-mother, too ! " 

Her boys rushed to her and kissed her hands, then, 
on seeing me, they were disconcerted for a moment. I 
said a few words to them, and their little faces bright- 
ened again. 

The two eldest are eight and nine years old, the 
younger ones six and seven. One of them drew from 
his pocket a little box, opened it as though it contained 
something precious, and said, presenting it to the young 
girl 

" God-mother, this is my tooth, I drew it out myself." 

" That's right! Show me your mouth." 

The child obeyed. 

Josee examined the child's gums carefully. 

" The other is there already," she said. " And so you 
are giving me this one? ' 

" Yes, and all the others." 

The god-mother, touched by this, pressed the child's 
brown head against her. 

The frank, open faces of the four little urchins re- 
assured me. Cleanliness is in itself such elegance that 
they look as though they belong to a higher class of 
Society. I said this to my young friend. 

" The two eldest ones were covered with vermin when 
I took them," she said ; " now they have a horror of 
dirt. A few days ago Miss Jones heard piercing cries. 
She ran out and found Paul washing the farmer's 
daughter by force at the pump." 

" And they have no parents ? " 



\ 

TOURAINE 335 

" No. Father made me promise only to adopt chil- 
dren with no family. Now that I love them I shudder 
to think of the fate they might have had. Poor little 
creatures ! They look happy, don't they ? " 

" Happy ! They beam with health and contentment," 
I answered in all sincerity. 

During this visit I observed my little friend closely, 
but could not detect in her the slightest shade of affec- 
tation or of posing. Nothing, I am convinced, would 
make her give up her boys. She feels maternal pleasure 
in seeing them well, in bringing them up ; she tries 
to find out their aptitudes ; she thinks of their future. 
This is something that will keep a girl's heart pure 
and warm. 

Country life is thoroughly understood at the " Com- 
manderie." All morning, hosts and guests are entirely 
free. Luncheon is at eleven, tea at four and dinner at 
eight. This gives long afternoons for bridge, conver- 
sation, walks and drives. There are many country 
houses in the environs, and automobiles bring visitors 
every day. If my fate hal not been such a tragic one, 
I should have had, at Chavigny, a similar existence to 
that of Madame de Lusson. I should, like her, have 
had a well-sheltered home. This idea crossed my mind 
this morning while I was reading my Figaro under a 
tree in the park. The paper fell from my hands and, 
in the deep peace which surrounded me, I meditated 
for a long time. At Chavigny, Jean Noel would not 
have been born Jean Noel, the companion of my old 
age ! Providence took a great deal from me ; it gave 
me still more, though, I think. 

Comjnanderie de Rouziers. 

I have driven to Tours, and have come back with an 
uneasy feeling which I hope will prove unfounded. 



336 ON THE BRANCH 

Saturday is the day for Tours ; the residents of the 
environs meet there on that day. The streets are lined 
with brakes, phsetons, elegant carriages and automo- 
biles. Madame de Lusson goes regularly and receives 
her friends at the Hotel de 1'Univers, where she rents 
a drawing-room. Just before tea-time I went out to 
buy some toys for Josee's boys, and I walked about in 
the silent parts of the town which I specially love. In 
spite of its provincial spirit, its uncompromising bigots, 
the number of priests and nuns one meets there, Tours 
is not unpleasant. It is an aristocratic town, and hos- 
pitable. It has retained much of its light and gallant 
soul of former days. The eyes of the women, generally 
brown or black, have a light in them which is gay and 
provoking; there is a refined boldness in those of the 
men. They must be generous here, both with their love 
and money. I was careful not to miss Madame de Lus- 
son's reception. When I arrived, there were already 
about fifteen persons there, substantial dowagers dressed 
in black trimmed with jet. They wore strings to their 
bonnets ; their dull yellow complexions revealed their 
faulty hygiene; there were a few very pretty women, 
well dressed, but without any natural elegance. There 
were marriageable girls, too, stiff and awkward, and 
there were officers and country gentlemen. I once 
more had the opportunity of admiring the play of those 
general ideas which are the specialty of our race. The 
women who were there had no great culture; they 
probably read very little; their minds appeared to have 
run aground on a sand-bank, like the Loire; and yet 
they found something with which to aliment the con- 
versation. The gossip was well told, in choice language 
seasoned with fine salt. Whilst listening to this con- 
versation, I realised how useful and agreeable pro- 
vincial life in France might be if prejudice and igno- 



TOURAINE 337 

ranee did not render it stagnant, and then I said to 
myself that Providence will surely use the drag for these 
intellects in its own good time. They form, perhaps, 
the counter-balance necessary, for our nation, to the 
movement of the " Wheel of Things." 

The widow of a general, who had amused me by her 
sallies, began to talk of her son-in-law in eulogistic 
terms. 

" If sons-in-law were elected every seven years, like 
the President of the Republic," she added, " I should 
choose Robert again." 

This assertion of maternal authority gave me a start. 

" Your daughter would have a voice in the matter 
this time, I suppose," said a little woman with a mis- 
chievous face. 

" My daughter ! " repeated the General's wife, as 
though she had forgotten that factor ; " oh, she has 
always done as I wish. It has suited her very well, too, 
for she is perfectly happy." 

I caught a flash in my little friend's eyes. Evidently 
she would not have suffered any one to dispose of her 
fate in this way. This reflection made me notice how 
much the foreign element within her came out among 
these provincial women. In her words, in her manner 
there was marked individuality. She appeared to be in 
full possession of the liberty of speaking and thinking, 
but she did not abuse that liberty. The guests were 
profuse in their friendly overtures to the heiress, but 
there was a certain mistrust perceptible. They watched 
her move about in the room, they were observing and 
criticising her to themselves. She began to pour the 
tea and chocolate. A very handsome young lieutenant 
was eager to help her in the passing of cups and cakes. 
I soon began to feel very anxious as though the general 
impression had communicated itself to me. I was sure 



338 ON THE BRANCH 

that there was marriage in the air. Josee seemed to me 
embarrassed; the mother of the young man was talking 
to her in an affectionate and familiar way. I wondered 
if I were on the wrong track, and this thought gave me 
a terrible pang. I was in a hurry for the reception to 
come to an end, so that I might indirectly confess the 
young girl. As soon as we were in the carriage, Josee 
said to me in an indignant way 

" Did you hear that odious woman ? She married 
her daughter, in order to keep her near to herself, to 
a neighbour, a good sort of man, well educated, but as 
dull as ditch-water." 

" Oh, there are still some girls who allow themselves 
to be married by their parents," said Madame de Lusson, 
trying to put on a severe air. 

" And there are some parents who are not selfish," 
answered my little friend, raising her mother's hand to 
her lips. 

This reassured me for an instant, then the remem- 
brance of the handsome lieutenant came to my mind 
to disquiet me. I recalled the way in which every one 
had watched the two young people and I was sure that 
every one had decided on their marriage. 

Before going to bed Josee comes to pay me a little 
visit in my room. She arrives in her nightdress and 
dressing-gown, her bare feet in pretty sandals. She 
sits down on a low chair, or on the ground before the 
fire-place, where my wood fire is burning, and talks to 
me. 

Out of loyalty to my hosts, I always scrupulously 
avoid talking of my god-son, but Josee always finds a 
way of mentioning his name, of bringing him forward. 
She has to go an immense way round sometimes, and 
I laugh slyly at her skill. This evening she spoke to 
me of our automobile drive to the Dent du Chat. 



TOURAINE 339 

" By the bye," I asked her, " who is the young man 
who helped you with the tea this afternoon ? " 

" Count Morziers, mamma's candidate," she answered, 
shaking her beautiful mane with a gesture of re- 
volt. 

" But he is very nice," I said, wickedly. 

At this unexpected approbation from me, an appro- 
bation which seemed to put Guy out of the question, 
her face darkened instantaneously. I have never seen 
a face on which unhappiness is so visible, it covers it 
like a cloud. She fixed her grey eyes on me with an ex- 
pression of astonishment, then looking at the flame in 
the fire, she said 

" Yes, he is very nice ; he is the best match in the 
whole country even. Unfortunately, he is too fond of 
his profession as a soldier to give it up, and I will never 
consent to live in a moving camp. I want a fixed home." 

This time my fears vanished. I felt remorseful for 
having caused a doubt that was painful in my little 
friend's heart. I noticed that a sudden discouragement 
seemed to have taken the life out of her. Conversation 
dragged, and in her " good-night " I felt a shade of cold- 
ness. I patted her shoulder in a friendly way and 
said 

" Let us hope that Providence will send us what we 
both desire, a good master for Chavigny." 

" Yes, let us hope so," she said gravely. 

Commanderie de Rouziers. 

And whilst I was feeling so anxious, my candidate 
arrived with all the speed of his fifteen horse-power. 
This afternoon he dropped down upon us like a veri- 
table thunderbolt. My hosts were paying a round of 
visits. I was with Josee at " The Cottage." Whilt 
waiting for the tea and scones, which Miss Jones was 



340 ON THE BRANCH 

preparing for us, my little friend was playing quoits 
with her two elder boys. Lying back in a garden arm- 
chair, with a cat on my knees, I was watching the gos- 
samer threads floating in the air, and wondering for the 
hundreth time from whence they came. The weather 
was specially fine, the atmosphere transparent as in the 
early days of autumn, and all around us was something 
of a dominical peace. All at once Top, the watch-dog, 
and the two fox-terriers, burst into furious barks,' and 
rushed towards the end of the orchard as though they 
were possessed. 

" A visitor," I said. 

Josee turned around, and, to our stupefaction, we 
saw Guy in the midst of the three barking, jumping, 
protesting dogs. The cat jumped down and put her 
back up. I rose, and before I knew where I was my 
god-son had kissed me. 

" Where have you come from ? " I exclaimed at 
last. 

" Out of my auto, god-mother, and from Tours." 

With this reply, uttered in an easy way, he approached 
Mademoiselle de Lusson. Their eyes met, they shook 
hands, their faces were touched by invisible light. That 
lasted a second, enough to edify me. Jean Noel caught 
the whole picture the sunny cottage, Miss Jones 
coming forward, a teapot in one hand, a plate of hot 
cakes in the other, the table set under a bower and deco- 
rated with flowers, the children, and then the dogs scent- 
ing the visitor, Josee standing up in the foreground, 
nervously stroking the head of one of her boys, and 
looking most charming in her short dress of grey cloth, 
woven in Tuscany, her well-cut jacket, her chemisette of 
cream silk, her hat of soft felt with a wide brim. Truly 
Providence frames its personages well, but we take no 
notice of this. 



TOURAINE 341 

" Will you explain to me," I said to Guy, " how it is 
that you are in Touraine on the tenth of October when 
you were not to come before the twenty-fifth ? " 

" I know ; but I* could not wait until the twenty-fifth, 
that's all." 

" A fine reason," I said, partially disarmed. 

" The real one," replied my boy, tranquilly. 

" Where have you left your automobile? " asked 
Josee, who had recovered from her emotion. 

" At the ' Commanderie.' They told me that Mon- 
sieur and Madame de Lusson were out driving, and they 
also told me where I should find you." 

" It would have served you right if we had been 
absent, too," I said. 

" As hostess, I protest," said my little friend, gaily. 
" I am delighted to be able to offer a cup of tea to 
Monsieur d'Hauterive." 

" One would think that he had been attracted by the 
smell of the scones, which he used to eat so eagerly in 
the tea-rooms at Aix-les-Bains," I said, smiling. 

" I have certainly been attracted by something," re- 
plied the young man audaciously, " for I have driven 
nearly all the time at the maximum rate." 

By what process these simple words brought a shade 
of deep pink to Josee's face, I do not know; that is 
Nature's secret! 

How the presence of a man fills a place! There 
seemed to be ten times more life and gaiety now than 
before. My little friend had never appeared so attract- 
ive to me. The simplicity of her English costume gave 
her a charming ease of manner. The brim of her hat 
turning up in front, a la Polaire, showed her forehead 
and the irreproachable line of the golden hair right to 
the roots. I caught the scared look of Miss Jones, 
glancing from one to the other of the two young people. 



342 ON THE BRANCH 

That look made me suddenly feel the indiscretion of this 
unexpected arrival of my god-son. I wondered what the 
Lussons would think of it. Just at that moment we 
heard the sound of a carriage. 

" Papa and mamma ! " exclaimed Josee. " They, too, 
have smelt the scones. Quick, some fresh tea, Miss 
Jones ! " 

I rose promptly and, accompanied by Guy, went to 
meet my hosts. With an exclamation of surprise, they 
held out their hands to him cordially. In their ex- 
tremely kind welcome there was a shade of embarrass- 
ment which did not escape me. That irritated me with 
the culprit. 

" You have not come to fetch your god-mother, I 
hope," said Madame de Lusson. " She belongs to us 
until the end of the month, and we shall not let her 
off a single day earlier." 

" She would not let herself be taken away," answered 
Guy. " I shall await her good pleasure. I have friends 
in garrison at Tours and at Orleans, and an estate to 
visit in Sologne, so all that will fill up my time." 

" You might have passed the time at * Les Ho- 
cheilles,' " I said, rather dryly. 

" And to think that I have come at thirty-seven an 
hour to hear that ! " 

The distressed expression of my god-son seemed to 
us irresistibly droll. The gaiety it caused put us all at 
ease. 

After tea, Guy asked Miss Jones to let him visit " The 
Cottage." He came out afterwards visibly touched by 
what he had seen, but he at once hid this with a jest. 

" Have you never been afraid that your daughter 
would join the Salvation Army?" he asked Monsieur 
de Lusson. 

" You mean that as a joke," answered the latter, 



TOURAINE 343 

smiling ; " but last year I really had to go with her 
several times to the Rue Auber, and to the lectures of a 
French Salvationist. She was thoroughly taken up 
with the work. It required nothing less than the ugli- 
ness of the costume for reassuring me. I knew that she 
would shrink at the bonnet." 

Josee coloured, and then her face became grave. 

" There was no need for you to be afraid ; I am simply 
incapable of the self-sacrifice that such a life demands," 
she said. 

" Heaven be praised ! " exclaimed Monsieur de Lus- 
son, with comic fervour. 

" I have been int> several of the homes of the men 
and women officers of the Salvation Army," continued 
Josee. " They are very poor and very touching. At 
any minute the husband and wife must be ready to 
take help here or there. In reality, the Salvationists 
are true rescuers. Only think that they have found the 
way to bring back the most fallen creature to a social 
existence. In their ranks that creature may become 
some one, and some one very great, even. That Army 
incarnates the force of good ; we ought to help it as much 
as possible in its struggle against evil." 

" You see," said Monsieur de Lusson, in a mocking 
way, " my daughter goes in for preaching without the 
bonnet ! " 

Josee put her arm through her father's. 

" You would get what you deserved if I accepted the 
bonnet ! " 

Upon this we said good-bye to Miss Jones and went 
towards the " Commanderie." Guy admired the old 
house, the park and its century-old cedars very much. 
My hosts did not fail to invite him to luncheon for the 
next day. Under pretext of showing him my beautiful 
rooms, I took him away with me. 



344 ON THE BRANCH 

" You know I shall not allow you to stay at Tours," 
I said, as soon as the door was shut. " You must go 
and wait for me at Saumur; or at Orleans, if you like." 

" Why ? " he asked, with a false air of innocence. 

" Because the Lussons, who are hospitality itself, 
would think themselves obliged to give you free entrance 
to their house, and they have a daughter. If people see 
you coming here half-a-dozen times they will imagine 
that you have intentions." 

My god-son's face lighted up with joy and mischief. 

" But that is just it; I have intentions," he said. 

" Ah ! " I exclaimed, thunderstruck. 

He put his arm around my shoulders another of 
my husband's ways made me sit down on a little sofa, 
and then said, with a serious face 

" God-mother, scarcely six months ago you saw me 
nearly dying through a woman's treachery. What shall 
you think of me to-day if I tell you that I am in love 
with Mademoiselle de Lusson. Shall you not think 
badly of me ? " 

" I know life too well for that," I replied, sincerely. 
" Madame de Mauriones was the physical passion of 
your youth." 

Guy rose 

" No, god-mother ; it was a deeper feeling than that." 

The loyalty of the young man towards his first love 
pleased me infinitely. 

" And I am astonished," he continued, " at being able 
to love again." 

He drew a long breath. 

" Ah, how good it is, this warmth and this light ! 
When they came back to me I could not believe my 
senses." 

" And when did they come back ? " I asked, with a 



TOURAINE 345 

* 

smile. He returned to the sofa, and said, putting his 
right arm around me 

"When? After my departure from Aix-les-Bains. 
As soon as I was alone I suddenly missed the blue-grey 
eyes of Mademoiselle de Lusson, her Irish eyes, as you 
call them. I wanted them to see the landscapes which I 
saw. It seemed to me that my eyes were no longer 
enough for admiring and looking. Wasn't that cu- 
rious ? " 

" Oh, very curious," I said in a mocking tone. " It 
was no longer the society of god-mother that you needed, 
was it?" 

" You are not jealous, I hope! You know very well 
how much I love you." 

" Oh yes ; please continue." 

" Without my having any idea of it, her face seemed 
to have stamped itself on my memory. She appeared 
to me so full of life and so attractive. At * Les Ro- 
cheilles ' I did nothing but live again that last week at 
Aix-les-Bains. I remembered all her words, her slightest 
gestures. The wish to see her again became irresistible; 
I put my machine under pressure, and turned the wheel 
towards her. Ah, god-mother, you cannot imagine what 
one feels, rushing through space, at the rate of thirty- 
seven an hour, to reach the woman one loves. A twen- 
tieth-century sensation, that, and divine, I can assure 
you." 

" Ah, now I am well up as to the impressions of an 
automobilist in love. Jean Noel thanks you, my dear 
boy," I said, with a smile. 

Guy walked up and down the room several times, and 
then, sitting down once more, he again put his arm 
around my shoulder and said, in a voice full of emo- 
tion 



346 ON THE BRANCH 

" Do you think they'll give her to me ? " 

" I hope so. From the first moment Monsieur and 
Madame de Lusson liked you. Your name and your 
fortune cannot fail to satisfy them." 

" And what about her? You talk to her a great deal ; 
I am sure that you read her like a book. Tell 
me " 

" Not a word. That would be treason. Besides, I am 
sure you know perfectly well what to count on with re- 
gard to her sentiments." 

My god-son coloured. 

" I have only my intuition ; I want more than that. 
To-morrow I shall know." 

" If she is destined for you, you may consider yourself 
fortunate. She is the most wholesome and the most 
delightful creature I have ever met." 

" If she were not destined for me it would be an 
abominable snare. I have had my share of bad luck, 
you know, and that rather reassures me." 

I rose, and Guy did the same. 

" What nice rooms you have ! " he exclaimed, looking 
round him. " Oh, what dear old furniture, what soft 
colouring ! Are you not better off in a house so private 
and snug than you are at the hotel? You shall not stay 
any longer ' on the branch,' as you call it ; you shall 
have my bachelor flat. It's no encumbrance, a bachelor's 
flat. You will be able to have the illusion of liberty 
there." 

" That's enough," I said nervously ; " do not let us 
make plans, it brings bad luck, and you must go now. 
Luncheon is at eleven, remember; do not come at nine." 

" I will try not to." 

I stood still, in the middle of the little drawing-room, 
and shivered from head to foot with a sensation of 
shadow and solitude. Mechanically I went nearer to 



TOURAINE 347 

the fire and held out my hands to it. Its flame did not 
warm me. It was my heart, I think, that was cold. 

Commanderie de Rouziers. 

Well, the sacrifice is made! The Lussons have given 
Josee away, I have given my god-son away, and we have 
not yet recovered from our surprise. When the moment 
of decisive action arrives, either we have been prepared 
for it unawares, or we are completely dominated by the 
higher forces; all resistance, all will power, is annihi- 
lated; the words, even, which we pronounce seem to be 
prompted. We are caught up in a sort of whirlwind, 
and then the whirlwind is lived through, the fact accom- 
plished, consciousness comes back to us, and with it either 
joy or sorrow. This phenomenon has just happened 
for us. It has left me with an inward trembling which 
only my pen can calm. The greatest events appear so 
small when reduced to the condition of copy. 

Yesterday morning my god-son arrived earlier than he 
ought to have done, in the hope of waylaying Madame 
de Lusson, but without succeeding in this. Two neigh- 
bours had been invited to luncheon. In spite of the pres- 
ence of the strangers, and the extremely animated con- 
versation, I distinctly felt the magnetic current which 
existed between the two young people. My feeble or- 
gans were incapable of distinguishing its waves, but 
I saw its effects. The great Invisible had put a warm 
light into Guy's eyes and made the blue of the pupils 
deeper; it had tinted with pink my little friend's cheeks 
and given to her voice joyous notes full of 'deep feeling. 
All the time I had the impression that it was acting 
outwardly. Love, considered thus, as an agent of Na- 
ture, seems to be more powerful, more divine than ever. 

An excursion was arranged for the afternoon to Pool 
Farm, a model farm which belongs to a cousin of Mon- 



348 ON THE BRANCH 

sieur de Lusson. The four men started by automobile. 
I said to myself that that would delay Guy's affair, and I 
was glad of it yes, really glad, though I cannot under- 
stand exactly why. Directly after tea I went up to my 
room to write a few urgent letters. When I had finished 
I went to the window, and started with surprise on see- 
ing Guy and Josee walking slowly up and down the lawn. 
I saw them stop, all at once, under a rose-bush and the 
old cedar, which the Lussons have named " Grandfather." 
My god-son took his hat off slowly with his left hand, and 
stood bare-headed before the young girl. In this tableau 
viuant I felt the presence of love just as one feels prayer 
in Millet's " Angelus." The sight of this youthful hap- 
piness caused me neither regret nor envy. I had, at 
that moment, the impression that I was on a summit, that 
I was very high up indeed, very far away, and, quite 
proud of my serenity, I moved away discreetly. Scarce- 
ly a quarter of an hour had passed by when I heard a 
joyous knock at my door. Guy came in like a whirl- 
wind, clasped me in his arms, which were still trembling, 
and said 

" God-mother, god-mother, she loves me ! " 

I disengaged myself from his hug. 

" That is no reason for suffocating me," I said, trying 
to get my breath again. 

" Oh forgive me, I am so happy." 

He threw himself down into an armchair, and I re- 
mained standing by the mantel-shelf. 

'" Then she told you that she loved you? " 

" No, I felt it ; that was very much better ! Just now, 
when we were strolling in the park, I told her of my 
intention to go to Saumur. She did not flinch, but if 
you had seen how her face clouded over ! I should never 
have imagined that a poor little word of mine could have 
such an effect. ' It is god-mother who is sending me 



TOURAINE 349 

away,' I added at once. ' She declares that if I stay at 
Tours I should be at the " Commanderie " all the time, 
and that that would never do, unless I had the right to 
come here.' ' 

" God-mother was very useful to you, I see ! " 

" Very useful," replied my boy, with a wink. " Made- 
moiselle de Lusson understood, and her face lighted up 
again. I told her that I had the greatest wish to secure 
that right, but that before asking for it I wanted to have 
her permission. Then she stopped, turned towards me 
an instant, and said, with a pretty, grave look, ' Should 
you be very unhappy if I refused you this permission ? ' 
You can guess my reply. ' Well, I don't want you to 
be unhappy; Madame de Myeres would never forgive 
me ! ' she said. Those were her exact words." 

" The little hypocrite ! " I exclaimed, amused. 

" At those words, I was tempted to do like the lovers 
in English novels, take her in my arms and give her a 
kiss, but my Latin education held me back, and I simply 
took off my hat." 

" Your declaration scene was very cleverly arranged. 
Jean Noel presents his compliments to you." 

" Well, I can scarcely believe myself to have been the 
author of it. Fancy, I never said anything that I had 
prepared. The conversation began in quite a different 
manner. I heard my own words. I do not know 
whether it is the influence of your ideas, but for the first 
time I had the distinct impression that I was being 
directed by a higher force. That does not much matter 
to me, as the higher force led me where I wanted to go. 
And now, " he added, rising, " let us go to Monsieur and 
Madame de Lusson." 

" What, without any warning, you want to go and 
ask them for their daughter right away ? Youth is piti- 
less! You will please allow me to prepare them for it. 



350 ON THE BRANCH 

I will speak to them this very evening, and, in case they 
allow you to make your offer, I will send you a telegram 
in the morning, and then you can come full speed if you 
like." 

" Yes," he said, after a moment's hesitation, " you are 
right; that would be more the thing. Do you know, 
god-mother, that marriage is a very great thing, and 
not at all trivial, as people imagine. When I think 
that this girl, whom I scarcely dare to look at, will per- 
haps be given to me, will become my wife my wife, 
you understand it makes me dizzy. And it is to you 
that I shall owe her," he added, lifting my two hands to 
his lips. 

" Many people and many things will have worked 
for this union if it should take place," I answered. 
" Do you know from whom the first idea of it came to 
me?" 

" No." 

" From Madame de Mauriones." 

Guy let go my hands and looked at me in a questioning 
way. I told him the incident of the Skating Rink. 

" You seemed so far away from marriage, and Josee 
seemed so near it, that I had never thought of the possi- 
bility of your lives being united. That glance from the 
Marquise was an indication, a suggestion. I saw the 
presentiment of a jealous woman in it, and it encouraged 
me." 

" Madame de Mauriones will again have served to make 
me know the value of true love," added my god-son in a 
grave voice. " You know that she is going to be mar- 
ried? " 

" To Prince K ? " I asked, thoughtlessly. 

A deep red rose to Guy's face. 

" Ah, you know all about it, I see," he said, laughing 
nervously. " Yes, to Prince K . He has gold mines 



TOURAINE 351 

in Siberia, bushels of precious stones, all that is neces- 
sary for the happiness of certain women." 

" Let us pity them, my dear boy, for not knowing 
other things." 

" Let us pity them," he repeated ; " I am quite will- 
ing." He then took my hands again in his, and added, 
" Then it is understood ; a telegram to-morrow, and 
early, too? " 

" As early as possible, and I hope it will fill your soul 
with joy." 

" You are an angel, god-mother ! " 

Upon this he took his hat and went towards the door. 
From the threshold he threw me a kiss, and, like his 
father in moments of exultation, he called out 

" I adore you ! " 

As soon as I was alone again, a crowd of doubts and 
fears began to assail me. After all, my hosts might 
have other views for their daughter. I knew that they 
would never oppose her inclination; but would not her 
inclination for Guy cause them some regret? Count 
de Morziers was certainly a much wealthier match. 
Supposing that, instead of satisfaction, I was about to 
bring them great disappointment. 

I remembered, curiously enough, Monsieur de Lusson's 
first glance at my god-son though, the evening I had in- 
troduced him at the People's University. It was the 
glance of an observer, and it was followed by an ex- 
pression of pleasure. During the last week of our stay 
at Aix-les-Bains I had felt a secret understanding be- 
tween us, a kind of complicity. That intuition, which 
was so distinct, reassured me. Jean Noel prepared a fine 
exordium, but he was not to utter even the first word of 
it, of course. In the depths of my heart I was ridic- 
ulously proud of playing this mother's role, and de- 
lighted to experience fresh emotions. 



352 ON THE BRANCH 

Between six and seven o'clock my hosts generally meet 
in the library, where the letters are brought to them. 
That time seemed to me favourable. As I went down- 
stairs my step became slower and slower, and my heart 
beat more and more. When I entered, Monsieur de Lus- 
son was reading the Figaro aloud, his wife was crochet- 
ing a little garment, a wood fire was blazing in the large 
fire-place, the lamp shades formed a pretty zone of light, 
a black cat with folded paws was asleep on the leaves of 
a manuscript. I thought of the effect of my words 
falling in this atmosphere of peace, and my confusion 
increased. I was welcomed, as always, with the most sin- 
cere kindliness. I sat down in my arm-chair to the right 
of the bureau, and, taking up one of the large tortoise- 
shell paper-knives, which are so pleasant for nervous 
hands to touch, I asked 

" And what about the visit to Pool Farm, how did it 
go off? " 

The question, asked solely to delay my opening fire, 
was destined to hasten this. 

" Very well," answered Monsieur de Lusson, " my 
cousin was delighted to exhibit his mission, for it is a 
mission, to a Grignon pupil. Do you know that I owe 
an apology to Monsieur d'Hauterive." 

"Why?" 

" I thought he was a simple amateur of agronomy ; 
this afternoon he astonished us all by his real knowl- 
edge. One feels in him the need of creating, of trans- 
forming. One feels that he loves the soil, because it is 
a field for experiments. Oh, he will do something, that 
young man." 

" What a pleasure to hear you speak like that ! You 
have a weakness for him, I believe," I added, rather 
wickedly. 

" That's true." 



TOURAINE 353 

"Well, then, tell me," I said, clenching my paper- 
knife in my hand, " if you had a daughter, would you 
give her to him? " 

How the odd idea of asking the question in this way 
came to me I do not know. My hosts looked at each 
other, deeply moved. Monsieur de Lusson's eyeglass 
seemed to shine more brightly. 

" What do you think, Louise ? " he asked, with comic 
gravity. " If we had a daughter, would we give her 
to Monsieur d'Hauterive? " 

The mother, troubled and excited, gave a faint 
smile. 

" I think we would," she said. 

" And as for me, I'm sure of it," added the father 
warmly. 

"But is this serious ?" asked Madame de Lusson, 
rather bewildered. 

" Serious ! Yesterday my god-son had the courage to 
confess to me that if he had come a fortnight too early 
to Touraine, it was not for my sake, but for that of 
Mademoiselle Josee, and to-day he sends me as ambas- 
sadress to know whether he can come to-morrow to ask 
your consent, neither more nor less than that," I said, 
throwing down again the paper-knife, which was of no 
further use. 

We all three of us rose instinctively, as though for 
some solemn deed. Madame de Lusson kissed me with one 
of those warm impulses which remind me of Colette. I 
held out my hand to my host. He pressed it, and then 
raised it to his lips. 

" Let Monsieur d'Hauterive come," he said, simply. 

" Thank you for him and for me," I replied, moved 
to the very depth of my heart. " It is much more easy 
to write novels than to live them," I added, letting my- 
self fall back in my arm-chair. 



354 ON THE BRANCH 

" Poor Madame de Myeres ! " said my host, with a 
smile. 

" I am glad, though, to have been destined to work for 
the happiness of these two children. Josee is a treasure 
of womanly qualities and of modern qualities." 

" You hear that, Louise," said Monsieur de Lusson, as 
he jokingly shook his own hand. 

" As to Guy, he is perfectly healthy in mind, body and 
soul." * 

" I do not doubt it, and I felt that at our first meet- 
ing. The idea that he would be a desirable husband for 
Josee crossed my brain several times, I confess to you. 
One is not master in these things. I studied him closely. 
I talked to him like a comrade, so that he should let him- 
self go. I soon recognised that he had what the English 
call a clean mind, that he had the nature of a gentleman, 
morally and physically. You understand me. It seems 
to me that for a refined woman nothing is above that." 

" Nothing ! " 

Madame de Lusson and I uttered this word together. 

" There are some men, intimacy with whom must be 
odious. I have had tears in my eyes on looking at cer- 
tain brides, and have said to myself, ' There goes one 
who, to-morrow, will no longer be a girl, but a martyr.' 
I was resolved, cost what it might, to keep my daughter 
from such a fate. Poor child, she is so ignorant of life. 
As regards all this, Monsieur d'Hauterive reassures me 
completely. Do you know, this afternoon my cousin, 
Seauve, said to me, nodding towards him, ' There's a 
young man whom I should approve for Josee ! ' " 

" That proves that they certainly look as though they 
were made for each other," I said, with a smile. 

I told my hosts of the fear I had on seeing Count de 
Morziers so attentive to their daughter. Monsieur de 
Lusson began to laugh. 



TOURAINE 355 

" For the last year his family has been trying to work 
my wife, and she did not want to discourage him. 
Mothers must always have a son-in-law in reserve. 
Then, too, we guessed that Josee's heart was rather in- 
clined towards your god-son. That did not fail to make 
us rather anxious, for, you see, he might have had some 
tie." 

I felt that there was a sort of question in these words. 

" There was one, as it happens : Providence broke it 
in time, and in so violent a manner that he nearly died 
of it; but the rupture is irrevocable, I assure you. No 
other liaison would have prepared him so well for mar- 
riage. The woman who initiated him was all that we 
could desire. If I had not known him to be absolutely 
free I should have taken care not to introduce him to 
you." 

At this moment we heard a noise in the hall. 

" Here is the young person, it will be amusing," said 
Monsieur de Lusson, his eyes lighting up with mischief. 

The door opened, and two terriers rushed in first, 
giving us wild caresses. One of them sprang on to the 
table, licked the black cat vigorously, and she, roused 
suddenly out of her sleep or dream, gave him two 
scratches on the nose, a regular nervous creature's 
welcome. Josee followed. 

" Good-evening, all of you ! " she said, throwing her 
hat on a chair. She examined us all with a curious look ; 
then, as though she had a presentiment of the solemnity 
of the hour, instead of going to perch herself near her 
father, according to her custom, she sat down on the arm 
of her mother's chair. 

" Anything fresh in the Figaro? " she asked, in a 
careless way. 

" No, not in the Figaro," replied M. de Lusson, stand- 
ing up in front of the chimney-piece and looking down 



356 ON THE BRANCH 

on the scene ; " but Madame de Myeres has just made 
us a very interesting communication." 

"Ah!" 

There was a certain emotion in this little word. 

" Yes, she has just been proposing a very good match 
for you ; a marquis, a very handsome man, thirty-five 
years of age, a chateau in Anjou, twelve thousand 
pounds income and prospects. That's enticing, isn't 
it?" 

This was uttered in so perfectly natural a way that, 
in spite of the words exchanged with Guy, Josee was 
taken in. Her face clouded over in a way peculiar to 
her, she looked at me with astonished eyes full of re- 
proach, and then said, in a disdainful tone 

" Enticing? Not for me. I have no wish to become 
a marquise. As for a chateau, I have Chavigny, and 
I should not care for my husband to have a fortune so 
much greater than mine," she added, swinging her foot 
in a way which betrayed her annoyance. 

Monsieur de Lusson was jubilant. 

u But, you wretched child," he said, " you will be left 
on our hands." 

" You wouldn't be much to be pitied if I were." 

" No, but it would be humiliating." 

I thought the joke had lasted long enough, and I said, 
with a smile, to Josee 

" Come here, little girl." 

She obeyed me, and in a very stiff way came and 
perched herself on the arm of my chair. I pressed her 
hand affectionately. " Console yourself ; this suitor, 
whose ambassadress I am, is not a marquis, but a simple 
baron my god-son, in short. He loves you, and he can 
see no happiness except in you and through you. You 
will accept him, won't you, if only to be my god- 
daughter? " 



TOURAINE 357 

At the first words a wave of rich blood coloured Josee's 
face, the corners of her lips quivered slightly, nervous 
tears came to her eyes. 

" I should like to punish you all by refusing him," 
she said, " but I can't." 

" Ah, that's it, is it ? " said Monsieur de Lusson, laugh- 
ing ; " then it's yes ? " 

Josee got up, and after whispering in our ears, 
to one after another, a joyous " Yes," she rushed 
away. 

" Well, then, we have our reply," said Monsieur de 
Lusson. " Oh, there is no doubt of it." 

" Guy must be in a fine fever ! I promised him a tele- 
gram to-morrow morning." 

" Write it at once," suggested the kind, indulgent 
mother. " We will send it to Rouziers first thing in the 
morning." 

And I wrote 

" Affectionate congratulations ; expecting you. 

" GODMOTHER." 

" Is that right ? " I asked, reading it to them. 

" Perfectly," replied Madame de Lusson. 

I rose, my host came to me, and, taking my two hands 
in his, said 

" I need not tell you of our gratitude ; you feel it, I 
hope. This marriage delights me still more, because it 
will make our friendship closer. Poor Madame de 
Myeres ! You wanted to live independently, and here 
you are with a whole family on your hands. We shall 
have to finish together, and you must work at my con- 
version. We will play bezique, bridge, with a dummy, 
and we shall have some baptisms. You can write a novel 
to teach the art of growing old pleasantly. We will 



358 ON THE BRANCH 

utilise our lives to the very end, and we will be very 
happy, in spite of age and of rheumatism." 

" So be it," I replied gaily. 

A wall, behind which something is going on, 
becomes interesting. I do not know who said that, 
but the human creature, whose soul has been, or is, 
the theatre of an extraordinary event, produces the 
same effect. The play of the forces of destiny com- 
municates to him a peculiar magnetism, makes him 
almost sacred. During the whole of dinner my little 
friend made me experience this strange sensation. My 
eyes kept fixing themselves eagerly on her face. To 
catch what? Had she, then, an invisible halo? The 
funniest part was that her parents watched her with 
the same curiosity. Her dress of ivory-coloured canvas, 
with wide, transparent sleeves, her bodice trimmed 
with a bunch of roses, made her look delightfully 
young. At times her inward excitement overflowed 
in rapid words, changing her very voice. I could not 
help admiring her tact and her self-possession. She 
took part in the conversation as usual, and appeared 
to be interested in it. She then played bridge with 
meritorious attention. I guessed the mysterious force 
which, from Tours, was acting on her without her 
knowledge. She yielded to it for a second, then by an 
effort of will she brought her thoughts back to the 
cards, drew her beautiful straight eyebrows together, 
in order to reflect better as to whether she ought to 
" double " or declare " no trumps." I took pity on her 
and said I was tired, in order to give her back to herself 
and Guy. I advised her in a whisper, kissing her at 
the same time, to put on the next morning the tailor- 
costume she had worn on Sunday. She replied with 
a glance of understanding. I am sure she had already 



TOURAINE 359 

chosen that one. After such a day I could not sleep 
before morning, so that it was late when I got up. I 
had only just finished dressing when my god-son ar- 
rived. He clasped nie in his arms, no longer with 
the juvenile transport of the evening before, but with 
the gravity of a man. 

" Then it's ' Yes ' ? " he said, deeply moved. 

" It is ' Yes.' You certainly do not deserve it, con- 
sidering your very recent horror of marriage and of 
girls." 

" You are right. What an idiot I was ! " 

" Providence has spoiled you by reserving for you a 
wife like Mademoiselle de Lusson." 

"Spoiled me: I should just think so, god-mother; 
and I am quite conscious of it, you may be sure." 

He made me sit down on the little sofa. 

" And now tell me all," he said. 

I then described, without omitting anything, the 
scene of the evening before. He rose and began to 
pace the room, while twisting his moustache. I noticed 
how well he looked, and also the perfect correctness of 
his morning dress. I even rejoiced for an instant in 
the thought of the harmonious ensemble that his well- 
cut suit would make with the tailor-costume of my little 
friend. He suddenly stopped short in front of me, 
with a comically scared look. 

" God-mother, what am I going to say to Monsieur 
and Madame de Lusson? How does one ask for a 
girl's hand? Is there any formula? " 

" I know nothing about it," I answered, smiling ; 
" your affection is too sincere not to inspire you with 
words for the situation." 

I rose. Guy took my hand and held it against his 
breast. 



360 ON THE BRANCH 

" Feel how it beats inside there." 

" It is fine, that strong, regular rhythm," I said, with 
admiration. 

My boy smiled. 

" God-mother, you are astounding with your way of 
considering Life." 

" Don't be scandalised ; it is Jean Noel who looks at it 
like this." Then, taking his arm, I said, " Come, let 
us go down." 

My hosts were waiting for us in the library. 

" Here is the celebrated god-son," I announced, by 
way of making the situation easy at once ; " he has come 
to ask for all that you have which is most dear and 
precious to you." 

Monsieur de Lusson held out both his hands to the 
suitor. 

" Our little Josee, isn't it ? " he said, in an affectionate 
way. " Well, my dear fellow, we are happy to give 
her to you. We feel that you love her as she deserves 
to be loved. Your character is a guarantee of happiness 
for her, and her happiness is what we desire above 
everything." 

A wave of deep emotion coloured Guy's face. In- 
stinctively he turned towards the mother. " How am 
I to thank you ? " he stammered out ; " I can find no 
words " 

" We do not need words," answered Madame de Lus- 
son. " We know your feelings, and that suffices for 
us. I warn you, that I do not want a son-in-law, but 
a son," she added, with Colette's bright smile ; " I have 
always wanted one." 

" I shall have no difficulty in becoming yours, you 
are so much like my mother," replied the young man, 
raising to his lips the hand that the charming woman 
held out to him. 



TOURAINE 361 

" I will tell you, some time, why I would have chosen 
you out of a hundred," began my host, again tapping 
Guy's shoulder affectionately. " Go now to your 
fiancee; she will be either in the park or at ' The Cot- 
tage,' letting herself be looked for. And, above all, 
don't forget luncheon ! " 

When we were alone again we looked at each other. 
A silence fell upon us, that peculiar silence which fol- 
lows the great events of Life. I was the first to break 
it. And we then talked freely, and had the consolation 
of feeling that we were all very united and very great 
friends. Towards eleven o'clock we saw the young 
couple coming out on the lawn. 

" What a handsome couple they are ! " said Monsieur 
de Lusson. " It makes one wish to be a grandfather ! " 

The lovers came slowly towards us. My coquettish 
little friend had added to her tailor-costume a waistcoat 
of white cloth and a white necktie. This was extremely 
becoming. At the threshold of the French window Guy 
took JoseVs arm and drew it through his. 

" Let me introduce my fiancee." 

" Let me introduce my fiance," said the young girl, 
smiling. 

Deep emotion penetrated through this speech, made 
in a joking way. 

" Do you take me for the blacksmith of Gretna 
Green ? " asked my host, in order to hide his feelings. 

" I should think myself better married by you than 
by him," answered my god-son gaily ; " you have more 
authority." 

" That is possible, but I will leave the honour and 
the pleasure of the ceremony to the mayor and the 
priest." 

Josee came and kissed her mother and me affection- 
ately. She then went to her father. Monsieur de Lus- 



362 ON THE BRANCH 

son gazed at her a moment, then taking her two hands 
he raised them to his lips with a shade of respect. 

" We make these children's hands," he said, " to give 
them away some day. This is Life. I am paying my 
debt to-day, you will pay yours when your turn comes, 
little girl. In the mean time, I am glad to think that 
there is some one to take my place with you." 

" No one will ever take your place, father," replied 
the girl quickly. 

" Oh no, no ! Monsieur d'Hauterive is not taking 
any one's place." 

" Because he has his own, I suppose ? " 

Josee nodded, blushing. 

" Ah, Madame de Myeres, what gratitude we owe 
you ! If you had not had a god-son, this young person 
would have been capable of remaining an old maid." 

Luncheon was announced at this moment; Monsieur 
de Lusson gave Guy the hand he had been holding. 

" Take your fiancee in to luncheon, and go first. It 
will give Fran9ois a shock, and he will have the pleasure 
of announcing the news to the other servants." 

During the remainder of the day the atmosphere of 
the " Commanderie," always agreeable, was truly ex- 
quisite. Happy love, our own satisfaction, the kindness 
of my hosts, the over-excited affection of the servants, 
spread about waves of joy. I felt them distinctly. 
The dogs, the cats especially the latter seemed to 
be affected by this beneficial electricity. They went for 
mad scampers round the lawn ; I had never seen them 
so gay. There is no doubt about it, certain sentiments 
give out warm waves. When man knows more about 
himself, he will pay attention to creating these for his 
own comfort. 

Guy sent Louis to Tours to fetch his dress suit and 
the bouquet, every flower of which he had chosen in 



TOURAINE 363 

the morning. In spite of the novelty of the situation, 
the dinner was very gay, without any trace of embar- 
rassment. Miss Jones was radiant. There was joy 
even in her freckles. On leaving the table she pressed 
my hand and said in a low voice 

" Monsieur d'Hauterive will make a good god-father." 
She evidently felt reassured about the fate of her boys. 

Guy had the tact to leave early. He is going to Paris 
to-morrow to buy the engagement ring. I knew that 
Josee would want to have a talk with me. Many a 
time her eyes had sought mine. We had even ex- 
changed signs of mutual intelligence. Jean Noel was 
not sorry to have her confidences as a girl in love. 
Towards half-past ten, a little timid knock, very differ- 
ent from that of the other nights, was to be heard at 
my door. I compared it inwardly with the triumphant 
knock which, the evening before, had announced my 
god-son. My visitor arrived, as usual, in her white 
dressing-gown. From the end of the room where I 
was, I saw a veritable glow on the upper part of her 
face. I went forward to meet her. She put her arms 
silently round my neck, her cheek against mine. 

" Well, little girl, are you happy? " I asked, freeing 
myself gently. 

" Happy ! " she repeated ; " happy ! I hope that you, 
too, have known what I feel to-day? " 

" Be content," I said ; " I have had my share of happi- 
ness, a very large share." 

" Ah, so much the better ! I should be wretched to 
think that this joy should have been refused to you. 
And then, too, you can understand me entirely." 

" Oh, yes, I can understand you." 

Josee sat down in a low chair by the fire-place, and 
I in the arm-chair opposite her. 

" You see, Madame de Mj'eres," she began, " there 



364 ON THE BRANCH 

are things that one cannot talk about with one's mother. 
I wonder why this is. And married women are not 
nice to girls. Instead of initiating them in a sisterly 
way about life, letting them profit by their experience, 
they say, * You must do as we did, look out for your- 
selves.' They put on mysterious airs, which make us 
imagine all kinds of horrors. Some of them have given 
me regular nightmares. We are therefore reduced to 
talking of love and marriage among ourselves; we talk 
about these things in an absurd way, probably, like 
blind people talk of light." 

" That is just it." 

My little friend crossed her hands round her knees, 
and looked at me for a moment, her lips quivering. 

" Jean Noel," she said at last. 

" Well ? " I answered, with an encouraging smile. 

" Can a person love any one she has never seen ? " 

" I think so ; one may be affected in advance by the 
radiation of another person." 

" Well, then, I was." 

"Really?" 

" The first time that you said ' my god-son ' it made 
an impression on me. Afterwards I always listened 
with interest to anything you told about him. I liked 
that name of Guy d'Hauterive better than any other." 

" I felt that." 

Mademoiselle de Lusson opened her eyes wide and 
looked at me. 

" No ! " she said, with an expression of stupor. 
" How dangerous a novelist is ! " 

" Very dangerous." 

" You didn't think, I hope, that I was on the look-out 
for a husband. All kinds of men had already been* 
introduced to me." 



TOURAINE 365 

" That idea never occurred to me. But go on, little 
girl; Jean Noel is greatly interested." 

" You are making fun ? " 

" Not at all." 

A wave of colour passed over the girl's face. 

" When ' your boy ' was taken ill, I was most anxious 
and distressed. It was I who telephoned to have news 
of him, and my heart used to beat as though he were 
on the other side. Tell me, don't you think it was 
strange? " 

" It seems so to us, because we know nothing about 
the exteriorisation of man. In the near future, science 
will study the texture of Life, the most beautiful secrets 
of Nature are there." 

" Ah, let science study them quickly, then, these se- 
crets; it is too stupid not to know a single one of the 
forces which make us act ! " 

" And when you saw ' the god-son,' were you not 
disappointed? " 

" No, on the contrary ; but I imagined that he was 
darker and not so tall. I was wildly glad to hear 
that he was coming to Aix. You see, I am telling you 
all." 

" You are a charming penitent to confess." 

" But for a few days I had a great deal of disappoint- 
ment to bear. I felt that I did not exist for him; it 
was all in vain that I changed my dress or my hat, he 
looked at me and did not see me. There was an obstacle 
on his side, I did not know what, which gave me the 
impression of a high wall. When you used to talk 
together, and when you were having tea with him on 
the Club terrace, I envied you terribly. You didn't look 
as though you had any idea of your good fortune," 
added Josee seriously. 



366 ON THE BRANCH 

" No, really ; and tell me," I continued, pitiless, like 
an inquisitive confessor, " had not the high wall of 
which you speak disappeared the last week of our stay 
at Aix? " 

The young girl coloured; a bright smile lighted up 
her face. 

" Yes, there were only the tennis-nets left." 

" We will put a commemorative tablet up to that 
blessed tennis-court of the Hotel Splendide." 

" Blessed, truly," murmured Josee. 

" Then when Guy landed here on Sunday, you knew 
it was for you that he came? " 

Mademoiselle nodded her head, and then said, with 
pretty confusion 

" As well as though he had told me." 

" Ah, the communication was well established, I see," 
I said in a mocking tone. 

My little friend clasped her hands more firmly round 
her knees, her eyes were fixed on the flame from the 
fire, but I saw that she was looking within her soul. 

" How wonderful it is, this transmission of thought 
without words," she said slowly ; " these intuitions, this 
power that another person acquires over you! I go 
from one surprise to another. I have become a ver- 
itable phenomenon for myself. Does it seem ridiculous 
to you, this autopsy chology ? " asked the girl, looking 
at me rather anxiously. 

" Ridiculous ! " I exclaimed. " Ah, you do not know 
what joy you give me. In my time we loved instinct- 
ively, without knowing why or how; you of the twen- 
tieth century are beginning fo analyse your sensations, to 
want to sound the mystery. That proves an immense 
progress." 

" My studies, insufficient though they are, our con- 



TOURAINE 367 

versations, all these recent discoveries, make me reflect 
in spite of myself." 

" You are influenced, too, without your knowledge, 
by the ideas which are in the air, the new currents. 
Science is going ahead. Who knows if, after the 
Rontgen, the Becquerel and the N. rays, it will not 
discover the A. ray, the ray of Love ? " 

A h'ttle fright was depicted on Mademoiselle de Lus- 
son's face. 

" Oh ! " she exclaimed, as though suffocated. " That 
would be rather terrible. Don't you remember the 
fable of Psyche? She wanted to see Love, and it flew 
away." 

" Yes, it was afraid of the light, because it was still 
a child; but, remember, it came back again later, at 
the age of a man, perhaps, and it gave her immortality." 

" That is true ; oh yes, that is true ! " said Josee, with 
a radiant expression. " I had forgotten the end of the 
fable." 

" Your epoch will probably see that ending. Do not 
fear anything, little girl ; God's work within us and out- 
side us is greater than we imagine. We are greater, 
too ; Science will teach us to understand Life better, and 
it will teach us to love Him from whom life emanates." 

" What happiness ! Madame de Myeres, do you think 
that Monsieur d'Hauterive would have felt much grief 
really much, I mean if I had not cared for him ? " 
she suddenly asked. 

" Very much, my child, for all his hopes of happiness 
are in you." 

Mademoiselle de Lusson clasped her hands. 

" Oh, I hope that I shall not disappoint them ! " 

" I am sure of that." 

Josee got up. 



368 ON THE BRANCH 

" You weren't very well satisfied yesterday," I added, 
smiling, " when your father told you that I was pro- 
posing a marquis as a candidate for your hand, instead 
of proposing my god-son? " 

" It was abominable of papa. He has begged my 
forgiveness." 

The young girl put her arms round my neck, and 
through the thin dressing-gown I felt her body trem- 
bling with joyous vitality. 

" You are an angel ! " she murmured. 

" Guy has already told me that, find something else," 
I said. 

She moved a little farther away, looked at me with 
a smile at the corners of her lips, and then said in a 
low voice full of emotion 

" God-mother." 

" That's right ! That's what I wanted to hear ! You 
have confessed very well, my dear god-child. Jean 
Noel gives you absolution. Now go and sleep, and may 
God bless you ' with His great blessing,' as the peasants 
say with us." 

With this wish I sent my little friend away, and, as 
I watched her go, I felt that complacency which one 
has in spite of one's self after making somebody happy. 

Commanderie de Houziers. 

The engagement of Mademoiselle de Lusson and the 
Baron d'Hauterive has been announced to friends and 
acquaintances. The bouquet with which Louis insists 
on decorating his automobile every time that the young 
girl gets in it, can no longer astonish any one. My 
little friend now wears on her finger a master-piece of 
our Art Nouveau; two ruby cabochons set in a ring of 
dull gold of curious design. Monsieur de Lusson has 
overwhelmed us with joy by giving to Guy the Chavigny 



TOURAINE 369 

estate. He has done this, I do not doubt, at Josee's 
request. Uncle Georges, whom I had kept informed 
of everything, is delighted. Our engaged couple are 
both full of tact and discretion; they do not attempt to 
avoid each other, but walk about and talk before our 
eyes. They enjoy themselves with us, and join glee- 
fully in our game at hearts, an American game for five 
persons which has necessarily taken the place of bridge. 
I fancy that my god-son is not sorry to put us all be- 
tween himself and the living temptation that this 
young girl must be to him. Madame de Lusson is 
openly glad to marry her daughter and to marry her 
well. She is already thinking of the trousseau, the 
dresses and the ceremony. With my host the reaction 
is less joyful. He feels, in advance, the void that is 
about to be made in his home. And then to give his 
daughter, the baby of former days, the child of yester- 
day, the maiden of to-day, away to a man! It is 
secretly repugnant to him; I have guessed that. It is 
all in vain that he keeps saying to himself, " It is the 
law of Nature." That law wounds, in him, an infinitely 
delicate sentiment that many fathers know. As for me, 
I feel the secret satisfaction which the accomplishment 
of a difficult task gives, a curious relief, a sensation of 
security. It is as though I have just escaped a great 
danger. I watch Guy's happiness, I enjoy it and re- 
joice in it, with all those maternal fibres which have so 
strangely vibrated in me under my heart. At times, 
though, I cannot help regretting that I am no longer 
necessary to him. Then, too, that likeness to his father, 
which love now accentuates, gives me occasionally 
strange hallucinations. When I see him from a little 
way off, with a light falling on him in a certain way, 
walking by the side of Josee, resting his arm familiarly 
on hers, I feel a brusque sensation of desertion and 



370 ON THE BRANCH 

infidelity. It is only fleeting, but it is painful, like 
the blade of a knife on the heart. This sensation is 
such a reflex one that I have not time to repress it. 
How mysterious this poor human atom is ! 

This afternoon, the beautiful mild weather allowed 
us to have tea out-of-doors. Madame de Lusson and 
her daughter were dressed for an automobile drive to 
Tours. Three unexpected guests had sent word by 
telegram that they were coming to dinner. It was 
necessary to go to Ladmiraut's to fetch more provisions. 
Monsieur de Lusson looked round the table a moment, 
and a smile lighted up his eye-glasses. 

" Do you know, Mile. Josee," he said, " that if we 
had not all gone to Cannes you would not have that 
pretty ring on your finger? I am going in for induc- 
tive philosophy like Madame de Myeres." 

" Make fun of me if you like, but for us to be here 
together to-day," I added, " it was necessary for me to 
have met Sir William. He insisted in the most extraor- 
dinary way, considering his usual discretion, on my 
making your acquaintance." 

" You refused, I would wager? " 

" I did. It seemed to me that it was too late to make 
new friends. Then when I had seen Madame de Lusson 
and this young person 

" And me," added my host. 

" And you, of course, all my objections vanished. 
The result well, there it is," I said, pointing to the 
engaged couple. 

" Oh, Guy," exclaimed Josee, " I am so sorry that you 
never knew Sir William, I should so much like to talk 
about him to you." 

" Talk about him by all means. It's enough that he 
contributed towards bringing me here for him to inter- 
est me. And to think that you were all working for 



TOURAINE 371 

my happiness, without my having any idea of it, 
whilst I " 

My god-sori broke off in time, and a fleeting colour 
passed over his face. 

" When one stops to look at Life one is quite amazed," 
he continued. " There, now I am going to eat this 
piece of bread-and-butter with more gratitude," he said, 
slowly doubling up a thin slice. 

" Oh no ! " exclaimed Madame de Lusson, " make 
haste, on the contrary. Cook is waiting. My lord 
and master does not like dinners that go wrong. You 
shall philosophise another time." 

The young people hurried with their tea. The auto- 
mobile came for them, and Monsieur de Lusson and I 
were soon alone. I went on drinking my tea, and he 
lighted his cigarette. 

" How sorry I am," I said, " to think that Sir Wil- 
liam will not sec the marriage of these children. I con- 
sider that he was the principal agent in it, the fac- 
tor." 

" A most extraordinary thing was the discovery of 
the relationship of my wife and Lady Randolph. One 
would have to be rather dull not to recognise in this 
fact a sort of destiny." 

" A confession," I said ; " I take note of that." 

" Oh, you will never make me believe that I am a 
mere factor." 

" A co-operator with God ! Does not the situation 
seem high enough for you? " I asked, smiling. 

" It is not that, but there is, in the idea of conscious 
struggle, of voluntary effort, of responsibility, a dig- 
nity which I would not give up. Humanity has be- 
lieved for so long that it possesses the power of deter- 
mining for itself." 

" It believed for a very long time, also, that the sun 



372 ON THE BRANCH 

turned round its planet, that the stars had been created 
to brighten its nights, that it was the centre of the 
universe. Its vision was set right, and it has not been 
any unhappier on that account. Besides, this belief in 
freedom of action, in personal work, was necessary to 
humanity in its childish state." 

" Do you think that humanity is old enough now to 
do without it?" 

" Frankly, no, I do not." 

" Come, that is honest at least." 

" The majority of men are still incapable of discern- 
ing the hand of God in the combinations of life, of 
feeling the soul of the forces which direct us. They 
might attribute them to blind fatality, to luck. Gener- 
ally people who do not believe in anything, the weak 
ones especially, believe in themselves. That is some- 
thing. As for me, and those who share my conviction, 
we belong to the to-morrow, that is all." 

" Or to the day after, it seems to me," said my host, 
with his delicate irony. " I forgive you, Madame de 
Myeres," he continued, " because you never try to build 
your own ideas into dogmas." 

" I know too well that all minds, like all bodies, 
cannot be fed and sustained in the same way." 

" Then, according to your theories, we should have 
no merit? " began my companion again, with, the idea 
of cornering me. 

" No merit ? Why, we have immense merit ! " 

" What is it, if you please? " 

" The merit of having lived and suffered. It is all 
the greater as we never asked to be born, as we did 
not choose our roles, and as we must work at some- 
thing which we could not even imagine. I have the 
consciousness of being the instrument of Providence 
to such a degree that after a 'veil-filled day, before a 



TOURAINE 373 

certain number of pages covered with the little char- 
acters which are destined to make people think, I have 
sometimes said aloud, quite spontaneously, ' I hope you 
are satisfied with your workwoman, oh God ! ' A sen- 
sation of warm joy has gone through me. That was 
His reply, perhaps. Oh, He recognises the merit of 
His co-operators ! He will recompense our willingness 
above everything, I fancy, because it facilitates the play 
of the forces which are leading us towards life, towards 
beauty." 

" A fine hypothesis ! Did you convert Sir William 
to it?" 

" Not precisely." 

Monsieur de Lusson gave a sigh which came straight 
from the soul. 

" Well, I often envied our friend his absolute faith. 
The Saxons have a higher idea of God than the Latins. 
We have too many superstitions between ourselves and 
Him." 

" What is most remarkable is that other great nations, 
England, Germany and Russia, put themselves openly 
under the protection of God and invoke Him in their na- 
tional hymns. Our Republic affects to ignore His 
existence. It is absolutely ridiculous and grotesque. 
The Republic has no idea how small and how vulgar it 
becomes through this." 

" The truth is that the Saxon has the religious senti- 
ment, whilst the Latin has just simply a religion. In 
France we are beginning to leave Catholicism on the 
road. You must agree that it is too childish." 

" Childish, Catholicism ! " 

" Yes, certainly, Madame de Myeres." 

" Why, no, it is a religion with grand rites, and 
together with Buddhism, it is the deepest there is. Just 
think of it it has thrown a bridge over to the Beyond ; 



374 ON THE BRANCH 

it has put into activity the psychical forces of which we 
were ignorant, and by means of these it has done good 
to humanity and produced masterpieces of art. It calls 
every day, through the voice of its priests, the divine 
ray into the host, which is the symbol of corporal life." 

" Does it really come there, that ray ? That is what 
we want to know." 

" It does come there ; I have seen it transfigure un- 
happy beings, communicate to them extraordinary 
courage. There is a presence in Catholic churches, it 
is impossible to deny that. One feels it. I had the 
curiosity to open my catechism again. You cannot 
imagine the effect, after thirty-four or thirty-five years. 
That dogma, which had disgusted my childish and youth- 
ful ignorance, appeared to me, in its great lines, of per- 
fectly philosophical simplicity. The theological mys- 
teries seemed to me to enter into, the order of the mys- 
teries of Nature. I am quite convinced that Catholicism 
has had all the revelation that humanity could bear. 
Science will be its apologist: it will teach us how one 
walks ' on the waters.' ' 

" Science, but the Church is afraid of it ! " 

" Because it is ignorant. Have you read Father 
Didon's letters?" 

" Rather ! How the mind of that poor monk soared ! 
What an intuition of the modern movement ! " 

" Yes, he would have liked Catholicism to have en- 
tered into it, to have been at the head of it. He knew 
that it would bring good capital to it." 

" What upset me was to see that he made such a 
strange mistake in the person he chose as a confidant 
of his enthusiasm and aspirations. We all knew her at 
Tours." 

" I could quite understand that, though. She was 
ill at the time, she was going through one of those 



TOURAINE 375 

physiological or psychological crises which spiritualise 
woman and bring her near to the priest. She appeared 
to Father Didon as a soul. It was that soul which he 
loved. When the crisis had passed, Mademoiselle Z 
became, once more, what she was in reality, a practical 
and very circumspect person. The proof is, that she 
knew how to take advantage of the halo acquired so 
cheaply. I feel persuaded that in the depths of her 
soul she is now astonished at ever having been the woman 
whom the Dominican called his ' unique daughter.' 
What an expression that was ! " 

Monsieur de Lusson pushed his hat back, and said, 
with eyes full of mockery 

" How in the world did you guess such a thing ? You 
seem to know Life and femininity in all its hidden 
corners." 

" It was for this reason that those magnificent letters 
did not scandalise me. With their deep philosophy, 
mingled with a current of pure and manly affection, 
they caused me infinite pleasure." 

" You see, when there is a Father Didon, the Church 
sends him to Corbara." 

" The Father Didons will become so numerous that it 
will no longer be possible to shut them up. Let Provi- 
dence go its own way. It will utilise all the precious 
elements to be found in Catholicism. A lot of shells 
had become incrusted on the sides of the Ship of the 
Church. She will get rid of them. The men who are 
now hammering at her are, perhaps, doing this work. 
How do we know? " 

" Yes, but the truth, where is that? " asked my com- 
panion, with some exasperation. 

" Scattered about like seeds, I imagine, enclosed in 
coverings that we must break open, in dogmas, legends, 
even in fables. For instance, in that poor Book of 



376 ON THE BRANCH 

Genesis, that has been so much criticised, I discovered 
a truly extraordinary proof of intuition." 

"What was it?" 

" The sacred poet gives to the tempter the figure of 
a serpent. Now the human germ has, in reality, as 
you know, a serpent's head. It certainly was not 
through the revelations of a microscope that he had 
this symbol. And what a symbol ! " 

Monsieur de Lusson threw away his cigarette and 
looked at me. 

" Ah, that is too strong ! " he exclaimed, laughing ; 
" how did the idea of that comparison come to you ? " 

" At Simley Hall, one Sunday morning, I was alone 
in the library. After reading once more the Book of 
Genesis, which always had a sort of fascination for me, 
I took hap-hazard from the bookshelf, within reach of 
my hand, a thick volume. It was a book on Anatomy. 
I opened it just at the place where the illustration re- 
produced the animalcule in question. The instantaneous 
comparison took place in my brain and made me utter 
an exclamation of astonishment. Sir William, who was 
just coming in, heard it, and I had to tell him the cause. 
I shall never forget the expression of his face. Surprise 
made him open his eyes wide, and then, with his strong 
sense of humour, his poor thin nostrils quivered with 
laughter. ' Eve discovering the secrets of the earthly 
Paradise,' he said. His face then quickly recovered its 
gravity ; he passed his hands several times over the Bible 
as though caressing it, and, in a broken voice, said to me, 
' You see there is more light in it than we imagine.' I 
quite believe, as he did, that there is. We know so few 
things about this world and about ourselves ! Man was 
created last; he will be studied last, I suppose. We 
know scarcely anything except about his body, and that 



TOURAINE 377 

only in an imperfect way. We know nothing about his 
powers of radiation, his invisible forces, his soul. He 
has always confessed himself badly hitherto." 

" You think so? " said Monsieur de Lusson in a mock- 
ing tone. 

" Yes, a saint or the very purest man would not, I am 
sure, dare to reveal himself entirely. I flatter myself 
on having lived as a lady. Well, there are many 
thoughts, instincts, impulses that I could not talk about, 
and I know that these would furnish valuable help to the 
study of biology." 

" Write them." 

" Impossible." 

" How inquisitive you make me ! " 

" Question yourself for a moment, and tell me if it 
is not the same with you." 

Monsieur de Lusson fixed his eyes on the table, and his 
gaze was turned inwards for a moment. He then looked 
at me with a discomfited, ashamed expression that was 
very droll. 

" Why, yes, I agree with you." 

" It is science alone which, by teaching man what he 
really is, can give him the courage to confess himself." 

" Science ! You expect too much from it, Madame 
de Myeres. It has not yet brought us one single proof 
of our immortality. That begins to make me anxious. 
You believe in that, don't you? " 

" With all my soul." 

" By virtue of what ? You are not a woman to con- 
tent yourself with promises. Do you even know what 
we are doing in this world?" 

" We are just simply making Life." 

My host took off his eye-glass, a sign of great pertur- 
bation with him, and gazed at me with a scared look. 



378 ON THE BRANCH 

" We are making Life, do you say ? " 

" Yes, visible and invisible Life. Do you think that 
he who possesses such a power could perish ! " 

" Logically no." 

" Well, then, this is my reason for believing. Ac- 
cording to my idea, those who have made sorrowful or 
inferior Life will finally arrive at making triumphant 
and superior Life. We are all in the hand of justice 
and of divine justice." 

" But it is like a key, that conception." 

" A key which helps marvellously in reading the secret 
writing that we are ; try it. It has permitted me to un- 
derstand an infinite number of things. By another path 
I have arrived at a faith which is quite as absolute as 
Sir Williams's. Jesus said, ' In my Father's house are 
many mansions.' There are also, no doubt, several roads 
to them." 

I rose, and M. de Lusson followed my example. I 
held out my hand to him; he raised it to his lips and 
slowly, as though penetrated by a new idea, he re- 
peated, " We are making Life." 

Commanderie de Rouziers. 

I have just come back from Chavigny. I have knelt 
down on my husband's tomb; I have taken his son 
back to the home-nest, and a divine peace has entered 
into me, that peace which manifests itself, I fancy, 
when there is union between the forces of destiny and 
the forces of the human soul. Ah, the struggle has 
been hard and has lasted sixteen years. I can feel, 
retrospectively, the living thought which has been work- 
ing upon me and which has subjugated me. All the 
acts by which I thought to efface the past made it more 
living; all the steps I took to move farther away from 
the faithless dead man brought me back to him. My 



TOURAINE 379 

husband's race, which was destined to continue, through 
and in spite of me, will continue probably, and by 
my intervention! Oh, the fine irony of it! Formerly 
this would have seemed extremely cruel to me; to-day I 
admire it. I am glad to have been able to make the effort 
that it demanded. For several months I had had a secret 
wish to take the forgiveness and the repentance I had 
in my heart to my husband. Something held me back. 
Heaven knows what it was! As soon as I had obtained 
for his son the hand of Mademoiselle de Lusson, I felt an 
irresistible desire to go to my husband. I was the first 
to propose a visit to Chavigny. The engaged couple, 
who had not dared to ask for it, were wildly happy, and 
their god-mother had to endure the effusion of their grat- 
itude. On Monday morning we started for Cher. It 
was one of those ideal days when it seems as though the 
air is full of caresses and promises of happiness. The 
whole journey, three hours by rail and three-quarters 
of an hour by carriage, I made desperate efforts to con- 
trol the growing tumult of my feelings. My compan- 
ions knew nothing of the real trial which awaited me; 
they were only thinking of the painful impression of this 
return to Chavigny! Oh, how little the thought of 
Chavigny troubled me! I was thinking of that poor 
tomb, intentionally neglected, to which I was now going 
for the first time. I imagined it quite deserted and 
covered with bushes. My husband had bought a new 
piece of ground to the right of his family vault. We 
had always wished to be buried side by side, out in the 
open air. I had contented myself with sending to his 
sister the detailed instructions he had left, and I had 
asked her to give the priest at R a certain sum to 
keep his last resting-place in order. The question was, 
had all this been done? Whilst we were driving along 
in the carriage, the odiousness of my conduct presented 



380 ON THE BRANCH 

itself to my mind and brought a fleeting colour to my 
very forehead. Uneasy at my silence, Guy, who was 
seated by the coachman, turned round towards me. 

" Are you all right, god-mother? " he asked, with the 
smile he had taken from the lips of his father. 

I could only answer in an affirmative and friendly way 
with my eyes. As we approached Chavigny, Monsieur 
de Lusson put his hand on mine and, hiding his emotion 
by a joke, said 

" We are making Life, are we not, Madame de 
Myeres ? " 

" Very much so," I replied gravely. 

He little thought how much I was making at that 
moment ! I wanted to go straight to the cemetery. My 
companions got out of the carriage at the entrance 
to the avenue leading to the chateau, and I continued 
driving. It was only a few minutes farther on. As 
soon as I was alone, a sweet and poignant emotion, the 
emotion of love, took entire possession of me. I had the 
sensation that my husband was awaiting me, and at every 
turn of the wheel, which brought me nearer to this dead 
man who had become so living again, my heart beat more 
and more violently and my veins throbbed. On arriving 
at the cemetery gate, my hand, which had not forgotten 
the secret of the inside latch, unfastened it mechanically, 
and it opened to me. As though in a dream, I moved 
onwards towards the family vault, and soon found my- 
self at the foot of my husband's tomb. I knelt down 
and, flinging my arms over the railings, as though to 
clasp what remained of him, I could only murmur 

" My poor darling, forgive me." I could not find any 
other words. Were my thoughts affected in some oc- 
cult way? I do not know, but it seemed to me that I 
held communion with him and that " we made it up," 
as the children say. I got up again feeling singularly 



TOURAINE 381 

happy. Thank heaven, the good priest had acquitted 
himself of his task most faithfully. That was just the 
sepulchre that my husband had wished to have. A high 
railing ran round it. The cross of wrought-iron, with 
our device : " Towards the Light," emerged from an 
enormous rose-bush; strong, healthy ivy covered the 
ground and, at the corners, formed climbing bunches. 
I saw that my place was entirely covered with grass. 
My place! I gazed at it with a joy which no one else 
would be able to understand. I recalled, with a shudder, 
my long walks in search of a last resting-place; I had 
visited all the cemeteries of Paris, and had not found 
enough air and space in any one of them. Without 
knowing it, what I had really wanted was this place 
by the side of my life's companion. There was within 
me an instinct which claimed it. We do not yet know 
how deep the union may be between human creatures. 
With all my heart, as well as with my eyes, I now took 
possession of my husband's tomb again. I timidly 
caressed those flowers which were the resurrection of his 
flesh. To my sensibilised fingers they seemed to be in- 
vested with a living fluid. I began to pick off the faded 
leaves, to lift up certain branches, and I found delicious 
pleasure in what I was now doing for the first time. 
I had lost all notion of the time that had gone by, and 
the engaged couple grew anxious and came in search 
of me. I saw them at once, at the entrance to the 
cemetery, and made a sign to them to come to me. 
They arrived with a subdued expression, and Guy took 
off his hat. 

" Dear god-father," he said simply. The emotion and 
affection in his voice reached the soul of his father, 
perhaps. I looked at the two young people with in- 
tense satisfaction. Was not their presence at this place 
my recompense? And this recompense was certainly 



382 ON THE BRANCH 

not due to chance. As I was moving away, after a 
last farewell to our dear one, some brambles caught the 
bottom of my skirt. I tried to free myself, but did 
not succeed, and Guy had to help me. He was seized 
with superstitious dread, and I saw him turn pale and 
look at me with sudden anxiety. 

"It is as though your god-father wanted to keep 
me," I said gaily ; " it would be only natural, for he has 
been alone so long." 

We went back again in the direction of Chavigny. 
As soon as I caught sight of it I was struck, as I had 
never been before, by the harmony produced by its 
ancient lines, the warm tone of its grey stone, the scenery 
against which it stands in relief. It scarcely deserves 
the name of chateau, but has always been called so. On 
the whole, though, in spite of the modesty of its propor- 
tions, it has an imposing look. I am not surprised that 
it appealed to the imagination of my little friend. When 
we entered the courtyard, my eyes turned at once to the 
fatal flight of steps and, as though something within me 
still felt the old affront, I coloured painfully. Guy 
jumped out of the carriage first, and lifting me in his 
strong arms, said 

" Home, god-mother, dear." 

I could not repeat the sacred word. There was no 
longer any home for me in this world, I knew that 
very well. 

We were to lunch at the farm. Monsieur and Ma- 
dame de Lusson were waiting for us there. I sent the 
young people on. With a sort of shyness of the soul, 
I wanted to see the old home again quite alone. I 
went all through it, from top to bottom of the house, 
with an emotion which almost suffocated me. The 
large pieces of furniture were still there. The windows 
had been opened, fires lighted in the drawing-rooms, 



TOURAINE 383 

and the sun was streaming in. In spite of all that, I 
immediately had the impression of an empty nest which 
had been cold for a long time. I felt my incapacity 
to bring back life there, and I rejoiced to think that 
this care had fallen to others. Not one regret came to 
trouble me. When my visit was over, I went towards 
the farm with a light step. As soon as I appeared in the 
doorway of the room where the table was laid, Mon- 
sieur and Madame de Lusson, Guy and Josee looked 
at me with a questioning expression, as though to find 
out how I had endured the trial. 

" Jean Noel has just had a new experience," I said 
gaily. " What one calls the ' state of soul ' is one of the 
most admirable things that Nature creates. If Cha- 
vigny were offered to me with an income of eight thou- 
sand pounds, I would not accept it. It needs very much 
life and very much affection to warm it again. Only 
these young people are capable of doing it," I added, 
pointing to the engaged pair. " As to what there is 
now of me, why, there is just enough left to fill my 
rooms at the Hotel de Castiglione, and no more." 

Josee put her arm round my neck and her cheek 
against mine. 

" And enough to make every one else happy," she 
said prettily. 

During luncheon I spoke of the changes to be made 
at the chateau, and this with a pleasure and freedom 
of mind which could not leave any doubt about my sin- 
cerity. After coffee, as we were strolling about the farm, 
I saw, about a hundred yards away from the dairy 
buildings, a rustic-looking house which was unfamiliar 
and which was uninhabited. It had been built, it ap- 
pears, by a man whose experiments in horticulture had 
not succeeded, and the owners of Chavigny had then 
bought it. 



384 ON THE BRANCH 

" Why, there's a cottage for the boys," exclaimed 
Guy, examining it. 

Josee coloured with pleasure. 

" I had thought of that, had I not, father? " she said, 
smiling. 

" Yes," answered Monsieur de Lusson. " Do you 
know I believe that Providence judged it necessary to 
provide a god-father for this young person who was 
intending to educate men alone." 

" If so, I am precious glad that the choice fell on 
me," answered my boy, with a fond look at Josee. 
" With six boys we shall be able to make an experiment 
in rearing human beings. That will be very interest- 
ing." 

" Bravo," I said. " I was selfishly happy here ; you 
will be nobly happy. Truly the world is moving on- 
wards ! " 

We slept at the village of R , a large village well 
provided with everything necessary, and, thanks to the 
Touring Club, the little hotel was very clean. My recon- 
ciliation with my husband was so thorough that I felt 
as though I had gone back to the past. I paid a long 
visit to the priest, and saw again with pleasure all the 
good people I used to know. They said to me on every 
side, " Madame has been travelling, has she not ; madame 
has been living in foreign countries?" And all that 
did not cause me any embarrassment. I was very much 
touched to see how the memory of us both had remained 
in the hearts of all these rough peasants of Berry. No, 
the little deeds of kindness and the cordial words which we 
scatter on our path through life are not lost. This 
journey was a satisfaction for all of us. I am sure, 
though, that it did not give to the others, not even to the 
engaged pair, such joy as I experienced. I felt myself 
grow young inwardly. I felt as though I were loved 



TOURAINE 385 

again, as in the olden days. This was, no doubt, an 
illusion of my imagination, but no matter, it was very 
sweet. And I understand now the value of that gift 
which Jesus made to His followers when He said, " I give 
you peace/' 

Commanderie de Rouziers. 

Well, my mission here is over, and I return to Paris 
to-morrow. I am going to stay, not at the Hotel de 
Castiglione, but at my god-son's, in the Rue d'Agues- 
seau. Still another thing that I should have thought 
impossible. The fatality continues. It happens that 
my rooms are at present occupied by neither more nor 
less a personage than the son of an exiled king. Other 
rooms were offered to me in the mean time, and I would 
willingly have taken them, but Guy, who wishes to 
domesticate me, at once offered me hospitality. He 
declared that, after living for five weeks in the warm 
atmosphere of the " Commanderie," the hotel would be 
too cold, and that his bachelor's flat would serve as a 
transition. He added a crowd of foolish reasons. The 
Lussons and Josee united with him, and I yielded. Ah, 
my independence, there is not much of it left! Louis 
was sent on first. His sister, who had been a cook at 
Bordeaux and had come to Paris to look for a place, is 
to keep house for us. 

It was agreed that we should return to Paris by auto- 
mobile. I was rejoicing, like a child, at the thought of 
going at full speed across the open space of the 
Beauce plains. Guy took it into his head, all at once, 
that the season was too advanced for me, that I should 
risk taking cold, and he begged me to be prudent and 
go by train. I protested with all my force, and finally 
declared that I would not go to the Rue d'Aguesseau 
unless he took me in his automobile. He had to give 



386 ON THE BRANCH 

in, in his turn, not without making me promise to get 
into the train at Orleans if I found the air too cold. It 
is true that it is now the tenth of November, and that 
this year Saint Martin has not cheated us of his sum- 
mer, for the weather is superb. This afternoon I shall 
start for Tours, and shall sleep at the Hotel de 1'Univers, 
and then to-morrow, at eight o'clock, we shall set out 
on our journey. My trunk is packed; everything is 
ready. I have a pang at my heart as though I were 
starting on a long, long voyage. It is quite ridiculous. 
The Lussons will be back in Paris in a fortnight. We 
shall all come to the " Commanderie " again at the 
end of April, after the marriage of the children. I shall 
see the trees and hedges in bloom. I shall revel in a 
real spring. How good and restful it will be ! It is cu- 
rious that, for the last few months, rest has become my 
idea of happiness. Have I suddenly grown old? Am 
I so very weary, then? 



XI 

PAEIS 

Rue d'Aguesseau, Paris. 

" MY child, your vanity will be your ruin." These 
words, which my poor mother repeated so often during 
my childhood and youth, keep coming to my memory. 
They were certainly prophetic. I did not like the idea 
of being treated as an old woman and of coming back 
prudently by train. I wanted to go one last journey 
alone with Guy in his bachelor's automobile. It gave 
me a frightful cold, a dreadful cold. Whatever may 
be the consequences of my obstinacy, I shall never re- 
gret it. That run from Tours to Paris was bewitching. 
Wrapped in my long mink-lined cloak, covered with fur 
rugs, a hot-water bottle for my feet, and seated proudly 
by my boy, I experienced a physical well-being that was 
perfect, and then that superhuman sensation of rushing 
through space, of devouring distance. In Beauce it 
seemed to me that we were flying along the ground, over 
the surface of the globe, and that we should j oin the set- 
ting sun beyond the horizon. During the dizzy descent 
which leads to Dourdan, where the road disappears, where 
one sees nothing but the valley right down to the bottom, 
yawning like an abyss, I had an impression of an in- 
visible, irresistible force urging us on, and I held my 
breath until we reached the bottom. Several times I 
asked Guy to increase the speed; he refused to do this, 
and we did not exceed about thirty miles an hour. When 
we arrived at the Rue d'Aguesseau I was literally intox- 
387 



388 ON THE BRANCH 

icated with air, and my god-son lifted me out of the auto- 
mobile like a parcel. The atmosphere of his bachelor 
home, well warmed, well lighted, and all decorated with 
flowers in my honour, seemed to me delightful. He has 
given me his library as a writing-room, and the bed- 
room adjoining it. Before sitting down to table we went 
to look at Colette's portrait. The play of the flames 
from the fire-place made it look living, and we both of us 
had the illusion that it was smiling at us. Our little 
tete-a-tete dinner was exquisite. My host looked after 
me all the time, as though I were a precious being. I 
had almost forgotten the sweetness of that sensation. 
We talked until very late. I fought against the sleepi- 
ness which was taking possession of me, in order to pro- 
long the consciousness of that warmth, that security 
which seemed to me so good, and I was sorry to go to bed. 
This morning, towards seven o'clock, I was roused by a 
prolonged, severe shiver. Then, between the walls, as 
it were, of my body, there was a sort of furious break- 
ing loose of forces, a feeling of illness which manifested 
itself by a violent pain in my right side, a convulsive 
cough, and a sudden feeling of oppression. I had the 
greatest difficulty to finish dressing. Ashamed and hu- 
miliated, I was obliged to tell Guy that I had taken 
cold. 

" Decidedly," I added, between two fits of coughing, 
" I am an old woman. I did not want to think so, but 
I shall remember it another time and be more docile." 

" People can take cold at any age, god-mother dear," 
he replied, with his nicest smile. " I am sorry you have 
such a bad cold, but I am glad to be able to take care 
of you in my turn. I would not have had you go to 
the hotel for anything in the world." 

I was very careful not to let him guess that I regretted 
not being alone if I had to suffer. 



PARIS 389 

Pneumonia . . . only that ! When Dr. H 
raised his head after sounding me, I saw a troubled and 
pained expression in his eyes. He must have been told 
that I had come back from Tours in an open automobile. 

" Oh, Madame de Myeres," he said, " there are things 
one can do at forty which are dangerous at fifty-eight." 

Rather hard, but quite right. I am persuaded, 
though, that in the state I was in, even a drive in the 
Bois would have laid me low just the same. This sud- 
den illness was quite a revelation. Since that fever, 
caused by grief, which I had after the death of my 
husband I have never had had to stay in bed or in my 
room. With the help of Dr. H I have struggled vic- 
toriously with rheumatism, and I thought that was my 
only enemy. For a long time, though, I have heard cu- 
rious noises, whistlings and twitterings in my bronchial 
tubes and in my chest. I was not aware that the respira- 
tory organs and one lung was getting choked up. Ig- 
norant old woman that I was! And now they are af- 
fected. I should like to have used a knife to free them ! 
We are taught to examine our conscience before pre- 
senting ourselves to the priest, but we are not taught to 
study our body before presenting ourselves to the doctor. 
The doctor! He ought to be the working engineer of 
the human machine, and not only its repairer. He ought 
to visit those whom he attends as often as possible, to 
make sure of the working of the wheels, of the good con- 
dition of all the organs ; perhaps there would then be no 
more bronchitis nor pneumonia nor tuberculosis ! In the 
twentieth century we send for the doctor when we are ill. 
We leave to disease the case of purifying our organism ! 
It often does this for us, but never without enfeebling 
or injuring it. That seems to me inconceivable now- 
a-days ! We do not yet know how to care for our body. 
A chauffeur would never act in this way with his machine. 



390 ON THE BRANCH 

I have just been proving that to Guy. He ought to 
profit by the lesson. He recognised the truth of what 
I said, and his dear face lighted up, his child-like re- 
morse vanished. 

" Neither you, nor I, nor the automobile is responsi- 
ble," I added. " The pneumonia was there ; it would 
have had to declare itself. We did not know it was 
there, that was all, and probably we were not to know. 
The only thing left is to be brave. Let us both be so." 

We clasped hands for a moment, and there was a 
silent understanding between us, which made us strong 
and happy again. 

Did I not tell Sir William that there would be, some- 
where, a kind Sister of Charity destined to tend me at 
the last? She is here, and her name is Sister Anne. 
Her spiritualised face charms me, her hands are re- 
spectful and tender. From a hundred little details 
I know that she is a lady, and nothing equals that. 
She is seconded admirably by Rose, Louis' sister. I 
feel that I am surrounded by human sympathy and 
devotion, and this cheers me. Providence, the Great 
Misunderstood, has given me still more. It has obliged 
me to open my heart to my husband's son, that is true, 
but was it not so that this son might help me to cross 
the bar? Did it not wish to give me a reflection of the 
father's love? Dear Guy, he really loves this coughing, 
feverish, rattling thing that I now am. I have the 
greatest difficulty in getting him to leave me and to 
go and have a breath of fresh air out of doors. I 
have insisted on his going out for an automobile drive. 
He hates it now as a child might. I do not want him 
to sulk with his innocent machine, that admirable 
Panhard which gave me such rare pleasure. I refuse 
to stay in bed, and I spend the whole day in the library, 
lying on the sofa, dressed in a tea-gown which I had 



PARIS 391 

the happy inspiration to have made before going to 
Aix-les-Bains, and which I wanted to have particularly 
elegant. In this way I fancy myself less ill. I am glad 
to be under Colette's eyes. It seems to me that the 
expression of her portrait changes every minute. I 
have books all around me, my papers within reach of 
my hand, and a bright wood fire. Between the frame 
of the French window I see the little sleeping garden, 
with its fine sycamore trees. It is full of birds spar- 
rows and robins which Louis feeds conscientiously. 
All this is better than a private hospital, which was 
my secret terror. I must be grateful, yes, but I suffer 
terribly. How painful this pneumonia is! 

An injection of heroine! Under the magic of this 
new remedy my sufferings have diminished and my mind 
has acquired greater lucidity. Science can do this much 
for me, but no more, I fear. No matter, it shall be 
blessed and thanked for this. Thanks to the welcome 
heroine I shall be able to face death. Jean Noel will 
not put down, until the very last moment, this American 
pen with which he has written so many, many pages. 
The dear pen, it has a beautiful gold point ; its hollow 
holder, filled with ink, is agreeable to the touch. It 
is the most precious of my possessions. For a long 
time I was troubled as to whom I should leave it; I 
am glad to be able to give it to " my boy." He will 
handle it with affection, I know. Between his fingers 
it will, perhaps, do better work than between mine. 
Above this suffering chest, in which all the organs are 
congested, my head remains clear and free, as though 
one did not belong to the other. Curiously enough, 
for the first time, and it is certainly late enough for 
that, I notice the rapidity with which images succeed 
each other within us, and their apparent want of con- 



392 ON THE BRANCH 

nection. I say apparent, for, probably, only the tenuity 
of their weaving prevents me from distinguishing this. 
Within the space of a few seconds I have just seen 
in my mind the face of a person whom I have not met 
for forty years; the eyes of a distant friend; the style 
of a tailor costume ; the statue of Saint Francis of Assisi 
in a church at Foligno in Italy; a polychrome statue 
clothed in a frayed-out sackcloth garment to the knees; 
one of Footit's grimaces; the pattern of the dress of 
one of my dolls a white lozenge design on a blue 
ground ; the doll's little wrap a hideous arrangement, 
with holes for the arms, called a visite. The head of the 
said doll did not come to my remembrance again. Is 
this not strange? It seems to me that brain-cells must 
be like the dots in the eye of the marguerite. Accord- 
ing to the corresponding nerve that is touched, they 
open and give, with the rapidity of lightning, what 
they contain an image, an idea, a memory. What is 
it that makes such or such a nerve vibrate? I certainly 
do not know. 

My boy, who does not like to appear to treat me 
as a dying person, keeps me well informed about all 
subjects, political and social news and everything else. 
This morning he was talking to me of radium and of 
its fantastical properties. A stream of joy and hope 
seemed to enter into me. Light, warmth, electricity, 
inexhaustible radiation, beams equal to its own ! They 
are found, then, the elements of immortality! Is not 
immortality the perpetual movement of the soul? How 
can we admit that matter possesses all these things, 
and that they are not in superior force in all that 
which has life. Oh, science will arrive at that, at 
the radio-activity of the human being. Science will 
come to that at the right moment. When Madame 
Curie went along, heaping up calculations upon cal- 



PARIS 393 

culations, formula upon formula, did she suspect the 
existence of this extraordinary body? I would wager 
that she did not. And it was not chance that made 
of her an active instrument in this immense discovery. 
It seems to me that Providence wished, in this way, 
to give to woman her letters-patent of true nobility 
and emancipation. As soon as I am cured I shall go 
and present my homage to radium and to the woman 
who freed it from its gangue. Oh, I must see this 
miraculous salt. Has it not always been said that salt 
is the wisdom of the earth ! 

As soon as I am cured! Hm! in the mean time I 
have made my will again. I leave my little friend to 
distribute my nomad's baggage. It is not heavy, but 
it may make a few happy people, nevertheless. As to 
the old trunk, my faithful companion, I wish that to be 
burned. I certainly owe it the honours of an auto- 
da-fe. Some of the money which I have not put into 
my annuity will serve to recompense certain services 
which have been very pleasant to me. The remainder 
is to be used for the purchase of a string of beautiful 
pearls, my wedding present to Josee. When her fingers 
touch them, the image of her god-mother will appear 
again in her mind and cause a fond thought. Human 
thought arrives, perhaps, as far as the Beyond! After 
radium, I can believe in all possibilities. The thought 
of it haunts me. I have left the money from my books 
for bringing up six boys. There will be twelve in the 
Chavigny Cottage, and my work, in this world, will 
thus be perpetuated for a long time to come. What 
could be imagined finer than that! The perspective 
of being driven in a funeral hearse, when dead, 
through the streets of Paris, in the midst of living 
people has always seemed to me humiliating and in- 



394 ON THE BRANCH 

tolerable. I am asking to be taken straight to R . 

The good priest there will receive me and take me to 
my last home. No hideous funeral cards with black 
borders. On my visiting cards I have written " P.P.C." 
Guy will put the date and send them to the people 
whom I have indicated. There are not many of them, 
but each one will have a feeling of sincere regret. I 
have made all these preparations as though in a dream. 
Once only I broke down with sorrow for myself, and 
nervous tears filled my eyes. In the depths of my 
heart, do I believe in my departure? Perhaps not! 

I wanted to see my publisher. We have always 
been on pleasant terms. With him the business side 
is so straightforwardly managed that it does not pre- 
vent friendship and congenial feeling. He was visibly 
shocked on seeing me grappling with pneumonia. I 
tried to continue our usual jesting tone, in order to 
put him at his ease. He had not the courage to answer 
me. When I said to him, though, that I looked upon 
novels and all books as veritable accumulators, and 
bookshops as the sources of intellectual energy, he 
began to laugh, and that dispelled our emotion. I 
recommended to his care my two last-born children. 
If I am not destined to see them appear, he will take 
more pains still to ensure their success, I am sure. He 
said the most hopeful words, and through his kiss on 
my hand I felt the warmth of sincere affection. The 
relations between publisher and author ought to be of 
the most elevated nature. In their transactions there 
ought to be not only honesty, but honour. The pub- 
lisher who pays the sacred work of thought poorly, or 
who does not pay with scrupulous conscientiousness 
the rights due to the author is only a trader of low 
degree, fit for *;he lowest market-place. After the de- 



PARIS 395 

parture of my visitor a smile came to my lips. I re- 
membered our first interview. I had, of course, chosen 
one of my propitious days to take my manuscript to the 

Rue A . In spite of that I was not at all reassured. 

I went very slowly up the staircase of the famous 
publishing house. After sending up my card I sat 
down on the bench where people wait, facing a huge 
clock which looked as though it were making fun of 
me. I saw myself in the centre of an open square, the 
bhree sides of which were formed by yellow and green 
books, and above these a gallery with desks ornamented 
by lamps with shades. Oh, there was no room lost 
there! Heads covered with round caps, heads of men 
who had been there since the founding of the business, 
were to be seen here and there. Ladders rolled along 
on iron rods. The silence was only interrupted by the 
call for some volume and by the bang with which the 
said volume was thrown on the counter. In this square, 
which seemed like a bee-hive to me, I noticed that there 
was well organised activity, but it was not joyous, not 
at all modern. The atmosphere seemed to be rigid, 
rather discouraging. I entered the editorial office, fully 
persuaded that I had come to the wrong place. I was 
received, not with any effusion, certainly, for one cannot 
imagine an elderly woman with a manuscript being re- 
ceived with effusion ; that would have been inconceivable, 
but the reception which I had was all that could be 
desired as regards politeness. I was told that my novel 
would be read. I could not have hoped for more than 
that. To be brief, it was read, and accepted, and Jean 
Noel signed his first contract at the age of fifty-two, 
not a day too soon. It was not long before success had 
created between my publisher and me a sort of good 
humour, out of which a cordial friendship sprang. The 
beehive of Rue A has now become familiar and 



396 ON THE BRANCH 

dear to me. Most of its workers have done something 
for my books, one of them looked over my proofs, 
another opened up the way for them abroad, this one 
packed them, that one sent them off. Ah, well, I am 
grateful to them all. I could not have done without 
them. When one examines Life thoroughly, one has 
no difficulty in realising the solidarity and fraternity of 
it. That literary debut seems to me so far back now! 
It is curious how everything seems to go further back. 
Just as the aeronaut has the sensation that the earth is 
disappearing from him, so I have a sensation that the 
past is leaving me. One of the effects of heroine per- 
haps. 

Twenty-four hours of calm, another long shudder, a 
stitch in the left side and the second lung affected. 
With what am I to breathe now? Sir William endured 
this torture of suffocation a whole year without 
heroine. And he did not put an end to it. I cry out 
for air, for oxygen, just as he used to do. I remem- 
bered that pneumonia was contagious, and I asked the 
doctor to disinfect the room, the library, me myself as 
much as possible, and to make use of all the means 
science has put at his disposal, without any ridiculous 
scruples. He was glad that the initiative came from me. 
He is going to take advantage of that to try some new 
substance. The idea that I have brought infection into 
this pretty home, which was so fresh and so whole- 
some, that I may be a danger for those who are with 
me, is more painful to me than the perspective of 
death. Death! Sir William was not mistaken, the 
nearer one gets to it, the less terrible it appears. That 
I will affirm and will vouch for. I wish to render that 
justice to Nature. She certainly prepares the individual 
for it. During the night I was thinking of love, of 



PARIS 397 

youth, of success, of distant journeys, of whist and 
bridge, and not one of those things roused any regret 
in me. Ah, no thank you, I am very much too tired! 
The idea of escaping infirmities and extreme old age 
would have consoled me for dying at twenty. Vanity 
can become a force. If death were not sent to us, we 
should ask for it. It is still a scarecrow to us because 
humanity is very young, but when it has reached the 
age of manhood it will see death in its true aspect, 
and will await it with serenity. One day in Kirby's 
window, in the Rue Auber, I saw some flowers which, 
after being dipped in a certain composition, could be 
preserved indefinitely. In appearance, neither their 
form nor their colour had changed, and yet they had 
lost their subtle and mysterious charm. The flowers 
must die, and man must die. It is death which makes 
the value of life. 

I have made my kind Sister Anne very happy. This 
morning, as she moved about round me, she looked 
at me with an anxious expression. I called her to me 
and, smiling, asked her to go and fetch me a priest. 
That was what she wanted, I had guessed it. Her 
sweet face brightened with spiritual joy, and that joy 
proved to be a very elevated and very disinterested 
sentiment. She was anxious about my soul and wished 
for my salvation. That is what I call fraternity, if I 
understand the word rightly. With the intuition of 
people who believe, she doubted my orthodoxy and 
feared, perhaps, that I was hostile to religion. Heaven 
preserve me! I do not approve of the Japanese chil- 
dren who, on leaving school, break the nose of the 
fox-god which their parents used to adore. All beliefs, 
all superstitions even, mark the halting-places of the 
progress of humanity. They are our data, and we must 



398 

respect them. On my entrance into this world I was 
blessed with the rites of the Catholic Church. On my 
departure I wish to be blessed in the same way. Then, 
too, a great and haunting desire has come to me, it is 
to receive the viaticum. The germ of this desire was 
sown in me more than thirty years ago. During a 
Trouville season I went one Sunday to service at the 
church frequented by the visitors, in order to exhibit 
a certain dress of blue silk with white spots made by 
a good dressmaker. Was not that woman-like? That 
day there was to be music and a sermon for the profit 
of some charitable mission. The sermon, preached by 
a Dominican, was on the Eucharist. The manly and 
vibrating voice of tha monk captivated my ear, his 
words laid hold of me. Unconsciously, perhaps, or by 
a marvellous intuition, he gave an exposition of the 
dogma in a more scientific than theological way. He 
declared that communion was a law of Nature. After 
showing us that we hold communion in love, in friend- 
ship, with light, with all the forces of existence, he 
showed us logically the possibility, the necessity of 
communion with God, the Eternal Source of Life. I 
was deeply moved. " Yes, why not ? " I murmured in 
a low voice. My serene incredulity was shaken for the 
first time. Four hundred years earlier such a sermon 
would have taken the Dominican to the stake. I gazed 
attentively at his face so that I should not forget it. 
It was a fine human mask, energetic, intelligent, beam- 
ing with faith. On leaving the church I went into the 
vestry to ask the name of the preacher. I was told it 
was Father Didon. The explanation of this mystery of 
the Eucharist, which until then had never seemed to 
me worthy of serious discussion, has remained in my 
mind. As science has taught me to look closer at Na- 
ture, I had gone along repeating "Why not?" But 



PARIS 399 

out of the thousands of human creatures who approach 
the mystical table, how few hold communion! It 
seems to me that one must be capable of a profound 
aspiration towards the ideal, towards the divine, that 
one must have a special state of soul. I thought I had 
now arrived at this, and that is why I wanted to see 
the priest. He came and we talked, but not without 
some difficulty. He examined me with a scrutinising 
look. Then he treated me a little as he might have 
done the man who goes to get a certificate of confes- 
sion the evening before his marriage. In his absolu- 
tion he put an emphasis which did not escape me. My 
faith in God and in immortality reassured him, though. 
He had brought me what he calls " the bread of life." 
What a beautiful name in the ears of a dying woman ! 
And that bread gave me joy in the deep waves, a peace 
which made a strange silence within me. Verily, I 
believe that I held communion. 

For the last five years I have kept, jealously, 
in a compartment of my trunk, my grave dress. I 
thought I was destined to fall " from the branch " in 
the midst of strangers. I did not want to leave the 
choice of it to them. Heaven knows in what horrors 
they might have buried me. The making of this gar- 
ment gave a certain scare, it appears, in the dress- 
maker's workroom. One of the young girls even wept 
warm tears over it. I had felt obliged at the time to 
bring back the gaiety that I had chased away by the 
gift of a twenty-franc piece. This morning I had a 
fancy to try on this last dress. It is of white serge, of 
an ivory shade, entirely lined with silk, with a long 
train, two classical pleats, and wide sleeves. It has a 
hood trimmed with some fine old guipure, which is 
to serve as a mask. I congratulated myself on my 



400 ON THE BRANCH 

far-seeing coquetry. It is a veritable master-piece, and 
makes me look like an abbess. I thought it suited me 
so well that I wanted to keep it on. I had forgotten 
that I had shown it to Guy, one day when packing my 
trunk. He recognised it, and the unexpected shock 
made him lose his self-possession for a minute. He 
gazed at me; tears welled up to his eyes; he came and 
threw himself down on his knees by my couch, saying 
in a voice of anguish 

" God-mother, god-mother, it is not time yet ! " 
For a few minutes I was pleased at the sight of this 
passionate grief of which I was the object. In the son 
of my husband and Colette it had a particular relish 
for me. Then it touched my maternal fibres, and they 
vibrated with affection and pity. 

" No, no, my boy, the hour has not yet come," I said, 
as one would speak to a child in order to console it ; 
and with a sudden inspiration I added, " We are both 
in a nervous state, I through illness, and you through 
anxiety. We need the Lussons and Josee, they will 
bring us fresh forces and put us right. Telegraph to 
them at once to come and help us." Guy was not duped, 
I knew that by his emotion. All the same, I think I 
forestalled his own secret desire. I then took a few of 
the roses he had sent me that very morning and put 
them into the folds of my white robe, to make it into the 
dress of a living person. He gave a smile of satisfac- 
tion. So small a thing is necessary for reviving hope. 
Josee's presence will soften the grief of my departure if 
there is to be a departure. I want her to share his grief. 
Tears unite more than laughter. Once again I felt 
that heart, in the depths of my being, with which moth- 
ers love and sacrifice themselves. It seems to me that 
this made me greater. 



PARIS 401 

They are all here, Madame and Monsieur de Lusson, 
Josee, Guy and Uncle Georges. What a warm fire of 
friendship this makes for me! And only a year ago 
I had so thoroughly resolved to finish alone, to hide 
myself away to die. In spite of the charm of feeling 
myself surrounded by such loving care, I suffer at times 
from the attentions they all lavish on me. For a nature 
as independent as mine there is more merit in receiving 
than in giving. It requires still more generosity. I 
had guessed rightly that Josee had clever hands. She 
knows how to arrange my pillows as no one else can. 
She has the intuition as regards what relieves me and 
what is agreeable to me. She helps me by a hundred 
little artifices to overcome my increasing disgust for 
food. She has set about fighting with pneumonia with 
such ardour as to make me almost wish for her to win 
the victory. We are all of us very brave. Monsieur de 
Lusson is the least courageous. Frequently, in the very 
midst of our conversation, I see on his eye-glasses the 
reflection of the tears which have risen to his eyes. He 
cannot resign himself to the possible loss of his partner 
at bridge and whist. Joking aside, the five weeks which 
I have spent at the " Commanderie," and our pleasant 
chats, have bound us more closely together than we 
had imagined. Our friendship, without our being aware 
of it, had gone ahead at the rate of eighty-five an hour. 
I talked to him about radium, but he declared that, 
at present, he could not be grateful to science for any- 
thing else but my cure. If my work in the world is ac- 
complished I shall be called away. There is no science 
that can hold out against that. 

I had the joy of seeing the sympathy which sprang up 
at first sight between Uncles Georges and his future niece. 
Those two, I would wager, will be a fine pair of friends. 



402 ON THE BRANCH 

I have asked for the wedding to be fixed for the 6th of 
April, three days after Easter. Every one has consented 
to this. My dear god-children! I feel sure that they 

will often turn their steps in the direction of the R 

cemetery. Although I have seen a great deal of forget- 
fulness in the world, I believe that they will remember me. 
There will be leaves and flowers on my grave. The bees 
will come there to plunder, and I shall be helping Life. 
That thought is very sweet to me. Guy and Josee would 
certainly not like to see their god-mother transformed 
into a handful of ashes. After all, then, there is to be 
some one to whom my remains are not to be indifferent. 
Sir William once said to me, " You do not know ! " Ah, 
no, I did not kriow. 

My children are in great grief. They dare not be 
happy, and yet all the same they are happy. I rejoice 
to see this, and it consoles me. A little whil^ ago they 
were here with me. I looked at their complexion, 
coloured by rich, pure blood, at their thick hair, their 
limpid eyes. Oh, those youthful eyes, those eyes with 
the dawn in them, and then their healthy teeth, their 
firm, fresh lips. I admired, without any regret or 
envy, their insignia of vitality. Above my weak, 
almost worn-out body, I could feel the waves of love, 
that eternal conqueror, passing and repassing from one 
to the other of them. For an instant I had a vision of 
the continuity of things, and Jean Noel, ignoring 
Madame de Myeres, repeated mentally, " How beautiful 
Life is, how very beautiful ! " 

Last night was a very bad one ; I fancy I was slightly 
delirious, and the feverishness revived a whole crowd of 
painful impressions. Why should it have revived just 
those! I lived over again, through every detail, that 
terrible moment when, in all the anger of a betrayed wife, 



PARIS 403 

I had stood there facing the dead man. Oh, those 
clenched hands, the impotence before that awful void! 
Again I tore from my finger the wedding-ring which 
my husband had placed there. Just as it had been 
in reality, my flesh held it back, and it hurt me very 
much. Colette's black eyes, the scene on the stone steps, 
all that took form again in the most cruel way in my 
mind. Then I dreamed that Guy, the father, was kneel- 
ing beside Josee. I wanted to rush forward to claim 
him again, but my feet were bound, and I woke up bathed 
in the perspiration of a nightmare. Never, I should 
think, had the cells of my brain opened with such 
rapidity, such fantastic incoherence. They plunged me 
back, me, a dying woman, into my childhood, into my 
youth. The past is so far away that it no longer has any 
data, but these images remain very distinct. I saw again 
the tall figure of Mr. Gray, that poor English professor, 
who, all unwittingly, had enabled me to study the Saxon 
soul and to write my future novels. The first lines of 
his Robertson's Grammar came back to my memory as 
though I had learnt it yesterday : " We are told that 
the Sultan Mahmoud, etc." Forty-four years had not 
effaced it! What marvellous instruments of work we 
are! Towards half -past three in the morning, on wak- 
ing from a painful dream, my eyes fell on Sister Anne. 
She was seated at the foot of my bed, quite upright in 
her arm-chair, as clearly outlined as some hieratic figure, 
with her black veil, her forehead-band and guimpe of 
immaculate white. There was no trace of fatigue in 
her attitude. The expression of her face was sweet 
and meditative, and she was reading her little book, 
covered with black cloth, The Imitation. Is that the ac- 
cumulator from which she draws the psychical force that 
sustains her and the devotion she shows to me? The 
dear Sister, her hope of reward will not be in vain, I am 



404 ON THE BRANCH 

certain. None of our hopes will be in vain. Our future 
otate must be more beautiful than we have pictured it. 
For my part, the beatitudes do not tempt me. All I ask 
is to make Life again and for ever, to die in order 
to be born again, and to be born again in order to 
die. . . . 

Where in the Beyond, and when, shall I meet my 
husband again? If my soul were to have lips, what a 
hearty kiss I should receive! Our meeting in this world 
was wonderful, our union divine. The very evening of 
our wedding day we went to Chavigny. The house was 
full of flowers, light and gentle warmth, like a corner 
of terrestrial Paradise. For dinner I put on again my 
bridal dress, a princess robe of white satin, with a spray 
of orange blossom on the bodice. I then went to the 
library where my lord and master was awaiting me. As 
I entered the room he came towards me, his arms stretched 
out, and, looking into his eyes just as in a dream of 
happiness, I moved slowly forward and fell upon his 
breast. There I heard two hearts beating, the one on the 
right side and the other on the left; two hearts making 
perfect rhythm, one strong and one weak. I had the 
sensation, then, of complete being, of the fulness of life. 
This lasted a few seconds, and it was so strange that we 
were both struck with holy awe. Our arms fell down at 
our sides, and we gazed at each other in astonishment. 
We had just recognised each other, no doubt. That is 
the minute that I should like to live again. That is the 
minute for which I am hoping. Oh, the meeting again ! 
Humanity has pictured it in so absurd, so childish a way. 
Let us leave to God the care of preparing it. He has 
the secret of such joys and rewards. I am quite content, 
for my part, to " commit my soul into His hands," 



PARIS 405 

" Your rooms are waiting for you." That is what 
they write to me from the Hotel Castiglione! What 
irony ! The room will go on waiting for me for a long 
time, I fancy. Did I not have the presentiment that I 
should never go back to them when I left there in July? 
Oh, the thud of that omnibus door shutting after me. 
I can still hear it. The dear little room in which Jean 
Noel was born ! If I could have had the choice I should 
have liked to finish between the four walls of that room. 
Guy will buy the clock which counted my hours of great 
solitude and of work; the table to which so many con- 
soling spirits came. I have expressed a wish that he 
should put them in the Chavigny library; a curious in- 
stinct makes me want to go back there. I know with 
what tender reverence they will be surrounded. I have 
arranged a future in this way for my old companions, a 
future worthy of envy. 

Livid circles under my eyes, my nose pinched, 
patches of yellow here and there, my lips discoloured and 
dry that is the horrible picture my hand-glass reflects 
at present. And there is a great deal of grief felt all 
around me. Uncle Georges, among others, is deplor- 
ably weak. Yesterday evening, in order to keep me back, 
he found nothing better to do than to own to the love 
that he has always felt for me, the secret of which he had 
kept in so manly a way. Just as though I had not 
guessed it. Yes, I had been inwardly proud of it! It 
was the homage of a large heart. Would any one believe 
it possible, but this declaration, this last one, was very 
sweet and agreeable to me. 

My femininity and my vanity are still very living. 
My boy breaks my heart. There is a mute supplication 
in his eyes which moves me to the depths of my soul. 
If I could stay here, should I like to do so? No ah 



406 ON THE BRANCH 

no ! Something tells me that I am leaving in time. To 
leave in time, that is the way to be regretted ! . . . 

It is nearly finished . . . Jean Noel's last novel. 
I feel suffocated. . . . Impossible to take anything, 
and at times I get out of my depth. The heroine does 
not do me good any longer. The branch is bending 
. . . it is bending terribly . . . It is even crack- 
ing under me. . . . And I am not afraid. . . -' ... 
not at all afraid. . . . Like the bird of whom the 
poet sings . . . "I know that I have wings." 



Fallen from the branch. 



THE END 



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LIBRARY FACILITY 




A / r\ " ' ill l