Wednesday, July 1, 2009

Ah! Manon... (2)


"Manon was so terrified by the violence of my anger, that,
remaining on her knees by the chair from which I had just before
risen, breathless and trembling, she fixed her eyes upon me. I
advanced a little farther towards the door, but, unless I had
lost the last spark of humanity, I could not continue longer
unmoved by such a spectacle.

"So far, indeed, was I from this kind of stoical indifference,
that, rushing at once into the very opposite extreme, I returned,
or rather flew back to her without an instant's reflection. I
lifted her in my arms; I gave her a thousand tender kisses; I
implored her to pardon my ungovernable temper; I confessed that I
was an absolute brute, and unworthy of being loved by such an
angel.

"I made her sit down, and throwing myself, in my turn, upon my
knees, I conjured her to listen to me in that attitude. Then I
briefly expressed all that a submissive and impassioned lover
could say most tender and respectful. I supplicated her pardon.
She let her arms fall over my neck, as she said that it was she
who stood in need of forgiveness, and begged of me in mercy to
forget all the annoyances she had caused me, and that she began,
with reason, to fear that I should not approve of what she had to
say in her justification. `Me!' said I interrupting her
impatiently; `I require no justification; I approve of all you
have done. It is not for me to demand excuses for anything you
do; I am but too happy, too contented, if my dear Manon will only
leave me master of her affections! But,' continued I,
remembering that it was the crisis of my fate, `may I not, Manon,
all-powerful Manon, you who wield at your pleasure my joys and
sorrows, may I not be permitted, after having conciliated you by
my submission and all the signs of repentance, to speak to you
now of my misery and distress? May I now learn from your own
lips what my destiny is to be, and whether you are resolved to
sign my death-warrant, by spending even a single night with my
rival?'

"She considered a moment before she replied. `My good
chevalier,' said she, resuming the most tranquil tone, `if you
had only at first explained yourself thus distinctly, you would
have spared yourself a world of trouble, and prevented a scene
that has really annoyed me. Since your distress is the result of
jealousy, I could at first have cured that by offering to
accompany you where you pleased. But I imagined it was caused by
the letter which I was obliged to write in the presence of G----
M----, and of the girl whom we sent with it. I thought you might
have construed that letter into a mockery; and have fancied that,
by sending such a messenger, I meant to announce my abandonment
of you for the sake of G---- M----. It was this idea that at
once overwhelmed me with grief; for, innocent as I knew myself to
be, I could not but allow that appearances were against me.
However,' continued she, `I will leave you to judge of my
conduct, after I shall have explained the whole truth.'

"She then told me all that had occurred to her after joining
G---- M----, whom she found punctually awaiting her arrival. He
had in fact received her in the most princely style. He showed
her through all the apartments, which were fitted up in the
neatest and most correct taste. He had counted out to her in her
boudoir ten thousand francs, as well as a quantity of jewels,
amongst which were the identical pearl necklace and bracelets
which she had once before received as a present from his father.
He then led her into a splendid room, which she had not before
seen, and in which an exquisite collation was served; she was
waited upon by the new servants, whom he had hired purposely for
her, and whom he now desired to consider themselves as
exclusively her attendants; the carriage and the horses were
afterwards paraded, and he then proposed a game of cards, until
supper should be announced.

"`I acknowledge,' continued Manon, `that I was dazzled by all
this magnificence. It struck me that it would be madness to
sacrifice at once so many good things for the mere sake of
carrying off the money and the jewels already in my possession;
that it was a certain fortune made for both you and me, and that
we might pass the remainder of our lives most agreeably and
comfortably at the expense of G---- M----.

"`Instead of proposing the theatre, I thought it more prudent
to sound his feelings with regard to you, in order to ascertain
what facilities we should have for meeting in future, on the
supposition that I could carry my project into effect. I found
him of a most tractable disposition. He asked me how I felt
towards you, and if I had not experienced some compunction at
quitting you. I told him that you were so truly amiable, and had
ever treated me with such undeviating kindness, that it was
impossible I could hate you. He admitted that you were a man of
merit, and expressed an ardent desire to gain your friendship.

"`He was anxious to know how I thought you would take my
elopement, particularly when you should learn that I was in his
hands. I answered, that our love was of such long standing as to
have had time to moderate a little; that, besides, you were not
in very easy circumstances, and would probably not consider my
departure as any severe misfortune, inasmuch as it would relieve
you from a burden of no very insignificant nature. I added that,
being perfectly convinced you would take the whole matter
rationally, I had not hesitated to tell you that I had some
business in Paris; but you had at once consented, and that having
accompanied me yourself, you did not seem very uneasy when we
separated.

"`If I thought,' said he to me, 'that he could bring himself to
live on good terms with me, I should be too happy to make him a
tender of my services and attentions.' I assured him that, from
what I knew of your disposition, I had no doubt you would
acknowledge his kindness in a congenial spirit: especially, I
added, if he could assist you in your affairs, which had become
embarrassed since your disagreement with your family. He
interrupted me by declaring, that he would gladly render you any
service in his power, and that if you were disposed to form a new
attachment, he would introduce you to an extremely pretty woman,
whom he had just given up for me.

"`I approved of all he said,' she added, `for fear of exciting
any suspicions; and being more and more satisfied of the
feasibility of my scheme, I only longed for an opportunity of
letting you into it, lest you should be alarmed at my not keeping
my appointment. With this view I suggested the idea of sending
this young lady to you, in order to have an opportunity of
writing; I was obliged to have recourse to this plan, because I
could not see a chance of his leaving me to myself for a moment.'

"`He was greatly amused with my proposition; he called his
valet, and asking him whether he could immediately find his late
mistress, he dispatched him at once in search of her. He
imagined that she would have to go to Chaillot to meet you, but I
told him that, when we parted, I promised to meet you again at
the theatre, or that, if anything should prevent me from going
there, you were to wait for me in a coach at the, end of the
street of St. Andre; that consequently it would be best to send
your new love there, if it were only to save you from the misery
of suspense during the whole night. I said it would be also
necessary to write you a line of explanation, without which you
would probably be puzzled by the whole transaction. He
consented; but I was obliged to write in his presence; and I took
especial care not to explain matters too palpably in my letter.

"`This is the history,' said Manon, `of the entire affair. I
conceal nothing from you, of either my conduct or my intentions.
The girl arrived; I thought her handsome; and as I doubted not
that you would be mortified by my absence, I did most sincerely
hope that she would be able to dissipate something of your ennui:
for it is the fidelity of the heart alone that I value. I should
have been too delighted to have sent Marcel, but I could not for
a single instant find an opportunity of telling him what I wished
to communicate to you.' She finished her story by describing the
embarrassment into which M. de T----'s letter had thrown G----
M----; `he hesitated,' said she, `about leaving, and assured me
that he should not be long absent; and it is on this account that
I am uneasy at seeing you here, and that I betrayed, at your
appearance, some slight feeling of surprise.'

Abbé Prévost, Manon Lescaut

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