Camille ALEXANDRE DUMAS FILS
Illnesses like Armand`s have one fortunate thing about them: they either kill
outright or are very soon overcome. A fortnight after the events which I have
just related Armand was convalescent, and we had already become great
friends. During the whole course of his illness I had hardly left his side.
Spring was profuse in its flowers, its leaves, its birds, its songs; and my friend`s
window opened gaily upon his garden, from which a reviving breath of health
seemed to come to him. The doctor had allowed him to get up, and we often sat
talking at the open window, at the hour when the sun is at its height, from
twelve to two. I was careful not to refer to Marguerite, fearing lest the name
should awaken sad recollections hidden under the apparent calm of the invalid;
but Armand, on the contrary, seemed to delight in speaking of her, not as
formerly, with tears in his eyes, but with a sweet smile which reassured me as to
the state of his mind.
I had noticed that ever since his last visit to the cemetery, and the sight which
had brought on so violent a crisis, sorrow seemed to have been overcome by
sickness, and Marguerite`s death no longer appeared to him under its former
aspect. A kind of consolation had sprung from the certainty of which he was
now fully persuaded, and in order to banish the sombre picture which often
presented itself to him, he returned upon the happy recollections of his liaison
with Marguerite, and seemed resolved to think of nothing else.
The body was too much weakened by the attack of fever, and even by the
process of its cure, to permit him any violent emotions, and the universal joy of
spring which wrapped him round carried his thoughts instinctively to images of
joy. He had always obstinately refused to tell his family of the danger which he
had been in, and when he was well again his father did not even know that he
had been ill.
One evening we had sat at the window later than usual; the weather had been
superb, and the sun sank to sleep in a twilight dazzling with gold and azure.
Though we were in Paris, the verdure which surrounded us seemed to shut us
off from the world, and our conversation was only now and again disturbed by
the sound of a passing vehicle.
"It was about this time of the year, on the evening of a day like this, that I first
met Marguerite," said Armand to me, as if he were listening to his own thoughts
rather than to what I was saying. I did not answer. Then turning toward me, he
"I must tell you the whole story; you will make a book out of it; no one will
believe it, but it will perhaps be interesting to do."
"You will tell me all about it later on, my friend," I said to him; "you are not
strong enough yet."
"It is a warm evening, I have eaten my ration of chicken," he said to me,
smiling; "I have no fever, we have nothing to do, I will tell it to you now."
"Since you really wish it, I will listen."
This is what he told me, and I have scarcely changed a word of the touching
Yes (Armand went on, letting his head sink back on the chair), yes, it was just
such an evening as this. I had spent the day in the country with one of my
friends, Gaston R--. We returned to Paris in the evening, and not knowing what
to do we went to the Varietes. We went out during one of the entr`actes, and a
tall woman passed us in the corridor, to whom my friend bowed.
"Whom are you bowing to?" I asked.
"Marguerite Gautier," he said.
"She seems much changed, for I did not recognise her," I said, with an emotion
that you will soon understand.
"She has been ill; the poor girl won`t last long."
I remember the words as if they had been spoken to me yesterday.
I must tell you, my friend, that for two years the sight of this girl had made a
strange impression on me whenever I came across her. Without knowing why, I
turned pale and my heart beat violently. I have a friend who studies the occult
sciences, and he would call what I experienced "the affinity of fluids"; as for
me, I only know that I was fated to fall in love with Marguerite, and that I
It is certainly the fact that she made a very definite impression upon me, that
many of my friends had noticed it and that they had been much amused when
they saw who it was that made this impression upon me.
The first time I ever saw her was in the Place de la Bourse, outside Susse`s; an
open carriage was stationed there, and a woman dressed in white got down from
it. A murmur of admiration greeted her as she entered the shop. As for me, I was
rivetted to the spot from the moment she went in till the moment when she came
out again. I could see her through the shop windows selecting what she had
come to buy. I might have gone in, but I dared not. I did not know who she was,
and I was afraid lest she should guess why I had come in and be offended.
Nevertheless, I did not think I should ever see her again.
She was elegantly dressed; she wore a muslin dress with many flounces, an
Indian shawl embroidered at the corners with gold and silk flowers, a straw hat,
a single bracelet, and a heavy gold chain, such as was just then beginning to be
She returned to her carriage and drove away. One of the shopmen stood at the
door looking after his elegant customer`s carriage. I went up to him and asked
him what was the lady`s name.
"Mademoiselle Marguerite Gautier," he replied. I dared not ask him for her
address, and went on my way.
The recollection of this vision, for it was really a vision, would not leave my
mind like so many visions I had seen, and I looked everywhere for this royally
beautiful woman in white.
A few days later there was a great performance at the Opera Comique. The first
person I saw in one of the boxes was Marguerite Gautier.
The young man whom I was with recognised her immediately, for he said to
me, mentioning her name: "Look at that pretty girl."
At that moment Marguerite turned her opera-glass in our direction and, seeing
my friend, smiled and beckoned to him to come to her.
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