The sale was to take place on the 16th. A day's interval had been left between
the visiting days and the sale, in order to give time for taking down the hangings,
curtains, etc. I had just returned from abroad. It was natural that I had not heard
of Marguerite's death among the pieces of news which one's friends always tell
on returning after an absence. Marguerite was a pretty woman; but though the
life of such women makes sensation enough, their death makes very little. They
are suns which set as they rose, unobserved. Their death, when they die young,
is heard of by all their lovers at the same moment, for in Paris almost all the
lovers of a well-known woman are friends. A few recollections are exchanged,
and everybody's life goes on as if the incident had never occurred, without so
much as a tear.
Nowadays, at twenty-five, tears have become so rare a thing that they are not to
be squandered indiscriminately. It is the most that can be expected if the parents
who pay for being wept over are wept over in return for the price they pay.
As for me, though my initials did not occur on any of Marguerite's belongings,
that instinctive indulgence, that natural pity that I have already confessed, set me
thinking over her death, more perhaps than it was worth thinking over. I
remembered having often met Marguerite in the Bois, where she went regularly
every day in a little blue coupe drawn by two magnificent bays, and I had noticed
in her a distinction quite apart from other women of her kind, a distinction which
was enhanced by a really exceptional beauty.
These unfortunate creatures whenever they go out are always accompanied by
somebody or other. As no man cares to make himself conspicuous by being
seen in their company, and as they are afraid of solitude, they take with them
either those who are not well enough off to have a carriage, or one or another of
those elegant, ancient ladies, whose elegance is a little inexplicable, and to
whom one can always go for information in regard to the women whom they
In Marguerite's case it was quite different. She was always alone when she drove
in the Champs-Elysees, lying back in her carriage as much as possible, dressed
in furs in winter, and in summer wearing very simple dresses; and though she
often passed people whom she knew, her smile, when she chose to smile, was
seen only by them, and a duchess might have smiled in just such a manner. She
did not drive to and fro like the others, from the Rond-Point to the end of the
Champs-Elysees. She drove straight to the Bois. There she left her carriage,
walked for an hour, returned to her carriage, and drove rapidly home.
All these circumstances which I had so often witnessed came back to my
memory, and I regretted her death as one might regret the destruction of a
beautiful work of art.
It was impossible to see more charm in beauty than in that of Marguerite.
Excessively tall and thin, she had in the fullest degree the art of repairing this
oversight of Nature by the mere arrangement of the things she wore. Her