I have often been asked to write my memoirs. I have always resisted the blandishments of mere curiosity, however I will yield to yours, my dear Lucien, for I firmly believe in the sincerity of the affection which bound us together during so many years despite the combined witchcrafts of time and absence.
Besides has not my sweetest law always been to obey your will?
Not so, I hear you murmur. I assure you that I am telling you the plain truth, and to punish you for your wicked doubt, I will compel you to follow me into the country, far enough removed from the place in which we actually dwell.
It is towards the Garden of France that we must turn our steps; at some kilometres from Tours, a pleasant city near which lies the Chateau de Pauvanne, the abode of the Marquis de Pauvanne, my grandmother.
It was within the walls of this handsome thirteenth century edifice that the days of my infancy and my youth slipped by.
Sequestered beneath the shade of the venerable trees, adorned with magnificent flowers, refreshed by a dainty stream with its capricious meanderings bathing the skirt of the park, it offered to the glance the most picturesque aspect that one could dream of.
Like the greater part of the young girls belonging to the local aristocracy, my studies took place at the Convent de Marmoutiers.
Then as I grew up, my grandmother desirous of seeing my youth make sunny her white hairs, came one day and took me from the arms of Mother Eudoxie, and carried me off to Pauvanne.
From the child which I had been the day before, I now became a young lady; I had my suite of rooms and my own waiting maid and this seemed to me to be infinitely more delightful than my residence at Marmoutiers.
Not, however, that my life was gay at Pauvanne, no, my grandmother was no longer able to go about; her legs scarcely permitting her to walk even a short distance in the grounds. Hence being unable to accompany her, she gave me full liberty to come and go within the walled enclosures of Pauvanne.
The estate being of considerable extent, I had plenty of elbow room, and I profited by it to explore it to the utmost recesses.
My greatest happiness was to wander in its wildest nooks, and even to lose myself therein, in the reveries of a girl of seventeen.
These reveries were, I ought to own, always of the same nature.
A strange vagueness pervaded my soul; my imagination flew off to unknown regions, and presented to my eyes images of tenderness and devotion in which a young and beautiful man always became the hero.
Although profoundly ignorant with regard to the difference of sex, my senses, already awakened, stirred throughout my entire organism.
Flashes of scorching blood often obscured my sight, my legs trembled and I was obliged to sit down, compelled by the influence of an enervating sensation at once painful and pleasing.
I had left the convent at Easter, and April and May intoxicated me with their odours of springtime; and June despite the heat, could only increase my desire for these solitary strolls.
It was in the morning, beyond all other times, that I made my escape, not yet having lost the habit of early rising which the Nuns inculcate in their pupils. And I have often seen the first rays of the sun issue from the midst of the night and make golden the heaths and fir plantations of Pauvanne.
On my return from one of these excursions, I heard my grandmother announce the expected arrival of my aunt, Helene, news which caused me to cry out in joy.
Helene de Torcol was twenty-five years old and ravishingly beautiful.
For the past two years she had been the widow of the Baron de Torcol, an old man of eighty, with whom her twenty years of age had been cynically associated.
Happily, the Baron promptly took the step of departing to the Lord to ask him for the recompense of his merits and his widow found herself free, without children, and with a yearly income of two hundred thousand francs.
She was certainly the most ravishing person that one could dream of.
Her hair, black as ebony, set off the whiteness of her complexion and it was lit up by the radiancy of the two large brown eyes. Her wide and sensual mouth was habitually slightly open revealing her pearly pointed teeth. Imperceptible black down slightly marked her upper lips and revealed a nature by no means destitute of virility.
Neither too tall nor too short, her dainty figure admirably shaped, with the hand and feet of a child, she appeared to me and to many others of marvelous beauty.
I adored her, her lively vivacious character had long before captivated me, and then accustomed to living in the company of an old lady, I always regarded the coming of Helene as the signal for a crowd of distractions.
We had passed a year together at Marmoutiers, where she was in the highest and I in the lowest class, so I looked upon her more as a friend than as a relation.
For some months back there had been talk of her proposed marriage to the Count de Vycabre, and my grandmother who approved the match, had written to the Count inviting him to pay a visit to the Chateau.
The Count did not need pressing and a few days later came and installed himself at Pauvanne.
The proximity, so close to me, of this engaged couple brought a notable perturbation into my life.
Here we touch upon a delicate matter and I do not know in truth that I can talk about it chastely.
Let Dame Chastity sleep! I hear you insinuate to me.
Alas! I greatly fear that in effect, it will have to be so, and arming myself with an imperturbable assurance I continue.
One morning very early in accordance with my custom, I had hidden myself deep in the park. Seated at the foot of a tree, my mind plunged in vague reverie, I lost all count of time, when an unexpected noise called my to my senses, and I heard steps coming in my direction.
Much perplexed I sank down and, putting aside the foliage, I perceived the profile of my aunt, who was clothed in white and blue morning gown.
M. de Vycabre in a Nanking undress, with a straw hat on his head accompanied her.
They seemed to be talking very eagerly and instinct warned me to avoid their seeing me. I concealed myself behind a dense clump of trees.
The promenaders soon stood still near me, M. de Vycabre glanced round him and his inspection doubtless convinced him that no one could observe them, for he threw his arms around my aunt's waist and drawing her to him, pressed her against his breast. Their lips met and I heard the exchange of a long kiss.
Without understanding the reason, I felt my heart beating violently as I overheard these words'I love you passionately. What a frightful time I have passed without you, my angel-my sweet beloved one-my dear Helene, we shall never leave each other again. Come closer so that I can again be kissed by your lovely eyes, your pretty teeth, your delicious neck-ah, I could eat you!'
My aunt, far from resisting, abandoned herself to him and returned kiss for kiss and caress for caress; her colour was heightened and her beautiful eyes were half closed.
'My Rene!' she said, 'I love you as much as you love me, I belong to you entirely!'
The sight of these caresses produced an indescribable effect in me. My senses quickened as though struck by an electric spark and I almost lost consciousness.
However, I at once regained my self possession and continued to be all eyes and ears.
M. Rene was asking for something which I did not understand, and he appeared to be pressing his request.
'No,' replied Helene, 'not here, I beg of you, I should never dare. Mon Dieu! if anybody were to see us, I should die of it.'