The Melancholy Summer of Madame de Breyves manuscript

   I had come to spend a few days in Paris last year at the beginning of May, and at a ball, slowly passing by, I was watching Princesse Françoise V. who in her graceful benevolence was giving to all her friends the inestimable charity of her sincere attention, more beautiful still in its sadness, and her ungloved hand. Among all those who were crowding round her, bowing respectfully to receive her, I recognized one of my cousins who had promised me, a few years earlier, to introduce me to the Princesse. All in a fever, in fear of her leaving, I went up to him and reminded him of his promise. "That's impossible," he told me. "After the first of May nobody else is introduced to her."
   "At least one still may be able to see her in society."
   "After the first of June she no longer attends any parties, other than dinner-parties where all the guests without exception are her friends. Strangers can no  longer catch sight of her other than at the theatre, in the Bois, or in the street. And from the twentieth of June to the fifteenth of July, when she leaves for her château in Breyves, she no longer comes out of her house other than to stroll in the garden."
   Indirectly I made it known to the Princesse the regret that these unusual customs caused me, and all the more keenly as I would not be returning to Paris for several years and perhaps I would no longer have the opportunity to see her.
   "I am not able to bend this custom on your behalf," she wrote to me, "however bizarre it might seem to you. A custom, be what it may, must be followed. Otherwise, as one of your friends said, it is no longer a custom. But the genuine affection I feel for your music requires at least that I explain to you why I am resisting the desire to become acquainted with you and why my refusal to see anybody at that time is the most considerable and the most frightful homage to those that I set aside. It was ten years ago at the entrance to the Bois, that my friend Geneviève H., asking M. Honoré XXX with sincere indifference if he would accompany her home, and hearing him reply that he had to rejoin his friends and take supper with the ladies, took her leave of him with a sadness that she could never have foreseen. She had already seen him two or three times and hardly gave him a thought.  How was it that she who had never yet loved, out of thousands could love this insignificant creature. How was it furthermore - because I could find in the person of M. XXX no reason for this inclination, how was it that on that particular day my friend's heart became suddenly enamoured just as at certain times of the year the air takes on a spring-like sweetness, or rather as at certain hours of the day the weather becomes fine? Because just as inevitable and superior to our will as the physical seasons, those seasons of the sentiments do not allow themselves to be predicted for what they are. I had never been aware of it and nor had she. It is like the sky's countenance, that as suddenly and with as much mysterious inconstancy, lights up or darkens the countenance of our hearts. The perpetual presence of summer in the month of June, whether it radiates like a naked beauty during the day, whether like a veiled beauty at the onset of night, yet never ceasing for a moment to be imminent, is to the imagination and to the senses a terrible and delicious oppression. Hearts that are set free by the charm of these hours stray along the green avenues of the land, along the pale avenues of the heavens and often come together there. Like the boatman's net the soul floats adrift. Horizons glow in the distance like an infinity of sunbeams and hopes. Soon weakened the soul opens up and often a dangerous being, passing by chance, then enters into it, that cannot be made to leave either by the desperate efforts of the boatman or its own exertions in order to return to a happier life.
   This is what my friend thought on returning, alone and her heart overflowing, overflowing with this new arrival that had entered into it. All her thoughts did nothing but to  fix her hurt like the finger that relentlessly presses the eye that an insect has got into only to make it penetrate more deeply. Two days later she met Honoré XXX again and he said to her: 'I must bid you farewell, Madame, as you are going to your château for just two months before coming back to Paris; as for me I am going to the races at Trouville, then afterwards to Engadine, then Bayreuth, and finally to Italy, so that I will not be returning to Paris for eight months.' I was with Geneviève; I shall never forget the look of agony and indulgence in the dreadful pallor of her face that she fixed on Honoré as though he was the unwitting torturer who in his innocent cruelty tears from the living flesh that which without him ever suspecting it  was inextricably part of her. In her château she brought with her the adored and torturing image of an absent person who without doubt she would have loved."

Preliminary, but quite different, sketch for Mélancolique villégiature de Mme de Breyves.


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