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Full text of "The writings of Oscar Wilde"

UNIFORM EDITION 



THE WRITINGS 

OF 

OSCAR WILDE 



^Wlmt Never Uie*> 

A ROMANCE 
BY 

Barbsy D'Aureviuv 

Translated into English by 

SEBASTIAN MELMOTH 

(OSCAR WILDE) 



ILLUSTRATED 



London: New York: 

A. R. KELLER A CO., Inc. 

1907 



Copyright 1907, by 
A. R. KELLER & CO., Inc. 



J. P. Tapley Co. 

Printer! and Hinders 

New York 



What Never Dies. 



ILLUSTEATIONS. 

PAGE 

" 'I order you to go away to-morrow' " . . . . 119 

'"Confess that you are tired of me' " 253 

" 'Are you mad?' he asked in fright" 403 

* 'I have been waiting for you for three hours' " . 490 



FOREWORD. 

If pity, the sweet and desolate pity exhaled in 
every line of the poem entitled "The Ballad of 
Reading Gaol," could have softened the wasted, 
wandering life of him who elected to be called 
Sebastian Melmoth, and paved the arduous, almost 
impossible, road whereon the Sisyphus-like task of 
regeneration was to have been attempted, it hap- 
pily cannot be gainsaid that in Paris, the city of 
light and learning, there was no lack of heartfelt 
commiseration showered upon the ill-fated Napo- 
leon of epigram. And pure and honest wielders 
of the pen, men with talent and position, albeit of 
another race and speaking another tongue, did not 
disdain to welcome the solitary giant, bent be- 
neath the weight of former vice and perversion, 
accumulated by his own hand, self-murdered by 
the miserable mania that had seized and gripped 
him fast, despite the efforts of his reasoning self. 

In all men, but more especially in those of 
strongly developed intellect, there are two beings, 
1 



2 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

eternally disputing and never in harmony, and 
yet one cannot live without the other, and each 
reacts upon the other. One is all logical and dis- 
criminating, presiding over the easel, the writing 
desk, the house of law or justice, and the other 
is made up of sensuality and impulsion. Such are 
the two halves of our miserable selves. Happy the 
male who can govern his passions, and is sufficient- 
ly conscious of his weaknesses to be able to avoid 
the dangers they carry in their wake. 

"In all men's hearts a slumbering swine lies 
low," says the French poet; so come ye, whose 
porcine instincts have never been awakened, or, if 
rampant, successfully hidden, and hurl the big- 
gest, sharpest stones you can lay your hands on at 
your wretched, degraded, humiliated brother, who 
has hren found out. 

When the history of modern' French literature is 
impartially written, it is to be hoped that the Gal- 
lic movement of generous sympathy and revolt, in 
the face of the terrible punishment and fearful ex- 
piation in a foreign land of the faults of a man 
of genius, will be faithfully chronicled. Then credit 
will be given to the men of letters who triod to 
lighten the hoavy days and make him forget his 
sorrows, if only for an hour. 



FOREWORD. 3 

The wanderer never complained. He lived in 
the glorious past, waiting until the pressure of the 
deadly present should have terminated its crush- 
ing task, and stifled his body as it had already done 
his soul; for future he felt there was none for 
him. 

So why work or labour at pages of manuscript 
that he knew no publisher would dare to put upon 
the open market ? Some desultory leaves, now lost 
and scattered, were the only fruits that matured 
on the blasted tree, and among them the transla- 
tion of Barbey d'Aurevilly's impassioned novel, 
"Ce Qui ne Meurt Pas"— "What Never Dies"— the 
gospel of infinite pity. It so struck the excommu- 
nicated Melmoth, the daily recipient of the warm- 
est and kindest compassion, that he never rested 
until his pen, growing facile as of old for one 
brief, lucid moment, had transformed the tortured, 
lurid prose of the romantic Frenchman into the 
polished, chosen phraseology of "Dorian Grey." 

The story of strange passion exercised a weird 
fascination over the mind of Sebastian Melmoth, 
and the work, well worthy of perusal in its origi- 
nal form, becomes all the more entrancing by rea- 
son of the knowledge of the translator's talent. 

It is difficult to praise the poet and at the same 



4 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

time blame the man. We forget the sin when we 
remember the end, and shudder to think that he 
is perhaps even now not at rest in the Parisian cem- 
etery, so far away as to discourage the pilgrim, and 
not allow an echoing prayer to reach him. No crit- 
icism of his posthumous work will awake or lull 
him. Now and again, perchance, some scandalous 
breeze will waft his own real name over the forgot- 
ten tomb, the shadow of an insult, the ghost of a 
jeering affront. 

Who could think that one so despised by a merci- 
less world had in happier times as admirably 
caught and sustained the blase, cynical, paradoxi- 
cal style of modern society of the special class as 
did Dean Swift during the eighteenth century in 
his "Polite Conversation." 

Not only did he think in epigrams, he almost 
seemed to dream them. But an intellectual exist- 
ence cannot be sustained by epigrams only, and it 
is no secret that many of his detractors found fault 
with his poems. Knowing this, when ostracised, 
declassed and forsaken, he found in France a few 
moments of forgetfulness in wrestling with the 
thorny, prickly prose of the great French master 
of the romantic school. The translation of Bar- 



FOREWORD. 5 

bey's throbbing tale is a tour de force, which none 
but the wretched writer could have made presenta- 
ble to the English reader. 

Let those who can feel nothing but disgust for 
the erring Sebastian Melmoth, and who have no 
pity in their hearts, evoke a little charity for his 
last brilliant effort during the monotony of an 
atrocious and mummified existence^ when the poet 
called each day on death to come and claim him 
out of the squalid, narrow room of the struggling 
students' furnished hotel. And if naught but ill 
can be spoken of him, surely it would be as well to 
be mute and carve out his epitaph in his own 
words, where resounds the honest cry of a remorse- 
ful soul, brimming over with bitter anguish: 

"And there, till Christ call forth the dead, 
In silence let him lie; 
No need to waste the foolish tear, 

Or heave the windy sigh; 
The man had killed the thing he loved, 
And so he had to die." 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 
FIRST PART. 



In some parts of Lower Normandy— and espe- 
cially in the (Jotentin peninsula— there are land- 
scapes so much like certain views in England that 
the Normans who cast anchor in either of these 
countries could fancy, by the scenery of the land 
they had just conquered, that they had not left 
their birthplace. This resemblance had probably 
but very little influence on the fierce imagination 
of our ancestors, the sea-kings, for whom the 
ocean itself, with its sublime outlook, was but a 
highway, to be audaciously followed towards un- 
known quarry and pillage, scented from afar by 
these sea-lions, with their piratical instinct. But 
for us, their descendants, seated for centuries on 
the shores they have kept, and whose modern im- 
7 



S THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

agination loves leisurely to contemplate the coun- 
tries that they only dreamt of with designs of 
concjiiest, the resemblance between English and 
Norman landscapes is striking in many ways. 
Even the sky, the sky of our western regions, so 
often grey and cloudy, which so deeply penetrates 
our heart with its melancholy light, and when we 
are far away places home-sickness therein, adds 
again in Normandy to this illusion of England, 
and sometimes seems to push the sameness so 
far that they become identical. 

And this applied, above all. to the manor that 
was called the Chateau of the Willows. Among 
all the mansions that stood on the coast of the 
Cotentin peninsula, there was certainly none that 
gave a better impression of one of those country 
houses of which so many are to be seen in Eng- 
land, suddenly emerging from a lake that encircles 
them, bathing their feet of stone in the vacant 
stillness of its waters. Situated on the Channel, 
not far from Sainte Mere-Eglise, this village, 
which had only preserved its Catholic name and 
its secular fairs from the Middle Ages, between 
La Here and Picauville, recalled vanished feudal 
•lavs in no other way. If one could have judged 
by what remained of this Chateau, now unfortu- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 9 

nately in ruins, it must have been built at the 
beginning of the seventeenth century, on the 
banks of the Douve, which runs by through open 
marshes, and it might have been named the Cha- 
teau of Open-Marsh just as well as the house that 
faced it, and which was so baptised. Open-Marsh 
and the Willows, separated by the vast fens 
through which passed the Douve, meandering like 
a long blue eel, languidly losing itself under the 
bridges of Saint-L6, in the department of La 
Yire, and so far distant on the river that passed 
between them that they could not see each other 
in the remote background of their frequently 
foggy horizons, even on the days when the weather 
was clearest. 

Isolated in these vast latitudes were the two 
aristocratic and solitary dwellings, needing for- 
merly a certain amount of courage to live in them. 
The atmosphere of the surrounding marshes had 
been for some time as murderous as that of the 
Maremma before the epoch of the domestic drama 
of which the Chateau of the Willows was the ob- 
scure theatre. Not many years had passed since 
drainage, intelligently carried out, had purified 
the locality of the influence, nearly always mortal, 
under which generations of dwellers on the river 



10 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

banks and inhabitants of these swamps, a wan and 
sickly population, had lived miserably, "trembling 
the fevers,*' as they would say, year in and year 
out. But towards the year 1845, these people 
had lost the look of languor and illness which had 
so long saddened the eye of the traveller passing 
through these typhus bogs, and health had re- 
turned there to mankind as well as to the land; 
Rendered healthy by culture that had transformed 
them into meadows, the marshes then offered, as 
far as the eye could reach, the rich view of a 
stretch of turf, with thick, close grass, almost 
bushy, where the grazing oxen were buried up to 
their breasts in the plentiful abundance of their 
pasture, on the brilliant green of which they stood 
out in their different postures, either in slow wan- 
derings as they cropped their nourishment, with 
low-bent necks, or prone upon the flank, in the 
somnolence of their ruminating repose. This wet 
herbage, cut, here and there, by narrow ditches of 
alluvion, of opal transparency in their emerald 
depths, had also — stagnant hither and thither — 
round ponds of pure water, originating from the 
frequent rains of this damp climate of the west, 
and the primitively spongy soil in the neighbour- 
hood of the Douve. In some parts, they were large 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 11 

enough to form real lakes, furrowed and clouded 
in a thousand folds and ripples, of hues that shim- 
mered and changed, according to the sky or the 
wind. Certainly one of the most striking beauties 
of this marshy landscape was these numerous kinds 
of lakes, which in autumn and winter assumed 
proportions of grandeur, but in summer, although 
diminished, never disappeared entirely, and be- 
came, beneath the sunlight, garden-plots of spark- 
ling metallic plates, and islands of light. The Cha- 
teau of the Willows, which took its name from a 
copse of those trees surrounding, it, rejoiced in a 
large garden, closed on the side of the marsh, 
which it overhung a few feet, by a long terrace, 
with a balustrade of stone, ornamented at inter- 
vals by those beautiful granite vases of Italian de- 
sign which the seventeenth century has scattered 
everywhere. The entrance of the Chateau, to- 
gether with the gate, was on the other side, on 
the land; but seen from the fens, it appeared in- 
accessible in its vast blue lake, from the bottom 
of which rose what seemed a white water-fairy — 
and that was the poetry of the house. Those who 
dwelt therein in the midst of this desert of earth 
and water could fancy themselves at the world's 
end. Even the railway, from Carentan to Isigny, 



12 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

and which cut in two the swamps that had become 
pasture-lands, is too far away for its insolent whis- 
tle to be heard in this fenny corner, or to force one 
to see a fragment of its proud plume of smoke 
trailing across the horizon. Naught, then, except 
at rare intervals, but the strident cry of some wild 
duck or snipe troubled the thick silence of this 
Chateau, made, as it seemed, for the reveries of 
profound souls or for the mystery of passionate 
hearts who would have wished to hide there. 

That evening — for it was in the evening, a sum- 
mer evening, warmer in this open space by the 
same reason that makes it colder when the weather 
is chilly — the Chateau of the Willows gave out 
from its open windows, so long closed, but which 
at this moment were once more ajar, the noise of 
music and voices that said how life — worldly life — 
had at last returned to this Chateau so long un- 
inhabited. An August sun now only touched with 
an oblique ray the tepid waters of the numerous 
lakes which all day had been its ardent mirrors. At 
this hour of tranquil vespers, the dragon-flies, 
which were called demoiselles in that part of the 
country, these turning azure marsh-haunters, tired 
of their immaterial skating on the crystal surface 
of the torpid waters, danced their last waltzes to 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 13 

the dying breezes of the twilight before retiring 
to their bulrushes, when a young man, bare-headed, 
came down the steps of the Chateau of the Willows, 
and went and sat at the bottom of the garden on 
a bench placed at the edge of the sleeping water, 
which, on this side, encircled it in its folds. This 
youth was of almost divine beauty. He was of that 
age between adolescence and youth which partakes 
of each, and which might be called a third sex 
during the short time it lasts — for its beauty lasts 
still less than the swiftly evaporated charm of 
womankind. Once virility has dawned, this deli- 
cious and perishable comeliness disappears, and 
no trace of it is to be recognised, even in the hand- 
somest man. That evening the young fellow 
seemed to be the pensive genius of solitude incar- 
nated. But if that is what he sought for there, 
his hopes are soon destroyed. A voice, lighter and 
purer than the air that wafted it to him, twice 
pronounced the name, foreign to France, of Allan. 
If the dew could make a noise when falling into 
the chalice of a flower, it might have such celestial 
softness. 

Such a voice could only belong to a being still 
more immaterial than a woman, to a child des- 
tined to be a woman one day, to the white dawn 



14 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

not yet daybreak. It was the voice of a little girl. 
At the slightest touch of the awkward hand of man 
on the strings of the marvellous instrument, it 
would have no longer such sounds. 

The child to whom that voice belonged ran to 
him whom she had called Allan, and putting her 
hand on his shoulder, leaning on it with a bird's 
weight : 

"See !" said she, breathlessly. "Oh, I had to run 
to get it, but at last I captured the demoiselle. See, 
Allan ! Is she not of a most beautiful blue ?" 

She opened the fingers of her other hand a little 
to show Allan all the treasures of her conquest; but 
the young dreamer, with the dull inattention of 
some one waking up, had lifted his forehead from 
the hollow of his hands, and seemed to understand 
nothing of these childish joys he had forgotten, 
although he was still but a boy. 

The child, seeing the morose indifference of Al- 
lan for the triumph which made her so joyful, 
stopped in her brilliant enumeration of the quali- 
ties of her captive with the slender bodice; poor, 
charming, tortured thing struggling in the depths 
of its furnace in the scarlet cup of a full-blown 
nasturtium. 

"Begone, then, my poor little dear, since he does 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 15 

not find you pretty/' said the lassie, with sadness 
and vexation, letting go the insect and the flower. 

There are cruel deceptions even at the age of 
fourteen. The disdainful glance of Allan covered 
the happy brow of the little girl with shame, as the 
reproach of a mother would have done. He could 
well see that he had hurt her, and it was not only 
her hand too roughly pressed as he had pushed it 
away, hut the heart, more delicate still. The sus- 
ceptible child said never a word, and was about to 
go, but Allan, reproaching himself for his violence, 
held her back gently, his hand in hers, and looked 
at that hand he had reddened, and which he kissed. 

"Did I hurt you ?" he asked uneasily. 

"No," said she, proudly lying. 

But her face, so open but a moment before, was 
now closed, and her charming brows were knitted. 

"Pardon me that unwitting movement," con- 
tinued Allan pressingly, "pardon me if I have been 
cruel. For the last few days, the state of my soul 
has been so miserable that I am truly unworthy 
to play with you. Leave me, I pray you, my dear 
Camilla. Go indoors. The evening chill will soon 
be falling. I want to be alone a little more. Go, 
I will soon join you." 

She listened, and departed slowly, but rigid, 



16 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

cold, and dumb. It could be seen that she had ac- 
cepted none of Allan's words of reparation. But 
the thoughts that went with her she kept to herself. 
She moved away, the left forefinger between her 
lips, which had grown serious, and her look was 
oblique and dark. At the side of the fresh and 
lively joys of childhood, there was something deep 
that caused surprise in that little girl of fourteen. 
Camilla was of the age when young girls possess 
the least charm, and when they traitorously hide, 
beneath the signs of uncertain puberty and thin- 
ness of outline, that scourge of beauty which later 
strikes all hearts. Might it not be said that this 
ungraceful age is the first involuntary trick of 
these beings, who a few years afterwards are so 
slily and voluntarily artificial? Soon the terrible 
beauty blossoms forth ; and it could be foreseen in 
Camilla by the oval shape of her face and her large 
black eyes, as beautiful and brilliant as the morn- 
ing of a stormy day. They were close to a nose 
which would have been of Grecian purity with- 
out the palpitating nostrils, a striking, restless fea- 
ture of what would have been an ideal face without 
it. Camilla's hair was of that red adored nowa- 
days, but which at that time caused the despair of 
parents. To darken it, her mother used a leaden 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 17 

comb and made her wear it cut very short, and 
without curls, like a boy, as she seemed when seen 
at the side of Allan, who looked like a young girl 
in youth's clothes, by virtue of his beauty. When 
no longer animated by play, and accidentally 
seated quietly in the drawing-room at her mother's 
side, the unruly hoyden of the garden could not 
be recognised in that other silent child, who lan- 
guidly held her hands, full of grace, the ma&- 
cap auburn head suddenly pensive. 

She had gone back to the house. Allan had not 
always driven her away when she came to him, 
inviting him to her innocent games, as on that 
evening. Brought up side by side and under the 
same roof, separated only by the three years that 
made Allan that much older than herself, they had 
already, since they were in this neighbourhood, 
passed many hours together in these solitary 
marshes open to their lazy rambles, seeking rare 
flowers on the borders of the pools, stars of water 
which riddled the swamps and formed constella- 
tions like vast mosaic work of crystal with lumi- 
nous incrustations. Often, profiting by the liberty 
granted them, or which they were allowed to take, 
they went as far as the Douve, which is a little dis- 
tance from the Chateau of the Willows, and tore 



18 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

from its creeks the water-lilies, flower of sleeping 
rivers, and brought garlands of them back to the 
Chateau. Of these long walks of the first days of 
life, the remembrance remains long in the heart; 
but their sweetness can only be tasted in the past, 
when it has all been poisoned ! These strolls and 
tete-a-tete of children, who to-morrow will be men 
and women, possess secret intoxication, even for 
innocence. Did they feel that delirium? When 
they rambled thus the livelong day in the country 
where they met no one, did they only think of liv- 
ing? Did they live simply and unconsciously like 
the flower that opens and blooms beneath the vivi- 
fying ray; like the thousand created objects sur- 
rounding them, and which palpitated unknow- 
ingly ? When they spoke together in hushed tones, 
did their voices kiss the air which passed between 
their young heads with lips as fresh as the breeze, 
that cruel coquette to whom the flowers cannot re- 
turn the enticing caress she bestows upon them? 
And when Allan passed his arm around Camilla's 
serpentine, undulating waist, was it like the ivy 
round the tree, that it entwines without warmth ? 

Of the imprudent mothers of these children, the 
mother of Allan, had she lived, would have been 
the more guilty. Her son had the troubles, the 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 19 

blushings, the bent head of an age which may be 
looked upon as a second birth in life. With im- 
agination of such plenitude that it desired no ali- 
ments and fed on its own substance, Allan, whose 
studies were hardly concluded, repudiated every 
kind of book. The poets, those divine fairies of 
the tales they concoct for us, had but few wonders 
for him, who, as he read them, extracted all the 
gold from their most shining pages. The pan- 
ther, sleeping in the lair of the man's heart, began 
to wake in his, and marked his brow with her claw. 
He suffered from the malady of being seventeen. 

His eyes no longer possessed, if they had ever 
had it, the morning light of Camilla's glance. His 
veiled pupils rolled beneath half-closed lids, like 
those of an insolent sultana as she leaves her bath. 
Between long eyebrows imperceptibly knitted by 
continual reverie, a fold was marked, expiring fur- 
row of mysterious, hidden thought, and his fore- 
head was like unto a voluptuous cup by the shape 
and grace of its adorable outline. Allan's mother, 
an Englishwoman, it was rumoured, had passed her 
entire pregnancy in looking, with superstitious ob- 
stinacy, at the portrait of Lord Byron, whom she 
doted on, and this brow, charming and sublime, of 
a genius— where the pudicity of England sees the 



20 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

mark of madness, boldly prolonged under the mass 
of curly hair that surrounds it — she had given to 
her son. This struck all who saw Allan for the 
first time, and it was only afterwards that one 
could perceive the original beauty of a face that 
only resembled itself. Habitually, Allan's eyes 
were sad, as are nearly always the eyes of those 
who look more in their heart than on life; but at 
the least emotion or at the least caprice of the 
young man, whose soul was more passionate than 
strong, but which would perhaps become robust 
before having a character of its own, there sparkled 
from his large, dull eyeballs a spear of light, like 
the golden trace of a shooting star in a black sky, 
through the still blacker branches of a forest, 
Allan's neck was bare like Camilla's, and he wore 
his hair cut short as she did. Only Camilla had 
the straight and bushy hair of a boy, while Allan's 
locks curled naturally and thickly round his dark 
face, as if they were the tresses of a young girl, 
and, by this singular contrast, these two children 
again gave the illusion which was unceasingly pre- 
sented when they were seen, of their two sexes be- 
ing transposed. 

For some months past Allan had shown sadness, 
or, to speak more correctly, an inequality of hu- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 21 

mour which went so far as to attain Camilla. The 
cause of this change was unknown to the inhabi- 
tants of the Chateau of the Willows. Among all 
the women who had come there to pass the sum- 
mer, among all those who looked at the handsome 
dreamer, whose beauty perhaps aroused a reverie 
also in their souls, there must have been at least 
one who had penetrated Allan's secret; for in 
studying this frail and almost transparent young 
man, in whom the emotions, mounting from the 
depths to the surface, made it easy to see that 
there was something more than mysteries of organ- 
ization. Besides, is it at the beginning of life and 
at Allan's age that one can veil anything from her 
who causes you to feel everything? Later, even, is 
he sure that he can trust to his mask? It may be 
of bronze, or of marble, but these glances of 
women, seemingly so soft, and which are so pene- 
trating, will easily pierce metal and stone, and see 
beneath the sentiment they have inspired, and that 
one most desires to hide from them. 

Allan remained so long on the bench where he 
was reclining that he did not notice how the light 
was failing, until the last fold of the purple robe 
of twilight floated no longer on the horizon, where 
often it is to be seen still trailing across the sky 



22 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

when the sun has disappeared. Darkness, swallow- 
ing up everything, suited his thoughts so well that 
he would have remained still longer at the same 
spot if he had not heard steps near him. He 
thought it was Camilla returning. 

"Is it you, Camilla?" he asked. 

But a voice no longer the musical tones of the 
child— a voice that the experience of life had 
broken (at least, one would have thought so, in lis- 
tening to its profound intonations, which were a 
little hollow), replied: 

"No ! it is not Camilla." 

And this voice, with its altered ring, like the ir- 
resistible appeal of a syren's chant, made Allan 
jump up at once. 

A tall lady advanced. 

"What are you doing there, Allan, all alone, at 
this time of day?" said she. "The night, which is 
icy and cold, should have driven you within. 
Camilla, whom I have just seen, is sulking in a 
corner of the drawing-room. Have you had any 
quarrel with my daughter?" 

"No, madame," he answered, like a guilty 
schoolboy, and his voice had such trembling ac- 
cents that one could have sworn he was lying. 

"Then why not come back? Why did you fly 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 23 

from the room just now? Why do you get so un- 
sociable? Everybody is complaining of you at the 
Chateau." 

"That is because everybody bores me!" he an- 
swered with lassitude. 

"Oh ! you are too great a poet for us, Allan !" 
she exclaimed, and her voice was full of slight 
irony. But the sarcasm fell flat, and all was silent 
again, until she added, in a more genuine tone : 

"Do you know that I am uneasy, Allan? I 
ignore what is passing in your mind, but you seem 
to be suffering greatly. Are you ill, my friend? 
Or if you are not, why this inexplicable morose- 
ness? What is the matter with you? Confide in 
me." 

And the implacable woman took the burning 
palm of the young man in her hand of ice. 

"No! never!" he retorted, imperiously drawing 
away his fingers, and he escaped to the willow 
copse behind him ; but his sobs could be heard. 

"Poor child !" she murmured. 

Her face could not be seen, and with slow steps 
she took the path conducting to the Chateau. 



24 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



II. 

The Chateau of the Willows in olden times, like 
most of the mediaeval castles, had probably been 
some formidable war-nest, hidden like an ambush 
in these Cotentin marshes, then inexpugnable 
quagmires ; but the feudal fortress, destroyed after 
the religious wars of the sixteenth century, had 
been rebuilt at the commencement of the seven- 
teenth, and transformed into spacious and peace- 
ful dwellings. In 1845, it belonged to the Coun- 
tess Yseult de Scudemor, widow of the last de- 
scendant of the old Norman family of that name, 
and whose very short life had been spent away 
from France, in the highest diplomatic employ- 
ment at foreign courts. 

This Countess de Scudemor, espoused far away, 
and who did not belong to the neighbourhood, 
but who had sojourned there with her husband 
some little time after her marriage, had recently 
returned thither with her daughter. By what had 
she been drawn there? The visit she had paid 
with her husband had been too short for it to 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 25 

have remained in her memory. When she re- 
appeared at the Willows, the world of the neigh- 
bouring chateaux had almost forgotten her. More- 
over, she was so changed that those who had 
caught a glimpse of her formerly would probably 
not have recognised her if they had not known in 
advance that it was she. Her absence, her travels, 
the dispersal in distant climes of all the gifts of 
beauty, of all the brilliancy of youth which she 
was known to possess, and which she seemed to 
have left behind her; the child she called her 
daughter, and whose birth had not been known 
in these parts; the youth who accompanied her, 
and to whom she only gave the Scotch name of 
Allan, all this surrounded her with unknown mys- 
tery which was difficult to penetrate; for her re- 
served manner, full of nobility, but icy cold, never 
allowed the most attentive observation to bore into 
her thoughts and surprise her secrets. 

She was a woman of strange and silent charm. 
Society, which she overawed — even unwittingly- 
called her distinguished, and generously understood 
by that word, nowadays so common, the respect of 
intellect that she did not show. Her mind might 
have been cultivated, she was perhaps witty, but 
she made no sign. She was quite as indifferent to 



26 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

this wit attributed to her as she was to life, which 
had perhaps been cruel. Although she had still 
enough of the beauty which suffices to make women 
prize existence, she enjoyed the careless calm of a 
being who wishes for nothing, and neither boasts 
nor complains. She was therefore natural and 
simple. Doubtless on account of her extreme cold- 
ness, women loved her not, although she had no 
jealousy, as she had no longer any pretensions to 
the successes of vanity. She was supposed to pro- 
fess very audacious opinions. Have you noticed 
that society always attributes bold ways of think- 
ing to those who do not appear to have much re- 
spect for the dogmas of the world ? So much dar- 
ing is required for this. But, once this assertion 
made, it would not have been possible to justify it 
by facts. In society, the Countess Yseult de Scud- 
emor was in the habit of only joining in conversa- 
tion when it turned upon vague and general sub- 
jects. Did she act thus out of disdain or indolence? 
Did she fear to betray, in the heat of small talk, 
some thought or sentiment, and thus give a 
glimpse of the perspective of her past life? No 
one knew, and the manner in which her whole 
bearing imposed respect was such that she would 
have bewildered the most insolent observer. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 27 

But the Countess de Scudemor made no effort 
to realise this effect. Her whole person breathed 
that patrician expression, and it was portrayed in 
her tranquil lineaments; never was the least con- 
traction ever seen. She showed neither scorn nor 
languor. Her manner — that attitude of the mind, 
as attitude is the manner of the body — was slow 
even unto nonchalance, but mindless. Her sober 
way of speaking, and her observations, well-nigh 
colourless, suited her voice, three-quarters inaudi- 
ble. Doubtless imaginative, as are all women, but 
her ideality had gone to sleep, its head beneath its 
wing, through the fault of these fatiguing "five 
o'clocks" of life, and society could not rouse it 
from its slumber. She was always natural and 
truthful in insignificant things; for we need the 
interest of some sentiment to become false. What 
struck one most in Madame de Scudemor was her 
immense calmness. When her usual serious de- 
meanour thawed at some witty word, at the touch 
of some amiable, light approbation, in a smile 
which was rare, and checked at the corners of the 
offended mouth by an already perceptible wrinkle, 
her slight laugh did not seem to disturb the calm 
over which it rapidly passed. On the smoothest 
lakes, water sometimes ripples beneath the flight 



28 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

of a bird along its flat surface, but on that mirror, 
rather than lake; on that immovable glass, there 
passed no skimming claw, and the solid crystal 
was not scratched. There was ineffable kindness 
in the way Madame de Scudemor spoke, much 
more than in what she said ; and this is the exact 
way of describing her unspoken affability. Never- 
theless, there were imperceptible touches which 
ought not to have revealed themselves ; for her fea- 
tures, so well suited to portray energy, and the 
restful strength that enveloped her from her beau- 
tiful forehead to her nervous feet, worthy to stand 
upon a pedestal, kept away from her all idea of 
vague reverie, banishing all the angelic spirituali- 
ties of poetry, harp-like melody, that an unknown 
power sometimes extracts from a brass instrument; 
melancholy mists of twilight, through which a 
dome of bronze may ofttimes lose somewhat of the 
rigid austerity of its architecture. 

But society folk did not understand these shades 
of contrast that expert practised observers could 
alone have caught sight of in Madame de Scude- 
mor. Men pass near a woman of the age of the 
Countess, among all those met with in society, as if 
near a plant like unto a hundred others. The blos- 
som only marks the difference in the eyes of these 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 29 

rough botanists. Once the flower withered, only 
green leaves are left, hardly worthy of a glance, 
and lost among many others. In the eyes of the 
world, Countess Scudemor was only a woman over 
forty, and who would listen to you for hours much 
rather than speak to you, as she smoothed with 
the ends of her fingers her bandeaux along her 
temples and cheeks, where the pale freshness of 
youth was replaced by an orange-like hue, yet soft 
and tender. To see her head, not uplifted by in- 
ward pride, and which a sad thought never bowed, 
made one think of a majestic caryatid freed from 
its entablature. "The statue is still there, but the 
woman has gone/' the men said to console them- 
selves when she made despair take the place of their 
gallantry, and when her noble, chilly air drove 
them from her side, and prevented them making 
love to her. They proclaimed that she was "done 
with" as a woman ; and indeed she had the beauty 
of a beautiful corpse, but which had not yet fallen 
prone, like those Eussian grenadiers of the battle 
of Eylau, who, remaining standing in the ranks, 
seemed still alive, and had to be pushed and 
thrown down to surely testify that they were dead. 
Countess Yseult de Scudemor had been for- 
merly friendly with the mother of Allan de Cyn- 



30 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

thry, an orphan brought up under the care of a 
guardian. When she died, the Countess's friend 
had strongly recommended her son to her, and 
Madame de Scudemor had drawn young De Cyn- 
thry to her side. Would she not have a kind of 
maternal pity for the child of a lost friend? Allan 
was for Madame de Scudemor something between 
a son and a nephew, and he was neither one nor the 
other. A mixed and dangerous position, like the 
feeling it called up, which no tie confirmed. Be- 
sides, with Allan and even with Camilla, the Coun- 
tess showed herself but little affectionate. She 
was only amiable. Her disposition seemed averse 
to any kind of exterior demonstration. Had it 
been otherwise, perchance her manner, which con- 
trasted naturally in fascinating fashion with the 
vehement character of her physiognomy, would 
have lost somewhat of its charm. But also that 
was exactly why lively and enthusiastic people be- 
lieved her to be egotistical. False judgment of shal- 
low minds, jumping at conclusions; the common 
mistake of men whose hands itched impatiently to 
find an easy instrument to attune to their lusts. 

To return to Allan : did Madame de Scudemor 
properly comprehend the sentiment of calm and 
tenderness she felt for him? A feeling of our 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 31 

souls is often made up of so many things, of such 
imperceptible subtilties, that we should sometimes 
be astonished to see of what wisps of straw this 
marvellous web is composed. This mysterious 
tapestry is woven silently in our hearts, despite 
ourselves; but did Madame de Scudemor know 
with what cunning threads the work had been done 
in her inmost being? Doubtless, the fact of Al- 
lan's birth, and the death of his mother, had been 
the primary cause of the interest she took in young 
De Cynthry. Society is ofttimes stupid, and so 
are even those who, like society, are the least de- 
ceived by the reality of things and their lying ap- 
pearances. Often children, who have been left 
without mother or father when young, are loved 
too fondly. They are thought worthy of pity be- 
cause family troubles — which exist, even as the 
troubles of society — will not touch them some day, 
and resembling new autochthons by the death of 
those who gave them birth, have only grown up by 
virtue of the sole strength of self. Madame de 
Scudemor was not exempt from this vulgar inter- 
est, but was that the only interest which enveloped 
Allan in her eyes ? That was not the only feeling. 
There was another, deeper and more tender, which 
had its source in the sentiment which she inspired ; 



32 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

for Allan, although brought up by her, had not 
found in this community of life, shared since 
childhood, the preservative habit that saves moth- 
ers and sisters from the incestuous love of hearts 
attaining puberty. The sentiment of Allan for 
Madame de Scudemor, this great lady so grave 
and so imperturbably maternal, had been imbibed 
and developed without distrust in the most filial 
and chaste familiarities. But if she had only pos- 
sessed the piercing foresight and the acquired in- 
telligence of sensuality, those twin sisters of ouu 
soul's sufferings, she must have guessed at the on- 
set from the confused ardour and the ferments of 
all kinds that were laboriously working in Allan. 
There are sadly privileged beings who commence 
their martrydom of the male early ; being the first 
chosen by the Master on the playground of their 
idle childhood, to be led to work in the vineyard 
of grief. They return at eventide all pale, with 
contorted lips and dull eye, and their parents 
think the boredom of school has thus changed 
them. Their idiotic tenderness knows not what 
is passing in these too precocious souls. Should 
their experience one day cause the idea to strike 
them, they drive it away because they were happy 
and tranquil at their sons' age. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 33 

From the age of twelve, sensuality had come 
and troubled him with its obscure, warm, and 
sweet dreams. Sketches rather than complete 
visions, the remembrance of which recalls nothing, 
but brings burning blushes; a vague, tormenting, 
and infinite passion, which as yet arises from no 
visible objects, and which enervates the faculties 
at the moment they are gushing forth with supple 
and vigorous jets. During after-years, Allan only 
betrayed the inward storm by a few flashes. There 
was in him, as his voice (the voice one has at that 
age), something of the man, that leaked ever so 
suddenly through the childish envelope. He would 
have been, as we all were, ill through the suffering 
inherent to that epoch (1845) — the terrible com- 
monplace epidemic of that time of the literature 
of souls, and of which the Rene of Chateaubriand 
was the highest idealisation — if his singular posi- 
tion had not saved him from these aimless agita- 
tions, and given a more real, more human, and 
more unique physiognomy to his passions. 

This Countess Yseult de Scudemor, at whose 
side he passed his life, soon captured all his 
thoughts. Although with him she showed the 
gravity of a mother, a mother would not have so 
well given rise to adoration and respect. Star of 



34 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

the first love, beginning to shine in the night of 
our hearts, the brilliancy then shown would have 
escaped all eyes. So far, imagination alone had 
been compromised. He thought he was following 
a pure and timid gleam; a hidden planet which 
arose smiling on an inaccessible horizon ; a mysti- 
cal love worthy of the Muse. But the lurid ray 
only illuminated as yet the brow of his Galatea- 
It was only when from the animated forehead the 
gleam grew into a torrent of flame upon the mar- 
ble of the bosom that she said, "'Tis I !" 

The time soon arrived when the child's Galatea 
also spoke thus. The little peace he had at inter- 
vals was soon lost. He was no longer satisfied 
with the disinterested worship which had sufficed 
for him so long, with the dumb adoration which 
does not ask its expression hidden in the heart to be 
returned when it escapes by accident. The poet, 
as ever, drew back from the reality of passion. On 
the altar where he hung up his garlands, human 
nature prompted him with the desire of some less 
pure sacrifice. Then he began to be frightened at 
himself. He feared a feeling of which the exac- 
tions grew more imperious each day. Prematurely 
a man by his sensible faculties, he was a child by 
his will. He was paying the penalty of the silly 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 35 

and dangerous education of a sceptical and 
pedantic period, which only busied itself with the 
development of the intellect. His manner changed 
entirely. Frightful sadness seized him, and went 
so far as to decompose his smile. He passed his 
days without books, in solitude and idleness, that 
were really alarming, and Madame de Scudemor 
was right when she told him, under the trees of 
the garden: 

"Do you know, Allan, that I am uneasy about 
you?" 



36 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



III. 



'A few days after the scene in the garden that 
opened this story, the Countess de Scudemor was 
seated— and not half reclining, for nothing of her 
was languid— on a sofa, in an apartment which she 
occupied exclusively at the Willows. She was en- 
veloped in a long, loose, white, wide dressing- 
g0WI1 _a careless robe that allowed a glimpse, 
through the mistiness of its folds, of the lines and 
contours of a figure that time had spared, as if 
to compensate for the vanished royalty of the old 
days. It was the hour when women prepare their 
toilette before dinner, and when the lady of the 
house is perfectly free in the country. The Coun- 
tess de Scudemor seemed very agitated. Like sea- 
gulls, harbingers of the storm, unaccustomed to 
the cloudless sky of her brow, painful thoughts 
seemed to oppress her. It could be seen that some 
struggle was going on in her soul — something that 
would conclude with a resolution; but taking a 
resolution does not always ensure victory. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 3T 

Allan entered, staggering, and as if crushed by 
the air and the odour of that room into which his 
foot penetrated for the first time. He leant 
against a piece of furniture. 

"Do not remain standing," she said to him, and 
she pointed to a seat near the sofa where she sat 
so straight. The handsome head of Allan nearly 
touched the shoulder of Madame de Scudemor, but 
he could only see her profile. 

"I sent for you, Allan," she said. "I wanted 
to see you alone, for I have to speak to you of 
grave and painful things." 

This introduction was solemn. As she spoke, 
she twirled in her fingers a sprig of heliotrope, 
doubtless torn from those which blossomed in long 
white vases at her window; and the flower could 
not have told us the feeling that had detached it 
from its stem in the clutch of an inattentive hand. 
The voice, so deeply soothing, was more veiled in 
its accent than usual. It resounded deeply down 
in Allan's breast, like a stone thrown into a well. 

"When you left me so abruptly the other day, 
refusing to answer me," she continued, after a 
pause, "did you think you had not told me every- 
thing? Do you believe that I required an answer 
to know all? You may deceive Camilla; but a 



38 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

woman, and a woman of my age, do you think, 
Allan, that it could be possible ?" 

She stopped without turning her head, her eye- 
lids closed, and with the imperishable nobility of 
her attitude which never betrayed her, ever twist- 
ing with her slender fingers the heliotrope flower 
which overwhelmed them with its perfume. Half 
joyous to find she had read him, half startled with 
what might follow, Allan blushed up to his eyes. 
Mysterious carmine of the feelings, mixed on some 
unknown divine palette, who could enumerate the 
hundred different confusing ideas revealed by its 
uniform tint? 

"But I have acted lightly," she went on. "I 
ought not to have asked you for an avowal. Be- 
tween us, all confidence is impossible, and I have 
resolved to spare you from it." 

She was silent a second, as if collecting herself. 
"Allan," she said, "what has led you astray so 
far is your age and your imagination. They must 
be blamed, as they Bpoil your life so early, and not 
me, who might be your mother. Therefore, I am 
in hopes that this folly will soon cease. Besides, 
I shaU soon be quite old. Then you will be able 
to make comparisons which will lower me as much 
as they have just now exalted me in your mind. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 39 

The love of a youth for a woman who has lived 
nearly half a century ought to be the least lengthy 
of all his passing amours." 

She made another pause, scanning her words as 
she scanned his heart. 

"But, however that may be, my child, we must 
leave one another. You will return to your uni- 
versity in England. I will not see you again until 
cured of this incredible caprice, which may, per- 
haps, finish by making you unhappy. When you 
are more calm, when you manage to see that your 
desire of affection can be assuaged by women as 
rich in the youth of the heart as in that of bodily 
beauty, you will seek me out again, always your 
friend, and time will have taken care at my ex- 
pense to make all mistake impossible." 

And she ceased as naturally as she had spoken. 
Had she not been reasonable and natural? The 
poor heliotrope blossom was withered, and she 
threw it away. She had taken the same time to 
wound a living creature, with her tone full of 
solicitude, as she had to destroy a creation of na- 
ture in the soft pressure of her fingers. Power 
of the soul, unknown power ! In matters of senti- 
ment there are curves that escape all calculations. 

Frankly, might she not have been accused of 



40 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

hypocrisy, this woman who knew she was loved, 
and who put on such airs of maternity with the 
unhappy wretch who adored her ? Could there not 
be seen an atrocious, taxtuffish pride in this pre- 
tension of old age, of which she saw the perspec- 
tive with so much frequency, when everything 
about her urged her to forget it? Strange actress 
— or if she was not, this was Diogenes-like vanity 
which passed through the rents in the mantle. A 
strong lover would have broken her mask on her 
face, and stripped her soul stark naked before 
him. But Allan was not a clever man. He had 
none of those resentful feelings that wounded pas- 
sion whispers to the heart with the breath of a 
hurricane. Poor cur! he crouched under her 
blows. When she had said "We must part," his 
timid and unsophisticated soul found naught but 
tears. 

But who can understand the magic of tears for 
a woman ? Let them flow, white, fresh and warm, 
what matters it? They always form a river that 
carries the dykes of the heart far away. For 
these beings of divine pity, there is always the 
heart's blood in the least tear that is shed at their 
feet. Great seducers know this well ! Their power 
is in knowing how to weep. Don Juan and Love- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 41 

lace shed tears; infamous power of these terrible 
tricksters! Allan was neither Don Juan nor 
Lovelace. He was not then, and never became 
later, one of those crocodiles of seduction whose 
tears enticed, only to devour. He was at the time 
of life when one is still true, and his tears were 
the involuntary sobs of a child. With his girlish 
frame, he might have been taken for Camilla's sis- 
ter, punished by his mother for having dressed up 
as a boy. 

For her part, the Countess de Scudemor was no 
longer at the epoch of her existence when the sim- 
ple sight of emotion could move her. Neverthe- 
less, this frigid person could not resist the elo- 
quence of these dumb tears and such resigned de- 
spair. She drew poor Allan towards her, on his 
knees on the carpet, and lengthily wiped his eyes 
with her perfumed handkerchief. She no longer 
had the courage to repeat to him "that he must 
go." 

"Ah! this is what I foresaw," she said. And 
after having sought in her thoughts some time, 
she added : "Annoying boy, you shall remain near 
me." 

At these words, he clasped her knees against his 
tearful face. He inhaled her, hidden thus in the 



42 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

folds of her dressing-gown, where his last tears 
had fallen, and he drank them as if they were 
nectar, because they were warmed up on the fabric 
from the contact of the body it veiled. 

Thus already the expiation of the words she had 
at first uttered was consummated. This woman 
of haughty wisdom, of previsions of dry reality, 
had not been able to resist the tears of a child. 
Also, must the avowal be made? For a woman 
there must be something very touching in this love 
silent through respect, but so expressive, which she 
has aroused without thinking in a virgin soil, at 
the very moment when all affection was departing, 
never to return; and truly it was permissible for 
her to confuse what she felt with love, and, with- 
out a doubt, many women have so confused it* 
Eternally tender, they have been easily mistaken 
in the ardent gratitude which revives sentiment 
in their old, widowed, and afflicted hearts. Trav- 
elled women burnt by many suns, tired by all the 
storms in this desert they have just crossed alone, 
and without complaining of the thirst that hence- 
forward remains unappeased; an affection — no 
matter of what kind ! — is it not for them like a 
cup of the dew of heaven, bestowed in the name 
of a merciful God ? But when this affection is love 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 43 

like that of the youth that is past, is there not 
more sweet tenderness than in the amours of early 
years, in this adoration which was no longer to be 
expected? The woman thinks life is finished and 
buried in her heart. She thinks that tufts of grass 
are springing up green in the cemetery of her 
breast, and behold ! she finds a living affection in 
herself, a last bunch of flowers to be gathered, and 
not a grave to be dug; such an affection as she 
would wish for her daughter as a dowry ! Human 
maternity may be as sublime as it will, it cannot 
withstand such an ordeal — and although lacking 
love to give in return for the love she inspires, it is 
nevertheless not the fair head of a son that appears 
the most often in the clouds of daydreams like a 
beloved star, albeit the face is that of a youth of 
equally tender age, so true is it that for women the 
fruit of their entrails can be less sacred than the 
creations of their glances ! 

Nevertheless, Madame de Scudemor had re- 
sumed her maternal bearing, and having made 
Allan sit by her side on the sofa : 

"But if you remain here," she said, "I desire, 
Allan, that you promise to obey me. Will you 
promise me that ?" 

The man, on whose lips was less down than on 



44 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

that of the woman who was questioning him, an- 
swered : "Yes," like an innocent girl on her wed- 
ding day. 

"Well, Allan," she went on, "I desire you to 
renounce the solitude in which you consume your 
days. I wish you to give up the lazy isolated exist- 
ence that you have been leading too long. This 
year there are many people at the Willows; there 
are young girls of your own age. Do not fly from 
them as you have hitherto done. Remain with us 
in the evening in the drawing-room when you have 
passed the day in study, which shall draw your 
attention from too absorbing preoccupations. And 
when your mind is no longer capable of sustained 
attention, when the trouble of your imagination 
shall have become too great, come and find me al- 
ways; for see, my youthful patient" — she added, 
with unexpected graciousness — "I am much less 
dangerous for you when I am near than afar." 

"Oh, if I have loved solitude so much," answered 
Allan, with the touching sadness of a disburdened 
heart, "it is because I had nobody to take an inter- 
est in my sufferings. I feared — " 

He hesitated. 

"What did you fear?" she asked. 

"That you would laugh at me," rejoined Allan, 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 45 

"and God knows if there is any vanity in what I 
now tell yon. I should not have hated you, but I 
feel that I should have been more unhappy than 
ever." 

"And if I had mocked at you, Allan," said she, 
with charmingly insincere scepticism, a feminine 
vibration found once more among the strings of 
the loosened instrument, "would not that have 
been better, Allan ?" 

She dared not insist, however, for she was con- 
scious of not being true when she pronounced these 
words. How many women are there who, at the 
age of thirty, laugh at the love they light in men, 
even if by feminine hearts they are classed as be- 
ing the lowest in the scale of humanity ? Young 
girls possess these innocent cruelties; without ex- 
perience, they are like the Athenian child who put 
out the sparrow's eyes with a bodkin. But a 
woman who has drunk three-quarters of the bitter 
cup of life does not disdainfully reject the drop of 
honey remaining at the bottom by one of those 
miracles that make impious folk believe in God. 

Thus they chatted for some time ; she always the 
mother, serious and tender, and he in love, with 
much confused timidity. She kept imposing upon 
him a more active and exterior life, as if the voice 



46 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

of the woman one loves can melt away the love we 
feel for her, and he, resisting not, said ever "Yes," 
although he knew well in his heart that there were 
a thousand impossibilities for obedience. A charm- 
ing conversation, cut by pauses and carried on in 
half-tones, because the nakedness of the affairs of 
the soul, that interior Eve, has such uneasy pudic- 
ity that she gathers to add to her girdle thousands 
of leaves that are useless to her secret. 

"'Tis well," said she, with the smile of the sculp- 
tor whose first chip of the chisel has been lucky. 
"'Tis well, my child. I prophesy that you will soon 
be calm." 

And as she might have done to Camilla, as it 
seemed — for who can say if the darkness that 
reigns in a woman's heart is not made up of con- 
tradictions? — she placed upon Allan's brow a long 
kiss of seeming love. From that pale and icy lip 
sprung a scarlet sea upon the dilated temples of the 
young man. We must have felt it ourselves to 
know what superhuman and mad movements arise 
in our being when we desire — useless effort — to 
take back with our lips the kiss exiled on the fore- 
head. 

"You do wrong to kiss him, mamma." said Cam- 
illa, who entered with bunches of pansies in her 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 47 

hands. "If you love him, you will then no longer 
love your poor Camilla. You don't know how he 
neglects me now. Formerly he would never have 
let me gather such a big bouquet as this all alone." 

She threw herself on the sofa, between Allan and 
her mother, sulkily turning her round and graceful 
shoulder to Allan. Thus placed, her face moist 
with the afternoon heat, which had already lost the 
noonday sting; with ungloved hands, mouth half- 
opened, but without a smile, her white dress so 
short that her light-laced boots on tiny feet, that 
she capriciously moved hither and thither, could be 
entirely seen ; as serious as the flowers she held, she 
resembled both a hope and a presentiment — a junc- 
tion between the budding of youth and the first 
faded illusion, when the declivity of the- hill is 
caught sight of, an age at which we ought to re- 
main. She had placed behind her ear, in her hair 
of an auburn hue that the sun had already dark- 
ened, a red rose, in the corolla of which a tired 
yellow bee had fallen to sleep, its rage now blunted. 

"You must make peace with Allan, my dear," 
said Madame de Scudemor, as with the handker- 
chief that Allan had wetted with his tears she 
drove away the bee, detached from the rose where 
it rested in its purple cradle. "You must not re- 



48 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

main angry with him. He has always been so ami- 
able with you. He neglects you, say you? But 
if he has been ill for some little time past, or too 
busy to mix himself up with your games, would it 
be sensible of you to bear malice? Besides, I know 
you tease. If Allan has neglected you, you have 
probably been saucy or sulky with him. Far from 
bringing him back, you made him more distant, 
and thus it is that, as it often happens, you are 
both in the wrong." 

"Oh, you have put on your severe air already, 
mamma," she replied. "I assure you it is he who 
is entirely in the wrong." 

And her voice trembled as when the heart is 

full. 

"I am not scolding you, my child," retorted 
Madame de Scudemor, joining an affectionate ges- 
ture to her words. "Only, I do not want you to 
be unjust, and, above all, vindictive. I order you 
to kiss your friend, and that all be made up be- 
tween you, children that you both are." 

And Camilla, happy to obey, turned round furi- 
ously, as was her way in all things, the way of 
this lassie whose sensations were so keen, and with 
passionate innocence she threw her arms round 
Allan's neck, and he, dumb and dull again, had 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 49 

bitten his lip till the blood came as he heard the 
words: 

"Children that you both are!" 

He kissed her, but with ungracious reluctance. 

"Have you become capricious, too, in your turn, 
Allan?" said Madame de Scudemor significantly, 
turning upon him the mobile orbs of her large 
eyes. 

Had she suddenly seen, with the eagle-like per- 
spicacity of a loved woman, the depth of the sen- 
timent she inspired? 



50 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



IV. 

The days passed, but no longer for Allan in the 
furtive shade of the garden, at the foot of the wil- 
low trees ; or on the distant river-banks, the chosen 
spots for his walks, when the Countess of Scude- 
nior's drawing-room echoed with the joy, laughter, 
and chatter of the assembled ladies. He was cer- 
tain of being seen by her now ! She would divine 
his thoughts every moment. Irritation against 
the loved woman, that injustice inherent to the 
very roots of our sentiment, because that feeling 
is unsuspected ; this perpetual lie given by her who 
inflames it to the idealising desire of her image, 
drove him no more from the house with his old 
concentrated pique — the bitterness of hidden pas- 
sion. Whether blessed with the soul of a Timon 
or a La Valliere, a human being only has recourse 
to solitude when all men turn aside. Wounded 
passion always drives us into solitude. Without 
the egotism of some passion, none of us would 
yield up our lives to this mistress of Raphael who 
kills, but not like a living woman, for this one 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 51 

has not even an appearance of love to give us; 
none would rest his lassitude on the perfidious 
bosom of this friend, a subtle Iago always lurking 
in the least noble parts of our mind, when none 
but ourselves are with us. Solitude is a divine 
thing, inapplicable to men. They cannot resist it, 
when they dare appropriate it. 

Allan hardly ever left Madame de Scudemor 
now. Could she complain of his assiduity? Had 
she not told him, insisted, commanded it? Al- 
though she had spoken to him with the tone of 
experience, Allan did not yet know her enough to 
prevent vague hopes from permeating all his 
thoughts. Besides, passion has sometimes tricks 
of modesty in its desires, which ought to make us 
tremble for the results of the hypocrisy or the in- 
coherence of our feelings. At first, very little 
suffices for the voracious ogre — passion, who later 
craves for all. Allan was happy in the mystery 
there was between him and Madame de Scudemor. 
Since the day of their tete-a-tete, and in spite of 
his distrustful disposition — all great imaginations 
are distrustful — he carried the burden of his ex- 
istence more lightly, returning for a short time to 
the admirable fatuity of youth, when confidence 
extends to all things, mouth and nostrils open to 



52 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

every breeze of the future. He answered with the 
celestial awkwardness of a true sentiment to the 
softly mocking jokes of the ladies who had come 
from Paris to pass the summer at the Willows, and 
who had not seen without remarking it the change 
in the disposition of this handsome young man, 
whom they would have liked to have paid a little 
more attention to them. But in the eyes of Allan 
none was comparable with Yseult de Scudemor, 
whom, doubtless, they called passee, in their pride 
of freshness and beauty, and at whose feet he sac- 
rificed all their humiliated years of youth and 
springtime. 

It has been seen that what characterised the love 
of Allan for Madame de Scudemor was excessive 
timidity. The more it grew, the less could Allan 
be familiar with the woman at whose side his youth 
had been passed. A truly adolescent love is that 
which manifests itself by the tremor of respect. 
Young in the soul, for passion fatally becomes 
insolent; young in life, for, after the first, do we 
ever find a second beneath the draperies of vanity ? 
This timidity, which is nothing more than per- 
petual emotion aroused in us by the intuition of 
the beauty that takes us prisoner, was still further 
increased by several accessory circumstances which 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 53 

modified in a new and powerful fashion the posi- 
tion of Allan de Cynthry in the eyes of Madame 
de Scudemor. Nearly always, we only love what 
is nearest to us in life. It is so rare not to fall 
in love with one of these flowers of existence which 
has blossomed on the same branch as ourselves ! 
The infinity of virgin thoughts softly tinted by 
the first dawning rays of love caused two hearts 
to beat quicker, two hearts that began very nearly 
to beat as one. And because their two hands have 
touched nothing yet, they seek each other; and 
because this pair of hearts has not yet been joined, 
they spring towards each other, with the marvel- 
lous instinct of their sighs. The infinity of the 
other mysteries of life : God, intelligence, the trial 
of the heart, reveal themselves in us less intimate- 
ly. Atoms by our thoughts, as in the universe, we 
have enough with one abyss, and tremblingly 
plunge into that where roses, as in certain extinct 
volcanoes, form carpets for our sybaritic indul- 
gences. Of a truth, women, who only live by love, 
are right to be proud when they are beautiful ; for 
the shame of the spiritual nature of man is written 
in these burning and delicious impressions which 
disorganise us, and which are caused by their ador- 
able beauty. 



54 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

But if this beauty is already dead, or about to 
die, attacked at the most pure part of its source; 
if— strange hazard !— we search far away for a soul 
to love with all the aspirations of our soul ; when 
we smile with the first smile of half-opened corollas 
at a withered flower soiled by the foot of a passing 
man, buried in the dust of eventide, a crowd of 
unaccustomed facts comes crowding up around us 
to make this bizarre love a hundred times more 
unstable still. Young, we so much resemble all 
that is young ! Youth is so large that it takes up 
all the room in life. Is it not the future that we 
carry with us, like young girls ? Is it not the same 
ignorance? Is it not by approaching a soul that 
has been too early illuminated we can read— all in 
gold and light— the writing of the first desires, 
as when lighting up a transparency we cause fiery 
symbols to appear on the dark ground where they 
are indistinctly printed? When all our life is the 
unknown future, the past is above all the unknown. 
A soul that has lived its life is a much more for- 
midable mystery than that which begins its exist- 
ence, and also for whoever, in the youthful waters 
of the bay, unfurls the white sail to the growing 
breeze. Ah ! what ardent and dreamy curiosity do 
we not feel for the ship returned from the most 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 55 

distant shores, and which has ploughed the many 
bitter waves. Oh! how that woman, because she 
differs from us by reason of all her impenetrable 
past, appears divine to us through her mortal pal- 
lor ! Like the young girl, our legitimate spouse, 
she has not been created from our ribs. We adore 
a hidden God, and never do we tremble in the 
presence of the most charming virgins as we feel 
ourselves quaking before her, or at her approach. 

And imagination — that gnarled root of the pas- 
sions — finds satisfaction in these human incom- 
prehensibilities. Do not believe that in the love 
of Allan for Madame de Scudemor, the love of 
the youth for the aged woman, there was anything 
more gloriously immaterial than there was in all 
that bears the name of love. In changing its ob- 
ject, passion does not change its nature. It has 
always its causality and its goal in the muddy 
depths of our fleshly being, a circle whose two ends 
join and mingle, no one knows where. 

Besides, the beauty we love and prefer is a secret 
that Imagination keeps for ever. Hair powdered 
by passing years, on a neck that has lost the soft- 
ness of the pale blue of its beautiful veins; eyes, 
of which the flame in the slightly dulled pupils is 
concentrated, instead of throwing out rays, as if 



56 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

the heart had absorbed in its arid sands the radiant 
light and the tears that used to play therein; a 
mouth where the breath, though ardent, is no 
longer fresh; the temples, more expressive and 
more wide beneath the daily darker tint of dull 
bistre, is there not in you as much voluptuous- 
ness as in the efflorescence of youth? Might we 
not say that the soul, even like nature, lets the 
most beautiful plants blossom among ruins? And 
when the imagination is developed, does it not at- 
tain in everything to what less richer imaginations 
which have remained outside these developments, 
dare to call depravation? 

Thus the age of Madame de Scudemor, which 
placed a whole existence between her and Allan, 
might have been one of the causes of this timidity, 
but, of a surety, it was not the only one. Another 
existed, still more intimate. Most strong passions 
borrow their force from the most abrupt contrasts. 
They give the lie in startling fashion to our most 
inveterate habits, to the most original of our ten- 
dencies. They violently break human unity. De- 
spotic natures, for instance, are the most lamb- 
like in love. You can lead them where you like. 
Others only sacrifice their life; but they sacrifice 
their will — a most magnificent abnegation, if it is 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 57 

one at all — if it was not the most intoxicating en- 
joyment that exists ! Who has not understood that 
Catherine II wished to be beaten by her lover ? Do 
not take this revolting demand for the fancy of 
a worn-out empress. You do not know how much 
supreme, unexpected, palpitating, celestial happi- 
ness — for this last adjective hides the unknown 
thus suddenly revealed — there is in this movement, 
contrary to the laws that govern proud hearts, 
that which makes the most haughty fall on their 
knees and lick the feet of a miserable creature! 

This feeling was experienced by Allan. A spoilt 
child, tenacious, imperious, he found unaccustomed 
pleasure (and these pleasures are the most intense) 
in submitting, in humiliating himself, in crawling 
on his stomach, pressing his heart against the floor, 
under the shoes of Madame de Scudemor, and this 
joy of being dominated by her made the impres- 
sions communicated to his senses, and which in- 
flamed them to the point of delirium, more dis- 
turbing still. 

The life in the country together, soft, lazy, close 
to one another, this jw niente of sofa and turf, of 
forgetful walks and talks, is the most dangerous 
existence. If young girls would confess to you, 
they would tell you that there, above all, they felt 



58 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

themselves blushing without knowing why. It is 
probably the air scented with lilac or jessamine, 
with the noonday heat and the evening cool breezes 
they breathe there, that call up sudden blushing 
with the undulations of the river and the shud- 
dering of the trees. When their heads are bent 
over their work, while long and curly hair throws 
a shadow over the hands that embroider, and hide 
the downcast face, you may see their breast swell- 
ing as they hear the birds singing. That is dur- 
ing the silent quiet at two o'clock in the after- 
noon, in the drawing-room, with the windows and 
shutters closed on the south side and opened to- 
wards the north. But in the evening, whether 
she remains at some casement looking towards the 
horizon, her head in her hand, or whether she goes 
rambling in some solitary alley, night happily 
comes on, and no one knows what becomes of her. 
In this liberty and neglect of all things, if there 
is a book forgotten on the corner of an armchair, it 
is some poet or other : Lamartine or Alfred de Mus- 
set, whose songs of a wounded bird were written 
on the leaves of the wild rose, with the richest, 
darkest blood of his heart; or 'tis a novel, more 
sad still ; of the difference between the story of a 
life and an escaping sigh. And this stifling peru- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 59 

sal lasts eight long days, during which she bathes 
her poor inflamed eyes to refresh them in the mois- 
ture of her breath, which she lengthily deposits 
on her handkerchief that keeps the secret of her 
tears. Those are most innocent details; there is 
not one of those insignificant trifles but what does 
not hide an awful danger. Cannot the plague lie 
concealed in a wrinkle of the most soft cashmere 
shawl and reach the shoulders that it enfolds? 
Unutterably sweet are the days, on the borders 
of the lake where the swans glide languidly, in 
the shadow of the woods where it is so easy to lose 
one's self, obscure retreats where the footstep is 
no longer heard, by the waterfalls which stifle all 
sound by their fleeting noise; and on the return, 
there are the rooms where often the girl is left 
alone, and where she is always found again ac- 
companied ; then near the drawn curtain where a 
reverie falls upon the brow like an impalpable ca- 
ress, in the heat that causes the indolent bearing 
and burns up the moisture of the lips ; and the in- 
toxicating familiarities, such as the pressure of an 
ungloved hand, in a security based upon I know 
not what insensate faith in the midst of abandon- 
ment, idleness, and delight that makes us under- 
stand the sleepy-eyed life and the intrepid effemin- 



60 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

acy of that people who say "Mia cam!" to every 
woman, and dream of love at the foot of volca- 
noes. 

But when a man is plunged, as Allan was, in this 
Capua of a beautiful summer in the country, while 
a deep love seized you for the first time, when 
she we idolise is there, enveloping in her charm 
every incident of this languid life, the happiness 
of ii all is indescribable; but doubtless God has 
made it impossible to resist it! As with Allan, a 
man feels more than ever blossoming in his soul 
that large flower of love planted by the breath of 
a woman. He believes that this air in which he 
revels with a voluptuous thrill of his whole being 
will carry the pollen of the hidden blossom to her 
he adores in silence. Tender illusions, ravishing 
mysticism, superstitious confidence in nature, fe- 
cundation of the soul by the soul, fragile dreams 
of first love!— why is it that out of these divine 
elements is composed the unknown evil of life ? 

Alas ! Allan had only imperfectly felt this de- 
licious phase of love; but he had guessed it. The 
woman he adored did not ignore his passion for 
her. Had he not told her? She had divined it. 
Moreover, when she had spoken, she had not de- 
stroyed the restrained desires and the early doubts. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 61 

For some time past these doubts and these stifled 
longings did not exist in his soul that lived too 
fast. In the happiness of all the possessions that 
follow, nothing is worth the poetry of the heart 
on its awakening — this mysterious impression of 
the day that is about to follow the rosy shadow 
which is no longer darkness through the yet closed 
eyelids. The madman believes it not, but so it is ! 
The happiness that is passed is the only moment 
we regret, and which remains sacred in the midst 
of the purest remembrances we have profaned. In 
lieu of that, Allan had not even had the deliri- 
ous avowal which does not recompense, but sterile 
pity with scarcely an echo. Nevertheless, the mock- 
ery he feared had been spared him, and that sus- 
tained him. On the other hand, at Allan's age, 
when passion has still a future, desire is a pleasure 
rather than a torture, and the senses feed on con- 
templation as much as the heart. 

The more the passions grow, the more they seek 
to reach reality, the more they become material- 
ised. Platonism can never be aught but the com- 
mencement of love. Allan was no longer dream- 
ing — he was in contemplation ; but not to contem- 
plate is to see with the eyes, and that is intoxica- 
tion ! Madame de Scudemor, in the insignificant 



62 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

details of every-day life, seemed to him still more 
disturbing than in the poetical divinations of his 
thoughts. Her presence swept away dreams and 
recollections, and even Imagination was conquered. 
As for her, she whispered to herself all that she 
had said aloud to Allan. Sometimes her reason 
timidly put forth a reproach; but she sought to 
attenuate it, saying to herself that all this was 
folly, certainly dangerous in a young girl of Al- 
lan's age, because the impressions of a woman are 
more profound than those of a man, but which 
would soon pass away without the employment of 
violent means. 

Folly ! the expression they all make use of, these 
incredulous females of forty— a word of pride, 
but of very vulgar wisdom ! 

Be that as it may, a terrible hypothesis kept 
her brain on the rack and appalled her conscience. 
If the love of Allan was not only what she 
thought? If it was not merely ephemeral enthu- 
siasm, but one of those heartrending passions which 
would, later on, destroy the destiny of the young 
man, so handsome, intellectual, and generous? At 
any cost, she resolved to know all, despite Allan's 

timidity. 

Since the day when she had accused him of be- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 63 

ing capricious, she had been more tender and ca- 
ressing with Camilla, to whom she hardly ever gave 
a kiss on the forehead, or a kind glance. Did she 
want to prevent the little girl from noticing the 
coldness of her friend? If she had been a co- 
quette, one of those hangmen's wives, full of van- 
ity, who enjoy to feel under their pearly nails the 
palpitations of a bleeding heart which they intend 
to devour afterwards, we might have thought that 
she designed to study the effect of the unexpected 
tenderness she was showing her daughter on Allan. 
Certainly, she had a motive for behaving in such 
a novel way. But who, except herself, could give 
the reason of this calculation ? 



64 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



V. 

ALLAN TO MADAME DE SCUDEMOR. 

"You who read me once, cannot you guess a 
second time what is passing in my thoughts ? Are 
you, then, not the superior being I imagine you to 
be? Do you not know what impels me to write 
to you ? And if you do know, why act in this way, 
which is both incomprehensible and cruel? Listen. 
"You have seen that I loved you. That was 
easy. The love I feel in my breast would daz- 
zle the eyes of the blind, and you are a woman, 
and have passed the youthful stage, two reasons 
to prevent your mistaking what had its cause in 
you. And yet you were beguiled, madame ! You 
thought that my love for you was only the fancy 
of a boy, a hasty growth of springtime which 
would die and wither away before the fall of the 
leaves, something like a few extra drops of blood 
in my veins. And if your words were true, it 
shows error and humility for which I admire 
you ; for you must therefore be an exception among 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 65 

women, and it is always grand to be an exception. 
But in that case, men must have given you the 
right to treat them with the greatest generosity 
of scorn ; you must entertain most horrible distrust 
for sentiments of devotion to have been so impious 
in the face of my love ! 

"Alas, madame! I ignore the whole of your 
past ! I know nothing of you, except that I love 
you — and how distractedly! Your past, I know, 
has nothing to do with all this. I ought not and 
will not invoke it. But you, madame, you, do 
you want me to curse it in the only manifestation 
that remains of it, in the personification thereof 
that is perhaps the most dear to you, your daugh- 
ter, who is no longer the beloved companion of 
my childhood; your daughter, who is no longer 
Camilla for me, but your child and that of anoth- 
er; your daughter, whom you will make me de- 
test! 

"Does what I write now astonish you, madame? 
I said I would leave your past alone. Oh ! often, 
as I pictured it, I felt my heart bursting beneath 
the grip of jealousy — a silly, absurd, but implac- 
able jealousy! I was strong enough to silence 
it; I hid it, I locked it up, I stifled it in the depths 
of my being. It had bitten me, lacerated and torn 



66 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

me, but I closed its jaws with my bleeding hands. 
I trampled it beneath my wounded feet! What 
reproach had I to make to you? None. What 
had I to fear? Nothing. Ah, it was truly mad- 
ness. Did you suspect me of these fits of fury? 
How many times, but above all during these last 
few days, as you saw the pallor of my brow and 
my sunken eyes, you said to me, in those motherly 
tones I hate, and which you always use with me : 
'My poor Allan, what harm you do to yourself!' 
God in heaven ! You thought perhaps that in the 
solitude of my bed I gave way with frenzy to the 
feelings that each night I carried away from you. 
You thought that you intoxicated the youth's body, 
and did not torture the man's heart. Blind woman, 
if you believed that ; if you did not think of the de- 
vastation that the idea of a remembrance, of a sin- 
gle remembrance not destined for it, can make in 
a passionate soul ! 

"Never, madame! no, never, would I have men- 
tioned this jealousy to you, if you had not in- 
creased it lately, perhaps despite yourself. Unwit- 
tingly? No ! you are too intelligent. No ! there is 
on your brow the mark of the science of life, and 
its anguish too strongly impressed for you not to 
know what I suffer, and what makes me suffer. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 67 

Yet were you not already once mistaken about 
my love? Did you not take it for childishness, 
which my imagination alone transformed into suf- 
fering? Might you not have been still mistaken? 
That is what I said to myself. But I caught your 
glance fixed upon me so often with such a singu- 
lar expression ; I saw it so well, and I understood 
it so badly, that I ask you myself what I ought 
to think of you? You see perfectly well that I 
speak of the present, madame, and not of the 
past ! 

"The more I love you, madame, the more I grow 
distant towards Camilla, the poor little girl I loved 
like a sister. During the first moments of the 
love you divined, although you misjudged its pow- 
er, I found a vague resemblance, far away, indefi- 
nite, but delicious, in her face, to the face of her 
mother. Had she been less innocent, perhaps the 
kisses that, as we played together, I would length- 
ily press upon her eyelids might have troubled her 
rest. Mad dreamer that I am ! I loved Camilla 
because she was your daughter. I imagined you 
at her age. In my thoughts I made believe to 
be your companion of childhood, and I found un- 
heard of happiness in saying 'toi' when speaking 
to her. Ah! these insensate delights made me 



68 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

guilty at the bottom of my soul, but guilty all 
alone, be reassured! The unknowing child felt 
none of my ardour through the armour of her in- 
nocence. On my knees, where she often sat after 
long walks together, she was naive, and as merry 
as with you. I was silent, I looked in her eyes 
and sought for yours. All troubled, I kissed her 
hair, her hair impregnated perchance with the 
same perfume which is exhaled by the tresses I 
have never touched. I asked her if she loved you, 
and where you had kissed her that morning, and 
I pursued a vestige of the maternal kiss on the 
fresh, tranquil, and pure face, and she, used to 
my caresses, said to me, as she would have said 
to you: 'Yes! kiss my eyes, to cure them, for 
the azure of the sky hurt me, as I looked too long 
to catch the shuttlecock on my battledore.' When 
we had chased the butterflies in the garden, I 
would take her up and carry her, and I felt her 
arm through the thin linen of her frock against 
my naked neck that she embraced. I said to my- 
self that she was of your flesh, that the blood 
coursing in the veins of that arm was your blood, 
and I shut my eyes as I carried her, experiencing 
ineffable voluptuousness. 

"But such moments did not last long. The en- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 69 

chantment faded as my love for you manifested 
itself still more. The child was no substitute for 
the woman. She was the mocking-bird, but not the 
nightingale! I still played with Camilla, but the 
charm was gone. She came beneath the willows 
at the water's edge, where I passed my days in 
thinking about you, whom I had seen, sitting or 
standing in the drawing-room, and of whom, in 
such attitudes, I would dream indefinitely, only 
thinking of interrupting my reverie to go and look 
upon you again — my heart and eyes full of you. 
In Camilla I sought, for you ever. But there were 
her bursts of laughter, her waspish waist, her boy- 
ish breast — no ! that was not you. so imposing, so 
serious, with the strong, yielding bust, and your 
large, wide shoulders, in the black gauze of your 
open dress, like ripe fruit in a transparent basket. 
No! she was not yon, and I knew it full well. 
Insanity of the heart! miserable madness! The 
look of her eyes, an echo of yours, I began to find 
too tender. Thus did I tear myself away from all 
I had idolised, because my love had grown quicker 
than that little girl. And in her impuberty, I 
thought she was audacious to dare to resemble you 
in whose swelling bosom life beat fully, as the tide 
on the shore as it is about to recede ! Poor star ! of 



70 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

which the sun of my dreams drowned the light of 
its brilliancy, although this devouring glare and 
this timid gleam were both composed of the same 

rays. 

"The pain of my imagination, of which Camilla 
was the involuntary cause, had lasted some time, 
when one day when you had been harder than ever 
towards my intoxicated heart; one day when you 
had eclipsed the young women, who all around me 
were set down as beautiful, and who passed the 
summer at the Willows, Camilla, giddy and joyous, 
came troubling my fiery daydreams beneath the 
tree where I had taken refuge. She had a flower, 
a bee, I know not what, to show me. I sent her 
away like the child she was. I was ill-tempered 
with her. Since that day I have been always more 
and more so. That was because an idea— a fright- 
ful idea '.—began to dawn in my mind and plunged 
deeplv into my heart. Ah ! madame, how I loved 



vou 



• 

"It is impossible that you do not know this 
fatal idea, and yet at the hour when you wiped my 
eyes with your handkerchief, when you allowed me 
to remain near vou, believing, with your superb 
and execrable experience, that this overflow of sen- 
sibility which poured out over you would be turned 



WHAT NEVER DIES. VI 

away and soon inundate some younger creature — 
in that fatal moment I still hid that bitter idea. 
I hid it in my heart, by placing my two hands 
over it. Feeble, and in tears in front of you, noth- 
ing transpired through my sobs, and you did not 
suspect that the student, the child, the dreamer, 
the witless boy who wept there at your feet never- 
theless hid from you grief that might have broken 
the heart of a man ! 

"It would have died there, madame. Yes, I 
would have courageously buried it, whatever might 
have been the fate of my love, if since that same 
day when you forced Camilla to come back to me 
after my coldness had driven her away, you had 
not found pleasure in covering her with caresses 
before me. I thought your conduct strange, incon- 
ceivable, impenetrable, since I could not explain it 
but by lowering you, and that was impossible for 
me. I accepted this suffering coming from you 
in gratitude for not having been banished, and 
because you had put up with my love. But this 
morning a word that escaped has put an end to my 
courage. Eemember when we came home after our 
walk on the banks of the Douve? You looked at 
Camilla, more lovely than usual by the exercise and 
the heat. Her face, burnt by the sun, showed up 



72 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

admirably, enhanced by the black velvet of her flat, 
round Tam-o'-Shanter cap. She had twisted her 
light scarf about her neck like a cravat to preserve 
her skin from the ardour of the sun. Her head- 
dress, inclined over her ear, and her improvised 
necktie, made her look more masculine than usual. 
You gazed lengthily at her, saying nothing, and 
then you exclaimed, embracing and kissing her: 
'Ah ! how like your father !' There was so much 
soul in your tone, so much passionate affection in 
this sudden caress, so much proud maternity in 
both such remembrances evoked in a second, that 
I grasped the horrible certainty that had only ap- 
peared to me in rapid, doubting flashes, and I fled, 
so as not to reveal the inward upheavals that your 
words had caused in me ! 

"All day I wandered near the Chateau, a prey 
to contrary agitation, to fits of rage, and bursts 
of tears, as painful as death's agony. I only came 
home after having made up my mind to write to 
you. You are so much my sovereign, the mere 
sight of you so tightens my chain, I tremble so in 
front of you, that I find courage to write what I 
could not tell you. You must not see a reproach 
in this letter, madame. Reproaches belong to him 
only who has the right to make them. Reproach 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 73 

goes from him who is betrayed to the traitor. But 
I have no rights, and you could not betray me, 
since you have promised me naught and given me 
nothing, not even a hope, not even faith in the 
duration of the feelings I have for you ! Oh ! mad- 
ame, I was worthy of pity, but you were not guilty ! 
In accusing you I should have been not only un- 
just, but insane. But I desired that he of whom 
you have made perhaps something like Cherubino 
at the feet of his beautiful godmother, and with 
whom you have always remained respectable and 
maternal, I desired that you should drag him up 
from such a low depth in your mind, by knowing 
him better, if only at least to pity him with an- 
other kind of pity than that with which you felt 
moved when he sobbed at your feet. 

"How deeply you have wounded me, madame ! 
Why did you not drive me from your house ? Why 
did my tears soften you? Why did you fear to 
afflict me? Why did you wait for my love to be 
greater, stronger, more deeply rooted, to impose 
upon me pain that I can no longer support ? Now 
that I have told you a little more fully how I love 
you, what resolution will you take regarding me? 
I do not wish to place myself as a barrier between 
you and your daughter, but I ask never more to 



74 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

witness that tenderness to which you had not ac- 
customed me. Ah! the imagination thereof is 
quite cruel enough ! To those torments you had 
no need to add those of the reality that I had 
never suspected. You need not fear to be gener- 
ous, charitable, magnanimous with me; I shall al- 
ways be sufficiently unhappy I" 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 75 



VI. 



"I thought so, but I was not sure/' she said, 
after having read this letter of precocious passion. 
Madame de Scudemor had just retired to rest, 
and, preoccupied, had not drawn over her shoul- 
ders the silken coverlet that she pressed with her 
naked feet. Her light, white night-robes enveloped 
her in their long, undulating folds. Leaning on 
her elbow, she read the letter of Allan de Cynthry 
again, and as she went through it by the light of 
her night-lamp, she bit the pink nail of her fore- 
finger. Her vast and slightly prominent brow, 
where so many thoughts had passed, appeared as 
pallid as death in that darkened apartment, only 
lit up by the vacillating and luminous flicker show- 
ing through the alabaster of a lamp hanging from 
the ceiling. Madame de Scudemor's face, preoccu- 
pied, showed no inward emotion. It was entirely 
bathed in its habitual calm. The crease between 
her eyebrows, which seemed like a contraction, was 
only a figure, but a terrible one, denoting the Coun- 
tess's age, brutally stamped on the forehead where 



76 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

it would soon become deeper. But no other ex- 
pression than that of the coming age appeared in 
the large eyes of the Countess de Scudemor. Allan 
had rightly noticed that Camilla had inherited 
those eyes. But those of the child sparkled with 
that fiery moisture which is so sweet, and those 
of the mother with the dry flame that is so vio- 
lent. 

Through the open window could be seen a pall 
of blue-black hue, studded with gold. It was the 
sky, shining with the thousand clusters of dia- 
monds formed by the stars. The night was pro- 
found. In the distance the silent marsh. There 
was not the least breeze, and the clock discreetly 
acknowledged the universal silence by its measured, 
imperceptible ticking. 

After a quarter of an hour's immobility and 
thought, Yseult de Scudemor rose, put her naked 
feet in her slippers, and threw back a black velvet 
mantle, forgotten on the back of an armchair, over 
the nearly transparent muslin that covered her 
frame; then, taking her night-light, she sat down 
in front of a secretaire, which she opened. At that 
moment she was majestically beautiful. She har- 
monised in such extraordinary sympathy with the 
magnificent night that surrounded her, that Al- 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. ?7 

lan's love would have been understood by all who 
could have seen her thus, albeit the most sensual. 
Women of forty only shine out between midnight 
and one o'clock. Those who have not seen them 
at that moment can give no opinion. "It is the 
hour of death," says the old ballad. Thus does 
the vision of Youth, rosy, melancholy phantom 
more beautiful and touching than life itself, spring 
from the grave for a few moments until the pale, 
golden morning dawn finds naught but the wild 
pallor, the tired eyes, the visible wrinkle, every 
taint — all the vengeances of the Day that sparkles 
joyfully, because that woman, at last humiliated, 
was for a long time as handsome as the Day itself ! 

She wrote. From time to time she passed her 
hand over her hair, in smooth bands on the tem- 
ples, as her pen flew. 

A door opened in Madame de Scudemor's apart- 
ment. Suddenly a head appeared through the door 
ajar. 

"Are you ill, mamma?" said Camilla, whose 
crystal voice, softened by the velvet of her lips, 
tinkled deliciously in the dumbness of the night. 
"I heard your step. I thought you might want 
me." 

"No, thank you, my child. Go back to bed, and 



78 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

take care not to catch cold," answered Madame 
de Scudemor, as she continued to write. 

When she had finished, she went to the window, 
which she closed, after having gathered a bouquet 
of the jessamine that grew around it, and return- 
ing to bed, soon fell asleep. Nature was accom- 
plishing its laws slowly and silently without a 
troubled ripple, without a shuddering wave to 
throw up on the surface of that ocean a little emo- 
tion torn from the abysses of the soul, or a speck 
of murmuring foam, or a fragment of seaweed 
detached from the rocks of the Past, and whose 
lofty peaks now having disappeared, cast not a 
shadow over a restful life. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 79 



VII. 

MADAME DE SCUDEMOE TO ALLAN. 

"Yes, you are right, Allan! Why have your 
tears softened me ? He alone knows who has fash- 
ioned the heart of woman. At the latter extrem- 
ity of life, buffeted by men and events, my wounds 
healed by reflection and scorn, I thought I was 
proof against all for ever, and now come tears 
again, those tears of which I have seen so many 
shed which were merely the outcome of abominable 
hypocrisy, and which prevented me from sending 
you from my side. Ah ! the armour of woman is 
always faulty just over the heart. If you had 
been a man, perhaps I should not have been seized 
with pity. But at your age there is no deceit. A 
youth is true. To be true is almost to be pure; 
it is to be the contrary of all I have seen, and — 
may I say it? — of all I have loved. That is prob- 
ably why, Allan, your tears made me give way. 

"And then the superstition of grief was added 
to my pity. I have suffered so much, my young 



80 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

friend, that grief is a sacred thing for me. You 
seem so worthy of compassion, that I would not 
make your grief more bitter still. That was a mis- 
erable calculation, since in refusing to assume the 
responsibility of your tears, I have another and a 
greater burden to carry ! 

"Yes ! I was mistaken ; yes ! I was blind when 
your love seemed to be but a precocious sensation 
resulting from your adolescence, from your exuber- 
ant and inflamed imagination, together with the 
circumstances in which you are placed. I did not 
know the degree of depth of the feeling you had 
for me. I hoped it would only be an ephemeral 
preoccupation. Accuse me! condemn me! I for- 
give you ; but know that ever since the day I saw 
you kiss Camilla with repugnance, I resolved to 
misunderstand no more the silent sentiment which 
manifested itself in a way that appalled me for the 
future. 

"You will appreciate later, my friend, why I 
levelled your love until it became . . . what it is 
not. There is something of the past in all a wom- 
an's judgments. But in the name of my very pity, 
I take back my pity ! Now that I no longer be- 
lieve in a whimsical fancy that it is dangerous to 
tease, now that you have bared your soul to me, 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 81 

I repeat to you the words that afflict, but which 
ought to save you : Allan ! you must depart Leave 
me. Travel. You are young and poetical ; you will 
soon forget my influence and depend on many oth- 
er things. Fresh loves will grow in that heart 
which is trying its apprenticeship of love. There 
is a brilliant and vast future open to you. Do 
not hide from that future like a coward, but leave 
me on the border of my terminated existence, seat- 
ed on the ground, undone by the fatigue of the 
journey and by its too great duration ! 

"Besides, Allan, what do you want of me? I 
have seen too much of life, and I was never prud- 
ish enough not to know, at the first breath, what 
are the exactions of the passions. You want love, 
Allan, and I have none to give you. My God ! I 
can understand that we can risk our immortality 
on the toss of a coin ; I can conceive that one may 
wager the whole of one's life on the loaded die of 
a fragile love, and so risk it without turning a 
hair. But must not another love be staked as 
well? Is not something else wanted, more actual 
but intoxicating, a chance of rapid but immense 
happiness against the thousand chances of decay, 
regret, misery, and nothingness that threaten? Ex- 
aggerate, puff up your passion; at any rate, this 



82 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

poor chance must be supposed to exist, and often 
it is wanting. But if even this supposition is im- 
possible, can such debauchery of human nature be 
styled passion, and is it not rather a shameful and 
incurable aberration dignified by that name? 

"You will go away, Allan, that is certain now. 
I would sooner you suffered a little while from the 
effects of your youth, which will compensate you 
later on, than let you run the risk of frightful re- 
gret, and myself be exposed to eternal remorse! 
I am no longer allowed to be frivolous, and I do 
not believe I have much vanity left in my heart. 
Go, then, you must, cruel boy, since you were not 
satisfied with the maternal friendship of a woman 
of my age ! But to make— not your parting— but 
your sojourn far from me less painful, I shall 
have courage enough to destroy your last hope— 
if you still have one left— unknowingly, in the 
darkest shadow of your heart. That last twinge 
of pain must I make you feel, so that you may 
pardon me for it, and thank me one of these days. 
That day is not far off, Allan. Then will you be 
cured, and I quite an old woman. The halo of 
youth will be playing round your head, and of 
that lambent glory of life there will be enough to 
spare one soft ray for my white hair." 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 83 



VIII. 

Two days had passed since that letter. No un- 
usual event had taken place at the Chateau of the 
Willows. The hours linked themselves to the hours 
in the same ordinary way. As on preceding days, 
all lived that vague, happy-go-lucky, don't-care sort 
of life which is so enjoyable in the country. No 
one troubled about anybody else until eventide, 
when, all strolling done, everybody met in the big 
drawing-room. The young women who were there 
played the piano or the harp, all windows open 
in the moonlight, until somewhat late at night, or 
the talk was of Paris, about what would be done 
next winter, or concerning a new pamphlet. There 
is no necessity to describe this life. Everybody 
knows it. 

In the midst of all the bodices where the flesh 
rose and fell in sweet repose among these dandies 
of the Boulevard des Italiens, and these pretty, 
pale little women, with almond eyes and Andalu- 
sian waists, worthy odalisques of sultans with worn- 
out hearts and bodies, a drama was being enacted. 



84 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

And this rare thing was being played out between 
two characters, as between Pygmalion and his 
statue, and all these short-sighted eyes saw nothing 
through their glasses. Vanity must have made 
this assembly very stupid not to have caused at 
least a slight suspicion to stir up their bird-like 
brains as they looked upon Allan's face. To see 
him was to tremble. His pallor was of a greenish 
cast, and his handsome brow was downcast like 
that of a blasted being. He only came very late 
into the salon now, and Camilla alone heard her 
mother say to him sometimes in a whisper, lost in 
the noise of the general conversation : 
"Allan, friend, take courage!" 
He had been crushed by the blow given by the 
letter that Madame de Scudemor had written him. 
But by dint of suffering the soul is turned into 
bronze, and passion is also a form of the will. He 
felt, as yet confusedly, it is true, that he would 
brave the commands of the woman he adored, from 
whose empire he wished to free himself, in the 
very interest of his love. But he also felt there 
was no remedy for the cold and beneficent rational- 
ity that was opposed to him. The soul of that 
woman was shut, her destiny enclosed in iron 
bands; all was finished, as if the last shovelful 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 85 

of earth had been thrown down. Nevertheless, he 
made up his mind that nothing should tear him 
away from the column of this tomb of sweet and 
icy marble— if it was a tomb, however, or more 
likely a sarcophagus, in which, alas ! even the ashes 
were wanting. 

He had scarcely understood the sense of the last 
lines of Madame de Scudemor"s epistle. Never- 
theless, he foresaw that she would speak to him 
once more for the last time. But he was absolutely 
resolved to become inflexible, to rebel against the 
ascendancy she possessed over his confused facul- 
ties. Delirium! delirium! Our passions are al- 
ways measured by the cowardice which is their 
fruit. 

One evening he went and sat on a sofa where 
she was, as ever caring little about what was said 
around her, but not absent-minded, and chatting 
with the indifference she showed for everything. 
Delicious impression caused by the presence of the 
loved one! For forty-eight hours Allan had ab- 
sorbed centuries of anxiety and suffering, and his 
soul, thus saturated to the full, was annihilated 
suddenly in the depths of his sensual, bodily in- 
toxication. He passed two hours, with his heart 
torn in tatters, his ears and thoughts devoted to 






86 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

Madame de Scudemor, as he gazed at her admir- 
able arms through the transparency of the sleeves 
of her corsage. 

In the drawing-room the conversation was very 
animated, and the guests were divided into groups. 
The men talked politics rather loudly, the women 
whispered together, and from these different tones 
of voice resulted confusion, enabling anybody to 
slip a few words into a neighbour's ear without 
being noticed or overheard. That is what hap- 
pened when Madame de Scudemor said to Allan : 
"Go, and await me in the little copse." 
At that moment Camilla was seated on a stool 
at her mother's feet. She was there, upright and 
silent. She was the only one who could have heard 
Madame de Scudemor, and, naive and sprightly 
as she was, with the curiosity inherent to little 
girls, she might have risked a question. She held 
her tongue. Not a line of her mobile physiognomy 
moved. 

These words, spoken under the breath, brought 
Allan back to the grief of life. He had the pre- 
sentiment that these words hid a "good-bye," a last 
command, the cruelty she had announced, and of 
which he was to be the victim. A violent remedy, 
and which would not prevent the patient from 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 87 

dying. He remembered his resolutions. Once again 
he was convinced that he could not, or would not, 
leave this woman whom he loved without hope, 
but he trembled at the thought of the struggle 
which was about to take place between them. He 
knew he had the power of energy — a power he had 
never exercised — but, subjugated into the veriest 
depths of his soul by Madame de Scudemor, he 
feared lest this energy, in which he had not the 
absolute security of faith, might be overthrown. 
A bitter feeling, since it comprises the fear of self- 
depreciation. 

He soon left the salon and reached the chosen 
spot. This little forest, growing on a strip of land 
on the contrary side to the marshes, and at the 
back of the Chateau, was a cool, shady, and sombre 
retreat, formed by numerous firs, acacias, and cy- 
presses. At the foot of these trees flowers had 
been planted without order, and these blossoms, 
untouched by the sun, grew to maturity all pale 
and languid in the shade, but it might have been 
said that what they lacked in brilliancy they made 
up in perfume. It was the virginal bouquet of 
Night. There was never there the still tepid trace 
of passing lips, or the lassitude of a caress, or the 
dumb languor of some remembrance, but some- 






88 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

times in the bosom of these half-closed blossoms 
a drop of the evening dew bore witness to the im- 
material love of the Night in this celibacy of the 
6un. Touching symbol of many destinies ! How 
many beings, also in the celibacy of the heart, keep 
a tear they have gathered, because never, alas I 
will any more be given them ! 

The night was dark. Allan sat on a bench, in 
the depth of this copse where the perfumed mois- 
ture obstinately impregnated the garments. Sy- 
ringa, with its fragrance, which is so voluptuous as 
to be even painful, bloomed around him. A few 
miles from there, on the land side, for the Chateau 
and the garden of the Willows seemed like an isth- 
mus, the point being the fen, a nightingale could 
be heard, and it was more melancholy still to 
hearken to these modulations of the bird's song, 
softened, velvet-like, by distance, and which alone 
broke the infinite silence of space, where now and 
then passed a dumb breeze. 

But nature was a closed book for Allan. Through 
the network of the leaves he kept his eye upon 
the windows of the Chateau of the Willows, lumin- 
ous specks in the obscurity. He anxiously awaited 
the moment when all should leave the salon, and 
each one retire to his apartment. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 89 

At the end of an hour he heard the approach 
of a firm and rapid step. To find the blood of 
his body one would have had to stab him right in 
the middle of his heart. All that he had was beat- 
ing there. 

"You are there, Allan, are you not?" said Mad- 
ame de Seudemor, in tranquil tones. 

An indistinct "Yes" — for emotion glues our 
voice in our throats so fast that we cannot tear it 
out — was all the reply that followed her question. 

Under the trees nothing could be distinguished. 
She sat on a bench, a good way from him. Hap- 
pily for her, he was only seventeen, and he loved 
her ! But had he been older, or had he loved her 
less, if he had only by accident, in drawing near 
the bench, touched with his sleeve that arm he had 
so admired in the house, ah ! how dearly she would 
have paid the imprudence of an appointment in 
the dark granted to a man who was dying with 
desire ! 

But he loved her with a true and timid love, 
with the first love of life. What ailed her, then, 
to be so madly imprudent? That the unhappy 
man was soon about to learn. 

After an interval of silence, which seemed long- 
er to him than the hour he had waited : 



90 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Two days have passed since I wrote to you," 
she said, "without changing aught of my resolu- 
tions. On the contrary, those forty-eight hours 
have made them firmer still. I promised you that 
to make estrangement less cruel I would cause you 
the last pain, salutary pain, and that I would 
poison our leave-taking with my disclosures. For 
when every hope is torn away the soul makes up 
its mind, and becomes resigned ; but when it still 
hopes on, the malady becomes eternal, and desires 
are justified." 

"It is useless!" he exclaimed, so as to form an 
answer, but he restrained himself. 

Burning curiosity rose up within him. He was 
tired of the mystery. He wanted to know all, even 
what he feared the most. He was thirsty of de- 
tails. She went on : 

"Allan, you shall know my life. What I never 
intended to tell anyone, I am going to narrate to 
you, a boy of seventeen. What neither man nor 
woman has ever heard, you shall listen to. When 
that is done, I hope you will no longer love me. 
Or, if the impression that I have made upon you 
still lasts, it will gradually get weaker and weaker, 
and by absence finish by fading away entirely." 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 91 

Then, with that tired and hoarse voice that he 
knew so well, and which in society only uttered col- 
ourless words, she hegan to tell her secrets, and 
draw forth from its hiding place a woman that the 
world knew not. 

"I am not an Italian woman," she said, "but I 
was brought up in Italy, in the Convent of San 
Lorenzo, near Florence. One of my aunts confided 
me to the care of a friend of hers, the Superior 
of this nunnery. Of a truth, I think that she was 
well pleased to get rid of me, an orphan girl — 
a burden wanting care, watchfulness, and affec- 
tion. I had lost my parents when a mere infant. 
I was to come into an immense fortune, and I re- 
ceived the most detestable education. Such were 
the only events of my life until the age of fifteen. 

"But at fifteen, events are in our being. It is 
the dawn of life. On the other side of my fifteen 
years there is only emptiness and shadow, and I 
do not recollect that time any more than I can call 
to mind when I was in the cradle. I had been 
richly enough endowed with intelligence for it 
to escape unhurt from the inertia of my Southern 
education. Later on, I developed that common 
sense which helped me to judge life, and not to 
guess at it. 



92 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Although of the land of the befeathered ladies 
whom Mademoiselle de l'Espinasse flagellated with 
her ardent scorn, there was in my inmost being 
more passion than in all these daughters of Italy 
whose childhood mingled with mine. Their com- 
plexions were darker than mine, the warmth of 
their glances assailed other eyes, as if to say : 'You 
seek my nakedness, as I desire to divine yours/ 
but my gaze had never that wantonness. Their 
eyelids would close now and then, like a mantilla 
slowly drawn to hide a budding breast, but my 
looks were frank and open. Their passion was a 
snake biting its tail. Mine was the serpent en- 
folding the trunk of the tree of knowledge to taste 
the forbidden fruit. They passed whole hours, 
their heads in their hands, with heaving breasts, 
a hot tear weighing down their silken eyelids, and 
stupefied by nameless trouble, blushing with desire 
at the least breeze that licked their neck in this 
lascivious Southern climate, they awaited the com- 
ing of night, with its dreams and all its delirium. 
Beloved hour, with its thrills, its solitude, and the 
fear of giving way to swooning pleasure beneath 
the curtains of the couch that kept all its secrets ! 
Oh, for me already all this was too vague. In 
my case desire was more substantial. I whispered 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 93 

the name of these troubled disorders to myself with 
bated breath, and I required something more to 
satisfy me than concentrated intoxication brought 
on by inhaling the white chestnut blossoms from 
which we fashioned diadems. 

"My child, there is nothing beautiful in this 
world but what is pure ! As I speak to you now, 
Allan, I feel no cowardly shame in letting you 
read in my past, and in crying out: ^Believe in 
the woman who seeks not to absolve herself ! Pur- 
ity is the only beautiful trait of our nature/ Love, 
that power of infinite devotion, is only superb be- 
cause it purifies us ! If there is aught more holy 
than a virgin of fifteen, it is a woman for whom all 
is no longer incomprehensible ; and still more holy 
than her is she who has understood all, and for 
whom this comprehension has not been a pollution. 
Ah ! at fifteen, when only a weak child, with merely 
our mother's cheek and an ivory crucifix to kiss, 
it is not very difficult to guard the precious treas- 
ure of purity, which, once lost, is never regained, 
and henceforward is replaced by nothing else. 
Well, Allan, at fifteen I had not even that, and 
my first love was deflowered in the bottom of my 
soul by my first friendship. 

"When we have an ardent nature, Allan, and 



94 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

imagination ripens, passion arises, troubling and 
embittering our most tender and innocent feelings. 
Instead of dreaming as they all did, I sought to 
live. Instead of the desire of love, with which they 
cradled and rocked themselves until inebriated, I 
rushed furiously towards love. I lived faster than 
they, and at the same time I lived more fully. 

"Amongst the greatest dreamers of us all was a 
young Neapolitan girl, whose hair was fair, golden 
as leaves yellowed by autumn, and whose face and 
bosom were inundated as with the reflection of the 
light of those wild, waving tresses. She was cer- 
tainly the most beautiful of us all. She was 
shorter than I, and thinner. The sun of her coun- 
try had been revenged on her black eyebrows and 
eyelashes for not having been able to darken her 
resistant locks. Under the double ebony frame of 
her lashes was the contrast of her eyes, with their 
deadened blue pupils, resembling turquoises set in 
jet bracelets, and they were so sad that they never 
sparkled, and even her tears were never brilliant. 
The maddest idolatry for that young girl possessed 
me. But, Allan, if this exaggerated affection had 
simply been the friendship of one young girl for 
another, should I have told you how beautiful she 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 95 

was ? Should I have talked of anything else but 
of her heart? 

"Is there, then, only one way to love, and can it 
be true that all the distinctions made in that in- 
tangible spot which we call our heart are chimeras 
and lies? Oh, then I could explain why I trem- 
bled when I approached her; why I blushed when 
she gazed at me with her sad azure eyes; why, 
in our games of blindman's buff, I found her out 
without touching her by the movement that rose in 
me as I approached her, and I was always drawn 
towards her. But she loved me, too, although she 
was always calm when we were together. Her ca- 
resses grew cold as I caressed her. If she blushed, 
I was not the cause. It was some vague hope, the 
germ of a world lying in the chaos of the future ; 
it was the haste to find her soul a few days older; 
it was the insufficiency of all that satisfied me, who 
was richer and more unfortunate. She loved me, 
but how many times, beneath the flowering orange 
trees, both seated, I fainting with joy at her sight, 
while she did not even notice that her hand was 
in my palm, and that insatiably I kept on repeat- 
ing: 'What are you thinking about?' Then she 
would recall from heaven the look of her eyes, 
where it had been lost like a bird on the ocean. 



96 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

Her dear gaze ! inanimate jetsam stranded in mine 
which devoured it ; then came tears, such as I have 
never been able to shed, for my lips found them 
to be icy, as they sprung from between her lids, 
and I waited to gather them till they had flowed 
to her mouth. 

"The state I was in was never made known to 
her; not that I ignored it myself, but because, as 
far as passion went, I was her elder sister. Yes, I 
could have explained to her what fermented so 
strongly in me, for I repeat that I knew all. I 
could have put a name to each of my guilty wishes 
and my insane desires, but unconquerable timidity 
always held me back. One night particularly, a 
night that was terrible, I passed, panting, with 
naked feet and disrobed frame, near the bed where 
she reposed in silence, and my trembling hand 
dared not touch her curtain, until my timidity 
brought me back exhausted to my bed. I was 
bashful because I was sensual. Modesty, Allan, is 
the peep o' day of passion, which begins with a 
blush in the soul as in the sky. Chastity is a 
pleasure which we hide, and which betrays us. 
It is the first pollution of womanly innocence. 

"In like fashion I passed two years and three 
months. At the end of that time my aunt came 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 97 

and fetched me and brought me back to France, 
where I was to be brought out. I had great grief 
at leaving San Lorenzo. Nevertheless, I wept less 
than the girl I loved. I was so certain that I was 
not necessary in her life, that the anguish of our 
farewell intermixed with a sensation of arid resig- 
nation. A feeling like mine was proudly exacting. 
I suffered only at being the schoolmate of her who 
was my idol. We promised to write to each other, 
and I departed. 

"In France, all believed that if I returned so sad 
from Italy it was because I had left great friend- 
ships behind at the convent. My aunt also thought 
so, but she was soon undeceived. My sadness be- 
came inexplicable for her when, after the fifth 
letter dated from Florence, she saw I did not reply 
any more. Margarita's letters were her without 
herself — without her look, her hair, her breast; all 
I had idolized ! Each time her letters brought me 
deception, disenchantment, grief mingling with 
disdain. At least, when I could still see her, I was 
able to believe that she guessed how I loved her by 
the eloquence of my embraces, by the violence of 
my glances ! An imperious feeling of shame pre- 
vented me from confessing to her what would have 
made me guilty, for, perchance, I might have led. 



98 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

her astray. But, thanks to our friendship, as she 
understood it, I was able to enjoy pale pleasures 
that did not, however, satisfy me. When my arm 
was knotted round her neck, my bosom beating 
against her tranquil bust; when my gaze lit up 
the undulating curve of her brow, glistening like 
copper, with the flashing gleam of my eyes which 
she could never support, she did not repulse me. It 
is true, she talked to me but of frivolities, of a 
dress to be made, or a mantilla to be embroidered, 
or else she gave way to dumb reveries, but I was 
happy thus, and there we would remain for long 
hours. Now, what remained to me? What could 
I find in her letters ? The chill expressions of vul- 
gar emotions, convent gossip, and nothing morej 
for a young girl's reveries cannot be spoken aloud. 
Ah ! such a little tortured me, and— as it was just 
as impossible for me to write to her what I had 
withheld when she made me drunk with her pres- 
ence — I preferred to retire into the desolate and 
silent solitude of my remembrances. 

"But remembrance at that age, which is yours, 
Allan, is not eternal. Margarita's image faded out 
of my thoughts little by little. I have sometimes 
asked myself how it is that we cannot break off 
with the loves that follow as we can with the 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 99 

first love. As for the faculties that bubbled up 
in me, I tried to occupy them by the books from 
which I had been severed by my education, and by 
society that I did not yet know, but they found 
not in either one or the other the nourishment 
craved for so avidly, and I only understood one 
goal in a woman's life — happiness in love. 

"Allan, I will not seek to lessen the abnegation 
of this narrative. In my aunt's circle was a crowd 
of young men who circled me with their homage. 
At this moment of my girlhood I merely experi- 
enced passing fancies, but to which the ardour of 
my disposition gave me the inward delights of 
sensuality. These handsome young fellows whom 
I fell in love with any evening, I have despised 
them all since, or rather, scorn killed the love that 
I was about to bestow on them. They were con- 
ceited fools, who possessed the power to make my 
voice change as they whispered their soft nothings, 
and to whom I abandoned myself in a crowded 
salon, or during the audacious liberty of the waltz, 
or in the course of half-tone chatting conversations, 
of all of which, perhaps, they went away and boast- 
ed to their odalisques of the opera ballet. Oh ! 
if men knew what are the misapprehensions of the 
young girls in society, at no price would they ac- 



100 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

cept these coarse virginities. They would not have 
them as mistresses, nor as wives, and they would 
repudiate them all as much for the sake of pride 
as for love. 

"I travelled through what are called the best 
years of young womanhood, beguiled by these en- 
thusiasms of a day which are the smarting shame 
of following hours. I did not feel bold enough 
to entrust my life to these men to whom I re- 
proached myself for having devoted an evening. 
Vanity was avenged for my scorn by accusing me 
of vanity. Alas! I accomplished the vengeance 
of these petty wounded souls upon my own self. 
I thirsted for love, and there was none for me. 
I waited. To wait, is not that almost always the 
whole of life? But finally the despair of waiting 
seized me violently. I was young, strong, and pow- 
erful, and I asked myself if life was not slipping 
away from me in all these days that, ghostlike, 
glided by, one by one, without love. This is a cruel 
moment that women know well. The lost days go 
by and leave regret which is not even remembrance. 
The soul has strange and distressful moments. We 
say, like the mad woman, 'It will be to-morrow !' 
and the morrow comes and goes, but not the mor- 
row we dreamt. Less happy than the insensate 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 101 

girl, we are able to ponder over yesterday when we 
were deceived, and the faith, in the morrow is daily 
weakened more and more. Ah! it is not always 
the joy of being beautiful that makes us throw 
into the mirror the long glance you have noticed. 
Sooner is it often melancholy that prevents us from 
turning away our eyes, our beauty having so often 
misled us that we have the awful fear of losing it, 
because we all want to be loved. 

"Was it this secret fatiguo of hope, this ardour 
which fed and increased itself, this impatience of 
happiness, which fixed my sentiments for Horace 
de Scudemor ? I was in such haste to find happi- 
ness through love, I was so greedy of the belief 
that I was loved, that I shut my eyes not to see 
this man, so as not to have to judge him like the 
others, and to be obliged once more to destroy all 
my illusions. I carried such stupidity as far as I 
could, making it into heroism. I accepted words 
of love of whcih the desire of my heart formed all 
the eloquence. I had faith in him and became 
his wife. It is easy to be deceived when- we are 
so willing. Nevertheless, I palpitated with such 
vitality, and men proclaimed how beautiful I was, 
that Horace, like myself, could be mistaken in his 
love. Whatever may have been the case, I thought 



102 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

I was happy for ever. Our honeymoon was a de- 
vouring sun, and Camilla bears on her already 
sensual brow the mark of the furnace from whence 
she came. 

"But possession tired my husband, disgusted 
him, and soon I was neglected. A bitter feeling 
of humiliation seized me ; but I did not shed many 
tears, and rage conquered the weak despair of 
abandonment. Dating from that epoch, I esteemed 
myself superior to a common soul. I had lived in 
Horace's love, I had tasted the delights of marriage 
in the most profound intimacy, and this exhaust- 
ible love dried up through habit, and these un- 
speakable joys were to exist no more ! My imagin- 
ation, more than my heart, met with one of those 
atrocious deceptions for which there is no cure— 
an incurable sore poisoning even the future. I 
suffered, but I hid my sufferings. Another woman 
would have persecuted with sobbing scenes the man 
who would thus have betrayed her; I held my 
tongue. My husband was only a vulgar libertine. 
I would not do him the honour to be jealous of 
his abject infatuations; but I no longer allowed 
him to brush against my dress when we both passed 
through the same doorway. Pain found me full 
of resistance, since my grief had only just begun. 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 103 

At night I paid dearly for the stoicism of the day- 
time, and I was seized with fits of fury that made 
me roll naked on the floor. But by day I enveloped 
my convulsive sufferings in velvet and laughter, 
and this purple suited me so well, and my smiles 
were such deep impostures, that my seeming hap- 
piness insulted other women in a way that was 
nearly as wounding for them as my insolent 
beauty. Happiness is a pitiable thing, Allan, since 
it cannot be distinguished from such frightful 
monkey tricks ! Is it because nothing is true that 
everything can be so perfectly imitated? Thus 
pique made me swallow all my sobs, and my vanity 
was fortified by pride. 

"One of the most frightful symptoms of suffer- 
ing is that it indefinitely spreads out its horizon, 
forming the immense centre of a circumference 
which is nowhere and everywhere. Then comes a 
new pain to teach us that the wound was not quite 
so large, that the evil was not so great. So are 
we cruelly, ironically, implacably disabused by the 
dishonour of our despair! That I learnt later. 
But then I thought my heart would never get over 
the blow that had struck it. I buried myself 
within myself. Alas ! that strength I had found 
to support the misfortune of my marriage ought 



104 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

to have caused me to suspect that I was not blasee, 
that there were still ordeals to be passed — a second 
purgatory surpassing all I had endured — and that 
life would drag on a little longer before coming to 
an end. My love for Horace had been almost vol- 
untary, so great had been my precipitation to be- 
lieve in it. I did not know of the passion we strug- 
gle against, and which hurries us on as with divine 
power. I knew it not, and — poor ignorant fool 
that I was — I said to myself that all the sources 
of happiness at which I had quenched my thirst 
had no greater abysses than those I had measured 
as I fell into them. 

"I had passed the terrible age of thirty. Thirty, 
for most women, is old age with a young and wild 
heart, and the heart fears that age even more than 
our vanity. But for me it seemed as if that for- 
midable epoch was a moment of munificence and 
liberality. It is true that I had not been cast in 
the mould whence issued those fragile beings whose 
delicate organisation I often envied so as to be able 
to die sooner — those ephemeral women who faint 
under one caress, and who have only one sorrow 
in life : that they are forced to resuscitate to sub- 
mit to a second. For such as they, the age of 
thirty dulls the white plumage of the complexion; 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 105 

a baby breaks down their figure; a drop of amber 
is wanting to make the evanescent brilliancy of 
those perishable eyes eternal, when one tear puts 
out their light. But I was not such a fragile crea- 
ture, Allan. I was not so immaterially handsome. 
Thus my beauty was not at its dying agony at 
thirty ! 

"On the contrary, in spite of my horrible decep- 
tions, in spite of the cruel restraint I had imposed 
upon myself, I profited by the infinite air of life. 
I breathed it with immense facility. In this feel- 
ing of plenitude and power which I drew in from 
all around me, I understood that there was no hu- 
man being ever created more in unison with im- 
mortal nature than myself, being of a stronger 
substance, and not less handsome, than other wom- 
en ; and unconquerable grief had no more printed 
its claw upon my bosom than the tiny hand of a 
child could leave a trace of its nails on the neck 
of a bull. Oh, Allan, how inwardly deep are the 
joys of strength ! But when that strength cannot 
defend us against fate we are as unhappy through 
the fact of that force as through that of destiny. 

"And that is what soon happened to me, my dear 
Allan. Monsieur de Scudemor had a nephew, a 
few years younger than myself. That young man 



106 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

had always shown aversion for his uncle's career. 
Rich, and completely independent, he travelled 
about, with no determined end. I only knew him 
through having heard of his wit and the elegance 
of his manners. Monsieur de Scudemor intro- 
duced him to me. He possessed that timidity of 
Englishmen who never make the slightest advances. 
With this excessive shyness, in one hour he became 
my master, and to such an extent that if he had 
said 'Follow me !' no matter where, I should have 
obeyed. 

"He confessed to me since that I had more 
astonished than seduced him, and that he could not 
understand how he had fallen in love with me. 
As for me, it was at one and the same time fever, 
insomnia, delirium immediately. All that I had 
felt hitherto was not to be compared with what I 
then experienced. It was not solely in intensity 
that my sensations were different; I was mad, I 
was ill, and only through love." 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 107 



IX. 

She stopped. Her voice assumed a strange tone. 
Was it the fatigue of having talked so long in the 
night air? At first, Allan had been seized with 
surprise. He hardly seemed to recognise Madame 
de Scudemor and such discourse, her language 
generally being as colourless as her brow. Then 
the interest of the recital had been too poignant 
to let his astonishment die away. Cold sweat stood 
out on his temples as he frenziedly bit his silken 
handkerchief. Infernal curiosity, for jealousy 
made him inquisitive, dilated his eyes inordinately, 
and his pupils sparkled in the darkness. He di- 
rected their gaze upon the woman engulfed in the 
night, whose voice he heard no more, that low and 
deep voice that made his heart bleed. 

"Yes ! it was love this time, Allan," she contin- 
ued, "a love after which there are but ashes in 
the heart. If such a love can come to an end, why 
should one believe in immortality? 

"Everything favoured this passion of mine. Oc- 
tave was able to visit me when he chose. Our 



108 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

family connections were too close to allow the van- 
ity of Monsieur de Scudemor to be awakened by 
rumours which seemed as though they ought never 
to exist. Thus I could see Octave at every hour 
of the day. When he delayed his coming I sent 
for him, and I made indecent reproaches to him 
with a blush on my face which was more indecent 
still. When he caught me a few minutes earlier 
than usual, I was ready to throw myself into hia 
arms or at his feet out of sheer gratitude. 

"This love, teaching me a joy of which I had 
no idea., condemned me at the same time to suf- 
ferings that the most intoxicating, voluptuous 
pleasures could not pay for. He poisoned the re- 
membrance of the past, that sharp blade which al- 
ways remains in the wound. Margarita was a 
dream which had remained a dream; and, since 
her, my illusions had been hoarded up in the bosom 
they agitated, and had only peeped out in the ob- 
scene touches of the ballroom, during a waltz or 
a quadrille, authorised by all mothers. The press- 
ure of our partners makes us think of the life that 
is beginning for us, and seems to whisper to us 
with horrible significance. Then my love, betrayed 
by Horace, who had not been able to exhaust it; 
the delight of my marriage, in which I had rev- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 109 

elled — all this horrified me, all frightened me ! I 
regretted that I was not the purest of women, so 
as to throw the flower of my innocence into the 
midst of the romance of my love, to give it to him 
to breathe, to sully, to trample under foot ! Ah ! 
women are adulteresses — they are all so — but do 
they know, as I do, what this treacherous happiness 
can conceal? 

"You see, Allan, adultery was not solely for me 
that of the virgins of society, this oblivion of a se- 
cret sentiment, this profanation of a marriage mys- 
teriously accomplished in the depths of our soul. 
I have told you what had been the successive pros- 
titutions of my feelings. Adultery, for me, was 
still worse. The bond seemed stronger; it was 
broken all the same. Believe me, Allan, it was 
not the certainty that I was doing wrong, that I 
was forgetting what man's morality entitles duty, 
that prevented my passion from making me happy ! 
Ah! it possessed all that was wanting of poetry 
or sublime allurement to hinder vanity or remorse 
from daring to slip a timid complaint among the 
repeated and increasing echoes of my conscience. 
But my life had been sapped at its base. I was 
unhappy, because adulterous. I was not so on ac- 
count of man and his morality, but simply because 



110 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

I was an adulteress. Is not that profoundly sad? 
Adultery with its own hands lacerated the entrails 
of love. Ah! one may laugh, if strong-minded, 
at the reproach for having betrayed a once-loved 
being ; for the matter only concerns oneself in the 
depths of the soul. But it is the contradiction of 
contradictions to betray the one we do love, to be- 
tray him in advance, to find that we have betrayed 
in the past the creature we should love in the fu- 
ture ; to never be able to give him who takes pos- 
session of your life and your thoughts but the leav- 
ings of soul and body, but the crumbs fallen from 
the feast enjoyed by another. This is the worst of 
human grief, the most devouring of all ardent hu- 
miliations. You find yourself criminal towards 
him whom you adore ! Pale victim, you tremble 
beneath his caresses because they are not power- 
ful enough to make you forget that you were for- 
merly guilty. Thinking of this in the arms that 
bind you, while on that breast you rest the head 
which can no longer sleep or attain intoxication, 
your life, as it was passed before you knew him, 
appears incessantly to fill you with desolation, to 
remind you that you are merely a mutilated thing, 
a fragment, a cup bearing the mark of all the lips 
that have quenched their thirst therein, a miserable 



WHAT NEVER DIES. HI 

woman who has not the right to say to the man 
whom she madly adores that fatal word, in which 
love concentrates the eternity of God himself: 1 
am all thine !' 

"Oh, Allan ! Allan ! all those women who do not 
deserve that scorn should be spat in their face, if it 
was mud and not spittle that spouts from the lips, 
all those women have at least suspected this suffer- 
ing. For all, even in the bosom of the most absorb- 
ing passion, there are moments when alone they 
bow down their humiliated head and remember; 
or they hide their face, with blinding tears, of 
which they keep the secret, in the hollow of the be- 
loved breast. But, like me, have they exhausted 
the acrimony of such intolerable torture, without 
the happiness of love being able to interrupt it and 
make them forget it? 

" 'Being so happy, why are you sad?' Octave 
sometimes said to me. Alas ! I would make him 
believe that I was overwhelmed by too much joy. I 
should never have dared to tell him what caused my 
fits of frightful dreariness, suddenly springing up 
amidst the embraces of our union, and the smiles of 
our love. Great God! ought there to be a secret 
between two beings sharing the same bed ; a secret 
which in the night, with heart beating against 



112 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

heart, one reveals not and which causes tears ? By- 
telling what afflicted me to Octave, I feared to 
sully the feelings that he manifested for me. I 
feared to awaken his scorn. Now and then I imag- 
ined that he saw clearly into my past life, and that 
he imposed silence to inevitable jealousy out of del- 
icacy. Above all, the idea of his regret ate into my 
soul. But he was not like you, Allan. I never ac- 
quired the certainty that what appalled me really 
existed. I often studied him with one of those 
glances which plunge into a soul a thousand fath- 
oms deep, like the sounding lead in the ocean, 
while he nursed my daughter on his knee, for I no 
longer cradled her on my lap, and among all the 
caresses he showered upon her, I never saw any- 
thing betraying the heroic sacrifice I supposed. 
Ought not this to have calmed me, destroying my 
uneasiness, making me more inclined for that hap- 
piness spoilt by all my ideas ? But the depth of my 
disposition is such that I could never again tear 
out the pain which had once settled therein. At 
that moment of my life I could not look upon a 
young girl's face without anguish. In her presence 
I cast my eyes down more than she did, but unlike 
her, it was not out of modesty. 

"How incomprehensible is our heart, Allan! 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 113 

Would you believe that in my thoughts I re- 
proached Octave for not being unhappy, through 
all that made me unhappy? I was astonished at 
his tranquillity. It lowered him in my eyes. That 
was the first ray that died out of the halo round 
his head, the first sting of the asp hidden in my 
heart. You, Allan, you whom I have not loved, 
you who hate Camilla because for you she resumes a 
frightful date of my past history, you would not 
have had that apathy. Your love would have been 
infinite. It would have embraced all time. Then 
the passion of Octave was not like this ! For him 
caresses sufficed, and the moment of pleasure over- 
powered reflection. But all deep passions are well 
thought over; I learnt that from what I felt in 
mine for him. 

"The farther I advanced, the more this speck of 
scorn, painful and uneasy, spread out and corroded 
my love. My passion assumed a new form. En- 
thusiasm was gone. But enthusiasm is but the 
froth of a generous wine, and the most ardent, 
burning liquors remain stagnant in the cup in- 
stead of foaming. 

"I shall not narrate to you, Allan, the extrane- 
ous events that intermixed with my love. What 
matters it that I lived in the different European 



114 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

cities where my husband was sent? Octave had 
become his uncle's secretary; he never left me: I 
took him with me wherever I went. I need not 
describe to you the successive phases of a feeling 
which, dead, walled up my soul with blocks of 
granite. 

"This feeling was incrusted in my being. Ex- 
asperated by the most humiliating grief that can 
be — the conscience of the humiliating past — it 
seemed to gain more sharp and voracious energy 
by this pain. Grief is like the bitter marrow of a 
lion; one may truly term this poignant nourish- 
ment which makes our love unconquerably devour- 
ing, a divine or infernal transubstantiation. The 
disdain succeeding to this grief was of no avail 
against the passion of which it increased the ar- 
dour. By this scorn, I did not struggle against the 
love, nor against this scorn by my love. A strange 
situation in which I lived for years ! . Do you un- 
derstand now, Allan, what a woman I must have 
been, since my love fought so long against this su- 
preme happiness, against suffering and scorn in my 
soul where the passions had hatched themselves 
like the vipers of springtide which, to make their 
brood, do not wait for the leaves to bud in the 
bushes ? 



WHAT NEVEB DIES. 115 

"It was written in my destiny that I should 
only find disillusion and impotency as the result 
of all my affections. You foresee already that 
Octave also, he who had adored me, whom I had 
hedged round with so many dreams, golden stars of 
a woman's thoughts with which she incessantly dec- 
orates the firmament of her passion, would one 
day slip away from me who still loved him so 
much. You are right, my friend ! There was yet 
this grief for me, yet this chalice to be emptied 
to the dregs. While his love lasted, he had ad- 
mired me as much as he idolised me. I was his 
cult, his religion, and if I had not swayed him by 
my caresses, he would never have spoken to me but 
on his knees. Well now, here is something that re- 
sembles the refinements of the cruelty of Fate, an 
executioner's buffooneries in the part played by 
God ! for it was Octave's love that died away the 
first. Enthusiasm, respect, and admiration were 
powerless to keep his passion in his heart, while 
mine escaped from disdain to survive that which 
everything — is it not true? — ought to have pre- 
vented dying so soon. 

"And that is what prevents me from believing 
now in the lasting of the affection which is pro- 
claimed as the most eternal. Grief has worn me 



116 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

out to the last fibre, dried up the last drop, and in 
this breast, still full of vitality, I carry but the 
corpse of my heart. On one day of dry and burn- 
ing pain — it was a day when I had not yet ceased 
to love him — I found repose in the thought of 
suicide. The idea of Camilla restrained me. Ah ! 
my friend, the day when the thought of death 
springs uppermost is not the worst day in one's 
life. As long as action is possible, misfortune has 
not had the last word ; we are always interested in 
ourselves. But when we have a suspicion that there 
is not even a resource of repose and peace in the 
grave, it means that we are still on the earth, but 
we no longer live." 

She stopped a second time. Her story, where 
forgotten material facts gave a deeper, darker, and 
more sombre and striking shade to all this stormy 
psychology, moved the jealous and tormented soul 
of Allan with compassion, without tenderness or 
relief. Suddenly the moon rose and threw its 
white, smooth rays through the branches. The 
shadows that enveloped Allan and Madame de 
Scudemor lifted themselves from their two faces, 
as if black masks had been removed. They saw 
each other. Allan seemed stupefied. But genius 
in tears, as might be the Genius of the experience 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 117 

of life, was enthroned on the brow of Madame de 
Scudemor. Her eyes sparkled, but dry as ever, and 
on her lips there was a smile — the bitter smile of 
solitary irony. 

"Such is my life, Allan," she resumed, "with the 
exception of what I suffered before killing this last 
love. I did not kill it; it died, without my mak- 
ing an effort to destroy it. My heart had been de- 
voured when it died. But what time it took to 
die ! I spare you these details. They are useless. 
Only do you find it very strange that I no longer 
believe in the duration of passion?" 

"And Octave?" rejoined Allan, in a curt and 
feverish tone. 

"Octave?" she replied, with her usual calm. "I 
was told that he died, married somewhere. I once 
had his portrait. The warmth of the heart that 
beat for him had faded all the colours. It was only 
recognisable for me. I was cowardly enough to 
wait to break it until I no longer loved him. But 
it had been carried so long in my bosom that 
my breast has kept its imprint. Do you think 
that there exists lips powerful enough to efface 
it?" 

She took the hand of the unfortunate young 
man. 



118 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Leave me !" said he, shuddering, with the hard 
accents of resentment. 

She obeyed, and without temper or sadness. 

"Yes, Allan!" she answered, "you speak rightly. 
I ought to leave you now. I have tortured the love 
you have for me, but it is artistic torture that will 
cure you. Reality has touched with its irresistible 
breath the reveries of your imagination and the 
illusions of your heart. See what I am, Allan ! 
See if I am worth your youth ! I should spoil it, 
and even my egotism would not profit by it. 

"Oh, Allan, never love but a young girl, that 
adorable mystery of which one lifts up every veil 
little by little ! On these conditions only is happi- 
ness possible. If they are wanting you are exposed 
to inconceivable torments. Need I insist, Allan? 
A poor little caress to Camilla, has it not wounded 
you to the quick? When jealousy bites at the 
breeze, it is even more furious than if it had reason 
to exist, and it brings humiliation, because the 
unseizable past becomes the rival you cannot pun- 
ish. 

"And then what allurements could resist the 
thought that the loved woman has spent the sum 
of love she had to give— that you could never 
revive the most weak reminiscence of her youth! 




'/ order you to go away tomorrow 
Page ll'.t 









he hard 

ess. 

rightly. 
1 have tortured the love 
? artistic torture that will 
ith its irresistible 
imagination and the 
am, Allan! 
I should spoil it, 
not profit by it. 
ut a young girl, that 
me lifts up every veil 
\i\ only is happi- 
iu are exposed 
\ Allan? 
• not wounded 
b at the 
• :e it had reason 
e the 
pun- 
resist the 
ot the sum 
'ould • 
of her youth ! 



■ 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 119 

Ah ! if I gave way to you to-day, what a morrow 
there would be, when you would doubtless be tired 
and disgusted! Sully yourself not, young man, 
with my pollutions ! For you would not even have 
the sad profit of polluting me a little more; all 
your passion would fail there. I order you to go 
away to-morrow." 

"No, madame!" he answered, with the impetu- 
osity of long concentrated rage. "No, no ! I'll not 
depart. If you think you have done a great thing 
in telling me your story of despair, I do not appre- 
ciate your sublimity, and I will have none of your 
abnegation ! How do I know, madame, if even you 
have spoken the truth? How do I know if, out of 
kindness for me, and to cure me of my love, as 
you say, you have not calumniated yourself? But 
no!" he added, "you spoke the truth; a lie would 
not have made me suffer so much !" 

And he stopped, beneath the weight of his con- 
viction that she had spoken veraciously. He ap- 
peared affrighted by the energy he showed. 

But she was not moved by this resistance, upon 
which she had not counted. 

"Sleep on it, Allan," said she, in her deep, grave 
voice. "To-morrow, perhaps, you will feel the wish 
to depart without seeing me again. Otherwise, I 



120 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

shall command you to leave the Chateau, and so 
plainly and positively, Allan, that out of pride 
alone you will not fail to obey me!" 

"Pride!" he retorted. "Ah, little care I for my 
pride ! But, madame, my pride is to remain here 
in spite of you! I shall stay here. Something 
stronger than myself binds me, roots my feet to 
this soil. Why do you speak of the future to me ? 
You who are encircled everywhere with disenchant- 
ment ; it suits you finely to speak to me of a future ! 
My future is to be where you are! My future is 
to love you, and when I am tired of this hopeless 
love, to blow out my brains at your feet !" 

His voice broke into sobs. He would have liked 
to stifle them, but little used to struggle against 
himself, he could no longer retain them. 

"Oh, my poor friend, you know not what you 
say!" she replied, with irresistible tenderness. 
"Pardon me if I hurt your feelings when I said 
just now, and repeated to you, that I would force 
you to depart. I obeyed the fear of fate. Alas! 
we make ourselves very unhappy. You, Allan, 
have tears to shed. I have no more! All mine 
have been taken. But believe that I also suffer 
much, and pardon me!" 

There was balm in that relenting voice. Allan's 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 121 

head fell, less from the crushing blow than through 
renewed confidence, on Madame de Scudemor's 
shoulder. 

"Yes ! place your head thus, my child," said she, 
becoming once more maternal, "and weep — sate 
yourself with your tears. Alas, you will not always 
weep! Did I not tell you that ours would be a 
cruel parting? Ah, for pity's sake, abridge it by 
going away to-morrow ! See here, I will speak no 
more of you, but if you have a little pity for me, 
who would reproach myself as for a crime for hav- 
ing spoilt your life without having made you taste 
the sterile compensation of sensuality — be good, 
be generous, by going away ! Pay me thus for the 
sad courage I needed to set forth to you my humili- 
ating biography. This history, as you now know 
it, is it not an impassable barrier between our two 
destinies? You no longer love Camilla? My ca- 
resses have made her ugly in your eyes, because be- 
neath these caresses you placed something that 
was not addressed to her alone, and yet you yearn 
for her mother, her who had her from another man 
than you ! And even then, if there was only that 
man who had inflicted grief and sensuality upon 
me; but you know that he has not been the only 
one I have loved, and who has dried up the 



122 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

sources of my sensations. Ah, seek not to quench 
your thirst with the sand of this exhausted foun- 
tain! Allan, do not believe me when I said I 
would drive you from my house ! It was a trick ; 
I hoped such a threat would decide your departure. 
But, as you are a man, shall I go on my knees 
before you to ask you to go?" 

And from the bench on which she was seated, 
she slipped down kneeling before Allan, who rose 
as if affrighted, seeing her thus so lowered. The 
admirable woman well knew that the honour of 
Allan's love was at stake if he left her on her knees 
before him, and that, for this heart of seventeen, 
virgin of all egotism, degradation would follow at 
once if he hesitated. She had brought him up. 
She knew the nobility of his disposition. 

"I shall remain thus, Allan," said she, "until 
you promise me to go to-morrow. Do you think it 
is my place to remain like this before you?" 

He promised with despair, but without hesita- 
tion. His murmuring will was conquered by the 
sublime comedy that Madame de Scudemor had 
coldly played. 

Then she rose with serenity, as she had been 
noble when she knelt. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 123 

"I have your word now," she continued; "I am 

easy." 

And she led him away in the direction of the 

Chateau. 

What Allan had just promised had the same ef- 
fect on him as a death sentence on a vulgar soul. 
He was only obscurely conscious of some frightful, 
painful evil. He walked with bowed head, leaning 
on the arm of Madame de Scudemor. They re- 
turned slowly and silently— alas, had they not said 
to each other all they had to say?— along the vast, 
straight alleys of the garden. The moon, reflected 
by the sloping glass of the hothouse roof, sparkled 
like a thousand stalactites mingled with the sand 
of the paths, figuring precious stones on a ground 
of pale gold. There was naught but immobility 
and light in the large garden, with the exception 
of the black group formed by these two nocturnal 
strollers, that frightened imagination might have 
taken for wanderers from beyond the grave. Both 
together, they almost presented the fantastic ap- 
pearance of a vision, as the woman supported and 
dragged the young man along. One might have 
thought, seeing the weakness of the youth, and the 
infinite calm of the woman, that she was more 
likelv to be his Fate than his Providence. 



124 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

The Chateau was bathed in the moonlight, and 
seemed as if sleeping. All reposed in silence. 
Every gleam had been extinguished, for not a light 
was to be seen at the windows which were whitened 
by the rays of the moon. But at one single case- 
ment only, a green silk curtain that had long been 
raised escaped from the hand that held it — and 
negligently fell again. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 125 



X. 

The next day, the servant entering the bed- 
chamber of Allan de Cynthry found him still 
dressed, and stretched senseless on the floor. In 
falling, the young man's forehead had struck with 
a shattering shock against the corner of a marble 
table, and from the wound much blood had flowed. 

The servant shrieked, and soon all care was be- 
stowed upon Allan. He lived, opened his eyes, 
and stared wildly. He spoke, but his words were 
unintelligible. The doctor declared that he was 
attacked by brain fever, of shocking intensity. 

"And it is, nevertheless, I who have wrought all 
this evil!" said Madame de Scudemor to herself. 
"The events of yesternight must have acted too 
strongly on the nerves of his sensual organisa- 
tion." 

Thus did a reproach spring from the bottom of 
her soul. Thus from pity she fell back into pity. 

She declared she would nurse Allan herself. 
She took her place near his bed, and never left 
him. She dressed his wound, gave him all the 



126 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

doctor wished him to take, and as the patient — 
a prey to agitation and delirium — often thrust 
from him all that was offered, she passed each day, 
with outstretched neck and staring gaze, looking 
at that head and Drain overturned by her, and in 
which the extinction of thought seemed but the 
forerunner of the end of existence. 

If Madame de Scudemor had not been turned 
into bronze by the grief of bygone days, perhaps 
she might have been recaptured by one of those 
sentiments which had made her so unhappy, and 
for the thousandth time thought and experience 
would have been wrecked against the incorrigible 
sensitiveness of woman. But when of the ship 
she has destroyed not a plank remains floating on 
the waves of passion; when imagination has been 
stifled in the blood lost by the heart, she can look 
without weakening, and see the being who has 
adored her die. Without danger, she can remain at 
the bedside where each breath of the creature at 
death's door shortens life, in the warm room as if 
in a hothouse of human respiration, and where 
the silence is hardly broken by a careful footstep 
on the carpet, a sigh of the sufferer, or of her who 
watches, deeply moved. She is no longer a victim 
to the fascination of suffering, which is more al- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 127 

luring even than that of beauty. She does not 
give way any more to those tears, through which 
she sees herself superb — more desirable than when 
she mirrored herself in the sobbing eyes of those 
who thirsted for her in days gone by. She was 
not under the influence of that madness, arising, 
one might say, like the contagion of delirium from 
the feverish breath of the patient. She dreams not 
of happiness as the time flies rapidly by, the hap- 
piness of visions and sensuality, while a fellow- 
creature is agonising and dies. She says not to 
herself that dying kisses are better than living 
ones, and that there is a funereal and despairing 
delight, better than all the voluptuousness of life, 
to be tasted on the turf of that grave already dug 
for him who is soon to be lowered therein. 

At the side of Allan's bed, Madame de Scudemor 
was, as everywhere else, inaccessible to all that 
would have disturbed another woman whose grief 
would have less strengthened her reason. Neverthe- 
less, she had lost that abstraction of all things and 
of all feeling, which gave her, in the eyes of all who 
approached her, a tranquil egotism, the appearance 
of someone in whom trouble and reflection had 
smoothed away all asperities. Pity, which is per- 



128 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

haps only the comprehension and the remembrance 
of our own griefs, had established a bond between 
her and Allan. 

This woman, who seemed to have become im- 
personal, was learning that after the anguish of 
the errors of the passions, there were other possible 
griefs, and that there are always enough illusions 
left in life for us to be able to see, one day or an- 
other, that they are never really all dead ! It was 
thus that she had long believed that her destiny 
had placed a finger on her lips ; that, out of sheer 
exhaustion, she would escape from the emotions 
which suddenly interrupted the calm current of her 
thoughts — meditation of great and powerful souls, 
the only harbour of refuge against the tempests 
of the heart. But this presumption, which was 
only the appeasement of a life that was finishing ; 
this presumption, modest offspring of pain, and 
which had no proud brow to be cast down by force, 
soon bent easily beneath eternal Pity, the dove 
tinted with the colour of the heavens from which 
it descends, but which has also a beak of steel and 
eagle's claws ; for it builds not its nest in a heart 
except by rending it in twain ! 

Alas ! she, less than anybody, was unable to es- 
cape from the thraldom of this fatal pity. She 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 129 

lived too much in the bypaths of life. The solitude 
of her soul was so vast, that everything having a 
tendency to tempt her from her retirement, any- 
thing troubling confusingly her solitude, resounded 
in her soul, clearly and profoundly, as a chord is 
more distinct when struck in a pure atmosphere. 
Ah ! often when we rush with our eyes shut into 
the whirl of society ; when we let our fragile brain 
become intoxicated by the noise of the wheels of 
the chariot which carries us up the steep road of 
life, a voice, weaker than a murmur, pursues us 
amidst all the loud noises which have never over- 
powered it — eternal complaint of some being who 
suffers for us, and of which we keep the expiatory 
echo locked in our breast. But how deep is this 
voice, when we are seated at the side of the trav- 
elled road, disgusted at the goals we have missed — 
or attained ! — and when there is so great a calm in 
the surrounding air that we lose not a whisper of 
the quivering leaves trembling on the pale branches 
of the trees bordering our path ! 

Who has not heard it ? Who does not know that 
there is a tender and cruel reproach in the senti- 
ment of pity for those who are guilty, and for 
those who are innocent — if there are any; if it is 
possible not to always believe oneself guilty, when 



130 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

a soul — a single soul — has suffered through oub 
fault? 

But such remorse, which is at the bottom of all 
pity, was more accentuated in Madame de Scude- 
mor's heart, because it was mingled with anxiety, 
making its burning stabs keenly felt. She was un- 
easy at the thought of the danger Allan was in, and 
no one had ever seen as then that mixture of in- 
terest and fright in her marble eyes, as she asked 
the doctor: "Will the boy die?" 

The illness of Allan had attained such a degree 
of intensity that there remained little hope of sav- 
ing him. When it was seen at the Willows that 
Madame de Scudemor never left the dying 
youth's bedside, these worldly butterflies, who had 
no desire to sadden their rosy gaiety by funereal 
scenes, flew away one after tbe other. So this Cha- 
teau, at one moment crowded with people, now 
sheltered but three persons: Allan, Madame de 
Scudemor, and Camilla. 

Sometimes the little girl came and asked after 
the patient at the bedroom door ; for Madame de 
Scudemor had forbidden her to enter. The far- 
seeing mother did not desire that Allan's delirium 
should let her daughter find out anything of what 
should ever remain hidden from her. But this 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 131 

precaution was needless. Allan's thoughts had 
no bearing upon any of the events that had caused 
Ms illness. In none of his senseless words was 
there a vibration of the feeling that filled his heart. 
Such is the profound pettiness of human nature. 
We have sentiments by which we live and breathe 
and we still live and breathe while these senti- 
ments seem to exist no longer ! And it is not some 
intimate fact, a fatal consequence of this feeling, 
which destroys it, but an exterior and brutal fact, 
foreign to its" nature. The heart is like our reason 
behind a veil. The heart is gone when we lose our 
Teason. What a situation for a loving woman— 
and who seeks in the depths of the wild look some 
vague gleam which shall not be the ironical mirage 
of annihilated reason— when she finds something 
more than the shadows of despair and insanity in 
the blind man's smile, and in the eyes more fright- 
ful than empty sockets, since it is not the living 
orbs of sight that are wanting, but the thoughts 
themselves ! It is true that Madame de Scudemor 
did not feel the anguish of such an awful search 
for a feeling engulfed in the abyss of madness, nor 
of the identity of the heart, by reason of the de- 
feat of reason in a weakened organisation. More 
majestic than sneering Democritus in his scorn, 



132 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



she contemplated without a shudder the limits of 
the spot where lives and dies all that man possesses 
of most divine essence, intermixed with the atoms 
of his clay. It was a sight worthy of her. After 
the heavy ordeals she had gone through, she 
dressed, with proud relief, all the wounds of her 
feet, bruised in the dust of humanity. But such 
moments were brief. By inconceivable inconsist- 
ency, her sadness, her pity, her remorse, seized 
upon her again little by little; and why remorse, 
pity, or sadness, when one knows how everything 
can or should die, in the soul as well as in life ? 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 133 



XI 

A storm was brewing that afternoon at three 
o'clock. Eays of tropical heat fell from the 
heavy clouds, and the swallows flew low, touching 
the earth with frightened wings. In vain to give 
air in the room had Allan's window been opened. 
From the casement, whence the eye could take in 
the marsh that fronted the Chateau of the Willows, 
the storm could be seen gathering in the tempest- 
laden sky. The devouring sun of the day had dis- 
appeared behind vast, cloudy, dark blue masses, 
only giving out dull yellow rays which darted in 
sinister fashion through space from behind their 
rugged edges. The heat was stifling, worse than 
noonday sunlight. Even the fen itself, with its 
grass and water, had lost all its coolness ; the veg- 
etation was burning, and the thousand ponds and 
pools incrusted in the turf seemed as if boiling. 
In the distance, a red, fiery vapour was hovering, 
seemingly like the reflection of a conflagration; 
and — since there was not a single hedge in this 
vast space — immovable as if fixed to the ground, 



134 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

the numerous white and brindled cows of the 
marshes, with their round eyes languidly gazing 
at the empty horizon, had not even strength enough 
to blow a soft and sighing breath from their open 
nostrils. 

Allan, his head bound up, the cheeks scarlet, the 
misty eyes half-closed, was plunged in the deep 
somnolence of the fever which always seized upon 
his frame as evening drew nigh. Scarce twenty- 
four hours had passed since the doctor had an- 
swered for his patient's life. Thanks to the watch- 
fulness of Madame de Scudemor, still more than 
to medical care, he was saved. Silence reigned 
around him. All was quiet then, in the dumb 
country landscape as in the slumbering chamber. 
Not a sound came from outside, and indoors the 
rustle of Allan's white curtains could only be heard 
at each breath of the burning breeze that passed 
through the open window. 

Yseult de Scudemor was at her post of solicitude 
and devotion. Anxiety and late hours had already 
made her thin. The sadness that had crept over 
her at Allan's danger still plunged her broad, pale 
forehead in darkness. Why is calmness not always 
placid? Why does the sea after a tempest, when 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 135 

the day is resplendent, still have the same aspect 
as at night? It is because, the storm spent, the 
sky has clouds nearly every day; it is because 
Thought, even as Sadness, possesses great black 
wings which cannot be seen, and which throw on 
our brow when it has been cleared as much shadow 
as if the pinions were visible. 

Madame de Scudemor was seated at the head of 
the bed, but the curtain which was pulled forward 
would have prevented the patient from seeing her. 
Her arms were crossed on her beautiful and inflex- 
ible bust. It could not be said that she was dream- 
ing. The thoughtful face of Madame de Scudemor 
never grew dull in the blunted sensibility of a 
reverie. Through the transparency of the white 
curtain floating between Allan and her, she could 
see him, to whom was returning the consciousness 
of exterior objects. Poor blind man, only catch- 
ing sight of the light of day through the veiled 
impression that the fallen bandage still leaves to 
the as yet unsteady eyes ! What he felt, we have 
all experienced, but it is inexpressible. He tried 
to accustom himself to life once more, to the move- 
ment of the tide which had lifted him out of the 
depths of the whirlpool, and softly carried him 
back once more. He blindly sought his lost iden- 



136 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

tity. He said not a word to the woman who doubt- 
less had never left him. He did not dare speak 
to her first, and he was burning with impatience 
for her to speak to him. Twenty times the words : 
"Thank you for so much care!" came uppermost 
to his lips, but only to die away in a sigh, divided 
as he was between resentment and gratitude. She, 
still believing her patient to be under the somno- 
lent influence of the fever, had not remarked his 
open eyes on the look-out behind the curtain, nor 
his impatience to break the silence that weighed 
upon him. 

He made a movement to sit up, but he was so 
weak that he fell back again. She heard him. So 
she opened the curtain, and, by the expression of 
his eyes, she saw that the prostration had ceased. 

"How are you?" she said, with the hushed ac- 
cents of words spoken with half-closed lips. 

And he who had but one thought: 

"Oh, do not ask me !" he said. "If I were bet- 
ter, should I not have to leave you?" 

And an egotistical and cowardly tear came wet- 
ting the corners of his reddened eyelids. 

She did not answer, but dropped her eyes as 
Curtius must have done before leaping into the 






WHAT NEVEE DIES. 137 

gulf. She lifted them, glowing with infrangible 

will. 

"Allan/' she rejoined, "I think you can listen 
to me now, without danger to yourself; for emo-- 
tion only harms when it rends, and I will not rend 
you. I release you from your pledge of depar- 
ture.'' 

She was obliged to repeat her last words. Allan 
thought himself the dupe of an illusion engendered 
by sleep or the fever. 

"No, Allan, it is not an illusion," she added ; "it 
is I who am speaking to you here now. See ! this 
hand that I place on yours is really mine. Do you 
recognise it by its coldness? Alas! you could not 
warm it in yours, but it shall remain there until 
you push it away." 

He ardently glued it to his lips; but as if the 
burning contact had not been perceptible for her, 
she continued : 

"Your bedside has been a formidable education 
for me, and a few days passed doubting about a 
life I had compromised has ruined my resolutions. 
When one has once felt pity, one can never draw 
back ! It is like dying when once one has tasted 
life's sweets. In vain do we interrogate our wise 
experience which has cost us more than it is worth, 



138 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

and which we have paid for with the bloody sweat 
of our heart. Alas ! however high pride has pro- 
claimed this wisdom, we still remain women. The 
narrowness of our personality may be broken 
through, but it is not widened. I wished to be- 
lieve so at first, Allan. I esteemed myself as hav- 
ing escaped from every tie by the death of those 
imbecile passions that accept them. But a week 
has sufficed to sweep away these deceiving opin- 
ions. One week was enough to enlighten me on 
the pity that I despised. Humiliated pride, and 
our will betrayed, one feels an invisible hand which 
bends down all in our inmost soul, and the feeling 
which we thought we could most dispose of as a 
generous gift, despite its furtive occupation of our 
heart, disposes of all our feelings, and bestows us 
at will. 

"Allan! Allan! passions cannot be treated like 
illnesses, and moralists who advise instead of 
scrutinising are short-sighted or impostors. When 
the Will, more intimate than Passion even, takes 
it not by the throat to strangle it ; when it lowers 
itself to be no more than the puppy in the lion's 
cage, one must despair of the entire human being, 
who alone can extricate herself from such peril. 
In vain the most noble and the most devoted part 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 139 

of us may become imbued with, immense sympathy 
for the being who gives up his whole life to a fatal 
passion, and may overwhelm him with the counsels 
of divine wisdom; passion and reason are not 
kneaded with the same clay: one is human loam, 
and the other is the substance of God Himself, 
while there is no mediator between the two — not 
even Pity ! 

"Nevertheless, when Pity exists, all the stronger 
and all the more ardent in proportion as the suf- 
ferings of the being we wish to cure have arisen 
through our fault, what remains to be done, Allan? 
For many days, my friend, have I discussed that 
question at the side of your bed of pain, and you 
know now how I have solved the problem. I said 
to myself that I must be devoted to the end ; that 
since woman cannot escape from the organisation 
of her characteristic nature (and surely suffering 
and the extinction of sensuality would have given 
me this sad superiority had it been possible), I 
ought to divest myself of the selfishness of my 
thoughts and of the sterility of advice, and put in 
force greater abnegation than that which had hith- 
erto been useless to me. 

"My friend, when I told you the story of my 
heart— you, untainted by the drawing-room doc- 



140 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

trines and the vainglorious instincts of society — 
in order to more quickly detach you from me, hav- 
ing no love to offer, and who, like all the women 
whom men ought to absolve, have profaned the 
most glorious gifts of existence — purity, dignity, 
love, and youth — that was an act of abnegation 
without a doubt! If you do not believe me, ask 
some other women ! The prudish hypocrites would 
cry out at me as a shameless thing, and at the bot- 
tom of their feeble hearts they would reckon me up 
as cowards might, by being afraid of my courage. 
But that was useless abnegation. I ought to have 
seen that before to-day. Knowing the passions as 
I do, I ought not to have thought that you would 
take my word, or that a confession like mine would 
not lift me higher in your sight! I reasoned 
rightly in the hypothesis of your departure. But 
this hypothesis even was absurd, with my pity. 
In this world there is only weakness or strength, 
and my devotion missed fire. 

"Oh, Allan ! I find from the experience of my 
life that all amours are finished for me, even the 
deepest and purest. Our two hearts might be gran- 
ite, but time eats away the hardest stone, and they 
are but flesh, friend, and we have deceptions and 
mortifications, and happiness itself, all more terri- 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 141 

ble than the effects of time, which, at least, does 
not wear us out in a day, nor whiten our hair in a 
single night. It is my sad science to know this, 
Allan; but you do not believe me, proudly shak- 
ing your head at my words, and dreaming of eter- 
nal delights in the arms of the loved one. You 
ignore the immense sadness which later will also 
invade your being, proud, handsome, incredulous 
youth, happy reprobate! The love you have for 
me is more than any other of a nature to teach 
you how little passions last. 

"Well, then; because this exceptional love, this 
love more insane than any, must soon perish (and 
principally to extinguish it more quickly, Allan!), 
I will sacrifice myself to the last exactions of this 
passion. I will spare you the pain that might dis- 
turb your life for ever ; for it is nothing to kill an 
illusion, the great thing is to wound it. I will 
drink of obedience to the dregs, and endure every- 
thing, hoping that pity will not make this sacrifice 
of pride too cruel. But mistake not, Allan! the 
only feeling you can ever hope for from me you 
have it now, already V 

And she was silent. Her voice had not trem- 
bled, but a feeble rosy tint, which soon faded away, 
rose to the summit of her pale cheek — a touching 



142 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

sign of exhausted nature, the last drop of blood 
lost in the combat ! Before Allan had replied, her 
cheek had regained its amber pallor. This woman, 
whose entire grandeur he was too young to under- 
stand, had brought chaos into his heart and brain. 
His love, which just now was consuming itself in 
the fiery desire for possession, drew back as if in 
fright in the presence of this so sad and so depre- 
ciated gift that Madame de Scudemor made him 
of herself, in front of this generosity of charity 
from such a high standpoint ! This was more real, 
more true, more chilling than all the rest. It is 
confidence in God that generally produces resigna- 
tion to the cruel events of life; but this resigna- 
tion to unshared voluptuous passion arose, in the 
case of Madame de Scudemor, from her confidence 
in the instability of the heart. Amidst the most 
furious of his desires, this abandoned language 
would have suddenly stopped Allan de Cynthry. 
The happiness he dreamt of, and which she had 
destroyed in her extraordinary discourse, before 
throwing it at him as a crust of bread is thrown 
to a beggar, he did not feel courageous enough to 
pick up. He no longer recognised himself ! 
While she spoke, he had let go her fingers, which 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 143 

at first he had raised to his lips. Now her hand 
slipped down to the edge of the bed, all alone. 

"Ah, why," he murmured, in a reproachful tone, 
"why were yon not content only to tell me that I 
need not depart ?" 



144 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 



XII. 

If Allan had not loved Madame de Scudemor as 
much as he did, or if, endowed with more ener- 
getic will, he had thought of keeping the pride 
of his love wounded by her immaculate, he would 
have engulfed it in his heart from that moment. 
One may not wish to be cured, but we smile nobly 
despite our gaping wound. Unfortunately, Allan 
belonged to an epoch when religious education ex- 
isted no more than it does nowadays, and every- 
thing was sacrificed to intellectual and sensible 
developments. At such a period, the disposition 
was slow to form itself, if the man did not die 
under the burden. Moreover, let us not forget 
that Allan was seventeen. 

Such was the reason of the arid impression 
caused upon him by Madame de Scudemor as she 
made herself voluntarily the victim of her pity and 
his love, which did not produce any great or pow- 
erful result in the weak and ardent heart of this 
young man. He was an unweaned man, was Al- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 145 

Ian, like most of the men of his time, even older 
than he. 

His poetical imagination, which tinted all that 
happened to him in life, found something strange 
and astonishing in the conduct of Madame de 
Scudemor which the spontaneity of his mind had 
not foreseen. If she did not love him, as she said, 
why, then, did she offer herself? For him she 
became as incomprehensible as the Almighty. But, 
for him who loves, not to be able to understand is 
all the more reason for loving. 

So as not to despise him too much, we must 
insist upon the fact that he was passing through 
that age of the heart which one remembers but con- 
fusedly when it is past, and of which all remains 
cloudy, except the disturbance it caused us. What 
is that age ? It is impossible to say. There is no 
fixed date. The mysterious years of the soul can- 
not be counted like those that an anniversary 
marks with one unit more. It may be perhaps 
between twelve and eighteen. As light must be 
located somewhere, it is placed in the sky. It is 
then that our life resembles a half-closed eye be- 
neath the brilliancy of sudden daylight, that our 
breast rises and falls like the sea at ebb-tide; for 
the frail breath which stirs them both has the 



146 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

power of the tempest! It is then that a kiss on 
our sister's brow ceases to be as fresh as the dew 
of children's lips; it is then that the mouth of 
our mother as it passes over our own has no longer 
the taste of former days; we think of this far 
into the night before falling asleep, feeling our- 
selves blush in the darkness as if we were guilty, 
because we draw in the breath of life which an- 
nounces itself by threatening trouble. Allan was 
outliving that age, as one always does, but he was 
assisted by a passion which was no longer the hap- 
piness of loving in secret; by his love no longer 
the love of love. Convalescence soon bent him be- 
neath the yoke of feelings all the more fiery be- 
cause his senses had never touched upon certain 
lascivious delights of which habit so quickly de- 
stroys the charming intoxication. The more his 
youthful strength returned to him daily, the more 
he forgot all he knew of this woman. It was not 
only convalescence that made his feet weary, it 
was not only the remains of the fever that moist- 
ened his warm palms. There was darkness and 
concentrated life in those eyes of his, full of the 
desire of uneasy voluptuousness. It was a singular 
thing that during the rare moments when he gazed 
at Madame de Scudemor he conjured up the for- 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 147 

mer sensually passionate life of the woman who 
loved him not, and the picture of lubricity he 
sketched in his brain gave fresh fury to his long- 
ings. There is nothing so delirious as this retro- 
spective jealousy containing cantharides in its 
poisonous admixture. 

One evening they were all alone in the salon 
where Madame de Scudemor, amid the crowd of 
guests, had given Allan that appointment of which 
the sequel had been so unexpected for both. What 
a change the three weeks just past had brought 
about, even in that vast room, full and noisy then, 
but now dumb, and which appeared all the more 
spacious with only Allan and Madame de Scude- 
mor in one of its corners ! Madame de Scudemor, 
at this moment, was seated on a divan, always up- 
right and statue-like, always majestic. She wore 
a simple dress of black satin, cut very low at the 
breast and without lace. Her bust, large and per- 
fect in shape, was enhanced to the view, emerging 
from the brilliant blackness of the satin. Never- 
theless, her bosom, which seemed as if escaping 
from the bodice which ought to have made it look 
whiter still, took more human tints than the dull 
and dazzling hue of alabaster, because her skin had 
a golden hue, like that of some beautiful marble 



148 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

too long exposed to rain. In the shadow thrown 
by the half-open window-shutters, her powerful 
head, of which her brown hair, twisted up a la 
Niobe, formed the only ornament, stood out ener- 
getically on the background of the white carved 
woodwork of the wainscoting behind her. Allan 
was seated on the divan at her side, a black ban- 
dage on his brow, forming a dark crown to his 
chestnut locks, giving his physiognomy a wrinkled,, 
frail, and at the same time stubborn air, of which 
the charm was irresistible. And yet she could re- 
sist him ! Madame de Scudemor could see no> 
more beauty in anything now! For any other 
woman but her, disgusted with everything, a spec- 
tre before death, wandering through life no one 
knew why, the youth, with his enchanting face, 
would have been a being of infinite seduction. It 
was the hour so perfidious and so beautiful that 
God has made for supreme happiness or misfor- 
tune. With the point of its dying rays the sun 
kissed the carnation-coloured velvet window-cur- 
tains, and the horizon appeared through the chinks 
of the shutters, inundated with that pink vapour 
which seems at this soft and meditative moment to 
be a reflection in the sky of all the veiled pudicity 
and secret voluptuousness of the heart. Flowers 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 149 

were dying in tall vases at the end of the drawing- 
room. The piano was open, and they were chat- 
ting together. And although it was in a half- 
whisper, often some vibration beneath the sonorous 
ceiling of this vast empty room betrayed what they 
said in low tones. 

What were they both telling each other? For 
the first time in his life, Allan, inspired by the 
mystery of the hour and the shadow of the shut- 
ters, by the exhalations from the dying blossoms 
and the long restrained impatience of his love, gave 
way to the fascination of his juvenile and burning 
thoughts. 

"Oh ! truly," said he poetically, "can it be that a 
little of what agitates me does not penetrate you, 
to move you by a feeling that shall not be only 
that fatal pity ? Ah ! I only ask that it shall last 
the instant necessary for a glance and a sigh. Is 
that too much ? God ! Can it be that she who 
once possessed your soul has no longer a second 
more of love to give ? Let it be but a remembrance 
or a mistake ! it may be anything sooner than this 
trifle of pity; but at least I shall live a lifetime 
during that moment ! Oh ! love me feebly, scarcely 
at all, but do love me at last, or at least make me 
believe you love me — me, a poor fool — during the 



150 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

time nearly passed away now that the sun will 
take to leave that curtain of which the reflection 
is already fading from your forehead ! Oh, you to 
whom all is possible, tell me ! is this too much?" 

"Allan," she replied, "sooner ask the extinct vol- 
cano to give you a bouquet of roses! Nothing 
blooms, even for a second, in my devastated 

heart." 

"Well, then, lie!" rejoined he of the troubled 
soul. "Lie ! for pity's sake ! since pity has survived 
the death of your heart. Tell me only once that 
this cinder is a rose, that a single pressure of your 
hand of steel is love, and I will believe you ! May 
eternity undeceive me afterwards, but I shall have 

believed you!" 

"Allan," she answered, "love is more difficult 
to imitate than youth, which when gone never re- 
turns. Besides, when one has deep feelings, the 
language of true passion scarcely appeases the mis- 
givings of love. If truth cannot satisfy the infatu- 
ated soul, do you think that you could sate yourself 
with the clumsy illusions of a lie that would lower 
us both?" 

"Truly!" he exclaimed, bowing his head be- 
neath the cross of this demonstration. And once 
more he began to climb up this Golgotha of the 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 151 

Impossible, which all men mount, to go and die 
at the summit. 

A little more shadow came into the already dark- 
ened room. 

"See!" he continued, "where there was light, 
there is now no more." And pointing with his fin- 
ger, he sadly showed her the red curtain. "Had 
you willed it, it might have been finished by this 

time!" 

"Neither, at my wish, nor at your commands, 
Allan," said .Madame de Scudemor, "will more 
light return there than here !" 

And she placed her hand on her heart. During 
this, the wind brought the scent of the flowers of 
night from the garden, and the pink sky changed 
colour through the chinks of the blinds. 

"Well, then," he cried out violently, "let dark- 
ness serve me !" 

At last passion rose in him. With both hands 
he seized upon her bodice, throwing himself upon 
her bust, like Achilles on the sword, and the child 
became a man. 

An imperceptible movement of recoil had escaped 
Madame de Scudemor, but the heroic woman ap- 
proached near Allan, as if she wished to chastise 
revolting instinct in herself. Allan started, throw- 



152 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ing his body back to the end of the divan, as if 
that instant flames had burst out beneath his feet. 

"Oh! pardon! pardon!" said he, wringing his 
hands with anguish. "Pardon me! but I could 
resist no longer! But I suffer! I feel as if go- 
ing mad ! You should have let me die ! Oh ! for 
pity's sake, tell me, order me to go from your 
presence ! Perhaps I might still obey you. It is 
time I went out of this room. Its atmosphere 
crushes me. These flowers intoxicate me. For 
pity's sake drive me out of this room !" 

"That would be cowardice," she answered, 
proudly inflating her nostrils, as if she had stepped 
on a snake. And she added nothing more. 

"But are you then not a human being?" he 
cried. And he dug his two closed fists into his 
eyes, as one does when playing the atheist in the 
face of the world. "Are you not of the same na- 
ture as me?" he cried. 

And as if searching the solution of the problem 
for which his intelligence no longer sufficed, he 
placed his thrilling hands once again on her body, 
at the waist. The satin creaked under his fingers, 
and was iridescent as if electrified. He felt the 
resistance of the voluptuous curve of her hips 
against his thigh, tingling with a thousand stings. 






WHAT NEVEK DIES. 153 

He became pale, then purple, then pale again, and 
the happiness he sought to breathe brought over 
his boyish face sublime beauty, such as is seen but 
once in life, and which one never looks upon again. 

Madame de Scudemor gazed upon him with her 
deep glance, which seemed to probe his soul. But 
he so loved her that he seemed to take a proud 
pleasure in defying her piercing eyes. She could 
still mirror herself in the lowest pit of Allan's 
heart. A vague smile came upon her lips, while 
above them the breath of Allan skimmed over the 
velvety dark tracing which has no name in the cat- 
alogue of woman's charms, but which doubles the 
fury of kisses. It was there that the first moist 
caress fell from the young man's virginal mouth. 
Ah! this first kiss pressed upon a woman's lips, 
who has not almost died from it? 

The others, the thousand others that follow, were 
showered like cutting rain upon the shoulders, and 
the swelling cold globes of the regal bust. He only 
interrupted his devouring caresses to look upon her 
with eyes softer than in a dream. Why do all 
caresses begin and finish with a look? 

" Oh ! I love thee ! I love thee !" he repeated, with 
a voice that had no more sonority. "Love me not, 
but let me love thee !" 



154 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAK WILDE. 

And enlacing her in a double grip, he threw her 
back on the divan. She fell, resigned, more nobly 
than the Eoman woman who at the supreme hour 
draped her tunic, to die the more chastely. Seeing 
that woman devoid of resistance, who would have 
believed that it was ineffable devotion for her to 
so give herself up to him, and that not a loving 
throb would follow? Not once did amorous Allan 
produce upon her flesh the tepid warmth of the con- 
tagion of the pleasure in which he was then able 
to revel. In the midst of this love, in which any 
other woman would have been drowned and lost, 
and which brought not a single refreshing drop to 
her fatigued brow, Madame de Scudemor resembled 
a diver in his bell beneath the ocean. The sensa- 
tion of the first and incomparable transports of 
possession is indivisible, and the man is absorbed 
in a formidable unity. Were it not for that, who 
would empty the chalice, if the half-drunk liquor 
was icy cold and destitute of aroma? 

"Oh, you are mine now!" he said, after a long 
silence, as if he had recovered from a swoon. "En- 
tirely mine!" 

And he lifted her up. Madame de Scudemor's 
head was lost in the silk of the cushions of the 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 155 

divan. The comb that held and fixed the coil of 
her hair fell, and her tresses flowed over her shoul- 
ders. Hazard has sometimes these strange false- 
hoods to hoodwink ns ; lying as if blind chance un- 
derstood what it was doing. This appearance of 
passion and disorder contrasted with the untrou- 
bled physiognomy of the woman with the dishev- 
elled hair, her features like a lake of deep limpidity 
in which the sky was not reflected. In a later 
moment this face was an answer of bronze to the 
triumphant Allan. Was there a being in this 
world who more than Madame de Scudemor would 
have escaped from the sensuality of which she pos- 
sessed the science, and who, at this very moment, 
would have more intimately retired into the desert 
of her wretched personality? 

Her hands refastened the black silk bandage 
that encircled Allan's brow. 

"I feared just now," she said, "that your wound 
might have opened itself again." 

That remark summed her up entirely, but the 
lightning, which had blasted her great soul, had 
not been able to destroy in her the last and the 
most weak of all womanly sympathies. 

Night was closing in. The breeze, as it blew in 



156 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

through the window, was freshening. The flowers 
in the vases seemed to be more dead than ever. 
On the divan nothing could be made out, so much 
obscurity stretching along the white ceiling. With- 
out thinking about it, their voices had fallen pro- 
gressively with the failing day. Irresistible effect 
of the solemnity of night, which makes us speak 
low as in a church ! 

A light footstep was heard coming up the steps 
of the terrace on which gave the French windows 
of the salon, where the shutters had only been 
pushed to. It was Camilla, who returned that way 
from the garden. 

"Where are you, mamma?" she said, before en- 
tering, with her rosy voice unequalled in tender- 
ness, like that which God ought to bestow upon a 
blind man's guide, to console him for never more 
being able to see. 

Madame de Scudemor had risen from the divan 
and leant upon the window, of which she had 
opened the shutter. 

"Have you not been able to walk out this even- 
ing — Allan and you?" said Camilla, whose shoes, 
white with dust, contrasted with the black shadows 
of the floor. 

She sat on the music-stool at the piano, which 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 157 

had not been closed since her exercises in the morn- 
ing. 

"You say so much, mamma, that you love Nor- 
mandy for its sunsets ! You never saw how beauti- 
ful was the one of this evening !" 

Madame de Scudemor gave an insignificant pre- 
text to her daughter for not having been out that 
evening. Eemaining on the divan, Allan meditated 
inwardly on the impression created by the last few 
hours. His soul was sad. Why, since he had been 
happy even to inebriation? Ah! he had been 
happy indeed. "Sad as the joys that are passed," 
Ossian has said, with his deep old man's glance into 
the heart of mankind. 
As Allan was silent : 

"Are you any worse this evening?" said Camil- 
la, with unaccustomed timidity; for since the 
young man had changed in manner with her, the 
bold child seemed to be frightened of him. 

If she addressed a question to him, she trembled 
like a leaf while awaiting his reply. 

"What makes you think I am worse?" he re- 
plied roughly. "Is it because I have not been play- 
ing with you ?" 

His accents were all the more harsh because he 
was vexed that the little girl should have come 



158 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

and interrupted his joys, placing herself as an ob- 
stacle between him and the woman whom he would 
have wished to hold a little longer in his arms. 
There was silence again. But a short and resound- 
ing groan was heard. 

It was only the piano, on the keys of which Ca- 
milla had leant her elbows, so as thus to rest her 
head in her hands. 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 159 



XIII. 

ALLAN TO MADAME DE SCUDEMOR. 

"Oh, Yseult! Yseult! the evening of yesterday 
has made me forget the sufferings that preceded it, 
and has undeceived us hoth. You love me, since 
you did not repulse my caresses ! That is what I 
keep on repeating to myself ! That has sanctioned 
my happiness. You were all mine, Yseult, but you 
would not let me take you without love ! It was 
love that you mistook for pity! When one has 
suffered in former days, fear masks the feeling 
from which one might again suffer. You shut your 
eyes to it, but your love is there, in spite of your- 
self ! 

"Yes! you love me, since you gave yourself to 
me! Adorable woman! no one has been able to 
tear from you the power to love. It has been tor- 
tured, lacerated, but has remained in you, inex- 
haustible, and you thought the source was dried 
up. They have unworthily abused all the most 



160 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

celestial part of the gifts that God has squandered 
upon you, but they could not despoil you of the 
magnificence of your soul. In vain these insensate 
and cruel prodigals imagined they had torn from 
you all the treasure of tenderness and devotion of 
which each womanly heart is full; in vain, with 
your pride wounded by your sufferings, you thought 
you had only to give to him who loved you the 
widow's mite remaining from so many buried af- 
fections ; that pity so often invoked by you ! You 
did not know any more than they did, Yseult, 
what a colossal fortune remained to you. I, who 
have come the last of them all, I will fashion my- 
self a cup in which to drink happiness and love 
out of the fragments of the alabaster vase they 
have broken, and in which such a sweet perfume 
remains impregnated, that it seemed composed of 
all the flowers in the springtide of your youth! 

"I have suffered much, and it was your fault! 
And. yet you are not one of those women who hide 
their secret thoughts or give them the lie. Your 
noble heart had refused to retain what society 
might have perhaps taught you if you had not been 
yourself. You always appeared to me too great a 
woman not to be truthful. All your words breathe 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 161 

the sincerity of a friend, but, despite yourself, yon 
were something more for me, and the same day 
was to come and sweep away the illusions with 
which you crushed me and my misgivings, more 
obstinate than my hopes ! That day did come at 
last, and something more than your lips has spoken, 
Yseult ! Ah ! I am very weak, or the unexpected 
happiness is very terrible, but this has been for 
me such an invasion of felicity in my soul, that 
even if you had not been sincere before this day 
of pardon, after it you would have been pardoned ! 
"And you, Yseult, are you not also happy to find 
that youth again which you thought had faded? 
For a soul like yours to get old is a word without 
meaning. Thus, do you not rejoice in the midst 
of your despair of a few days ago, to recognise 
that you are immortal? What noble joy! And 
pride too, well worthy of you! When you said 
that you were only the spectre of your former self, 
when you swore that the lid of the sepulchre was 
sealed over your frozen heart, did you not feel 
something like inconsolable regret of life, some se- 
cret horror of your nothingness? Did you not 
weep over the extinguished torch, in this night of 
the Catacombs in which you wandered aimlessly 



162 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAK WILDE. 

alone? You, a strong and living creature who 
formerly had always risen up again, more indomi- 
table at each reverse of fortune ! You, whom suf- 
fering had never prevented from offering your 
brave heart, in the intrepidity of its love, to decep- 
tion, treachery, and ingratitude! Did you not 
feel that your part of heroine was too soon played 
out, that to always love, and to love again, was a 
great and beautiful destiny — a destiny that suited 
you above all others? Did you not feel that a 
woman whose love has not been dried up by these 
bitter winds of life was greater even than God? 
For God, as He is, saves the eternity of His love 
from suffering, and woman has not been preserved 
from it. 

"Let them rave on, those troubled beings, be- 
cause they are narrow-minded ; let them rave, I say, 
in all the agitation of their petty jealousy ! As for 
me, I understand what is infinite better than they, 
and you can be reassured, Yseult. No ! the virgin 
is not worth the woman who has been purified in 
the crucible of the passions. She does not equal 
her either in love or even in modesty. It is above 
all when she loves for the hundredth time that 
woman is most sublime. That is what your love 
has taught me, that is what has made me adore 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 163 

you on my knees, and more prostrate still! Is it 
not written, my beloved, that the ninth heaven 
is the most beautiful? 

" Therefore have no fear for me, Yseult ! In the 
supreme felicity of being loved by you, I shall for- 
get all you have told me of your life; or if some- 
times you remind me of it, you will only be greater 
in my sight for that very reason. Do I not owe 
you the happiness missed in every ordeal? Place 
upon my head, then, Yseult, your last essay of 
happiness ! Ah ! that idea makes more than a man 
of me. It makes me divine, in order to love you 
better ! 

"Yes! you shall be loved by me, Yseult, as you 
desired to be loved in the most exacting day of your 
youth, and you shall find once more in my love 
the felicities begun and destroyed, as well as the 
other loves, past and evaporated. I feel the pride 
of an immense love. I think I am victorious over 
all the sterile hearts that have loved you. Did you 
not say to me that I was truer and more pure? Do 
not fight against the feelings that sway you ! Con- 
fess that they conquer you utterly ! Oh, in spite 
of the ecstasy I found in your arms, Yseult, my 
happiness is still incomplete. I want to hear you 
confide in me and in yourself. Let me hear you 



164 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

say : 'It is true, Allan, paltry pity could not have 
driven me to such a sacrifice V and I shall never ask 
you anything more, and I will lean on your shoul- 
der until you lean on mine, at rest for centuries 
and indestructibly happy!" 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 165 



XIV. 

MADAME DE SCUDEMOR TO ALLAN. 

"Allan, the most wretched instrument becomes a 
harp for a poet, and your letter is a song of love. 
Your youth will not believe what I told you about 
myself; it has been sweeter for you to think that 
I did not know myself. Because I acted like those 
who love, you hurry to proclaim my heart's resur- 
rection. Alas ! why should you not ? Oh ! the com- 
mon and miserable thing that we should be so often 
dupe as much of our joys as of our failures ! 

"Ah! if I had only been discouraged, perhaps 
you would have been right, my poor Allan. Dis- 
couragement is still passion. It is prostrate, but 
yet alive. It is cruel despondence 7 , I know, but at 
the bottom there is rebellion. As long as one mur- 
murs, one is not entirely cut off. I have known this 
state of the soul, this languor of fatiguing despair, 
this cowering over oneself, this wrapping of the 
head in the mantle, when resolved to let oneself 
die, like Anaxagoras of old. Have I not read that 



166 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

Pericles came too late? You also, like Pericles, 
have missed the hour, Allan. It has passed long 
ago, and if I told you that love was impossible for 
me, I did not complain, but I judged myself. 

"You, my friend, have placed me too high in 
your exalted adoration. I know not if there are 
women whose souls have weakened in love — who, 
at the bite of each love fallen from their breasts, 
could always take up another to replace it. I know 
not if their exceptional nature has made grief pow- 
erless, so that they could fearlessly and generously 
open their bosoms to it. Alas ! there was only 
room for seven swords in the heart of the mother 
of Him who was all love. But if there exist women 
always defeated, yet never vanquished, who have 
not lost strength at the thousandth embrace, capa- 
ble of the happiness of being loved, which is more 
difficult still than to love, if such have existed or 
do exist, you may write them down as sublime, for 
so they surely are, and I am not like them. Pas- 
sion has devoured me entirely. I resisted the cur- 
rent of my fate, which swept me to where I fell. 
I resisted a long time, all in tears, tearing my flesh 
against the mocking trees of the bank, as they gave 
way beneath my grasp. But I was forced to sub- 
mit! The flood of grief and pain rose steadily, 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 167 

and the abyss was not far off — empty, yawning, 
solitary, into which you stretch your arms, young 
man, but from which you cannot drag me up. 
From over the barren edge you lean to try and 
reach me, but I only receive your tears. Can you 
not see that I am not the admirable creature you 
say I am ? — she whose imperturbable love is always 
a fresh virginity ! Oh, poet, take back your starry 
crown ; I am not worthy to wear it ! 

"Allan, you want love in exchange for yours, 
therefore you obstinately deny the existence of my 
pity. You cannot understand that without love 
I did not repulse you. But that is because you do 
not know, my friend, what is pity in women's 
hearts. I ignored it, as you do, before I had seen 
your struggles and your weaknesses. But, believe 
me, it is something really eternal and really irre- 
sistible, since I, who have dearly paid for the em- 
pire I have over myself, could not defend myself 
against that sentiment which is too much misun- 
derstood. Ah ! pity is love without its happiness. 
That is why it is not love. 

"If you had loved anyone but me, Allan, some 
other having a little of the youth of the heart left 
to her, perhaps what comprises three-quarters of 
woman's love would have sufficed for your ardour. 



168 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

This pity would have revived expiring tenderness, 
reopened the source of half-dried tears and caused 
a last enchantment to bloom in the midst of all 
this melancholy. She would have cried over you, 
and over herself. She would have told you to sup- 
port her She would have entwined her arms about 
vou as about the last pillar of her temple, and you 
would have lost yourself among all this tenderness 
which would still have been love, desired felicity, 
a ray of a tardy sun, but all the sweeter in this 
withered foliage of the autumn, wet with the tears 
of an afflicted sky. Why am I not one of the elect 
who loosen themselves slowly from life, and yet 
hold to it, regretting to go? Why did your arms 
entwining my neck, not get for me a necklace of 
a few last illusions? Why did my heart, like an 
ice-cold old man, not grow warm under such a 
sun? Why at those moments, when you searched 
in my soul through my eyes-both laid waste !— 
for some emotion to console you, for some ephem- 
eral but returning intoxication, telling you that 
you might have more courage to hope on, have I 
not even shown the exaltation or the tenderness of 
my pity? Ah! that is because nothing of what 
God forgets often to take away from unhappy 
women was left to me— the solace of some enthusi- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 169 

asm from time to time, and enough sensibility to 
be able to drop a tear. No ! you cannot mistake, 
Allan. I have none of those enlacing embraces 
where the mother and mistress are blended. I 
could not bend over a beloved face to pour out 
that deluge of celestial tears which, on the cher- 
ished brow as in the hearts of those who shed them, 
should not dry too quickly. I am but a woman 
without magic skill, a spirit without a halo, and if 
what I have done, Allan, is devotion, I have not 
even the inward joy of its accomplishment. 

"Besides, it was but a poor sacrifice, and one 
which should not have troubled you to this extent. 
As long as it is not one's own soul and happiness 
that is sacrificed, even if we drink blood, like that 
daughter who saved her father, devotion is so 
imperfect that it does away with gratitude. What 
was I at your side, Allan? I was old, and so cured 
of life that I had retracted all the curses I had 
called down upon it in former days, whilst you, 
young man, had not yet suffered what involuntarily 
I have made you endure. The future stretched out 
its arms as to a friend ; and later, existence would 
have been beautiful and sweet for you. Ought I 
not to have spared you its anguish as well as I 
could ? Ought I to have gone and sought out some 



170 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

silly motive among the ideas of society to oppose 
that fatal pity? Would it have been generous for 
me, sullied by more than one love, to have listened 
to some scruple or the other, when, for the first 
time, I was not in question? My conduct has been 
more simple, Allan, but do not seek to ennoble me 
by the holocaust. Do not bind me to you by one 
tie more. My hand does not tremble when writing 
that I gave myself up; but if I could have given 
you a throb of the heart or a tear, I should have 
then done much more for you." 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 171 



XV. 

During Allan's illness, Camilla, who, as we have 
seen, was only allowed by her mother to come and 
get news of the patient at the door of his room, had 
lived in the independence of isolation. Madame 
de Scudemor, alarmed at the danger Allan was in, 
had eyes but for him. The care of her daughter 
was lost in a much more anxious watching of quite 
another kind. We do not sufficiently reflect upon 
the fact that the maternal feeling which comes 
from the bowels, that is to say, lower down than 
the heart, would lose all the holiness of its charac- 
ter if some remembrance or regret did not save it 
from the mere instinct of animality. We ought to 
believe that a mother is never so beautiful as when 
she is a fragment of a mistress. Past happiness, 
trouble that has been felt, compensation of mis- 
taken expectation, that is what forms the mysteri- 
ous glory shining round the head of a cherished 
child, a pale star eternally bathing in the murmur- 
ing water of tears that spring from the heart ; such 



172 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

is the secret of this delightful tenderness, of the 
looks more passionate than all the passions, and 
which fall, as sweet blessings on a stupid son or an 
ugly daughter, like a kiss of God to nature! But 
when this love, this seamless tunic enveloping two 
united hearts, has been torn in every thread of its 
weak web, and there remains not one sacred strip 
to make a blanket for the crying infant, the 
wretched little being grows up as it can in its 
cradle. Has the umbilical cord of the past been 
cut like that of the flesh? The child no longer 
holds to its mother. This united existence, in its 
marvellous double bond, breaks apart quite sud- 
denly, and. what a cruel thing! in this sundering 
of two lives, it is not distance that can separate 
them to any greater extent. 

Poor Camilla and poor Yseult ! There was thus 
nothing but exterior relationship between them, 
and a feeling, tender like all that is on the point 
of disappearance, arising from habit, by the idea 
of the weakness of the child, which constituted a 
duty of protection in Madame de Scudemor's 
mind, but nothing adherent and intimate. Such 
was the last negation of Fate, that had refused this 
woman everything except the heart that was 
needed to make her suffer. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 173 

So it will be easily understood that she was 
obliged to occupy herself exclusively with the fresh 
relations which his sufferings, of which she felt 
herself guilty, had established between her and 
Allan de Cynthry. 

Camilla had never enjoyed such liberty. Never 
as then had she been able to give way to her thou- 
sand whims, lose her time with more lazy idleness, 
the time which is often only gained when it is 
entirely lost. She passed each day wandering aim- 
lessly round the marshes and the adjacent country 
on the other side of the Chateau; and when the 
sun that tanned her face was too hot, she sat down, 
leaning against the trunk of a willow, or at the 
side of a ditch, waiting until the heat diminished 
to continue her careless stroll. When evening 
came on, she did not go away. The voice that 
should be obeyed told her no more to return home 
because the dew was too cold after such a hot day; 
there was no one to throw a woollen shawl over 
her shoulders at a moment when a chill might 
have been mortally dangerous. She was a stray 
sheep to whom God tempered the wind, a bird be- 
lieving neither in Providence nor in the power of 
its wings, and whom the breeze played with, excit- 
ing no resistance ; a child too neglected to confide 



174 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

in anybody, for confidence is but the abdication of 
will-power. Who is confiding knows that he has 
confidence, and she knew it not. She played be- 
neath the sky without caring for a threatening 
cloud, for coming night, or for a chilly atmos- 
phere. She breathed at her ease, released from the 
restraint of the rich child's education, and as the 
daughters of the poor dwellers in the fens, she 
only wanted to go about barefooted, to be like 
them. 

But was it the cause to which she owed her un- 
accustomed liberty that prevented her from en- 
joying it freely? Had anxiety, no doubt vague, 
as always in a child, placed a black speck on her 
limpid horizon ? Had a stray leaf of sinister omen, 
blown from the tree of Death, fallen upon the sur- 
face of the lake that mirrored heaven, and had it 
caused a ripple, soon to be effaced? Or was this 
life so new and sweet for her in her liberty and 
solitude that she did not require to enjoy it hastily, 
as if it were something fine which melts in the 
hand in a twinkling, that she did not rush at it 
like a short play-hour, but which she slowly rev- 
elled in, so as to savour its delights, and in which 
she quietly consumed her energies? Be that as it 
may, she was no longer to be seen bounding freely 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 175 

as in former times, with that strength of deep 
vitality which betrays itself superficially ; or grasp- 
ing at the air with her greedy palms, as with lips 
parted by desire, she missed the butterfly her 
fingers had touched — and afterwards sad, looking 
at her digits covered with the golden powder of 
the wings that had just escaped her, as if she had 
the intuition of this melancholy symbol of all 
things, which we only touch to taint and sully! 
Although the flowers, those magnets of young 
girls, which seem to have eyes in their chalices and 
breath in their perfume, tried all they could to 
smile at her from afar, on their grassy carpet or at 
the water's edge, she hastened no more to gather 
them. She became careless, she went out no more 
to run, but was still graceful, not with her old 
lively and encircling activity of the lark, but with 
that slower and more chaste bearing of the swan, 
sleeping on a lake without a current. And thus 
she passed, almost dreamily crawling, so languidly 
that she seemed as if reflecting profoundly. 

When an inhabitant of those parts, going to- 
wards the Douve, crossed the marshes and met her 
there in her solitary wandering, he would bow to 
her as if she was not a child, gravely saluting her 



' 



176 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

as "Mademoiselle." Sometimes it was a tall and 
robust youth going fishing with his nets on his 
shoulder, or perhaps an old boatman, his brow 
heavy with the fatigues of the day and the cares 
of the morrow— and it was a touching thing to see 
rough men, these laborious conquerors of a difficult 
life, uncovering their heads respectfully before this 
girl from the towns, and who seemed of another 
race. Often Camilla stopped to look with inat- 
tentive eyes at small groups of joyous children 
scattered hither and thither on the marshes, trou- 
bling the sun-warmed water of the pools as they 
plunged their naked legs therein. They were all 
there, noisy, shouting, with their quicksilver move- 
ments and their torn garments, showing their mag- 
nificent ruddy Norman complexions, due to their 
brown bread diet, and their plump cheeks, radiant 
Tvith the softened scarlet hue of the leaves red- 
dened by autumn. It was strange to see them si- 
lent at the approach of Camilla, and how they 
turned their big heads round, covered with fair 
and dark curls, while their luminous astonished 
eyes followed the little girl, who stopped an in- 
stant to look at them, and she so pale, so sad, so 
lonely. Could it be that these children felt ob- 
scurely, as their fathers did, when they passed by, 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 177 

that in the winsome lassie there was misery which 
was not like theirs, and in whose presence egotisti- 
cal human nature forgot to be envious, and only 
remembered to be respectful ? 



* 
178 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XVI. 

It was the middle of September, the most beauti- 
ful season of the year in Normandy. The rich 
green grass was gone, but the oak trees blushed be- 
neath a blushing sky. The hawthorns no longer 
bloomed in the pathways where the wind detaches 
and scatters them from the hedge, which they 
make all white with thick and odorous dust, fill- 
ing up the ruts left by the carts in the days of win- 
ter, but the brambles disappeared beneath the 
weight of the blackberries that weighed them 
down. The clear gold of the wild cabbage was no 
longer seen waving in the distance on the plain, 
contrasting with the purple-violet tint of the flow- 
ering clover, like shorn velvet; but everywhere the 
hue of ploughed land. The straight or leaning 
apple trees of the orchard have lost their pink and 
white draperies, but the vermilion masses of fruit, 
which for us folk of the West are our oranges and 
grapes, gleamed brilliantly through the branches, 
and fell at the foot of their trunks as if tossed out 
from a horn of abundance. The buckwheat, the 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 179 

black bread of the poor, which blooms so white, 
had not yet been cut; but the work will be done 
in a few days, and with their sheaves, bound up 
and piled on the ground at equal distances, they 
will form a camp of small carmine tents. When 
evening comes on (the orange-hued Norman even- 
ings), clouds, superb in form and colour, form 
above this land of such exuberant aspect, and in 
the presence of their magic display the calm purity 
of the most beautiful sky of springtime is not re- 
gretted. The joyous chant of the harvest girls 
and mowers, returning to the farms to supper, is 
no longer heard, only the melancholy barking of a 
dog, teased by an echo, following the footsteps of 
some belated sportsman. Such an autumn makes 
up for the snows that are to follow ; and viewing it, 
an Italian might perhaps understand, no doubt, 
that one could see Naples and not die. 

The hour of noon was striking, gay as the hour 
of all repasts, in the spire of Sainte-Mere-Eglise, 
and at these soft and confused sounds in the midst 
of a moist, luminous atmosphere, the old women, 
who were at work at the arched doors of their 
thatched houses, scattered along the road that goes 
from Sainte-Mere-Eglise to Monteburg, made their 
sign of the cross and recited their Angelus. The 



180 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

sun was still powerful enough to cause one to seek 
cool shade. 

It was probably on account of this warmth of 
the atmosphere, dilated by the sun, then at its 
height, that two persons on horseback, a man and a 
woman, took a shady bypath winding between two 
naked hedges, and which led to a hillock, whence 
the country landscape could be perceived smiling, 
showing its masses of trees and pasture-land. 
These two persons seemed to have ridden for some 
distance, for their horses were bathed in sweat: 
they were only walking, under the loose floating 
reins that their masters had let drop, as far as the 
hillock, where they stopped. The young man dis- 
mounted to offer his hand to his companion, but, 
as agile as he, with one bound she was on her feet, 
without making use of the aid he so eagerly 
proffered. 

"Let us stop here, and wait until the heat has 
abated before returning to the Willows," she ^aid, 
while her companion tied the horses to a branch 
of the hedge, and she threw up her veil that cov- 
ered her face beneath her man's hat. 

"Are you tired, dearest?" asked the young man, 
with trembling fear and respectful adoration. 

"I ought to have put that question to you, Al- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 181 

Ian," she answered, with a smile. "You are still 
convalescent, and we have been, perhaps, too far 
for you this morning." 

"Oh! fear naught," he rejoined, "my Yseult. 
Life is firmly anchored in my breast, and will not 
leave me yet." 

She looked upon him with her quiet eyes, as if 
gazing at a madman. To tell the truth, his face 
was very pale, and his frame too thin and bent, to 
speak thus of life. He seemed like a graceful spec- 
tre. 

"Let us sit down, Yseult," he said. 

And they sat on the side of the hillock, the sun 
behind them, but protected from its rays by the 
rising ground. 

"How beautiful you are!" he whispered to her, 
in intoxicated tones. 

It was almost true. The autumn appeared 
nearly as splendid, although more advanced, than 
did that woman in the face of Nature. 

Never had the decided outlines of those charms, 
which seemed to have been moulded for the eternal 
battles of voluptuous passion, been revealed in a 
more exciting manner than beneath the black cloth 
riding-habit. The ride and the heat had slightly 
swollen the veins of her face, and set a flame burn- 



182 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ing at the top of her pale cheeks, which had not 
been seen there for many a day. The lips were 
half-open, and the air reached the moist teeth— 
those teeth that this woman, a lioness of love, had 
Teceived to take the place of her lips, impotent for 
kisses. The animation of her features was so great 
that one forgot the wrinkles that began to cross 
them, and which ought to have furrowed more in 
this cruel noonday light, the crude gleam of the 
blue sky. 

She took off her chamois glove, and began to 
smooth her dark tresses on her temples, showing 
that a few hairs had been prematurely silvered by 
the troubles of life. 

"Oh, Allan !" she rejoined, after a pause, while 
the amorous young man encircled the arched waist 
with his arm, "I am as beautiful as you are happy! 
To-morrow is there, threatening both of us. At 
the bottom of that beauty you love, as in the depths 
of the happiness now present for you, there is a 
germ of death which may suddenly be developed in 

a day." 

That very instant, as if to prove her right, the 
brightness of the ride and the heat which had lit 
her up faded away. No doubt she felt herself get- 
ting pale again, and that the withered woman ap- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 183 

peared once more; for she began to smile sadly, 
with a smile which the tempting, appetising moist- 
ure of the lips, already dried up, no longer bathed, 
and which showed her teeth still beautiful, but be- 
tween them was the imperceptible black speck 
which hides among the flowers and causes them to 
die. 

"How cruel you are, Yseult!" said Allan bitter- 
ly. "Are all you women thus ? Do you always poi- 
son the fruit that you give to the wretch who is dy- 
ing of thirst, and who blesses you ? While I am suf- 
ficiently intoxicated with you to forget that you 
do not love me, you dry all up with funereal ac- 
cents ! You overwhelm me with your reasoning !" 

"Allan," she answered, "by repeating often to 
man that he is naught but dust, his heart has 
ofttimes been turned towards Heaven ! If a dying 
ray of my past beauty had not shone upon my 
brow, you would never have loved me, you, a child 
and a poet ; that is to say, twice a man for the love 
of the flesh! When old age shall have attacked 
this body, without a heart, that I am dragging 
towards the worms of the grave, your love will no 
longer exist. By repeating this to you, do you 
know what I spare you? The fright of to- 
morrow." 



184 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Ah! you are always speaking of the future! 
That is the eternal word you make use of to spoil 
the actual moment for me." 

"That, my friend, is because I have only yours 
before me. That is because there are no tears to 
fill my eyes and blind me." 

•'Well, then, inexplicable but powerful creature," 
replied Allan, "tear my heart, in the name of your 
wisdom. Henceforward, I'll complain no more. 
Am I not your slave? Would I not give the blood 
of my veins, if needed, to wash your adored feet? 
Have you not exchanged your beauty for my heart, 
the contact of your mouth for my soul ? However 
full of love and youth this heart may be, does 
your beauty not pay for it all? Ah ! I would have 
bartered away heaven and earth for your smile, 
and I have had much more than that given to me 

by you !" 

And with his desperate, fulminating, fretting 
lips, he pressed those that never resisted his. What 
ravages can the lightning wTeak in places where it 
has laid all waste ! 

"How you have deceived me!" he said, feeling 
that her inward consciousness, frozen hard, melted 
not by his hot breath. "Ah, Yseult, how you have 
deceived me! Before knowing you better, I im- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 185 

agined to myself that you were still a woman, and 
that your soul, that eternal flower, might open 
itself to a love like mine. I said to myself that 
there existed a mysterious harmony between what 
finishes and what commences, between the virginity 
of a first love in a pure heart and the martyrdom 
of dead love in one that is withered. You seemed 
to me more touching than beautiful, and your 
beauty, which vacillated on your already darkened 
brow, tortured the feeling of the infinite in me, 
and made my love immense !" 

"I understand, poor boy," she said dreamily, 
with a soft look as of youth, "and that might not 
have been an illusion ! Yes ! you might have met 
a woman of the very age of your mother, perhaps, 
and who, nevertheless, would not have loved you 
with the love she would have had for a son. Allan, 
you speak truly ! By threatening to die soon, love 
and beauty may reach their utmost limits of intox- 
ication and beauty. Perhaps God has willed that 
there shall be but one love worthy of the first, and 
that— the last. God has perhaps placed in that 
love an initiation in life, as a consolation for hav- 
ing lived — " 

"Ah! speak always thus! say ever so!" inter- 
rupted Allan, with great feeling and tenderness, 



186 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

hiding his face on Madame de Scudemor's shoul- 
der. "Tell me that I was not a madman — that 
you might have loved me — that such a thing was 
possible." 

"Yes ! perhaps yes !" she rejoined in turn. "But 
there were not only years between us, Allan ! years 
causing us to weep over lost beauty, when we fear 
that he will love another to-morrow. Ah! these 
years inflame still more the love one feels, by anx- 
iety and jealousy, the double consciousness of the 
limits of our inward self. Alas ! is it my fault if 
this love, so magnificent, since it forms the sum 
total of the heart, has been torn from my soul by 
the hand of Fate ? and if this last sigh is impossible 
for me? Is it my fault if I resemble the Zahuri 
of Spanish superstition, who in the cemeteries see 
the corpse under the funereal shroud of turf and 
flowers that covers it?" 

Bitter tears started in Allan's eyes. 
"I love your tears !" she continued, being in one 
of those moods when the real woman invades the 
whole being. "Yes ; I love your tears, poor boy ! 
The death of my soul is worthily mourned by you, 
by you, whose soul is entire. Tears springing from 
the most serene sources of heaven, like incorrupti- 
ble ether, and sealed up in the rock-crystal of a 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 187 

pure heart, are more beautiful, as they fall upon 
so many buried pollutions, than those of Magdalen 
on the feet of Jesus. And even then, perchance, she 
was crying over herself. But you, child, are more 
generous; for you only weep for me, and unlike 
Jesus, who bore the Nine Heavens of pardon for 
that poor woman in His satisfied glance, I have no 
Paradise to offer you nor even to let you hope for." 
"Ay, you have one for me, my Yseult!" he re- 
plied, with the eternal childishness of passion. 
"And if it is not the heaven of love, it is what most 
resembles it without hypocrisy ; its delicious title ! 
Why do you always say 'you' to me, as you speak, 
instead of 'thee'? I have often thought over it, 
and now I can tell you. Ah, if you were grateful 
for my tears, if you find them worthy to bathe that 
heart of yours that I should have so liked to warm 
into life again, if only for once ! say to me : 'My 
Allan, I thank thee!' for am I not always thine, 
Yseult? Thine to my very last thought? I shall 
dream of love in its own language, and it will seem 
as if thou hadst given thyself to me a second 
time." 

This fantasy of an impassioned soul touched the 
woman of sense. 

"Yes, then, 'My Allan, I thank thee?" she re- 



188 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

peated, as he desired, passing her snowy hand with 
maternal coquetry over his hair, damp with the 
warmth of his burning brow. 

The wretched young man breathed with delight 
at this word, and under the caress of her hand, as 
the turtle-dove opens its wings to the sun of May, 
he shuddered— like that feeble bird. 

"Look you, Allan!" she continued, with the 
change of look we have when we seek within us 
something we fear to find at the bottom of our 
heart, in our dream-fragments and our confused 
remembrances. "I can say 'thou' to you if you 
wish it. My lips have lost the habit of that word, 
but I can make use of it as if I loved you, so much 
is it faded ! so much is it empty I So now, boy, take 
and inhale the fragrance of the rind of the fruit 
they have devoured, without leaving a drop of 
juice for you !" 

And in her expression was tender disdain, like 
that of reason when giving way to the exactions of 
silly sensibility, or to the capricious desires of a 
sick person. Allan lost all the happiness that she 
had at first created in saying "thou" to him. Thus 
she was always guilty of the infanticide of the joys 
she caused to spring up in the heart of her young 
lover. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 189 

"Listen, Yseult !" said he, after a pause of reso- 
lution; "henceforward I will ask you nothing 
more. The flowers you give are poisons. They do 
me more harm than good, and I'll have none of 
them ! My God ! why have I loved thee?" 

He pressed her to his heart with delirious pas- 
sion, lifting his eyes to heaven, as dumb and as in- 
expressive in its azure darkness as on the day of 
the Creation, before there was any pain or ignor- 
ance to send up from bended knees a wailing 
"why?" 

Never had he so loved her, never had he loved 
her more. She replied no more to his query of 
despair than did He to whom he had cried "My 
God !" with that desire for knowledge which causes 
the birth of faith in our souls. 

They talked together for a long while still, but 
there came a moment when the declining sun 
warned Madame de Scudemor that it was time to 
return to the Chateau. They were a certain dis- 
tance from it. Who knows, moreover, if this life 
of passion, now mingled so impetuously with hers, 
did not fatigue her a little ? Who knows if resig- 
nation did not send up a wail from her soul, de- 
spite the pleasure that women feel in being vie- 



190 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

tims ? Who knows if she did not turn her head re- 
gretfully back towards solitude? But had she 
ever left it, even at the moment when it seemed 
most probable ? 

When Allan brought her horse, he did not leave 
her time to spring into the saddle from the hillock 
on which she stood, but seized her and lifted her 
from the ground as if she had been a light, thin 

young girl. 

"You will hurt yourself, Allan!" she cried, in 

fear. 

Such is the wrong construction of all women 
which they put upon the happiness one feels in ex- 
posing oneself to the delight of hurting ourselves, 
for them, because we love them even to being will- 
ing to die for them. Convalescent, pale and ex- 
hausted, he held her pressed for an instant to his 
breast, which cracked beneath the weight of the 
robust creature. He experienced mad regret at 
not having been still more crushed by her idolised 
body, which never seemed sufficiently to be his. 

When she was remounted, in that attitude which 
is almost guilty, so much does it betray all that a 
woman possesses of most intoxicating delight in 
her movements and rounded curves, he looked at 
her, aghast, overwhelmed, thrilling with desire. A 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 191 

longing flame darted from the soul into the body. 
Poor wretch ! he pressed upon Madame de Scude- 
mor's dusty boot a kiss that would have burnt 
twenty-year-old lips. But she, knowing the fren- 
zied fancies she had so often engendered in the 
men who had loved her, put her horse at a gallop 
and rode in the direction of the Chateau. 



192 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XVII. 

Among the inexplicable wants after which the 
worn-out degenerate beings who struggle here be- 
low vearn, there is one perhaps in which all others 
are swallowed up. It is a mystery like that of all 
our life. It is melancholic, like all the feelings of 
the heart. It cries out to all. Men of genius hear 
it when they feel their head too weighty to be car- 
ried without aid, and who would have women's 
knees to support it, worthy cushions of the kingly 
crown; men of courage hearken to it, wishing that 
their dry lips could be refreshed and their sweat- 
ing brow comforted. It is not love; ah, believe it 
is not that ! Although it resembles love, it is more 
pure, and love does not always satisfy it. Often it 
precedes it. More of ten it follows. It is the de- 
sire of intimacy. 

No ! love which produces intimacy is not worth 
it, and the child is more beautiful than the mother. 
It has not that terrible and impetuous disposition 
which destroys life, as it does the happiness of 
love. It is infinite mercy, which has given the 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 193 

breath of a human mouth the power to clear away 
the clouds rising from our uneasy heart to our 
brow. The most simple fact, and in which all in- 
timacy resides, is : "Sweep away for me this crowd 
of black thoughts that assail me, oh, my dearest !" 
a hand grasped — and not even the pressure of a 
hand, a look — not even a look, but to feel united. 
And the heart is glad and rests, and that is enough 
for the eternal aspirations of exacting humanity. 

At least, one might have thought that if the de- 
lirium of Allan's love had not been shared, the in- 
timacy of life would not fail him, and that this 
great lullaby of the soul which puts it to sleep with 
delicious trifles would bring some refreshing ele- 
ments into his. But there are some destinies so 
arid that the tuft of grass and the drop of water 
are both always wanting in the sand of which they 
are made. Allan, driven to despair by Madame de 
Scudemor, could find no relief in his liaison with 
her. She was so far above him that the confidence 
of intimacy could not be established between them. 
What is more to be feared than superiority in 
affection? It is an eagle that has mistaken its 
eyry, tearing the frozen birds which warm them- 
selves beneath the great wings as if they were 
meant to shelter them ! 



194 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

When his head was cool, he feared the scorn of 
Madame de Scudemor. What profound ignorance 
of the nature of women was to be found in this 
youth! When they make us suffer they feel no 
scorn, however little we may be. The Countess de 
Scudemor, the type of fascination, of passion, of 
the weakness of womankind in its extremity, and 
who, thanks to special organisation and intelli- 
gence, had, by reflection, outlived the life of the 
heart which, when finished, generally carries away 
all that there is in a woman, and of this was she 
not the undeniable proof? If the Bible, the book of 
truth, had not said that woman should crush the 
head of the serpent beneath her heel, one might 
have thought that her heart would have prevented 
her from pressing down her foot. 

On the other hand, the fear she caused him 
often by the brutal fashion in which she treated the 
illusions of his heart restrained him, when he felt 
tempted to rush towards her with all the strength 
that was in him. She kept him walled up in his 
own personality, and he only escaped from that 
painful captivity by the most terrestrial bypaths 
of love. The only moments in which this love 
made Allan less unhappy were those when his 
senses stifled imagination beneath their fleshly 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 195 

veil. There is something which one must be fear- 
less enough to set forth; once the motive of the 
Countess de Scuclemor put aside, what could she 
have been for Allan ? And these elevated motives 
separated them still more completely than the inert 
abandonment of herself. 

So, the paroxysms over, Allan fell back into 
frightful prostration or in useless rage against 
Fate, finishing by despising himself. What would 
then become of him, when the first moments of 
the yearned-for possession and their intoxication, 
so new for him, had disappeared? 

Madame de Scudemor, courageous and extraor- 
dinary woman, never gave herself the lie. She 
could not be reproached with cowardice or incon- 
sistency, which is cowardice again. She judged 
Allan's passion for her. She knew that he was 
suffering, but she hoped that this agony would not 
last long enough to lead to the life that finishes 
in dull brutishness. Like many hypocrites, she 
might have made the grimace of enough love to 
cheat Allan, but she would have feared to arrest 
the decline of his feelings for her. 

As it has been shown, these feelings had ab- 
sorbed all maternal solicitude in Madame de Scude- 
mor. Camilla, left to herself, had lived thus a 



196 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

few days. Since the night of the drawing-room 
the Countess had pushed her daughter still more 
away from her. If Camilla was near her, she 
always found a pretext to send her away. It was 
necessary prudence, hut a difficult task. Were not 
the precautions taken by Madame de Scudemor 
rather of a nature to make Camilla suspect what 
it was so important to hide from her? We know 
well that over her beautiful large eyes was the 
white bandage of innocence, as thick as the bandage 
of love, formed of a thousand rainbows. But from 
one moment to another her penetration might be 
awakened. Only one word is wanting to unfold the 
whole of a poem in a suddenly inflamed imagina- 
tion; a glance that causes curious reflections; a 
mere' nothing to trouble this formidable and ever- 
ignored something which is called "the soul," in 
all human languages. This idea tormented Mad- 
ame de Scudemor. The slight abandonment which 
she had had in intimacy with her daughter disap- 
peared. At bottom nothing was changed, and yet 
all was altered. It was sad, but was it cruel, for 
these two beings, between whom God had not 
placed that tenderness which is only great in a 
mother, because it is the adoration of a past con- 
secrated in every way by trouble or happiness? 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 197 

She often spoke of that to Allan. 

"You must know," she said to him one evening, 
on the very spot where she had given herself up to 
him, on that divan where, ten times a day, dis- 
turbed to the profoundest depth of madness, and 
fainting beneath the burning weight of remem- 
brance, Allan would furtively go and cover that 
spot with kisses where the cushions, still tepid, 
had given way beneath a well-known pressure, "I 
fear lest my daughter should see what is the mat- 
ter with you, friend. I tremble sometimes for 
fear that the mystery that we alone know should be 
betrayed by some familiarity escaping from the 
fascination of the heart ; by one of those irrevocable 
words which explain all that passionate glances 
have already taught. My poor Allan ! you must 
hide your deplorable love better. Have some power 
over yourself! Have some respect for this calm 
childhood, of which I would prolong the charm 
as long as possible, so sure am I that my little girl 
will not escape her fate, for she has my blood in 
her veins, the passions that formerly ravaged her 
mother's heart!" 

Such was the prayer of duty. Allan promised 
to hide everything before Camilla. This promise 
reminded him what impediments his love had to 



198 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

vanquish, and he felt more than ever embittered 
against Camilla— the living and sacred obstacle. 

Alas ! there was a means to destroy the pain of 
a life of intimacy falsified and hindered; there 
was a way of getting out of this stifling dissimu- 
lation in front of others so as to be able to rest in 
his love as in the love of God, a bold way, the only 
audacity that supreme happiness has sometimes 
crowned. Very often, since he was in love, Allan's 
thoughts had wrecked themselves on the laughing 
shore of that archipelago, in the troubled sea of his 
dreams. Often enough his fancy had stopped at 
the door closed upon the domestic fireside, at which, 
like a proud and trembling beggar, it had not dared 
to knock. And this means, this refuge, whose very 
name burnt his lips, he did not even pronounce its 
name. Of all the pain of shame that reminded him 
of the misery of his fate, it was that which most 
lacerated his being. 

His heart bled in silence as he thought of that. 
It was late. His face could hardly be seen. At 
the bottom of the garden, whence the view stretched 
from the window on to the marshes, the uncertain 
moon showed her circle on the misty horizon, ris- 
ing as if regretfully from the earth which pushed 
her softly up in the dark sky. She made the thou- 



J 

f 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 199 

sand pools scattered on the marsh all sparkle, and 
the fen was silvered by the pale light of her disc. 
It was Saturday. 

"This life of three people," continued Madame 
de Scudemor gravely, as she went on expounding 
her ideas, "cannot remain as it is. Sooner or later, 
Camilla will discover all. That is what we must 
prevent at all cost. I have thought that to travel 
would be good and convenient. Fresh recurring 
interest would seize upon the inquisitiveness of my 
daughter, and occupy her in such a way as no 
longer to be a danger for her. On the other hand, 
there would be continual unexpected events, so that 
one can arrange one's life as one will without any- 
body finding anything strange about it. Finally, 
for yourself, Allan, who are dying from a fixed idea 
in this uniform everyday routine, to travel would 
be a good thing. Would you, this coming winter, 
like us all to go to Italy?" 

"What care I?" he answered, with fatigue. "I 
care no more for Italy than for any other country 
in the world ! Drag me where you like, Yseult ! 
Anywhere, everywhere, will there be anything else 
than you for me?" he added, with passionately 
sensual languor, and in a tone that would have 
made all women die of melancholy. 



200 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

She remained without a reply. Had Allan's 
accents caused her a little emotion? Did she un- 
derstand what he was suffering from? Or was 
she reflecting on the nothingness of all that she 
could do for him, to whom she had given all that 
remained to her ? 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 201 



XVIII. 

The Willows, generally so full of people, pre- 
sented an unaccustomed aspect in that autumn of 
1845, being inhabited by these three persons only : 
Madame de Scudemor, her daughter, and Allan de 
Cynthry, the young man whom she brought there 
every year, and who could have been easily taken 
for her son. They were only three in these vast 
empty apartments, three to walk in the long wide 
alleys of the dumb garden. The gate on the oppo- 
site side to the marsh was hardly ever opened more 
than once a day, to let Madame de Scudemor's car- 
riage pass out as she went for a drive on the neigh- 
bouring high-roads for an hour or two in the even- 
ing, to the manifest interest of the young girls 
then returning from their day's work, and who 
looked upon the passage of these three handsome, 
pale people, half-lying in this graceful gondola- 
like landau, swinging on its dazzling wheels, be- 
neath the silky rays of a soft October evening in 
Normandy, when the most delicately beautiful 



202 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

woman can receive their heat full in the face, with 
lifted veil. 

Sometimes Camilla remained in the Chateau. 
Allan blessed those days; he could then speak of 
his love to Madame de Scudemor. For, as it has 
been said, no intimacy could exist between him 
and her. Intimacy is a thing of retreat and mys- 
tery; we feel deliciously that it exists, but exter- 
nally it only manifests itself imperfectly. It is 
like the breath of the spirit in Nature. This se- 
cret expansion of two souls, silent, invisible, they 
possessed it not! But in the place of this inde- 
scribable intimacy of which Allan bitterly felt the 
absence, he forced himself to create another and 
more clumsy one, but also powerless and fatal. It 
was the entire and complete knowledge of the 
woman he loved, the profound comprehension of 
her soul. To see what was in the idol, to pierce 
this resisting darkness; to clear away these ob- 
scure remains — this is the movement that stirs us 
all, our intelligence rising from the knees where 
passion has forced it, insatiable curiosity which 
always presses on, carrying love with it, when all 
the mysteries are exhausted. 

Allan did not know what he was doing. He 
obeyed the laws of feeling which sought to know, 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 203 

because to know is still to possess 1 But Madame 
de Scudemor knew that as he did ; so she laid bare 
all her thoughts to him, as she had already given 
her naked history. She of whom the "I" held so 
small a place in society, the language she spoke 
there being no more than elegant and vague com- 
monplace gossip, magnificent abstraction, bought 
by dint of sufferings, impossible for any other 
woman than one like her, she became selfish with 
her lover, not in the interest of his love, but in 
order to hasten its end. She answered all Allan's 
questions, analysed herself minutely with him unto 
the very last folds of her soul, because that was to 
give herself up all the more ; and to abandon her- 
self to him always, as much as possible, was to pro- 
voke that vast state of boredom which cuts off and 
finishes all passion ! 

It was thus these spoilt children of civilisation, 
these happy folk, these rich gentry, as they were 
called in the neighbourhood, rode about in their 
careless leisure, in the bosom of the most beautiful 
country in the world. Perhaps, as they passed, 
did they cause a murmur from the labourer bent 
since dawn over the furrows, although life had also 
miscarried for them and was not sweet and easy, 
both being branded on the brow with the marks 



204 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

that proclaim equality in suffering and justify 
Providence. 

Yseult, in spite of the beauty which irradiated 
from her during these melodious sunsets whose rays 
gilded her like a poetic ruin where the ivy attaches 
its green bonds, was older in reality and more bent 
than the beggar-woman seated on a heap of stones 
by the roadside, and Allan, the fine young fellow 
of undecided build, was yet more withered than the 
village mothers whose sons had reached his age. 
Both suffered from an unknown malady. Their 
bearing was tranquil, their attitudes indolent and 
careless; but like the poor woman who weeded with 
her nails, like the man whose sweat was soaked 
up by the furrow, they also had a task to fulfil, 
some rough work which breaks one down and is 
exhausting, during an eternal day under the eye of 
God. They talked, and if those bright wheels 
had made no noise as they turned, their words 
might have been heard. Their discourse was ele- 
gant and harmonious, but unintelligible for these 
simple country folks, like the startling light on 
both their brows that the sun and manual labour 
had not tarnished. There was something so human 
in their lineaments, so familiar to all of this world, 
that without understanding their grief they never- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 205 

theless seemed to suspect it, and Humanity rec- 
ognising itself in them tried to stifle its sneers. 

"Yseult," said Allan to her during these drives, 
"you told me the story of your life, but you never 
told me what had followed your last love. You 
whose strength had been at first so great, did you 
fall all at once into the gulf in which you are now 
at the bottom? When that love betrayed you, did 
you not still struggle ? Was there nothing in that 
wasted life to which you could still cling ? I know 
of naught but love, I only know you, my Yseult ! 
but it is said that love betrayed has still many a 
noble refuge — maternal love and friendship for the 
weak, with meditation for stronger natures, and 
God for all. For you and for us also !" 

"God!" answered the unhappy atheistic woman, 
dead in Him as in life, dropping her marble eyes, 
as if she wished to drag herself away from that 
great idea of God, written in the infinite horizons 
where the sun was slowly dying. "God! that is a 
high and solemn word. It is often on my lips, as if 
in that syllable there was a secret consolation, and 
I know not if it hides aught else than cowardice 
or ignorance. The idea of God remained always 
vague and misty for me. It did not set one of my 
pains at rest. By bending me to religious exer- 



206 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

rises, which are good when the heart is interested 
in them, bad when it is filled with other ideas; 
since my childhood, had they not made me disgust- 
ed with religion? Seeing but one goal in life- 
happiness in love— I had loved furiously, and in 
the prodigalities of my soul I had exhausted all , 
my perfumes at the foot of mortal altars. I had 
no ashes of consumed affection to give to this 
begging God who contents Himself with the rags 
of love, if it is true that He so begs ! The religious 
feeling is only the want of support, an eternal weak- 
ness that keeps man in cruel slavery, and to which 
we have given many names, so as not to blush at 
it. I had had my share of this weakness. I had 
been a victim of it. In me it was so great, Allan, 
that I slid to the gTound, and did not stretch out 
my tired arms mechanically to seize this reed which 
always eludes our gTasp ! When I was most un- 
happy, when most wounded by the passions, I 
would have liked to stiffen out my breast against 
all blows. I thought to be strong-minded. Often 
a tear, which the heart had not been able to swallow 
up, furrowed with its burning streak the mask of 
bronze I had put on, and I would have given my 
beauty for that tear not to have been shed, even in 
the solitude where I hid it. I would have cut off 



WHAT NEVEB DIES. 207 

the waving curls of my hair to stop all the blood 
that flowed from my wounds. I leant upon my 
pride, and I looked in the glass to see if this atti- 
tude suited me ! At that juncture, I might without 
a doubt have leant upon that idea of God as I leant 
upon pride. But since then, both became useless. 
Human nature begged for quarter, and Fate was 
implacable. Of all this haughty stoicism, there re- 
mained to the woman not a strip to hide the naked- 
ness of her humiliated pride. The disdain of my- 
self seized me, superb scorn, with a fierce laugh 
which died away on my lips like the last reclama- 
tion of conquered pride. I asked no more of my 
soul nor of life. God — does that not mean life ac- 
cepted or cursed ? Is it not an idea of our soul ? I 
did not want God, and I thought no more of Him." 

"And friendship?" said Allan. 

"Friendship!" rejoined Madame de Scudemor. 
"I had always disdained it, when my heart pos- 
sessed more than that ! Since then I have scorned 
it still more. It is a bastard and egotistical senti- 
ment, often the accouplement of two vanities which 
take each other's arm in turn. It is an arrange- 
ment of life. And only a great hazard when mis- 
erable dissensions, petty opinions, or low interests 
do not tear up the lease ! Love is selfish, too, I 



208 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

know ; but at least it transposes its ego into another 
ego, and changes its place. Friendship keeps its 
own entirely, and changes not its residence but 
with the loss of being. Doubtless, one dies for one's 
friend ; but whom can one not die for? And what 
does one isolated case of suffering prove? But to 
accept all the faults of character, all the aberrations 
of the mind ; to love despite the tortures of vanity, 
in spite of the scorn of intelligence ;to love notwith- 
standing the weariness of every day— that is what 
friendship does not do! What is the superiority 
that does not spoil these connections combined 
solely for comfort? Superiority of wit, of beauty, 
of health, of riches, and even reaching to services 
rendered— all arc fatal or mortal to it. Is it not 
said that for friendship to exist, there must be be- 
tween minds and dispositions certain angles which 
should tally and fit in together? What does that 
mean? That friendship has no existence of its 
own. It has so little that it borrows words to ex- 
press it from love, and as if ashamed of the im- 
posture, speaks never in its name. Two friends 
shake hands when they meet, and write 'Yours 
truly' at the close of their letters; but what do they 
say all their lives? They converse about their mu- 
tual intereste, and never of their feelings; these 



WHAT NEVEB DIES. 209 

axe confidences that cross when they do not tres- 
pass on each other. But all fine feeling is exclu- 
sive, and what soul was ever great enough or small 
enough to live only on friendship ? 

"When I had been happy, I did not seek relief 
from happiness by confiding in the bosom of a 
friend of my sex. I found room for it in my heart. 
It was large enough for that. When misfortune 
overtook me, I threw my tears at no one's head. 
I had no longer the egotism that seeks to be inter- 
esting by its sufferings, and which enjoys the in- 
terest it inspires. What should I have found 
around me ? Curiosity that interrogates as it sticks 
a finger in the wound, or the pitying wail which 
is only flattery, and boredom that is deaf. Be- 
sides, I told you, Allan, that even had I seen con- 
solation in friendship, I had lost the instinct of 
seeking support. 

"As for maternal affection, my last love had car- 
ried it away after having polluted it. I never loved 
Camilla much. If you suffered from a few ca- 
resses bestowed on that child, you know now why I 
made them — these caresses that my heart put no 
more warmth in. When I could have loved Cam- 
illa, I only loved Octave; and this child, who per- 
petually came between us, had inflicted too great 



210 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

torture upon me ! If I told you that one day the 
thought of Camilla had prevented me from kill- 
ing myself, it was, perhaps, because I did not love 
her any more. One reproaches one's self for not 
loving, and one becomes generous. But this gen- 
erosity lasted no longer in me than the idea of 
suicide which supposes the strength of a coward, 
the force of flight, the power to escape. I had 
reached the torpor of weakness. Out of weakness, 
I acted with virile courage. Prostration stood me 
in lieu of resistance, and I let myself live, be- 
cause, in the universal wreck of the faculties of 
my soul it was as indifferent to me to live as to 

die." 

"Oh, unfortunate, most unfortunate woman!" 
said Allan, appalled. "And did you never feel 
yourself less unfortunate for a moment? Never, 
at some instant towards the evening, in the pres- 
ence of beautiful and calm Nature, your hand on 
your daughter's shoulder, have you lifted your eyes 
from the path to look at the sky, whose serenity 
is so strengthening? Never, when you saw the ho- 
rizon cleared of the evening clouds, have you re- 
peated to yourself, like an old chorus of hope, 
'Come, it will be fine to-morrow'?" 

"No, Allan, no!" replied Yseult. "Misfortune 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 211 

and love have veiled Nature for me. The right of 
sanctuary in this vast temple exists no more for 
me. We live in ourselves before living in Nature. 
This fatal ego always comes to tear you from the 
sweetest contemplations, and death alone extin- 
guishes this obstinate personality, and melts it in 
the midst of all things. But in front of death Na- 
ture is powerless, and the poets have only suffered 
by half. Oh, Allan, when the human face has 
been seen — the greatest marvel of this world, and 
also the most adored! — to change by degrees de- 
spite our desire to make it eternal ; the tender look 
which expressed love suddenly grows stupefied with 
indifference, henceforward Nature is dumb, and, 
like (Edipus, in Greek poetry, one may tear out 
one's eyes with the hooks of one's mantle. What 
matters it if the stars shine or fade, since the only 
planets we believed in are lost ! 

"That is why, Allan, I did not retire from the 
world. I finished living in the place where I dwelt, 
and I have not fled because I should have taken 
refuge in myself. I was too unhappy to affect any- 
thing, and I took my share of this idle and insig- 
nificant drawing-room life which did not weigh 
upon me more than anything else, because I was 
absolutely weaned from all things. Believe me, 



212 THE WRITINGS <}F OSCAR WILDE. 

Allan, one can quickly get in the habit of all these 
extraneous details of existence, which are insup- 
portably in the way when young and full of pas- 
sion! I accepted them without repugnance, be- 
cause I had nothing better to prefer to them. A 
visit to pay, an evening to be passed out of my 
own house, cost me no effort, and so I would go. 
I did not shut myself up face to face with my 
grief, because I had not the cult of it. I did not 
try to forget it, because I could not change myself. 
There are people who put ashes on their heads, 
and go into mourning for their happiness. They, 
may be right, and I neither blame nor accuse them. 
There are others, on the contrary, who whiten their 
sepulchre, and thoy may be even more in the right. 
I belonged to the latter class. But if later on I 
took my crown of scorn off my brow, where it had 
merely been the broken vizard of a helmet, out 
of indifference I left there the frivolous ornaments 
of the woman. 

"What society was for me, so were books. I 
was born with rather powerful faculties, but dur- 
ing childhood I had only been taught my cate- 
chism, and when I left the convent I was already 
too sensual to cultivate my mind. If, when un- 
happiness set in I had recourse to books which 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 213 

were of no service to me, it was only to help me 
out from beneath the weight of my first remem- 
brances. The books were soon rejected. Since 
then, trouble forced me to think, but what I know, 
my poor Allan, grief alone has taught me ! Alas ! 
in this, my story is that of all women, the savages 
of civilisation whose only true education consists 
in their wants and pains ! These volumes for which 
I had no room during the frivolous agitation of 
my youth, I tried to open in the days when all 
deserted me, but I peered over them with listless 
eyes. Whatever amount of genius they bore wit- 
ness to, I felt no emotion, and I only judged them 
as proofs of mental strength, or vanquished diffi- 
culties. I did not possess the great sympathy of 
the mind. What could they tell me, Allan, these 
men of genius who are admired by all ? Did they 
describe happiness? The happiness of my life 
cast a shade on their pictures. Was it trouble 
that they sought to sketch ? I bitterly coveted this 
grief, as a blessing beyond my reach, for it was 
more beautiful and poetical than mine. You see, 
Allan, that I knew more than they did !" 

She would talk like this for a long while, be- 
fore Allan would think of interrupting her. And 
often as the carriage stopped in front of the Cha- 



« 
214 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

teau he regretted the drive, finished too soon, when, 
seated before him, she told each secret of her soul 
in detail, and made it stand out for his eyes to 
see it. Then such respect for this woman's mis- 
fortunes would come into his heart that the pas- 
sion which seized upon him two hours afterwards 
seemed incomprehensible. As she revealed her- 
self entirely to her young lover, she showed the 
strong simplicity of a sincere soul. Her sad words 
were not pronounced with melancholy. If she 
placed her cheek upon her hand gloved witli 
smooth, white, polished kid, which enhanced the 
ripe lemon hue of that cheek still so gracefully 
oval, it was out of distraction or carelessness, but 
her head was not cast down. The declining day 
passed before her without vague sadness. The set- 
ting sun, a power conquered like the grief that 
had seared her soul, gilded with its gold her eyes, 
that reverberated the light without a contraction, 
but left no other trace. Against the foggy mist 
that rose from the bogs, she would entwine her 
neck and shoulders with that long, furry scarf 
which was then called a boa, and this serpent of 
sable, folded around her, resembled the gorged 
snake of life, sleeping while enfolding its victim, 
unable to loose her. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 215 



XIX 

That evening drive was the only sign given in 
the neighbourhood of the presence of the masters 
of the Willows, so different then to what it had 
been every other year. The sadness of its three 
inhabitants made its solitude still more austere. 
Every day Allan became more dull, more bitter, 
more hard, more hot-headed when he was not alone 
with Madame de Scudemor, for whom his passion 
grew into irritation by dint of resentment, by the 
weight of hidden torment, by the want of expan- 
sion of intimacy. For he possessed naught but 
the body of this woman, palpitating no more than 
her heart, but which, at least, did not seek to es- 
cape him. 

And there was on the sunburnt brow of Camilla 
a little of the shadow of Allan's troubles. The 
repeated roughness of the egotistical young fellow 
had made her as timid as she used formerly to be 
lively with him, as self-contained as she had been 
confiding. She was violent, vibrating in the high- 
est degree with a vitality full of Elysian breezes, 



216 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

and fresh and alluring waves of thought which 
sought for unrestrained action, as she sprang by 
daily bounds of hidden sensation to adolescence. 
By a strangely energetic phenomenon there seemed 
to be a heavily laden future in this organisation 
of a little girl who had been intensely joyous for 
such a long time, and which made one anxiously 
ask what would become of the lass when she should 
no more laugh in that manner. 

It appeared as if that day had come. Little 
by little all smiles had left her bold, rounded lips. 
By the education that Madame de Scudemor de- 
clared was the only one received by women, that 
of injustice and suffering, Allan had forced her 
fecund and rich nature to no longer gush out im- 
petuously, and pride, with its eloquent falsity, had 
become the poor child's resource. When her moth- 
er spoke of her sulkiness she was calumniating her. 
It was not that state of changeable vanity that 
held the secret of Camilla's latest behaviour to- 
wards Allan. Madame de Scudemor knew well 
that Allan's manner would have wounded less live- 
ly susceptibility than that of her daughter, but 
the mother had not watched the sisterly sentiment 
that the habit of living with Allan had developed 
in Camilla; of Allan so caressing, occupying him- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 217 

self with her, and who possessed much greater ten- 
derness than her mother, whose hands were al- 
ways so cold beneath her kisses ! Therefore, Mad- 
ame de Scudemor could not know what deception 
had struck a blow at the heart of the neglected 
child, with regard to a change which her ignorance 
prevented her understanding. 

On the other hand, in the presence of her moth- 
er, whose eyes were sometimes fixed upon her, as 
if to read her, Camilla was often much more re- 
served than sad. There was no reverie as when, 
during Allan's illness, she was alone in the fields, 
but she was tenderly serious, with long, slow looks. 
She retired within herself beneath the gaze of 
Madame de Scudemor, whose glance did not beam 
with the warm expression of a mother. Besides, 
this was an involuntary movement which the off- 
hand ways and mere physical kindness of Madame 
de Scudemor sufficed to explain, as well as the 
absence of that peaceful, strong, and quenching 
love of a daughter for her mother, which Camilla 
did not know of, and which does not always fall 
to the share of those who would most appreciate 
its celestial sweetness. Among the disinherited 
beings of this world the most wretched are those 
cast away by their mothers, poor orphans of the 



218 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

heart, most sacred of all, even to orphans them- 
selves. Allan's fraternal feeling for Camilla had 
taken the place of all that she otherwise yearned 
for. When these feelings were refused her, is it 
astonishing that she should regret them? 

But she no longer let childish complaints es- 
cape her, like those with which she had over- 
whelmed Allan at the beginning of the alteration 
of his conduct. She had engulfed all her grief 
within her breast. Already there was an abyss as 
deep and as black as. a crater in her bosom, as 
frail as a nightingale's, and which a thrust from 
the thorn of an eglantine would have pierced 
through and through. 

And the greatest evil of Allan's passion was per- 
haps this perpetual wounding of a pure and deep 
feeling in a loving soul. It was pain forced upon 
an innocent creature who had done nothing to 
be made to suffer. Oh ! passion ! passion ! believe 
not in its devotion, nor in its tears! Stifle it. if 
you would not be cruel ! See, this youth was good, 
and he had loved Camilla. On the head of this 
child was accumulated all his remembrances, the 
crown of years, the crown of pearls glittering ador- 
ably in her hair, dishevelled now as in the dead 
days of her sweet childhood. Since Madame de 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 219 

Scudemor had ceased to be a mother as well for 
Allan as she had been for Camilla, the man be- 
came as ferocious for his adopted sister as a 
wounded vulture. 

Nevertheless, the jealousy excited by a single 
caress was now lost in that of a greater kind, not 
directed against a child, the detested symbol of 
affection for another, atrocious vision of a life 
changed into another life, to pursue him with a 
resemblance and a name ! Now it was the whole 
past of the woman so fatally loved which Allan 
had to hate and fear ; all that full and long youth 
of which he knew the history, the history nailed 
to his conscience, after having passed through the 
marrow of his bones! Each day that used up 
the intoxication of possession exalted this sombre 
jealousy. It was only one thought, but an intol- 
erable one. There are — she had told him so— no 
poniards against the past, and one cannot play the 
spy on a memory. But Allan could not understand 
that this grandly unfortunate Yseult could have 
so profoundly separated her past life from her act- 
ual existence by the entire breadth of her scorn; 
that she held the men she had adored so low that 
she had not even honoured them by the insults 
of the betrayed woman. He could not understand 



220 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

that she could have so thoroughly become a Niobe 
with her eternal marble impassibility, when the 
children of her dreams, more handsome than the 
children of the legend, died, one after the other, be- 
neath the implacable arrows of Fate. For Allan, 
it was impossible to admit that jealousy should no 
more exist in his heart, so violently upheaved ; he 
did not believe that she was great enough not' to 
feel regret. For that woman the past was not as 
it is for us — souls subject to common infirmities 
— a soft spectre, with rose-scented breath', coming 
to draw back the curtains of our bed during our 
nights of sleeplessness; the skeleton of the cher- 
ished being, escaped from its coffin, returning to 
kiss with the lips that are gone the lips we pos- 
sess, and still having something soft and warm 
where her mouth used to be. 

But even more than the knowledge of Madame 
de Scudemor's soul, a dominant, unconquerable 
fact was there, containing the greatest of all hu- 
man grievances, absorbing the poisoned germs of 
Allan's jealousy in despair more bitter in another 
wav than that in which jealousy could have thrown 
him. He was not beloved, and he loved! There 
was no one preferred to him. If in this heart 
which was not his there had been a preference 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 221 

for another, at least there would have been the 
possibility of being loved as well. There would 
have been the possibility of vengeance. But such 
miserable compensations did not exist. He was 
not beloved, and he loved ! It was simple enough ; 
but did there exist a misfortune more complete 
than that? Moralists and poets have not shown 
sufficiently what unrevealed secrets of torture such 
a fact — not to be loved — encloses in the - heart of 
the man who loves. All pales, fades away, and 
becomes almost sweet in the presence of this su- 
preme fact, of which the analysis would be a Gor- 
gon book for confiding and happy souls. To love 
her who has softened her look as she glanced at 
you, who has counted you — who has not even 
counted you at all ! — amongst the indifferent pass- 
ers-by, is it not unwitting brutality in the face of 
which the inner man- becomes cowardly and trem- 
bles, as if threatened? One dies of love — one 
does more than die for it, one suffers from it — and 
if we could show that love as we feel it, she would 
care no more than she would for a song, and quiet- 
ly turn her head another way. What horrible 
irony, which by reason of its depth becomes irony 
no longer! Nevertheless, the mind conceives the 
uselessness of rage, and when one perpetually quiv- 



222 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ers with the temper of passion, one sees one's self 
shuddering, and viewing one's own state from the 
lofty standpoint of our reason, we see ourselves 
strangely abnormal and frightful objects of pity 
Finally, when the loved one grows perfidious and 
leaves us, this anguish which troubled our view, 
making the world look as if it was ruled no more 
by intelligent laws, is only so horribly cruel be- 
cause we still love some one who has ceased to 

love us ! 

Such was the fatality that weighed Allan down. 
The certainty that he was not loved and never 
would be, finished by annihilating all other feel- 
ings. There was but room in his soul for infinite 
grief, which reflection sharpened each day more, 
and remaining ever strong although sensibility 
gave way, because when the nerves are broken down 
the intellect remains eternally. 

And it was grief that was well-nigh majestic, 
overwhelming a being so young and so handsome. 
It cast upon his angelic frame, which was not yet 
a man's robust stature, something like senile fa- 
tigue. The soul had lived quicker than the body, 
for what could life tell him now that he did not 
know? Was there greater grief than his? Is not 
all that from which humanity suffers summed up 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 223 

in some deceived desire, in some gasping wish for 
the Impossible? 

In looking at Allan, superficial observers would 
have said that he was experiencing great difficulty 
in getting over the illness that had nearly killed 
him. But, alas ! the malady was still deeper than 
if it had touched upon the source of life — although 
he exhausted that also in the furious and sad vo- 
luptuousness with which he satiated himself, all 
solitary in the ice-cold arms of Madame de Scude- 
mor. 

After the days, nothing would satisfy him but 
the nights ; and not in hasty fragments, but entire. 
And this woman, to whom he only said, "I will!" 
in the fury of the sensual passion he felt for her, 
and who could have brought him to his knees with 
a look, had bent her head like a humble serving- 
maid, and had not asked for the chalice to be 
withdrawn from her lips. Besides, was it not bet- 
ter, she thought, to cross this fiery desert from 
which she wished to save Allan, than to drag him 
there step by step? She accomplished her work 
of devotion and pity with glorious submission, 
according to the views of his virile mind, weakened 
by the reality of the passions of which every phase 
was familiar to her. 



224 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

The door of Camilla's bed-chamber opened into 
the apartment of Madame de Scudemor. For fear 
of awakening formidable suspicions or authorising 
awkward questions, Madame de Scudemor could 
certainly not put Camilla in another room. So Al- 
lan only went to see Yseult when the night was 
far advanced. He was obliged to wait until Ca- 
milla's slumbers were deep enough to preclude all 
fear of troubling them by the noise of a door or 
the creaking of the flooring beneath a clumsy foot- 
fall. Thus, when all the house was clothed in si- 
lence, and the servants were asleep, Allan crossed 
the long corridors with furtive steps, often stop- 
ping to breathe, between two throbs of the heart. 
Some emotion resembling fright was fatally mixed 
with that act of going and finding at night, sur- 
reptitiously, the woman he loved, and the thought 
of whom caused rivers of fire to course through 

his veins. 

Then, when morning dawned, as yet impercept- 
ible—a pearly grey speck, before being rosy, on 
the horizon of night— he came out of Madame de 
Scudemor's room, as pale as Romeo dropping from 
the embrace of Juliet on to the balcony where he 
hung to *av a last farewell. But, unlike Romeo, 
he was not pale from the double pallor of happi- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 225 

ness and fear which showed itself on the brows 
moist with kisses given and received. His ashy 
look would have been more vulgar if the noble 
grief of his soul had not made its hue diaphanous 
—like those clouds of thick and deadened white- 
ness that the moon makes ghostly by flooding them 
with her luminous, silvery sheen. 



226 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XX. 

The clock struck one of the half hours. They 
knew not what hour it was, but doubtless every- 
body at the Willows had been long asleep. They 
alone were awake. Their eyes were open like those 
of a guilty or a happy couple. The man enlaced 
the woman who had possessed the first feelings 
of his heart with all the caresses of a love which 
makes the most disturbing part of sensual delight 
quite chaste. She put into play the last devotion 
of which she was capable ; was that a crime? The 
man was in love, and felt that his love was use- 
less, and never would he be repaid by anything re- 
sembling the least feeling of love — horrible an- 
guish ! The woman, showing inalienable sympa- 
thy in inalienable weakness, feared that this love, 
inspired by her, would destroy, before destroying 
itself, his life made to be accepted on condition 
of giving another in exchange; was that happi- 

"Let me be!" he said, as if he feared resistance 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 227 

after so many voluntary abandonments. "Look at 
me, so that I may see yon !" 

And placing a hand on Madame de Scudemor's 
forehead, he pushed her nearly backwards, while 
his other hand grasped her shoulder near the neck. 

The bosom, veiled by a light, low-cut muslin, 
was slightly rounded by the position she was then 
in, more seated than lying, leaning upon one arm 
placed at an angle, the other stretched on the bed, 
and covered in muslin like the breast, but tightened 
in such a way as to give to the wrist of that white 
hand, which was rather long, but so expressive, 
more perfect grace still. 

The room was dark, for the lamp that was burn- 
ing on a table only dispersed part of the obscurity 
through one of the bed-curtains, half dropping in 
forgetful negligence. There was only light in the 
mirrors, placed in several spots, and even on the 
bed where they were, and where nearly all the 
gleam of the lamps fell. 

Delirium still subsisted on Allan's lineaments, 
but it was the delirium which was no more just 
then but the remnant of a storm on the murmur- 
ing edge of a cloud carried along by a dumb breeze, 
a last heave of his breast, a rapid interval of peace 
in troubled days. 



« 
228 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

His devouring, tigerish idea, that this woman 
loved him not, again rose in him during the mo- 
mentary appeasement of Ugolino-like pleasure 
which would soon again fall to its carnal meal. 
In forcing her to look at him, and by plunging 
his gaze into those other eyes of infinite abstrac- 
tion, he sought for some fresh intoxication, so 
as to think no more that she loved him not. 

She looked at him, but in the depths of her eyes, 
free of all sensuality, it might have been said 
that a more dreamy thought than those she usually 
had was to be seen therein. 

"What are you thinking about?" he said. 
"I thought that four months ago," she answered. 
"I was here alone, in this very position, and that 
I rose from my bed to write to you. You know 
what I wrote. Just now, I asked myself if there 
was another way of saving you." 

Allan's brows became slowly knitted, but his 
eyes flashed forth no light. This movement of 
the flesh of the forehead was all that passed the 
threshold of his heart. His hand that was on the 
Countess Yseult's neck fell along her hair, which 
a moment before the same hand had unbound and 
draped round her head, so calmly majestic, a con- 
trast that he adored, and which caused her to re- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 229 

eemble some captive queen, or some great pride 
wounded, or stoicism bent down. It was not so 
as to bathe his hands in the floating masses of 
her thick tresses, to quench the thirst of his mouth, 
that he always liked to make her hair stream 
around them when they were thus near together; 
but it was a want of tender, offended imagination. 
He wished to soften her lofty and grave physiog- 
nomy, to give it an air of youth, an appearance of 
disorder that it did not possess, some lying dis- 
traction, but which might have sufficed for that 
instant of the infinite soul. He wished for all 
that would make her step down from the intan- 
gible heights of reason, and make her resemble a 
woman, weak by love and lust — not pity. He was 
a born poet — twice a poet, since he was in love; 
and he would have Yseult dishevelled as the poet 
uses a rhyme or a metaphor; for such was the 
Thyme and the metaphor of that incoercible poem 
that he could not realise. 

His arm, thrown over her bowed shoulders, gave 
way, and dropped lower down on the softened pil- 
lows. What she had said had detached his lan- 
guid, contemplative caress from her — this caress 
of the other shore of ardent pleasures, to which 
one returns with supplicating regret when they are 



230 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

gone. A true word, innocent and good, had inter- 
rupted the caress, as a childish finger causes rip- 
ened fruit to fall, only by touching it. 

The melancholy languor of Allan's sentiment did 
not last, but it was not the soul that buried it in 
his love. That is often quite enough for poor 
human nature. His arm. falling from the shoul- 
ders on to the bed, had perhaps touched upon some 
less thick material, the swelling of some part of 
the rounded form, more exciting in its voluptuous 
mystery, a revelation of nudity from some disar- 
ranged fold of the nightdress in a careless atti- 
tude, or a quivering if imperceptible touch, which 
was enough to make his breast swell again with 
rage, and the storm broke again with its frightful 
rumbling murmurs. 

"Ah! now you can din your eternal words of 
ice into my ears !" he broke out. "They no longer 
6trike into my heart like drops of venom ! There 
is something, Yseult, which is better than you, 
and which will preserve me from you ! It is your 
supreme beauty, which you gave to me as some- 
thing you despised, and which causes me to forget 
what you repeat to me unceasingly, so that I 
hearken to you no more !" 

And in the looking-glass opposite, placed at the 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 231 

same height as the bed, the two faces of the strange 
couple disappeared. But the very columns of the 
couch groaned as if, answering Allan, some impet- 
uous sympathy had seized upon its inert wooden 
frame, and its hard and icy bronzes; it seemed to 
be moved, as if to shame the indifferent creature 
who lay upon it. 

She resembled the Sphinxes of the Empire bed 
by her Grecian profile, the shape of the facial an- 
gle and its rigid immobility, the same in the deep 
pallor of her skin as they in the smooth green hue 
of their bronze. But the analogy stopped there; 
for no mocking mystery played on- her lips, no 
impenetrability shadowed her brow. Alas ! some- 
thing sadder still appeared there : the annihilation 
of everything! 

" Oh ! I have never loved but your beauty," said 
he, halting in his speech a thousand times, speak- 
ing in strident tones, with a false, breathless, dis- 
composed voice, "this beauty I now hold in my 
arms ! Never, in my most ardent dreams, have I 
desired any other happiness than to be thus breast 
to breast with you ! Oh ! love is but a kiss, a bite, 
blood that flows and mingles, a night that we pass, 
days like the nights, nights like this, and death to 
end all ! Such is love ! And the rest ! Is there 



232 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAK WILDE. 

aught more ? What care I ? It cannot belong to 
love P and he laughed. "What matters your speech 
or your silence, as long as you move not your lips 
from under mine ! What matters if nothing beats 
in this breast, as long as I am more master of it 
than your child ! Ah ! the rest is only fit to fill up 
the hours during which we do not love, when, 
weak and tired, we return to humanity ! But love 
is only love because it fills up a vacant life. Let 
it fill up until it bursts, who cares? Love me! 
Love me not ! Words only, striking the air with 
6terile sounds; perhaps lies? Is it not you that 
I hold to me here now, Yseult ? You are mine ! I 

am happy !" 

And he proclaimed his felicity with accents 
dragged from so far down in his soul that pure- 
minded people would have tremblingly doubted the 
celestial origin of the happiness they often hoped 
for. 

But expiation followed close upon blasphemy. 
In him the senses palpitated still, while to this 
announced happiness the heart replied by supreme 
negation. Who has not felt, in the soul's depths, 
these sudden movements, at a moment when they 
believed that the inward drama had only to play 
itself out henceforward without a single struggle? 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 233 

The climax was known and written in advance, and 
suddenly from a deep and dark unnoticed scenic 
background another denouement started up, great- 
er and truer. Tears drowned the impious laugh, 
and in lieu of all this trumpet blast of victory a 
cry of distress arose. 

"I cannot believe it, although I wish it, Yseult ! 
he continued. "It is not true that I am happy! 
It is not true that love is what I said! In vain 
I lie in your bosom and drink myself mad with 
mortal intoxication, my heart avenges itself on 
my rambling reason. Ah! it is more likely that 
the contrary is the case. Love is to be loved, and 
nothing else! And I," said he, his voice breaking 
off into sobs, "I am very unhappy !" 

Seeing him overcome with such affliction, Yseult 
lifted him up, and said to him, as he now was 
weeping far from her, his head buried in the pil- 
lows, at the farther end of the bed : 

"Yes, Allan, you are unhappy, but do not give 
way to such despair! Have a little courage, for 
my sake, whom you love !" 

Poor woman! Unhappy also, for she felt the 
impotency of what she said, which caused sharp 

anguish in her. 

"Look you!" he replied, lifting his face, all vio- 



234 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

let through his stifling pressure in the pillow, and 
still wet with his tears, "I would sooner have pre- 
ferred jealousy than what so wounded my soul! 
I have felt the pangs of jealousy when I thought 
that you loved Camilla because of her father ! I 
was jealous when you told me that you had also 
loved as I love you, with the same frenzy ! Oh ! 
that makes true suffering! But not so much as 
to know that one is not loved, and never will be! 
Not so much as the tortures of the damned in 
love to which I am condemned, Yseult. Only that 
is intolerable. I love you, and you love me not!" 
And with a tearing asunder like Laocoon, that 
image of destiny on this earth, and especially of 
his, he repeated the fatal words : 
"I love you, and you love me not!" 
Many a time and oft Madame de Scudemor had 
noticed that he was a prey to this thought, but 
never as on this fatal night. The impassibility she 
had attained by weakness as many reach it by 
strength of will, was touched in the face of such 
grief. Perhaps might she have wished to feel her 
heart beat again, even though she once more risked 
being betrayed, so as to spare Allan such agony. 
But this was the vain regret of generosity crushed 
by the Impossible; the Juggernaut of human des- 



WHAT KEVEK DIES. 235 

tinies; a serpent that holds in its folds your feet> 
hands, breast, and throat, when, three paces off, 
you see your children dying ! 

He seized her throat violently in his two hands 
as if he was going to strangle her. 

"Oh, Yseult," said he, "Yseult, sooner give me 
back my jealousy, my cruel, concentrated, devour- 
ing jealousy! Give it back to me-! You would 
do me such good ! It will be like the dew of heaven 
to my soul ; like balm on open wounds ! Ah ! can 
you not start that flame burning again in my 
heart? Speak to me of that Margarita, who un- 
wittingly brushed away the bloom of your soul's 
flowers; of the miserable cowards whom you al- 
lowed to crush their leaves ; of your husband who 
flung them back, withered, at you when you had 
overwhelmed him with them ; and of the most loved 
one of all, who consumed them to the roots ! Tell 
me that you still love him! Tell me that it is 
not true that he is forgotten; that one does not 
forget a man loved with such humble adoration, 
that upon his remembrance shines a ray of that 
wonderful flame which lit up his brow on the days 
of kisses and embraces, in the nights full of swoon- 
ing and ecstasy ! Show me the place of that por- 
trait, so long worn, you told me, that the mark 



236 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

has remained incrusted in your flesh 1 Oh, I will 
search for it on your breast!" 

And he left her throat, now torn by his nails, 
and fell furiously upon the modest gown that cov- 
ered her bosom at night. 

"Come! be frank with me, Yseult. Confess 
that you deceived me, that I was a child to believe 
you/that you love your handsome Octave still, 
that you think of him always, always! and that 
at this moment I cause your blood to run quicker 
through your veins by the mere mention of his 
name ! Oh ! stab me with the details of your con- 
fessions ! Repeat to me what he found most beau- 
tiful in you and what you gave up to him with 
the most delirious delight, and the caresses he pre- 
ferred, and those for which you asked him most 
frequently ! Oh ! have you not— let me seek for 
it!_have you not orr this body which he has aban- 
doned without being able to give back the soul he 
took, some stigma of ineffaceable caress, the pro- 
found bite of a tooth that cut your flesh, the mark 
of some mad sucking kiss or some trace of more 
secret ravages still? Show it to me, expose it 
naked to me, with the pride and regret of sensu- 
ality that has been happy, but which is not sati- 
ated ! Where your mouth can reach, kiss avidly 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 237 

in my presence these accusing vestiges, to try and 
find the moisture of the lips that has not remained 
there, and to shudder and die with the idea that 
you have found it once more! Spare me not a 
single delight, as you recollected them in the pur- 
suit of solitary pleasure, rendered sharper and 
madder still hy the idea of the awful impotency 
it betrays ! Plunge your body as far as the loins 
into sensual pleasure, which is called foul when 
judged in cold blood, and which is so beautiful 
that there is no slough it has not wallowed in, be 
it the thickest and most pestilential of all the 
cesspools of the earth ! Then afterwards come to 
me, glorying in your stains and your pollutions, 
because love shines out from the fury of your re- 
membrances and from the impudence of your 
avowals ! Come to me, who will understand you, 
and who will return you my blessing for your 
torture! You will be eternally holy for me; for 
you will relieve me from all I suffer, by giving 
me back my jealousy !" 

He stopped, exhausted, a whitish foam on his 
lips and his eyes glaring. She, as divine as- an 
insulted woman who had even no need to pardon, 
had crossed her arms on her half-naked bosom, as 
if to guard it, when he tried to tear away its cover- 



238 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ing, and from that moment she had remained in 
that attitude, listening to his talk without horror 
or wounded pride, still with the same smooth, white 
pallor, but which was soon bound to be resplendent 
with the lambent transformation of the glory of 
the moral martyrdom she endured with grandeur. 
This sight brought Allan back to reason. He 
was afraid of himself. 

"What have I said to you, Yseult?" he asked. 
"Have I offended you?" 

"I only heard one thing," she rejoined, with un- 
speakable mercy — "that you were suffering greatly, 
Allan." 

And she stretched out her hand to him, upon 
which he let fall tears less bitter than those he had 
just shed. 

Every night did not bring back such cruel scenes, 
but none passed without Allan's grief betraying 
itself. A more noble, but none the less exacting, 
desire, which he could not satisfy, cried out in his 
soul unceasingly. The flowers of passion, of which 
he sucked the juices, contained, like laurel leaves, 
a corrosive and mortal poison. He resembled that 
wretched madman whose little-known story is all 
the more touching because it is the symbol of the 
life of many of us. A raving dreamer fell in love 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 239 

with a sword-blade — a haughty and cruel sweet- 
heart; but it was lissom, supple, and graceful as 
a young girl. When bent scythe-shape on the 
stones, it bounded back again like a viper. It 
threw out fine bluish gleams which enticed and fas- 
cinated like the adorable and irresistible eyes of 
the woman we know to be perfidious. Perhaps the 
poor insensate wretch found analogies in all this. 
Be that as it may, the murderous steel replied 
to his caresses, but with blood — blood for kisses 
and for embraces; blood on his hands, on his 
breast, on his lips — when one day he drove it to 
the hilt in his heart. Ah ! why does not Allan and 
all of us, as we press to our breast these too much 
loved women, swords of grief which tear us, do 
we not stretch the wound open deep and large 
enough for love and life to leave us both together ? 
Nevertheless, it must be admitted that the un- 
appeasable malady eating into Allan's soul, and 
devouring the years of his youth, was at bottom 
a magnificent wound; it was noble mourning, or 
despair not devoid of grandeur. It was the first 
time that an ulcer was handsomer than the purple 
that covered it; for this sore was in the soul, and 
all that is there is sacred. Ah ! love is an eternal 
possession, something that defies our organisation 



I 

240 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

instead of crushing it, because it is placed in the 
strongest part of man, like an irradiation of God 
Himself. Joined hands are only a symbol — a look 
full of light or tears ; a colourless reverberation of 
the invisible lamp burning in the temple of the 
heart; the veiled firmament in the dark night of 
humanity that we guess at, where would be blind- 
ing stars of flame if we could see them. The Un- 
known ! torture and delight! — is it not that which 
implores the sympathy of another soul, and those 
ties which are not merely the vulgar embraces of 
the arms? Thus, when this yearning for sympa- 
thy remains yawning like an al^ss, when the im- 
mensity of the heart, which reaches as far as the 
waves of some infinite ocean, finds not the azure 
universal globe of another heart to enlace, there 
escapes a great wail from the soul, and that was 
the cry uttered by Allan. He was a young man 
whom the stupor of sensuality had not besotted 
with its torpedo-like contact, and he was not con- 
tent with the love-philter of which he drank fully, 
and which only satisfied one kind of desire. 

Doubtless fatigued by such a succession of 
shocks, Madame de Scudemor had fallen asleep. 
She had not bound up her hair again. She had not 
troubled to hide her bosom once more. The light of 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 241 

the lamp softened the slightly masculine curves of 
her face, and darkened the silken down which 
shaded her lips, softly closed in slumber. Although 
pale, and her eyes closed like a dead woman al- 
ready buried, without a dream to send her a par- 
ticle of shadow from the end of its wing as it 
might pass over her brow and her eyes, everything 
in her nevertheless revealed deep and concentrated 
life. There was not one of her veins that did not 
give evidence of her vitality; there was not a beat 
of her arteries which was not the sign of strength. 
Every pore perspired with the force of existence. 
To listen to her long and calm breathing, one 
might have thought that a new world was about 
to escape from her lightly lifted bosom. In vain 
coming age — inexorable age — had printed its in- 
sults on the forehead, which thinking and suffering 
had aged before its time; on the mouth, which no 
longer had the sadness of regret; on her hair, the 
blackness of which was now not quite pure; but 
all these apparent scratches on this beautiful block 
of Carrara marble had not eaten deeper into the 
invulnerable stone. If time had not conquered, at 
least it seemed to have stopped still, astonished, be- 
fore beginning the struggle again which could not 
be exhausted in a few days. And it was beautiful, 



242 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

this sort of slowness with which a mortal creature 
was attacked, as if the wielder of the hour-glass 
feared that he had to do with something immortal. 
Allan, one hand on the head of a Sphinx of the 
bed; Allan, on his knees, at the side of Madame 
de Scudemor, stared at her with eyes half sad and 
half delighted. He admired this plenitude of life, 
this luxury of strength and rest. Leaning over her 
impassible bosom did he listen to the murmurs of 
the torrent of life uselessly circulating in this pow- 
erful organisation, but which, alas! gushed no 
longer from it? Or on her neck, so vigorously and 
softly moulded, did he follow with his eyes the 
ardent trace of his hands, which he had placed 
thereon in a fit of fury with which he reproached 
himself ? 

"Oh," he thought, "still so much youth, but not 
for me ! Even in this divine body which she aban- 
dons to me, I have not the power to augment by 
one pulsation more the life that animates it! Be- 
neath my heart it is the same as it is now. And 
yet how immense seems that vitality of hers ! How 
that ocean would froth and foam if there existed 
a breath strong enough to lash it into fury ! How 
beautiful she would be ! God ! if love had but 
one last feeble ray of light for her ! How happi- 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 243 

ness bestowed by her would be unlike the delights 
that other women give ! With what impetuosity 
would I not yield up my life to be devoured by 
this joy, too destroying to last! My God! how 
beautifully she could kill me !" 

And he wept. The cry of the osprey was alone 
heard without. He wept. The tears fell slowly 
on the bosom of Madame de Scudemor, and dried 
there, one after the other, as useless as on a coffin. 

What a strange thing! He cried over life as 
one weeps at death. But as he sobbed for that 
life which passed in her lips with mockery, and 
which he could not absorb in himself, he also 
groaned for the loss of a lifeless heart, most de- 
plorable death of all ! 



2U THE WKITIXGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 



XXI. 

The remembrance of that cruel night was pres- 
ent in every thought of Madame de Scudemor like 
a funereal vision. Pursued by the spectacle of the 
unhappiness which crushed Allan de Cynthry, she 
searched in her great soul to see if there was not 
still some other sacrifice to be made in order to 
attest the pity in the name of which she had acted. 
What was admirable in her, what never weakened, 
what supported her, was the horrible hope that Al- 
lan's passion was mortal. In presence of a love 
that any other woman would have been proud to 
inspire, she had never felt one instant's emotion 
at her saddening certitude. The scepticism of an 
illusion had not recaptured her, and she kept, 
purely and profoundly, her faith in nothingness 
that reposed in her breast. She was a quiet atheist, 
putting her trust in death as the fanatic in promr 
ises of immortality; and she waited patiently, be- 
cause she was fully convinced; boasting not, for 
atheism is as silent as scorn. 

But a doctor alleviates the sufferings of a man 



WHAT KEVEK DIES. 245 

attacked by mortal illness, awaiting until he should 
fall, he and his thoughts, to be stifled in the grave, 
and that is called being humane. But if pain is 
stronger than vain science, what remains to be 
done, except to violently precipitate the being cre- 
ated for death into the tomb ? When this terrible 
consequence before which men more cowardly than 
their doctrines have started back, when this su- 
preme resource also fails — inert and lugubrious 
thing! — human Pity covers up its face and waits 
in dumb horror, until there only remains a corpse 
to lift. 

That was what Yseult had done for Allan's pas- 
sion. But sensuality had not gone to sleep before 
dying. It was on the watch, ever more cruel. 
Would it prolong its vigil much longer? Would 
it resist the fatal agony many days? Yseult 
was waiting, chained to the patient, giving him 
her hand when he desired it, her mouth when he 
thirsted for it, her bosom when he willed it — 
all poisons, but too slow to suit her intrepid com- 
passion. 

Nevertheless, the sufferings had become so atro- 
cious, that last night had been full of such new 
horror, that this pity of hers, reduced to inertia, 
rose up and tried to act. Oh, madness of senti- 



246 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ment ! but a sentiment which would paralyse man's 
tongue if he tried to put a name to it ! 

"Perhaps," said she to herself, during one of 
those moments of inward retirement, which are 
so profound, and contain all the elements of secret 
reproach, "perhaps I have not been far enough 
yet ? I have rejected every motive of vanity, stifled 
all the repugnance of vulgar delicacy, trampled 
on all seeming virtue, but does there not remain 
something else to sacrifice? Is there not a rem- 
nant of pride, setting up the negation that grieves 
him between Allan and myself?" 

And thus she began to crush beneath her power 
of will this last flake of a soul of dust, this pride 
existing in wounds. Alas ! this work upon herself, 
this apostasy of veracity which she had preserved 
till then, this blushing kiss offered to lies, this 
determination to be base, was not the result of 
one day's efforts. She had to try over and over 
again before being entirely degraded in her own 
sight. 

Whether it was the effect of the combat she 
had with her pride, or the beginning of the at- 
tempt she was making, her manner suddenly 
changed, and Allan was promptly obliged to take 
notice of it. The infinite calmness of her bearing, 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 247 

so great that it seemed to overflow, and which had 
many a time overcome Allan as if with a sudden 
chill", began to change a little. Her glance was 
deadened like polished steel beneath a long breath ; 
the smile, a poor rose that had died leaf by leaf, 
hovered more sadly on the lips. Her voice, al- 
ready stifled, grew more dull. When Allan spoke 
of his indefatigable love, she listened to him with 
an expression of her physiognomy that he had 
never seen. On the other hand, she abandoned 
herself less to long conversations alone with him, 
to a life with every minute passed in his com- 
pany. Did not Brutus himself sometimes carry a 
corner of his toga to his mouth to hide the laugh 
of scorn that perhaps returned through his mag- 
nificent imposture, and which would have be* 
trayed will and genius beneath the mask of stu- 
pidity? 

Allan was astonished at this change in the 
woman who always behaved so simply and so loy- 
ally. What he had understood of her up to now 
had, it is true, made him the most unhappy of 
men, but at least released him from all future 
anxieties. Now, on the contrary, that Yseult no 
longer showed herself to be the unalterable woman 
she always was with him, should he be forced to 



248 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

think that her compassion was the cause of a 
change, quite ordinary in any other woman, but in- 
explicable in her case? And why changed, if her 
sterile sentiment was always the same? What ad- 
mixture could trouble the deep unity of her life? 
With Allan's activity, with the resources of a mind 
sharpened by what he feared, he soon explored the 
field of possibilities. But all led him to absurdity. 
All were in flagrant contradiction with what made 
Madame de Scudemor an exceptional creature. All 
veiled the truth about that woman, such humble 
and disinterested truth, that one must have been 
blind not to believe in it as one would believe in 
oneself, and it was thus that Allan believed. 

One does not always judge a loved one well ; and 
besides, what matters it? Is not illusion the most 
restful of all certainties? But not to be able to 
understand, either by illusion or reality, because 
thoughts spring up in our brain which we cannot 
reveal, ask the wives of men of genius what terrible 
grief that is ! Allan experienced a feeling analo- 
gous to that suffering. He knew everything of the 
life and soul of Yseult. Nothing appeared out- 
wardly or intimately to annoy him in this existence 
of which all the days were uniformly monotonous; 
nntliing that could justify this difference of which 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 249 

the suddenness struck him. He risked a question 
or two, but by a word or a pause she reduced the 
query to nothing. Between brother and sister, a 
thousand things are said ; between lover and sweet- 
heart, everything is said; but here, the relationship 
was not confidential, and what right had Allan to 
exact that all secrets should become common prop- 
erty? He did not really feel he had the right to 
say to Madame de Scudemor either tenderly or im- 
periously: "What is the matter with you?" He 
had thought over his actual life. The meditation 
to which he bent his spirit is the sign of deep feel- 
ing. This reflection exposes the ruggedness of the 
soul, the cracked, tottering, dusty boulders which 
in the life of two hearts fall at the least shock, and 
each day leave the rock more naked. Such a situa- 
tion is full of anguish, but there is nothing to be 
done. One must judge and blush for oneself. We 
may tear out our eyes and throw them at the first 
milestone on our road, but we cannot tear out our 
conscience! Often shame is the cannon-ball 
dragged by the fettered, bloody foot of a feeling 
in our hearts. It was riveted to that of Allan. 

But this feeling which carries its punishment 
with it, because all feeling perhaps contains some 



250 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

unknown culpability, we still hold and cling to it ; 
we press it to our breast and drive it in with both 
hands as fervently as a miser buries a treasure, with 
the thrill of a coward who is in hiding, and the 
tenacious madness of a young expiring woman who 
will not die. Unity alone is grand and beautiful, 
but duality devours men entirely, even to the heart. 
Oh, ye who place struggles above harmony, know 
ye of fights where one is conquered without the 
repose of defeat? 

"It is baseness, immense baseness in me," said 
Allan to himself, when the truth pierced through 
his corrupted intellect, "to accept the life that this 
woman has mapped out for me! And besides, I 
obey much more than I command. I have sullied 
the luminous and candid conception that I had of 
love by my shameless longing, and although the 
satisfactions of my brutal egotism have always 
been powerless to satiate the cravings that I feel 
at the very source of my being, nevertheless ought 
I to have repudiated them? Love, then, is not a 
feeling of which a man ought to be proud, or else 
I am wanting in the most vulgar pride." 

This frightful dilemma closed upon his con- 
science as the split oak-tree on the tired arms of 
Milo of Crotona ; but even as the oak did not kill 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 251 

the athlete, the wounded conscience complained, 
but love remained safe and sound. 

This censure, which he did not spare himself, 
and which did not touch his passion, prevented him 
from giving way with Yseult to the inevitable 
abandonments of persons living together, and of 
which her coldness had considerably diminished the 
number. Are there not days when, in spite of all, 
one wants to strip off the cloak of the hidden life, 
of solitary thought, of unshared love, so as to 
breathe a little freer; when, although one has but 
one shoulder on which to lean the tired brow, one 
carries one's thoughts, more tired still, as if that 
shoulder could hear; when one fears not to ex- 
pose the sweat of one's troubles to the cold, striking 
chill in the shadow of granite pedestals, as if it was 
the welcome coolness of a group of olive trees? 
What fatal imprudence, nearly always expiated too 
late! He did not know which was the most pol- 
luted, his pride or his love. 

If he lived so retired within himself, it was all 
the more reason for him not to ask Madame de 
Scudemor to initiate him into the mysteries of her 
thoughts. He knew them. Nevertheless, he es- 
teemed himself generous towards Yseult in never 
interrogating her any more — in never again solic- 



252 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

iting the careless revelations which mount from 
the heart to the lips when one loves, eternal in- 
auguration of one for the other, which teaches 
nothing but the desire to learn more about each 
other. His glance, so to speak, went right through 
the inconceivable calmness of Yseult, and seemed 
to play on the other side of the woman now re- 
duced to something that could not be analysed, 
having only saved from the great shipwreck of all 
things this faculty of compassion, which is to sen- 
timent what a notion is to intelligence and an atom 
to the universe — mysterious essence of these 
strange hearts for which there is no Tiresias. 

And he who gave himself airs of superb delicacy, 
he who, by dint of vanity, had illusions regarding 
the motives for his silence, he was soon able to 
confess it, when Madame de Scudemor appeared 
to him from such a fresh point of view. It was 
hardly anything yet; the touch of a bulrush on 
the torpor of still waters; a flying circular ripple 
beneath a grain fallen from the beak of a passing 
bird; a caprice — something womanly which she 
does not understand herself; and this whim, this 
nearly nothing, was a torturing enigma of which 
Allan would have dearly paid the solution. A 
supposition would have relieved him, but what 




Confess that you are tired of me V 
Page 363 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 253 

could he suppose about this unique woman ? Every- 
thing, except that she could ever love him ! Every- 
thing, sooner than that in the dried-up urn from 
which the rain-water had fled beneath the sky of 
love turned to bronze there could be found in some 
hidden angle, a drop not yet dry ! 

Worried, out of sorts with himself, wishing to 
finish with this curiosity which made him so 
anxious : 

"Confess, Yseult," he said to her that day, with 
a laugh that was almost fierce, and in grave tones, 
"confess that you are tired of me, and that your 
pity weighs you down !" 

She was seated at the piano, in a study exclu- 
sively reserved for her, simply and elegantly fur- 
nished, and which opened on to a balcony. She 
had just been trying a fantasia. Madame de 
Scudemor was no musician. The soul was wanting 
to these clever fingers. Thus she never finished the 
piece she had begun. She generally rose from the 
piano as if closing a book that is not interesting. 
But that day, in her lazy way of remaining where 
she was, her hands thrown loosely on the keys, all 
the unaccustomed style of which Allan was greed- 
ily seeking the cause was to be seen. The fantasia 
had passed from the soul of the musician into 



254 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

hers. At unequal intervals she mingled some care- 
less sound to the notes of the interrupted theme, 
breaking off to take up the melody once more, 
beginning over again to languidly disjoin the se- 
ries of ideas that the music sought to depict. These 
resembled some wandering clematis of reveries that 
art had capriciously formed into garlands; cas- 
cades of ephemeral harmony, and melodies falling 
one by one in silence like drops of water from 
lifted oars, when the boat stops, on the long and 
sonorous tranquillity of the sea at eventide. 

"Oh, Allan! have I ever complained?" she re- 
plied, with a feeling of injustice. 

"Yes; for it is to complain not to be as you 
were," rejoined Allan. "You change, Yseult, and 
why should sadness seize you, if you were not ab- 
solutely discouraged by my love?" 

She did not answer. She seemed evidently em- 
barrassed. Her long eyelashes were cast down; 
her bosom rose and fell quickly. The camelias of 
the balcony, of which the window was open, re- 
sembled dying desires. She passed under the 
breath of her nostrils the extremity of her fingers, 
impregnated with a vague odour of amber by the 
contact of her hair, of which she often pensively 
smoothed the shining bands on her temples. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 255 

"Ah, you are right, Yseult!" continued Allan, 
dryly, with revolting ingratitude; "and how right 
you were when you said that your soul was dead ! 
The pity you were unable to fight against, the pity 
you were astonished to still find in yourself, was 
only momentary exaltation, driving you to sacri- 
fices which you now repent. Come now, confess ! 
Tell me that I tire you with my transports, my 
grievances, my exactions ! Tell me that I have be- 
come insupportable, and that you finish by hating 
me!" 

"I shall not say so," she replied, in a low voice, 
"for such is not the case." 

"Well, then, what ails you, Yseult?" he rejoined, 
with an agile, ardent, indefatigable tone of prayer, 
and the eloquent look, bathed in sparkling hope, 
preceding the "At last I shall get to know !" which 
is the expression of the egotistical and hostile move- 
ment that frequently sways us against the being 
we love the most ! 

"Allan," she said, sighing, and after a pause, "if 
I was mistaken in myself? If I had " 

"Ah, did I not tell you, madame," interrupted 
he, with an outburst of irony, "that you were mis- 
taken ? You have not been able to see that of my 
love and your pity, the former would hold out the 



256 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

longest. You did not foresee the hellish life you 
had mapped out for yourself, and that my insen- 
sate passion accepted, as you had granted it, with 
closed eyes. For I feel full well, Yseult, that this 
life is frightful! more frightful than that of a 
young girl believing in happiness with all the 
strength of her soul, and victim of her marriage 
with an old man. And if I have not the courage 
to free you, Yseult, it is because I love you like a 
coward, and the Irrevocable weighs me down !" 

"No, you have not understood me !" she retorted, 
still more deeply touched. "If I said I was mis- 
taken in myself, I meant to speak of another error." 

He looked aghast at her. 

The curtains were drawn, and the room was very 
dark. Light and darkness struggled therein, one 
conquering the other, in certain parts and angles, 
like truth and falsity, candour and perfidy in a 
woman's soul. But it was a rosy obscurity, on 
account of the reflection through the closed cur- 
tains. This carmine tint giving to the palest or 
coldest persons the appearance of emotion, was ad- 
ditional coquetry or treachery. The piano was 
placed close to the tricky curtains, and the light 
only came from the balcony casement, to which 
Madame de Scudemor's back was turned. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 257 

"Oh, yes," she went on, after a longer pause 
than the first, and in such soft tones that it seemed 
as if it was a voice rising, phcenix-like, from the 
ashes of her other voice. "Ob, yes, I feel I was 
mistaken. I feel that a woman, when she believes 
that she has gained with difficulty the right to af- 
firm her error, should not say so herself." 

Allan understood no more than before. Hs 
hung breathless to her lips, whence came words 
which as yet had no sense. He waited for a spark 
of light. Yseult had slowly darted a long glance 
from under her deep lids, as far as the astonished 
face of the youth, and confusedly she dropped her 
eyes directly after. She was no longer the calm 
being, with a desert brow, and an icy smile on her 
lips. A troubled woman could be seen appearing 
through her tranquil majesty. The forehead-wil- 
derness was filled with unknown, vague thoughts, 
and her mouth was shaded over with melancholy. 
Christ on His Tabor was not more suddenly trans- 
figured. 

"I, more than any other woman," she continued, 
"have I not answered for myself? Did I not af- 
front dangers that I no longer feared? And 
yet " 

"And yet?" said Allan, with more devouring; 



258 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

curiosity than ever, and dazzled by the sight of a 
strip of clear sky. 

"And yet/' she rejoined, hiding her head in her 
hands, "we are never quits with love." 

And in this movement of a young girl ashamed 
and betrayed, in the breaking of a dying voice, 
the identity of Yseult de Scudemor was lost. There 
only remained a woman who in trembling had be- 
gun a confession. 

A cloud came over Allan's eyes, and in a weak 
voice, oppressed by the last words of Madame de 
Scudemor, he said : 

"Do not play with me ! For pity's sake, do not 
mock me ! This is impossible ! I do not believe 
you!" 

Her only answer was to lower her hands. Her 
face was purple. It was impossible to tell if a 
tear of tenderness or the moisture of desire 
drowned her eyes. They were still downcast, like 
those of virgins who know, more divine than those 
who are ignorant. She rose, staggering, support- 
ing herself by an angle of the piano, and came and 
sat on her young lover's knees with almost dying 
languor. 

"Dost thou believe it now?" she said to him, 
plunging her eyes, softened like her voice, into his. 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 259 

But Allan's look still showed doubt. She could 
not support his glance, and as if to avoid it, she 
placed her head on the young man's breast, heav- 
ing beneath the bounds of his heart. 

"You love me ! You !" repeated Allan. "But I 
am mad, or you are ! You love me ! after having 
so tortured me in loving me not !" 

"Oh, pardon me that, Allan!" she murmured, 
her head still on his breast. "Pardon me for hav- 
ing been true with you ! Alas, I could not guess 
that later you would have had your revenge had 
you chosen!" 

"Ah! I only wish to be happy, my Yseult!" 
said he, carried away by the power of these last 
words, and he imprinted a kiss between the breasts 
of Madame de Scudemor, and that also was for 
the first time. 

"You thought I was very proud, did you 
not?" she went on, with a most delightful smile. 
"And it was true, Allan, I was ! But I wish to be 
humble now. My pride arose because I was un- 
happy; I thought I was inaccessible to the grief 
experienced in former days. My humility came 
from that love which I denied inwardly before 
confessing it to you. It is not long since I have 
discovered it in my soul, and if you, unwittingly 



260 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

ungrateful, had not calumniated the sadness of 
which you were the cause, perhaps I should never 
have yielded up my secret to you. I feared lest 
you should not believe me. Still, I knew that I 
would make you have faith in me. But all this is 
not quite certain. See ! I knew not what I wanted, 
and I know not what I say." 

In her wild excitement she threw her arms about 
his neck, and she was lovingly fond with all her 
passionate talk. Allan had tears in his eyes. His 
was a rich nature, and his heart was full of the 
inexhaustible treasure of the tears of youth which 
he let escape and flow in joy as in grief. He was 
of that happy age when we have these good sobs 
for everything, and they prevent us from choking. 

"What! you weep?" she exclaimed, in fright. 

"Oh, fear not !" he answered. " 'Tis for the 
happiness you bring me. I think I should have 
died had I not wept !" 

"Weep, then, and weep for a long time, soul of 
my life, if you will only let me drink your tears!" 
And putting her face near Allan's, she took each 
burning tear between her lips. "This is so that 
they fall into my heart," she added, with loving 
coquetry which was not affected sentimentality. 

ye who have never seen it, you do not know 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 261 

what inconceivable charm the sudden grace of an 
alluring passion gives to the woman who is no 
longer young. You do not know how the contrast 
between the heart that is found again and the lost 
beauty suits these poor beings whom God has not 
let time ravage too much. There is nothing in na- 
ture to which this ravishing anomaly can be com- 
pared. It is nothing wonderful if a brilliantly 
young woman borrows extra charm from love. But 
when not only the petals of the rose are fallen, but 
the leaves of the stem are dropping off as well, 
when all by which woman lives beautiful in mor- 
tal eyes expires, love seems more divine by that 
very reason. We are nearer to the presence of 
the soul, and as it has an immaterial way of re- 
vealing itself through the visible beauties of youth, 
attitudes, movements, lineaments, celestial expres- 
sions of a language unlearned but not forgotten, it 
rises up again, but better than ever, reduced to its 
purest symbols, solitary now, in the place of faded 
beauty, and where, greater and more tender, they 
disdain to weep over departed comeliness. 

That day Yseult wrapped herself in ineffable 
sweetness. Never had Allan seen her in this ador- 
able aspect. He had never dreamed of her thus, 
when he was happy with his thoughts, in the first 



262 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

moments of his love. Such is the magic spell of 
sentiment inherent to woman, that gleam of youth 
returned to her brow, aurora borealis of life. And 
although Allan was the young man, and she the 
woman of declining years, one might say that this 
tardy love had effaced the distance that had so 
long separated them. 

All that she knew of delicious things, all she 
could imagine of most passionate voluptuousness, 
she overwhelmed him with. If he had not loved 
her until then, she would have forced him to do so 
now. Look you, women know irresistible things ! 
Hearken not to them; if you would not fall. 
Whether they love or not, one must believe and 
perish. When a child cannot sleep, they dandle it 
once or twice and set it slumbering. When a man 
opposes his virtue to them or tames them by his 
genius, lo and behold, they do with him as with 
the infant. The clever fairies watch over this 
sleep with mocking eyes, but it does not always 
last a hundred years; for perfidy may be as deep 
as it likes, it only requires a movement of the eye- 
lids to reveal it. 

If the language of Madame de Scudemor had 
belonged to that redoubtable science which all 
women have when they wish to make use of it, it 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 263 

would have been its most subtle and refined mani- 
festation; consummate artifice, if artifice it was. 
She never spoke a word to him without it being 
love more delicately expressed than if she had 
cried: "I love thee;" an ordeal by which many 
impostures are torn to pieces; rebellious words 
which must not be imprudently spoken, and which, 
in a lying mouth, burst like a spoilt gun in the 
hand. Caresses are more sure, and they bestow 
them with that modesty which is calculation 
masked by confusion ; shame that inflames us ; the 
trick of her who has no love, and who hides it by 
intoxicating the man who otherwise would finish 
up by seeing through it all. 

"Come on the balcony, come, my Yseult !" said 
Allan to her, pressing her forward by the waist. 

Exhausted nature asked for air. The woman's 
breath suffocated him, and he wished for a pure 
atmosphere so as afterwards to again suck in the 
stifling breath he had devoured until he swooned 
with pleasure. And then, when moral happiness 
kills us, we quickly fall back upon physical life, 
because at that juncture we do not wish to die of 
what is so delightful for us. 

They went on the balcony together. He wanted 
to see her in the light, to better enjoy the naked- 



264: THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ness of this love, with its thousand emotions dimly 
glanced at in the obscurity of the room. But in 
the open light of day the blushes were gone. Now 
was to be seen once more the pale and tranquil 
face of Yseult; her eye was not more moist than 
usual. But there was enough love left in her 
smile to bring consolation for the fact that there 
was none to be seen anywhere else. 

They remained without speaking, standing up, 
leaning on the balustrade. Afar, the marshes were 
deserted; for it was Sunday, during vespers, an 
hour when the country is the least frequented, and 
all seenis given into the custody of the holy day. 
A southern breeze made the grass and the water 
of the fen to quiver. All colours seen were as soft 
as the atmosphere, as deadened as the noises in 
the air. Have ye ever noticed those women full 
of .undecided and tender languor whose eyes are 
without a sparkle, half-closed, and whose lips are 
ajar and smiling, from sensual pleasure felt or re- 
membered ? Such was nature that day. A muslin 
veil of white vapour clouded the sun, and becoming 
more and more gauzy in the other parts of the sky, 
toned down its deadened, pale turquoise blue. Al- 
lan revelled in his inward enthusiasm that did 
not overflow, although love had been poured into 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 265 

his being in deep torrents. In the mirror of his 
soul, he looked at that other love which was smil- 
ing at himself. He was silent, as a man tasting 
the sweetness of fruit, lost in ecstatic beatitude. 
She glanced at him from beneath her vigilant eye- 
lids, like a god enjoying the felicity of one of his 

elected. 

"Yseult, tell me then that you love me, to let 
me know that I am not dreaming!" he murmured, 
awaking from his adoration. 

"Do you not know it?" she answered him. "Is 
not to-day the ransom of all the sufferings en- 
dured by you, and the commencement of a new 
life for both of us?" 

"Yes, but speak not thus!" he rejoined, with 
persistence that resembled a fatality. "You have 
not yet said it to me. Say to me 'I love you !' And 
then, whether I live or die, I shall not have dreamt 
it, I shall have made no mistake; I shall have 
heard it really, distinctly, from the lips I adore! 
Only say 'I love you !' Will you?" 

A change came over Yseulfs features, but did 
not remain. Did her conscience fear the ordeal, 
or had love, whose developments are so often un- 
expected, caught her in its toils again? Her smile 
became sweeter than ever, and in troubled tones, 



266 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

like a being who fears and obeys, she timidly re- 
peated: "I love you!" 

Allan darted into her eyes the glance of his eye- 
balls filled with the illumination of a sudden 
thought, but hers remained fixed beneath the two 
flaming arrows that plunged therein without tear- 
ing the inner veil whose caressing rays were now 
masked. 

"I love thee !" she repeated with persistence, see- 
ing that he was under the influence of the mag- 
netism of her look, and her voice was then but a 
confused airy murmur ; a sigh — the purest sigh — 
in three undecided syllables. 

"You lie!" cried Allan, struck with that for- 
midable intuition which is as sure as life, as sure as 
the air we breathe, and our being, likening man 
unto God. The woman understood that true feel- 
ing overthrew the hypocrisy of a mask of voice, 
look, and caresses, more impenetrable than an iron 
mask ; infernal or divine monkey-trick from which 
a dupe escaped. It was horrible ! The falsehood 
had only resulted in a deception for him, an insult 
for her, and, entirely broken-down, she bent her 
head beneath the emptiness of her lie. 

"'Tis false! You do not love me!" he con- 
tinued, trembling and becoming green and livid. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 267 

"But what have I done to you, madame, that you 
should crush my heart with this cruel play? You 
deceived me, Yseult, and you abased yourself! 

You lied !" 

Frenzied rage made him as one mad. He drove 
her against the iron balustrade of the balcony as if 
he would have liked to throw her over it. Had he 
had a weapon in his hand, he would have killed 
her, so terrible was his fury ! He wanted to avenge 
himself and could not. And in the absolute im- 
potency of being able to inflict some unspeakable 
pain, which drives us to scorn, he spat in her face. 
"It is true !" she said, lifting up her noble brow, 
upon which the spittle remained without her think- 
ing of wiping away its trace. "It is true that I 
lied, that I became contemptible. If I had been a 
coquette, one of those women of vanity who make 
believe that they are alive because they smile, I 
should have succeeded better in deceiving you. 
But vour evil genius, Allan, caused you to see 
clearfv through my artifice! Eor all men would 
have been caught, I lied so well! I lied to such 
prodigious depths! I thought so, at least, by my 
frightful efforts ! Just now, on your knees, there 
was not a sigh or a gesture of mine that was not 
an atrocious combination. I was so much on my 



268 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

guard against myself that I calculated all my ca- 
resses. If I dropped my eyes, it was because in vain 
I sought to call down my tears, and I was careful 
to warm my lips in yours, so that you should not 
recognise them ! Any foolish female, playing the 
caressing cat on her sofa, has only to infuse a lit- 
tle affectation in her voice, and she inundates a 
loving heart with happiness through the impudent 
mockery of her words. What then am I, not to 
have done what is so often carried out by unskilful 
effrontery ?" 

The calmness that always mastered her, but 
which at that moment had such a superhuman and 
striking physiognomy, fell upon Allan's rage like 
a piece of ice on a heart dilated by aneurism. 

"You insult me once more, and in a more out- 
rageous fashion than before!" she rejoined, with 
lofty sadness. "This is what I have reaped for 
having lowered myself as far as the baseness of 
dissimulation, while other women have men at 
their feet and crowns of glory on their heads for 
reward of their egotistical impostures. And it is 
not this which humiliates me," she added, pointing 
to the impure spittle, beneath which her brow 
shone out with more radiance for souls who could 
understand her, than if a diamond star had been 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 269 

placed upon it. "And I would not weep any more 
out of pride than out of love if I had still tears to 
shed ! But I feel here," and she placed her hand 
on her bosom, "the impotency, the radical impo- 
tency which is in me, and the abortion of my last 
sacrifice." 

And this last anguish, accepted without horror 
or disgust, made her seem greater than she had 
ever appeared to Allan, and it was this grandeur 
that killed his rage. He felt worse than remorse 
in his soul, a smarting shame of the insulting fit 
of passion of which he had been guilty. He did 
not weep, he did not fall on his knees before 
Yseult, he did not ask her pardon with his fore- 
head on the stones ; for an inward voice whispered 
that the effront was irreparable. He remained 
with his eyes cast down in the dust — as was his 
soul— beneath the weight of horrible and unspeak- 
able confusion. 

"You have not been shrewd enough yet, Allan !" 
she went on ; " you saw that there was a mask, but 
you did not see what was hidden beneath it." And 
as she suspected the torture that the consciousness 
of his cowardly and ferocious act inflicted upon his 
originally generous heart: "Your insult," she 
added, with a divine attempt to reconcile him 



270 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

with himself, "was it not a mistake, some error, 
and not meant for me ?" 

And with the floating end of her scarf she was 
about to sweep from her forehead the ignoble ves- 
tige of Allan's fury, but he caught her arm and 
stopped her. 

"Leave it there still !" he said in a hoarse, quiv- 
ering voice. "Let it be there, so that the shame 
of seeing it may choke me, and thus I may ex- 
piate my crime towards you." 

"That would be too much like revenge/' said she. 
And she concluded the movement that Allan had 
interrupted. There exists kindness above all the 
mercy of pardon, but it prevents all the absolution 
of repentance. The relenting tears of Allan at 
this trait of celestial charity did not make him 
innocent in his own sight. 

Out of admirable delicacy, which chosen souls 
and those beings who understand the exquisite mis- 
ery of our hearts will alone appreciate, she left him 
alone on the balcony. She went back and sat at 
the piano, at the end of the room. She whose 
grief did not respect her lassitude was defeated 
that day, as if it was her first step in suffering— 
her first shock against that which breaks, the first 
tear of the eternal weeping of life ! 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 271 

Alas ! as she had told Allan, she felt she could 
do nothing, not even dissimulate, without the de- 
mon of her destiny appearing to give the lie to her 
efforts of dissembling and craftiness. It was be- 
cause she did not love Allan, and she had not been 
able to trick him by the outward appearances of 
love; it was because, feeble creature, despite the 
energy of her will and her womanly fascination, 
she had not been able to identify herself with a 
part of which the humiliation had counted for 
nothing in the presence of the hope of success; it 
was because Pity, that she had always obeyed, still 
remained to her, but without a resource — Pity 
which had tried everything, and with which all 
had failed, falling back upon her this last time, 
but whom this slip to the bottom of the precipice 
of despair wounded a little more, but did not cause 
to die! 



272 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XXII. 

Madame de Scudemor had returned to her state 
of impassibility, but it was accentuated by more 
than usually disdainful sadness. Her life and that 
of Allan had returned to the groove in which they 
moved, distinct and reunited. But for these two 
existences, one welded to the other without ever 
mingling, there were only two bitter oceans and 
no sweet Arethusa ! Since she had failed to realise 
her beautiful Machiavellian poem, which was the 
last attempt of her inconsolable pity, she was quite 
resigned— if this inward resolution of arid and ir- 
revocable, but almost impossible, reality can be 
called by the slightly religious name of resignation. 
At present Allan loved her with the feeling of 
all the wrong he had done her. He no longer 
thought he had the right to make a single com- 
plaint. As if to absolve himself in his own eyes, 
he accepted the misfortune which unceasingly 
stabbed him to the heart. "It is no use suffering a 
little," some one has said. At first pain irritates, 
then it hardens one; but by dint of suffering we 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 273 

get better. The pineapple only ripens beneath a 
corroding sun, and the orange would remain acid 
if the weather was always fine. What has been, 
perhaps, much less noticed is that nothing in a 
loyal and noble nature brings one nearer to perfec- 
tion than some wrong one has done. Those who 
have never fallen, owing no reparation to them- 
selves nor to others, do not hasten to do good so 
quickly as those who have once strayed. Allan 
was a better man since he had been so guilty, and 
the sentiment of his inward reproach was a purifi- 
cation of his love. 

He often spoke to her about it, and with what 
he said he mingled a demand for pardon, which 
was always granted. Now no longer did his love 
forget respect during the familiarities of sensual- 
ity. The man, remade but unchanged, no more 
dared to proffer a caress. Once the possessor, he 
had become a lover; master, he was now a slave— 
although she was no more queen than before. At 
night the doors were closed ; not a step was heard 
in the corridors. And the act of marriage, which 
is an indecency when it is not holy, no longer 
proved their mesalliance. Would this state of 
things last long? Is it true that a man lives 
better with his desires when they are not appeased? 



274 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

Would Allan see his love eaten away by repentance 
as bv a long and slow malady? And what would 
go under in the struggle, passion or remorse? 
When dangerous sensuality is acclimatised in us, 
it lasts till we die ; and to the utter confusion of 
human nature, remorse — vigorous, tenacious, and 
young, when we think it old and worn-out — dies 
first by the habit of this inveterate passion, as if in 
the viscous embrace of a polypus. 

Yseult knew this. That eagle eye in her heart 
had pierced Allan's repentance. She had gauged 
it; and if it had not shown some grief, she would 
have doubtless scorned it. But however noble she 
may have been, she was a woman ; and because she 
was a woman, her bowels still yearned. So that 
when, at this phase of his love, Allan showed him- 
self in a more disinterested aspect, the charitable 
woman gulped down her rising scorn, and only 
had sweet and sad words for Allan's enthusiasm, 
the play of a child at which one laughs, when one 
can no more weep over it. 

"Yseult," he sometimes said to her, "I know not 
now what I am for you ! I admire you more, but 
I adore you none the less. You had reached the 
steepest part of your Calvary when you felt the 
emptiness of your last sacrifice, when you saw 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 275 

yourself abandoned, not only by God but by your- 
self, and that your will died stricken during a 
sublime attempt, turned against with brutal insult 
to boot, added thereto by me. Oh, Yseult ! it must 
have cost you much, you whom society had never 
bent under its hypocritical laws, and who had re- 
mained sincere; it must have cost you much to 
strip yourself of your pride, preserved as a treas- 
ure for the last days of your life— immense pov- 
erty with death at its end! But is it not that, 
Yseult, which makes you more noble in my eyes 
than if you had remained sincere?" 

She did not answer, but she thought that Allan's 
admiration would not take the place of that which 
she had lost for him. She could not prevent her- 
self blushing inwardly at this pollution more than 
at all the others; for to have remained sincere is 
better than not to have ceased to be chaste. At 
least, she had the fortitude of this opinion. 

"And my admiration for you," continued the 
worthy young fellow, "has taught me to seek only 
in my love for love itself, and not for happiness, 
which I must renounce. I love you to be able to 
love you, and not to be happy! Love like mine 
seeks no exchange. It has no need of it. Or if it 
does, this one-sided bargain cannot extinguish it.' 



276 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

And the last words of Allan are the omega of 
man's love. The disowned and cursed powerless- 
ness of sensuality to escape from itself is a shame- 
ful or glorious attempt of mysticism — when it is 
not religious. But this despairing retreat of pas- 
sion, this abdication of love, which, alas ! is only 
inconsistent with love's very nature, did not de- 
ceive Yseult. At these purified promises, these no- 
ble words of the man who loved her enough not to 
ask her anything more in the name of a love that 
was sufficient unto itself, she shook her head, and 
replied with an incredulous "Do you think so?" 
falling lazily and almost absently from the lips to 
crush the listener; for that is often the sole su- 
periority of him who knows over him who be- 
lieves, with compassion for some weak illusion that 
one has not the courage to destroy. In her heart 
she hid the conviction that pure love was a bitter 
illusion, incomprehensible to the intelligence, not 
to be realised by the feelings. Perhaps had she 
also formerly tried to strengthen the lassitude 
of her soul with this idea, rendered a great one by 
the despair of unhappiness, but which is not within 
the reach of man's hand in reality, and she may 
very likely have recalled her old mistake when she 
perceived all these pretensions to strength simply 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 277 

concealed frightful weakness? Human nature 
wears itself out as much by sacrifice as by enjoy- 
ment, and when one is devoted out of sensibility, 
the most beautiful devotion breaks down on the 
road. But— most cruel!— while yet possible, de- 
votion is no longer believed to be efficacious. 

The journey to Italy was decided. They were 
to depart at the advent of the first cold weather. 
The kingfishers of the marsh had taken flight ; and 
the leaves, that fall later in Normandy than any- 
where else, began to drop from the pale branches 
of the willow trees. A few days more, and there 
would be nobody left in the deserted Chateau. 

The last moments they passed there were marked 
by nothing new in their habits. Allan, whose love, 
as it increased in ardour, had gone through so 
many modifications, still had eyes for no one but 
Madame de Scudemor. Camilla showed no re- 
sentment for the neglect of her young comrade of 
childhood; she was serious to the degree of appear- 
ing as if she did not want to be resigned. As for 
Yseult, she contrasted with these two young faces, 
to one of which pain gave its expression— heart- 
rending or downcast— while from the other the 
careless joy of girlhood slowly died away like pure 
and fresh water flowing from the dried-up foun- 



278 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

tain of our gardens at the approach of summer- 
time. Thus, placed between what was cloud and 
tempest, growing trouble and consuming passion, 
Madame de Scudemor resembled by her calm gran- 
deur the lines of the vast and morose Roman hori- 
zons of the country she was about to visit. 

With what feelings did these three people see the 
moment approaching when they would leave the 
Willows? For Madame de Scudemor, this voy- 
age and the departure was only an ordinary acci- 
dent. Pilgrim in the world as in life, she knew 
Italy, where she had passed many years, too well 
to take the least interest in this trip. Although she 
was not born there, nevertheless her first sensa- 
tions had made it her mother-country ; but she had 
never known that sweet love of one's native land 
that survives every hope and all lost happiness, in 
more tender hearts than hers. She had only inhab- 
ited her heart. Do you accuse her of being too 
hard? Know ye not that the love of which she 
deprived herself is made up of what is most fresh 
in the first impressions of life, and most distant in 
our memories? If the cold wind of life has blown 
ever so lightly, away go all these pastel sketches! 
From her disposition all poetry has faded; her 
soul turned from all things, the world was no 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 279 

longer a marvellous alphabet for her. She did 
not ask over what blooming heather or across what 
hills the air she breathed had come. Dreamy 
questions of youth, she had forgotten them all I 
The charming beauties of Nature scattered all 
over the universe surrounding us existed no more 
for that woman than Allan's beauty itself, to which 
she never accorded the caressing look of momen- 
tary contemplation. Blind with strange cecity that 
demanded no light, she would have required some 
new decree of the Almighty to reopen the lost 
world. Allan had to learn this later, although she 
had warned him already of his misery; he who, 
on the mountain top or on the sea with her, in the 
midst of sunny days of Italy and nights in Ven- 
ice, never found again in his bronze statue of a 
woman a fragment of a chord, a sound torn from 
the feolian harp that poets have in their breast, 
and which, when all its chords are sweet,, gives out 
resounding notes as vast and pure as the air that 
makes them vibrate. He had yet to learn that 
wherever he might carry unhappy Yseult to make 
her live one minute of his life of emotions, tears, 
and hymns, Nature could no more warm that crea- 
ture of cold ashes than could his love, and that 
he would be like the son of Achilles dragging the 



280 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

virgin of Troy by the hair to the paternal tomb. 
Alas ! he was more unfortunate still ; for the an- 
tique warrior could strike as much as he liked at 
the naked bosom with the hilt of his sword, the 
future never spoke, and silence at least avenged 
the priestess ; but as for Allan, what breast did he 
then assault and outrage, while nothing answered 
his cries ? 

Lost in the incidents of the moment, Allan could 
not think that Italy would make him forget his 
painful preoccupation. He believed in the dura- 
tion of his love as in its intensity. He had never 
loved but Madame de Scutlemore; he had that 
faith that all first love has in itself. If he did 
not die of his wound, he would keep it a long while 
and suffer from it. If it had not been for his love, 
the projected journey would have been for him 
the occasion of a thousand dreams and pleasures. 
Who could be poetical without thinking of Italy? 
One must fatally love that country, since, hack- 
neyed and vulgar though it may be, no distin- 
guished being can keep from doing so. But Allan 
could not suspect that in the beauty of the sky 
there was a balm for heart-sickness. He had told 
the truth to Madame de Scudemor. She had so 
wonderfully absorbed him in her that nothing of 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 281 

his life or of his thoughts could pass beyond the 
limits of this woman, who had become all the 
world for him. 

So he thought; and in this he was mistaken, as 
he was in many things. Love is more intelligent 
than stupid. It does not always pass the sponge 
over the world, and efface it like an unfinished 
sketch. Often it works the contrary miracle; and 
Cupid decorates the universe with the light of his 
joys or the shadow of all his sadness. Without 
love, Nature would be like a vast expanse of water 
without a sky above. If the loved woman— splen- 
did microcosm— swallows everything up in her 
mortal bosom, it is to make us greater and more 
beautiful. She idealises creation, the powerful and 
grand study that God has given us to finish. We 
only retire into ourselves, letting nothing of the 
outer world reach us, when love exists for us no 
more _o r when we have arrived, like Madame de 
Scudemor, not merely at the end of the feeling of 
love, but when the faculty by which we love is lost. 
The whole of the time that this faculty is not ex- 
hausted, love is more like a living interpretation 
of the dead language of the world than its erasure. 
Ought not the last stroll of Allan in the little copse 
of the Willows have proved that to him? 



282 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

It was in the evening — and yet it was but four 
o'clock — an autumnal evening, cold and damp. 
The remaining leaves on the trees of the minia- 
ture forest were yellow, and the sun, yellow too, was 
setting in a washed-out, colourless sky. The wind- 
ing paths were filled up with the withered foliage 
that had fallen during the first autumn rains. No 
longer was any bird to be heard, and the syringa 
blossoms, with their cloying perfume, were dead. 
Allan walked alone under the trees. Instinctively, 
he had gone there once more before leaving the Wil- 
lows, perhaps for a very long time, towards the 
copse where she had told him her story, and where 
he had begun to know this great woman, un- 
known to society, and whom he had loved in 
such great fear. Of that fearful night which had 
driven him mad and nearly caused his death, what 
remained now in the leafless wood ? Naught of its 
mystery and its perfumes. No more did the night- 
ingale sing in the distance, and all was gone, ex- 
cept this grievous love that had not passed away 
as quickly. He walked along the paths with a sen- 
sation of unspeakable melancholy, as if this place, 
consecrated by the memory of a cruel night, 
brought him an impression of sadness he was pow- 
erless to surmount. When he reached the rustic 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 283 

bench on which Yseult had sat and made him sit 
beside her, he fell into deep meditation. He asked 
himself how much more sad, when he was gone, 
would this empty spot be in his thoughts, as no 
one would come and sit there. 

With regretful superstition, he went as far as to 
take from the side of the alley a handful of wet 
and withered leaves, and with almost religious 
recollection placed them in his breast, which was 
burning enough to dry them. Then he left the 
copse, driven forth by a voice he heard. 

Camilla could not be far off, and in fact he 
found her on the terrace which formed the termi- 
nation of the copse. The departure for Italy 
made her more happy than he, although her joy 
had not the noisy and exalted character of former 
days. She was seated on the breast-high wall of 
the terrace, her head bare to the sharp atmosphere 
of the autumn evening breezes, leaning against an 
empty granite vase where water remained from 
the rain, and where a passing bird sometimes 
stopped to drink. From thence, she looked out 
over the outstretching marsh where the pools were 
already larger beneath the action of the first rains 
of the season. Her simple grey frock, her flying 
locks, her leaning, pensive attitude, caused her 



284 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

to stand out harmoniously on the background of 
the cloudless horizon of such limpid, undecided 
tints. Allan, seeing her thus, approached the wall, 
and followed the direction of the young girl's eyes. 
They were fixed upon a stray sea-gull returning 
to sea, for the coast was not far off. 

"Look you !" she said, pointing to the bird, and 
as if continuing her chain of thought aloud, "It 
can be in Italy to-night if it chooses." 

"You seem to be very much preoccupied about 
Italy," said Allan; "and will you, then, be so glad 
to leave here?" 

"Oh, yes !" she answered, with charming nai- 
vete. "You don't know how bored I am here 
now !" 

The expression with which that was said was 
painful, hinting at the betrayal of hidden suffer- 
ing. Allan had never known her to have such a 
poignant expression of tenderness. And under the 
impression she caused : 

"Why are you bored?" he rejoined, with a note 
of compassion in his voice. 

"Why ? Oh, why ?" she repeated, with downcast 
eyes. 

It could be seen that she was relieved by the un- 
accustomed question of Allan, but she did not dare 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 285 

answer it. If indifferent Allan had insisted a lit- 
tle more, perhaps what she had in her poor heart 
would have escaped her efforts to keep it there. 
But at her second "Why?" Allan was already 
away, having caught sight of Madame de Scude- 
mor at the end of the terrace. The child he left 
behind him forgot the white bird that was fading 
away in the west, and leant her forehead against 
the empty granite vase. And if a tear fell from 
so much neglect it was hidden from the open light 
of heaven. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 

SECOND PART. 

I. 

Ye who read these pages, have ye never passed 
through these Cotentin marshes that we have tried 
to describe, and which are so vast that only to 
cross them seems a real journey ? If you have trav- 
elled over them at the end of the autumn or in the 
depth of winter, you will have been able to judge 
the character of these parts, contrasting with the 
otherwise smiling background of Normandy by 
their melancholy originality. But it is principally 
in winter that these fens should be seen, having 
become valleys of infinite, desolate, and monoton- 
ous waters, no longer enlivened by anything, 
unless we take into account the poor boatmen, 
who in all winds and weathers drag their craft 
along the sunken towpaths covered by the over- 
287 



288 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

flowing Douve, and a few scattered and intrepid 
sportsmen after snipe and wild duck, and these 
men plunge stoically into the water up to their 
loins in order to get their long fowling-pieces 
within near range of their game. Except these 
two kinds of people, there is no other human be- 
ing in the flooded deserts, and if there is still an- 
other living thing, it is sometimes a silent heron, 
standing upright, dreaming in his isolated tuft of 
rushes, or some large fish migrating with difficulty 
to the sea. The cattle, the brindled life of the 
marshes, are nearly all in their stalls. Their low- 
ing is no longer heard breaking silence through 
space. To this bellowing has succeeded the sinis- 
ter and redoubled cry of the crows, croaking un- 
seen from behind the clouds, or in the thick fog. 
The water, sweating out of the soil and traitor- 
ously accumulating without seeming motion, is 
no longer blue and sparkling beneath an opaque 
9 ky, grey all over, sometimes darkening into black- 
ness, foreshadowing showers. The liquid element 
no longer forms the thousand little lakes, with 
their changing facets like the mirror of the sum- 
mer. All is changed into a vast sheet of water, of 
mournful aspect that chills one, and drowns the 
heart and imagination like a sad disaster— as if 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 289 

an inundation had brought its liquid burial to a 
close over the whole surface of the country, leaving 
nothing to be saved. 

They had returned from Italy to see this terrible 
winter landscape. After a sojourn of two years in 
the land of the sun, they once more found them- 
selves in their rainy Chateau of the Willows. It 
was then December, and by the fireside, in one of 
the pavilions facing the fen, were Madame de 
Scudemor, Camilla, and Allan de Cynthry. They 
were in an oval-shaped drawing-room — a family 
apartment of domestic and meditative life, ar- 
ranged with great simplicity of taste. Although 
the cold was not much felt in this well-closed room, 
the flooring covered with a thick carpet, a big fire 
was burning in the chimney. It was not the gay 
and clear flame of logs from the apple-trees, but 
the sharp, slow crackling of oak. It gives a dull 
fire, with embers and little glare, and its incessant, 
worrying sputter joined in the chorus with the 
noise of the hasty small raindrops on the window- 
panes. 

Such were the only sounds heard within this 
room and without. Madame de Scudemor, her 
daughter, and Allan, said nothing to each other, 
either because they were given up to some devour- 



290 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ing inward thought, or else because this December 
morning had made them suffer from a fit of sad- 
ness which had no other motive than the weather, 
as if the best motive of melancholy was not because 
we are human beings. The light, thanks to the 
"whiteness of the ceiling and the window-curtains, 
"was greater in the drawing-room than out of doors, 
-where it came from a low and dirty sky, sur- 
rounded by the vapours of rain on the horizon 
that could be viewed from the window. 

Was it through having dwelt two years in Italy, 
or the fatigue of travelling, that had injured the 
health of the Countess de Scudemor? Be that as it 
may, she was visibly ill. The doctor had ordered 
her to take much rest. The late hours of Paris 
were bad for her. In answer to the prayer of 
Camilla and Allan, she had at last made up her 
J mind to wait for the advent of spring at the Wil- 
lows. These two years of absence had weighed 
heavily on her. The sun half plunged in the sea 
was entirely swallowed up. Italy had devoured 
everything. 

This dull light suited her dull brow, on which, 
as formerly with the gesture we have noted in her, 
she smoothed with her hands her bands of hair, 
now invaded by cruel grey. Half reclining on a 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 291 

causeuse, she gazed absently, like a sick and un- 
occupied person, at the fire in the grate. Her fig- 
ure had lost its imposing bearing, and although its 
trace was indelible, her attitude was humble and 
shrinking. Does not an eagle mortally wounded 
hang its wings like a dove? A loose gown of 
brown silk enveloped her in long folds, and the 
statue under the glistening stuff, which seemed 
glued to the figure, still showed such energetic 
curves that one might easily have forgotten that 
clay had taken the place of marble. 

Allan was standing near the mantelpiece, his 
back turned to the chimney-glass. He was no 
longer the Allan of bygone days, with the beauty 
of the androgynse. The enchanted dream had fled. 
He had lost his feminine lines and his Aurora-like 
cheek. He was no longer the celestial, wingless 
seraph who caused both sexes to weave strange 
fancies. He was a man, less handsome by reason 
of virility and colour, but more comely in moral 
beauty. The soul had worn out its fleshy sheath, 
and the blade shone through it. Superficial men 
call that "getting old." He was extremely sun- 
burnt, and his closely shaven beard gave a bluish 
tint to his chin, which otherwise would have had 
too much of a youth's voluptuous weakness. The 



292 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

trace of his long suffering was marked in the de- 
pression of the corners of the eyes. How much 
time is wanted for the drop of water, always fall- 
ing on the same spot, to bore a hole in the granite 
rock? How long for a patient tear to incrust its 
furrow on our faces ? His Byronic brow, which he 
owed to his mother's enthusiasm, beneath his bril- 
liant, curling, juvenile locks, was aged as by 
eighty years of morose thoughts and precocious 
grief ; his genial and grand forehead was as mighty 
as that of a bust of Sophocles, but without the 
laurels. It was only crowned with those early 
wrinkles, chevrons of life carried on high that they 
may be better seen, the only wreath that accom- 
panies our premature baldness, in our Caesar-like 
fatuity. Everywhere but above the eyebrows, he 
breathed youth; full, supple and well-formed; 
that youth which makes us a demi-god, because we 
are only half-men. 

As absent-minded as Madame de Scudemor, his 
eyes were vaguely turned towards Camilla, who, at 
one of the windows in front of him, was working 
at some embroidery. She was now what women 
in their singular language of pudicity and inde- 
cency call "quite formed." Her face, of dull red, 
almost black, so much had she, like Allan, been 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 293 

caught by the Italian sun, went well with the dead- 
leaf shade of the hangings of the salon; but the 
curves of the bent brow and the ideal lines of the 
neck, losing itself beneath a modest cape, and 
starting again at the bodice, to be lost once more 
in the loose frock, were only to be seen like a bath 
of half the body in the thick or light garments of 
the sirens of the gardens of Armida. 

Such were the changes that could be remarked 
in these three persons. Placed in life at the ages 
of transition, when the declivities are more rapid, 
and paths more winding, there were naturally al- 
ways spaces between them; but at present as all 
three had advanced into the spiral of the moun- 
tain, arid peaks separated Allan from Madame de 
Scudemor, while between Allan and Camilla there 
were only a few hills, easy to climb. 

There may have been some secret embarrassment 
in their prolonged silence, which one is sometimes 
happy to break by an indifferent or vulgar reflec- 
tion ; or in his thoughts, or on the retina, may have 
remained some splendour of Italy — sparkling foam 
not yet dried on the shores of memory; and this 
image — like a flask of precious essence, substantial 
remains of all the roses of Trebizond, which, when 
breathed, throws one into the mortal longing for 



294 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

the country one has left — became painful for him, 
instead of being sweet, as it ought to have been, by 
the effect of the contrast with rainy and cloudy 
Normandy. 

"What a difference," said Allan, "between this 
part of the world and the land we have just left !" 

"Yes, indeed !" replied Camilla, whose voice was 
no longer celestially musical, as in the olden days; 
for there is, as it were, a rosebud in the voice 
which puberty alters. "Since our return, I am like 
you, Allan ; I can feel the difference better. There 
is such life in Italy. The luxury of existence 
there takes your breath away. From afar, we can 
judge it better. Italy is only truly beautiful upon 
reflection." 

"Do you know that what you are saying there 
while you thread your needle," retorted Allan, "is 
almost profound, my pretty thinker?" 

"Oh, I don't think, Mr. Mocker !" said she, with 
charming liveliness. "When my soul seems im- 
pressed, I say so. That is all !" 

And if she who said that was not the most naive 
of all young ladies, she must have been the most 
hypocritical. Who has not shuddered while think- 
ing what being natural may hide ? 

"Do you remember," she added, suddenly look- 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 295 

ing at him, "our long cruises at Venice, on the sea 
all red, in the evening ? And at Florence, near the 
Arno, where you so often read Petrarch to us? 
We did not think then that the days which seemed 
so fine to us would appear still more beautiful the 
following winter at the Willows." 

"That is the effect of remembrance," said Allan. 

"All memories do not shine out like that !" mur- 
mured Madame de Scudemor, who had held her 
tongue till then. And as if she repented of what 
she had said, which resembled a complaint : 

"Do you remember, also, Allan," she continued, 
with an undefinable look, and changing her posi- 
tion on her causeuse, "that you showed very little 
eagerness to see Italy when we left? With what 
scorn did you not speak of it ! I warred with you 
for that. I could not conceive that imagination 
like yours was not quickened by the perspective of 
a journey in that beautiful land. Confess that 
since then you have expiated your preconceived 
ideas of disdain, and that you have loved that 
country for the sake of all the love that you im- 
prudently refused to bestow on it?" 

These words, spoken with an accent of apparent 
gaiety, concealed an intention of which Camilla 
did not know the secret, but which did not escape 



296 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

Allan. He did not answer; he had turned half 
round, and was tormenting one of the andirons 
with his boot. 

"And that made me very joyous, friend," the 
Countess went on. "I fully enjoyed your enthusi- 
asm, although I did not always share it, which 
sometimes vexed you. That was like society into 
which you let yourself be dragged with regret, 
but which soon after we could not get you away 
from. The hermit almost became a dandy. My 
dreaming savage! do you think you can tell me 
how many quadrilles you danced at the Naples 
Embassy ?" 

In this sweet gaiety there were trumpets playing 
— a blast for the echoes of Allan's heart; sounds of 
long-awaited victory, being a defeat for him, at 
which he was inwardly humiliated. 

"Eh, mon Dim!" she continued, "one would 
think, boy, that you are ashamed of liking society, 
as if you were not twenty! Be as fond of it as 
you choose, especially as you will not always love 
it. Listen to me!" she added, leaning towards 
him, and taking his hand to make him sit on the 
causeusc; "I want you to say that I am very amia- 
ble to-day." 

And she smiled with rather coquettish but ador- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 297 

able grace. The elegant simplicity of her manner 
was irresistible. Camilla lifted her head and for- 
got her embroidery, smiling also, impressed by the 
charm of her mother at certain moments. It was 
an admirable thing to see those two smiles face to 
f aC e— one juvenile, of purple and mother-o'-pearl, 
and the other, alas ! only conventional, accompany- 
ing some apt remark. 

"If you are generous enough, friend," she re- 
joined, "to bury yourself for an immense long win- 
ter at the Willows, I am too much so to accept such 
sacrifice. I will not exile you from Paris and its 
gaieties. Eeturn there! I permit it; I pray you 
to do so ; I even wish it. Go back to Paris, and re- 
turn in the spring and tell us all about your pleas- 
ures." 

"I thank you," said Allan, visibly embarrassed; 
"but I have a great desire to prove to you that I do 
not love society as much as you suppose. Anyhow, 
I do not seek its amusements ; my place is here and 
nowhere else. You are ill. It is he to whom you 
have stood in lieu of a mother, and whom you 
saved from death in this house; it is I," he in- 
sisted, significantly, pressing the hand he held in 
his, "who ought to nurse you." 

She tried to combat this resolution, but it was 



298 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

indestructible, and all her efforts were useless, al- 
though Allan, because of Camilla being present, 
could not put forward as an objection a feeling 
that allowed no reply to be made. But why, if 
this feeling still existed, these allusions of tho 
Countess to Italy, and to the love of society that 
Allan had shown there? Why express a wish to 
see him pass the winter in Paris ? And if this was 
a continuance of the dissimulation which both 
were forced to observe, why was Allan so con- 
fused? Was it not allowable to think that the 
months just past hid some change much deeper 
than the exterior alteration seen in them? Years 
must be counted sooner in the soul than on the fea- 
tures. The ancients, to symbolise immortality, 
placed a butterfly with its wings open on a death's 
head. But the ingenious metaph6r turns against 
the very idea it seeks to express; for the butterfly 
could very well signify the vanished years-, and the 
skull the human soul, which, at least by its feel- 
ings, is not immortal, and on which the butterfly — 
life — with open wings remains but too often, like 
the irony of fate. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 299 



II. 



The Countess Yseult de Scudemor had been a 
prophetess. This sibyl of extinct sensuality had 
weighed the love of Allan in the balance of experi- 
ence and human nature, that never betrays. Those 
two years had proved to her the legitimacy of her 
previsions. 

During his sojourn in Italy, Allan (need we 
say it?) had returned to the life that his wrongs 
towards Madame de Scudemor had nobly inter- 
rupted. But the nobility of sensual souls never 
lasts long. Allan loved her still too much— do ye 
know what is first love?— not to feel athirst for the 
burning beverage which he had so largely drank. 
If he had found repugnance, an objection, a re- 
fusal, the thousandth part of the most flimsy pre- 
text for denying him, perhaps he might have been 
thrown back upon himself; perhaps he might have 
once more considered the resolutions he abandoned, 
and have kept to them. Perhaps, all ashamed not 
to have reached the standard of the love that he 
had called the greatest because it was the purest, 



300 THE WBITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

might he have returned to his remorse, and lost it 
in respectful adoration. But Yseult did nothing 
to render such behaviour possible. She remained 
what she had always been: an odalisque who did 
not stoop to pick up the handkerchief thrown to 
her by the sultan, but who did not turn her head 
away. 

When there is not a blade of grass to resist the 
rising sea, the shore is soon flooded. When a man 
feels that he has only to speak to have what he 
wants, he speaks ; or else desire is dead in his soul. 
But if there is only a little longing, the idea that 
one can have one's will turns the brain. To resist, 
one must be a god, and then God, without the 
kindness and liberty which He has given to man- 
kind, would mean indifference. It is frightful to 
think that we cannot conceive a desire of infinite 
power without supposing chaos, or rather without 
denying God Himself. Great Heaven! what can 
become of man when he desires and you send him 
power? 

Allan was but another example of human weak- 
ness. 

For him everything was a motive of infirmity, 
a pretext for a fall, a reason for becoming insati- 
able during this two years' journey with the loved 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 301 

woman. We must recollect that she told him so 
one evening. On a voyage there are so many inci- 
dents, such negligence, so much that is unexpected 
which serves so well to hide us, when we under- 
stand things ! Truly, there were traps set for Al- 
lan. There were indescribahle days enlacing by 
new habits those even whom the old routine of in- 
timacy had fatigued, and who were on the point 
of getting away from it. This brings about a 
renewal of feelings such as one believed to be no 
more possible, but what must these sensations be 
when they have never left us ? In the most nar- 
rowed existence, when a couple are all in all to 
each other, they are not always side by side; the 
exterior mingles with the interior, distractions sep- 
arate us. But on a journey nothing interrupts 
days passed, flank against flank, in the voluptu- 
ously irritating swing of the carriage, throwing 
you close together by all its undulations. You had 
never seen the woman thus under every kind of 
light, from daybreak to sunset, and night had 
never caught you unable to endure any longer all 
the emotions of twenty-four hours toppling one on 
top of the other. Then, if the voyage is a very 
long one, when one arrives at last, is there not a 
weight of desires that stifles, and which one is 



302 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

forced to get rid of? And if one arrives in Italy 
— where, if we had none, sensuality comes and 
searches us out — in this country, as beautiful as 
womankind and cursed like her, do not the sleepy 
serpents lift up their heads to the sun that invalids 
bask in, and which, it is said, prevents their 
death? 

But this phase of Allan's love was the last move- 
ment of ascension, after which he found but one 
easy curve to descend. There are feelings that die 
away suddenly, as if blasted by invisible lightning ; 
unseen exhaustion then tames the man. There are 
other sensations which act on the nerves, and are 
slowly obliterated ; that is when the man gives bat- 
tle, which is lost from the moment that it wages 
against this phantom of vacant space and time, 
stronger than he. Allan's love belonged to the lat- 
ter class. It would have been rather difficult to 
follow how it imperceptibly wasted away. Prob- 
ably Allan himself only noticed it much later. 

What was singular was that he felt more in- 
clined to pardon Yseult for not sharing his love 
than for holding aloof from all his other enthusi- 
asms. He did not know that there is a deep re- 
treat in the human heart where, if one goes down 
as far, nothing more is heard of the music of the 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 303 

world, nothing is seen of the light of heaven. He 
was not aware that grief works downwards, doing 
what genius performs up above, making all ad- 
miration impossible. Could he not see himself in 
this kind of rancour against Yseult regarding mat- 
ters of art and thought, a sure sign of the weaken- 
ing of his love? Did not that, in a way, excuse 
her for the animosity he had involuntarily felt so 
long on account of the sterility of her sympathy ? 
Moreover, when passion is intense, do we perceive 
if the loved woman has any intellect? Eivarol 
loved silly women. That is the history of intelli- 
gence in love matters. 

Whichever may have been the moment when 
Allan was able to judge the immense vacancy that 
fading love left in his soul (for who knows on 
what day the pillar of light fell from the brow 
of the woman who formed its base, and left the 
man in darkness alone with his disgusted imagina- 
tion?), at any rate, secret shame prevented him 
from confessing it to himself; and when it was 
no longer possible for him to have any illusions 
about what he felt, he had not the courage to be 
sincere with Madame de Scudemor. Out of silly 
delicacy we think that we are forced — even in- 
wardly — to keep the promises made with great as- 



304 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

surance by love, at the time when it was ardent 
and robust. We will not give the lie to the eter- 
nity we formerly believed in. And although in 
Allan's position he had no heart to spare, yet he 
remained discoursing of love, but having none left. 
With his imagination so full of power, he tried to 
preserve some ideality by talking of a feeling that 
was really withering away, and he succeeded in 
cheating himself as well as Yseult. But on the 
morrow, she being absent, having gone out on 
horseback, as was her habit, exploring the country 
round to find fresh landscapes— at this moment, 
when the air seems to penetrate us, and the light 
is so radiant that our soul seems illuminated by 
it— he looked within himself with a steady eye, 
and saw, as clearly as beneath an Italian sun, that 
he loved her no more. 

"Why, then," said he, "does she not guess this 
state of my feelings ?" 

And he did all he could to trick her; so that, 
had she told him the truth, he might perhaps have 
denied it; for such is our inconsistency. Divided 
between the shame of confessing the inanity of a 
feeling in which he placed all his pride, together 
with the desire not to be prodigal of its lying mani- 
festations, he knew not which way to turn, and he 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 305 

longed for some one else or for a hazard to dis- 
pense him from coming to a decision and acting 
upon it. He suffered from this weakness, which 
he could not conquer any more than if it had heen 
some force to be feared. This is the state of a 
soul in which is mingled fatigue without repose, 
and hidden bitterness, fluctuating from pillar to 
post, and where our mind loses all steadiness and 
dignity, and we see it ourselves. 

Then it was that he threw himself into the vor- 
tex of outdoor life, the sanctuary of impotency 
for all who are wretched through the thoughts or 
the heart. The natural beauties of the delirious 
land he was living in did not suffice him. He also 
went into society. He embraced this hollow world 
as if it was some friend who was saving him from 
himself. He seized it by all its ideas, by the waist 
of all its dancing-girls. Madame de Scudemor, 
who did not dare to believe too quickly in what she 
was impatiently hoping for, was very pleased to 
see that a distraction had rapidly captured the 
young man, and had led him away from the fixity 
of sensual passion. How many times had she 
sought around her with her lingering look among 
the crowd of ladies at these balls and parties to 
find a happy rival who would steal Allan's love 



306 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

from her ? As she found none, she had good rea- 
son to believe his deplorable love still lasted. 

So nothing was changed in the habits of an ex- 
istence that rendered them more free and more 
hidden since they were in Italy, by reason of their 
life not being continually under Camilla's eyes. Al- 
lan's position was not exactly that of those hus- 
bands without love who, to do their duties as men, 
require the warm feather-bed of the nuptial couch. 
He had not yet fallen so low. Allan was himself 
again under the influence of rapid illusions; he 
was aflame with his memories. The obsession that 
made him start and look at the hands of the clock 
in the salons where he passed part of his night did 
not follow him into Yseult's room. He put on his 
love, so to speak, at the threshold. But he also 
left it there the next day. The moment was not far 
off, no doubt, when he would find it there no more. 
Not one of the thousand facets of abasement was 
wanting in this youth. He saw himself reflected 
in them all, and smiled to himself with horror. 
Like all that is young, he had dwelt in the regions 
of exaltation— virgin peaks, tinted with the starry 
light of the noble and devoted thoughts with 
which we enter upon life's journey. And now he 
came down into a low and fetid atmosphere, with 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 307 

lungs used to the purest of skies. Where was the 
poetry of his love? Twenty times had it struck 
against vulgar realities; but that was but mo- 
mentary pollution. Now love had fled. The naked 
truth alone remained. And it was no longer blind 
and burning passion that enchained him to this 
reality, but some more cowardly weakness still that 
he could not understand himself. He was always 
in pain, but no longer was there left to him the 
consolation of seeing himself suffer through the 
pride of hopeless love. No longer had he fits of 
generous anger against himself, or fearless in- 
stants when, like Cato of Utica, we tear, not our 
entrails, but our heart, having no fraternity for 
ourselves. Let this unworthy life subsist a little 
longer, and he would fall into entire degradation. 
Just as they were about to leave Italy, an illness 
full of dejection that overcame Madame de Scude- 
mor changed the connection existing between her 
and Allan. Perhaps also tardy discovery may have 
permeated Yseult's brain? She did not give it 
speech, but profited by her sufferings to put a stop 
to an intimacy which resembled marriage such as 
mankind has made it— by profaning it. Imperish- 
able delicacy closed the lips of Allan to all ques- 
tions. Between distinguished beings it is impos- 



308 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

sible to discuss certain vulgar questions relating 
to the mysteries of conjugal cohabitation. 

If noble misery interests you who read, you may 
continue this story. Such an illness occurred just 
in the nick of time for Allan de Cynthry. It re- 
lieved him of what he had not the strength to re- 
ject. It brought about what a confession for him 
ought to have done earlier if he had dared. On the 
other hand, the vanity of love, which is born when 
love itself expires, was not called into action. The 
unhappy man breathed again. He still had just 
as many reasons for despising himself, neverthe- 
less his scorn decreased. Man has not sufficient 
courage to feel his abasement for any length of 
time. Some other pain nearly always makes that 
of scorn perceptible. When this sharp twinge is 
wanting, disdain loses the point of its borrowed 
dart, and slumbers in the wound it has made. 
Greater freedom of spirit made him once more 
kind. We are only affable when we are not sensual. 
All ardent natures who know how to love are far 
from being amiable ; they trouble the lives of those 
around them much more than they make them 
pleasant. Amiability ought to be catalogued with 
the fine arts, with which it has a great analogy. 
In the place of the turbulent passion that he had 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 309 

been pouring into the life of Madame de Scudemor, 
Allan encircled her with the most attentive care, 
and with kindness of every kind. It was a sort of 
silent worship. One might still have fancied there 
was a little love left; or some tenderness different 
to that of love. 

Whatever may be the result of some great love 
on a man's disposition, whether crushing it or sul- 
lying it, it cannot be denied that, if the lover gets 
over it, his mind is improved in this uncomfort- 
able class-room. The activity of the brain has been 
exercised, and doubled thereby. But the progress 
is not perceived until we are free of the absorption 
which has developed this faculty by a process of 
concentration. Allan soon had a proof of this 
truth. As he got away from a life of sentiment, 
he re-entered that of intellect, enriched with a 
mass of ideas that sentimentalism had given him. 
It is a solemn moment when a man again takes up 
his thinking task after having terminated that of 
suffering. 

At the first fits of indisposition, Madame de 
Scudemor had a wish to return to France, and 
Allan and Camilla never thought of opposing her 
desire. Yet both of them dearly loved the land 
they were about to leave. Allan, who had lived 



310 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

there in communion with his heart and conscience 
— double torture, eternal retaliation — liked Italy 
much less than did the young girl. Doubtless, her 
heart had greater leisure to look round and be en- 
chanted with all that is beautiful, but in her adora- 
tion for this part of the world was there only that 
worship which in people of sublime devotion is 
the last degree of admiration? She had left the 
Willows in the belief that some misfortune would 
overtake her if she stopped there. Was it not in 
that house that she had lost the affection of Allan, 
whom she had always looked upon as a brother? 
In Italy, on the contrary, Allan was not rough, 
nor did he wound her in any way. That is easy to 
understand: once Allan's love for Madame de 
Scudemor extinguished, Camilla was no longer the 
innocent creature with whom he had passed his 
childhood. Another reason made him once more 
take the greatest interest in Camilla. The young 
girl, during her stay in Italy, had arrived at an 
age when the greatest madcaps become serious, 
forming a contrast between the freshness of the 
lively dawn of youth and the charming gravity 
which makes girls themselves stop smiling. It is 
as if God had placed a thought in a rose, instead of 
perfume. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 311 

It is impossible for a youth not to be drawn to- 
wards women at this epoch of his life. It is the 
moment when brothers would be born, if man had 
been unfortunate enough to have lived hitherto 
without idolising his sister. 

This return of Allan's friendship, a reconcilia- 
tion she had not sought, but which she desired and 
did not dare to hope for, as the poor child had 
been made distrustful by her sufferings, caused 
more than a difference of sun, in Camilla's sight, 
between the Willows and Italy. So the idea of re- 
turning to France saddened her. The journey in- 
creased her regret, by reminding her that each 
day subtracted entire leagues of her beloved Italy, 
and each night a "good-bye" fell from her, tearing 
from her heart a farewell she would have wished 
to prolong indefinitely. In the daytime, she partly 
dissembled her impressions. But at eventide, the 
tidal hour of tears, she wept, looking out of the 
carriage window, while Allan and Madame de 
Scudemor thought she was busy inhaling the air 
of these climes drenched with perfume. Is this 
the only time that with the marvellous absurdity 
of touching gratitude, we put our joy down to the 
credit of the country where we have been happy ? 



312 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



III. 

Returning to the Willows with this feeling of re- 
gret, Mademoiselle de Scudemor once more looked 
upon the land she did not love, and from which 
winter had removed all that might have reminded 
her ever so feebly of Italy. If Allan had not been 
so affectionate to her, she would have been very 
unhappy. She had never made the slightest allu- 
sion to the happiness she had felt when he had 
drawn near to her once more, treating her as in days 
gone by; but this unhoped-for felicity strength- 
ened her against present trials and future pre- 
sentiments. Indeed, her position was rather a sad 
one. She was about to pass the winter in complete 
solitude. What she had seen of society, where her 
mother had taken her in Italy, had awakened those 
instincts dormant in all women, making them love 
parties, jewels, and all that existence of the eyes 
which always precedes that of the heart. It seemed 
as if she above all others ought to have preferred 
the brightness, the movement, and the rapidity of 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 313 

these intoxicating delights that crowd into a young 
girl's brain when she first comes out, to a life of 
laziness or the retirement of domestic life. 

She was not one of the contemplative class, a 
Minna von Barnheim, with long lashes, as sad and 
black as a raven's wing; one of those pale, moon- 
light-faced beings who pass their lives leaning on 
their elbows, and who teach us to understand Eter- 
nity, as we bestir ourselves uselessly by their side. 
She was not an angel, as the poets of that time 
styled it, one of those seraphic natures, never 
touching the earth save with the tip of her ivory 
toes, regretting her beautiful wings; but a real 
woman, as the ancients understood her, made from 
the foam of the sea, worthy of her stormy origin, 
calm or impetuous, and also with unfathomable 
depths beneath. 

If we have seen her at the close of childhood a 
prey to fits of sadness that the most ardent as well 
as the most tender suffer from, her despondency 
had a cause in the wounding ways of Allan. She 
was self-contained, but not vague or vacant. She 
was grieved, but not melancholy, and through the 
transparent tinge of age and sex, there could never- 
theless be felt an unconquerable element of reality 
in that little lass. As far as regards the possession 



314 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

of more sensibility than intellect, the daughter of 
Yseult could well be recognised in Camilla; be- 
cause woman, although placed on the highest rung 
of the ladder of intelligence, never possesses more 
than a fragment of mind — a kind of torso, incom- 
plete, unfinished, broken (whose fault is it?), and 
Yseult herself had not been able to escape this 
formidable law, made by the hand of man in the 
name of God. 

If Camilla had had great love for her mother, 
or if her mother had loved her very much, the 
daughter would have felt the sweetness of devotion, 
making her forget everything but the fact that 
she should shut herself up with the authoress of 
her being at the Willows to nurse her. But Camil- 
la's affection not being deep enough for her to find 
happiness in such abnegation, how could she strug- 
gle against imaginative tendencies that carried 
her far from the life she was forced to put up 
with ? Her passionate heart revolted against arid 
duties, and she could not even enjoy the austere joy 
of fulfilment of duty. Madame de Scudemor 
would not accept the attentions of her daughter. 
She repulsed them softly and affably, not so much 
because they were useless, as that they were fatigu- 
ing for the young girl. But she was, nevertheless, 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 315 

so firm in her absolute refusals that Camilla, who 
had always feared her mother, did not dare to 

insist. 

But Allan remained to her, and he remained 
alone. While he was present, she could find 
strength to support the empty and monotonous 
existence from which she suffered since she was 
no longer a little girl. When Madame de Scude- 
mor had begged Allan to pass the winter in Paris, 
Camilla felt frightful fear lest he should accept. 
Clever at hiding all she felt— result of appalling 
education bestowed by pain, and by which she had 
greatly profited— she let nothing escape her of her 
fright at first, nor of her later joy when Allan 
refused to depart. This caused her for many days 
such inward intoxicating delight that one evening 
she left the embrasure of the window where she 
was at work, and started to look for Allan to thank' 
him for stopping at the Willows. She could not 
conceal her gratitude. She who had wept inwardly 
when Allan had repulsed her, felt the exuberant 
joy of her heart brimming over. 

She found him in the library, where he used to 
work since he felt no more love for Yseult. At 
that moment, the beginning of the darkness of 
night did not allow enough light to filter through 



316 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

the windows to enable one to distinguish objects 
plainly. He was seated in front of an open book, 
but not reading; one hand thrust through his 
hair, and with the other bending an ivory paper- 
knife. He did not seem to be troubling much about 
what he was doing. He was thinking of what 
Madame de Scudemor had said to him the day she 
tried to force him to make up his mind to return 
to Paris. 

"'Tis I, Allan,'* said she, as she entered. "You 
are not at work for the moment, and it is dark ; so 
I do not disturb you, do I?" 

* Has your mother sent you to fetch me ?" asked 
Allan, with precipitation. 

"No, it is not mother, Allan. I have come of 
my own accord to — " 

She had an immense desire to throw herself into 
his arms and confess everything; but true senti- 
ment makes one timid, even though it be a feeling 
of gratitude. She could not finish her sentence, 
and burst into tears. He rose and ran to her. 

"What ails you, my dear Camilla? You alarm 
me !" said he, showing by his fear that he was in- 
terested in her. "Has some misfortune happened 
to you ?" 

"Oh, no," she returned, in a broken voice, "say 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 317 

Tather a little joy !" and the innocent lass pressed 
her face against the young man's breast. "You 
must know, Allan, that I did not dare to let you 
see how happy you made me three days ago, when 
you replied to my mother that you would not go 
away. Oh, I was mad with joy, and that evening 
I wanted so much to tell you, so that I should 
have died if I had kept silent." And the familiar 
tutoiement of their childhood rising to her lips 
again, she added: "So thank thee, Allan! thank 
thee, brother, for all the happiness thou givest 
me!" 

Allan was greatly moved. Her old kind way of 
speaking revealed all Camilla's hidden tenderness 
for him. 

"Yes, you are my sister, dear Camilla," said he, 
pressing her to him with the chastest embrace. 

"Ah! thy sister for ever," she continued, as if 
drunk with pleasure. "Thou knowest not how thy 
sister loves thee! Didst thou know it, never 
wouldst thou leave her — thou couldst not!" 

"But therefore," rejoined the young fellow, his 
tenderness aroused, "I will not leave you, Camil- 
la!" 

"Say 'thou' to me, if I am thy sister!" inter- 
rupted the impetuous creature, embracing him in 



318 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

return with her puny arms as if they were made 
of iron, and taking his breath away. 

"No, sister, I'll never leave thee — I swear it!" 

"Never?" she cried impetuously, and with such 
force that she seemed as if mistress of the future. 

"Never!" he repeated, under her influence. 

And she threw her arms round his neck with still 
greater ardour than at first. 

They were both much moved, and they wept, but 
their tears were of the sweetest. Alas! this was 
their first pure and deep joy. Both had signed an 
engagement for the future. It is a superb mo- 
ment in life when the man says "Never!" as if he 
was God Almighty. Governed by the most beau- 
tiful feeling in the world — that of sister for brother 
and brother for sister — they had exchanged their 
souls. It was inconceivable happiness, which Allan 
enjoyed less than Camilla, because he had already 
used up his soul by passion, whereas the young 
girl's heart was full of that ignorance which made 
her fit for all the joys of life, but, above all, the 
most celestial, those which are to be found deep 
in our hearts. These are joys as candid as snow, 
but not as cold, which in a virgin bosom remain 
inaccessible to anything that may tarnish them. 
But if the imperceptible speck had not yet made 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 319 

its appearance, could Camilla always preserve them 
from it? 

From that day forth, she no longer felt the 
boredom with which the Chateau of the Willows 
inspired her. She was sure of her brother, sure 
that he would never fail her. All countries were 
alike to her, since he lived near her ! As often 
happens, in the tumult of unaccustomed happiness, 
she pardoned the past and did not realise the 
present. 

Allan thought more of it than she did. He had 
been in love. He had reached sad lustful virility. 
He asked himself if there was not something more 
than the friendship of a brother for a sister be- 
tween Camilla and him; but as his senses had re- 
mained calm beneath the impression of her caresses, 
he answered himself in the negative with the great- 
est security. Moved by the sentiment that Camilla 
had suddenly revealed to him, he looked after her 
more than ever. He forgot the flight of time at 
her side, and they lived the same life. He read to 
her all the newest books, and they drank in ideas 
and sentiments from the same sources, agreeing 
perfectly with each other, when they talked the 
least, mingling the "thou" and the "you"; the 
latter aloud, and the former in a whisper, doing 



320 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

so, not with the instinct of guilty feelings, but 
because the most angelical affections require mys- 
tery to enable us to collect our thoughts ; because 
in expressions too loudly spoken there is a secret 
leakage, whence escapes the divine ether. He un- 
derstood the position of Mademoiselle de Scudemor 
towards her mother. He perceived the icy barrier 
separating the two women. He explained to him- 
self the vivacity of Camilla's affection by her being 
isolated from every loving being but him at a mo- 
ment when she had the most need of affection, 
and could not suppose that her friendship hid a 
less pure sentiment. Thus were the dangers of 
their intimacy veiled by the most reassuring mo- 
tives and the habits of their entire life, so that 
they gently slid over this naphtha flooring through 
which later on the pressure of their feet would 
cause the flames to burst. 

This life was all the more sweet for Allan be- 
cause it was all new to him. Had he had any real 
intimacy with Madame de Scudemor at the mo- 
ment when he loved her? We have seen with what 
despair he regretted its absence. On the other 
hand, even if Yseult had loved him with the same 
love as he had had for her, their intimacy would 
always have been troubled by the spontaneous con- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 321 

tradictions of passion. Intimacy supposes placid 
affection, mutual self-denial, and a depth of har- 
mony that sensuality always excludes more or less. 
Intimacy means hermaphroditism, by the fusion of 
both sexes into one soul. But in love there are 
always two. 

In this delicious intimacy there is a restful vir- 
tue which suits wounded hearts admirably. Peace 
is exhaled that calms and strengthens them. The 
abode of light and repose promised to suffering 
souls by Christianity is sometimes to be found on 
this earth in the soul of someone who loves us, 
but with a feeling still more spiritual than that of 
sacred friendship. Allan was learning this, and 
his difficult imagination, which two years' experi- 
ence had caused to forego some of its impulsive 
exactions, being quieted down, he put up with what 
he had formerly made light of. When we have 
seen ever so little of the world, must we not sigh 
less heavily, moderate the ardour of our ambitions, 
and shelter and enclose ourselves in some little spot 
of the vast expanse that we coveted in its en- 
tirety, and which, however small it may be, like 
the house of Socrates, will remain empty as if it 
was very large ? Allan put up with days that were 
all alike, bringing about the same incidents, events,, 



322 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

and impressions — days that were a little pale, and 
without perfume; excepting, perhaps, a vague 
odour of violets reminding us of some evening when 
one is more deeply moved as both speak together, 
when the kiss remains on the brow where it is light- 
ly bestowed. If it would be a touching sight to see 
Isaac Newton, sublime old man, returning from 
his heavenly habitation, picking up — as he would a 
lost world — some poor rose soaked in the heavy dew 
of a misty morning, and forgetting his lofty medi- 
tation while he breathed its perfume for a whole 
day, it was none the less strange to see Allan en- 
chanted with the sweetness and modesty hidden 
in the depths of her retired and simple life. For 
between her existence, coursing so slowly and uni- 
formly, and this young man to whom a single pas- 
sion had given the desire of varied and powerful 
emotion, and who was so poetically organised for 
ecstasy or martyrdom, who had imagined every- 
thing and, alas! experienced every feeling, there 
was almost as much difference as between the rose 
and Newton's thoughts. 

Nevertheless, was it only the charm of intimacy 
that lured Allan on, and kept him to Camilla's 
side? Was it only so as to enjoy the softness of 
this bath of sweet waters, after the rough days of 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 323 

sensuality, that he plunged therein with such com- 
fort? In the dumb or half-spoken effusions that 
showed in a look, or manifested themselves by a 
smile, was there not for him some unknown wish 
of the heart? Oh, the misery of still living ego- 
tism, and the trace of effaced passion, which is a 
deep furrow left in our softened heart, showing of 
what mud it was made! Whatever attachment 
Allan felt for Camilla, whatever joy he experienced 
in the intimacy of the amiable girl, a motive, which 
was neither this attachment nor happiness, made 
this intimacy more precious still, without Camilla 
being aware of it. 

This motive was his position with Madame de 
Scudemor. She had so embarrassed him the day 
when she had begged him to leave the Willows for 
Paris, that he did not doubt for a moment but what 
she had guessed at all he had hidden from her till 
then. Was there not happiness — slightly mocking 
happiness, it is true — in the allusions she had made 
to the love of society that he had developed in 
Italy? He feared lest these allusions should be- 
come more positive still, and that he might have to 
confess to her that she was not mistaken — an 
avowal from which he recoiled. As he had not 
dared to take the initiative, he did not desire to put 



324 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

up with it from the lips of his Yseult. This was a 
petty, narrow-minded, and vain view of the ques- 
tion, hut one which irresistibly dominated him, 
for we cannot judge ourselves apart from the pas- 
sion we carry within us. 

It is when passion dies away that a man sees 
the vileness of the seed from which has grown the 
gathered fruit. Then he can take an inventory 
of the sad trees on which it ripens, forming a bit- 
ter examination of the conscience, such as Allan 
had not spared himself. But that was only half 
the evil. The result of all passion is to leave in 
the soul a habit of weakness which is often incur- 
able; and it is not only the organs that are ener- 
vated. The end of this shameful lingering is not 
easily to be seen. We are led by terrible conse- 
quences, and an irresistible fate which poisons 
slowly, its force being only felt when we resist, 
and we never do ! 

Allan held on to his past life by this sad condi- 
tion of weakness. Such is the inextricable bond 
which fastens the sheaf of past events to the life 
of the moment. It was a false and scabrous posi- 
tion that Madame de Scudemor sought not to make 
any plainer; a painful situation of which the ten- 
der and devoted friendship of Camilla did not en- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 325 

tirely soften the asperities. The silence of Madame 
de Scudemor showed Allan that she perceived the 
change in him, and what a deep knowledge she 
possessed of the yonng man's position. 

"Why," she said to herself, "call forth an expla- 
nation painful for him, useless for me? Is not 
all finished between us? He no longer suffers. 
This confusion caused by his having been read 
by her whom he had never tricked, this embarrass- 
ment born from regret of the affection of which the 
emptiness is now recognised, will not last long." 

And by these reasons, always full of generosity, 
she grew firmer in her resolution not to speak to 
Allan about what he seemed to fear. Lastly, on 
the other hand, she remarked with joy the tranquil 
affection, brotherly ties, and confidence established 
between Allan and Camilla, which was for her an 
eloquent proof how naught subsisted now of the 
love that had so long afflicted hen 



326 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 



IV. 

This was the happiest period for the characters 
in this story. Madame de Scudemor had regained 
that noble tranquillity which was reflected in her 
whole person in such a striking manner. But she 
was still languishing beneath the illness she had 
brought back from Italy, and which the doctors 
did not characterise. She suffered patiently. The 
sufferings of the soul had taught her not to trouble 
about those of the body. She was not one of those 
amiable, weak creatures who cannot resist a head- 
ache or a slight sprain. For fear of importuning 
others, this egotist, who loved nothing, as society 
said, knew how to smile while in pain. 

If Allan had not formerly loved Madame de 
Scudemor, if he had always been for her what he 
was now, he would have enjoyed the exquisite 
sweetness of the present moments without uneasi- 
ness; but the past, with memories and fears, rose 
up to disturb him in the bosom of this infinite 
peace that he could hardly have suspected to be 
possible, and which was about to have an influence, 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 327 

perhaps despite himself, on the sentiments he had 
for Camilla, and ought to have made her happy; 
for affection is only real when it has none of the 
positive and devouring elements of passion. 

Camilla, who also had a past — which was to crop 
up later on — gave herself up without after-thought 
to the joy of loving and being loved. The sensi- 
bility that Madame de Scudemor had never wished 
to develop in her as a child now poured itself out 
for Allan, like a torrent searching to make its bed. 
In the lack of maternal feeling, Camilla had al- 
ways loved Allan exclusively, but her affection was 
not like what it had become since she had betrayed 
the secret of it. Women desire happiness so much 
that they fight against their most impetuous senti- 
ments when they are uncertain if their feelings are 
shared and reciprocated. Their struggle hides 
weakness still. But when doubt exists no longer, 
then their soul flies, with all the rapidity and 
strength bestowed by the wants of the heart, to that 
sentiment which already swayed them, and the 
more their love becomes bold, the more it increases. 
Camilla gave way to hers, oblivious of every- 
thing but this sentiment. It was so great and so 
deep that not a desire was mingled with it. It suf- 
ficed unto itself, like the Supreme Being, of which 



328 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

this love, only felt once in life, and which some 
never feel at all, is the most faithful image. She 
was truly happy. Through the inconceivable magic 
of the heart, she was happy in the solitude of the 
Willows, during this sad winter, was Mademoiselle 
de Scudemor, who had come into the world to shine 
out by beauty and fascination of every kind in 
those fashionable salons to which her imagination 
summoned her, and of which she would have been 
the queen by divine right. She, who was a born 
empress, she whom a sick chamber suited so little, 
she was happy in this isolation of a remote, rainy 
country spot, far from everything that might have 
sympathised with the turn of her mind or the na- 
ture of her disposition. She so revelled in her 
felicity that the ardour of being happy, eternally 
anchored in woman's heart, sufficed her no more. 

This joy of a heart that was full of delight gave 
her extraordinary brilliancy. Happy women are 
strange creatures in every way. When met with 
for the first time, one is struck as by the aspect of 
some marvel, and we cannot guess at first what 
surprises and confuses us; for we can only recog- 
nise what we have already seen, and where have we 
looked upon happiness so as to be able to know it 
again? They seem made up of soft and penetrat- 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 329 

ing light which is not the same as what shines at 
noonday or in the stars. They have movements 
which are no longer the agitations of our thoughts 
or the versatility of our whims, hut a rhythm of 
the celestial poetry that sings in their soul. One 
might call it a momentary revelation of everything 
we do not understand. They are rare and ephem- 
eral beings, living out life in the immense depths 
where extremes meet in the unity of common des- 
tiny, and unhappy by reason of their happiness, 
because they cannot die of it. 

Thus it was that Yseult, that most unhappy 
woman, sometimes said to herself that her daugh- 
ter was growing up to be very beautiful without 
knowing what so embellished her. Perhaps she 
thought it was the budding of youth, while it was 
the irradiation of happiness. Who can paint what 
has no shape and no analogy in the great symbol- 
ism of nature? We can see the halo round the 
brow of men who have genius, love, and enthusi- 
asm; but happiness is more difficult to express. 
It is something purer and more divine. 

The happy life of Camilla was reflected on her 
features, changing the character of her beauty, 
and betraying thereby the mystery which escaped 
Madame de Seudemor's penetration. It was the 



330 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

first time that such black eyes had the tenderness 
of the softest blue orbs. The power of passion to 
which they had formerly testified had given way to 
a moist sparkling of comfort, as timid as the star 
followed by the shepherd. Her mouth, so voluptu- 
ous in its ardent curves, that an angel in heaven, 
if he had had it, would have perhaps shared some- 
thing of humanity among the virgins of the elect, 
was now as if clothed with melodious serenity. 
Her forehead, burnt by the sun of Italy, beneath 
the network of its dark veins threw out rays, like 
the opal of a morning sky, from the light that the 
heart unceasingly gave out. One might have said 
— but this is contradictory! — that day made its 
way through night, if it could appear in the night, 
without driving darkness away. 

This beauty of happiness which impressed Ma- 
dame de Scudemor had also struck Allan, but he 
understood it no better than she did. Although it 
was impossible for him to be mistaken about the 
energy of Camilla's friendship, he did not believe, 
however, that he was the cause of this magnificent 
reflection of the light of the heart on the beauty 
of a woman. It is an astonishing thing that men 
lose some of their instinctive fatuity in proportion 
as the feelings of which they are the object acquire 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 331 

vehemence. One boasts of a caprice. One is silent 
about a passion. Is that from knowledge of one- 
self or cowardice? Alas! perhaps both. Allan 
was not vain enough to guess rightly with regard 
to Camilla. He admired her as he loved her, but 
he sought no more for the secret of her beauty than 
he had sought to thoroughly examine her love. 

In everyday life Camilla was serious and spoke 
but little. As much as her childhood had been 
taken up with mad laughter and wild gaiety, so 
was her girlhood grave. It will be remembered 
that early suffering had deprived her of those leaps 
of life which are only impetuous movements in the 
spontaneous nature of children, and once gone, 
never return again. When suffering had disap- 
peared, happiness made her retire within herself 
still more. If she had had a mother like all other 
young girls; if she had gone out into society, she 
would probably not have been less lively in her 
gaiety than other young persons of her age. The 
sprightliness of the child would have been faintly 
seen in the ardour of an alluring, versatile, pas- 
sionate, sensual, and witty woman. She would 
have had sudden desires, amiable and absurd; 
and cries from her harmonious throat crowning 
a laugh of bold abandonment with thirty-two 



332 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

precious pearls, and she would have heen alive to 
exterior impressions for which she was principally 
destined. But in solitude and by the side of a 
mother whom she feared in spite of the softness 
of her manner, already broken in to the lies of 
wounded feelings, she had got into the habit of 
silence and reserve, and had turned all the activity 
of her soul towards herself. And besides, she was 
ha p py !_ a vast word that is an answer to every- 
thing. When one is happy one fears to lose by 
the wavelets of the most fugitive gaiety a few 
drops of the nectar in which the heart is drowne.l. 
Allan was touched by Camilla's silent way of 
loving, which contrasted so greatly with the mem- 
ories he had of her and her childhood. He loved 
her all the more because he had been cruelly hard 
towards the charming young girl, and this idea 
moved him to tenderness. On the other hand, his 
thoughts, held in bondage under the influence of 
Madame de Scudemor, found their level once more 
with Camilla. He felt himself more of a man, 
and the relations between man and woman had 
become what they ought to be. At the bottom of 
all our feelings there exists a vast amount of inde- 
structible personality. It is difficult for a man to 
shake it off. In his most devoted affections, he 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 333 

appears entire, violent, an immense ego! and it 
is not for a powerful motive, or some great cause, 
or on a solemn occasion that he suddenly breaks 
out. A flower looked at for too long, a book not 
closed quickly enough when someone approaches, 
a piano or a harp to which one is too much devoted, 
these things which are the rivals of feelings in 
musical souls, are quite enough to make us victims 
or despots in presence of emotions or interests of 
which we are not the cause; enough to raise fear, 
and frightened men are cruel. 

Camilla's style of adoration necessarily excited 
Allan, so he unfolded before her a varied collection 
of thoughts. Any other woman would have found 
him seductive, eloquent and irresistible. But she 
was enchanted with him, and she never asked her- 
self if it was she who had made him like that, or if 
he was really thus. She listened to him as he 
expounded his views upon everything, or the least 
trifle, and she garnered up his utterances as if he 
was an oracle. Her intellectual life, as well as 
tangible existence, seemed to flow from him. 
Whether he spoke to her, or whether he read some 
poet — one of those men with a crystal flute who, 
like the musician of old, puts evil passions to sleep 
in the heart — she was pleased, and palpitated as 



334 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

he talked, with downcast eyes, a pink cloud or a 
touch of pallor on her cheek; and she often felt 
that to bring herself to her senses she had but to 
look at him; that prevented her from fainting. 
Her life, ready to leave her, caught at the man 
she loved, and did not sink; while all these deli- 
cious and poignant sensations were so deep that 
nothing betrayed her to Madame de Scudemor, 
nor even to Allan. 

It was a relief to Madame de Scudemor to see 
that the fine faculties of Allan had escaped from 
the thraldom of sensuality, and had survived it. 
She also was happy as she listened to him. But it 
was sad felicity without emotion and without joy, 
expressly formed for her whose soul no longer 
possessed the power to taste the least pleasure 
with any energy. Sometimes, led away by the 
torrent of young de Cynthry's ideas, she found her 
animated language once more, as if diluted in the 
colours of her now faded life, such as she had had 
with him on certain days, and which she was not 
known to use in society, where her thoughts floated 
on torpid conversations like a cork on stagnant 
water. But such moments were short. Enthusi- 
astic ideas had no more effect upon this woman 
than enthusiastic feelings. She smiled, not for 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 335 

other people, but inwardly, when her words became 
inflamed with the reflection of Allan's discourse, 
at the moment when her impressions were not even 
tepid, when her last interest had just expired with 
that boy's love, showing the woman's habits of in- 
tellect that had been hers formerly, and that mis- 
fortune and passion had destroyed. 

Another woman than the Countess de Scudemor 
would have perhaps been curious to know what 
Allan, now quite cool, thought of her and her con- 
duct. But such an idea could not strike her. Van- 
ity could not cause this last and subtle complaint 
to be heard in her heart. Although Allan seemed 
to her to be worth more than other men, if it was 
only the superiority of youth, he was also a man, 
and she was careless of his opinions and his scorn. 
When she saw him suffering on her account, she 
had obeyed her womanly instinct; and had this 
caused her to be misjudged by anybody, including 
Allan, she cared little or naught. If Allan, un- 
grateful, turned the ideas of vulgar morality 
against her, or, soaring above the hypocritical and 
common crowd, maintained that respect for her 
which she seemed perhaps to deserve, she did not 
esteem that as a reward or a grief. Indifference, 
and not pride, prevented even this idea from being 



336 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

bom, to disturb the slumber of indolence into 
which she had fallen again, since she alone was no 
longer in question. 

As Allan saw that the Countess de Scudemor 
did not reiterate the allusions she had once put 
forward, all that remained to him of fear and anxi- 
ety finished by dying away. Dreamily weak as 
formerlv, because passion had not broken him down 
sufficiently to make a man of him, or less than a 
man, he did not envisage the future with a tranquil 
eye. He did not ask himself what would be the 
result of the accumulating days of that period. 
He had suffered great pains, and had been cured 
of them as of an illness which makes the patient 
more fit to fight life's battles. For a long time 
he had found himself tainted, belittled, and a cow- 
ard; and now he could forget it all during this 
shameful truce, when imagination and his nervea 
had swallowed up the conscience. He had stifled 
his, which was an importunate witness of all his 
fresh weaknesses in the satin-wool of hia life with- 
out an issue. He had smothered it like Desde- 
mona, but without rage, under some of the cush- 
ions of those divans where daily he became more 
and more effeminate between the two women. The 
patent and absolute happiness of Camilla did not 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 337 

make him joyful ; he no longer possessed the fresh- 
ness of heart or primitive energy that has never 
been tired out. But he revelled in a kind of vague 
beatitude. His old sufferings were no more than 
a dream of his mind. Are there not days when 
the blue waves of contentment cover the soul grown 
cheerful, and hide all memories? But as this 
Lethe dries up quickly, and only brings its consol- 
ling illusions at long intervals, Allan was able to 
thank the present for interposing itself between 
him and the past. One hid the other. All that 
might have reminded him of it was erased, even as 
far as Madame de Scudemor was concerned. More 
than ever she felt the approach of old age, and its 
signs stood out plainer by the contrast of Camilla's 
youthful beauty. Allan could no longer recognise 
his idol. No more was there before his eyes the 
beauty he had so long adored, like a dumb and 
striking reproach to the frailty of his love. In 
that at least he was happy, if it is happiness, alas ! 
if, men, made of dust, we do not sooner remain 
stupefied beneath the sting of reproach without 
understanding its eloquence; and if, disengaged 
from the respect of a sentiment that was the very 
essence of ourselves, we can look without anger 
and see the face covered with our former kisses be- 



338 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

come nothing more than an inanimate and plaster 
mask grown ugly, even if the features do not show 
to others the love they testified for us, promising 
still greater happiness than we enjoyed. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 339 



V. 

It was the depth of winter. Madame de Scude- 
mor's health did not improve, but nevertheless she 
grew no worse. Beneath her gaze, Camilla and 
Allan still lived in the same intimacy, half hidden, 
half visible. They never left each other. The sub- 
ject of their conversation was most often their 
memories of Italy. Their chat seemed innocent, 
and there was perfect confidence, although they 
did not tell each other what existed in their lives 
at the epoch they talked about, and which they 
would most certainly have found if they had 
searched properly; but, perhaps, they had both 
forgotten. 

One day, when their conversation had a more 
tender tone than ever, on one of those afternoons 
when souls press one against the other with heat 
and comforting warmth, a day of cloudy sky, of 
wind that heralds rain, of sparrows, dying of hun- 
ger beneath the cruel north wind, coming to com- 
plain uselessly on the window-sill, whence through 
the panes we see them fly away ; Madame de Scude- 



340 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

mor on her causeuse was busy turning over the 
leaves of some new books which had been sent to 
her from Paris, and she did not interfere in the 
slightest degree with what Allan and Camilla 
might have been saying to each other. A strange 
fit of sadness came over these happy children. 
Simultaneously and rapidly they experienced an 
indivisible sensation, they knew not why. At that 
moment their discourse had not been of a kind that 
drives us, as we give way to secret inspirations, to 
the infinite vacuity of secret melancholy. It might 
have been the torn edge of a cloud fading away in 
their heaven of thought, so profound, so pure, and 
so vast ; a drop of rain in their ocean ; a stifled sigh 
in their immense happiness— it was nothing, or 
rather it was everything. Where destinies are built 
up, theirs had just been destroyed, and this was 
the reaction. 

Poor woman! you are right to be suspicious. 
Superstition is a livelier comprehension of the 
mysteries of human life. Long before the annihi- 
lation of happiness, one feels suddenly at the bot- 
tom of the heart that it has just suddenly been de- 
stroyed, and with that terrible idea we continue 
to enjoy it. Thus in the plenitude of existence | 
we feel a single palpitation in the midst of positive 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 341 

joys, and the burst of youth, and although we may 
live many strong and well-filled years, the touch 
of the fatal finger has been felt, and it is as if 
Death had come ! 

Camilla looked at Allan, who returned her 
glance. They said not a word. A tear, which 
dried on the lids that tried to drink it, was all that 
betrayed the woman — a being as yet untried— the 
greatest joy and the greatest weakness. That was 
all the difference there was between her and Allan. 
Her tear was not one of those hot and fresh drops 
that escape us in youth, rolling down to wash the 
face and heart like a wave of divine delight, but 
one of those that come unaccompanied, rare and 
scalding. Allan did not ask the reason of that 
tear. He knew. 

It was all over already. The sadness had only 
lasted the necessary time for a tear to dry. Camilla 
took up her interrupted task, Allan resumed the 
conversation without a word that alluded to this 
unknown sensation that had assailed them at the 
same time, and in close contact, gaily conversing, 
they reached the close of day in the deep bay 
window, as if nothing solemn had just passed 
between them. 

When night had quite closed in, Allan left the 



342 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

room. Generally he sat at the work-table, which 
was placed near Madame de Scudemor, and by the 
light of the lamp he would design some pattern for 
Camilla's embroidery. Thus passed the evening 
until the moment when fatigue forced the Countess 
to retire. Then the day was closed by a "Good- 
night!" — a dumb summing-up of all the tender- 
ness of the day — and each one went to bed with the 
perspective of beginning the next day over again 
in about the same style as that of the day before, 
a routine that was never tiresome, because it was 
the unity of adorable feeling; because happiness, 
when it is deep, suffices to fill the heart and the 
thoughts. 

In vain Camilla looked several times impatiently 
towards the door. Allan did not return. Where 
was he ? He was not in the habit of going out of 
the room at that moment. Vague uneasiness came 
over her, but she only bent her head all the more 
obstinately over her work. It was insensate anxi- 
ety, for why should she be anxious? Might not lie 
be in the library, or even in the garden, taking 
the air after a day passed in a shut-up room? Be- 
sides, did he not leave her often thus ? Was it not 
childish to wish to have him eternally tied to her 
girdle? But these reasons that she argued out to 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 343 

herself did not prevent her brow being still cast 
down over the hands that now worked slower and 
slower. Impatience caused their veins to swell, 
as well as the efforts she made in holding her 
breath to better catch the sound of footsteps in the 
corridor. From being vague the uneasiness became 
oppressive. She felt it increasing, growing in the 
silence. She said not a word to her mother, who 
was reading on the other side of the table, but her 
thoughts grew wildly delirious. What woman does 
not know this pain I tell of here ? 

Allan, who had no idea of the anxiety he was 
causing, had taken a gun, whistled his dog, and 
bent his steps towards the marshes. He never went 
out for a day's shooting, but sometimes bowled 
over a wild duck or two while strolling in the 
neighbourhood, which abounded in all kinds of 
game. That evening he felt mechanically the want 
of movement, of the open air, to be alone, to think 
freely, and as a pretext for his absence and for a 
walk in this inclement season he resolved to try his 
luck with the black and white nights of teal with 
which the fen was covered. Everywhere sub- 
merged, the marsh was now nothing more than an 
immense lake, upon which one might have navi- 
gated a small vessel. Allan jumped into a boat 



344 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

belonging to the domestics of the Chateau, and 
which in winter time they moored at the foot of 
a willow tree. A pale light floating like a vapour 
beneath the sky heavy with thick clouds inundated 
all objects with a white hue. The eyes grew fa- 
tigued and discouraged when looking over the 
long streaks of this damp desert of which the water 
shone like a mirror, now and then marked by the 
skimming teal. But Allan seemed to have for- 
gotten his sporting projects. He was seated in the 
little skiff, absorbed in his thoughts, his gun by 
his side. The north wind cut his face, and with a 
lazy hand he abstractedly caressed his dog's head, 
which, with its long black silky ears, was fondly 
and familiarly resting on his knee. Near the 
Douve, lost in the distance, a bittern— that enor- 
mous hawk of the marshes— now and then tore 
asunder the heavy silence with his harsh cry. The 
white and blue mass formed by the Chateau of the 
Willows, with its slate roof and its garlands of 
dainty roses sculptured on its walls, darkened by 
the rains, seemed shivering in a cluster of green 
trees, more dark than usual when seen through the 
naked thicket. 

"She loves me, and I love her, too!" he said to 
himself. "What will become of us? I only knew 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 345 

it just now, or I would have fled. And now it is 
too late! She loves me. Oh, why for me who 
vearned for love since my earliest youth; for me 
Vho has wasted so much affection-why does the 
idea of being loved not overwhelm me with joy, 
and close my eyes to the future? Why do I not 
take my revenge on the past that has tortured me 
by bravely dashing headlong into this love that I 
dreamt as being the finest thing in life? At last 
Allan, here is the time to be happy I The moment 
has come to realise all your dreams ! My dreams? 
Has my love for Yseult left one standing? Can 1 
be happy now? In the midst of mutual affection, 
could I forget that passion which has aged me 
before mv time? Will it not rise up like a mock- 
ing spectre, and appear to me even in Camillas 
arms? Am I worthy of that pure, virginal child, 
so sensual and full of her first love-I, who have 
worn out my heart in a useless infatuation for her 
mother, of whom I can only think with a blush, 
since reason has returned to me? Why has this 
passion not dried up my inmost source of love 
I am not yet like fatal Yseult! I know how I 
feel since I love her daughter! Her daughter? 
Ah, that idea is terrible! Why is Yseult her 
mother?" 



346 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

And so lie went on, dashing himself against these 
two redoubtable questions. 

Allan de Cynthry's position was indeed a fright- 
ful one. Only now could he see it, and he was 
not master over a secret terror. The veil of the 
future was torn apart in this young man's mind, 
and although all was dark behind it, he made out 
some great and inevitable misfortune through the 
dense obscurity of presentiments. The sweet and 
restful life that he had enjoyed for the last two 
months was finished, and he began once more to 
descend into a fresh circle of the hell of lust and 
tears. Governed by the blackest thoughts, without 
knowing what he was doing, he tore the silky hair 
of his dog's neck; and the animal did not move, 
but tenderly bent his head to the brutal whim of 
his master, only uttering a little plaintive groan. 

Unfortunate Camilla! And he also pitied the 
young, ignorant girl. But his pity was different to 
that of Madame de Scudemor. With him it was 
one of the sides of his love. The wan light of even- 
ing was fading away, and the water grew blacker 
every minute. The light in the windows of the 
Chateau, which could be seen from a long distance, 
reminded him that the ladies might be getting un- 
easy if he was late in returning home. He had 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 347 

not found much relief in the sharp air and the 
desolate aspect of the winter landscape. As he had 
just fastened the hoat to the willow, a heavy rustle 
above his head warned him of the passage of a 
bird. He thought it was some stork returning to 
its reedy shelter. Half out of justification for his 
departure from the Chateau, or else so as to escape 
by some act or movement from the painful 
thoughts which formed an obsession, he pulled the 
trigger of his gun, and sent the shot in the direc- 
tion of the bird, which fell, and was fetched by his 
dog. But when his faithful friend returned, he 
saw it was not a stork, but Aeis, the favourite swan 
of Camilla, that he had just killed. This appeared 
to him to have a terrible meaning, and he shud- 
dered like a weak child. There are days when our 
mind is more or less open to every omen, and this 
was one of the fatal days for Allan. So he went 
back to the Chateau with his soul more rent than 
ever by sinister forebodings. 

When he returned to the drawing-room, which 
was only lighted by the slight gleam of the lamp 
and the red reflection of the fire, he found no one 
there. Sometimes Madame de Scudemor left the 
salon during the evening. She might have been 
indisposed, and required the services of her daugh- 



348 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ter. This circumstance did not make him very 
uneasy. He drew a chair near Camilla's empty 
scat, but his foot struck against something on the 
carpet. 

He looked and recognised Camilla in a dead 
faint. To seize hold of her, lift her up, and place 
her on the sofa was the work of a moment for him. 
He warmed her with his breath and against his 
breast, never thinking of leaving her in the state 
she was in while he called for help. After a few 
moments of despairing efforts and trouble to bring 
her back to life, she opened her eyes and recog- 
nised him. 

"Ah, 'tis you— you at last!" she cried, wanting 
to rush to him, but falling back for want of 
strength. 

"Yes, 'tis I, Camilla," he replied. And he asked 
her the reason of her sudden swoon. 

"You were out," she said, still trembling all 
over. "I did not know what was the matter with 
me, but I was suffering. Mother had left me for 
a moment. I heard a shot, and fear made me 
faint." 

"Silly girl," said Allan to her, on his knees in 
front of her, kissing her hands, which from icy-cold 
became moist, as when one swoons. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 349 

"Oh yes, quite crazy/' she returned, "to have 
been so frightened by so little, eh, brother? Scold 
me for my cowardice. Am I not very childish? 
But, look you," she added, leaning towards him, 
and taking in his whole person with one thirsty 
glance, "never leave me in the evening. I'll not 
have it ! Take pity," and already her lips formed 
themselves into a smile; "have pity on the foolish 
fears of your poor sister !" 

And as she often did in all the admirable inno- 
cence of her heart, she tried to kiss him on the 
eyes; but he, who had just reckoned up in solitude 
the sentiment of which she did not discern the 
nature, repulsed her, with the generous instinct of 
an honest man. It was a noble movement, that 
God alone could judge, for she was mistaken, and 
with a voice showing her great yearning, as when 
the heart bleeds: 

"Why do you push me from you, Allan?" she 
exclaimed. "Oh, Allan, why do you repulse me? 
What have I done to you?" 

And seeing her ready to fall back into the same 
state as she had just been in, without reflecting, 
under the influence of the fear that overpowered 
him : 

"But I do not repulse you, my Camilla," said 



350 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

he, and he kissed her forehead quickly. "It was 
the remains of the fright you gave me," he added, 
trying to laugh. "Could I drive you from me, my 
darling sister?" and he sat by her side on the sofa. 

"Yes, you did push me from you, my brother," 
she answered, in low and solemn accents. "Say it 
was involuntary — say that you were not thinking 
what you were doing, but you did repulse me ! 
Listen, you have perhaps in your soul, like I have, 
something that you do not understand. For the 
first time you swore to me that I was really your 
sister, I feel completely changed. Something has 
taken place in my inmost being. I know not what 
to tell you, but I feel quite a different girl to-day. 
Oh, perhaps I shall seem to you to be more silly 
than ever!" and her voice was no longer grave, but 
accentuated with feeling. "But tell me that you 
understand me well, that it is the same with you." 

"Yes, I understand you well. Yes, I am the 
same," said Allan slowly, like a fatal echo, follow- 
ing the train of thought which swayed him despite 
himself. 

"And you know not what ails you any more than 
I do?" continued the young girl, with a woman's 
inquisitive grace, fearing the reply which she nev- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 351 

ertheless implored. "You, my elder brother, do 
not know either?" 

"Yes, I know!" Allan rejoined roughly. 

Then he stopped, and she, throwing herself back, 
as if in fear of the revelation that would come from 
him: 

"Tell me," she returned, with one of those 
glances that cause the nightingale to drop from the 
tree on to the grass where the serpent is waiting, 
or drag the secret from a man's lips to fall into a 
woman's bosom. 

"Well, sister," said Allan, conquered after a 
pause, "I think we both love each other too much !" 

Did the formidable glare of these words illumi- 
nate Camilla's heart? Did she see the nakedness 
of her misery? Did the past, awakened by this 
supreme sentence, show her the future that lay 
before her? Did she understand ? Or did she try 
to understand ? Be that as it may, she could not 
have cast down her head with greater consternation 
or more crushing silence if she had realised the 
truth. 

Madame de Scudemor came back, and taking her 
seat again on her causeuse: 

"What are you doing there, my children?" she 
said, with her tranquil grace. 



352 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Camilla fainted through the heat of the room," 
answered Allan. "She drew away from the fire. 
But it is all over now." 

"Are you sure of that?" said Madame de Scude- 
mor, looking steadfastly at Camilla with amiable 
interest. " Shall Allan open a window, if you want 
air?" 

"Thank you, mamma," replied Camilla, "I am 
quite well now." 

And she took up her work again. Allan, whom 
the Countess did not interrogate concerning his de- 
parture from the drawing-room, placed himself by 
Camilla's side, and asked Madame de Scudemor 
what were the books that had been sent to her from 
Paris. And thus with three or four insignificant 
questions they all three silently finished the even- 
ing, until the moment when the clock struck half- 
past eleven, which was about their habitual hour 
for retiring to rest. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 353 



VI. 

CAMILLA TO ALLAN". 

■ 'We love each other too much!' you said. That 
Is what disturbs our life, which up to the present 
has been so gentle, so sweet, so happy! That is 
what makes me hide my tears now. That is what 
has made these last three days so sad. We love 
each other too much! Ah! brother, I thought I 
could never love ) r ou enough! 

"I loved you, and that was my joy, my life, my 
destiny. I feel that I love you still, that it is my 
fate to do so always; but why is it my joy no 
longer? Why does this love, which was so sweet 
to my soul, become so bitter now? You are not 
changed. I am not altered. Nothing is different 
about us. Why, with us, is not everything the 
same? We love each other too much! Are you 
mad to think so? Is it possible to love too much? 
Should our mutual love prevent happiness, when to 
love makes us so happy ? You are mistaken, Allan, 
my brother ! If happiness causes us to suffer, it 



354 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

would not be happiness; and without disclaiming 
either, you can no more say, 'too much happiness' 
than you can 'too much love'! 

" Happiness ! Oh ! say do you feel it as I do ? 
Do you desire it like me? Perhaps in our two 
felicities there is the difference that is in us, 
brother mine — the difference between brother and 
sister ? I know not ; I am a dunce, and love has 
made me proud; but many a time, Allan, during 
our long talks, your glance, intent on mine, did not 
show the happiness with which I was flooded. But 
did mine show it better? If I had been in your 
eves to see myself, should I have found that I was 
looking happy enough ? Perhaps you thought the 
same as I did ? Perhaps I am crazy to believe I 
can feel happiness better than you can, adored 
brother? Pardon me this mad presumption! Let 
it indicate to you the thirst for felicity which 
burns me! Although you have quenched it for 
the last two months, whence comes it, Allan, that 
my thirst is not yet appeased? I can understand 
that my roses have no more odour when I have in- 
haled them for some time, but next day I find fresh 
scent in fresh flowers, or one would have to pray 
to God to make others. Alas! brother, my ex- 
hausted happiness is as if there was no more per- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 355 

fume in new blossoms, and all I can do is to sup- 
plicate Thee, God of my life, to create some other 
happiness for me ! 

"Yes, Allan, give me happiness. Make me happy 
at all cost ! You can ! You can do whatever you 
like with Camilla. Have I not just been so happy 
through you that I wished to know no more of the 
world, and hoped for nothing more from heaven? 
Your love, oh, my brother, has it not made me a 
most satisfied creature? You can see well enough 
that we do not love each other too much, since that 
very love does not suffice any more. Believe me 
when I say that I shall not give way beneath the 
weight of joy. If I complain, I do not ask for 
quarter. My heart is full of superhuman power. 
You may oppress it, but it will not be stifled. Oh, 
Allan! give me more! still more! Happiness, 
friend, or death ! 

"I write to you, Allan, and I weep. Mother is 
in bed. I suffered so much for the last few days, 
that the idea struck me that I would write to you 
this evening. I have suffered much. I am forced 
to use that word, because no other exists ; but will 
it fully set forth what I endured, friend? No! 
because it was not through pain, but merely because 
I was not happy — is that not all the grief of life ? 



356 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

Not to be happy, and to possess a soul, a beating 
heart, thoughts that blossom in our brain, and yet 
be unhappy! Oh, what anguish! Take pity on 
what I feci within me. You ought to be able to 
suffer more courageously than a weak woman. 
Allan, I ask for your pity. Pity is still love ! Do 
not say that we love each other too much ! But 
if you love me too much, would you wish me to love 
you more? Alas! can I ever destroy this uncon- 
querable instinct that feeds on my vitals, oh, my 
sweet friend? 

"We love each other too much! How you said 
that, Allan ! How solemn was your tone ! How 
pale you were ! How like you were to that angel 
we saw in Florence together, and who was blowing 
the trumpet of the Day of Judgment! How I 
have remembered the accent with which you used 
to speak ! The words spoken by you pursue me ! 
T think of thorn unceasingly. But I am afflicted 
without being frightened ; for your talk shows no 
regret. You made us one with your incompre- 
hensible we love each other too much! Whatever it 
prophesies, or whatever it hides, will strike us both. 
Let us, then, love each other fearlessly, friend 1 
What hinders us from loving? However cloeelj 
we may press one against the other, who could one 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 357 

day separate us ? Do you know who could ? Who ? 
When I look, I see nothing. In darkness we dream 
of many an abyss. We are children, but let us lean 
together — you on me, me upon you — and thus 
march into futurity, my dear Allan ! Let us love 
each other in all confidence. Is your heart not as 
pure as mine ? Ah ! however I struggle against the 
fatal words you uttered, however I surround myself 
with hope, my tears flow, oh, angel of my destiny, 
as if it was true that too much love drives all hap- 
piness out of one's life." 



358 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



VII. 

Camilla's letter caused Allan to make fresh steps 
in paths of horror. It opened horizons full of 
storms that he could see lowering in the future. 
What did this young girl mean? what was she to 
thus attach herself to him with the mighty strength 
of unique affection? what could this weak creature 
be, whose desires of happiness were so intense? 
He understood that she would not care to love him 
aimlessly or vainly, and that she did not spare 
him any of the possibilities of happiness. It was 
a cruel ordeal, terminating in despair! He asked 
himself how he could keep up a struggle with this 
girl, whose unruly passion urged her to be happy 
"at any cost," when she already felt herself en- 
couraged by the love that he knew he felt for her ? 
To be ignorant of her own feelings on the one 
hand, and know so much on the other, seemed to 
him to be a strange and threatening thing. An 
entirely human cry resounded through these mar- 
vellously pure sighs, and this fraternal tenderness 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 359 

was a bizarre and formidable thing. When pas- 
sions have not yet lost their innocent character, 
their hidden limits are boundless. 

The last lines of Camilla's letter bronght doubt 
to his mind. Did she suspect the secret sealed to 
the lips of Madame de Scudemor, and to his? And, 
half out of respect for Yseult, half out of indul- 
gence for his gradually growing passion, he tried 
to deceive her. 

"You are right, Camilla," he answered her, "let 
us love each other more than ever ! Let us love 
and be happy. If to be happy you only require 
your brother's adoration, how delighted you wiU 
be henceforward! Your letter has doubled the 
affection that I had for you. My darling, how 
large-souled you are ! I want to fill it entirely ; no 
matter how deep it may be, I will load it with my 
love to the brim. 

"Pardon me the words that hurt your feelings 
uselessly, my dearly beloved child. Let those sen- 
tences, incomprehensible for you, always remain 
so. You guessed rightly when you said that they 
did not isolate me from you by regret. Why should 
I repent having loved you? But, as you say your- 
self, there are differences in the ways of being 



360 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

happy, and if in loving you I feel that I am your 
equal, Camilla, in happiness, my soul is not worth 
yours. I do not possess your immense capacity for 
felicity. I have always been wary of life. When 
all seemed to smile upon me, existence appeared 
perfidious to me. My reason laughs at such super- 
stition, but it has its revenge. Have I ever told 
you that I came into the world on a dark and icy 
winter's day — a day of sighs and tears, known as 
that of the dead, and those that have gone before 
seemed to have marked it with prophetic ashes? 
Yes, I have always thought that my natal day 
would have a fatal influence on my life and 
thoughts. Do you remember, sister, how in our 
childhood I often grieved you by my fits of sad- 
nes ? Do you remember how I often drove 
vou away so as to be alone? Poor little innocent 
thing, you did not know what ailed me ! It was 
that, Camilla, the idea of the unknown, still vague, 
but already understood, and which crushed me with 
inexplicable presentiments. 

"But, Camilla, I ought not to trouble your life 
with these anxieties of my destiny. When, in sup- 
plicating tones, you ask me for a little happiness, 
when you place in me all that you have of love to 
give and felicity to expect, I ought not to send you 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 361 

back your prayer with the fatal follies of my heart. 
ISTo, I prefer to share your enthusiastic pursuit of 
the happiness you find in love. Besides, has not 
this affection already put my dark thoughts to 
sleep? And since these two words have been as 
sweet for me as the Milky Way in the sky of a 
clear night, why should the days to come be dif- 
ferent to those that are gone? Why should I not 
be allowed to believe in you more than in myself ? 
I was wrong. I confess it, and I withdraw the im- 
prudent words that caused your tears to flow. 

"But listen, my sweet friend. If now and again, 
at the side of you whom I love, in the midst of this 
existence as we dreamt it, and as we realised it, a 
cloud comes over my brow, some thought freezes 
the smile upon my lips— shut your eyes and forget. 
It will never be aught but a rapid moment, a light- 
ning flash extinguished as soon as seen. When you 
reopen your adored eyes, you will find me reassured 
and as calm as you. Do not be uneasy about these 
sudden instants, which you may even note in the 
midst of happiness ; do not mind my obstinate dis- 
position, which shows itself when I believe it con- 
quered and disarmed ! Absolve me from my eternal 
suspicions, if they ever reappear and show them- 
selves, to be again lost in the delights of our union. 



362 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

This suspicion, darling sister, will never attach 
itself to love. Do not grieve; your pity would be 
too cruel for me. As my love suffices you, would 
you, by not being perfectly happy, punish me for 
not being as happy, Camilla, as you are?" 

Certainly, Allan was genuine in writing thus to 
Mademoiselle de Scudemor. But the idea of being 
destined for misfortune is one that may seize upon 
men without madness, as unhappiness is so certain 
that it is inevitable ; but was that the entire secret 
of his sadness ? No, without a doubt ! But he dis- 
persed suspicion, or met it half-way, in pointing 
out this scepticism, which was one of the traits of 
his disposition. Anyhow, he acted thus more with 
thoughts of Madame de Scudemor than of himself, 
for he regarded himself as already attacked by the 
implacable fatality of Camilla's love. But he hoped, 
at least, that these two women who were destined to 
break his heart, each in her way, would not break 
theirs, one against the other, after having destroyed 

his. 

When we are the toys of some adored fatality 
which drives us on to the goal we fear by the road 
we might have chosen ourselves, we easily forget 
that we are victims. It is less a preconceived idea 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 363 

than the stupidity of sensuality, and man, dis- 
tinguished from animals because he can foresee the 
future, feeds upon the flowers of life like the ox 
fattened for the sacrifice. Allan was loved. This 
joy of being loved has such delightful sweetness 
and intoxication that he hoped it would never fade. 
But when, from time to time, intelligence peered 
through his pleasures, he felt horrified at his de- 
lirium, and in despair threw himself headlong into 
their midst. Could he foresee the moment when 
he would invoke them still, but in vain ? 



304 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



VIII. 

Life, however, seemed to have become as it was 

formerly for Allan and Camilla, but more ardent 

and concentrated. Each day brought fresh strength 

to their passion. It began to emerge from the 

depths of the unknown, where till then it had been 

concealed. It was like the rising tide of the sea, 

of which the distant murmur can be heard, wave 

following wave, behind the hill that masks its view, 

and it appears one day bright and luminous on the 

summit, having destroyed the cliff by its obstinate 

invasion. 

Allan's letter had entirely calmed Camilla's 
fears. She pitied his suspicious disposition, of 
which he had never spoken, and it now furnished 
her with the explanation of many of his sad mo- 
ments. Whether her love should conquer her 
brother's mistrust or not was a reason for her to 
love him more. In love, alas! everything is a 
further motive. 

"I will prove the falsity of his presentiments," 

-he said to herself. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 365 

And, indeed, her looks, her voice, the touch of 
her hand when she placed it in his palm, her whole 
being, in fact, exhaled such love that he who adored 
her could not feel any fear or doubt. Madame de 
Scudemor could never suspect what mysterious 
waves of love rolled between these two young peo- 
ple who lived so intimately with her, and who 
seemed to be naturally enjoying simple family 
routine, in the face of this intercourse which was 
something more than the familiarity of habit, 
showing deep affection in a restrained and chaste 
way. She looked upon them with her dry eyes and 
pallid smile, and who knows if at the bottom of her 
heart she did not suffer at not being able to make a 
third party in the confidence of this friendship? 
But if that regret existed for Yseult, it was weak, 
and died silently where it was born, without her 
tranquil, wan face betraying its abortive existence. 

Sometimes, when she was not in the drawing- 
room, Camilla innocently said to Allan: 

"My mother little knows how much we love each 
other, brother." 

And these words brought icy coldness in the 
midst of the tender feelings and inexhaustible sen- 
sations of Allan. The wretched youth had weighty 
reasons to hope that she might never know. 



366 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"But," continued Camilla, ever intent in her em- 
broidery, "what does it matter if she does not 
know it? Such things cannot be confided to any- 
body. Is it because I love only you, Allan, that it 
would be impossible for me to tell any one else how 
dear you are to me? And then mother, although 
she is so good to me, is so cold, that I feel more 
timid with her than with a stranger." 

Allan dared not reply to these words. He knew 
how little Madame de Scudemor was Camilla's 
mother at heart. But he to whom she had re- 
vealed herself, knowing the cause of the aridity of 
that deceived and ulcerated heart, had such respect 
for her that a remark made about her coldness 
would have seemed to him hard and ungrateful. 
Camilla could not penetrate the motive of Allan's 
silence, but she loved him too much not to put it 
down to delicacy. 

"You dare not accuse my mother," she went on, 
"you are so good and generous, my Allan ! Neither 
do I accuse her. Perhaps she has not always been 
happy? Yet she never weeps, and I do not re- 
member ever having seen her sad." 

"That is because there are such great misfor- 
tunes," replied Allan, "that they dry up the 
sources of our tears, and downcast we seem to be 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 367 

full of courage so much do they strike us with im- 
passibility. You are at the dawn of life, sister, and 
to show grief you only know of tears, because when 
you suffer you weep. But is the heart always full, 
and must it be thought that your mother is less 
to be pitied if she feels this exhaustion ?" 

"Who has taught you all this?" said the guile- 
less lassie to him. 

But he took good care not to answer, or tell her 
where he had found out these facts, and how, al- 
though nearly as young as she, he had gained his 
knowledge. Under the impression of sadness 
created by his words, Camilla thought again about 
her mother. 

"If you are right," she added, "I'll not be so 
unjust as to murmur ever so little against my 
mother's coldness. And besides, why should I com- 
plain, friend, since you are all in all to me ? With 
you, I want nothing — not even my mother's love !" 

And she spoke these charming words with an 
accent resounding like heavenly music going from 
the ear to the heart. 

"Yes! I am an orphan as you are," she re- 
joined. "Let us love each other, Allan; let us 
love like poor children who have never had a moth- 



368 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

er's tenderness to share. See now, I should almost 
be vexed if my mother loved me at this juncture. 
I am happy to be an orphan, for am I not more 
like you?" 

And she looked at him in such a manner that he 
must have fainted if he had not reclined his head 
on her shoulder, as he felt himself overwhelmed 
with pure delight, and he enjoyed the sweetness of 
the tears that welled up in his eyes. She, younger 
and weaker, supported without giving way his head 
full of thoughts, and his brow upon which grief 
had already printed its furrow. She was proud 
of the emotion that she stirred up in this man, her 
elder brother in strength as by age. Where is the 
woman who has not deliciously played at being 
the mother of her lover, and has not cradled her 
protector and her king like a child upon her breast? 
She did not weep like Allan, but she smiled. Her 
eyes dropping to meet his, gave out a flame longer 
than her lashes and sweeter than the light of a 
May evening. Her dark cheeks, which seemed al- 
ways a little opaque by reason of their brownish 
tint, became transparent as she blushed. It seemed 
as if a red carmine-like light coursed beneath the 
velvet skin, as that of a ripe peach or a gleaming 
fluid. She was more radiant, and not less touch- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 369 

ing, than Correggio's picture of the pale mother 
with her child at the breast, tears trembling on her 
cheek and flooding her smile; in seeing her, one 
could understand how much the pure love of a vir- 
gin is above maternal affection. 

But if Yseult happened to return, her rival in- 
terrupted these long ecstasies and inconceivable 
felicities. The brimming confidence became a thin 
stream of water in the place where it had rolled 
along like a swollen river. However, the remem- 
bered charm of the past moment brought balm to 
the actual instants, and even that had its sweetness. 
The soul wants rest to fall back upon itself, so as to 
better taste its enjoyment. To reflect upon one's 
happiness, does not that double it? 

If love could always be in our soul, as it was for 
these two young people, what a splendid thing it 
would make of life ! How we should mourn for it, 
and die when it no longer existed ! All that the 
poets have sung of mutual love and its happiness 
would be clumsy in comparison with that which 
would overwhelm us. And what adorable chastity 
there would be in the midst of all these abandon- 
ments ! If there were thoughts that God had for- 
gotten to clothe in less luminous fashion, they 



370 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

would be thus mingled and intertwined in His 
bosom. But who ever inhaled the perfume of a 
flower without taking away a little of the silky 
down that covers it? And if we could change the 
colours that ornament it into perfumes, who would 
not mix them pitilessly with the fresh odour it ex- 
hales, to draw entirely into oneself the blossom 
that we can possess much better with a breath than 
with a look ? 

This law governing all creatures reached them 
in the Ely si an existence which sentiment had built 
up. A fresh grain of sand fell to the bottom of 
the marvellous cup from which they were quaffing 
the fire of the stars, and, as it always happens, this 
speck of earth, mingling with all the delights of 
heaven, made these joys greater still. Our first 
voluptuousness is the most complete moment of 
happiness, for then the whole of the manly being 
is enthralled. It is then we feel the first shudder 
of some other substance than that of our soul ; the 
first bound of the flesh, like the child as yet un- 
formed in the womb of such immaculate love, and 
which, without leaving it, nevertheless lets us know 
that it is endowed with life. This golden ray not 
only lights up our souls ; it penetrates to the depths 
of our worthless bodies, and makes them divine; 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 371 

but, alas ! we are no longer pure when its light 
fades. Amidst the sentiments of the man and 
the woman, mysticism is only possible for a mo- 
ment, and if it lasts it is a lie. 

"My friend," said Camilla one day to him whom 
she had so long called her brother, "at present 
mother is in the way. We are not alone often 
enough, and we are forced to hide too much what 
we have to say to each other." 

Allan was of the same opinion, but it was im- 
possible for them to get rid of Madame de Scude- 
mor. Spring, which each day crept gradually 
nearer, would, they hoped, give greater liberty. 
Would it not be the pretext for many walks ? And 
when they were supposed to be in different direc- 
tions, would they not be able to meet, protected, 
as they would be, by the trees of the garden ? But 
in the meanwhile they were obliged to put up with 
the exchange of a few tender words on the sly, 
and keep back their tears of joy and the love that 
oppressed them. It was difficult; it seemed as if 
their young organs would burst. At any rate, they 
resolved to write everything to each other that 
they had not been able to say during the day. A 
very fine copy of Burns, Allan's favourite poet, was 
the spot where they placed their correspondence. 



372 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

This book was in the library, where Madame de 
Scudemor never went. 

This slight compensation made their lives easy 
for some little time. They were either very crazy 
or quite sublime, but they were still brother and 
sister. On the part of Allan there was pure mys- 
tical love — the finest poem that imagination could 
sing in his heart ; with Camilla, it was the virgin's 
ignorance of her first thoughts of love. Although 
she possessed that dangerous sort of beauty which, 
when looked upon, causes a thrill — the beauty of 
the Amazon foreshadowing resistance even when 
conquered, and whom one would not hesitate to 
crush at such a juncture ; although her person ex- 
haled the voluptuous odour of the most burning 
plants of Peru, as if some warm perfume of helio- 
trope had been hidden among her clothes, Allan 
had never looked upon her otherwise than with the 
expression of virginal feelings, although with some 
exaltation. Incessantly by her side, for days he 
rested his eyes on her bust, made for all the em- 
braces and enlacements of love; upon her sloping 
shoulders and her intoxicating neck, where on the 
nape there were little curling locks, rebellious to 
the comb, and which, like golden moss, reminded 
one that her head in childhood, now of bronze hue, 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 373 

had been auburn ; and never had he felt upon his 
lips the moisture and the dryness of desire. He 
saw life dilating in double fruit within her bodice, 
showing the harmony of two celestial globes in a 
firmament of springtime, and he only experienced 
the feeling that comes over us at the sight of a 
fresh and sweet lake, after a day's tramp on a 
dry and dusty road, burnt up by ardent sunlight. 
Camilla, on her side, bad supported for hours the 
breath of the man against her cheek, and it had 
not caused her to be covered with that fiery perspi- 
ration which breaks out all over us from head to 
foot at the slightest breath of the loved mouth. 
She had not even shuddered at it. Truly, she had 
often told him that he was handsome, with accents 
of idolatry. But do not mothers speak thus to 
their children? 

Camilla and Allan, who did not leave each other 
during the day, could only write at night. Their 
letters were long, and made them sit up until the 
morning. Was it this continual sleeplessness that 
had so deeply fatigued Camilla's eyes? A violet 
circle surrounded them. One might have said 
that a summer sun lit up a mass of dark clouds. 
For anybody who might have observed her, she 
was more downcast than sad. She possessed the 



374 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

double lassitude of happiness and innocence, and 
of these two fatigued states the greatest at this 
moment was not that of happiness. 

One evening they were alone, by one of those 
chances that now and then happened favourably 
for them. It was about the close of winter, and 
out of doors the light was striking because of the 
transparency of the atmosphere in frosty weather. 
In the extremely light blue sky the stars, which 
seemed more small than usual, sparkled also whiter 
and sharper than at ordinary times. The thin 
moon showed a diaphanous semi-circle, like the 
half of a broken bracelet. The marsh, still inun- 
dated with the overflow of the Douve, which was 
gradually retiring, reflected the calmness of the 
sky; and the willows, whose straight branches re- 
sembled a woman's hair uplifted by the wind, were 
covered with hoar frost and a thousand capri- 
cious crystals. It was a fantastical landscape, seen 
through the vapoury veil that the heat of the draw- 
ing-room caused to fall upon the window-panes, and 
which is the gaiety of white frosts— a sort of win- 
try smile— when the air is rarefied and sonorous. 

"Are you not ill?" asked Allan of the young 
girl. "For the last few days I find that you are 
changed and sad. What ails you, sister?" 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 375 

"Nothing. I am not ill— physically, at least," 
she returned, with a slow and grateful smile. 

"But " 

"But?" interrupted Allan. 

"But, as you say, I feel downhearted. I lan- 
guish because I love you, and I would wish to live 
by my affection for you." 

They clasped hands. All four were burning. 

"Oh, Allan!" she said, lifting up to him her 
great black eyes, fatigued but ardent, like spheres 
of flames in "their shaded orbits, "why, then, am 
I sad as you are, when you said that I was born 
to be happy? Truly, I begin to think that my 
heart is too small for so much happiness. Some 
great devotion would relieve me." 
° "Only death would bring us relief," -said Allan; 
but she did not see the sense of those words. "Will 
you die with me, Camilla, since we can no longer 
bear the weight of our happiness?" 

What an admirable thing is love! Here was 
this child, smiling sweetly at the thought of death, 
as if she were laughing at some young girlish 

friend. 

"To die? Yes, for you, but not with you !" she 
said. "Oh, yes, to die for you, that I desire! 
Allan, you have found what I want!" 



376 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Why not together, my darling sister?" he 
asked. 

"Because," she replied, unwittingly flashing a 
mighty light upon the poor human heart, "bo- 
cause to die together is not devotion; because we 
should have to begin everything all over again if 
there is love on the other side of the grave. Oh, 
my friend, it is not repose that I thirst for, but 
abnegation." 

She remained still for some time, as if reflecting, 
and so did Allan. And these loving children were 
as grave as old people. Love had just led their 
thoughts as far as it could towards the infinite. 
But by bitter derision of fate, they suddenly re- 
turned to life from the borders of eternity. It 
was a deep fall, showing what a poor thing is the 
human soul, since its wings fail it so soon, and 
from out of the purest of its dreams whence it car- 
ried its wounded breast, the divine bird is bound 
to drop down once more. 

Hands joined, thus they remained, saying not 
a word; she, with her elbows on her knees, in 
front of him, her face changed by the anxiety of 
too great joy and love. The traces of insomnia 
that furrowed her features ; her haggard eyes ; her 
languid smile; her whole being burnt up by the 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 377 

inward flame ; and, above all, this desire of sacri- 
fice; the wish to die for him in the midst of the 
deepest joy which caused all her sufferings, made 
her more beautiful than a martyr. How must she 
have seemed then to him who had cleansed him- 
self from the taint of his first caresses in medi- 
tative thought and with the shame of fleshly love ; 
to him, her brother, her life, her soul, who found 
a pardon for his love in himself, and felt hopeful 
in the future because of the purity of the affection 
he felt for her? How did she seem to him who, 
not suspecting that any more happiness existed 
for her, had just proposed to him so simply to die ? 
At this moment, even for anybody else than Allan, 
Camilla shone out a thousand times more beauti- 
ful by the soul than by corporeal beauty; but for 
him, who above all adored her soul through the 
bodily beauty that it increased tenfold, was not 
Camilla bound to be a sacred and religious object? 
That is what it should have been, but it was 
not to be. Shall we therefore curse human nature ? 
Let all tender souls, who think themselves pure, 
close this book here, and never open it again! 

The breath of our couple, which had so often 
passed over their candid brows, only leaving be- 
hind the fleeting, evaporated, cool sensation, now 



378 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

was felt upon their faces. That of Camilla, gen- 
erally as healthy and fresh as May dew on a lily, 
was now as if bitter, and it was burning and sickly. 
Women, who are irony incarnate, during their mys- 
terious days of suffering that are ever returning^ 
but which are ephemeral, when they desire noth- 
ing of love but an arm on which to chastely lean, 
have breath without purity which makes our heart 
grow tender, and sends a thrill through our being. 
Camilla drew a long, sighing breath, and her mouth 
was half open. Its two corners were drowned in 
savoury moisture, the imperceptible foam of the 
waves of the heart left in the folds of a smile. 
Allan began to shudder at the touch of this breath, 
hot and cold in turn, like peppermint, but impreg- 
nated with fever and some unknown and nameless 
odour, which it was impossible to inhale. The 
blood beat in his veins, but that perhaps was the 
ecstasy of the heart. He kept leaning a little more 
towards her, and she, in dumb contemplation, in- 
clined herself towards him in turn, as if to mingle 
their thoughts in some fraternal and modest kiss, 
full of the holy security of the feelings that swayed 
them. 

From these four united hands two, however, set 
themselves free ; one enlaced Camilla's bodice, and 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 379 

the other, more slowly, placed itself around Allan's 
neck. Between their four lips there scarcely re- 
mained the soft interval of those of Camilla, when 
seen in profile, on a light background like that of 
the window. The atom of air that separated them 
was soon swallowed up. For the first time, their 
kiss lasted above the time necessary for scarcely 
felt contact. It was no longer like two rose leaves 
touching vaguely in space, thrown against each 
other by the morning breeze. That day there was 
more dew than usual, and they remained glued 
one unto the other. In vain Camilla resisted be- 
neath the more intoxicated pressure of Allan. He 
was seeking at the source for the virginal nectar 
of which he had exhausted the light foam on the 
edge of the cup. It was naught but a kiss, but 
mysteriously voluptuous, for only the half of it 
was visible; but it was one of those kisses that 
plunges a dart into the heart that can never more 
be torn from it. 

Where was now the sister ? What had become of 
the brother? The glorious mystical love expired 
with the ravishing ignorance of the young woman. 
Was it thus that she was to quench her noble thirst 
for sacrifice? Was it thus that he thought of the 
happiness there would be in death ? 



380 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



IX. 

CAMILLA TO ALLAN. 

"Allan, Allan! what am I? What do I feel 
since yesterday ? I thought I had exhausted every 
joy, hut there are still others ! There was life at 
the bottom of life, and more love still within our 
life! Tell me, is there aught more? Will it be 
always thus, friend ? Oh ! then life is sweet ! And 
you who spoke of dying? 

"Ah! I knew not the power of a caress when 
one loves, and yet I knew of your caresses, and I 
did not love you less than I do to-day. Your kisses, 
brother, were as soft as honey on my lips ! When 
my heart was warm in my breast, your kisses 
seemed to descend into it like exquisite and re- 
freshing milk. They calmed my soul. But now, 
Allan, what a difference! They move my entire 
being ! They crush ! They cause death ! But the 
swoon they bring about -is more delicious than the 
calm they produced in former times. 

"My friend, do we ever know anything about 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 381 

ourselves ? Do we deceive ourselves even when we 
foresee? You remember that I sank beneath the 
burden of life; that I wished to die for you; that 
I invoked a sacrifice? Since that unknown caress, 
I ask for abnegation no longer! Do I therefore 
love you less? My Allan, when I place my hand 
on my heart I feel that I love you more than ever. 
I feel that I would still joyfully die for you; but 
I should have more regret in dying. 

"That is because there is a new life that we have 
not lived, my sweet friend! Love is like a star 
that does not suddenly appear in our souls. But 
we take its first gleam for the whole of it. 

"If it was otherwise, Allan, who could resist? 
Human nature would be conquered. We should 
die as if struck by lightning, or perhaps we should 
become insane. Without that, alas ! am I certain 
that madness does not follow the impression of this 
unparalleled happiness ? Was I not mad last night? 
This morning my head is still burning. My eyes 
are dull, and a thrill passes over my neck and shoul- 
ders as if I were still by your side ! 

"But at least I do not try to hide. I fear not 
to sigh aloud, to call you *my Allan,' to think 
myself ever at your side. When mother returned 
just now, and we had to begin our accustomed life 



382 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

again, while I was all full of emotion at this new 
phase of our love that had just commenced ; when 
I had to hold my tongue, to stifle my feelings, to 
repress every shudder that shook me, I trembled 
as I thought I should not be strong enough. I 
thought my heart was breaking. Involuntarily I 
pressed my two hands upon it in the dark; and do 
you think, friend, that I was able to calm my in- 
ward agitation all the evening? You were able to 
chat with mother. But you are a man. I could 
only hold my tongue, and I dared not look at 

you. 

"I only felt relieved when I was in my room. 
There, at least, I could give way without witnesses 
to the impetuosity of my remembrances. When I 
tell you, Allan, that I am crazy, I make no mis- 
take. I threw myself on my bed as if I was throw- 
ing myself into your arms. On my pillow I found 
traces of the perfume of my hair. Would you 
believe that to breathe that faint odour, which is 
mine, and which I find there every night, threw 
me into a state of inconceivable languor? I was 
obliged to drag myself off the bed, so as not to 
faint away, and I went and leant out of the win- 
dow. It was cold. The stars darted their sharp 
points in the penetrating air. Well, I felt nothing 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 383 

of that bitter night; and yet I was bareheaded, 
without boa or shawl, and my dress was unhooked. 
With delight I revelled in the wintry weather, 
which had always made me sad to contemplate. 
I enjoyed it like a spring evening. Oh, my friend, 
what power have you then over Camilla, to thus 
change everything around me, and in me? 

"For a long time I remained with my eyes fixed 
upon the window of your room, where I could 
see a light. I thought that you were then writing 
to me, and that idea made me interrupt my reverie 
to go and write to you also that I love you; for 
what is in my heart I never could confide to you, 
oh, my tender friend! Try and guess it, if you 
can. But, alas ! I was too full of emotion. It was 
impossible for me to write to you. I could not 
do so, even to tell you that I love you. Oh, Allan, 
was it thus with you ? Did you pass the night like 
me, half dead, because life and love brimmed over 
in torrents from your heart? 

"And this morning, as I am less moved, and 
have found strength enough to write to you, shall 
I tell you about my long, delicious and killing in- 
somnia, and how the night passed, my forehead 
leaning against the bed, repeating your adored 
name? Oh ! had you been there, Allan, you would 



384 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

not have added one touch more of insanity to all 
my delirium. Your lips would not have covered 
my shoulders with more intoxicating kisses than 
those that covered them from my own mouth. 
Why does a burning blush mount to my brow in 
writing to you what would have been nothing but 
child's play if my lips had not been touched by 
yours, and if that caress from myself to myself 
had not been all impregnated still with you ! 

"Oh, Allan! I loved you as if you were my 
brother. Now it is no longer like a brother that 
I love you, but like him to whom one yields up 
one's life, like him I should have imagined if I 
had not always known him. From your sister, 
that I was yesterday, I have become your be- 
trothed; never, I swear it, Allan, shall I belong 
to anybody else than you! Only let me beg of 
you, friend, not to ask my mother for me directly. 
She will be happy to give her daughter to him who 
is already her adopted son, but do not let us hasten 
to exhaust that life of which one drop now suffices 
to make us happy. Do you know that your lips 
frighten me, Allan? They say that marriage pre- 
vents lasting love. That is absurd ; for being your 
wife, I should only love you more and more. But 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 385 

show me the poor, loving lass who dares to say 
that she will not always be loved? 

"With what joy I shall meet you again, my dear 
Allan ! I count the hours that separate me from 
you. There are long, white bands on the horizon. 
It is gradually getting lighter and lighter. By 
the gleam of daybreak I write you these conclud- 
ing lines. Yesterday, I seemed to you as if suffer- 
ing and downcast. You explained to me your 
sweet uneasiness. To-day, if I am paler and more 
wan, my beloved, be not anxious. To your heart 
I confide the secret of my pallor and my night. 
Just this minute I looked at myself in the glass. 
My eyes are inflamed, and my cheeks are livid, 
but it seems to me it can be seen in my tired 
features that it is not suffering that has changed, 
them ; and you, Allan, will not be deceived !" 

Allan was not astonished at this letter. He no 
longer was ignorant of what a furnace of passion 
smouldered in Camilla's heart. The fear he had 
felt at the first letter received from her did not 
trouble him now. The greatest cowards finish by 
not trembling any more. By looking for a long 
time at a danger that seems frightful at first, the 
soul becomes tranquil. But do not fancy that it is. 



386 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

stronger; it is weaker than ever. To be afraid 
is to be active still, and passivity is the last step 
in degradation. Camilla's letter threw Allan into 
a state of consternation. 

His pure happiness at being loved by her had 
expired in the first sensuality of caresses. What 
was for Camilla the era of a new life had been 
cruel deception for him. He recognised that he 
had made a mistake. He had imagined that he 
could live by her side as if she was his sister; that 
his love would be as a sanctuary where the emo- 
tions of Camilla's passionate nature would be puri- 
fied. He fancied he could be to her what he had 
always been. Poor dupe! he could only laugh 
like guilty people at the comedy they play to them- 
selves, and by the aid of which they put their 
scruples to sleep. 

And, in fact, it was not even her, whose ardour 
he feared, who had led him astray. He had not 
even that weak excuse to make to himself. He 
thought he had lifted his soul above the reach of 
vulgar love. 

"That child is only very innocent," he thought, 
"but I am truly guilty, for I possess all the knowl- 
edge she lacks." 

Nevertheless, they had met each other half way 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 387 

in a kiss. He had despised himself during his 
love with Yseult; now the same abominable scorn 
seized him again. The sufferings that this self- 
disdain had made him endure were trifling in com- 
parison with what awaited him henceforward. May- 
he not betray himself, and show his hidden grief 
and pain ! But rendered cowardly by his love for 
her, he dared not take one of those decisive reso- 
lutions that might have saved him from the rapa- 
cious scorn that he foresaw. He covered up the 
depth of his egotism from his own eyes, and hid 
the desire he felt of seeing Camilla beneath the 
fears of his love for her, perhaps by exaggerating 
them. 

"If I were to leave her, she would kill herself," 
he murmured inwardly, and he remained. 

As for the future, he steeled himself against its 
approach. 

He asked himself, with continually increasing 
anxiety, what would become of him with this mis- 
taken love, which he had long fancied was tender 
fraternal friendship? How was he to make the 
avowal of his love for Camilla to her mother, 
whom he had loved, and who had given herself 
to him out of pity, the only feeling that was left 
in her great soul? Yseult's face rose up now in 



388 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

his thoughts by the side of that of Camilla, and 
frightened him, and he had to hide this fear from 
the daughter so as not to dishonour her mother 
in her eyes. This was a fearful effort in the pres- 
ence of the girl drunk with love, but whose intoxi- 
cation he could no longer share. Too much fear 
and shame were mingled therein. The days passed, 
deepening this new suffering which he hid beneath 
a brazen, lying brow. 

Is it not unheard of pain to lie to the woman 
one loves; not to be able to tear away one's soul 
from triple mendacious bands, to lay it bare be- 
neath her glance ; to be alone with the hidden vul- 
ture of thought even in the arms of one's beloved ? 
This pain was so sharp and tenacious for unfortu- 
nate Allan, that the love and caresses of Camilla 
could only deaden it momentarily. But when his 
looks reflected something of it, she imagined that 
his sadness came from his black and suspicious 
nature, as he had told her, and she was surprised 
that his disposition resisted the obstinate clinging 
of her kisses. 

But in her joy this was but a passing cloud that 
the slightest breath carried away. She found it 
was greater and more beautiful to be sad. He 
became a model of sombre and virile poetry, which 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 389 

pleased her girlish imagination, as all contrasts 
would, and excited her passionate, sensual out- 
bursts. That is one of the delusions of pain. But 
Camilla had no idea at what price her lover bought 
it. God had opened the treasure of His mercy for 
that child. And you who have not received as 
much, can you not see that, if she became a prey 
to misfortune later, she could not ascribe it to His 
injustice? 

Camilla did not know herself which was the 
sweetest; the future that opened itself out, her 
hopes, or the delights of the present moment in 
which she was revelling. Not only did her love 
seem eternal, which was audacious but permissible, 
for there were no appearances that this happiness 
should not be so; but she gathered in her heart 
all the felicity that a woman can promise herself, 
feeling that she is loved. Since the day they had 
found they were more than brother and sister, Al- 
lan loved her more than ever. Even when most 
sad and discouraged he never ceased to show his 
affection. It appeared as if he wished to forget 
the dark shades of his thoughts in the multitude 
of his caresses. And never did he implore them 
more of her than in those moments when she spoke 
to him of the future, and when, with her voice 



390 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

of virgin and sweetheart, she discoursed of do- 
mestic happiness, of the joys of a mother added 
to those of the wife; of all that takes a girl far 
ahead in life and makes her build up a paradise 
in her loving talk— for who knows if all these 
poems of happiness axe not more beautiful than 
happiness itself? He would have wished to live 
this happy life as if by force, knowing that such 
could never be, or else to compensate her for the 
hope3 of which she dreamt too much, and which 
would soon prove to be mere illusions. And Ca- 
milla was grateful to him for the faith he had in 
the happiness that she would bring him, and be- 
cause she was happy in this, she loved him all the 
more. Thus subjugated, swayed by the most irre- 
sistible feeling, they gave themselves both up to 
it; they lived in this delightful day-dream; she, 
perfectly happy; he, miserable, on the rack, but 
unable to tear himself away from the young girl 
who had bestowed pure love upon him when he 
suffered so much through not being able to inspire 
that sentiment in another. 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 391 



X. 

Spring, of which they so much desired the ad- 
vent, came at last. The dull and cloudy sky; 
nature, saddened and naked, reappeared in the 
fresh bloom of eternal rejuvenescence. Already the 
trees of the garden put forth their buds, and the 
leaves, each day more open, stretched their green 
veils over the arbours of the little copse. These 
first green shoots, virginal puberty of the foliage, 
are at the same time both smiling and melancholy, 
like a hope and a remembrance. A pale golden 
hue tempers the green colour, and it is impossible 
to say if this is the remainder of the autumn with 
its yellow rays still apparent in the mystery of 
the emerald resurrection, or the first traces of 
more limpid and striking sunlight. Why should 
not a little of the autumn be found in the spring- 
tide smiles of renewed nature? It resembles the 
vague likeness of a dead mother on the features of a 
child full of life, a touching and feeble imprint of 
the agony preceding its birth. 

The heavy bunches of lilac united themselves in 



392 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

a marriage of amethyst to the black foliage of the 
cypreaa trees between which they were planted, be- 
hind the Chateau. The skies were bathed in sweet 
waters ; the air was a bath ; and the distant horizon 
of the marsh swam and melted in the luminous blue 
vapour that enshrouded it, A thousand different 
songs of birds vibrated confusedly in the atmos- 
phere. The white-breasted swallows, with their 
wings darker than the heavenly azure, careered 
hither and thither in their flight, as low down as 
the rippled surfaces of the ponds, at present only 
ovals of quicksilver framed in the herbage. The 
rushes began to make their reappearance ; and the 
smooth water which retired, now only resembled a 
mirror broken into a thousand pieces, scattered and 
sparkling. The sparrows, shivering in their grey 
plumage with the memory of the winter they had 
just escaped, flew down from the terrace walls upon 
the edges of the granite vases which the sun seemed 
to fill with a golden fluid, as if they could drink 
life itself. The arrival of these first fine days was 
met by Allan and Camilla with joy that was not 
only the enchantment caused by nature trans- 
formed by the power of the new season. For them 
there was something more than the impressions of 
spring. At last it was in their power to stir out 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 393 

of the confined space of the drawing-room. Under 
the garden shrubberies, in the thousand windings 
of the bushes, they had no fear that Madame de 
Scudemor, ever indisposed, should appear and 
sever a too prolonged caress. It was a matter of 
despair, these kisses cut up into a thousand frag- 
ments by the fear of detection. But for them, 
these joys had no longer the appearance of those 
they had gone through before. The shuddering of 
hope was wanting as if during the awaiting of new 
and unknown delight. Alas ! spring had come too 
late! 

Had they then exhausted everything? Does 
habit come thus so quickly to bring the disenchant- 
ment of our dreams because they have become reali- 
ties ? No ! all was not exhausted ; no ! the enchant- 
ment still survived ; but they had opened the shell 
of the last mystery and were getting used to emo- 
tion, which meant that they felt it less. Perhaps 
they loved each other more, but the passion they 
felt for each other intoxicated them no longer; it 
devoured their whole being. From being impetu- 
ous, it had become bitter, because it had no more 
to teach them. But if desire had lost its illusion it 
had doubled its intensity; but this intensity was 
continuous, so that it was less marked in their 



394: THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

lives. They no longer said: "This is delicious!" 
but: "This is necessary!" They were grave, al- 
most pensive. Camilla being no longer astonished 
at anything, but thirsting for happiness still, by 
the furious inconsistency of irritated passion ; for 
she knew that she had descended as far down into 
the gulf of life as she could go, while Allan was no 
less eager and as thirsty as she was for the bev- 
erage that has always the same taste and produces 
the same thirst ! Thus for them love was without 
contemplation or smiles. It was the moment when 
passion gets to be something savage, when it bites 
the breast like a tigress or burns up its own happi- 
ness. Less is said by the lovers— they know each 
other— they kiss lengthily, in silence; and then 
turn away without asking what each feels. And 
the two mouths, ever silent, eternally cemented, 
nevertheless return one to the other. 

When passion has reached this moment of its 
duration, it becomes a central point of which the 
circumference becomes narrower every day. It 
throws no more charm on exterior life. It absorbs 
everything involuntarily. It is a burning, jealous, 
and angry possession. There is as yet no storm de- 
clared, but the sky is full of fire burning up the 
earth. The dew of the heart, the tears of early ten- 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 395 

derness are all exhausted; and when later fresh 
tears come to moisten our aridity, they resemble the 
great drops that in summer showers give out an 
odour of dust as they fall. 

So it was that the season of spring, whose influ- 
ence was no longer in their souls, in vain spread 
its thousand beauties around them. What caused 
life to mount in the trees made nothing rise in 
their hearts. But passion was developed all the 
same ! First of all it is a joy that kills, but which 
seems to bring fresh life. And then afterwards it 
is no longer the same, and it is not yet grief and 
pain. It is a nameless zone between hope and re- 
gret, between happiness and nothingness, a strange 
empty space which one traverses with mutual love, 
but which chokes us ! A wearisome moment when 
one is certain of being loved, and is yet powerless 
to be happy, without the why and wherefore of this 
incomprehensible fact ever appearing clear to our 
confused spirit ! 

No one would have recognised in Camilla that 
bacchante of loving happiness who with loud cries 
rushed towards every intoxication. She was almost 
as sad as Allan. Her face had lost its brilliancy. 
Burning blushes or deep pallor overwhelmed her 
every minute, forming a stormy picture of the 



396 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

anxieties of her heart In vain nature was benefi- 
cent and smiling: in vain, with the roses growing 
thickly around them and their brows bathed in 
perfumed light, they wandered vaguely, forgetfully 
strolling; the happiness enjoyed by all created 
beings expired at their feet without stirring them. 
And they loved each other ! Their young breasts 
contained more love than was scattered on the 
ground in each germ to which God sent life in the 
rays of His sun. But what caused the palpitation 
of the atoms brought no intoxication to His crea- 
tures. They were miserable beings, who by press- 
ing against each other could only utter a cry that 
proclaimed the impossibility of being happy. In 
vain they enlaced each other in such a manner that 
the trace of the lover's breast remained on the 
bosom of the mistress, they knew that they would 
find no more peace than delirious joy in these fatal 
and useless embraces. Their caresses were more 
violent than ever, but it was hurtful to see them ; 
for they were as irritating and sad as they were 
themselves. 

To this pain, inherent to passion itself, Allan 
joined a multitude of others with poetry or dignity. 
He blushed to the bottom of his soul at every 
thought of the position in which he found himself 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 397 

with regard to Camilla. Some of her words crushed 
him. At present she desired something irrevo- 
cable between them, as if she had the instinct that 
their passion should be clung to or it would escape. 
She begged him to confess their mutual love to 
Madame de Scudemor, and ask her to ratify their 
engagement, as they had sworn to be as one in 
giving themselves to each other. At these prayers, 
Allan — who would not understand him? — hesi- 
tated and stammered. The incoherence of his re- 
plies would have betrayed his embarrassment and 
his torments to any one else but this young girl, 
who supposed that he possessed as she did the 
pudicity of his passion and repugnance to ask of 
a third party, as a favour, the rights they had ex- 
changed. The man had nothing strong about him 
but his mind, and that was what made him suffer. 
If he had had less intellect, he would not have un- 
derstood so well what vacillation and treachery he 
was guilty of towards Camilla and her mother. It 
was patent that he was unworthily deceiving them 
both. Passion was full of wrongdoing, no doubt, 
but true, just, noble ideas stood as obstacles to the 
lust that swayed him, to show him that he ought to 
have resisted more courageously. When the un- 
tamed steed that gallops over everything — Passion 



398 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

—has found no limit or stoppage in the resistance 
of the mind, the intellect, trampled underfoot, rises 
up again, relights the smoking flame of its torch 
and pitilessly flourishes it near the conscience, until 
that becomes a furnace in which perishes all that 
there exists of moral beauty in man. 

This was rigorously true for Allan. An idea that 
came to him at this juncture, and which he had 
great trouble to get rid of, shows to what degree the 
egotism of his passion had caused him to withdraw 
within himself. He found himself with a mon- 
strous desire for the death of Camilla's mother. 
The sufferings that showed in her whole bearing, 
the change wrought in her lineaments, all fed this 
wish, vague at first, and soon quite precise, remind- 
ing him that if this woman was dead, his position 
would be simplified, and a gravestone intervening, 
the past could not escape from beneath it. It was 
a frightful and inextinguishable desire, ever fol- 
lowed by remorse which was all the more heartrend- 
ing as his incorruptible, intellectual vision did not 
fail him. This desire and remorse, yoked in his 
soul like double torture, struggled together, both 
resisting each other. 

Camilla knew nothing of this pain. She only 
suffered from the impotency of sensuality, which 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 399 

always yields less than it promises. For a mind 
like hers, humane, complete, and strongly attached 
to reality, this passion having become solidly fixed, 
often threw her into a sort of sombre madness. 
Sometimes she said strange things to Allan. She 
asked him why he was not really her brother. In 
certain moments she called herself his incestuous 
sister. It seemed as if by this word, beneath which 
all worldly legislation has placed felonious guilt, 
she spurred him on to fresh transports. When lust 
has naught to ennoble it, it causes dreams of crime. 
Perhaps, in the world of malefactors, there is in 
the thought of lawbreaking some secret connection 
with the idea of happiness ? 

One of the results of this situation in the dura- 
tion of sentiment is that it makes it exacting, and 
full of bitterness and suspicion. These exigencies 
are not outspoken, it is true; these suspicions are 
attributed to fate. This bitterness does not leave 
the heart to appear on the lips, but it exists. It is 
a solitary ulceration of selfishness, which finishes 
by invading all our devotional strength. Let the 
slightest circumstance touch lightly upon one of 
these silent suspicions, the soul lives in such a 
suffering and grievous state that it is immediately 
upset by it. What one did not inwardly confess, 



400 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

each talks about together. Actual life is modified. 
One or two leaves more fall from the already bare 
tree. Both love each other still — always ; but either 
jealousy, or a reproach, or uneasiness, cuts, as with 
an axe, this living affection which always finds a 
way to again join together the severed and en- 
sanguined fragments. Passion has been compared 
to the pyramid of the Arabic tales, of which the 
steps crumble away as soon as mounted. Alas! 
it is rather as one descends that they fall to pieces, 
so that it is not the descent, but to mount again, 
that is impossible. 

The circumstance that changes our language by 
altering our soul a little soon took place. Every- 
thing drives a human being to rush towards facts. 
There are in us griefs, wrongs, and faults ready to 
buTst forth at any moment. That soon occurred 
for Allan and Camilla. It was but a word, but that 
suffices when the soul, saturated with the irritations 
of lust, has no more shame for its egotism, and 
abjures its generous delicacy. Do they not say 
that a timid touch of the finger caused a body 
struck by lightning to crumble into dust? 

They had passed the day in the garden, and as 
there are moments when some unknown inward 
breeze refreshes the inflamed soul, they were less 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 401 

sad and more relieved from the burden of passion 
and life. Madame de Scudemor had joined them in 
the afternoon. Fatigued by a walk that had been 
too prolonged for her, she had returned to the 
Chateau a long while before the tepid April sun 
had lost its warmth as it drew down to the horizon. 
During this stroll, she had shown touches of calm 
amiability that acted on the two young people, so 
exclusively occupied with each other. As the view 
of a person of even disposition sometimes soothes 
the turbulence of our soul, so had the sweet tran- 
quillity of Madame de Scudemor brought some ap- 
peasing contagion to their stormy thoughts. Who 
knows? But when she had left them, they spoke 
for some time about her. Allan especially, as he 
felt he had done wrong to the woman he neglected. 
We often think we make amends when, during 
their absence, we are just towards those who have 
fault to find with us. As Allan could not reveal 
what he knew about Yseult, great and unfortunate 
creature, he could only insist upon what apper- 
tained to her exterior. He did so with his lover's 
memories and the melancholy of his imagination 
which he possessed in a supreme degree, and which 
Yseult's age, her lost beauty, and her suffering re- 
doubled. They were seated on that bench of the 



402 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

little copse where Allan had received the terrible 
confidence of Yseult, and which had nearly caused 
his death. Camilla, who had placed herself on 
Allan's knees, listened as if in a reverie, her head 
cast down, and her hand distractedly playing with 
her steel bodkin in the pocket of her silk apron. 
Suddenly the thought that he had loved Yseult, 
and the derision of praise on his ungrateful lips; 
his furtive and atrocious desire to see her soon die, 
came back to Allan's mind and made him interrupt 
his discourse. For fear lest Camilla should deduce 
aught from his silence, he hid his confusion in a 
caress. But, for the first time, Camilla received it 
with impassibility. This unaccustomed coldness, 
her eyes in which a suspicion dried up their habit- 
ual moisture, gave her at that moment much of the 
physiognomy of her mother. The resemblance of 
the look was striking. Allan told her so as he 
passionately kissed her eyes. 

"Do you think so?" she replied, and with the 
rapidity of thought she was about to thrust into 
her liquid orbs the bodkin with which she had been 
playing. Horror! Allan saw the movement, and 
disarmed her, but the point had penetrated into 
the corner of one of the eyes he had just kissed, 
and blood was flowing. 




Pajji 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 403 

"Are you mad?" he asked, in fright. 

"Yes !" she exclaimed, "for I am jealous. For- 
merly I thought you loved my mother, and just 
now your caress, Allan, seemed full of her mem- 
ory. Oh, if you are going to love me because I 
remind you of her ! Am I to stand as model for 
my mother ?" 

And she was fearful to look upon. Her jealous 
thought, which had so rankled in her childish 
breast, and that love, and the joy of being loved, 
had smothered before she could give vent to it, 
showed itself on her expressive features with sav- 
age energy. Allan, to calm her, had recourse to 
imposture. He had to lie again. Always to lie I 
How tired he was of lying ! But he deceived her 
yet once more, giving way to the instinct of fear 
or duty, alas! such as lust prescribes. He over- 
whelmed her with tenderness, and in his arms she 
cheated herself deliciously. She grew calm again 
at the sound of the dear voice, and the end of 
this day, from threatening as it was, became sweet- 
er than all the other evenings had been for a long 
while. As she was entirely reassured, she showed 
the coquetry of jealousy. She made much of her 
wounded eye. The scratch was on the eyelid, but 
she would not let Allan's handkerchief hide the 



404 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

wound of which she was so vain. She would only 
allow her lover to wipe away the trace of blood 
with his lips. With his kisses he dressed her 
wound. But through those with which she paid 
him back she did not perceive all the pain she 
caused him. She told him of her past life. 

"Oh! look you, my Allan," said she, "I was 

jealous before knowing wnat jealousy was, before 

I knew that I loved you. Do you remember one 

evening when my mother said to you: 'Go and 

wait for me in the copse' ? I overheard her, and 

some unknown feeling took possession of me. The 

idea that she might be in love with you, the 

thought that you could love her, did not strike 

me. Oh, no, I was too innocent! But I suffered 

from a pain that had no name for me. For some 

time my life was troubled. Pardon me, Allan, for 

never having told you this. I was false to you, 

whom I loved like a brother. I hated my mother, 

because you no longer loved your sister, because 

you had become rough and cold, you so good and 

affectionate. Why? I did not know. I would 

have given anything, and done everything, to have 

guessed what it all meant. Would you believe that 

I used at that time to pass sleepless nights ? Don't 

you know that I spied upon you both? I listened 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 405 

at doors when you were alone, mother and you. 
In vain I told myself that I was doing evil; a 
stronger power than shame and pride forced me 
to keep on. But I never got to hear anything that 
taught me jealousy was hoiling in my hreast. I 
found that out afterwards. Oh, tell me, repeat 
to me, Allan, that you have never loved her !" 

And he assured her he had not, and he swore 
it to her, and he did not dare look upon the young 
girl, so clumsy was he in deceiving her, for she 
seemed still to be a prey to jealousy, although she 
assured him she was so no longer. 

When they separated, Allan drew a long breath, 
and freed his stifled heart. When, feeling secret 
joy, one leaves the loved woman, what has become 
of the love one has felt for her ? Is it not a fright- 
ful discovery to feel one's self relieved by her ab- 
sence, happier alone than with her? Camilla had 
just thrown a formidable light on the past and 
the future, but which was not unforeseen. 

Allan found himself placed between his con- 
science and Camilla, and she formed a new con- 
science in herself as implacable as the first. Up 
to now, Camilla's love had been a refuge for him 
against himself. Now, where was the refuge, since 
she also turned against him? 



406 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

It has been said, and rightly, too, that all deep 
feeling is exclusive, and consequently jealous, and 
yet women who want to be the most adored swoon 
with fright when it is shown to them that this 
can only be by calling down upon themselves the 
most disturbing jealousy. Why, then, this wish for 
love and the fear of it in these beings, who seem 
full of contradictions, and who escape us by their 
versatility much more than by their profundity? 
It is because women, whatever they may say in 
the mistakes of their tenderness, or affirm in the 
hypocrisy of their vanity, yearn more for happi- 
ness than for love. Love, for them, is the means 3 
to be happy is the end. Thus, when they are afraid 
of jealousy, which is the essence of love itself, their 
instinct is not at fault. They feel that love in 
all its plenitude is too easily changed into anguish, 
and it is of happiness that they have dreamt 

Men, whose sensibility is less, and whose desires 
of happiness are not so imperious, understand as 
well as women what jealousy is: the stumbling- 
block of happiness in intimacy ; the limit of love, 
after the first step. Imaginative folk, worshipping 
power, may extol it as the expression of a great 
sentiment, but it is none the less certain that jeal- 
ousy destroys love; and, sad thought! perhaps be- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 407 

cause it spoils and annihilates the happiness of 
which all humanity is greedy. One may possess 
the intrepid fatuity which causes a desire for the 
dagger, but we must believe that love must always 
finish by dying out when these jealousies step in. 
The first scene, the first suspicion, the first re- 
proach, are almost always incurable evils, a deep 
burn which only hurts the surface of the skin, 
but which in time ploughs its way down into the 
flesh. 

Therefore, Camilla's love for Allan had just said 
good-bye to happiness in this jealous and angry 
avowal. Although she had found peace once more 
in the confidence and illusion of a feeling that was 
still eloquent, because it was true, nevertheless her 
jealousy was only slumbering. Both for Camilla's 
sake and his own, Allan would have to take care 
not to awaken it. So it was that all freedom be- 
tween them was no longer possible, and if there 
had been confidence so far, from that day forward 
it would cease to exist. They had loved without 
being initiated in all each other's thoughts. It 
was a singular love, poisoned at its source; for 
when confidence is gone, lust is still present, but 
what remains for love? 

If Allan had never been the lover of Madame 



408 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

de Scudemor, the jealousy of which he was the 
victim would have none the less eaten away the 
love he felt for Camilla— a vase of vinegar, in 
which the pearls of Cleopatra were dissolved; all 
the heart's riches spent more slowly, and more mis- 
erably lost than in the sumptuous extravagance of 
a single evening. Little by little, jealousy carries 
away all charms of intimacy. To-day one goes. 
To-morrow, another. All tends to isolation instead 
of drawing the couple nearer. It is not Othello's 
stifling pillow. It is a torture resembling it, but 
less prompt. A shriek is uttered, which one oft- 
times only partly hears. Reconciliations get worn 
out by repetition, and by this impotent pressure 
it is not Desdemona who finishes by dying, but the 
love itself. Allan had not foreseen this issue to 
his passion, but he dimly perceived that some new 
change was about to follow the metamorphoses 
that his love had already undergone. By dissim- 
ulating, so as to keep suspicion asleep, he crushed 
his love by fatiguing it; and when, wishing for 
repose after his countless efforts, he began to fly 
from Camilla although he loved her, he soon saw 
that such conduct could only increase her jealousy, 
and he returned to her, uncertain of himself, be- 
ginning to curse lust and its consequences because 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 409 

its intoxication is not eternal. Kisses even had 
lost their virtue of oblivion. They did not pre- 
vent him from thinking. He had found once more 
the power of meditation born of uneasiness, and 
which diminishes love. When once again he 
plunged into mad caresses, he was too preoccupied 
for them to disturb him, and too unhappy to enjoy 
them ; but he bestowed them with calculation. Even 
while they lasted, anxiety did not loose its prey. 
It was obstinate worry, not arising from some un- 
known future circumstance, but weighing on every 
moment of the actual duration of his love. In- 
deed, every hour which did not bring about the 
explosion of the climax in this existence of three 
beings at the Chateau of the Willows was only a 
chance reprieve, on which it would have been mad- 
nss to rely for the dread hour that would follow 
the end. 



410 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XL 

The state of Madame de Scudemor's health daily 
gave rise to more and more anxiety. It seemed as 
if some unknown malady was devouring her, as 
if life was slowly going from her. Already the 
torrent showed the rocky depths of the ravine. 
How long would it be before it was entirely dried 
up? When one looked at her livid face, where 
the eyes, with their thousand rays of light, slowly 
dying out, had retained only one morbid spark in 
the centre of their deep blackness, it was easy to 
see some other imprint than that of old age— the 
touch of some hand none the less inexorable, some 
work more rapid than that of time. Had death, 
that was taking possession of her, after having 
killed one affection after another, and so soon; 
that had left her standing, and physically alive, 
after having destroyed her morally— had it re- 
turned to place the body on a level with her soul? 
It was a marvellous piece of work to contemplate ! 
But who noticed it at the Chateau of the Willows? 

She did not complain ; there was no weariness in 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 411 

the wrinkles that furrowed her brow. And be- 
sides, could Camilla and Allan see aught but what 
was passing in themselves ? Had they not enough 
of those preoccupations which are all the more ex- 
clusive because they are so painful? When home 
life is tender and sweet it has a power of concen- 
tration ; but when it is twisted falsely, spoilt, wast- 
ed, lost, it soon palls upon us. Every miserable 
detail, each petty pain, becomes so great that we 
can see nothing else. Does man shrink into lit- 
tleness becaue he moves in so small a circle ? For 
the drop of water, when suffering is in question, is 
mayhap as vast as the ocean's infinity. 

But if Allan and Camilla, occupied with them- 
selves, did not remark the weakness of Madame 
de Scudemor, she had not the same reasons for 
not seeing the sadness of her daughter much bet- 
ter than she had noted her happiness. She was 
an unfortunate woman, who was bound to learn 
the lessons of grief, because she was accustomed 
to always find lust and pain hand in hand. The 
unhappy creature had been put off the scent, in 
spite of her great intelligence, by the aspect of the 
happiness she had never tasted. 

Camilla was sad indeed. She no longer pos- 
sessed that serious beariDg beneath which she had 



412 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

formerly veiled her first sufferings. There was no 
mistake to be made; it was true sadness. Grief 
claimed Camilla. Even her health was changed — 
reaction of the soul upon the body. Ephemeral 
confidence faded away, and dark suspicion took 
its place, without ever leaving her. As Allan 
showed himself of irregular disposition with her — 
nothing acting so capriciously as passion, as, after 
having left her for hours, he came precipitately to 
her side, where he remained, dull and dumb — she 
had greatly wept at this unequal behaviour; and 
then her jealousy absorbed her again. Each day 
brought fresh suspicion or some new scene. She 
was too much in love now not to be proud. She 
felt herself capable of every meanness, and loved 
even to abasement. She adored Allan with the 
abandonment of every other feeling that had noth- 
ing to do with her love. Thus she persecuted him 
with her grievances; she tired him out, as by an 
eternal and invariable repetition, which she kept 
on with always when she had been interrupted. 
Allan began by drinking her tears to dry them; 
but the source was inexhaustible, and he concluded 
by finding them very bitter. Sometimes he wiped 
them from his lips with words full of bitterness 
and injustice, as if poison had been poured in an 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 413 

open wound. And this was a bad way to cure the 
lass's suffering soul. Besides, there are words that 
are irrevocable facts. There is no pardon or re- 
demption for them ; there is no possibility of for- 
getting them either after having said them or 
listened to them. On top of them we put some 
kind of reconciliation; smiles are born again of 
kisses which cause transports of delight when, heart 
beating against heart, the terrible words spoken in 
a moment of ill-humour resound still in our 
breast. Often, seeming to hear them in our sleep, 
we start up suddenly in our bed and see our com- 
panion, who also is not asleep, but who is thinking 
of the very thing that had woke you. "Do you 
love me?" is asked again. There is enough love 
left to make us ask and repeat the question, but 
the sentence has lost its intoxicating meaning since 
the day it was no longer useless. 

Thus, after having suffered in the solitude of 
their souls from the feeling they had for each 
other, Allan and Camilla made themselves unhappy 
by this very sentiment; they were egotists, for 
whom intimacy was the grindstone upon which 
they sharpened the poniards with which they were 
about to strike each other. 

Camilla irritated Allan all the more because each 



414 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

word that she uttered to appease her suspicions and 
her jealousy made him more guilty and vile in his 
own estimation. He knew what it was to he jeal- 
ous of the past He had been through that, but 
not enough to have pity on that suffering in an- 
other, especially when that feeling was endured in 
corroding silence, but became exacting with the 
despotism of love that thinks itself offended. For 
a man who was poetical if ever there was one, jeal- 
ousy had no more picturesque fits of rage. Ca- 
milla's tears were only absurd, just as if all tears 
were not so ! He even took no animated, breath- 
less interest at the sight of her brilliant youth 
withering away in tears. The pitiless and used-up 
poet was unmoved by her grief. Such love was 
lowered into mere "nagging." He was killing her 
by inches, and took no interest in her. 

Nevertheless, he loved her; it was a fact that 
he loved her still. Willingly would he have shown 
her the greatest devotion. For her he would have 
sacrificed all he held most dear, if it had not been 
her. But he loved her as we all love, with the 
peculiarities of his organisation and his thoughts. 
Although he loved her, he could not help judging 
her, and as, for men of Allan's stamp, who con- 
quer reality by the conceptions of their intellect, 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 415 

all women lose in the solitary comparisons that 
these too ambitious intelligences incessantly make, 
he found that she was below the standard he had 
imagined. We axe young, or infatuated, but sooner 
or later the habit of the mind gets the upper hand 
again. It is even doubtful whether we ever lose 
it completely. On the other hand, perhaps only 
two vulgar beings can love each other for long; 
perhaps superiority, of whatever kind it may be, 
is an hermaphroditic state, powerless to give or re- 
ceive love. There is an accouplement among eagles, 
and that is why, perchance, they ought not to have 
been chosen to symbolise genius. 

Certainly, Camilla was right to complain of Al- 
lan. She it was who, in the early period of the 
discovery of their love, had said to him : 

"Let us wait, and live as we are living now. 
We are always sure of marriage. We are so happy 
in the mystery of our love !" 

But now she was in a hurry, and no longer happy 
in this concealment. She wanted her felicity 
brought out into the light. She desired the mar- 
riage bonds, which seemed to her unbreakable, and 
she pressed Allan to ask her of her mother. Allan, 
who had loved Madame de Scudemor, and felt upon 
his shoulders the crushing embarrassment of the 



416 THE WEITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

past with her whose daughter he now adored, re- 
plied to the ardent and continually multiplied de- 
mands of Camilla by paltry incomprehensible eva- 
sions. It was quite enough to make anybody un- 
easy. To escape from this prayerful persecution 
Allan was at a loss what to do. There was only 
left the resource of a weak mind, always retreat- 
ing in the face of danger, although the peril be 
inevitable. He put off everything until the mor- 
row. This faint-heartedness seemed to give Tight 
to Camilla in spite of the most obstinate denega- 
tions. And Allan's position was such a cruel one, 
when he was alone with the young girl who was 
not in the wrong when she showed herself to be 
exacting, that he wished for Madame de Scudemor 
to step in between them to spare him this torture. 
But events were not favourable for him. Mad- 
ame de Scudemor hardly ever left her room until 
noonday. As she always refused the kind offices 
of her daughter, half the day was passed by Ca- 
milla in the garden or the drawing-room, alone, or 
with Allan. The servants of the Chateau were 
not surprised at the intimacy of the two young 
people who had always lived together, and between 
whom there was nothing to make any one think 
that they were not brother and sister. 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 417 

One morning, as Allan came down into the 
drawing-room, hoping Camilla would not be up 
at that hour, and he could go out alone for a walk 
in the country, he found her seated near the win- 
dow where she was in the habit of working. A 
matutinal breeze, full of rosy light, came in 
through the open casement, and seemed to form a 
halo round her wan face, which at that moment 
was of the hue of the autumn-leaf hangings of 
the room. In this smiling morning radiance her 
features revealed the disorder of a restless night. 
Her dull eyes were swollen by sleeplessness. Allan 
started as he caught sight of her. 

"You did not think to find me here, Allan?" 
she said, without rising from her chair, as he ap- 
proached her and placed a kiss upon her brow. 
"Is that a kiss that means good-morning or good- 
bye ?" she continued, with bitterness. "Come ! give 
it me quickly, and then be off. Is not that what 
you want ?" 

"How sarcastic you are, Camilla!" answered Al- 
lan sadly. "Do you suppose that I wish to avoid 
you?" 

"No ! I do not think so." And her smile was 
more bitter than her words. "I am sure of it. I 
am in your way; I tire you; I bore you. You. 



418 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

have enough of me. Dare to deny it! Even if 
you do not know it yourself, or if you still have 
some illusion, I do not doubt the misfortune of 
my life. I reproach you with nothing; it is not 
your fault But you love me no longer I" 

"I love you no longer, Camilla?" returned Al- 
lan, as he seated himself by her side. "Tell me, 
do these insane suspicions still trouble your rea- 
son? Will you never tire of being unjust? I 
speak not of my life that you are rending, and of 
my love that you insult, but will you never take 
pity on yourself ? Shall I always see you creating 
cruel and irreparable suffering for yourself? I 
love you no longer? How, then, do you desire to 
be loved ? Then you are no more my Camilla, my 
sister, my betrothed, my wife? Look at me, cruel 
girl, and repeat to me that you are sure that I love 
you no more !" 

She looked at him as he wished. There was 
so much love in her eyes. He was so moved in 
finding her so pale, and so horribly upset by the 
tears she had shed or kept back, that as she gazed 
at him Camilla forgot the sarcasms that had risen 
from her heart, being but innocuous bites made 
by the victim on the invulnerable heel that was 
crushing her. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 419 

"Oh! if you love me, why do you make me so 
unhappy?" she rejoined, with softer reproach. 

It was the trivial sentence they all say; a uni- 
versal cry that they all utter — these egotists of 
happiness who are called women. It is the groan 
of passion that bleeds. But alas ! could not Allan 
have put the same question to her ? 

"My Camilla," replied Allan, "it is not I who 
make you unhappy, but yourself !" He dared not 
insist upon this assertion, for such a lie appalled 
him. "You know my sombre disposition. You 
know that my imagination always sees sadness in 
the future, and makes me doubt the present. Why, 
then, do you reproach me with avoiding you when 
I try to hide my sadness from you, sweet young 
creature, who, out of love for me, have become sus- 
picious and ill, as if I had brought you in my 
kisses the contagion of the malady from which I 
know I have always suffered? Formerly, you did 
not bring up against me the efforts that I made 
to preserve you from this vile and putrid leprosy. 
Camilla, you used to say to me then, 'I will cure 
you of these suspicions !' You had accepted me 
as I was, and you still saw love in what you take 
to-day to be indifference. I have made a mistake. 
I have dragged you down to share my fate. I 



420 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

have made you like myself. I have tarnished your 
happiness, and sullied every chance of felicity you 
possessed. I ought to have fled from you, and 
gone and died of my love far away from you ! But 
again it was you who held me back; it was you 
who said to me, 'Stop with me, brother, and I will 
love thee !' And I remained, listening to nothing 
more, hearing nothing more than that intoxicating 
promise. But I stifled all in the love you had 
promised me. Why, then, are you less generous, 
my Camilla ? Why do you accuse my love when 
I am only guilty of loving you too much ?" 

All in tears, she hearkened to him, but smiling 
as well. With one hand he had taken her round 
the waist, and with the other he held her by the 
shoulders. 

"Oh, promise me," said he, with effusion, 
"promise me that you will never more be so ab- 
surdly unjust, and so make us both suffer. Prom- 
ise me that you will never more spoil your darling 
face by your tears. Promise me never more to 
doubt him who adores you. Swear it on our love !" 
"I will take any oath you like," she returned. 
"I believe you, my Allan, and I will never believe 
myself— never more ! But in return, promise mo 
never to lie in the future— never to have that look 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 421 

of forced restraint when you are with, your love. 
If you are sad, sombre, afflicted — what shall I say ? 
— strange, and even unjust, oh, my friend, I beg 
of you, do not seek to hide it from me. I cannot 
live without you always by my side, always ! And 
when you are there, and are silent, Allan, when 
you do not look at me, it seems to me that you are 
not there at all !" 

"Yes, my Camilla," he replied; "yes, you shall 
be obeyed, my adored queen ! Multiply your ex- 
acting demands," he added, "and I will take them 
as proofs of love." 

Thus it was that he was mastered by her after 
having been her master. 

"Well, then," she said, after the pause of a kiss 
on her lover's lips, "ask my hand from my mother 
this very day!" 

He could not escape the importunate prayer. 
Rage, really more unjust than what he had so 
styled in the case of Camilla, took possession of 
him, but he held it silent in his heart. 

"You say nothing!" she exclaimed. "You love 
me, and are dumb? Oh, Allan, I do not under- 
stand you ! You have only to say one word and 
I should be your wife to-morrow, and I cannot 
tear that word from you ! Yet you love me ? There 






422 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

is some undercurrent that confounds and tortures 
me!" 

Indeed, such logic was unconquerable. There 
was no reply possible, or an avowal must have been 
made. 

"Without a doubt I will ask your hand of your 
mother," said Allan, with insidious weakness. "But 
will you be more happy with my love than you 
are now? What do we risk if we wait a little 
longer ?" 

"And our child, can he wait?" she rejoined, in 
a low tone. 

At these words, Allan became quite pale. With 
a look she saw the greenish cast upon her lover's 
features ; and then she continued in a hoarse voice : 

"Listen to me, Allan! You must go to-day to 
my mother and confess all. I will not wait a mo- 
ment longer. Yesterday, when I was near her, she 
sadly interrogated me about my depression of spir- 
its and the change in my face, with a glance that 
made me tremble. I was so confused that I do 
not know what I answered her. It seemed to me 
that her eyes never left my waistband. Ah ! my 
friend, let us have done with this torment. My 
mother will pardon everything, and we shall be 
happy. Perhaps we have only ceased to be so be- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 423 

cause we hid from her that we loved each other. 
You smile! but I am superstitious since I have 
been suffering. Take pity, but go and see my 
mother. Go !" 

"My child/' insisted Allan, "your mother is ill, 
do you not fear to — " 

"Ah! why this regard for her?" interrupted 
Camilla violently. "And I, Allan, do I not also 
suffer ? Do you not love me more than my moth- 
er? And if there is one of us two who ought to 
be immolated for the other, why should it be me ?" 

This outcry of the offended woman was of such 
great vehemence, and imposed upon Allan so much, 
that he, although eloquent by nature, knew not 
what to reply to the young girl who domineered 
over him with the ascendancy of a true situa- 
tion. 

"But do you want me to believe that you do not 
love me?" she continued, with a despairing cry. 
" Oh ! I pray you on my knees, go to my mother 
and tell her all ! I will not leave your feet until 
you promise me that ! Allan ! Allan ! just now you 
told me that I was your wife, but do you not see 
that you do not wish me to be legitimately yours ! 
Then say to me : 'No ! no ! I do not love you !' 
That would be better. But do not leave me in this 



424 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

frightful incertitude ! Sooner kill me ! Kick me, 
my child and me, far from you, both maimed, but 
do not tell me that you love me when you are tor- 
turing me ! Kill me sooner — kill me !" 

And with anguish she beat her head against his 
knees that she closely clasped. 

Only men, degraded by the despair of a loved 
woman at their feet, can understand what Allan 
must have felt at seeing Camilla thus drag herself 
in the dust. Such is the cowardly prostitution of 
innocent grief which has sullied so many women ; 
and the man, upstanding, shares their infamy. The 
tears that fall can never be shaken from the feet 
they moisten. Even the mouth of her who has 
shed them cannot wipe them away, and their in- 
delible trace is carried like incorruptible mud in 
all the paths of life. 

Allan lifted Camilla from the floor, and by 
sheer strength placed her upon the sofa. 

"Insensate girl! How you hurt my feelings!" 
said he to her. 

But she did not understand the heartrending 
accents of Allan ; she saw naught therein but exas- 
perating pity. The tears dried upon Camilla's 
cheeks like drops of water falling on red-hot iron. 
A woman of many contrasts, with a lip quivering 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 425 

with rage, the blood rushed to her face and deep* 
ened its olive tint, as it swelled the arteries of the 
neck and forehead to bursting. 

"He will not go!" she repeated several times, 
frenziedly. "You are but a coward, Allan ! Your 
loving vows are perfidious! You have loved my 
mother, and perhaps you love her still, or you make 
her believe it as you do me ! You do not dare ask 
the mother for her daughter when you have be- 
trayed them both!" 

Allan tried to take her in his arms, but she tore 
herself from him. 

"Approach me not!" she shrieked with horror; 
"you smell of my mother ! Oh, mother ! cold and 
hypocritical creature, who could have thought it? 
You love her? Oh, how I hate her now ! But do 
I not tell you to leave me, lover of my mother?" 
she reiterated, with increasing rage, as she escaped 
from his arms. 

Never had Allan so suffered. Camilla's cries 
made him drunk with acute pain. One of those 
fits of anger came over him that seem strong 
enough to frighten the very fates that threaten us, 
when he heard the woman he loved call him a 
perjurer, and receive his caress with disgust. In 
spite of her efforts, he was about to seize the 



426 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

weak and furious creature and crush her against 
his heart in a grip of despair and voluptuous an- 
guish. But he stopped still, with outstretched 
hands, in most sublime hesitation. His glance at 
that moment had such power that a tiger would 
have retreated. She felt it on her face like the 
touch of a weapon. 

"I swear to you, Camilla," he said to her, with 
a quiver in his voice, as one has when pale with 
rage withheld, "I swear to you, by the child you 
carry, to break my skull in your sight against yon- 
der console if you refuse to listen to me I" 

Anger is Aaron's rod. When it was changed 
into a serpent it devoured all the other reptiles. 

Camilla, tamed, became dumb. 

"I swear to you," continued Allan, "that I do 
not love your mother, but you alone, Camilla — you 
only ! Only you — you !" 

She bent her head, as if reflecting. Then, sud- 
denly lifting it : 

"I shall soon know," she said curtly, and she 
made as if to leave the room. 

"Where are you going?" asked Allan. 

"To see my mother," she answered. 

"And what for, madwoman?" 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 427 

He tried to hold her back, but she resisted, and 
broke away from him. 

"To confess all and know all!" she said, turn- 
ing round on the threshold of the door, and she 
went out of the room, leaving Allan petrified with 
astonishment and fright. 



428 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XII. 

When Camilla entered her mother's room her 
mind was so agitated by the scene she had just 
had with Allan that she did not feel the timid 
emotion always caused by the presence of Madame 
de Scudemor. A violent fever of jealousy and 
curiosity had seized upon her soul, and instinct- 
ively drove her forward. Her will seemed to be 
involuntary. She was no longer the young girl 
of a moment since, whom Allan had found cast 
down through tears and insomnia, and who had 
writhed convulsively at his feet. She was a wound- 
ed woman with a wounded soul, who stalked to 
meet her fate, with the fear and hate that destiny 
always inspires. She breathed quickly, almost im- 
perceptibly. Her bosom heaved no more than if 
her life had stopped in its course. Her movements 
only were extraordinarily rapid. 

When she asked one of the ladies' maids, who 
was then in the apartment of Madame de Scude- 
mor, if she could see her mother, her tone of voice 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 429 

was curt and dry like that of an unfortunate crea- 
ture driven to desperation, and wishing to be done 
with torturing doubt. The girl who was there an- 
swered that Madame de Scudemor had just gone 
into her cabinet de toilette, and would soon be 
ready. But Camilla, who inwardly felt that it 
was impossible for her to wait another instant, flew 
into her mother's dressing-room. 

Yseult was in the midst of the feminine morn- 
ing derangement, occupied by the thousand mys- 
terioiis cares of the toilette forced upon woman 
by her organisation. She was extremely aston- 
ished to see Camilla in her room at that hour, and 
although she well knew that in this world there 
was only her daughter who would take the liberty 
of passing the threshold of the room where she 
then was, the movement she made to cover her- 
self with the nightrobe betrayed something that 
was very like fear. The movement was all the 
more remarkable in Madame de Scudemor, as her 
patrician horror of haste never abandoned her. But 
Camilla was too much the prey of her feelings 
to notice this first gesture resembling confusion. 

"Mother," boldly said Camilla, "I come to tell 
you the secret of my life. You have not guessed 



430 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

at it. You have never asked me for it. But you 
must know all. Yes, you must !" 

And there was nothing tender in her trembling 
voice. It could be seen that she quivered with 
rage, anxiety, hatred, with all the restrained sen- 
timents that thrilled her tranquil breast like a 
full vase in the hands of some one who holds his 
breath not to spill the liquid that is about to brim 
over its edges. Is not the heart the vase wherein 
swims our fate? 

Madame de Scudemor was seated on a kind of 
chaise longue of black morocco. She looked at her 
daughter standing in front of her, and whose eyes, 
then as dry as hers, had an expression of extreme 
anger and resentment. The blood of the mother 
seemed to have escaped from her exhausted veins 
to her daughter's cheeks in two vermilion spots, 
vivid and burning, such as may be seen on the 
faces of delirious patients. It would have been 
a striking sight— these two women face to face— 
if their two pasts could have risen up behind them. 
Madame de Scudemor drew the falling folds of 
her mantle across her soft bosom, like great Niobe, 
but the eternal marble was only in her soul. A 
ray of sunshine coming through the open window 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 431 

struck upon her forehead, but brought no life. Her 
attitude caused her figure, formerly that of an 
Amazonian queen, to show the ungainliness caused 
by the fatigue of life. She hastened to pass her 
hand over her tarnished brow. 

"I guess all !" she said, in her low and broken 
voice. "You love Allan!" 

"Yes, I love him," rejoined the proud and jeal- 
ous girl, eagerly seeking the encounter with her 
rival. "Yes, I love him, and my love dates from 
childhood! Did you not see, mother, that I was 
mad for him; that his life was mine; that I was 
drunk with him each day? Then you saw nothing, 
absolutely nothing, my mother ! Your maternal 
instinct" — she added, with ferocious irony — "could 
not warn you of your daughter's passion? I was 
at your side, and not once did you suspect that I 
loved him ! And it is only to-day that you read it 
in my eyes and hear it in my speech !" 

At these words Madame de Scudemor bent her 
head. In the insolent utterances of her daughter 
was there a more heavy and insupportable insult 
than in Allan's spittle? Did she feel that she 
had deceived herself, and that she was being pun- 
ished for it; that if she had loved her daughter 
more she would have been more far-seeing? It 



432 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

was the first time that the girl, guilty by the feeling 
that she so audaciously proclaimed, forgetful of all 
the modesty of her sex, remained dry-eyed during 
her shameless avowal, without respect or pity for 
the grief she was about to cause her mother. But 
there was no longer a mother. For Camilla there 
was only a rival, whom she wished to know and 
punish. 

"And you also did not see he loved me!" she 
Teiterated, in increasing tones of insult and power, 
radiant at the effect she thought she was producing, 
and feeling all her jealous fury awakened in front 
of her mother's grief, "and that I was unhappy ! 
and that it was the joy of being loved that changed 
my voice, traced black circles round my eyes, and 
filled them with tears ; and how I was so ill that 
I could scarcely walk! Did you never see my 
Allan— mine— look at me once? for that glance 
would have betrayed him and warned you ! But 
where were your eyes, mother? You never once 
caught us at some caress too slowly interrupted! 
And yet we have so long lived on these caresses 
that once, at least, you ought to have caught us 
in the act!" 

Madame de Scudemor did not answer. Was 
she blushing inwardly for the girl of no shame? 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 433 

No, she knew this violence of passion called by men 
impudicity, and she took this well-known and fatal 
lust for what it was worth. Camilla, misunder- 
standing her mother's silence, revelled in the pleas- 
ure of her humiliation. There was a mirror be- 
hind Madame de Scudemor. Camilla's eyes fell 
upon the sparkling glass that sent her the reflec- 
tion of her beauty, which passion seemed to paint 
with fire and add a crown of lightning flashes ; and 
she saw the image of her troubled and worn-out 
mother, more dull than the water to be seen three 
paces off, all dirty and stagnant in the silver basin, 
forming an accusing picture of youth exhausted 
for ever. So there was a smile of satisfied revenge 
mingling with the unchaste confession of Camilla; 
for she felt that she had the upper hand, and that 
she was the more beautiful. And that idea ex- 
cited her still more with cowardly triumph, im- 
pelling the conqueror to place foot on the neck 
of the prostrate enemy; with the rage which stabs 
with a word, and her eyes as fiery as the crater 
of a volcano, she placed on the shoulder of her 
mother a hand that was almost matricidal, and 
shaking her as if she would break her bones: 
"Mother! my mother! Look at me now!" she 



434 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

cried. "Do you not see that I am pregnant? Now, 
do you doubt how he loved me?" 

It was only then that Yseult lifted her noble 
head. She was still impassive ; for the only feel- 
ing of her soul, that atom lost in the midst of the 
opaque block, did not even possess energy enough 
to stamp its feeble imprint on her immovable and 
icy features. Slowly she took her daughter's hand, 
and drawing her towards her with tenderness not 
unmixed with strength: 

"My poor little daughter, how you love him!" 
she said, with her pity that rose in presence of 
any grief. "How you must love him to speak thus 
to your mother !" 

"And you?" answered Camilla, becoming pale 
again with hope and joy. "And you, do you not 
love him ?" 

"Ah! love has driven you mad, my child!" re- 
plied Madame de Scudemor. 

But Camilla was already on her knees before 
her. She was annihilated, but happy. It was more 
than human nature could support all at once. Mad- 
ame de Scudemor tried to lift her up, but she 
clung round her. 

"Leave me where I am, at your feet, mother, 
and pardon me for having spoken thus to you. I 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 435 

was crazy with grief. Pardon me! Ah! if you 
only knew what jealousy was !" 

And with big tears she moistened the hands of 
her mother, who answered her, with her smile 
which was broken and vacant: 

"Do you believe that I do not know?" 
An hour passed, and Camilla was still seated 
on her mother's sofa. Eelieved by sobbing, she 
told her all the details of her love for Allan. This 
young girl, who had been formerly repulsed by 
her mother's coldness, now almost put entire con- 
fidence in her. Since rage no longer possessed 
her, she once more found all her forgotten pudic- 
ity, bringing back all her forgotten, faded blushes. 
The sentiment of the step she had taken with 
such daring, and which she began to judge herself, 
covered her with confusion. With her downcast 
eyes and the irregular sighing of her bosom, she 
resembled a statue of shame, of outraged and suf- 
fering chastity. 

"My child," said Madame de.Scudemor to her, 
"I do not ask you to render an account of your 
struggles, nor of your defeats. Heaven keep me 
from being too hard towards you who have been 
led away by love, when I was guiltier than you! 
Ought I not to have watched over you both? Did 



436 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

I not let myself be deceived by this childish friend- 
ship, hiding the danger of love? Ought not I to 
have preserved yon, or at least to have strength* 
ened you against your own heart, my poor daugh- 
ter? I did not do so. My wrong is greater than 
yours. It is you who have to pardon me." 

And the mother said this without tears, without 
expansion or caresses, but with such dark sadness 
that, as she listened, Camilla's heart softened to- 
wards her. Yseult knew well why her security- 
had been so great. She would never have dared to 
believe that Allan might have loved the daughter 
of her he had so much loved as well, and such a 
short time ago. Her knowledge of sensual passion 
had made her suspect and fear nothing, and her 
divination was at fault. Those who have the most 
experience have also their moments of cecity, while 
the passions have always some secret held in re- 
serve when we think we have plucked them all 
out of us, and the revelation is so often unex- 
pected that we term perfidy what is naught but 
mystery. 

"Give thanks to God, my dear child," continued 
Madame de Scudemor, patting Camilla's cheek, 
"that the fault which He pardons, but which men 
do not forgive, can be hidden from the eyes of 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 437 

the world. In a few days you will be Madame de 
Cynthry. As for me, I thank your jealousy which 
made you warn me in time. You are very young, 
my daughter ; you will not always be troubled with 
your old mother and be separated from society. 
In the world must you live, as I have. Believe 
me, it is quite enough to have to put up with the 
destiny that men have carved out for us women 
without having still to be at their mercy by the 
weaknesses of our heart." 

When she heard these words did Camilla guess 
that her mother had been unhappy in bygone days ?• 
Having once more confidence in her on account 
of the tenderness with which she had so gener- 
ously replied to the offence, had Camilla any desire 
to know more of the soul of the mother she ha*d 
ofttimes calumniated? But she did not hazard 
any questions, manifested no wish to know, and 
kept down her svmpathy and her soon surmounted 
compassion. All the habits of their life stood be- 
tween these two women like an impassable obstacle. 
Those habits are never changed. If Camilla had 
wept at her mother's feet, it was because she was 
suffering from the cruel injustice with which 
she now reproached herself ; because the joy of hav- 
ing no rival, still more than Yseulf s goodness, 



438 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

had flooded her soul with infinite happiness and 
gratitude. But the affection that had never 
reigned between Madame de Scudemor and her 
daughter could not be born of so little. It was too 
late! 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 439 



XIII. 

On leaving her mother, Camilla returned to 
Allan, who was devoured by shame and anxiety as 
he thought of what was about to take place, and 
all her fears having been swept from her soul, she 
begged his pardon for her suspicions in the same 
way as she had apologised to her mother for the 
violence of her misgivings and the brutality of her 
confession. Such is the human heart! It costs 
nothing to humiliate oneself when one enjoys the 
benefits of the offence ; but if the affront has been 
sterile or if it has led to the discovery of what one 
feared, the generosity of repentance does not 
spring up, and we remain steadily in the wrong. 

"So I shall be your wife," said Camilla to Allan. 
"My mother has promised me, and our life will be- 
gin to be happy once more !" 

This was a last illusion, the remains of faith 
soon ruined, and with which no edifice can be re- 
built. It was a bouquet of the day before replaced 
upon the bosom it had perfumed, but from which 
the scent was gone. As yet Camilla had no ex- 



440 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

perience of her own heart She thought she could 
revive the delicate flower that perishes so quickly, 
and which is known as faith in love. Alas! the 
roots of the mysterious plant were already wither- 
ing in Allan's heart. He did not accept Camilla'9 
hopes. Although they came from the loved one* 
they were not imposed upon him hy her. Taught 
by the shortness of the duration of his happiness, 
he prayed that love should afterwards not retire, 
and perhaps this modest vow of an exhausted heart 
was still a too ambitious demand. 

Camilla told him what had transpired in her 
mother's apartments. Her attentive and troubled 
soul dwelt upon every detail ; he saw that Yseult 
had not belied herself, and that he had outraged 
her when he trembled for her. Once again he ad- 
mired this woman, sublime in self-possession, who 
never was victim to the least confusion. What he 
knew of Yseult, and of which Camilla was igno- 
rant, caused him to judge Yseult in a manner 
that he kept to himself. 

"My mother is good," said Camilla, "and she has 
been generous." 

But Allan knew that Yseult's generosity was 
placed higher than in her breast. It was the 
knowledge of passion that had been felt, the abso- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 441 

lution of the mind given to the most involuntary 
part of human nature, together with the impartial- 
ity of history. 

What was lacking in the sensibility of Madame 
de Scudemor was what precisely constituted its 
originality. It was always the same attitude, the 
same look, the same woman — if that word did not 
imply all that there is most versatile in this world. 
She seemed as restful and as calm as strength. 
But it was not her will, that source of moral gran- 
deur, that had silenced inward revolt; she had 
suffered and bled lengthily beneath her crown of 
thorns, and then her brow had become hardened. 
But to attempt nothing against Fate is to be more, 
resigned than by remaining downcast. She had 
attempted naught against her dead passions to kill 
them, and, altogether, she was only an ideal type 
of woman's weakness. Allan, whom she had not 
loved, and who did not love her more, retained for 
her a kind of respectful religion. The way in 
which she had welcomed her daughter's avowal 
made him sure of the manner in which she would 
act with him. If he had doubted her for a mo- 
ment, the doubt could not last. Nevertheless, he 
could not prevent himself from- feeling a certain 
uneasiness resembling his first fears. Our wrong- 



442 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

doing makes us cowardly, and the evil he had 
wrought was not effaced. 

"Would things remain as they were," he asked 
himself, "or would she recur to what had passed 
between them?" 

Madame de Scudemor had shown the delicacy of 
silence; might she not persist in it? Although 
such an interview, with sad and humiliating mem- 
ories, could only be painful for him, he almost 
wished for it — if only to escape from the vague 
incertitude that he felt wrapped about him. 

For life had closed in upon all three since the 
day that Camilla had told all to her mother. The 
same existence, with its monotonous, eternal, slow 
routine, always wipes out everything. It is true 
that very little time had elapsed, but Yseult had 
confided nothing yet to Allan concerning the prom- 
ise made to Camilla, and no allusion had even es- 
caped her. What was she waiting for, since she was 
resolute? What was working in that soul 
wrapped in a fleshly envelope, fading more and 
more every day, and which, notwithstanding, was 
impenetrable as when at the epoch when rude 
health and powerful beauty formed the shelter of a 
shield for the heart when stirred? If Madame de 
Scudemor had loved Allan de Cynthry ; if, in the 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 443 

interest of her daughter's happiness, she had had 
to make some great and obscure sacrifice — the 
heart's blood offered secretly to God in the pure 
vase of the conscience — her struggle would have 
explained her silent hesitation. We have often to 
do like the Roman — take our entrails in our hands, 
and die twice over. But Yseult did not possess the 
virtuous difficulty of sacrifice. Passionately lust- 
ful, she would have been greater ; she would have 
been more saintly. But what she really was can 
only be set down here. It was the poverty of the 
soul, almost smiling at her inglorious devotion, 
and which did not relieve her misery. 

Every day Camilla asked Allan, "Has mother 
spoken to you to-day?" And upon the negative 
answer of the young man, she added, with slightly 
impatient hope, "It will be for to-morrow." She 
was sure that Allan had never loved but her, and 
the future for both appeared long and unclouded as 
in the first moments of her love and during the 
brightest days of her life. Why could she not live 
that life over again? Why were there differences 
between her past and present happiness, since there 
were none in her love? She tried to explain her 
troubles and her worries to herself by the exactions 
of her feelings that would be appeased by the union 



444 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

of marriage. She "worked herself up" to be 
happy. When we are less content, we reproach 
ourselves with loving less. We have remorse for 
the felicity which has become impossible, because 
poor loving souls are timorous, and to suffer more, 
confound the aridity of life with the hardness of 
the heart! 

The misgivings and jealousy that had embit- 
tered Camilla's love had not diminished its vio- 
lence. Her lover was just as dear to her. The 
woman who is capable of affection does not alter 
her mind very quickly. It was not quite the same 
with Allan. He was a man, stronger and more 
brutal. He had no need to place both hands on 
the wound whence his love was escaping, for it did 
not seem to be mortal. It resembled one of those 
imperceptible sores which only daily exudes one 
or two drops of pale pinkish blood, and does not 
endanger life, not even making one paler. The 
eye sparkles with the same azure plenitude of light 
and tears. One drinks intoxication from every 
cup, and the hand holds them still to the greedy 
lips without weakness ; but these two drops of blood 
return always at the same spot, wiped away each 
evening and never dried up — this is death. From 
thence the soul sweats out its agony. It is the 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 445 

contrary of the martrydom of Christ. The thorns 
tore the divine temples, and eternal flowers flour- 
ished in the heart that was full of love. For us 
men the floral crown still scents the hair, while our 
hearts expire beneath the poisoned dart. Allan, 
who was a god, wished to continue to love when he 
could scarcely do so. Soon Camilla would only in- 
terest him by remembrance, which has not always 
any power. Such is the contradiction of man's na- 
ture. He would have preferred the suspicions and 
the fits of rage of the jealous woman to the ardent 
confidences and tender expansions of the reassured 
mistress. He only responded by the clumsiness of 
coldness. Vainly, seeing her so tender and so 
faithful, did he reject the idea of afflicting the 
heart that was all his. He said to himself that he 
would give her all his life. It was an insufficient 
gift in the place of love — this tunic that tears the 
flesh of our flanks away with it when we try to 
pull it off. But would this foolish generosity of an 
hour ratify the engagements made a week after- 
wards? The wrong was irreparable. It is not 
true, as has been said, that in love there is a worm 
of the sea that stops up the holes made in the pre- 
cious shell with pearls. Only the dirty and cor- 
roding sea-water passes through, and it tarnishes 



44G THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

and bites a little more. Such is life; such is our 
soul ! The pages that follow will not be opened, 
for probably only the atheists of love living de- 
spairingly in the midst of the overturned altars 
and the broken idols of life will be able to continue 
this sad story. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 447 



XIV. 

Nevertheless, the much-wished for day arrived. 
Suddenly Madame de Scudemor sent for Allan. 
She had not yet come downstairs. Allan found 
her in her room, seated in a well-known spot, and 
which he had never forgotten. It was on the sofa 
where, for the first time, she had spoken to him of 
his love, that she had divined with such great com- 
passion, and where, conquered by his tears, she had 
reversed her sentence of exile. When Allan entered 
that room and saw Yseult in her old place, he felt 
something analogous to the impression made upon 
the mind by the apartments of those we have loved 
and lost. Alas! here everything was the same. 
Only Allan's heart had changed. 

But no ! all was not the same. Yseult also was 
as extremely changed in her external appearance 
as Allan was in his most intimate feelings. Time 
had struck one of them on the surface and at- 
tainted the man more than skin-deep, but the 
young man's heart could yet glean harvests of love 
and scatter them abroad ; while in the woman, the 



448 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

arid storm-wind of life had carried away all that 
beauty which seemingly ought to have taken 
longer to expire. 

Allan was deeply moved as he approached the 
Countess of Scudemor, who had been plain Yseult 
for him. She saw by his looks what agitated his 
heart, and made him sit by her side on the sofa.^ 
"Allan," she at once began to say to him, "I 
guess you do not think that I have called you to me 
to make you any reproaches? You have loved 
Camilla, and have been loved by her. You led her 
astrav; you the man— that is to say, the stronger 
of the two, and for that very reason you ought to 
have preserved her from yourself ; but you were led 
away as she was. You did not act in cold blood, 
nor with base calculation. As I know you have a 
noble nature, perhaps you struggled long against 
your love. But you see, my friend, how terrible 
are the consequences of passion, since one is forced 
to give them absolution ! 

''But why did you wait so long before confess- 
ing all to me? My daughter would have been 
ruined in the eyes of the world if a feeling of jeal- 
ousy, that your slowness and delay drove to a pitch 
of exaltation, had not given her that confidence 
she never had with me. Were you then proud 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 449 

enough or cowardly enough to sacrifice the woman 
you loved to the inevitable embarrassment of an 
avowal? And why even this embarrassment, Al- 
lan? Did I give you the right to doubt Yseult? 
If I had been any other woman, I could better 
conceive your hesitation. But did you not know 
me? Did it seem to you that I lived under the 
influence of the ideas and sentiments of the multi- 
tude? Did you not remember the past? Ought 
it not have helped you to judge me as I am? Did 
you not remember what I told you so many times 
and in this very room ?" 

And she pointed to the carpet, which her foot 
trampled down haughtily, as one stamps upon some 
miserable lost affection. 

"Yes, in this room, where we are together after 
four years have passed ; you cured of your mad love, 
and I about to become your mother ! What I de- 
sired then, have I ever ceased to call for it ? Ah ! 
if, during these few years when I wished to spare 
you the suffering I knew too well, I had tried to re- 
vive some feeling, however weak, I might under- 
stand that you did not dare to suddenly tear a 
last illusion from me. But you know, Allan, if I 
believed your words for once only, and if our bonds 
were not always loosely tied !" 



450 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Yseult," replied Allan, "you are the most sin- 
cerely and simply great woman that ever existed. 
No ! I never judged you from a common standard. 
If I did not confide in you, it was because I had 
no confidence in myself. First love leaves gaps in 
our heart that the second cannot fill, and there are 
Teproaches that we make to ourselves as if we had 
been unfaithful. I avoided you, Yseult, as I tried 
to avoid my conscience— that conscience that never 

leaves us !" 

"Say rather your pride, my friend," she re- 
joined, "for a man despises himself for not being 
able to love long, if his disposition be neither friv- 
olous nor degraded. But ought you to have had 
that pride with me, Allan? Did I not prophesy 
the early death of your love? Did I not show 
the miseries of the heart, so soon growing cold, 
so soon satiated, and was it not in mine that I went 
and fetched them to show you? Was it not in 
speaking of all my emptiness that I tried to con- 
vince you of the inanity of the affections? Was 
not my heart in your hand like the skull in that 
of Hamlet, when he sought there for a thought 
and found nothing?" 

As she pronounced these melancholy words with 
her slow and unmelodious voice, leaning as she 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 451 

did on her elbow, crumpling with her left hand a 
long orange shawl which had fallen from her 
shoulders to her hips and softly floated about her, 
like the golden scarf of eventide on the rugged 
flank of a mountain — austere symbol of Fate — she 
seemed to shake out all the secrets of life and death 
from the soft drapery spread over her knees. Al- 
lan contemplated her in her majestic attitude, pale, 
but not sullen, like the marble of a tomb without 
a cypress, and the conviction that she once more 
expressed — the science of the heart she had learnt 
and retained — struck him like some new truth. 
From the ardent bush of his imagination, God at 
length appeared to this Moses of love, and made 
him veil his face as he listened to the terrible law, 
so long ignored and denied! Was it the har- 
mony that there was between what Yseult said and 
what she was as she said it— with her lost beauty, 
her eyes like torches about to die out, her breast 
where it seemed there could be seen the ruts of the 
chariot of life made in the last few rapidly fleet- 
ing years — was it this devastation of her decline 
that taught Allan better what was the end of all 
life's glories, and initiated him still more into the 
secret of our loves of dust and ashes? Did the 
sibyl speak for him louder than the oracle ? Where 



452 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

was the first tide of youth, which often goes out 
of our heart when, on the shores of existence, the 
surf rolls high and seems as if still coming up? 
Allan felt the fatal adhesion of his spirit to the 
words of Madame de Scudemor. The idea that his 
second love was about to expire like the first was 
as yet quite vague, but stood out surprisingly clear 
in his sight. He viewed himself fully. Yseult and 
Camilla seemed to him to be the two corpses at the 
bottom of his heart. He saw them and held his 
tongue, denying nothing more. The strong young 
fellow was tamed at last by the truth. The hatchet 
might be plied with increasing force at the roots of 
the tree, not a bird or a branch would fall from 
it. The soul had been emptied of its last doubts 
and its most opinionated illusions. 

"Allan," continued Madame de Scudemor, after 
a moment of silence, with the smile that Shakes- 
peare ascribes to Patience looking at Grief, "Allan, 
in a few days you will marry my daughter. I will 
not say to you : 'May you be happy !' I could not 
utter those words without lying. But may your 
love and hers for you last long! That I wish. 
Now it will be easier for you not to betray with 
Camilla that past which we cannot always forget. 
Let it remain an eternal secret between us ! But 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 453 

there is another secret still that must also be 
buried." 

Allan looked at her without understanding. She 
rejoined, without giving him the time to put a 
question : 

"Listen, Allan! When my daughter, who in a 
week will be your wife, came to announce her preg- 
nancy to me, I could have answered her that I was 
pregnant as well !" 

Allan started and shrieked; but Yseult placed 
her hand on the young man's mouth. 

"Beware!" she said, "Camilla might hear you. 
Eestrain yourself if you are a man. See," she 
added, throwing aside the two ends of the shawl 
that had been crossed on her knees, "if I kept my 
secret well !" 

She was eight months "gone." 

"I ought not," she continued, "to have revealed 
this to you, until the very moment when I should 
have been in need of your help, so that no one 
can find it out. You guessed not at the true mo- 
tive of my suffering. And yet not one of my move- 
ments, not one of my attitudes, was aught else 
but cruel imposture. But, thanks to being in the 
habit of enduring pain, I was unconquered, and 
the only time that Camilla might have suspected 



454 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

all the truth was when she took me by surprise, 
half-naked in my dressing room, before I had time 
to cover myself up in my mantle." 

Allan was crashed by fright and astonishment. 
"My calm alarms you, Allan," she said ; "but tho 
idea that now weighs you down has oppressed me 
for the last eight months. I gave way to you out 
of pity, it is by my pity that I am punished. That 
feeling, like all others of mine, was fated to turn 
against me! 

"As for you, Allan," she went on, "you are twice 
a father, and there will be one of your children 
whose birth you will hide, because men will brand 
it with the hangman's mark. It is not for myself, 
as I have naught to ask of life, and the insults 
and scorn of the world could not draw one move- 
ment of revolt from this heart that is dead, or 
from my crushed nerves. Ah, indeed, it is not for 
myself that I claim silence and obscurity. But 
it is for the child, on whom Pity, of which it is the 
offspring, has impressed a curse even in my very 
womb. It is not for Camilla's child, born of happy 
and mutual life, but it is for mine, Allan; it is 
for the sad child of Pity ! You will soon have a 
duty to discharge with regard to Camilla, and from 
this day forward, perhaps, is it not so? Let my 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 455 

child be sacrificed to that of Camilla. I shall not 
complain. On the contrary, I ask and will it ! 
Above all, Camilla must be spared the cruel pain 
of wounded love. Since I see that, you must un- 
derstand that also; for I have only my womanly 
pity to guide me, and you have your love ! Allan, 
I should like to give you courage in the presence 
of this paternity which already pursues you like 
remorse. Your other child will not rob you of the 
love you will feel for the one who will call you 
'father' less loudly. You will love it, will you not ? 
You can pay all and be quits by love. You may 
even efface a misfortune you may have caused. It 
is impossible that you will not love this child. 
Alas ! I, who can never love anything more on this 
earth; I, who have conceived without love, I can 
only offer it that pity which did not suffice for the 
father, and will also not suffice for it. Allan," 
she said, in a deep, low tone, after a pause, 'love 
it well for both of us !" 

This prayer of a mother was worthy of raising 
the greatest emotion, as she asked for her child 
to be loved more than herself, knowing that within 
her breast there was not enough love for it. Allan 
measured the extent of the woman's misfortune. 
Touched to the depths of his being, he took her 



456 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

hands in his, the contact now causing only a sweet 
and cold sensation. 

"Yseult," said he, "oh, Yseult, noble and unfor- 
tunate woman, you still deceive yourself! You 
will love your child !" 

"Ah! you know well that I cannot," she re- 
turned, with the tenderness of subiime resignation. 
"Our will can no more make us love than it can 
cause us to live. Happy, without doubt, are those 
women who die before they have loved ! Fate has 
not deigned to let me be included with them, and 
the force of the love that I possessed has- only 
served to make me suffer, even after I had lost it !" 

And seeing that his words of consolation were 
useless, Allan abandoned the hands he held, as the 
shipwrecked mariner lets go his last plank of 

safety. 

"Allan, there is nothing to be done," said Yseult, 
shaking her head, as his movement had not es- 
caped her notice. "You, too, have pitied me as I 
had pity on you. You wish to make me believe 
in a fooling that no longer exists. But forcing one 
to believe in a feeling is to give it. God could do 
that, but not mankind. My poor child, let me fin- 
ish my life with my isolated soul ! That perhaps 
will not be von- long. Above all, do not try to give 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 457 

me back what I no longer possess. Have you not 
lost your love in doing so? You will lose your 
pity in the same way. Do not turn away from 
love and the happiness of life for me. Perhaps I 
seem to you to be ungrateful, because I do not give 
way to tenderness. Kemember the child, but for- 
get the mother ! It is only the love that is bestowed 
upon us that we are not allowed to forget. That 
is why Camilla should be ever sacred to you., even 
though you may one day cease to love her. Go to 
her, my friend; tell her I endorse the gift that she 
has made you of herself, and that I have received 
your promise to make her happy. Drive from your 
brow those clouds that might still make her un- 
easy. Go, friend, and leave me !" 

Allan felt the burden of the confidence made to 
him, and the thoughts she had caused to rise 
tumultuously in him, too much, and he could not 
obey the injunction of Madame de Scudemor. He 
hesitated, and still remained standing. But she, 
who read in his soul better than he did himself, 
said to him, as she arose from the sofa, lifting back 
on her shoulders the shawl she had dropped, and 
which she draped around her tired form : 

"Come now, my son, give me your arm, and let 
us go together and find Camilla I" 



458 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

And they went down into the garden, where they 
thought to find her, but did not succeed. The sun 
had gone down half an hour ago, but it had left 
behind some of the rays with which it had inun- 
dated the whole earth. Gold and liquid vermilion 
seemed scattered in profusion, painting everything. 
The sky was of the darkest blue, and grew darker 
every moment from the borders of the horizon to 
the zenith. It was a singular and striking con- 
trast! Shadow was thrown from the regions of 
light, and the earth, in its opaque vapours, was lit 
up with some strange remains of brilliancy that 
had disappeared from above. The day was dying 
from the highest point, like a man of genius going 
mad. Light was leaving the world like the most 
noble faculties of a living personality. But life 
remained to one as in the other. But it was a 
blind, dark, stupid life; some ardent sleep inter- 
rupted by dreams and sweats. Truly, that day the 
earth was uneasy. One could almost feel it mov- 
ing beneath one's feet. The air was full of 
sweetness of every kind, moist harmonies and soft 
perf umes ; and it was one of those moments when 
man, in unison with the Great All that surrounded 
him, lets his heart bathe, with powerful voluptu- 
ousness, in the vast heart of nature. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 459 

"How beautifully dies this day!" murmured 

Yseult. 

One might have thought that she envied the 
glorious decline of that radiant day. To her who 
had so long resembled fecund and luxuriant na- 
ture, there only remained a dull sky at the end of 
her day, a cold wind after so many storms. While 
awaiting Camilla, she had seated herself by the 
side of Allan, on a bench at the extremity of the 
terrace, with the grace which had remained much 
more faithful to her than her beauty; and Allan, 
at those words which he might have taken as a re- 
gret, had a presentiment of the approaching end 
of Madame de Scudemor. A voice spoke in his 
heart, and told him that the betrayed desire had 
been granted, but this presentiment that veiled the 
man's brow with a great sadness, did not touch 
that of the woman, who would have driven it away 
as a too bold hope of deliverance. Allan only was 
accessible to it, as he only suffered from it. The 
memory of the love that he had felt for her was 
attested in a touching and sacred manner by 
Yseult's state of pregnancy. Alas ! must we call 
this egotism? or would not God allow Yseult to 
receive in her turn, in a pure manner, the feeling 
that she had bestowed without reserve? Round 



460 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

about her, as within her, there was only solitude. 
And even the tender emotion that Allan felt at 
that juncture was less pity for her than pity for 
her unborn child. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 461 



XV. 

The few days' delay mentioned by Madame de 
Scudemor soon passed away. As her return from 
Italy was hardly known in Paris, and as, besides, 
the state of her health would have been a sufficient 
pretext not to celebrate the marriage in grand 
style, she invited no one. It was resolved that 
nothing should be changed in the life they all three 
led at the Chateau of the Willows until the winter, 
when the young couple would go to Paris. 

Therefore the ceremony was concluded, as all 
marriages should be made, obscurely, in the coun- 
try, at a little village church. No ironical, envi- 
ous, or impious society crowd accompanied the 
handsome young folk who were joined to each 
other before God, and no one was there to spy out 
the modest joys of the wife on her forehead, where 
the next day obscene looks would have sought for 
them, in the midst of her blushes and confusion. 
The only witnesses were a few young fellows and 
some old people of the village in their holiday 
clothes. They were simple souls, who in that mar- 



462 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

riage ceremony saw the greatest event of their 
life to come, and the most touching incident of 
their past existence. Camilla had chosen as brides- 
maid one of the young lasses who the day before 
had come to offer the orange flowers from which 
she was to pluck the branch that custom decrees 
should ornament her brow. Alas! it was no 
longer a symbol! Although happy, the bride 
looked long and thoughtfully at the white blos- 
som that was to tell a lie, and blushing for both, 
she modestly hid it under one of the coils of her 
abundant tresses. It was thus that from being the 
emblem of innocence the flower became that of the 
mystery hidden in the womb of Camilla. 

Mademoiselle de Scudemor had never been so 
beautiful. The pictures of the past mingling with 
the ideas arising from the circumstances of the 
day bestowed most charming embarrassment upon 
heir. She was in a troubled state, full of languid 
intoxication, and ardour bathed in sadness, which 
was more voluptuous than the ardour itself. Even 
in her bearing there was something of her soul. 
From the gate to the church, built in the middle 
of the enclosure, she leant upon Allan's arm, not 
like a timid and ignorant young girl, but also not 
like a happy woman proud of her husband's 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 463 

love. It was something of both of these feelings. 
Seeing her thus advancing on Allan's arm, an 
observer or a poet with sure intuition would have 
perhaps suspected the position of this languish- 
ing spouse; but there was no poet or observer 
among the villagers, who did not know that the 
actual happiness of the day was rendered more 
intoxicating still by the weight of sensual memo- 
ries. They were candid folk who had never 
thought about themselves, and whom nothing had 
ever taught that to be guilty makes a woman more 
happy on the day of the desired union than if she 
had remained innocent. 

Cowslips had been strewn in the nave, where, 
from the open windows, came gushes of fresh, pure 
air. More than once during the ceremony the 
pigeons of the parsonage came and perched upon 
the sills of the casements like joyful messengers. 
Camilla could see them from the foot of the altar 
where she was receiving the blessing of the priest. 
Superstitious thought rose in her, as it often hap- 
pens in solemn moments of life, even to the least 
visionary of women. She imagined that these 
birds were omens, and that if they left the win- 
dows before the end of the ceremony her happi- 
ness would fly away with them. Alas, the birds 



464 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

took wing! The dazzling beauty of Camilla be- 
came overcast with sudden pallor as great as that 
of her mother, who, standing by her side, without 
smiles or tears, watched her child being married. 
But Camilla's pallor soon disappeared when Al- 
lan's voice was heard, while for Yseult it was a 
shroud that she would take with her to the grave. 
After the ceremony, Camilla asked Allan to re- 
turn with her on foot to the Chateau. Madame de 
Scudemor, whose suffering state necessitated much 
care, got into her carriage, and left them. It was 
June, a month bathed in light, and warmed by 
the sun like a glance from a loving woman. On 
the opposite side to the marsh the air was warm, 
and along the whole road they took there was the 
languid perfume of colza, balancing its thousand 
golden plumes as far as the eye could reach. Wheat 
was behindhand. The thin ears of a soft green 
hue grew no higher than the colza in bloom. In 
other spots clover spread out its dark crimson lake 
carpet, and no trees shaded these plains, roofed 
in by the canopy of heaven alone. Allan and 
Camilla went across them step by step, following 
the narrow paths spared by the carts on the borders 
of the fields— a walk that reminded them of those 
taken in the same parts nearly four years before. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 465 

Camilla especially appreciated the charm of this 
stroll. She remembered her isolation when. Allan 
had been ill, and the memory of past pain gave 
a delicious piquancy to the emotion that arose in 
her heart. It was in these fields that she had 
nursed her secret of uneasiness and jealous friend- 
ship that heralded the advent of love so well — love 
in spite of herself as with us all. It was there 
that she had dried her tears, if, indeed, she had 
shed any. And she could no more find on the 
red earth of the road the trace of her little childish 
foot than she could feel in her heart the remains 
of the pain she had endured. 

"This walk is a pilgrimage of expiation, Allan," 
said Camilla. "I desired that on the day when 
we begin to be inseparable we should both pass to- 
gether where I wended my way all alone and un- 
happy. When you were ill after your fall, and 
suffering from the fever which nearly killed you, 
mother had exiled me from your room, and it was 
here that I used to come and wait for the too long 
days to finish !" 

Allen pressed her hand that he held in his. The 
happy woman thought he understood her. By his 
silence she guessed at a wave of emotion that did 
not exist. Her words had awakened devouring 



466 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

memories in her husband's heart. He thought of 
Yseult, and with what care she had nursed him. 
He remembered her as she sat at the head of his 
bed, and by a singular contradiction, what he felt 
resembled regret more than remorse. He was an 
unfortunate man, who turned away from the pres- 
ent and the future, not satiated with the former 
and disgusted with the perspective of the latter, 
so he threw his thoughts into the past that no 
longer belonged to him. It was thus that after 
having loved Camilla, and at the moment when 
she was his for life, having just sworn before 
God and man to love her always, in spirit he was 
unfaithful to her for the first time. 

But he was ashamed at this involuntary regret ; 
he stifled it, and thought he had done with the 
past. He was mistaken. First love has an influ- 
ence on the whole life. One loves afterwards, one 
loves again and again, and perchance one loves 
better. But one carries a mark in the heart, a 
cursed or blessed sign, but it is ineffaceable. The 
finger of the first loved woman is like that of God. 
The imprint thereof is eternal. At each love 
that concludes, at each illusion that fades, at each 
lock of hair culled from a lifeless head, one image 
alone appears and peoples the empty heart, and it 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 467 

always seems that we have only betrayed one 
woman. 

Those who are married know this well. We mnst 
be either madly infatuated or very stupid, if on 
the wedding-day we do not suffer from some in- 
comprehensible sadness, even if we are one of those 
people who have not lived by the heart. Little 
boarding-school misses sometimes, married in the 
morning, have been seen to shiver at the evening 
dance, in their silks and satins, without knowing 
why this icy shudder made them quiver on such 
a day. Allan tried to inwardly stifle all the Airi- 
ness of his heart, in the midst of the impotent joys 
of the simple feast that was given at the Willows. 
The villagers and the fisher-folk of the Douve 
danced on the grass. Camilla joined the merry 
maze, but she retired early. She was no longer 
the young girl who sees the coming of night with 
the trembling of frightened pudicity, weakly strug- 
gling against desire. She knew what was behind 
the curtains of the nuptial couch, and if she as- 
pired to the mysterious and sacred hour, it was 
to be alone with the man she loved, alone and 
entirely his, without having no fear of the inter- 
ruption of a caress. 

At last the moment arrived when the closing of 



468 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

a door left them together. They had just left the 
mother, who, fatigued, had been forced to seek her 
bed. When Allan wished a quiet night to the 
woman whom he abandoned on the bed where he 
had passed many a night at her side, to go and 
keep awake with another while she would try and 
sleep — if the child she carried in her womb did not 
disturb her slumbers — he was so greatly troubled 
that the kiss meant for the cheek fell, by his rapid 
and confused movement, on the edge of the well- 
known lips. They were always the same — cold and 
dry. But this involuntary and hasty kiss, given 
in a half-hearted way and as quickly withdrawn, 
caused him a striking impression, and threw his 
mind back into the midst of the thoughts he had 
tried to drive away in the morning. 

"Oh ! at last we are alone, and our own mas- 
ters!" exclaimed Camilla, with the artlessness of 
deep love, as she entered the room which they 
were to share henceforward. Madame do Scude- 
mor in person had arranged every detail of their 
apartments. Everything was commodious and ele- 
gant, attesting the imagination of a woman who 
had known- what love was, and the wadded luxury 
it demanded. Who can say if for Yseult there 
was not some grief attached to every item in this 



WHAT NBVEE DIES. 469 

room ornamented and arranged by her? But she 
had forgotten nothing. A cruel or sad thought 
had perhaps accompanied all she had done, so 
that Camilla's happiness should not be spoilt by 
any rough angles to things surrounding her; so 
that the naked feet of the happy bride should not 
be offended by the harshness of any carpet they 
might tread. Despite all, the unfortunate woman 
had not forgotten to say: "Let me arrange so 
that she can enjoy her felicity in comfort!" al- 
though perhaps she inwardly contrasted her situa- 
tion with that of Camilla, while she evoked her 
past distress in one of those remembrances that 
survive general forgetfulness, and which, mingling 
with the acts of the daily life, "blacken every 
dream" — as Crabbe has said — "and poison every 
prayer." But, alas! since long ago there were 
no dreams or prayers for her. 

The ball was over early at the Willows. Eespect 
was paid to the rest of Madame de Scudemor. The 
peasants did not prolong their dances on the lawn 
late into the night. A window had remained open 
in Allan and Camilla's room. The atmosphere was 
so temperate that they did not think of shutting 
it. The moon began to whiten the blue cupola of 
the sky, and the acacias of the gardens exhaled 



470 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

their orange-like perfume. It was nothing more 
than an ordinary fine night, but for tender souls 
the soft music of nature was playing that melody 
which above all others is most apt to throw them 
into the insensate joy of tearful reveries. 

Camilla was not what one could call "a tender 
soul " There was something impulsive and deter- 
mined about her which excluded all idea of soft 
affection. But let a woman's sensibility be as pas- 
sionate as it may, it is never like that of a man, 
which attaches greater importance to the round- 
in-off of angles and corners. In the sensibility 
of the female there is always to be heard over and 
over again a kind of charming wail, like the very 
weariness of happiness that weighs them down, and 
which they cannot long support. Such was the 
style of Camilla's tenderness. On the other hand, 
one of the peculiarities of happiness is the slow- 
ness of the movements of those who are revelling 
in it So as to live all the longer with the thoughts 
that bring felicity, we hold to them with great 
difficulty, like a deep aspiration that cannot be 
breathed again. Even the body has only one at- 
titude as if there was some invisible and sudden 
collision to be feared. Camilla had slowly led her 
husband to the window. Instead of looking at the 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 471 

man she loved, she contemplated the night, as pure 
as the soul, or rather she saw neither one nor the 
other. Without seeking for it, she received the 
impression of both. Something of nature and some- 
thing of love was bound to form the sum total of 
her emotion; for there is perfect concordance be- 
tween nature and the heart, whence resulted the in- 
finite felicity she then tasted, and of which all her 
other hastily devoured joys had only been the 
promise. The window closed, the curtain drawn, 
she would have loved Allan just as much; she 
would have been just as much alone with him, but 
she would not have been so happy. The joy of 
our soul should be called Pan, because it is every- 
thing, and is composed of all things. Tears were 
in Camilla's eyes, and she did not see that through 
them she looked and found the sky more beauti- 
ful, more limpid, more moist in the azure trans- 
parency of its ether. She leant her head on Allan's 
shoulder. He was about to speak to her. In & 
low voice she said to him : 

"Oh! let me be!" 

She did not move; she did not think; she wished 
for nothing. Happiness had made her the equal 
of an affectionate, tender woman. Let them speak 
out and say if real happiness is not that state of 



472 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

the soul which they alone know, when the voice of 
the loved one is less sweet than silence, and when 
even a kiss would be refused. 

It would be an adorable wedding-night that 
could pass away in such a way. But from long 
ago, Allan only knew the intoxication of love. 
Marriage did not cause the felicity of the first 
days of love or some better feeling of joy to bloom 
again in his heart, as it did in that of Camilla. 
Had he been endowed with the soul of a poet in 
vain? This feeling, so powerful and so chaste, 
and the charm of nature, which was just as great, 
did not succeed in freeing him from the bondage 
of his thoughts. Like Camilla, he, too, was silent, 
but he suffered. He was thinking of the other 
woman, doubtless counting the hours in solitude 
and sleeplessness. Whether it was pity or regret, 
he saw naught within himself but confusion, and 
inwardly asked if his first love had not been prop- 
erly extinguished. In vain he resolved to adore 
Camilla. Such mad vows do we make to ourselves 
when there is no more love, or when it is dying 
out. The idea of happiness found once more by 
her, and which he feared to dispel, added yet 
again to the smart of his torture. To escape there- 
from, after many movements in different ways, he 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 473 

called voluptuousness to his aid, and on his wife's 
silky neck, looking more like satin still by the 
ultramarine torrent that inundated it in the blue 
moonlight, he tried to warm his lips, still cold 
from the contact of Yseult's lips. 

"'Tis you!" murmured Camilla, passing her 
arms round his neck ; " 'tis you ! and so for life !" 

She had not the strength to put her face near 
Allan's, nor to finish her caress, so happy was she ! 
Was it not sacrilegious on the part of Allan to 
call this woman back from the pure regions of rev- 
erie and the most ineffable delights, when she was 
lost therein, to make her live once more the terres- 
trial life of the sensual passion she had momen- 
tarily abandoned? That was because he wished 
to provoke delirium in which he could hide from 
her and himself, and which in former days he had 
not troubled to seek. 

But the thought eating into his brain was 
stronger than all his efforts. The young girl, so 
long desired and at last obtained, was not only the 
bride of that morning; she was a woman of no 
mystery, possessing nothing more than the love 
which is so great when a woman has given herself 
up, and has nothing more than that to give, her 
last gift, spurned by the foot of man! Thus 



474 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

her free caresses did not move away unhappy Al- 
lan's pain, and he tried to escape from it. He 
flew into silent rage against himself and fate, and 
because the magnificent creature seated on his 
knee, and whose swelling and voluptuous hips he 
ardently pressed, no longer caused him to feel 
what he felt formerly, and which he so much 
wanted at that juncture. As for her, she only 
saw in her husband's transports what they con- 
cealed from her soul, so amorously deceived ! Each 
moment she gave way more. Then, as she was 
naturally sensual, she did more than give way. 
The positions were reversed. Allan, defeated by 
the resistance of his soul, felt that Camilla, for- 
merly so powerful, was nothing more than a 
woman. The husband remained, but the lover had 
disappeared. 

"Your lips are cold, and so is your brow," said 
Camilla. "It is the night air." 

And in a lower tone she added, with a blush, 
those words of intimacy in which two lives mingle, 
becoming filthy if more than one hears them : 

"Let us go to bed." 

She rose from off her husband's lap and went to 
arrange her hair for the night at the mirror. In 
a twinkling, her bridal robe fell to her feet. She 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 475 

bounded out of it, having nothing more on than 
her white petticoat and stays, the graceful narrow 
cuirass that she soon quickly unlaced. Three paces 
off, Allan looked moodily at her. At each veil that 
dropped, some fresh charm was revealed: an en- 
tirely naked arm, a shoulder escaping from the dis- 
turbed folds of the last garment, the more full be- 
trayal of a rounded breast. He looked at her me- 
chanic-ally, as a satiated man stares with cold and 
vacant look at the cup which he has emptied, and 
which has quenched his thirst. And yet he does 
not want to break it. 

Nevertheless, Camilla did not notice the sombre 
sadness that lay beneath all Allan's caresses. The 
wedding night was only bitter for him. As for 
her, her suspicious instincts had been put to sleep, 
and emotion had not given them time to awaken. 
But for anybody else than Camilla, Allan's face in 
the half-light of the lamp would have borne wit- 
ness to the anguish that choked him. He stifled. 
In the arms of his young wife, he dissembled his 
inward fury at not being able to lose his reason en- 
tirely. She, her eyes half-closed, and half-swoon- 
ing with lust, her head leaning over the edge of 
the pillow, made tepid by her breath, abandoned 



476 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

the marvellous undergrowth of her arms to be in- 
haled by Allan, as if it formed bunches of intoxi-. 
eating flowers. The cruel fellow bit at it more 
than once with all the rage of deceived desire. 
Happily, his mouth did not deliver the horrible 
secret in its bites, and next day Camilla only saw 
the trace of a night of love and lust. 

Happy Camilla ! She slept not, and the hours 
fled by, as full and as rapidly for her as they were 
slow and empty for Allan. He cursed her power- 
ful vitality, resisting the fatigue of love spasms 
and sleeplessness. He wished that she would close 
her eyes in slumber. He would thus have been 
free and able to heave a deep sigh of relief. When 
Camilla's eyes, whose brilliancy was now as veiled 
a.s they were generally sparkling, lifted their dark 
eyelids full of burning languor to look at her hus- 
band and then drop them again, Allan trembled 
lesi she should see clear in his soul. Once he ex- 
tinguished the night-light, which threw its gleam 
on the bed : and the room and the group formed 
by the couple all disappeared in the darkness. If 
Camilla, in that obscurity, had passed her hands 
over the face that was bent towards her, perhaps 
she might have found the frowns and wrinkles 
of the <n*ief that her husband hid from her. 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 477 

That night seemed of unparalleled length to 
Allan. It foreshadowed the insupportable perspec- 
tive of its return at the end of each day like an 
eternal torture. He counted every second with 
all the anxiety of him who waits. But what was 
he waiting for? That the woman should sleep? 
That was but a paltry interruption of his life. 
Would not the awakening bring back what was 
irrevocable ? And as he said this to himself in the 
midst of the torments endured on his wife's bosom, 
he felt that she held him still more narrowly to 
her, and he returned her clasp. How impenetra- 
ble are the few inches of flesh of our breasts, since 
the beatings of the heart that Camilla pressed to 
her bosom did not warn her ! 

At last, when day began to break, Camilla fell 
asleep out of sheer lassitude. Sleep comes to 
those who are happy as it does to the righteous. 
Beneath the first rays of dawn, Allan looked upon 
her, as she closed her eyes, grown heavy, and grad- 
ually lost all consciousness. A delicious sight 
when one really loves ! But he did not enjoy this 
idolising contemplation. He was on the alert for 
the moment when he could disengage himself from 
the arms that embraced him without waking her. 
He slowly unwound them, these arms that were 



478 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

so strong when they held him, and which the pres- 
sure of his body had impressed in many places 
with deep red marks. He furtively left the bed 
as if it was not his, dressed hastily, and sat in one 
of the easy-chairs by the mantelpiece. He took 
up a book to fly from himself, but he did not un- 
derstand a word he read, and remained plunged in 
his grief. 

The sun was high when Camilla woke. Before 
opening her eyes, she made a movement as if to 
seek for him who ought to have been reposing by 
her side, and not finding him there, she started up 
in fright, her eyes wide open and staring. But 
before she called Allan, she caught sight of him, 
downcast and pale, in the chimney-corner. 

"What are you doing there?" she asked him 
anxiously. 

He gave her as reason that he had not felt very 
well, and that he had risen without wishing to dis- 
turb the sleep she had enjoyed only a few short 
hours. 

"But I am all right now," he added. 

"Come and kiss me!" said Camilla, falling baek 
softly on the bed. 

His lips met her greedy mouth, but his kiss was 
as empty as the heart that gave it. 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 479 

The first morning salute of her new existence 
possessed mayhap no power of illusion for Camilla. 
Be that as it may, she was sad the day after her 
marriage. She was no longer moved as in the pre- 
ceding afternoon when she heard herself called 
"Madame." She was miserable, and could not tell 
her own self why. But more than once she re- 
membered the birds that flew away, and that she 
had taken as an omen. 



480 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XVI. 

Does any one exist who, having allowed his heart 
to have full sway in life, has not experienced that 
in the feelings which cause the most suffering there 
are sometimes strange interruptions, or a kind of 
unexpected and inexplicable resurrection of happi- 
ness ? That had happened to Camilla the day her 
jealous suspicions had vanished on listening to the 
frank and compassionate words of her mother, and 
it had lasted until her marriage. The hand that 
tightened on her heart had loosened its grasp, and 
it had free play once more. But it was the last 
time. She had reached the highest peak on the 
summit of life's happiness only to be dashed down 
all the more violently. 

The sadness of the day after her wedding left 
her no more and she could find no reason for such 
morose anxiety. She had no reproach to make 
to her husband. When she had been jealous she 
attributed Allan's coolness to all kinds of mo- 
tives ; she could do so no longer. Besides, although 
Allan had always seemed to her to have a melan- 



WHAT NEVEE DIES. 481 

choly disposition, he was more expansive and less 
irritable since his marriage. Alas ! what she took 
for expansion was a little more ease in the simple 
relationship between husband and wife, which 
seemed false from lover to mistress, obliged to hide 
and dissemble. It was only the difference between 
whispering and speaking aloud. The truthfulness 
of their situation in the eyes of other people pre- 
vented much friction. Sometimes one may have 
to concentrate and devour rage and irritation for 
twenty-four hours, because one misses an appoint- 
ment on a staircase by a few seconds, for fear a 
lackey has been playing the spy. 

Looking at marriage as it is practised in the 
present century, from its elegant and polite side, 
that of Allan and Camilla was certainly all it 
ought to have been. The husband was full of at- 
tention for his wife. He had all the delicacy and 
anticipation of her slightest wishes that comes as 
much from the politeness of the heart as from 
the justice of the mind. And it must be said that 
he had even more when Madame de Scudemor was 
not present. But if perchance she was with them, 
he did not dare to give way to any of those silent 
and charming abandonments which in domestic 
life are so touching in the sight of the mother of 



482 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

the woman we love. For the most simple mani- 
festation of tenderness, for a kiss given on re- 
turning from the garden, she was in the way. 

Did Yseult know why the happiness of being 
Allan's wife made Camilla so sad? She did not 
ask her. People who have not common souls can 
understand each other, even when they are very 
distant. Camilla would have apprehended such a 
question. She fully recognised that she was not 
as happy as she had been, and as married, she 
thought to be. But had Allan done her any wrong 
—and he certainly had not— and had she loved 
her mother better than she did, she would not have 
confided her troubles to her. When a young woman 
accuses her husband in confidence to her mother, 
either she possesses a soul without nobility, or she 
loves him no longer. 

Camilla still loved her spouse. She did not pos- 
sess, as he did, that great imagination, which is 
only a source of eternal uneasiness, and perhaps 
the impossibility of loving long. Her feelings were 
all the more deep because they were in a very 
narrow compass. She had no ideas that did not 
belong to this sentiment. Like all women who are 
in love, everything bored her that did not pertain 
to her heart. Even books, where she would have 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 483 

found sentiments analogous to hers, only seemed 
insipid pastime to pursue; and if her love, from 
which she awaited all delight, did not make her 
happy, what would be her resource henceforward? 

There was none. She was married. He. life 
was finished. She had espoused the man she loved 
— who loved her too, at least so she still thought 
— and who placed under her feet the velvet mantle 
of his tenderness as homage to the queen of his 
life. Wrongly then, she imputed her fits of long 
and vague sadness to herself. She accused her own 
disposition. Her passionate soul desired a caress 
every moment, and she was ashamed of this long- 
ing. How many times, fainting with sensual ar- 
dour and pudicity, had she not leant her head on 
Allan's shoulder without saying a word? He left 
her so, not knowing how the woman was agitated, 
believing her only to be slightly moved : and if he 
placed his lips on her forehead, or in her hair, 
the chaste wife, beneath his mouth that hardly 
skimmed over her skin, did not persist. 

She no longer asked Allan why he was sad. She 
was frightened lest he should answer with a "And 
why are you so dull ?" when she would have noth- 
ing to say. Nevertheless, each day her uneasiness 
was more pronounced. She finished up by confess- 



484 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ing to herself that she was unhappy, and she 
sobbed that day as if she had made a discovery. 

Now, pity Allan more than ever. Voluptuous- 
ness betrayed him, even as love had done. Up 
to then all the caresses with which he had cheated 
the truthfulness of his soul had been sincere ; but 
now — no ! He was driven into the corner where 
lurks deliberate falsehood. If he bent his oft hu- 
miliated pride to such mendacity, it was because, 
after all, he had loved the woman once; he had, 
sworn before God to make her happy ; and she was 
better than he. But generosity cannot last when 
one has to play a part. And besides, what use 
would that have been? Camilla was the dupe of 
false appearances, but when two lives have to be 
passed together, and one loves truly, can one be 
tricked for long? 

Now that Allan dropped away more and more 
from Camilla, his thoughts went back involuntar- 
ily, as during the wedding night, to the time when 
he loved Yseult. Placed between these women, 
he felt emptiness reach him through both of them. 
Yseult asked him no more questions than did Ca- 
milla. Thus all three lived their own life apart, 
feeling that all the family ties that united them 
had been imperceptibly and secretly broken. There 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 485 

was, therefore, less movement than ever in the 
marshy Chateau of the Willows. Soft and friendly 
words, spoken with cold and lying accents, and 
almost visible embarrassment; the fear of wound- 
ing each other's feelings — such was the result of 
the relationship of each hour. It was pitiable to 
see all these days drag slowly, one after the other, 
without bringing the least change. It was hor- 
rible to watch the interminable evenings in the 
drawing-room that Allan passed walking sadly up 
and down ; while Madame de Scudemor smoothed 
her bands of hair on her furrowed and thin tem- 
ples, and Camilla kept her eyes upon her work 
to hide the inflamed traces of the tears she had 
shed during the day, and which she did not dare 
to show, for fear she should be asked what had 
happened. 

One night the windows were open to the last 
breeze and noises of the day. Madame de Scude- 
mor, who was approaching the end of her preg- 
nancy, was more ill and downcast than ever as 
she reclined upon her sofa ; Camilla, more unhappy 
from her husband's frigidity, which, in spite of 
himself, began to pierce through their conjugal in- 
timacy; and Allan was in an inconceivable state 
of fatigue and despair. The emptiness of his soul 



486 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

horrified him. He wanted something to fill it. 
He desired anything, even had it been a crime or 
remorse ; and he went first to one and then to the 
other of the two women, withered rinds that had 
fallen from his lips and his hands, and that he 
would still have picked up again if he could. But 
Camilla was the most tortured, in spite of the 
plenitude of her youth ; and the most withered, in 
spite of all the splendour of her beauty, for she 
loved him. 

The room was bathed in deep shadow. One 
could hardly distinguish Madame de Scudemor 
huddled on her sofa ; Camilla, seated farther off, 
and Allan passing backwards and forwards be- 
tween them, wrapped in his dull silence. The sea 
of light reflected from the moon, as red as a de- 
capitated head rolling in a corner of the sky and 
illuminating the marsh, sent none of its ensan- 
guined gleams in the drawing-room through the 
jessamine of the windows, though it could be seen 
rising in sinister fashion on the foggy horizon. 
The plaintive croaking of the frogs could be heard 
repeated at short intervals in the silence of the 
fens; such resigned but painful harmony. For 
the last few days Camilla had nurtured the 
thought, which would never have occurred to a 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 487 

tender-hearted woman, that she had shown Allan 
too much love, and might exalt her husband's feel- 
ings if she hid her own a little more. With great 
trouble the poor coquette, in despair, had with- 
drawn into her shell ;but Allan paid no attention to 
this change in his wife's manner. Everything that 
drew him away from her relieved him too well to 
make him risk the least observation of a nature 
to soften distant behaviour delivering him of her 
presence; and unfortunate Camilla, who was on 
live coals, hoping that her husband might address 
her with some kinder word and occupy himself a 
little more with her, had lost all the fruit of her 
cruel efforts. 

"He takes no heed of anything," she said to 
herself. "Indeed, he loves me no longer." 

And the tears she felt well up seemed to be 
formed of the purest blood of her heart. That 
evening, for the first time since her marriage, Al- 
lan had come into the drawing-room without going 
and kissing her. That simple circumstance had 
thrown her into a state of real despair. An insect 
skimming over a liquid surface suffices to make a 
brimming cup overflow. 

At first it was only physical pain round the 
heart, the eyes remaining dry. Then came two 



488 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

big and burning tears. Next, as she would have 
died if that state of paroxysm had lasted, sobbing 
overtook her, and with such violence that she was 
obliged, so as not to betray herself, to leave the 
salon and retire to her room. Nevertheless, Allan 
continued to walk up and down with his monoton- 
ous step. Madame de Scudemor remained in the 
same position. Allan had seen and heard nothing. 
At that moment hell was in his heart, the purga- 
tory of passionately sensual men whose passion has 
departed, and who desire it again. He remarked 
with joy the flight of his wife when she was gone. 
She left him free, and impetuous and criminal 
thoughts seized upon his faculties and conquered 
his will. After a few moments' silence, he stopped, 
standing bolt upright in front of Madame de Scud- 
emor. She could not see him, but his voice gave 
the key to what he felt. 

"Yseult!" he said, in tones that came not from 
the throat, but from the chest, and with the sub- 
dued accents of a man afraid of what he is going 
to do. "Yseult!" 

"What do you want of me, my child?" she re- 
plied. 

"Why," said he sullenly, "do you call me child, 
when I am the father of yours ?" 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 489 

"Because," said she, with her unspeakable dig- 
nity, "I have never had but that name to give 
you." 

"You are right," he said, and he fell back on 
the sofa where she was seated, as if in despair. 

"Are your sufferings greater this evening?" he 
asked her, after a fresh pause, as if he was ashamed 
of himself. 

"Oh, Allan," she replied, with accents that she 
had never used when she spoke of herself, "it is 
not I who suffer most." 

He understood, for he remained mute. But it 
was not Yseulfs pity for her who was absent for 
the moment ; it was not such divine pity that could 
drive back the torrent of fatal thought carrying 
Allan away, and giving him into the power of the 
arch-fiend. 

He drew near to Madame de Scudemor, and 
roughly seizing her by the bosom, which resisted 
no longer as in bygone days, but which bent itself, 
soft and yielding, he sought for Yseult's mouth 
with his own lips in the dark. Yseult turned away 
her head. The kiss was lost in the little curls on 
the nape of her neck. Allan did not even press 
his lips heavily. Before he could have done so, 
he had felt that these vain approaches were fright- 



4'JO THE WRITINGS OF OSCAB WILDE. 

fully ironical, abominable irnpotency, and that 
tin- re was only regret in his being, which does not 
mean desire. His last attempt to escape from the 
emptiness of the desert, even by becoming crimi- 
nal, had missed fire, and fearing Yseulfs indig- 
nation, as she had struggled on his breast, he 
rushed away, and ran to shut himself up in the 
library, where he had no fear of being disturbed. 
He remained there some time — he knew not how 
long — a prey to the mad rage of a man rebelling 
against his weakness. Suddenly the door opened. 
It wa6 Camilla, in her dressing-gown, a lamp in 
her hand, as graceful as Psyche and as sad; for 
Psyche is the human soul, all the grief of life. 

"Allan," she said, not looking straight at him, 
with her swollen and violet-encircled eyes, "I have 
been waiting for you for three hours. I thought 
yon were in the drawing-room with my mother: 
but she has been in bed a long time. Everybody 
is asleep. I have been all over the Chateau to see 
what had become of you. You do not care if I 
am uneasy or not ?" 

The violent girl was getting quite gentle. 
"Why uneasy?" he answered rudely, although 
he tried to keep down his anger. 

And she rejoined with angelic tenderness : 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 491 

"Because you did not come to me." 

These words were pregnant with reproach which 
he did not understand. He could not realise that 
she should feel anxious about such a trifle. 

"Calm your childish terrors," said he sulkily, 
"and go back to your room. I will come and join 
you there in a few moments." 

"When you choose, my friend," she answered. 
"You are the master. Only pardon me for coming 
downstairs." 

And she slowly turned to go, leaving the lamp 
on the table. 

Her resignation touched him. 

"Camilla/' he said, as she was going, "are you 
off without wishing me good-night!" 

She offered him her forehead like a little girl, 
and answered, keeping back her tears : 

"But I shall not be asleep when you come up." 

But these rapid movements of tender feeling 
wrought no change in the state of Allan's soul. On 
the contrary, they increased his anguish. He re- 
membered that although he had taken charge of 
her life, he had neither the strength nor the will 
to make it a happy one. 

"All this cowardly trickery weighs me down," 
he thought. "I must confess all to Yseult." And 



492 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

feverishly he began to write to her, trying, like all 
men who are driven to desperation, to find relief 
in confession. 

In this horrible letter he said : 

"I have no fear of being hard on Camilla, as 
she loves me so much. I do not fear her despair! 
I only fear your scorn, Yseult! That is what 
keeps me from suicide. You who have suffered 
as much as I have, and are only a woman; you 
who by dropping a little opium in a teaspoon 
miffht have softly gone to sleep on your lace pil- 
low during one of the evenings of your cruel days, 
not to wake next morn, and who did not do so, 
you would have the right to despise me if I killed 
myself. You are all my pride, Yseult! I have 
none but what is vested in yon. 

"I understand you now, Yseult! I understand 
the malady of not being able to love any more. 
You only appeared to me to be an unfortunate 
woman, but I know now to what extent. Experi- 
ence, and not your words, has taught me. To 
suffer, when one loves, is sweet and good, for it is 
the happiness of martvrdom ; but to suffer because 
we can no longer love, that is the misfortune of 
life. A very great misfortune, too, for one can 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 493 

die of love, but not because we cannot love any 
more. 

"Have you been like me, Yseult? Did you 
try again to love, and have you felt that you could 
not? Is that a transient state ? Shall I be cured 
of it? Tell me! You are as calm as death, but 
did your last love make you so ? Before you ar- 
rived at that tomb-like stupor, did you desire to 
love, and regret love, but all in vain ? You never 
told me, Yseult ! To be inert is to live, and that 
still means suffering ; but not to wish to be inert, 
to struggle against the marble that mounts to your 
breast, and to feel that the stone is stronger than 
life itself, although it cannot stifle it — have you 
also suffered like that? 

"If so, Yseult, it was not necessary that you 
should have struggled on my breast two hours ago. 
Your experience betrayed you. Fear overcame 
you, as if you were an ordinary woman. 0, my 
great Yseult! I know not what brutal and scep- 
tical instinct just now moved you. You who can 
no more be polluted, you who know that only the 
soul can be soiled, what did you fear? Had you 
no longer any more confidence in yourself ? See, 
my arms have not yet finished their embrace. My 
lips only touched your hair. You are nothing now 



494 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

to me, not even a woman. If you knew that, why 
did you tremble? How I hoped that all was not 
finished between us! I had thought so often of 
you, even on Camilla's bosom! I have been so 
often unfaithful to her in my memories of you, 
that I hoped I should find some emotion of the 
past by your side— the horrible happiness of guilt ! 
But no ! my heart and fate are inflexible. I sought 
for incest, and neither my soul nor my senses were 
strong enough to enable me .to consummate it. 

"Yseult, I am tired of your daughter. All her 
flesh is in my way as I inhale it by my side at 
night. It fatigues me to have to torture her whole 
soul by day. Alas ! this lassitude is vain ; I cannot 
abjure my hangman's trade for her. Her beauty 
has not guaranteed her. Yet you remember, Yseult, 
how formerly I loved all that was beautiful in 
you. You have nothing like that to-day. You are 
old. You are ill. You are about to become a 
mother. T do not love you any more than I do 
your daughter. Why, then, in the horroT of my 
nothingness, did I return from your daughter to 
you? Miserable wretches that we are, we do not 
even know how to deceive ourselves! It seemed 
to me that my remembrances burnt me like fire; it 
was dark; I could not see you, Yseult. But my 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 495 

mad sensuality could not be affrighted. Oh! if 
it had been in the daytime, if we could have seen 
each other, do you not think that we, knowing all 
about the heart and its incomprehensible limits, 
might have laughed in each other's faces?" 



496 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XVII. 

This letter calmed Allan a little. He had said 
"us" to her whose noble misfortune he had so long 
respected, and the word "us" did him some good^ 
It was a ricochet of vanity, and he was proud of 
the blow that had struck him down. Before fall- 
ing so low he had had moral disgust of his suf* 
f erings ; but now they seemed to him more poetical, 
and so they were in fact; the poetical side of hu- 
man grief is its infinity. 

But bv lifting himself up to the level of Yseult; 
by looking at his situation, so long accursed, and 
at last accepted, with the eyes of pride having one 
common centre, all the generosity there was in 
his general behaviour towards Camilla disappeared. 
He forgot her, although she had not absented her- 
self. Indifference is the absence of those who 
are there. Kind words and kisses become no more 
than the familiar commonplaces of a marriage 
without meaning or tenderness. If he had been 
hard to his wife, he ceased to be so. Indifferent 
people are so affable ! Alas I that was all the more 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 497 

cruel for her. But man has such need of sincer- 
ity in his life that sooner or later everything that 
he desires to hold secret is found out. 

The last tears he shed were with Camilla, dur- 
ing a silent stroll. That day she wept like him, 
and neither one nor the other asked inwardly the 
reason of the mute weeping. No kiss wiped away 
the traces of the tears, and they did not even turn 
away their faces to mutually hide their grief. All 
questions were useless. They had loved each other, 
they were twenty, and had hardly heen married 
a month ! Which was the most unhappy of these 
two young people — the girl who knew she was no 
longer loved, or the youth who felt that he could no 
longer love in future ? 

But Allan could not detach himself quickly 
from the sensibility that was drying up within him, 
and he tried to cheat himself, although he did not 
seek refuge in love. 

"At least," said he to Yseult, with whom he 
passed part of the day, forgetting his wife, who 
now only came down rarely into the drawing- 
room, "let us be friends by our thoughts, if we 
can no longer be so by the heart. Let us go 
through life in solitude, without asking more of 
that which it has not granted us. Let us judge 



49S THE WHITINGS OF OSCAE WILDE. 

existence without reproaching it with our mistaken 
hopes. Like you, Yseult, I wish to accept this 
renouncement of all things which has dawned upon 
us earlier and more completely than is usual with 
the rest of mankind. Let us march like two broth- 
ers-in-arms through the battle of life, encased in 
the icy steel of our armour tempered by the an- 
guish of experience, and remain friends and com- 
rades in the same misfortune. Will you? That 
I once loved you, Yseult; that you were for me 
what the world calls a mistress — what matters it? 
That you are Camilla's mother — what matter once 
again? Let us rise superior to these broken ties 
in which our souls could not live. Let us leave to 
others, happier than ourselves, familiar respect and 
the religion of remembrance! Love has aban- 
doned us, leaving us desolate and emptied of all 
that which it does not tear from others when they 
are abandoned as we are. But, Yseult, could you 
not be something more or less than you were for 
me formerly? Between a man and a woman is 
there only the relationship of lover and mistress? 
Is there not something greater and more beau- 
tiful? Can you not become my sister by your 
thoughts, as I am your brother by your suffer- 
ings ? Can we not both find ourselves in that im- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 499 

mensity which belongs to us, and where is to be 
found reflection and grief? Because the heart 
has ceased to throb, because the organs have given 
way, because God has not willed that love should 
last out the life of man, must we cease to exist 
when love has left us? Is not our nature spirit- 
ual? Has intelligence no chaste embraces? Like 
our weak arms, is it tired of holding on to the 
goal to which it aspired, once it is attained? I 
know that this would not be happiness, but it 
would be a sadder state, more ideal, and full of 
pride. Men have no name for it because they ig- 
nore it. It means the union of two souls who 
have been truly tried in the comprehension of life. 
I have read somewhere, in the works of a great 
poet, a sentence worthy of the impure multitude ; 
it is that those who have loved can no longer love 
each other when love has fled, and that the feeling 
which had given a share of heaven to two poor crea- 
tures was always followed by hatred, oblivion, or 
shame in their souls. Great Heaven, can this be 
true ? Are there on this earth no women stronger, 
truer, and more sincere than cowardly courtesans 
with hearts of stone? Some only wear a mask, as 
at the opera ball, but these never take it off, and 
when they are bold enough to carry their ego on 



500 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

their faces, are the apostates of all the feelings 
of love in a travesty of repentance and tinsel vir- 
tues. And should there be but one who is strong 
and true, Yseult, let it be you ! Put this disin- 
terestedness for all joys of the feelings between me 
whom you did not love and you who nevertheless 
gave yourself to me ! Let us sign this bold pact of 
alliance, and give this example to the world ! It 
will be stupid enough to be astonished, but it would 
be still more astonished if it knew to what love 
this intimacy was going to succeed, higher and 
rarer than sensuality! Perhaps it may even be 
calumniated. Man is so deeply vile that all ac- 
tions he does not understand become villainous for 
him, because then he is always sure to understand 
them. But, insulted by society, we shall draw 
closer to each other, too old and too proudly care- 
less to give ourselves airs of martyrdom beneath 
all these fingers of scorn pointed at us!" 

But to this young man, fascinated by what 
seemed to be strength, the most beautiful thing on 
earth barring virtue, to this imagination of a poet, 
who spoke so ambitiously of giving a noble spec- 
tacle to the world, and who stood so high draped 
in solitary grief, amid the scornful groans of the 
crowd, the discouraged woman replied: 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 501 

"What you propose to me is no longer possible, 
Allan. No, Allan, not even that — not even that! 
Oh, poet, you imagine that it would be more beau- 
tiful than love, this incomprehensible feeling, 
which should be no longer love, but which would 
be, believe me, still the desire of love — a mad de- 
sire, arising fatally from our greatest despair. 
When will the heart stop itself from giving birth 
to this eternal illusion? Do you not know that 
only sentiment draws one unto another? Why do 
you speak to me of thoughts? To think brings 
isolation and concentration. Thought is a two- 
handed sword that clears the air around one. My 
arm is too tired to lift that weapon. And besides, 
to be brother and sister as you said is still to love 
each other, and I know not how to. You are a 
man. You have active and fresh faculties. Mine 
are enervated, and could not rise to the haughty 
and sublime wisdom of which you dream. You are 
right, however, there is something imposing and 
sincere in the conduct of those females who cry 
aloud to society : 'I have been that man's mistress, 
and to be so no longer has not separated us. We 
have not done as those who furtively glide from 
the threshold of mystery into darkness, wiping 
their mouths with quivering hands, as there re- 



502 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

mains some avengeful and shameful trace on the 
lips.' Alas! such a part, that at another period 
I might have been tempted to play, suits me no 
more. You have always presented me with an ex- 
aggerated portrait of myself, Allan, but you will 
finish by believing me to be what I really am!" 

So she refused everything because she was cap- 
able of nothing. The last enthusiasm of man— 
the enthusiasm of pride— was broken against the 
stern reality of his misfortune. Having got so 
far, Allan was on the point of despising her, but 
he had not the courage to do so. Her devotion 
overawed him. Would Allan's scorn overwhelm 
wretched Yseult later on, to complete the sum to- 
tal of bitterness that had poisoned her career, and 
show, once more, the innate and imperishable in- 
gratitude of the human heart? 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 503 



XVIII. 

One night of summer and storm, when the heat 
was overpowering, and made sleep as deep as apo- 
plexy, Allan rose in the darkness and sat himself 
to listen if Camilla by his side was really sleeping. 
Often he thought she was immersed in slumber 
when she was awake, sobbing in the dark. He 
called her several times, and with great pre- 
caution, and seeing that she was asleep, got out 
of bed, and dressed in all haste. 

Mechanically he looked out of the window. The 
sky was copper colour, with heavy clouds in places, 
and every second or so a pale lightning flash 
showed itself quickly on the horizon, followed by 
a deep and low growling rumble. The willows 
of the marshes never moved. There was not a 
sound to be heard save the distant thunder. It 
was a solemn and anxious night for Allan, for as 
it came nearer the artillery of heaven might have 
woke Camilla. So he placed the pillows round 
his wife's face to intercept the noise of the storm. 
She was in danger of stifling with concentrated 



504 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

heat beneath the pillows accumulated around her, 
and already abundant sweat ran down from her 
forehead. Allan felt his hand, that touched her 
face by accident, become quite moist, but he had 
no pity. He continued his arrangements, and drew 
the curtains of the bed and the windows, the gleam 
of the lightning not showing through the material 
of which they were made. 

Then he went out of the room on tiptoe, like 
a criminal. He had already passed along, hiding 
himself in these long corridors by night, when the 
echo of his footstep made him shudder in spite 
of himself. But the actual state of his soul did 
not remind him of what he felt then. He opened 
the same door of which he had frequently turned 
the knob at such an hour, and went into Madame 
de Scudemor's room. 

She was stretched upon the bed, a shawl negli- 
gently tied round her head, which was half-leaning 
out of the bed, and which he tried to lift up. 

"Well?" said he, supporting her in fright. 

"For the last four hours I have suffered atro- 
cious pain. To suffer is nothing, but I tremble 
for this child's life. You must go and fetch a 
doctor !" 

"A doctor?" he replied, with astonishment. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 505 

"Yes, a doctor, my friend," she continued. "I 
suffer so much that I have an idea the forceps 
must be used for my deliverance. Neither you 
nor I anticipated such a contingency, hut that must 
not alarm us any more than if we had been pre- 
pared for it. In the neighbouring village there 
is a doctor who is well spoken of. He is a simple 
and tender soul. Go and fetch him quickly, and 
hring him here to me in secret." 

Allan was about to obey, but he did not utter 
the thought that occupied his mind. Yseult guessed 
it as she looked at him. 

"What!" she exclaimed. "Does your philoso- 
phy abandon you already? What has become of 
all the bold, manly words you so loudly enunci- 
ated the other day? Come, my friend, why do you 
trouble for me? What care I for the judgment 
of men? Do you think that I crave for anybody's 
opinion ?" 

"From you nothing astonishes me," answered 
Allan respectfully, and, after having kissed the 
moist, cold hand she tendered him, he went out 
with the same precautions as when he had en- 
tered. 

It was something to rend the soul to see that 
woman writhing in agony during the long hours 



506 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

of the night, and from whom, in her solitude, there 
escaped not a complaint. No one was there to 
surround her with the cherishing care that her 
state demanded ; no one, not even a hired female, 
to replace the tumbled bedclothes or sloping mat- 
tress. She was abandoned by God and man ! And 
if one of her maids had entered by chance, think- 
ing that "Madame had rung," she would have 
wound the coverlet still closer round herself, and, 
forcing her distorted features to assume an ex- 
pression of insignificant impassibility, she would 
have quietly said to the girl who might have re- 
lieved her, "No, I do not want you !" From time 
to time she stretched out her naked arm, and took 
from the night-table a phial, that she smelt bo as 
not to faint away entirely. More than ever the 
deep, low growl of the thunder could be heard; 
and the lightning flashes, rapidly following one 
upon the other, continually dulled the weak and 
discreet flicker of the night-light, throwing a phos- 
phorescent gleam on the bluish pallor of her face, 
which now only gave signs of life by the imprint 
of pain. Her blackened eyelids fell heavily, veil- 
ing her dulled eyes, and deep hollows surrounded 
her nostrils. It was a sight of proud awe— this 
silent struggle against pain ; this torture between 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 507 

four walls, while without Nature roared furiously. 
Creation, Immensity, Strength, and Eternity gave 
out their terrible groans; but the weak, feeble, 
mortal creature stifled all hers. The dumb, inward 
rendings of the woman were more majestic than 
those of the firmament. 

Half an hour had passed when Allan returned 
with the doctor, whom he had with difficulty guid- 
ed through the darkness of the staircases and cor- 
ridors. The worthy man had been very surprised 
when he saw Monsieur de Cynthry come to fetch 
him at such an hour. But his timidity did not 
overcome his feelings of politeness, and he fol- 
lowed Allan without hazarding a question. The 
furtive manner with which he was introduced into 
the mansion showed sufficiently that reliance was 
placed on his discretion. But his astonishment 
was boundless when he approached Madame de 
Scudemor's bed ; and Allan said to him, his down- 
cast eyes full of suffering pride for Yseult: 

"Here is the patient, sir." 

Yseult lifted her heavy eyelids at the sound of 
his voice, but her eyes had lost their fixity. They 
were vague, as if extinguished, and seemed to swim 
in opaque moisture. She turned them towards the 
doctor and said to him : 



508 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"I returned from Italy enceinte, sir. I had to 
conceal my state from my daughter. My son-in- 
law, Monsieur de Cynthry, and you, whom I have 
sent for myself, are the only two persons to whom 
I have confided my secret." 

And the simple way she spoke was so imposing 
that the doctor in his turn dropped his eyes be- 
neath the glance of her pupils that looked without 
seeing. Yseult had a way about her which pre- 
vented vulgar-minded persons from showing their 
stupid contempt. With a word or a gesture, she 
placed herself in a twinkling far above every con- 
demnation. 

The warning presentiments of Madame de Scud- 
emor had not deceived her. The accouchement 
threatened to be excessively dangerous. It was 
imperative to use the forceps. 

A fit of nervous trembling overcame Allan as he 
leant against one of the bed-posts looking at 
Yseult, who was a prey to the most violent con- 
tractions; and when he saw the doctor take hold 
of the cold blue steel, he seemed to feel the bite of 
it. Instinctively he turned away his head. Yseult, 
judging his movement, said to him with her ha- 
bitual smile: 

"Allan, return to your wife*s side. I am afraid 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 509 

she may wake. The doctor is here. I do not want 
you now." 

But Allan refused to leave her. He even de- 
sired to hold her and support her during the cruel 
operation. His breast became a cushion for her 
head, formerly so beautiful and so much- loved, 
unrecognisable now through the hastening of age 
and anguish, but which at that moment showed 
such force of will that nothing would ever make 
him forget it. He was the cause of the suffering 
she endured. Each fresh spasm of pain brought 
him more remorse. Meanwhile, the tempest had 
reached its highest point of fury. The thunder 
rolled with frightful noise. The sky seen through 
the casement was black, and wind and rain raged 
furiously. The time passed. Yseult's strength 
was gradually becoming exhausted, and the child 
came not. The doctor, with swollen forehead, on 
which the veins stood out in relief, bent over until 
his head almost touched Madame de Scudemor's 
"bosom, and as pale as she, went on with his work, 
affrighted, as it were, at such resistance as he more 
Tapidly attacked the rebellious organism. 

"Well, sir?" Allan said, now and again to the 
doctor, who answered not, who did not raise his 
head, but nodded uneasily. Suddenly he stopped, 



510 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

as if struck with an idea. He was discouraged. 
He looked at Allan with a fatal look, and made a 
step to lead him out of Yseult's hearing. 

"I understand you, sir," said Allan. "If there 
is a determination to be taken, kill the child and 
save the mother !" 

But already Yseult had risen up amidst the 
blood-stained sheets where she was lying, pale and 
inanimate. She had found strength to do so. 

" 'Tis I who should die !" she cried, and her 
movement was impetuous, while her brow was lit 
up with sudden joy. 

She fell back, repeating once more with em- 
phasis : 

" 'Tis I who should die !" 

"That is the cry of a mother !" said the doctor- 
to Allan, this astonishing energy in the midst of 
the universal break-up of the organs having de- 
ceived the man of science. The poor man could 
see nothing more than the sentiment of maternity. 
Alas ! it was the cry of a miserable woman, which 
for Allan summed up her entire existence. He 
had not the courage to oppose Yseult's desire, 
thinking that he had not the right to deprive her 
of this last hope of liberty. Perhaps he, too, was 
thinking of her child ? Be that as it may, he an- 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 511 

swered the doctor, whose inquiring glance was still 
fixed upon him : 

"Do as she wishes !" And he hid his face in his 
hands. 

The doctor reflected for a moment, then as each 
instant wasted put two lives in danger, instead of 
one, he set to work again. He was a long time. 
But at last the child sprang into the world, in a 
wave of its mother's hlood. 

She had fainted away entirely. Allan, whose 
sensations were unspeakable, with features that 
he tried to keep calm, received in his arms the 
child that was his, but whom he dared not kiss. He 
plunged it in the basin, where the doctor poured 
tepid water. He wiped it and wrapped it in a 
silken mantle that Yseult had forgotten the even- 
ing before on the back of an arm-chair. The un- 
happy father, to give the first kiss to his child, 
was obliged to watch lest the doctor, busy caring 
for Yseult, should see him. 

Nevertheless, Madame de Scudemor little by lit- 
tle regained her senses. Scarcely had she opened 
her eyes than she said to the doctor : 

"Is the child dead, since I am alive ?" 

"No, madame," he replied, "the infant is not 
dead." 



512 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

x\nd Allan, with tears in his eyes, placed it on 
its mother's bed. 

"Oh, sir," returned Madame de Scudemor, with 
a sad expression of regret, "has your talent sur- 
passed your fears?'' 

"Madame," replied the doctor, beginning to un- 
derstand the despair of consummate misfortune 
where he had only seen maternal instinct, "do not 
reproach me. I have done as you wished." 

Yseult thanked him with a graceful and tender 
smile of gratitude. She breathed more freely now, 
as she felt the hook of life that had so long 
wounded her flesh dropping away from her, as 
well as the tunic of existence too narrow for the 
powerful dilatation of her soul. She knew she had 
received her death-wound. And the good doctor 
understood perhaps that it was not the mother who 
had asked to die ! 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 513 



XIX. 

Day began to break, and the last shower of the 
storm was spent. A rosy light covered the sky 
on the side opposite to the sun, which shewed the 
half of its globe on the horizon. A few clouds, 
carried away by a fresh breeze, let vague and dis- 
tant resounding sounds escape from their flanks, 
as when pain is past with us a few sighs yet re- 
main. On the road to Sainte-Mere-Eglise, the 
wheat-ears, soaked with the rain, sparkled in the 
first rays of the sun, forming a kind of sea of light 
with smiles in the undulations of its waves. Na- 
ture resembled a woman stepping out of her bath, 
and twisting her hair, still bedewed with foam, 
which she lets drip in the palms of her tightened 
hands. The perfume of thyme floated in the air 
refreshed by the storm. At this matutinal hour, 
when sound carries farther perhaps than at night, 
the cocks could be heard crowing in the most dis- 
tant dwellings. The tramp— the nomad of impo- 
tent civilisation— left the barn, where an asylum 
had been granted him the evening before — and 



514 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

closing without noise the gate of the farmyard, 
took to the road, of which the rain had darkened 
the reddish hue, before the country folk had re- 
commenced their daily tasks. 

At that moment, Allan, lying by the side of 
Camilla, thought of Yseult, whom he had been 
forced to leave by herself to return to his wife, 
from whom he was obliged to conceal everything. 
He had learnt from the doctor, whom he had con- 
ducted to the gates of the Chateau, that Yseult's 
death was not imminent, thanks to the strength 
she possessed, and that her life might be pro- 
longed a few days. This consideration only — and 
not the commands of Madame de Scudemor— had 
made him decide to leave her and return to his 
wife's room. By the most lucky chance, she had 
not woke. 

The rest that Yseult required so much after such 
violent shocks was only the atony of fatigue. When 
daylight began to drown the yellow flame of the 
night-light in its white and brilliant splendour, she 
looked sweetly, if not tenderly, at the child resting 
on her breast. It was a girl. She would have pre- 
ferred a son; for she knew that the strongest 
women always succumb in their struggle with so- 
ciety — heroines conquered by numbers. 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 515 

"Did I possess the superstition of blessings," she 
thought, "I would bless you, oh, my daughter, for 
having condemned me to death by your birth !" 

That day and the following ones it was known 
at the Willows that Madame de Scudemor was so 
ill that she was obliged to keep to her bed. Her 
ladies' maids performed their duties round her; 
Camilla herself came often to see her in the day- 
time, and nobody guessed that a child was there 
asleep, hidden beneath its mother's counterpane. 
When the infant was about to awaken, Yseult soon 
found some pretext for getting rid of the people 
in her room. Her habitual manner, serious and re- 
served, did away with all suspicion. The doctor 
who had delivered her was sent for officially. He 
told Camilla that her mother was dangerously ill, 
but without entering into details. 

It was Allan who passed most of his time with 
the patient. He remained obstinately by her side, 
inventing all kinds of pretexts, although she in- 
sisted that he should leave her when the others 
did. If Camilla had not been engrossed with the 
despairing thought that her husband no longer 
cared for her, what would she have thought to see 
Allan incessantly at her mother's bedside, and she 
always wishing to surfer in solitude, ever trying to 



516 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

drive him from her presence? But Allan, who had 
so much deceived her, was now tired and careless, 
no longer possessing the sad courage of prudence. 
He little cared for whatever might befall. "All 
will come to a crisis," he said to himself, and he 
did not recoil from that contingency which up to 
now he had looked upon with fright. He would 
willingly have confessed all to Camilla. And if he 
was silent, if he still took precautions, it was for 
the sake of Yseult; it was for Camilla, it was 
through fearing to sully the relationship existing 
between mother and daughter ; but most certainly 
he did not wish to screen himself. 

Nevertheless, as the state Madame de Scudemor 
was in was full of danger that the doctor did not 
seek to dissimulate, and as she required some one 
to sit up with her at night, Allan told his wife 
that he would watch by her mother's side. 

"For your mother," he said to her, "I ought to 
do what you would do yourself, were you not in a J 
position that calls for the greatest care." 

He wished to allude to her pregnancy, and he 
had not the courage to speak otherwise about it. 
Was he not a happy husband? not daring to talk 
to his pregnant wife about the child she carries in 
her womb, between two kisses, making use of a 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 517 

charming babble of pet names during these divine 
familiariti&s. Allan spoke about it in good taste 
as might a stranger. Camilla, indifferent to every 
decision since she had discovered that her husband 
loved her no more, seemed to find his conduct 
quite natural, and did not venture to put the least 
question. The unhappy woman perhaps thought 
that during her nights of solitude she would be 
more free to weep. 

Allan therefore sacrificed his repose to Yseult. 
He nursed her in the sick-room as if he was a ten- 
der woman and not a man. It is true that he 
could thus enjoy without disguise the delight of 
being a father. The weight of his daughter upon 
his knees caused him to support fatigue more 
easily. The pity he felt for Yseult was lost in his 
incessant and dumb contemplation of the little 
creature, and her mother was forgotten. The last 
scrap of sentiment of the man who had adored 
her was torn from Yseult by her child. More than 
once from her bed, looking at him in the light 
of the burning embers, leaning over the face of 
the sleeping babe, that idea came to her, and she 
never even heaved a sigh. 

Yseult's child was brimming over with life. She 
belonged to the same strong breed as her mother. 



518 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"And you, too," she said to it one evening, as 
she rolled it in its swaddling clothes, "will not be 
broken down with grief in a day !" 

Allan admired his daughter's beauty; for al- 
ready one could guess that she would be as lovely 
as all those who — mysterious law of Nature ! — are 
the offspring of furtive and guilty unions. Why 
is it, then, that what men sully produces what is 
most beautiful in this world? 

Allan was on his knees on the carpet at the side 
of Madame de Scudemors bed. The shawl that 
was round Yseult's head had come undone by the 
movement she had made in lifting up her child. 
Her tresses, so long and so thick, of which the 
brilliant blackness had faded away beneath the 
<_ r rcat and inflexible pallor of age that invades the 
brow and mounts higher, were now as grey as twi- 
light, and they fell with sad melancholy over her 
shoulders as if weeping for her. 

"She will soon do without me," she said to 
Allan, showing him the child clinging to her with- 
ered breast. "In two or three days' time you will 
carry her to some wet-nurse in the neighbourhood, 
who will give her something better than this scarce 
milk of an exhausted breast. You will watch 
over her, Allan, for I see that you love her already, 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 519 

and may you feel this affection for her for many a 
long day yet !" 

"Do you believe," replied Allan, "that one can 
ever be estranged from one's own child, when once 
one has begun to love it ?" 

"We can become estranged from everything," 
she answered. "I began by loving Camilla. She 
was not the fruit of solitary voluptuousness. Cam- 
illa's father was loved by me. But a last love, 
more devouring than all the rest, made me curse 
the day when Camilla came into the world. Do 
you know that often with Octave, when he whis- 
pered those things to me, which are nothing, but 
which go to make up the intimacy of life; and 
when I saw him pass his fingers through my 
daughter's hair, I was forced to struggle against 
myself in most abominable fashion lest I crush 
her innocent head on the pavement ! Since then, 
when my love for Octave died out like all the 
other loves, as I told you, all my power of affection 
was destroyed. But even had it not been so, affec- 
tion is not a chain that can be broken and taken 
up again at will. I call you to witness — you, Allan, 
who have loved me ! — could you love me again a 
second time? No ! when we separate, it is for ever, 
and all farewells are eternal. Why, then, Allan, 



520 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

may not this child one day become odious in your 
sight? Why might she not become indifferent to 
you ? A new love may spring up in you, and then 
how would the most adored child weigh in your 
heart against the absorbing love that would come 
and fill up every cranny?" 

"Love? No, no!" murmured Allan, for he 
dared not affirm it in the presence of the woman 
whose daughter he had loved in spite of so much 
unavailing torture. 

"You are still so young, my son," continued 
Yseult, "and we often think the heart dead when 
it is only slumbering. But do you not deceive 
yourself perhaps, for is not fatherly affection quite 
as fickle as all other love ? And is it not set down 
in the destiny of mortals," she added, leaving the 
impress of her nails upon her forehead, "that all 
that makes us happy cannot last?" 

Allan did not reply to these fatal words, but in 
his soul there was an echo that spoke for him. 

"And you are not bound to believe me, Allan," 
she went on, "but these are awful feelings of 
fright, either instinctive or the outcome of experi- 
ence, never deceiving those whom they warn. Have 
they ever deceived you? You loved Camilla and 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 521 

she loved you. Well, then, did you not feel that 
love slipping away from you ? Did not your hap- 
piness dry up quicker than a drop of dew in the 
sun ? You tightened your embrace, but you could 
not hold back departing love. And you dived down 
deeper and deeper into the midst of caresses, until 
the day at last arrived when there was not a smile 
on your lips, and the caress in which you wished 
to forget yourself entirely came no more to your 
arms. 

"Do not hang your head like that, Allan ! I do 
not accuse or complain, either in my daughter's 
name or mine. I pity you, you who no longer love 
her ; but I pity her still more, she who loves you, 
and who is no longer loved. You wrote to me that 
the only thing you feared in this world was my 
scorn. Do you not know, boy, that where there is 
grief, it is impossible for a woman to feel scorn ? 

"Men are not like that. When they despise they 
kill, and finish off the suffering woman. You are 
a man, Allan. Have you not often blushed to in- 
spire that pity, which is the sublime or miserable 
scorn of woman, and which men understand so lit- 
tle that they only accept it as an insult ? 

"Before you confessed it to me, Allan, I knew 



522 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

that you did not love my daughter any more. I 
recognised in you, alas ! the history of everything 
that is human. You despised poor humanity, hut 
let us absolve and weep for the person who suf- 
fers from this scorn ! That is what I said to my- 
self. My pity was still vivacious and indestructi- 
ble. It was so strong, Allan, that on your wedding 
day, seeing you gloomy and pale at the altar, I 
guessed at what you afterwards thought you re- 
vealed to me. I perceived that this marriage was 
an iron yoke beneath which you bent your head, 
and the thought struck me that I could break it 
with a word. The sight of Camilla stopped me ; 
for this word, if spoken for you, would have struck 
her down in the midst of her joy. She was the 
weakest. She was guilty in the eyes of the world. 
She did not possess bold strength with which to 
affront bitter scorn. And you, with her or with* 
out her, Allan, would you be more happy ? Such 
was the terrible combat that was tumultously agi- 
tating my soul, but which resulted in the victory 
of the weakest — of her who has since been aban- 
doned ! My pity conquered my pity, and I turned 
my head away not to hear the blessing which the 
priest often thrusts upon two souls as if it was the 
knife of a sacrifice ; and in my horTor of fate, I let 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 523 

the seal of what is irrevocable fall upon your lives, 
where the hand of man trembled not as he wrote 
the name of God, because what was more irrevoca- 
ble than this sacrilegious law was the misfortune 
that awaited both of you F 

"And it came," said Allan, "sparing neither of 
us !" 

He hid his face in Yseult's bedclothes, as if seek- 
ing to escape from the inevitable yoke of which he 
complained. 

"Yes ! it came" rejoined Yseult, passing her 
long fingers in the curly locks of her son-in-law. 
"But as you love your child, Allan, you have now 
an interest in life, and in the fight against destiny 
all is not yet lost for you. Even if it was, Allan, 
I would try to encourage you, and elevate you in 
your own eyes. You are a man; you should be 
greater than Yseult, whose heart failed her. Be a 
man, then, and show that you have that strength 
which poor women lack !" 

"Why this prayer to me?" said Allan, lifting his 
head with a nervous vibration in his voice. 

Then they looked at each other like the augurs 
staring, unable to keep up mutual deceit. 

She did not smile, but dropped her eyes without 
answering. 



52± THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

"Pity ! Always pity !" exclaimed Allan, after a 
pause, with his voice broken at the thought that 
had answered for her. "Always the execrable im- 
potency of pity ! Spare it me ! I am tired of it ! 
Speak not to me of grandeur, Yseult ! Look you— 
I should not believe you. Your voice dies away on 
your lips. Your hollow words, without conviction, 
form naught but vain and sterile sounds. I should 
not believe you more than you would believe your- 
self ! In the name of what would you persuade 
me? In the Dame of pride? You do not believe 
in it. In the name of God ? Unhappy woman, you 
do not believe in Him either ! What becomes of 
human greatness when God and pride no longer 
exist in us, and we are left in darkness? Some- 
thing devoid of sense, Yseult, more stupid in your 
mouth than in mine — intolerable derision !" 

"You have spoken truly !" she answered, and she 
fell back, overburdened, her hair straggling over 
the pillows where she dragged her heavy head, 
twisting her tresses round her stretched neck like 
cables eaten away by sea-salt after a shipwreck. 

"Behold !" she added, in the most frightful tone 
of her colourless voice, clutching her child that 
she held to her breast, and tearing it away with 
the noise of interrupted suckling so abruptly that 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 525 

the nipple was encircled with pink blood and dis- 
coloured, while the babe rolled to the foot of the 
bed. "And since I can do nothing for yon, may 
this stupid and cruel pity be accursed ! Leave me, 
and let me die !" 



526 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 



XX. 

But neither that night nor the following ones 
did Allan obey the despairing commands of 
Madame de Scudemor, and she did not repeat 
them. She suffered him to watch by her bedside, 
give her to drink now and again, and lift her up 
in her bed, which each day became harder and 
more comfortless. She paid this physical care with 
soft and discouraged thanks, but otherwise she re- 
mained silent. What could she tell him now? 
Everything had been said. Her words had fallen 
upon his heart as if they had been heavy stones. 
On the other hand, perhaps the pain she was in 
had caused her to withdraw within herself. All 
suffering, even the least noble, causes isolation in 
sturdy souls. 

Her malady took a turn for the worse. The 
doctor had spoken to Camilla of the dismal out- 
look. She did not realise what was killing her 
mother, but she could see that she was about to 
pass away. One evening she kissed the cold and 
clammy hand of Yseult with the tender respect 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 527 

that we feel for the dying, and retired to her 
room, in obedience to Allan's wish, as he had a 
presentiment that the night would be the last he 
would pass at the side of the bed, whence a fore- 
taste of the odour of the grave was exhaled already 
from every breath of the dying woman. The air 
of the room was suffocating with feverish heat, and 
as Allan feared that this vitiated atmosphere 
might be mortal for the delicate flower of a few 
days of age, for the poor babe breathed with diffi- 
culty, so heavy was it for its young lungs, in the 
stifling bedclothes of its mother, that he tore it 
from her side and carried it to the window, which 
he opened. The yellow jessamine gave out its 
southern perfume. The country was hushed in re- 
pose. The stars might have been heard to shud- 
der in the deep air of night, if their twinkling 
had not been as silent as happy thoughts. It was 
peaceful night such as might bring relief in the 
eternity of all things. Allan seemed to draw life 
for the fragile infant from God's divine reservoir, 
the beautiful blue lake in which swam all sleep- 
ing nature; and the child, in the bosom of the 
blossoms and on the muscular chest of its father, 
received a baptism of strength and life in the mys- 
terious effluences that come invisibly from heaven. 



528 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

In the silence, Yseult's breath dragged slowly, 
with a rattle in the throat. The fecund dew in 
which Allan bathed his daughter, and in which 
nature was rejuvenated, had perhaps moistened the 
darkened brow of the dying woman, which was 
painfully perspiring with the sweat of the supreme 
moment, like oil used by the athlete for the last 
combat in the great arena of death; or mayhap 
it brought the relief of ephemeral freshness to the 
burning ardour of the veins of her temples, which, 
once blue, grew blacker every instant. Allan did 
not even give that a thought. He drenched his 
tiny girl with the pure air, with the softness of the 
night, with floral perfume and caresses, while the 
mother was expiring at the other end of the room, 
and, in the egotism of his paternal feelings, he 
did not even think of gathering for the mother a 
bunch of the balmy jessamine which, placed upon 
the lips of the dying creature, would have brought 
her some sweet and soft sensation in a moment 
when all was anguish and torture. 

Suddenly Yseult called him. He went to her, 
after having placed his daughter on the sofa, sur- 
prised that she should have regained the conscious- 
ness that he thought was lost. She supported her- 
self on her elbow — the position of her whole life 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 529 

since passion had ceased to agitate her ; since from 
the four cardinal points no breeze had sprung up 
to play round the prostrate column. She resem- 
bled the satiated guest of antiquity, about to quit 
the banquet. But the poison that had been drained 
to the dregs was spreading, like mortal hemlock, in 
greenish, mobile shades on the surface of the bosom 
that had imbibed it from within. 

"Allan, Allan, listen to me!" she said to him, 
"for I know I am dying. Men believe that the de- 
sires of those about to die are sacred. If you 
think so, too, listen to me ! Do not give my name 
to my daughter. I will not have my remembrance 
live after me. I do not wish you ever to speak to 
her of her mother. I do not ask this for me, but 
for her. Let my daughter despise me, my scorn 
hurts me more than hers can ever do ; but for her 
sake, in God's name ! if you possess the happiness 
of believing in Him, never cause her to blush and 
suffer by sometimes speaking of me." 

"What an unfathomable abyss is your brain!" 
rejoined Allan, taking the hand that she extended 
towards him. "Ah! Yseult, Yseult, creature of 
one long and continued sacrifice, who has the right 
to despise you in this world ?" 

"I myself !" she answered, with a tone of harsh- 



530 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

ness. "The approach of death throws a new and 
unexpected light on the past, till then so badly 
judged by us. For the last three clays you thought 
I was downcast, but inwardly I was passing in re- 
view my whole life. I had no mercy for my own 
existence. Not one of the incidents of my misera- 
ble career escapes my heart-felt scorn. Vainly in 
love, as when love had fled, did I always sacrifice 
myself. In vain was I always good and kind, when 
I could no longer be loving. It was not sufficient 
that instinctive compassion always dictated my res- 
olutions. Doubtless there is something more per- 
fect than such sacrifice, since it never absolves us 
in our own eyes ! 

"But what more do I mean to say?" she re- 
peated, with thoughtful anxiety, not feeling great 
pain, but in deeply touching tones, leaving her 
hand in Allan's and only looking into her soul 
with a glassy stare. "How do you call that un- 
attained goal, which one has sought, and which 
one thinks one has reached long ago? Is it the 
irony of fate? or a punishment of Providence? 
Tell us which is stupid and which mocks us ? 'Tis 
I who blaspheme ; for there is a world of sinners— 
so speak those who have faith — reconciled with 
themselves; souls who believe that they are par- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 531 

doned in their heart of hearts ; creatures who have 
taken tranquil refuge in the loyalty of their in- 
tentions. There exist many such. I might have 
been counted among them once, when pity swayed 
me as love had done; when I immolated my pride 
each time that there was some grief to be appeased. 
I have known the peace that escapes me now. And 
if it abandons me this day, is it because death has 
inflicted fresh imbecility upon me? 

"Oh, Allan! there are mysteries that the 
thoughts of men try to fathom, but, womanlike, I 
have sounded none of these depths, and have learnt 
and discovered nothing. I have passed over the 
ocean of life of which I have drunk the foam and 
the salt, and never once have I cast my torn nets 
to the bottom of its waters, for I knew they would 
bring me up no joy, no hope. I know not what lies 
on the other side of the grave, but I have no fear. 
At this moment why does my pity seem as paltry 
and vile now as it formerly appeared to me great 
and good? Why do I grant no quarter to this 
irresistible instinct that I so long thought was gen- 
erous ? Why do I hurl insult at it on my last day ? 
My soul is firm enough yet not to reject the af- 
fronts that society flings at pure intentions. Let 
them call me a prostitute if they choose ! They 



532 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

have not guessed at my love; they have not seen 
the pity that carried me, wandering, into the arms 
of cowardly and inexorable men. Without an 
effort to rebel, I accept the searing epithet that 
sums up my life. Why, then, now, do I strike and 
abjure my pity ? Ah ! if instead of dying as I do 
I was forced to begin life over again, what would 
remain for me without my pity? What a bitter 
thing is this ignorance ! Not to believe any longer 
in what directs our lives, to vainly seek for some 
other motive in the darkness of dumb conscience, 
and to punish oneself by remorse and cold scorn 
for not having been able to find it !" 

Yseult's grief was almost sacred. She rose 
above herself. Allan remembered the time when 
he had called her a superior being. He saw now 
to what is reduced the superiority of woman, who 
never possesses but the faculty of feeling, and is 
always its victim, in virtue as well as in happiness. 
This something that had escaped Yseult, when the 
reed on which she leant had pierced her hands, did 
not escape him. In this solemn moment he real- 
ised, as if by sudden intuition, what the austerity 
of existence ought to be. Thus the man was born 
again, while the woman died in his stead. 

Silently he took her hand, and wished for her 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 533 

sake that death, whose impress was marked upon 
her f ace, would come and put an end to moral suf- 
fering for which he knew no relief. During the 
agitation of her last words, Yseult had moved 
round on her bed. More and more did her voice 
find difficulty in issuing from her throat. Her 
eyes had fled high up beneath the lids. Her limbs 
were racked by convulsive stiffness, and in the 
midst of this last cruel agony, she still spoke : 

"If I lived my life over again*, this twice- 
accursed pity, useless to those for whom the sacri- 
fice is made, having nothing of the holiness of sim- 
ple duty for those who are in receipt of it, I would 
still obey my involuntary compassion, and again I 
should fall under the ban of my own scorn. If 
God were to say to me: 'Here is the unknown 
goal !' placing it in His infinite mercy within my 
reach, I should not listen to God Himself, and like 
a madwoman I would take refuge in that pity 
which is no virtue, but which was my only one. 
Oh, woman ! what are we, since we cannot amend 
our weakness? We despise ourselves, and we do 
not repent !" 

Her voice gave way with these last few words. 
Her breathing could scarce be heard. The outside 
silence of the night invaded the room. Even the 



534 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

babe on the sofa slumbered in- peaceful repose. 
Allan stood up near the dismal couch, like a priest ; 
but there are souls to which pious assistance is 
needless, and for which all human religions, love, 
friendship, respect, and remembrance are power- 
less as the very religion of God. He fastened his 
gaze upon the livid face, where already, mingled 
with the sweet brightness of an alabaster com- 
plexion, touched with a timid shade of pink, could 
be seen arising the ghastly violet tint of approach- 
ing decomposition. Then he turned his eyes, as if 
to purify them, towards the sky, which could be 
seen through the open window, of such fresh azure 
as if it had just bloomed forth that very instant 
like one of the great nightshades of the garden. 
He could better understand the cult of the Invisi- 
ble. Yseult, although her face was turned towards 
the casement, never once lifted her eyes to this 
beautiful sky. She died without poetry, as she 
had lived, never guessing that Nature could still 
be loved when the exhausted heart loved nothing 
any more. Nature decorated the deathbed of the 
woman who had not known her with all her seren- 
ity; with perfume, silence, and shadow. Suddenly 
through immense and diaphanous space midnight 
rang out at the spire of a church of a parish not 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 535 

far away. The light and tinkling hours were 
struck and faded away in the deadened atmos- 
phere of that echoless night, when, led on by some 
unknown vague and fatal uneasiness, Camilla en- 
tered Yseult's room. Was it the presentiment of 
her mother's death agony alone that had troubled 
her in her sleep? 

Allan, as he saw her come in, grew no paler. 
His look, that had glanced with prouder and purer 
thoughts from the bed of the dying woman towards 
the eternal firmament, fell upon Camilla and re- 
mained fixed. No trace of horror was visible on 
his brow, which had the autumnal hue of suffering 
about to finish. He remained calm, as during her 
life the woman who was dying for him had been. 
For the first time, leaning against that bedstead, 
he felt himself strong, inspired by the whole of a 
destiny that he accepted, and as tender as the soul 
that accepts it. But Camilla scarcely saw him. 
On the threshold her glance had fallen on the 
child, sleeping in the wadded folds of a coverlet of 
pink satin, like an antique Cupid in its shell of 
mother-o'-pearl. 

She uttered a heart-rending shriek, and then 
rushed to her mother's bed, where, with both 
hands, seizing the dying woman by her long hair, 



536 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

she lifted her up in that way, despite Allan's 
efforts to make her let go, and pointing to the 
slumbering infant: 

"If you be not dead, Yseult," howled the impi- 
ous girl, "answer me ! Whose child is that ?" 

The pain that cruel Camilla caused her drew not 
a cry from Yseult. She opened her eyes, and there 
was no anger in them as she replied : 

"It is mine/' 

"And who else, lying woman?" rejoined with 
rage the betrayed and jealous wife. 

Yseult, on the point of death, had strength 
enough to distinctly pronounce the name of one of 
her lackeys. 

"That is not true," said Allan, in a melodious 
voice. "You have guessed aright, Camilla. The 
child is mine." 

At this confession of her husband, the wretched 
woman rolled over in a heap, unconscious, on the 
carpet. But her hands, entangled in her mother's 
hair, dragged down Yseult's feeble head, and 
caused it to hang from the bed towards the 
ground. Allan tried to unclasp her fingers. He 
never succeeded. He was forced to cut away 
Yseult's tresses with a pair of scissors. As he 
lifted her back on the bed, she said to him : 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 537 

"Look after her sooner than me!" Her speech 
was almost unintelligible, and she could not finish 
the sentence. 

Then, when he had lifted her who had passed 
away, he did the same for her who had fainted. 
Camilla soon came to her senses. When she re- 
opened her eyes, she saw her husband standing 
near her, having thrown a sheet over Yseult's dead 
face, and she caught sight of the shorn tresses 
scattered on the ground. She was seized with sud- 
den bitterness as she looked upon all this. 

"You had ceased to love me !" she said to Allan, 
with anguish. "Now you will hate me I" 

And she began to weep. He did not answer her, 
but he kissed her on the forehead. It was a kiss 
of peace that he gave her with fresh, full lips. She 
felt it as a punishment. It was not even an effort 
for him, but only good feeling. When he had 
kissed her, he returned to Yseulf s bed, sat down 
near it, and continued to watch by her side. He 
did not tell his wife to go, and she remained. The 
lamp soon went out, and the rest of the night 
dragged slowly on, black and silent. 

When day broke, the awakened child cried in its 
coverlet of pink satin. Camilla, huddled in the 
spot where Allan had placed her after he had lifted 



538 THE WRITINGS' OF OSCAR WILDE. 

her up, was still in the same state of stupefied in- 
somnia, and never turned at the cry of the weep- 
ing infant. The entrails of the father hearkened 
better. He rose, and took the tiny creature, who 
vainly sought for the breast on its father's chest. 
It was a strange sight to see the man holding the 
child. He carried it from the unwholesome and 
evil-smelling room where its mother had shortly 
ceased to live. Camilla followed him, her head 
bowed down, and in silence, downcast and dumb- 
founded, as she went back over that threshold 
which she had crossed rapidly, to make her terrible 
apparition. A few hours had sufficed for this 
change in her. 






WHAT NEVER DIES. 53& 



EPILOGUE. 

ALLAN TO ANDRE D' ALBANY. 

'•'Chateau of the Willows. 

"You know my story, Andre. It will help yon 
to understand what I was, and what I have be- 
come. It will help you to put yourself in my place, 
and comprehend my disposition. You asked for it 
frankly, and I told you. For your sake I con- 
quered the repugnance that one always has when 
recurring to a period in one's life where one has 
been weak and guilty. I was most deplorably both. 
But, my friend, I care little for the revolt of van- 
ity, because, if there exists modest pride disdaining 
to persecute passers-by with miseries to be pitied 
or admired, I think that we owe our life, in all its 
bearings, to our fellows. Who knows but what in 
the most obscure and apparently most useless life 
God has not placed some great and mysterious 
lesson ? 

"When, nearly two years ago, I made your ac- 
quaintance, Andre, and you came towards me, 



540 THE WKITTNGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

impelled by all the force of a sympathy which 
would have made me upbraid myself if I had not 
replied by the same kindliness, you believed, as 
you since told me, that I was unhappy through 
some betrayed or misjudged passion; and you, on 
whom love and marriage had poured out their 
double felicity, showed attachment for which I 
should still be thanking you, if I had not already 
learnt sufficiently that we know not what we do 
when we form attachments. The extreme cold- 
ness of my manner did not repel you. You ob- 
stinately continued your amiable pursuit, and in 
good faith ; so that it was more eloquent still than 
striking service rendered, and in men of your 
stamp proves a great deal more. Such persistence, 
coupled with what you possess so excellently, 
Andr6 — the liberal judgment that reckons up men 
and things in such a large-souled way; the 
straightforwardness and powerful simplicity that 
gives you, even in your frock-coat, and with the 
colourless bearing of our modern society, something 
of the physiognomy of Plutarch's heroes — made 
me at last reply to your generous advance. We 
met in Paris, in society. By a lucky hazard, we are 
neighbours in Normandy. We met nearly every 
day, and we became bound by one of those manly 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 541 

friendships scorning mere words, which all remain 
at the bottom of the heart, and which old age will 
not cause to crumble away. 

"Up to now, my dear Andre, you knew nothing 
of me but my opinions, and although generally 
opinions are the moulds of our lives, what is true 
for nearly all was far from being so in my case. 
Thus, firstly, you judged that I was unhappy 
through love, but as you grew to know me better 
you soon began to doubt that, as my way of looking 
at this sentiment seemed to you so different from 
what you expected. And my views appeared so 
strange that, not knowing what to make of your 
personal observation, you attacked this big ques- 
tion without uneasiness or beating about the bush, 
authorised, however, by your long friendship. 

"I lived four years by the heart alone. I have 
narrated to you all the feelings of those four years, 
Albany. It is not a very novel tale, and the whole 
may appear vulgar; but it is life, as life is laid out. 
What is less common, certainly, is Yseult. I am 
astonished myself that, after having loved her with 
so much idolatry, I should have got to love Ca- 
milla. But since my second love has perished like 
the first ; now that in the background of the past I 
only see when I turn back the tall and pale figure 



542 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

of the mother, veiled for a moment by the daughter 
who reappears — not causing me emotion, but to 
awaken remembrance — is it temerity to think that 
the life of my heart is finished, and that my pas- 
sions satiated and struck with death are 
exhausted ? 

"To tell the truth, that is not what the proph- 
etess I so long misjudged, and whose redoubtable 
divination I recognised later, told me before she 
died. She predicted that I should love again. But 
doubtless she was mistaken on account of my 
youth. She had lived faster, when the sap of 
thought and feeling that circulated within her 
dried up at the foot of the wounded tree. She 
could not imagine that at twenty-three I could 
be what she was not at thirty. In this forward- 
ness there was something that made my misfor- 
tune greater and longer than hers, and which she 
could not foresee. It was not the vanity of grief 
that made me think as I did; but does not despair 
exaggerate as well as hope? She did not know 
that there was a life that had been eaten up quicker 
than hers — the life of him who had looked upon 
her dying ! 

"I must confess to you, Albany, that this death 
had an enormous influence upon me. Perhaps I 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 543 

might have had renewed taste for the deceiving 
joys of the heart, and asked again of youth for 
some of those illusions of which it is rare that 
one seeks to cure oneself, although they kill. But 
Yseult's last moments suppressed even the vaguest 
appetites that lived, unknown to me, in the most 
unexplored corner of my heart. Up till then, I 
had heen a man of sensual passion — voluptuous 
like that wretched woman, who, when her passions 
were dead, became nothing ever after. I can hear 
her asking me what could guide our lives, since 
the goodness of the soul, that pity she thought sub- 
lime, suddenly sufficed no longer to bring her abso- 
lution ! As for me, I did not reply to her doubt- 
ing ignorance seeking with obstinate hands to 
clutch at a straw in the empty immensity. I an- 
swered not, but I saw a glimmering. A strange 
light flashed across my soul — and for the first 
time ! Do you know what it was, Albany? It was 
the intuition of duty. 

"From that day forward, my friend, I became a 
man. But this idea, that had germed in my soul 
at Yseult's discouraged voice, I did not pluck out 
to give her. The answer to the doleful query, a 
thousand times repeated, I kept to myself. Would 
she have understood it if I had let it out? And 



544 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

even if she had not blindly repelled it, would it 
not have torn her being like a sharp, cold steel? 
The evil was irremediable. I held my tongue and 
let her shriek and die. Since then, I have re- 
proached myself for this conduct. Although 
doubting to be understood by her, I ought to have 
spared her no pain. I acted as she had done all 
her life. But morality does not mean, as is said, 
that we must not impose suffering. It is good that 
suffering should be inflicted! Let tears flow! 
Nothing is useless in His presence. And life, not 
only in us, but in others, and everywhere, has only 
been granted to us to be squandered for noble aims. 
"Since then, my dear Andre, I have reflected on 
this notion of duty, which spread its calm light in 
the night of my soul, like a pure beacon lit up from 
the funereal torch of a deathbed. I disengaged 
my idea from all that did not strictly belong to it, 
resolved to make it predominate over my life. Ah ! 
my friend, I found much resistance, many a mur- 
mur, and often the blood that I thought had left 
me started running through my veins once more. 
Remembrance spoke up loudly. Regret more 
loudly still. The infinite thirst of felicity imperi- 
ously asked to be quenched, but ashamed of my 
guilty youth, and believing no longer in love, I 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 545 

sought refuge in the unbreakable idea, and it did 
not give way as I frantically clutched it. Alas ! I 
deserved less credit than those whose struggles had 
been tenaciously incessant; for my heart was a des- 
ert. The neigh of desire no longer troubled my 
intelligence, and could not drag it from this great 
abstraction of duty, incomprehensible for too pas- 
sionate natures. What hindered my stoical prog- 
ress was the broken, bloody chain that clanked be- 
hind me — those memories linked one within the 
other like rings of bronze, and which I was con- 
demned to drag along. I could forget nothing. 
When feet are burnt by lava, the imprints remain 
when it has grown cold and hard ; but on the lava 
of my soul, the foot burns, and its impress never 
grows cold ! I knew that all was irrevocably fin- 
ished. I would not have had it otherwise, and 
nevertheless there would come rushing back in my 
thoughts, like a cavalry charge, all the details of 
those days of torrid and destroying voluptuousness, 
and which, in reality, could never return to me. 
My imagination, by which I had so energetically 
lived, persecuted me with its salacious pictures, as 
if saying: 'Beyond the pale of my empire all is 
chaos !' That is the malady of the passions— their 
inevitable poison. At last their influence fades. 



546 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

We are cured, and all is well. The soul has ceased 
to feel that activity which is so absorbing that our 
life is destroyed without regret, for has not He 
said that all happiness shall be shortlived, while 
man's remembrance of it shall be infinite? 

"It was loudly said that I was a born poet. It 
is true that imagination was my best developed 
faculty. I had more than one battle with it. If 
that makes me a philosopher, I accept the title or 
the insult. But I felt also that I could never be 
anything else. It is fatal that once we have been 
rendered happy by the soul, spiritual predominance 
occupies all our thoughts, and for evermore we ask 
why we can only be happy in the same way. Joy 
and pain are mysteries that we cannot refrain from 
trying to fathom when once we have been under 
their sway. Thenceforward, the inward side of 
our character alone interests us, and our reflec- 
tions always revert to what is passing within our- 
selves. 

"Like all those who have tasted of the true pas- 
sion, and who have dreamt intoxicating visions be- 
neath its fatal upas shade, none of the exterior 
aims of life stirred me, and all the interests of 
mankind only drew from me a smile of scorn. The 
fallen angels in the midst of the joys of the world 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 547 

yearned for paradise. But a man who grieves for 
heaven that he has lost is not only sad, but he de- 
spises all things implacably. He passes in the 
crowd, but without mixing with it; he roughly 
pushes through. Weariness, lazily installed upon 
the tortured brow, as if in a deserted pandemo- 
nium, causes sharp scorn to fall upon the lips and 
disappear. That is bad, Albany, for such is not 
just. The mind has so whispered long before our 
will has acted in conformity with the noble rigour 
of reason. Nevertheless, as life only seemed to me 
to be beautiful on the condition of its being a per- 
petual sacrifice, perhaps in spite of rebellious in- 
stinct might I have entered upon one of those 
active careers which I judged from such an ele- 
vated standpoint. But I had sufficient devotion to 
put forward without crossing the threshold of my 
door. God had given me two children. 

"My friend, let man exaggerate his power or no, 
he is but a solitary individual, and consequently 
the sphere of his duties is a narrow one. If you 
are told the contrary, believe it not. I will go so 
far as to say that we have only one duty to per- 
form in this world. On the other hand, action ia 
man's true grandeur. By reason of the beauty of 
what strong will can accomplish, it becomes the 



548 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

conqueror of thought. That is why I did not 
wholly and solely give myself up to those medita- 
tions concerning myself of which the charm is un- 
derstood by all those who possess the experience of 
life. So I became active, and not in a wide circle 
where I should have weakened my necessary duties 
by multiplying them around me, but only in the 
just limits of my strength. I had two daughters. 
I thought of their future, and gave myself up to 
them. But it is a difficult feat, and well worth the 
attempt, to bring up two girls when we intend that 
they shall steer clear of the reefs on which their 
mothers have been shipwrecked. 

"A man brings himself up alone, but if there 
exists a hackneyed truth, it is that woman is en- 
dowed with greater sensibility and has less means 
of resistance than man. Society, built up by men, 
throws females naked among countless suits of 
armour, against which they press their bodies with 
the infinite tenderness of their souls, but which 
wound and crush them. Our costumes have 
changed, but not our way of living. Upon our 
hands, washed with almond-paste and covered by 
white kid gloves, there is an iron gauntlet, I assure 
you. You cannot see it, but it is there all the 
same. If you do not believe me, look at the mark 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 549 

on the bleeding wrists of the daughters. It is by 
education, Albany, that we can guarantee the frail 
destiny of woman — not from suffering, for oft- 
times pain makes more perfect, but from degrad- 
ing humiliation. Such is my task, friend, in this 
world, where I am forced to live out my life, no 
longer having to make anybody happy. 

"Yseult often said that the love of a child was 
no more eternal than any other affection, and I 
dare not say she was mistaken. The finest affec- 
tions die out, so why shall not those also abandon 
us which are only the ornaments of life and do 
not destroy ? But, if I cease to love my daughters 
as I tired of their mothers, the idea of duty will 
prevent me from turning away from them as did 
Yseult; and my girls, Jeanne and Marie, will al- 
ways find a father in me, whether my heart beats 
beneath their caresses or feels nothing more. 

"As for my wife, what can I do for her? I can- 
not even lie to her. She would not believe me. 
Besides, I have sworn to God to be faithful and 
sincere, and if the first oath was impious, the sec- 
ond was not so ; for man can always be truthful— 
the one object of his life, solemnly subscribed once 
for all— and it was by remaining sincere with 
Camilla that I was to expiate my former falsity. I 



550 THE WAITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

did not even bestow brotherly caresses upon her. 
Would they not have appeared to her to be the most 
cruel irony? Since her mother's death, on that 
last day when she was jealous and implacable, her 
passionate disposition and stormy soul have given 
way. I never thought she would have become 
what she is now. I let her retire within herself, 
and filled up the emptiness of my days in looking 
after little Jeanne — Yseult's daughter— who had 
no mother, while the daughter of Camilla had. 
I was cruel, Albany, I know it; but I had my duty 
to fulfil towards my child. Had I acted otherwise, 
might not I have been more cruel still ? 

"My dear Andre, I tremble as I lay bare to you 
the bitter mysteries of my domestic life ; my isola- 
tion in the married state, with wounded love groan- 
ing or eating itself out in silence, and our misera- 
ble delicacy which causes us to suffer inwardly in 
the face of the tortures of which we are the cause, 
and which increases instead of appeasing them. 
You never need to know these arid details, and my 
destiny remains the same for you as for the heart 
which is bound up in yours. May your fair Paule, 
to whom you have given life for life, never have 
to suffer the pangs of Camilla. May she never 
learn by her example what the unfortunate woman 



WHAT NEVEK DIES. 551 

never says. Now you understand why she never 
replied with fervour to the politeness of your amia- 
ble wife. She is a happy woman ; therefore, almost 
an enemy. Alas ! we are all like that when we are 
in pain. If she made up her mind to go and see 
you and Paule, I do not doubt but what the sight 
of your domestic happiness would plunge her into 
most horrible anguish. When I go to visit you, 
Albany, I, who love no more, and who try to be 
austere, do you know that I never leave you with- 
out being deeply stirred? In that union of wed- 
lock, in the contemplation of the most wayward, 
superficial appearance of happy love, there is 
something that speaks in eloquent and holy lan- 
guage to our deceived desires. They are awakened 
and set to work to tear at their former prey, as if 
we were some new quarry to be killed again ! 

"At that moment, the slightest physical detail 
becomes redoubtable. There is not one but what 
is an opportunity for creating pain. With you, 
Albany, all is pure, all is calm, all breathes peace 
in tenderness ; everything is in harmony with your 
love. When I approach and pass the threshold of 
that portal where the knocker glitters in the sun, 
and has never felt heavy to the hand of the man 



552 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

who sought asylum there; when I pass between 
those two columns where is seated the pair of white 
greyhounds, sculptured faithfully with their wiry 
frames and pointed muzzles, symbolising fidelity 
and vigilance, it seems to me at once that the sky 
is of a brighter blue, and that the air is sweeter 
than at the Chateau of the Willows. Your elegant 
and modest dwelling is so simple, so small, and so 
full of grace, with its amber-hued vines creeping 
round about it, like capricious folds of a scarf, that 
one would wish to crawl within like a vagrant cur, 
and crouch down to be happy. I feel that life is 
enjoyed there, and jealously guarded within, as it 
ought to be; so that nothing can escape from those 
who profit by its sweetness, resembling the rivulet 
that runs beneath your fig-trees, whose broad 
leaves jealously protect it, as if the clouds, as they 
mirror themselves there, could steal any of it! 
And if one mounts the steps and enters the draw- 
ing-room, everywhere are more balmy traces, more 
marked signs of that happiness lacking in my 
house. You are chatting, and regretfully have to 
break off. I see Paule with her beautiful arms 
round her harp, the instrument that women clasp 
to their breasts to play, and whose pure tones bring 
tears to your eyes and make one hunger after hap- 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 553 

piness. Or else I surprise her on your knees, 
Andre, and your head has usurped the resting- 
place of the musical instrument, while you hoth 
are looking at your little son learning to walk. Oh, 
this life of intimacy! how poignant is it for me 
to gaze upon! But not a sigh escaped from my 
breast. Did I not possess great self-restraint, Al- 
bany? Is it not true that you have never had to 
say to Paule, 'Let us hide our love from him ; we 
hurt his feelings' ? In the presence of such fresh 
and smiling pictures, did I not remain impassible ? 
So much so, good and happy couple, that when I 
had taken my stick and left the corner of the 
hearth where I had passed my day, you never 
guessed that I carried these pictures away in my 
heart to ornament with bitter comparisons the 
empty walls of my vast and sad dwelling. 

"Camilla must not die through seeing this, and 
at any rate she would suffer too much, without a 
doubt. Therefore, excuse her — you and Paule. 
You may have already noticed that she was to be 
pitied. Her sombre bearing speaks for her. Last 
winter, in Paris, at the few parties to which she 
went, and where you met her, she had a downcast 
look as if she feared that some one might read her 



554 THE WRITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

thoughts. What a contrast she made to your wife, 
with her swarthy pallor and her prematurely with- 
ered look, while Paule was radiant in her sweet 
rosy whiteness, her dead-gold hair and the halo 
of happiness gloriously encircling her brow. As I 
contemplated them both, I thought of the inequal- 
ity of fate, and understood it no better than before. 
"But must I confess it to you, Andre, my gen- 
erosity that had its ups and downs, its good and 
bad days, did not have the same empire upon my 
life as that of pity on the existence of Yseult. In 
this, man is inferior to woman. Who can tell, 
even, if I should have been capable of so much be- 
fore Camilla's accouchement, and the change it 
brought about in her at that period ? She gave me 
a daughter whom I called Marie, and who very 
much resembles in form and feature the girl I had 
with Yseult. You can judge for yourself of this 
extraordinary likeness, my friend, for during the 
last eighteen months it has become more accentu- 
ated. Twins could not be more alike than these 
two little girls, and anyone could be mistaken — 
even Camilla and I ! — and take one for the other, 
were it not for a mark that Nature has placed so 
as not to permit us to be deceived. She has caused 



WHAT NEVER DIES. 555 

Yseult's daughter to be born with white hair, a 
sign of the old age of the mother left upon the 
forehead of the babe. We thought the growing 
locks might become fair, but as you view their long 
thick curls, full of life and energy, you become cer- 
tain their colour will never change. Snow has 
fallen upon the bloom of spring, and will remain 
there without melting. When for the first time 
Camilla perceived on the poor, little, pure brow 
the innocently accusing hair that recalled terrible 
memories, the unfortunate woman turned away 
with convulsive horror, which lasted long. But 
one day — God knows with what effort — she suc- 
ceeded in conquering it. Neither you nor your 
Paule, Albany, were ever able to notice that Ca- 
milla kissed with less tenderness the white head 
than the golden one. Never have you seen any dif- 
ference in the caresses that she gives to both. Never 
have you thought of, or even suspected, the mys- 
tery of the birth we have been able to hide from 
society that would have jeered at it. Camilla— too 
jealous Camilla— in spite of the love that she still 
feels for me, has never once been false to herself. 
That is because, Albany, pity has at last been born 
in her; pity, the inheritance of her mother; pity, 
stronger than the love she has for me, and which 



556 THE WHITINGS OF OSCAR WILDE. 

perhaps may soon fade; that unalienable pity 
which, when all sentiment and passion is mowed 
down in women's hearts, is of all their feelings — 

WHAT NEVER DIES !" 



THE END.