페이지 이미지
PDF
ePub

become one of the admitted leaders in the most privileged circles of the Faubourg St. Germain. As a friend of the Marquise de Kéradieu, she has secured for the Villars household an entry to the most jealously guarded doors ; but her influence has only been given unreservedly as a tribute to the personal qualities of Annie Villars herself. She has taken a fancy to the frank young American, and in liking her has studied her, and in studying her has liked her. Yet her first movement when Jacques d’Anguilhon makes his demand is one of repugnance— Oh, pas cela ! And when he presses for her reason, she answers that between him and Miss Villars there lacks the affinity needed for happiness in marriage, Vous en delà, elle en deçà.' And, in explanation of her meaning, she draws a distinction which is, at least for M. de Coulevain, fundamental between the races. Dreams overstep the limit of life, heroism the limit of courage, fanaticism the limit of religion, unnatural desire the limit of wickedness. Now, the American woman, broadly speaking, never oversteps the limit of things.

"They fall short of our natural range, which borders on the ideal ; we already overshoot it. If they could hear me they would protest vehemently that they were more cultivated than we. So they may be—80 they are. And yet an ignorant slip of a girl, brought up behind the walls of a convent, will have flights and aspirations beyond the power of their lady-graduates: her soul will attain to heights, plunge to depths, that all their science will never help them to. There is Mme. de Kéradieu, for example, living for years now in France, who knows more, and is more intelligent, than half my acquaintances; and yet there is a mass of subjects on which I could not talk to her. Directly one touches the abstract, she cannot follow And that has a singular effect in limiting the field of intercourse.'

That is, in a rough way, M. de Coulevain's hypothesis, the underlying principle which he seeks to establish. Let a Frenchman of the best type marry an American of the best type, and he will be liable to ask for more than she can give him. She will not be able to follow him into fields of thought and emotion where he moves as a denizen. Nevertheless, Mme. de Blanzac, having laid down her views, consents to act against them. She does not like to disoblige a friend; more seriously, she is influenced by the alternation of Africa. Jacques is the last of the D'Anguilhons, and he is the only son of his mother. And so when the marriage is made, as ultimately it is made, the Duchess has made it. But by that time not only has Annie fallen in love with Jacques, but Jacques has fallen in love with Annie.

What, then, are the reasons which prevail over the determination not to succumb, originally adopted by Miss Villars

-good Protestant as well as good American ? First, no doubt, the attraction of a great name and position, and of Jacques himself, with his golden-brown eyes and strange resemblance to the handsome D'Anguilhon ancestor, whose portrait by Vandyck had fascinated Annie before she niet the descendant. But, further, there are other reasons, which depend upon a relation between the sexes strange to her American ideas. An introductory chapter, which is neither more nor less than an essay on the American woman, is cast mainly in the form of a dialogue between Annie and Mr. Frank Barnett, her undeclared suitor. In America, says M. de Coulevain, the work of man is more remarkable than man himself. And a notable production of the American man (though M. de Coulevain does not put it quite like this) is the American woman. She is the creation of a chivalrous race, which has devoted its entire energies to money-making; she is the spending partner. The typical American woman is not Annie Villars, in whom long intimacy with her nurse, a Catholic Irish peasant, has sown a seed of mysticism, but Clara May, her cousin, a young person with dazzling complexion, robust physical equipment, and no sexual predispositions (pas de tempérament); a clear head, no sentiment, plenty of fixed ideas, and among them the especial convictions that America is the finest country in the world, that one is put on earth to enjoy oneself, and that man was created to provide woman with food, dress, and attendance. She is avid of experience, wants to see and know everything; but the experiences which she desires must be external or visual. She has not the desire of her European sisters to experience passion; it is a bondage unworthy of a free woman in a free country. As for the formulæ in the marriage service, with their mention of obedience and the rest, she either treats them as quaint survivals or else insists that they shall be omitted from the ceremony. Such is the type which M. de Coulevain takes to be most representative of American womanhood—perhaps wrongly, perhaps basing his observation only on the American in Paris. However, there is at least an element of truth in the picture, and Annie Villars, at all events, is presumed to have been brought up in a society where woman is not only man's equal, but a good deal more. All of this is fully realised by M. d'Anguilhon, and still more by his confederate and monitress, the Duchesse de Blanzac. And consequently

M. d'Anguilhon behaves in a manner as unlike as possible to that of the men with whom Miss Villars has been acquainted. He does not run after her, does not fetch and carry for her; rather, he expresses himself plainly to the effect that if any one must fetch and carry it should not be the man. To his mind a gentleman who will hold a lady's plate at a ball supper makes himself ridiculous, and no Frenchwoman would like to see her adorer so diminish his prestige. As the acquaintance progresses he interferes actively. Annie and her mother, like most American women (and a good many English), being of perfect respectability themselves, have a great desire to see what is not respectable ; they take a box at the Variétés and raise the grillage, with the result, as Jacques d'Anguilhon puts it, when he comes to rescue them from an unpleasant situation, that they expose themselves to be taken for what they are not.

Briefly, what succeeds with the girl is not merely his personal charm, but his tone of authority, which in a compatriot Annie would have resented. And he, on his part, is caught and charmed, for a while, by her very unlikeness to the women of his own country. They go off radiant on their honeymoon, and the wedding tour is a great success. Nevertheless, from the first Jacques experiences certain incompatibilities. Their minds are never in perfect contact: in Mr. Barnett's phrase, however well they get on together, they never understand one another. Annie wants to do' the galleries in Rome thoroughly, exhaustively, and having done them to pass on; and soon they do their sight-seeing separately. 'He sees nothing,' Annie writes home, because her husband will only look at perhaps half a dozen statues or pictures in the day, and often prefers to go back to what he has seen already. In her heart she probably feels that it is only an American who can take in things and judge them with proper celerity. Here is a concrete instance of the lack of understanding :

"One evening they were coming out of St. Peter's. Twilight had filled the church, and the great bell of the basilica sounded the Angelus, The sound of this bell, which on earth has no fellow, stopped him abruptly on the colonnade. He glanced round him. The square was empty, but the vibrating notes of the bronze filled it with prayer.

• Strongly moved, he murmured “ Beautiful ! "

«« Splendid ! Immense!” said Annie. “I forget how many feet long the colonnade is. I must look it up." And accordingly, in the fading twilight, she produced her • Baedeker.'

The result of all this was that Jacques felt impelled to continue by correspondence the intimacy which had grown up between him and Mme. de Blanzac. He was, however, still enchanted with Annie. When little differences arose he kept a firm hand, as, for example, when she accepted an invitation for them both without consulting him, merely conforming, she explained, to the habit of her countrywomen, against which no American husband ever thought of protesting. Yet, contrary to all the traditions of her race, she submitted to discipline, as, on M. de Coulevain's view, she would never have submitted to correction from a husband in her own country. The young couple were joined in Rome by Mme. dAnguilhon, the mother of Jacques, a Frenchwoman of the old and severe school royalist and devout. Between her and her daughter-in-law there arose not quarrels, but discussions over religion and morals, which illustrated again the racial incompatibility. Once Annie picked up the Marquise's 'Livre d'Heures,' and was astonished by the pictures --St Francis of Assisi with pierced hands, St. Theresa with her heavenly rapture. "How ' funny! how funny!' Jesus, with his breast laid open to disclose the bleeding heart, horrified her. The Marquise, embarrassed, explained that it was a symbol. Rather a 'coarse symbolism,' said Annie. Matters were no way mended when she began to read and comment.

6How curious! I thought I knew French quite well, but I don't understand half of what is here. I can't think how Antoinette de Kéradieu was brave enough to join such a complicated religion."

""Still they say that Catholicism is making rapid progress in your country."

6" Áb, that is because we like to try everything. Why, some people have a craze for Buddhism. Besides, you may be sure that Americans will pick and choose in Catholicism."

She went on turning over the “Heures." "“ All these stories would spoil this world for ine--and the next,” she said.

Then she began to read aloud one of the meditations before Communion.

"J'ai enfin le bonheur de vous posséder, Dieu d'Amour! Que ne suis-je tout coeur pour vous aimer ? Embrasez-moi, mon Dieu ! brûlez, consumez mon caur de votre amour! ...

'Annie stopped short.

""Why, that is madness. How dare any one speak to God like that! Phrases like these cannot be sincere. Who in the world wants to have their heart burnt and consumed with love?”.

Even more typical perhaps is another passage where

Annie, taken to visit Assisi, regrets, to the stupefaction of the Marquise, that St. Francis and St. Claire never married. When the old Catholic lady endeavours to explain for this little positive spirit how much energy has been generated by these uncompleted lives—how St. Francis and St. Claire have radiated through the whole world, built thousands of 'monasteries, and spread through the whole Middle Ages "a waft of charity and poetic life'-Annie is only confused. She can see vaguely that these people have actually done more for Assisi than if they had struck oil there or founded a pig-killing factory; that after five centuries their fame and their name still draw pilgrims by the thousand to the place. But she cannot comprehend. It is queer, certainly,' she answers.

"" Ah! there will never be any saints in America,” she added quaintly.

«“Who knows?" said the Marquise.

"“No, no! I don't see an American divesting himself of his goods, preaching poverty, and talking to doves. Instead of St. Francis we shall maybe have men who will lessen poverty and make the world a more comfortable place.”'

Is not that a fair expression of the contemporary AngloSaxon ideal? Economic progress—first in the sense of wealth accumulated; secondly, and as an ultimate ideal, in the sense of wealth distributed—is the summing up. On another matter a new discrepancy discloses itself. Annie, in a very discontented temper, reveals to her husband that after all she cannot go to America for her cousin Clara's marriage. “Why?' he asks. There is going to be a • baby, she answers piteously. "True !' he cries, with a face of rapture. Only too true!' He is amazed at her attitude. She sees it, and explains that she would be delighted to have children--but in two or three years. He is frankly shocked at her lack of what seems to him the natural emotions, and asks how she could keep such a secret from him. Because I did not want to spoil the rest of • the journey.' Spoil! How spoil?' 'Because it is so • horrible.' So horrible !' Annie explains that in America such a condition as hers is considered rather indecent, and, as for the notion of a man jubilant at the prospect of paternity, it had never crossed her mind. One would say she was relieved to find that he did not blame it on her," as the Irish say.

There is no need to elaborate the contrast. But in the end Europe triuraphs. Jacques becomes the lover of Mme.

« 이전계속 »