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List Of Contents | Contents of Marquise de Ganges, by Dumas, Pere
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air of dignity, as inspired a respect for her equal to the love that
might be inspired by her beauty; the rounded contour of her face,
produced by a becoming plumpness, exhibited all the vigour and
freshness of health; to complete her charms, her glances, the
movements of her lips and of her head, appeared to be guided by the
graces; her shape corresponded to the beauty of her face; lastly, her
arms, her hands, her bearing, and her gait were such that nothing
further could be wished to complete the agreeable presentment of a
beautiful woman."


[Note: All her contemporaries, indeed, are in agreement as to her
marvellous beauty; here is a second portrait of the marquise,
delineated in a style and manner still more characteristic of that
period:--

"You will remember that she had a complexion smoother and finer than
a mirror, that her whiteness was so well commingled with the lively
blood as to produce an exact admixture never beheld elsewhere, and
imparting to her countenance the tenderest animation; her eyes and
hair were blacker than jet; her eyes, I say, of which the gaze could
scarce, from their excess of lustre, be supported, which have been
celebrated as a miracle of tenderness and sprightliness, which have
given rise, a thousand times, to the finest compliments of the day,
and have been the torment of many a rash man, must excuse me, if I do
not pause longer to praise them, in a letter; her mouth was the
feature of her face which compelled the most critical to avow that
they had seen none of equal perfection, and that, by its shape, its
smallness, and its brilliance, it might furnish a pattern for all
those others whose sweetness and charms had been so highly vaunted;
her nose conformed to the fair proportion of all her features; it
was, that is to say, the finest in the world; the whole shape of her
face was perfectly round, and of so charming a fullness that such an
assemblage of beauties was never before seen together.  The
expression of this head was one of unparalleled sweetness and of a
majesty which she softened rather by disposition than by study; her
figure was opulent, her speech agreeable, her step noble, her
demeanour easy, her temper sociable, her wit devoid of malice, and
founded upon great goodness of heart."]


It is easy to understand that a woman thus endowed could not, in a
court where gallantry was more pursued than in any other spot in the
world, escape the calumnies of rivals; such calumnies, however, never
produced any result, so correctly, even in the absence of her
husband, did the marquise contrive to conduct herself; her cold and
serious conversation, rather concise than lively, rather solid than
brilliant, contrasted, indeed, with the light turn, the capricious
and fanciful expressions employed by the wits of that time; the
consequence was that those who had failed to succeed with her, tried
to spread a report that the marquise was merely a beautiful idol,
virtuous with the virtue of a statue.  But though such things might
be said and repeated in the absence of the marquise, from the moment
that she appeared in a drawing-room, from the moment that her
beautiful eyes and sweet smile added their indefinable expression to
those brief, hurried, and sensible words that fell from her lips, the
most prejudiced came back to her and were forced to own that God had
never before created anything that so nearly touched perfection.

She was thus in the enjoyment of a triumph that backbiters failed to
shake, and that scandal vainly sought to tarnish, when news came of
the wreck of the French galleys in Sicilian waters, and of the death
of the Marquis de Castellane, who was in command.  The marquise on
this occasion, as usual, displayed the greatest piety and propriety:
although she had no very violent passion for her husband, with whom
she had spent scarcely one of the seven years during which their
marriage had lasted, on receipt of the news she went at once into
retreat, going to live with Madame d'Ampus, her mother-in-law, and
ceasing not only to receive visitors but also to go out.

Six months after the death of her husband, the marquise received
letters from her grandfather, M. Joannis de Nocheres, begging her to
come and finish her time of mourning at Avignon.  Having been
fatherless almost from childhood, Mademoiselle de Chateaublanc had
been brought up by this good old man, whom she loved dearly; she
hastened accordingly to accede to his invitation, and prepared
everything for her departure.

This was at the moment when la Voisin, still a young woman, and far
from having the reputation which she subsequently acquired, was yet
beginning to be talked of.  Several friends of the Marquise de
Castellane had been to consult her, and had received strange
predictions from her, some of which, either through the art of her
who framed them, or through some odd concurrence of circumstances,
had come true.  The marquise could not resist the curiosity with
which various tales that she had heard of this woman's powers had
inspired her, and some days before setting out for Avignon she made
the visit which we have narrated.  What answer she received to her
questions we have seen.

The marquise was not superstitious, yet this fatal prophecy impressed
itself upon her mind and left behind a deep trace, which neither the
pleasure of revisiting her native place, nor the affection of her
grandfather, nor the fresh admiration which she did not fail to
receive, could succeed in removing; indeed, this fresh admiration was
a weariness to the marquise, and before long she begged leave of her
grandfather to retire into a convent and to spend there the last
three months of her mourning.

It was in that place, and it was with the warmth of these poor
cloistered maidens, that she heard a man spoken of for the first
time, whose reputation for beauty, as a man, was equal to her own, as
a woman.  This favourite of nature was the sieur de Lenide, Marquis
de Ganges, Baron of Languedoc, and governor of Saint-Andre, in the
diocese of Uzes.  The marquise heard of him so often, and it was so
frequently declared to her that nature seemed to have formed them for
each other, that she began to allow admission to a very strong desire
of seeing him.  Doubtless, the sieur de Lenide, stimulated by similar
suggestions, had conceived a great wish to meet the marquise; for,
having got M. de Nocheres who no doubt regretted her prolonged
retreat--to entrust him with a commission for his granddaughter, he
came to the convent parlour and asked for the fair recluse.  She,
although she had never seen him, recognised him at the first glance;
for having never seen so handsome a cavalier as he who now presented
himself before her, she thought this could be no other than the
Marquis de Ganges, of whom people had so often spoken to her.

That which was to happen, happened: the Marquise de Castellane and
the Marquis de Ganges could not look upon each other without loving.
Both were young, the marquis was noble and in a good position, the
marquise was rich; everything in the match, therefore, seemed
suitable: and indeed it was deferred only for the space of time
necessary to complete the year of mourning, and the marriage was
celebrated towards the beginning of the year 1558.  The marquis was
twenty years of age, and the marquise twenty-two.

The beginnings of this union were perfectly happy; the marquis was in
love for the first time, and the marquise did not remember ever to
have been in love.  A son and a daughter came to complete their
happiness.  The marquise had entirely forgotten the fatal prediction,
or, if she occasionally thought of it now, it was to wonder that she
could ever have believed in it.  Such happiness is not of this world,
and when by chance it lingers here a while, it seems sent rather by
the anger than by the goodness of God.  Better, indeed, would it be
for him who possesses and who loses it, never to have known it.

The Marquis de Ganges was the first to weary of this happy life.
Little by little he began to miss the pleasures of a young man; he
began to draw away from the marquise and to draw nearer to his former
friends.  On her part, the marquise, who for the sake of wedded
intimacy had sacrificed her habits of social life, threw herself into
society, where new triumphs awaited her.  These triumphs aroused the
jealousy of the marquis; but he was too much a man of his century to
invite ridicule by any manifestation; he shut his jealousy into his
soul, and it emerged in a different form on every different occasion.
To words of love, so sweet that they seemed the speech of angels,
succeeded those bitter and biting utterances that foretell
approaching division.  Before long, the marquis and the marquise only
saw each other at hours when they could not avoid meeting; then, on
the pretext of necessary journeys, and presently without any pretext
at all, the marquis would go away for three-quarters of a year, and
once more the marquise found herself widowed.  Whatever contemporary
account one may consult, one finds them all agreeing to declare that
she was always the same--that is to say, full of patience, calmness,
and becoming behaviour--and it is rare to find such a unanimity of
opinion about a young and beautiful woman.

About this time the marquis, finding it unendurable to be alone with
his wife during the short spaces of time which he spent at home,
invited his two brothers, the chevalier and the abbe de Ganges, to
come and live with him.  He had a third brother, who, as the second
son, bore the title of comte, and who was colonel of the Languedoc
regiment, but as this gentleman played no part in this story we shall
not concern ourselves with him.

The abbe de Ganges, who bore that title without belonging to the
Church, had assumed it in order to enjoy its privileges: he was a
kind of wit, writing madrigals and 'bouts-rimes' [Bouts-rimes are
verses written to a given set of rhymes.] on occasion, a handsome man
enough, though in moments of impatience his eyes would take a
strangely cruel expression; as dissolute and shameless to boot, as

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