The Wandering Jew— Volume 3

Contents:
Author: Eugène Sue

Chapter XXXVI. A Female Jesuit.

During the preceding scenes which occurred in the Pompadour rotunda, occupied by Miss de Cardoville, other events took place in the residence of the Princess Saint-Dizier. The elegance and sumptuousness of the former dwelling presented a strong contrast to the gloomy interior of the latter, the first floor of which was inhabited by the princess, for the plan of the ground floor rendered it only fit for giving parties; and, for a long time past, Madame de Saint-Dizier had renounced all worldly splendors. The gravity of her domestics, all aged and dressed in black; the profound silence which reigned in her abode, where everything was spoken, if it could be called speaking, in an undertone; and the almost monastic regularity and order of this immense mansion, communicated to everything around the princess a sad and chilling character. A man of the world, who joined great courage to rare independence of spirit, speaking of the princess (to whom Adrienne de Cardoville went, according to her expression, to fight a pitched battle), said of her as follows: "In order to avoid having Madame de Saint-Dizier for an enemy, I, who am neither bashful nor cowardly, have, for the first time in my life, been both a noodle and a coward." This man spoke sincerely. But Madame de Saint-Dizier had not all at once arrived at this high degree of importance.

Some words are necessary for the purpose of exhibiting distinctly some phases in the life of this dangerous and implacable woman who, by her affiliation with the Order of Jesuits, had acquired an occult and formidable power. For there is something even more menacing than a Jesuit: it is a Jesuits; and, when one has seen certain circles, it becomes evident that there exist, unhappily, many of those affiliated, who, more or less, uniformly dress (for the lay members of the Order call themselves "Jesuits of the short robe").

Madame de Saint-Dizier, once very beautiful, had been, during the last years of the Empire, and the early years of the Restoration, one of the most fashionable women of Paris, of a stirring, active, adventurous, and commanding spirit, of cold heart, but lively imagination. She was greatly given to amorous adventures, not from tenderness of heart, but from a passion for intrigue, which she loved as men love play—for the sake of the emotions it excites. Unhappily, such had always been the blindness or the carelessness of her husband, the Prince of Saint-Dizier (eldest brother of the Count of Rennepont and Duke of Cardoville, father of Adrienne), that during his life he had never said one word that could make it be thought that he suspected the actions of his wife. Attaching herself to Napoleon, to dig a mine under the feet of the Colossus, that design at least afforded emotions sufficient to gratify the humor of the most insatiable. During some time, all went well. The princess was beautiful and spirited, dexterous and false, perfidious and seductive. She was surrounded by fanatical adorers, upon whom she played off a kind of ferocious coquetry, to induce them to run their heads into grave conspiracies. They hoped to resuscitate the Fonder party, and carried on a very active secret correspondence with some influential personages abroad, well known for their hatred against the emperor and France. Hence arose her first epistolary relations with the Marquis d’Aigrigny, then colonel in the Russian service and aide-de-camp to General Moreau. But one day all these petty intrigues were discovered. Many knights of Madame de Saint-Dizier were sent to Vincennes; but the emperor, who might have punished her terribly, contented himself with exiling the princess to one of her estates near Dunkirk.

Upon the Restoration, the persecutions which Madame de Saint-Dizier had suffered for the Good Cause were entered to her credit, and she acquired even then very considerable influence, in spite of the lightness of her behavior. The Marquis d’Aigrigny, having entered the military service of France, remained there. He was handsome, and of fashionable manners and address. He had corresponded and conspired with the princess, without knowing her; and these circumstances necessarily led to a close connection between them.

Excessive self-love, a taste for exciting pleasures, aspirations of hatred, pride, and lordliness, a species of evil sympathy, the perfidious attraction of which brings together perverse natures without mingling them, had made of the princess and the Marquis accomplices rather than lovers. This connection, based upon selfish and bitter feelings, and upon the support which two characters of this dangerous temper could lend to each other against a world in which their spirit of intrigue, of gallantry, and of contempt had made them many enemies, this connection endured till the moment when, after his duel with General Simon, the Marquis entered a religious house, without any one understanding the cause of his unexpected and sudden resolution.

The princess, having not yet heard the hour of her conversion strike, continued to whirl round the vortex of the world with a greedy, jealous, and hateful ardor, for she saw that the last years of her beauty were dying out.

An estimate of the character of this woman may be formed from the following fact:

Still very agreeable, she wished to close her worldly and volatile career with some brilliant and final triumph, as a great actress knows the proper time to withdraw from the stage so as to leave regrets behind. Desirous of offering up this final incense to her own vanity, the princess skillfully selected her victims. She spied out in the world a young couple who idolized each other; and, by dint of cunning and address, she succeeded in taking away the lover from his mistress, a charming woman of eighteen, by whom he was adored. This triumph being achieved, Madame Saint-Dizier retired from the fashionable world in the full blaze of her exploit. After many long conversations with the Abbe- Marquis d’Aigrigny, who had become a renowned preacher, she departed suddenly from Paris, and spent two years upon her estate near Dunkirk, to which she took only one of her female attendants, viz., Mrs. Grivois.

When the princess afterwards returned to Paris, it was impossible to recognize the frivolous, intriguing, and dissipated woman she had formerly been. The metamorphosis was as complete as it was extraordinary and even startling. Saint-Dizier House, heretofore open to the banquets and festivals of every kind of pleasure, became gloomily silent and austere. Instead of the world of elegance and fashion, the princess now received in her mansion only women of ostentatious piety, and men of consequence, who were remarkably exemplary by the extravagant rigor of their religious and monarchial principles. Above all, she drew around her several noted members of the higher orders of the clergy. She was appointed patroness of a body of religious females. She had her own confessor, chaplin, almoner, and even spiritual director; but this last performed his functions in partibus. The Marquis-Abbe d’Aigrigny continued in reality to be her spiritual guide; and it is almost unnecessary to say that for a long time past their mutual relations as to flirting had entirely ceased.

This sudden and complete conversion of a gay and distinguished woman, especially as it was loudly trumpeted forth, struck the greater number of persons with wonder and respect. Others, more discerning, only smiled.

A single anecdote, from amongst a thousand, will suffice to show the alarming influence and power which the princess had acquired since her affiliation with the Jesuits. This anecdote will also exhibit the deep, vindictive, and pitiless character of this woman, whom Adrienne de Cardoville had so imprudently made herself ready to brave.

Amongst the persons who smiled more or less at the conversion of Madame de Saint-Dizier were the young and charming couple whom she had so cruelly disunited before she quitted forever the scenes of revelry in which she had lived. The young couple became more impassioned and devoted to each other than ever; they were reconciled and married, after the passing storm which had hurled them asunder; and they indulged in no other vengeance against the author of their temporary infelicity than that of mildly jesting at the pious conversion of the woman who had done them so much injury.

Some time after, a terrible fatality overtook the loving pair. The husband, until then blindly unsuspicious, was suddenly inflamed by anonymous communications. A dreadful rupture ensued, and the young wife perished.

As for the husband, certain vague rumors, far from distinct, yet pregnant with secret meanings, perfidiously contrived, and a thousand times more detestable than formal accusations, which can, at least, be met and destroyed, were strewn about him with so much perseverance, with a skill so diabolical, and by means and ways so very various, that his best friends, by little and little, withdrew themselves from him, thus yielding to the slow, irresistible influence of that incessant whispering and buzzing, confused as indistinct, amounting to some such results as this—

"Well! you know!" says one.

"No!" replies another.

"People say very vile things about him."

"Do they? really! What then?"

"I don’t know! Bad reports! Rumors grievously affecting his honor!"

"The deuce! That’s very serious. It accounts for the coldness with which he is now everywhere received!"

"I shall avoid him in future!"

"So will I," etc.

Such is the world, that very often nothing more than groundless surmises are necessary to brand a man whose very, happiness may have incurred envy. So it was with the gentleman of whom we speak. The unfortunate man, seeing the void around him extending itself,—feeling (so to speak) the earth crumbling from beneath his feet, knew not where to find or grasp the impalpable enemy whose blows he felt; for not once had the idea occurred to him of suspecting the princess, whom he had not seen since his adventure with her. Anxiously desiring to learn why he was so much shunned and despised, he at length sought an explanation from an old friend; but he received only a disdainfully evasive answer; at which, being exasperated, he demanded satisfaction. His adversary replied—"If you can find two persons of our acquaintance, I will fight you!" The unhappy man could not find one!

Finally, forsaken by all, without having ever obtained an explanation of the reason for forsaking him—suffering keenly for the fate of the wife whom he had lost, he became mad with grief, rage, and despair, and killed himself.

On the day of his death, Madame de Saint-Dizier remarked that it was fit and necessary that one who had lived so shamefully should come to an equally shameful end, and that he who had so long jested at all laws, human and divine, could not seemly otherwise terminate his wretched life than by perpetrating a last crime—suicide! And the friends of Madame de Saint-Dizier hawked about and everywhere repeated these terrible words with a contrite air, as if beatified and convinced! But this was not all. Along with chastisements there were rewards.

Observant people remarked that the favorites of the religious clan of Madame de Saint-Dizier rose to high distinction with singular rapidity. The virtuous young men, such as were religiously attentive to tiresome sermons, were married to rich orphans of the Sacred Heart Convents, who were held in reserve for the purpose; poor young girls, who, learning too late what it is to have a pious husband selected and imposed upon them by a set of devotees, often expiated by very bitter tears the deceitful favor of thus being admitted into a world of hypocrisy and falsehood, in which they found themselves strangers without support, crushed by it if they dared to complain of the marriages to which they had been condemned.

In the parlor of Madame de Saint-Dizier were appointed prefects, colonels, treasurers, deputies, academicians, bishops and peers of the realm, from whom nothing more was required in return for the all-powerful support bestowed upon them, but to wear a pious gloss, sometimes publicly take the communion, swear furious war against everything impious or revolutionary,—and above all, correspond confidentially upon "different subjects of his choosing" with the Abbe d’Aigrigny,—an amusement, moreover, which was very agreeable; for the abbe was the most amiable man in the world, the most witty, and above all, the most obliging. The following is an historical fact, which requires the bitter and vengeful irony of Moliere or Pascal to do it justice.

During the last year of the Restoration, there was one of the mighty dignitaries of the court a firm and independent man, who did not make profession (as the holy fathers call it), that is, who did not communicate at the altar. The splendor amid which he moved was calculated to give the weight of a very injurious example to his indifference. The Abbe-Marquis d’Aigrigny was therefore despatched to him; and he knowing the honorable and elevated character of the noncommunicant, thought that if he could only bring him to profess by any means (whatever the means might be) the effect would be what was desired. Like a man of intellect, the abbe prized the dogma but cheaply himself. He only spoke of the suitableness of the step, and of the highly salutary example which the resolution to adopt it would afford to the public.

"M. Abbe," replied the person sought to be influenced, "I have a greater respect for religion than you have. I should consider it an infamous mockery to go to the communion table without feeling the proper conviction."

"Nonsense! you inflexible man! you frowning Alcestes," said the Marquis- Abbe, smiling slyly. "Your profits and your scruples will go together, believe me, by listening to me. In short, we shall manage to make it a BLANK COMMUNION for you; for after all, what is it that we ask?—only the APPEARANCE!"

Now, a BLANK COMMUNION means breaking an unconsecrated wafer!

The Abbe-Marquis retired with his offers, which were rejected with indignation;—but then, the refractory man was dismissed from his place at court. This was but a single isolated fact. Woe to all who found themselves opposed to the interest and principles of Madame de Saint- Dizier or her friends! Sooner or later, directly or indirectly, they felt themselves cruelly stabbed, generally immediately—some in their dearest connections, others in their credit, some in their honor; others in their official functions; and all by secret action, noiseless, continuous, and latent, in time becoming a terrible and mysterious dissolvent, which invisibly undermined reputations, fortunes, positions the most solidly established, until the moment when all sunk forever into the abyss, amid the surprise and terror of the beholders.

It will now be conceived how under the Restoration the Princess de Saint- Dizier had become singularly influential and formidable. At the time of the Revolution of July (1830) she had "rallied," and, strangely enough, by preserving some relation of family and of society with persons faithful to the worship of decayed monarchy, people still attributed to the princess much influence and power. Let us mention, at last, that the Prince of Saint-Dizier, having died many years since, his very large personal fortune had descended to his younger brother, the father of Adrienne de Cardoville; and he, having died eighteen months ago, that young lady found herself to be the last and only representative of that branch of the family of the Renneponts.

The Princess of Saint-Dizier awaited her niece in a very large room, rendered dismal by its gloomy green damask. The chairs, etc., covered with similar stuff, were of carved ebony. Paintings of scriptural and other religious subjects, and an ivory crucifix thrown up from a background of black velvet, contributed to give the apartment a lugubrious and austere aspect.

Madame de Saint-Dizier, seated before a large desk, has just finished putting the seals on numerous letters; for she had a very extensive and very diversified correspondence. Though then aged about forty-five she was still fair. Advancing years had somewhat thickened her shape, which formerly of distinguished elegance, was still sufficiently handsome to be seen to advantage under the straight folds of her black dress. Her headdress, very simple, decorated with gray ribbons, allowed her fair sleek hair to be seen arranged in broad bands. At first look, people were struck with her dignified though unassuming appearance; and would have vainly tried to discover in her physiognomy, now marked with repentant calmness, any trace of the agitations of her past life. So naturally grave and reserved was she, that people could not believe her the heroine of so many intrigues and adventures and gallantry. Moreover, if by chance she ever heard any lightness of conversation, her countenance, since she had come to believe herself a kind of "mother in the Church," immediately expressed candid but grieved astonishment, which soon changed into an air of offended chastity and disdainful pity.

"For the rest, her smile, when requisite, was still full of grace, and even of the seducing and resistless sweetness of seeming good-nature. Her large blue eyes, on fit occasions, became affectionate and caressing. But if any one dared to wound or ruffle her pride, gainsay her orders or harm her interests, her countenance, usually placid and serene, betrayed a cold but implacable malignity. Mrs. Grivois entered the cabinet, holding in her hand Florine’s report of the manner in which Adrienne de Cardoville had spent the morning.

Mrs. Grivois had been about twenty years in the service of Madame de Saint-Dizier. She knew everything that a lady’s-maid could or ought to have known of her mistress in the days of her sowing of wild (being a lady) flowers. Was it from choice that the princess had still retained about her person this so-well-informed witness of the numerous follies of her youth? The world was kept in ignorance of the motive; but one thing was evident, viz., that Mrs. Grivois enjoyed great privileges under the princess, and was treated by her rather as a companion than as a tiringwoman.

"Here are Florine’s notes, madame," said Mrs. Grivois, giving the paper to the princess.

"I will examine them presently," said the princess; "but tell me, is my niece coming? Pending the conference at which she is to be present, you will conduct into her house a person who will soon be here, to inquire for you by my desire."

"Well, madame?"

"This man will make an exact inventory of everything contained in Adrienne’s residence. You will take care that nothing is omitted; for that is of very great importance."

"Yes, madame. But should Georgette or Hebe make any opposition?"

"There is no fear; the man charged with taking the inventory is of such a stamp, that when they know him, they will not dare to oppose either his making the inventory, or his other steps. It will be necessary not to fail, as you go along with him, to be careful to obtain certain peculiarities destined to confirm the reports which you have spread for some time past."

"Do not have the slightest doubt, madame. The reports have all the consistency of truth."

"Very soon, then, this Adrienne, so insolent and so haughty, will be crushed and compelled to pray for pardon; and from me!"

An old footman opened both of the folding doors, and announced the Marquis-Abbe d’Aigrigny.

"If Miss de Cardoville present herself," said the princess to Mrs. Grivois, "you will request her to wait an instant."

"Yes, madame," said the duenna, going out with the servant.

Madame de Saint-Dizier and D’Aigrigny remained alone.

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Chicago: Eugène Sue, "Chapter XXXVI. A Female Jesuit.," The Wandering Jew— Volume 3, ed. CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb and trans. Stanley Young in The Wandering Jew—Volume 3 (New York: The Modern Library Publishers, 1918), Original Sources, accessed February 7, 2023, http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NU5VQB5NEYJ5PM.

MLA: Sue, Eugène. "Chapter XXXVI. A Female Jesuit." The Wandering Jew— Volume 3, edited by CM01B10.Txt - 149 Kb, CM01B10.Zip - 56 Kb, and translated by Stanley Young, in The Wandering Jew—Volume 3, New York, The Modern Library Publishers, 1918, Original Sources. 7 Feb. 2023. http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NU5VQB5NEYJ5PM.

Harvard: Sue, E, 'Chapter XXXVI. A Female Jesuit.' in The Wandering Jew— Volume 3, ed. and trans. . cited in 1918, The Wandering Jew—Volume 3, The Modern Library Publishers, New York. Original Sources, retrieved 7 February 2023, from http://www.originalsources.com/Document.aspx?DocID=8NU5VQB5NEYJ5PM.