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Renee Vivien


Jeannef te H. Foster

Introduction by



French text printed by Alphonse Lemerre, Paris, 1904.

This translation and introduction Copyright ©1976 by The

Naiad Press Incorporated, All rights reserved. No part of this
book may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any
means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, without
permission in writing from the publisher.

Printed in the United States of America

Second Printing 1979
Third Printing 1981
Fourth Printing 1982

Cover design by Tee A. Corinne

ISBN: 0-930044-06-1
Library of Congress Catalog Card Number 76-45689
'^WpW^^^^MC'^Z^^^ X **-0mm:,

Digitized by the Internet Archive
in 2011


The French text was originally pubHshed as: Une Femme

m'apparut. Printed by Alphonse Lemerre, Paris, 1904. 270
pages. With a frontispiece, Saint John the Baptist by Leonardo
da Vinci, and brief excerpts of musical scores preceding each
chapter. 19 cm.

The book is dedicated by the author to H. L. C. B.

Copies of this French edition are now rare.

The French edition contains, preceding each chapter, excerpts

from musical scores, intended to indicate mood-music for each
episode. In the present volume these have not been reproduced.
The translator, however, has identified each excerpt and references
will be found at the end of this volume in the Translator's Notes.

The present volume is the result of a rare opportunity to

bring to modern readers in EngUsh this prose work of the gifted
20th Century poet, Renee Vivien. Although French was the
language in which she chose to write, she was Anglo-American.
The translation here provided by Jeannette H. Foster captures
her unique style and feeling. The Introduction by Gayle Rubin
presents her as a woman and as a major Lesbian writer.

History is lies agreed upon by the victors.


The first novel, Adam 's story, has been

-Natalie Barney

. . . / know that these are the women our

fathers stole us from. Know thy women;
know thyself . . .

—Bertha Harris

It is notoriously difficult to maintain the memory of the past. But

groups which are socially marginal are particularly relegated to the fringes
of historical discussion. Lesbians, suffering from the dual disquahfication
of being gay and female, have been repeatedly dispossessed of their history.
The generation of lesbians who emerged out of the women's movement in
the late 1960's had to discover their immediate predecessors of the 1950*s,
who had already undertaken the task of retrieving earlier ancestors from
scanty archives. The same silence which makes the practice of lesbian his-
tory so arduous also obscures the work of those who have succeeded in

illuminating a lesbian past.

Such considerations make the pubHcation of this translation of Une Femme
m'apparutan event to be relished. The translator is Jeannette Foster, whose
Sex Variant Women in Literature (1956) is the principal reference book on
lesbian history. It had been out of print for two decades until this year
when a women's press rescued it from the underground. I doubt that Foster

was very surprised by the general neglect of her work, which painstakingly
documents the extent to which lesbian lives and Hterature are routinely
forgotten. The author of A Woman Appeared to Me is Renee Vivien, whose
own career is an object lesson in historical amnesia. Vivien's poetry was
lavishly praised by critics in the early part of this century, but it has since
been consigned to obscurity. (Reinach, 1914; and Cooper, 1943)
Ren^e Vivien's twenty-odd volumes of poetry and prose comprise one
of the most remarkable lesbian oeuvres extant. While her celebration of
lesbian passion has contributed to her lack of literary recognition, it has
conversely guaranteed her a modest cult reputation as a homosexual poet.
Her collected poems were reprinted (in the original French) in the recent
Arno Press collection on homosexuality and severalpoems were translated
into English in The Ladder. (I'Autre, 1969) Renee Vivien's prose poems,
short stories, and her one novel {A Woman Appeared to Me), have remained
even less known than her verse. Vivien's prose work never reached second
printings even in her lifetime, when her poetry was widely read and some-
thing of a scandalous sensation. Much of her prose writing is both beauti-
ful and fascinating; it should be more accessible. Hopefully, this translation
of A Woman Appeared to Me will encourage a revival of interest in all of
Renee Vivien's work.
If A Woman Appeared to Me were merely a lost work by an obscure
lesbian writer, its pubUcation would be welcome. But the novel is also a
historical document, part of the archival remains of one of the most criti-
cal periods in lesbian history. A Woman Appeared to Me is Renee Vivien's
feverish, dream-hke account of her tormented relationship with her muse
and mistress, Natalie Clifford Barney. "Between Sappho and Gertrude Stein
. . . these women represent practically the only available expressions of
lesbian cukure we have in the modem western world." (Harris, 1973:87)
Since the novel evokes both the relationship and the milieu in which it

took place, it can be better understood with some knowledge of both its

historical and biographical contexts. I will first describe some aspects of

the complex world in which the two main protagonists of the novel Hved.
Part of the unwritten history of the nineteenth century is that of the
profound historical changes in sexuaUty. The nineteenth century saw the
culmination of trends which began as Europe changed into modern society.
The massive social transformations— such as industriaHzation, urbanization,
etc.— have long engaged the historical imagination. Historians have recently
become interested in the changes which took place in the family and in

sexual Hfe, but few have noticed that these changes included a revolution
in homosexuality. It was in the nineteenth century that homosexuality
assumed its modern form.
In the Middle Ages, homosexuality had been defined as a form of be-
havior, a sinful activity. The idea of a type of person who
homosexual is

is a product of the nineteenth century. was the nineteenth century sex-


ologists who recognized a category of homosexual individuals and who

evolved a terminology to describe such persons. Writers of the nineteenth
century also record evidence of the urban subcultures which still charac-
terize so much of homosexual experience.^ The nineteenth century cities
contained speciaUzed homosexual communities, centered around bars, res-

taurants, informal networks, and semi-secret clubs.

The variety of lesbian society in Paris before 1910 has been charmingly
described by Colette. Between 1906 and 1911, Colette left her first hus-

band, made her living by performing in music halls, and had a woman
lover-Missy, the Marquise de Belboeuf. Through the music halls, Colette
was familiar with the popular homosexual culture. She frequented a lower-
class bar called the Palmyre. The clientele was mostly poor, the food was
cheap, and the proprietor a rough, maternal amazon who fed the most in-
digent for nothing.

I go to the bar kept by Semiramis, appropriately named-Semiramis,

warrior queen, helmeted in bronze, armed with the meat cleaver, who
speaks a colorful language to her crowd of long-haired young lads and
short-haired young girls . . .

. . . you find there a majority of young men who are not at all in-
terested in women. At dinnertime there they are, comfortably at home,
enjoying a rest. They are recovering their strength for suppertime.They

have no need to waggle their hips or cry out shrilly or flutter a handker-
chief soaked in ether, or dance together They are gentle, weary, . . .

with their painted eyelids heavy with sleep.

While dining at Semiramis's bar I enjoy watching the girls danc-
. . .

ing together, they waltz so well. They're not paid for this, but dance
for pleasure between the cabbage soup and the beef stew. They are
young models, scapegraces of the neighborhood, girls who take bit
parts at the music hall but who are out of work ... I see only two
graceful bodies united, sculptured beneath thin dresses by the wind
of the waltz They waltz like the habitues of cheap dance halls,
. . .

lewdly, sensuously, with that delicious inclination of a tall sail of a

yacht ... I can't help it! I really find that prettier than any ballet . .

(Phelps, 1966: 144-150)

Through her lover Missy, Colette met the disgruntled aristocrats. Remem-
beringthem thirty years later, she wrote:

The adherents of this clique of women exacted secrecy for their

parties, where tney appeared dressed in long trousers and dinner jackets
and behaved with unsurpassed propriety . . .

Where could I find, nowadays, messmates like those Baronesses . . .

of the Empire, lady cousins of Czars, illegitimate daughters of grand-

dukes, exquisites of the Parisian bourgeoisie, and also some aged horse-
women of the Austrian aristocracy, hand and eye of steel (Colette, . . .

1967: 67-69)

It was to this Paris, vibrant capital of homosexual society, that Renee

Vivien and Natalie Barney came shortly before 1900, when they were both
in their early twenties. It was here that the two young women instigated
a lesbian renaissance. They distinguished themselves from their contempo-

raries in Paris lesbian society by what we would now call their "gay con-

sciousness." Beneath the florid. Belle Epoque, upper-class texture of their

hves, one can discern two forerunners of the contemporary gay women's
movement. v

. . . sick with anguish,

Stood the crowned nine Muses
about Apollo,
Fear was upon them.

While the tenth sang

wonderful things they
knew not.
Ah the tenth, the Lesbian!


Is it sapphism which
nourishes her intelligence,
or is it intelligence which
makes her a lesbian?
-Jean Royere, speaking of
Natalie Barney

Renee Vivien was born Pauline Mary Tarn in England on June 1 1 , 1877.^
Her mother was American and her father The Tarn family appar-
ently amassed their fortune in the London dry goods business. Renee^ was
sent to study in Paris, where she met Violet Shilleto, a young American
who was to become one of the most important figures in her life. The two
girls became close friends. They shared an intense concern with religion

and related questions. As children, they refused Anglican communion to-

gether and both were to die as CathoUcs. With adolescence, Renee developed
an intense, but unconsummated, passion for Violet. Renee had probably
not yet understood the implications of her feelings when her parents brought
her back to England to prepare for her debut. She did know that she was
miserable, missed her friend, and was in a constant state of rage at having
to go through the motions of a conventional upper-class girl preparing for
marriage. Renee was fmally presented in 1897 when she was twenty. She
escaped back to Paris the next year, and had her first sexual relationship
in 1899 with Natalie Barney, whom she met through Violet Shilleto.
Natalie Barney was born in Dayton, Ohio on Halloween 1876.^ The
Barney family then lived in Cincinnati, where they had made a fortune
manufacturing railroad equipment. The Barney family subsequently moved
to Washington. Natalie spent much of her youth in France, where she at-

tended Les Ruches, the school immortalized in Olivia.^ She lived for a
while in Paris where her mother, Alice Pike Barney, studied painting.^
Natalie's memoirs convey the impression of an extraordinary precocity.
She says that she became a feminist during one of the family excursions
to Europe, where she saw a woman and a dog pulling a cart while the man
walked alongside. (Barney, 1960:30) She was ten years old. That same
year, hermother arranged tor Carolus Duran to paint Natalie's portrait.
Displaying the fine sense of camp which never deserted her, Natalie posed
as ayoung prince wearing a green velvet doublet.^ Natalie knew that she
was a lesbian from an early age, and later commented that if her studies
had come to nothing, it was because '*my only books were women's looks."
(Grindea, 1961:10) She had her first lesbian affair at the age of sixteen
with a red-haired beauty named Eva Palmer. The two girls had met at Bar
Harbor, Maine, where their families had summer homes.
Natalie settled in Paris in 1899. She immediately seduced Liane de Pougy,
one of the most celebrated courtesans in Paris. Pougy wrote Idylle Saphique,
a roman a clef oi the relationship.® The novel portrays young Natalie orat-
ing against the injustice of male laws and referring to lesbianism as "a reH-
gion of the body, whose kisses are prayers." (Pougy, 1901:277) She refuses
to call lesbianism a perversion. Instead, she refers to it as "a conversion."
Natalie was still involved with Liane when she met Renee. The affair
between Natalie and Renee commenced on a winter night in 1 899 in a

room full of liHes. It lasted until a bitter rupture in 1901 and resumed
again briefly in 1904. It would be difficult to understand how such a short
liaison could have had the impact that it did upon both women, were it

not for the intensity generated by their shared vision of a society in which
women would be free, and homosexuahty honored.
When Renee Vivien and Natalie Barney began their relationship, they
each found a comrade in their Hterary war on behalf of women and les-

bianism. Searching for their own roots, they discovered Sappho and Hellen-
ism. They dreamed of establishing a group of women poets dedicated to
Sappho, preferably on the island of Mytilene (Lesbos). Vivien learned Greek
in order to read Sappho in the original, and she eventually translated Sappho's
poetry into French. The two women declared themselves pagans, spiritual
descendants of the Greeks.
Vivien and Barney were part of the emergence of the early homosexual
movement in the late nineteenth century. In Britain this movement mainly
consisted of Victorian gentlemen who wrote homoerotic poetry. In Germany,
the movement was expHcitly political, and fought for the legaHzation of
homosexuality. (Lauritsen and Thorstad, 1974) Renee Vivien and Natalie
Barney were unique in that they achieved and articulated a distinctively
lesbian self-awareness. Their writings show that they understood who they
were and what they were up against. There were few homosexuals of either
sex who comprehended the dimensions of the homosexual situation.
Both women understood that prejudice against homosexuals had to be
fought, and they realized the importance of living openly. Before Radclyffe
Hall argued for tolerance, they argued for pride. Hall's consciousness was

largely that of the sexologists, such as Havelock Ellis and Magnus Hirschfeld,
who believed that homosexuaUty was an inborn anomaly for which no one
should be held legally culpable. By contrast, Vivien and Barney adopted
an attitude for which they found support in nineteenth century French
hterature, in which the lesbian was often a romantic figure, (see Foster,
1956:81-115) Radclyffe Hall believed that pride was possible in spite of
homosexuality; Vivien and Barney were proud o/homosexuaHty.
At at time when Krafft-Ebing classified homosexuality as a degenerative

disease, Vivien and Barney considered it They responded

a thrilling distinction.

to anti-homosexual disdain with insolent extremism, as illustrated by this

interchange between two of the characters in A Woman Appeared to Me:
"In fact, San Giovanni, has a woman ever loved a man?"
"I can hardly conceive of such a deviation of the senses. Sadism
and the rape of children seem more normal to me." (page 53)

Renee Vivien read widely in myth, legend, and ancient literature. She
rewrote many of western culture's most cherished myths, replacing their
male and heterosexual biases with female and lesbian ones. In these ex-
cerpts from "The Profane Genesis," (Vivien, 1902a: 11 5-1 18) Vivien changes
the biblical story into the creation myth of lesbian poetry.

I. Before the birth of the Universe, there existed two eternal

principles, Jehovah and Satan.
II. Jehovah was the incarnation of Force, Satan the incarnation
of Cunning.

VII. Jehovah breathed upon the Infinite, and the sky was born
of his breath.

VIII. Satan covered the implacable azure with the fleeting grace
of clouds.

XIII. Jehovah kneaded clay, and from this clay, fashioned man.

XIV. From the very essence of this flesh flowered, idealized, the

flesh of woman, the work of Satan.

XV. Jehovah bent the man and the woman with the violence of
the embrace.

XVI. Satan taught them the piercing subtlety of the caress.

XVIII. He [Jehovah] inspired the Bard of Ionia, the mighty Homer.

XIX. Homer celebrated the magnificence of carnage and the glory

of spih blood, the ruin of cities, the sobs of widows . . .

XX. Satan leaned toward the west, over the sleep of Sappho, the

XXI. And she sang the fugitive forms of love ... the ardent
perfume of roses ... the sacred dances of Cretan women ... the
immortal arrogance that scorns suffering and smiles in death and
the charm of women's kisses . . .

Renee Vivien and Natalie Barney were as outspoken in their feminism

as in their lesbianism. Vivien scoured her sources for themes of female in-

dependence. Amazons, androgynes, and archaic female deities abound in

her writing. Many of her prose pieces are tales of women as magnificent
rebels. There are noble virgins, independent prostitutes, queens who choose
poverty and freedom to the slavery of an unloved royal bed. 'The Veil of
Vashti" (Vivien, 1904b: 131-144) is a story based on the Old Testament
Book of Esther. The Jewish festival of Purim celebrates Esther's rescue of
the Jews from the machinations of a Persian court functionary. Vivien was
inspired by the part of the story which is generally ignored in Hebrew
school. She wrote about Queen Vashti, whom Esther replaced. The biblical
account says that Vashti refused to obey an order of King Ahasuerus. The
King's advisors warn that she must be punished, or the Persians and the
Medes will be faced with a feminist revolt. In Vivien's story, Vashti's pro-
vocation is deliberate:

"For my come to the attention of all women and they

action will
will say, 'The King Ahasuerus had ordered that Queen Vashti be
brought into his presence and she did not go.' And, from that day,
the princesses of Persia and Media will know that they are no longer
the servants of their husbands, and that the man is no longer the
master in his house; but that the woman is free and mistress equally
to the master in his house."

When Queen Vashti is informed of her banishment from the court, she

"I am going into the desert where human beings are free like
Hons ... I shall perish there perhaps of hunger.! shall perish there
perhaps of savage beasts. I shall perish there perhaps of
in the teeth
soHtude. But, since the rebellion of Lilith, I am the first free woman.
My action will come to the attention of all women, and all those
who are slaves in the houses of their husbands or of their fathers
will envy me in secret. Thinking of my glorious rebellion, they will
say: Vashti disdained being a queen that she might be free."
And Vashti went into the desert where dead serpents lived again
under the light of the moon.

Renee Vivien also wrote stories of women as victims of male injustice.

One of the most striking is "The Eternal Slave." (Vivien, 1903b: 89-90)
It is worth quoting in full:

/ I saw the Woman encumbered with chains of gold and chains of
bronze. Her bonds were at once tenuous like a spider's web, and
heavy Hke the mass of mountains, and the Man, sometimes tyrant
\ and sometimes parasite, dominated her and Uved off of her.
\ Docile, she submitted to his tyranny. And what was most dis-
maying was to hear the hypocritical words of love which were
mingled with the orders of the master.
I cried out to the Woman (and my cry passed despairingly through

the bars which separated us):

/ "O You, the eternally Afflicted, Tenderness deceived, Martyr

/ of love, why do you resign yourself in degrading patience to the
/ ignominy and baseness of this false companion? Do you submit out
j of love or out of fear?"
\ She replied to me: "I submit neither from love nor from fear,
j but through ignorance and habit."
And with these words, an immense sadness and an immense hope
\ came to me.

Because of her sensitivity to the male sexual monopoly on women,

Renee Vivien was fascinated by stories of women who refused men. She
often wrote about women who preferred to mate with monsters or to die
rather than to accept the desire of a human male. Many of her stories are
told from the viewpoint of some bemused man who has unwittingly en-
countered such a woman and been humiliated by her refusal. "Brown Like
a Hazel-Nut" (Vivien, 1904b: 145-164) is narrated by a young man named
Jerry, and consists of his bitter recollection of Nell. Jerry wanted Nell to
be his mistress, but she refuses. She tells him that she would rather swallow
a toad than be embraced by him. He catches a toad and tells her that he
will take her by force unless she swallows it. She does.
Renee Vivien is chiefly remembered for her poetry, the vast bulk of
which is devoted to the passion of women. There is no poet who wrote
as openly, as single -mindedly, and as prolifically of lesbian love. Colette
said of the Poet of Lesbos, "Renee Vivien has left a great many poems of
unequal strength, force, merit, unequal as the human breath, as the pulsa-
tions of human suffering." (Colette, 1967:91) It would be impossible to
begin to present the range of Vivien's poetry here, so these verses from
"Words to My Friend" (Vivien, 1934b: 54-5 5) will have to suffice:

See: I am at the age when a maiden gives her hand

To the Man whom her weakness seeks and dreads,
And have not chosen my travelling companion.

Because you appeared at the turn of the road.

The hyacinth bleeds on the red hills.

You dreamt and Eros walked by your side . . .

I am a woman, I have no right to beauty,

They have condemned me to the ugliness of men.

And I had the inexcusable audacity to want
The sisterly love made up of light purities,
The furtive step that does not bruise the ferns
And the soft voice which blends with the evening.

They had forbidden me your hair, your eyes

Because your hair is long and fragrant
And because your eyes hold strange ardors
And become muddy like rebellious waves.

They pointed their fingers at me in an angry gesture,

Because my eyes were seeking your tender glance . . .

On seeing us pass by, no one has wished to understand

That I have chosen you with simplicity.

Consider the vile law that 1 transgress

And judge my which knows nothing of evil.
As candid, as necessary, and fatal
As the desire which joins the lover to his mistress.

If Renee Vivien was the poet of Lesbos, Natalie Barney was its muse.
Barney was also a writer and a poet, but her impact came less from her
writing than from her powerful personality, her arrogant disregard for con-
vention, the lucidity of her ideas, and her astounding capacity for seduc-
tion. She lived among writers, many of whom used her colorful personality
model for barely disguised fictional characters. Besides Vally in A
as a
Woman Appeared to Me, Barney's most memorable appearances include
Laurette, in L Ange et les pervers (Delarue-Mardrus, 1930); Dame Evangeline
Musset in the Ladies Almanack (Barnes, 1928); Florence Temple Bradford
(Flossie) in Idylle Saphique (Pougy, 1901); and Valerie Seymour in The
Well of Loneliness (Hall, 1959). These characters depict Natalie in her fav-
orite roles-muse of poets, high priestess of lesbianism, missionary and se-

ductress of the unconvinced. Natalie was a living advertisement for the

healthful benefits of the gay life.

Natalie did not restrict the exercise of her charm to women. She has a
considerable reputation as a patron of literature. Her salon at 20, rue Jacob,
is legendary, hi contrast to Gertrude Stein's, Natalie's salon was a center
for French Hterature. Her guest list reads like a Who's Who in twentieth

century French and American arts and letters.

During the twenties, Natalie's home was also a gathering place for the
international homosexual underground. Radclyffe Hall and Una Troubridge
visited Natalie frequently in the 1920's, and Hall wrote about the ambi-
ance NataHe created in The Well of Loneliness:

And such people frequented Valerie Seymour's, men and women

who must carry God's mark on their foreheads. For Valerie, placid
and self-assured, created an atmosphere of courage; everyone felt very

normal and brave when they gathered together at Valerie Seymour's.

There she was, this charming and cultured woman, a kind of lighthouse
in a storm-swept ocean. The waves had lashed round her feet in vain . .

The storms, gathering force, broke and drifted away, leaving behind
them the shipwrecked, the drowning. But when they looked up, the
poor spluttering victims, why what should they see but Valerie Seymour!
Then a few would strike boldly for the shore, at the sight of this in-

destructible creature. (Hall, 1959:352)

An impressive number of talented and articulate women continued to

gather around Natalie Barney well into the twentieth century. Some were
at one time or another her lovers-including Lucie Delarue-Mardrus, Elizabeth
de Gramont (Duchesse de Clermont-Tonnerre), Dolly Wilde (Oscar Wilde's
niece), and Romaine Brooks. They wrote about each other, painted each
other, wrote poetry to each other, and engaged in Byzantine sexual intrigue.
They an extraordinary collection of artifacts scattered about in museums

and libraries. Many of them are famous, and this period of Paris history
in the 1920's is relatively well known. It should be remembered, however,

that these women were carrying on a tradition estabHshed by Renee Vivien

and Natalie Barney by 1900.


"Some women," said Dame Musset, "are Sea-Cattle,

and some are Land-Hogs, and yet others are Worms
crawling about our Almanacks, but some," she said,
"are Sisters of Heaven, and these we must follow and
not be side-tracked."
-Ladies Almanack

In spite of their shared ideology, Renee Vivien and Natalie Barney were
emotionally mismatched. Although A Woman Appeared to Me reflects their
common lesbian consciousness, it is primarily a record of their incompati-
bility. Renee Vivien wrote A Woman Appeared to Me sometime before
their reconciliation in 1904.^ The novel is based on the events and people
in Vivien's life between 1899 and 1903, and its esthetic is fin de siecle. The
novel is biographical, but it records less the events themselves than Renee's
emotional response to them. Moreover, Renee experienced her emotions
very symbolically. Perhaps as part of her poetic craft, particular people
became associated with any number of levels of imagery and significance,
Renee's inner cosmology associated colors, flowers, and legendary figures
with personal archetypes.
There are two primary emotional sources for A Woman Appeared to

Me. The first was the failure of Renee's relationship with Natalie. During
the same period of her life, Renee faced another crisis. Her friend Violet

haunted Renee for the rest of her
Shilleto died in 1901. Violet's death
own short compUcated the relationship with Natalie.
life, and it

A Woman Appeared to Me is the story of a doomed love affair between

the narrator (Renee Vivien) and Vally (Natalie Barney). The first part of
the novel covers the years from 1899 to 1901. Vally is portrayed as in-
capable of love and utterly faithless. The narrator is distressed at Vally's
dalliances with other women, but
most outraged by the "Prostitute,"
she is

a man who wants to marry Vally. Natalie did in fact have male suitors at
that time, and she led them on. But men were never of any sexual or ro-
mantic significance to her.
The narrator reahzes that her obsessed relationship with Vally is under-
mining her friendship with lone (Violet Shilleto), who had been her most
dear and intimate friend. Completing the initial cast of characters, there
is the orientalist Petrus (J. C. Mardrus, a friend of Natalie's and the trans-
lator of the Arabian Nights), the wife of Petrus (Lucie Delarue-Mardrus),
and San Giovanni.
The character San Giovanni is a composite alter ego of the narrator.
She is Renee 's better half, her common sense, the courageous poet of

Lesbos: in short, the core of Vivien's identity which remained intact from
the devastation of her unhappy passion. Sometimes San Giovanni is the
wise Vivien of 1903 while the narrator is the innocent Vivien of 1900.
San Giovanni is also one of the archetypes of Vivien's personal mythology:
the androgyne.
Vally, the narrator, and San Giovanni travel together to America, where
they visit a women's college (Bryn Mawr); lone gets sick and dies shortly
after they return. The narrator is desolate with grief for lone and jealous
of Vally's affairs. San Giovanni-her common sense— warns her: "If you
don't alter your jealous melancholy and your savage moods, you will lose
Vally. She will simply stay out of the dark mists in which you wrap your-
self and which smother her. She needs fresh air, space, and sunlight." (page
39, itahcs in the original) And indeed, Vally soon expels the narrator from
her divine presence.
The rest of the novel covers the years 1901 to 1903. The narrator attempts
to console herself with Dagmar (Olive Custance) until Dagmar finds her
"Prince" (Alfred Lord Douglas, whom Olive married in 1902 and who had
been the lover of Oscar Wilde). Then the narrator finds Eva, and the two
women embark on a year of happy love. Like San Giovanni, Eva defies
precise classification. Eva is based in part on Eva Palmer. Renee seems to
have fallen in love with Palmer, who gently refused her.-^° Renee plays up-
on the connotations of Eva's name to evoke the archetypal primal woman.
Just as San Giovanni is Renee 's ideal self, Eva is the ideal lover of her
dreams. Finally, Eva also represents Helene, Baronne Van Zuylen de Nye-
velt, who became Renee 's lover after the break with Natalie in 1901.
While the narrator is Uving happily with Eva, Vally returns to claim
her. The last part of the novel records the narrator's struggle to decide
between these two archangels of her destiny.
A Woman Appeared to Me was written out of Renee Vivien's need to
come to terms with her relationship with Natalie Barney. Renee wanted
to understand what went wrong and whom to blame. Although the novel
occasionally presents Natalie's analysis of the affair, it is fundamentally
an expression of Renee 's confusion, pain, anger, and guilt. Natalie wrote
about her side of the relationship in her memoirs {Souvenirs indiscrets and
Aventures de I'esprit) and in a group of prose poems {Je me souviens). All
of these accounts are partisan, and must be measured against what actually
When Renee met Natalie in 1899, Violet Shilleto was still the center of
her emotional As Renee became increasingly involved with Natalie,

she began to lose touch with Violet. Early in 1901, Violet asked Renee
to go with her to the south of France. Renee elected to stay in Paris with
Natalie, promising Violet that she would come later. When she received

word that Violet was ill, Renee hastened to the Riviera. While Renee was
gone, Natalie dabbled in an unsuccessful liaison with Olive Custance. Renee
meanwhile had arrived in Nice to fmd that Violet was dying and had con-
verted to CathoHcism. Renee 's grief for Violet was compounded by her
guilt for having become estranged from her friend. She felt that she had
been led to betray the friendship by her absorption in the carnal delights
of her first affair.

Renee 's grief did not abate. Hoping that a change of scenery would help
Renee out of her depression, Natalie persuaded Renee to go with her to
the U.S. They spent the summer of 1901 in Bar Harbor, where Renee met
Eva Palmer, who had been Natalie's first lover. Eva was much more under-
standing of Renee's grief than Natalie. While Natalie went to a round of
social events, Eva studied Greek with Renee. In the fall, all three traveled
to Bryn Mawr, where Eva was a student. ^^ While Natalie again went to
balls and parties, Renee wrote poetry in an abandoned cemetery. Renee
finally departed to visit her family in London and Natalie left for her fam-
ily's home in Washington. They were to meet back in Paris.

memoirs, Natalie says that she did not hear from Renee during
In her

that winter, and was filled with disquiet. She says she was surprised to find
that Renee would not see her when she returned to Paris. Natalie ascer-
tained that Renee had become involved with Helene, Baronne Van Zuylen
de Nyeveh (nee Rothschild). Renee avoided all of Natalie's attempts to
communicate with which included moonlight serenades and messages
tossed over garden walls. Natalie speculates in her memoirs that the Baro-
ness had paid Renee's governess to intercept her letters, leading Renee to
beheve that Natalie had abandoned her. The Baroness was jealous and did
try to sequesterRenee from her former lover, but Natalie *s account is some-
what disingenuous. The relationship had been in trouble for some time,
and Natalie already knew that Renee was trying to avoid her quite apart
from any possible intrigue by the Baroness.
From the beginning of the affair, Renee was both exhilarated and terror-
ized by its carnality and its power. Natalie was the incarnation of her dreams,
a lover who could inspire an incinerating passion. But Renee was ambiva-
lentabout such passion. She had a curious kind of chastity, both emotional
and physical. Her chaste love for Violet seemed to embody a passion un-
touched by impurity. If anything, her experiences with NataHe were suffi-
ciently confusing to exacerbate the conflict. On the other hand, much of
Natalie's ability to seduce was the result of her religious devotion to the
pleasures of the flesh. One of Natalie's early complaints about Renee was
that she wanted a more ardent reahty, less ardent words. She felt that Renee's
love was largely lived in the imagination. She accused Ren^e of being more
willing to speak of love than to love, and she wrote these words to her:

And would you have put all of your courage and all your poetry
into your verses if there is so Httle left for your life?
Is it you who will write these audacious and beautiful words, and
will I alone dare to live that of which you sing? (Chalon, 1976: 107)
Renee and Violet had shared with death and religion when
a fascination
they were children. met Renee, she thought her own lusty
When Natalie
paganism would give Renee more of an interest in Hfe. While Renee was
coping with Natalie's vitaHty, which both attracted and hurt her, the drama
of Violet's death heightened the polarity she already felt. Renee thought
that Natalie -and sex-were responsible for the unforgivable lapse in her

friendship with Violet. Renee's endless mourning was in part an effort to

expiate the guilt she felt towards Violet's memory. Natalie, on the other
hand, hated to think about death and even avoided funerals. Renee's grief
seemed to Natalie to exceed the limits of decency. Renee argued for her
right to mourn, and wrote a poem called "Let the Dead Bury Their Dead."
Natahe commented in the margin, '*But not the Living." (Reinach, n.d.)^^
The most acute issue in the relationship, and the one around which all

other conflicts crystaUized, was monogamy. I cannot do justice here to

Natalie's complex theories about sex roles and erotic relationships. Suffice
it to say that Natalie evolved a critique of the sex roles which included a
critique of the structure of erotic emotion. She felt that the sex roles hurt
each person by dictating the suppression of the personality traits assigned

to the other sex. She also thought that erotic relationships drew their struc-

ture from this artificial division of the sexes, such that each individual sought
its missing wholeness in the other. Natalie feh that the emotions of jeal-
ousy, possessiveness, and exclusivity derived from this sexual system, which
she also held to be responsible for women's secondary status. Natalie main-
tained that a relationship should be based on mutual independence, rather
than on dependence, and that love should never be constrained by fidelity.
Fidelity, she thought, meant that love and desire were dead.
Natalie lived by such ideals as much as possible. When Natalie gave her
love, she gave it forever; but this did not preclude her from giving it to
others in the meantime. Such loyalty was not always appreciated by lovers
whose idea of love was more conventional or whose emotional constitu-
tions were less rugged. Natalie maintained that she did not suffer from jeal-
ousy, but from the jealousy of others. Of all her lovers, only Romaine
Brooks shared Natalie's perspective on relationships. Although Romaine
and Natalie were lovers for half a century, they lived apart. When they
built a villa in the south of France, it consisted of two residences joined
by a set of common rooms. Natalie's other lovers were generally less than
pleased by her promiscuity.-^^ Quite apart from her ideals, Natalie had all

the instincts of a hamadryas baboon. Chalon describes her pattern best,

noting that her harem usually contained a ruling "Sultana," a "Favorite"
or two, and a bevy of lesser delights.
Unlike NataUe, Renee Vivien did not attempt to express her own needs
in terms of a systematic philosophy. She was simply romantic. To Renee,
love was forever and love meant fidelity. When Natalie dallied about and
yet assured Renee that she loved her, Renee could not believe in her sin-
cerity. Natalie responded by saying that if Renee loved her, she would try
to understand her; and that such understanding would lead Renee to cease
the suspicious possessiveness that threatened to destroy the very liveliness
that made Natalie so attractive. Renee tried to understand, but was unable
to stop the anguish caused by Natalie's constant infidelities. Renee began
to identify Natalie's vitaUty as the source of her pain. The circumstances
of Violet's death led her to link Natalie's sensuahty with betrayal. It was
Violet's death that finally gave Renee enough desperate strength to remove
herself from this emotionally unbearable relationship. She wrote the follow-
ing letter late in 1901 from London to Natalie, who was still in Washington:

... I am sad that you have thus broken the promise which you
made me before leaving. You had promised not to callme to serve
as a distraction foran hour of boredom, only to call me when you
had need of me to console you, to help you in a bad moment. Now,
there is no necessity for me to come. Nothing serious has taken place
in your life you are calling me for the simple pleasure of trying
. . .

out, once again, your power over me, or of having once again, next
to you, one who is in pain, an easy dupe whom you will use again for
all your Httle amorous and whimsical projects.

I am sad to the bottom of my heart for having to tell you this, to

you whom I love still and in spite of everything. But you forget to
what point you martyred me, you forget the anguish, the humiliations,
the wounds that you inflicted on me; you forget that am still bleed- 1
ing and bruised with all that you made me suffer, unconsciously, per-
haps, but fatally. Far from you, I do not suffer with the same intensity

the pains, the jealousies, the anxieties which I endure when I see you
giving out smiles and provocative glances like a merchant of kisses
to everyone, female or male
i ... I will
. . .

always love you, but no longer with that blind love of

the first days. I love you now with a love more bitter, more sad, more

skeptical ... I no longer have an irrational faith; I doubt and I seek

to know what there is that is true at the base of the lies-what there
is that is false at the base of the truths— for you are a being so com-
plex that you are not entirely true or false.

. . . But I beg you leave me a httle peace of mind, let me bathe in

solitude and silence and recover a bit of strength.
... To return to you for a while in order to leave again afterwards,
what madness! I could not do it, I would not have the courage to
absent myself a second time. There are sacrifices that one cannot
. . . believe me when I you again that I love you "unalterably"

... I love you as I will love you always. (Chalon, 1976:112-1 15)

Natalie therefore must have known when she returned to Paris that
Renee considered the relationship over, although she was genuinely sur-

prised by the Baroness Van Zuylen. Renee had already tried to console
herself with OHve Custance in late 1901 before succeeding in the new re-
lationship with the Baroness. Natalie was still quite in love with Renee and
determined to win her back. Natalie's larger project did not however pre-
vent her from having an affair with Lucie Delarue-Mardrus in 1902.-^'*
Eva Palmer was also in Paris, and she became Natalie's emissary to Renee.
Itwas only through Eva and music that Natalie had any success m her
When Renee invited Eva to share her box at the opera, Natalie
quest. -^^
took Eva's seat and Renee seemed happy to see her. Renee promised to
meet Natalie again, but failed to make the rendezvous. Natahe was then
called away to attend her father, who was dying in Monte Carlo. She took
his ashes back to Washington, and apparently stayed away for some time.-^^

Finally in the summer of 1904, Natalie heard that Renee was planning
to attend the Wagner festival in Bayreuth, and that she would be going
without the Baroness, whose constant jealous surveillance had hampered
Natalie's efforts. Natalie left with Eva for Bayreuth. Once again, seats were
exchanged so that Natalie and Renee could be together. Natalie had brought
some prose poems which protested the sincerity and depth of her love for
Renee, and Renee was finally convinced. -^^ She decided to resume the re-
lationship, but only at Mytilene.
Renee and Natalie traveled to Mytilene where they rented two villas
in an orchard and revived their old dreams of establishing a cult of Sappho.

Their happy idyll was interrupted by a cable from the Baroness Van Zuy-

len, who was on her way to the island. NataHe left for Paris, having been
assured that Renee was going to break with the Baroness and return to
her. Renee was torn between the two women, but finally decided to drop
Natalie and stay with the Baroness instead.
It becomes increasingly difficult to trace Vivien's personal history after

the second break with Natalie in 1904. Renee seems at last to have come
to terms with her feelings for Natalie. The two women developed a friend-
ship which Renee had earlier declared impossible; after 1904 Renee had
more understanding for her difficult lover but also understood that she
could not stay with her. Renee was satisfied with her choice and kept to
it, although she always thought of her earlier love with wistfulness. Colette
recounts a conversation in which Renee expressed some regret about a lover
from her past: "Then it was a question of the satisfactions of another epoch,
another woman, and and comparisons." (Colette, 1967:93)
Renee traveled extensively during the last years of her life, in the Medi-
terranean, the Middle East, and the Orient. She filled her apartment at 23,
Ave. du Bois with art treasures acquired on her journeys.^® Romaine Brooks
knew Renee before 1909, and she described the apartment in her memoirs:

There comes before me the dark, heavily curtained room, over-

reaching itself in lugubrious effects: grim life-sized Oriental figures
sitting chairs, phosphorescent Buddhas glowing dimly
propped up on
in the foldsof black draperies. The air is heavy with perfumed incense.
A curtain draws aside and Renee Vivien stands before us attired in
Louis XVI male costume. Her straight blond hair falls to her shoulders,
her flower-Uke face is bent down ... We lunch seated on the fioor
Oriental fashion and scant food is served on ancient Damascus ware,
cracked and stained. During the meal Renee Vivien leaves us to bring
in from the garden her pet frogs and a serpent which she twines round
her wrist, (cited in Wickes, 1975:102)

Colette lived across the courtyard, and became one of Renee 's friends. She
also described the apartment:

I became almost wickedly intolerant there, yet never wore out the
patience of the gossamer angel who dedicated offerings of lady apples
to the Buddhas. One day, when the spring wind was stripping the
leaves from the Judas trees in the avenue, I was nauseated by the fun-
ereal perfumes and tried to open the window: it was nailed shut.
(Colette, 1967:84)

The data on Renee 's romantic attachments after 1905 are not very
Some of the confusion arises from the fact that although the
Baroness Van Zuylen was not popular, her identity was well protected in
a literature that usually specialized in indiscretion. She is referred to as
the Valkyrie, La Brioche, or as Madame de Z. Colette did describe the
Baroness, but did not directly link her to Renee:

We heard from J de Bellune that at that gala evening in Nice the

Baroness Van Zuylen lorded it in a box, wearing a white tie and tails—
and a mustache! The Baroness Ricoy accompanied her, likewise in
tails and looking quite emaciated beside that elephantine monster.

They were recognized and were pestered by visitors to their box, al-

though the Baroness Van Zuylen responded to the intruders with

broadsides of very masculine oaths, (letter to Leon Hammel, in Phelps,


The actual dimensions of the affair between Vivien and the Baroness
remain unclear. It seems that at least until 1905, the relationship was a
healing one for Renee. She did much of her best work during this period,

and seemed to be happy. The Baroness encouraged Renee's work, and the
two of them collaborated on a few volumes of poetry published under the
collective pseudonym of Paule Riversdale.^ But after 1905, something
happened— either the relationship ended, or it changed.
In Souvenirs indiscrets, Natalie Barney says that Renee became outraged
by the discovery that the Baroness had been unfaithful to her. Natalie im-
plies that the relationship ended, and that Renee's decline subsequently
became cataclysmic. In his notes on Renee Vivien, Salomon Reinach is
definite that the liaison with the Baroness lasted between 1901 and 1905,
and he gives no indication that it continued after 1905. The Riversdale
collaboration only lasted until 1904. We also know that Renee had several

affairs in the last years of her Hfe, between 1906 and 1909,^^ but we do
not knowto what extent the Baroness was still her primary concern. It is
clear thatby 1908 Renee was both depressed and unhealthy, and that her
poetry was increasingly obsessed with themes of death. She wrote the epi-
taph which is engraved on her tomb, and many of the late poems evoke
the shadow of the dead Violet Shilleto. According to Colette, Renee was
at that time engaged in a very disturbing relationship with a mysterious
"master." It is usually assumed that the "master" was still the Baroness
Van Zuylen.

This "master" was never referred to by the name of woman. We

seemed to be waiting for some catastrophe to project her into our
midst, but she merely kept sending invisible messengers laden with
jades, enamels, lacquers, fabrics. (Colette, 1967:85)
. . .

The "master" would summon Renee erratically, and Renee often had to

leave in the midst of a dinner party. As Colette arrived for one soiree, she
found Renee on her way out the door. Renee explained: "Hush, I am re-
quisitioned. She is terrible at present." (ibid.:95, itahcs in the original) At
another time, Renee explained to Colette that she was leaving Paris to get
away before her lover killed her.


In four words she explained how she might perish. Four words of
a frankness to make you blink. This would not be worth telling, ex-
cept for what Renee said then.
'*With her I dare not pretend or lie, because at that moment she
lays her ear over my heart." (ibid.: 96)
Even Colette did not know whether this imperious lover was real, or a cre-

ation of Vivien's imagination. Perhaps the "master" was the Baroness, per-
haps she was someone else, or perhaps Renee created her last lover in the

image of her fantasies.

By this time, Renee was acutely unhappy. She drank a lot and ate very
httle. Her regime of melancholy, alcohol, and starvation finally killed her

on November 18, 1909, after a death-bed conversion to Catholicism. The

poet had written these words only a few years earlier:

If the Lx)rd should bend His head toward my passage,

I would say to Him: "O Christ, I do not know you.

"Lord, your strict law was never mine.

And I lived thus a simple pagan

"See the simpHcity of my poor and naked heart.

I do not know you, I never knew you at all."

(Vivien, 1934b:52-55)

But by 1909, Renee had followed her friend Violet into Christianity and
an early death. Renee Vivien's tomb, at Passy, is a small, ornate, gothic
chapel, full of crosses, plastic flowers, and a portrait of the poet.
Natalie Barney died a pagan on February 2, 1972. Her grave, also at
Passy, is simple, unornamented, and bears no religious emblems. At the
time Barney died, the legacy of these women was being rediscovered by a
new generation of lesbian feminists in search of their ancestry.

Gayle Rubin
August, 1976


Afterword to the New Edition

This new edition of A Woman Appeared to Me has given me a welcome

opportunity to correct errors and make some styUstic revisions in my intro-

ductory essay. I have resisted the impulse to make several substantive changes
since to do so would entail either major surgery or a new article. However,
I cannot resist a few comments on what has changed since I wrote this one.

The scholarship on Vivien and Barney has expanded. The Amazon of

Letters by George Wickes was published in 1976 and is available in paper-
back. The rumored biography of Vivien materiaHzed in 1977 when Sapho
1900: Renee Vivien by Paul Lorenz was published in Paris by Julliard. Also

in 1977, Naiad Press pubHshed The Muse of the Violets, the first book of
Vivien's poetry in Enghsh translation. The National Collection of Fine Arts
exhibited part of its collection of Barney family artifacts in 1978. Donald
McClelland's catalog of the exhibit. Where Shadows Live: Alice Park Barney
and her Friends, is a delightful account of Natalie's milieu from the per-
spective of her mother's Hfe.
In spite of all the excellent research, our image of this network of les-

bians is largely based on what some of its members thought of themselves.

Natalie Barney was particularly talented at generating her own legend. Now
that her letters and papers can be studied, I expect that future research
will not only correct the details, but that it will also result in changes in
the larger picture of what occurred among women.
I had a foretaste of such a shift in ran across Mabel perspective when I
Dodge Luhan's memoir of Violet Shilleto in Jonathan Katz' Gay American
History (Thomas Crowell, New York, 1976). Because she died so young
and made no direct contribution to the Hterary record of this group, Violet
is a very shadowy historical presence. Her wraithUke existence in the writ-

ten sources led me to underestimate her rather substantial personal impact.

Luhan writes:

I have never known any man or woman with such wisdom and such
love as she had. She knew everything intuitively and at the same time
she had a very unusual intelligence -teaching herself Italian for her
pleasure in order to read Dante in the original when she was sixteen . .

Violet was, of all the people I have ever known ... the highest
evolved, the one who had reached the farthest . . .

... she belonged to all ages, she was like a synthesis of the past
. . . Once in a great while Nature creates a marvelous human being,
but very rarely . . . After all these years, Violet's great significance
lives in me yet . . . (Katz:5 18-520)

Luhan's memoir is evidence of Violet's charisma and of her reUgious mys-
ticism. It corroborates the picture of Violet in A Woman Appeared to Me
and renders the relationship between her and Renee more intelligible. It
alters my earlier understanding that A Woman Appeared to Me is primarily

about Renee 's relationship with Natalie. Renee was dealing with two very

strong personalities.
The level of detail with which one can chronicle the bedroom wars of
this group of women would be enough to make them historically fascinat-
ing. But the significance of Barney and Vivien has been brought into in-
creasingly clear focus by recent developments within lesbian and gay history.
It has become apparent that gay /lesbian history is undergoing a revolution
in its paradigms, projects, and practices. Jeffrey Weeks' Coming Owr (Quar-
tet, London, 1977) perhaps best exempUfies the trend away from compil-
ing a history of homosexuals and toward constructing a social history of
homosexuality. The "new" gay history is characterized by the insight that
"However people have behaved sexually throughout European history, they
did not Hve in a world of heterosexuals and homosexuals until quite recent-
ly." (Bert Hansen, review of Weeks, in review) The object of the new gay
history is to describe, date, and explain the emergence of this world of sex-
ually speciahzed persons and its concomitant sociology and poUtics. While
the periodization is by no means settled, there is a growing consensus among
gay historians that this modern sexual system was consolidated in or by
the lasttwo decades of the nineteenth century in western Europe.
The transformation of gay history has been largely brought about by
the study of several key figures of the late nineteenth century. The new
gay historyis primarily grounded in research on Edward Carpenter, John

Addington Symonds, Magnus Hirschfeld, Karl Heinrich Ulrichs, Natalie

Barney, Renee Vivien, and Havelock Ellis. It became necessary to develop
a new conceptual framework in order to understand the implications of
the activities, ideas, writings, and sexual careers of these emblematic indi-
viduals. The significance of Vivien and Barney lies not as much in their
emotional and sexual pyrotechnics as in their status as the two most impor-
tant lesbians among these late nineteenth century heroes of sexual freedom.

Gayle Rubin
February, 1979


Numerous individuals and institutions made this essay possible. Grants

from the Center for Western European Studies at the University of Michigan
funded two seasons of research in Paris. The Michigan Society of Fellows
has funded further study. Fran9ois Chapon gave generously of his know-
ledge and his skill, and identified the Reinach notes for me. Jean Chalon
carries on the tradition of his friendship with Natalie Barney in his help-

fulness to those who study her. Berthe Cleyrergue regaled me with stories
and with cookies "just like the ones I made Mademoiselle." George Wickes
has been generous beyond words with his time, his knowledge, and his
galleys. Conversations with Robert Phelps and Gregory Pearson were ex-
tremely helpful. Marilyn Young indirectly sparked my interest by telling
me Nightwood. Denise Blue, Helene Frances, Barbara Grier, Bertha
to read
Harris, Margaret A. Porter, Robert Sklar, Vicki Sork, Jack Thomas, Ed
Weber, and Harriet Whitehead all gave encouragement at critical moments.
The Hbrarians in the Salle des Reserves and the Salle des Manuscrits of the
Bibliotheque Nationale produced miracles of library science. I am grateful
for having been permitted to see the treasures in storage at the National

Lynn Eden and Itsie

Collection of Fine Arts. Without the editing heroics of
Hull, the manuscriptwould never have been completed. The translations
from the French were done by Lynn Hunt, with a little help from me.


1 These urban homosexual communities may in fact have appeared

earlier. They seem to be an established fact of life by the last part of the
nineteenth century, and are described in literature from that period. There
is a discussion of such literary evidence for lesbian communities in Foster

The source material for Renee Vivien's Hfe is scarce. Most of the lit-

erature on her is concerned with her writing. The only full-length biography
(Germain, 1917) uses pseudonyms and seems to be based largely on A
Woman Appeared to Me. There are biographical discussions of varying
lengths in Foster (1956), Klaich (1974), Maurras (1905), and Cooper (1943).
Lacretelle (1964) publishes several of Vivien's letters, most of them to
Natalie Barney in 1904. Colette's lovely memoir (1967) remains one of the
most revealing and sympathetic portraits. Wickes (1975) includes Romaine
Brooks' memory of her encounter with Vivien. Natalie Barney's memoirs
(1929; 1960) contain extensive sections on Vivien. Charles Brun taught
Vivien Greek and Salomon Reinach became the self-appointed curator of

her memory. An exchange between the two men (Reinach, 1914; Brun,
1914) provides a few of the relatively meager facts of Vivien's early life.

Primary source material on Vivien is problematic. Both Foster and Cooper

say that Salomon Reinach acquired Vivien's papers after her death and
gave them to the Bibliotheque Nationale, to be released in the year 2000.
A letter by Reinach in Barney (1929) says only that he planned to give

the papers to the BibUotheque Nationale. In fact, Vivien's papers are not
in that libraryand their whereabouts remain mysterious. Reinach was also
rumored to have written a manuscript of a biography of Vivien, but I have
been unable to confirm its existence. If anyone knows more about Reinach 's
alleged manuscript or the missing Vivien archive, I would like to hear from
Reinach did, however, possess a collection of Vivien's books, Barney's
books, and some miscellaneous articles pertaining to Vivien. He gave this
collection to the Bibliotheque Nationale when he died, and it is now housed
in the Salle des Reserves. Reinach recorded much of his own research on
Vivien in the pages of the books of this collection, and his marginaUa
(Reinach, n.d.) remain one of the best sources on her life and its relation-
ship to her work. NataHe Barney's archive (see note 4 below) may contain
letters and other papers of Vivien. I have recently been informed that Paul
Lorenz is preparing a biography of Renee Vivien (Gregory Pearson, per-
sonal communication). Rodin's bust of Vivien may be seen in the Rodin
Museum in Paris. For published photographs, see note 4.
3. To avoid confusion, I have used the name Renee Vivien throughout
the essay, although she did not begin to use the name until around 1900.
4.The Hterature on Natalie Barney is extensive and growing rapidly.
Barney's own memoirs are one of the most important sources, and I have
relied heavily on her chapter on Renee Vivien from Souvenirs indiscrets,

which recounts Barney's early Hfe. Rogers (1968) is primarily an amusing

summary of that chapter. Gregory Pearson is preparing and editing an
English translation of Barney's memoirs. Bertha Harris (1973) has the best
discussion of the relevance to thewomen's movement of Barney, Vivien,
and the other women The recent book on Romaine
associated with them.
Brooks (Secrest, 1974) contains a long section on Barney. Chalon's recent
and intimate biography of Barney (1976) could only have been written by
a close friend, and will soon be translated into English. Natalie Barney left

an enormous archive to the Bibliotheque Doucet, under the direction of

Fran9ois Chapon. Unfortunately, these papers were not ready for public
scrutiny when I was doing this research. understand that
I at least some
of them are now available to be read, and that the Doucet is preparing to
pubhsh various letters and papers. Jean Chalon generously permitted me
to seesome of his own considerable collection of Barney memorabilia.
George Wickes' biography of Barney (in press) will be published in 1977.
He has enabled me to consult much of the book as it progressed, and his
biography promises to be definitive.
Many photographs of Barney, Vivien, and the other women of their
circle have been published, most notably in Secrest (1974), Chalon (1965;

1976), Blume (1966), and Wickes (1975); and Wickes (in press) will also
contain photographs. Alice Pike Barney painted Natalie Barney, Eva Palmer,
and Renee Vivien. The portraits of Barney and Palmer can be seen in a
published catalog of Alice Barney's work (Smithsonian Institution, 1957).
Romaine Brooks painted herself, Barney, EHzabeth de Gramont, and others.
These can be seen in Breeskin (1971) and Whitworth (1971). See also notes
6 and 7 below.
5 Barney attended Les Ruches some years after the events described

in Olivia (Strachey, 1949), and the personnel had changed. For the back-
ground information on Olivia's Les Ruches, see Holroyd (1969:36-41).
6. Alice Pike Barney left the Barney home in Washington (Studio House)
and much of her work to the Smithsonian. The Barney family retained
their connections to the Smithsonian, and Natalie Barney arranged for the
Smithsonian to acquire the great bulk of Romaine Brooks' work. Several
of Brooks' portraits are displayed at the National Collection of Fine Arts,
and many more of them are in storage. The museum also has some pieces
of jewelry which belonged to Natalie and her sister Laura.
7. Natalie Barney's love of costume, and this costume in particular, are
referred to in yl Woman Appeared to Me. The Duran portrait is now in
storage at the National Collection of Fine Arts. It has been reproduced in
Blume (1966) and Chalon (1965).
8. In this fictional (?) account of the seduction, Natalie appeared before
the object of her desires wearing a gray velvet doublet with Liane's initials,
and demanded to be her beloved's page! (Pougy, 1901)
9. After their reconciliation, Renee Vivien rewrote A Woman Appeared
to Me, bringing the story up to date and changing Natalie's name from
Vally to Lorely. Both versions were pubUshed, the first in 1904 and the
second in 1905. Foster's translation is of the earlier text. It is not surpris-
ing that Natalie disliked both versions, and felt that neither did her justice.
However, the 1905 version is less hard on Natalie.
10. Reinach's notes in Evocations (Vivien, 1903a) say that both Eva
and Natalie told him that the poem 'To the Sunset Goddess" (Vivien,
ibid.) referred to Eva Palmer. The "Eva" in A Woman Appeared to Me is

called the Sunset Goddess. In the same margin, Reinach says that Liane
de Pougy and Natalie confirmed that Eva Palmer was "never very intimate"
with Vivien. (Reinach, n.d.)
11. In Souvenirs indiscrets (Barney, 1960:67) Natalie says that she spent
much of her time at Bryn Mawr at the feet of one professor, "Miss G."
Given the date of the Bryn Mawr excursion, "Miss G." was probably Miss
Mary Gwinn, whose triangular relationship with M. Carey Thomas and
Alfred Hodder appears in some of Gertrude Stein's early writings. The events
at Bryn Mawr and their relationship to Stein's work are discussed in Katz

(1973: xxxi-xxxviii)
12. This note in Cendres et poussieres (Vivien, 1902b) was copied by
Reinach from a book which had belonged to Natalie, who also had a habit
of writing in margins. Natalie commented on the poems and then gave the
book to Renee, who may also have written in it. The copy was sold after
Renee died. It was found by a bookseller, who gave it back to Natalie. In
1917, she showed it to Reinach, who copied all of the earlier notes and
added his own. When Natalie died, the book was either sold again or else
was sent to the Doucet.
13. After the death of Dolly Wilde, Natalie assembled a volume of mem-
orial essays (Barney, 1951). The book also contains a number of Dolly
Wilde's letters. Some of these are to an unidentifiable friend, and many of
them are to a lover (Natalie). They provide an unusual glimpse into the
interior of the seraglio. The following excerpt is from a letter to the friend:

was wonderful in many ways,

... the fifteen days of motoring
altho' the arrival of R.[Romaine Brooks] on the scene was the
herald of unimaginable suffering to me. I must tell you all the story
when I see you. It contains all but the obvious ingredients. Dear
Madame de C. -T. [Ehzabeth de Clermont-Tonnerre] was with us,
exquisite, wonderful and so sensitive to someone she likes, that
after an outwardly amusing evening she got up in the middle of the
night and came to my room because she felt I was feeling sad-and
indeed I was in tears! Such sweet rough comforting! . . .

Gradually I perceive S. [Natalie Barney] to be of transcendental

intelligence -without sensibihties in the weaker meaning of the word-
altho' ahve through her intelligence to that quality in others. Thus,
she is not tender— but will assume tenderness like a cloak— is not

romantic but if needs be will pander to romanticism, etc. A week

of charming companionship with her has left me like a refreshed
martyr gathered up in new strength! forgetful of the pangs of tor-
ture. (Barney, ibid.: 1 15-1 17)

Dolly Wilde later discussed the letter above in a letter to Natalie, retract-

ing much of her earlier response:

was amazed reading it

I You are the only serious thing in
. . .

my remember in those days feeling as if you over-

Hfe emotionally. 1

shadowed me like a great mountain-that all at once uplifted me

and awed me. I blush now at my description of your character (though
parts of it are very true)-but retract "no tenderness" darling! You

don't assume it "like a cloak"; your tenderness seems my very secur-

ity now. (ibid.: 1 17)


One of Dolly's letters even indicates that Natalie was quite capable ol

.Why did you take such a stern attitude towards me this

. .

morning. As you have no jealousy I am left to think logic and reason

inspired you. Why Why? ... I have not fallen in love with anyone . .

I meant my wire and when you telephoned from Marseilles I im-

mediately arranged for "my present love" to leave-without a pang.

You cut short explanations by ringing off. And then telephoning
all day yesterday with such bewildering results. From tomorrow at
12 I am alone Please understand.
. LOVE ME DARLING, (ibid.: 127-1 28)

Nevertheless, this letter from Dolly indicates that Natalie continued to

claim her own freedom:

I could have wished your kindness to have gone even further and
not left evidences of your love in the book by my bed-amongst the
writing paper, etc. Horrid stabs— unnecessary hurt. Tout Paris pours
endless stories into my ears-but acceptance of the rhythm of destiny
becomes easier and easier . . . (ibid.: 1 32)
... I'd like to shout a friendly warning to your harem: "Take
care!"... (ibid.: 137)

14. Renee must have found out about Natalie's affair with Delarue-

Mardrus own
after her reconciliation with Natalie in 1904. In the 1905
version of ^ Woman Appeared to Me, Petrus is gone, and Lucie Delarue-
Mardrus appears as Dorianne, another rejected lover of Lorely -Natalie. The
poems in Nos secretes amours (Delarue-Mardrus, 1951) were apparently
inspired by Natalie.
15. Music was one of Renee's most intense passions. All the chapters
of A Woman Appeared to Me were originally preceded by selections of
music (see Translator's Notes, page 64). In the novel, San Giovanni speaks
for Renee when she says, "To my eternal sorrow, I am not a musician."
(page 16)

16. George Wickes (personal communication) supplied the information

that Natalie stayed in Washington, probably for several months to a year.
Natalie was accompanied on her journey by Eva Palmer and a young man

named Freddy (Barney, 1960:74). Natalie had met Freddy through OHve
Custance. Freddy may not have been his real name. It is possible that this
young man is the "Prostitute" in A Woman Appeared to Me.
17. These prose poems were published in 1910 as /e me souviens, and
describe the relationship with Renee from Natalie's perspective.
18. Violet Shilleto had lived at 23, Ave. du Bois with her family when
she was a child. Renee moved to another apartment at the same address
in 1901.
19. Romaine Brooks therefore had met Renee before she met NataUe
in 1915. Romaine says in the same piece:

Renee Vivien had often spoken to me of Natalie Barney and I

found little interest in listening to those endless love grievances

which are so often devoid of any logical justification. (Wickes,

20. In his notes, Reinach says that the Riversdale poems were largely
the work of the Baroness (Reinach, n.d.). Helene de Zuylen de Nyevelt
published non-lesbian poems under her own name.
21. On the flyleaf to the copy of Vivien's A ITieure des mains jointes,
Reinach wrote out a fairly complete chronology of the last years of her
life. He indicates three liaisons in 1908 (Reinach, n.d.). There are three
love letters from Renee to "Une Dame Turque" dated 1905-1906 in

Lacretelle (1964:382-383).


TAutre, Gabrielle (Margaret A. Porter). 1969. "Twenty-four Poems by

Renee Vivien." The LadderA3: 11 & 12:9-17.
Barnes, Djuna. 1928. Ladies Almanack. Paris. Titus.
Barney, Natalie Clifford. 1902. Cinq petits dialogues Grecs. Paris. La Plume
. 1910a. Actes et entr'actes. Paris. Sansot.
. 1910b. /e me souviens. Paris. Sansot.
. 1912. "Vrais ou faux paradis." La Phalange (number 71).
. 1921. Pensees d'une amazone. Paris. Emile-Paul.
. 1929. A ventures de Vesprit. Paris. Emile-Paul.
. 1930. The One Who is Legion. London. Eric Partridge.
. 1932. "La Troisieme." Le Manuscrit autographe 38:96-QQ
. 1939. Nouvelles pensees de Vamazone. Paris. Mercure de France.
. \9S\. In Memory of Dorothy Ierne Wilde. Dijon. Darantiere.
. 1960. Souvenirs indiscrets. Paris. Flammarion.
. 1963. Traits et portraits. Paris. Mercure de France.
. 1966a. "Dormir ensemble." Cahiers des Saisons 44:491-492.
. 1966b. "Les Etres doubles." Cahiers des Saisons 46:73-80.
Bibliotheque Nationale. 1973. Colette. Paris. Bibliotheque Nationale.
Blume, Mary. 1966. "Natalie Barney, Legendary Lady of the rue Jacob."
Realites 183:20-23.
Breeskin, Adelyn. 1971 . Romaine Brooks, ''Thief of Souls. " Washington.
Brun, Charles. 1911. Renee Vivien. Paris. Sansot.
. 1914. Untitled (Response to Salomon Reinach). Notes and Queries
Chalon, Jean. 1965. "La Maison de Natalie Barney." Connaissance des
Arts 165:82-87.
. 1971. "Ces etrangeres qui ont epouse la Htterature fran9aise." Le
Figaro July 16.
. 1976. Portrait d'une seductrice. Paris. Editions Stock.
Colette. 1967. The Pure and the Impure. New York. Farrar, Straus, and
Cooper, Clarissa. 1943. Women Poets of the Twentieth Century in France.
New York. King's Crown.
Delarue-Mardrus, Lucie. 1930. L'Ange et les pervers. Paris. Ferenczi.
. 1951 . Nos secretes amours. Paris. Les Isles.
Fee, Elizabeth. 1974. "Science and Homosexuality." The Universities and
the Gay Experience. Proceedings of the 1973 Gay Academic Union Con-
ference. New York.


Foster, Jeannette. 1956. Sex Variant Women in Literature. New York.

Germain, Andre. 19\7 Renee . Vivien. Paris. Cres.

Grindea, Miron, ed. 1961. 'The Amazon of Letters: A World Tribute to

Natalie Clifford Bamey. '" Adam International Review 29:299:entire

Hall, Radclyffe. 1959. The Well of Loneliness. New York. Permabooks.

Harris, Bertha. 1973. "The More Profound Nationality of their Lesbianism:
Lesbian Society in Paris in the 1920's." In Birkby, Phyllis, et al., eds.
Amazon Expedition. Washington, N.J. Times Change.
Holroyd, Michael. 1968. Lytton Strachey. New York. Holt, Rinehart, and
Katz, Leon. 1973. "Introduction." In Stein, Gertrude. Femhurst, Q.E.D.,
and Other Early Writings. New York. Liveright.
Klaich, Dolores. 1974. Woman Plus Woman. New York. Simon and Schuster.
Lacretelle, Jacques de. 1964. L Amour sur la place. Paris. Perrin.
Lauritsen, John, and Thorstad, David. 1974. The Early Homosexual Rights
Movement (1864-1935). New York. Times Change.
Maurras, Charles. 1905. LAvenir de Vintelligence. Paris. Nouvelle Librarie
Phelps, Robert, ed. 1966. Earthly Paradise. New York. Farrar, Straus, and
Pougy, Liane de. 1901. Idylle Saphique. Paris. La Plume.
Reinach, Salomon. 1914. Untitled (Query). Notes and Queries 9:488.
. n.d. Unpublished marginalia of Salomon Reinach in a collection of
books by Renee Vivien, Natalie Barney and others, plus miscellaneous
articles and manuscripts (see note 2, above). The collection is in the

Salle des Reserves of the Bibliotheque Nationale and is primarily cata-

logued under the number: 8° Z. Don 593, numbers 1-48. As this col-
lection is highly irregular, anyone trying to consult it is advised to ask
for a shelf list of the legacy of Salomon Reinach, May 21, 1933.
Rogers, WilHam G. 1968. Ladies Bountiful. New York. Harcourt, Brace,
and World.
Royere, Jean. 1935. Le Point de vue de Sirius. Paris. Messein.
Secrest, Meryl. 1974. Between Me and Life. Garden City. Doubleday.
Smithsonian Institution. 1957. Alice Pike Barney: Portraits in Oil and
Pastel. Washington, D.C. Smithsonian.
Strachey, Dorothy. 1949. Olivia. New York. Sloane.
Troub ridge, Lady Una. 1963. The Life and Death of Radclyffe Hall. New
York. Citadel.

Vivien, Renee. 1902a. Brumes de fjords. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1902b. Cendres et poussieres. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1903a. Evocations. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1903b. Du vert au violet. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1904a. Etudes et Preludes. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1904b. La Dame a la louve. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1905. Une Femme m'apparut. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1906. A ITieure des mains jointes. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1907. Chansons pour mon ombre. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1908a. Flambeaux eteints. Paris. Sansot.
. 1908b. Sillages. Paris. Sansot.
. 1909. Poemes en prose. Paris. Sansot.
. 1910a. Dans un coin de violettes. Paris. Sansot.

. \9l0b. Hallions. Paris. Sansot.

. \9342i. Poesies completes, I. Paris. Lemerre.
. 1934b. Poesies completes, II. Paris. Lemerre.
Whitworth, Sarah. 1971. "Romaine Brooks." The Ladder 16:1 & 2:39-45.
Wickes, George. 1975. "A Natalie Barney Garland." Paris Review 61:84-134.
. In press (1977). The Amazon of Letters: The Life and Loves of
Natalie Barney. New York. Putnam.


by Ren6e Vivien


The Charmer of Serpents, to whom the serpents taught their shadow-

born wisdom, spoke thus to the ephebe: ^'Happiness is as vast as despair.
Your happiness should be as terrifying as despair. The only true happiness
is that of the hermit or the sohtary. Happiness must, like despair, be in-
different to all creatures and their words and their thoughts. I have only
one example to offer-the example of the Woman with the cloak of ermine.
When her ermine mantle came unfastened and fell into wretched mud,
passers-by picked it up and offered it to her; but with an arrogant gesture
she turned aside and went her way, her shoulders bare to the wind and
rain. Guard against moderation as others guard against excess. For Prudence
is the only dangerous enemy of heroes and happiness. Never give advice,
even any of this I am giving you. Every being should Uve his private Hfe
and win, hardly, the experience which will signify nothing. The only sor-
row without a glimmer of light is that of those who suffer from being
unable to suffer. Friendship is more dangerous than love, since its roots
are stronger and go deeper than the roots of love. The anguish of friend-
ship is more bitter than the anguish of love. Certain souls love friendship
as others love love; they suffer through friendship as others through love.
They have in their lives only one friendship as others have but a single
love. It is when they lose friendship that they despair hopelessly. And it

is when they despair thus that they find happiness. For happiness is like
the magnificence of ruins.
'This what the serpents taught me with regard to passion: Avoid the

act of initiation, low as thievery, brutal as rape, bloody as massacre, and

worthy only of a drunken and barbaric soldiery. If the woman you love
is a virgin, leave to a stranger the first violation of her modesty. Love

should be pure of everything which is not wholly passion. Suffering in

love is like a discord in music. Do not fear the perfume of night flowers
where you are sleeping. For their perfumes pacify invisible Presences. Fear

sleep, which brings dreams heavy with terror, and anguishes which make
one fear waking, even waking in the gray before dawn. But do not fear
"For the dead, lying on a bed of violets, find at last those dreams that
Life never offered, and long-lost perfumes and long-silent music. For the
Dead alone rediscover, intact and purified of all cruel memories, the friend-
ship which once deceived and the love which once betrayed them."

-San Giovanni

"Come this evening-I am eager for stars," I scribbled hastily. Vally's

eyes seemed to be gazing at me across the orchids deep blue as ripe grapes.
I attached to the note a few of those large hot-house flowers she loved,
flowers grown by art, never fading naturally in air and sunlight.
I went out into the rainy dusk, and grew utterly drunk with the marvel-
lous sadness of a night of heavy mist. My heart was full of hectic melan-
choly. "Vally," I murmured into the fog, "Vally ..." Her name repeated
itself on my lips like a sob. I lived again the hour, already well past, when
I saw her for the first time, felt the shiver that ran through me when my
eyes met the mortal steel of her look, those eyes blue and piercing as a
blade. I had a dim premonition that this woman would determine the pat-
tern of my fate, and that her face was the predestined face of my Future.
Near her I felt the luminous dizziness which comes at the edge of an abyss,
or the attraction of a very deep water. She radiated the charm of danger,
which drew me to her inexorably.
I made no effort to escape; I could as easily have escaped death. We
walked together toward the Bois in the winter evening. My eyes were half
blinded with snow. All that whiteness seemed to be blossoming for an en-
chanted betrothal. All about us, and within us, there was a wedding-day
chastity, a snow -pure passion. I spoke to her softly, in a voice failing with
all the apprehension of a first love: "You aren't at all the person I dreamed
of, and yet I find in you the incarnation of my most remote desires. You
are less beautiful and more strange than my dream. I you and am
love I

already certain you will never love me. You are the suffering that makes
happiness contemptible. I saw you today for the first time and already I
am the shadow of your shadow. How I love your moonstones, those jewels
that fall on your breast like tears of
Beneath the folds of your silver-

gauze gown I divine the beauty of your

naked body. Everything to which
you have lent your enigmatic grace enchants me. I adore your mysteriously
pale hair. I shall be whatever you make of me. For you are the marvellous
Priestess of some faith I do not yet know."
"I love your love," murmured Vally. '*I am afraid to understand you
and I tremble at the thought of fascinating you hopelessly. My illusions
are poor clowns who watch their own grimaces through their tears. I would

so much like to love you! Love you in my moments, which would

at last be spun out forever! Don't you see how my joys make me weep
and my sorrows make me laugh? I want so much to love you," her pale
lips repeated.
"My love is great enough to stand alone," I answered. "I love you, and
that is enough for my ecstasy and my tears. You will never love me, Vally,
you are so filled with hunger for living and feeling that the passion of all

earth's creatures could not satisfy you."

I hved for two weeks with Vally, half fearful, wholly dazzled. I lived
in the stupor of an acolyte drunk with the fumes of sacred incense. I saw
everything through a perfumed and dizzying haze. My strange bliss filled
my spirit with mystical bewilderment. Later I realized that those days held

the unforgettable hours of memories and regrets. When I drooped exhausted

by studying, my Loreley slowly, softly dropped rose petals on my closed
Hds. When I was suffering under her silent refusal of herself, she brought
me black iris and persian arums, dark lilies blooming under the eye of per-
verse archangels. In rapturous agony I gazed at her Florentine smile, her
eyes of fatal blue, but I loved even more the moonHght of her misty hair.

When I left her house I would turn to see her on her balcony, haloed
in blue and fantastically distant. "I smile at all who weep and I weep be-
fore those who smile," she said. Thus her enigmatic spirit veiled itself in

paradox which never more than half revealed her meaning. Sometimes her
studied cruelty would wring from me a plaint or something like a reproach.
Then Vally turned her icy gaze upon me. "It is I who ought to be com-
plaining and you should be envied. Since you have learned how to find
this love I have sought in vain for so many wasted years, teach me. I want

so much to love you." Those lips tired of my Hps repeated the mournful

Sometimes she allowed me a bare glimmering of hope that one day I

might win her. "Later, you will understand the emptiness of the pleasures
for which I neglect you. And you will see in the avidity with which I seek
them only my fear of seeing them vanish." For her sake I tried to control
my tyrannous demands, my stupidly passionate jealousy. Vally accused
me of exacting Christian fidelity, against which all her instincts of a young
maenad rebelled. Her pagan joy found outlet in numerous love affairs. She
chose as her symbols the variable weather of April, the changing fires of
opals or rainbows, everything that ghttered and changed with each new
ray of light.
"Anyone who gives has the right to demand something in return," I
said in the days when I still hoped to hold her fleeting spirit. "I give you
a uniquely faithful love; can't I expect equal constancy in return?" But I

quickly sounded the depths of my folly.

"Like Art," she replied, "Love is complex, and to attain it finally one
must follow a long rough road. The sculptor who conceives of a statue
never expects to meet his divine vision in any single model. He finds ab-
solute beauty through many dissimilar figures, each of which reveals to
him its greatest beauty. And I, to realize my dream of passion, must col-
lect scattered perfections, in order to unite them into a harmonious whole
created by my dreams. What I love in you is your power of loving, a bit
wild, a bit primitive, but absolute."
"You're frighteningly right, Vally. You are Peril, and only these lines

from Swinburne can express you and describe you wholly:

'A mind of many colors, and a mouth
Of many tunes and kisses.'
And I, I love you painfully, like all simple souls."
"You love me poorly," interrupted my Flower of Selene. "You do not
love me well, since you know neither how to hold me nor how to under-
stand me."
"One always loves badly, Vally. To love well is no longer to be in love."
She studied me with gentle scorn. "And can't you raise yourself to that
magnificently disinterested level? Love isn't perpetual self-immolation be-
fore an adored idol. When I meet in passing some vision of grace and charm
who fascinates me, you ought to be glad of the bliss I experience from a
momentary illusion."

"I don't know if I could ever rise to such grandeur of renunciation, Vally.
For the path which leads to the heights of pure tenderness is harder than
the road to crucifixion."
"'I have dreamed of a Calvary where roses rioted,'" Vally quoted, with
a pale smile.
"A beautiful thought .'
. . in beautiful verse, my faithless Sweet. Very
well. I don't know, anyhow, Vally, why I should presume idiotically to
forbid your enjoying the limitless stream of femininity. As to me, is it my
fault if, through obvious inferiority, I am unable to turn my dreams and
desires toward any other beauty? The reach of my love is narrowed to a

single creature; yours is as wide as that of mercy. You are the luckier. I

am afraid that depressing Christianity has shadowed my whole joy in liv-

ingby binding me solely, in an indissoluble marriage, to the one I love.
Your concept of love is more vast and beautiful; mine is born of my sub-
conscious reversion to early training."
Then we joined our feverish lips in a kiss tasting already of the bitter-
ness of future regret.


I entered Vally's drawing room, my cheeks wet with mist . . . Inside,

tiger lilies opened their great trumpets and gave off their overpowering
perfume. Vally, stretched languidly on a divan covered with Persian silks,

was "at home" to a few friends. Her white gown covered but wholly re-

vealed her lovely figure. She excelled at designing these knowingly seductive
negligees. Her loosened hair was a moonlight halo about her face. Sitting

beside her, the scholar Petrus, translator andcommentator of Zoroaster,

was uttering commonplace sentences which managed to sound pornographic,
so suggestive was the expression on his thick lips. He looked terribly Hke
a shopkeeper in a Levantine bazaar. His large gestures seemed to spread too-
brightly colored rugs before imaginary customers. His conversation, like
his literary style, evoked sickening scents, barbaric colors, all the bad taste
of cheap oriental shops. He talked too much, probably in the hope of
making up for his wife's silence— she the novelist of such stormy and beau-
tiful gifts, who hardly spoke at all. Always withdrawn, she appeared lost
in a perpetual dream. The filmy folds of her green gown rippled about her
sinuous body and gave her the look of sea-weed. A single blood-red gera-

nium blossom burned in her shadowy hair.

A little apart, lone, the chosen bosom friend of my childhood, was lost

insome feverish hypnotized reverie. Her forehead, too broad and too high,
dominated her pensive face. It fixed one's attention and made one almost

forget her mysteriously sad brown eyes and tender mouth.

A friend of Vally's who looked like Leonardo's equivocal Saint John,
that Androgyne whose Italian smile glows so strangely in the Louvre, was
hstening to my Loreley expounding her theories about Imitation in Art.
San Giovanni was a poet, her verses as perverse as her smile. Her reputa-
tion did not extend beyond a quite narrow circle of writers and artists.

On the other hand, her unfailing salaciousness shocked bourgeois and Ht-
erary readers equally. Only a few true iconoclasts admired her for her dar-
ing. Her volumes bore titles suggestive of ambiguous passions: In Sapphic
Rhythm, Bona Dea, and The Mysteries of the Eleusinian Ceres.
Under the approving regard of San Giovanni, Vally was saying: "The
imitator is almost always more gifted than the creator. Reflections are love-
Her than the real image, an echo is softer than the sound. Shakespeare is

a marvellous echo of Boccaccio, a mountain echo that amplifies the voice,
deifies it, prolongs it to infinity."

Myself, I drew close to lone and spoke softly. "Don't think any more,
my too pensive friend. Please stop thinking, I implore you in the name of
our long-ago affection. Love someone, something. Love is much less dan-
gerous than thought. I know some obsession is tormenting you. The inex-
plicable mystery of the world, of Ufe, haunts you perpetually. I have been
through these tortures in the face of the Unknown. To escape this mortal
obsession I worked out a theory of the Universe which has at least the

merit of extreme simplicity. I believe that the Unutterable and the Incom-
prehensible are two faces of a double idea, a hermaphrodite idea. Every-
thing that is ugly, unjust, fierce, base, emanates from the Male Principle.
Everything unbearably lovely and desirable emanates from the Female Prin-
ciple. The two principles are equally powerful, and hate one another in-
curably. In the end one will exterminate the other, but which will be the
final victor? That riddle is the perpetual anguish of all souls. We hope in

silence for the decisive triumph of the Female Principle, the Good and the
Beautiful, over the Male, that is, over Bestial Force and Cruelty."
lone gazed steadily at her long hands that were the color of old ivory.
That was a morbid habit of hers, to stare at her hands for hours. She merely
smiled without replying to me. Oh, the sadness of lone's smile, more full

of pain than the bitterest tears!

The voice of San Giovanni recalled me abruptly to reality. She was de-
fending her dearest theories against Petrus, who, with a lewd wink, was
disputing Alcaeus's poem to Sappho: "Weaver of violets, chaste Psappha
with the honeyed smile, words rise to my lips but modesty restrains them."
"Why chaste?" he was demanding. "No one was ever less chaste than
the Immortal Lover."
"I accuse you," interrupted the Androgyne, "of being unable to con-
ceive of a love at once ardent and pure, like a white flame. That was the
sortPsappha vowed to her melodious adorers. That love, calling forth the
most delicate and subtle nuances that Beauty can offer-is it not a thousand
times more chaste than cloistered soHtude which breeds obscene dreams
and monstrous desires? Isn't it a thousand times more chaste than the co-
habitation based on advantage which Christian marriage has become? How
can one imagine anything more luminously chaste than that school at My-
tilene where Psappha taught the complicated arts of music and poesy? In

an era when only courtesans carefully learned pretty tunes, that girl of noble

birth dared devote herself wholly to the divine cult of Song."

"Psappha has certainly been the greatest of the misunderstood and slan-
dered," Vally mused. "Has there not even been confusion of
this virgin

of highest lineage with some vulgar courtesan? And what of the

legend of a mad infatuation for the handsome Phaon, a legend whose stu-

pidity is equalled only by its lack of historical truth? And last, hasn't the
theory of a marriage been almost universally adopted to make her utterly
"This supposed husband," put in San Giovanni, "seems, according to
Isle of Andros in search of a wife. But the man's
Suidas, to have left the
name, Kerkolas-he who wields the pen-and that of his birthplace, are
sufficient evidence of the kind of low humor that invented the tale. More-
over, it was never the custom for the Greeks to leave their own home place
in order to marry a stranger."

"Only a vulgar mind could have substituted the bearded faces of Kerkolas

and Phaon for the divine smile of Atthis and Eranna," I agreed.
"An equally low philistine morality has also used a fragment of Psappha's
poetry: 'I have a beautiful child, perfect as a golden flower, Kleis the much-
loved, whom I prefer to all the province of Lydia,' to transform the loving
slave-girl Kleis into a legitimate daughter!" San Giovanni broke off, scowl-

ing fiercely. "Imagine the hideous image of animal-like pregnancy after the
Ode to Aphrodite and the Ode to a Beloved Woman!"
"They have made a mockery even of her sacred name, the soft and sono-
rous Psappha, for which has been substituted the colorless label of Sappho,"
sighed Vally. "Sappho! That calls up uncontrollably the mediocre statues

and the by means of which the Philistines perpetuate the great-

trite verses

est feminine spirit which has ever dazzled the Universe."

"How I love you in your devout furies, O my Priestess," I whispered.
"Then you seem transfigured, almost divine."
Petrus did not give up. He now extolled masculine beauty, which he
declared superior to any feminine charms.
"How frightful he is," San Giovanni murmured to me. "I'm convinced
that the man has the mind and morals of the most respectable middle class
fellow, but right now he has the air of a dirty pedlar who offers English
tourists the services of untouched young boys. He's congenitally obscene,
like all Levantines. When he leaves, one feels the need to open the win-
dows and shake the hangings."
"Adolescent boys are beautiful only because they resemble women,"
Vally replied; "they are still inferior to women, whom they do not equal
either in grace of movement or harmony of form."
"For my part," said San Giovanni thoughtfully, "I don't believe that
any statue of a young god surpasses the winged magnificence of the Victory
of Samothrace, that supreme incarnation of feminine beauty. I have a hor-

ror of the Hercules. Any Herakles," she emphasized, "is the apotheosis of
a carnival wrestler or a butcher boy. I've never been able to lose mvself
in contemplation of muscles and tendons." She smiled reflectively. "If it
is true," she went on, "that the soul is reborn in several human bodies, I

was certainly born once on Lesbos. I was only a sullen and awkward child
when an older playmate took me to the temple where Psappha was invok-
ing the Goddess. I heard the Ode to Aphrodite. That incomparable voice

flowed out, more harmonious than water. The verses rolled on like waves,
and died and were reborn with a sound like the sea. Truly, truly, I once
heard the Ode to Aphrodite! The shining memory has never faded with
the years, not even with the passage of centuries. And still I was only a
child then,and because of my homehness and my tongue-tied speechless-
ness,Psappha cared nothing for me. But I loved her, and when later I de-
veloped the body of a woman, my sobs of desire were directed toward her.
I was in Sicily when I learned of her death; but that death was so glorious
that I did not shed a tear, and the weeping of my companions surprised
and offended me. I reminded them of her own high-souled words: 'For it

is not right that there should be lamentation in the house of those who
serve the Muses; thatis unworthy of us.'"

mused Vally, smiling, "I was a Httle Arab shepherd. slept all day,
"I," I

and never waked until the beginning of the green or violet dusk. Towards
night, following my flock, I came down from the mountain, walking in a
cloud of red dust. It was down in the valley that Ifirst saw the moon rise.

I ran to the nearest village and cried out that the moon was coming up.
And everyone who heard the great news looked up at the sky and cheered
to see on the horizon the amber light that just precedes the appearance of
the moon."
plump figure radiated the compos-
Petrus was contemplative. His whole
ure of a tolerant pasha. "Why do you
men?" he demanded abruptly
of San Giovanni, fixing his heavy gaze upon her.
"I neither love nor hate men," San Giovanni answered amicably. "What

I hold against them is the great wrong they have done to women. They

are political adversaries whom I want to injure for the good of the cause.
Off the battlefield of ideas, I know them little and am indifferent to them."

Petrus's oily face took solemn expression-one would have thought

on a
him a fakir about to give birth to a prophecy. He stared at the Androgyne
for some time before pronouncing portentously: "Mademoiselle, you are

trying to hide from the irresistible seduction of the male. You will certain-

ly finish your arms of a man." The fatuous innocence of

love-life in the

his smile should have softened a Penthesilea, but an angry flush darkened
the face of the author of Ceres Eleusine.
I managed to check the furious words about to burst from
her Hps by
saying in a profoundly shocked tone: "That would be a crime against nature,
sir. I have too much respect for our friend to believe her capable of an

abnormal passion!"

Little by little the days grew mild with the softness of Spring. April,
so beloved of Vally, showed us her wayward smiles and enigmatic tears.

Every hour that passed bound more closely our so-different spirits. With
each day my aching love grew deeper and more ingrained. Vally had an
instinctive love of the artificial. It pleased her to color her white-rose pal-
lor with cosmetics. The false flush of her cheeks was a brutal contrast to
her moonlight hair. Her mother, an Israehte, had transmitted to her all the
charm of the blonde Jewess. Her eyes, more coldly blue than winter haze,
still conveyed something Oriental, a languorous and voluptuous gaze. And

her mobile lips were more fitted for deception than for kisses. They seemed
to have been sculptured meticulously by a most skillful hand. They were
Hps without tenderness, lips long famiUar with every verbal artifice.
Sometimes she put on the costume of a Venetian page, a suit of moon-
which harmonized delicately with her pallid hair. At other
light-green velvet
times she would dress as a Greek shepherd, and then the music of invisible
pipes of Pan would seem to follow her footsteps, and her eyes would glit-

ter as if at the lascivious nakedness of maenads. She was trying, as do all

the nostalgic, for the magic of strange garments which transform the spirit

at the same time as the body, and thus revive for an hour the grace of a
vanished era. She was another Androgyne, vigorous as an ephebe, graceful
as a woman. I fervently adored her ardor as a priestress serving a cult of
abandoned altars. I loved her for reviving the sacred fires of ruined temples
and wreathing broken statues with roses.
Time passed with its ebb and flow of hours monotonous as tides of the
sea. Petrus was no longer welcome in the httle salon with its pool reflecting
irises. "That man is as repulsive to me as rancid rose water," Vally declared.
"Even the infinite charm of his wife doesn't serve to make his presence
bearable, that Levantine! What a shame to see that wonderful woman, that
flower, that lovely sea-weed, tied to such a shopkeeper!"
lone came there very rarely. I was at the same time so enraptured and
so miserable that I ceased to worry about her long silences, or the wrinkles
of worry on that too broad, too high forehead. She seemed to be living
an intense inner Hfe which no outer impression could penetrate, an intense
and terrible hfe which was slowly sapping all her strength. The perpetual
question in her eyes was almost that of a hypnotized creature gazing into
the abyss which will presently swallow it. And I grasped nothing of that
struggle of a soul with the Incomprehensible, that struggle of human and
angel. I saw nothing, I understood nothing, for I was absorbed solely by
that first love with which my lost heart wrestled.

Nevertheless, I did sometimes pay a visit to the silent lone. I found her
always dressed in a full-gathered gown, a gown of dull red which, I don't
know why, reminded me of nights in Florence. A pendant, symboHc in

design, a single great ruby set in green gold with a dangling pearl, was the
only jewelry she chose to wear, save for her ruby-studded girdle. I spent a
few nearly silent hours with her. 1 did not dare talk of Vally. I was not
afraid of censure from that spirit whose very purity endowed it with a
large understanding, but I felt would be wrung by
that her sensitive heart
my torments, which she would sense even if I told her nothing of them.
She knew as well as I— and better— how hopeless was my futile effort to
win Vally 's indifferent heart, which was not and never could be moved to
love me. She was well aware that I was wasting myself in a useless struggle,
and even that knowledge deepened the sorrow that shadowed those eyes
of hers, eyes as brilliantly brown as an autumn twilight. This restraint which
weighed on our conversations produced a certain estrangement. We avoided
one another's eyes as we did any open confession, and we feared the be-
trayal of silence. We were afraid of the truth-afraid above all of our old-
time intimate frankness. So I saw her less and less often, until my visits

almost ceased. She never offered the least complaint or reproach. Herself
as distant as a preoccupied stranger, she seemed almost unaware of every-
thing but her mystic fear of the Unknown. And yet— she had once been the
snow-white sister to whom I had whispered my most intimate dreams . . .


One day toward the end of April Vally received a note addressed in a
serpentine script over-fine and wavy— the writing of a sensual mystic, or
perhaps a mystic sensualist. In an upper corner of the parchment-colored
paper was an elaborate hieroglyphic which after long and patient exami-
nation proved to be a monogram in modern letters. The note said: "Won't
you come to see me this afternoon, you and your slave?"
We waited for San Giovanni's appearance in an odd green boudoir whose
furniturewas of a disquietingly tortuous design. The oddest of odd Art
Nouveau reigned here; the single example of any other style was a repro-
duction of Leonardo's San Giovanni. This picture, framed and hung with
the greatest care in a place of honor, seemed a portrait, or even more, the
very spirit of our sapphic poet. A dried snake skin was coiled about a vase
full of fading black iris. With friendly curiosity, Vally examined the tar-

nished scales where living brilliance Uke splintered gems was forever cap-
tured. "Don't look too long at dead serpents," came San Giovanni's voice.

Her quiet step had been so hushed by the deep rugs that the thread of our
attention had not been broken. "For dead serpents revive under the gaze
of those who love them. The witching eyes of Lilith bring them back to
life, just as moonlight animates stagnant waters."
"I remember," my pagan Priestess put in, "a tale with which you froze
my blood once. Your words quivered out of a fantasmal dusk, came shud-
dering from a Beyond gray with terror. Tell us again that tale of the dead
serpents, San Giovanni."
In a solemn whisper the poetess evoked the vision once suggested to her
by a night when she was tormented by unmentionable pains. "It's the story
of an American adventurer lost in the mountains," she explained. Then she
'*I had wandered for days on the mountain. The bare rocks distracted
me with their fantastic resemblance to animals or human faces. Some were
like crouching chimeras, others like watchful water spirits. I recognized
sharks and whales, obehsks, crocodiles, women's buttocks. There were also
the trunks of tortured giants, nuns kneeling beneath heavy veils of stone.
I froHcked with beautiful and malicious lizards-I loved them as I would

precious stones. And whenever the sun set, I was struck to the heart with
sadness. (I am always saddened by nightfall, and sometimes dawn too freezes
me with presentiments.) SoHtude had made me profoundly contemplative.
I would sit in the darkness and feel the shadow of death. I thought then
of all we know nothing of.
that Inexplicable weakness overcame me at cer-

tain times. If I had known what I dreaded, I should not have been afraid.
I shrank into myself, as children try to hide beneath the covers. Horror of
the Unknown shattered my consciousness. At such times I sat motionless
for a very long time, staring straight ahead of me without daring to turn
my head right or left. It is terrible to be so afraid and not know why.
"I had never done any harm to anyone. I had loved a young girl, very
purely. Her eyes never crinkled, even when she laughed ardently at me
through the leaves. Those sombre eyes gave the lie to her laughing lips . . .

She is dead now . . . Later I took a mistress. I love the lizards because they
are so like her. She loved to sleep in the blazing sunlight. She feared nothing.
Although she was happy, I never heard her sing. Nothing could make her
tremble. Presently she took another lover. Since then I have wandered these
"Toward the end of one insolently blue afternoon I was surprised into
hallooing at an odd small hut half hidden by vines. A hermit must have
taken refuge there in his frenzy for soUtude. It was a long time since I had
seen a human face. I raised the straw mat that served as door to the loner's
cabin. I have never seen such a bizarre dwelling. The walls of rough planks
were covered from top to bottom with the skins of serpents, dry and shri-
velled but still retaining a dim shimmer of scales. In a corner an old man
cowered, grimacing with surprise and terror.
"I drew back, vaguely alarmed, before that narrow, hollow-cheeked face.
His yellow eyes, almost lidless, were dilated like those of owls whose night-

wide pupils are hurt by light. His chin was long out of all proportion, and
his ragged white hair stood up as if raised by perpetual fright. I begged
him to pardon my intrusion. The old man, half hypnotizing me with his

fixed stare, said nothing. Thinking he might be deaf, I raised my voice.
"'No need to shout,' protested my host. The effect was as startHng as
hearing a voice come from a broken tomb. I hesitated -but curiosity got
the better of discretion. 'Well, come
he bawled out suddenly. Then si- in,'

lence fell again and lengthened. 'I'm out of the habit of talking,' he grumbled
at last, by way of excuse. I studied curiously the sinister hole in which I

found myself. 'Why are you staring at the walls?' yelled the hermit. 'I won't
have you looking at the walls.'

"I stood stupidly irresolute. 'I see you are a snake killer,' I ventured
timidly. I was startled at the inexplicable effect produced by these quite
harmless words. The hermit stood erect, his teeth chattering as if he were
in the throes of a violent fever-chill. The crisis passed in a burst of childish
sobbing. 'And you,' he demanded roughly, 'have you killed serpents?'
'"I've killed one or two,' murmured with growing uneasiness.

"The old man leaped up with a single bound, violently seized my hands,
and shook me like a ripe fruit tree. 'Oh miserable one, unhappy one, un-
lucky one! Why did you do it? Don't you know, then, that it's useless?'
His voice broke and the phrase ended in a barely audible whisper. 'Don't
you know that serpents never die? Or rather, they revive, more terrible and
venomous. They revive, tell you.' I

"The sun had set. A bluish dusk made the shadowy corners mysteriously
ominous. The old man shivered like a Chinese ruined by opium. 'See, night
has fallen,' I said at last, to break the painful silence.
'"This is the hour when they come murmured the hermit. 'There's
to Hfe,'
no use, ever, in killing serpents. Look! Look! Can't you see them crawling
on the walls?'
"I don't know whether the man's terror dominated my eyesight as well
as my spirit, or whether it was an illusion brought on by the dusk. But I

did see the serpents gliding, their dried scales recapturing a jeweled gleam.
I saw them dart their vindictive glare at us, and it followed us with a hostile
and crafty gHtter. I watched them stretch and recoil themselves. And I in

my turn shuddered uncontrollably.

'"Look at the green one down there,' the hermit quavered. 'It's the

most beautiful of all, it has the hving color of grass. When one walks the
prairie one steps on them without even seeing them. I have never killed a
lovelier one. And that other, the sandy-red one . . . and that, veined like

the wet stones one finds on the beach . . . And that one like raw copper . . .

All the serpents of every country where I have ever killed one . . . They
sneak in through the cracks when the planks are damp, they lie about in

the shadowed corners. Look . . . look . .


"I felt, the full length of my legs, the cold contact of slimy coils. Drunk
with terror I bony arm of the hermit
seized the pitiful violently. 'Why do
you stay here? Why don't you flee far away from this niglitmare, this fever

and dehrium?' .^
"With a convulsive gesture he wiped away the cold sweat that beaded
his forehead. 'I used to try to get away that was a long time ago
. . . . . .

But they followed me. Whenever I looked back I saw them in the grass or

among the rocks. They hung from tree branches, they swam creeks. I saw
them in the depths of the running water, like eels. They hypnotized me
with their evil eyes. Truly, I am convinced that the Devil is a serpent, and
perhaps that is why serpents are evil and damned. There is no use ever in

killing a serpent, you see. Those you have killed will come to life like all

the others.'
"Darkness had fallen outside. A ray of moonlight multiplied the gleam-
ing scales. 'Oh, they are maUcious tonight! They love the moon, because
she is as cruel as they are. They adore that insidious liglit. They are happy,
and that renders them terrible. Oh, they are very vicious tonight!'
"Did the wind rustle the vines? I heard a whispering ... I swear 1 heard
a whispering. I sprang through the opening that served as door. I dashed
across the mountain like a panicked horse. I was out of my mind. Foam
as of an epileptic fit soiled my lips. At last a greenish dawn showed above
the peaks. But the graveyard voice of the hermit still rang in my ears: 'Never

kill serpents . . . they never die . . . Or rather, they return to life still more
venomous and terrible.'"
Vally was silent, a vague skepticism clouding her smile. "Do you believe
that the eyes of Lilith can really revive dead snakes?" she finally asked.
"I'm sure of it," declared San Giovanni, "in the small hours they creep
along undefined paths. Through the half-darkness their eyes shoot cruel
gleams. For they serve Lilith faithfully. They spy out the victims she has
indicated. The being they lie in wait for feels, with a ghostly horror, their
cold coils tighten about his heart."
Vally was examining a wood carving of the Magdalen with an exquisitely
draped robe, the face and hands of porcelain. It was one of those doll-figures
full of naive and childhke grace which the Spaniards group like silent actresses

about the scene of the Crucifixion. With selfless detachment she seemed to
be praying for all human suffering. A sincere exaltation of grief made that
passionate face spiritual.
"That Magdalen brings back for me all the ardent brilHance of Seville,"
mused San Giovanni. "Ah! that quivering sharpness of the air! While there,
I felt myself becoming almost transparent with the subtle intensity of liv-

ing." She smiled at a memory. "In Seville," she went on, "I was struck by
something strange and most symboHc. You know they wanted recently to
unify the time throughout Spain, and they chose Greenwich time as their
standard. But the clock in the cathedral tower, it alone, persisted obsti-
nately in running a quarter hour slow. It defied the other clocks, scorned
them, seemed to glory in being behind. What do you think of that tale,

which is none the less striking for being true?"

"I don't think anything. True stories don't interest me," pouted Vally.
"To be as different as possible from Nature is the true function of Art."
"You're right," confessed San Giovanni. "Representation is nothing but
vulgar imitation of the Real. The absolute creator is the only true artist.
In a painting I love only imaginary landscapes, dream flowers, faces one
will never see in life. To create is to innovate, to produce what has never
been seen or heard in Nature. Nature is inimitable. Art is unimaginable."
"I wish I understood you, San Giovanni," I said with passionate interest.
"You yourself are the bizarre flower of some unknown dream. I try with
dehberate sharpness to clarify the obscure causes of which you are so para-
doxical a product."
San Giovanni lost herself in the past. Her eyes became vague, the eyes
of one searching her distant image in a mysteriously deep pool. "My strange
childhood fills even me with wonder," she reflected. "I was born an only
child, had a soHtary childhood -almost without other living creatures. When
strangers flattered me with idiotic effusions, I withdrew into depths of in-

stinctive contempt, as one hides in deep shadows. Where my companions

complacently courted admiration and caresses, I looked on such familiarities
with eyes already spiteful, where the beginning of childish hate was lit."

She paused to give her words more convincing weight. "During my earliest

years I loved no one. The most conceitedly stupid gushing was cut off by
that unconscious hostiHty.
"Before I I amused myself with the complex personaHties
could read,
of my Each of the ten had individuaUty, character, almost a soul.
The aggressive, belligerent thumbs stood apart with natural pride. The index
fingers were full of prophetic wisdom. The middle fingers stood up tall
with the despotism of a rich bourgeois father. The fourth fingers, longer
than the index, extended themselves in feminine slenderness. As to the
little fingers, they impersonated willful moodiness and gamine trickery. I

made those fingers talk. I attributed to them a life full of diverse adventure
and grave crises."

"lone's fingers," I interrupted, "are like tall pale altar candles!"

San Giovanni went on: "Like most children, I lied and was cruel. My
lies were a reaching for the impossible, the vast Beyond. I embroidered in

badly worked fantasies all the dreams I had accumulated for years. It de-
lighted me to torment my younger playmates by telling them horrifying
ghost stories. Their terror intoxicated me with a naive sense of power. But
I terrified myself even worse with my diabolical inventions.

"Not a single perverse reverie entered my complete isolation. It was not

till I was thirteen that I was filled with an utterly pure passion for a compan-
ion whom adored because her eyelashes were so beautiful, so mournful."

"I," Vally broke in, "I was barely eight when I began to drive little boys
crazy with my disturbing, almost sophisticated kisses. I didn't care a thing

for them, but I was terribly proud of the precocious disturbance 1 caused."
San Giovanni's eyes turned again to the past. "I wrote my first poems
to that girl with the beautiful lashes, who gave me openly her innocent
tenderness. I was determined that we would run away together later when
both of us had reached the age when we would be free. I dreamed of dressing
as a man so that I could marry her. But in all this mirage of closely united
Ufe not a hint of physical intimacy entered. I imagined simply the peace
of hours when we were lost in one another as harmonious colors blend.
*'After that, for a long time religious piety burned in me. Like lone, I

agonized over the Unknowable. Today I am satisfied with the vast tragic
grandeur of Uncertainty . . . Perhaps I was born to be an apostle," she said

I regretfully after a pause. "I should have liked to found a religion, or at

some very ancient and profoundly wise cult-the cult of the
least restore

Mother Goddess who conceived Infinity and gave birth to Eternity. I haven't
a lover's soul at all, despite the raging sensuality of my poems. I haven't
the soul of a nun, who, not having found peace in a convent, has thrown
off her veils and weeps to find herself naked amid the ritual perfume of
the incense." Her voice broke with sorrow, 'i have lost myself in a laby-
rinth of digressions," she went on. "Until I was fourteen, I was only a lazy,
mischievous little animal."
"Like all children," I inserted.
"Of course," said San Giovanni. "But a dream was beginning to infil-

trate the sleep of my soul, when I made a trip to Italy. There I acquired
a confused sense of beauty. When I was about ten, my half-conscious soul
had been moved by the Old Testament and Greek mythology. Still, the
splendor of the universe had never been wholly revealed to me as it was
among those luminous landscapes saturated with perfumes. It was there
that I came to understand love most clearly."
"You you haven't the
say soul of a lover, San Giovanni," I interrupted
her with some astonishment. "I wish you would teach us your conception
of tenderness and passion."
San Giovanni smiled her equivocal half-smile. "I've told you how empty
my childhood was of sensual reverie. At seventeen I was wholly ignorant
of bestial sexuality, despite the Anglo-Saxon freedom I was allowed in my

reading. Then a young French

whose education had been rigorously
supervised described animal intercourse to me. I listened with stupefied
disgust, and above all else increduHty. Instinctively I was wholly revolted
by the grotesque shame of human lust. No later reflection could dispel my
nausea. But soon was absorbed by less repugnant ideas. A great passion

for justice seized me. was aroused on behalf of women, so misunderstood,


made use of began to hate the male for the base cruelty of
by male tyranny. I

his laws and the impurity of his morals. considered his works and judged I

them evil, for I was burning with the revolt of a proud spirit against oppression
"That was when I composed my poem, Vashti, in which I celebrated
the first feminine rebelHon. Vashti, the first wife of Ahasuerus, more beau-
tiful and with more pride than the timorous Esther, had already captured
my childhood imagination.1 was thrilled by her high-souled defiance when
Ahasuerus ordered her to unveil for his drunken courtiers her beauty, glori-
ous as the sun's light. She refused to allow the satraps' lewd stares to profane
that mystically exquisite face, but preferred to die, outcast and wretched.
It is for that hauteur that I venerate and love her." San Giovanni fell silent

for a moment.
I hastened to ask further about the mystery of her love Hfe. "Tell us
about your sweet friend with the beautiful lashes, O perverse Saint!"
San Giovanni withdrew, evasive and reticent. "You are mistaken about
the character of that childish love. Complete ignorance kept our too naive
Hps from meeting. I was twenty before I learned the inexpressible loveli-
ness of feminine amours, with their purity of passion, their graceful candor
then tempted. The reading oi Mephistophela opened the gates to unsus-
pected gardens and the path of unknown stars. I adored that book despite
the bad taste of some chapters, where bourgeois moraHty is wedded to
cheap melodrama. From it I learned that innocent Hps can join without
disgust other lips more experienced but no less timid. I understood that
on this earth there can blossom faerie kisses without regret or shame. And
with anxious patience I awaited the coming of the hitherto Unhoped For."
"Tell us about her, San Giovanni . .

But suddenly overcome by the awkward modesty of an ephebe, the poetess

of Mytilene turned away and ran her hectic fingers over the velvety bass
notes of the piano. The notes quivered under the passionate hands that
rippled over them with soft insistence. "To my eternal sorrow, I am not
a musician," she sighed. "Music can for me be only the voice of a mood.
And yet, like the sea, it is the Infinite . . . Music is always suggestive. I re-

callsome prose poems suggested to me by a morbid nocturne of Chopin."

As she recited she accompanied the words with a tormented melody that
had the broken rhythm of a feverish heartbeat:
"I love you because you are like autumn, like a fading sunset. love I

you because you are ill. I love you because you are going to die. I
love you also because you have coppery hair and sea-green eyes and
because you are frail and sad. You have the flexibiUty of a fading
flower. Your voice is melancholy as the winds of October that bring
down the dead leaves. love you because you are going to die. Your

lassitude enchants me and your fragility ravishes me. Someone should

surely be awaiting you in the tomb. For you know, as do, that the I

Dead, lying in the depths of their sepulchres, are waiting for those
whom they loved. They await them tirelessly, without anguish or im-
patience, in appalling immobility. Oh, someone assuredly waits for

you in the tomb. The Dead twine their fingers among the roots, hoping
for the arrival of their loved ones and their companions. And sometimes,
through their closed lids, they count the years. I love you because
you are going to die. When you are dead, O my Lady of Autumn,
you too will wait resting on those slabs of stained marble. You will
smile at the spots of moisture which take unexpected shapes, strange
outUnes, and which sometimes, like clouds, assume the face of earthly
creatures. When you are dead, you will wait for me, like her who al-
ready awaits me. And behind your closed lids you will count the
years. Whenever I sing songs to my shadow, I shall feel your thouglits
drifting about me like a cold breath. When sleet rattles against the

window, I shall hear the tapping of your fingers. The winter winds
will bring me the rustle of your passing shroud. I shall know you
wait for me, counting the months and the years. Your index finger
will cast its shadow on the sundial. You will insinuate yourself into

the fog and the mists, like her who already awaits me. I love you
because you are going to die. It is the brief joy of ephemeral beauty
that I drink from your Hps. I believe I take from you a bit of your
fleeting life when I embrace you. I can see within your flesh the
delicate design of your skeleton. I adore your transparent temples
where the blue veins glisten with the dew of
are visible and which
icy sweat. you for being so pale. Oh, how beautiful you are,
I love
so wasted and pale! Someone must surely be awaiting you in the
tomb ." . .

San Giovanni listened reverently for the last fugitive echo of the dying
chords. "What is most beautiful about music," she said, "is the pause in
the middle of a rhythm, or the silence following the last quivering note . . .

She looked at the mysterious keys of the piano. "All the magic of a tune
is in the work of the left hand. Ah, the grave sweetness, the inexpressible
sob of the bass clef!"
"You are a devotee of sounds, San Giovanni," I observed.
She agreed. "How I love that religious fantasy which promises to the
blest a future of Eternal Music! I should wish, as one of the Elect, to be
nothing but a singing note breathed into space." She repeated in a passionate
tone: "Music! How spell-binding, how magical! Once I tried to express that

idea in a tale called The Sin of Music. was an account of the temptation

of a saint in the desert. All sorts of mirages and oases shimmered in vain
before his indifferent gaze. Sights did not endanger his soul at all. The most
exquisite nude women and voluptuous statues dazzled as futilely before
him as the wickedly bright moonlight on the sands. Even goddesses, the
more desirable for being remote, let him look upon the white tlame of their
flesh, without waking a single gleam of desire in his mournful eyes. Then
perfumes to make one faint, scents of overpowering sweetness, aromas of
breath-taking power, drifted over him without disturbing the profound peace
of his hermit's being. Fruits richly ripened by the sun, rare fruits from
most distant climes, wines of jewel-purple or glowing gold, never wakened
in him the pleasure of their taste. Even that most delicate and troubling

of the senses, the sense of touch, was not roused in him by the animal
softness of fur in which the fingers may bury themselves, nor by satiny
tissues whose equivocal clinging is Hke a hesitant caress. But he was seduced
by his ear. Music, ardent and insinuating as a mistress, Music which stirs re-

grets and re -awakens memories, Music which envelops and sweeps one away
like water, transported his soul on the sob of a chord . . . The sensuous appeal
of sound was so sharp that it led him to renounce the glory of paradise.
And so the hermit, till then invulnerable, was damned-by the sin of har-
mony . .
." San Giovanni's fingers, knowingly retarding, caressed with per-
verse tenacity the yielding notes.

I was twenty-one and drunk with my new freedom when lone took me
to Vally's and I experienced the ecstatic pangs of a first passion. After that
day of dazzling blue and of darkness, friendship was overshadowed by love,
lone, pale sister, receded into the background. I no longer told her of my
sorrows. I guarded them jealously in the saddened depths of my spirit. And
it was thus that became a creature of silence and solitude. For Vally was

all for ecstasies which changed with the hours. A multitude of feminine

fancies succeeded one another in her variegated existence. I became accus-

tomed to their perfumed presence, their smiles which begged my forbearance.
I learned not to resent them-they were not robbing me of a love I had
never possessed. I felt an almost affectionate indulgence for my rivals. They
tortured me so unintentionally and so gracefully! I remember all those
transients without bitterness. They were so dissimilarly adorable. I specially

admired a certain Jewess, magnificent as the whole Orient. Her heavy hair
was full of the perfume of roses and sandalwood. Bathsheba without veils
was never more triumphantly splendid. Beneath the languor of her heavy
lids slept passionate violence. She was almost terrifyingly beautiful.

She was succeeded by a mere child, whose infantile profile and bird-
like twitterings moved me to tenderness. But she was soon dropped for a

young Englishwoman with a little girl's spirit clothed a god- in the body of
dess. After that, two sisters vied for the fickle heart of Vally. Both were
as silver-blonde as an arctic sun. But their reign too was brief. Their weather
vane lover forgot them, captivated by the seductive smile of a little Ameri-
can. No one could fix Vally's shifting imagination nor hold fast her tran-
sient heart. Nevertheless, I envied these puerile loves, for each had from
her, if only for an instant, sincere kisses.

"I don't love you," she would say in her moments of sincerity. "May-
be I shall learn to love you by-and-by. Little by little you will teach me
your faithfulness and tenderness." And with melancholy patience, I would
watch for the softened look which I had for so long awaited in vain.

Summer bloomed feverishly with roses, summer blazed from the walls;
and Vally gave me notice that I was to accompany her to America. And
I followed her, just as I had on that first day when I had abandoned for

her my hopes and my memories.

We went to a huge women's college where only a few men, graduate
students or grounds workmen, were admitted. It was Hke a consecrated
community, a place of labor and meditation. These young women were
preparing themselves for future careers, or were pursuing deeply for their
own pleasure a muhitude of studious interests. Happiness of spirit, a thou-
sand times keener than pleasures of the flesh, brightened indescribably
these frank young faces. Serenity breathed from these walls full of stud-
ious buzzing which reminded one of a beehive.
No one who has not spent the divine month of October in the New
World can imagine the full glory of autumn. All about me there was a
universal flame of sunset. The woods burned with red intense as fresh

blood, the golds and coppers had a dream -brilliance. Tiny snakes green as
molten emeralds slept in the dust of the roads, then came alive suddenly
hke racing vines. Just at the edge of this town at once active and contem-
plative there was a small cemetery where bats hovered on blue wings. In
this narrow city of the dead Vally and I surprised, one evening about dusk,
San Giovanni in flagrante delictu of Hterary composition. She was seated
on the worn slab commemorating Hannah Jane, beloved spouse of Ebenezer
Brown. "You have realized your ideal of happiness, O poet!" Vally laughed
mockingly. "Serpents, bats, tombs, solitude: behold you are in possession
of your paradise. For blessedness or damnation differ only in one's own
"You're right," I agreed. "My Heaven is contained complete within the
word Music, and my Hell in the word Discord. For me, eternal torment
would be having to hear loud noises, the shrieking of buzz-saw&, the racket
of tram-cars, the screaming of children, the howling of sirens and the pound-
ing of inexpert pianists."
"I once read an odd book titled Letters from Hell"" mused San Giovanni.
"This correspondence of the damned revealed a deplorably Protestant spirit,
but it was full of bizarre detail about infernal manners and customs. Spirits
are punished down there by having to expiate their earthly sins. Egoists
wander about in the dusk full of a tragic hunger to love others and abase
themselves.They babble into the Nothingness futile words of tenderness.
They stretch out open arms in vain spasms of love. And the shades upon
whom they press their obsequious offers spurn them utterly. Hypocrites
are forced to sob out their old lies, despite their altered souls purged by

freedom. And the torments of the vain are more dreadful still. They are
forced to see themselves as others saw them, and hear everything that was
said against them during their whole earthly lives."

We shuddered with mock horror. "And what is the punishment of the

lustful?" I asked with interest.
"They are condemned to the act of desiring," San Giovanni answered.
"Weary to the point of disgust, they dream vaguely of an impossible chastity.
Their solitary craving gnaws Hke hunger, burns like thirst." She reflected
for a moment. "Once there was a man who sold his soul for a woman,"
she went on. "The sensual ferocity of his love remained with him to Eter-
nity. He cherished the hope of rediscovering that woman. Without rest, he
longed for her appearance among the Anguished Shades. All through the
long years, he waited for her."
"Such is the greatness of love," I observed philosophically.
"He always saw her in the implacable beauty of her youth. He panted
for those long-gone Ups bruised with kisses, for her purple-shadowed lids,
for her whole indescribable body. He remembered all their mystic evenings,
their words, their divine silences. Long and long he waited.
"Then at last she came. She squatted at his side. The Shades revealed
her face netted with a tangle of wrinkles. Her toothless smile revealed
blackened gums. Her breasts were Hke two empty leather bottles. Her eyes
bUnked lamentably beneath their sparse lashes. The lover's punishment was
to follow this spectre whom he abhorred, to sob out the old-time pleas
and repeat all the promises and prayers. He begged with repugnance the
kisses of that mouth with its fetid breath. And he exhausted himself in-

venting abject compliments before this creature he once truly desired."

Vally turned away, a bit pale.
"When it's your turn to descend into the Eternal Abyss, San Giovanni,"
I put in, '*you will find a crowd of readers. Your books will be in the hands
of all the lost souls of literature."
"You flatter me. I have a more modest notion of my literary reputation.
To be read in Hell— what success! That would compensate for the meagre
sales of my volumes in the here and now."

"Justice," I added, "tired of roaming futilely on our terrestrial globe,

has taken refuge in Hell. For justice is the unique virtue of demons."
"There aren't any demons in Hell," objected San Giovanni. "Tortures
would be useless, since the damned torture themselves. Demons are only

the vulgar personification of people's wicked thoughts."

A young professor whom Vally respected for his remarkable knowledge
of classical Greece now came to join us and to announce triumphantly his

engagement. Vally murmured some conventional phrases. San Giovanni

gazed at him not without melancholy and said in friendly fashion: "I shall

offer you, my young colleague, some advice which will do more for your
future happiness than empty congratulations." She spread out a manuscript
on her knee, and chose at random the following passage: "The Charmer of

Serpents said to the ephebe: This is what the serpents have taught me,
those counsellors of Voluptuousness. Avoid the act of initiation, base as
plunder, brutal as rape, bloody as massacre, and worthy only of a drunken
and barbarous soldiery. If the woman you love is a virgin, leave the viola-
tion of her maidenhead to a stranger. Lx)ve ought to be pure of everything
which is not passion. Suffering in love is like a false note in music.'"

She waited in vain for the warm thanks of our companion With rare

ingratitude, he had removed himself as soon as he heard mention of the

act of initiation. Vally smothered her scandaHzed laughter.
"What advice to offer a hellenistic fiance! You have offended the mod-
esty of the worthy young man."
"More's the pity," said San Giovanni relentlessly. "He wasn't afraid of
outraging my modesty with his indecent proclamation of his engagement.
That's the sort of indelicate business that one ought to avoid announcing
in public. Everyone has his own private scruples."

"Oh, hush," smiled Vally. "Or rather, read us your essay which bears
the tantalizing title: The Male Prostitute.''

"HI yield to your wish, but not without warning you that the prostitute
became evident to me the other night beneath the features of that M. de
Vaulxdame with whom you were waltzing so sinuously, and who has just
bartered his insignificant title for some very significant dollars." Then San
Giovanni began solemnly:
"Look here, upon this picture, and on this.

"The female prostitute passes in the night. Her face has the haggard
fixity of hope. On her cheeks the rouge is red as a blush of shame. She
passes through the night, pursued like a wild animal, branded by universal
condemnation, ceaselessly in danger of degrading imprisonment. In con-
stant danger of death, she has hanging over her head not the sword of
Damocles but the vulgar knife of her pimp or some passing lover. She is

a creature exploited, reviled, crushed beneath the burden of prejudice and

police regulations. This woman sells herself, sometimes even is sold, like
a slave in the markets of antiquity. And those who withdraw themselves
from her path label her 'prostitute.'
"The male prostitute flaunts his laziness in quarters vast as a palace.
Servants liveried according to his caprice in picturesque costumes silently
carry out his orders. The prancing grace of his horses draws the eyes of
those who are mad about animal beauty. Luxury, that realization of all

earthly dreams, shines unclouded upon his way. His desires come to life
in beauty. Choruses of praise echo back his pride. He passes, his forehead
crowned with light, more admired than a scholar or a priest. This man has

sold himself. But marriage has sanctified the bargain made beneath the vault
of a temple. Solemn rejoicings salute the venal act. This man is blessed by
the church, honored by convention, and protected by law. Only I call him

"The woman has sold herself through ignorance, through need, because
the wage laws are merciless to working women, and the only means a woman
has of living in comfort is through harlotry. The man has sold himself be-
cause, despite possibilities of lucrative employment, he prefers ease to ef-
fort and opulence to self-respect. And so, a thousand times more morally
decadent, a thousand times more reprehensible, the male prostitute enjoys
all the advantages and all the honors on earth. And I alone give him his
true label: 'prostitute.'"
"You are right to condemn the man," said my Priestess with approval,
"but that won't in the least prevent me from waltzing with him this even-
ing. I am deserting the academic scene for a very frivolous ball in a nearby
country house. Are you going with me, my chevalier-satelHte?"
"No," I replied gently. "I have too often watched you all evening, sad
to the bottom of my soul to see you swaying in the arms of those popin-
jays. I have too bitterly envied, too fiercely hated your partners in the

waltz or the cotiUion. I shall not go to the ball, Vally."

"Very well," she pouted with a graceful shrug. "I am leaving you, San
Giovanni, since you prefer the company of owls and serpents to mine.
Meditate as long as you like on the funereal inscriptions which surround
you." And the sweep of her skirts roused without pity the dead leaves
from their silence.


The fields came to life under the first kisses of winter. The ground
smiled like a happy giant, rejoicing in snow, ice, hoar-frost, and generous
winds. The intoxication of the first cold filled the air with satisfying vigor.
I was thrilled by the shivering air, thrilled with a sensual sharpness.
The end of November saw us back in Paris. I experienced none of that
pleasure at returning which a familiar house gives. Only at Vally 's, where
I was merely a silent presence, tolerated and sometimes irritating, had I

any feeling of comfort. Paris! That loved and longed-for city brought back
only the least gracious presences: the unspeakable Petrus, melting with fat

self-satisfaction, and the innumerable adorers of and fawners upon Vally,

whom I hated, all of them together.
During my absence I had not written to lone. My amorous depression
was so profound that I could not have scrawled a line without silently be-

traying my bitter involvement. For Vally 's bored indifference was increas-
ing with time, and I was beginning to despair. I had so vainly set myself
to achieve an impossible goal!
But once we were back, I went to see the pale friend of my dreamless
past. I found her, as always, alarmingly given to meditation. Her high fore-
head seemed to shed a great white light in her dim chamber. For a long

time she rested upon me those eyes so unforgettably sad and tender. It

seemed to me that that gaze held a confession of her mysterious thoughts.

I strove to comprehend that look, but my reason was lost in it as in an
abyss. "I beg of you," murmured her almost inaudible voice, "understand
me. Guess what I can no longer tell you. Sense my thoughts, comprehend
them and me."
Already my helpless gesture had answered her, but I said, "I cannot
sense your meaning, lone. I cannot understand. Help me." Slowly and
gently she shook her head, with an air of infinite regret. What words could
convey the mystery of her thoughts?
"Let us talk of something else," she said. "You are no longer the person
you used to be, so brightly Utopian, so full of ideas and wild fancies. You
have given up everything that used to be your pride and joy. Your eyes are
like two dead lakes, and come to life only when they meet Vally's eyes.

When she is near, you see nothing but her face, hear nothing but her voice;
and when she is not, you are still looking at her and listening in your
thoughts. You are nothing but a wandering shadow, a reflection and an
echo of Vally." A long shudder of astonishment shook me. She had never
before spoken so openly of my unhappy passion. "You have certainly not
found happiness," she finished.
I tried to smile. "I certainly haven't! But I am so divinely unhappy that
I would allow nothing in the world to console me."
lone gave a long sigh. "Nevertheless, I have a plea to make. I am rather
ill, and above all terribly tired."
"Tired from too much thinking, lone," I interrupted her. "Oh, I beg of
you! Love someone, do something, weep, live desperately, but don't think
any more with this exhausting concentration!"
She went on without taking in, almost without hearing what I said: "I

want to go away for a rest in the health-giving Midi. Down there there are
great bushes of white roses, and mauve wisteria whose clusters droop clear
to the ground. There are olive groves the color of waves at disk, and one
can breathe the matchless perfume of orange blossoms. On the hills the
ground is blue with violets. Great beds of seaweed make the sea purple.
The sun is strong, so strong it cures every illness. Come down there with
me and forget. I'll cure you, I'll be as I used to be-your Comforter. Come
with me ." . .

It seemed to me that every star in the heavens had been snuffed out in
miserable blackness. Leave Vally, if only for a few weeks! I almost laughed
at the madness of that thought. The adored image rose against the dark-

ness, and I saw in memory the beauty of cruel pale hair and cruel ice-blue
eyes that had reduced me to such weakness and weariness.
I wanted to refuse lone's friendly invitation, but I saw in her eyes such
desperate supphcation that I did not dare to utter a definite refusal. "Later,"
I said evasively. "I'll come later, lone. At the moment I can't get free of
my engagements." I did not dare to look at her. There fell between us a
silence so vast it seemed to stretch to eternity.
"You promise to come?" lone, quite pale, said at last. "You promise
me that you'll come later?"
The anguish I could hear in her voice made me shiver suddenly. I lied
resolutely. "I promise you, my dear."
"Weigh your words well. Sometimes a most ironic Destiny makes one
carry out promises made with no intention of keeping them." That light
phrase rang through the luminous twilight Uke a prophecy.
I caught up lone's cold hands. The intangible desolation which was
drowning her weighed me down too. We sat side by side, and the melan-
choly lassitude that filled us shadowed our vague thoughts. We were as
sad as the cloudy dusk, and like it, we dreaded the nothingness of night.

I have never known an hour more poignant than that hour of desolate,
sisterly communion.


lone left a few days later. I received a box of sun-drenched flowers

from her, and a tactful letter followed, as happiness follows hope. Some-
times I thought of her with intense apprehension. But my devouring pas-
sion once more absorbed my whole consciousness. More and more, Vally
was withdrawing from me. I saw her only at rare and bitter intervals. She
wanted as much freedom and space as a sea gull, and 1 followed after her
flight through the open sky.
One evening I received a note from San Giovanni. Her eccentric script

slanted and stretched more feverishly than usual over the pale gray paper:

"I beg you to use all your influence to put our impulsive Vally on
guard. Most unfortunately the Prostitute has in his possession a letter
from her which contains a formal promise of marriage. I have no
idea that Vally really intends to marry him. American girls sometimes
amuse themselves by getting engaged offhand, without attaching any
more importance to the matter than to a game of golf or tennis. But
the Prostitute doesn't take it in that spirit. I adjure you, warn Vally."

The nausea of disgust was stronger even than my crucified jealousy. I

heartily shared San Giovanni's hatred for the unspeakable male. Evening
came. I did not dare as yet to present myself at the house of the irrespon-
sible girl. But next day I knocked at Vally 's door. 1 hardly saw the Bois

lacy with hoarfrost and marvellous as any carved Moorish architecture.
Vally's imperturbable British butler informed me with all the hauteur of

his Enghsh accent that his mistress had gone out. But all of James's solem-

nity did not convince me. I had seen in the foyer the hat and topcoat of a
man. And those evoked before my jealous eyes the image of the Prostitute.
"That's all right," I said to James, who was scandaUzed to the depths
of his butler's soul, "I'll wait for Mademoiselle's return." And, disregarding
social convention which I insulted in the motionless person of this respect-
able servant, I sat down in Vally's entrance hall. Moments passed, more
oppressive than those preceding a storm. Presently the door would open
and Vally would come in on a wave of perfume. She would be gowned
in moonlight -color, and about her throat would be her necklace of perverse
opals. Her thin sleeves would reveal her bare arms I so adored. She would
come in smiling atme. What words of voluptuous rage could I find to ex-
press the hatred of my love? How should I receive her when she came in?
The Prostitute was at the bottom of my fury. He was looking for an
impressive position; that was his reason for being, his social function. But
she-Vally-my passionate virgin and my Priestess? I wept for her moral
downfall more than for myself. What did my wretched eternal worship
matter, compared to the degradation of the living symbol of my cult? She
had got herself engaged, promised herself completely to this character of
unmentionable sentiments, this creature below all insults.

How should I receive her when she appeared? I would say nothing, I
would walk toward her and stare into the depths of her eyes at her cruel
blonde soul. She would be overcome by my silence and my calm. Then,
coldly, resolutely, I would strangle her.

1 would strangle her. That would be ugly, brutal, savage, but it would
be a brief nightmare, and in the joy of the mystic murder, I would stretch
her out on the divan covered in the green of a mossy bank. I would spread
about her head the halo of her pale hair. I would fill her hands with white
lilies and scatter her body with her favorite roses-white with a tinge of
green. She would slumber, only a bit more pale than in her regular sleep.
And I would love her in that superhuman hour more than any other be-
ing had ever dared to love. That would be madness with its exaltations
and its terrors and its aftermath.
I would watch beside her until dawn. I would see the taper-flames waver.

The deep blue of midnight would fill the corners with shadow. Vally's lids
would grow strangely blue. And I would shout aloud as a man does when
drunk: I have killed her! Then she would remain forever my virgin Priest-
ess. She would be the pure whiteness of my dreams, the Inaccessible, the
Untarnishable. I would have saved her in saving myself. I would have stolen
her, in order to gaze at her in the Infinite. I would treasure through Eter-
nity her cry of terror-the one sincere cry I had ever had from her lying
lips-and her futile plea. She would never know remorse for having failed
herself. She would never know the fading of her grace, the caricature of
beauty that Time carves on living statues. She would be the Beauty that
Death immortalizes, all smiling. She would never weep for others or for
herself. And perhaps she would feel a great gratitude to the one who loved
her nobly enough to kill her.
The door opened slowly . . . She was coming, my dream would become
reality ... I moved forward, my fingers curved for the act of strangula-
tion ... It would be over so quickly, and after . . . afterwards . . .

San Giovanni came in. She did not notice my mad eyes, for her own
eyes were overflowing with tears. "I've been hunting for you," she babbled.
"I knew I should find you at Vally's. I've just had this telegram-lone . .

I snatched the stupid paper that recorded the solemn ultimatum of Destiny.
A few words which summed up briefly, tritely, tragically, the life and death
of two beings: lone critically ill. Come. When I raised my eyes, I seemed
to have returned, like Alcestes, like Lazarus, from the depths of the tomb.
"lone has typhoid fever," San Giovanni said. "There are grave compli-

"I'm going to Nice," I announced brusquely. "I'll have time only for
the sketchiest packing. Say goodbye for me to Vally."


was in lone's garden, among white iris more mystic than UHes. shall

remember all my life those white iris. And the fragrance of violets lingered
in melancholy fashion along the paths, Hke a farewell. I gazed at this garden
where she had doubtless loved to wander, lost in her acute thinking. She
had loved these flowers, bent over the white iris, breathed the scent of vio-
lets. It seemed to me that she was already dead. Presentiment smothered

all effort to hope. In the blue silence echoed words heard long ago-words

spoken by San Giovanni one misty night: "Friendship is more perilous than
love because its roots go deeper . . . The grief of friendship is sharper than
the grief of love." I cannot tell why these details obsessed me just then.

Sometimes one's mind wanders under great sorrow, fixes itself on triviaH-
ties, as a drowning person clutches vainly at a tuft of grass. One thing was

spoken clearly: You are going to lose lone. lone is dying. I heard it with-

out understanding the rest. Blindly, I plucked a white iris. I said, "This
flower is going to die, hke lone. It is already fading, like lone. It is dead,
like lone . .

Suddenly I raised my eyes. A tall black figure was passing. I saw that
it was a priest ... I felt a profound stupefaction. A priest! -a priest, among
these riotous flowers, in this garden quivering with perfume! lone had sum-
moned a priest to her deathbed . . . Why?


remembered certain statements of mine which she had approved: "In


my woodland, flowers have no symboUc meanings. They have only color

and perfume ... I can conceive of no other eternity than that of Poetry
and Sculpture . .
." And this same girl had summoned a priest?

I recalled my friend's fixed eyes, those eyes which seemed to have lost

the power even in sleep, and that brow which was always think-
to close,
ing. I understood completely the horror of perpetual, unremitting thought.

That was what had slowly ravaged and ultimately destroyed lone's frail
body. sensed that the poor child, haggard before the incomprehensible

mystery of life, had taken refuge in the human consolation of the CathoUc
faith.The Eternal Silence had so weakened her that she had Ustened to
those voices which speak of hope, assurance, of a shining, open-doored
Heaven. Her reason having failed before the Unknowable, she had clung
to the faith of simple souls, which scorns, denies and ridicules all reason.
And, feeling herself sinking into the shadows, she had found help in the
divine lie which explains the Inexphcable This, then, was why the priest
. . .

had come.
In the past she had asked my opinion about the hereafter and the soul.
I could answer nothing but the tragic: I don't know. And she had sighed

profoundly. "I have no ideas on the subject," I had added. "I never have
had and never will have. Ideas on tne subject change and pass; only feel-
ings are immortal. Doctrines perish. Love endures."
...went back into the house which had already taken on the ashen

color of a funereal dwelling. I insisted on seeing lone, if only for a second.

And after long grief-stricken pleading, I at last crossed the threshold of her
sickroom. How can I express the impression which mastered me when I

saw her? Measureless fear paralyzed any sense of grief or tenderness. This
was no longer lone— she was already dead. This thing before me, writhing
and babbling with fever, warm.
was her corpse, still

They had cut off her brown

autumn nights. The poor
hair, bright as

hps continuously muttered senseless words. The vague eyes which saw no-
thing turned toward me. lone looked at me a long time -I do not know
whether she recognized me. She was no longer anything but mindless suf-
fering. The frightful enigma of that wiping out of personahty froze me . .

I remained, like her, a mindless pain.

For the first time I understood the full horror of human decay. Misery,
sickness, old age were the chasms that swallowed up hope, because they
were irremediable ugliness. Terror engulfed me there, before what had been
lone. Death itself seemed less implacable than this metamorphosis. I feh
nothing but an impulse to flee. This unconsciousness which no longer saw,
heard, spoke, understood -blank as infancy, insanity, extreme seniUty, this
was lone! -lone, that profound subtlety, that powerful thought, that com-
plex intelligence! ...
My eyes wandered a last time over that unrecognizable face, that fore-
head too high and too broad which now seemed almost deformed, so en-
larged it appeared against the white pillow. Then they put me out, and
wearily, my head between my hands, I fled, I fled, I fled.


The passage of the next hours stunned and weakened me. I walked for
a long time through the night, stumbling like one stricken bUnd. In my
room flower scents seemed poisonously sweet, burning my nostrils and
throat. I could see nothing but lone's great brow. Every bHnk of my lids

burned my sick eyes. I lost consciousness heavily, stupidly, Hke a drunk

lying on the pavement . . . And I awoke. The room was blue with shadows.
A rigid stupor immobiHzed body and thought . . . lone, at the foot of my
bed, was gazing at her hands, in the strange way so familiar for her. With-
out looking at me, she retreated to a corner where she was no more than
a paleness of mist and dream. With a painful effort I tried to get up and
go to her . . . But my foot shpped, and I fell into a pool of burning lava
which boiled at the foot of my bed. I tried to shriek my distress, but the
smoking flood charred me to a crust of skin floating in the waves of fire.

Around the edges of the burning torrent squatted old women cooking eggs
and rice over the liquid tlame. Above was a copper moon, like the sun m
bitterest winter. Cinders fell in a dreadful shower. An abominable tliirst

parched my tongue and throat.

... My eyes opened upon a temple hot as a furnace. A throne of rubies
empurpled the shadows like a setting star. From the throne. Kali stared
at me with religious ferocity. She let fall the dead head she was gnawing
hke a starved dog and smiled at me with her bloody teeth . . . The sirocco
bore me off, a whirl of burning sand and yellow dust. The sand and dust
filled agonizingly my raw lungs ... I openea my moutn and the death rattle

of the strangled shook my breast. The sand and the dust smothered, blinded
me. I cried out into the starless night.
Priestesses whose fingers dripped with nard were weaving rhythmically
through mystic dances. They were half-veiled in tissues of midnight blue.
A vast emerald ornamented each navel, their uncovered sex gleamed with
gold or red curls ... I was a peacock feather which one of them waved
in time with their lascivious dance. This ceaseless movement shook me

Through an open window came the voices of passers-by. All of the in-
finiteand the unknown came through the open window with those voices.
But I did not listen; my eyes were fixed on a white rose which balanced
on the tip of a cross. There followed a childishly artificial landscape which

recalled English illustrations for Norwegian or German fairy tales. Trees

glowing with painted foliage lined each side of a walk smoother than a
little girl's hair. A roar of waterfalls-a hissing of serpents mingled with

the rustling of leaves. Then cascades again . . .

Then I found myself beside the corpse of Vally . . . Vally floating in a

stagnant pool. Her bruised breasts were two blue water lilies. Her eyes,
filled with revulsion, were looking at me. I understood that I had drowned
her long ago in the stagnant pool. She floated, her blonde hair mingled
with weed and iris, like a perverse Ophelia. I had killed her, for some sense-
less reason. And her sightless eyes would stare at me eternally.
I felt on my face the chill air of a funeral vault. I was surrounded by
four coffms. The largest was that of a man; about it there was something
weighty and imposing. I sensed that this was the coffin of an important
person— a politician or a diplomat. Banal flowers in large bunches covered
it—everlastings and huge pansies with heavy purple velvet petals. Beside
this heavy casket was a narrow, thin coffm, that of an infant, an embryo,
hiding a mere shadow of limbs. Colorless, almost odorless wreaths were

fading here without display. This infant's coffin was tragic and insignificant,
as is everything which should have been able to exist. Tasteless funeral
vases covered a shrunken coffm whose wood was striated with cracks as
complex as a spider's web. Hideous wreaths of black and yellow pearls
would perpetuate the memory of a middle-class old woman with a hoarse
And then, in deeper shadow, amid the perpetual adoration of flaming
candles, there was a virginal casket scented with white violets ... I realized
I was seeing the casket of lone . The silence was so mysterious that my
. .

heartbeats were hushed . . . But, more frightful than the trump of doom,
the wood of the largest casket cracked. It was the fermentation of decay.
A death rattle, and another, and another ... I had ceased to exist. I

was a soul imprisoned in a corpse. I was a formless and confused mass,

without substance or boundaries. I was floating with no other sensation
than shuddering nudity. A thought surfaced amid this empty conscious-
ness, a thought sharper than desire or prayer: A personality! a body! a
name! Oh, to become someone. To be what I was, even though I had al-

ready forgotten who I was!

Then darkness . . . and nothingness.

At last dawn broke through my shadows, and the gray outHnes of persons
and things replaced the terrors of delirium. As soon as I could hear a human
voice, I was told that lone was dead. She was resting in a funeral vault, her
casket covered with white violets. When I saw it through the dusk, I recog-

nized with a great shudder three other caskets Hke those I had seen in my
I among the dead; I left only with the com-
stayed the whole day there
ing of night.The perfume of dying flowers, mingled with some nameless
odor of staleness, made me faint. At intervals the wood of the coffins
cracked in the silence, or petals fell from a rose almost inaudibly. When I
came out into the light, everything I looked at seemed strange and new. I
was more like the dead than the living. Voices surprised me by their strange

resonance, the noise of carriages in the street astonished me, the sight of
people struck me with amazement.
One day I was told that the funeral service would be held next day.
Through a rain of tears I can recall the cold church, the indifferent crowd,
and the few real mourners. I can see again the white casket and the vir-

ginal flowers. I can remember too the cold British clergyman and the cold
AngUcan service. Despite lone's conversion to the Cathohc faith, her parents

had imposed their choice of a Protestant ceremony.

The words "resurrection" and "eternity" sounded harshly across the
casket where the pale flowers were withering. I heard, like a knell rising
above my sobs, the liturgical phrase: Though worms shall eat this body . .

And the horrible vision rose before my streaming eyes of that soft and
delicate form being devoured within the coffm. Though worms shall eat

this body. These words took hold upon me more profoundly than all the
promises of immortality. My pagan spirit lamented for the vanished beauty,
the departed gentleness. I was filled by regret without hope, and the Chris-
tian consolations seemed to me the most cruel mockery.
I fell on my knees. Before whom, before what, why? I do not know. I

simply knelt before something that was above my grief and that I did not
understand. God . . .! That poor, miserable word by which man names the
Unnameable. How can a name, that is, by men to make
a label invented
themselves recognizable among their fellows— how can a name, a definition
createdby human thought, express the Infinite?
And what did God and the Infinite and Eternity mean, beside that corpse
which was once a beloved being?


San Giovanni was too right when she said that grief for friendship is

sharper than grief for love. No cruelty of Vally's had ever made me suffer

as did the loss of lone. Never had Vally's lies hurt me as did the silence

of that beloved being whose last sane words I had not heard. Whatever had
gone on in the depths of that reticent spirit during the last months of her
human Hfe, I should never know. Of her suffering I should be utterly ig-

norant; her doubts, her hesitations, her fmal conversion, would remain for-

ever impenetrable. She had carried her secret into the shadows. My affection
had become aUen to her. had been the frivolous one, the voice of other

days, which she had not deemed worthy of remembering. But all bitterness
had been forgotten in the beauty of her death. lone had departed consoled,
whether by illusion or a hallucination. She had achieved the faith which
transcends reason. "She died happy," I sobbed wildly, *'and what else mat-
ters? She died happy."
lone, my Comforter, I can say no more before the Infinity of your
tomb, before the dawning light of your death. Had
I the power, I would

not bring you back to mortal would not snatch you from the blessed
life. I

peace of your sleep. If I dare to envy you, it is your rest I envy. But, what-
ever may come to me, I shall guard your memory, your pure and fresh

memory. lone, dearest tenderness of my soul, I have said the final farewell.
Sleep in perfect serenity, sleep among the chaste spirits who resemble you,
the spirits whomno memory of passion torments during their repose. Sleep
in peace, you who were consoling friendship, you who were virginal tender-

ness before passion and above passion . . .

Requiescat in pace . . . Amen.


Sunset is glorious as a hosanna . . .

Once it understood me and calmed me.

Now I weep watching the sky red as copper.

Shining above my aimless spirit and commonplace heart.

The fevered memory of a friend fills the air.

The rainbow of Death rises above the sea.

And over you the Priestess and me the disciple

Rises Night, unique and diverse and many-faceted.

The color of my days, like an incomplete poem,

Turns gravely sombre from green to violet.

Without rebellion, I await the neutral twilight,

Gray sand where the foot sinks and is lost.

More red than the wine at the wedding feast of Cana,

Behold the approach of sunset which calmed me

Heretofore, and which turns its gold of sulphur and ochre

Upon my drifting spirit and my commonplace heart.

Vally's exquisitely artificial voice was reciting these sorrowful verses
which San Giovanni had dedicated to her, when I came in. My mourning
garments struck a sombre note among all the youthful colors. The audi-
ence listening to my Loreley gazed at her with fervor and applauded fran-
tically. The Prostitute made himself especially conspicuous by his excessive

enthusiasm. Vally, perverse madonna of profane chapels, breathed the in-

cense of the faithful with remote sweetness.
I hate and despise professional writers and all those who participate

directly or indirectly in debasing the pubHshdngi)usiness, the disgrace of

our time. Moreover, Vally's Hterary friends made it a point always to leave
her when they saw me enter. Obviously I put them to Only the Pros-

titute stayed to face the enemy, represented by my humble person. He went

went on Ustening fervently to her light chatter.
"I remember," she was saying, "a little boy cousin whom it amused me
to beat to a pulp. Despite all his tears, he loved to be beaten. The poor
child was timid and soft; he dressed in lovely stuffs all the dolls which I

then ruthlessly beheaded."

"How I regret, mademoiselle, not having known you at that time,"
breathed the Prostitute. "You must have been such an adorable child!"
"He's as boring as adultery," I observed when at last the young man
had left my glacial eyes upon me. She did
Lore ley's salon. Vally turned
not reply directly to my
went on: "San Giovanni said the other
attack. I

day, 'If I had been unlucky enough or imbecile enough to be married, read-
ing the three-hundred-millionth novel about adultery would produce an
irresistible determination to be a faithful wife. Oh, what sorry idylls, these

romances about the behavior of women of fashion or working girls in

At that moment the lacy gown of San Giovanni gHded over the carpet
with a rustle as of scales. "You have come one minute too late— or too
soon," I observed. "The audience that was listening enthusiastically to
your verse has just left; and I was preparing to shower you with respectful
admiration the moment you arrived, but your presence has damned the
flood of my eulogies. Now I shall stop talking and listen."
"I have just spent a mystic hour in a very old church," said San Giovanni.
"I let myself linger in the gray shadows of the nave, and the incense has
lulled my brain divinely. In the presence of all those silent men and devout
women, there returned to my memory the profound a blind man
word of
I heard once in Tunis: 'Give me a bit of silver to buy light.' We all forget
that light can't be bought. We are all blind," San Giovanni added in a muf-
fled voice, "and we waste our strength in the effort to see, instead of clos-
ing our eyes and looking into ourselves. The light is within us and not
outside. We shall see only by resigning ourselves not to see."
"Ah! to look at what is hidden behind the blank eyes of the blind! To

hear the sobbing harmonies heard by the deaf in ecstasy!" I cried. "And
above dream the incomprehensible and immeasurable dreams of the
all, to
insane! Grief has no power over them. They live in the splendor of a regal
illusion. Some believe they are God, and so are indeed what they think

they are. They are enigmatic and superhuman."

"You always talk too much," complained Vally. "Can't you hsten to
San Giovanni instead of inflicting on us your pointless dissertations about
the madmen you resemble?"
"Never believe that you understand me, Vally."
. . . The door opened. With a sound of rustHng leaves, a Woman appeared
to me. My eyes were magnetized by a head of hair heavy as MeHsande's,
the unreal red hair of a martyr. She had the remote gaze of daughters of
the Far North. Looking at her, I felt that divine and terrible trembling that

a perfect statue inspires, a dazzle of radiant marble, a long-loved picture

an infinite harmony. My whole being shaken, I Hstened for her name: Eva.
She was only a Vision . . . The girl left us almost immediately. The pro-
found charm of her grave voice stayed with me.
We were silent after she left. The dusk seemed more mysterious. The
essence of that indescribable creature permeated the atmosphere. There
was in Eva and about her a solemn sweetness. Vally and the poetess began
to talk again but more softly. I went out soon into the swarming streets.

Iwas depressed by the noise and confusion. The ugliness of the city crushed
me. I longed with all my heart for a fresh green silence between living
water and forests.
Suddenly, ringing out above the tumult, clock towers rained down their
seraphic chimes. They praised in unison a saint, a martyr, they glorified the
sacred name of Eva. Eva!


"Don't you smell a persistent odor of printer's ink?" asked San Giovanni,
her nostrils dilated. The setting sun slanted through the windows of her
"Certainly," I agreed. "Isn't that the subtlest incense that can please a
literary divinity?"

"Shut up," San Giovanni blurted. "I'm nauseated by everything that's

expressed in verse or prose."

"Me too," smiled my Priestess. Disdainfully she turned to me. "Do you
know why enjoy the company ot the amiable gentleman you please to

call the Prostitute? Because the other day he uttered this exquisite senti-
ment: 'Mademoiselle, I never read.' If I were capable of love, I should have

declared a passion for him because of that statement, being as refreshed

by his healthy ignorance as by a crystal spring."

"Then why do you write, San Giovanni?" I asked in astonishment.
"Such weakness bothers me in anyone as intelligent as you. It's a pastime,
I know, and superior to the art of catching flies, but a graceless amuse-
ment, as you recognize for yourself."
"I don't know what occult force drives me to the futile work of boring
my readers and disgusting myself," she sighed. "I am the victim of a vil-

lainous habit, Hke drink or drugs. Why doesn't some philanthropist found
a sanitarium where incurable authors can be healed of their hideous dis-

ease through hygiene, medicine, and intelligent care? You think I'm jok-
ing," she went on, "but I never joke. Jokes are a crude masculine invention.
I'm teUing you in all sincerity: I am disgusted with the business of writing."
She smiled. "Again yesterday an imbecile violated my most sacred preju-
dices by sending me a letter whose address made me shake with fury: Mile.
Willoughby, Woman of Letters. That's impudent. One doesn't spell out such
a disgrace. Would you post a letter libellously addressed to Mile. Maximilienne
de Chateau-Fleury, Prostitute? Since the pubUc feels for both professions,
interesting and necessary as they are, the same indulgent scorn, I claim for
literary women the same elementary politeness accorded to demi-mondaines
of high reputation."
"Perhaps it's that the hterary woman has less modesty than the courte-
san," I hazarded. "The latter sells only her body, to a limited number of
individuals.The other sells her soul, published in thousands of copies. A
naked soul is more indecent than an undressed body."
"You are about as stupid as the people who write to me -and I can
think of no worse insult to hurl at anyone's head. Let critics print any-
thing they please about my work, I see nothing damaging in that. But that
anyone should send me deUcate jests of this sort!" Laughing, she unfolded
a letter:

"*Mademoiselle-I regret that I cannot find in your work a single

trace of masculine influence. To resemble nature -is that not the

highest aim a writer can conceive of?'"

"The best way to resemble nature, in writing, is to make mistakes in

spelling," interrupted Vally.

I looked at San Giovanni with sympathy. "I swear that letter is in the
worst possible taste. It could come only from a university professor or a

"One how to celebrate in Hterature what is unesthetic,"
can't imagine
Vally agreed, "and men are The Unesthetic par excellence. If there are
only a few women writers and poets, it is because women are too often
forced by convention to write about men. That is enough to paralyze any
effort toward Beauty. Thus the only woman poet whose immortahty equals
that of statues is who didn't deign to notice mascuhne existence.
She celebrated the sweet speech and the adorable smile of Atthis, and not
the muscled torso of the imaginary Phaon."
San Giovanni gazed at my perverse beloved with that gratitude we feel
toward those who express-less well than ourselves, certainly, but in equi-
valent words-our own most sacred beliefs. "I've not reached the end of
my grievances," she continued. "Read this other piece by the secretary of
the Action Provinciale, which I have just received. The banaHty of his style
is spiced by fantastically learned spelling. It is regrettable that writing *filo-

zofie' instead of 'philosophy' can't disguise the weakness of his phrasing

or the poverty of his thought. This M. Bellebotte de Foyn, like all small

literary provincials, is swollen with an immense vanity. Quite Uke Petrus,

he is sure as he gazes in the mirror that male seductiveness is so irresistible
that no woman could remain insensible to so much charm. Let me read
you this priceless bit: 'Sappho, truly human, burned at last with the true
love, the natural love, for a man— with the inevitable love instead of a mor-
bid and abnormal passion . .

"Typical of a snobbish pedant from some backward province," smiled

Vally with a shrug.
"This gentleman delights me," I put in. "The perfection of his idiocy

tickles me as much as the naive wavering of his affected style."

"No, one no longer burns with love except in the poetry of the Abbe
Delille," agreed my perverse madonna of profane chapels.
"And the postman this morning," confided San Giovanni, "brought a

missive from an individual who, after showering me with the most absurd
and excessive flattery, demanded my photograph! Just read this." She held
out a letter bearing the postmark of a provincial town. I read:
"Madame and dear enchantress-Could even a Goddess be offended at
being adored, especially when, as with you, she glorifies caresses? Since I

have studied your works I Hve with your gracious image, but all dreams
need some nourishment from reaHty. I do not beg to enter with you into
the depths of elysian bliss, to make love there for an hour; what I do dare
implore you is the gift of your portrait . .

"Have you sent a lesson in etiquette to this inhabitant of a village where

apparently there are no women?" asked Vally.
"Would you Uke to hear my answer? I haven't yet posted it: 'Sir: Take
note that it is always very dangerous to write to people of whose life and
character you know nothing. Also, specifically, you have chosen your cor-

respondent very badly. I never send my photograph to strangers. Far from

being flattered by masculine praise, I consider it an offense and an insult.

You should have understood, being acquainted with my belief in fierce in-

dependence, that would not be stupid enough to marry. The title of Ma-

dame which you inflict upon me annoys me infinitely. You say, monsieur,
that you do not ask to enter with me into the depths of elysian bliss. That
is the finishing touch! Because one unfortunately publishes prose and verse,
even if, in your elegant phrase, she glorifies caresses, it does not necessarily
follow that she is a loose woman. Accept, monsieur, my sentiments of pro-
found surprise.'"
"I sympathize with your indignation," I applauded. "Have you other
reasons for bitterness, O Muse who Glorifies Caresses?"

"I certainly have. The editor of a provincial rag sent me a postcard

informing me that after carrying a favorable review of my work in his

sheet, a lot of faithful readers of the Aquitaine Literaire cancelled their

"Perhaps the gentleman doesn't know that you have already risked the
disapproval of your janitor. He probably feels sure that his unsealed card

would have disastrous effects on that dignitary's opinion."

San Giovanni went on angrily: "Here's a passage from another letter
of the same sort. It is from a critic whom informed that he was mistaken I

in honoring me with the title of Madame: 'How could imagine that the I

title of Madame would ruffle you? Your antipathy to men have always I

attributed to experience. By heaven, what right has anyone to condemn

relentlessly a sex she doesn't know?'"
"What a low style," I commented gloomily.
"He's a half-blind fool," observed my Silver Blonde. "Surely, without
being either a wife or a mistress, one can judge the whole sex by their
actions and words. Now, men's actions have always had the single purpose
of subjecting women to their stupid caprices, their sensuality, their unjust
and cruel tyranny. And how can you not hate anyone who presents him-
self to you in the role of Master? Any proud and intelligent being revolts
inevitably against the dominance of another, sometimes an equal, but more
often an inferior."
"It is the hairy face, too Hke a gorilla's, that turns me against masculine
love," exclaimed San Giovanni. "I once dreamed that I was cursed with a

beard. I shall never forget the fright and disgust with which I saw my re-

flection in a dark glass, a mirror of shadows." She paused, then, violently,

"Oh! the ugliness of men!"
"But among all these too discouraging letters," I ventured, "there ought
to be some indicating real admiration?"
In San Giovanni's remote eyes burned two red flames. "Don't talk to
me of false admiration, which is nothing but an indistinguishable mixture
of morbid curiosity and titillated lust," said the poetess rebelliously. "I
prefer the attacks, the insults even, to that sort of admiration. My pride
repudiates it and my dignity is offended by it. The impudence of these
flatteries is equalled only by their inanity. Men see in the love of woman
for woman only a spice that sharpens the flatness of their regular perform-
ance. But when they realize that this cult of grace and delicacy will permit
no sharing, no ambiguity, they revolt against the purity of a passion which
excludes and scorns them. As to myself," she added, almost solemnly in

the strength of her sincerity, "I have raised the love of noble harmonies
and of feminine beauty to a faith. Any belief which inspires ecstasy and
sacrifice is a real religion."

"All rehgions are real and still not one of them is true," I grieved.
"Except mine," declared San Giovanni. She went on, her face sombre,
"I don't know why the unhappy role of feminine writer weighs more heav-
ily on me today than ordinarily. Perhaps prostitutes who, despite the ugH-
ness of their lives, have not lost all craving for the better, may suffer the
same nausea. Their repugnance could be no more discouraging than mine.
You are right, O my obscure conscience-I have sold my soul. But the pun-
ishment for my error lies in this so-called admiration which is addressed
more to the woman than to the artist. no longer aspire to the honor of I

being stoned! Oh, to meet a fraternal understanding, without surprises,

without praises, a mute and feminine understanding which would bring
consolation for all the words have read and heard!" I

"How I agree with you," sighed Vally. Then, turning to me, "You will

never be for me sympathy full of unexpected sweet-

the incarnation of that
ness, for you love me without understanding me, you admire me blindly.
With all my weary soul, I yearn toward that unknown friendship. With all

my harassed heart, I turn toward it in the twilight hours."

"If I have confused your image, O my priestess, with the image of the
Goddess you serve and into whose mysterious cult you have initiated me,
it is because I can neither love nor hate by halves. Ilove you with an ab-
solute love. I love your injustice and your unfaithfulness as much as your
magnificence. I don't deny that my passion is blind. It abandons itself

without discretion. But when I offer you the best and the worst of my-
self, you demand this impossible friendship."

Vally was not Hstening. "As to you, San Giovanni," she said, "you have
all my sympathy. I won't have this mixing of the artist's personaHty with
the work created in suffering. This organized public spying on the private
life of a writer I condemn as violently as I do these dastardly profanations
of graves that pass as posthumous biographies."
I addressed myself to Vally: "More than any other expression of revolt
and sincerity, I feel the immensity of that cry of love: 'Get thee to a nun-
nery.' No one as much as Hamlet has feh a morbid nausea for all persons
and things. TrembHng with regal fury he wished to save the woman he
loved from external soillure and to cloister her in dignity and solitude."
"'Be thou as chaste as ice, as pure as snow, thou shalt not escape calum-
ny,'" quoted the poetess of Mytilene by way of emphasis. "I have often
dreamed of the cleanness of chapels, as one dreams of death. have suffered I

all my life from a lack of faith. The only enviable happiness is that of

nuns, monks, hermits."

"Again, I agree with you," said my Loreley. "Lovers are predestined
to limitless anguish. men instinctively scorn those who put themselves
in their power. Like mean animals, they Hke to be beaten. It is the strong-

est instinct they have. And so they adore only women who disdain them.

In fact, San Giovanni, has a woman ever loved a man?"

"I can hardly conceive of such a deviation of the senses. Sadism and
the rape of children seem more normal to me. The Juliets, the Yseults, the
Heloises were in love with Love, not with their lovers."
"But allow me, O equivocal Saint-" I began.
Vally threw me a suspicious look. "You have the ridiculously solemn
air of one who is about to give advice," she snapped.
answer with a quotation, my Most Blonde. Do you remember
"I shall
the Charmer of Serpents, whose maxims our poetic friend passed on to
us? 'Never follow advice, not even that which I give you. Every creature
should live his own life and win dearly the experience which proves nothing."'
"All right," conceded Vally, "but that won't prevent
you from inflicting
on us the advice which we won't listen to."
"Never entertain another author, San Giovanni. Close your door to both
writers and critics. Only in that way can you enjoy the peace of the wicked.
For the just never know peace. Their consciences torment them."
"You are disagreeable and hateful, like all those who are right,"


I was wandering the streets in a marvellous mauve twilight deepening

to the purple of a violet gauze, when I met San Giovanni. She seemed
more than ever a figure from an ancient frieze. Her breasts and hips were
those of an adolescent girl or an ephebe, barely showing under the stuff
of her loose gown. She was tall and straight as a page.
"What happy chance has led your steps just here, San Giovanni? Some
Florentine with eyes blacker than an Italian night doubtless awaits you,
tuning a lute or caressing a rose?"
The Androgyne answered brusquely, full of some inner trouble. "I be-
lieve that at the bottom of your bitter passion for Vally there sleeps a
tenderness unsuspected even by yourself. I am going to appeal to that
gentle friendship I know is in you." My strange friend paused uncertainly.
"You don't know Vally as I do. Your British soul, in which still sleeps
some of the old Puritan, can't manage to take in these flirtations, bold
but innocent, which satisfy the childishly perverse taste for trickery of the
Americans. Your souls are of different races. You will never understand
one another. Vally loves to make men suffer by an impudent offer of her
inviolable beauty. She has chosen the pose of a tangible idol who is still

unattainable. It thrills her to know herself inaccessible in an atmosphere

of brutal desires and lusts. She adores the tortures she can arouse with her
smile and her eyes. The sense of her feminine power intoxicates her. But
she remains colder than polar ice that defies the sun. Your Saxon pride
would never permit such artfulness. You retain the hostile spirit, the soul
ridden by suspicion, of the old Roundheads."
She broke off, her enigmatic eyes studying my embarrassed face. "Listen
to me, you disciple of Cromwell Ironsides, who was so little understood
by Frenchman Victor Hugo. If you don't alter your jeal-
that middle-class
ous melancholy and your savage moods, you will lose Vally. She will simply
stay out of the dark mists in which you wrap yourself and which smother
her. She needs fresh air, space, sunlight. She is full of such fiery youth,
such a passion for living!"
"0 San Giovanni, patron saint of perverse love, help me, for no one
can know Vally more intimately than you."
"Well, Vally, as you know, was foolish enough to engage herself secretly
to the Prostitute. But don't attach to that trifling act more importance
than it really has. Most young American girls, as I've told you a dozen
times before, promise themselves in marriage right and left without the
least intention of carrying through the sacrifice. It gives them an excuse
for kissing on the Hps, nothing more; and in America kissingon the Hps
means little more than a kiss on the cheek in France. Sisters and friends-
without any equivocal impHcations! -embrace and kiss one another full on
the mouth . . . Vally is simply following the customs of her country. She
has already had thirteen fiances, and it's probably to keep from stopping
with such an unlucky number that she has taken on a fourteenth." San
Giovanni hesitated a moment. "But I implore you," she went on, "extract
from our wayward Morgan le Fay a promise to bar that man from inti-
macy with her. I won't utter the outmoded and silly word 'compromised.'
Young girls can no longer be compromised, thank God. They alone can com-
promise themselves by living openly with a man, or by becoming pregnant.
Vally will never give herself to any man," she repeated. "She has no love
for men, as you should know as well as I. She mistrusts them as one in-

stinctively mistrusts one's adversaries, she hates them as her enemies, she

measures herself against them as rivals. Never fear the presence of a man
in Vally's heart."

no longer heard San Giovanni's voice, I no longer saw the smile that

curved those sinuous lips. I was staggering, drunk with grief. "Addio, our

perverse Saint." Then I went without thought or volition toward Vally's

house. was surprised to be suffering so Uttle, or rather to suffer so un-

consciously. On arriving at the door where so many times I had hesitated

in delicious anticipation, horror recalled me to reality, as some new torture
returns a patient to consciousness.
I no longer remember exactly what followed, for I moved in a night-

marish fog. My memory retains most clearly the artfully subdued light of
the green boudoir and the white silhouette of Vally's figure. At sight of
me, her closed lips sketched a constrained smile. The Prostitute was fidget-
ing feverishly in his armchair. I approached Vally. "I have come to con-
gratulate you on the happy event I've just learned of-your engagement . .

Vally rose, tall and white as an Easter lily. "I don't understand," she

said drily. "There has never been an engagement between M. de Vaulxdame

and me."
When I regained full consciousness of my surroundings, the Prostitute
was no longer in the room. Vally was looking at me, her blue eyes icily
furious. I do not know what inept nonsense I babbled in my delirium.
Automatically I strove for phrases of reproach and accusation, forcing my-
self to speak resolutely. The tight lips of my Loreley closed until they
made only a thin line across her immobile face. I heard myself without
understanding what I was saying . . .

Then Vally's voice, hard as a blow on metal, shattered the silence. 'T
cannot understand your imbecile obstinacy in irritating me and rendering
yourself intolerable. You should be able to see that if I disdain slander, I

despise those who do not believe a single word of these

stupidly echo it. I

ridiculous tales about M. de Vaulxdame, no doubt invented by your deliri-

ous jealousy. But the perpetual state of nerves in which you please to keep
me by your mischievous and absurd suspicions has worn out my patience.
We have reached a point where destiny separates our paths. I have always
been sincere with you. have never made any lying protestations of ten-

derness. From the first moment, showed you the emptiness of my heart.

I should so much have liked to love you; you have not known how to in-
spire the love I so vainly hoped to feel."

'i don't know if my awkward passion has been the only cause of the
complete failure of understanding between us. Certainly I have badgered
you with my dark suspicions. But wasn't that the logical consequence of
the scornful coldness you have always shown me? You speak to me as a
brutal master would bully a negligent servant. It pleases you to hurt me,
and to give your lovers the spectacle of my humiliation. If these many
wounds from you were dearer than another's caresses, they were also more
bitter than the end of hope on earth. I am not reproaching you, Vally, my
Most Blonde and my Most Beloved. I have given my life up to you with
joy. Through you I have known the incomparable ecstasy of sacrifice, the
marvellous sweetness of renunciation. 1 have loved you with a holy love,

as others love their Madonna. Truly, the monks and nuns who give up the
world in their divine fervor cannot have known the mystic ecstasy of my
abandoning everything to follow you. You are the Unforgettable, Vally.

You may me from your presence, you may exile me from your cruel
grace, but you can never erase the priceless memory of which I have made
a shield against the mischances of life. For no one can efface the deep-
burned brand of a first love."

She had stopped Hstening. An icy fury gHttered in those eyes pale blue
"Your presence has become odious," she said in that
as an arctic river.

measured voice judges use to pronounce the sentence of capital punish-

ment. "You are a cloud that darkens my path and makes mourning of even
the roses. Your sour melancholy exasperates me to the limit. The bitter-
ness of your personality makes you unbearable. You have a soul full of
anger and hate. You persist in seeing in me only the worst. Everything high,
fine, noble, you Your
ignore. spiteful jealousy can see nothing beyond sur-

face appearances. Leave me, I prefer any old intimacy that's sincere to the
hypocrisy of your 'love.' Get out!" she commanded in a voice of steel.

I left. Within, I was filled with a great silence. My heart was a sepulchre
without the hope of resurrection.


I left the next day for Toledo. I love the impression of that fading city
as it persists in my memory. I love its leprous houses, its decaying pave-
ments, its scarred walls, its agonized frescoes. A love of madness drew me
to the paintings of El Greco. His wild angels with their bizarre receding
brows, brows from which sanity has forever fled, obsessed me with their
fixed stares. In Madrid I spent hours gazing at the long faces, impossibly
narrow and pallid, of his portraits.
Whence came odd passion for madness and suicide, when I possessed
neither imagination enough for the one nor courage enough for the other?
I do not know ... No, had not daring enough for the final definitive Act

which requires resolve. The complexity and the ugliness of that means of
escape deterred me, and above all the fear of the ridicule that brands un-
successful suicides. Constantly in my memory was the morbid litany which
San Giovanni once composed in honor of Our Lady of Fevers, so victori-

ously enshrined in that city of desolation:

"Your fetid breath has corrupted the town . . .

The green of gangrene, the green of poison

Spreads, and night rears like a reptile.
The crowd chants from their hearts a prayer-
Fervent deUrium that burns the lips,
Glacial shivering amid the sweat
To your Uvidness, Our Lady of Fevers!

"The darkness consecrates to you its lividest depths,

Blue phosphorescence of decay makes your pale tapers
And will-o-the-wisps adorn your ahar,
O Virgin who smiles at the death of virgins.
Who remains deaf to subtle appeals;

Madonna to whom matins and vespers
Mount shuddering, Our Lady of Lepers!

"Your cathedral with Uchen-encrusted walls

Sickens the dusk with its nauseous tepidness.
Into beds soiled by hideous deflorations
Soaks the moisture of sick hands.
The scaling lepers and the dying
Mingle their gasps with the cry of vultures
And kiss your knees, Our Lady of Plagues!

"Your tragic chosen have bowed their heads

Beneath the divine wind of your litanies

And amid the seepage of sour discharges

Is exlialed the misty breath of the pest-ridden.
Pus and blood and pale tears
Have bathed your naked feet. Our Lady of Death!"

Little by little I perceived the cruel pallor of the Madonna of the Pest-
ridden. In her eyes shone the blue and green of stagnant waters. Marshy
odors spread from her robe with its twisted folds. Her face was as distorted
as one seen in delirium. But what most shattered me was that in that Image
of Mortality I saw the image of Vally. Those stagnant eyes reflected Vally's
gaze.The changing face was like Vally 's. Vally had come to corrupt the
sun and air where was healing my bleeding exhaustion. She had come to

poison forever my hopes of forgetfulness and cure. She had come, know-
ing that I should never escape her.
The days passed, and once I wrote to San Giovanni, to shorten a miserable
"She haunts me like remorse. I can't get hold of myself, I can't return

to The memory of her

life. will kill me before I can cure myself. I have
heard gossip about her— she is happy. She amuses herself back there, she
thinks of nothing outside her trivial balls and dinners, and it matters Httle
to her that I am in agony here. I have wanted -in vain-twice, to kill my-
self. If eventually I should find, despite my weakness and sluggishness, the
energy to vanish-if I should actually succeed at last -you must never, never
tell Vally-will you?-that it was because of her I died, that only she dealt
me the fatal blow.
"The utterly pure friendship of lone was once my consolation and my
refuge. Since she has gone, nothing is left for me on earth. The fortnight
following my first meeting with Vally was only a stupor of ecstasy, a dizzy

enchantment. Yes, during that time I did not think, I existed. And still I

knew she did not love me at all, that I was deceiving myself just as she
was. But I knew it too late to stop and I took delight in the irremediable.


It is not her fault if she couldn't love me. It is not mine either. Never blame
her, since I myself do not.
"You fear death, you, the poet of light, roses, Aphrodite. You, lingerer
from Lesbos, you dread death; but me, I love it like a faraway mistress. I
am of the North, I love the mists which veil with mystery all real things.
Above all I love cool shadows. I hate Ufe. I do not know how or why I

am still alive. Everything I write is useless, helpless, feeble: feeble as my

thoughts, helpless as my heart, useless as my Hfe. I am happy in the mem-
ory of lone's death. I exult in the certainty that she is at rest. She no longer
suffers the oppression of Hving, she is only a perfume drifting through the
I depths of night, a bit of sap in a growing leaf . . . Grief!— oh, the triteness,
the monotony of grief! It is vulgar because it is common to everyone. It

is a graceless prostitute possessed by the crowd. From having experienced

it, I still feel a great lassitude tinged with nausea.
"Vally! She has divine smiles from the soul, and unhoped-for tears. But
above all she has implacable cruelty. I want to love her now as one loves

a dead beloved. I want to think now only of what was incomparable in

her, the feverish languor of our rare kisses, the dear sadness of our hours
of tenderness. A portrait of her that I ordered a good while ago has at last

been delivered, thanks to the compHcity of ironic Fate. The open wound
in me is torn again as I look at that face and those lips. Ah! those cold
eyes which have stabbed my heart with their glances empty of tenderness! . .

"She was my first love, you see. I have never loved anyone but her. I

beheve I can never again love another woman with the same furious and
savage passion. I do not know how to forget her even during the hours
when I try to distract myself from this fixed idea. I have discreetly courted
a Spanish girl as seductively perfumed as night in Mytilene. But it was on-
ly a trivial game, as it were, a topic of conversation more agreeable than
the overworked theme of rain or fair weather. It was as much like real

love as an infant's cohc is hke a martyr's agony. Am I not right?

"I dream of a death that would be voluptuous, of a death that would
be a consolation for Ufe. And that death would be the Impossible Bliss

which one has never met. My obsession with that death is as strong as the

desire which yearns for a beloved woman."

San Giovanni returned a letter of gentle ridicule. She let fly with some
pointed sarcasms and teased me about my fickleness. She harped on my
Spanish flame with the fathomless eyes. I answered her at once:
"Don't you know, San Giovanni, that psychology is mistaken almost
as regularly as medicine? You have fallen into the deepest error in believ-

ing that my love for Vally can be conjugated in the past tense. Everything
is over between us, yes; that is the best of reasons why 1 continue to adore
her. I was gravely at fauh in my excessive imbecile jealousy. But that jeal-
ousy was limited. I never blamed her for kneeling before feminine beauties,
but my pride revolted at the thought of sharing her smiles, her promises,
even her kisses, with gross male creatures. That was the mortal affront,
the unforgivable outrage.
"As to the brunette in Seville, O grossly maligned Seer, I saw her today
after a week's absence, and had never missed her. She is as perfidious as

the Other, the Only, without the cruel charm, the magic of the whole be-
ing, that used to bewitch me. That does not prevent my new Sovereign
from being altogether exquisite. She has very little intelligence, but a great

deal of subtle artifice. Perhaps I seem to speak of this lightly. The truth
is that I am still lost in grief. I hate Vally with a passion. I could watch
her suffer with delight. And nevertheless I would give my brain and blood
to spare her the least pain. I don't know anything more. I love her.
"Au revoir. Poet of Mytilene, holy disciple of Psappha. 'Til when? I

don't know. I can't conceive of the future when the present is so intensely
unhappy. Perhaps you will pity me a Uttle, since you are a friend as loyal

as you are subtle, and altogether delightful when you don't go psychologi-
cal. I don't dare kiss your hands, San Giovanni. You have almost mascu-
line hands, hands which possess, which take, which keep, but never give
themselves. I have, as you know, a passion for hands, which are more re-

vealing than faces. I remember how lone would for hours stare at her in-
valid's hands so Uke dead keys of old ivory ... I don't dare, either, to
shake your hand as a comrade, for your hands are perverse, San Giovanni,
and they disturb me. Their long sinuous fingers make me too uneasy. All
these things considered, I say with complete simpHcity: Au revoir."
I left divine Toledo to drown myself in a Moorish dream. I loved the
sala de las Dos Hermanas above all other rooms in the pious enchantment
of the Alhambra. On an evening of memory and nightmare I saw the two
royal sisters, Zorayda and Zorahayda. They were seated facing one another
on opposite sides of the fountain. The singing water was a mirror in the

shadows, and their innocent eyes smiled as they watched it. (The gamblers
of guzlas slept less peacefully in their eternal reverie.) Now and then the
princesses sang an odd melody, and their voices dominated the music of
the fountain.
Their glances, at once intimate and remote, sought one another through
a cool mist. And each time that their eyes sought and promised thus, they
quivered with a marvelous anguish. But the fountain separated them more
effectively than all the doors of the palace. The fountain seemed to them
the insuperable obstacle. They smiled at one another dimly through the
veil ot water . . . They never dared to sit side by side and join hands. Never
would they dare to join their lonely and passionate They would die

without destroying in their souls the infinite charm of Desire and Regret.


Toward the end of winter, I tore myself from that marvellous city. I

returned to Paris, with the spineless hope of seeing again for an instant
the fugitive beauty of Vally. All the sadness of spring filled me. The defi-

ance of young sprouts against inevitable death, the useless striving of Hfe,
weighed me down like suffering. What memories lay at the heart of new
effort! I was walking around the lake, my eyes vaguely held by reflections
of trees on the water, when a liquid voice startled me. It was a friend of

San Giovanni's, Dagmar, a little poetess whom I had formerly admired for

her dehcate coloring like old Saxe porcelain. Her short curly hair made a

delightful childish halo. Her eyes of baby blue were wide as if enraptured

by a fairy story. She seemed a childish incarnation of May.

"How sober you are on this lovely day," she smiled happily.
"The joy of others saddens my selfish ego, Dagmar."
She studied me with surprised compassion. "And Vally? A year ago you
were her devoted watchdog, if one may say that without hurting you."
"Oh, don't worry about that. I've always belonged to the cult of the
absurd. I haven't forgotten Vally. It's Vally who has lost all memory of
my modest existence."
"You must have suffered a lot. Your face isn't the same. Without any

wrinkles or white hairs, you give the impression of having aged and declined.
For a minute I wasn't sure I recognized you. I'm really awfully sympathet-
ic in spite of my carefree appearance of a spoiled child. I'd Hsten to the
story of your pain if it were endless. To tell it is the best cure. When you
talk about something you end by being detached, for one tires of even
one's dearest griefs."
"Perhaps you're right, you Httle April eglantine. But you frighten me
a bit: you are too much like Morning."
"Well, morning can be pretty nice, when it dawns after a night of fever,"
she said. "There's no need to dread morning. I've seen it steal into the

thickets to see if the red roses have opened overnight. And with an infi-

nitely dehcate touch it ends the long insomnia of the tobacco flowers,
which it puts to sleep one by one."
"Sleep ..." I murmured. "It's so long since I have known real sleep. I

have learned to love the sleeplessness that brings me night thoughts, so

different from the thoughts of day, and the sharp awareness of Invisible

Presences . . . lone returns sometimes during the long midnight silences.

Her Florentine gown, that gown of dark red velour, seems a reflection of
the setting sun at the end of dusk. She stares at her pale hands . . . She
had such beautiful, such gentle hands, the hands of a sister and a comfor-
ter. But her eyes are always lowered, and she never utters a word."

'*Don't think about the dead. 'Let the dead bury their dead.'"
"But I am nearer to the dead than the Uving, Dagmar . . . How I love
your name of a daughter of the North! A name brisker than a sea breeze,
a name fresh and joyous as yourself. Women's names are strangely sugges-
tive. All Maries have sorrow-darkened lids like faded violets. The eyes of
the Sibyls are a mysterious cloudy blue and lose themselves in the beyond.
The Eleanors are fashioned of music and perfume; they have heavy hair
twined with hawthorn blossoms. The smiles of Lucies are gentle as starlight.

The Elizabeths are strangely regal; their gaze is as tenacious as memory.

One should fear the Faustines, perverse as sorceresses and cruel as Roman
empresses. The souls of the Blanches are pure as Easter lilies. The Adelaides
have the tragic of predestined lovers. The Helenes are beautiful as statues."

"Now that's something I had never discovered." She paused a moment.

"But I adore fairy stories When I was little, my rocking horse had fa-
. . .

bulous wings and carried me far off where elves drank essence of moon-
light. And I still have the wistful spirit of a child that listens wide-eyed
to the marvellous tales told over and over during long winter evenings."
"You are charming,I shall come to see you with the greatest
pleasure. In order to dazzle you with tales I shall give up my solitude. If
it is true that everyone resembles some creature in the animal kingdom,

you are a hummingbird."

"And what is Vally?" demanded the child curiously, her eyes brilliant.

"A wild swan." A heavy sadness pressed on my brow Hke a tight band
of darkness.
"You're an incomprehensible creature," said the Httle poetess, to change
the course of my thoughts. "How many people have you loved on this
"I have loved in friendship, and my most-innocent sister is dead. I have
loved with passion, and that was disastrous. Today, Dagmar, I love soHtude."

"Ah well, you'll give it up for me. Come home with me today and

you'll see Eva again-the one you nicknamed Goddess of Sunset because
of the brilliant red-gold of her hair."
"I remember her well. She fascinates me because, radiantly young, she
still embodies all the melancholy of autumn. Her hair is like a glorious

halo about her pale brow. She has learned to cherish with mournful ten-
derness a past she dares not remember."
"Oh dear, I won't let you see her! You speak of her with too much
fervor. I want to be the only idol in my sanctuary."

I gave in to her naive caprice, which seemed to express her completely.

"Your wishes shall be the solemn commands of Destiny, Infant Divinity."

So I went to Dagmar 's the following day, a bit less sad than usual at

the sight of her cheerful smile. She had chosen a gown of barbarous bril-

liance. Like all children, she loved everything bright, shimmering, irides-

cent-spring, rainbows, opals. About her neck a band of heavy turquoises
looked like the collar of a savage girl-child.

"Look!" she cried in her crystal -clear voice. "The lilacs are just coming
out in the garden. Let's go out and see the old tortoise who rests her an-
cient wisdom under the bushes. She is so silent and so alert that she seems
grow and the roots pushing down into the
to be hearing the grass earth.
Sometimes she seems friendly to me."
"She undoubtedly is,"Hermes make the first lyre from
I replied. "Didn't
a tortoise shell? And
Psappha say: 'Come, divine shell, and under
my fingers become melodious'? I have the greatest respect for tortoises."
Sunlight gilded Dagmar's childish ringlets. She smiled at me, and I felt

a sudden burning tenderness for this creature so like fruit and roses. I de-
sired her Hke blue water at dawn. And then the cruel need to bite those
Hps naively offered for a kiss, to bruise that flesh like rosy eglantines, be-

came so violent that I abruptly took my leave. She said only, quite simply,
"Until tomorrow."
That evening I argued with the serious conscience that disapproved of
my feelings: "Why recoil from what would certainly be a pleasure and per-
haps a consolation? Hope is the frail thread which alone guides us through
life's grim labyrinth. A thread so thin, so fine -stretched, so near to break-
ing, but perhaps a salvation. I could drink from that blue dawn-water. I

could inhale that perfume of eglantine ... I could face morning without
terror, and I could sleep all night . .

Itwas at that moment that I received a letter from Vally:

"What a fickle thing, your lover's heart! I believedyou would finally

come to see me again, that we could go on together in security and con-

fidence. Open your eyes, look more sharply, see me as I am. This tragic
blindness can't go on, should not be! I tell you it's impossible. I repeat it

with tears in my eyes. Ah! be afraid of checking those tears, of making

me unable even to weep for you! Truly, every being comes to resemble
the image of it our obstinate imagination creates. Be afraid of making me
one day as ugly as the me you have fashioned. Fear that, by not
image of
understanding me, you may
me incomprehensible. Fear that, by
reproaching me for cruelty, you will make me cruel, by blaming me for
indifference you will turn me to stone. A thought can give one so much
pain-and what you think of me hurts me more than you can imagine,
more than I dreamed of, myself. Is it possible that everything should end
Hke this? Is it possible for the you I knew to disappear-all that was sin-

cere and passionate in your nature? Aren't you now hunting petty loves
in order to forget the passion to which you sacrificed your whole Hfe?
"You are merely striving to be unfaithful. As for me, I have never yet
been unfaithful. By accusing me of every baseness, did you hope to exalt
yourself? By stamping on the Gods your own hands pulled down, what
do you hope to achieve? Their mutilated beauty will haunt you forever.
Your faked happiness will never equal your self -contempt. Ah, to have
given you such a weapon against me, your mean-spirited love! That I am
deceitful and cold, I admit; but
model and surpass me? why take me as a
Your letters are nothing but an echo of you, blind and spiteful from hav-
ing suffered too much When you have grasped what a mistake separates
. . .

us, come back to me ." . .

I left the house, buffeted by inner tempests. Then some blue iris I saw
in a florist's window reminded me of Dagmar's fresh beauty. I sent them
to her with this message: "Flowers lovelier than fairy tales, for a child who
loves only fairy tales and flowers . .

All that night I lay feverishly waiting for dawn. It came at last, ugly
and somber as an hour of giving birth. It seemed to shrink obscurely from
the uncertainties of life. But what did I care about the sadness of the dawn?
Hadn't I now within myself a ray of hope? In the fear of its flickering
out, I did not dare to think of the new and fragile sweetness in my life.

I did not dare to utter even to myself the uncertain joy that thrilled me.
I did not dare to go to Dagmar's house, and it was not until sunset that I

found the courage to knock on her door.

She was outside on the terrace, her hypnotized gaze on the flaming sky.
"Look at those clouds," she cried. 'They are like mighty kings, who piously
bring chaHces of gold, and crystal altar-vessels sparkling with jewels to adorn
some sanctuary."
"You are a fairy princess," I told her, "a princess who sings while she

toys with the opals of her necklace. She loves opals that are bits of rain-
bow between her fingers. While waiting for the Unknown Prince, she sleeps

every night to the sound of invisible harmonies which are murmured around
her by her laughing little sisters, the Fairies!"
Dagmar, fingering her opals, capriciously woke their changing flames.
"Opals ." she murmured. "Oh yes, I love them.
. . I also love polished tur-
quoises and big sapphires."
"The Hebrews called the sapphire the most beautiful of all things," I

replied. "They were marvellous artists. The epic beauty of the Old Testa-
ment has never been surpassed in poetry. The book of Job quivers with a
tragic sigh of stypefying grandeur, like a drama of Sophocles. I have the
deepest admiration for that exiled race who have known how to make the
universe their country. But above all I am haunted by the oriental silhou-
ettes of Sarah, Rebecca, Rachel, Bathsheba, Tamar. Sarah's proud beauty
was such that Abraham made her pose as his sister, for he did not wish
to risk his hfe by exposing himself to the jealousy which the possession
of such magnificence would arouse. Rebecca appears to us eternally re-
flected in a legendary well. Rachel was so harmoniously splendid that, hav-
ing once seen her treading upon the red lilies of the field, Jacob served
seven years for her. By bathing nude on her terrace, Bathsheba roused the
impulse to murder in the heart of David, who in order to raise her to his
throne, had to kill her aggressive husband. I recall all these oriental idylls

to you, little Dagmar, because I know you love tales."

She smiled her lovely smile of a perverse child.
''Little opal-heart, you must have Hstened naively to numberless vows
of love -vows murmured in evenings as glorious as this one, or whispered
through the dusk, or sobbed in the darkness."
"Yes, I've had a lot of lovers."

"And girl-lovers too, little princess. I have heard you sing:

'For I would dance to make you smile, and sing

Of those who with some sweet mad sin have
played . . .

And how Lx)ve walks with delicate feet afraid

'Twixt maid and maid . .

You must have learned that song from the passionate lips of an English

"I like making love with men and women both," she admitted. "I don't
share San Giovanni's fierce exclusiveness and that of all women who, for
love of their own sex, hate and revile the love of men. But most often I

prefer incomparable feminine tenderness to the rude vehemence of men."

I gazed at her. "Lovely poem in porcelain, where are words liquid enough
to express my gratitude? I can see again, since meeting in my path the
Saxe porcelain dream that you are." She just kept on smiling without an-
swering. I stared for a long time at her half-open wild rosy lips.
"Would you," she said suddenly, "take me to see the fireworks they're
showing tonight? I adore rockets, a rain of falHng stars, and broken rain-
"Little princess, the humblest of your courtiers waits humbly upon your
least orders."

She took my arm. The contact of that slender body intoxicated me.
The consciousness of my own strength increased my stature in my own
eyes. I felt the tender pride of the being who dominates and protects. I

loved Dagmar for being carefree and frail. I loved the teasing child in her.
Her infantile perversity was an added charm, a troubling and arousing charm.
Suddenly a comet shot up into the nocturnal blackness. It seemed to
mount clear to the Pleiades. Dagmar's eyes followed it, the huge amazed,
delighted eyes of a child. Then there was an explosion and a shower of
azure threads. "Oh!" she sighed, "it's snowing blue stars. See? See?"
She said "thou" to me as naturally as a child does to a playmate. She
did not know herself that she had said it, filled as she was with ecstasy
at the falling stars of green, blue, white, red. "How beautiful it is," she
murmured. "How beautiful, that glow before the stars break! Look how
the whole sky seems milky white . . . Now it's streaming with the heroic
blood of giants. Oh! now it's draped with purple . . . like a great curtain

of violets . . . No, no, it's greener now than the ocean on a spring evening

. . . Oh, how beautiful it all is, and how happy I am!"

She batted her lashes feverishly. Her dazzled eyes sought mine for a

reflection of her joy. I laughed with her, echoed her own laughter. Truly
we were light-hearted as two children. But when the last piece faded my
gaiety died with it. We went home beneath oaks a hundred years old.
"I'm almost afraid of these trees," shivered Dagmar. "They are taller

than the vault of a gothic cathedral. I should be terrified, quite terrified,

if you weren't here." She pressed against me with a timid and charming
movement. yearned to take her I far away, stretch her on a bed soft as
an invalid's, narrow as a cradle, and burn her delicate naked feet with fran-
tic kisses.

I said only: "Aren't you tired, Dagmar?"

She looked at me with the eyes of an offended page. "A little." But
the brilliant laughter now in her eyes gave the lie to the words. We sat

down on a marble bench in deep shadow, soft and warm because covered
with moss, As irresistable as an instinct, the desire to stroke that virginal
flesh seized me powerfully. I drew closer to her. "Lovely, oh too lovely—
why is it such anguish for me to love you?"
She was neither surprised nor offended. She did not withdraw her hand,
so purely white. "I don't understand you," she said. "But then, I've never
understood you. You're such an odd, complex creature."
At that moment I felt in me the primitive instinct of cruel, simian Httle
boys, who like to torture and terrify a wild dove. I wanted to turn that
rose -eglantine face white, for the savage joy of seeing in those eyes the
vivid intensity of some uncontrollable emotion. To make that passive body
tremble— with terror or love, what matter which? To make her shudder,
even with fury or disgust!
"Tell me again, and better, that you love me," commanded the imperious
you with what barbarous hunger I love you, you would pro-
"If I told
bably be really terrified Hate is perhaps more intense and longer last-
. . .

ing than love. It's as beautiful and as holy as love itself. Whoever doesn't
know how to hate doesn't know how to love. Of all poets, Dante moves
me most deeply because of the power of hate in him, equalled only by
the power of his love. The most implacable enemies are also the most pas-
sionately tender lovers. Dante Alighieri would have loved Beatrice less if
he had hated his adversaries less. I love you with all the strength of my
old hatreds, Dagmar."
"You have a frightful way of loving."

. .

"Oh, my flower of dawn! If you knew, even so, with what measureless
sweet tenderness I would surround you! It is simple, like all profound
things-maybe prose expresses true ardor better than poetry. My tender-
ness is very simple, but I will decorate it with a thousand complex phrases
so that it may seem forever new to you. I shall try to make it as versatile
and changeable as the opals or rainbows you love."
She rested her head on my shoulder.
'i love you, Dagmar. Love you with such an indulgent heart's caress
that your cruellest feminine betrayals will never move me to the least an-
ger .. . And still, if later Icame to love you with a passion Hke the one
that has me
wrecked . . . who knows?"
A sudden memory of the Past blinded me with its blood-tinted gleam.
I drowned in that terrible but dear recollection . .


Dagmar's favorite flowers were the simple lilacs of spring. Vally preferred
gardenias, delicately artificial, which grew sweeter as they faded.
"You are more an eglantine than ever, Dagmar," I murmured. "I have
never seen such matchless freshness as yours." And the sudden thought
struck me would be exquisitely unplanned and deUcious to forget,
that it

at the side of this adolescent, my long tortures of atonement. It would

be a perfumed burst of laughter, a breath of April, after the darkness of

the abyss where my soul had been lost so long . . . For Dagmar it would
be the caprice of an hour of boredom, and for me, an unhoped-for com-
fort. It would lift my heart out of my breast and stop its fevered pounding
from torturing me. But an apprehension checked me. Did I dare to lay the
burden of my too-heavy heart in the hands of a child? . .

Dagmar's laughing eyes were like spring-water in sunlight. "What are

you dreaming about?" she demanded. "When you go to thinking it always
bothers me. You look so somber and your mouth is so bitter! One would
think it the look and the mouth of an old hermit whose eyes are accus-

tomed to darkness and his Hps to the wrinkles of silence."

"I was thinking of Sister Aloyse, of Villier de I'lsle -Adam's poem. Never
has there been such an ideal face of an amorous virgin. I was thinking that
you look Hke her, Dagmar; happier and less intense, however." I looked
deep into her blue eyes where all of spring seemed reflected. "If you can
let your little girl's hand stay in mine without uneasiness, Dagmar, I can

breathe beside you the air of dawn."

Her clear eyes never wavered under my glance, somber with helpless
desire. And with her perverse candor, she raised to me her lips, at once
naive and experienced.
"Aren't you at all afraid, Dagmar?" My voice tore the light veils that
silence had woven around us. 51
"What should I be afraid of?"
'*0f my love."
"Should one be afraid of love?" she asked, so simply that I drew back
from the kiss she offered. I drew back as a creature half stricken with mad-
ness recoils from the murder planned during an hour of derangement. I
took her deHcate hands in mine. "Have you no fear of my hands, Dagmar?

See how they have taken yours, how they hold them, possess them."
She gave a little cry like a hurt swallow. "You've broken my fingers!
You hurt me badly-"
"And that's how they will always hurt you, for they are violent hands,
which have only just missed being criminal hands . . . They could have
closed fatally about a neck as fragile as your childish one. Vally once told
me that I have a wicked spirit, and that what I love more than love are
anger and hate. But there is still room in me for tender pity in the face
of exquisite trusting fragility. You shan't suffer for your childHke caprice,
Dagmar . .


My little virgin with the short curls had stayed away for many days. I

thought of her as one smiles over long past childishness . . . Then toward
the end of a rainy afternoon, while I was lingering in my library blue with
cigaret smoke and shadows, the door was opened and Dagmar came hesi-
tantly toward me. "I've come to bring you serious news," she said in a
light hasty rush. "But first let me get warm and dry my dress that's simply
sopping with rain."
1 stirred the capricious fire for her. Its flames were reflected in her clear

eyes. "Give me a cigaret," she said. From Hps like a greedy child's she ex-
haled a diaphanous blue cloud thin as an opium dream.
"I love twilight as I have loved a woman," I whispered, watching her.
"Twilight," she answered, "is like a woman weeping in a noiseless room
where white flowers are fading.The petals fall without sound, one after
another, and the air pulses with unspoken dreams. In the distance Memories
pass by, lightly veiled . . . Their sandals gleam with stars . .

"You are a poetess Uke Eranna, the virgin of genius who died at nine-

teen and who was loved by Psappha . . . But what is the serious news you
She blushed faintly and lowered her soft lids. "You told me once that
I was a little princess waiting on her terrace for the Unknown Lover . . .

My weary of the monotonous flat whiteness of the road, searched

the horizon in vain. Well-I waited long months on my terrace ." She . .

stopped, then with a trembling sigh: "The Prince I waited for has come
to me . .

A long anguished silence followed. A delicate Saxe porcelain shepherd-
ess which resembled Dagmar played silent music on her porcelain pipes
on my mantelpiece. Sadly, I picked up the quaint trifle, too pretty and
fragile, and smashed it on the hearth.
Dagmar reached out her slightly trembling hands. "Spare me your spite.

I don't deserve it.'*

"I feel no spite toward you, little princess."

"I tremble for my happiness," she shivered. 'The world is like an always
angry dragon, the cruel dragon of fairy tales. Oh, who will protect us from
the hatred of the universe? We are two children, he and I. Two babes lost

in the dark woods."

The rain fell, softer than hushed music. The rain shut in our restlessness
like a drawn curtain. It separated us from the world and its people. It rus-
tled Hke the silk of long-trained gowns. "I don't know why," I said, hop-

ing to hide with empty words the torment in my heart, "but rain always
reminds me of distant waves."
"Waves—" murmured Dagmar, "and pebbles ... I seem to see the ocean
flinging flowers of silver at us— and flowers of seaweed ." . .

"Dagmar," I sobbed, "you divinely sincere and perverse child, can it

be that our ways are parting forever?"
"We have only gathered the pale roses of friendship together," she
answered. Slowly she stood up. "My Ufe is different from yours. I am
enclosed within a hedge of hawthorns, and I hardly feel the world's ugly
menaces. I don't know much about human life. I am quite ignorant of the
passion and anguish reflected in your unhappy eyes your cruel eyes
. . . . .

you know Httle

"It's quite true of human life, Dagmar. That is why I
have not dared to make love to you."
She turned away, and sadly, very softly, "Farewell," she said.
"Farewell, Dagmar."
As she went, the skirt of her Kate Greenaway gown, long and full,

brushed the bits of broken statuette.


Dagmar ventured into marriage like a child trusting itself to a frail boat
without oars or rudder, to cross the ocean at night. Without a fortune of
her own, she had married a young man equally without means. Moreover,
neither one was aggressive, nor had that practical common sense about
survival which could alone protect them against a commonplace life worse
actually than one of poverty. Both of them naively adored luxury, the
glitter of gems, the sweep of wide landscapes, and the stimulus of con-
stantly changing scenes and new pleasures.

Dagmar had accepted blindly the most formidable Unknown. She was
not worried about the mystery of new beings to come Careless for
. . .

them as for herself, she left the whole future to treacherous Chance. And
her young husband, as irresponsible as she, abandoned himself with similar
ignorant weakness to the caprices of Destiny. They were indeed two chil-
dren dazzled by mirages, quite lost in the dark forest.
On her wedding day, I lamented for that virginal grace barbarously
violated. Hideous maternity would deform that slim sexless body. And
conjugal lust would soil that childish flesh so like the petals of eglantines.
I lay inconsolable all night for that defloration of a dream . . .

The torment of April ended at last. Summer, beloved of Our Lady of
Fevers, breathed down on the burning earth. The image of Vally haunted
the torrid hours relentlessly. The image of Vally consumed my blood and
dried mymarrow. I feared flowers as tricky adversaries; I feared music as
a traitorous enemy; for flowers and music betray one to the tortures of
memory. They evoked spitefully the cruel ice-blue eyes that I at once hated
and adored. The voluptuous furies of the past shattered me Uke bewitching
monsters. Words rang in my memory. Sometimes, teeth clenched as a mute
defense, I battled against the violent regret that drew me toward her.
I my Loreley, and still I hoped that some chance,
avoided the friends of
as unforeseen as was oppressively desired, would let me meet her, or at

least hear someone speak of her. Then circumstances favored me. I learned

that Vally 's secret engagement had become pubhc and official.
I was weak enough to write to her. My letter remained unanswered. I

suffered the anguish of the imprisoned or of one buried alive. I lost even
the power to weep for myself, unique and tender consolation of the afflicted!
One day, however, I woke in sHghtly better spirits. It seemed to me my
forehead had been bathed with violet perfume while I slept. I no longer
feltsmothered on waking. I no longer dreaded the sunlight pouring through
the open window, nor the scent of flowers rising from the garden. I asked
myself silently what unknown sweetness had banished the pestilential breath
of Our Lady of Fevers And then, when I looked outside, I saw that
. . .

summer had gone and way to Autumn.

The comforting scent of dying flowers filled me. I wandered along the
water in which the willows dipped their rusty tresses. I gazed at the chry-
santhemums whose subdued colors harmonized with the fallen leaves. The
more beautiful for being bare, Hfted their deHcate winter skeletons.

The consolation of autumn made the universe less intolerable. I felt like
a sufferer who is glad to die. With a reasonless hope, I raised my eyes from
the path. And before me, serene with the serenity of October, 1 saw Eva.

She seemed the very incarnation of autumn. In her long, martyr's hands
were chrysanthemums mixed with brown leaves. The folds of her dress
fell in melancholy straightness about her. She seemed enshrined in stained

glass more splendid than a rainbow or a sunset.

remembered that once I

when the city noises had hurt my

I had murmured her
spirit grievously,

mystic name, her name of a saint. And suddenly a whole flight of airy
bell-notes rose above the hideous street noises. The sacred carillons had
sung out her name, shouted it, launched it on the winds: Eva! Eva! Eva!
She came toward me. No empty words broke the mystic spell. I under-
stood her and she understood me equally well. "My sweet Autumn, my
dear Autumn," I babbled finally. I believed that we were, she and I, poised
on the sill of eternity. The invisible stained glass threw over her a glory
so miraculous that I could not bear its brightness. A marvellous hope, pro-
found as sadness, raised itself in my heart. She answered me only with her
grave smile.
I do not know why the thought of Dagmar, that poem in porcelain,
rose between us with its disturbing fragility and charm. An anguish more
terrible than mere human anguish seized me for a moment. My eyes fixed
themselves upon Eva's eyes^ gray and distant as if seen through fumes of
incense. I heard myself repeating those same words: "Aren't you afraid,
"I'm not afraid of anything," she said. It was like the strains from an
organ deep in a dim chapel.
"Will you be stronger than my pain?" I begged.
"I shall be stronger than all human pain, because I am Pity."
A holy silence settled around us. I did not dare to sob: "I love you."


A year later on a summer evening white with clematis, we were again

together in the library with the old English furniture. Everything in this
house of Eva's where I had found asylum was homeUke and simple. Things
here welcomed one with sincere kindness. The walls, covered with thick
dark paper soft as velvet, made confidential talk safe. An atmosphere of
peace and security met one at the very sill. The rooms were full of the
scent of old wood and dried flowers. Above the fireplace, beside a portrait
of lone, white violets gleamed palely.
"I have some surprising news for you," said Eva, her voice very low
and secret. "That old Norman pendulum-clock you put in the dining room
is so completely acclimated to the Queen Anne furniture that when it

struck just now I heard it say distinctly in EngUsh: 'One, two, three, four,
five, six, seven, eight.' It has certainly learned EngHsh fast, hasn't it?"

"Furnishings do have obscure sympathies and antipathies," I agreed.

"One of my friends assures me that she has an easy chair that is hostile
to strangers. It is impossible for anyone but herself to be comfortable for
ten minutes in that chair. The strong hostility that emanates from it repels
people unconsciously."
'That's probably quite true. What saddens me a Uttle is that this furni-
ture we love and which has absorbed something of ourselves, is dependent
on us, and one day will fall into other hands which will possess it as com-
pletely as we have." She fell silent, and despite the melancholy tinge in
her words, a happy quiet reigned between us.
Then suddenly Eva's lips showed a slight tension. "I seem to see in the
sadness behind your eyes the shadow of Vally," she said uneasily. Her voice
quivered a bit with pain as she pronounced that name from my past.
Despite the confident peace in which I had saturated my spirit, I paled
at that reminder. Looking steadily into Eva's eyes, I answered her thought.
"I have found happiness, Eva, but I haven't yet found forget fulness. When
one has loved anyone as I loved that woman, one can neverbecome com-
pletely indifferent. One can never blot out a Past that has made one suffer
"You're right." Eva gave a long sigh. She hesitated, then said again,
"But it's a serious moment, this. Something unknown has come in, like a

presentiment, through the open window."

Suddenly I breathed a strange perfume, stronger and more subtle than
the scent of our flowers, which
from the garden and rose irre-
drifted in
sistably to my nostrils. some unknown danger.
I trembled as at

"I'll tell you now, since it's necessary, what I've kept from you until

now, fearing for your nervous health which isn't yet perfectly sound. Vally 's
engagement to the Prostitute has been definitely broken. He has managed
to sell himself to a fortune more tempting than Vally's . .
." Eva broke
off, her eyes divinely pensive, before murmuring softly: "Vally has come
She waited. I grasped the enormous significance of those few simple
words. Vally was tired of her low comedy. She had become her old self,

the Priestess of Abandoned Altars, she before whom my spirit had knelt
for so long. That disgraceful man no longer stood between us. I could
answer my Loreley, I could go back to her, begging her to forgive me for

all the harm she had done me, and that I had done to myself because of
her. I could revive the acute suffering, the hateful passion whose cruel
scars I would wear incurably.
As I remembered, I seemed to be born again in the flame that once
had consumed my suffering flesh. That flame played all about me, magni-
ficently terrible, and I shuddered with all the exaltation of a triumphant
death. I lamented the departed bitterness more than the sharp brief joys.
"Vally," I babbled, "Vally . .

The dizziness passed, and my eyes again met the mystically clouded
eyes of Eva. In them was the sadness which sleeps in the eyes of saints
powerless to relieve the sufferers kneeling before them. 'The mirage is

gone, Eva."
She rose and drifted Hke gauze through the gray half-dark. "I shall leave

you two old comforters, silence and solitude."

to your
"Aren't you my silence, Eva? Aren't you my solitude? You see my
thoughts more clearly than I can myself."
Slowly and with infmite sweetness she drew her slim hands from my
burning ones that clutched them. "No. Your spirit must decide alone on
its destiny, which concerns it alone. Solitude is the natural lot of the soul,

which is born alone, suffers alone, dies alone. No compassion, however

warm and full of pity it may be, can escape that sacred Law."
She disappeared into the dark which enveloped her like a veil.
I stayed behind, in a confused reverie. A vision of Eva in the half-light

showed as a supernatural gleam of stained glass . . .

Little by Uttle the shadows were lightened by an equivocal smile. It was

Vally, the Flower of Selene, Undine, Loreley. The incarnation of eternal
feminine temptation. An ambiguous cruelty sharpened the steely gleams
from her eyes. I two women were the two Archangels of
believed those
the Best and the Worst: Vally, the Perverse; Eva, the Redeemer. Vally,
gleaming moon-green, Vally perfumed with poisons, garlanded with aconite
and belladonna. Eva, wearing on her brow the red halo of a martyr, Eva
treading Easter lilies beneath her feet. I said aloud, to I know not what
invisible presence: Choose!
"Never choose," interrupted a contralto voice, an androgyne's voice,
its familiar accent responding to my hesitation. "For then you'll regret

forever the thing you didn't choose."

"My dear San Giovanni, what would you advise in this hour of doubt?"
"I advise you to return to Vally."
"I don't recognize your habitual wisdom."
She smiled oddly, as night smiles at its image in water. "No words of
wisdom are worth the laugh of folly," she said. "I believe -or rather I am
certain -that if you throw yourself down, as you've done before, at Vally's
knees, she won't refuse her pardon."
"It's too late for that, San Giovanni. Irreparable words have passed
between us. And also there is now between her and me the figure of an-

other woman."
"I have always preferred violence to tenderness and passion to love,"
she intoned in her imperious voice. "That is why I condemn your cowar-
dice in having chosen happiness rather than blazing suffering."
"I am neither a phoenix nor a salamander, San Giovanni, and I can't

live with what destroys and consumes."

"So much the worse for you, you'll never be a poet. No poet was ever
happy. I don't say that, meaning myself," she added rather sadly. "I have

never laid any claim to that sacred title, to which I have no real right. And
anyhow, no one is either a poet or a saint while they're still ahve. But you
won't be one even after death, because you have never known how to
"I have loved to the limit of my strength," I defended myself. "No one
has a right to ask more of any human being. Ibsen's terrible All or Nothing
I have accepted joyously. Later I gave out, and abandoned the vain struggle.
Like Dante, I have wandered through a night of storm, and knocked on
the door of a monastery begging for peace ... A nun opened the sanctuary
for me, where my soul has found divine consolation."
San Giovanni was listening only absently. "Dagmar had traveled the
traditional and imbecile route of marriage when I saw her last," she said.
"She asked if you felt any slight resentment against her. Why should you
hold it against her that she couldn't cure you by loving you with the ter-
rific ardor you demanded of her?"
"I have never felt resentment against any woman, no matter how great
the harm she did me or tried to do. The injustices and rages of women
are like those of the gods. One must accept them with resignation and en-
dure them with love. And certainly no one can be blamed for not loving
someone is why Vally has never been at fault with regard to me."
else. That
San Giovanni gazed at me somewhat more gently. "Listen to the advice
of music," she said. "Listen to the advice of the flowers. The only oracles
that remain to us from marvellous Antiquity are songs and scents. Music
will draw you back to your Pagan Priestess by the magic of dream. Flowers
will return you to Loreley through the strength of memory ." . .

She lifted the purple hanging and I heard the rustle of her gown die
away ... I remained in my troubled solitude . . . The stars sang in the

depths of Space . . . Eva, very pale, came in without a word and handed
me a paper . . . Then she left me in a rustle of dead leaves.
I read in a faint light: "I am waiting in the garden." The strange per-
fume, more insistent than ever, drew me like a vehement cry. got up and I

groped my way through the night-shadowed shrubbery.


The tobacco flowers were soothing the violet dusk with their perfume
of sleep. Their breath of insidious languor inspired ambiguous dreams. The
silence was frightening It was an anguished silence that
in its intensity.

would make hectic the words we were about to exchange. The trees slept,
like grave prophets saddened by the foreseen future.
more liquidly greenish, and her eyes more blue, than
Vally, her hair
the moonlight, was waiting. Her blurred outline moved out from the bluish
foliage, half caught by the dewy branches. For a moment I gazed at the

face and figure of my Past. "Vally ." She did not lift her eyes. She was . .

of one dead. "Vally ."

like a statue . .

At last the immobile pallor of the apparition came alive. "I have come
here to take you back. You belong to me, because I am your first love.
You belong to me above all because I was the first to make you suffer.
You cannot erase the Past which links us indissolubly. I am your Fate. The
unbearable bitterness of your passion unites us with more strength than
long calm happiness. You can get away from me, but you can never forget
*'I shall never forget you, Vally. I shall never want to forget you. You
will never be a stranger to me, nor shall I be indifferent."
A victorious gleam Ht Vally's moonlit eyes. I sensed the feeling of savage
triumph. The pride of victory made her despotic voice masculine. "I knew
it, and that is why I have come for you." I shrank as always from her cruel
"I shall not go with you, Vally."
She stared at me. Her Hps stretched in a grimace of inexpressible spite.
"I have not understood you, Vally, and I have loved you clumsily. I

did not know how to master my jealousy. I did not know how to conquer
the rancor and defiance and hate which intensified and corrupted my mis-
erable passion. I have been the most basely suspicious and the bitterest
creature who ever became odious even to herself. I have importuned you
while torturing myself through a thousand refined humiliations. I have been
the executioner of my own soul. For all this that was unworthy of both
you and me, I beg your pardon on my knees eternally."
Vally 's disdainful eyes never left mine. "You did not know how to win
me," she said slowly. "You had neither strength nor patience nor courage
to conquer my hostile withdrawal in the face of anyone who wants to
dominate me."
*'I know all that, Vally. I am not offering the slightest reproach, the
faintest complaint. I shall feel always an inexpressible gratitude to you
for having inspired in me the love I was unable to make you share."
you long ago: Love me only just enough to make my Hfe surmy.'
"I told
"And I hadn't wisdom enough to obey you."
She was wearing in a fold of her gown orchids that looked avid as un-
satisfied lips. She pulled them off and began to tear them apart with her

long merciless fingers. "I never let you believe that I would love you as
you loved me. You saw me from the first day just as I am," she said. "I
hoped to overcome my indifference to you but I could never get over . . .

my feeling of coldness. Even though 1 wanted so much to love you! I

should really be pitied for being incapable of a unique and sincere passion,
for I know of nothing sadder on earth than to wander perpetually in quest
of an unknown sweetness, an inaccessible tenderness! Eros has made me
love without closing my eyes. You did me a grave wrong-you could not
satisfy the Lover in me, that creature of ruse and cruelty, a creature of

flesh who still craved the Impossible. The Impossible has never been granted
her, and the craving has been killed by anger and shame and all. It is quite
dead today."
"Yes, you are right," I sighed.
"If less violent loves don't make of you more than you have been-that
is, a creature all sacrifice and absurd self-abasement; if less harrowing loves,
also, reduce you to their own bend you
level; if less self-willed lovers also

to their pattern of living and being, then send me a call for help. I'll swoop
Hke an eagle and snatch you up in my iron talons, which may wound
you, but will carry you to infinite heights, into air which these everyday
lovers with their sweetness and their little complaints never dream of reach-
ing, nor can lift you."
Never before had she spoken in such a voice of melancholy and regret.
I drew back into the shadow. "Vally . . . Vally . .

"I will be entirely different, and better! Ah, you'll see! Already I have
changed a little-at least I believe so. I am afraid only of terribly heavy
sleep, of mortal forgetfulness. Death is less frightful than living metamor-
"And yet you say you have changed yourself-"
"I need you more than I thought, and differently. I need you . .

The tobacco flowers were mortally pale in the shadows. Their perfume
anesthetized my reason and my conscience. Night scents are so powerful
that they overcome everything less subtle, perilous and false than they are.
E deir antico amore sentii la gran potenza ... Oh perverse Beatrice clothed
in living flame; oh vision springing from a cloud of flowers! Oh eternally
tragic memory!
"One belongs to one's past," insisted Vally. "Everything on earth would
be too easy if one could escape the consequences of one's acts. I am your
past and you belong to me."
"One belongs to one's future. I belong to the future and to Eva." . . .

"The past is truer than the future. The future is all uncertainty, the
past is something written in ineffaceable letters." Vally's voice rang out
I replied evasively. "Only this evening I said to Eva: *I would like. to

repay to the whole Universe a Httle of the joy that your presence gives
"What joy can equal suffering? Sorrow is stronger than joy. One can
forget joys, one never forgets sorrow. I am your suffering, that is why you

can never stop loving me. Suffering alone is true, happiness isn't."
'*Why should the possible be unattainable?" I demanded. "I am certain
that happiness is tangible, that it is as true as thought. But one must struggle
harder to keep it than to attain it."

"I covet for you want you to be free,

a higher ideal than happiness. I

so that no one can diminish you by absorbing you. I want you free so that
you can look at what is above you. You are so weak when you are in love,

even a little and confusedly, as you loved me. And I am afraid for us both
of the harm those others will bring you."
I listened with troubled amazement to the new seriousness in her voice.
"I dream,'' she said,
"of the Passage of a Giant. The future is Hke a
mountain road that must be cut through rock. The crowd stops, stupid
and discouraged, before the immovable obstacles which choke the route.
But a Giant gets up and goes ahead. He hews a heroic passage through
underbrush and stone. Thirst tortures him and soHtude gives him fever. He
perishes before reaching the Other Slope. Then the irresistible force of all
those crowds of weaklings pushes through the gap he has opened. One sees
them swarming through by the milHon, there where the Giant Precursor
lies dead. If there is really anything great
in you, be like him, go toward
your Destiny. Scorn cowardly happiness, choose the better part, which is
the part of tears."
"I am not sure that happiness, infinitely rare, is inferior to suffering,
which is the universal lot," I protested.
"So you want to be calm and tranquil. Let's not plunge like this into
an endless debate about good and bad, truth and falsehood. The night feels
tired-as completely tired as I am. But tomorrow I shall be born again with
dawn, and I shall be April for you, April with her half-smile, April whose
joy hides the promise of harvests that are still asleep."
"There is no dawn in the past, Vally. The past dies with the last star.
The future alone knows Aurora."
*i am weary of wisdom and reason and truth. I am tired of everything
that is not simple love."
I answered her with all my old sadness: "Love also has its hopeful dawns,
its burning noons, its melancholy sunsets and its moonless nights. You
know that better than I, you who fear change more than death."
Vally turned away, shrinking. "Temptation attracts only those who are
surfeited, and because your spirit is glutted with disgust, I know you will
return to me. You will return because disgust and weariness are never but
one side of the coin. Nothing is good or bad in itself; that rule applies also

to people. You don't judge me

judge myself, and yet you
as clearly as I

say you have loved me and love me

The pride with which you per-

sist in seeing only my faults proves that there is in you a vampire drunk

with fury. Me, I am happier-I see only what I wish to see, Httle enough
and dimly enough to preserve my illusions You will come back to me. . . .

I told you once before: it is you who are the cruel one, since you make

me suffer stupidly, and since you won't give me a permanent place, shel-

tered from all suspicion, in the sanctuary of your heart. I play with men
because it pleases me to see them suffer, and because sometimes I find

them amusing. But I have never loved a man, I can swear to that in all

sincerity. I have told you repeatedly: 'Don't stifle me with jealousies and
suspicions, when I reach my hungry hands to you and never want more
than your tenderness. Don't destroy something that is beautiful because
of its invincible strength. I shall hold fast to you through all my passions
and through all time -all the others are to me a matter of boredom or
nerves and are neither important nor lasting.'"
"And an hour later, Vally, you drove me away from you with the hard
words: *I don't love you . . . you wear me out you are the shadow on
. . .

my path of lilies and moonlight.'"

"Oh, what have you made of your pale April?" sighed Vally. "In my
heart there is a heritagefrom Spring Open your heart and your arms
. . .

to me again. I'll never reawaken a single moment of anguish in you. I'll

never bring up a vestige of the past that isn't ours together. I will enter

your heart like one reverently entering a temple, and if I find there a joy
faded with age, I will replace it with one newly opened. My heart is a
garden of flowers when I dream of the great Possible that includes all one's
hopes . .

"I can't give you happiness, Vally. You want me because I escaped you
as a danger, because I fled from you as a peril. I have loved you too much

not to fear you eternally. I had lost all hope and confidence after after . . .

you! But a Redemptress has come for me— anunhoped-for Redemptress—

"You are determined to see nothing but the sad and ugly things in our
Past. But remember the lilies!"

The sky was now a marvellous roof of cedar, ivory, and mother-of-pearl.
The trees were slender and pale as Moorish columns. The night seemed a
mystic palace of Boabdil, drawn from all dreams of the long ago.
"I shall remember, Vally."
"You have stolen a happiness to which you have no right. Remember
your own words: *Love is renunciation and sacrifice. Love is a long kneel-
ing.'" She paused, and added like a sacrament: "'Love is a calvary flower-
ing with roses.'"
A dead serpent was lying at our feet ... A slanting last ray of moonlight
struck a strange light from the tarnished gold of its green scales which
seemed to quiver in slow waves. And I remembered San Giovanni's enig-
matic phrases: "Dead serpents come to life beneath the gaze of those who
love them. The magic eyes of Lilith revive them as moonlight moves stag-
nant water . Dead serpents slip through the semi-darkness, where their
. .

eyes dart cruel glints. For, faithful, they serve the Liliths, and they pierce
coldly whatever victims are designated."
"What joy or what peace will ever equal the divine pain you have known
on my lips?" demanded Vally.


Our Lady of Fevers suddenly corrupted the garden with her fatal breath.

Digitahs and belladonna offered her their perfume and their poisons . .

Reptiles swarmed to her swampy shrine, bringing their venomous spirits

as offerings. A leprous moon wasted the trees, and the red roses bled like

new wounds ... 1 yearned to escape the pestiferous garden, but I could
not tear my eyes from those of Vally, whose hair was greener and her eyes
more blue than night's Hght.
"Remember the lilies," she said persistently.
A distant lamp sent a feeble gleam through the black shadows where
the tobacco flowers were dying. It came from the bedroom of my Redemp-
tress . . . That gleam was as comforting as the quiet reflection of a star.

Then it vanished . The shadows were Hstening to the wisdom of dead

. .

serpents. Vally's morbid blondness grew paler under the moon.

"Pain sharper than joy, joy deeper than pain," she persisted. "Love more
terrible than hate, hate more voluptuous than love ... All passions that
repudiate peace . .

The lamp sent out a new ray of starlight. It moved unsteadily in the
hands of Eva, who was approaching us, pale and wraithlike . . .

Truly, these two women were Hke the Archangels of Destiny: Vally,
dressed in green; Eva, dressed in violet; both strangely luminous.
"This is the Hour of the Spirit," murmured Eva.
An anguished pause held the three of us. What I was going to say would

be decisive and My
whole unshaped future depended on that instant's

resolve. Upon me weighed the terror of choosing.

When the words finally were uttered, a sigh rose from the shadows.
"Farewell . . . and till we meet again."


Page ii. Leonardo da Vinci's Saint John the Baptist, which is reproduced
as the frontispiece of the original French edition, is a very feminine half-
figure. The San Giovanni of this story, a lesbian, is described as similarly
intersexual in appearance. There is, however, only one oblique impUcation
that she actually resembles Da Vinci's model.

Page 2. Chapter L Preceded by three bars of Chopin's Op. 44.

Page 5. Chapter IL Preceded by two bars of Schumann's "Why?".

Page 9. Chapter IIL Preceded by two bars of Schumann's Song without


Page 10. Chapter IV. Preceded by two bars from Chopin's Opus 9.

Page 16. Mephistophela. A lesbian novel by the French writer Catulle

Mendes, which was very popular between 1890 and 1910.

Page 18. Chapter V. Preceded by four bars from Beethoven's Opus 14.

Page 19. **We went to a huge women's college . .

." "Bryn Mawr" is written
in the margin of the page in French script.

Page 22. Chapter VL Preceded by two bars from Schumann's Song of


Page 24. Chapter VIL Preceded by six bars from Wagner's Death of Yseult.
Page 26. Chapter VIIL Preceded by four bars from Beethoven's Maestoso
andante in seven flats.

Page 28. Chapter IX. Preceded by three bars from Chopin's Funeral March.

Page 29. Chapter X. Preceded by eight bars of the less tragic theme in

Chopin's Funeral March.

Page 30. Chapter XI. Preceded by three bars from Grieg's Death of Ase.

Page 31. Chapter XII. Preceded by five bars from Beethoven's Opus 22.

Page 33. I have added "to me" to "a woman appeared" simply because
the title of this book is Une femme m 'apparut.
Page 33. Chapter XIII. Preceded by eight bars from Beethoven's Opus 7.

Page 38. Chapter XIV. Preceded by three bars of Beethoven's Adagio


Page 41 . Opposite the page on which this poem appears is a greenish half-

tone reproduction of a Notre Dame des Fievres by an artist who is unnamed

but who is not El Greco. It represents a mad -eyed woman wrapped all but

her face in folds of drapery, surrounded by repulsive figures of both sexes,
cripples, lepers, all obviously dying.

Page 45. Chapter XVI. Preceded by three bars from Grieg's To Spring.

Page 49. This poem appears in EngUsh in the French text.

Page 51. Chapter XVII. Preceded by four bars from Grieg's Morning.

Page 52. Chapter XVIII. Preceded by five bars of Chopin's Ballade, Op.
40, pt. 1.

Page 53. Chapter XIX. Preceded by three bars of Chopin's Ballade, Op.
47, pt. 2.

Page 54. Chapter XX. Preceded by two bars from Chopin's Nocturne, Op.

Page 55. Chapter XXI. Preceded by three bars from Chopin's Scherzo from
the Sonata, Op. 35.

Page 58. Chapter XXII. Preceded by seven bars from Chopin's Nocturnes.

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THE NAIAD PRESS is proud to present A WOMAN
APPEARED TO ME, by Renee Vivien. This autobiographical
account of her love affair with Natalie Clifford Barney is full

of the eloquent, vivid imagery that distinguishes her better-

known poetry.
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