Manon Lescaut

by the Abbe Prevost

Chapter X

What lost a world, and bade a hero fly?
The timid tear in Cleopatra's eye.
Yet be the soft triumvir's fault forgiven,
By this, how many lose--not earth--but heaven!
Consign their souls to man's eternal foe,
And seal their own, to spare some wanton's, woe!

I soon returned to Manon; and to prevent the servants from having
any suspicion, I told her in their hearing, that she need not
expect M. G---- M---- to supper; that he was most reluctantly
occupied with business which detained him, and that he had
commissioned me to come and make his excuses, and to fill his
place at the supper table; which, in the company of so beautiful
a lady, I could not but consider a very high honour.  She
seconded me with her usual adroitness.  We sat down to supper.  I
put on the most serious air I could assume, while the servants
were in the room, and at length having got rid of them, we
passed, beyond all comparison, the most agreeable evening of my
life.  I gave Marcel orders to find a hackney-coach, and engage
it to be at the gate on the following morning a little before six
o'clock.  I pretended to take leave of Manon about midnight, but
easily gaining admission again, through Marcel, I proceeded to
occupy G---- M----'s bed, as I had filled his place at the supper

"In the meantime our evil genius was at work for our
destruction.  We were like children enjoying the success of our
silly scheme, while the sword hung suspended over our heads.  The
thread which upheld it was just about to break; but the better to
understand all the circumstances of our ruin, it is necessary to
know the immediate cause.

"G---- M---- was followed by a servant, when he was stopped by
my friend the guardsman.  Alarmed by what he saw, this fellow
retraced his steps, and the first thing he did was to go and
inform old G---- M---- of what had just happened.

"Such a piece of news, of course, excited him greatly.  This was
his only son; and considering the old gentleman's advanced age,
he was extremely active and ardent.  He first enquired of the
servant what his son had been doing that afternoon; whether he
had had any quarrel on his own account, or interfered in any
other; whether he had been in any suspicious house.  The lackey,
who fancied his master in imminent danger, and thought he ought
not to have any reserve in such an emergency, disclosed at once
all that he knew of his connection with Manon, and of the expense
he had gone to on her account; the manner in which he had passed
the afternoon with her until about nine o'clock, the circumstance
of his leaving her, and the outrage he encountered on his return. 
This was enough to convince him that his son's affair was a love
quarrel.  Although it was then at least half-past ten at night,
he determined at once to call on the lieutenant of police.  He
begged of him to issue immediate orders to all the detachments
that were out on duty, and he himself, taking some men with him,
hastened to the street where his son had been stopped: he visited
every place where he thought he might have a chance of finding
him; and not being able to discover the slightest trace of him,
he went off to the house of his mistress, to which he thought he
probably might by this time have returned.

"I was stepping into bed when he arrived.  The door of the
chamber being closed, I did not hear the knock at the gate, but
he rushed into the house, accompanied by two archers of the
guard, and after fruitless enquiries of the servants about his
son, he resolved to try whether he could get any information from
their mistress.  He came up to the apartment, still accompanied
by the guard.  We were just on the point of lying down when he
burst open the door, and electrified us by his appearance. 
`Heavens!' said I to Manon, `it is old G---- M----.'  I attempted
to get possession of my sword; but it was fortunately entangled
in my belt.  The archers, who saw my object, advanced to lay hold
of me.  Stript to my shirt, I could, of course, offer no
resistance, and they speedily deprived me of all means of

"G---- M----, although a good deal embarrassed by the whole
scene, soon recognised me; and Manon still more easily.  `Is this
a dream?' said he, in the most serious tone--`do I not see before
me the Chevalier des Grieux and Manon Lescaut?'  I was so
overcome with shame and disappointment, that I could make him no
reply.  He appeared for some minutes revolving different thoughts
in his mind; and as if they had suddenly excited his anger, he
exclaimed, addressing himself to me:  `Wretch!  I am confident
that you have murdered my son!'

"I felt indignant at so insulting a charge.  `You hoary and
lecherous villain!' I exclaimed, `if I had been inclined to kill
any of your worthless family, it is with you I should most
assuredly have commenced.' 

"`Hold him fast,' cried he to the archers; `he must give me
some tidings of my son; I shall have him hanged tomorrow, if he
does not presently let me know how he has disposed of him.'

"`You will have me hanged,' said I, `will you?  Infamous
scoundre! it is for such as you that the gibbet is erected.  Know
that the blood which flows in my veins is noble, and purer in
every sense than yours.  Yes,' I added, `I do know what has
happened to your son; and if you irritate me further, I will have
him strangled before morning; and I promise you the consolation
of meeting in your own person the same fate, after he is disposed

"I was imprudent in acknowledging that I knew where his son was,
but excess of anger made me commit this indiscretion.  He
immediately called in five or six other archers, who were waiting
at the gate, and ordered them to take all the servants into
custody.  `Ah! ah! Chevalier,' said he, in a tone of sardonic
raillery,--`so you do know where my son is, and you will have him
strangled, you say?  We will try to set that matter to rights.'

"I now saw the folly I had committed.

"He approached Manon, who was sitting upon the bed, bathed in a
flood of tears.  He said something, with the most cruel irony, of
the despotic power she wielded over old and young, father and
son-- her edifying dominion over her empire.  This superannuated
monster of incontinence actually attempted to take liberties with

"`Take care,' exclaimed I, `how you lay a finger upon her!--
neither divine nor human law will be able, should your folly
arouse it, to shield you from my vengeance!'

"He quitted the room, desiring the archers to make us dress as
quickly as possible.

"I know not what were his intentions at that moment with regard
to us; we might perhaps have regained our liberty if we had told
him where his son was.  As I dressed, I considered whether this
would not be the wisest course.  But if, on quitting the room,
such had been the disposition of his mind, it was very different
when he returned.  He had first gone to question Manon's
servants, who were in the custody of the guard.  From those who
had been expressly hired for her service by his son, he could
learn nothing; but when he found that Marcel had been previously
our servant, he determined to extract some information from him,
by means of intimidation, threats, or bribes.

"This lad was faithful, but weak and unsophisticated.  The
remembrance of what he had done at the penitentiary for Manon's
release, joined to the terror with which G---- M---- now inspired
him, so subdued his mind, that he thought they were about leading
him to the gallows, or the rack.  He promised that, if they would
spare his life, he would disclose everything he knew.  This
speech made G---- M---- imagine that there was something more
serious in the affair than he had before supposed; he not only
gave Marcel a promise of his life, but a handsome reward in hand
for his intended confession. 

"The booby then told him the leading features of our plot, of
which we had made no secret before him, as he was himself to have
borne a part in it.  True, he knew nothing of the alterations we
had made at Paris in our original design; but he had been
informed, before quitting Chaillot, of our projected adventure,
and of the part he was to perform.  He therefore told him that
the object was to make a dupe of his son; and that Manon was to
receive, if she had not already received, ten thousand francs,
which, according to our project, would be effectually lost to
G---- M----, his heirs and assigns for ever.

"Having acquired this information, the old gentleman hastened
back in a rage to the apartment.  Without uttering a word, he
passed into the boudoir, where he easily put his hand upon the
money and the jewels.  He then accosted us, bursting with rage;
and holding up what he was pleased to call our plunder, he loaded
us with the most indignant reproaches.  He placed close to
Manon's eye the pearl necklace and bracelets.  `Do you recognise
them?' said he, in a tone of mockery; 'it is not, perhaps, the
first time you may have seen them.  The identical pearls, by my
faith!  They were selected by your own exquisite taste!  The poor
innocents!' added he; `they really are most amiable creatures,
both one and the other; but they are perhaps a little too much
inclined to roguery.'

"I could hardly contain my indignation at this speech.  I would
have given for one moment's liberty--Heavens! what would I not
have given?  At length, I suppressed my feelings sufficiently to
say in a tone of moderation, which was but the refinement of
rage:  `Put an end, sir, to this insolent mockery!  What is your
object?  What do you purpose doing with us?'

"`M. Chevalier,' he answered, `my object is to see you quietly
lodged in the prison of Le Chatelet.  Tomorrow will bring
daylight with it, and we shall then be able to take a clearer
view of matters; and I hope you will at last do me the favour to
let me know where my son is.'

"It did not require much consideration to feel convinced that
our incarceration in Le Chatelet would be a serious calamity.  I
foresaw all the dangers that would ensue.  In spite of my pride,
I plainly saw the necessity of bending before my fate, and
conciliating my most implacable enemy by submission.  I begged of
him, in the quietest manner, to listen to me.  `I wish to do
myself but common justice, sir,' said I to him; `I admit that my
youth has led me into egregious follies; and that you have had
fair reason to complain: but if you have ever felt the resistless
power of love, if you can enter into the sufferings of an unhappy
young man, from whom all that he most loved was ravished, you may
think me perhaps not so culpable in seeking the gratification of
an innocent revenge; or at least, you may consider me
sufficiently punished, by the exposure and degradation I have
just now endured.  Neither pains nor imprisonment will be
requisite to make me tell you where your son now is.  He is in
perfect safety.  It was never my intention to injure him, nor to
give you just cause for offence.  I am ready to let you know the
place where he is safely passing the night, if, in return, you
will set us at liberty.'

"The old tiger, far from being softened by my prayer, turned his
back upon me and laughed.  A few words, escaped him, which showed
that he perfectly well knew our whole plan from the commencement. 
As for his son, the brute said that he would easily find him,
since I had not assassinated him.  `Conduct them to the
Petit-Chatelet,' said he to the archers; `and take especial care
that the chevalier does not escape you: he is a scamp that once
before escaped from St. Lazare.'

"He went out, and left me in a condition that you may picture to
yourself.  `O Heavens!' cried I to myself, `I receive with humble
submission all your visitations; but that a wretched scoundrel
should thus have the power to tyrannise over me! this it is that
plunges me into the depths of despair!'  The archers begged that
we would not detain them any longer.  They had a coach at the
door.  `Come, my dear angel,' said I to Manon, as we went down,
`come, let us submit to our destiny in all its rigour: it may one
day please Heaven to render us more happy.'

"We went in the same coach.  I supported her in my arms.  I had
not heard her utter a single word since G---- M----'s first
appearance: but now, finding herself alone with me, she addressed
me in the tenderest manner, and accused herself of being the
cause of all my troubles.  I assured her that I never could
complain, while she continued to love me.  `It is not I that have
reason to complain,' I added; `imprisonment for a few months has
no terrors for me, and I would infinitely prefer Le Chatelet to
St. Lazare; but it is for you, my dearest soul, that my heart
bleeds.  What a lot for such an angel!  How can you, gracious
Heaven! subject to such rigour the most perfect work of your own
hands?  Why are we not both of us born with qualities conformable
to our wretched condition?  We are endowed with spirit, with
taste, with feeling; while the vilest of God's creatures--brutes,
alone worthy of our unhappy fate, are revelling in all the
favours of fortune.'

"These feelings filled me with grief; but it was bliss compared
with my prospects for the future.  My fear, on account of Manon,
knew no bounds.  She had already been an inmate of the Magdalen;
and even if she had left it by fair means, I knew that a relapse
of this nature would be attended with disastrous consequences.  I
wished to let her know my fears: I was apprehensive of exciting
hers.  I trembled for her, without daring to put her on her guard
against the danger; and I embraced her tenderly, to satisfy her,
at least, of my love, which was almost the only sentiment to
which I dared to give expression.  `Manon,' said I, `tell me
sincerely, will you ever cease to love me?'

"She answered, that it made her unhappy to think that I could
doubt it.

"`Very well,' replied I, `I do so no longer; and with this
conviction, I may well defy all my enemies.  Through the
influence of my family, I can ensure my own liberation from the
Chatelet; and my life will be of little use, and of short
duration, if I do not succeed in rescuing you.'

"We arrived at the prison, where they put us into separate
cells.  This blow was the less severe, because I was prepared for
it.  I recommended Manon to the attention of the porter, telling
him that I was a person of some distinction, and promising him a
considerable recompense.  I embraced my dearest mistress before
we parted; I implored her not to distress herself too much, and
to fear nothing while I lived.  I had money with me: I gave her
some; and I paid the porter, out of what remained, the amount of
a month's expenses for both of us in, advance.  This had an
excellent effect, for I found myself placed in an apartment
comfortably furnished, and they assured me that Manon was in one
equally good.

"I immediately set about devising the means of procuring my
liberty.  There certainly had been nothing actually criminal in
my conduct; and supposing even that our felonious intention was
established by the evidence of Marcel, I knew that criminal
intentions alone were not punishable.  I resolved to write
immediately to my father, and beg of him to come himself to
Paris.  I felt much less humiliation, as I have already said, in
being in Le Chatelet than in St. Lazare.  Besides, although I
preserved, all proper respect for the paternal authority, age and
experience had considerably lessened my timidity.  I wrote, and
they made no difficulty in the prison about forwarding my letter;
but it was a trouble I should have spared myself, had I known
that my father was about to arrive on the following day in Paris. 
He had received the letter I had written to him a week before; it
gave him extreme delight; but, notwithstanding the flattering
hopes I had held out of my conversion, he could not implicitly
rely on my statements.  He determined therefore to satisfy
himself of my reformation by the evidence of his own senses, and
to regulate his conduct towards me according to his conviction of
my sincerity.  He arrived the day after my imprisonment.

"His first visit was to Tiberge, to whose care I begged that he
would address his answer.  He could not learn from him either my
present abode or condition: Tiberge merely told him of my
principal adventures since I had escaped from St. Lazare. 
Tiberge spoke warmly of the disposition to virtue which I had
evinced at our last interview.  He added, that he considered me
as having quite got rid of Manon; but that he was nevertheless
surprised at my not having given him any intelligence about
myself for a week.  My father was not to be duped.  He fully
comprehended that there was something in the silence of which
Tiberge complained, which had escaped my poor friend's
penetration; and he took such pains to find me out, that in two
days after his arrival he learned that I was in Le Chatelet.

"Before I received this visit, which I little expected so soon,
I had the honour of one from the lieutenant-general of police,
or, to call things by their right names, I was subjected to an
official examination.  He upbraided me certainly, but not in any
harsh or annoying manner.  He told me, in the kindest tone, that
he bitterly lamented my bad conduct; that I had committed a gross
indiscretion in making an enemy of such a man as M. G---- M----;
that in truth it was easy to see that there was, in the affair,
more of imprudence and folly than of malice; but that still it
was the second time I had been brought as a culprit under his
cognisance; and that he had hoped I should have become more
sedate, after the experience of two or three months in St.

"Delighted at finding that I had a rational judge to deal with,
I explained the affair to him in a manner at once so respectful
and so moderate, that he seemed exceedingly satisfied with my
answers to all the queries he put.  He desired me not to abandon
myself to grief, and assured me that he felt every disposition to
serve me, as well on account of my birth as my inexperience.  I
ventured to bespeak his attentions in favour of Manon, and I
dwelt upon her gentle and excellent disposition.  He replied,
with a smile, that he had not yet seen her, but that she had been
represented to him as a most dangerous person.  This expression
so excited my sympathy, that I urged a thousand anxious arguments
in favour of my poor mistress, and I could not restrain even from
shedding tears.

He desired them to conduct me back to my chamber.  `Love! love!'
cried this grave magistrate as I went out, `thou art never to be
reconciled with discretion!'

"I had been occupied with the most melancholy reflections, and
was thinking of the conversation I had had with the
lieutenant-general of police, when I heard my door open.  It was
my father.  Although I ought to have been half prepared for
seeing him, and had reasons to expect his arrival within a day or
two, yet I was so thunderstruck, that I could willingly have sunk
into the earth, if it had been open at my feet.  I embraced him
in the greatest possible state of confusion.  He took a seat,
without either one or other of us having uttered a word.

"As I remained standing, with my head uncovered, and my eyes
cast on the ground, `Be seated, sir,' said he in a solemn voice;
`be seated.  I have to thank the notoriety of your debaucheries
for learning the place of your abode.  It is the privilege of
such fame as yours, that it cannot lie concealed.  You are
acquiring celebrity by an unerring path.  Doubtless it will lead
you to the Greve,[1] and you will then have the unfading glory of
being held up to the admiration of the world.'

[1]Who has e'er been at Paris must needs know the Greve,       
The fatal retreat of th' unfortunate brave,     
Where honour and justice most oddly contribute,                
To ease heroes' pains by the halter and gibbet.--PRIOR.

"I made no reply.  He continued:  `What an unhappy lot is that
of a father, who having tenderly loved a child, and strained
every nerve to bring him up a virtuous and respectable man, finds
him turn out in the end a worthless profligate, who dishonours
him.  To an ordinary reverse of fortune one may be reconciled;
time softens the affliction, and even the indulgence of sorrow
itself is not unavailing; but what remedy is there for an evil
that is perpetually augmenting, such as the profligacy of a
vicious son, who has deserted every principle of honour, and is
ever plunging from deep into deeper vice?  You are silent,' added
he: `look at this counterfeit modesty, this hypocritical air of
gentleness!-- might he not pass for the most respectable member
of his family?'

"Although I could not but feel that I deserved, in some degree,
these reproaches, yet he appeared to me to carry them beyond all
reason.  I thought I might be permitted to explain my feelings.

"`I assure you, sir,' said I to him, `that the modesty which
you ridicule is by no means affected; it is the natural feeling
of a son who entertains sincere respect for his father, and above
all, a father irritated as you justly are by his faults.  Neither
have I, sir, the slightest wish to pass for the most respectable
member of my family.  I know that I have merited your reproaches,
but I conjure you to temper them with mercy, and not to look upon
me as the most infamous of mankind.  I do not deserve such harsh
names.  It is love, you know it, that has caused all my errors. 
Fatal passion!  Have you yourself never felt its force?  Is it
possible that you, with the same blood in your veins that flows
in mine, should have passed through life unscathed by the same
excitements?  Love has rendered me perhaps foolishly tender--too
easily excited-- too impassioned--too faithful, and probably too
indulgent to the desires and caprices, or, if you will, the
faults of an adored mistress.  These are my crimes; are they such
as to reflect dishonour upon you?  Come, my dear father,' said I
tenderly, `show some pity for a son, who has never ceased to feel
respect and affection for you--who has not renounced, as you say,
all feelings of honour and of duty, and who is himself a thousand
times more an object of pity than you imagine.'  I could not help
shedding a tear as I concluded this appeal.

"A father's heart is a chef-d'oeuvre of creation.  There nature
rules in undisturbed dominion, and regulates at will its most
secret springs.  He was a man of high feeling and good taste, and
was so sensibly affected by the turn I had given to my defence,
that he could no longer hide from me the change I had wrought.

"`Come to me, my poor chevalier,' said he; `come and embrace
me.  I do pity you!'

"I embraced him: he pressed me to him in such a manner, that I
guessed what was passing in his heart.

"`But how are we,' said he, `to extricate you from this place? 
Explain to me the real situation of your affairs.'

"As there really was not anything in my conduct so grossly
improper as to reflect dishonour upon me; at least, in comparison
with the conduct of other young men of a certain station in the
world; and as a mistress is not considered a disgrace, any more
than a little dexterity in drawing some advantage from play, I
gave my father a candid detail of the life I had been leading. 
As I recounted each transgression, I took care to cite some
illustrious example in my justification, in order to palliate my
own faults.

"`I lived,' said I, `with a mistress without the solemnity of
marriage.  The Duke of ---- keeps two before the eyes of all
Paris.  M---- D---- has had one now for ten years, and loves her
with a fidelity which he has never shown to his wife.  Two-thirds
of the men of fashion in Paris keep mistresses.

"`I certainly have on one or two occasions cheated at play. 
Well, the Marquis of ---- and the Count ---- have no other source
of revenue.  The Prince of ---- and the Duke of ---- are at the
head of a gang of the same industrious order.'  As for the
designs I had upon the pockets of the two G---- M----s, I might
just as easily have proved that I had abundant models for that
also; but I had too much pride to plead guilty to this charge,
and rest on the justification of example; so that I begged of my
father to ascribe my weakness on this occasion to the violence of
the two passions which agitated me--Revenge and Love.

"He asked me whether I could suggest any means of obtaining my
liberty, and in such a way as to avoid publicity as much as
possible.  I told him of the kind feelings which the lieutenant-
general of police had expressed towards me.  `If you encounter
any obstacles,' said I, `they will be offered only by the two
G---- M----s; so that I think it would be advisable to call upon them.'

He promised to do so.

"I did not dare ask him to solicit Manon's liberation; this was
not from want of courage, but from the apprehension of
exasperating him by such a proposition, and perhaps driving him
to form some design fatal to the future happiness of us both.  It
remains to this hour a problem whether this fear on my part was
not the immediate cause of all my most terrible misfortunes, by
preventing me from ascertaining my father's disposition, and
endeavouring to inspire him with favourable feelings towards my
poor mistress: I might have perhaps once more succeeded in
exciting his commiseration; I might have put him on his guard
against the impression which he was sure of receiving from a
visit to old G---- M----.  But how can I tell what the
consequences would have been!  My unhappy fate would have most
probably counteracted all my efforts; but it would have been a
consolation to have had nothing else but that, and the cruelty of
my enemies, to blame for my afflictions.

"On quitting me, my father went to pay a visit to M. G----
M----.  He found him with his son, whom the guardsman had safely
restored to liberty.  I never learned the particulars of their
conversation; but I could easily infer them from the disastrous
results.  They went together (the two old gentlemen) to the
lieutenant-general of police, from whom they requested one favour
each: the first was to have me at once liberated from Le
Chatelet; the second to condemn Manon to perpetual imprisonment,
or to transport her for life to America.  They happened, at that
very period, to be sending out a number of convicts to the
Mississippi.  The lieutenant-general promised to have her
embarked on board the first vessel that sailed.

"M. G---- M---- and my father came together to bring me the news
of my liberation.  M. G---- M---- said something civil with
reference to what had passed; and having congratulated me upon my
happiness in having such a father, he exhorted me to profit
henceforward by his instruction and example.  My father desired
me to express my sorrow for the injustice I had even contemplated
against his family, and my gratitude for his having assisted in
procuring my liberation.

"We all left the prison together, without the mention of Manon's
name.  I dared not in their presence speak of her to the
turnkeys.  Alas! all my entreaties in her favour would have been
useless.  The cruel sentence upon Manon had arrived at the same
time as the warrant for my discharge.  The unfortunate girl was
conducted in an hour after to the Hospital, to be there classed
with some other wretched women, who had been condemned to the
same punishment.

"My father having forced me to accompany him to the house where
he was residing, it was near six o'clock before I had an
opportunity of escaping his vigilance.  In returning to Le
Chatelet, my only wish was to convey some refreshments to Manon,
and to recommend her to the attention of the porter; for I had no
hope of being permitted to see her; nor had I, as yet, had time
to reflect on the best means of rescuing her.

"I asked for the porter.  I had won his heart, as much by my
liberality to him, as by the mildness of my manner; so that,
having a disposition to serve me, he spoke of Manon's sentence as
a calamity which he sincerely regretted, since it was calculated
to mortify me.  I was at first unable to comprehend his meaning. 
We conversed for some minutes without my understanding him.  At
length perceiving that an explanation was necessary, he gave me
such a one, as on a former occasion I wanted courage to relate to
you, and which, even now, makes my blood curdle in my veins to


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