Manon Lescaut

by the Abbe Prevost

Chapter XII

The pauses and intermissions of pain become positive pleasures;
and have thus a power of shedding a satisfaction over the
intervals of ease, which few enjoyments exceed.--PALEY.

"Riding towards the cortege at a slow pace, and with a sorrowful
countenance, the guards could hardly see anything very terrific
in my approach.  They seemed, however, to expect an attack.  `Be
persuaded, gentlemen,' said I to them, `that I come not to wage
war, but rather to ask favours.'  I then begged of them to
continue their progress without any distrust, and as we went
along I made my solicitations.  They consulted together to
ascertain in what way they should entertain my request.  The
chief of them spoke for the rest.  He said that the orders they
had received to watch the prisoners vigilantly were of the
strictest kind; that, however, I seemed so interesting a young
man, that they might be induced to relax a little in their duty;
but that I must know, of course, that this would cost me
something.  I had about sixteen pistoles left, and candidly told
them what my purse contained.  `Well,' said the gendarme, `we
will act generously.  It shall only cost you a crown an hour for
conversing with any of our girls that you may prefer-- that is
the ordinary price in Paris.'

"I said not a word of Manon, because I did not wish to let them
know of my passion.  They at first supposed it was merely a
boyish whim, that made me think of amusing myself with these
creatures but when they discovered that I was in love, they
increased their demands in such a way, that my purse was
completely empty on leaving Mantes, where we had slept the night
before our arrival at Passy.

"Shall I describe to you my heart-rending interviews with Manon
during this journey, and what my sensations were when I obtained
from the guards permission to approach her caravan?  Oh! language
never can adequately express the sentiments of the heart; but
picture to yourself my poor mistress, with a chain round her
waist, seated upon a handful of straw, her head resting languidly
against the panel of the carriage, her face pale and bathed with
tears, which forced a passage between her eyelids, although she
kept them continually closed.  She had not even the curiosity to
open her eyes on hearing the bustle of the guards when they
expected our attack.  Her clothes were soiled, and in disorder;
her delicate hands exposed to the rough air; in fine, her whole
angelic form, that face, lovely enough to carry back the world to
idolatry, presented a spectacle of distress and anguish utterly

"I spent some moments gazing at her as I rode alongside the
carriage.  I had so lost my self-possession, that I was several
times on the point of falling from my horse.  My sighs and
frequent exclamations at length attracted her attention.  She
looked at and recognised me, and I remarked that on the first
impulse, she unconsciously tried to leap from the carriage
towards me, but being checked by her chain, she fell into her
former attitude.

"I begged of the guards to stop one moment for the sake of
mercy; they consented for the sake of avarice.  I dismounted to
go and sit near her.  She was so languid and feeble, that she was
for some time without the power of speech, and could not raise
her hands: I bathed them with my tears; and being myself unable
to utter a word, we formed together as deplorable a picture of
distress as could well be seen.  When at length we were able to
speak, our conversation was not less sorrowful.  Manon said
little: shame and grief appeared to have altered the character of
her voice; its tone was feeble and tremulous.

"She thanked me for not having forgotten her, and for the
comfort I gave her in allowing her to see me once more, and she
then bade me a long and last farewell.  But when I assured her
that no power on earth could ever separate me from her, and that
I was resolved to follow her to the extremity of the world--to
watch over her--to guard her--to love her--and inseparably to
unite my wretched destiny with hers, the poor girl gave way to
such feelings of tenderness and grief, that I almost dreaded
danger to her life from the violence of her emotion: the
agitation of her whole soul seemed intensely concentrated in her
eyes; she fixed them steadfastly upon me.  She more than once
opened her lips without the power of giving utterance to her
thoughts.  I could, however, catch some expressions that dropped
from her, of admiration and wonder at my excessive love--of doubt
that she could have been fortunate enough to inspire me with a
passion so perfect--of earnest entreaty that I would abandon my
intention of following her, and seek elsewhere a lot more worthy
of me, and which, she said, I could never hope to find with her.

"In spite of the cruellest inflictions of Fate, I derived
comfort from her looks, and from the conviction that I now
possessed her undivided affection.  I had in truth lost all that
other men value; but I was the master of Manon's heart, the only
possession that I prized.  Whether in Europe or in America, of
what moment to me was the place of my abode, provided I might
live happy in the society of my mistress?  Is not the universe
the residence of two fond and faithful lovers?  Does not each
find in the other, father, mother, friends, relations, riches,

"If anything caused me uneasiness, it was the fear of seeing
Manon exposed to want.  I fancied myself already with her in a
barbarous country, inhabited by savages.  `I am quite certain,'
said I, `there will be none there more cruel than G---- M---- and
my father.  They will, at least, allow us to live in peace.  If
the accounts we read of savages be true, they obey the laws of
nature: they neither know the mean rapacity of avarice, nor the
false and fantastic notions of dignity, which have raised me up
an enemy in my own father.  They will not harass and persecute
two lovers, when they see us adopt their own simple habits.' I
was therefore at ease upon that point.

"But my romantic ideas were not formed with a proper view to the
ordinary wants of life.  I had too often found that there were
necessaries which could not be dispensed with, particularly by a
young and delicate woman, accustomed to comfort and abundance.  I
was in despair at having so fruitlessly emptied my purse, and the
little money that now remained was about being forced from me by
the rascally imposition of the gendarmes.  I imagined that a very
trifling sum would suffice for our support for some time in
America, where money was scarce, and might also enable me to form
some undertaking there for our permanent establishment.

"This idea made me resolve on writing to Tiberge, whom I had
ever found ready to hold out the generous hand of friendship.  I
wrote from the first town we passed through.  I only alluded to
the destitute condition in which I foresaw that I should find
myself on arriving at Havre-de-Grace, to which place I
acknowledged that I was accompanying Manon.  I asked him for only
fifty pistoles.  `You can remit it to me,' said I to him,
`through the hands of the postmaster.  You must perceive that it
is the last time I can by possibility trespass on your friendly
kindness; and my poor unhappy mistress being about to be exiled
from her country for ever, I cannot let her depart without
supplying her with some few comforts, to soften the sufferings of
her lot, as well as to assuage my own sorrows.'

"The gendarmes became so rapacious when they saw the violence of
my passion, continually increasing their demands for the
slightest favours, that they soon left me penniless.  Love did
not permit me to put any bounds to my liberality.  At Manon's
side I was not master of myself; and it was no longer by the hour
that time was measured; rather by the duration of whole days.  At
length, my funds being completely exhausted, I found myself
exposed to the brutal caprice of these six wretches who treated
me with intolerable rudeness--you yourself witnessed it at Passy. 
My meeting with you was a momentary relaxation accorded me by
fate.  Your compassion at the sight of my sufferings was my only
recommendation to your generous nature.  The assistance which you
so liberally extended, enabled me to reach Havre, and the guards
kept their promise more faithfully than I had ventured to hope.

"We arrived at Havre.  I went to the post-office: Tiberge had
not yet had time to answer my letter.  I ascertained the earliest
day I might reckon upon his answer: it could not possibly arrive
for two days longer; and by an extraordinary fatality, our vessel
was to sail on the very morning of the day when the letter might
be expected.  I cannot give you an idea of my despair.  `Alas!'
cried I, `even amongst the unfortunate, I am to be ever the most

"Manon replied:  `Alas! does a life so thoroughly miserable
deserve the care we bestow on ours?  Let us die at Havre, dearest
chevalier!  Let death at once put an end to our afflictions! 
Shall we persevere, and go to drag on this hopeless existence in
an unknown land, where we shall, no doubt, have to encounter the
most horrible pains, since it has been their object to punish me
by exile?  Let us die,' she repeated, `or do at least in mercy
rid me of life, and then you can seek another lot in the arms of
some happier lover.'

"`No, no, Manon,' said I; `it is but too enviable a lot, in my
estimation, to be allowed to share your misfortunes.'

"Her observations made me tremble.  I saw that she was
overpowered by her afflictions.  I tried to assume a more
tranquil air, in order to dissipate such melancholy thoughts of
death and despair.

I resolved to adopt the same course in future; and I learned by
the results, that nothing is more calculated to inspire a woman
with courage than the demonstration of intrepidity in the man she

"When I lost all hope of receiving the expected assistance from
Tiberge, I sold my horse; the money it brought, joined to what
remained of your generous gift, amounted to the small sum of
forty pistoles; I expended eight in the purchase of some
necessary articles for Manon; and I put the remainder by, as the
capital upon which we were to rest our hopes and raise our
fortunes in America.  I had no difficulty in getting admitted on
board the vessel.  They were at the time looking for young men as
voluntary emigrants to the colony.  The passage and provisions
were supplied gratis.  I left a letter for Tiberge, which was to
go by the post next morning to Paris.  It was no doubt written in
a tone calculated to affect him deeply, since it induced him to
form a resolution, which could only be carried into execution by
the tenderest and most generous sympathy for his unhappy friend.


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