Manon Lescaut

by the Abbe Prevost

Chapter VII

. . . How chances mock,
And changes fill the cup of alteration
With divers liquors.


"How inscrutably does Providence connect events!  We had hardly
proceeded for five minutes on our way, when a man, whose face I
could not see, recognised Lescaut.  He had no doubt been watching
for him near his home, with the horrible intention which he now
unhappily executed.  `It IS Lescaut!' said he, snapping a pistol
at his head; `he shall sup tonight with the angels!'  He then
instantly disappeared.  Lescaut fell, without the least sign of
life.  I pressed Manon to fly, for we could be of no use to a
dead man, and I feared being arrested by the police, who would
certainly be soon upon the spot.  I turned down the first narrow
street with her and the servant: she was so overpowered by the
scene she had just witnessed, that I could hardly support her. 
At last, at the end of the street, I perceived a hackney-coach;
we got into it, but when the coachman asked whither he should
drive, I was scarcely able to answer him.  I had no certain
asylum--no confidential friend to whom I could have recourse.  I
was almost destitute of money, having but one dollar left in my
purse.  Fright and fatigue had so unnerved Manon, that she was
almost fainting at my side.  My imagination too was full of the
murder of Lescaut, and I was not without strong apprehensions of
the patrol.  What was to be done?  I luckily remembered the inn
at Chaillot, where we first went to reside in that village.  I
hoped to be not only secure, but to continue there for some time
without being pressed for payment.  `Take us to Chaillot,' said I
to the coachman.  He refused to drive us so far at that late hour
for less than twelve francs.  A new embarrassment!  At last we
agreed for half that sum--all that my purse contained.

"I tried to console Manon as we went along, but despair was
rankling in my own heart.  I should have destroyed myself a
thousand times over, if I had not felt that I held in my arms all
that could attach me to life: this reflection reconciled me.  `I
possess her at least,' said I; `she loves me! she is mine! 
Vainly does Tiberge call this a mere phantom of happiness.'  I
could, without feeling interest or emotion, see the whole world
besides perish around me.  Why?  Because I have in it no object
of affection beyond her.

"This sentiment was true; however, while I so lightly esteemed
the good things of the world, I felt that there was no doing
without some little portion of them, were it only to inspire a
more thorough contempt for the remainder.  Love is more powerful
than wealth--more attractive than grandeur or fame; but, alas! it
cannot exist without certain artificial aids; and there is
nothing more humiliating to the feelings, of a sensitive lover,
than to find himself, by want of means, reduced to the level of
the most vulgar minds.

"It was eleven o'clock when we arrived at Chaillot.  They
received us at the inn as old acquaintances, and expressed no
sort of surprise at seeing Manon in male attire, for it was the
custom in Paris and the environs to adopt all disguises.  I took
care to have her served with as much attention as if I had been
in prosperous circumstances.  She was ignorant of my poverty, and
I carefully kept her so, being resolved to return alone the
following day to Paris, to seek some cure for this vexatious kind
of malady.

"At supper she appeared pale and thin; I had not observed this
at the Hospital, as the room in which I saw her was badly
lighted.  I asked her if the excessive paleness were not caused
by the shock of witnessing her brother's death?  She assured me
that, horrified as she naturally was at the event, her paleness
was purely the effect of a three months' absence from me.  `You
do love me then devotedly?' I exclaimed.

"`A thousand times more than I can tell!' was her reply.

"`You will never leave me again?' I added.

"`No! never, never!' answered she. 

"This assurance was confirmed by so many caresses and vows, that
it appeared impossible she could, to the end of time, forget
them.  I have never doubted that she was at that moment sincere. 
What motive could she have had for dissembling to such a degree? 
But she became afterwards still more volatile than ever, or
rather she was no longer anything, and entirely forgot herself,
when, in poverty and want, she saw other women living in
abundance.  I was now on the point of receiving a new proof of
her inconstancy, which threw all that had passed into the shade,
and which led to the strangest adventure that ever happened to a
man of my birth and prospects.

"As I knew her disposition, I hastened the next day to Paris. 
The death of her brother, and the necessity of getting linen and
clothes for her, were such good reasons, that I had no occasion
for any further pretext.  I left the inn, with the intention, as
I told Manon and the landlord, of going in a hired carriage, but
this was a mere flourish; necessity obliged me to travel on foot:
I walked very fast as far as Cours-la-Reine, where I intended to
rest.  A moment of solitude and tranquillity was requisite to
compose myself, and to consider what was to be done in Paris.

"I sat down upon the grass.  I plunged into a sea of thoughts
and considerations, which at length resolved themselves into
three principal heads.  I had pressing want of an infinite number
of absolute necessaries; I had to seek some mode of at least
raising a hope for the future; and, though last, not least in
importance, I had to gain information, and adopt measures, to
secure Manon's safety and my own.  After having exhausted myself
in devising projects upon these three chief points, I was obliged
to put out of view for the moment the two last.  We were not ill
sheltered from observation in the inn at Chaillot; and as to
future wants, I thought it would be time enough to think about
them when those of the moment were satisfied.

"The main object now was to replenish my purse.  M. de T---- had
once offered me his, but I had an extreme repugnance to mention
the subject to him again.  What a degradation to expose one's
misery to a stranger, and to ask for charity: it must be either a
man of low mind who would thus demean himself, and that from a
baseness which must render him insensible to the degradation, or
a humble Christian, from a consciousness of generosity in
himself, which must put him above the sense of shame.  I would
have sacrificed half my life to be spared the humiliation.

"`Tiberge,' said I, `kind Tiberge, will he refuse me what he
has it in his power to grant?  No, he will assuredly sympathise
in my misery; but he will also torture me with his lectures!  One
must endure his reproaches, his exhortations, his threats: I
shall have to purchase his assistance so dearly, that I would
rather make any sacrifice than encounter this distressing scene,
which cannot fail to leave me full of sorrow and remorse.  Well,'
thought I again, `all hope must be relinquished, since no other
course presents itself: so far am I from adopting either of
these, that I would sooner shed half my blood than face one of
these evils, or the last drop rather than encounter both.  Yes,
the very last drop,' I repeated after a moment's reflection, `I
would sacrifice willingly rather than submit to such base

"`But it is not in reality a question of my existence!  Manon's
life and maintenance, her love and her fidelity, are at stake! 
What consideration can outweigh that?  In her are centred all my
glory, happiness, and future fortune!  There are doubtless many
things that I would gladly give up my life to obtain, or to
avoid; but to estimate a thing merely beyond the value of my own
life, is not putting it on a par with that of Manon.'  This idea
soon decided me: I went on my way, resolved to go first to
Tiberge, and afterwards to M. de T----.

"On entering Paris I took a hackney-coach, though I had not
wherewithal to pay for it; I calculated on the loan I was going
to solicit.  I drove to the Luxembourg, whence I sent word to
Tiberge that I was waiting for him.  I had not to stay many
minutes.  I told him without hesitation the extremity of my
wants.  He asked if the fifty pounds which I had returned to him
would suffice, and he at once went to fetch it with that generous
air, that pleasure in bestowing which `blesseth him that gives,
and him that takes,' and which can only be known to love or to
true friendship.

"Although I had never entertained a doubt of Tiberge's readiness
to grant my request, yet I was surprised at having obtained it on
such easy terms, that is to say, without a word of reprimand for
my impenitence; but I was premature in fancying myself safe from
his reproaches, for when he had counted out the money, and I was
on the point of going away, he begged of me to take a walk with
him in the garden.  I had not mentioned Manon's name; he knew
nothing of her escape; so that his lecture was merely upon my own
rash flight from St. Lazare, and upon his apprehensions lest,
instead of profiting by the lessons of morality which I had
received there, I should again relapse into dissipation.

"He told me, that having gone to pay me a visit at St. Lazare,
the day after my escape, he had been astonished beyond expression
at hearing the mode in which I had effected it; that he had
afterwards a conversation with the Superior; that the good Father
had not quite recovered the shock; that he had, however, the
generosity to conceal the real circumstances from the
lieutenant-general of police, and that he had prevented the death
of the porter from becoming known outside the walls; that I had,
therefore, upon that score, no ground for alarm, but that, if I
retained one grain of prudence, I should profit by this happy
turn which Providence had given to my affairs, and begin by
writing to my father, and reconciling myself to his favour; and
finally that, if I would be guided by his advice, I should at
once quit Paris, and return to the bosom of my family.

"I listened to him attentively till he had finished.  There was
much in what he said to gratify me.  In the first place, I was
delighted to learn that I had nothing to fear on account of St.
Lazare--the streets of Paris at least were again open to me. 
Then I rejoiced to find that Tiberge had no suspicion of Manon's
escape, and her return to my arms.  I even remarked that he had
not mentioned her name, probably from the idea that, by my
seeming indifference to her, she had become less dear to my
heart.  I resolved, if not to return home, at least to write to
my father, as he advised me, and to assure him that I was
disposed to return to my duty, and consult his wishes.  My
intention was to urge him to send me money for the purpose of
pursuing my ordinary studies at the University, for I should have
found it difficult to persuade him that I had any inclination to
resume my ecclesiastical habit.  I was in truth not at all averse
to what I was now going to promise him.  On the contrary, I was
ready to apply myself to some creditable and rational pursuit, so
far as the occupation would be compatible with my love.  I
reckoned upon being able to live with my mistress, and at the
same time continuing my studies.  I saw no inconsistency in this

"These thoughts were so satisfactory to my mind, that I promised
Tiberge to dispatch a letter by that day's post to my father: in
fact, on leaving him, I went into a scrivener's, and wrote in
such a submissive and dutiful tone, that, on reading over my own
letter, I anticipated the triumph I was going to achieve over my
father's heart.

"Although I had money enough to pay for a hackney-coach after my
interview with Tiberge, I felt a pleasure in walking
independently through the streets to M. de T----'s house.  There
was great comfort in this unaccustomed exercise of my liberty, as
to which my friend had assured me I had nothing now to apprehend. 
However, it suddenly occurred to me, that he had been only
referring to St. Lazare, and that I had the other affair of the
Hospital on my hands; being implicated, if not as an accomplice,
at all events as a witness.  This thought alarmed me so much,
that I slipped down the first narrow street, and called a coach. 
I went at once to M. de T----'s, and he laughed at my
apprehensions.  I myself thought them ridiculous enough, when he
informed me that there was no more danger from Lescaut's affray,
than from the Hospital adventure.  He told me that, from the fear
of their suspecting that he had a hand in Manon's escape, he had
gone that morning to the Hospital and asked to see her,
pretending not to know anything of what had happened; that they
were so far from entertaining the least suspicion of either of
us, that they lost no time in relating the adventure as a piece
of news to him; and that they wondered how so pretty a girl as
Manon Lescaut could have thought of eloping with a servant: that
he replied with seeming indifference, that it by no means
astonished him, for people would do anything for the sake of

"He continued to tell me how he then went to Lescaut's
apartments, in the hope of finding me there with my dear
mistress; that the master of the house, who was a coachmaker,
protested he had seen neither me nor Manon; but that it was no
wonder that we had not appeared there, if our object was to see
Lescaut, for that we must have doubtless heard of his having been
assassinated about the very same time; upon which, he related all
that he knew of the cause and circumstances of the murder.

"About two hours previously, a guardsman of Lescaut's
acquaintance had come to see him, and proposed play.  Lescaut had
such a rapid and extravagant run of luck, that in an hour the
young man was minus twelve hundred francs--all the money he had. 
Finding himself without a sou, he begged of Lescaut to lend him
half the sum he had lost; and there being some difficulty on this
point, an angry quarrel arose between them.  Lescaut had refused
to give him the required satisfaction, and the other swore, on
quitting him, that he would take his life; a threat which he
carried into execution the same night.  M. de T---- was kind
enough to add, that he had felt the utmost anxiety on our
account, and that, such as they were, he should gladly continue
to us his services.  I at once told him the place of our retreat. 
He begged of me to allow him to sup with us.

"As I had nothing more to do than to procure the linen and
clothes for Manon, I told him that we might start almost
immediately, if he would be so good as to wait for me a moment
while I went into one or two shops.  I know not whether he
suspected that I made this proposition with the view of calling
his generosity into play, or whether it was by the mere impulse
of a kind heart; but, having consented to start immediately, he
took me to a shopkeeper, who had lately furnished his house.  He
there made me select several articles of a much higher price than
I had proposed to myself; and when I was about paying the bill,
he desired the man not to take a sou from me.  This he did so
gracefully, that I felt no shame in accepting his present.  We
then took the road to Chaillot together, where I arrived much
more easy in mind than when I had left it that morning.

"My return and the polite attentions of M. de T---- dispelled
all Manon's melancholy.  `Let us forget our past annoyances, my
dear soul,' said I to her, `and endeavour to live a still happier
life than before.  After all, there are worse masters than love:
fate cannot subject, us to as much sorrow as love enables us to
taste of happiness.'  Our supper was a true scene of joy.

"In possession of Manon and of twelve hundred and fifty francs,
I was prouder and more contented than the richest voluptuary of
Paris with untold treasures.  Wealth should be measured by the
means it affords us of satisfying our desires.  There did not
remain to me at this moment a single wish unaccomplished.  Even
the future gave me little concern.  I felt a hope, amounting
almost to certainty, that my father would allow me the means of
living respectably in Paris, because I had become entitled, on
entering upon my twentieth year, to a share of my mother's
fortune.  I did not conceal from Manon what was the extent of my
present wealth; but I added, that it might suffice to support us
until our fortune was bettered, either by the inheritance I have
just alluded to, or by the resources of the hazard-table.


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