Letters of Two Brides/Chapter XVII

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Letters of Two Brides by Honore de Balzac

April 2nd.

Yesterday the weather was splendid. I dressed myself like a girl who wants to look her best in her sweetheart's eyes. My father, yielding to my entreaties, has given me the prettiest turnout in Paris—two dapple-gray horses and a barouche, which is a masterpiece of elegance. I was making a first trial of this, and peeped out like a flower from under my sunshade lined with white silk.

As I drove up the avenue of the Champs-Elysees, I saw my Abencerrage approaching on an extraordinarily beautiful horse. Almost every man nowadays is a finished jockey, and they all stopped to admire and inspect it. He bowed to me, and on receiving a friendly sign of encouragement, slackened his horse's pace so that I was able to say to him:

"You are not vexed with me for asking for my letter; it was no use to you." Then in a lower voice, "You have already transcended the ideal. . . . Your horse makes you an object of general interest," I went on aloud.

"My steward in Sardinia sent it to me. He is very proud of it; for this horse, which is of Arab blood, was born in my stables."

This morning, my dear, Henarez was on an English sorrel, also very fine, but not such as to attract attention. My light, mocking words had done their work. He bowed to me and I replied with a slight inclination of the head.

The Duc d'Angouleme has bought Macumer's horse. My slave understood that he was deserting the role of simplicity by attracting the notice of the crowd. A man ought to be remarked for what he is, not for his horse, or anything else belonging to him. To have too beautiful a horse seems to me a piece of bad taste, just as much as wearing a huge diamond pin. I was delighted at being able to find fault with him. Perhaps there may have been a touch of vanity in what he did, very excusable in a poor exile, and I like to see this childishness.

Oh! my dear old preacher, do my love affairs amuse you as much as your dismal philosophy gives me the creeps? Dear Philip the Second in petticoats, are you comfortable in my barouche? Do you see those velvet eyes, humble, yet so eloquent, and glorying in their servitude, which flash on me as some one goes by? He is a hero, Renee, and he wears my livery, and always a red camellia in his buttonhole, while I have always a white one in my hand.

How clear everything becomes in the light of love! How well I know my Paris now! It is all transfused with meaning. And love here is lovelier, grander, more bewitching than elsewhere.

I am convinced now that I could never flirt with a fool or make any impression on him. It is only men of real distinction who can enter into our feelings and feel our influence. Oh! my poor friend, forgive me. I forgot our l'Estorade. But didn't you tell me you were going to make a genius of him? I know what that means. You will dry nurse him till some day he is able to understand you.

Good-bye. I am a little off my head, and must stop.