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Marriage And Freedom--The Arrival In Paris--Jules Sandeau
We must now endeavour to discover what the future George Sand's experiences of marriage were, and the result of these experiences on the formation of her ideas.
"You will lose your best friend in me," were the last words of the grandmother to her granddaughter on her death-bed. The old lady spoke truly, and Aurore was very soon to prove this. By a clause in her will, Madame Dupin de Francueil left the guardianship of Aurore to a cousin, Rene de Villeneuve. It was scarcely likely, though, that Sophie-Victoire should consent to her own rights being frustrated by this illegal clause, particularly as this man belonged to the world of the "old Countesses." She took her daughter with her to Paris. Unfortunately for her, Aurore's eyes were now open, and she was cultured enough to have been in entire sympathy with her exquisite grandmother. It was no longer possible for her to have the old passionate affection and indulgence for her mother, especially as she felt that she had hitherto been deserted by her. She saw her mother now just as she was, a light woman belonging to the people, a woman who could not resign herself to growing old. If only Sophie-Victoire had been of a tranquil disposition! She was most restless, on the contrary, wanting to change her abode and change her restaurant every day. She would quarrel with people one day, make it up the next; wear a different-shaped hat every day, and change the colour of her hair continually. She was always in a state of agitation. She loved police news and thrilling stories; read the Sherlock Holmes of those days until the middle of the night. She dreamed of such stories, and the following day went on living in an atmosphere of crime. When she had an attack of indigestion, she always imagined that she had been poisoned. When a visitor arrived, she thought it must be a burglar. She was most sarcastic about Aurore's "fine education" and her literary aspirations. Her hatred of the dead grandmother was as strong as ever. She was constantly insulting her memory, and in her fits of anger said unheard-of things. Aurore's silence was her only reply to these storms, and this exasperated her mother. She declared that she would correct her daughter's "sly ways." Aurore began to wonder with terror whether her mother's mind were not beginning to give way. The situation finally became intolerable.
Sophie-Victoire took her daughter to spend two or three days with some friends of hers, and then left her there. They lived in the country at Plessis-Picard, near Melun. Aurore was delighted to find a vast park with thickets in which there were roebucks bounding about. She loved the deep glades and the water with the green reflections of old willow trees. Monsieur James Duplessis and his wife, Angele, were excellent people, and they adopted Aurore for the time being. They already had five daughters, so that one more did not make much difference. They frequented a few families in the neighbourhood, and there was plenty of gaiety among the young people. The Duplessis took Aurore sometimes to Paris and to the theatre.
"One evening," we are told in the Histoire de ma vie, "we were having some ices at Tortoni's after the theatre, when suddenly my mother Angele said to her husband, `Why, there's Casimir!' A young man, slender and rather elegant, with a gay expression and a military look, came and shook hands, and answered all the questions he was asked about his father, Colonel Dudevant, who was evidently very much respected and loved by the family."
This was the first meeting, the first appearance of Casimir in the story, and this was how he entered into the life of Aurore.
He was invited to Plessis, he joined the young people good-humouredly in their games, was friendly with Aurore, and, without posing as a suitor, asked for her hand in marriage. There was no reason for her to refuse him. He was twenty-seven years of age, had served two years in the army, and had studied law in Paris. He was a natural son, of course, but he had been recognized by his father, Colonel Dudevant. The Dudevant family was greatly respected. They had a chateau at Guillery in Gascony. Casimir had been well brought up and had good manners. Aurore might as well marry him as any other young man. It would even be preferable to marry him rather than another young man. He was already her friend, and he would then be her husband. That would not make much difference.
The marriage almost fell through, thanks to Sophie-Victoire. She did not consider Casimir good-looking enough. She was not thinking of her daughter, but of herself. She had made up her mind to have a handsome son-in-law with whom she could go out. She liked handsome men, and particularly military men. Finally she consented to the marriage, but, a fortnight before the ceremony, she arrived at Plessis, like a veritable thunderbolt. An extraordinary idea had occurred to her. She vowed that she had discovered that Casimir had been a waiter at a cafe. She had no doubt dreamt this, but she held to her text, and was indignant at the idea of her daughter marrying a waiter! . . .
Things had arrived at this crisis when Casimir's mother, Madame Dudevant, who had all the manners of a grande dame, decided to pay Sophie-Victoire an official visit. The latter was greatly flattered, for she liked plenty of attention paid to her. It was in this way that Aurore Dupin became Baronne Dudevant.
She was just eighteen years of age. It is interesting to read her description of herself at this time. In her Voyage en Auvergne, which was her first writing, dated 1827, she traces the following portrait, which certainly is not exaggerated.
"When I was sixteen," she says, "and left the convent, every one could see that I was a pretty girl. I was fresh-looking, though dark. I was like those wild flowers which grow without any art or culture, but with gay, lively colouring. I had plenty of hair, which was almost black. On looking at myself in the glass, though, I can truthfully say that I was not very well pleased with myself. I was dark, my features were well cut, but not finished. People said that it was the expression of my face that made it interesting. I think this was true. I was gay but dreamy, and my most natural expression was a meditative one. People said, too, that in this absent-minded expression there was a fixed look which resembled that of the serpent when fascinating his prey. That, at any rate, was the far-fetched comparison of my provincial adorers."
They were not very far wrong, these provincial adorers. The portraits of Aurore at this date show us a charming face of a young girl, as fresh-looking as a child. She has rather long features, with a delicately-shaped chin. She is not exactly pretty, but fascinating, with those great dark eyes, which were her prominent feature, eyes which, when fixed on any one, took complete possession of them--dreamy, passionate eyes, sombre because the soul reflected in them had profound depths.
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George Sand, Some Aspects of Her Life and Writings -by- Rene Doumic