Chateaubriand's memoirs, III, 4

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Mémoires d'Outre-tombe


Book III - Chapter 4
Lucile



Lucile was tall and of a remarkable, but grave beauty. Her pale face was framed by long black tresses; she often fixed her gaze on the sky or cast around her looks full of sadness or fire. Her walk, her voice, her smile, her features held something of the dreamer and the sufferer.

Lucile and I were useless to one another. When we spoke of the world, it was of that we bore within ourselves, and which scarcely resembled the real world. She saw me as her protector, I saw her as my friend. She had fits of gloomy thought that I had difficulty in dispelling; at seventeen she mourned the passing of her youth; she wished to bury herself in a convent. To her everything was care; sorrow; suffering: an expression she sought, or a chimera she created, tormented her for months on end. I have often seen her, one arm thrown above her head, dreaming, motionless and inanimate; drawn towards her heart, her life ceased to appear on the surface; even her breast no longer rose and fell. In her attitude, her melancholy, her classical beauty, she resembled a funereal Genius. I would try at those times to console her, and the next moment I would plunge into inexplicable despair.

Lucile loved to enjoy some pious text, at evening, in solitude: her favourite oratory was the junction of two country roads, marked by a stone cross, and a poplar whose tall column rose into the sky like an artist’s brush. My devout mother, enchanted, said that her daughter reminded her of a Christian girl of the primitive Church, praying at one of those stations called laures.

From the concentration of soul in my sister there were born extraordinary spiritual effects: in sleep, she had prophetic dreams; awake, she seemed to read the future. On one of the landings of the staircase in the great tower, there was a clock which struck the hours in the silence; Lucile unable to sleep, would go and sit on a step, facing the clock: she would watch its face by the light of her lamp placed on the ground. When the two hands met at midnight giving birth, at their formidable conjunction, to the hour of crime and disorder, Lucile heard sounds which revealed distant death. Finding herself in Paris a few days before the 10th of August, staying with my other sisters in the neighbourhood of the Carmelite Convent, she cast her eyes on a mirror, gave a cry and said: ‘I have just seen Death enter.’ On the moors of Scotland, Lucile would have been one of Walter Scott’s mystic women, gifted with second sight; on the moors of Brittany, she was only a solitary creature blessed with beauty, genius and misfortune.