They can only touch the heart by bruising it.
The children adored him, he did not care for them; his thoughts
were elsewhere. Nothing that these urchins could do ever tried his
patience. Cold, just, impassive, and at the same time loved,
because his coming had in a measure banished dullness from the
house, he was a good tutor. For his part, he felt only hatred and
horror for the high society in which he was allowed to occupy the
very foot of the table, a position which may perhaps explain his
hatred and horror. There were certain formal dinners at which he
could barely contain his loathing of everything round about him. On
Saint Louis's day in particular, M. Valenod was laying down the law
at M. de Renal's; Julien almost gave himself away; he escaped into
the garden, saying that he must look after the children. 'What
panegyrics of honesty!' he exclaimed; 'anyone would say that was
the one and only virtue; and yet what consideration, what a
cringing respect for a man who obviously has doubled and tripled
his fortune since he has been in charge of the relief of the poor!
I would wager that he makes something even out of the fund set
apart for the foundlings, those wretches whose need is even more
sacred than that of the other paupers. Ah, monsters! Monsters! And
I too, I am a sort of foundling, hated by my father, my brothers,
my whole family.'
Some days earlier, Julien walking by himself and saying his
office in a little wood, known as the Belvedere, which overlooks
the Cours de la Fidelite, had tried in vain to avoid his two
brothers, whom he saw approaching him by a solitary path. The
jealousy of these rough labourers had been so quickened by the
sight of their brother's handsome black coat, and air of extreme
gentility, as well as by the sincere contempt which he felt for
them, that they had proceeded to thrash him, leaving him there
unconscious and bleeding freely. Madame de Renal, who was out
walking with M. Valenod and the Sub-Prefect, happened to turn into
the little wood; she saw Julien lying on the ground and thought him
dead. She was so overcome as to make M. Valenod jealous.
His alarm was premature. Julien admired Madame de Renal's looks,
but hated her for her beauty; it was the first reef on which his
fortune had nearly foundered. He spoke to her as seldom as
possible, in the hope of making her forget the impulse which, at
their first encounter, had led him to kiss her hand.
Elisa, Madame de Renal's maid, had not failed to fall in love
with the young tutor; she often spoke of him to her mistress. Miss
Elisa's love had brought upon Julien the hatred of one of the
footmen. One day he heard this man say to Elisa: 'You won't speak
to me any more, since that greasy tutor has been in the house.'
Julien did not deserve the epithet; but, with the instinct of a
good-looking youth, became doubly attentive to his person. M.
Valenod's hatred was multiplied accordingly. He said in public that
so much concern with one's appearance was not becoming in a young
cleric. Barring the cassock, Julien now wore clerical attire.
Madame de Renal observed that he was speaking more often than
before to Miss Elisa; she learned that these conversations were due
to the limitations of Julien's extremely small wardrobe. He had so
scanty a supply of linen that he was obliged to send it out
constantly to be washed, and it was in performing these little
services that Elisa made herself useful to him.
This extreme poverty, of which she had had no suspicion, touched
Madame de Renal; she longed to make him presents, but did not dare;
this inward resistance was the first feeling of regret that Julien
caused her. Until then the name of Julien and the sense of a pure
and wholly intellectual joy had been synonymous to her. Tormented
by the idea of Julien's poverty, Madame de Renal spoke to her
husband about making him a present of linen:
'What idiocy!' he replied. 'What! Make presents to a man with
whom we are perfectly satisfied, and who is serving us well? It is
when he neglects his duty that we should stimulate his zeal.'
Madame de Renal felt ashamed of this way of looking at things;
before Julien came she would not have noticed it. She never saw the
young cleric's spotless, though very simple, toilet without asking
herself: 'Poor boy, how ever does he manage?'
As time went on she began to feel sorry for Julien's
deficiencies, instead of being shocked by them.
Madame de Renal was one of those women to be found in the
provinces whom one may easily take to be fools until one has known
them for a fortnight. She had no experience of life, and made no
effort at conversation. Endowed with a delicate and haughty nature,
that instinct for happiness natural to all human beings made her,
generally speaking, pay no attention to the actions of the coarse
creatures into whose midst chance had flung her.
She would have been remarkable for her naturalness and quickness
of mind, had she received the most scanty education; but in her
capacity as an heiress she had been brought up by nuns who
practised a passionate devotion to the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and
were animated by a violent hatred of the French as being enemies of
the Jesuits. Madame de Renal had sufficient sense to forget at
once, as absurdities, everything she had learned in the convent;
but she put nothing else in its place, and ended by knowing
nothing. The flatteries of which she had been the precocious
object, as the heiress to a large fortune, and a marked tendency
towards passionate devotion, had bred in her an attitude towards
life that was wholly inward. With an outward show of the most
perfect submission, and a self-suppression which the husbands of
Verrieres used to quote as an example to their wives, and which was
a source of pride to M. de Renal, her inner life was, as a matter
of fact, dictated by the most lofty disdain. Any princess who is
quoted as an illustration of pride pays infinitely more attention
to what her gentlemen are doing round about her than this meekest
of women, so modest in appearance, gave to anything that her
husband said or did. Until Julien arrived, she had really paid no
attention to anyone but her children. Their little illnesses, their
sorrows, their little pleasures absorbed the whole sensibility of
this human soul, which had never, in the whole of her life, adored
anyone save God, while she was at the Sacred Heart in Besancon.
Although she did not condescend to say so to anyone, a feverish
attack coming to one of her sons threw her almost into the same
state as if the child had died. A burst of coarse laughter, a shrug
of the shoulders, accompanied by some trivial maxim as to the
foolishness of women, had regularly greeted the confessions of
grief of this sort which the need of an outlet had led her to make
to her husband during the first years of their married life.
Witticisms of this sort, especially when they bore upon the
illnesses of the children, turned the dagger in Madame de Renal's
heart. This was all the substitute she found for the obsequious,
honeyed flatteries of the Jesuitical convent in which she had
passed her girlhood. She was educated in the school of suffering.
Too proud to speak of griefs of this sort, even to her friend
Madame Derville, she imagined that all men resembled her husband,
M. Valenod, and the Sub-Prefect Charcot de Maugiron. Coarse wit and
the most brutal insensibility to everything that did not promise
money, promotion or a Cross; a blind hatred of every argument that
went against them seemed to her to be things natural to the male
sex, like the wearing of boots and felt hats.
After many long years, Madame de Renal had not yet grown
accustomed to these money-grubbing creatures among whom she had to
Hence the success of the little peasant Julien. She found much
pleasant enjoyment, radiant with the charm of novelty, in the
sympathy of this proud and noble spirit. Madame de Renal had soon
forgiven him his extreme ignorance, which was an additional charm,
and the roughness of his manners, which she succeeded in improving.
She found that it was worth her while to listen to him, even when
they spoke of the most ordinary things, even when it was a question
of a poor dog that had been run over, as it was crossing the
street, by a peasant's cart going by at a trot. The sight of such a
tragedy made her husband utter his coarse laugh, whereas she saw
Julien's fine, beautifully arched black eyebrows wince. Generosity,
nobility of soul, humanity, seemed to her, after a time, to exist
only in this young cleric. She felt for him alone all the sympathy
and even admiration which those virtues arouse in well-bred
In Paris, Julien's position with regard to Madame de Renal would
very soon have been simplified; but in Paris love is the child of
the novels. The young tutor and his timid mistress would have found
in three or four novels, and even in the lyrics of the Gymnase, a
clear statement of their situation. The novels would have outlined
for them the part to be played, shown them the model to copy; and
this model, sooner or later, albeit without the slightest pleasure,
and perhaps with reluctance, vanity would have compelled Julien to
In a small town of the Aveyron or the Pyrenees, the slightest
incident would have been made decisive by the ardour of the
climate. Beneath our more sombre skies, a penniless young man, who
is ambitious only because the refinement of his nature puts him in
need of some of those pleasures which money provides, is in daily
contact with a woman of thirty who is sincerely virtuous, occupied
with her children, and never looks to novels for examples of
conduct. Everything goes slowly, everything happens by degrees in
the provinces: life is more natural.
Often, when she thought of the young tutor's poverty, Madame de
Renal was moved to tears. Julien came upon her, one day, actually
'Ah, Ma'am, you have had some bad news!'
'No, my friend,' was her answer: 'Call the children, let us go
for a walk.'
She took his arm and leaned on it in a manner which Julien
thought strange. It was the first time that she had called him 'my
Towards the end of their walk, Julien observed that she was
blushing deeply. She slackened her pace.
'You will have heard,' she said without looking at him, 'that I
am the sole heiress of a very rich aunt who lives at Besancon. She
loads me with presents. My sons are making … such astonishing
progress … that I should like to ask you to accept a little
present, as a token of my gratitude. It is only a matter of a few
louis to supply you with linen. But—' she added, blushing even more
deeply, and was silent.
'What, Ma'am?' said Julien.
'It would be unnecessary,' she went on, lowering her head, 'to
speak of this to my husband.'
'I may be humble, Ma'am, but I am not base,' replied Julien
coming to a standstill, his eyes ablaze with anger, and drawing
himself up to his full height. 'That is a point which you have not
sufficiently considered. I should be less than a footman if I put
myself in the position of hiding from M. de Renal anything that had
to do with my money.'
Madame de Renal was overwhelmed.
'The Mayor,' Julien went on, 'has given me thirty-six francs
five times since I came to live in his house; I am prepared to show
my account-book to M. de Renal or to anyone else, including M.
Valenod who hates me.'
This outburst left Madame de Renal pale and trembling, and the
walk came to an end before either of them could find an excuse for
renewing the conversation. Love for Madame de Renal became more and
more impossible in the proud heart of Julien: as for her, she
respected, she admired him; she had been scolded by him. On the
pretext of making amends for the humiliation which she had
unintentionally caused him, she allowed herself to pay him the most
delicate attentions. The novelty of this procedure kept her happy
for a week. Its effect was to some extent to appease Julien's
anger; he was far from seeing anything in it that could be mistaken
for personal affection.
'That,' he said to himself, 'is what rich people are like: they
humiliate one, and then think they can put things right by a few
Madame de Renal's heart was too full, and as yet too innocent
for her, notwithstanding the resolutions she had made, not to tell
her husband of the offer she had made to Julien and the manner in
which she had been repulsed.
'What,' M. de Renal retorted, with keen annoyance, 'could you
tolerate a refusal from a servant?'
And as Madame de Renal protested at this word:
'I speak, Ma'am, as the late Prince de Conde spoke, when
presenting his Chamberlains to his bride: "All these people," he
told her, "are our servants." I read you the passage from
Besenval's Memoirs, it is essential in questions of
precedence. Everyone who is not a gentleman, who lives in your
house and receives a salary, is your servant. I shall say a few
words to this Master Julien, and give him a hundred francs.'
'Ah, my dear,' said Madame de Renal trembling, 'please do not
say anything in front of the servants.'
'Yes, they might be jealous, and rightly,' said her husband as
he left the room, thinking of the magnitude of the sum.
Madame de Renal sank down on a chair, almost fainting with
grief. 'He is going to humiliate Julien, and it is my fault!' She
felt a horror of her husband, and hid her face in her hands. She
promised herself that she would never confide anything in him
When she next saw Julien, she was trembling all over, her bosom
was so contracted that she could not manage to utter a single word.
In her embarrassment she took his hands and wrung them.
'Well, my friend,' she said to him after a little, 'are you
pleased with my husband?'
'How should I not be?' Julien answered with a bitter smile; 'he
has given me a hundred francs.'
Madame de Renal looked at him as though uncertain what to
'Give me your arm,' she said at length with an accent of courage
which Julien had never yet observed in her.
She ventured to enter the shop of the Verrieres bookseller, in
spite of his terrible reputation as a Liberal. There she chose
books to the value of ten louis which she gave to her sons. But
these books were the ones which she knew that Julien wanted. She
insisted that there, in the bookseller's shop, each of the children
should write his own name in the books that fell to his share.
While Madame de Renal was rejoicing at the partial reparation which
she had had the courage to make to Julien, he was lost in amazement
at the quantity of books which he saw on the bookseller's shelves.
Never had he dared to set foot in so profane a place; his heart
beat violently. So far from his having any thought of trying to
guess what was occurring in the heart of Madame de Renal, he was
plunged in meditation as to how it would be possible for a young
student of divinity to procure some of these books. At length the
idea came to him that it might be possible, by a skilful approach,
to persuade M. de Renal that he ought to set his sons, as the
subject for an essay, the lives of the celebrated gentlemen who
were natives of the province. After a month of careful
preliminaries, he saw his idea prove successful, so much so that,
shortly afterwards, he ventured, in speaking to M. de Renal, to
mention an action considerably more offensive to the noble Mayor;
it was a matter of contributing to the prosperity of a Liberal, by
taking out a subscription at the library. M. de Renal entirely
agreed that it was wise to let his eldest son have a visual
impression of various works which he would hear mentioned in
conversation when he went to the Military School; but Julien found
the Mayor obdurate in refusing to go any farther. He suspected a
secret reason, which he was unable to guess.
'I was thinking, Sir,' he said to him one day, 'that it would be
highly improper for the name of a respectable gentleman like a
Renal to appear on the dirty ledger of the librarian.'
M. de Renal's face brightened.
'It would also be a very bad mark,' Julien went on, in a humbler
tone, 'against a poor divinity student, if it should one day be
discovered that his name had been on the ledger of a bookseller who
keeps a library. The Liberals might accuse me of having asked for
the most scandalous books; for all one knows they might even go so
far as to write in after my name the titles of those perverse
But Julien was going off the track. He saw the Mayor's features
resume their expression of embarrassment and ill humour. Julien was
silent. 'I have my man hooked,' he said to himself.
A few days later, on the eldest boy's questioning Julien as to a
book advertised in the Quotidienne, in M. de Renal's
'To remove all occasion for triumph from the Jacobin Party,'
said the young tutor, 'and at the same time to enable me to answer
Master Adolphe, one might open a subscription at the bookshop in
the name of the lowest of your servants.'
'That is not at all a bad idea,' said M. de Renal, obviously
'Only it would have to be specified,' said Julien with that
grave and almost sorrowful air which becomes certain people so
well, when they see the success of the projects which have been
longest in their minds, 'it would have to be specified that the
servant shall not take out any novels. Once they were in the house,
those dangerous works might corrupt Madame's maids, not to speak of
the servant himself.'
'You forget the political pamphlets,' added M. de Renal, in a
haughty tone. He wished to conceal the admiration that he felt for
the clever middle course discovered by his children's tutor.
Julien's life was thus composed of a series of petty
negotiations; and their success was of far more importance to him
than the evidence of a marked preference for himself which was only
waiting for him to read it in the heart of Madame de Renal.
The moral environment in which he had been placed all his life
was repeated in the household of the worshipful Mayor of Verrieres.
There, as in his father's sawmill, he profoundly despised the
people with whom he lived, and was hated by them. He saw every day,
from the remarks made by the Sub-Prefect, by M. Valenod and by the
other friends of the family, with reference to the things that had
just happened under their eyes, how remote their ideas were from
any semblance of reality. Did an action strike him as admirable, it
was precisely what called forth blame from the people round about
him. His unspoken retort was always: 'What monsters!' or 'What
fools!' The amusing thing was that, with all his pride, frequently
he understood nothing at all of what was being discussed.
In his whole life, he had never spoken with sincerity except to
the old Surgeon-Major; the few ideas that he had bore reference to
Napoleon's campaigns in Italy, or to surgery. His youthful courage
took delight in detailed accounts of the most painful operations;
he said to himself: 'I should not have flinched.'
The first time that Madame de Renal attempted a conversation
with him on a subject other than that of the children's education,
he began to talk of surgical operations; she turned pale, and
begged him to stop.
Julien knew nothing apart from these matters. And so, as he
spent his time with Madame de Renal, the strangest silence grew up
between them as soon as they were alone together. In her own
drawing-room, humble as his bearing was, she found in his eyes an
air of intellectual superiority over everyone that came to the
house. Were she left alone for a moment with him, she saw him grow
visibly embarrassed. This troubled her, for her womanly instinct
made her realise that his embarrassment was not in the least degree
In consequence of some idea derived from a description of good
society, as the old Surgeon-Major had beheld it, as soon as
conversation ceased in a place where he found himself in the
company of a woman, Julien felt abashed, as though he himself were
specially to blame for this silence. This sensation was a hundred
times more painful when they were alone. His imagination, full of
the most extravagant, the most Spanish notions as to what a man
ought to say, when he is alone with a woman, offered him in his
agitation none but inadmissible ideas. His soul was in the clouds,
and yet he was incapable of breaking the most humiliating silence.
Thus his air of severity, during his long walks with Madame de
Renal and the children, was intensified by the most cruel
sufferings. He despised himself hideously. If by mischance he
forced himself to speak, he found himself saying the most
ridiculous things. To increase his misery, he saw and exaggerated
his own absurdity; but what he did not see was the expression in
his eyes, they were so fine and revealed so burning a soul that,
like good actors, they imparted at times a charming meaning to what
was meaningless. Madame de Renal remarked that, when alone with
her, he never expressed himself well except when he was distracted
by some unforeseen occurrence, he never thought of turning a
compliment. As the friends of the family did not spoil her by
offering her new and brilliant ideas, she took a delight in the
flashes of Julien's intellect.
Since the fall of Napoleon, all semblance of gallantry in speech
has been sternly banished from the code of provincial behaviour.
People are afraid of losing their posts. The unscrupulous seek
support from the Congregation and hypocrisy has made the
most brilliant advances even among the Liberal classes. Dulness
increases. No pleasure is left, save in reading and
Madame de Renal, the wealthy heiress of a religious aunt,
married at sixteen to a worthy gentleman, had never in her life
felt or seen anything that bore the faintest resemblance to love.
Her confessor, the good cure Chelan, was the only person almost who
had ever spoken to her of love, with reference to the advances of
M. Valenod, and he had drawn so revolting a picture of it that the
word conveyed nothing to her but the idea of the most abject
immorality. She regarded as an exception, or rather as something
quite apart from nature, love such as she had found it in the very
small number of novels that chance had brought to her notice.
Thanks to this ignorance, Madame de Renal, entirely happy, occupied
incessantly with the thought of Julien, was far from reproaching
herself in the slightest degree.