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    The Spectacles

    by Edgar Allan Poe
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    MANY years ago, it was the fashion to ridicule the idea of "love at
    first sight;" but those who think, not less than those who feel
    deeply, have always advocated its existence. Modern discoveries,
    indeed, in what may be termed ethical magnetism or magnetoesthetics,
    render it probable that the most natural, and, consequently, the
    truest and most intense of the human affections are those which arise
    in the heart as if by electric sympathy -- in a word, that the
    brightest and most enduring of the psychal fetters are those which
    are riveted by a glance. The confession I am about to make will add
    another to the already almost innumerable instances of the truth of
    the position.

    My story requires that I should be somewhat minute. I am still a very
    young man -- not yet twenty-two years of age. My name, at present, is
    a very usual and rather plebeian one -- Simpson. I say "at present;"
    for it is only lately that I have been so called -- having
    legislatively adopted this surname within the last year in order to
    receive a large inheritance left me by a distant male relative,
    Adolphus Simpson, Esq. The bequest was conditioned upon my taking the
    name of the testator, -- the family, not the Christian name; my
    Christian name is Napoleon Bonaparte -- or, more properly, these are
    my first and middle appellations.

    I assumed the name, Simpson, with some reluctance, as in my true
    patronym, Froissart, I felt a very pardonable pride -- believing that
    I could trace a descent from the immortal author of the "Chronicles."
    While on the subject of names, by the bye, I may mention a singular
    coincidence of sound attending the names of some of my immediate
    predecessors. My father was a Monsieur Froissart, of Paris. His wife
    -- my mother, whom he married at fifteen -- was a Mademoiselle
    Croissart, eldest daughter of Croissart the banker, whose wife,
    again, being only sixteen when married, was the eldest daughter of
    one Victor Voissart. Monsieur Voissart, very singularly, had married
    a lady of similar name -- a Mademoiselle Moissart. She, too, was
    quite a child when married; and her mother, also, Madame Moissart,
    was only fourteen when led to the altar. These early marriages are
    usual in France. Here, however, are Moissart, Voissart, Croissart,
    and Froissart, all in the direct line of descent. My own name,
    though, as I say, became Simpson, by act of Legislature, and with so
    much repugnance on my part, that, at one period, I actually hesitated
    about accepting the legacy with the useless and annoying proviso

    As to personal endowments, I am by no means deficient. On the
    contrary, I believe that I am well made, and possess what nine tenths
    of the world would call a handsome face. In height I am five feet
    eleven. My hair is black and curling. My nose is sufficiently good.
    My eyes are large and gray; and although, in fact they are weak a
    very inconvenient degree, still no defect in this regard would be
    suspected from their appearance. The weakness itself, however, has
    always much annoyed me, and I have resorted to every remedy -- short
    of wearing glasses. Being youthful and good-looking, I naturally
    dislike these, and have resolutely refused to employ them. I know
    nothing, indeed, which so disfigures the countenance of a young
    person, or so impresses every feature with an air of demureness, if
    not altogether of sanctimoniousness and of age. An eyeglass, on the
    other hand, has a savor of downright foppery and affectation. I have
    hitherto managed as well as I could without either. But something too
    much of these merely personal details, which, after all, are of
    little importance. I will content myself with saying, in addition,
    that my temperament is sanguine, rash, ardent, enthusiastic -- and
    that all my life I have been a devoted admirer of the women.

    One night last winter I entered a box at the P- -- Theatre, in
    company with a friend, Mr. Talbot. It was an opera night, and the
    bills presented a very rare attraction, so that the house was
    excessively crowded. We were in time, however, to obtain the front
    seats which had been reserved for us, and into which, with some
    little difficulty, we elbowed our way.

    For two hours my companion, who was a musical fanatico, gave his
    undivided attention to the stage; and, in the meantime, I amused
    myself by observing the audience, which consisted, in chief part, of
    the very elite of the city. Having satisfied myself upon this point,
    I was about turning my eyes to the prima donna, when they were
    arrested and riveted by a figure in one of the private boxes which
    had escaped my observation.

    If I live a thousand years, I can never forget the intense emotion
    with which I regarded this figure. It was that of a female, the most
    exquisite I had ever beheld. The face was so far turned toward the
    stage that, for some minutes, I could not obtain a view of it -- but
    the form was divine; no other word can sufficiently express its
    magnificent proportion -- and even the term "divine" seems
    ridiculously feeble as I write it.

    The magic of a lovely form in woman -- the necromancy of female
    gracefulness -- was always a power which I had found it impossible to
    resist, but here was grace personified, incarnate, the beau ideal of
    my wildest and most enthusiastic visions. The figure, almost all of
    which the construction of the box permitted to be seen, was somewhat
    above the medium height, and nearly approached, without positively
    reaching, the majestic. Its perfect fullness and tournure were
    delicious. The head of which only the back was visible, rivalled in
    outline that of the Greek Psyche, and was rather displayed than
    concealed by an elegant cap of gaze aerienne, which put me in mind of
    the ventum textilem of Apuleius. The right arm hung over the
    balustrade of the box, and thrilled every nerve of my frame with its
    exquisite symmetry. Its upper portion was draperied by one of the
    loose open sleeves now in fashion. This extended but little below the
    elbow. Beneath it was worn an under one of some frail material,
    close-fitting, and terminated by a cuff of rich lace, which fell
    gracefully over the top of the hand, revealing only the delicate
    fingers, upon one of which sparkled a diamond ring, which I at once
    saw was of extraordinary value. The admirable roundness of the wrist
    was well set off by a bracelet which encircled it, and which also was
    ornamented and clasped by a magnificent aigrette of jewels-telling,
    in words that could not be mistaken, at once of the wealth and
    fastidious taste of the wearer.

    I gazed at this queenly apparition for at least half an hour, as if I
    had been suddenly converted to stone; and, during this period, I felt
    the full force and truth of all that has been said or sung concerning
    "love at first sight." My feelings were totally different from any
    which I had hitherto experienced, in the presence of even the most
    celebrated specimens of female loveliness. An unaccountable, and what
    I am compelled to consider a magnetic, sympathy of soul for soul,
    seemed to rivet, not only my vision, but my whole powers of thought
    and feeling, upon the admirable object before me. I saw -- I felt --
    I knew that I was deeply, madly, irrevocably in love -- and this even
    before seeing the face of the person beloved. So intense, indeed, was
    the passion that consumed me, that I really believe it would have
    received little if any abatement had the features, yet unseen, proved
    of merely ordinary character, so anomalous is the nature of the only
    true love -- of the love at first sight -- and so little really
    dependent is it upon the external conditions which only seem to
    create and control it.

    While I was thus wrapped in admiration of this lovely vision, a
    sudden disturbance among the audience caused her to turn her head
    partially toward me, so that I beheld the entire profile of the face.
    Its beauty even exceeded my anticipations -- and yet there was
    something about it which disappointed me without my being able to
    tell exactly what it was. I said "disappointed," but this is not
    altogether the word. My sentiments were at once quieted and exalted.
    They partook less of transport and more of calm enthusiasm of
    enthusiastic repose. This state of feeling arose, perhaps, from the
    Madonna-like and matronly air of the face; and yet I at once
    understood that it could not have arisen entirely from this. There
    was something else- some mystery which I could not develope -- some
    expression about the countenance which slightly disturbed me while it
    greatly heightened my interest. In fact, I was just in that condition
    of mind which prepares a young and susceptible man for any act of
    extravagance. Had the lady been alone, I should undoubtedly have
    entered her box and accosted her at all hazards; but, fortunately,
    she was attended by two companions -- a gentleman, and a strikingly
    beautiful woman, to all appearance a few years younger than herself.

    I revolved in my mind a thousand schemes by which I might obtain,
    hereafter, an introduction to the elder lady, or, for the present, at
    all events, a more distinct view of her beauty. I would have removed
    my position to one nearer her own, but the crowded state of the
    theatre rendered this impossible; and the stern decrees of Fashion
    had, of late, imperatively prohibited the use of the opera-glass in a
    case such as this, even had I been so fortunate as to have one with
    me -- but I had not -- and was thus in despair.

    At length I bethought me of applying to my companion.

    "Talbot," I said, "you have an opera-glass. Let me have it."

    "An opera -- glass! -- no! -- what do you suppose I would be doing
    with an opera-glass?" Here he turned impatiently toward the stage.

    "But, Talbot," I continued, pulling him by the shoulder, "listen to
    me will you? Do you see the stage -- box? -- there! -- no, the next.
    -- did you ever behold as lovely a woman?"

    "She is very beautiful, no doubt," he said.

    "I wonder who she can be?"

    "Why, in the name of all that is angelic, don't you know who she is?
    'Not to know her argues yourself unknown.' She is the celebrated
    Madame Lalande -- the beauty of the day par excellence, and the talk
    of the whole town. Immensely wealthy too -- a widow, and a great
    match -- has just arrived from Paris."

    "Do you know her?"

    "Yes; I have the honor."

    "Will you introduce me?"

    "Assuredly, with the greatest pleasure; when shall it be?"

    "To-morrow, at one, I will call upon you at B--'s.

    "Very good; and now do hold your tongue, if you can."

    In this latter respect I was forced to take Talbot's advice; for he
    remained obstinately deaf to every further question or suggestion,
    and occupied himself exclusively for the rest of the evening with
    what was transacting upon the stage.

    In the meantime I kept my eyes riveted on Madame Lalande, and at
    length had the good fortune to obtain a full front view of her face.
    It was exquisitely lovely -- this, of course, my heart had told me
    before, even had not Talbot fully satisfied me upon the point -- but
    still the unintelligible something disturbed me. I finally concluded
    that my senses were impressed by a certain air of gravity, sadness,
    or, still more properly, of weariness, which took something from the
    youth and freshness of the countenance, only to endow it with a
    seraphic tenderness and majesty, and thus, of course, to my
    enthusiastic and romantic temperment, with an interest tenfold.

    While I thus feasted my eyes, I perceived, at last, to my great
    trepidation, by an almost imperceptible start on the part of the
    lady, that she had become suddenly aware of the intensity of my gaze.
    Still, I was absolutely fascinated, and could not withdraw it, even
    for an instant. She turned aside her face, and again I saw only the
    chiselled contour of the back portion of the head. After some
    minutes, as if urged by curiosity to see if I was still looking, she
    gradually brought her face again around and again encountered my
    burning gaze. Her large dark eyes fell instantly, and a deep blush
    mantled her cheek. But what was my astonishment at perceiving that
    she not only did not a second time avert her head, but that she
    actually took from her girdle a double eyeglass -- elevated it --
    adjusted it -- and then regarded me through it, intently and
    deliberately, for the space of several minutes.

    Had a thunderbolt fallen at my feet I could not have been more
    thoroughly astounded -- astounded only -- not offended or disgusted
    in the slightest degree; although an action so bold in any other
    woman would have been likely to offend or disgust. But the whole
    thing was done with so much quietude -- so much nonchalance -- so
    much repose- with so evident an air of the highest breeding, in short
    -- that nothing of mere effrontery was perceptible, and my sole
    sentiments were those of admiration and surprise.

    I observed that, upon her first elevation of the glass, she had
    seemed satisfied with a momentary inspection of my person, and was
    withdrawing the instrument, when, as if struck by a second thought,
    she resumed it, and so continued to regard me with fixed attention
    for the space of several minutes -- for five minutes, at the very
    least, I am sure.

    This action, so remarkable in an American theatre, attracted very
    general observation, and gave rise to an indefinite movement, or
    buzz, among the audience, which for a moment filled me with
    confusion, but produced no visible effect upon the countenance of
    Madame Lalande.

    Having satisfied her curiosity -- if such it was -- she dropped the
    glass, and quietly gave her attention again to the stage; her profile
    now being turned toward myself, as before. I continued to watch her
    unremittingly, although I was fully conscious of my rudeness in so
    doing. Presently I saw the head slowly and slightly change its
    position; and soon I became convinced that the lady, while pretending
    to look at the stage was, in fact, attentively regarding myself. It
    is needless to say what effect this conduct, on the part of so
    fascinating a woman, had upon my excitable mind.

    Having thus scrutinized me for perhaps a quarter of an hour, the fair
    object of my passion addressed the gentleman who attended her, and
    while she spoke, I saw distinctly, by the glances of both, that the
    conversation had reference to myself.

    Upon its conclusion, Madame Lalande again turned toward the stage,
    and, for a few minutes, seemed absorbed in the performance. At the
    expiration of this period, however, I was thrown into an extremity of
    agitation by seeing her unfold, for the second time, the eye-glass
    which hung at her side, fully confront me as before, and,
    disregarding the renewed buzz of the audience, survey me, from head
    to foot, with the same miraculous composure which had previously so
    delighted and confounded my soul.

    This extraordinary behavior, by throwing me into a perfect fever of
    excitement -- into an absolute delirium of love-served rather to
    embolden than to disconcert me. In the mad intensity of my devotion,
    I forgot everything but the presence and the majestic loveliness of
    the vision which confronted my gaze. Watching my opportunity, when I
    thought the audience were fully engaged with the opera, I at length
    caught the eyes of Madame Lalande, and, upon the instant, made a
    slight but unmistakable bow.

    She blushed very deeply -- then averted her eyes -- then slowly and
    cautiously looked around, apparently to see if my rash action had
    been noticed -- then leaned over toward the gentleman who sat by her

    I now felt a burning sense of the impropriety I had committed, and
    expected nothing less than instant exposure; while a vision of
    pistols upon the morrow floated rapidly and uncomfortably through my
    brain. I was greatly and immediately relieved, however, when I saw
    the lady merely hand the gentleman a play-bill, without speaking, but
    the reader may form some feeble conception of my astonishment -- of
    my profound amazement -- my delirious bewilderment of heart and soul
    -- when, instantly afterward, having again glanced furtively around,
    she allowed her bright eyes to set fully and steadily upon my own,
    and then, with a faint smile, disclosing a bright line of her pearly
    teeth, made two distinct, pointed, and unequivocal affirmative
    inclinations of the head.

    It is useless, of course, to dwell upon my joy -- upon my transport-
    upon my illimitable ecstasy of heart. If ever man was mad with excess
    of happiness, it was myself at that moment. I loved. This was my
    first love -- so I felt it to be. It was love supreme-indescribable.
    It was "love at first sight;" and at first sight, too, it had been
    appreciated and returned.

    Yes, returned. How and why should I doubt it for an instant. What
    other construction could I possibly put upon such conduct, on the
    part of a lady so beautiful -- so wealthy -- evidently so
    accomplished -- of so high breeding -- of so lofty a position in
    society -- in every regard so entirely respectable as I felt assured
    was Madame Lalande? Yes, she loved me -- she returned the enthusiasm
    of my love, with an enthusiasm as blind -- as uncompromising -- as
    uncalculating -- as abandoned -- and as utterly unbounded as my own!
    These delicious fancies and reflections, however, were now
    interrupted by the falling of the drop-curtain. The audience arose;
    and the usual tumult immediately supervened. Quitting Talbot
    abruptly, I made every effort to force my way into closer proximity
    with Madame Lalande. Having failed in this, on account of the crowd,
    I at length gave up the chase, and bent my steps homeward; consoling
    myself for my disappointment in not having been able to touch even
    the hem of her robe, by the reflection that I should be introduced by
    Talbot, in due form, upon the morrow.

    This morrow at last came, that is to say, a day finally dawned upon a
    long and weary night of impatience; and then the hours until "one"
    were snail-paced, dreary, and innumerable. But even Stamboul, it is
    said, shall have an end, and there came an end to this long delay.
    The clock struck. As the last echo ceased, I stepped into B--'s and
    inquired for Talbot.

    "Out," said the footman -- Talbot's own.

    "Out!" I replied, staggering back half a dozen paces -- "let me tell
    you, my fine fellow, that this thing is thoroughly impossible and
    impracticable; Mr. Talbot is not out. What do you mean?"

    "Nothing, sir; only Mr. Talbot is not in, that's all. He rode over to
    S--, immediately after breakfast, and left word that he would not be
    in town again for a week."

    I stood petrified with horror and rage. I endeavored to reply, but my
    tongue refused its office. At length I turned on my heel, livid with
    wrath, and inwardly consigning the whole tribe of the Talbots to the
    innermost regions of Erebus. It was evident that my considerate
    friend, il fanatico, had quite forgotten his appointment with myself
    -- had forgotten it as soon as it was made. At no time was he a very
    scrupulous man of his word. There was no help for it; so smothering
    my vexation as well as I could, I strolled moodily up the street,
    propounding futile inquiries about Madame Lalande to every male
    acquaintance I met. By report she was known, I found, to all- to many
    by sight -- but she had been in town only a few weeks, and there were
    very few, therefore, who claimed her personal acquaintance. These
    few, being still comparatively strangers, could not, or would not,
    take the liberty of introducing me through the formality of a morning
    call. While I stood thus in despair, conversing with a trio of
    friends upon the all absorbing subject of my heart, it so happened
    that the subject itself passed by.

    "As I live, there she is!" cried one.

    "Surprisingly beautiful!" exclaimed a second.

    "An angel upon earth!" ejaculated a third.

    I looked; and in an open carriage which approached us, passing slowly
    down the street, sat the enchanting vision of the opera, accompanied
    by the younger lady who had occupied a portion of her box.

    "Her companion also wears remarkably well," said the one of my trio
    who had spoken first.

    "Astonishingly," said the second; "still quite a brilliant air, but
    art will do wonders. Upon my word, she looks better than she did at
    Paris five years ago. A beautiful woman still; -- don't you think so,
    Froissart? -- Simpson, I mean."

    "Still!" said I, "and why shouldn't she be? But compared with her
    friend she is as a rush -- light to the evening star -- a glow --
    worm to Antares.

    "Ha! ha! ha! -- why, Simpson, you have an astonishing tact at making
    discoveries -- original ones, I mean." And here we separated, while
    one of the trio began humming a gay vaudeville, of which I caught
    only the lines-

    Ninon, Ninon, Ninon a bas-

    A bas Ninon De L'Enclos!

    During this little scene, however, one thing had served greatly to
    console me, although it fed the passion by which I was consumed. As
    the carriage of Madame Lalande rolled by our group, I had observed
    that she recognized me; and more than this, she had blessed me, by
    the most seraphic of all imaginable smiles, with no equivocal mark of
    the recognition.

    As for an introduction, I was obliged to abandon all hope of it until
    such time as Talbot should think proper to return from the country.
    In the meantime I perseveringly frequented every reputable place of
    public amusement; and, at length, at the theatre, where I first saw
    her, I had the supreme bliss of meeting her, and of exchanging
    glances with her once again. This did not occur, however, until the
    lapse of a fortnight. Every day, in the interim, I had inquired for
    Talbot at his hotel, and every day had been thrown into a spasm of
    wrath by the everlasting "Not come home yet" of his footman.

    Upon the evening in question, therefore, I was in a condition little
    short of madness. Madame Lalande, I had been told, was a Parisian --
    had lately arrived from Paris -- might she not suddenly return? --
    return before Talbot came back -- and might she not be thus lost to
    me forever? The thought was too terrible to bear. Since my future
    happiness was at issue, I resolved to act with a manly decision. In a
    word, upon the breaking up of the play, I traced the lady to her
    residence, noted the address, and the next morning sent her a full
    and elaborate letter, in which I poured out my whole heart.

    I spoke boldly, freely -- in a word, I spoke with passion. I
    concealed nothing -- nothing even of my weakness. I alluded to the
    romantic circumstances of our first meeting -- even to the glances
    which had passed between us. I went so far as to say that I felt
    assured of her love; while I offered this assurance, and my own
    intensity of devotion, as two excuses for my otherwise unpardonable
    conduct. As a third, I spoke of my fear that she might quit the city
    before I could have the opportunity of a formal introduction. I
    concluded the most wildly enthusiastic epistle ever penned, with a
    frank declaration of my worldly circumstances -- of my affluence --
    and with an offer of my heart and of my hand.

    In an agony of expectation I awaited the reply. After what seemed the
    lapse of a century it came.

    Yes, actually came. Romantic as all this may appear, I really
    received a letter from Madame Lalande -- the beautiful, the wealthy,
    the idolized Madame Lalande. Her eyes -- her magnificent eyes, had
    not belied her noble heart. Like a true Frenchwoman as she was she
    had obeyed the frank dictates of her reason -- the generous impulses
    of her nature -- despising the conventional pruderies of the world.
    She had not scorned my proposals. She had not sheltered herself in
    silence. She had not returned my letter unopened. She had even sent
    me, in reply, one penned by her own exquisite fingers. It ran thus:

    "Monsieur Simpson vill pardonne me for not compose de butefulle tong
    of his contree so vell as might. It is only de late dat I am arrive,
    and not yet ave do opportunite for to -- l'etudier.

    "Vid dis apologie for the maniere, I vill now say dat, helas!-
    Monsieur Simpson ave guess but de too true. Need I say de more?
    Helas! am I not ready speak de too moshe?


    This noble -- spirited note I kissed a million times, and committed,
    no doubt, on its account, a thousand other extravagances that have
    now escaped my memory. Still Talbot would not return. Alas! could he
    have formed even the vaguest idea of the suffering his absence had
    occasioned his friend, would not his sympathizing nature have flown
    immediately to my relief? Still, however, he came not. I wrote. He
    replied. He was detained by urgent business -- but would shortly
    return. He begged me not to be impatient -- to moderate my transports
    -- to read soothing books -- to drink nothing stronger than Hock --
    and to bring the consolations of philosophy to my aid. The fool! if
    he could not come himself, why, in the name of every thing rational,
    could he not have enclosed me a letter of presentation? I wrote him
    again, entreating him to forward one forthwith. My letter was
    returned by that footman, with the following endorsement in pencil.
    The scoundrel had joined his master in the country:

    "Left S- -- yesterday, for parts unknown -- did not say where -- or
    when be back -- so thought best to return letter, knowing your
    handwriting, and as how you is always, more or less, in a hurry.

    "Yours sincerely,


    After this, it is needless to say, that I devoted to the infernal
    deities both master and valet: -- but there was little use in anger,
    and no consolation at all in complaint.

    But I had yet a resource left, in my constitutional audacity.
    Hitherto it had served me well, and I now resolved to make it avail
    me to the end. Besides, after the correspondence which had passed
    between us, what act of mere informality could I commit, within
    bounds, that ought to be regarded as indecorous by Madame Lalande?
    Since the affair of the letter, I had been in the habit of watching
    her house, and thus discovered that, about twilight, it was her
    custom to promenade, attended only by a negro in livery, in a public
    square overlooked by her windows. Here, amid the luxuriant and
    shadowing groves, in the gray gloom of a sweet midsummer evening, I
    observed my opportunity and accosted her.

    The better to deceive the servant in attendance, I did this with the
    assured air of an old and familiar acquaintance. With a presence of
    mind truly Parisian, she took the cue at once, and, to greet me, held
    out the most bewitchingly little of hands. The valet at once fell
    into the rear, and now, with hearts full to overflowing, we
    discoursed long and unreservedly of our love.

    As Madame Lalande spoke English even less fluently than she wrote it,
    our conversation was necessarily in French. In this sweet tongue, so
    adapted to passion, I gave loose to the impetuous enthusiasm of my
    nature, and, with all the eloquence I could command, besought her to
    consent to an immediate marriage.

    At this impatience she smiled. She urged the old story of decorum-
    that bug-bear which deters so many from bliss until the opportunity
    for bliss has forever gone by. I had most imprudently made it known
    among my friends, she observed, that I desired her acquaintance- thus
    that I did not possess it -- thus, again, there was no possibility of
    concealing the date of our first knowledge of each other. And then
    she adverted, with a blush, to the extreme recency of this date. To
    wed immediately would be improper -- would be indecorous -- would be
    outre. All this she said with a charming air of naivete which
    enraptured while it grieved and convinced me. She went even so far as
    to accuse me, laughingly, of rashness -- of imprudence. She bade me
    remember that I really even know not who she was -- what were her
    prospects, her connections, her standing in society. She begged me,
    but with a sigh, to reconsider my proposal, and termed my love an
    infatuation -- a will o' the wisp -- a fancy or fantasy of the moment
    -- a baseless and unstable creation rather of the imagination than of
    the heart. These things she uttered as the shadows of the sweet
    twilight gathered darkly and more darkly around us -- and then, with
    a gentle pressure of her fairy-like hand, overthrew, in a single
    sweet instant, all the argumentative fabric she had reared.

    I replied as best I could -- as only a true lover can. I spoke at
    length, and perseveringly of my devotion, of my passion -- of her
    exceeding beauty, and of my own enthusiastic admiration. In
    conclusion, I dwelt, with a convincing energy, upon the perils that
    encompass the course of love -- that course of true love that never
    did run smooth -- and thus deduced the manifest danger of rendering
    that course unnecessarily long.

    This latter argument seemed finally to soften the rigor of her
    determination. She relented; but there was yet an obstacle, she said,
    which she felt assured I had not properly considered. This was a
    delicate point -- for a woman to urge, especially so; in mentioning
    it, she saw that she must make a sacrifice of her feelings; still,
    for me, every sacrifice should be made. She alluded to the topic of
    age. Was I aware -- was I fully aware of the discrepancy between us?
    That the age of the husband, should surpass by a few years -- even by
    fifteen or twenty -- the age of the wife, was regarded by the world
    as admissible, and, indeed, as even proper, but she had always
    entertained the belief that the years of the wife should never exceed
    in number those of the husband. A discrepancy of this unnatural kind
    gave rise, too frequently, alas! to a life of unhappiness. Now she
    was aware that my own age did not exceed two and twenty; and I, on
    the contrary, perhaps, was not aware that the years of my Eugenie
    extended very considerably beyond that sum.

    About all this there was a nobility of soul -- a dignity of candor-
    which delighted -- which enchanted me -- which eternally riveted my
    chains. I could scarcely restrain the excessive transport which
    possessed me.

    "My sweetest Eugenie," I cried, "what is all this about which you are
    discoursing? Your years surpass in some measure my own. But what
    then? The customs of the world are so many conventional follies. To
    those who love as ourselves, in what respect differs a year from an
    hour? I am twenty-two, you say, granted: indeed, you may as well call
    me, at once, twenty-three. Now you yourself, my dearest Eugenie, can
    have numbered no more than -- can have numbered no more than -- no
    more than -- than -- than -- than-"

    Here I paused for an instant, in the expectation that Madame Lalande
    would interrupt me by supplying her true age. But a Frenchwoman is
    seldom direct, and has always, by way of answer to an embarrassing
    query, some little practical reply of her own. In the present
    instance, Eugenie, who for a few moments past had seemed to be
    searching for something in her bosom, at length let fall upon the
    grass a miniature, which I immediately picked up and presented to

    "Keep it!" she said, with one of her most ravishing smiles. "Keep it
    for my sake -- for the sake of her whom it too flatteringly
    represents. Besides, upon the back of the trinket you may discover,
    perhaps, the very information you seem to desire. It is now, to be
    sure, growing rather dark -- but you can examine it at your leisure
    in the morning. In the meantime, you shall be my escort home
    to-night. My friends are about holding a little musical levee. I can
    promise you, too, some good singing. We French are not nearly so
    punctilious as you Americans, and I shall have no difficulty in
    smuggling you in, in the character of an old acquaintance."

    With this, she took my arm, and I attended her home. The mansion was
    quite a fine one, and, I believe, furnished in good taste. Of this
    latter point, however, I am scarcely qualified to judge; for it was
    just dark as we arrived; and in American mansions of the better sort
    lights seldom, during the heat of summer, make their appearance at
    this, the most pleasant period of the day. In about an hour after my
    arrival, to be sure, a single shaded solar lamp was lit in the
    principal drawing-room; and this apartment, I could thus see, was
    arranged with unusual good taste and even splendor; but two other
    rooms of the suite, and in which the company chiefly assembled,
    remained, during the whole evening, in a very agreeable shadow. This
    is a well-conceived custom, giving the party at least a choice of
    light or shade, and one which our friends over the water could not do
    better than immediately adopt.

    The evening thus spent was unquestionably the most delicious of my
    life. Madame Lalande had not overrated the musical abilities of her
    friends; and the singing I here heard I had never heard excelled in
    any private circle out of Vienna. The instrumental performers were
    many and of superior talents. The vocalists were chiefly ladies, and
    no individual sang less than well. At length, upon a peremptory call
    for "Madame Lalande," she arose at once, without affectation or
    demur, from the chaise longue upon which she had sat by my side, and,
    accompanied by one or two gentlemen and her female friend of the
    opera, repaired to the piano in the main drawing-room. I would have
    escorted her myself, but felt that, under the circumstances of my
    introduction to the house, I had better remain unobserved where I
    was. I was thus deprived of the pleasure of seeing, although not of
    hearing, her sing.

    The impression she produced upon the company seemed electrical but
    the effect upon myself was something even more. I know not how
    adequately to describe it. It arose in part, no doubt, from the
    sentiment of love with which I was imbued; but chiefly from my
    conviction of the extreme sensibility of the singer. It is beyond the
    reach of art to endow either air or recitative with more impassioned
    expression than was hers. Her utterance of the romance in Otello --
    the tone with which she gave the words "Sul mio sasso," in the
    Capuletti -- is ringing in my memory yet. Her lower tones were
    absolutely miraculous. Her voice embraced three complete octaves,
    extending from the contralto D to the D upper soprano, and, though
    sufficiently powerful to have filled the San Carlos, executed, with
    the minutest precision, every difficulty of vocal
    composition-ascending and descending scales, cadences, or fiorituri.
    In the final of the Somnambula, she brought about a most remarkable
    effect at the words:

    Ah! non guinge uman pensiero

    Al contento ond 'io son piena.

    Here, in imitation of Malibran, she modified the original phrase of
    Bellini, so as to let her voice descend to the tenor G, when, by a
    rapid transition, she struck the G above the treble stave, springing
    over an interval of two octaves.

    Upon rising from the piano after these miracles of vocal execution,
    she resumed her seat by my side; when I expressed to her, in terms of
    the deepest enthusiasm, my delight at her performance. Of my surprise
    I said nothing, and yet was I most unfeignedly surprised; for a
    certain feebleness, or rather a certain tremulous indecision of voice
    in ordinary conversation, had prepared me to anticipate that, in
    singing, she would not acquit herself with any remarkable ability.

    Our conversation was now long, earnest, uninterrupted, and totally
    unreserved. She made me relate many of the earlier passages of my
    life, and listened with breathless attention to every word of the
    narrative. I concealed nothing -- felt that I had a right to conceal
    nothing -- from her confiding affection. Encouraged by her candor
    upon the delicate point of her age, I entered, with perfect
    frankness, not only into a detail of my many minor vices, but made
    full confession of those moral and even of those physical
    infirmities, the disclosure of which, in demanding so much higher a
    degree of courage, is so much surer an evidence of love. I touched
    upon my college indiscretions -- upon my extravagances -- upon my
    carousals- upon my debts -- upon my flirtations. I even went so far
    as to speak of a slightly hectic cough with which, at one time, I had
    been troubled -- of a chronic rheumatism -- of a twinge of hereditary
    gout- and, in conclusion, of the disagreeable and inconvenient, but
    hitherto carefully concealed, weakness of my eyes.

    "Upon this latter point," said Madame Lalande, laughingly, "you have
    been surely injudicious in coming to confession; for, without the
    confession, I take it for granted that no one would have accused you
    of the crime. By the by," she continued, "have you any recollection-"
    and here I fancied that a blush, even through the gloom of the
    apartment, became distinctly visible upon her cheek -- "have you any
    recollection, mon cher ami of this little ocular assistant, which now
    depends from my neck?"

    As she spoke she twirled in her fingers the identical double
    eye-glass which had so overwhelmed me with confusion at the opera.

    "Full well -- alas! do I remember it," I exclaimed, pressing
    passionately the delicate hand which offered the glasses for my
    inspection. They formed a complex and magnificent toy, richly chased
    and filigreed, and gleaming with jewels, which, even in the deficient
    light, I could not help perceiving were of high value.

    "Eh bien! mon ami" she resumed with a certain empressment of manner
    that rather surprised me -- "Eh bien! mon ami, you have earnestly
    besought of me a favor which you have been pleased to denominate
    priceless. You have demanded of me my hand upon the morrow. Should I
    yield to your entreaties -- and, I may add, to the pleadings of my
    own bosom -- would I not be entitled to demand of you a very -- a
    very little boon in return?"

    "Name it!" I exclaimed with an energy that had nearly drawn upon us
    the observation of the company, and restrained by their presence
    alone from throwing myself impetuously at her feet. "Name it, my
    beloved, my Eugenie, my own! -- name it! -- but, alas! it is already
    yielded ere named."

    "You shall conquer, then, mon ami," said she, "for the sake of the
    Eugenie whom you love, this little weakness which you have at last
    confessed -- this weakness more moral than physical -- and which, let
    me assure you, is so unbecoming the nobility of your real nature --
    so inconsistent with the candor of your usual character -- and which,
    if permitted further control, will assuredly involve you, sooner or
    later, in some very disagreeable scrape. You shall conquer, for my
    sake, this affectation which leads you, as you yourself acknowledge,
    to the tacit or implied denial of your infirmity of vision. For, this
    infirmity you virtually deny, in refusing to employ the customary
    means for its relief. You will understand me to say, then, that I
    wish you to wear spectacles; -- ah, hush! -- you have already
    consented to wear them, for my sake. You shall accept the little toy
    which I now hold in my hand, and which, though admirable as an aid to
    vision, is really of no very immense value as a gem. You perceive
    that, by a trifling modification thus -- or thus -- it can be adapted
    to the eyes in the form of spectacles, or worn in the waistcoat
    pocket as an eye-glass. It is in the former mode, however, and
    habitually, that you have already consented to wear it for my sake."

    This request -- must I confess it? -- confused me in no little
    degree. But the condition with which it was coupled rendered
    hesitation, of course, a matter altogether out of the question.

    "It is done!" I cried, with all the enthusiasm that I could muster at
    the moment. "It is done -- it is most cheerfully agreed. I sacrifice
    every feeling for your sake. To-night I wear this dear eye-glass, as
    an eye-glass, and upon my heart; but with the earliest dawn of that
    morning which gives me the pleasure of calling you wife, I will place
    it upon my -- upon my nose, -- and there wear it ever afterward, in
    the less romantic, and less fashionable, but certainly in the more
    serviceable, form which you desire."

    Our conversation now turned upon the details of our arrangements for
    the morrow. Talbot, I learned from my betrothed, had just arrived in
    town. I was to see him at once, and procure a carriage. The soiree
    would scarcely break up before two; and by this hour the vehicle was
    to be at the door, when, in the confusion occasioned by the departure
    of the company, Madame L. could easily enter it unobserved. We were
    then to call at the house of a clergyman who would be in waiting;
    there be married, drop Talbot, and proceed on a short tour to the
    East, leaving the fashionable world at home to make whatever comments
    upon the matter it thought best.

    Having planned all this, I immediately took leave, and went in search
    of Talbot, but, on the way, I could not refrain from stepping into a
    hotel, for the purpose of inspecting the miniature; and this I did by
    the powerful aid of the glasses. The countenance was a surpassingly
    beautiful one! Those large luminous eyes! -- that proud Grecian nose!
    -- those dark luxuriant curls! -- "Ah!" said I, exultingly to myself,
    "this is indeed the speaking image of my beloved!" I turned the
    reverse, and discovered the words -- "Eugenie Lalande -- aged
    twenty-seven years and seven months."

    I found Talbot at home, and proceeded at once to acquaint him with my
    good fortune. He professed excessive astonishment, of course, but
    congratulated me most cordially, and proffered every assistance in
    his power. In a word, we carried out our arrangement to the letter,
    and, at two in the morning, just ten minutes after the ceremony, I
    found myself in a close carriage with Madame Lalande -- with Mrs.
    Simpson, I should say -- and driving at a great rate out of town, in
    a direction Northeast by North, half-North.

    It had been determined for us by Talbot, that, as we were to be up
    all night, we should make our first stop at C--, a village about
    twenty miles from the city, and there get an early breakfast and some
    repose, before proceeding upon our route. At four precisely,
    therefore, the carriage drew up at the door of the principal inn. I
    handed my adored wife out, and ordered breakfast forthwith. In the
    meantime we were shown into a small parlor, and sat down.

    It was now nearly if not altogether daylight; and, as I gazed,
    enraptured, at the angel by my side, the singular idea came, all at
    once, into my head, that this was really the very first moment since
    my acquaintance with the celebrated loveliness of Madame Lalande,
    that I had enjoyed a near inspection of that loveliness by daylight
    at all.

    "And now, mon ami," said she, taking my hand, and so interrupting
    this train of reflection, "and now, mon cher ami, since we are
    indissolubly one -- since I have yielded to your passionate
    entreaties, and performed my portion of our agreement -- I presume
    you have not forgotten that you also have a little favor to bestow --
    a little promise which it is your intention to keep. Ah! let me see!
    Let me remember! Yes; full easily do I call to mind the precise words
    of the dear promise you made to Eugenie last night. Listen! You spoke
    thus: 'It is done! -- it is most cheerfully agreed! I sacrifice every
    feeling for your sake. To-night I wear this dear eye-glass as an
    eye-glass, and upon my heart; but with the earliest dawn of that
    morning which gives me the privilege of calling you wife, I will
    place it upon my -- upon my nose, -- and there wear it ever
    afterward, in the less romantic, and less fashionable, but certainly
    in the more serviceable, form which you desire.' These were the exact
    words, my beloved husband, were they not?"

    "They were," I said; "you have an excellent memory; and assuredly, my
    beautiful Eugenie, there is no disposition on my part to evade the
    performance of the trivial promise they imply. See! Behold! they are
    becoming -- rather -- are they not?" And here, having arranged the
    glasses in the ordinary form of spectacles, I applied them gingerly
    in their proper position; while Madame Simpson, adjusting her cap,
    and folding her arms, sat bolt upright in her chair, in a somewhat
    stiff and prim, and indeed, in a somewhat undignified position.

    "Goodness gracious me!" I exclaimed, almost at the very instant that
    the rim of the spectacles had settled upon my nose -- "My goodness
    gracious me! -- why, what can be the matter with these glasses?" and
    taking them quickly off, I wiped them carefully with a silk
    handkerchief, and adjusted them again.

    But if, in the first instance, there had occurred something which
    occasioned me surprise, in the second, this surprise became elevated
    into astonishment; and this astonishment was profound -- was extreme-
    indeed I may say it was horrific. What, in the name of everything
    hideous, did this mean? Could I believe my eyes? -- could I? -- that
    was the question. Was that -- was that -- was that rouge? And were
    those- and were those -- were those wrinkles, upon the visage of
    Eugenie Lalande? And oh! Jupiter, and every one of the gods and
    goddesses, little and big! what -- what -- what -- what had become of
    her teeth? I dashed the spectacles violently to the ground, and,
    leaping to my feet, stood erect in the middle of the floor,
    confronting Mrs. Simpson, with my arms set a-kimbo, and grinning and
    foaming, but, at the same time, utterly speechless with terror and
    with rage.

    Now I have already said that Madame Eugenie Lalande -- that is to
    say, Simpson -- spoke the English language but very little better
    than she wrote it, and for this reason she very properly never
    attempted to speak it upon ordinary occasions. But rage will carry a
    lady to any extreme; and in the present care it carried Mrs. Simpson
    to the very extraordinary extreme of attempting to hold a
    conversation in a tongue that she did not altogether understand.

    "Vell, Monsieur," said she, after surveying me, in great apparent
    astonishment, for some moments -- "Vell, Monsieur? -- and vat den? --
    vat de matter now? Is it de dance of de Saint itusse dat you ave? If
    not like me, vat for vy buy de pig in the poke?"

    "You wretch!" said I, catching my breath -- "you -- you -- you
    villainous old hag!"

    "Ag? -- ole? -- me not so ver ole, after all! Me not one single day
    more dan de eighty-doo."

    "Eighty-two!" I ejaculated, staggering to the wall -- "eighty-two
    hundred thousand baboons! The miniature said twenty-seven years and
    seven months!"

    "To be sure! -- dat is so! -- ver true! but den de portraite has been
    take for dese fifty-five year. Ven I go marry my segonde usbande,
    Monsieur Lalande, at dat time I had de portraite take for my daughter
    by my first usbande, Monsieur Moissart!"

    "Moissart!" said I.

    "Yes, Moissart," said she, mimicking my pronunciation, which, to
    speak the truth, was none of the best, -- "and vat den? Vat you know
    about de Moissart?"

    "Nothing, you old fright! -- I know nothing about him at all; only I
    had an ancestor of that name, once upon a time."

    "Dat name! and vat you ave for say to dat name? 'Tis ver goot name;
    and so is Voissart -- dat is ver goot name too. My daughter,
    Mademoiselle Moissart, she marry von Monsieur Voissart, -- and de
    name is bot ver respectaable name."

    "Moissart?" I exclaimed, "and Voissart! Why, what is it you mean?"

    "Vat I mean? -- I mean Moissart and Voissart; and for de matter of
    dat, I mean Croissart and Froisart, too, if I only tink proper to
    mean it. My daughter's daughter, Mademoiselle Voissart, she marry von
    Monsieur Croissart, and den again, my daughter's grande daughter,
    Mademoiselle Croissart, she marry von Monsieur Froissart; and I
    suppose you say dat dat is not von ver respectaable name.-"

    "Froissart!" said I, beginning to faint, "why, surely you don't say
    Moissart, and Voissart, and Croissart, and Froissart?"

    "Yes," she replied, leaning fully back in her chair, and stretching
    out her lower limbs at great length; "yes, Moissart, and Voissart,
    and Croissart, and Froissart. But Monsieur Froissart, he vas von ver
    big vat you call fool -- he vas von ver great big donce like yourself
    -- for he lef la belle France for come to dis stupide Amerique- and
    ven he get here he went and ave von ver stupide, von ver, ver stupide
    sonn, so I hear, dough I not yet av ad de plaisir to meet vid him --
    neither me nor my companion, de Madame Stephanie Lalande. He is name
    de Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart, and I suppose you say dat dat, too,
    is not von ver respectable name."

    Either the length or the nature of this speech, had the effect of
    working up Mrs. Simpson into a very extraordinary passion indeed; and
    as she made an end of it, with great labor, she lumped up from her
    chair like somebody bewitched, dropping upon the floor an entire
    universe of bustle as she lumped. Once upon her feet, she gnashed her
    gums, brandished her arms, rolled up her sleeves, shook her fist in
    my face, and concluded the performance by tearing the cap from her
    head, and with it an immense wig of the most valuable and beautiful
    black hair, the whole of which she dashed upon the ground with a
    yell, and there trammpled and danced a fandango upon it, in an
    absolute ecstasy and agony of rage.

    Meantime I sank aghast into the chair which she had vacated.
    "Moissart and Voissart!" I repeated, thoughtfully, as she cut one of
    her pigeon-wings, and "Croissart and Froissart!" as she completed
    another -- "Moissart and Voissart and Croissart and Napoleon
    Bonaparte Froissart! -- why, you ineffable old serpent, that's me --
    that's me -- d'ye hear? that's me" -- here I screamed at the top of
    my voice -- "that's me-e-e! I am Napoleon Bonaparte Froissart! and if
    I havn't married my great, great, grandmother, I wish I may be
    everlastingly confounded!"

    Madame Eugenie Lalande, quasi Simpson -- formerly Moissart -- was, in
    sober fact, my great, great, grandmother. In her youth she had been
    beautiful, and even at eighty-two, retained the majestic height, the
    sculptural contour of head, the fine eyes and the Grecian nose of her
    girlhood. By the aid of these, of pearl-powder, of rouge, of false
    hair, false teeth, and false tournure, as well as of the most skilful
    modistes of Paris, she contrived to hold a respectable footing among
    the beauties en peu passees of the French metropolis. In this
    respect, indeed, she might have been regarded as little less than the
    equal of the celebrated Ninon De L'Enclos.

    She was immensely wealthy, and being left, for the second time, a
    widow without children, she bethought herself of my existence in
    America, and for the purpose of making me her heir, paid a visit to
    the United States, in company with a distant and exceedingly lovely
    relative of her second husband's -- a Madame Stephanie Lalande.

    At the opera, my great, great, grandmother's attention was arrested
    by my notice; and, upon surveying me through her eye-glass, she was
    struck with a certain family resemblance to herself. Thus interested,
    and knowing that the heir she sought was actually in the city, she
    made inquiries of her party respecting me. The gentleman who attended
    her knew my person, and told her who I was. The information thus
    obtained induced her to renew her scrutiny; and this scrutiny it was
    which so emboldened me that I behaved in the absurd manner already
    detailed. She returned my bow, however, under the impression that, by
    some odd accident, I had discovered her identity. When, deceived by
    my weakness of vision, and the arts of the toilet, in respect to the
    age and charms of the strange lady, I demanded so enthusiastically of
    Talbot who she was, he concluded that I meant the younger beauty, as
    a matter of course, and so informed me, with perfect truth, that she
    was "the celebrated widow, Madame Lalande."

    In the street, next morning, my great, great, grandmother encountered
    Talbot, an old Parisian acquaintance; and the conversation, very
    naturally turned upon myself. My deficiencies of vision were then
    explained; for these were notorious, although I was entirely ignorant
    of their notoriety, and my good old relative discovered, much to her
    chagrin, that she had been deceived in supposing me aware of her
    identity, and that I had been merely making a fool of myself in
    making open love, in a theatre, to an old woman unknown. By way of
    punishing me for this imprudence, she concocted with Talbot a plot.
    He purposely kept out of my way to avoid giving me the introduction.
    My street inquiries about "the lovely widow, Madame Lalande," were
    supposed to refer to the younger lady, of course, and thus the
    conversation with the three gentlemen whom I encountered shortly
    after leaving Talbot's hotel will be easily explained, as also their
    allusion to Ninon De L'Enclos. I had no opportunity of seeing Madame
    Lalande closely during daylight; and, at her musical soiree, my silly
    weakness in refusing the aid of glasses effectually prevented me from
    making a discovery of her age. When "Madame Lalande" was called upon
    to sing, the younger lady was intended; and it was she who arose to
    obey the call; my great, great, grandmother, to further the
    deception, arising at the same moment and accompanying her to the
    piano in the main drawing-room. Had I decided upon escorting her
    thither, it had been her design to suggest the propriety of my
    remaining where I was; but my own prudential views rendered this
    unnecessary. The songs which I so much admired, and which so
    confirmed my impression of the youth of my mistress, were executed by
    Madame Stephanie Lalande. The eyeglass was presented by way of adding
    a reproof to the hoax -- a sting to the epigram of the deception. Its
    presentation afforded an opportunity for the lecture upon affectation
    with which I was so especially edified. It is almost superfluous to
    add that the glasses of the instrument, as worn by the old lady, had
    been exchanged by her for a pair better adapted to my years. They
    suited me, in fact, to a T.

    The clergyman, who merely pretended to tie the fatal knot, was a boon
    companion of Talbot's, and no priest. He was an excellent "whip,"
    however; and having doffed his cassock to put on a great-coat, he
    drove the hack which conveyed the "happy couple" out of town. Talbot
    took a seat at his side. The two scoundrels were thus "in at the
    death," and through a half-open window of the back parlor of the inn,
    amused themselves in grinning at the denouement of the drama. I
    believe I shall be forced to call them both out.

    Nevertheless, I am not the husband of my great, great, grandmother;
    and this is a reflection which affords me infinite relief, -- but I
    am the husband of Madame Lalande -- of Madame Stephanie Lalande --
    with whom my good old relative, besides making me her sole heir when
    she dies -- if she ever does -- has been at the trouble of concocting
    me a match. In conclusion: I am done forever with billets doux and am
    never to be met without SPECTACLES.
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