The Lady of the Camellias CHAPTER XXVII

“Have you read it?” Armand asked when I had finished this manuscript.

“I understand what you must have suffered, my friend, if everything I’ve read is true!”

“My father confirmed it to me in a letter.”

We spoke for some time more of the sad destiny that had just come to a close, and I went home to rest a little.

Armand, still sad, but somewhat relieved from having related this history, recovered quickly, and together we went to visit Prudence and Julie Duprat.

Prudence had just gone bankrupt. She told us that Marguerite was responsible, that she had lent her a lot of money for which she had made promissory notes she could not redeem, since Marguerite had died without returning them to her, and had not given her any receipts she could present as a creditor.

With the help of this fable that Mme Duvernoy spread everywhere as an excuse for her bad business practices, she got a thousand-franc bill out of Armand, who didn’t believe her, but who acted as if he did out of respect for anything connected with his mistress.

Then we went to see Julie Duprat, who related to us the sad events she had witnessed, shedding sincere tears in memory of her friend.

Finally we went to Marguerite’s tomb, on which the first rays of April sunshine were making the first leaves break their buds.

Armand had one last duty to fulfill, which was to rejoin his father. He wanted me to accompany him.

We arrived at C . . . , where I saw M. Duval just as I had pictured him from the portrait his son had drawn of him: tall, dignified, benevolent.

He welcomed Armand with tears of happiness, and affectionately shook my hand. I soon perceived that, for this tax collector, fatherly feeling dominated all other sentiments.

His daughter, named Blanche, had that clarity of eye and gaze, that serenity of the mouth, that showed that her soul could conceive none but holy thoughts and her lips could pronounce none but pious words. She smiled at her brother’s return, not knowing, this chaste young girl, that far away from her, a courtesan had sacrificed her own happiness at the mere invocation of her name.

I stayed for some time with this happy family, all of them fussing over the man who had brought his heart to them to be healed.

I returned to Paris, where I wrote this story just as it was told to me. It has only one merit, though this may yet be challenged: that it is true.

I do not draw from this narrative the conclusion that all girls like Marguerite are capable of doing what she did—far from it—but I know that one of them experienced in her life a profound love, that she suffered for it, and died of it. I have told the reader what I have learned. It was a duty.

I am no apostle of vice, but I will let the echo of noble misfortune ring out everywhere I hear it in prayer.

The story of Marguerite is an exception, I repeat; had it been a general case, it would not have been worth the trouble of writing down.