This article presented by (Copyright 2007)

The Memoirs of Sarah Bernhardt

Published 1907


January 26, 1872, was an artistic fête for the Odéon. The Tout-Paris of first nights and the vibrating younger elements were to meet in the large, solemn, dusty theatre. Ah, what a splendid, stirring performance it was! What a triumph for Geffroy, pale, sinister, and severe-looking in his black costume as Don Salluste. Mélingue rather disappointed the public as Don César de Bazan, and the public was in the wrong. The rôle of Don César de Bazan is a treacherously good rôle, which always tempts artists by the brilliancy of the first act; but the fourth act, which belongs entirely to him, is distressingly heavy and useless. It might be taken out of the piece just like a periwinkle out of its shell, and the piece would be none the less clear and complete.

This 26th of January rent asunder, though, for me the thin veil which still made my future hazy, and I felt that I was destined for celebrity. Until that day I had remained the students' little fairy. I became then the Elect of the public.

Breathless, dazed, and yet delighted by my success, I did not know to whom to reply in the ever-changing stream of male and female admirers. Then, suddenly, I saw the crowd separating and forming two lines, and I caught a glimpse of Victor Hugo and Girardin coming towards me. In a second all the stupid ideas I had had about this immense genius flashed across me. I remembered my first interview, when I had been stiff and barely polite to this kind, indulgent man. At that moment, when all my life was opening its wings, I should have liked to cry out to him my repentance and to tell him of my devout gratitude.

Before I could speak, though, he was down on his knee, and raising my two hands to his lips, he murmured, "Thank you! Thank you!"

And so it was he who said "Thank you." He, the great Victor Hugo, whose soul was so beautiful, whose universal genius filled the world! He, whose generous hands flung pardons like gems to all his insulters. Ah, how small I felt, how ashamed, and yet how happy! He then rose, shook the hands that were held out to him, finding for every one the right word.

He was so handsome that night, with his broad forehead, which seemed to retain the light, his thick, silvery fleece of hair, and his laughing luminous eyes.

Not daring to fling myself in Victor Hugo's arms, I fell into Girardin's, the sure friend of my first steps, and I burst into tears. He took me aside in my dressing-room. "You must not let yourself be intoxicated with this great success now," he said. "There must be no more risky jumps, now that you are crowned with laurels. You will have to be more yielding, more docile, more sociable."

"I feel that I shall never be yielding nor docile, my friend," I answered looking at him, "I will try to be more sociable, but that is all I can promise. As to my crown, I assure you that in spite of my risky jumps, and I feel that I shall always be making some, the crown will not shake off."

Paul Meurice, who had come up to us, overheard this conversation, and reminded me of it on the evening of the first performance of Angelo at the Sarah Bernhardt Theatre, on February 7, 1905.

On returning home, I sat up a long time talking to Madame Guérard, and when she wanted to go I begged her to stay longer. I had become so rich in hopes for the future that I was afraid of thieves. Mon petit Dame stayed on with me, and we talked till daybreak. At seven o'clock we took a cab and I drove my dear friend home, and then continued driving for another hour. I had already achieved a fair number of successes: Le Passant, Le Drame de la Rue de la Paix, Anna Danby in Kean, and Jean-Marie, but I felt that the Ruy Blas success was greater than any of the others, and that this time I had become some one to be criticised, but not to be overlooked.

I often went in the morning to Victor Hugo's, and he was always very charming and kind.

When I was quite at my ease with him, I spoke to him about my first impressions, about all my stupid, nervous rebellion with regard to him, about all that I had been told and all that I had believed in my naïve ignorance about political matters.

One morning the Master took great delight in my conversation. He sent for Madame Drouet, the sweet soul, the companion of his glorious and rebellious mind. He told her, in a laughing but melancholy way, that the evil work of bad people is to sow error in every soil, whether favourable or not. That morning is engraved for ever in my mind, for the great man talked a long time. Oh, it was not for me, but for what I represented in his eyes. Was I not, as a matter of fact, the young generation, in which a bourgeois and clerical education had warped the intelligence by closing the mind to every generous idea, to every flight towards the new?

When I left Victor Hugo that morning I felt myself more worthy of his friendship.

I then went to Girardin's, as I wanted to talk to some one who loved the poet, but he was out.

I went next to Marshal Canrobert's, and there I had a great surprise. Just as I was getting out of the carriage, I nearly fell into the arms of the Marshal, who was coming out of his house.

"What is it? What's the matter? Is it postponed?" he asked, laughing.

I did not understand, and gazed at him rather bewildered.

"Well, have you forgotten that you invited me to luncheon?" he asked.

I was quite confused, for I had entirely forgotten it.

"Well, all the better!" I said; "I very much wanted to talk to you. Come; I am going to take you with me now."

I then related my visit to Victor Hugo, and repeated all the fine thoughts he had uttered, forgetting that I was constantly saying things that were contrary to the Marshal's ideas. This admirable man could admire, though, and if he could not change his opinions, he approved the great ideas which were to bring about great changes.

One day, when he and Busnach were both at my house, there was a political discussion which became rather violent. I was afraid for a moment that things might take a bad turn, as Busnach was the most witty and at the same time the rudest man in France. It is only fair to say, though, that if Marshal Canrobert was a polite man and very well bred, he was not at all behind William Busnach in wit. The latter was worked up by the chafing speeches of the Marshal.

"I challenge you, Monsieur," he exclaimed, "to write about the odious Utopias that you have just been supporting!"

"Oh, Monsieur Busnach," replied Canrobert coldly, "we do not use the same steel for writing history! You use a pen, and I a sword."

The luncheon that I had so completely forgotten was nevertheless a luncheon arranged several days previously. On reaching home we found there Paul de Rémusat, charming Mlle. Hocquigny, and M. de Monbel, a young attaché d'ambassade. I explained my lateness as well as I could, and that morning finished in the most delicious harmony of ideas.

I have never felt more than I did that day the infinite joy of listening.

During a silence Mlle. Hocquigny turned to the Marshal and said:

"Are you not of the opinion that our young friend should enter the Comédie Française?"

"Ah, no, no!" I exclaimed; "I am so happy at the Odéon. I began at the Comédie, and the short time I remained there I was very unhappy."

"You will be obliged to go back there, my dear friend--obliged. Believe me, it will be better early than late."

"Well, do not spoil today's pleasure for me, for I have never been happier!"

One morning shortly after this my maid brought me a letter. The large round stamp, on which are the words "Comédie Française" was on the corner of the envelope.

I remembered that ten years previously, almost day for day, our old servant Marguerite had, with my mother's permission, handed me a letter in the same kind of envelope.

My face then had flushed with joy, but this time I felt a faint tinge of pallor touch my cheeks.

When events occur which disturb my life, I always have a movement of recoil. I cling for a second to what is, and then I fling myself headlong into what is to be. It is like a gymnast who clings first to his trapeze bar in order to fling himself afterwards with full force into space. In one second what now is becomes for me what was, and I love it with tender emotion as something dead. But I adore what is to be without seeking even to know about it, for what is to be is the unknown, the mysterious attraction. I always fancy that it will be something unheard of, and I shudder from head to foot in delicious uneasiness. I receive quantities of letters, and it seems to me that I never receive enough. I watch them accumulating just as I watch the waves of the sea. What are they going to bring me, these mysterious envelopes, large, small, pink, blue, yellow, white? What are they going to fling upon the rock, these great wild waves, dark with seaweed? What sailor-boy's corpse? What remains of a wreck? What are these little brisk waves going to leave on the beach, these reflections of a blue sky, little laughing waves? What pink "sea-star"? What mauve anemone? What pearly shell?

So I never open my letters immediately. I look at the envelopes, try to recognise the handwriting and the seal; and it is only when I am quite certain from whom the letter comes that I open it. The others I leave my secretary to open or a kind friend, Suzanne Seylor. My friends know this so well that they always put their initials in the corner of their envelopes.

At that time I had no secretary, but mon petit Dame served me as such.

I looked at the envelope a long time, and gave it at last to Madame Guérard.

"It is a letter from M. Perrin, director of the Comédie Française," she said. "He asks if you can fix a time to see him on Tuesday or Wednesday afternoon at the Comédie Française or at your own house."

"Thanks. What day is it to-day?" I asked.

"Monday," she replied.

I then installed Madame Guérard at my desk, and asked her to reply that I would go there the following day at three o'clock.

I was earning very little at that time at the Odéon. I was living on what my father had left me--that is, on the transaction made by the Havre notary--and not much remained. I therefore went to see Duquesnel and showed him the letter.

"Well, what are you going to do?" he asked.

"Nothing. I have come to ask your advice."

"Oh well, I advise you to remain at the Odéon. Besides, your engagement does not terminate for another year, and I shall not allow you leave!"

"Well, raise my salary, then," I said. "I am offered twelve thousand francs a year at the Comédie. Give me fifteen thousand here and I will stay, for I do not want to leave."

"Listen to me," said the charming manager in a friendly way. "You know that I am not free to act alone. I will do my best, I promise you." And Duquesnel certainly kept his word. "Come here to-morrow before going to the Comédie, and I will give you Chilly's reply. But take my advice, and if he obstinately refuses to increase your salary, do not leave; we shall find some way.... And besides--Anyhow, I cannot say any more."

I returned the following day according to arrangement.

I found Duquesnel and Chilly in the managerial office. Chilly began at once somewhat roughly:

"And so you want to leave, Duquesnel tells me. Where are you going? It is most stupid, for your place is here. Just consider, and think it over for yourself. At the Gymnase they only give modern pieces, dressy plays. That is not your style. At the Vaudeville it is the same. At the Gaîté you would spoil your voice. You are too distinguished for the Ambigu."

I looked at him without replying. I saw that his partner had not spoken to him about the Comédie Française. He felt awkward, and mumbled:

"Well then, you are of my opinion?"

"No," I answered; "you have forgotten the Comédie."

He was sitting in his big arm-chair, and he burst out laughing.

"Ah no, my dear girl," he said, "you must not tell me that. They've had enough of your queer character at the Comédie. I dined the other night with Maubant, and when some one said that you ought to be engaged at the Comédie Française he nearly choked with rage. I can assure you the great tragedian did not show much affection for you."

"Oh well, you ought to have taken my part," I exclaimed, irritated. "You know very well that I am a most serious member of your company."

"But I did take your part," he said, "and I added even that it would be a very fortunate thing for the Comédie if it could have an artiste with your will power, which perhaps might relieve the monotonous tone of the house; and I only spoke as I thought, but the poor tragedian was beside himself. He does not consider that you have any talent. In the first place, he maintains that you do not know how to recite verse. He declares that you make all your a's too broad. Finally, when he had no arguments left he declared that as long as he lives you will never enter the Comédie Française."

I was silent for a moment, weighing the pros and cons of the probable result of my experiment. Finally coming to a decision, I murmured somewhat waveringly:

"Well then, you will not give me a higher salary?"

"No, a thousand times no!" yelled Chilly. "You will try to make me pay up when your engagement comes to an end, and then we shall see. But I have your signature until then. You have mine, too, and I hold to our engagement. The Théâtre Français is the only one that would suit you beside ours, and I am quite easy in my mind with regard to that theatre."

"You make a mistake perhaps," I answered. He got up brusquely and came and stood opposite me, his two hands in his pockets. He then said in an odious and familiar tone:

"Ah, that's it, is it? You think I am an idiot, then?"

I got up too, and said coldly, pushing him gently back, "I think you are a triple idiot." I then hurried away towards the staircase, and all Duquesnel's shouting was in vain. I ran down the stairs two at a time.

On arriving under the Odéon arcade I was stopped by Paul Meurice, who was just going to invite Duquesnel and Chilly, on behalf of Victor Hugo, to a supper to celebrate the one hundredth performance of Ruy Blas.

"I have just come from your house," he said. "I have left you a few lines from Victor Hugo."

"Good, good; that's all right," I replied, getting into my carriage. "I shall see you to-morrow then, my friend."

"Good Heavens, what a hurry you are in!" he said.

"Yes!" I replied, and then, leaning out of the window, I said to my coachman, "Drive to the Comédie Française."

I looked at Paul Meurice to wish him farewell. He was standing stupefied on the arcade steps.

On arriving at the Comédie I sent my card to Perrin, and five minutes later was ushered in to that icy mannikin. There were two very distinct personages in this man. The one was the man he was himself, and the other the one he had created for the requirements of his profession. Perrin himself was gallant, pleasant, witty, and slightly timid; the mannikin was cold, and somewhat given to posing.

I was first received by Perrin the mannikin. He was standing up, his head bent, bowing to a woman, his arm outstretched to indicate the hospitable armchair. He waited with a certain affectation until I was seated before sitting down himself. He then picked up a paper-knife, in order to have something to do with his hands, and in a rather weak voice, the voice of the mannikin, he remarked:

"Have you thought it over, Mademoiselle?"

"Yes, Monsieur, and here I am to give my signature."

Before he had time to give me any encouragement to dabble with the things on his desk, I drew up my chair, picked up a pen, and prepared to sign the paper. I did not take enough ink at first, and I stretched my arm out across the whole width of the writing table, and dipped my pen this time resolutely to the bottom of the ink-pot. I took too much ink, however, this time, and on the return journey a huge spot of it fell on the large sheet of white paper in front of the mannikin.

He bent his head, for he was slightly short-sighted, and looked for a moment like a bird when it discovers a hemp-seed in its grain. He then proceeded to put aside the blotted sheet.

"Wait a minute, oh, wait a minute!" I exclaimed, seizing the inky paper. "I want to see whether I am doing right or not to sign. If that is a butterfly I am right, and if anything else, no matter what, I am wrong." I took the sheet, doubled it in the middle of the enormous blot, and pressed it firmly together. Emile Perrin thereupon began to laugh, giving up his mannikin attitude entirely. He leaned over to examine the paper with me, and we opened it very gently just as one opens one's hand after imprisoning a fly. When the paper was spread open, in the midst of its whiteness a magnificent black butterfly with outspread wings was to be seen.

"Well then," said Perrin, with nothing of the mannikin left, "we were quite right in signing."

After this we talked for some time, like two friends who meet again, for this man was charming and very fascinating, in spite of his ugliness. When I left him we were friends and delighted with each other.

I was playing in Ruy Blas that night at the Odéon. Towards ten o'clock Duquesnel came to my dressing-room.

"You were rather rough on that poor Chilly," he said. "And you really were not nice. You ought to have come back when I called you. Is it true, as Paul Meurice tells us, that you went straight to the Théâtre Français?"

"Here, read for yourself," I said, handing him my engagement with the Comédie.

Duquesnel took the paper and read it.

"Will you let me show it to Chilly?" he asked.

"Show it him, certainly," I replied.

He came nearer, and said in a grave, hurt tone:

"You ought never to have done that without telling me first. It shows a lack of confidence I do not deserve."

He was right, but the thing was done. A moment later Chilly arrived, furious, gesticulating, shouting, stammering in his anger.

"It is abominable!" he said. "It is treason, and you had not even the right to do it. I shall make you pay damages."

As I felt in a bad humour, I turned my back on him, and apologised as feebly as possible to Duquesnel. He was hurt, and I was a little ashamed, for this man had given me nothing but proofs of kindliness, and it was he who, in spite of Chilly and many other unwilling people, had held the door open for my future.

Chilly kept his word, and brought an action against me and the Comédie. I lost, and had to pay six thousand francs damages to the managers of the Odéon.

A few weeks later Victor Hugo invited the artistes who performed in Ruy Bias to a big supper in honour of the one hundredth performance. This was a great delight to me, as I had never been present at a supper of this kind.

I had scarcely spoken to Chilly since our last scene. On the night in question he was placed at my right, and we had to get reconciled. I was seated to the right of Victor Hugo, and to his left was Madame Lambquin, who was playing the Camerara Mayor, and Duquesnel was next to Madame Lambquin. Opposite the illustrious poet was another poet, Théophile Gautier, with his lion's head on an elephant's body. He had a brilliant mind, and said the choicest things with a horse laugh. The flesh of his fat, flabby, wan face was pierced by two eyes veiled by heavy lids. The expression of them was charming, but far away. There was in this man an Oriental nobility choked by Western fashion and customs. I knew nearly all his poetry, and I gazed at him with affection--the fond lover of the beautiful.

It amused me to imagine him dressed in superb Oriental costumes. I could see him lying down on huge cushions, his beautiful hands playing with gems of all colours; and some of his verses came in murmurs to my lips. I was just setting off with him in a dream that was infinite, when a word from my neighbour, Victor Hugo, made me turn towards him.

What a difference! He was just himself, the great poet--the most ordinary of beings except for his luminous forehead. He was heavy-looking, although very active. His nose was common, his eyes lewd, and his mouth without any beauty; his voice alone had nobility and charm. I liked to listen to him whilst looking at Théophile Gautier.

I was a little embarrassed, though, when I looked across the table, for at the side of the poet was an odious individual, Paul de St. Victor. His cheeks looked like two bladders from which the oil they contained was oozing out. His nose was sharp and like a crow's beak, his eyes evil-looking and hard; his arms were too short, and he was too stout. He looked like a jaundice.

He had plenty of wit and talent, but he employed both in saying and writing more harm than good. I knew that this man hated me, and I promptly returned him hatred for hatred.

In answer to the toast proposed by Victor Hugo thanking every one for such zealous help on the revival of his work, each person raised his glass and looked towards the poet, but the illustrious master turned towards me and continued, "As to you, Madame----"

Just at this moment Paul de St. Victor put his glass down so violently on the table that it broke. There was an instant of stupor, and then I leaned across the table and held my glass out towards Paul de St. Victor.

"Take mine, Monsieur," I said, "and then when you drink you will know what my thoughts are in reply to yours, which you have just expressed so clearly!"

The horrid man took my glass, but with what a look!

Victor Hugo finished his speech in the midst of applause and cheers. Duquesnel then leaned back and spoke to me quietly. He asked me to tell Chilly to reply to Victor Hugo. I did as requested. But he gazed at me with a glassy look, and in a faraway voice replied:

"Some one is holding my legs." I looked at him more attentively, whilst Duquesnel asked for silence for M. de Chilly's speech. I saw that his fingers were grasping a fork desperately; the tips of his fingers were white, the rest of the hand was violet. I took his hand, and it was icy cold; the other was hanging down inert under the table. There was silence, and all eyes turned towards Chilly.

"Get up," I said, seized with terror. He made a movement, and his head suddenly fell forward with his face on his plate. There was a muffled uproar, and the few women present surrounded the poor man. Stupid, commonplace, indifferent things were uttered in the same way that one mutters familiar prayers. His son was sent for, and then two of the waiters came and carried the body away, living but inert, and placed it in a small drawing-room.

Duquesnel stayed with him, begging me, however, to go back to the poet's guests. I returned to the room where the supper had taken place. Groups had been formed, and when I was seen entering I was asked if he was still as ill.

"The doctor has just arrived, and he cannot yet say," I replied.

"It is indigestion," said Lafontaine (Ruy Blas), tossing off a glass of liqueur brandy.

"It is cerebral anaemia," pronounced Talien (Don Guritan), clumsily, for he was always losing his memory.

Victor Hugo approached and said very simply:

"It is a beautiful kind of death."

He then took my arm and led me away to the other end of the room, trying to chase my thoughts away by gallant and poetical whispers. Some little time passed with this gloom weighing on us, and then Duquesnel appeared. He was pale, but appeared as if nothing serious was the matter. He was ready to answer all questions.

Oh yes; he had just been taken home. It would be nothing, it appeared. He only needed rest for a couple of days. Probably his feet had been cold during the meal.

"Yes," put in one of the Ruy Blas guests, "there certainly was a fine draught under the table."

"Yes," Duquesnel was just replying to some one who was worrying him, "yes; no doubt there was too much heat for his head."

"Yes," added another of the guests, "our heads were nearly on fire with that wretched gas."

I could see the moment arriving when Victor Hugo would be reproached by all of his guests for the cold, the heat, the food, and the wine of his banquet. All these imbecile remarks got on Duquesnel's nerves. He shrugged his shoulders, and drawing me away from the crowd, said:

"It's all over with him."

I had had the presentiment of this, but the certitude of it now caused me intense grief.

"I want to go," I said to Duquesnel. "Kindly tell some one to ask for my carriage."

I moved towards the small drawing-room which served as a cloak-room for our wraps, and there old Madame Lambquin knocked up against me. Slightly intoxicated by the heat and the wine, she was waltzing with Talien.

"Ah, I beg your pardon, little Madonna," she said; "I nearly knocked you over."

I pulled her towards me, and without reflecting whispered to her, "Don't dance any more, Mamma Lambquin; Chilly is dying." She was purple, but her face turned as white as chalk. Her teeth began to chatter, but she did not utter a word.

"Oh, my dear Lambquin," I murmured; "I did not know I should make you so wretched."

She was not listening to me, though, any longer; she was putting on her cloak.

"Are you leaving?" she asked me.

"Yes," I replied.

"Will you drive me home? I will then tell you----"

She wrapped a black fichu round her head, and we both went downstairs, accompanied by Duquesnel and Paul Meurice, who saw us into the carriage.

She lived in the St. Germain quarter and I in the Rue de Rome. On the way the poor woman told me the following story.

"You know, my dear," she began, "I have a mania for somnambulists and fortune-tellers of all kinds. Well, last Friday (you see, I only consult them on a Friday) a woman who tells fortunes by cards said to me, 'You will die a week after a man who is dark and not young, and whose life is connected with yours.' Well, my dear, I thought she was just making game of me, for there is no man whose life is connected with mine, as I am a widow and have never had any liaison. I therefore abused her for this, as I pay her seven francs. She charges ten francs to other people, but seven francs to artistes. She was furious at my not believing her, and she seized my hands and said, 'It's no good yelling at me, for it is as I say. And if you want me to tell you the exact truth, it is a man who supports you; and, even to be more exact still, there are two men who support you, the one dark and the other fair; it's a nice thing that!' She had not finished her speech before I had given her such a slap as she had never had in her life, I can assure you. Afterwards, though, I puzzled my head to find out what the wretched woman could have meant. And all I could find was that the two men who support me, the one dark and the other fair, are our two managers, Chilly and Duquesnel. And now you tell me that Chilly----"

She stopped short, breathless with her story, and again seized with terror. "I feel stifled," she murmured, and in spite of the freezing cold we lowered both the windows. On arriving I helped her up her four flights of stairs, and after telling the concierge to look after her, and giving the woman a twenty-franc piece to make sure that she would do so, I went home myself, very much upset by all these incidents, as dramatic as they were unexpected, in the middle of a fête.

Three days later Chilly died, without ever recovering consciousness.

Twelve days later poor Lambquin died. To the priest who gave her absolution she said, "I am dying because I listened to and believed the demon."


I left the Odéon with very great regret, for I adored and still adore that theatre. It always seems as though in itself it were a little provincial town. Its hospitable arcades, under which so many poor old savants take fresh air and shelter themselves from the sun; the large flagstones all round, between the crevices of which microscopic yellow grass grows; its tall pillars, blackened by time, by hands, and by the dirt from the road; the uninterrupted noise going on all around, the departure of the omnibuses, like the departure of the old coaches, the fraternity of the people who meet there; everything, even to the very railings of the Luxembourg, gives it a quite special aspect in the midst of Paris. Then too there is a kind of odour of the colleges there--the very walls are impregnated with youthful hopes. People are not always talking there of yesterday, as they do in the other theatres. The young artistes who come there talk of to-morrow.

In short, my mind never goes back to those few years of my life without a childish emotion, without thinking of laughter and without a dilation of the nostrils, inhaling again the odour of little ordinary bouquets, clumsily tied up, bouquets which had all the freshness of flowers that grow in the open air, flowers that were the offerings of the hearts of twenty summers, little bouquets paid for out of the purses of students.

I would not take anything away with me from the Odéon. I left the furniture of my dressing-room to a young artiste. I left my costumes, all the little toilette knickknacks--I divided them and gave them away. I felt that my life of hopes and dreams was to cease there. I felt that the ground was now ready for the fruition of all the dreams, but that the struggle with life was about to commence, and I divined rightly.

My first experience at the Comédie Française had not been a success. I knew that I was going into the lions' den. I counted few friends in this house, except Laroche, Coquelin, and Mounet-Sully--the first two my friends of the Conservatoire and the latter of the Odéon. Among the women, Marie Lloyd and Sophie Croizette, both friends of my childhood; the disagreeable Jouassain, who was nice only to me; and the adorable Marie Brohan, whose kindness delighted the soul, whose wit charmed the mind, and whose indifference rebuffed devotion.

M. Perrin decided that I should make my début in Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle, according to Sarcey's wish.

The rehearsals began in the foyer, which troubled me very much. Mlle. Brohan was to play the part of the Marquise de Prie. At this time she was so fat as to be almost unsightly, while I was so thin that the composers of popular and comic verses took my meagre proportions as their theme and the cartoonists as a subject for their albums.

It was therefore impossible for the Duc de Richelieu to mistake the Marquise de Prie (Madeleine Brohan) for Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle (Sarah Bernhardt) in the irreverent nocturnal rendezvous given by the Marquise to the Duc, who thinks he embraces the chaste Mademoiselle de Belle-Isle.

At each rehearsal Bressant, who took the part of the Duc de Richelieu, would stop, saying, "No, it is too ridiculous. I must play the Duc de Richelieu with both my arms cut off!" And Madeleine left the rehearsal to go to the director's room in order to try and get rid of the rôle.

This was exactly what Perrin wanted; he had from the earliest moment thought of Croizette, but he wanted to have his hand forced for private and underhand reasons which he knew and which others guessed.

At last the change took place, and the serious rehearsals commenced.

Then the first performance was announced for November 6 (1872).

I have always suffered, and still suffer, terribly from stage fright, especially when I know that much is expected of me. I knew a long time beforehand that every seat in the house had been booked; I knew that the Press expected a great success, and that Perrin himself was reckoning on a long series of big receipts.

Alas! all these hopes and predictions went for nothing, and my re-début at the Comédie Française was only moderately successful.

The following is an extract from the Temps of November 11, 1872. It was written by Francisque Sarcey, with whom I was not then acquainted, but who was following my career with very great interest. "It was a very brilliant assembly, as this début had attracted all theatre-lovers. The fact is, beside the special merit of Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt, a whole crowd of true or false stories had been circulated about her personally, and all this had excited the curiosity of the Parisian public. Her appearance was a disappointment. She had by her costume exaggerated in a most ostentatious way a slenderness which is elegant under the veils and ample drapery of the Grecian and Roman heroines, but which is objectionable in modern dress. Then, too, either powder does not suit her, or stage fright had made her terribly pale. The effect of this long white face emerging from a long black sheath was certainly unpleasant [I looked like an ant], particularly as the eyes had lost their brilliancy and all that relieved the face were the sparkling white teeth. She went through the first three acts with a convulsive tremor, and we only recognised the Sarah of Ruy Blas by two couplets which she gave in her enchanting voice with the most wonderful grace, but in all the more powerful passages she was a failure. I doubt whether Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt will ever, with her delicious voice, be able to render those deep thrilling notes, expressive of paroxysms of violent passion, which are capable of carrying away an audience. If only nature had endowed her with this gift she would be a perfect artiste, and there are none such on the stage. Roused by the coldness of her public, Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt was entirely herself in the fifth act. This was certainly our Sarah once more, the Sarah of Ruy Blas, whom we had admired so much at the Odéon...."

As Sarcey said, I made a complete failure of my debut. My excuse, though, was not the "stage fright" to which he attributed it, but the terrible anxiety I felt on seeing my mother hurriedly leave her seat in the dress circle five minutes after my appearance on the stage.

I had glanced at her on entering, and had noticed her death-like pallor. When she went out I felt that she was about to have one of those attacks which endangered her life, so that the first act seemed to me interminable. I uttered one word after another, stammering through my sentences hap-hazard, with only one idea in my head, a longing to know what had happened. Oh, the public cannot conceive of the tortures endured by the unfortunate comedians who are there before them in flesh and blood on the stage, gesticulating and uttering phrases, while their heart, all torn with anguish, is with the beloved absent one who is suffering. As a rule, one can fling away the worries and anxieties of every-day life, put off one's own personality for a few hours, take on another, and, forgetting everything else, enter as it were into another life. But that is impossible when our dear ones are suffering. Anxiety then lays hold of us, attenuating the bright side, magnifying the dark, maddening our brain, which is living two lives at once, and tormenting our heart, which is beating as though it would burst.

These were the sensations I experienced during the first act.

"Mamma! What has happened to Mamma?" were my first words on leaving the stage. No one could tell me anything.

Croizette came up to me and said, "What's the matter? I hardly recognise you as you are, and you weren't yourself at all just now in the play."

In a few words I told her what I had seen and all that I had felt. Frédéric Febvre sent at once to get news, and the doctor came hurrying to me.

"Your mother had a fainting fit, Mademoiselle," he said, "but they have just taken her home."

"It was her heart, wasn't it?" I asked, looking at him.

"Yes," he replied; "Madame's heart is in a very agitated state."

"Oh, I know how ill she is," I said, and not being able to control myself any longer, I burst into sobs. Croizette helped me back to my dressing-room. She was very kind; we had known each other from childhood, and were very fond of each other. Nothing ever estranged us, in spite of all the malicious gossip of envious people and all the little miseries due to vanity.

My dear Madame Guérard took a cab and hurried away to my mother to get news for me. I put a little more powder on, but the public, not knowing what was taking place, were annoyed with me, thinking I was guilty of some fresh caprice, and received me still more coldly than before. It was all the same to me, as I was thinking of something else. I went on saying Mlle. de Belle-Isle's words (a most stupid and tiresome rôle), but all the time I, Sarah, was waiting for news about my mother. I was watching for the return of mon petit Dame. "Open the door on the O.P. side just a little way," I had said to her, "and make a sign like this if Mamma is better, and like that if she is worse." But I had forgotten which of the signs was to stand for better, and when, at the end of the third act I saw Madame Guérard opening the door and nodding her head for "yes," I became quite idiotic.

It was in the big scene of the third act, when Mlle. de Belle-Isle reproaches the Duc de Richelieu (Bressant) with doing her such irreparable harm. The Duc replies, "Why did you not say that some one was listening, that some one was hidden?" I exclaimed, "It's Guérard bringing me news!" The public had not time to understand, for Bressant went on quickly, and so saved the situation.

After an unenthusiastic call I heard that my mother was better, but that she had had a very serious attack. Poor mamma, she had thought me such a fright when I made my appearance on the stage that her superb indifference had given way to grievous astonishment, and that in its turn to rage on hearing a lady seated near her say in a jeering tone, "Why, she's like a dried bone, this little Bernhardt!"

I was greatly relieved on getting the news, and I played my last act with confidence. The great success of the evening, though, was Croizette's, who was charming as the Marquise de Prie. My success, nevertheless, was assured in the performances which followed, and it became so marked that I was accused of paying for applause. I laughed heartily at this, and never even contradicted the report, as I have a horror of useless words.

I next appeared as Junie in Britannicus, with Mounet-Sully, who played admirably as Nero. In this delicious rôle of Junie I obtained an immense and incredible success.

Then in 1873 I played Chérubin in Le Mariage de Figaro. Croizette played Suzanne, and it was a real treat for the public to see that delightful creature play a part so full of gaiety and charm.

Chérubin was for me the opportunity of a fresh success.

In the month of March 1873 Perrin took it into his head to stage Dalila, by Octave Feuillet. I was then taking the part of young girls, young princesses, or boys. My slight frame, my pale face, my delicate aspect marked me out for the time being for the rôle of victim. Perrin, who thought that the victims attracted pity, and that it was for this reason I pleased my audiences, cast the play most ridiculously: he gave me the rôle of Dalila, the swarthy, wicked, and ferocious princess, and to Sophie Croizette he gave the rôle of the fair young dying girl.

The piece, with this strange cast, was destined to fail. I forced my character in order to appear the haughty and voluptuous siren; I stuffed my bodice with wadding and the hips under my skirts with horse-hair; but I kept my small, thin, sorrowful face. Croizette was obliged to repress the advantages of her bust by bands which oppressed and suffocated her, but she kept her pretty plump face with its dimples.

I was obliged to put on a strong voice, she to soften hers. In fact, it was absurd. The piece was a demi-succès.

After that I created L'Absent, a pretty piece in verse, by Eugène Manuel; Chez l'Avocat, a very amusing thing in verse, by Paul Ferrier, in which Coquelin and I quarrelled beautifully. Then, on August 22, I played with immense success the rôle of Andromaque. I shall never forget the first performance, in which Mounet-Sully obtained a delirious triumph. Oh, how fine he was, Mounet-Sully, in his rôle of Orestes! His entrance, his fury, his madness, and the plastic beauty of this marvellous artiste--how magnificent!

After Andromaque I played Aricie in Phèdre, and in this secondary rôle it was I who really made the success of the evening.

I took such a position in a very short time at the Comédie that some of the artistes began to feel uneasy, and the management shared their anxiety. M. Perrin, an extremely intelligent man, whom I have always remembered with great affection, was horribly authoritative. I was also, so that there was always perpetual warfare between us. He wanted to impose his will on me, and I would not submit to it. He was always ready to laugh at my outbursts when they were against the others, but he was furious when they were directed against himself. As for me, I will own that to get Perrin in a fury was one of my delights. He stammered so when he tried to talk quickly, he who weighed every word on ordinary occasions; the expression of his eyes, which was generally wavering, grew irritated and deceitful, and his pale, distinguished-looking face became mottled with patches of wine-dreg colour.

His fury made him take his hat off and put it on again fifteen times in as many minutes, and his extremely smooth hair stood on end with this mad gallop of his head-gear. Although I had certainly arrived at the age of discretion, I delighted in my wicked mischievousness, which I always regretted after, but which I was always ready to recommence; and even now, after all the days, weeks, months, and years that I have lived since then, it still gives me infinite pleasure to play a joke on any one.

All the same, life at the Comédie began to affect my nerves.

I wanted to play Camille in On ne badine pas avec l'amour: the rôle was given to Croizette. I wanted to play Célimène: that rôle was Croizette's. Perrin was very partial to Croizette. He admired her, and as she was very ambitious, she was most thoughtful and docile, which charmed the authoritative old man. She always obtained everything she wanted, and as Sophie Croizette was frank and straightforward, she often said to me when I was grumbling, "Do as I do; be more yielding. You pass your time in rebelling; I appear to be doing everything that Perrin wants me to do, but in reality I make him do all I want him to. Try the same thing." I accordingly screwed up my courage and went up to see Perrin. He nearly always said to me when we met, "Ah, how do you do, Mademoiselle Revolt? Are you calm to-day?"

"Yes, very calm," I replied; "but be amiable and grant me what I am going to ask you." I tried to be charming, and spoke in my prettiest way. He almost purred with satisfaction, and was witty (this was no effort to him, as he was naturally so), and we got on very well together for a quarter of an hour. I then made my petition:

"Let me play Camille in On ne badine pas avec l'amour".

"That's impossible, my dear child," he replied; "Croizette is playing it."

"Well then, we'll both play it; we'll take it in turns."

"But Mademoiselle Croizette wouldn't like that."

"I've spoken to her about it, and she would not mind it."

"You ought not to have spoken to her about it."

"Why not?"

"Because the management does the casting, not the artistes."

He didn't purr any more, he only growled. As for me, I was in a fury, and a few minutes later I went out of the room, banging the door after me.

All this preyed on my mind, though, and I used to cry all night. I then decided to take a studio and devote myself to sculpture. As I was not able to use my intelligence and my energy in creating rôles at the theatre, as I wished, I gave myself up to another art, and began working at sculpture with frantic enthusiasm. I soon made great progress, and started on an enormous composition, After the Storm. I was indifferent now to the theatre. Every morning at eight my horse was brought round, and I went for a ride, and at ten I was back in my studio, 11 Boulevard de Clichy. I was very delicate, and my health suffered from the double effort I was making. I used to vomit blood in the most alarming way, and for hours together I was unconscious. I never went to the Comédie except when obliged by my duties there. My friends were seriously concerned about me, and Perrin was informed of what was going on. Finally, incited by the Press and the Department of Fine Arts, he decided to give me a rôle to create in Octave Feuillet's play Le Sphinx.

The principal part was for Croizette, but on hearing the play read I thought the part destined for me charming, and I resolved that it should also be the principal rôle. There would have to be two principal ones, that was all. The rehearsals went along very smoothly at the start, but it soon became evident that my rôle was more important than had been imagined, and friction soon began.

Croizette herself got nervous, Perrin was annoyed, and all this by-play had the effect of calming me. Octave Feuillet, a shrewd, charming man, extremely well-bred and slightly ironical, thoroughly enjoyed the skirmishes that took place. War was doomed to break out, however, and the first hostilities came from Sophie Croizette.

I always wore in my bodice three or four roses, which were apt to open under the influence of the warmth, and some of the petals naturally fell. One day Sophie Croizette slipped down full length on the stage, and as she was tall and not slim, she fell rather unbecomingly, and got up again ungracefully. The stifled laughter of some of the subordinate persons present stung her to the quick, and turning to me she said, "It's your fault; your roses fall and make every one slip down." I began to laugh.

"Three petals of my roses have fallen," I replied, "and there they all three are by the arm-chair on the prompt side, and you fell on the O.P. side. It isn't my fault, therefore; it is just your own awkwardness." The discussion continued, and was rather heated on both sides. Two clans were formed, the "Croizettists" and the "Bernhardtists." War was declared, not between Sophie and me, but between our respective admirers and detractors. The rumour of these little quarrels spread in the world outside the theatre, and the public too began to form clans. Croizette had on her side all the bankers and all the people who were suffering from repletion. I had all the artists, the students, dying folks, and the failures. When once war was declared there was no drawing back from the strife. The first, the most fierce, and the definitive battle was fought over the moon.

We had begun the full dress rehearsals. In the third act the scene was laid in a forest glade. In the middle of the stage was a huge rock upon which was Blanche (Croizette) kissing Savigny (Delaunay), who was supposed to be my husband. I (Berthe de Savigny) had to arrive by a little bridge over a stream of water. The glade was bathed in moonlight. Croizette had just played her part, and her kiss had been greeted with a burst of applause. This was rather daring in those days for the Comédie Française. (But since then what have they not given there?)

Suddenly a fresh burst of applause was heard. Amazement could be read on some faces, and Perrin stood up terrified. I was crossing over the bridge, my pale face ravaged with grief, and the sortie de bal which was intended to cover my shoulders was dragging along, just held by my limp fingers; my arms were hanging down as though despair had taken the use out of them. I was bathed in the white light of the moon, and the effect, it seems, was striking and deeply impressive. A nasal, aggressive voice cried out, "One moon effect is enough. Turn it off for Mademoiselle Bernhardt."

I sprang forward to the front of the stage. "Excuse me, Monsieur Perrin," I exclaimed, "you have no right to take my moon away. The manuscript reads, Berthe advances, pale, convulsed with emotion, the rays of the moon falling on her.... I am pale and I am convulsed. I must have my moon."

"It is impossible," roared Perrin. "Mademoiselle Croizette's words: 'You love me, then!' and her kiss must have this moonlight. She is playing the Sphinx; that is the chief part in the play, and we must leave her the principal effect."

"Very well, then; give Croizette a brilliant moon, and give me a less brilliant one. I don't mind that, but I must have my moon." All the artistes and all the employés of the theatre put their heads in at all the doorways and openings both on the stage and in the house itself. The "Croizettists" and the "Bernhardtists" began to comment on the discussion.

Octave Feuillet was appealed to, and he got up in his turn.

"I grant that Mademoiselle Croizette is very beautiful in her moon effect. Mademoiselle Sarah Bernhardt is ideal too, with her ray of moonlight. I want the moon therefore for both of them."

Perrin could not control his anger. There was a discussion between the author and the director, followed by others between the artistes, and between the door-keeper and the journalists who were questioning him. The rehearsal was interrupted. I declared that I would not play the part if I did not have my moon. For the next two days I received no notice of another rehearsal, but through Croizette I heard that they were trying my rôle of Berthe privately. They had given it to a young woman whom we had nicknamed "the Crocodile," because she followed all the rehearsals just as that animal follows boats--she was always hoping to snatch up some rôle that might happen to be thrown overboard. Octave Feuillet refused to accept the change of artistes, and he came himself to fetch me, accompanied by Delaunay, who had negotiated matters.

"It's all settled," he said, kissing my hands; "there will be a moon for both of you."

The first night was a triumph both for Croizette and for me.

The party strife between the two clans waxed warmer and warmer, and this added to our success and amused us both immensely, for Croizette was always a delightful friend and a loyal comrade. She worked for her own ends, but never against any one else.

After Le Sphinx I played a pretty piece in one act by a young pupil of the Ecole Polytechnique, Louis Denayrouse, La Belle Paule. This author has now become a renowned scientific man, and has renounced poetry.

I had begged Perrin to give me a month's holiday, but he refused energetically, and compelled me to take part in the rehearsals of Zaïre during the trying months of June and July, and, in spite of my reluctance, announced the first performance for August 6. That year it was fearfully hot in Paris. I believe that Perrin, who could not tame me alive, had, without really any bad intention, but by pure autocracy, the desire to tame me dead. Doctor Parrot went to see him, and told him that my state of weakness was such that it would be positively dangerous for me to act during the trying heat. Perrin would hear nothing of it. Then, furious at the obstinacy of this intellectual bourgeois, I swore I would play on to the death.

Often, when I was a child, I wished to kill myself in order to vex others. I remember once having drunk the contents of a large ink-pot after being compelled by mamma to swallow a "panade," [Footnote: Bread stewed a long time in water and flavoured with a little butter and sugar, a kind of "sops" given to children in France.] because she imagined that panades were good for the health. Our nurse had told her my dislike to this form of nourishment, adding that every morning I emptied the panade into the slop-pail. I had, of course, a very bad stomach-ache, and screamed out in pain. I cried to mamma, "It is you who have killed me!" and my poor mother wept. She never knew the truth, but they never again made me swallow anything against my will.

Well, after so many years I experienced the same bitter and childish sentiment. "I don't care," I said; "I shall certainly fall senseless vomiting blood, and perhaps I shall die! And it will serve Perrin right. He will be furious!" Yes, that is what I thought. I am at times very foolish. Why? I don't know how to explain it, but I admit it.

The 6th of August, therefore, I played, in tropical heat, the part of Zaïre. The entire audience was bathed in perspiration. I saw the spectators through a mist. The piece, badly staged as regards scenery, but very well presented as regards costume, was particularly well played by Mounet-Sully (Orosmane), Laroche (Nérestan) and myself (Zaïre), and obtained an immense success.

I was determined to faint, determined to vomit blood, determined to die, in order to enrage Perrin. I played with the utmost passion. I had sobbed, I had loved, I had suffered, and I had been stabbed by the poignard of Orosmane, uttering a true cry of suffering, for I had felt the steel penetrate my breast. Then, falling panting, dying, on the Oriental divan, I had meant to die in reality, and dared scarcely move my arms, convinced as I was that I was in my death agony, and somewhat afraid, I must admit, at having succeeded in playing such a nasty trick on Perrin. But my surprise was great when the curtain fell at the close of the piece and I got up quickly to answer to the call and bow to the audience without languor, without fainting, feeling strong enough to go through my part again if it had been necessary.

And I marked this performance with a little white stone--for that day I learned that my vital force was at the service of my intellectual force. I had desired to follow the impulse of my brain, whose conceptions seemed to me to be too forceful for my physical strength to carry out. And I found myself, after having given out all of which I was capable--and more--in perfect equilibrium.

Then I saw the possibility of the longed-for future.

I had fancied, and up to this performance of Zaïre I had always heard and read in the papers that my voice was pretty, but weak; that my gestures were gracious, but vague; that my supple movements lacked authority, and that my glance lost in heavenward contemplation could not tame the wild beasts (the audience). I thought then of all that.

I had received proof that I could rely on my physical strength, for I had commenced the performance of Zaïre in such a state of weakness that it was easy to predict that I should not finish the first act without fainting.

On the other hand, although the rôle was easy, it required two or three shrieks, which might have provoked the vomiting of blood that frequently troubled me at that time.

That evening, therefore, I acquired the certainty that I could count on the strength of my vocal cords, for I had uttered my shrieks with real rage and suffering, hoping to break something, in my wild desire to be revenged on Perrin.

Thus this little comedy turned to my profit. Being unable to die at will, I changed my batteries and resolved to be strong, vivacious, and active, to the great annoyance of some of my contemporaries, who had only put up with me because they thought I should soon die, but who began to hate me as soon as they acquired the conviction that I should perhaps live for a long time. I will only give one example, related by Alexandre Dumas fils, who was present at the death of his intimate friend Charles Narrey, and heard his dying words: "I am content to die because I shall hear no more of Sarah Bernhardt and of the grand Français" (Ferdinand de Lesseps).

But this revelation of my strength rendered more painful to me the sort of farniente to which Perrin condemned me.

In fact, after Zaïre, I remained months without doing anything of importance, playing only now and again. Discouraged and disgusted with the theatre, my passion for sculpture increased. After my morning ride and a light meal I used to rush to my studio, where I remained till the evening.

Friends came to see me, sat round me, played the piano, sang; politics were discussed--for in this modest studio I received the most illustrious men of all parties. Several ladies came to take tea, which was abominable and badly served, but I did not care about that. I was absorbed by this admirable art. I saw nothing, or, to speak more truly, I would not see anything.

I was making the bust of an adorable young girl, Mlle. Emmy de ----. Her slow and measured conversation had an infinite charm. She was a foreigner, but spoke French so perfectly that I was stupefied. She smoked a cigarette all the time, and had a profound disdain for those who did not understand her.

I made the sittings last as long as possible, for I felt that this delicate mind was imbuing me with her science of seeing into the beyond, and often in the serious steps of my life I have said to myself, "What would Emmy have done? What would she have thought?"

I was somewhat surprised one day by the visit of Adolphe de Rothschild, who came to give me an order for his bust. I commenced the work immediately. But I had not properly considered this admirable man--he had nothing of the aesthetic, but the contrary. I tried nevertheless, and I brought all my will to bear in order to succeed in this first order, of which I was so proud. Twice I dashed the bust which I had commenced on the ground, and after a third attempt I definitely gave up, stammering idiotic excuses which apparently did not convince my model, for he never returned to me. When we met in our morning rides he saluted me with a cold and rather severe bow.

After this defeat I undertook the bust of a beautiful child, Miss Multon, a delightful little American, whom later on I came across in Denmark, married and the mother of a family, but still as pretty as ever.

My next bust was that of Mlle. Hocquigny, that admirable person who was keeper of the linen in the commissariat during the war, and who had so powerfully helped me and my wounded at that time.

Then I undertook the bust of my young sister Régina, who had, alas! a weak chest. A more perfect face was never made by the hand of God! Two leonine eyes shaded by long, long brown lashes, a slender nose with delicate nostrils, a tiny mouth, a wilful chin, and a pearly skin crowned by meshes of sunrays, for I have never seen hair so blonde and so pale, so bright and so silky. But this admirable face was without charm; the expression was hard and the mouth without a smile. I tried my best to reproduce this beautiful face in marble, but it needed a great artist and I was only a humble amateur.

When I exhibited the bust of my little sister, it was five months after her death, which occurred after a six months' illness, full of false hopes. I had taken her to my home, No. 4 Rue de Rome, to the little entresol which I had inhabited since the terrible fire which had destroyed my furniture, my books, my pictures, and all my scant possessions. This flat in the Rue de Rome was very small. My bedroom was quite tiny. The big bamboo bed took up all the room. In front of the window was my coffin, where I frequently installed myself to study my parts. Therefore, when I took my sister to my home I found it quite natural to sleep every night in this little bed of white satin which was to be my last couch, and to put my sister in the big bamboo bed, under the lace hangings.

She herself found it quite natural also, for I would not leave her at night, and it was impossible to put another bed in the little room. Besides, she was accustomed to my coffin.

One day my manicurist came into the room to do my hands, and my sister asked her to enter quietly, because I was still asleep. The woman turned her head, believing that I was asleep in the arm-chair, but seeing me in my coffin she rushed away shrieking wildly. From that moment all Paris knew that I slept in my coffin, and gossip with its thistle-down wings took flight in all directions.

I was so accustomed to the turpitudes which were written about me that I did not trouble about this. But at the death of my poor little sister a tragi-comic incident happened. When the undertaker's men came to the room to take away the body they found themselves confronted with two coffins, and losing his wits, the master of ceremonies sent in haste for a second hearse. I was at that moment with my mother, who had lost consciousness, and I just got back in time to prevent the black-clothed men taking away my coffin. The second hearse was sent back, but the papers got hold of this incident. I was blamed, criticised, &c.

It really was not my fault.


After the death of my sister I fell seriously ill. I had tended her day and night, and this, in addition to the grief I was suffering, made me anaemic. I was ordered to the South for two months. I promised to go to Mentone, and I turned immediately towards Brittany, the country of my dreams.

I had with me my little boy, my steward and his wife. My poor Guérard, who had helped me to tend my sister, was in bed ill with phlebitis. I would much have liked to have her with me.

Oh, the lovely holiday that we had there! Thirty-five years ago Brittany was wild, inhospitable, but as beautiful--perhaps more beautiful than at present, for it was not furrowed with roads; its green slopes were not dotted with small white villas; its inhabitants--the men--were not dressed in the abominable modern trousers, and the women did not wear miserable little hats with feathers. No! The Bretons proudly displayed their well-shaped legs in gaiters or rough stockings, their feet shod with buckled shoes; their long hair was brought down on the temples, hiding any awkward ears and giving to the face a nobility which the modern style does not admit of. The women, with their short skirts, which showed their slender ankles in black stockings, and with their small heads under the wings of the headdress, resembled sea-gulls. I am not speaking, of course, of the inhabitants of Pont l'Abbé or of Bourg de Batz, who have entirely different aspects.

I visited nearly the whole of Brittany, but made my chief stay at Finistère. The Pointe du Raz enchanted me. I remained twelve days at Audierne, in the house of Father Batifoulé, who was so big and so fat that they had been obliged to cut a piece out of the table to let in his immense abdomen. I set out every morning at ten o'clock. My steward Claude himself prepared my lunch, which he packed up very carefully in three little baskets, then climbing into the comical vehicle of Father Batifoulé, my little boy driving, we set out for the Baie des Trépassés. Ah, that beautiful and mysterious shore, all bristling with rocks! The lighthouse keeper would be looking out for me, and would come to meet me. Claude gave him my provisions, with a thousand recommendations as to the manner of cooking the eggs, warming up the lentils, and toasting the bread. He carried off everything, then returned with two old sticks in which he had stuck nails to make them into picks, and we commenced the terrifying ascent of the Pointe du Raz, a kind of labyrinth full of disagreeable surprises, of crevasses across which we had to jump over the gaping and roaring abyss, of arches and tunnels through which we had to crawl on all fours, having overhead--touching us even--a rock which had fallen there in unknown ages and was only held in equilibrium by some inexplicable cause. Then all at once the path became so narrow that it was impossible to walk straight forward; we had to turn and put our backs against the cliff and advance with both arms spread out and fingers holding on to the few asperities of the rock.

When I think of what I did in those moments, I tremble, for I have always been, and still am, subject to dizziness; and I went over this path along a steep precipitous rock, 30 metres high, in the midst of the infernal noise of the sea, at this place eternally furious, and which raged fearfully against this indestructible cliff. And I must have taken a mad pleasure in it, for I accomplished this journey five times in eleven days.

After this challenge thrown down to reason we descended, and installed ourselves in the Baie des Trépassés. After a bath we had lunch, and I painted till sunset.

The first day there was nobody there. The second day a child came to look at us. The third day about ten children stood around asking for sous. I was foolish enough to give them some, and the following day there were twenty or thirty boys, some of them from sixteen to eighteen years old. Seeing near my easel something not particularly agreeable, I begged one of them to take it away and throw it into the sea, and for that I gave, I think, fifty centimes. When I came back the following day to finish my painting the whole population of the neighbouring village had chosen this place to relieve their corporal necessities, and as soon as I arrived the same boys, but in increased numbers, offered, if properly paid, to take away what they had put there.

I had the ugly band routed by Claude and the lighthouse keeper, and as they took to throwing stones at us, I pointed my gun at the little group. They fled howling. Only two boys, of six and ten years of age, remained there. We did not take any notice of them, and I installed myself a little farther on, sheltered by a rock which kept the wind away. The two boys followed. Claude and the keeper Lucas were on the look out to see that the band did not come back.

They were stooping down over the extreme point of the rock which was above our heads. They seemed peaceful, when suddenly my young maid jumped up: "Horrors! Madame! Horrors! They are throwing lice down on us!" And in fact the two little good-for-nothings had been for the last hour searching for all the vermin they could find on themselves, and throwing it on us.

I had the two little beggars caught, and they got a well-deserved correction.

There was a crevasse which was called the "Enfer du Plogoff." I had a wild desire to go down this crevasse, but the guardian dissuaded me, constantly giving as objections the danger of slipping, and his fear of responsibility in case of accident. I persisted nevertheless in my intention, and after a thousand promises, in addition to a certificate to testify that, notwithstanding the supplications of the guardian and the certainty of the danger that I ran, I had persisted all the same, &c., and after having made a small present of ten louis to the good fellow, I obtained facilities for descending the Enfer du Plogoff--that is to say, a wide belt to which a strong rope was fastened. I buckled this belt round my waist, which was then so slender--43 centimetres--that it was necessary to make additional holes in order to fasten it.

Then the guardian put on each of my hands a wooden shoe the sole of which was bordered with big nails jutting out two centimetres. I stared at these wooden shoes, and asked for an explanation before putting them on.

"Well," said the guardian Lucas, "when I let you down, as you are no fatter than a herring bone, you will get shaken about in the crevasse, and will risk breaking your bones, while if you have the 'sabots' on your hands you can protect yourself against the walls by putting out your arms to the right and the left, according as you are shaken up against them. I do not say that you will not have a few bangs, but that is your own fault; you will go. Now listen, my little lady. When you are at the bottom, on the rock in the middle, mind you don't slip, for that is the most dangerous of all; if you fall in the water I will pull the rope, for sure, but I don't answer for anything. In that cursed whirlpool of water you might be caught between two stones, and it would be no use for me to pull: I should break the rope, and that would be all."

Then the man grew pale and made the sign of the cross; he leaned towards me, murmuring in a dreamy voice, "It is the shipwrecked ones who are there under the stones, down there. It is they who dance in the moonlight on the 'shore of the dead.' It is they who put the slippery sea-weed on the little rock down there, in order to make travellers slip, and then they drag them to the bottom of the sea." Then, looking me in the eyes, he said, "Will you go down all the same?"

"Yes, certainly, Père Lucas; I will go down at once."

My little boy was building forts and castles on the sand with Félicie. Only Claude was with me. He did not say a word, knowing my unbridled desire to meet danger. He looked to see if the belt was properly fastened, and asked my permission to tie the tongue of the belt to the belt itself; then he passed a strong cord several times around to strengthen the leather, and I was let down, suspended by the rope in the blackness of the crevasse. I extended my arms to the right and the left, as the guardian had told me to do, and even then I got my elbows scraped. At first I thought that the noise I heard was the reverberation of the echo of the blows of the wooden shoes against the edges of the crevasse, but suddenly a frightful din filled my ears: successive firings of cannons, strident ringings, crackings of a whip, plaintive howls, and repeated monotonous cries as of a hundred fishermen drawing up a net filled with fish, sea-weed, and pebbles. All the noises mingled under the mad violence of the wind. I became furious with myself, for I was really afraid.

The lower I went, the louder the howlings became in my ears and my brain, and my heart beat the order of retreat. The wind swept through the narrow tunnel and blew in all directions round my legs, my body, my neck. A horrible fear took possession of me.

I descended slowly, and at each little shock I felt that the four hands holding me above had come to a knot. I tried to remember the number of knots, for it seemed to me that I was making no progress.

Then I opened my mouth to call out, "Draw me up!" but the wind, which danced in mad folly around me, filled my mouth and drove back the words. I was nearly suffocated. Then I shut my eyes and ceased to struggle. I would not even put out my arms. A few instants after I pulled up my legs in unspeakable terror. The sea had just seized them in a brutal embrace which had wet me through. However, I recovered courage, for now I could see clearly. I stretched out my legs, and found myself upright on the little rock. It is true it was very slippery.

I took hold of a large ring fixed in the vault which overhung the rock, and I looked round. The long and narrow crevasse grew suddenly wider at its base, and terminated in a large grotto which looked out over the open sea; but the entrance of this grotto was protected by a quantity of both large and small rocks, which could be seen for a distance of a league in front on the surface of the water--which explains the terrible noise of the sea dashing into the labyrinth and the possibility of standing upright on a stone, as the Bretons say, with the wild dance of the waves all around.

However, I saw very plainly that a false step might be fatal in the brutal whirl of waters, which came rushing in from afar with dizzy speed and broke against the insurmountable obstacle, and in receding dashed against other waves which followed them. From this cause proceeded the perpetual fusillade of waters which rushed into the crevasse without danger of drowning me.

It now began to grow dark, and I experienced a fearful anguish in discovering on the crest of a little rock two enormous eyes, which looked fixedly at me. Then a little farther, near a tuft of seaweed, two more of these fixed eyes. I saw no body to these beings--nothing but the eyes. I thought for a minute that I was losing my senses, and I bit my tongue till the blood came; then I pulled violently at the rope, as I had agreed to do in order to give the signal for being drawn up. I felt the trembling joy of the four hands pulling me, and my feet lost their hold as I was hauled up by my guardians. The eyes were lifted up also, uneasy at seeing me depart. And while I mounted through the air I saw nothing but eyes everywhere--eyes throwing out long feelers to reach me.

I had never seen an octopus, and I did not even know of the existence of these horrible beasts.

During the ascent, which appeared to me interminable, I imagined I saw these beasts along the walls, and my teeth were chattering when I was drawn out on to the green hillock.

I immediately told the guardian the cause of my terror, and he crossed himself, saying, "Those are the eyes of the shipwrecked ones. No one must stay there!"

I knew very well that they were not the eyes of shipwrecked ones, but I did not know what they were. For I thought I had seen some strange beasts that no one had ever seen before.

It was only at the hotel with Père Batifoulé that I learnt about the octopus.

Only five more days' holiday were left to me, and I passed them at the Pointe du Raz, seated in a niche of rock which has been since named "Sarah Bernhardt's Arm-chair." Many tourists have sat there since.

After my holiday I returned to Paris. But I was still very weak, and could only take up my work towards the month of November. I played all the pieces of my répertoire, and I was annoyed at not having any new rôles.

One day Perrin came to see me in my sculptor's studio. He began to talk at first about my busts; he told me that I ought to do his medallion, and asked me incidentally if I knew the rôle of Phèdre. Up to that time I had only played Aricie, and the part of Phèdre seemed formidable to me. I had, however, studied it for my own pleasure.

"Yes, I know the rôle of Phèdre. But I think if ever I had to play it I should die of fright."

He laughed with his silly little laugh, and said to me, squeezing my hand (for he was very gallant), "Work it up. I think that you will play it."

In fact, eight days after I was called to the manager's office, and Perrin told me that he had announced Phèdre for December 21, the fête of Racine, with Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt in the part of Phèdre. I thought I should have fallen.

"Well, but what about Mademoiselle Rousseil?" I asked.

"Mademoiselle Rousseil wants the committee to promise that she shall become a Sociétaire in the month of January, and the committee, which will without doubt appoint her, refuses to make this promise, and declares that her demand is like a threat. But perhaps Mademoiselle Rousseil will change her plans, and in that case you will play Aricie and I will change the bill."

Coming out from Perrin's I ran up against M. Régnier. I told him of my conversation with the manager and of my fears.

"No, no," said the great artiste to me, "you must not be afraid! I see very well what you are going to make of this rôle. But all you have to do is to be careful and not force your voice. Make the rôle rather more sorrowful than furious--it will be better for every one, even Racine."

Then, joining my hands, I said, "Dear Monsieur Régnier, help me to work up Phèdre I shall not be so much afraid!"

He looked at me rather surprised, for in general I was neither docile nor apt to be guided by advice. I own that I was wrong, but I could not help it. But the responsibility which this put upon me made me timid. Régnier accepted, and made an appointment with me for the following morning at nine o'clock.

Roselia Rousseil persisted in her demand to the committee, and Phèdre was billed for December 21, with Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt for the first time in the rôle of Phèdre.

This caused quite a sensation in the artistic world and in theatrical circles. That evening over two hundred people were turned away at the box office. When I was informed of the fact I began to tremble a good deal.

Régnier comforted me as best he could, saying, "Courage! Cheer up! Are you not the spoiled darling of the public? They will take into consideration your inexperience in important leading parts," &c.

These were the last words he should have said to me. I should have felt stronger if I had known that the public were come to oppose and not to encourage me.

I began to cry bitterly like a child. Perrin was called, and consoled me as well as he could; then he made me laugh by putting powder on my face so awkwardly that I was blinded and suffocated.

Everybody on the stage knew about it, and stood at the door of my dressing-room wishing to comfort me, Mounet-Sully, who was playing Hippolyte, told me that he had dreamed "we were playing Phèdre, and you were hissed; and my dreams always go by contraries--so," he cried, "we shall have a tremendous success."

But what put me completely in a good humour was the arrival of the worthy Martel, who was playing Théramène, and who had come so quickly, believing me to be ill, that he had not had time to finish his nose. The sight of this grey face, with a wide bar of red wax commencing between the two eyebrows, coming down to half a centimetre below his nose and leaving behind it the end of the nose with two large black nostrils--this face was indescribable! And everybody laughed irrepressibly. I knew that Martel made up his nose, for I had already seen this poor nose change shape at the second performance of Zaïre, under the tropical depression of the atmosphere, but I had never realised how much he lengthened it. This comical apparition restored all my gaiety, and from thenceforth I was in full possession of my faculties.

The evening was one long triumph for me. And the Press was unanimous in praise, with the exception of the article of Paul de St. Victor, who was on very good terms with a sister of Rachel, and could not get over "my impertinent presumption in daring to measure myself with the great dead artiste." These are his own words addressed to Girardin, who immediately communicated them to me. How mistaken he was, poor St. Victor! I had never seen Rachel, but I worshipped her talent, for I had surrounded myself with her most devoted admirers, and they little thought of comparing me with their idol.

A few days after this performance of Phèdre the new piece of Bornier was read to us--La Fille de Roland. The part of Berthe was confided to me, and we immediately began the rehearsals of this fine piece, the verses of which were nevertheless a little flat, though the play rang with patriotism. There was in one act a terrible duel, not seen by the public, but related by Berthe, the daughter of Roland, while the incidents happened under the eyes of the unhappy girl, who from a window of the castle followed in anguish the fortunes of the encounter. This scene was the only important one of my much-sacrificed rôle.

The play was ready to be performed, when Bornier asked that his friend Emile Augier might attend the dress rehearsal. When this rehearsal was over Perrin came to me; he had an affectionate and constrained air. As to Bornier, he came straight to me in a decided and quarrelsome manner. Emile Augier followed him. "Well----" he said to me. I looked straight at him, feeling at the moment that he was my enemy. He stopped short and scratched his head, then turned towards Augier and said:

"I beg you, cher maître, explain to Mademoiselle yourself."

Emile Augier was a broad man, with wide shoulders and a common appearance, and was at that time rather stout. He was in very good repute at the Théâtre Français, of which he was at that epoch the successful author. He came near me.

"You managed the part at the window very well, Mademoiselle, but it is ridiculous; it is not your fault, but that of the author, who has written a most improbable scene. The public would laugh immoderately. This scene must be taken out."

I turned towards Perrin, who was listening silently. "Are you of the same opinion, sir?"

"I talked it over a short time ago with these gentlemen, but the author is master to do as he pleases with his work."

Then, addressing myself to Bornier, I said, "Well, my dear author, what have you decided?"

Little Bornier looked at big Emile Augier. There was in this beseeching and piteous glance an expression of sorrow at having to cut out a scene which he prized, and of fear at vexing an Academician just at the time when he was hoping to become a member of the Academy.

"Cut it out, cut it out--or you are done for!" brutally replied Augier, and he turned his back. Then poor Bornier, who resembled a Breton gnome, came up to me. He scratched himself desperately, for the unfortunate man suffered from a distressing skin disease. He did not speak. He looked at us searchingly. Poignant anxiety was expressed on his face. Perrin, who had come up to me, guessed the private little drama which was taking place in the heart of the mild Bornier.

"Refuse energetically," murmured Perrin to me.

I understood, and declared firmly to Bornier that if this scene were cut out I should refuse the part. Then Bornier seized both my hands, which he kissed ardently, and running up to Augier he exclaimed, with comic emphasis:

"But I cannot cut it out--I cannot cut it out! She will not play! And the day after to-morrow the play is to be performed." Then, as Emile Augier made a gesture and would have spoken: "No! No! To put back my play eight days would be to kill it! I cannot cut it out! Oh, mon Dieu!" And he cried and gesticulated with his two long arms, and he stamped with his short legs. His large hairy head went from right to left. He was at the same time funny and pitiable. Emile Augier was irritated, and turned on me like a hunted boar on a pursuing dog:

"Will you take the responsibility, Mademoiselle, of the absurd window scene on the first performance?"

"Certainly, Monsieur; and I even promise to make of this scene, which I find very beautiful, an enormous success!"

He shrugged his shoulders rudely, muttering something very disagreeable between his teeth.

When I left the theatre I found poor Bornier quite transfigured. He thanked me a thousand times, for he thought very highly of this scene, and he dared not thwart Emile Augier. Both Perrin and myself had divined the legitimate emotions of this poor poet, so gentle and so well bred, but a trifle Jesuitical.

The play was an immense success. But the window scene on the first night was a veritable triumph.

It was a short time after the terrible war of 1870. The play contained frequent allusions to it, and owing to the patriotism of the public made an even greater success than it deserved as a play. I sent for Emile Augier. He came to my dressing-room with a surly air, and said to me from the door:

"So much the worse for the public! It only proves that the public is idiotic to make a success of such vileness!" And he disappeared without having even entered my dressing-room.

His outburst made me laugh, and as the triumphant Bornier had embraced me repeatedly, I scratched myself all over.

Two months later I played Gabrielle, by this same Augier, and I had incessant quarrels with him. I found the verses of this play execrable. Coquelin, who took the part of my husband, made a great success. As for me, I was as mediocre as the play itself, which is saying a great deal.

I had been appointed a Sociétaire in the month of January, and since then it seemed to me that I was in prison, for I had undertaken an engagement not to leave the House of Molière for many years. This idea made me sad. It was at Perrin's instigation that I had asked to become a Sociétaire, and now I regretted it very much.

During all the latter part of the year I only played occasionally.

My time was then occupied in looking after the building of a pretty little mansion which I was having erected at the corner of the Avenue de Villiers and the Rue Fortuny. A sister of my grandmother had left me in her will a nice legacy, which I used to buy the ground. My great desire was to have a house that should be entirely my own, and I was then realising it. The son-in-law of M. Régnier, Félix Escalier, a fashionable architect, was building me a charming place. Nothing amused me more than to go with him in the morning over the unfinished house. Afterwards I mounted the movable scaffolds. Then I went on the roofs. I forgot my worries of the theatre in this new occupation. The thing I most desired just then was to become an architect. When the building was finished, the interior had to be thought of. I spent much time in helping my painter friends who were decorating the ceilings in my bedroom, in my dining-room, in my hall: Georges Clairin; the architect Escalier, who was also a talented painter; Duez, Picard, Butin, Jadin, and Parrot. I was deeply interested. And I recollect a joke which I played on one of my relations.

My aunt Betsy had come from Holland, her native country, in order to spend a few days in Paris. She was staying with my mother. I invited her to lunch in my new unfinished habitation. Five of my painter friends were working, some in one room, some in another, and everywhere lofty scaffoldings were erected. In order to be able to climb the ladders more easily I was wearing my sculptor's costume. My aunt, seeing me thus arrayed, was horribly shocked, and told me so. But I was preparing yet another surprise for her. She thought these young workers were ordinary house-painters, and considered I was too familiar with them. But she nearly fainted when midday came and I rushed to the piano to play "The Complaint of the Hungry Stomachs." This wild melody had been improvised by the group of painters, but revised and corrected by poet friends. Here it is:

Oh! Peintres de la Dam' jolie, De vos pinceaux arrêtez la folie! Il faut descendr' des escabeaux, Vous nettoyer et vous faire très beaux! Digue, dingue, donne! L'heure sonne. Digue, dingue, di.... C'est midi!

Sur les grils et dans les cass'roles Sautent le veau, et les oeufs et les soles. Le bon vin rouge et l'Saint-Marceaux Feront gaiment galoper nos pinceaux! Digue, dingue, donne! L'heure sonne. Digue, dingue, di.... C'est midi!

Voici vos peintres, Dam' jolie Qui vont pour vous débiter leur folie. Ils ont tous lâché l'escabeau Sont frais, sont fiers, sont propres et très beaux! Digue, dingue, donne L'heure sonne Digue, dingue, di.... C'est midi.

When the song was finished I went into my bedroom and made myself into a belle dame for lunch.

My aunt had followed me. "But, my dear," said she, "you are mad to think I am going to eat with all these workmen. Certainly in all Paris there is no one but yourself who would do such a thing."

"No, no, Aunt; it is all right."

And I dragged her off, when I was dressed, to the dining-room, which was the most habitable room of the house. Five young men solemnly bowed to my aunt, who did not recognise them at first, for they had changed their working clothes and looked like five nice young society swells. Madame Guérard lunched with us. Suddenly in the middle of lunch my aunt cried out, "But these are the workmen!" The five young men rose and bowed low. Then my poor aunt understood her mistake and excused herself in every possible manner, so confused was she.


One day Alexandre Dumas, junior, was announced. He came to bring me the good news that he had finished his play for the Comédie Française, L'Etrangère, and that my rôle, the Duchesse de Septmonts, had come out very well. "You can," he said to me, "make a fine success out of it." I expressed my gratitude to him.

A month after this visit we were requested to attend the reading of this piece at the Comédie.

The reading was a great success, and I was delighted with my rôle, Catherine de Septmonts. I also liked the rôle of Croizette, Mrs. Clarkson.

Got gave us each copies of our parts, and thinking that he had made a mistake, I passed on to Croizette the rôle of l'Etrangère which he had just given me, saying to her, "Here, Got has made a mistake--here is your rôle."

"But he is not making any mistake. It is I who am to play the Duchesse de Septmonts."

I burst out into irrepressible laughter, which surprised everybody present, and when Perrin, annoyed, asked me at whom I was laughing like that, I exclaimed:

"At all of you--you, Dumas, Got, Croizette, and all of you who are in the plot, and who are all a little afraid of the result of your cowardice. Well, you need not alarm yourselves. I was delighted to play the Duchesse de Septmonts, but I shall be ten times more delighted to play l'Etrangère. And this time, my dear Sophie, I'll be quits with you; no ceremony, I tell you; for you have played me a little trick which was quite unworthy of our friendship!"

The rehearsals were strained on all sides. Perrin, who was a warm partisan of Croizette, bewailed the want of suppleness of her talent, so much so that one day Croizette, losing all patience, burst out:

"Well, Monsieur, you should have left the rôle to Sarah; she would have played it with the voice you wish in the love scenes; I cannot do any better. You irritate me too much: I have had enough of it!" And she ran off, sobbing, into the little guignol, where she had an attack of hysteria.

I followed her and consoled her as well as I could. And in the midst of her tears she kissed me, murmuring, "It is true. It is they who instigated me to play this nasty trick, and now they are annoying me." Croizette used vulgar expressions, very vulgar ones, and at times uttered many a Gallic joke.

That day we made up our quarrel entirely.

A week before the first performance I received an anonymous letter informing me that Perrin was trying his very best to get Dumas to change the name of the play. He wished--it goes without saying--to have the piece called La Duchesse de Septmonts.

I rushed off to the theatre to find Perrin at once.

At the entrance door I met Coquelin, who was playing the part of the Duc de Septmonts, which he did marvellously well. I showed him the letter. He shrugged his shoulders. "It is infamous! But why do you take any notice of an anonymous letter? It is not worthy of you!"

We were talking at the foot of the staircase when the manager arrived.

"Here, show the letter to Perrin!" And he took it from my hands in order to show it to him. Perrin blushed slightly.

"I know this writing," he said. "Some one from the theatre has written this letter."

I snatched it back from him. "Then it is some one who is well informed, and what he says is perhaps true. Is it not so? Tell me. I have the right to know."

"I detest anonymous letters." And he went up the stairs, bowing slightly, but without saying anything further.

"Ah, if it is true," said Coquelin, "it is too much. Would you like me to go and see Dumas, and I will get to know at once?"

"No, thank you. But you have put an idea into my head. I'll go there." And shaking hands with him, I went off to see the younger Dumas. He was just going out.

"Well, well? What is the matter? Your eyes are blazing!"

I went with him into the drawing-room and asked my question at once. He had kept his hat on, and took it off to recover his self-possession. And before he could speak a word I got furiously angry; I fell into one of those rages which I sometimes have, and which are more like attacks of madness. And in fact, all that I felt of bitterness towards this man, towards Perrin, towards all this theatrical world that should have loved me and upheld me, but which betrayed me on every occasion--all the hot anger that I had been accumulating during the rehearsals, the cries of revolt against the perpetual injustice of these two men, Perrin and Dumas--I burst out with everything in an avalanche of stinging words which were both furious and sincere. I reminded him of his promise made in former days; of his visit to my hotel in the Avenue de Villiers; of the cowardly and underhand manner in which he had sacrificed me, at Perrin's request and on the wishes of the friends of Sophie. I spoke vehemently, without allowing him to edge in a single word. And when, worn out, I was forced to stop, I murmured, out of breath with fatigue, "What--what--what have you to say for yourself?"

"My dear child," he replied, much touched, "if I had examined my own conscience I should have said to myself all that you have just said to me so eloquently! But I can truly say, in order to excuse myself a little, that I really believed that you did not care at all about the stage; that you much preferred your sculpture, your painting, and your court. We have seldom talked together, and people led me to believe all that I was perhaps too ready to believe. Your grief and anger have touched me deeply. I give you my word that the play shall keep its title of L'Etrangère. And now embrace me with good grace, to show that you are no longer angry with me."

I embraced him, and from that day we were good friends.

That evening I told the whole tale to Croizette, and I saw that she knew nothing about this wicked scheme. I was very pleased to know that. The play was very successful. Coquelin, Febvre, and I carried off the laurels of the day.

I had just commenced in my studio in the Avenue de Clichy a large group, the inspiration for which I had gathered from the sad history of an old woman whom I often saw at nightfall in the Baie des Trépassés.

One day I went up to her, wishing to speak to her, but I was so terrified by her aspect of madness that I rushed off at once, and the guardian told me her history.

She was the mother of five sons, all sailors. Two had been killed by the Germans in 1870, and three had been drowned. She had brought up the little son of her youngest boy, always keeping him far from the sea and teaching him to hate the water. She had never left the little lad, but he became so sad that he was really ill, and he said he was dying because he wanted to see the sea. "Well, make haste and get well," said the grandmother tenderly, "and we will go to see it together."

Two days later the child was better, and the grandmother left the valley in the company of her little grandson to go and see the ocean, the grave of her three sons.

It was a November day; a low sky hung over the ocean, narrowing the horizon. The child jumped with joy. He ran, gambolled, and sang for happiness when he saw all this living water.

The grandmother sat on the sand, and hid her tearful eyes in her two trembling hands; then suddenly, struck by the silence, she looked up in terror. There in front of her she saw a boat drifting, and in the boat her boy, her little lad of eight years old, who was laughing right merrily, paddling as well as he could with one oar that he could hardly hold, and crying out, "I am going to see what there is behind the mist, and I will come back."

He never came back. And the following day they found the poor old woman talking low to the waves which came and bathed her feet. She came every day to the water's edge, throwing in the bread which kind folks gave her, and saying to the waves, "You must carry that to the little lad."

This touching narrative had remained in my memory. I can still see the tall old woman, with her brown cape and hood.

I worked feverishly at this group. It seemed to me now that I was destined to be a sculptor, and I began to despise the stage, I only went to the theatre when I was compelled by my duties, and I left as soon as possible.

I had made several designs, none of which pleased me. Just when I was going to throw down the last one in discouragement, the painter Georges Clairin, who came in just at that moment to see me, begged me not to do so. And my good friend Mathieu Meusnier, who was a man of talent, also added his voice against the destruction of my design.

Excited by their encouragement, I decided to hurry on with the work and to make a large group. I asked Meusnier if he knew any tall, bony old woman, and he sent me two, neither of whom suited me. Then I asked all my painter and sculptor friends, and during eight days all sorts of old and infirm women came for my inspection. I fixed at last on a charwoman who was about sixty years old. She was very tall, and had very sharp-cut features. When she came in I felt a slight sentiment of fear. The idea of remaining alone with this female gendarme for hours together made me feel uneasy. But when I heard her speak I was more comfortable. Her timid, gentle voice and frightened gestures, like a shy young girl, contrasted strangely with the build of the poor woman. When I showed her the design she was stupefied. "Do you want me to have my neck and shoulders bare? I really cannot." I told her that nobody ever came in when I worked, and I asked to see her neck immediately.

Oh, that neck! I clapped my hands with joy when I saw it. It was long, emaciated, terrible. The bones literally stood out almost bare of flesh; the sterno-cleido-mastoid was remarkable--it was just what I wanted. I went up to her and gently bared her shoulder. What a treasure I had found! The shoulder bone was visible under the skin, and she had two immense "salt-cellars"! The woman was ideal for my work. She seemed destined for it. She blushed when I told her so. I asked to see her feet. She took off her thick boots and showed a dirty foot which had no character. "No," I said, "thank you. Your feet are too small; I will take only your head and shoulders."

After having fixed the price I engaged her for three months. At the idea of earning so much money for three months the poor woman began to cry, and I felt so sorry for her that I told her she would not have to seek for work that winter, because she had already told me that she generally spent six months of the year in the country, in Sologne, near her grandchildren.

Having found the grandmother, I now needed the child.

I passed a review of a whole army of professional Italian models. There were some lovely children, real little Jupins. The mothers undressed their children in a second, and the children posed quite naturally and took attitudes which showed off their muscles and the development of the torso. I chose a fine little boy of seven years old, but who looked more like nine. I had already had in the workmen, who had followed out my design and put up the scaffolding necessary to make my work sufficiently stable and to support the weight. Enormous iron supports were fixed into the plaster by bolts and pillars of wood and iron wherever necessary. The skeleton of a large piece of sculpture looks like a giant trap put up to catch rats and mice by the thousand.

I gave myself up to this enormous work with the courage of ignorance. Nothing discouraged me.

Often I worked on till midnight, sometimes till four o'clock in the morning. And as one humble gas-burner was totally insufficient to work by, I had a crown or rather a silver circlet made, each bud of which was a candlestick, and each had its candle burning, and those of the back row were a little higher than those of the front. And with this help I was able to work almost without ceasing. I had no watch or clock in the room, as I wished to ignore time altogether, except on the days I had to perform at the theatre. Then my maid would come and call for me. How many times have I gone without lunch or dinner. Then I would perhaps faint, and so be compelled to send for something to eat to restore my strength.

I had almost finished my group, but I had done neither the feet nor the hands of the grandmother. She was holding her little dead grandson on her knees, but her arms had no hands and her legs had no feet. I looked in vain for the hands and feet of my ideal, large and bony. One day, when my friend Martel came to see me at my studio and to look at this group, which was much talked of, I had an inspiration. Martel was big, and thin enough to make Death jealous. I watched him walking round my work. He was looking at it as a connoisseur. But I was looking at him. Suddenly I said:

"My dear Martel, I beg you--I beseech you--to pose for the hands and feet of my grandmother!"

He burst out laughing, and with perfectly good grace he took off his shoes and took the place of my model.

He came ten days in succession, and gave me three hours each day.

Thanks to him, I was able to finish my group. I had it moulded and sent to the Salon (1876), where it met with genuine success.

Is there any need to say that I was accused of having got some one else to make this group for me? I sent a summons to one critic. He was no other than Jules Claretie, who had declared that this work, which was very interesting, could not have been done by me. Jules Claretie apologised very politely, and that was the end of it.

The Jury, after a full investigation, awarded me an "honourable mention," and I was wild with joy.

I was very much criticised, but also very much praised. Nearly all the criticisms referred to the neck of my old Breton woman, that neck on which I had worked with such eagerness.

The following is from an article by René Delorme:

"The work of Mlle. Sarah Bernhardt deserves to be studied in detail. The head of the grandmother, well worked out as to the profound wrinkles it bears, expresses that intense sorrow in which everything else counts as nothing.

"The only reproach I have to make against this artist is that she has brought too much into prominence the muscles of the neck of the old grandmother. This shows a lack of experience. She is pleased with herself for having studied anatomy so well, and is not sorry for the opportunity of showing it. It is," &c. &c.

Certainly this gentleman was right. I had studied anatomy eagerly and in a very amusing manner. I had had lessons from Doctor Parrot, who was so good to me. I had continually with me a book of anatomical designs, and when I was at home I stood before the glass and said suddenly to myself, putting my finger on some part of my body, "Now then, what is that?" I had to answer immediately, without hesitation, and when I hesitated I compelled myself to learn by heart the muscles of the head or the arm, and did not sleep till this was done.

A month after the exhibition there was a reading of Parodi's play, Rome Vaincue, at the Comédie Française. I refused the rôle of the young vestal Opimia, which had been allotted to me, and energetically demanded that of Posthumia, an old, blind Roman woman with a superb and noble face.

No doubt there was some connection in my mind between my old Breton weeping over her grandson and the august patrician claiming forgiveness for her grand-daughter.

Perrin was at first astounded. Afterwards he acceded to my request. But his order-loving mind and his taste for symmetry made him anxious about Mounet-Sully, who was also playing in the piece. He was accustomed to seeing Mounet-Sully and me playing the two heroes, the two lovers, the two victims. How was he to arrange matters so that we should still be the two--something or other? Eureka! There was in the play an old idiot named Vestaepor, who was quite unnecessary for the action of the piece, but had been brought in to satisfy Perrin. "Eureka!" cried the director of the Comédie; "Mounet-Sully shall play Vestaepor!" Equilibrium was restored. The god of the bourgeois was content.

The piece, which was really quite mediocre, obtained a great success at the first performance (September 27, 1876), and personally I was very successful in the fourth act. The public was decidedly in my favour, in spite of everything and everybody.


The performances of Hernani made me a still greater favourite with the public.

I had already rehearsed with Victor Hugo, and it was a real pleasure to me to see the great poet almost each day. I had never discontinued my visits, but I was never able to have any conversation with him in his own house. There were always men in red ties gesticulating, or women in tears reciting. He was very good; he used to listen with half-closed eyes, and I thought he was asleep. Then, roused by the silence, he would say a consoling word, for Victor Hugo could not promise without keeping his word. He was not like me: I promise everything with the firm intention of keeping my promises, and two hours after I have forgotten all about them. If any one reminds me of what I have promised, I tear my hair, and to make up for my forgetfulness I say anything, I buy presents--in fact, I complicate my life with useless worries. It has always been thus, and always will be so.

As was I grumbling one day to Victor Hugo that I never could have a chance of talking with him, he invited me to lunch, saying that after lunch we could talk together alone. I was delighted with this lunch, to which Paul Meurice, the poet Léon Cladel, the Communard Dupuis, a Russian lady whose name I do not remember and Gustave Doré were also invited. In front of Victor Hugo sat Madame Drouet, the friend of his unlucky days.

But what a horrible lunch we had! It was really bad and badly served. My feet were frozen by the draughts from the three doors, which fitted badly, and one could positively hear the wind blowing under the table. Near me was Mr. X., a German socialist, who is to-day a very successful man. This man had such dirty hands and ate in such a way that he made me feel sick. I met him afterwards at Berlin. He is now quite clean and proper, and, I believe, an imperialist. But the uncomfortable feeling this uncongenial neighbour inspired in me, the cold draughts blowing on my feet, mortal boredom--all this reduced me to a state of positive suffering, and I lost consciousness.

When I recovered I found myself on a couch, my hand in that of Madame Drouet, and in front of me, sketching me, Gustave Doré.

"Oh, don't move," he exclaimed; "you are so pretty like that!" These words, though they were so inappropriate, pleased me nevertheless, and I complied with the wish of the great artist, who was one of my friends.

I left the house of Victor Hugo without saying good-bye to him, a trifle ashamed of myself.

The next day he came to see me. I told him some tale to account for my illness, and I saw no more of him except at the rehearsals of Hernani.

The first performance of Hernani took place on November 21, 1877. It was a triumph alike for the author and the actors. Hernani had already been played ten years earlier, but Delaunay, who then took the part of Hernani, was the exact contrary of what this part should have been. He was neither epic, romantic, nor poetic. He had not the style of those grand epic poems. He was charming, graceful, and wore a perpetual smile; of middle height, with studied movements, he was ideal in Musset, perfect in Emile Augier, charming in Molière, but execrable in Victor Hugo.

Bressant, who took the part of Charles Quint, was shockingly bad. His amiable and flabby style and his weak and wandering eyes effectively prevented all grandeur. His two enormous feet, generally half hidden under his trousers, assumed immense proportions. I could see nothing else. They were very large, flat, and slightly turned in at the toes. They were a nightmare! But think of their possessor repeating the admirable couplet of Charles Quint to the shade of Charlemagne! It was absurd! The public coughed, wriggled, and showed that they found the whole thing painful and ridiculous.

In our performance it was Mounet-Sully, in all the splendour of his talent, who played Hernani. And it was Worms, that admirable artiste, who played Charles Quint--and how well he took the part! How he rolled out the lines! What a splendid diction he had! This performance of November 21, 1877, was a triumph. I came in for a good share in the general success. I played Dona Sol. Victor Hugo sent me the following letter:

"Madame,--You have been great and charming; you have moved me--me, the old combatant--and at one moment, while the public whom you had enchanted cheered you, I wept. This tear which you caused me to shed is yours, and I place myself at your feet.

"Victor Hugo."

With this letter came a small box containing a fine chain bracelet, from which hung one diamond drop. I lost this bracelet at the house of the rich nabob, Alfred Sassoon. He wanted to give me another, but I refused. He could not give me back the tear of Victor Hugo.

My success at the Comédie was assured, and the public treated me as a spoiled child. My comrades were a little jealous of me.

Perrin made trouble for me at every turn. He had a sort of friendship for me, but he would not believe that I could get on without him, and as he always refused to do as I wanted, I did not go to him for anything. I used to send a letter to the Ministry, and I always won my cause.

As I had a continual thirst for what was new, I now tried my hand at painting. I knew how to draw a little, and had a well-developed sense of colour. I first did two or three small pictures, then I undertook the portrait of my dear Guérard.

Alfred Stevens thought it was vigorously done, and Georges Clairin encouraged me to continue with painting. Then I launched out courageously, boldly. I began a picture which was nearly two metres in size, The Young Girl and Death.

Then came a cry of indignation against me.

Why did I want to do anything else but act, since that was my career?

Why did I always want to be before the public?

Perrin came to see me one day when I was very ill. He began to preach. "You are killing yourself, my dear child," he said. "Why do you go in for sculpture, painting, &c? Is it to prove that you can do it?"

"Oh, no, no," I answered; "it is merely to create a necessity for staying here."

"I don't understand," said Perrin, listening very attentively.

"This is how it is. I have a wild desire to travel, to see something else, to breathe another air, and to see skies that are higher than ours and trees that are bigger--something different, in short. I have therefore had to create for myself some tasks which will hold me to my chains. If I did not do this, I feel that my desire to see other things in the world would win the day, and I should do something foolish."

This conversation was destined to go against me some years later, when the Comédie brought a law-suit against me.

The Exhibition of 1878 put the finishing stroke to the state of exasperation that Perrin and some of the artistes of the theatre had conceived against me. They blamed me for everything--for my painting, my sculpture, and my health. I had a terrible scene with Perrin, and it was the last one, for from that time forth we did not speak to each other again; a formal bow was the most that we exchanged afterwards.

The climax was reached over my balloon ascension. I adored and I still adore balloons. Every day I went up in M. Giffard's captive balloon. This persistency had struck the savant, and he asked a mutual friend to introduce him.

"Oh, Monsieur Giffard," I said, "how I should like to go up in a balloon that is not captive!"

"Well, Mademoiselle, you shall do so if you like," he replied very kindly.

"When?" I asked.

"Any day you like."

I should have liked to start immediately, but, as he pointed out, he would have to fit the balloon up, and it was a great responsibility for him to undertake. We therefore fixed upon the following Tuesday, just a week from then. I asked M. Giffard to say nothing about it, for if the newspapers should get hold of this piece of news my terrified family would not allow me to go. M. Tissandier, who a little time after was doomed, poor fellow, to be killed in a balloon accident, promised to accompany me. Something happened, however, to prevent his going with me, and it was young Godard who the following week accompanied me in the "Dona Sol," a beautiful orange-coloured balloon specially prepared for my expedition. Prince Jerome Napoleon (Plon-Plon), who was with me when Giffard was introduced, insisted on going with us. But he was heavy and rather clumsy, and I did not care much about his conversation, in spite of his marvellous wit, for he was spiteful, and rather delighted when he could get a chance to attack the Emperor Napoleon III., whom I liked very much.

We started alone, Georges Clairin, Godard, and I. The rumour of our journey had spread, but too late for the Press to get hold of the news. I had been up in the air about five minutes when one of my friends, Comte de M----, met Perrin on the Saints-Pères Bridge.

"I say," he began, "look up in the sky. There is your star shooting away."

Perrin gazed up, and, pointing to the balloon which was rising, he asked, "Who is in that?"

"Sarah Bernhardt," replied my friend. Perrin, it appears, turned purple, and, clenching his teeth, he murmured, "That's another of her freaks, but she will pay for this."

He hurried away without even saying good-bye to my young friend, who stood there stupefied at this unreasonable burst of anger.

And if he had suspected my infinite joy at thus travelling through the air, Perrin would have suffered still more.

Ah! our departure! It was half-past five. I shook hands with a few friends. My family, whom I had kept in the most profound ignorance, was not there. I felt my heart tighten somewhat when, after the words "Let her go!" I found myself in about a second some fifty yards above the earth. I still heard a few cries: "Wait! Come back! Don't let her be killed!" And then nothing more. Nothing. There was the sky above and the earth beneath. Then suddenly I was in the clouds. I had left a misty Paris. I now breathed under a blue sky and saw a radiant sun. Around us were opaque mountains of clouds with irradiated edges. Our balloon plunged into a milky vapour quite warm from the sun. It was splendid! It was stupefying. Not a sound, not a breath! But the balloon was scarcely moving at all. It was only towards six o'clock that the currents of air caught us, and we took our flight towards the east. We were at an altitude of about 1700 metres. The spectacle became fairylike. Large fleecy clouds were spread below us like a carpet. Large orange curtains fringed with violet came down from the sun to lose themselves in our cloudy carpet.

At twenty minutes to seven we were about 2500 metres above the earth, and cold and hunger commenced to make themselves felt.

The dinner was copious--we had foie gras, fresh bread, and oranges. The cork of our champagne bottle flew up into the clouds with a pretty, soft noise. We raised our glasses in honour of M. Giffard.

We had talked a great deal. Night began to put on her heavy dark mantle. It became very cold. We were then at 2600 metres, and I had a singing in my ears. My nose began to bleed. I felt very uncomfortable, and began to get drowsy without being able to prevent it. Georges Clairin got anxious, and young Godard cried out loudly, to wake me up, no doubt: "Come, come! We shall have to go down. Let us throw out the guide-rope!"

This cry woke me up. I wanted to know what a guide-rope was. I got up feeling rather stupefied, and in order to rouse me Godard put the guide-rope into my hands. It was a strong rope of about 120 metres long, to which were attached at certain distances little iron hooks. Clairin and I let out the rope, laughing, while Godard, bending over the side of the car, was looking through a field-glass.

"Stop!" he cried suddenly. "There are a lot of trees!"

We were over the wood of Ferrières. But just in front of us there was a little open ground suitable for our descent.

"There is no doubt about it," cried Godard; "if we miss this plain we shall come down in the dead of night in the wood of Ferrières, and that will be very dangerous!" Then, turning to me, "Will you," he said, "open the valve?"

I immediately did so, and the gas came out of its prison whistling a mocking air. The valve was shut by order of the aeronaut, and we descended rapidly. Suddenly the stillness of the night was broken by the sound of a horn. I trembled. It was Louis Godard, who had pulled out of his pocket, which was a veritable storehouse, a sort of horn on which he blew with violence. A loud whistle answered our call, and 500 metres below us we saw a man who was shouting his hardest to make us hear. As we were very close to a little station, we easily guessed that this man was the station-master.

"Where are we?" cried Louis Godard through his horn.

"At--in--in--ille!" answered the station-master. It was impossible to understand.

"Where are we?" thundered Georges Clairin in his most formidable tones.

"At--in--in--ille!" shouted the station-master, with his hand curved round his mouth.

"Where are we?" cried I in my most crystalline accents.

"At--in--in--ille!" answered the station-master and his porters.

It was impossible to get to know anything. We had to lower the balloon. At first we descended rather too quickly, and the wind blew us towards the wood. We had to go up again. But ten minutes later we opened the valve again and made a fresh descent. The balloon was then to the right of the station, and far from the amiable station-master.

"Throw out the anchor!" cried young Godard in a commanding tone. And assisted by Georges Clairin, he threw out into space another rope, to the end of which was fastened a formidable anchor. The rope was 80 metres long.

Down below us a crowd of children of all ages had been running ever since we stopped above the station. When we got to about 300 metres from earth Godard called out to them, "Where are we?"

"At Vachère!"

None of us knew Vachère. But we descended nevertheless.

"Hullo! you fellows down there, take hold of the rope that's dragging," cried the aeronaut, "and mind you don't pull too hard!" Five vigorous men seized hold of the rope. We were 130 metres from the ground, and the sight was becoming interesting. Darkness began to blot out everything. I raised my head to see the sky, but I remained with my mouth open with astonishment. I saw only the lower end of our balloon, which was overhanging its base, all loose and baggy. It was very ugly.

We anchored gently, without the little dragging which I had hoped would happen, and without the little drama which I had half expected.

It began to rain in torrents as we left the balloon.

The young owner of a neighbouring château ran up, like the peasants, to see what was going on. He offered me his umbrella.

"Oh, I am so thin I cannot get wet. I pass between the drops."

The saying was repeated and had a great success.

"What time is there a train?" asked Godard.

"Oh, you have plenty of time," answered an oily and heavy voice. "You cannot leave before ten o'clock, as the station is a long way from here, and in such weather it will take Madame two hours to walk there."

I was confounded, and looked for the young gentleman with the umbrella, which I could have used as walking-stick, as neither Clairin nor Godard had one. But just as I was accusing him of going away and leaving us, he jumped lightly out of a vehicle which I had not heard drive up.

"There!" said he. "There is a carriage for you and these gentlemen, and another for the body of the balloon."

"Ma foi! You have saved us," said Clairin, clasping his hand, "for it appears the roads are in a very bad state."

"Oh," said the young man, "it would be impossible for the feet of Parisians to walk even half the distance."

Then he bowed and wished us a pleasant journey.

Rather more than an hour later we arrived at the station of Emerainville. The station-master, learning who we were, received us in a very friendly manner. He made his apologies for not having heard when we called out an hour previously from our floating vehicle. We had a frugal meal of bread, cheese, and cider set before us. I have always detested cheese, and would never eat it: there is nothing poetical about it. But I was dying with hunger.

"Taste it, taste it," said Georges Clairin.

I bit a morsel off, and found it excellent.

We got back very late, in the middle of the night, and I found my household in an extreme state of anxiety. Our friends who had come to hear news of us had stayed. There was quite a crowd. I was somewhat annoyed at this, as I was half dead with fatigue.

I sent everybody away rather sharply, and went up to my room. As my maid was helping me to undress she told me that some one had come for me from the Comédie Française several times.

"Oh, mon Dieu!" I cried anxiously. "Could the piece have been changed?"

"No, I don't think so," said the maid. "But it appears that Monsieur Perrin is furious, and that they are all in a rage with you. Here is the note which was left for you."

I opened the letter. I was requested to call on the manager the following day at two o'clock.

On my arrival at Perrin's at the time appointed I was received with exaggerated politeness which had an undercurrent of severity.

Then commenced a series of recriminations about my fits of ill-temper, my caprices, my eccentricities; and he finished his speech by saying that I had incurred a fine of one thousand francs for travelling without the consent of the management.

I burst out laughing. "The case of a balloon has not been foreseen," I said; "and I vow that I will pay no fine. Outside the theatre I do as I please, and that is no business of yours, my dear Monsieur Perrin, so long as I do nothing to interfere with my theatrical work. And besides, you bore me to death--I will resign. Be happy."

I left him ashamed and anxious.

The next day I sent in my written resignation to M. Perrin, and a few hours afterwards I was sent for by M. Turquet, Minister of Fine Arts. I refused to go, and they sent a mutual friend, who stated that M. Perrin had gone a step farther than he had any right to; that the fine was annulled, and that I must cancel my resignation. So I did.

But the situation was strained. My fame had become annoying for my enemies, and a little trying, I confess, for my friends. But at that time all this stir and noise amused me vastly. I did nothing to attract attention. My somewhat fantastic tastes, my paleness and thinness, my peculiar way of dressing, my scorn of fashion, my general freedom in all respects, made me a being quite apart from all others. I did not recognise the fact.

I did not read, I never read, the newspapers. So I did not know what was said about me, either favourable or unfavourable. Surrounded by a court of adorers of both sexes, I lived in a sunny dream.

All the royal personages and the notabilities who were the guests of France during the Exhibition of 1878 came to see me. This was a constant source of pleasure to me.

The Comédie was the first theatre to which all these illustrious visitors went, and Croizette and I played nearly every evening. While I was playing Amphytrion I fell seriously ill, and was sent to the south.

I remained there two months. I lived at Mentone, but I made Cap Martin my headquarters. I had a tent put up here on the spot that the Empress Eugénie afterwards selected for her villa. I did not want to see anybody, and I thought that by living in a tent so far from the town I should not be troubled with visitors. This was a mistake. One day when I was having lunch with my little boy I heard the bells of two horses and a carriage. The road overhung my tent, which was half hidden by the bushes. Suddenly a voice which I knew, but could not recognise, cried in the emphatic tone of a herald, "Does Sarah Bernhardt, Sociétaire of the Comédie Française, reside here?"

We did not move. The question was asked again. Again the answer was silence. But we heard the sound of breaking branches, the bushes were pushed apart, and at two yards from the tent the unwelcome voice recommenced.

We were discovered. Somewhat annoyed, I came out. I saw before me a man with a large tussore cloak on, a field-glass strapped on his shoulders, a grey bowler hat, and a red, happy face, with a little pointed beard. I looked at this commonplace-looking individual with anything but favour. He lifted his hat.

"Madame Sarah Bernhardt is here?"

"What do you want with me, sir?"

"Here is my card, Madame."

I read, "Gambard, Nice, Villa des Palmiers." I looked at him with astonishment, and he was still more astonished to see that his name did not produce any impression on me. He had a foreign accent.

"Well, you see, Madame, I came to ask you to sell me your group, After the Tempest."

I began to laugh.

"Ma foi, Monsieur, I am treating for that with the firm of Susse, and they offer me 6000 francs. If you will give ten you may have it."

"All right," he said. "Here are 10,000 francs. Have you pen and ink?"


"Ah," said he, "allow me!" And he produced a little case in which there were pen and ink.

I made out the receipt, and gave him an order to take the group from my studio in Paris. He went away, and I heard the bells of the horses ringing and then dying away in the distance. After this I was often invited to the house of this original person.