Death of Julien Sorel:
The bad air of the dungeon was becoming unbearable
to Julien. Luckily, on the day it was announced to him that he must
die, a brilliant sun gladdened all nature, and Julien was in a brave
mood. For him, to walk in the open air was a delightful sensation,
like a stroll ashore for the voyager who has been at sea for a long
time. "Come now, everything is going fine," he told himself, "I
don’t feel the slightest want of courage."
Never had that head been more poetical than at the
moment it was about to fall. The sweetest times he had know in the
woods at Vergy came crowding back into his mind, and with an extreme
Everything went smoothly, decently, and without the
least affectation on Julien’s part.
Two days before, he had said to Fouque: "What state
I’ll be in, I can’t say; this dungeon, so damp, so ugly, gives me
such bouts of fever that sometimes I don’t know where I am; but as
for fear, no; they won’t see me turn pale."
He had made arrangements in advance so that on the
morning of the last day, Fouque would carry off Mathilde and Mme. De
… Julien had extracted from Mme. De Renal an oath
that she would live to care for Mathilde’s son.
"Who knows? Perhaps we still have sensations after
death," he said to Fouque one day. "I should rather like to rest,
since rest is the word, in that small cave on the tall mountain that
looks down on Verrieries. Many’s the time — I’ve told you about it —
when I had withdrawn at night to that cave, and was looking out over
the richest provinces of France in the distance, that ambition would
fire my heart. In those days it was my only passion….In short, that
cave is dear to me, and there’s no denying that the way it is
situated is enough to make a philosopher envious…. Very well! Those
good Congreganists of Besancon will do anything for money; if you go
about it the right way, they will sell you my mortal remains…"
Fouque succeeded in this mournful transaction. He
was spending the night alone in his room with his friend’s body when
to his great surprise, he saw Mathilde enter. A few hours earlier he
had left her ten leagues out of Besancon. Her look and her eyes were
"I want to see him," she said.
Fouque hadn’t the heart to speak or to rise. He
pointed to a big blue cloak on the floor; what remained of Julien
was wrapped up in it.
She dropped to her knees. The memory of Boniface de
La Mole and Marguerite de Navarre gave her, no doubt, a superhuman
courage. Her trembling hands undid the cloak. Fouque turned his
He heard Mathilde walk hurriedly about the room. She
lit several candles. By the time Fouque had the strength to look at
her, she had set Julien’s head on a little marble table and was
kissing it on the brow.
Mathilde followed her lover to the tomb he had
chosen for himself. A great number of priests escorted the coffin,
and unbeknownst to everyone, alone in her carriage draped with
black, she bore on her lap the head of the man she had loved so
Having thus arrived at a spot near the peak of the
tall mountains in the Jura range in the middle of the night, twenty
priests said a mass for the dead in the small cave, magnificently
illuminated by countless tapers. All the inhabitants of the small
mountain village through which the procession passed had followed
it, attracted by the strangeness of this ceremony.
Mathilde appeared in a long mourning dress, and at
the end of the service had several thousand five-franc pieces thrown
Having stayed behind with Fouque, she insisted on
burying her lover’s head with her own hands. Fouque nearly went mad
with grief over this.
Through Mathilde’s good offices, the rough cave was
ornamented at great expense with marbles carved in Italy.
Mme. De Renal kept her promise. She made no attempt whatsoever on
her life; but three days after Julien, she died while embracing her