An Old Maid
by Honore de Balzac

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Etext prepared by John Bickers,
and Dagny,




Translated By
Katharine Prescott Wormeley


To Monsieur Eugene-Auguste-Georges-Louis Midy de la Greneraye
Surville, Royal Engineer of the Ponts at Chausses.

As a testimony to the affection of his brother-in-law,

De Balzac




Most persons have encountered, in certain provinces in France, a
number of Chevaliers de Valois. One lived in Normandy, another at
Bourges, a third (with whom we have here to do) flourished in Alencon,
and doubtless the South possesses others. The number of the Valesian
tribe is, however, of no consequence to the present tale. All these
chevaliers, among whom were doubtless some who were Valois as Louis
XIV. was Bourbon, knew so little of one another that it was not
advisable to speak to one about the others. They were all willing to
leave the Bourbons in tranquil possession of the throne of France; for
it was too plainly established that Henri IV. became king for want of
a male heir in the first Orleans branch called the Valois. If there
are any Valois, they descend from Charles de Valois, Duc d'Angouleme,
son of Charles IX. and Marie Touchet, the male line from whom ended,
until proof to the contrary be produced, in the person of the Abbe de
Rothelin. The Valois-Saint-Remy, who descended from Henri II., also
came to an end in the famous Lamothe-Valois implicated in the affair
of the Diamond Necklace.

Each of these many chevaliers, if we may believe reports, was, like
the Chevalier of Alencon, an old gentleman, tall, thin, withered, and
moneyless. He of Bourges had emigrated; he of Touraine hid himself; he
of Alencon fought in La Vendee and "chouanized" somewhat. The youth of
the latter was spend in Paris, where the Revolution overtook him when
thirty years of age in the midst of his conquests and gallantries.

The Chevalier de Valois of Alencon was accepted by the highest
aristocracy of the province as a genuine Valois; and he distinguished
himself, like the rest of his homonyms, by excellent manners, which
proved him a man of society. He dined out every day, and played cards
every evening. He was thought witty, thanks to his foible for relating
a quantity of anecdotes on the reign of Louis XV. and the beginnings
of the Revolution. When these tales were heard for the first time,
they were held to be well narrated. He had, moreover, the great merit
of not repeating his personal bons mots and of never speaking of his
love-affairs, though his smiles and his airs and graces were
delightfully indiscreet. The worthy gentleman used his privilege as a
Voltairean noble to stay away from mass; and great indulgence was
shown to his irreligion because of his devotion to the royal cause.
One of his particular graces was the air and manner (imitated, no
doubt, from Mole) with which he took snuff from a gold box adorned
with the portrait of the Princess Goritza,--a charming Hungarian,
celebrated for her beauty in the last years of the reign of Louis XV.
Having been attached during his youth to that illustrious stranger, he
still mentioned her with emotion. For her sake he had fought a duel
with Monsieur de Lauzun.