Edgar Allan Poe

The Spectacles

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

At length I bethought me of applying to my companion.

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

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

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

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

"I wonder who she can be?"

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

"Do you know her?"

"Yes; I have the honor."

"Will you introduce me?"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Out," said the footman–Talbot's own.

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

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

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

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

"Surprisingly beautiful!" exclaimed a second.

"An angel upon earth!" ejaculated a third.

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

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

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

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

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

Ninon, Ninon, Ninon a bas-

A bas Ninon De L'Enclos!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

"Yours sincerely,


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Ah! non guinge uman pensiero

Al contento ond 'io son piena.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

"Ag?–ole?–me not so ver ole, after all! Me not one single day more dan de 

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

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

"Moissart!" said I.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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