Far from gaining assurance in meeting Bonaparte oftener, he intimidated me daily more and more. I confusedly felt that no emotion of the heart could possibly take effect upon him. He looks upon a human being as a fact or as a thing, but not as a fellow-creature. He does not hate any more than he loves; there is nothing for him but himself; all other things are so many ciphers. The force of his will lies in the imperturbable calculation of his selfishness.
Fate was very kind to Madame De Stael.
She ran the gamut of life from highest love to direst pain–from rosy dawn to blackest night. Name if you can another woman who touched life at so many points! Home, health, wealth, strength, honors, affection, applause, motherhood, loss, danger, death, defeat, sacrifice, humiliation, illness, banishment, imprisonment, escape. Again comes hope–returning strength, wealth, recognition, fame tempered by opposition, home, a few friends, and kindly death–cool, all-enfolding death.
If Harriet Martineau showed poor judgment in choosing her parents, we can lay no such charge to the account of Madame De Stael.
They called her “The Daughter of Necker,” and all through life she delighted in the title. The courtier who addressed her thus received a sunny smile and a gentle love-tap on his cheek for pay. A splendid woman is usually the daughter of her father, just as strong men have noble mothers.
Jacques Necker was born in Geneva, and went up to the city, like many another country boy, to make his fortune. He carried with him to Paris innocence, health, high hope, and twenty francs in silver. He found a place as porter or “trotter” in a bank. Soon they made him clerk.
A letter came one day from a correspondent asking for a large loan, and setting forth a complex financial scheme in which the bank was invited to join. M. Vernet, the head of the establishment, was away, and young Necker took the matter in hand. He made a detailed statement of the scheme, computed probable losses, weighed the pros and cons, and when the employer returned, the plan, all worked out, was on his desk, with young Necker’s advice that the loan be made.
“You seem to know all about banking!” was the sarcastic remark of M. Vernet.
“I do,” was the proud answer.
“You know too much; I’ll just put you back as porter.”
The Genevese accepted the reduction and went back as porter without repining. A man of small sense would have resigned his situation at once, just as men are ever forsaking Fortune when she is about to smile; witness Cato committing suicide on the very eve of success.
There is always a demand for efficient men; the market is never glutted; the cities are hungry for them–but the trouble is, few men are efficient.
“It was none of his business!” said M. Vernet to his partner, trying to ease conscience with reasons.
“Yes; but see how he accepted the inevitable!”
“Ah! true, he has two qualities that are the property only of strong men: confidence and resignation. I think–I think I was hasty!”
So young Necker was reinstated, and in six months was cashier, in three years a partner.
Not long after, he married Susanna Curchod, a poor governess.
But Mademoiselle Curchod was rich in mental endowment: refined, gentle, spiritual, she was a true mate to the high-minded Necker. She was a Swiss, too, and if you know how a young man and a young woman, countryborn, in a strange city are attracted to each other, you will better understand this particular situation.
Some years before, Gibbon had loved and courted the beautiful Mademoiselle Curchod in her quiet home in the Jura Mountains. They became engaged. Gibbon wrote home, breaking the happy news to his parents.
“Has the beautiful Curchod of whom you sing, a large dowry?” inquired the mother.
“She has no dowry! I can not tell a lie,” was the meek answer. The mother came on and extinguished the match in short order.