“Oh, who of us does not recall with delight the first, books he devoured! The cover of a ponderous old volume that you found upon the shelf of a forgotten closet—does it not bring back to you gracious pictures of your young years? Have you not thought to see the wide meadow rise before you, bathed in the rosy light of the evening when you saw it for the first time? Oh! that the night should fall so quickly upon those divine pages, that the cruel twilight should make the words float upon the dim page!
“It is all over;
the lambs bleat, the sheep are shut up in
their fold, the cricket chirps in the cottage and field It is
time to go home.
“The path is stony,
the bridge narrow and slippery, and the
way is difficult.
“You are covered
with sweat, but you have a long walk, you
will arrive too late, supper will have commenced.
“It is in vain that the old domestic whom you love will retard the ringing of the bell as long as possible; you will have the humiliation of entering the last one, and the grandmother, inexorable upon etiquette, will reprove you in a voice sweet but sad—a reproach very light, very tender, which you will feel more deeply than a severe chastisement. But when, at night, she demands that you account for your absence, and you acknowledge, blushing, that in reading in the meadow you forgot yourself, and when you are asked to give the book, you draw with a trembling hand from your pocket—what? Estelle et Nemorin.
“Oh then the grandmother smiles!
“You regain your
courage, your book will be restored to you,
but another time you must not forget the hour of supper.
“Oh happy days! O my valley Noire! O Corinne! O Bernardin de Saint Pierre! O the Iliad! O Milleroye! O Atala! O the willows by the river! O my departed youth! O my old dog who could not forget the hour of supper, and who replied to the distant ringing of the bell by a dismal howl of regret and hunger!”
In other portions of her books George Sand refers to her early life, and always in this enthusiastic manner.
Her grandmother exercised no surveillance upon her reading—she perused the pages of Corinne, Atala, and Lavater, and the two former would raise strange dreams in the head of a girl only fourteen years old. She read everything which fell in her way.
In reading Lavater’s essays upon Physiogomy, she noticed the array of ridiculous, hideous, and grotesque pictures, and wished to know what they were for. She saw underneath them the words—drunkard—idler—glutton, etc. etc. She very soon remarked that the drunkard resembled the coachman, the cross and meddling person the cook, the pedant her own teacher, and thus she proved the infallibility of Lavater!