Illness kept them now at Venice. George Sand's illness first and then Musset's alarming malady. He had high fever, accompanied by chest affection and attacks of delirium which lasted six consecutive hours, during which it took four men to hold him.
George Sand was an admirable nurse. This must certainly be acknowledged. She sat up with him at night and she nursed him by day, and, astonishing woman that she was, she was also able to work and to earn enough to pay their common expenses. This is well known, but I am able to give another proof of it, in the letters which George Sand wrote from Venice to Buloz. These letters have been communicated to me by Madame Pailleron, _nee_ Buloz, and by Madame Landouzy, _veuve_ Buloz, whom I thank for the public and for myself. The following are a few of the essential passages:
"February 4. _Read this when you are alone._
MY DEAR BULOZ,--Your reproaches reach me at a miserable moment. If you have received my letter, you already know that I do not deserve them. A fortnight ago I was well again and working. Alfred was working too, although he was not very well and had fits of feverishness. About five days ago we were both taken ill, almost at the same time. I had an attack of dysentery, which caused me horrible suffering. I have not yet recovered from it, but I am strong enough, anyhow, to nurse him. He was seized with a nervous and inflammatory fever, which has made such rapid progress that the doctor tells me he does not know what to think about it. We must wait for the thirteenth or fourteenth day before knowing whether his life is in danger. And what will this thirteenth or fourteenth day be? Perhaps his last one? I am in despair, overwhelmed with fatigue, suffering horribly, and awaiting who knows what future? How can I give myself up to literature or to anything in the world at such a time? I only know that our entire fortune, at present, consists of sixty francs, that we shall have to spend an enormous amount at the chemist's, for the nurse and doctor, and that we are at a very expensive hotel. We were just about to leave it and go to a private house. Alfred cannot be moved now, and even if everything should go well, he probably cannot be moved for a month. We shall have to pay one term's rent for nothing, and we shall return to France, please God. If my ill-luck continues, and if Alfred should die, I can assure you that I do not care what happens after to me. If God allows Alfred to recover, I do not know how we shall pay the expenses of his illness and of his return to France. The thousand francs that you are to send me will not suffice, and I do not know what we shall do. At any rate, do not delay sending that, as, by the time it arrives, it will be more than necessary. I am sorry about the annoyance you are having with the delay for publishing, but you can now judge whether it is my fault. If only Alfred had a few quiet days, I could soon finish my work. But he is in a frightful state of delirium and restlessness. I cannot leave him an instant. I have been nine hours writing this letter. Adieu, my friend, and pity me.
"Above everything, do not tell any one, not any one in the world, that Alfred is ill. If his mother heard (and it only needs two persons for telling a secret to all Paris) she would go mad. If she has to be told, let who will undertake to tell her, but if in a fortnight Alfred is out of danger, it is useless for her to grieve now. Adieu."
"My friend, Alfred is saved. There has been no fresh attack, and we have nearly reached the fourteenth day without the improvement having altered. After the brain affection inflammation of the lungs declared itself, and this rather alarmed us for two days. . . . He is extremely weak at present, and he wanders occasionally. He has to be nursed night and day. Do not imagine, therefore, that I am only making pretexts for the delay in my work. I have not undressed for eight nights. I sleep on a sofa, and have to get up at any minute. In spite of this, ever since I have been relieved in my mind about the danger, I have been able to write a few pages in the mornings while he is resting. You may be sure tht I should like to be able to take advantage of this time to rest myself. Be assured, my friend, that I am not short of courage, nor yet of the will to work. You are not more anxious than I am that I should carry out my engagements. You know that a debt makes me smart like a wound. But you are friend enough to make allowances for my situation and not to leave me in difficulties. I am spending very wretched days here at this bedside, for the slightest sound, the slightest movement causes me constant terror. In this disposition of mind I shall not write any light works. They will be heavy, on the contrary, like my fatigue and my sadness.
"Do not leave me without money, I beseech you, or I do not know what will happen to me. I spend about twenty francs a day in medicine of all sorts. We do not know how to keep him alive. . . ."
These letters give the lie to some of the gossip that has been spread abroad with regard to the episode of the Hotel Danieli. And I too, thanks to these letters, shall have put an end to a legend! In the second volume of Wladimir Karenine's work on George Sand, on page 61, we have the following words--