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Title: A Prince of Bohemia
Author: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.

*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Prince of Bohemia" ***

                        A PRINCE OF BOHEMIA


                          HONORE DE BALZAC

                           Translated by
                       Clara Bell and others


  To Henri Heine.

  I inscribe this to you, my dear Heine, to you that represent in
  Paris the ideas and poetry of Germany, in Germany the lively and
  witty criticism of France; for you better than any other will know
  whatsoever this Study may contain of criticism and of jest, of
  love and truth.

                                                    DE BALZAC.

                        A PRINCE OF BOHEMIA

"My dear friend," said Mme. de la Baudraye, drawing a pile of
manuscript from beneath her sofa cushion, "will you pardon me in our
present straits for making a short story of something which you told
me a few weeks ago?"

"Anything is fair in these times. Have you not seen writers serving up
their own hearts to the public, or very often their mistress' hearts
when invention fails? We are coming to this, dear; we shall go in
quest of adventures, not so much for the pleasure of them as for the
sake of having the story to tell afterwards."

"After all, you and the Marquise de Rochefide have paid the rent, and
I do not think, from the way things are going here, that I ever pay

"Who knows? Perhaps the same good luck that befell Mme. de Rochefide
may come to you."

"Do you call it good luck to go back to one's husband?"

"No; only great luck. Come, I am listening."

And Mme. de la Baudraye read as follows:

  "Scene--a splendid salon in the Rue de Chartres-du-Roule. One
  of the most famous writers of the day discovered sitting on a
  settee beside a very illustrious Marquise, with whom he is on
  such terms of intimacy, as a man has a right to claim when a
  woman singles him out and keeps him at her side as a complacent
  _souffre-douleur_ rather than a makeshift."

"Well," says she, "have you found those letters of which you spoke
yesterday? You said that you could not tell me all about _him_ without

"Yes, I have them."

"It is your turn to speak; I am listening like a child when his mother
begins the tale of _Le Grand Serpentin Vert_."

"I count the young man in question in that group of our acquaintances
which we are wont to style our friends. He comes of a good family; he
is a man of infinite parts and ill-luck, full of excellent
dispositions and most charming conversation; young as he is, he is
seen much, and while awaiting better things, he dwells in Bohemia.
Bohemianism, which by rights should be called the doctrine of the
Boulevard des Italiens, finds its recruits among young men between
twenty and thirty, all of them men of genius in their way, little
known, it is true, as yet, but sure of recognition one day, and when
that day comes, of great distinction. They are distinguished as it is
at carnival time, when their exuberant wit, repressed for the rest of
the year, finds a vent in more or less ingenious buffoonery.

"What times we live in! What an irrational central power which allows
such tremendous energies to run to waste! There are diplomatists in
Bohemia quite capable of overturning Russia's designs, if they but
felt the power of France at their backs. There are writers,
administrators, soldiers, and artists in Bohemia; every faculty, every
kind of brain is represented there. Bohemia is a microcosm. If the
Czar would buy Bohemia for a score of millions and set its population
down in Odessa--always supposing that they consented to leave the
asphalt of the boulevards--Odessa would be Paris with the year. In
Bohemia, you find the flower doomed to wither and come to nothing; the
flower of the wonderful young manhood of France, so sought after by
Napoleon and Louis XIV., so neglected for the last thirty years by the
modern Gerontocracy that is blighting everything else--that splendid
young manhood of whom a witness so little prejudiced as Professor
Tissot wrote, 'On all sides the Emperor employed a younger generation
in every way worthy of him; in his councils, in the general
administration, in negotiations bristling with difficulties or full of
danger, in the government of conquered countries; and in all places
Youth responded to his demands upon it. Young men were for Napoleon
the _missi hominici_ of Charlemagne.'

"The word Bohemia tells you everything. Bohemia has nothing and lives
upon what it has. Hope is its religion; faith (in oneself) its creed;
and charity is supposed to be its budget. All these young men are
greater than their misfortune; they are under the feet of Fortune, yet
more than equal to Fate. Always ready to mount and ride an _if_, witty
as a _feuilleton_, blithe as only those can be that are deep in debt
and drink deep to match, and finally--for here I come to my point--hot
lovers and what lovers! Picture to yourself Lovelace, and Henri
Quatre, and the Regent, and Werther, and Saint-Preux, and Rene, and
the Marechal de Richelieu--think of all these in a single man, and you
will have some idea of their way of love. What lovers! Eclectic of all
things in love, they will serve up a passion to a woman's order; their
hearts are like a bill of fare in a restaurant. Perhaps they have
never read Stendhal's _De l'Amour_, but unconsciously they put it in
practice. They have by heart their chapters--Love-Taste, Love-Passion,
Love-Caprice, Love-Crystalized, and more than all, Love-Transient. All
is good in their eyes. They invented the burlesque axiom, 'In the
sight of man, all women are equal.' The actual text is more vigorously
worded, but as in my opinion the spirit is false, I do not stand nice
upon the letter.

"My friend, madame, is named Gabriel Jean Anne Victor Benjamin George
Ferdinand Charles Edward Rusticoli, Comte de la Palferine. The
Rusticolis came to France with Catherine de Medici, having been ousted
about that time from their infinitesimal Tuscan sovereignty. They are
distantly related to the house of Este, and connected by marriage to
the Guises. On the day of Saint-Bartholomew they slew a goodly number
of Protestants, and Charles IX. bestowed the hand of the heiress of
the Comte de la Palferine upon the Rusticoli of that time. The Comte,
however, being a part of the confiscated lands of the Duke of Savoy,
was repurchased by Henri IV. when that great king so far blundered as
to restore the fief; and in exchange, the Rusticoli--who had borne
arms long before the Medici bore them to-wit, _argent_ a cross flory
_azure_ (the cross flower-de-luced by letters patent granted by
Charles IX.), and a count's coronet, with two peasants for supporters
with the motto IN HOC SIGNO VINCIMUS--the Rusticoli, I repeat,
retained their title, and received a couple of offices under the crown
with the government of a province.

"From the time of the Valois till the reign of Richelieu, as it may be
called, the Rusticoli played a most illustrious part; under Louis XIV.
their glory waned somewhat, under Louis XV. it went out altogether. My
friend's grandfather wasted all that was left to the once brilliant
house with Mlle. Laguerre, whom he first discovered, and brought into
fashion before Bouret's time. Charles Edward's own father was an
officer without any fortune in 1789. The Revolution came to his
assistance; he had the sense to drop his title, and became plain
Rusticoli. Among other deeds, M. Rusticoli married a wife during the
war in Italy, a Capponi, a goddaughter of the Countess of Albany
(hence La Palferine's final names). Rusticoli was one of the best
colonels in the army. The Emperor made him a commander of the Legion
of Honor and a count. His spine was slightly curved, and his son was
wont to say of him laughingly that he was _un comte refait

"General Count Rusticoli, for he became a brigadier-general at
Ratisbon and a general of the division on the field of Wagram, died at
Vienna almost immediately after his promotion, or his name and ability
would sooner or later have brought him the marshal's baton. Under the
Restoration he would certainly have repaired the fortunes of a great
and noble family so brilliant even as far back as 1100, centuries
before they took the French title--for the Rusticoli had given a pope
to the church and twice revolutionized the kingdom of Naples--so
illustrious again under the Valois; so dexterous in the days of the
Fronde, that obstinate Frondeurs though they were, they still existed
through the reign of Louis XIV. Mazarin favored them; there was the
Tuscan strain in them still, and he recognized it.

"Today, when Charles Edward de la Palferine's name is mentioned, not
three persons in a hundred know the history of his house. But the
Bourbons have actually left a Foix-Grailly to live by his easel.

"Ah, if you but knew how brilliantly Charles Edward accepts his
obscure position! how he scoffs at the bourgeois of 1830! What Attic
salt in his wit! He would be the king of Bohemia, if Bohemia would
endure a king. His _verve_ is inexhaustible. To him we owe a map of
the country and the names of the seven castles which Nodier could not

"The one thing wanting in one of the cleverest skits of our time,"
said the Marquise.

"You can form your own opinion of La Palferine from a few
characteristic touches," continued Nathan. "He once came upon a friend
of his, a fellow-Bohemian, involved in a dispute on the boulevard with
a bourgeois who chose to consider himself affronted. To the modern
powers that be, Bohemia is insolent in the extreme. There was talk of
calling one another out.

"'One moment,' interposed La Palferine, as much Lauzun for the
occasion as Lauzun himself could have been. 'One moment. Monsieur was
born, I suppose?'

"'What, sir?'

"'Yes, are you born? What is your name?'


"'Godin, eh!' exclaimed La Palferine's friend.

"'One moment, my dear fellow,' interrupted La Palferine. 'There are
the Trigaudins. Are you one of them?'


"'No? Then you are one of the new dukes of Gaeta, I suppose, of
imperial creation? No? Oh, well, how can you expect my friend to cross
swords with you when he will be secretary of an embassy and ambassador
_some day_, and you will owe him respect? _Godin!_ the thing is
non-existent! You are a nonentity, Godin. My friend cannot be expected
to beat the air! When one is somebody, one cannot fight with a nobody!
Come, my dear fellow--good-day.'

"'My respects to madame,' added the friend.

"Another day La Palferine was walking with a friend who flung his
cigar end in the face of a passer-by. The recipient had the bad taste
to resent this.

"'You have stood your antagonist's fire,' said the young Count, 'the
witnesses declare that honor is satisfied.'

"La Palferine owed his tailor a thousand francs, and the man instead
of going himself sent his assistant to ask for the money. The
assistant found the unfortunate debtor up six pairs of stairs at the
back of a yard at the further end of the Faubourg du Roule. The room
was unfurnished save for a bed (such a bed!), a table, and such a
table! La Palferine heard the preposterous demand--'A demand which I
should qualify as illegal,' he said when he told us the story, 'made,
as it was, at seven o'clock in the morning.'

"'Go,' he answered, with the gesture and attitude of a Mirabeau,
'tell your master in what condition you find me.'

"The assistant apologized and withdrew. La Palferine, seeing the young
man on the landing, rose in the attire celebrated in verse in
_Britannicus_ to add, 'Remark the stairs! Pay particular attention to
the stairs; do not forget to tell him about the stairs!'

"In every position into which chance has thrown La Palferine, he has
never failed to rise to the occasion. All that he does is witty and
never in bad taste; always and in everything he displays the genius of
Rivarol, the polished subtlety of the old French noble. It was he who
told that delicious anecdote of a friend of Laffitte the banker. A
national fund had been started to give back to Laffitte the mansion in
which the Revolution of 1830 was brewed, and this friend appeared at
the offices of the fund with, 'Here are five francs, give me a hundred
sous change!'--A caricature was made of it.--It was once La
Palferine's misfortune, in judicial style, to make a young girl a
mother. The girl, not a very simple innocent, confessed all to her
mother, a respectable matron, who hurried forthwith to La Palferine
and asked what he meant to do.

"'Why, madame,' said he, 'I am neither a surgeon nor a midwife.'

"She collapsed, but three or four years later she returned to the
charge, still persisting in her inquiry, 'What did La Palferine mean
to do?'

"'Well, madame,' returned he, 'when the child is seven years old, an
age at which a boy ought to pass out of women's hands'--an indication
of entire agreement on the mother's part--'if the child is really
mine'--another gesture of assent--'if there is a striking likeness, if
he bids fair to be a gentleman, if I can recognize in him my turn of
mind, and more particularly the Rusticoli air; then, oh--ah!'--a new
movement from the matron--'on my word and honor, I will make him a
cornet of--sugar-plums!'

"All this, if you will permit me to make use of the phraseology
employed by M. Sainte-Beuve for his biographies of obscurities--all
this, I repeat, is the playful and sprightly yet already somewhat
decadent side of a strong race. It smacks rather of the Parc-aux-Cerfs
than of the Hotel de Rambouillet. It is a race of the strong rather
than of the sweet; I incline to lay a little debauchery to its charge,
and more than I should wish in brilliant and generous natures; it is
gallantry after the fashion of the Marechal de Richelieu, high spirits
and frolic carried rather too far; perhaps we may see in it the
_outrances_ of another age, the Eighteenth Century pushed to extremes;
it harks back to the Musketeers; it is an exploit stolen from
Champcenetz; nay, such light-hearted inconstancy takes us back to the
festooned and ornate period of the old court of the Valois. In an age
as moral as the present, we are bound to regard audacity of this kind
sternly; still, at the same time that 'cornet of sugar-plums' may
serve to warn young girls of the perils of lingering where fancies,
more charming than chastened, come thickly from the first; on the rosy
flowery unguarded slopes, where trespasses ripen into errors full of
equivocal effervescence, into too palpitating issues. The anecdote
puts La Palferine's genius before you in all its vivacity and
completeness. He realizes Pascal's _entre-deux_, he comprehends the
whole scale between tenderness and pitilessness, and, like
Epaminondas, he is equally great in extremes. And not merely so, his
epigram stamps the epoch; the _accoucheur_ is a modern innovation. All
the refinements of modern civilization are summed up in the phrase. It
is monumental."

"Look here, my dear Nathan, what farrago of nonsense is this?" asked
the Marquise in bewilderment.

"Madame la Marquise," returned Nathan, "you do not know the value of
these 'precious' phrases; I am talking Sainte-Beuve, the new kind of
French.--I resume. Walking one day arm in arm with a friend along the
boulevard, he was accosted by a ferocious creditor, who inquired:

"'Are you thinking of me, sir?'

"'Not the least in the world,' answered the Count.

"Remark the difficulty of the position. Talleyrand, in similar
circumstances, had already replied, 'You are very inquisitive, my dear
fellow!' To imitate the inimitable great man was out of the question.
--La Palferine, generous as Buckingham, could not bear to be caught
empty-handed. One day when he had nothing to give a little Savoyard
chimney-sweeper, he dipped a hand into a barrel of grapes in a
grocer's doorway and filled the child's cap from it. The little one
ate away at his grapes; the grocer began by laughing, and ended by
holding out his hand.

"'Oh, fie! monsieur,' said La Palferine, 'your left hand ought not to
know what my right hand doth.'

"With his adventurous courage, he never refuses any odds, but there is
wit in his bravado. In the Passage de l'Opera he chanced to meet a man
who had spoken slightingly of him, elbowed him as he passed, and then
turned and jostled him a second time.

"'You are very clumsy!'

"'On the contrary; I did it on purpose.'

"The young man pulled out his card. La Palferine dropped it. 'It has
been carried too long in the pocket. Be good enough to give me

"On the ground he received a thrust; blood was drawn; his antagonist
wished to stop.

"'You are wounded, monsieur!'

"'I disallow the _botte_,' said La Palferine, as coolly as if he had
been in the fencing-saloon; then as he riposted (sending the point
home this time), he added, 'There is the right thrust, monsieur!'

"His antagonist kept his bed for six months.

"This, still following on M. Sainte-Beuve's tracks, recalls the
_raffines_, the fine-edged raillery of the best days of the monarchy.
In this speech you discern an untrammeled but drifting life; a gaiety
of imagination that deserts us when our first youth is past. The prime
of the blossom is over, but there remains the dry compact seed with
the germs of life in it, ready against the coming winter. Do you not
see that these things are symptoms of something unsatisfied, of an
unrest impossible to analyze, still less to describe, yet not
incomprehensible; a something ready to break out if occasion calls
into flying upleaping flame? It is the _accidia_ of the cloister; a
trace of sourness, of ferment engendered by the enforced stagnation of
youthful energies, a vague, obscure melancholy."

"That will do," said the Marquise; "you are giving me a mental shower

"It is the early afternoon languor. If a man has nothing to do, he
will sooner get into mischief than do nothing at all; this invariably
happens in France. Youth at present day has two sides to it; the
studious or unappreciated, and the ardent or _passionne_."

"That will do!" repeated Mme. de Rochefide, with an authoritative
gesture. "You are setting my nerves on edge."

"To finish my portrait of La Palferine, I hasten to make the plunge
into the gallant regions of his character, or you will not understand
the peculiar genius of an admirable representative of a certain
section of mischievous youth--youth strong enough, be it said, to
laugh at the position in which it is put by those in power; shrewd
enough to do no work, since work profiteth nothing; yet so full of
life that it fastens upon pleasure--the one thing that cannot be taken
away. And meanwhile a bourgeois, mercantile, and bigoted policy
continues to cut off all the sluices through which so much aptitude
and ability would find an outlet. Poets and men of science are not

"To give you an idea of the stupidity of the new court, I will tell
you of something which happened to La Palferine. There is a sort of
relieving officer on the civil list. This functionary one day
discovered that La Palferine was in dire distress, drew up a report,
no doubt, and brought the descendant of the Rusticolis fifty francs by
way of alms. La Palferine received the visitor with perfect courtesy,
and talked of various persons at court.

"'Is it true,' he asked, 'that Mlle. d'Orleans contributes such and
such a sum to this benevolent scheme started by her nephew? If so, it
is very gracious of her.'

"Now La Palferine had a servant, a little Savoyard, aged ten, who
waited on him without wages. La Palferine called him Father Anchises,
and used to say, 'I have never seen such a mixture of besotted
foolishness with great intelligence; he would go through fire and
water for me; he understands everything--and yet he cannot grasp the
fact that I can do nothing for him.'

"Anchises was despatched to a livery stable with instructions to hire
a handsome brougham with a man in livery behind it. By the time the
carriage arrived below, La Palferine had skilfully piloted the
conversation to the subject of the functions of his visitor, whom he
has since called 'the unmitigated misery man,' and learned the nature
of his duties and his stipend.

"'Do they allow you a carriage to go about the town in this way?'

"'Oh! no.'

"At that La Palferine and a friend who happened to be with him went
downstairs with the poor soul, and insisted on putting him into the
carriage. It was raining in torrents. La Palferine had thought of
everything. He offered to drive the official to the next house on his
list; and when the almoner came down again, he found the carriage
waiting for him at the door. The man in livery handed him a note
written in pencil:

  "'The carriage has been engaged for three days. Count Rusticoli
  de la Palferine is too happy to associate himself with Court
  charities by lending wings to Royal beneficence.'

"La Palferine now calls the civil list the uncivil list.

"He was once passionately loved by a lady of somewhat light conduct.
Antonia lived in the Rue du Helder; she had seen and been seen to some
extent, but at the time of her acquaintance with La Palferine she had
not yet 'an establishment.' Antonia was not wanting in the insolence
of old days, now degenerating into rudeness among women of her class.
After a fortnight of unmixed bliss, she was compelled, in the interest
of her civil list, to return to a less exclusive system; and La
Palferine, discovering a certain lack of sincerity in her dealings
with him, sent Madame Antonia a note which made her famous.

  "'MADAME,--Your conduct causes me much surprise and no less
  distress. Not content with rending my heart with your disdain, you
  have been so little thoughtful as to retain a toothbrush, which my
  means will not permit me to replace, my estates being mortgaged
  beyond their value.

  "'Adieu, too fair and too ungrateful friend! May we meet again in
  a better world.

                                                 "'CHARLES EDWARD.'

"Assuredly (to avail ourselves yet further of Sainte-Beuve's
Babylonish dialect), this far outpasses the raillery of Sterne's
_Sentimental Journey_; it might be Scarron without his grossness. Nay,
I do not know but that Moliere in his lighter mood would not have said
of it, as of Cyrano de Bergerac's best--'This is mine.' Richelieu
himself was not more complete when he wrote to the princess waiting
for him in the Palais Royal--'Stay there, my queen, to charm the
scullion lads.' At the same time, Charles Edward's humor is less
biting. I am not sure that this kind of wit was known among the Greeks
and Romans. Plato, possibly, upon a closer inspection approaches it,
but from the austere and musical side--"

"No more of that jargon," the Marquise broke in, "in print it may be
endurable; but to have it grating upon my ears is a punishment which I
do not in the least deserve."

"He first met Claudine on this wise," continued Nathan. "It was one of
the unfilled days, when Youth is a burden to itself; days when youth,
reduced by the overweening presumption of Age to a condition of
potential energy and dejection, emerges therefrom (like Blondet under
the Restoration), either to get into mischief or to set about some
colossal piece of buffoonery, half excused by the very audacity of its
conception. La Palferine was sauntering, cane in hand, up and down the
pavement between the Rue de Grammont and the Rue de Richelieu, when in
the distance he descried a woman too elegantly dressed, covered, as he
phrased it, with a great deal of portable property, too expensive and
too carelessly worn for its owner to be other than a princess of the
court or of the stage, it was not easy at first to say which. But
after July 1830, in his opinion, there is no mistaking the indications
--the princess can only be a princess of the stage.

"The Count came up and walked by her side as if she had given him an
assignation. He followed her with a courteous persistence, a
persistence in good taste, giving the lady from time to time, and
always at the right moment, an authoritative glance, which compelled
her to submit to his escort. Anybody but La Palferine would have been
frozen by his reception, and disconcerted by the lady's first efforts
to rid herself of her cavalier, by her chilly air, her curt speeches;
but no gravity, with all the will in the world, could hold out long
against La Palferine's jesting replies. The fair stranger went into
her milliner's shop. Charles Edward followed, took a seat, and gave
his opinions and advice like a man that meant to pay. This coolness
disturbed the lady. She went out.

"On the stairs she spoke to her persecutor.

"'Monsieur, I am about to call upon one of my husband's relatives, an
elderly lady, Mme. de Bonfalot--'

"'Ah! Mme. de Bonfalot, charmed, I am sure. I am going there.'

"The pair accordingly went. Charles Edward came in with the lady,
every one believed that she had brought him with her. He took part in
the conversation, was lavish of his polished and brilliant wit. The
visit lengthened out. That was not what he wanted.

"'Madame,' he said, addressing the fair stranger, 'do not forget that
your husband is waiting for us, and only allowed us a quarter of an

"Taken aback by such boldness (which, as you know, is never
displeasing to you women), led captive by the conqueror's glance, by
the astute yet candid air which Charles Edward can assume when he
chooses, the lady rose, took the arm of her self-constituted escort,
and went downstairs, but on the threshold she stopped to speak to him.

"'Monsieur, I like a joke----'

"'And so do I.'

"She laughed.

"'But this may turn to earnest,' he added; 'it only rests with you. I
am the Comte de la Palferine, and I am delighted that it is in my
power to lay my heart and my fortune at your feet.'

"La Palferine was at that time twenty-two years old. (This happened in
1834.) Luckily for him, he was fashionably dressed. I can paint his
portrait for you in a few words. He was the living image of Louis
XIII., with the same white forehead and gracious outline of the
temples, the same olive skin (that Italian olive tint which turns
white where the light falls on it), the brown hair worn rather long,
the black 'royale,' the grave and melancholy expression, for La
Palferine's character and exterior were amazingly at variance.

"At the sound of the name, and the sight of its owner, something like
a quiver thrilled through Claudine. La Palferine saw the vibration,
and shot a glance at her out of the dark depths of almond-shaped eyes
with purpled lids, and those faint lines about them which tell of
pleasures as costly as painful fatigue. With those eyes upon her, she
said--'Your address?'

"'What want of address!'

"'Oh, pshaw!' she said, smiling. 'A bird on the bough?'

"'Good-bye, madame, you are such a woman as I seek, but my fortune is
far from equaling my desire----'

"He bowed, and there and then left her. Two days later, by one of the
strange chances that can only happen in Paris, he had betaken himself
to a money-lending wardrobe dealer to sell such of his clothing as he
could spare. He was just receiving the price with an uneasy air, after
long chaffering, when the stranger lady passed and recognized him.

"'Once for all,' cried he to the bewildered wardrobe dealer, 'I tell
you I am not going to take your trumpet!'

"He pointed to a huge, much-dinted musical instrument, hanging up
outside against a background of uniforms, civil and military. Then,
proudly and impetuously, he followed the lady.

"From that great day of the trumpet these two understood one another
to admiration. Charles Edward's ideas on the subject of love are as
sound as possible. According to him, a man cannot love twice, there is
but one love in his lifetime, but that love is a deep and shoreless
sea. It may break in upon him at any time, as the grace of God found
St. Paul; and a man may live sixty years and never know love. Perhaps,
to quote Heine's superb phrase, it is 'the secret malady of the heart'
--a sense of the Infinite that there is within us, together with the
revelation of the ideal Beauty in its visible form. This love, in
short, comprehends both the creature and creation. But so long as
there is no question of this great poetical conception, the loves that
cannot last can only be taken lightly, as if they were in a manner
snatches of song compared with Love the epic.

"To Charles Edward the adventure brought neither the thunderbolt
signal of love's coming, nor yet that gradual revelation of an inward
fairness which draws two natures by degrees more and more strongly
each to each. For there are but two ways of love--love at first sight,
doubtless akin to the Highland 'second-sight,' and that slow fusion of
two natures which realizes Plato's 'man-woman.' But if Charles Edward
did not love, he was loved to distraction. Claudine found love made
complete, body and soul; in her, in short, La Palferine awakened the
one passion of her life; while for him Claudine was only a most
charming mistress. The Devil himself, a most potent magician
certainly, with all hell at his back, could never have changed the
natures of these two unequal fires. I dare affirm that Claudine not
unfrequently bored Charles Edward.

"'Stale fish and the woman you do not love are only fit to fling out
of the window after three days,' he used to say.

"In Bohemia there is little secrecy observed over these affairs. La
Palferine used to talk a good deal of Claudine; but, at the same time,
none of us saw her, nor so much as knew her name. For us Claudine was
almost a mythical personage. All of us acted in the same way,
reconciling the requirements of our common life with the rules of good
taste. Claudine, Hortense, the Baroness, the Bourgeoise, the Empress,
the Spaniard, the Lioness,--these were cryptic titles which permitted
us to pour out our joys, our cares, vexations, and hopes, and to
communicate our discoveries. Further, none of us went. It has been
shown, in Bohemia, that chance discovered the identity of the fair
unknown; and at once, as by tacit convention, not one of us spoke of
her again. This fact may show how far youth possesses a sense of true
delicacy. How admirably certain natures of a finer clay know the limit
line where jest must end, and all that host of things French covered
by the slang word _blague_, a word which will shortly be cast out of
the language (let us hope), and yet it is the only one which conveys
an idea of the spirit of Bohemia.

"So we often used to joke about Claudine and the Count--'_Toujours
Claudine?_' sung to the air of _Toujours Gessle_.--'What are you
making of Claudine?'--'How is Claudine?'

"'I wish you all such a mistress, for all the harm I wish you,' La
Palferine began one day. 'No greyhound, no basset-dog, no poodle can
match her in gentleness, submissiveness, and complete tenderness.
There are times when I reproach myself, when I take myself to task for
my hard heart. Claudine obeys with saintly sweetness. She comes to me,
I tell her to go, she goes, she does not even cry till she is out in
the courtyard. I refuse to see her for a whole week at a time. I tell
her to come at such an hour on Tuesday; and be it midnight or six
o'clock in the morning, ten o'clock, five o'clock, breakfast time,
dinner time, bed time, any particularly inconvenient hour in the day
--she will come, punctual to the minute, beautiful, beautifully dressed,
and enchanting. And she is a married woman, with all the complications
and duties of a household. The fibs that she must invent, the reasons
she must find for conforming to my whims would tax the ingenuity of
some of us! . . . Claudine never wearies; you can always count upon
her. It is not love, I tell her, it is infatuation. She writes to me
every day; I do not read her letters; she found that out, but still
she writes. See here; there are two hundred letters in this casket.
She begs me to wipe my razors on one of her letters every day, and I
punctually do so. She thinks, and rightly, that the sight of her
handwriting will put me in mind of her.'

"La Palferine was dressing as he told us this. I took up the letter
which he was about to put to this use, read it, and kept it, as he did
not ask to have it back. Here it is. I looked for it, and found it as
I promised.

"_Monday (Midnight)._

  "'Well, my dear, are you satisfied with me? I did not even ask
  for your hand, yet you might easily have given it to me, and I
  longed so much to hold it to my heart, to my lips. No, I did not
  ask, I am so afraid of displeasing you. Do you know one thing?
  Though I am cruelly sure that anything I do is a matter of perfect
  indifference to you, I am none the less extremely timid in my
  conduct: the woman that belongs to you, whatever her title to call
  herself yours, must not incur so much as the shadow of blame. In
  so far as love comes from the angels in heaven, from whom are no
  secrets hid, my love is as pure as the purest; wherever I am I
  feel that I am in your presence, and I try to do you honor.

  "'All that you said about my manner of dress impressed me very
  much; I began to understand how far above others are those that
  come of a noble race. There was still something of the opera girl
  in my gowns, in my way of dressing my hair. In a moment I saw the
  distance between me and good taste. Next time you will receive a
  duchess, you shall not know me again! Ah! how good you have been
  to your Claudine! How many and many a time I have thanked you for
  telling me those things! What interest lay in those few words! You
  have taken thought for that thing belonging to you called
  Claudine? _This_ imbecile would never have opened my eyes; he
  thinks that everything I do is right; and besides, he is much too
  humdrum, too matter-of-fact to have any feeling for the beautiful.

  "'Tuesday is very slow of coming for my impatient mind! On
  Tuesday I shall be with you for several hours. Ah! when it comes I
  will try to think that the hours are months, that it will be so
  always. I am living in hope of that morning now, as I shall live
  upon the memory of it afterwards. Hope is memory that craves; and
  recollection, memory sated. What a beautiful life within life
  thought makes for us in this way!

  "'Sometimes I dream of inventing new ways of tenderness all my
  own, a secret which no other woman shall guess. A cold sweat
  breaks out over me at the thought that something may happen to
  prevent this morning. Oh, I would break with _him_ for good, if
  need was, but nothing here could possibly interfere; it would be
  from your side. Perhaps you may decide to go out, perhaps to go to
  see some other woman. Oh! spare me this Tuesday for pity's sake.
  If you take it from me, Charles, you do not know what _he_ will
  suffer; I should drive him wild. But even if you do not want me,
  or you are going out, let me come, all the same, to be with you
  while you dress; only to see you, I ask no more than that; only to
  show you that I love you without a thought of self.

  "'Since you gave me leave to love you, for you gave me leave,
  since I am yours; since that day I loved and love you with the
  whole strength of my soul; and I shall love you for ever, for once
  having loved _you_, no one could, no one ought to love another.
  And, you see, when those eyes that ask nothing but to see you are
  upon you, you will feel that in your Claudine there is a something
  divine, called into existence by you.

  "'Alas! with you I can never play the coquette. I am like a
  mother with her child; I endure anything from you; I, that was
  once so imperious and proud. I have made dukes and princes fetch
  and carry for me; aides-de-camp, worth more than all the court of
  Charles X. put together, have done my errands, yet I am treating
  you as my spoilt child. But where is the use of coquetry? It would
  be pure waste. And yet, monsieur, for want of coquetry I shall
  never inspire love in you. I know it; I feel it; yet I do as
  before, feeling a power that I cannot withstand, thinking that
  this utter self-surrender will win me the sentiment innate in all
  men (so _he_ tells me) for the thing that belongs to them.


  "'Ah! how darkly sadness entered my heart yesterday when I found
  that I must give up the joy of seeing you. One single thought held
  me back from the arms of Death!--It was thy will! To stay away was
  to do thy will, to obey an order from thee. Oh! Charles, I was so
  pretty; I looked a lovelier woman for you than that beautiful
  German princess whom you gave me for an example, whom I have
  studied at the Opera. And yet--you might have thought that I had
  overstepped the limits of my nature. You have left me no
  confidence in myself; perhaps I am plain after all. Oh! I loathe
  myself, I dream of my radiant Charles Edward, and my brain turns.
  I shall go mad, I know I shall. Do not laugh, do not talk to me of
  the fickleness of women. If we are inconstant, _you_ are strangely
  capricious. You take away the hours of love that made a poor
  creature's happiness for ten whole days; the hours on which she
  drew to be charming and kind to all that came to see her! After
  all, you were the source of my kindness to _him_; you do not know
  what pain you give him. I wonder what I must do to keep you, or
  simply to keep the right to be yours sometimes. . . . When I think
  that you never would come here to me! . . . With what delicious
  emotion I would wait upon you!--There are other women more favored
  than I. There are women to whom you say, 'I love you.' To me you
  have never said more than 'You are a good girl.' Certain speeches
  of yours, though you do not know it, gnaw at my heart. Clever men
  sometimes ask me what I am thinking. . . . I am thinking of my
  self-abasement--the prostration of the poorest outcast in the
  presence of the Saviour.

"There are still three more pages, you see. La Palferine allowed me to
take the letter, with the traces of tears that still seemed hot upon
it! Here was proof of the truth of his story. Marcas, a shy man enough
with women, was in ecstacies over a second which he read in his corner
before lighting his pipe with it.

"'Why, any woman in love will write that sort of thing!' cried La
Palferine. 'Love gives all women intelligence and style, which proves
that here in France style proceeds from the matter and not from the
words. See now how well this is thought out, how clear-headed
sentiment is'--and with that he reads us another letter, far superior
to the artificial and labored productions which we novelists write.

"One day poor Claudine heard that La Palferine was in a critical
position; it was a question of meeting a bill of exchange. An unlucky
idea occurred to her; she put a tolerably large sum in gold into an
exquisitely embroidered purse and went to him.

"'Who has taught you as to be so bold as to meddle with my household
affairs?' La Palferine cried angrily. 'Mend my socks and work slippers
for me, if it amuses you. So!--you will play the duchess, and you turn
the story of Danae against the aristocracy.'

"He emptied the purse into his hand as he spoke, and made as though he
would fling the money in her face. Claudine, in her terror, did not
guess that he was joking; she shrank back, stumbled over a chair, and
fell with her head against the corner of the marble chimney-piece. She
thought she should have died. When she could speak, poor woman, as she
lay on the bed, all that she said was, 'I deserved it, Charles!'

"For a moment La Palferine was in despair; his anguish revived
Claudine. She rejoiced in the mishap; she took advantage of her
suffering to compel La Palferine to take the money and release him
from an awkward position. Then followed a variation on La Fontaine's
fable, in which a man blesses the thieves that brought him a sudden
impulse of tenderness from his wife. And while we are upon this
subject, another saying will paint the man for you.

"Claudine went home again, made up some kind of tale as best she could
to account for her bruised forehead, and fell dangerously ill. An
abscess formed in the head. The doctor--Bianchon, I believe--yes, it
was Bianchon--wanted to cut off her hair. The Duchesse de Berri's hair
is not more beautiful than Claudine's; she would not hear of it, she
told Bianchon in confidence that she could not allow it to be cut
without leave from the Comte de Palferine. Bianchon went to Charles
Edward. Charles Edward heard him with much seriousness. The doctor had
explained the case at length, and showed that it was absolutely
necessary to sacrifice the hair to insure the success of the

"'Cut off Claudine's hair!' cried he in peremptory tones. 'No. I
would sooner lose her.'

"Even now, after a lapse of four years, Bianchon still quotes that
speech; we have laughed over it for half an hour together. Claudine,
informed of the verdict, saw in it a proof of affections; she felt
sure that she was loved. In the face of her weeping family, with her
husband on his knees, she was inexorable. She kept the hair. The
strength that came with the belief that she was loved came to her aid,
the operation succeeded perfectly. There are stirrings of the inner
life which throw all the calculations of surgery into disorder and
baffle the laws of medical science.

"Claudine wrote a delicious letter to La Palferine, a letter in which
the orthography was doubtful and the punctuation all to seek, to tell
him of the happy result of the operation, and to add that Love was
wiser than all the sciences.

"'Now,' said La Palferine one day, 'what am I to do to get rid of

"'Why, she is not at all troublesome; she leaves you master of your
actions,' objected we.

"'That is true,' returned La Palferine, 'but I do not choose that
anything shall slip into my life without my consent.'

"From that day he set himself to torment Claudine. It seemed that he
held the bourgeoise, the nobody, in utter horror; nothing would
satisfy him but a woman with a title. Claudine, it was true, had made
progress; she had learned to dress as well as the best-dressed woman
of the Faubourg Saint-Germain; she had freed her bearing of the
unhallowed traces; she walked with a chastened, inimitable grace; but
this was not enough. This praise of her enabled Claudine to swallow
down the rest.

"But one day La Palferine said, 'If you wish to be the mistress of one
La Palferine, poor, penniless, and without prospects as he is, you
ought at least to represent him worthily. You should have a carriage
and liveried servants and a title. Give me all the gratifications of
vanity that will never be mine in my own person. The woman whom I
honor with my regard ought never to go on foot; if she is bespattered
with mud, I suffer. That is how I am made. If she is mine, she must be
admired of all Paris. All Paris shall envy me my good fortune. If some
little whipper-snapper seeing a brilliant countess pass in her
brilliant carriage shall say to himself, "Who can call such a divinity
his?" and grow thoughtful--why, it will double my pleasure.'

"La Palferine owned to us that he flung this programme at Claudine's
head simply to rid himself of her. As a result he was stupefied with
astonishment for the first and probably the only time in his life.

"'Dear,' she said, and there was a ring in her voice that betrayed
the great agitation which shook her whole being, 'it is well. All this
shall be done, or I will die.'

"She let fall a few happy tears on his hand as she kissed it.

"'You have told me what I must do to be your mistress still,' she
added; 'I am glad.'

"'And then' (La Palferine told us) 'she went out with a little
coquettish gesture like a woman that has had her way. As she stood in
my garrett doorway, tall and proud, she seemed to reach the stature of
an antique sibyl.'

"All this should sufficiently explain the manners and customs of the
Bohemia in which the young _condottiere_ is one of the most brilliant
figures," Nathan continued after a pause. "Now it so happened that I
discovered Claudine's identity, and could understand the appalling
truth of one line which you perhaps overlooked in that letter of hers.
It was on this wise."

The Marquise, too thoughtful now for laughter, bade Nathan "Go on," in
a tone that told him plainly how deeply she had been impressed by
these strange things, and even more plainly how much she was
interested in La Palferine.

"In 1829, one of the most influential, steady, and clever of dramatic
writers was du Bruel. His real name is unknown to the public, on the
play-bills he is de Cursy. Under the Restoration he had a place in the
Civil Service; and being really attached to the elder branch, he sent
in his resignation bravely in 1830, and ever since has written twice
as many plays to fill the deficit in his budget made by his noble
conduct. At that time du Bruel was forty years old; you know the story
of his life. Like many of his brethren, he bore a stage dancer an
affection hard to explain, but well known in the whole world of
letters. The woman, as you know, was Tullia, one of the _premiers
sujets_ of the Academie Royale de Musique. Tullia is merely a
pseudonym like du Bruel's name of de Cursy.

"For the ten years between 1817 and 1827 Tullia was in her glory on
the heights of the stage of the Opera. With more beauty than
education, a mediocre dancer with rather more sense than most of her
class, she took no part in the virtuous reforms which ruined the corps
de ballet; she continued the Guimard dynasty. She owed her ascendency,
moreover, to various well-known protectors, to the Duc de Rhetore (the
Due de Chaulieu's eldest son), to the influence of a famous
Superintendent of Fine Arts, and sundry diplomatists and rich
foreigners. During her apogee she had a neat little house in the Rue
Chauchat, and lived as Opera nymphs used to live in the old days. Du
Bruel was smitten with her about the time when the Duke's fancy came
to an end in 1823. Being a mere subordinate in the Civil Service, du
Bruel tolerated the Superintendent of Fine Arts, believing that he
himself was really preferred. After six years this connection was
almost a marriage. Tullia has always been very careful to say nothing
of her family; we have a vague idea that she comes from Nanterre. One
of her uncles, formerly a simple bricklayer or carpenter, is now, it
is said, a very rich contractor, thanks to her influence and generous
loans. This fact leaked out through du Bruel. He happened to say that
Tullia would inherit a fine fortune sooner or later. The contractor
was a bachelor; he had a weakness for the niece to whom he is

"'He is not clever enough to be ungrateful,' said she.

"In 1829 Tullia retired from the stage of her own accord. At the age
of thirty she saw that she was growing somewhat stouter, and she had
tried pantomime without success. Her whole art consisted in the trick
of raising her skirts, after Noblet's manner, in a pirouette which
inflated them balloon-fashion and exhibited the smallest possible
quantity of clothing to the pit. The aged Vestris had told her at the
very beginning that this _temps_, well executed by a fine woman, is
worth all the art imaginable. It is the chest-note C of dancing. For
which reason, he said, the very greatest dancers--Camargo, Guimard,
and Taglioni, all of them thin, brown, and plain--could only redeem
their physical defects by their genius. Tullia, still in the height of
her glory, retired before younger and cleverer dancers; she did
wisely. She was an aristocrat; she had scarcely stooped below the
noblesse in her _liaisons_; she declined to dip her ankles in the
troubled waters of July. Insolent and beautiful as she was, Claudine
possessed handsome souvenirs, but very little ready money; still, her
jewels were magnificent, and she had as fine furniture as any one in

"On quitting the stage when she, forgotten to-day, was yet in the
height of her fame, one thought possessed her--she meant du Bruel to
marry her; and at the time of this story, you must understand that the
marriage had taken place, but was kept a secret. How do women of her
class contrive to make a man marry them after seven or eight years of
intimacy? What springs do they touch? What machinery do they set in
motion? But, however comical such domestic dramas may be, we are not
now concerned with them. Du Bruel was secretly married; the thing was

"Cursy before his marriage was supposed to be a jolly companion; now
and again he stayed out all night, and to some extent led the life of
a Bohemian; he would unbend at a supper-party. He went out to all
appearance to a rehearsal at the Opera-Comique, and found himself in
some unaccountable way at Dieppe, or Baden, or Saint-Germain; he gave
dinners, led the Titanic thriftless life of artists, journalists, and
writers; levied his tribute on all the greenrooms of Paris; and, in
short, was one of us. Finot, Lousteau, du Tillet, Desroches, Bixiou,
Blondet, Couture, and des Lupeaulx tolerated him in spite of his
pedantic manner and ponderous official attitude. But once married,
Tullia made a slave of du Bruel. There was no help for it. He was in
love with Tullia, poor devil.

"'Tullia' (so he said) 'had left the stage to be his alone, to be a
good and charming wife.' And somehow Tullia managed to induce the most
Puritanical members of du Bruel's family to accept her. From the very
first, before any one suspected her motives, she assiduously visited
old Mme. de Bonfalot, who bored her horribly; she made handsome
presents to mean old Mme. de Chisse, du Bruel's great-aunt; she spent
a summer with the latter lady, and never missed a single mass. She
even went to confession, received absolution, and took the sacrament;
but this, you must remember, was in the country, and under the aunt's

"'I shall have real aunts now, do you understand?' she said to us
when she came back in the winter.

"She was so delighted with her respectability, so glad to renounce her
independence, that she found means to compass her end. She flattered
the old people. She went on foot every day to sit for a couple of
hours with Mme. du Bruel the elder while that lady was ill--a
Maintenon's stratagem which amazed du Bruel. And he admired his wife
without criticism; he was so fast in the toils already that he did not
feel his bonds.

"Claudine succeeded in making him understand that only under the
elastic system of a bourgeois government, only at the bourgeois court
of the Citizen-King, could a Tullia, now metamorphosed into a Mme. du
Bruel, be accepted in the society which her good sense prevented her
from attempting to enter. Mme. de Bonfalot, Mme. de Chisse, and Mme.
du Bruel received her; she was satisfied. She took up the position of
a well-conducted, simple, and virtuous woman, and never acted out of
character. In three years' time she was introduced to the friends of
these ladies.

"'And still I cannot persuade myself that young Mme. du Bruel used to
display her ankles, and the rest, to all Paris, with the light of a
hundred gas-jets pouring upon her,' Mme. Anselme Popinot remarked

"From this point of view, July 1830 inaugurated an era not unlike the
time of the Empire, when a waiting woman was received at Court in the
person of Mme. Garat, a chief-justice's 'lady.' Tullia had completely
broken, as you may guess, with all her old associates; of her former
acquaintances, she only recognized those who could not compromise her.
At the time of her marriage she had taken a very charming little hotel
between a court and a garden, lavishing money on it with wild
extravagance and putting the best part of her furniture and du Bruel's
into it. Everything that she thought common or ordinary was sold. To
find anything comparable to her sparkling splendor, you could only
look back to the days when Sophie Arnould, a Guimard, or a Duthe, in
all her glory, squandered the fortunes of princes.

"How far did this sumptuous existence affect du Bruel? It is a
delicate question to ask, and a still more delicate one to answer. A
single incident will suffice to give you an idea of Tullia's
crotchets. Her bed-spread of Brussels lace was worth ten thousand
francs. A famous actress had another like it. As soon as Claudine
heard this, she allowed her cat, a splendid Angora, to sleep on the
bed. That trait gives you the woman. Du Bruel dared not say a word; he
was ordered to spread abroad that challenge in luxury, so that it
might reach the other. Tullia was very fond of this gift from the Duc
de Rhetore; but one day, five years after her marriage, she played
with her cat to such purpose that the coverlet--furbelows, flounces,
and all--was torn to shreds, and replaced by a sensible quilt, a quilt
that was a quilt, and not a symptom of the peculiar form of insanity
which drives these women to make up by an insensate luxury for the
childish days when they lived on raw apples, to quote the expression
of a journalist. The day when the bed-spread was torn to tatters
marked a new epoch in her married life.

"Cursy was remarkable for his ferocious industry. Nobody suspects the
source to which Paris owes the patch-and-powder eighteenth century
vaudevilles that flooded the stage. Those thousand-and-one
vaudevilles, which raised such an outcry among the _feuilletonistes_,
were written at Mme. du Bruel's express desire. She insisted that her
husband should purchase the hotel on which she had spent so much,
where she had housed five hundred thousand francs' worth of furniture.
Wherefore Tullia never enters into explanations; she understands the
sovereign woman's reason to admiration.

"'People made a good deal of fun of Cursy,' said she; 'but, as a
matter of fact, he found this house in the eighteenth century
rouge-box, powder, puffs, and spangles. He would never have thought
of it but for me,' she added, burying herself in the cushions in her
fireside corner.

"She delivered herself thus on her return from a first night. Du
Bruel's piece had succeeded, and she foresaw an avalanche of
criticisms. Tullia had her At Homes. Every Monday she gave a
tea-party; her society was as select as might be, and she neglected
nothing that could make her house pleasant. There was a bouillotte in
one room, conversation in another, and sometimes a concert (always
short) in the large drawing-room. None but the most eminent artists
performed in the house. Tullia had so much good sense, that she
attained to the most exquisite tact, and herein, in all probability,
lay the secret of her ascendency over du Bruel; at any rate, he loved
her with the love which use and wont at length makes indispensable to
life. Every day adds another thread to the strong, irresistible,
intangible web, which enmeshes the most delicate fancies, takes
captive every most transient mood, and binding them together, holds a
man captive hand and foot, heart and head.

"Tullia knew Cursy well; she knew every weak point in his armor, knew
also how to heal his wounds.

"A passion of this kind is inscrutable for any observer, even for a
man who prides himself, as I do, on a certain expertness. It is
everywhere unfathomable; the dark depths in it are darker than in any
other mystery; the colors confused even in the highest lights.

"Cursy was an old playwright, jaded by the life of the theatrical
world. He liked comfort; he liked a luxurious, affluent, easy
existence; he enjoyed being a king in his own house; he liked to be
host to a party of men of letters in a hotel resplendent with royal
luxury, with carefully chosen works of art shining in the setting.
Tullia allowed du Bruel to enthrone himself amid the tribe; there were
plenty of journalists whom it was easy enough to catch and ensnare;
and, thanks to her evening parties and a well-timed loan here and
there, Cursy was not attacked too seriously--his plays succeeded. For
these reasons he would not have separated from Tullia for an empire.
If she had been unfaithful, he would probably have passed it over, on
condition that none of his accustomed joys should be retrenched; yet,
strange to say, Tullia caused him no twinges on this account. No fancy
was laid to her charge; if there had been any, she certainly had been
very careful of appearances.

"'My dear fellow,' du Bruel would say, laying down the law to us on
the boulevard, 'there is nothing like one of these women who have sown
their wild oats and got over their passions. Such women as Claudine
have lived their bachelor life; they have been over head and ears in
pleasure, and make the most adorable wives that could be wished; they
have nothing to learn, they are formed, they are not in the least
prudish; they are well broken in, and indulgent. So I strongly
recommend everybody to take the "remains of a racer." I am the most
fortunate man on earth.'

"Du Bruel said this to me himself with Bixiou there to hear it.

"'My dear fellow,' said the caricaturist, 'perhaps he is right to be
in the wrong.'

"About a week afterwards, du Bruel asked us to dine with him one
Tuesday. That morning I went to see him on a piece of theatrical
business, a case submitted to us for arbitration by the commission of
dramatic authors. We were obliged to go out again; but before we
started he went to Claudine's room, knocked, as he always does, and
asked for leave to enter.

"'We live in grand style,' said he, smiling; 'we are free. Each is

"We were admitted. Du Bruel spoke to Claudine. 'I have asked a few
people to dinner to-day--"

"'Just like you!' cried she. 'You ask people without speaking to me;
I count for nothing here.--Now' (taking me as arbitrator by a glance)
'I ask you yourself. When a man has been so foolish as to live with a
woman of my sort; for, after all, I was an opera dancer--yes, I ought
always to remember that, if other people are to forget it--well, under
those circumstances, a clever man seeking to raise his wife in public
opinion would do his best to impose her upon the world as a remarkable
woman, to justify the step he had taken by acknowledging that in some
ways she was something more than ordinary women. The best way of
compelling respect from others is to pay respect to her at home, and
to leave her absolute mistress of the house. Well, and yet it is
enough to awaken one's vanity to see how frightened he is of seeming
to listen to me. I must be in the right ten times over if he concedes
a single point.'

"(Emphatic negative gestures from du Bruel at every other word.)

"'Oh, yes, yes,' she continued quickly, in answer to this mute
dissent. 'I know all about it, du Bruel, my dear, I that have been
like a queen in my house all my life till I married you. My wishes
were guessed, fulfilled, and more than fulfilled. After all, I am
thirty-five, and at five-and-thirty a woman cannot expect to be loved.
Ah, if I were a girl of sixteen, if I had not lost something that is
dearly bought at the Opera, what attention you would pay me, M. du
Bruel! I feel the most supreme contempt for men who boast that they
can love and grow careless and neglectful in little things as time
grows on. You are short and insignificant, you see, du Bruel; you love
to torment a woman; it is your only way of showing your strength. A
Napoleon is ready to be swayed by the woman he loves; he loses nothing
by it; but as for such as you, you believe that you are nothing
apparently, you do not wish to be ruled.--Five-and-thirty, my dear
boy,' she continued, turning to me, 'that is the clue to the riddle.
--"No," does he say again?--You know quite well that I am thirty-seven.
I am very sorry, but just ask your friends to dine at the _Rocher de
Cancale_. I _could_ have them here, but I will not; they shall not
come. And then perhaps my poor little monologue may engrave that
salutary maxim, "Each is master at home," upon your memory. That is
our character,' she added, laughing, with a return of the opera girl's
giddiness and caprice.

"'Well, well, my dear little puss; there, there, never mind. We can
manage to get on together,' said du Bruel, and he kissed her hands,
and we came away. But he was very wroth.

"The whole way from the Rue de la Victoire to the boulevard a perfect
torrent of venomous words poured from his mouth like a waterfall in
flood; but as the shocking language which he used on occasion was
quite unfit to print, the report is necessarily inadequate.

"'My dear fellow, I will leave that vile, shameless opera dancer, a
worn-out jade that has been set spinning like a top to every operatic
air; a foul hussy, an organ-grinder's monkey! Oh, my dear boy, you
have taken up with an actress; may the notion of marrying your
mistress never get a hold on you. It is a torment omitted from the
hell of Dante, you see. Look here! I will beat her; I will give her a
thrashing; I will give it to her! Poison of my life, she sent me off
like a running footman.'

"By this time we had reached the boulevard, and he had worked himself
up to such a pitch of fury that the words stuck in his throat.

"'I will kick the stuffing out of her!'

"'And why?'

"'My dear fellow, you will never know the thousand-and-one fancies
that slut takes into her head. When I want to stay at home, she,
forsooth, must go out; when I want to go out, she wants me to stop at
home; and she spouts out arguments and accusations and reasoning and
talks and talks till she drives you crazy. Right means any whim that
they happen to take into their heads, and wrong means our notion.
Overwhelm them with something that cuts their arguments to pieces
--they hold their tongues and look at you as if you were a dead dog.
My happiness indeed! I lead the life of a yard-dog; I am a perfect
slave. The little happiness that I have with her costs me dear.
Confound it all. I will leave her everything and take myself off to a
garret. Yes, a garret and liberty. I have not dared to have my own
way once in these five years.'

"But instead of going to his guests, Cursy strode up and down the
boulevard between the Rue de Richelieu and the Rue du Mont Blanc,
indulging in the most fearful imprecations, his unbounded language was
most comical to hear. His paroxysm of fury in the street contrasted
oddly with his peaceable demeanor in the house. Exercise assisted him
to work off his nervous agitation and inward tempest. About two
o'clock, on a sudden frantic impulse, he exclaimed:

"'These damned females never know what they want. I will wager my
head now that if I go home and tell her that I have sent to ask my
friends to dine with me at the _Rocher de Cancale_, she will not be
satisfied though she made the arrangement herself.--But she will have
gone off somewhere or other. I wonder whether there is something at
the bottom of all this, an assignation with some goat? No. In the
bottom of her heart she loves me!'"

The Marquise could not help smiling.

"Ah, madame," said Nathan, looking keenly at her, "only women and
prophets know how to turn faith to account.--Du Bruel would have me go
home with him," he continued, "and we went slowly back. It was three
o'clock. Before he appeared, he heard a stir in the kitchen, saw
preparations going forward, and glanced at me as he asked the cook the
reason of this.

"'Madame ordered dinner,' said the woman. 'Madame dressed and ordered
a cab, and then she changed her mind and ordered it again for the
theatre this evening.'

"'Good,' exclaimed du Bruel, 'what did I tell you?'

"We entered the house stealthily. No one was there. We went from room
to room until we reached a little boudoir, and came upon Tullia in
tears. She dried her eyes without affectation, and spoke to du Bruel.

"'Send a note to the _Rocher de Cancale_,' she said, 'and ask your
guests to dine here.'

"She was dressed as only women of the theatre can dress, in a
simply-made gown of some dainty material, neither too costly nor too
common, graceful and harmonious in outline and coloring; there was
nothing conspicuous about her, nothing exaggerated--a word now
dropping out of use, to be replaced by the word 'artistic,' used by
fools as current coin. In short, Tullia looked like a gentlewoman. At
thirty-seven she had reached the prime of a Frenchwoman's beauty. At
this moment the celebrated oval of her face was divinely pale; she
had laid her hat aside; I could see a faint down like the bloom of
fruit softening the silken contours of a cheek itself so delicate.
There was a pathetic charm about her face with its double cluster of
fair hair; her brilliant gray eyes were veiled by a mist of tears; her
nose, delicately carved as a Roman cameo, with its quivering nostrils;
her little mouth, like a child's even now; her long queenly throat,
with the veins standing out upon it; her chin, flushed for the moment
by some secret despair; the pink tips of her ears, the hands that
trembled under her gloves, everything about her told of violent
feeling. The feverish twitching of her eyebrows betrayed her pain. She
looked sublime.

"Her first words had crushed du Bruel. She looked at us both, with
that penetrating, impenetrable cat-like glance which only actresses
and great ladies can use. Then she held out her hand to her husband.

"'Poor dear, you had scarcely gone before I blamed myself a thousand
times over. It seemed to me that I had been horribly ungrateful. I
told myself that I had been unkind.--Was I very unkind?' she asked,
turning to me.--'Why not receive your friends? Is it not your house?
Do you want to know the reason of it all? Well, I was afraid that I
was not loved; and indeed I was half-way between repentance and the
shame of going back. I read the newspapers, and saw that there was a
first night at the Varietes, and I thought you had meant to give the
dinner to a collaborator. Left to myself, I gave way, I dressed to
hurry out after you--poor pet.'

"Du Bruel looked at me triumphantly, not a vestige of a recollection
of his orations _contra Tullia_ in his mind.

"'Well, dearest, I have not spoken to any one of them,' he said.

"'How well we understand each other!' quoth she.

"Even as she uttered those bewildering sweet words, I caught sight of
something in her belt, the corner of a little note thrust sidewise
into it; but I did not need that indication to tell me that Tullia's
fantastic conduct was referable to occult causes. Woman, in my
opinion, is the most logical of created beings, the child alone
excepted. In both we behold a sublime phenomenon, the unvarying
triumph of one dominant, all-excluding thought. The child's thought
changes every moment; but while it possesses him, he acts upon it with
such ardor that others give way before him, fascinated by the
ingenuity, the persistence of a strong desire. Woman is less
changeable, but to call her capricious is a stupid insult. Whenever
she acts, she is always swayed by one dominant passion; and wonderful
it is to see how she makes that passion the very centre of her world.

"Tullia was irresistible; she twisted du Bruel round her fingers, the
sky grew blue again, the evening was glorious. And ingenious writer of
plays as he is, he never so much as saw that his wife had buried a
trouble out of sight.

"'Such is life, my dear fellow,' he said to me, 'ups and downs and

"'Especially life off the stage,' I put in.

"'That is just what I mean,' he continued. 'Why, but for these
violent emotions, one would be bored to death! Ah! that woman has the
gift of rousing me.'

"We went to the Varietes after dinner; but before we left the house I
slipped into du Bruel's room, and on a shelf among a pile of waste
papers found the copy of the _Petites-Affiches_, in which, agreeably
to the reformed law, notice of the purchase of the house was inserted.
The words stared me in the face--'At the request of Jean Francois du
Bruel and Claudine Chaffaroux, his wife----' _Here_ was the
explanation of the whole matter. I offered my arm to Claudine, and
allowed the guests to descend the stairs in front of us. When we were
alone--'If I were La Palferine,' I said, 'I would not break an

"Gravely she laid her finger on her lips. She leant on my arm as we
went downstairs, and looked at me with almost something like happiness
in her eyes because I knew La Palferine. Can you see the first idea
that occurred to her? She thought of making a spy of me, but I turned
her off with the light jesting talk of Bohemia.

"A month later, after a first performance of one of du Bruel's plays,
we met in the vestibule of the theatre. It was raining; I went to call
a cab. We had been delayed for a few minutes, so that there were no
cabs in sight. Claudine scolded du Bruel soundly; and as we rolled
through the streets (for she set me down at Florine's), she continued
the quarrel with a series of most mortifying remarks.

"'What is this about?' I inquired.

"'Oh, my dear fellow, she blames me for allowing you to run out for a
cab, and thereupon proceeds to wish for a carriage.'

"'As a dancer,' said she, 'I have never been accustomed to use my
feet except on the boards. If you have any spirit, you will turn out
four more plays or so in a year; you will make up your mind that
succeed they must, when you think of the end in view, and that your
wife will not walk in the mud. It is a shame that I should have to ask
for it. You ought to have guessed my continual discomfort during the
five years since I married you.'

"'I am quite willing,' returned du Bruel. 'But we shall ruin

"'If you run into debt,' she said, 'my uncle's money will clear it
off some day.'

"'You are quite capable of leaving me the debts and taking the

"'Oh! is that the way you take it?' retorted she. 'I have nothing
more to say to you; such a speech stops my mouth.'

"Whereupon du Bruel poured out his soul in excuses and protestations
of love. Not a word did she say. He took her hands, she allowed him to
take them; they were like ice, like a dead woman's hands. Tullia, you
can understand, was playing to admiration the part of corpse that
women can play to show you that they refuse their consent to anything
and everything; that for you they are suppressing soul, spirit, and
life, and regard themselves as beasts of burden. Nothing so provokes a
man with a heart as this strategy. Women can only use it with those
who worship them.

"She turned to me. 'Do you suppose,' she said scornfully, 'that a
Count would have uttered such an insult even if the thought had
entered his mind? For my misfortune I have lived with dukes,
ambassadors, and great lords, and I know their ways. How intolerable
it makes bourgeois life! After all, a playwright is not a Rastignac
nor a Rhetore----'

"Du Bruel looked ghastly at this. Two days afterwards we met in the
_foyer_ at the Opera, and took a few turns together. The conversation
fell on Tullia.

"'Do not take my ravings on the boulevard too seriously,' said he; 'I
have a violent temper.'

"For two winters I was a tolerably frequent visitor at du Bruel's
house, and I followed Claudine's tactics closely. She had a splendid
carriage. Du Bruel entered public life; she made him abjure his
Royalist opinions. He rallied himself; he took his place again in the
administration; the National Guard was discreetly canvassed, du Bruel
was elected major, and behaved so valorously in a street riot, that he
was decorated with the rosette of an officer of the Legion of Honor.
He was appointed Master of Requests and head of a department. Uncle
Chaffaroux died and left his niece forty thousand francs per annum,
three-fourths of his fortune. Du Bruel became a deputy; but
beforehand, to save the necessity of re-election, he secured his
nomination to the Council of State. He reprinted divers archaeological
treatises, a couple of political pamphlets, and a statistical work, by
way of pretext for his appointment to one of the obliging academies of
the Institut. At this moment he is a Commander of the Legion, and
(after fishing in the troubled waters of political intrigue) has quite
recently been made a peer of France and a count. As yet our friend
does not venture to bear his honors; his wife merely puts 'La Comtesse
du Bruel' on her cards. The sometime playwright has the Order of
Leopold, the Order of Isabella, the cross of Saint-Vladimir, second
class, the Order of Civil Merit of Bavaria, the Papal Order of the
Golden Spur,--all the lesser orders, in short, besides the Grand

"Three months ago Claudine drove to La Palferine's door in her
splendid carriage with its armorial bearings. Du Bruel's grandfather
was a farmer of taxes ennobled towards the end of Louis Quatorze's
reign. Cherin composed his coat-of-arms for him, so the Count's
coronet looks not amiss above a scutcheon innocent of Imperial
absurdities. In this way, in the short space of three years, Claudine
had carried out the programme laid down for her by the charming,
light-hearted La Palferine.

"One day, just above a month ago, she climbed the miserable staircase
to her lover's lodging; climbed in her glory, dressed like a real
countess of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, to our friend's garret. La
Palferine, seeing her, said, 'You have made a peeress of yourself I
know. But it is too late, Claudine; every one is talking just now
about the Southern Cross, I should like it see it!'

"'I will get it for you.'

"La Palferine burst into a peal of Homeric laughter.

"'Most distinctly,' he returned, 'I do _not_ wish to have a woman as
ignorant as a carp for my mistress, a woman that springs like a flying
fish from the green-room of the Opera to Court, for I should like to
see you at the Court of the Citizen King.'

"She turned to me.

"'What is the Southern Cross?' she asked, in a sad, downcast voice.

"I was struck with admiration for this indomitable love, outdoing the
most ingenious marvels of fairy tales in real life--a love that would
spring over a precipice to find a roc's egg, or to gather the singing
flower. I explained that the Southern Cross was a nebulous
constellation even brighter than the Milky Way, arranged in the form
of a cross, and that it could only be seen in southern latitudes.

"'Very well, Charles, let us go,' said she.

"La Palferine, ferocious though he was, had tears in his eyes; but
what a look there was in Claudine's face, what a note in her voice! I
have seen nothing like the thing that followed, not even in the
supreme touch of a great actor's art; nothing to compare with her
movement when she saw the hard eyes softened in tears; Claudine sank
upon her knees and kissed La Palferine's pitiless hand. He raised her
with his grand manner, his 'Rusticoli air,' as he calls it--'There,
child!' he said, 'I will do something for you; I will put you--in my

"Well," concluded Nathan, "I ask myself sometimes whether du Bruel is
really deceived. Truly there is nothing more comic, nothing stranger
than the sight of a careless young fellow ruling a married couple, his
slightest whims received as law, the weightiest decisions revoked at a
word from him. That dinner incident, as you can see, is repeated times
without number, it interferes with important matters. Still, but for
Claudine's caprices, du Bruel would be de Cursy still, one
vaudevillist among five hundred; whereas he is in the House of Peers."

"You will change the names, I hope!" said Nathan, addressing Mme. de
la Baudraye.

"I should think so! I have only set names to the masks for you. My
dear Nathan," she added in the poet's ear, "I know another case on
which the wife takes du Bruel's place."

"And the catastrophe?" queried Lousteau, returning just at the end of
Mme. de la Baudraye's story.

"I do not believe in catastrophes. One has to invent such good ones to
show that art is quite a match for chance; and nobody reads a book
twice, my friend, except for the details."

"But there is a catastrophe," persisted Nathan.

"What is it?"

"The Marquise de Rochefide is infatuated with Charles Edward. My story
excited her curiosity."

"Oh, unhappy woman!" cried Mme. de la Baudraye.

"Not so unhappy," said Nathan, "for Maxime de Trailles and La
Palferine have brought about a rupture between the Marquis and Mme.
Schontz, and they mean to make it up between Arthur and Beatrix."

1839 - 1845.


The following personages appear in other stories of the Human Comedy.

Bianchon, Horace
  Father Goriot
  The Atheist's Mass
  Cesar Birotteau
  The Commission in Lunacy
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Secrets of a Princess
  The Government Clerks
  A Study of Woman
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Seamy Side of History
  The Magic Skin
  A Second Home
  Letters of Two Brides
  The Muse of the Department
  The Imaginary Mistress
  The Middle Classes
  Cousin Betty
  The Country Parson
In addition, M. Bianchon narrated the following:
  Another Study of Woman
  La Grande Breteche

Bruel, Jean Francois du
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Government Clerks
  A Start in Life
  The Middle Classes
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Daughter of Eve

Bruel, Claudine Chaffaroux, Madame du
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Distinguished  Provincial at Paris
  Letters of Two Brides
  The Middle Classes

  Cesar Birotteau
  The Middle Classes

Chocardelle, Mademoiselle
  A Man of Business
  Cousin Betty
  The Member for Arcis

La Baudraye, Madame Polydore Milaud de
  The Muse of the Department
  Cousin Betty

Laguerre, Mademoiselle
  The Peasantry

La Palferine, Comte de
  A Man of Business
  Cousin Betty
  The Imaginary Mistress

Lousteau, Etienne
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Muse of the Department
  Cousin Betty
  A Man of Business
  The Middle Classes
  The Unconscious Humorists

Marcas, Zephirin
  Z. Marcas

Nathan, Raoul
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Secrets of a Princess
  A Daughter of Eve
  Letters of Two Brides
  The Seamy Side of History
  The Muse of the Department
  A Man of Business
  The Unconscious Humorists

Nathan, Madame Raoul
  The Muse of the Department
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Government Clerks
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Ursule Mirouet
  Eugenie Grandet
  The Imaginary Mistress
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Unconscious Humorists

Popinot, Madame Anselme
  Cesar Birotteau
  Cousin Betty
  Cousin Pons

Rochefide, Marquise de
  The Secrets of a Princess
  A Daughter of Eve

Tissot, Pierre-Francois
  Father Goriot

*** End of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A Prince of Bohemia" ***

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