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Title: Rise and Fall of Cesar Birotteau
Author: Balzac, Honoré de, 1799-1850
Language: English
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Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

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                          HONORE DE BALZAC

                           Translated by

                    Katharine Prescott Wormeley

                               PART I

                        CESAR AT HIS APOGEE


During winter nights noise never ceases in the Rue Saint-Honore except
for a short interval. Kitchen-gardeners carrying their produce to
market continue the stir of carriages returning from theatres and
balls. Near the middle of this sustained pause in the grand symphony
of Parisian uproar, which occurs about one o'clock in the morning, the
wife of Monsieur Cesar Birotteau, a perfumer established near the
Place Vendome, was startled from her sleep by a frightful dream. She
had seen her double. She had appeared to herself clothed in rags,
turning with a shrivelled, withered hand the latch of her own
shop-door, seeming to be at the threshold, yet at the same time seated
in her armchair behind the counter. She was asking alms of herself,
and heard herself speaking from the doorway and also from her seat at
the desk.

She tried to grasp her husband, but her hand fell on a cold place. Her
terror became so intense that she could not move her neck, which
stiffened as if petrified; the membranes of her throat became glued
together, her voice failed her. She remained sitting erect in the same
posture in the middle of the alcove, both panels of which were wide
open, her eyes staring and fixed, her hair quivering, her ears filled
with strange noises, her heart tightened yet palpitating, and her
person bathed in perspiration though chilled to the bone.

Fear is a half-diseased sentiment, which presses so violently upon the
human mechanism that the faculties are suddenly excited to the highest
degree of their power or driven to utter disorganization.
Physiologists have long wondered at this phenomenon, which overturns
their systems and upsets all theories; it is in fact a thunderbolt
working within the being, and, like all electric accidents, capricious
and whimsical in its course. This explanation will become a mere
commonplace in the day when scientific men are brought to recognize
the immense part which electricity plays in human thought.

Madame Birotteau now passed through several of the shocks, in some
forced out, or held under, by some mysterious mechanism. Thus during a
period of time, very short if judged by a watch, but immeasurable when
calculated by the rapidity of her impressions, the poor woman had the
supernatural power of emitting more ideas and bringing to the surface
more recollections than, under any ordinary use of her faculties, she
could put forth in the course of a whole day. The poignant tale of her
monologue may be abridged into a few absurd sentences, as
contradictory and bare of meaning as the monologue itself.

"There is no reason why Birotteau should leave my bed! He has eaten so
much veal that he may be ill. But if he were ill he would have waked
me. For nineteen years that we have slept together in this bed, in
this house, it has never happened that he left his place without
telling me,--poor sheep! He never slept away except to pass the night
in the guard-room. Did he come to bed to-night? Why, of course;
goodness! how stupid I am."

She cast her eyes upon the bed and saw her husband's night-cap, which
still retained the almost conical shape of his head.

"Can he be dead? Has he killed himself? Why?" she went on. "For the
last two years, since they made him deputy-mayor, he is
_all-I-don't-know-how_. To put him into public life! On the word of
an honest woman, isn't it pitiable? His business is doing well, for
he gave me a shawl. But perhaps it isn't doing well? Bah! I should
know of it. Does one ever know what a man has got in his head; or a
woman either?--there is no harm in that. Didn't we sell five thousand
francs' worth to-day? Besides, a deputy mayor couldn't kill himself;
he knows the laws too well. Where is he then?"

She could neither turn her neck, nor stretch out her hand to pull the
bell, which would have put in motion a cook, three clerks, and a
shop-boy. A prey to the nightmare, which still lasted though her mind
was wide awake, she forgot her daughter peacefully asleep in an
adjoining room, the door of which opened at the foot of her bed. At
last she cried "Birotteau!" but got no answer. She thought she had
called the name aloud, though in fact she had only uttered it mentally.

"Has he a mistress? He is too stupid," she added. "Besides, he loves
me too well for that. Didn't he tell Madame Roguin that he had never
been unfaithful to me, even in thought? He is virtue upon earth, that
man. If any one ever deserved paradise he does. What does he accuse
himself of to his confessor, I wonder? He must tell him a lot of
fiddle-faddle. Royalist as he is, though he doesn't know why, he can't
froth up his religion. Poor dear cat! he creeps to Mass at eight
o'clock as slyly as if he were going to a bad house. He fears God for
God's sake; hell is nothing to him. How could he have a mistress? He
is so tied to my petticoat that he bores me. He loves me better than
his own eyes; he would put them out for my sake. For nineteen years he
has never said to me one word louder than another. His daughter is
never considered before me. But Cesarine is here--Cesarine! Cesarine!
--Birotteau has never had a thought which he did not tell me. He was
right enough when he declared to me at the Petit-Matelot that I should
never know him till I tried him. And _not here_! It is extraordinary!"

She turned her head with difficulty and glanced furtively about the
room, then filled with those picturesque effects which are the despair
of language and seem to belong exclusively to the painters of genre.
What words can picture the alarming zig-zags produced by falling
shadows, the fantastic appearance of curtains bulged out by the wind,
the flicker of uncertain light thrown by a night-lamp upon the folds
of red calico, the rays shed from a curtain-holder whose lurid centre
was like the eye of a burglar, the apparition of a kneeling dress,--in
short, all the grotesque effects which terrify the imagination at a
moment when it has no power except to foresee misfortunes and
exaggerate them? Madame Birotteau suddenly saw a strong light in the
room beyond her chamber, and thought of fire; but perceiving a red
foulard which looked like a pool of blood, her mind turned exclusively
to burglars, especially when she thought she saw traces of a struggle
in the way the furniture stood about the room. Recollecting the sum of
money which was in the desk, a generous fear put an end to the chill
ferment of her nightmare. She sprang terrified, and in her night-gown,
into the very centre of the room to help her husband, whom she
supposed to be in the grasp of assassins.

"Birotteau! Birotteau!" she cried at last in a voice full of anguish.

She then saw the perfumer in the middle of the next room, a yard-stick
in his hand measuring the air, and so ill wrapped up in his green
cotton dressing-gown with chocolate-colored spots that the cold had
reddened his legs without his feeling it, preoccupied as he was. When
Cesar turned about to say to his wife, "Well, what do you want,
Constance?" his air and manner, like those of a man absorbed in
calculations, were so prodigiously silly that Madame Birotteau began
to laugh.

"Goodness! Cesar, if you are not an oddity like that!" she said. "Why
did you leave me alone without telling me? I have nearly died of
terror; I did not know what to imagine. What are you doing there,
flying open to all the winds? You'll get as hoarse as a wolf. Do you
hear me, Birotteau?"

"Yes, wife, here I am," answered the perfumer, coming into the

"Come and warm yourself, and tell me what maggot you've got in your
head," replied Madame Birotteau opening the ashes of the fire, which
she hastened to relight. "I am frozen. What a goose I was to get up in
my night-gown! But I really thought they were assassinating you."

The shopkeeper put his candlestick on the chimney-piece, wrapped his
dressing-gown closer about him, and went mechanically to find a
flannel petticoat for his wife.

"Here, Mimi, cover yourself up," he said. "Twenty-two by eighteen," he
resumed, going on with his monologue; "we can get a superb salon."

"Ah, ca! Birotteau, are you on the high road to insanity? Are you

"No, wife, I am calculating."

"You had better wait till daylight for your nonsense," she cried,
fastening the petticoat beneath her short night-gown and going to the
door of the room where her daughter was in bed.

"Cesarine is asleep," she said, "she won't hear us. Come, Birotteau,
speak up. What is it?"

"We can give a ball."

"Give a ball! we? On the word of an honest woman, you are dreaming, my

"I am not dreaming, my beautiful white doe. Listen. People should
always do what their position in life demands. Government has brought
me forward into prominence. I belong to the government; it is my duty
to study its mind, and further its intentions by developing them. The
Duc de Richelieu has just put an end to the occupation of France by
the foreign armies. According to Monsieur de la Billardiere, the
functionaries who represent the city of Paris should make it their
duty, each in his own sphere of influence, to celebrate the liberation
of our territory. Let us show a true patriotism which shall put these
liberals, these damned intriguers, to the blush; hein? Do you think I
don't love my country? I wish to show the liberals, my enemies, that
to love the king is to love France."

"Do you think you have got any enemies, my poor Birotteau?"

"Why, yes, wife, we have enemies. Half our friends in the quarter are
our enemies. They all say, 'Birotteau has had luck; Birotteau is a man
who came from nothing: yet here he is deputy-mayor; everything
succeeds with him.' Well, they are going to be finely surprised. You
are the first to be told that I am made a chevalier of the Legion of
honor. The king signed the order yesterday."

"Oh! then," said Madame Birotteau, much moved, "of course we must give
the ball, my good friend. But what have you done to merit the cross?"

"Yesterday, when Monsieur de la Billardiere told me the news," said
Birotteau, modestly, "I asked myself, as you do, what claims I had to
it; but I ended by seeing what they were, and in approving the action
of the government. In the first place, I am a royalist; I was wounded
at Saint-Roch in Vendemiaire: isn't it something to have borne arms in
those days for the good cause? Then, according to the merchants, I
exercised my judicial functions in a way to give general satisfaction.
I am now deputy-mayor. The king grants four crosses to the
municipality of Paris; the prefect, selecting among the deputies
suitable persons to be thus decorated, has placed my name first on the
list. The king moreover knows me: thanks to old Ragon. I furnish him
with the only powder he is willing to use; we alone possess the
receipt of the late queen,--poor, dear, august victim! The mayor
vehemently supported me. So there it is. If the king gives me the
cross without my asking for it, it seems to me that I cannot refuse it
without failing in my duty to him. Did I seek to be deputy-mayor? So,
wife, since we are sailing before the wind, as your uncle Pillerault
says when he is jovial, I have decided to put the household on a
footing in conformity with our high position. If I can become
anything, I'll risk being whatever the good God wills that I shall be,
--sub-prefect, if such be my destiny. My wife, you are much mistaken
if you think a citizen has paid his debt to his country by merely
selling perfumery for twenty years to those who came to buy it. If the
State demands the help of our intelligence, we are as much bound to
give it as we are to pay the tax on personal property, on windows and
doors, _et caetera_. Do you want to stay forever behind your counter?
You have been there, thank God, a long time. This ball shall be our
fete,--yours and mine. Good-by to economy,--for your sake, be it
understood. I burn our sign, 'The Queen of Roses'; I efface the name,
'Cesar Birotteau, Perfumer, Successor to Ragon,' and put simply,
'Perfumery' in big letters of gold. On the _entresol_ I place the
office, the counting-room, and a pretty little sanctum for you. I make
the shop out of the back-shop, the present dining-room, and kitchen. I
hire the first floor of the next house, and open a door into it
through the wall. I turn the staircase so as to pass from house to
house on one floor; and we shall thus get a grand appartement,
furnished like a nest. Yes, I shall refurnish your bedroom, and
contrive a boudoir for you and a pretty chamber for Cesarine. The
shop-girl whom you will hire, our head clerk, and your lady's-maid
(yes, Madame, you are to have one!) will sleep on the second floor. On
the third will be the kitchen and rooms of the cook and the
man-of-all-work. The fourth shall be a general store-house for bottle,
crystals, and porcelains. The workshop for our people, in the attic!
Passers-by shall no longer see them gumming on the labels, making the
bags, sorting the flasks, and corking the phials. Very well for the
Rue Saint-Denis, but for the Rue Saint-Honore--fy! bad style! Our shop
must be as comfortable as a drawing-room. Tell me, are we the only
perfumers who have reached public honors? Are there not vinegar
merchants and mustard men who command in the National Guard and are
very well received at the Palace? Let us imitate them; let us extend
our business, and at the same time press forward into higher society."

"Goodness! Birotteau, do you know what I am thinking of as I listen to
you? You are like the man who looks for knots in a bulrush. Recollect
what I said when it was a question of making you deputy-mayor: 'your
peace of mind before everything!' You are as fit, I told you, 'to be
put forward in public life as my arm is to turn a windmill. Honors
will be your ruin!' You would not listen to me, and now the ruin has
come. To play a part in politics you must have money: have we any?
What! would you burn your sign, which cost six hundred francs, and
renounce 'The Queen of Roses,' your true glory? Leave ambition to
others. He who puts his hand in the fire gets burned,--isn't that
true? Politics burn in these days. We have one hundred good thousand
francs invested outside of our business, our productions, our
merchandise. If you want to increase your fortune, do as they did in
1793. The Funds are at sixty-two: buy into the Funds. You will get ten
thousand francs' income, and the investment won't hamper our property.
Take advantage of the occasion to marry our daughter; sell the
business, and let us go and live in your native place. Why! for
fifteen years you have talked of nothing but buying Les Tresorieres,
that pretty little property near Chinon, where there are woods and
fields, and ponds and vineyards, and two dairies, which bring in a
thousand crowns a year, with a house which we both like,--all of which
we can have for sixty thousand francs; and, lo! Monsieur now wants to
become something under government! Recollect what we are,--perfumers.
If sixteen years before you invented the DOUBLE PASTE OF SULTANS and
the CARMINATIVE BALM some one had said, 'You are going to make enough
money to buy Les Tresorieres,' wouldn't you have been half sick with
joy? Well, you can acquire that property which you wanted so much that
you hardly opened your mouth about anything else, and now you talk of
spending on nonsense money earned by the sweat of our brow: I can say
ours, for I've sat behind the desk through all that time, like a poor
dog in his kennel. Isn't it much better to come and visit our daughter
after she is married to a notary of Paris, and live eight months of
the year at Chinon, than to begin here to make five sous six blanks,
and of six blanks nothing? Wait for a rise in the Funds, and you can
give eight thousand francs a year to your daughter and we can keep two
thousand for ourselves, and the proceeds of the business will allow us
to buy Les Tresorieres. There in your native place, my good little
cat, with our furniture, which is worth a great deal, we shall live
like princes; whereas here we want at least a million to make any
figure at all."

"I expected you to say all this, wife," said Cesar Birotteau. "I am
not quite such a fool (though you think me a great fool, you do) as
not to have thought of all that. Now, listen to me. Alexandre Crottat
will fit us like a glove for a son-in-law, and he will succeed Roguin;
but do you suppose he will be satisfied with a hundred thousand francs
_dot_?--supposing that we gave our whole property outside of the
business to establish our daughter, and I am willing; I would gladly
live on dry bread the rest of my days to see her happy as a queen, the
wife of a notary of Paris, as you say. Well, then, a hundred thousand
francs, or even eight thousand francs a year, is nothing at all
towards buying Roguin's practice. Little Xandrot, as we call him,
thinks, like all the rest of the world, that we are richer than we
are. If his father, that big farmer who is as close as a snail, won't
sell a hundred thousand francs worth of land Xandrot can't be a
notary, for Roguin's practice is worth four or five hundred thousand.
If Crottat does not pay half down, how could he negotiate the affair?
Cesarine must have two hundred thousand francs _dot_; and I mean that
you and I shall retire solid bourgeois of Paris, with fifteen thousand
francs a year. Hein! If I could make you see that as plain as day,
wouldn't it shut your mouth?"

"Oh, if you've got the mines of Peru--"

"Yes, I have, my lamb. Yes," he said, taking his wife by the waist and
striking her with little taps, under an emotion of joy which lighted
up his features, "I did not wish to tell you of this matter till it
was all cooked; but to-morrow it will be done,--that is, perhaps it
will. Here it is then: Roguin has proposed a speculation to me, so
safe that he has gone into it with Ragon, with your uncle Pillerault,
and two other of his clients. We are to buy property near the
Madeleine, which, according to Roguin's calculations, we shall get for
a quarter of the value which it will bring three years from now, at
which time, the present leases having expired, we shall manage it for
ourselves. We have all six taken certain shares. I furnish three
hundred thousand francs,--that is, three-eighths of the whole. If any
one of us wants money, Roguin will get it for him by hypothecating his
share. To hold the gridiron and know how the fish are fried, I have
chosen to be nominally proprietor of one half, which is, however, to
be the common property of Pillerault and the worthy Ragon and myself.
Roguin will be, under the name of Monsieur Charles Claparon,
co-proprietor with me, and will give a reversionary deed to his
associates, as I shall to mine. The deeds of purchase are made by
promises of sale under private seal, until we are masters of the whole
property. Roguin will investigate as to which of the contracts should
be paid in money, for he is not sure that we can dispense with
registering and yet turn over the titles to those to whom we sell in
small parcels. But it takes too long to explain all this to you. The
ground once paid for, we have only to cross our arms and in three
years we shall be rich by a million. Cesarine will then be twenty, our
business will be sold, and we shall step, by the grace of God,
modestly to eminence."

"Where will you get your three hundred thousand francs?" said Madame

"You don't understand business, my beloved little cat. I shall take
the hundred thousand francs which are now with Roguin; I shall borrow
forty thousand on the buildings and gardens where we now have our
manufactory in the Faubourg du Temple; we have twenty thousand francs
here in hand,--in all, one hundred and sixty thousand. There remain
one hundred and forty thousand more, for which I shall sign notes to
the order of Monsieur Charles Claparon, banker. He will pay the value,
less the discount. So there are the three hundred thousand francs
provided for. He who owns rents owes nothing. When the notes fall due
we can pay them off with our profits. If we cannot pay them in cash,
Roguin will give the money at five per cent, hypothecated on my share
of the property. But such loans will be unnecessary. I have discovered
an essence which will make the hair grow--an Oil Comagene, from Syria!
Livingston has just set up for me a hydraulic press to manufacture the
oil from nuts, which yield it readily under strong pressure. In a
year, according to my calculations, I shall have made a hundred
thousand francs at least. I meditate an advertisement which shall
begin, 'Down with wigs!'--the effect will be prodigious. You have
never found out my wakefulness, Madame! For three months the success
of Macassar Oil has kept me from sleeping. I am resolved to take the
shine out of Macassar!"

"So these are the fine projects you've been rolling in your noddle for
two months without choosing to tell me? I have just seen myself
begging at my own door,--a warning from heaven! Before long we shall
have nothing left but our eyes to weep with. Never while I live shall
you do it; do you hear me, Cesar? Underneath all this there is some
plot which you don't perceive; you are too upright and loyal to
suspect the trickery of others. Why should they come and offer you
millions? You are giving up your property, you are going beyond your
means; and if your oil doesn't succeed, if you don't make the money,
if the value of the land can't be realized, how will you pay your
notes? With the shells of your nuts? To rise in society you are going
to hide your name, take down your sign, 'The Queen of Roses,' and yet
you mean to salaam and bow and scrape in advertisements and
prospectuses, which will placard Cesar Birotteau at every corner, and
on all the boards, wherever they are building."

"Oh! you are not up to it all. I shall have a branch establishment,
under the name of Popinot, in some house near the Rue des Lombards,
where I shall put little Anselme. I shall pay my debt of gratitude to
Monsieur and Madame Ragon by setting up their nephew, who can make his
fortune. The poor Ragonines look to me half-starved of late."

"Bah! all those people want your money."

"But what people, my treasure? Is it your uncle Pillerault, who loves
us like the apple of his eye, and dines with us every Sunday? Is it
good old Ragon, our predecessor, who has forty upright years in
business to boast of, and with whom we play our game of boston? Is it
Roguin, a notary, a man fifty-seven years old, twenty-five of which he
has been in office? A notary of Paris! he would be the flower of the
lot, if honest folk were not all worth the same price. If necessary,
my associates will help me. Where is the plot, my white doe? Look
here, I must tell you your defect. On the word of an honest man it
lies on my heart. You are as suspicious as a cat. As soon as we had
two sous worth in the shop you thought the customers were all thieves.
I had to go down on my knees to you to let me make you rich. For a
Parisian girl you have no ambition! If it hadn't been for your
perpetual fears, no man could have been happier than I. If I had
listened to you I should never have invented the Paste of Sultans nor
the Carminative Balm. Our shop has given us a living, but these two
discoveries have made the hundred and sixty thousand francs which we
possess, net and clear! Without my genius, for I certainly have talent
as a perfumer, we should now be petty retail shopkeepers, pulling the
devil's tail to make both ends meet. I shouldn't be a distinguished
merchant, competing in the election of judges for the department of
commerce; I should be neither a judge nor a deputy-mayor. Do you know
what I should be? A shopkeeper like Pere Ragon,--be it said without
offence, for I respect shopkeeping; the best of our kidney are in it.
After selling perfumery like him for forty years, we should be worth
three thousand francs a year; and at the price things are now, for
they have doubled in value, we should, like them, have barely enough
to live on. (Day after day that poor household wrings my heart more
and more. I must know more about it, and I'll get the truth from
Popinot to-morrow!) If I had followed your advice--you who have such
uneasy happiness and are always asking whether you will have to-morrow
what you have got to-day--I should have no credit, I should have no
cross of the Legion of honor. I should not be on the highroad to
becoming a political personage. Yes, you may shake your head, but if
our affair succeeds I may become deputy of Paris. Ah! I am not named
Cesar for nothing; I succeed. It is unimaginable! outside every one
credits me with capacity, but here the only person whom I want so much
to please that I sweat blood and water to make her happy, is precisely
the one who takes me for a fool."

These phrases, divided by eloquent pauses and delivered like shot,
after the manner of those who recriminate, expressed so deep and
constant an attachment that Madame Birotteau was inwardly touched,
though, like all women, she made use of the love she inspired to gain
her end.

"Well! Birotteau," she said, "if you love me, let me be happy in my
own way. Neither you nor I have education; we don't know how to talk,
nor to play 'your obedient servant' like men of the world; how then do
you expect that we could succeed in government places? I shall be
happy at Les Tresorieres, indeed I shall. I have always loved birds
and animals, and I can pass my life very well taking care of the hens
and the farm. Let us sell the business, marry Cesarine, and give up
your visions. We can come and pass the winters in Paris with our
son-in-law; we shall be happy; nothing in politics or commerce can
then change our way of life. Why do you want to crush others? Isn't
our present fortune enough for us? When you are a millionaire can you
eat two dinners; will you want two wives? Look at my uncle Pillerault!
He is wisely content with his little property, and spends his life in
good deeds. Does he want fine furniture? Not he! I know very well you
have been ordering furniture for me; I saw Braschon here, and it was
not to buy perfumery."

"Well, my beauty, yes! Your furniture is ordered; our improvements
begin to-morrow, and are superintended by an architect recommended to
me by Monsieur de la Billardiere."

"My God!" she cried, "have pity upon us!"

"But you are not reasonable, my love. Do you think that at
thirty-seven years of age, fresh and pretty as you are, you can go and
bury yourself at Chinon? I, thank God, am only thirty-nine. Chance
opens to me a fine career; I enter upon it. If I conduct myself
prudently I can make an honorable house among the bourgeoisie of Paris,
as was done in former times. I can found the house of Birotteau, like
the house of Keller, or Jules Desmartes, or Roguin, Cochin, Guillaume,
Lebas, Nucingen, Saillard, Popinot, Matifat, who make their mark, or
have made it, in their respective quarters. Come now! If this affair
were not as sure as bars of gold--"


"Yes, sure. For two months I have figured at it. Without seeming to do
so, I have been getting information on building from the department of
public works, from architects and contractors. Monsieur Grindot, the
young architect who is to alter our house, is in despair that he has
no money to put into the speculation."

"He hopes for the work; he says that to screw something out of you."

"Can he take in such men as Pillerault, as Charles Claparon, as
Roguin? The profit is as sure as that of the Paste of Sultans."

"But, my dear friend, why should Roguin speculate? He gets his
commissions, and his fortune is made. I see him pass sometimes more
full of care than a minister of state, with an underhand look which I
don't like; he hides some secret anxiety. His face has grown in five
years to look like that of an old rake. Who can be sure that he won't
kick over the traces when he gets all your property into his own
hands. Such things happen. Do we know him well? He has only been a
friend for fifteen years, and I wouldn't put my hand into the fire for
him. Why! he is not decent: he does not live with his wife. He must
have mistresses who ruin him; I don't see any other cause for his
anxiety. When I am dressing I look through the blinds, and I often see
him coming home in the mornings: where from? Nobody knows. He seems to
me like a man who has an establishment in town, who spends on his
pleasures, and Madame on hers. Is that the life of a notary? If they
make fifty thousand francs a year and spend sixty thousand, in twenty
years they will get to the end of their property and be as naked as
the little Saint John; and then, as they can't do without luxury, they
will prey upon their friends without compunction. Charity begins at
home. He is intimate with that little scamp du Tillet, our former
clerk; and I see nothing good in that friendship. If he doesn't know
how to judge du Tillet he must be blind; and if he does know him, why
does he pet him? You'll tell me, because his wife is fond of du
Tillet. Well, I don't look for any good in a man who has no honor with
respect to his wife. Besides, the present owners of that land must be
fools to sell for a hundred sous what is worth a hundred francs. If
you met a child who did not know the value of a louis, wouldn't you
feel bound to tell him of it? Your affair looks to me like a theft, be
it said without offence."

"Good God! how queer women are sometimes, and how they mix up ideas!
If Roguin were not in this business, you would say to me: 'Look here,
Cesar, you are going into a thing without Roguin; therefore it is
worth nothing.' But to-day he is in it, as security, and you tell

"No, that is a Monsieur Claparon."

"But a notary cannot put his own name into a speculation."

"Then why is he doing a thing forbidden by law? How do you answer
that, you who are guided by law?"

"Let me go on. Roguin is in it, and you tell me the business is
worthless. Is that reasonable? You say, 'He is acting against the
law.' But he would put himself openly in the business if it were
necessary. Can't they say the same of me? Would Ragon and Pillerault
come and say to me: 'Why do you have to do with this affair,--you who
have made your money as a merchant?'"

"Merchants are not in the same position as notaries," said Madame

"Well, my conscience is clear," said Cesar, continuing; "the people
who sell, sell because they must; we do not steal from them any more
than you steal from others when you buy their stocks at seventy-five.
We buy the ground to-day at to-day's price. In two years it will be
another thing; just so with stocks. Know then, Constance-Barbe-
Josephine Pillerault, that you will never catch Cesar Birotteau doing
anything against the most rigid honor, nor against the laws, nor
against his conscience, nor against delicacy. A man established and
known for eighteen years, to be suspected in his own household of

"Come, be calm, Cesar! A woman who has lived with you all that time
knows down to the bottom of your soul. You are the master, after all.
You earned your fortune, didn't you? It is yours, and you can spend
it. If we are reduced to the last straits of poverty, neither your
daughter nor I will make you a single reproach. But, listen; when you
invented your Paste of Sultans and Carminative Balm, what did you
risk? Five or six thousand francs. To-day you put all your fortune on
a game of cards. And you are not the only one to play; you have
associates who may be much cleverer than you. Give your ball, remodel
the house, spend ten thousand francs if you like,--it is useless but
not ruinous. As to your speculations near the Madeleine, I formally
object. You are perfumer: be a perfumer, and not a speculator in land.
We women have instincts which do not deceive us. I have warned you;
now follow your own lead. You have been judge in the department of
commerce, you know the laws. So far, you have guided the ship well,
Cesar; I shall follow you! But I shall tremble till I see our fortune
solidly secure and Cesarine well married. God grant that my dream be
not a prophecy!"

This submission thwarted Birotteau, who now employed an innocent ruse
to which he had had recourse on similar occasions.

"Listen, Constance. I have not given my word; though it is the same as
if I had."

"Oh, Cesar, all is said; let us say no more. Honor before fortune.
Come, go to bed, dear friend, there is no more wood. Besides, we shall
talk better in bed, if it amuses you. Oh! that horrid dream! My God!
to see one's self! it was fearful! Cesarine and I will have to make a
pretty number of _neuvaines_ for the success of your speculations."

"Doubtless the help of God can do no harm," said Birotteau, gravely.
"But the oil in nuts is also powerful, wife. I made this discovery
just as I made that of the Double Paste of Sultans,--by chance. The
first time by opening a book; this time by looking at an engraving of
Hero and Leander: you know, the woman who pours oil on the head of her
lover; pretty, isn't it? The safest speculations are those which
depend on vanity, on self-love, on the desire of appearing well. Those
sentiments never die."

"Alas! I know it well."

"At a certain age men will turn their souls inside out to get hair, if
they haven't any. For some time past hair-dressers have told me that
they sell not only Macassar, but all the drugs which are said to dye
hair or make it grow. Since the peace, men are more with women, and
women don't like bald-heads; hey! hey! Mimi? The demand for that
article grows out of the political situation. A composition which will
keep the hair in good health will sell like bread; all the more if it
has the sanction, as it will have, of the Academy of Sciences. My good
Monsieur Vauquelin will perhaps help me once more. I shall go to him
to-morrow and submit my idea; offering him at the same time that
engraving which I have at last found in Germany, after two years'
search. He is now engaged in analyzing hair: Chiffreville, his
associate in the manufacture of chemical products, told me so. If my
discovery should jump with his, my essence will be bought by both
sexes. The idea is a fortune; I repeat it. Mon Dieu! I can't sleep.
Hey! luckily little Popinot has the finest head of hair in the world.
A shop-girl with hair long enough to touch the ground, and who could
say--if the thing were possible without offence to God or my neighbor
--that the Oil Comagene (for it shall be an oil, decidedly) has had
something to do with it,--all the gray-heads in Paris will fling
themselves upon the invention like poverty upon the world. Hey! hey!
Mignonne! how about the ball? I am not wicked, but I should like to
meet that little scamp du Tillet, who swells out with his fortune and
avoids me at the Bourse. He knows that I know a thing about him which
was not fine. Perhaps I have been too kind to him. Isn't it odd, wife,
that we are always punished for our good deeds?--here below, I mean. I
behaved like a father to him; you don't know all I did for him."

"You give me goose-flesh merely speaking of it. If you knew what he
wished to make of you, you would never have kept the secret of his
stealing that three thousand francs,--for I guessed just how the thing
was done. If you had sent him to the correctional police, perhaps you
would have done a service to a good many people."

"What did he wish to make of me?"

"Nothing. If you were inclined to listen to me to-night, I would give
you a piece of good advice, Birotteau; and that is, to let your du
Tillet alone."

"Won't it seem strange if I exclude him from my house,--a clerk for
whom I endorsed to the amount of twenty thousand francs when he first
went into business? Come, let us do good for good's sake. Besides,
perhaps du Tillet has mended his ways."

"Everything is to be turned topsy-turvy, then?"

"What do you mean with your topsy-turvy? Everything will be ruled like
a sheet of music-paper. Have you forgotten what I have just told you
about turning the staircase and hiring the first floor of the next
house?--which is all settled with the umbrella-maker, Cayron. He and I
are going to-morrow to see his proprietor, Monsieur Molineux.
To-morrow I have as much to do as a minister of state."

"You turn my brain with your projects," said Constance. "I am all
mixed up. Besides, Birotteau, I'm asleep."

"Good-day," replied the husband. "Just listen; I say good-day because
it is morning, Mimi. Ah! there she is off, the dear child. Yes! you
shall be rich, _richissime_, or I'll renounce my name of Cesar!"

A few moments later Constance and Cesar were peacefully snoring.


A glance rapidly thrown over the past life of this household will
strengthen the ideas which ought to have been suggested by the
friendly altercation of the two personages in this scene. While
picturing the manners and customs of retail shopkeepers, this sketch
will also show by what singular chances Cesar Birotteau became
deputy-mayor and perfumer, retired officer of the National Guard,
and chevalier of the Legion of honor. In bringing to light the depths
of his character and the causes of his rise, we shall show that
fortuitous commercial events which strong brains dominate, may become
irreparable catastrophes for weak ones. Events are never absolute;
their results depend on individuals. Misfortune is a stepping-stone
for genius, the baptismal font of Christians, a treasure for the
skilful man, an abyss for the feeble.

A vine-dresser in the neighborhood of Chinon, named Jean Birotteau,
married the waiting-maid of a lady whose vines he tilled. He had three
sons; his wife died in giving birth to the last, and the poor man did
not long survive her. The mistress had been fond of the maid, and
brought up with her own sons the eldest child, Francois, and placed
him in a seminary. Ordained priest, Francois Birotteau hid himself
during the Revolution, and led the wandering life of priests not sworn
by the Republic, hunted like wild beasts and guillotined at the first
chance. At the time when this history begins he was vicar of the
cathedral of Tours, and had only once left that city to visit his
brother Cesar. The bustle of Paris so bewildered the good priest that
he was afraid to leave his room. He called the cabriolets
"half-coaches," and wondered at all he saw. After a week's stay he
went back to Tours resolving never to revisit the capital.

The second son of the vine-dresser, Jean Birotteau, was drafted into
the militia, and won the rank of captain early in the wars of the
Revolution. At the battle of Trebia, Macdonald called for volunteers
to carry a battery. Captain Jean Birotteau advanced with his company,
and was killed. The destiny of the Birotteaus demanded, no doubt, that
they should be oppressed by men, or by circumstances, wheresoever they
planted themselves.

The last child is the hero of this story. When Cesar at fourteen years
of age could read, write, and cipher, he left his native place and
came to Paris on foot to seek his fortune, with one louis in his
pocket. The recommendation of an apothecary at Tours got him a place
as shop-boy with Monsieur and Madame Ragon, perfumers. Cesar owned at
this period a pair of hob-nailed shoes, a pair of breeches, blue
stockings, a flowered waistcoat, a peasant's jacket, three coarse
shirts of good linen, and his travelling cudgel. If his hair was cut
like that of a choir-boy, he at least had the sturdy loins of a
Tourangian; if he yielded sometimes to the native idleness of his
birthplace, it was counterbalanced by his desire to make his fortune;
if he lacked cleverness and education, he possessed an instinctive
rectitude and delicate feelings, which he inherited from his mother,
--a being who had, in Tourangian phrase, a "heart of gold." Cesar
received from the Ragons his food, six francs a month as wages, and a
pallet to sleep upon in the garret near the cook. The clerks who
taught him to pack the goods, to do the errands, and sweep up the shop
and the pavement, made fun of him as they did so, according to the
manners and customs of shop-keeping, in which chaff is a principal
element of instruction. Monsieur and Madame Ragon spoke to him like a
dog. No one paid attention to his weariness, though many a night his
feet, blistered by the pavements of Paris, and his bruised shoulders,
made him suffer horribly. This harsh application of the maxim "each
for himself,"--the gospel of large cities,--made Cesar think the life
of Paris very hard. At night he cried as he thought of Touraine, where
the peasant works at his ease, where the mason lays a stone between
breakfast and dinner, and idleness is wisely mingled with labor; but
he always fell asleep without having time to think of running away,
for he had his errands to do in the morning, and obeyed his duty with
the instinct of a watch-dog. If occasionally he complained, the head
clerk would smile with a jovial air, and say,--

"Ah, my boy! all is not rose at 'The Queen of Roses.' Larks don't fall
down roasted; you must run after them and catch them, and then you
must find some way to cook them."

The cook, a big creature from Picardy, took the best bits for herself,
and only spoke to Cesar when she wanted to complain of Monsieur and
Madame Ragon, who left her nothing to steal. Towards the end of the
first month this girl, who was forced to keep house of a Sunday,
opened a conversation with Cesar. Ursula with the grease washed off
seemed charming to the poor shop-boy, who, unless hindered by chance,
was likely to strike on the first rock that lay hidden in his way.
Like all unprotected boys, he loved the first woman who threw him a
kind look. The cook took Cesar under her protection; and thence
followed certain secret relations, which the clerks laughed at
pitilessly. Two years later, the cook happily abandoned Cesar for a
young recruit belonging to her native place who was then hiding in
Paris,--a lad twenty years old, owning a few acres of land, who let
Ursula marry him.

During those two years the cook had fed her little Cesar well, and had
explained to him certain mysteries of Parisian life, which she made
him look at from the bottom; and she impressed upon him, out of
jealousy, a profound horror of evil places, whose dangers seemed not
unknown to her. In 1792 the feet of the deserted Cesar were
well-toughened to the pavements, his shoulders to the bales, and his
mind to what he called the "humbugs" of Paris. So when Ursula
abandoned him he was speedily consoled, for she had realized none of
his instinctive ideas in relation to sentiment. Licentious and surly,
wheedling and pilfering, selfish and a tippler, she clashed with the
simple nature of Birotteau without offering him any compensating
perspective. Sometimes the poor lad felt with pain that he was bound
by ties that are strong enough to hold ingenuous hearts to a creature
with whom he could not sympathize. By the time that he became master
of his own heart he had reached his growth, and was sixteen years old.
His mind, developed by Ursula and by the banter of the clerks, made
him study commerce with an eye in which intelligence was veiled
beneath simplicity: he observed the customers; asked in leisure
moments for explanations about the merchandise, whose divers sorts and
proper places he retained in his head. The day came when he knew all
the articles, and their prices and marks, better than any new-comer;
and from that time Monsieur and Madame Ragon made a practice of
employing him in the business.

When the terrible levy of the year II. made a clean sweep in the shop
of citizen Ragon, Cesar Birotteau, promoted to be second clerk,
profited by the occasion to obtain a salary of fifty francs a month,
and took his seat at the dinner-table of the Ragons with ineffable
delight. The second clerk of "The Queen of Roses," possessing already
six hundred francs, now had a chamber where he could put away, in
long-coveted articles of furniture, the clothing he had little by
little got together. Dressed like other young men of an epoch when
fashion required the assumption of boorish manners, the gentle and
modest peasant had an air and manner which rendered him at least their
equal; and he thus passed the barriers which in other times ordinary
life would have placed between himself and the bourgeoisie. Towards
the end of this year his integrity won him a place in the
counting-room. The dignified citoyenne Ragon herself looked after his
linen, and the two shopkeepers became familiar with him.

In Vendemiaire, 1794, Cesar, who possessed a hundred louis d'or,
changed them for six thousand francs in assignats, with which he
bought into the Funds at thirty, paying for the investment on the very
day before the paper began its course of depreciation at the Bourse,
and locking up his securities with unspeakable satisfaction. From that
day forward he watched the movement of stocks and public affairs with
secret anxieties of his own, which made him quiver at each rumor of
the reverses or successes that marked this period of our history.
Monsieur Ragon, formerly perfumer to her majesty Queen
Marie-Antoinette, confided to Cesar Birotteau, during this critical
period, his attachment to the fallen tyrants. This disclosure was one
of the cardinal events in Cesar's life. The nightly conversations when
the shop was closed, the street quiet, the accounts regulated, made a
fanatic of the Tourangian, who in becoming a royalist obeyed an inborn
instinct. The recital of the virtuous deeds of Louis XVI., the
anecdotes with which husband and wife exalted the memory of the queen,
fired the imagination of the young man. The horrible fate of those two
crowned heads, decapitated a few steps from the shop-door, roused his
feeling heart and made him hate a system of government which was
capable of shedding blood without repugnance. His commercial interests
showed him the death of trade in the Maximum, and in political
convulsions, which are always destructive of business. Moreover, like
a true perfumer, he hated the revolution which made a Titus of every
man and abolished powder. The tranquillity resulting from absolutism
could alone, he thought, give life to money, and he grew bigoted on
behalf of royalty. When Monsieur Ragon saw that Cesar was well-disposed
on this point, he made him head-clerk and initiated him into the
secrets of "The Queen of Roses," several of whose customers were the
most active and devoted emissaries of the Bourbons, and where the
correspondence between Paris and the West secretly went on. Carried
away by the fervor of youth, electrified by his intercourse with the
Georges, the Billardiere, Montauran, Bauvan, Longuy, Manda, Bernier,
du Guenic, and the Fontaines, Cesar flung himself into the conspiracy
by which the royalists and the terrorists combined on the 13th
Vendemiaire against the expiring Convention.

On that day Cesar had the honor of fighting against Napoleon on the
steps of Saint-Roch, and was wounded at the beginning of the affair.
Every one knows the result of that attempt. If the aide-de-camp of
Barras then issued from his obscurity, the obscurity of Birotteau
saved the clerk's life. A few friends carried the belligerent perfumer
to "The Queen of Roses," where he remained hidden in the garret,
nursed by Madame Ragon, and happily forgotten. Cesar Birotteau never
had but that one spurt of martial courage. During the month his
convalescence lasted, he made solid reflections on the absurdity of an
alliance between politics and perfumery. Although he remained
royalist, he resolved to be, purely and simply, a royalist perfumer,
and never more to compromise himself, body and soul, for his country.

On the 18th Brumaire, Monsieur and Madame Ragon, despairing of the
royal cause, determined to give up perfumery, and live like honest
bourgeois without meddling in politics. To recover the value of their
business, it was necessary to find a man who had more integrity than
ambition, more plain good sense than ability. Ragon proposed the
affair to his head-clerk. Birotteau, now master at twenty years of age
of a thousand francs a year from the public Funds, hesitated. His
ambition was to live near Chinon as soon as he could get together an
income of fifteen hundred francs, or whenever the First Consul should
have consolidated the public debt by consolidating himself in the
Tuileries. Why should he risk his honest and simple independence in
commercial uncertainties? he asked himself. He had never expected to
win so large a fortune, and he owed it to happy chances which only
come in early youth; he intended to marry in Touraine some woman rich
enough to enable him to buy and cultivate Les Tresorieres, a little
property which, from the dawn of his reason, he had coveted, which he
dreamed of augmenting, where he could make a thousand crowns a year,
and where he would lead a life of happy obscurity. He was about to
refuse the offer, when love suddenly changed all his resolutions by
increasing tenfold the measure of his ambition.

After Ursula's desertion, Cesar had remained virtuous, as much through
fear of the dangers of Paris as from application to his work. When the
passions are without food they change their wants; marriage then
becomes, to persons of the middle class, a fixed idea, for it is their
only way of winning and appropriating a woman. Cesar Birotteau had
reached that point. Everything at "The Queen of Roses" now rested on
the head-clerk; he had not a moment to give to pleasure. In such a
life wants become imperious, and a chance meeting with a beautiful
young woman, of whom a libertine clerk would scarcely have dreamed,
produced on Cesar an overpowering effect. On a fine June day, crossing
by the Pont-Marie to the Ile Saint-Louis, he saw a young girl standing
at the door of a shop at the angle of the Quai d'Anjou. Constance
Pillerault was the forewoman of a linen-draper's establishment called
Le Petit Matelot,--the first of those shops which have since been
established in Paris with more or less of painted signs, floating
banners, show-cases filled with swinging shawls, cravats arranged like
houses of cards, and a thousand other commercial seductions, such as
fixed prices, fillets of suspended objects, placards, illusions and
optical effects carried to such a degree of perfection that a
shop-front has now become a commercial poem. The low price of all the
articles called "Novelties" which were to be found at the
Petit-Matelot gave the shop an unheard of vogue, and that in a part of
Paris which was the least favorable to fashion and commerce. The young
forewoman was at this time cited for her beauty, as was the case in
later days with the beautiful lemonade-girl of the cafe of the Milles
Colonnnes, and several other poor creatures who flattened more noses,
young and old, against the window-panes of milliners, confectioners,
and linen-drapers, than there are stones in the streets of Paris.

The head-clerk of "The Queen of Roses," living between Saint-Roch and
the Rue de la Sourdiere, knew nothing of the existence of the
Petit-Matelot; for the smaller trades of Paris are more or less
strangers to each other. Cesar was so vigorously smitten by the beauty
of Constance that he rushed furiously into the shop to buy six linen
shirts, disputing the price a long time, and requiring volumes of linen
to be unfolded and shown to him, precisely like an Englishwoman in the
humor for "shopping." The young person deigned to take notice of Cesar,
perceiving, by certain symptoms known to women, that he came more for
the seller than the goods. He dictated his name and address to the
young lady, who grew very indifferent to the admiration of her
customer once the purchase was made. The poor clerk had had little to
do to win the good graces of Ursula; in such matters he was as silly
as a sheep, and love now made him sillier. He dared not utter a word,
and was moreover too dazzled to observe the indifference which
succeeded the smiles of the siren shopwoman.

For eight succeeding days Cesar mounted guard every evening before the
Petit-Matelot, watching for a look as a dog waits for a bone at the
kitchen door, indifferent to the derision of the clerks and the
shop-girls, humbly stepping aside for the buyers and passers-by, and
absorbed in the little revolving world of the shop. Some days later he
again entered the paradise of his angel, less to purchase
handkerchiefs than to communicate to her a luminous idea.

"If you should have need of perfumery, Mademoiselle, I could furnish
you in the same manner," he said as he paid for the handkerchiefs.

Constance Pillerault was daily receiving brilliant proposals, in which
there was no question of marriage; and though her heart was as pure as
her forehead was white, it was only after six months of marches and
counter-marches, in the course of which Cesar revealed his
inextinguishable love, that she condescended to receive his
attentions, and even then without committing herself to an answer,
--a prudence suggested by the number of her swains, wholesale
wine-merchants, rich proprietors of cafes, and others who made soft
eyes at her. The lover was backed up in his suit by the guardian of
Constance, Monsieur Claude-Joseph Pillerault, at that time an
ironmonger on the Quai de la Ferraille, whom the young man had finally
discovered by devoting himself to the subterraneous spying which
distinguishes a genuine love.

The rapidity of this narrative compels us to pass over in silence the
joys of Parisian love tasted with innocence, the prodigalities
peculiar to clerkdom, such as melons in their earliest prime, choice
dinners at Venua's followed by the theatre, Sunday jaunts to the
country in hackney-coaches. Without being handsome, there was nothing
in Cesar's person which made it difficult to love him. The life of
Paris and his sojourn in a dark shop had dulled the brightness of his
peasant complexion. His abundant black hair, his solid neck and
shoulders like those of a Norman horse, his sturdy limbs, his honest
and straightforward manner, all contributed to predispose others in
his favor. The uncle Pillerault, whose duty it was to watch over the
happiness of his brother's daughter, made inquiries which resulted in
his sanctioning the wishes of the young Tourangian. In the year 1800,
and in the pretty month of May, Mademoiselle Pillerault consented to
marry Cesar Birotteau, who fainted with joy at the moment when, under
a linden at Sceaux, Constance-Barbe-Josephine Pillerault accepted him
as her husband.

"My little girl," said Monsieur Pillerault, "you have won a good
husband. He has a warm heart and honorable feelings; he is true as
gold, and as good as an infant Jesus,--in fact, a king of men."

Constance frankly abdicated the more brilliant destiny to which, like
all shop-girls, she may at times have aspired. She wished to be an
honest woman, a good mother of a family, and looked at life according
to the religious programme of the middle classes. Such a career suited
her own ideas far better than the dangerous vanities which seduce so
many youthful Parisian imaginations. Constance, with her narrow
intelligence, was a type of the petty bourgeoisie whose labors are not
performed without grumbling; who begin by refusing what they desire,
and end by getting angry when taken at their word; whose restless
activity is carried into the kitchen and into the counting-room, into
the gravest matters of business, and into the invisible darns of the
household linen; who love while scolding, who conceive no ideas but
the simplest (the small change of the mind); who argue about
everything, fear everything, calculate everything, and fret
perpetually over the future. Her cold but ingenuous beauty, her
touching expression, her freshness and purity, prevented Birotteau
from thinking of her defects, which moreover were more than
compensated by a delicate sense of honor natural to women, by an
excessive love of order, by a fanaticism for work, and by her genius
as a saleswoman. Constance was eighteen years old, and possessed
eleven thousand francs of her own. Cesar, inspired by his love with an
excessive ambition, bought the business of "The Queen of Roses" and
removed it to a handsome building near the Place Vendome. At the early
age of twenty-one, married to a woman he adored, the proprietor of an
establishment for which he had paid three quarters of the price down,
he had the right to view, and did view, the future in glowing colors;
all the more when he measured the path which led from his original
point of departure. Roguin, notary of Ragon, who had drawn up the
marriage contract, gave the new perfumer some sound advice, and
prevented him from paying the whole purchase money down with the
fortune of his wife.

"Keep the means of undertaking some good enterprise, my lad," he had
said to him.

Birotteau looked up to the notary with admiration, fell into the habit
of consulting him, and made him his friend. Like Ragon and Pillerault,
he had so much faith in the profession that he gave himself up to
Roguin without allowing himself a suspicion. Thanks to this advice,
Cesar, supplied with the eleven thousand francs of his wife for his
start in business, would have scorned to exchange his possessions for
those of the First Consul, brilliant as the prospects of Napoleon
might seem. At first the Birotteaus kept only a cook, and lived in the
_entresol_ above the shop,--a sort of den tolerably well decorated by
an upholsterer, where the bride and bridegroom began a honeymoon that
was never to end. Madame Cesar appeared to advantage behind the
counter. Her celebrated beauty had an enormous influence upon the
sales, and the beautiful Madame Birotteau became a topic among the
fashionable young men of the Empire. If Cesar was sometimes accused of
royalism, the world did justice to his honesty; if a few neighboring
shopkeepers envied his happiness, every one at least thought him
worthy of it. The bullet which struck him on the steps of Saint-Roch
gave him the reputation of being mixed up with political secrets, and
also of being a courageous man,--though he had no military courage in
his heart, and not the smallest political idea in his brain. Upon
these grounds the worthy people of the arrondissement made him captain
of the National Guard; but he was cashiered by Napoleon, who,
according to Birotteau, owed him a grudge for their encounter on the
13th Vendemiaire. Cesar thus obtained at a cheap rate a varnish of
persecution, which made him interesting in the eyes of the opposition,
and gave him a certain importance.

              *     *     *     *     *

Such was the history of this household, lastingly happy through its
feeling, and agitated only by commercial anxieties.

During the first year Cesar instructed his wife about the sales of
their merchandise and the details of perfumery,--a business which she
understood admirably. She really seemed to have been created and sent
into the world to fit on the gloves of customers. At the close of that
year the assets staggered our ambitious perfumer; all costs
calculated, he would be able in less than twenty years to make a
modest capital of one hundred thousand francs, which was the sum at
which he estimated their happiness. He then resolved to reach fortune
more rapidly, and determined to manufacture articles as well as retail
them. Contrary to the advice of his wife, he hired some sheds, with
the ground about them, in the Faubourg du Temple, and painted upon
them in big letters, "Manufactory of Cesar Birotteau." He enticed a
skilful workman from Grasse, with whom he began, on equal shares, the
manufacture of soaps, essences, and eau-de-cologne. His connection
with this man lasted only six months, and ended by losses which fell
upon him alone. Without allowing himself to be discouraged, Birotteau
determined to get better results at any price, solely to avoid being
scolded by his wife,--to whom he acknowledged later that in those
depressing days his head had boiled like a saucepan, and that several
times, if it had not been for his religious sentiments, he should have
flung himself into the Seine.

Harassed by some unprofitable enterprise, he was lounging one day
along the boulevard on his way to dinner,--for the Parisian lounger is
as often a man filled with despair as an idler,--when among a parcel
of books for six sous a-piece, laid out in a hamper on the pavement,
his eyes lighted on the following title, yellow with dust: "Abdeker,
or the Art of Preserving Beauty." He picked up the so-called Arab
book, a sort of romance written by a physician of the preceding
century, and happened on a page which related to perfumes. Leaning
against a tree on the boulevard to turn over the leaves at his ease,
he read a note by the author which explained the nature of the skin
and the cuticle, and showed that a certain soap, or a certain paste,
often produced effects quite contrary to those expected of them, if
the soap and the paste toned up a skin which needed relaxing, or
relaxed a skin which required tones. Birotteau bought the book, in
which he saw his fortune. Nevertheless, having little confidence in
his own lights, he consulted a celebrated chemist, Vauquelin, from
whom he naively inquired how to mix a two-sided cosmetic which should
produce effects appropriate to the diversified nature of the human
epidermis. Truly scientific men--men who are really great in the sense
that they never attain in their lifetime the renown which their
immense and unrecognized labors deserve--are nearly always kind, and
willing to serve the poor in spirit. Vauquelin accordingly patronized
the perfumer, and allowed him to call himself the inventor of a paste
to whiten the hands, the composition of which he dictated to him.
Birotteau named this cosmetic the "Double Paste of Sultans." To
complete the work, he applied the same recipe to the manufacture of a
lotion for the complexion, which he called the "Carminative Balm." He
imitated in his own line the system of the Petit-Matelot, and was the
first perfumer to display that redundancy of placards, advertisements,
and other methods of publication which are called, perhaps unjustly,

The Paste of Sultans and the Carminative Balm were ushered into the
world of fashion and commerce by colored placards, at the head of
which were these words, "Approved by the Institute." This formula,
used for the first time, had a magical effect. Not only all France,
but the continent flaunted with the posters, yellow, red, and blue, of
the monarch of the "The Queen of Roses," who kept in stock, supplied,
and manufactured, at moderate prices, all that belonged to his trade.
At a period when nothing was talked of but the East, to name any sort
of cosmetic the "Paste of Sultans" thus divining the magic force of
such words in a land where every man hoped to be a sultan as much as
every woman longed to be a sultana, was an inspiration which could
only have come to a common man or a man of genius. The public always
judges by results. Birotteau passed for a superior man, commercially
speaking; all the more because he compiled a prospectus whose
ridiculous phraseology was an element of success. In France they only
made fun of things which occupy the public mind, and the public does
not occupy itself with things that do not succeed. Though Birotteau
perpetrated this folly in good faith and not as a trick, the world
gave him credit for knowing how to play the fool for a purpose. We
have found, not without difficulty, a copy of this prospectus at the
establishment of Popinot and Co., druggists, Rue des Lombards. This
curious document belongs to the class which, in a higher sphere,
historians call _pieces justificatives_. We give it here:

                     THE DOUBLE PASTE OF SULTANS

                        AND CARMINATIVE BALM

                         Of Cesar Birotteau.

                        MARVELLOUS DISCOVERY!

                 Approved by the Institute of France.

  "For many years a paste for the hands and a lotion for the face
  offering superior results to those obtained from Eau-de-Cologne in
  the domain of the toilet, has been widely sought by both sexes in
  Europe. Devoting long vigils to the study of the skin and cuticle
  of the two sexes, each of whom, one as much as the other, attach
  the utmost importance to the softness, suppleness, brilliancy, and
  velvet texture of the complexion, the Sieur Birotteau, perfumer,
  favorably known in this metropolis and abroad, has discovered a
  Paste and a Lotion justly hailed as marvellous by the fashion and
  elegance of Paris. In point of fact, this Paste and this Lotion
  possess amazing properties which act upon the skin without
  prematurely wrinkling it,--the inevitable result of drugs
  thoughtlessly employed, and sold in these days by ignorance and
  cupidity. This discovery rests upon diversities of temperament,
  which divide themselves into two great classes, indicated by the
  color of the Paste and the Lotion, which will be found _pink_ for
  the skin and cuticle of persons of lymphatic habit, and _white_
  for those possessed of a sanguine temperament.

  "This Paste is named the 'Paste of Sultans,' because the discovery
  was originally made for the Seraglio by an Arabian physician. It
  has been approved by the Institute on the recommendation of our
  illustrious chemist, Vauquelin; together with the Lotion,
  fabricated on the same principles which govern the composition of
  the Paste.

  "This precious Paste, exhaling as it does the sweetest perfumes,
  removes all blotches, even those that are obstinately rebellious,
  whitens the most recalcitrant epidermis, and dissipates the
  perspirations of the hand, of which both sexes equally complain.

  "The Carminative Balm will disperse the little pimples which
  appear inopportunely at certain times, and interfere with a lady's
  projects for a ball; it refreshes and revives the color by opening
  or shutting the pores of the skin according to the exigencies of
  the individual temperament. It is so well known already for its
  effect in arresting the ravages of time that many, out of
  gratitude, have called it the 'Friend of Beauty.'

  "Eau-de-Cologne is, purely and simply, a trivial perfume without
  special efficacy of any kind; while the Double Paste of Sultans
  and the Carminative Balm are two operative compounds, of a motive
  power which acts without risk upon the internal energies and
  seconds them. Their perfumes (essentially balsamic, and of a
  stimulating character which admirably revives the heart and brain)
  awake ideas and vivify them; they are as wonderful for their
  simplicity as for their merits. In short, they offer one
  attraction the more to women, and to men a means of seduction
  which it is within their power to secure.

  "The daily use of the Balm will relieve the smart occasioned by
  the heat of the razor; it will protect the lips from chapping, and
  restore their color; it dispels in time all discolorations, and
  revives the natural tones of the skin. Such results demonstrate in
  man a perfect equilibrium of the juices of life, which tends to
  relieve all persons subject to headache from the sufferings of
  that horrible malady. Finally, the Carminative Balm, which can be
  employed by women in all stages of their toilet, will prevent
  cutaneous diseases by facilitating the transpiration of the
  tissues, and communicating to them a permanent texture like that
  of velvet.

  "Address, post-paid, Monsieur Cesar Birotteau, successor to Ragon,
  former perfumer to the Queen Marie Antoinette, at The Queen of
  Roses, Rue Saint-Honore, Paris, near the Place Vendome.

  "The price of a cake of Paste is three francs; that of the bottle
  six francs.

  "Monsieur Cesar Birotteau, to avoid counterfeits, informs the
  public that the Paste is wrapped in paper bearing his signature,
  and that the bottles have a stamp blown in the glass."

The success was owing, without Cesar's suspecting it, to Constance,
who advised him to send cases of the Carminative Balm and the Paste of
Sultans to all perfumers in France and in foreign cities, offering
them at the same time a discount of thirty per cent if they would buy
the two articles by the gross. The Paste and the Balm were, in
reality, worth more than other cosmetics of the sort; and they
captivated ignorant people by the distinctions they set up among the
temperaments. The five hundred perfumers of France, allured by the
discount, each bought annually from Birotteau more than three hundred
gross of the Paste and the Lotion,--a consumption which, if it gave
only a limited profit on each article, became enormous considered in
bulk. Cesar was then able to buy the huts and the land in the Faubourg
du Temple; he built large manufactories, and decorated his shop at
"The Queen of Roses" with much magnificence; his household began to
taste the little joys of competence, and his wife no longer trembled
as before.

In 1810 Madame Cesar, foreseeing a rise in rents, pushed her husband
into becoming chief tenant of the house where they had hitherto
occupied only the shop and the _entresol_, and advised him to remove
their own appartement to the first floor. A fortunate event induced
Constance to shut her eyes to the follies which Birotteau committed
for her sake in fitting up the new appartement. The perfumer had just
been elected judge in the commercial courts: his integrity, his
well-known sense of honor, and the respect he enjoyed, earned for him
this dignity, which ranked him henceforth among the leading merchants
of Paris. To improve his knowledge, he rose daily at five o'clock, and
read law-reports and books treating of commercial litigation. His
sense of justice, his rectitude, his conscientious intentions,
--qualities essential to the understanding of questions submitted for
consular decision,--soon made him highly esteemed among the judges.
His defects contributed not a little to his reputation. Conscious of
his inferiority, Cesar subordinated his own views to those of his
colleagues, who were flattered in being thus deferred to. Some sought
the silent approbation of a man held to be sagacious, in his capacity
of listener; others, charmed with his modesty and gentleness, praised
him publicly. Plaintiffs and defendants extolled his kindness, his
conciliatory spirit; and he was often chosen umpire in contests where
his own good sense would have suggested the swift justice of a Turkish
cadi. During his whole period in office he contrived to use language
which was a medley of commonplaces mixed with maxims and computations
served up in flowing phrases mildly put forth, which sounded to the
ears of superficial people like eloquence. Thus he pleased that great
majority, mediocre by nature, who are condemned to perpetual labor and
to views which are of the earth earthy. Cesar, however, lost so much
time in court that his wife obliged him finally to resign the
expensive dignity.

Towards 1813, the Birotteau household, thanks to its constant harmony,
and after steadily plodding on through life, saw the dawn of an era of
prosperity which nothing seemed likely to interrupt. Monsieur and
Madame Ragon, their predecessors, the uncle Pillerault, Roguin the
notary, the Messrs. Matifat, druggists in the Rue des Lombards and
purveyors to "The Queen of Roses," Joseph Lebas, woollen draper and
successor to the Messrs. Guillaume at the Maison du Chat-qui-pelote
(one of the luminaries of the Rue Saint-Denis), Popinot the judge,
brother of Madame Ragon, Chiffreville of the firm of Protez &
Chiffreville, Monsieur and Madame Cochin, employed in the treasury
department and sleeping partners in the house of Matifat, the Abbe
Loraux, confessor and director of the pious members of this coterie,
with a few other persons, made up the circle of their friends. In
spite of the royalist sentiments of Birotteau, public opinion was in
his favor; he was considered very rich, though in fact he possessed
only a hundred thousand francs over and above his business. The
regularity of his affairs, his punctuality, his habit of making no
debts, of never discounting his paper, and of taking, on the contrary,
safe securities from those whom he could thus oblige, together with
his general amiability, won him enormous credit. His household cost
him nearly twenty thousand francs a year, and the education of
Cesarine, an only daughter, idolized by Constance as well as by
himself, necessitated heavy expenses. Neither husband nor wife
considered money when it was a question of giving pleasure to their
child, from whom they had never been willing to separate. Imagine the
happiness of the poor parvenu peasant as he listened to his charming
Cesarine playing a sonata of Steibelt's on the piano, and singing a
ballad; or when he found her writing the French language correctly, or
reading Racine, father and son, and explaining their beauties, or
sketching a landscape, or painting in sepia! What joy to live again in
a flower so pure, so lovely, which had never left the maternal stem;
an angel whose budding graces and whose earliest developments he had
passionately watched; an only daughter, incapable of despising her
father, or of ridiculing his defective education, so truly was she an
ingenuous young girl.

When he first came to Paris, Cesar had known how to read, write, and
cipher, but his education stopped there; his laborious life had kept
him from acquiring ideas and knowledge outside the business of
perfumery. Mixing wholly with people to whom science and letters were
of no importance, and whose information did not go beyond their
specialty, having no time to give to higher studies, the perfumer had
become a merely practical man. He adopted necessarily the language,
blunders, and opinions of the bourgeois of Paris, who admires Moliere,
Voltaire, and Rousseau on faith, and buys their books without ever
reading them; who maintains that people should say _ormoires_, because
women put away their gold and their dresses and moire in those
articles of furniture, and that it is only a corruption of the
language to say _armoires_. Potier, Talma, and Mademoiselle Mars were
ten times millionaires, and did not live like other human beings; the
great tragedian ate raw meat, and Mademoiselle Mars sometimes drank
dissolved pearls, in imitation of a celebrated Egyptian actress. The
Emperor had leather pockets in his waistcoat, so that he could take
his snuff by the handful; he rode on horseback at full gallop up the
stairway of the orangery at Versailles. Writers and artists died in
the hospital, as a natural consequence of their eccentricities; they
were, moreover, all atheists, and people should be very careful not to
admit them into their households. Joseph Lebas cited with horror the
history of his step-sister Augustine's marriage with the painter
Sommervieux. Astronomers lived on spiders.

These striking points of information on the French language, on
dramatic art, politics, literature, and science, will explain the
bearings of the bourgeois intellect. A poet passing through the Rue
des Lombards may dream of Araby as he inhales certain perfumes. He may
admire the _danseuses_ in a _chauderie_, as he breathes the odors of
an Indian root. Dazzled by the blaze of cochineal, he recalls the
poems of the Veda, the religion of Brahma and its castes; brushing
against piles of ivory in the rough, he mounts the backs of elephants;
seated in a muslin cage, he makes love like the King of Lahore. But
the little retail merchant is ignorant from whence have come, or where
may grow, the products in which he deals. Birotteau, perfumer, did not
know an iota of natural history, nor of chemistry. Though regarding
Vauquelin as a great man, he thought him an exception,--of about the
same capacity as the retired grocer who summed up a discussion on the
method of importing teas, by remarking with a knowing air, "There are
but two ways: tea comes either by caravan, or by Havre." According to
Birotteau aloes and opium were only to be found in the Rue des
Lombards. Rosewater, said to be brought from Constantinople, was made
in Paris like eau-de-cologne. The names of these places were shams,
invented to please Frenchmen who could not endure the things of their
own country. A French merchant must call his discoveries English to
make them fashionable, just as in England the druggists attribute
theirs to France.

Nevertheless, Cesar was incapable of being wholly stupid or a fool.
Honesty and goodness cast upon all the acts of his life a light which
made them creditable; for noble conduct makes even ignorance seem
worthy. Success gave him confidence. In Paris confidence is accepted
as power, of which it is the outward sign. As for Madame Birotteau,
having measured Cesar during the first three years of their married
life, she was a prey to continual terror. She represented in their
union the sagacious and fore-casting side,--doubt, opposition, and
fear; while Cesar, on the other hand, was the embodiment of audacity,
energy, and the inexpressible delights of fatalism. Yet in spite of
these appearances the husband often quaked, while the wife, in
reality, was possessed of patience and true courage.

Thus it happened that a man who was both mediocre and pusillanimous,
without education, without ideas, without knowledge, without force of
character, and who might be expected not to succeed in the slipperiest
city in the world, came by his principles of conduct, by his sense of
justice, by the goodness of a heart that was truly Christian, and
through his love for the only woman he had really won, to be
considered as a remarkable man, courageous, and full of resolution.
The public saw results only. Excepting Pillerault and Popinot the
judge, all the people of his own circle knew him superficially, and
were unable to judge him. Moreover, the twenty or thirty friends he
had collected about him talked the same nonsense, repeated the same
commonplaces, and all thought themselves superior in their own line.
The women vied with each other in dress and good dinners; each had
said her all when she dropped a contemptuous word about her husband.
Madame Birotteau alone had the good sense to treat hers with honor and
respect in public; she knew him to be a man who, in spite of his
secret disabilities, had earned their fortune, and whose good name she
shared. It is true that she sometimes asked herself what sort of world
this could be, if all the men who were thought superior were like her
husband. Such conduct contributed not a little to maintain the
respectful esteem bestowed upon the perfumer in a community where
women are much inclined to complain of their husbands and bring them
into discredit.

              *     *     *     *     *

The first days of the year 1814, so fatal to imperial France, were
marked at the Birotteaus by two events, not especially remarkable in
other households, but of a nature to impress such simple souls as
Cesar and his wife, who casting their eyes along the past could find
nothing but tender memories. They had taken as head-clerk a young man
twenty-two years of age, named Ferdinand du Tillet. This lad--who had
just left a perfumery where he was refused a share in the business,
and who was reckoned a genius--had made great efforts to get employed
at "The Queen of Roses," whose methods, facilities, and customs were
well known to him. Birotteau took him, and gave him a salary of a
thousand francs, intending to make him eventually his successor.

Ferdinand had so great an influence on the destinies of this family
that it is necessary to say a few words about him. In the first place
he was named simply Ferdinand, without surname. This anonymous
condition seemed to him an immense advantage at the time when Napoleon
conscripted all families to fill the ranks. He was, however, born
somewhere, as the result of some cruel and voluptuous caprice. The
following are the only facts preserved about his civil condition. In
1793 a poor girl of Tillet, a village near Andelys, came by night and
gave birth to a child in the garden of the curate of the church at
Tillet, and after rapping on the window-shutters went away and drowned
herself. The good priest took the child, gave him the name of the
saint inscribed on the calendar for that day, and fed and brought him
up as his own son. The curate died in 1804, without leaving enough
property to carry on the education he had begun. Ferdinand, thrown
upon Paris, led a filibustering life whose chances might bring him to
the scaffold, to fortune, the bar, the army, commerce, or domestic
life. Obliged to live like a Figaro, he was first a commercial
traveller, then a perfumer's clerk in Paris, where he turned up after
traversing all France, having studied the world and made up his mind
to succeed at any price.

In 1813 Ferdinand thought it necessary to register his age, and obtain
a civil standing by applying to the courts at Andelys for a judgment,
which should enable his baptismal record to be transferred from the
registry of the parish to that of the mayor's office; and he obtained
permission to rectify the document by inserting the name of du Tillet,
under which he was known, and which legally belonged to him through
the fact of his exposure and abandonment in that township. Without
father, mother, or other guardian than the _procureur imperial_, alone
in the world and owing no duty to any man, he found society a hard
stepmother, and he handled it, in his turn, without gloves,--as the
Turks the Moors; he knew no guide but his own interests, and any means
to fortune he considered good. This young Norman, gifted with
dangerous abilities, coupled his desires for success with the harsh
defects which, justly or unjustly, are attributed to the natives of
his province. A wheedling manner cloaked a quibbling mind, for he was
in truth a hard judicial wrangler. But if he boldly contested the
rights of others, he certainly yielded none of his own; he attacked
his adversary at the right moment, and wearied him out with his
inflexible persistency. His merits were those of the Scapins of
ancient comedy; he had their fertility of resource, their cleverness
in skirting evil, their itching to lay hold of all that was good to
keep. In short, he applied to his own poverty a saying which the Abbe
Terray uttered in the name of the State,--he kept a loophole to become
in after years an honest man. Gifted with passionate energy, with a
boldness that was almost military in requiring good as well as evil
actions from those about him, and justifying such demands on the
theory of personal interest, he despised men too much, believing them
all corruptible, he was too unscrupulous in the choice of means,
thinking all equally good, he was too thoroughly convinced that the
success of money was the absolution of all moral mechanism, not to
attain his ends sooner or later.

Such a man, standing between the hulks and a vast fortune, was
necessarily vindictive, domineering, quick in decisions, yet as
dissimulating as a Cromwell planning to decapitate the head of
integrity. His real depth was hidden under a light and jesting mind.
Mere clerk as he was, his ambition knew no bounds. With one
comprehensive glance of hatred he had taken in the whole of society,
saying boldly to himself, "Thou shalt be mine!" He had vowed not to
marry till he was forty, and kept his word. Physically, Ferdinand was
a tall, slender young man, with a good figure and adaptive manners,
which enabled him to take, on occasion, the key-note of the various
societies in which he found himself. His ignoble face was rather
pleasant at first sight; but later, on closer acquaintance,
expressions were caught such as come to the surface of those who are
ill at ease in their own minds, and whose consciences groan at certain
times. His complexion, which was sanguine under the soft skin of a
Norman, had a crude or acrid color. The glance of his eye, whose iris
was circled with a whitish rim as if it were lined with silver, was
evasive yet terrible when he fixed it straight upon his victim. His
voice had a hollow sound, like that of a man worn out with much
speaking. His thin lips were not wanting in charm, but his pointed
nose and slightly projecting forehead showed defects of race; and his
hair, of a tint like hair that has been dyed black, indicated a
mongrel descent, through which he derived his mental qualities from
some libertine lord, his low instincts from a seduced peasant-girl,
his knowledge from an incomplete education, and his vices from his
deserted and abandoned condition.

Birotteau discovered with much amazement that his clerk went out in
the evening very elegantly dressed, came home late, and was seen at
the balls of bankers and notaries. Such habits displeased Cesar,
according to whose ideas clerks should study the books of the firm and
think only of their business. The worthy man was shocked by trifles,
and reproached du Tillet gently for wearing linen that was too fine,
for leaving cards on which his name was inscribed, F. du Tillet,--a
fashion, according to commercial jurisprudence, which belonged only to
the great world. Ferdinand had entered the employ of this Orgon with
the intentions of a Tartuffe. He paid court to Madame Cesar, tried to
seduce her, and judged his master very much as the wife judged him
herself, and all with alarming rapidity. Though discreet, reserved,
and accustomed to say only what he meant to say, du Tillet unbosomed
his opinions on men and life in a way to shock a scrupulous woman who
shared the religious feelings of her husband, and who thought it a
crime to do the least harm to a neighbor. In spite of Madame
Birotteau's caution, du Tillet suspected the contempt in which she
held him. Constance, to whom Ferdinand had written a few love-letters,
soon noticed a change in his manners, which grew presuming, as if
intended to convey the idea of a mutual good understanding. Without
giving the secret reason to her husband, she advised him to send
Ferdinand away. Birotteau agreed with his wife, and the dismissal was
determined upon.

Two days before it was carried into effect, on a Saturday night when
Birotteau was making up his monthly accounts, three thousand francs
were found to be missing. His consternation was dreadful, less for the
loss than for the suspicions which fell upon three clerks, one cook, a
shop-boy, and several habitual workmen. On whom should he lay the
blame? Madame Birotteau never left her counter. The clerk who had
charge of the desk was a nephew of Monsieur Ragon named Popinot, a
young man nineteen years old, who lived with the Birotteaus and was
integrity itself. His figures, which disagreed with the money in the
desk, revealed the deficit, and showed that the abstraction had been
made after the balance had been added up. Husband and wife resolved to
keep silence and watch the house. On the following day, Sunday, they
received their friends. The families who made up their coterie met at
each other's houses for little festivities, turn and turn about. While
playing at _bouillote_, Roguin the notary placed on the card-table
some old louis d'or which Madame Cesar had taken only a few days
before from a bride, Madame d'Espart.

"Have you been robbing the poor-box?" asked the perfumer, laughing.

Roguin replied that he had won the money, at the house of a banker,
from du Tillet, who confirmed the answer without blushing. Cesar, on
the other hand, grew scarlet. When the evening was over, and just as
Ferdinand was going to bed, Birotteau took him into the shop on a
pretext of business.

"Du Tillet," said the worthy man, "three thousand francs are missing
from the desk. I suspect no one; but the circumstance of the old louis
seems too much against you not to oblige me to speak of it. We will
not go to bed till we have found where the error lies,--for, after
all, it may be only an error. Perhaps you took something on account of
your salary?"

Du Tillet said at once that he had taken the louis. The perfumer
opened his ledger and found that his clerk's account had not been

"I was in a hurry; but I ought to have made Popinot enter the sum,"
said Ferdinand.

"That is true," said Birotteau, bewildered by the cool unconcern of
the Norman, who well knew the worthy people among whom he had come
meaning to make his fortune. The perfumer and his clerk passed the
whole night in examining accounts, a labor which the good man knew to
be useless. In coming and going about the desk Cesar slipped three
bills of a thousand francs each into the money-drawer, catching them
against the top of it; then he pretended to be much fatigued and to
fall asleep and snore. Du Tillet awoke him triumphantly, with an
excessive show of joy at discovering the error. The next day Birotteau
scolded Popinot and his little wife publicly, as if very angry with
them for their negligence. Fifteen days later Ferdinand du Tillet got
a situation with a stockbroker. He said perfumery did not suit him,
and he wished to learn banking. In leaving Birotteau, he spoke of
Madame Cesar in a way to make people suppose that his master had
dismissed him out of jealousy. A few months later, however, du Tillet
went to see Birotteau and asked his endorsement for twenty thousand
francs, to enable him to make up the securities he needed in an
enterprise which was to put him on the high-road to fortune. Observing
the surprise which Cesar showed at this impudence, du Tillet frowned,
and asked if he had no confidence in him. Matifat and two other
merchants, who were present on business with Birotteau, also observed
the indignation of the perfumer, who repressed his anger in their
presence. Du Tillet, he thought, might have become an honest man; his
previous fault might have been committed for some mistress in distress
or from losses at cards; the public reprobation of an honest man might
drive one still young, and possibly repentant, into a career of crime.
So this angel took up his pen and endorsed du Tillet's notes, telling
him that he was heartily willing thus to oblige a lad who had been
very useful to him. The blood rushed to his face as he uttered the
falsehood. Du Tillet could not meet his eye, and no doubt vowed to him
at that moment the undying hatred which the spirits of darkness feel
towards the angels of light.

From this time du Tillet held his balance-pole so well as he danced
the tight-rope of financial speculation, that he was rich and elegant
in appearance before he became so in reality. As soon as he got hold
of a cabriolet he was always in it; he kept himself in the high sphere
of those who mingle business with pleasure, and make the foyer of the
opera-house a branch of the Bourse,--in short, the Turcarets of the
period. Thanks to Madame Roguin, whom he had known at the Birotteau's,
he was received at once among people of the highest standing in
finance; and, at the moment of which we write, he had reached a
prosperity in which there was nothing fictitious. He was on the best
terms with the house of Nucingen, to which Roguin had introduced him,
and he had promptly become connected with the brothers Keller and with
several other great banking-houses. No one knew from whence this youth
had derived the immense capital which he handled, but every one
attributed his success to his intelligence and his integrity.

              *     *     *     *     *

The Restoration made Cesar a personage, and the turmoil of political
crises naturally lessened his recollection of these domestic
misadventures. The constancy of his royalist opinions (to which he had
become exceedingly indifferent since his wound, though he remained
faithful to them out of decency) and the memory of his devotion in
Vendemiaire won him very high patronage, precisely because he had
asked for none. He was appointed major in the National Guard, although
he was utterly incapable of giving the word of command. In 1815
Napoleon, always his enemy, dismissed him. During the Hundred Days
Birotteau was the bugbear of the liberals of his quarter; for it was
not until 1815 that differences of political opinion grew up among
merchants, who had hitherto been unanimous in their desires for public
tranquillity, of which, as they knew, business affairs stood much in

At the second Restoration the royal government was obliged to remodel
the municipality of Paris. The prefect wished to nominate Birotteau as
mayor. Thanks to his wife, the perfumer would only accept the place of
deputy-mayor, which brought him less before the public. Such modesty
increased the respect generally felt for him, and won him the
friendship of the new mayor, Monsieur Flamet de la Billardiere.
Birotteau, who had seen him in the shop in the days when "The Queen of
Roses" was the headquarters of royalist conspiracy, mentioned him to
the prefect of the Seine when that official consulted Cesar on the
choice to be made. Monsieur and Madame Birotteau were therefore never
forgotten in the invitations of the mayor. Madame Birotteau frequently
took up the collections at Saint-Roch in the best of good company. La
Billardiere warmly supported Birotteau when the question of bestowing
the crosses given to the municipality came up, and dwelt upon his
wound at Saint-Roch, his attachment to the Bourbons, and the respect
which he enjoyed. The government, wishing on the one hand to cheapen
Napoleon's order by lavishing the cross of the Legion of honor, and on
the other to win adherents and rally to the Bourbons the various
trades and men of arts and sciences, included Birotteau in the coming
promotion. This honor, which suited well with the show that Cesar made
in his arrondissement, put him in a position where the ideas of a man
accustomed to succeed naturally enlarged themselves. The news which
the mayor had just given him of his preferment was the determining
reason that decided him to plunge into the scheme which he now for the
first time revealed to his wife; he believed it would enable him to
give up perfumery all the more quickly, and rise into the regions of
the higher bourgeoisie of Paris.

Cesar was now forty years old. The work he had undertaken in his
manufactories had given him a few premature wrinkles, and had slightly
silvered the thick tufts of hair on which the pressure of his hat left
a shining circle. His forehead, where the hair grew in a way to mark
five distinct points, showed the simplicity of his life. The heavy
eyebrows were not alarming because the limpid glance of his frank blue
eyes harmonized with the open forehead of an honest man. His nose,
broken at the bridge and thick at the end, gave him the wondering look
of a gaby in the streets of Paris. His lips were very thick, and his
large chin fell in a straight line below them. His face, high-colored
and square in outline, revealed, by the lines of its wrinkles and by
the general character of its expression, the ingenuous craftiness of a
peasant. The strength of his body, the stoutness of his limbs, the
squareness of his shoulders, the width of his feet,--all denoted the
villager transplanted to Paris. His powerful hairy hands, with their
large square nails, would alone have attested his origin if other
vestiges had not remained in various parts of his person. His lips
wore the cordial smile which shopkeepers put on when a customer
enters; but this commercial sunshine was really the image of his
inward content, and pictured the state of his kindly soul. His
distrust never went beyond the lines of his business, his craftiness
left him on the steps of the Bourse, or when he closed the pages of
his ledger. Suspicion was to him very much what his printed
bill-heads were,--a necessity of the sale itself. His countenance
presented a sort of comical assurance and conceit mingled with good
nature, which gave it originality and saved it from too close a
resemblance to the insipid face of a Parisian bourgeois. Without this
air of naive self-admiration and faith in his own person, he would
have won too much respect; he drew nearer to his fellows by thus
contributing his quota of absurdity. When speaking, he habitually
crossed his hands behind his back. When he thought he had said
something striking or gallant, he rose imperceptibly on the points of
his toes twice, and dropped back heavily on his heels, as if to
emphasize what he said. In the midst of an argument he might be seen
turning round upon himself and walking off a few steps, as if he had
gone to find objections with which he returned upon his adversary
brusquely. He never interrupted, and was sometimes a victim to this
careful observance of civility; for others would take the words out of
his mouth, and the good man had to yield his ground without opening
his lips. His great experience in commercial matters had given him a
few fixed habits, which some people called eccentricities. If a note
were overdue he sent for the bailiff, and thought only of recovering
capital, interest, and costs; and the bailiff was ordered to pursue
the matter until the debtor went into bankruptcy. Cesar then stopped
all proceedings, never appeared at any meeting of creditors, and held
on to his securities. He adopted this system and his implacable
contempt for bankrupts from Monsieur Ragon, who in the course of his
commercial life had seen such loss of time in litigation that he had
come to look upon the meagre and uncertain dividends obtained by such
compromises as fully counterbalanced by a better employment of the
time spent in coming and going, in making proposals, or in listening
to excuses for dishonesty.

"If the bankrupt is an honest man, and recovers himself, he will pay
you," Ragon would say. "If he is without means and simply unfortunate,
why torment him? If he is a scoundrel, you will never get anything.
Your known severity will make you seem uncompromising; it will be
impossible to negotiate with you; consequently you are the one who
will get paid as long as there is anything to pay with."

Cesar came to all appointments at the expected hour; but if he were
kept waiting, he left ten minutes later with an inflexibility which
nothing ever changed. Thus his punctuality compelled all persons who
had dealings with him to be punctual themselves.

The dress adopted by the worthy man was in keeping with his manners
and his countenance. No power could have made him give up the white
muslin cravats, with ends embroidered by his wife or daughter, which
hung down beneath his chin. His waistcoat of white pique, squarely
buttoned, came down low over his stomach, which was rather
protuberant, for he was somewhat fat. He wore blue trousers, black
silk stockings, and shoes with ribbon ties, which were often
unfastened. His surtout coat, olive-green and always too large, and
his broad-brimmed hat gave him the air of a Quaker. When he dressed
for the Sunday evening festivities he put on silk breeches, shoes with
gold buckles, and the inevitable square waistcoat, whose front edges
opened sufficiently to show a pleated shirt-frill. His coat, of maroon
cloth, had wide flaps and long skirts. Up to the year 1819 he kept up
the habit of wearing two watch-chains, which hung down in parallel
lines; but he only put on the second when he dressed for the evening.

              *     *     *     *     *

Such was Cesar Birotteau; a worthy man, to whom the fates presiding at
the birth of men had denied the faculty of judging politics and life
in their entirety, and of rising above the social level of the middle
classes; who followed ignorantly the track of routine, whose opinions
were all imposed upon him from the outside and applied by him without
examination. Blind but good, not spiritual but deeply religious, he
had a pure heart. In that heart there shone one love, the light and
strength of his life; for his desire to rise in life, and the limited
knowledge he had gained of the world, both came from his affection for
his wife and for his daughter.

As for Madame Cesar, then thirty-seven years old, she bore so close a
resemblance to the Venus of Milo that all who knew her recognized the
likeness when the Duc de Riviere sent the beautiful statue to Paris.
In a few months sorrows were to dim with yellowing tints that dazzling
fairness, to hollow and blacken the bluish circle round the lovely
greenish-gray eyes so cruelly that she then wore the look of an old
Madonna; for amid the coming ruin she retained her gentle sincerity,
her pure though saddened glance; and no one ever thought her less than
a beautiful woman, whose bearing was virtuous and full of dignity. At
the ball now planned by Cesar she was to shine with a last lustre of
beauty, remarked upon at the time and long remembered.

Every life has its climax,--a period when causes are at work, and are
in exact relation to results. This mid-day of life, when living forces
find their equilibrium and put forth their productive powers with full
effect, is common not only to organized beings but to cities, nations,
ideas, institutions, commerce, and commercial enterprises, all of
which, like noble races and dynasties, are born and rise and fall.
From whence comes the vigor with which this law of growth and decay
applies itself to all organized things in this lower world? Death
itself, in times of scourge, has periods when it advances, slackens,
sinks back, and slumbers. Our globe is perhaps only a rocket a little
more continuing than the rest. History, recording the causes of the
rise and fall of all things here below, could enlighten man as to the
moment when he might arrest the play of all his faculties; but neither
the conquerors, nor the actors, nor the women, nor the writers in the
great drama will listen to the salutary voice.

Cesar Birotteau, who might with reason think himself at the apogee of
his fortunes, used this crucial pause as the point of a new departure.
He did not know, moreover neither nations nor kings have attempted to
make known in characters ineffaceable, the cause of the vast
overthrows with which history teems, and of which so many royal and
commercial houses offer signal examples. Why are there no modern
pyramids to recall ceaselessly the one principle which dominates the
common-weal of nations and of individual life? _When the effect
produced is no longer in direct relation nor in equal proportion to
the cause, disorganization has begun._ And yet such monuments stand
everywhere; it is tradition and the stones of the earth which tell us
of the past, which set a seal upon the caprices of indomitable
destiny, whose hand wipes out our dreams, and shows us that all great
events are summed up in one idea. Troy and Napoleon are but poems. May
this present history be the poem of middle-class vicissitudes, to
which no voice has given utterance because they have seemed poor in
dignity, enormous as they are in volume. It is not one man with whom
we are now to deal, but a whole people, or world, of sorrows.


Cesar's last thought as he fell asleep was a fear that his wife would
make peremptory objections in the morning, and he ordered himself to
get up very early and escape them. At the dawn of day he slipped out
noiselessly, leaving his wife in bed, dressed quickly, and went down
to the shop, just as the boy was taking down the numbered shutters.
Birotteau, finding himself alone, the clerks not having appeared, went
to the doorway to see how the boy, named Raguet, did his work,--for
Birotteau knew all about it from experience. In spite of the sharp air
the weather was beautiful.

"Popinot, get your hat, put on your shoes, and call Monsieur Celestin;
you and I will go and have a talk in the Tuileries," he said, when he
saw Anselme come down.

Popinot, the admirable antipodes of du Tillet, apprenticed to Cesar by
one of those lucky chances which lead us to believe in a Sub-
Providence, plays so great a part in this history that it becomes
absolutely necessary to sketch his profile here. Madame Ragon was a
Popinot. She had two brothers. One, the youngest of the family, was at
this time a judge in the Lower courts of the Seine,--courts which take
cognizance of all civil contests involving sums above a certain
amount. The eldest, who was in the wholesale wool-trade, lost his
property and died, leaving to the care of Madame Ragon and his brother
an only son, who had lost his mother at his birth. To give him a
trade, Madame Ragon placed her nephew at "The Queen of Roses," hoping
he might some day succeed Birotteau. Anselme Popinot was a little
fellow and club-footed,--an infirmity bestowed by fate on Lord Byron,
Walter Scott, and Monsieur de Talleyrand, that others so afflicted
might suffer no discouragement. He had the brilliant skin, with
frequent blotches, which belongs to persons with red hair; but his
clear brow, his eyes the color of a grey-veined agate, his pleasant
mouth, his fair complexion, the charm of his modest youth and the
shyness which grew out of his deformity, all inspired feelings of
protection in those who knew him: we love the weak, and Popinot was
loved. Little Popinot--everybody called him so--belonged to a family
essentially religious, whose virtues were intelligent, and whose lives
were simple and full of noble actions. The lad himself, brought up by
his uncle the judge, presented a union of qualities which are the
beauty of youth; good and affectionate, a little shame-faced though
full of eagerness, gentle as a lamb but energetic in his work, devoted
and sober, he was endowed with the virtues of a Christian in the early
ages of the Church.

When he heard of a walk in the Tuileries,--certainly the most
eccentric proposal that his august master could have made to him at
that hour of the day,--Popinot felt sure that he must intend to speak
to him about setting up in business. He thought suddenly of Cesarine,
the true queen of roses, the living sign of the house, whom he had
loved from the day when he was taken into Birotteau's employ, two
months before the advent of du Tillet. As he went upstairs he was
forced to pause; his heart swelled, his arteries throbbed violently.
However, he soon came down again, followed by Celestin, the
head-clerk. Anselme and his master turned without a word in the
direction of the Tuileries.

Popinot was twenty-one years old. Birotteau himself had married at
that age. Anselme therefore could see no hindrance to his marriage
with Cesarine, though the wealth of the perfumer and the beauty of the
daughter were immense obstacles in the path of his ambitious desires:
but love gets onward by leaps of hope, and the more absurd they are
the greater faith it has in them; the farther off was the mistress of
Anselme's heart, the more ardent became his desires. Happy the youth
who in those levelling days when all hats looked alike, had contrived
to create a sense of distance between the daughter of a perfumer and
himself, the scion of an old Parisian family! In spite of all his
doubts and fears he was happy; did he not dine every day beside
Cesarine? So, while attending to the business of the house, he threw a
zeal and energy into his work which deprived it of all hardship; doing
it for the sake of Cesarine, nothing tired him. Love, in a youth of
twenty, feeds on devotion.

"He is a true merchant; he will succeed," Cesar would say to Madame
Ragon, as he praised Anselme's activity in preparing the work at the
factory, or boasted of his readiness in learning the niceties of the
trade, or recalled his arduous labors when shipments had to be made,
and when, with his sleeves rolled up and his arms bare, the lame lad
packed and nailed up, himself alone, more cases than all the other
clerks put together.

The well-known and avowed intentions of Alexandre Crottat, head-clerk
to Roguin, and the wealth of his father, a rich farmer of Brie, were
certainly obstacles in the lad's way; but even these were not the
hardest to conquer. Popinot buried in the depths of his heart a sad
secret, which widened the distance between Cesarine and himself. The
property of the Ragons, on which he might have counted, was involved,
and the orphan lad had the satisfaction of enabling them to live by
making over to them his meagre salary. Yet with all these drawbacks he
believed in success! He had sometimes caught a glance of dignified
approval from Cesarine; in the depths of her blue eyes he had dared to
read a secret thought full of caressing hopes. He now walked beside
Cesar, heaving with these ideas, trembling, silent, agitated, as any
young lad might well have been by such an occurrence in the burgeoning
time of youth.

"Popinot," said the worthy man, "is your aunt well?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"She has seemed rather anxious lately. Does anything trouble her?
Listen, my boy; you must not be too reticent with me. I am half one of
the family. I have known your uncle Ragon thirty-five years. I went to
him in hob-nailed shoes, just as I came from my village. That place is
called Les Tresorieres, but I can tell you that all my worldly goods
were one louis, given me by my godmother the late Marquise d'Uxelles,
a relation of Monsieur le Duc and Madame la Duchesse de Lenoncourt,
who are now customers of ours. I pray every Sunday for her and for all
her family; I send yearly to her niece in Touraine, Madame de
Mortsauf, all her perfumery. I get a good deal of custom through them;
there's Monsieur de Vandenesse who spends twelve hundred francs a year
with us. If I were not grateful out of good feeling, I ought to be so
out of policy; but as for you Anselme, I wish you well for you own
sake, and without any other thought."

"Ah, monsieur! if you will allow me to say so, you have got a head of

"No, no, my boy, that's not it. I don't say that my head-piece isn't
as good as another's; but the thing is, I've been honest,
--_tenaciously_! I've kept to good conduct; I never loved any woman
except my wife. Love is a famous _vehicle_,--happy word used by
Monsieur Villele in the tribune yesterday."

"Love!" exclaimed Popinot. "Oh, monsieur! can it be--"

"Bless me! there's Pere Roguin, on foot at this hour, at the top of
the Place Louis XV. I wonder what he is doing there!" thought Cesar,
forgetting all about Anselme and the oil of nuts.

The suspicions of his wife came back to his mind; and instead of
turning in to the Tuileries Gardens, Birotteau walked on to meet the
notary. Anselme followed his master at a distance, without being able
to define the reason why he suddenly felt an interest in a matter so
apparently unimportant, and full of joy at the encouragement he
derived from Cesar's mention of the hob-nailed shoes, the one louis,
and love.

In times gone by, Roguin--a large stout man, with a pimpled face, a
very bald forehead, and black hair--had not been wanting in a certain
force of character and countenance. He had once been young and daring;
beginning as a mere clerk, he had risen to be a notary; but at this
period his face showed, to the eyes of an observer, certain haggard
lines, and an expression of weariness in the pursuit of pleasure. When
a man plunges into the mire of excesses it is seldom that his face
shows no trace of it. In the present instance the lines of the
wrinkles and the heat of the complexion were markedly ignoble. Instead
of the pure glow which suffuses the tissues of a virtuous man and
stamps them, as it were, with the flower of health, the impurities of
his blood could be seen to master the soundness of his body. His nose
was ignominiously shortened like those of men in whom scrofulous
humors, attacking that organ, produce a secret infirmity which a
virtuous queen of France innocently believed to be a misfortune common
to the whole human race, for she had never approached any man but the
king sufficiently near to become aware of her blunder. Roguin hoped to
conceal this misfortune by the excessive use of snuff, but he only
increased the trouble which was the principal cause of his disasters.

Is it not a too-prolonged social flattery to paint men forever under
false colors, and never to reveal the actual causes which underlie
their vicissitudes, caused as they so often are by maladies? Physical
evil, considered under the aspect of its moral ravages, examined as to
its influence upon the mechanism of life, has been perhaps too much
neglected by the historians of the social kingdom. Madame Cesar had
guessed the secret of Roguin's household.

From the night of her marriage, the charming and only daughter of the
banker Chevrel conceived for the unhappy notary an insurmountable
antipathy, and wished to apply at once for a divorce. But Roguin,
happy in obtaining a rich wife with five hundred thousand francs of
her own, to say nothing of expectations, entreated her not to
institute an action for divorce, promising to leave her free, and to
accept all the consequences of such an agreement. Madame Roguin thus
became sovereign mistress of the situation, and treated her husband as
a courtesan treats an elderly lover. Roguin soon found his wife too
expensive, and like other Parisian husbands he set up a private
establishment of his own, keeping the cost, in the first instance,
within the limits of moderate expenditure. In the beginning he
encountered, at no great expense, grisettes who were glad of his
protection; but for the past three years he had fallen a prey to one
of those unconquerable passions which sometimes invade the whole being
of a man between fifty and sixty years of age. It was roused by a
magnificent creature known as _la belle Hollandaise_ in the annals of
prostitution, for into that gulf she was to fall back and become a
noted personage through her death. She was originally brought from
Bruges by a client of Roguin, who soon after left Paris in consequence
of political events, presenting her to the notary in 1815. Roguin
bought a house for her in the Champs-Elysees, furnished it handsomely,
and in trying to satisfy her costly caprices had gradually eaten up
his whole fortune.

The gloomy look on the notary's face, which he hastened to lay aside
when he saw Birotteau, grew out of certain mysterious circumstances
which were at the bottom of the secret fortune so rapidly acquired by
du Tillet. The scheme originally planned by that adventurer had
changed on the first Sunday when he saw, at Birotteau's house, the
relations existing between Monsieur and Madame Roguin. He had come
there not so much to seduce Madame Cesar as to obtain the offer of her
daughter's hand by way of compensation for frustrated hopes, and he
found little difficulty in renouncing his purpose when he discovered
that Cesar, whom he supposed to be rich, was in point of fact
comparatively poor. He set a watch on the notary, wormed himself into
his confidence, was presented to la belle Hollandaise, made a study of
their relation to each other, and soon found that she threatened to
renounce her lover if he limited her luxuries. La belle Hollandaise
was one of those mad-cap women who care nothing as to where the money
comes from, or how it is obtained, and who are capable of giving a
ball with the gold obtained by a parricide. She never thought of the
morrow; for her the future was after dinner, and the end of the month
eternity, even if she had bills to pay. Du Tillet, delighted to have
found such a lever, exacted from la belle Hollandaise a promise that
she would love Roguin for thirty thousand francs a year instead of
fifty thousand,--a service which infatuated old men seldom forget.

One evening, after a supper where the wine flowed freely, Roguin
unbosomed himself to du Tillet on the subject of his financial
difficulties. His own estate was tied up and legally settled on his
wife, and he had been led by his fatal passion to take from the funds
entrusted to him by his clients a sum which was already more than half
their amount. When the whole were gone, the unfortunate man intended
to blow out his brains, hoping to mitigate the disgrace of his conduct
by making a demand upon public pity. A fortune, rapid and secure,
darted before du Tillet's eyes like a flash of lightning in a
saturnalian night. He promptly reassured Roguin, and made him fire his
pistols into the air.

"With such risks as yours," he said, "a man of your calibre should not
behave like a fool and walk on tiptoe, but speculate--boldly."

He advised Roguin to take a large sum from the remaining trust-moneys
and give it to him, du Tillet, with permission to stake it bravely on
some large operation, either at the Bourse, or in one of the thousand
enterprises of private speculation then about to be launched. Should
he win, they were to form a banking-house, where they could turn to
good account a portion of the deposits, while the profits could be
used by Roguin for his pleasures. If luck went against them, Roguin
was to get away and live in foreign countries, and trust to _his
friend_ du Tillet, who would be faithful to him to the last sou. It
was a rope thrown to a drowning man, and Roguin did not perceive that
the perfumer's clerk had flung it round his neck.

Master of Roguin's secret, du Tillet made use of it to establish his
power over wife, mistress, and husband. Madame Roguin, when told of a
disaster she was far from suspecting, accepted du Tillet's attentions,
who about this time left his situation with Birotteau, confident of
future success. He found no difficulty in persuading the mistress to
risk a certain sum of money as a provision against the necessity of
resorting to prostitution if misfortunes overtook her. The wife, on
the other hand, regulated her accounts, and gathered together quite a
little capital, which she gave to the man whom her husband confided
in; for by this time the notary had given a hundred thousand francs of
the remaining trust-money to his accomplice. Du Tillet's relations to
Madame Roguin then became such that her interest in him was
transformed into affection and finally into a violent passion. Through
his three sleeping-partners Ferdinand naturally derived a profit; but
not content with that profit, he had the audacity, when gambling at
the Bourse in their name, to make an agreement with a pretended
adversary, a man of straw, from whom he received back for himself
certain sums which he had charged as losses to his clients. As soon as
he had gained fifty thousand francs he was sure of fortune. He had the
eye of an eagle to discern the phases through which France was then
passing. He played low during the campaign of the allied armies, and
high on the restoration of the Bourbons. Two months after the return
of Louis XVIII., Madame Roguin was worth two hundred thousand francs,
du Tillet three hundred thousand, and the notary had been able to get
his accounts once more into order.

La belle Hollandaise wasted her share of the profits; for she was
secretly a prey to an infamous scoundrel named Maxime de Trailles, a
former page of the Emperor. Du Tillet discovered the real name of this
woman in drawing out a deed. She was Sarah Gobseck. Struck by the
coincidence of the name with that of a well-known usurer, he went to
the old money-lender (that providence of young men of family) to find
out how far he would back the credit of his relation. The Brutus of
usurers was implacable towards his great-niece, but du Tillet himself
pleased him by posing as Sarah's banker, and having funds to invest.
The Norman nature and the rapacious nature suited each other. Gobseck
happened to want a clever young man to examine into an affair in a
foreign country. It chanced that an auditor of the Council of State,
overtaken by the return of the Bourbons and anxious to stand well at
court, had gone to Germany and bought up all the debts contracted by
the princes during the emigration. He now offered the profits of the
affair, which to him was merely political, to any one who would
reimburse him. Gobseck would pay no money down, unless in proportion
to the redemption of the debts, and insisted on a careful examination
of the affair. Usurers never trust any one; they demand vouchers. With
them the bird in the hand is everything; icy when they have no need of
a man, they are wheedling and inclined to be gracious when they can
make him useful.

Du Tillet knew the enormous underground part played in the world by
such men as Werbrust and Gigonnet, commercial money-lenders in the
Rues Saint-Denis and Saint-Martin; by Palma, banker in the Faubourg
Poissonniere,--all of whom were closely connected with Gobseck. He
accordingly offered a cash security, and obtained an interest in the
affair, on condition that these gentlemen would use in their
commercial loans certain moneys he should place in their hands. By
this means he strengthened himself with a solid support on all sides.

Du Tillet accompanied Monsieur Clement Chardin des Lupeaulx to Germany
during the Hundred Days, and came back at the second Restoration,
having done more to increase his means of making a fortune than
augmented the fortune itself. He was now in the secret councils of the
sharpest speculators in Paris; he had secured the friendship of the
man with whom he had examined into the affair of the debts, and that
clever juggler had laid bare to him the secrets of legal and political
science. Du Tillet possessed one of those minds which understand at
half a word, and he completed his education during his travels in
Germany. On his return he found Madame Roguin faithful to him. As to
the notary, he longed for Ferdinand with as much impatience as his
wife did, for la belle Hollandaise had once more ruined him. Du Tillet
questioned the woman, but could find no outlay equal to the sum
dissipated. It was then that he discovered the secret which Sarah had
carefully concealed from him,--her mad passion for Maxime de Trailles,
whose earliest steps in a career of vice showed him for what he was,
one of those good-for-nothing members of the body politic who seem the
necessary evil of all good government, and whose love of gambling
renders them insatiable. On making this discovery, du Tillet at once
saw the reason of Gobseck's insensibility to the claims of his niece.

Under these circumstances du Tillet the banker (for Ferdinand was now
a banker) advised Roguin to lay up something against a rainy day, by
persuading his clients to invest in some enterprise which might enable
him to put by for himself large sums of money, in case he were forced
to go into bankruptcy through the affairs of the bank. After many ups
and downs, which were profitable to none but Madame Roguin and du
Tillet, Roguin heard the fatal hour of his insolvency and final ruin
strike. His misery was then worked upon by his faithful friend.
Ferdinand invented the speculation in lands about the Madeleine. The
hundred thousand francs belonging to Cesar Birotteau, which were in
the hands of the notary, were made over to du Tillet; for the latter,
whose object was to ruin the perfumer, had made Roguin understand that
he would run less risk if he got his nearest friends into the net. "A
friend," he said, "is more considerate, even if angry."

Few people realize to-day how little value the lands about the
Madeleine had at the period of which we write; but at that time they
were likely to be sold even below their then value, because of the
difficulty of finding purchasers willing to wait for the profits of
the enterprise. Now, du Tillet's aim was to seize the profits speedily
without the losses of a protracted speculation. In other words, his
plan was to strangle the speculation and get hold of it as a dead
thing, which he might galvanize back to life when it suited him. In
such a scheme the Gobsecks, Palmas, and Werbrusts would have been
ready to lend a hand, but du Tillet was not yet sufficiently intimate
with them to ask their aid; besides, he wanted to hide his own hand in
conducting the affair, that he might get the profits of his theft
without the shame of it. He felt the necessity of having under his
thumb one of those living lay-figures called in commercial language a
"man of straw." His former tool at the Bourse struck him as a suitable
person for the post; he accordingly trenched upon Divine right, and
created a man. Out of a former commercial traveller, who was without
means or capacity of any kind, except that of talking indefinitely on
all subjects and saying nothing, who was without a farthing or a
chance to make one,--able, nevertheless, to understand a part and act
it without compromising the play or the actors in it, and possessed of
a rare sort of honor, that of keeping a secret and letting himself be
dishonored to screen his employers,--out of such a being du Tillet now
made a banker, who set on foot and directed vast enterprises; the
head, namely, of the house of Claparon.

The fate of Charles Claparon would be, if du Tillet's scheme ended in
bankruptcy, a swift deliverance to the tender mercies of Jews and
Pharisees; and he well knew it. But to a poor devil who was
despondently roaming the boulevard with a future of forty sous in his
pocket when his old comrade du Tillet chanced to meet him, the little
gains that he was to get out of the affair seemed an Eldorado. His
friendship, his devotion, to du Tillet, increased by unreflecting
gratitude and stimulated by the wants of a libertine and vagabond
life, led him to say _amen_ to everything. Having sold his honor, he
saw it risked with so much caution that he ended by attaching himself
to his old comrade as a dog to his master. Claparon was an ugly
poodle, but as ready to jump as Curtius. In the present affair he was
to represent half the purchasers of the land, while Cesar Birotteau
represented the other half. The notes which Claparon was to receive
from Birotteau were to be discounted by one of the usurers whose name
du Tillet was authorized to use, and this would send Cesar headlong
into bankruptcy so soon as Roguin had drawn from him his last funds.
The assignees of the failure would, as du Tillet felt certain, follow
his cue; and he, already possessed of the property paid over by the
perfumer and his associates, could sell the lands at auction and buy
them in at half their value with the funds of Roguin and the assets of
the failure. The notary went into this scheme believing that he should
enrich himself by the spoliation of Birotteau and his copartners; but
the man in whose power he had placed himself intended to take, and
eventually did take, the lion's share. Roguin, unable to sue du Tillet
in any of the courts, was glad of the bone flung to him, month by
month, in the recesses of Switzerland, where he found nymphs at a
reduction. Circumstances, actual facts, and not the imagination of a
tragic author inventing a catastrophe, gave birth to this horrible
scheme. Hatred without a thirst for vengeance is like a seed falling
on stony ground; but vengeance vowed to a Cesar by a du Tillet is a
natural movement of the soul. If it were not, then we must deny the
warfare between the angels of light and the spirits of darkness.

Du Tillet could not very easily assassinate the man who knew him to be
guilty of a petty theft, but he could fling him into the mire and
annihilate him so completely that his word and testimony would count
for nothing. For a long time revenge had germinated in his heart
without budding; for the men who hate most are usually those who have
little time in Paris to make plans; life is too fast, too full, too
much at the mercy of unexpected events. But such perpetual changes,
though they hinder premeditation, nevertheless offer opportunity to
thoughts lurking in the depths of a purpose which is strong enough to
lie in wait for their tidal chances. When Roguin first confided his
troubles to du Tillet, the latter had vaguely foreseen the possibility
of destroying Cesar, and he was not mistaken. Forced at last to give
up his mistress, the notary drank the dregs of his philter from a
broken chalice. He went every day to the Champs Elysees returning home
early in the morning. The suspicions of Madame Cesar were justified.

              *     *     *     *     *

From the moment when a man consents to play the part which du Tillet
had allotted to Roguin, he develops the talents of a comedian; he has
the eye of a lynx and the penetration of a seer; he magnetizes his
dupe. The notary had seen Birotteau some time before Birotteau had
caught sight of him; when the perfumer did see him, Roguin held out
his hand before they met.

"I have just been to make the will of a great personage who has only
eight days to live," he said, with an easy manner. "They have treated
me like a country doctor,--fetched me in a carriage, and let me walk
home on foot."

These words chased away the slight shade of suspicion which clouded
the face of the perfumer, and which Roguin had been quick to perceive.
The notary was careful not to be the first to mention the land
speculation; his part was to deal the last blow.

"After wills come marriage contracts," said Birotteau. "Such is life.
Apropos, when do we marry the Madeleine? Hey! hey! papa Roguin," he
added, tapping the notary on the stomach.

Among men the most chaste of bourgeois have the ambition to appear

"Well, if it is not to-day," said the notary, with a diplomatic air,
"then never. We are afraid that the affair may get wind. I am much
urged by two of my wealthiest clients, who want a share in this
speculation. There it is, to take or leave. This morning I shall draw
the deeds. You have till one o'clock to make up your mind. Adieu; I am
just on my way to read over the rough draft which Xandrot has been
making out during the night."

"Well, my mind is made up. I pass my word," said Birotteau, running
after the notary and seizing his hand. "Take the hundred thousand
francs which were laid by for my daughter's portion."

"Very good," said Roguin, leaving him.

For a moment, as Birotteau turned to rejoin little Popinot, he felt a
fierce heat in his entrails, the muscles of his stomach contracted,
his ears buzzed.

"What is the matter, monsieur?" asked the clerk, when he saw his
master's pale face.

"Ah, my lad! I have just with one word decided on a great undertaking;
no man is master of himself at such a moment. You are a party to it.
In fact, I brought you here that we might talk of it at our ease; no
one can overhear us. Your aunt is in trouble; how did she lose her
money? Tell me."

"Monsieur, my uncle and aunt put all their property into the hands of
Monsieur de Nucingen, and they were forced to accept as security
certain shares in the mines at Wortschin, which as yet pay no
dividends; and it is hard at their age to live on hope."

"How do they live, then?"

"They do me the great pleasure of accepting my salary."

"Right, right, Anselme!" said the perfumer, as a tear rolled down his
cheek. "You are worthy of the regard I feel for you. You are about to
receive a great recompense for your fidelity to my interests."

As he said these words the worthy man swelled in his own eyes as much
as he did in those of Popinot, and he uttered them with a plebeian and
naive emphasis which was the genuine expression of his counterfeit

"Ah, monsieur! have you guessed my love for--"

"For whom?" asked his master.

"For Mademoiselle Cesarine."

"Ah, boy, you are bold indeed!" exclaimed Birotteau. "Keep your
secret. I promise to forget it. You leave my house to-morrow. I am not
angry with you; in your place--the devil! the devil!--I should have
done the same. She is so lovely!"

"Oh, monsieur!" said the clerk, who felt his shirt getting wet with

"My boy, this matter is not one to be settled in a day. Cesarine is
her own mistress, and her mother has fixed ideas. Control yourself,
wipe your eyes, hold your heart in hand, and don't let us talk any
more about it. I should not blush to have you for my son-in-law. The
nephew of Monsieur Popinot, a judge of the civil courts, nephew of the
Ragons, you have the right to make your way as well as anybody; but
there are _buts_ and _ifs_ and _hows_ and _whys_. What a devil of a
dog you have let loose upon me, in the midst of a business
conversation! Here, sit down on that chair, and let the lover give
place to the clerk. Popinot, are you a loyal man?" he said, looking
fixedly at the youth. "Do you feel within you the nerve to struggle
with something stronger than yourself, and fight hand to hand?"

"Yes, monsieur."

"To maintain a long and dangerous battle?"

"What for?"

"To destroy Macassar Oil!" said Birotteau, rising on his toes like a
hero in Plutarch. "Let us not mistake; the enemy is strong, well
entrenched, formidable! Macassar Oil has been vigorously launched. The
conception was strong. The square bottles were original; I have
thought of making ours triangular. Yet on the whole I prefer, after
ripe reflection, smaller bottles of thin glass, encased in wicker;
they would have a mysterious look, and customers like things which
puzzle them."

"They would be expensive," said Popinot. "We must get things out as
cheap as we can, so as to make a good reduction at wholesale."

"Good, my lad! That's the right principle. But now, think of it.
Macassar Oil will defend itself; it is specious; the name is
seductive. It is offered as a foreign importation; and we have the
ill-luck to belong to our own country. Come, Popinot, have you the
courage to kill Macassar? Then begin the fight in foreign lands. It
seems that Macassar is really in the Indies. Now, isn't it much better
to supply a French product to the Indians than to send them back what
they are supposed to send to us? Make the venture. Begin the fight in
India, in foreign countries, in the departments. Macassar Oil has been
thoroughly advertised; we must not underrate its power, it has been
pushed everywhere, the public knows it."

"I'll kill it!" cried Popinot, with fire in his eyes.

"What with?" said Birotteau. "That's the way with ardent young people.
Listen till I've done."

Anselme fell into position like a soldier presenting arms to a marshal
of France.

"Popinot, I have invented an oil to stimulate the growth of hair, to
titillate the scalp, to revive the color of male and female tresses.
This cosmetic will not be less successful than my Paste or my Lotion.
But I don't intend to work it myself. I think of retiring from
business. It is you, my boy, who are to launch my Oil Comagene,--from
the latin word _coma_, which signifies 'hair,' as Monsieur Alibert,
the King's physician, says. The word is found in the tragedy of
Berenice, where Racine introduces a king of Comagene, lover of the
queen so celebrated for the beauty of her hair; the king--no doubt as
a delicate flattery--gave the name to his country. What wit and
intellect there is in genius! it condescends to the minutest details."

Little Popinot kept his countenance as he listened to this absurd
flourish, evidently said for his benefit as an educated young man.

"Anselme, I have cast my eyes upon you as the one to found a
commercial house in the high-class druggist line, Rue des Lombards. I
will be your secret partner, and supply the funds to start with. After
the Oil Comagene, we will try an essence of vanilla and the spirit of
peppermint. We'll tackle the drug-trade by revolutionizing it, by
selling its products concentrated instead of selling them raw.
Ambitious young man, are you satisfied?"

Anselme could not answer, his heart was full; but his eyes, filled
with tears, answered for him. The offer seemed prompted by indulgent
fatherhood, saying to him: "Deserve Cesarine by becoming rich and

"Monsieur," he answered at last, "I will succeed!"

"That's what I said at your age," cried the perfumer; "that was my
motto. If you don't win my daughter, at least you will win your
fortune. Eh, boy! what is it?"

"Let me hope that in acquiring the one I may obtain the other."

"I can't prevent you from hoping, my friend," said Birotteau, touched
by Anselme's tone.

"Well, then, monsieur, can I begin to-day to look for a shop, so as to
start at once?"

"Yes, my son. To-morrow we will shut ourselves up in the workshop, you
and I. Before you go to the Rue des Lombards, call at Livingston's and
see if my hydraulic press will be ready to use to-morrow morning.
To-night we will go, about dinner-time, to the good and illustrious
Monsieur Vauquelin and consult him. He has lately been employed in
studying the composition of hair; he has discovered the nature of the
coloring matter and whence it comes; also the structure of the hair
itself. The secret is just there, Popinot, and you shall know it; all
we have to do is to work it out cleverly. Before you go to
Livingston's, just stop at Pieri Berard's. My lad, the disinterested
kindness of Monsieur Vauquelin is one of the sorrows of my life. I
cannot make him accept any return. Happily, I found out from
Chiffreville that he wished for the Dresden Madonna, engraved by a man
named Muller. After two years correspondence with Germany, Berard has
at last found one on Chinese paper before lettering. It cost fifteen
hundred francs, my boy. To-day, my benefactor will see it in his
antechamber when he bows us out; it is to be all framed, and I want
you to see about it. We--that is, my wife and I--shall thus recall
ourselves to his mind; as for gratitude, we have prayed to God for him
daily for sixteen years. I can never forget him; but you see, Popinot,
men buried in the depths of science do forget everything,--wives,
friends, and those they have benefited. As for us plain people, our
lack of mind keeps our hearts warm at any rate. That's the consolation
for not being a great man. Look at those gentlemen of the Institute,
--all brain; you will never meet one of them in a church. Monsieur
Vauquelin is tied to his study or his laboratory; but I like to
believe he thinks of God in analyzing the works of His hands.--Now,
then, it is understood; I give you the money and put you in possession
of my secret; we will go shares, and there's no need for any papers
between us. Hurrah for success! we'll act in concert. Off with you, my
boy! As for me, I've got my part to attend to. One minute, Popinot. I
give a great ball three weeks hence; get yourself a dress-coat, and
look like a merchant already launched."

This last kindness touched Popinot so deeply that he caught Cesar's
big hand and kissed it; the worthy soul had flattered the lover by
this confidence, and people in love are capable of anything.

"Poor boy!" thought Birotteau, as he watched him hurrying across the
Tuileries. "Suppose Cesarine should love him? But he is lame, and his
hair is the color of a warming-pan. Young girls are queer; still, I
don't think that Cesarine--And then her mother wants to see her the
wife of a notary. Alexandre Crottat can make her rich; wealth makes
everything bearable, and there is no happiness that won't give way
under poverty. However, I am resolved to leave my daughter mistress of
herself, even if it seems a folly."


Birotteau's neighbor was a small dealer in umbrellas, parasols, and
canes, named Cayron,--a man from Languedoc, doing a poor business,
whom Cesar had several times befriended. Cayron wished nothing better
than to confine himself to the ground-floor and let the rich perfumer
take the floor above it, thus diminishing his rent.

"Well, neighbor," said Birotteau familiarly, as he entered the man's
shop, "my wife consents to the enlargement of our premises. If you
like, we will go and see Monsieur Molineux at eleven o'clock."

"My dear Monsieur Birotteau," said the umbrella-man, "I have not asked
you any compensation for this cession; but you are aware that a good
merchant ought to make money out of everything."

"What the devil!" cried Birotteau. "I'm not made of money. I don't
know that my architect can do the thing at all. He told me that before
concluding my arrangements I must know whether the floors were on the
same level. Then, supposing Monsieur Molineux does allow me to cut a
door in the wall, is it a party-wall? Moreover, I have to turn my
staircase, and make a new landing, so as to get a passage-way on the
same floor. All that costs money, and I don't want to ruin myself."

"Oh, monsieur," said the southerner. "Before you are ruined, the sun
will have married the earth and they'll have had children."

Birotteau stroked his chin, rose on the points of his toes, and fell
back upon his heels.

"Besides," resumed Cayron, "all I ask you to do is to cash these
securities for me--"

And he held out sixteen notes amounting in all to five thousand

"Ah!" said the perfumer turning them over. "Small fry, two months,
three months--"

"Take them as low as six per cent," said the umbrella-man humbly.

"Am I a usurer?" asked the perfumer reproachfully.

"What can I do, monsieur? I went to your old clerk, du Tillet, and he
would not take them at any price. No doubt he wanted to find out how
much I'd be willing to lose on them."

"I don't know those signatures," said the perfumer.

"We have such queer names in canes and umbrellas; they belong to the

"Well, I won't say that I will take all; but I'll manage the short

"For the want of a thousand francs--sure to be repaid in four months
--don't throw me into the hands of the blood-suckers who get the best
of our profits; do take all, monsieur! I do so little in the way of
discount that I have no credit; that is what kills us little

"Well, I'll cash your notes; Celestin will make out the account. Be
ready at eleven, will you? There's my architect, Monsieur Grindot,"
said the perfumer, catching sight of the young man, with whom he had
made an appointment at Monsieur de la Billardiere's the night before.

"Contrary to the custom of men of talent you are punctual, monsieur,"
said Cesar, displaying his finest commercial graces. "If punctuality,
in the words of our king,--a man of wit as well as a statesman,--is
the politeness of princes, it is also the wealth of merchants. Time,
time is gold, especially to you artists. I permit myself to say to you
that architecture is the union of all the arts. We will not enter
through the shop," he added, opening the private door of his house.

Four years earlier Monsieur Grindot had carried off the _grand prix_
in architecture, and had lately returned from Rome where he had spent
three years at the cost of the State. In Italy the young man had
dreamed of art; in Paris he thought of fortune. Government alone can
pay the needful millions to raise an architect to glory; it is
therefore natural that every ambitious youth of that calling,
returning from Rome and thinking himself a Fontaine or a Percier,
should bow before the administration. The liberal student became a
royalist, and sought to win the favor of influential persons. When a
_grand prix_ man behaves thus, his comrades call him a trimmer. The
young architect in question had two ways open to him,--either to serve
the perfumer well, or put him under contribution. Birotteau the
deputy-mayor, Birotteau the future possessor of half the lands about
the Madeleine, where he would sooner or later build up a fine
neighborhood, was a man to keep on good terms with. Grindot
accordingly resolved to sacrifice his immediate gains to his future
interests. He listened patiently to the plans, the repetitions, and
the ideas of this worthy specimen of the bourgeois class, the constant
butt of the witty shafts and ridicule of artists, and the object of
their everlasting contempt, nodding his head as if to show the
perfumer that he caught his ideas. When Cesar had thoroughly explained
everything, the young man proceeded to sum up for him his own plan.

"You have now three front windows on the first floor, besides the
window on the staircase which lights the landing; to these four
windows you mean to add two on the same level in the next house, by
turning the staircase, so as to open a way from one house to the other
on the street side."

"You have understood me perfectly," said the perfumer, surprised.

"To carry out your plan, you must light the new staircase from above,
and manage to get a porter's lodge beneath it."

"Beneath it?"

"Yes, the space over which it rests--"

"I understand, monsieur."

"As for your own appartement, give me carte-blanche to arrange and
decorate it. I wish to make it worthy--"

"Worthy! You have said the word, monsieur."

"How much time do you give me to complete the work?"

"Twenty days."

"What sum do you mean to put in the workmen's pockets?" asked Grindot.

"How much do you think it will cost?"

"An architect can estimate on a new building almost to a farthing,"
answered the young man; "but as I don't know how to deal with a
bourgeois--ah! excuse me, monsieur, the word slipped out--I must warn
you that it is impossible to calculate the costs of tearing down and
rebuilding. It will take at least eight days before I can give even an
approximate idea of them. Trust yourself to me: you shall have a
charming staircase, lighted from above, with a pretty vestibule
opening from the street, and in the space under the stairway--"

"Must that be used?"

"Don't be worried--I will find room for a little porter's lodge. Your
house shall be studied and remodelled _con amore_. Yes, monsieur, I
look to art and not to fortune. Above all things I do not want fame
before I have earned it. To my mind, the best means of winning credit
is not to play into the hands of contractors, but to get at good
effects cheaply."

"With such ideas, young man," said Birotteau in a patronizing tone,
"you will succeed."

"Therefore," resumed Grindot, "employ the masons, painters,
locksmiths, carpenters, and upholsterers yourself. I will simply look
over their accounts. Pay me only two thousand francs commission. It
will be money well laid out. Give me the premises to-morrow at twelve
o'clock, and have your workmen on the spot."

"How much it will cost, at a rough guess?" said Birotteau.

"From ten to twelve thousand francs," said Grindot. "That does not
count the furniture; of course you will renew that. Give me the
address of your cabinet-maker; I shall have to arrange with him about
the choice of colors, so as to have everything in keeping."

"Monsieur Braschon, Rue Saint-Antoine, takes my orders," said
Birotteau, assuming a ducal air.

The architect wrote down the address in one of those pretty note-books
which invariably come from women.

"Well," said Birotteau, "I trust to you, monsieur; only you must wait
till the lease of the adjoining house is made over to me, and I will
get permission to cut through the wall."

"Send me a note this evening," said the architect; "it will take me
all night to draw the plans--we would rather work for a bourgeois than
for the King of Prussia, that is to say for ourselves. I will now take
the dimensions, the pitch, the size of the widows, the pictures--"

"It must be finished on the appointed day," said Birotteau. "If not,
no pay."

"It shall be done," said the architect. "The workmen must do without
sleep; we will use drying oil in the paint. But don't let yourself be
taken in by the contractors; always ask their price in advance, and
have a written agreement."

"Paris is the only place in the world where you can wave a magic wand
like that," said Birotteau, with an Asiatic gesture worthy of the
Arabian Nights. "You will do me the honor to come to my ball,
monsieur? Men of talent are not all disdainful of commerce; and you
will meet a scientific man of the first order, Monsieur Vauquelin of
the Institute; also Monsieur de la Billardiere, Monsieur le comte de
Fontaine, Monsieur Lebas, judge and president of the Court of
commerce, various magistrates, Monsieur le comte de Grandville of the
royal suite, Monsieur Camusot of the Court of commerce, and Monsieur
Cardot, his father-in-law, and, perhaps, Monsieur le duc de
Lenoncourt, first gentleman of the bed-chamber to the king. I assemble
my friends as much--to celebrate the emancipation of our territory--as
to commemorate my--promotion to the order of the Legion of honor,"
--here Grindot made a curious gesture. "Possibly I showed myself worthy
of that--signal--and royal--favor, by my services on the bench, and by
fighting for the Bourbons upon the steps of Saint-Roch on the 13th
Vendemiaire, where I was wounded by Napoleon. These claims--"

Constance, in a morning gown, here came out of her daughter's bedroom,
where she had been dressing; her first glance cut short Cesar's
eloquence just as he was about to formulate in flowing phrase, though
modestly, the tale of his merits.

"_Tiens, Mimi_, this is Monsieur _de_ Grindot, a young man
distinguished in his own sphere of life, and the possessor of a great
talent. Monsieur is the architect recommended to us by Monsieur de la
Billardiere to superintend our _little_ alteration."

The perfumer slipped behind his wife and made a sign to the architect
to take notice of the word _little_, putting his finger on his lips.
Grindot took the cue.

"Will it be very expensive?" said Constance to the architect.

"Oh, no, madame; six thousand francs at a rough guess."

"A rough guess!" exclaimed Madame Birotteau. "Monsieur, I entreat you,
begin nothing without an estimate and the specifications signed. I
know the ways of contractors: six thousand francs means twenty
thousand. We are not in a position to commit such extravagance. I beg
you, monsieur,--though of course my husband is master in his own
house,--give him time to reflect."

"Madame, monsieur the deputy-mayor has ordered me to deliver the
premises, all finished, in twenty days. If we delay, you will be
likely to incur the expense without obtaining the looked-for result."

"There are expenses and expenses," said the handsome mistress of "The
Queen of Roses."

"Ah! madame, do you think an architect who seeks to put up public
buildings finds it glorious to decorate a mere appartement? I have
come down to such details merely to oblige Monsieur de la Billardiere;
and if you fear--"

Here he made a movement to retreat.

"Well, well, monsieur," said Constance re-entering her daughter's
room, where she threw her head on Cesarine's shoulder.

"Ah, my daughter!" she cried, "your father will ruin himself! He has
engaged an architect with mustachios, who talks about public
buildings! He is going to pitch the house out of windows and build us
a Louvre. Cesar is never idle about his follies; he only spoke to me
about it in the night, and he begins it in the morning!"

"Never mind, mamma; let papa do as he likes. The good God has always
taken care of him," said Cesarine, kissing her mother and sitting down
to the piano, to let the architect know that the perfumer's daughter
was not ignorant of the fine arts.

When Grindot came in to measure the bedroom he was surprised and taken
aback at the beauty of Cesarine. Just out of her dressing-room and
wearing a pretty morning-gown, fresh and rosy as a young girl is fresh
and rosy at eighteen, blond and slender, with blue eyes, Cesarine
seemed to the young artist a picture of the elasticity, so rare in
Paris, that fills and rounds the delicate cheek, and tints with the
color adored of painters, the tracery of blue veins throbbing beneath
the whiteness of her clear skin. Though she lived in the lymphatic
atmosphere of a Parisian shop, where the air stagnates and the sun
seldom shines, her habits gave her the same advantages which the
open-air life of Rome gives to the Transteverine peasant-woman. Her
hair,--which was abundant, and grew, like that of her father, in
points upon her forehead,--was caught up in a twist which showed the
lines of a well-set neck, and then rippled downward in curls that were
scrupulously cared for, after the fashion of young shop-women, whose
desire to attract attention inspires the truly English minutiae of
their toilet. The beauty of this young girl was not the beauty of an
English lady, nor of a French duchess, but the round and glowing
beauty of a Flemish Rubens. Cesarine had the turned-up nose of her
father, but it was piquant through the delicacy of its modelling,
--like those noses, essentially French, which have been so well
reproduced by Largilliere. Her skin, of a firm full texture, bespoke
the vitality of a virgin; she had the fine brow of her mother, but it
was clear with the serenity of a young girl who knows no care. Her
liquid blue eyes, bathed in rich fluid, expressed the tender grace of
a glowing happiness. If that happiness took from her head the poetry
which painters insist on giving to their pictures my making them a
shade too pensive, the vague physical languor of a young girl who has
never left her mother's side made up for it, and gave her a species of
ideality. Notwithstanding the graceful lines of her figure, she was
strongly built. Her feet betrayed the peasant origin of her father and
her own defects of race, as did the redness of her hands, the sign of
the thoroughly bourgeois life. Sooner or later she would grow stout.
She had caught the sentiment of dress from the elegant young women who
came to the shop, and had learned from them certain movements of the
head, certain ways of speaking and of moving; and she could play the
well-bred woman in a way that turned the heads of all the young men,
especially the clerks, in whose eyes she appeared truly distinguished.
Popinot swore that he would have no other wife than Cesarine. The
liquid brightness of that eye, which a look, or a tone of reproach,
might cause to overflow in tears, was all that kept him to a sense of
masculine superiority. The charming girl inspired love without leaving
time to ask whether she had mind enough to make it durable. But of
what value is the thing they call in Paris _mind_ to a class whose
principal element of happiness is virtue and good sense?

In her moral qualities Cesarine was like her mother, somewhat bettered
by the superfluities of education; she loved music, drew the Madonna
della Sedia in chalk, and read the works of Mmes. Cottin and
Riccoboni, of Bernadin de Saint-Pierre, Fenelon, and Racine. She was
never seen behind the counter with her mother except for a few moments
before sitting down to dinner, or on some special occasion when she
replaced her. Her father and mother, like all persons who have risen
from small beginnings, and who cultivate the ingratitude of their
children by putting them above themselves, delighted in deifying
Cesarine, who happily had the virtues of her class, and took no
advantage of their weakness.

Madame Birotteau followed the architect with an anxious and appealing
eye, watching with terror, and pointing out to her daughter, the
fantastic movements of the four-foot rule, that wand of architects and
builders, with which Grindot was measuring. She saw in those
mysterious weavings a conjuring spirit that augured evil; she wished
the walls were less high, the rooms less large, and dared not question
the young man on the effects of his sorcery.

"Do not be afraid, madame, I shall carry nothing off," said the
artist, smiling.

Cesarine could not help smiling.

"Monsieur," said Constance, in a supplicating voice, not even noticing
the tit-for-tat of the young man, "consider economy, and later we may
be able to serve you--"

              *     *     *     *     *

Before starting to see Monsieur Molineux, the owner of the adjoining
house, Cesar wished to get from Roguin the private deed about the
transference of the lease which Alexandre Crottat had been ordered to
draw up. As he left the notary's house, he saw du Tillet at the window
of Roguin's study. Although the _liaison_ of his former clerk with the
lawyer's wife made it not unlikely that he should see du Tillet there
at this hour when the negotiations about the Madeleine were going on,
Birotteau, in spite of his extreme confidence, felt uneasy. The
excited manner of du Tillet seemed the sign of a discussion. "Can he
be in it?" thought Cesar, with a flash of commercial prudence. The
suspicion passed like lightning through his mind. He looked again and
saw Madame Roguin, and the presence of du Tillet was no longer
suspicious. "Still, suppose Constance were right?" he said to himself.
"What a fool I am to listen to women's notions! I'll speak of it to my
uncle Pillerault this morning; it is only a step from the Cour Batave,
where Monsieur Molineux lives, to the Rue des Bourdonnais."

A cautious observer, or a merchant who had met with swindlers in his
business career, would have been saved by this sight; but the
antecedents of Birotteau, the incapacity of his mind, which had little
power to follow up the chain of inductions by which a superior man
reaches a conclusion, all conspired to blind him. He found the
umbrella-man in full dress, and they were about to start, when
Virginie, the cook, caught him by the arm:--

"Monsieur, madame does not wish you to go out--"

"Pshaw!" said Birotteau, "more women's notions!"

"--without your coffee, which is ready."

"That's true. My neighbor," he said to Cayron, "I have so many things
in my head that I can't think of my stomach. Do me the kindness to go
forward; we will meet at Monsieur Molineux' door, unless you are
willing to go up and explain matters to him, which would save time."

Monsieur Molineux was a grotesque little man, living on his rents,--a
species of being that exists nowhere but in Paris, like a certain
lichen which grows only in Iceland. This comparison is all the more
apt because he belonged to a mixed nature, to an animal-vegetable
kingdom which some modern Mercier might build up of cryptograms that
push up upon, and flower, and die in or under the plastered walls of
the strange unhealthy houses where they prefer to cluster. The first
aspect of this human plant--umbelliferous, judging by the fluted blue
cap which crowned it, with a stalk encased in greenish trousers, and
bulbous roots swathed in list shoes--offered to the eye a flat and
faded countenance, which certainly betrayed nothing poisonous. In this
queer product might be recognized the typical stockholder, who
believes every report which the daily press baptizes with ink, and is
content, for all response, to say, "Read what the papers say,"--the
bourgeois, essentially the friend of order, always revolting in his
moral being against power, though always obeying it; a creature feeble
in the mass but fierce in isolated circumstances, hard as a constable
when his own rights are in question, yet giving fresh chickweed to his
bird and fish-bones to his cat, interrupting the signing of a lease to
whistle to a canary, suspicious as a jailer, but apt to put his money
into a bad business and then endeavor to get it back by niggardly
avarice. The evil savor of this hybrid flower was only revealed by
use; its nauseous bitterness needed the stewing of some business in
which his interests were mingled with those of other men, to bring it
fully out. Like all Parisians, Molineux had the lust of dominating; he
craved the share of sovereignty which is exercised more or less by
every one, even a porter, over a greater or lesser number of victims,
--over wife, children, tenants, clerks, horses, dogs, monkeys, to whom
they send, on the rebound, the mortifications they have endured in the
higher spheres to which they aspired.

This annoying old man had neither wife, child, nephew, or niece. He
bullied his servant-of-all-work too much to make her a victim; for she
escaped all contact with her master by doing her work and keeping out
of his way. His appetite for tyranny was thus balked; and to satisfy
it in some way he patiently studied the laws relating to rentals and
party-walls; he fathomed the jurisprudence which regulates the
dwellings of Paris in an infinite number of petty questions as to
tenants, abutters, liabilities, taxes, repairs, sweepings, decorations
for the Fete-Dieu, waste-pipes, lighting, projections over the public
way, and the neighborhood of unhealthy buildings. His means, his
strength, in fact his whole mind was spent in keeping his proprietary
rights on a complete war-footing. He had made it an amusement, and the
amusement had become a monomania. He was fond of protecting citizens
against the encroachment of illegal proceedings; but finding such
subjects of complaint rare, he had finally turned upon his own
tenants. A tenant became his enemy, his inferior, his subject, his
vassal; he laid claim to his subservience, and looked upon any man as
a brute who passed him on the stairway without speaking. He wrote out
his bills for rent himself, and sent them on the morning of the day
they fell due. The debtor who was behindhand in his payment received a
legal notice to quit at an appointed time. Then followed seizures,
law-suits, costs, and the whole judicial array set in motion with the
rapidity of what the head's-man calls the "mechanism." Molineux
granted neither grace nor time; his heart was a callus in the
direction of a lease.

"I will lend you the money if you want it," he would say to a man he
thought solvent, "but pay my rent; all delays carry with them a loss
of interest for which the law does not indemnify us."

After long study of the caprices and capers of tenants who persisted,
after the fashion of dynasties, in upsetting the arrangements of their
predecessors, he had drawn up a charter of his own and followed it
religiously. In accordance therewith, the old fellow made no repairs:
no chimney ever smoked, the stairs were clean, the ceilings white, the
cornices irreproachable, the floors firm on their joists, the paint
satisfactory; the locks were never more than three years old, not a
pane of glass was missing, there were no cracks, and he saw no broken
tiles until a tenant vacated the premises. When he met the tenants on
their first arrival he was accompanied by a locksmith and a painter
and glazier,--very convenient folks, as he remarked. The lessee was at
liberty to make improvements; but if the unhappy man did so, little
Molineux thought night and day of how he could dislodge him and relet
the improved appartement on better terms. He watched and waited and
spun the web of his mischievous legal proceedings. He knew all the
tricks of Parisian legislation in the matter of leases. Factious and
fond of scribbling, he wrote polite and specious letters to his
tenants; but at the bottom of all his civil sentences could be seen,
as in his faded and cozening face, the soul of a Shylock. He always
demanded six months' rent in advance, to be deducted from the last
quarter of the lease under an array of prickly conditions which he
invented. If new tenants offered themselves, he got information about
them from the police; for he would not have people of certain
callings,--he was afraid, for instance, of hammers. When the lease was
to be signed, he kept the deed and spelled it over for a week, fearing
what he called the _et caetera_ of lawyers.

Outside of his notions as a proprietor, Jean-Baptiste Molineux seemed
good and obliging. He played at boston without complaining of the
players; he laughed at the things which make a bourgeois laugh; talked
of what others of his kind talked about,--the arbitrary powers of
bakers who nefariously sell false weights, of the police, of the
heroic seventeen deputies of the Left. He read the "Good Sense" of the
Cure Meslier, and went to Mass; not that he had any choice between
deism and Christianity, but he took the wafer when offered to him, and
argued that he was therefore safe from the interfering claims of the
clergy. The indefatigable litigant wrote letters on this subject to
the newspapers, which the newspapers did not insert and never
answered. He was in other respects one of those estimable bourgeois
who solemnly put Christmas logs on their fire, draw kings at play,
invent April-fools, stroll on the boulevards when the weather is fine,
go to see the skating, and are always to be found on the terrace of
the Place Louis XV. at two o'clock on the days of the fireworks, with
a roll in their pockets so that they may get and keep a front place.

The Cour Batave, where the little old man lived, is the product of one
of those fantastic speculations of which no man can explain the
meaning after they are once completed. This cloistral structure, with
arcades and interior galleries built of free-stone, with a fountain at
one end,--a parched fountain, which opens its lion's mouth less to
give water than to ask it from the passers-by,--was doubtless invented
to endow the Saint-Denis quarter with a species of Palais-Royal. The
place, unhealthy and buried on all four sides by the high walls of its
houses, has no life or movement except in the daytime; it is a central
spot where dark passages meet, and connect the quarter of the markets
with the Saint-Martin quarter by means of the famous Rue Quincampoix,
--damp ways in which hurried foot-passengers contract rheumatism. But
at night no spot in Paris is more deserted; it might be called the
catacombs of commerce. In it there are various industrial _cloaca_,
very few Dutchmen, but a great many grocers. The appartements in this
merchant-place have, naturally, no other outlook than that of the
common court on which all the windows give, so that rents are at a

Monsieur Molineux lived in one of the angles, on the sixth floor for
sanitary reasons, the air not being pure at a less height than seventy
feet above the ground. At this altitude the worthy proprietor enjoyed
an enchanting view of the windmills of Montmartre as he walked among
the gutters on the roof, where he cultivated flowers, in spite of
police regulations against the hanging gardens of our modern Babylon.
His appartement was made up of four rooms, without counting the
precious _anglaises_ on the floor above him of which he had the key;
they belonged to him, he had made them, and he felt he was legally
entitled to them. On entering his appartement, a repulsive barrenness
plainly showed the avarice of the owner: in the antechamber were six
straw chairs and a porcelain stove; on the walls, which were covered
with a bottle-green paper, were four engravings bought at auction. In
the dining-room were two sideboards, two cages full of birds, a table
covered with oil-cloth, a barometer, a window-door which opened on the
hanging gardens, and chairs of dark mahogany covered with horse-hair.
The salon had little curtains of some old green-silk stuff, and
furniture of painted white-wood covered with green worsted velvet. As
to the chamber of the old celibate it was furnished with Louis XV.
articles, so dirty and disfigured through long usage that a woman
dressed in white would have been afraid of soiling herself by contact
with them. The chimney-piece was adorned by a clock with two columns,
between which was a dial-case that served as a pedestal to Pallas
brandishing her lance: a myth. The floor was covered with plates full
of scraps intended for the cats, on which there was much danger of
stepping. Above a chest of drawers in rosewood hung a portrait done in
pastel,--Molineux in his youth. There were also books, tables covered
with shabby green bandboxes, on a bracket a number of his deceased
canaries stuffed; and, finally, a chilly bed that might formerly have
belonged to a Carmelite.

              *     *     *     *     *

Cesar Birotteau was delighted with the extreme politeness of Molineux,
whom he found wrapped in a gray woollen dressing-gown, watching his
milk in a little metal heater on the edge of his fireplace, while his
coffee-grounds were boiling in a little brown earthenware jug from
which, every now and then, he poured a few drops into his coffee-pot.
The umbrella-man, anxious not to disturb his landlord, had gone to the
door to admit Birotteau. Molineux held the mayors and deputies of the
city of Paris in much esteem; he called them "my municipal officers."
At sight of the magistrate he rose, and remained standing, cap in
hand, until the great Birotteau was seated.

"No, monsieur; yes, monsieur; ah, monsieur, if I had known I should
have had the honor of receiving in the bosom of my humble _penates_ a
member of the municipality of Paris, believe me I should have made it
my duty to call upon you, although I am your landlord--or, on the
point of becoming so."

Birotteau made him a sign to put on his cap.

"No, I shall not; not until you are seated, and have replaced yours,
if you feel the cold. My room is chilly, the smallness of my means not
permitting--God grant your wishes!" he added, as Birotteau sneezed
while he felt in his pockets for the deeds. In presenting them to
Molineux Cesar remarked, to avoid all unnecessary delay, that Monsieur
Roguin had drawn them up.

"I do not dispute the legal talents of Monsieur Roguin, an old name
well-known in the notariat of Paris; but I have my own little customs,
I do my own business (an excusable hobby), and my notary is--"

"But this matter is very simple," said the perfumer, who was used to
the quick business methods of merchants.

"Simple!" cried Molineux. "Nothing is simple in such matters. Ah! you
are not a landlord, monsieur, and you may think yourself happy. If you
knew to what lengths of ingratitude tenants can go, and to what
precautions we are driven! Why, monsieur, I once had a tenant--"

And for a quarter an hour he recounted how a Monsieur Gendrin,
designer, had deceived the vigilance of his porter, Rue Saint-Honore.
Monsieur Gendrin had committed infamies worthy of Marat,--obscene
drawings at which the police winked. This Gendrin, a profoundly
immoral artist, had brought in women of bad lives, and made the
staircase intolerable,--conduct worthy of a man who made caricatures
of the government. And why such conduct? Because his rent had been
asked for on the 15th! Gendrin and Molineux were about to have a
lawsuit, for, though he did not pay, Gendrin insisted on holding the
empty appartement. Molineux received anonymous letters, no doubt from
Gendrin, which threatened him with assassination some night in the
passages about the Cour Batave.

"It has got to such a pass, monsieur," he said, winding up the tale,
"that monsieur the prefect of police, to whom I confided my trouble (I
profited by the occasion to drop him a few words on the modifications
which should be introduced into the laws to meet the case), has
authorized me to carry pistols for my personal safety."

The little old man got up and fetched the pistols.

"There they are!" he cried.

"But, monsieur, you have nothing to fear from me," said Birotteau,
looking at Cayron, and giving him a glance and a smile intended to
express pity for such a man.

Molineux detected it; he was mortified at such a look from an officer
of the municipality, whose duty it was to protect all persons under
his administration. In any one else he might have pardoned it, but in
Birotteau the deputy-mayor, never!

"Monsieur," he said in a dry tone, "an esteemed commercial judge, a
deputy-mayor, and an honorable merchant would not descend to such
petty meannesses,--for they are meannesses. But in your case there is
an opening through the wall which must be agreed to by your landlord,
Monsieur le comte de Grandville; there are stipulations to be made and
agreed upon about replacing the wall at the end of your lease. Besides
which, rents have hitherto been low, but they are rising; the Place
Vendome is looking up, the Rue Castiglione is to be built upon. I am
binding myself--binding myself down!"

"Let us come to a settlement," said Birotteau, amazed. "How much do
you want? I know business well enough to be certain that all your
reasons can be silenced by the superior consideration of money. Well,
how much is it?"

"That's only fair, monsieur the deputy. How much longer does your own
lease run?"

"Seven years," answered Birotteau.

"Think what my first floor will be worth in seven years!" said
Molineux. "Why, what would two furnished rooms let for in that
quarter?--more than two hundred francs a month perhaps! I am binding
myself--binding myself by a lease. The rent ought to be fifteen
hundred francs. At that price I will consent to the transfer of the
two rooms by Monsieur Cayron, here present," he said, with a sly wink
at the umbrella-man; "and I will give you a lease of them for seven
consecutive years. The costs of piercing the wall are to belong to
you; and you must procure the consent of Monsieur le comte de
Grandville and the cession of all his rights in the matter. You are
responsible for all damage done in making this opening. You will not
be expected to replace the wall yourself, that will be my business;
but you will at once pay me five hundred francs as an indemnity
towards it. We never know who may live or die, and I can't run after
anybody to get the wall rebuilt."

"Those conditions seem to me pretty fair," said Birotteau.

"Next," said Molineux. "You must pay me seven hundred and fifty
francs, _hic et hinc_, to be deducted from the last six months of your
lease; this will be acknowledged in the lease itself. Oh, I will
accept small bills for the value of the rent at any date you please! I
am prompt and square in business. We will agree that you are to close
up the door on my staircase (where you are to have no right of entry),
at your own cost, in masonry. Don't fear,--I shall ask you no
indemnity for that at the end of your lease; I consider it included in
the five hundred francs. Monsieur, you will find me just."

"We merchants are not so sharp," said the perfumer. "It would not be
possible to do business if we made so many stipulations."

"Oh, in business, that is very different, especially in perfumery,
where everything fits like a glove," said the old fellow with a sour
smile; "but when you come to letting houses in Paris, nothing is
unimportant. Why, I have a tenant in the Rue Montorgeuil who--"

"Monsieur," said Birotteau, "I am sorry to detain you from your
breakfast: here are the deeds, correct them. I agree to all that you
propose, we will sign them to-morrow; but to-day let us come to an
agreement by word of mouth, for my architect wants to take possession
of the premises in the morning."

"Monsieur," resumed Molineux with a glance at the umbrella-merchant,
"part of a quarter has expired; Monsieur Cayron would not wish to pay
it; we will add it to the rest, so that your lease may run from
January to January. It will be more in order."

"Very good," said Birotteau.

"And the five per cent for the porter--"

"But," said Birotteau, "if you deprive me of the right of entrance,
that is not fair."

"Oh, you are a tenant," said little Molineux, peremptorily, up in arms
for the principle. "You must pay the tax on doors and windows and your
share in all the other charges. If everything is clearly understood
there will be no difficulty. You must be doing well, monsieur; your
affairs are prospering?"

"Yes," said Birotteau. "But my motive is, I may say, something
different. I assemble my friends as much to celebrate the emancipation
of our territory as to commemorate my promotion to the order of the
Legion of honor--"

"Ah! ah!" said Molineux, "a recompense well-deserved!"

"Yes," said Birotteau, "possibly I showed myself worthy of that signal
and royal favor by my services on the Bench of commerce, and by
fighting for the Bourbons upon the steps of Saint-Roch on the 13th
Vendemiaire. These claims--"

"Are equal to those of our brave soldiers of the old army. The ribbon
is red, for it is dyed with their blood."

At these words, taken from the "Constitutionnel," Birotteau could not
keep from inviting little Molineux to the ball, who thanked him
profusely and felt like forgiving the disdainful look. The old man
conducted his new tenant as far as the landing, and overwhelmed him
with politeness. When Birotteau reached the middle of the Cour Batave
he gave Cayron a merry look.

"I did not think there could exist such--weak beings!" he said, with
difficulty keeping back the word _fools_.

"Ah, monsieur," said Cayron, "it is not everybody that has your

Birotteau might easily believe himself a superior being in the
presence of Monsieur Molineux; the answer of the umbrella-man made him
smile agreeably, and he bowed to him with a truly royal air as they

"I am close by the Markets," thought Cesar; "I'll attend to the matter
of the nuts."

              *     *     *     *     *

After an hour's search, Birotteau, who was sent by the market-women to
the Rue de Lombards where nuts for sugarplums were to be found, heard
from his friend Matifat that the fruit in bulk was only to be had of a
certain Madame Angelique Madou, living in the Rue Perrin-Gasselin, the
sole establishment which kept the true filbert of Provence, and the
veritable white hazel-nut of the Alps.

The Rue Perrin-Gasselin is one of the narrow thoroughfares in a square
labyrinth enclosed by the quay, the Rue Saint-Denis, the Rue de la
Ferronnerie, and the Rue de la Monnaie; it is, as it were, one of the
entrails of the city. There swarm an infinite number of heterogeneous
and mixed articles of merchandise, evil-smelling and jaunty, herrings
and muslin, silks and honey, butter and gauze, and above all a number
of petty trades, of which Paris knows as little as a man knows of what
is going on in his pancreas, and which, at the present moment, had a
blood-sucker named Bidault, otherwise called Gigonnet, a money-lender,
who lived in the Rue Grenetat. In this quarter old stables were filled
with oil-casks, and the carriage-houses were packed with bales of
cotton. Here were stored in bulk the articles that were sold at retail
in the markets.

Madame Madou, formerly a fish-woman, but thrown, some ten years since,
into the dried-fruit trade by a liaison with the former proprietor of
her present business (an affair which had long fed the gossip of the
markets), had originally a vigorous and enticing beauty, now lost
however in a vast embonpoint. She lived on the lower floor of a yellow
house, which was falling to ruins, and was held together at each story
by iron cross-bars. The deceased proprietor had succeeded in getting
rid of all competitors, and had made his business a monopoly. In spite
of a few slight defects of education, his heiress was able to carry it
along, and take care of her stores, which were in coachhouses,
stables, and old workshops, where she fought the vermin with eminent
success. Not troubled with desk or ledgers, for she could neither read
nor write, she answered a letter with a blow of her fist, considering
it an insult. In the main she was a good woman, with a high-colored
face, and a foulard tied over her cap, who mastered with bugle voice
the wagoners when they brought the merchandise; such squabbles usually
ending in a bottle of the "right sort." She had no disputes with the
agriculturists who consigned her the fruit, for they corresponded in
ready money,--the only possible method of communication, to receive
which Mere Madou paid them a visit in the fine season of the year.

Birotteau found this shrewish trader among sacks of filberts, nuts,
and chestnuts.

"Good-morning, my dear lady," said Birotteau with a jaunty air.

"_Your_ dear!" she said. "Hey! my son, what's there agreeable between
us? Did we ever mount guard over kings and queens together?"

"I am a perfumer, and what is more I am deputy-mayor of the second
arrondissement; thus, as magistrate and as customer, I request you to
take another tone with me."

"I marry when I please," said the virago. "I don't trouble the mayor,
or bother his deputies. As for my customers, they adore me, and I talk
to 'em as I choose. If they don't like it, they can snake off

"This is the result of monopoly," thought Birotteau.

"Popole!--that's my godson,--he must have got into mischief. Have you
come about him, my worthy magistrate?" she said, softening her voice.

"No; I had the honor to tell you that I came as a customer."

"Well, well! and what's your name, my lad? Haven't seen you about
before, have I?"

"If you take that tone, you ought to sell your nuts cheap," said
Birotteau, who proceeded to give his name and all his distinctions.

"Ha! you're the Birotteau that's got the handsome wife. And how many
of the sweet little nuts may you want, my love?"

"Six thousand weight."

"That's all I have," said the seller, in a voice like a hoarse flute.
"My dear monsieur, you are not one of the sluggards who waste their
time on girls and perfumes. God bless you, you've got something to do!
Excuse me a bit. You'll be a jolly customer, dear to the heart of the
woman I love best in the world."

"Who is that?"

"Hey! the dear Madame Madou."

"What's the price of your nuts?"

"For you, old fellow, twenty-five francs a hundred, if you take them

"Twenty-five francs!" cried Birotteau. "Fifteen hundred francs! I
shall want perhaps a hundred thousand a year."

"But just look how fine they are; fresh as a daisy," she said,
plunging her red arm into a sack of filberts. "Plump, no empty ones,
my dear man. Just think! grocers sell their beggarly trash at
twenty-four sous a pound, and in every four pounds they put a pound of
_hollows_. Must I lose my profits to oblige you? You're nice enough,
but you don't please me all that! If you want so many, we might make a
bargain at twenty francs. I don't want to send away a deputy-mayor,
--bad luck to the brides, you know! Now, just handle those nuts; heavy,
aren't they? Less than fifty to the pound; no worms there, I can tell

"Well, then, send six thousand weight, for two thousand francs at
ninety days' sight, to my manufactory, Rue du Faubourg-du-Temple,
to-morrow morning early."

"You're in as great a hurry as a bride! Well, adieu, monsieur the
mayor; don't bear me a grudge. But if it is all the same to you," she
added, following Birotteau through the yard, "I would like your note
at forty days, because I have let you have them too cheap, and I don't
want to lose the discount. Pere Gigonnet may have a tender heart, but
he sucks the soul out of us as a spider sucks a fly."

"Well, then, fifty days. But they are to be weighed by the hundred
pounds, so that there may be no hollow ones. Without that, no

"Ah, the dog! he knows what he's about," said Madame Madou; "can't
make a fool of him! It is those rascals in the Rue des Lombards who
have put him up to that! Those big wolves are all in a pack to eat up
the innocent lambs."

This lamb was five feet high and three feet round, and she looked like
a mile-post, dressed in striped calico, without a belt.

The perfumer, lost in thought, was ruminating as he went along the Rue
Saint-Honore about his duel with Macassar Oil. He was meditating on
the labels and the shape of the bottles, discussing the quality of the
corks, the color of the placards. And yet people say there is no
poetry in commerce! Newton did not make more calculations for his
famous binomial than Birotteau made for his Comagene Essence,--for by
this time the Oil had subsided into an Essence, and he went from one
description to the other without observing any difference. His head
spun with his computations, and he took the lively activity of its
emptiness for the substantial work of real talent. He was so
preoccupied that he passed the turn leading to his uncle's house in
the Rue des Bourdonnais, and had to return upon his steps.


Claude-Joseph Pillerault, formerly an iron-monger at the sign of the
Cloche d'Or, had one of those faces whose beauty shines from the inner
to the outer; about him all things harmonized,--dress and manners,
mind and heart, thought and speech, words and acts. He was the sole
relation of Madame Birotteau, and had centred all his affections upon
her and upon Cesarine, having lost, in the course of his commercial
career, his wife and son, and also an adopted child, the son of his
house-keeper. These heavy losses had driven the good man into a kind
of Christian stoicism,--a noble doctrine, which gave life to his
existence, and colored his latter days with the warm, and at the same
time chilling, tones which gild the sunsets of winter. His head, thin
and hollowed and swarthy, with ochre and bistre tints harmoniously
blended, offered a striking likeness to that which artists bestow on
Time, though it vulgarized it; for the habits of commercial life
lowered the stern and monumental character which painters, sculptors,
and clock-makers exaggerate. Of medium height, Pillerault was more
thick-set than stout; Nature had built him for hard work and long
life; his broad shoulders showed a strong frame; he was dry by
temperament, and his skin had, as it were, no emotions, though it was
not insensible. Little demonstrative, as was shown by his composed
face and quiet attitude, the old man had an inward calm not expressed
in phrases nor by emphasis. His eye, the pupil of which was green,
mingled with black lines, was remarkable for its unalterable
clearness. His forehead, wrinkled in straight lines and yellowed by
time, was small and narrow, hard, and crowned with silver-gray hair
cut so short that it looked like felt. His delicate mouth showed
prudence, but not avarice. The vivacity of his eye showed the purity
of his life. Integrity, a sense of duty, and true modesty made, as it
were, a halo round his head, bringing his face into the relief of a
sound and healthful existence.

For sixty years he had led the hard and sober life of a determined
worker. His history was like Cesar's, except in happiness. A clerk
till thirty years of age, his property was all in his business at the
time when Cesar put his savings into the Funds; he had suffered, like
others, under the Maximum, and the pickaxes and other implements of
his trade had been requisitioned. His reserved and judicious nature,
his forethought and mathematical reflection, were seen in his methods
of work. The greater part of his business was conducted by word of
mouth, and he seldom encountered difficulties. Like all thoughtful
people he was a great observer; he let people talk, and then studied
them. He often refused advantageous bargains on which his neighbors
pounced; later, when they regretted them, they declared that
Pillerault had "a nose for swindlers." He preferred small and certain
gains to bold strokes which put large sums of money in jeopardy. He
dealt in cast-iron chimney backs, gridirons, coarse fire-dogs, kettles
and boilers in cast or wrought iron, hoes, and all the agricultural
implements of the peasantry. This line, which was sufficiently
unremunerative, required an immense mechanical toil. The gains were
not in proportion to the labor; the profits on such heavy articles,
difficult to move and expensive to store, were small. He himself had
nailed up many a case, packed and unpacked many a bale, unloaded many
a wagon. No fortune was ever more nobly won, more legitimate or more
honorable, than his. He had never overcharged or sought to force a
bargain. In his latter business days he might be seen smoking his pipe
before the door of his shop looking at the passers-by, and watching
his clerks as they worked. In 1814, the period at which he retired
from business, his fortune consisted, in the first place, of seventy
thousand francs, which he placed in the public Funds, and from which
he derived an income of five thousand and some odd hundred francs a
year; next of forty thousand francs, the value of his business, which
he had sold to one of his clerks; this sum was to be paid in full at
the end of five years, without interest. Engaged for thirty years in a
business which amounted to a hundred thousand francs a year, he had
made about seven per cent profit on the amount, and his living had
absorbed one half of that profit. Such was his record. His neighbors,
little envious of such mediocrity, praised his excellence without
understanding it.

At the corner of the Rue de la Monnaie and the Rue Saint-Honore is the
cafe David, where a few old merchants, like Pillerault, take their
coffee in the evenings. There, the adoption of the son of his cook had
been the subject of a few jests, such as might be addressed to a man
much respected, for the iron-monger inspired respectful esteem, though
he never sought it; his inward self-respect sufficed him. So when he
lost the young man, two hundred friends followed the body to the
cemetery. In those days he was heroic. His sorrow, restrained like
that of all men who are strong without assumption, increased the
sympathy felt in his neighborhood for the "worthy man,"--a term
applied to Pillerault in a tone which broadened its meaning and
ennobled it. The sobriety of Claude Pillerault, long become a habit,
did not yield before the pleasures of an idle life when, on quitting
his business, he sought the rest which drags down so many of the
Parisian bourgeoisie. He kept up his former ways of life, and
enlivened his old age by convictions and interests, which belonged, we
must admit, to the extreme Left. Pillerault belonged to that
working-men's party which the Revolution had fused with the bourgeoisie.
The only blot upon his character was the importance he attached to the
triumph of that party; he held to all the rights, to the liberty, and
to the fruits of the Revolution; he believed that his peace of mind
and his political stability were endangered by the Jesuits, whose
secret power was proclaimed aloud by the Liberals, and menaced by the
principles with which the "Constitutionnel" endowed Monsieur. He was
quite consistent in his life and ideas; there was nothing narrow about
his politics; he never insulted his adversaries, he dreaded courtiers
and believed in republican virtues; he thought Manuel a pure man,
General Foy a great one, Casimir Perier without ambition, Lafayette a
political prophet, and Courier a worthy fellow. He had indeed some
noble chimeras. The fine old man lived a family life; he went about
among the Ragons, his niece Birotteau, the judge Popinot, Joseph
Lebas, and his friend Matifat. Fifteen hundred francs a year sufficed
for all his personal wants. As to the rest of his income he spent it
on good deeds, and in presents to his great-niece; he gave a dinner
four times a year to his friends, at Roland's, Rue du Hasard, and took
them afterwards to the theatre. He played the part of those old
bachelors on whom married women draw at sight for their amusements,--a
country jaunt, the opera, the Montagnes-Beaujon, _et caetera_.
Pillerault was made happy by the pleasure he gave; his joys were in
the hearts of others. Though he had sold his business, he did not wish
to leave the neighborhood to which all his habits tied him; and he
took a small appartement of three rooms in the Rue des Bourdonnais on
the fourth floor of an old house.

Just as the moral nature of Molineux could be seen in his strange
interior, the pure and simple life of Pillerault was revealed by the
arrangements of his modest home, consisting of an antechamber, a
sitting-room, and a bed-room. Judged by dimensions, it was the cell of
a Trappist. The antechamber, with a red-tiled floor, had only one
window, screened by a cambric curtain with a red border; mahogany
chairs, covered with reddish sheep's leather put on with gilt nails,
walls hung with an olive-green paper, and otherwise decorated with the
American Declaration of Independence, a portrait of Bonaparte as First
Consul, and a representation of the battle of Austerlitz. The salon,
decorated undoubtedly by an upholsterer, had a set of furniture with
arched tops covered in yellow, a carpet, chimney ornaments of bronze
without gilding, a painted chimney-board, a console bearing a vase of
flowers under a glass case, a round table covered with a cloth, on
which stood a liqueur-stand. The newness of this room proclaimed a
sacrifice made by the old man to the conventions of the world; for he
seldom received any one at home. In his bedroom, as plain as that of a
monk or an old soldier (the two men best able to estimate life), a
crucifix with a basin of holy-water first caught the eye. This
profession of faith in a stoical old republican was strangely moving
to the heart of a spectator.

An old woman came to do his household work; but his respect for women
was so great that he would not let her black his boots, and he
subscribed to a boot-black for that service. His dress was simple, and
invariably the same. He wore a coat and trousers of dark-blue cloth, a
waistcoat of some printed cotton fabric, a white cravat, high shoes,
and on gala days he put on a coat with brass buttons. His habits of
rising, breakfasting, going out, dining, his evening resorts, and his
returning hours were all stamped with the strictest punctuality; for
regular habits are the secret of long life and sound health. Politics
never came to the surface in his intercourse with Cesar, the Ragons,
or the Abbe Loraux; for the good people of that circle knew each other
too well to care to enter the region of proselytism. Like his nephew
and like the Ragons, he put implicit confidence in Roguin. To his mind
the notary was a being worthy of veneration,--the living image of
probity. In the affair of the lands about the Madeleine, Pillerault
had undertaken a private examination, which was the real cause of the
boldness with which Cesar had combated his wife's presentiments.

The perfumer went up the seventy-eight stairs which led to the little
brown door of his uncle's appartement, thinking as he went that the
old man must be very hale to mount them daily without complaining. He
found a frock-coat and pair of trousers hanging on the hat-stand
outside the door. Madame Vaillant brushed and cleaned them while this
genuine philosopher, wrapped in a gray woollen garment, breakfasted in
his chimney-corner and read the parliamentary debates in the
"Constitutionnel" or the "Journal du Commerce."

"Uncle," said Cesar, "the matter is settled; they are drawing up their
deeds; but you have any fears or regrets, there is still time to give
it up."

"Why should I give it up? The thing is good; though it may be a long
time before we realize anything, like all safe investments. My fifty
thousand francs are in the bank. I received yesterday the last
instalment, five thousand francs, from my business. As for the Ragons,
they have put their whole fortune into the affair."

"How do they contrive to life?"

"Never mind how; they do live."

"Uncle, I understand!" said Birotteau, deeply moved, pressing the hand
of the austere old man.

"How is the affair arranged?" asked Pillerault, brusquely.

"I am in for three eighths, you and the Ragons for one eighth. I shall
credit you for that on my books until the question of registration is

"Good! My boy, you must be getting rich to put three hundred thousand
francs into it. It seems to me you are risking a good deal outside of
your business. Won't the business suffer? However, that is your
affair. If you get a set-back, why the Funds are at eighty, and I
could sell two thousand francs worth of my consolidated stock. But
take care, my lad; for if you have to come upon me, it will be your
daughter's fortune that you will take."

"Ah! my uncle, how simply you say things! You touch my heart."

"General Foy was touching mine in quite another fashion just now.
Well, go on; settle the business; lands can't fly away. We are getting
them at half price. Suppose we do have to wait six years, there will
always be some returns; there are wood-yards which will bring in a
rent. We can't really lose anything. There is but one chance against
us. Roguin might run off with the money."

"My wife told me so this very night. She fears--"

"That Roguin will carry off our funds?" said Pillerault, laughing.
"Pray, why?"

"She says there is too much in his nose; and like men who can't have
women, he is furious to--"

With a smile of incredulity, Pillerault tore a strip from a little
book, wrote down an amount, and signed the paper.

"There," said he, "there's a cheque on the Bank of France for a
hundred thousand francs for the Ragons and for me. Those poor folks
have just sold to your scoundrel of a du Tillet their fifteen shares
in the mines at Wortschin to make up the amount. Worthy people in
trouble,--it wrings my heart; and such good, noble souls, the very
flower of the old bourgeoisie! Their brother, Popinot, the judge,
knows nothing about it; they hid it from him so that he may not feel
obliged to give up his other works of charity. People who have worked,
like me, for forty years!"

"God grant that the Oil of Comagene may triumph!" cried Birotteau. "I
shall be doubly happy. Adieu; come and dine on Sunday with the Ragons,
Roguin, and Monsieur Claparon. We shall sign the papers the day after
to-morrow, for to-morrow is Friday, you know, and I shouldn't like--"

"You don't surely give in to such superstitions?"

"Uncle, I shall never believe that the day on which the Son of God was
put to death by man can be a fortunate day. Why, we ourselves stop all
business on the twenty-first of January."

"On Sunday, then," said Pillerault brusquely.

"If it were not for his political opinions," thought Birotteau as he
went down stairs, "I don't believe he would have his equal here below.
What are politics to him? He would be just as well off if he never
thought of them. His obstinacy in that direction only shows that there
can't be a perfect man."

"Three o'clock already!" cried Cesar, as he got back to "The Queen of

"Monsieur, do you mean to take these securities?" asked Celestin,
showing him the notes of the umbrella-maker.

"Yes; at six per cent, without commission. Wife, get my dressing
things all ready; I am going to see Monsieur Vauquelin,--you know why.
A white cravat, of course."

Birotteau gave a few orders to the clerks. Not seeing Popinot, he
concluded that his future partner had gone to dress; and he went gaily
up to his room, where the Dresden Madonna, magnificently framed
according to his orders, awaited him.

"Hey! that's pretty," he said to his daughter.

"Papa, you must say beautiful, or people will laugh at you."

"Upon my word! a daughter who scolds her father! Well, well! To my
taste I like Hero and Leander quite as much. The Virgin is a religious
subject, suitable for a chapel; but Hero and Leander, ah! I shall buy
it, for that flask of oil gave me an idea--"

"Papa, I don't know what you are talking about."

"Virginie! a hackney-coach!" cried Cesar, in stentorian tones, as soon
as he had trimmed his beard and seen little Popinot appear, who was
dragging his foot timidly because Cesarine was there.

The lover had never yet perceived that his infirmity no longer existed
in the eyes of his mistress. Delicious sign of love!--which they on
whom chance has inflicted a bodily imperfection can alone obtain.

"Monsieur," he said, "the press will be ready to work to-morrow."

"Why, what's the matter, Popinot?" asked Cesar, as he saw Anselme

"Monsieur, it is the joy of having found a shop, a back-shop, kitchen,
chambers above them, and store-rooms,--all for twelve hundred francs a
year, in the Rue des Cinq-Diamants."

"We must take a lease of eighteen years," said Birotteau. "But let us
start for Monsieur Vauquelin's. We can talk as we go."

Cesar and Popinot got into the hackney-coach before the eyes of the
astonished clerks, who did not know what to make of these gorgeous
toilets and the abnormal coach, ignorant as they were of the great
project revolving in the mind of the master of "The Queen of Roses."

"We are going to hear the truth about nuts," said Cesar, half to

"Nuts?" said Popinot.

"There you have my secret," said the perfumer. "I've let loose the
word _nuts_,--all is there. The oil of nuts is the only oil that has
any real effect upon hair. No perfumer has ever dreamed of it. I saw
an engraving of Hero and Leander, and I said to myself, If the
ancients used all that oil on their heads they had some reason for it;
for the ancients are the ancients, in spite of all the moderns may
say; I stand by Boileau about the ancients. I took my departure from
that point and got the oil of nuts, thanks to your relation, little
Bianchon the medical student; he told me that at school his comrades
used nut oil to promote the growth of their whiskers and mustachios.
All we need is the approval of Monsieur Vauquelin; enlightened by his
science, we shall mislead the public. I was in the markets just now,
talking to a seller of nuts, so as to get hold of the raw material,
and now I am about to meet one of the greatest scientific men in
France, to get at the quintessence of that commodity. Proverbs are no
fools; extremes meet. Now see, my boy, commerce is the intermediary
between the productions of the vegetable kingdom and science.
Angelique Madou gathers, Monsieur Vauquelin extracts, we sell an
essence. Nuts are worth five sous a pound, Monsieur Vauquelin will
increase their value one hundredfold, and we shall, perhaps, do a
service to humanity; for if vanity is the cause of the greatest
torments of mankind, a good cosmetic becomes a benefaction."

The religious admiration with which Popinot listened to the father of
Cesarine stimulated Birotteau's eloquence, who allowed himself to
expatiate in phrases which certainly were extremely wild for a

"Be respectful, Anselme," he said, as they reached the street where
Monsieur Vauquelin lived, "we are about to enter the sanctuary of
science. Put the Virgin in full sight, but not ostentatiously, in the
dining-room, on a chair. Pray heaven, I may not get mixed up in what I
have to say!" cried Cesar, naively. "Popinot, this man has a chemical
effect upon me; his voice heats my stomach, and even gives me a slight
colic. He is my benefactor, and in a few moments he will be yours."

These words struck Popinot with a cold chill, and he began to step as
if he were walking on eggs, looking nervously at the wall. Monsieur
Vauquelin was in his study when Birotteau was announced. The
academician knew that the perfumer and deputy-mayor was high in favor,
and he admitted him.

"You do not forget me in the midst of your distinctions," he said,
"there is only a hand's-breadth, however, between a chemist and a

"Ah, monsieur! between your genius and the plainness of a man like me
there is infinity. I owe to you what you call my distinctions: I shall
never forget it in this world, nor in the next."

"Oh! in the next they say we shall be all alike, kings and cobblers."

"Provided kings and cobblers lead a holy life here below," said

"Is that your son?" asked Vauquelin, looking at little Popinot, who
was amazed at not seeing anything extraordinary in the sanctum, where
he expected to find monstrosities, gigantic engines, flying-machines,
and material substances all alive.

"No, monsieur, but a young man whom I love, and who comes to ask a
kindness equal to your genius,--and that is infinite," said Cesar with
shrewd courtesy. "We have come to consult you, a second time, on an
important matter, about which I am ignorant as a perfumer can be."

"Let me hear what it is."

"I know that hair has lately occupied all your vigils, and that you
have given yourself up to analyzing it; while you have thought of
glory, I have thought of commerce."

"Dear Monsieur Birotteau, what is it you want of me,--the analysis of
hair?" He took up a little paper. "I am about to read before the
Academy of Sciences a monograph on that subject. Hair is composed of a
rather large quantity of mucus, a small quantity of white oil, a great
deal of greenish oil, iron, a few atoms of oxide of manganese, some
phosphate of lime, a tiny quantity of carbonate of lime, a little
silica, and a good deal of sulphur. The differing proportions of these
component parts cause the differences in the color of the hair. Red
hair, for instance, has more greenish oil than any other."

Cesar and Popinot opened their eyes to a laughable extent.

"Nine things!" cried Birotteau. "What! are there metals and oils in
hair? Unless I heard it from you, a man I venerate, I could not
believe it. How amazing! God is great, Monsieur Vauquelin."

"Hair is produced by a follicular organ," resumed the great chemist,
--"a species of pocket, or sack, open at both extremities. By one end
it is fastened to the nerves and the blood vessels; from the other
springs the hair itself. According to some of our scientific
brotherhood, among them Monsieur Blainville, the hair is really a dead
matter expelled from that pouch, or crypt, which is filled with a
species of pulp."

"Then hair is what you might call threads of sweat!" cried Popinot, to
whom Cesar promptly administered a little kick on his heels.

Vauquelin smiled at Popinot's idea.

"He knows something, doesn't he?" said Cesar, looking at Popinot.
"But, monsieur, if the hair is still-born, it is impossible to give it
life, and I am lost! my prospectus will be ridiculous. You don't know
how queer the public is; you can't go and tell it--"

"That it has got manure upon its head," said Popinot, wishing to make
Vauquelin laugh again.

"Cephalic catacombs," said Vauquelin, continuing the joke.

"My nuts are bought!" cried Birotteau, alive to the commercial loss.
"If this is so why do they sell--"

"Don't be frightened," said Vauquelin, smiling, "I see it is a
question of some secret about making the hair grow or keeping it from
turning gray. Listen! this is my opinion on the subject, as the result
of my studies."

Here Popinot pricked up his ears like a frightened hare.

"The discoloration of this substance, be it living or dead, is, in my
judgment, produced by a check to the secretion of the coloring matter;
which explains why in certain cold climates the fur of animals loses
all color and turns white in winter."

"Hein! Popinot."

"It is evident," resumed Vauquelin, "that alterations in the color of
the hair come from changes in the circumjacent atmosphere--"

"Circumjacent, Popinot! recollect, hold fast to that," cried Cesar.

"Yes," said Vauquelin, "from hot and cold changes, or from internal
phenomena which produce the same effect. Probably headaches and other
cephalagic affections absorb, dissipate, or displace the generating
fluids. However, the interior of the head concerns physicians. As for
the exterior, bring on your cosmetics."

"Monsieur," said Birotteau, "you restore me to life! I have thought of
selling an oil of nuts, believing that the ancients made use of that
oil for their hair; and the ancients are the ancients, as you know: I
agree with Boileau. Why did the gladiators oil themselves--"

"Olive oil is quite as good as nut oil," said Vauquelin, who was not
listening to Birotteau. "All oil is good to preserve the bulb from
receiving injury to the substances working within it, or, as we should
say in chemistry, in liquefaction. Perhaps you are right; Dupuytren
told me the oil of nuts had a stimulating property. I will look into
the differences between the various oils, beech-nut, colza, olive, and
hazel, etc."

"Then I am not mistaken," cried Birotteau, triumphantly. "I have
coincided with a great man. Macassar is overthrown! Macassar,
monsieur, is a cosmetic given--that is, sold, and sold dear--to make
the hair grow."

"My dear Monsieur Birotteau," said Vauquelin, "there are not two
ounces of Macassar oil in all Europe. Macassar oil has not the
slightest action upon the hair; but the Malays buy it up for its
weight in gold, thinking that it preserves the hair: they don't know
that whale-oil is just as good. No power, chemical, or divine--"

"Divine! oh, don't say that, Monsieur Vauquelin."

"But, my dear monsieur, the first law of God is to be consistent with
Himself; without unity, no power--"

"Ah! in that light--"

"No power, as I say, can make the hair grow on bald heads; just as you
can never dye, without serious danger, red or white hair. But in
advertising the benefits of oil you commit no mistake, you tell no
falsehood, and I think that those who use it will probably preserve
their hair."

"Do you think that the royal Academy of Sciences would approve of--"

"Oh! there is no discovery in all that," said Vauquelin. "Besides,
charlatans have so abused the name of the Academy that it would not
help you much. My conscience will not allow me to think the oil of
nuts a prodigy."

"What would be the best way to extract it; by pressure, or decoction?"
asked Birotteau.

"Pressure between two hot slabs will cause the oil to flow more
abundantly; but if obtained by pressure between cold slabs it will be
of better quality. It should be applied to the skin itself," added
Vauquelin, kindly, "and not to the hair; otherwise the effect might be

"Recollect all that, Popinot," said Birotteau, with an enthusiasm that
sent a glow into his face. "You see before you, monsieur, a young man
who will count this day among the finest in his life. He knew you, he
venerated you, without ever having seen you. We often talk of you in
our home: a name that is in the heart is often on the lips. We pray
for you every day, my wife and daughter and I, as we ought to pray for
our benefactor."

"Too much for so little," said Vauquelin, rather bored by the voluble
gratitude of the perfumer.

"Ta, ta, ta!" exclaimed Birotteau, "you can't prevent our loving you,
you who will take nothing from us. You are like the sun; you give
light, and those whom you illuminate can give you nothing in return."

The man of science smiled and rose; the perfumer and Popinot rose

"Anselme, look well at this room. You permit it, monsieur? Your time
is precious, I know, but he will never have another opportunity."

"Well, have you got all you wanted?" said Vauquelin to Birotteau.
"After all, we are both commercial men."

"Pretty nearly, monsieur," said Birotteau, retreating towards the
dining-room, Vauquelin following. "But to launch our Comagene Essence
we need a good foundation--"

"'Comagene' and 'Essence' are two words that clash. Call your cosmetic
'Oil of Birotteau'; or, if you don't want to give your name to the
world, find some other. Why, there's the Dresden Madonna! Ah, Monsieur
Birotteau, do you mean that we shall quarrel?"

"Monsieur Vauquelin," said the perfumer, taking the chemist's hand.
"This treasure has no value except the time that I have spent in
finding it. We had to ransack all Germany to find it on China paper
before lettering. I knew that you wished for it and that your
occupations did not leave you time to search for it; I have been your
commercial traveller, that is all. Accept therefore, not a paltry
engraving, but efforts, anxieties, despatches to and fro, which are
the evidence of my complete devotion. Would that you had wished for
something growing on the sides of precipices, that I might have sought
it and said to you, 'Here it is!' Do not refuse my gift. We have so
much reason to be forgotten; allow me therefore to place myself, my
wife, my daughter, and the son-in-law I expect to have, beneath your
eyes. You must say when you look at the Virgin, 'There are some people
in the world who are thinking of me.'"

"I accept," said Vauquelin.

Popinot and Birotteau wiped their eyes, so affected were they by the
kindly tone in which the academician uttered the words.

"Will you crown your goodness?" said the perfumer.

"What's that?" exclaimed Vauquelin.

"I assemble my friends"--he rose from his heels, taking, nevertheless,
a modest air--"as much to celebrate the emancipation of our territory
as to commemorate my promotion to the order of the Legion of honor--"

"Ah!" exclaimed Vauquelin, surprised.

"Possibly I showed myself worthy of that signal and royal favor, by my
services on the Bench of commerce, and by fighting for the Bourbons
upon the steps of Saint-Roch, on the 13th Vendemiaire, where I was
wounded by Napoleon. My wife gives a ball, three weeks from Sunday;
pray come to it, monsieur. Do us the honor to dine with us on that
day. Your presence would double the happiness with which I receive my
cross. I will write you beforehand."

"Well, yes," said Vauquelin.

"My heart swells with joy!" cried the perfumer, when he got into the
street. "He comes to my house! I am afraid I've forgotten what he said
about hair: do you remember it, Popinot!"

"Yes, monsieur; and twenty years hence I shall remember it still."

"What a great man! what a glance, what penetration!" said Birotteau.
"Ah! he made no bones about it; he guessed our thoughts at the first
word; he has given us the means of annihilating Macassar oil. Yes!
nothing can make the hair grow; Macassar, you lie! Popinot, our
fortune is made. We'll go to the manufactory to-morrow morning at
seven o'clock; the nuts will be there, and we will press out some oil.
It is all very well for him to say that any oil is good; if the public
knew that, we should be lost. If we didn't put some scent and the name
of nuts into the oil, how could we sell it for three or four francs
the four ounces?"

"You are about to be decorated, monsieur?" said Popinot, "what glory

"Commerce; that is true, my boy."

Cesar's triumphant air, as if certain of fortune, was observed by
the clerks, who made signs at each other; for the trip in the
hackney-coach, and the full dress of the cashier and his master had
thrown them all into the wildest regions of romance. The mutual
satisfaction of Cesar and Anselme, betrayed by looks diplomatically
exchanged, the glance full of hope which Popinot cast now and then at
Cesarine, proclaimed some great event and gave color to the conjectures
of the clerks. In their busy and half cloistral life the smallest
events have the interest which a prisoner feels in those of his prison.
The bearing of Madame Cesar, who replied to the Olympian looks of her
lord with an air of distrust, seemed to point to some new enterprise;
for in ordinary times Madame Cesar, delighted with the smallest routine
success, would have shared his contentment. It happened, accidentally,
that the receipts for the day amounted to more than six thousand
francs; for several outstanding bills chanced to be paid.

The dining-room and the kitchen, lighted from a little court, and
separated from the dining-room by a passage, from which the staircase,
taken out of a corner of the backshop, opened up, was on the
_entresol_ where in former days Cesar and Constance had their
appartement; in fact, the dining-room, where the honey-moon had been
passed, still wore the look of a little salon. During dinner Raguet,
the trusty boy of all work, took charge of the shop; but the clerks
came down when the dessert was put on table, leaving Cesar, his wife
and daughter to finish their dinner alone by the chimney corner. This
habit was derived from the Ragons, who kept up the old-fashioned
usages and customs of former commercial days, which placed an enormous
distance between the masters and the apprentices. Cesarine or
Constance then prepared for Birotteau his cup of coffee, which he took
sitting on a sofa by the corner of the fire. At this hour he told his
wife all the little events of the day, and related what he had seen in
the streets, what was going on in the Faubourg du Temple, and the
difficulties he had met with in the manufactory, _et caetera_.

"Wife," he said, when the clerks had gone down, "this is certainly one
of the most important days in our life! The nuts are bought, the
hydraulic press is ready to go to work, the land affair is settled.
Here, lock up that cheque on the Bank of France," he added, handing her
Pillerault's paper. "The improvements in the house are ordered, the
dignity of our appartement is about to be increased. Bless me! I saw,
down in the Cour Batave, a very singular man,"--and he told the tale
of Monsieur Molineux.

"I see," said his wife, interrupting him in the middle of a tirade,
"that you have gone in debt two hundred thousand francs."

"That is true, wife," said Cesar, with mock humility, "Good God, how
shall we pay them? It counts for nothing that the lands about the
Madeleine will some day become the finest quarter of Paris."

"Some day, Cesar!"

"Alas!" he said, going on with his joke, "my three eighths will only
be worth a million in six years. How shall I ever pay that two hundred
thousand francs?" said Cesar, with a gesture of alarm. "Well, we shall
be reduced to pay them with that," he added, pulling from his pocket a
nut, which he had taken from Madame Madou and carefully preserved.

He showed the nut between his fingers to Constance and Cesarine. His
wife was silent, but Cesarine, much puzzled, said to her father, as
she gave him his coffee, "What do you mean, papa,--are you joking?"

The perfumer, as well as the clerks, had detected during dinner the
glances which Popinot had cast at Cesarine, and he resolved to clear
up his suspicions.

"Well, my little daughter," he said, "this nut will revolutionize our
home. From this day forth there will be one person the less under my

Cesarine looked at her father with an eye which seemed to say, "What
is that to me?"

"Popinot is going away."

Though Cesar was a poor observer, and had, moreover, prepared his
phrase as much to herald the creation of the house of A. Popinot and
Company, as to set a trap for his daughter, yet his paternal
tenderness made him guess the confused feelings which rose in
Cesarine's heart, blossomed in roses on her cheek, suffused her
forehead and even her eyes as she lowered them. Cesar thought that
words must have passed between Cesarine and Popinot. He was mistaken;
the two children comprehended each other, like all timid lovers,
without a word.

Some moralists hold that love is an involuntary passion, the most
disinterested, the least calculating, of all the passions, except
maternal love. This opinion carries with it a vulgar error. Though the
majority of men may be ignorant of the causes of love, it is none the
less true that all sympathy, moral or physical, is based upon
calculations made either by the mind, or by sentiment or brutality.
Love is an essentially selfish passion. Self means deep calculation.
To every mind which looks only at results, it will seem at first sight
singular and unlikely that a beautiful girl like Cesarine should love
a poor lame fellow with red hair. Yet this phenomenon is completely in
harmony with the arithmetic of middle-class sentiments. To explain it,
would be to give the reason of marriages which are constantly looked
upon with surprise,--marriages between tall and beautiful women and
puny men, or between ugly little creatures and handsome men. Every man
who is cursed with some bodily infirmity, no matter what it is,
--club-feet, a halting-gait, a humped-back, excessive ugliness, claret
stains upon the cheek, Roguin's species of deformity, and other
monstrosities the result of causes beyond the control of the sufferer,
--has but two courses open to him: either he must make himself feared,
or he must practise the virtues of exquisite loving-kindness; he is not
permitted to float in the middle currents of average conduct which are
habitual to other men. If he takes the first course he probably has
talent, genius, or strength of will; a man inspires terror only by the
power of evil, respect by genius, fear through force of mind. If he
chooses the second course, he makes himself adored; he submits to
feminine tyranny, and knows better how to love than men of
irreproachable bodily condition.

Anselme, brought up by virtuous people, by the Ragons, models of the
honorable bourgeoisie, and by his uncle the judge, had been led,
through his ingenuous nature and his deep religious sentiments, to
redeem the slight deformity of his person by the perfection of his
character. Constance and Cesar, struck by these tendencies, so
attractive in youth, had repeatedly sung his praises before Cesarine.
Petty as they might be in many ways, husband and wife were noble by
nature, and understood the deep things of the heart. Their praises
found an echo in the mind of the young girl, who, despite her
innocence, had read in Anselme's pure eyes the violent feeling, which
is always flattering whatever be the lover's age, or rank, or personal
appearance. Little Popinot had far more reason to adore a woman than a
handsome man could ever have. If she were beautiful, he would love her
madly to her dying day; his fondness would inspire him with ambition;
he would sacrifice his own life that his wife's might be happy; he
would make her mistress of their home, and be himself the first to
accept her sway. Thus thought Cesarine, involuntarily perhaps, yet not
altogether crudely; she gave a bird's-eye glance at the harvest of
love in her own home, and reasoned by induction; the happiness of her
mother was before her eyes,--she wished for no better fate; her
instinct told her that Anselme was another Cesar, improved by his
education, as she had been improved by hers. She dreamed of Popinot as
mayor of an arrondissement, and liked to picture herself taking up the
collections in their parish church as her mother did at Saint-Roch.
She had reached the point of no longer perceiving the difference
between the left leg and the right leg of her lover, and was even
capable of saying, in all sincerity, "Does he limp?" She loved those
liquid eyes, and liked to watch the effect her own glance had upon
them, as they lighted up for a moment with a chaste flame, and then
fell, sadly.

Roguin's head-clerk, Alexandre Crottat, who was gifted with the
precocious experience which comes from knowledge acquired in a
lawyer's office, had an air and manner that was half cynical, half
silly, which revolted Cesarine, already disgusted by the trite and
commonplace character of his conversation. The silence of Popinot, on
the other hand, revealed his gentle nature; she loved the smile,
partly mournful, with which he listened to trivial vulgarities. The
silly nonsense which made him smile filled her with repulsion; they
were grave or gay in sympathy. This hidden vantage-ground did not
hinder Anselme from plunging into his work, and his indefatigable
ardor in it pleased Cesarine, for she guessed that when his comrades
in the shop said, "Mademoiselle Cesarine will marry Roguin's
head-clerk," the poor lame Anselme, with his red hair, did not despair
of winning her himself. A high hope is the proof of a great love.

"Where is he going?" asked Cesarine of her father, trying to appear

"He is to set up for himself in the Rue des Cinq-Diamants; and, my
faith! by the grace of God!" cried Cesar, whose exclamations were not
understood by his wife, nor by his daughter.

When Birotteau encountered a moral difficulty he did as the insects do
when there is an obstacle in their way,--he turned either to the right
or to the left. He therefore changed the conversation, resolving to
talk over Cesarine with his wife.

"I told all your fears and fancies about Roguin to your uncle, and he
laughed," he said to Constance.

"You should never tell what we say to each other!" cried Constance.
"That poor Roguin may be the best man in the world; he is fifty-eight
years old, and perhaps he thinks no longer of--"

She stopped short, seeing that Cesarine was listening attentively, and
made a sign to Cesar.

"Then I have done right to agree to the affair," said Birotteau.

"You are the master," she answered.

Cesar took his wife by the hands and kissed her brow; that answer
always conveyed her tacit assent to her husband's projects.

"Now, then," cried the perfumer, to his clerks, when he went back to
them, "the shop will be closed at ten o'clock. Gentlemen, lend a hand!
a great feat! We must move, during the night, all the furniture from
the first floor to the second floor. We shall have, as they say, to
put the little pots in the big pots, for my architect must have his
elbows free to-morrow morning--Popinot has gone out without my
permission," he cried, looking round and not seeing his cashier. "Ah,
true, he does not sleep here any more, I forget that. He is gone,"
thought Cesar, "either to write down Monsieur Vauquelin's ideas, or
else to hire the shop."

"We all know the cause of this household change," said Celestin,
speaking in behalf of the two other clerks and Raguet, grouped behind
him. "Is it allowable to congratulate monsieur upon an honor which
reflects its light upon the whole establishment? Popinot has told us
that monsieur--"

"Hey, hey! my children, it is all true. I have been decorated. I am
about to assemble my friends, not only to celebrate the emancipation
of our territory, but to commemorate my promotion to the order of the
Legion of honor. I may, possibly, have shown myself worthy of that
signal and royal favor by my services on the Bench of commerce, and by
fighting for the royal cause; which I defended--at your age--upon the
steps of Saint-Roch on the 13th Vendemiaire, and I give you my word
that Napoleon, called emperor, wounded me himself! wounded me in the
thigh; and Madame Ragon nursed me. Take courage! recompense comes to
every man. Behold, my sons! misfortunes are never wasted."

"They will never fight in the streets again," said Celestin.

"Let us hope so," said Cesar, who thereupon went off into an harangue
to the clerks, which he wound up by inviting them to the ball.

The vision of a ball inspired the three clerks, Raguet, and Virginie
the cook with an ardor that gave them the strength of acrobats. They
came and went up and down the stairs, carrying everything and breaking
nothing. By two o'clock in the morning the removal was effected. Cesar
and his wife slept on the second floor. Popinot's bedroom became that
of Celestin and the second clerk. On the third floor the furniture was
stored provisionally.

In the grasp of that magnetic ardor, produced by an influx of the
nervous fluid, which lights a brazier in the midriff of ambitious men
and lovers intent on high emprise, Popinot, so gentle and tranquil
usually, pawed the earth like a thoroughbred before the race, when he
came down into the shop after dinner.

"What's the matter with you?" asked Celestin.

"Oh, what a day! my dear fellow, what a day! I am set up in business,
and Monsieur Cesar is decorated."

"You are very lucky if the master helps you," said Celestin.

Popinot did not answer; he disappeared, driven by a furious wind,--the
wind of success.

"Lucky!" said one of the clerks, who was sorting gloves by the dozen,
to another who was comparing prices on the tickets. "Lucky! the master
has found out that Popinot is making eyes at Mademoiselle Cesarine,
and, as the old fellow is pretty clever, he gets rid of Anselme; it
would be difficult to refuse him point-blank, on account of his
relations. Celestin thinks the trick is luck or generosity!"


Anselme Popinot went down the Rue Saint-Honore and rushed along the
Rue des Deux-Ecus to seize upon a young man whom his commercial
_second-sight_ pointed out to him as the principal instrument of his
future fortune. Popinot the judge had once done a great service to the
cleverest of all commercial travellers, to him whose triumphant
loquacity and activity were to win him, in coming years, the title of
The Illustrious. Devoted especially to the hat-trade and the
_article-Paris_, this prince of travellers was called, at the time of
which we write, purely and simply, Gaudissart. At the age of twenty-two
he was already famous by the power of his commercial magnetism. In
those days he was slim, with a joyous eye, expressive face, unwearied
memory, and a glance that guessed the wants of every one; and he
deserved to be, what in fact he became, the king of commercial
travellers, the _Frenchman par excellence_. A few days earlier Popinot
had met Gaudissart, who mentioned that he was on the point of departure;
the hope of finding him still in Paris sent the lover flying into the
Rue des Deux-Ecus, where he learned that the traveller had engaged his
place at the Messageries-Royales. To bid adieu to his beloved capital,
Gaudissart had gone to see a new piece at the Vaudeville; Popinot
resolved to wait for him. Was it not drawing a cheque on fortune to
entrust the launching of the oil of nuts to this incomparable
steersman of mercantile inventions, already petted and courted by the
richest firms? Popinot had reason to feel sure of Gaudissart. The
commercial traveller, so knowing in the art of entangling that most
wary of human beings, the little provincial trader, had himself become
entangled in the first conspiracy attempted against the Bourbons after
the Hundred Days. Gaudissart, to whom the open firmament of heaven was
indispensable, found himself shut up in prison, under the weight of an
accusation for a capital offence. Popinot the judge, who presided at
the trial, released him on the ground that it was nothing worse than
his imprudent folly which had mixed him up in the affair. A judge
anxious to please the powers in office, or a rabid royalist, would
have sent the luckless traveller to the scaffold. Gaudissart, who
believed he owed his life to the judge, cherished the grief of being
unable to make his savior any other return than that of sterile
gratitude. As he could not thank a judge for doing justice, he went to
the Ragons and declared himself liege-vassal forever to the house of

While waiting about for Gaudissart, Anselme naturally went to look at
the shop in the Rue des Cinq-Diamants, and got the address of the
owner, for the purpose of negotiating a lease. As he sauntered through
the dusky labyrinth of the great market, thinking how to achieve a
rapid success, he suddenly came, in the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, upon a
rare chance, and one of good omen, with which he resolved to regale
Cesar on the morrow. Soon after, while standing about the door of the
Hotel du Commerce, at the end of the Rue des Deux-Ecus, about
midnight, he heard, in the far distance of the Rue de Grenelle, a
vaudeville chorus sung by Gaudissart, with a cane accompaniment
significantly rapped upon the pavement.

"Monsieur," said Anselme, suddenly appearing from the doorway, "two

"Eleven, if you like," said the commercial traveller, brandishing his
loaded cane over the aggressor.

"I am Popinot," said poor Anselme.

"Enough!" cried Gaudissart, recognizing him. "What do you need? Money?
--absent, on leave, but we can get it. My arm for a duel?--all is
yours, from my head to my heels," and he sang,--

  "Behold! behold!
  A Frenchman true!"

"Come and talk with me for ten minutes; not in your room,--we might be
overheard,--but on the Quai de l'Horloge; there's no one there at this
hour," said Popinot. "It is about something important."

"Exciting, hey? Proceed."

In ten minutes Gaudissart, put in possession of Popinot's secret, saw
its importance.

  "Come forth! perfumers, hair-dressers, petty retailers!"

sang Gaudissart, mimicking Lafon in the role of the Cid. "I shall grab
every shopkeeper in France and Navarre.--Oh, an idea! I was about to
start; I remain; I shall take commissions from the Parisian


"To strangle your rivals, simpleton! If I take their orders I can make
their perfidious cosmetics drink oil, simply by talking and working
for yours only. A first-rate traveller's trick! Ha! ha! we are the
diplomatists of commerce. Famous! As for your prospectus, I'll take
charge of that. I've got a friend--early childhood--Andoche Finot, son
of the hat-maker in the Rue du Coq, the old buffer who launched me
into travelling on hats. Andoche, who has a great deal of wit,--he got
it all out of the heads tiled by his father,--he is in literature; he
does the minor theatres in the 'Courrier des Spectacles.' His father,
an old dog chock-full of reasons for not liking wit, won't believe in
it; impossible to make him see that mind can be sold, sells itself in
fact: he won't believe in anything but the three-sixes. Old Finot
manages young Finot by famine. Andoche, a capable man, no fool,--I
don't consort with fools, except commercially,--Andoche makes epigrams
for the 'Fidele Berger,' which pays; while the other papers, for which
he works like a galley-slave, keep him down on his marrow-bones in the
dust. Are not they jealous, those fellows? Just the same in the
_article-Paris_! Finot wrote a superb comedy in one act for
Mademoiselle Mars, most glorious of the glorious!--ah, there's a woman
I love!--Well, in order to get it played he had to take it to the
Gaite. Andoche understands prospectuses, he worms himself into the
mercantile mind; and he's not proud, he'll concoct it for us gratis.
Damn it! with a bowl of punch and a few cakes we'll get it out of him;
for, Popinot, no nonsense! I am to travel on your commission without
pay: your competitors shall pay; I'll diddle it out of them. Let us
understand each other clearly. As for me, this triumph is an affair of
honor. My reward is to be best man at your wedding! I shall go to
Italy, Germany, England! I shall carry with me placards in all
languages, paste them everywhere, in villages, on doors of churches,
all the best spots I can find in provincial towns! The oil shall
sparkle, scintillate, glisten on every head. Ha! your marriage shall
not be a sham; we'll make it a pageant, colors flying! You shall have
your Cesarine, or my name shall not be ILLUSTRIOUS,--that is what Pere
Finot calls me for having got off his gray hats. In selling your oil I
keep to my own sphere, the human head; hats and oil are well-known
preservatives of the public hair."

Popinot returned to his aunt's house, where he was to sleep, in such a
fever, caused by his visions of success, that the streets seemed to
him to be running oil. He slept little, dreamed that his hair was
madly growing, and saw two angels who unfolded, as they do in
melodramas, a scroll on which was written "Oil Cesarine." He woke,
recollected the dream, and vowed to give the oil of nuts that sacred
name, accepting the sleeping fancy as a celestial mandate.

              *     *     *     *     *

Cesar and Popinot were at their work-shop in the Faubourg du Temple
the next morning long before the arrival of the nuts. While waiting
for Madame Madou's porters, Popinot triumphantly recounted his treaty
of alliance with Gaudissart.

"Have we indeed the illustrious Gaudissart? Then are we millionaires!"
cried the perfumer, extending his hand to his cashier with an air
which Louis XIV. must have worn when he received the Marechal de
Villars on his return from Denain.

"We have something besides," said the happy clerk, producing from his
pocket a bottle of a squat shape, like a pumpkin, and ribbed on the
sides. "I have found ten thousand bottles like that, all made ready to
hand, at four sous, and six months' credit."

"Anselme, said Birotteau, contemplating the wondrous shape of the
flask, "yesterday [here his tone of voice became solemn] in the
Tuileries,--yes, no later than yesterday,--you said to me, 'I will
succeed.' To-day I--I say to you, 'You will succeed.' Four sous! six
months! an unparalleled shape! Macassar trembles to its foundations!
Was I not right to seize upon the only nuts in Paris? Where did you
find these bottles?"

"I was waiting to speak to Gaudissart, and sauntering--"

"Just like me, when I found the Arab book," cried Birotteau.

"Coming down the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher, I saw in a wholesale glass
place, where they make blown glass and cases,--an immense place,--I
caught sight of this flask; it blinded my eyes like a sudden light; a
voice cried to me, 'Here's your chance!'"

"Born merchant! he shall have my daughter!" muttered Cesar.

"I went in; I saw thousands of these bottles packed in cases."

"You asked about them?"

"Do you think me such a ninny?" cried Anselme, in a grieved tone.

"Born merchant!" repeated Birotteau.

"I asked for glass cases for the little wax Jesus; and while I was
bargaining about them I found fault with the shape of the bottles.
From one thing to another, I trapped the man into admitting that
Faille and Bouchot, who lately failed, were starting a new cosmetic
and wanted a peculiar style of bottle; he was doubtful about them and
asked for half the money down. Faille and Bouchot, expecting to
succeed, paid the money; they failed while the bottles were making.
The assignees, when called upon to pay the bill, arranged to leave him
the bottles and the money in hand, as an indemnity for the manufacture
of articles thought to be ridiculous in shape, and quite unsalable.
They cost originally eight sous; he was glad to get rid of them for
four; for, as he said, God knows how long he might have on his hands a
shape for which there was no sale! 'Are you willing,' I said to him,
'to furnish ten thousand at four sous? If so, I may perhaps relieve
you of them. I am a clerk at Monsieur Birotteau's.' I caught him, I
led him, I mastered him, I worked him up, and he is all ours."

"Four sous!" said Birotteau. "Do you know that we could use oil at
three francs, and make a profit of thirty sous, and give twenty sous
discount to retailers?"

"Oil Cesarine!" cried Popinot.

"Oil Cesarine?--Ah, lover! would you flatter both father and daughter?
Well, well, so be it; Oil Cesarine! The Cesars owned the whole world.
They must have had fine hair."

"Cesar was bald," said Popinot.

"Because he never used our oil. Three francs for the Oil Cesarine,
while Macassar Oil costs double! Gaudissart to the fore! We shall make
a hundred thousand francs this year, for we'll pour on every head that
respects itself a dozen bottles a year,--eighteen francs; say eighteen
thousand heads,--one hundred and eighty thousand francs. We are

The nuts delivered, Raguet, the workmen, Popinot, and Cesar shelled a
sufficient quantity, and before four o'clock they had produced several
pounds of oil. Popinot carried the product to show to Vauquelin, who
made him a present of a recipe for mixing the essence of nuts with
other and less costly oleaginous substances, and scenting it. Popinot
went to work at once to take out a patent for the invention and all
improvements thereon. The devoted Gaudissart lent him the money to pay
the fees, for Popinot was ambitious to pay his share in the

Prosperity brings with it an intoxication which inferior men are
unable to resist. Cesar's exaltation of spirit had a result not
difficult to foresee. Grindot came, and presented a colored sketch of
a charming interior view of the proposed appartement. Birotteau,
seduced, agreed to everything; and soon the house, and the heart of
Constance, began to quiver under the blows of pick and hammer. The
house-painter, Monsieur Lourdois, a very rich contractor, who had
promised that nothing should be wanting, talked of gilding the salon.
On hearing that word Constance interposed.

"Monsieur Lourdois," she said, "you have an income of thirty thousand
francs, you occupy your own house, and you can do what you like to it;
but the rest of us--"

"Madame, commerce ought to shine and not permit itself to be kept in
the shade by the aristocracy. Besides, Monsieur Birotteau is in the
government; he is before the eyes of the world--"

"Yes, but he still keeps a shop," said Constance, in the hearing of
the clerks and the five persons who were listening to her. "Neither
he, nor I, nor his friends, nor his enemies will forget that."

Birotteau rose upon the points of his toes and fell back upon his
heels several times, his hands crossed behind him.

"My wife is right," he said; "we should be modest in prosperity.
Moreover, as long as a man is in business he should be careful of his
expenses, limited in his luxury; the law itself imposes the
obligation,--he must not allow himself 'excessive expenditures.' If
the enlargement of my home and its decoration were to go beyond due
limits, it would be wrong in me to permit it; you yourself would blame
me, Lourdois. The neighborhood has its eye upon me; successful men
incur jealousy, envy. Ah! you will soon know that, young man," he said
to Grindot; "if we are calumniated, at least let us give no handle to
the calumny."

"Neither calumny nor evil-speaking can touch you," said Lourdois;
"your position is unassailable. But your business habits are so strong
that you must argue over every enterprise; you are a deep one--"

"True, I have some experience in business. You know, of course, why I
make this enlargement? If I insist on punctuality in the completion of
the work, it is--"


"Well, my wife and I are about to assemble our friends, as much to
celebrate the emancipation of our territory as to commemorate my
promotion to the order of the Legion of honor--"

"What do you say?" said Lourdois, "have they given you the cross?"

"Yes; I may possibly have shown myself worthy of that signal royal
favor by my services on the Bench of commerce, and by fighting for the
Bourbons upon the steps of Saint-Roch, on the 13th Vendemiaire, where
I was wounded by Napoleon. Come to the ball, and bring your wife and

"Charmed with the honor you deign to pay me," said Lourdois (a
liberal). "But you are a deep one, Papa Birotteau; you want to make
sure that I shall not break my word,--that's the reason you invite me.
Well, I'll employ my best workmen; we'll build the fires of hell and
dry the paint. I must find some desiccating process; it would never do
to dance in a fog from the wet plaster. We will varnish it to hide the

Three days later the commercial circles of the quarter were in a
flutter at the announcement of Birotteau's ball. Everybody could see
for themselves the props and scaffoldings necessitated by the change
of the staircase, the square wooden funnels down which the rubbish was
thrown into the carts stationed in the street. The sight of men
working by torchlight--for there were day workmen and night workmen
--arrested all the idlers and busybodies in the street; gossip, based
on these preparations, proclaimed a sumptuous forthcoming event.

On Sunday, the day Cesar had appointed to conclude the affair of the
lands about the Madeleine, Monsieur and Madame Ragon, and uncle
Pillerault arrived about four o'clock, just after vespers. In view of
the demolition that was going on, so Cesar said, he could only invite
Charles Claparon, Crottat, and Roguin. The notary brought with him the
"Journal des Debats" in which Monsieur de la Billardiere had inserted
the following article:--

  "We learn that the deliverance of our territory will be feted with
  enthusiasm throughout France. In Paris the members of the
  municipal body feel that the time has come to restore the capital
  to that accustomed splendor which under a becoming sense of
  propriety was laid aside during the foreign occupation. The mayors
  and deputy-mayors each propose to give a ball; this national
  movement will no doubt be followed, and the winter promises to be
  a brilliant one. Among the fetes now preparing, the one most
  talked of is the ball of Monsieur Birotteau, lately named
  chevalier of the Legion of honor and well-known for his devotion
  to the royal cause. Monsieur Birotteau, wounded in the affair of
  Saint-Roch, judges in the department of commerce, and therefore
  has doubly merited this honor."

"How well they write nowadays," cried Cesar. "They are talking about
us in the papers," he said to Pillerault.

"Well, what of it?" answered his uncle, who had a special antipathy to
the "Journal des Debats."

"That article may help to sell the Paste of Sultans and the
Carminative Balm," whispered Madame Cesar to Madame Ragon, not sharing
the intoxication of her husband.

Madame Ragon, a tall woman, dry and wrinkled, with a pinched nose and
thin lips, bore a spurious resemblance to a marquise of the old court.
The circles round her eyes had spread to a wide circumference, like
those of elderly women who have known sorrow. The severe and
dignified, although affable, expression of her countenance inspired
respect. She had, withal, a certain oddity about her, which excited
notice, but never ridicule; and this was exhibited in her dress and
habits. She wore mittens, and carried in all weathers a cane sunshade,
like that used by Queen Marie-Antoinette at Trianon; her gown (the
favorite color was pale-brown, the shade of dead leaves) fell from her
hips in those inimitable folds the secret of which the dowagers of the
olden time have carried away with them. She retained the black
mantilla trimmed with black lace woven in large square meshes; her
caps, old-fashioned in shape, had the quaint charm which we see in
silhouettes relieved against a white background. She took snuff with
exquisite nicety and with the gestures which young people of the
present day who have had the happiness of seeing their grandmothers
and great-aunts replacing their gold snuff-boxes solemnly on the
tables beside them, and shaking off the grains which strayed upon
their kerchiefs, will doubtless remember.

The Sieur Ragon was a little man, not over five feet high, with a face
like a nut-cracker, in which could be seen only two eyes, two sharp
cheek-bones, a nose and a chin. Having no teeth he swallowed half his
words, though his style of conversation was effluent, gallant,
pretentious, and smiling, with the smile he formerly wore when he
received beautiful great ladies at the door of his shop. Powder, well
raked off, defined upon his cranium a nebulous half-circle, flanked by
two pigeon-wings, divided by a little queue tied with a ribbon. He
wore a bottle-blue coat, a white waistcoat, small-clothes and silk
stockings, shoes with gold buckles, and black silk gloves. The most
marked feature of his behavior was his habit of going through the
street holding his hat in his hand. He looked like a messenger of the
Chamber of Peers, or an usher of the king's bedchamber, or any of
those persons placed near to some form of power from which they get a
reflected light, though of little account themselves.

"Well, Birotteau," he said, with a magisterial air, "do you repent, my
boy, for having listened to us in the old times? Did we ever doubt the
gratitude of our beloved sovereigns?"

"You have been very happy, dear child," said Madame Ragon to Madame

"Yes, indeed," answered Constance, always under the spell of the cane
parasol, the butterfly cap, the tight sleeves, and the great kerchief
_a la Julie_ which Madame Ragon wore.

"Cesarine is charming. Come here, my love," said Madame Ragon, in her
shrill voice and patronizing manner.

"Shall we do the business before dinner?" asked uncle Pillerault.

"We are waiting for Monsieur Claparon," said Roguin, "I left him
dressing himself."

"Monsieur Roguin," said Cesar, "I hope you told him that we should
dine in a wretched little room on the _entresol_--"

"He thought it superb sixteen years ago," murmured Constance.

"--among workmen and rubbish."

"Bah! you will find him a good fellow, with no pretension," said

"I have put Raguet on guard in the shop. We can't go through our own
door; everything is pulled down."

"Why did you not bring your nephew?" said Pillerault to Madame Ragon.

"Shall we not see him?" asked Cesarine.

"No, my love," said Madame Ragon; "Anselme, dear boy, is working
himself to death. That bad-smelling Rue des Cinq-Diamants, without sun
and without air, frightens me. The gutter is always blue or green or
black. I am afraid he will die of it. But when a young man has
something in his head--" and she looked at Cesarine with a gesture
which explained that the word head meant heart.

"Has he got his lease?" asked Cesar.

"Yesterday, before a notary," replied Ragon. "He took the place for
eighteen years, but they exacted six months' rent in advance."

"Well, Monsieur Ragon, are you satisfied with me?" said the perfumer.
"I have given him the secret of a great discovery--"

"We know you by heart, Cesar," said little Ragon, taking Cesar's hands
and pressing them with religious friendship.

Roguin was not without anxiety as to Claparon's entrance on the scene;
for his tone and manners were quite likely to alarm these virtuous and
worthy people; he therefore thought it advisable to prepare their

"You are going to see," he said to Pillerault and the two ladies, "a
thorough original, who hides his methods under a fearfully bad style
of manners; from a very inferior position he has raised himself up by
intelligence. He will acquire better manners through his intercourse
with bankers. You may see him on the boulevard, or on a cafe tippling,
disorderly, betting at billiards, and think him a mere idler; but he
is not; he is thinking and studying all the time to keep industry
alive by new projects."

"I understand that," said Birotteau; "I got my great ideas when
sauntering on the boulevard; didn't I, Mimi?"

"Claparon," resumed Roguin, "makes up by night-work the time lost in
looking about him in the daytime, and watching the current of affairs.
All men of great talent lead curious lives, inexplicable lives; well,
in spite of his desultory ways he attains his object, as I can
testify. In this instance he has managed to make the owners of these
lands give way: they were unwilling, doubtful, timid; he fooled them
all, tired them out, went to see them every day,--and here we are,
virtually masters of the property."

At this moment a curious _broum! broum!_ peculiar to tipplers of
brandy and other liquors, announced the arrival of the most fantastic
personage of our story, and the arbiter in flesh and blood of the
future destinies of Cesar Birotteau. The perfumer rushed headlong to
the little dark staircase, as much to tell Raguet to close the shop as
to pour out his excuses to Claparon for receiving him in the

"What of that? It's the very place to juggle a--I mean to settle a
piece of business."

In spite of Roguin's clever precautions, Monsieur and Madame Ragon,
people of old-fashioned middle-class breeding, the observer
Pillerault, Cesarine, and her mother were disagreeably impressed at
first sight by this sham banker of high finance.

About twenty-eight years of age at the time of which we write, the
late commercial traveller possessed not a hair on his head, and wore a
wig curled in ringlets. This head-gear needed, by rights, a virgin
freshness, a lacteal purity of complexion, and all the softer
corresponding graces: as it was, however, it threw into ignoble relief
a pimpled face, brownish-red in color, inflamed like that of the
conductor of a diligence, and seamed with premature wrinkles, which
betrayed in the puckers of their deep-cut lines a licentious life,
whose misdeeds were still further evidenced by the badness of the
man's teeth, and the black speckles which appeared here and there on
his corrugated skin. Claparon had the air of a provincial comedian who
knows all the roles, and plays the clown with a wink; his cheeks,
where the rouge never stuck, were jaded by excesses, his lips clammy,
though his tongue was forever wagging, especially when he was drunk;
his glances were immodest, and his gestures compromising. Such a face,
flushed with the jovial features of punch, was enough to turn grave
business matters into a farce; so that the embryo banker had been
forced to put himself through a long course of mimicry before he
managed to acquire even the semblance of a manner that accorded with
his fictitious importance.

Du Tillet assisted in dressing him for this occasion, like the manager
of a theatre who is uneasy about the debut of his principal actor; he
feared lest the vulgar habits of this devil-may-care life should crop
up to the surface of the newly-fledged banker. "Talk as little as you
can," he said to him. "No banker ever gabbles; he acts, thinks,
reflects, listens, weighs. To seem like a banker you must say nothing,
or, at any rate, mere nothings. Check that ribald eye of yours, and
look serious, even if you have to look stupid. If you talk politics,
go for the government, but keep to generalities. For instance: 'The
budget is heavy'; 'No compromise is possible between the parties';
'The Liberals are dangerous'; 'The Bourbons must avoid a conflict';
'Liberalism is the cloak of a coalition'; 'The Bourbons are
inaugurating an era of prosperity: let us sustain them, even if we do
not like them'; 'France has had enough of politics,' etc. Don't gorge
yourself at every table where you dine; recollect you are to maintain
the dignity of a millionaire. Don't shovel in your snuff like an old
Invalide; toy with your snuff-box, glance often at your feet, and
sometimes at the ceiling, before you answer; try to look sagacious, if
you can. Above all, get rid of your vile habit of touching everything;
in society a banker ought to seem tired of seeing and touching things.
Hang it! you are supposed to be passing wakeful nights; finance makes
you brusque, so many elements must be brought together to launch an
enterprise,--so much study! Remember to take gloomy views of business;
it is heavy, dull, risky, unsettled. Now, don't go beyond that, and
mind you specify nothing. Don't sing those songs of Beranger at table;
and don't get fuddled. If you are drunk, your future is lost. Roguin
will keep an eye on you. You are going now among moral people,
virtuous people; and you are not to scare them with any of your
pot-house principles."

This lecture produced upon the mind of Charles Claparon very much the
effect that his new clothes produced upon his body. The jovial
scapegrace, easy-going with all the world, and long used to a
comfortable shabbiness, in which his body was no more shackled than
his mind was shackled by language, was now encased in the new clothes
his tailor had just sent home, rigid as a picket-stake, anxious about
his motions as well as about his speech; drawing back his hand when it
was imprudently thrust out to grasp a bottle, just as he stopped his
tongue in the middle of a sentence. All this presented a laughable
discrepancy to the keen observation of Pillerault. Claparon's red
face, and his wig with its profligate ringlets, gave the lie to his
apparel and pretended bearing, just as his thoughts clashed and
jangled with his speech. But these worthy people ended by crediting
such discordances to the preoccupation of his busy mind.

"He is so full of business," said Roguin.

"Business has given him little education," whispered Madame Ragon to

Monsieur Roguin overheard her, and put a finger on his lips:--

"He is rich, clever, and extremely honorable," he said, stooping to
Madame Ragon's ear.

"Something may be forgiven in consideration of such qualities," said
Pillerault to Ragon.

"Let us read the deeds before dinner," said Roguin; "we are all

Madame Ragon, Cesarine, and Constance left the contracting parties to
listen to the deeds read over to them by Alexandre Crottat. Cesar
signed, in favor of one of Roguin's clients, a mortgage bond for forty
thousand francs, on his grounds and manufactories in the Faubourg du
Temple; he turned over to Roguin Pillerault's cheque on the Bank of
France, and gave, without receipt, bills for twenty thousand francs
from his current funds, and notes for one hundred and forty thousand
francs payable to the order of Claparon.

"I have no receipt to give you," said Claparon; "you deal, for your
half of the property, with Monsieur Roguin, as I do for ours. The
sellers will get their pay from him in cash; all that I engage to do
is to see that you get the equivalent of the hundred and forty
thousand francs paid to my order."

"That is equitable," said Pillerault.

"Well, gentlemen, let us call in the ladies; it is cold without them,"
said Claparon, glancing at Roguin, as if to ask whether that jest were
too broad.

"Ladies! Ah! mademoiselle is doubtless yours," said Claparon, holding
himself very straight and looking at Birotteau; "hey! you are not a
bungler. None of the roses you distil can be compared with her; and
perhaps it is because you have distilled roses that--"

"Faith!" said Roguin, interrupting him, "I am very hungry."

"Let us go to dinner," said Birotteau.

"We shall dine before a notary," said Claparon, catching himself up.

"You do a great deal of business?" said Pillerault, seating himself
intentionally next to Claparon.

"Quantities; by the gross," answered the banker. "But it is all heavy,
dull; there are risks, canals. Oh, canals! you have no idea how canals
occupy us; it is easy to explain. Government needs canals. Canals are
a want especially felt in the departments; they concern commerce, you
know. 'Rivers,' said Pascal, 'are walking markets.' We must have
markets. Markets depend on embankments, tremendous earth-works;
earth-works employ the laboring-classes; hence loans, which find their
way back, in the end, to the pockets of the poor. Voltaire said,
'Canaux, canards, canaille!' But the government has its own engineers;
you can't get a finger in the matter unless you get on the right side
of them; for the Chamber,--oh, monsieur, the Chamber does us all the
harm in the world! It won't take in the political question hidden under
the financial question. There's bad faith on one side or the other.
Would you believe it? there's Keller in the Chamber: now Francois
Keller is an orator, he attacks the government about the budget, about
canals. Well, when he gets home to the bank, and we go to him with
proposals, canals, and so forth, the sly dog is all the other way:
everything is right; we must arrange it with the government which he
has just been been impudently attacking. The interests of the orator
and the interests of the banker clash; we are between two fires! Now,
you understand how it is that business is risky; we have got to please
everybody,--clerks, chambers, antechambers, ministers--"

"Ministers?" said Pillerault, determined to get to the bottom of this

"Yes, monsieur, ministers."

"Well, then the newspapers are right?" said Pillerault.

"There's my uncle talking politics," said Birotteau. "Monsieur
Claparon has won his heart."

"Devilish rogues, the newspapers," said Claparon. "Monsieur, the
newspapers do all the mischief. They are useful sometimes, but they
keep me awake many a night. I wish they didn't. I have put my eyes out
reading and ciphering."

"To go back to the ministers," said Pillerault, hoping for

"Ministers are a mere necessity of government. Ah! what am I eating?
ambrosia?" said Claparon, breaking off. "This is a sauce you'll never
find except at a tradesman's table, for the pot-houses--"

Here the flowers in Madame Ragon's cap skipped like young rams.
Claparon perceived the word was low, and tried to catch himself up.

"In bank circles," he said, "we call the best cafes.--Very, and the
Freres Provencaux,--pot-houses in jest. Well, neither those infamous
pot-houses nor our most scientific cooks can make us a sauce like
this; mellifluous! Some give you clear water soured with lemon, and
the rest drugs, chemicals."

Pillerault tried throughout the dinner to fathom this extraordinary
being; finding only a void, he began to think him dangerous.

"All's well," whispered Roguin to Claparon.

"I shall get out of these clothes to-night, at any rate," answered
Claparon, who was choking.

"Monsieur," said Cesar, addressing him, "we are compelled to dine in
this little room because we are preparing, eighteen days hence, to
assemble our friends, as much to celebrate the emancipation of our

"Right, monsieur; I myself am for the government. I belong, in
opinion, to the _statu quo_ of the great man who guides the destinies
of the house of Austria, jolly dog! Hold fast that you may acquire;
and, above all, acquire that you may hold. Those are my opinions,
which I have the honor to share with Prince Metternich."

"--as to commemorate my promotion to the order of the Legion of
honor," continued Cesar.

"Yes, I know. Who told me of that,--the Kellers, or Nucingen?"

Roguin, surprised at such tact, made an admiring gesture.

"No, no; it was in the Chamber."

"In the Chamber? was it Monsieur de la Billardiere?" said Birotteau.


"He is charming," whispered Cesar to his uncle.

"He pours out phrases, phrases, phrases," said Pillerault, "enough to
drown you."

"Possibly I showed myself worthy of this signal, royal favor,--"
resumed Birotteau.

"By your labors in perfumery; the Bourbons know how to reward all
merit. Ah! let us support those generous princes, to whom we are about
to owe unheard-of prosperity. Believe me, the Restoration feels that
it must run a tilt against the Empire; the Bourbons have conquests to
make, the conquests of peace. You will see their conquests!"

"Monsieur will perhaps do us the honor to be present at our ball?"
said Madame Cesar.

"To pass an evening with you, Madame, I would sacrifice the making of

"He certainly does chatter," said Cesar to his uncle.

              *     *     *     *     *

While the declining glory of perfumery was about to send forth its
setting rays, a star was rising with feeble light upon the commercial
horizon. Anselme Popinot was laying the corner-stone of his fortune in
the Rue des Cinq-Diamants. This narrow little street, where loaded
wagons can scarcely pass each other, runs from the Rue des Lombards at
one end, to the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher at the other, entering the latter
opposite to the Rue Quincampoix, that famous thoroughfare of old Paris
where French history has so often been enacted. In spite of this
disadvantage, the congregation of druggists in that neighborhood made
Popinot's choice of the little street a good one. The house, which
stands second from the Rue des Lombards, was so dark that except at
certain seasons it was necessary to use lights in open day. The embryo
merchant had taken possession, the preceding evening, of the dingy and
disgusting premises. His predecessor, who sold molasses and coarse
sugars, had left the stains of his dirty business upon the walls, in
the court, in the store-rooms. Imagine a large and spacious shop, with
great iron-bound doors, painted a dragon-green, strengthened with long
iron bars held on by nails whose heads looked like mushrooms, and
covered with an iron trellis-work, which swelled out at the bottom
after the fashion of the bakers'-shops in former days; the floor paved
with large white stones, most of them broken, the walls yellow, and as
bare as those of a guard-room. Next to the shop came the back-shop,
and two other rooms lighted from the street, in which Popinot proposed
to put his office, his books, and his own workroom. Above these rooms
were three narrow little chambers pushed up against the party-wall,
with an outlook into the court; here he intended to dwell. The three
rooms were dilapidated, and had no view but that of the court, which
was dark, irregular, and surrounded by high walls, to which perpetual
dampness, even in dry weather, gave the look of being daubed with
fresh plaster. Between the stones of this court was a filthy and
stinking black substance, left by the sugars and the molasses that
once occupied it. Only one of the bedrooms had a chimney, all the
walls were without paper, and the floors were tiled with brick.

Since early morning Gaudissart and Popinot, helped by a journeyman
whose services the commercial traveller had invoked, were busily
employed in stretching a fifteen-sous paper on the walls of these
horrible rooms, the workman pasting the lengths. A collegian's
mattress on a bedstead of red wood, a shabby night-stand, an
old-fashioned bureau, one table, two armchairs, and six common chairs,
the gift of Popinot's uncle the judge, made up the furniture.
Gaudissart had decked the chimney-piece with a frame in which was a
mirror much defaced, and bought at a bargain. Towards eight o'clock in
the evening the two friends, seated before the fireplace where a fagot
of wood was blazing, were about to attack the remains of their

"Down with the cold mutton!" cried Gaudissart, suddenly, "it is not
worthy of such a housewarming."

"But," said Popinot, showing his solitary coin of twenty francs, which
he was keeping to pay for the prospectus, "I--"

"I--" cried Gaudissart, sticking a forty-franc piece in his own eye.

A knock resounded throughout the court, naturally empty and echoing of
a Sunday, when the workpeople were away from it and the laboratories

"Here comes the faithful slave of the Rue de la Poterie!" cried the
illustrious Gaudissart.

Sure enough, a waiter entered, followed by two scullions bearing in
three baskets a dinner, and six bottles of wine selected with

"How shall we ever eat it all up?" said Popinot.

"The man of letters!" cried Gaudissart, "don't forget him. Finot loves
the pomps and the vanities; he is coming, the innocent boy, armed with
a dishevelled prospectus--the word is pat, hein? Prospectuses are
always thirsty. We must water the seed if we want flowers. Depart,
slaves!" he added, with a gorgeous air, "there is gold for you."

He gave them ten sous with a gesture worthy of Napoleon, his idol.

"Thank you, Monsieur Gaudissart," said the scullions, better pleased
with the jest than with the money.

"As for you, my son," he said to the waiter, who stayed to serve the
dinner, "below is a porter's wife; she lives in a lair where she
sometimes cooks, as in other days Nausicaa washed, for pure amusement.
Find her, implore her goodness; interest her, young man, in the warmth
of these dishes. Tell her she shall be blessed, and above all,
respected, most respected, by Felix Gaudissart, son of Jean-Francois
Gaudissart, grandson of all the Gaudissarts, vile proletaries of
ancient birth, his forefathers. March! and mind that everything is
hot, or I'll deal retributive justice by a rap on your knuckles!"

Another knock sounded.

"Here comes the pungent Andoche!" shouted Gaudissart.

A stout, chubby-faced fellow of medium height, from head to foot the
evident son of a hat-maker, with round features whose shrewdness was
hidden under a restrained and subdued manner, suddenly appeared. His
face, which was melancholy, like that of a man weary of poverty,
lighted up hilariously when he caught sight of the table, and the
bottles swathed in significant napkins. At Gaudissart's shout, his
pale-blue eyes sparkled, his big head, hollowed like that of a Kalmuc
Tartar, bobbed from right to left, and he bowed to Popinot with a
queer manner, which meant neither servility nor respect, but was
rather that of a man who feels he is not in his right place and will
make no concessions. He was just beginning to find out that he
possessed no literary talent whatever; he meant to stay in the
profession, however, by living on the brains of others, and getting
astride the shoulders of those more able than himself, making his
profit there instead of struggling any longer at his own ill-paid
work. At the present moment he had drunk to the dregs the humiliation
of applications and appeals which constantly failed, and he was now,
like people in the higher walks of finance, about to change his tone
and become insolent, advisedly. But he needed a small sum in hand on
which to start, and Gaudissart gave him a share in the present affair
of ushering into the world the oil of Popinot.

"You are to negotiate on his account with the newspapers. But don't
play double; if you do I'll fight you to the death. Give him his
money's worth."

Popinot gazed at "the author" which much uneasiness. People who are
purely commercial look upon an author with mingled sentiments of fear,
compassion, and curiosity. Though Popinot had been well brought up,
the habits of his relations, their ideas, and the obfuscating effect
of a shop and a counting-room, had lowered his intelligence by bending
it to the use and wont of his calling,--a phenomenon which may often
be seen if we observe the transformations which take place in a
hundred comrades, when ten years supervene between the time when they
leave college or a public school, to all intents and purposes alike,
and the period when they meet again after contact with the world.
Andoche accepted Popinot's perturbation as a compliment.

"Now then, before dinner, let's get to the bottom of the prospectus;
then we can drink without an afterthought," said Gaudissart. "After
dinner one reads askew; the tongue digests."

"Monsieur," said Popinot, "a prospectus is often a fortune."

"And for plebeians like myself," said Andoche, "fortune is nothing
more than a prospectus."

"Ha, very good!" cried Gaudissart, "that rogue of a Finot has the wit
of the forty Academicians."

"Of a hundred Academicians," said Popinot, bewildered by these ideas.

The impatient Gaudissart seized the manuscript and began to read in a
loud voice, with much emphasis, "CEPHALIC OIL."

"I should prefer _Oil Cesarienne_," said Popinot.

"My friend," said Gaudissart, "you don't know the provincials; there's
a surgical operation called by that name, and they are such stupids
that they'll think your oil is meant to facilitate childbirth. To drag
them back from that to hair is beyond even my powers of persuasion."

"Without wishing to defend my term," said the author, "I must ask you
to observe that 'Cephalic Oil' means oil for the head, and sums up
your ideas in one word."

"Well, let us see," said Popinot impatiently.

Here follows the prospectus; the same which the trade receives, by the
thousand, to the present day (another _piece justificative_):--

                              GOLD MEDAL
                          EXPOSITION OF 1819

                             CEPHALIC OIL

               Patents for Invention and Improvements.

  "No cosmetic can make the hair grow, and no chemical preparation
  can dye it without peril to the seat of intelligence. Science has
  recently made known the fact that hair is a dead substance, and
  that no agent can prevent it from falling off or whitening. To
  prevent Baldness and Dandruff, it is necessary to protect the bulb
  from which the hair issues from all deteriorating atmospheric
  influences, and to maintain the temperature of the head at its
  right medium. CEPHALIC OIL, based upon principles laid down by the
  Academy of Sciences, produces this important result, sought by the
  ancients,--the Greeks, the Romans, and all Northern nations,--to
  whom the preservation of the hair was peculiarly precious. Certain
  scientific researches have demonstrated that nobles, formerly
  distinguished for the length of their hair, used no other remedy
  than this; their method of preparation, which had been lost in the
  lapse of ages, has been intelligently re-discovered by A. Popinot,
  the inventor of CEPHALIC OIL.

  "To _preserve_, rather than provoke a useless and injurious
  stimulation of the instrument which contains the bulbs, is the
  mission of CEPHALIC OIL. In short, this oil, which counteracts the
  exfoliation of pellicular atoms, which exhales a soothing perfume,
  and arrests, by means of the substances of which it is composed
  (among them more especially the oil of nuts), the action of the
  outer air upon the scalp, also prevents influenzas, colds in the
  head, and other painful cephalic afflictions, by maintaining the
  normal temperature of the cranium. Consequently, the bulbs, which
  contain the generating fluids, are neither chilled by cold nor
  parched by heat. The hair of the head, that magnificent product,
  priceless alike to man and woman, will be preserved even to
  advanced age, in all the brilliancy and lustre which bestow their
  charm upon the heads of infancy, by those who make use of CEPHALIC

  "DIRECTIONS FOR USE are furnished with each bottle, and serve as a

  "METHOD OF USING CEPHALIC OIL.--It is quite useless to oil the
  hair; this is not only a vulgar and foolish prejudice, but an
  untidy habit, for the reason that all cosmetics leave their trace.
  It suffices to wet a little sponge in the oil, and after parting
  the hair with the comb, to apply it at the roots in such a manner
  that the whole skin of the head may be enabled to imbibe it, after
  the scalp has received a preliminary cleansing with brush and

  "The oil is sold in bottles bearing the signature of the inventor,
  to prevent counterfeits. Price, THREE FRANCS. A. POPINOT, Rue des
  Cinq-Diamants, quartier des Lombards, Paris.

  "_It is requested that all letters be prepaid._

  "N.B. The house of A. Popinot supplies all oils and essences
  appertaining to druggists: lavender, oil of almonds, sweet and
  bitter, orange oil, cocoa-nut oil, castor oil, and others."

"My dear friend," said the illustrious Gaudissart to Finot, "it is
admirably written. Thunder and lightning! we are in the upper regions
of science. We shirk nothing; we go straight to the point. That's
useful literature; I congratulate you."

"A noble prospectus!" cried Popinot, enthusiastically.

"A prospectus which slays Macassar at the first word," continued
Gaudissart, rising with a magisterial air to deliver the following
speech, which he divided by gestures and pauses in his most
parliamentary manner.

"No--hair--can be made--to grow! Hair cannot be dyed without--danger!
Ha! ha! success is there. Modern science is in union with the customs
of the ancients. We can deal with young and old alike. We can say to
the old man, 'Ha, monsieur! the ancients, the Greeks and Romans, knew
a thing or two, and were not so stupid as some would have us believe';
and we can say to the young man, 'My dear boy, here's another
discovery due to progress and the lights of science. We advance; what
may we not obtain from steam and telegraphy, and other things! This
oil is based on the scientific treatise of Monsieur Vauquelin!'
Suppose we print an extract from Monsieur Vauquelin's report to the
Academy of Sciences, confirming our statement, hein? Famous! Come,
Finot, sit down; attack the viands! Soak up the champagne! let us
drink to the success of my young friend, here present!"

"I felt," said the author modestly, "that the epoch of flimsy and
frivolous prospectuses had gone by; we are entering upon an era of
science; we need an academical tone,--a tone of authority, which
imposes upon the public."

"We'll boil that oil; my feet itch, and my tongue too. I've got
commissions from all the rival hair people; none of them give more
than thirty per cent discount; we must manage forty on every hundred
remitted, and I'll answer for a hundred thousand bottles in six
months. I'll attack apothecaries, grocers, perfumers! Give 'em forty
per cent, and they'll bamboozle the public."

The three young fellows devoured their dinner like lions, and drank
like lords to the future success of Cephalic Oil.

"The oil is getting into my head," said Finot.

Gaudissart poured out a series of jokes and puns upon hats and heads,
and hair and hair-oil, etc. In the midst of Homeric laughter a knock
resounded, and was heard, in spite of an uproar of toasts and
reciprocal congratulations.

"It is my uncle!" cried Popinot. "He has actually come to see me."

"An uncle!" said Finot, "and we haven't got a glass!"

"The uncle of my friend Popinot is a judge," said Gaudissart to Finot,
"and he is not to be hoaxed; he saved my life. Ha! when one gets to
the pass where I was, under the scaffold--_Qou-ick_, and good-by to
your hair,"--imitating the fatal knife with voice and gesture. "One
recollects gratefully the virtuous magistrate who saved the gutter
where the champagne flows down. Recollect?--I'd recollect him
dead-drunk! You don't know what it is, Finot, unless you have stood in
need of Monsieur Popinot. Huzza! we ought to fire a salute--from six
pounders, too!"

The virtuous magistrate was now asking for his nephew at the door.
Recognizing his voice, Anselme went down, candlestick in hand, to
light him up.

"I wish you good evening, gentlemen," said the judge.

The illustrious Gaudissart bowed profoundly. Finot examined the
magistrate with a tipsy eye, and thought him a bit of a blockhead.

"You have not much luxury here," said the judge, gravely, looking
round the room. "Well, my son, if we wish to be something great, we
must begin by being nothing."

"What profound wisdom!" said Gaudissart to Finot.

"Text for an article," said the journalist.

"Ah! you here, monsieur?" said the judge, recognizing the commercial
traveller; "and what are you doing now?"

"Monsieur, I am contributing to the best of my small ability to the
success of your dear nephew. We have just been studying a prospectus
for his oil; you see before you the author of that prospectus, which
seems to us the finest essay in the literature of wigs." The judge
looked at Finot. "Monsieur," said Gaudissart, "is Monsieur Andoche
Finot, a young man distinguished in literature, who does high-class
politics and the little theatres in the government newspapers,--I may
say a statesman on the high-road to becoming an author."

Finot pulled Gaudissart by the coat-tails.

"Well, well, my sons," said the judge, to whom these words explained
the aspect of the table, where there stilled remained the tokens of a
very excusable feast. "Anselme," said the old gentleman to his nephew,
"dress yourself, and come with me to Monsieur Birotteau's, where I
have a visit to pay. You shall sign the deed of partnership, which I
have carefully examined. As you mean to have the manufactory for your
oil on the grounds in the Faubourg du Temple, I think you had better
take a formal lease of them. Monsieur Birotteau might have others in
partnership with him, and it is better to settle everything legally at
once; then there can be no discussion. These walls seem to me very
damp, my dear boy; take up the straw matting near your bed."

"Permit me, monsieur," said Gaudissart, with an ingratiating air, "to
explain to you that we have just pasted up the paper ourselves, and
that's the--reason why--the walls--are not--dry."

"Economy? quite right," said the judge.

"Look here," said Gaudissart in Finot's ear, "my friend Popinot is a
virtuous young man; he is going with his uncle; let's you and I go and
finish the evening with our cousins."

The journalist showed the empty lining of his pockets. Popinot saw the
gesture, and slipped his twenty-franc piece into the palm of the
author of the prospectus.

The judge had a coach at the end of the street, in which he carried
off his nephew to the Birotteaus.


Pillerault, Monsieur and Madame Ragon, and Monsieur Roguin were
playing at boston, and Cesarine was embroidering a handkerchief, when
the judge and Anselme arrived. Roguin, placed opposite to Madame
Ragon, near whom Cesarine was sitting, noticed the pleasure of the
young girl when she saw Anselme enter, and he made Crottat a sign to
observe that she turned as rosy as a pomegranate.

"This is to be a day of deeds, then?" said the perfumer, when the
greetings were over and the judge told him the purpose of the visit.

Cesar, Anselme, and the judge went up to the perfumer's temporary
bedroom on the second floor to discuss the lease and the deed of
partnership drawn up by the magistrate. A lease of eighteen years was
agreed upon, so that it might run the same length of time as the lease
of the shop in the Rue des Cinq-Diamants,--an insignificant
circumstance apparently, but one which did Birotteau good service in
after days. When Cesar and the judge returned to the _entresol_, the
latter, surprised at the general upset of the household, and the
presence of workmen on a Sunday in the house of a man so religious as
Birotteau, asked the meaning of it,--a question which Cesar had been
eagerly expecting.

"Though you care very little for the world, monsieur," he said, "you
will see no harm in celebrating the deliverance of our territory.
That, however, is not all. We are about to assemble a few friends to
commemorate my promotion to the order of the Legion of honor."

"Ah!" exclaimed the judge, who was not decorated.

"Possibly I showed myself worthy of that signal and royal favor by my
services on the Bench--oh! of commerce,--and by fighting for the
Bourbons on the steps--"

"True," said the judge.

"--of Saint-Roch on the 13th Vendemiaire, where I was wounded by
Napoleon. May I not hope that you and Madame Popinot will do us the
honor of being present?"

"Willingly," said the judge. "If my wife is well enough I will bring

"Xandrot," said Roguin to his clerk, as they left the house, "give up
all thoughts of marrying Cesarine; six weeks hence you will thank me
for that advice."

"Why?" asked Crottat.

"My dear fellow, Birotteau is going to spend a hundred thousand francs
on his ball, and he is involving his whole fortune, against my advice,
in that speculation in lands. Six weeks hence he and his family won't
have bread to eat. Marry Mademoiselle Lourdois, the daughter of the
house-painter. She has three hundred thousand francs _dot_. I threw
out that anchor to windward for you. If you will pay me a hundred
thousand francs down for my practice, you may have it to-morrow."

The splendors of the approaching ball were announced by the newspapers
to all Europe, and were also made known to the world of commerce by
rumors to which the preparations, carried on night and day, had given
rise. Some said that Cesar had hired three houses, and that he was
gilding his salons; others that the supper would furnish dishes
invented for the occasion. On one hand it was reported that no
merchants would be invited, the fete being given to the members of the
government; on the other hand, Cesar was severely blamed for his
ambition, and laughed at for his political pretensions: some people
even went so far as to deny his wound. The ball gave rise to more than
one intrigue in the second arrondissement. The friends of the family
were easy in their minds, but the demands of mere acquaintances were
enormous. Honors bring sycophants; and there was a goodly number of
people whose invitations cost them more than one application. The
Birotteaus were fairly frightened at the number of friends whom they
did not know they had. These eager attentions alarmed Madame
Birotteau, and day by day her face grew sadder as the great solemnity
drew near.

In the first place, as she owned to Cesar, she should never learn the
right demeanor; next, she was terrified by the innumerable details of
such a fete: where should she find the plate, the glass-ware, the
refreshments, the china, the servants? Who would superintend it all?
She entreated Birotteau to stand at the door of the appartement and
let no one enter but invited guests; she had heard strange stories of
people who came to bourgeois balls, claiming friends whose names they
did not know. When, a week before the fateful day, Braschon, Grindot,
Lourdois, and Chaffaroux, the builder, assured Cesar positively that
the rooms would be ready for the famous Sunday of December the 17th,
an amusing conference took place, in the evening after dinner, between
Cesar, his wife, and his daughter, for the purpose of making out the
list of guests and addressing the invitations,--which a stationer had
sent home that morning, printed on pink paper, in flowing English
writing, and in the formula of commonplace and puerile civility.

"Now we mustn't forget any body," said Birotteau.

"If we forget any one," said Constance, "they won't forget it. Madame
Derville, who never called before, sailed down upon me in all her
glory yesterday."

"She is very pretty," said Cesarine. "I liked her."

"And yet before her marriage she was even less than I was," said
Constance. "She did plain sewing in the Rue Montmartre; she made
shirts for your father."

"Well, now let us begin the list," said Birotteau, "with the
upper-crust people. Cesarine, write down Monsieur le Duc and Madame
la Duchesse de Lenoncourt--"

"Good heavens, Cesar!" said Constance, "don't send a single invitation
to people whom you only know as customers. Are you going to invite the
Princesse de Blamont-Chavry, who is more nearly related to your
godmother, the late Marquise d'Uxelles, than the Duc de Lenoncourt?
You surely don't mean to invite the two Messieurs de Vandenesse,
Monsieur de Marsay, Monsieur de Ronquerolles, Monsieur d'Aiglemont, in
short, all your customers? You are mad; your honors have turned your

"Well, but there's Monsieur le Comte de Fontaine and his family, hein?
--the one that always went by the name of GRAND-JACQUES,--and the
YOUNG SCAMP, who was the Marquis de Montauran, and Monsieur de la
Billardiere, who was called the NANTAIS at 'The Queen of Roses' before
the 13th Vendemiaire. In those days it was all hand-shaking, and
'Birotteau, take courage; let yourself be killed, like us, for the
good cause.' Why, we are all comrades in conspiracy."

"Very good, put them down," said Constance. "If Monsieur de la
Billardiere comes he will want somebody to speak to."

"Cesarine, write," said Birotteau. "_Primo_, Monsieur the prefect of
the Seine; he'll come or he won't come, but any way he commands the
municipality,--honor to whom honor is due. Monsieur de la Billardiere
and his son, the mayor. Put the number of the guests after their
names. My colleague, Monsieur Granet, deputy-mayor, and his wife. She
is very ugly, but never mind, we can't dispense with her. Monsieur
Curel, the jeweller, colonel of the National Guard, his wife, and two
daughters. Those are what I call the authorities. Now come the big
wigs,--Monsieur le Comte and Madame la Comtesse de Fontaine, and their
daughter, Mademoiselle Emilie de Fontaine."

"An insolent girl, who makes me leave the shop and speak to her at the
door of the carriage, no matter what the weather is," said Madame
Cesar. "If she comes, it will only be to ridicule me."

"Then she'll be sure to come," said Cesar, bent on getting everybody.
"Go on, Cesarine. Monsieur le Comte and Madame la Comtesse de
Grandville, my landlord,--the longest head at the royal court, so
Derville says. Ah ca! Monsieur de la Billardiere is to present me as a
chevalier to-morrow to Monsieur le Comte de Lacepede himself, high
chancellor of the Legion of honor. It is only proper that I should
send him an invitation for the ball, and also to the dinner. Monsieur
Vauquelin; put him down for ball and dinner both, Cesarine. And (so as
not to forget them) put down all the Chiffrevilles and the Protez;
Monsieur and Madame Popinot, judge of the Lower Court of the Seine;
Monsieur and Madame Thirion, gentleman-usher of the bedchamber to the
king, friends of Ragon, and their daughter, who, they tell me, is to
marry the son of Monsieur Camusot by his first wife."

"Cesar, don't forget that little Horace Bianchon, the nephew of
Monsieur Popinot, and cousin of Anselme," said Constance.

"Whew! Cesarine has written a four after the name of Popinot. Monsieur
and Madame Rabourdin, one of the under-secretaries in Monsieur de la
Billardiere's division; Monsieur Cochin, same division, his wife and
son, sleeping-partners of Matifat, and Monsieur, Madame, and
Mademoiselle Matifat themselves."

"The Matifats," said Cesarine, "are fishing for invitations for
Monsieur and Madame Colleville, and Monsieur and Madame Thuillier,
friends of theirs."

"We will see about that," said Cesar. "Put down my broker, Monsieur
and Madame Jules Desmarets."

"She will be the loveliest woman in the room," said Cesarine. "I like
her--oh! better than any one else."

"Derville and his wife."

"Put down Monsieur and Madame Coquelin, the successors to my uncle
Pillerault," said Constance. "They are so sure of an invitation that
the poor little woman has ordered my dressmaker to make her a superb
ball-dress, a skirt of white satin, and a tulle robe with succory
flowers embroidered all over it. A little more and she would have
ordered a court-dress of gold brocade. If you leave them out we shall
make bitter enemies."

"Put them down, Cesarine; all honor to commerce, for we belong to it!
Monsieur and Madame Roguin."

"Mamma, Madame Roguin will wear her diamond fillet and all her other
diamonds, and her dress trimmed with Mechlin."

"Monsieur and Madame Lebas," said Cesar; "also Monsieur le president
of the Court of Commerce,--I forgot him among the authorities,--his
wife, and two daughters; Monsieur and Madame Lourdois and their
daughter; Monsieur Claparon, banker; Monsieur du Tillet; Monsieur
Grindot; Monsieur Molineux; Pillerault and his landlord; Monsieur and
Madame Camusot, the rich silk-merchants, and all their children, the
one at the Ecole Polytechnique, and the lawyer; he is to be made a
judge because of his marriage to Mademoiselle Thirion."

"A provincial judge," remarked Constance.

"Monsieur Cardot, father-in-law of Camusot, and all the Cardot
children. Bless me, and the Guillaumes, Rue du Colombier, the
father-in-law of Lebas--old people, but they'll sit in a corner;
Alexandre Crottat; Celestin--"

"Papa, don't forget Monsieur Andoche Finot and Monsieur Gaudissart,
two young men who are very useful to Monsieur Anselme."

"Gaudissart? he was once in the hands of justice. But never mind, he
is going to travel for our oil and starts in a few days; put him down.
As to the Sieur Andoche Finot, what is he to us?"

"Monsieur Anselme says he will be a great man; he has a mind like

"An author? all atheists."

"Let's put him down, papa; we want more dancers. Besides, he wrote the
beautiful prospectus for the oil."

"He believes in my oil?" said Cesar, "then put him down, dear child."

"I have put down all my proteges," said Cesarine.

"Put Monsieur Mitral, my bailiff; Monsieur Haudry, our doctor, as a
matter of form,--he won't come."

"Yes, he will, for his game of cards."

"Now, Cesar, I do hope you mean to invite the Abbe Loraux to the
dinner," said Constance.

"I have already written to him," said Cesar.

"Oh! and don't forget the sister-in-law of Monsieur Lebas, Madame
Augustine Sommervieux," said Cesarine. "Poor little woman, she is so
delicate; she is dying of grief, so Monsieur Lebas says."

"That's what it is to marry artists!" cried her father. "Look! there's
your mother asleep," he whispered. "La! la! a very good night to you,
Madame Cesar--Now, then," he added, "about your mother's ball-dress?"

"Yes, papa, it will be all ready. Mamma thinks she will wear her
china-crape like mine. The dressmaker is sure there is no need of
trying it on."

"How many people have you got down," said Cesar aloud, seeing that
Constance opened her eyes.

"One hundred and nine, with the clerks."

"Where shall we ever put them all?" said Madame Birotteau. "But,
anyhow, after that Sunday," she added naively, "there will come a

              *     *     *     *     *

Nothing can be done simply and naturally by people who are stepping
from one social level to another. Not a soul--not Madame Birotteau,
nor Cesar himself--was allowed to put foot into the new appartement on
the first floor. Cesar had promised Raguet, the shop-boy, a new suit
of clothes for the day of the ball, if he mounted guard faithfully and
let no one enter. Birotteau, like the Emperor Napoleon at Compiegne,
when the chateau was re-decorated for his marriage with Maria Louisa
of Austria, was determined to see nothing piecemeal; he wished to
enjoy the surprise of seeing it as a whole. Thus the two antagonists
met once more, all unknown to themselves, not on the field of battle,
but on the peaceful ground of bourgeois vanity. It was arranged that
Monsieur Grindot was to take Cesar by the hand and show him the
appartement when finished,--just as a guide shows a gallery to a
sight-seer. Every member of the family had provided his, or her,
private "surprise." Cesarine, dear child, had spent all her little
hoard, a hundred louis, on buying books for her father. Monsieur
Grindot confided to her one morning that there were two book-cases in
Cesar's room, which enclosed an alcove,--an architectural surprise to
her father. Cesarine flung all her girlish savings upon the counter of
a bookseller's shop, and obtained in return, Bossuet, Racine,
Voltaire, Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Montesquieu, Moliere, Buffon,
Fenelon, Delille, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, La Fontaine, Corneille,
Pascal, La Harpe,--in short, the whole array of matter-of-course
libraries to be found everywhere and which assuredly her father would
never read. A terrible bill for binding was in the background. The
celebrated and dilatory binder, Thouvenin, had promised to deliver the
volumes at twelve o'clock in the morning of the 16th. Cesarine
confided her anxiety to her uncle Pillerault, and he had promised to
pay the bill. The "surprise" of Cesar to his wife was the gown of
cherry-colored velvet, trimmed with lace, of which he spoke to his
accomplice, Cesarine. The "surprise" of Madame Birotteau to the new
chevalier was a pair of gold shoe-buckles, and a diamond pin. For the
whole family there was the surprise of the new appartement, and, a
fortnight later, the still greater surprise of the bills when they
came in.

Cesar carefully weighed the question as to which invitations should be
given in person, and which should be sent by Raguet. He ordered a
coach and took his wife--much disfigured by a bonnet with feathers,
and his last gift, a shawl which she had coveted for fifteen years--on
a round of civilities. In their best array, these worthy people paid
twenty-two visits in the course of one morning.

Cesar excused his wife from the labor and difficulty of preparing at
home the various viands demanded by the splendor of the entertainment.
A diplomatic treaty was arranged between the famous Chevet and the
perfumer. Chevet furnished superb silver plate (which brought him an
income equal to that of land); he supplied the dinner, the wines, and
the waiters, under the orders of a major-domo of dignified aspect, who
was responsible for the proper management of everything. Chevet
exacted that the kitchen, and the dining-room on the _entresol_,
should be given up to him as headquarters; a dinner for twenty people
was to be served at six o'clock, a superb supper at one in the
morning. Birotteau arranged with the cafe Foy for ices in the shape of
fruits, to be served in pretty saucers, with gilt spoons, on silver
trays. Tanrade, another illustrious purveyor, furnished the

"Don't be worried," said Cesar to his wife, observing her uneasiness
on the day before the great event, "Chevet, Tanrade, and the cafe Foy
will occupy the _entresol_, Virginie will take charge of the second
floor, the shop will be closed; all we shall have to do is to enshrine
ourselves on the first floor."

At two o'clock, on the 16th, the mayor, Monsieur de la Billardiere,
came to take Cesar to the Chancellerie of the Legion of honor, where
he was to be received by Monsieur le Comte de Lacepede, and about a
dozen chevaliers of the order. Tears were in his eyes when he met the
mayor; Constance had just given him the "surprise" of the gold buckles
and diamond pin.

"It is very sweet to be so loved," he said, getting into the coach in
presence of the assembled clerks, and Cesarine, and Constance. They,
one and all, gazed at Cesar, attired in black silk knee-breeches, silk
stockings, and the new bottle-blue coat, on which was about to gleam
the ribbon that, according to Molineux, was dyed in blood. When Cesar
came home to dinner, he was pale with joy; he looked at his cross in
all the mirrors, for in the first moments of exultation he was not
satisfied with the ribbon,--he wore the cross, and was glorious
without false shame.

"My wife," he said, "Monsieur the high chancellor is a charming man.
On a hint from La Billardiere he accepted my invitation. He is coming
with Monsieur Vauquelin. Monsieur de Lacepede is a great man,--yes, as
great as Monsieur Vauquelin; he has continued the work of Buffon in
forty volumes; he is an author, peer of France! Don't forget to
address him as, Your Excellence, or, Monsieur le comte."

"Do eat something," said his wife. "Your father is worse than a
child," added Constance to Cesarine.

"How well it looks in your button-hole," said Cesarine. "When we walk
out together, won't they present arms?"

"Yes, wherever there are sentries they will present arms."

Just at this moment Grindot was coming downstairs with Braschon. It
had been arranged that after dinner, monsieur, madame, and
mademoiselle were to enjoy a first sight of the new appartement;
Braschon's foreman was now nailing up the last brackets, and three men
were lighting the rooms.

"It takes a hundred and twenty wax-candles," said Braschon.

"A bill of two hundred francs at Trudon's," said Madame Cesar, whose
murmurs were checked by a glance from the chevalier Birotteau.

"Your ball will be magnificent, Monsieur le chevalier," said Braschon.

Birotteau whispered to himself, "Flatterers already! The Abbe Loraux
urged me not to fall into that net, but to keep myself humble. I shall
try to remember my origin."

Cesar did not perceive the meaning of the rich upholsterer's speech.
Braschon made a dozen useless attempts to get invitations for himself,
his wife, daughter, mother-in-law, and aunt. He called the perfumer
Monsieur le chevalier to the door-way, and then he departed his enemy.

The rehearsal began. Cesar, his wife, and Cesarine went out by the
shop-door and re-entered the house from the street. The entrance had
been remodelled in the grand style, with double doors, divided into
square panels, in the centre of which were architectural ornaments in
cast-iron, painted. This style of door, since become common in Paris,
was then a novelty. At the further end of the vestibule the staircase
went up in two straight flights, and between them was the space which
had given Cesar some uneasiness, and which was now converted into a
species of box, where it was possible to seat an old woman. The
vestibule, paved in black and white marble, with its walls painted to
resemble marble, was lighted by an antique lamp with four jets. The
architect had combined richness with simplicity. A narrow red carpet
relieved the whiteness of the stairs, which were polished with
pumice-stone. The first landing gave an entrance to the _entresol_;
the doors to each appartement were of the same character as the
street-door, but of finer work by a cabinet-maker.

The family reached the first floor and entered an ante-chamber in
excellent taste, spacious, parquetted, and simply decorated. Next came
a salon, with three windows on the street, in white and red, with
cornices of an elegant design which had nothing gaudy about them. On a
chimney-piece of white marble supported by columns were a number of
mantel ornaments chosen with taste; they suggested nothing to
ridicule, and were in keeping with the other details. A soft harmony
prevailed throughout the room, a harmony which artists alone know how
to attain by carrying uniformity of decoration into the minutest
particulars,--an art of which the bourgeois mind is ignorant, though
it is much taken with its results. A glass chandelier, with
twenty-four wax-candles, brought out the color of the red silk
draperies; the polished floor had an enticing look, which tempted
Cesarine to dance.

"How charming!" she said; "and yet there is nothing to seize the eye."

"Exactly, mademoiselle," said the architect; "the charm comes from the
harmony which reigns between the wainscots, walls, cornices, and the
decorations; I have gilded nothing, the colors are sober, and not
extravagant in tone."

"It is a science," said Cesarine.

A boudoir in green and white led into Cesar's study.

"Here I have put a bed," said Grindot, opening the doors of an alcove
cleverly hidden between the two bookcases. "If you or madame should
chance to be ill, each can have your own room."

"But this bookcase full of books, all bound! Oh! my wife, my wife!"
cried Cesar.

"No; that is Cesarine's surprise."

"Pardon the feelings of a father," said Cesar to the architect, as he
kissed his daughter.

"Oh! of course, of course, monsieur," said Grindot; "you are in your
own home."

Brown was the prevailing color in the study, relieved here and there
with green, for a thread of harmony led through all the rooms and
allied them with one another. Thus the color which was the leading
tone of one room became the relieving tint of another. The engraving
of Hero and Leander shone on one of the panels of Cesar's study.

"Ah! _thou_ wilt pay for all this," said Birotteau, looking gaily at

"That beautiful engraving is given to you by Monsieur Anselme," said

(Anselme, too, had allowed himself a "surprise.")

"Poor boy! he has done just as I did for Monsieur Vauquelin."

The bedroom of Madame Birotteau came next. The architect had there
displayed a magnificence well calculated to please the worthy people
whom he was anxious to snare; he had really kept his word and
_studied_ this decoration. The room was hung in blue silk, with white
ornaments; the furniture was in white cassimere touched with blue. On
the chimney-piece, of white marble, stood a clock representing Venus
crouching, on a fine block of marble; a moquette carpet, of Turkish
design, harmonized this room with that of Cesarine, which opened out
of it, and was coquettishly hung with Persian chintz. A piano, a
pretty wardrobe with a mirror door, a chaste little bed with simple
curtains, and all the little trifles that young girls like, completed
the arrangements of the room. The dining-room was behind the bedroom
of Cesar and his wife, and was entered from the staircase; it was
treated in the style called Louis XIV., with a clock in buhl, buffets
of the same, inlaid with brass and tortoise-shell; the walls were hung
with purple stuff, fastened down by gilt nails. The happiness of these
three persons is not to be described, more especially when,
re-entering her room, Madame Birotteau found upon her bed (where
Virginie had just carried it, on tiptoe) the robe of cherry-colored
velvet, with lace trimmings, which was her husband's "surprise."

"Monsieur, this appartement will win you great distinction," said
Constance to Grindot. "We shall receive a hundred and more persons
to-morrow evening, and you will win praises from everybody."

"I shall recommend you," said Cesar. "You will meet the very _heads_
of commerce, and you will be better known through that one evening
than if you had built a hundred houses."

Constance, much moved, thought no longer of costs, nor of blaming her
husband; and for the following reason: That morning, when he brought
the engraving of Hero and Leander, Anselme Popinot, whom Constance
credited with much intelligence and practical ability, had assured her
of the inevitable success of Cephalic Oil, for which he was working
night and day with a fury that was almost unprecedented. The lover
promised that no matter what was the round sum of Birotteau's
extravagance, it should be covered in six months by Cesar's share in
the profits of the oil. After fearing and trembling for nineteen years
it was so sweet to give herself up to one day of unalloyed happiness,
that Constance promised her daughter not to poison her husband's
pleasure by any doubts or disapproval, but to share his happiness
heartily. When therefore, about eleven o'clock, Grindot left them, she
threw herself into her husband's arms and said to him with tears of
joy, "Cesar! ah, I am beside myself! You have made me very happy!"

"Provided it lasts, you mean?" said Cesar, smiling.

"It will last; I have no more fears," said Madame Birotteau.

"That's right," said the perfumer; "you appreciate me at last."

People who are sufficiently large-minded to perceive their own innate
weakness will admit that an orphan girl who eighteen years earlier was
saleswoman at the Petit-Matelot, Ile Saint-Louis, and a poor peasant
lad coming from Touraine to Paris with hob-nailed shoes and a cudgel
in his hand, might well be flattered and happy in giving such a fete
for such praiseworthy reasons.

"Bless my heart!" cried Cesar. "I'd give a hundred francs if someone
would only come in now and pay us a visit."

"Here is Monsieur l'Abbe Loraux," said Virginie.

The abbe entered. He was at that time vicar of Saint-Sulpice. The
power of the soul was never better manifested than in this saintly
priest, whose intercourse with others left upon the minds of all an
indelible impression. His grim face, so plain as to check confidence,
had grown sublime through the exercise of Catholic virtues; upon it
shone, as it were by anticipation, the celestial glories. Sincerity
and candor, infused into his very blood, gave harmony to his unsightly
features, and the fires of charity blended the discordant lines by a
phenomenon, the exact counterpart of that which in Claparon had
debased and brutalized the human being. Faith, Hope, and Charity, the
three noblest virtues of humanity, shed their charm among the abbe's
wrinkles; his speech was gentle, slow, and penetrating. His dress was
that of the priests of Paris, and he allowed himself to wear a brown
frock-coat. No ambition had ever crept into that pure heart, which the
angels would some day carry to God in all its pristine innocence. It
required the gentle firmness of the daughter of Louis XVI. to induce
him to accept a benefice in Paris, humble as it was. As he now entered
the room he glanced with an uneasy eye at the magnificence before him,
smiled at the three delighted people, and shook his gray head.

"My children," he said, "my part in life is not to share in gaieties,
but to visit the afflicted. I came to thank Monsieur Cesar for his
invitation, and to congratulate you. I shall come to only one fete
here,--the marriage of this dear child."

After the short visit the abbe went away without seeing the various
apartments, which the perfumer and his wife dared not show him. This
solemn apparition threw a few drops of cold water into the boiling
delight of Cesar's heart. Each of the party slept amid their new
luxury, taking possession of the good things and the pretty things
they had severally wished for. Cesarine undressed her mother before a
toilet-table of white marble with a long mirror. Cesar had given
himself a few superfluities, and longed to make use of them at once:
and they all went to sleep thinking of the joys of the morrow.

On that morrow Cesarine and her mother, having been to Mass, and
having read their vespers, dressed about four o'clock in the
afternoon, after resigning the _entresol_ to the secular arm of Chevet
and his people. No attire ever suited Madame Cesar better than this
cherry-colored velvet dress with lace trimmings, and short sleeves
made with jockeys: her beautiful arms, still fresh and youthful, her
bosom, sparklingly white, her throat and shoulders of a lovely shape,
were all heightened in effect by the rich material and the resplendent
color. The naive delight which every woman feels when she sees herself
in the plenitude of her power gave an inexpressible sweetness to the
Grecian profile of this charming woman, whose beauty had all the
delicacy of a cameo. Cesarine, dressed in white crape, wore a wreath
of white roses, a rose at her waist, and a scarf chastely covering her
shoulders and bust: Popinot was beside himself.

"These people crush us," said Madame Roguin to her husband as they
went through the appartement.

The notary's wife was furious at appearing less beautiful than Madame
Cesar; for every woman knows how to judge the superiority or the
inferiority of a rival.

"Bah!" whispered Roguin to his wife, "it won't last long; you will
soon bespatter her when you meet her a-foot in the streets, ruined."

Vauquelin showed perfect tact; he came with Monsieur de Lacepede, his
colleague of the Institute, who had called to fetch him in a carriage.
On beholding the resplendent mistress of the fete they both launched
into scientific compliments.

"Ah, madame, you possess a secret of which science is ignorant," said
the chemist, "the recipe for remaining young and beautiful."

"You are, as I may say, partly at home here, Monsieur l'academicien,"
said Birotteau. "Yes, Monsieur le comte," he added, turning to the
high chancellor of the Legion of honor, "I owe my fortune to Monsieur
Vauquelin. I have the honor to present to your lordship Monsieur le
president of the Court of Commerce. This is Monsieur le Comte de
Lacepede, peer of France," he said to Joseph Lebas, who accompanied
the president.

The guests were punctual. The dinner, like all commercial dinners, was
extremely gay, full of good humor, and enlivened by the rough jests
which always raise a laugh. The excellence of the dishes and the
goodness of the wines were fully appreciated. It was half-past nine
o'clock when the company returned to the salons to take their coffee.
A few hackney-coaches had already brought the first impatient dancers.
An hour later the rooms were full, and the ball took the character of
a rout. Monsieur de Lacepede and Monsieur Vauquelin went away, much to
the grief of Cesar, who followed them to the staircase, vainly
entreating them to remain. He succeeded, however, in keeping Monsieur
Popinot the judge, and Monsieur de la Billardiere. With the exception
of three women who severally represented the aristocracy, finance, and
government circles,--namely, Mademoiselle de Fontaine, Madame Jules,
and Madame Rabourdin, whose beauty, dress, and manners were sharply
defined in this assemblage,--all the other women wore heavy,
over-loaded dresses, and offered to the eye that anomalous air of
richness which gives to the bourgeois masses their vulgar aspect, made
cruelly apparent on this occasion by the airy graces of the three
other women.

The bourgeoisie of the Rue Saint-Denis displayed itself majestically
in the plenitude of its native powers of jocose silliness. It was a
fair specimen of that middle class which dresses its children like
lancers or national guards, buys the "Victoires et Conquetes," the
"Soldat-laboureur," admires the "Convoi du Pauvre," delights in
mounting guard, goes on Sunday to its own country-house, is anxious to
acquire the distinguished air, and dreams of municipal honors,--that
middle class which is jealous of all and of every one, and yet is
good, obliging, devoted, feeling, compassionate, ready to subscribe
for the children of General Foy, or for the Greeks, whose piracies it
knows nothing about, or the Exiles until none remained; duped through
its virtues and scouted for its defects by a social class that is not
worthy of it, for it has a heart precisely because it is ignorant of
social conventions,--that virtuous middle-class which brings up
ingenuous daughters to an honorable toil, giving them sterling
qualities which diminish as soon as they are brought in contact with
the superior world of social life; girls without mind, among whom the
worthy Chrysale would have chosen his wife,--in short, a middle-class
admirably represented by the Matifats, druggists in the Rue des
Lombards, whose firm had supplied "The Queen of Roses" for more than
sixty years.

Madame Matifat, wishing to give herself a dignified air, danced in a
turban and a heavy robe of scarlet shot with gold threads,--a toilet
which harmonized well with a self-important manner, a Roman nose, and
the splendors of a crimson complexion. Monsieur Matifat, superb at a
review of the National Guard, where his protuberant paunch could be
distinguished at fifty paces, and upon which glittered a gold chain
and a bunch of trinkets, was under the yoke of this Catherine II. of
commerce. Short and fat, harnessed with spectacles and a shirt-collar
worn above his ears, he was chiefly distinguished for his bass voice
and the richness of his vocabulary. He never said Corneille, but "the
sublime Corneille"; Racine was "the gentle Racine"; Voltaire, "Oh!
Voltaire, second in everything, with more wit than genius, but
nevertheless a man of genius"; Rousseau, "a gloomy mind, a man full of
pride, who hanged himself." He related in his prosy way vulgar
anecdotes of Piron, a poet who passes for a prodigy among the
bourgeoisie. Matifat, a passionate lover of the stage, had a slight
leaning to obscenity. It was even said that, in imitation of Cadot and
the rich Camusot, he kept a mistress. Sometimes Madame Matifat, seeing
him about to relate some questionable anecdote, would hasten to
interrupt him by screaming out: "Take care what you are saying, old
man!" She called him habitually her "old man." This voluminous queen
of drugs caused Mademoiselle de Fontaine to lose her aristocratic
countenance, for the impertinent girl could not help laughing as she
overheard her saying to her husband: "Don't fling yourself upon the
ices, old man, it is bad style."

It is more difficult to explain the nature of the difference between
the great world and the bourgeoisie than it is for the bourgeoisie to
obliterate it. These women, embarrassed by their fine clothes and very
conscious of them, displayed a naive pleasure which proved that a ball
was a rarity in their busy lives; while the three women, who each
represented a sphere in the great world, were then exactly what they
would be on the morrow. They had no appearance of having dressed
purposely for the ball, they paid no heed to the splendor of their
jewels, nor to the effect which they themselves produced; all had been
arranged when they stood before their mirrors and put the last touches
on their toilets. Their faces showed no excitement or excessive
interest, and they danced with the grace and ease which unknown genius
has given to certain statues of antiquity.

The others, on the contrary, stamped with the mark of toil, retained
their vulgar attitudes, and amused themselves too heartily; their eyes
were full of inconsiderate curiosity; their voices ranged above the
low murmur which gives inimitable piquancy to the conversations of a
ball-room; above all, they had none of that composed impertinence
which contains the germs of epigram, nor the tranquil attitude which
characterizes those who are accustomed to maintain empire over
themselves. Thus Madame Rabourdin, Madame Jules, and Mademoiselle de
Fontaine, who had expected much amusement from the ball of their
perfumer, were detached from the background of the bourgeoisie about
them by their soft and easy grace, by the exquisite taste of their
dress and bearing,--just as three leading singers at an opera stand
out in relief from the stolid array of their supernumeraries. They
were watched with jealous, wondering eyes. Madame Roguin, Constance,
and Cesarine formed, as it were, a link which united the three types
of feminine aristocracy to the commercial figures about them.

There came, as there does at all balls, a moment when the animation of
the scene, the torrents of light, the gaiety, the music, the
excitement of dancing brought on a species of intoxication which puts
out of sight these gradations in the _crescendo_ of the _tutti_. The
ball was beginning to be noisy, and Mademoiselle de Fontaine made a
movement to retire; but when she looked about for the arm of her
venerable Vendeen, Birotteau, his wife, and daughter made haste to
prevent such a desertion of the aristocracy.

"There is a perfume of good taste about this appartement which really
amazes me," remarked that impertinent young woman to the perfumer. "I
congratulate you."

Birotteau was so intoxicated by compliments that he did not comprehend
her meaning; but his wife colored, and was at a loss how to reply.

"This is a national fete which does you honor," said Camusot.

"I have seldom seen such a ball," said Monsieur de la Billardiere, to
whom an official falsehood was of no consequence.

Birotteau took all these compliments seriously.

"What an enchanting scene! What a fine orchestra! Will you often give
us a ball?" said Madame Lebas.

"What a charming appartement! Is this your own taste?" said Madame

Birotteau ventured on a fib, and allowed her to suppose that he had
designed it.

Cesarine, who was asked, of course, for all the dances, understood
very well Anselme's delicacy in that matter.

"If I thought only of my own wishes," he had whispered as they left
the dinner-table, "I should beg you to grant me the favor of a
quadrille; but my happiness would be too costly to our mutual

Cesarine, who thought all men walked ungracefully if they stood
straight on their legs, was resolved to open the ball with Popinot.
Popinot, emboldened by his aunt, who told him to dare all, ventured to
tell his love to the charming girl, during the pauses of the
quadrille, using, however, the roundabout terms of a timid lover.

"My fortune depends on you, mademoiselle."

"And how?"

"There is but one hope that can enable me to make it."

"Then hope."

"Do you know what you have said to me in those two words?" murmured

"Hope for fortune," said Cesarine, with an arch smile.

"Gaudissart! Gaudissart!" exclaimed Anselme, when the quadrille was
over, pressing the arm of his friend with Herculean force. "Succeed,
or I'll blow my brains out! Success, and I shall marry Cesarine! she
has told me so: see how lovely she is!"

"Yes, she is prettily tricked out," said Gaudissart, "and rich. We'll
fry her in oil."

The good understanding between Mademoiselle Lourdois and Alexandre
Crottat, the promised successor to Roguin, was noticed by Madame
Birotteau, who could not give up without a pang the hope of seeing her
daughter the wife of a notary of Paris.

Uncle Pillerault, who had exchanged bows with little Molineux, seated
himself in an armchair near the bookshelves. He looked at the
card-players, listened to the conversations, and went to the doorway
every now and then to watch the oscillating bouquet of flowers formed
by the circling heads of the dancers in the _moulinet_. The expression
of his face was that of a true philosopher. The men were dreadful,--all,
that is, except du Tillet, who had acquired the manners of the great
world, little La Billardiere, a budding fashionable, Monsieur Desmarets,
and the official personages. But among all the faces, more or less
comical, from which the assemblage took its character, there was one
that was particularly washed-out, like a five-franc piece of the
Republic, and whose owner's apparel rendered him a curiosity. We guess
at once the little tyrant of the Cour Batave, arrayed with linen
yellowed by lying by in a cupboard, and exhibiting to the eye a
shirt-frill of lace that had been an heirloom, fastened with a bluish
cameo set as a pin; he wore short black-silk breeches which revealed the
skinny legs on which he boldly stood. Cesar showed him, triumphantly,
the four rooms constructed by the architect out of the first floors of
the two houses.

"Hey! hey! Well, it is your affair, Monsieur Birotteau," said
Molineux. "My first floor thus improved will be worth more than three
thousand francs to me."

Birotteau answered with a jest; but he was pricked as if with a pin at
the tone in which the little old man had pronounced the words.

"I shall soon have my first floor back again; the man will ruin
himself." Such was the real meaning of the speech which Molineux
delivered like the scratch of a claw.

The sallow face and vindictive eye of the old man struck du Tillet,
whose attention had first been attracted by a watch-chain from which
hung a pound of jingling gew-gaws, and by a green coat with a collar
whimsically cocked up, which gave the old man the semblance of a
rattlesnake. The banker approached the usurer to find out how and why
he had thus bedizened himself.

"There, monsieur," said Molineux, planting one foot in the boudoir, "I
stand upon the property of Monsieur le Comte de Grandville; but here,"
he added, showing the other, "I stand upon my own. I am the owner of
this house."

Molineux was so ready to lend himself to any one who would listen to
him, and so delighted by du Tillet's attentive manner, that he gave a
sketch of his life, related his habits and customs, told the improper
conduct of the Sieur Gendrin, and, finally, explained all his
arrangements with the perfumer, without which, he said, the ball could
not have been given.

"Ah! Monsieur Cesar let you settle the lease?" said du Tillet. "It is
contrary to his habits."

"Oh! I asked it of him. I am good to my tenants."

"If Pere Birotteau fails," thought du Tillet, "this little imp would
make an excellent assignee. His sharpness is invaluable; when he is
alone he must amuse himself by catching flies, like Domitian."

Du Tillet went to the card-table, where Claparon was already
stationed, under orders; Ferdinand thought that under shelter of a
game of _bouillotte_ his counterfeit banker might escape notice. Their
demeanor to each other was that of two strangers, and the most
suspicious man could have detected nothing that betrayed an
understanding between them. Gaudissart, who knew the career of
Claparon, dared not approach him after receiving a solemnly frigid
glance from the promoted commercial traveller which warned him that
the upstart banker was not to be recognized by any former comrade. The
ball, like a brilliant rocket, was extinguished by five o'clock in the
morning. At that hour only some forty hackney-coaches remained, out of
the hundred or more which had crowded the Rue Saint-Honore. Within,
they were dancing the _boulangere_, which has since been dethroned by
the cotillon and the English galop. Du Tillet, Roguin, Cardot junior,
the Comte de Grandville, and Jules Desmarets were playing at
_bouillotte_. Du Tillet won three thousand francs. The day began to
dawn, the wax lights paled, the players joined the dancers for a last
quadrille. In such houses the final scenes of a ball never pass off
without some impropriety. The dignified personages have departed; the
intoxication of dancing, the heat of the atmosphere, the spirits
concealed in the most innocent drinks, have mellowed the angularities
of the old women, who good-naturedly join in the last quadrille and
lend themselves to the excitement of the moment; the men are heated,
their hair, lately curled, straggles down their faces, and gives them
a grotesque expression which excites laughter; the young women grow
volatile, and a few flowers drop from their garlands. The bourgeois
Momus appears, followed by his revellers. Laughs ring loudly; all
present surrender to the amusement of the moment, knowing that on the
morrow toil will resume its sway. Matifat danced with a woman's bonnet
on his head; Celestin called the figures of the interminable country
dance, and some of the women beat their hands together excitedly at
the words of command.

"How they do amuse themselves!" cried the happy Birotteau.

"I hope they won't break anything," said Constance to her uncle.

"You have given the most magnificent ball I have ever seen, and I have
seen many," said du Tillet, bowing to his old master.

Among the eight symphonies of Beethoven there is a theme, glorious as
a poem, which dominates the finale of the symphony in C minor. When,
after slow preparations by the sublime magician, so well understood by
Habeneck, the enthusiastic leader of an orchestra raises the rich veil
with a motion of his hand and calls forth the transcendent theme
towards which the powers of music have all converged, poets whose
hearts have throbbed at those sounds will understand how the ball of
Cesar Birotteau produced upon his simple being the same effect that
this fecund harmony wrought in theirs,--an effect to which the
symphony in C minor owes its supremacy over its glorious sisters. A
radiant fairy springs forward, lifting high her wand. We hear the
rustle of the violet silken curtains which the angels raise.
Sculptured golden doors, like those of the baptistery at Florence,
turn on their diamond hinges. The eye is lost in splendid vistas: it
sees a long perspective of rare palaces where beings of a loftier
nature glide. The incense of all prosperities sends up its smoke, the
altar of all joy flames, the perfumed air circulates! Beings with
divine smiles, robed in white tunics bordered with blue, flit lightly
before the eyes and show us visions of supernatural beauty, shapes of
an incomparable delicacy. The Loves hover in the air and waft the
flames of their torches! We feel ourselves beloved; we are happy as we
breathe a joy we understand not, as we bathe in the waves of a harmony
that flows for all, and pours out to all the ambrosia that each
desires. We are held in the grasp of our secret hopes which are
realized, for an instant, as we listen. When he has led us through the
skies, the great magician, with a deep mysterious transition of the
basses, flings us back into the marshes of cold reality, only to draw
us forth once more when, thirsting for his divine melodies, our souls
cry out, "Again! Again!" The psychical history of that rare moment in
the glorious finale of the C minor symphony is also that of the
emotions excited by this fete in the souls of Cesar and of Constance.
The flute of Collinet sounded the last notes of their commercial

Weary, but happy, the Birotteaus fell asleep in the early morning amid
echoes of the fete,--which for building, repairs, furnishing, suppers,
toilets, and the library (repaid to Cesarine), cost not less, though
Cesar was little aware of it, than sixty thousand francs. Such was the
price of the fatal red ribbon fastened by the king to the buttonhole
of an honest perfumer. If misfortunes were to overtake Cesar
Birotteau, this mad extravagance would be sufficient to arraign him
before the criminal courts. A merchant is amenable to the laws if, in
the event of bankruptcy, he is shown to have been guilty of "excessive
expenditure." It is perhaps more dreadful to go before the lesser
courts charged with folly or blundering mistakes, than before the
Court of Assizes for an enormous fraud. In the eyes of some people, it
is better to be criminal than a fool.

                              PART II



Eight days after his ball, the last dying flash of a prosperity of
eighteen years now about to be extinguished, Cesar Birotteau watched
the passers-by from the windows of his shop, thinking over the
expansion of his affairs, and beginning to find them burdensome. Until
then all had been simple in his life; he manufactured and sold, or
bought to sell again. To-day the land speculation, his share in the
house of A. Popinot and Company, the repayment of the hundred and
sixty thousand francs thrown upon the market, which necessitated
either a traffic in promissory notes (of which his wife would
disapprove), or else some unheard-of success in Cephalic Oil, all
fretted the poor man by the multiplicity of ideas which they involved;
he felt he had more irons in the fire than he could lay hold of. How
would Anselme guide the helm? Birotteau treated Popinot as a professor
of rhetoric treats a pupil,--he distrusted his methods, and regretted
that he was not at his elbow. The kick he had given Popinot to make
him hold his tongue at Vauquelin's explains the uneasiness which the
young merchant inspired in his mind.

Birotteau took care that neither his wife nor his daughter nor the
clerks should suspect his anxiety; but he was in truth like a humble
boatman on the Seine whom the government has suddenly put in command
of a frigate. Troubled thoughts filled his mind, never very capable of
reflection, as if with a fog; he stood still, as it were, and peered
about to see his way. At this moment a figure appeared in the street
for which he felt a violent antipathy; it was that of his new
landlord, little Molineux. Every one has dreamed dreams filled with
the events of a lifetime, in which there appears and reappears some
wayward being, commissioned to play the mischief and be the villain of
the piece. To Birotteau's fancy Molineux seemed delegated by chance to
fill some part in his life. His weird face had grinned diabolically at
the ball, and he had looked at its magnificence with an evil eye.
Catching sight of him again at this moment, Cesar was all the more
reminded of the impression the little skin-flint (a word of his
vocabulary) had made upon him, because Molineux excited fresh
repugnance by reappearing in the midst of his anxious reverie.

"Monsieur," said the little man, in his atrociously hypocritical
voice, "we settled our business so hastily that you forgot to
guarantee the signatures on the little private deed."

Birotteau took the lease to repair the mistake. The architect came in
at this moment, and bowed to the perfumer, looking about him with a
diplomatic air.

"Monsieur," he whispered to Cesar presently, "you can easily
understand that the first steps in a profession are difficult; you
said you were satisfied with me, and it would oblige me very much if
you would pay me my commission."

Birotteau, who had stripped himself of ready money when he put his
current cash into Roguin's hands two weeks earlier, called to Celestin
to make out an order for two thousand francs at ninety days' sight,
and to write the form of a receipt.

"I am very glad you took part of your neighbor's rental on yourself,"
said Molineux in a sly, half-sneering tone. "My porter came to tell me
just now that the sheriff has affixed the seals to the Sieur Cayron's
appartement; he has disappeared."

"I hope I'm not juggled out of five thousand francs," thought

"Cayron always seemed to do a good business," said Lourdois, who just
then came in to bring his bill.

"A merchant is never safe from commercial reverses until he has
retired from business," said little Molineux, folding up his document
with fussy precision.

The architect watched the queer old man with the enjoyment all artists
find in getting hold of a caricature which confirms their theories
about the bourgeoisie.

"When we have got our head under an umbrella we generally think it is
protected from the rain," he said.

Molineux noticed the mustachios and the little chin-tuft of the artist
much more than he did his face, and he despised that individual folly
as much as Grindot despised him. He waited to give him a parting
scratch as he went out. By dint of living so long with his cats
Molineux had acquired, in his manners as well as in his eyes,
something unmistakably feline.

Just at this moment Ragon and Pillerault came in.

"We have been talking of the land affair with the judge," said Ragon
in Cesar's ear; "he says that in a speculation of that kind we must
have a warranty from the sellers, and record the deeds, and pay in
cash, before we are really owners and co-partners."

"Ah! you are talking of the lands about the Madeleine," said Lourdois;
"there is a good deal said about them: there will be some houses to

The painter who had come intending to have his bill settled, suddenly
thought it more to his interest not to press Birotteau.

"I brought my bill because it was the end of the year," he whispered
to Cesar; "but there's no hurry."

"What is the matter, Cesar?" said Pillerault, noticing the amazement
of his nephew, who, having glanced at the bill, made no reply to
either Ragon or Lourdois.

"Oh, a trifle. I took notes to the amount of five thousand francs from
my neighbor, a dealer in umbrellas, and he has failed. If he has given
me bad securities I shall be caught, like a fool."

"And yet I have warned you many times," cried Ragon; "a drowning man
will catch at his father's leg to save himself, and drown him too. I
have seen so many failures! People are not exactly scoundrels when the
disaster begins, but they soon come to be, out of sheer necessity."

"That's true," said Pillerault.

"If I ever get into the Chamber of Deputies, and ever have any
influence in the government," said Birotteau, rising on his toes and
dropping back on his heels,--

"What would you do?" said Lourdois, "for you've a long head."

Molineux, interested in any discussion about law, lingered in the
shop; and as the attention of a few persons is apt to make others
attentive, Pillerault and Ragon listened as gravely as the three
strangers, though they perfectly well knew Cesar's opinions.

"I would have," said the perfumer, "a court of irremovable judges,
with a magistracy to attend to the application and execution of the
laws. After the examination of a case, during which the judge should
fulfil the functions of agent, assignee, and commissioner, the
merchant should be declared _insolvent with rights of reinstatement_,
or else _bankrupt_. If the former, he should be required to pay in
full; he should be left in control of his own property and that of his
wife; all his belongings and his inherited property should belong to
his creditors, and he should administer his affairs in their interests
under supervision; he should still carry on his business, signing
always 'So-and-so, insolvent,' until the whole debt is paid off. If
bankrupt, he should be condemned, as formerly, to the pillory on the
Place de la Bourse, and exposed for two hours, wearing a green cap.
His property and that of his wife, and all his rights of every kind
should be handed over to his creditors, and he himself banished from
the kingdom."

"Business would be more secure," said Lourdois; "people would think
twice before launching into speculations."

"The existing laws are not enforced," cried Cesar, lashing himself up.
"Out of every hundred merchants there are more than fifty who never
realize seventy-five per cent of the whole value of their business, or
who sell their merchandise at twenty-five per cent below the invoice
price; and that is the destruction of commerce."

"Monsieur is very right," said Molineux; "the law leaves a great deal
too much latitude. There should either be total relinquishment of
everything, or infamy."

"Damn it!" said Cesar, "at the rate things are going now, a merchant
will soon be a licensed thief. With his mere signature he can dip into
anybody's money-drawer."

"You have no mercy, Monsieur Birotteau," said Lourdois.

"He is quite right," said old Ragon.

"All insolvents are suspicious characters," said Cesar, exasperated by
his little loss, which sounded in his ears like the first cry of the
view-halloo in the ears of the game.

At this moment the late major-domo brought in Chevet's account,
followed by a clerk sent by Felix, a waiter from the cafe Foy, and
Collinet's clarionet, each with a bill.

"Rabelais' quarter of an hour," said Ragon, smiling.

"It was a fine ball," said Lourdois.

"I am busy," said Cesar to the messengers; who all left the bills and
went away.

"Monsieur Grindot," said Lourdois, observing that the architect was
folding up Birotteau's cheque, "will you certify my account? You need
only to add it up; the prices were all agreed to by you on Monsieur
Birotteau's behalf."

Pillerault looked at Lourdois and Grindot.

"Prices agreed upon between the architect and contractor?" he said in
a low voice to his nephew,--"they have robbed you."

Grindot left the shop, and Molineux followed him with a mysterious

"Monsieur," he said, "you listened to me, but you did not understand
me,--I wish you the protection of an umbrella."

The architect was frightened. The more illegal a man's gains the more
he clings to them: the human heart is so made. Grindot had really
studied the appartement lovingly; he had put all his art and all his
time into it; he had given ten thousand francs worth of labor, and he
felt that in so doing he had been the dupe of his vanity: the
contractors therefore had little trouble in seducing him. The
irresistible argument and threat, fully understood, of injuring him
professionally by calumniating his work were, however, less powerful
than a remark made by Lourdois about the lands near the Madeleine.
Birotteau did not expect to hold a single house upon them; he was
speculating only on the value of the land; but architects and
contractors are to each other very much what authors and actors are,
--mutually dependent. Grindot, ordered by Birotteau to stipulate the
costs, went for the interests of the builders against the bourgeoisie;
and the result was that three large contractors--Lourdois, Chaffaroux,
and Thorein the carpenter--proclaimed him "one of those good fellows
it is a pleasure to work for." Grindot guessed that the contractor's
bills, out of which he was to have a share, would be paid, like his
commission, in notes; and little Molineux had just filled his mind
with doubts as to their payment. The architect was about to become
pitiless,--after the manner of artists, who are most intolerant of men
in their dealings with the middle classes.

By the end of December bills to the amount of sixty thousand francs
had been sent in. Felix, the cafe Foy, Tanrade, and all the little
creditors who ought to be paid in ready money, had asked for payment
three times. Failure to pay such trifles as these do more harm in
business than a real misfortune,--they foretell it: known losses are
definite, but a panic defies all reckoning. Birotteau saw his coffers
empty, and terror seized him: such a thing had never happened
throughout his whole commercial life. Like all persons who have never
struggled long with poverty, and who are by nature feeble, this
circumstance, so common among the greater number of the petty Parisian
tradesmen, disturbed for a moment Cesar's brain. He ordered Celestin
to send round the bills of his customers and ask for payment. Before
doing so, the head clerk made him repeat the unheard-of order. The
clients,--a fine term applied by retail shopkeepers to their
customers, and used by Cesar in spite of his wife, who however ended
by saying, "Call them what you like, provided they pay!"--his clients,
then, were rich people, through whom he had never lost money, who paid
when they pleased, and among whom Cesar often had a floating amount of
fifty or sixty thousand francs due to him. The second clerk went
through the books and copied off the largest sums. Cesar dreaded his
wife: that she might not see his depression under this simoom of
misfortune, he prepared to go out.

"Good morning, monsieur," said Grindot, entering with the lively
manner artists put on when they speak of business, and wish to pretend
they know nothing about it; "I cannot get your paper cashed, and I am
obliged to ask you to give me the amount in ready money. I am truly
unhappy in making this request, but I don't wish to go to the usurers.
I have not hawked your signature about; I know enough of business to
feel sure it would injure you. It is really in your own interest that

"Monsieur," said Birotteau, horrified, "speak lower if you please; you
surprise me strangely."

Lourdois entered.

"Lourdois," said Birotteau, smiling, "would you believe--"

The poor man stopped short; he was about to ask the painter to take
the note given to Grindot, ridiculing the architect with the good
nature of a merchant sure of his own standing; but he saw a cloud upon
Lourdois' brow, and he shuddered at his own imprudence. The innocent
jest would have been the death of his suspected credit. In such a case
a prosperous merchant takes back his note, and does not offer it
elsewhere. Birotteau felt his head swim, as though he had looked down
the sides of a precipice into a measureless abyss.

"My dear Monsieur Birotteau," said Lourdois, drawing him to the back
of the shop, "my account has been examined, audited, and certified; I
must ask you to have the money ready for me to-morrow. I marry my
daughter to little Crottat; he wants money, for notaries will not take
paper; besides, I never give promissory notes."

"Send to me on the day after to-morrow," said Birotteau proudly,
counting on the payment of his own bills. "And you too, Monsieur," he
said to the architect.

"Why not pay at once?" said Grindot.

"I have my workmen in the faubourg to pay," said Birotteau, who knew
not how to lie.

He took his hat once more intending to follow them out, but the mason,
Thorein, and Chaffaroux stopped him as he was closing the door.

"Monsieur," said Chaffaroux, "we are in great need of money."

"Well, I have not the mines of Peru," said Cesar, walking quickly away
from them. "There is something beneath all this," he said to himself.
"That cursed ball! All the world thinks I am worth millions. Yet
Lourdois had a look that was not natural; there's a snake in the grass

He walked along the Rue Saint-Honore, in no special direction, and
feeling much discomposed. At the corner of a street he ran against
Alexandre Crottat, just as a ram, or a mathematician absorbed in the
solution of a problem, might have knocked against another of his kind.

"Ah, monsieur," said the future notary, "one word! Has Roguin given
your four hundred thousand francs to Monsieur Claparon?"

"The business was settled in your presence. Monsieur Claparon gave me
no receipt; my acceptances were to be--negotiated. Roguin was to give
him--my two hundred and forty thousand francs. He was told that he was
to pay for the property definitely. Monsieur Popinot the judge said
--The receipt!--but--why do you ask the question?"

"Why ask the question? To know if your two hundred and forty thousand
francs are still with Roguin. Roguin was so long connected with you,
that perhaps out of decent feeling he may have paid them over to
Claparon, and you will escape! But, no! what a fool I am! He has
carried off Claparon's money as well! Happily, Claparon had only paid
over, to my care, one hundred thousand francs. I gave them to Roguin
just as I would give you my purse, and I have no receipt for them. The
owners of the land have not received one penny; they have just been
talking to me. The money you thought you raised upon your property in
the Faubourg du Temple had no existence for you, or the borrower;
Roguin has squandered it, together with your hundred thousand francs,
which he used up long ago,--and your last hundred thousand as well,
for I just remember drawing them from the bank."

The pupils of Cesar's eyes dilated so enormously that he saw only red

"Your hundred thousand francs in his hands, my hundred thousand for
his practice, a hundred thousand from Claparon,--there's three hundred
thousand francs purloined, not to speak of other thefts which will be
discovered," exclaimed the young notary. "Madame Roguin is not to be
counted on. Du Tillet has had a narrow escape. Roguin tormented him
for a month to get into that land speculation, but happily all his
funds were tied up in an affair with Nucingen. Roguin has written an
atrocious letter to his wife; I have read it. He has been making free
with his clients' money for years; and why? for a mistress,--la belle
Hollandaise. He left her two weeks ago. The squandering hussy hasn't a
farthing left; they sold her furniture,--she had signed promissory
notes. To escape arrest, she took refuge in a house in the
Palais-Royal, where she was assassinated last night by a captain in
the army. God has quickly punished her; she has wasted Roguin's whole
fortune and much more. There are some women to whom nothing is sacred:
think of squandering the trust moneys of a notary! Madame Roguin won't
have a penny, except by claiming her rights of dower; the scoundrel's
whole property is encumbered to its full value. I bought the practice
for three hundred thousand francs,--I, who thought I was getting a
good thing!--and paid a hundred thousand down. I have no receipt; the
creditors will think I am an accomplice if I say a word about that
hundred thousand francs, and when a man is starting in life he must be
careful of his reputation. There will hardly be thirty per cent saved
for the creditors. At my age, to get such a set-back! A man fifty-nine
years of age to keep a mistress! the old villain! It is only two weeks
since he told me not to marry Cesarine; he said you would soon be
without bread,--the monster!"

Alexandre might have talked on indefinitely, for Birotteau stood
still, petrified. Every phrase was a calamity, like the blows of a
bludgeon. He heard the death-bells tolling in his ears,--just as his
eyes had seen, at the first word, the flames of his fortune. Alexandre
Crottat, who thought the worthy perfumer a strong and able man, was
alarmed at his paleness and rigidity. He was not aware that Roguin had
carried off Cesar's whole property. The thought of immediate suicide
passed through the brain of the victim, deeply religious as he was. In
such a case suicide is only a way to escape a thousand deaths; it
seems logical to take it. Alexandre Crottat gave him his arm, and
tried to make him walk on, but it was impossible: his legs gave way
under him as if he were drunk.

"What is the matter?" said Crottat. "Dear Monsieur Cesar, take
courage! it is not the death of a man. Besides, you will get back your
forty thousand francs. The lender hadn't the money ready, you never
received it,--that is sufficient to set aside the agreement."

"My ball--my cross--two hundred thousand francs in paper on the
market,--no money in hand! The Ragons, Pillerault,--and my wife, who
saw true--"

A rain of confused words, revealing a weight of crushing thoughts and
unutterable suffering, poured from his lips, like hail lashing the
flowers in the garden of "The Queen of Roses."

"I wish they would cut off my head," he said at last; "its weight
troubles me, it is good for nothing."

"Poor Pere Birotteau," said Alexandre, "are you in danger?"


"Well, take courage; make an effort."


"Du Tillet was your clerk; he has a good head; he will help you."

"Du Tillet!"

"Come, try to walk."

"My God! I cannot go home as I am," said Birotteau. "You who are my
friend, if there are friends,--you in whom I took an interest, who
have dined at my house,--take me somewhere in a carriage, for my
wife's sake. Xandrot, go with me!"

The young notary compassionately put the inert mechanism which bore
the name of Cesar into a street coach, not without great difficulty.

"Xandrot," said the perfumer, in a voice choked with tears,--for the
tears were now falling from his eyes, and loosening the iron band
which bound his brow,--"stop at my shop; go in and speak to Celestin
for me. My friend, tell him it is a matter of life or death, that on
no consideration must he or any one talk about Roguin's flight. Tell
Cesarine to come down to me, and beg her not to say a word to her
mother. We must beware of our best friends, of Pillerault, Ragon,

The change in Birotteau's voice startled Crottat, who began to
understand the importance of the warning; he fulfilled the
instructions of the poor man, whom Celestin and Cesarine were
horrified to find pale and half insensible in a corner of the

"Keep the secret," he said.

"Ah!" said Xandrot to himself, "he is coming to. I thought him lost."

From thence they went, at Cesar's request, to a judge of the
commercial courts. The conference between Crottat and the magistrate
lasted long, and the president of the chamber of notaries was
summoned. Cesar was carried about from place to place, like a bale of
goods; he never moved, and said nothing. Towards seven in the evening
Alexandre Crottat took him home. The thought of appearing before
Constance braced his nerves. The young notary had the charity to go
before, and warn Madame Birotteau that her husband had had a rush of
blood to the head.

"His ideas are rather cloudy," he said, with a gesture implying
disturbance of the brain. "Perhaps he should be bled, or leeches

"No wonder," said Constance, far from dreaming of a disaster; "he did
not take his precautionary medicine at the beginning of the winter,
and for the last two months he has been working like a galley slave,
--just as if his fortune were not made."

The wife and daughter entreated Cesar to go to bed, and they sent for
his old friend Monsieur Haudry. The old man was a physician of the
school of Moliere, a great practitioner and in favor of the
old-fashioned formulas, who dosed his patients neither more nor less
than a quack, consulting physician though he was. He came, studied
the expression of Cesar's face, and observing symptoms of cerebral
congestion, ordered an immediate application of mustard plasters to
the soles of his feet.

"What can have caused it?" asked Constance.

"The damp weather," said the doctor, to whom Cesarine had given a

It often becomes a physician's duty to utter deliberately some silly
falsehood, to save honor or life, to those who are about a sick-bed.
The old doctor had seen much in his day, and he caught the meaning of
half a word. Cesarine followed him to the staircase, and asked for
directions in managing the case.

"Quiet and silence; when the head is clear we will try tonics."

Madame Cesar passed two days at the bedside of her husband, who seemed
to her at times delirious. He lay in her beautiful blue room, and as
he looked at the curtains, the furniture, and all the costly
magnificence about him, he said things that were wholly
incomprehensible to her.

"He must be out of his mind," she whispered to Cesarine, as Cesar rose
up in bed and recited clauses of the commercial Code in a solemn

"'If the expenditure is judged excessive!' Away with those curtains!"

At the end of three terrible days, during which his reason was in
danger, the strong constitution of the Tourangian peasant triumphed;
his head grew clear. Monsieur Haudry ordered stimulants and generous
diet, and before long, after an occasional cup of coffee, Cesar was on
his feet again. Constance, wearied out, took her husband's place in

"Poor woman!" said Cesar, looking at her as she slept.

"Come, papa, take courage! you are so superior a man that you will
triumph in the end. This trouble won't last; Monsieur Anselme will
help you."

Cesarine said these vague words in the tender tones which give courage
to a stricken heart, just as the songs of a mother soothe the weary
child tormented with pain as its cuts its teeth.

"Yes, my child, I shall struggle on; but say not a word to any one,
--not to Popinot who loves us, nor to your uncle Pillerault. I shall
first write to my brother; he is canon and vicar of the cathedral. He
spends nothing, and I have no doubt he has means. If he saves only
three thousand francs a year, that would give him at the end of twenty
years one hundred thousand francs. In the provinces the priests lay up

Cesarine hastened to bring her father a little table with
writing-things upon it,--among them the surplus of invitations printed
on pink paper.

"Burn all that!" cried her father. "The devil alone could have
prompted me to give that ball. If I fail, I shall seem to have been a
swindler. Stop!" he added, "words are of no avail." And he wrote the
following letter:--

  My dear Brother,--I find myself in so severe a commercial crisis
  that I must ask you to send me all the money you can dispose of,
  even if you have to borrow some for the purpose.

                                                Ever yours,

  Your niece, Cesarine, who is watching me as I write, while my poor
  wife sleeps, sends you her tender remembrances.

This postscript was added at Cesarine's urgent request; she then took
the letter and gave it to Raguet.

"Father," she said, returning, "here is Monsieur Lebas, who wants to
speak to you."

"Monsieur Lebas!" cried Cesar, frightened, as though his disaster had
made him a criminal,--"a judge!"

"My dear Monsieur Birotteau, I take too great an interest in you,"
said the stout draper, entering the room, "we have known each other
too long,--for we were both elected judges at the same time,--not to
tell you that a man named Bidault, called Gigonnet, a usurer, has
notes of yours turned over to his order, and marked 'not guaranteed,'
by the house of Claparon. Those words are not only an affront, but
they are the death of your credit."

"Monsieur Claparon wishes to speak to you," said Celestin, entering;
"may I tell him to come up?"

"Now we shall learn the meaning of this insult," said Lebas.

"Monsieur," said Cesar to Claparon, as he entered, "this is Monsieur
Lebas, a judge of the commercial courts, and my friend--"

"Ah! monsieur is Monsieur Lebas?" interrupted Claparon. "Delighted
with the opportunity, Monsieur Lebas of the commercial courts; there
are so many Lebas, you know, of one kind or another--"

"He has seen," said Birotteau, cutting the gabbler short, "the notes
which I gave you, and which I understood from you would not be put
into circulation. He has seen them bearing the words 'not

"Well," said Claparon, "they are not in general circulation; they are
in the hands of a man with whom I do a great deal of business,--Pere
Bidault. That is why I affixed the words 'not guaranteed.' If the
notes were intended for circulation you would have made them payable
to his order. Monsieur Lebas will understand my position. What do
these notes represent? The price of landed property. Paid by whom? By
Birotteau. Why should I guarantee Birotteau by my signature? We are to
pay, each on his own account, our half of the price of the said land.
Now, it is enough to be jointly and separately liable to the sellers.
I hold inflexibly to one commercial rule: I never give my guarantee
uselessly, any more than I give my receipt for moneys not yet paid. He
who signs, pays. I don't wish to be liable to pay three times."

"Three times!" said Cesar.

"Yes, monsieur," said Claparon, "I have already guaranteed Birotteau
to the sellers, why should I guarantee him again to the bankers? The
circumstances in which we are placed are very hard. Roguin has carried
off a hundred thousand francs of mine; therefore, my half of the
property costs me five hundred thousand francs instead of four hundred
thousand. Roguin has also carried off two hundred and forty thousand
francs of Birotteau's. What would you do in my place, Monsieur Lebas?
Stand in my skin for a moment and view the case. Give me your
attention. Say that we are engaged in a transaction on equal shares;
you provide the money for your share, I give bills for mine; I offer
them to you, and you undertake, purely out of kindness, to convert
them into money. You learn that I, Claparon,--banker, rich, respected
(I accept all the virtues under the sun),--that the virtuous Claparon
is on the verge of failure, with six million of liabilities to meet:
would you, at such a moment, give your signature to guarantee mine? Of
course not; you would be mad to do it. Well, Monsieur Lebas, Birotteau
is in the position which I have supposed for Claparon. Don't you see
that if I endorse for him I am liable not only for my own share of the
purchase, but I shall also be compelled to reimburse to the full
amount of Birotteau's paper, and without--"

"To whom?" asked Birotteau, interrupting him.

"--without gaining his half of the property?" said Claparon, paying no
attention to the interruption. "For I should have no rights in it; I
should have to buy it over again; consequently, I repeat, I should
have to pay for it three times."

"Reimburse whom?" persisted Birotteau.

"Why, the holder of the notes, if I were to endorse, and you were to

"I shall not fail, monsieur," said Birotteau.

"Very good," said Claparon. "But you have been a judge, and you are a
clever merchant; you know very well that we should look ahead and
foresee everything; you can't be surprised that I should attend to my
business properly."

"Monsieur Claparon is right," said Joseph Lebas.

"I am right," said Claparon,--"right commercially. But this is an
affair of landed property. Now, what must I have? Money, to pay the
sellers. We won't speak now of the two hundred and forty thousand
francs,--which I am sure Monsieur Birotteau will be able to raise
soon," said Claparon, looking at Lebas. "I have come now to ask for a
trifle, merely twenty-five thousand francs," he added, turning to

"Twenty-five thousand francs!" cried Cesar, feeling ice in his veins
instead of blood. "What claim have you, monsieur?"

"What claim? Hey! we have to make a payment and execute the deeds
before a notary. Among ourselves, of course, we could come to an
understanding about the payment, but when we have to do with a
financial public functionary it is quite another thing! He won't
palaver; he'll trust you no farther than he can see. We have got to
come down with forty thousand francs, to secure the registration, this
week. I did not expect reproaches in coming here, for, thinking this
twenty-five thousand francs might be inconvenient to you just now, I
meant to tell you that, by a mere chance, I have saved you--"

"What?" said Birotteau, with that rending cry of anguish which no man
ever mistakes.

"A trifle! The notes amounting to twenty-five thousand francs on
divers securities which Roguin gave me to negotiate I have credited to
you, for the registration payment and the fees, of which I will send
you an account; there will be a small amount to deduct, and you will
then owe me about six or seven thousand francs."

"All that seems to me perfectly proper," said Lebas. "In your place,
monsieur, I should do the same towards a stranger."

"Monsieur Birotteau won't die of it," said Claparon; "it takes more
than one shot to kill an old wolf. I have seen wolves with a ball in
their head run, by God, like--wolves!"

"Who could have foreseen such villany as Roguin's?" said Lebas, as
much alarmed by Cesar's silence as by the discovery of such enormous
speculations outside of his friend's legitimate business of perfumery.

"I came very near giving Monsieur Birotteau a receipt for his four
hundred thousand francs," said Claparon. "I should have blown up if I
had, for I had given Roguin a hundred thousand myself the day before.
Our mutual confidence is all that saved me. Whether the money were in
a lawyer's hands or in mine until the day came to pay for the land,
seemed to us all a matter of no importance."

"It would have been better," said Lebas, "to have kept the money in
the Bank of France until the time came to make the payments."

"Roguin was the bank to me," said Cesar. "But he is in the
speculation," he added, looking at Claparon.

"Yes, for one-fourth, by verbal agreement only. After being such a
fool as to let him run off with my money, I sha'n't be such a fool as
to throw any more after it. If he sends me my hundred thousand francs,
and two hundred thousand more for his half of our share, I shall then
see about it. But he will take good care not to send them for an
affair which needs five years' pot-boiling before you get any broth.
If he has only carried off, as they say, three hundred thousand
francs, he will want the income of all of that to live suitably in
foreign countries."

"The villain!"

"Eh! the devil take him! It was a woman who got him where he is," said
Claparon. "Where's the old man who can answer for himself that he
won't be the slave of his last fancy? None of us, who think ourselves
so virtuous, know how we shall end. A last passion,--eh! it is the
most violent of all! Look at Cardot, Camusot, Matifat; they all have
their mistresses! If we have been gobbled up to satisfy Roguin's,
isn't it our own fault? Why didn't we distrust a notary who meddles
with speculations? Every notary, every broker, every trustee who
speculates is an object of suspicion. Failure for them is fraudulent
bankruptcy; they are sure to go before the criminal courts, and
therefore they prefer to run out of the country. I sha'n't commit such
a stupid blunder again. Well, well! we are too shaky ourselves in the
matter not to let judgment go by default against the men we have dined
with, who have given us fine balls,--men of the world, in short.
Nobody complains; we are all to blame."

"Very much to blame," said Birotteau. "The laws about failures and
insolvency should be looked into."

"If you have any need of me," said Lebas to Cesar, "I am at your

"Monsieur does not need any one," said the irrepressible chatterbox,
whose floodgates du Tillet had set wide open when he turned on the
water,--for Claparon was now repeating a lesson du Tillet had cleverly
taught him. "His course is quite clear. Roguin's assets will give
fifty per cent to the creditors, so little Crottat tells me. Besides
this, Monsieur Birotteau gets back the forty thousand on his note to
Roguin's client, which the lender never paid over; then, of course, he
can borrow on that property. We have four months ahead before we are
obliged to make a payment of two hundred thousand francs to the
sellers. Between now and then, Monsieur Birotteau can pay off his
notes; though of course he can't count on what Roguin has carried off
to meet them. Even if Monsieur Birotteau should be rather pinched,
with a little manipulation he will come out all right."

The poor man took courage, as he heard Claparon analyzing the affair
and summing it up with advice as to his future conduct. His
countenance grew firm and decided; and he began to think highly of the
late commercial traveller's capacity. Du Tillet had thought best to
let Claparon believe himself really the victim of Roguin. He had given
Claparon a hundred thousand francs to pay over to Roguin the day
before the latter's flight, and Roguin had returned the money to du
Tillet. Claparon, therefore, to that extent was playing a genuine
part; and he told whoever would listen to him that Roguin had cost him
a hundred thousand francs. Du Tillet thought Claparon was not bold
enough, and fancied he had still too much honor and decency to make it
safe to trust him with the full extent of his plans; and he knew him
to be mentally incapable of conjecturing them.

"If our first friend is not our first dupe, we shall never find a
second," he made answer to Claparon, on the day when his catchpenny
banker reproached him for the trick; and he flung him away like a
wornout instrument.

Monsieur Lebas and Claparon went out together.

"I shall pull through," said Birotteau to himself. "My liabilities
amount to two hundred and thirty-five thousand francs; that is,
sixty-five thousand in bills for the cost of the ball, and a hundred
and seventy-five thousand given in notes for the lands. To meet these,
I have my share of Roguin's assets, say perhaps one hundred thousand
francs; and I can cancel the loan on my property in the Faubourg du
Temple, as the mortgage never paid the money,--in all, one hundred and
forty thousand. All depends on making a hundred thousand francs out of
Cephalic Oil, and waiting patiently, with the help of a few notes, or
a credit at a banker's, until I repair my losses or the lands about
the Madeleine reach their full value."

When a man crushed by misfortune is once able to make the fiction of a
hope for himself by a series of arguments, more or less reasonable,
with which he bolsters himself up to rest his head, it often happens
that he is really saved. Many a man has derived energy from the
confidence born of illusions. Possibly, hope is the better half of
courage; indeed, the Catholic religion makes it a virtue. Hope! has it
not sustained the weak, and given the fainting heart time and patience
to await the chances and changes of life? Cesar resolved to confide
his situation to his wife's uncle before seeking for succor elsewhere.
But as he walked down the Rue Saint-Honore towards the Rue des
Bourdonnais, he endured an inward anguish and distress which shook him
so violently that he fancied his health was giving way. His bowels
seemed on fire. It is an established fact that persons who feel
through their diaphragms suffer in those parts when overtaken by
misfortune, just as others whose perceptions are in their heads suffer
from cerebral pains and affections. In great crises, the physical
powers are attacked at the point where the individual temperament has
placed the vital spark. Feeble beings have the colic. Napoleon slept.
Before assailing the confidence of a life-long friendship, and
breaking down all the barriers of pride and self-assurance, an
honorable man must needs feel in his heart--and feel it more than once
--the spur of that cruel rider, necessity. Thus it happened that
Birotteau had been goaded for two days before he could bring himself
to seek his uncle; it was, indeed, only family reasons which finally
decided him to do so. In any state of the case, it was his duty to
explain his position to the severe old ironmonger, his wife's uncle.
Nevertheless, as he reached the house he felt that inward faintness
which a child feels when taken to a dentist's; but this shrinking of
the heart involved the whole of his life, past, present, and to come,
--it was not the fugitive pain of a moment. He went slowly up the


The old man was reading the "Constitutionnel" in his chimney-corner,
before a little round table on which stood his frugal breakfast,--a
roll, some butter, a plate of Brie cheese, and a cup of coffee.

"Here is true wisdom," thought Birotteau, envying his uncle's life.

"Well!" said Pillerault, taking off his spectacles, "I heard at the
cafe David last night about Roguin's affair, and the assassination of
his mistress, la belle Hollandaise. I hope, as we desire to be actual
owners of the property, that you obtained Claparon's receipt for the

"Alas! uncle, no. The trouble is just there,--you have put your finger
upon the sore."

"Good God! you are ruined!" cried Pillerault, letting fall his
newspaper, which Birotteau picked up, though it was the

Pillerault was so violently roused by his reflections that his face
--like the image on a medal and of the same stern character--took a
deep bronze tone, such as the metal itself takes under the oscillating
tool of a coiner; he remained motionless, gazing through the
window-panes at the opposite wall, but seeing nothing,--listening,
however, to Birotteau. Evidently he heard and judged, and weighed the
_pros_ and _cons_ with the inflexibility of a Minos who had crossed
the Styx of commerce when he quitted the Quai des Morfondus for his
little third storey.

"Well, uncle?" said Birotteau, who waited for an answer, after closing
what he had to say with an entreaty that Pillerault would sell sixty
thousand francs out of the Funds.

"Well, my poor nephew, I cannot do it; you are too heavily involved.
The Ragons and I each lose our fifty thousand francs. Those worthy
people have, by my advice, sold their shares in the mines of
Wortschin: I feel obliged, in case of loss, not to return the capital
of course, but to succor them, and to succor my niece and Cesarine.
You may all want bread, and you shall find it with me."

"Want bread, uncle?"

"Yes, bread. See things as they are, Cesar. _You cannot extricate
yourself._ With five thousand six hundred francs income, I could set
aside four thousand francs for you and the Ragons. If misfortune
overtakes you,--I know Constance, she will work herself to the bone,
she will deny herself everything; and so will you, Cesar."

"All is not hopeless, uncle."

"I cannot see it as you do."

"I will prove that you are mistaken."

"Nothing would give me greater happiness."

Birotteau left Pillerault without another word. He had come to seek
courage and consolation, and he received a blow less severe, perhaps,
than the first; but instead of striking his head it struck his heart,
and his heart was the whole of life to the poor man. After going down
a few stairs he returned.

"Monsieur," he said, in a cold voice, "Constance knows nothing. Keep
my secret at any rate; beg the Ragons to say nothing, and not to take
from my home the peace I need so much in my struggle against

Pillerault made a gesture of assent.

"Courage, Cesar!" he said. "I see you are angry with me; but later,
when you think of your wife and daughter, you will do me justice."

Discouraged by his uncle's opinion, and recognizing its
clear-sightedness, Cesar tumbled from the heights of hope into the miry
marshes of doubt and uncertainty. In such horrible commercial straits
a man, unless his soul is tempered like that of Pillerault, becomes
the plaything of events; he follows the ideas of others, or his own,
as a traveller pursues a will-o'-the-wisp. He lets the gust whirl him
along, instead of lying flat and not looking up as it passes; or else
gathering himself together to follow the direction of the storm till
he can escape from the edges of it. In the midst of his pain Birotteau
bethought him of the steps he ought to take about the mortgage on his
property. He turned towards the Rue Vivienne to find Derville, his
solicitor, and institute proceedings at once, in case the lawyer
should see any chance of annulling the agreement. He found Derville
sitting by the fire, wrapped in a white woollen dressing-gown, calm
and composed in manner, like all lawyers long used to receiving
terrible confidences. Birotteau noticed for the first time in his life
this necessary coldness, which struck a chill to the soul of a man
grasped by the fever of imperilled interests,--passionate, wounded,
and cruelly gashed in his life, his honor, his wife, his child, as
Cesar showed himself to be while he related his misfortunes.

"If it can be proved," said Derville, after listening to him, "that
the lender no longer had in Roguin's hands the sum which Roguin
pretended to borrow for you upon your property, then, as there has
been no delivery of the money, there is ground for annulling the
contract; the lender may seek redress through the warranty, as you
will for your hundred thousand francs. I will answer for the case,
however, as much as one can ever answer. No case is won till it is

The opinion of so able a lawyer restored Cesar's courage a little, and
he begged Derville to obtain a judgment within a fortnight. The
solicitor replied that it might take three months to get such a
judgment as would annul the agreement.

"Three months!" cried Birotteau, who needed immediate resources.

"Though we may get the case at once on the docket, we cannot make your
adversary keep pace with us. He will employ all the law's delays, and
the barristers are seldom ready. Perhaps your opponents will let the
case go by default. We can't always get on as we wish," said Derville,

"In the commercial courts--" began Birotteau.

"Oh!" said the lawyer, "the judges of the commercial courts and the
judges of the civil courts are different sorts of judges. You dash
through things. At the Palais de Justice we have stricter forms. Forms
are the bulwarks of law. How would you like slap-dash judgments, which
can't be appealed, and which would make you lose forty thousand
francs? Well, your adversary, who sees that sum involved, will defend
himself. Delays may be called judicial fortifications."

"You are right," said Birotteau, bidding Derville good-by, and going
hurriedly away, with death in his heart.

"They are all right. Money! money! I must have money!" he cried as he
went along the streets, talking to himself like other busy men in the
turbulent and seething city, which a modern poet has called a vat.
When he entered his shop, the clerk who had carried round the bills
informed him that the customers had returned the receipts and kept the
accounts, as it was so near the first of January.

"Then there is no money to be had anywhere," said the perfumer, aloud.

He bit his lips, for the clerks all raised their heads and looked at

Five days went by; five days during which Braschon, Lourdois, Thorein,
Grindot, Chaffaroux, and all the other creditors with unpaid bills
passed through the chameleon phases that are customary to uneasy
creditors before they take the sanguinary colors of the commercial
Bellona, and reach a state of peaceful confidence. In Paris the
astringent stage of suspicion and mistrust is as quick to declare
itself as the expansive flow of confidence is slow in gathering way.
The creditor who has once turned into the narrow path of commercial
fears and precautions speedily takes a course of malignant meanness
which puts him below the level of his debtor. He passes from specious
civility to impatient rage, to the surly clamor of importunity, to
bursts of disappointment, to the livid coldness of a mind made up to
vengeance, and the scowling insolence of a summons before the courts.
Braschon, the rich upholsterer of the Faubourg Saint-Antoine, who was
not invited to the ball, and was therefore stabbed in his self-love,
sounded the charge; he insisted on being paid within twenty-four
hours. He demanded security; not an attachment on the furniture, but a
second mortgage on the property in the Faubourg du Temple.

In spite of such attacks and the violence of these recriminations, a
few peaceful intervals occurred, when Birotteau breathed once more;
but instead of resolutely facing and vanquishing the first
skirmishings of adverse fortune, Cesar employed his whole mind in the
effort to keep his wife, the only person able to advise him, from
knowing anything about them. He guarded the very threshold of his
door, and set a watch on all around him. He took Celestin into
confidence so far as to admit a momentary embarrassment, and Celestin
examined him with an amazed and inquisitive look. In his eyes Cesar
lessened, as men lessen in presence of disasters when accustomed only
to success, and when their whole mental strength consists of knowledge
which commonplace minds acquire through routine.

Menaced as he was on so many sides at once, and without the energy or
capacity to defend himself, Cesar nevertheless had the courage to look
his position in the face. To meet the payments on his house and on his
loans, and to pay his rents and his current expenses, he required,
between the end of December and the fifteenth of January, a sum of
sixty thousand francs, half of which must be obtained before the
thirtieth of December. All his resources put together gave him a scant
twenty thousand; he lacked ten thousand francs for the first payments.
To his mind the position did not seem desperate; for like an
adventurer who lives from day to day, he saw only the present moment.
He resolved to attempt, before the news of his embarrassments was made
public, what seemed to him a great stroke, and seek out the famous
Francois Keller, banker, orator, and philanthropist, celebrated for
his benevolence and for his desire to serve the interests of Parisian
commerce,--with the view, we may add, of being always returned to the
Chamber as a deputy of Paris.

The banker was Liberal, Birotteau was Royalist; but the perfumer
judged by his own heart, and believed that the difference in their
political opinions would only be one reason the more for obtaining the
credit he intended to ask. In case actual securities were required he
felt no doubt of Popinot's devotion, from whom he expected to obtain
some thirty thousand francs, which would enable him to await the
result of his law-suit by satisfying the demands of the most exacting
of the creditors. The demonstrative perfumer, who told his dear
Constance, with his head on her pillow, the smallest thoughts and
feelings of his whole life, looking for the lights of her
contradiction, and gathering courage as he did so, was now prevented
from speaking of his situation to his head-clerk, his uncle, or his
wife. His thoughts were therefore doubly heavy,--and yet the generous
martyr preferred to suffer, rather than fling the fiery brand into the
soul of his wife. He meant to tell her of the danger when it was over.
The awe with which she inspired him gave him courage. He went every
morning to hear Mass at Saint-Roch, and took God for his confidant.

"If I do not meet a soldier coming home from Saint-Roch, my request
will be granted. That will be God's answer," he said to himself, after
praying that God would help him.

And he was overjoyed when it happened that he did not meet a soldier.
Still, his heart was so heavy that he needed another heart on which to
lean and moan. Cesarine, to whom from the first he confided the fatal
truth, knew all his secrets. Many stolen glances passed between them,
glances of despair or smothered hope,--interpellations of the eye
darted with mutual eagerness, inquiries and replies full of sympathy,
rays passing from soul to soul. Birotteau compelled himself to seem
gay, even jovial, with his wife. If Constance asked a question--bah!
everything was going well; Popinot (about whom Cesar knew nothing) was
succeeding; the oil was looking up; the notes with Claparon would be
paid; there was nothing to fear. His mock joy was terrible to witness.
When his wife had fallen asleep in the sumptuous bed, Birotteau would
rise to a sitting position and think over his troubles. Cesarine would
sometimes creep in with her bare feet, in her chemise, and a shawl
over her white shoulders.

"Papa, I hear you,--you are crying," she would say, crying herself.

Birotteau sank into such a torpor, after writing the letter which
asked for an interview with the great Francois Keller, that his
daughter took him out for a walk through the streets of Paris. For the
first time he was roused to notice enormous scarlet placards on all
the walls, and his eyes encountered the words "Cephalic Oil."

While catastrophes thus threatened "The Queen of Roses" to westward,
the house of A. Popinot was rising, radiant in the eastern splendors
of success. By the advice of Gaudissart and Finot, Anselme launched
his oil heroically. Two thousand placards were pasted in three days on
the most conspicuous spots in all Paris. No one could avoid coming
face to face with Cephalic Oil, and reading a pithy sentence,
constructed by Finot, which announced the impossibility of forcing the
hair to grow and the dangers of dyeing it, and was judiciously
accompanied by a quotation from Vauquelin's report to the Academy of
Sciences,--in short, a regular certificate of life for dead hair,
offered to all those who used Cephalic Oil. Every hair-dresser in
Paris, and all the perfumers, ornamented their doorways with gilt
frames containing a fine impression of the prospectus on vellum, at
the top of which shone the engraving of Hero and Leander, reduced in
size, with the following assertion as an epigraph: "The peoples of
antiquity preserved their hair by the use of Cephalic Oil."

"He has devised frames, permanent frames, perpetual placards," said
Birotteau to himself, quite dumbfounded as he stood before the
shop-front of the Cloche d'Argent.

"Then you have not seen," said his daughter, "the frame which Monsieur
Anselme has brought with his own hands, sending Celestin three hundred
bottles of oil?"

"No," he said.

"Celestin has already sold fifty to passers-by, and sixty to regular

"Ah!" exclaimed Cesar.

The poor man, bewildered by the clash of bells which misery jangles in
the ears of its victims, lived and moved in a dazed condition. The
night before, Popinot had waited more than an hour to see him, and
went away after talking with Constance and Cesarine, who told him that
Cesar was absorbed in his great enterprise.

"Ah, true! the lands about the Madeleine."

Happily, Popinot--who for a month had never left the Rue des
Cinq-Diamants, sitting up all night, and working all Sunday at the
manufactory--had seen neither the Ragons, nor Pillerault, nor his
uncle the judge. He allowed himself but two hours' sleep, poor lad! he
had only two clerks, but at the rate things were now going, he would
soon need four. In business, opportunity is everything. He who does
not spring upon the back of success and clutch it by the mane, lets
fortune escape. Popinot felt that his suit would prosper if six months
hence he could say to his uncle and aunt, "I am secure; my fortune is
made," and carry to Birotteau thirty or forty thousand francs as his
share of the profits. He was ignorant of Roguin's flight, of the
disasters and embarrassments which were closing down on Cesar, and he
therefore could say nothing indiscreet to Madame Birotteau.

Popinot had promised Finot five hundred francs for every puff in a
first-class newspaper, and already there were ten of them; three
hundred francs for every second-rate paper, and there were ten of
those,--in all of them Cephalic Oil was mentioned three times a month!
Finot saw three thousand francs for himself out of these eight
thousand--his first stake on the vast green table of speculation! He
therefore sprang like a lion on his friends and acquaintances; he
haunted the editorial rooms; he wormed himself to the very bedsides of
editors in the morning, and prowled about the lobby of the theatres at
night. "Think of my oil, dear friend; I have no interest in it--bit of
good fellowship, you know!" "Gaudissart, jolly dog!" Such was the
first and the last phrase of all his allocutions. He begged for the
bottom lines of the final columns of the newspapers, and inserted
articles for which he asked no pay from the editors. Wily as a
supernumerary who wants to be an actor, wide-awake as an errand-boy
who earns sixty francs a month, he wrote wheedling letters, flattered
the self-love of editors-in-chief, and did them base services to get
his articles inserted. Money, dinners, platitudes, all served the
purpose of his eager activity. With tickets for the theatre, he bribed
the printers who about midnight are finishing up the columns of a
newspaper with little facts and ready-made items kept on hand. At that
hour Finot hovered around printing-presses, busy, apparently, with
proofs to be corrected. Keeping friends with everybody, he brought
Cephalic Oil to a triumphant success over Pate de Regnauld, and
Brazilian Mixture, and all the other inventions which had the genius
to comprehend journalistic influence and the suction power that
reiterated newspaper articles have upon the public mind. In these
early days of their innocence many journalists were like cattle; they
were unaware of their inborn power; their heads were full of
actresses,--Florine, Tullia, Mariette, etc. They laid down the law to
everybody, but they picked up nothing for themselves. As Finot's
schemes did not concern actresses who wanted applause, nor plays to be
puffed, nor vaudevilles to be accepted, nor articles which had to be
paid for,--on the contrary, he paid money on occasion, and gave timely
breakfasts,--there was soon not a newspaper in Paris which did not
mention Cephalic Oil, and call attention to its remarkable concurrence
with the principles of Vauquelin's analysis; ridiculing all those who
thought hair could be made to grow, and proclaiming the danger of
dyeing it.

These articles rejoiced the soul of Gaudissart, who used them as
ammunition to destroy prejudices, bringing to bear upon the provinces
what his successors have since named, in honor of him, "the charge of
the tongue-battery." In those days Parisian newspapers ruled the
departments, which were still (unhappy regions!) without _local
organs_. The papers were therefore soberly studied, from the title to
the name of the printer,--a last line which may have hidden the
ironies of persecuted opinion. Gaudissart, thus backed up by the
press, met with startling success from the very first town which he
favored with his tongue. Every shopkeeper in the provinces wanted the
gilt frames, and the prospectuses with Hero and Leander at the top of

In Paris, Finot fired at Macassar Oil that delightful joke which made
people so merry at the Funambules, when Pierrot, taking an old
hair-broom, anointed it with Macassar Oil, and the broom incontinently
became a mop. This ironical scene excited universal laughter. Finot
gaily related in after days that without the thousand crowns he earned
through Cephalic Oil he should have died of misery and despair. To him
a thousand crowns was fortune. It was in this campaign that he guessed
--let him have the honor of being the first to do so--the illimitable
power of advertisement, of which he made so great and so judicious a
use. Three months later he became editor-in-chief of a little journal
which he finally bought, and which laid the foundation of his ultimate
success. Just as the tongue-battery of the illustrious Gaudissart,
that Murat of travellers, when brought to bear upon the provinces and
the frontiers, made the house of A. Popinot and Company a triumphant
mercantile success in the country regions, so likewise did Cephalic
Oil triumph in Parisian opinion, thanks to Finot's famishing assault
upon the newspapers, which gave it as much publicity as that obtained
by Brazilian Mixture and the Pate de Regnauld. From the start, public
opinion, thus carried by storm, begot three successes, three fortunes,
and proved the advance guard of that invasion of ambitious schemes
which since have poured their crowded battalions into the arena of
journalism, for which they have created--oh, mighty revolution!--the
paid advertisement. The name of A. Popinot and Company now flaunted on
all the walls and all the shop-fronts. Incapable of perceiving the
full bearing of such publicity, Birotteau merely said to his

"Little Popinot is following in my steps."

He did not understand the difference of the times, nor appreciate the
power of the novel methods of execution, whose rapidity and extent
took in, far more promptly than ever before, the whole commercial
universe. Birotteau had not set foot in his manufactory since the
ball; he knew nothing therefore of the energy and enterprise displayed
by Popinot. Anselme had engaged all Cesar's workmen, and often slept
himself on the premises. His fancy pictured Cesarine sitting on the
cases, and hovering over the shipments; her name seemed printed on the
bills; and as he worked with his coat off, and his shirt-sleeves
rolled up, courageously nailing up the cases himself, in default of
the necessary clerks, he said in his heart, "She shall be mine!"

              *     *     *     *     *

The following day Cesar went to Francois Keller's house in Rue du
Houssaye, having spent the night turning over in his mind what he
ought to say, or ought not to say, to a leading man in banking
circles. Horrible palpitations of the heart assailed him as he
approached the house of the Liberal banker, who belonged to a party
accused, with good reason, of seeking the overthrow of the restored
Bourbons. The perfumer, like all the lesser tradesmen of Paris, was
ignorant of the habits and customs of the upper banking circles.
Between the higher walks of finance and ordinary commerce, there is in
Paris a class of secondary houses, useful intermediaries for banking
interests, which find in them an additional security. Constance and
Birotteau, who had never gone beyond their means, whose purse had
never run dry, and who kept their moneys in their own possession, had
so far never needed the services of these intermediary houses; they
were therefore unknown in the higher regions of a bank. Perhaps it is
a mistake not to take out credits, even if we do not need them.
Opinions vary on this point. However that may be, Birotteau now deeply
regretted that his signature was unknown. Still, as deputy-mayor, and
therefore known in politics, he thought he had only to present his
name and be admitted: he was quite ignorant of the ceremonial, half
regal, which attended an audience with Francois Keller. He was shown
into a salon which adjoined the study of the celebrated banker,
--celebrated in various ways. Birotteau found himself among a numerous
company of deputies, writers, journalists, stock-brokers, merchants of
the upper grades, agents, engineers, and above all satellites, or
henchmen, who passed from group to group, and knocked in a peculiar
manner at the door of the study, which they were, as it seemed,
privileged to enter.

"What am I in the midst of all this?" thought Birotteau, quite
bewildered by the stir of this intellectual kiln, where the daily
bread of the opposition was kneaded and baked, and the scenes of the
grand tragi-comedy played by the Left were rehearsed. On one side he
heard them discussing the question of loans to complete the net-work
of canals proposed by the department on highways; and the discussion
involved millions! On the other, journalists, pandering to the
banker's self-love, were talking about the session of the day before,
and the impromptu speech of the great man. In the course of two long
hours Birotteau saw the banker three times, as he accompanied certain
persons of importance three steps from the door of his study. But
Francois Keller went to the door of the antechamber with the last, who
was General Foy.

"There is no hope for me!" thought Birotteau with a shrinking heart.

When the banker returned to his study, the troop of courtiers,
friends, and self-seekers pressed round him like dogs pursuing a
bitch. A few bold curs slipped, in spite of him, into the sanctum. The
conferences lasted five, ten, or fifteen minutes. Some went away
chap-fallen; others affected satisfaction, and took on airs of
importance. Time passed; Birotteau looked anxiously at the clock. No
one paid the least attention to the hidden grief which moaned silently
in the gilded armchair in the chimney corner, near the door of the
cabinet where dwelt the universal panacea--credit! Cesar remembered
sadly that for a brief moment he too had been a king among his own
people, as this man was a king daily; and he measured the depth of the
abyss down which he had fallen. Ah, bitter thought! how many tears were
driven back during those waiting hours! how many times did he not pray
to God that this man might be favorable to him! for he saw, through the
coarse varnish of popular good humor, a tone of insolence, a choleric
tyranny, a brutal desire to rule, which terrified his gentle spirit.
At last, when only ten or twelve persons were left in the room,
Birotteau resolved that the next time the outer door of the study
turned on its hinges he would rise and face the great orator, and say
to him, "I am Birotteau!" The grenadier who sprang first into the
redoubt at Moscow displayed no greater courage than Cesar now summoned
up to perform this act.

"After all, I am his mayor," he said to himself as he rose to proclaim
his name.

The countenance of Francois Keller at once became affable; he
evidently desired to be cordial. He glanced at Cesar's red ribbon, and
stepping back, opened the door of his study and motioned him to enter,
remaining himself for some time to speak with two men, who rushed in
from the staircase with the violence of a waterspout.

"Decazes wants to speak to you," said one of them.

"It is a question of defeating the Pavillon Marsan!" cried the other.
"The King's eyes are opened. He is coming round to us."

"We will go together to the Chamber," said the banker, striking the
attitude of the frog who imitates an ox.

"How can he find time to think of business?" thought Birotteau, much

The sun of successful superiority dazzled the perfumer, as light
blinds those insects who seek the falling day or the half-shadows of a
starlit night. On a table of immense size lay the budget, piles of the
Chamber records, open volumes of the "Moniteur," with passages
carefully marked, to throw at the head of a Minister his forgotten
words and force him to recant them, under the jeering plaudits of a
foolish crowd incapable of perceiving how circumstances alter cases.
On another table were heaped portfolios, minutes, projects,
specifications, and all the thousand memoranda brought to bear upon a
man into whose funds so many nascent industries sought to dip. The
royal luxury of this cabinet, filled with pictures, statues, and works
of art; the encumbered chimney-piece; the accumulation of many
interests, national and foreign, heaped together like bales,--all
struck Birotteau's mind, dwarfed his powers, heightened his terror,
and froze his blood. On Francois Keller's desk lay bundles of notes
and checks, letters of credit, and commercial circulars. Keller sat
down and began to sign rapidly such letters as needed no examination.

"Monsieur, to what do I owe the honor of this visit?"

At these words, uttered for him alone by a voice which influenced all
Europe, while the eager hand was running over the paper, the poor
perfumer felt something that was like a hot iron in his stomach. He
assumed the ingratiating manner which for ten years past the banker
had seen all men put on when they wanted to get the better of him for
their own purposes, and which gave him at once the advantage over
them. Francois Keller accordingly darted at Cesar a look which shot
through his head,--a Napoleonic look. This imitation of Napoleon's
glance was a silly satire, then popular with certain parvenus who had
never seen so much as the base coin of their emperor. This glance fell
upon Birotteau, a devotee of the Right, a partisan of the government,
--himself an element of monarchical election,--like the stamp of a
custom-house officer affixed to a bale of merchandise.

"Monsieur, I will not waste your time; I will be brief. I come on
commercial business only,--to ask if I can obtain a credit. I was
formerly a judge of the commercial courts, and known to the Bank of
France. You will easily understand that if I had plenty of ready money
I need only apply there, where you are yourself a director. I had the
honor of sitting on the Bench of commerce with Monsieur le baron
Thibon, chairman of the committee on discounts; and he, most
assuredly, would not refuse me. But up to this time I have never made
use of my credit or my signature; my signature is virgin,--and you
know what difficulties that puts in the way of negotiation."

Keller moved his head, and Birotteau took the movement for one of

"Monsieur, these are the facts," he resumed. "I am engaged in an
affair of landed property, outside of my business--"

Francois Keller, who continued to sign and read his documents, without
seeming to listen to Birotteau, here turned round and made him a
little sign of attention, which encouraged the poor man. He thought
the matter was taking a favorable turn, and breathed again.

"Go on; I hear you," said Keller good-naturedly.

"I have purchased, at half its value, certain land about the

"Yes; I heard Nucingen speak of that immense affair,--undertaken, I
believe, by Claparon and Company."

"Well," continued Cesar, "a credit of a hundred thousand francs,
secured on my share of the purchase, will suffice to carry me along
until I can reap certain profits from a discovery of mine in
perfumery. Should it be necessary, I will cover your risk by notes on
a new establishment,--the firm of A. Popinot--"

Keller seemed to care very little about the firm of Popinot; and
Birotteau, perceiving that he had made a false move, stopped short;
then, alarmed by the silence, he resumed, "As for the interest, we--"

"Yes, yes," said the banker, "the matter can be arranged; don't doubt
my desire to be of service to you. Busy as I am,--for I have the
finances of Europe on my shoulders, and the Chamber takes all my
time,--you will not be surprised to hear that I leave the vast bulk of
our affairs to the examination of others. Go and see my brother
Adolphe, downstairs; explain to him the nature of your securities; if
he approves of the operation, come back here with him to-morrow or the
day after, at five in the morning,--the hour at which I examine into
certain business matters. We shall be proud and happy to obtain your
confidence. You are one of those consistent royalists with whom, of
course, we are political enemies, but whose good-will is always

"Monsieur," said Cesar, elated by this specimen of tribune eloquence,
"I trust I am as worthy of the honor you do me as I was of the signal
and royal favor which I earned by my services on the Bench of
commerce, and by fighting--"

"Yes, yes," interrupted the banker, "your reputation is a passport,
Monsieur Birotteau. You will, of course, propose nothing that is not
feasible, and you can depend on our co-operation."

A lady, Madame Keller, one of the two daughters of the Comte de
Gondreville, here opened a door which Birotteau had not observed.

"I hope to see you before you go the Chamber," she said.

"It is two o'clock," exclaimed the banker; "the battle has begun.
Excuse me, monsieur, it is a question of upsetting the ministry. See
my brother--"

He conducted the perfumer to the door of the salon, and said to one of
the servants, "Show monsieur the way to Monsieur Adolphe."

As Cesar traversed a labyrinth of staircases, under the guidance of a
man in livery, towards an office far less sumptuous but more useful
than that of the head of the house, feeling himself astride the gentle
steed of hope, he stroked his chin, and augured well from the
flatteries of the great man. He regretted that an enemy of the
Bourbons should be so gracious, so able, so fine an orator.

Full of these illusions he entered a cold bare room, furnished with
two desks on rollers, some shabby armchairs, a threadbare carpet, and
curtains that were much neglected. This cabinet was to that of the
elder brother like a kitchen to a dining-room, or a work-room to a
shop. Here were turned inside out all matters touching the bank and
commerce; here all enterprises were sifted, and the first tithes
levied, on behalf of the bank, upon the profits of industries judged
worthy of being upheld. Here were devised those bold strokes by which
short-lived monopolies were called into being and rapidly sucked dry.
Here defects of legislation were chronicled; and bargains driven,
without shame, for what the Bourse terms "pickings to be gobbled up,"
commissions exacted for the smallest services, such as lending their
name to an enterprise, and allowing it credit. Here were hatched the
specious, legal plots by which silent partnerships were taken in
doubtful enterprises, that the bank might lie in wait for the moment
of success, and then crush them and seize the property by demanding a
return of the capital at a critical moment,--an infamous trick, which
involves and ruins many small shareholders.

The two brothers had each selected his appropriate part. Upstairs,
Francois, the brilliant man of the world and of politics, assumed a
regal air, bestowed courtesies and promises, and made himself
agreeable to all. His manners were easy and complying; he looked at
business from a lofty standpoint; he intoxicated new recruits and
fledgling speculators with the wine of his favor and his fervid
speech, as he made plain to them their own ideas. Downstairs, Adolphe
unsaid his brother's words, excused him on the ground of political
preoccupation, and cleverly slipped the rake along the cloth. He
played the part of the responsible partner, the careful business man.
Two words, two speeches, two interviews, were required before an
understanding could be reached with this perfidious house. Often the
gracious "yes" of the sumptuous upper floor became a dry "no" in
Adolphe's region. This obstructive manoeuvre gave time for reflection,
and often served to fool unskilful applicants. As Cesar entered, the
banker's brother was conversing with the famous Palma, intimate
adviser of the house of Keller, who retired on the appearance of the
perfumer. When Birotteau had explained his errand, Adolphe--much the
cleverest of the two brothers, a thorough lynx, with a keen eye, thin
lips, and a dry skin--cast at Birotteau, lowering his head to look
over his spectacles as he did so, a look which we must call the
banker-look,--a cross between that of a vulture and that of an
attorney; eager yet indifferent, clear yet vague, glittering though

"Have the goodness to send me the deeds relating to the affair of the
Madeleine," he said; "our security in making you this credit lies
there: we must examine them before we consent to make it, or discuss
the terms. If the affair is sound, we shall be willing, so as not to
embarrass you, to take a share of the profits in place of receiving a

"Well," thought Birotteau, as he walked away, "I see what it means.
Like the hunted beaver, I am to give up a part of my skin. After all,
it is better to be shorn than killed."

He went home smiling gaily, and his gaiety was genuine.

"I am saved," he said to Cesarine. "I am to have a credit with the


It was not until the 29th of December that Birotteau was allowed to
re-enter Adolphe's cabinet. The first time he called, Adolphe had gone
into the country to look at a piece of property which the great orator
thought of buying. The second time, the two Kellers were deeply
engaged for the whole day, preparing a tender for a loan proposed in
the Chamber, and they begged Monsieur Birotteau to return on the
following Friday. These delays were killing to the poor man. But
Friday came at last. Birotteau found himself in the cabinet, placed in
one corner of the fireplace, facing the light from a window, with
Adolphe Keller opposite to him.

"They are all right, monsieur," said the banker, pointing to the
deeds. "But what payments have you made on the price of the land?"

"One hundred and forty thousand francs."



"Are they paid?"

"They are not yet due."

"But supposing you have paid more than the present value of the
property, where will be our security? It will rest solely on the
respect you inspire, and the consideration in which you are held.
Business is not conducted on sentiment. If you had paid two hundred
thousand francs, supposing that there were another one hundred
thousand paid down in advance for possession of the land, we should
then have had the security of a hundred thousand francs, to warrant us
in giving you a credit of one hundred thousand. The result might be to
make us owners of your share by our paying for it, instead of your
doing so; consequently we must be satisfied that the affair is a sound
one. To wait five years to double our capital won't do for us; it is
better to employ it in other ways. There are so many chances! You are
trying to circulate paper to pay your notes when they fall due,--a
dangerous game. It is wiser to step back for a better leap. The affair
does not suit us."

This sentence struck Birotteau as if the executioner had stamped his
shoulder with the marking-iron; he lost his head.

"Come," said Adolphe, "my brother feels a great interest in you; he
spoke of you to me. Let us examine into your affairs," he added,
glancing at Cesar with the look of a courtesan eager to pay her rent.

Birotteau became Molineux,--a being at whom he had once laughed so
loftily. Enticed along by the banker,--who enjoyed disentangling the
bobbins of the poor man's thought, and who knew as well how to
cross-question a merchant as Popinot the judge knew how to make a
criminal betray himself,--Cesar recounted all his enterprises; he put
forward his Double Paste of Sultans and Carminative Balm, the Roguin
affair, and his lawsuit about the mortgage on which he had received no
money. As he watched the smiling, attentive face of Keller and the
motions of his head, Birotteau said to himself, "He is listening; I
interest him; I shall get my credit!" Adolphe Keller was laughing at
Cesar, just as Cesar had laughed at Molineux. Carried away by the lust
of speech peculiar to those who are made drunk by misfortune, Cesar
revealed his inner man; he gave his measure when he ended by offering
the security of Cephalic Oil and the firm of Popinot,--his last stake.
The worthy man, led on by false hopes, allowed Adolphe Keller to sound
and fathom him, and he stood revealed to the banker's eyes as a royalist
jackass on the point of failure. Delighted to foresee the bankruptcy of
a deputy-mayor of the arrondissement, an official just decorated, and a
man in power, Keller now curtly told Birotteau that he could neither
give him a credit nor say anything in his favor to his brother
Francois. If Francois gave way to idiotic generosity, and helped
people of another way of thinking from his own, men who were his
political enemies, he, Adolphe, would oppose with might and main any
attempt to make a dupe of him, and would prevent him from holding out
a hand to the adversary of Napoleon, wounded at Saint-Roch. Birotteau,
exasperated, tried to say something about the cupidity of the great
banking-houses, their harshness, their false philanthropy; but he was
seized with so violent a pain that he could scarcely stammer a few
words about the Bank of France, from which the Kellers were allowed to

"Yes," said Adolphe Keller; "but the Bank would never discount paper
which a private bank refused."

"The Bank of France," said Birotteau, "has always seemed to me to miss
its vocation when it congratulates itself, as it does in presenting
its reports, on never losing more than one or two hundred thousand
francs through Parisian commerce: it should be the guardian and
protector of Parisian commerce."

Adolphe smiled, and got up with the air and gesture of being bored.

"If the Bank were mixed up as silent partners with people who are
involved in the most knavish and hazardous market in the world, it
would soon have to hand in its schedule. It has, even now, immense
difficulty in protecting itself against forgeries and false
circulations of all kinds. Where would it be if it had to take account
of the business of every one who wanted to get something out of it?"

              *     *     *     *     *

"Where shall I find ten thousand francs for to-morrow, the THIRTIETH?"
cried Birotteau, as he crossed the courtyard.

According to Parisian custom, notes were paid on the thirtieth, if the
thirty-first was a holiday.

As Cesar reached the outer gate, his eyes bathed in tears, he scarcely
saw a fine English horse, covered with sweat, which drew the
handsomest cabriolet that rolled in those days along the pavements of
Paris, and which was now pulled up suddenly beside him. He would
gladly have been run over and crushed by it; if he died by accident,
the confusion of his affairs would be laid to that circumstance. He
did not recognize du Tillet, who in elegant morning dress jumped
lightly down, throwing the reins to his groom and a blanket over the
back of his smoking thoroughbred.

"What chance brings you here?" said the former clerk to his old

Du Tillet knew very well what it was, for the Kellers had made
inquiries of Claparon, who by referring them to du Tillet had
demolished the past reputation of the poor man. Though quickly
checked, the tears on Cesar's face spoke volumes.

"It is possible that you have asked assistance from these Bedouins?"
said du Tillet, "these cut-throats of commerce, full of infamous
tricks; who run up indigo when they have monopolized the trade, and
pull down rice to force the holders to sell at low prices, and so
enable them to manage the market? Atrocious pirates, who have neither
faith, nor law, nor soul, nor honor! You don't know what they are
capable of doing. They will give you a credit if they think you have
got a good thing, and close it the moment you get into the thick of
the enterprise; and then you will be forced to make it all over to
them, at any villanous price they choose to give. Havre, Bordeaux,
Marseilles, could tell you tales about them! They make use of politics
to cover up their filthy ways. If I were you I should get what I could
out of them in any way, and without scruple. Let us walk on,
Birotteau. Joseph, lead the horse about, he is too hot: the devil! he
is a capital of a thousand crowns."

So saying, he turned toward the boulevard.

"Come, my dear master,--for you were once my master,--tell me, are you
in want of money? Have they asked you for securities, the scoundrels?
I, who know you, I offer you money on your simple note. I have made an
honorable fortune with infinite pains. I began it in Germany; I may as
well tell you that I bought up the debts of the king, at sixty per
cent of their amount: your endorsement was very useful to me at that
time, and I am not ungrateful,--not I. If you want ten thousand
francs, they are yours."

"Du Tillet!" cried Cesar, "can it be true? you are not joking with me?
Yes, I am rather pinched, but only for a moment."

"I know,--that affair of Roguin," replied du Tillet. "Hey! I am in for
ten thousand francs which the old rogue borrowed of me just before he
went off; but Madame Roguin will pay them back from her dower. I have
advised the poor woman not to be so foolish as to spend her own
fortune in paying debts contracted for a prostitute. Of course, it
would be well if she paid everything, but she cannot favor some
creditors to the detriment of others. You are not a Roguin; I know
you," said du Tillet,--"you would blow your brains out rather than
make me lose a sou. Here we are at Rue de la Chaussee-d'Antin; come
home with me."

They entered a bedroom, with which Madame Birotteau's compared like
that of a chorus-singer's on a fourth floor with the appartement of a
prima-donna. The ceiling was of violet-colored satin, heightened in
its effect by folds of white satin; a rug of ermine lay at the
bedside, and contrasted with the purple tones of a Turkish carpet. The
furniture and all the accessories were novel in shape, costly, and
choice in character. Birotteau paused before an exquisite clock,
decorated with Cupid and Psyche, just designed for a famous banker,
from whom du Tillet had obtained the sole copy ever made of it. The
former master and his former clerk at last reached an elegant
coquettish cabinet, more redolent of love than finance. Madame Roguin
had doubtless contributed, in return for the care bestowed upon her
fortune, the paper-knife in chiselled gold, the paper-weights of
carved malachite, and all the costly knick-knacks of unrestrained
luxury. The carpet, one of the rich products of Belgium, was as
pleasant to the eye as to the foot which felt the soft thickness of
its texture. Du Tillet made the poor, amazed, bewildered perfumer sit
down at a corner of the fireplace.

"Will you breakfast with me?"

He rang the bell. Enter a footman better dressed than Birotteau.

"Tell Monsieur Legras to come here, and then find Joseph at the door
of the Messrs. Keller; tell him to return to the stable. Leave word
with Adolphe Keller that instead of going to see him, I shall expect
him at the Bourse; and order breakfast served immediately."

These commands amazed Cesar.

"He whistles to that formidable Adolphe Keller like a dog!--he, du

A little tiger, about a thumb high, set out a table, which Birotteau
had not observed, so slim was it, and brought in a _pate de foie
gras_, a bottle of claret, and a number of dainty dishes which only
appeared in Birotteau's household once in three months, on great
festive occasions. Du Tillet enjoyed the effect. His hatred towards
the only man who had it in his power to despise him burned so hotly
that Birotteau seemed, even to his own mind, like a sheep defending
itself against a tiger. For an instant, a generous idea entered du
Tillet's heart: he asked himself if his vengeance were not
sufficiently accomplished. He hesitated between this awakened mercy
and his dormant hate.

"I can annihilate him commercially," he thought; "I have the power of
life or death over him,--over his wife who insulted me, and his
daughter whose hand once seemed to me a fortune. I have got his money;
suppose I content myself with letting the poor fool swim at the end of
a line I'll hold for him?"

Honest minds are devoid of tact; their excellence is uncalculating,
even unreflecting, because they are wholly without evasions or mental
reservations of their own. Birotteau now brought about his downfall;
he incensed the tiger, pierced him to the heart without knowing it,
made him implacable by a thoughtless word, a eulogy, a virtuous
recognition,--by the kind-heartedness, as it were, of his own
integrity. When the cashier entered, du Tillet motioned him to take
notice of Cesar.

"Monsieur Legras, bring me ten thousand francs, and a note of hand for
that amount, drawn to my order, at ninety days' sight, by monsieur,
who is Monsieur Cesar Birotteau, you know."

Du Tillet cut the pate, poured out a glass of claret, and urged Cesar
to eat. The poor man felt he was saved, and gave way to convulsive
laughter; he played with his watch-chain, and only put a mouthful into
his mouth, when du Tillet said to him, "You are not eating!" Birotteau
thus betrayed the depths of the abyss into which du Tillet's hand had
plunged him, from which that hand now withdrew him, and into which it
had the power to plunge him again. When the cashier returned, and
Cesar signed the note, and felt the ten bank-notes in his pocket, he
was no longer master of himself. A moment sooner, and the Bank, his
neighborhood, every one, was to know that he could not meet his
payments, and he must have told his ruin to his wife; now, all was
safe! The joy of this deliverance equalled in its intensity the
tortures of his peril. The eyes of the poor man moistened, in spite of

"What is the matter with you, my dear master?" asked du Tillet. "Would
you not do for me to-morrow what I do for you to-day? Is it not as
simple as saying, How do you do?"

"Du Tillet," said the worthy man, with gravity and emphasis, and
rising to take the hand of his former clerk, "I give you back my

"What! had I lost it?" cried du Tillet, so violently stabbed in the
very bosom of his prosperity that the color came into his face.

"Lost?--well, not precisely," said Birotteau, thunder-struck at his
own stupidity: "they told me certain things about your _liaison_ with
Madame Roguin. The devil! taking the wife of another man--"

"You are beating round the bush, old fellow," thought du Tillet, and
as the words crossed his mind he came back to his original project,
and vowed to bring that virtue low, to trample it under foot, to
render despicable in the marts of Paris the honorable and virtuous
merchant who had caught him, red-handed, in a theft. All hatreds,
public or private, from woman to woman, from man to man, have no other
cause then some such detection. People do not hate each other for
injured interests, for wounds, not even for a blow; all such wrongs
can be redressed. But to have been seized, _flagrante delicto_, in a
base act! The duel which follows between the criminal and the witness
of his crime ends only with the death of the one or of the other.

"Oh! Madame Roguin!" said du Tillet, jestingly, "don't you call that a
feather in a young man's cap? I understand you, my dear master;
somebody has told you that she lent me money. Well, on the contrary it
is I who have protected her fortune, which was strangely involved in
her husband's affairs. The origin of my fortune is pure, as I have
just told you. I had nothing, you know. Young men are sometimes in
positions of frightful necessity. They may lose their self-control in
the depths of poverty, and if they make, as the Republic made, forced
loans--well, they pay them back; and in so doing they are more honest
than France herself."

"That is true," cried Birotteau. "My son, God--is it not Voltaire who

  "'He rendered repentance the virtue of mortals'?"

"Provided," answered du Tillet, stabbed afresh by this quotation,
--"provided they do not carry off the property of their neighbors,
basely, meanly; as, for example, you would do if you failed within
three months, and my ten thousand francs went to perdition."

"I fail!" cried Birotteau, who had taken three glasses of wine, and
was half-drunk with joy. "Everybody knows what I think about failure!
Failure is death to a merchant; I should die of it!"

"I drink your health," said du Tillet.

"Your health and prosperity," returned Cesar. "Why don't you buy your
perfumery from me?"

"The fact is," said du Tillet, "I am afraid of Madame Cesar; she
always made an impression on me. If you had not been my master, on my
word! I--"

"You are not the first to think her beautiful; others have desired
her; but she loves me! Well, now, du Tillet, my friend," resumed
Birotteau, "don't do things by halves."

"What is it?"

Birotteau explained the affair of the lands to his former clerk, who
pretended to open his eyes wide, and complimented the perfumer on his
perspicacity and penetration, and praised the enterprise.

"Well, I am very glad to have your approbation; you are thought one of
the wise-heads of the banking business, du Tillet. Dear fellow, you
might get me a credit at the Bank of France, so that I can wait for
the profits of Cephalic Oil at my ease."

"I can give you a letter to the firm of Nucingen," answered du Tillet,
perceiving that he could make his victim dance all the figures in the
reel of bankruptcy.

Ferdinand sat down to his desk and wrote the following letter:--

  _To Monsieur le baron de Nucingen_:

  My dear Baron,--The bearer of this letter is Monsieur Cesar
  Birotteau, deputy-mayor of the second arrondissement, and one of
  the best known manufacturers of Parisian perfumery; he wishes to
  have business relations with your house. You can confidently do
  all that he asks of you; and in obliging him you will oblige

                                                     Your friend,
                                                     F. Du Tillet.

Du Tillet did not dot the _i_ in his signature. To those with whom he
did business this intentional error was a sign previously agreed upon.
The strongest recommendations, the warmest appeals contained in the
letter were to mean nothing. All such letters, in which exclamation
marks were suppliants and du Tillet placed himself, as it were, upon
his knees, were to be considered as extorted by necessity; he could
not refuse to write them, but they were to be regarded as not written.
Seeing the _i_ without a dot, the correspondent was to amuse the
petitioner with empty promises. Even men of the world, and sometimes
the most distinguished, are thus gulled like children by business men,
bankers, and lawyers, who all have a double signature,--one dead, the
other living. The cleverest among them are fooled in this way. To
understand the trick, we must experience the two-fold effects of a
warm letter and a cold one.

"You have saved me, du Tillet!" said Cesar, reading the letter.

"Thank heaven!" said du Tillet, "ask for what money you want. When
Nucingen reads my letter he will give you all you need. Unhappily, my
own funds are tied up for a few days; if not, I certainly would not
send you to the great banking princes. The Kellers are mere pygmies
compared to Baron de Nucingen. Law reappears on earth in Nucingen.
With this letter of mine you can face the 15th of January, and after
that, we will see about it. Nucingen and I are the best friends in the
world; he would not disoblige me for a million."

"It is a guarantee in itself," thought Birotteau, as he went away full
of gratitude to his old clerk. "Well, a benefit is never lost!" he
continued, philosophizing very wide of the mark. Nevertheless, one
thought embittered his joy. For several days he had prevented his wife
from looking into the ledgers; he had put the business on Celestin's
shoulders and assisted in it himself; he wished, apparently, that his
wife and daughter should be at liberty to take full enjoyment out of
the beautiful appartement he had given them. But the first flush of
happiness over, Madame Birotteau would have died rather than renounce
her right of personally inspecting the affairs of the house,--of
holding, as she phrased it, the handle of the frying-pan. Birotteau
was at his wits' end; he had used all his cunning in trying to hide
from his wife the symptoms of his embarrassment. Constance strongly
disapproved of sending round the bills; she had scolded the clerks and
accused Celestin of wishing to ruin the establishment, thinking that
it was all his doing. Celestin, by Birotteau's order, had allowed
himself to be scolded. In the eyes of the clerks Madame Cesar governed
her husband; for though it is possible to deceive the public, the
inmates of a household are never deceived as to who exercises the real
authority. Birotteau knew that he must now reveal his real situation
to his wife, for the account with du Tillet needed an explanation.
When he got back to the shop, he saw, not without a shudder, that
Constance was sitting in her old place behind the counter, examining
the expense account, and no doubt counting up the money in the desk.

"How will you meet your payments to-morrow?" she whispered as he sat
down beside her.

"With money," he answered, pulling out the bank-bills, and signing to
Celestin to take them.

"Where did you get that money?"

"I'll tell you all about it this evening. Celestin, write down, 'Last
of March, note for ten thousand francs, to du Tillet's order.'"

"Du Tillet!" repeated Constance, struck with consternation.

"I am going to see Popinot," said Cesar; "it is very wrong in me not
to have gone before. Have we sold his oil?"

"The three hundred bottles he sent us are all gone."

"Birotteau, don't go out; I want to speak to you," said Constance,
taking him by the arm, and leading him into her bedroom with an
impetuosity which would have caused a laugh under other circumstances.
"Du Tillet," she said, when she had made sure no one but Cesarine was
with them,--"du Tillet, who robbed us of three thousand francs! So you
are doing business with du Tillet,--a monster, who wished to seduce
me," she whispered in his ear.

"Folly of youth," said Birotteau, assuming for the nonce the tone of a

"Listen to me, Birotteau! You are all upset; you don't go to the
manufactory any more; there is something the matter, I feel it! You
must tell me; I must know what it is."

"Well," said Birotteau, "we came very near being ruined,--we were
ruined this very morning; but it is all safe now."

And he told the horrible story of his two weeks' misery.

"So that was the cause of your illness!" exclaimed Constance.

"Yes, mamma," cried Cesarine, "and papa has been so courageous! All
that I desire in life is to be loved as he loves you. He has thought
only of your grief."

"My dream is fulfilled!" said the poor woman, dropping upon the sofa
at the corner of the fireplace, pale, livid, terrified. "I foresaw it
all. I warned you on that fatal night, in our old room which you
pulled to pieces, that we should have nothing left but our eyes to
weep with. My poor Cesarine, I--"

"Now, there you go!" cried Cesar; "you will take away from me the
courage I need."

"Forgive me, dear friend," said Constance, taking his hand, and
pressing it with a tenderness which went to the heart of the poor man.
"I do wrong. Misfortune has come; I will be silent, resigned, strong
to bear it. No, you shall never hear a complaint from me." She threw
herself into his arms, weeping, and whispering, "Courage, dear friend,
courage! I will have courage for both, if necessary."

"My oil, wife,--my oil will save us!"

"May God help us!" said Constance.

"Anselme will help my father," said Cesarine.

"I'll go and see him," cried Cesar, deeply moved by the passionate
accents of his wife, who after nineteen years of married life was not
yet fully known to him. "Constance, fear nothing! Here, read du
Tillet's letter to Monsieur de Nucingen; we are sure to obtain a
credit. Besides," he said, allowing himself a necessary lie, "there is
our uncle Pillerault; that is enough to give us courage."

"If that were all!" said Constance, smiling.

Birotteau, relieved of a heavy weight, walked away like a man suddenly
set at liberty, though he felt within him that indefinable sinking
which succeeds great moral struggles in which more of the nervous
fluid, more of the will is emitted than should be spent at one time,
and by which, if we may say so, the capital of the existence is drawn
upon. Birotteau had aged already.

              *     *     *     *     *

The house of A. Popinot, Rue des Cinq-Diamants, had undergone a great
change in two months. The shop was repainted. The shelves,
re-varnished and gilded and crowded with bottles, rejoiced the eye of
those who had eyes to see the symptoms of prosperity. The floors were
littered with packages and wrapping-paper. The storerooms held small
casks of various oils, obtained for Popinot on commission by the
devoted Gaudissart. The ledgers, the accounts, and the desks were
moved into the rooms above the shop and the back-shop. An old cook did
all the household work for the master and his three clerks. Popinot,
penned up in a corner of the shop closed in with glass, might be seen
in a serge apron and long sleeves of green linen, with a pen behind
his ear, in the midst of a mass of papers, where in fact Birotteau now
found him, as he was overhauling his letters full of proposals and
checks and orders. At the words "Hey, my boy!" uttered by his old
master, Popinot raised his head, locked up his cubby-hole, and came
forward with a joyous air and the end of his nose a little red. There
was no fire in the shop, and the door was always open.

"I feared you were never coming," he said respectfully.

The clerks crowded round to look at the distinguished perfumer, the
decorated deputy-mayor, the partner of their own master. Birotteau, so
pitifully small at the Kellers, felt a craving to imitate those
magnates; he stroked his chin, rose on his heels with native
self-complacency, and talked his usual platitudes.

"Hey, my lad! we get up early, don't we?" he remarked.

"No, for we don't always go to bed," said Popinot. "We must clutch

"What did I tell you? My oil will make your fortune!"

"Yes, monsieur. But the means employed to sell it count for something.
I have set your diamond well."

"How do we stand?" said Cesar. "How far have you got? What are the

"Profits! at the end of two months! How can you expect it? Friend
Gaudissart has only been on the road for twenty-five days; he took a
post-chaise without saying a word to me. Oh, he is devoted! We owe a
great deal to my uncle. The newspapers alone (here he whispered in
Birotteau's ear) will cost us twelve thousand francs."

"Newspapers!" exclaimed the deputy-mayor.

"Haven't you read them?"


"Then you know nothing," said Popinot. "Twenty thousand francs worth
of placards, gilt frames, copies of the prospectus. One hundred
thousand bottles bought. Ah, it is all paying through the nose at this
moment! We are manufacturing on a grand scale. If you had set foot in
the faubourg, where I often work all night, you would have seen a
little nut-cracker which isn't to be sneezed at, I can tell you. On my
own account, I have made, in the last five days, not less than ten
thousand francs, merely by commissions on the sale of druggists'

"What a capable head!" said Birotteau, laying his hand on little
Popinot's thick hair and rubbing it about as if he were a baby. "I
found it out."

Several persons here came in.

"On Sunday we dine at your aunt Ragon's," added Cesar, leaving Popinot
to go on with his business, for he perceived that the fresh meat he
had come to taste was not yet cut up.

"It is amazing! A clerk becomes a merchant in twenty-four hours,"
thought Birotteau, who understood the happiness and self-assurance of
Anselme as little as the dandy luxury of du Tillet. "Anselme put on a
little stiff air when I patted him on the head, just as if he were
Francois Keller himself."

Birotteau never once reflected that the clerks were looking on, and
that the master of the establishment had his dignity to preserve. In
this instance, as in the case of his speech to du Tillet, the worthy
soul committed a folly out of pure goodness of heart, and for lack of
knowing how to withhold an honest sentiment vulgarly expressed. By
this trifling act Cesar would have wounded irretrievably any other man
than little Popinot.

              *     *     *     *     *

The Sunday dinner at the Ragon's was destined to be the last pleasure
of the nineteen happy years of the Birotteau household,--years of
happiness that were full to overflowing. Ragon lived in the Rue du
Petit-Bourbon-Saint-Sulpice, on the second floor of a dignified old
house, in an appartement decorated with large panels where painted
shepherdesses danced in panniers, before whom fed the sheep of our
nineteenth century, the sober and serious bourgeoisie,--whose comical
demeanor, with their respectful notions about the nobility, and their
devotion to the Sovereign and the Church, were all admirably
represented by Ragon himself. The furniture, the clocks, linen,
dinner-service, all seemed patriarchal; novel in form because of their
very age. The salon, hung with old damask and draped with curtains in
brocatelle, contained portraits of duchesses and other royalist
tributes; also a superb Popinot, sheriff of Sancerre, painted by
Latour,--the father of Madame Ragon, a worthy, excellent man, in a
picture out of which he smiled like a parvenu in all his glory. When
at home, Madame Ragon completed her natural self with a little King
Charles spaniel, which presented a surprisingly harmonious effect as
it lay on the hard little sofa, rococo in shape, that assuredly never
played the part assigned to the sofa of Crebillon.

Among their many virtues, the Ragons were noted for the possession of
old wines which had come to perfect mellowness, and for certain of
Madame Anfoux's liqueurs, which certain persons, obstinately (though
it was said hopelessly) bent on making love to Madame Ragon, had
brought her from the West Indies. Thus their little dinners were much
prized. Jeannette, the old cook, took care of the aged couple with
blind devotion: she would have stolen the fruit to make their
sweetmeats. Instead of taking her money to the savings-bank, she put
it judiciously into lotteries, hoping that some day she could bestow a
good round sum on her master and mistress. On the appointed Sundays
when they received their guests, she was, despite her years, active in
the kitchen to superintend the dishes, which she served at the table
with an agility that (to use a favorite expression of the worthy
Ragon) might have given points to Mademoiselle Contat when she played
Susanne in the "Mariage de Figaro."

The guests on this occasion were Popinot the judge, Pillerault,
Anselme, the three Birotteaus, three Matifats, and the Abbe Loraux.
Madame Matifat, whom we lately met crowned with a turban for the ball,
now wore a gown of blue velvet, with coarse cotton stockings, leather
shoes, gloves of chamois-skin with a border of green plush, and a
bonnet lined with pink, filled in with white puffs about the face.
These ten personages assembled at five o'clock. The old Ragons always
requested their guests to be punctual. When this worthy couple were
invited out, their hosts always put the dinner at the same hour,
remembering that stomachs which were sixty-five years old could not
adapt themselves to the novel hours recently adopted in the great

Cesarine was sure that Madame Ragon would place her beside Anselme;
for all women, be they fools or saints, know what is what in love. The
daughter of "The Queen of Roses" therefore dressed with the intention
of turning Popinot's head. Her mother--having renounced, not without
pain, the thought of marrying her to Crottat, who to her eyes played
the part of heir-apparent--assisted, with some bitter thoughts, at the
toilet. Maternal forethought lowered the modest gauzy neckerchief to
show a little of Cesarine's shoulders and the spring of her graceful
throat, which was remarkably elegant. The Grecian bodice, crossing
from left to right with five folds, opened slightly, showing delicious
curves; the gray merino dress with green furbelows defined the pretty
waist, which had never looked so slender nor so supple. She wore
earrings of gold fret-work, and her hair, gathered up _a la chinoise_,
let the eye take in the soft freshness of a skin traced with blue
veins, where the light shone chastely on the pure white tones.
Cesarine was so coquettishly lovely that Madame Matifat could not help
admitting it, without, however, perceiving that mother and daughter
had the one purpose of bewitching Anselme.

Neither Birotteau, his wife, Madame Matifat nor any of the others
disturbed the sweet converse which the young people, thrilling with
love, held in whispering voices within the embrasure of a window,
through whose chinks the north wind blew its chilly whistle. The
conversation of the elders became animated when Popinot the judge let
fall a word about Roguin's flight, remarking that he was the second
notary who had absconded,--a crime formerly unknown. Madame Ragon, at
the word Roguin, touched her brother's foot, Pillerault spoke loudly
to drown his voice, and both made him a sign to remember Madame

"I know all," said Constance in a low, pained voice.

"Well, then," said Madame Matifat to Birotteau, who humbly bowed his
head, "how much did he carry of? If we are to believe the gossips, you
are ruined."

"He had two hundred thousand francs of mine," said Cesar. "As to the
forty thousand he pretended to make me borrow from one of his clients,
whose property he had already squandered, I am now bringing a suit to
recover them."

"The case will be decided this week," said Popinot. I thought you
would not be unwilling that I should explain your situation to
Monsieur le president; he has ordered that all Roguin's papers be
submitted to the custody of the court, so as to ascertain the exact
time when Roguin made away with the funds of his client, and thus
verify the facts alleged by Derville, who made the argument himself to
save you the expense."

"Shall we win?" asked Madame Birotteau.

"I don't know," answered Popinot. "Though I belong to the court in
which the suit is bought, I shall abstain from giving an opinion, even
if called upon."

"Can there be any doubt in such a simple case?" said Pillerault. "Such
deeds make mention that payment has been made, and notaries are
obliged to declare that they have seen the money passed from the
lender to the borrower. Roguin would be sent to the galleys if the law
could get hold of him.

"According to my ideas," said the judge, "the lender ought to have
sued Roguin for the costs and the caution-money; but it sometimes
happens at the Cour Royale that in matters even more plain than this
the judges stand six against six."

"Mademoiselle, what are they saying? Has Monsieur Roguin absconded?"
said Anselme, hearing at last what was going on about him. "Monsieur
said nothing of it to me,--to me who would shed my blood for him--"

Cesarine fully understood that the whole family were included in the
"for him"; for if the innocent girl could mistake the accent, she
could not misunderstand the glance, which wrapped her, as it were, in
a rosy flame.

"I know you would; I told him so. He hid everything from my mother,
and confided only in me."

"You spoke to him of me?" said Popinot; "you have read my heart? Have
you read all that is there?"


"I am very happy," said Popinot. "If you would lighten all my fears
--in a year I shall be so prosperous that your father cannot object
when I speak to him of our marriage. From henceforth I shall sleep
only five hours a night."

"Do not injure yourself," said Cesarine, with an inexpressible accent
and a look in which Popinot was suffered to read her thoughts.

"Wife," said Cesar, as they rose from table, "I think those young
people love each other."

"Well, so much the better," said Constance, in a grave voice; "my
daughter will be the wife of a man of sense and energy. Talent is the
best dower a man can offer."

She left the room hastily and went to Madame Ragon's bedchamber. Cesar
during the dinner had make various fatuous remarks, which caused the
judge and Pillerault to smile, and reminded the unhappy woman of how
unfitted her poor husband was to grapple with misfortune. Her heart
was full of tears; and she instinctively dreaded du Tillet, for every
mother knows the _Timeo Danaos et dona ferentes_, even if she does not
know Latin. Constance wept in the arms of Madame Ragon and her
daughter, though she would not tell them the cause of her distress.

"I'm nervous," she said.

The rest of the evening was spent by the elders at the card-table, and
by the young people in those little games called innocent because they
cover the innocent by-play of bourgeois love. The Matifats joined in
these games.

"Cesar," said Constance as they drove home, "go and see Monsieur le
Baron de Nucingen on the 8th so as to be sure of having your payments
ready in advance of the 15th. If there should be any hitch, how could
you scrape the money together if you have only one day to do it in?"

"I will see to it, wife," said Cesar, pressing his wife's hand and his
daughter's, adding, "Ah, my dear white lambs, I have given you a sad
New Year's gift!"

The two women, unable to see him in the obscurity of the hackney
coach, felt his tears falling hot upon their hands.

"Be hopeful, dear friend," said Constance.

"All will go well, papa; Monsieur Anselme Popinot told me he would
shed his blood for you."

"For me?" said Cesar, trying to speak gaily; "and for the family as
well. Isn't it so?"

Cesarine pressed her father's hand, as if to let him know she was
betrothed to Anselme.


During the first three days of the year, two hundred visiting cards
were sent to Birotteau. This rush of fictitious friendship, these
empty testimonials of favor, are horrible to those who feel themselves
drawn down into the vortex of misfortune. Birotteau presented himself
three times at the hotel of the famous banker, the Baron de Nucingen,
but in vain. The opening of the year with all its festivities
sufficiently explained the absences of the financier. On the last
occasion Birotteau got as far as the office of the banker, where the
head-clerk, a German, told him that Monsieur de Nucingen had returned
at five in the morning from a ball at the Kellers', and would not be
visible until half-past nine o'clock. Birotteau had the luck to
interest this man in his affairs, and remained talking with him more
than half an hour. In the course of the afternoon this prime minister
of the house of Nucingen wrote Birotteau that the baron would receive
him the next day, 13th, at noon. Though every hour brought its drop of
absinthe, the day went by with frightful rapidity. Cesar took a
hackney coach, but stopped it several paces distant from the hotel,
whose courtyard was crowded with carriages. The poor man's heart sank
within him when he saw the splendors of that noted house.

"And yet he has failed twice," he said to himself as he went up a
superb staircase banked with flowers, and crossed the sumptuous rooms
which helped to make Madame Delphine de Nucingen famous in the
Chaussee d'Antin. The baronne's ambition was to rival the great ladies
of the Faubourg Saint-Germain, to whose houses she was not as yet
admitted. The baron was breakfasting with his wife. In spite of the
crowd which was waiting for him in the counting-room, he had left word
that any friend of du Tillet was to be admitted. Birotteau trembled
with hope as he noticed the change which the baron's order had wrought
in the hitherto insolent manner of the footman.

"Pardon me, my tear," said the baron to his wife, in a strong German
accent, as he rose and nodded to Birotteau, "monsieur is a good
royalist, and der intimate frient of tu Tillet. Bezides, monsieur is
debudy-mayor of der zecond arrondissement, and gifs palls of Aziatigue
magnifissence; so vill you mak his acquentence mit blaysure."

"I should be delighted to take lessons from Madame Birotteau, for

"She calls him Ferdinand!" thought Cesar.

"--spoke of the ball with great admiration, which is all the more
valuable because he usually admires nothing. Ferdinand is a harsh
critic; in his eyes everything ought to be perfect. Shall you soon
give another ball?" she inquired affably.

"Madame, poor people, such as we are, seldom have many amusements of
that kind," said the perfumer, not knowing whether she meant to
ridicule him, or was merely paying an empty compliment.

"Monsieur Grindot suberintented der resdoration of your abbartement, I
zink?" said the baron.

"Ah, Grindot! that nice little architect who has just returned from
Rome," said Delphine de Nucingen. "I dote on him; he makes delicious
drawings in my album."

No culprit enduring the torments of hell in Venetian dungeons ever
suffered more from the torture of the boot than Birotteau did,
standing there in his ordinary clothes. He felt a sneer in every word.

"Vill you gif oder little palls?" said the banker, with a searching
look at the perfumer. "You see all der vorld ist inderesded."

"Will Monsieur Birotteau breakfast with us, without ceremony?" said
Delphine, motioning towards the table which was sumptuously served.

"Madame la baronne, I came on business, and I am--"

"Yes, matame, vill you bermit us to speak of business?"

Delphine made a little sign of assent, saying to her husband, "Are you
going to buy perfumery?" The baron shrugged his shoulders and turned
to Cesar, who trembled with anxiety.

"Tu Tillet takes der graadest inderest in you," he said.

"At last," thought the poor man, "we are coming to the point."

"His ledder gif you in my house a creydit vich is only limided by der
limids of my privade fortune."

The exhilarating balm infused into the water offered by the angel to
Hagar in the desert, must have been the same cordial which flowed
through Cesar's veins as he listened to these words. The wily banker
retained the horrible pronunciation of the German Jews,--possibly
that he might be able to deny promises actually given, but only

"You shall haf a running aggont. Ve vill broceed in dis vay--" said
this great and good and venerable financier, with Alsatian good-humor.

Birotteau doubted no longer; he was a merchant, and new very well that
those who have no intention of rendering a service never enter into
the details of executing it.

"I neet not tell you dat der Bank demands of all, graat and small
alaike, dree zignatures. So denn, you traw a cheque to die order of
our frient tu Tillet, and I vill sent it, same tay, to der Bank mit
mein zignature; so shall you haf, at four o'clock, der amount of die
cheque you trew in der morning; and at der costs of die Bank. I vill
not receif a commission, no! I vill haf only der blaysure to be
agreeaple to you. But I mak one condeetion," he added, laying his left
finger lightly on his nose with an inimitably sly gesture.

"Monsieur le baron, it is granted on the sport," said Birotteau, who
thought it concerned some tithe to be levied on his profits.

"A condeetion to vich I attache der graatest imbortance, because I
vish Matame de Nucingen should receif, as she say, zom lessons from
Matame Pirodot."

"Monsieur le baron! pray do not laugh at me, I entreat you."

"Monsieur Pirodot," said the financier, with a serious air, "it is
deen agreet; you vill invite us to your nex pall? My vife is shalous;
she vish to see your abbartement, of vich she hear so mooch."

"Monsieur le baron!--"

"Oh! if you reffuse me, no creydit! Yes, I know der Prayfic of die
Seine was at your las pall."

"Monsieur le baron!--"

"You had Pillartiere, shentelman of der betchamber; goot royalist like
you, who vas vounded at Zaint-Roqque--"

"On the 13th Vendemiaire, Monsieur le baron."

"Denn you hat Monsieur de Lazabed, Monsieur Fauquelin of der

"Monsieur le baron!--"

"Hey! der tefle! dont pe zo humple, Monsieur der debudy-mayor; I haf
heard dat der king say dat your ball--"

"The king?" exclaimed Birotteau, who was destined to hear no more,
for, at this moment, a young man entered the room familiarly, whose
step, recognized from afar by the beautiful Delphine de Nucingen,
brought the color to her cheek.

"Goot morning, my tear te Marsay; tak my blace. Dere is a crowd, zey
tell me, waiting in der gounting-room. I know vy. Der mines of
Wortschin bay a graat divitent! I haf receifed die aggonts. You vill
haf one hundert tousant francs, Matame de Nucingen, so you can buy
chewels and oder tings to make you bretty,--as if you could be

"Good God! the Ragons sold their shares!" exclaimed Birotteau.

"Who are those persons?" asked the elegant de Marsay, smiling.

"Egzactly," said Monsieur de Nucingen, turning back when he was almost
at the door. "I zink tat dose persons--te Marsay, dis is Monsieur
Pirodot, your berfumer, who gifs palls of a magnifissence druly
Aziatique, and whom der king has decoraded."

De Marsay lifted his eyeglass, and said, "Ah! true, I thought the face
was not unknown to me. So you are going to perfume your affairs with
potent cosmetics, oil them with--"

"Ah! dose Rakkons," interrupted the baron, making a grimace expressive
of disgust; "dey had an aggont mit us; I fafored dem, and dey could
haf made der fortune, but dey would not wait one zingle day longer."

"Monsieur le baron!" cried Birotteau.

The worthy man thought his own prospects extremely doubtful, and
without bowing to Madame de Nucingen, or to de Marsay, he hastily
followed the banker. The baron was already on the staircase, and
Birotteau caught him at the bottom just as he was about to enter the
counting-room. As Nucingen opened the door he saw the despairing
gesture of the poor creature behind him, who felt himself pushed into
a gulf, and said hastily,--

"Vell, it is all agreet. See tu Tillet, and arranche it mit him."

Birotteau, thinking that de Marsay might have some influence with
Nucingen, ran back with the rapidity of a swallow, and slipped into
the dining-room where he had left the baronne and the young man, and
where Delphine was waiting for a cup of _cafe a la creme_. He saw that
the coffee had been served, but the baronne and the dandy had
disappeared. The footman smiled at the astonishment of the worthy man,
who slowly re-descended the stairs. Cesar rushed to du Tillet's, and
was told that he had gone into the country with Madame Roguin. He took
a cabriolet, and paid the driver well to be taken rapidly to
Nogent-sur-Marne. At Nogent-sur-Marne the porter told him that monsieur
and madame had started for Paris. Birotteau returned home, shattered in
mind and body. When he related his wild-goose chase to his wife and
daughter he was amazed to find his Constance, usually perched like a
bird of ill omen on the smallest commercial mishap, now giving him the
tenderest consolation, and assuring him that everything would turn out

The next morning, Birotteau mounted guard as early as seven o'clock
before du Tillet's door. He begged the porter, slipping ten francs
into his hand, to put him in communication with du Tillet's valet, and
obtained from the latter a promise to show him in to his master the
moment that du Tillet was visible: he slid two pieces of gold into the
valet's hand. By such little sacrifices and great humiliations, common
to all courtiers and petitioners, he was able to attain his end. At
half-past eight, just as his former clerk was putting on a
dressing-gown, yawning, stretching, and shaking off the cobwebs of
sleep, Birotteau came face to face with the tiger, hungry for revenge,
whom he now looked upon as his only friend.

"Go on with your dressing," said Birotteau.

"What do you want, _my good Cesar_?" said du Tillet.

Cesar stated, with painful trepidation, the answer and requirements of
Monsieur de Nucingen to the inattentive ears of du Tillet, who was
looking for the bellows and scolding his valet for the clumsy manner
in which he had lighted the fire.

The valet listened. At first Cesar did not notice him; when he did so
he stopped short, confused, but resumed what he was saying as du
Tillet touched him with the spur exclaiming, "Go on! go on! I am
listening to you."

The poor man's shirt was wet; his perspiration turned to ice as du
Tillet looked fixedly at him, and he saw the silver-lined pupils of
those eyes, streaked with threads of gold, which pierced to his very
heart with a diabolical gleam.

"My dear master, the Bank has refused to take your notes which the
house of Claparon passed over to Gigonnet _not guaranteed_. Is that my
fault? How is it that you, an old commercial judge, should commit such
blunders? I am, first and foremost, a banker. I will give you my
money, but I cannot risk having my signature refused at the Bank. My
credit is my life; that is the case with all of us. Do you want

"Can you give me what I want?"

"That depends on how much you owe. How much do you want?"

"Thirty thousand francs."

"Are the chimney-bricks coming down on my head?" exclaimed du Tillet,
bursting into a laugh.

Cesar, misled by the luxury about him, fancied it was the laugh of a
man to whom the sum was a mere trifle; he breathed again. Du Tillet
rang the bell.

"Send the cashier to me."

"He has not come, monsieur," said the valet.

"These fellows take advantage of me! It is half-past eight o'clock,
and he ought to have done a million francs' worth of business by this

Five minutes later Monsieur Legras came in.

"How much have we in the desk?"

"Only twenty thousand francs. Monsieur gave orders to buy into the
Funds to the amount of thirty thousand francs cash, payable on the

"That's true; I am half-asleep still."

The cashier gave Birotteau a suspicious look as he left the room.

"If truth were banished from this earth, she would leave her last word
with a cashier," said du Tillet. "Haven't you some interest in this
little Popinot, who has set up for himself?" he added, after a
dreadful pause, in which the sweat rolled in drops from Cesar's brow.

"Yes," he answered, naively. "Do you think you could discount his
signature for a large amount?"

"Bring me his acceptances for fifty thousand francs, and I will get
them discounted for you at a reasonable rate by old Gobseck, who is
very easy to deal with when he has funds to invest; and he has some

Birotteau went home broken-hearted, not perceiving that the bankers
were tossing him from one to the other like a shuttle-cock; but
Constance had already guessed that credit was unattainable. If three
bankers refused it, it was very certain that they had inquired of each
other about so prominent a man as a deputy-mayor; and there was,
consequently, no hope from the Bank of France.

"Try to renew your notes," she said; "go and see Monsieur Claparon,
your copartner, and all the others to whom you gave notes for the
15th, and ask them to renew. It will be time enough to go to the
money-lenders with Popinot's paper if that fails."

"To-morrow is the 13th," said Birotteau, completely crushed.

In the language of his own prospectus, he enjoyed a sanguine
temperament, which was subject to an enormous waste through emotions
and the pressure of thought, and imperatively demanded sleep to repair
it. Cesarine took her father into the salon and played to him
"Rousseau's Dream,"--a pretty piece of music by Herold; while
Constance sat sewing beside him. The poor man laid his head on a
cushion, and every time he looked up at his wife he saw a soft smile
upon her lips; and thus he fell asleep.

"Poor man!" said Constance; "what misery is in store for him! God
grant he may have strength to bear it!"

"Oh! what troubles you, mamma?" said Cesarine, seeing that her mother
was weeping.

"Dear daughter, I see a failure coming. If your father is forced to
make an assignment, we must ask no one's pity. My child, be prepared
to become a simple shop-girl. If I see you accepting your life
courageously, I shall have strength to begin my life over again. I
know your father,--he will not keep back one farthing; I shall resign
my dower; all that we possess will be sold. My child, you must take
your jewels and your clothes to-morrow to your uncle Pillerault; for
you are not bound to any sacrifice."

Cesarine was seized with a terror beyond control as she listened to
these words, spoken with religious simplicity. The thought came into
her mind to go and see Anselme; but her native delicacy checked it.

On the morrow, at nine o'clock, Birotteau, following his wife's
advice, went to find Claparon in the Rue de Provence, in the grasp of
anxieties quite other than those through which he had lately passed.
To ask for a credit is an ordinary business matter; it happens every
day that those who undertake an enterprise are obliged to borrow
capital; but to ask for the renewal of notes is in commercial
jurisprudence what the correctional police is to the court of assizes,
--a first step towards bankruptcy, just as a misdemeanor leads to
crime. The secret of your embarrassment is in other hands than your
own. A merchant delivers himself over, bound hand and foot, to another
merchant; and mercy is a virtue not practised at the Bourse.

Cesar, who once walked the streets of Paris with his head high and his
eye beaming with confidence, now, unstrung by perplexity, shrank from
meeting Claparon; he began to realize that a banker's heart is mere
viscera. Claparon had seemed to him so brutal in his coarse jollity,
and he had felt the man's vulgarity so keenly, that he shuddered at
the necessity of accosting him.

"But he is nearer to the people; perhaps he will therefore have more
heart!" Such was the first reproachful word which the anguish of his
position forced from Cesar's lips.

Birotteau drew upon the dregs of his courage, and went up the stairway
of a mean little _entresol_, at whose windows he had caught a glimpse
of green curtains yellowed by the sun. He read the word "Offices,"
stamped in black letters on an oval copper-plate; he rapped, nobody
answered, and he went in. The place, worse than humble, conveyed an
idea of penury, or avarice, or neglect. No employe was to be seen
behind the brass lattice which topped an unpainted white wooden
enclosure, breast-high, within which were tables and desks in stained
black wood. These deserted places were littered with inkstands, in
which the ink was mouldy and the pens as rumpled as a ragammufin's
head, and twisted like sunfish; with boxes and papers and printed
matter,--all worthless, no doubt. The floor was as dirty, defaced, and
damp as that of a boarding-house. The second room, announced by the
word "Counting-Room" on its door, harmonized with the grim _facetiae_
of its neighbor. In one corner was a large space screened off by an
oak balustrade, trellised with copper wire and furnished with a
sliding cat-hole, within which was an enormous iron chest. This space,
apparently given over to the rioting of rats, also contained an
odd-looking desk, with a shabby arm-chair, which was ragged, green, and
torn in the seat,--from which the horse-hair protruded, like the wig
of its master, in half a hundred libertine curls. The chief adornment
of this room, which had evidently been the salon of the appartement
before it was converted into a banking-office, was a round table
covered with a green cloth, round which stood a few old chairs of
black leather with tarnished gilt nails. The fireplace, somewhat
elegant, showed none of the sooty marks of a fire; the hearth was
clean; the mirror, covered with fly-specks, had a paltry air, in
keeping with a mahogany clock bought at the sale of some old notary,
which annoyed the eye, already depressed by two candelabras without
candles and the sticky dust that covered them. The wall-paper,
mouse-gray with a pink border, revealed, by certain fuliginous stains,
the unwholesome presence of smokers. Nothing ever more faithfully
represented that prosaic precinct called by the newspapers an
"editorial sanctum." Birotteau, fearing that he might be indiscreet,
knocked sharply three times on the door opposite to that by which he

"Come in!" cried Claparon, the reverberation of whose voice revealed
the distance it had to traverse and the emptiness of the room,--in
which Cesar heard the crackling of a good fire, though the owner was
apparently not there.

The room was, in truth, Claparon's private office. Between the
ostentatious reception-room of Francois Keller and the untidy abode of
the counterfeit banker, there was all the difference that exists
between Versailles and the wigwam of a Huron chief. Birotteau had
witnessed the splendors of finance; he was now to see its fooleries.
Lying in bed, in a sort of oblong recess or den opening from the
farther end of the office, and where the habits of a slovenly life had
spoiled, dirtied, greased, torn, defaced, obliterated, and ruined
furniture which had been elegant in its day, Claparon, at the entrance
of Birotteau, wrapped his filthy dressing-gown around him, laid down
his pipe, and drew together the curtains of the bed with a haste which
made even the innocent perfumer suspect his morals.

"Sit down, monsieur," said the make-believe banker.

Claparon, without his wig, his head wrapped up in a bandanna
handkerchief twisted awry, seemed all the more hideous to Birotteau
because, when the dressing-gown gaped open, he saw an undershirt of
knitted wool, once white, but now yellowed by wear indefinitely

"Will you breakfast with me?" said Claparon, recollecting the
perfumer's ball, and thinking to make him a return and also to put him
off the scent by this invitation.

Cesar now perceived a round table, hastily cleared of its litter,
which bore testimony to the presence of jovial company by a pate,
oysters, white wine, and vulgar kidneys, _sautes au vin de champagne_,
sodden in their own sauce. The light of a charcoal brazier gleamed on
an _omelette aux truffes_.

Two covers and two napkins, soiled by the supper of the previous
night, might have enlightened the purest innocence. Claparon, thinking
himself very clever, pressed his invitation in spite of Cesar's

"I was to have had a guest, but that guest has disappointed me," said
the crafty traveller, in a voice likely to reach a person buried under

"Monsieur," said Birotteau, "I came solely on business, and I shall
not detain you long."

"I'm used up," said Claparon, pointing to the desk and the tables
piled with documents; "they don't leave me a poor miserable moment to
myself! I don't receive people except on Saturdays. But as for you, my
dear friend, I'll see you at any time. I haven't a moment to love or
to loaf; I have lost even the inspiration of business; to catch its
vim one must have the sloth of ease. Nobody ever sees me now on the
boulevard doing nothing. Bah! I'm sick of business; I don't want to
talk about business; I've got money enough, but I never can get enough
happiness. My gracious! I want to travel,--to see Italy! Oh, that dear
Italy! beautiful in spite of all her reverses! adorable land, where I
shall no doubt encounter some angel, complying yet majestic! I have
always loved Italian women. Did you ever have an Italian woman
yourself? No? Then come with me to Italy. We will see Venice, the
abode of doges,--unfortunately fallen into those intelligent Austrian
hands that know nothing of art! Bah! let us get rid of business,
canals, loans, and peaceful governments. I'm a good fellow when I've
got my pockets lined. Thunder! let's travel."

"One word, monsieur, and I will release you," said Birotteau. "You
made over my notes to Monsieur Bidault."

"You mean Gigonnet, that good little Gigonnet, easy-going--"

"Yes," said Cesar; "but I wish,--and here I count upon your honor and

Claparon bowed.

"--to renew those notes."

"Impossible!" snapped the banker. "I'm not alone in the matter. We
have met in council,--regular Chamber; but we all agreed like bacon
in a frying-pan. The devil! we deliberated. Those lands about the
Madeleine don't amount to anything; we are operating elsewhere. Hey!
my dear sir, if we were not involved in the Champs Elysees and at
the Bourse which they are going to finish, and in the quartier
Saint-Lazare and at Tivoli, we shouldn't be, as that fat Nucingen says,
in _peaseness_ at all. What's the Madeleine to us?--a midge of a thing.
Pr-r-r! We don't play low, my good fellow," he said, tapping Birotteau
on the stomach and catching him round the waist. "Come, let's have our
breakfast, and talk," added Claparon, wishing to soften his refusal.

"Very good," said Birotteau. "So much the worse for the other guest,"
he thought, meaning to make Claparon drunk, and to find out who were
his real associates in an affair which began to look suspicious to

"All right! Victoire!" called the banker.

This call brought a regular Leonarde, tricked out like a fish-woman.

"Tell the clerks that I can't see any one,--not even Nucingen, Keller,
Gigonnet, and all the rest of them."

"No one has come but Monsieur Lempereur."

"He can receive the great people," said Claparon; "the small fry are
not to get beyond the first room. They are to say I'm cogitating a
great enterprise--in champagne."

To make an old commercial traveller drunk is an impossibility. Cesar
mistook the elation of the man's vulgarity when he attempted to sound
his mind.

"That infamous Roguin is still connected with you," he began; "don't
you think you ought to write and tell him to assist an old friend whom
he has compromised,--a man with whom he dined every Sunday, and whom
he has known for twenty years?"

"Roguin? A fool! his share is ours now. Don't be worried, old fellow,
all will go well. Pay up to the 15th, and after that we will see--I
say, we will see. Another glass of wine? The capital doesn't concern
me one atom; pay or don't pay, I sha'n't make faces at you. I'm only
in the business for a commission on the sales, and for a share when
the lands are converted into money; and it's for that I manage the
owners. Don't you understand? You have got solid men behind you, so
I'm not afraid, my good sir. Nowadays, business is all parcelled out
in portions. A single enterprise requires a combination of capacities.
Go in with us; don't potter with pomatum and perfumes,--rubbish!
rubbish! Shave the public; speculate!"

"Speculation!" said Cesar, "is that commerce?"

"It is abstract commerce," said Claparon,--"commerce which won't be
developed for ten years to come, according to Nucingen, the Napoleon
of finance; commerce by which a man can grasp the totality of
fractions, and skim the profits before there are any. Gigantic idea!
one way of pouring hope into pint cups,--in short, a new necromancy!
So far, we have only got ten or a dozen hard heads initiated into the
cabalistic secrets of these magnificent combinations."

Cesar opened his eyes and ears, endeavoring to understand this
composite phraseology.

"Listen," said Claparon, after a pause. "Such master-strokes need men.
There's the man of genius who hasn't a sou--like all men of genius.
Those fellows spend their thoughts and spend their money just as it
comes. Imagine a pig rooting round a truffle-patch; he is followed by
a jolly fellow, a moneyed man, who listens for the grunt as piggy
finds the succulent. Now, when the man of genius has found a good
thing, the moneyed man taps him on the shoulder and says, 'What have
you got there? You are rushing into the fiery furnace, my good fellow,
and you haven't the loins to run out again. There's a thousand francs;
just let me take it in hand and manage the affair.' Very good! The
banker then convokes the traders: 'My friends, let us go to work:
write a prospectus! Down with humbug!' On that they get out the
hunting-horns and shout and clamor,--'One hundred thousand francs for
five sous! or five sous for a hundred thousand francs! gold mines!
coal mines!' In short, all the clap-trap of commerce. We buy up men of
arts and sciences; the show begins, the public enters; it gets its
money's worth, and we get the profits. The pig is penned up with his
potatoes, and the rest of us wallow in banknotes. There it all is, my
good sir. Come, go into the business with us. What would you like to
be,--pig, buzzard, clown, or millionaire? Reflect upon it; I have now
laid before you the whole theory of the modern loan-system. Come and
see me often; you'll always find me a jovial, jolly fellow. French
joviality--gaiety and gravity, all in one--never injures business;
quite the contrary. Men who quaff the sparkling cup are born to
understand each other. Come, another glass of champagne! it is good, I
tell you! It was sent to me from Epernay itself, by a man for whom I
once sold quantities at a good price--I used to be in wines. He shows
his gratitude, and remembers me in my prosperity; very rare, that."

Birotteau, overcome by the frivolity and heedlessness of a man to whom
the world attributed extreme depth and capacity, dared not question
him any further. In the midst of his own haziness of mind produced by
the champagne, he did, however, recollect a name spoken by du Tillet;
and he asked Claparon who Gobseck the banker was, and where he lived.

"Have you got as far as that?" said Claparon. "Gobseck is a banker,
just as the headsman is a doctor. The first word is 'fifty per cent';
he belongs to the race of Harpagon; he'll take canary birds at all
seasons, fur tippets in summer, nankeens in winter. What securities
are you going to offer him? If you want him to take your paper without
security you will have to deposit your wife, your daughter, your
umbrella, everything down to your hat-box, your socks (don't you go in
for ribbed socks?), your shovel and tongs, and the very wood you've
got in the cellar! Gobseck! Gobseck! in the name of virtuous folly,
who told you to go to that commercial guillotine?"

"Monsieur du Tillet."

"Ah! the scoundrel, I recognize him! We used to be friends. If we have
quarrelled so that we don't speak to each other, you may depend upon
it my aversion to him is well-founded; he let me read down to the
bottom of his infamous soul, and he made me uncomfortable at that
beautiful ball you gave us. I can't stand his impudent airs--all
because he has got a notary's wife! I could have countesses if I
wanted them; I sha'n't respect him any the more for that. Ah! my
respect is a princess who'll never give birth to such as he. But, I
say, you are a funny fellow, old man, to flash us a ball like that,
and two months after try to renew your paper! You seem to have some go
in you. Let's do business together. You have got a reputation which
would be very useful to me. Oh! du Tillet was born to understand
Gobseck. Du Tillet will come to a bad end at the Bourse. If he is, as
they say, the tool of old Gobseck, he won't be allowed to go far.
Gobseck sits in a corner of his web like an old spider who has
travelled round the world. Sooner or later, ztit! the usurer will toss
him off as I do this glass of wine. So much the better! Du Tillet has
played me a trick--oh! a damnable trick."

At the end of an hour and a half spend in just such senseless chatter,
Birotteau attempted to get away, seeing that the late commercial
traveller was about to relate the adventure of a republican deputy of
Marseilles, in love with a certain actress then playing the part of la
belle Arsene, who, on one occasion, was hissed by a royalist crowd in
the pit.

"He stood up in his box," said Claparon, "and shouted: 'Arrest whoever
hissed her! Eugh! If it's a woman, I'll kiss her; if it's a man, we'll
see about it; if it's neither the one nor the other, may God's
lightning blast it!' Guess how it ended."

"Adieu, monsieur," said Birotteau.

"You will have to come and see me," said Claparon; "that first scrap
of paper you gave Cayron has come back to us protested; I endorsed it,
so I've paid it. I shall send after you; business before everything."

Birotteau felt stabbed to the heart by this cold and grinning kindness
as much as by the harshness of Keller or the coarse German banter of
Nucingen. The familiarity of the man, and his grotesque gabble excited
by champagne, seemed to tarnish the soul of the honest bourgeois as
though he came from a house of financial ill-fame. He went down the
stairway and found himself in the streets without knowing where he was
going. As he walked along the boulevards and reached the Rue
Saint-Denis, he recollected Molineux, and turned into the Cour Batave.
He went up the dirty, tortuous staircase which he once trod so proudly.
He recalled to mind the mean and niggardly acrimony of Molineux, and
he shrank from imploring his favor. The landlord was sitting in the
chimney-corner, as on the occasion of Cesar's first visit, but his
breakfast was now in process of digestion. Birotteau proffered his

"Renew a note for twelve hundred francs?" said Molineux, with mocking
incredulity. "Have you got to that, monsieur? If you have not twelve
hundred francs to pay me on the 15th, do you intend to send back my
receipt for the rent unpaid? I shall be sorry; but I have not the
smallest civility in money-matters,--my rents are my living. Without
them how could I pay what I owe myself? No merchant will deny the
soundness of that principle. Money is no respecter of persons; money
has no ears, it has no heart. The winter is hard, the price of wood
has gone up. If you don't pay me on the 15th, a little summons will be
served upon you at twelve o'clock on the 16th. Bah! the worthy Mitral,
your bailiff, is mine as well; he will send you the writ in an
envelope, with all the consideration due to your high position."

"Monsieur, I have never received a summons in my life," said

"There is a beginning to everything," said Molineux.

Dismayed by the curt malevolence of the old man, Cesar was cowed; he
heard the knell of failure ringing in his ears, and every jangle woke
a memory of the stern sayings his pitiless justice had uttered against
bankrupts. His former opinions now seared, as with fire, the soft
substance of his brain.

"By the by," said Molineux, "you neglected to put upon your notes,
'for value received in rental,' which would secure me preference."

"My position will prevent me from doing anything to the detriment of
my creditors," said Cesar, stunned by the sudden sight of the
precipice yawning before him.

"Very good, monsieur, very good; I thought I knew everything relating
to rentals and tenants, but I have learned through you never to take
notes in payment. Ah! I shall sue you, for your answer shows plainly
enough that you are not going to meet your liabilities. Hard cash is a
matter which concerns every landlord in Paris."

Birotteau went out, weary of life. It is in the nature of such soft
and tender souls to be disheartened by a first rebuff, just as a first
success encourages them. Cesar no longer had any hope except in the
devotion of little Popinot, to whom his thoughts naturally turned as
he crossed the Marche des Innocents.

"Poor boy! who could have believed it when I launched him, only six
weeks ago, in the Tuileries?"

It was just four o'clock, the hour at which the judges left their
court-rooms. Popinot the elder chanced to go and see his nephew. This
judge, whose mind was singularly acute on all moral questions, was
also gifted with a second-sight which enabled him to discover secret
intentions, to perceive the meaning of insignificant human actions,
the germs of crime, the roots of wrongdoing; and he now watched
Birotteau, though Birotteau was not aware of it. The perfumer, who was
annoyed at finding the judge with his nephew, seemed to him harassed,
preoccupied, pensive. Little Popinot, always busy, with his pen behind
his ear, lay down as usual flat on his stomach before the father of
his Cesarine. The empty phrases which Cesar addressed to his partner
seemed to the judge to mask some important request. Instead of going
away, the crafty old man stayed in spite of his nephew's evident
desire, for he guessed that the perfumer would soon try to get rid of
him by going away himself. Accordingly, when Birotteau went out the
judge followed, and saw Birotteau hanging about that part of the Rue
des Cinq-Diamants which leads into the Rue Aubry-le-Boucher. This
trifling circumstance roused the suspicions of old Popinot as to
Cesar's intentions; he turned into the Rue des Lombards, and when he
saw the perfumer re-enter Anselme's door, he came hastily back again.

"My dear Popinot," said Cesar to his partner, "I have come to ask a
service of you."

"What can I do?" cried Popinot with generous ardor.

"Ah! you save my life," exclaimed the poor man, comforted by this
warmth of heart which flamed upon the sea of ice he had traversed for
twenty-five days.

"You must give me a note for fifty thousand francs on my share of the
profits; we will arrange later about the payment."

Popinot looked fixedly at Cesar. Cesar dropped his eyes. At this
moment the judge re-entered.

"My son--ah! excuse me, Monsieur Birotteau--Anselme, I forget to tell
you--" and with an imperious gesture he led his nephew into the street
and forced him, in his shirt-sleeves and bareheaded, to listen as they
walked towards the Rue des Lombards. "My nephew, your old master may
find himself so involved that he will be forced to make an assignment.
Before taking that step, honorable men who have forty years of
integrity to boast of, virtuous men seeking to save their good name,
will play the part of reckless gamblers; they become capable of
anything; they will sell their wives, traffic with their daughters,
compromise their best friends, pawn what does not belong to them; they
will frequent gambling-tables, become dissemblers, hypocrites, liars;
they will even shed tears. I have witnessed strange things. You
yourself have seen Roguin's respectability,--a man to whom they would
have given the sacraments without confession. I do not apply these
remarks in their full force to Monsieur Birotteau,--I believe him to
be an honest man; but if he asks you to do anything, no matter what,
against the rules of business, such as endorsing notes out of
good-nature, or launching into a system of 'circulations,' which, to my
mind, is the first step to swindling,--for it is uttering counterfeit
paper-money,--if he asks you to do anything of the kind, promise me
that you will sign nothing without consulting me. Remember that if you
love his daughter you must not--in the very interests of your love you
must not--destroy your future. If Monsieur Birotteau is to fall, what
will it avail if you fall too? You will deprive yourselves, one as
much as the other, of all the chances of your new business, which may
prove his only refuge."

"Thank you, my uncle; a word to the wise is enough," said Popinot, to
whom Cesar's heart-rending exclamation was now explained.

The merchant in oils, refined and otherwise, returned to his gloomy
shop with an anxious brow. Birotteau saw the change.

"Will you do me the honor to come up into my bedroom? We shall be
better there. The clerks, though very busy, might overhear us."

Birotteau followed Popinot, a prey to the anxiety a condemned man goes
through from the moment of his appeal for mercy until its rejection.

"My dear benefactor," said Anselme, "you cannot doubt my devotion; it
is absolute. Permit me only to ask you one thing. Will this sum clear
you entirely, or is it only a means of delaying some catastrophe? If
it is that, what good will it do to drag me down also? You want notes
at ninety days. Well, it is absolutely impossible that I could meet
them in that time."

Birotteau rose, pale and solemn, and looked at Popinot.

Popinot, horror-struck, cried out, "I will do them for you, if you
wish it."

"UNGRATEFUL!" said his master, who spent his whole remaining strength
in hurling the word at Anselme's brow, as if it were a living mark of

Birotteau walked to the door, and went out. Popinot, rousing himself
from the sensation which the terrible word produced upon him, rushed
down the staircase and into the street, but Birotteau was out of
sight. Cesarine's lover heard that dreadful charge ringing in his
ears, and saw the distorted face of the poor distracted Cesar
constantly before him; Popinot was to live henceforth, like Hamlet,
with a spectre beside him.

Birotteau wandered about the streets of the neighborhood like a
drunken man. At last he found himself upon the quay, and followed it
till he reached Sevres, where he passed the night at an inn, maddened
with grief, while his terrified wife dared not send in search of him.
She knew that in such circumstances an alarm, imprudently given, might
be fatal to his credit, and the wise Constance sacrificed her own
anxiety to her husband's commercial reputation: she waited silently
through the night, mingling her prayers and terrors. Was Cesar dead?
Had he left Paris on the scent of some last hope? The next morning she
behaved as though she knew the reasons for his absence; but at five
o'clock in the afternoon when Cesar had not returned, she sent for her
uncle and begged him to go at once to the Morgue. During the whole of
that day the courageous creature sat behind her counter, her daughter
embroidering beside her. When Pillerault returned, Cesar was with him;
on his way back the old man had met him in the Palais-Royal,
hesitating before the entrance to a gambling-house.

This was the 14th. At dinner Cesar could not eat. His stomach,
violently contracted, rejected food. The evening hours were terrible.
The shaken man went through, for the hundredth time, one of those
frightful alternations of hope and despair which, by forcing the soul
to run up the scale of joyous emotion and then precipitating it to the
last depths of agony, exhaust the vital strength of feeble beings.
Derville, Birotteau's advocate, rushed into the handsome salon where
Madame Cesar was using all her persuasion to retain her husband, who
wished to sleep on the fifth floor,--"that I may not see," he said,
"these monuments of my folly."

"The suit is won!" cried Derville.

At these words Cesar's drawn face relaxed; but his joy alarmed
Derville and Pillerault. The women left the room to go and weep by
themselves in Cesarine's chamber.

"Now I can get a loan!" cried Birotteau.

"It would be imprudent," said Derville; "they have appealed; the court
might reverse the judgment; but in a month it would be safe."

"A month!"

Cesar fell into a sort of slumber, from which no one tried to rouse
him,--a species of catalepsy, in which the body lived and suffered
while the functions of the mind were in abeyance. This respite,
bestowed by chance, was looked upon by Constance, Cesarine,
Pillerault, and Derville as a blessing from God. And they judged
rightly: Cesar was thus enabled to bear the harrowing emotions of that
night. He was sitting in a corner of the sofa near the fire; his wife
was in the other corner watching him attentively, with a soft smile
upon her lips,--the smile which proves that women are nearer than men
to angelic nature, in that they know how to mingle an infinite
tenderness with an all-embracing compassion; a secret belonging only
to angels seen in dreams providentially strewn at long intervals
through the history of human life. Cesarine, sitting on a little stool
at her mother's feet, touched her father's hand lightly with her hair
from time to time, as she gave him a caress into which she strove to
put the thoughts which, in such crises, the voice seems to render

Seated in his arm-chair, like the Chancelier de l'Hopital on the
peristyle of the Chamber of Deputies, Pillerault--a philosopher
prepared for all events, and showing upon his countenance the wisdom
of an Egyptian sphinx--was talking to Derville and his niece in a
suppressed voice. Constance thought it best to consult the lawyer,
whose discretion was beyond a doubt. With the balance-sheet written in
her head, she explained the whole situation in low tones. After an
hour's conference, held in presence of the stupefied Cesar, Derville
shook his head and looked at Pillerault.

"Madame," he said, with the horrible coolness of his profession, "you
must give in your schedule and make an assignment. Even supposing that
by some contrivance you could meet the payments for to-morrow, you
would have to pay down at least three hundred thousand francs before
you could borrow on those lands. Your liabilities are five hundred
thousand. To meet them you have assets that are very promising, very
productive, but not convertible at present; you must fail within a
given time. My opinion is that it is better to jump out of the window
than to roll downstairs."

"That is my advice, too, dear child," said Pillerault.

Derville left, and Madame Cesar and Pillerault went with him to the

"Poor father!" said Cesarine, who rose softly to lay a kiss on Cesar's
head. "Then Anselme could do nothing?" she added, as her mother and
Pillerault returned.

"UNGRATEFUL!" cried Cesar, struck by the name of Anselme in the only
living part of his memory,--as the note of a piano lifts the hammer
which strikes its corresponding string.


From the moment when that word "Ungrateful" was flung at him like an
anathema, little Popinot had not had an hour's sleep nor an instant's
peace of mind. The unhappy lad cursed his uncle, and finally went to
see him. To get the better of that experienced judicial wisdom he
poured forth the eloquence of love, hoping it might seduce a being
from whose mind human speech slips like water from a duck's back,--a

"From a commercial point of view," he said, "custom does allow the
managing-partner to advance a certain sum to the sleeping-partner on
the profits of the business, and we are certain to make profits. After
close examination of my affairs I do feel strong enough to pay forty
thousand francs in three months. The known integrity of Monsieur Cesar
is a guarantee that he will use that forty thousand to pay off his
debts. Thus the creditors, if there should come a failure, can lay no
blame on us. Besides, uncle, I would rather lose forty thousand francs
than lose Cesarine. At this very moment while I am speaking, she has
doubtless been told of my refusal, and will cease to esteem me. I
vowed my blood to my benefactor! I am like a young sailor who ought to
sink with his captain, or a soldier who should die with his general."

"Good heart and bad merchant, you will never lose my esteem," said the
judge, pressing the hand of his nephew. "I have thought a great deal
of this," he added. "I know you love Cesarine devotedly, and I think
you can satisfy the claims of love and the claims of commerce."

"Ah! my uncle, if you have found a way my honor is saved!"

"Advance Birotteau fifty thousand on his share in your oil, which has
now become a species of property, reserving to yourself the right of
buying it back. I will draw up the deed."

Anselme embraced his uncle and rushed home, made notes to the amount
of fifty thousand francs, and ran from the Rue des Cinq-Diamants to
the Place Vendome, so that just as Cesarine, her mother, and
Pillerault were gazing at Cesar, amazed at the sepulchural tone in
which he had uttered the word "Ungrateful!" the door of the salon
opened and Popinot appeared.

"My dear and beloved master!" he cried, wiping the perspiration from
his forehead, "here is what you asked of me!" He held out the notes.
"Yes, I have carefully examined my situation; you need have no fear, I
shall be able to pay them. Save--save your honor!"

"I was sure of him!" cried Cesarine, seizing Popinot's hand, and
pressing it with convulsive force.

Madame Cesar embraced him; Birotteau rose up like the righteous at the
sound of the last trumpet, and issued, as it were, from the tomb. Then
he stretched out a frenzied hand to seize the fifty stamped papers.

"Stop!" said the terrible uncle, Pillerault, snatching the papers from
Popinot, "one moment!"

The four individuals present,--Cesar, his wife, Cesarine, and Popinot,
--bewildered by the action of the old man and by the tone of his
voice, saw him tear the papers and fling them in the fire, without
attempting to interfere.





Four voices and but one heart; a startling unanimity! Uncle Pillerault
passed his arm round Popinot's neck, held him to his breast, and
kissed him.

"You are worthy of the love of those who have hearts," he said. "If
you loved a daughter of mine, had she a million and you had nothing
but that [pointing to the black ashes of the notes], you should marry
her in a fortnight, if she loved you. Your master," he said, pointing
to Cesar, "is beside himself. My nephew," resumed Pillerault, gravely,
addressing the poor man,--"my nephew, away with illusions! We must do
business with francs, not feelings. All this is noble, but useless. I
spent two hours at the Bourse this afternoon. You have not one
farthing's credit; every one is talking of your disaster, of your
attempts to renew, of your appeals to various bankers, of their
refusals, of your follies,--going up six flights of stairs to beg a
gossiping landlord, who chatters like a magpie, to renew a note of
twelve hundred francs!--your ball, given to conceal your
embarrassments. They have gone so far as to say you had no property in
Roguin's hands; according to your enemies, Roguin is only a blind. A
friend of mine, whom I sent about to learn what is going on, confirms
what I tell you. Every one foresees that Popinot will issue notes, and
believes that you set him up in business expressly as a last resource.
In short, every calumny or slander which a man brings upon himself
when he tries to mount a rung of the social ladder, is going the
rounds among business men to-day. You might hawk about those notes of
Popinot in vain; you would meet humiliating refusals; no one would
take them; no one could be sure how many such notes you are issuing;
every one expects you to sacrifice the poor lad to your own safety.
You would destroy to no purpose the credit of the house of Popinot. Do
you know how much the boldest money-lender would give you for those
fifty thousand francs? Twenty thousand at the most; twenty thousand,
do you hear me? There are crises in business when we must stand up
three days before the world without eating, as if we had indigestion,
and on the fourth day we may be admitted to the larder of credit. You
cannot live through those three days; and the whole matter lies there.
My poor nephew, take courage! file your schedule, make an assignment.
Here is Popinot, here am I; we will go to work as soon as the clerks
have gone to bed, and spare you the agony of it."

"My uncle!" said Cesar, clasping his hands.

"Cesar, would you choose a shameful failure, in which there are no
assets? Your share in the house of Popinot is all that saves your

Cesar, awakened by this last and fatal stream of light, saw at length
the frightful truth in its full extent; he fell back upon the sofa,
from thence to his knees, and his mind seemed to wander; he became
like a little child. His wife thought he was dying. She knelt down to
raise him, but joined her voice to his when she saw him clasp his
hands and lift his eyes, and recite, with resigned contrition, in the
hearing of his uncle, his daughter, and Popinot, the sublime catholic

"Our Father who art in heaven, hallowed be Thy name; Thy kingdom come;
Thy will be done on earth, as it is in heaven; GIVE US THIS DAY OUR
DAILY BREAD; and forgive us our offences, as we forgive those who have
offended against us. So be it!"

Tears came into the eyes of the stoic Pillerault; Cesarine, overcome
and weeping, leaned her head upon Popinot's shoulder, as he stood pale
and rigid as a statue.

"Let us go below," said the old merchant, taking the arm of the young

It was half-past eleven when they left Cesar to the care of his wife
and daughter. Just at that moment Celestin, the head-clerk, to whom
the management of the house had been left during this secret tumult,
came up to the appartement and entered the salon. Hearing his step,
Cesarine ran to meet him, that he might not see the prostration of his

"Among the letters this evening there was one from Tours, which was
misdirected and therefore delayed. I thought it might be from
monsieur's brother, so I did not open it."

"Father!" cried Cesarine; "a letter from my uncle at Tours!"

"Ah, I am saved!" cried Cesar. "My brother! oh, my brother!" He kissed
the letter, as he broke the seal, and read it aloud to his wife and
daughter in a trembling voice:--

  Answer of Francois to Cesar Birotteau.
                                             Tours, 10th.

  My beloved Brother,--Your letter gave me the deepest pain. As soon
  as I had read it, I went at once and offered to God the holy
  sacrifice of the Mass, imploring Him by the blood which His Son,
  our divine Redeemer, shed for us, to look with mercy upon your
  afflictions. At the moment when I offered the prayer _Pro meo
  fratre Caesare_, my eyes were filled with tears as I thought of
  you,--from whom, unfortunately, I am separated in these days when
  you must sorely need the support of fraternal friendship. I have
  thought that the worthy and venerable Monsieur Pillerault would
  doubtless replace me. My dear Cesar, never forget, in the midst of
  your troubles, that this life is a scene of trial, and is passing
  away; that one day we shall be rewarded for having suffered for
  the holy name of God, for His holy Church, for having followed the
  teachings of His Gospel and practised virtue. If it were
  otherwise, this world would have no meaning. I repeat to you these
  maxims, though I know how good and pious you are, because it may
  happen that those who, like you, are flung into the storms of life
  upon the perilous waves of human interests might be tempted to
  utter blasphemies in the midst of their adversity,--carried away
  as they are by anguish. Curse neither the men who injure you nor
  the God who mingles, at His will, your joy with bitterness. Look
  not on life, but lift your eyes to heaven; there is comfort for
  the weak, there are riches for the poor, there are terrors for

"But, Birotteau," said his wife, "skip all that, and see what he sends

"We will read it over and over hereafter," said Cesar, wiping his eyes
and turning over the page,--letting fall, as he did so, a Treasury
note. "I was sure of him, poor brother!" said Birotteau, picking up
the note and continuing to read, in a voice broken by tears.

  I went to Madame de Listomere, and without telling her the reason
  of my request I asked her to lend me all she could dispose of, so
  as to swell the amount of my savings. Her generosity has enabled
  me to make up a thousand francs; which I send herewith, in a note
  of the Receiver-General of Tours on the Treasury.

"A fine sum!" said Constance, looking at Cesarine.

  By retrenching a few superfluities in my life, I can return the
  four hundred francs Madame de Listomere has lent me in three
  years; so do not make yourself uneasy about them, my dear Cesar. I
  send you all I have in the world; hoping that this sum may help
  you to a happy conclusion of your financial difficulties, which
  doubtless are only momentary. I well know your delicacy, and I
  wish to forestall your objections. Do not dream of paying me any
  interest for this money, nor of paying it back at all in the day
  of prosperity which ere long will dawn for you if God deigns to
  hear the prayers I offer to Him daily. After I received your last
  letter, two years ago, I thought you so rich that I felt at
  liberty to spend my savings upon the poor; but now, all that I
  have is yours. When you have overcome this little commercial
  difficulty, keep the sum I now send for my niece Cesarine; so that
  when she marries she may buy some trifle to remind her of her old
  uncle, who daily lifts his hands to heaven to implore the blessing
  of God upon her and all who are dear to her. And also, my dear
  Cesar, recollect I am a poor priest who dwells, by the grace of
  God, like the larks in the meadow, in quiet places, trying to obey
  the commandment of our divine Saviour, and who consequently needs
  but little money. Therefore, do not have the least scruple in the
  trying circumstances in which you find yourself; and think of me
  as one who loves you tenderly.

  Our excellent Abbe Chapeloud, to whom I have not revealed your
  situation, desires me to convey his friendly regards to every
  member of your family, and his wishes for the continuance of your
  prosperity. Adieu, dear and well-beloved brother; I pray that at
  this painful juncture God will be pleased to preserve your health,
  and also that of your wife and daughter. I wish you, one and all,
  patience and courage under your afflictions.

            Francois Birotteau,
            Priest, Vicar of the Cathedral and Parochial Church
                    of Saint-Gatien de Tours.

"A thousand francs!" cried Madame Birotteau.

"Put them away," said Cesar gravely; "they are all he had. Besides,
they belong to our daughter, and will enable us to live; so that we
need ask nothing of our creditors."

"They will think you are abstracting large sums."

"Then I will show them the letter."

"They will say that it is a fraud."

"My God! my God!" cried Birotteau. "I once thought thus of poor,
unhappy people who were doubtless as I am now."

Terribly anxious about Cesar's state, mother and daughter sat plying
their needles by his side, in profound silence. At two in the morning
Popinot gently opened the door of the salon and made a sign to Madame
Cesar to come down. On seeing his niece Pillerault took off his

"My child, there is hope," he said; "all is not lost. But your husband
could not bear the uncertainty of the negotiations which Anselme and I
are about to undertake. Don't leave your shop to-morrow, and take the
addresses of all the bills; we have till four o'clock in the afternoon
of the 15th. Here is my plan: Neither Ragon nor I am to be considered.
Suppose that your hundred thousand francs deposited with Roguin had
been remitted to the purchasers, you would not have them then any more
than you have them now. The hundred and forty thousand francs for
which notes were given to Claparon, and which must be paid in any
state of the case, are what you have to meet. Therefore it is not
Roguin's bankruptcy which as ruined you. I find, to meet your
obligations, forty thousand francs which you can, sooner or later,
borrow on your property in the Faubourg du Temple, and sixty thousand
for your share in the house of Popinot. Thus you can make a struggle,
for later you may borrow on the lands about the Madeleine. If your
chief creditor agrees to help you, I shall not consider my interests;
I shall sell out my Funds and live on dry bread; Popinot will get
along between life and death, and as for you, you will be at the mercy
of the smallest commercial mischance; but Cephalic Oil will
undoubtedly make great returns. Popinot and I have consulted together;
we will stand by you in this struggle. Ah! I shall eat my dry bread
gaily if I see daylight breaking on the horizon. But everything
depends on Gigonnet, who holds the notes, and the associates of
Claparon. Popinot and I are going to see Gigonnet between seven and
eight o'clock in the morning, and then we shall know what their
intentions are."

Constance, wholly overcome, threw herself into her uncle's arms,
voiceless except through tears and sobs.

Neither Popinot nor Pillerault knew or could know that Bidault, called
Gigonnet, and Claparon were du Tillet under two shapes; and that du
Tillet was resolved to read in the "Journal des Petites Affiches" this
terrible article:--

  "Judgment of the Court of Commerce, which declares the Sieur Cesar
  Birotteau, merchant-perfumer, living in Paris, Rue Saint-Honore,
  no. 397, insolvent, and appoints the preliminary examination on
  the 17th of January, 1819. Commissioner, Monsieur
  Gobenheim-Keller. Agent, Monsieur Molineux."

Anselme and Pillerault examined Cesar's affairs until daylight. At
eight o'clock in the morning the two brave friends,--one an old
soldier, the other a young recruit, who had never known, except by
hearsay, the terrible anguish of those who commonly went up the
staircase of Bidault called Gigonnet,--wended their way, without a
word to each other, towards the Rue Grenetat. Both were suffering;
from time to time Pillerault passed his hand across his brow.

The Rue Grenetat is a street where all the houses, crowded with trades
of every kind, have a repulsive aspect. The buildings are horrible.
The vile uncleanliness of manufactories is their leading feature. Old
Gigonnet lived on the third floor of a house whose window-sashes, with
small and very dirty panes, swung by the middle, on pivots. The
staircase opened directly upon the street. The porter's lodge was on
the _entresol_, in a space which was lighted only from the staircase.
All the lodgers, with the exception of Gigonnet, worked at trades.
Workmen were continually coming and going. The stairs were caked with
a layer of mud, hard or soft according to the state of the atmosphere,
and were covered with filth. Each landing of this noisome stairway
bore the names of the occupants in gilt letters on a metal plate,
painted red and varnished, to which were attached specimens of their
craft. As a rule, the doors stood open and gave to view queer
combinations of the domestic household and the manufacturing
operations. Strange cries and grunts issued therefrom, with songs and
whistles and hisses that recalled the hour of four o'clock in the
Jardin des Plantes. On the first floor, in an evil-smelling lair, the
handsomest braces to be found in the _article-Paris_ were made. On the
second floor, the elegant boxes which adorn the shop-windows of the
boulevards and the Palais-Royal at the beginning of the new year were
manufactured, in the midst of the vilest filth. Gigonnet eventually
died, worth eighteen hundred thousand francs, on a third floor of this
house, from which no consideration could move him; though his niece,
Madame Saillard, offered to give him an appartement in a hotel in the
Place Royalle.

"Courage!" said Pillerault, as he pulled the deer's hoof hanging from
the bell-rope of Gigonnet's clean gray door.

Gigonnet opened the door himself. Cesar's two supporters, entering the
precincts of bankruptcy, crossed the first room, which was clean and
chilly and without curtains to its windows. All three sat down in the
inner room where the money-lender lived, before a hearth full of
ashes, in the midst of which the wood was successfully defending
itself against the fire. Popinot's courage froze at sight of the
usurer's green boxes and the monastic austerity of the room, whose
atmosphere was like that of a cellar. He looked with a wondering eye
at the miserable blueish paper sprinkled with tricolor flowers, which
had been on the walls for twenty-five years; and then his anxious
glance fell upon the chimney-piece, ornamented with a clock shaped
like a lyre, and two oval vases in Sevres blue richly mounted in
copper-gilt. This relic, picked up by Gigonnet after the pillage of
Versailles, where the populace broke nearly everything, came from the
queen's boudoir; but these rare vases were flanked by two candelabra
of abject shape made of wrought-iron, and the barbarous contrast
recalled the circumstances under which the vases had been acquired.

"I know that you have not come on your own account," said Gigonnet,
"but on behalf of the great Birotteau. Well, what is it, my friends?"

"We can tell you nothing that you do not already know; so I will be
brief," said Pillerault. "You have notes to the order of Claparon?"


"Will you exchange the first fifty thousand of those notes against the
notes of Monsieur Popinot, here present,--less the discount, of

Gigonnet took off the terrible green cap which seemed to have been
born on him, pointed to his skull, denuded of hair and of the color of
fresh butter, made his usual Voltairean grimace, and said: "You wish
to pay me in hair-oil; have I any use for it?"

"If you choose to jest, there is nothing to be done but to beat a
retreat," said Pillerault.

"You speak like the wise man that you are," answered Gigonnet, with a
flattering smile.

"Well, suppose I endorse Monsieur Popinot's notes?" said Pillerault,
playing his last card.

"You are gold by the ingot, Monsieur Pillerault; but I don't want bars
of gold, I want my money."

Pillerault and Popinot bowed and went away. Going down the stairs,
Popinot's knees shook under him.

"Is that a man?" he said to Pillerault.

"They say so," replied the other. "My boy, always bear in mind this
short interview. Anselme, you have just seen the banking-business
unmasked, without its cloak of courtesy. Unexpected events are the
screw of the press, we are the grapes, the bankers are the casks. That
land speculation is no doubt a good one; Gigonnet, or some one behind
him, means to strangle Cesar and step into his skin. It is all over;
there's no remedy. But such is the Bank: be warned; never have
recourse to it!"

After this horrible morning, during which Madame Birotteau for the
first time sent away those who came for their money, taking their
addresses, the courageous woman, happy in the thought that she was
thus sparing her husband from distress, saw Popinot and Pillerault,
for whom she waited with ever-growing anxiety, return at eleven
o'clock, and read her sentence in their faces. The assignment was

"He will die of grief," said the poor woman.

"I could almost wish he might," said Pillerault, solemnly; "but he is
so religious that, as things are now, his director, the Abbe Loraux,
alone can save him."

Pillerault, Popinot, and Constance waited while a clerk was sent to
bring the Abbe Loraux, before they carried up to Cesar the schedule
which Celestin had prepared, and asked him to affix his signature. The
clerks were in despair, for they loved their master. At four o'clock
the good priest came; Constance explained the misfortune that had
fallen upon them, and the abbe went upstairs as a soldier mounts the

"I know why you have come!" cried Birotteau.

"My son," said the priest, "your feelings of resignation to the Divine
will have long been known to me; it now remains to apply them. Keep
your eyes upon the cross; never cease to behold it, and think upon the
humiliations heaped upon the Saviour of men. Meditate upon the agonies
of his passion, and you will be able to bear the mortification which
God has laid upon you--"

"My brother, the abbe, has already prepared me," said Cesar, showing
the letter, which he had re-read and now held out to his confessor.

"You have a good brother," said Monsieur Loraux, "a virtuous and
gentle wife, a tender daughter, two good friends,--your uncle and our
dear Anselme,--two indulgent creditors, the Ragons: all these kind
hearts will pour balm upon your wounds daily, and will help you to
bear your cross. Promise me to have the firmness of a martyr, and to
face the blow without faltering."

The abbe coughed, to give notice to Pillerault who was waiting in the

"My resignation is unbounded," said Cesar, calmly. "Dishonor has come;
I must now think only of reparation."

The firm voice of the poor man and his whole manner surprised Cesarine
and the priest. Yet nothing could be more natural. All men can better
bear a known and definite misfortune than the cruel uncertainties of a
fate which, from one moment to another, brings excessive hope or
crushing sorrow.

"I have dreamed a dream for twenty-two years; to-day I awake with my
cudgel in my hand," said Cesar, his mind turning back to the
Tourangian peasant days.

Pillerault pressed his nephew in his arms as he heard the words.
Birotteau saw that his wife, Anselme, and Celestin were present. The
papers which the head-clerk held in his hand were significant. Cesar
calmly contemplated the little group where every eye was sad but

"Stay!" he said, unfastening his cross, which he held out to the Abbe
Loraux; "give it back to me on the day when I can wear it without
shame. Celestin," he added, "write my resignation as deputy-mayor,
--Monsieur l'abbe will dictate the letter to you; date it the 14th,
and send it at once to Monsieur de la Billardiere by Raguet."

Celestin and the abbe went down stairs. For a quarter of an hour
silence reigned unbroken in Cesar's study. Such strength of mind
surprised the family. Celestin and the abbe came back, and Cesar
signed his resignation. When his uncle Pillerault presented the
schedule and the papers of his assignment, the poor man could not
repress a horrible nervous shudder.

"My God, have pity upon me!" he said, signing the dreadful paper, and
holding it out to Celestin.

"Monsieur," said Anselme Popinot, over whose dejected brow a luminous
light flashed suddenly, "madame, do me the honor to grant me the hand
of Mademoiselle Cesarine."

At these words tears came into the eyes of all present except Cesar;
he rose, took Anselme by the hand and said, in a hollow voice, "My
son, you shall never marry the daughter of a bankrupt."

Anselme looked fixedly at Birotteau and said: "Monsieur, will you
pledge yourself, here, in presence of your whole family, to consent to
our marriage, if mademoiselle will accept me as her husband, on the
day when you have retrieved your failure?"

There was an instant's silence, during which all present were affected
by the emotions painted on the worn face of the poor man.

"Yes," he said, at last.

Anselme made a gesture of unspeakable joy, as he took the hand which
Cesarine held out to him, and kissed it.

"You consent, then?" he said to her.

"Yes," she answered.

"Now that I am one of the family, I have the right to concern myself
in its affairs," he said, with a strange, excited expression of face.

He left the room precipitately, that he might not show a joy which
contrasted too cruelly with the sorrow of his master. Anselme was not
actually happy at the failure, but love is such an egoist! Even
Cesarine felt within her heart an emotion that counteracted her bitter

"Now that we have got so far," whispered Pillerault to Constance,
"shall we strike the last blow?"

Madame Birotteau let a sign of grief rather than of acquiescence
escape her.

"My nephew," said Pillerault, addressing Cesar, "what do you intend to

"To carry on my business."

"That would not be my judgment," said Pillerault. "Take my advice,
wind up everything, make over your whole assets to your creditors, and
keep out of business. I have often imagined how it would be if I were
in a situation such as yours--Ah, one has to foresee everything in
business! a merchant who does not think of failure is like a general
who counts on never being defeated; he is only half a merchant. I, in
your position, would never have continued in business. What! be forced
to blush before the men I had injured, to bear their suspicious looks
and tacit reproaches? I can conceive of the guillotine--a moment, and
all is over. But to have the head replaced, and daily cut off anew,
--that is agony I could not have borne. Many men take up their business
as if nothing had happened: so much the better for them; they are
stronger than Claude-Joseph Pillerault. If you pay in cash, and you
are obliged to do so, they say that you have kept back part of your
assets; if you are without a penny, it is useless to attempt to
recover yourself. No, give up your property, sell your business, and
find something else to do."

"What could I find?" said Cesar.

"Well," said Pillerault, "look for a situation. You have influential
friends,--the Duc and the Duchesse de Lenoncourt, Madame de Mortsauf,
Monsieur de Vandenesse. Write to them, go and see them; they might get
you a situation in the royal household which would give you a thousand
crowns or so; your wife could earn as much more, and perhaps your
daughter also. The situation is not hopeless. You three might earn
nearly ten thousand francs a year. In ten years you can pay off a
hundred thousand francs, for you shall not use a penny of what you
earn; your two women will have fifteen hundred francs a year from me
for their expenses, and, as for you,--we will see about that."

Constance and Cesar laid these wise words to heart. Pillerault left
them to go to the Bourse, which in those days was held in a
provisional wooden building of a circular shape, and was entered from
the Rue Faydeau. The failure, already known, of a man lately noted and
envied, excited general comment in the upper commercial circles, which
at that period were all "constitutionnel." The gentry of the
Opposition claimed a monopoly of patriotism. Royalists might love the
king, but to love your country was the exclusive privilege of the
Left; the people belonged to it. The downfall of the protege of the
palace, of a ministeralist, an incorrigible royalist who on the 13th
Vendemiaire had insulted the cause of liberty by fighting against the
glorious French Revolution,--such a downfall excited the applause and
tittle-tattle of the Bourse. Pillerault wished to learn and study the
state of public opinion. He found in one of the most animated groups
du Tillet, Gobenheim-Keller, Nucingen, old Guillaume, and his
son-in-law Joseph Lebas, Claparon, Gigonnet, Mongenod, Camusot,
Gobseck, Adolphe Keller, Palma, Chiffreville, Matifat, Grindot, and

"What caution one needs to have!" said Gobenheim to du Tillet. "It was
a mere chance that one of my brothers-in-law did not give Birotteau a

"I am in for ten thousand francs," said du Tillet; "he asked me for
them two weeks ago, and I let him have them on his own note without
security. But he formerly did me some service, and I am willing to
lose the money."

"Your nephew has done like all the rest," said Lourdois to Pillerault,
--"given balls and parties! That a scoundrel should try to throw dust
in people's eyes, I can understand; but it is amazing that a man who
passed for as honest as the day should play those worn-out, knavish
tricks which we are always finding out and condemning."

"Don't trust people unless they live in hovels like Claparon," said

"Hey! mein freint," said the fat Nucingen to du Tillet, "you haf joust
missed blaying me a bretty drick in zenting Pirodot to me. I don't
know," he added, addressing Gobenheim the manufacturer, "vy he tid not
ask me for fifdy tousand francs. I should haf gif dem to him."

"Oh, no, Monsieur le baron," said Joseph Lebas, "you knew very well
that the Bank had refused his paper; you made them reject it in the
committee on discounts. The affair of this unfortunate man, for whom I
still feel the highest esteem, presents certain peculiar

Pillerault pressed the hand of Joseph Lebas.

"Yes," said Mongenod, "it seems impossible to believe what has
happened, unless we believe that concealed behind Gigonnet there are
certain bankers who want to strangle the speculation in the lands
about the Madeleine."

"What has happened is what happens always to those who go out of their
proper business," said Claparon, hastily interrupting Mongenod. "If he
had set up his own Cephalic Oil instead of running up the price of all
the land in Paris by pouncing upon it, he might have lost his hundred
thousand francs with Roguin, but he wouldn't have failed. He will go
on now under the name of Popinot."

"Keep a watch on Popinot," said Gigonnet.

Roguin, in the parlance of such worthy merchants, was now the
"unfortunate Roguin." Cesar had become "that wretched Birotteau." The
one seemed to them excused by his great passion; the other they
considered all the more guilty for his harmless pretensions.

Gigonnet, after leaving the Bourse, went round by the Rue
Perrin-Gasselin on his way home, in search of Madame Madou, the
vendor of dried fruits.

"Well, old woman," he said, with his coarse good-humor, "how goes the

"So-so," said Madame Madou, respectfully, offering her only armchair
to the usurer, with a show of attention she had never bestowed on her
"dear defunct."

Mother Madou, who would have floored a recalcitrant or too-familiar
wagoner and gone fearlessly to the assault of the Tuileries on the
10th of October, who jeered her best customers and was capable of
speaking up to the king in the name of her associate market-women,
--Angelique Madou received Gigonnet with abject respect. Without
strength in his presence, she shuddered under his rasping glance. The
lower classes will long tremble at sight of the executioner, and
Gigonnet was the executioner of petty commerce. In the markets no
power on earth is so respected as that of the man who controls the
flow of money; all other human institutions are as nothing beside him.
Justice herself takes the form of a commissioner, a familiar personage
in the eyes of the market; but usury seated behind its green boxes,
--usury, entreated with fear tugging at the heart-strings, dries up all
jesting, parches the throat, lowers the proudest look, and makes the
commonest market women respectful.

"Do you want anything of me?" she said.

"A trifle, a mere nothing. Hold yourself ready to make good those
notes of Birotteau; the man has failed, and claims must be put in at
once. I will send you the account to-morrow morning."

Madame Madou's eyes contracted like those of a cat for a second, and
then shot out flames.

"Ah, the villain! Ah, the scoundrel! He came and told me himself he
was a deputy-mayor,--a trumped-up story! Reprobate! is that what he
calls business? There is no honor among mayors; the government
deceives us. Stop! I'll go and make him pay me; I will--"

"Hey! at such times everybody looks out for himself, my dear!" said
Gigonnet, lifting his leg with the quaint little action of a cat
fearing to cross a wet place,--a habit to which he owed his nickname.
"There are some very big wigs in the matter who mean to get themselves
out of the scrape."

"Yes, and I'll pull my nuts out of the fire, too! Marie-Jeanne, bring
my clogs and my rabbit-skin cloak; and quick, too, or I'll warm you up
with a box on the ear."

"There'll be warm work down there!" thought Gigonnet, rubbing his
hands as he walked away. "Du Tillet will be satisfied; it will make a
fine scandal all through the quarter. I don't know what that poor
devil of a perfumer has done to him; for my part I pity the fellow as
I do a dog with a broken leg. He isn't a man, he has got no force."

Madame Madou bore down, like an insurrectionary wave from the Faubourg
Saint-Antoine, upon the shop-door of the hapless Birotteau, which she
opened with excessive violence, for her walk had increased her fury.

"Heap of vermin! I want my money; I will have my money! You shall give
me my money, or I carry off your scent-bags, and that satin trumpery,
and the fans, and everything you've got here, for my two thousand
francs. Who ever heard of mayors robbing the people? If you don't pay
me I'll send you to the galleys; I'll go to the police,--justice shall
be done! I won't leave this place till I've got my money."

She made a gesture as if to break the glass before the shelves on
which the valuables were placed.

"Mother Madou takes a drop too much," whispered Celestin to his

The virago overheard him,--for in paroxysms of passion the organs are
either paralyzed or trebly acute,--and she forthwith applied to
Celestin's ear the most vigorous blow that ever resounded in a
Parisian perfumery.

"Learn to respect women, my angel," she said, "and don't smirch the
names of the people you rob."

"Madame," said Madame Birotteau, entering from the back-shop, where
she happened to be with her husband,--whom Pillerault was persuading
to go with him, while Cesar, to obey the law, was humbly expressing
his willingness to go to prison,--"madame, for heaven's sake do not
raise a mob, and bring a crowd upon us!"

"Hey! let them come," said the woman; "I'll tell them a tale that will
make you laugh the wrong side of your mouth. Yes, my nuts and my
francs, picked up by the sweat of my brow, helped you to give balls.
There you are, dressed like the queen of France in woollen which you
sheared off the backs of poor sheep such as me! Good God! it would
burn my shoulders, that it would, to wear stolen goods! I've got
nothing but rabbit-skin to cover my carcass, but it is mine! Brigands,
thieves, my money or--"

She darted at a pretty inlaid box containing toilet articles.

"Put that down, madame!" said Cesar, coming forward, "nothing here is
mine; everything belongs to my creditors. I own nothing but my own
person; if you wish to seize that and put me in prison, I give you my
word of honor"--the tears fell from his eyes--"that I will wait here
till you have me arrested."

The tone and gesture were so completely in keeping with his words that
Madame Madou's anger subsided.

"My property has been carried off by a notary; I am innocent of the
disasters I cause," continued Cesar, "but you shall be paid in course
of time if I have to die in the effort, and work like a galley-slave
as a porter in the markets."

"Come, you are a good man," said the market-woman. "Excuse my words,
madame; but I may as well go and drown myself, for Gigonnet will hound
me down. I can't get any money for ten months to redeem those damned
notes of yours which I gave him."

"Come and see me to-morrow morning," said Pillerault, showing himself.
"I will get you the money from one of my friends, at five per cent."

"Hey! if it isn't the worthy Pere Pillerault! Why, to be sure, he's
your uncle," she said to Constance. "Well, you are all honest people,
and I sha'n't lose my money, shall I? To-morrow morning, then, old
fellow!" she said to the retired iron-monger.

              *     *     *     *     *

Cesar was determined to live on amid the wreck of his fortunes at "The
Queen of Roses," insisting that he would see his creditors and explain
his affairs to them himself. Despite Madame Birotteau's earnest
entreaties, Pillerault seemed to approve of Cesar's decision and took
him back to his own room. The wily old man then went to Monsieur
Haudry, explained the case, and obtained from him a prescription for a
sleeping draught, which he took to be made up, and then returned to
spend the evening with the family. Aided by Cesarine he induced her
father to drink with them. The narcotic soon put Cesar to sleep, and
when he woke up, fourteen hours later, he was in Pillerault's bedroom,
Rue des Bourdonnais, fairly imprisoned by the old man, who was
sleeping himself on a cot-bed in the salon.

When Constance heard the coach containing Pillerault and Cesar roll
away from the door, her courage deserted her. Our powers are often
stimulated by the necessity of upholding some being feebler than
ourselves. The poor woman wept to find herself alone in her home as
she would have wept for Cesar dead.

"Mamma," said Cesarine, sitting on her mother's knee, and caressing
her with the pretty kittenish grace which women only display to
perfection amongst themselves, "you said that if I took up my life
bravely, you would have strength to bear adversity. Don't cry, dear
mother; I am ready and willing to go into some shop, and I shall never
think again of what we once were. I shall be like you in your young
days; and you shall never hear a complaint, nor even a regret, from
me. I have a hope. Did you not hear what Monsieur Anselme said?"

"That dear boy! he shall not be my son-in-law--"

"Oh, mamma!"

"--he shall be my own son."

"Sorry has one good," said Cesarine, kissing her mother; "it teaches
us to know our true friends."

The daughter at last eased the pain of the poor woman by changing
places and playing the mother to her. The next morning Constance went
to the house of the Duc de Lenoncourt, one of the gentlemen of the
king's bedchamber, and left a letter asking for an interview at a
later hour of the day. In the interval she went to Monsieur de la
Billardiere, and explained to him the situation in which Roguin's
flight had placed Cesar, begging him to go with her to the duke and
speak for her, as she feared she might explain matters ill herself.
She wanted a place for Birotteau. Birotteau, she said, would be the
most upright of cashiers,--if there could be degrees of integrity
among honest men.

"The King has just appointed the Comte de Fontaine master of his
household; there is no time to be lost in making the application,"
said the mayor.

At two o'clock Monsieur de la Billardiere and Madame Cesar went up the
grand staircase of the Hotel de Lenoncourt, Rue Saint-Dominique, and
were ushered into the presence of the nobleman whom the king preferred
to all others,--if it can be said that Louis XVIII. ever had a
preference. The gracious welcome of this great lord, who belonged to
the small number of true gentlemen whom the preceding century
bequeathed to ours, encouraged Madame Cesar. She was dignified, yet
simple, in her sorrow. Grief ennobles even the plainest people; for it
has a grandeur of its own; to reflect its lustre, a nature must needs
be true. Constance was a woman essentially true.

The question was, how to speak to the king at once. In the midst of
the conference Monsieur de Vandenesse was announced; and the duke
exclaimed, "Here is our support!"

Madame Birotteau was not unknown to this young man, who had been to
her shop two or three times in search of those trifles which are
sometimes of more importance than greater things. The duke explained
Monsieur de la Billardiere's wishes. As soon as he learned the
misfortune which had overtaken the godson of the Marquise d'Uxelles,
Vandenesse went at once, accompanied by Monsieur de la Billardiere, to
the Comte de Fontaine, begging Madame Birotteau to wait their return.
Monsieur le Comte de Fontaine was, like Monsieur de la Billardiere,
one of those fine provincial gentlemen, the heroes, almost unknown,
who made "la Vendee." Birotteau was not a stranger to him, for he had
seen him in the old days at "The Queen of Roses." Men who had shed
their blood for the royal cause enjoyed at this time certain
privileges, which the king kept secret, so as not to give umbrage to
the Liberals.

Monsieur de Fontaine, always a favorite with Louis XVIII., was thought
to be wholly in his confidence. Not only did the count positively
promise a place, but he returned with the two gentlemen to the Duc de
Lenoncourt, and asked him to procure for him an audience that very
evening; and also to obtain for Billardiere an audience with MONSIEUR,
who was greatly attached to the old Vendeen diplomatist.

The same evening, the Comte de Fontaine came from the Tuileries to
"The Queen of Roses," and announced to Madame Birotteau that as soon
as the proceedings in bankruptcy were over, her husband would be
officially appointed to a situation in the Sinking-fund Office, with a
salary of two thousand five hundred francs,--all the functions in the
household of the king being overcrowded with noble supernumeraries to
whom promises had already been made.

This success was but one part of the task before Madame Birotteau. The
poor woman now went to the "Maison du Chat-qui-pelote," in the Rue
Saint-Denis, to find Joseph Lebas. As she walked along she met Madame
Roguin in a brilliant equipage, apparently making purchases. Their
eyes met; and the shame which the rich woman could not hide as she
looked at the ruined woman, gave Constance fresh courage.

"Never will I roll in a carriage bought with the money of others," she
said to herself.

Joseph Lebas received her kindly, and she begged him to obtain a place
for Cesarine in some respectable commercial establishment. Lebas made
no promises; but eight days later Cesarine had board, lodging, and a
salary of three thousand francs from one of the largest linen-drapers
in Paris, who was about to open a branch establishment in the quartier
des Italiens. Cesarine was put in charge of the desk, and the
superintendence of the new shop was entrusted to her; she filled, in
fact, a position above that of forewoman, and supplied the place of
both master and mistress.

Madame Cesar went from the "Chat-qui-pelote" to the Rue des
Cinq-Diamants, and asked Popinot to let her take charge of his accounts
and do his writing, and also manage his household. Popinot felt that his
was the only house where Cesar's wife could meet with the respect that
was due to her, and find employment without humiliation. The noble lad
gave her three thousand francs a year, her board, and his own room;
going himself into an attic occupied by one of his clerks. Thus it
happened that the beautiful woman, after one month's enjoyment of her
sumptuous home, came to live in the wretched chamber looking into a
damp, dark court, where Gaudissart, Anselme, and Finot had inaugurated
Cephalic Oil.

When Molineux, appointed agent by the Court of Commerce, came to take
possession of Cesar Birotteau's assets, Madame Birotteau, aided by
Celestin, went over the inventory with him. Then the mother and
daughter, plainly dressed, left the house on foot and went to their
uncle Pillerault's, without once turning their heads to look at the
home where they had passed the greater part of their lives. They
walked in silence to the Rue des Bourdonnais, where they were to dine
with Cesar for the first time since their separation. It was a sad
dinner. Each had had time for reflection,--time to weigh the duties
before them, and sound the depths of their courage. All three were
like sailors ready to face foul weather, but not deceived as to their
danger. Birotteau gathered courage as he was told of the interest
people in high places had taken in finding employment for him, but he
wept when he heard what his daughter was to become. Then he held out
his hand to his wife, as he saw the courage with which she had
returned to labor. Old Pillerault's eyes were wet, for the last time
in his life, as he looked at these three beings folded together in one
embrace; from the centre of which Birotteau, feeblest of the three and
the most stricken, raised his hands, saying:--

"Let us have hope!"

"You shall live with me," said Pillerault, "for the sake of economy;
you shall have my chamber, and share my bread. I have long been
lonely; you shall replace the poor child I lost. From my house it is
but a step to your office in the Rue de l'Oratoire."

"God of mercy!" exclaimed Birotteau; "in the worst of a storm a star
guides me."

Resignation is the last stage of man's misfortune. From this moment
Cesar's downfall was accomplished; he accepted it, and strength
returned to him.


After admitting his insolvency and filing his schedule, a merchant
should find some retired spot in France, or in foreign countries,
where he may live without taking part in life, like the child that he
is; for the law declares him a minor, and not competent for any legal
action as a citizen. This, however, is never done. Before reappearing
he obtains a safe-conduct, which neither judge nor creditor ever
refuses to give; for if the debtor were found without this _exeat_ he
would be put in prison, while with it he passes safely, as with a flag
of truce, through the enemy's camp,--not by way of curiosity, but for
the purpose of defeating the severe intention of the laws relating to
bankruptcy. The effect of all laws which touch private interests is to
develop, enormously, the knavery of men's minds. The object of a
bankrupt, like that of other persons whose interests are thwarted by
any law, is to make void the law in his particular case.

The status of civil death in which the bankrupt remains a chrysalis
lasts for about three months,--a period required by formalities which
precede a conference at which the creditors and their debtor sign a
treaty of peace, by which the bankrupt is allowed the ability to make
payments, and receives a bankrupt's certificate. This transaction is
called the _concordat_,--a word implying, perhaps, that peace reigns
after the storm and stress of interests violently in opposition.

As soon as the insolvent's schedule is filed, the Court of commerce
appoints a judge-commissioner, whose duty it is to look after the
interests of the still unknown body of creditors, and also to protect
the insolvent against the vexatious measures of angry creditors,--a
double office, which might be nobly magnified if the judges had time
to attend to it. The commissioner, however, delegates an agent to take
possession of the property, the securities, and the merchandise, and
to verify the schedule; when this is done, the court appoints a day
for a meeting of the creditors, notice of which is trumpeted forth in
the newspapers. The creditors, real or pretended, are expected to be
present and choose the provisional assignees, who are to supersede the
agent, step into the insolvent's shoes, became by a fiction of law the
insolvent himself, and are authorized to liquidate the business,
negotiate all transactions, sell the property,--in short, recast
everything in the interest of the creditors, provided the bankrupt
makes no opposition. The majority of Parisian failures stop short at
this point, and the reason is as follows:

The appointment of one or more permanent assignees is an act which
gives opportunity for the bitterest action on the part of creditors
who are thirsting for vengeance, who have been tricked, baffled,
cozened, trapped, duped, robbed, and cheated. Although, as a general
thing, all creditors are cheated, robbed, duped, trapped, cozened,
tricked, and baffled, yet there is not in all Paris a commercial
passion able to keep itself alive for ninety days. The paper of
commerce alone maintains its vitality, and rises, athirst for payment,
in three months. Before ninety days are over, the creditors, worn out
by coming and going, by the marches and countermarches which a failure
entails, are asleep at the side of their excellent little wives. This
may help a stranger to understand why it is that the provisional in
France is so often the definitive: out of every thousand provisional
assignees, not more than five ever become permanent. The subsidence of
passions stirred up by failures is thus accounted for.

But here it becomes necessary to explain to persons who have not had
the happiness to be in business the whole drama of bankruptcy, so as
to make them understand how it constitutes in Paris a monstrous legal
farce; and also how the bankruptcy of Cesar Birotteau was a signal
exception to the general rule.

This fine commercial drama is in three distinct acts,--the agent's
act, the assignee's act, the _concordat_, or certificate-of-bankruptcy
act. Like all theatrical performances, it is played with a
double-intent: it is put upon the stage for the public eye, but it also
has a hidden purpose; there is one performance for the pit, and another
for the side-scenes. Posted in the side-scenes are the bankrupt and his
solicitor, the attorney of the creditors, the assignees, the agent,
and the judge-commissioner himself. No one out of Paris knows, and no
one in Paris does not know, that a judge of the commercial courts is
the most extraordinary magistrate that society ever allowed itself to
create. This judge may live in dread of his own justice at any moment.
Paris has seen the president of her courts of commerce file his own
schedule. Instead of being an experienced retired merchant, to whom
the magistracy might properly be made the reward of a pure life, this
judge is a trader, bending under the weight of enormous enterprises,
and at the head of some large commercial house. The _sine qua non_
condition in the election of this functionary, whose business it is to
pass judgment on the avalanche of commercial suits incessantly rolling
through the courts, is that he shall have the greatest difficulty in
managing his own affairs. This commercial tribunal, far from being
made a useful means of transition whereby a merchant might rise,
without ridicule, into the ranks of the nobility, is in point of fact
made up of traders who are trading, and who are liable to suffer for
their judgments when they next meet with dissatisfied parties,--very
much as Birotteau was now punished by du Tillet.

The commissioner is of necessity a personage before whom much is said;
who listens, recollecting all the while his own interests, and leaves
the cause to the assignees and the attorneys,--except, possibly, in a
few strange and unusual cases where dishonesty is accompanied by
peculiar circumstances, when the judge usually observes that the
debtor, or the creditors, as it may happen, are clever people. This
personage, set up in the drama like the royal bust in a public
audience-chamber, may be found early in the morning at his wood-yard,
if he sells wood; in his shop, if, like Birotteau, he is a perfumer;
or, in the evenings, at his dessert after dinner,--always, it should
be added, in a terrible hurry; as a general thing he is silent. Let
us, however, do justice to the law: the legislation that governs his
functions, and which was pushed through in haste, has tied the hands
of this commissioner; and it sometimes happens that he sanctions fraud
which he cannot hinder,--as the reader will shortly see.

The agent to whom the judge delegates the first proceedings, instead
of serving the creditors, may become if he please a tool of the
debtor. Every one hopes to swell his own gains by getting on the right
side of the debtor, who is always supposed to keep back a hidden
treasure. The agent may make himself useful to both parties; on the
one hand by not laying the bankrupt's business in ashes, on the other
by snatching a few morsels for men of influence,--in short, he runs
with the hare and holds with the hounds. A clever agent has frequently
arrested judgment by buying up the debts and then releasing the
merchant, who then rebounds like an india-rubber ball. The agent
chooses the best-stocked crib, whether it leads him to cover the
largest creditors and shear the debtor, or to sacrifice the creditors
for the future prosperity of the restored merchant. The action of the
agent is decisive. This man, together with the bankrupt's solicitor,
plays the utility role in the drama, where it may be said neither the
one nor the other would accept a part if not sure of their fees.
Taking the average of a thousand failures, an agent would be found
nine hundred and fifty times on the side of the bankrupt. At the
period of our history, the solicitors frequently sought the judge with
the request that he would appoint an agent whom they proposed to him,
--a man, as they said, to whom the affairs of the bankrupt were
well-known, who would know how to reconcile the interests of the whole
body of creditors with those of a man honorably overtaken by misfortune.
For some years past the best judges have sought the advice of the
solicitors in this matter for the purpose of not taking it,
endeavoring to appoint some other agent _quasi_ virtuous.

During this act of the drama the creditors, real or pretended, come
forward to select the provisional assignees, who are often, as we have
said, the final ones. In this electoral assembly all creditors have
the right to vote, whether the sum owing to them is fifty sous, or
fifty thousand francs. This assembly, in which are found pretended
creditors introduced by the bankrupt,--the only electors who never
fail to come to the meeting,--proposes the whole body of creditors as
candidates from among whom the commissioner, a president without
power, is supposed to select the assignees. Thus it happens that the
judge almost always appoints as assignees those creditors whom it
suits the bankrupt to have,--another abuse which makes the catastrophe
of bankruptcy one of the most burlesque dramas to which justice ever
lent her name. The honorable bankrupt overtaken by misfortune is then
master of the situation, and proceeds to legalize the theft he
premeditated. As a rule, the petty trades of Paris are guiltless in
this respect. When a shopkeeper gets as far as making an assignment,
the worthy man has usually sold his wife's shawl, pawned his plate,
left no stone unturned, and succumbs at last with empty hands, ruined,
and without enough money to pay his attorney, who in consequence cares
little for him.

The law requires that the _concordat_, at which is granted the
bankrupt's certificate that remits to the merchant a portion of his
debt, and restores to him the right of managing his affairs, shall be
attended by a majority of the creditors, and also that they shall
represent a certain proportion of the debt. This important action
brings out much clever diplomacy, on the part of the bankrupt, his
assignees, and his solicitor, among the contending interests which
cross and jostle each other. A usual and very common manoeuvre is to
offer to that section of the creditors who make up in number and
amount the majority required by law certain premiums, which the debtor
consents to pay over and above the dividend publicly agreed upon. This
monstrous fraud is without remedy. The thirty commercial courts which
up to the present time have followed one after the other, have each
known of it, for all have practised it. Enlightened by experience,
they have lately tried to render void such fraudulent agreements; and
as the bankrupts have reason to complain of the extortion, the judges
had some hope of reforming to that extent the system of bankruptcy.
The attempt, however, will end in producing something still more
immoral; for the creditors will devise other rascally methods, which
the judges will condemn as judges, but by which they will profit as

Another much-used stratagem, and one to which we owe the term "serious
and legitimate creditor," is that of creating creditors,--just as du
Tillet created a banker and a banking-house,--and introducing a
certain quantity of Claparons under whose skin the bankrupt hides,
diminishing by just so much the dividends of the true creditors, and
laying up for the honest man a store for the future; always, however,
providing a sufficient majority of votes and debts to secure the
passage of his certificate. The "gay and illegitimate creditors" are
like false electors admitted into the electoral college. What chance
has the "serious and legitimate creditor" against the "gay and
illegitimate creditor?" Shall he get rid of him by attacking him? How
can he do it? To drive out the intruder the legitimate creditor must
sacrifice his time, his own business, and pay an attorney to help him;
while the said attorney, making little out of it, prefers to manage
the bankruptcy in another capacity, and therefore works for the
genuine credit without vigor.

To dislodge the illegitimate creditor it is necessary to thread the
labyrinth of proceedings in bankruptcy, search among past events,
ransack accounts, obtain by injunction the books of the false
creditors, show the improbability of the fiction of their existence,
prove it to the judges, sue for justice, go and come, and stir up
sympathy; and, finally, to charge like Don Quixote upon each "gay and
illegitimate creditor," who if convicted of "gaiety" withdraws from
court, saying with a bow to the judges, "Excuse me, you are mistaken,
I am very 'serious.'" All this without prejudice to the rights of the
bankrupt, who may carry Don Quixote and his remonstrance to the upper
courts; during which time Don Quixote's own business is suffering, and
he is liable to become a bankrupt himself.

The upshot of all this is, that in point of fact the debtor appoints
his assignees, audits his own accounts, and draws up the certificate
of bankruptcy himself.

Given these premises, it is easy to imagine the devices of Frontin,
the trickeries of Sganarelle, the lies of Mascarille, and the empty
bags of Scapin which such a system develops. There has never been a
failure which did not generate enough matter to fill the fourteen
volumes of "Clarissa Harlowe," if an author could be found to describe
them. A single example will suffice. The illustrious Gobseck,--ruler
of Palma, Gigonnet, Werbrust, Keller, Nucingen, and the like,--being
concerned in a failure where he attempted to roughly handle the
insolvent, who had managed to get the better of him, obtained notes
from his debtor for an amount which together with the declared
dividend made up the sum total of his loss. These notes were to fall
due after the _concordat_. Gobseck then brought about a settlement in
the _concordat_ by which sixty-five per cent was remitted to the
bankrupt. Thus the creditors were swindled in the interests of
Gobseck. But the bankrupt had signed the illicit notes with the name
of his insolvent firm, and he was therefore able to bring them under
the reduction of sixty-five per cent. Gobseck, the great Gobseck,
received scarcely fifty per cent on his loss. From that day forth he
bowed to his debtor with ironical respect.

As all operations undertaken by an insolvent within ten days before
his failure can be impeached, prudent men are careful to enter upon
certain affairs with a certain number of creditors whose interest,
like that of the bankrupt, is to arrive at the _concordat_ as fast as
possible. Skilful creditors will approach dull creditors or very busy
ones, give an ugly look into the failure, and buy up their claims at
half what they are worth at the liquidation; in this way they get back
their money partly by the dividend on their own claims, partly from
the half, or third, or fourth, gained on these purchased claims.

A failure is the closer, more or less hermetically tight, of a house
where pillage has left a few remaining bags of silver. Lucky the man
who can get in at a window, slide down a chimney, creep in through a
cellar or through a hole, and seize a bag to swell his share! In the
general rout, the _sauve qui peut_ of Beresina is passed from mouth to
mouth; all is legal and illegal, false and true, honest and dishonest.
A man is admired if he "covers" himself. To "cover" himself means that
he seizes securities to the detriment of the other creditors. France
has lately rung with the discussion of an immense failure that took
place in a town where one of the upper courts holds its sittings, and
where the judges, having current accounts with the bankrupts, wore
such heavy india-rubber mantles that the mantle of justice was rubbed
into holes. It was absolutely necessary, in order to avert legitimate
suspicion, to send the case for judgment in another court. There was
neither judge nor agent nor supreme court in the region where the
failure took place that could be trusted.

This alarming commercial tangle is so well understood in Paris, that
unless a merchant is involved to a large amount he accepts a failure
as total shipwreck without insurance, passes it to his profit-and-loss
account, and does not commit the folly of wasting time upon it; he
contents himself with brewing his own malt. As to the petty trader,
worried about his monthly payments, busied in pushing the chariot of
his little fortunes, a long and costly legal process terrifies him. He
gives up trying to see his way, imitates the substantial merchant,
bows his head, and accepts his loss.

The wholesale merchants seldom fail, nowadays; they make friendly
liquidations; the creditors take what is given to them, and hand in
their receipts. In this way many things are avoided,--dishonor,
judicial delays, fees to lawyers, and the depreciation of merchandise.
All parties think that bankruptcy will give less in the end than
liquidation. There are now more liquidations than bankruptcies in

The assignee's act in the drama is intended to prove that every
assignee is incorruptible, and that no collusion has ever existed
between any of them and the bankrupt. The pit--which has all, more or
less, been assignee in its day--knows very well that every assignee is
a "covered" merchant. It listens, and believes as it likes. After
three months employed in auditing the debtor and creditor accounts,
the time comes for the _concordat_. The provisional assignees make a
little report at the meeting, of which the following is the usual

  Messieurs,--There is owing to the whole of us, in bulk, about a
  million. We have dismantled our man like a condemned frigate. The
  nails, iron, wood, and copper will bring about three hundred
  thousand francs. We shall thus get about thirty per cent of our
  money. Happy in obtaining this amount, when our debtor might have
  left us only one hundred thousand, we hereby declare him an
  Aristides; we vote him a premium and crown of encouragement, and
  propose to leave him to manage his assets, giving him ten or
  twelve years in which to pay us the fifty per cent which he has
  been so good as to offer us. Here is the certificate of
  bankruptcy; have the goodness to walk up to the desk and sign it.

At this speech, all the fortune creditors congratulate each other and
shake hands. After the ratification of the certificate, the bankrupt
becomes once more a merchant, precisely such as he was before; he
receives back his securities, he continues his business, he is not
deprived of the power to fail again, on the promised dividend,--an
additional little failure which often occurs, like the birth of a
child nine months after the mother has married her daughter.

If the certificate of bankruptcy is not granted, the creditors then
select the permanent assignees, take extreme measures, and form an
association to get possession of the whole property and the business
of their debtor, seizing everything that he has or ever will have,
--his inheritance from his father, his mother, his aunt, _et caetera_.
This stern measure can only be carried through by an association of

              *     *     *     *     *

There are therefore two sorts of failures,--the failure of the
merchant who means to repossess himself of his business, and the
failure of the merchant who has fallen into the water and is willing
to sink to the bottom. Pillerault knew the difference. It was, to his
thinking and to that of Ragon, as hard to come out pure from the first
as to come out safe from the second. After advising Cesar to abandon
everything to his creditors, he went to the most honorable solicitor
in such matters, that immediate steps might be taken to liquidate the
failure and put everything at once at the disposition of the
creditors. The law requires that while the drama is being acted, the
creditors shall provide for the support of the bankrupt and his
family. Pillerault notified the commissioner that he would himself
supply the wants of his niece and nephew.

Du Tillet had worked all things together to make the failure a
prolonged agony for his old master; and this is how he did it. Time is
so precious in Paris that it is customary, when two assignees are
appointed, for only one to attend to the affair: the duty of the other
is merely formal,--he approves and signs, like the second notary in
notarial deeds. By this means, the largest failures in Paris are so
vigorously handled that, in spite of the law's delays, they are
adjusted, settled, and secured with such rapidity that within a
hundred days the judge can echo the atrocious saying of the Minister,
--"Order reigns in Warsaw."

Du Tillet meant to compass Cesar's commercial death. The names of the
assignees selected through the influence of du Tillet were very
significant to Pillerault. Monsieur Bidault, called Gigonnet,--the
principal creditor,--was the one to take no active part; and Molineux,
the mischievous old man who lost nothing by the failure, was to manage
everything. Du Tillet flung the noble commercial carcass to the little
jackal, that he might torment it as he devoured it. After the meeting
at which the creditors appointed the assignees, little Molineux
returned home "honored," so he said, "by the suffrages of his
fellow-citizens"; happy in the prospect of hectoring Birotteau, just as
a child delights in having an insect to maltreat. The landlord, astride
of his hobby,--the law,--begged du Tillet to favor him with his ideas;
and he bought a copy of the commercial Code. Happily, Joseph Lebas,
cautioned by Pillerault, had already requested the president of the
Board of Commerce to select a sagacious and well-meaning commissioner.
Gobenheim-Keller, whom du Tillet hoped to have, found himself
displaced by Monsieur Camusot, a substitute-judge,--a rich
silk-merchant, Liberal in politics, and the owner of the house in which
Pillerault lived; a man counted honorable.

              *     *     *     *     *

One of the cruellest scenes of Cesar's life was his forced conference
with little Molineux,--the being he had once regarded as a nonentity,
who now by a fiction of law had become Cesar Birotteau. He was
compelled to go to the Cour Batave, to mount the six flights, and
re-enter the miserable appartement of the old man, now his custodian,
his _quasi_ judge,--the representative of his creditors. Pillerault
accompanied him.

"What is the matter?" said the old man, as Cesar gave vent to an

"Ah, uncle! you do not know the sort of man this Molineux is!"

"I have seen him from time to time for fifteen years past at the cafe
David, where he plays dominoes. That is why I have come with you."

Monsieur Molineux showed the utmost politeness to Pillerault, and much
disdainful condescension to the bankrupt; he had thought over his
part, studied the shades of his demeanor, and prepared his ideas.

"What information is it that you need?" asked Pillerault. "There is no
dispute as to the claims."

"Oh," said little Molineux, "the claims are in order,--they have been
examined. The creditors are all serious and legitimate. But the law,
monsieur,--the law! The expenditures of the bankrupt have been
disproportional to his fortune. It appears that the ball--"

"At which you were present," interrupted Pillerault.

"--cost nearly sixty thousand francs, and at that time the assets of
the insolvent amounted to not more than one hundred and a few thousand
francs. There is cause to arraign the bankrupt on a charge of wilful

"Is that your intention?" said Pillerault, noticing the despondency
into which these words had cast Birotteau.

"Monsieur, I make a distinction; the Sieur Birotteau was a member of
the municipality--"

"You have not sent for us, I presume, to explain that we are to be
brought into a criminal police court?" said Pillerault. "The cafe
David would laugh finely at your conduct this evening."

The opinion of the cafe David seemed to frighten the old man, who
looked at Pillerault with a startled air. He had counted on meeting
Birotteau alone, intending to pose as the sovereign arbiter of his
fate,--a legal Jupiter. He meant to frighten him with the thunder-bolt
of an accusation, to brandish the axe of a criminal charge over his
head, enjoy his fears and his terrors, and then allow himself to be
touched and softened, and persuaded at last to restore his victim to a
life of perpetual gratitude. Instead of his insect, he had got hold of
an old commercial sphinx.

"Monsieur," he replied, "I see nothing to laugh at."

"Excuse me," said Pillerault. "You have negotiated largely with
Monsieur Claparon; you have neglected the interests of the main body
of the creditors, so as to make sure that certain claims shall have a
preference. Now I can as one of the creditors interfere. The
commissioner is to be taken into account."

"Monsieur," said Molineux, "I am incorruptible."

"I am aware of it," said Pillerault. "You have only taken your iron
out of the fire, as they say. You are keen; you are acting just as you
do with your tenants--"

"Oh, monsieur!" said the assignee, suddenly dropping into the
landlord,--just as the cat metamorphosed into a woman ran after a
mouse when she caught sight of it,--"my affair of the Rue Montorgeuil
is not yet settled. What they call an impediment has arisen. The
tenant is the chief tenant. This conspirator declares that as he has
paid a year in advance, and having only one more year to"--here
Pillerault gave Cesar a look which advised him to pay strict attention
--"and, the year being paid for, that he has the right to take away
his furniture. I shall sue him! I must hold on to my securities to the
last; he may owe something for repairs before the year is out."

"But," said Pillerault, "the law only allows you to take furniture as
security for the rent--"

"And its accessories!" cried Molineux, assailed in his trenches. "That
article in the Code has been interpreted by various judgments rendered
in the matter: however, there ought to be legislative rectification to
it. At this very moment I am elaborating a memorial to his Highness,
the Keeper of the Seals, relating to this flaw in our statutes. It is
desirable that the government should maintain the interests of
landlords. That is the chief question in statecraft. We are the
tap-root of taxation."

"You are well fitted to enlighten the government," said Pillerault;
"but in what way can we enlighten you--about our affairs?"

"I wish to know," said Molineux, with pompous authority, "if Monsieur
Birotteau has received moneys from Monsieur Popinot."

"No, monsieur," said Birotteau.

Then followed a discussion on Birotteau's interests in the house of
Popinot, from which it appeared that Popinot had the right to have all
his advances paid in full, and that he was not involved in the failure
to the amount of half the costs of his establishment, due to him by
Birotteau. Molineux, judiciously handled by Pillerault, insensibly got
back to gentler ways, which only showed how he cared for the opinion
of those who frequented the cafe David. He ended by offering
consolation to Birotteau, and by inviting him, as well as Pillerault,
to share his humble dinner. If the ex-perfumer had gone alone, he
would probably have irritated Molineux, and the matter would have
become envenomed. In this instance, as in others, old Pillerault was
his tutelary angel.

Commercial law imposes a horrible torture upon the bankrupt; he is
compelled to appear in person at the meeting of his creditors, when
they decide upon his future fate. For a man who can hold himself above
it all, or for a merchant who expects to recover himself, this
ceremony is little feared. But to a man like Cesar Birotteau it was
agony only to be compared to the last day of a criminal condemned to
death. Pillerault did all in his power to make that terrible day
endurable to his nephew.

The steps taken by Molineux, and agreed to by the bankrupt, were as
follows: The suit relating to the mortgage on the property in the
Faubourg du Temple having been won in the courts, the assignees
decided to sell that property, and Cesar made no opposition. Du
Tillet, hearing privately that the government intended to cut a canal
which should lead from Saint-Denis to the upper Seine through the
Faubourg du Temple, bought the property of Birotteau for seventy
thousand francs. All Cesar's rights in the lands about the Madeleine
were turned over to Monsieur Claparon, on condition that he on his
side would abandon all claim against Birotteau for half the costs of
drawing up and registering the contracts; also for all payments on the
price of the lands, by receiving himself, under the failure, the
dividend which was to be paid over to the sellers. The interests of
the perfumer in the house of Popinot and Company were sold to the said
Popinot for the sum of forty-eight thousand francs. The business of
"The Queen of Roses" was bought by Celestin Crevel at fifty-seven
thousand francs, with the lease, the fixtures, the merchandise,
furniture, and all rights in the Paste of Sultans and the Carminative
Balm, with twelve years' lease of the manufactories, whose various
appliances were also sold to him. The assets when liquidated came to
one hundred and ninety-five thousand francs, to which the assignees
added seventy thousand produced by Birotteau's claims in the
liquidation of the "unfortunate" Roguin. Thus the total amount made
over to Cesar's creditors was two hundred and fifty-five thousand
francs. The debts amounted to four hundred and forty thousand;
consequently, the creditors received more than fifty per cent on their

Bankruptcy is a species of chemical transmutation, from which a clever
merchant tries to emerge in fresh shape. Birotteau, distilled to the
last drop in this retort, gave a result which made du Tillet furious.
Du Tillet looked to see a dishonorable failure; he saw an honorable
one. Caring little for his own gains, though he was about to get
possession of the lands around the Madeleine without ever drawing his
purse-strings, he wanted to see his old master dishonored, lost, and
vilified. The creditors at the general meeting would undoubtedly show
the poor man that they respected him.

By degrees, as Birotteau's courage came back to him, Pillerault, like
a wise doctor, informed him, by gradual doses, of the transactions
resulting from his failure. These harsh tidings were like so many
blows. A merchant cannot learn without a shock the depreciation of
property which represents to him so much money, so much solicitude, so
much labor. The facts his uncle now told him petrified the poor man.

"Fifty-seven thousand francs for 'The Queen of Roses'! Why, the shop
alone cost ten thousand; the appartement cost forty thousand; the mere
outlay on the manufactories, the utensils, the frames, the boilers,
cost thirty thousand. Why! at fifty per cent abatement, if my
creditors allow me that, there would still be ten thousand francs
worth of property in the shop. Why! the Paste and the Balm are solid
property,--worth as much as a farm!"

Poor Cesar's jeremiads made no impression upon Pillerault. The old
merchant took them as a horse takes a down-pour; but he was alarmed by
the gloomy silence Birotteau maintained when it was a question of the
meeting. Those who comprehend the vanities and weaknesses which in all
social spheres beset mankind, will know what a martyrdom it was for
this poor man to enter as a bankrupt the commercial tribunal of
justice where he once sat as judge; to meet affronts where so often he
had been thanked for services rendered,--he, Birotteau, whose
inflexible opinions about bankruptcy were so well known; he who had
said, "A man may be honest till he fails, but he comes out of a
meeting of his creditors a swindler." Pillerault watched for the right
moment to familiarize Cesar's mind with the thought of appearing
before his creditors as the law demands. The thought killed him. His
mute grief and resignation made a deep impression on his uncle, who
often heard him at night, through the partition, crying out to
himself, "Never! never! I will die sooner."

Pillerault, a strong man,--strong through the simplicity of his life,
--was able to understand weakness. He resolved to spare Cesar the
anguish of appearing before his creditors,--a terrible scene which the
law renders inevitable, and to which, indeed, he might succumb. On
this point the law is precise, formal, and not to be evaded. The
merchant who refused to appear would, for that act alone, be brought
before the criminal police courts. But though the law compels the
bankrupt to appear, it has no power to oblige the creditor to do so. A
meeting of creditors is a ceremony of no real importance except in
special cases,--when, for instance, a swindler is to be dispossessed
and a coalition among the creditors agreed upon, when there is
difference of opinion between the privileged creditors and the
unsecured creditors, or when the _concordat_ is specially dishonest,
and the bankrupt is in need of a deceptive majority. But in the case
of a failure when all has been given up, the meeting is a mere
formality. Pillerault went to each creditor, one after the other, and
asked him to give his proxy to his attorney. Every creditor, except du
Tillet, sincerely pitied Cesar, after striking him down. Each knew
that his conduct was scrupulously honest, that his books were regular,
and his business as clear as the day. All were pleased to find no "gay
and illegitimate creditor" among them. Molineux, first the agent and
then the provisional assignee, had found in Cesar's house everything
the poor man owned, even the engraving of Hero and Leander which
Popinot had given him, his personal trinkets, his breast-pin, his gold
buckles, his two watches,--things which an honest man might have taken
without thinking himself less than honest. Constance had left her
modest jewel-case. This touching obedience to the law struck the
commercial mind keenly. Birotteau's enemies called it foolishness; but
men of sense held it up to its true light as a magnificent
supererogation of integrity. In two months the opinion of the Bourse
had changed; every one, even those who were most indifferent, admitted
this failure to be a rare commercial wonder, seldom seen in the
markets of Paris. Thus the creditors, knowing that they were secure of
nearly sixty per cent of their claims, were very ready to do what
Pillerault asked of them. The solicitors of the commercial courts are
few in number; it therefore happened that several creditors employed
the same man, giving him their proxies. Pillerault finally succeeded
in reducing the formidable assemblage to three solicitors, himself,
Ragon, the two assignees, and the commissioner.

Early in the morning of the solemn day, Pillerault said to his

"Cesar, you can go to your meeting to-day without fear; nobody will be

Monsieur Ragon wished to accompany his debtor. When the former master
of "The Queen of Roses" first made known the wish in his little dry
voice, his ex-successor turned pale; but the good old man opened his
arms, and Birotteau threw himself into them as a child into the arms
of its father, and the two perfumers mingled their tears. The bankrupt
gathered courage as he felt the indulgences shown to him, and he got
into the coach with his uncle and Ragon. Precisely at half past ten
o'clock the three reached the cloister Saint-Merri, where the Court of
Commerce was then held. At that hour there was no one in the Hall of
Bankruptcy. The day and the hour had been chosen by agreement with the
judge and the assignees. The three solicitors were already there on
behalf of their clients. There was nothing, therefore, to distress or
intimidate Cesar Birotteau; yet the poor man could not enter the
office of Monsieur Camusot--which chanced to be the one he had
formerly occupied--without deep emotion, and he shuddered as he passed
through the Hall of Bankruptcy.

"It is cold," said Monsieur Camusot to Birotteau. "I am sure these
gentlemen will not be sorry to stay here, instead of our going to
freeze in the Hall." He did not say the word "Bankruptcy." "Gentlemen,
be seated."

Each took his seat, and the judge gave his own armchair to Birotteau,
who was bewildered. The solicitors and the assignees signed the

"In consideration of the surrender of your entire property," said
Camusot to Birotteau, "your creditors unanimously agree to relinquish
the rest of their claims. Your certificate is couched in terms which
may well soften your pain; your solicitor will see that it is promptly
recorded; you are now free. All the judges of this court, dear
Monsieur Birotteau," said Camusot, taking him by the hand, "feel for
your position, and are not surprised at your courage; none have failed
to do justice to your integrity. In the midst of a great misfortune
you have been worthy of what you once were here. I have been in
business for twenty years, and this is only the second time that I
have seen a fallen merchant gaining, instead of losing, public

Birotteau took the hands of the judge and wrung them, with tears in
his eyes. Camusot asked him what he now meant to do. Birotteau replied
that he should work till he had paid his creditors in full to the last

"If to accomplish that noble task you should ever want a few thousand
francs, you will always find them with me," said Camusot. "I would
give them with a great deal of pleasure to witness a deed so rare in

Pillerault, Ragon, and Birotteau retired.

"Well! that wasn't the ocean to drink," said Pillerault, as they left
the court-room.

"I recognize your hand in it," said the poor man, much affected.

"Now, here you are, free, and we are only a few steps from the Rue des
Cinq-Diamants; come and see my nephew," said Ragon.

A cruel pang shot through Cesar's heart when he saw Constance sitting
in a little office in the damp, dark _entresol_ above the shop, whose
single window was one third darkened by a sign which intercepted the
daylight and bore the name,--A. POPINOT.

"Behold a lieutenant of Alexander," said Cesar, with the gaiety of
grief, pointing to the sign.

This forced gaiety, through which an inextinguishable sense of the
superiority which Birotteau attributed to himself was naively
revealed, made Ragon shudder in spite of his seventy years. Cesar saw
his wife passing down letters and papers for Popinot to sign; he could
neither restrain his tears nor keep his face from turning pale.

"Good-morning, my friend," she said to him, smiling.

"I do not ask if you are comfortable here," said Cesar, looking at

"As if I were living with my own son," she answered, with a tender
manner that struck her husband.

Birotteau took Popinot and kissed him, saying,--

"I have lost the right, forever, of calling him my son."

"Let us hope!" said Popinot. "_Your_ oil succeeds--thanks to my
advertisements in the newspapers, and to Gaudissart, who has travelled
over the whole of France; he has inundated the country with placards
and prospectuses; he is now at Strasburg getting the prospectuses
printed in the German language, and he is about to descend, like an
invasion, upon Germany itself. We have received orders for three
thousand gross."

"Three thousand gross!" exclaimed Cesar.

"And I have bought a piece of land in the Faubourg Saint-Marceau,--not
dear,--where I am building a manufactory."

"Wife," whispered Cesar to Constance, "with a little help we might
have pulled through."

              *     *     *     *     *

After that fatal day Cesar, his wife, and daughter understood each
other. The poor clerk resolved to attain an end which, if not
impossible, was at least gigantic in its enterprise,--namely, the
payment of his debts to their last penny. These three beings,--father,
mother, daughter,--bound together by the tie of a passionate
integrity, became misers, denying themselves everything; a farthing
was sacred in their eyes. Out of sheer calculation Cesarine threw
herself into her business with the devotion of a young girl. She sat
up at night, taxing her ingenuity to find ways of increasing the
prosperity of the establishment, and displaying an innate commercial
talent. The masters of the house were obliged to check her ardor for
work; they rewarded her by presents, but she refused all articles of
dress and the jewels which they offered her. Money! money! was her
cry. Every month she carried her salary and her little earnings to her
uncle Pillerault. Cesar did the same; so did Madame Birotteau. All
three, feeling themselves incapable, dared not take upon themselves
the responsibility of managing their money, and they made over to
Pillerault the whole business of investing their savings. Returning
thus to business, the latter made the most of these funds by
negotiations at the Bourse. It was known afterwards that he had been
helped in this work by Jules Desmarets and Joseph Lebas, both of whom
were eager to point out opportunities which Pillerault might take
without risk.

Cesar, though he lived with his uncle, never ventured to question him
as to what was done with the money acquired by his labor and that of
his wife and daughter. He walked the streets with a bowed head, hiding
from every eye his stricken, dull, distraught face. He felt, with
self-reproach, that the cloth he wore was too good for him.

"At least," he said to Pillerault, with a look that was angelic, "I do
not eat the bread of my creditors. Your bread is sweet to me, though
it is your pity that gives it; thanks to your sacred charity, I do not
steal a farthing of my salary!"

The merchants, his old associates, who met the clerk could see no
vestige of the perfumer. Even careless minds gained an idea of the
immensity of human disaster from the aspect of this man, on whose face
sorrow had cast its black pall, who revealed the havoc caused by that
which had never before appeared in him,--by thought! _N'est pas
detruit qui veut_. Light-minded people, devoid of conscience, to whom
all things are indifferent, can never present such a spectacle of
disaster. Religion alone sets a special seal upon fallen human beings;
they believe in a future, in a divine Providence; from within them
gleams a light that marks them, a look of saintly resignation mingled
with hope, which lends them a certain tender emotion; they realize all
that they have lost, like the exiled angel weeping at the gates of
heaven. Bankrupts are forbidden to enter the Bourse. Cesar, driven
from the regions of integrity, was like an angel sighing for pardon.
For fourteen months he lived on, full of religious thoughts with which
his fall inspired him, and denying himself every pleasure. Though sure
of the Ragons' friendship, nothing could induce him to dine with them,
nor with the Lebas, nor the Matifats, nor the Protez and
Chiffrevilles, not even with Monsieur Vauquelin; all of whom were
eager to do honor to his rare virtue. Cesar preferred to be alone in
his room rather than meet the eye of a creditor. The warmest greetings
of his friends reminded him the more bitterly of his position.
Constance and Cesarine went nowhere. On Sundays and fete days, the
only days when they were at liberty, the two women went to fetch Cesar
at the hour for Mass, and they stayed with him at Pillerault's after
their religious duties were accomplished. Pillerault often invited the
Abbe Loraux, whose words sustained Cesar in this life of trial. And in
this way their lives were spent. The old ironmonger had too tough a
fibre of integrity not to approve of Cesar's sensitive honor. His
mind, however, turned on increasing the number of persons among whom
the poor bankrupt might show himself with an open brow, and an eye
that could meet the eyes of his fellows.


In the month of May, 1821, this family, ever grappling with adversity,
received a first reward for its efforts at a little fete which
Pillerault, the arbiter of its destinies, prepared for it. The last
Sunday of that month was the anniversary of the day on which Constance
had consented to marry Cesar. Pillerault, in concert with the Ragons,
hired a little country-house at Sceaux, and the worthy old ironmonger
silently prepared a joyous house-warming.

"Cesar," said Pillerault, on the Saturday evening, "to-morrow we are
all going into the country, and you must come."

Cesar, who wrote a superb hand, spent his evenings in copying for
Derville and other lawyers. On Sundays, justified by ecclesiastical
permission, he worked like a Negro.

"No," he said, "Monsieur Derville is waiting for a guardianship

"Your wife and daughter ought to have some reward. You will meet none
but our particular friends,--the Abbe Loraux, the Ragons, Popinot, and
his uncle. Besides, I wish it."

Cesar and his wife, carried along by the whirlwind of business, had
never revisited Sceaux, though from time to time each longed to see
once more the tree under which the head-clerk of "The Queen of Roses"
had fainted with joy. During the trip, which Cesar made in a
hackney-coach with his wife and daughter, and Popinot who escorted
them, Constance cast many meaning glances at her husband without
bringing to his lips a single smile. She whispered a few words in his
ear; for all answer he shook his head. The soft signs of her tenderness,
ever-present yet at the moment forced, instead of brightening Cesar's
face made it more sombre, and brought the long-repressed tears into his
eyes. Poor man! he had gone over this road twenty years before, young,
prosperous, full of hope, the lover of a girl as beautiful as their
own Cesarine; he was dreaming then of happiness. To-day, in the coach
before him, sat his noble child pale and worn by vigils, and his brave
wife, whose only beauty now was that of cities through whose streets
have flowed the lava waves of a volcano. Love alone remained to him!
Cesar's sadness smothered the joy that welled up in the hearts of
Cesarine and Anselme, who embodied to his eyes the charming scene of
other days.

"Be happy, my children! you have earned the right," said the poor
father in heart-rending tones. "You may love without one bitter

As he said these words he took his wife's hands and kissed them with a
sacred and admiring effect which touched Constance more than the
brightest gaiety. When they reached the house where Pillerault, the
Ragons, the Abbe Loraux, and Popinot the judge were waiting for them,
these five choice people assumed an air and manner and speech which
put Cesar at his ease; for all were deeply moved to see him still on
the morrow of his great disaster.

"Go and take a walk in the Aulnay woods," said Pillerault, putting
Cesar's hand into that of Constance; "go with Anselme and Cesarine!
but come back by four o'clock."

"Poor souls, we should be a restraint upon them," said Madame Ragon,
touched by the deep grief of her debtor. "He will be very happy

"It is repentance without sin," said the Abbe Loraux.

"He could rise to greatness only through adversity," said the judge.

To forget is the great secret of strong, creative natures,--to forget,
in the way of Nature herself, who knows no past, who begins afresh, at
every hour, the mysteries of her untiring travail.

Feeble existences, like that of Birotteau, live sunk in sorrows,
instead of transmuting them into doctrines of experience: they let
them saturate their being, and are worn-out, finally, by falling more
and more under the weight of past misfortunes.

When the two couples reached the path which leads to the woods of
Aulnay, placed like a crown upon the prettiest hillside in the
neighborhood of Paris, and from which the Vallee-aux-Loups is seen in
all its coquetry, the beauty of the day, the charm of the landscape,
the first spring verdure, the delicious memory of the happiest day of
all his youth, loosened the tight chords in Cesar's soul; he pressed
the arm of his wife against his beating heart; his eye was no longer
glassy, for the light of pleasure once more brightened in it.

"At last," said Constance to her husband, "I see you again, my poor
Cesar. I think we have all behaved well enough to allow ourselves a
little pleasure now and then."

"Ought I?" said the poor man. "Ah! Constance, thy affection is all
that remains to me. Yes, I have lost even my old self-confidence; I
have no strength left; my only desire is that I may live to die
discharged of debt on earth. Thou, dear wife, thou who art my wisdom
and my prudence, thou whose eyes saw clear, thou who art
irreproachable, thou canst have pleasure. I alone--of us three--am
guilty. Eighteen months ago, in the midst of that fatal ball, I saw my
Constance, the only woman I have ever loved, more beautiful than the
young girl I followed along this path twenty years ago--like our
children yonder! In eighteen months I have blasted that beauty,--my
pride, my legitimate and sanctioned pride. I love thee better since I
know thee well. Oh, _dear_!" he said, giving to the word a tone which
reached to the inmost heart of his wife, "I would rather have thee
scold me, than see thee so tender to my pain."

"I did not think," she said, "that after twenty years of married life
the love of a wife for her husband could deepen."

These words drove from Cesar's mind, for one brief moment, all his
sorrows; his heart was so true that they were to him a fortune. He
walked forward almost joyously to _their_ tree, which by chance had
not been felled. Husband and wife sat down beneath it, watching
Anselme and Cesarine, who were sauntering across the grassy slope
without perceiving them, thinking probably that they were still

"Mademoiselle," Anselme was saying, "do not think me so base and
grasping as to profit by your father's share which I have acquired in
the Cephalic Oil. I am keeping his share for him; I nurse it with
careful love. I invest the profits; if there is any loss I put it to
my own account. We can only belong to one another on the day when your
father is restored to his position, free of debt. I work for that day
with all the strength that love has given me."

"Will it come soon?" she said.

"Soon," said Popinot. The word was uttered in a tone so full of
meaning, that the chaste and pure young girl inclined her head to her
dear Anselme, who laid an eager and respectful kiss upon her brow,--so
noble was her gesture and action.

"Papa, all is well," she said to Cesar with a little air of
confidence. "Be good and sweet; talk to us, put away that sad look."

When this family, so tenderly bound together, re-entered the house,
even Cesar, little observing as he was, saw a change in the manner of
the Ragons which seemed to denote some remarkable event. The greeting
of Madame Ragon was particularly impressive; her look and accent
seemed to say to Cesar, "We are paid."

At the dessert, the notary of Sceaux appeared. Pillerault made him sit
down, and then looked at Cesar, who began to suspect a surprise,
though he was far indeed from imagining the extent of it.

"My nephew, the savings of your wife, your daughter, and yourself, for
the last eighteen months, amounted to twenty thousand francs. I have
received thirty thousand by the dividend on my claim. We have
therefore fifty thousand francs to divide among your creditors.
Monsieur Ragon has received thirty thousand francs for his dividend,
and you have now paid him the balance of his claim in full, interest
included, for which monsieur here, the notary of Sceaux, has brought
you a receipt. The rest of the money is with Crottat, ready for
Lourdois, Madame Madou, the mason, carpenter, and the other most
pressing creditors. Next year, we may do as well. With time and
patience we can go far."

Birotteau's joy is not to be described; he threw himself into his
uncle's arms, weeping.

"May he not wear his cross?" said Ragon to the Abbe Loraux.

The confessor fastened the red ribbon to Cesar's buttonhole. The poor
clerk looked at himself again and again during the evening in the
mirrors of the salon, manifesting a joy at which people thinking
themselves superior might have laughed, but which these good bourgeois
thought quite natural.

The next day Birotteau went to find Madame Madou.

"Ah, there you are, good soul!" she cried. "I didn't recognize you,
you have turned so gray. Yet you don't really drudge, you people;
you've got good places. As for me, I work like a turnspit that
deserves baptism."

"But, madame--"

"Never mind, I don't mean it as a reproach," she said. "You have got
my receipt."

"I came to tell you that I shall pay you to-morrow, at Monsieur
Crottat's, the rest of your claim in full, with interest."

"Is that true?"

"Be there at eleven o'clock."

"Hey! there's honor for you! good measure and running over!" she cried
with naive admiration. "Look here, my good monsieur, I am doing a fine
trade with your little red-head. He's a nice young fellow; he lets me
earn a fair penny without haggling over it, so that I may get an
equivalent for that loss. Well, I'll get you a receipt in full,
anyhow; you keep the money, my poor old man! La Madou may get in a
fury, and she does scold; but she has got something here--" she cried,
thumping the most voluminous mounds of flesh ever yet seen in the

"No," said Birotteau, "the law is plain. I wish to pay you in full."

"Then I won't deny you the pleasure," she said; "and to-morrow I'll
trumpet your conduct through the markets. Ha! it's rare, rare!"

The worthy man had much the same scene, with variations, at Lourdois
the house painter's, father-in-law of Crottat. It was raining; Cesar
left his umbrella at the corner of the door. The prosperous painter,
seeing the water trickling into the room where he was breakfasting
with his wife, was not tender.

"Come, what do you want, my poor Pere Birotteau?" he said, in the hard
tone which some people take to importunate beggars.

"Monsieur, has not your son-in-law told you--"

"What?" cried Lourdois, expecting some appeal.

"To be at his office this morning at half past eleven, and give me a
receipt for the payment of your claims in full, with interest?"

"Ah, that's another thing! Sit down, Monsieur Birotteau, and eat a
mouthful with us."

"Do us the pleasure to share our breakfast," said Madame Lourdois.

"You are doing well, then?" asked the fat Lourdois.

"No, monsieur, I have lived from hand to mouth, that I might scrape up
this money; but I hope, in time, to repair the wrongs I have done to
my neighbor."

"Ah!" said the painter, swallowing a mouthful of _pate de foie gras_,
"you are truly a man of honor."

"What is Madame Birotteau doing?" asked Madame Lourdois.

"She is keeping the books of Monsieur Anselme Popinot."

"Poor people!" said Madame Lourdois, in a low voice to her husband.

"If you ever need me, my dear Monsieur Birotteau, come and see me,"
said Lourdois. "I might help--"

"I do need you--at eleven o'clock to-day, monsieur," said Birotteau,

              *     *     *     *     *

This first result gave courage to the poor bankrupt, but not peace of
mind. On the contrary, the thought of regaining his honor agitated his
life inordinately; he completely lost the natural color of his cheeks,
his eyes grew sunken and dim, and his face hollow. When old
acquaintances met him, in the morning at eight o'clock or in the
evening at four, as he went to and from the Rue de l'Oratoire, wearing
the surtout coat he wore at the time of his fall, and which he
husbanded as a poor sub-lieutenant husbands his uniform,--his hair
entirely white, his face pale, his manner timid,--some few would stop
him in spite of himself; for his eye was alert to avoid those he knew
as he crept along beside the walls, like a thief.

"Your conduct is known, my friend," said one; "everybody regrets the
sternness with which you treat yourself, also your wife and daughter."

"Take a little more time," said others; "the wounds of money do not

"No, but the wounds of the soul do," the poor worn Cesar answered one
day to his friend Matifat.

              *     *     *     *     *

At the beginning of the year 1822, the Canal Saint-Martin was begun.
Land in the Faubourg du Temple increased enormously in value. The
canal would cut through the property which du Tillet had bought of
Cesar Birotteau. The company who obtained the right of building it
agreed to pay the banker an exorbitant sum, provided they could take
possession within a given time. The lease Cesar had granted to
Popinot, which went with the sale to du Tillet, now hindered the
transfer to the canal company. The banker came to the Rue des
Cinq-Diamants to see the druggist. If du Tillet was indifferent to
Popinot, it is very certain that the lover of Cesarine felt an
instinctive hatred for du Tillet. He knew nothing of the theft and the
infamous scheme of the prosperous banker, but an inward voice cried to
him, "The man is an unpunished rascal." Popinot would never have
transacted the smallest business with him; du Tillet's very presence
was odious to his feelings. Under the present circumstances it was
doubly so, for the banker was now enriched through the forced
spoliation of his former master; the lands about the Madeleine, as well
as those in the Faubourg du Temple, were beginning to rise in price, and
to foreshadow the enormous value they were to reach in 1827. So that
after du Tillet had explained the object of his visit, Popinot looked at
him with concentrated wrath.

"I shall not refuse to give up my lease; but I demand sixty thousand
francs for it, and I shall not take one farthing less."

"Sixty thousand francs!" exclaimed du Tillet, making a movement to
leave the shop.

"I have fifteen years' lease still to run; it will, moreover, cost me
three thousand francs a year to get other buildings. Therefore, sixty
thousand francs, or say no more about it," said Popinot, going to the
back of the shop, where du Tillet followed him.

The discussion grew warm, Birotteau's name was mentioned; Madame Cesar
heard it and came down, and saw du Tillet for the first time since the
famous ball. The banker was unable to restrain a gesture of surprise
at the change which had come over the beautiful woman; he lowered his
eyes, shocked at the result of his own work.

"Monsieur," said Popinot to Madame Cesar, "is going to make three
hundred thousand francs out of _your_ land, and he refuses _us_ sixty
thousand francs' indemnity for _our_ lease."

"That is three thousand francs a year," said du Tillet.

"Three--thousand--francs!" said Madame Cesar, slowly, in a clear,
penetrating voice.

Du Tillet turned pale. Popinot looked at Madame Birotteau. There was a
moment of profound silence, which made the scene still more
inexplicable to Anselme.

"Sign your relinquishment of the lease, which I have made Crottat draw
up," said du Tillet, drawing a stamped paper from a side-pocket. "I
will give you a cheque on the Bank of France for sixty thousand

Popinot looked at Madame Cesar without concealing his astonishment; he
thought he was dreaming. While du Tillet was writing his cheque at a
high desk, Madame Cesar disappeared and went upstairs. The druggist
and the banker exchanged papers. Du Tillet bowed coldly to Popinot,
and went away.

"At last, in a few months," thought Popinot, as he watched du Tillet
going towards the Rue des Lombards, where his cabriolet was waiting,
"thanks to this extraordinary affair, I shall have my Cesarine. My
poor little wife shall not wear herself out any longer. A look from
Madame Cesar was enough! What secret is there between her and that
brigand? The whole thing is extraordinary."

Popinot sent the cheque at once to the Bank, and went up to speak to
Madame Birotteau; she was not in the counting-room, and had doubtless
gone to her chamber. Anselme and Constance lived like mother-in-law
and son-in-law when people in that relation suit each other; he
therefore rushed up to Madame Cesar's appartement with the natural
eagerness of a lover on the threshold of his happiness. The young man
was prodigiously surprised to find her, as he sprang like a cat into
the room, reading a letter from du Tillet, whose handwriting he
recognized at a glance. A lighted candle, and the black and quivering
phantoms of burned letters lying on the floor made him shudder, for
his quick eyes caught the following words in the letter which
Constance held in her hand:--

  "I adore you! You know it well, angel of my life, and--"

"What power have you over du Tillet that could force him to agree to
such terms?" he said with a convulsive laugh that came from repressed

"Do not let us speak of that," she said, showing great distress.

"No," said Popinot, bewildered; "let us rather talk of the end of all
your troubles." Anselme turned on his heel towards the window, and
drummed with his fingers on the panes as he gazed into the court.
"Well," he said to himself, "even if she did love du Tillet, is that
any reason why I should not behave like an honorable man?"

"What is the matter, my child?" said the poor woman.

"The total of the net profits of Cephalic Oil mount up to two hundred
and forty-two thousand francs; half of that is one hundred and
twenty-one thousand," said Popinot, brusquely. "If I withdraw from
that amount the forty-eight thousand francs which I paid to Monsieur
Birotteau, there remains seventy-three thousand, which, joined to
these sixty thousand paid for the relinquishment of the lease, gives
_you_ one hundred and thirty-three thousand francs."

Madame Cesar listened with fluctuations of joy which made her tremble
so violently that Popinot could hear the beating of her heart.

"Well, I have always considered Monsieur Birotteau as my partner," he
went on; "we can use this sum to pay his creditors in full. Add the
twenty-eight thousand you have saved and placed in our uncle
Pillerault's hands, and we have one hundred and sixty-one thousand
francs. Our uncle will not refuse his receipt for his own claim of
twenty-five thousand. No human power can deprive me of the right of
lending to my father-in-law, by anticipating our profits of next year,
the necessary sum to make up the total amount due to his creditor, and

"Restored!" cried Madame Cesar, falling on her knees beside a chair.
She joined her hands and said a prayer; as she did so, the letter slid
from her fingers. "Dear Anselme," she said, crossing herself, "dear
son!" She took his head in her hands, kissed him on the forehead,
pressed him to her heart, and seemed for a moment beside herself.
"Cesarine is thine! My daughter will be happy at last. She can leave
that shop where she is killing herself--"

"For love?" said Popinot.

"Yes," answered the mother, smiling.

"Listen to a little secret," said Popinot, glancing at the fatal
letter from a corner of his eye. "I helped Celestin to buy your
business; but I did it on one condition,--your appartement was to be
kept exactly as you left it. I had an idea in my head, though I never
thought that chance would favor it so much. Celestin is bound to
sub-let to you your old appartement, where he has never set foot, and
where all the furniture will be yours. I have kept the second story,
where I shall live with Cesarine, who shall never leave you. After our
marriage I shall come and pass the days from eight in the morning till
six in the evening here. I will buy out Monsieur Cesar's share in this
business for a hundred thousand francs, and that will give you an
income to live on. Shall you not be happy?"

"Tell me no more, Anselme, or I shall go out of my mind."

The angelic attitude of Madame Cesar, the purity of her eyes, the
innocence of her candid brow, contradicted so gloriously the thoughts
which surged in the lover's brain that he resolved to make an end of
their monstrosities forever. Sin was incompatible with the life and
sentiments of such a woman.

"My dear, adored mother," said Anselme, "in spite of myself, a
horrible suspicion has entered my soul. If you wish to see me happy,
you will put an end to it at once."

Popinot stretched out his hand and picked up the letter.

"Without intending it," he resumed, alarmed at the terror painted on
Constance's face, "I read the first words of this letter of du Tillet.
The words coincide in a singular manner with the power you have just
shown in forcing that man to accept my absurd exactions; any man would
explain it as the devil explains it to me, in spite of myself. Your
look--three words suffice--"

"Stop!" said Madame Cesar, taking the letter and burning it. "My son,
I am severely punished for a trifling error. You shall know all,
Anselme. I shall not allow a suspicion inspired by her mother to
injure my daughter; and besides, I can speak without blushing. What I
now tell you, I could tell my husband. Du Tillet wished to seduce me;
I informed my husband of it, and du Tillet was to have been dismissed.
On the very day my husband was about to send him away, he robbed us of
three thousand francs."

"I was sure of it!" said Popinot, expressing his hatred by the tones
of his voice.

"Anselme, your future, your happiness, demand this confidence; but you
must let it die in your heart, just as it is dead in mine and in
Cesar's. Do you not remember how my husband scolded us for an error in
the accounts? Monsieur Birotteau, to avoid a police-court which might
have destroyed the man for life, no doubt placed in the desk three
thousand francs,--the price of that cashmere shawl which I did not
receive till three years later. All this explains the scene. Alas! my
dear child, I must admit my foolishness; du Tillet wrote me three
love-letters, which pictured him so well that I kept them," she said,
lowering her eyes and sighing, "as a curiosity. I have not re-read
them more than once; still, it was imprudent to keep them. When I saw
du Tillet just now I was reminded of them, and I came upstairs to burn
them; I was looking over the last as you came in. That's the whole
story, my friend."

Anselme knelt for a moment beside her and kissed her hand with an
unspeakable emotion, which brought tears into the eyes of both; Madame
Cesar raised him, stretched out her arms and pressed him to her heart.

              *     *     *     *     *

This day was destined to be a day of joy to Cesar. The private
secretary of the king, Monsieur de Vandenesse, called at the
Sinking-Fund Office to find him. They walked out together into the
little courtyard.

"Monsieur Birotteau," said the Vicomte de Vandenesse, "your efforts to
pay your creditors in full have accidentally become known to the king.
His Majesty, touched by such rare conduct, and hearing that through
humility you no longer wear the cross of the Legion of honor, has sent
me to command you to put it on again. Moreover, wishing to help you in
meeting your obligations, he has charged me to give you this sum from
his privy purse, regretting that he is unable to make it larger. Let
this be a profound secret. His Majesty thinks it derogatory to the
royal dignity to have his good deeds divulged," said the private
secretary, putting six thousand francs into the hand of the poor
clerk, who listened to this speech with unutterable emotion. The words
that came to his lips were disconnected and stammering. Vandenesse
waved his hand to him, smiling, and went away.

The principle which actuated poor Cesar is so rare in Paris that his
conduct by degrees attracted admiration. Joseph Lebas, Popinot the
judge, Camusot, the Abbe Loraux, Ragon, the head of the important
house where Cesarine was employed, Lourdois, Monsieur de la
Billardiere, and others, talked of it. Public opinion, undergoing a
change, now lauded him to the skies.

"He is indeed a man of honor!" The phrase even sounded in Cesar's ears
as he passed along the streets, and caused him the emotion an author
feels when he hears the muttered words: "That is he!" This noble
recovery of credit enraged du Tillet. Cesar's first thought on
receiving the bank-notes sent by the king was to use them in paying
the debt still due to his former clerk. The worthy man went to the Rue
de la Chaussee d'Antin just as the banker was returning from the
Bourse; they met upon the stairway.

"Well, my poor Birotteau!" said du Tillet, with a stealthy glance.

"Poor!" exclaimed the debtor proudly, "I am very rich. I shall lay my
head this night upon my pillow with the happiness of knowing that I
have paid you in full."

This speech, ringing with integrity, sent a sharp pang through du
Tillet. In spite of the esteem he publicly enjoyed, he did not esteem
himself; an inextinguishable voice cried aloud within his soul, "The
man is sublime!"

"Pay me?" he said; "why, what business are you doing?"

Feeling sure that du Tillet would not repeat what he told him,
Birotteau answered: "I shall never go back to business, monsieur. No
human power could have foreseen what has happened to me there. Who
knows that I might not be the victim of another Roguin? But my conduct
has been placed under the eyes of the king; his heart has deigned to
sympathize with my efforts; he has encouraged them by sending me a sum
of money large enough to--"

"Do you want a receipt?" said du Tillet, interrupting him; "are you
going to pay--"

"In full, with interest. I must ask you to come with me now to
Monsieur Crottat, only two steps from here."

"Before a notary?"

"Monsieur; I am not forbidden to aim at my complete reinstatement; to
obtain it, all deeds and receipts must be legal and undeniable."

"Come, then," said du Tillet, going out with Birotteau; "it is only a
step. But where did you take all that money from?"

"I have not taken it," said Cesar; "I have earned it by the sweat of
my brow."

"You owe an enormous sum to Claparon."

"Alas! yes; that is my largest debt. I think sometimes I shall die
before I pay it."

"You never can pay it," said du Tillet harshly.

"He is right," thought Birotteau.

As he went home the poor man passed, inadvertently, along the Rue
Saint-Honore; for he was in the habit of making a circuit to avoid
seeing his shop and the windows of his former home. For the first time
since his fall he saw the house where eighteen years of happiness had
been effaced by the anguish of three months.

"I hoped to end my days there," he thought; and he hastened his steps,
for he caught sight of the new sign,--

                           CELESTIN CREVEL

                     Successor to Cesar Birotteau

"Am I dazzled, am I going blind? Was that Cesarine?" he cried,
recollecting a blond head he had seen at the window.

He had actually seen his daughter, his wife, and Popinot. The lovers
knew that Birotteau never passed before the windows of his old home,
and they had come to the house to make arrangements for a fete which
they intended to give him. This amazing apparition so astonished
Birotteau that he stood stock-still, unable to move.

"There is Monsieur Birotteau looking at his old house," said Monsieur
Molineux to the owner of a shop opposite to "The Queen of Roses."

"Poor man!" said the perfumer's former neighbor; "he gave a fine ball
--two hundred carriages in the street."

"I was there; and he failed in three months," said Molineux. "I was
the assignee."

Birotteau fled, trembling in every limb, and hastened back to

Pillerault, who had just been informed of what had happened in the Rue
des Cinq-Diamants, feared that his nephew was scarcely fit to bear the
shock of joy which the sudden knowledge of his restoration would cause
him; for Pillerault was a daily witness of the moral struggles of the
poor man, whose mind stood always face to face with his inflexible
doctrines against bankruptcy, and whose vital forces were used and
spent at every hour. Honor was to Cesar a corpse, for which an Easter
morning might yet dawn. This hope kept his sorrow incessantly active.
Pillerault took upon himself the duty of preparing his nephew to
receive the good news; and when Birotteau came in he was thinking over
the best means of accomplishing his purpose. Cesar's joy as he related
the proof of interest which the king had bestowed upon him seemed of
good augury, and the astonishment he expressed at seeing Cesarine at
"The Queen of Roses" afforded, Pillerault thought, an excellent

"Well, Cesar," said the old man, "do you know what is at the bottom of
it?--the hurry Popinot is in to marry Cesarine. He cannot wait any
longer; and you ought not, for the sake of your exaggerated ideas of
honor, to make him pass his youth eating dry bread with the fumes of a
good dinner under his nose. Popinot wishes to lend you the amount
necessary to pay your creditors in full."

"Then he would buy his wife," said Birotteau.

"Is it not honorable to reinstate his father-in-law?"

"There would be ground for contention; besides--"

"Besides," exclaimed Pillerault, pretending anger, "you may have the
right to immolate yourself if you choose, but you have no right to
immolate your daughter."

A vehement discussion ensued, which Pillerault designedly excited.

"Hey! if Popinot lent you nothing," cried Pillerault, "if he had
called you his partner, if he had considered the price which he paid
to the creditors for your share in the Oil as an advance upon the
profits, so as not to strip you of everything--"

"I should have seemed to rob my creditors in collusion with him."

Pillerault feigned to be defeated by this argument. He knew the human
heart well enough to be certain that during the night Cesar would go
over the question in his own mind, and the mental discussion would
accustom him to the idea of his complete vindication.

"But how came my wife and daughter to be in our old appartement?"
asked Birotteau, while they were dining.

"Anselme wants to hire it, and live there with Cesarine. Your wife is
on his side. They have had the banns published without saying anything
about it, so as to force you to consent. Popinot says there will be
much less merit in marrying Cesarine after you are reinstated. You
take six thousand francs from the king, and you won't accept anything
from your relations! I can well afford to give you a receipt in full
for all that is owing to me; do you mean to refuse it?"

"No," said Cesar; "but that won't keep me from saving up everything to
pay you."

"Irrational folly!" cried Pillerault. "In matters of honor I ought to
be believed. What nonsense were you saying just now? How have you
robbed your creditors when you have paid them all in full?"

Cesar looked earnestly at Pillerault, and Pillerault was touched to
see, for the first time in three years, a genuine smile on the face of
his poor nephew.

"It is true," he said, "they would be paid; but it would be selling my

"And I wish to be bought!" cried Cesarine, entering with Popinot.

The lovers had heard Birotteau's last words as they came on tiptoe
through the antechamber of their uncle's little appartement, Madame
Birotteau following. All three had driven round to the creditors who
were still unpaid, requesting them to meet at Alexandre Crottat's that
evening to receive their money. The all-powerful logic of the enamored
Popinot triumphed in the end over Cesar's scruples, though he
persisted for some time in calling himself a debtor, and in declaring
that he was circumventing the law by a substitution. But the
refinements of his conscience gave way when Popinot cried out: "Do you
want to kill your daughter?"

"Kill my daughter!" said Cesar, thunderstruck.

"Well, then," said Popinot, "I have the right to convey to you the sum
which I conscientiously believe to be your share in my profits. Do you
refuse it?"

"No," said Cesar.

"Very good; then let us go at once to Crottat and settle the matter,
so that there may be no backing out of it. We will arrange about our
marriage contract at the same time."

              *     *     *     *     *

A petition for reinstatement with corroborative documents was at once
deposited by Derville at the office of the _procureur-general_ of the
Cour Royale.

During the month required for the legal formalities and for the
publication of the banns of marriage between Cesarine and Anselme,
Birotteau was a prey to feverish agitation. He was restless. He feared
he should not live till the great day when the decree for his
vindication would be rendered. His heart throbbed, he said, without
cause. He complained of dull pains in that organ, worn out as it was
by emotions of sorrow, and now wearied with the rush of excessive joy.
Decrees of rehabilitation are so rare in the bankrupt court of Paris
that seldom more than one is granted in ten years.

To those persons who take society in its serious aspects, the
paraphernalia of justice has a grand and solemn character difficult
perhaps to define. Institutions depend altogether on the feelings with
which men view them and the degree of grandeur which men's thoughts
attach to them. When there is no longer, we will not say religion, but
belief among the people, whenever early education has loosened all
conservative bonds by accustoming youth to the practice of pitiless
analysis, a nation will be found in process of dissolution; for it
will then be held together only by the base solder of material
interests, and by the formulas of a creed created by intelligent

Bred in religious ideas, Birotteau held justice to be what it ought to
be in the eyes of men,--a representation of society itself, an august
utterance of the will of all, apart from the particular form by which
it is expressed. The older, feebler, grayer the magistrate, the more
solemn seemed the exercise of his function,--a function which demands
profound study of men and things, which subdues the heart and hardens
it against the influence of eager interests. It is a rare thing
nowadays to find men who mount the stairway of the old Palais de
Justice in the grasp of keen emotions. Cesar Birotteau was one of
those men.

Few persons have noticed the majestic solemnity of that stairway,
admirably placed as it is to produce a solemn effect. It rises, beyond
the outer peristyle which adorns the courtyard of the Palais, from the
centre of a gallery leading, at one end, to the vast hall of the Pas
Perdus, and at the other to the Sainte-Chapelle,--two architectural
monuments which make all buildings in their neighborhood seem paltry.
The church of Saint-Louis is among the most imposing edifices in
Paris, and the approach to it through this long gallery is at once
sombre and romantic. The great hall of the Pas Perdus, on the
contrary, presents at the other end of the gallery a broad space of
light; it is impossible to forget that the history of France is linked
to those walls. The stairway should therefore be imposing in
character; and, in point of act, it is neither dwarfed nor crushed by
the architectural splendors on either side of it. Possibly the mind is
sobered by a glimpse, caught through the rich gratings, of the Place
du Palais-de-Justice, where so many sentences have been executed. The
staircase opens above into an enormous space, or antechamber, leading
to the hall where the Court holds its public sittings.

Imagine the emotions with which the bankrupt, susceptible by nature to
the awe of such accessories, went up that stairway to the hall of
judgment, surrounded by his nearest friends,--Lebas, president of the
Court of Commerce, Camusot his former judge, Ragon, and Monsieur
l'Abbe Loraux his confessor. The pious priest made the splendors of
human justice stand forth in strong relief by reflections which gave
them still greater solemnity in Cesar's eyes. Pillerault, the
practical philosopher, fearing the danger of unexpected events on the
worn mind of his nephew, had schemed to prepare him by degrees for the
joys of this festal day. Just as Cesar finished dressing, a number of
his faithful friends arrived, all eager for the honor of accompanying
him to the bar of the Court. The presence of this retinue roused the
honest man to an elation which gave him strength to meet the imposing
spectacle in the halls of justice. Birotteau found more friends
awaiting him in the solemn audience chamber, where about a dozen
members of the council were in session.

After the cases were called over, Birotteau's attorney made his demand
for reinstatement in the usual terms. On a sign from the presiding
judge, the _procureur-general_ rose. In the name of his office this
public prosecutor, the representative of public vindictiveness, asked
that honor might be restored to the merchant who had never really lost
it,--a solitary instance of such an appeal; for a condemned man can
only be pardoned. Men of honor alone can imagine the emotions of Cesar
Birotteau as he heard Monsieur de Grandville pronounce a speech, of
which the following is an abridgement:--

  "Gentlemen," said that celebrated official, "on the 16th of
  January, 1820, Birotteau was declared a bankrupt by the commercial
  tribunal of the Seine. His failure was not caused by imprudence,
  nor by rash speculations, nor by any act that stained his honor.
  We desire to say publicly that this failure was the result of a
  disaster which has again and again occurred, to the detriment of
  justice and the great injury of the city of Paris. It has been
  reserved for our generation, in which the bitter leaven of
  republican principles and manners will long be felt, to behold the
  notariat of Paris abandoning the glorious traditions of preceding
  centuries, and producing in a few years as many failures as two
  centuries of the old monarchy had produced. The thirst for gold
  rapidly acquired has beset even these officers of trust, these
  guardians of the public wealth, these mediators between the law
  and the people!"

On this text followed an allocution, in which the Comte de Grandville,
obedient to the necessities of his role, contrived to incriminate the
Liberals, the Bonapartists, and all other enemies of the throne.
Subsequent events have proved that he had reason for his apprehension.

  "The flight of a notary of Paris who carried off the funds which
  Birotteau had deposited in his hands, caused the fall of your
  petitioner," he resumed. "The Court rendered in that matter a
  decree which showed to what extent the confidence of Roguin's
  clients had been betrayed. A _concordat_ was held. For the honor
  of your petitioner, we call attention to the fact that his
  proceedings were remarkable for a purity not found in any of the
  scandalous failures which daily degrade the commerce of Paris. The
  creditors of Birotteau received the whole property, down to the
  smallest articles that the unfortunate man possessed. They
  received, gentlemen, his clothes, his jewels, things of purely
  personal use,--and not only his, but those of his wife, who
  abandoned all her rights to swell the total of his assets. Under
  these circumstances Birotteau showed himself worthy of the respect
  which his municipal functions had already acquired for him; for he
  was at the time a deputy-mayor of the second arrondissement and
  had just received the decoration of the Legion of honor, granted
  as much for his devotion to the royal cause in Vendemiaire, on the
  steps of the Saint-Roch, which were stained with his blood, as for
  his conciliating spirit, his estimable qualities as a magistrate,
  and the modesty with which he declined the honors of the
  mayoralty, pointing out one more worthy of them, the Baron de la
  Billardiere, one of those noble Vendeens whom he had learned to
  value in the dark days."

"That phrase is better than mine," whispered Cesar to Pillerault.

  "At that time the creditors, who received sixty per cent of their
  claims through the aforesaid relinquishment on the part of this
  loyal merchant, his wife, and his daughter of all that they
  possessed, recorded their respect for their debtor in the
  certificate of bankruptcy granted at the _concordat_ which then
  took place, giving him at the same time a release from the
  remainder of their claims. This testimonial is couched in terms
  which are worthy of the attention of the Court."

Here the _procureur-general_ read the passage from the certificate of

  "After receiving such expressions of good-will, gentlemen, most
  merchants would have considered themselves released from
  obligation and free to return boldly into the vortex of business.
  Far from so doing, Birotteau, without allowing himself to be cast
  down, resolved within his conscience to toil for the glorious day
  which has at length dawned for him here. Nothing disheartened him.
  Our beloved sovereign granted to the man who shed his blood on the
  steps of Saint-Roch an office where he might earn his bread. The
  salary of that office the bankrupt laid by for his creditors,
  taking nothing for his own wants; for family devotion has
  supported him."

Birotteau pressed his uncle's hand, weeping.

  "His wife and his daughter poured their earnings into the common
  fund, for they too espoused the noble hope of Birotteau. Each came
  down from the position she had held and took an inferior one.
  These sacrifices, gentlemen, should be held in honor, for they are
  harder than all others to bear. I will now show you what sort of
  task it was that Birotteau imposed upon himself."

Here the _procureur-general_ read a summing-up of the schedule, giving
the amounts which had remained unpaid and the names of the creditors.

  "Each of these sums, with the interest thereon, has been paid,
  gentlemen; and the payment is not shown by receipts under private
  seal, which might be questioned: they are payments made before a
  notary, properly authenticated; and according to the inflexible
  requirements of this Court they have been examined and verified by
  the proper authority. We now ask you to restore Birotteau, not to
  honor, but to all the rights of which he was deprived. In doing
  this you are doing justice. Such exhibitions of character are so
  rare in this Court that we cannot refrain from testifying to the
  petitioner how heartily we applaud his conduct, which an august
  approval has already privately encouraged."

The prosecuting officer closed by reading his charge in the customary
formal terms.

The Court deliberated without retiring, and the president rose to
pronounce judgement.

  "The Court," he said, in closing, "desires me to express to
  Birotteau the satisfaction with which it renders such a judgment.
  Clerk, call the next case."

Birotteau, clothed with the caftan of honor which the speech of the
illustrious _procureur-general_ had cast about him, stood dumb with
joy as he listened to the solemn words of the president, which
betrayed the quiverings of a heart beneath the impassibility of human
justice. He was unable to stir from his place before the bar, and
seemed for a moment nailed there, gazing at the judges with a
wondering air, as though they were angels opening to him the gates of
social life. His uncle took him by the arm and led him from the hall.
Cesar had not as yet obeyed the command of Louis XVIII., but he now
mechanically fastened the ribbon of the Legion of honor to his
button-hole. In a moment he was surrounded by his friends and borne
in triumph down the great stairway to his coach.

"Where are you taking me, my friends?" he said to Joseph Lebas,
Pillerault, and Ragon.

"To your own home."

"No; it is only three o'clock. I wish to go to the Bourse, and use my

"To the Bourse!" said Pillerault to the coachman, making an expressive
sign to Joseph Lebas, for he saw symptoms in Cesar which led him to
fear he might lose his mind.

The late perfumer re-entered the Bourse leaning on the arms of the two
honored merchants, his uncle and Joseph Lebas. The news of his
rehabilitation had preceded him. The first person who saw them enter,
followed by Ragon, was du Tillet.

"Ah! my dear master," he cried, "I am delighted that you have pulled
through. I have perhaps contributed to this happy ending of your
troubles by letting that little Popinot drag a feather from my wing. I
am as glad of your happiness as if it were my own."

"You could not be otherwise," said Pillerault. "Such a thing can never
happen to you."

"What do you mean by that?" said du Tillet.

"Oh! all in good part," said Lebas, smiling at the malicious meaning
of Pillerault, who, without knowing the real truth, considered the man
a scoundrel.

Matifat caught sight of Cesar, and immediately the most noted
merchants surrounded him and gave him an _ovation boursiere_. He was
overwhelmed with flattering compliments and grasped by the hand, which
roused some jealousy and caused some remorse; for out of every hundred
persons walking about that hall fifty at least had "liquidated" their
affairs. Gigonnet and Gobseck, who were talking together in a corner,
looked at the man of commercial honor very much as a naturalist must
have looked at the first electric-eel that was ever brought to him,--a
fish armed with the power of a Leyden jar, which is the greatest
curiosity of the animal kingdom. After inhaling the incense of his
triumph, Cesar got into the coach to go to his own home, where the
marriage contract of his dear Cesarine and the devoted Popinot was
ready for signature. His nervous laugh disturbed the minds of the
three old friends.

It is a fault of youth to think the whole world vigorous with its own
vigor,--a fault derived from its virtues. Youth sees neither men nor
things through spectacles; it colors all with the reflex glory of its
ardent fires, and casts the superabundance of its own life upon the
aged. Like Cesar and like Constance, Popinot held in his memory a
glowing recollection of the famous ball. Constance and Cesar through
their years of trial had often, though they never spoke of it to each
other, heard the strains of Collinet's orchestra, often beheld that
festive company, and tasted the joys so swiftly and so cruelly
chastised,--as Adam and Eve must have tasted in after times the
forbidden fruit which gave both death and life to all posterity; for
it appears that the generation of angels is a mystery of the skies.

Popinot, however, could dream of the fete without remorse, nay, with
ecstasy. Had not Cesarine in all her glory then promised herself to
him--to him, poor? During that evening had he not won the assurance
that he was loved for himself alone? So when he bought the appartement
restored by Grindot, from Celestin, when he stipulated that all should
be kept intact, when he religiously preserved the smallest things that
once belonged to Cesar and to Constance, he was dreaming of another
ball,--his ball, his wedding-ball! He made loving preparation for it,
imitating his old master in necessary expenses, but eschewing all
follies,--follies that were now past and done with. So the dinner was
to be served by Chevet; the guests were to be mostly the same: the
Abbe Loraux replaced the chancellor of the Legion of honor; the
president of the Court of Commerce, Monsieur Lebas, had promised to be
there; Popinot invited Monsieur Camusot in acknowledgment of the
kindness he had bestowed upon Birotteau; Monsieur de Vandenesse and
Monsieur de Fontaine took the place of Roguin and his wife. Cesarine
and Popinot distributed their invitations with much discretion. Both
dreaded the publicity of a wedding, and they escaped the jar such
scenes must cause to pure and tender hearts by giving the ball on the
evening of the day appointed for signing the marriage-contract.

Constance found in her room the gown of cherry velvet in which she had
shone for a single night with fleeting splendor. Cesarine cherished a
dream of appearing before Popinot in the identical ball-dress about
which, time and time again, he had talked to her. The appartement was
made ready to present to Cesar's eyes the same enchanting scene he had
once enjoyed for a single evening. Neither Constance, nor Cesarine,
nor Popinot perceived the danger to Cesar in this sudden and
overwhelming surprise, and they awaited his arrival at four o'clock
with a delight that was almost childish.

Following close upon the unspeakable emotion his re-entrance at the
Bourse had caused him, the hero of commercial honor was now to meet
the sudden shock of felicity that awaited him in his old home. He
entered the house, and saw at the foot of the staircase (still new as
he had left it) his wife in her velvet robe, Cesarine, the Comte de
Fontaine, the Vicomte de Vandenesse, the Baron de la Billardiere, the
illustrious Vauquelin. A light film dimmed his eyes, and his uncle
Pillerault, who held his arm, felt him shudder inwardly.

"It is too much," said the philosopher to the happy lover; "he can
never carry all the wine you are pouring out to him."

Joy was so vivid in their hearts that each attributed Cesar's emotion
and his stumbling step to the natural intoxication of his feelings,
--natural, but sometimes mortal. When he found himself once more in
his own home, when he saw his salon, his guests, the women in their
ball-dresses, suddenly the heroic measure in the finale of the great
symphony rang forth in his head and heart. Beethoven's ideal music
echoed, vibrated, in many tones, sounding its clarions through the
membranes of the weary brain, of which it was indeed the grand finale.

Oppressed with this inward harmony, Cesar took the arm of his wife and
whispered, in a voice suffocated by a rush of blood that was still
repressed: "I am not well."

Constance, alarmed, led him to her bedroom; he reached it with
difficulty, and fell into a chair, saying: "Monsieur Haudry, Monsieur

The Abbe Loraux came, followed by the guests and the women in their
ball-dresses, who stopped short, a frightened group. In presence of
that shining company Cesar pressed the hand of his confessor and laid
his head upon the bosom of his kneeling wife. A vessel had broken in
his heart, and the rush of blood strangled his last sigh.

"Behold the death of the righteous!" said the Abbe Loraux solemnly,
pointing to Cesar with the divine gesture which Rembrandt gave to
Christ in his picture of the Raising of Lazarus.

Jesus commanded the earth to give up its prey; the priest called
heaven to behold a martyr of commercial honor worthy to receive the
everlasting palm.


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

Bianchon, Horace
  Father Goriot
  The Atheist's Mass
  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
  A Prince of Bohemia
  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

Bidault (known as Gigonnet)
  The Government Clerks
  The Vendetta
  The Firm of Nucingen
  A Daughter of Eve

Birotteau, Cesar
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Birotteau, Abbe Francois
  The Lily of the Valley
  The Vicar of Tours

  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Cousin Pons
  The Muse of the Department
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Camusot de Marville, Madame
  The Vendetta
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Cousin Pons

Cardot, Jean-Jerome-Severin
  A Start in Life
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

  A Prince of Bohemia
  The Middle Classes

Chiffreville, Monsieur and Madame
  The Quest of the Absolute

Claparon, Charles
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Melmoth Reconciled
  The Firm of Nucingen
  A Man of Business
  The Middle Classes

Cochin, Emile-Louis-Lucien-Emmanuel
  The Government Clerks
  The Firm of Nucingen
  The Middle Classes

Cochin, Adolphe
  The Firm of Nucingen

Crevel, Celestin
  Cousin Betty
  Cousin Pons

Crottat, Monsieur and Madame
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life

Crottat, Alexandre
  Colonel Chabert
  A Start in Life
  A Woman of Thirty
  Cousin Pons

Derville, Madame

Desmartes, Jules
  The Thirteen

Desmartes, Madame Jules
  The Thirteen

Finot, Andoche
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Government Clerks
  A Start in Life
  Gaudissart the Great
  The Firm of Nucingen

Fontaine, Comte de
  The Chouans
  Modeste Mignon
  The Ball at Sceaux
  The Government Clerks

Gaudissart, Felix
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Cousin Pons
  Gaudissart the Great

Gobseck, Jean-Esther Van
  Father Goriot
  The Government Clerks
  The Unconscious Humorists

Gobseck, Sarah Van
  The Maranas
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Member for Arcis

Granville, Vicomte de (later Comte)
  The Gondreville Mystery
  A Second Home
  Farewell (Adieu)
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  A Daughter of Eve
  Cousin Pons

  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  A Start in Life
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  The Middle Classes
  Cousin Betty

  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Haudry (doctor)
  The Thirteen
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Seamy Side of History
  Cousin Pons

Keller, Francois
  Domestic Peace
  Eugenie Grandet
  The Government Clerks
  The Member for Arcis

Keller, Adolphe
  The Middle Classes

La Billardiere, Athanase-Jean-Francois-Michel, Baron Flamet de
  The Chouans
  The Government Clerks

Lebas, Joseph
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
  Cousin Betty

Lebas, Madame Joseph (Virginie)
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
  Cousin Betty

Lenoncourt, Duc de
  The Lily of the Valley
  Jealousies of a Country Town
  The Gondreville Mystery

Listomere, Baronne de
  The Vicar of Tours
  The Muse of the Department

Loraux, Abbe
  A Start in Life
  A Bachelor's Establishment

  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

Matifat (wealthy druggist)
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Firm of Nucingen
  Cousin Pons

Matifat, Madame
  The Firm of Nucingen

Matifat, Mademoiselle
  The Firm of Nucingen

Molineux, Jean-Baptiste
  A Second Home
  The Purse

  The Seamy Side of History

Montauran, Marquis Alphonse de
  The Chouans

Nucingen, Baron Frederic de
  The Firm of Nucingen
  Father Goriot
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Another Study of Woman
  The Secrets of a Princess
  A Man of Business
  Cousin Betty
  The Muse of the Department
  The Unconscious Humorists

Nucingen, Baronne Delphine de
  Father Goriot
  The Thirteen
  Eugenie Grandet
  Melmoth Reconciled
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Commission in Lunacy
  Scenes from a Courtesan's Life
  Modeste Mignon
  The Firm of Nucingen
  Another Study of Woman
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Member for Arcis

Palma (banker)
  The Firm of Nucingen
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Ball at Sceaux

Popinot, Jean-Jules
  The Commission in Lunacy
  The Seamy Side of History
  The Middle Classes

Popinot, Anselme
  Gaudissart the Great
  Cousin Pons
  Cousin Betty

Popinot, Madame Anselme
  A Prince of Bohemia
  Cousin Betty
  Cousin Pons

Protez and Chiffreville
  The Quest of the Absolute

Rabourdin, Xavier
  The Government Clerks
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
  The Middle Classes

Ragon, M. and Mme.
  An Episode Under the Terror

  Eugenie Grandet
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  The Vendetta

Roguin, Madame
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
  A Second Home
  A Daughter of Eve

Saillard, Madame
  The Government Clerks

Sommervieux, Madame Theodore de (Augustine)
  At the Sign of the Cat and Racket

  The Vendetta
  Jealousies of a Country Town

  Cousin Pons

Tillet, Ferdinand du
  The Firm of Nucingen
  The Middle Classes
  A Bachelor's Establishment
  Melmoth Reconciled
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  The Secrets of a Princess
  A Daughter of Eve
  The Member for Arcis
  Cousin Betty
  The Unconscious Humorists

Trailles, Comte Maxime de
  Father Goriot
  Ursule Mirouet
  A Man of Business
  The Member for Arcis
  The Secrets of a Princess
  Cousin Betty
  The Unconscious Humorists

Vaillant, Madame
  Facino Cane

Vandenesse, Marquise Charles de
  The Ball at Sceaux
  Ursule Mirouet
  A Daughter of Eve

Vandenesse, Comte Felix de
  The Lily of the Valley
  Lost Illusions
  A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
  Letters of Two Brides
  A Start in Life
  The Marriage Settlement
  The Secrets of a Princess
  Another Study of Woman
  The Gondreville Mystery
  A Daughter of Eve

  The Firm of Nucingen

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