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Title: The Deputy of Arcis
Author: Balzac, Honoré de
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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THE DEPUTY OF ARCIS


By Honore de Balzac



Translated by Katharine Prescott Wormeley



PART I. THE ELECTION



I. ALL ELECTIONS BEGIN WITH A BUSTLE

Before beginning to describe an election in the provinces, it is proper
to state that the town of Arcis-sur-Aube was not the theatre of the
events here related.

The arrondissement of Arcis votes at Bar-sur-Aube, which is forty miles
from Arcis; consequently there is no deputy from Arcis in the Chamber.

Discretion, required in a history of contemporaneous manners and morals,
dictates this precautionary word. It is rather an ingenious contrivance
to make the description of one town the frame for events which happened
in another; and several times already in the course of the Comedy of
Human Life, this means has been employed in spite of its disadvantages,
which consist chiefly in making the frame of as much importance as the
canvas.

Toward the end of the month of April, 1839, about ten o’clock in the
morning, the salon of Madame Marion, widow of a former receiver-general
of the department of the Aube, presented a singular appearance. All
the furniture had been removed except the curtains to the windows,
the ornaments on the fireplace, the chandelier, and the tea-table. An
Aubusson carpet, taken up two weeks before the usual time, obstructed
the steps of the portico, and the floor had been violently rubbed and
polished, though without increasing its usual brightness. All this was
a species of domestic premonition concerning the result of the elections
which were about to take place over the whole surface of France. Often
things are as spiritually intelligent as men,--an argument in favor of
the occult sciences.

The old man-servant of Colonel Giguet, Madame Marion’s older brother,
had just finished dusting the room; the chamber-maid and the cook were
carrying, with an alacrity that denoted an enthusiasm equal to their
attachment, all the chairs of the house, and piling them up in the
garden, where the trees were already unfolding their leaves, through
which the cloudless blue of the sky was visible. The springlike
atmosphere and sun of May allowed the glass door and the two windows of
the oblong salon to be kept open.

An old lady, Madame Marion herself, now ordered the two maids to place
the chairs at one end of the salon, four rows deep, leaving between the
rows a space of about three feet. When this was done, each row presented
a front of ten chairs, all of divers species. A line of chairs was also
placed along the wall, under the windows and before the glass door.
At the other end of the salon, facing the forty chairs, Madame Marion
placed three arm-chairs behind the tea-table, which was covered with a
green cloth, on which she placed a bell.

Old Colonel Giguet arrived on this battle-field at the moment when his
sister bethought herself of filling the empty spaces on either side
of the fireplace with benches from the antechamber, disregarding
the baldness of their velvet covers which had done good service for
twenty-four years.

“We can seat seventy persons,” she said to her brother triumphantly.

“God grant that we may have seventy friends!” replied the colonel.

“If, after receiving every night, for twenty-four years, the whole
society of Arcis-sur-Aube, a single one of my regular visitors fails us
on this occasion--” began the old lady, in a threatening manner.

“Pooh, pooh!” replied the colonel, interrupting his sister, “I’ll name
you ten who cannot and ought not to come. First,” he said, beginning to
count on his fingers, “Antonin Goulard, sub-prefect, for one; Frederic
Marest, _procureur-du-roi_, there’s two; Monsieur Olivier Vinet, his
substitute, three; Monsieur Martener, examining-judge, four; the justice
of peace--”

“But I am not so silly,” said the old lady, interrupting her brother in
her turn, “as to expect office-holders to come to a meeting the object
of which is to give another deputy to the Opposition. For all that,
Antonin Goulard, Simon’s comrade and schoolmate, would be very well
pleased to see him a deputy because--”

“Come, sister, leave our own business of politics to us men. Where is
Simon?”

“He is dressing,” she answered. “He was wise not to breakfast, for he is
very nervous. It is queer that, though he is in the habit of speaking in
court, he dreads this meeting as if he were certain to meet enemies.”

“Faith! I have often had to face masked batteries, and my soul--I won’t
say my body--never quailed; but if I had to stand there,” said the old
soldier, pointing to the tea-table, “and face forty bourgeois gaping
at me, their eyes fixed on mine, and expecting sonorous and correct
phrases, my shirt would be wringing wet before I could get out a word.”

“And yet, my dear father,” said Simon Giguet, entering from the smaller
salon, “you really must make that effort for me; for if there is a
man in the department of the Aube whose voice is all-powerful it is
assuredly you. In 1815--”

“In 1815,” said the little old man, who was wonderfully well preserved,
“I did not have to speak; I simply wrote out a little proclamation
which brought us two thousand men in twenty-four hours. But it is a
very different thing putting my name to a paper which is read by a
department, and standing up before a meeting to make a speech. Napoleon
himself failed there; at the 18th Brumaire he talked nothing but
nonsense to the Five Hundred.”

“But, my dear father,” urged Simon, “it concerns my life, my fortune, my
happiness. Fix your eyes on some one person and think you are talking to
him, and you’ll get through all right.”

“Heavens!” cried Madame Marion, “I am only an old woman, but under
such circumstances and knowing what depends on it, I--oh! I should be
eloquent!”

“Too eloquent, perhaps,” said the colonel. “To go beyond the mark is not
attaining it. But why make so much of all this?” he added, looking at
his son. “It is only within the last two days you have taken up this
candidacy of ideas; well, suppose you are not nominated,--so much the
worse for Arcis, that’s all.”

These words were in keeping with the whole life of him who said them.
Colonel Giguet was one of the most respected officers in the Grand
Army, the foundation of his character being absolute integrity joined to
extreme delicacy. Never did he put himself forward; favors, such as he
received, sought him. For this reason he remained eleven years a mere
captain of the artillery of the Guard, not receiving the rank of major
until 1814. His almost fanatical attachment to Napoleon forbade his
taking service under the Bourbons after the first abdication. In fact,
his devotion in 1815 was such that he would have been banished with so
many others if the Comte de Gondreville had not contrived to have his
name effaced from the ordinance and put on the retired list with a
pension, and the rank of colonel.

Madame Marion, _nee_ Giguet, had another brother who was colonel of
gendarmerie at Troyes, whom she followed to that town at an earlier
period. It was there that she married Monsieur Marion, receiver-general
of the Aube, who also had had a brother, the chief-justice of an
imperial court. While a mere barrister at Arcis this young man had
lent his name during the Terror to the famous Malin de l’Aube, the
representative of the people, in order to hold possession of the estate
of Gondreville. [See “An Historical Mystery.”] Consequently, all the
support and influence of Malin, now become count and senator, was at
the service of the Marion family. The barrister’s brother was made
receiver-general of the department, at a period when, far from having
forty applicants for one place, the government was fortunate in getting
any one to accept such a slippery office.

Marion, the receiver-general, inherited the fortune of his brother the
chief-justice, and Madame Marion that of her brother the colonel of
gendarmerie. In 1814, the receiver-general met with reverses. He died
when the Empire died; but his widow managed to gather fifteen thousand
francs a year from the wreck of his accumulated fortunes. The colonel of
gendarmerie had left his property to his sister on learning the marriage
of his brother the artillery officer to the daughter of a rich banker of
Hamburg. It is well known what a fancy all Europe had for the splendid
troopers of Napoleon!

In 1814, Madame Marion, half-ruined, returned to Arcis, her native
place, where she bought, on the Grande-Place, one of the finest houses
in the town. Accustomed to receive much company at Troyes, where the
receiver-general reigned supreme, she now opened her salon to the
notabilities of the liberal party in Arcis. A woman accustomed to the
advantages of salon royalty does not easily renounce them. Vanity is the
most tenacious of all habits.

Bonapartist, and afterwards a liberal--for, by the strangest of
metamorphoses, the soldiers of Napoleon became almost to a man
enamoured of the constitutional system--Colonel Giguet was, during the
Restoration, the natural president of the governing committee of Arcis,
which consisted of the notary Grevin, his son-in-law Beauvisage, and
Varlet junior, the chief physician of Arcis, brother-in-law of Grevin,
and a few other liberals.

“If our dear boy is not nominated,” said Madame Marion, having first
looked into the antechamber and garden to make sure that no one
overheard her, “he cannot have Mademoiselle Beauvisage; his success in
this election means a marriage with Cecile.”

“Cecile!” exclaimed the old man, opening his eyes very wide and looking
at his sister in stupefaction.

“There is no one but you in the whole department who would forget the
_dot_ and the expectations of Mademoiselle Beauvisage,” said his sister.

“She is the richest heiress in the department of the Aube,” said Simon
Giguet.

“But it seems to me,” said the old soldier, “that my son is not to be
despised as a match; he is your heir, he already has something from his
mother, and I expect to leave him something better than a dry name.”

“All that put together won’t make thirty thousand a year, and suitors
are already coming forward who have as much as that, not counting their
position,” returned Madame Marion.

“And?” asked the colonel.

“They have been refused.”

“Then what do the Beauvisage family want?” said the colonel, looking
alternately at his son and sister.

It may seem extraordinary that Colonel Giguet, the brother of Madame
Marion in whose house the society of Arcis had met for twenty-four
years, and whose salon was the echo of all reports, all scandals, and
all the gossip of the department of the Aube,--a good deal of it being
there manufactured,--should be ignorant of facts of this nature. But his
ignorance will seem natural when we mention that this noble relic of the
Napoleonic legions went to bed at night and rose in the morning with the
chickens, as all old persons should do if they wish to live out their
lives. He was never present at the intimate conversations which went
on in the salon. In the provinces there are two sorts of intimate
conversation,--one, which is held officially when all the company are
gathered together, playing at cards or conversing; the other, which
_simmers_, like a well made soup, when three or four friends remain
around the fireplace, friends who can be trusted to repeat nothing of
what is said beyond their own limits.

For nine years, ever since the triumph of his political ideas, the
colonel had lived almost entirely outside of social life. Rising with
the sun, he devoted himself to horticulture; he adored flowers, and of
all flowers he best loved roses. His hands were brown as those of a real
gardener; he took care himself of his beds. Constantly in conference
with his working gardener he mingled little, especially for the last two
years, with the life of others; of whom, indeed, he saw little. He took
but one meal with the family, namely, his dinner; for he rose too early
to breakfast with his son and sister. To his efforts we owe the famous
rose Giguet, known so well to all amateurs.

This old man, who had now passed into the state of a domestic fetich,
was exhibited, as we may well suppose, on all extraordinary occasions.
Certain families enjoy the benefit of a demi-god of this kind, and plume
themselves upon him as they would upon a title.

“I have noticed,” replied Madame Marion to her brother’s question, “that
ever since the revolution of July Madame Beauvisage has aspired to live
in Paris. Obliged to stay here as long as her father lives, she has
fastened her ambition on a future son-in-law, and my lady dreams now of
the splendors and dignities of political life.”

“Could you love Cecile?” said the colonel to his son.

“Yes, father.”

“And does she like you?”

“I think so; but the thing is, to please the mother and grandfather.
Though old Grevin himself wants to oppose my election, my success would
determine Madame Beauvisage to accept me, because she expects to manage
me as she pleases and to be minister under my name.”

“That’s a good joke!” cried Madame Marion. “What does she take us for?”

“Whom has she refused?” asked the colonel.

“Well, within the last three months, Antonin Goulard and the
_procureur-du-roi_, Frederic Marest, have received, so they say,
equivocal answers which mean anything--_except yes_.”

“Heavens!” cried the old man throwing up his arms. “What days we
live in, to be sure! Why, Lucie was the daughter of a hosier, and the
grand-daughter of a farmer. Does Madame Beauvisage want the Comte de
Cinq-Cygne for a son-in-law?”

“Don’t laugh at Madame Beauvisage, brother. Cecile is rich enough to
choose a husband anywhere, even in the class to which the Cinq-Cygnes
belong. But there’s the bell announcing the electors, and I
disappear--regretting much I can’t hear what you are all going to say.”



II. REVOLT OF A LIBERAL ROTTEN-BOROUGH

Though 1839 is, politically speaking, very distant from 1847, we can
still remember the elections produced by the Coalition, an ephemeral
effort of the Chamber of Deputies to realize the threat of parliamentary
government,--a threat _a la_ Cromwell, which without a Cromwell could
only end, under a prince “the enemy of fraud,” in the triumph of the
present system, by which the Chambers and the ministers are like the
wooden puppets which the proprietor of the Guignolet shows exhibits to
the great satisfaction of wonder-stricken idlers in the streets.

The arrondissement of Arcis-sur-Aube then found itself in a singular
position. It supposed itself free to choose its deputy. From 1816 to
1836 it had always elected one of the heaviest orators of the Left,
belonging to the famous seventeen who were called “Great Citizens” by
the liberal party,--namely, Francois Keller, of the house of Keller
Bros., the son-in-law of the Comte de Gondreville. Gondreville, one of
the most magnificent estates in France, is situated about a mile from
Arcis.

This banker, recently made count and peer of France, expected, no
doubt, to transfer to his son, then thirty years of age, his electoral
succession, in order to make him some day eligible for the peerage.
Already a major on the staff and a great favorite of the prince-royal,
Charles Keller, now a viscount, belonged to the court party of the
citizen-king. The most brilliant future seemed pledged to a young man
enormously rich, full of energy, already remarkable for his devotion to
the new dynasty, the grandson of the Comte de Gondreville, and nephew
of the Marechal de Carigliano; but this election, so necessary to his
future prospects, presented suddenly certain difficulties to overcome.

Since the accession to power of the bourgeois class, Arcis had felt a
vague desire to show itself independent. Consequently, the last election
of Francois Keller had been disturbed by certain republicans, whose red
caps and long beards had not, however, seriously alarmed the bourgeois
of Arcis. By canvassing the country carefully the radical candidate
would be able to secure some thirty or forty votes. A few of the
townspeople, humiliated at seeing their town always treated as a rotten
borough, joined the democrats, though enemies to democracy. In France,
under the system of balloting, politico-chemical products are formed in
which the laws of affinity are reversed.

Now, to elect young Keller in 1839, after having elected his father for
twenty years, would show a monstrous electoral servitude, against which
the pride of the newly enriched bourgeoisie revolved, for they felt
themselves to be fully worth either Monsieur Malin, otherwise called
Comte de Gondreville, the Keller Bros., the Cinq-Cygnes, or even, the
King of the French.

The numerous partisans of old Gondreville, the king of the department
of the Aube, were therefore awaiting some fresh proof of his ability,
already so thoroughly tested, to circumvent this rising revolt. In order
not to compromise the influence of his family in the arrondissement of
Arcis, that old statesman would doubtless propose for candidate some
young man who could be induced to accept an official function and then
yield his place to Charles Keller,--a parliamentary arrangement which
renders the elect of the people subject to re-election.

When Simon Giguet sounded the old notary Grevin, the faithful friend of
the Comte de Gondreville, on the subject of the elections, the old
man replied that, while he did not know the intentions of the Comte de
Gondreville, he should himself vote for Charles Keller and employ his
influence for that election.

As soon as this answer of old Grevin had circulated through Arcis, a
reaction against him set in. Although for thirty years this provincial
Aristides possessed the confidence of the whole town,--having been
mayor of Arcis from 1804 to 1814 and again during the Hundred Days,--and
although the Opposition had accepted him as their leader until the
triumph of 1830, at which period he refused the honors of the mayoralty
on the ground of his great age, and finally, although the town, in order
to manifest its affection for him, elected his son-in-law, Monsieur
Beauvisage, mayor in his stead, it now revolted against him and some
young striplings went so far as to talk of his dotage. The partisans of
Simon Giguet then turned to Phileas Beauvisage, the mayor, and won him
over the more easily to their side because, without having quarrelled
with his father-in-law, he assumed an independence of him which had
ended in coldness,--an independence that the sly old notary allowed him
to maintain, seeing in it an excellent means of action on the town of
Arcis.

The mayor, questioned the evening before in the open street, declared
positively that he should cast his vote for the first-comer on the list
of eligibles rather than give it to Charles Keller, for whom, however,
he had a high esteem.

“Arcis shall be no longer a rotten borough!” he said, “or I’ll emigrate
to Paris.”

Flatter the passions of the moment and you will always be a hero, even
at Arcis-sur-Aube.

“Monsieur le maire,” said everybody, “gives noble proof of his firmness
of character.”

Nothing progresses so rapidly as a legal revolt. That evening
Madame Marion and her friends organized for the morrow a meeting of
“independent electors” in the interests of Simon Giguet, the colonel’s
son. The morrow had now come and had turned the house topsy-turvy to
receive the friends on whose independence the leaders of the movement
counted. Simon Giguet, the native-born candidate of a little town
jealously desirous to elect a son of its own, had, as we have seen, put
to profit this desire; and yet, the whole prosperity and fortune of the
Giguet family were the work of the Comte de Gondreville. But when it
comes to an election, what are sentiments!

This Scene is written for the information of countries so unfortunate
as not to know the blessings of national representation, and which are,
therefore, ignorant by what intestinal convulsions, what Brutus-like
sacrifices, a little town gives birth to a deputy. Majestic but natural
spectacle, which may, indeed, be compared with that of childbirth,--the
same throes, the same impurities, the same lacerations, the same final
triumph!

It may be asked why an only son, whose fortune was sufficient, should
be, like Simon Giguet, an ordinary barrister in a little country town
where barristers are pretty nearly useless. A word about the candidate
is therefore necessary.

Colonel Giguet had had, between 1806 and 1813, by his wife who died in
1814, three children, the eldest of whom, Simon, alone survived. Until
he became an only child, Simon was brought up as a youth to whom the
exercise of a profession would be necessary. And about the time he
became by the death of his brothers the family heir, the young man met
with a serious disappointment. Madame Marion had counted much, for her
nephew, on the inheritance of his grandfather the banker of Hamburg. But
when that old German died in 1826, he left his grandson Giguet a paltry
two thousand francs a year. The worthy banker, endowed with great
procreative powers, having soothed the worries of business by the
pleasures of paternity, favored the families of eleven other children
who surrounded him, and who made him believe, with some appearance of
justice, that Simon Giguet was already a rich man.

Besides all this, the colonel was bent on giving his son an independent
position, and for this reason: the Giguets could not expect any
government favors under the Restoration. Even if Simon had not been the
son of an ardent Bonapartist, he belonged to a family whose members had
justly incurred the animosity of the Cinq-Cygne family, owing to
the part which Giguet, the colonel of gendarmerie, and the Marions,
including Madame Marion, had taken as witnesses on the famous trial of
the Messieurs de Simeuse, unjustly condemned in 1805 for the abduction
of the Comte de Gondreville, then senator, and formerly representative
of the people, who had despoiled the Cinq-Cygne family of their
property. [See “An Historical Mystery.”]

Grevin was not only one of the most important witnesses at that trial,
but he was one of the chief promoters of the prosecution. That affair
divides to this day the arrondissement of Arcis into two parties; one of
which declares the innocence of the condemned; the other standing by the
Comte de Gondreville and his adherents. Though, under the Restoration,
the Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne used all the influence the return of the
Bourbons gave her to arrange things as she wished in the department
of the Aube, the Comte de Gondreville contrived to counterbalance this
Cinq-Cygne royalty by the secret authority he wielded over the liberals
of the town through the notary Grevin, Colonel Giguet, his son-in-law
Keller (always elected deputy in spite of the Cinq-Cygnes), and also by
the credit he maintained, as long as Louis XVIII. lived, in the counsels
of the crown. It was not until after the death of that king that the
Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne was able to get Michu appointed judge of the
court of assizes in Arcis. She desired of all things to obtain this
place for the son of the steward who had perished on the scaffold
at Troyes, the victim of his devotion to the Simeuse family, whose
full-length portrait always hung in her salon, whether in Paris or at
Cinq-Cygne. Until 1823 the Comte de Gondreville had possessed sufficient
power over Louis XVIII. to prevent this appointment of Michu.

It was by the advice of the Comte de Gondreville that Colonel Giguet
made his son a lawyer. Simon had all the more opportunity of shining
at the bar in the arrondissement of Arcis because he was the only
barrister, solicitors pleading their own cases in these petty
localities. The young man had really secured certain triumphs in the
court of assizes of the Aube, but he was none the less an object of
derision to Frederic Marest, _procureur-du-roi_, Olivier Vinet, the
substitute _procureur_, and the judge, Michu,--the three best minds in
the court.

Simon Giguet, like other men, paid goodly tribute to the mighty power of
ridicule that pursued him. He liked to hear himself talk, and he talked
on all occasions; he solemnly delivered himself of dry and long-winded
sentences which passed for eloquence among the upper bourgeoisie of
Arcis. The poor fellow belonged to that species of bore which desires
to explain everything, even the simplest thing. He explained rain; he
explained the revolution of July; he explained things impenetrable; he
explained Louis-Philippe, Odilon Barrot, Monsieur Thiers, the Eastern
Question; he explained Champagne; he explained 1788; he explained the
tariff of custom houses and humanitarians, magnetism and the economy of
the civil list.

This lean young man, with a bilious skin, tall enough to justify his
sonorous nullity (for it is rare that a tall man does not have eminent
faculties of some kind) outdid the puritanism of the votaries of the
extreme Left, all of them so sensitive, after the manner of prudes who
have their intrigues to hide. Dressed invariably in black, he wore a
white cravat which came down low on his chest, so that his face seemed
to issue from a horn of white paper, for the collar of his shirt was
high and stiff after a fashion now, fortunately, exploded. His trousers
and his coats were always too large for him. He had what is called
in the provinces dignity; that is to say, he was stiffly erect and
pompously dull in manner. His friend, Antonin Goulard, accused him of
imitating Monsieur Dupin. And in truth, the young barrister was apt to
wear shoes and stout socks of black filoselle.

Protected by the respect that every one bore to his father, and by
the influence exercised by his aunt over a little town whose principal
inhabitants had frequented her salon for many years, Simon Giguet,
possessing already ten thousand francs a year, not counting the fees
of his profession and the fortune his aunt would not fail to leave him,
felt no doubt of his election. Nevertheless, the first sound of the bell
announcing the arrival of the most influential electors echoed in the
heart of the ambitious aspirant and filled it with vague fears. Simon
did not conceal from himself the cleverness and the immense resources
of old Grevin, nor the prestige attending the means that would surely be
employed by the ministry to promote the candidacy of a young and dashing
officer then in Africa, attached to the staff of the prince-royal.

“I think,” he said to his father, “that I have the colic; I feel a
warmth at the pit of my stomach that makes me very uneasy.”

“Old soldiers,” replied the colonel, “have the same feeling when they
hear the cannon beginning to growl at the opening of a battle.”

“What will it be in the Chamber!” said the barrister.

“The Comte de Gondreville told me,” said the old colonel, “that he has
known more than one orator affected with the qualms which precede, even
with us old fire-eaters, the opening of a battle. But all this is
idle talk. You want to be a deputy,” added the old man, shrugging his
shoulders, “then be one!”

“Father, the real triumph will be Cecile! Cecile has an immense fortune.
Now-a-days an immense fortune means power.”

“Dear me! how times have changed! Under the Emperor men had to be
brave.”

“Each epoch is summed up in a phrase,” said Simon, recalling an
observation of the Comte de Gondreville, which paints that personage
well. He remarked: “Under the Empire, when it was desirable to destroy a
man, people said, ‘He is a coward.’ To-day we say, ‘He is a cheat.’”

“Poor France! where are they leading you?” cried the colonel; “I shall
go back to my roses.”

“Oh, stay, father! You are the keystone of the arch.”



III. OPPOSITION DEFINES ITSELF

The mayor, Monsieur Phileas Beauvisage, was the first to present
himself, accompanied by the successor of his father-in-law, the
busiest notary in town, Achille Pigoult, grandson of an old man who
had continued justice of the peace in Arcis during the Revolution, the
Empire, and the Restoration. Achille Pigoult, thirty-two years of age,
had been eighteen years a clerk in Grevin’s office with no means of
becoming himself a notary. His father, son of the justice of peace, had
died of a so-called apoplexy, having gone wrong in business.

The Comte de Gondreville, however, with whom old Pigoult had relations
dating back to 1793, lent money for the necessary security, and thus
enabled the grandson of the judge who made the first examination in the
Simeuse case to buy the practice of his master, Grevin. Achille had
set up his office in the Place de l’Eglise, in a house belonging to the
Comte de Gondreville, which the latter had leased to him at so low a
price that any one could see how desirous that crafty politician was to
hold the leading notary of Arcis in the hollow of his hand.

Young Pigoult, a short, skinny man, whose eyes seemed to pierce the
green spectacles which could not modify the spitefulness of his glance,
well-informed as to all the interests of the neighborhood, owing his
aptitude in managing affairs to a certain facility of speech, passed
for what is called a _quizzer_, saying things plainly and with more
cleverness than the aborigines could put into their conversations. Still
a bachelor, he was awaiting a rich marriage through the offices of
his two protectors, Grevin and the Comte de Gondreville. Consequently,
barrister Giguet was not a little surprised on seeing Achille appear at
the meeting in company with Monsieur Phileas Beauvisage.

The notary, whose face was so seamed by the smallpox that it seemed to
be covered with a white net, formed a perfect contrast to the rotund
person of the mayor, whose face resembled a full moon, but a warm
and lively moon; its tones of lily and of rose being still further
brightened by a gracious smile, the result not so much of a disposition
of the soul as of that formation of the lips for which the word
“simpering” seems to have been created. Phileas Beauvisage was endowed
with so great a contentment with himself that he smiled on all the world
and under all circumstances. Those simpering lips smiled at a funeral.
The liveliness that abounded in his infantine blue eyes did not
contradict that perpetual and well-nigh intolerable smile.

This internal satisfaction passed all the more readily for benevolence
and affability, because Phileas had made himself a language of his own,
remarkable for its immoderate use of the formulas of politeness. He
always “had the honor”; to all his inquiries as to the health of absent
persons he added the adjectives “dear,” “good,” “excellent.” He lavished
condoling or congratulatory phrases apropos of all the petty miseries
and all the little felicities of life. He concealed under a deluge of
commonplaces his native incapacity, his total want of education, and
a weakness of character which can only be expressed by the old word
“weathercock.” Be not uneasy: the weathercock had for its axis the
beautiful Madame Beauvisage, Severine Grevin, the most remarkable woman
in the arrondissement.

When Severine heard of what she called her husband’s “freak” as to
the election, she said to him on the morning of the meeting at Madame
Marion’s:--

“It was well enough to give yourself an air of independence; but you
mustn’t go to that Giguet meeting unless Achille Pigoult accompanies
you; I’ve told him to come and take you.”

Giving Achille Pigoult as mentor to Beauvisage meant sending a spy from
the Gondreville party to the Giguet assemblage. We may therefore imagine
the grimace which contracted the puritan visage of Simon, who was
forced to welcome graciously an _habitue_ of his aunt’s salon and an
influential elector, in whom, nevertheless, he saw an enemy.

“Ah!” he thought to himself, “what a mistake I made in refusing him
that security when he asked for it! Old Gondreville had more sense than
I--Good-day to you, Achille,” he said, assuming a jaunty manner; “I
suppose you mean to trip me up.”

“Your meeting isn’t a conspiracy against the independence of our votes,”
 replied the notary, smiling. “We are all playing above-board, I take
it.”

“Above-board,” echoed Beauvisage.

And the mayor began to laugh with that expressionless laugh by which
some persons end all their sentences; which may, perhaps, be called the
_ritornello_ of their conversation. After which he placed himself in
what we must describe as his third position, standing full-front, his
chest expanded, and his hands behind his back. He was dressed in black
coat and trousers, with an effulgent white waistcoat, opened in such a
way as to show two diamond shirt-buttons worth several thousand francs.

“We shall fight, but we shall not be the less good friends,” he said.
“That is the essence of constitutional morals; he! he! he! That is how
_I_ understand the alliance of monarchy with liberty; ha! ha! ha!”

Whereupon the mayor took Simon’s hand, saying:

“How are you, my good friend? Your dear aunt and our worthy colonel
are no doubt as well to-day as they were yesterday,--that is, I presume
so,--he! he! he!” adding, with an air of perfect beatitude, “perhaps a
little agitated by the ceremony now about to take place. Ha! ha! young
man; so we intend to enter a political career? Ha! ha! ha! This is our
first step--mustn’t step back--it is a great career. I’d rather it were
you than I to rush into the storms and tempests of the legislative body,
hi! hi!--however agreeable it may be to see that body in our own person,
hi! hi! hi!--the sovereign power of France in one four hundred and
fifty-third! Hi! hi! hi!”

The vocal organ of Phileas Beauvisage had an agreeable sonority
altogether in harmony with the leguminous curves of his face (of the
color of a light yellow pumpkin), his solid back, and his broadly
expanded chest. That voice, bass in volume, could soften to a baritone
and utter, in the giggle with which Phileas ended his phrases, a silvery
note. When God desired, in order to place all species of mankind in this
his terrestrial paradise, to create within it a provincial bourgeois,
his hands never made a more perfect and complete type than Phileas
Beauvisage.

“I admire,” said that great work, “the devotion of those who fling
themselves into the tumult of political life; he! he! he! It takes more
nerve than I possess. Who could have told us in 1812 or 1813 that we
should come to this? As for me, nothing can surprise me in these days,
when asphalt, India-rubber, railroads, and steam have changed the ground
we tread on, and overcoats, and distances, he, he!”

These last words were seasoned with a prolonged laugh, and accompanied
by a gesture which he had made more especially his own: he closed his
right fist, struck it into the rounded palm of his left hand, and rubbed
it there with joyous satisfaction. This performance coincided with his
laughs on the frequent occasions when he thought he had said a witty
thing. Perhaps it is superfluous to add that Phileas Beauvisage was
regarded in Arcis as an amiable and charming man.

“I shall endeavor,” replied Simon Giguet, “to worthily represent--”

“The sheep of Champagne,” interpolated Achille Pigoult, interrupting
him.

The candidate swallowed that shaft without reply, for he was forced at
that moment to go forward and receive two more influential electors.

One was the landlord of the Mulet, the best inn in Arcis, standing
on the Grande-Place at the corner of the rue de Brienne. This worthy
landlord, named Poupart, had married the sister of a man-servant
attached to the Comtesse de Cinq-Cygne, the well-known Gothard, one of
the actors and witnesses in the Simeuse affair.

Poupart, though a most devoted adherent of the Cinq-Cygne family, had
been sounded during the last day or two, by Colonel Giguet’s valet,
with so much cleverness and perseverance that he thought he was doing an
ill-turn to the Comte de Gondreville, the enemy of the Cinq-Cygnes, by
giving his influence to the election of Simon Giguet; and he was now
conversing on that point with the man who accompanied him, an apothecary
named Fromaget, who, as he did not furnish his wares to the chateau de
Gondreville, desired nothing better than to cabal against the Kellers.

These two individuals of the lesser bourgeoisie could, in consequence
of their connections, determine a certain number of floating votes, for
they influenced and advised a number of persons to whom the political
opinions of the candidate were a matter of indifference. Consequently,
Simon took possession of Poupart, and delivered the apothecary Fromaget
to his father, who had just come in to make his bow to the electors.

The sub-engineer of the arrondissement, the secretary of the mayor’s
office, four sheriffs, three solicitors, the clerk of the court, and
the clerk of the justice of the peace, the registry-clerk, and the
tax-collector, all officials under government, two doctors, rivals of
Varlet, Grevin’s brother-in-law, a miller named Laurent Goussard, the
head of the republicans of Arcis, the two assistant mayors, the printer
and publisher of Arcis, and about a dozen other bourgeois arrived in
succession, and walked about the garden until the gathering seemed
numerous enough to admit of opening the session.

At length, about mid-day, fifty men, all in their best clothes,--most of
them having come out of curiosity to see the handsome salons which were
much talked of throughout the arrondissement,--were seated on the chairs
Madame Marion had provided for them. The windows were left open, and
presently so deep a silence reigned that the rustle of Madame Marion’s
gown was heard,--that good woman not being able to resist the pleasure
of descending to the garden and placing herself in a corner whence she
could listen to what went on in the salon. The cook, the chamber-maid,
and the man-servant stood in the dining-room and shared the emotions of
their masters.

“Messieurs,” said Simon Giguet, “some among you desire to honor my
father by asking him to preside at this meeting; but Colonel Giguet
requests me to present his thanks, and express due gratitude for a
desire in which he sees a reward for his services to the country. We are
in his house; he thinks he ought, therefore, to decline those functions,
and he desires to propose in his stead an honorable merchant on whom
your suffrages have already bestowed the chief magistracy of this town,
Monsieur Phileas Beauvisage.”

“Bravo! bravo!”

“We are, I think, all of one mind in adopting for this
meeting--essentially friendly, but entirely free, which will prejudice
in no way whatever the great preparatory and primary meeting in which
you will produce your candidates and weigh their merits--in adopting, as
I said, the parliamentary and constitutional--forms--of the--electoral
Chamber.”

“Yes, yes!” cried the assembly with one voice.

“Consequently,” continued Simon, “I have the honor to request, according
to the wish of all present, that his honor the mayor will now take the
chair.”

Phileas rose and crossed the salon, conscious that he was becoming as
red as a cherry. Then, when he stood behind the table, he saw, not a
hundred eyes, but a hundred thousand candles. The sun seemed to him to
be setting fire to the salon, and he had, to use his own expression, a
lump of salt in his throat.

“Return thanks,” said Simon, in a low voice.

“Messieurs--”

Such total silence ensued that Phileas had a spasm of colic.

“What must I say, Simon?” he whispered.

“Well, well!” exclaimed Achille Pigoult.

“Messieurs,” said Simon, goaded by the sarcastic interjection of the
little notary, “the honor which you have done to Monsieur le Maire may
take him unawares, but it cannot surprise him.”

“That’s it,” said Beauvisage; “I am too sensible of this attention on
the part of my fellow-citizens not to be excessively flattered by it.”

“Bravo!” cried the notary alone.

“The devil take me!” thought Beauvisage, “if I am ever caught haranguing
again.”

“Will Messieurs Fromaget and Marcelin accept the functions of inspectors
of the ballot?”

“It would be more regular,” said Achille Pigoult, rising, “if the
meeting itself nominated those officers,--following, of course, the
parliamentary forms of the Chamber.”

“That is best,” said the huge Monsieur Mollot, clerk of the court;
“otherwise what is here taking place would be a mere farce; we should
not be free in our action, in which case we might as well continue to do
the will of Monsieur Simon Giguet.”

Simon said a few words to Beauvisage, who rose and delivered himself of
a “Messieurs!” in palpitating tones.

“Pardon me, Monsieur le president,” said Achille Pigoult, “the chairman
presides, he does not speak.”

“Messieurs,” continued Beauvisage, prompted by Simon, “if we
are--to conform--to parliamentary usage--I shall beg--the honorable
gentleman--Monsieur Pigoult--to address the meeting--from this
table--here present--”

Pigoult sprang to the table, stood beside it with his fingers resting
lightly on its edge, and gave proof of his boldness by delivering the
following speech without the slightest embarrassment, and somewhat after
the manner of the illustrious Monsieur Thiers.

“Messieurs, it was not I who made that proposal for parliamentary
usage; nevertheless I can conceive that an assemblage of some sixty
notabilities of Champagne needs a chairman to guide it; for no flock can
get on without a shepherd. If we had voted for secret balloting, I am
certain that the name of our excellent mayor would have been returned
unanimously. His opposition to the candidate put forward by his
relations proves to us that he possesses civic courage in the highest
degree, inasmuch as he has dared to free himself from the closest
ties--those of family. Patriotism before family! that is indeed so great
an effort that, to make it, we are forced to believe that Brutus from
his realm of justice still contemplates us after the lapse of two
thousand, five hundred and some years. It seemed natural to Maitre
Giguet, who had the merit of divining our wishes in the choice of a
chairman, to guide us still further in electing inspectors; but, if I am
not mistaken, you think with me that once is enough--and you are
right. Our mutual friend, Simon Giguet, who intends to offer himself
as candidate, would have the air of assuming mastery, and he might,
consequently, lose in our minds the good-will we should otherwise bestow
upon a modest attitude like that of his venerable father. Now what is
our worthy chairman doing at this moment by accepting the method of
presiding suggested to him by the candidate? He is depriving us of our
liberty! I ask you: is it proper that the chairman of our choice should
tell us to nominate, by rising or sitting, inspectors of the ballot thus
forced upon us? Have we any liberty of choice? If I were proposed, I
believe all present would rise out of politeness; indeed, we should all
feel bound to rise for one another, and I say there can be no choice
where there is no freedom of action.”

“He is right,” said the sixty auditors.

“Therefore, let us each write two names on a ballot, and the two
gentlemen who are elected will then feel themselves the real choice of
this assembly; they will have the right, conjointly with our honorable
chairman, to pronounce upon the majority when we come to a vote on
the resolutions to be offered. We are here, I think, to promise to a
candidate the fullest support that each can give at the coming
primary meeting of all the electors of the arrondissement. This act is
therefore, and I so declare it, a grave one. Does it not concern one
four-hundredth part of the governing power,--as our excellent mayor has
lately said with the ready wit that characterizes him and for which we
have so high an appreciation?”

During these remarks Colonel Giguet was cutting a sheet of paper into
strips, and Simon had sent for pens and ink.

This preliminary discussion on forms had already made Simon extremely
uneasy, and had also aroused the attention of the sixty assembled
bourgeois. Presently they began to write their ballots, and the wily
Pigoult contrived to obtain a majority for Monsieur Mollot, the clerk of
the court, and Monsieur Godivet, the registrar. These nominations were
naturally very displeasing to Fromaget, the apothecary, and Marcelin the
solicitor.

“You enable us,” said Achille Pigoult, “to manifest our independence.
Therefore you may feel more pride in being rejected than you could have
felt in being chosen.”

Everybody laughed.

Simon Giguet then produced silence by demanding speech of the chairman,
whose shirt was already wet and became still wetter as he mustered all
his courage to say:--

“Monsieur Simon Giguet has the floor.”



IV. THE FIRST PARLIAMENTARY TEMPEST

“Messieurs,” said Simon Giguet, “I ask permission to thank Monsieur
Achille Pigoult, who, although our meeting is altogether friendly--”

“It is a meeting preparatory to the great primary meeting,” said the
solicitor Marcelin.

“That is what I was about to explain,” resumed Simon, “I thank Monsieur
Achille Pigoult for having insisted on the strictness of parliamentary
forms. This is the first time that the arrondissement of Arcis has been
at liberty to use--”

“At liberty!” said Pigoult, interrupting the orator.

“At liberty!” cried the assembly.

“At liberty,” continued Simon Giguet, “to use its rights in the great
battle of a general election to the Chamber of Deputies; and as, in
a few days, we shall have a meeting, at which all electors will be
present, to judge of the merits of the candidates, we ought to feel
ourselves most fortunate in becoming accustomed here, in this limited
meeting, to the usages of great assemblies. We shall be all the more
able to decide the political future of the town of Arcis; for the
question now is to substitute a town’s interests for family interests, a
whole region for a man.”

Simon then reviewed the history of the Arcis elections for the last
twenty years. While approving the constant election of Francois Keller,
he said the moment had now come to shake off the yoke of the house of
Gondreville. Arcis ought to be no more a fief of the liberals than a
fief of the Cinq-Cygnes. Advanced opinions were arising in France of
which the Kellers were not the exponents. Charles Keller, having become
a viscount, belonged to the court; he could have no independence,
because, in presenting him as candidate, his family thought much more
of making him succeed to his father’s peerage than of benefiting his
constituency as deputy, etc., etc. And, finally, Simon presented himself
to the choice of his fellow-citizens, pledging his word to sit on the
same bench with the illustrious Odilon Barrot, and never to desert the
glorious flag of Progress.

_Progress_! one of those words behind which more flimsy ambitions than
ideas were trying to group themselves; for, after 1830, it represented
only the pretensions of a few hungry democrats. Nevertheless, this word
had still a great effect upon Arcis, and gave stability to whosoever
might inscribe it on his banner. To call himself a man of progress
was to declare himself a philosopher in all things and a puritan
in politics; it declared him in favor of railroads, mackintoshes,
penitentiaries, wooden pavements, Negro freedom, savings-banks, seamless
shoes, lighting by gas, asphalt pavements, universal suffrage, and
reduction of the civil list. In short, it meant pronouncing himself
against the treaties of 1815, against the Eldest Branch, against the
colossus of the North, perfidious Albion, against all enterprises, good
or bad, of the government. Thus we see that the word _progress_ might
signify “No,” as well as “Yes.” It was gilding put upon the word
_liberalism_, a new pass-word for new ambitions.

“If I have rightly understood what this meeting is for,” said Jean
Violette, a stocking-maker, who had recently bought the Beauvisage
house, “it is to pledge ourselves to support, by employing every means
in our power, Monsieur Simon Giguet at the elections as deputy in place
of Comte Francois Keller. If each of us intends to coalesce in this
manner we have only to say plainly Yes or No on that point.”

“That is going too quickly to the point! Political affairs do not
advance in that way, or there would be no politics at all!” cried
Pigoult, whose old grandfather, eighty-six years old, had just entered
the room. “The last speaker undertakes to decide what seems to me,
according to my feeble lights, the very object we are met to discuss. I
demand permission to speak.”

“Monsieur Achille Pigoult has the floor,” said Beauvisage, at last
able to pronounce that phrase with all his municipal and constitutional
dignity.

“Messieurs,” said the notary, “if there is a house in Arcis in which
no voice should be raised against the influence of the Comte de
Gondreville, it is surely the one we are now in. The worthy Colonel
Giguet is the only person in it who has not sought the benefits of the
senatorial power; he, at least, has never asked anything of the Comte de
Gondreville, who took his name off the list of exiles in 1815 and caused
him to receive the pension which the colonel now enjoys without lifting
a finger to obtain it.”

A murmur, flattering to the old soldier, greeted this observation.

“But,” continued the orator, “the Marions are covered with the count’s
benefits. Without that influence, the late Colonel Giguet would not have
commanded the gendarmerie of the Aube. The late Monsieur Marion would
not have been chief-justice of the Imperial court without the protection
of the count, to whom I myself have every reason to be thankful. You
will therefore think it natural that I should be his advocate within
these walls. There are, indeed, few persons in this arrondissement who
have not received benefits from that family.”

[Murmurs.]

“A candidate puts himself in the stocks,” continued Achille Pigoult,
warming up. “I have the right to scrutinize his life before I invest him
with my powers. I do not desire ingratitude in the delegate I may
help to send to the Chamber, for ingratitude is like misfortune--one
ingratitude leads to others. We have been, he tells us, the
stepping-stone of the Kellers; well, from what I have heard here, I am
afraid we may become the stepping-stone of the Giguets. We live in a
practical age, do we not? Well, then, let us examine into what will be
the results to the arrondissement of Arcis if Simon Giguet is elected.
They talk to you of independence! Simon, whom I thus maltreat as
candidate, is my personal friend, as he is that of all who hear me, and
I should myself be charmed to see him the orator of the Left, seated
between Garnier-Pages and Lafitte; but how would that benefit the
arrondissement? The arrondissement would lose the support of the Comte
de Gondreville and the Kellers. We all, in the course of five years,
have had and shall have need of the one and of the others. Some have
gone to the Marechale de Carigliano to obtain the release of a young
fellow who had drawn a bad number. Others have had recourse to the
influence of the Kellers in many matters which are decided according to
their recommendation. We have always found the old Comte de Gondreville
ready to do us service. It is enough to belong to Arcis to obtain
admission to him without being forced to kick our heels in his
antechamber. Those two families know every one in Arcis. Where is the
financial influence of the Giguets, and what power have they with the
ministry? Have they any standing at the Bourse? When we want to replace
our wretched wooden bridge with one of stone can they obtain from the
department and the State the necessary funds? By electing Charles Keller
we shall cement a bond of friendship which has never, to this day,
failed to do us service. By electing my good, my excellent schoolmate,
my worthy friend Simon Giguet, we shall realize nothing but losses until
the far-distant time when he becomes a minister. I know his modesty well
enough to be certain he will not contradict me when I say that I doubt
his election to the post of deputy.” [Laughter.] “I have come to
this meeting to oppose a course which I regard as fatal to our
arrondissement. Charles Keller belongs to the court, they say to me.
Well, so much the better! we shall not have to pay the costs of his
political apprenticeship; he knows the affairs of the country; he knows
parliamentary necessities; he is much nearer being a statesman than
my friend Simon, who will not pretend to have made himself a Pitt or a
Talleyrand in a little town like Arcis--”

“Danton went from it!” cried Colonel Giguet, furious at Achille’s speech
and the justice of it.

“Bravo!”

This was an acclamation, and sixty persons clapped their hands.

“My father has a ready wit,” whispered Simon Giguet to Beauvisage.

“I do not understand why, apropos of an election,” continued the old
colonel, rising suddenly, with the blood boiling in his face, “we
should be hauled up for the ties which connect us with the Comte de
Gondreville. My son’s fortune comes from his mother; he has asked
nothing of the Comte de Gondreville. The comte might never have existed
and Simon would have been what he now is,--the son of a colonel of
artillery who owes his rank to his services; a man whose opinions have
never varied. I should say openly to the Comte de Gondreville if he were
present: ‘We have elected your son-in-law for twenty years; to-day we
wish to prove that in so doing we acted of our own free-will, and we now
elect a man of Arcis, in order to show that the old spirit of 1789, to
which you owe your fortune, still lives in the land of Danton, Malin,
Grevin, Pigoult, Marion--That is all!”

And the old man sat down. Whereupon a great hubbub arose. Achille opened
his mouth to reply. Beauvisage, who would not have thought himself
chairman unless he had rung his bell, increased the racket, and called
for silence. It was then two o’clock.

“I shall take the liberty to observe to the honorable Colonel Giguet,
whose feelings are easily understood, that he took upon himself to
speak, which is against parliamentary usage,” said Achille Pigoult.

“I think it is not necessary to call the colonel to order,” said the
chairman. “He is a father--”

Silence was re-established.

“We did not come here,” cried Fromaget, “to say Amen to everything the
Messieurs Giguet, father and son, may wish--”

“No! no!” cried the assembly.

“Things are going badly,” said Madame Marion to her cook in the garden.

“Messieurs,” resumed Achille, “I confine myself to asking my friend
Simon Giguet, categorically, what he expects to do for our interests.”

“Yes! yes!” cried the assembly.

“Since when,” demanded Simon Giguet, “have good citizens like those of
Arcis made trade and barter of the sacred mission of deputy?”

It is impossible to represent the effect produced by noble sentiments on
a body of men. They will applaud fine maxims, while they none the less
vote for the degradation of their country, like the galley-slave who
shouted for the punishment of Robert Macaire when he saw the thing
played, and then went off and killed his own Monsieur Germeuil.

“Bravo!” cried several true-blood Giguet electors.

“You will send me to the Chamber,” went on Simon, “if you do send me, to
represent principles, the principles of 1789; to be one of the ciphers,
if you choose, of the Opposition, but a cipher that votes with it to
enlighten the government, make war against abuses, and promote progress
in all things--”

“What do you call progress?” asked Fromaget. “For us, progress means
getting the waste lands of la Champagne under cultivation.”

“Progress! I will explain to you what I mean by that,” cried Giguet,
exasperated by the interruption.

“It is the frontier of the Rhine for France,” put in the colonel, “and
the destruction of the treaties of 1815.”

“It is selling wheat dear and keeping bread cheap,” cried Achille
Pigoult sarcastically, thinking that he made a joke, but actually
expressing one of the delusions that reign in France.

“It is the happiness of all, obtained by the triumph of humanitarian
doctrines,” continued Simon.

“What did I tell you?” said Achille to his neighbors.

“Hush! silence! let us listen!” said various voices.

“Messieurs,” said the stout Mollot, smiling, “the debate is beginning;
give your attention to the orator; and let him explain himself.”

“In all transitional epochs, Messieurs,” continued Simon, gravely, “and
we are now in such an epoch--”

“Ba-a-a! ba-a-a!” bleated a friend of Achille Pigoult, who possessed the
faculty (precious at elections) of ventriloquism.

A roar of laughter came from the whole assembly, who were Champagnards
before all else. Simon Giguet folded his arms and waited till the tumult
subsided.

“If it was intended to give me a lesson,” he resumed, “and to tell me
that I belong to the flock of the glorious defenders of the rights of
humanity, the flock of the immortal priest who pleads for dying Poland,
the daring pamphleteers, the scrutinizers of the civil test, the
philosophers who demand sincerity in the working of our institutions, if
that was the intention of my nameless interrupter, I thank him. To
me, progress is the realization of all that was promised to us by the
revolution of July; it is electoral reform, it is--”

“What! are you a democrat?” said Achille Pigoult.

“No,” replied the candidate. “To desire the legitimate and regular
development of our institutions, is that being a democrat? To me,
progress is fraternity re-established between the members of the great
French family. We cannot conceal from ourselves that many sufferings--”

At three o’clock Simon Giguet was still explaining Progress, accompanied
by the rhythmic snores of various electors which denoted a sound
sleep. The malicious Achille Pigoult had urged all present to listen
religiously to the young orator, who was now floundering in his phrases
and paraphrases hopelessly at random.



V. THE PERPLEXITIES OF THE GOVERNMENT IN ARCIS

At this moment several groups of bourgeois, electors and non-electors,
were standing before the Chateau d’Arcis, the iron gates of which open
on the square near to the door of Madame Marion’s house. This square
is a piece of open ground from which issue several roads and several
streets. In it is a covered market. Opposite to the chateau, on the
other side of the square, which is neither paved nor macadamized, and
where the rain has made various little gutters, is a fine esplanade,
called the Avenue of Sighs. Is that to the honor or to the blame of the
leaders of the town? This singular ambibology is no doubt a stroke of
native wit.

Two handsome side avenues, planted with lindens, lead from the square
to a circular boulevard which forms another promenade, though usually
deserted, where more dirt and rubbish than promenaders may commonly be
seen.

At the height of the discussion which Achille Pigoult was dramatizing
with a coolness and courage worthy of a member of a real parliament,
four personages were walking down one of the linden avenues which led
from the Avenue of Sighs. When they reached the square, they stopped as
if by common consent, and looked at the inhabitants of Arcis, who were
humming before the chateau like so many bees before returning to their
hives at night. The four promenaders were the whole ministerial
conclave of Arcis, namely: the sub-prefect, the _procureur-du-roi_, his
substitute, and the examining-judge, Monsieur Martener. The judge of the
court, Monsieur Michu, was, as we know already, a partisan of the Elder
Branch and a devoted adherent of the house of Cinq-Cygne.

“No, I don’t understand the action of the government,” repeated the
sub-prefect, Antonin Goulard, pointing to the groups which seemed to
be thickening. “At such an important crisis to leave me without
instructions!”

“In that you are like the rest of us,” said Olivier Vinet, the
substitute, smiling.

“Why do you blame the government?” asked the _procureur-du-roi_,
Frederic Marest.

“The ministry is much embarrassed,” remarked young Martener. “It knows
that this arrondissement belongs, in a certain way, to the Kellers, and
it is very desirous not to thwart them. It is forced to keep on good
terms with the only man who is comparable to Monsieur de Talleyrand. It
is not to the prefect, but to the Comte de Gondreville that you ought to
send the commissary of police.”

“Meanwhile,” said Frederic Marest, “the Opposition is bestirring itself;
you see yourselves the influence of Monsieur Giguet. Our mayor, Monsieur
Beauvisage, is presiding over that preparatory meeting.”

“After all,” said Olivier Vinet slyly to the sub-prefect, “Simon Giguet
is your friend and schoolmate; he will belong to the Thiers’ party; you
risk nothing in supporting his election.”

“The present ministry could dismiss me before its fall,” replied the
sub-prefect, “and who knows when I should be reappointed?”

“Collinet, the grocer!--that makes the sixty-sixth elector who has
entered the Giguet house,” said Monsieur Martener, who was practising
his trade as examining-judge by counting the electors.

“If Charles Keller is the ministerial candidate,” resumed the
sub-prefect, “I ought to have been told of it; the government makes a
mistake in giving time for Simon Giguet to get hold of the electors.”

These four individuals had now reached, walking slowly, the spot where
the avenue ceases and becomes an open square.

“There’s Monsieur Groslier,” said the judge, catching sight of a man on
horseback.

This was the commissary of police; he saw the government of Arcis
collected on the public square, and he rode up to the four gentlemen.

“Well, Monsieur Groslier?” said the sub-prefect, taking the commissary a
little apart from his three colleagues.

“Monsieur,” said the commissary of police in a low voice, “Monsieur
la prefet has sent me to tell you some sad news; Monsieur le Vicomte
Charles Keller is dead. The news reached Paris by telegram night before
last, and the two Messieurs Keller, the Comte de Gondreville, the
Marechale Carigliano, in fact the whole family are now at Gondreville.
Abd-el-Kader has resumed the offensive in Africa; the war is being
vigorously carried on. This poor young man was among the first
victims of the renewal of hostilities. You will receive confidential
instructions, so Monsieur le prefet told me, in relation to the coming
election.”

“By whom?” asked the sub-prefect.

“If I knew that, the matter would not be confidential,” replied the
commissary. “In fact, I think the prefect himself does not know. He told
me that the matter would be a secret one between you and the ministry.”

Then he rode on, after seeing the sub-prefect lay his fingers on his
lips as a warning to keep silence.

“Well, what news from the prefecture?” said the _procureur-du-roi_, when
Goulard returned to the group of the three functionaries.

“Nothing satisfactory,” replied Goulard, stepping quickly, as if he
wanted to get away from the others, who now walked silently toward the
middle of the square, somewhat piqued by the manner of the sub-prefect.
There Monsieur Martener noticed old Madame Beauvisage, the mother of
Phileas, surrounded by nearly all the bourgeois on the square, to whom
she was apparently relating something. A solicitor, named Sinot, who
numbered all the royalists of Arcis among his clients, and who had not
gone to the Giguet meeting, now detached himself from the group, and
running to the door of the Marion house rang the bell violently.

“What can be the matter?” said Frederic Marest, dropping his eyeglass,
and calling the attention of his colleagues to this circumstance.

“The matter is, messieurs,” said the sub-prefect, thinking it useless
to keep a secret which was evidently known to the other party, “that
Charles Keller has been killed in Africa, and that this event doubles
the chances of Simon Giguet. You know Arcis; there can be no other
ministerial candidate than Charles Keller. Any other man would find the
whole local patriotism of the place arrayed against him.

“Will they really elect such an idiot as Simon Giguet?” said Olivier
Vinet, laughing.

This young substitute, then only twenty-three years of age, was the son
of one of our most famous attorney-generals, who had come into power
with the Revolution of July; he therefore owed his early entrance into
public life to the influence of his father. The latter, always elected
deputy by the town of Provins, is one of the buttresses of the Centre
in the Chamber. Therefore the son, whose mother was a Demoiselle de
Chargeboeuf [see “Pierrette”], had a certain air of assurance, both
in his functions and in his personal behavior, that plainly showed
the backing of his father. He expressed his opinion on men and things
without reserve; for he confidently expected not to stay very long
at Arcis, but to receive his appointment as _procureur-du-roi_ at
Versailles, a sure step to a post in Paris.

The confident air of this little Vinet, and the sort of assumption which
the certainty of making his way gave to him, was all the more irritating
to Frederic Marest, his superior, because a biting wit accompanied
the rather undisciplined habits and manners of his young subordinate.
Frederic Marest, _procureur-du-roi_, a man about forty years of age,
who had spent six years of his life under the Restoration in becoming a
substitute only to be neglected and left in Arcis by the government of
July, in spite of the fact that he had some eighteen thousand francs a
year of his own, was perpetually kept on the rack between the
necessity of winning the good graces of young Vinet’s father--a touchy
attorney-general who might become Keeper of the Seals--and of keeping
his own dignity.

Olivier Vinet, slender in figure, with a pallid face, lighted by a pair
of malicious green eyes, was one of those sarcastic young gentlemen,
inclined to dissipation, who nevertheless know how to assume the
pompous, haughty, and pedantic air with which magistrates arm themselves
when they once reach the bench. The tall, stout, heavy, and grave
_procureur-du-roi_ had lately invented a system by which he hoped to
keep out of trouble with the exasperating Olivier; he treated him as a
father would treat a spoilt child.

“Olivier,” he replied to his substitute, slapping him on the shoulder,
“a man of your capacity ought to reflect that Maitre Giguet is very
likely to become deputy. You’d have made that remark just as readily
before the people of Arcis as before us, who are safe friends.”

“There is one thing against Giguet,” observed Monsieur Martener.

This good young man, rather heavy but full of capacity, the son of a
physician in Provins, owed his place to Vinet’s father, who was long a
lawyer in Provins and still continued to be the patron of his people as
the Comte de Gondreville was the patron of the people of Arcis.

“What is that?” asked the sub-prefect.

“Local patriotism is always bitterly against a man who is imposed upon
the electors,” replied the examining-judge, “but when it happens that
the good people of Arcis have to elevate one of their own equals to the
Chamber, envy and jealousy are stronger than patriotism.”

“That is very simple,” said the _procureur-du-roi_, “and very true. If
you can manage to collect fifty ministerial votes you will find yourself
master of the coming election,” he added, addressing the sub-prefect.

“It will do if you produce a candidate of the same calibre as Simon
Giguet,” said Olivier Vinet.

The sub-prefect allowed an expression of satisfaction to appear upon his
features, which did not escape the notice of his three companions, with
whom, moreover, he had a full understanding. All four being bachelors,
and tolerably rich, they had formed, without premeditation, an alliance
against the dulness of the provinces. The three functionaries had
already remarked the sort of jealousy that Goulard felt for Giguet,
which a few words on their antecedents will explain.

Antonin Goulard, the son of a former huntsman to the house of Simeuse,
enriched by the purchase of the confiscated property of _emigres_ was,
like Simon Giguet, a son of Arcis. Old Goulard, his father, left the
abbey of Valpreux (corruption of Val-des-Preux) to live in Arcis after
the death of his wife, and he sent his son to the imperial lyceum, where
Colonel Giguet had already placed his son Simon. The two schoolmates
subsequently went through their legal studies in Paris together, and
their intimacy was continued in the amusements of youth. They promised
to help each other to success in life whenever they entered upon their
different careers. But fate willed that they should end by being rivals.

In spite of Goulard’s manifest advantages, in spite of the cross of the
Legion of honor which the Comte de Gondreville had obtained for him
in default of promotion, the offer of his heart and position had been
frankly declined when, about six months before this history begins, he
had privately presented himself to Madame Beauvisage as a suitor for her
daughter’s hand. No step of that nature is ever taken secretly in the
provinces. The _procureur-du-roi_, Frederic Marest, whose fortune,
buttonhole, and position were about on a par with those of Antonin
Goulard, had received a like refusal, three years earlier, based on the
difference of ages. Consequently, the two officials were on terms
of strict politeness with the Beauvisage family, and laughed at them
severally in private. Both had divined and communicated to each other
the real motive of the candidacy of Simon Giguet, for they fully
understood the hopes of Madame Marion; and they were bent on preventing
her nephew from marrying the heiress whose hand had been refused to
them.

“God grant that I may be master of this election,” said Goulard, “and
that the Comte de Gondreville may get me made a prefect, for I have no
more desire than you to spend the rest of my days here, though I was
born in Arcis.”

“You have a fine opportunity to be elected deputy yourself, my chief,”
 said Olivier Vinet to Marest. “Come and see my father, who will, I
think, arrive here from Provins in a few hours. Let us propose to him to
have you chosen as ministerial candidate.”

“Halt!” said Antonin; “the ministry has its own views about the deputy
of Arcis.”

“Ah, bah!” exclaimed Vinet, “there are two ministries: the one that
thinks it makes elections, and another that thinks it profits by them.”

“Don’t let us complicate Antonin’s difficulties,” said Frederic Marest,
winking at his substitute.

The four officials, who had crossed the open square and were close to
the Mulet inn, now saw Poupart leaving the house of Madame Marion and
coming towards them. A moment later, and the _porte cochere_ of that
house vomited the sixty-seven conspirators.

“So you went to that meeting?” said Antonin Goulard to Poupart.

“I shall never go again, monsieur le sous-prefet,” said the innkeeper.
“The son of Monsieur Keller is dead, and I have now no object in going
there. God has taken upon himself to clear the ground.”

“Well, Pigoult, what happened?” cried Olivier Vinet, catching sight of
the young notary.

“Oh!” said Pigoult, on whose forehead the perspiration, which had not
dried, bore testimony to his efforts, “Simon has just told some
news that made them all unanimous. Except five persons,--Poupart, my
grandfather, Mollot, Sinot, and I,--all present swore, as at the Jeu de
Paume, to employ every means to promote the triumph of Simon Giguet,
of whom I have made a mortal enemy. Oh! we got warm, I can tell you!
However, I led the Giguets to fulminate against the Gondrevilles. That
puts the old count on my side. No later than to-morrow he will hear
what the _soi-disant_ patriots of Arcis have said about him and his
corruptions and his infamies, to free their necks, as they called it, of
his yoke.”

“Unanimous, were they?” said Olivier Vinet, laughing.

“Unanimous, _to-day_,” remarked Monsieur Martener.

“Oh!” exclaimed Pigoult, “the general sentiment of the electors is for
one of their own townsmen. Whom can you oppose to Simon Giguet,--a man
who has just spent two hours in explaining the word _progress_.”

“Take old Grevin!” cried the sub-prefect.

“He has no such ambition,” replied Pigoult. “But we must first of
all consult the Comte de Gondreville. Look, look!” he added; “see
the attentions with which Simon is taking him that gilded booby,
Beauvisage.”

And he pointed to the candidate, who was holding the mayor by the arm
and whispering in his ear. Beauvisage meantime was bowing right and
left to the inhabitants, who gazed at him with the deference which
provincials always testify to the richest man in their locality.

“But there’s no use cajoling _him_,” continued Pigoult. “Cecile’s hand
does not depend on either her father or her mother.”

“On whom, then?”

“On my old patron, Monsieur Grevin. Even if Simon is elected deputy, the
town is not won.”

Though the sub-prefect and Frederic Marest tried to get an explanation
of these words, Pigoult refused to give the reason of an exclamation
which seemed to them big with meaning and implying a certain knowledge
of the plans of the Beauvisage family.

All Arcis was now in a commotion, not only on account of the fatal event
which had just overtaken the Gondreville family, but because of the
great resolution come to at the Giguet house, where Madame Marion and
her three servants were hurriedly engaged in putting everything in its
usual order, ready to receive her customary guests, whose curiosity
would probably bring them that evening in large numbers.



VI. THE CAMPAIGN OF 1814 FROM THE HOSIERY POINT OF VIEW

Champagne has all the appearance of a poor region, and it is a poor
region. Its general aspect is sad; the land is flat. Passing through
the villages, and even the towns, you will see nothing but miserable
buildings of wood or half-baked clay; the best are built of brick.
Stone is scarcely used at all except on public buildings. At Arcis the
chateau, the law courts, and the church are the only stone buildings.
Nevertheless, Champagne, or, if you prefer to say so, the departments of
the Aube, Marne, and Haut-Marne, richly endowed with vineyards, the fame
of which is world-wide, are otherwise full of flourishing industries.

Without speaking of the manufactures of Reims, nearly all the hosiery
of France--a very considerable trade--is manufactured about Troyes. The
surrounding country, over a circuit of thirty miles, is covered with
workmen, whose looms can be seen through the open doors as we pass
through the villages. These workmen are employed by agents, who
themselves are in the service of speculators called manufacturers. The
agents negotiate with the large Parisian houses, often with the retail
hosiers, all of whom put out the sign, “Manufacturers of Hosiery.” None
of them have ever made a pair of stockings, nor a cap, nor a sock;
all their hosiery comes chiefly from Champagne, though there are a few
skilled workmen in Paris who can rival the Champenois.

This intermediate agency between the producer and the consumer is
an evil not confined to hosiery. It exists in almost all trades, and
increases the cost of merchandise by the amount of the profit exacted
by the middlemen. To break down these costly partitions, that injure
the sale of products, would be a magnificent enterprise, which, in its
results, would attain to the height of statesmanship. In fact, industry
of all kinds would gain by establishing within our borders the cheapness
so essential to enable us to carry on victoriously the industrial
warfare with foreign countries,--a struggle as deadly as that of arms.

But the destruction of an abuse of this kind would not return to modern
philanthropists the glory and the advantages of a crusade against the
empty nutshells of the penitentiary and negrophobia; consequently, the
interloping profits of these _bankers of merchandise_ will continue to
weigh heavily both on producers and consumers. In France--keen-witted
land!--it is thought that to simplify is to destroy. The Revolution of
1789 is still a terror.

We see, by the industrial energy displayed in a land where Nature is a
godmother, what progress agriculture might make if capital would go into
partnership with the soil, which is not so thankless in Champagne as it
is in Scotland, where capital has done wonders. The day when agriculture
will have conquered the unfertile portion of those departments, and
industry has seconded capital on the Champagne chalk, the prosperity
of that region will triple itself. Into that land, now without luxury,
where homes are barren, English comfort will penetrate, money will
obtain that rapid circulation which is the half of wealth, and is
already beginning in several of the inert portions of our country.
Writers, administrators, the Church from its pulpit, the Press in its
columns, all to whom chance has given power to influence the masses,
should say and resay this truth,--to hoard is a social crime. The
deliberate hoarding of a province arrests industrial life, and injures
the health of a nation.

Thus the little town of Arcis, without much means of transition, doomed
apparently to the most complete immobility, is, relatively, a rich town
abounding in capital slowly amassed by its trade in hosiery.

Monsieur Phileas Beauvisage was the Alexander, or, if you will, the
Attila of this business. And here follow the means by which this
honorable merchant had acquired his supremacy over cotton.

The last remaining child of farmers named Beauvisage, tenants of the
splendid farm of Bellache, a dependency of the Gondreville estate, his
parents made, in 1811, a great sacrifice in order to buy a substitute
and save their only child from conscription. After that, in 1813, the
mother Beauvisage, having become a widow, saved her son once more
from enrolment in the Gardes, thanks to the influence of the Comte de
Gondreville. Phileas, who was then twenty-one years of age, had been
devoted for the last three years to the peaceable trade of hosiery.

Coming to the end of the lease of Bellache, old Madame Beauvisage
declined to renew it. She saw she had enough to do in her old age in
taking care of her property. That nothing might give her uneasiness
of mind, she proceeded, by the help of Monsieur Grevin, the notary
of Arcis, to liquidate her husband’s estate, although her son made no
request whatever for a settlement. The result proved that she owed him
the sum of one hundred and fifty thousand francs. The good woman did not
sell her landed property, most of which came from the unfortunate Michu,
the former bailiff of the Simeuse family; she paid the sum to Phileas
in ready money,--advising him to buy out the business of his employer,
Monsieur Pigoult, the son of the old justice of the peace, whose affairs
were in so bad a way that his death, as we have said, was thought to be
voluntary.

Phileas Beauvisage, a virtuous youth, having a deep respect for his
mother, concluded the purchase from his patron, and as he had the bump
of what phrenologists term “acquisitiveness,” his youthful ardor spent
itself upon this business, which he thought magnificent and desired to
increase by speculation.

The name of Phileas, which may seem peculiar, is only one of the many
oddities which we owe to the Revolution. Attached to the Simeuse family,
and consequently, good Catholics, the Beauvisage father and mother
desired to have their son baptized. The rector of Cinq-Cygne, the Abbe
Goujet, whom they consulted, advised them to give their son for patron
a saint whose Greek name might signify the municipality,--for the child
was born at a period when children were inscribed on the civil registers
under the fantastic names of the Republican calendar.

In 1814, hosiery, a stable business with few risks in ordinary times,
was subject to all the variations in the price of cotton. This price
depended at that time on the triumph or the defeat of the Emperor
Napoleon, whose adversaries, the English generals, used to say in Spain:
“The town is taken; now get out your bales.”

Pigoult, former patron of young Phileas, furnished the raw material to
his workmen, who were scattered all over the country. At the time when
he sold the business to Beauvisage junior, he possessed a large amount
of raw cotton bought at a high price, whereas Lisbon was sending
enormous quantities into the Empire at six sous the kilogramme, in
virtue of the Emperor’s celebrated decree. The reaction produced in
France by the introduction of the Portuguese cotton caused the death of
Pigoult, Achille’s father, and began the fortune of Phileas, who, far
from losing his head like his master, made his prices moderate by
buying cotton cheaply and in doubling the quantity ventured upon by
his predecessor. This simple system enabled Phileas to triple the
manufacture and to pose as the benefactor of the workingmen; so that
he was able to disperse his hosiery in Paris and all over France at
a profit, when the luckiest of his competitors were only able to sell
their goods at cost price.

At the beginning of 1814, Phileas had emptied his warerooms. The
prospect of a war on French soil, the hardships of which were likely to
press chiefly on Champagne, made him cautious. He manufactured nothing,
and held himself ready to meet all events with his capital turned into
gold. At this period the custom-house lines were no longer maintained.
Napoleon could not do without his thirty thousand custom-house officers
for service in the field. Cotton, then introduced through a thousand
loopholes, slipped into the markets of France. No one can imagine
how sly and how alert cotton had become at this epoch, nor with what
eagerness the English laid hold of a country where cotton stockings sold
for six francs a pair, and cambric shirts were objects of luxury.

Manufacturers from the second class, the principal workmen, reckoning on
the genius of Napoleon, had bought up the cottons that came from Spain.
They worked it up in hopes of being able later to give the law to the
merchants of Paris. Phileas observed these facts. When the war ravaged
Champagne, he kept himself between the French army and Paris. After each
lost battle he went among the workmen who had buried their products in
casks,--a sort of silo of hosiery,--then, gold in hand, this Cossack
of weaving bought up, from village to village, below the cost of
fabrication, tons of merchandise which might otherwise become at
any time a prey to an enemy whose feet were as much in need of being
_socked_ as its throat of being moistened.

Phileas displayed under these unfortunate circumstances an activity
nearly equal to that of the Emperor. This general of hosiery made a
commercial campaign of 1814 with splendid but ignored courage. A league
or two behind where the army advanced he bought up caps and socks as
the Emperor gathered immortal palms by his very reverses. The genius was
equal on both sides, though exercised in different spheres; one aimed
at covering heads, the other at mowing them down. Obliged to create some
means of transportation in order to save his tons of hosiery, which he
stored in a suburb of Paris, Phileas often put in requisition horses
and army-waggons, as if the safety of the empire were concerned. But
the majesty of commerce was surely as precious as that of Napoleon. The
English merchants, in buying out the European markets, certainly got the
better of the colossus who threatened their trade.

By the time the Emperor abdicated at Fontainebleau, Phileas, triumphant,
was master of the situation. He maintained, by clever manoeuvring, the
depreciation in cottons, and doubled his fortune at the moment when his
luckiest competitors were getting rid of their merchandise at a loss
of fifty per cent. He returned to Arcis with a fortune of three hundred
thousand francs, half of which, invested on the Grand-Livre at sixty,
returned him an income of fifteen thousand francs a year. He employed
the remainder in building, furnishing, and adorning a handsome house on
the Place du Pont in Arcis.

On the return of the successful hosier, Monsieur Grevin was naturally
his confidant. The notary had an only daughter to marry, then twenty
years of age. Grevin, a widower, knew the fortune of Madame Beauvisage,
the mother, and he believed in the energy and capacity of a young man
bold enough to have turned the campaign of 1814 to his profit. Severine
Grevin had her mother’s fortune of sixty thousand francs for her dower.
Grevin was then over fifty; he feared to die, and saw no chance of
marrying his daughter as he wished under the Restoration--for her, he
had had ambition. Under these circumstances he was shrewd enough to make
Phileas ask her in marriage.

Severine Grevin, a well-trained young lady and handsome, was considered
at that time the best match in Arcis. In fact, an alliance with the
intimate friend of the senator Comte de Gondreville, peer of France, was
certainly a great honor for the son of a Gondreville tenant-farmer. The
widow Beauvisage, his mother, would have made any sacrifice to obtain
it; but on learning the success of her son, she dispensed with the duty
of giving him a _dot_,--a wise economy which was imitated by the notary.

Thus was consummated the union of the son of a farmer formerly so
faithful to the Simeuse family with the daughter of its most cruel
enemy. It was, perhaps, the only application made of the famous saying
of Louis XVIII.: “Union and Oblivion.”

On the second return of the Bourbons, Grevin’s father-in-law, old Doctor
Varlet, died at the age of seventy-six, leaving two hundred thousand
francs in gold in his cellar, besides other property valued at an
equal sum. Thus Phileas and his wife had, outside of their business, an
assured income of thirty thousand francs a year.

The first two years of this marriage sufficed to show Madame Severine
and her father, Monsieur Grevin the absolute silliness of Phileas
Beauvisage. His one gleam of commercial rapacity had seemed to the
notary the result of superior powers; the shrewd old man had mistaken
youth for strength, and luck for genius in business. Phileas certainly
knew how to read and write and cipher well, but he had read nothing.
Of crass ignorance, it was quite impossible to keep up even a slight
conversation with him; he replied to all remarks with a deluge of
commonplaces pleasantly uttered. As the son of a farmer, however,
Phileas was not without a certain commercial good sense, and he was
also kind and tender, and would often weep at a moving tale. It was
this native goodness of heart which made him respect his wife, whose
superiority had always caused him the deepest admiration.

Severine, a woman of ideas, knew all things, so Phileas believed. And
she knew them the more correctly because she consulted her father on
all subjects. She was gifted with great firmness, which made her the
absolute mistress in her own home. As soon as the latter result was
attained, the old notary felt less regret in seeing that his daughter’s
only domestic happiness lay in the autocracy which usually satisfies all
women of her nature. But what of the woman herself? Here follows what
she was said to have found in life.



VII. THE BEAUVISAGE FAMILY

During the reaction of 1815, a Vicomte de Chargeboeuf (of the poorer
branch of the family) was sent to Arcis as sub-prefect through the
influence of the Marquise de Cinq-Cygne, to whose family he was allied.
This young man remained sub-prefect for five years. The beautiful Madame
Beauvisage was not, it was said, a stranger to the reasons that kept him
in this office for a period far too prolonged for his own advancement.
We ought to say, however, that these remarks were not justified by any
of the scandals which in the provinces betray those passions that are
difficult to conceal from the Argus-eyes of a little town. If Severine
loved the Vicomte de Chargeboeuf and was beloved by him, it was in all
honor and propriety, said the friends of the Grevins and the Marions;
and that double coterie imposed its opinion on the whole arrondissement;
but the Marions and the Grevins had no influence on the royalists, and
the royalists regarded the sub-prefect as fortunate in love.

As soon as the Marquise de Cinq-Cygne heard what was said in the
chateaux about her relation, she sent for him; and such was her horror
for all who were connected, near or far, with the actors in the judicial
drama so fatal to her family, that she strictly enjoined him to change
his residence. Not only that, but she obtained his appointment
as sub-prefect of Sancerre with the promise of advancement to the
prefecture.

Some shrewd observers declared that the viscount pretended this passion
for the purpose of being made prefect; for he well knew the hatred
felt by the marquise for the name of Grevin. Others remarked on the
coincidence of the viscount’s apparitions in Paris with the visits made
by Madame Beauvisage to the capital on frivolous pretexts. An impartial
historian would be puzzled to form a just opinion on the facts of
this matter, which are buried in the mysteries of private life. One
circumstance alone seems to give color to the reports.

Cecile-Renee Beauvisage was born in 1820, just as Monsieur de
Chargeboeuf left Arcis, and among his various names was that of Rene.
This name was given by the Comte de Gondreville as godfather of the
child. Had the mother objected to the name, she would in some degree
have given color to the rumor. As gossip always endeavors to justify
itself, the giving of this name was said to be a bit of maliciousness on
the part of the old count. Madame Keller, the count’s daughter, who was
named Cecile, was the godmother. As for the resemblance shown in the
person of Cecile-Renee Beauvisage, it was striking. This young girl was
like neither father nor mother; in course of time she had become the
living image of the Vicomte de Chargeboeuf, whose aristocratic manners
she had also acquired. This double resemblance, both moral and physical,
was not observed by the inhabitants of Arcis, for the viscount never
returned to that town.

Severine made her husband happy in his own way. He liked good living and
everything easy about him; she supplied him with the choicest wines, a
table worthy of a bishop, served by the best cook in the department but
without the pretensions of luxury; for she kept her household strictly
to the conditions of the burgher life of Arcis. It was a proverb in
Arcis that you must dine with Madame Beauvisage and spend your evening
with Madame Marion.

The renewed influence in the arrondissement of Arcis which the
Restoration gave to the house of Cinq-Cygne had naturally drawn closer
the ties that bound together the various families affected by the
criminal trial relating to the abduction of Gondreville. [See “An
Historical Mystery.”] The Marions, Grevins, and Giguets were all the
more united because the triumph of their political opinions, called
“constitutional,” now required the utmost harmony.

As a matter of policy Severine encouraged her husband to continue
his trade in hosiery, which any other man but himself would have long
renounced; and she sent him to Paris, and about the country, on business
connected with it. Up to the year 1830 Phileas, who was thus enabled
to exercise his bump of “acquisitiveness,” earned every year a sum
equivalent to his expenses. The interest on the property of Monsieur
and Madame Beauvisage, being capitalized for the last fifteen years
by Grevin’s intelligent care, became, by 1830, a round sum of half a
million francs. That sum was, in fact, Cecile’s _dot_, which the old
notary then invested in the Three-per-cents at fifty, producing a safe
income of thirty thousand a year.

After 1830 Beauvisage sold his business in hosiery to Jean Violette,
one of his agents (grandson of one of the chief witnesses for the
prosecution in the Simeuse trial), the proceeds of which amounted to
three hundred thousand francs. Monsieur and Madame Beauvisage had also
in prospect their double inheritance from old Grevin on one side, and
the old farmer’s wife Beauvisage on the other. Great provincial fortunes
are usually the product of time multiplied by economy. Thirty years of
old age make capital.

In giving to Cecile-Renee a _dot_ of fifty thousand francs a year,
her parents still reserved for themselves the two inheritances, thirty
thousand a year on the Grand Livre, and their house in Arcis.

If the Marquise de Cinq-Cygne were only dead, Cecile might assuredly
marry the young marquis; but the health of that great lady, who was
still vigorous and almost beautiful at sixty years of age, precluded all
hope of such a marriage if it even entered the minds of Grevin and his
daughter, as some persons, surprised at their rejection of eligible
suitors like the sub-prefect and the _procureur-du-roi_, declared that
it did.

The Beauvisage residence, one of the best in Arcis, stands on the Place
du Pont on a line with the rue Vide-Bourse, at the corner of the rue du
Pont, which leads to the Place de l’Eglise. Though, like many provincial
houses, without either court or garden, it produces a certain effect,
in spite of its ornamentation in bad taste. The front door opens on
the Place; the windows of the ground-floor look out on the street-side
towards the post-house and inn, and command beyond the Place a rather
picturesque view of the Aube, the navigation of which begins at the
bridge. Beyond the bridge is another little Place or square, on which
lives Monsieur Grevin, and from which the high-road to Sezanne starts.

On the street and on the square, the Beauvisage house, painted a
spotless white, looks as though built of stone. The height of the
windows and their external mouldings contribute to give a certain
style to the house which contrasts strongly with the generally forlorn
appearance of the houses of Arcis, constructed, as we have already said,
of wood, and covered with plaster, imitating the solidity of stone.
Still, these houses are not without a certain originality, through the
fact that each architect, or each burgher, has endeavored to solve for
himself the problem of styles of building.

The bridge at Arcis is of wood. About four hundred feet above the bridge
the river is crossed by another bridge, on which rise the tall wooden
sides of a mill with several sluices. The space between the public
bridge and this private bridge forms a basin, on the banks of which are
several large houses. By an opening between the roofs can be seen the
height on which stands the chateau of Arcis with its park and gardens,
its outer walls and trees which overhand the river above the bridges,
and the rather scanty pastures of the left bank.

The sound of the water as it runs through the courses above the dam, the
music of the wheels, from which the churned water falls back into the
basin in sparkling cascades, animate the rue du Pont, contrasting in
this respect with the tranquillity of the river flowing downward between
the garden of Monsieur Grevin, whose house is at one angle of the bridge
on the left bank, and the port where the boats and barges discharge
their merchandise before a line of poor but picturesque houses.

Nothing can better express provincial life than the deep silence that
envelops the little town and reigns in its busiest region. It is easy
to imagine, therefore, how disquieting the presence of a stranger, if
he only spends half a day there, may be to the inhabitants; with what
attention faces protrude from the windows to observe him, and also the
condition of espial in which all the residents of the little place stand
to each other. Life has there become so conventional that, except on
Sundays and fete-days, a stranger meets no one either on the boulevards
or the Avenue of Sighs, not even, in fact, upon the streets.

It will now be readily understood why the ground-floor of the Beauvisage
house is on a level with the street and square. The square serves as its
courtyard. Sitting at his window the eyes of the late hosier could take
in the whole of the Place de l’Eglise, the two squares of the bridge,
and the road to Sezanne. He could see the coaches arriving and the
travellers descending at the post-inn; and on court days he could watch
the proceedings around the offices of the mayor and the justice of
peace. For these reasons, Beauvisage would not have exchanged his house
for the chateau, in spite of its lordly air, its stone walls, and its
splendid situation.



VIII. IN WHICH THE DOT, ONE OF THE HEROINES OF THIS HISTORY, APPEARS

Entering the Beauvisage house we find a versatile, at the farther end
of which rises the staircase. To right we enter a large salon with
two windows opening on the square; to left is a handsome dining-room,
looking on the street. The floor above is the one occupied by the
family.

Notwithstanding the large fortune of the Beauvisage husband and wife,
their establishment consisted of only a cook and a chamber-maid, the
latter a peasant, who washed and ironed and frotted the floors rather
than waited on her two mistresses, who were accustomed to spend their
time in dressing and waiting upon each other. Since the sale of the
business to Jean Violette, the horse and cabriolet used by Phileas, and
kept at the Hotel de la Poste, had been relinquished and sold.

At the moment when Phileas reached his house after the Giguet meeting,
his wife, already informed of the resolutions passed, had put on her
boots and shawl and was preparing to go to her father; for she felt very
sure that Madame Marion would, on that same evening, make her certain
overtures relating to Simon and Cecile. After telling his wife of
Charles Keller’s death, Phileas asked her opinion with an artless “What
do you think of that, wife?” which fully pictured his habit of deferring
to Severine’s opinion in all things. Then he sat down in an arm-chair
and awaited her reply.

In 1839, Madame Beauvisage, then forty-four years old, was so
well-preserved that she might, in that respect, rival Mademoiselle Mars.
By calling to mind the most charming Celimene that the Theatre-Francais
ever had, an excellent idea of Severine Grevin’s appearance will be
obtained. The same richness of coloring, the same beauty of features,
the same clearly defined outlines; but the hosier’s wife was short,--a
circumstance which deprived her of that noble grace, that charming
coquetry _a la_ Sevigne, through which the great actress commends
herself to the memory of men who saw both the Empire and the
Restoration.

Provincial life and the rather careless style of dress into which,
for the last ten years, Severine had allowed herself to fall, gave a
somewhat common air to that noble profile and those beautiful
features; increasing plumpness was destroying the outlines of a figure
magnificently fine during the first twelve years of her married life.
But Severine redeemed these growing imperfections with a sovereign,
superb, imperious glance, and a certain haughty carriage of her head.
Her hair, still black and thick and long, was raised high upon her head,
giving her a youthful look. Her shoulders and bosom were snowy, but they
now rose puffily in a manner to obstruct the free movement of the neck,
which had grown too short. Her plump and dimpled arms ended in pretty
little hands that were, alas, too fat. She was, in fact, so overdone
with fulness of life and health that her flesh formed a little pad,
as one might call it, above her shoes. Two ear-drops, worth about
three-thousand francs each, adorned her ears. She wore a lace cap with
pink ribbons, a mousseline-de-laine gown in pink and gray stripes with
an edging of green, opened at the bottom to show a petticoat trimmed
with valencienne lace; and a green cashmere shawl with palm-leaves, the
point of which reached the ground as she walked.

“You are not so hungry,” she said, casting her eyes on Beauvisage,
“that you can’t wait half an hour? My father has finished dinner and I
couldn’t eat mine in peace without knowing what he thinks and whether we
ought to go to Gondreville.”

“Go, go, my dear. I’ll wait,” said Phileas, using the “thee” and “thou.”

“Good heavens!” cried Severine with a significant gesture of her
shoulders. “Shall I never break you of that habit of tutoying me?”

“I never do it before company--not since 1817,” said Phileas.

“You do it constantly before the servants and your daughter.”

“As you will, Severine,” replied Beauvisage sadly.

“Above all, don’t say a word to Cecile about this resolution of the
electors,” added Madame Beauvisage, who was looking in the glass to
arrange her shawl.

“Shall I go with you to your father’s?” asked Phileas.

“No, stay with Cecile. Besides, Jean Violette was to pay the rest of the
purchase-money to-day. He has twenty thousand francs to bring you. This
is the third time he has put us off three months; don’t grant him any
more delays; if he can’t pay now, give his note to Courtet, the sheriff,
and take the law of him. Achille Pigoult will tell you how to proceed.
That Violette is the worthy son of his grandfather; I think he is
capable of enriching himself by going into bankruptcy,--there’s neither
law nor gospel in him.”

“He is very intelligent,” said Beauvisage.

“You have given him the good-will of a fine business for thirty thousand
francs, which is certainly worth fifty thousand; and in ten years he has
only paid you ten thousand--”

“I never sued anybody yet,” replied Beauvisage, “and I’d rather lose my
money than torment a poor man--”

“A man who laughs at you!”

Beauvisage was silent; feeling unable to reply to that cruel remark, he
looked at the boards which formed the floor of the salon.

Perhaps the progressive abolition of mind and will in Beauvisage will
be explained by the abuse of sleep. Going to bed every night at eight
o’clock and getting up the next morning at eight, he had slept his
twelve hours nightly for the last twenty years, never waking; or if that
extraordinary event did occur, it was so serious a matter to his mind
that he talked of it all day. He spent an hour at his toilet, for his
wife had trained him not to appear in her presence at breakfast unless
properly shaved, cleaned, and dressed for the day. When he was in
business, he departed to his office after breakfast and returned only
in time for dinner. Since 1832, he had substituted for his business
occupations a daily visit to his father-in-law, a promenade about the
town, or visits to his friends.

In all weather he wore boots, blue coat and trousers, and a white
waistcoat,--the style of dress exacted by his wife. His linen was
remarkable for its fineness and purity, owing to the fact that Severine
obliged him to change it daily. Such care for his person, seldom taken
in the provinces, contributed to make him considered in Arcis very much
as a man of elegance is considered in Paris. Externally this worthy
seller of cotton hose seemed to be a personage; for his wife had sense
enough never to utter a word which could put the public of Arcis on the
scent of her disappointment and the utter nullity of her husband, who,
thanks to his smiles, his handsome dress, and his manners, passed for a
man of importance. People said that Severine was so jealous of him that
she prevented him from going out in the evening, while in point of fact
Phileas was bathing the roses and lilies of his skin in happy slumber.

Beauvisage, who lived according to his tastes, pampered by his wife,
well served by his two servants, cajoled by his daughter, called himself
the happiest man in Arcis, and really was so. The feeling of Severine
for this nullity of a man never went beyond the protecting pity of a
mother for her child. She disguised the harshness of the words she was
frequently obliged to say to him by a joking manner. No household was
ever more tranquil; and the aversion Phileas felt for society, where
he went to sleep, and where he could not play cards (being incapable of
learning a game), had made Severine sole mistress of her evenings.

Cecile’s entrance now put an end to her father’s embarrassment, and he
cried out heartily:--

“Hey! how fine we are!”

Madame Beauvisage turned round abruptly and cast a look upon her
daughter which made the girl blush.

“Cecile, who told you to dress yourself in that way?” she demanded.

“Are we not going to-night to Madame Marion’s? I dressed myself now to
see if my new gown fitted me.”

“Cecile! Cecile!” exclaimed Severine, “why do you try to deceive your
mother? It is not right; and I am not pleased with you--you are hiding
something from me.”

“What has she done?” asked Beauvisage, delighted to see his daughter so
prettily dressed.

“What has she done? I shall tell her,” said Madame Beauvisage, shaking
her finger at her only child.

Cecile flung herself on her mother’s neck, kissing and coaxing her,
which is a means by which only daughters get their own way.

Cecile Beauvisage, a girl of nineteen, had put on a gown of gray silk
trimmed with gimp and tassels of a deeper shade of gray, making the
front of the gown look like a pelisse. The corsage, ornamented with
buttons and caps to the sleeves, ended in a point in front, and was
laced up behind like a corset. This species of corset defined the back,
the hips, and the bust perfectly. The skirt, trimmed with three rows of
fringe, fell in charming folds, showing by its cut and its make the hand
of a Parisian dressmaker. A pretty fichu edged with lace covered her
shoulders; around her throat was a pink silk neckerchief, charmingly
tied, and on her head was a straw hat ornamented with one moss rose. Her
hands were covered with black silk mittens, and her feet were in bronze
kid boots. This gala air, which gave her somewhat the appearance of the
pictures in a fashion-book, delighted her father.

Cecile was well made, of medium height, and perfectly well-proportioned.
She had braided her chestnut hair, according to the fashion of 1839, in
two thick plaits which followed the line of the face and were fastened
by their ends to the back of her head. Her face, a fine oval, and
beaming with health, was remarkable for an aristocratic air which she
certainly did not derive from either her father or her mother. Her eyes,
of a light brown, were totally devoid of that gentle, calm, and almost
timid expression natural to the eyes of young girls. Lively, animated,
and always well in health, Cecile spoiled, by a sort of bourgeois
matter-of-factness, and the manners of a petted child, all that
her person presented of romantic charm. Still, a husband capable of
reforming her education and effacing the traces of provincial life,
might still evolve from that living block a charming woman of the world.

Madame Beauvisage had had the courage to bring up her daughter to good
principles; she had made herself employ a false severity which enabled
her to compel obedience and repress the little evil that existed in the
girl’s soul. Mother and daughter had never been parted; thus Cecile had,
what is more rare in young girls than is generally supposed, a purity of
thought, a freshness of heart, and a naivete of nature, real, complete,
and flawless.

“Your dress is enough to make me reflect,” said Madame Beauvisage. “Did
Simon Giguet say anything to you yesterday that you are hiding from me?”

“Dear mamma,” said Cecile in her mother’s ear, “he bores me; but there
is no one else for me in Arcis.”

“You judge him rightly; but wait till your grandfather has given an
opinion,” said Madame Beauvisage, kissing her daughter, whose reply
proved her good-sense, though it also revealed the breach made in her
innocence by the idea of marriage.

Severine was devoted to her father; she and her daughter allowed no one
but themselves to take charge of his linen; they knitted his socks for
him, and gave the most minute care to his comfort. Grevin knew that no
thought of self-interest had entered their affection; the million they
would probably inherit could not dry their tears at his death; old men
are very sensible to disinterested tenderness. Every morning before
going to see him, Madame Beauvisage and Cecile attended to his dinner
for the next day, sending him the best that the market afforded.

Madame Beauvisage had always desired that her father would present
her at the Chateau de Gondreville and connect her with the count’s
daughters; but the wise old man explained, again and again, how
difficult it would be to have permanent relations with the Duchesse de
Carigliano, who lived in Paris and seldom came to Gondreville, or with
the brilliant Madame Keller, after doing a business in hosiery.

“Your life is lived,” he said to his daughter; “find all your enjoyments
henceforth in Cecile, who will certainly be rich enough to give you an
existence as broad and high as you deserve. Choose a son-in-law with
ambition and means, and you can follow her to Paris and leave that
jackass Beauvisage behind you. If I live long enough to see Cecile’s
husband I’ll pilot you all on the sea of political interests, as I
once piloted others, and you will reach a position equal to that of the
Kellers.”

These few words were said before the revolution of July, 1830. Grevin
desired to live that he might get under way the future grandeur of his
daughter, his grand-daughter, and his great-grandchildren. His ambition
extended to the third generation.

When he talked thus, the old man’s idea was to marry Cecile to Charles
Keller; he was now grieving over that lost hope, uncertain where to look
in the future. Having no relations with Parisian society, and seeing in
the department of the Aube no other husband for Cecile than the youthful
Marquis de Cinq-Cygne, he was asking himself whether by the power of
gold he could surmount the animosities which the revolution of July had
roused between the royalists who were faithful to their principles, and
their conquerors. The happiness of his grand-daughter seemed to him so
doubtful if he delivered her into the hands of the proud and haughty
Marquise de Cinq-Cygne that he decided in his own mind to trust to the
friend of old age, Time. He hoped that his bitter enemy the marquise
might die, and, in that case, he thought he could win the son through
his grandfather, old d’Hauteserre, who was then living at Cinq-Cygne and
whom he knew to be accessible to the persuasions of money.

If this plan failed, and Cecile Beauvisage remained unmarried, he
resolved as a last resort to consult his friend Gondreville, who
would, he believed, find his Cecile a husband, after his heart and his
ambition, among the dukes of the Empire.



IX. A STRANGER

Severine found her father seated on a wooden bench at the end of his
terrace, under a bower of lilacs then in bloom, and taking his coffee;
for it was half-past five in the afternoon. She saw, by the pain on
her father’s face, that he had already heard the news. In fact, the old
count had sent a valet to his friend, begging him to come to him.

Up to the present time, old Grevin had endeavored not to encourage his
daughter’s ambition too far; but now, in the midst of the contradictory
reflections which the melancholy death of Charles Keller caused him, his
secret escaped his lips.

“My dear child,” he said to her, “I had formed the finest plans for your
future. Cecile was to have been Vicomtesse Keller, for Charles, by my
influence, would now have been selected deputy. Neither Gondreville nor
his daughter Madame Keller would have refused Cecile’s _dot_ of sixty
thousand francs a year, especially with the prospect of a hundred
thousand more which she will some day have from you. You would have
lived in Paris with your daughter, and played your part of mother-in-law
in the upper regions of power.”

Madame Beauvisage made a sign of satisfaction.

“But we are knocked down by the death of this charming young man, to
whom the prince royal had already given his friendship. Now this Simon
Giguet, who has thrust himself upon the scene, is a fool, and the worst
of all fools, for he thinks himself an eagle. You are, however, too
intimate with the Giguets and the Marion household not to put the utmost
politeness into your refusal--but you must refuse him.”

“As usual, you and I are of the same opinion, father.”

“You can say that I have otherwise disposed of Cecile’s hand, and
that will cut short all preposterous pretensions like that of Antonin
Goulard. Little Vinet may offer himself, and he is preferable to the
others who are smelling after the _dot_; he has talent, and shrewdness,
and he belongs to the Chargeboeufs by his mother; but he has too much
character not to rule his wife, and he is young enough to make himself
loved. You would perish between two sentiments--for I know you by heart,
my child.”

“I shall be much embarrassed this evening at the Marions’ to know what
to say,” remarked Severine.

“Well, then, my dear,” said her father, “send Madame Marion to me; I’ll
talk to her.”

“I knew, father, that you were thinking of our future, but I had no idea
you expected it to be so brilliant,” said Madame Beauvisage, taking the
hands of the old man and kissing them.

“I have pondered the matter so deeply,” said Grevin, “that in 1831 I
bought the Beauseant mansion in Paris, which you have probably seen.”

Madame de Beauvisage made a movement of surprise on hearing this secret,
until then so carefully kept, but she did not interrupt her father.

“It will be my wedding present,” he went on. “In 1832 I let it for seven
years to an Englishman for twenty-four thousand francs a year,--a pretty
stroke of business; for it only cost me three hundred and twenty-five
thousand francs, of which I thus recover nearly two hundred thousand.
The lease ends in July of this year.”

Severine kissed her father on the forehead and on both cheeks. This last
revelation so magnified her future that she was well-nigh dazzled.

“I shall advise my father,” she said to herself, as she recrossed
the bridge, “to give only the reversion of that property to his
grandchildren, and let me have the life-interest in it. I have no idea
of letting my daughter and son-in-law turn me out of doors; they must
live with me.”

At dessert, when the two women-servants were safely at their own
dinner in the kitchen, and Madame Beauvisage was certain of not being
overheard, she thought it advisable to give Cecile a little lecture.

“My daughter,” she said, “behave this evening with propriety, like a
well-bred girl; and from this day forth be more sedate. Do not chatter
heedlessly, and never walk alone with Monsieur Giguet, or Monsieur
Olivier Vinet, or the sub-prefect, or Monsieur Martener,--in fact, with
any one, not even Achille Pigoult. You will not marry any of the young
men of Arcis, or of the department. Your fate is to shine in Paris.
Therefore I shall now give you charming dresses, to accustom you to
elegance. We can easily find out where the Princesse de Cadignan and the
Marquise de Cinq-Cygne get their things. I mean that you shall cease to
look provincial. You must practise the piano for three hours every day.
I shall send for Monsieur Moise from Troyes until I know what master
I ought to get from Paris. Your talents must all be developed, for you
have only one year more of girlhood before you. Now I have warned you,
and I shall see how you behave this evening. You must manage to keep
Simon at a distance, but without coquetting with him.”

“Don’t be uneasy, mamma; I intend to adore the _stranger_.”

These words, which made Madame Beauvisage laugh, need some explanation.

“Ha! I haven’t seen him yet,” said Phileas, “but everybody is talking
about him. When I want to know who he is, I shall send the corporal or
Monsieur Groslier to ask him for his passport.”

There is no little town in France where, at a given time, the drama or
the comedy of the _stranger_ is not played. Often the stranger is an
adventurer who makes dupes and departs, carrying with him the reputation
of a woman, or the money of a family. Oftener the stranger is a real
stranger, whose life remains mysterious long enough for the town to busy
itself curiously about his words and deeds.

Now the probable accession to power of Simon Giguet was not the only
serious event that was happening in Arcis. For the last two days the
attention of the little town had been focussed on a personage just
arrived, who proved to be the first Unknown of the present generation.
The _stranger_ was at this moment the subject of conversation in every
household in the place. He was the beam fallen from heaven into the city
of the frogs.

The situation of Arcis-sur-Aube explains the effect which the arrival of
a stranger was certain to produce. About eighteen miles from Troyes, on
the high-road to Paris, opposite to a farm called “La Belle Etoile,”
 a county road branches off from the main road, and leads to Arcis,
crossing the vast plains where the Seine cuts a narrow green valley
bordered with poplars, which stand out upon the whiteness of the chalk
soil of Champagne. The main road from Arcis to Troyes is eighteen miles
in length, and makes the arch of a bow, the extremities of which are
Troyes and Arcis, so that the shortest route from Paris to Arcis is by
the county road which turns off, as we have said, near the Belle Etoile.
The Aube is navigable only from Arcis to its mouth. Therefore this town,
standing eighteen miles from a high-road, and separated from Troyes by
monotonous plains, is isolated more or less, and has but little commerce
or transportation either by land or water. Arcis is, in fact, a town
completely isolated, where no travellers pass, and is attached to Troyes
and La Belle Etoile by stage-coaches only. All the inhabitants know each
other; they even know the commercial travellers who come, now and then,
on business from the large Parisian houses. Thus, as in all provincial
towns in a like position, a stranger, if he stayed two days, would wag
the tongues and excite the imaginations of the whole community without
his name or his business being known.

Now, Arcis being still in a state of tranquillity three days before
the morning when, by the will of the creator of so many histories,
the present tale begins, there was seen to arrive by the county road
a stranger, driving a handsome tilbury drawn by a valuable horse,
and accompanied by a tiny groom, no bigger than my fist, mounted on a
saddle-horse. The coach, connecting with the diligences to Troyes, had
brought from La Belle Etoile three trunks coming from Paris, marked with
no name, but belonging to this stranger, who took up his quarters at the
Mulet inn. Every one in Arcis supposed, on the first evening, that this
personage had come with the intention of buying the estate of Arcis; and
much was said in all households about the future owner of the chateau.
The tilbury, the traveller, his horses, his servant, one and all
appeared to belong to a man who had dropped upon Arcis from the highest
social sphere.

The stranger, no doubt fatigued, did not show himself for a time;
perhaps he spent part of the day in arranging himself in the rooms
he had chosen, announcing his intention of staying a certain time. He
requested to see the stable where his horses were to be kept, showed
himself very exacting, and insisted that they should be placed in stalls
apart from those of the innkeeper’s horses, and from those of guests who
might come later. In consequence of such singular demands, the landlord
of the hotel du Mulet considered his guest to be an Englishman.

On the evening of the first day several attempts were made at the Mulet
by inquisitive persons to satisfy their curiosity; but no light whatever
could be obtained from the little groom, who evaded all inquiries, not
by refusals or by silence, but by sarcasms which seemed to be beyond his
years and to prove him a corrupt little mortal.

After making a careful toilet and dining at six o’clock, the stranger
mounted a horse, and, followed by his groom, rode off along the road to
Brienne, not returning till a very late hour to the Mulet. The landlord,
his wife, and her maids had meantime gained no information from a
careful examination of his trunks, and the articles about his rooms, as
to the projects or the condition of their mysterious inmate.

On the stranger’s return the mistress of the house carried up to him
the book in which, according to police regulations, he was required to
inscribe his name, rank, the object of his journey, and the place from
which he came.

“I shall write nothing,” he said to the mistress of the inn. “If any one
questions you, you can say I refused; and you may send the sub-prefect
to see me, for I have no passport. I dare say that many persons will
make inquiries about me, madame, and you can tell them just what you
like. I wish you to know nothing about me. If you worry me on this
point, I shall go to the Hotel de la Poste on the Place du Pont and
remain there for the fortnight I propose to spend here. I should be
sorry for that, because I know that you are the sister of Gothard, one
of the heroes of the Simeuse affair.”

“Enough, monsieur,” said the sister of the steward of Cinq-Cygne.

After such a beginning, the stranger kept the mistress of the house a
whole hour and made her tell him all she knew of Arcis, of its fortunes,
its interests, and its functionaries. The next day he disappeared on
horseback, followed by his tiger, returning at midnight.

We can now understand Mademoiselle Cecile’s little joke, which Madame
Beauvisage thought to be without foundation. Beauvisage and Cecile,
surprised by the order of the day promulgated by Severine, were
enchanted. While his wife went to dress for Madame Marion’s reception,
the father listened to the many conjectures it was natural a girl should
make in such a case. Then, fatigued with his day, he went to bed as soon
as his wife and daughter had departed.

As may readily be supposed by those who know anything of country towns,
a crowd of persons flocked to Madame Marion’s that evening. The triumph
of Giguet junior was thought to be a victory won against the Comte de
Gondreville, and to insure forever the independence of Arcis in the
matter of elections. The news of the death of poor Charles Keller was
regarded as a judgment from heaven, intended to silence all rivalries.

Antonin Goulard, Frederic Marest, Olivier Vinet, and Monsieur Martener,
the authorities who, until then, had frequented this salon (the
prevailing opinions of which did not seem to them contrary to the
government created by the popular will in July, 1830), came as usual,
possessed by curiosity to see what attitude the Beauvisage family would
take under the circumstances.

The salon, restored to its usual condition, showed no signs of the
meeting which appeared to have settled the destiny of Simon Giguet. By
eight o’clock four card-tables, each with four players, were under way.
The smaller salon and the dining-room were full of people. Never, except
on grand occasions, such as balls and fete-days, had Madame Marion seen
such an influx at the door of her salon, forming as it were the tail of
a comet.

“It is the dawn of power,” said Olivier Vinet to the mistress of the
house, showing her this spectacle, so gratifying to the heart of a
person who delighted in receiving company.

“No one knows what there is in Simon,” replied the mother. “We live in
times when young men who persevere and are moral and upright can aspire
to everything.”

This answer was made, not so much to Vinet as to Madame Beauvisage, who
had entered the room with her daughter and was now beginning to offer
her congratulations on the event. In order to escape indirect appeals
and pointed interpretations of careless words, Madame Beauvisage took a
vacant place at a whist-table and devoted her mind to the winning of one
hundred fishes. One hundred fishes, or counters, made fifty sous! When a
player had lost that sum it was talked of in Arcis for a couple of days.

Cecile went to talk with Mademoiselle Mollot, one of her good friends,
appearing to be seized with redoubled affection for her. Mademoiselle
Mollot was the beauty of Arcis, just as Cecile was the heiress. Monsieur
Mollot, clerk of the court, lived on the Grande-Place in a house
constructed in the same manner as that of Beauvisage on the Place du
Pont. Madame Mollot, forever seated at the window of her salon on the
ground-floor, was attacked (as the result of that situation) by intense,
acute, insatiable curiosity, now become a chronic and inveterate
disease. The moment a peasant entered the square from the road to
Brienne she saw him, and watched to see what business could have brought
him to Arcis; she had no peace of mind until that peasant was explained.
She spent her life in judging the events, men, things, and households of
Arcis.

The ambition of the house of Mollot, father, mother, and daughter, was
to marry Ernestine (an only daughter) to Antonin Goulard. Consequently
the refusal of the Beauvisage parents to entertain the proposals of
the sub-prefect had tightened the bonds of friendship between the two
families.

“There’s an impatient man!” said Ernestine to Cecile, indicating Simon
Giguet. “He wants to come and talk with us; but every one who comes in
feels bound to congratulate him. I’ve heard him say fifty times already:
‘It is, I think, less to me than to my father that this compliment of
my fellow-citizens has been paid; but, in any case, pray believe that
I shall be devoted not only to our general interests but to yours
individually.’ I can guess those words by the motion of his lips, and
all the while he is looking at you with an air of martyrdom.”

“Ernestine,” replied Cecile, “don’t leave me the whole evening; I
don’t want to listen to his proposals made under cover of ‘alases!’ and
mingled with sighs.”

“Don’t you want to be the wife of a Keeper of the Seals?”

“Ah! that’s all nonsense,” said Cecile, laughing.

“But I assure you,” persisted Ernestine, “that just before you came
in Monsieur Godivet, the registrar, was declaring with enthusiasm that
Simon would be Keeper of the Seals in three years.”

“Do they count on the influence of the Comte de Gondreville?” asked
the sub-prefect, coming up to the two girls and guessing that they were
making fun of his friend Giguet.

“Ah! Monsieur Antonin,” said the handsome Ernestine, “you who promised
my mother to find out all about the _stranger_, what have you heard
about him?”

“The events of to-day, Mademoiselle, are so much more important,” said
Antonin, taking a seat beside Cecile, like a diplomat delighted to
escape general attention by conversing with two girls. “All my career as
sub-prefect or prefect is at stake.”

“What! I thought you allowed your friend Simon to be nominated
unanimously.”

“Simon is my friend, but the government is my master, and I expect to
do my best to prevent Simon from being elected. And here comes Madame
Mollot, who owes me her concurrence as the wife of a man whose functions
attach him to the government.”

“I am sure we ask nothing better than to be on your side,” replied the
sheriff’s wife. “Mollot has told me,” she continued in a low voice,
“what took place here to-day--it is pitiable! Only one man showed
talent, and that was Achille Pigoult. Everybody agrees that he would
make a fine orator in the Chamber; and therefore, though he has nothing,
and my daughter has a _dot_ of sixty thousand francs, not to speak of
what, as an only child, she will inherit from us and also from her uncle
at Mollot and from my aunt Lambert at Troyes,--well, I declare to you
that if Monsieur Achille Pigoult did us the honor to ask her to wife,
I should give her to him; yes, I should--provided always she liked
him. But the silly little goose wants to marry as she pleases; it is
Mademoiselle Beauvisage who puts such notions into her head.”

The sub-prefect received this double broadside like a man who knows he
has thirty thousand francs a year, and expects a prefecture.

“Mademoiselle is right,” he said, looking at Cecile; “she is rich enough
to make a marriage of love.”

“Don’t let us talk about marriage,” said Ernestine; “it saddens my
poor dear Cecile, who was owning to me just now that in order not to be
married for her money, but for herself, she should like an affair with
some stranger who knew nothing of Arcis and her future expectations as
Lady Croesus, and would spin her a romance to end in true love and a
marriage.”

“That’s a very pretty idea!” cried Olivier Vinet, joining the group of
young ladies in order to get away from the partisans of Simon, the
idol of the day. “I always knew that Mademoiselle had as much sense as
money.”

“And,” continued Ernestine, “she has selected for the hero of her
romance--”

“Oh!” interrupted Madame Mollot, “an old man of fifty!--fie!”

“How do you know he is fifty?” asked Olivier Vinet, laughing.

“How?” replied Madame Mollot. “Why, this morning I was so puzzled that I
got out my opera-glass--”

“Bravo!” cried the superintendent of _ponts et chaussees_, who was
paying court to the mother to obtain the daughter.

“And so,” continued Madame Mollot, “I was able to see him shaving; with
such elegant razors!--mounted in gold, or silver-gilt!”

“Gold! gold, of course!” said Vinet. “When things are unknown they
should always be imagined of the finest quality. Consequently I, not
having seen this gentleman, am perfectly sure that he is at least a
count.”

This speech created a laugh; and the laughing group excited the jealousy
of a group of dowagers and the attention of a troop of men in black who
surrounded Simon Giguet. As for the latter, he was chafing in despair at
not being able to lay his fortune and his future at the feet of the rich
Cecile.

“Yes,” continued Vinet, “a man distinguished for his birth, for
his manners, his fortune, his equipages,--a lion, a dandy, a
yellow-kid-glover!”

“Monsieur Olivier,” said Ernestine, “he drives the prettiest tilbury you
ever saw.”

“What? Antonin, you never told me he had a tilbury when we were
talking about that conspirator this morning. A tilbury! Why, that’s an
extenuating circumstance; he can’t be a republican.”

“Mesdemoiselles, there is nothing that I will not do in the interests
of your amusement,” said Antonin Goulard. “I will instantly proceed
to ascertain if this individual is a count, and if he is, what kind of
count.”

“You can make a report upon him,” said the superintendent of bridges.

“For the use of all future sub-prefects,” added Olivier Vinet.

“How can you do it?” asked Madame Mollot.

“Oh!” replied the sub-prefect, “ask Mademoiselle Beauvisage whom she
would accept as her husband among all of us here present; she will not
answer. Allow me the same discretion. Mesdemoiselles, restrain your
anxiety; in ten minutes you shall know whether the Unknown is a count or
a commercial traveller.”



X. THE REVELATIONS OF AN OPERA-GLASS

Antonin Goulard left the little group of young ladies, in which,
besides Cecile and Ernestine, were Mademoiselle Berton, daughter of the
tax-collector,--an insignificant young person who played the part of
satellite to Cecile,--and Mademoiselle Herbelot, sister of the second
notary of Arcis, an old maid of thirty, soured, affected, and dressed
like all old maids; for she wore, over a bombazine gown, an embroidered
fichu, the corners of which, gathered to the front of the bodice, were
knotted together after the well-known fashion under the Terror.

“Julien,” said the sub-prefect to his valet, who was waiting in the
antechamber, “you who served six years at Gondreville ought to know how
a count’s coronet is made.”

“Yes, monsieur; it has pearls on its nine points.”

“Very good. Go to the Mulet, and try to clap your eye on the tilbury of
the gentleman who is stopping there, and then come and tell me what is
painted on it. Do your business thoroughly, and bring me all the gossip
of the inn. If you see the little groom, ask him at what hour to-morrow
his master can receive the sub-prefect--in case you find the nine
pearls. Don’t drink, don’t gossip yourself, and come back quickly; and
as soon as you get back let me know it by coming to the door of the
salon.”

“Yes, monsieur.”

The Mulet inn, as we have already said, stands on the square, at the
opposite corner to the garden wall of the Marion estate on the other
side of the road leading to Brienne. Therefore the solution of the
problem could be rapid. Antonin Goulard returned to his place by Cecile
to await results.

“We talked so much about the stranger yesterday that I dreamed of him
all night,” said Madame Mollot.

“Ha! ha! do you still dream of unknown heroes, fair lady?” said Vinet.

“You are very impertinent; if I chose I could make you dream of me,” she
retorted. “So this morning when I rose--”

It may not be useless to say that Madame Mollot was considered a clever
woman in Arcis; that is, she expressed herself fluently and abused that
advantage. A Parisian, wandering by chance into these regions, like the
Unknown, would have thought her excessively garrulous.

“--I was, naturally, making my toilet, and as I looked mechanically
about me--”

“Through the window?” asked Antonin.

“Certainly; my dressing-room opens on the street. Now you know, of
course, that Poupart has put the stranger into one of the rooms exactly
opposite to mine--”

“One room, mamma!” interrupted Ernestine. “The count occupies three
rooms! The little groom, dressed all in black, is in the first. They
have made a salon of the next, and the Unknown sleeps in the third.”

“Then he has half the rooms in the inn,” remarked Mademoiselle Herbelot.

“Well, young ladies, and what has that to do with his person?” said
Madame Mollot, sharply, not pleased at the interruption. “I am talking
of the man himself--”

“Don’t interrupt the orator,” put in Vinet.

“As I was stooping--”

“Seated?” asked Antonin.

“Madame was of course as she naturally would be,--making her toilet and
looking at the Mulet,” said Vinet.

In the provinces such jokes are prized, for people have so long said
everything to each other that they have recourse at last to the sort
of nonsense our fathers indulged in before the introduction of English
hypocrisy,--one of those products against which custom-houses are
powerless.

“Don’t interrupt the orator,” repeated Cecile Beauvisage to Vinet, with
whom she exchanged a smile.

“My eyes involuntarily fell on the window of the room in which the
stranger had slept the night before. I don’t know what time he went to
bed, although I was awake till past midnight; but I have the misfortune
to be married to a man who snores fit to crack the planks and the
rafters. If I fall asleep first, oh! I sleep so sound nothing can wake
me; but if Mollot drops off first my night is ruined--”

“Don’t you ever go off together?” said Achille Pigoult, joining the
group. “I see you are talking of sleep.”

“Hush, naughty boy!” replied Madame Mollot, graciously.

“Do you know what they mean?” whispered Cecile to Ernestine.

“At any rate, he was not in at one o’clock in the morning,” continued
Madame Mollot.

“Then he defrauded you!--came home without your knowing it!” said
Achille Pigoult. “Ha! that man is sly indeed; he’ll put us all in his
pouch and sell us in the market-place.”

“To whom?” asked Vinet.

“Oh! to a project! to an idea! to a system!” replied the notary, to whom
Olivier smiled with a knowing air.

“Imagine my surprise,” continued Madame Mollot, “when I saw a stuff, a
material, of splendid magnificence, most beautiful! dazzling! I said to
myself, ‘That must be a dressing-gown of the spun-glass material I have
sometimes seen in exhibitions of industrial products.’ So I fetched my
opera-glass to examine it. But, good gracious! what do you think I saw?
Above the dressing-gown, where the head ought to have been, I saw an
enormous mass, something like a knee--I can’t tell you how my curiosity
was excited.”

“I can conceive it,” said Antonin.

“No, you can _not_ conceive it,” said Madame Mollot; “for this knee--”

“Ah! I understand,” cried Olivier Vinet, laughing; “the Unknown was also
making his toilet, and you saw his two knees.”

“No, no!” cried Madame Mollot; “you are putting incongruities into my
mouth. The stranger was standing up; he held a sponge in his hand above
an immense basin, and--none of your jokes, Monsieur Olivier!--it wasn’t
his knee, it was his head! He was washing his bald head; he hasn’t a
spear of hair upon it.”

“Impudent man!” said Antonin. “He certainly can’t have come with ideas
of marriage in that head. Here we must have hair in order to be married.
That’s essential.”

“I am therefore right in saying that our Unknown visitor must be fifty
years old. Nobody ever takes to a wig before that time of life. After a
time, when his toilet was finished, he opened his window and looked out;
and _then_ he wore a splendid head of black hair. He turned his eyeglass
full on me,--for by that time, I was in my balcony. Therefore, my dear
Cecile, you see for yourself that you can’t take that man for the hero
of your romance.”

“Why not? Men of fifty are not to be despised, if they are counts,” said
Ernestine.

“Heavens! what has age to do with it?” said Mademoiselle Herbelot.

“Provided one gets a husband,” added Vinet, whose cold maliciousness
made him feared.

“Yes,” replied the old maid, feeling the cut, “I should prefer a man of
fifty, indulgent, kind, and considerate, to a young man without a heart,
whose wit would bite every one, even his wife.”

“This is all very well for conversation,” retorted Vinet, “but in order
to love the man of fifty and reject the other, it is necessary to have
the opportunity to choose.”

“Oh!” said Madame Mollot, in order to stop this passage at arms between
the old maid and Vinet, who always went to far, “when a woman has
had experience of life she knows that a husband of fifty or one of
twenty-five is absolutely the same thing if she merely respects him. The
important things in marriage are the benefits to be derived from it. If
Mademoiselle Beauvisage wants to go to Paris and shine there--and in
her place I should certainly feel so--she ought not to take a husband
in Arcis. If I had the fortune she will have, I should give my hand to
a count, to a man who would put me in a high social position, and I
shouldn’t ask to see the certificate of his birth.”

“It would satisfy you to see his toilet,” whispered Vinet in her ear.

“But the king makes counts,” said Madame Marion, who had now joined the
group and was surveying the bevy of young ladies.

“Ah! madame,” remarked Vinet, “but some young girls prefer their counts
already made.”

“Well, Monsieur Antonin,” said Cecile, laughing at Vinet’s sarcasm.
“Your ten minutes have expired, and you haven’t told us whether the
Unknown is a count or not.”

“I shall keep my promise,” replied the sub-prefect, perceiving at that
moment the head of his valet in the doorway; and again he left his place
beside Cecile.

“You are talking of the stranger,” said Madame Marion. “Is anything
really known about him?”

“No, madame,” replied Achille Pigoult; “but he is, without knowing it,
like the clown of a circus, the centre of the eyes of the two thousand
inhabitants of this town. I know one thing about him,” added the little
notary.

“Oh, tell us, Monsieur Achille!” cried Ernestine, eagerly.

“His tiger’s name is Paradise!”

“Paradise!” echoed every one included in the little circle.

“Can a man be called Paradise?” asked Madame Herbelot, who had joined
her sister-in-law.

“It tends to prove,” continued the notary, “that the master is an angel;
for when his tiger follows him--you understand.”

“It is the road of Paradise! very good, that,” said Madame Marion,
anxious to flatter Achille Pigoult in the interests of her nephew.

“Monsieur,” said Antonin’s valet in the dining-room, “the tilbury has a
coat of arms--”

“Coat of arms!”

“Yes, and droll enough they are! There’s a coronet with nine points and
pearls--”

“Then he’s a count!”

“And a monster with wings, flying like a postilion who has dropped
something. And here is what is written on the belt,” added the man,
taking a paper from his pocket. “Mademoiselle Anicette, the Princesse de
Cadignan’s lady’s maid, who came in a carriage” (the Cinq-Cygne carriage
before the door of the Mulet!) “to bring a letter to the gentleman,
wrote it down for me.”

“Give it to me.”

The sub-prefect read the words: _Quo me trahit fortuna_.

Though he was not strong enough in French blazon to know the house that
bore that device, Antonin felt sure that the Cinq-Cygnes would not
send their chariot, nor the Princess de Cadignan a missive by her maid,
except to a person of the highest nobility.

“Ha! so you know the maid of the Princess de Cadignan! happy man!” said
Antonin.

Julien, a young countryman, after serving six months in the household
of the Comte de Gondreville, had entered the service of the sub-prefect,
who wanted a servant of the _right style_.

“But, monsieur, Anicette is my father’s god-daughter. Papa, who wanted
to do well by the girl, whose father was dead, sent her to a dressmaker
in Paris because my mother could not endure her.”

“Is she pretty?”

“Rather; the proof is that she got into trouble in Paris; but finally,
as she has talent and can make gowns and dress hair, she got a place
with the princess.”

“What did she tell you about Cinq-Cygne? Is there much company?”

“A great deal, monsieur. There’s the princess and Monsieur d’Arthez, the
Duc de Maufrigneuse and the duchess and the young marquis. In fact the
chateau is full. They expect Monseigneur the Bishop of Troyes to-night.”

“Monsieur Troubert! I should like to know how long he is going to stay.”

“Anicette thinks for some time; and she believes he is coming to meet
the gentleman who is now at the Mulet. They expect more company. The
coachman told me they were talking a great deal about the election.
Monsieur le president Michu is expected in a few days.”

“Try to bring that lady’s maid into town on pretence of shopping. Have
you any designs upon her?”

“If she has any savings I don’t know but what I might. She is a sly one,
though.”

“Tell her to come and see you at the sub-prefecture.”

“Yes, monsieur. I’ll go and tell her now.”

“Don’t say anything about me, or she might not come.”

“Ah! monsieur; haven’t I served at Gondreville?”

“You don’t know why they sent that message from Cinq-Cygne at this hour,
do you? It is half-past nine o’clock.”

“It must have been something pressing. The gentleman had only just
returned from Gondreville.”

“Gondreville!--has he been to Gondreville?”

“He dined there, monsieur. If you went to the Mulet you’d laugh! The
little tiger is, saving your presence, as drunk as a fiddler. He drank
such a lot of champagne in the servants’ hall that he can’t stand on his
legs; they have been filling him for fun.”

“And the count?”

“The count had gone to bed; but as soon as he received the letter he got
up. He is now dressing himself; and they are putting the horse in the
tilbury. The count is to spend the night at Cinq-Cygne.”

“He must be some great personage.”

“Oh, yes, monsieur; for Gothard, the steward of Cinq-Cygne, came this
morning to see his brother-in-law Poupart, and warned him to be very
discreet about the gentleman and to serve him like a king.”

“Vinet must be right,” thought the sub-prefect. “Can there be some cabal
on foot?”

“It was Duc Georges de Maufrigneuse who sent Gothard to the Mulet.
Poupart came to the meeting here this morning only because the gentleman
wished him to do so; if he had sent him to Paris, he’d go. Gothard told
Poupart to keep silent about the gentleman, and to fool all inquisitive
people.”

“If you can get Anicette here, don’t fail to let me know,” said Antonin.

“But I could see her at Cinq-Cygne if monsieur would send me to his
house at Val-Preux.”

“That’s an idea. You might profit by the chariot to get there. But what
reason could you give to the little groom?”

“He’s a madcap, that boy, monsieur. Would you believe it, drunk as he
is, he has just mounted his master’s thoroughbred, a horse that can do
twenty miles an hour, and started for Troyes with a letter in order that
it may reach Paris to-morrow! And only nine years and a half old! What
will he be at twenty?”

The sub-prefect listened mechanically to these remarks. Julien gossiped
on, his master listening, absorbed in thought about the stranger.

“Wait here,” he said to the man as he turned with slow steps to re-enter
the salon. “What a mess!” he thought to himself,--“a man who dines at
Gondreville and spends the night at Cinq-Cygnes! Mysteries indeed!”

“Well?” cried the circle around Mademoiselle Beauvisage as soon as he
reappeared.

“He is a count, and _vieille roche_, I answer for it.”

“Oh! how I should like to see him!” cried Cecile.

“Mademoiselle,” said Antonin, smiling and looking maliciously at Madame
Mollot, “he is tall and well-made and does not wear a wig. His little
groom was as drunk as the twenty-four cantons; they filled him with
champagne at Gondreville and that little scamp, only nine years old,
answered my man Julien, who asked him about his master’s wig, with all
the assumption of an old valet: ‘My master! wear a wig!--if he did I’d
leave him. He dyes his hair and that’s bad enough.’”

“Your opera-glass magnifies,” said Achille Pigoult to Madame Mollot, who
laughed.

“Well, the tiger of the handsome count, drunk as he is, is now riding
to Troyes to post a letter, and he’ll get there, as they say, in
five-quarters of an hour.”

“I’d like to have that tiger,” said Vinet.

“If the count dined at Gondreville we shall soon know all about him,”
 remarked Cecile; “for my grandpapa is going there to-morrow morning.”

“What will strike you as very strange,” said Antonin Goulard, “is that
the party at Cinq-Cygne have just sent Mademoiselle Anicette, the maid
of the Princesse de Cadignan, in the Cinq-Cygne carriage, with a note to
the stranger, and he is going now to pass the night there.”

“_Ah ca_!” said Olivier Vinet, “then he is not a man; he’s a devil, a
phoenix, he will poculate--”

“Ah, fie! monsieur,” said Madame Mollot, “you use words that are
really--”

“‘Poculate’ is a word of the highest latinity, madame,” replied Vinet,
gravely. “So, as I said, he will poculate with Louis Philippe in the
morning, and banquet at the Holy-Rood with Charles the Tenth at
night. There is but one reason that allows a decent man to go to both
camps--from Montague to Capulet! Ha, ha! I know who that stranger is.
He’s--”

“The president of a railway from Paris to Lyons, or Paris to Dijon, or
from Montereau to Troyes.”

“That’s true,” said Antonin. “You have it. There’s nothing but
speculation that is welcomed everywhere.”

“Yes, just see how great names, great families, the old and the new
peerage are rushing hot-foot into enterprises and partnerships,” said
Achille Pigoult.

“Francs attract the Franks,” remarked Olivier Vinet, without a smile.

“You are not an _olive_-branch of peace,” said Madame Mollot, laughing.

“But is it not demoralizing to see such names as Verneuil, Maufrigneuse,
and Herouville side by side with those of du Tillet and Nucingen in the
Bourse speculations?”

“Our great Unknown is undoubtedly an embryo railway,” said Olivier
Vinet.

“Well, to-morrow all Arcis will be upside-down about it,” said Achille
Pigoult. “I shall call upon the Unknown and ask him to make me notary of
the affair. There’ll be two thousand deeds to draw, at the least.”

“Our romance is turning into a locomotive,” said Ernestine to Cecile.

“A count with a railway is all the more marriageable,” remarked Achille
Pigoult. “But who knows whether he is a bachelor?”

“Oh! I shall know that to-morrow from grandpapa,” cried Cecile, with
pretended enthusiasm.

“What a jest!” said Madame Mollot. “You can’t really mean, my little
Cecile, that you are thinking of that stranger?”

“But the husband is always the stranger,” interposed Olivier Vinet,
making a sign to Mademoiselle Beauvisage which she fully understood.

“Why shouldn’t I think of him?” asked Cecile; “that isn’t compromising.
Besides, he is, so these gentlemen say, either some great speculator, or
some great seigneur, and either would suit me. I love Paris; and I want
a house, a carriage, an opera-box, etc., in Paris.”

“That’s right,” said Vinet. “When people dream, they needn’t refuse
themselves anything. If I had the pleasure of being your brother I
should marry you to the young Marquis de Cinq-Cygne, who seems to me a
lively young scamp who will make the money dance, and will laugh at his
mother’s prejudices against the actors in the famous Simeuse melodrama.”

“It would be easier for you to make yourself prime-minister,”
 said Madame Marion. “There will never be any alliance between the
granddaughter of Grevin and the Cinq-Cygnes.”

“Romeo came within an ace of marrying Juliet,” remarked Achille Pigoult,
“and Mademoiselle is more beautiful than--”

“Oh! if you are going to quote operas and opera beauties!” said Herbelot
the notary, naively, having finished his game of whist.

“My legal brother,” said Achille Pigoult, “is not very strong on the
history of the middle ages.”

“Come, Malvina!” said the stout notary to his wife, making no reply to
his young associate.

“Tell me, Monsieur Antonin,” said Cecile to the sub-prefect, “you spoke
of Anicette, the maid of the Princesse de Cadignan; do you know her?”

“No, but Julien does; she is the goddaughter of his father, and they are
good friends together.”

“Then try, through Julien, to get her to live with us. Mamma wouldn’t
consider wages.”

“Mademoiselle, to hear is to obey, as they say to despots in Asia,”
 replied the sub-prefect. “Just see to what lengths I will go in order to
serve you.”

And he left the room to give Julien orders to go with Anicette in the
chariot and coax her away from the princess at any price.



XI. IN WHICH THE CANDIDATE BEGINS TO LOSE VOTES

At this moment Simon Giguet, who had got through his bowing and scraping
to all the influential men of Arcis, and who regarded himself as sure of
his election, joined the circle around Cecile and Mademoiselle Mollot.
The evening was far advanced. Ten o’clock had struck. After an enormous
consumption of cakes, orgeat, punch, lemonade, and various syrups, those
who had come that evening solely for political reasons and who were
not accustomed to Madame Marion’s floors, to them aristocratic,
departed,--all the more willingly, because they were unaccustomed to
sitting up so late. The evening then began to take on its usual air of
intimacy. Simon Giguet hoped that he could now exchange a few words with
Cecile, and he looked at her like a conqueror. The look displeased her.

“My dear fellow,” said Antonin to Simon, observing on his friend’s face
the glory of success, “you come at a moment when the noses of all the
young men in Arcis are put out of joint.”

“Very much so,” said Ernestine, whom Cecile had nudged with her elbow.
“We are distracted, Cecile and I, about the great Unknown, and we are
quarrelling for him.”

“But,” said Cecile, “he is no longer unknown; he is a count.”

“Some adventurer!” replied Simon Giguet, with an air of contempt.

“Will you say that, Monsieur Simon,” answered Cecile, feeling piqued,
“of a man to whom the Princesse de Cadignan has just sent her servants,
who dined at Gondreville to-day, and is to spend this evening with the
Marquise de Cinq-Cygne?”

This was said sharply, and in so hard a tone that Simon was
disconcerted.

“Ah, mademoiselle,” said Olivier Vinet, “if we said to each other’s
faces what we all say behind our backs, social life wouldn’t be
possible. The pleasures of society, especially in the provinces, are to
slander and backbite our neighbors.”

“Monsieur Simon is jealous of your enthusiasm for the mysterious count,”
 said Ernestine.

“It seems to me,” said Cecile, “that Monsieur Simon has no right to be
jealous of my affections.”

After which remark, uttered in a way to dumfound Simon, Cecile rose;
the others made way for her and she went to her mother, who was just
finishing her rubber of whist.

“My dearest!” cried Madame Marion, hurrying after the heiress, “I think
you are rather hard on my poor Simon.”

“What has she done, my dear little kitten?” asked Madame Beauvisage.

“Mamma, Monsieur Simon called my great Unknown an adventurer!”

Simon had followed his aunt and was now beside the card-table. The four
persons whose interests were concerned were thus in the middle of the
salon,--Cecile and her mother on one side of the table, Madame Marion
and her nephew on the other.

“Really, madame,” said Simon Giguet, “there must be a strong desire to
find fault and to quarrel with me simply because I happened to say
that a gentleman whom all Arcis is talking about and who stops at the
Mulet--”

“Do you think he has come here to put himself in competition with you?”
 said Madame Beauvisage jestingly.

“I should be very indignant with him certainly if he were to cause the
slightest misunderstanding between Mademoiselle Cecile and myself,” said
the candidate, with a supplicating look at the young girl.

“You gave your opinion, monsieur, in a decisive manner which proves that
you are very despotic,” she replied; “but you are right; if you wish to
be minister you ought to be decisive.”

Here Madame Marion took Madame Beauvisage by the arm and led her to
a sofa. Cecile, finding herself alone, returned to her former seat to
avoid hearing Simon’s answer to her speech, and the candidate was left
standing rather foolishly before the table, where he mechanically played
with the counters.

“My dear friend,” said Madame Marion in a low voice to Madame
Beauvisage, “you see that nothing can now hinder my nephew’s election.”

“I am delighted both for your sake and for the Chamber of Deputies,”
 said Severine.

“My nephew is certain to go far, my dear; and I’ll tell you why: his
own fortune, that which his father will leave him and mine, will amount
altogether to some thirty thousand francs a year. When a man is a deputy
and has a fortune like that, he can aspire to anything.”

“Madame, he has our utmost admiration and our most earnest wishes for
the success of his political career; but--”

“I am not asking for an answer,” said Madame Marion, hastily
interrupting her friend. “I only beg you to reflect on the following
suggestions: Do our children suit each other? Can we marry them? We
should then live in Paris during the sessions; and who knows if the
deputy of Arcis may not be settled there permanently in some fine place
in the magistracy? Look at Monsieur Vinet of Provins, how he has made
his way. People blamed Mademoiselle de Chargeboeuf for marrying him; yet
she will soon be wife of the Keeper of the Seals; Monsieur Vinet can be
peer of France whenever he pleases.”

“Madame, I have not the power to marry my daughter according to my own
tastes. In the first place, her father and I leave her absolutely free
to choose for herself. If she wanted to marry the ‘great Unknown’ and we
found that the match was suitable, we should give our consent. Besides
this, Cecile is wholly dependent on her grandfather, who intends to give
her on her marriage the Hotel de Beauseant in Paris, which he purchased
for us six years ago; the value of which is now rated at eight hundred
thousand francs. It is one of the finest houses in the faubourg
Saint-Germain. Moreover, he intends to add two hundred thousand francs
for the cost of fitting it up. A grandfather who behaves in this way,
and who can influence my mother-in-law to make a few sacrifices for
her granddaughter in expectation of a suitable marriage, has a right to
advise--”

“Certainly,” said Madame Marion, stupefied by this confidence, which
made the marriage of her nephew and Cecile extremely difficult.

“Even if Cecile had nothing to expect from her grandfather Grevin,”
 continued Madame Beauvisage, “she would not marry without first
consulting him. If you have any proposals to make, go and see my
father.”

“Very good; I will go,” said Madame Marion.

Madame Beauvisage made a sign to Cecile, and together they left the
salon.

The next day Antonin and Frederic Marest found themselves, according
to their usual custom, with Monsieur Martener and Olivier, beneath the
lindens of the Avenue of Sighs, smoking their cigars and walking up and
down. This daily promenade is one of the petty pleasures of government
officials in the provinces when they happen to be on good terms with one
another.

After they had made a few turns, Simon Giguet came up and joined them
saying to the sub-prefect with a mysterious air:--

“You ought to be faithful to an old comrade who wishes to get you the
rosette of an officer and a prefecture.”

“You are beginning your political career betimes,” said Antonin,
laughing. “You are trying to corrupt me, rapid puritan!”

“Will you support me?”

“My dear fellow, you know very well that Bar-sur-Aube votes here. Who
can guarantee a majority under such circumstances? My colleague of
Bar-sur-Aube would complain of me if I did not unite my efforts with his
in support of the government. Your promise is conditional; whereas my
dismissal would be certain.”

“But I have no competitors.”

“You think so,” said Antonin, “but some one is sure to turn up; you may
rely on that.”

“Why doesn’t my aunt come, when she knows I am on a gridiron!” exclaimed
Giguet, suddenly. “These three hours are like three years!”

His secret had escaped him and he now admitted to his friend that Madame
Marion had gone on his behalf to old Grevin with a formal proposal for
Cecile’s hand.

The pair had now reached the Brienne road opposite to the Mulet
hostelry. While the lawyer looked down the street towards the bridge his
aunt would have to cross, the sub-prefect examined the gullies made by
the rain in the open square. Arcis is not paved. The plains of Champagne
furnish no material fit for building, nor even pebbles large enough for
cobble-stone pavements. One or two streets and a few detached places
are imperfectly macadamized and that is saying enough to describe their
condition after a rain. The sub-prefect gave himself an appearance
of occupation by apparently exercising his thoughts on this important
object; but he lost not a single expression of suffering on the anxious
face of his companion.

At this moment, the stranger was returning from the Chateau de
Cinq-Cygne, where he had apparently passed the night. Goulard resolved
to clear up, himself, the mystery wrapped about the Unknown, who was
physically enveloped in an overcoat of thick cloth called a _paletot_,
then the fashion. A mantle, thrown across his knees for a covering, hid
the lower half of his body, while an enormous muffler of red cashmere
covered his neck and head to the eyes. His hat, jauntily tipped to
one side, was, nevertheless, not ridiculous. Never was a mystery more
mysteriously bundled up and swathed.

“Look out!” cried the tiger, who preceded the tilbury on horseback.
“Open, papa Poupart, open!” he screamed in his shrill little voice.

The three servants of the inn ran out, and the tilbury drove in without
any one being able to see a single feature of the stranger’s face. The
sub-prefect followed the tilbury into the courtyard, and went to the
door of the inn.

“Madame Poupart,” said Antonin, “will you ask Monsieur--Monsieur--”

“I don’t know his name,” said Gothard’s sister.

“You do wrong! The rules of the police are strict, and Monsieur Groslier
doesn’t trifle, like some commissaries of police.”

“Innkeepers are never to blame about election-time,” remarked the little
tiger, getting off his horse.

“I’ll repeat that to Vinet,” thought the sub-prefect. “Go and ask your
master if he can receive the sub-prefect of Arcis.”

Presently Paradise returned.

“Monsieur begs Monsieur the sub-prefect to come up; he will be delighted
to see him.”

“My lad,” said Olivier Vinet, who with the two other functionaries had
joined the sub-prefect before the inn, “how much does your master give a
year for a boy of your cut and wits?”

“Give, monsieur! What do you take me for? Monsieur le comte lets himself
be milked, and I’m content.”

“That boy was raised in a good school!” said Frederic Marest.

“The highest school, monsieur,” said the urchin, amazing the four
friends with his perfect self-possession.

“What a Figaro!” cried Vinet.

“Mustn’t lower one’s price,” said the infant. “My master calls me a
little Robert-Macaire, and since we have learned how to invest our money
we are Figaro, plus a savings bank.”

“How much do you earn?”

“Oh! some races I make two or three thousand francs--and without selling
my master, monsieur.”

“Sublime infant!” said Vinet; “he knows the turf.”

“Yes, and all gentlemen riders,” said the child, sticking out his tongue
at Vinet.

Antonin Goulard, ushered by the landlord into a room which had been
turned into a salon, felt himself instantly under the focus of an
eyeglass held in the most impertinent manner by the stranger.

“Monsieur,” said the sub-prefect with a certain official hauteur, “I
have just learned from the wife of the innkeeper that you refuse to
conform to the ordinances of the police, and as I do not doubt that you
are a person of distinction, I have come myself--”

“Is your name Goulard?” demanded the stranger in a high voice.

“I am the sub-prefect, monsieur,” replied Antonin Goulard.

“Your father belonged to the Simeuse family?”

“And I, monsieur, belong to the government; that is how times differ.”

“You have a servant named Julien, who has tried to entice the Princesse
de Cadignan’s maid away from her?”

“Monsieur, I do not allow any one to speak to me in this manner,” said
Goulard; “you misunderstand my character.”

“And you want to know about mine!” returned the Unknown. “Well, I
will now make myself known. You can write in the landlord’s book:
‘Impertinent fellow. Direct from Paris. Age doubtful. Travelling for
pleasure.’ It would be rather a novelty in France to imitate England and
let people come and go as they please, without tormenting them at every
turn for ‘papers.’ I have no passport; now, what will you do to me?”

“The _procureur-du-roi_ is walking up and down there under the lindens,”
 said the sub-prefect.

“Monsieur Marest! Wish him good-morning from me.”

“But who are you?”

“Whatever you wish me to be, my dear Monsieur Goulard,” said the
stranger. “You alone shall decide _what_ I am to be in this department.
Give me some advice on that head. Here, read that.”

And the stranger handed the sub-prefect the following letter:--

  (Confidential.)       Prefecture of the Aube.

  Monsieur the Sub-prefect,--You will consult with the bearer of
  this letter as to the election at Arcis, and you will conform to
  all the suggestions and requests he may make to you. I request you
  to conduct this matter with the utmost discretion, and to treat
  the bearer with all the respect that is due to his station.

The letter was written and signed by the prefect of the Aube.

“You have been talking prose without knowing it,” said the Unknown,
taking back the letter.

Antonin Goulard, already struck with the aristocratic tone and manners
of this personage, became respectful.

“How was that, monsieur?” he asked.

“By endeavoring to entice Anicette. She told us of the attempts of your
man Julien to corrupt her. But my little tiger, Paradise, got the better
of him, and he ended by admitting that you wanted to put Anicette into
the service of one of the richest families in Arcis. Now, as the
richest family in Arcis is the Beauvisage family I make no doubt it is
Mademoiselle Cecile who covets this treasure.”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Very good; then Anicette shall enter the Beauvisage household at once.”

He whistled. Paradise presented himself so rapidly that his master said:
“You were listening!”

“In spite of myself, Monsieur le comte; these partitions are nothing but
paper. But if Monsieur le comte prefers, I will move upstairs.”

“No, you can listen; it is your perquisite. It is for me to speak low
when I don’t want you to know my affairs. Go back to Cinq-Cygne, and
give this gold piece to that little Anicette from me. Julien shall have
the credit of enticing her away,” he continued, addressing Goulard.
“That bit of gold will inform her that she is to follow him. Anicette
may be useful to the success of our candidate.”

“Anicette?”

“Monsieur, it is now thirty-two years since lady’s-maids have served
my purposes. I had my first adventure at the age of thirteen, like the
regent, the great-great-grandfather of our present King. Do you know the
fortune of this Mademoiselle Beauvisage?”

“I can’t help knowing it, monsieur, for yesterday at Madame Marion’s,
Madame Beauvisage said openly that Monsieur Grevin, Cecile’s
grandfather, would give his granddaughter the hotel de Beauseant in
Paris and two hundred thousand francs for a wedding present.”

The stranger’s eyes expressed no surprise. He seemed to consider the
fortune rather paltry.

“Do you know Arcis well?” he asked of Goulard.

“I am the sub-prefect and I was born here.”

“What is the best way to balk curiosity?”

“By satisfying it. For instance, Monsieur le Comte has a baptismal name;
let him register that with the title of count.”

“Very good; Comte Maxime.”

“And if monsieur will assume the position of a railway official, Arcis
will be content; it will amuse itself by floating that stick at least
for a fortnight.”

“No, I prefer to be concerned in irrigation; it is less common. I have
come down to survey the wastelands of Champagne in order to reclaim
them. That will be, my good Monsieur Goulard, a reason for inviting me
to dine with you to-morrow to meet the mayor and his family; I wish to
see them, and study them.”

“I shall be only to happy to receive you,” said the sub-prefect; “but I
must ask your indulgence for the deficiencies of my little household.”

“If I succeed in managing the election of Arcis according to the wishes
of those who have sent me here, you, my dear friend, will be made a
prefect. Here, read these”; and he held out two letters to his visitor.

“Very good, Monsieur le comte,” said Antonin, returning them.

“Make a list of all the votes on which the ministry may count. Above
all, let no one suspect that you and I understand each other. I am a
speculator in land, and I don’t care a fig for elections.”

“I will send the commissary of police to force you to inscribe your name
on Poupart’s register.”

“So do. Adieu, monsieur. Heavens! what a region this is,” said the
count, in a loud voice; “one can’t take a step without having the
community, sub-prefect and all, on one’s back.”

“You will have to answer to the commissary of police, monsieur,” said
Antonin, in an equally loud tone.

And for the next twenty minutes Madame Mollot talked of the altercation
that took place between the sub-prefect and the stranger.

“Well, what wood is the beam that has plumped into our bog made of?”
 said Olivier Vinet when Antonin Goulard rejoined them on leaving the
Mulet.

“He is a Comte Maxime who is here to study the geological system
of Champagne, with a view to finding mineral waters,” replied the
sub-prefect, with an easy manner.

“Say a speculator,” said Oliver.

“Does he expect to get the natives to lay out capital?” asked Monsieur
Martener.

“I doubt if our royalists will go into that kind of mining,” remarked
Vinet, laughing.

“What should you think from the air and gestures of Madame Marion?” said
the sub-prefect turning off the subject by pointing to Madame Marion and
Simon, who were deep in conversation.

Simon had gone toward the bridge to meet his aunt, and was now walking
with her up the square.

“If he was accepted one word would suffice,” said the shrewd Olivier.

“Well?” said all the officials when Simon came to them under the
lindens.

“My aunt thinks the matter very hopeful,” replied Simon. “Madame
Beauvisage and old Grevin, who has just gone to Gondreville, were not at
all surprised at my proposals; they talked of our respective fortunes,
and said they wished to leave Cecile perfectly free to make her choice.
Besides which, Madame Beauvisage said that, as for herself, she saw
no objection to an alliance by which she should feel herself honored;
although she postponed all answer until after my election, and possibly
my first appearance in the Chamber. Old Grevin said he should consult
the Comte de Gondreville, without whose advice he never took any
important step.”

“All of which means,” said Goulard, point-blank, “that you will never
marry Cecile, my old fellow.”

“Why not?” said Giguet, ironically.

“My dear friend, Madame Beauvisage and her daughter spend four
evenings every week in the salon of your aunt; your aunt is the most
distinguished woman in Arcis; and she is, though twenty years the elder,
an object of envy to Madame Beauvisage; don’t you see, therefore, that
they wished to wrap up their refusal in certain civilities?”

“Not to say entire yes or no in such cases,” said Vinet, “is to say
_no_, with due regard to the intimacy of the two families. Though Madame
Beauvisage has the largest fortune in Arcis, Madame Marion is the
most esteemed woman in the place; for, with the exception of our
chief-justice’s wife, who sees no one now, she is the only woman who
knows how to hold a salon; she is the queen of Arcis. Madame Beauvisage
has tried to make her refusal polite, that’s all.”

“I think that old Grevin was fooling your mother,” said Frederic Marest.

“Yesterday you attacked the Comte de Gondreville, you insulted and
grievously affronted him, and he is to be consulted about your marriage
to Cecile!”

“Pere Grevin is a sly old dog,” said Vinet.

“Madame Beauvisage is very ambitious,” pursued Antonin Goulard. “She
knows very well her daughter is to have two millions; she means to be
mother-in-law of a minister, or an ambassador, in order to play the
great lady in Paris.”

“Well, why not?” said Simon Giguet.

“I wish you may get it!” replied the sub-prefect looking at Vinet,
with whom he went off into a hearty laugh as soon as they were out of
hearing. “He won’t even be deputy,” added Antonin, addressing Vinet;
“the ministry have other views. You will find a letter from your father
when you get home, enjoining you to make sure of the votes of all the
persons in your department, and see that they go for the ministerial
candidate. Your own promotion depends on this; and he requests you to be
very discreet.”

“But who is the candidate for whom our ushers and sheriffs and clerks,
and solicitors and notaries are to vote?” asked Vinet.

“The one I shall name to you.”

“How do you know my father has written to me, and what he wrote?”

“The stranger told me--”

“The man after water?”

“My dear Vinet, you and I are not to know; we must treat him as a
stranger. He saw your father at Provins as he came through. Just now
this same man gave me a note from the prefect instructing me to
follow in every particular the instructions of Comte Maxime about this
election. I knew very well I should have a battle to fight! Come
and dine somewhere and we will get out our batteries. You are to be
_procureur-du-roi_ at Mantes, and I am to be prefect; but we must _seem_
to have nothing to do with the election, for don’t you see, we are
between the hammer and the anvil. Simon is the candidate of a party
which wants to overturn the present ministry and may succeed; but for
men as intelligent as you and I there is but one course to take.”

“What is that?”

“To serve those who make and unmake ministers. A letter was shown to
me from one of those personages who represent the stable and immovable
thought of the State.”

Before going farther, it is necessary to explain who this Unknown person
was, and what his purpose was in coming to Champagne.



XII. THE SALON OF MADAME D’ESPARD

About two months before the nomination of Simon Giguet, at eleven
o’clock one evening, in a mansion of the faubourg Saint-Honore belonging
to the Marquise d’Espard, while tea was being served the Chevalier
d’Espard, brother-in-law to the marquise, put down his tea-cup, and,
looking round the circle, remarked:--

“Maxime was very melancholy to-night,--didn’t you think so?”

“Yes,” replied Rastignac, “but his sadness is easily accounted for. He
is forty-eight years old; at that age a man makes no new friends, and
now that we have buried de Marsay, Maxime has lost the only man capable
of understanding him, of being useful to him, and of using him.”

“He probably has pressing debts. Couldn’t you put him in the way of
paying them?” said the marquise to Rastignac.

At this period Rastignac was, for the second time, in the ministry; he
had just been made count almost against his will. His father-in-law, the
Baron de Nucingen, was peer of France, his younger brother a bishop,
the Comte de Roche-Hugon, his brother-in-law, was an ambassador, and he
himself was thought to be indispensable in all future combinations of
the ministry.

“You always forget, my dear marquise,” replied Rastignac, “that our
government exchanges its silver for gold only; it pays no heed to men.”

“Is Maxime a man who would blow out his brains?” inquired the banker du
Tillet.

“Ha! you wish I were; we should be quits then,” said Comte Maxime de
Trailles, whom everybody supposed to have left the house.

The count rose suddenly, like an apparition, from the depths of an
arm-chair placed exactly behind that of the Chevalier d’Espard.

Every one present laughed.

“Will you have a cup of tea?” said the young Comtesse de Rastignac, whom
the marquise had asked to do the honors in her place.

“Gladly,” replied the count, standing before the fireplace.

This man, the prince of fashionable scoundrels, had managed to maintain
himself until now in the high and mighty position of a dandy in Paris,
then called _Gants Jaunes_ (lemon-kid-glovers), and since, “lions.”
 It is useless to relate the history of his youth, full of questionable
adventures, with now and then some horrible drama, in which he had
always known how to save appearances. To this man women were never
anything else than a means; he believed no more in their griefs than he
did in their joys; he regarded them, like the late de Marsay, as naughty
children. After squandering his own fortune, he had spent that of a
famous courtesan, La Belle Hollandaise, the mother of Esther Gobseck.
He had caused the misery of Madame Restaud, sister of Madame Delphine de
Nucingen, the mother of the young Comtesse de Rastignac.

The world of Paris offers many unimaginable situations. The Baronne de
Nucingen was at this moment in Madame d’Espard’s salon in presence of
the author of all her sister’s misery, in presence of a murderer who
killed only the happiness of women. That, perhaps, was the reason why
he was there. Madame de Nucingen had dined at Madame d’Espard’s with her
daughter, married a few months earlier to the Comte de Rastignac, who
had begun his political career by occupying the post of under-secretary
of state in the famous ministry of the late de Marsay, the only real
statesman produced by the Revolution of July.

Comte Maxime de Trailles alone knew how many disasters he had
caused; but he had always taken care to shelter himself from blame by
scrupulously obeying the laws of the Man-Code. Though he had squandered
in the course of his life more money than the four galleys of France
could have stolen in the same time, he had kept clear of justice. Never
had he lacked in honor; his gambling debts were paid scrupulously.
An admirable player, his partners were chiefly the great seigneurs,
ministers, and ambassadors. He dined habitually with all the members of
the diplomatic body. He fought duels, and had killed two or three men
in his life; in fact, he had half murdered them, for his coolness and
self-possession were unparalleled. No young man could compare with him
in dress, in the distinction of his manners, the elegance of his witty
speech, the grace of his easy carriage,--in short, what was called in
those days “the grand air.” In his capacity of page to the Emperor,
trained from the age of twelve in the art of riding, he was held to be
the skilfulest of horsemen. Having always fine horses in his stable, he
raised some, and ruled the fashion in equestrianism. No man could
stand a supper of young bloods better than he; he drank more than the
best-trained toper, but he came out fresh and cool, and ready to begin
again as if orgy were his element. Maxime, one of those despised men who
know how to repress the contempt they inspire by the insolence of their
attitude and the fear they cause, never deceived himself as to his
actual position. Hence his real strength. Strong men are always their
own critics.

Under the Restoration he had made the most of his former condition of
page to the Emperor. He attributed to his pretended Bonapartist opinions
the rebuffs he met with from the different ministers when he asked for
an office under the Bourbons; for, in spite of his connections, his
birth, and his dangerous aptitudes, he never obtained anything. After
the failure of these attempts he entered the secret cabal which led in
time to the fall of the Elder branch.

When the Younger branch, preceded by the Parisian populace, had trodden
down the Elder branch and was seated on the throne, Maxime reproduced
his attachment to Napoleon, for whom he cared as much as for his first
love. He then did great services to the newcomers, who soon found the
payment for them onerous; for Maxime too often demanded payment of men
who knew how to reckon those services. At the first refusal, Maxime
assumed at once an attitude of hostility, threatening to reveal
unpleasant details; for budding dynasties, like infants, have much
soiled linen. De Marsay, during his ministry, repaired the mistake of
his predecessors, who had ignored the utility of this man. He gave him
those secret missions which require a conscience made malleable by the
hammer of necessity, an adroitness which recoils before no methods,
impudence, and, above all, the self-possession, the coolness, the
embracing glance which constitute the hired _bravi_ of thought and
statesmanship. Such instruments are both rare and necessary.

As a matter of calculation, de Marsay maintained Comte Maxime de
Trailles in the highest society; he described him as a man ripened by
passions, taught by experience, who knew men and things, to whom travel
and a certain faculty for observation had imparted an understanding of
European interests, of foreign cabinets, and of all the ramifications
of the great continental families. De Marsay convinced Maxime of the
necessity of doing himself credit; he taught him discretion, less as a
virtue than a speculation; he proved to him that the governing powers
would never abandon a solid, safe, elegant, and polished instrument.

“In politics,” he said, blaming Maxime for having uttered a threat, “we
should never _blackmail_ but once.”

Maxime was a man who could sound the depths of that saying.

De Marsay dead, Comte Maxime de Trailles had fallen back into his former
state of existence. He went to the baths every year and gambled; he
returned to Paris for the winter; but, though he received some large
sums from the depths of certain niggardly coffers, that sort of half-pay
to a daring man kept for use at any moment and possessing many secrets
of the art of diplomacy, was insufficient for the dissipations of a
life as splendid as that of the king of dandies, the tyrant of several
Parisian clubs. Consequently Comte Maxime was often uneasy about matters
financial. Possessing no property, he had never been able to consolidate
his position by being made a deputy; also, having no ostensible
functions, it was impossible for him to hold a knife at the throat of
any minister to compel his nomination as peer of France. At the present
moment he saw that Time was getting the better of him; for his lavish
dissipations were beginning to wear upon his person, as they had already
worn out his divers fortunes. In spite of his splendid exterior, he knew
himself, and could not be deceived about that self. He intended to “make
an end”--to marry.

A man of acute mind, he was under no illusion as to the apparent
consideration in which he was held; he well knew it was false. No women
were truly on his side, either in the great world of Paris or among the
bourgeoisie. Much secret malignity, much apparent good-humor, and
many services rendered were necessary to maintain him in his present
position; for every one desired his fall, and a run of ill-luck might at
any time ruin him. Once sent to Clichy or forced to leave the country
by notes no longer renewable, he would sink into the gulf where so
many political carcasses may be seen,--carcasses of men who find no
consolation in one another’s company. Even this very evening he was in
dread of a collapse of that threatening arch which debt erects over the
head of many a Parisian. He had allowed his anxieties to appear upon his
face; he had refused to play cards at Madame d’Espard’s; he had talked
with the women in an absent-minded manner, and finally he had sunk down
silent and absorbed in the arm-chair from which he had just risen like
Banquo’s ghost.

Comte Maxime de Trailles now found himself the object of all glances,
direct and indirect, standing as he did before the fireplace and
illumined by the cross-lights of two candelabra. The few words said
about him compelled him, in a way, to bear himself proudly; and he did
so, like a man of sense, without arrogance, and yet with the intention
of showing himself to be above suspicion. A painter could scarcely have
found a better moment in which to seize the portrait of a man who, in
his way, was truly extraordinary. Does it not require rare faculties to
play such a part,--to enable one through thirty years to seduce
women; to constrain one to employ great gifts in an underhand sphere
only,--inciting a people to rebel, tracking the secrets of austere
politicians, and triumphing nowhere but in boudoirs and on the
back-stairs of cabinets?

Is there not something, difficult to say what, of greatness in being
able to rise to the highest calculations of statesmen and then to fall
coldly back into the void of a frivolous life? Where is the man of iron
who can withstand the alternating luck of gambling, the rapid missions
of diplomacy, the warfare of fashion and society, the dissipations of
gallantry,--the man who makes his memory a library of lies and craft,
who envelops such diverse thoughts, such conflicting manoeuvres, in one
impenetrable cloak of perfect manners? If the wind of favor had blown
steadily upon those sails forever set, if the luck of circumstances had
attended Maxime, he could have been Mazarin, the Marechal de Richelieu,
Potemkin, or--perhaps more truly--Lauzun, without Pignerol.

The count, though rather tall and constitutionally slender, had of late
acquired some protuberance of stomach, but he “restrained it to the
majestic,” as Brillat-Savarin once said. His clothes were always so well
made, that he kept about his whole person an air of youth, something
active and agile, due no doubt to his habits of exercise,--fencing,
riding, and hunting. Maxime possessed all the physical graces and
elegances of aristocracy, still further increased by his personally
superior bearing. His long, Bourbonine face was framed by whiskers and a
beard, carefully kept, elegantly cut, and black as jet. This color,
the same as that of his abundant hair, he now obtained by an Indian
cosmetic, very costly and used in Persia, the secret of which he kept
to himself. He deceived the most practised eye as to the white threads
which for some time past had invaded his hair. The remarkable property
of this dye, used by Persians for their beards only, is that it does not
render the features hard; it can be shaded by indigo to harmonize well
with the individual character of the skin. It was this operation that
Madame Mollot may have seen,--though people in Arcis, by way of a jest,
still ask themselves what it was that Madame Mollot saw.

Maxime had a very handsome forehead, blue eyes, a Greek nose, a pleasant
mouth, and a well-cut chin; but the circle of his eyes was now marked
with numberless lines, so fine that they might have been traced by a
razor and not visible at a little distance. His temples had similar
lines. The face was also slightly wrinkled. His eyes, like those of
gamblers who have sat up innumerable nights, were covered with a
glaze, but the glance, though it was thus weakened, was none the less
terrible,--in fact, it terrified; a hidden heat was felt beneath it, a
lava of passions not yet extinct. The mouth, once so fresh and rosy,
now had colder tints; it was straight no longer, but inclined to the
right,--a sinuosity that seemed to indicate falsehood. Vice had twisted
the lips, but the teeth were white and handsome.

These blemishes disappeared on a general view of his face and person.
His figure was so attractive that no young man could compete with Maxime
when on horseback in the Bois, where he seemed younger and more graceful
than the youngest and most graceful among them. The privilege of eternal
youth has been possessed by several men in our day.

The count was all the more dangerous because he seemed to be easy and
indolent, never showing the iron determination which he had about all
things. This apparent indifference, which enabled him to abet a popular
sedition for the purpose of strengthening the authority of a prince with
as much ability as he would have bestowed upon a court intrigue, had a
certain grace. People never distrust calmness and uniformity of manner,
especially in France, where we are accustomed to a great deal of
movement and stir about the smallest things.

The count, who was dressed in the fashion of 1839, wore a black coat,
a cashmere waistcoat of dark blue embroidered with tiny flowers of a
lighter blue, black trousers, gray silk stockings, and varnished leather
shoes. His watch, placed in one of his waistcoat pockets, was fastened
by an elegant chain to a button-hole.

“Rastignac,” he said, accepting the cup of tea which the pretty Madame
de Rastignac offered him, “will you come with me to the Austrian
ambassador’s?”

“My dear fellow, I am too recently married not to go home with my wife.”

“That means that _later_--” said the young countess, turning round and
looking at her husband.

“Later is the end of the world,” replied Maxime. “But I shall certainly
win my cause if I take Madame for a judge.”

With a charming gesture, the count invited the pretty countess to come
nearer to him. After listening a few moments and looking at her mother,
she said to Rastignac:--

“If you want to go to the embassy with Monsieur de Trailles, mamma will
take me home.”

A few moments later the Baronne de Nucingen and the Comtesse de
Rastignac went away together. Maxime and Rastignac followed a little
later, and when they were both seated in the count’s carriage, the
latter said:--

“What do you want of me, Maxime? Why do you take me by the throat in
this way? What did you say to my wife?”

“I told her I had something to say to you. You are a lucky fellow,
you are! You have ended by marrying the only heiress of the Nucingen
millions--after twenty years at hard labor.”

“Maxime!”

“But I! here am I, exposed to the doubts of everybody. A miserable
coward like du Tillet dares to ask if I have the courage to kill myself!
It is high time for me to settle down. Does the ministry want to get
rid of me, or does it not? You ought to know. At any rate, you must
find out,” continued Maxime, making a gesture with his hand to silence
Rastignac. “Here is my plan: listen to it. You ought to serve me, for
I have served you, and can serve you again. The life I live now is
intolerable; I want an escape from it. Help me to a marriage which
shall bring me half a million. Once married, appoint me minister to some
wretched little republic in America. I’ll stay there long enough to
make my promotion to the same post in Germany legitimate. If I am worth
anything, they will soon take me out of it; if I am not worth anything,
they can dismiss me. Perhaps I may have a child. If so, I shall be stern
with him; his mother will be rich; I’ll make him a minister, perhaps an
ambassador.”

“Here is my answer,” said Rastignac. “An incessant battle is going
on--greater than common people who are not in it have any idea
of--between power in its swaddling-clothes and power in its childhood.
Power in swaddling-clothes is the Chamber of Deputies which, not being
restrained by an hereditary chamber--”

“Ha! ha!” said Maxime, “you are now a peer of France.”

“I should say the same if I were not,” said the new peer. “But don’t
interrupt me; you are concerned in all this. The Chamber of Deputies is
fated to become the whole government, as de Marsay used to tell us (the
only man by whom France could have been saved), for peoples don’t die;
they are slaves or free men, and that’s all. Child-power is the royalty
that was crowned in August, 1830. The present ministry is beaten; it
dissolves the Chamber and brings on a general election in order to
prevent the coming ministry from calling one; but it does not expect a
victory. If it were victorious in these elections, the dynasty would be
in danger; whereas, if the ministry is beaten, the dynastic party can
fight to advantage for a long time. The mistakes of the Chamber will
turn to the profit of a will which wants, unfortunately, to be the whole
political power. When a ruler is that whole, as Napoleon was, there
comes a moment when he must supplement himself; and having by that
time alienated superior men, he, the great single will, can find no
assistant. That assistant ought to be what is called a cabinet; but
there is no cabinet in France, there is only a Will with a life lease.
In France it is the government that is blamed, the opposition never; it
may lose as many battles as it fights, but, like the allies in 1814, one
victory suffices. With ‘three glorious days’ it overturned and destroyed
everything. Therefore, if we are heirs of power, we must cease to
govern, and wait. I belong by my personal opinions to the aristocracy,
and by my public opinions to the royalty of July. The house of Orleans
served me to raise the fortunes of my family, and I shall ever remain
attached to it.”

“The ‘ever’ of Monsieur de Talleyrand, be it understood,” put in Maxime.

“At this moment I can’t do anything for you,” continued Rastignac. “We
shall not be in power more than six months longer. Yes, those six months
will be our last dying agony, I know that; but we know what we were when
we formed ourselves, a stop-gap ministry and that was all. But you can
distinguish yourself in the electoral battle that is soon to be fought.
If you can bring one vote to the Chamber, a deputy faithful to the
dynastic cause, you will find your wishes gratified. I will speak
of your good services, and I will keep my eye on the reports of our
confidential agents; I may find you some difficult task in which you can
distinguish yourself. If you succeed, I can insist upon your talents,
your devotion, and claim your reward. Your marriage, my dear fellow,
can be made only in some ambitious provincial family of tradespeople or
manufacturers. In Paris you are too well known. We must therefore look
out for a millionaire parvenu, endowed with a daughter, and possessed
with a desire to parade himself and his family at the Chateau des
Tuileries.”

“Make your father-in-law lend me twenty-five thousand francs to enable
me to wait as long as that; he will then have an interest in seeing
that I am not paid in holy-water if I succeed; he will further a rich
marriage for his own sake.”

“You are wily, Maxime, and you distrust me. But I like able men, and I
will attend to your affair.”

They reached the Austrian embassy. The Comte de Rastignac saw the
minister of the interior in one of the salons and went to talk with
him in a corner. Comte Maxime de Trailles, meantime, was apparently
engrossed by the old Comtesse de Listomere, but he was, in reality,
following the course of the conversation between the two peers of
France; he watched their gestures, interpreted their looks, and ended by
catching a favorable glance cast upon him by the minister.

Maxime and Rastignac left the embassy together about one in the morning,
and before getting into their respective carriages, Rastignac said to
Maxime on the steps of the portico: “Come and see me just before the
elections. Between now and then I shall know in what locality the
chances of the ministry are worst, and what resources two heads like
yours and mine can find there.”

“But my twenty-five thousand francs are needed,” replied de Trailles.

“Well, you must hide yourself, that’s all.”

Fifty days later, one morning before dawn, the Comte de Trailles went
to the rue de Varennes, mysteriously in a hired cab. At the gate of the
ministry of Public Works, he sent the cab away, looked about him to see
that he was not watched, and then waited in a little salon on the first
floor until Rastignac should awake. A few moments later the valet who
had taken in his card ushered Maxime into the minister’s bed-chamber,
where that statesman was making his morning toilet.

“My dear Maxime,” said the latter, “I can tell you a secret which will
be in the newspapers two days hence, and which, meantime, you can turn
to your own profit. That poor Charles Keller, who danced the mazurka so
well, as been killed in Africa. His death leaves a vacancy; he was our
candidate in the arrondissement of Arcis. Here is a copy of two reports,
one from the sub-prefect, the other from the commissary of police,
informing the ministry that the election of the poor fellow would meet
with opposition. In that of the commissary of police you will find some
information about the state of the town which ought to be useful to
a man of your shrewdness; it seems that the ambition of the rival
candidate comes chiefly from his desire to marry a certain heiress. To
one of your calibre that word is enough. The Cinq-Cygnes, the Princesse
de Cadignan, and Georges de Maufrigneuse are living at Cinq-Cygne,
close to Arcis; you can certainly obtain through them all the Legitimist
votes, therefore--”

“Don’t waste your breath,” said Maxime. “Is the commissary still there?”

“Yes.”

“Give me a letter to him.”

“My dear fellow,” replied Rastignac, giving Maxime quite a bundle of
papers, “you will find there two letters written to Gondreville for you.
You have been a page and he has been a senator; you can’t fail therefore
to understand each other. Madame Francois Keller is pious; here is a
letter introducing you to her from the Marechale de Carigliano. The
marechale has become dynastic; she recommends you warmly, and may go
down herself. I will only add one word: Distrust the sub-prefect, whom
I think capable of working this candidate, this Simon Giguet, into
a support for himself with the president of the council. If you want
letters, powers, credentials, write to me.”

“And those twenty-five thousand francs?” said Maxime.

“Sign this note to the order of du Tillet, and here’s the money.”

“I shall succeed,” said the count, “and you may tell the king that the
deputy of Arcis shall belong to him body and soul. If I fail, I give you
leave to abandon me.”

An hour later Maxime de Trailles was in his tilbury on the road to
Arcis.



XIII. PREFACE BEFORE LETTERING

Once in possession of the information furnished by the landlady of the
Mulet and by the sub-prefect Antonin Goulard, Monsieur de Trailles had
soon arranged his plan of electoral operations, and this plan evinces
itself so readily that the reader must already have perceived it.

To the candidacy of Simon Giguet, the wily agent of the government
policy suddenly and abruptly opposed that of Phileas Beauvisage; and
in spite of the nullity and unfitness of that individual this new
combination, we must admit, had several incontestable chances of
success. In the light of his municipal halo Beauvisage had one enormous
advantage with the mass of indifferent voters; as mayor of the town his
name was known to them. Logic has much more to do with the conducting of
matters and things here below than it seems to have; it is like a woman
to whom, after many infidelities, we still return. What common-sense
prescribes is that voters called upon to choose their representative
in public matters should be thoroughly informed as to his capacity, his
honesty, and his general character. Too often, in practice, unfortunate
twists are given to this principle; but whenever the electoral sheep,
left to their own instincts, can persuade themselves that they are
voting from their own intelligence and their own lights, we may be
certain to see them following that line eagerly and with a sentiment
of self-love. Now to know a man’s name, electorally speaking, is a good
beginning toward a knowledge of the man himself.

Passing from indifferent to interested electors, we may be sure that
Phileas was certain of rallying to himself the Gondreville party, now
deprived by death of their own candidate. The question for them was
to punish the presumption of Simon Giguet, and any candidate would be
acceptable to the viceroy of Arcis. The mere nomination of a man against
his grandson was a flagrant act of hostility and ingratitude, and a
check to the count’s provincial importance which must be removed and
punished at any cost.

Still, when the first news of his electoral ambition reached his
father-in-law, Beauvisage was met by an astonishment little flattering
to his feelings and not encouraging. The old notary had gauged his
son-in-law once for all, and to his just and upright mind the idea of
Phileas as a public man produced in its way the disagreeable effect that
discordant instruments produce upon the ear. If it be true that no man
is a prophet in his own country, he is often even less so in his own
family. Still, the first impression once passed, Grevin would doubtless
acclimatize himself to the idea of an expedient which would chime in
with the plans he had already made for Severine’s future. Besides, for
the safety of Gondreville’s interests, so seriously threatened, what
sacrifice of his own opinion would the old notary not have made?

With the legitimist and the republican parties who could have no weight
in the election, except that of increasing a majority, the candidacy of
Beauvisage had a singular recommendation,--namely, his utter incapacity.
Conscious of not possessing sufficient strength to elect a deputy of
their own, the two extremes of the antidynastic opposition seized,
almost with ardor, the opportunity to stick a thorn in the side in what
they called “the present order of things,” and it might confidently be
expected that in this frame of mind they would joyfully and with all
their hearts support a candidate so supremely ridiculous that a large
slice of the ridicule must fall upon the government which supported him.

Moreover, in the opinions of the Left-Centre which had provisionally
adopted Simon Giguet as its candidate, this move of Beauvisage was
likely to produce a serious split; for he too had declared himself a
man of the dynastic opposition, and, until further orders, Monsieur
de Trailles (though all the while assuring him of the support of the
ministry) encouraged his retaining that political tint, which was
clearly the most popular in that region. But whatever baggage of
political convictions the incorruptible deputy of Arcis might bring with
him to Paris, his horoscope was drawn: it was very certain that after
his first appearance in the salons of the Tuileries an august seduction
would make a henchman of him, if ministerial blandishments had not
already produced that result.

The public side of this matter being thus well-planned and provided for,
the ministerial agent could turn his attention to the personal aspect
of the question, namely, that of turning the stuff he was making into a
deputy to the still further use of being made into a father-in-law.

First point, the _dot_; second point, the daughter; and both appeared to
suit him. The first did not dazzle him; but as to the second, he did not
conceal from himself the imperfections of a provincial education which
he should have to unmake, but this was no serious objection to his
sapient conjugal pedagogy.

Madame Beauvisage, when the matter was laid before her, swept her
husband into it at a single bound. Maxime recognized her for an
ambitious woman who, in spite of her forty-four years, still had the
air of being conscious of a heart. Hence he saw that the game had better
begin with a false attack on her to fall back later on the daughter. How
far these advanced works could be pushed, circumstances would show. In
either case, Maxime was well aware that his title, his reputation as
a man of the world, and his masterly power of initiating them into
the difficult and elegant mysteries of Parisian society were powerful
reasons to bind the two women to him, not to speak of their gratitude
for the political success of Monsieur Beauvisage of which he was the
author.

But however all this might be, his matrimonial campaign offered one very
serious difficulty. The consent of old Grevin would have to be obtained,
and he was not a man to allow Cecile to be married without investigating
to its depths the whole past of a suitor. This inquiry made, was it not
to be feared that the thirty years’ stormy biography of a roue would
seem to the cautious old man a poor security for the future?

However, the species of governmental mission with which Monsieur
de Trailles appeared in Arcis might seem to be an offset and even a
condonation that would neutralize the effect of such disclosures. By
getting the Comte de Gondreville to confide the news of that mission to
old Grevin before it was publicly made known, he had flattered the old
man’s vanity and obtained a certain foothold in his mind. Moreover, he
determined, when the time came, to forestall the old notary’s distrust
by seeming to distrust himself, and to propose, as a precaution
against his old habits of extravagance, to introduce a clause into the
marriage-contract providing for the separation of property and settling
the wife’s fortune upon herself. In this way he gave security against
any return to his old habits of prodigality. As for himself, it was his
affair to obtain such empire over his wife by the power of sentiment
that he could recover practically the marital power of which the
contract dispossessed him.

At first nothing occurred to contradict the wisdom and clearsightedness
of all these intentions. The Beauvisage candidacy being made public took
fire like a train of gunpowder, and Monsieur de Trailles was able to
feel such assurance of the success of his efforts that he wrote to
Rastignac informing him of the fortunate and highly successful progress
of his mission.

But, all of a sudden, in face of the triumphant Beauvisage rose another
candidate; and, be it said in passing for the sake of our history,
this rivalry presented itself under such exceptional and unforeseen
circumstances that it changed what might have been a trivial electoral
struggle into a drama possessing wider and more varied interests.

The man who now appears in this narrative will play so considerable a
part in it that it seems necessary to install him, as it were, by means
of retrospective and somewhat lengthy explanations. But to suspend the
course of the narrative for this purpose would be to fly in the face
of every rule of art and expose the present pious guardian of literary
orthodoxy to the wrath of critics. In presence of this difficulty, the
author would find himself greatly embarrassed, if his lucky star had not
placed in his hands a correspondence in which, with a vim and animation
that he himself could never have imparted to them, all the details that
are essential to a full explanation will be found related.

These letters must be read with attention. They bring upon the scene
many persons already well-known in the Comedy of Human Life, and
they reveal a vast number of facts necessary to the understanding and
development of the present drama. Their statements made, and brought to
the point where we now seem to abandon our narrative, the course of
that narrative will, without concussion and quite naturally, resume its
course; and we like to persuade ourselves that, by thus introducing this
series of letters, the unity of our tale, which seemed for a moment in
danger, will be maintained.



PART II. LETTERS EXPLANATORY



I. THE COMTE DE L’ESTORADE TO MONSIEUR MARIE-GASTON

            [See “The Memoirs of Two Young Married Women.”]

Dear Monsieur,--In accordance with your desire I have seen the prefect
of police, in order to ascertain if the pious intention of which you
wrote me in your letter, dated from Carrara, would meet with opposition
from the authorities.

The prefect informed me that the imperial decree of the 23rd Prairial,
year XII., by which the whole system of burials is still regulated,
establishes, in the most unequivocal manner, the right of all persons to
be interred on their own property. You have only to obtain a permit
from the prefecture of the Seine-et-Oise, and then, without further
formality, you can remove the remains of Madame Marie-Gaston to the
mausoleum you propose to erect in your park at Ville d’Avray.

But I shall venture myself to offer an objection. Are you quite sure
that you will not expose yourself to certain difficulties made by the
Chaulieus, with whom you are not on the best of terms?

Will they not, to a certain extent, be justified in complaining that the
removal from a public cemetery to private grounds of the body of one who
is dear to them as well as to you, would make their visits to her grave
entirely dependent on your good will and pleasure? For of course, and
this is evident, you will always have the right to forbid their entrance
to your property.

I know that, legally, the body of the wife, living or dead, belongs to
the husband, to the exclusion of her relations, even the nearest; but,
under the influence of the ill-will of which they have already given you
proof, the relations of Madame Marie-Gaston might have the distressing
idea of carrying the matter into court, and if so, how painful to you!
You would gain the suit, no doubt, for the Duc de Chaulieu’s influence
is not what it was under the Restoration; but have you reflected on the
venom which the speech of a lawyer might shed upon such a question? and
remember that he will speak as the echo of honorable affections--those
of a father, mother, and two brothers asking not to be deprived of the
sad happiness of praying at the grave of their lost one.

If you will let me express my thought, it is not without keen regret
that I see you engaged in creating fresh nourishment for your grief,
already so long inconsolable. We had hoped that, after passing two years
in Italy, you would return to us more resigned, and able to take up an
active life which might distract your mind. Evidently, this species of
temple which you propose, in the fervor of your recollections, to erect
in a spot where they are, alas! already too numerous, can only serve to
perpetuate their bitterness; and I cannot approve the revival you are
proposing to make of them.

Nevertheless, as we should always serve a friend according to his
wishes, not our own, I have done your commission relating to Monsieur
Dorlange, the sculptor, but I must tell you frankly that he showed no
eagerness to enter into your wishes. His first remark, when I announced
myself as coming from you, was that he did not know you; and this reply,
singular as it may seem to you, was made so naturally that at first I
thought there must be some mistake, the result, possibly, of confusion
of name. However, before long your oblivious friend was willing to agree
that he studied with you at the college of Tours and also that hew as
the same Monsieur Dorlange who, in 1831 and under quite exceptional
circumstances, carried off the grand prize for sculpture. No doubt
remained in my mind as to his identity. I attributed his want of
memory to the long interruption (of which you yourself told me) in your
intercourse. I think that that interruption wounded him more than you
are aware, and when he seemed to have forgotten your very name, it was
simply a revenge he could not help taking when the occasion offered.

But that was not the real obstacle. Remembering the fraternal intimacy
that once existed between Monsieur Dorlange and yourself, I could not
suppose his wounded feelings inexorable. So, after explaining to him the
nature of the work you wanted him to do, I was about to say a few words
as to the grievance he might have against you, when I suddenly found
myself face to face with an obstacle of a most unexpected nature.

“Monsieur,” he said to me, “the importance of the order you wish to give
me, the assurance that no expense should be spared for the grandeur and
perfection of the work, the invitation you convey to me to go to Carrara
and choose the marble and see it excavated, all that is truly a great
piece of good fortune for an artist, and at any other time I should
gladly have accepted it. But at the present moment, without having
actually decided to abandon the career of Art, I am on the point of
entering that of politics. My friends urge me to present myself at
the coming elections, and you will easily see that, if elected, my
parliamentary duties and my initiation into an absolutely new life
would, for a long time at least, preclude my entering with sufficient
absorption of mind into the work you propose to me.” And then, after
a pause, he added; “I should have to satisfy a great grief which seeks
consolation from this projected mausoleum. Such grief would, naturally,
be impatient; whereas I should be slow, preoccupied in mind, and
probably hindered. It is therefore better that the proposal should be
made elsewhere; but this will not prevent me from feeling, as I ought,
both gratified and honored by the confidence shown in me.”

I thought for a moment of asking him whether, in case his election
failed, I could then renew the proposal, but on the whole I contented
myself with expressing regret and saying that I would inform you of the
result of my mission. It is useless to add that I shall know in a few
days the upshot of this sudden parliamentary ambition which has, so
inopportunely, started up in your way.

I think myself that this candidacy may be only a blind. Had you not
better write yourself to Monsieur Dorlange? for his whole manner, though
perfectly polite and proper, seemed to show a keen remembrance of the
wrong you did him in renouncing his friendship, with that of your other
friends, at the time of your marriage. I know it may cost you some pain
to explain the really exceptional circumstances of your marriage; but
after what I have seen in the mind of your old friend, I think, if
you really wish for the assistance of his great talent, you should
personally take some steps to obtain it.

But if you feel that any such action is more than you have strength for,
I suggest another means. In all matters in which my wife has taken part
I have found her a most able negotiator; and in this particular case
I should feel the utmost confidence in her intervention. She herself
suffered from the exclusiveness of Madame Marie-Gaston’s love for you.
No one can explain to him better than she the absorbing conjugal life
which drew its folds so closely around you. And it seems to me that the
magnanimity and comprehension which she always showed to her “dear lost
treasure,” as she calls her, might be conveyed by her to your friend.

You have plenty of time to think over this suggestion, for Madame de
l’Estorade is, just now, still suffering from a serious illness, brought
on by maternal terror. A week ago our little Nais came near being
crushed to death before her eyes; and without the courageous assistance
of a stranger who sprang to the horses’ heads and stopped them short,
God knows what dreadful misfortune would have overtaken us. This cruel
emotion produced in Madame de l’Estorade a nervous condition which
seriously alarmed us for a time. Though she is now much better, it
will be several days before she could see Monsieur Dorlange in case her
feminine mediation may seem to you desirable.

But once more, in closing, my dear Monsieur Gaston, would it not be
better to abandon your idea? A vast expense, a painful quarrel with the
Chaulieus, and, for you, a renewal of your bitter sorrow--this is what
I fear. Nevertheless, I am, at all times and for all things, entirely at
your orders, as indeed my sentiments of esteem and gratitude command.



II. THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE TO MADAME OCTAVE DE CAMPS

Paris, February, 1839.

Dear Madame de Camps,--Of all the proofs of sympathy which the accident
to my dear child has brought me, not one has touched me so much as your
excellent letter.

In reply to your affectionate solicitude I must tell you that in that
terrible moment Nais was marvellously calm and self-possessed. It could
not, I think, be possible to see death nearer; yet neither before nor
after the accident did my valiant little daughter even blench; her whole
behavior showed the utmost resolution, and, thank God! her health has
not suffered for a moment.

As for me, in consequence of such terror, I was seized with convulsive
spasms, and for several days, as I now hear, the doctors were very
uneasy, and even feared for my reason. But thanks to the strength of my
constitution, I am now almost myself again, and nothing would remain of
this cruel agitation if, by a singular fatality, it were not connected
with another unpleasant circumstance which has lately seen fit to fasten
upon my life.

Before receiving from your letter these fresh assurances of your regard,
I had thought of invoking the help of your friendship and advice; and
to-day, when you tell me that it would make you happy and proud to take
the place of my poor Louise de Chaulieu, the precious friend of whom
death has deprived me, can I hesitate for a moment?

I take you at your word, and that delightful cleverness with which you
foiled the fools who commented on your marriage to Monsieur de Camps
[see “Madame Firmiani”], that singular tact with which we saw you steer
your way through circumstances that were full of embarrassment and
danger, in short the wonderful art which enabled you to keep both
your secret and your dignity, I now ask you to put to the service of
assisting me in the dilemma I mentioned just now.

Unfortunately in consulting a physician we naturally want to see him and
tell him our symptoms _viva voce_, and it is here that Monsieur de Camps
with his industrial genius seems to me most aggravating. Thanks to those
villanous iron-works which he has taken it into his head to purchase,
you are almost lost to Paris and to society! Formerly when we had you
here, at hand, in ten minutes talk, without embarrassment, without
preparation, I could have told you everything; but now I am obliged to
think over what I have to say, to gather myself together, and pass into
the solemnity of a written statement.

But after all, perhaps it is better to plunge boldly in, and since, in
spite of circumlocutions and preambles, I shall have sooner or later
to come to the point, why not say at once that my trouble concerns the
stranger who saved my daughter’s life.

Stranger! yes, a stranger to Monsieur de l’Estorade and to all who have
told you about the accident, but not a stranger to me, whom, for the
last three months, this man has condescended to honor with the most
obstinate attention. That the mother of three children, one of them
a big boy of fifteen, should at thirty-three years of age become the
object of an ardent passion will seem to you, as it does to me, an
impossible fact; and that is the ridiculous misfortune about which I
want to consult you.

When I say that this stranger is known to me, I must correct myself; for
I know neither his name, nor his abode, nor anything about him. I have
never met him in society, and I may add that, although he wears
the ribbon of the Legion of honor, there is nothing in his air and
manner--which are totally devoid of elegance--to make me suppose I ever
shall meet him in our world.

It was at Saint-Thomas d’Aquin, where, as you know, I go to hear mass,
that this annoying obsession began. I used almost daily to take my
children to walk in the Tuileries, as the house we have hired here
has no garden. This habit being noticed by my persecutor, I found him
repeatedly there and wherever else I might be met outside of my own
home. Perfectly discreet, although so audacious, this singular follower
never accompanied me to my own door; he kept at a sufficient distance to
give me the comfort of feeling that his foolish assiduity would not be
observed by others.

Heaven only knows the sacrifices and annoyances I have borne to be rid
of him. I never go to church now except on Sundays; I often keep my dear
children at home to the injury of their health; or else I make excuses
not to accompany them, and against all the principles of my education
and prudence, I leave them to the care of the servants. Visits, shopping
I do only in a carriage, which did not prevent my _shadow_ from being
at hand when the accident happened to Nais, and saving her life, an act
that was brave and providential.

But it is precisely this great obligation I am now under which
makes--does it not, I appeal to you?--a most deplorable complication.

In the first place, about thanking him. If I do that, I encourage him,
and he would certainly take advantage of it to change the character of
our present intercourse. But if I pass him without notice--think of it!
a mother--a mother who owes him the life of her daughter, to pretend not
to see him! to pass him without a single word of gratitude!

That, however, is the intolerable alternative in which I find myself
placed, and you can now see how much I need the counsels of your
experience. What can I do to break the unpleasant habit this man has
taken of being my shadow? How shall I thank him without encouraging him?
or not thank him without incurring self-reproach?

Those are the problems submitted to your wisdom. If you will do me
the kindness to solve them--and I know no one so capable--I shall add
gratitude to all the other affectionate sentiments which, as you know, I
have so long felt for you.



III. THE COMTE DE L’ESTORADE TO MONSIEUR MARIE-GASTON

Paris, February, 1839.

Perhaps, my dear Monsieur Gaston, the public journals will have told you
before this letter can arrive of the duel fought yesterday between your
friend Monsieur Dorlange and the Duc de Rhetore. But the papers, while
announcing the fact as a piece of news, are debarred by custom and
propriety from inferring the motives of a quarrel, and therefore they
will only excite your curiosity without satisfying it.

I have, fortunately, heard from a very good source, all the details of
the affair, and I hasten to transmit them to you; they are, I think, of
a nature to interest you to the highest degree.

Three days ago, that is to say on the very evening of the day when I
paid my visit to Monsieur Dorlange, the Duc de Rhetore occupied a stall
at the Opera-house. Next to him sat Monsieur de Ronquerolles, who has
recently returned from a diplomatic mission which kept him out of France
for several years. During the entr’acte these gentlemen did not leave
their seats to walk about the foyer; but, as is often done, they stood
up, with their backs to the stage, facing the audience and consequently
Monsieur Dorlange, who was seated directly behind them, seeming to
be absorbed in an evening newspaper. There had been that day a very
scandalous, or what is called a very interesting, session of the Chamber
of deputies.

The conversation between the duke and the marquis having naturally
turned on the events of Parisian society which had taken place during
Monsieur de Ronquerolles’ absence, the latter made the following remark
which was of a nature to rouse the attention of Monsieur Dorlange.

“Your poor sister Madame de Macumer! what a sad end, after her singular
marriage!”

“Ah! you know,” replied Monsieur de Rhetore, in that high-pitched tone
of his, “my sister had too much imagination not to be romantic
and visionary. She loved her first husband, Monsieur de Macumer,
passionately, but after a time one gets tired of everything, even
widowhood. This Marie-Gaston crossed her path. He is agreeable in
person; my sister was rich; he was deeply in debt and behaved with
corresponding eagerness and devotion. The result was that the scoundrel
not only succeeded Monsieur de Macumer and killed his wife with
jealousy, but he got out of her every penny the law allowed the poor
foolish woman to dispose of. My sister’s property amounted to at
least twelve hundred thousand francs, not counting a delightful villa
splendidly furnished which she built at Ville d’Avray. Half of this that
man obtained, the other half went to the Duc and Duchesse de Chaulieu,
my father and mother, who were entitled to it by law as heirs ascendant.
As for my brother Lenoncourt and myself, we were simply disinherited.”

As soon as your name, my dear Monsieur Gaston, was uttered, Monsieur
Dorlange laid aside his newspaper, and then, as Monsieur de Rhetore
ended his remarks, he rose and said:--

“Pardon me, Monsieur le duc, if I venture to correct your statement;
but, as a matter of conscience, I ought to inform you that you are
totally misinformed.”

“What is that you say?” returned the duke, blinking his eyes and
speaking in that contemptuous tone we can all imagine.

“I say, Monsieur le duc, that Marie-Gaston is my friend from childhood;
he has never been thought a _scoundrel_; on the contrary, the world
knows him as a man of honor and talent. So far from killing his wife
with jealousy, he made her perfectly happy during the three years their
marriage lasted. As for the property--”

“Have you considered, monsieur,” said the Duc de Rhetore, interrupting
him, “the result of such language?”

“Thoroughly, monsieur; and I repeat that the property left to
Marie-Gaston by the will of his wife is so little desired by him that,
to my knowledge, he is about to spend a sum of two or three hundred
thousand francs in building a mausoleum for a wife whom he has never
ceased to mourn.”

“After all, monsieur, who are you?” said the Duc de Rhetore, again
interrupting him with ill-restrained impatience.

“Presently,” replied Monsieur Dorlange, “I shall have the honor to tell
you; you must now permit me to add that the property of which you say
you have been disinherited Madame Marie-Gaston had the right to dispose
of without any remorse of conscience. It came from her first husband,
the Baron de Macumer; and she had, previously to that marriage, given up
her own property in order to constitute a fortune for your brother,
the Duc de Lenoncourt-Givry, who, as younger son, had not, like you,
Monsieur le Duc, the advantages of an entail.”

So saying, Monsieur Dorlange felt in his pocket for his card-case.

“I have no cards with me,” he said at last, “but my name is Dorlange, a
theatrical name, easy to remember, and I live at No. 42 rue de l’Ouest.”

“Not a very central quarter,” remarked Monsieur de Rhetore, ironically.
Then turning to Monsieur de Ronquerolles, whom he thus constituted one
of his seconds, “I beg your pardon, my dear fellow,” he said, “for
the voyage of discovery you will have to undertake for me to-morrow
morning.” And then almost immediately he added: “Come to the foyer; we
can talk there with greater _safety_.”

By his manner of accenting the last word it was impossible to mistake
the insulting meaning he intended to attach to it.

The two gentlemen having left their seats, without this scene attracting
any notice, in consequence of the stalls being empty for the most
part during the entr’acte, Monsieur Dorlange saw at some distance the
celebrated sculptor Stidmann, and went up to him.

“Have you a note-book of any kind in your pocket?” he said.

“Yes, I always carry one.”

“Will you lend it to me and let me tear out a page? I have an idea in
my mind which I don’t want to lose. If I do not see you again after
the play to make restitution, I will send it to you to-morrow morning
without fail.”

Returning to his place, Monsieur Dorlange sketched something rapidly,
and when the curtain rose and the two gentlemen returned to their seats,
he touched the Duc de Rhetore lightly on the shoulder and said, giving
him the drawing:--

“My card, which I have the honor to present to you.”

This “card” was a charming sketch of an architectural design placed in a
landscape. Beneath it was written “Plan for a mausoleum to be erected to
the memory of Madame Marie-Gaston, _nee_ Chaulieu, by her husband; from
the designs of Charles Dorlange, sculptor, 42 rue de l’Ouest.”

It was impossible to let Monsieur de Rhetore know more delicately that
he had to do with a suitable adversary; and you will remark, my dear
Monsieur Gaston, that Monsieur Dorlange made this drawing the means of
enforcing his denial and giving proof of your disinterestedness and the
sincerity of your grief.

After the play was over, Monsieur de Rhetore parted from Monsieur
de Ronquerolles, and the latter went up to Monsieur Dorlange and
endeavored, very courteously, to bring about a reconciliation, remarking
to him that, while he was right in the subject-matter, his method of
proceeding was unusual and offensive; Monsieur de Rhetore, on the other
hand, had shown great moderation, and would now be satisfied with a mere
expression of regret; in short, Monsieur de Ronquerolles said all that
can be said on such an occasion.

Monsieur Dorlange would not listen to anything which seemed a submission
on his part, and the next day he received a visit from Monsieur de
Ronquerolles and General Montriveau on behalf of the Duc de Rhetore.
Again an effort was made to induce Monsieur Dorlange to give another
turn to his words. But your friend would not depart from this
ultimatum:--

“Will Monsieur de Rhetore withdraw the words I felt bound to notice; if
so, I will withdraw mine.”

“But that is impossible,” they said to him. “Monsieur de Rhetore has
been personally insulted; you, on the contrary, have not been. Right or
wrong, he has the conviction that Monsieur Marie-Gaston has done him
an injury. We must always make certain allowances for wounded
self-interests; you can never get absolute justice from them.”

“It comes to this, then,” replied Monsieur Dorlange, “that Monsieur de
Rhetore may continue to calumniate my friend at his ease; in the first
place, because he is in Italy; and secondly, because Marie-Gaston would
always feel extreme repugnance to come to certain extremities with the
brother of his wife. It is precisely that powerlessness, relatively
speaking, to defend himself, which constitutes my right--I will say
more--my duty to interfere. It was not without a special permission of
Providence that I was enabled to catch a few of the malicious words that
were said of him, and, as Monsieur de Rhetore declines to modify any of
them, we must, if it please you, continue this matter to the end.”

The duel then became inevitable; the terms were arranged in the course
of the day, and the meeting, with pistols, was appointed for the day
after. On the ground Monsieur Dorlange was perfectly cool. When the
first fire was exchanged without result, the seconds proposed to put an
end to the affair.

“No, one more shot!” he said gaily, as if he were shooting in a
pistol-gallery.

This time he was shot in the fleshy part of the thigh, not a dangerous
wound, but one which caused him to lose a great deal of blood. As they
carried him to the carriage which brought him, Monsieur de Rhetore, who
hastened to assist them, being close beside him, he said, aloud:--

“This does not prevent Marie-Gaston from being a man of honor and a
heart of gold.”

Then he fainted.

This duel, as you can well believe, has made a great commotion; Monsieur
Dorlange has been the hero of the hour for the last two days; it is
impossible to enter a single salon without finding him the one topic
of conversation. I heard more, perhaps, in the salon of Madame de
Montcornet than elsewhere. She receives, as you know, many artists and
men of letters, and to give you an idea of the manner in which your
friend is considered, I need only stenograph a conversation at which I
was present in the countess’s salon last evening.

The chief talkers were Emile Blondet of the “Debats,” and Monsieur
Bixiou, the caricaturist, one of the best-informed _ferrets_ of Paris.
They are both, I think, acquaintances of yours, but, at any rate, I
am certain of your intimacy with Joseph Bridau, our great painter, who
shared in the talk, for I well remember that he and Daniel d’Arthez were
the witnesses of your marriage.

“The first appearance of Dorlange in art,” Joseph Bridau was saying,
when I joined them, “was fine; the makings of a master were already so
apparent in the work he did for his examinations that the Academy, under
pressure of opinion, decided to crown him--though he laughed a good deal
at its programme.”

“True,” said Bixiou, “and that ‘Pandora’ he exhibited in 1837, after his
return from Rome, is also a very remarkable figure. But as she won him,
at once, the cross and any number of commissions from the government and
the municipality, together with scores of flourishing articles in
the newspapers, I don’t see how he can rise any higher after all that
success.”

“That,” said Blondet, “is a regular Bixiou opinion.”

“No doubt; and well-founded it is. Do you know the man?”

“No; he is never seen anywhere.”

“Exactly; he is a bear, but a premeditated bear; a reflecting and
determined bear.”

“I don’t see,” said Joseph Bridau, “why this savage inclination for
solitude should be so bad for an artist. What does a sculptor gain by
frequenting salons where gentlemen and ladies have taken to a habit of
wearing clothes?”

“Well, in the first place, a sculptor can amuse himself in a salon;
and that will keep him from taking up a mania, or becoming a visionary;
besides, he sees the world as it is, and learns that 1839 is not the
fifteenth nor the sixteenth century.”

“Has Dorlange any such delusions?” asked Emile Blondet.

“He? he will talk to you by the hour of returning to the life of the
great artists of the middle ages with the universality of their studies
and their knowledge, and that frightfully laborious life of theirs;
which may help us to understand the habits and ways of a semi-barbarous
society, but can never exist in ours. He does not see, the innocent
dreamer, that civilization, by strangely complicating all social
conditions, absorbs for business, for interests, for pleasures, thrice
as much time as a less advanced society required for the same purposes.
Look at the savage in his hut; he hasn’t anything to do. Whereas we,
with the Bourse, the opera, the newspapers, parliamentary discussions,
salons, elections, railways, the Cafe de Paris and the National
Guard--what time have we, if you please, to go to work?”

“Beautiful theory of a do-nothing!” cried Emile Blondet, laughing.

“No, my dear fellow, I am talking truth. The curfew no longer rings at
nine o’clock. Only last night my concierge Ravenouillet gave a party;
and I think I made a great mistake in not accepting the indirect
invitation he gave me to be present.”

“Nevertheless,” said Joseph Bridau, “it is certain that if a man doesn’t
mingle in the business, the interests, and the pleasures of our
epoch, he can make out of the time he thus saves a pretty capital.
Independently of his orders, Dorlange has, I think, a little competence;
so that nothing hinders him from arranging his life to suit himself.”

“But you see he goes to the opera; for it was there he found his duel.
Besides, you are all wrong in representing him as isolated from this
contemporaneous life, for I happen to know that he is just about to
harness himself to it by the most rattling and compelling chains of the
social system--I mean political interests.”

“Does he want to be a statesman?” asked Emile Blondet, sarcastically.

“Yes, no doubt that’s in his famous programme of universality; and you
ought to see the consistency and perseverance he puts into that idea!
Only last year two hundred and fifty thousand francs dropped into his
mouth as if from the skies, and he instantly bought a hovel in the rue
Saint-Martin to make himself eligible for the Chamber. Then--another
pretty speculation--with the rest of the money he bought stock in the
‘National,’ where I meet him every time I want to have a laugh over the
republican Utopia. He has his flatterers on the staff of that estimable
newspaper; they have persuaded him that he’s a born orator and can
cut the finest figure in the Chamber. They even talk of getting up a
candidacy for him; and on some of their enthusiastic days they go so far
as to assert that he bears a distant likeness to Danton.”

“But this is getting burlesque,” said Emile Blondet.

I don’t know if you have ever remarked, my dear Monsieur Gaston, that in
men of real talent there is always great leniency of judgment. In this,
Joseph Bridau is pre-eminent.

“I think with you,” he said, “that if Dorlange takes this step, and
enters politics, he will be lost to art. But, after all, why should he
not succeed in the Chamber? He expresses himself with great facility,
and seems to me to have ideas at his command. Look at Canalis when he
was made deputy! ‘What! a poet!’ everybody cried out,--which didn’t
prevent him from making himself a fine reputation as orator, and
becoming a minister.”

“But the first question is how to get into the Chamber,” said Emile
Blondet. “Where does Dorlange propose to stand?”

“Why, naturally, for one of the rotten boroughs of the ‘National.’ I
don’t know if it has yet been chosen.”

“General rule,” said the writer for the “Debats.” “To obtain your
election, even though you may have the support of an active and ardent
party, you must also have a somewhat extended political notoriety, or,
at any rate, some provincial backing of family or fortune. Has Dorlange
any of those elements of success?”

“As for the backing of a family, that element is particularly lacking,”
 replied Bixiou; “in fact, in his case, it is conspicuously absent.”

“Really?” said Emile Blondet. “Is he a natural child?”

“Nothing could be more natural,--father and mother unknown. But I
believe, myself, that he can be elected. It is the ins and outs of his
political ideas that will be the wonder.”

“He is a republican, I suppose, if he is a friend of those ‘National’
gentlemen, and resembles Danton?”

“Yes, of course; but he despises his co-religionists, declaring they
are only good for carrying a point, and for violence and bullying.
Provisionally, he is satisfied with a monarchy hedged in by republican
institutions; but he insists that our civic royalty will infallibly be
lost through the abuse of influence, which he roughly calls corruption.
This will lead him towards the little Church of the Left-centre; but
there again--for there’s always a but--he finds only a collection
of ambitious minds and eunuchs unconsciously smoothing the way to a
revolution, which he, for his part, sees looming on the horizon with
great regret, because, he says, the masses are too little prepared,
and too little intelligent, not to let it slip through their fingers.
Legitimacy he simply laughs at; he doesn’t admit it to be a principle
in any way. To him it is simply the most fixed and consistent form of
monarchical heredity; he sees no other superiority in it than that of
old wine over new. But while he is neither legitimist, nor conservative,
nor Left-centre, and is republican without wanting a republic, he
proclaims himself a Catholic, and sits astride the hobby of that party,
namely,--liberty of education. But this man, who wants free education
for every one, is afraid of the Jesuits; and he is still, as in 1829,
uneasy about the encroachments of the clergy and the Congregation. Can
any of you guess the great party which he proposes to create in the
Chamber, and of which he intends to be the leader? That of the righteous
man, the impartial man, the honest man! as if any such thing could live
and breathe in the parliamentary cook-shops; and as if, moreover, all
opinions, to hide their ugly nothingness, had not, from time immemorial,
wrapped themselves in that banner.”

“Does he mean to renounce sculpture absolutely?” asked Joseph Bridau.

“Not yet; he is just finishing the statue of some saint, I don’t know
which; but he lets no one see it, and says he does not intend to send it
to the Exhibition this year--he has ideas about it.”

“What ideas?” asked Emile Blondet.

“Oh! that religious works ought not to be delivered over to the judgment
of critics, or to the gaze of a public rotten with scepticism; they
ought, he thinks, to go, without passing through the uproar of the
world, piously and modestly to the niches for which they are intended.”

“_Ah ca_!” exclaimed Emile Blondet, “and it is this fervent Catholic who
fights a duel!”

“Better or worse than that. This Catholic lives with a woman whom he
brought back from Italy,--a species of Goddess of Liberty, who serves
him as model and housekeeper.”

“What a tongue that Bixiou has; he keeps a regular intelligence office,”
 said some of the little group as it broke up at the offer of tea from
Madame de Montcornet.

You see from this, my dear Monsieur Gaston, that the political
aspirations of Monsieur Dorlange are not regarded seriously by his
friends. I do not doubt that you will write to him soon to thank him
for the warmth with which he defended you from calumny. That courageous
devotion has given me a true sympathy for him, and I shall hope that
you will use the influence of early friendship to turn his mind from the
deplorable path he seems about to enter. I make no judgment on the other
peculiarities attributed to him by Monsieur Bixiou, who has a cutting
and a flippant tongue; I am more inclined to think, with Joseph Bridau,
that such mistakes are venial. But a fault to be forever regretted,
according to my ideas, will be that of abandoning his present career
to fling himself into the maelstrom of politics. You are yourself
interested in turning him from this idea, if you strongly desire to
entrust that work to his hands. Preach to him as strongly as you can the
wisdom of abiding by his art.

On the subject of the explanation I advised you to have with him, I must
tell you that your task is greatly simplified. You need not enter
into any of the details which would be to you so painful. Madame de
l’Estorade, to whom I spoke of the role of mediator which I wanted her
to play, accepted the part very willingly. She feels confident of being
able, after half an hour’s conversation, to remove the painful feeling
from your friend’s mind, and drive away the clouds between you.

While writing this long letter, I have sent for news of his condition.
He is going on favorably, and the physicians say that, barring all
unforeseen accidents, his friends need have no anxiety as to his state.
It seems he is an object of general interest, for, to use the expression
of my valet, people are “making cue” to leave their names at his door.
It must be added that the Duke de Rhetore is not liked, which may partly
account for this sympathy. The duke is stiff and haughty, but there is
little in him. What a contrast the brother is to her who lives in our
tenderest memory. She was simple and kind, yet she never derogated from
her dignity; nothing equalled the lovable qualities of her heart but the
charms of her mind.



IV. THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORAADE TO MADAME OCTAVE DE CAMPS

Paris, February, 1839.

Nothing could be more judicious than what you have written me, my dear
friend. It was certainly to have been expected that my “bore” would have
approached me on the occasion of our next meeting. His heroism gave him
the right to do so, and politeness made it a duty. Under pain of being
thought unmannerly he was bound to make inquiries as to the results
of the accident on my health and that of Nais. But if, contrary to all
these expectations, he did not descend from his cloud, my resolution,
under your judicious advice, was taken. If the mountain did not come
to me, I should go to the mountain; like Hippolyte in the tale of
Theramene, I would rush upon the monster and discharge my gratitude
upon him at short range. I have come to think with you that the really
dangerous side of this foolish obsession on his part is its duration and
the inevitable gossip in which, sooner or later, it would involve me.

Therefore, I not only accepted the necessity of speaking to my shadow
first, but under pretence that my husband wished to call upon him and
thank him in person, I determined to ask him his name and address, and
if I found him a suitable person I intended to ask him to dinner on the
following day; believing that if he had but a shadow of common-sense,
he would, when he saw the manner in which I live with my husband, my
frantic passion, as you call it, for my children, in short, the whole
atmosphere of my well-ordered home, he would, as I say, certainly see
the folly of persisting in his present course. At any rate half the
danger of his pursuit was over if it were carried on openly. If I was
still to be persecuted, it would be in my own home, where we are
all, more or less, exposed to such annoyances, which an honest woman
possessing some resources of mind can always escape with honor.

Well, all these fine schemes and all your excellent advice have come to
nothing. Since the accident, or rather since the day when my physician
first allowed me to go out, nothing, absolutely nothing have I seen
of my unknown lover. But, strange to say, although his presence was
intolerably annoying, I am conscious that he still exercises a sort
of magnetism over me. Without seeing him, I feel him near me; his eyes
weigh upon me, though I do not meet them. He is ugly, but his ugliness
has something energetic and powerfully marked, which makes one
remember him as a man of strong and energetic faculties. In fact, it
is impossible not to think about him; and now that he appears to have
relieved me of his presence, I an conscious of a void--that sort of void
the ear feels when a sharp and piercing noise which has long annoyed it
ceases. What I am going to add may seem to you great foolishness; but
are we always mistress of such mirages of the imagination?

I have often told you of my arguments with Louise de Chaulieu in
relation to the manner in which women ought to look at life. I used
to tell her that the passion with which she never ceased to pursue the
ideal was ill-regulated and fatal to happiness. To this she answered:
“You have never loved, my dearest; love has this rare phenomenon about
it: we may live all our lives without ever meeting the being to whom
nature has assigned the power of making us happy. But if the day of
splendor comes when that being unexpectedly awakes your heart from
sleep, what will you do then?” [See “Memoirs of Two Young Married
Women.”]

The words of those about to die are often prophetic. What if this man
were to be the tardy serpent with whom Louise threatened me? That he
could ever be really dangerous to me; that he could make me fail in my
duty, that is certainly not what I fear; I am strong against all such
extremes. But I did not, like you, my dear Madame de Camps, marry a
man whom my heart had chosen. It was only by dint of patience,
determination, and reason that I was able to build up the solid and
serious attachment which binds me to Monsieur de l’Estorade. Ought I
not, therefore, to be doubly cautious lest anything distract me from
that sentiment, be it only the diversion of my thoughts in this annoying
manner, to another man?

I shall say to you, as, MONSIEUR, Louis XIV.’s brother, said to his
wife, to whom he was in the habit of showing what he had written and
asking her to decipher it: See into my heart and mind, dear friend,
disperse the mists, quiet the worries, and the flux and reflux of will
which this affair stirs up in me. My poor Louise was mistaken, was she
not? I am not a woman, am I, on whom the passion of love could gain a
foothold? The man who, on some glorious day, will render me happy is
my Armand, my Rene, my Nais, three angels for whom I have hitherto
lived--there can never be for me, I feel it deeply, another passion!



V. THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE TO MADAME OCTAVE DE CAMPS

Paris, March, 1839.

About the year 1820 in the course of the same week two _news_ (to use
the schoolboy phrase of my son Armand) entered the college of Tours. One
had a charming face, the other would have been thought ugly if health,
frankness, and intelligence beaming on his features had not compensated
for their irregularity and inelegance.

Here you will stop me, and ask whether I have come to the end of my own
adventure, that I should now be writing this feuilleton-story. No, this
tale is really a continuation of that adventure, though it seems little
like it; so, give it your best attention and do not interrupt me again.

One of these lads, the handsome one, was dreamy, contemplative, and a
trifle _elegaic_; the other, ardent, impetuous, and always in action.
They were two natures which completed each other; a priceless blessing
to every friendship that is destined to last. Both had the same
bar-sinister on them at their birth. The dreamer was the natural son of
the unfortunate Lady Brandon. His name was Marie-Gaston; which, indeed,
seems hardly an actual name. The other, born of wholly unknown parents,
was named Dorlange, which is certainly no name at all. Dorlange, Valmon,
Volmar, Melcourt, are heard upon the stage and nowhere else; already
they belong to a past style, and will soon rejoin Alceste, Arnolphe,
Clitandre, Damis, Eraste, Philinte, and Arsinoe.

Another reason why the poor ill-born lads should cling together was
the cruel abandonment to which they were consigned. For the seven years
their studies lasted there was not a day, even during the holidays, when
the door of their prison opened. Now and then Marie-Gaston received
a visit from an old woman who had served his mother; through her the
quarterly payment for his schooling was regularly made. That of Dorlange
was also made with great punctuality through a banker in Tours. A point
to be remarked is that the price paid for the schooling of the latter
was the highest which the rules of the establishment allowed; hence the
conclusion that his unknown parents were persons in easy circumstances.
Among his comrades, Dorlange attained to a certain respect which, had
it been withheld, he would very well have known how to enforce with his
fists. But under their breaths, his comrades remarked that he was never
sent for to see friends in the parlor, and that outside the college
walls no one appeared to take an interest in him.

The two lads, who were both destined to become distinguished men, were
poor scholars; though each had his own way of studying. By the time
he was fifteen Marie-Gaston had written a volume of verses, satires,
elegies, meditations, not to speak of two tragedies. The favorite
studies of Dorlange led him to steal logs of wood, out of which, with
his knife, he carved madonnas, grotesque figures, fencing-masters,
saints, grenadiers of the Old Guard, and, but this was secretly,
Napoleons.

In 1827, their school-days ended, the two friends left college together
and were sent to Paris. A place had been chosen for Dorlange in the
atelier of the sculptor Bosio, and from that moment a rather fantastic
course was pursued by an unseen protection that hovered over him. When
he reached the house in Paris to which the head-master of the school had
sent him, he found a dainty little apartment prepared for his reception.
Under the glass shade of the clock was a large envelope addressed to
him, so placed as to strike his eye the moment that he entered the
room. In that envelope was a note, written in pencil, containing these
words:--

  The day after your arrival in Paris go at eight in the morning
  punctually to the garden of the Luxembourg, Allee de
  l’Observatoire, fourth bench to the right, starting from the gate.
  This order is strict. Do not fail to obey it.

Punctual to the minute, Dorlange was not long at the place of rendezvous
before he was met by a very small man, whose enormous head, bearing an
immense shock of hair, together with a pointed nose, chin, and crooked
legs made him seem like a being escaped from one of Hoffman’s tales.
Without saying a word, for to his other physical advantages this weird
messenger added that of being deaf and dumb, he placed in the young
man’s hand a letter and a purse. The letter said that the family of
Dorlange were glad to see that he wished to devote himself to art. They
urged him to work bravely and to profit by the instructions of the great
master under whose direction he was placed. They hoped he would live
virtuously; and, in any case, an eye would be kept upon his conduct.
There was no desire, the letter went on to say, that he should be
deprived of the respectable amusements of his age. For his needs and
for his pleasures, he might count upon the sum of six hundred and fifty
francs every three months, which would be given to him in the same place
by the same man; but he was expressly forbidden to follow the messenger
after he had fulfilled his commission; if this injunction were directly
or indirectly disobeyed, the punishment would be severe; it would be
nothing less than the withdrawal of the stipend and, possibly, total
abandonment.

Do you remember, my dear Madame de Camps, that in 1831 you and I went
together to the Beaux-Arts to see the exhibition of works which were
competing for the Grand Prix in sculpture? The subject given out for
competition was Niobe weeping for her children. Do you also remember my
indignation at one of the competing works around which the crowd was so
compact that we could scarcely approach it? The insolent youth had dared
to turn that sacred subject into jest! His Niobe was infinitely touching
in her beauty and grief, but to represent her children, as he did,
by monkeys squirming on the ground in the most varied and grotesque
attitudes, what a deplorable abuse of talent--!

You tried in vain to make me see that the monkeys were enchantingly
graceful and clever, and that a mother’s blind idolatry could not be
more ingeniously ridiculed; I held to the opinion that the conception
was monstrous, and the indignation of the old academicians who demanded
the expulsion of this intolerable work, seemed to me most justifiable.
But the Academy, instigated by the public and by the newspapers, which
talked of opening a subscription to send the young sculptor to Rome,
were not of my opinion and that of their older members. The extreme
beauty of the Niobe atoned for all the rest and the defamer of mothers
saw his work crowned, in spite of an admonition given to him by the
venerable secretary on the day of the distribution of the prizes.
But, poor fellow! I excuse him, for I now learn that he never knew his
mother. It was Dorlange, the poor abandoned child at Tours, the friend
of Marie-Gaston.

From 1827 to 1831 the two friends were inseparable. Dorlange, regularly
supplied with means, was a sort of Marquis d’Aligre; Gaston, on the
contrary, was reduced to his own resources for a living, and would have
lived a life of extreme poverty had it not been for his friend. But
where friends love each other--and the situation is more rare
than people imagine--all on one side and nothing on the other is a
determining cause for association. So, without any reckoning between
them, our two pigeons held in common their purse, their earnings, their
pains, pleasures, hopes, in fact, they held all things in common, and
lived but one life between the two. This state of things lasted till
Dorlange had won the Grand Prix, and started for Rome. Henceforth
community of interests was no longer possible. But Dorlange, still
receiving an ample income through his mysterious dwarf, bethought
himself of making over to Gaston the fifteen hundred francs paid to him
by the government for the “prix de Rome.” But a good heart in receiving
is more rare than the good heart that gives. His mind being ulcerated
by constant misfortune Marie-Gaston refused, peremptorily, what pride
insisted on calling _alms_. Work, he said, had been provided for him by
Daniel d’Arthez, one of our greatest writers, and the payment for that,
added to his own small means, sufficed him. This proud rejection, not
properly understood by Dorlange, produced a slight coolness between
the two friends; nevertheless, until the year 1833, their intimacy
was maintained by a constant exchange of letters. But here, on
Marie-Gaston’s side, perfect confidence ceased, after a time, to exist.
He was hiding something; his proud determination to depend wholly on
himself was a sad mistake. Each day brought him nearer to penury. At
last, staking all upon one throw, he imprudently involved himself in
journalism. Assuming all the risks of an enterprise which amounted to
thirty thousand francs, a stroke of ill-fortune left him nothing to look
forward to but a debtor’s prison, which yawned before him.

It was at this moment that his meeting with Louise de Chaulieu
took place. During the nine months that preceded their marriage,
Marie-Gaston’s letters to his friend became fewer and far-between.
Dorlange ought surely to have been the first to know of this change in
the life of his friend, but not one word of it was confided to him.
This was exacted by the high and mighty lady of Gaston’s love, Louise de
Chaulieu, Baronne de Macumer.

When the time for the marriage came, Madame de Macumer pushed this mania
for secrecy to extremes. I, her nearest and dearest friend, was scarcely
informed of the event, and no one was admitted to the ceremony
except the witnesses required by law. Dorlange was still absent. The
correspondence between them ceased, and if Marie-Gaston had entered the
convent of La Trappe, he could not have been more completely lost to his
friend.

When Dorlange returned from Rome in 1836, the sequestration of
Marie-Gaston’s person and affection was more than ever close and
inexorable. Dorlange had too much self-respect to endeavor to pass the
barriers thus opposed to him, and the old friends not only never saw
each other, but no communication passed between them.

But when the news of Madame Marie-Gaston’s death reached him Dorlange
forgot all and hastened to Ville d’Avray to comfort his friend. Useless
eagerness! Two hours after that sad funeral was over, Marie-Gaston,
without a thought for his friends or for a sister-in-law and two nephews
who were dependent on him, flung himself into a post-chaise and started
for Italy. Dorlange felt that this egotism of sorrow filled the measure
of the wrong already done to him; and he endeavored to efface from
his heart even the recollection of a friendship which sympathy under
misfortune could not recall.

My husband and I loved Louise de Chaulieu too tenderly not to continue
our affection for the man who had been so much to her. Before leaving
France, Marie-Gaston had requested Monsieur de l’Estorade to take charge
of his affairs, and later he sent him a power-of-attorney to enable him
to do so properly.

Some weeks ago his grief, still living and active, suggested to him a
singular idea. In the midst of the beautiful park at Ville d’Avray is a
little lake, with an island upon it which Louise dearly loved. To that
island, a shady calm retreat, Marie-Gaston wished to remove the body of
his wife, after building a mausoleum of Carrara marble to receive it. He
wrote to us to communicate this idea, and, remembering Dorlange in this
connection, he requested my husband to see him and ask him to undertake
the work. At first Dorlange feigned not to remember even the name of
Marie-Gaston, and he made some civil pretext to decline the commission.
But see and admire the consistency of such determinations when people
love each other! That very evening, being at the opera, he heard the
Duc de Rhetore speak insultingly of his former friend, and he vehemently
resented the duke’s words. A duel followed in which he was wounded; the
news of this affair has probably already reached you. So here is a man
facing death at night for a friend whose very name he pretended not to
know in the morning!

You will ask, my dear Madame de Camps, what this long tale has to do
with my own ridiculous adventure. That is what I would tell you now if
my letter were not so immoderately long. I told you my tale would prove
to be a feuilleton-story, and I think the moment has come to make the
customary break in it. I hope I have not sufficiently exalted your
curiosity to have the right not to satisfy it. To be concluded,
therefore, whether you like it or not, in the following number.



VI. THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE TO MADAME OCTAVE DE CAMPS

Paris, March, 1839.

The elements of the long biographical dissertation I lately sent you,
my dear friend, were taken chiefly from a recent letter from Monsieur
Marie-Gaston. On leaning of the brave devotion shown in his defence his
first impulse was to rush to Paris and press the hand of the friend who
avenged himself thus nobly for neglect and forgetfulness. Unfortunately
the evening before his departure he met with a dangerous fall at
Savarezza, one of the outlying quarries of Carrara, and dislocated
his ankle. Being obliged to postpone his journey, he wrote to Monsieur
Dorlange to express his gratitude; and, by the same courier, he sent
me a voluminous letter, relating the whole past of their lifelong
friendship and asking me to see Monsieur Dorlange and be the mediator
between them. He was not satisfied with the expression of his warm
gratitude, he wanted also to show him that in spite of contrary
appearances, he had never ceased to deserve the affection of his early
friend.

On receiving Monsieur Gaston’s letter, my first idea was to write to
the sculptor and ask him to come and see me, but finding that he was not
entirely recovered from his wound, I went, accompanied by my husband and
Nais, to the artist’s studio, which we found in a pleasant little house
in the rue de l’Ouest, behind the garden of the Luxembourg, one of the
most retired quarters of Paris. We were received in the vestibule by a
woman about whom Monsieur de l’Estorade had already said a word to
me. It appears that the _laureat_ of Rome did not leave Italy without
bringing away with him an agreeable souvenir in the form of a bourgeoise
Galatea, half housekeeper, half model; about whom certain indiscreet
rumors are current. But let me hasten to say that there was absolutely
nothing in her appearance or manner to lead me to credit them. In fact,
there was something cold and proud and almost savage about her,
which is, they tell me, a strong characteristic of the Transteverine
peasant-women. When she announced our names Monsieur Dorlange was
standing in a rather picturesque working costume with his back to us,
and I noticed that he hastily drew an ample curtain before the statue on
which he was engaged.

At the moment when he turned round, and before I had time to look
at him, imagine my astonishment when Nais ran forward and, with the
artlessness of a child, flung her arms about his neck crying out:--

“Are! here is my monsieur who saved me!”

What! the monsieur who saved her? Then Monsieur Dorlange must be the
famous Unknown?--Yes, my dear friend, I now recognized him. Chance, that
cleverest of romance-makers, willed that Monsieur Dorlange and my bore
were one. Happily, my husband had launched into the expression of his
feelings as a grateful father; I thus had time to recover myself, and
before it became my turn to say a word, I had installed upon my face
what you are pleased to call my grand l’Estorade air; under which, as
you know, I mark twenty-five degrees below zero, and can freeze the
words on the lips of any presuming person.

As for Monsieur Dorlange, he seemed to me less troubled than surprised
by the meeting. Then, as if he thought we kept him too long on the topic
of our gratitude, he abruptly changed the subject.

“Madame,” he said to me, “since we are, as it seems, more acquainted
than we thought, may I dare to gratify my curiosity?”--

I fancied I saw the claw of a cat preparing to play with its mouse, so I
answered, coldly:--

“Artists, I am told, are often indiscreet in their curiosity.”

I put a well-marked stiffness into my manner which completed the meaning
of the words. I could not see that it baffled him.

“I hope,” he replied, “that my question is not of that kind. I only
desire to ask if you have a sister.”

“No, monsieur,” I replied, “I have no sister--none, at least, that I
know of,” I added, jestingly.

“I thought it not unlikely, however,” continued Monsieur Dorlange, in
the most natural manner possible; “for the family in which I have met a
lady bearing the strongest resemblance to you is surrounded by a certain
mysterious atmosphere which renders all suppositions possible.”

“Is there any indiscretion in asking the name of that family?”

“Not the least; they are people whom you must have known in Paris in
1829-1830. They lived in great state and gave fine parties. I myself met
them in Italy.”

“But their name?” I said.

“De Lanty,” he replied, without embarrassment or hesitation.

And, in fact, my dear Madame de Camps, a family of that name did live
in Paris about that time, and you probably remember, as I do, that many
strange stories were told about them. As Monsieur Dorlange answered my
question he turned back towards his veiled statue.

“The sister whom you have not, madame,” he said to me abruptly, “I shall
permit myself to give you, and I venture to hope that you will see a
certain family likeness in her.”

So saying, he removed the cloth that concealed his work, and there _I_
stood, under the form of a saint, with a halo round my head. Could I be
angry at the liberty thus taken?

My husband and Nais gave a cry of admiration at the wonderful likeness
they had before their eyes. As for Monsieur Dorlange, he at once
explained the cause of his scenic effect.

“This statue,” he said, “is a Saint-Ursula, ordered by a convent in the
provinces. Under circumstances which it would take too long to relate,
the type of this saint, the person whom I mentioned just now, was firmly
fixed in my memory. I should vainly have attempted to create by my
imagination another type for that saint, it could not have been so
completely the expression of my thought. I therefore began to model this
figure which you see from memory, then one day, madame, at Saint-Thomas
d’Aquin, I saw you, and I had the superstition to believe that you were
sent to me by Providence. After that, I worked from you only, and as
I did not feel at liberty to ask you to come to my studio, the best I
could do was to study you when we met, and I multiplied my chances of
doing so. I carefully avoided knowing your name and social position, for
I feared to bring you down from the ideal and materialize you.”

“Oh! I have often seen you following us,” said Nais, with her clever
little air.

How little we know children, and their turn for observation! As for my
husband, it seemed to me that he ought to have pricked up his ears at
this tale of the daring manner in which his wife had been used as
a model. Monsieur de l’Estorade is certainly no fool; in all social
matters he has the highest sense of conventional propriety, and as for
jealousy, I think if I gave him the slightest occasion he would show
himself ridiculously jealous. But now, the sight of his “beautiful
Renee,” as he calls me, done into white marble in the form of a saint,
had evidently cast him into a state of admiring ecstasy. He, with Nais,
were taking an inventory to prove the fidelity of the likeness--yes, it
was really my attitude, really my eyes, really my mouth, really those
two little dimples in my cheeks!

I felt it my duty to take up the role that Monsieur de l’Estorade laid
aside, so I said, very gravely, to the presuming artist:--

“Do you not think, monsieur, that to appropriate without permission,
or--not to mince my words--steal a person’s likeness, may seem a very
strange proceeding?”

“For that reason, madame,” he replied, in a respectful tone, “I was
fully determined to abide by your wishes in the matter. Although my
statue is fated to be buried in the oratory of a distant convent,
I should not have sent it to its destination without obtaining your
permission to do so. I could have known your name whenever I wished;
I already knew your address; and I intended, when the time came, to
confess the liberty I had taken, and ask you to visit my studio. I
should then have said what I say now: if the likeness displeases you
I can, with a few strokes of my chisel, so change it as to make it
unrecognizable.”

My husband, who apparently thought the likeness not sufficiently close,
turned, at this moment, to Monsieur Dorlange, and said, with a delighted
air:--

“Do you not think, monsieur, that Madame de l’Estorade’s nose is rather
more delicate than you have made it?”

All this _unexpectedness_ so upset me that I felt unfitted to intervene
on behalf of Monsieur Marie-Gaston, and I should, I believe, have
pleaded his cause very ill if Monsieur Dorlange had not stopped me at
the first words I said about it.

“I know, madame,” he said, “all that you can possibly tell me about
my unfaithful friend. I do not forgive, but I forget my wrong. Things
having so come about that I have nearly lost my life for his sake, it
would certainly be very illogical to keep a grudge against him. Still,
as regards that mausoleum at Ville d’Avray, nothing would induce me to
undertake it. I have already mentioned to Monsieur de l’Estorade one
hindrance that is daily growing more imperative; but besides that, I
think it a great pity that Marie-Gaston should thus ruminate on his
grief; and I have written to tell him so. He ought to be more of a
man, and find in study and in work the consolations we can always find
there.”

The object of our visit being thus disposed of, I saw no hope of getting
to the bottom of the other mystery it had opened, so I rose to take
leave, and as I did so Monsieur Dorlange said to me:--

“May I hope that you will not exact the injury I spoke of to my statue?”

“It is for my husband and not for me to reply to that question,” I said;
“however, we can talk of it later, for Monsieur de l’Estorade hopes that
you will give us the honor of a visit.”

Monsieur bowed in respectful acquiescence, and we came away,--I, in
great ill-humor; I was angry with Nais, and also with my husband, and
felt much inclined to make him a scene, which he would certainly not
have understood.

Now what do you think of all this? Is the man a clever swindler, who
invented that fable for some purpose, or is he really an artist, who
took me in all simplicity of soul for the living realization of his
idea? That is what I intend to find out in the course of a few days, for
now I am committed to your programme, and to-morrow Monsieur and Madame
de l’Estorade will have the honor of inviting Monsieur Dorlange to
dinner.



VII. THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE TO MADAME OCTAVE DE CAMPS

Paris, March, 1839.

My dear friend,--Monsieur Dorlange dined with us yesterday. My intention
was to invite him alone to a formal family dinner, so as to have him
more completely under my eye, and put him to the question at my ease.
But Monsieur de l’Estorade, to whom I had not explained my charitable
motives, showed me that such an invitation might wound the sensibilities
of our guest; it might seem to him that the Comte de l’Estorade thought
the sculptor Dorlange unfitted for the society of his friends.

“We can’t,” said my husband gaily, “treat him like the sons of our
farmers who come here with the epaulet of a lieutenant on their
shoulder, and whom we invite with closed doors because we can’t send
them to the servants’ hall.”

We therefore invited to meet him Monsieur Joseph Bridau, the painter,
the Chevalier d’Espard, Monsieur and Madame de la Bastie (formerly, you
remember, Mademoiselle Modeste Mignon) and the Marquis de Ronquerolles.
When my husband invited the latter, he asked him if he had any objection
to meeting the adversary of the Duc de Rhetore.

“So far from objecting,” replied Monsieur de Ronquerolles, “I am glad of
the opportunity to meet a man of talent, who in the affair you speak of
behaved admirably.” And he added, after my husband had told him of our
great obligation to Monsieur Dorlange, “Then he is a true hero, your
sculptor! if he goes on this way, we can’t hold a candle to him.”

In his studio, with a bare throat leaving his head, which is rather too
large for his body, free, and dressed in a sort of Oriental costume,
Monsieur Dorlange looked to me a great deal better than he does in
regular evening dress. Though I must say that when he grows animated in
speaking his face lights up, a sort of a magnetic essence flows from his
eyes which I had already noticed in our preceding encounters. Madame de
la Bastie was as much struck as I was by this peculiarity.

I don’t know if I told you that the ambition of Monsieur Dorlange is to
be returned to the Chamber at the coming elections. This was the reason
he gave for declining Monsieur Gaston’s commission. What Monsieur de
l’Estorade and I thought, at first, to be a mere excuse was an actual
reason. At table when Monsieur Joseph Bridau asked him point-blank what
belief was to be given to the report of his parliamentary intentions,
Monsieur Dorlange formally announced them; from that moment, throughout
the dinner, the talk was exclusively on politics.

When it comes to topics foreign to his studies, I expected to find our
artist, if not a novice, at least very slightly informed. Not at all.
On men, on things, on the past as on the future of parties, he had very
clear and really novel views, which were evidently not borrowed from the
newspapers; and he put them forth in lively, easy, and elegant language;
so that after his departure Monsieur de Ronquerolles and Monsieur de
l’Estorade declared themselves positively surprised at the strong and
powerful political attitude he had taken. This admission was all the
more remarkable because, as you know, the two gentlemen are zealous
conservatives, whereas Monsieur Dorlange inclines in a marked degree to
democratic principles.

This unexpected superiority in my problematical follower reassured
me not a little; still, I was resolved to get to the bottom of the
situation, and therefore, after dinner I drew him into one of those
tete-a-tetes which the mistress of a house can always bring about.

After talking awhile about Monsieur Marie-Gaston, our mutual friend, the
enthusiasms of my dear Louise and my efforts to moderate them, I asked
him how soon he intended to send his Saint-Ursula to her destination.

“Everything is ready for her departure,” he replied, “but I want your
_exeat_, madame; will you kindly tell me if you desire me to change her
expression?”

“One question in the first place,” I replied: “Will your work suffer by
such a change, supposing that I desire it?”

“Probably. If you cut the wings of a bird you hinder its flight.”

“Another question: Is it I, or the _other person_ whom the statue best
represents?”

“You, madame; that goes without saying, for you are the present, she the
past.”

“But, to desert the past for the present is a bad thing and goes by a
bad name, monsieur; and yet you proclaim it with a very easy air.”

“True,” said Monsieur Dorlange, laughing, “but art is ferocious;
wherever it sees material for its creations, it pounces upon it
desperately.”

“Art,” I replied, “is a great word under which a multitude of things
shelter themselves. The other day you told me that circumstances, too
long to relate at that moment, had contributed to fix the image of which
I was the reflection in your mind, where it has left a vivid memory; was
not that enough to excite my curiosity?”

“It was true, madame, that time did not allow of my making an
explanation of those circumstances; but, in any case, having the honor
of speaking to you for the first time, it would have been strange, would
it not, had I ventured to make you any confidences?”

“Well, but now?” I said, boldly.

“Now, unless I receive more express encouragement, I am still unable to
suppose that anything in my past can interest you.”

“Why not? Some acquaintances ripen fast. Your devotion to my Nais
has advanced our friendship rapidly. Besides,” I added, with affected
levity, “I am passionately fond of stories.”

“But mine has no conclusion to it; it is an enigma even to myself.”

“All the better; perhaps between us we might find the key to it.”

Monsieur Dorlange appeared to take counsel with himself; then, after a
short pause he said:--

“It is true that women are admirably fitted to seize the lighter shades
of meaning in acts and sentiments which we men are unable to decipher.
But this confidence does not concern myself alone; I should have to
request that it remain absolutely between ourselves, not even excepting
Monsieur de l’Estorade from this restriction. A secret is never safe
beyond the person who confides it, and the person who hears it.”

I was much puzzled, as you can well suppose, about what might follow;
still, continuing my explorations, I replied:--

“Monsieur de l’Estorade is so little in the habit of hearing everything
from me, that he never even read a line of my correspondence with Madame
Marie-Gaston.”

Until then, Monsieur Dorlange had stood before the fireplace, at one
corner of which I was seated; but he now took a chair beside me and
said, by way of preamble:--

“I mentioned to you, madame, the family of Lanty--”

At that instant--provoking as rain in the midst of a picnic--Madame de
la Bastie came up to ask me if I had been to see Nathan’s last drama.
Monsieur Dorlange was forced to give up his seat beside me, and no
further opportunity for renewing the conversation occurred during the
evening.

I have really, as you see now, no light upon the matter, and yet when
I recall the whole manner and behavior of Monsieur Dorlange, whom I
studied carefully, my opinion inclines to his perfect innocence. Nothing
proves that the love I suspected plays any part in this curious affair;
and I will allow you to think that I and my terrors, with which I
tormented you, were terribly absurd,--in short, that I have played the
part of Belise in the _Femmes Savantes_, who fancies that every man she
sees is fatally in love with her.

I therefore cheerfully abandon that stupid conclusion. Lover or not,
Monsieur Dorlange is a man of high character, with rare distinction of
mind; and if, as I believe now, he has no misplaced pretensions, it is
an honor and pleasure to count him among our friends. Nais is enchanted
with her preserver. After he left us that evening, she said to me, with
an amusing little air of approbation,--

“Mamma, how well Monsieur Dorlange talks.”

Apropos of Nais, here is one of her remarks:--

“When he stopped the horses, mamma, and you did not seem to notice him,
I thought he was only a man.”

“How do you mean,--only a man?”

“Well, yes! one of those persons to whom one pays no attention. But, oh!
I was so glad when I found out he was a monsieur. Didn’t you hear me cry
out, ‘Ah! you are the monsieur who saved me’?”

Though her innocence is perfect, there was such pride and vanity in this
little speech that I gave her, as you may well suppose, a lecture upon
it. This distinction of man and monsieur is dreadful; but, after all,
the child told the truth. She only said, with her blunt simplicity, what
our democratic customs still allow us to put in practice, though they
forbid us to put it into words. The Revolution of ‘89 has at least
introduced that virtuous hypocrisy into our social system.

But I refrain from politics.



VIII. THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE TO MADAME OCTAVE DE CAMPS

April, 1839.

For the last two weeks we have heard nothing more of Monsieur Dorlange.
Not only has he not seen fit to renew the conversation so provokingly
interrupted by Madame de la Bastie, but he has not even remembered that
it was proper to leave his card at the house after a dinner.

While we were breakfasting yesterday morning, I happened to make this
remark (though without any sharpness), and just then our Lucas, who, as
an old servant, sometimes allows himself a little familiarity, had the
door swung triumphantly open to admit him, bearing _something_, I knew
not what, wrapped in tissue paper, which he deposited with great care on
the table, giving a note to Monsieur de l’Estorade at the same time.

“What is that?” I said to Lucas, on whose face I detected the signs of
a “surprise,” at the same time putting out my hand to uncover the
mysterious article.

“Oh! madame must be careful!” cried Lucas; “it is fragile.”

During this time my husband had read the note, which he now passed to
me, saying:--

“Read it. Monsieur Dorlange sends us an excuse.”

The note said:--

  Monsieur le Comte,--I think I observed that Madame la comtesse
  granted me rather reluctantly her permission to profit by the
  audacious larceny I committed at her expense. I have, therefore,
  taken upon myself to change the character of my statue, and, at
  the present moment, the _two sisters_ no longer resemble each
  other. Nevertheless, as I did not wish that _all_ should be lost
  to the world, I modelled the head of Saint-Ursula before
  retouching it. From that model I have now made a reduction, which
  I place upon the charming shoulders of a countess not yet
  canonized, thank God! The mould was broken as soon as the one
  cast, which I have now the honor of sending you, was made. This
  fact may, perhaps, give some little additional value to the bust
  in your eyes.

  Accept, Monsieur le comte, etc., etc.

While I was reading the note, my husband, Lucas, Rene, and Nais had
eagerly extracted me from my swathings, and then, in truth, I appeared
no longer a saint, but a woman of the world. I really thought my husband
and children would go out of their minds with admiration and pleasure.
The news of this masterpiece spread about the house, and all our
servants, whom we rather spoil, came flocking, one after another, as
if sent for, crying out, “Oh, it is madame’s own self!” I alone did not
share in the general enthusiasm. As for Monsieur de l’Estorade, after
working for an hour to find a place in his study where the bust could be
seen in its best light, he came in to say to me:--

“On my way to the Treasury to-day I shall go and see Monsieur Dorlange,
and if he is at liberty this evening I shall ask him to dine with us.
To-day is Armand’s half-holiday, and I would like him to see the boy.
The assembled family can then thank him for his gift.”

Monsieur Dorlange accepted the invitation. At dinner Monsieur de
l’Estorade inquired further about his candidacy, giving it however, no
approval. This led straight to politics. Armand, whose mind is naturally
grave and reflective and who reads the newspapers, mingled in the
conversation. Against the practice of youths of the present day, he
thinks like his father; that is, he is very conservative; though perhaps
less just and wise, as might well be expected in a lad of fifteen. He
was consequently led to contradict Monsieur Dorlange, whose inclination
as I told you, is somewhat jacobin. And I must say I thought the
arguments of my little man neither bad nor ill-expressed. Without
ceasing to be polite, Monsieur Dorlange had an air of disdaining a
discussion with the poor boy, so much so that I saw Armand on the point
of losing patience and replying sharply. However, as he has been well
brought up, I had only to make him a sign and he controlled himself; but
seeing him turn scarlet and shut himself up in gloomy silence, I felt
that his pride had received a blow, and I thought it little generous in
Monsieur Dorlange to crush a young lad in that way.

I know very well that children in these days make the mistake of wishing
to be personages before their time, and that it often does them good
to suppress such conceit. But really, Armand has an intellectual
development and a power of reasoning beyond his age. Do you want a proof
of it? Until last year, I had never consented to part with him, and it
was only as a day scholar that he followed his course of study at the
College Henri IV. Well, he himself, for the sake of his studies, which
were hindered by going and coming to and fro, asked to be placed in
the regular manner in the school; and he employed more entreaties and
arguments with me to put him under that discipline than an ordinary boy
would have used to escape it. Therefore this manly air and manner, which
in most schoolboys would, of course, be intolerably ridiculous, seems in
him the result of his natural precocity; and this precocity ought to be
forgiven him, inasmuch as it comes to him from God.

In consequence of his unfortunate birth Monsieur Dorlange is less fitted
than most men to judge of children in their homes, and he therefore,
necessarily, shows a want of indulgence. But he had better take care; if
he wishes to pay court to me merely as a friend he has chosen a very bad
method of doing so.

Of course an evening in the midst of the family did not allow of his
returning to the subject of his private history; but I thought he did
not show any particular desire to do so. In fact, he occupied himself
much more with Nais than with me, cutting out silhouettes in black paper
for her during nearly the whole evening. I must also mention that Madame
de Rastignac came in and I, on my side, was obliged to give my company
to her. While we were conversing near the fire, Monsieur Dorlange at
the other end of the room was posing the two children Nais and Rene, who
presently brought me their likenesses snipped out with scissors, Nais
whispering triumphantly in my ear:--

“You don’t know; but Monsieur Dorlange is going to make my bust in
marble.”

Since this family dinner, civil war has been declared among my children.
Nais extols to the skies her “dear preserver,” as she calls him, and is
supported in her opinion by Rene, who is delivered over to the sculptor
body and soul in return for a superb lancer on horseback which Monsieur
Dorlange cut out for him. Armand, on the contrary, thinks him ugly,
which is undeniable; he says he resembles the portraits of Danton which
he has seen in the illustrated histories of the Revolution, in which
remark there is some truth. He says also that Monsieur Dorlange has
given me in my bust the air of a grisette, which is not true at all.
Hence, disputes among my darlings which are endless.



IX. DORLANGE TO MARIE-GASTON

Paris, April, 1839.

Why do I desert my art, and what do I intend to do in this cursed galley
of politics? This shows what it is, my dear romantic friend, to shut
one’s self up for years in a conjugal convent. During that time the
world has progressed. To friends forgotten at the gate life brings
new combinations; and the more they are ignored, the more disposed the
forgetter is to cast the blame upon those forgotten; it is so easy to
preach to others!

Learn, then, my dear inquisitor, that I do not enter politics of my own
volition. In pushing myself in this unexpected manner into the electoral
breach, I merely follow an inspiration that has been made to me. A
ray of light has come into my darkness; a father has partly revealed
himself, and, if I may believe appearances, he holds a place in
the world which ought to satisfy the most exacting ambition. This
revelation, considering the very ordinary course of my life, has come to
me surrounded by fantastic and romantic circumstances which served to be
related to you in some detail.

As you have lived in Italy, I think it useless to explain to you the
Cafe Greco, the usual rendezvous of the pupils of the Academy and
the artists of all countries who flock to Rome. In Paris, rue de
Coq-Saint-Honore, we have a distant counterpart of that institution in a
cafe long known as that of the Cafe des Arts. Two or three times a week
I spend an evening there, where I meet several of my contemporaries
in the French Academy in Rome. They have introduced me to a number of
journalists and men of letters, all of them amiable and distinguished
men, with whom there is both profit and pleasure in exchanging ideas.

In a certain corner, where we gather, many questions of a nature to
interest serious minds are debated; but the most eager interest, namely
politics, takes the lead in our discussions. In this little club the
prevailing opinion is democratic; it is represented under all its
aspects, the phalansterian Utopia not excepted. That’s enough to tell
you that before this tribunal the ways of the government are often
judged with severity, and that the utmost liberty of language reigns in
our discussions. The consequence is that about a year ago the waiter
who serves us habitually took me aside one day to give me, as he said, a
timely warning.

“Monsieur,” he said, “you are watched by the police; and you would do
well not to talk like Saint Paul, open-mouthed.”

“The police! my good friend,” I replied, “why the devil should the
police watch me? What I say, and a good deal else, is printed every
morning in the newspapers.”

“No matter for that, they _are_ watching you. I have seen it. There is
a little old man, who takes a great deal of snuff, who is always within
hearing distance of you; when you speak he seems to pay more attention
to your words than to those of the others; and once I saw him write
something down in a note-book in marks that were not writing.”

“Well, the next time he comes, point him out to me.”

The next time proved to be the next day. The person shown to me was a
short man with gray hair, a rather neglected person and a face deeply
pitted with the small-pox, which seemed to make him about fifty years of
age. He frequently dipped in a large snuffbox; and seemed to be giving
to my remarks an attention I might consider either flattering or
inquisitive, as I pleased; but a certain air of gentleness and integrity
in this supposed police-spy inclined me to the kinder interpretation. I
said so to the waiter, who had plumed himself on discovering a spy.

“_Parbleu_!” he replied, “they always put on that honeyed manner to hide
their game.”

Two days later, on a Sunday, at the hour of vespers, in one of my
rambles about old Paris--for which, as you know, I always had a taste--I
happened to enter the church of Saint-Louis-en-l’Ile, the parish church
of the remote quarter of the city which bears that name. This church
is a building of very little interest, no matter what historians and
certain “Guides to Paris” may say. I should therefore have passed
rapidly through it if the remarkable talent of the organist who was
performing part of the service had not induced me to remain.

To say that the playing of that man realized my ideal is giving it high
praise, for I dare say you will remember that I always distinguished
between organ-players and organists, a superior order of nobility the
title of which is not to be given unwittingly.

The service over, I had a curiosity to see the face of so eminent an
artist buried in that out-of-the-way place. Accordingly I posted myself
near the door of the organ loft, to see him as he left the church--a
thing I certainly would not have done for a crowned head; but great
artists, after all, are they not kings by divine right?

Imagine my amazement when, after waiting a few minutes, instead of
seeing a totally unknown face I saw that of a man in whom I recognized
my listener at the Cafe des Arts. But that is not all: behind him came
the semblance of a human being in whose crooked legs and bushy
tangled hair I recognized by old tri-monthly providence, my banker, my
_money-bringer_,--in a word my worthy friend, the mysterious dwarf.

I did not escape, myself, his vigilant eye, and I saw him point me out
to the organist with an eager gesture. The latter turned hastily to
look at me and then, without further demonstration, continued his way.
Meanwhile the bandy-legged creature went up familiarly to the giver of
holy-water and offered him a pinch of snuff; then without paying any
further attention to me, he limped to a low door at the side of the
church and disappeared. The evident pains this deformed being had taken
to fix the organist’s attention upon me seemed to me a revelation.
Evidently, the _maestro_ knew of the singular manner by which my
quarterly stipend had reached me; which stipend, I should tell you, had
been regularly continued until my orders for work so increased as to put
me beyond all necessity. It was not improbable therefore that this man,
who listened to me at the Cafe des Arts, was the repository of other
secrets relating to my early life; and I became most eager to obtain an
explanation from him; all the more because, as I was now living on
my own resources, my curiosity could not be punished, as formerly
threatened, by the withdrawal of my subsidy.

Making my decision quickly, I followed the organist at once; but by the
time I reached the door of the church he was out of sight. However, my
luck prompted me to follow the direction he had taken, and as I reached
the quai de Bethune I saw him to my great joy rapping at the door of
a house. Entering resolutely after him, I asked the porter for the
organist of Saint-Louis-de-l’Ile.

“Monsieur Jacques Bricheteau?”

“Yes; Monsieur Jacques Bricheteau; he lives here I believe.”

“Fourth floor above the entresol, door to the left. He has just come in,
and you can overtake him on the stairs.”

Rapidly as I ran up, my man had the key of his door already in the lock
when I reached him.

“Have I the honor of speaking to Monsieur Jacques Bricheteau?” I asked.

“Don’t know any such person,” he replied with effrontery, unlocking his
door.

“Perhaps I pronounce the name incorrectly; I mean the organist of
Saint-Louis-de-l’Ile.”

“I have never heard of any organist in this house.”

“Pardon me, monsieur, there is one, for the concierge has just told me
so. Besides I saw you leave the organ loft of that church followed by an
individual who--”

Before I could finish my sentence this singular individual cut short our
interview by entering his apartment and locking the door behind him. For
a moment I thought that I must have been mistaken; but on reflection
I saw that a mistake was impossible. I had to do with a man who, for
years, had proved his unremitting discretion. No, he was obstinately
bent on avoiding me; I was not mistaken in recognizing him.

I then began to pull the bell vigorously, being quite resolved to get
some answer at least to my demand. For some little time the besieged
took the racket I made patiently; then, all of a sudden, I noticed that
the bell had ceased to ring. Evidently, the wire was disconnected; the
besieged was secure, unless I kicked in the door; but that of course,
was not altogether the thing to do.

I returned to the porter and, without giving the reasons for my
discomfiture, I told him about it. In that way I won his confidence
and so obtained some little information about the impenetrable Monsieur
Jacques Bricheteau. Though readily given, this information did not
enlighten me at all as to the actual situation. Bricheteau was said
to be a quiet lodger, civil, but not communicative; though punctual in
paying his rent, his means seemed small; he kept no servant and took his
meals out of the house. Going out every morning before ten o’clock,
he seldom came in before night; the inference was that he was either a
clerk in some office, or that he gave music lessons in private houses.

One detail alone in the midst of this vague and useless information was
of interest. For the last few months Monsieur Jacques Bricheteau had
received a voluminous number of letters the postage on which indicated
that they came from foreign parts; but, in spite of his desires,
the worthy concierge had never, he said, been able to decipher the
post-mark. Thus this detail, which might have been very useful to me
became for the moment absolutely worthless.

I returned home, persuading myself that a pathetic letter addressed to
the refractory Bricheteau would induce him to receive me. Mingling with
my entreaties the touch of a threat, I let him know that I was firmly
resolved at all costs to get to the bottom of the mystery which weighed
upon my life; the secret of which he evidently knew. The next morning,
before nine o’clock, I went to his house, only to learn that after
paying the rent to the end of his term, he had packed up his furniture
and left the house in the early morning, without the porter being able
to discover from the men who removed his property (well-paid to keep
silence, no doubt) where they were ordered to carry it. These men being
strangers in the quarter, it was quite impossible to discover them
later.

I felt, however, that I still had a clue to him, through the organ at
Saint-Louis, and the following Sunday after high mass I posted myself
as before at the door of the organ loft, determined not to let go of
the sphinx until I had made him speak. But here again, disappointment!
Monsieur Jacques Bricheteau’s place was taken by a pupil. The same thing
happened on the three following Sundays. On the fourth, I accosted the
pupil and asked him if the master were ill.

“No, monsieur,” he replied. “Monsieur Bricheteau has asked for leave of
absence. He will be absent for some time; I believe on business.”

“Where, then, can I write to him?”

“I don’t rightly know; but I think you had better address your letter to
his house; not far from here, quai de Bethune.”

“But he has moved; didn’t you know it?”

“No, indeed; where does he live now?”

This was poor luck; to ask information of a man who asked it of me when
I questioned him. As if to put be quite beside myself while I was making
these inquiries, I saw that damned dwarf in the distance evidently
laughing at me.

Happily for my patience and my curiosity, which, under the pressure of
all this opposition was growing terrible, a certain amount of light was
given me. A few days after my last discomfiture, a letter reached me
bearing the post-mark Stockholm, Sweden; which address did not surprise
me because, while in Rome, I had been honored by the friendship of
Thorwaldsen, the great Swedish sculptor, and I had often met in his
studio many of his compatriots. Probably, therefore, this letter
conveyed an order from one of them, sent through Thorwaldsen. But, on
opening the letter what was my amazement, and my emotion, in presence of
its opening words:--

  Monsieur my Son,--

The letter was long. I had no patience to read it until I knew the
name I bore. I turned to the signature; again my disappointment was
complete--there was no name!

  Monsieur my Son,

said my anonymous father,--

  I do not regret that by your passionate insistence on knowing the
  secret of your birth, you have forced the person who has watched
  over you from childhood to come here to confer with me as to the
  course your vehement and dangerous curiosity requires us to
  pursue.

  For some time past, I have entertained a thought which I bring to
  maturity to-day; the execution of which could have been more
  satisfactorily settled by word of mouth than it can now be by
  correspondence.

  Immediately after your birth, which cost your mother’s life, being
  forced to expatriate myself, I made in a foreign country a noble
  fortune, and I occupy in the ministry of that country an eminent
  position. I foresee the moment when, free to restore to you my
  name, I shall also be able to secure to you the inheritance of my
  titles and the position to which I have attained.

  But, to reach that height, the reputation you have, I am told,
  acquired in art is not a sufficient recommendation. It is my wish
  that you should enter political life; and in that career, under
  the present institutions of France, there are not two ways of
  becoming a man of distinction: you must begin by being made a
  deputy. I know that you are not yet of the legal age, and also
  that you do not possess the property qualification. But, in
  another year you will be thirty years old, and that is just the
  necessary time required by law to be a land-owner before becoming
  a candidate for election.

  To-morrow, therefore, you can present yourself to Mongenod Bros.,
  bankers, rue de la Victoire. A sum of two hundred and fifty
  thousand francs will be paid to you; this you must immediately
  employ in the purchase of real estate, applying part of the
  surplus to obtain an interest in some newspaper which, when the
  right time comes, will support your candidacy, and the rest in
  another expense I shall presently explain to you.

  Your political aptitude is guaranteed to me by the person who,
  with a disinterested zeal for which I shall ever be grateful, has
  watched over you since you were abandoned. For some time past he
  has secretly followed you and listened to you, and he is certain
  that you will make yourself a dignified position in the Chamber.
  Your opinions of ardent yet moderate liberalism please me; without
  being aware of it, you have very cleverly played into my game. I
  cannot as yet tell you the place of your probable election. The
  secret power which is preparing for that event is all the more
  certain to succeed because its plans are pursued quietly and for
  the present in the shade. But success will be greatly assisted by
  the execution of a work which I shall now propose to you,
  requesting you to accept its apparent strangeness without surprise
  or comment.

  For the time being you must continue to be a sculptor, and with
  the talents of which you have already given proofs, I wish you to
  make a statue of Saint-Ursula. That is a subject which does not
  lack either interest or poesy. Saint-Ursula, virgin and martyr,
  was, as is generally believed, a daughter of prince of Great
  Britain. Becoming the abbess of a convent of unmarried women, who
  were called with popular naivete the Eleven Thousand Virgins, she
  was martyred by the Huns in the fifth century; later, she was
  patroness of the order of the Ursulines, to which she gave its
  name, and she was also patroness of the famous house of Sorbonne.
  An able artist like yourself could, it seems to me, make much of
  these details.

  Without knowing the locality of which you will be made the
  representative, it is expedient that you should from the present
  moment, make known your political opinions and your intention of
  becoming a candidate for election. But I cannot too strongly
  insist on your keeping secret the communication now made to you;
  at any rate as much as your patience will allow. Leave my agent in
  peace, and await the slow and quiet development of the brilliant
  future to which you are destined, without yielding to a curiosity
  which might, I warn you, lead to great disasters.

  If you refuse to enter my plans, you will take from yourself all
  chance of ever penetrating a mystery which you have shown yourself
  so eager to understand. But I do not admit even the supposition of
  your resistance, and I prefer to believe in your deference to the
  wishes of a father who will regard it as the finest day of his
  life when at last it be granted to him to reveal himself to his
  son.

  P.S. Your statue, which is intended for a convent of Ursuline
  nuns, must be in white marble. Height: one metre seven hundred and
  six millimetres; in other words, five feet three inches. As it
  will not be placed in a niche, you must carefully finish all sides
  of it. The costs of the work are to be taken out of the two
  hundred and fifty thousand francs mentioned above.

This letter chilled and pained me. In the first place, it took from me a
hope long cherished,--that of recovering a mother as loving as yours, of
whose adorable tenderness, dear friend, you have so often told me. After
all, it was a half-light thrown upon the fogs of my life without even
allowing me to know whether I was or was not the child of a legitimate
marriage. It also seemed to me that such paternal intimations addressed
to a man of my age were much too despotic and imperious. Was it not
a strange proceeding to change my whole life as if I were a boy just
leaving school! At first I employed to myself all the arguments against
this political vocation which you and my other friends have since
addressed to me. Nevertheless curiosity impelled me to go the
Mongenods’; and finding there, sure enough, in actual, living money,
the two hundred and fifty thousand francs announced to me, I was led to
reason in another way.

I reflected that a will which began by making such an outlay must have
something serious in it. And inasmuch as this mysterious father knew all
and I nothing, it seemed to me that to enter on a struggle with him was
neither reasonable nor opportune. In fact, had I any real repugnance to
the career suggested to me? No. Political interests have always roused
me to a certain degree; and if my electoral attempt should come to
nothing, I could always return to my art without being more ridiculous
than the other still-born ambitions which each new legislature produces.

Accordingly, I have bought the necessary piece of property, and
made myself a shareholder in the “National.” I have also made the
Saint-Ursula, and am now awaiting instructions, which seem to me rather
long in coming, as to her actual destination. Moreover, I have made
known my parliamentary ambition, and the fact that I intend to stand in
the coming elections.

I need not ask you to preserve the utmost secrecy about my present
confidence. Discretion is a virtue which you practise, to my knowledge,
in too signal a manner to need any exhorting thereto from me. But I am
wrong, dear friend, in making these unkind allusions to the past, for at
this moment I am, more perhaps than you know, the obliged party. Partly
out of interest in me, but more because of the general aversion your
brother-in-law’s extreme haughtiness inspires, the democratic party has
flocked to my door to make inquiries about my wound, and the talk and
excitement about this duel have served me well; there is no doubt that
my candidacy has gained much ground. Therefore, I say, a truce to your
gratitude; do you not see how much I owe to you?



X. DORLANGE TO MARIE-GASTON

Paris, April, 1839.

Dear Friend,--For better or for worse, I continue my candidacy without a
constituency to elect me. This surprises my friends and worries me, for
it is only a few weeks now to the general election; and if it happens
that all this mysterious “preparation” comes to nought, a pretty figure
I shall cut in the caricatures of Monsieur Bixiou, of whose malicious
remarks on the subject you lately wrote me.

One thing reassures me: it does not seem likely that any one would
have sown two hundred and fifty thousand francs in my electoral furrow
without feeling pretty sure of gathering a harvest. Perhaps, to take
a cheerful view of the matter, this very slowness may be considered as
showing great confidence of success.

However that may be, I am kept by this long delay in a state of inaction
which weighs upon me. Astride as it were of two existences,--one in
which I have not set foot, the other in which my foot still lingers,--I
have no heart to undertake real work; I am like a traveller who, having
arrived before the hour when the diligence starts, does not know what to
do with his person nor how to spend his time. You will not complain,
I think, that I turn this enforced _far niente_ to the profit of our
correspondence; and now that I am thus at leisure, I shall take up
two points in your last letter which did not seem to me of sufficient
importance to pay much attention to at the time: I refer to your warning
that my parliamentary pretensions did not meet the approval of Monsieur
Bixiou; and to your suggestion that I might expose myself to falling in
love with Madame de l’Estorade--if I were not in love with her
already. Let us discuss, in the first instance, Monsieur Bixiou’s grand
disapprobation--just as we used to talk in the olden time of the grand
treachery of Monsieur de Mirabeau.

I’ll describe that man to you in a single word. Envy. In Monsieur Bixiou
there is, unquestionably, the makings of a great artist; but in the
economy of his existence the belly has annihilated the heart and the
head, and he is now and forever under the dominion of sensual appetites;
he is riveted to the condition of a _caricaturist_,--that is to say, to
the condition of a man who from day to day discounts himself in petty
products, regular galley-slave pot-boilers, which, to be sure, give him
a lively living, but in themselves are worthless and have no future.
With talents misused and now impotent, he has in his mind, as he has
on his face, that everlasting and despairing _grin_ which human thought
instinctively attributes to fallen angels. Just as the Spirit of
darkness attacks, in preference, great saints because they recall to him
most bitterly the angelic nature from which he has fallen, so Monsieur
Bixiou delights to slaver the talents and characters of those who he
sees have courageously refused to squander their strength, sap, and aims
as he has done.

But the thing which ought to reassure you somewhat as to the danger of
his calumny and his slander (for he employs both forms of backbiting) is
that at the very time when he believes he is making a burlesque autopsy
of me he is actually an obedient puppet whose wire I hold in my hands,
and whom I am making talk as I please. Being convinced that a certain
amount of noisy discussion would advance my political career, I
looked about me for what I may call a public crier. Among these
circus trumpets, if I could have found one with a sharper tone, a more
deafening blare than Bixiou’s, I would have chosen it. As it was, I
have profited by the malevolent curiosity which induces that amiable
lepidopter to insinuate himself into all studios. I confided the whole
affair to him; even to the two hundred and fifty thousand francs (which
I attributed to a lucky stroke at the Bourse), I told him all my plans
of parliamentary conduct, down to the number of the house I have bought
to conform to the requirements of the electoral law. It is all jotted
down in his notebook.

That statement, I think, would somewhat reduce the admiration of
his hearers in the salon Montcornet did they know of it. As for the
political horoscope which he has been so kind as to draw for me, I
cannot honestly say that his astrology is at fault. It is very certain
that with my intention of following no set of fixed opinions, I must
reach the situation so admirably summed up by the lawyer of Monsieur de
la Palisse, when he exclaimed with burlesque emphasis: “What do you do,
gentlemen, when you place a man in solitude? You isolate him.”

Isolation will certainly be my lot, and the artist-life, in which a man
lives alone and draws from himself like the Great Creator whose work
he toils to imitate, has predisposed me to welcome the situation.
But although, in the beginning especially, it will deprive me of all
influence in the lobbies, it may serve me well in the tribune, where I
shall be able to speak with strength and _freedom_. Being bound by no
promises and by no party trammels, nothing will prevent me from being
the man I am, and expressing, in all their sacred crudity, the ideas
which I think sound and just. I know very well that before an audience
plain, honest truth may fail to be contagious or even welcome. But have
you never remarked that, by using our opportunities wisely, we finally
meet with days which may be called the festivals of morality and
intelligence, days on which, naturally and almost without effort, the
thought of good triumphs?

I do not, however, conceal from myself that, although I may reach
to some reputation as an orator, such a course will never lead to
a ministry, and that it does not bestow that reputation of being a
practical man to which it is now the fashion to sacrifice so much. But
if at arm’s length in the tribune I have but little influence, I shall
make my mark at a greater distance. I shall speak as it were from a
window, beyond the close and narrow sphere of parliamentary discussion,
and above the level of its petty passions and its petty interests. This
species of success appears to meet the views of the mysterious paternal
intentions toward me. What they seem to require is that I shall sound
and resound. From that point of view, i’ faith, politics have a poetic
side which is not out of keeping with my past life.

Now, to take up your other warning: that of my passion born or to be
born for Madame de l’Estorade. I quote your most judicious deductions
for the purpose of answering them fully.

In 1837, when you left for Italy, Madame de l’Estorade was, you say, in
the flower of her beauty; and the queer, audacious persistence which I
have shown in deriving inspiration from her shows that it has not faded.
Hence, if the evil be not already done, you warn me to be on my guard;
from the admiration of an artist to the adoration of the man there is
but a step, and the history of the late Pygmalion is commended to my
study.

In the first place, learned doctor and mythologian, allow me this
remark. Being on the spot and therefore much better placed than you
to judge of the dangers of the situation, I can assure you that the
principal person concerned does not appear to feel the least anxiety.
Monsieur de l’Estorade quarrels with me for one thing only: he thinks my
visits too few, and my reserve misanthropy.

_Parbleu_! I hear you say, a husband is always the last to know that
his wife is being courted. So be it. But the high renown of Madame de
l’Estorade’s virtue, her cold and rather calculating good sense, which
often served to balance the ardent and passionate impetuosity of one you
knew well,--what of that? And will you not grant that motherhood as it
appears in that lady--pushed to a degree of fervor which I might almost
call fanaticism--would be to her an infallible preservative?

So much for her. But it is not, I see, for her tranquillity, it is mine
for which your friendship is concerned; if Pygmalion had not succeeded
in giving life to his statue, a pretty life his love would have made
him!

To your charitable solicitude I must answer, (1) by asserting my
principles (though the word and the thing are utterly out of date); (2)
by a certain stupid respect that I feel for conjugal loyalty; (3) by the
natural preoccupation which the serious public enterprise I am about to
undertake must necessarily give to my mind and imagination. I must also
tell you that I belong, if not by spiritual height, at least by all the
tendencies of my mind and character, to that strong and serious school
of artists of another age who, finding that art is long and life is
short--_ars longa et vita brevis_--did not commit the mistake of wasting
their time and lessening their powers of creation by silly and insipid
intrigues.

But I have a better reason still to offer you. As Monsieur de l’Estorade
has told you of the really romantic incidents of my first meeting with
his wife, you know already that a _memory_ was the cause of my studying
her as a model. Well, that memory, while it attracted me to the
beautiful countess, is the strongest of all reasons to keep me from
her. This appears to you, I am sure, sufficiently enigmatical and
far-fetched; but wait till I explain it.

If you had not thought proper to break the thread of our intercourse, I
should not to-day be obliged to take up the arrears of our confidence;
as it is, my dear boy, you must now take your part in my past history
and listen to me bravely.

In 1835, the last year of my stay in Rome, I became quite intimate with
a comrade in the Academy named Desroziers. He was a musician and a man
of distinguished and very observing mind, who would probably have gone
far in his art if malarial fever had not put an end to him the following
year. Suddenly the idea took possession of us to go to Sicily, one of
the excursions permitted by the rules of the school; but as we were
radically “dry,” as they say, we walked about Rome for some time
endeavoring to find some means of recruiting our finances. On one of
these occasions we happened to pass before the Palazzo Braschi. Its
wide-open doors gave access to the passing and repassing of a crowd of
persons of all sorts.

“_Parbleu_!” exclaimed Desroziers, “here’s the very thing for us.”

And without explaining his words or where he was taking me, he made me
follow the crowd and enter the palace.

After mounting a magnificent marble staircase and crossing a very long
suite of apartments rather poorly furnished,--which is customary in
Italian palaces, all their luxury being put into ceilings, statues,
paintings, and other objects of art,--we reached a room that was wholly
hung with black and lighted by quantities of tapers. It was, of course,
a _chambre-ardente_. In the middle of it on a raised platform surmounted
by a baldaquin, lay a _thing_, the most hideous and grotesque thing you
can possibly conceive. Imagine a little old man whose hands and face had
reached such a stage of emaciation that a mummy would have seemed to you
in comparison plump and comely.

Clothed in black satin breeches, a violet velvet coat cut _a la
Francaise_, a white waistcoat embroidered in gold, from which issued
an enormous shirt-frill of point d’Angleterre, this skeleton had cheeks
covered with a thick layer of rouge which heightened still further the
parchment tones of the rest of his skin. Upon his head was a blond wig
frizzed into innumerable little curls, surmounted by an immense plumed
hat jauntily perched to one side in a manner which irresistibly provoked
the laughter of even the most respectful visitors.

After one glance given to this ridiculous and lamentable exhibition,--an
obligatory part of all funerals, according to the etiquette of the Roman
aristocracy,--Desroziers exclaimed: “There’s the end; now come and see
the beginning.”

Not replying to any of my questions, because he was arranging a dramatic
effect, he took me to the Albani gallery and placed me before a statue
representing Adonis stretched on a lion’s skin.

“What do you think of that?” he said.

“What?” I replied at a first glance; “why, it is as fine as an antique.”

“Antique as much as I am!” replied Desroziers. “It is a portrait in
youth of that wizened old being we have just seen dead.”

“Antique or not, it is a masterpiece,” I said. “But how is all this
beauty, or its hideous caricature, to get us to Sicily? That is the
question.”

“I’ll tell you,” replied Desroziers. “I know the family of that old
scarecrow. His niece married the Comte de Lanty, and they have long
wanted to buy this statue which the Albani museum won’t give up at any
price. They have tried to have it copied, but they never got anything
satisfactory. Now, you know the director of the museum well. Get him to
let you make a copy of it. I give music-lessons to the Comte de Lanty’s
daughter, Mademoiselle Marianina, and I’ll talk of your copy. If you
succeed, as of course you will, the count will buy it and pay you forty
times the cost of a trip to Sicily.”

Two days later I began the work, and, as it suited my taste, I worked so
hotly at it that by the end of three weeks the Lanty family, escorted
by Desroziers, came to see my copy. The count, who seemed to me a good
connoisseur, declared himself satisfied with the work and bought
it. Mademoiselle Marianina, who was the heiress and favorite of her
grand-uncle, was particularly delighted with it. Marianina was then
about twenty-one years old, and I shall not make you her portrait
because you know Madame de l’Estorade, to whom her likeness is
extraordinary. Already an accomplished musician, this charming girl had
a remarkable inclination for all the arts. Coming from time to time to
my studio to watch the completion of the statue, a taste for sculpture
seized her, as it did the Princesse Marie d’Orleans, and until the
departure of the family, which took place a few months before I myself
left Rome, Mademoiselle de Lanty took lessons from me in modelling.

I never dreamed of being another Saint-Preux or Abelard, but I must own
that I found rare happiness in imparting my knowledge. Marianina was so
gay and happy, her judgment of art so sound, her voice, when she sang,
so stirred my heart, that had it not been for her vast fortune, which
kept me at a distance, I should have run great danger to my peace
of mind. Admitted into the household on the footing of a certain
familiarity, I could see that my beautiful pupil took pleasure in our
intercourse, and when the family returned to Paris she expressed the
utmost regret at leaving Rome; I even fancied, God forgive me, that I
saw something like a tear in her eye when we parted.

On my return to Paris, some months later, my first visit was to the
hotel de Lanty. Marianina was too well bred and too kind at heart to
be discourteous to any one, but I felt at once that a cold restrained
manner was substituted for the gracious friendliness of the past. It
seemed to me probable that her evident liking, I will not say for me
personally, but for my conversation and acquirements, had been noticed
by her parents, who had doubtless taught her a lesson; in fact, the
stiff and forbidding manner of Monsieur and Madame de Lanty left me no
other supposition.

Naturally, I did not call again; but a few months later, when I
exhibited my Pandora in the salon of 1837, I one day saw the whole
Lanty family approach it. The mother was on the arm of Comte Maxime de
Trailles, a well-known lion. _Nil admirari_ is the natural instinct
of all men of the world; so, after a very cursory glance at my work,
Monsieur de Trailles began to find shocking faults in it, and in so
high and clear a voice that not a word was lost within a certain range.
Marianina shrugged her shoulders as she listened to this profound
discourse, and when it was ended she said,--

“How fortunate you came with us! Without your enlightened knowledge
I might, with the rest of the good public, have thought this statue
admirable. It is a pity the sculptor is not here to learn his business
from you.”

“He _is_ here, behind you,” said a stout woman, who had once been
my landlady, and was standing near, laughing heartily. Involuntarily
Marianina turned; when she saw me a vivid color came into her cheeks,
and I slipped away into the crowd. A girl who took my part so warmly,
and then showed such emotion on being detected in doing so, could not be
absolutely indifferent to me; and as on my first visit I had only, after
all, been coldly received, I decided, after my great success at the
Exhibition, in consequence of which I was made a chevalier of the Legion
of honor, to call again upon the Lantys; perhaps my new distinctions
would procure me a better reception.

Monsieur de Lanty received me without rising, and with the following
astounding apostrophe:--

“I think you very courageous, monsieur, to venture to present yourself
here.”

“I have never been received in a manner that seemed to require courage
on my part.”

“You have come, no doubt,” continued Monsieur de Lanty, “in search of
your property which you were careless enough to leave in our hands. I
shall return you that article of gallantry.”

So saying, he rose and took from a drawer in his secretary an elegant
little portfolio, which he gave to me.

As I looked at it in a sort of stupefaction, he added:

“Yes; I know the letters are not there; I presume you will allow me to
keep them.”

“This portfolio, the letters you mention--all this is an enigma to me,
monsieur.”

At this moment Madame de Lanty entered the room.

“What do you want?” said her husband, roughly.

“I knew monsieur was here, and as I feared some painful explanation, I
came to do my duty as a woman, and interpose.”

“You need fear nothing, madame,” I said; “evidently what is taking place
is the result of some misunderstanding.”

“Ah! this is too much!” cried Monsieur de Lanty, reopening the drawer
from which he had taken the portfolio, and taking out a packet of
letters tied with a rose-colored ribbon. “I think these will put an end
to your _misunderstanding_.”

I looked at the letters; they were not postmarked, and simply bore my
name, Monsieur Dorlange, in a woman’s handwriting, which was unknown to
me.

“Monsieur,” I said, “you know more than I do; you have in your
possession letters that seem to belong to me, but which I have never
received.”

“Upon my word,” cried Monsieur de Lanty, “you are an admirable comedian;
I never saw innocence better played.”

“But, monsieur,” I said, “who wrote those letters, and why are they
addressed to me?”

“It is useless to deny them, monsieur,” said Madame de Lanty; “Marianina
has confessed all.”

“Mademoiselle Marianina!” I exclaimed. “Then the matter is very simple;
have the goodness to bring us together; let me hear from her lips the
explanation of this singular affair.”

“The evasion is clever,” replied Monsieur de Lanty; “but my daughter
is no longer here: she is in a convent, forever sheltered from your
intrigues and the dangers of her own ridiculous passion. If that is
what you came to know, all is said. Let us part, for my patience and
moderation have a limit, if your insolence has none.”

“Monsieur!” I began, angrily; but Madame de Lanty, who was standing
behind her husband, made me a gesture as if she would fall upon her
knees; and reflecting that perhaps Marianina’s future depended on the
attitude I now took, I controlled myself and left the room without
further words.

The next morning, before I was out of bed, the Abbe Fontanon was
announced to me. When he entered he proved to be a tall old man with a
bilious skin and a sombre, stern expression, which he tried to soften by
a specious manner and a show of gentle but icy obsequiousness.

“Monsieur,” he said, “Madame la Comtesse de Lanty, whose confessor I
have the honor to be, requests me to give you a few explanations, to
which you have an incontestable right, as to the scene that took place
last evening between her husband and yourself.”

“I am ready to listen to you, monsieur,” I replied.

“Monsieur de Lanty,” continued the abbe, “is a bad sleeper; and one
night last summer he was awakened by the sound of cautious steps.
He opened his door, and called out to know who was there. He was not
mistaken; some one was there, but did not answer, and disappeared before
Monsieur de Lanty could obtain a light. At first it was thought to be
an attempt at robbery; but on further inquiry it appeared that a
_gentleman_ had taken a room in the neighborhood, and had frequently
been seen in company with Mademoiselle Marianina,--in short, the matter
concerned a love affair and not a robbery. Monsieur de Lanty has long
watched his daughter, whose ardent inclinations have given him much
anxiety; you yourself, monsieur, caused him some uneasiness in Rome--”

“Very needless, Monsieur l’abbe,” I said, interrupting him.

“Yes. I know that your relations to Mademoiselle de Lanty have always
been perfectly proper and becoming. But since their return to Paris
another individual has occupied her mind,--a bold and enterprising man,
capable of risking everything to compromise and thus win an heiress.
Being taxed with having encouraged this man and allowed these nocturnal
interviews, Mademoiselle de Lanty at first denied everything. Then,
evidently fearing that her father, a violent man, would take some
steps against her lover, she threw herself at his feet and admitted the
visits, but denied that the visitor was the man her father named to her.
At first she refused obstinately to substitute another name for the
one she disavowed. After some days passed in this struggle, she finally
confessed to her mother, under a pledge of secrecy, that her father was
right in his suspicions, but she dreaded the results to the family
if she acknowledged the truth to him. The man in question was a noted
duellist, and her father and brother would surely bring him to account
for his conduct. It was then, monsieur, that the idea occurred to this
imprudent girl to substitute another name for that of her real lover.”

“Ah! I understand,” I said; “the name of a nobody, an artist, a
sculptor, or some insignificant individual of that kind.”

“You do Mademoiselle de Lanty injustice by that remark,” replied the
abbe. “What decided her to make your name a refuge against the dangers
she foresaw was the fact that Monsieur de Lanty had formerly had
suspicions about you, and she thought that circumstance gave color to
her statement.”

“But, Monsieur l’abbe,” I said, “how do you explain those letters, that
portfolio, which her father produced yesterday?”

“That again was an invention of Marianina; and I may add that this
duplicity assures me that had she remained in the world her future might
have been terrible.”

“Am I to suppose that this tale has been told you by Madame de Lanty?”

“Confided to me, monsieur, yes. You yourself saw Madame de Lanty’s
desire to stop your explanations yesterday, lest the truth might
appear to her husband. I am requested by her to thank you for your
connivance--passive, of course--in this pious falsehood. She felt that
she could only show her profound gratitude by telling you the whole
truth and relying upon your discretion.”

“Where is Mademoiselle Marianina?”

“As Monsieur de Lanty told you, in a convent in Italy. To avoid scandal,
it was thought best to send her to some safe retreat. Her own conduct
will decide her future.”

Now what do you think of that history? Does it not seem to you very
improbable? Here are two explanations which have each come into my mind
with the force of a conviction. First, Marianina’s brother has just
married into a grand-ducal family of Germany. Immense sacrifices must
have been required of the de Lanty family to make such an alliance.
Was Marianina’s _dot_, and the fortune she inherited from that old
grand-uncle, required to pay the costs of that princely union? Secondly,
did Marianina really feel an attachment for me? And did she, in a
girlish way, express it on those letters which she never sent? To punish
her, had her parents sent her to a convent? And to disgust me, and throw
me off the track, had the mother invented this history of another love
in which she seemed to make me play so mortifying a part?

I may add that the intervention of the Abbe Fontanon authorizes such an
interpretation. I have made inquiries about him, and I find he is one
of those mischievous priests who worm themselves into the confidence of
families for their own ends; he has already destroyed the harmony of
one home,--that of Monsieur de Granville, attorney-general of the royal
court of Paris under the Restoration.

As to the truth or falsehood of these suppositions I know nothing, and,
in all probability, shall continue to know nothing. But, as you can
easily understand, the thought of Marianina is a luminous point to
which my eye is forever attached. Shall I love her? Shall I hate her and
despise her? That is the question perpetually in my mind. Uncertainty
of that kind is far more certain to fix a woman in a man’s soul than to
dislodge her.

Well, to sum up in two brief sentences my reply to your warnings: As
for the opinion of Monsieur Bixiou, I care as little for it as for last
year’s roses; and as for that other danger which you fear, I cannot tell
you whether I love Marianina or not, but this I know, I do _not_ love
Madame de l’Estorade. That, I think, is giving you a plain and honest
answer. And now, let us leave our master the Future to do what he likes.



XI. THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE TO MADAME OCTAVE DE CAMPS

Paris, May, 1839.

Monsieur Dorlange came last evening to take leave of us. He starts
to-day for Arcis-sur-Aube, where the ceremony of inaugurating _his_
statue takes place. That is also the place selected by the Opposition
journals for his candidacy. Monsieur de l’Estorade declares that the
locality could not have been worse chosen, and that it leaves his
election without a chance.

Monsieur Dorlange paid his visit early. I was alone. Monsieur de
l’Estorade was dining with the Minister of the Interior, and the
children were in bed. The conversation interrupted by Madame de la
Bastie could now be renewed, as I was about to ask him to continue the
history, of which he had only told me the last words, when our old Lucas
brought me a letter. It was from my Armand, to let me know that he had
been ill since morning, and was then in the infirmary.

“Order the carriage,” I said to Lucas, in a state of agitation you can
easily conceive.

“But, madame,” replied Lucas, “monsieur has ordered the carriage to
fetch him at half-past nine o’clock, and Tony has already started.”

“Then send for a cab.”

“I don’t know that I can find one,” said our old servant, who is a man
of difficulties; “it is beginning to rain.”

Without noticing that remark and without thinking of Monsieur Dorlange,
I went hastily to my room to put on my bonnet and shawl. That done, I
returned to the salon, where my visitor still remained.

“You must excuse me, monsieur,” I said to him, “for leaving you so
abruptly. I must hasten to the Henri IV. College. I could not possibly
pass a night in the dreadful anxiety my son’s letter has caused me; he
tells me he has been ill since morning in the infirmary.”

“But,” replied Monsieur Dorlange, “surely you are not going alone in a
hired carriage to that lonely quarter?”

“Lucas will go with me.”

At that moment Lucas returned; his prediction was realized; there was
not a coach on the stand; it was raining in torrents. Time was passing;
already it was almost too late to enter the school, where masters and
pupils go to bed at nine o’clock.

“Put on thick shoes,” I said to Lucas, “and come with me on foot.”

Instantly I saw his face lengthen. He is no longer young and loves his
ease; moreover, he complains every winter of rheumatism. He made various
objections,--that it was very late; that we should “revolutionize” the
school; I should take cold; Monsieur Armand could not be very ill if he
wrote himself; in short, it was clear that my plan of campaign did not
suit my old retainer.

Monsieur Dorlange very obligingly offered to go himself in my place and
bring me word about Armand; but that did not suit me at all; I felt that
I _must_ see for myself. Having thanked him, I said to Lucas in a tone
of authority:--

“Get ready at once, for one thing is true in your remarks: it is getting
late.”

Seeing himself driven into a corner, Lucas raised the standard of
revolt.

“It is not possible that madame should go out in such weather; and I
don’t want monsieur to scold me for giving in to such a singular idea.”

“Then you do not intend to obey me?”

“Madame knows very well that for anything reasonable I would do what she
told me if I had to go through fire to obey her.”

“Heat is good for rheumatism, but rain is not,” I said; then, turning to
Monsieur Dorlange, I added: “As you were so kind as to offer to do this
errand alone, may I ask you to give me your arm and come with me?”

“I am like Lucas,” he said, “I do not think this excursion absolutely
necessary; but as I am not afraid of being scolded by Monsieur de
l’Estorade, I shall have the honor to accompany you.”

We started. The weather was frightful; we had hardly gone fifty steps
before we were soaked in spite of Lucas’s huge umbrella, with which
Monsieur Dorlange sheltered me at his own expense. Luckily a coach
happened to pass; Monsieur Dorlange hailed the driver; it was empty.
Of course I could not tell my companion that he was not to get in; such
distrust was extremely unbecoming and not for me to show. But you know,
my dear friend, that showers of rain have helped lovers from the days
of Dido down. However, Monsieur Dorlange said nothing: he saw my anxiety
and he had the good taste not to attempt conversation, breaking the
silence only from time to time with casual remarks. When we reached the
school, after getting out of the carriage to give me his hand he saw for
himself that he must not enter the house and he therefore got back into
the carriage to await my return.

Well, I found Monsieur Armand had hoaxed me. His illness reduced itself
to a headache, which departed soon after he had written me. The doctor,
for the sake of ordering something, had told him to take an infusion
of linden-leaves, telling him that the next day he could go back to his
studies. I had taken a club to kill a flea, and committed all sorts of
enormities to get there at an hour when the entire establishment were
going to bed, only to find my young gentleman perfectly well and playing
chess with one of the nurses.

On leaving the school I found the rain had ceased and the moon was
shining brightly. My heart was full; the reaction from my great anxiety
had set in and I felt a need of breathing the fresh air. I therefore
proposed to Monsieur Dorlange to dismiss the coach and return on foot.

Here was an opportunity for him to make me that long-delayed
explanation; but Monsieur Dorlange seemed so little inclined to take
advantage of it that, using Monsieur Armand’s freak as a text, he read
me a lecture on the danger of spoiling children: a subject which was not
at all agreeable to me, as he must have perceived from the rather stiff
manner with which I listened to him. Come, thought I, I must and will
get to the bottom of this history; it is like the tale of Sancho’s
herdsman, which had the faculty of never getting told. So, cutting short
my companion’s theories of education, I said distinctly:--

“This is a very good time, I think, to continue the confidence you were
about to make to me. Here we are sure of no interruption.”

“I am afraid I shall prove a poor story-teller,” replied Monsieur
Dorlange. “I have spent all my fire this very day in telling that tale
to Marie-Gaston.”

“That,” I answered laughing, “is against your own theory of secrecy, in
which a third party is one too many.”

“Oh, Marie-Gaston and I count for one only. Besides, I had to reply to
his odd ideas about you and me.”

“What about me?”

“Well, he imagined that in looking at the sun I should be dazzled by its
rays.”

“Which means, speaking less metaphorically--?”

“That, in view of the singularities which accompanied my first knowledge
of you and led me to the honor of your acquaintance, I might
expose myself to the danger, madame, of not retaining my reason and
self-possession.”

“And your history refutes this fear in the mind of Monsieur
Marie-Gaston?”

“You shall judge.”

And then, without further preamble, he told me a long tale which I need
not repeat here; the gist of it is, however, that Monsieur Dorlange is
in love with a woman who posed in his imagination for Saint-Ursula; but
as this woman appears to be forever lost to him it did not seem to me
impossible that in the long run he might transfer his sentiments for her
memory to me. When he had finished his tale he asked if I did not think
it a victorious answer to the ridiculous fears of our friend.

“Modesty,” I replied, “obliges me to share your security; but they say
that in the army shots frequently ricochet and kill their victims.”

“Then you think me capable of the impertinence Marie-Gaston is good
enough to suspect in me?”

“I don’t know about its being an impertinence,” I said stiffly, “but
if such a fancy came into your mind, I should think you very much to be
pitied.”

His answer was vehement.

“Madame,” he said, “you will not have to pity me. In my opinion, first
love is a vaccination which protects us from a second.”

The conversation stopped there. We had now reached my own door, and
I invited Monsieur Dorlange to come in. He accepted my politeness,
remarking that Monsieur de l’Estorade had probably returned and he could
thus take leave of him.

My husband was at home. I don’t know whether Lucas, forestalling the
rebuke I intended to give him, had made out a story to excuse himself,
or whether Monsieur de l’Estorade for the first time in his life, felt,
in view of my maternal escapade, a movement of jealousy. It is certain,
however, that his manner of receiving me was curt; he called it an
unheard-of thing to go out at such an hour, in such weather, to see
a boy who proved, by announcing his own illness, that it was nothing
serious. After letting him talk in this discourteous way for some little
time, I thought it was time to put an end to the scene, so I said in a
rather peremptory tone:--

“As I wanted to sleep at night, I went to the school in a pelting rain;
I came back by moonlight; and I beg you to remark that monsieur, who was
so good as to escort me, has come upstairs to bid you good-bye, because
he leaves Paris to-morrow morning.”

I have habitually enough power over Monsieur de l’Estorade to make this
call to order effective; but I saw that my husband was displeased, and
that instead of having made Monsieur Dorlange an easy diversion, I had
called down upon his head the ill-humor of my ogre, who instantly turned
upon him.

After telling him that much had been said about his candidacy during
dinner at the ministry, Monsieur de l’Estorade began to show him all
the reasons why he might expect an overwhelming defeat; namely, that
Arcis-sur-Aube was one of the boroughs where the administration felt
itself most secure; that a man of extraordinary political ability had
already been sent there to manipulate the election, and had made a
first report giving triumphant news of his success. These were only
generalities, to which Monsieur Dorlange replied with modesty, but also
with the air of a man who had resolved who take his chances against all
risks to which his election might be exposed. Monsieur de l’Estorade
then produced a final shaft which, under the circumstances, was
calculated to have a marvellous effect, because it attacked both the
candidate and his private life.

“Listen to me, my dear monsieur,” said my husband, “when a man starts
on an electoral career he must remember that he stakes everything; his
public life and also his private life. Your adversaries will ransack
your present and your past with a pitiless hand, and sorrow to him who
has any dark spots to hide. Now I ought not to conceal from you that
to-night, at the ministers’, much was said about a little scandal which,
while it may be venial in the life of an artist, takes proportions
altogether more serious in that of the people’s representative. You
understand me, of course. I refer to that handsome Italian woman whom
you have in your house. Take care; some puritanical elector whose own
morality may be more or less problematical, is likely to call you to
account for her presence.”

The reply made by Monsieur Dorlange was very dignified.

“To those,” he said, “who may arraign me on that detail of my private
life I wish but one thing--that they may have nothing worse upon their
consciences. If I had not already wearied madame on our way from the
school with an interminable story, I would tell you the facts relating
to my handsome Italian, and you would see, Monsieur le comte, that her
presence in my house reflects in no way upon me.

“But,” returned Monsieur de l’Estorade, softening his tone, “you take my
observation rather too seriously. As I said just now, an artist may have
a handsome model in his house--that may be natural enough--but she is
not a usual piece of furniture in that of a legislator.”

“No, what seems more to their liking,” replied Monsieur Dorlange, with
some heat, “is the good they can get for themselves out of a calumny
accepted eagerly and without examination. However, far from dreading
inquiry on the subject you mention, I desire it, and the ministry will
do me a great service if it will employ the extremely able political
personage you say they have put upon my path to bring that delicate
question before the electors.”

“Do you really start to-morrow?” asked Monsieur de l’Estorade, finding
that he had started a subject which not only did not confound Monsieur
Dorlange, but, on the contrary, gave him the opportunity to reply with a
certain hauteur of tone and speech.

“Yes, and very early too; so that I must now take leave of you, having
certain preparations still to make.”

So saying, Monsieur Dorlange rose, and after making me a rather
ceremonious bow and not bestowing his hand on Monsieur de l’Estorade,
who, in turn, did not hold out his own, he left the room.

“What was the matter with Armand?” asked my husband, as if to avoid any
other explanation.

“Never mind Armand,” I said, “it is far more interesting to know what
is the matter with you; for never did I see you so out of tune, so sharp
and uncivil.”

“What! because I told a ridiculous candidate that he would have to go
into mourning for his reputation?”

“In the first place, that was not complimentary; and in any case the
moment was ill-chosen with a man on whom my maternal anxiety had just
imposed a disagreeable service.”

“I don’t like meddlers,” retorted Monsieur de l’Estorade, raising his
voice more than I had ever known him do to me. “And after all, if he had
not been here to give you his arm you would not have gone.”

“You are mistaken; I should have gone alone; for your servant, being
master here, refused to accompany me.”

“But you must certainly admit that if any acquaintance had met you at
half-past nine o’clock walking arm-in-arm with Monsieur Dorlange the
thing would have seemed to them, to say the least, singular.”

Pretending to discover what I had known for the last hour, I
exclaimed:--

“Is it possible that after sixteen years of married life you do me
the honor to be jealous. Now I see why, in spite of your respect for
proprieties, you spoke to Monsieur Dorlange in my presence of that
Italian woman whom people think his mistress; that was a nice little
perfidy by which you meant to ruin him in my estimation.”

Thus exposed to the light, my poor husband talked at random for a
time, and finally had no resource but to ring for Lucas and lecture him
severely. That ended the explanation.

What do you think of this conjugal proceeding, by which my husband,
wishing to do a man some harm in my estimation, gave him the opportunity
to appear to the utmost advantage? For--there was no mistaking it--the
sort of emotion with which Monsieur Dorlange repelled the charge was the
cry of a conscience at peace with itself, and which knows itself able to
confound a calumny.



XII. DORLANGE TO MARIE-GASTON

Paris, May, 1839.

On my return this evening from the Estorades, on whom I had paid my
parting call, I found your letter, my dear friend, in which you announce
your coming arrival. I shall await you to-morrow during the day, but
in the evening I must, without further delay, start for Arcis-sur-Aube,
where, in the course of the next week my political matters will come
to a head. What particular hold I may have on that town, which, as it
appears, I have the ambition to represent, and on what co-operation
and assistance I may rely,--in a word, _who_ is making my electoral
bed,--all that I know as little about as I did last year when I was told
for the first time that I must enter political life.

A few days ago I received a second letter from my father, postmarked
Paris this time, and not Stockholm. Judging by the style of the
document, it would not surprise me if the “eminent services” rendered
in a Northern court by the mysterious author of my days turned out to be
those of a Prussian corporal. It would be impossible to issue orders
in a more imperative tone, or to dwell more minutely on trifling
particulars.

The note or memorandum was headed thus: _What my son is to do_.

On receipt of these instructions I am to send to its destination the
Saint-Ursula; to superintend the packing and boxing of it myself, and to
despatch it by the fastest carrier, to Mother Marie-des-Anges, superior
of the convent of the Ursulines at Arcis-sur-Aube.

The order went on to say that I was to follow the statue in a few days,
so as to arrive at the said Arcis-sur-Aube not later than the 3rd of
May. Even the inn at which I was to put up was dictated. I would find
myself expected at the Hotel de la Poste; so that if I happen to prefer
any of the others I must resign that fancy. I am also enjoined to
publish in the newspapers on the day of my departure the fact that
I present myself as candidate in the electoral arrondissement of
Arcis-sur-Aube; avoiding, however, to make any profession of political
faith, which would be both useless and premature. The document ended
with an injunction which, while it humiliated me somewhat, gave me a
certain faith in what was happening. The Mongenod Brothers, and draw for
another sum of two hundred and fifty thousand francs, which _is to
be_ deposited in my name, “taking the utmost care,” continued my
instructions, “when transporting this money from Paris to Arcis-sur-Aube
that it be not lost or stolen.”

What do you think of that last clause, dear friend? That sum _is to
be_ deposited; then it is not already there; and suppose it is not
there?--Besides, what am I to do with it in Arcis? Am I to stand my
election on English principles? if so, a profession of political faith
would certainly be useless and premature. As to the advice not to lose
or allow to be stolen the money in my possession, do you not think that
that is making me rather juvenile? I feel an inclination to suck my
thumb and cry for a rattle. However, I shall let myself go with the
current that is bearing me along, and, notwithstanding the news of your
coming arrival, after paying a visit to the Brothers Mongenod, I shall
valiantly start, imagining the stupefaction of the good people of
Arcis on seeing another candidate pop up in their midst like a
Jack-in-the-box.

In Paris I have already fired my gun. The “National” has announced my
candidacy in the warmest terms; and it seems that this evening, in the
house of the Minister of the Interior, where Monsieur de l’Estorade was
dining, I was discussed at some length. I ought to add that, according
to Monsieur de l’Estorade, the general impression is that I shall
certainly fail of election. The ministry might possibly fear a candidate
from the Left centre; but as for the democratic party to which I am
supposed to belong, they do not even allow that it exists. The Left
centre candidate has, however, been disposed of by a ministerial envoy
of the ablest and most active description, and at this moment, when I
set off my small balloon, the election of the Conservative candidate is
pretty well assured.

Among the elements of my inevitable defeat, Monsieur de l’Estorade
condescended to mention a matter about which, dear friend, I am rather
surprised that you have not already lectured me. It is one of those
agreeable calumnies put in circulation in the salon Montcornet by the
honored and honorable Monsieur Bixiou. The scandal concerns a handsome
Italian woman whom I brought back from Italy and with whom I am said to
be living in a manner not canonical. Come, tell me, what hindered you
from asking me to explain this important matter? Did you think the
charge so shameful that you feared to offend me by alluding to it? Or
have you such confidence in my morality that you felt no need of being
strengthened therein? I did not have time to enter upon the necessary
explanations to Monsieur de l’Estorade, neither have I the leisure to
write them to you now. If I speak of the incident it is for the purpose
of telling you of an observation I think I have made, into the truth of
which I want you to examine after you get here. It is this:--

I have an idea that it would not be agreeable to Monsieur de l’Estorade
to see me successful in my electoral campaign. He never gave much
approbation to the plan; in fact he tried to dissuade me, but always
from the point of view of my own interests. But to-day, when he
finds that the plan has taken shape, and is actually discussed in the
ministerial salon, my gentleman turns bitter, and he seems to feel
a malignant pleasure in prophesying my defeat and in producing this
charming little infamy under which he expects to bury our friendship.

Why so! I will tell you: while feeling some gratitude for the service I
did him, the worthy man also felt from the height of his social position
a superiority over me of which my entrance to the Chamber will now
dispossess him; and it is not agreeable to him to renounce that sense of
superiority. After all, what is an artist, even though he may be a man
of genius, compared to a peer of France, a personage who puts his hand
to the tiller and steers the great political and social system; a man
who has access to kings and ministers, and who would have the right
if, by impossibility, such audacity should seize upon his mind, of
depositing a black ball against the budget. Well, this privileged being
does not like that I, and others like me, should assume the importance
and authority of that insolent elective Chamber.

But that is not all. Hereditary statesmen have a foolish pretension:
that of being initiated by long study into a certain science represented
as arduous, which they call the science of public affairs and which they
(like physicians with medical science) alone have the right to practise.
They are not willing that an underling, a journalist for instance, or
lower than that, an artist, a cutter of images, should presume to slip
into their domain and speak out beside them. A poet, an artist, a writer
may be endowed with eminent faculties, they will agree to that; the
profession of such men presupposes it; but statesmen they cannot be.
Chateaubriand himself, though better placed than the rest of us to make
himself a niche in the Governmental Olympus, was turned out of doors one
morning by a concise little note, signed Joseph de Villele, dismissing
him, as was proper, to Rene, Atala, and other futilities.

I know that time and that tall posthumous daughter of ours whom we call
Posterity will some day do good justice and plead the right thing in the
right place. Towards the end of 2039, the world, if it deigns to last
till then, will know what Canalis, Joseph Bridau, Daniel d’Arthez,
Stidmann, and Leon de Lora were in 1839; whereas an infinitely small
number of persons will know that during the same period Monsieur le
Comte de l’Estorade was peer of France, and president of the Cour des
comptes; Monsieur le Comte de Rastignac minister of Public Works; and
his brother-in-law, Monsieur le Baron Martial de la Roche-Hugon was a
diplomat and Councillor of State employed on more or less extraordinary
services.

But while awaiting this tardy classification and distant reform, I think
it well to let our great governing class know from time to time
that unless their names are Richelieu or Colbert they are liable to
competition and are forced to accept it. So, with this aggravating
intention I begin to take pleasure in my enterprise; and if I am
elected, I shall, unless you assure me that I have mistaken de
l’Estorade’s meaning, find occasion to let him and others of his kind
know that one can, if so disposed, climb over the walls of their little
parks and strut as their equals.

But how is it, my dear friend, that I rattle on about myself and say no
word about the sad emotions which must attend your return to France? How
can you bear them? And instead of endeavoring to lay them aside, I fear
you are willingly nursing them and taking a melancholy pleasure in their
revival. Dear friend, I say to you of these great sorrows what I said
just now of our governing class--we should consider them from the point
of view of time and space, by the action of which they become after a
while imperceptible.

Do me a favor! On arriving in Paris without having a house prepared to
receive you, it would be very friendly--you would seem like the man of
old times--if you would take up your quarters with me, instead of going
to Ville d’Avray, which, indeed, I think dangerous and even bad for you.
Stay with me, and you can thus judge of my handsome housekeeper, and you
will see how much she has been calumniated and misunderstood. You
will also be near to the l’Estorades in whom I expect you to find
consolations; and besides, this act would be a charming expiation for
all the involuntary wrongs you have done me. At any rate, I have given
my orders, and your room is ready for you.

P.S. You have not yet arrived, dear friend, and I must close this
letter, which will be given to you by my housekeeper when you come by my
house, for I am certain that your first visit will be to me.

I went this morning to the Mongenods’; the two hundred and fifty
thousand francs were there, but with the accompaniment of a most
extraordinary circumstance; the money was in the name of the Comte de
Sallenauve, otherwise Dorlange, sculptor, 42 rue de l’Ouest. In spite
of an appellation which has never been mine, the money was mine, and was
paid to me without the slightest hesitation. I had enough presence of
mind not to seem stupefied by my new name and title before the cashier;
but I saw Monsieur Mongenod the elder in private, a man who enjoys the
highest reputation at the Bank, and to him I expressed my astonishment,
asking for whatever explanations he was able to give me. He could give
none; the money came to him through a Dutch banker, his correspondent
at Rotterdam, and he knew nothing beyond that. _Ah ca_! what does it
all mean? Am I to be a noble? Has the moment come for my father to
acknowledge me? I start in a state of agitation and of anxiety which you
can well understand. Until I hear from you, I shall address my letters
to you here. If you decide not to stay in my house, let me know
your address at once. Say nothing of what I have now told you to the
l’Estorades; let it remain secret between us.



XIII. DORLANGE TO MARIE-GASTON

Arcis-sur-Aube, May 3, 1839.

Dear friend,--Last evening, before Maitre Achille Pigoult, notary of
this place, the burial of Charles Dorlange took place,--that individual
issuing to the world, like a butterfly from a grub, under the name
and estate of Charles de Sallenauve, son of Francois-Henri-Pantaleon
Dumirail, Marquis de Sallenauve. Here follows the tale of certain facts
which preceded this brilliant transformation.

Leaving Paris on the evening of May 1st, I arrived at Arcis, according
to my father’s directions, on the following day. You can believe my
surprise when I saw in the street where the diligence stopped the
elusive Jacques Bricheteau, whom I had not seen since our singular
meeting on the Ile Saint-Louis. This time I beheld him, instead of
behaving like the dog of Jean de Nivelle, come towards me with a smile
upon his lips, holding out his hand and saying:--

“At last, my dear monsieur, we are almost at the end of all our
mysteries, and soon, I hope, you will see that you have no cause to
complain of me. Have you brought the money?”

“Yes,” I replied, “neither lost nor stolen.” And I drew from my pocket
a wallet containing the two hundred and fifty thousand francs in bank
notes.

“Very good!” said Jacques Bricheteau. “Now let us go to the Hotel de la
Poste; no doubt you know who awaits you there.”

“No, indeed I do not,” I replied.

“You must have remarked the name and title under which that money was
paid to you?”

“Certainly; that strange circumstance struck me forcibly, and has, I
must own, stirred my imagination.”

“Well, we shall now completely lift the veil, one corner of which we
were careful to raise at first, so that you might not come too abruptly
to the great and fortunate event that is now before you.”

“Am I to see my father?”

“Yes,” replied Jacques Bricheteau; “your father is awaiting you; but I
must warn you against a probable cloud on his manner of receiving you.
The marquis has suffered much; the court life which he has always led
has trained him to show no outward emotions; besides, he has a horror of
everything bourgeois. You must not be surprised, therefore, at the cold
and dignified reception he will probably give you; at heart, he is good
and kind, and you will appreciate him better when you know him.”

“Here,” thought I, “are very comforting assurances, and as I myself am
not very ardently disposed, I foresee that this interview will be at
some degrees below zero.”

On going into the room where the Marquis awaited me, I saw a very tall,
very thin, very bald man, seated at a table on which he was arranging
papers. On hearing the door open, he pushed his spectacles up on his
forehead, rested his hands on the arms of his chair, and looking round
at us he waited.

“Monsieur le Comte de Sallenauve,” said Jacques Bricheteau, announcing
me with the solemnity of an usher of ambassadors or a groom of the
Chambers.

But in the presence of the man to whom I owed my life the ice in me was
instantly melted; I stepped forward with an eager impulse, feeling the
tears rise to my eyes. He did not move. There was not the faintest trace
of agitation in his face, which had that peculiar look of high dignity
that used to be called “the grand air”; he merely held out his hand,
limply grasped mine, and then said:

“Be seated, monsieur--for I have not yet the right to call you my son.”

When Jacques Bricheteau and I had taken chairs--

“Then you have no objection,” said this strange kind of father, “to
assuming the political position we are trying to secure for you?”

“None at all,” said I. “The notion startled me at first, but I soon grew
accustomed to it; and to ensure success, I have punctually carried out
all the instructions that were conveyed to me.”

“Excellent,” said the Marquis, taking up from the table a gold snuff-box
which he twirled in his fingers.

Then, after a short silence, he added:

“Now I owe you certain explanations. Our good friend Jacques Bricheteau,
if he will have the kindness, will lay them before you.”

This was equivalent to the royal formula of the old regime: “My
chamberlain will tell you the rest.”

“To go back to the origin of everything,” said Jacques Bricheteau,
accepting the duty thus put upon him, “I must first tell you that you
are not a legitimate Sallenauve. When Monsieur le marquis, here
present, returned after the emigration, in the year 1808, he made the
acquaintance of your mother, and in 1809 you were born as the fruit of
their intercourse. Your birth, as you already know, cost your mother her
life, and as misfortunes never come singly, Monsieur de Sallenauve was
compromised in a conspiracy against the imperial power and compelled to
fly the country. Brought up in Arcis with me, the marquis, wishing to
give me a proof of his friendship, confided to me, on his departure
to this new expatriation, the care of your childhood. I accepted that
charge, I will not say with alacrity, but certainly with gratitude.”

At these words the marquis held out his hand to Jacques Bricheteau, who
was seated near him, and after a silent pressure, which did not seem to
me remarkably warm, Jacques Bricheteau continued:--

“The mysterious precautions I was forced to take in carrying out my
trust are explained by Monsieur le marquis’s position towards the
various governments which have succeeded each other in France since
the period of your birth. Under the Empire, I feared that a government
little indulgent to attacks upon itself might send you to share your
father’s exile; it was then that the idea of giving you a sort of
anonymous existence first occurred to me. Under the Restoration I feared
for you another class of enemies; the Sallenauve family, which has no
other representatives at the present day than Monsieur le marquis, was
then powerful. In some way it got wind of your existence, and also of
the fact that the marquis had taken the precaution not to recognize you,
in order to retain the right to leave you his whole fortune, which, as a
natural child, the law would in part have deprived you. The obscurity in
which I kept you seemed to me the best security, against the schemes of
greedy relations, and certain mysterious steps taken by them from time
to time proved the wisdom of these precautions. Under the government
of July, on the other hand, it was I myself who I feared might endanger
you. I had seen the establishment of the new order of things with
the deepest regret, and not believing in its duration, I took part in
certain active hostilities against it, which brought me under the ban of
the police.”

Here the recollection that Jacques Bricheteau had been pointed out by
the waiter of the Cafe des Arts as a member of the police made me smile,
whereupon the speaker stopped and said with a very serious air:--

“Do these explanations which I have the honor to give you seem
improbable?”

I explained the meaning of my smile.

“That waiter,” said Jacques Bricheteau, “was not altogether mistaken;
for I have long been employed at the prefecture of police in the
health department; but I have nothing to do with police espial; on the
contrary, I have more than once come near being the victim of it.”

Here a rather ridiculous noise struck our ears, nothing less than a loud
snore from my father, who thus gave us to know that he did not take
a very keen interest in the explanations furnished in his name with
a certain prolixity. I don’t know whether Jacques Bricheteau’s vanity
being touched put him slightly out of temper, but he rose impatiently
and shook the arm of the sleeper, crying out:--

“Hey! marquis, if you sleep like this at the Council of state, upon my
soul, your country must be well governed!”

Monsieur de Sallenauve opened his eyes, shook himself, and then said,
turning to me:--

“Pardon me, Monsieur le comte, but for the last ten nights I have
travelled, without stopping, to meet you here; and though I spent the
last night in a bed, I am still much fatigued.”

So saying he rose, took a large pinch of snuff, and began to walk up and
down the room, while Jacques Bricheteau continued:--

“It is a little more than a year since I received a letter from your
father explaining his long silence, the plans he had made for you, and
the necessity he was under of keeping his incognito for a few years
longer. It was at that very time that you made your attempt to penetrate
a secret the existence of which had become apparent to you.”

“You made haste to escape me,” I said laughing. “It was then you went to
Stockholm.”

“No, I went to your father’s residence; I put the letter that he gave me
for you into the post at Stockholm.”

“I do not seize your--”

“Nothing is easier to understand,” interrupted the marquis. “I do not
reside in Sweden, and we wished to throw you off the track.”

“Will you continue the explanation yourself?” asked Jacques Bricheteau,
who spoke, as you may have observed, my dear friend, with elegance and
fluency.

“No, no, go on,” said the marquis; “you are giving it admirably.”

“Feeling certain that your equivocal position as to family would injure
the political career your father desired you to enter, I made that
remark to him in one of my letters. He agreed with me, and resolved
to hasten the period of your legal recognition, which, indeed, the
extinction of the family in its other branch rendered desirable. But the
recognition of a natural son is a serious act which the law surrounds
with many precautions. Deeds must be signed before a notary, and to do
this by power of attorney would involve both in a publicity which he
is anxious for the present to avoid, he being married, and, as it were,
naturalized in the country of his adoption. Hence, he decided to come
here himself, obtaining leave of absence for a few weeks, in order
to sign in person all papers necessary to secure to you his name and
property in this country. Now let me put to you a final question. Do you
consent to take the name of de Sallenauve and be recognized as his son?”

“I am not a lawyer,” I answered; “but it seems to me that, supposing I
do not feel honored by this recognition, it does not wholly depend on me
to decline it.”

“Pardon me,” replied Jacques Bricheteau; “under the circumstances
you could, if you chose, legally contest the paternity. I will also
add,--and in doing so I am sure that I express the intentions of your
father,--if you think that a man who has already spent half a million on
furthering your career is not a desirable father, we leave you free to
follow your own course, and shall not insist in any way.”

“Precisely, precisely,” said Monsieur de Sallenauve, uttering that
affirmation with the curt intonation and shrill voice peculiar to the
relics of the old aristocracy.

Politeness, to say the least, forced me to accept the paternity thus
offered to me. To the few words I uttered to that effect, Jacques
Bricheteau replied gaily:--

“We certainly do not intend to make you buy a father in a poke.
Monsieur le marquis is desirous of laying before you all title-deeds and
documents of every kind of which he is the present holder. Moreover, as
he has been so long absent from this country, he intends to prove his
identity by several of his contemporaries who are still living. For
instance, among the honorable personages who have already recognized
him I may mention the worthy superior of the Ursuline convent, Mother
Marie-des-Anges, for whom, by the bye, you have done a masterpiece.”

“Faith, yes,” said the marquis, “a pretty thing, and if you turn out as
well in politics--”

“Well, marquis,” interrupted Jacques Bricheteau, who seemed to me
inclined to manage the affair, “are you ready to proceed with our young
friend to the verification of the documents?”

“That is unnecessary,” I remarked, and did not think that by this
refusal I pledged my faith too much; for, after all, what signify papers
in the hands of a man who might have forged them or stolen them? But my
father would not consent; and for more than two hours they spread before
me parchments, genealogical trees, contracts, patents, documents of all
kinds, from which it appeared that the family of Sallenauve is, after
that of Cinq-Cygne, the most ancient family in the department of
the Aube. I ought to add that the exhibition of these archives was
accompanied by an infinite number of spoken details which seemed to make
the identity of the Marquis de Sallenauve indisputable. On all other
subjects my father is laconic; his mental capacity does not seem to me
remarkable, and he willingly allowed his _mouthpiece_ to talk for him.
But here, in the matter of his parchments, he was loquaciously full of
anecdotes, recollections, heraldic knowledge; in short, he was exactly
the old noble, ignorant and superficial in all things, but possessed of
Benedictine erudition where the genealogy of his family was concerned.

The _session_ would, I believe, be still going on, if Jacques Bricheteau
had not intervened. As the marquis was preparing to read a voluminous
memorandum refuting a chapter in Tallemant des Reaux’ “Historiettes”
 which did not redound to the credit of the great house of Sallenauve,
the wise organist remarked that it was time we dined, if we intended
to keep an appointment already made for seven o’clock at the office of
Maitre Achille Pigoult the notary.

We dined, not at the table-d’hote, but in private, and the dinner seemed
very long on account of the silent preoccupation of the marquis, and the
slowness with which, owing to his loss of teeth, he swallowed his food.

At seven o’clock we went to the notary’s office; but as it is now two
o’clock in the morning, and I am heavy with sleep, I shall put off till
to-morrow an account of what happened there.


May 4, 5 A.M.

I reckoned on peaceful slumbers, embellished by dreams. On the contrary,
I did not sleep an hour, and I have waked up stung to the heart by an
odious thought. But before I transmit that thought to you, I must tell
you what happened at the notary’s.

Maitre Achille Pigoult, a puny little man, horribly pitted with the
small-pox, and afflicted with green spectacles, above which he darts
glances of vivacious intelligence, asked us if we felt warm enough, the
room having no fire. Politeness required us to say yes, although he had
already given signs of incendiarism by striking a match, when, from a
distant and dark corner of the room, a broken, feeble voice, the
owner of which we had not as yet perceived, interposed to prevent the
prodigality.

“No, Achille, no, don’t make a fire,” said an old man. “There are five
in the room, and the lamp gives out a good heat; before long the room
would be too hot to bear.”

Hearing these words, the marquis exclaimed:--

“Ah! this is the good Monsieur Pigoult, formerly justice of the peace.”

Thus recognized, the old man rose and went up to my father, into whose
face he peered.

“_Parbleu_!” he cried, “I recognize you for a Champagnard of the
_vieille roche_. Achille did not deceive me in declaring that I should
see two of my former acquaintances. You,” he said, addressing the
organist, “you are little Bricheteau, the nephew of our good abbess,
Mother Marie-des-Anges; but as for that tall skeleton, looking like
a duke and peer, I can’t recall his name. However, I don’t blame my
memory; after eighty-six years’ service it may well be rusty.”

“Come, grandfather,” said Achille Pigoult, “brush up your memory; and
you, gentlemen, not a word, not a gesture. I want to be clear in my own
mind. I have not the honor to know the client for whom I am asked to
draw certain deeds, and I must, as a matter of legal regularity, have
him identified.”

While his son spoke, the old man was evidently straining his memory.
My father, fortunately, has a nervous twitching of the face, which
increased under the fixed gaze his _certifier_ fastened upon him.

“Hey! _parbleu_! I have it!” he cried. “Monsieur is the Marquise de
Sallenauve, whom we used to call the ‘Grimacer,’ and who would now be
the owner of the Chateau d’Arcis if, instead of wandering off, like
the other fools, into emigration, he had stayed at home and married his
pretty cousin.”

“You are still _sans-culotte_, it seems,” said the marquis, laughing.

“Messieurs,” said the notary, gravely, “the proof I had arranged for
myself is conclusive. This proof, together with the title-deeds and
documents Monsieur le marquis has shown to me, and which he deposits in
my hands, together with the certificate of identity sent to me by Mother
Marie-des-Anges, who cannot, under the rules of her Order, come to
my office, are sufficient for the execution of the deeds which I have
here--already prepared. The presence of two witnesses is required for
one of them. Monsieur Bricheteau will, of course, be the witness on your
side and on the other my father, if agreeable to you; it is an honor
that, as I think, belongs to him of right, for, as one may say, this
matter has revived his memory.”

“Very good, messieurs, let us proceed,” said Jacques Bricheteau,
heartily.

The notary sat down at his desk; the rest of us sat in a circle around
him, and the reading of the first document began. Its purport
was to establish, authentically, the recognition made by
Francois-Henri-Pantaleon Dumirail, Marquis de Sallenauve, of me, his
son. But in the course of the reading a difficulty came up. Notarial
deeds must, under pain of being null and void, state the domicile of all
contracting parties. Now, where was my father’s domicile? This part had
been left in blank by the notary, who now insisted on filling it before
proceeding farther.

“As for this domicile,” said Achille Pigoult, “Monsieur le marquis
appears to have none in France, as he does not reside in this country,
and has owned no property here for a long time.”

“It is true,” said the marquis, seeming to put more meaning into his
words than they naturally carried, “I am a mere vagabond in France.”

“Ah!” said Jacques Bricheteau, “vagabonds like you, who can present
their sons with the necessary sums to buy estates, are not to be pitied.
Still, the remark is a just one, not only as to France, but as to your
residence in foreign countries. With your eternal mania for roving, it
is really very difficult to assign you a domicile.”

“Well,” said Achille Pigoult, “it does not seem worth while to let so
small a matter stop us. Monsieur,” he continued, motioning to me, “is
now the owner of the Chateau d’Arcis, for an engagement to sell is as
good as the sale itself. What more natural, therefore, than that
the father’s domicile should be stated as being on his son’s estate,
especially as this is really the family property now returned into
the hands of the family, being purchased by the father for the son,
particularly as that father is known and recognized by some of the
oldest and most important inhabitants of the place?”

“Yes, that is true,” said old Pigoult, adopting his son’s opinion
without hesitation.

“In short,” said Jacques Bricheteau, “you think the matter can go on.”

“You see that my father, a man of great experience, did not hesitate to
agree with me. We say, therefore,” continued the notary, taking up
his pen, “Francois-Henri-Pantaleon Dumirail, Marquis de Sallenauve,
domiciled with Monsieur Charles de Sallenauve, his natural son, by
him legally recognized, in the house known as the Chateau d’Arcis,
arrondissement of Arcis-sur-Aube, department of the Aube.”

The rest of the deed was read and executed without comment.

Then followed a rather ridiculous scene.

“Now, Monsieur le comte,” said Jacques Bricheteau, “embrace your
father.”

The marquis opened his arms rather indifferently, and I coldly fell into
them, vexed with myself for not being deeply moved and for not hearing
in my heart the voice of kindred. Was this barrenness of emotion the
result of my sudden accession to wealth? A moment later a second deed
made me possessor, on payment of one hundred and eighty thousand francs
in ready money, of the Chateau d’Arcis,--a grand edifice which had
caught my eye, on my first arrival in the town, by its lordly and feudal
air.

“You may congratulate yourselves,” said Achille Pigoult, “that you have
got that estate for a song.”

“Come, come!” said Jacques Bricheteau, “how long have you had it on
your hands to sell? Your client would have let it go for one hundred and
fifty thousand to others, but, as family property, you thought you could
get more from us. We shall have to spend twenty thousand to make the
house habitable; the land doesn’t return a rental of more than four
thousand; so that our money, all expenses deducted, won’t return us more
than two and a half per cent.”

“What are you complaining about?” returned Achille Pigoult. “You have
employment to give and money to pay in the neighborhood, and what can be
better for a candidate?”

“Ah! that electoral business,” said Jacques Bricheteau; “we will talk
about that to-morrow when we bring you the purchase-money and your
fees.”

Thereupon we took leave, and returned to the Hotel de la Poste, where I
bade good-night to my father and came to my room to write to you.

Now I must tell you the terrible idea that drove sleep from my brain
and put the pen once more in my hand,--although I am somewhat distracted
from it by writing the foregoing two pages, and I do not see quite as
much evidence for my notion as I did before I renewed this letter.

One thing is certain: during the last year many romantic incidents have
happened to me. You may say that adventure seems to be the logical way
of life for one in my position; that my birth, the chances that brought
you (whose fate is so like mine) and me together, my relations with
Marianina and my handsome housekeeper, and perhaps I might say with
Madame de l’Estorade, all point to the possession of a fickle star, and
that my present affair is only one of its caprices.

True; but what if, at the present moment under the influence of that
star, I were implicated without my knowledge in some infernal plot of
which I was made the passive instrument?

To put some order into my ideas, I begin by this half-million spent for
an interest which you must agree is very nebulous,--that of fitting me
to succeed my father in the ministry of some imaginary country, the name
of which is carefully concealed from me.

Next: who is spending these fabulous sums on me? Is it a father tenderly
attached to a child of love? No, it is a father who shows me the
utmost coldness, who goes to sleep when deeds which concern our mutual
existence are being drawn, and for whom I, on my side, am conscious of
no feeling; in fact, not to mince my words, I should think him a great
booby of an _emigre_ if it were not for the filial respect and duty I
force myself to feel for him.

_But_--suppose this man were not my father, not even the Marquis de
Sallenauve, as he asserts himself to be; suppose, like that unfortunate
Lucien de Rubempre, whose history has made so much noise, I were caught
in the toils of a serpent like that false abbe Don Carlos Herrera, and
had made myself liable to the same awful awakening. You may say to me
that you see no such likelihood; that Carlos Herrera had an object in
fascinating Lucien and making him his double; but that I, an older man
with solid principles and no love of luxury, who have lived a life of
thought and toil, should fear such influence, is nonsense.

So be it. But why should the man who recognizes me as his son conceal
the very country in which he lives, and the name by which he is known
in that equally nameless Northern land which it is intimated that he
governs? Why make such sacrifices for my benefit and show so little
confidence? And see the mystery with which Jacques Bricheteau has
surrounded my life! Do you think that that long-winded explanation of
his explained it?

All this, my dear friend, rolling in my head and clashing with that
half-million already paid to me, has given substance to a strange idea,
at which you may perhaps laugh, but which, nevertheless, is not without
precedent in criminal annals.

I told you just now that this thought invaded me as it were suddenly;
it came like an instinct upon me. Assuredly, if I had had the faintest
inkling of it last evening, I would have cut off my right hand sooner
than sign that deed by which I have henceforth bound my fate to that
of an unknown man whose past and future may be as gloomy as a canto of
Dante’s Hell, and who may drag me down with him into utter darkness.

In short, this idea--round which I am making you circle because I cannot
bring myself to let you enter it--here it is, in all its crudity; I
am afraid of being, without my knowledge, the agent, the tool of those
associations of false coiners who are known in criminal records to
concoct schemes as complicated and mysterious as the one I am now
involved in, in order to put into circulation the money they coin. In
all such cases you will find great coming and going of accomplices;
cheques drawn from a distance on the bankers in great commercial
centres like Paris, Stockholm, Rotterdam. Often one hears of poor dupes
compromised. In short, do you not see in the mysterious ways of this
Bricheteau something like an imitation, a reflection of the manoeuvres
to which these criminal workers are forced to have recourse, arranging
them with a talent and a richness of imagination to which a novelist can
scarcely attain?

One thing is certain: there is about me a thick unwholesome atmosphere,
in which I feel that air is lacking and I cannot breathe. However,
assure me, if you can, persuade me, I ask no better, that this is all an
empty dream. But in any case I am determined to have a full explanation
with these two men to-morrow, and to obtain, although so late, more
light than they have yet doled out to me....

Another and yet stranger fact! As I wrote those last words, a noise of
horses’ hoofs came from the street. Distrustful now of everything, I
opened my window, and in the dawning light I saw a travelling carriage
before the door of the inn, the postilion in the saddle, and Jacques
Bricheteau talking to some one who was seated in the vehicle. Deciding
quickly on my action, I ran rapidly downstairs; but before I reached the
bottom I heard the roll of wheels and the cracking of the postilion’s
whip. At the foot of the staircase I came face to face with Jacques
Bricheteau. Without seeming embarrassed, in fact with the most natural
air in the world, he said to me,--

“What! my dear ward already up?”

“Of course; the least I could do was to say farewell to my excellent
father.”

“He did not wish it,” replied that damned musician, with an
imperturbability and phlegm that deserved a thrashing; “he feared the
emotions of parting.”

“Is he so dreadfully hurried that he could not even give a day to his
new and ardent paternity?”

“The truth is, he is an original; what he came to do, he has done; after
that, to his mind, there is nothing to stay for.”

“Ah! I understand; he hastens to those high functions he performs at
that Northern court!”

Jacques Bricheteau could no longer mistake the ironical tone in which
these words were said.

“Until now,” he said, “you have shown more faith.”

“Yes; but I confess that faith begins to stagger under the weight of the
mysteries with which it is loaded down without relief.”

“Seeing you at this decisive moment in your career giving way to doubts
which our whole conduct pursued to you through many years ought to
refute, I should be almost in despair,” replied Jacques Bricheteau, “if
I had none but personal denials and asseverations to offer you. But, as
you will remember, old Pigoult spoke of an aunt of mine, living in this
neighborhood, where you will soon, I hope, find her position a most
honorable one. I had arranged that you should see her in the course of
the day; but now, if you will grant me the time to shave, I will take
you at once, early as it is, to the convent of the Ursulines. There you
shall question Mother Marie-des-Anges, who has the reputation of a saint
throughout this whole department, and I think that at the close of your
interview with her no doubt can remain upon your mind.”

While that devil of a man was speaking, his countenance had so perfect a
look of integrity and benevolence, his speech, always calm, elegant,
and self-possessed, so impressed the mind of his hearer, that I felt the
tide of my anger going down and my sense of security rising.

In fact, his answer _is_ irresistible. The convent of the Ursuline
sisters--heavens and earth! that can’t be the rendezvous of makers of
false coin; and if the Mother Marie-des-Anges guarantees my father
to me, as it appears she has already done to the notary, I should be
foolish indeed to persist in my doubts.

“Very good,” I said to Jacques Bricheteau, “I will go up and get my hat
and walk up and down the bank of the river until you are ready.”

“That’s right; and be sure you watch the door of the hotel to see that
I do not give you the slip as I did once upon a time on the Quai de
Bethune.”

Impossible to be more intelligent than that man; he seems to divine
one’s thoughts. I was ashamed of this last doubt of mine, and told him
that, on the whole, I would go and finish a letter while awaiting him.
It was this letter, dear friend, which I must now close if I wish it to
go by to-day’s post. I will write you soon of my visit to the convent.



XIV. MARIE-GASTON TO MADAME LA COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE

Arcis-sur-Aube, May 6, 1839.

Madame,--In any case I should gladly have profited by the request you
were so good as to make that I should write to you during my stay in
this town; but in granting me this favor you could not really know the
full extent of your charity. Without you, madame, and the consolation
of writing to you sometimes, what would become of me under the habitual
weight of my sad thoughts in a town which has neither society, nor
commerce, nor curiosities, nor environs; and where all intellectual
activity spends itself on the making of pickled pork, soap-grease,
stockings, and cotton night-caps. Dorlange, whom I shall not long call
by that name (you shall presently know why) is so absorbed in steering
his electoral frigate that I scarcely see him.

I told you, madame, that I resolved to come down here and join our
mutual friend in consequence of a certain trouble of mind apparent in
one of his letters, which informed me of a great revolution taking place
in his life. I am able to-day to be more explicit. Dorlange at last
knows his father. He is the natural son of the Marquis de Sallenauve,
the last living scion of one of the best families in Champagne. Without
explaining the reasons which have hitherto induced him to keep his son’s
birth secret, the marquis has now recognized him legally. He has
also bought and presented to him an estate formerly belonging to the
Sallenauve family. This estate is situated in Arcis itself, and its
possession will assist the project of our friend’s election. That
project dates much farther back than we thought; and it did not take its
rise in the fancy of Dorlange.

A year ago, the marquis began to prepare for it by sending his son a sum
of money for the purchase of real estate in conformity with electoral
laws; and it is also for the furtherance of this purpose that he has now
made him doubly a landowner. The real object of all these sacrifices not
seeming plain to Charles de Sallenauve, doubts have arisen in his mind,
and it was to assist in dispelling them that my friendship for the poor
fellow brought me here.

The marquis appears to be as odd and whimsical as he is opulent; for,
instead of remaining in Arcis, where his presence and his name would
contribute to the success of the election he desires, the very day after
legal formalities attending the recognition of his son had been complied
with, he departed furtively for foreign countries, where he says he has
important interests, without so much as taking leave of his son. This
coldness has poisoned the happiness Charles would otherwise feel in
these events; but one must take fathers as they are, for Dorlange and I
are living proofs that all cannot have them as they want them.

Another eccentricity of the marquis is the choice he has made, as chief
assistant in his son’s election, of an old Ursuline nun, with whom
he seems to have made a bargain, in which, strange to say, you have
unconsciously played a part. Yes, madame, the Saint-Ursula for which,
unknown to yourself, you were posing, will have, to all appearances, a
considerable influence on the election of our friend. The case is this:

For many years Mother Marie-des-Anges, superior of the Ursuline convent
at Arcis-sur-Aube, has desired to install in the chapel of her convent
an image of its patron saint. But this abbess, who is a woman of taste
and intelligence, would not listen to the idea of one of those stock
figures which can be bought ready-made from the venders of church
decorations. On the other hand, she thought it was robbing her poor to
spend on this purpose the large sum necessary to procure a work of art.
The nephew of this excellent woman is an organist in Paris to whom the
Marquis de Sallenauve, then in emigration, had confided the care of his
son. When it became a question of making Charles a deputy, the marquis
naturally thought of Arcis, a place where his family had left so many
memories. The organist also recollected his aunt’s desire; he knew
how influential she was in that region because of her saintliness, and
having in his nature a touch of that intrigue which likes to undertake
things difficult and arduous, he went to see her, with the approval of
the Marquis de Sallenauve, and let her know that one of the most skilful
sculptors in Paris was ready to make her the statue of Saint-Ursula
if she, on her side, would promise to secure the artist’s election as
deputy from the arrondissement of Arcis.

The old nun did not think the undertaking beyond her powers. She now
possesses the object of her pious longings; the statue arrived some days
ago, and is already in the chapel of the convent, where she proposes to
give it, before long, a solemn inauguration. It now remains to be seen
whether the good nun will perform her part of the contract.

Well, madame, strange to say, after hearing and inquiring into the whole
matter I shall not be surprised if this remarkable woman should
carry the day. From the description our friend gives of her, Mother
Marie-des-Anges is a small woman, short and thick-set, whose face
is prepossessing and agreeable beneath its wrinkles and the mask of
saffron-tinted pallor which time and the austerities of a cloister have
placed upon it. Carrying very lightly the weight of her corpulence and
also that of her seventy-six years, she is lively, alert, and frisky
to a degree that shames the youngest of us. For fifty years she has
governed in a masterly manner her community, which has always been the
most regular, the best organized, and also the richest society in the
diocese of Troyes. Admirably fitted for the training of youth, she
has long conducted a school for girls, which is famous throughout the
department of the Aube and adjacent regions. Having thus superintended
the education of nearly all the daughters of the best houses in the
province, it is easy to imagine the influence she has acquired among the
aristocracy,--an influence she probably intends to use in the electoral
struggle she has promised to take part in.

On the other hand, it appears that this really extraordinary woman
is the sovereign disposer of the votes of the democratic party in the
arrondissement of Arcis. Until now, the existence of that party in Arcis
has been considered problematical; but it is actually, by its nature,
active and stirring, and our candidate proposes to present himself
under its banner. Evidently, therefore, the support the good mother has
promised will be useful and important.

I am sure you will admire with me the--as one might say--bicephalous
ability of this old nun, who has managed to keep well with the nobility
and the secular clergy on the one hand, and on the other to lead with
her wand the radical party, their sworn enemy. Admirable for her charity
and her lucid intellect, respected throughout the region as a saint,
exposed during the Revolution to a dreadful persecution, which she bore
with rare courage, one can easily understand her close relations with
the upper and conservative classes; but why she should be equally
welcome to democrats and to the subverters of order would seem, at
first, to pass all belief.

The power which she undoubtedly wields over the revolutionary party took
its rise, madame, in a struggle which they formerly had together. In
1793 that amiable party were bent on cutting her throat. Driven from
her convent, and convicted of harboring a “refractory” priest, she was
incarcerated, arraigned before the Revolutionary tribunal, and condemned
to death. The matter was reported to Danton, a native of Arcis, and
then a member of the National Convention. Danton had known Mother
Marie-des-Anges; he thought her the most virtuous and enlightened woman
he had ever met. Hearing of her condemnation, he was furiously angry,
and wrote, as they said in those days, a high-horse letter to the
Revolutionary tribunal, and, with an authority no human being in Arcis
would have dared to contest, he ordered a reprieve.

The same day he mounted the tribune, and after speaking in general terms
of the “bloody boobies” who by their foolish fury compromised the future
of the Revolution, he told who and what Mother Marie-des-Anges really
was; he dwelt on her marvellous aptitude for the training of youth, and
he presented a scheme in which she was placed at the head of a “grand
national gynaecium,” the organization of which was to be made the
subject of another decree. Robespierre, who would have thought the
intellect of an Ursuline nun only a more imperative reason for bringing
her under the revolutionary axe, was absent that day from the
session, and the motion was voted with enthusiasm. The head of Mother
Marie-des-Anges being indispensably necessary to the carrying out of
this decree of the sovereign people, she kept it on her shoulders, and
the headsman put aside his machine.

Though the other decree, organising the Grand National Gynaecium,
was lost sight of in the many other duties that devolved upon the
Convention, the excellent nun carried it out after her fashion. Instead
of something grand and Greek and national, she started in Arcis a
secular girl’s-school, and as soon as a little quiet was restored to the
minds of the community, pupils flocked in from all quarters. Under the
Empire Mother Marie-des-Anges was able to reconstitute her Ursuline
sisterhood, and the first act of her restored authority was a
recognition of gratitude. She decreed that on every year on the 5th of
April, the anniversary of Danton’s death, a service should be held
in the chapel of the convent for the repose of his soul. To those who
objected to this edict she answered: “Do you know many for whom it is
more necessary to implore God’s mercy?”

Under the Restoration, the celebration of this service became a sort of
scandal; but Mother Marie-des-Anges would never hear of suppressing it,
and the great veneration which has always surrounded her obliged these
cavillers to hold their tongues. This courageous obstinacy had its
reward, under the government of July. To-day Mother Marie-des-Anges is
high in court favor, and there is nothing she cannot obtain in the
most august regions of power; but it is only just to add that she asks
nothing,--not even for her charities, for she provides the means to do
them nobly by the wise manner in which she administers the property of
her convent.

Her gratitude, thus openly shown to the memory of the great
revolutionist, has been of course to the revolutionary party a potent
recommendation, but not the only one.

In Arcis the leader of the advanced Left is a rich miller named Laurent
Goussard, who possesses two or three mills on the river Aube. This man,
formerly a member of the revolutionary municipality of Arcis and the
intimate friend of Danton, was the one who wrote to the latter telling
him that the axe was suspended over the throat of the ex-superior of the
Ursulines. This, however, did not prevent the worthy _sans-culotte_
from buying up the greater part of the convent property when it was sold
under the name of national domain.

At the period when Mother Marie-des-Anges was authorized to reconstitute
her community, Laurent Goussard, who had not made much by his purchase,
went to see the good abbess, and proposed to her to buy back the former
property of her convent. Very shrewd in business, Laurent Goussard,
whose niece Mother Marie-des-Anges had educated gratuitously, seemed to
pique himself on the great liberality of his offer, the terms of
which were that the sisterhood should reimburse him the amount of his
purchase-money. The dear man was not however making a bad bargain, for
the difference in the value of assignats with which he had paid and
the good sound money he would receive made a pretty profit. But Mother
Marie-des-Anges, remembering that without his warning Danton could not
have saved her, did better still for her first helper. At the time when
Laurent Goussard made his offer the community of the Ursulines was,
financially speaking, in an excellent position. Having since its
restoration received many liberal gifts, it was also enriched by the
savings of its superior, made from the proceeds of her secular school,
which she generously made over to the common fund. Laurent Goussard must
therefore have been thunderstruck when he read the following letter:--

  Your proposal does not suit me. My conscience will not allow me to
  buy property below its proper value. Before the Revolution the
  property of our abbey was estimated at--[so much]. That is the
  price I choose to give, and not that to which it has fallen since
  the great depreciation of all property called national. In a word,
  my friend, I wish to pay you more than you ask; let me know if
  that suits you.

Laurent Goussard thought at first that either she had misunderstood him
or he her. But when it became clear to him that owing to these pretended
scruples of Mother Marie-des-Anges, he was the gainer of fifty thousand
francs, he would not do violence to so tender a conscience, and he
pocketed this profit (which came to him literally from heaven), but he
went about relating everywhere the marvellous proceeding, which, as you
can well imagine, put Mother Marie-des-Anges on a pinnacle of respect
(especially from the holders of other national property) which leaves
her nothing to fear from any future revolution. Personally Laurent
Goussard has become her slave, her henchman. He does no business, he
takes no step, he never moves a sack of flour without going to her for
advice; and, as she said in joke the other day, if she took a fancy to
make a John the Baptist of the sub-prefect, Laurent Goussard would bring
her his head on a charger. That is proof enough that he will also bring
his vote and that of his friends to any candidate she may favor.

Among the clergy Mother Marie-des-Anges has, naturally, many
affiliations,--as much on account of her high reputation for goodness as
for the habit of her order, but she particularly counts among the
number of her most zealous servitors Monseigneur Troubert, bishop of the
diocese, who, though formerly a familiar of the Congregation [see “The
Vicar of Tours”], has nevertheless managed to secure from the dynasty of
July an archbishopric which will lead to a cardinalship.

When you have the clergy you have, or you are very near having, the
legitimist party with you,--a party which, while passionately desirous
of free education and filled with hatred for the July throne, is not
averse, when occasion offers, to yielding to a monstrous union with
the radical party. Now the head of the legitimists in Arcis and its
neighborhood is, of course, the family of Cinq-Cygne. Never does the old
marquise, whose haughty nature and powerful will you, madame, know well
[see “An Historical Mystery”],--never does she drive into Arcis from her
chateau of Cinq-Cygne, without paying a visit to Mother Marie-des-Anges,
who in former days educated her daughter Berthe, now the Duchesse
Georges de Maufrigneuse.

But now we come to the most opposing and resisting side,--that of
the conservatives, which must not be confounded with the party of the
administration. Here we find as its leader the Comte de Gondreville,
your husband’s colleague in the Chamber of peers. Closely allied to the
count is a very influential man, his old friend Grevin, formerly mayor
and notary of Arcis, who, in turn, draws after him another elector of
considerable influence, Maitre Achille Pigoult, to whom, on retiring
from active life, he sold his practice as notary.

But Mother Marie-des-Anges has a powerful means of access to the Comte
de Gondreville through his daughter, the Marechale de Carigliano. That
great lady, who, as you know, has taken to devotion, goes into retreat
every year at the Ursuline convent. More than that, the good Mother,
without giving any explanation, intimates that she has a lever of some
kind on the Comte de Gondreville known to herself only; in fact, the
life of that old regicide--turned senator, then count of the Empire,
then peer of France under two dynasties--has wormed itself through too
many tortuous underground ways not to allow us to suppose the existence
of secrets he might not care to have unmasked.

Now Gondreville is Grevin,--his confidant, and, as they say, his tool,
his catspaw for the last fifty years. But even supposing that by
an utter impossibility their close union should, under present
circumstances, be sundered, we are certainly sure of Achille Pigoult,
Grevin’s successor, on whom, when the purchase of the chateau d’Arcis
was made in his office by the Marquis de Sallenauve, a fee was bestowed
of such an unusual amount that to accept it was virtually to pledge
himself.

As for the ruck of the electors, our friend cannot fail to make recruits
there, by the work he is about to give in repairing the chateau, which,
fortunately for him, is falling into ruin in several places. We must
also count on the manifesto which Charles de Sallenauve has just issued,
in which he openly declares that he will accept neither favors
nor employment from the government. So that, really, taking into
consideration his own oratorical talent, the support of the Opposition
journals both here and in Paris, the insults and calumnies which the
ministerial journals are already beginning to fire upon him, I feel
great hopes of his success.

Forgive me for presenting to you in glowing colors the parliamentary
future of a man of whom, you said to me the other day, you felt
you could not safely make a friend, because of the lofty and rather
impertinent assumption of his personality. To tell the truth, madame,
whatever political success may be in store for Charles de Sallenauve,
I fear he may one day regret the calmer fame of which he was already
assured in the world of art. But neither he nor I was born under an
easy and accommodating star. Birth has been a costly thing to us; it is
therefore doubly cruel not to like us. You have been kind to me because
you fancy that a lingering fragrance of our dear Louise still clings to
me; give something, I beseech you, of the same kindness to him whom I
have not hesitated in this letter to call our friend.



XV. MARIE-GASTON TO THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE

Arcis-sur-Aube, May 13, 1839.

Madame,--I see that the electoral fever is upon you, as you are good
enough to send me from Monsieur de l’Estorade so many _discouragements_
which certainly deserve consideration.

We knew already of the mission given to Comte Maxime de Trailles,--a
mission he endeavored at first to conceal under some irrigating project.
We even know what you, madame, seem not to know,--that this able
ministerial agent has found means to combine with the cares of electoral
politics those of his own private policy. Monsieur Maxime de Trailles,
if we are rightly informed, was on the point of succumbing to the
chronic malady with which he has been so long afflicted; I mean _debt_.
Not debts, for we say “the debt of Monsieur de Trailles,” as we say
“the debt of England.” In this extremity the patient, resolved on
heroic remedies, adopted that of marriage, which might perhaps be called
marriage _in extremis_.

To cut a long story short, Monsieur de Trailles was sent to Arcis to
put an end to the candidacy of an upstart of the Left centre, a certain
Simon Giguet; and having brought forward the mayor of the town as
the ministerial candidate, he finds the said mayor, named Beauvisage,
possessed of an only daughter, rather pretty, and able to bring
her husband five hundred thousand francs amassed in the honorable
manufacture of cotton night-caps. Now you see, I am sure, the mechanism
of the affair.

As for our own claims, we certainly do not make cotton night-caps, but
we make statues,--statues for which we are decorated with the Legion of
honor; religious statues, inaugurated with great pomp by Monseigneur the
bishop of the diocese and all the constituted authorities; statues, or
rather _a_ statue, which the whole population of the town has flocked
to the Ursuline convent to behold, where Mesdames the nuns, not a little
puffed up with this magnificent addition to their bijou of a chapel,
have kept their house and their oratory open to all comers for this
whole day. Is not that likely to popularize our candidacy?

This evening, to crown the ceremony of inaugurating our Saint-Ursula,
we give in our chateau of Arcis a banquet to fifty guests, among whom we
have had the malice to invite (with the chief inhabitants of the place)
all the ministerial functionaries and, above all, the ministerial
candidate. But, in view of our own declared candidacy, we feel pretty
well assured that the latter will not respond to the invitation. So much
the better! more room for others; and the missing guests, whose names
will be made known on the morrow, will be convicted of a _servilism_
which will, we think, injure their influence with the population.

Yesterday we paid a visit at the chateau de Cinq-Cygne, where d’Arthez
presented us, in the first place, to the Princesse de Cadignan, who is
wonderfully well preserved. Both she and the old Marquise de Cinq-Cygne
received Dorlange--I should say, Sallenauve--in the warmest manner.
It was from them that we learned the history of Monsieur Maxime de
Trailles’ mission and its present results. It seems that on his arrival
the ministerial agent received some attentions at Cinq-Cygne,--mere
floating sticks, to discover the set of his current. He evidently
flattered himself that he should find support at Cinq-Cygne for his
electioneering intrigue; which is so far from being the case that Duc
Georges de Maufrigneuse, to whom, as a Jockey Club comrade, he told all
his projects, gave us the information about them which I have now given
to you, and which, if you will be so kind, I should like you to make
over to Monsieur de l’Estorade.


May 12th.

The dinner has taken place, madame; it was magnificently served, and
Arcis will talk about it for some time to come. Sallenauve has in
that great organist (who, by the bye, showed his talent on the organ
admirably during the ceremony of inauguration) a sort of steward and
factotum who leaves all the Vatels of the world far behind him; he
would never have fallen on his sword for lack of a fish! Colored lamps,
garlands, draperies, decorated the dining-room; even fireworks were
provided; nothing was wanting to the fete, which lasted to a late hour
in the gardens of the chateau, where the populace danced and drank to
its heart’s content.

Nearly all the invited guests came except those we desired to
compromise. The invitations having been sent at short notice, it was
amusing to read the notes and letters of excuse, which Sallenauve
ordered to be brought to him in the salon as they arrived. As he opened
each he took care to say: “This is from Monsieur the sub-prefect; this
from the _procureur-du-roi_; this from Monsieur Vinet the substitute,
expressing regret that they cannot accept the invitation.” All these
concerted refusals were received with smiles and whispers by the
company; but when a letter arrived from Beauvisage, and Sallenauve read
aloud the “impossibility in which he found himself to _correspond_
to his politeness,” the hilarity grew noisy and general, and was only
stopped by the entrance of Monsieur Martener, examining judge, who
performed an act of courage in coming to the dinner which his colleagues
declined. We must remark, however, than an examining-judge has two sides
to him. On that of the judge he is irremovable; he can only be deprived
of the slight increase of salary he receives as an examiner and of the
privilege of signing warrants and questioning thieves,--splendid rights
of which the chancellor can mulct him by a stroke of his pen. But
allowing that Monsieur Martener was only semi-brave, he was greeted on
this occasion as a full moon.

The Duc de Maufrigneuse, d’Arthez, and Monseigneur the bishop, who was
staying at Cinq-Cygne for a few days, were all present, and this made
more noticeable the absence of one man, namely, Grevin, whose excuse,
sent earlier in the day, was not read to the company. The non-appearance
of the Comte de Gondreville was explained by the recent death of his
grandson, Charles Keller; and in sending the invitation Sallenauve had
been careful to let him know he should understand a refusal. But that
Grevin, the count’s right arm, should absent himself, seemed to show
that he and his patron were convinced of the probable election of
Beauvisage, and would have no intercourse with the new candidate.

The dinner being given in honor of Saint-Ursula’s installation, which
could not be celebrated by a banquet in the convent, Sallenauve had a
fine opportunity for the following toast:--

“To the Mother of the poor; the noble and saintly spirit which, for
fifty years, has shone on Champagne, and to which we owe the vast number
of distinguished and accomplished women who adorn this beautiful region
of our country.”

If you know, as I do, madame, what a forlorn, beggarly region Champagne
is, you would say, or something like it, that Sallenauve is a rascally
fellow, and that the passion to enter the legislature makes a man
capable of shocking deceit. Was it worth while, in fact, for a man who
usually respects himself to boldly tell a lie of criminal dimensions,
when a moment later a little unforeseen circumstance occurred which did
more than all the speeches ever uttered to commend him to the sympathy
of the electors?

You told me, madame, that your son Armand found a strong likeness to
the portraits of Danton in our friend Sallenauve; and it seems that the
boy’s remark was true, for several persons present who had known the
great revolutionist during his lifetime made the same observation.
Laurent Goussard, who, as I told you in a former letter, was Danton’s
friend, was also, in a way, his brother-in-law; for Danton, who was
something of a gallant, had been on close terms for several years with
the miller’s sister. Well, the likeness must be striking, for after
dinner, while we were taking our coffee, the worthy Goussard, whose
head was a little warmed by the fumes of wine, came up to Sallenauve
and asked him whether he was certain he had made no mistake about his
father, and could honestly declare that Danton had nothing to do with
his making.

Sallenauve took the matter gaily, and answered arithmetically,--

“Danton died April 5, 1794. To be his son, I must have been born no
later than January, 1795, which would make me forty-four years old
to-day. But the register of my birth, and I somewhat hope my face, make
me out exactly thirty.”

“Yes, you are right,” said Laurent Goussard; “figures demolish my idea;
but no matter,--we’ll vote for you all the same.”

I think the man is right; this chance resemblance is likely to have
great weight in the election. You must remember, madame, that, in spite
of the fatal facts which cling about his memory, Danton is not an object
of horror and execration in Arcis, where he was born and brought up. In
the first place time has purged him; his grand character and powerful
intellect remain, and the people are proud of their compatriot. In Arcis
they talk of Danton as in Marseilles they talk of Cannebiere. Fortunate,
therefore, is our candidate’s likeness to this demigod, the worship
of whom is not confined to the town, but extends to the surrounding
country.

These voters _extra muros_ are sometimes curiously simple-minded, and
obvious contradictions trouble them not at all. Some agents sent into
the adjacent districts have used this fancied resemblance; and as in a
rural propaganda the object is less to strike fair than to strike hard,
Laurent Goussard’s version, apocryphal as it is, is hawked about the
country villages with a coolness that admits of no contradiction.

While this pretended revolutionary origin is advancing our friend’s
prospects in one direction, in another the tale put forth to the worthy
voters whom it is desirable to entice is different, but truer and not
less striking to the minds of the country-people. This is the gentlemen,
they are told, who has bought the chateau of Arcis; and as the chateau
of Arcis stands high above the town and is known to all the country
round, it is to these simple folk a species of symbol. They are always
ready to return to memories of the past, which is much less dead and
buried than people suppose; “Ah! he’s the _seigneur_ of the chateau,”
 they say.

This, madame, is how the electoral kitchen is carried on and the way in
which a deputy is cooked.



XVI. MARIE-GASTON TO THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE

Arcis-sur-Aube, May 15, 1839.

Madame,--You do me the honor to say that my letters amuse you, and you
tell me not to fear that I send too many.

We are no longer at the Hotel de la Poste, having left it for the
chateau; but thanks to the rivalry existing between the two inns, the
Poste and the Mulet, in the latter of which Monsieur de Trailles has
established his headquarters, we are kept informed of what is going
on in the town and among our enemies. Since our departure, as our late
landlord informs us, a Parisian journalist has arrived at his hotel.
This individual, whose name I do not know, at once announced himself as
Jack-the-giant-killer, sent down to reinforce with his Parisian vim and
vigor the polemic which the local press, subsidized by the “bureau of
public spirit,” has directed against us.

In that there is nothing very grave or very gay; since the world was a
world, governments have always found pens for sale, and never have
they failed to buy them; but the comedy of this affair begins with the
co-arrival and the co-presence in the hotel of a young lady of very
problematical virtue. The name of this young lady as it appears on her
passport is Mademoiselle Chocardelle; but the journalist in speaking of
her calls her Antonia, or, when he wants to treat her with more respect,
Mademoiselle Antonia.

Now, what can bring Mademoiselle Chocardelle to Arcis? A pleasure trip,
you will say, offered to her by the journalist, who combines with
that object our daily defamation and his consequent earnings from
the secret-service fund of the government. Not at all; Mademoiselle
Chocardelle has come to Arcis on business of her own,--namely, to
enforce a claim.

It seems that Charles Keller before his departure for Africa, where
he met a glorious death, drew a note of hand, payable to Mademoiselle
Antonia on order, for ten thousand francs, “value received in
furniture,” a charming ambiguity, the furniture having been received by,
and not from, Mademoiselle Chocardelle, who estimated at ten thousand
francs the sacrifice she made in accepting it.

A few days after Charles Keller’s death, the note being almost due,
Mademoiselle Antonia went to the counting-room of the Keller Brothers
to inquire about its payment. The cashier, who is crabbed, like all
cashiers, replied that he did not see how Mademoiselle Antonia had the
face to present such a note; at any rate, the heads of the house were
at Gondreville, where the whole family had met after receiving the fatal
news, and he should pay no such note without referring the matter to
them.

“Very good, then I’ll refer it to them myself,” replied Mademoiselle
Antonia. Thereupon she was meditating a departure alone to Arcis, when
the government felt the need of insulting us with more wit and point
than provincial journalism can muster, and so confided that employment
to a middle-aged journalist to whom Mademoiselle Antonia had, during the
absence of Charles Keller, shown some kindness. “I am going to Arcis,”
 seems to have been said at the same instant by writer and lady. The most
commonplace lives encounter similar coincidences.

Now, madame, admire the manner in which things link together. Setting
forth on a purely selfish financial enterprise, behold Mademoiselle
Chocardelle suddenly brought to the point of wielding an immense
electoral influence! And observe also that her influence is of a nature
to compensate for all the witty pin-pricks of her gallant companion.

Mademoiselle’s affair, it appears, hung fire. Twice she went to
Gondreville, and was not admitted. The journalist was busy,--partly
with his articles, and partly with certain commissions given to him by
Monsieur de Trailles, under whose orders he was told to place himself.
Mademoiselle Antonia was therefore much alone; and in the ennui of
such solitude, she was led to create for herself a really desperate
amusement.

A few steps from the Hotel de la Poste is a bridge across the Aube;
a path leads down beside it, by a steep incline, to the water’s edge,
which, being hidden from the roadway above and little frequented, offers
peace and solitude to whoever may like to dream there to the sound of
the rippling current. Mademoiselle Antonia at first took a book with
her; but books not being, as she says, in her line, she looked about for
other ways of killing her time, and bethought herself of fishing, for
which amusement the landlord of the inn supplied her with a rod. Much
pleased with her first successes, the pretty exile devoted herself to
an occupation which must be attractive,--witness the fanatics that it
makes; and the few persons who crossed the bridge could admire at all
hours a charming naiad in a flounced gown and a broad-brimmed straw hat,
engaged in fishing with the conscientious gravity of a _gamin de Paris_.

Up to this time Mademoiselle Antonia and her fishing have had nothing to
do with our election; but if you will recall, madame, in the history
of Don Quixote (which I have heard you admire for its common-sense and
jovial reasoning) the rather disagreeable adventures of Rosinante and
the muleteers, you will have a foretaste of the good luck which the
development of Mademoiselle Antonia’s new passion brought to us.

Our rival, Beauvisage, is not only a successful stocking-maker and an
exemplary mayor, but he is also a model husband, having never tripped in
loyalty to his wife, whom he respects and admires. Every evening, by her
orders, he goes to bed before ten o’clock, while Madame Beauvisage and
her daughter go into what Arcis is pleased to call society. But there is
no more treacherous water, they say, than still water, just as there
was nothing less proper and well-behaved than the calm and peaceable
Rosinante on the occasion referred to.

At any rate, while making the tour of his town according to his laudable
official habit, Beauvisage from the top of the bridge chanced to catch
sight of the fair Parisian who with outstretched arms and gracefully
bent body was pursuing her favorite pastime. A slight movement, the
charming impatience with which the pretty fisher twitched her line from
the water when the fish had not bitten, was perhaps the electric shock
which struck upon the heart of the magistrate, hitherto irreproachable.
No one can say, perhaps, how the thing really came about. But I ought to
remark that during the interregnum that occurred between the making of
socks and night-caps and the assumption of municipal duties, Beauvisage
himself had practised the art of fishing with a line with distinguished
success. Probably it occurred to him that the poor young lady, having
more ardor than science, was not going the right way to work, and the
thought of improving her method may have been the real cause of his
apparent degeneracy. However that may be, it is certain that, crossing
the bridge in company with her mother, Mademoiselle Beauvisage suddenly
cried out, like a true _enfant terrible_,--

“Goodness! there’s papa talking with that Parisian woman!”

To assure herself at a glance of the monstrous fact, to rush down the
bank and reach her husband (whom she found with laughing lips and the
happy air of a browsing sheep), to blast him with a stern “What are
you doing here?” to order his retreat to Arcis with the air of a queen,
while Mademoiselle Chocardelle, first astonished and then enlightened as
to what it all meant, went off into fits of laughter, took scarcely the
time I have taken to tell it. Such, madame, was the proceeding by which
Madame Beauvisage, _nee_ Grevin, rescued her husband; and though that
proceeding may be called justifiable, it was certainly injudicious,
for before night the whole town had heard of the catastrophe, and
Beauvisage, arraigned and convicted by common consent of deplorable
immorality, saw fresh desertions taking place in the already winnowed
phalanx of his partisans.

However, the Gondreville and Grevin side still held firm, and--would you
believe it, madame?--it was again Mademoiselle Antonia to whom we owe
the overthrow of their last rampart.

Here is the tale of that phenomenon: Mother Marie-des-Anges wanted an
interview with the Comte de Gondreville; but how to get it she did not
know, because to ask for it was not, as she thought, proper. Having, it
appears, unpleasant things to say to him, she did not wish to bring the
old man to the convent expressly to hear them; such a proceeding seemed
to her uncharitable. Besides, things comminatory delivered point-blank
will often provoke their recipient instead of alarming him; whereas the
same things slipped in sweetly never fail of their effect. Still, time
was passing; the election, as you know, takes place to-morrow, Sunday,
and the preparatory meeting of all the candidates and the electors,
to-night. The poor dear saintly woman did not know what course to take,
when a little matter occurred, most flattering to her vanity, which
solved her doubts. A pretty sinner, she was told, who had come to Arcis
to “do” Monsieur Keller the financier, then at Gondreville, out of some
money, had heard of the virtues and the inexhaustible kindness of Mother
Marie-des-Anges--in short, she regarded her, after Danton, as the most
interesting object of the place, and deeply regretted that she dared not
ask to be admitted to her presence.

An hour later the following note was left at the Hotel de la Poste:--

  Mademoiselle,--I am told that you desire to see me, but that you
  do not know how to accomplish it. Nothing is easier. Ring the
  door-bell of my quiet house, ask to see me, and do not be alarmed
  at my black robe and aged face. I am not one of those who force
  their advice upon pretty young women who do not ask for it, and
  who may become in time greater saints than I. That is the whole
  mystery of obtaining an interview with Mother Marie-des-Anges, who
  salutes you in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ. [Picture of
  small cross.]

An invitation so graciously given was not to be resisted; and
Mademoiselle Antonia, after putting on the soberest costume she could
get together, went to the convent.

I wish I could give you the details of that interview, which must have
been curious; but no one was present, and nothing was known except what
the lost sheep, who returned in tears, told of it. When the journalist
tried to joke her on this conversion, Mademoiselle Antonia turned upon
him.

“Hold your tongue,” she said; “you never in your life wrote a sentence
like what she said to me.”

“What did she say to you?”

“‘Go, my child,’ said that old woman, ‘the ways of God are beautiful,
and little known; there is often more of a saint in a Magdalen than in a
nun.’”

The journalist laughed, but scenting danger he said,--

“When are you going again to Gondreville to see that Keller? If he
doesn’t pay the money soon, I’ll hit him a blow in some article, in
spite of all Maxime may say.”

“I don’t play dirty tricks myself,” replied Antonia, with dignity.

“Don’t you? Do you mean you are not going to present that note again?”

“Not now,” replied the admirer and probably the echo of Mother
Marie-des-Anges, but using her own language; “I don’t blackmail a family
in affliction. I should remember it on my death-bed, and doubt God’s
mercy.”

“Why don’t you make yourself an Ursuline, now that we are here?”

“Ha, if I only had the courage! I might be happier if I did. But, in
any case, I am not going to Gondreville; Mother Marie-des-Anges has
undertaken to arrange that matter for me.”

“Foolish girl! Have you given her that note?”

“I wanted to tear it up, but she prevented me, and told me to give it to
her and she would arrange it honestly for my interests.”

“Very fine! You were a creditor, and now you are a beggar.”

“No, for I have given the money in alms. I told madame to keep it for
her poor.”

“Oh! if you add the vice of patronizing convents to your other vice of
fishing in rivers, you will be a pleasant girl to frequent.”

“You won’t frequent me much longer, for I go to-night, and leave you to
your dirty work.”

“Bless me! so you retire to the Carmelites?”

“The Carmelites!” replied Antonia, wittily; “no, my old fellow, we don’t
retire to the Carmelites unless we leave a king.”

Such women, even the most ignorant, all know the story of La Valliere,
whom they would assuredly have made their patroness if Sister
Louise-of-the-Sacred-Mercy had been canonized.

I don’t know how Mother Marie-des-Anges managed it, but early this
morning the carriage of the old Comte de Gondreville stopped before the
gate of the convent; and when the count again entered it he was driven
to the office of his friend Grevin; and later in the day the latter said
to several friends that certainly his son-in-law was too much of a
fool, he had compromised himself with that Parisian woman, and would
undoubtedly lose his election.

I am told that the rectors of the two parishes in Arcis have each
received a thousand crowns for their poor from Mother Marie-des-Anges,
who informed them that it came from a benefactor who did not wish his
name known. Sallenauve is furious because our partisans are going about
saying that the money came from him. But when you are running before the
wind you can’t mathematically measure each sail, and you sometimes get
more of a breeze than you really want.

Monsieur Maxime de Trailles makes no sign, but there is every reason
to suppose that this failure of his candidate, which he must see is now
inevitable, will bury both him and his marriage. But, at any rate, he is
a clever fellow, who will manage to get his revenge.

What a curious man, madame, this organist is! His name is that of one
of our greatest physicians,--though they are not related to each
other,--Bricheteau. No one ever showed more activity, more presence of
mind, more devotion, more intelligence; and there are not two men in all
Europe who can play the organ as he does. You say you do not want Nais
to be a mere piano _strummer_; then I advise you to let this Bricheteau
teach her. He is a man who would show her what music really is; he will
not give himself airs, for I assure you he is as modest as he is gifted.
To Sallenauve he is like a little terrier; as watchful, as faithful, and
I may add as ugly,--if so good and frank a countenance as his can ever
be thought anything but handsome!



XVII. MARIE-GASTON TO MADAME LA COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE

Arcis-sur-Aube, May 16, 1839.

Madame,--Last evening the preparatory meeting took place,--a ridiculous
ceremony, very annoying to the candidates, which cannot, however, be
avoided.

Perhaps it is natural that before pledging themselves to a man who is
to represent them for four or five years, voters should want to question
him, and discover, if possible, what he really is. Is he a man of
intelligence? Does he really sustain the ideas put forth about him? Will
he be cordial and affable to the various interests which may claim his
support? Is he firm in character? Can he defend his ideas--if he has
any? In a word, will the constituency be worthily, faithfully, and
honestly represented? That is the serious and respectable aspect of this
institution, which, not being a part of the law, must, in order to be so
firmly fixed in our customs, have a sound reason for its existence.

But every medal has its reverse; as may be seen in these meetings of
candidates with electors puffed up by their own self-importance, eager
to exercise for a moment the sovereignty they are about to delegate to
their deputy, and selling it as dearly as they can to him. Considering
the impertinence of certain questions addressed to a candidate, it would
really seem as if the latter were a serf over whom each elector had
rights of life and death. Not a corner of his private life where the
unhappy man is safe from prying curiosity. All things are possible
in the line of preposterous questioning; for instance: Why does the
candidate prefer the wine of Champagne to the wine of Bordeaux? At
Bordeaux, where wine is a religion, this preference implies an idea of
non-patriotism and may seriously affect the election. Many voters go
to these meetings solely to enjoy the embarrassment of the candidates.
Holding them as it were in the pillory, they play with them like a child
with a beetle, an old judge with the criminal he examines, or a young
surgeon at an autopsy.

Others have not such elevated tastes; they come merely to enjoy the
racket, the confusion of tongues which is certain to take place on such
occasions. Some see their opportunity to exhibit a choice talent; for
(as they say in the reports of the Chamber) when “the tumult is at its
height,” a cock is heard to crow or a dog to howl as if his paw were
trodden upon,--noises that are imitated with marvellous accuracy. But
truly, are not fools and stupid beings a majority in the world, and
ought they not to have their representative?

The meeting took place in a large dance-hall, the loft for the orchestra
forming a sort of private box to which non-voters were admitted, I
among the number. Some ladies had already taken the front seats; Madame
Marion, aunt of Simon Giguet, the Left centre candidate; Madame and
Mademoiselle Mollot, wife and daughter of the clerk of the court,
and some others whose names and position I did not catch. Madame and
Mademoiselle Beauvisage shone conspicuously, like Brutus and Cassius, by
their absence.

Before the candidacy of Monsieur Beauvisage was brought forward on the
ministerial side after the death of Charles Keller, that of Monsieur
Simon Giguet was thought to be certain of success. Now, in consequence
of that of our friend Sallenauve, who has in turn distanced Beauvisage,
Giguet has fallen a step lower still. His father, a former colonel
of the Empire, is greatly respected throughout this region. As an
expression of regret for not electing his son (according to all
probabilities), the electors made him, by acclamation, chairman of the
meeting.

The first candidate who was called upon to speak was Simon Giguet; he
made a long-winded address, full of commonplaces. Few questions were
asked him which deserve a place in the present report. The audience felt
that the tug of war was elsewhere.

Monsieur Beauvisage was then summoned; whereupon Maitre Achille Pigoult
the notary rose, and asked leave to make a statement.

“Monsieur le maire,” he said, “has, since yesterday, been attacked by--”

“Ha! ha!” derisive laughter on the part of the electors.

Colonel Giguet rang his bell repeatedly, without being able to enforce
silence. At the first lull Maitre Pigoult resumed,--

“I have the honor to inform you, gentlemen, that, attacked by an
indisposition which, not serious in itself--”

Fresh interruption, noisier than the first.

Like all military men, Colonel Giguet is not patient nor parliamentary;
he therefore rose and called out vehemently,--

“Messieurs, we are not at a circus. I request you to behave in a more
seemly manner; if not, I leave the chair.”

It is to be supposed that men in masses like to be handled roughly;
for this lesson was greeted with merry applause, after which silence
appeared to be firmly re-established.

“I regret to inform you,” began Maitre Achille Pigoult, varying his
formula for the third time, “that, attacked by an indisposition happily
not serious, which may confine him to his chamber--”

“Throat trouble,” suggested a voice.

“--our venerable and excellent mayor,” continued Achille Pigoult, taking
no notice of the interruption, “is unable to be present at this meeting.
Madame Beauvisage, with whom I have just had the honor of an interview,
requests me to inform you that, _for the present_, Monsieur Beauvisage
renounces the honor of receiving your suffrages, and requests those of
you who have given him your intelligent sympathy to transfer your votes
to Monsieur Simon Giguet.”

This Achille Pigoult is a malicious fellow, who intentionally brought in
the name of Madame Beauvisage to exhibit her conjugal sovereignty. But
the assembly was really too provincial to catch the meaning of that
little bit of treachery. Besides, in the provinces, women take part in
the most virile affairs of the men. The well-known saying of the vicar’s
old housekeeper, “We don’t say masses at that price,” would pass without
comment in Champagne.

At last came Sallenauve. I was struck with the ease and quiet dignity
of his manner. That is a very reassuring pledge, madame, of his conduct
under more trying circumstances; for when a man rises to speak it makes
but little difference who and what his audience are. To an orator goaded
by fear, great lords and porters are precisely the same thing. They are
eyes that look at you, ears that hear you. Individuals are not there,
only one huge being,--an assembly, felt as a mass, without analyzing the
elements.

After enumerating briefly the ties which connected him with this region,
slipping in as he did so an adroit and dignified allusion to his birth
which “was not like that of others,” Sallenauve stated clearly his
political ideas. A Republic he thought the finest of all governments;
but he did not believe it possible to establish one in France;
consequently, he did not desire it. He thought that a truly
parliamentary government, in which court influence should be so
vigorously muzzled that nothing need be feared from its tendency to
interference and caballing would best conduce to the dignity and the
welfare of the nation. Liberty and equality, the two great principles
that triumphed in ‘89, would obtain from such a government the strongest
guarantees. As to the manoeuvring of the royal power against
those principles, it was not for institutions to check it, but for
men,--customs, public opinion, rather than laws; and for himself,
Sallenauve, he should ever stand in the breach as a living obstacle.
He declared himself a warm partisan of free education; believed
that greater economy might be exercised in the budget; that too many
functionaries were attached to the government; and, above all, that
the court was too largely represented in the Chamber. To maintain his
independence he was firmly resolved to accept no post and no favors from
the government. Neither ought those who might elect him to expect that
he would ever take steps on their behalf which were not warranted by
reason and by justice. It was said that the word _impossible_ was not
French. Yet there was an impossibility by which he took pride in being
stopped--that of injustice, and that of disloyalty, even the faintest,
to the Right. [Loud applause.]

Silence being once more restored,--

“Monsieur,” said one of the electors, after obtaining the floor from the
chairman, “you say that you will accept no post under government. Does
not that imply reproach to public functionaries? My name is Godivet; I
am registrar of the archives, but I do not consider that a reason why I
should incur the contempt of my fellow-citizens.”

Sallenauve replied,--

“I am happy, monsieur, to learn that the government has invested a
man like you with functions which you fulfil, I am sure, with perfect
uprightness and great ability; but I venture to ask if you rose to your
present position at one jump?”

“Certainly not, monsieur; I began by being a supernumerary for three
years; after that I passed through all the grades; and I can show that
favor had nothing to do with my promotion.”

“Then, monsieur, what would you say if with my rank as deputy (supposing
that I obtain the suffrages of this arrondissement) I, who have never
been a supernumerary and never passed through any grades, and whose
only claim upon the administration is that of having voted for it,--what
would you say if I were suddenly appointed over your head as the
director-general of your department?”

“I should say--I should say, monsieur, that the choice was a good one,
because the king himself would have made it.”

“No, monsieur, you would not say it, or if you said it aloud, which I
scarcely think possible, you would think in your heart that the choice
was ridiculous and unjust. ‘How the devil,’ you would say to yourself,
‘could this man, this sculptor, know anything about the intricate
business of registering archives?’ And you would be right in condemning
such royal caprice; for what becomes of long and honorable services,
justly acquired rights, and steady promotion under such a system of
arbitrary choice? It is that I may not be the accomplice of this crying
abuse, because I think it neither just nor honest nor useful to obtain
in this way important public functions, that I denounce the system and
bind myself to accept no office. Is this, monsieur, pouring contempt on
public functions? Is it not rather lifting them to higher honor?”

Monsieur Godivet declared himself satisfied, and said no more.

“_Ah ca_! monsieur,” cried another elector, after demanding the floor
in the rather tipsy voice, “you say you will ask no favors for your
constituents; then what good will you be to us?”

“My friend, I did not say I would ask nothing for my constituents. I
said I would ask nothing but what was just; but that, I may add, I shall
ask with energy and perseverance, for that is how justice should be
followed up.”

“But,” persisted the voter, “there are various ways of doing justice;
witness the suit I was made to lose against Jean Remy, with whom I had
trouble about a boundary--”

Colonel Giguet, interrupting,--

“Come, come, you are not going, I hope to talk about your private
affairs, and speak disrespectfully of magistrates?”

The voter resumed,--

“Magistrates, colonel, I respect, for I was one myself for six months in
‘93, and I know the law. But, returning to my point, I ask monsieur, who
is here to answer questions, to me as well as to others, what he thinks
about tobacco licenses.”

“My opinion on tobacco licenses! That is rather difficult to formulate;
I can, however, say that, if my information is correct, they are usually
very well distributed.”

“Hey! hey! you’re a man, you!” cried the inebriate elector, “and I’ll
vote for you, for they can’t fool you,--no! But they do give those
licenses all wrong! Look at that daughter of Jean Remy. Bad neighbor.
Never owned anything but his cart, and fights every day with his wife--”

“But, my good fellow,” said the chairman, interposing, “you are abusing
the patience of this assembly.”

“No, no! let him talk!” cried voices from all parts of the room.

The voter was amusing, and Sallenauve himself seemed to let the chairman
know he would like to see what the man was driving at.

The elector, being allowed to continue, went on:--

“I was going to say, with due respect to you, colonel, about that
daughter of Jean Remy’s,--a man I’ll pursue to hell, for my bounds were
in their right place, and them experts was all wrong. Well! what did
that slut do? Left her father and mother and went to Paris! What did she
do there? I didn’t go to see, but I’m told she made acquaintance with
a deputy, and has got the tobacco license for the rue Mouffetard, the
longest street in Paris. But I’d like to see my wife, widow of an honest
man, doubled up with rheumatism for having slept in the woods during
that terror in 1815,--I’d like to see my poor widow get a license!”

“But you are not dead yet,” they shouted to him from all parts of the
room. The colonel, meantime, to put an end to the burlesque scene,
nodded to a little confectioner who was waiting for the floor, a
well-known Republican. The new questioner, in a falsetto voice, put the
following insidious question to the candidate,--a question which might,
by the way, be called national in Arcis,--

“What does Monsieur think of Danton?”

“Monsieur Dauphin,” said the chairman, “I have the honor to remind you
that Danton belongs to history.”

“To the Pantheon of history, monsieur; that is the proper expression.”

“Well, history, or the Pantheon of history, as you please; but Danton is
irrelevant here.”

“Permit me, Mr. Chairman,” said Sallenauve, “though the question does
not seem to have much purpose on the bearing of this meeting, I cannot
forego the opportunity thus given me to give proof of the impartiality
and independence with which I can judge that great memory, the fame of
which still echoes in this town.”

“Hear! hear!” cried the assembly, almost unanimously.

“I am firmly convinced,” resumed Sallenauve, “that if Danton had been
born in a calm and peaceful epoch like our own, he would have shown
himself, what in fact he was, a good father, a good husband, a warm and
faithful friend, a man of kindly temper, who, by the force of his great
talents, would have risen to some eminent place in the State and in
society.”

“Yes, yes! bravo! very good!”

“Born, on the contrary, in troublesome times, and amid the storm of
unchained passions, Danton was better constituted than others to kindle
the flame of that atmosphere of fire. Danton was the torch that fired;
his scarlet glare lent itself only too readily to scenes of blood
and horror which I must not recall. But, they said, the national
independence was at stake, traitors and dissemblers must be awed,--in
a word, a cruel and awful sacrifice was necessary for the public weal.
Messieurs, I do not accept that theory. To kill, without the necessity
demonstrated a score of times of legitimate defence, to kill women,
children, prisoners, unarmed men, was a crime,--a crime, look at it how
you will, that was execrable; those who ordered it, those who consented
to it, those who executed it are, to my mind, deserving of the same
reprobation.”

I wish I could give you an idea, madame, of the tone and expression
of Sallenauve as he uttered this anathema. You know how his face is
transfigured when an ardent thought comes into his mind. The assemblage
was mute and gloomy. Evidently he had wounded their sensibilities; but,
under the curb of his powerful hand, it dared not throw up its head.

“But,” he continued, “to all consummated and irreparable crimes there
are two issues,--repentance and expiation. His repentance Danton did not
utter,--he was too proud a man,--but he _acted_ it. He was the first,
to the sound of that axe falling without pity and without respite,--the
first, at the risk of his own head being the next victim,--to call for a
‘committee of mercy.’ It was the sure, the infallible means of bringing
him to expiation; and you all know whether, when that day of expiation
came, he quailed before it. Passing through death,--won by his
courageous effort to stop the effusion of blood,--it may be truly said
that the face and the memory of Danton have washed off the bloody stain
which September put upon them. Committed, at the age of thirty-five,
to the judgment of posterity, Danton has left us the memory of a great
intellect, a strong and powerful character, noble private qualities,
more than one generous action,--all derived from his own being; whereas
the bloody errors he committed were the contagion of his epoch. In a
word, with men of his quality, unjust would be the justice which does
not temper itself with mercy. And here, messieurs, you have in your
midst--better than you, better than I, better than all orators and
historians--a woman who has weighed and understood Danton, and who says
to the pitiless, with the impulse of her charity, ‘He has gone to God;
let us pray for him.’”

The trap thus avoided by this happy allusion to Mother Marie-des-Anges,
and the assembly evidently satisfied, it might be supposed that the
candidate had come to the end of his baiting. The colonel was even
preparing to pass to the vote, when several electors sprang up,
declaring that two important explanations were still required from the
candidate. He had said that he should ever be found an obstacle to all
attempts of the royal power to subvert our institutions. What did he
mean by such resistance? Was it armed resistance, the resistance of
riots and barricades?

“Barricades,” replied Sallenauve, “have nearly always seemed to me
machines which turned of themselves and crushed the men who raised them.
We must believe that in the nature of riots there is something which
serves the interests of the government, for I have invariably heard the
police accused of inciting them. My resistance, that which I spoke of,
will ever be a legal resistance, pursued by legal means, by the press,
by the tribune, and with patience,--that great force granted to the
oppressed and to the vanquished.”

If you knew Latin, madame, I should say to you, _In cauda venenum_;
which means, “In the tail of the serpent is its venom,”--a remark of
antiquity which modern science does not admit. Monsieur de l’Estorade
was not mistaken; Sallenauve’s private life was destined to be
ransacked, and, no doubt under the inspiration of the virtuous Maxime de
Trailles, the second question put to our friend was about the handsome
Italian woman said to be _hidden_ by him in his house in Paris.

Sallenauve showed no embarrassment at being thus interpellated. He
merely asked whether the assembly would think proper to spend its time
in listening to a romantic story in which there was no scandal.

But here comes Sallenauve himself; he tells me that the electoral
college is formed in a manner that leaves little doubt of his election.
I leave my pen to him, to tell you the romantic tale, already, I
believe, interrupted on several occasions. He will close this letter.



XVIII. CHARLES DE SALLENAUVE TO THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE


7 P.M.

Madame,--The rather abrupt manner in which I parted from you and
Monsieur de l’Estorade the evening of our visit to Armand’s school, has
been explained to you by the preoccupations of all sorts to which at
that moment I was a victim. Marie-Gaston tells me that he has kept you
informed of the subsequent events.

I acknowledge that in the restless and agitated state of mind in which
I then was, the sort of belief which Monsieur de l’Estorade appeared to
give to the scandal which he mentioned caused me great displeasure and
some surprise. How, thought I, is it possible that a man of Monsieur de
l’Estorade’s morality and intellect can _a priori_ suppose me capable of
such disorder, when he sees me anxious to give to my life all the weight
and consideration which the respect of others alone can bestow? Only a
few moments before this painful conversation I had been on the point
of making you a confidence which would, I presume, have protected me
against the unfortunate impression which Monsieur de l’Estorade conveyed
to your mind. As for Monsieur de l’Estorade himself, I was, I confess,
so annoyed at seeing the careless manner in which he made himself the
echo of a calumny against which I felt he ought rather to have defended
me that I did not _deign_ to make any explanation to him. I now withdraw
that word, but it was then the true expression of a displeasure keenly
felt.

In the course of my electoral contest, I have been obliged to make
public the justification I did not make to you; and I have had the
satisfaction of finding that men in masses are more capable than
individuals of understanding generous impulses and of distinguishing the
honest language of truth. Here are the facts which I related, but more
briefly and with less detail, to my electors.

A few months before my departure from Rome, I was in a cafe frequented
by the pupils of the Academy, when an Italian musician, named Benedetto,
came in, as he usually did every evening. Nominally he was a musician
and a tolerable one; but we had been warned that he was also a spy of
the Roman police. However that might be, he was very amusing; and as we
cared nothing for the police, we not only endured but we encouraged his
visits,--which was not hard to do in view of his passion for _poncio
spongato_ and _spuma di latte_.

On his entrance one evening, a member of our party asked him who was the
woman with whom he had met him that morning.

“My wife, signore,” answered the Italian.

“Yours, Benedetto!--you the husband of such a beauty!”

“Si, signore.”

“Nonsense! you are ugly and drunken, and people say you are police spy;
but she, on the contrary, is as handsome as Diana the huntress.”

“I charmed her with my talent; she adores me.”

“Well, if she is your wife, make her pose to our friend here, Dorlange,
who wants a model for his Pandora. He can’t get a finer one.”

“That can be managed,” replied the Italian.

The next day I was in my studio in company with several young painters
and sculptors when Benedetto came in accompanied by a woman of rare
beauty, whom I need not describe, for you have seen her, madame, at my
house. A joyous hurrah greeted the Italian, who said to me,--

“_Ecco la Pandora_! Hey! what do you think of her?”

“Marvellously beautiful; but would she pose?”

“Pooh!” exclaimed Benedetto, with an air which seemed to say: “I’d like
to see her refuse.”

“But,” I remarked, “she would cost too much, a model of her beauty.”

“No; you need only make my bust--just a plaster cast--and give it to
her.”

“Very good,” I said. Then I told my friends to go and leave us alone
together.

Nobody minded me. Judging the wife by the husband, the eager young
fellows pressed round her; while she, wounded and angered by the
audacity of their eyes, looked like a caged panther irritated by
peasants at a fair.

Going up to her and pulling her aside, Benedetto told her in Italian
that I wanted to copy her from head to foot, and she must then and there
take off her clothes. The woman gave him one withering look, and
made for the door. Benedetto rushed forward to prevent her; while my
comrades, for the honor of the studio, endeavored to bar his way.

Then began an argument between the wife and the husband; but, as I saw
that Benedetto sustained his part of it with great brutality, I was
angry, and, having a pretty vigorous arm, I pushed him aside, and took
the wife, who was trembling all over, to the door. She said, in Italian,
a few words of thanks, and disappeared instantly.

Returning to Benedetto, who was gesticulating furiously, I told him to
leave the studio, that his conduct was infamous, and if I heard of his
ill-treating his wife I would have him punished.

“_Debole_!” (idiot!) he replied, shrugging his shoulders, and departing
amid derisive cheers.

Several days passed, and no signs of Benedetto. By the end of a week he
was forgotten. Three days before my departure from Rome his wife entered
my studio.

“You are leaving Rome,” she said, “and I want you to take me with you.”

“Take you with me!--but your husband?”

“Dead,” she answered tranquilly.

A thought crossed my mind.

“Did you kill him?” I said.

She made an affirmative sign, adding, “But I meant to die too.”

“How was it?” I asked.

“After he offered me that affront,” she replied, “he came home and beat
me, as he often did; then he went out and was gone all day. At night he
returned with a pistol and threatened to shoot me; but I got the pistol
away from him, for he was drunk. I threw him--the _briccone_!--on his
bed, and he fell asleep. Then I stuffed up the doors and windows, and
lighted the charcoal brazier. My head ached horribly, and I knew nothing
more till the next day, when I woke up in the hands of my neighbors.
They had smelt the charcoal, and burst in the door,--but he was dead.”

“And the law?”

“I told the judge everything. Besides, _he_ had tried to sell me to
an Englishman,--that’s why he wanted to disgrace me here with you; he
thought I would resist less. The judge told me I might go, I had done
right; then I confessed to a priest, and he gave me absolution.”

“But, _cara mia_, what can you do in France? Better stay in Italy;
besides, I am not rich.”

She smiled disdainfully.

“I shall not cost you much,” she said; “on the contrary, I can save you
money.”

“How so?”

“I can be the model for your statues if I choose. Besides which, I am a
capital housekeeper. If Benedetto had behaved properly, we should have
had a good home,--_per che_, I know how to make one; and I’ve another
great talent too!”

She ran to a guitar, which was hanging on the wall, and began to sing a
bravura air, accompanying herself with singular energy.

“In France,” she said, when she had finished, “I could take lessons and
go upon the stage, where I know I should succeed; that was Benedetto’s
idea.”

“But why not do that in Italy?”

“I am hiding from that Englishman,” she replied; “he wants to carry me
off. I am determined to go to France; I have learned to speak French. If
I stay here, I shall throw myself into the Tiber.”

By abandoning such a nature, more terrible than seductive, to itself,
Monsieur de l’Estorade will, I think, agree that I was likely to cause
some misfortune. I consented, therefore, that Signora Luigia should
accompany me to Paris. Since then she has managed my household with
discretion and economy. She even offered to pose for my Pandora; but the
memory of that scene with her husband has, as you may well believe, kept
me from accepting her offer. I have given her a singing-master, and she
is now almost prepared to make her appearance on the stage. But in spite
of her theatrical projects, she, pious like all Italians, has joined the
sisterhood of the Virgin in Saint-Sulpice, my parish church, and during
the month of May, which began a few days ago, the letter of chairs
counts on her beautiful voice for part of her receipts. She is assiduous
at the services, confesses, and takes the sacrament regularly. Her
confessor, a most respectable old man, came to see me lately to request
that she might not be required to pose for any more of my statues,
saying that she would not listen to him on that point, believing herself
bound in honor to me.

My own intention, if I am elected, which now seems probable, is to
separate from this woman. In a position which will place me more before
the public, she would become an object of remark as injurious to
her reputation and future prospects as to mine. I have talked with
Marie-Gaston about the difficulty I foresee in making this separation.
Until now, my house has been the whole of Paris to this poor woman;
and the thought of flinging her alone into the gulf, of which she knows
nothing, horrifies me.

Marie-Gaston thinks that the help and advice of a person of her own sex,
with a high reputation for virtue and good judgment, would be in such
a case most efficacious; and he declares that he and I both know a lady
who, at our earnest entreaty, might take this duty upon herself. The
person to whom Marie-Gaston makes allusion is but a recent acquaintance
of mine, and I could hardly ask even an old friend to take such a care
upon her shoulders. I know, however, that you once did me the honor to
say that “certain relations ripen rapidly.” Marie-Gaston insists that
this lady, being kind and pious and most charitable, will be attracted
by the idea of helping and advising a poor lonely woman. On our return
to Paris, madame, we shall venture to consult you, and you will tell us
whether we may ask for this precious assistance.

In any case, I will ask you to be my intermediary with Monsieur de
l’Estorade; tell him the facts I have now told you, and say that I hope
the little cloud between us may be effectually removed. If I am elected,
we shall be, I know, in opposite camps; but as my intention is not to
take a tone of systematic opposition in all the questions which may
arise between our parties, I do not think there _need_ be any break
between us.

By this time to-morrow, madame, I may have received a checkmate which
will send me back forever to my studio, or I shall have a foot in a
new career. Shall I tell you that the thought of the latter result
distresses me?--doubtless from a fear of the Unknown.

I was almost forgetting to give you another piece of news. I have
consulted Mother Marie-des-Anges (whose history Marie-Gaston tells me
he has related to you) on the subject of my doubts and fears as to the
violence done to Mademoiselle de Lanty, and she has promised that in
course of time she will discover the convent in which Marianina is a
prisoner. The worthy Mother, if she takes this into her head, is almost
certain to succeed in finding the original of her Saint-Ursula.

I am not feeling at all easy in mind about Marie-Gaston. He seems to me
in a state of feverish agitation, partly created by the immense interest
he takes in my success. But I greatly fear that his efforts will
result in a serious reaction. His own grief, which at this moment he is
repressing, has not in reality lost its sting. Have you not been struck
by the rather flighty and mocking tone of his letters, some of which he
has shown to me? That is not in his nature, for in his happiest days
he was never turbulently gay; and I am sadly afraid that when this
fictitious excitement about my election is over he may fall into utter
prostration. He has, however, consented to come and live with me,
and not to go to Ville d’Avray unless I am with him. Even this act of
prudence, which I asked without hoping to obtain it, makes me uneasy.
Evidently he is afraid of the memories that await him there. Have I the
power to lessen the shock? Old Philippe, who was left in charge of the
place when he went to Italy, had orders not to move or change anything
whatever in the house. Our friend is therefore likely to find himself,
in presence of those speaking objects, on the morrow as it were of his
wife’s death. Another alarming thing! he has only spoken of her once,
and will not suffer me to approach the subject. I hope, however, that
this may be a crisis; once passed, I trust we may, by all uniting,
succeed in composing his mind.

Victor or vanquished, I trust to meet you soon, madame, and always as
your most respectful and devoted servant,

Charles de Sallenauve.



XIX. MARIE-GASTON TO THE COMTESSE DE L’ESTORADE

Arcis-sur-Aube, May 17, 1839.

That stupid riot in Paris, the incredible particulars of which we heard
this morning by telegraph, came near causing us to lose the election.

The sub-prefect instantly placarded all over the town the news of this
attempt at insurrection--no doubt instigated by the government to affect
the elections. “What! elect a democrat!” was repeated everywhere in
Arcis, and doubtless elsewhere, “so that his speeches in the Chamber may
be made the ammunition of insurgents!”

That argument threw our phalanx into disorder and hesitation. But the
idea occurred to Jacques Bricheteau to turn the danger itself to good
account, and he hastily printed on a sheet of paper and distributed all
over the town in enormous quantities the following notice:--

  A bloody riot took place yesterday in Paris. Questioned as to the
  employment of such guilty and desperate means of opposition, one
  of our candidates, Monsieur de Sallenauve, answered thus: “Riots
  will always be found to serve the interests of the government; for
  this reason the police are invariably accused of inciting them.
  True resistance, that which I stand for, will always be legal
  resistance, pursued by legal means, by the press, by the tribune,
  and with Patience--that great force granted to the oppressed and
  to the vanquished.”

These words, you will remember, madame, were those in which Sallenauve
answered his questioners at the preparatory meeting. Then followed in
large letters:--

  THE RIOT HAS BEEN SUPPRESSED. WHO WILL PROFIT BY IT?

That sheet of paper did marvels; it completely foiled the efforts of
Monsieur de Trailles, who, throwing off the mask, had spent his day in
perorating, in white gloves, on the market-place and from the steps of
the electoral college.

This evening the result is known; namely, two hundred and one votes
cast: two for Beauvisage; twenty-nine for Simon Giguet; one hundred and
seventy for Sallenauve.

Consequently, Monsieur Charles de Sallenauve is proclaimed Deputy.



PART III. MONSIEUR DE SALLENAUVE



I. THE SORROWS OF MONSIEUR DE TRAILLES

During the evening which followed the election in which he had played a
part so humiliating to his vanity, Maxime de Trailles returned to Paris.
It might be supposed that in making, on his arrival, a rapid toilet and
ordering his carriage to be instantly brought round, he was hastening to
pay a visit to the Comte de Rastignac, minister of Public Works, to whom
he must have desired to render an account of his mission, and explain as
best he could the reasons of its ill-success.

But another and more pressing interest seemed to claim him.

“To Colonel Franchessini’s,” he said to his coachman.

Arriving at the gate of one of the prettiest hotels in the _quartier_
Breda, and nodding to the concierge, he received an affirmative sign,
which meant, “Monsieur is at home”; and at the same time a valet
appeared on the portico to receive him.

“Is the colonel visible?” he asked.

“He has just gone into madame’s room. Does monsieur wish me to call
him?”

“No, I’ll wait for him in the study.”

Then, like one familiar with the house, and without waiting for the
servant to usher him, he entered a large room on the ground-floor, which
looked into a garden, and was filled with a miscellaneous collection of
articles testifying to the colonel’s habits and tastes. Books, charts,
and maps certainly justified the word “study”; but, as a frantic
sportsman and member of the Jockey Club, the colonel had allowed
this sanctum of mental labor and knowledge to become, by degrees, his
smoking, fencing, and harness room. Pipes and weapons of all shapes and
all lands, saddles, hunting-whips, spurs, bits of many patterns, foils
and boxing-gloves formed a queer and heterogenous collection. However,
by thus surrounding his daily life with the objects of his favorite
_studies_, the colonel proved himself a man who possessed the courage
of his opinions. In fact, he openly said that, beyond a passing notice,
there was no reading worth a man’s attention except the “Stud Journal.”

It is to be supposed, however, that politics had managed in some way
to slip into this existence devoted to muscular exercise and the hippic
science, for, from a heap of the morning journals disdainfully flung
upon the floor by the worthy colonel, Monsieur de Trailles picked up
a copy of the legitimist organ, in which he read, under the heading of
ELECTIONS, the following article:

  The staff of the National Guard and the Jockey Club, which had
  various representatives in the last Chamber, have just sent one of
  their shining notabilities to the one about to open. Colonel
  Franchessini, so well known for his ardor in punishing the
  refractories of the National Guard, has been elected almost
  unanimously in one of the rotten boroughs of the civil list. It is
  supposed that he will take his seat beside the phalanx of other
  henchmen, and show himself in the Chamber, as he has elsewhere,
  one of the firmest supporters of the policy of the _present order
  of things_.

As Maxime finished reading the article, the colonel entered.

After serving the Empire for a very short time, Colonel Franchessini
had become one of the most brilliant colonels of the Restoration; but
in consequence of certain mists which had risen about the perfect
honorableness of his character he had found himself obliged to send in
his resignation, so that in 1830 he was fully prepared to devote himself
in the most ardent manner to the dynasty of July. He did not re-enter
military service, because, shortly after his misadventure he had met
with an Englishwoman, enormously rich, who being taken with his beauty,
worthy at that time of the Antinous, had made him her husband, and the
colonel henceforth contented himself with the epaulets of the staff
of the National Guard. He became, in that position, one of the most
exacting and turbulent of blusterers, and through the influence of that
quality combined with the fortune his wife had given him, he had
just been elected, as the paper stated, to the Chamber of deputies.
Approaching the fifties, like his friend de Trailles, Colonel
Franchessini had still some pretensions to the after-glow of youth,
which his slim figure and agile military bearing seemed likely to
preserve to him for some time longer. Although he had conquered the
difficulty of his gray hair, reducing its silvery reflections by
keeping it cut very close, he was less resigned to the scantiness of his
moustache, which he wore in youthful style, twirled to a sharp point by
means of a Hungarian cosmetic, which also preserved to a certain degree
its primitive color. But whoso wants to prove too much proves nothing,
and in the black which the colonel used there was noticeably a raw tone,
and an equality of shade too perfect for truth of nature. Hence his
countenance, swarthy and strongly marked with the Italian origin
indicated by his name, had an expression of singular rigidity, to which
his features, now become angular, his piercing glance, and his nose like
the beak of a bird of prey, did not afford the requisite corrective.

“Hey, Maxime!” he cried, shaking hands with his visitor, “where the
devil do you come from? It is more than a fortnight since I have seen
you at the club.”

“Where do I come from?” replied Monsieur de Trailles. “I’ll tell you
presently; but first let me congratulate you on your election.”

“Yes,” said the colonel, with apparent indifference, “_they_ would put
me up; but I assure you, upon my honor, I was very innocent of it all,
and if no one had done more than I--”

“But, my dear fellow, you are a blessed choice for that arrondissement;
I only wish that the electors I have had to do with were equally
intelligent.”

“What! have you been standing for election? I didn’t suppose, taking
into consideration the--rather troubled state of your finances, that you
could manage it.”

“True, and I was not electioneering on my own account. Rastignac was
uneasy about the arrondissement of Arcis-sur-Aube, and he asked me to go
down there for a few days.”

“Arcis-sur-Aube? Seems to me I read an article about that this morning
in one of those cabbage-leaves. Horrid choice, isn’t it?--some plasterer
or image-maker they propose to send us?”

“Precisely; and it is about that very thing I have come to see you
before I see the others. I have just arrived, and I don’t want to go to
Rastignac until after I have talked with you.”

“How is he getting on, that little minister?” said the colonel, taking
no notice of the clever steps by which Maxime was gravitating toward the
object of his visit. “They seem to be satisfied with him at the palace.
Do you know that little Nucingen whom he married?”

“Yes, I often see Rastignac; he is a very old acquaintance of mine.”

“She is pretty, that little thing,” continued the colonel, “very pretty;
and I think, the first year of marriage well buried, one might risk
one’s self in that direction with some success.”

“Come, come,” said Maxime, “you are a serious man now, a legislator! As
for me, the mere meddling in electoral matters in the interests of other
people has sobered me.”

“Did you say you went to Arcis-sur-Aube to hinder the election of that
stone-cutter?”

“Not at all; I went there to throw myself in the way of the election of
a Left-centre candidate.”

“Pah! the Left, pure and simple, is hardly worse. But take a cigar;
these are excellent. The princes smoke them.”

The colonel rose and rang the bell, saying to the servant when he came,
“A light!”

The cigars lighted, Monsieur de Trailles endeavored to prevent another
interruption by declaring before he was questioned that he had never
smoked anything more exquisite. Comfortably ensconced in his arm-chair,
the colonel seemed to offer the hope of a less fugacious attention, and
Monsieur de Trailles resumed:--

“All went well at first. To crush the candidate the ministry wanted
to be rid of,--a lawyer, and the worst sort of cad,--I unearthed a
stocking-maker, a fearful fool, whom I persuaded to offer himself as
candidate. The worthy man was convinced that he belonged to the dynastic
opposition. That is the opinion which, for the time being, prevails in
that region. The election, thanks to me, was as good as made; and, our
man once in Paris, the great Seducer in the Tuileries had only to say
five words to him, and this dynastic opposer could have been turned
inside out like one of this own stockings, and made to do whatever was
wanted of him.”

“Pretty well played that!” said the colonel. “I recognize my Maxime.”

“You will recognize him still farther when he tells you that he was
able, without recourse to perquisites, to make his own little profit out
of the affair. In order to graft a little parliamentary ambition upon
my vegetable, I addressed myself to his wife,--a rather appetizing
provincial, though past her prime.”

“Yes, yes, I see; very good!” said Franchessini; “husband made
deputy--satisfied--shut his mouth.”

“You are all wrong, my dear fellow; the pair have an only daughter, a
spoilt child, nineteen years old, very agreeable face, and something
like a million in her pocket.”

“But, my dear Maxime, I passed your tailor’s house last night, and it
was not illuminated.”

“No; that would have been premature. However, here was the situation:
two women frantic to get to Paris; gratitude to the skies for the man
who would get them an introduction to the Palais-Bourbon; the little
one crazy for the title of countess; the mother transported at the idea,
carefully insinuated by me, of holding a political salon,--you must see
all that such a situation offers, and you know me too well, I fancy, to
suppose that I should fall below any of its opportunities.”

“Quite easy in mind as to that,” said the colonel, getting up to open a
window and let out the smoke of their two cigars.

“I was on the point,” continued Maxime, “of pocketing both daughter and
_dot_, when there fell from the skies, or rather there rose from the
nether regions, a Left candidate, the stone-cutter, as you call him, a
man with two names,--in short, a natural son--”

“Ha!” said the colonel, “those fellows do have lucky stars, to be sure.
I am not surprised if one of them mowed the grass from under your feet.”

“My dear friend,” said Maxime, “if we were in the middle ages, I should
explain by magic and sorcery the utter discomfiture of my candidate,
and the election of the stone-man, whom you are fated to have for your
colleague. How is it possible to believe, what is however the fact, that
an old _tricoteuse_, a former friend of Danton, and now the abbess of
a convent of Ursulines, should actually, by the help of her nephew, an
obscure organist in Paris, have so bewitched the whole electoral college
that this upstart has been elected by a large majority?”

“But I suppose he had some friends and acquaintances in the town?”

“Not the ghost of one,--unless it might be that nun. Fortune, relations,
father, even a name, he never had until the day of his arrival at Arcis
two weeks ago; and now, if you please, the Comte Charles de Sallenauve,
seigneur of the chateau of Arcis, is elected to the Chamber of deputies!
God only knows how it was done! The pretended head of a former great
family, representing himself as absent in foreign lands for many years,
suddenly appears with this schemer before a notary in Arcis, recognizes
him at a gallop as his son, buys the chateau of Arcis and presents it
to him, and is off during the night before any one could even know what
road he took. The trick thus played, the abbess and her aide-de-camp,
the organist, launched the candidate, and at once republicans,
legitimists, conservatives, clergy, nobility, bourgeoisie, in fact
everybody, as if by some spell cast upon that region, all did the
bidding of that old witch of a nun, and without the stalwart battalion
of the functionaries (who under my eye stood firm and did not flinch),
his election would have been, like yours, unanimous.”

“Then, my poor friend, good-bye to the _dot_.”

“Not precisely; though it must certainly be adjourned. The father
grumbles because the blessed tranquillity of his life was disturbed and
he himself covered with ridicule, though the poor dear man had already
enough of that! The daughter still wants to be a countess, but the
mother takes it hard that her political salon should be floating away
from her, and God knows how far I shall be led in order to comfort her.
Besides all this, I myself am goaded by the necessity of having to find
the solution of my own problem pretty soon. I _had_ found it there: I
intended to marry, and take a year to settle my affairs; at the next
session I should have made my father-in-law resign and stepped into his
seat in the Chamber; then, you understand, what an horizon before me!”

“But, my dear fellow, political horizon apart, don’t let that million
slip through your fingers.”

“Oh, heavens! as for that, except for the delay, I feel safe enough. My
future family is about to remove to Paris. After this mortifying defeat,
life in Arcis will not be endurable. Beauvisage (forgive the name, it is
that of my adopted family)--Beauvisage is like Coriolanus, ready if he
can to bring fire and slaughter on his ungrateful birthplace. Besides,
in transplanting themselves hither, these unfortunate exiles know where
to lay their heads, being the owners of the hotel Beauseant.”

“Owners of the hotel Beauseant!” cried the colonel, in amazement.

“Yes; Beauseant--Beauvisage; only a termination to change. Ah! my dear
fellow, you don’t know what these provincial fortunes are, accumulated
penny by penny, especially when to the passion for saving is added the
incessant aspiration of that leech called commerce. We must make up our
minds to some course; the bourgeoisie are rising round us like a flood;
it is almost affable in them to buy our chateaus and estates when they
might guillotine us as in 1793, and get them for nothing.”

“Happily for you, my dear Maxime, you have reduced the number of your
chateaus and estates.”

“You see yourself that is not so,” replied Maxime, “inasmuch as I am
now engaged in providing myself with one. The Beauseant house is to be
repaired and refurnished immediately, and I am charged with the ordering
of the work. But I have made my future mother-in-law another promise,
and I want your help, my dear fellow, in fulfilling it.”

“It isn’t a tobacco license, or a stamped-paper office, is it?”

“No, something less difficult. These damned women, when hatred or a
desire for vengeance takes possession of them, are marvels of instinct;
and Madame Beauvisage, who roars like a lioness at the very name of
Sallenauve, has taken it into her head that beneath his incomprehensible
success there is some foul intrigue or mystery. It is certain that the
appearance and disappearance of this mysterious father have given rise
to very singular conjectures; and probably if the thumb-screws were put
upon the organist, who was, they say, entrusted with the education
of the interesting bastard, we might get the secret of his birth and
possibly other unexpected revelations. Now I have thought of a man on
whom you have, I believe, great influence, who might in this hunt for
facts assist us immensely. Don’t you remember the robbery of those
jewels from Jenny Cardine, about which she was so unhappy one night at
Very’s? You asked the waiter for pens and paper, and on a simple
note which you sent at three o’clock in the morning to a Monsieur
Saint-Esteve the police went to work, and before the evening of the next
day the thieves were captured and the jewels restored.”

“Yes,” said the colonel, “I remember all that; my interference was
lucky. But I must tell you that had I paused to reflect I should not
have treated Monsieur de Saint-Esteve so cavalierly. He is a man to be
approached with greater ceremony.”

“_Ah ca_! but isn’t he a former galley-slave, whose pardon you helped to
obtain, and who feels for you the veneration they say Fieschi felt for
one of his protectors?”

“Yes, that is true. Monsieur de Saint-Esteve, like his predecessor,
Bibi-Lupin, has had _misfortunes_; but he is to-day the head of the
detective police, the important functions of which office he fulfils
with rare capacity. If the matter concerned anything that comes within
his department, I should not hesitate to give you a letter to him; but
the affair you speak of is delicate; and in any case I must first sound
him and see if he is willing to talk with you.”

“I thought you managed him despotically. Let us say no more about it, if
you think it so very difficult.”

“The greatest difficulty is that I never see him; and I naturally cannot
write to him for such an object. I should have to watch for an occasion,
a chance meeting. But why don’t you speak of this to Rastignac? He could
give him an order to act at once.”

“Don’t you understand that Rastignac will receive me very ill indeed? I
had assured him, by letter, of success, and now I am forced to report
in person our defeat. Besides, on every account, I would rather owe this
service to your friendship.”

“Well, it sha’n’t fail you,” said the colonel, rising. “I’ll do my best
to satisfy you; only, there must be a delay.”

The visit had lasted long, and Maxime felt that a hint was given him to
abridge it. He therefore took leave, putting into his manner a certain
coldness which the colonel appeared not to notice.

No sooner had Monsieur de Trailles departed than Franchessini opened
a pack of cards and took out the knave of spades. This he cut up in a
curious manner, leaving the figure untouched. Placing this species
of hieroglyphic between two sheets of paper, he consigned it to an
envelope. On this envelope and disguising his hand the colonel wrote as
follows:--

  Monsieur de Saint-Esteve, rue Saint-Anne, near the Quai des
  Orfevres.

That done, he rang the bell and gave orders to put up his carriage,
which he had ordered before Maxime’s arrival; after which he went out
alone on foot, and threw his singular missive into the first street
letter-box that he passed. He had taken care, before he left the house,
to see if it were properly sealed.



II. A CONVERSATION BETWEEN ELEVEN O’CLOCK AND MIDNIGHT

As a result of the elections which had just taken place, the ministry,
contrary to expectation, maintained a majority in the Chamber,--a
doubtful and provisional majority which would give it an uncertain and
struggling existence. But, at any rate, it had obtained that merely
numerical success which parties seek at any price to prolong their
power. The Te Deum was sung in all its camps,--a paean which serves as
well to celebrate victorious defeats as honest victories.

On the evening of the day when Colonel Franchessini received the visit
from Maxime de Trailles, the general result of the elections was made
known. The ministers of the left bank, whose wives received on that day,
found their salons crowded, particularly the Comte de Rastignac, the
minister of Public Works.

Madame de l’Estorade, too much absorbed in her children to be very exact
in the fulfilment of her social duties, had owed a visit to Madame
de Rastignac ever since the evening when the minister’s wife had
interrupted her conversation with the sculptor apropos of the famous
statue. Monsieur de l’Estorade, zealous conservative as we know already,
had insisted that politics and politeness now combined to oblige them
both to pay this social debt. Arriving early, in order to be rid the
sooner of such a bore, Madame de l’Estorade found herself seated at
the upper end of a circle of women, while the men stood about them
conversing. Her chair was side by side with that of Madame de Rastignac.

In hoping to make her visit short, Madame de l’Estorade had not counted
on the allurements of conversation which, under the circumstances of
this so-called political victory, laid hold of her husband. A man of
more influence by his judgment than by his oratory in the Chamber of
Peers, Monsieur de l’Estorade, as he circulated through the salons, was
stopped at every turn by the various notabilities of politics, finance,
and diplomacy, and requested to give his opinion on the future of the
session now about to begin. To all such questions he replied with more
or less extended observations, and sometimes he had the pleasure of
finding himself the centre of a group respectfully receptive of his
opinions. This success rendered him very inattentive to the telegraphy
of his wife, who, watching his various evolutions, made him signs
whenever she could catch his eye that she wished to go away.

The years that had elapsed since Monsieur de l’Estorade had obtained the
hand of the beautiful Renee de Maucombe, while they had scarcely dimmed
the splendor of her beauty, had considerably aged her husband. The
twenty years’ difference in their ages--he being now fifty-two, she
thirty-two--was growing all the more apparent because even at the time
of the marriage he was turning gray and his health was failing. An
affection of the liver, latent for several years, was now developing,
and at the same time the wilful disposition which is noticeable in
statesmen and men of ambition made his mouth less sensitive to the
conjugal bit. Monsieur de l’Estorade talked so long and so well that
after a time the salons thinned, leaving a group of the intimates of
the house around his wife and their hostess. At this moment the minister
himself slipped an arm through his, and, leading him up to the group
surrounding their two wives, Rastignac said to Madame de l’Estorade,--

“I bring you back your husband; I have just found him in criminal
conversation with a member of the Zollverin, who would probably have
clung to him all night if it had not been for me.”

“I was myself on the point of asking Madame de Rastignac for a bed, that
I might release her from the burden of my company, which Monsieur de
l’Estorade’s interminable conversations have put upon her.”

Madame de Rastignac protested that, on the contrary, she desired
to enjoy as long as possible Madame de l’Estorade’s company, only
regretting that she had been so often obliged to interrupt their
conversation to receive those strange objects, the newly fledged
deputies, who had come in relays to make their bow to her.

“Oh! my dear,” cried Rastignac, “here’s the session about to open, and
we really must not take these disdainful airs toward the elect of the
nation. Besides which, you will get into difficulties with madame, who,
I am told, is the protectress of one of these sovereigns of late date.”

“I?” said Madame de l’Estorade, rather surprised, and blushing a little.
She had one of those complexions, still fresh and dazzling, which are
predisposed to these flushes of color.

“Ah! true,” said Madame de Rastignac; “I had forgotten that artist who
cut out the pretty figures for your children the last time I had the
pleasure of paying you a visit. I own I was far from thinking then that
he would be one of our masters.”

“And yet, ever since then,” replied Madame de l’Estorade, “his election
has been talked about; though it must be owned that until now no one
thought seriously of it.”

“I did,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, rather eagerly, seizing the
occasion to put another star to his reputation for prophecy; “from the
first political conversation that I had with him I said--and Monsieur de
Ronquerolles is here to bear me out--that I was surprised at the ability
and the breadth of aim he manifested.”

“Certainly,” said the personage thus interpellated, “he is not an
ordinary fellow; but I do not believe in his future. He is a man who
goes by the first impulsion, and, as Monsieur de Talleyrand has wisely
remarked, the first impulse is the good impulse.”

“Well, monsieur?” inquired Madame de l’Estorade, ingenuously.

“Well, madame,” replied Monsieur de Ronquerolles, who was vain of his
scepticism, “heroism is not of our day; it is heavy baggage, horribly
embarrassing, which gets us into mud-holes continually.”

“Nevertheless, I believe that great qualities of heart and mind have
some share in the composition of a distinguished man.”

“Qualities of mind? Yes, you are right there, provided always they work
in a certain direction. But as for qualities of the heart in political
life, what good are they?--to hoist you on stilts with which you can’t
walk as well as you can on the ground, and from which you are liable to
fall and break your neck at the first push.”

“At that rate,” said Madame de Rastignac, laughing, while Madame de
l’Estorade was silent, disdaining to reply, “the political world must be
peopled by none but scoundrels.”

“That is so, madame,--ask Lazarille”; and as he made this allusion to a
famous stage joke, he laid his hand on the minister’s shoulder.

“My dear fellow,” said Rastignac, “I think your generalities are a
little too particular.”

“No, no; but come,” returned Monsieur de Ronquerolles, “let us talk
seriously. To my knowledge, this Monsieur de Sallenauve--that is the
name I think he has taken in exchange for Dorlange, which he himself
called theatrical--has done, within a short time, two fine actions. I,
being present and assisting, saw him stand up to be killed by the Duc de
Rhetore, on account of certain ill-sounding words said about a friend.
Those words, in the first place, he could not help hearing; and having
heard them it was, I will not say his duty, but his _right_ to resent
them.”

“Ah!” said Madame de Rastignac, “then it was he who fought that duel
people said so much about?”

“Yes, madame, and I ought to say--for I understand such matters--that at
the meeting he behaved with consummate bravery.”

To avoid the recital of the second fine action, Madame de l’Estorade, at
the risk of impolitely cutting short a topic thus begun, rose, and made
an almost imperceptible sign to her husband that she wished to go. But
Monsieur de l’Estorade took advantage of its faintness to stay where he
was.

Monsieur de Ronquerolles continued:--

“His other fine action was to throw himself in front of some runaway
horses to save madame’s daughter from imminent death.”

All eyes turned on Madame de l’Estorade, who, this time, blushed deeply;
but recovering speech, if only in order to seem composed, she said with
feeling,--

“According to your theory of heroism you must think Monsieur de
Sallenauve very foolish to have thus risked his life and his future; but
I assure you that there is one woman who will never agree with you, and
that is--the mother of my child.”

As she said the words, tears were in Madame de l’Estorade’s voice; she
pressed Madame de Rastignac’s hand affectionately, and made so decided a
movement to leave the room that she finally put in motion her immovable
husband.

“Thank you,” said Madame de Rastignac, as she accompanied her to
the door, “for having broken a lance with that cynic; Monsieur de
Rastignac’s past life has left him with odious acquaintances.”

As she resumed her place, Monsieur de Ronquerolles was saying,--

“Ha! saved her child’s life indeed! The fact is that poor l’Estorade is
turning as yellow as a lemon.”

“Ah, monsieur, but that is shocking,” cried Madame de Rastignac. “A
woman whom no breath of slander has ever touched; who lives only for her
husband and children; whose eyes were full of tears at the mere thought
of the danger the child had run!--”

“Heavens! madame,” retorted Monsieur de Ronquerolles, paying no heed to
the rebuke, “all I can say is that newfoundlands are always dangerous.
If Madame de l’Estorade becomes too much compromised, she has one
resource,--she can marry him to the girl he saved.”

Monsieur de Ronquerolles had no sooner said the words than he perceived
the horrible blunder he had committed in making such a speech before
Mademoiselle de Nucingen. He colored high,--a most unusual sign in
him,--and the solemn silence which seemed to wrap all present completed
his discomfiture.

“This clock must be slow,” said the minister, catching at any words
that would make a sound and break up an evening that was ending
unfortunately.

“True,” said de Ronquerolles, looking at his watch; “it is a quarter to
twelve.”

He bowed to Madame de Rastignac ceremoniously, and went away, followed
by the rest of the company.

“You saw his embarrassment,” said Rastignac to his wife; “he had no
malicious intention in what he said.”

“It is of no consequence. I was saying just now to Madame de
l’Estorade’s that your past life had given you a number of detestable
acquaintances.”

“But, my dear, the King himself is compelled to smile graciously on men
he would fain put in the Bastille,--if we still had a Bastille and the
Charter permitted him.”

Madame de Rastignac made no reply, and without bidding her husband
good-night, she went up to her room. A few moments later the minister
went to the private door which led into it, and not finding the key in
the lock, he said, “Augusta!” in the tone of voice a simple bourgeois
might have used in such a case.

For all answer, he heard a bolt run hastily on the other side of the
door.

“Ah!” he thought to himself with a gesture of vexation, “there are some
pasts very different from that door,--they are always wide open to the
present.”

Then, after a moment’s silence, he added, to cover his retreat,
“Augusta, I wanted to ask you what hour Madame de l’Estorade receives. I
ought to call upon her to-morrow, after what happened here to-night.”

“At four o’clock,” said the young wife through the door,--“on her return
from the Tuileries, where she takes the children to walk every day.”

One of the questions that were frequently put by Parisian society after
the marriage of Madame de Rastignac was: “Does she love her husband?”

The doubt was permissible. The marriage of Mademoiselle de Nucingen was
the unpleasant and scarcely moral product of one of those immoral
unions which find their issue in the life of a daughter, after years and
satiety have brought them to a condition of dry-rot and paralysis. In
such marriages of _convenience_ the husband is satisfied, for he
escapes a happiness which has turned rancid to him, and he profits by
a speculation like that of the magician in the “Arabian Nights” who
exchanges old lamps for new. But the wife, on the contrary, must ever
feel a living memory between herself and her husband; a memory which may
revive, and while wholly outside of the empire of the senses, has the
force of an old authority antagonistic to her young influence. In such a
position the wife is a victim.

During the short time we have taken to give this brief analysis of a
situation too frequently existing, Rastignac lingered at the door.

“Well,” he said at last, deciding to retire, “good-night, Augusta.”

As he said the words, rather piteously, the door opened suddenly,
and his wife, throwing herself into his arms, laid her head upon his
shoulder sobbing.

The question was answered: Madame de Rastignac loved her husband; but
for all that, the distant muttering of a subterranean fire might be
heard beneath the flowers of their garden.



III. A MINISTER’S MORNING

The next day, when Rastignac entered his office, the adjoining
waiting-room was already occupied by eleven persons waiting with letters
of introduction to solicit favors, also two peers of France and several
deputies.

Presently a bell rang. The usher, with an eagerness which communicated
itself to all present, entered the sanctum; an instant later he came
out, bearing this stereotyped message:--

“The minister is obliged to attend a Council. He will, however, have the
honor to receive the gentlemen of the two Chambers. As for the others,
they can call again at another time.”

“What other time?” asked one of the postponed; “this is the third time
in three days that I have come here uselessly.”

The usher made a gesture which meant, “It is not my affair; I follow my
orders.” But hearing certain murmurs as to the _privilege_ granted to
honorable members, he said, with a certain solemnity,--

“The honorable gentlemen came to discuss affairs of public interest with
his Excellency.”

The office-seekers, being compelled to accept this fib, departed. After
which the bell rang again. The usher then assumed his most gracious
expression of face. By natural affinity, the lucky ones had gathered in
a group at one end of the room. Though they had never seen one another
before, most of them being the offspring of the late national lying-in,
they seemed to recognize a certain representative air which is very
difficult to define, though it can never be mistaken. The usher, not
venturing to choose among so many eminent personages, turned a mute,
caressing glance on all, as if to say,--

“Whom shall I have the honor of first announcing?”

“Gentlemen,” said Colonel Franchessini, “I believe I have seen you all
arrive.”

And he walked to the closed door, which the usher threw open, announcing
in a loud, clear voice,--

“Monsieur le Colonel Franchessini!”

“Ha! so you are the first this morning,” said the minister, making a few
steps towards the colonel, and giving him his hand. “What have you come
for, my dear fellow?--a railroad, a canal, a suspension bridge?”

“I have come, my good-natured minister, on private business in which you
are more interested than I.”

“That is not a judicious way of urging it, for I warn you I pay little
or no attention to my own business.”

“I had a visit from Maxime this morning, on his return from
Arcis-sur-Aube,” said the colonel, coming to the point. “He gave me all
the particulars of that election. He thinks a spoke might be put in the
wheel of it. Now, if you have time to let me make a few explanations--”

The minister, who was sitting before his desk with his back to the
fireplace, turned round to look at the clock.

“Look here, my dear fellow,” he said, “I’m afraid you will be long, and
I have a hungry pack outside there waiting for me. I shouldn’t listen to
you comfortably. Do me the favor to go and take a walk and come back at
twelve o’clock to breakfast. I’ll present you to Madame de Rastignac,
whom you don’t know, I think, and after breakfast we will take a few
turns in the garden; then I can listen to you in peace.”

“Very good, I accept that arrangement,” said the colonel, rising.

As he crossed the waiting-room, he said,--

“Messieurs, I have not delayed you long, I hope.”

Then, after distributing a few grasps of the hand, he departed.

Three hours later, when the colonel entered the salon where he was
presented to Madame de Rastignac, he found there the Baron de Nucingen,
who came nearly every day to breakfast with his son-in-law before
the Bourse hour, Emile Blondet of the “Debats,” Messieurs Moreau (de
l’Oise), Dionis, and Camusot, three deputies madly loquacious, and two
newly elected deputies whose names it is doubtful if Rastignac knew
himself. Franchessini also recognized Martial de la Roche-Hugon, the
minister’s brother-in-law, and the inevitable des Lupeaulx, peer of
France. As for another figure, who stood talking with the minister
for some time in the recess of a window, the colonel learned, after
inquiring of Emile Blondet, that it was that of a former functionary of
the upper police, who continued, as an amateur, to do part of his former
business, going daily to each minister under all administrations with as
much zeal and regularity as if he were still charged with his official
duties.

Madame de Rastignac seen at close quarters seemed to the colonel a
handsome blonde, not at all languishing. She was strikingly like
her mother, but with that shade of greater distinction which in the
descendants of parvenus increases from generation to generation as they
advance from their source. The last drop of the primitive Goriot blood
had evaporated in this charming young woman, who was particularly
remarkable for the high-bred delicacy of all her extremities, the
absence of which in Madame de Nucingen had shown the daughter of Pere
Goriot.

As the colonel wished to retain a footing in the house he now entered
for the first time, he talked about his wife.

“She lived,” he said, “in the old English fashion, in her _home_; but he
should be most glad to bring her out of her retreat in order to present
her to Madame de Rastignac if the latter would graciously consent.”

“Now,” said the minister, dropping the arm of Emile Blondet, with whom
he had been conversing, “let us go into the garden,”--adding, as soon as
they were alone, “We want no ears about us in this matter.”

“Maxime came to see me, as I told you,” said the colonel, “on his return
from Arcis-sur-Aube, and he is full of an idea of discovering something
about the pretended parentage of this sculptor by which to oust him--”

“I know,” interrupted Rastignac; “he spoke to me about that idea, and
there’s neither rhyme nor reason in it. Either this Sallenauve has some
value, or he is a mere cipher. If the latter, it is useless to employ
such a dangerous instrument as the man Maxime proposes to neutralize a
power that does not exist. If, on the other hand, this new deputy
proves really an orator, we can deal with him in the tribune and in the
newspapers without the help of such underground measures. General rule:
in a land of unbridled publicity like ours, wherever the hand of the
police appears, if even to lay bare the most shameful villany, there’s
always a hue and cry against the government. Public opinion behaves like
the man to whom another man sang an air of Mozart to prove that Mozart
was a great musician. Was he vanquished by evidence? ‘Mozart,’ he
replied to the singer, ‘may have been a great musician, but you, my dear
fellow, have a cold in your head.’”

“There’s a great deal of truth in what you say,” replied Franchessini;
“but the man whom Maxime wants to unmask may be one of those
honest mediocrities who make themselves a thorn in the side of all
administrations; your most dangerous adversaries are not the giants of
oratory.”

“I expect to find out the real weight of the man before long,” replied
Rastignac, “from a source I have more confidence in than I have in
Monsieur de Trailles. On this very occasion he has allowed himself to be
tripped up, and now wants to compensate by heroic measures for his own
lack of ability. As for your other man, I shall not employ him for the
purpose Maxime suggests, but you may tell him from me--”

“Yes!” said Franchessini, with redoubled attention.

“--that if he meddles in politics, as he shows an inclination to do,
there are certain deplorable memories in his life--”

“But they are only memories now; he has made himself a new skin.”

“I know all about him,” replied Rastignac; “do you suppose there are
no other detectives in Paris? I know that since 1830, when he took
Bibi-Lupin’s place as chief of the detective police, he has given his
life a most respectable bourgeois character; the only fault I find is
that he overdoes it.”

“And yet--” said the colonel.

“He is rich,” continued Rastignac, not heeding the interruption. “His
salary is twelve thousand francs, and he has the three hundred thousand
Lucien de Rubempre left him,--also the proceeds of a manufactory of
varnished leather which he started at Gentilly; it pays him a large
profit. His aunt, Jacqueline Collin, who lives with him, still does a
shady business secretly, which of course brings in large fees, and I
have the best of reasons for believing that they both gamble at the
Bourse. He is so anxious to keep out of the mud that he has gone to the
other extreme. Every evening he plays dominoes, like any bourgeois, in
a cafe near the Prefecture, and Sundays he goes out to a little box of a
place he has bought near the forest of Romainville, in the Saint-Gervais
meadows; there he cultivates blue dahlias, and talked, last year, of
crowning a Rosiere. All that, my dear colonel, is too bucolic to allow
of my employing him on any political police-work.”

“I think myself,” said Franchessini, “that in order not to attract
attention, he rolls himself too much into a ball.”

“Make him unwind, and then, if he wants to return to active life and
take a hand in politics, he may find some honest way of doing so. He’ll
never make a Saint Vincent de Paul,--though the saint was at the galleys
once upon a time; but there are plenty of ways in which he could get a
third or fourth class reputation. If Monsieur de Saint-Esteve, as he now
calls himself, takes that course, and I am still in power, tell him to
come and see me; I might employ him then.”

“That is something, certainly,” said Franchessini, aloud; but he thought
to himself that since the days of the pension Vauquer the minister
had taken long strides and that roles had changed between himself and
Vautrin.

“You can tell him what I say,” continued Rastignac, going up the steps
of the portico, “but be cautious how you word it.”

“Don’t be uneasy,” replied the colonel. “I will speak to him
judiciously, for he’s a man who must not be pushed too far; there are
some old scores in life one can’t wipe out.”

The minister, by making no reply to this remark, seemed to admit the
truth of it.

“You must be in the Chamber when the king opens it; we shall want all
the enthusiasm we can muster,” said Rastignac to the colonel, as they
parted.

The latter, when he took leave of Madame de Rastignac, asked on what day
he might have the honor of presenting his wife.

“Why, any day,” replied the countess, “but particularly on Fridays.”



IV. A CATECHISM

Rastignac called on Madame de l’Estorade the next day at the hour named
to him by his wife. Like all those present at the scene produced by
Monsieur de Ronquerolles, the minister had been struck by the emotion
shown by the countess, and, without stopping to analyze the nature of
the sentiment she might feel for the man who had saved her child, he was
convinced of her serious interest in him.

By the suddenness and the masterly stroke of his election, Sallenauve
had become an object of strong interest to the minister,--all the
more because up to the last moment his candidacy was not seriously
considered. It was now known that in the preparatory meeting he had
given proofs of talent. To his active and dangerous party, which had but
few representatives in the Chamber, he might become an organ that would
echo far. By his peculiar position of birth and fortune, whatever
might be the truth of it, he was one who could do without the favors of
government; and all information obtained about him went to show that he
was a man of grave character and opinions, who could not be turned from
his chosen way.

On the other hand, the cloud upon his life might at a given moment serve
to neutralize his honor; and Rastignac, while rejecting the proposal of
de Trailles and Franchessini to put the mystery into the hands of the
police, did not himself renounce a means which, dangerous as it seemed
to him, he might use if occasion warranted.

In this situation Madame de l’Estorade could be useful to him in two
ways. Through her he could meet the new deputy accidentally, without
appearing to seek him, and thus study him at his ease, in order to know
if he had a vulnerable point accessible to persuasion. And, secondly,
if he found him unpersuadable, he could let Madame de l’Estorade know
in confidence of the secret inquiry about to be carried on into
Sallenauve’s antecedents, which, conveyed by her to the deputy,
would have the effect of making him cautious and, consequently, less
aggressive.

However, his immediate plan suffered some modification; for Madame
de l’Estorade was not at home, and he was just leaving the house when
Monsieur de l’Estorade returned on foot.

“My wife will be here soon,” he said; “she has gone to Ville d’Avray
with her daughter, and Monsieur and Madame Octave de Camps. Monsieur
Marie-Gaston, one of our good friends,--you know, the charming poet who
married Louise de Chaulieu,--has a country-house in that neighborhood,
where his wife died. He returned there to-day for the first time since
his misfortune; and these ladies have had the charity to meet him there,
and so lessen the first shock of his recollections.”

“I can therefore hardly hope to see her to-day; and it was to her, and
not to you, my dear count, that I came to offer my excuses for the scene
of last night which seemed to annoy her much. Say to her, if you please,
that I will take another opportunity of doing so,--By the bye,” he
added, “the election of your friend Sallenauve is making a devilish
talk; the king spoke to me about it this morning, and I did not please
him by repeating the favorable opinion you expressed of the new deputy
last night.”

“Well, but you know the tribune is a reef on which reputations are often
wrecked. I am sorry you represented Sallenauve to the king as being on
intimate terms with us. I have nothing to do with elections; but I may
say that I did all I could to dissuade this objectionable candidate from
presenting himself.”

“Of course the king cannot blame you for merely knowing an Opposition
deputy.”

“No; but last night, in your salon, you seemed to imply that my wife
was much interested in him. I did not wish to contradict you before
witnesses; besides, really, one can’t repudiate a man to whom we
are under a great obligation. But my wife, ever since the day he was
nominated, feels that our gratitude has become a burden. She was saying
to me the other day that we had better let the acquaintance die out.”

“Not, I hope, until you have done me a service by means of it,” said
Rastignac.

“At your orders, my dear minister, in all things.”

“I want to meet this man and judge him for myself. To send him an
invitation to dinner would be useless; under the eye of his party, he
would not dare accept it, or if he did, he would be on his guard, and
I should not see him as he is. But if I met him accidentally, I should
find him without armor, and I could feel for his vulnerable spots.”

“To invite you both to dine with me might be open to the same objection;
but I could, one of these evenings, make sure of a visit from him, and
let you know--Stop!” cried Monsieur de l’Estorade; “a bright idea has
come to me.”

“If it is really bright,” thought Rastignac, “it is fortunate I did not
meet the wife.”

“We are just about to give a children’s ball,--a fancy of my little
girl, to which Madame de l’Estorade, weary of refusing, has at last
consented; the child wishes it to be given in celebration of her rescue.
Of course, therefore, the rescuer is a necessary and integral part of
the affair. Come to the ball, and I promise you noise enough to cover
all investigations of your man; and certainly premeditation will never
be suspected at such a meeting.”

“You are too good,” replied Rastignac, pressing the peer’s hand
affectionately. “Perhaps we had better say nothing about it to Madame de
l’Estorade; a mere hint given to our man would put him on his guard, and
I want to spring upon him suddenly, like a tiger on his prey.”

“That’s understood--complete surprise to everybody.”

“Adieu, then,” said Rastignac; “I shall make the king laugh to-morrow at
the notion of children plotting politics.”

“Ah!” replied Monsieur de l’Estorade, philosophically, “but isn’t that
how life itself is carried on?--great effects from little causes.”

Rastignac had scarcely departed before Madame de l’Estorade returned
with Nais and Monsieur and Madame de Camps.

“My dear,” said her husband, “you have just missed a charming visitor.”

“Who was it?” asked the countess, indifferently.

“The minister of Public Works, who came to make you his excuses. He
noticed with regret the disagreeable impression made upon you by the
theories of that scamp de Ronquerolles.”

“He has taken a good deal of trouble for a very small matter,” said
Madame de l’Estorade, not sharing her husband’s enthusiasm.

“But all the same,” he replied, “it was very gracious of him to think
of your feelings.” Then, in order to change the conversation, he asked
Madame de Camps about their visit.

“Oh!” she replied, “the place is enchanting; you have no idea of its
elegance and _comfort_.”

“How about Gaston?” asked Monsieur de l’Estorade.

“He was, I won’t say very calm,” replied Madame de l’Estorade, “but
at any rate master of himself. His condition satisfied me all the more
because the day had begun by a serious annoyance to him.”

“What was it?”

“Monsieur de Sallenauve could not come with him,” replied Nais, taking
upon herself to reply.

She was one of those children brought up in a hot-house, who put
themselves forward much oftener than they ought to do.

“Nais,” said Madame de l’Estorade, “go to Mary and tell her to do up
your hair.”

The child understood perfectly well that she was sent away for speaking
improperly, and she made a face as she left the room.

“This morning,” said Madame de l’Estorade as soon as Nais had shut the
door, “Monsieur Gaston and Monsieur de Sallenauve were to start together
for Ville d’Avray, and meet us there, as agreed upon. But last night
they had a visit from that organist who took such an active part in the
election. He came to hear the Italian housekeeper sing and judge if she
were ready to go upon the stage.”

“Yes, yes,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade; “of course Sallenauve wants to
get rid of her now that he has ceased to make statues.”

“Just so,” replied Madame de l’Estorade, with a slight tone of asperity.
“In order to put a stop to all calumny Monsieur de Sallenauve wishes her
to carry out her idea of going on the stage; but he wanted, in the
first place, an opinion he could trust. Monsieur Gaston and Monsieur de
Sallenauve accompanied the organist to Saint-Sulpice, where, during the
services of the Month of Mary, the Italian woman sings every evening.
After hearing her, the organist said she had a fine contralto that was
worth, at the lowest, sixty thousand francs a year.”

“Just the revenue of my iron-works,” remarked Monsieur de Camps.

“That evening,” continued Madame de l’Estorade, “Monsieur de Sallenauve
told his housekeeper the opinion given of her talent, and with great
kindness and delicacy let her know that she must now carry out her
intention of supporting herself in that way. ‘Yes,’ she replied, ‘I
think the time has come. We will talk of it later’; and she stopped the
conversation. This morning when the breakfast hour came, there was no
sign of her. Thinking she must be ill, Monsieur de Sallenauve sent
an old charwoman who does the rough work of the house to her room. No
answer. Much disturbed, Monsieur Gaston and Monsieur de Sallenauve went
themselves to see what it meant. After knocking and calling in vain,
they determined to open the door, the key of which was outside. In the
room no housekeeper! but in place of her a letter addressed to Monsieur
de Sallenauve, in which she said that finding herself an embarrassment
to him, she had retired to the house of one of her friends, thanking him
for all his goodness to her.”

“The bird has found its wings,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, “and takes
flight.”

“That is not Monsieur de Sallenauve’s idea,” replied the countess; “he
does not believe in such ingratitude. He is confident that, feeling
herself a burden to him and yielding to the desperation which is natural
to her, she felt obliged to leave his house without giving him a chance
in any manner to provide for her future.”

“A good riddance!” remarked Monsieur de l’Estorade.

“Neither Monsieur de Sallenauve nor Monsieur Gaston takes that stoical
view of it. In view of the headstrong nature of the woman, they fear
some violence to herself, which, as we know, she once attempted. Or else
they dread some evil adviser. The charwoman states that two or three
visits have been lately made at the house by a lady of middle age,
richly dressed, in a carriage, whose manner was singular, and who seemed
to desire secrecy in speaking with Luigia.”

“Some charitable woman, of course,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade; “the
runaway is given to piety.”

“At any rate the truth must be discovered, and it was that which kept
Monsieur de Sallenauve from accompanying Monsieur Gaston to Ville
d’Avray.”

“Well,” remarked Monsieur de l’Estorade, “in spite of their respective
virtue, it is my opinion he holds by her.”

“In any case,” returned Madame de l’Estorade, emphasizing the word, “she
does not _hold_ by him.”

“I don’t agree with you,” said Madame de Camps; “to avoid a man is often
the greatest proof of love.”

Madame de l’Estorade looked at her friend with a vexed air, and a slight
tinge of color came into her cheeks. But no one took notice of it, for
at this moment the servant threw open the door and announced dinner.

After dinner, the theatre was proposed; that is one of the amusements
that Parisians miss the most in the provinces. Monsieur Octave de Camps,
coming from his “villanous iron-works,” as Madame de l’Estorade called
them, had arrived in Paris eager for this pleasure, which his wife, more
serious and sober, did not enjoy to the same extent. Therefore, when
Monsieur de Camps proposed going to the Porte-Saint-Martin to see a
fairy piece then much in vogue, Madame Octave replied:--

“Neither Madame de l’Estorade nor I have the least desire to go out this
evening; we are very tired with our expedition. Take Rene and Nais; they
will enjoy the fairies far more than we.”

The two children awaited in deep anxiety the permission which Madame
de l’Estorade finally granted; and a few moments later the two friends,
left to themselves, prepared for an evening of comfortable talk.

“I am not at home to any one,” said Madame de l’Estorade to Lucas, as
soon as her family had departed.

“Now that we are alone,” said Madame de Camps, “I shall proceed to
blows; I have not travelled two hundred miles to wrap up in cotton-wool
the truth I have come to tell you.”

“Ready to hear it,” said Madame de l’Estorade, laughing.

“Your last letter, my dear, simply frightened me.”

“Why? Because I told you I was trying to keep a man at a distance?”

“Yes. Why keep him at a distance? If Monsieur de Camps or Monsieur
Gaston or Monsieur de Rastignac were to make a practice of coming here
habitually, would you trouble yourself about them?”

“No; but they have not the same claim upon me: it is that I fear.”

“Tell me, do you think Monsieur de Sallenauve loves you?”

“No; I am now quite sure to the contrary; and I also think that on my
side--”

“We’ll talk about that presently; now I want to ask if you desire
Monsieur de Sallenauve to love you?”

“Heaven forbid!”

“Well, then, the best possible way to make him do so is to wound his
self-love, and show yourself unjust and ungrateful to him; you will only
force him to think the more of you.”

“But, my dear friend, isn’t that a very far-fetched observation?”

“Did you never observe that men are more taken by our snubs than by our
caresses? Severity fixes their attention upon us.”

“If that were so, all the men we disdain and never think of would sigh
for us.”

“Oh! my dear, don’t make me talk such nonsense. To take fire, a man must
have some degree of combustibility; and if that _other_ person is lost
to him forever, why shouldn’t he, as you said yourself, ricochet upon
you?”

“That other person is not lost to him; he expects, more than ever, to
find her by the help of a very clever seeker, the mother-superior of a
convent at Arcis.”

“Very good; then why employ the delay in holding him at arm’s-length,--a
proceeding which will only draw him towards you?”

“My dear moralist, I don’t admit your theory in the least. As for
Monsieur de Sallenauve, he will be much too busy with his duties in
the Chamber to think of me. Besides, he is a man who is full of
self-respect; he will be mortified by my manner, which will seem to him
both ungrateful and unjust. If I try to put two feet of distance between
us, he will put four; you may rely on that.”

“And _you_, my dear?” asked Madame de Camps.

“How do you mean?--I?”

“You who are not busy, who have no Chamber to occupy your mind; you who
have, I will agree, a great deal of self-respect, but who know as little
about the things of the heart as the veriest school-girl,--what
will become of you under the dangerous system you are imposing upon
yourself?”

“If I don’t love him when near, I shall certainly love him still less at
a distance.”

“So that when you see him take his ostracism coolly, your self-love as a
woman will not be piqued.”

“Certainly not; that is precisely the result I desire.”

“And if you find, on the contrary, that he complains of you, or if
he does not complain, that he suffers from your treatment, will your
conscience tell you absolutely nothing?”

“It will tell me that I am doing right, and that I could not do
otherwise.”

“And if success attends him and fame with its hundred voices talks of
him, how will you think of him?”

“As I think of Monsieur Thiers and Monsieur Berryer.”

“And Nais, who adores him and will probably say, the first time he dines
with you, ‘Ah! mamma, how well he talks!’--”

“If you are going to argue on the chatter of a child--”

“And Monsieur de l’Estorade, who already irritates you? He is beginning
to-day to sacrifice him to the spirit of party; shall you silence
him every time he makes some malevolent insinuation about Monsieur de
Sallenauve, and denies his honor and his talent?--you know the judgment
people make on those who do not think as we do.”

“In short,” said Madame de l’Estorade, “you are trying to make me admit
that the surest way to think of a person is to put him out of sight.”

“Listen to me, my dear,” said Madame de Camps, with a slight touch of
gravity. “I have read and re-read your letters. You were there your
own self, more natural and less quibbling than you are now, and an
impression has remained upon my mind: it is that Monsieur de Sallenauve
has touched your heart, though he may not have entered it.”

Madame de l’Estorade made a gesture of denial, but the confessor went
on:--

“I know that idea provokes you; you can’t very well admit to me what you
have studiously denied to yourself. But what is, is. We don’t say of
a man, ‘A sort of magnetism issues from him, one feels his eye without
meeting it’; we don’t cry out, ‘I am invulnerable on the side of love,’
without having had some prickings of it.”

“But so many things have happened since I wrote that nonsense.”

“True, he was only a sculptor then, and before long he may be a
minister,--not like Monsieur de Rastignac, but like our great poet,
Canalis.”

“I like sermons with definite deductions,” said Madame de l’Estorade,
with a touch of impatience.

“That is what Vergniaud said to Robespierre on the 31st of May, and I
reply, with Robespierre, Yes, I’ll draw my conclusion; and it is
against your self-confidence as a woman, who, having reached the age
of thirty-two without a suspicion of what love is, cannot admit that at
this late date she may be subjected to the common law.”

“But what I want is a practical conclusion,” said Madame de l’Estorade,
tapping her foot.

“My practical conclusion,--here it is,” replied Madame Octave. “If you
will not persist in the folly of swimming against the current, I see
no danger whatever in your being submerged. You are strong; you have
principles and religion; you adore your children; you love Monsieur
de l’Estorade, their father, in them. With all that ballast you cannot
sink.”

“Well?” said Madame de l’Estorade, interrogatively.

“Well, there is no need to have recourse to violent measures, the
success of which is very problematical. Remain as you are; build no
barricades when no one attacks you. Don’t excite tempests of heart and
conscience merely to pacify your conscience and quiet your heart, now
ruffled only by a tiny breeze. No doubt between a man and a woman the
sentiment of friendship does take something of the character ordinarily
given to love; but such friendship is neither an impossible illusion nor
is it a yawning gulf.”

“Then,” said Madame de l’Estorade, with a thoughtful air, “do you wish
me to make a friend of Monsieur de Sallenauve?”

“Yes, dear, in order not to make him a fixed idea, a regret, a
struggle,--three things which poison life.”

“But my husband, who has already had a touch of jealousy?”

“As for your husband, I find him somewhat changed, and not for the
better. I miss that deference he always showed to you personally, to
your ideas and impressions,--a deference which honored him more than he
thought, because there is true greatness in the power to admire. I
may be mistaken, but it seems to me that public life is spoiling him
a little. As you cannot be with him in the Chamber of peers, he is
beginning to suspect that he can have a life without you. If I were you,
I should watch these symptoms of independence, and not let the work of
your lifetime come to nought.”

“Do you know, my dear,” said Madame de l’Estorade, laughing, “that you
are giving me advice that may end in fire and slaughter?”

“Not at all. I am a woman forty-five years of age, who has always seen
things on their practical side. I did not marry my husband, whom I
loved, until I had convinced myself, by putting him to the test, that
he was worthy of my esteem. I don’t make life; I take it as it
comes,--trying to put order and _possibility_ into all the occurrences
it brings to me. I an neither the frenzied passion of Louise de
Chaulieu, nor the insensible reason of Renee de Maucombe. I am a Jesuit
in petticoats, persuaded that rather wide sleeves are better than
sleeves that are tight to the wrist; and I have never gone in search of
the philosopher’s stone--”

At this instant Lucas opened the door of the salon and announced,--

“Monsieur le Comte de Sallenauve.”

His mistress gave him a look inquiring why he had disobeyed her orders,
to which Lucas replied by a sign implying that he did not suppose the
prohibition applied in this instance.

Madame de Camps, who had never yet seen the new deputy, now gave her
closest attention to a study of him.

Sallenauve explained his visit by his great desire to know how matters
had gone at Ville d’Avray, and whether Marie-Gaston had been deeply
affected by his return there. As for the business which detained him
in Paris, he said he had so far met with no success. He had seen
the prefect of police, who had given him a letter to Monsieur
de Saint-Esteve, the chief of the detective police. Aware of the
antecedents of that man, Monsieur de Sallenauve expressed himself as
much surprised to find a functionary with extremely good manners and
bearing; but he held out faint hope of success. “A woman hiding in
Paris,” he said, “is an eel in its safest hole.” He (Sallenauve) should
continue the search the next day with the help of Jacques Bricheteau;
but if nothing came of it, he should go in the evening to Ville d’Avray,
for he did not, he said, share Madame de l’Estorade’s security as to
Gaston’s state of mind.

As he was taking leave, Madame de l’Estorade said to him,--

“Do not forget Nais’ ball which takes place the day after to-morrow.
You will affront her mortally if you fail to be present. Try to bring
Monsieur Gaston with you. It might divert his mind a little.”



V. CHILDREN

On his return from the theatre Monsieur Octave de Camps declared that it
would be long before they caught him at a _fairy_ piece again. But Nais,
on the contrary, still under the spell of its marvels gave a lively
recital of the scene, which showed how much her imagination was capable
of being stirred.

As Madame de Camps and her husband walked away together, the former
remarked,--

“That child is really very disquieting. Madame de l’Estorade develops
her too much; I should not be surprised if she gave her a great deal of
trouble in future years.”

It would be difficult to mark the precise moment in our contemporary
habits and customs when a new species of religion, which might be called
child-idolatry, appeared. Nor shall we find it easier to discover by
what species of influence this worship has reached its present enormous
development among us. But, although unexplained, the fact exists and
ought to be recorded by every faithful historian of the great and the
little movements of society. In the family of to-day children have taken
the place of the household gods of the ancients, and whoever does not
share this worship is not a morose and sour spirit, nor a captious and
annoying reasoner,--he is simply an atheist.

Try to amuse one of these beloved adored ones, all puffed up, as they
naturally are, by a sense of their importance, with dolls and toys
and Punch-and-Judys, as in the days of our unsophisticated innocence!
Nonsense! Boys must have ponies and cigarettes, and the reading of
novelettes; and girls, the delight of playing hostess, giving afternoon
dances, and evening parties at which the real Guignol of the Champs
Elysees and Robert Houdin appear,--the entertainment being announced
on the invitation cards. Sometimes, as now in the case of Nais de
l’Estorade, these little sovereigns obtain permission to give a ball in
_grown-up_ style,--so much so, that policemen are stationed about the
doors, and Delisle, Nattier, and Prevost provide the toilets and the
decorations.

With the character we have already seen in Nais, it may be said that no
one was better fitted than she for the duties that devolved upon her
by the abdication of her mother. This abdication took place before the
evening of the ball itself, for it was Mademoiselle Nais de l’Estorade
who, in her own name, invited her guests to do her the honor to pass
the evening _chez elle_; and as Madame de l’Estorade would not allow the
parody to go as far as printed cards, Nais spent several days
writing her notes of invitation, taking care to put in the corner, in
conspicuous letters, the sacramental word, “Dancing.”

Nothing could be more curious, or, as Madame de Camps might have said,
more alarming, than the self-possession of this little girl of fourteen,
behaving precisely as she had seen her mother do on like occasions;
stationed, to receive her company, at the door of the salon, and marking
by her manner the proper grades of welcome, from eager cordiality to a
coldness that verged on disdain. To her best friends she gave her hand
in truly English style; for the rest she had smiles, apportioned to the
degrees of intimacy,--simple inclination of the head for unknown
guests or those of less account; with little speeches now and then, and
delicious mamma-like airs for the tiny children whom it is necessary to
ask to these juvenile routs, however dangerous and difficult to manage
that element may be.

With the fathers and mothers of her guests, as the ball was not given
for them, Nais as a general thing reversed the nature of the Gospel
invocation, _Sinite parvulos venire ad me_, and was careful not to
pass the limit of cold though respectful politeness. But when Lucas,
following the instructions he had received, reversed the natural order
of things and announced, “Mesdemoiselles de la Roche-Hugon, Madame la
Baronne de la Roche-Hugon, and Madame la Comtesse de Rastignac,” the
little strategist laid aside her reserve, and, running up to the wife of
the minister, she took her hand and pressed it to her lips with charming
grace.

After the dancing began, Nais was unable to accept all the invitations
which the elegant young lions vied with one another in pressing upon
her; in fact, she grew sadly confused as to the number and order of
her engagements,--a circumstance which very nearly led, in spite of the
_entente cordiale_, to an open rupture between France and perfidious
Albion. A quadrille doubly promised, to a young English peer aged ten
and a pupil in the Naval School of about the same years, came very near
producing unpleasant complications, inasmuch as the young British scion
of nobility had assumed a boxing attitude. That fray pacified, another
annoying episode occurred. A small boy, seeing a servant with a tray of
refreshments and being unable to reach up to the objects of his greed,
had the deplorable idea of putting his hand on the edge of the tray and
bending it down to him. Result: a cascade of mingled orgeat, negus,
and syrups; and happy would it have been had the young author of this
mischief been the only sufferer from the sugary torrent; but, alas!
nearly a dozen innocent victims were splashed and spattered by the
disastrous accident,--among them four or five bacchantes, who were
furious at seeing their toilets injured, and would fain have made an
Orpheus of the clumsy infant. While he was being rescued with great
difficulty from their clutches by the German governess, a voice was
heard amid the hubbub,--that of a pretty little blonde, saying to a
small Scottish youth with whom she had danced the whole evening,--

“How odd of Nais to invite little boys of that age!”

“That’s easily explained,” said the Scottish youth; “he’s a boy of the
Treasury department. Nais had to ask him on account of her parents,--a
matter of policy, you know.”

Then, taking the arm of one of his friends, the same youth continued:--

“Hey, Ernest,” he said, “I’d like a cigar; suppose we find a quiet
corner, out of the way of all this racket?”

“I can’t, my dear fellow,” replied Ernest, in a whisper; “you know
Leontine always makes me a scene when she smells I’ve been smoking, and
she is charming to me to-night. See, look at what she has given me!”

“A horse-hair ring!” exclaimed the Scot, disdainfully, “with two locked
hearts; all the boys at school have them.”

“What have you to show that’s better?” replied Ernest, in a piqued tone.

“Oh!” said the Scot, with a superior air, “something much better.”

And drawing from the pouch which formed an integral part of his costume
a note on violet paper highly perfumed,--

“There,” he said, putting it under Ernest’s nose, “smell that!”

Indelicate friend that he was, Ernest pounced upon the note and took
possession of it. The Scottish youth, furious, flung himself upon the
treacherous French boy; on which Monsieur de l’Estorade, a thousand
leagues from imagining the subject of the quarrel, intervened and parted
the combatants, which enabled the ravisher to escape into a corner of
the salon to enjoy his booty. The note contained no writing. The young
scamp had probably taken the paper out of his mother’s blotting-book.
A moment after, returning to his adversary and giving him the note, he
said in a jeering tone,--

“There’s your note; it is awfully compromising.”

“Keep it, monsieur,” replied the Scot. “I shall ask for it to-morrow
in the Tuileries, under the horse-chestnuts; meantime, you will please
understand that all intercourse is at an end between us.”

Ernest was less knightly; he contented himself with putting the thumb
of his right hand to his nose and spreading the fingers,--an ironical
gesture he had acquired from his mother’s coachman; after which he ran
to find his partner for the next quadrille.

But what details are these on which we are wasting time, when we know
that interests of the highest order are moving, subterraneously, beneath
the surface of the children’s ball.

Arriving from Ville d’Avray late in the afternoon, Sallenauve had
brought Madame de l’Estorade ill news of Marie-Gaston. Under an
appearance of resignation, he was gloomy, and, singular to say, he had
not visited the grave of his wife,--as if he feared an emotion he might
not have the power to master. It seemed to Sallenauve that his friend
had come to the end of his strength, and that a mental prostration of
the worst character was succeeding the over-excitement he had shown at
his election. One thing reassured the new deputy, and enabled him to
come to Paris for, at any rate, a few hours. A friend of Marie-Gaston,
an English nobleman with whom he had been intimate in Florence, came out
to see him, and the sad man greeted the new-comer with apparent joy.

In order to distract Sallenauve’s thoughts from this anxiety, Madame de
l’Estorade introduced him to Monsieur Octave de Camps, the latter having
expressed a great desire to know him. The deputy had not talked
ten minutes with the iron-master before he reached his heart by the
magnitude of the metallurgical knowledge his conversation indicated.

During the year in which he had been preparing for a parliamentary life,
Sallenauve had busied himself by acquiring the practical knowledge which
enables an orator of the Chamber to take part in all discussions and
have reasons to give for his general views. He had turned his attention
more especially to matters connected with the great question of the
revenue and taxation; such, for instance, as the custom-house, laws of
exchange, stamp duties, and taxation, direct and indirect. Approaching
in this manner that problematical science--which is, nevertheless, so
sure of itself!--called political economy, Sallenauve had also studied
the sources which contribute to form the great current of national
prosperity; and in this connection the subject of mines, the topic
at this moment most interesting to Monsieur de Camps, had not been
neglected by him. We can imagine the admiration of the iron-master, who
had studied too exclusively the subject of iron ore to know much about
the other branches of metallurgy, when the young deputy told him,
apropos of the wealth of our soil, a sort of Arabian Nights tale, which,
if science would only take hold of it, might become a reality.

“But, monsieur, do you really believe,” cried Monsieur de Camps, “that,
besides our coal and iron mines, we possess mines of copper, lead, and,
possibly, silver?”

“If you will take the trouble to consult certain specialists,” replied
Sallenauve, “you will find that neither the boasted strata of Bohemia
and Saxony nor even those of Russia and Hungary can be compared to those
hidden in the Pyrenees, in the Alps from Briancon to the Isere, in
the Cevennes on the Lozere side, in the Puy-de-Dome, Bretagne, and the
Vosges. In the Vosges, more especially about the town of Saint-Die, I
can point out to you a single vein of the mineral of silver which
lies to the depth of fifty to eighty metres with a length of thirteen
kilometres.”

“But, monsieur, why has such untold metallurgical wealth never been
worked?”

“It has been, in former days,” replied Sallenauve, “especially during
the Roman occupation of Gaul. After the fall of the Roman Empire, the
work was abandoned; but the lords of the soil and the clergy renewed it
in the middle ages; after that, during the struggle of feudality against
the royal power and the long civil wars which devastated France, the
work was again suspended, and has never since been taken up.”

“Are you sure of what you say?”

“Ancient authors, Strabo and others, all mention these mines, and the
tradition of their existence still lingers in the regions where they are
situated; decrees of emperors and the ordinances of certain of our kings
bear testimony to the value of their products; in certain places more
material proof may be found in excavations of considerable depth and
length, in galleries and halls cut in the solid rock,--in short, in the
many traces still existing of those vast works which have immortalized
Roman industry. To this must be added that the modern study of
geological science has confirmed and developed these irrefutable
indications.”

The imagination of Monsieur Octave de Camps, hitherto limited to the
development of a single iron-mine, took fire, and he was about to
ask his instructor to give him his ideas on the manner of awakening a
practical interest in the matter, when Lucas, throwing wide open the
double doors of the salon, announced in his loudest and most pompous
voice,--

“Monsieur the minister of Public Works.”

The effect produced on the elders of the assembly was electric.

“I want to see what sort of figure that little Rastignac cuts as a
statesman,” said Monsieur de Camps, rising from his seat; but in his
heart he was thinking of the government subsidy he wanted for his
iron-mine. The new deputy, on his side, foresaw an inevitable meeting
with the minister, and wondered what his friends in the Opposition would
say when they read in the “National” that a representative of the Left
was seen to have an interview with a minister celebrated for his art in
converting political opponents. Anxious also to return to Marie-Gaston,
he resolved to profit by the general stir created by the minister’s
arrival to slip away; and by a masterly manoeuvre he made his way slyly
to the door of the salon, expecting to escape without being seen. But
he reckoned without Nais, to whom he was engaged for a quadrille. That
small girl sounded the alarm at the moment when he laid his hand on the
handle of the door; and Monsieur de l’Estorade, mindful of his promise
to Rastignac, hastened to put a stop to the desertion. Finding his quiet
retreat impossible, Sallenauve was afraid that an open departure after
the arrival of the minister might be construed as an act of puritanical
opposition in the worst taste; he therefore accepted the situation
promptly, and decided to remain.

Monsieur de l’Estorade knew that Sallenauve was far too wise to be the
dupe of any artifices he might have used to bring about his introduction
to the minister. He therefore went straight to the point, and soon after
Rastignac’s arrival he slipped his arm through that of the statesman,
and, approaching the deputy, said to him,--

“Monsieur the minister of Public Works, who, on the eve of the battle,
wishes me to introduce him to a general of the enemy’s army.”

“Monsieur le ministre does me too much honor,” replied Sallenauve,
ceremoniously. “Far from being a general, I am a private soldier, and a
very unknown one.”

“Hum!” said the minister; “it seems to me that the battle at
Arcis-sur-Aube was not an insignificant victory; you routed our ranks,
monsieur, in a singular manner.”

“There was nothing wonderful in that; you must have heard that a saint
fought for us.”

“Well, at any rate,” said Rastignac, “I prefer this result to the one
arranged for us by a man I thought cleverer than he proved to be, whom
I sent down there. It seems that Beauvisage is a perfect nonentity;
he’d have rubbed off upon us; and after all, he was really as much Left
centre as the other man, Giguet. Now the Left centre is our real enemy,
because it is aiming to get our portfolios.”

“Oh!” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, “after what we heard of the man, I
think he would have done exactly what was wanted of him.”

“My dear friend, don’t believe that,” said the minister. “Fools are
often more tenacious of the flag under which they enlisted than we think
for. Besides, to go over to the enemy is to make a choice, and that
supposes an operation of the mind; it is much easier to be obstinate.”

“I agree with the minister,” said Sallenauve; “extreme innocence
and extreme rascality are equally able to defend themselves against
seduction.”

Here Monsieur de l’Estorade, seeing, or pretending to see, a signal made
to him, looked over his shoulder and said,--

“I’m coming.”

And the two adversaries being thus buckled together, he hastened away as
if summoned to some duty as master of the house.

Sallenauve was anxious not to seem disturbed at finding himself alone
with the minister. The meeting having come about, he decided to endure
it with a good grace, and, taking the first word, he asked if the
ministry had prepared, in view of the coming sessions, a large number of
bills.

“No, very few,” replied Rastignac. “To tell the truth, we do not expect
to be in power very long; we brought about an election because in the
general confusion into which the press has thrown public opinion, our
constitutional duty was to force that opinion to reconstitute itself;
but the fact is, we did not expect the result to be favorable to us, and
we are therefore taken somewhat unawares.”

“You are like the peasant,” said Sallenauve, laughing, “who, expecting
the end of the world, did not sow his wheat.”

“Well, we don’t look upon our retirement as the end of the world,” said
Rastignac, modestly; “there are men to come after us, and many of
them well able to govern; only, as we expected to give but few more
representations in that transitory abode called ‘power,’ we have
not unpacked either our costumes or our scenery. Besides, the coming
session, in any case, can only be a business session. The question now
is, of course, between the palace, that is, personal influence, and the
doctrine of parliamentary supremacy. This question will naturally come
up when the vote is taken on the secret-service fund. Whenever, in one
way or the other, that is settled, and the budget is voted, together
with a few bills of secondary interest, Parliament has really completed
its task; it will have put an end to a distressing struggle, and the
country will know to which of the two parties it can look for the
development of its prosperity.”

“And you think,” said Sallenauve, “that in a well-balanced system of
government that question is a useful one to raise?”

“Well,” replied Rastignac, “we have not raised it. It is born perhaps
of circumstances; a great deal, as I think, from the restlessness of
certain ambitions, and also from the tactics of parties.”

“So that, in your opinion, one of the combatants is not guilty and has
absolutely nothing to reproach himself with?”

“You are a republican,” said Rastignac, “and therefore, _a priori_, an
enemy to the dynasty. I think I should lose my time in trying to change
your ideas on the policy you complain of.”

“You are mistaken,” said the theoretical republican deputy; “I have no
preconceived hatred to the reigning dynasty. I even think that in
its past, _striped_, if I may say so, with royal affinities and
revolutionary memories, it has all that is needed to respond to the
liberal and monarchical instincts of the nation. But you will find it
difficult to persuade me that in the present head of the dynasty we
shall not find extreme ideas of personal influence, which in the long
run will undermine and subvert the finest as well as the strongest
institutions.”

“Yes,” said Rastignac, ironically, “and they are saved by the famous
axiom of the deputy of Sancerre: ‘The king reigns, but does not
govern.’”

Whether he was tired of standing to converse, or whether he wished to
prove his ease in releasing himself from the trap which had evidently
been laid for him, Sallenauve, before replying, drew up a chair for his
interlocutor, and, taking one himself, said,--

“Will you permit me to cite the example of another royal behavior?--that
of a prince who was not considered indifferent to his royal prerogative,
and who was not ignorant of constitutional mechanism--”

“Louis XVIII.,” said Rastignac, “or, as the newspapers used to call him,
‘the illustrious author of the Charter’?”

“Precisely; and will you kindly tell me where he died?”

“_Parbleu_! at the Tuileries.”

“And his successor?”

“In exile--Oh! I see what you are coming to.”

“My conclusion is certainly not difficult to guess. But have you fully
remarked the deduction to be drawn from that royal career?--for which I
myself feel the greatest respect. Louis XVIII. was not a citizen king.
He granted this Charter, but he never consented to it. Born nearer to
the throne than the prince whose regrettable tendencies I mentioned
just now, he might naturally share more deeply still the ideas,
the prejudices, and the infatuations of the court; in person he was
ridiculous (a serious princely defect in France); he bore the brunt of a
new and untried regime; he succeeded a government which had intoxicated
the people with that splendid gilded smoke called glory; and if he was
not actually brought back to France by foreigners, at any rate he came
as the result of the armed invasion of Europe. Now, shall I tell you
why, in spite of all these defects and disadvantages, in spite, too, of
the ceaseless conspiracy kept up against his government, it was given to
him to die tranquilly in his bed at the Tuileries?”

“Because he had made himself a constitutional king,” said Rastignac,
with a slight shrug of his shoulders. “But do you mean to say that we
are not that?”

“In the letter, yes; in the spirit, no. When Louis XVIII. gave his
confidence to a minister, he gave it sincerely and wholly. He did
not cheat him; he played honestly into his hand,--witness the famous
ordinance of September 5, and the dissolution of the Chamber, which was
more Royalist than himself,--a thing he had the wisdom not to desire.
Later, a movement of public opinion shook the minister who had led him
along that path; that minister was his favorite, his son, as he called
him. No matter; yielding to the constitutional necessity, he bravely
sent him to foreign parts, after loading him with crosses and
titles,--in short, with everything that could soften the pain of his
fall; and he did not watch and manoeuvre surreptitiously to bring him
back to power, which that minister never regained.”

“For a man who declares he does not hate us,” said Rastignac, “you
treat us rather roughly. According to you we are almost faithless to the
constitutional compact, and our policy, to your thinking ambiguous and
tortuous, gives us a certain distant likeness to Monsieur Doublemain in
the ‘Mariage de Figaro.’”

“I do not say that the evil is as deep as that,” replied Sallenauve;
“perhaps, after all, _we_ are simply a _faiseur_,--using the word, be it
understood, in the sense of a meddler, one who wants to have his finger
in everything.”

“Ah! monsieur, but suppose we are the ablest politician in the country.”

“If we are, it does not follow that our kingdom ought not to have the
chance of becoming as able as ourselves.”

“_Parbleu_!” cried Rastignac, in the tone of a man who comes to the
climax of a conversation, “I wish I had power to realize a wish--”

“And that is?”

“To see you grappling with that ability which you call meddlesome.”

“Well, you know, Monsieur le ministre, that we all spend three fourths
of life in wishing for the impossible.”

“Why impossible? Would you be the first man of the Opposition to be seen
at the Tuileries? An invitation to dinner given publicly, openly, which
would, by bringing you into contact with one whom you misjudge at a
distance--”

“I should have the honor to refuse.”

And he emphasized the words _have the honor_ in a way to show the
meaning he attached to them.

“You are all alike, you men of the Opposition!” cried the minister;
“you won’t let yourselves be enlightened when the opportunity presents
itself; or, to put it better, you--”

“Do you call the rays of those gigantic red bottles in a chemist’s shop
_light_, when they flash into your eyes as you pass them after dark?
Don’t they, on the contrary, seem to blind you?”

“It is not our rays that frighten you,” said Rastignac; “it is the dark
lantern of your party watchmen on their rounds.”

“There may be some truth in what you say; a party and the man who
undertakes to represent it are in some degree a married couple, who in
order to live peaceably together must be mutually courteous, frank, and
faithful in heart as well as in principle.”

“Well, try to be moderate. Your dream is far more impossible to realize
than mine; the day will come when you will have more to say about the
courtesy of your chaste better half.”

“If there is an evil for which I ought to be prepared, it is that.”

“Do you think so? With the lofty and generous sentiments so apparent in
your nature, shall you remain impassive under political attack,--under
calumny, for instance?”

“You yourself, Monsieur le ministre, have not escaped its venom; but it
did not, I think, deter you from your course.”

“But,” said Rastignac, lowering his voice, “suppose I were to tell you
that I have already sternly refused to listen to a proposal to search
into your private life on a certain side which, being more in the shade
than the rest, seems to offer your enemies a chance to entrap you.”

“I do not thank you for the honor you have done yourself in rejecting
with contempt the proposals of men who can be neither of my party nor of
yours; they belong to the party of base appetites and selfish passions.
But, supposing the impossible, had they found some acceptance from
you, pray believe that my course, which follows the dictates of my
conscience, could not be affected thereby.”

“But your party,--consider for a moment its elements: a jumble of
foiled ambitions, brutal greed, plagiarists of ‘93, despots disguising
themselves as lovers of liberty.”

“My party has nothing, and seeks to gain something. Yours calls itself
conservative, and it is right; its chief concern is how to preserve its
power, offices, and wealth,--in short, all it now monopolizes.”

“But, monsieur, we are not a closed way; we open our way, on the
contrary, to all ambitions. But the higher you are in character and
intellect, the less we can allow you to pass, dragging after you your
train of democrats; for the day when that crew gains the upper hand it
will not be a change of policy, but a revolution.”

“But what makes you think I want an opening of any kind?”

“What! follow a course without an aim?--a course that leads nowhere? A
certain development of a man’s faculties not only gives him the right
but makes it his duty to seek to govern.”

“To watch the governing power is a useful career, and, I may add, a very
busy one.”

“You can fancy, monsieur,” said Rastignac, good-humoredly, “that if
Beauvisage were in your place I should not have taken the trouble to
argue with him; I may say, however, that he would have made my effort
less difficult.”

“This meeting, which _chance_ has brought about between us,” said
Sallenauve, “will have one beneficial result; we understand each
other henceforth, and our future meetings will always therefore be
courteous--which will not lessen the strength of our convictions.”

“Then I must say to the king--for I had his royal commands to--”

Rastignac did not end the sentence in which he was, so to speak, firing
his last gun, for the orchestra began to play a quadrille, and Nais,
running up, made him a coquettish courtesy, saying,--

“Monsieur le ministre, I am very sorry, but you have taken my partner,
and you must give him up. He is down for my eleventh quadrille, and if I
miss it my list gets into terrible confusion.”

“You permit me, monsieur?” said Sallenauve, laughing. “As you see, I am
not a very savage republican.” So saying, he followed Nais, who led him
along by the hand.

Madame de l’Estorade, comprehending that this fancy of Nais was rather
compromising to the dignity of the new deputy, had arranged that several
papas and mammas should figure in the same quadrille; and she herself
with the Scottish lad danced _vis-a-vis_ to her daughter, who beamed
with pride and joy. In the evolutions of the last figure, where Nais had
to take her mother’s hand, she said, pressing it passionately,--

“Poor mamma! if it hadn’t been for _him_, you wouldn’t have me now.”

This sudden reminder so agitated Madame de l’Estorade, coming as it did
unexpectedly, that she was seized with a return of the nervous trembling
her daughter’s danger had originally caused, and was forced to sit down.
Seeing her change color, Sallenauve, Nais, and Madame Octave de Camps
ran to her to know if she were ill.

“It is nothing,” she answered, addressing Sallenauve; “only that my
little girl reminded me suddenly of the utmost obligation we are under
to you, monsieur. ‘Without _him_,’ she said, ‘you would not have me.’
Ah! monsieur, without your generous courage where would my child be
now?”

“Come, come, don’t excite yourself,” interposed Madame Octave de Camps,
observing the convulsive and almost gasping tone of her friend’s voice.
“It is not reasonable to put yourself in such a state for a child’s
speech.”

“She is better than the rest of us,” replied Madame de l’Estorade,
taking Nais in her arms.

“Come, mamma, be reasonable,” said that young lady.

“She puts nothing in the world,” continued Madame de l’Estorade, “before
her gratitude to her preserver, whereas her father and I have scarcely
shown him any.”

“But, madame,” said Sallenauve, “you have courteously--”

“Courteously!” interrupted Nais, shaking her pretty head with an air of
disapproval; “if any one had saved my daughter, I should be different to
him from that.”

“Nais,” said Madame de Camps, sternly, “children should be silent when
their opinion is not asked.”

“What is the matter,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, joining the group.

“Nothing,” said Madame de Camps; “only a giddiness Renee had in
dancing.”

“Is it over?”

“Yes, I am quite well again,” said Madame de l’Estorade.

“Then come and say good-night to Madame de Rastignac, who is preparing
to take leave.”

In his eagerness to get to the minister’s wife, he forgot to give
his own wife his arm. Sallenauve was more thoughtful. As they walked
together in the wake of her husband, Madame de l’Estorade said,--

“I saw you talking for a long time with Monsieur de Rastignac; did he
practise his well-known seductions upon you?”

“Do you think he succeeded?” replied Sallenauve.

“No; but such attempts to capture are always disagreeable, and I beg
you to believe that I was not a party to the plot. I am not so violently
ministerial as my husband.”

“Nor I as violently revolutionary as they think.”

“I trust that these annoying politics, which have already produced a
jar between you and Monsieur de l’Estorade, may not disgust you with the
idea of being counted among our friends.”

“That is an honor, madame, for which I can only be grateful.”

“It is not an honor but a pleasure that I hoped you would find in it,”
 said Madame de l’Estorade, quickly. “I say, with Nais, if I had saved
the life of a friend’s child, I should cease to be ceremonious with
her.”

So saying, and without listening to his answer, she disengaged her arm
quickly from that of Sallenauve, and left him rather astonished at the
tone in which she had spoken.

In seeing Madame de l’Estorade so completely docile to the advice, more
clever than prudent, perhaps, of Madame de Camps, the reader, we think,
can scarcely be surprised. A certain attraction has been evident for
some time on the part of the frigid countess not only to the preserver
of her daughter, but to the man who under such romantic and singular
circumstances had come before her mind. Carefully considered, Madame de
l’Estorade is seen to be far from one of those impassible natures which
resist all affectionate emotions except those of the family. With a
beauty that was partly Spanish, she had eyes which her friend Louise
de Chaulieu declared could ripen peaches. Her coldness was not what
physicians call congenital; her temperament was an acquired one.
Marrying from _reason_ a man whose mental insufficiency is very
apparent, she made herself love him out of pity and a sense of
protection. Up to the present time, by means of a certain atrophy of
heart, she had succeeded, without one failure, in making Monsieur de
l’Estorade perfectly happy. With the same instinct, she had exaggerated
the maternal sentiment to an almost inconceivable degree, until in that
way she had fairly stifled all the other cravings of her nature. It must
be said, however, that the success she had had in accomplishing this
hard task was due in a great measure to _the circumstance_ of Louise de
Chaulieu. To her that dear mistaken one was like the drunken slave whom
the Spartans made a living lesson to their children; and between the two
friends a sort of tacit wager was established. Louise having taken the
side of romantic passion, Renee held firmly to that of superior reason;
and in order to win the game, she had maintained a courage of good sense
and wisdom which might have cost her far more to practise without this
incentive. At the age she had now reached, and with her long habit
of self-control, we can understand how, seeing, as she believed, the
approach of a love against which she had preached so vehemently, she
should instantly set to work to rebuff it; but a man who did not feel
that love, while thinking her ideally beautiful, and who possibly
loved elsewhere,--a man who had saved her child from death and asked
no recompense, who was grave, serious, and preoccupied in an absorbing
enterprise,--why should she still continue to think such a man
dangerous? Why not grant to him, without further hesitation, the
lukewarm sentiment of friendship?



VI. CURIOSITY THAT CAME WITHIN AN ACE OF BEING FATAL

On returning to Ville d’Avray, Sallenauve was confronted by a singular
event. Who does not know how sudden events upset the whole course of our
lives, and place us, without our will, in compromising positions?

Sallenauve was not mistaken in feeling serious anxiety as to the mental
state of his friend Marie-Gaston.

When that unfortunate man had left the scene of his cruel loss
immediately after the death of his wife, he would have done a wiser
thing had he then resolved never to revisit it. Nature, providentially
ordered, provides that if those whose nearest and dearest are struck by
the hand of death accept the decree with the resignation which ought to
follow the execution of all necessary law, they will not remain too long
under the influence of their grief. Rousseau has said, in his famous
letter against suicide: “Sadness, weariness of spirit, regret, despair
are not lasting sorrows, rooted forever in the soul; experience will
always cast out that feeling of bitterness which makes us at first
believe our grief eternal.”

But this truth ceases to be true for imprudent and wilful persons, who
seek to escape the first anguish of sorrow by flight or some violent
distraction. All mental and moral suffering is a species of illness
which, taking time for its specific, will gradually wear out, in the
long run, of itself. If, on the contrary, it is not allowed to consume
itself slowly on the scene of its trouble, if it is fanned into flame by
motion or violent remedies, we hinder the action of nature; we deprive
ourselves of the blessed relief of comparative forgetfulness, promised
to those who will accept their suffering, and so transform it into a
chronic affection, the memories of which, though hidden, are none the
less true and deep.

If we violently oppose this salutary process, we produce an acute evil,
in which the imagination acts upon the heart; and as the latter from
its nature is limited, while the former is infinite, it is impossible
to calculate the violence of the impressions to which a man may yield
himself.

When Marie-Gaston returned to the house at Ville d’Avray, after two
years’ absence, he fancied that only a tender if melancholy memory
awaited him; but not a step could he make without recalling his lost
joys and the agony of losing them. The flowers that his wife had loved,
the lawns, the trees just budding into greenness under the warm breath
of May,--they were here before his eyes; but she who had created this
beauteous nature was lying cold in the earth. Amid all the charms and
elegances gathered to adorn this nest of their love, there was nothing
for the man who rashly returned to that dangerous atmosphere but sounds
of lamentation, the moans of a renewed and now ever-living grief.
Alarmed himself at the vertigo of sorrow which seized him, Marie-Gaston
shrank, as Sallenauve had said, from taking the last step in his ordeal;
he had calmly discussed with his friend the details of the mausoleum he
wished to raise above the mortal remains of his beloved Louise, but he
had not yet brought himself to visit her grave in the village cemetery
where he had laid them. There was everything, therefore, to fear from
a grief which time had not only not assuaged, but, on the contrary, had
increased by duration, until it was sharper and more intolerable than
before.

The gates were opened by Philippe, the old servant, who had been
constituted by Madame Gaston majordomo of the establishment.

“How is your master?” asked Sallenauve.

“He has gone away, monsieur,” replied Philippe.

“Gone away!”

“Yes, monsieur; with that English gentleman whom monsieur left here with
him.”

“But without a word to me! Do you know where they have gone?”

“After dinner, which went off very well, monsieur suddenly gave orders
to pack his travelling-trunk; he did part of it himself. During that
time the Englishman, who said he would go into the park and smoke, asked
me privately where he could go to write a letter without monsieur seeing
him. I took him to my room; but I did not dare question him about
this journey, for I never saw any one with such forbidding and
uncommunicative manners. By the time the letter was written monsieur
was ready, and without giving me any explanation they both got into
the Englishman’s carriage, and I heard one of them say to the coachman,
‘Paris.’”

“What became of the letter?” asked Sallenauve.

“It is there in my room, where the Englishman gave it me secretly. It is
addressed to monsieur.”

“Fetch it at once, my dear man,” cried Sallenauve.

After reading the letter, his face seemed to Philippe convulsed.

“Tell them not to unharness,” he said; and he read the letter through a
second time.

When the old servant returned after executing the order, Sallenauve
asked him at what hour they had started.

“About nine,” answered Philippe.

“Three hours in advance!” muttered the deputy, looking at his watch, and
returning to the carriage which had brought him. As he was getting into
it, the old majordomo forced himself to say,--

“Monsieur found no bad news in that letter, did he?”

“No; but your master may be absent for some time; keep the house in good
order.” Then he said to the coachman, “Paris!”

The next day, quite early in the morning, Monsieur de l’Estorade was in
his study, employed in a rather singular manner. It will be remembered
that on the day when Sallenauve, then Dorlange the sculptor, had sent
him the bust of Madame de l’Estorade, he had not found a place where, as
he thought, the little masterpiece had a proper light. From the moment
that Rastignac hinted to him that his intercourse with the sculptor,
now deputy, might injure him at court, he had agreed with his son Armand
that the artist had given to Madame de l’Estorade the air of a grisette;
but now that Sallenauve, by his resistance to ministerial blandishments,
had taken an openly hostile attitude to the government, that bust seemed
to the peer of France no longer worthy of exhibition, and the worthy man
was now engaged in finding some dark corner where, without recourse to
the absurdity of actually hiding it, it would be out of range to the
eyes of visitors, whose questions as to its maker he should no longer
be forced to answer. He was therefore perched on the highest step of
his library ladder, holding in his hands the gift of the sculptor, and
preparing to relegate it to the top of a bookcase, where it was destined
to keep company with an owl and a cormorant shot by Armand during the
recent holidays and stuffed by paternal pride, when the door of the
study opened and Lucas announced,--

“Monsieur Philippe.”

The age of the old majordomo and the confidential post he occupied in
Marie-Gaston’s establishment seemed to the factotum of the house of
l’Estorade to authorize the designation of “monsieur,”--a civility
expectant of return, be it understood.

Descending from his eminence, the peer of France asked Philippe what
brought him, and whether anything had happened at Ville d’Avray. The old
servant related the singular departure of his master, and the no less
singular departure of Sallenauve without a word of explanation; then he
added,--

“This morning, while putting monsieur’s room in order, a letter
addressed to Madame le comtesse fell out of a book. As the letter was
sealed and all ready to be sent, I supposed that monsieur, in the hurry
of departure, had forgotten to tell me to put it in the post. I thought
therefore I had better bring it here myself. Perhaps Madame la comtesse
will find in it some explanation of this sudden journey, about which I
have dreamed all night.”

Monsieur de l’Estorade took the letter.

“Three black seals!” he said.

“The color doesn’t surprise me,” replied Philippe; “for since Madame’s
death monsieur has not laid off his mourning; but I do think three seals
are rather strange.”

“Very well,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade; “I will give the letter to my
wife.”

“If there should be anything in it to ease my mind about monsieur, would
Monsieur le comte be so kind as to let me know?” said Philippe.

“You can rely on that, my good fellow. _Au revoir_.”

“I beg Monsieur le comte’s pardon for offering an opinion,” said the
majordomo, not accepting the leave just given him to depart; “but in
case the letter contained some bad news, doesn’t Monsieur le comte think
that it would be best for him to know of it, in order to prepare Madame
la comtesse for the shock?”

“What! Do you suppose--” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, not finishing his
idea.

“I don’t know; but monsieur has been very gloomy the last few days.”

“To break the seal of a letter not addressed to us is always a serious
thing to do,” remarked the peer of France. “This bears my wife’s
address, but--in point of fact--it was never sent to her; in short, it
is most embarrassing.”

“But if by reading it some misfortune might be averted?”

“Yes, yes; that is just what keeps me in doubt.”

Here Madame de l’Estorade cut the matter short by entering the room.
Lucas had told her of the unexpected arrival of Philippe.

“Is anything the matter?” she asked with anxious curiosity.

The apprehensions Sallenauve had expressed the night before as to
Marie-Gaston’s condition returned to her mind. As soon as Philippe had
repeated the explanations he had already given to her husband, she broke
the seals of the letter.

Whatever may have been the contents of that disquieting epistle, nothing
was reflected on Madame de l’Estorade’s face.

“You say that your master left Ville d’Avray in company with an English
gentleman,” she said to Philippe. “Did he seem to go unwillingly, as if
yielding to violence?”

“No, far from that, madame; he seemed to be rather cheerful.”

“Well, there is nothing that need make us uneasy. This letter was
written some days ago, and, in spite of its three black seals, it has no
reference to anything that has happened since.”

Philippe bowed and went away. As soon as husband and wife were alone
together, Monsieur de l’Estorade said, stretching out his hand for the
letter,--

“What did he write about?”

“No, don’t read it,” said the countess, not giving him the letter.

“Why not?”

“It would pain you. It is enough for me to have had the shock; I could
scarcely control myself before that old servant.”

“Does it refer to suicide?”

Madame de l’Estorade nodded her head in affirmation.

“A real, immediate intention?”

“The letter is dated yesterday morning; and apparently, if it had not
been for the providential arrival of that Englishman, the poor fellow
would have taken advantage of Monsieur de Sallenauve’s absence last
night to kill himself.”

“The Englishman must have suspected his intention, and carried him
off to divert him from it. If that is so, he won’t let him out of his
sight.”

“And we may also count on Monsieur Sallenauve, who has probably joined
them by this time.”

“Then I don’t see that there is anything so terrible in the letter”; and
again he offered to take it.

“No,” said Madame de l’Estorade, drawing back, “if I ask you not to read
it. Why give yourself painful emotions? The letter not only expresses
the intention of suicide, but it shows that our poor friend is
completely out of his mind.”

At this instant piercing screams from Rene, her youngest child, put
Madame de l’Estorade into one of those material agitations which she
less than any other woman was able to control.

“My God!” she cried, as she rushed from the study, “what has happened?”

Less ready to be alarmed, Monsieur de l’Estorade contented himself by
going to the door and asking a servant what was the matter.

“Oh, nothing, Monsieur le comte,” replied the man. “Monsieur Rene in
shutting a drawer pinched his finger; that is all.”

The peer of France thought it unnecessary to convey himself to the scene
of action; he knew, by experience in like cases, that he must let his
wife’s exaggerated maternal solicitude have free course, on pain of
being sharply snubbed himself. As he returned to his desk, he noticed
lying on the ground the famous letter, which Madame de l’Estorade
had evidently dropped in her hasty flight. Opportunity and a certain
fatality which appears to preside over the conduct of all human affairs,
impelled Monsieur de l’Estorade, who thought little of the shock his
wife had dreaded for him, to satisfy his curiosity by reading the
letter.

Marie-Gaston wrote as follows:--

  Madame,--This letter will seem to you less amusing than those I
  addressed to you from Arcis-sur-Aube. But I trust you will not be
  alarmed by the decision which I now announce. I am going to rejoin
  my wife, from whom I have been too long separated; and this
  evening, shortly after midnight, I shall be with her, never to
  part again.

  You have, no doubt, said to yourselves--you and Sallenauve--that I
  was acting strangely in not visiting her grave; that is a remark
  that two of my servants made the other day, not being aware that I
  overheard them. I should certainly be a great fool to go and look
  at a stone in the cemetery which can make me no response, when
  every night, at twelve o’clock, I hear a little rap on the door of
  my room, and our dear Louise comes in, not changed at all, except,
  as I think, more plump and beautiful. She has had great trouble in
  obtaining permission from Marie, queen of angels, to withdraw me
  from earth. But last night she brought me formal leave, sealed
  with green wax; and she also gave me a tiny vial of hydrocyanic
  acid. A single drop of that acid puts us to sleep, and on waking
  up we find ourselves on the other side.

  Louise desired me to give you a message from her. I am to tell you
  that Monsieur de l’Estorade has a disease of the liver and will
  not live long, and that after his death you are to marry
  Sallenauve, because, on the _other side_, husbands and wives who
  really love each other are reunited; and she thinks we shall all
  four--she and I and you and Sallenauve--be much happier together
  than if we had your present husband, who is very dull, and whom
  you married reluctantly.

  My message given, nothing remains for me, madame, but to wish you
  all the patience you need to continue for your allotted time in
  this low world, and to subscribe myself
Your very affectionately devoted

Marie-Gaston.


If, after reading this letter, it had occurred to Monsieur de l’Estorade
to look at himself in the glass, he would have seen, in the sudden
convulsion and discoloration of his face, the outward and visible signs
of the terrible blow which his unfortunate curiosity had brought down
upon him. His heart, his mind, his self-respect staggered under one and
the same shock; the madness evident in the sort of prediction made about
him only added to his sense of its horror. Presently convincing himself,
like a mussulman, that madmen have the gift of second sight, he believed
he was a lost man, and instantly a stabbing pain began on his liver
side, while in the direction of Sallenauve, his predicted successor,
an awful hatred succeeded to his mild good-will. But at the same time,
conscious of the total want of reason and even of the absurdity of the
impression which had suddenly surged into his mind, he was afraid lest
its existence should be suspected, and he looked about him to see in
what way he could conceal from his wife his fatal indiscretion, the
consequences of which must forever weigh upon his life. It was certain,
he thought, that if she found the paper in his study she would deduce
therefrom the fact that he had read it. Rising from his desk, he softly
opened the door leading from the study to the salon, crossed the latter
room on tiptoe, and dropped the letter at the farther end of it, as
Madame de l’Estorade might suppose she had herself done in her hasty
departure. Then returning to his study, he scattered his papers over his
desk, like a school-boy up to mischief, who wants to mislead his master
by a show of application, intending to appear absorbed in his accounts
when his wife returned. Useless to add that he listened with keen
anxiety lest some other person than she should come into the salon; in
which case he determined to rush out and prevent other eyes from reading
the dreadful secrets contained in that paper.

Presently, however, the voice of Madame de l’Estorade, speaking to some
one at the door of the salon, reassured him as to the success of his
trick, and a moment later she entered the study accompanied by Monsieur
Octave de Camps. Going forward to receive his visitor, he was able
to see through the half-opened door the place where he had thrown the
letter. Not only had it disappeared, but he detected a movement which
assured him that Madame de l’Estorade had tucked it away in that part
of her gown where Louis XIV. did not dare to search for the secrets of
Mademoiselle d’Hautefort.

“I have come, my dear friend,” said Monsieur de Camps, “to get you to go
with me to Rastignac’s, as agreed on last night.”

“Very good,” said the peer, putting away his papers with a feverish
haste that plainly indicated he was not in his usual state of mind.

“Don’t you feel well?” asked Madame de l’Estorade, who knew her husband
by heart too well not to be struck by the singular stupefaction of his
manner, while at the same time, looking in his face, she saw the signs
of internal convulsion.

“True,” said Monsieur de Camps, “you certainly do not look so well as
usual. If you prefer it, we will put off this visit.”

“No, not at all,” replied Monsieur de l’Estorade. “I have tired myself
with this work, and I need the air. But what was the matter with Rene?”
 he inquired of his wife, whose attention he felt was unpleasantly fixed
upon him. “What made him cry like that?”

“Oh, a mere nothing!” she replied, not relaxing her attention.

“Well, my dear fellow,” said the peer, trying to take an easy tone,
“just let me change my coat and I’ll be with you.”

When the countess was alone with Monsieur de Camps, she said, rather
anxiously,--

“Don’t you think Monsieur de l’Estorade seems very much upset?”

“Yes; as I said just now, he does not look like himself. But the
explanation he gave seems sufficient. This office life is bad for the
health. I have never been as well as since I am actively engaged about
my iron-works.”

“Yes, certainly,” said Madame de l’Estorade, with a heavy sigh; “he
ought to have a more active life. It seems plain that there is something
amiss with his liver.”

“What! because he is so yellow? He has been so ever since I have known
him.”

“Oh, monsieur, I can’t be mistaken! There is something seriously the
matter with him; and if you would kindly do me a service--”

“Madame, I am always at your orders.”

“When Monsieur de l’Estorade returns, speak of the injury to Rene’s
finger, and tell me that little wounds like that sometimes have serious
consequences if not attended to at once, and that will give me an excuse
to send for Doctor Bianchon.”

“Certainly,” replied Monsieur de Camps; “but I really don’t think a
physician is necessary. Still, if it reassures you--”

At this moment Monsieur de l’Estorade reappeared. He had almost
recovered his usual expression of face, but he exhaled a strong odor of
_melisse des Carmes_, which indicated that he had felt the need of that
tonic. Monsieur de Camps played his part admirably, and as for Madame
de l’Estorade it did not cost her much trouble to simulate maternal
anxiety.

“My dear,” she said to her husband, when Monsieur de Camps had delivered
himself of his medical opinion, “as you return from Monsieur de
Rastignac’s, please call on Doctor Bianchon and ask him to come here.”

“Pooh!” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, shrugging his shoulders, “the idea
of disturbing a busy man like him for what you yourself said was a mere
nothing!”

“If you won’t go, I shall send Lucas; Monsieur de Camps’ opinion has
completely upset me.”

“If it pleases you to be ridiculous,” said the peer of France, crossly,
“I have no means of preventing it; but I beg you to remark one thing: if
people disturb physicians for mere nonsense, they often can’t get them
when they are really wanted.”

“Then you won’t go for the doctor?”

“Not I,” replied Monsieur de l’Estorade; “and if I had the honor of
being anything in my own house, I should forbid you to send anybody in
my place.”

“My dear, you are the master here, and since you put so much feeling
into your refusal, let us say no more; I will bear my anxiety as best I
can.”

“Come, de Camps,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade; “for if this goes on, I
shall be sent to order that child’s funeral.”

“But, my dear husband,” said the countess, taking his hand, “you must be
ill, to say such dreadful things in that cool way. Where is your usual
patience with my little maternal worries, or your exquisite politeness
for every one, your wife included?”

“But,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, getting more excited instead of
calmer, under this form of studied though friendly reproach, “your
maternal feelings are turning into monomania, and you make life
intolerable to every one but your children. The devil! suppose they are
your children; I am their father, and, though I am not adored as
they are, I have the right to request that my house be not made
uninhabitable!”

While Monsieur de l’Estorade, striding about the room, delivered himself
of this philippic, the countess made a despairing sign to Monsieur de
Camps, as if to ask him whether he did not see most alarming symptoms in
such a scene. In order to cut short the quarrel of which he had been the
involuntary cause, the latter said, as if hurried,--

“Come, let us go!”

“Yes,” replied Monsieur de l’Estorade, passing out first and neglecting
to say good-bye to his wife.

“Ah! stay; I have forgotten a message my wife gave me,” said Monsieur
de Camps, turning back to Madame de l’Estorade. “She told me to say she
would come for you at two o’clock to go and see the spring things at the
‘Jean de Paris,’ and she has arranged that after that we shall all four
go to the flower-show. When we leave Rastignac, l’Estorade and I will
come back here, and wait for you if you have not returned before us.”

Madame de l’Estorade paid little attention to this programme, for a
flash of light had illumined her mind. As soon as she was alone, she
took Marie-Gaston’s letter from her gown, and, finding it folded in the
proper manner, she exclaimed,--

“Not a doubt of it! I remember perfectly that I folded it with the
writing outside, as I put it back into the envelope; he must have read
it!”

An hour later, Madame de l’Estorade and Madame de Camps met in the same
salon where they had talked of Sallenauve a few days earlier.

“Good heavens! what is the matter with you?” cried Madame de Camps,
seeing tears on the face of her friend, who was finishing a letter she
had written.

Madame de l’Estorade told her all that had happened, and showed her
Marie-Gaston’s letter.

“Are you very sure,” asked Madame de Camps, “that your husband has read
the luckless scrawl?”

“How can I doubt it?” returned Madame de l’Estorade. “The paper can’t
have turned of itself; besides, in recalling the circumstances, I have a
dim recollection that at the moment when I started to run to Rene I felt
something drop,--fate willed that I should not stop to pick it up.”

“Often, when people strain their memories in that way they fasten on
some false indication.”

“But, my dear friend, the extraordinary change in the face and behavior
of Monsieur de l’Estorade, coming so suddenly as it did, must have
been the result of some sudden shock. He looked like a man struck by
lightning.”

“But if you account for the change in his appearance in that way, why
look for symptoms of something wrong with his liver?”

“Ah! this is not the first time I have seen symptoms of that,” replied
Madame de l’Estorade. “But you know when sick people don’t complain, we
forget about their illness. See,” and she pointed to a volume lying open
beside her; “just before you came in, I found in this medical dictionary
that persons who suffer from diseases of the liver are apt to be morose,
irritable, impatient. Well, for some time past, I have noticed a great
change in my husband’s disposition. You yourself mentioned it to me
the other day. Besides, the scene Monsieur de Camps has just
witnessed--which is, I may truly say, unprecedented in our household--is
enough to prove it.”

“My dear love, you are like those unpleasant persons who are resolved
to torture themselves. In the first place, you have looked into medical
books, which is the very height of imprudence. I defy you to read a
description of any sort of disease without fancying that either you or
some friends of yours have the symptoms of it. In the next place, you
are mixing up things; the effects of fear and of a chronic malady are
totally different.”

“No, I am not mixing them up; I know what I am talking about. You don’t
need to be told that if in our poor human machine some one part gets out
of order, it is on _that_ that any strong emotion will strike.”

“Well,” said Madame de Camps, not pursuing the medical discussion, “if
the letter of that unhappy madman has really fallen into the hands of
your husband, the peace of your home is seriously endangered; that is
the point to be discussed.”

“There are not two ways to be followed as to that,” said Madame de
l’Estorade. “Monsieur de Sallenauve must never set foot in this house
again.”

“That is precisely what I came to speak about to-day. Do you know that
last night I did not think you showed the composure which is so marked a
trait in your character?”

“When?” asked Madame de l’Estorade.

“Why, when you expressed so effusively your gratitude to Monsieur de
Sallenauve. When I advised you not to avoid him, for fear it would
induce him to keep at your heels, I never intended that you should
shower your regard upon his head in a way to turn it. The wife of so
zealous a dynastic partisan as Monsieur de l’Estorade ought to know what
the _juste milieu_ is by this time.”

“Ah! my dear, I entreat you, don’t make fun of my poor husband.”

“I am not talking of your husband, I am talking of you. Last night you
so surprised me that I have come here to take back my words. I like
people to follow my advice, but I don’t like them to go beyond it.”

“At any other time I should make you explain what horrible impropriety
I have committed under your counsel; but fate has interposed and settled
everything. Monsieur de Sallenauve will, at any cost, disappear from our
path, and therefore why discuss the degree of kindness one might have
shown him?”

“But,” said Madame de Camps, “since I must tell you all, I have come
to think him a dangerous acquaintance,--less for you than for some one
else.”

“Who?” asked Madame de l’Estorade.

“Nais. That child, with her passion for her ‘preserver,’ makes me really
uneasy.”

“Oh!” said the countess, smiling rather sadly, “are you not giving too
much importance to childish nonsense?”

“Nais is, of course, a child, but a child who will ripen quickly into a
woman. Did you not tell me yourself that you were sometimes frightened
at the intuition she showed in matters beyond her years?”

“That is true. But what you call her passion for Monsieur de Sallenauve,
besides being perfectly natural, is expressed by the dear little thing
with such freedom and publicity that the sentiment is, it seems to me,
obviously childlike.”

“Well, don’t trust to that; especially not after this troublesome being
ceases to come to your house. Suppose that when the time comes to
marry your daughter, this fancy should have smouldered in her heart and
increased; imagine your difficulty!”

“Oh! between now and then, thank Heaven! there’s time enough,” replied
Madame de l’Estorade, in a tone of incredulity.

“Between now and then,” said Madame de Camps, “Monsieur de Sallenauve
may have reached a distinction which will put his name on every lip; and
Nais, with her lively imagination, is more likely than other girls to be
dazzled by it.”

“But, my dear love, look at the disproportion in their ages.”

“Monsieur de Sallenauve is thirty, and Nais will soon be fourteen; that
is precisely the difference between you and Monsieur de l’Estorade.”

“Well, you may be right,” said Madame de l’Estorade, “and the sort of
marriage I made from reason Nais may want to make from folly. But you
needn’t be afraid; I will ruin that idol in her estimation.”

“But there again, as in the comedy of hatred you mean to play for
Monsieur de l’Estorade’s benefit, you need moderation. If you do not
manage it by careful transitions, you may miss your end. Never allow
the influence of circumstances to appear when it is desirable than an
impulse or an action should seem spontaneous.”

“But,” said Madame de l’Estorade, excitedly, “do you think that my
hatred, as you call it, will be acted? I do hate him, that man; he is
our evil genius!”

“Come, come, my dear, be calm! I don’t know you--you, you have always
been Reason incarnate.”

At this moment Lucas entered the room and asked his mistress if she
would receive _a_ Monsieur Jacques Bricheteau. Madame de l’Estorade
looked at her friend, as if to consult her.

“He is that organist who was so useful to Monsieur de Sallenauve during
the election. I don’t know what he can want of me.”

“Never mind,” said Madame de Camps, “receive him. Before beginning
hostilities it is always well to know what is going on in the enemy’s
camp.”

“Show him in,” said the countess.

Jacques Bricheteau entered. Expecting to be received in a friendly
country, he had not taken any particular pains with his dress. An old
maroon frock-coat to the cut of which it would have been difficult to
assign a date, a plaid waistcoat buttoned to the throat, surmounted by a
black cravat worn without a collar and twisted round the neck, yellowish
trousers, gray stockings, and laced shoes,--such was the more than
negligent costume in which the organist allowed himself to appear in a
countess’s salon.

Requested briefly to sit down, he said,--

“Madame, I hope I am not indiscreet in thus presenting myself without
having the honor of being known to you, but Monsieur Marie-Gaston told
me of your desire that I should give music-lessons to your daughter. At
first I replied that it was impossible, for all my time was occupied;
but the prefect of police has just afforded me some leisure by
dismissing me from a place I filled in his department; therefore I am
now happy to place myself at your disposal.”

“Your dismissal, monsieur, was caused by your activity in Monsieur de
Sallenauve’s election, was it not?” asked Madame de Camps.

“As no reason was assigned for it, I think your conjecture is probably
correct; especially as in twenty years I have had no trouble whatever
with my chiefs.”

“It can’t be denied,” said Madame de l’Estorade, sharply, “that you have
opposed the views of the government by this proceeding.”

“Consequently, madame, I have accepted this dismissal as an expected
evil. What interest, after all, had I in retaining my paltry post,
compared to that of Monsieur de Sallenauve’s election?”

“I am very sorry,” resumed Madame de l’Estorade, “to be unable to accept
the offer you are good enough to make me. But I have not yet considered
the question of a music-master for my daughter; and, in any case, I
fear that, in view of your great and recognized talent, your instruction
would be too advanced for a little girl of fourteen.”

“Well,” said Jacques Bricheteau, smiling, “no one has recognized my
talent, madame. Monsieur de Sallenauve and Monsieur Marie-Gaston have
only heard me once or twice. Apart from that I am the most obscure of
professors, and perhaps the dullest. But setting aside the question
of your daughter’s master, I wish to speak of a far more important
interest, which has, in fact, brought me here. I mean Monsieur de
Sallenauve.”

“Has Monsieur de Sallenauve,” said Madame de l’Estorade, with marked
coldness of manner, “sent you here with a message to my husband?”

“No, madame,” replied Jacques Bricheteau, “he has unfortunately given me
no message. I cannot find him. I went to Ville d’Avray this morning, and
was told that he had started on a journey with Monsieur Marie-Gaston.
The servant having told me that the object and direction of this journey
were probably known to you--”

“Not in any way,” interrupted Madame de l’Estorade.

Not as yet perceiving that his visit was unacceptable and that
no explanation was desired, Jacques Bricheteau persisted in his
statement:--

“This morning, I received a letter from the notary at Arcis-sur-Aube,
who informs me that my aunt, Mother Marie-des-Anges, desires me to be
told of a scandalous intrigue now being organized for the purpose of
ousting Monsieur de Sallenauve from his post as deputy. The absence of
our friend will seriously complicate the matter. We can take no steps
without him; and I cannot understand why he should disappear without
informing those who take the deepest interest in him.”

“That he has not informed you is certainly singular,” replied Madame
de l’Estorade, in the same freezing tone; “but as for my husband or me,
there is nothing to be surprised about.”

The meaning of this discourteous answer was too plain for Jacques
Bricheteau not to perceive it. He looked straight at the countess,
who lowered her eyes; but the whole expression of her countenance, due
north, confirmed the meaning he could no longer mistake in her words.

“Pardon me, madame,” he said, rising. “I was not aware that the future
and the reputation of Monsieur de Sallenauve had become indifferent to
you. Only a moment ago, in your antechamber, when your servant hesitated
to take in my name, Mademoiselle, your daughter, as soon as she heard I
was the friend of Monsieur de Sallenauve, took my part warmly; and I
had the stupidity to suppose that such friendliness was the tone of the
family.”

After this remark, which gave Madame de l’Estorade the full change for
her coin, Jacques Bricheteau bowed ceremoniously and was about to
leave the room, when a sudden contradiction of the countess’s comedy of
indifference appeared in the person of Nais, who rushed in exclaiming
triumphantly,--

“Mamma, a letter from Monsieur de Sallenauve!”

The countess turned crimson.

“What do you mean by running in here like a crazy girl?” she said
sternly; “and how do you know that this letter is from the person you
mention?”

“Oh!” replied Nais, twisting the knife in the wound, “when he wrote you
those letters from Arcis-sur-Aube, I saw his handwriting.”

“You are a silly, inquisitive little girl,” said her mother, driven by
these aggravating circumstances quite outside of her usual habits of
indulgence. “Go to your room.” Then she added to Jacques Bricheteau, who
lingered after the arrival of the letter,--

“Permit me, monsieur.”

“It is for me, madame, to ask permission to remain until you have
read that letter. If _by chance_ Monsieur de Sallenauve gives you any
particulars about his journey, you will, perhaps, allow me to profit by
them.”

“Monsieur de Sallenauve,” said the countess, after reading the letter,
“requests me to inform my husband that he has gone to Hanwell, county of
Middlesex, England. You can address him there, monsieur, to the care of
Doctor Ellis.”

Jacques Bricheteau made a second ceremonious bow and left the room.

“Nais has just given you a taste of her quality,” said Madame de Camps;
“but you deserved it,--you really treated that poor man too harshly.”

“I could not help it,” replied Madame de l’Estorade; “the day began
wrong, and all the rest follows suit.”

“Well, about the letter?”

“It is dreadful; read it yourself.”

  Madame,--I was able to overtake Lord Lewin, the Englishman of whom
  I spoke to you, a few miles out of Paris. Providence sent him to
  Ville d’Avray to save us from an awful misfortune. Possessing an
  immense fortune, he is, like so many of his countrymen, a victim
  to _spleen_, and it is only his natural force of character which
  has saved him from the worst results of that malady. His
  indifference to life and the perfect coolness with which he spoke
  of suicide won him Marie-Gaston’s friendship in Florence. Lord
  Lewin, having studied the subject of violent emotions, is very
  intimate with Doctor Ellis, a noted alienist, and it not
  infrequently happens that he spends two or three weeks with him at
  Hanwell, Middlesex Co., one of the best-managed lunatic asylums in
  England,--Doctor Ellis being in charge of it.

  When he arrived at Ville d’Avray, Lord Lewin saw at once that
  Marie-Gaston had all the symptoms of incipient mania. Invisible to
  other eyes, they were apparent to those of Lord Lewin. In speaking
  to me of our poor friend, he used the word _chiffonait_,--meaning
  that he picked up rubbish as he walked, bits of straw, scraps of
  paper, rusty nails, and put them carefully into his pocket. That,
  he informed me, is a marked symptom well known to those who study
  the first stages of insanity. Enticing him to the subject of their
  conversations in Florence, he obtained the fact that the poor
  fellow meditated suicide, and the reason for it. Every night,
  Gaston told him, his wife appeared to him, and he had now resolved
  to _rejoin_ her, to use his own expression. Instead of opposing
  this idea, Lord Lewin took a tone of approval. “But,” he said,
  “men such as we ought not to die in a common way. I myself have
  always had the idea of going to South America, where, not far from
  Paraguay, there is one of the greatest cataracts in the world,
  --the Saut de Gayra. The mists rising from it can be seen at a
  distance of many miles. An enormous volume of water is suddenly
  forced through a narrow channel, and rushes with terrific force
  and the noise of a hundred thunder-claps into the gulf below.
  There, indeed, one could find a noble death.”

  “Let us go there,” said Gaston.

  “Yes,” said Lord Lewin, “I am ready to go at once; we must sail
  from England; it will take a few weeks to get there.”

  In this way, madame, he enticed our poor friend to England, where,
  as you will already have supposed, he has placed him in charge of
  Doctor Ellis, who, they say, has not his equal in Europe for the
  treatment of this particular form of mental aberration.

  I joined them at Beauvais, and have followed them to Hanwell,
  taking care not to be seen by Marie-Gaston. Here I shall be
  detained until the doctor is able to give a decided opinion as to
  the probable results of our friend’s condition. I greatly fear,
  however, that I cannot possibly return to Paris in time for the
  opening of the session. But I shall write to the president of the
  Chamber, and in case any questions regarding my absence should
  arise, may I ask Monsieur de l’Estorade to do me the favor of
  stating that, to his knowledge, I have been absolutely forced by
  sufficient reasons to absent myself? He will, of course,
  understand that I ought not to explain under any circumstances the
  nature of the affair which has taken me out of the country at this
  unlucky time; but I am certain it will be all-sufficient if a man
  of Monsieur de l’Estorade’s position and character guarantees the
  necessity of my absence.

  I beg you to accept, madame, etc., etc.

As Madame de Camps finished reading the letter, the sound of a carriage
entering the courtyard was heard.

“There are the gentlemen,” said the countess. “Now, had I better show
this letter to my husband or not?”

“You can’t avoid doing so,” replied Madame de Camps. “In the first
place, Nais will chatter about it. Besides, Monsieur de Sallenauve
addresses you in a most respectful manner, and there is nothing in the
letter to feed your husband’s notion.”

“Who is that common-looking man I met on the stairs talking with Nais?”
 said Monsieur de l’Estorade to his wife, as he entered the salon.

As Madame de l’Estorade did not seem to understand him, he added,--

“He is pitted with the small-pox, and wears a maroon coat and shabby
hat.”

“Oh!” said Madame de Camps, addressing her friend; “it must be the man
who was here just now. Nais has seized the occasion to inquire about her
idol.”

“But who is he?” repeated Monsieur de l’Estorade.

“I think his name is Bricheteau; he is a friend of Monsieur de
Sallenauve,” replied Madame de Camps.

Seeing the cloud on her husband’s brow, Madame de l’Estorade hastened to
explain the double object of the organist’s visit, and she gave him the
letter of the new deputy. While he was reading it, Madame de l’Estorade
said, aside, to Monsieur de Camps,--

“He seems to me much better, don’t you think so?”

“Yes; there’s scarcely a trace left of what we saw this morning. He was
too wrought up about his work. Going out did him good; and yet he met
with a rather unpleasant surprise at Rastignac’s.”

“What was it?” asked Madame de l’Estorade, anxiously.

“It seems that the affairs of your friend Sallenauve are going wrong.”

“Thanks for the commission!” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, returning the
letter to his wife. “I shall take very good care not to guarantee his
conduct in any respect.”

“Have you heard anything disagreeable about him?” asked Madame de
l’Estorade, endeavoring to give a tone of indifference to her question.

“Yes; Rastignac has just told me of letters received from Arcis, where
they have made the most compromising discoveries.”

“Well, what did I tell you?” cried Madame de l’Estorade.

“How do you mean? What _did_ you tell me?”

“I told you some time ago that the acquaintance was one that had better
be allowed to die out. I remember using that very expression.”

“But _I_ didn’t draw him here.”

“Well, you can’t say that I did; and just now, before I knew of these
discoveries you speak of, I was telling Madame de Camps of another
reason why it was desirable to put an end to the acquaintance.”

“Yes,” said Madame de Camps, “your wife and I were just discussing, as
you came in, the sort of frenzy Nais has taken for what she calls her
‘preserver.’ We agreed in thinking there might be future danger in that
direction.”

“From all points of view,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, “it is an
unwholesome acquaintance.”

“It seems to me,” said Monsieur de Camps, who was not in the secret of
these opinions, “that you go too fast. They may have made what they call
compromising discoveries about Monsieur de Sallenauve; but what is
the value of those discoveries? Don’t hang him till a verdict has been
rendered.”

“My husband can do as he likes,” said Madame de l’Estorade; “but as for
me, I shall drop the acquaintance at once. I want my friends to be, like
Caesar’s wife, beyond suspicion.”

“Unfortunately,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, “there’s that unfortunate
obligation--”

“But, my dear,” cried Madame de l’Estorade, “if a galley-slave saved my
life, must I admit him to my salon?”

“Oh! dearest,” exclaimed Madame de Camps, “you are going too far.”

“At any rate,” said the peer of France, “there is no need to make an
open rupture; let things end quietly between us. The dear man is now in
foreign parts, and who knows if he means to return?”

“What!” exclaimed Monsieur de Camps, “has he left the country for a mere
rumor?”

“Not precisely for that reason,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade; “he found
a pretext. But once out of France, you know--”

“I don’t believe in that conclusion,” said Madame de l’Estorade; “I
think he will return, and if so, my dear, you really must take your
courage in both hands and cut short his acquaintance.”

“Is that,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, looking attentively at his wife,
“your actual desire?”

“Mine?” she replied; “if I had my way, I should write to him and say
that he would do us a favor by not reappearing in our house. As that
would be rather a difficult letter to write, let us write it together,
if you are willing.”

“We will see about it,” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, brightening up
under this suggestion; “there’s no danger in going slow. The most
pressing thing at this moment is the flower-show; I think it closes at
four o’clock; if so, we have only an hour before us.”

Madame de l’Estorade, who had dressed before the arrival of Madame de
Camps, rang for her maid to bring her a bonnet and shawl. While she
was putting them on before a mirror, her husband came up behind her and
whispered in her ear,--

“Then you really love me, Renee?”

“Are you crazy, to ask me such a question as that?” she answered,
looking at him affectionately.

“Well, then, I must make a confession: that letter, which Philippe
brought--I read it.”

“Then I am not surprised at the change in your looks and manner,” said
his wife. “I, too, will make you a confession: that letter to Monsieur
de Sallenauve, giving him his dismissal,--I have written it; you will
find it in my blotting-book. If you think it will do, send it.”

Quite beside himself with delight at finding his proposed successor
so readily sacrificed, Monsieur de l’Estorade did not control his joy;
taking his wife in his arms, he kissed her effusively.

“Well done!” cried Monsieur de Camps, laughing; “you have improved since
morning.”

“This morning I was a fool,” said the peer of France, hunting in the
blotting-book for the letter, which he might have had the grace to
believe in without seeing.

“Hush!” said Madame de Camps, in a low voice to her husband, to prevent
further remarks. “I’ll explain this queer performance to you by and by.”

Rejuvenated by ten years at least, the peer of France offered his arm
to Madame de Camps, while the amateur iron-master offered his to the
countess.

“But Nais!” said Monsieur de l’Estorade, noticing the melancholy face of
his daughter, who was looking over the stairs at the party. “Isn’t she
going too?”

“No,” said the countess; “I am displeased with her.”

“Ah, bah!” said the father, “I proclaim an amnesty. Get your hat,” he
added, addressing his daughter.

Nais looked at her mother to obtain a ratification, which her knowledge
of the hierarchy of power in that establishment made her judge to be
necessary.

“You can come,” said her mother, “if your father wishes it.”

While they waited in the antechamber for the child, Monsieur de
l’Estorade noticed that Lucas was standing up beside a half-finished
letter.

“Whom are you writing to?” he said to his old servant.

“To my son,” replied Lucas, “who is very impatient to get his sergeant’s
stripes. I am telling him that Monsieur le comte has promised to speak
to his colonel for him.”

“True, true,” said the peer of France; “it slipped my memory. Remind me
of it to-morrow morning, and I’ll do it the first thing after I am up.”

“Monsieur le comte is very good--”

“And here,” continued his master, feeling in his waistcoat pocket, and
producing three gold pieces, “send that to the corporal, and tell him to
drink a welcome to the stripes.”

Lucas was stupefied. Never had he seen his master so expansive or so
generous.

When Nais returned, Madame de l’Estorade, who had been admiring herself
for her courage in showing displeasure to her daughter for half an hour,
embraced her as if they were meeting after an absence of two years;
after which they started for the Luxembourg, where in those days the
Horticultural Society held its exhibitions.



VII. THE WAY TO MANAGE POLITICAL INTRIGUES

Toward the close of the audience given by the minister of Public
Works to Monsieur Octave de Camps, who was presented by the Comte de
l’Estorade, an usher entered the room, and gave the minister the card
of the attorney-general, Monsieur Vinet, and that of Monsieur Maxime de
Trailles.

“Very good,” said Rastignac; “say to those gentlemen that I will receive
them in a few moments.”

Shortly after, Monsieur de l’Estorade and Monsieur de Camps rose to take
leave; and it was then that Rastignac very succinctly let the peer know
of the danger looming on the horizon of his friend Sallenauve. Monsieur
de l’Estorade exclaimed against the word _friend_.

“I don’t know, my dear minister,” he said, “why you insist on giving
that title to a man who is, really and truly, a mere acquaintance, and,
I may add, a passing acquaintance, if the rumors you have just mentioned
to us take actual shape.”

“I am glad to hear you say that,” said the minister, “because the
friendly relations which I supposed you to hold towards him would have
embarrassed me a good deal in the hostilities which I foresee must break
out between him and the government.”

“Most grateful, I am sure, for that sentiment,” replied the peer of
France; “but be kind enough to remember that I give you _carte blanche_.
You are free to handle Monsieur de Sallenauve as your political enemy,
without a moment’s fear of troubling me.”

Thereupon they parted, and Messieurs Vinet and de Trailles were
introduced.

The attorney-general, Vinet, was the most devoted and the most consulted
champion of the government among its various officials. In a possible
reconstitution of the ministry he was obviously the candidate for the
portfolio of justice. Being thoroughly initiated into all the business
of that position, and versed in its secret dealings, nothing was hatched
in that department on which he was not consulted, if not actually
engaged. The electoral matters of Arcis-sur-Aube had a double claim to
his interest, partly on account of his wife, a Chargeboeuf of Brie, and
a relative of the Cinq-Cygnes, but chiefly because of the office held
by his son in the local administration. So that when, earlier in the
morning, Monsieur de Trailles carried to Rastignac a letter from
Madame Beauvisage, wife of the defeated governmental candidate, full
of statements injurious to the new deputy, the minister had replied,
without listening to any explanations,--

“See Vinet about it; and tell him, from me, to come here with you.”

Notified by de Trailles, who offered to fetch him in his carriage, Vinet
was ready enough to go to the minister; and now that we find the three
together in Rastignac’s study, we shall be likely to obtain some better
knowledge of the sort of danger hanging over Sallenauve’s head than
we gained from Jacques Bricheteau’s or Monsieur de l’Estorade’s very
insufficient information.

“You say, my dear friends,” said the minister, “that we can win a game
against that puritan, who seemed to me, when I met him at l’Estorade’s
last evening, to be an out-and-out enemy to the government?”

Admitted to this interview without official character, Maxime de
Trailles knew life too well to take upon himself to answer this query.
The attorney-general, on the contrary, having a most exalted sense
of his own political importance, did not miss the opportunity to put
himself forward.

“When Monsieur de Trailles communicated to me this morning a letter from
Madame Beauvisage,” he hastened to say, “I had just received one from my
son, conveying to me very much the same information. I am of Monsieur
de Trailles’ opinion, that the affair may become very serious for our
adversary, provided, however, that it is well managed.”

“I know, as yet, very little about the affair,” remarked the minister.
“As I wished for your opinion in the first place, my dear Vinet, I
requested Monsieur de Trailles to postpone his explanation of its
details until you could be present at the discussion.”

This time Maxime was plainly authorized and even required to speak, but
again Vinet stole the opportunity.

“Here is what my son Olivier writes me, and it is confirmed by the
letter of Madame Beauvisage, in whom, be it said in passing, my dear
minister, you have lost a most excellent deputy. It appears that on the
last market-day Maitre Achille Pigoult, who is left in charge of the
affairs of the new deputy, received a visit from a peasant-woman of
Romilly, a large village in the neighborhood of Arcis. The mysterious
father of the deputy, the so-called Marquis de Sallenauve, declared
himself to be the last remaining scion of the family; but it seems
that this woman produced papers in due form, which show her to be
a Sallenauve in the direct line, and within the degree of parentage
required to constitute her an heir.”

“Was she as ignorant of the existence of the Marquis de Sallenauve as
the marquis seems to have been of hers?” asked Rastignac.

“That does not clearly appear from what she says,” replied the
attorney-general; “but it might so happen among relations so curiously
placed.”

“Go on, if you please,” said Rastignac; “before we draw conclusions we
must know the facts, which, as you are aware, is not always done in the
Chamber of deputies.”

“Fortunately, sometimes, for the ministers,” remarked Maxime, laughing.

“Monsieur is right,” said Vinet; “hail to the man who can muddle
questions. But to return to our peasant-woman. Not being satisfied,
naturally, with Maitre Pigoult’s reception of her news, she went into
the market-square, and there by the help of a legal practitioner from
her village, who seems to have accompanied her, she spread about reports
which are very damaging to my worthy colleague in the Chamber. She said,
for instance, that it was not true that the Marquis de Sallenauve was
his father; that it was not even true that the Marquis de Sallenauve was
still living; and moreover that the spurious Sallenauve was a man of no
heart, who had repudiated his real parents,--adding that she could, by
the help of the able man who accompanied her, compel him to disgorge the
Sallenauve property and ‘clear out’ of the place.”

“I have no objection to that,” said Rastignac; “but this woman must, of
course, have papers to prove her allegations?”

“That is the weak point of the matter,” replied Vinet. “But let me go
on with my story. The government has at Arcis a most intelligent and
devoted functionary in the commissary of police. Circulating among the
groups, as he usually does on market days, he heard these statements
of the peasant-woman, and reported them at once, not to the mayor, who
might not have heeded them, but to Madame Beauvisage.”

“_Ah ca_!” said Rastignac, addressing Maxime; “was the candidate you
gave us such a dolt as that?”

“Just the man you needed,” replied Maxime,--“silly to the last degree,
and capable of being wound round anybody’s finger. I’ll go any lengths
to repair that loss.”

“Madame Beauvisage,” continued Vinet, “wished to speak with the woman
herself, and she ordered Groslier--that’s the commissary of police--to
fetch her with a threatening air to the mayor’s office, so as to give
her an idea that the authorities disapproved of her conduct.”

“Did Madame Beauvisage concoct that plan?” asked Rastignac.

“Yes,” replied Maxime, “she is a very clever woman.”

“Questioned closely by the mayoress,” continued Vinet, “who took care to
have the mayor present, the peasant-woman was far from categorical. Her
grounds for asserting that the new deputy could not be the son of the
marquis, and the assurance with which she stated that the latter had
long been dead were not, as it appears, very clearly established; vague
rumors and the deductions drawn by the village practitioner seem to be
all there was to them.”

“Then,” said Rastignac, “what does all this lead to?”

“Absolutely nothing from a legal point of view,” replied the
attorney-general; “for supposing the woman were able to establish the
fact that this recognition of the said Dorlange was a mere pretence, she
has no status on which to proceed farther. By Article 339 of the Civil
Code direct heirship alone has the right to attack the recognition of
natural children.”

“Your balloon is collapsing fast,” said the minister.

“So that the woman,” continued Vinet, “has no object in proceeding, for
she can’t inherit; it belongs to the government to pursue the case of
supposition of person; she can do no more than denounce the fact.”

“From which you conclude?” said Rastignac, with that curtness of speech
which to a prolix speaker is a warning to be concise.

“From which I conclude, judicially speaking, that the Romilly
peasant-woman, so far as she is concerned, will have her trouble for her
pains; but, speaking politically, the thing takes quite another aspect.”

“Let us see the political side,” said the minister; “up to this point, I
see nothing.”

“In the first place,” replied the attorney-general, “you will admit that
it is always possible to bring a bad case?”

“Certainly.”

“And I don’t suppose it would signify much to you if the woman did
embark in a matter in which she can lose nothing but her costs?”

“No, I assure you I am wholly indifferent.”

“In any case, I should have advised you to let things take their course.
The Beauvisage husband and wife have engaged to pay the costs and also
the expense of keeping the peasant-woman and her counsel in Paris during
the inquiry.”

“Then,” said Rastignac, still pressing for a conclusion, “the case is
really begun. What will be the result?”

“What will be the result?” cried the attorney-general, getting excited;
“why, anything you please if, _before the case comes for trial_,
your newspapers comment upon it, and your friends spread reports
and insinuations. What will result? why, an immense fall in public
estimation for our adversary suspected of stealing a name which does
not belong to him! What will result? why, the opportunity for a fierce
challenge in the Chamber.”

“Which you will take upon yourself to make?” asked Rastignac.

“Ah! I don’t know about that. The matter would have to be rather
more studied, and the turn the case might take more certain, if I had
anything to do with it.”

“So, for the present,” remarked the minister, “the whole thing amounts
to an application of Basile’s famous theory about calumny: ‘good to set
a-going, because some of it will always stick.’”

“Calumny!” exclaimed Vinet, “that remains to be seen. Perhaps a good
round of gossip is all that can be made of it. Monsieur de Trailles,
here, knows better than I do the state of things down there. He can
tell you that the disappearance of the father immediately after the
recognition had a bad effect upon people’s minds; and every one in
Arcis has a vague impression of secret plotting in this affair of the
election. You don’t know, my dear minister, all that can be made in the
provinces of a judicial affair when adroitly manipulated,--cooked, as I
may say. In my long and laborious career at the bar I saw plenty of that
kind of miracle. But a parliamentary debate is another thing. In that
there’s no need of proof; one can kill one’s man with probabilities and
assertions, if hotly maintained.”

“But, to come to the point,” said Rastignac, “how do you think the
affair ought to be managed?”

“In the first place,” replied Vinet, “I should leave the Beauvisage
people to pay all costs of whatever kind, inasmuch as they propose to do
so.”

“Do I oppose that?” said the minister. “Have I the right or the means to
do so?”

“The affair,” continued Vinet, “should be placed in the hands of some
capable and wily solicitor, like Desroches, for example, Monsieur de
Trailles’ lawyer. He’ll know how to put flesh on the bones of a case you
justly consider rather thin.”

“Well, it is certainly not my place to say to Monsieur de Trailles
or any other man, ‘I forbid you to employ whom you will as your
solicitor.’”

“Then we need some pleader who can talk in a moving way about that
sacred thing the Family, and put himself into a state of indignation
about these surreptitious and furtive ways of entering its honored
enclosure.”

“Desroches can point out some such person to you. The government cannot
prevent a man from saying what he pleases.”

“But,” interposed Maxime, who was forced out of his passive role by the
minister’s coldness, “is _not preventing_ all the help we are to expect
in this affair from the government?”

“You don’t expect us, I hope, to take this matter upon ourselves?”

“No, of course not; but we have certainly supposed that you would take
some interest in the matter.”

“But how?--in what way?”

“Well, as Monsieur le procureur said just now, by giving a hint to the
subsidized newspapers, by stirring up your friends to spread the news,
by using a certain influence which power always exerts on the minds of
magistrates.”

“Thank you, no!” replied Rastignac. “When you want the government for
an accomplice, my dear Maxime, you must provide a better-laid plot
than that. From your manner this morning I supposed there was really
something in all this, and so I ventured to disturb our excellent
attorney-general, who knows how I value his advice. But really, your
scheme seems to me too transparent and also too narrow not to be doomed
to inevitable defeat. If I were not married, and could pretend to the
hand of Mademoiselle Beauvisage, perhaps I should feel differently; of
course you will do as you think best. I do not say that the government
will not wish you well in your attempt, but it certainly cannot descend
to make it with you.”

“But see,” said Vinet, interposing to cut off Maxime’s reply, which
would doubtless have been bitter; “suppose we send the affair to the
criminal courts, and the peasant-woman, instigated by the Beauvisage
couple, should denounce the man who had sworn before a notary, and
offered himself for election falsely, as a Sallenauve: the question is
one for the court of assizes.”

“But proofs? I return to that, you must have proof,” said Rastignac.
“Have you even a shadow of it?”

“You said yourself, just now,” remarked Maxime, “that it was always
possible to bring a bad case.”

“A civil case, yes; but to fail in a criminal case is a far more serious
matter. It would be a pretty thing if you were shown not to have a
leg to stand on, and the case ended in a decision of _non-lieu_. You
couldn’t find a better way to put our enemy on a pedestal as high as the
column of July.”

“So,” said Maxime, “you see absolutely nothing that can be done?”

“For us, no. For you, my dear Maxime, who have no official character,
and who, if need be, can support the attack on Monsieur de Sallenauve
pistol in hand, as it were, nothing hinders you from proceeding in the
matter.”

“Oh, yes!” said Maxime, bitterly, “I’m a sort of free lance.”

“Not at all; you are a man intuitively convinced of facts impossible
to prove legally, and you do not give way before the judgment of God or
man.”

Monsieur de Trailles rose angrily. Vinet rose also, and, shaking hands
with Rastignac as he took leave of him, he said,--

“I don’t deny that your course is a prudent one, and I don’t say that in
your place I should not do the same thing.”

“Adieu, Maxime; without bitterness, I hope,” said Rastignac to Monsieur
de Trailles, who bowed coldly and with dignity.

When the two conspirators were alone in the antechamber, Maxime turned
to his companion.

“Do you understand such squeamishness?” he asked.

“Perfectly,” replied Vinet, “and I wonder to see a clever man like you
so duped.”

“Yes, duped to make you lose your time and I mine by coming here to
listen to a lecture on virtue!”

“That’s not it; but I do think you guileless to be taken in by that
refusal to co-operate.”

“What! do you think--”

“I think that this affair is risky; if it succeeds, the government, arms
folded, will reap the benefit. But if on the contrary we fail, it will
not take a share in the defeat. But you may be sure of this, for I
know Rastignac well: without seeming to know anything, and without
compromising himself in any way, he will help us, and perhaps more
usefully than by open connivance. Think! did he say a single word on
the morality of the affair? Didn’t he say, again and again, ‘I don’t
oppose--I have no right to prevent’? And as to the venom of the case,
the only fault he found was that it wasn’t sure to kill. But in truth,
my dear monsieur, this is going to be a hard pull, and we shall want all
the cleverness of that fellow Desroches to get us through.”

“Then you think I had better see him?”

“Better see him! why, my good friend, you ought to go to him at once.”

“Wouldn’t it be better if he talked with you?”

“Oh! no, no!” exclaimed Vinet. “I may be the man to put the question
in the Chamber; and if Desroches were seen with me, I should lose my
virginity.”

So saying, he took leave of Maxime with some haste, on the ground that
he ought then to be at the Chamber.

“But I,” said Maxime, running after him,--“suppose I want to consult you
in the matter?”

“I leave to-night for my district, to get things into order before the
opening of the new session.”

“But about bringing up the question which you say may devolve on you?”

“I or another. I will hasten back as soon as I can; but you understand,
I must put my department in order for a six months’ absence.”

“A good journey to you, then, Monsieur le procureur-general,” replied
Maxime, sarcastically.

Left to himself, Monsieur de Trailles had a period of discouragement,
resulting from the discovery that these two political Bertrands meant
that his paw should pull the chestnuts from the fire. Rastignac’s
behavior particularly galled him. His mind went back to their first
interview at Madame Restaud’s, twenty years earlier, when he himself
held the sceptre of fashion, and Rastignac, a poor student, neither knew
how to come into a room nor how to leave it. [See “Pere Goriot.”] And
now Rastignac was peer of France and minister, while he, Maxime, become
his agent, was obliged with folded arms to hear himself told that his
plot was weak and he must carry it out alone, if at all.

But this discouragement did not last.

“Yes!” he cried to himself, “I _will_ carry it out; my instinct tells
me there is something in it. What nonsense!--a Dorlange, a nobody, to
attempt to checkmate Maxime de Trailles and make a stepping-stone of my
defeat! To my solicitor’s,” he said to the coachman, opening the door of
the carriage himself.

Desroches was at home; and Monsieur de Trailles was immediately admitted
into his study.

Desroches was a lawyer who had had, like Raffaelle, several manners.
First, possessor of a practice without clients, he had made fish of
every case that came into his net; and he felt himself, in consequence,
little respected by the court. But he was a hard worker, well versed in
all the ins and outs of chicanery, a keen observer, and an intelligent
reader of the movements of the human heart. Consequently he had made for
himself, in course of time, a very good practice; he had married a rich
woman, and the moment that he thought himself able to do without crooked
ways he had seriously renounced them. In 1839 Desroches had become an
honest and skilful solicitor: that is to say, he assumed the interests
of his clients with warmth and ability; he never counselled an openly
dishonorable proceeding, still less would he have lent a hand to it.
As to that fine flower of delicacy to be met with in Derville and some
others like him, besides the sad fact that it is difficult to keep its
fragrance from evaporating in this business world of which Monsieur de
Talleyrand says, “Business means getting the property of others,” it is
certain that it can never be added to any second state of existence.
The loss of that bloom of the soul, like that of other virginities, is
irreparable. Desroches had not aspired to restore it to himself. He
no longer risked anything ignoble or dishonest, but the good tricks
admitted the code of procedure, the good traps, the good treacheries
which could be legitimately played off upon an adversary, he was very
ready to undertake.

Desroches was moreover a man of parts and witty; loving the pleasures of
the table, and like all men perpetually the slaves of imperious toil,
he felt the need of vigorous amusement, taken on the wing and highly
spiced. While purifying after a fashion his judicial life, he still
continued the legal adviser of artists, men of letters, actresses,
courtesans, and elegant bohemians like Maxime de Trailles, because he
liked to live their life; they were sympathetic to him as he to them.
Their witty _argot_, their easy morals, their rather loose adventures,
their expedients, their brave and honorable toil, in a word, their
greatness and their weakness,--he understood it all marvellously well;
and, like an ever-indulgent providence, he lent them his aid whenever
they asked for it. But in order to conceal from his dignified and more
valuable clients whatever might be compromising in the _clientele_ he
really preferred, Desroches had his days of domesticity when he was
husband and father, especially on Sundays. He appeared in the Bois de
Boulogne in a modest caleche beside his wife (whose ugliness revealed
the size of her _dot_), with three children on the front seat, who were
luckless enough to resemble their mother. This family picture, these
virtuous Dominical habits, recalled so little the week-day Desroches,
dining in cafes with all the male and female _viveurs_ of renown,
that one of them, Malaga, a circus-rider, famous for her wit and vim,
remarked that lawyers ought not to be allowed to masquerade in that way
and deceive the public with fictitious family joys.

It was to this relative integrity that de Trailles now went for counsel,
as he never failed to do in all the many difficulties he encountered in
life. Following a good habit, Desroches listened, without interrupting,
to the long explanation of the case submitted to him. As Maxime hid
nothing from this species of confessor, he gave his reasons for wishing
to injure Sallenauve, representing him, in all good faith, as having
usurped the name under which he was elected to the Chamber,--his hatred
making him take the possibility for positive evidence.

In his heart, Desroches did not want to take charge of an affair in
which he saw not the slightest chance of success; but he showed his lax
integrity by talking over the affair with his client as if it were an
ordinary case of legal practice, instead of telling him frankly his
opinion that this pretended “case” was a mere intrigue. The number
of things done in the domain of evil by connivance in speech, without
proceeding to the actual collusion of action, are incalculable.

“In the first place,” said Desroches, when the matter was all explained,
“a civil suit is not to be thought of. Your Romilly peasant-woman might
have her hands full of proofs, but she has no ground herself to stand
upon; she has no legal interest in contesting the rights of this
recognized natural son.”

“Yes, that is what Vinet said just now.”

“As for the criminal case, you could, no doubt, compel it by giving
information to the police authorities of this alleged imposture--”

“Vinet,” interrupted Maxime, “inclined to the criminal proceeding.”

“Yes, but there are a great many objections to it. In the first place,
in order that the complaint be received at all, you must produce
a certain amount of proof; then, supposing it is received, and the
authorities are determined to pursue the case, you must have more
evidence of criminality than you have now; and, moreover, supposing that
you can show that the so-called Marquis de Sallenauve committed a fraud,
how will you prove that the so-called son was privy to it? He might have
been the dupe of some political schemer.”

“But what interest could such a schemer have in giving Dorlange the many
advantages he has derived from the recognition?”

“Ah! my dear fellow, in political manners all queer proceedings are
possible; there is no such fertile source for compilers of _causes
celebres_ and novelists. In the eyes of the law, you must remember, the
counterfeiting of a person is not always a crime.”

“How so?” asked Maxime.

“Here,” said Desroches, taking up the Five Codes; “do me the favor to
read Article 5 of the Penal Code, the only one which gives an opening to
the case you have in mind.”

Maxime read aloud the article, which was as follows:--

“‘Any functionary or public officer who, in the exercise of his
function, shall commit forgery--either by false signatures, by
alterations of deeds, writings, or signatures, or by counterfeiting
persons--’ There, you see,” said Maxime, interrupting himself,--“‘by
counterfeiting persons--’”

“Go on,” insisted Desroches.

“‘--by counterfeiting persons,’” resumed de Trailles, “‘either by
writings made or intercalated in the public records or other documents,
shall be punished by imprisonment at hard labor for life.’”

Maxime lingered lovingly over the last words, which gave his revenge a
foretaste of the fate that awaited Sallenauve.

“My dear count,” said Desroches, “you do as the barristers do; they read
to the jury only so much of a legal document as suits their point of
view. You pay no attention to the fact that the only persons affected by
this article are _functionaries_ or _public officers_.”

Maxime re-read the article, and convinced himself of the truth of that
remark.

“But,” he objected, “there must be something elsewhere about such a
crime when committed by private individuals.”

“No, there is not; you can trust my knowledge of jurisprudence,--the
Code is absolutely silent in that direction.”

“Then the crime we wish to denounce can be committed with impunity?”

“Its repression is always doubtful,” replied Desroches. “Judges do
sometimes make up for the deficiency of the Code in this respect. Here,”
 he added, turning over the leaves of a book of reference,--“here are two
decisions of the court of assizes, reported in Carnot’s Commentary on
the Penal Code: one of July 7, 1814, the other April 24, 1818,--both
confirmed by the court of appeals, which condemn for forgery, by
‘counterfeiting persons,’ individuals who were neither functionaries
nor public officers: but these decisions, unique in law, rest on the
authority of an article in which the crime they punish is not even
mentioned; and it is only by elaborate reasoning that they contrived to
make this irregular application of it. You can understand, therefore,
how very doubtful the issue of such a case would be, because in the
absence of a positive rule you can never tell how the magistrates might
decide.”

“Consequently, your opinion, like Rastignac’s, is that we had better
send our peasant-woman back to Romilly and drop the whole matter?”

“There is always something to be done if one knows how to set about it,”
 replied Desroches. “There is a point that neither you nor Rastignac nor
Vinet seems to have thought of; and that is, to proceed in a criminal
case against a member of the national representation, except for
flagrant crime, requires the consent and authority of the Chamber.”

“True,” said Maxime, “but I don’t see how a new difficulty is going to
help us.”

“You wouldn’t be sorry to send your adversary with the galleys,” said
Desroches, laughing.

“A villain,” added Maxime, “who may make me lose a rich marriage; a
fellow who poses for stern virtue, and then proceeds to trickery of this
kind!”

“Well, you must resign yourself to a less glorious result; but you can
make a pretty scandal, and destroy the reputation of your man; and that
ought, it seems to me, to serve your ends.”

“Of course,--better that than nothing.”

“Well, then, here’s what I advise. Don’t let your peasant-woman lodge
her complaint before the criminal court, but make her place in the
hands of the president of the Chamber of deputies a simple request for
permission to proceed. Probably the permission will not be granted, and
the affair will have to stop at that stage; but the matter being once
made known will circulate through the Chambers, the newspapers will get
hold of it and make a stir, and the ministry, _sub rosa_, can envenom
the vague accusation through its friends.”

“_Parbleu_! my dear fellow,” cried Maxime, delighted to find a way
open to his hatred, “you’ve a strong head,--stronger than that of these
so-called statesmen. But this request for permission addressed to the
president of the Chamber, who is to draw it up?”

“Oh! not I,” said Desroches, who did not wish to mix himself up any
farther in this low intrigue. “It isn’t legal assistance that you
want; this is simply firing your first gun, and I don’t undertake that
business. But you can find plenty of briefless barristers always ready
to put their finger in the political pie. Massol, for instance, can draw
it up admirably. But you must not tell him that the idea came from me.”

“Oh! as for that,” said Maxime, “I’ll take it all on my own shoulders.
Perhaps in this form Rastignac may come round to the project.”

“Yes, but take care you don’t make an enemy of Vinet, who will think you
very impertinent to have an idea which ought, naturally, to have come
into the head of so great a parliamentary tactician as himself.”

“Well, before long,” said Maxime, rising, “I hope to bring the Vinets
and Rastignacs, and others like them, to heel. Where do you dine this
evening?” he added.

“In a cave,” replied Desroches, “with a band.”

“Where’s that?”

“I suppose, in the course of your erotic existence, you have had
recourse to the good offices of a certain Madame de Saint-Esteve?”

“No,” replied Maxime, “I have always done my own business in that line.”

“True,” said Desroches, “you conquer in the upper ranks, where, as a
general thing, they don’t use go-betweens. But, at any rate, you have
heard of Madame de Saint-Esteve?”

“Of course; her establishment is in the rue Neuve-Saint-Marc, and it was
she who got that pot of money out of Nucingen for La Torpille. Isn’t she
some relation to the chief of detective police, who bears the same name,
and used to be one of the same kind as herself?”

“I don’t know about that,” said Desroches, “but what I can tell you
is that in her business as procuress--as it was called in days less
decorous than our own--the worthy woman has made a fortune, and now,
without any serious change of occupation, she lives magnificently in
the rue de Provence, where she carries on the business of a matrimonial
agency.”

“Is that where you are going to dine?” asked Maxime.

“Yes, with the director of the London opera-house, Emile Blondet, Finot,
Lousteau, Felicien Vernon, Theodore Gaillard, Hector Merlin, and Bixiou,
who was commissioned to invite me, as it seems they are in want of my
_experience_ and _capacity for business_!”

“_Ah ca_! then there’s some financial object in this dinner?”

“No; it merely concerns a theatrical venture,--the engagement of a prima
donna; and they want to submit the terms of the contract to my judgment.
You understand that the rest of the guests are invited to trumpet the
affair as soon as the papers are signed.”

“Who is the object of all this preparation?”

“Oh! a _star_,--destined, they say, to European success; an Italian,
discovered by a Swedish nobleman, Comte Halphertius, through the
medium of Madame de Saint-Esteve. The illustrious manager of the London
opera-house is negotiating this treaty in order that she shall make her
first appearance at his theatre.”

“Well, adieu, my dear fellow; a pleasant dinner,” said Maxime, preparing
to depart. “If your star shines in London, it will probably appear
in our firmament next winter. As for me, I must go and attend to the
sunrise in Arcis. By the bye, where does Massol live?”

“Faith! I couldn’t tell you that. I never myself trust him with a case,
for I will not employ barristers who dabble in politics. But you can
get his address from the ‘Gazette des Tribuneaux’; he is one of their
reporters.”

Maxime went to the office of that newspaper; but, probably on account
of creditors, the office servant had express orders not to give the
barrister’s address, so that, in spite of his arrogant, imperious
manner, Monsieur de Trailles obtained no information. Happily, he
bethought him that he frequently saw Massol at the Opera, and he
resolved to seek him there that evening. Before going to dinner, he
went to the lodgings in the rue Montmartre, where he had installed
the Romilly peasant-woman and her counsel, whom Madame Beauvisage had
already sent to Paris. He found them at dinner, making the most of the
Beauvisage funds, and he gave them an order to come to his apartment the
next day at half-past eleven without breakfasting.

In the evening he found Massol, as he expected, at the opera-house.
Going up to the lawyer with the slightly insolent manner which was
natural to him, he said,--

“Monsieur, I have an affair, half legal, half political, which I desire
to talk over with you. If it did not demand a certain amount of secrecy,
I would go to your office, but I think we could talk with more safety
in my own apartment; where, moreover, I shall be able to put you in
communication with other persons concerned in the affair. May I hope
that to-morrow morning, at eleven o’clock, you will do me the favor to
take a cup of tea with me?”

If Massol had had an office, he might possibly not have consented, for
the sake of his legal dignity, to reverse the usual order of things; but
as he perched rather than lodged in any particular place, he was glad of
an arrangement which left his abode, if he had any, incognito.

“I shall have the honor to be with you at the hour named,” he replied
ceremoniously.

“Rue Pigalle,” said Maxime, “No. 6.”

“Yes, I know,” returned Massol,--“a few steps from the corner of the rue
de la Rochefoucauld.”



VIII. SOME OLD ACQUAINTANCES

A few evenings after the one on which Sallenauve and Marie-Gaston had
taken Jacques Bricheteau to Saint-Sulpice to hear the Signora Luigia’s
voice, the church was the scene of a curious little incident that
passed by almost wholly unperceived. A young man entered hastily by a
side-door; he seemed agitated, and so absorbed in some anxiety that he
forgot to remove his hat. The beadle caught him by the arm, and his face
became livid, but, turning round, he saw at once that his fears were
causeless.

“Is your hat glued on your head, young man?” said the beadle, pompously.

“Oh, pardon me, monsieur,” he replied, snatching it off; “I forgot
myself.”

Then he slipped into the thickest of the crowd and disappeared.

A few seconds after the irruption of this youth the same door gave
access to a man around whose powerful, seamed face was the collar of a
white beard, which, combined with a thick shock of hair, also white but
slightly reddish in tone and falling almost to his shoulders, gave him
very much the air of an old Conventional, or a Bernardin de Saint-Pierre
who had had the small-pox. His face and his hair placed him in the
sixties, but his robust figure, the energetic decision of his movements,
and, above all, the piercing keenness of the glance which he cast about
him on entering the church, showed a powerful organization on which the
passage of years had made little or no impression. No doubt, he was in
search of the young fellow who had preceded him; but he did not commit
the mistake of entering the crowd, where he knew of course that the
youth had lost himself. Like a practised hunter, he saw that pursuit was
useless, and he was just about to leave the church when, after a short
organ prelude, the contralto of the signora delivering its solemn notes
gave forth that glorious harmony to which is sung the Litany of the
Virgin. The beauty of the voice, the beauty of the chant, the beauty
of the words of the sacred hymn, which the fine method of the singer
brought out distinctly, made a singular impression on the stalwart
stranger. Instead of leaving the church, he put himself in the shadow of
a column, against which he leaned as he stood; but as the last notes of
the divine canticle died away among the arches of the church, he knelt
on the pavement, and whoever had chanced to look that way would have
seen two heavy tears rolling slowly down his cheeks. The benediction
given, and the crowd dispersing, he rose, wiped his eyes, and,
muttering, “What a fool I am!” left the church. Then he went to the
Place Saint-Sulpice, and, beckoning to a coach on the stand, he said to
the driver,--

“Rue de Provence, my man, quick! there’s fat in it.”

Reaching the house, he went rapidly up the stairway, and rang at the
door of an apartment on the first floor.

“Is my aunt at home?” he inquired of the Negro who opened it. Then he
followed the man, and was presently ushered into a salon where the Negro
announced,--

“Monsieur de Saint-Esteve.”

The salon which the famous chief of the detective police now entered was
remarkable for the luxury, but still more for the horribly bad taste,
of its appointments. Three women of advanced age were seated round a
card-table earnestly employed in a game of dominoes. Three glasses and
an empty silver bowl which gave forth a vinous odor showed that the
worship of double-sixes was not without its due libations.

“Good evening, mesdames,” said the chief of police, sitting down; “for I
have something to say to each of you.”

“We’ll listen presently,” said his aunt; “you can’t interrupt the game.
It won’t be long; I play for four.”

“White all round!” said one of the hags.

“Domino!” cried the Saint-Esteve. “I win; you have four points between
you two, and the whites are all out. Well, my dear, what is it?” she
said, turning to her nephew, after a rather stormy reckoning among the
witches was over.

“You, Madame Fontaine,” said the chief of police, addressing one of the
venerable beings, whose head was covered with disorderly gray hair and
a battered green bonnet,--“you neglect your duty; you have sent me no
report, and, on the contrary, I get many complaints of you. The prefect
has a great mind to close your establishment. I protect you on account
of the services you are supposed to render us; but if you don’t render
them, I warn you, without claiming any gifts of prediction, that your
fate-shop will be shut up.”

“There now!” replied the pythoness, “you prevented me from hiring
Mademoiselle Lenormand’s apartment in the rue de Tournon, and how can
you expect me to make reports about the cooks and clerks and workmen and
grisettes who are all I get where I am? If you had let me work among the
great folks, I’d make you reports and plenty of them.”

“I don’t see how you can say that, Madame Fontaine,” said Madame de
Saint-Esteve. “I am sure I send you all my clients. It was only the
other day,” continued the matrimonial agent, “I sent you that Italian
singer, living with a deputy who is against the government; why didn’t
you report about that?”

“There’s another thing,” said the chief of police, “which appears
in several of the complaints that I received about you,--that nasty
animal--”

“What, Astaroth?” said Madame Fontaine.

“Yes, that batrachian, that toad, to come down to his right name. It
seems he nearly killed a woman who was pregnant--”

“Well, well,” interrupted the sorceress, “if I am to tell fortunes
alone, you might as well guillotine me at once. Because a fool of a
woman lay-in with a dead child, must toads be suppressed in nature? Why
did God make them?”

“My dear woman,” said the chief, “did you never hear that in 1617 a
learned man was put to death for having a toad in a bottle?”

“Yes, I know that; but we are not in those light ages,” replied Madame
Fontaine, facetiously.

“As for you, Madame Nourrisson, the complaint is that you gather your
fruit unripe. You ought to know by this time the laws and regulations,
and I warn you that everything under twenty-one years of age is
forbidden. I wonder I have to remind you of it. Now, aunt, what I have
to say to you is confidential.”

Thus dismissed, two of the Fates departed.

Since the days when Jacques Collin had abdicated his former kingship
and had made himself, as they say, a new skin in the police force,
Jacqueline Collin, though she had never put herself within reach of
the law, had certainly never donned the robe of innocence. But having
attained, like her nephew, to what might fairly be called opulence, she
kept at a safe and respectful distance from the Penal Code, and under
cover of an agency that was fairly avowable, she sheltered practices
more or less shady, on which she continued to bestow an intelligence and
an activity that were really infernal.

“Aunt,” said Vautrin, “I have so many things to say to you that I don’t
know where to begin.”

“I should think so! It is a week since I’ve seen you.”

“In the first place, I must tell you that I have just missed a splendid
chance.”

“What sort of chance?” asked Jacqueline.

“In the line of my odious calling. But this time the capture was worth
making. Do you remember that little Prussian engraver about whom I sent
you to Berlin?”

“The one who forged those Vienna bank bills in that wonderful way?”

“Yes. I just missed arresting him near Saint-Sulpice. But I followed him
into the church, where I heard your Signora Luigia.”

“Ah!” said Jacqueline, “she has made up her mind at last, and has left
that imbecile of a sculptor.”

“It is about her that I have come to talk to you,” said Vautrin.
“Here are the facts. The Italian opera season in London has begun
badly,--their prima donna is taken ill. Sir Francis Drake, the
impresario, arrived in Paris yesterday, at the Hotel des Princes, rue
de Richelieu, in search of a prima donna, at any rate _pro tem_. I have
been to see him in the interests of the signora. Sir Francis Drake is
an Englishman, very bald, with a red nose, and long yellow teeth. He
received me with cold politeness, and asked in very good French what my
business was.”

“Did you propose to him Luigia?”

“That was what I went for,--in the character, be it understood, of
a Swedish nobleman. He asked if her talent was known. ‘Absolutely
unknown,’ I replied. ‘It is risky,’ said Sir Francis; ‘nevertheless
arrange to let me hear her.’ I told him that she was staying with her
friend Madame de Saint-Esteve, at whose house I could take the liberty
to invite him to dinner.”

“When?” asked Jacqueline.

“To-day is the 19th; I said the 21st. Order the dinner from Chevet for
fifteen persons, and send for your client Bixiou to make you out the
list. Tell him you want the chief men of the press, a lawyer to settle
the terms of the contract, and a pianist to accompany the signora. Let
her know what hangs upon it. Sir Francis Drake and I will make up the
number. Useless to tell you that I am your friend Comte Halphertius,
who, having no house in Paris, gives this dinner at yours. Mind that
everything is done in the best taste.”

In designating Bixiou to his aunt as the recruiting-officer of the
dinner, Vautrin knew that through the universality of his relations with
writing, singing, designing, eating, living, and squirming Paris, no one
was as capable as he of spreading the news of the dinner broadcast.

At seven o’clock precisely all the guests named by Desroches to Maxime,
plus Desroches himself, were assembled in the salon of the rue de
Provence, when the Negro footman opened the door and announced Sir
Francis Drake and his Excellency the Comte Halphertius. The dress of
the Swedish nobleman was correct to the last degree,--black coat, white
cravat, and white waistcoat, on which glowed the ribbon of an order
hanging from his neck; the rest of his decorations were fastened to his
coat by chainlets. At the first glance which he cast upon the company,
Vautrin had the annoyance of beholding that Jacqueline’s habits and
instincts had been more potent than his express order,--for a species of
green and yellow turban surmounted her head in a manner which he felt to
be ridiculous; but thanks to the admirable manner in which the rest of
his programme had been carried out, the luckless coiffure was forgiven.

As for Signora Luigia, dressed in black, which was customary with her,
and having had the good sense to reject the services of a _coiffeur_,
she was royally beautiful. An air of melancholy gravity, expressed by
her whole person, inspired a sentiment of respect which surprised the
men who on Bixiou’s invitation were there to judge of her. The only
special presentation that was made among the guests was that of
Desroches to Vautrin, which Bixiou made in the following lively
formula:--

“Maitre Desroches, the most intelligent solicitor of modern times--Comte
Halphertius of Sweden.”

As for Sir Francis Drake, he seemed at first inclined to disdain the
influence of the dramatic newspapers, whose representatives were there
assembled; but presently recognizing Felicien Vernou and Lousteau, two
noted men of that secondary press, he greeted them heartily and shook
them by the hand.

Before dinner was announced, Comte Halphertius judged it advisable to
make a little speech.

“Dear madame,” he said to his aunt, “you are really a fairy godmother.
This is the first time I have ever been in a Parisian salon, and here
you have assembled to meet me all that literature, the arts, and the
legal profession can offer of their best. I, who am only a
northern barbarian,--though our country, too, can boast of its
celebrities,--Linnaeus, Berzelius, Thorwaldsen, Tegner, Franzen, Geier,
and the charming novelist Frederika Bremer,--I find myself a cipher in
such company.”

“But in Bernadotte France and Sweden clasped hands,” replied Madame de
Saint-Esteve, whose historical erudition went as far as that.

“It is very certain,” said Vautrin, “that our beloved sovereign, Charles
XIV.--”

The announcement of dinner by a majordomo, who threw open the double
doors of the salon, put an end to this remark. Jacqueline took Vautrin’s
arm, saying in a whisper as they walked along,--

“Have I done things all right?”

“Yes,” replied Vautrin, “it is all in good style, except that devil of a
turban of yours, which makes you look like a poll-parrot.”

“Why, no,” said Jacqueline, “not at all; with my Javanese face” (she was
born on the island of Java), “oriental things set me off.”

Madame de Saint-Esteve placed Sir Francis Drake upon her right, and
Desroches on her left; Vautrin sat opposite, flanked on either side by
Emile Blondet, of the “Debats,” and the Signoria Luigia; the rest of the
company placed themselves as they pleased. The dinner, on the whole, was
dull; Bixiou, at Madame de Saint-Esteve’s request, had warned the party
to risk nothing that might offend the chaste ears of the pious Italian.
Forced to mind their morals, as a celebrated critic once observed, these
men of wit and audacity lost their spirit; and, taking refuge in the
menu, which was excellent, they either talked together in a low voice,
or let the conversation drag itself along in bourgeois commonplaces.
They ate and they drank, but they did not dine. Bixiou, incapable of
bearing this state of things during a whole dinner, determined to
create a reaction. The appearance of this Swedish magnate, evidently on
intimate terms with the Saint-Esteve, puzzled him. He noticed a certain
insufficiency in Vautrin, and thought to himself that if he were really
a great nobleman, he would be more equal to the occasion, and give
a tone to the feast. He determined, therefore, to test him, and thus
provide amusement, at any rate, for himself. So, at the end of the
second course, he suddenly said from his end of the table,--

“Monsieur le comte, you are too young, of course, to have known Gustavus
III., whom Scribe and Auber have set in opera, while the rest of us
glorify him in a _galop_.”

“I beg your pardon,” replied Vautrin, jumping at the chance thus given
him, “I am nearly sixty years of age, which makes me thirteen in 1792,
when our beloved sovereign was killed by the assassin Ankarstroem, so
that I can well remember that period.”

Thus, by means of a little volume entitled “Characters and Anecdotes of
the Court of Sweden,” printed in 1808, and bought on the quays in the
interests of his Swedish incarnation, the chief of the detective police
evaded the trap. He did better. The faucet being open, he poured forth
such an abundance of erudition and detailed circumstances, he related
so many curious and secret anecdotes, especially relating to the _coup
d’etat_ by which, in 1772, Gustavus III. had freed his crown,--in short,
he was so precise and so interesting that as they left the table Emile
Blondet said to Bixiou,--

“I thought, as you did, that a foreign count in the hands of a marriage
agent was a very suspicious character; but he knows the court of
Sweden in a way that it was quite impossible to get out of books. He is
evidently a man well born; one might make some interesting articles out
of the stories he has just told.”

“Yes,” said Bixiou, “and I mean to cultivate his acquaintance; I could
make a good deal out of him in the Charivari.”

“You have better find out first,” said Desroches, “whether he has enough
French humor to like being caricatured.”

Presently the first notes of the piano gave notice that the Signora
Luigia was about to mount the breach. She first sang the romance in
“Saul” with a depth of expression which moved the whole company, even
though that areopagus of judges were digesting a good dinner, as to
which they had not restrained themselves. Emile Blondet, who was more
of a political thinker than a man of imagination, was completely carried
away by his enthusiasm. As the song ended, Felicien Vernou and Lousteau
went up to Sir Francis Drake and reproached him for wishing to take
such a treasure from France, at the same time flattering him for his
cleverness as an impresario.

La Luigia then sang an air from the “Nina” of Paesiello; and in
that--the part being very dramatic--she showed a talent for comedy
second only to her vocal gift. It was received with truly genuine
applause; but what assured and completed her success with these trained
judges was her modesty and the sort of ignorance in which she still
remained of her amazing talent,--in the midst, too, of praises which
might have turned her head. Accustomed to frenzied self-love and
the insolent pretensions of the veriest sparrow of the opera, these
journalists were amazed and touched by the humility, the simplicity of
this empress, who seemed quite astonished at the effect she produced.

The success of the trial passed all expectation. There was but one voice
as to the desirability of immediately engaging her; and Sir Francis
Drake, Vautrin, and Desroches presently passed into an adjoining room
to draw up the terms of the contract. As soon as that was done, Vautrin
returned to the salon for _la diva_, requesting her to hear the contract
read and to affix her signature. Her departure for London without
further delay was fixed for the following day in company with Sir
Francis Drake.

A few days later the packet-boat from Boulogne conveyed to England
another personage of this history. Jacques Bricheteau, having obtained
Sallenauve’s present address from Madame de l’Estorade, and considering
the danger which threatened the new deputy extremely urgent, decided not
to write, but to go himself to England and confer with him in person.
When he reached London, he was surprised to learn that Hanwell was the
most celebrated insane asylum in Great Britain. Had he reflected on the
mental condition of Marie-Gaston, he might have guessed the truth. As
it was, he felt completely bewildered; but not committing the blunder
of losing his time in useless conjectures, he went on without a moment’s
delay to Hanwell, which establishment is only about nine miles from
London, pleasantly situated at the foot of a hill on the borders of
Middlesex and Surrey.

After a long detention in the waiting-room, he was at last enabled
to see his friend at a moment when Marie-Gaston’s insanity, which for
several days had been in the stages of mania, was yielding to the care
of the doctor, and showed some symptoms of a probable recovery. As soon
as Sallenauve was alone with the organist, he inquired the reason that
led him to follow him; and he heard, with some emotion, the news of the
intrigues which Maxime de Trailles had apparently organized against him.
Returning to his original suspicions, he said to Jacques Bricheteau,--

“Are you really sure that that person who declared himself my father was
the Marquis de Sallenauve, and that I am truly his son?”

“Mother Marie-des-Anges and Achille Pigoult, by whom I was warned
of this plot, have no more doubt than I have of the existence of the
Marquis de Sallenauve; this gossip with which they threaten you has, in
my judgment, but one dangerous aspect. I mean that by your absence you
are giving a free field to your adversaries.”

“But,” replied the deputy, “the Chamber will not condemn me without a
hearing. I wrote to the president and asked for leave of absence, and I
took the precaution to request de l’Estorade, who knows the reason of my
absence, to be kind enough to guarantee me, should my absence be called
in question.”

“I think you also wrote to Madame de l’Estorade, didn’t you?”

“I wrote only to her,” replied Sallenauve. “I wanted to tell her about
the great misfortune of our mutual friend, and, at the same time, I
asked her to explain to her husband the kind service I requested him to
do for me.”

“If that is so,” said Bricheteau, “you need not count for one moment
on the l’Estorades. A knowledge of this trick which is being organized
against you has reached their ears and affected their minds, I am very
sure.”

He then related the reception he had met with from Madame de l’Estorade,
and the uncivil remarks she had made about Sallenauve, from which he
concluded that in the struggle about to take place no assistance could
be relied on from that direction.

“I have every reason to be surprised,” said Sallenauve, “after the warm
assurances Madame de l’Estorade has given me of an unfailing good-will.
However,” he added, philosophically, “everything is possible in this
world; and calumny has often undermined friendship.”

“You understand, therefore,” said Bricheteau, “that it is all-important
to start for Paris, without a moment’s delay. Your stay here, all things
considered, is only relatively necessary.”

“On the contrary,” said Sallenauve, “the doctor considers that my
presence here may be of the utmost utility. He has not yet let me see
the patient, because he expects to produce some great result when I do
see him.”

“That is problematical,” returned Jacques Bricheteau; “whereas by
staying here you are compromising your political future and your
reputation in the most positive manner. Such a sacrifice no friendship
has the right to demand of you.”

“Let us talk of it with the doctor,” said Sallenauve, unable to deny the
truth of what Bricheteau said.

On being questioned, the doctor replied that he had just seen symptoms
in the patient which threatened another paroxysm.

“But,” cried Sallenauve, eagerly, “you are not losing hope of a cure,
are you, doctor?”

“Far from that. I have perfect faith in the ultimate termination of the
case; but I see more delay in reaching it than at first I expected,”
 replied the doctor.

“I have recently been elected to our Chamber of deputies,” said
Sallenauve, “and I ought to be in my seat at the opening of the session;
in fact, my interests are seriously concerned, and my friend Monsieur
Bricheteau has come over to fetch me. If therefore I can be sure that my
presence here is not essential--”

“By all means go,” said the doctor. “It may be a long time before I
could allow you to see the patient; therefore you can leave without
the slightest self-reproach. In fact, you can really do nothing here at
present. Trust him to Lord Lewin and me; I assure you that I shall make
his recovery, of which I have no doubt, a matter of personal pride and
self-love.”

Sallenauve pressed the doctor’s hand gratefully, and started for London
without delay. Arriving there at five o’clock, the travellers were
unable to leave before midnight; meantime their eyes were struck at
every turn by those enormous posters which English _puffism_ alone
is able to produce, announcing the second appearance in Her Majesty’s
theatre of the Signora Luigia. The name alone was enough to attract
the attention of both travellers; but the newspapers to which they had
recourse for further information furnished, as is customary in England,
so many circumstantial details about the prima donna that Sallenauve
could no longer doubt the transformation of his late housekeeper into an
operatic star of the first magnitude.

Going to the box-office, which he found closed, every seat having been
sold before mid-day, Sallenauve considered himself lucky to obtain two
seats from a speculator, at the enormous cost of five pounds apiece.
The opera was “La Pazza d’Amore” of Paesiello. When the curtain rose,
Sallenauve, who had spent the last two weeks at Hanwell, among the
insane, could all the more appreciate the remarkable dramatic talent his
late housekeeper displayed in the part of Nina. Even Bricheteau, though
annoyed at Sallenauve’s determination to be present, was so carried
away by the power of the singer that he said to his companion rather
imprudently,--

“Politics have no triumphs as that. Art alone is deity--”

“And Luigia is its prophet!” added Sallenauve.

Never, perhaps, had the Italian opera-house in London presented a more
brilliant sight; the whole audience was in a transport of enthusiasm,
and bouquets fairly rained upon the stage.

As they left the theatre, Bricheteau looked at his watch; it was a
quarter to eleven; they had thus ample time to take the steamer leaving,
as the tide served, at midnight. But when the organist turned to make
this remark to Sallenauve, who was behind him, he saw nothing of his
man; the deputy had vanished!

Ten minutes later the maid of the Signora Luigia entered her mistress’s
dressing-room, which was filled with distinguished Englishmen presented
by Sir Francis Drake to the new star, and gave her a card. On reading
the name the prima donna turned pale and whispered a few words to the
waiting-woman; then she seemed so anxious to be rid of the crowd who
were pressing round her that her budding adorers were inclined to be
angry. But a great singer has rare privileges, and the fatigue of the
part into which the _diva_ had just put so much soul seemed so good
an excuse for her sulkiness that her court dispersed without much
murmuring.

Left alone, the signora rapidly resumed her usual dress, and the
directors’ carriage took her back to the hotel where she had stayed
since arriving in London. On entering her salon she found Sallenauve,
who had preceded her.

“You in London, monsieur!” she said; “it is like a dream!”

“Especially to me,” replied Sallenauve, “who find you here, after
searching hopelessly for you in Paris--”

“Did you take that pains?--why?”

“You left me in so strange a manner, and your nature is so rash,
you knew so little of Paris, and so many dangers might threaten your
inexperience, that I feared for you.”

“Suppose harm did happen to me; I was neither your wife, nor your
sister, nor your mistress; I was only your--”

“I thought,” said Sallenauve, hastily, “that you were my friend.”

“I was--under obligation to you,” she replied. “I saw that I was
becoming an embarrassment in your new situation. What else could I do
but release you from it?”

“Who told you that you were an embarrassment to me? Have I ever said
or intimated anything of the kind? Could I not speak to you, as I
did, about your professional life without wounding so deeply your
sensibility?”

“People feel things as they feel them,” replied Luigia. “I had the
inward consciousness that you would rather I were out of your house than
in it. My future you had already given me the means to secure; you see
for yourself it is opening in a manner that ought to reassure you.”

“It seems to me so brilliant that I hope you will not think me
indiscreet if I ask whose hand, more fortunate than mine, has produced
this happy result.”

“That of a great Swedish nobleman,” replied Luigia, without hesitation.
“Or rather, I should say, as the friend of a lady who took an interest
in me, he procured me an engagement at Her Majesty’s Theatre; the kind
encouragement of the public has done the rest.”

“Say, rather, your own talent; I was present at the performance this
evening.”

Making him a coquettish courtesy, Luigia said,--

“I hope you were satisfied with your humble servant.”

“Your musical powers did not surprise me, for those I knew already; but
those transports of dramatic passion, your powerful acting, so sure of
itself, did certainly astonish me.”

“It comes from having suffered much,” replied Luigia; “suffering is a
great teacher.”

“Suffered? Yes, I know you did, in Italy. But I have liked to feel that
after your arrival in France--”

“Always; I have always suffered,” she said in a voice of emotion. “I was
not born under a happy star.”

“That ‘always’ seems like a reproach to me,” said Sallenauve, “and yet I
do not know what wrong I can have done you.”

“You have done me no wrong; the harm was there!” she cried, striking her
breast,--“within me!”

“Probably some foolish fancy, such as that of leaving my house suddenly,
because your mistaken sense of honor made you think yourself in my way.”

“Not mistaken,” she replied. “I know what was in your thoughts. If only
on account of what you had done for me, I knew I could never aspire to
your esteem.”

“But, my dear Luigia, I call such ideas absurd. Have I ever shown you
any want of consideration? How could I? Your conduct has always been
exemplary.”

“Yes, I tried to do everything that would give you a good opinion of me;
but I was none the less the widow of Benedetto.”

“What! can you suppose that that misfortune, the result of a just
vengeance--”

“Ah! no, it is not the death of that man that lowered me in your eyes;
on the contrary. But I had been the wife of a buffoon, of a police-spy,
of a base man, ready to sell me to any one who would give him money.”

“As long as that situation lasted, I thought you deeply to be pitied;
but despised, never!”

“And,” continued the Italian, more excitedly, “we had lived two years
under the same roof, you and I alone.”

“Yes, and I found my comfort in it.”

“Did you think me ugly?”

“You know better than that, for I made my finest statue from you.”

“Foolish?”

“No one was ever foolish who could act such a part as you did to-night.”

“Then you must see that you despised me.”

Sallenauve seemed wholly surprised by this deduction; he thought himself
very clever in replying,--

“It seems to me that if I had behaved to you in any other manner you
would have the right to say that I despised you.”

But he had to do with a woman who in everything, in her friendships, her
hatreds, her actions, as in her words, went straight to her point. As if
she feared not to be fully understood, she went on:--

“To-day, monsieur, I can tell you all, for I speak of the past; the
future has opened before me, as you see. From the day you were good to
me and by your generous protection I escaped an infamous outrage, my
heart has been wholly yours.”

Sallenauve, who had never suspected that feeling, and, above all, was
unable to understand how so artlessly crude an avowal of it could be
made, knew not what to answer.

“I am not ignorant,” continued the strange woman, “that I should have
difficulty in rising from the degradation in which I appeared to you at
our first meeting. If, at the time you consented to take me with you to
Paris, I had seen you incline to treat me with gallantry, had you shown
any sign of turning to your profit the dangerous situation in which I
had placed myself, my heart would instantly have retired; you would have
seemed to me an ordinary man--”

“So,” remarked Sallenauve, “to love you would have been insulting; not
to love you was cruel! What sort of woman are you, that either way you
are displeased?”

“You ought not to have loved me,” she replied, “while the mud was still
on my skirts and you scarcely knew me; because then your love would have
been the love of the eyes and not of the soul. But when, after two years
passed beside you, you had seen by my conduct that I was an honorable
woman; when, without ever accepting a pleasure, I devoted myself to the
care of the house and your comfort without other relaxation than the
study of my art; and when, above all, I sacrificed to you that modesty
you had seen me defend with such energy,--then you were cruel not to
comprehend, and never, never will your imagination tell you what I have
suffered, and all the tears you have made me shed.”

“But, my dear Luigia, I was your host, and even had I suspected what you
now reveal to me, my duty as an honorable man would have commanded me to
see nothing of it, and to take no advantage of you.”

“Ah! that is not the reason; it is simpler than that. You saw nothing
because your fancy turned elsewhere.”

“Well, and if it were so?”

“It ought not to be so,” replied Luigia, vehemently. “That woman is not
free; she has a husband and children, and though you did make a saint of
her, I presume to say, ridiculous as it may seem, that she is not worth
me!”

Sallenauve could not help smiling, but he answered very seriously,--

“You are totally mistaken as to your rival. Madame de l’Estorade was
never anything to me but a model, without other value than the fact that
she resembled another woman. That one I knew in Rome before I knew you.
She had beauty, youth, and a glorious inclination for art. To-day she
is confined in a convent; like you, she has paid her tribute to sorrow;
therefore, you see--”

“What, three hearts devoted to you,” cried Luigia, “and not one
accepted? A strange star is yours! No doubt I suffer from its fatal
influence, and therefore I must pardon you.”

“You are good to be merciful; will you now let me ask you a question?
Just now you spoke of your future, and I see it with my own eyes. Who
are the friends who have suddenly advanced you so far and so splendidly
in your career? Have you made any compact with the devil?”

“Perhaps,” said Luigia, laughing.

“Don’t laugh,” said Sallenauve; “you chose to rush alone and unprotected
into that hell called Paris, and I dread lest you have made some fatal
acquaintance. I know the immense difficulties and the immense dangers
that a woman placed as you are now must meet. Who is this lady that you
spoke of? and how did you ever meet her while living under my roof?”

“She is a pious and charitable woman, who came to see me during your
absence at Arcis. She had noticed my voice at Saint-Sulpice, during the
services of the Month of Mary, and she tried to entice me away to her
own parish church of Notre-Dame de Lorette,--it was for that she came to
see me.”

“Tell me her name.”

“Madame de Saint-Esteve.”

Though far from penetrating the many mysteries that surrounded
Jacqueline Collin, Sallenauve knew Madame de Saint-Esteve to be a woman
of doubtful character and a matrimonial agent, having at times heard
Bixiou tell tales of her.

“But that woman,” he said, “has a shocking notoriety in Paris. She is an
adventuress of the worst kind.”

“I suspected it,” said Luigia. “But what of that?”

“And the man to whom she introduced you?”

“He an adventurer? No, I think not. At any rate, he did me a great
service.”

“But he may have designs upon you.”

“Yes, people may have designs upon me,” replied Luigia, with dignity,
“but they cannot execute them: between those designs and me, there is
myself.”

“But your reputation?”

“That was lost before I left your house. I was said to be your mistress;
you had yourself to contradict that charge before the electoral college;
you contradicted it, but you could not stop it.”

“And my esteem, for which you profess to care?”

“I no longer want it. You did not love me when I wished for it; you
shall not love me now that I no longer wish it.”

“Who knows?” exclaimed Sallenauve.

“There are two reasons why it cannot be,” said the singer. “In the first
place, it is too late; and in the second, we are no longer on the same
path.”

“What do you mean by that?”

“I am an artist and you have ceased to be one. I rise; you fall.”

“Do you call it falling to rise, perhaps, to the highest dignities of
the State?”

“To whatever height you rise,” said Luigia, passionately, “you will ever
be below your past and the noble future that was once before you--Ah!
stay; I think that I have lied to you; had you remained a sculptor, I
believe I should have borne still longer your coldness and your disdain;
I should have waited until I entered my vocation, until the halo round
a singer’s head might have shown you, at last, that I was there beside
you. But on the day that you apostatized I would no longer continue my
humiliating sacrifice. There is no future possible between us.”

“Do you mean,” said Sallenauve, holding out his hand, which she did not
take, “that we cannot even be friends?”

“No,” she replied; “all is over--past and gone. We shall hear of each
other; and from afar, as we pass in life, we can wave our hands in
recognition, but nothing further.”

“So,” said Sallenauve, sadly, “this is how it all ends!”

La Luigia looked at him a moment, her eyes shining with tears.

“Listen,” she said in a resolute and sincere tone: “this is possible.
I have loved you, and after you, no one can enter the heart you have
despised. You will hear that I have lovers; believe it not; you will not
believe it, remembering the woman that I am. But who knows? Later your
life may be swept clean of the other sentiments that have stood in my
way; the freedom, the strangeness of the avowal I have just made to you
will remain in your memory, and then it is not impossible that
after this long rejection you may end by desiring me. If that should
happen,--if at the end of many sad deceptions you should return, in
sheer remorse, to the religion of art,--then, then, supposing that long
years have not made love ridiculous between us, remember this evening.
Now, let us part; it is already too late for a _tete-a-tete_.”

So saying, she took a light and passed into an inner room, leaving
Sallenauve in a state of mind we can readily imagine after the various
shocks and surprises of this interview.

On returning to his hotel he found Jacques Bricheteau awaiting him.

“Where the devil have you been?” cried the organist, impatiently. “It is
too late now to take the steamboat.”

“Well,” said Sallenauve, carelessly, “then I shall have a few hours
longer to play truant.”

“But during that time your enemies are tunnelling their mine.”

“I don’t care. In that cave called political life one has to be ready
for anything.”

“I thought as much!” exclaimed Bricheteau. “You have been to see Luigia;
her success has turned your head, and the deputy is thinking of his
statues.”

“How often have I heard you say yourself that Art alone is great?”

“But an orator,” replied Bricheteau, “is also an artist, and the
greatest of all. Others speak to the heart and the mind, but he to the
conscience and the will of others. At any rate, this is no time to look
back; you are engaged in a duel with your adversaries. Are you an honest
man, or a scoundrel who has stolen a name? There is the question which
may, in consequence of your absence, be answered against you in the
Chamber.”

“I begin to feel that you have led me into a mistaken path; I had in my
hands a treasure, and I have flung it away!”

“Happily,” said the organist, “that’s only an evening mist which the
night will dissipate. To-morrow you will remember the engagement you are
under to your father, and the great future which is before you.”



IX. IN THE CHAMBER

The king had opened the Chamber, but Sallenauve was not present, and
his absence was causing a certain sensation in the democratic ranks. The
“National” was particularly disturbed. As a stockholder of the paper,
coming frequently to its office before the election, and even consenting
to write articles for it, how strange that on the eve of the opening of
the session the newly elected deputy should not come near it!

“Now that he is elected,” said some of the editorial staff, remarking
on the total disappearance of the man whom they considered they had done
their part to elect, “does monsieur think he can treat us scurvily?
It is getting too much the habit of these lordly deputies to be very
obsequious as long as they are candidates, and throw us away, after they
have climbed the tree, like an old coat.”

Less excitable, the editor-in-chief calmed this first ebullition, but
Sallenauve’s absence from the royal session seemed to him very strange.

The next day, when the bureaus are constituted, presidents and
secretaries appointed, and committees named, Sallenauve’s absence
was still more marked. In the bureau for which his name was drawn,
it happened that the election of its president depended on one vote;
through the absence of the deputy of Arcis, the ministry gained that
advantage and the Opposition lost it. Much discontent was expressed by
the newspapers of the latter party; they did not, as yet, openly attack
the conduct of the defaulter, but they declared that they could not
account for it.

Maxime de Trailles, on the other hand, fully prepared and on the watch,
was waiting only until the routine business of the bureaus and the
appointment of the committees was disposed of to send in the petition of
the Romilly peasant-woman, which had been carefully drawn up by Massol,
under whose clever pen the facts he was employed to make the most
of assumed that degree of probability which barristers contrive to
communicate to their sayings and affirmations. But when Maxime had
the joy of seeing that Sallenauve’s absence in itself was creating a
prejudice against him, he went again to Rastignac and asked him if he
did not think it better to hasten the moment of attack, since everything
seemed so favorable.

This time Rastignac was much more explicit: Sallenauve’s absence abroad
seemed to him the conduct of a man who feared exposure and had lost his
head. He therefore advised de Trailles to have the petition sent in
at once, and he made no difficulty about promising his assistance to a
conspiracy which appeared to be taking color, the result of which must
be, in any case, a very pretty scandal. The next day the first trace
of his subterranean influence was visible. The order of the day in the
Chamber was the verification of powers,--that is, the admission of newly
elected members. The deputy appointed to report on the elections in the
department of the Aube was a strong partisan of the ministry, and, in
consequence of a confidential communication made to him that morning,
the following paragraph appeared in his report:--

  The action of the electoral college of Arcis was regular. Monsieur
  de Sallenauve produced in proper time all the necessary papers
  proving his eligibility; his admission therefore would seem to
  present no difficulty. But rumors of a singular nature have been
  current since the election as to the name and identity of the new
  deputy; and, in support of these rumors, a petition to authorize a
  criminal prosecution has been laid before the president of the
  Chamber. This petition states an extremely serious fact, namely:
  that Monsieur de Sallenauve has usurped the name he bears; and
  this usurpation, being made by means of an official document,
  assumes the character of forgery committed by substitution of
  person. A most regrettable circumstance,

continued the report,

  is the absence of Monsieur de Sallenauve, who instead of instantly
  contradicting the accusation made against him, has not appeared
  since the opening of the Chamber at any of its sessions, and it is
  not even known where he is. Under these circumstances, his
  admission, the committee think, cannot be granted; and they feel
  it therefore their duty to refer the matter to the Chamber.

Daniel d’Arthez, a deputy of the legitimist opposition, who had been
favorable to the election of Sallenauve, hastened, after the reading of
this report, to ask for the floor, and entreated the Chamber to remark
that its adoption would be wholly unjustifiable.

“The point for the committee to decide,” he said, “was the regularity
of the election. The report distinctly states that this is not called in
question. The Chamber can, therefore, do only one thing; namely,
admit by an immediate vote the validity of an election about which
no irregularity is alleged. To bring in the question of authorizing
a criminal investigation would be an abuse of power; because by not
allowing discussion or defence, and by dispensing with the usual forms
of procedure which guarantee certain rights to a party implicated, the
Chamber would be virtually rejecting the action of the electors in the
exercise of their sovereign functions. Every one can see, moreover,”
 added the orator, “that to grant the right of criminal investigation in
this connection is to prejudge the merits of the case; the presumption
of innocence, which is the right of every man, is ignored--whereas in
this case the person concerned is a man whose integrity has never been
doubted, and who has just been openly honored by the suffrages of his
fellow citizens.”

The discussion was prolonged for some time, the ministerial orators, of
course, taking the other side, until an unfortunate event occurred.
The senior deputy, acting as president (for the Chamber was not yet
constituted), was a worn-out old man, very absent-minded, and wholly
unaccustomed to the functions which his age devolved upon him. He
had duly received Monsieur de Sallenauve’s letter requesting leave of
absence; and had he recollected to communicate it, as in duty bound, to
the Chamber at the proper time, the discussion would probably have been
nipped in the bud. But parliamentary matters are apt to go haphazard;
when, reminded of the letter by the discussion, he produced it, and when
the Chamber learned that the request for leave of absence was made for
an indefinite period and for the vague purpose of “urgent affairs,” the
effect was lamentable.

“It is plain,” said all the ministerial party, “that he has gone to
England to escape an investigation; he feared the result; he feels
himself unmasked.”

This view, setting aside political prejudices, was shared by the sterner
minds of all parties, who refused to conceive of a man not hastening to
defend himself from such a blasting accusation. In short, after a very
keen and able argument from the attorney-general, Vinet, who had taken
heart on finding that the accused was likely to be condemned by default,
the question of adjournment was put to the vote and passed, but by a
very small majority; eight days being granted to the said deputy to
appear and defend himself.

The day after the vote was passed Maxime de Trailles wrote to Madame
Beauvisage as follows:--

  Madame,--The enemy received a severe check yesterday. In the
  opinion of my friend Rastignac, a very intelligent and experienced
  judge in parliamentary matters, Dorlange can never recover from
  the blow, no matter what may happen later. If we cannot succeed in
  producing positive proof to support the statement of our good
  peasant-woman, it is possible that this rascal, supposing always
  that he ventures to return to France, may be admitted to the
  Chamber. But if he is, he can only drag on a despised and
  miserable existence; he will be driven to resign, and then the
  election of Monsieur Beauvisage is beyond all doubt; for the
  electors, ashamed to have forsaken him for such a rascal, will be
  only too glad to reinstate themselves in public opinion by the
  choice of an honorable man--who was, in fact, their first choice.

  It is to your rare sagacity, madame, that this result is due; for
  without that species of second sight which showed you the chances
  hidden in the revelation of that woman, we should have missed our
  best weapon. I must tell you though you may think this vanity,
  that neither Rastignac nor the attorney-general, in spite of their
  great political acumen, perceived the true value of your
  discovery; and I myself, if I had not had the good fortune of your
  acquaintance, and thus been enabled to judge of the great value of
  all ideas emanating from you, even I might have shared the
  indifference of the two statesmen to the admirable weapon which
  you have placed in our hands. I have now succeeded in proving to
  Rastignac the shrewdness and perspicacity you have shown in this
  matter, and he sincerely admires you for them. Therefore, madame,
  when I have the happiness of belonging to you by the tie we
  proposed, I shall not have to initiate you into politics, for you
  have already found your way there.

  Nothing further can take place for a week, which is the period of
  delay granted by the Chamber. If the defaulter does not then
  appear, I am confident his election will be annulled. You can
  easily believe that between now and then all my efforts will be
  given to increase the feeling in the Chamber against him, both by
  arguments in the press and by private conversations. Rastignac has
  also given orders among the ministerial adherents to that effect.
  We may feel confident, therefore, that by the end of another week
  our enemy will find public opinion solidly against him.

  Will you permit me, madame, to recall myself to the memory of
  Mademoiselle Cecile, and accept yourself, together with Monsieur
  Beauvisage, the assurance of my most respectful sentiments.

A hint from certain quarters given to the ministerial journals now
began to surround Sallenauve’s name with an atmosphere of disrespect and
ridicule; insulting insinuations colored his absence with an appearance
of escaping the charges. The effect of these attacks was all the
greater because Sallenauve was very weakly defended by his political
co-religionists, which was scarcely surprising. Not knowing how to
explain his conduct, the Opposition papers were afraid to commit
themselves in favor of a man whose future was daily becoming more
nebulous.

On the evening before the day on which the time granted for an
explanation would expire, Sallenauve being still absent, a ministerial
paper published, under the heading of “A Lost Deputy,” a very witty
and insolent article, which was read by every one and created a great
sensation. During that evening Madame de l’Estorade went to see Madame
de Camps, whom she found alone with her husband. She was greatly
agitated, and said, as soon as she entered the room,--

“Have you read that infamous article?”

“No,” replied Madame Octave, “but Monsieur de Camps was just telling
me about it. It is really shameful that the ministry should not only
countenance, but instigate such villanies.”

“I am half crazy,” said Madame de l’Estorade; “the whole blame rests on
us.”

“That is saying too much,” said Madame Octave.

“No,” said her husband, “I agree with madame; all the venom of this
affair could have been destroyed by one action of de l’Estorade’s, and
in refusing to make it he is, if not the author, at least the accomplice
of this slander.”

“Your wife has told you--” began Madame de l’Estorade in a reproachful
tone.

“Yes,” said Madame de Camps; “it was necessary to explain to my husband
the sort of madness that seemed to have taken possession of M. de
l’Estorade; but what I said to him was not unfaithful to any secret that
concerned you personally.”

“Ah! you are such a united pair,” said Madame de l’Estorade, with a
heavy sigh. “I don’t regret that you have told all that to your husband;
in fact, two heads are better than one to advise me in the cruel
position in which I am placed.”

“What has happened?” asked Madame de Camps.

“My husband is losing his head,” replied the countess. “I don’t see a
trace of his old moral sense left in him. Far from understanding that he
is, as Monsieur de Camps said just now, the accomplice of the shameful
attack which is going on, and that he has not, like those who started
it, the excuse of ignorance, he actually seems to take delight in this
wickedness. Just now he brought me that vile paper triumphantly, and
I could scarcely prevent his being very angry with me for not agreeing
with his opinion that it was infinitely witty and amusing.”

“That letter of Monsieur Gaston’s was a terrible shock to him,” said
Madame de Camps,--“a shock not only to his heart but to his body.”

“I admit that,” said her husband; “but, hang it! a man is a man, and he
ought to take the words of a maniac for what they are worth.”

“It is certainly very singular that Monsieur de Sallenauve does not
return,” said Madame Octave; “for that Joseph Bricheteau, to whom you
gave his address, must have written to him.”

“Oh!” cried the countess, “there’s fatality in the whole thing.
To-morrow the question of confirming the election or not comes up in
the Chamber; and if Monsieur de Sallenauve is not here by that time, the
ministry expects to annul it.”

“It is infamous,” said Monsieur de Camps, “and I have a great mind to go
to the president of the Chamber, and tell him how matters are.”

“I would have asked you to do so at the risk of my husband suspecting
my interference, but one thing restrained me. Monsieur de Sallenauve
particularly desires that Monsieur Gaston’s mental condition be not made
public.”

“It is evident,” said Madame de Camps, “that do defend him in any way
would go against his wishes. After all, the decision against him in
the Chamber is very doubtful, whereas Monsieur Gaston’s madness, if
mentioned publicly, would never be forgotten.”

“But I have not told you the worst so far as I am concerned,” said
Madame de l’Estorade. “Just before dinner my husband imparted to me an
absolutely Satanic desire of his--order, I might call it.”

“What was it?” asked Madame de Camps, anxiously.

“He wishes me to go with him to the Chamber to-morrow,--to the gallery
reserved for the peers of France,--and listen to the discussion.”

“He is actually, as you say, losing his head,” cried Monsieur de Camps;
“he is like Thomas Diafoirus, proposing to take his fiance to enjoy a
dissection--”

Madame de Camps made her husband a sign which meant, “Don’t pour oil on
the fire.” Then she asked the countess whether she had tried to show M.
de l’Estorade the impropriety of that step.

“The moment I began to object,” replied the countess, “he was angry, and
said I must be very anxious to keep up our intimacy with ‘that man’
when I rejected such a natural opportunity to show publicly that the
acquaintance was at an end.”

“Well, my dear, you will have to go,” said Madame de Camps. “The peace
of your home before everything else! Besides, considering all things,
your presence at the discussion may be taken as a proof of kindly
interest.”

“For sixteen years,” remarked Monsieur de Camps, “you have ruled and
governed in your home; and here, at last, is a revolution which cruelly
overturns your power.”

“Ah, monsieur, I beg you to believe that that sovereignty--which I
always sought to conceal--I never used arbitrarily.”

“As if I did not know that!” replied Monsieur de Camps, taking Madame de
l’Estorade’s hand and pressing it affectionately. “I am, nevertheless,
of my wife’s opinion: you will have to drink this cup.”

“But I shall die of shame in listening to the ministerial infamies; I
shall feel that they are cutting the throat of a man whom two words from
me could save.”

“True,” said Monsieur de Camps, “and a man, too, who has done you a
vast service. But you must choose: do you prefer to bring hell into your
home, and exasperate the unhealthy condition of your husband’s mind?”

“Listen to me, dearest,” said Madame de Camps. “Tell Monsieur de
l’Estorade that I want to go to this session, and ask him for a permit;
don’t yield the point to any objections. I shall then be there to take
care of you, and perhaps protect you from yourself.”

“I did not dare ask it of you,” replied Madame de l’Estorade. “We don’t
usually invite friends to see us commit bad actions; but since you are
so kind as to offer, I can truly say I shall be less wretched if you are
with me. Now good-bye; I don’t want my husband to find me out when he
comes home. He is dining with Monsieur de Rastignac, where, no doubt,
they are plotting for to-morrow.”

“Yes, go; and I will write you a note in the course of an hour, as if I
had not seen you, asking you to get me a permit for to-morrow’s session,
which I am told will be very interesting.”

“To be reduced to conspiracy!” cried Madame de l’Estorade, kissing her
friend.

“My dear love,” said Madame de Camps, “they say the life of a Christian
is a struggle, but that of a woman married in a certain way is a pitched
battle. Have patience and courage.”

So saying, the two friends separated.

The next day, about two o’clock, Madame de l’Estorade, accompanied by
her husband and Madame Octave de Camps, took their places in the gallery
reserved for the members of the peerage. She seemed ill, and answered
languidly the bows and salutations that were addressed to her from all
parts of the Chamber. Madame de Camps, who was present for the first
time in the parliamentary precincts, made two observations: first,
she objected strongly to the slovenly costume of a great many of the
“honorable gentlemen”; and she was also amazed at the number of bald
heads she looked down upon from the gallery. Monsieur de l’Estorade took
pains to point out to her all the notabilities present: first, the great
men whom we need not mention, because their names are in everybody’s
memory; next, the poet Canalis, whose air she thought Olympian;
d’Arthez, who pleased her by his modesty and absence of assumption;
Vinet, of whom she remarked that he was like a viper in spectacles;
Victorin Hulot, a noted orator of the Left Centre. It was some
time before she could accustom herself to the hum of the various
conversations, which seemed to her like the buzzing of bees around their
hive; but the thing that most amazed her was the general aspect of this
assemblage of legislators, where a singular _laisser-aller_ and a total
absence of dignity would never have led her to suppose she was in the
hall of the representatives of a great people.

It was written that on this day no pain or unpleasantness should be
spared to Madame de l’Estorade. Just before the sitting began, the
Marquise d’Espard, accompanied by Monsieur de Ronquerolles, entered the
peers’ gallery and took her seat beside the countess. Though meeting
constantly in society, the two women could not endure each other.
Madame de l’Estorade despised the spirit of intrigue, the total lack of
principle, and the sour, malevolent nature which the marquise covered
with an elegant exterior; and the marquise despised, to a still
greater degree, what she called the _pot-au-feu_ virtues of Madame de
l’Estorade. It must also be mentioned that Madame de l’Estorade was
thirty-two years old and her beauty was still undimmed, whereas Madame
d’Espard was forty-four, and, in spite of the careful dissimulations of
the toilet, her beauty was fairly at an end.

“You do not often come here, I think,” said Madame d’Espard, after the
usual conventional phrases about the _pleasure_ of their meeting had
passed.

“I never come,” replied Madame de l’Estorade.

“And I am most assiduous,” said Madame d’Espard.

Then, pretending to a sudden recollection, she added,--

“Ah! I forgot; you have a special interest, I think, on this occasion. A
friend of yours is to be _judged_, is he not?”

“Yes; Monsieur de Sallenauve has been to our house several times.”

“How sad it is,” said the marquise, “to see a man who, Monsieur de
Ronquerolles tells me, had the making of a hero in many ways, come down
to the level of the correctional police.”

“His crime so far,” said Madame de l’Estorade, dryly, “consists solely
in his absence.”

“At any rate,” continued the marquise, “he seems to be a man eaten up
by ambition. Before his parliamentary attempt, he made, as you doubtless
know, a matrimonial attempt upon the Lantys, which ended in the
beautiful heiress of that family, into whose good graces he had
insinuated himself, being sent to a convent.”

Madame de l’Estorade was not much surprised at finding that this
history, which Sallenauve had told her as very secret, had reached the
knowledge of Madame d’Espard. The marquise was one of the best
informed women in Paris; her salon, as an old academician had said
mythologically, was the Temple of Fame.

“I think the sitting is about to begin,” said Madame de l’Estorade;
fearing some blow from the claws of the marquise, she was eager to put
an end to the conversation.

The president had rung his bell, the deputies were taking their seats,
the curtain was about to rise. As a faithful narrator of the session we
desire our readers to attend, we think it safer and better in every
way to copy _verbatim_ the report of the debate as given in one of the
morning papers of the following day.


Chamber of Deputies.

  In the chair, M. Cointet (vice-president).

(Sitting of May 28.)

  At two o’clock the president takes his seat.

  M. the Keeper of the Seals, M. the minister of the Interior, M.
  the minister of Public Works, are on the ministerial bench.

  The minutes of the last session are read, approved, and accepted.

  The order of the day is the verification of the powers and the
  admission of the deputy elected by the arrondissement of
  Arcis-sur-Aube.

  _The President_.--M. the reporter, from the Committee on the
  elections of the department of the Aube, has the floor.

  _The Reporter_.--Gentlemen, the singular and regrettable situation
  in which Monsieur de Sallenauve has placed himself has not
  terminated in the manner that was hoped and expected last week.
  The period of delay expired yesterday; Monsieur de Sallenauve
  continues to absent himself from your sittings, and no letter has
  reached M. le president asking for further leave of absence. This
  indifference to the functions which Monsieur de Sallenauve
  appeared to have solicited with so much eagerness [slight
  agitation on the Left] would be, in any case, a grave mistake; but
  when connected with an accusation that seriously compromises the
  deputy elect, it must be regarded as altogether unfortunate for
  his reputation. [Murmurs on the Left. Approbation from the
  Centre.] Compelled to search for the solution of a difficulty
  which may be said to be without precedent in parliamentary annals,
  your committee, in the adoption of suitable measures, finds itself
  divided into two very distinct opinions. The minority whom I
  represent--the committee consisting of but three members--thinks
  that it ought to submit to you a resolution which I shall call
  radical, and which has for its object the cutting short of the
  difficulty by returning the question to its natural judges. Annul
  _hic et nunc_ the election of Monsieur de Sallenauve, and send him
  back to the voters by whom he was elected and of whom he is so
  unfaithful a representative. Such is one of the solutions I have
  the honor to present to you. [Agitation on the Left.] The
  majority, on the contrary, are of opinion that the will of the
  electors cannot be too highly respected, and that the faults of a
  man honored by their confidence ought not to be discussed until
  the utmost limits of forbearance and indulgence have been passed.
  Consequently your committee instruct me to suggest that you grant
  to Monsieur de Sallenauve a further delay of fifteen days [murmurs
  from the Centre; “Very good! very good!” from the Left]; being
  satisfied that if after that delay Monsieur de Sallenauve does not
  present himself or give any other sign of existence, it will be
  sufficient proof that he has thrown up his election, and the
  Chamber need not be dragged on his account into irritating and
  useless debates. [Murmurs of various kinds.]

  M. le Colonel Franchessini, who during the foregoing speech was
  sitting on the ministers’ bench in earnest conversation with the
  minister of Public Works, here demanded the floor.

  _The President_.--M. de Canalis has already asked for it.

  _M. de Canalis_.--Gentlemen, M. de Sallenauve is one of those bold
  men who, like myself, are convinced that politics are not
  forbidden fruit to any form of intellect, and that in the poet, in
  the artist, as well as in the magistrate, the administrator, the
  lawyer, the physician, and the property-holder, may be found the
  stuff that makes a statesman. In virtue of this community of
  opinion, M. de Sallenauve has my entire sympathy, and no one can
  be surprised to see me mount this tribune to support the proposal
  of the majority of your committee. I cannot, however, agree to
  their final conclusion; and the idea of our colleague being
  declared, without discussion, dismissed from this Chamber through
  the single fact of his absence, prolonged without leave, is
  repugnant to my reason and also to my conscience. You are told:
  “The absence of M. de Sallenauve is all the more reprehensible
  because he is under the odium of a serious accusation.” But
  suppose this accusation is the very cause of his absence--[“Ha!
  ha!” from the Centre, and laughter.] Allow me to say, gentlemen,
  that I am not, perhaps, quite so artless as Messieurs the laughers
  imagine. I have one blessing, at any rate: ignoble interpretations
  do not come into my mind; and that M. de Sallenauve, with the
  eminent position he has filled in the world of art, should seek to
  enter the world of politics by means of a crime, is a supposition
  which I cannot admit _a priori_. Around a birth like his two
  hideous spiders called slander and intrigue have every facility to
  spread their toils; and far from admitting that he has fled before
  the accusation that now attacks him, I ask myself whether his
  absence does not mean that he is now engaged in collecting the
  elements of his defence. [Left: “Very good!” “That’s right.”
   Ironical laughter in the Centre.] Under that supposition--in my
  opinion most probable--so far from arraigning him in consequence
  of this absence, ought we not rather to consider it as an act of
  deference to the Chamber whose deliberations he did not feel
  worthy to share until he found himself in a position to confound
  his calumniators?

  _A Voice_.--He wants leave of absence for ten years, like
  Telemachus, to search for his father. [General laughter.]

  _M. de Canalis_.--I did not expect so poetical an interruption;
  but since the memory of the Odyssey has been thus evoked, I shall
  ask the Chamber to kindly remember that Ulysses, though disguised
  as a beggar and loaded with insults, was yet able to string his
  bow and easily get the better of his enemies. [Violent murmurs from
  the Centre.] I vote for leave of absence for fifteen days, and
  that the Chamber be again consulted at the expiration of that
  time.

  _M. le Colonel Franchessini_.--I do not know if the last speaker
  intended to intimidate the Chamber, but, for my part, such
  arguments have very little power upon me, and I am always ready to
  send them back whence they came. [Left: “Come! come!”]

  _The President_.--Colonel, no provocations!

  _M. le Colonel Franchessini_.--I am, however, of the opinion of
  the speaker who preceded me; I do not think that the delinquent
  has fled to escape the accusation against him. Neither that
  accusation, nor the effect it will produce upon your minds, nor
  even the quashing of his election would be able at this moment to
  occupy his mind. Do you wish to know what M. de Sallenauve is
  doing in England? Then read the English papers. For the last week
  they have rung with the praises of a new prima donna who has just
  made her first appearance at the London opera-house. [Violent
  murmurs; interruption.]

  _A Voice_.--Such gossip is unworthy of this Chamber!

  _M. le Colonel Franchessini_.--Gentlemen, being more accustomed to
  the frankness of camps than to the reticence of these precincts, I
  may perhaps have committed the impropriety of thinking aloud. The
  preceding speaker said to you that he believed M. de Sallenauve
  was employed in collecting his means of defence; well, I do not
  say to you “I believe,” I tell you I _know_ that a rich stranger
  succeed in substituting his protection for what which Phidias, our
  colleague, was bestowing on his handsome model, an Italian woman
  --[Fresh interruption. “Order! order!” “This is intolerable!”]

  _A Voice_.--M. le president, silence the speaker!

  Colonel Franchessini crosses his arms and waits till the tumult
  subsides.

  _The President_.--I request the speaker to keep to the question.

  _M. le Colonel Franchessini_.--The question! I have not left it.
  But, inasmuch as the Chamber refuses to hear me, I declare that I
  side with the minority of the committee. It seems to me very
  proper to send M. de Sallenauve back to his electors in order to
  know whether they intended to send a deputy or a lover to this
  Chamber--[“Order! order!” Loud disturbance on the Left. The tumult
  increases.]

  M. de Canalis hurries to the tribune.

  _The President_.--M. le ministre of Public Works has asked for the
  floor; as minister of the king he has the first right to be heard.

  _M. de Rastignac_.--It has not been without remonstrance on my
  part, gentlemen, that this scandal has been brought to your
  notice. I endeavored, in the name of the long friendship which
  unites me to Colonel Franchessini, to persuade him not to speak on
  this delicate subject, lest his parliamentary inexperience,
  aggravated in a measure by his witty facility of speech, should
  lead him to some very regrettable indiscretion. Such, gentleman,
  was the subject of the little conversation you may have seen that
  he held with me on my bench before he asked for the floor; and I
  myself have asked for the same privilege only in order to remove
  from your minds all idea of my complicity in the great mistake he
  has just, as I think, committed by condescending to the private
  details he has thought fit to relate to this assembly. But as,
  against my intention, and I may add against my will, I have
  entered the tribune, the Chamber will permit me, perhaps,
  --although no ministerial interest is here concerned,--to say a
  few words. [Cries from the Centre: “Go on!” “Speak!”]

  M. le ministre then went on to say that the conduct of the absent
  deputy showed contempt for the Chamber; he was treating it lightly
  and cavalierly. M. de Sallenauve had asked for leave of absence;
  but how or where had he asked for it? From a foreign country! That
  is to say, he began by taking it, and then asked for it! Did he
  trouble himself, as is usual in such cases, to give a reason for
  the request? No; he merely says, in his letter to your president,
  that he is forced to absent himself on “urgent business,”--a very
  convenient excuse, on which the Chamber might be depopulated of
  half its members. But, supposing that M. de Sallenauve’s business
  was really urgent, and that he thought it of a nature not to be
  explained in a letter that would necessarily be made public, why
  had he not written confidentially to the president, or even
  requested a friend in some responsible position, whose simple word
  would have sufficed, to assure the Chamber of the necessity of the
  deputy’s absence without requiring any statement of private
  reasons?

  At this point M. de Rastignac’s remarks were interrupted by a
  commotion in the corridor to the right. Several deputies left
  their seats; others jumped upon the benches, apparently
  endeavoring to see something. The minister, after turning to the
  president, from whom he seemed to be asking an explanation, went
  back to the ministerial bench, where he was immediately surrounded
  by a number of the deputies of the Centre, among whom, noticeable
  for the vehemence of his gestures, was M. le procureur-general
  Vinet. Groups formed in the audience chamber; the sitting was, in
  fact, informally suspended.

  After a few moments’ delay M. le president rings his bell.

  _The Ushers_.--Take your seats, gentlemen.

  The deputies hasten on all sides to do so.

  _The President_.--M. de Sallenauve has the floor.

  M. de Sallenauve, who, during the few moments that the sitting was
  interrupted by his entrance, has been talking with M. de Canalis
  and M. d’Arthez, goes to the tribune. His manner is modest, but he
  shows no sign of embarrassment. Every one is struck by his
  resemblance to the portraits of one of the most fiery of the
  revolutionary orators.

  _A Voice_.--It is Danton--without the small-pox!

  _M. de Sallenauve_.--[Profound silence.] Gentlemen, I do not
  misjudge my parliamentary value; I know that the persecution
  directed apparently against me personally is, in point of fact,
  aimed at the political opinions I have the honor to represent.
  But, however that may be, my election seems to have been viewed by
  the ministry as a matter of some importance. In order to oppose
  it, a special agent and special journalists were sent to Arcis;
  and a humble employe under government, with a salary of fifteen
  hundred francs, was dismissed, after twenty years of faithful and
  honorable service, for having aided in my success. [Loud murmurs
  from the Centre.] I thank my honorable interrupters, feeling sure
  that their loud disapprobation is given to this strange dismissal,
  which is not open to the slightest doubt. [Laughter on the Left.]
  As for me, gentlemen, who could not be dismissed, I have been
  attacked with another weapon,--sagacious calumny, combined with my
  fortunate absence--

  _The Minister of Public Works_.--Of course the government sent you
  out of the country.

  _M. de Sallenauve_.--No, Monsieur le ministre. I do not attribute
  my absence to either your influence or your suggestions; it was
  necessitated by imperious duty, and it had no other instigation or
  motive. But, as to the part you have really taken in the
  denunciation set on foot against me, I am about to tell the facts,
  and the Chamber will consider them. [Close attention.] The law, in
  order to protect the independence of the deputy, directs that no
  criminal prosecution can be begun against a member of the national
  representation without the preliminary consent of the Chamber;
  this fact has been turned with great adroitness against me. If the
  complaint had been laid before the magistrates, it could not have
  been admitted even for an instant; it is simply a bare charge, not
  supported by evidence of any kind; and I have never heard that the
  public authorities are in the habit of prosecuting citizens on the
  mere allegation of the first-comer. We must therefore admire the
  subtlety of mind which instantly perceived that, by petitioning
  you for leave to prosecute, all the benefits of the accusation,
  politically speaking, would be obtained without encountering the
  difficulty I have mentioned in the courts. [Excitement.] Now, to
  what able parliamentary tactician must we ascribe the honor of
  this invention? You know already, gentleman, that it is due
  ostensibly to a woman, a peasant-woman, one who labors for her
  living; hence the conclusion is that the peasant-women of
  Champagne have an intellectual superiority of which, up to this
  time, neither you nor I were at all aware. [Laughter.] It must be
  said, however, that before coming to Paris to lodge her complaint,
  this woman had an interview with the mayor of Arcis, my opponent
  on the ministerial side in the late election. From this conference
  she obtained certain lights. To which we must add that the mayor,
  taking apparently much interest in the charge to be brought
  against me, agreed to pay the costs, not only of the
  peasant-woman’s trip to Paris, but also those of the village
  practitioner by whom she was accompanied. [Left: “Ha! ha!”] This
  superior woman having arrived in Paris, with whom did she
  immediately communicate? With the special agent sent down to Arcis
  by the government to ensure the success of the ministerial
  candidate. And who drew up the petition to this honorable Chamber
  for the necessary authority to proceed to a criminal prosecution?
  Not precisely the special ministerial agent himself, but a
  barrister under his dictation, and after a breakfast to which the
  peasant-woman and her adviser were invited in order to furnish the
  necessary information. [Much excitement. “Hear! hear!”]

  _The Minister of Public Works from his seat_.--Without discussing
  the truth of these statements, as to which I have personally no
  knowledge, I affirm upon my honor that the government is
  completely ignorant of the proceedings now related, which it
  blames and disavows in the most conclusive manner.

  _M. de Sallenauve_.--After the formal declaration which I have had
  the good fortune to evoke it would ill become me, gentlemen, to
  insist on tracing the responsibility for this intrigue back to the
  government. But what I have already said will seem to you natural
  when you remember that, as I entered this hall, the minister of
  Public Works was in the tribune, taking part, in a most unusual
  manner, in a discussion on discipline wholly outside of his
  department, and endeavoring to persuade you that I had conducted
  myself towards this honorable body with a total want of reverence.

  The minister of Public Works said a few words which did not reach
  us. Great disturbance.

  _M. Victorin Hulot_.--M. le president, have the goodness to
  request the minister of Public Works not to interrupt the speaker.
  He can answer.

  _M. de Sallenauve_.--According to M. le comte de Rastignac, I
  showed essential disrespect to the Chamber by asking, in a foreign
  country, for leave of absence, which it was obvious I had already
  taken before making my request. But, in his extreme desire to find
  me to blame, the minister lost sight of the fact that at the time
  I left France the Chamber had not met, no president existed, and
  therefore in making my request at that time to the president of
  this assembly I should simply have addressed a pure abstraction.
  [Left: “True!”] As for the insufficiency of the motives with which
  I supported my request, I regret to have to say to the Chamber
  that I cannot be more explicit even now; because in revealing the
  true cause of my absence I should betray the secret of an
  honorable man, and not my own. I did not conceal from myself that
  by this reticence I exposed my proceedings to mistaken
  interpretations,--though I certainly did not expect it to give
  rise to accusations as burlesque as they are odious. [Much
  excitement.] In point of fact, I was so anxious not to neglect any
  of the duties of my new position that I did precisely what the
  minister of Public Works reproaches me for not doing. I selected a
  man in a most honorable position, who was, like myself, a
  repository of the secret I am unable to divulge, and I requested
  him to make all necessary explanations to the president of this
  Chamber. But, calumny having no doubt worked upon his mind, that
  honorable person must have thought it compromising to his name and
  dignity to do me this service. The danger to me being now over, I
  shall not betray his prudent incognito. Though I was far indeed
  from expecting this calculating selfishness, which has painfully
  surprised and wounded me, I shall be careful to keep this betrayal
  of friendship between myself and his own conscience, which alone
  shall reproach him for the wrong he has done me.

  At this moment a disturbance occurred in the peers’ gallery; a
  lady had fainted; and several deputies, among them a physician,
  left the hall hastily. The sitting was momentarily suspended.

  _The President_.--Ushers, open the ventilators. It is want of air
  that has caused this unfortunate accident. M. de Sallenauve, be
  good enough to resume your speech.

  _M. de Sallenauve_.--Two words, gentleman, and I have finished. I
  think the petition to authorize a criminal prosecution has already
  lost something of its weight in the minds of my least cordial
  colleagues. But I have here a letter from the Romilly
  peasant-woman, my relation, duly signed and authenticated,
  withdrawing her charge and confirming all the explanations I have
  just had the honor to give you. I might read this letter aloud to
  you, but I think it more becoming to place it in the hands of M. le
  president. [“Very good! very good!”] As for my illegal absence, I
  returned to Paris early this morning, and I could have been in my
  seat at the opening of the Chamber; but, as M. de Canalis has told
  you, I had it much at heart not to appear in this hall until I
  could disperse the cloud which has so strangely appeared around my
  reputation. It has taken me the whole morning to obtain these
  papers. And now, gentlemen, you have to decide whether a few
  hours’ delay in taking his seat in this Chamber justifies you in
  sending a colleague back to his electors. But after all, whatever
  is done, whether some persist in thinking me a forger, or a
  libertine, or merely a negligent deputy, I feel no anxiety about
  the verdict of my electors. I can confidently assert that after a
  delay of a few weeks I shall return to you.

  _Cries on all sides_.--The vote! the vote!

  On leaving the tribune M. de Sallenauve receives many
  congratulations.

  _The President_.--I put to vote the admission of M. de Sallenauve
  as the deputy elected by the arrondissement of Arcis.

  Nearly the whole Chamber rises and votes the admission; a few
  deputies of the Centre alone abstain from taking part in the
  demonstration.

  M. de Sallenauve is admitted and takes the oath.

  _The President_.--The order of the day calls for the reading of
  the Address to the Throne, but the chairman of the committee
  appointed to prepare it informs me that the document in question
  cannot be communicated to the Chamber before to-morrow. Nothing
  else being named in the order of the day, I declare this sitting
  adjourned.

  The Chamber rose at half-past four o’clock.
TRANSLATOR’S NOTE

  Note.--“The Deputy of Arcis,” of which Balzac wrote and published
  the first part in 1847, was left unfinished at his death. He
  designated M. Charles Rabou, editor of the “Revue de Paris,” as
  the person to take his notes and prepare the rest of the volume
  for the press. It is instructive to a student of Balzac to see how
  disconnected and out of proportion the story becomes in these
  later parts,--showing plainly that the master’s hand was in the
  habit of pruning away half, if not more, of what it had written,
  or--to change the metaphor and give the process in his own
  language--that he put _les grands pots dans les petits pots_, the
  quarts into the pint pots. “If a thing can be done in one line
  instead of two,” he says, “I try to do it.”

  Some parts of this conclusion are evidently added by M. Rabou, and
  are not derived from Balzac at all,--especially the unnecessary
  reincarnation of Vautrin. There is no trace of the master’s hand
  here. The character is made so silly and puerile, and is so out of
  keeping with Balzac’s strong portrait, which never weakens, that
  the translator has thought best, in justice to Vautrin, to omit
  all that is not absolutely necessary to connect the story.
ADDENDUM

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

Arthez, Daniel d’       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Letters of Two Brides
       The Secrets of a Princess

     Beauvisage (tenant)
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Beauvisage, Phileas
       Cousin Betty

     Bixiou, Jean-Jacques
       The Purse
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       The Government Clerks
       Modeste Mignon
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Muse of the Department
       Cousin Betty
       Beatrix
       A Man of Business
       Gaudissart II.
       The Unconscious Humorists
       Cousin Pons

     Blondet, Virginie
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Peasantry
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Another Study of Woman
       A Daughter of Eve

     Brandon, Lady Marie Augusta
       The Lily of the Valley
       La Grenadiere

     Bridau, Joseph
       The Purse
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       A Start in Life
       Modeste Mignon
       Another Study of Woman
       Pierre Grassou
       Letters of Two Brides
       Cousin Betty

     Cadine, Jenny
       Cousin Betty
       Beatrix
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Camps, Octave de
       Madame Firmiani

     Camps, Madame Octave de
       Madame Firmiani
       The Government Clerks
       A Woman of Thirty
       A Daughter of Eve

     Canalis, Constant-Cyr-Melchior, Baron de
       Letters of Two Brides
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Modeste Mignon
       The Magic Skin
       Another Study of Woman
       A Start in Life
       Beatrix
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Carigliano, Duchesse de
       At the Sign of the Cat and Racket
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       The Peasantry

     Chargeboeuf, Melchior-Rene, Vicomte de
       The Muse of the Department

     Chocardelle, Mademoiselle
       Beatrix
       A Prince of Bohemia
       A Man of Business
       Cousin Betty

     Cinq-Cygne, Laurence, Comtesse (afterwards Marquise de)
       The Gondreville Mystery
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Seamy Side of History

     Cointet, Boniface
       Lost Illusions
       The Firm of Nucingen

     Collin, Jacques
       Father Goriot
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life

     Dionis
       Ursule Mirouet

     Estorade, Louis, Chevalier, then Vicomte and Comte de l’
       Letters of Two Brides

     Estorade, Madame de l’
       Letters of Two Brides
       Ursule Mirouet

     Estorade, Armand de l’
       Letters of Two Brides

     Fontanon, Abbe
       A Second Home
       The Government Clerks
       Honorine

     Franchessini, Colonel
       Father Goriot

     Gaston, Marie
       La Grenadiere
       Letters of Two Brides

     Giguet, Colonel
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Gobseck, Sarah Van
       Gobseck
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Maranas
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life

     Gondreville, Malin, Comte de
       The Gondreville Mystery
       A Start in Life
       Domestic Peace

     Gothard
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Goujet, Abbe
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Grevin
       A Start in Life
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Hauteserre, D’
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Hortense
       A Man of Business

     Hulot, Victorin
       Cousin Betty

     Keller, Francois
       Domestic Peace
       Cesar Birotteau
       Eugenie Grandet
       The Government Clerks

     Keller, Madame Francois
       Domestic Peace
       The Thirteen

     La Bastie la Briere, Madame Ernest de
       Modeste Mignon
       Cousin Betty

     Lanty, Comte de
       Sarrasine

     Lanty, Comtesse de
       Sarrasine

     Lanty, Marianina de
       Sarrasine

     Lanty, Filippo de
       Sarrasine

     La Roche-Hugon, Martial de
       Domestic Peace
       The Peasantry
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Middle Classes
       Cousin Betty

     Lenoncourt-Givry, Duc de
       Letters of Two Brides
       Cousin Betty

     Marest, Frederic
       A Start in Life
       The Seamy Side of History

     Marion (of Arcis)
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Marion (brother)
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Mary
       Letters of Two Brides

     Maufrigneuse, Duchesse de
       The Secrets of a Princess
       Modeste Mignon
       Jealousies of a Country Town
       The Muse of the Department
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Letters of Two Brides
       Another Study of Woman
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Maufrigneuse, Georges de
       The Secrets of a Princess
       The Gondreville Mystery
       Beatrix

     Maufrigneuse, Berthe de
       Beatrix
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Michu, Francois
       The Gondreville Mystery
       Jealousies of a Country Town

     Michu, Madame Francois
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Montriveau, General Marquis Armand de
       The Thirteen
       Father Goriot
       Lost Illusions
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Another Study of Woman
       Pierrette

     Nucingen, Baronne Delphine de
       Father Goriot
       The Thirteen
       Eugenie Grandet
       Cesar Birotteau
       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

     Philippe
       Letters of Two Brides

     Rastignac, Eugene de
       Father Goriot
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       The Ball at Sceaux
       The Commission in Lunacy
       A Study of Woman
       Another Study of Woman
       The Magic Skin
       The Secrets of a Princess
       A Daughter of Eve
       The Gondreville Mystery
       The Firm of Nucingen
       Cousin Betty
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Rastignac, Laure-Rose and Agathe de
       Father Goriot
       Lost Illusions

     Restaud, Ernest de
       Gobseck

     Restaud, Madame Ernest de
       Gobseck

     Restaud, Felix-Georges de
       Gobseck

     Rhetore, Duc Alphonse de
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       Scenes from a Courtesan’s Life
       Letters of Two Brides
       Albert Savarus

     Ronquerolles, Marquis de
       The Imaginary Mistress
       The Peasantry
       Ursule Mirouet
       A Woman of Thirty
       Another Study of Woman
       The Thirteen

     Saint-Hereen, Comtesse Moina de
       A Woman of Thirty
       A Daughter of Eve

     Sallenauve, Comtesse de
       Letters of Two Brides

     Sarrasine, Ernest-Jean
       Sarrasine

     Stidmann
       Modeste Mignon
       Beatrix
       Cousin Betty
       Cousin Pons
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Suzon
       A Man of Business

     Tillet, Ferdinand du
       Cesar Birotteau
       The Firm of Nucingen
       The Middle Classes
       A Bachelor’s Establishment
       Pierrette
       Melmoth Reconciled
       A Distinguished Provincial at Paris
       The Secrets of a Princess
       A Daughter of Eve
       Cousin Betty
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Trailles, Comte Maxime de
       Cesar Birotteau
       Father Goriot
       Gobseck
       Ursule Mirouet
       A Man of Business
       The Secrets of a Princess
       Cousin Betty
       Beatrix
       The Unconscious Humorists

     Troubert, Abbe Hyacinthe
       The Vicar of Tours

     Varlet
       The Gondreville Mystery

     Vien, Joseph-Marie
       Sarrasine

     Vinet
       Pierrette
       The Middle Classes-
       Cousin Pons

     Vinet, Olivier
       Cousin Pons
       The Middle Classes

     Zambinella
       Sarrasine





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